Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland, Natasha McElhone and Maggie Q

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Designated Survivor starring Kiefer Sutherland, Natasha McElhone, Maggie Q and Adan Canto. Image via pinterest.

With Designated Survivor renewed for a second season, and the season finale already having aired, it’s time I reviewed this engaging political drama/thriller starring Kiefer Sutherland. Watch out for a separate post dedicated to the finale.

Premise of Designated Survivor

Secretary of Urban Development and Housing Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is an idealistic and decent man who doesn’t care about power. He’s happily married to lawyer Alex (Natasha McElhone) with two kids, little Penny (Mckenna Grace, Gifted) and teenager Leo.

But soon after he is “reassigned” from the cabinet, the unthinkable happens. First, he is addressed as the Designated Survivor during the President’s state of union address. Second, Capital Hill is blown up – killing everyone, making Tom the president of the United States.

He agrees to the job in a state of shock. His family is located to the White House, and Tom is left to handle a grieving country, a second designated survivor from the opposing party, two qualified but disagreeing candidates for Chief of Staff, a governor who is ready for a coup, a general who wants to see him gone and many, many more complicated-as-hell problems. Can Tom handle it?

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Thoughts on the show

Designated Survivor has a great premise with a cast to match. Kiefer Sutherland has always been a joy to watch. I’ve been a fan of his acting long before 24 aired, and I remain so to this day. And while 24 got us used to Kiefer saving the president and the country in the field as an agent with unparalleled skills and perseverance, he definitely has the voice, attitude and looks to make one hell of a president, even though he is initially unprepared for the job.

This is my second time watching Adan Canto (who plays Aaron Shore) in a regular and much more likeable role. Sure, he can stab you in the back any moment as he has his own plans for his career, but a politically ambitious and succesful young man is still more likable than a serial killer groupie, like the one he played in The Following.

Maggie Q returns as an FBI agent. Sure, Nikita was not FBI, but she enforced law, justice, or both, one way or the other. However, she makes sure she adds subtle nuances and lets us know Hannah Wells is a different, albeit still impressive, badass character that holds her own. She’s immune to bullshit, and she won’t let public perception betray her gut. She is, however, still a human being, occasionally influenced by her grief and questions her own abilities.

I always rejoice when we have a fictional president who is a loyal and loving family man. We haven’t seen that enough in real life, and we surely haven’t seen it enough on TV.

The show also does a good job with strong female characters. Hannah is one. Natasha McElhone’s Alex is a good lawyer, and a dedicated wife and mother who does her best to make sure her family adapts to this unique situation. She tries her best so that her clients, immigrants or immigrant candidates in difficult situations, aren’t negatively affected by her change in circumstance. She is not drunk by her new status, but she is not afraid to call in favors if it means she will massively help someone in need.

Then we have Emily (Italia Ricci), Tom’s assitant and friend who is totally the opposite of the political warrior Aaron is. She is direct, honest and cares more about doing what’s right than what’s convenient. This of course hinders her career advancement in the White House, but she is not completely without ambition . She is also not shy in reminding Aaron that staff changes happen all the time.

And let’s not forget our antagonist, congresswoman Kimble (Virgina Madsen). She is confident, pretty honest for a politician and ambitious. She wants to be president next term, right after the country will, according to her, have gone to hell under the Kirkman presidency. While she pisses off us of as viewers, she pleases me as a writer. She is strong. She steals scenes. We know she can’t be trusted, but yet, we can’t predict her every move. It also helps that so far she has proven that, while she is not to be trusted, she is not evil.

Who are the villains that blew up the capital? Well, they are way too close to home for us to ever be comfortable…

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Conflicts and Antagonists

Luckily for the audience, Tom’s marriage is the only place where his abilities and whether he is the rightful person to be the president aren’t questioned every second.

Right now, apart from Emily, and of course appearances can be deceptive, everyone seems to be out to get him. Aaron does research and collects dirt behind Tom’s back, the general wants to replace Tom, the governor of Michigan’s practically given the police to do whatever they want to Muslims, other governors are sceptical and we can see the second survivor’s supporting attitude is just initial smoke screen. Oh, and many more problems and crises to come, personal, professional and nationwide.

Obviously, you expect a show set in Washington and around a new, inexperienced president to be full of conflicts, but writers are taking great advantage of a premise, and sort of a metaphorically post-apocalyptic America. Only the congress is in ruins, but anything and everything can go wrong any second. And it does.

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Check out Designated Survivor if:

1) You like quality political dramas
2) You are a fan of the cast, especially Kiefer Sutherland.
3) You are a fan of 24, and want to watch Kiefer take on a role with less action and more conflicts.

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Created by David Guggenheim.

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Money Monster starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell

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Money Monster starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O'Connell.

Money Monster starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Jack O’Connell. Image via Amazon.

Money Monster Plot Summary – No Spoilers

Lee Gates (George Clooney) is the cocky and popular host of the finance show Money Monster where he puts on extravagant stage performances and sheds out investment out like the ultimate authority. And while he knows what he is talking about, an unexpected “glitch” at the investment company IBUS has him

cause a lot of people to lose money: a total of 800 million, to be exact. The company CCO Diane Lester (Highlander’s Caitriona Balfe) is apologetic and sticks to the talking points while the CEO Walt Camby (The Affair’s Dominic West) is nowhere to be found.

This doesn’t really affect the rich Lee or his director Patty (Julia Roberts) – until a blue collar victim named Kyle (Jack O’Connell) takes them hostage on live television. He puts a gun to Lee’s head and makes him wear an explosive vest. Kyle holds a deadman’s trigger and demands answers. He wants to know how a “glitch” could happen, how Lee could give such shitty advice so confidently, and most importantly, he wants a word with Walt.

The police get quickly involved, but they don’t count on Lee’s humanity taking over and deciding to help Lee. And the more Lee and Patty listen to Kyle, the less they buy Walt’s glitch story. Can they find out what went wrong before it is too late?

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Money Monster Movie Review

Money Monster is a modern movie in the vein of Mad City. While the plots differ, there are several similarities that got me nostalgic:

Mad City starring John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman.

Mad City starring John Travolta and Dustin Hoffman. Image via moviepostershop.

  • An otherwise sane and decent man going mad when he loses his money. In Mad City, John Travolta gets fired from his job at a museum and takes the manager hostage, with the unexpected surprise of kids being there at the same time.
  • A not-so-empathetic reporter tries to control things (In Mad City, the reporter is played by Dustin Hoffman), but then he gets on the gunman’s side as he learns more about his situation.
  • We end up rooting for the wronged family man, but of course, ****spoilers**** they will tragically pay the price of taking justice into their own hands, even if we badly wanted them to win.
  • The police will make things worse.

The good things about Money Monster, apart from the stellar cast and director Jodie Foster, is that it feels like the emotional, humane drama/thrillers of the 90s. The not-so-great thing is it feels like we have seen this movie before.

And for some reason, while I was sad at the ending and enjoyed the time I spent on the movie, I didn’t feel as touched as I was when I watched Mad City.

And while Money Monster made more money at the box office and is a bit more highly rated at IMDB, I still prefer Mad City.

That said, as a 90s kid, I still feel Julia Roberts and George Clooney are more my generation than say Scarlett Johannson or Chris Hemsworth. I love seeing them on screen in lead roles. So for nostalgia and the love of cast and director, I still recommend giving Money Monster a shot. As familiar and predictable the story might feel, it still has more heart than a lot of stuff out there.

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Money Monster is a 2016 movie written by Jamie Linden, Alan DiFiore, and Jim Kouf. The movie made over 93 million dollars worldwide. It’s budget is reported to be around 27 mil.

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The Space Between Us starring Gary Oldman, Asa Butterfield, Britt Robertson and Carla Cugino: An Uplifting Love Story with Space Elements

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The Space Between Us. Image via impawards.

East Texas is scientist/businessman Nathaniel Parker (Gary Oldman)’s brainchild: A group of astranouts will go to live on Mars for four years. He couldn’t be prouder. But when it turns out his lead astranout Sarah Elliot is pregnant on space, a difficult consensus is reached to save the baby: He should stay on Mars as a journey to Earth could be deadly.

Baby Gardner grows up to be a smart and resourceful teenager (Asa Butterfield).
His only connection to our planet – managed without the help, consent, or the knowledge of the astranauts who raised him – is a high school student named Tulsa (Britt Robertson). As far as world-wary and street-smart Tulsa knows (and doesn’t believe a word of), Gardner is stuck living in a NY penthouse due to a rare disease. Gardner is the one thing about Earth that doesn’t seem to piss Tulsa off.

But as much as astranout Kendra (Carla Cugino) loves him like a son, Gardner longs to go to planet earth. And while a trip to Earth can be physically detrimental, being here isn’t doing Gardner’s psychology any favors. Despite Parker’s protests, Gardner is treated for bone density, goes to physcial therapy and finally arrives on Earth…only to find out more tests await. A discouraged Gardner manages to escape, with only two goals in mind: to meet Tulsa and find his father.

Tulsa and Gardner get along swimmingly, minus some understandable disbelief on Tulsa’s part. But as the two teens grow closer, so do Kendra and Gardner to finding them. And as much as we want Gardner to have the time of his life, we also know the two adults are only concerned about saving Gardner’s life. Can Gardner find his father and collect enough memories before he has to go back? And will Kendra and Parker find him before it is too late?

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The Space Between Us is the perfect drama romance adventure. But the focus of the movie is on the connection and love between human beings, and while the romance of Tulsa and Gardner takes focus, there is also a lot of paternal love going on.

Despite being a writer, I’m a lot like your average viewer. When I love a movie to bits, I don’t notice flaws. So if this one has any, you are going to have to let me know in the comments.

Yes, I’m a romantic. And I’m really sick of the same old sick kid love story. But Gardner isn’t originally sick. He is just literally raised on another planet. Whatever health problems arise, it arises due to different gravity and his heart responding negatively. It’s a pretty original (and logical) health problem right there.

Then, there is one or two minor twists that you might or not see coming, which serve as sweet additions to an already sweet story.

And it’s refreshing to see “antagonists” that are really just concerned about a kid’s well-being. It’s hard not to root for both sides, which makes it all the more fun and emotional to watch.

Yes, we want Gardner to find love and experience many, many firsts- including feeling the wind on his face and the rain on his body. But we also don’t want a 16-year-old to die. We want a loving, caring man (Parker) to fix his mistake. We want Kendra to save her surrogate son. We want Tulsa to finally be happy, and we definitely don’t want her to lose her favorite thing about Earth, which is understandably Gardner.

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I WILL SPOIL THE ENDING – Meaning, I’ll tell you if it is happy or sad.

Of course, I tend to have a sweet spot for Allan Loeb stories, he is one of the co-writers, and I’ve always had a bit of a crush on the awesomeness that is Gary Oldman. So I’m positively biased.

So I’m warning you. It’s a love story. It’s about different kinds of love. It’s a road trip film. It’s fighting for someone’s survival vs. someone’s happiness. And in the end, spoilers ahead, optimists and romantics win. So there. I told you. The ending is all warm and fuzzy. I loved it. It’s also embrassing, but I didn’t see the twist coming.

Loved the cast, visuals, and the soundtrack.

The film was directed by Peter Chelsom, and written by Allan Loeb, Steward Schill and Richard Barton Lewis. It is currently rated at 6.4 on IMDB.

 

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Allied Movie Review: Brad Pitt and Marion Cottilard in an Engaging Robert Zemeckis Spy Romance

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Allied starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard

Allied starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Image via IMP awards.

I liked the film, and this will be a positive review. So if you want to hate on it, you can do so in the comments or just ignore this.

Still with me? Awesome!

Allied is a 2016 feature drama, war, romance movie written by Steven Knight (Locke, Burnt, Eastern Promises) and directed by Robert Zemeckis. (Back to the Future, Flight, Forrest Gump). It stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard (Inception, The Dark Night Rises, A Good Year) in the lead roles and features Matthew Goode in a tiny but key part.

It’s important to mention that Allied is an old-fashioned film shot in an old-fashioned way. There is nothing unique or disruptive about it, and this is one of the main reasons I loved it so much.

Now, I love uniqueness and disruption where it is needed. Sometimes, you need to break the rules. Go outside of what is expected. But a sexy, traditional romance story with a bit of action starring your favorite actors directed by one of your favorite directors is sometimes exactly what you need to escape the complexities of your own world.

This is not to say the characters don’t have to go through hell. They do. They must, as any compelling story will have their characters suffer. But before the suffering, there is a tremendous reward, (in the form of a romance), a fun storyline and just beauty.

So here is the Allied Plot: (No spoilers; this is all in the trailer)

Max Vatan (Brad Pitt), a capable Canadian intelligence officer, meets the equally capable and attractive, French operative Marianne (Marion Cotillard) for an assignment that requires them to play a married couple.

It’s easy to fall in love during wartime: They are both intelligent, passionate, successful, and well, beautiful to a fault. By the time their assignment is over, they are a couple in love. They get married soon and have an adorable daughter.

However the biggest challenge for Max won’t be the war, but the accusation from his government that Marianne is a German spy. In 72 hours, her innocence or guilt will be proven. If she is guilty, Max will execute her himself. If he refuses, he will be hanged.

Can the woman he loves really be a spy? And if she is a spy, does it change the fact that he truly loves her?

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It’s a horrible situation to be in, and it provides us the suspense and action we need for the second half of the film as Max tries to prove her innocence by whatever means necessary, while the war is in full swing.

Throughout the film, our focus is on the passionate and loving relationship of our two protagonists. The war is in the background, however horrible it might be.

And Max is in the most horrendous situation of his life. Sure, he has lost friends. He has killed people, in both self-defense and doing his job. But the possibility of being betrayed by his wife, and the fact that he might have to kill her, almost breaks Max, and Brad Pitt does a good job making us feeling his pain.

Of course, when it comes to other things, the screenplay doesn’t bother. When you think about it, both Max and Marianne do horrible things. They had to kill a lot of people: to defend themselves, because it is their job, etc…One could argue wartime ethics and laws are different.

But Max also caused a lot of deaths, directly and indirectly, while he was trying to prove Marianne’s innocence. He didn’t blink an eye. He didn’t have time, was facing a life and death situation, his world was falling apart, etc. But his ability to compartmentalize was so scary and impressive at the same time.

Was there really little to no guilt? Did he have a superior coping mechanism? Or did he have sociopathic tendencies?

As I said, it wasn’t this movie’s goal or job to look into Max’s psychology outside of his feelings for his country/country’s allies or his wife. But if you want to dig deeper, there is a lot to think about.

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Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield: Poetic, Brutal and Beautiful

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Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield

Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Sam Worthington and Teresa Palmer. Directed by Mel Gibson.

 

UPDATED: HACKSAW RIDGE Awards, Nominations and Box Office

Hacksaw Ridge is currently (as on January 1st, 2017) is rated at 8.5 on ?MDB voted by over 42,000 people. It’s Metascore is 71, and is currently at number 90 on IMDB’s Top 250 Films list.

The budget is about 40 million, and its current box office (domestic and international) has surpassed 136. The movie was nominated for 3 Golden Globes: Best Motion Picure (Drama), Best Actor (Drama, Andrew Garfield), and Best Director (Mel Gibson). It won AFI for Movie of the Year, and won several Australian Film Institute Awards including Best Actor, Best Direction and Best Screenplay.

Hacksaw Ridge starring Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn & Sam Worthington

Based on the incredible true story of Desmond Doss, Hacksaw Ridge is a movie about how a young combat medic didn’t bend his pacifist beliefs for anyone, and ended up being a war hero without having fired a gun or used a weapon (with the wonderful exception where he used a rifle to make a makeshift sliding stretcher for his wounded sergeant).

Plot Summary

Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield) grows up in a violent home. Even though he has a loving mother (Rachel Griffiths), his father (Hugo Weaving) frequently uses violence on them, including his brother Hal (Nathaniel Buzolic; Kol from The Vampire Diaries and The Originals).

Their father is not necessarily evil; he is just a war veteran dealing with survivor’s guilt and PTSD horribly.

Doss boys seem to have a violent streak themselves. During one fight, Desmond almost injures Hal beyond repair, which triggers Desmond to embrace the peace-loving nature of his religion.

Desmond Doss grows up to be a loving, caring and determined man. He falls in love with beautiful nurse Dorothy (Teresa Palmer), which further ignites his love for medicine. Not having been educated well, being a paramedic seems to be his only option. Fuelled to serve his country and do something while others are also risking lives, he enlists. However, he objects to doing any weapon training and gets treated horribly by most of his fellow soldiers in training and superiors.

However, he eventually manages to get what he wants. And as horrifying violence and mayhem surround them, everyone who ridiculed him gets to see what he is truly made of – again and again and again.

rsz_hacksaw-ridge

Actual scene. Image via The Independent.

 

Hacksaw Ridge was directed by Mel Gibson. Unlike his other directed films, he is not a producer this time. He also doesn’t star in it either, unlike Braveheart, or The Man Without a Face.

I haven’t seen Apocalypto or The Passion of the Christ. However, I have seen Braveheart (and The Man Without a Face, which is not a war film.) – and while Hacksaw Ridge isn’t quite there, it is pretty damn impressive.

Hacksaw Ridge is also understandably more violent. Braveheart had swords and arrows. Hacksaw Ridge doesn’t shy away from any shot that might make you cringe or want to look away. It has more blood, more severed limbs, and people in more pain. It makes you uncomfortable, and not for the sake of show or art. War is hell, and Mel Gibson makes sure you feel that in your veins.

Many people, including the cast argue Hacksaw Ridge is both a love story and a war story; you might consider it one or the other. But I disagree. Hacksaw Ridge is an epic anti-war movie with beautiful romantic scenes and horrifying war scenes. But it is more a respectful, albeit glorious, biography of a humane man of faith than a war film or a romance.

Teresa Palmer and Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge.

Teresa Palmer and Andrew Garfield in Hacksaw Ridge.

I’m agnostic. I don’t like religious motives or messages much. But you see, Hacksaw Ridge might show a Bible, but anyone with a heart can’t disagree of how Doss has interpreted the message: “Don’t harm anyone. And absolutely, do not kill.”

And he does exactly that. He doesn’t fight back when people hit him, which might be considered extreme. But he is proving a point. He is proving his principles. And he ends up saving 75 people in the course of about 12 hours. He helps a lot more.

He gets shocked and wounded and tested. But he doesn’t give up. He prays to be able to save another man. And then prays to be able to save the next.

Comparisons to Saving Private Ryan

Comparisons are being made for better and worse, and it’s only natural.

– Like Saving Private Ryan (aff. link), Hacksaw Ridge asks some very hard questions about humanity.

“Is the life of 8 men more or less important than the life one 1, if the mother of that one kid has lost three of her four kids in the same war.”

vs.

“Is it ever okay to kill and go against your beliefs? Or is it okay to risk everything to make the world a better place?”

– Both films have disturbingly realistic battle scenes. Both films have great casts, though SPR’s might have been slightly more famous. Both are critically acclaimed; both have amazing directors.

– Both films have solid anti-war messages.

– Both films must be seen as movie lovers, and people.

– I liked them both. I just liked HR a bit better.

Mel Gibson is my favorite actor, and he is one of my favorite directors. So there is a positive bias. But HR assaults your emotions for a shorter time. It’s ultimately less depressing despite being equally terrifying at times.

It’s a matter of personal preference. I’m pretty sure I can’t sit through SPR again one more time, just like I’d have to fast-forward HR’s battle scenes. Once is enough.

– Both movies have achieved greatness at shockingly low budgets for movies this size: Saving Private Ryan at 70 mil and Hacksaw Ridge at 40 mil.

Some more reasons to see Hacksaw Ridge

– The training scenes have some good humor. I loved the sergeant’s (Vince Vaughn) reaction to the naked soldier “Hollywood.” Also, Vince Vaughn is in a dramatic role again.

I have loved Vince Vaughn as an actor since Return to Paradise, which is one of my favorite films. It provides one of the most humane, enthralling and impossible-to-make decisions ever, and Vaughn shines in a dramatic role. Sure, he almost always talks fast, but he is as good as drama as he is at comedy. HR takes him to deeper lengths than The Interns ever could or wanted to (which is really entertaining film). The point is, Vaughn has more substance than just being the king of R-rated comedies.

– The romance is very well-done. It’s not sappy or corny. It has a pureness to it we haven’t quite seen since the relationship between Wallace and Murron. It feels real (and well, it was real.) So if like me, you really didn’t enjoy The Choice, here’s Teresa Palmer’s second chance to win you over in a romantic story.

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Hacksaw Ridge is a must-see war film. It’s, in my opinion, not the best movie or the best war movie ever made. It’s however a very exquisite one that deserves to be seen on the big screen. It’s not always easy to watch, but you will feel intensely. You will occasionally escape your reality and the depressing things going on around the world. However, you’ll also be faced with the uncensored ugliness of war. I’d say it is great entertainment, but that’d not be the best choice of words. I wasn’t entertained. I felt. A lot, and all the time.

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Written by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight. Also featuring Luke Bracey and Milo Gibson (one of Mel Gibson’s 8 kids). Directed by Mel Gibson.

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How about you? Have you seen Hacksaw Ridge? What did you think?

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Good Behavior starring Michelle Dockery and Juan Diego Botto: Solid Crash Course on Addictive Grey Characters

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Good Behavior, Michelle Dockery, juan diego botto

Good Behavior starring Michelle Dockery and Juan Diego Botto.                     Image via gstatic.

Good Behavior– Plot Summary (Minor Spoilers for Episode 1)

Letty (Michelle Dockery) is a beautiful mess. She’s an ex-con, a drug addict and a thief. She’s not allowed to see her son, her mother hates her, and she has to hold disgusting jobs if she wants to stay straight.

Javier (Juan Diego Botto) is a handsome, efficient hitman who just happens to be one of Letty’s theft victims. When she overhears what he is, she decides to try and save his target. She meets him, has a great date with him and has a wild night of sex. If you didn’t know his job, you could easily develop a crush.

Letty is not a hero. She doesn’t even make a great escapee. When her mother doesn’t allow her to see his son, she goes off the rails. Javier could easily kill her, but he has other plans…

Spoilers and Praises Ahead

We have a hitman who might have a soft spot for a woman he had sex with, who doesn’t do drugs and saves the woman’s life – and then recruits her for a trickier job. He doesn’t seem to be a total psychopath, and you can definitely forgive him (when you hear the reason) for job 2.

Letty is both drawn to and repulsed by him. Her escape attempts are useless, and she does need him to stay alive.

But not all murders are perfect, and we have one of the weirdest, most curious and engaging road trips ahead, including dead bodies, sexual chemistry off the charts and a Tesla running out of battery…

It’s an interesting show.

The acting is top-notch, and I don’t think we had grayer protagonists. What is interesting to note about Javier is that he seems totally against the idea of harming a child. He never once threatens to hurt Letty’s son. He doesn’t even threaten to kill Letty. He just says he will find her.

Then we have Letty’s parole officer who has his own addiction and demons to battle, a stupid eager beaver barking around and the past of Javier to discover.

I’m totally addicted. I watched the first three episodes in a row.

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Good Behavior is a new show airing on TNT. It was created by Chad Hodge and Blake Crouch.

 

 

 

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Prime starring Uma Thurman, Bryan Greenberg & Meryl Streep: A Good Romantic Comedy That Becomes Better With (Your) Age

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Beautiful, recently divorced, emotionally raw 37-year-old Rafi (Uma Thurman) works in fashion and heals herself through therapy sessions with her psychiatrist Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep).

Lisa is a devout Jew in her personal life who’s not thrilled that her 23-year-old son David (Bryan Greenberg) wants to be an artist, holds menial jobs and lives with his maternal grandparents. David also seems a bit more lax about his religion and doesn’t have a serious girlfriend.

Not knowing their connection, Rafi and David start dating. Rafi says she is dating a 27-year-old to Lisa, and David also tells his mother that he is also dating a 27-year-old. Happy for Rafi, Lisa encourages her relationship. However, as a mother, she is really upset David is dating a non-Jewish woman “4 years older” than him.

As Rafi shares their most intimate moments, they start falling for each other. But with more details and Rafi admitting his real age, Lisa puts it all together. So what the hell is she going to do now?

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Prime is a thoughtful, sincere and hilarious romantic comedy. You have the classic disapproving mother-in-law conflict tripled by making the potential in-law from a different religion and the therapist. Add 14 years of age difference, and we’ve all got some thinking to do. Especially sometimes since David acts his age (and not in a good way), and Rafi is craving for a baby.

I sincerely recommend it. And Meryl Streep is just hilarious.

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Spoilers Ahead: More About Prime (and Why It Gets Better As You Age)

When I first saw Prime (2005), I was about David’s age. And like David, I was a lot more optimistic. And unlike Rafi, I didn’t really want kids, so I was disappointed by the ending. And being a romantic impaired my judgment. I thought the film was okay, but it needed a happy ending.

But seeing it again it at 31, closer to Rafi’s age than David’s, I think the movie is great as it is. Honestly, I’m a bit freaked out at the idea of dating a 23-year-old even though I’m younger than Ravi, don’t mind a fling and still don’t want any kids!

As much as age is just a number in theory, and we are likely to break or bend our own rules when it comes to strong romantic connections, it is easier to see the ending as “right” and not as a disappointment.

Then there is the fact that this is Lisa’s story, as much as it is Rafi and David’s. While they both learn things about themselves, relationships and what they need to do in life, Lisa learns to give David a bit more freedom. She learns that the extreme gap between how she treats her patients and how she treats her family needs to be smaller, and that David needs a different route than her to be happy. And that’s okay.

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So a lot of romance, comedy and character growth will warm up your heart. Give Prime a shot. Written and directed by Ben Younger.

Also on Uma Thurman

The Life Before Her Eyes starring Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood

Beautiful Girls starring Timothy Hutton, Matt Dillon, Uma Thurman, Natalie Portman and Mira Sorvino

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No One Lives Movie Review: No One Lives starring Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens and Derek Magyar

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No One Lives movie poster starring Luke Evans

Image via assets.tmdb.org.

A young woman, Emma, (Adelaide Clemens) screams. Again. We see her running in the forest, but she is caught by a trap, and is hung upside down by her feet. She’s not getting away, but she isn’t going down without a fight, either.

A bunch of redneck criminals are looting a family’s house, but when the family arrives early, one of them shoots them all in reflex, angering all the other members and forcing them to forgo their potential earnings.

Driver (Luke Evans) is moving away with his younger girlfrined to a new start. There seem to be issues between them, though they look like a couple that have deep feelings for each other. From their innuendos, we suspect an affair on the driver’s side. He apologizes for messing things up.

They stop by a motel and watch the news: the girl in the forest is still missing after about 6 months, but she has managed to carve EMMA ALIVE on the tree.

They later go to a diner/bar suggested by the motel owner, and the girlfriend is still upset about the other woman. The diner is empty, but soon the redneck gang arrives. The members aren’t looking for trouble, aside from the guy, Flynn (Derek Magyar) who killed the family. He’s certain our couple is loaded, and he disturbs them. The gang leader (Lee Tergesen) prevents him from bothering anyone further, but Flynn won’t let go.

The couple’s car is crashed into, and they’re wounded. They wake up in an empty storage place, guarded by the massive gang member Ethan, who seems like he could eat a couple of successful boxers alive.

The members are angry, but Flynn has returned with the couple’s car and trailer. He is sure Ethan can get the couples’ “financial” information easily, making up for the loss.

But what torture-ready Ethan doesn’t count on is the girlfriend completely losing it, and the Driver “losing” it even further. What starts out as a couple in distress, turns into a worse psychopath – a psycopath who’s weapons and combat-trained, hunting down the gang members one by one…

And as the gang members turn into victims, they will face other twists and turns.

*

As we slowly lose any sympathy we might have had for the driver, we still root for him to kick the gang members’ ass. They overestimated themselves and severely underestimated him. And it’s one thing terrifiying/killing a helpless family, and it’s another when they are going against a Dexter meets Hannibal meets Bourne – only without the morals or cannibalism.

*

It’s not the most sophisticated dialogue, and switches between finely foreshadowing and extremly on the nose. That said, I actually like on-the-nose dialogue when it works, and you can’t help like Driver talk what’s on his head without hesitation or calculation. Why not be blunt and open when you’re the one with a plan to kill everyone brutally, innocent or otherwise? And when he doesn’t kill you, it might even be a worse sign….

*

For a very bloody and mindless action/thriller, it’s pretty good entertainment. Some things could be improved, but it’s always fun to have a psycho hunting other psychos, and when he is strangely for empowering his chosen female victims while screwing them the hell up and developing his version of Stockholm Syndrome.

I’d love a sequel or a prequel, to be honest. Written by David Cohen. Directed by Ryûhei Kitamura.

Enjoy!

Favorite Lines:

Leader : Are you a serial killer?
Driver : Serial killers work in solidarity, I am more of a numbers guy.

Driver’s Girlfriend: A man who lacks emotion is sorry.
Driver : I don’t lack emotion. I just process it differently*. (*Which is the understatement of the year, really.)

*
Enjoy this bloody thriller. No pun intended. 🙂

 

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The Vicious Kind starring Adam Scott: Humanly Amoral, Emotional and Funny

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The Vicious Kind movie poster via amazon.com.

 

Oh, how Adam Scott (High Crimes, Leap Year , A.C.O.D, Friends with Kids, The Overnight) has grown on me. I’ve never not liked the guy, but this was definitely one of the more challenging roles he has taken on.

On the surface, the premise of the movie might sound like a typical romantic comedy. However, it’s not very typical, and it’s NOT a romantic comedy.

Caleb (Adam Scott) is a lonely construction worker who is not dealing well with his break-up at all. He can’t sleep, he has sex with hookers and then sends pictures of the act to his ex, and he is not taken the news of his younger brother Luke’s romance well. He believes, and openly states, that all women are whores, and this new girl, Emma (Britanny Snow), is no different. The fact that she was seeing another guy when she met Luke only confirms Caleb’s thoughts.

Luke introduces them as they pick up Emma, and drive her and Luke to their father’s house – a father called Donald (played by J.K. Simmons) Caleb isn’t on speaking terms with.

The problem is Emma kind of looks like Caleb’s ex. She is also sexy, nice and friendly, making Caleb assault her and want her all at once. Oh, yes, Caleb isn’t very a stable or healthy individual. However, he is a fascinating character to watch.

One minute he’s frightening the hell out of her, and one minute he’s crying and apologizing. One minute he’s trying to prove she’s out to break Luke’s heart and telling her not to, and one minute he’s being all intense and attracting her.

Of course, Emma is only less of a mess compared to Caleb. Her boyfriend, Caleb’s brother Luke, is a virgin. Caleb is a good-looking nutjob, their father Donald borders on creepy and weird, and she has her own drunk mother and parental issues to deal with. As a psych major who hasn’t been able to sort herself out, is it any wonder she’s slowly drawn to the volatile Caleb? And can anyone survive this triangle?

*

The performances are fantastic, and I had a pretty good time watching Caleb contradicting himself at every turn. Adam Scott does a brilliant job in making the audience going from wanting to punch him to hug him and back to punching in a matter of minutes.

Luke seems like the more innocent and normal of the bunch, but that might exactly be what’s backfiring in his relationship. It’s not that Emma wants a bad guy per se, but she’d certainly be prepared for one who deals with his issues out on the open.

It’d be appropriate to call Caleb both the antagonist and protagonist of the story: He’s the main character. We get to know him the most. He is also the one screwing up things left and right, and doing almost always the wrong thing to sort things out or feel better.

I’d definitely recommend this funny drama. Written and directed by Lee Toland Krieger.

 

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Film Review: A Plot You Didn’t Like Doesn’t Equal No Plot

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Image via http://www.joblo.com.

I watched Batman vs. Superman, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Now, I get where the unsatisfied portion of comic fans comes from. It’s natural to expect loyalty to the source material. If I loved a book and they fundamentally changed things, I am bound to refuse to watch the result.

I saw the first scene from Runaway Jury, and I ran away. It wasn’t a bad scene. The movie has a great cast. It was based on one my favorite books: John Grisham’s Runaway Jury, and that was the problem. They changed what the main trial was about, and I lost my appetite. After loving Batman v Superman despite the negative reviews (mostly about how it defies who Batman and Superman are), I will shut my mouth and watch a well-rated movie with a cast I love. I will forget about the book, and then I will come back and talk about it.

But as I haven’t read the comics, I don’t have anything to compare the movie to other than the Batman and Superman movies I have seen, and I’ve seen them all apart from the one starring George. I have enjoyed Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer and Christian Bale as Batman. And I totally loved Affleck too.

I grew up with Christopher Reeve’s Superman movies, but Henry Cavill did a good job in Man of Steel. Now, I would have enjoyed that film more if the battle scene and sounds were edited better and cut shorter. But overall, it was a fun experience. And movies cast like that help if you are a total movie geek and don’t mind mainstream stuff. Russell Crowe as Superman’s father, Michael Shannon as the main villain, Kevin Costner as the stepfather, Diane Lane as the stepmother? Oh, and Amy Adams is Louis Lane? That was a decent experience.

Some people hate director Zac Snyder as a principle, whether or not they liked 300. I don’t like 300, but Watchmen was a dark, decent and engaging film.

Then there are the massive directorial style differences between Snyder and Nolan. So everyone knew the movies were inevitably going to be different.

Now, there’s a line I heard over and over. Sometimes it was uttered to harshly criticize the movie. Sometimes to state the obvious in a neutral way: “This wasn’t like a Batman movie. Or a Superman movie.” Exactly!

It was a Batman vs. Superman movie. It had them both. It had a more depressed Batman (although Bales’ Wayne/Batman was no ray of sunshine either), and a Superman who was having a bit of crisis. What sane being, alien or human, would feel comfortable with being adored and feared by the masses? When his fathers are dead, and his girlfriend is constantly in danger to her personality and job? And now he has a vigilante out for him, whose psychology isn’t that far off when you consider his childhood, history with villains and most recently, the death and distraction he witnesses in the beginning of the movie? (Sure, letting us know Robin was dead would make it even more rational, but I do love Batman overreacting and being irrational. It suits the character.)

As far movie having no plot/ characterization, that’s ignoring a lot of elements. You may not like it. You might find some clichés although I can’t really think of superhero movies without them.) but tell me how this is not having a plot:

(There might be spoilers. And so many things happened, I might confuse the order of stuff and leave some things out.

About two years after Superman’s fight with, and victory against, General Zod, United States is polarized about Superman’s existence. People are bothered by his powers, and how he doesn’t answer to anyone. On the other hand, people he saved or people who witness his saves are more fans/worshippers.

One person who’s extremely mad is Bruce Wayne. He’s seen the destruction the battle has caused. He lost many employees. He saw the panic, fear and pain with his eyes. Of course, a saner person would blame it on Zod, but our Batman is prone to extreme reactions. (Didn’t he hide away for years in a previous movie?) So he obsesses over how to beat (and kill) Superman while increasing the violence in his vigilante ways.

Rich and psychotic businessman Lex Luthor wants to destroy Superman for his own twisted reasons and uses the government’s doubts and his resources to get his hands on a batch of kryptonite.

Distracting Wayne a little is a gorgeous woman who seems to be rich socialite of sorts and “steals” the info Wayne wanted to steal from Lex Luthor.

And there’s the fun irony that Clark Kent, Superman’s journalist persona, wants to go after Batman as he sees him as an uncontrolled vigilante who doesn’t care about collateral damage or ethics when going after criminals.

In their distracted states and crises, neither hero sees what Luthor is up to until it’s too late. Will they see they are on the same side before it’s too late?

*

I still left a lot of details out, but basically you have a decent plot with a solid antagonist who is working on unleashing a more dangerous creature just in case, a superhero trying to fit in and shaking off Bruce Wayne, a US senator (Holly Hunter) who undermines and underestimates a disturbed genius, and of course two protagonists who have to deal with a lot of demons, action and each other.

Yes, it’s not a Batman movie or a Superman movie. But it’s a great hybrid with a lot to offer if you don’t go into the movie expecting it be loyal to comic books.

It does however have more realistic superheroes in the sense that they have problems like the rest of us. Maybe it’s not money or health, but they grapple with who they are, what they should be doing and their levels of humanity.

And Jeremy Irons’ Alfred is like a combination of Michael Cain’s Alfred and Morgan Freeman’s Fox: butler, scientist and life coach with a snappy sense of humor. Frankly, I would watch a lot more Batman movies with that Alfred.

*

All in all, I think Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice is the Keanu Reeves of movies. People are polarized. As with Keanu Reeves, I like what we get.

What do you think?

PS Bang2write’s awesome Lucy V Hay has a great e-book on the movie. She basically evaluated the script. After reading it, I do agree with some of the scenes being redundant like the nightmares.

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