Netflix DVD – they rated it at 4.5 stars for me, and 3.7 for the general audience. I really liked this movie, which contrasted the personalities of two race car drivers: the Austrian Niki Lauda and the British James Hunt, through the events of their rivalry for the Formula 1 World Championship title back in the 1970’s. Lauda was serious, dour, and not particularly social, while Hunt was a flashy, outgoing party boy, perfectly played by Chris (Thor) Hemsworth. As the movie plays on, you see their grudging relationship grow, to the point where you can say that they were almost friends, in a sort of sibling rivalry sense.

Rush movie poster

They grew to have a grudging respect for each other. Ron Howard is the director, and he did a good job of including scenes that advanced the story at the same time as being entertaining – both serious and comedic. I’m going to give it 5 stars, and categorize it as a documentary, for telling a true story, though no doubt it is far more dramatized than a typical documentary.

127 Hours

Netflix DVD – they rated it as 4.4 stars for me and 3.7 for the general audience. I’m going to give it 5 stars. I had seen it before, and this second viewing was just as good as the first – it didn’t lose any of its power by knowing what was going to happen. This time, it was easier to see what theme filmmaker Danny Boyle was going for – that of somebody who lived his life in an adventurous, but self-centered manner. We all know what happened to this guy, and the story of his survival is amazing. Could we do such a thing? Maybe not, but look at how he has moved on to live a good, perhaps better than good, life because of that choice.

127 Hours movie poster

Danny Boyle does such a great job of making this story engaging. It’s fun to watch his use of extreme close-ups and extreme pull-backs, and every film-making trick he pulls helps out with telling the story. I would like to know if meeting the two girls and dropping through the crack with them into the water really happened. Maybe I should read the book, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, by Aron Ralston? The story itself is engaging and captivating, and it’s no surprise this movie was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor (James Franco).


Netflix DVD – they rated it as 3.9 stars for me, and 3.7 for the general audience. I’m going to give it 5 stars – while the story may not have been spectacular, it was, in its own way, a masterpiece of film-making. I can see why it won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 2014. In what appears to be a single shot, the story moves seamlessly from one scene to another as the characters move around. The characters are ALL flawed and human, and Michael Keaton’s lead character is wonderful in his desperate life.

Birdman movie poster

He portrays what must be a mid-life crisis brilliantly and it is quite a feat for him to have done it in a movie filmed in this way. Edward Norton does a great job acting as a total jerk hiding behind the facade of a brilliant actor. The amazing thing about this movie, though, is the filming, as they move from place to place in this apparent single shot, winding the camera through things that seem impossible. I would guess that they used digital effects to accomplish several key pieces of this movie. Fascinating movie, I’d love to have seen how many of these scenes they filmed in consecutive real-time, moving from place to place.

West Side Story

Netflix DVD – they rated it at 3.9 stars for me, and 3.8 for the general audience. I got this movie because Christina is studying Romeo and Juliet, which this movie is apparently based on. She was able to point out the differences between it and the original story. It’s a musical, based on a 1957 Broadway play, and I found three songs that are famous enough that I’ve heard of them: “America”, “Tonight”, and “I Feel Pretty”. This movie won 10 Academy Awards in 1961, including Best Picture, and I found it to be a lot of fun.

West Side Story movie poster

It was very clever to adapt the Shakespeare story to rival street gangs and introduce a racial perspective to it. The main Puerto Rican character makes an insightful observation that “Your ancestors are from Sweden and you’re an American, but ours are from Puerto Rico and we’re immigrants!”.

The dancing was great, and at times reminded me of Michael Jackson’s music video “Thriller” – I wonder if this influenced him at all? Natalie Wood was totally adorable here, and I was wondering if she was Latino at all. No, apparently both of her parents were from Russia! Somehow, her father, living in Vancouver, and her mother, living in China, ended up meeting, marrying, and moving to California.

Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

Netflix DVD – they rated it as 4.3 stars for me, and 3.7 for the general audience. I really like both Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt, and they were both good in this movie, but I found something just not compelling about it. The idea was interesting, the filming, scenery, acting, everything was good, but I guess the story was just not as emotionally strong as it could have been. I’m going to give it 4 stars, but a weak 4 stars. Kristin Scott Thomas was good in her role.

Salmon Fishing in the yemen - movie poster

Seeking a Friend For The End of The World

Netflix DVD – they rated it as 3.8 stars for me, and 3.4 for the general audience. I’m going to give it 4 stars. After briefly thinking I would give it 3 in the middle, I liked the direction they took toward the end. This movie is mostly a drama, but with a fair amount of comedy mixed in, and with a bunch of eclectic and fun music. It’s an interesting premise – what would YOU do if you found out the world was going to end in three weeks?

Seeking a friend for the end of the world - movie poster

I suspect not many people would bother to go to work the next day, though I know some would. I’m sure many would want to spend time with their families and do things they always wanted to do. There are some pretty funny moments along those lines in this movie. [SPOILERS] Continue reading

Leonard Nimoy

Very sad news today that Leonard Nimoy has died. The wonderful Mr. Spock from Star Trek, the original, the logical Vulcan with the hidden heart of gold. For me, it is the end of an era – I loved Mr. Spock most of all among the cast of the show that stood for (and probably helped create) my love of science, and the promise of a bright future where we all would live together as equals. I am neither a Trekkie nor a Trekker, I don’t collect things related to it, and I don’t go to the conferences, but there was something very special within Star Trek, and a large part of it has died today. Here’s a beautiful illustration by Lei Feiyang that seems to capture the character better than any photograph. I realize that I’m overlooking Mr. Nimoy himself, in favor of a character he played, and I’m truly sorry for his family. As the public, we knew him as Spock, while his family knew the real Leonard Nimoy. It is fortunate for him that even though he felt that smoking caused his death, he managed to live a long and wonderful life.

Leonard Nimoy illustration by Lei Feiyang

Tim’s Vermeer

Netflix DVD – they rated it as 4.3 stars for me, and 3.9 for the general audience. I’m going to give it 4 stars – it was fun to watch, but really, it just boiled down to this guy figuring out a way to paint photo-realistically using mirrors as aids, and recreating a famous Johannes Vermeer painting – a very long, painstaking process. He’s very clever, this Tim Jenison, the guy who created the famous Video Toaster (which I remember from around the time I was taking Digital Art & Design in college). It seems pretty certain that Vermeer himself must have used this process back in the Netherlands in the 1600’s. In a way, Jenison’s discovery is like somebody figuring out how the pyramids were built – if they had been built by a fairly simple process.

Tim's Vermeer movie poster


Netflix streaming – they rated it at 3.6 stars for me, surprisingly lower than the 3.9 stars for the general audience. I thought briefly of giving it 5 stars because I really enjoyed the uniqueness of it, but I’m going to give it 4 stars. It’s a very unique movie, I think it would be difficult to predict whether somebody is going to like it or not. It’s so unusual and quirky for a ski movie that it seems to polarize reviewers. I’ve never heard the word “trustafarian” before,  but a lot of the reviewers seemed to use it – in terms of hippie-like people who denounce the rat race while at the same time apparently having lots of money to maintain a their expensive ski equipment. At least, that’s the impression I got. Anyway, the movie follows a narrative of a person searching for fulfillment by heading North with a Volkswagen beetle and no money, encountering a tent city of ski bums in the interior of British Columbia, hanging out for a while, then following the call even further North, to Alaska, when the snow melts. Lots and lots of impressive skiing and snowboarding. Very interesting filming, music, and storyline, and just a lot of fun to watch.

Valhalla movie poster