Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review: “Interstellar”

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What a perfect timing of watching this movie right after reading “The Future of the Mind” book by Michio Kaku. If you haven’t seen the movie (Trailers here), I suggest you watch it first or skip the next paragraph.

The future is bleak for humans as we have polluted the earth and the food is in great shortage. The way out is to migrate to another planet. Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is tricked into captaining a space ship, leaving his daughter Murphy and son on earth. The first planet has a giant wave and not habitable. The second planet has an earlier explorer in deep sleep, who upon woken up conspires to hijack their space ship out of plant. (This story line is weak). Then by this time, they’re almost out of the fuel. So Cooper hops on the black hole and time travels back to warn himself not to leave earth through the “ghost” of his daughter’s bedroom. At the end he meets his daughter, much older than he is, because he has time warped. And the humans have migrated to the third planet and he meets his daughter on her dying bed. Very interesting twist.

My takeaways from this movie:
1. Boy, there is a lot of science and myth here. Yes, it takes a wormhole to travel fast and parallel universe, thanks to the Strings Theory by Dr. Kaku. It’s still unreal to me. But flying and surviving it through the black hole like Cooper did is nearly impossible due to astronomically huge gravity force.

2. Humans will end up killing ourselves if we don’t take care of this earth. The next habitable planet is so far away (more than 1200 light years away).

3. When people are desperate, they’ll believe anything like Professor Brand’s (Michael Caine) half-baked theories that got NASA to launch the mission and trick people into Kamikaze pilots.

4. Movies with half science and half myths (extrapolated truths) make good entertaining movies and get my wife and daughter asking whether any of them could be true.

Overall, it makes a pretty entertaining movie. I highly recommend it.

Movie Review of “Dead Poets Society”

Dead Poets Society is one of the best movies that Robbin William ever performed in. Today I watched the DVD with my 13-year-old daughter. I remembered when I first watched the movie at the movie theater, I was quite moved by the message that one must “seize the day” (“Carpe Diem”). I often found people, myself included, allow days to go by as if it’s another day to check off without living each day to the fullest.

One doesn’t have to join the Dead Poets Society to the suck the marrow out of the life. But it does help to have people around you push and encourage you.

I was taken back by Neil’s suicide because his Dad commanded him to drop acting where his passion lied and forced him to become a doctor. I hope none of the youths should take away from the movie that it’s the proper approach to resolve the conflict with their parents. And I also hope that parents nowadays (tigers or not) are more inclined to listen to their kids’ plead to pursue their own passion.

On one hand, I do not agree to the old academic way of cramming the students what they think the students should know – often the dry and boring materials. Teaching the kids to think for themselves is one of the critical teaching objectives. I cheered when Todd could break out of the shell and poured out a beautiful poem when pushed by Mr. Keating and Charlie could push himself to win the heart of his dream girl (though it’s mostly hormone driven). Of course, Neil Perry went against his dad’s command to pursue his acting gig. On the other hand, I also do not subscribe to Mr. Keating’s (Robbin Williams) ripping (literally) the pages out of the old ways as the young children can easily misinterpret the message as the license to rebel without the right reasons. The tragic suicide of Neil was a case in point.

Having watched the movie when I was younger empathizing the high school kids and now watched the DVD as a parent of a teenager, I can now see the both sides clearly. It’s important to have good communication between parents and children. The children must see the good intention of the parents and force the conversation upon encountering conflicts. No reason to wrap up the negotiation too quickly or jump the “gun.” After all, it’s your life any how. The parents must not push the kids beyond the “breaking” point. They may need guidance sometimes but they have the free will. It’s best they hold on to their passion to achieve happily something great than to live their lives like a zombie.

I especially like Mr. Keating for asking the students to step on top of the table and forcing them to see things differently. It’s a nice trick to keep life interesting.

What a great movie! Robbin Williams was brilliant in this movie and suit his character well. I truly feel the loss of his talent.

How I Like “Law and Order: Criminal Intent” – Let Me Count the Ways

The long-running 10-season (2001~2011) series of Law and Order: Criminal Intent have a special place in my heart. Having completed watching the entire 5 seasons on Netflix and learned all the criminal intents or psychology, I can now summarize what I learned from the series and why I liked the characters and stories.

1. The fine detectives, Robert Goren (Vincent D’Onofrio) and Zack Nichols (Jeff Goldblum) and Mike Logan (Chris Noth) maybe just as human or even more damaged than the criminals they were trying to catch. I guess that’s what makes them so good at catching the bad guys; they can get into the minds of the criminals.

2. Each episodes starts out with some clues and usually the death(s) of some victim(s), before the “Major Case” squad come in to solve the crime. This involves the audiences to jointly solve the crime too. The downside is that too many details/characters are shown too quickly in the first few minutes and one may need to go back to review the early to tie the story together.

3. The extensive use of the CSI (or CSD) to provide the evidences and drop the clues here and there make the story interesting – better than CSI whose heroes are the CSI technicians who went beyond their charter to solve the crime on their own – not very realistic.

4. Robert Goren is very believable in his role as a borderline insane detective in getting into the minds of the criminals especially in catching his “White Whale,” Nicole Wallace. I just loved how Goren faced his own demon (like being a son of a serial killer) while battling the wit of Nicole Wallace. Wow, what a great bunch of episodes.

5. The partnership between Robert Goren and Alexandra Eames (Kathryn Erbe) was one of mutual trust, admiration and support. They worked well together though there were some episodes when they ran into conflicts but they ultimately resolved their differences.

6. Jeff Goldblum and Chris Noth were backups to Goren on some seasons to spice up the series. They are not as good as Goren but do have their own personality and “baggage.”

7. The moral dilemmas are the “grey” areas that most people have trouble with. Often doing the right things means harming the ones you love. The writers of the show have fun pushing the envelope and exposing/exploiting the human character weaknesses.

8. I strongly believe that the borderline between a regular Joe to a heinous criminal is a very thin line. It doesn’t take much for one to cross it. For examples, greed, false perception, and thinking they’re too smart to be caught are often the reasons why one commit a heinous crime. By watching this kind of show, I became aware of the “triggers” that cause one to become the criminal that these smart, relentless major-case squad pursue.

This Law and Order: Criminal Intent is a true classic, thanks to the great writing and acting. I utterly enjoyed most of the episodes.

Book Review: “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick

This is a wonderful story of an orphan boy, Hugo, who lost his dad to a museum fire and managed to survive living a train station with his uncle as a clock adjuster. He has the passion of fixing things including the automaton his father was trying to fix and died trying during a fire in the museum. Somehow, he connected with the toy store owner, who turned out to be the inventor of the automaton. The old man was one of the early movie or dream maker in France after tinkering with magic but the business failed after the war due to subsided interest. He lost his life purpose and became a toy store owner, inventing winded-up toys for kids passing by the train station. He grew resentful of the movie industry and forbade his goddaughter from going to movies. Hugo, through a scheme with the goddaughter of the old man, somehow fixed the old man and got himself adopted into the old-man’s family.

I first watched the movie “Hugo” on the big 3D screen. The movie followed the book pretty well. In this case, I feel the movie is more vivid and better done than the book. I like the story and I like the movie even more. Very heart warming and makes a nice family movie.

Movie Review: “The Descendants”

George Clooney is the descendants of the rich royal family of the Hawaii king. The cousins, represented by George, the trustee, were going to sell their huge land holding off Kawai coast to a golf/resort developer.

The movie started out in the hospital bed where Matt King (George Clooney) was beside the bed of his wife, Elizabeth, in coma after a speed boat accident. It was during his scolding his elder daughter when he found that her bad behavior rebelling against her mother was because his wife was having an affair with a real estate broker and was about to seek a divorce against him. He chased this man, Brian Speer, to Kawai and discovered that he was married with two children. He slipped the chance to meet this man and discovered that Elizabeth didn’t mean anything to him. Turns out this man will benefit enormously if he decided to sell his inherited trust to the local developer. He decided against it and ended up keeping the place, bestowing a revenge against the person who cheated with his wife. The movie ended with his sitting comfortably with his two daughters watching TV as if life will go on nicely after his wife’s death.

This movie is about betrayal, death, and family relationships: daughter/father, father-in-law, cousins – Hawaiian-style, and friendships (especially the one between husband and wife). There are light moments like his daughter’s (Alex) friend, Sid, and the foul language used by his younger daughter of 10 years old.

The lessons learned are 1) don’t do anything you’d be sorry in case you got yourself in a coma – alive and cannot talk back. 2) sometimes the best revenge could be just doing the right thing (not selling the estate), 3) children’s behaviors are often a reflection or reaction to parents’ bad behaviors.

The movies have wonderful Hawaiian scenery. George Clooney’s acting was good but not enough to win an Oscar. This is a good DVD movie to watch a home, not worth going to the movie theater for.