Saturday, October 29, 2016

Pete's Dragon (2016, 2D)

Plot: Pete's parents are killed in a car accident in the forest, and only Pete (Oakes Fegley) survives. Lucky for him he is found by a big, friendly dragon named Elliot. 5-year-old Pete lives in the woods for 5 years with Elliot, when he is found by Natalie (Oona Laurance) and her forest ranger Mom Grace (Bryce Dallas Howard). Back in town, Pete doesn't like civilization and worries about Elliot. Pete's fears are realized when Elliot gets discovered by some lumbermen. A few plot twists later there is a happy ending.  [imdb]    [photos]

The photo on the German poster better captures the mood. 
Review: This is a younger child's movie without much cross-over appeal for adults. It is relentlessly sincere, and I admire that because jaded, winking sarcasm is too common in pop culture, and even in kid's movies.

For someone like myself, Pete's Dragon was painfully slow moving, and I let myself doze off.

Bryce Dallas Howard had the best performance and was the heart of the movie. Robert Redford didn't add anything. Often child actors aren't gifted enough to carry a subtle story, and Oakes didn't measure up, though Oona showed us meaningful facial expressions. 

Cast: Oakes Fegley, Bryce Dallas Howard

Directed by: Dave Lowery -- his first effort at directing a movie. 

The Music: The music carries the mood during the vast wordless sequences. OK, but not stirring.

The Visuals: Great animation of the hair on Elliot. For the most part, he looked like he really was in the forest. There was a scene where he was flying into the sun, and the dragon looked like he was pasted on a photograph, but mostly it was good. The dragon's had big-eyed stare that was supposed to be friendly and heart warming like a friendly puppy, but went on too long until the illusion of face breaks down into a collection of stuff-animal parts. 

Rating: 1 star: though a kid under ten might like it. 

More: Reminds me so much of The Never Ending Story, especially the furry doglike flying dragon.




Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Accountant

US Poster: Look he is eating lunch
European Poster: A little bit different!

Plot: Underworld accountant Christian Wolfe (Ben Affleck) takes a legit job to investigate an irregularity at Living Robotics, a Tech Start-up getting ready to IPO. Christian works with the firm's accountant, Dana (Anna Kendrick), and solves the problem in 2-3 days because he is that good. Turns out the owners don't want the fraud on their books to get out, so they hire hitmen to kill Christian and Dana. Now, we see his other side where he fires high powered sniper rifles and practices exotic mental and pain-conditioning exercises every night. When the hitmen come Christian has surprisingly prepared, and then he drives off to save Dana.

Meanwhile FBI director Ray King (JK Simmons) backmails analyst Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robbinson) into investigating the unknown (to them) underworld accountant. Marybeth works day and night searching, but eventually tracks down his current alias and apartment.

The Accountant concludes with superhero action as Christian chases down the evildoers followed by a twist at the end.  [imdb]    [photos]

Review: The Accountant is a thriller with a high body count -- nothing like The Big Short. The first two thirds of the movie are great. I loved the character's backstory and I loved the problem solving aspect of the accounting problem. It's fascinating how Christian hid his tracks, and how he lives with his Asperger's. Everything changes when Christian goes from defense to offense 2/3 of way through; the movie dumbs down and our clever accountant becomes another Ethan Hunt.

The character of the Accountant is deep and interesting to learn about. It combines an Asperger-type dedication to order in the form of financial accounting with a rigid discipline for safety, security and weapons. We see how his father and his teachers tried to help him, and the unusual childhood he had. There is a bit about how Asperger people can cope with their condition.

Anna Kendrick's character, Dana, has a fairly small role, but she does a nice job with it. Her facial acting has so much expression here just like she did in Up in the Air.

There is a separate story with the FBI. Director King blackmails Marybeth into the taking case, as a device to explain her backstory and make us sympathize with her. There is a whole term paper in the identity of FBI analyst Marybeth Medina. She is not just any super high-achieving, striving, young FBI agent, but also an Hispanic ex-con, add to that that actress Addai-Robinson is a black, born in England with a fine-arts background. She starts out idealistic, and we see that by the end, she is lying to the press -- just like Director King does.

In summary, the characters are powerful and well-drawn. This plot could easily have been a prestige television series, where it would have had time to play out its potential.

Cast: Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick, JK Simmons, Cynthia Addai-Robbinson, 

Directed by:
Gavin O'Conner

Written by: Bill Dubuque

The Music:
Jazz by Mark Isham; pretty good, not very noticeable during most of the movie. 

The Visuals:
Solid special effects. I liked the art direction of the numbers in the conference room. 

2.5 stars: I really liked the characters and the acting was good. On the other hand, the story is just a story without any social or human message. It was fun-to-watch in parts, but the shooting got old. Not so fond of the end either. 


More: The scenes where he plays hard rock and beats his shins are Thai martial arts. They are to deaden the nerves of the shin. I don't recall fights involving the shins, but perhaps I'd notice if I saw the movie again. The flashing lights and music were intended to desensitize him to his Asperger-like aversion to stimulus.

Even More: Director O'Conner is open to a sequel. I'd like to see a mini-series.