Horrible Bosses 2

Yup. They're back! And they are raunchier (and to me, funnier) than ever! This R-rated romp has it all: Insane behavior, vehicular mayhem, a few gunshots, many sexual situations, and countless F-bombs (but no sweaty bodies or blowie uppie stuff). This one is directed by Sean Anders ("Sex Drive") based on the screenplay he created with John Morris and a few others.

Although it probably isn't necessary, it helps if you have seen the first film. We remember our bumbling trio of frustrated fellows who first decided to kill their horrible bosses in "Horrible Bosses." Now they want to be self-employed and are looking for an investor who can help launch them into the big time.

The cast:
  • Jason Bateman ("Horrible Bosses") Our patient and loyal hero is still trying to help his friends. Bateman depicts tolerance extremely well.
  • Jason Sudeikis ("Horrible Bosses") He has a will of Jello and can be talked into anything. He fully embraces whichever way the wind blows.
  • Charlie Day ("Horrible Bosses") His baby triplets are the center of his universe, but he has to feed, clothe and house them. For that, he needs money!
  • Jennifer Aniston ("Horrible Bosses") Will that support group dampen this dentist's lascivious nature? Nah... Probably not.
  • Kevin Spacey ("Horrible Bosses") Has time spent in the penitentiary defanged this poisonous viper? You get three guesses...
  • Jamie Foxx ("Horrible Bosses") He's still the go-to guy when our petty criminals need professional advice.
  • Chris Pine ("Star Trek") This manipulative brat thinks the whole world is his plaything. Watch our three bozos try to kidnap him for ransom.
  • Christoph Waltz ("Django Unchained") He came penniless to the United States and through hard work and ... Oh, maybe not.... Anyway, he's phenomenally wealthy but he probably is fonder of the ransom money than of his kidnapped son.
In my opinion, Aniston's character is still too over-the-top, and that's in a movie where EVERYONE is over-the-top. I didn't like her any better in this one that I did in the first. I DID however, enjoy the episode that featured the three harebrained guys in that clothes closet with the stolen canister of laughing gas.

This is silly and profane, with anatomical humor and an action-filled climax; I laughed until I embarrassed myself. Don't bother to chide me, I already know better!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is another misguided attempt:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


Force Majeure

We join a Swedish family on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. It's clear that this is a happy bunch, a father, mother, son and daughter. While eating lunch on a scenic balcony, an avalanche suddenly transforms their lives.

Director Ruben Östlund, working from his own script, brings us two hours of R-rated drama, as he explores the dynamics of bravery, sincerity, love and loyalty as they are brought into play by a potential natural disaster. I am in awe as I watch these people switch effortlessly from Swedish to French to English with nary a pause (captions provided when necessary).

We watch:
  • Johannes Kuhnke as the father, Tomas. This is the first vacation he has had in quite awhile. Five whole days...but that avalanche interrupts everything. His first instinct is for survival, to his everlasting regret.
  • Lisa Loven Kongsli is Ebba, the mother. She has been looking forward to this family vacation, but when disaster strikes, her first instinct is to protect her youngsters.
  • Sister and brother Clara and Vincent Wettergren portray sister and brother Vera and Harry. They begin looking askance at their father and worrying about a possible divorce.
  • Kristofer Hivju plays Mats as a classic Viking, he is an old friend of Tomas and sees himself as sensitive and loyal.
  • Fanni Metelius is Fanny who humorously points out the fallacy in Mats' reasoning.
To a non-skiing person, the staggering amount of heavy machinery necessary to maintain a successful ski resort is astonishing. As are the steady booms of cannons which are designed to trigger avalanches during the night and leave the slopes safe for the customers during the day.

Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, and nominated for many other honors, this highly praised film is just opening in the United States. (The original title of this film is "Turist.") In my opinion, the ending will be very gender specific. Each gender will interpret this enigmatic ending in very definite (but different) ways.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Take a look at the trailer:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1

This is merely a prelude to the finale of a phenomenal trilogy (Part 2 is in post-production) that has launched many careers. We have watched as our dauntless young heroine was thrust into a life-and-death struggle representing post-apocalyptic District 12 in their notorious annual games; we have watched her retain her humanity despite cruel odds; and we have watched the President of Panem realize that she inadvertently became a symbol of revolution to an enslaved population.

The drama continues... This two-hour, PG-13 actioner is inspired by Suzanne Collins' Young Adult series.  She adapted "Mockingjay" with collaborators Danny Strong ("Lee Daniels' The Butler") and Peter Craig ("The Town") from her book. This episode and its final half in 2015 are both directed by Francis Lawrence ("Hunger Games: Catching Fire"), so we know he understands the big picture. A good thing, too: This is just a glorified preview to the last half, but if each "Hunger Games" outing averages over $650M, stockholders would have a cow if this final book was condensed into a single film.

Here is a small part of a HUGE cast:
  • Donald Sutherland ("Hunger Games") President Snow sees a clear and present danger to Panem's carefully crafted peace...and its name is Katniss Everdeen!
  • Jennifer Lawrence (Oscar for "Silver Linings Playbook") Katniss is overwhelmed by the responsibilities thrust upon her by the desperate people. People want to kiss her, kill her or be her. It's clear that Katniss is a terrible actress when she tries to make inspiring Public Service Announcements for the rebels, but after an attack by government forces she rages, "If we burn, you burn with us!" and she is redeemed.
  • Josh Hutcherson ("Hunger Games") Peeta was trying to protect Katniss because he loved her but something has gone seriously wrong. It is vital that he be rescued from The Capitol immediately.
  • Liam Hemsworth ("Hunger Games") Gale is surviving with his broken heart, knowing Katniss loves him, but not THAT way....
  • Woody Harrelson ("Hunger Games") Haymitch is still trying to coach Katniss, but this situation is new to him, too! And to make things worse, the rebel faction has outlawed alcohol!
  • Willow Shields ("Hunger Games") Primrose can only admire her older sister Katniss, and pray for her safety (and that of her scroungy cat)!
  • Elizabeth Banks ("Hunger Games") Our ever-chirpy and out- rageously overdressed Effie Trinket is back, but this time, she is reduced to wearing dingy turbans! We feel her pain...
  • Stanley Tucci ("Hunger Games") No episode would be complete without the smarmy TV host, Caesar Flickerman. He elicits some upsetting statements from Peeta that are broadcast to the rebels.
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman ("Hunger Games") When Plutarch said, "Everyone can be replaced," it chilled me, but I see that the late Mr. H. will appear in the final film through digital wizardry.
Expect plenty of action, tempered by plenty of humanity: Katniss is reflexively kind and protective. There will be no sweaty bodies, no profanity and only a bit of well-timed blowie uppie stuff. This series has retained its high quality throughout. We expect no less.

Our sold-out opening-weekend crowd at Seattle's newly updated Cinerama theater held quite a surprise for ME: the closed-caption device didn't work! I was, however, treated to outstanding customer service, so there are no hard feelings. I had to see this in another theater, but the excellent sound engineering on this one made me wonder if closed captions were even necessary. Whew!

By the way, the ubiquitous three-fingered salute used by rebels in the "Hunger Games" series has now been outlawed indefinitely by the government of Thailand. Moviegoers are being arrested. Hmmm.... I wonder why?
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is a sample of the action:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


The Theory of Everything

At age 21 the legendary Stephen Hawking was diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disease similar to ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) and given two years to live. As an audience, it is our privilege to watch a brilliant actor inhabit the persona of a brilliant physicist, cosmologist, professor and best-selling author (A Brief History of Time) who is, over 50 miraculous years later (November, 2014), still alive.

Screenwriter Anthony McCarten, working from the book by Hawking's first wife Jane, gives us a PG-13 script in which there are no bad guys, just semi-ordinary people dealing with extraordinary issues. Director James Marsh doesn't shy away from awkward details but conveys the intellect and wit that defines our hero. Our screening audience laughed out loud many times.

We admire:
  • Eddie Redmayne ("Les Miserables") is Stephen Hawking, mildly clumsy at the beginning but we are sad to know he will only become worse. Even with a mechanical voice however, he shares his nicely honed sense of humor.
  • Felicity Jones ("The Amazing Spider-Man 2") is his wife Jane. When she tells her prospective father-in-law that she is a lot tougher than he suspects, we believe her!
  • Emily Watson ("The Book Thief") Aunt Isobel advises an overworked Jane to join the choir, which sounds absolutely absurd!
  • Charlie Cox ("Boardwalk Empire") Jonathan is the choir director.
  • David Thewlis ("War Horse") Professor Sciama becomes one of Hawking's most effective advocates.
In my opinion, the defining moment in the upcoming Oscar race will be when we watch Hawking imagine being whole again. We see Redmayne unfold from his distorted position curled in the wheelchair and in one astonishing take, gradually become straight and tall. He slowly descends the stairs and picks up a pen that has been dropped. No prosthetics; no computer-generated imaging; no camera tricks. Brilliant!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is a sample:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


This is a case where Art imitates Life. During a 2009 comic sketch on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, London-based journalist Maziar Bahari was interviewed by Jason Jones. As part of the gag, Bahari called Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad "an idiot" but Iran didn't get the joke. When Newsweek sent him to Tehran to cover the presidential election, he was arrested and placed in solitary confinement for 118 days where he was subjected to grueling interrogations. He was suspected of attempting to overthrow the Iranian government.

After he was released, he was interviewed by Jon Stewart because the show had inadvertently caused his imprisonment. They became friends and Stewart makes his screen-writing and directorial debut with this R-rated film based on the book, "Then They Came for Me," co-written by Bahari and Aimee Molloy.

The cast:
  • Gael Garcia Bernal ("Casa de mi Padre") plays Maziar Bahari, astonished by the misunderstanding and unable to explain that neither Italian movies nor the American TV series The Sopranos are pornography. When his jailers declare that Jon Stewart is a spy, he asks, "Why would a spy have a TV show?"
  • Shohreh Aghdashloo ("Grimm") is his mother Moloojoon, who has already lost a husband and a daughter to zealotry. The police are offended because she isn't wearing a head scarf in her own home.
  • Haluk Bilginer ("The Reluctant Fundamentalist") Maziar's deceased father Baba Akbar only appears to him in solitary.
  • Kim Bodnia ("The Bridge") is Rosewater, Maziar's interrogator. We are relieved when our prisoner, to retain his own sanity, starts to create elaborate tales of mythical trips to licentious "New Jersey" for pornographic massages. These "confessions" are irresistible to his tormentor. Our screening audience giggled with glee.
His interrogators are fascinated as they watch him dance to imaginary music while alone in his cell. Of course they are furious when Bahari's girlfriend starts a world-wide media blitz about his illegal confinement. As we know, this ultimately succeeds.

We see beatings and mental torture, but are not subjected to scenes of waterboarding, etc, which have become standard for movies of this ilk. Whew! This is an interesting and dare I say it, entertaining film.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is a preview:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


Big Hero 6

Before I start this review, let me mention "Feast," an animated short that is paired with this main feature. It stars an English bulldog named "Winston" (naturally); we watch him grow from puppy to adult dog, bond with his human and share both food and love. Animation just gets better and more heartwarming all the time! NOTE: This wonderful piece has been nominated for a 2015 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film....and just won!

Our main attraction is about a young science protégé encountering an extremely talented villain who uses the boy's own invention against him! This wonderful PG-rated Disney feature film has the usual array of film stars slumming as voice actors, so I'm going to skip my usual names and their credits. Instead I want to share what I think a child will learn from this film:
  • Sometimes a very smart older brother can trick his even smarter younger brother and the results can be very, very GOOD!
  • It's not that bad to be a geek.
  • It's fun to watch a robot learn to use his brand-new body.
  • Sometimes it takes teamwork to reach a goal.
  • Everyone has a talent to offer.
  • A single-minded robot can be extremely funny.
  • It's easy to get off track and forget your goal.
  • A bad guy may have a good reason to be bad.
This is a Marvel comic flick. We see the origins of various super heroes, we hear very funny character-driven banter between them, with NO insult humor; this is important to me! We see a LOT of vehicular mayhem on San Fransokyo's hilly (and narrow) streets, plus aerial mayhem when the main action starts.

Hiro is an orphan and Baymax the robot's attempts to comfort him when he suffers a loss are sweet and insistent. (Baymax is a Pillsbury Dough- boy-type healthcare provider designed by his older brother.) Our hero's pain is realistic and the animation is brilliant. We screened this in 3-D but I saw no compelling rea$on for the extra expen$e.

Again we had uninformed parents see the word "Disney" and bring toddlers to the theater. Again we had to endure disruptive departures as the little'uns were bored to tears. ...Sigh... The rest of us really enjoyed this one! In fact it has been nominated as Best Animated Feature Film for a 2015 Oscar.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is a peek:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


Earth is becoming uninhabitable so when a mysterious rip in the space- time continuum appears, mankind reaches into space, seeking a new planet to inhabit. This expedition will not "go gentle into that good night..." References to Dylan Thomas' classic are made throughout.

There are reasons why an audience will sit through a 169-minute, PG-13 space-jockey movie. We start with the script, co-written by Christopher Nolan (Oscar nominated for "Inception") and Jonathan Nolan (Oscar nominated for "Memento"). Next is the direction: Christopher Nolan (AFI win for "The Dark Knight Rises"). On the other hand there are reasons why an audience member will fidget: No closed captions and too many essential plot points are murmured. This is important because the plot IS complex and unless you already understand how relativity works in relation to quantum physics...or something... you might be in big trouble. I know I was. ...sigh...

Okay... Let's move on to the stellar cast:
  • Matthew McConaughey (Oscar for "Dallas Buyers Club") Cooper is an explorer investigating what's beyond that worm hole because he doesn't want his children doomed to extinction on Earth.
  • Casey Affleck (Oscar-nominated for "The Assassination of Jesse James...") Tom tries to make his father proud and be a good farmer, but Nature seems to be against him.
  • Mackenzie Foy ("Black Eyed Dog") Young Murph is a precocious little girl and the apple of her proud father's eye. She does NOT want him to go into space!
  • Jessica Chastain (Oscar-nominated for "Zero Dark Thirty") Murph is still angry with her father, but she becomes a scientist anyway.
  • Ellen Burstyn (Oscar for "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore") Old Murph reminds us how important that wristwatch is.
  • Anne Hathaway (Oscar for "Les Miserables") Amelia Brand is a voluntary crew member on that exploratory spaceship. Why?
  • David Gyasi ("Panic") Romilly is the only crew member who dreads when he isn't in suspended animation because he suffers from motion sickness.
  • Michael Caine (Oscar for "The Cider House Rules") Dr. Brand has Plan A ready to go. Plan B will soon follow...he hopes...
  • David Oyelowo (SAG-nominated for "The Butler") is the school principal where Young Murph is having trouble fitting in.
  • John Lithgow (Oscar-nominated for "Terms of Endearment") Donald has always resented his son-in-law's adventurous nature.
The impressive list goes on and on; there are familiar faces everywhere. Suffice it to say, this VERY complex plot and the dazzling special effects finally wore me down. My companion had to explain missing parts of the plot after we left the theater. A sharp-eyed JayFlix colleague spotted this in a national newspaper:
Hollywood, we have a problem: Dialogue is getting harder to hear.
While pursuing their artistic visions, 
some directors are making films with garbled dialogue, 
distracting background chatter and thumping sound effects.
This is a brilliant movie, but sometimes too much of a good thing is just too much... Like the overwhelming music (see above) that made me think of "...the mighty Wurlitzer..." In my opinion, this is a case where Nolan's reach exceeds his grasp, and his disdain for the movie-going, ticket-buying public is on full display.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Take a look:
* * * * * * * * * * * *



This will be a tough review to write because no matter how I present it, 50% of you will disagree with me. Is Edward Snowden an irresponsible hacker like Julian Assange with WikiLeaks, or is he a patriotic man who is alarmed to see loss of liberties in democratic nations?

This R-rated documentary is narrated by a woman who had begun receiving encrypted emails offering evidence of illegal covert surveillance programs run by government agencies. They were signed "Citizenfour." Five months later she secretly met with him in Hong Kong, along with reporters Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian. She brought her camera....

Here is what jumped out at me:
  • Snowden's sole thrust is exposure of governmental overkill; it is not to divulge secret operations, endanger intelligence agents or become personally famous.
  • During the early part of the filming (in Hong Kong), he was still anonymous. By the time he gave an example of how monitoring can be done on our phone even when it is in the cradle, we could see that he is careful, not paranoid. He unplugged his phone....
  • Back in the United States, his auto pay for his rent stopped working and his girlfriend had five days to move out; utility vans lined the street where she lived.
  • Under the Patriot Act, our government and others like ours, can harvest all communications: this includes phone calls (both landline and cell), E-mails, texts, Tweets, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., etc... Take a look at the enormous new data storage facility under construction in Utah. (BTW: The UK is even more aggressive than the US.)
  • He is angry that Obama made a point of criticizing our government after 9/11, saying that we should never infringe on private citizen's lives unless they were proven security threats, but now, under Obama, surveillance has increased exponentially.
  • As soon as his name was divulged, the government wanted an investigation: NOT to discover why it is monitoring its citizens, but to ascertain WHO LEAKED SNOWDEN'S STORY. He insists that HE is not the story, abuse of power is.
  • The government has a list of over ONE MILLION American citizens who are currently on the Enemy's List. Snowden was shocked.
  • Journalist Glenn Greenwald is at minimum, bilingual. He seems to be sensitive to the security aspects of the project but is also very much an activist when it comes to exposing government surveillance.
This isn't the most thrilling documentary I have ever seen, but it is endlessly fascinating. Director Laura Poitras brings us a personable and intelligent young man who impressed me as a patriot. Plus he looks like one of my relatives who is a former Marine and, I would like to think, brave enough to do something similar.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Take a look and see what you think:
* * * * * * * * * * * *