Movie Review – Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures MovieHidden Figures

Over the weekend I finally saw Hidden Figures and I really enjoyed it. As someone who loves math, science, and technology, I really wanted to see more about the people who made our ventures into space possible. It is a movie about people that history tried very hard to ignore and forget.

When the space race began, multitudes of people were needed to figure out the science and math necessary to not only get us into space, but also to safely return. This is the story of three strong willed and very intelligent women who assisted with the math and engineering behind that effort.

In the highly segregated 1960’s, although the three worked for NASA, they lived and endured a culture that assumed the worst of them because of their skin color. The movie follows some of their struggles as they try to be heard and make a difference in the world around them.

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Movie Review: The Martian

The Martian MovieLast week I went to see The Martian, which was the movie based on the book by Andy Weir. As I mentioned in my review of the book, I really loved the story. It is science with a sarcastic attitude—a mix that struck a chord with me.

For the movie, I think Matt Damon did an excellent job as Mark Watney. It was a very believable portrayal of the character. I could see him truly as a man stuck on the surface of Mars trying to find a way to survive against the odds.

This is truly a story that kept me wondering how he could live and the greatest part was that it took intelligence, cunning, and wits to overcome the obstacles. The foe (nature) could not be overcome by brawn and extra fire power. Bringing a truckload of macho was going to save his life. It is refreshing to see that play out both in print and on the screen and for so many people to embrace it.

Let me say this early, I think the movie is 5 out of 5 stars, so definitely go see it. However, I did have a couple of gripes which come purely from having read the book first—which if you have not read yet, go get a copy and start reading it now…or at least as soon as you are done reading this post.

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Movie Review: A Walk in the Woods

A Walk In the WoodsLast weekend I went to see A Walk In The Woods, a movie about two people who should probably not have tried to hike the Appalachian Trail (AT) setting out to hike it.

The movie has an all-star cast that includes Robert Redford as Bill Bryson, Nick Nolte as Stephen Katz, and Emma Thompson as Catherine Bryson, Bill’s wife.

The movie is an adaptation of a 1998 book with the same name. It is about Bill Bryson, a travel writer, who late in life decides to hike the Appalachian Trail with an old friend, Stephen Katz. The two men set off on the journey and find some of the problems that had driven them apart long ago still exist. However, over the course of their adventure, they begin to work out some of their differences.

For me, the movie sparked an incredible urge to be out on a trail. The natures scenes, mixed in with the comedy that these two actors bring to the screen, made me want to drive to the nearest mountain. In fact, I went home and pulled up some of my unprocessed videos and pictures to keep myself from driving to Colorado (because it is where the nearest mountain is located, not because the AT is there, which it is not).

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Movie Review: The Man From U.N.C.L.E

the-man-from-uncleThis weekend I saw The Man From U.N.C.L.E, which stars Henry Cavill (as Solo), Armie Hammer (as Illya), and Alicia Vikander (as Gaby).

The story is set in the 1960’s with a backdrop of the cold war and the threat of nuclear weapons spreading. It involves a number of European settings and plenty of action. I must say I have been itching for a classic spy movie (I was planning to get out my Get Smart DVD collection) and this movie fit the bill for me. It was not overly gadget-heavy, but there were some boxy tools they pulled out from time to time and I liked the break from the micro-sized batbelt with everything you need.

I found the settings well done and I didn’t see anything jumping out as being out of place (though I was not watching for that explicitly). The streets were filled with old cars and I even wondered how they had managed to round-up all of them. With computers these days, they could have easily been CG, but if it was, I didn’t notice.

The movie is tied into the old 1964-68 television series with the same name. It is reported that Ian Fleming contributed to the concepts in the original series and if you want some additional details, check out the Wikipedia article on it.

The main focus of the movie, and the series, is a pairing of Solo (an American spy) with Illya (a Soviet spy). While they are ordered to work together, there is still the underlying issues of national pride and competing governments.

Overall, I found the movie well done and would recommend seeing it.  I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Movie Review – Paddington

Paddington Movie PosterToday I saw Paddington.  The movie has a star cast, including Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abby) Nicole Kidman (a lot of movies, including Dead Calm which was where I first got to know her), Sally Hawkins (also a lot of movies and TV), and Ben Whishaw (Q in Skyfall).  I was also thrilled to see The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) in the movie (sorry, I see all The Doctors as The Doctor playing a part).

I was worried a little bit about the CGI before seeing the film, but I have to say, I think the technology really is there.  I don’t know for certain, but I would not be surprised if the hair programming they developed for Brave was used for Paddington’s fur.  It had a very natural look and movement.  I think they knew it was done well, since there was at least one shot that emphasized his fur blowing in the breeze.

The story is a classic tale that has been around for generations (the books were first published in 1958).  I am not overly familiar with them.  I seem to remember having at least one book as a kid, but if I did, I don’t have it now.  This means I cannot say how well the movie holds to the books, but the story in the movie was done well.

I also loved seeing so much of London in the shots.  I’ve been itching to go back and I can say I spent some of the film going: “I’ve been there and if they’d move the camera, you could see…”

The only thing I really had trouble with was the easy acceptance of a talking bear running around the city without causing more wonder and excitement among the people.  However, it is a children’s story and I know enough about the story to know that is just part of it.

Overall, I would recommend it as a nice, mostly light-hearted tale (there are a couple of parts that might be sad for little kids, but they pass quickly).  I’ll give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2

Hot to Train Your Dragon 2Dreamworks’ second installment in this series, How to Train Your Dragons 2, shows the kids from the first movie older and more mature.  Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera), and the others are still in the line-up, as are their dragons.  However, this movie is definitely about Hiccup, him discovering his past, and dealing with aspects of growing into an adult.  I felt this more so than I did in the first movie.  Astrid still plays a significant role, but the others less so.

While some of the story line was more mature, overall the movie is still targeted for a younger audience.  To me, some of the plot lines were more sophisticated, but the humor was closer to the first movie.  There were also some motivations that were simplified for younger viewers.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps shows a gradual transition for the movie.

Avoiding spoilers, a new villain is introduced who has control of an army of dragons.  It is against this new threat to Berk and their dragons that Hiccup must fight.  Being pretty much as hard-headed as his father, Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler), Hiccup decides he has to solve the problem on his own.  This decision precipitates a series of events where Hiccup discovers a number of secrets from his past as well as develops a better understanding of dragons.

One item that I had trouble with was what appeared to be a slight change in the rules of how dragons work from the first movie.  It is not a huge change and it could even be argued that things worked that way in the first movie, but was simply not explained that way.  It was not a huge issue, but it did feel to me like a slight change in the lore.

Overall, I would give it a smidge less than 4 out of 5 stars.  If you have kids, they will like it and I will end up buying the Blu-ray.

Movie Reivew: Maleficent

Last weekend I went to Maleficentmaleficent_poster.  I have seen a number of reviews of the movie and some of them have been mixed.  So, let me add opinions on Disney’s recent movie featuring a protagonist traditionally portrayed as pure evil.  (Review spoiler: I recommend seeing the moving.)

First, a bit of a warning, when I went to see the movie, there were a number of people bringing children who were definitely under 10 years old, some perhaps as young as 6 or 7.  I would say the movie is a little dark for kids that young.  It is rated PG13 and while I’ve never been a fan of the movie industries rating scheme, there is enough violence that I’d tend to make sure the kinds are mature enough to handle it.  For the adults, as with most Disney movies, there is plenty of adult themes running throughout the film.

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Movie Review: Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier

Captain America PosterI saw Captain America 2 this weekend and I found the movie entertaining and worth the watch.

The story picked up with The Captain (played by Chris Evans) and Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) leading a team on a mission.  The events of the mission lead to a string of questions and a thread of activity that brings up many aspects of the history of the characters and even SHIELD.

Along the way, they also add the Falcon (played by Anthony Mackie) to the small team of heroes.  It would be good to see him in future movies or even in the Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD television series (I’m a bit behind in the show at the moment, so if he has already made an appearance, that would be good). Continue reading

Movie Review: Frozen (Disney 2013)

Fozen PosterI have always enjoyed most Disney movies and I will come right out and say Frozen is worth seeing.

Disney often has lots of musical scores and for some reason this one felt more like a musical.  I did not do any measured comparison, but it seemed there was more singing in Frozen than Tangled and some of their other more recent movies.  I could be wrong, but that was the feeling.

Like all the Disney movies I have seen, there is always a deep adult undercurrent in the film and it shows how bad advice from a parent can make a mess of their children’s lives.

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Movie Review: Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies PosterI know Warm Bodes has been out for quite some time and while I had originally wanted to see it, too many things kept taking priority.

Today I had a free rental and it was available so I gave it a shot.  I was impressed.  It was not exactly what I had expected; in fact it was much better than I expected.

Warm Bodies is a love story about a girl and her Zombie.  Not having researched the movie before I watched it, I expected something of a lighthearted romantic comedy.  It is actually a bit more gritty that comedy, perhaps more in line with movies such as Zombieland (another one I enjoyed immensely).

The story is told primarily from the point of view of R (played by Nicholas Hoult), the male lead who cannot remember his name or much of anything about his past before he died (accept he thinks his name started with an “R” sound).  He knows he’s dead and much of the movie is his internal monologue showing his conflicted nature about what he is and his desire to be more.

The female lead, Julie (played by Teresa Palmer), has grown hard in the post apocalypse world, but she is not entirely jaded with life and still hopes for something better.  On a scouting mission to bring supplies back into the walled off city where the last of the humans live, her group is attacked and eaten; however, R is sparked into saving her and leads her back to where he is living at the airport.

R is a bit different, having hoarded many objects that would have meaning to humanity and the living.  Through a series of events, R saves Julie a number of times and eventually builds her trust.  As they bond and she starts treating him more as a person, he begins to change even more, which in turn starts affecting some of the other zombies.  To avoid any spoilers, I’ll leave the description of events there.

While there is definite violence and fighting in the movie, it is actually more about the connection they make and the building of their relationship.  There are a few clichés parts, such as issues with her father (who is the leader of the humans and played by John Malkovich, another of my favorites).  There is also not much of an explanation of the mechanics of the universe and how the zombies work, but I don’t think you’ll find much science behind zombies in any zombie film.

While I am not a huge fan of the zombie horror films, this one fits right in with the type of zombie films I do enjoy (Shaun of the Dead, Resident Evil, Zombiland, …).  I will give Warm Bodies 4 out of 5 stars and now that I’ve seen it, I’ll probably add it to my video collection at some point.