Category Archives: Entertainment

Chappie

There were moments when Chappie (2015) felt a little bit like Short Circuit (1986) to me.

Dev Patel plays the central human character, Deon Wilson.  He is the engineer who has been working on an AI program that will enable the police robots to think in human-like fashion.  I think most people will recognize Dev Patel as “that guy from Slumdog Millionaire“, but I haven’t seen that yet.  I think of him as “the manager from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel“.

Hugh Jackman plays Vincent Moore, who is an engineer working on a large police robot designed to eliminate military-grade targets.  He loses major portions of his funding, so you can tell he’s not a happy camper.  He’s a bit of a worm in this film.  There’s one scene where he gets his ass thrashed, and that’s funny to see, given his roles in other movies.

The setting for this film is in Johannesburg (South Africa) in the not-too-distant future.  In reading about the cast, it was interesting to see that some of the main characters (“Ninja” and “Yolandi”) are not professional actors, but are musicians in a South African group called Die Antwoord.  These two, along with their friend “Amerika”, comprise that gang that is holding Chappie…a bulk of the film is how they’re teaching Chappie how to be one of them.  While Deon and Yolandi try to teach Chappie about stories and painting, Ninja and Amerika try to teach Chappie about how to shoot, and “how to be cool”.

There’s plenty of action in this film, as well as a little bit to make you think about things.  To me, the big picture is about this: if the great hope is about creating “life” with AI, then the big disappointment is crushing it up against the shit of humanity.  Chappie is immediately thrust into that situation.  I won’t spoil the ending, but it was a little bit predictable as to how things would turn out near the end there.  In my mind, there are still some unresolved questions about how they’re going to manage going forward.

Chappie (2015)
Chappie poster Rating: N/A/10 (N/A votes)
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Writer: Neill Blomkamp, Terri Tatchell
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley, Dev Patel
Runtime: 120 min
Rated: R
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Released: 2015-03-06
Plot: In the near future, crime is patrolled by an oppressive mechanized police force. When one police droid, Chappie, is stolen and given new programming, he becomes the first robot with the ability to think and feel for himself.

Paddington

All of the indications pointed to Paddington (2014) being a good movie, and it was.

I’ll say this first.  I haven’t seen the newer Doctor Who episodes yet, because Netflix doesn’t have them yet.  So when Peter Capaldi popped onto the screen as the neighbor man who doesn’t like Paddington, this became my first experience with Peter Capaldi.  This becomes the first thing I’ve seen him in.  I knew it was him right away, he has a pretty unique face in my viewing experience.  The buggy eyes (he reminds me of Ralph Furley that way), the pinkness around them that makes it look like he’s been crying, and the darkness below them that makes it look like he needs a rest.  He has a small role but gives a nice performance, and I’ll remember his awesome ugly sweater vest for quite a while.

The story is really solid.  I’m not so familiar with the books, so I don’t know how true to the original story the movie is.  Marmelade is present in a big way.  I learned that Paddington’s relatively unique sort of bear species comes from Peru.  As with many other stories, it’s a sort of tragedy that forces the change to occur, that is, that Paddington decides to go to London.

I loved the set design…the house of the Browns is really cool.  I love the cylindrical design of the staircase in the foyer, with the tree painted onto the wall.  Each of the rooms in the house is beautiful to look at.  When they do that shot of a dollhouse being opened up, and revealing the six rooms in the Brown house, that is really beautiful to look at.  Maybe for me anyway, I love that sort of thing.

Sally Hawkins plays Mary Brown, the mother in the family.  She’s perfect for this role, a sort of British mum who is the first to have compassion for the situation Paddington finds himself in.  In fact, it’s she who first names the bear.  Paddington, without intending to, gets himself into all sorts of mischief and ends up upsetting one of the family members, and it’s Mary Brown who helps to keep the peace.

Nicole Kidman plays Millicent, and is very eager to capture Paddington.  When she breaks through the glass on the Brown ceiling and descends on a wire, it’s quite a poke I think at Tom Cruise’s famous scene in Mission Impossible.

The ending was nice.  Our heroes must thwart the bad lady in the end, and what occurs is something that had been building up for the duration of the film.  I’m happy with how that ties neatly together at the end there.

Paddington (2014)
Paddington poster Rating: 7.5/10 (14,077 votes)
Director: Paul King
Writer: Paul King, Hamish McColl (screen story), Paul King (screen story), Michael Bond (character "Paddington Bear")
Stars: Tim Downie, Madeleine Worrall, Lottie Steer, Geoffrey Palmer
Runtime: 95 min
Rated: PG
Genre: Comedy, Family
Released: 2015-01-16
Plot: A young Peruvian bear travels to London in search of a home. Finding himself lost and alone at Paddington Station, he meets the kindly Brown family, who offer him a temporary haven.

Paper man

I liked a lot of things about Paper Man (2009).  Jeff Daniels (Richard) and Ryan Reynolds (Captain Excellent) both did a good job, very solid.  But the best acting came from Emma Stone (Abby).  She really delivered a great performance.  Her character has some complexity to it…she’s dealing with things in her past, she’s trying to get by with her present, she’s curious in her developing relationship with Richard.  She’s sweet, she’s thoughtful, she still enjoys humor despite her difficult life.  She really has a lot of physical techniques that help to sell her character – the shy smiles, the use of her hair to convey different emotions, etc.

The plot isn’t terribly complicated.  Richard is a writer who’s having a tough time getting started on his new novel.  So he and his career-minded wife set him up in a house in a small town, so that he can focus on his writing.  But he still has a tough time.  He meets Abby, who’s a local girl who is surrounded only by people who aren’t so great.

He does act a little weird, and she overlooks that at first.  He hires her to be the babysitter, despite the fact he doesn’t have kids at his place.  They create a sort of friendship, that’s based on listening to each other, and patiently listening to ideas.  The thing with him is he has this “imaginary friend” named Captain Excellent that he is always talking to.  It’s sort of a part of his personality I think…sometimes he advises him, sometimes he wants him, sometimes he’s just there to watch over and protect him.  Many times he brings some humor into the situation.

It’s a situation that puts two people, each with their own problems, into a situation where they can create and grow a friendship based on teaching each other about life, and about growing up.

Paper Man (2009)
Paper Man poster Rating: 6.7/10 (13,711 votes)
Director: Kieran Mulroney, Michele Mulroney
Writer: Michele Mulroney, Kieran Mulroney
Stars: Lisa Kudrow, Jeff Daniels, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone
Runtime: 110 min
Rated: R
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Released: 2014-05-01
Plot: A washed-up writer forms an unlikely friendship with a teenager from Long Island.

Kingsman: the secret service

I really liked Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014).  The trailer had looked really fun, and it turns out the movie was really fun as well.

It’s a not-quite-so-serious British secret agent movie, that pokes a little bit of fun at some of the existing films in the British spy institution.  Colin Firth plays Galahad, one of the more central characters on the British side of things…he is a mentor/sponsor of sorts to Gary Unwin (they call him Eggsy, but I don’t understand the nickname), who undergoes the selection process for becoming a “Kingsman”, which is name for this group of secret agents.

They’ve got the fashion references, they’ve got the alcohol references, they’ve got the fancy weapons and clever devices.  A lot of great work with specialized umbrellas.  I thoroughly enjoyed some of the “tests” the potentials were subjected to.

The good guys are pitted up against a memorable bad guy, “Valentine” played by Samuel L. Jackson.  His character has a particular style of dress, and a particular manner of speech that makes him unforgettable.  His megalomaniacal plans to control the world are worthy of any of the Bond villains.  He has a henchwoman Gazelle (played by Sofia Boutella) who is very effective in her duties.

As the film progresses further and further and the British agents are trying to stop Valentine, many of the events are more and more far-fetched.  There are a few gratuitous comedic moments between Unwin and Princess Tilde of Sweden there at the end.  And there is a great little scene played while the credits are rolling, that sort of helps to neatly tie up some of the loose ends in the film.  So stay for that.

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
Kingsman: The Secret Service poster Rating: 8.3/10 (35,843 votes)
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer: Jane Goldman (screenplay), Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Mark Millar (comic book "The Secret Service"), Dave Gibbons (comic book "The Secret Service")
Stars: Adrian Quinton, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, Jonno Davies
Runtime: 129 min
Rated: R
Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
Released: 2015-02-13
Plot: A spy organization recruits an unrefined, but promising street kid into the agency's ultra-competitive training program just as a global threat emerges from a twisted tech genius.

The incredible Burt Wonderstone

I remember having the chance to go see The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013) in the theater, but I never made it.  Not sure what was going on, probably I had a busy period of work to get through.  I remember seeing the trailer, and getting the sense that there were some popular actors playing magicians and there was some competition involved, so I really wanted to see it.

I did appreciate the costumes and many of the magic acts.  They played through more magic acts than I’d dared to hope for, so I enjoyed that.  Steve Carrell and Steve Buscemi play a pair of magicians (Burt and Anton) that have been working together since they were kids.  Over time, they came to be the headlining act at one of the Vegas hotels.  Generally speaking, such a thing in real life is a big deal, for people in the entertainment industry, playing a Vegas hotel becomes a cash cow of sorts.  It generates consistent revenues year-round, and is highly preferable to the physical and mental stresses of constant nationwide touring.

In that type of role, however, they become a complacent act.  Burt’s ego has been growing as much as his various appetites.  Eventually, people tire of the old-fashioned act they have to offer…and the people are drawn to the new edgy, more “physical magic” act of street magician Steve Grey (played by Jim Carrey).  Burt and Anton end up breaking up their relationship and go their separate ways.  The plot quickly moves to Burt trying to remember and relearn what drew him to magic in the first place.  To this end, Alan Arkin does a good job as Rance Holloway, the magician that inspired Burt to take up magic in the first place.

Overall, not a great movie, probably not even a good movie.  There are a few funny parts, and it’s definitely a chance to see some of your favorite comedians doing their thing.  I did like the magic acts.

The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (2013)
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone poster Rating: 5.9/10 (54,343 votes)
Director: Don Scardino
Writer: Jonathan M. Goldstein (screenplay), John Francis Daley (screenplay), Chad Kultgen (story), Tyler Mitchell (story), Jonathan M. Goldstein (story), John Francis Daley (story)
Stars: Steve Carell, Steve Buscemi, Olivia Wilde, Jim Carrey
Runtime: 100 min
Rated: N/A
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Released: 2013-03-15
Plot: A veteran Vegas magician tries to revive his career after his longtime partner quits, he gets fired from his casino act, and an edgy new "street magician" steals his thunder.