Movie My Way: Citezenfour
This past week, the trailer for Snowden by Oliver Stone was released. It is Hollywood film that centers around the now infamous Edward Snowden. In case you weren’t aware, he was a top level NSA contractor who was tasked with managing and analyzing data systems within the NSA. He eventually “blew the whistle” on this government agency when he discovered that they were running systems that spied or illegally monitored ALL major digital communications like e-mail, cell phones and internet browsing. When I say all, that means you too. If you have a cell phone or use a computer, the data that you create in these systems are ingested by the NSA. Their reasoning is that under the Patriot Act, they need to be able to monitor all of these communications to ensure Homeland safety against terrorism. Some call Snowden a liberator. According to the government, he is a traitor. What he did can be a major point of controversy with a lot of Americans. My wife and I differ greatly on our opinions in the matter. I can see both sides of the story but since I have made a career of working with large amounts of data and extracting insights from business data, I understand intimately how data is king and can be misused if used inappropriately. This documentary centers around the days, minutes and hours leading up to the actual articles being published in the press and the governments reaction to the releases. It is a sometimes slow, but very tense documentary that goes into detail about what not only the United States government is doing but how they partner with other governments to accomplish the same tasks. If you want to be versed on the real story of Edward Snowden before the film comes out later this year, I highly recommend that you give this a watch.
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Movie My Way: 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Clovefield Lane is a distant relative to the much larger film ‘Cloverfield’ from 2008. Originally, this film wasn’t even related to the Cloverfield universe and was to be a stand alone thriller film called ‘The Cellar.’ Unfortunately, due to issues with the studio losing financing and eventually going out of business before this film was completed, The Cellar was shelved for quite some time. It wasn’t until it was dusted off and JJ Abrahms studio Bad Robot got involved that they decided invest some time (and money) into re-shoots in order for it to fit into the Cloverfield universe. No one ever really expected a Cloverfield sequel which is why this one seemed to come from nowhere. In all, this is a film about Michelle, played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who after leaving her fiance for unknown reasons, ends up accidentally crashing her car and waking up in an underground bunker chained to the wall and her host Howard, played by John Goodman, is reluctant to let her leave. I’m not spoiling any of this since all of this was pretty much in the trailer. Held captive movies can be pretty compelling to the audience since it allows us to relate to the captives. It always provides us with a “what would I do” scenarios as we watch. 10 Cloverfield Lane does a great job at building some great tension along with some very interesting and quirky characters for a fun ride. It was well written, well shot and had some nice twists along the way. So I recommend this film even if you aren’t a fan of Cloverfield. Even my wife had a good time and she had no clue about Cloverfield. Highly recommended.
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Movie My Way: The 5th Wave
The Hollywood love fest that is “teen-novels-to-movies-but-we-hope-everyone-will-like-them” is starting to fade. Quickly. Whether you can blame it on the Harry Potter Series, Twilight or even the Hunger Games, there have been quite a few more obscure book titles making their way to the big screen(Divergent, Maze Runner, Percy Jackson). The 5th Wave is a Sci-Fi action film about a girl, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, living in Ohio when an “alien” ship hovers over the planet and slowly unleashes “waves” of various things upon the earth in order to control and eventually do in the human race. It is even stated by our main character that they are doing these things because it is the most efficient way to control the population. Maybe I am far too logical and am thinking much deeper than I should but to me but it seems to be one of the most inefficient ways of doing things if you wanted to take over a planet. Anyway, it appears that this film will eventually be a trilogy since this film does indeed end very open ended. Depending on its return on investment, however, it may not be able to get there since I am not sure this film was very well received. I don’t want to be TOO overly critical because I know this film is not really aimed at my age group nor am I a fan of the books. However, there have been others(like said Maze Runner series) that I am not familiar with but have enjoyed a great deal more. One final thought about these teen novels to films. I don’t know how comfortable I would be willing to allow my kids under 16 watch these movies. Indeed this is a PG-13 film and sure there isn’t nudity or a lot of cussing or even a great deal of visible gun violence but these films do tend to depict in great detail massive loss of life. Whether it is airliners falling out of the sky or tsunami’s rolling over a city I would make sure that my kids completely understood what they were seeing and to not take it lightly. It sort of bugs me that this kind of “violence” seems to be okay for a film aimed at young adults. Especially when we can see actual tsunami’s causing very real damage to very real people and locations.
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Movie My Way: The Forest
Some of you may be familiar with what is known as the “suicide forest” located in Japan at the foot of Mt. Fuji. For those unaware, it is a real place that some Japanese people go to ultimately end their life for whatever tragic reasons they may have. They even have signs at the trail heads urging people to make a phone call for help if they are feeling suicidal. Though this unfortunate place exists, it makes for a very intriguing plot device for a horror movie. The Forest stars Natalie Dormer(Game of Thrones, Hunger Games) as Sara Price who gets word that her twin sister Jess, who is teaching in Japan, has gone missing and was last reported to be near this forest. Wanting to get to the bottom of what happened to her sister, Sara travels to Japan in hopes of finding her. Again, solid starting point for a horror film. However, once in Japan, this film slowly starts to put in all of the PG-13 horror tropes and jump scares that have become common place for this style of film and really just ignores the great premise that we were promised. Additionally, there are A LOT of plot holes that I just couldn’t get my brain around. Why would they leave out such important information? Why would they choose to reveal an essential “twist” halfway through the film? Just lots of frustration on all fronts. So yet another great premise ruined by following the formula.
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Movie My Way: Death Machine
So I have been on a a bit of a “so bad, it’s good” kick recently thanks to the awesome Youtube channel ‘Good Bad Flicks‘. I have been actively searching out the lesser known films that flooded the horror market in the 80’s and 90’s. Often times, I will see a poster and it will remind me of some of the old VHS covers I would see in the video store and wonder what a film like that could consist of. There are a lot, and I mean A LOT of low budget films about everything and anything. They often attempt at trying to capitalize on a hit within the genre in order to get green lit for production. Death Machine is one of those films. It attempted to capitalize on Aliens, The Terminator and a dash of Robocop. Surprisingly, it didn’t do half bad. It stars the always creepy and demented Brad Dourif (Child’s Play, Exorcist 3, Lord of the Rings) as the troubled but brilliant engineer who has constructed the “ultimate frontline morale killer” war machine affectionately known as Beast. He is able to control this machine by having it prey on peoples sense of fear and it won’t stop until it achieves its goal. Throughout the film, we see very little of the Beast as it runs through the corporate offices blowing through walls and prey. Of course, there have to be people for it to go after and in this case, it is some company execs that have teamed up with some techno rebels who are looking to bring the company down from the inside. With some great callbacks to some memorable characters like Weyland and Yutani of Alien fame, the zen like rebel of Sam Raimi and the corporate shills of Scott Ridley and John Carpenter, it is easy to see that the writers and director are huge fans of the genre. With as bad as this film should have been, I was pleasantly surprised with how fun it was. It contained some good humor, great practical effects and like I said, the always demented Brad Dourif to keep everyone on their feet. The Beast and how it was animated was a highlight! I couldn’t tell if it was puppetry or stop motion animation, which for 1994 is saying a lot. This would be a great film to watch with some friends and just have a raucous time.
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