July 22, 2015

Woman in Gold
When laws are passed in Austria, which restores art that was plundered by the Nazis to their rightful owners, Maria Altman, an Austrian Jew who escaped from Vienna during the Nazi occupation, and is now living in California, reluctantly returns to her homeland to regain what is rightfully hers. Maria takes her claim to an Austrian tribune; however, the Austrian government will not give up Maria’s famous and very valuable painting. Later, Maria’s American lawyer finds a loophole, and her claim is pursued in the American courts. Occasionally, this movie does ‘flashback’ to tell a predictable story about the persecution of a Jewish family during WW11, but, the modern-day courtroom drama, and, the shenanigans of the Austrian government, make for fascinating viewing. Helen Mirren gives another one of her knockout performances, with excellent support from Ryan Reynolds.

Unbeknown to them, a family move into a new house which has been built over an abandoned cemetery. Soon, nasty things start occurring in the house, culminating with a young girl being abducted by evil spirits. This movie is a re-make of Tobe Hooper’s classic 1982 horror story, from a script by Steven Spielberg. The re-make sticks pretty closely to Spielberg’s script, allowing for slight changes to make it more contemporary. What is noteworthy are the new up-to-date special effects that are sure to raise the hackles on anybody.

A Little Chaos
As the construction of the Palace of Versailles gets underway, a talented female landscape gardener is appointed to create an outdoor ballroom in a secluded part of the gardens. The gardener is keen to bring innovative ideas into her design, but, she must cope with the finicky King Louis XIV, and the intrigues of his court. English actor Alan Rickman directs this movie, and he does so with a lot of respect for the subject-matter and the period. Rickman makes an appealing historical costume drama. Kate Winslet is also appealing as the gardener. Alan Rickman gives himself a nice juicy role as King Louis.

Jackie & Ryan
While busking in the streets of a small American town, a travelling musician meets a former folksinger, who is at a crucial stage of her marriage. A love affair quickly develops between them, but, her nasty divorce could be a big impediment. So much for the plot. What is charming about this movie are the many folksongs written by Ami Canaan Mann, who also does a good job directing the film. Katherine Heigl and Ben Barnes both sing the songs well.

Mad Max, Fury Road*
The original 3 ‘Mad Max’ movies were made in 1979, 1981 and 1985. They were super-mega hits, and, their message about a disintegrated post-nuclear holocaust society seemed to say something to the audiences of the time. This sequel comes 30 years too late. The film brings together the themes already established in the previous movies, but, its visual style now appears out-of-date. The movie is a nostalgic trip back to the 80s, but, it’s just one long car chase. After a while, the car crashes and explosions become tiresome. Still, if you are not familiar with the sequel’s history you will think it is awesome.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Another movie which we could have done without. The first Marigold Hotel was an entertaining look at English pensioners living in a rundown hotel in India. This time, the English pensioners are still there, but, their lives have become boring and full of indecision. However, the major plotline concerns an American guest who is mistaken for a hotel inspector. This is all very predictable. Meanwhile, director John Madden tries to brighten things up by inserting a couple of ‘Bollywood’ style musical production numbers. This just cheapens the whole affair, and makes the movie appear even more tatty.

Pitch Perfect 2
Writing about this sequel, a Jakarta film critic called it “a bright and witty comedy. Full of sparkling musical numbers and vivacious actresses”. But, I would prefer to say that squeezed in between the tedious plot of this sequel, and the lame attempts at comedy, are to be found some under-produced and badly performed musical mashes. Furthermore, ‘Fat Girl’ Australian actress Rebel Wilson plays a typically obnoxious girl-next-door. She is loud, rude, and aggressive. In fact, she is not in the slightest bit funny or amusing at all.

Danny Collins
Al Pacino stars, as an aging Pop Star, who, after 40 years, receives an undelivered letter from John Lennon and Yoko Ono. In the letter, John and Yoko give the singer some advice on how to handle his promising career. This gets Al thinking, and he wonders how this advice would have affected him if he had received the letter when it was intended. Al goes into a deep introspective phase, and, he tries to re-establish a relationship with his long estranged son. The son is not all that interested in his father, and what he is offering. Thirty years ago Al Pacino was a leading actor, now, he is a ham.

Pound of Flesh
After a wild night on the town in a Chinese city, Jean-Claude Van Damme wakes up in his luxurious hotel room with a missing kidney. Jean-Claude spends the rest of this movie trying to get his kidney back. Which he does.

Killing Mr. Right
A disturbed teenager thinks that a man is a rapist and she holds him prisoner.

* Also available on Blu Ray.
# Also available in 3D.

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