Gifted

Movie Man Mike drops by with a review.

Gifted (B-).  Chris Evans is probably best known for his roles as Captain America in the Avengers movies or as Johnny Storm in the Fantastic Four series.  He has gotten some lower-profile roles in other films and, in my view, has proven that he’s more than an action figure actor.  He turned in a solid performance in the film Snowpiercer.  He’s proven himself again in Gifted.

This is a film about a highly intelligent and adorable little girl—Mary Adler (played brilliantly by Mckenna Grace, Independence Day: Resurgence)—who presents something of a challenge to her Uncle Frank.  Uncle Frank just wants Mary to have a normal childhood, which is something his mother deprived Mary’s mother from having.   But Mary’s intellect is far above average, and that quickly comes to the attention of Mary’s teacher, who pushes to have Mary put in a more challenging educational environment.  The push to harness Mary’s intellect creates a conflict that threatens the close bond Mary and Frank have forged.  At times the story seems somewhat contrived, but Mary’s charm, along with the superb dialogue and an unexpected resolution of the conflict, make the film well worth the investment of your time.

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Brooklyn – a second opinion

Movie Man Mike finally reports in.

Brooklyn.   A.  There is a good reason this film got an Oscar® nomination for Best Picture.  It’s terrific.  Everything about it is terrific.  The screenplay is well-written.  The characters and their interactions are so very charming.  From the little old lady who runs the boarding house where Eilis lives in Brooklyn to her rigid supervisor at the store where Eilis works, these characters are engaging and believable.  What’s more, with the exception of Jim Broadbent and Domhnall Gleeson (both appearing in the Harry Potter films), the cast consists of relatively unknown actors.  Yet each and every one nails their performance.  Set in the 1950’s, the story is about a young woman named Eilis (Saiorse Ronan, City of Ember) living with her sister and mother in Ireland.  The job market in Ireland is not good but America is the land of opportunity, so the family arranges through their church to send Eilis to America.  The story follows Eilis on her journey to America and we get a glimpse of what life was like in the 1950’s for the single working woman.  Eilis is homesick until she meets Tony (Emory Cohen, The Place Beyond the Pines), an Italian boy with an eye for Irish girls.  As the story moves forward, Eilis finds herself in conflict over her love for Ireland and the place she makes for herself in Brooklyn with Tony.  This is truly a beautiful story filled with rich characters.  Sairose Ronan received a well-deserved Oscar© nomination for her role in this film.

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Movie Man Mike checks in with a blockbuster.

Avengers: Age of Ultron. (B+).  This film is a fun, entertaining Summer action blockbuster film.  It’s got all the usual characters—Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downy Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).  And of course, there’s even some screentime for Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson).  With all the characters, you almost wonder how writer Joss Whedon has time to develop the characters and the story.  But Whedon is no newcomer to this.  There’s time to develop a little backstory—particularly for Hawkeye and even time enough for a little budding romance.  And there’s time to develop an action packed story arch with the unintended creation of Ultron—a super android (James Spader).   By the end of the film we are introduced to a new superhero—Vision (Paul Bettany), who teams up with the good guys to help defeat Ultron and his army of super-being androids.  There’s plenty of action in this film but I have to say that after a while some of the fight scenes in this film began to seem a little too similar to the fight scenes in the last Avengers film.  I just hope that’s not a sign that the franchise is wearing thin.  Certainly, there will be more to come.  And you will want to stay for the credits so that you’ll get a glimpse of the next villain to do battle with the Avengers.

Ex Machina – a second opinion

A new review from Movie Man Mike.

Ex Machina.  A-.  What does it mean to be sentient?  I think, therefore, I am.  These are questions that are central themes of this film.  The film opens with Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson, known for playing Bill Weasley in the Harry Potter series) having won an special internship to work for the founder of the company he works for, which is a large internet company.  Caleb is whisked off to a remote location, where the reclusive founder, Nathan (Oscar Isaac), reveals that he believes he has developed a sentient android.  Caleb is tasked with testing the android to ascertain whether it is, in fact, sentient.  For Caleb, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  The dynamics that follow  between the very odd founder Nathan, Caleb, and the android are fascinating and surprising.  No spoilers here.  If you are a sci-fi fan, by all means, go see this film.  I, for one, can imagine all sorts of awesome sequels and I do hope that there will be one.  Performances by all the actors are terrific.

Jupiter Ascending

Movie Man Mike is back!

Jupiter Ascending.  B.  Okay, I’m a sci-fi geek.  Let’s just get that out of the way to start with.  That’s probably why I liked this film, while it has failed to draw in broader audiences.  The film, the stars, and the story are not likely to win any awards or even nominations.  However, the film does contain some pretty cool visual effects and some fun alien creatures.  I saw it in 3-D on an IMAX screen, and I have to say that the 3-D effects were probably the best I’ve encountered to date.

The story-line generally involves a battle between three siblings from another part of the universe.  The siblings are each angling for control over Earth.  Balem Abrasax, played by Oscar-nominee Eddie Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn), has control of Earth when the film opens, but we learn that his control is threatened by the reincarnation of the siblings’ mother, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, Oz the Great and Powerful) who would dispossess all of the siblings of their holdings were she to re-assume her position of power.  Jupiter Jones, born on Earth, has no clue that she is reincarnated, leads a very ordinary life, and doesn’t quite believe in beings from outer space.  The siblings send down teams of people to locate her and assassinate her or kidnap her and bring her to them.  Caine Wise (Channing Tatum, 21 Jump Street) is a genetically engineered ex-military hunter who has fallen from grace.  He is sent by one of the siblings to protect Jupiter Jones from assassination and he winds up taking on a little more than he was hired to do.  While the story is a bit complex, the infighting between the siblings and their deceptions and underhandedness draw the viewer into the story.  The film isn’t for everyone and it does have a little cheesiness here and there, but if you like science fiction films, you ought to check this one out.

Captain Phillips

Movie Man Mike graces us with an appearance!

Captain Phillips. A-.  I never got around to seeing this film in the theaters last year, but it received nominations for Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor, so I figured I would see what the buzz was all about.  Good grief, this was a surprisingly riveting movie.  When it started and I realized that it was about the Somali pirates raids on U.S. ships off the coast of Africa, I tensed up, thinking that I probably wasn’t going to be all that enamored with the film.  Wrong.  The film draws you in as it sets up the scene for a raid of the US MV Maersk Alabama.  This is the telling of the true story of the 2009 hijacking.  Captain Richard Phillips is played by Tom Hanks.  Hanks’ performance is so amazing that I totally got lost in the fact that it was Tom Hanks and I felt like I was right there with him during every tense moment.  I am really surprised that he didn’t at least get a nomination for Best Actor out of this one.  The story is a good one and with a good outcome.  Even if this were fictionalized, the suspense of the story would make it a good movie to see, but knowing that it is based on true events makes it all the more incredible.  I recommend this move whole-heartedly.

Retreat

A new review from Movie Man Mike.

Retreat (B+).  This was a riveting psychological thriller of a movie.  Kate (Thandie Newton) and Martin (Cillian Murphy of Inception) head to a private island cottage in hopes of rekindling their marriage, which has suffered some very difficult times.  After a couple of days on the island, Kate spots a stranger walking toward the cottage.  Enter Jack (Jamie Bell of Billy Elliot).  Jack is unconscious when then find him and has blood all over his face.  When he finally comes to, he seems a little crazed and begins to explain that he is in the military and there’s an airborne virus crossing the globe and it’s killing everyone it comes in contact with.  Kate and Martin are a bit skeptical, but what choice do they have but to follow Jack’s direction and seal up the cottage.  They are especially unnerved by the fact that they cannot reach anyone on the short-wave radio.  Events progress and things get really tense.  I’m purposely vague here so I don’t give anything away.  Let me just say that this was really a great rental, with a bit of a surprise ending.  Performances by all three of the main characters are solid.