A Texas Roughneck goes to France to advocate for his daughter whose been wrongfully sent to prison for murder. This is a story that I couldn’t miss. But there was something a little familiar with the setup, as if this might be based on a true story.

Matt Damon as Bill

True story or not, I couldn’t resist the idea of a gritty, working class, Texas man going overseas to navigate the judicial system of France. Well, having just put those words on the page makes me realize that I might be a California white collar snob.

Nevertheless, this movie does not disappoint. Bill the Roughneck is just as indelicate and awkward as you might expect. But he’s also polite and respectful, which are the qualities that make his survival possible. Bill wins over new friends, and he finds work to sustain himself while he works to prove his daughter’s innocence.

Bill does not let his lack of experience as a private investigator slow him down. He approaches his investigation with the kind of brute force that you might expect from a Roughneck. At some point you’re going to slap your forehead and cry out, “Oh no Bill, not like that!” Whatever his faults, Bill’s loyalty and determination will win you over.

Recommended, totally.

P.S. That story may seem familiar if you remember Amanda Knox in 2015.

The God Committee

The title of this film struck me as a rehash of the dreaded, and much hyped, “Death Panels” during the early days of the ACA debates. But the trailer got my attention with a glimpse into xenotransplantation research, which rings familiar with current events and the recent pig to human heart transplant in the news.

Julia Stiles as Dr. Taylor, Janeane Garofalo as Dr. Gilroy, and Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Boxer

I’ve spent my fair share of hours in conference rooms, staying awake while colleagues are jockeying for influence or selling their wares. The idea of a group of people politicking over who is next for a heart transplant sounds dreadful. It sounds just about as dreadful as a Death Panel.

This movie is set during two points in time. First, there is the setting of a particularly contentious decision between three patients in desperate need of a heart transplant and a single heart to offer. Second, there is the setting seven years later, where Dr. Boxer is racing the clock to make the “God Committee” obsolete by developing a viable means of transplanting organs from pigs into humans.

This is a story about walking the tightrope and balancing the dilemma of a greater good that comes for the price of compromised ethics.

This movie is sad, thought provoking, and really well produced.

Totally recommended.

The Sound of Silence

The trailer for this one suggested a love story set in New York, between a woman and a man with a peculiar profession. He is a “House Tuner”, who visit people’s homes to analyze the sonic environment and makes adjustments as needed. This peculiar character was enough to warrant hitting the play button.

Peter Sarsgaard as Peter Lucian

Peter the House Tuner, spends his spare time charting the sonic character of the various regions of New York City. His craft is built around his understanding of music theory, that various tones and sequences have the ability to evoke moods. While music can evoke moods by design, the incidental tonal qualities of a place will inevitably affect the mood of its occupants.

Although strangely fictional, the professional House Tuner starts to seem plausible when you think of him the context of therapists and professional fung-shui consultants.

Ellen is a new client for Peter, who is experiencing depression and hires Peter on the recommendation of a friend who is a big believer in Peter’s craft.

Rashida Jones as Ellen Chasen

Although a little skeptical, Ellen invites Peter in to survey her apartment. Ellen is taken by Peter’s professionalism, and his thoroughly considered beliefs about the importance of sound. Although Peter’s solution of replacing the toaster doesn’t seem to yield noticeable results, Ellen is attracted to Peter and continues to work with him.

It’s during his time with Ellen that Peter begins to question the foundation of his profession.

The trailer version of this story is that of a somewhat quirky love story. But there is actually some depth here, as it raises questions about the nature of individual free will and the process of coping with self doubt.

I liked this story and I recommend you check it out.

The Black Hole

This has been on my watch list for awhile. I never expected that this 1979 Disney dabbling into SciFi would be particularly good. But there was a lot of seventies SciFi that I enjoyed and still remember fondly. As I kid, I was a loyal watcher of Space 1999, BattleStar Galactica, and even a little Buck Rogers. There were movies that I still regard fondly, such as Fantastic Planet, Dark Star, Silent Running, Star Trek the Motion Picture, and even Star Wars. Having never watched this film seemed like a missing link in my background of SciFi appreciation.

Maximilian Schell as Dr. Hans Reinhardt

This movie has it all. It’s got exotic spacescapes, spaceships, laser shootouts, and explosions! It’s also got a villain who would turn everyone into an automaton to serve his pointless ambitions. Neat!

As a kid watching in 1979, I might have loved this movie as much as any of the other SciFi offerings of the day.

Today I am very picky. On one hand I am very interested in a story about a scientist considering the implications of deliberately entering a black hole. But I am not very entertained when that scientist’s thoughts are not grounded any modicum of reality whatsoever. Then pile on a generous helping of autonomous robots that shiver in fear, or shake their fists in rage, and the whole thing feels about as authentic as an episode of Bugs Bunny.

The emotive robots and the tacky villain are the hallmarks of a Disney production. So, what’s the big deal? Star Wars had those things too, right? Well, by comparison, Star Wars had more broadly a good guys vs. bad guys theme. I think what really rubs me the wrong way about The Black Hole is that it elevates the trope of the evil scientist vs. the nice people. This idea misses the mark in terms of what appeals to SciFi enthusiasts. The SciFi enthusiast dreams of the potential that the products of science have to offer. Vilifying the pursuit of science is reaching in the wrong direction. That makes this movie the product of an injection molded Disney tale adorned with space ships and laser guns.

All right, having said that, I didn’t completely hate this movie. The Black Hole is a fun, campy, adventure movie.

Check it out!


This film seems a bit off the beaten path for Arnold. When I think of Arnold in recent years, I think of the California Governorship, and the scandal. But I double checked. That was all over in 2011 and he’s been up to a few things since then.

Aftermath is one of his most recent works and I was curious to see how he comes across in a dramatic role. But I was also intrigued to see Scoot McNairy as the number two, who has done some other work that I like very much.

Arnold Schwarzenegger as Roman

In this story, there is an air traffic control mishap that results in a devastating mid air collision between two passenger planes. Roman loses his family and is left wondering why no one will apologize. The airline lawyers offer meager payoffs, and respond to a request for an apology with poker gazes.

Eventually, Roman tracks down the unfortunate air traffic controller, played by Scoot McNairy, who happened to be on duty at the time of the accident. The circumstances arguably put the controller in an impossible situation. Nevertheless, Roman shows up at his door in search of an apology.

Arnold’s performance as Roman is convincing, and moving. Likewise, Scoot’s performance as the hapless air traffic controller was also moving. Overall, this movie was better than what I was expecting, and I recommend you check it.


I had seen a headline somewhere about Val Kilmer having throat cancer. I didn’t expect to see him doing new work this year. A retrospective on his career and life experiences seems apropos.

Val Kilmer as the Ice Man (behind the scenes)

Stop me on the street and ask me to summarize the career of Val Kilmer and I’d likely be stumped to think of anything beyond Top Gun. Give me a few minutes to think about it, maybe I’d remember his portrayal of Jim Morrison in The Doors movie. Okay, I guess that outs me as being not much of a fan, which is probably because I didn’t like the Ice Man character.

This film gives us a peek behind the curtain. Val gives us a very candid, insider, view of his life and career — warts and all. Here we meet Val as the person beyond the movie persona. This movie tells the story of a child who lost a brother, a man who loves his father, and an artist who wants to share with his son.

I recommend checking this out.

This Must Be the Place

My watch partner, for the most part, rejects any suggestion that dates more than 3 or 4 years old. So, I made sure to show her the trailer before she could see the release date of 2011. After watching the trailer she gave it the thumbs up quickly, based on the fact that it looks strange and morose. As for myself, I was trying to remember what I was doing in 2011 that made me so busy that this one got by unnoticed.

Sean Penn as Cheyenne

Cheyenne is a retired pop star known for his Goth stylings and sad, dark, lyrics. He appears stuck in a time-warp, never evolving beyond the dark fashion of his bygone pop star ways. However, this person isn’t just fashionably dark. As the story unfolds Cheyenne reveals the depth of his angst, which is rooted in a dysfunctional relationship with his father, alienation from his Jewish heritage, and the burden of guilt that followed in the aftermath of teenage suicides that were popularly attributed to the influence of his art.

Cheyenne is ripe, and long overdue, for redemption, and coming of age. The death of his unloving father leaves him with a strange inheritance that leads to go on a grim quest, which sets the stage for peculiar places and experiences.

There are some pleasant surprises in this production. There is the performance by Francis McDormand as Jane, Cheyenne’s faithful wife of thirty five years. Also there is Judd Hirsch as Mordecai Midler, the legendary Nazi hunter. This film also features David Byrne, as himself, who plays the role of fellow musician, and an old friend to Cheyenne.

For some light comedy, and introspective themes, this is good entertainment. You should check it out.

Star Trek Voyager: Riddles

I was a Star Trek Voyager watcher during the ’90s. Back then I had a modest CRT television that might have weighed nearly a hundred pounds. At that time you had to be in front of your television at the appointed time on the appointed day of the week if you wanted to see your favorite show. Although I enjoyed Voyager in the ’90s, I never really became a fan until I could watch all the episodes in order online.

Last night, somewhat randomly, chose to watch Episode 6 of season 6, “Riddles.” I had forgotten about this one.

In this episode the stoic Vulcan, Mr. Tuvok, is assaulted by a cloaked intruder, inflicting brain damage, and is struck with traumatic amnesia. The jovial Talaxian, Mr. Neelix, takes on the challenge to help rehabilitate Mr. Tuvok.

Ethan Phillips as Mr. Neelix and Tim Russ as Mr. Tuvok

The Vulcan character represents the ultimate form of composure under pressure. As a matter of principal a Vulcan resolves conflict with well considered logic and never surrenders to the whims of emotion. But Star Trek fans know that the beneath the facade of stoicism is an undercurrent of emotion and passion, as potent as, or more than any human. The Vulcan characters are usually the favorite among the introvert fans, and we watch ever so carefully to see a glimmer of emotional reaction as they face the pressures of being a Starfleet Officer.

When Mr. Tuvok’s memory is wiped out he becomes a clean slate. Suddenly wiped away are all the years of accomplished experience as a Starfleet science officer, and all the years of focused study and meditation in the disciplines of Vulcan logic. Tuvok becomes like a child, vulnerable, afraid, and curious.

Mr. Neelix, compelled by is unquenchable sense of compassion and a long standing sense of admiration for his Vulcan colleague, sets to the task of becoming a rehabilitation coach. But he finds the challenges of trying to help Mr. Tuvok restore himself to his former being are fraught with disappointment.

This is a story about identity, friendship, respect, and hope.

If you don’t remember watching this episode in the ’90s, or again in the ’00s, then I recommend you take another look. Check it out.

Promising Young Woman

The trailer portrays a woman who preys on predatory men by pretending to be falling over drunk in bars. We enjoy dark horror comedies and this looked like the type of thing that would work. I queued it up without even checking with my watch partner.

Carey Mulligan as Cassandra

It turns out that I misjudged this movie by the trailer. It does satisfy the pleasure of seeing the tables turned on lowlives attempting to take advantage of inebriated women. However, it is not really a slasher flick at all. The story takes a serious tone as Cassandra’s motivations become clear. This movie is more of a cautionary tale about rape culture, how it has permeated the institutions we trust, and the fallout from reckless frat culture.

It’s good. It’s definitely better than the B grade thriller I was expecting. I recommend you check this out.

Look Away

I was captivated by the spooky reflection in the mirror existing at its own being. I did get the feeling the target audience is teenagers, which isn’t me. But what the heck. I used to be a teenager. This is also the first work I’ve noticed of Jason Isaacs since he played Lorca on STD. I had to check it out.

Mira Sorvino as Amy, Jason Isaacs as Dan, India Eisley as Maria

This is a story about a teenager with chronic low confidence and all of the perks that go with it, such as a low friend count and a meek presence. As it turns out, her one (and only) friend is actually a corrosive bully. Her mother, although earnestly sympathetic, is a mouse cowering in the shadow of the overbearing father who makes a living brow beating women into agreeing to cosmetic surgeries.

However, young Maria’s fortunes begins to shift when she develops a relationship with the bold and confident version of herself that lives behind the glass of the mirror. In a moment of weakness, Maria agrees to let Airam take over.

Ultimately, Maria learns to be careful about what she wishes for when the costs turn out to be greater than she imagined.

This was good entertainment and I recommend it for anyone in the mood for a well produced thriller about teenage angst and payback.

Check it out.