Friday, October 27, 2017

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women review

Did you know that the creator of the comic book Wonder Woman was a feminist man? Or that he had a sexual relationship with two women? How about the fact that he also created the first lie detector machine? Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is the fascinating film about this man Professor William Marston and his two loves, Elizabeth Marston and Olive Byrne.

We meet Professor William Moulton Marston (The Hobbit's Luke Evans) about the year 1946  as he is being interrogated by Josette Frank (Connie Britton) of the Child Study Association for his controversial creation, Wonder Woman. She's upset with the comic book's sexual and bondage themes. Marston defends his work. This interrogation becomes a framing device similar to Cervantes defending his story in Man of La Mancha. The movie flashes back to a time where Marston is teaching psychology and his DISC theory regarding human behavior. (DISC stands for Dominance, Inducement, Submission, Compliance) Watching his class is his wife, Elizabeth. (Rebecca Hall) Also  attending is a student, Olive Byrne. (Bella Heathcote)

Marston finds himself enraptured with Byrne. He wants her as a research assistant. Elizabeth immediately sees the sexual attraction that Marston has for her but agrees to allowing Byrne work for him. Their initial work is the development of the lie detector. During the testing of the device all three discover that they have feelings for each other. This leads to a polymorphous relationship.

After losing his job, and with Byrne having given birth to a child, Marston finds   the need to support this growing family,   But first, he's got to stop by a local lingerie store which is also a front for a bondage group.  Well , maybe he doesn't need to shop for lingerie and um... ropes but it turns him on.  This leads him to introduce his wife and lover, Olive to some light bondage.  Add that with  his feminist views,  the feminist inspiration from the women in his life and voila, Wonder Woman.  He takes the idea to DC Comics and they agree to produce a comic.  So, you know where the Lasso of Truth comes from.  Don't tell the kids.

The performances of Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote are superb.   They all have chemistry with each other, sexual and emotional.  Evan's Marston is an idealist.  He wants to use the comic book of Wonder Woman to indoctrinate the youth of America to feminism.  His passion for feminism is matched by his love for his women.  Hall's Elizabeth is a woman who's been educated as a lawyer by must endure sexual discrimination.  She's tough but there's also pain in her performance.  Heathcote's Olive has a lineage to feminism and liberal ideas.  In real life, Olive Byrne was the niece of feminist Margaret Sanger.  Bella Heathcote shows a devotion to those ideas.  But more importantly, she exudes a telepathic performance.  It may seem that Olive is the submissive of the three but she radiates a sexual aura which dominates Elizabeth and Marston.

Writer and director Angela Robinson has created a film that may accurately depict the three and if  it doesn't I applaud the ideas of the movie.   Granddaughter Christie Marston  argues that Elizabeth and Olive were not in a sexual relationship but were more like sisters.  (Hollywood Reporter)   The relationship of the three was certainly radical for the time and it would be frowned upon now.   But this unconventional family is actually conventional in its goals.  If Wonder Woman was going to defeat evil by love (Boston University article) then why can't love exist in a family of two women, a man and children?  Why can't that love defeat fear and bigotry?   Robinson's scenes of the Marston family with evening dinners and playing with children are loving, happy and beautiful.  You root for this family.

As for the sex between the three, Robinson projects some of her ideas.  First, she physically depicts the lovemaking with hand-held camera shots.  There's a slight shake to the picture.  This depicts the emotional, nervous and sexual energy between the three.  But what about the bondage?   Isn't it the objectification of women that radical feminists decry about?  No.  It's consensual.   Robinson seems to show that it is the women who are in charge here.  It's a sexual power that motivates men and women.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women is a warm, loving and yes, family movie that just happens to have a polymorphous relationship with some bondage thrown in.   Radical feminists, feminists, comic book fans and movie lovers should see this film.  The grade is A.     

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Columbus review

Columbus, Indiana is a small town that is the birthplace of Vice President Mike Pence. And I'm guessing that most Americans didn't know this. It is also a place where the late J. Irwin Miller of the Cummins Company led a private-public effort to construct buildings of modern architecture and art. The film Columbus uses this fascinating city as a backdrop.

Jin (Star Trek's John Cho) is a Korean-American who must stop in Columbus, Indiana after his professor father becomes ill and falls into a coma. Cho's performance has empathy and sadness as he is confronting the mortality of his father. Casey (Haley Lu Richardson) is a young woman who is taking care of her addict-mother, Maria played by Michelle Forbes. (Star Trek: The Next Generation) She gives an honest performance as a working class single mother. Unfortunately, Casey is putting her dreams of going to Yale in order to stay with her. Richardson turns in a realistic performance of a woman who is dedicated to her sacrifice but also has a yearning for something more. The two meet and develop a friendship among the art and architecture.

Writer and director Kogonada obviously has a love for this city of art. He uses it as a plot device while also getting Casey to talk about all the buildings and sculptures. It might be contrived except that Kogonada weaves his characters with the art, which obviously includes the architecture. They interact with it.

The look of this film is itself a work of art. Kogonada carefully frames each shot the way Kurosawa did with his movies. It's twenty first century Hopper. Hallways, buildings, furniture, rooms, sculptures even a chain link fence are shot in creative ways. He uses shadow to cover some characters. There are scenes shot with natural light. A mirror is used to reflect an intimate conversation. And in these photographic paintings are moving characters, people.

But among all of this art, this need for perfection are the imperfect lives of people. Jin is also estranged from his father. His dilemma is how long does he stay with him. Casey's dreams may disappear. These are two lonely people with paths that intersect like a work of modern architecture. My only problem with this film is that Kogonada could have used some subtle music as background for the conversations between Jin and Casey. It was a little too quiet.

Columbus is a film that conveys many things. Loneliness. Sadness. Warmth. Love. Beauty. It deserves multiple viewings. The grade is A Minus.

Geostorm review

The film, Geostorm, wants you to know that  the international space station  has a self-destruct system. Okay, I know that this movie is supposed to take place in the future. But "Why?" The movie says it's to stop the station from crashing into the earth. But seriously, we know when things in orbit enter the atmosphere, they break up anyway and are burned up. And by the way, the self-destruct system can't be turned off once it's been turned on. What? I say again, "WHAT?!" It does make sense if you're trying to make a contrived, suspenseful plot point. But even then, it's got to make sense. This is one of the problems of Geostorm, the lack of logic.

The movie takes place in the near future. It's a time when the world is working together to control climate change. And in this day of Trump, it's a fantasy. The world has used  technology to control the extreme weather through satellites and they are controlled by the International Climate Space Station. The creator of the life saving system, Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler) is testifying to Congress about turning over control from America to the world when he yells, "This is Sparta!" Okay, that's from 300. He shows disrespect which angers his brother, Max (Jim  Sturges) who's some type of government official.

One of the satellites malfunctions and  flash freezes some poor villagers in Afghanistan.  President Palma (Andy Garcia) sends Jake to the space station to fix it before more people are turned into popsicles.    But he finds out that somebody is sabotaging the system.  Hold on.  Maybe this is not a fantasy in this day of Trump sabotaging Obamacare.   Anyway, Jake's got to stop anymore malfunctioning satellites or else there's going to be something called a "geostorm" which is a cool sounding term for worldwide storms that will destroy life on the planet.

I usually comment on performances but what's the point?  The characters are given ridiculous things to say and do.  Abbie Cornish plays  Secret Service agent Sarah Wilson.  She's dating Max though the script says that's illegal.  Huh?  Really?  I  laughed when she pulls out her gun and did some other action things because it was so over the top.  Ed Harris is Secretary of State Dekkom.  He probably wishes he was back in Westworld.   Richard Sheehan is Taylor, a British crew member of the space station.  He's cocky, annoying  and basically a jerk.  You  just wish somebody would flush him out of an airlock or kick him down a well.  Calling Gerard Butler.  Speaking of Butler, he's okay but it's the writing and the direction that hurts this film.

Writer and director Dean Devlin (Independence Day) is competent as a director.  Action scenes and special effects all work.  But it's the writing.  Characters spit out exposition unnaturally.  Jake's daughter literally tells Max that he's not been in her life instead of subtly implying it.  That's telling not showing.    Bad guys are shot with menacing closing shots.  I get it.  He's a bad guy.  The film wants to be some type of political thriller.  But there's not enough of this plot thread.  It spends too much time on the personal lives of the main characters.  I don't care about Jake's daughter.  Okay?  Then there's the  lack of logic and silliness.  Jake goes on a space walk to  retrieve a panel.  Something goes wrong and he's hurtling through space and literally bouncing off the space station.  And get this?  He suffers no breach in his space suit.  Really?  And I forgot this hilarious scene.  A gigantic tidal wave hits the beaches of Brazil.  A bikini clad woman runs from the wave.  As she is running down the street, a jet plane crashes and is about to crush her.  Yet, she is able to outrun it and survive.  Yeah, it's a little overkill.

Geostorm is not bad enough to laugh at.  At best, it's not boring.   It's just a big budget SyFy television movie without flying sharks.  The grade is C Plus.   

Monday, October 23, 2017

General Kelly has become a four star idiot

Lost in the President Trump-Rep. Frederica Wilson controversy is the fact that Chief of Staff, General Kelly has made idiotic statements in the past in the defense of conservative Republican Trump. Last May, he defended trump's son-in-law for trying to establish a back channel through the Russian embassy that would defeat the CIA and FBI.

“I don’t see a big deal. I think any channel of communication, back or otherwise, with a country like Russia is a good thing.” DHS Secretary John Kelly From Fox News Sunday; Politico.

Yep. That was a four star general defending son-in-law, Jared Kushner, for attempting to set up a secret back channel that would run out of the Russian embassy to defeat the FBI and the CIA. An idiot would not wonder "Why do this?" A smart person would be suspicious because there's one major reason you would do this. To do something illegal with the Russians. You see this is not something to keep out of the press. The press don't have the ability to surveil the Russians that the FBI does. And if you're doing something legal, the FBI wouldn't do anything.

So, again General Kelly made an idiot of himself. When conservative President Trump made a "condolence" call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson and said Sgt. Johnson "knew what he was getting himself into" or "knew what he signed up for", Kelly defended him. (Video below) The phrase "he knew what he was getting himself into" is not a statement of empathy or respect. It means that a person is at fault for his situation. For example, if you go to a baseball game and get hit with a foul ball, you knew what you were getting into. It's similar to the legal defense, assumption of the risk. It is not a phrase of empathy or nobility.

And by the way, General Kelly. Rep. Wilson did not eavesdrop on Trump's "condolence" call. The widow, Myeshia Johnson put it on speakerphone. She was a close friend of the Johnson family. (Huffington Post with ABC video.)

Lawrence O' Donnell's excellent video essay on why General Kelly made racist comments by referring Rep. Wilson as an "empty barrel."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Stephen Colbert on the unraveling Donald Trump

Well, President Donald Trump is unraveling according to Vanity Fair.  .  And just remember he has the nuclear codes.  Sigh.  We need a laugh before we all die.  Here's Stephen Colbert.  Enjoy. 

Hey, Bubba. Trump looks to hurt you and millions of Americans

Yo, Bubba. Yes , you the white working class male that voted for Trump because he would make America great again. Trump really hates you because he's going to make your health insurance go up. By now you should know he lies a lot and so when his administration says they're going to get you great health care. Don't believe it. Time for a little ole education Bubba. Let's look at yesterday's two mean actions he took yesterday to kill Obamacare or The Affordable Care Act. Source: Huffington Post

1. Allow Insurers to sell product-without pre-existing coverage and bare bone insurance plans.

Okay, Bubba. I know this sounds good. But it ain't. Here's how insurance works. Private insurance companies make money off your premiums and not paying claims. I repeat they profit by not paying claims. So the more customers they have, the more premiums they get. Now they're going to have to pay for Aunt Billie Jo's operation but if they get enough premiums, they can keep the costs to you and your Aunt down. Remember all those premium s per month where they don't pay a claim. Now if you offer something to healthy people that is cheaper and not as good, some people are going to go there. BUT AUNT BILLIE JO'S PREMIUMS'S GO UP BECAUSE THE INSURANCE COMPANY WILL HAVE LESS IN PREMIUMS. THE INSURANCE COMPANY WILL MAKE IT UP BY CHARGING AUNT BILLIE JO MORE. And if she can't pay? No healthcare. She could die. You don't want that.

2. Trump is going to refuse to pay cost sharing reduction payments.
These subsidies are payed to insurance companies to lower your cost in deductibles, and co-payments. And if you're sayin' "How's that going to help me?" It doesn't. That rich, blonde haired, orange skinned president ain't on your side.

Now where is all dat money they are going save in Trump's refusal to pay those subsidies. Tax cuts for the rich. So, what to do? Contact your congressman and senator. Tell them to save Obamacare.    VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Colbert and Stewart give Trump equal time

The moron aka President Donald Trump (conservative Republican) has demanded equal time because he's getting hammered by late night comics. Well, Donald you are an easy target because the Secretary of State says you are a "moron." Well last night, Stephen Colbert with the help of Jon Stewart have given you equal time. Enjoy this hilarious bit. And vote liberal Democrat if you want to live.

Trump attacks the First Amendment

Conservative Republican President Donald Trump has declared war on the First Amendment.  Angered by the NBC news story that this moronic president wanted a tenfold increase in nuclear arms, Trump has threatened to have NBC's broadcast license revoked.  He can't get the FCC to do that to the network but he can go after NBC  local stations.      (New York Times)    This is an attack on free speech and a free press as guaranteed by the First Amendment.  At the very least, it's what we call a chilling effect on the exercise of the free speech.   IMPEACH TRUMP NOW.  VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.

The latest threat from Trump...

Blade Runner 2049 review

Do Androids Make Good Movies? Well after last year's HBO mini-series Westworld and the recent release of the film Blade Runner 2049, I would say yes. Okay, androids didn't make these productions, at least I don't think so. But the use of androids as characters in drama has done some important things. It has allowed science fiction to explore what it means to be human.

Based on  Philip K. Dick's novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner. It takes place about 28 years later. Rogue replicants which are sythetic humans or androids are hunted down.. That doesn't mean there aren't replicants. It's just that the new versions are obedient to humans and don't cause trouble. In fact, some replicants are sued to terminate the rogue replicants. They are called blade runners.  K (Ryan Gosling) is one of them.  He's also a replicant.    When K terminates a replicant posing as a farmer, he finds a trunk of bones which has an extraordinary secret that could lead to war between replicants and humans. Oh I forgot, Deckard (Harrison Ford) from the first movie shows up in the last third of they movie. Hey, no spoiler, it's in the trailer.

Also, I didn't spoil the movie by telling you that K is a replicant. It's in the first few  minutes of the film. Yeah, unlike Producer Ridley Scott who made the first one and has been running around saying that Deckard (Harrison Ford) was a replicant. That's not clear in the first movie and I'm pretty sure Deckard in the novel is human. ( But I digress. Ryan Gosling again demonstrates he's a fine actor. Here, he's a replicant but he's one that borders on having human empathy. He has virtual girlfriend, Joi (Ana De Armas) whom he dotes on. that begs the question, "Can androids love?" Harrison Ford turns in an atypical Ford performance. He's not a rogue, or particularly macho. His Deckard actually has warmth. Jared Leto should be  happy that he got the part as the blind Wallace, the morally challenged industrialist who is now producing replicants for a slave force.  It makes up for that frightening Joker in Suicide Squad.   Sylvia Hoeks is Wallace's replicant henchman or should I say henchwoman.  She is strikingly similar to Rachel from the first movie and the novel.   She's a terminator without empathy.   

Blade Runner's writer Hampton Fancher returns  to write the sequel's screenplay along with Michael Green.   (Logan).  These two are experienced at marrying film noir with science fiction.  And like the first film, this is a film noir.  And like that genre, this movie is more than action picture or science fiction opera, it's an essay on the human condition.  Themes on human existence are present.  What effect are human memories, a theme in some of Dick's novels.

Director Dennis Villeneuve (Arrival)  picks up Ridley Scott's mantle and produces a  magnificent looking film.  As much as I wanted more city landscapes, one must remember that this is earth after a great war.  That's why there is so many dusty scenes.  Perhaps, that is a weakness, the lack of exposition and why in the first movie there was a first person voice over.  Blade Runner 2049 requires you to pay attention.  There's a scene where K interviews an expert in memory construction for replicants.  I wanted to criticize it for tts length.    But in the scope of the entire film, I now realize how important it was.

Another theme  in both the novel and these two movies is  the definition of life.  Do humans have souls?  Is that why there are scenes of eyes.?   Are they windows to souls?    In Blade Runner 2049, there are scenes of female nudity.  It's sexual.  But it's relative to the human condition.  The act of sex is what creates humans.  Women are the sex of the species that brings life into the world.  And what about androids? If they become sentient, do androids reproduce? Or is that the human condition?

Traditional film noir mysteries don't give any solutions to the mysteries until the third act.  You'll be able to deduct fifty percent of the mystery in this movie after the announcement of the first plot point, i.e. the bones in the trunk.    But that's not the point of this movie.  Blade Runner 2049  shows the world with light and shadow.   It's not clear as to who is right and who is wrong.    This film is literate, intelligent and thought provoking. It will stand along its predecessor and like it, get better as time goes by.  The grade is A. 

Moron Trump wants tenfold more nukes

NBC News is reporting that conservative President Trump wanted a huge increase in nuclear weapons. By increase, he wanted a tenfold amount. Late, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called Trump a "moron." Check out the discussion by the Morning Joe crew below. Senator Bob Corker who is retiring is probably the only Republican sounding the alarm. And by the way he's the chair of the Foreign Relations Committee. We have a moron for a President who knows nothing of history. It was an arms race that led to World War I. VOTE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT IF YOU WANT TO LIVE.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Battle of the Sexes review

I never took the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" " tennis match between top woman's player, Billie Jean King  and has- been Bobby Riggs seriously. First, it was between a 29 year old King and a 55 year old Riggs. I was surprised that Riggs didn't have a heart attack. Second, all of the publicity before the match indicated that Riggs was part Muhammed Ali, and part circus clown. He said he was putting the "show" in chauvinist. Then you had the silly pre-match ceremonies. King was brought in on a litter carried by hunky slave men. Riggs was escorted by scantily clad women. But looking back, it was a turning point for women's tennis and the women's movement. The match does make for a fascinating story that's depicted in the film Battle of the Sexes.

The film takes place in the early seventies and starts out with Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) being informed that the prize money for the woman in an upcoming tournament would be one twelfth that of what the men's winner would get. Infuriated, King and nine women tennis players with the help of Gladys Heldmen (Sarah Silverman) form The Women's Tennis Association. The goal would be to increase the payout to women players and get some equality for the woman athlete. 

Meanwhile, over-the-hill tennis player Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) is struggling with his gambling addiction and left to play on the senior circuit. The time period is also the dawn of the women's liberation movement. There were many men who felt threatened by women who wanted equality and were downright sexist when it came to women.  Riggs seizes upon the moment and challenges King to a match.  She initially declines and Riggs plays top player and homophobic tennis player Margaret Court.  (Jessica  McNamee)  He defeats her and King finally accepts the challenge for the big match.

Emma Stone turns in an excellent performance as the conflicted King.  She's fighting three battles.  One is to lead women's tennis to equality.  Then there is the match with Riggs.   The other is her burgeoning lesbianism leading to an affair with her hairdresser.  She suffers  a guilt knowing that she could hurt her husband.     It's also ironic that Court is portrayed in the film as the two in real life have had recent run-ins over homosexuality.  (Sydney Morning Herald)

The supporting actors also rise to Stone's performance.  I've watched Sarah Silverman's work as a comedian for years from Star Trek: Voyager to her stand up.   Here's she plays a tough feminist promoter for woman's tennis.  Got to love the scene where Silverman's Gladys and King barge in on a men's club.  Simply put, Steve Carell is perfectly cast.  He captures Riggs tongue in cheek personality.  His Riggs was not really a male chauvinist.  That was Riggs in real life.  I'm not saying he was a feminist but clearly he was playing the clown.  He was teasing the public while using his shtick to get one more day under the sun.  Carell  knows this and uses his comedic skills for his portrayal.

Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire)'s  screenplay does a good job at capturing the events surrounding the match which was called "The Battle of the Sexes."  The slight problem here is that he has all these King plot threads.  They're interesting but Riggs also has an interesting story too.  I would have loved to see a little more of the clown.   Still, the comedy works and the movie is touching.  Also, kudos to directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine) for staging some excellent tennis shots.

The King-Riggs match was a big event.  Fifty million people in the United States watched it on TV.  Thirty thousand saw it at the Astrodome making it the largest audience to watch a tennis match live.   (Wikiepedia)   As I said, it was a turning point of women's tennis.  It brought attention to the woman's game and propelled it to popularity.  As for women, the idea of equality for women was now firmly placed in the public domain.  And it was a legendary reality TV show  demonstrating how a reality TV event or reality TV star  like Trump could affect society. .  Battle of the Sexes captures the moment beautifully.  The grade is A minus. 

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Stephen Colbert on the Secretary of State calling Trump a "moron."

You knew when Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called President Trump a "moron" that satirist Stephen Colbert would have fun with it.  Well, he did.  Enjoy his monologue from The Late Show.

American Made review

I'm guessing that the late Barry Seal would love American Made, a film based on his exploits as a pilot for the CIA. First, who wouldn't like being portrayed by the handsome Tom Cruise. Second, it's a fine movie that may not be historically accurate but is both complicated and fun. Oh yeah, Seal may have flaws but doesn't come off that bad. Seal was a real person whose personality could not be described as black and white.

American Made starts out by showing TWA pilot Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) bored of flying people around the country and smuggling Cuban cigars. The smuggling bit catches the attention of CIA agent Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson) who recruits Seal to fly for the agency. The adventure appeals to Seal who initially flies sorties through Latin American countries taking pictures of communist insurgents. Later missions would include delivering money to Panamanian dictator Manual Noriega for intelligence. Seal's skills catches the attention of drug dealer Pablo Escobar. (Mauicio Mejia) With a need to feed his wife and children, Seal agrees to run drugs to America for money. And I mean it was a boat load of money.

Tom Cruise as Barry Seal turns in one of his better performances of his career. This should make up for The Mummy. Cruise is able to turn his good looks and charm into an individual that believes he can escape the DEA, FBI and enjoy the fruits of his criminal acts without feelings of guilt. Seal's greed blinds him to the illegality of his actions. Sarah Wright as Lucy, Seal's wife. is a sexy country goddess. She may not like the drug smuggling but she enjoys the benefits. Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson does an excellent American accent. You would never have known he was a Weasley in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I. His CIA agent Schafer is just as greedy as Seal. Only it's a greed that needs success for the mission, no matter how dubious.

Director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) and screenplay writer Gary Spinelli have made a period piece that mixes eighties' greed, conservatism, the war on drugs and the Cold War into forces of motivation. Yes, Nancy Reagan's "Just say no" to drugs looks naive. Thee was hubris in politics. Perhaps, it is the era's greed that overwhelms everything. Whether it's about money or politics, the desire to achieve these goals led people like Barry Seal, and Colonel Oliver North to ignore morality. The film also mixes funny satire, and sharp drama. It's a lively, entertaining concoction  that is slightly let down by a lack of intensity in the third act. And let me say something about the Doug Liman's direction of the flying sequences. They're astounding. Planes are swooping down into the Columbian jungles. They're outlasting DEA jets. Exciting stuff. I  hope as a tribute to the two pilots, Alan Purwin and Carlos Berl who were killed in making this film that Liman used some of their work regardless of the suits filed against the production companies. (Hollywood Reporter) It would be a nice memorial to their work in creating some gorgeous flying sequences.

American Made is a funny and smart film. The grade is A.