Category Archives: Movies

Black or White (2014)

MV5BMTYyMzE2NTE5MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDI3ODI2MzE@__V1_SX214_AL_A friend and I like to watch movies together, though we live a thousand miles from each other. We just pick something off Netflix and chat on Facebook. I know it sounds corny, but I guess neither has much going on, so this is something to do.

Last night we watched Black or White.

Kevin Costner plays Elliot. This is the second movie I’ve seen where Kevin Costner plays Elliot. Can you guess the other movie he plays Elliot in? Anyway, in Black or White, Elliot is a successful lawyer and an alcoholic. At the very beginning of the movie, we learn that Elliot had just lost his wife in a car wreck.

But what’s more, Elliot has a granddaughter named Eloise (Jillian Estell) who was left in the care of him and his wife when his daughter died giving birth. Now that Elliot’s wife has also died, he is Eloise’s sole guardian.

Or is he?

Eloise’s paternal grandmother, Rowena (Octavia Spencer), wants custody of the girl. Rowena believes Eloise would be better off raised by her. Elliot objects to this, mostly because of Reggie (Andre Holland), who is Rowena’s son and Eloise’s father. Reggie has a criminal and drug history and Elliot does not want him around Eloise.

And so there’s a legal battle over who gets custody of Eloise.

My friend and I agree that this is a beautiful movie.

Life of a King (2013)

91zBguoF59L__SY445_Another great movie is Life of a King, starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Gooding plays Eugene Brown, a man just released from prison after serving a seventeen year sentence for armed robbery. After failed attempts to find honest work, he lands a job as a janitor at the local high school.

So, while Eugene is doing janitorial work, in a classroom the detention monitor, Ms. Gadbaw,  is scared away by Cliff, a large teenager, and she does not return. The principal, Ms. King,  needs to find somebody else to monitor the detention room. While searching for a replacement, she happens by Eugene working in the hallway. She asks him if he can keep an eye on the kids in detention while she continues her hunt for someone more official to monitor the detention room.

The moment Ms. King leaves the detention room, the kids are out of their seats and acting up. Eugene tells them several times to sit down. They ignore him each time. But then Cliff said to him “Or what? You some kind of tough guy?”

Eugene stepped into the challenge. He came around the desk and walked right up to Cliff. I mean, man, a dude who just got out of prison after seventeen years is probably someone you don’t want to pick a fight with. Eugene and Cliff stare at each for a minute, and then Cliff turns away, goes back to his desk and sits down. The rest of the kids soon sit down as well.

They realized Eugene was not a pushover and they had better respect him.

The next day Ms. King comes across Eugene in the hallway and expresses how impressed she was with how he handled the detention kids.  She then tells Eugene that Ms. Gadbaw is not coming back and it turns out Ms. King had not been able to find another detention monitor. She gives the job to Eugene.

Eugene sees this as an opportunity to teach the kids Chess, which he had learned in prison. He believes Chess is more than just a game, that Chess can be useful in all life events, because it teaches you how to think before you act.

Later, when his prison history comes to light, Eugene is fired. But he soon buys a house and turns it into a Chess club called Big Chair Chess Club.

Life of a King is based on a true story. Eugene Brown is a real person who did start Big Chair Chess Club as a means “to teach inner-city children a lesson of life he learned the hard way.”

Gifted Hands (2009)

91vJ84Kyx9L__SY445_Cuba Gooding Jr. plays Ben Carson in Gifted Hands. Ben Carson is the famed surgeon known for separating conjoined twins in a way that allows for both to survive. The movie tells us about his life from childhood to his great success as a surgeon. We learn of his family troubles, his struggles in school and medical school. Eventually he is recognized as a genius and performs amazing deeds in the operating room.

As always, Gooding put on an outstanding performance. The movie was convincing and enjoyable. All of the actors and actresses did fantastic jobs. It’s definitely a movie worth watching.

3 Days to Kill (2014)

91vJ84Kyx9L__SY445_3 Days to Kill is another one of those “My dad is a badass” action thrillers that seem to be common these days, but this time it’s Kevin Costner’s turn to be the badass dad. Costner is Ethan Renner, a badass CIA… um… hitman? A mission goes wrong and there’s a whole crapload of shooting, with Ethan Renner making some pretty awesome moves while dealing with a medical condition that puts him on the ground like he’s having a heart attack.

Afterward, Ethan returns to his home in Paris, France, where he attempts to reconnect with his teenage daughter, who is angry with him because he wasn’t around for years. Eventually Ethan takes on the real fatherly role and bails his daughter out of bad situations in totally badassery ways.

If you like badass thrillers, you would probably like 3 Days to Kill.

Hardball (2001)

51R4A6RG4XL__SY445_If you haven’t seen Hardball yet, I’m probably going to spoil it for you. There’s just a bit that I want to say about this movie. I watched it for the first time the other day and watched it again the next day. I was very touched by the movie. It’s another one of those kids’ sports movies, but then not exactly. It kind of makes you think of the original Bad News Bears, but with a harsher tone. Rated PG-13. Probably does have the go to be classified as a kids movie, but at the same time I’d say it’s a movie for adults.

Keanu Reeves is the star. He plays Conor, a gambler who is deep in debt. In order to help payoff his debt, a friend offers Conor a job coaching a kids’ baseball team.

What really caught my interest is the baseball team and the field they play in is at the old Chicago Public Housing Project known as the Henry Horner Homes, nicknamed the Hornet, because the buildings resembled hornet nests. The Henry Horner Homes were demolished in 2008, but the movie is from 2001, so the buildings were still there at the time. Though that was the year the demolishing began.

I first heard about the Henry Horner Homes from the book There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America, by Alex Kotlowitz, which I read in high school. It was a non-fiction book and the story really stuck with me. The Hornet was a terrible place to live and kids who grew up there saw so much hell that many did not expect to reach adulthood.

So that was what really hit home for me in Hardball. The movie didn’t sugarcoat the life. It showed the fear the kids felt, how they were desperate to get home before it got dark and what living conditions were like inside the buildings. Toward the end, two brothers trying to get home were caught in the middle of a gang fight. The younger of the brothers was hit by a stray bullet and died in the older brother’s arms. That was life at the Henry Horner Homes.

So, while the movie has much comedy, it has a harsh side to it too. It’ll leave you thinking about those living in ghettos across the United States. I’m glad the Hornet is gone and I hope the people who once lived there have found better lives.

The Way (2010)

1819How long ago was it since I first discovered The Way on Netflix? Two years ago? I guess it wasn’t more than two years. Since the initial viewing, I had watched it several more times. It’s just one of those movies that entered my heart and will stay there. Anyone who hasn’t seen The Way, I recommend it highly.

Martin Sheen is the lead actor. He plays Tom, an eye doctor. Emilio Estevez plays Tom’s son Daniel.

Daniel quit medical school so he could travel the world. Tom is not a big supporter of this idea, but he accepts it  A couple years go by and Tom gets a phone call from a French police officer who informs him that Daniel was killed in a storm while hiking.

Tom goes to France with the intention of collecting Daniel’s body and heading straight home to bury it. But while Tom is in France, he learns about the journey Daniel was on when he died. Tom decides he and Daniel will finish the journey

Great acting, wonderful sound tracks, and a beautiful story.

Inside the U.S. Secret Service (2004)

51VD4A3DDDLThere are a lot of documentary movies that bore me to tears, but National Geographic‘s Inside the U.S. Secret Service is not one of those movies. This movie is an excellent, very interesting and educational documentary. I’m glad I decided to watch it. I almost didn’t bother. I had tried to watch several other documentaries on Netflix that sounded interesting but turned out to be so dull I couldn’t finish watching them. But National Geographic did it right with Inside the U.S. Secret Service.

Inside the U.S. Secret Service is a close look at the agency that protects the President of the United States. The movie walks us through the history of the agency, some of the tactics the agency uses and how it operates. Of course there was a lot of information that could not be revealed. The Secret Service can’t have people knowing their secrets because that would very likely make their job more of a challenge than it already is. And make no mistake, the job of the Secret Service is extremely challenging. It’s hard not to appreciate the work these men and women put into protecting the President, his family and anyone else who requires the protection of the Secret Service.

I learned so much from watching this movie. This was something I needed to see, it gave me a new understanding of the Secret Service and the lives of the people they protect, especially the first family. Did you know that anytime you see the President walking across the White House lawn on TV, the bushes in the background have agents hiding in them, watching the President’s every move? No one can see the agents in the bushes, but they’re there.

The President and the first family receives a lot of death threats. We don’t hear about these threats much, but they are countless. Probably most of the threats are from people who don’t actually have the balls to carry them out, but there are enough threats from people who would assassinate the President if given the chance. Since the beginning of our country there have been assassination attempts on United States presidents. Four of those presidents were killed, others were wounded and several narrowly dodged the bullet. The Secret Service is necessary and critical to the President’s survival.

The movie also makes it clear that the agents are human and not the stone cold robots they’re often thought to be. Several agents were interviewed, as well as some of the former presidents and their children. They all provided insights on what it’s like to be in the bubble of protection. The Prisident is a moving target, under constant threat. The Secret Service makes it possible for the President to do his job.

Jackie Brown (1997)

51-hZL1wfXLI had heard of Jackie Brown. I’ve even seen bits of the movie here and there, but I’ve never watched the whole movie straight through until last night. First off, Quentin Tarantino is an artist. Every one of his movies that I’ve seen has a very elegant artistic touch to it. Think of Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained and Desperado. The angles of the pictures, the motions of the actors, the shuffling of the scenes, the twists of the stories and just the right amount of comedy, all of it comes together to make a brilliant work of art. It’s like looking at the painting of Mona Lisa and knowing that there’s more to it than what meets the eye.

Samuel L. Jackson played the bad motherfucker again. Except in Jackie Brown, Jackson’s character, Ordell Robbie, was not quite as bright as Jules Winnfield was in Pulp Fiction. Ordell Robbie also lacked the degree of honor that Jules Winnfield had. Ordell Robbie was more of a bad, bad, bad motherfucker. Bad! Your dog shit on the brand new carpet kind of bad. He took several opportunities to remind us of that.

Pam Grier played Jackie Brown and the movie opened with her walking through the airport dressed in a stewardess uniform. Jackie Brown was the key character in a heist to steal a large sum of money. She was a tough character with a survivalist instinct that gets her out of trouble. Jackie Brown outsmarted Ordell Robbie and the ATF.

The movie ended with an emotional, not entirely happy note.

An Extremely Goofy Movie (1999)

untitledSometimes I’m just in the mood for something more colorful, and what’s more colorful than cartoons? I went on Netflix and looked through the Children & Family movies that Netflix recommended.  Most  of them were animated movies, some by Disney and some by other production companies. There were several I had already seen and several more that I hadn’t. I decided to watch An Extremely Goofy Movie. I remember A Goofy Movie and I liked it, so I thought I might like an extremely goofy movie.

And I did. It was quite ridiculous, but enjoyable. It was just right for my numb mind. I really wasn’t in the mood for anything smart. I wanted something fun, relaxing and… ridiculous.

In An Extremely Goofy Movie, Max is grown up. Can you believe that? How long ago was Goof Troop? I used to watch that, even though I was well into my teens around the time it was airing. So, Max grew up, along with P.J. and Bobby. He’s in college, though he never did lose his passion for skateboarding. In fact, Max, P.J. and Bobby are a team competing in the college’s X-Games.

Goofy, after losing his job, decides to go back to college and get a degree. Max, of course, is horrified when his daddy shows up in groovy 70’s garment and sporting an afro the size of a beach ball. That might have been the style back in the day, but it isn’t quite fitting for Max’s 1999 college paradise. Needless to say, Max isn’t thrilled to have his dad on campus with him, you know, because his dad embarrasses him.

Goofy quickly becomes popular when he accidentally does some awesome stunts on a skateboard in front of the school’s X-Gamers and fans. Max, eager to have his dad out of his way, encourages Goofy to join the team of his rivals. And things get more crazy, ridiculous and fun from there.

At one point in the movie, Bobby asked a very interesting question. “Hmm?” he said. “Do you ever wonder why we’re always, like, wearin’ gloves?”

That prompted me to go looking for the answer on why cartoon characters often wear gloves. Turns out the tradition started way back when Mickey Mouse starred in Steamboat Willie. Disney had problems drawing Mickey’s hands and found it easier to draw them with gloves. Also, in the day of black and white pictures, it was hard to see the character’s hand gestures or what they were touching, etc, and I guess the white gloves helped with that. Some studios just wanted to keep that tradition going.

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Someone from The Collectionary emailed me and expressed an interest in featuring this blog entry on their very popular Goofy Facebook Page. The Collectionary is a company that promotes items for avid collectors and they have a department for Goofy items. I couldn’t see any reason not to go for it. In exchange for their featuring my blog entry, I’m linking to their site.

Goofy

Wings (1927)

MV5BMzY5Nzk5NzA3M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzA5NzM2MzE@__V1_SX214_AL_The other day I watched Wings, the movie from 1927. Wings is a silent film. Music was used to set the mood. Character dialog was not heard, but instead appeared occasionally in decorated pictures between quotation marks. The movie is from a time when the advanced technology of today was difficult to imagine and Grandma and Grandpa Piehl were six years old.

And it was a pretty good movie. Mind you, Wings isn’t the first old silent movie that I’ve paid attention to, but it is one of the best. It’s a story about friendship, love and war. The characters were believable, even though I had to rely on their facial expressions to gather what was going on because not all of the dialog was displayed..

I’m impressed at how good some of these old movies can be. I’ve seen a lot of old movies that really sucked. I used to think it was because they didn’t have the technology necessary to make movies that would look good to people who’ve seen the modern films. But then there’s movies like Wings that blow me away.

One thing I keep noticing when watching old movies: People weren’t much different back then than they are today. I see all the different behaviors, beliefs, attitudes, etc, being featured in these old movies. And that tells me that people today aren’t any better or worse than they were in the past.