December 21, 2014

A Night in Old Mexico

A Night in Old Mexico stars Robert Duvall as a widowed man who is about to lose his family ranch to the bank and he's on the verge of suicide. When his grandson shows up out of the blue, the two decide to head down into Mexico for a night of "singing, dancing, and women" as a way of casting off their problems.

Meanwhile, a drug deal in town goes bad and two drifters wind up hitchhiking along with Duvall and grandson. Some things get more complicated when a Mexican hitman stars tailing them around town, and before long the two cowboys don't realize how much trouble they are in.

Throw in a beautiful singer they picked up from a bar, a mysterious drug cartel guy who wants his loot back, plus lots of cold cervezas, and you get a recipe for one wild night.

It's hard to believe Robert Duvall is 80+ years old because he sure doesn't act like it in this movie. I enjoyed this one. It's from the same screenwriter as Legends of the Fall and The Perfect Storm.

December 17, 2014

Short Term 12

Short Term 12 is a drama about some twenty-somethings working at a shelter for teenage foster children. It focuses on a few of the kids and the problems they are trying to work around while the employees do their best to help them out. I found it to be a really well crafted story.

The story begins with a new guy getting oriented to the facility. During an introduction to the group, he makes the mistake of referring to the kids as "underprivileged" and they get very upset at him about that. To me, the new guy was there to represent the outsider's point of view like someone who really doesn't get the reality of the situation faced by the kids.

Multiple running plot lines help keep this going as we see that everybody has something they are coping with or trying to avoid. One worker is trying to hide her unwanted pregnancy. One kid is about to turn 18 and dreading what life may be like on the outside. A new girl is having trouble admitting whether or not her father abuses her.

While this all may sound like a bunch of sappy junk, it's actually an enjoyable movie. The characters are all presented realistically and with lots of little details to bring them to life. The subject matter is pretty rough but these things happen all the time. This one is worth seeing.

December 15, 2014

The Act of Killing

The Act of Killing is a documentary about some Indonesian death squad leaders who are asked to recreate their previous deeds under the guise of making a movie. It has been nominated for numerous awards, including an Oscar for Best Documentary.

Anwar Congo was a death squad leader who is responsible for killing hundreds, if not well over a thousand, suspect communists in Indonesia back in the 1960's. He revisits places where people were tortured and killed and describes it like an athlete might describe a memorable touchdown or home run. Congo's preferred method of killing was to wrap a wire around the victim's next and pull it tight.

This movie does little to explain the political/social situation from back then so it's not very useful for a history lesson. Instead, this is all about how people justify torture and murder. There's one part where a government official comes in to help them do a crowd scene (for the movie they are supposed to be making) where the death squad is rounding up communists from a village, including women and children. It's incredibly chaotic and scary, and the kids are crying real tears by the end of it. Even the government guy warns them that they need to be careful not to appear too harsh. It's nuts.

I can't say that I enjoyed this movie because that would be like saying I enjoy watching people get into car accidents. It's still a very interesting portrayal of officially sanctioned madness and the toll it takes not only on the victims but the perpetrators.