The Bone Collector

What attracted me to thie 1999 movie are Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie. I’ve always thought Denzel Washington a very good actor, and I was curious about a much younger Angelina Jolie. That this movie is based on a novel by Jeffery Deaver works for me because I would never be able to plough through any of his books.

Denzel Washington is fascinating in his role as quadripelegic forensic criminology expert Rhyme Lincoln who has been paralysed to the extent that he has only “one finger, two shoulders and a brain” that are functional. Limited to only  using his voice and eyes to communicate (since he can’t move from his neck down), Washington still comes across as being very engaging and his performance is an extraordinary one. He deserves an Oscar for his facial expressions alone. His nurse is Thelma (Queen Latifah), who does a fantastic job in her supporting role. Angelina Jolie is a young cop named Amelia Donaghy who is trying to solve a puzzling homicide case and seeks the help of Rhyme.

This is a mystery/thriller. Since I had been unsuccessful reading any Jeffery Deaver novel, I find this movie quite exciting. For example, the use of haunting and suspenseful music in the background in scenes that are dark – both in terms of physical location (dark, inky places) and atmosphere/situation (torture, killing). The cinematography, design and editing are fine too.

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Nine Lives

What a funny coincidence that a non-cat lover watches two movies about cats consecutively over two days!

I borrowed this 2016 DVD because of Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Garner and Christopher Walker – all because of their acting skills. I was also curious enough to want to find out if my admiration for Spacey has wavered because of the scandal surrounding him.

Tom Brand (Spacey) is the 6th richest person in Manhattan, whose workaholic lifestyle has distanced him from his second wife Lara (Garner) and adoring 10-year-old daughter Rebecca (Malina Weissman). His company is building the a new skyscraper and he wants it (The Firebrand Tower) to be the tallest (not second tallest) building.

An argument with Ian (Mark Conseulos), the manager in charge of the new building, results in Tom falling off the building with the cat (Mr Fuzzypants) that he’d bought en route from the Purrkins Pet Shop owned by Felix Perkins (Walken) for Rebecca’s 11th birthday. Instead of falling to his death, Tom is flung through a window and passes out. When he wakes up, he realises he is in a coma in a hospital and his consciousness is trapped inside the cat.

Eventually Rebecca realises that Mr Fuzzypants is really Tom. The doctor convinces Lara to disconnect Tom’s respirator but Rebecca arrives just in time to prove that the cat is really Tom. Tom wakes up from his coma but Ian is hit by a car and his consciousness transfers into a cat that Perkins takes back to his shop.

Tom and Rebecca return to Purrkins to get a dog but Perkins says he does not have dogs and presents a cat who has used up eight lives.

This movie is quite hilarious, in a silly way, but the acting talents make up for it. I’m most impressed with Walken – with his eccentric charm, he really delights as the strange pet shop proprietor/cat whisperer.

Since I’m no cat lover, I wasn’t impressed by the antics that Mr Fuzzypants got into. I wasn’t even sure if all the scenes involving Mr Fuzzypants involved different cats (which are listed in the end credits) or what portions are simply computer generated (since this is also listed in the end credits), but kudos to the real cats and their trainers in this movie. I was quite impressed by the set designer (or whoever in the Art department was in charge) for bringing together – even to the floors (since there’s so much of them, with the cat exploring everywhere) – the colours, elegance, intricate designs, patterns and symmetry that are shiny, beautiful and interesting.

 

A Street Cat Named Bob

I was drawn to this 2017 DVD because the title reminds me of the Vivien Leigh/Marlon Brando 1951 film adaptation of the play by Tennessee Williams called A Street Car Named Desire.

I am no cat lover; however, this movie is not only based on a true story but the protagonist is also a homeless street musician James (played by Luke Treadaway).

James is not just a busker but also a heroin addict. Besides dealing with  serious topics like drug addiction and the dangers of living on the streets, friendship, family relationships, hope and redemption, what I like best about this movie is that there are many songs (around 20?) written and performed by Treadaway. The author of the memoir on which this movie is based, Jack Bowen, also appears as one of the co-stars.

 

Jack Ryan : Shadow Recruit

I didn’t know what the fuss was about when this 2014 movie was shown in the cinemas, so I decided to watch it on DVD recently. I had heard that the character is based on one created by the author Tom Clancy, but not any book in particular. (I’ve tried reading a couple of his books some two decades ago, and I never went beyond the first page.)

Jack Ryan (Chris Pine), a financial executive newly recruited by the CIA, is caught in a dangerous web of intrigue spun by his unsuspecting fiancee Dr Cathy Muller (Keira Knightly), a treacherous agent William Harper (Kevin Costner) and a Russian criminal Victor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh, who is also the director).

As a drama-thriller, the screenplay is good. The character of Ryan is well-depicted : intelligent and resourceful; he has a brilliant analytical mind but is a reluctant CIA man. The story is about his personal journey: how he tries to work out the right thing to do, the right way to serve and the best way to be a patriot.

After the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Ryan, then a student at the London School of Economics, decided to join the Marines but a very serious spinal injury resulting from a terrible helicopter crash means he has to find another way to serve. It is at the Walter Reed Army Medical Centre that he first meets Muller, a third year medical student assigned to be his therapist in his rehabilitation.

It is also at the hospital grounds that Ryan is approached by Harper, who enticed him by sending him back to school to complete his  doctorate, then join Financial Intelligence as an analyst and working in a series of private banks on Wall Street, where his position will be used to uncover funding for terror groups covertly. A large number of these funds is controlled by the tycoon Cheverin.

So Ryan has a reason to visit Moscow. And the audience gets to see the sights of this Russian capital, including the Domodeldovo Airport, the beautiful St Basil’s Cathedral, The Kremlin and the steps of Staraya Square. Cheverin has planted a sleeper agent in the United States: moving from Dearborn in Michigan (the St Uriel Archangel Russian Orthodox Church) to Philadelphia and to New York; and the physical confrontation between Ryan and this agent (played by Alec Utgoff) means there are scenes like a vehicle hijack, a crash into the East River and the detonation of a bomb with lots of stunts and visual and special effects. The team of camera operators and photographers did good work too. The two dozen originally composed music (by Patrick Doyle) also serve their purpose well in adding to the tension and action, drama and romance.

Selfless

I have never been keen on science fiction, so I do not know if this 2015 movie was ever shown in cinemas here; but because the lead actor here is Ben Kingsley I will of course watch it on DVD.

Damian Hale (Kingsley) is an extremely wealthy man. He is diagnosed with terminal cancer and has only a short time to live unless he undergoes a radical procedure called “shredding”, in which his consciousness is transferred into the body of a healthy young man (Ryan Reynolds). After the procedure, Hale, now called Edward, starts a new life in New Orleans.  He suffers hallucinations and starts to uncover Edward’s mysterious origin and learns about the organisation that will kill to protect its secret.

The movie is visually impressive – the opulence in Hales’ penthouse has a strong visual aesthetic; there’re a few scenes involving shootouts, punch-outs (kudos to the stunt team and the choreographer) and car chases at attractive locations (thanks to the location manager and cinematographer). Conceptually, I think it is crazy.

The Ottoman Lieutenant

This is another 2016 movie that I don’t recall was shown in the cinemas here, so I had to watch it to find out more. I gathered from synopsis on the back cover of the DVD that is is a love story between an idealistic American nurse Lillie Rowe (Hera Hilmar) and a Turkish officer Ismail Veli (Michael Huisman) during World War I. I’d never heard of these two leads, but that Ben Kingsley also stars in this movie means it is a must-see.

The opening credits come with Lillie’s voiceover: I thought I was going to change the world but of course it’s the world that changed me. The movie then pans to 1914 Philadelphia where Lillie listens to a presentation by Dr Jude Gresham (Josh Hartnett) about a medical mission in Eastern Antolia, after which she tells him of a man who was turned away from hospital because of the colour of his skin.

Two months later, Lillie is on a ship to Istanbul. The view of Istanbul is simply breathtaking. Kudos to the location manager and camera operator for showcasing the bustling market place, panoramic views of open fields and blus sky and beautiful landscape (day and night views) as Lillie travels with her escort, the military officer Ismail (Michael Huisman), to a remote site before arriving at the hospital on foot. Here, they meet Jude. The three will be entangled in a love triangle, and the biggest problem they will face is that Lillie is a Christian and Ismail a Muslim. Also, Jude’s mission is to save lives, and Ismail’s mission is to take lives.

Lillie is introduced to Jude’s mentor, Dr Garrett Woodruff (Ben Kingsley) and a young patient named Aghavni (Eliska Slansky). From these two characters, we learn about how the war is splitting the Armenians and Turks. There is also archival footage of the full-scale First War War in Europe.

Most of the music (though I couldn’t identify them) are simply beautiful – uplifting, inspiring or mournful as the scenes dictate. I love especially the cello solos besides the symphonic orchestra.

The hidden message seems to be that freedom is an illusion. People could seemingly share so little (like Lillie’s and Ismail’s forbidden love) and sometimes there is no choice (due to custom or tradition) and fate can be cruel, yet people really have a lot in common. Hopefully, peace will eventually return one day.

 

 

We Don’t Belong Here

I was drawn to this 2017 DVD for three reasons: it is a very recent movie which I think wasn’t shown in cinemas here so I want to find out why, the cover shows Catherine Keefer, a pistol and Anton Yelchin (whom I only vaguely remember but died in a traffic accident in 2016), and the tag line is Every Family Has Its Secrets.

Nancy Green (Keener) is mother to Max (Yelchin) and his three sisters (Elisa played by Riley Keough, Lily played by Kaitlyn Dever and Madeline played by Anne Starke). Two of them (Max and Lily) have mental illnesses (bipolar & depression), one (Elisa) is a famous singer estranged from her mother; Madeline is the most well-adjusted of all but believes the key to an amazing life is medication. Even Nancy herself has a secret that involves her best friend Joanne (Maya Rudolph).

Some of the music used here are aptly chosen: The Carpenters’ Rainy Days and Mondays sung by Lily at an Open Mic event and in another scene depict the depressing atmosphere, Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose sung by Elisa at home and at a party, with the lyrics changed to something dark and bleak, adding to an atmosphere that is sombre and morose. The famous Franz Schbert masterpiece, Piano Quintet in A Major (popularly known as the Trout Quintet), is used to generate an overall  unified dramatic design for the movie, with its repetitions and unique sonority.