The Book of Life (2014)

Movie – When the rulers of the lands of the dead make a wager one can only image what will happen to the living. This sounds like the start of a gory horror movie, but it not. It is the premise for an animated-film about the Mexican holiday: Día de Los Muertos. In The Book of Life, La Muerte, the ruler of the Land of the Remembered makes a bet with Xibalba, the rules of the Land of the Forgotten. The wager involves three childhood friends and love.

Xibalba bets that Maria will end up with Joaquín, while La Muerte believes Maria and Manolo are destined to fall in love. Xibalba hedges his bet by presenting Joaquín with a pin that will protect him and makes him the town hero. With no protection, Manolo dies and Xibalba wins the bet. Manolo is transported to the Land of the Remembered where he meets all of his deceased family. He discovers Xibalba’s tricks and vows to travel to the Land of the Forgotten to tell La Muerte so he can get back to Maria.

The animation is colorful and imaginative. The characters were modeled after wooden childrens’ toys. The scenery for the Land of the Remembered depicts some of the most traditional images of Día de Los Muertos. There are colorful sugar skull shapes all over this land. The dead have faces like that of sugar skulls. In addition, there are scenes from the cemeteries where the families have set up offerings and alters with pictures, traditional flowers, candles, favorite foods, and pan de muertos (day of the dead sweet bread).

If you like colorful images, great animation, a cute storyline, and a fiercely independent lead female character, watch this. Also, if you ever wondered about this Mexican holiday, watch The Book of Life to get a small taste of what this holiday means to Mexicans. It is not about worshiping the dead. It is about understanding death is a part of life and this is how you get to celebrate the life of those who have passed on. By showing them how much you love them.

Boss Baby (2017)

Movie- DreamWorks is at it again with this movie. Alec Baldwin is voice of Boss Baby- an Armani suit wearing, briefcase carrying infant who is out to learn why most of the world’s love is going to puppies and not babies. Tim is the older brother (like 8 I think) who is absolutely not impressed with the new baby that’s living with them. He has a feeling something is up with this baby and tries desperately to get his parents to see that something is wrong. After a comical battle, the two decide to join forces and get the answers that Boss Baby needs so he will just leave.

This movie was more for adults than elementary school age kids I think. It had many older jokes, nostalgic points, and well overall laughs that only adults would understand. I do feel that children will appreciate this move in general, but not fully enjoy it as I did.  Its Alec Baldwin we are talking about, so if his humor is not your style, move on. If it might be- definitely check this one out. And hey, if its not your cup of tea as they say, you’ve only wasted a 1.5 hours.

Imperium (2016)

Movie – Nate Foster is an FBI agent. He pays attention to the little things. This trait is something agent Angela Zamparo is looking for in a good agent. Zamparo has her interests in white hate groups. She understands Nate’s specialty is Islamic terror, but challenges Nate to look closer to home when it comes to terror suspects and upcoming events.

Nate keeps to himself, retains a lot of what he reads, but is not well respected. The other agents pick on him because his is younger. Angela is looking for in a partner with these types of attributes, however. Nate goes undercover to infiltrate a white power hate group at Angela’s request. Angela needs Nate to look for the individuals who could have access to Cesium 137, a chemical they could use to create a dirty bomb. Nate changes his name and moves to Maine to meet with an informant already in the mix. Angela instructs Nate to get close to the group leader, Vince, and meet others in the movement, Dallas Wolf. Wolf is a well-known radio host in the movement. Nate eventually catches the eye of Gerry Conway, an engineer with a family man. Gerry also catches Nate’s, and Nate begins to wonder how someone so put together like Gerry could be part of this world.

The movie takes several turns before we really find out who is who in these groups. This is not a very violent movie compared to others. There is one scene where two groups of protesters clash but not much thereafter. Most of the movie shows interactions between the major players of the different groups; as to demonstrate how they may have one common goal, but are still very different.  This is no Harry Potter; and it is refreshing seeing Daniel Radcliffe in other roles that are nothing like the childhood wizard.

No Manches Frida (WTH Frida?!?!) (2016)

Movie – In a new take on a German film, No Manches Frida is a story about a con man, a group of at risk high school kids, and a teacher who needs help to reach them. Zequi just got out of prison for bank robbery. They never found the money he stole. Zequi hid it so well even he cannot get to it. Buried under a school gymnasium, Zequi needs to figure out how to retrieve the money, payoff an associate, and stay out of jail.

Zequi goes for a janitor position interview at the school and ends up with a teaching position. He is placed in charge of the most troublesome students on the campus. His job is to keep them in line and out of trouble. On his first day though, he runs screaming from them and vows never to return. Convinced to stay he comes prepared with some very unorthodox methods of keeping them inline. Paintballs, shaming, and a field trip to see what becomes of unruly high school students; the students begin to respect Zequi and believe they can succeed.

Set in Mexico, the movie is a feel good, help the misguided, romance story. At a time when all the stories coming out from there are about narco-traffickers, kidnapping, disappearances, and government corruption, this movie doesn’t really address any of those issues. Instead it demonstrates how anyone from any background can make a difference sharing their experiences. There is a lot of vulgar language in the movie and some questionable teaching methods. It is not for everyone. If you like over the top foreign comedies with profane language, them this is your type of movie.  The movie is in Spanish with English subtitles.

Underworld: Blood Wars (2016)

Movie – Selene is back! As the fifth installment to the Underworld saga, Blood Wars takes the story in a new direction introducing new characters and locations. In the aftermath of Underworld: Awakening, Michael is nowhere to be found and Selene has no idea where her daughter is. Selene is on her own and fighting for her survival.

Vampires and Lycans have been at war for centuries. Selene is now their common enemy. In Underworld: Blood Wars, Selene is a rogue vampire who has gone against the elder vampires, and is fighting off Lycans at every turn. Her only allies are David and his father Thomas. Thomas convinces the elders to bring Selene in as a consultant to help train new Death Dealers. Semira is trying to bolster her power within the clan. She agrees to bring on Selene then betrays her. This sends Selene and David seeking out new allies. The two are instructed by Thomas to head north to the Nordic Coven. While there, both characters learn about events and history that will change how the vampires will govern.

Blood Wars is a good tale and I feel reboots the series with a changing of the guard. The film is trying to bring in new fans and keep the story fresh for loyal fans. I can see the next installment introduce new younger characters, a truce with the Lycans, and/ or bring in some type of new enemy. If you are a fan of the Underworld films, you may want to see this film to see where the series will go. New fans to the series, I would recommend watching the other films in order to understand what is happening in the film. Do not watch this film without viewing the others.

The Accountant (2016)

Movie – The Accountant opens with a scene of Christian Wolff as a child getting ready to do a puzzle while his parents speak to someone about his condition. As Christian is finishing the puzzle, one piece is missing and Christian has an episode because he cannot take not finishing something. Another autistic girl finds the missing puzzle piece on the floor and gives it to Christian so he can finish his puzzle. This gives the audience a peek into the type of autism Christian may have.

As an adult, Christian is a certified public accountant. He is a high functioning autistic person. Christian lives alone, and goes through life with his routine intact. A very important aspect to Christian’s autism is that he must finish what he starts. If he does not, it can have some very dire affects we see later on in the film. Some of Christian’s clients include heads of large criminal organizations. This causes the US Treasury Department to look into Christian’s work. It also makes Christian and his associate look at a non-criminal client to try to stay off the Treasury Department’s target list. This doesn’t work well as a cover.

The movie is a good opening act for what I am sure will be a series of action movies. It leaves itself open for possible sequels. Though somewhat predictable, the movie gives a small glimpse into one type of autism. One critic from UpRoxx went as far to call Christian Wolff a superhero for autistic kids. I can see it following in the footsteps of the Bourne series and even the more recent John Wick series. Recommended for fans of Ben Affleck, numbers, and action movies. There is some blood but not as gory as other action movies.

Confessions of a Wannabe Fashionista: Fashion Comedy Films

Film List – I have a confession; I am wannabe fashionista.  My addiction to fashion-themed romantic comedies knows no bounds and is ever growing.  Here are a few recommendations for a rainy night in:

The Devil Wears Prada

Andrea dreams of being a journalist, and having just graduated from Northwestern University, she is finally ready to start her writing career.  But her dream never involved working as the assistant to demanding Miranda Priestly, Editor-in-Chief of a famed high fashion magazine.  Andrea soon finds herself in way over her head.  How will this young woman survive the deadly world of fashion.  It’s normal girl transforms into fashion goddess; one of my all-time favorite films.  And to top it off the film has a killer cast with the incredible Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, Stanley Tucci, and Emily Blunt.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

Rebecca Bloomwood is a shopaholic; she dreams of writing for a fashion magazine and sharing her addiction with the world.  But Rebecca is in some serious credit card debt from all her shopping escapades and needs a job fast.  She manages to land a job at a financial magazine.  Now Rebecca has to write about personal finances and saving money while battling her inner shopaholic.

The Dressmaker

Though more eccentric-depressing drama than comedy, I still think this film is worth a nibble.  Kate Winslet portrays fashion designer Tilly Dunnage, who’s had an exciting life traveling the world.  When Tilly returns to her childhood home, she is an outcast, even to her eccentric mother, Molly.  In spite of her efforts, Tilly falls for the childhood friend turned handsome flirt.  To gain the approval of the local townswomen, Tilly begins designing custom apparel for them, but a dark secret from her past threatens to destroy everything.  Is it too later to start over and move on from the past?

 

 

 

Instructions Not Included (2013)

Movie – Valentin Bravo (Eugenio Derbez) made a life for himself as a local playboy of sorts in the city of Acapulco, Mexico. Being a playboy has its consequences. One morning, Valentin hears a knock at his door. Julie is standing at the door with a baby, his baby. Valentin, still waking up, is in shock about what is happening. Julie asks for some money to pay the cab and decides to go, leaving Valentin with the baby. This starts one of the most heart-wrenching  movies I have seen in a long time.

Valentin travels to Los Angeles with his daughter Maggie. He went there looking for Julie, but instead found a career as a stuntman whiling trying to save Maggie from drowning. He decides to stay in Los Angeles to give Maggie a better life. Valentin and Maggie have a good relationship, she translates for Valentin on set and he will do anything to give her the life she deserves. This includes writing letters pretending to be Maggie’s mom so Maggie does not feel like her mom never loved her. Eventually Julie contacts Valentin so she can see and meet Maggie. Valentin agrees for Maggie’s benefit. This decision will come back to hurt everyone involved.

Instructions Not Included is a good movie and will have you crying by the end. When I mean crying, I do not mean shedding a tear, I mean full out Disney’s Up opening scene crying. This movie was very well done and will have your emotions all over the place by the time it’s done. If you are looking for a bilingual film about family, and father/daughter relationships, you will enjoy this one. If you are not ready for an all-out cry-fest, leave this for when you are.

Sing Street (2016)

51Sl6kdAoyLMovie – Have you ever watched a movie and after, had to research to see whose life was just depicted? Only to find out that it was 100% original! Sing Street tells the story of teenage life in Dublin, Ireland in the mid 80’s.

Connor aka Cosmo is a teenager in a new school, where he is trying to fit in. He meets a girl, Raphina, as do all fifteen-year old boys, and changes his mind on fitting in. Cosmo forms a band with other misfits in the school and they start filming music videos for their new band Sing Street. This being the height of MTV culture, the video is key to making the girl want to hang out with the band. Cosmo asks Raphina to be in the bands video. Only problem is they have no music and are doing covers. Enter Brendan, the older guiding brother. Brendan tells Cosmo to write original songs. This is the only way to get noticed, make it big, and getting out of Dublin. Brendan loves Cosmo and schools him on the latest bands. Brendan wants Cosmo to make it and leave Dublin behind. Brendan knows Cosmo can do this, with his help of course.

The Sing Street band make writing, composing, and recording music look easy. John Carney, the director, does an excellent job of showing how easy music can be created. Cosmo writes the lyrics, sometimes with the help of Eamon, the bands musical genius. Cosmo and Eamon work together to compose the music to make sure it’s right for the lyrics. After all the work is done they practice and record both tapes and videos.

As I watched I kept wondering who the film was based on, because I did not know the songs the band was playing. After some research I found out the songs by Sing Street are all original! They all have that 80’s feel and would fool any die hard 80’s New Wave loving fan. Though some may see this a coming of age story, I see it more as a love story. Not between Cosmo and Raphina, but as a love story between two brothers and their love for music. If you like 80’s New Wave, Irish accents and kids having some fun, definitely check this one out.

Man Up (2015)

Man-Up-2015-movie-posterMovie— Cynical thirty-something Nancy (Lake Bell) is single and does not want to be. When a chance encounter on the train leads to her being mistaken as Jack’s (Simon Pegg) blind date Jessica, she decides to roll with it and go on a date with Jack. Naturally, Jack and Nancy hit it off right away, having a whole montage sequence worth of a cute date until circumstances and an obsessed former classmate of Nancy’s conspire to reveal her identity. Once Nancy’s identity as not the twenty-four year old triathlete Jessica is revealed, Jack and Nancy turn on each other, but it transpires that Jack’s motives for arranging a date with Jessica were more mercenary than he admitted to initially. When the real Jessica contacts Jack and asks for a do-over of their date, Jack must decide if he wants to meet the actual Jessica or explore his new connection with Nancy.

Man Up is a great feel-good, date night type movie with some genuinely funny parts. I especially appreciated that it was less raunchy than some modern romantic comedies (though still a bit raunchy). As a devotee of Meg Ryan-era rom-coms, I’m always pleased when modern rom-coms fall on the tamer side of things. If you like this one, I would also suggest Run, Fatboy, Run (also stars Simon Pegg) and My Best Friend’s Wedding (also has a cynical protagonist).