Mini-Review: Independence Day: Resurgence

Independence Day: Resurgence

PG-13, 120 Minutes, 2016

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About: Super-powerful Aliens somehow have superior technology and a surprise attack, but can’t handle a few humans with a “hail Mary” preposterous plan (Is that really a spoiler?)

Starring: A bunch of a people from the 1st movie (who make you feel old), two of the kid actors from the first movie recast, and pretty people for this new movie

Directed: Roland Emmerich, who really has ZERO good narrative films in his career since Independence Day (1996). I mean Godzilla? 2012? 10,000 BC? The Day After Tomorrow?

Best Thing About It: They embrace their 20-year-old past and continue the character threads as if time had passed. (I LOVED the 1996 film)

alien-queen-takes-out-a-fighter-jet-52Worst Thing About It: The movie ends like a video game – the hero trying to fight off the “Big Boss” as time runs out.

Notable Thing About It: Movie reminds you to hoard your old, dead technology. Telegraph, Short Wave Radio, Walkie Talkies have all prove useful, so make sure to hold onto your rotary telephones, pagers, and Catrivision – they might just save the world.

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Overall: While there a few nice action set pieces, the plot is utter gibberish, even for a Emmerich/Dean Devlin film. It is also hard to care that much about any one character when BILLIONS of people die in this movie. At least they give older people stuff to do. If you need to be in air-conditioning for two hours while things go boom, go ahead. Otherwise, it is a big disappointment

Rating: 1 1/2 RaMaKs (out of 4)

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Review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

PG-13, 151 Minutes, 2016

uRUJzQY.jpgI grew up watching Batman and Superman. First it was The Superfriends, the quasi-Justice League show full of cheese. Then reruns of TV’s Batman and its corniness. As a pre-teen and teen I was a huge Justice League comics fan with a variety of super-heroes teaming up to fight world shattering human and alien villains. As an adult, I read fewer comics, but have seen nearly every DC comics animated, live action TV, and cinematic incarnation and have appreciated stories from the lighthearted to the more intense. You might say I’m the perfect candidate for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the bridge movie from Man of Steel to The Justice League.

Except I’m not. Reflecting the darker comics of Frank Miller and other writers, the current incarnation of DC Superheroes is very dark. The Dark Knight by Christopher Nolan was absolutely brilliant, but by The Dark Knight Rises, the widespread civilian causalities and lack of any humor made for a bit of a slog.

Now DC is trying to jump start its late-to-the-game movie empire by having Zack Snyder continue this dark trend he presented so mediocrely in Man of Steel. First, let’s be honest. Zack Snyder isn’t such a great director. 300 was an unexpected action fest, but hardly a classic. Watchmen didn’t live up to expectations. He is serviceable. And he loves long and dark films.

If you love the dark tone of Man of Steel with hundreds (but realistically thousands) of innocent lives lost and the ridiculous ending of Superman out-and-out murdering Zod, Batman v Superman may be for you. But if you like your superheroes to be heroes – praiseworthy exemplars of Truth, Justice, and the American Way, than this movie will disappoint.

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The Academy Awards – Who Should Win? 2016 Oscars

Predicting the Oscars has become a game of one or two major categories (this year Picture and Director surprisingly) and figuring out categories no one really knows (Live Action Short). You can find many “experts” to help with your Oscar pool.

Much more fun is to imagine if you had a voting ballot and select who you would vote for. Not who WILL win, but who SHOULD win.

Having seen all of the nominees for the awards below (except one), here are my choices if I could vote in the Oscars.

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Picture – Room was the best film of the year. I’ve heard it made people claustrophobic or uncomfortable or angry. I’ve heard it might not be better than the book. It was still the best picture of 2015.

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Best Films of 2015

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It always takes some time to feel ready to post the best movies of the year. While I get to the Oscar nominees pretty early, there are the dozens of fantastic smaller and ignored films that take some time (and are still coming to DVD or Streaming). There are many left on “to see” list of 2015.

 

This year saw some real entertainment from Hollywood and fewer of the super depressing films they’ve made in recent years. So with no apologies for getting it all wrong, here’s my Top 20 for 2015.

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Human Rights in the Dominican

The following is adapted from a sermon I gave on Friday, January 29, 2016 at the Reform Temple of Forest Hills, my synagogue. It reflects in words and pictures the powerful experience I had in the Dominican Republic to challenge the bigotry that exists forcing Dominicans of Haitian Descent into losing their nationality and even their homeland and my amazing opportunity to work with AJWS to challenge it. (Photos look best on computer over a handheld device)

BaseballIt was the Dominican Republic championships. The season of baseball in baseball crazed DR had come to down a best of 9 – yes, a 9 game – playoffs between the two powerhouse Santo Domingo teams – the Tigers and the Lions. On our only evening off during my trip with AJWS, five of us had managed to somehow get tickets.

Because both teams share Juan Marichal Stadium, the fans were divided into sides of blue and red at home plate. The rivalry was strong and we enjoyed empanadas in our seats and an intense game of béisbol.

It was 4-4 in the 6th inning. As I watched the collection of peripheral major leaguers, minor league prospects, and local standouts, I couldn’t help but think of another baseball player: Ignacio Gabriel.2 Baseball Stadium

3 IgnacioIgnacio doesn’t have a baseball card or a ranking as a prospect. He was a 17-year-old I had met a few days earlier. Ignacio was charming, confident, and friendly. The youngest of 4 brothers, his family was too poor to send him school and so he worked thanklessly in the sugar cane fields. But he had a passion. He loved baseball. And he was good. His right handed power arm caught scouts attention and at 14-years-old he was signed by the San Diego Padres to their Dominican training camps. This was a lifeline for his family. The meager signing bonus allowed him to provide food and clothing to his family. His fastball kept getting better and touched 94 MPH. Everything was unfolding like a dream for Ignacio. Except one thing. Ignacio didn’t have his official identity card. Continue reading

How to become a true Star Wars Fan – Guest Blog

Guest Blogger Gregory Wildeman

(Ed. Note: Greg and I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens together. He apparently has been considering how one becomes a true Star Wars fan for the first time and shared an email with me, which I have turned into a post)

I read your review and I wanted to put an idea forth to you on Star Wars. Firstly the review was more or less spot-on in my opinion. I’d like to expand on it by taking you through a progression of what I believe is something that needs to be discussed:

How to intake Star Wars for the first time. 

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This debate, which has gone on for some time, actually has a prevailing theory: The machete order.

I find this theory to vastly under serve one trying to understand the full universe. See, the full universe is not only about the movies- there are books, comics, movies, video games, etc. Some of these are canonical (defined as released directly from a Lucas Company or now Disney) and some aren’t. I am going to create the Ultimate Order using only canonical reference. In which case you can only discuss moves, tv shows, and video games.

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And The Oscar Nominees Should Be…

I have done really well on my annual attempt to see all the big Oscar nominees by show time (Sunday, February 28) – and even better to anticipate them by nomination time (Thursday, January 14). After seeing a great New York Times article listing who Manhola Dargis, A.O. Scott, and Stephen Holden thing the nominees should be, I decided to have a hand at my own list.

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From the Times, I learned how many films I still haven’t seen that are quite notable, even if they will be ignored the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science. They cite The Assassin, Experimenter, Results, Clouds of Sils Maria, Tangerine, 99 Homes, James White, The Diary of Teenage Girl, and two films I just never got around two seeing, Magic Mike XXL and Grandma. So for an amateur film buff, I might have done all right, but I have miles to watch.

Here are my thoughts on which Actors should be nominated based on the power and quality of their work. They ignore the Academy’s usual disdain for certain genres. They also don’t accept a lead role being positioned as supporting to help move an actor into a more winnable category.

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