War breeds unlikely Heroes

Hacksaw Ridge is both heartwarming and horrible.  It’s a really great war movie and the characters, however briefly some are developed, all seem believable and fleshed out – we know these men.  The movie rings true, due in major part to the talent of  actor Andrew Garfield who plays Desmond Doss, the only conscientious objector in WWII to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Doss is a highly loveable redneck – a 7th Day Adventist who refuses to take up a gun due to his religious conviction and some other scary stuff that happened to him as a child.  Doss nonetheless wants to serve as a medic in the army as long as he doesn’t have to kill anyone.  There is a charming love story along with the war story – but the movie is mostly about the awful bloody and gruesome nature of war and the amazing courage of one man – he singlehandedly saved 75 wounded members of his company after they were forced to retreat from the Japanese.  The battle scenes are compelling – I think the graphic nature of the battle scenes is all director Mel Gibson.  It is impossible not to be astonished at the courage of Doss, who died a mere 10 years ago.  There is great video footage of the real Doss talking about his role in the historic battle of Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa.  This is not just a great war film; it’s a great film.  Garfield is never out of character – so perfect in his role that I would be stunned to discover that he went to Yale or something or maybe speaks with a British accent.  A word of caution:  this movie is not for the squeamish – you’d miss too much if you had to watch this through little slits in your fingers.

The Doctor is IN

A scene from "Doctor Strange."

I love most of Marvel films, but I confess my favorite has always been Iron Man because he is snarky-funny, egocentric, sexy and so engaging. But move over Robert Downey, Jr., there’s a new kid in town – well, a middle-aged hero – in Benedict Cumberbatch. (We remember him as the wonderful Sherlock Holmes on British/American TV.)  Dr. Stephen Strange is a super-star neurosurgeon whose success has clearly gone to his head – he is arrogant, self centered, pompous, wealthy – well, you may know a few doctors like this.  A car crash destroys his hands and he seeks to regain his former life – eventually going to Katmandu to find an answer in sorcery.  Works for me.  Thereafter, the movie takes off in some mind-blowing directions with scenes of New York, London and Hong Kong turned upside down, melting, withering, folding, exploding, etc.  As in all Marvel films, it is a classic fight between good and evil – and good wins out for the moment.  There is certain to be a sequel where evil can reemerge.  This boasts an all-star cast of memorable characters, and the producers clearly spared no expense (you can get old just watching the credits roll by).  Don’t let me spoil anything.  My only worry is this: Cumberbatch is already 50 – so how many sequels are left for him?  Dr. Strange is a film not to be missed.

Oh, Tom!

Tom, really? I’m someone who would go to see Tom Hanks in a detergent commercial. Wait. That may be next. I felt betrayed by Hanks and director Ron Howard. One reviewer summed it up: “The story, based on Dan Brown’s book, has two missions, one easy, and one requiring real skill. The first is to keep you wondering what’s going on. The second is to keep you curious as to what is going on.” And that was one of only a handful of positive reviews. While we are whisked around the world – Istanbul, Florence, Venice – I can’t help wondering why the hosts of people chasing Hanks and co-star Felicity Jones manage always to get there ahead of our stars. It all starts with a lousy book and an even worse script. If you are looking for mystery, adventure and action that keeps you biting your nails and sitting on the edge of your seat, see something else. Or go anyway – I went. I am still a serious Hanks fan. Two of my favorite films of all time are “Big” and “Sleepless in Seattle” both of which I have in my private DVD stash. And what about “Saving Private Ryan” and “Castaway”? But this movie is totally forgettable.

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Tom Cruise Still Has IT!

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Tom Cruise is a Great Jack Reacher. The thing about Jack Reacher is that he’s tougher than a 500 pound bag of nails. I like the fact that throughout this movie he wore that little scar on his left cheek (although we didn’t exactly see the fight that caused it). There is adventure, intrigue, not a lot of romance (thank you – romance always gets in the way of a hard-knuckles movie – except maybe Rocky – but that’s another genre), and the kind of jabs at a distorted government that we expect from author Lee Child – don’t get me wrong, democracy and justice always prevail in a Jack Reacher story.  Incidentally, there is a Lee Child who plays the TSA Agent and I am wondering if it is the same Lee Child, nepotism or just coincidence. I recommend this movie for everyone who loves a lot of hand to hand combat, gun fights, and car chases. Oh, leaps from tall buildings is also a great feature.  In this story, the government used a bunch of corrupt contractors to fight the war in the middle east – but that has to be a stretch – right?  Our government would never be so fool-hearty, right? See this flick!  You won’t be disappointed.

Deepwater Horizon

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As disaster movies go, Deepwater Horizon does not disappoint – much. It does not rank up there with my favorites like Titanic and Towering Inferno. But there is good action and a lot of fire – and I confess that I was totally in the dark about some of the technical aspects of the movie – including the purpose of the rig – not exactly drilling for oil – a preliminary step. And I have no idea what those pressure tests were supposed to represent – except that it was supposed to be negative. Good performances by Kurt Russell, Mark Wahlberg and John Malkovich. It just lacked substance – with no time to really develop character. It was about the fire and the rescue. When showing the credits, they could have mentioned the cost of this disaster in terms of natural resources and financial resources. I would not rate it more than 3 stars – and that’s mostly for the pyrotechnics. Can’t fault the actors if the script wasn’t there.