Monday, February 24, 2014

Movie Review: Hansel & Gretel "The Witch Hunters" 3D (2013)

Ever since Twilight became a moneymaking machine, Hollywood has been on a kick to make vampire and other paranormal themed movies to cater to the tween set. Hollywood even had the awful idea of remaking an important historical figure such as Lincoln into a vampire slayer. I just about gagged when I saw the previews in the theater. What's next? Martin Luther King as a werewolf? Not quite, Hansel and Gretel: The Witch Hunters certainly sprang from the same idea but it gives the classic fairy tale a twist. We all know the story of Hansel and Gretel, a couple of kids who were playing in the woods and stumbled upon a house made out of candy. Unbeknownst to them, a witch lived inside and used the house to lure unsuspecting and naive children in so that she can eat them. But those two kids were clever and tricked the witch and eventually baked her in her own oven. That is the starting point of this movie.
In this retelling of the story, the children are woken up by their parents and led into the woods by their father and abandoned there. Once they realized that neither parent was going to come back and get them, they wandered further into the forest and see a house made out of candy. Of course the two children save themselves and kill the witch, but it was such a traumatic turn of events that the children grew up to be witch hunters of some reknown. And what witch hunters they are, they are equipped with weaponry that is far too advanced for the time that they live in and their arsenal is such that they could conduct their own war. How they happen to have the money and skill for these creations is a loose end in the film, and there are many. However this is a movie so it requires you to suspend reality and not delve too deeply.
As adults, Hansel and Gretel, have made it their mission to eliminate as many witches as possible. They were hired by a mayor of a town where some children have been stolen by witches. They get no help from the sheriff who has his own agenda. However they soon suspect that the witches are plotting something evil and are involving the townspeople's children to carry it out. The race is on to stop the witches but Hansel and Gretel soon find out that their past catches up with them.

The movie's director, Tommy Wirkola, borrows heavily from the movie 300 with the gratuitous violence, the quick and abrupt cuts, the heavy use of computer generated images. There are parts of the movie that I feel are not appropriate for children so I wouldn't want the little ones to see this movie. All in all I had a passably good time, the twist in the story is engaging, The storyline itself has a lot of holes but this is a fantasy so either you believe it or you don't. The way the roles of Hansel and Gretel were written was very facile and therefore I had the feeling that you could have any actor play the action hero/heroine. Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner, who play the sister and brother team really couldn't do much with the roles. If you can, wait until the movie comes on Netflix or DVD.

Rating: R
Runtime: 88 minutes
Originally published February 26, 2013

Movie Review: Flight (2012)

As a frequent flyer, this movie hit uncomfortably close to home and made me think about the men and women who make up the crew that serves on our nation's airplanes.
Captain Whip Whitaker is a cocky veteran commercial pilot who does the impossible by landing a plane that experiences a serious malfunction and crashes. He is hailed as a hero because he saved the majority of lives. However six people die, two flight attendants and four passengers. As part of procedure, the National Transportation Safety Board investigates the event to determine who is at fault. Whitaker is defensive and blames the crash on the broken plane but he harbors a secret; he drinks heavily and takes cocaine. His drinking and drugging has destroyed relationships and the one thing that he hangs on to is his job as a commercial pilot. While he is at the hospital recovering from his wounds, he meets Nicole, a drug addict and alcoholic who is desperate to turn her life around. They are kindred souls and start a relationship. In the meanwhile, his lawyer, Hugh Lang, struggles to keep Whitaker's alcoholism secret and out of the investigation. Slowly, Whitaker's life continues to disintegrate as he cannot acknowledge his alcohol dependency. Soon the NTSB investigation culminates in a hearing that will determine Whitaker's future and no one knows whether Whitaker can save himself.
Denzel Washington is riveting playing a man who wrestles with his demons and struggles to answer to a higher duty. I was horrified that a pilot could function so well under such a huge disability. You sympathize with Don Cheadle's character, Hugh Lang, who is desperate to help Whitaker keep his career. Bruce Greenwood plays the sympathetic and loyal friend, Charlie Anderson, who is helpless and bewildered in the face of Whitaker's alcoholism. Nicole, played by Kelly Reilly, is not fully fleshed out but it is the fault of the writing not the actor. The ensemble acting is top notch and I was engrossed at the NTSB's investigative process in determining who is at fault and how much does the role of the pilot and crew, the airline's maintenance, and the aircraft itself contribute to a crash. My stomach however clenched during the flight sequence when the plane was going through the turbulence and I was praying that I would never have to experience anything like that.
Originally published November 21,2012

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Movie Review: The Eagle (2011)

How far should one go to recover a man's honor? For Marcus Flavius Acquila, a centurion, the answer was to go to the far northern end of the Roman world. We rarely talk about honor in our modern society today, it seems to be a quaint idea in today's jaded and brash culture. But in ancient Rome, family honor counted and one's place in life depended on it. The movie is set in second century Britain, where Marcus takes charge of a garrison in a remote Roman outpost, defending it against the surly and resentful natives. Marcus, asked for the command because he wants to find out what happened to his father and his command of 5000 centurions, a whole Roman league, that vanished in the wilds of Scotland, never to return and thereby tainting his family's honor. He soon experiences battle with the British barbarians and understands what his father and his men must have encountered. Wounded, he is sent home to recover, is recognized for his bravery and leadership by the Roman Senate, and to his great disappointment, discharged. Stung by a remark made by a young, insipid politician, he is determined to regain his father's and his family's honor by retrieving the lost league's battle emblem, a golden eagle. He is reluctantly aided in his quest by a British slave and together they discover the truth of the mystery of the lost 9th Roman League.

Relative newcomer, Channing Tatum, does a fine job of playing the haunted and determined Marcus. He is joined by the very talented, Jamie Bell, who plays his slave, Esca. Marcus saves Esca's life. Beholden to Marcus, Esca pledges his loyalty. Together they ride past Hadrian's wall into hostile territory of the British barbarians where Marcus must rely on Esca to find out what happened to the 9th Legion. During their journey, they come to a fragile truce and slight understanding of how their respective cultures have impacted the other's lives personally. Esca was the son of a tribal king who was killed during a fight to defend their lands against the Romans and was captured and brought to Rome as a slave. He hates the conquering Romans for violently disrupting his way of life.

The quest is frustrating and a fight erupts between the two when members of a fierce tribe come upon them. Marcus finds that they possess the golden eagle, steals it, and manages to successfully fight off the tribal warriors who come after them. The movie ably conveys the reach of Rome and how its famed Roman Legion is representative of Rome's high culture and civilization but at the same time is the cause of destruction of non-Roman worlds and peoples as it conquers new lands. There seem to be some political overtones as the Romans seem to be played by Americans or at least actors with American accents while the barbarians are played by Britons (what a role reversal!). However, the movie doesn't get very political, what it does well is to narrate a violent story of a clash of cultures and how those cultures are inherently more similar underneath the veneer of customs. It has the usual swordfights and clashes but it is not very bloody although you do glimpse a severed head. I thought the costumes and customs of the British natives were particularly interesting. The soundtrack has music that is reminiscent of what might be ancient Scots music. The movie is adapted from Rosemary Sutcliffe's novel, The Eagle of the Ninth, and runs approximately two hours and ten minutes and you find yourself totally immersed and learn a lot about the ancient Roman world and Roman Britain.

Originally published March 1, 2011

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Duo vs Solo Travel

When I travel I envy couples. I think traveling as a twosome saves so much money. Couples never have to worry about paying the single supplement when they book a cruise or a travel package. As a solo traveler I have to have my boyfriend or I have to coordinate with another friend to travel with and book a room in order to avoid paying as much as 50% more of the standard price because of the single supplement.

Meals at restaurants can be so much cheaper. Not only are two people paying for the meal, but there's usually some special that involves a meal for two. Portions can be so huge that I usually end up tossing the whole thing if I don't have a fridge at the hotel, if I do have a fridge it'll sit there for days because I hate eating leftovers. However if there are two of you, you can actually order an appetizer and one entree and split both. You also have the option of ordering two entrees and sharing so you can enjoy two different dishes (at this point I'm assuming the woman's married the guy because he knows how to share his food). If I were to suggest that with the solo stranger at the next table, two things will happen. If the stranger is a woman, she'll just look at me like I have two heads and decline. If the stranger is a guy, he'll think I'm a pro and he will gladly pay for dinner and the night (now remember, I want to save money not make money). So I'm usually stuck with one entree and that's fine, except I end up wanting to try two dishes instead of one and I get real curious about the one I didn't order (can you tell I'm indecisive?). In addition, restaurants usually have some kind of prix fixe meal for two people that gives couples a good deal and nada for the solo eater. I have to look for the early bird special; no matter it's good preparation for retirement.

Couples also save when it comes to renting a car. As a solo traveler, I don't get a discount because one butt is using the seat, I must pay for the whole car.

But even outside of the financial advantage, traveling as a couple seems so much better. One person can check in while the other person is parking the car. At a fast food place, one person can hold the seat while the other person gets lunch. It is so annoying to go around looking for an empty table while you are carrying your food. Not to mention that it's a lot safer to travel when there are two of you instead of one. When you go on a theme park, attractions are usually made with two people in mind. Solo travelers usually sit with a stranger or an empty seat.

Additionally, you always have someone to talk to and laugh over (and sometimes argue with) the things that you have seen and places to go. I can argue with myself but it will look stupid (not to mention deranged). Best thing of all you have another person you can reminisce your travel travails and look back at fondly.

Don't get me wrong, being a solo traveller I can go wherever I want to go without consulting another person regarding their schedule or their aptitude. I seem to have a much easier time talking to people as a solo traveler. I have so much freedom and spontaneity and I can do what I want to do and I value that immensely. But I really wish things were a lot cheaper for us solo travelers.

Original publication date:  August 13, 2009

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Blame President Obama for the Delays in Air Traffic

The sequester was his idea after all.  Obama in one of the egregious examples of poorly thought out solutions, wanted to increase taxes and a higher debt cap but didn't want to cut anything from the budget.  Well of course the Republicans wasn't going to allow the increases without cutting so what did Obama do, he proposed the sequester.  The Republicans agreed to it and this is how we end up with all these flight delays.  And it doesn't have to be this way.  Obama had sent out a missive to all the agencies that when it comes to the furlough, they were to make it as painful as possible.  It's ridiculous.  The sequester is basically a 5% over a ten year period.  This was done to lower our debt by 1 billion dollars.  Well guess what, under Obama, the government has overspent one billion dollars each year for the last three years.  So whatever the sequester was designed to do in lowering the national debt, the Obama administration has made sure that the debt has increased.  It's all politics and every traveler out there should let the Obama administration know that this sort of nastiness from the supposed leader of our country would make things difficult for us so that he can make a point.  Go to the White House website and make your displeasure known.