Category Archives: Movies

Movie Review: “Hugo”


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A gadget tinkling boy lost his clock repairman dad to a fire. Hugo Cabre was left winding the clock in a train station with his drunk uncle who inherited the boy. The boy lived by stealing things from the vendor but one of his ambition was to repair the automaton as if to reconnect with his father. In his quest to find the needed components, he got caught stealing a mechanical mouse from this toys vendor at the Paris train station. Then he eventually discovered that this old man was the original inventor of this automaton. He’s an old beaten magician, movie maker, and a die hard fixer/tinkler. Through Hugo’s persistence, he was able to fix this old man and underscore his life purposes. At the end, he found a new family he could call his own. This is a very touching movie. It’s sad that orphans in the old periods were treated so badly. Children see the reality through their own lens and circumstances. All it took is some encouragement and guidance, a life can be made to yield many more fruits, including fixing the life of a broken old man.

It’s no wonder that this movie is nominated for Oscar his year. The cinematography is simply fantastic. The characters, good and bad, are all lovable in their own ways. The 3D effects makes a big difference in this movie because all mechanical structures of the clock, towers, train stations and etc., really stand out because of it. The acting of the Ben Kingsley (as George Milie) is phenomenal. A great movie for families with kids. My daughter even sheded some tears watching the movie.

Movie Review “Dolphin Tale”

Unlike other dolphin or whale movie, this movie played the handicap angle very well. So a dolphin was beached and tangled in the wires of crab trap. He was rescued by this self-inhibited, late-developed kid, Sawyer. Sawyer’s handicap complements the dolphin’s (Winter’s) handicap – amputated tail and got her to start living beyond her disability. Another character, Sawyer’s cousin was injured in the Iraq war and found consolation on Sawyer’s effort to get Winter to live like a normal dolphin. Of course, the entire movie is about handicapped underdogs’ finding their life meaning and living to their full potential.

It’s a feel-good movie for someone who’s down on himself/herself due to his/her disability. Living above their disabilities and making the best of life is the best policy. Why not? Life is too short.

Movie Review: “Money Ball”

I have read Michael Lewis’ book of the same name so I’m sort of familiar with the essence of the movie, which added more characters and personality to the story main characters and made it even more interesting.

For all baseball lovers, this is a must-watch. Baseball traditionally has been a game played by big-ego, high-earning players reinforced by all the supporting characters (coaches, recruiter, and fans). The small team like Oakland Aces weren’t going to cut it with its limited budget. To win the game, it needs a new business model to win. This called for a new math wizard who crank out equations and statistics and came up with a new way to recruit cheap players who can make hits, instead of home runs or being good defensively. This broke all the traditional models known for the last 100 years, and ended up allowing Oakland Aces to win 20 consecutive games, a record. Unfortunately, at the end, Billy Beane could have gotten a fat $12M paycheck to go to Boston Red Sox. Instead, he stayed put in Oakland without a championship ring. Is it for the love of the place, dogmatic about his method? Or simply winning is not his ultimate goal – being a good underdog is as he had fallen from being a superstar right out of high school without going to Stanford as he often regretted.

Brad Pitt, acting as Billy Beane, was good and loveable in this movie, though not as believable. Like the movie anyway.

Movie Review: “The Debt”

Watched this movie on the plane. This is a thriller movie about the plot to kidnap an evil Nazi physician who performed experiments on babies. The three agents (one woman and two men) received high honor in Israel in killing the physician in an ill-fated attempt. But the truth is that the physician outsmarted them and escaped. One man’s life was destroyed (killing himself) in his desperate attempt to avoid facing his failures: one on kidnapping the physician and another one on capturing/confirming his love for the female agent, who married the more promiscuous agent because she was pregnant with his child as part of the act to trick the physician. It’s a thrill to see the chase for the physician 30 years later as before and the final struggle to do him in.

Overall, this movie kept me on my edge of my seat and kept me guessing what’s going to happen next based on the flashback hints dropped throughout the movie. The debt of hiding the truth and yet being honored as heroes was too big of a debt for the three agent to bear. Very well done. I like it.

Movie Review: “Freedom Writers”

Finally got a chance to watch this movie after sitting idle for a couple of years. A feel-good movie for my vacation.

This is a typical story of a woman English teacher (Hilary Swank) with an ambitious, idealistic enthusiasm who turned an English class of a neglected, integrated high school into a family-like camaraderie among the class members. They were the underclass fighting for survival on the street. Learning wasn’t the top of the agenda. Protecting their own kind is. Through the love of this teacher and her unusual teaching methods of field trips, writing journals, and debating, the students learned about the discrimination and the plight of Jewish people that they could relate to and the courage it took to go against the tide. Of course, all these took sacrifices from the teacher who worked multiple jobs and ended losing her marriage. Did she make an impact on most of the students? Sure she did. Was it worth it? Perhaps.

This is a good movie. There were a few movies like that before. The fact that movies are being made means in reality this kind of teacher is rare. Supporting more of the teachers who go the extra miles to help the under-privileged students is probably a better bet.

Movie Review: “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps”

This is a continuation of the Wall Street filmed in 1987 starring Michael Douglas and Charlie Shean. This time Gordon Gekko came out of jail after serving 8 years in prison. His freedom happened to coincide with the subprime mortgage financial crisis of the 2008. Is he going to be a re-educated good guy and good father to his daughter and future son-in-law? Not quite.

Jake is this savvy stock analyst on the alternative energy sector, advising clients of the potential of laser fusion energy generator. First he got a $1.4M bonus check from his investment banker, Zabel, just days before his company went bankrupt by the subprime mortgage disaster. This story plot appears to be similar to the fate of Shearson Lehman Brother. The founder, Zabel, committed suicide in the subway station.

As it turned out Jake happened to be dating Gordon Gekko’s daughter, who refused to reconcile with her dad because of the damage he’s done to the family, especially his brother’s death. Through the financial crisis, Jake lost his job at Zabel and went to work for Bretton, the arch-enemy of Zabel. After he got doubled crossed by Bretton. He decided to leverage the $100M trust fund that Gordon left/hid-away at Swiss to his daughter. Gordon double crossed him and used to money to build up a $1.1B fund. And of course, the bad guy, Bretton, met his disgraced fate at his company. All was well when Gordon showed up with the $100M to make good on his original promise and they lived happily ever after with the upcoming grandson.

The story line and details of the financial crisis matched pretty well with the 2008 subprime mortgage disaster that I’m aware of, especially on how the Fed (Ben Benanke) and Treasurer (Paul Samuelson) orchestrated the demise of the Lehman Brothers but rescued the rest of the investment bankers. So the plot was realistic enough. But this Jake character wasn’t very strong and didn’t come across as the big shot Wall Street analyst. The rest of the characters weren’t very strong nor believable. But the movie captured the greed and state of the 2008 crisis. So it’s a good enough movie to watch.

Movie Review: “Thor”

Watched “Thor” at an AMC movie theater yesterday in 3D and iMax. The plot was simple but tt was a pretty good experience: lots of actions, special effects, and feeling good at the end. Never knew much of the story of Thor and the related mythology. This movie was a pretty good adaptation of the story, which goes like this:

Thor was exiled by his own father, the king, to earth to be tamed and learn modesty for the kingship after taking on the arch-enemy of their people unilaterally. During his short stay on earth, he fell in love with the researcher. When he finally learned about modesty from not being able to lift the hammer (not sure if this is a real good test for modesty) and learned about leadership from getting in front of the people being victimized by the laser-shooting robots sent by his own brother. Finally, when he proved himself worthy of the kingship, he “attracted” the hammer, resurrected, beat back the enemy and save his own kingdom from being destroyed by his conniving brother. At the end, he lost the bridge to come back to earth to re-unit with his lover. Well, that’s the bridge for Thor II, coming to a theater near you in another year or so.