Monday, January 1, 2018

Murder on the Orient Express

I recently saw the newest version of Murder on the Orient Express and I really liked it. Kenneth Branagh did a great job of directing the film and portraying Hercule Poirot but I felt there were a few differences between his portrayal and the classic Poirot character. He came across a little more OCD and rude and he reminded me of Sherlock Holmes. The other big difference was his monster mustache. Rather than adopting the fine haired waxed moustache, he sported a monstrosity of a handle bar mustache.

The all star cast was very deep and I thought Johnny Depp did a particularly good job of coming across as a very unlikable bad guy. I wondered how much I would be able to enjoy this film since I was already familiar with the story and plot twists, but I really enjoyed it. I give  Murder on the Orient Express 7.2 stars.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The X Files: Conspiracy Theories

I have always enjoyed watching conspiracy theory movies. It's an entertaining premise when governments or secret organizations plot to manipulate the masses and a hero has to expose them to the public. I'm not a tin foil hat wearer but I consider myself much more open minded about the subject than many people.

Over the years when terrorist attacks and mass shootings have occurred, I have been amazed at how quickly people surface on the internet claiming many of these events are staged with actors and are merely false flags orchestrated by the government or other secret organizations. There may be some truth to some of these claims, but there is a big segment of people who are ultra paranoid and it is probably because they've seen every episode of the X Files.

Speaking of the X-Files, I've recently been watching them on DVD with my kids and I forgot how much I enjoy them. Aliens, monsters, government cover ups, and the unexplained. I'm looking forward to the updated episodes that will be released in 2018.

Anyway, some of my favorite movies that feature conspiracy theories and secret organizations are:

Capricorn One
DaVinci Code
Conspiracy Theory
The Arrival
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Three Days of the Condor
Sherlock Holmes
Assassins Creed
James Bond Movies

What's not to like about the idea of an underdog fighting against evil forces? I rank that genre right up there with the prison break movie. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Several weeks ago a friend invited us to watch a video at their home. One of the choices they offered was The Hundred-Foot Journey which I had never seen but I recalled several friends recommending the movie when it came out so we picked that movie.

The Hundred-Foot Journey is about a family from India who move to France during a time of political upheaval in their own country. They are essentially refugees and decide to open a restaurant that features traditional Indian food. The problem is that they attempt to do so right across the street from an upscale French restaurant. The film title refers to their proximity to their competitor.

The movie focuses on tension and competition between the two restaurants. It does so with some subtle humor. It also details the success of a gifted young Indian chef as well as his relationship with a French woman working at the competitor's restaurant. I'd classify this as a feel good/chic flick type of movie so it worked out well for our group date. My biggest problem with it was how hungry I got watching them make all kinds of fancy food.

I give The Hundred-Foot Journey 7.4 stars.

Monday, September 18, 2017

My First Horror Film: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

When I was a about 3 or 4 years old, my parents took my family to see Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in the theater. At a certain point in the movie my mom had to take me out to the lobby since I was freaking out and crying. I don’t remember that first viewing but I’ve seen the original movie many times since then and still think there are many things that are truly freakish about this film.

Before I attempt to explain why this movie is so scary, I have to admit there are many great one liners and funny scenes, but that can’t undo the damage inflicted upon every young viewer who sees it for the first time. I will now offer my analysis of why Willy Wonka is more of a horror movie than a fun kid’s adventure story.

Where to begin?

1) All four grandparents living in the same filthy bed and then Grandpa Joe being exposed as the lazy, faker, soda pop stealing old man he is. Charlie’s household plays on people’s fears of filthiness and poverty.

2) Scary Slugworth constantly showing up out of the shadows and whispering in kid’s ears and finally confronting Charlie when he’s alone in the dark tunnel.

3) Oompa Loompas were an obvious problem. I was not prepared for the orange skin, white eyebrows, and green hair. These musical midget’s songs, lame dance moves, and their unexpected large subtitles displayed on the movie screen were very unsettling.

4) The naughty kids being eliminated one by one. Take your pick…
*Augustus Gloop falling in the chocolate river kills two birds with one stone by featuring drowning and claustrophobia as he is sucked up the tube.
*Violet turning into a blueberry and changing color while expanding then being taken out by Oompa Loompas to have the juice squeezed out of her.
*Mike the cowboy being turned into billions of pieces and shrunk.
*Verruca sitting in the giant goose cages and going down the rotten egg hatch.

Watching the Oompa Loompas accompany the parents to retrieve what was left of their kids each time was sad. Even though it is explained that the spoiled kids did not actually die in these incidents, the disposal methods used were still traumatic, but it’s Wonka’s sarcastic, could care less attitude that is even more disturbing.

5) The scene with the Wonkatania boat featuring close ups of Wonka’s face, the psychedelic colors, and flashes of disturbing images. He begins the ride by singing an eerie song, then starts speaking gibberish, and then goes full blown crazy and ends up screaming at the top of his lungs. What the heck?

6) Gene Wilder’s hair is frightening throughout the entire movie, but the scene towards the end in his office when he takes off his hat and his quasi afro actually falls over like a demolished smoke stack still gives me chills to this day.

7) When Willy Wonka loses it and unloads his anger on Charlie and his grandpa and yells “You get nothing! You lose. Good day sir.” Even though he was testing him it is still pretty traumatic.

8) The glass wonkavator breaking through the roof and eerily hoovering over an odd European town backdrop just didn’t feel right either. It was intended to be a happy magical ending but it made me even more anxious.

Maybe you think I am way too sensitive and fragile when it comes to this movie, but the spirit and feel to the entire movie is creepy and unsettling. There are some things about it that I just can’t put my finger on. It’s probably a combination of the story line, props, costumes, and the fact it was made in the early 70’s. Anyway, I don’t know why more people have not been traumatized by this movie. Despite my troubled relationship with this movie, I give it 7.2 stars.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Queen of Katwe

A couple weeks ago I was visiting someone's home and they invited our kids to watch the Queen of Katwe. I had only heard about the title before and I have not seen any movies since I've been living in Africa so I was looking forward to watching a video with my kids.

I came in after it started so I didn't see it all, but the movie is about a poor family in Uganda who start playing chess and get very good at it to the point that the daughter is able to travel around the world while representing her country in international play. It takes place over a period of five years and features some of the struggles she experienced and how her chess coach and family helped her along the way. The main character is eventually is able to purchase a home for her single mother and family from the success of her efforts. Sorry- I guess that was a spoiler.

This movie is a nice feel good movie based on a true story. The cinematography was also very impressive with beautiful colors and backdrops but I felt it was a little too cleaned up as if were a travel promo for Uganda. I understand it is a Disney produced movie, but it is about people living in poverty in the slums of Africa but all the clothes, colors, and scenery were spotless and I didn't recall seeing any garbage or pollution during the film. That's not a big deal but just something that stuck out to me.

Overall The Queen of Katwe was a nice inspirational movie. I give it 6.9 stars.
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