The Professor (a movie blurt)

A surprisingly good film starring Johnny Depp as a college English professor, who finds out that he has cancer discovered too late. After treatment would buy him only one year to live. If left untreated, he would have six months at most. So, he feels F—-D. As he tries to process it, he goes back to feeling the same thing:  F—-D. Soon after he’s learned his fate, he decides to share the news with his small family at dinner time. But, before he gets a chance to do so, his daughter says she has something to say. After her somewhat surprising news, his wife tells him something life changing as well. With news that seem to match the gravity of his situation, he decides to live out what’s left of his days a little differently. Make that  a lot differently. The movie then builds on a series of life changing events in the classroom, campus, and home.  There are  both funny and sad moments that showcase Depp’s noteworthy acting abilities. It’s worth a view.

How to be a Latin Lover (a movie blurt)

This isn’t an instructional video. It’s a comedy about an aging boy toy named Maximo, played by Mexican actor and comedian, Eugenio Derbez, who is tossed out by his much older sugar mama for a much younger man.  Although Maximo has a friend, another aging trophy boy played by Rob Lowe and who lives with his own sugar mama in a mansion, the friend can’t put him up there because every room is a make-out place at any given moment. Maximo then seeks out his younger sister, played by Salma Hayek, whom he hasn’t contacted for years. She is a widow and single mom of a 10-year-old boy. Maximo’s attempt to use his somewhat antiquated notion of sexy skills to educate his impressionable nephew and charm a replacement wealthy dowager played by Raquel Welch is hilarious. The party scene with Maximo in the swimming pool is alone worth the price of admission.  Get your sexy on and learn how to move those hips. Other stars joining this funny ensemble cast include Kristen Bell and Linda Lavin.

Logan Lucky (a movie blurt)

This is a heist movie directed by Steve Soderbergh, who also directed the well-known Ocean Trilogy heist films (Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen). Although there’s a formula to this genre, the characters, their situation, and the sprinklings of comedy are ingredients that make each one different. Set in West Virginia and Charlotte, North Carolina, this story is about two down-on-their-luck brothers played by Channing Tatum and Adam Driver. Channing decides to plan a robbery soon after he is let go from his construction job at the Charlotte Motor Speedway because his limp from an old football injury is considered a liability at work. They bring in their hairdresser sister to help. To round out their crew, they recruit an imprisoned explosive expert, Joe Bang, played by Daniel Craig, whose British accent is replaced by a good ‘ole boy twang. As a condition of Joe Bang joining the group, he asks to have his two hilarious hillbilly brothers join the heist team. The film is enjoyable to watch as we see how the colorful characters plot, ply, and plow through such a convoluted, but clever undertaking. Although there are underlying tones of injustice within our society—think haves vs. have-nots mixed in with a bit of Robin Hood–there is nothing preachy about the movie. Just grab a box of popcorn and watch the story unfold amidst the rural settings and classic American stock car action.

Walking with the Enemy (a movie review)

I usually reserve films from my library, so I can watch them in the comfort of my home. When I came back from my vacation in Central Europe (Czechia, Slovakia, and Hungary), I received notice that a couple of movies were ready for pick-up. One of them was Walking with the Enemy, which is based on true events, although the characters themselves are fictional. The hero is a young Hungarian Jewish man, Elek Cohen, who joins the Labor Force during World War II, thinking it would be a way to help serve his country even though the Force has only Jewish people serving. He soon realizes the work he and his fellow countrymen are providing is met with harsh punishment if they show any signs of physical weakness. He eventually escapes with a friend. When they go back to their village, they find their families gone and their non-Jewish countrymen living in the houses where their Jewish friends resided. Elek is determined to find his family, which soon leads him to Budapest. There he witnesses the terrible fate unfold on those of Jewish heritage that happened toward the end of the War and Hitler’s rule.

He soon goes underground with the help of an acquaintance, Hannah Schoen, with whom he had flirted at a social club many weeks before and has come across again while in Budapest. Hannah’s uncle turns out to be working for the Swiss Council, which agrees to give passports to a fixed number of Jewish people to emigrate legally to Switzerland. However, by making more than the allotted amount, the Council hopes to save even more Jews by secretly delivering them to the Hungarian Jewish citizens. In the middle of all this, the Nazi presence continues to dominate and a Hungarian fascist group, the Arrow Cross Party, allies with Hitler. Together they round up the Jewish people to get them out of the country and into a concentration camp.

One night, Elek ends up killing two drunk German SS soldiers, as they try to molest Hannah. He and his friends bury the dead soldiers in an unmarked grave. Later, the death of those two soldiers turns out to be fortuitous for Elek and his friends because of their uniforms. When one of Elek’s good friends gets captured by the Nazis, he decides to save him by digging up the dead Nazi soldiers and taking their uniforms. He disguises himself as a Nazi SS soldier and pretends to have orders to take into custody his friend. With the successful rescue, Elek wears the uniform again and again, successfully executing similar types of rescues, often saving many of his countrymen at a time. Tragically though, as history later tallied, from Hungary alone, 500,000 Jews were exterminated.

The film has suspense, romance, and historical highlights. It was good timing that I was able to see this movie after learning so much about Hungary’s history during pre- and post-Hitler times. The pictures below are some taken from my trip in Budapest. They depict how the Hungarian Jews had to flee immediately because of the evil that fell on their country, and the world.

The Hollars (a movie blurt)

A movie about a family with dreams that somehow didn’t take off as they wished. John Krasinski directed this movie, as well as starred in it as a son who returns from New York to his Midwestern home due to a family illness. While visiting with his parents and brother, we soon learn about the family strains bubbling beneath the surface, not too different from many families experiencing hurt and feelings of inadequacy. Krasinski’s character himself is also wrestling with disappointment. He doesn’t quite know how he feels about his relationship with his live-in girlfriend, played by Anna Kendrick. She’s pregnant and ready to give birth at any time. In the midst of this angst comes the eventual realization of self-worth, gratitude and stronger family bonds. Overall, the movie is heartwarming and well-acted with a surprise twist in the end. Other stars include Charlie Day, Richard Jenkins, Margo Martindale, and Sharlto Copley.

Keanu (a movie blurt)

Lovelorn and resigned to be a weepy couch potato, Rell — played by Jordan Peele of Comedy Central’s Key & Peele — finds love again by adopting a kitten that somehow finds its way to his door.  Not too long after he’s centered his life around this newfound love, his kitty (he’s named Keanu) gets catnapped by a reputed crime lord. Recruiting his cousin, Clarence — played by, you guessed it, Keegan-Michael Key — both go on a search and rescue mission full of funny scenes. Bring out the popcorn and prepare to laugh a lot as you enjoy some Michael George songs along the way. Turns out Rell is a big fan of his music.

Colonia (a movie blurt)

Inspired by true events, the story line is fiction but the setting is real. There was a compound in Chile called Colonia Dignidad, a religious cult founded in 1961 by a group of Germans and later disbanded. The movie is set in the early to mid-‘70s during the unrest of Allende’s rule. Daniel Brühl plays a German photographer and activist who gets involved in the protest defending Allende’s communist government. Then, when a coup‘d’état takes place, he is captured by the military and taken to this isolated area of Chile known as Colonia Dignidad. His girlfriend, played by Emma Watson, goes in to rescue him, all the while discovering the dark ties between the military and the cult. The scary part is how people surrender their wills to be ruled by a domineering and ruthless cult leader, who brainwashes them into thinking he’s there for their own good.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (a movie blurt)

An eye-opening film from the perspective of the security team that survived the 9/11/12 Benghazi attack, the story is based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s book, 13 Hours. The book is a true account of events that resulted in the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, primarily because they were outgunned and outnumbered. Anyone who is not quite clear about the controversy behind the Benghazi fiasco might want to see this film for a reality check. That’s because five out of the six private military contractors who actually fought to defend the other Americans in a compound recount how the help they received was not enough and came way too late. A must-see to get another perspective, or perhaps the only perspective as some parties are not forthcoming with all the facts. This is a well done film with engaging characters, one of whom is played by John Krasinski.

Triple 9 (a movie blurt)

This film caught my attention because of the all-star cast ensemble: Casey Affleck, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Woody Harrelson, Anthony Mackie, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus, and Kate Winslet. The characters they play are flawed and except for Affleck’s character, they’re all cynical or corrupt to a certain degree. Set in Atlanta and complete with graphic scenes, this film is violent and gritty about dirty cops and dirty deeds with links to  Russian organized crime . Lots of twists, action, and raw pain. Feels too much like real life in these turbulent times. There’s no escapism here.

A Walk in the Woods (a movie blurt)

This movie is based on a book by the same name written by Bill Bryson, who at 44 years old decides to hike the Appalachian Trail (2,190 miles long). Robert Redford, who is in his late 70s, plays Bryson in the film. He is accompanied by a long-lost friend, Stephen Katz (played by Nick Nolte); the two traveled Europe together when they were in their early 20s. They lost touch soon after their European trip and through some fluke they find themselves reunited to hike together.

Even though it seems a stretch for Redford to be playing a man in his 40s, such a thing can be overlooked because of the repartees between Bryson and Katz, beautiful photography, and other interesting characters — notably one of the hikers they meet along the trail. Before I watched the movie, I thought it would be boring because it’s just about two people walking and talking, but it isn’t like that at all. The story line’s themes – relationships and one’s purpose in life – make for some funny scenes, notable truths, and fine dialogue.