REview of “Zero Dark Thirty”

Zero Dark Thirty
This is the best 120 minute movie I’ve ever spent 160 minutes watching.

OK, I get that your humble reviewer is being a bit blasphemous in saying anything bad about this one. Let’s be clear: I liked it. I just thought it was a little long winded. The first two thirds of the movie is dedicated to the setup for the punchline. The setup is a detailing of the heroic and tireless and confusing and frustrating work that was done by the CIA to find Bin Laden. The punchline is the dangerous and complicated and brilliantly-executed and dramatic attack on his compound that resulted in the killing of the most wanted man in the world. The balance was just a little off for me. Maybe that was the plan, to show that spycraft is confusing. Well, if that was their plan, it worked well on me. I had a hard time following this movie for at least the first hour or so. By the last 45 minutes it was – finally! – all action, really good action that felt a lot like “Green Zone”.

Apparently a lot of work went into making this seem as realistic as possible, and it has captured the popular imagination. Charlie Rose dedicated an entire show to the movie and the important questions it raises about the morality and effectiveness of torture. I am very grateful that there were people who never gave up the hunt for one of history’s most notorious criminals and that they were willing to do the necessary and dirty work of ending him. I have no doubt “Zero Dark Thirty” will win awards, but I think it’ll be because of the controversial subject matter and not because it was a particularly great movie.
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PREviews (and a little more) for January 2013

Happy 2013, and welcome to the next year of this fabulous and fleeting life. I hope great things are ahead for all of us in the New Year.

This blog will continue to represent my attempt at participation in this “social media thing” after watching from the sidelines for several years now. Like the rest of my life – all of our lives, I guess – my effort here to harness this (relatively) new technology is very much a work in progress. LinkedIn is fine as far as it goes – seems to be a great way to forward articles of interest. I’m on Facebook but just can’t think of anything I want to say or share there. Twitter? I can’t communicate anything meaningful I have to say in 140 characters. (The first 2 sentences plus the first 5 words of the 3rd sentence of this post are 140 characters.) Blogging, though, seems to be a fit for me. I’ve continued to ask myself “How can I create something of at least modest value? How can I avoid simply making it all about me?” My hope for 2013 is to continue to experiment and to provide something of value for you and to do so without too much self absorption on my part.

Of course, if you could ask my first grade teacher Mrs. Richardson, she would say that I have absolutely no problem making it all about me. If she could come here from 1966 she would undoubtedly describe little Eddie Riggins as a smart, funny kid who loved to be the center of attention. She would then take one look at the me of today and declare “Well, he’s taller, but not much else has changed.”

So, thanks to each of the 61 willing spirits who’ve taken time to subscribe to this blog, read my posts, forward to their friends, and give me the opportunity to entertain you by trying to be smart and funny. What became this blog in mid 2012 started in about 2010 with broadcast emails to my Cresa colleagues, who either took genuine pleasure in my little riffs or were kind enough to pretend so. To the list of Cresa colleagues were added a few friends. Then a few neighbors. Then a few clients who had become friends and friends who had become clients, and then… You get the idea. Now I must confess that this has become sort of a game for me to see how many subscribers I can get signed up and how many (quality) comments I can generate. These are my best measures of success and the only way of determining if people see value in this effort. With this in mind and as we look ahead to the New Year I ask three things of you:
If you ever have a comment you think might be of interest others please post it on the blog.
If you have friends who are movie fans please forward a link and suggest that they subscribe (To be clear: I am NOT pimping out anyone’s info)
If you received this from a friend please take a moment to become a subscriber
(C’mon folks Mrs. Richardson is up in heaven watching me. I want to make her proud!)

Here are the movies that look good to me in January.
Zero Dark Thirty (apparently the release got pushed into January from December)
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow, who won the Oscar for “Hurt Locker”. Who better to do a movie about Navy SEAL Team 6 and the capture of Osama? At almost 2 hours this is a pretty long movie, and if it’s as intense as Hurt Locker, it’ll be exhausting and entertaining and worth it. I think this well be a good flick.
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Gangster Squad
A movie about the LAPD fighting organized crime. I’d probably dissmiss this flick but for the involvement of Sean Penn, and actor’s actor if ever there was one. Also, there’s Emma Stone. On the other hand, there’s Ryan Gosling, who might take off his shirt and serve as yet another reminder that I really need to do more push-ups.

Quartet
Dustin Hoffman is behind the camera on this one, and it looks as if the Weinsteins have artfully produced it. I very much have a soft spot for movies about old people, since I aspire to be one myself someday – please God. I also have a soft spot for Dustin Hoffman, but this is billed as a comedy. It didn’t look funny to me.
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Broken City
Mark Wahlberg as a cop under the thumb of Russell Crowe as a corrupt mayor spying on Catherine Zeta-Jones as the mayor’s wife. That all sounds impressive, but this script looks uninspired to me.
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IMDb

LUV
Watching this trailer makes it clear to me why this was a hit at Sundance. An uncle trying to turn things around. A kid with no good choices avaialble to him. I’ll probably give this one a try.
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REvew of “Django Unchained”

Django Unchained
I didn’t even do a preview of this one, because I didn’t think I’d go see it. Last night I decided to surrender to my curiosity.

“Inglourious Basterds” was a revenge fantasy about the Holocaust

“Django Unchained” was a revenge fantasy about Slavery.

“Inglourious” + “Django” = Man, Quentin Tarantino just ain’t right in the head.
I am disturbed by how much I enjoyed this movie and disturbed by how much I have enjoyed Tarantino’s other movies, too. I am repulsed by violence in one scene. I am laughing in the next scent. Sometimes – here’s the disturbing part – I’m laughing at the violence. Nobody does this stuff like Tarantino. Today I listened to Terry Gross do the most awkward interview I’ve ever heard her do as she confronted Tarantino on her Fresh Air show about his use of violence. Terry asks the question. Long silence… He was unapologetic. For him it’s just art, one more way to make his point. You know that urge we all seem to have to look around at the wrecked cars on the interstate to see if there’s a body someplace? This instinct is what Tarantino knows how to tap into, and it seems to work. I reluctantly admit that I enjoy his work sometimes, but a little goes a long way.

I don’t want to take anything away from the tremendously talented Jamie Foxx, who plays brilliantly plays the lead character, Django, but this movie belongs to Christoph Walz. You may remember him as the uber-creepy Col. Hans Landa AKA “the Jew Hunter” in “Inglourious Basterds”. He won awards for that part, and apparently he’s already been nominated for awards for his role here as Dr. King Schultz. His is again a real out-there character, and he just nails it.
If you like Tarantino or Foxx, I recommend you go see this one. Otherwise, wait for it on Netflix.
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REview of “The Impossible”

The Impossible
It’s too bad there’s no award for Most Perfectly Named Movie.

On the day after Christmas in 2004 the Indian Ocean rose up because of an underwater earthquake and washed over a quarter million souls into the sea. That’s about the population of Greensboro, Fort Wayne, or Plano. Washed into the sea.

This movie is said to be based on the true story of a husband and wife and their three small sons who survived this cossosal tragedy. The title of the movie is so appropriate because there is almost nothing anyone could have done differently to prepare for this event and because dealing with the aftermath was, well, impossible. What would you do if you were separated from your loved ones? If you could even find a phone who would you call to report that you were alive? All of your possessions are gone, and you are surrounded by strangers. What would you do?

I hesitate to say this because of the intensity and drama of the subject matter, but there were moments when the scenes almost seemed melodramatic – the sound guy just got out of hand a couple of times. All in all, I think this is a good one for Netflix, but I’d be very interested in what others have to say. Please comment if you’ve seen this and feel the urge to chime in.
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REview of “Promised Land”

Promised Land
In my PREview of this one I said “Looks a little preachy to me, but I like Matt Damon, Francis McDormand, and Hal Holbrook.”

I now like Matt Damon, Francis McDormand, and Hal Holbrook a little less than I did a few hours ago. I do not claim to have an informed opinion about natural gas fracking. Maybe I was naive to assume that Mr. Damon, having just collected $6.50 from for a matinee showing, would demonstrate a little bit of balance. Is fracking the least lousy of all of our lousy choices for energy? I don’t know. I do know the people of the Gulf of Mexico can tell you a few things about the imperfections associated with underwater oil drilling and that the people of Japan know that nuclear energy is not a perfect solution, either. I do know that coal can be expensive if it’s used properly and that our frenemy relationships in the Middle East sometimes come at a high cost. This movie did nothing to move a discussion about this important topic forward in an intelligent way. It was purely a vanity and propaganda project, and that wouldn’t have bothered me if admission had been free.

If you have concluded “big business bad and environmentalists good” and want to enter an echo chamber to have that belief validated, go see this movie. Otherwise, I would not recommend that you pay for this movie at the theater, and I might not even suggest watching it on Netflix.
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