Category Archives: Movies

“Blinded by the Light” – starring the Music of Bruce Springsteen

The family went to see another movie on Sunday. “Blinded by the Light” by Gurinder Chada, starring Vivek Kalra, as Javed, a young Pakastani living in a small town in England in 1987 with his parents and sister. He lives a life dominated by his Father and family which doesn’t leave him much room to himself and he doesn’t quite know what to do about it until one day…

A friend of his loans him a couple of tapes (it’s 1987, and you could loan somebody tapes, and share the music, how the crap do you share music in this day of downloads???? Yeah, I don’t know either!)

Through Springsteen’s music, Javed feels understood finally, that somebody else has felt hopeless in a small town yet still found a way to find hope in this world. This is helped by a sympathetic teacher that recognizes Javed’s writing talent and of course the love a of a good woman, a new girlfriend.

Javed eventually finds his voice, gets the courage to stand up against his socially rigid, controlling father, and learns that he can find a future without building a wall against his Pakastani upbringing.

It was eyeopening for me, I was like a quarter generation off Bruce Springsteen’s core audience. I liked some of his music but found it a little pretentious for my tastes plus I wondered why he never really rocked out. But then again I never listened to the lyrics. I never listen to lyrics except for hit them over the head lyrics like Carly Simon’s “Come Upstairs” … “Come upstairs, we can take off the phone, Come Upstairs, you can take off my clothes”!!! (Yes, I get those lyrics). Oops sorry, (not sorry), I am really digressing bad.

The first song, Javed listens to “Dancing in the Dark”

I get up in the evenin’
And I ain’t got nothin’ to say
I come home in the mornin’
I go to bed feelin’ the same way
I ain’t nothin’ but tired
Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there, baby, I could use just a little helpYou can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancin’ in the dark

And its like wow, and it is on and on. And it is fun watching Javed grows up right before our eyes and learns how to be his own person. In the meantime, movie magic happens and people break out singing and dancing.

This is a great, feel good, eye opening movie. I highly recommend it. How many stars you give to movie, give all of them to this one.

“Where’d You Go Bernadette” with Cate Blanchette

Heather and I celebrated our new status of being emptynesters by going to a movie on a Thursday night. Who does that besides people with no kids at home?

Heather picked the movie and it was a good one, “Where Did You Go Bernadette” about a wife and mother and also former award winning architect, Bernadette Fox, who after a career reversal twenty years ago has turned into a moody hot mess of hell on wheels, kind of like a female Donald Trump without a twitter account, at war with everybody.

Her husband tries to arrange an intervention to address all these issues, and poof! she bolts. Where did she go, so her husband and daughter go look for her.

This is a great movie, Cate Blanchette does a great job, it has a great message. Also, just so you know, everybody keeps their clothes on, and keeps their language clean and no vegans were harmed during the filming of this movie. I give it four stars out of four, or five out of five, or however many stars you got it gets.

A Star is Born with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga

Heather and I went to see A Star is Born recently. It is a really good movie. Guess what, Bradley Cooper can sing, he rocks and he does it really well. And, Lady Gaga can act. And as a bonus they have great chemistry together.  Cooper also directed and produced the movie. I have no idea how that much talent ends up being concentrated in just one person.

You can check the link above for a synopsis but basically Cooper plays an aging rocker, Jack, who sees this young chick singer with an amazing voice, Ally,  in a dive bar. Sparks fly, he helps her with her career and it zooms off to the stars, while his career, rocket charged by too much booze and pills heads downward quickly.

On the way though we get quite a ride. Lady Gaga of course can really sing, and she does some Pop diva songs in the movie but I have really like her recent album where she plays a lot slower, less produced songs that are really good. I think the sound track to this movie is something I would consider buying.

Supposedly this is the third or fourth version of this movie and I can’t tell you how this stands in relation to others because I didn’t see them!

I give this film four stars out of four or five out of five or however else you want to rate it. Go see it, you won’t be disappointed.

Downsizing with Matt Damon

Downsizing is a fun little movie. It is a kind of a science fiction, environmental, romance kind of movie. Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek a man with once bright prospects who is now an under achiever, compared to his peers. He and his wife try and buy a new house but they just plain don’t make enough money to qualify.

This is against a background of a well developed technology of molecular downsizing which is being promoted as the environmentally responsible thing to do. Paul and his wife to check it out and are wowed by how much their limited dollars will stretch if they downsize and live in a dedicated town. They decide to go ahead and do it.

The movie doesn’t get good reviews but I thought it was interesting. Downsizing is just another way of migrating from where you are to where you think the grass is greener. Americans have been doing it for years. In the movie, the environmental impact thing is played up but to the characters greed is the driving force. The opportunity to live in gigantic doll houses that cost a song is the allure. But you know, every paradise has its problems.

People move into their big houses but they don’t want to clean them. Whats the point of having a huge house if you have to clean it yourself? So guess what? there are downsized people who need the money who will clean your house. Where they live is not as not as nice as your house. So we have an immediate underclass.

I don’t want to get all political on anybody but it struck me that many of us would be happy with paradise. We wouldn’t want to emigrate, or downsize just to live in the same kind of house as what we have. We want an upgrade. And we will want  to hire somebody to clean it for us.

So I liked the movie. There is a lot more to it than what I am saying but I don’t want to spoil it for you. There is a flurry of sexual language to the end that I think is totally uncalled for.  Just letting you know. I think Matt Damon does a good job. Like I said the movie is getting mediocre reviews but I think it is worth watching.

The Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro

Heather and I went to see “The Shape of Water“, a movie set in a mysterious defense lab somewhere in the USA during the early 1960’s. Sally Hawkins plays Elisa Esposito, a lonely young woman who cleans and mops in the lab. This is basically a science fiction type, action, adventure, spy, fantasy, romantic movie. It involves a water monster caught in the Amazon River and hauled to the lab and subject to abuse. I am not going to spoil it for you. It is a Beauty and the Beast movie and has a satisfying conclusion. Sally Hawkins does a great job, Michael Shannon plays a great old school security officer, Octavia Spencer, from Hidden Figures, does well as Elisa’s work buddy.

I loved it but keep the kiddos at home. It has, in my mind, purely gratuitous sexual and full frontal nude scenes which gives me pause in recommending it, but it is still a good movie.

Check out the web site for more info and of course IMDB has lots of information on movies, actors, and directors.

Only the Brave – The Story of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots

The family went to see “Only the Brave – The Story of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots” last weekend. It is a great movie about a group of 19 elite firefighters who died fighting a fire in the Weaver Mountains near Yarnell, Arizona in 2013. It was a shocking loss by any measure but especially because these were guys who were trained to avoid such disasters. I mean the movie was great but it was based on a true event and to me that kind of overshadows everything.

Below is one of the eeriest videos I have ever seen. It includes some footage shot by the guys who died soon afterward.

There is a lot of commentary and articles speculating about what happened. Just google it and you can find plenty of articles with all sorts of speculation about how these guys ended up in such a terrible situation. It is all overwhelming especially since nobody knows for sure.

There is now an Arizona State Memorial for the hotshots. It is definitely on my bucket list. Check the link. It has brief profiles of each of the guys who died. It is heartbreaking, these guys were in the prime of their lives.

How much of the movie is true? A lot of apparently on the stuff that matters. The USA Today has a great article on that.

 

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One of my favorite shots of Dad.

I had a very personal interest in the movie. My father, who passed away in August, worked in the Forest Service and although he wasn’t a hot shot, or spent much time on the front lines, he fought forest fires for years. When I was a kid, during a dry summer he’d be gone almost the whole season, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Arizona. We didn’t hear anything from him, and then he would show up one day covered in dirt and soot, smelly, and exhausted. Afterwards he would have to be very careful around my mother to give the impression that he didn’t like the work.

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Payson, Arizona

When I was a kid, the hotshots, the smoke jumpers, and helitack crews were hard as nails men doing back breaking labor. The hotshots rode in trucks to as close to the fire as they could and then humped across country with their equipment, food, shelter, and water on their back to the fire. The theory was that you get these guys on a fire fast to keep the fire from getting bigger. They were expected to handle anything that came up. I remember my mother talking of the hotshots as being a rough bunch.

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Payson Hotshots, playing frisbee football

So nowadays, they have a little bit of glamor to them and have really nice vehicles to ride instead of the backs of trucks that I remember but the work itself is just as hard if not harder. After a half century or more of fire extreme suppression, and perhaps global warming, the fuel to burn is more than ever and the weather conditions hotter and drier than ever and so the work may be  difficult and dangerous than their predecessors had it.

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Forest Fire in Idaho, 1960’s, photo by my father.

I have only seen a few fires and they have been from a distance and they definitely puckered me up although I was miles from them.

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Forest Fire in Idaho under control, photo by my Dad.

I can only imagine what being  next to one would be like. It is hard to figure out what my Dad went through. He tended to downplay everything to no big deal and my mom’s Irish tended to embellish things perhaps a bit much. She was part of the Forest Service wives club that was pretty close knit so she could find out about stuff that dad didn’t like to talk about. She said she heard one time he drove a truck through a fire to get a guy that had been stranded behind the lines and that the paint had got burned off the truck in process. Dad said nonsense, he got the guy sure, but there was no danger, and no paint was burned. And it wasn’t just Dad. In the small towns we lived in, the Forest Service guys were the dads who took the Boy Scouts camping and led all sorts of other things. They were community minded men, and so were their wives. It was very close knit. Whenever dad got transferred somewhere we generally knew people where we were going.

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Slurry bomber in Idaho, mid 1960’s, photo by my Dad.

So anyway, it is a great movie. I think it accurately shows how brave these guys were. And like I said, I have never been anywhere close to a fire but I think it shows accurately what being near a fire is like and how backbreaking building a fire line and clearing brush is. So as you can probably guess, I strongly recommend this movie.

The Hero with Sam Elliott

We went to see The Hero on a flaming hot Saturday afternoon. The movie stars Sam Elliott, of the craggy face, big mustache, and wonderful voice, playing an actor, Lee Hayden, who had one great film, The Hero, forty years ago and has been living on that fame ever since. He now spends his time doing voice overs for commercials, drinking bourbon, and smoking pot. He has an ex-wife, played by Elliott’s real life wife, Katherine Ross, and an estranged daughter, other than that he keeps to himself until he finds out that he has a very lethal form of cancer, and he immediately doubles down on the pot smoking and whiskey drinking. On an outing to a former actor buddy who is also his pot dealer he runs into Charlotte, played by a smoking hot Laura Prepon, who is also there picking up some weed. So we start this May December romance thing that just appears out of nowhere.

From there the movie plods along and we have lots of long walks on the beach and more drinking and pot smoking along with pills and mushrooms. We have indecipherable dream sequences and a sound track that features lots of iPhone sound effects. Things kind of brighten up a little bit as Hayden starts telling people about his illness. Overall though the movie doesn’t seem to have much of a message and is pretty much a downer. I’m kind of fifty-fifty on it. If you like Sam Elliott, you will love this movie. Otherwise, its a movie that seems confused about itself.

Leave the kiddos at home, lots of casual drug use, a little side boob view of Prepon and some suggestive scenes.

The Ape-Ocalpyse Now – War for the Planet of the Apes

The family went to see “War for the Planet of the Apes” and it actually turned out to be a decent flick. I was kind of dreading it because as a child in the 60’s I saw the original movies and they were pretty bad. This movie, a reboot as they say, has great costuming, and a pretty good story line. Basically the apes are the good guys and the humans are pretty much the bad guys. Woody Harrelson does a great job playing the psycho colonel.

The movie has superficial references to the film Apocalypse Now and Joseph Conrad’s novel  “Heart of Darkness.”

The film has some great battle scenes, especially at first, and the costuming for the monkey characters is truly phenomenal. Everybody keeps their clothes on but I think some of the battle scenes and other cruel scenes might be too much for some kids (and almost for this old guy.)

I loved this movie.

Spiderman Homecoming with Tom Holland, Robert Downey Jr. and Michael Keaton

The family went to see Spiderman Homecoming this evening. My son tells me that it is a reboot of Spiderman and that this is the third reboot of the movie. I guess a reboot is where the studios say, okay we are going to try again. Anyways this movie is pretty good. Spiderman is only 15 years old this time, a lot younger than some of the previous ones. This Spiderman is a teenage klutz. He saves people and stops crime but causes a lot of collateral damage. It really is hilarious if you have ever had a teenage boy in your family.

So this Spiderman, well played by Tom Holland also has school status issues. He doesn’t have any status and everybody looks down at him. He so wants to be cool but of course he cannot reveal his identity especially to the girl he likes. He doesn’t get any respect from Ironman, Tony Stark, the leader of the Avengers. But don’t worry. I could tell you the ins and the outs of the plot but just take it from me that everything works out and is nicely wrapped up for a sequel next year. My son tells me that the plan is incorporate Spiderman into the Avengers.

So I give this film a thumbs up. Nice plot, lots of action and suspense, no language problems, everybody keeps there clothes on and the good guys win.

Check the movie’s web site for more trailers, lots of pics, background information, a game and all sorts of good stuff. Check their IMDB site for bios of the full cast, trivia and other interesting info.

Baby Driver by Edgar Wright Starring Ansel Elgort and Lily James

The family went to see Baby Driver on July Fourth. Wow, what a movie. Ansel Elgort plays Baby, a getwaway driver for bad guys who hold up banks and such. He gets an equal share of the loot because he is so good at what he does. This movie has some incredible chase scenes made even more amazing because Baby does his thing in nondescript sedans instead of muscle cars. The other thing about Baby is that music is his thing. His whole thing, and only thing. He has tinnitus and he plays music to quell the ringing. He plays music all the time. Music is central to his life.

Music is central to the movie as well. All the action is set to the soundtrack, all of it. The movie opens with a bank heist and buddy times the whole thing to his ipod. The opening chase scene is one of the most mesmerizing chase scenes I’ve ever seen. It is like a ballet it is so smooth and flowing. A day after the getaway the movie shows Baby fetching coffee for his crew. His walk with the four coffees is also choreographed and smooth as he moves along the streets of Atlanta on foot.

He meets a girl (the cutest girl next door in ultra short dresses and high heel hiking boots you have ever seen!) in a diner who sings a song that catches his ear. They meet and fall in love and everything is great. Not!! The next job turns sour, and the rhythm is off, stuff goes wrong with the getaway. The next day is coffee walk is off also. Instead of elegance he bumps into people.

And the movie veers from cute and interesting to predictable. People get hurt, cops get kills (I hate to see cops getting killed in movies. One bad guy in particular turns into the indestructible enemy who just keeps showing up. I loved the first half of the movie and could do without the gratuitous violence and silliness in the second half. Sorry.

I’d go see it again though. Yes the first half is that good.

Leave the kiddos home because of the language and the violence. Everybody keeps their clothes on.