Movie Review: Sinister (2012)

Title: Sinister
Genre: Horror/Thriller
Rating: R (NOT FOR KIDS; while not as gory as some horror movies, this film focuses on murder and psychological horor, so not for the kids)
Release Date: 2012
Director: Scott Derrickson
Writing Credits:  Scott Derrickson & C. Robert Cargill

At a Halloween party over the weekend, a friend decided that everyone should watch Sinister, which he greatly recommended (and horror is his favorite genre).  So we agreed.  Although I’m sure some of my friends regret watching movies with me because I am a commentator. This movie was no exception.

The movie starts out with Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) and his family moving into a home that (unknown to the rest of his family) is at the center of a murder mystery he is investigating for his new book.  He finds a bunch of 8mm home videos and decides to watch them.  Only he finds out that the films cover 50 years and all end with the family dying in various different ways.  Things continue to go south in many ways for him as he continues his investigation. It begins to affect his children and wife.  (The effects on the kids is another reason why this movie is not for kids).

It is your standard horror movie, with the psychological elements that come with it.  Writing wise, its well written. I think the idea of tying into a fictional pagan deity was a bit much, but it worked within the film.  The minor characters seem to have a lot more sense than I usually see in a horror film which was also a nice change.

The cast, other than Ethan Hawke, was pretty new to me.  However they all did an excellent job. The girl who played Ashley Oswalt (Clare Foley) might be familiar to some as she played a recurring character on Gotham (Ivy Pepper).

The soundtrack was amazing though, and perhaps the best part of the film.

My overall enjoyment of the film was so-so because Horror films don’t seem to appeal to me.  I spend too much time mocking the characters. But this movie overall if taken analytically was a well put together movie.  My only criticism is some of the lighting in some of the scenes  could have been better.

Deputy So-and-So (who I see as the most sensible person in this movie) returned for the sequel, which came out in 2015.  It has Shannyn Sossamon in it, which intriqued me but I don’t think I’ll be watching the sequel.

Final Grade: A

Trailer:

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Movie Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Title: Beauty and the Beast
Release Date: 2017
Director:Bill Condon
Genre:  Disney; Live-Action Animation remake; Musical
Method of Watching:  Stream (Netflix)

Today I finally sat down and watched Beauty and the Beast.  I expected to enjoy it and was not disappointed.  However, It actually was better than I expected.  Beauty and the Beast’s original Disney film came out in 1991 when I was 5 years old.  So basically at the time I was obsessed with Disney films like ever other toddler in existence.  So there is a lot of sentimentality to get through when watching a remake.  I expected to enjoy it because of other reviews I read, but also expected to be disappointed in ways because it would no doubt not match the animated version. Continue reading

Scarlet O’Hara (Bubblews Repost)

Vivien Leigh in Gone With the Wind trailer-9

EDIT NOTES:  This post was made several years ago on Bubblews, a site that is no longer online.  I found it while cleaning out some folders on my google drive, and decided to repost it, with some minor grammatical corrections.  According to my file, I wrote this on October 9, 2014, 11:55 AM.  I plan on eventually reading the novel, and rewatching the movie to see if my views still hold true. Also this post doesn’t focus on GWTW portrayal of slavery, which is at times very awkward because of its avoidance of the reality.  This just focuses on their main plot around Scarlet.

On Sunday, I saw Gone With the Wind in Theaters.  It was a great experience, although I hate to tell the movie people that 5 minutes is not enough to allow people to get to the bathroom and/or go to the concession stand to refill their drinks.  Should have been fifteen, but that is not the point of this post. Continue reading

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Film: Wonder Woman  (PG-13)
Director:  Patty Jenkins
Release Date:  June 2 2017/September 1 2017
Grade: A

I really enjoyed this movie.  I will admit that one of the reasons I wanted to see it is because I like Chris Pine, but honestly he was only one element of a good film.  The background of the Amazonians was well-developed, and Robin Wright did an amazing job as the general.  I wish we had seen more of her in the film then we did.

The secondary characters were great as well, and they didn’t ignore the idea of PTSD from the war.  They also didn’t make the superhero always right. I’m also glad they made it be WWI, and not WWII.  While the Germans are still the guys following the bad guy, It gets tiring after a while to see it always be the Nazi’s (although if there is a Nazi, they should be fought).  This movie didn’t shy away from the fact that at the time there was many disadvantages to not being white and male without making it seem like a lecture.  It didn’t glorify war, but it wasn’t heavy-handed with the opposite.  It had an even tone through out.  There were plenty of female characters that had names and lines none of them were seen in awkward near nudity scenes. Diana’s uniform is reveling, but functional rather than just something that makes her look ‘sexy’ which has long been a comic book flaw.  I was surprised that they reversed the trend of seeing women in surprise nudity to seeing the guy in surprise nudity.  Although he was taking a bath, so it is a little more understanding then say what happened in Star Trek where Carol Marcus just starts changing in front of the man who is technically her boss.

I also give them credit for an amazing plot twist at the end which didn’t stick to all the conventions either.

It was a good origin film, connecting well into the general DC universe.  I have to admit that out of the DC films I have seen, this has been the only one I have enjoyed.  I can only hope that DC  takes note from this and the movies will improve in quality of writing.

Besides Chris Pine, Gal Gadot, and Robin Wright, it has a lot of familiar faces.  Danny Houston plays the German General, who perhaps is not unlike his edition of Stryker from the X-men movies. David Thewlis, known for his portrayal of Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter films plays Sir Patrick, one of the leaders of Great Britain attempting to make an armistice with the German forces.

Robin Hood & History

One of my favorite movies growing up was Robin Hood.  It was the Disney version, the one with the Animal kingdom playing out the roles.  According to the story, Robin Hood (a fox) stole from the rich and gave to the poor because Prince John (a Lion, sans mane) was overtaxing the population of Nottinghamshire while ruling for his brother King Richard (a Lion, with a mane).  It’s the basic story behind most Robin Hood movies.

The interesting thing about Robin Hood is it’s both fiction and non-fiction.  It’s a mix of characters who are fictional and characters who were based on real people.  As I grew up, and started to be interested in the back story I found out that some of the stories are more interesting outside the myth.

For example, Prince John.  In Disney’s version of the tale, he’s a laughable villain.  He sucks his thumb and cries for Mommy and is made fun of for that fact.  He’s not even depicted as a fully grown lion, and his crown doesn’t fit his head.  His assistant, Sir HIss, puts up with a lot of abuse in the sake of comedy and somehow remains sane enough to advise his King to make better life decisions.

In reality, Prince John was an actual King, and one fairly important to history.  He was born in 1166, the younger brother of Richard I, or Richard the lion-hearted.  So in that, Robin Hood gets it right.  Richard left for the crusades, and the then Prince John ruled as regent in his stead.  He became King himself in 1199, and ruled for 17 years till his death in 1216.

John was born the sixth son of King Henry II. He was one of 10 children, and a member of the House of Plantagenet.  He is the third of Henry’s sons to be King.  The eldest was Henry, who became co-regent with his father at least in name if not in power. He died in 1183, outlived by his father.  After Henry the II died six years later, RIchard the I became King.  He is known most for being a part of the Crusades, which took up much of his reign.

John himself was regent, although not particularly because RIchard wanted him too.  So in a sense, the movie had that right too.

However, the movie ends with Richard coming back, and reclaiming the throne and punishing his brother.  However, Richard died after only 10 years on the throne, and with no heirs, it left John and his nephew Arthur.

John, being ambitious as history (and Disney) show became King. He became an important part of history because his son Henry III would be the first Plantagenet King and that would lead to the war of the Roses 300 years later.  He also changed English politics forever with the signing of the Magna Carta, which not only started the government transitioning into his modern form, it is also a major influence on the designers of the American Government that would develop 600 years later.  He was also known for taking a more personal involvement in the administration of the country, some positive some negative.  Some of which influenced the portrayal of Prince John the villain.  For example the over taxation occurred during his reign as King.

With the kings of England in the middle ages, its hard to know what was accurate and what was propaganda from a rival.  For example, many people get their idea of these kings from William Shakespeare’s plays (which have inaccuracies and were obviously tailored to suit his Queen) or other items of fiction.  King/Prince John is certainly not the only world leader to have that happen to him.  HIs great-great-grandson (etc)  Richard III was certianly given a reputation by literature and the Tudors.

It just brings me to my younger self who thought the story ended with that “no-good Prince John” being punished for his maltreatment of Nottingham. It was really only half the story and I’m glad I learned to love history and delve deeper into the world Robin Hood is based in.

One day I may go into more research and in-depth about King John.  For now, I’m going to go watch Robin Hood and tell Sir Hiss to get a new job.

Accuracy or Story, That is the question

Recently I have been watching quite a few period pieces.  Some were complete fiction, others based on true events or actual people.  And its made me ponder the thin line between entertainment and bad accuracy.

There is of course a balance one must keep when doing a period piece.  The story has to be interesting, engaging, with the ups and downs that keep an audience enthralled.  Yet, at the same time, people like myself like to see historically accurate stories.

For some this is relatively easy, especially those that took place in recent years.  For example, Apollo 13 (1994) which is based on a real-life event that took place in April of 1970.  It’s not only one of my favorite films, but it is also one of the films I’ve seen a very real effort to keep things as real as possible without losing the entertainment value.  So while it’s not word-for-word, and they added a few dramatic arguments (after all, the events took place over a week and they have to pack that all into 2 hours), it’s still fairly accurate.  They even went as far as filming scenes in low gravity to make more realistic movement for the space scenes.

Another example is The White Queen (2013).  Now this film takes place in the 15th century during the war of the roses.  And it tends to go more towards creating a good story than depicting the actual events.  Not that I still didn’t enjoy it, but there were some things that happened in the mini-series a quick google search or a Wikipedia search could tell you happened differently.  And since my knowledge is not high on English history as much as it is American history I’m sure there were other moments that would drive my friends who are crazy.  Of course, it’s harder to be as specifically accurate when there is about 500 years and a lack of photographic evidence to really examine.  Facts from this period of time are constantly being reevaluated as new sources of information are found, or someone notices something in what has already been found no one really took note of before.  But there are some general facts to get straight.

I enjoyed the series, but mostly because of the cast, who did a brilliant job in making me not care that not all the facts were right.

So I suppose the question is – when you watch a film, mini-series or TV series based in a specific era, about real people, do you want more accuracy or more story telling?  Would inaccuracies done to make things easier to understand to a chosen demographic make you less willing to watch (for example, the costuming decisions in CW’s Reign)?

What’s your opinion?

Apollo 13 – Film and History

I wrote this yesterday with the intent of posting it, but various life things happened that means it gets pushed off till today.  So here’s the belated Article:

As I have stated in several posts, my favorite movie is Apollo 13. It is the dramatization of the real life story of the Apollo 13 Lunar mission that went horribly wrong in April of 1970.  Today while reading my email, I got a list of today’s historical events, and it reminded me that today in 1970, they finally made it back to earth.  So I decided to write about the Apollo 13 mission and the movie in general.

The movie is mostly accurate, with a few details changed for dramatic (well, movie dramatic) effect.  However, the writers and producers of the film were interested in making it as close as possible. After all, sitting in a space ship hoping you’d get home after the oxygen tank explodes is a pretty interesting story.

Apollo 13 was the 8th manned mission in the Apollo series.  Apollo 1 had ended tragically in 1967.   It took a two year review, and several changes to the Apollo spacecraft before they were manned again.  Apollo missions 2-6 were unmanned tests of the spacecraft, after it had been decided that the Apollo 1 identity would not be moved to the new mission.  Therefore, the first Apollo mission that was manned and made it to space was Apollo 7, which orbited the earth.  Apollo 8 went a step further and orbited the moon itself.  This mission also had James Lovell involved, who was also involved in 13.  Apollo 9 and 10 practiced lunar landing procedures.  And Apollo 11, which is perhaps the most famous of American space flights, took us to the Moon.

Apollo 13 took off on April 11, 1970, a little over 3 years after Apollo 1, and only 9 months after Apollo 11.  It was manned by James Lovell (Commander), Jack Swigert (Command Module Pilot) and Fred Haise (Lunar Module Pilot).  The Apollo capsule was only large enough to fit three men, unlike the later Space Shuttle craft.  Through a small connecting tunnel, they connected to the Lunar Module (also known as the LEM – Lunar Excursion Module) which would become the life raft that kept these three men alive during the four days it took to get home.

On April 13, 1970 shortly after recording a television transmission the three astronauts felt a jolt and soon realised that their spacecraft was venting out into space.  I’ve included a link below to the wikipedia page, where there is a audio recording of the famous “houston we have a problem” report.   What had occured is when Jack Swigert went to do a routine stirring of the tanks to keep the liquid fuel/oxygen from freezing, the temperture gauge in the oxygen tank was broken.  It overheated the tank, and the tank exploded.  This was due to a issue that developed during pre-launch checks which was not realised until after a review board looked at all the evidence.

They spent the next four days in the LEM, using the oxygen tanks and fuel tanks that would have sent them to the moon to keep themselves alive and target their way back home.  This had been a contingenoucy plan developed previously but this was the first time it was ever attempted, and various problems surfaced during the four days that the astronauts and the men in Mission control had to solve.

The film dramatizes some of it, changing up some of the words said by the astronauts and introducing a few scenes that were never documented by anyone to fill out some of the characters reactions.  But overall the film is fairly accurate for a biopic.  They even used archive footage of a launch to use with CGI to create the launch scene in the movie, and used actually low gravity in some of the scenes where you see them float for more of a real effect.   So while its definately a movie, not a documentary, it is pretty well done.

The film was nominated for Best Picture in 1994, but lost to Braveheart.  It did win Best Editing, and Best Sound.  It is one of my favorite movies still, over 20 years after it was released.  You can stream it on Amazon, it is available for both purchase and rental.  It used to be on Hulu but right now I can’t find it to confirm.

The film was based on James Lovell’s novel called Lost Moon which was renamed Apollo 13 when the film came out.  It’s a great read as well, especially if you are interested about the space program.  It not only covers the Apollo 13 mission, but Lovell’s earlier missions and interactions with other astronauts.

I also recommend the Tom Hanks mini-series From the Earth to the Moon.  It is a great dramatization of the real events of the Space Program and also has some great actors in it.

Apollo 13 Wikipedia

Apollo 13 – NASA Website

Apollo 13 Film Wikipedia

To The Earth From The Moon