Yardeni Research

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Latest Movie Review
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (+) is director/writer Guy Richie’s homage to the TV series (1964-1968) about the teaming up of CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin to fight evildoers intent on taking over the world during the 1960s. Maybe we really all could have gotten along better if we had a common enemy back then. If ISIS can’t do that today, then maybe only an alien invasion can unite us Earthlings. The movie is fun, with a wry sense of humor.
2015 Movie Reviews
American Sniper (+ +) is an intense movie based on the extraordinary true story of Chris Kyle, a US Navy SEAL who served four tours in Iraq as a lethal sniper committed to protecting his comrades-in-arms. He is commendably played by Bradley Cooper, who produced the film, which was well directed by Clint Eastwood.
Birdman (+) received nine Oscar nominations including Best Picture and Best Director. In addition, Michael Keaton, Edward Norton, and Emma Stone all earned acting nods for Best Actor, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress. Keaton plays a washed-up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, i.e., Birdman. He attempts to make a comeback in a Broadway play. The movie is a bit off-beat, and not as awesome as suggested by all the nominations. But I can see why the Hollywood crowd might love this self-absorbed movie since many of them are self-absorbed and fear being washed up. Keaton’s career stalled after he played Batman (1989 and 1992).
Effie Gray (+) is a Victorian-era film about the scandalous love triangle between art critic John Ruskin, his teenage bride Effie Gray, and Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. It’s a bit slow, but then there aren’t too many fast-paced movies about the Victorian era. The script was written by Emma Thompson, who also has a small role in the film. This famous Victorian love triangle has been dramatized in plays, films, and an opera. I hope that’s the end of it.
Ex Machina (+) is in some ways the sequel to “The Imitation Game,” which was about British mathematician Alan Turing, who cracked the Nazi code with a computer he designed. He posited the “Turing Test” of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior equivalent to, or indistinguishable from, that of a human. In this movie, a programmer is selected by his boss--a Google-type of entrepreneur--to judge if a beautiful female he created with artificial intelligence can pass the test. When I saw the latest “Planet of the Apes,” I rooted for the apes. In this movie, I rooted for the A.I.
Foxcatcher(-) is based on a true crime story. It is also truly slow, bordering on boring. Nevertheless, the film was nominated for five Oscars at the 2015 Academy Awards. In 1986, multimillionaire and wrestling enthusiast John E. du Pont recruited the 1984 US Olympic gold medalist wrestlers (and brothers) Dave and Mark Schultz to help coach US wrestlers for national and world competitions. Steve Carell plays du Pont as a cocaine-addicted and maniacally deranged control freak. It’s a good performance, though bordering on boring like the film.
House of Clinton (+ + +) is the yet-to-be-made movie loosely based on actual people and events. As it opens, Madam Secretary of State is the newly elected President of the United States. She won despite a series of scandals involving a home server used for her emails, which she mostly deleted, and a family charitable trust rife with conflicts of interest. Major spy agencies around the world downloaded her emails, having hacked into her unprotected server before she scurried to erase them. Some of their governments were major contributors to the family charity, and also paid her husband, a former President, more than anyone has ever been paid for a speech. The movie exposes how those governments are able to leverage what they know about the First Family to wield influence over the White House without investing another dime. Conspiracy theories always make for good theater.
The Imitation Game (+ + +) is a truly extraordinary true story about how math whiz Alan Turing, who was recruited by MI6, cracked the Nazis' secret code, which was code-named “Enigma.” He essentially invented the first computer in order to do so. Benedict Cumberbatch delivers an outstanding performance as the socially challenged professor whose accomplishment shortened World War II by two years, by some estimates.
Leviathan (+ + +) received an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film, but lost to “Ida,” a Polish contender. Both are top-notch. This movie is a cinematic version of George Orwell’s “Animal Farm.” It’s a scathing attack on corruption among both the political and church elite in Russia. It’s a tale of a Job-like common man crushed by the omnipotent corrupt state. Russia's Ministry of Culture, which helped fund the movie, has threatened to impose new rules to impede the production of such films. State television decided not to broadcast the Oscars live this year. The movie includes a key scene during which a picture of smirking Vladimir Putin is visible behind the shoulder of the corrupt mayor, who is the villain of the movie. Late on Friday, Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov was murdered on the street in Moscow. Reuters reported: “National investigators who answer to Putin say they are pursuing several lines of inquiry, including the possibility that Nemtsov, a Jew, was killed by radical Islamists or that the opposition killed him to blacken the president's name.” We live in Orwellian times. Leviathan is bigger than ever everywhere.
Love & Mercy (+ + +) is an extraordinary movie about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. In the late 1960s, he stopped touring with them to produce “Pet Sounds,” regarded as one of the most influential albums in the history of popular music. At about the same time, he began to lose his grip on reality possibly as a reaction to LSD. Wilson’s girlfriend, who became his second wife, saved him from the sway of a controlling therapist. The cast is superb, and the true life story is fascinating.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (+) is director/writer Guy Richie’s homage to the TV series (1964-1968) about the teaming up of CIA agent Napoleon Solo and KGB operative Illya Kuryakin to fight evildoers intent on taking over the world during the 1960s. Maybe we really all could have gotten along better if we had a common enemy back then. If ISIS can’t do that today, then maybe only an alien invasion can unite us Earthlings. The movie is fun, with a wry sense of humor.
Mission Impossible--Rogue Nation (+) is the latest installment of the Tom Cruise secret agent franchise. He is working for a super-secret rogue offshoot of the CIA. It is tasked with fighting the Syndicate, which is a super-secret rogue organization of bad guys who strike at various targets around the world. It’s all very predictable, though still entertaining. Odds are that any future sequels won’t ever portray the Chinese as the bad guys. The movie is Alibaba Pictures’ first-ever Hollywood investment with an undisclosed co-financing agreement with Paramount for the latest installment.
Mr. Holmes (+ +) stars Ian McKellen as the retired detective, who hasn’t lost his extraordinary powers of deduction but is losing his memory in his old age. He desperately tries to piece together what he can recall about his last case many years ago. What he discovers is that there is more to life than logic. That’s elementary to most of us, but Sherlock figured that one out late in life according to this entertaining film with a great performance by McKellen.
Taken 3 (- -) is the third action movie in this thriller franchise starring Liam Neeson. The action is boring. It’s not thrilling. Neeson is clearly in it for the money and not the acting challenge. The original was entertaining. The second was less so. The third will keep me from going to the fourth and so on. In a similar fashion, the Greek drama is getting tiresome. The other members of the Eurozone aren’t likely to be taken by the Greeks' latest attempt to walk away from their debts.
Terminator Genisys (+) is more of the same from Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s more of the same fun, and just in time for the Fourth of July weekend. Arnold keeps promising “I’ll be back,” and he keeps his promise. He plays a self-mending machine again, but the flesh that allows the machines to impersonate humans still ages. Arnold will probably be back in two more sequels, though he may need a walker for the last one.
Timbuktu (+ + +) is an extraordinary flick. Abderrahmane Sissako, who happens to be a Muslim, is the director of Mauritania's Oscar-nominated film. It dramatizes the stifling fascism imposed on daily life in the Malian city of Timbuktu by jihadists who occupied it in 2012. The director said, “I try to explain that Islam was kidnapped by a few people with a very short vision of the world. Nobody comes (into) life with a Kalashnikov or beard.” The movie is reminiscent of another excellent one titled, “Osama” (2003), made in Afghanistan by Siddiq Barmak. The film follows a pre-teen girl, living in Afghanistan under the oppressive Taliban regime, who disguises herself as a boy, Osama, to support her family.
Unbroken (+ +) is based on the true story of an American Olympic athlete whose bomber was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during WWII. After 47 days in a raft with two fellow crewmen, he was caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. Very well directed by Angelina Jolie and written by the Coen Brothers, the movie received three Oscar nominations including cinematography, which was also well done. Jolie should have been nominated as well, but the film might have been too patriotic for the politically correct crowd in Hollywood.
Wild (+ + +) is a gripping movie about a woman's 1,100-mile solo trek on the Pacific Crest Trail. Reese Witherspoon is outstanding in the starring role. It is based on the true story of Cheryl Strayed, who went on the long walk to clear her head after a catastrophic loss in her life. If Charles Evan's catastrophe scenario for the Fed plays out, we all may need to take a hike.
Woman in Gold (++) is based on a very interesting true story. In 1998, Maria Altmann, a Viennese-born resident of Los Angeles, battled the Austrian authorities for ownership of the eponymous Klimt painting, stolen from her Jewish family by the Nazis. The attorney who helped her was the grandson of the Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg. Helen Mirren shines in the lead role, as does the painting, which is on permanent exhibit at the Neue Galerie in NYC.