Saturday, February 18, 2017


I love a good thriller, action film, mystery or any combination of the three. When you can not only join those three together but add a new twist to it, something not done before, it makes it even better. So it is that I can’t recommend the movie THE ACCOUNTANT enough.

Ben Affleck plays Christian Wolff, a high level autistic man with an incredible ability to work with numbers. But he’s more than that. Christian also has the skills of a master assassin. Those skills are put to use but not in the way you would think.

The film moves back and forth in time, showing Christian as a young boy learning to deal with the autism that is a daily part of his life and then as adult Affleck. That’s the real twist here, the story of a man with what many would consider a disability who puts it to use for good in the strangest way. Christian works for numerous illegal enterprises handling their books. In return he makes plenty of money as well as being paid in various items. It also gives him access to people in need of help.

As the film progresses we discover that the Treasury Department is searching for Christian, not by name but as the Accountant. He’s been spotted in the background of those illegal goings on, been named and now they’re targeting him. Special agent Ray King brings in Marybeth Medina (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) to lay the groundwork and do the investigating. He’s found out about her checkered past and uses that to force her into doing this for him. In return he’ll help her career and ignore her history.

Christian is hired by a robotics company to delve into their books, trying to find discrepancies that were noted totaling into the millions. He is aided by a young bookkeeper at the company, Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick). He finds the problem but before he can dig deep enough to find out who is responsible he’s taken off the job at full pay. Due to his autism this digs at him and his compulsion to complete any job given to him.

But then people start dying, none of natural causes. Soon Christian realizes that his life is in danger as is that of Dana since she helped when she could. Now both are on the run from the killers while trying to figure out who is behind it all. As they do so Dana begins to discover that Christian isn’t the mild mannered accountant that she thought at first.

This may seem like giving a lot of information about the movie but in truth it is the bare basics. As much could be learned by paying attention to the trailer for the film. But the combination of writing, directing, acting and more make for a riveting thriller that holds you captive until the credits begin to roll. Everyone involved here have come together to make a movie that I for one will want to watch more than once.

Affleck does an amazing job as Christian displaying his abilities as an actor when it comes to showing the autistic side of his character and then switching up to the action sequences smoothly showing the other side of the character. Kendrick does a fine job but isn’t given much to do here. Simmons turns in his usual well done performance but offers a few surprises of his own. And Addai-Robinson, a new face to me, shows that she has what it takes to get more featured rolls.

At the heart of it all is the story that captivates the viewer. It takes a topic that is usually reserved for disease-of-the-week status and inserts it into something completely different. Then it twists and turns the story around that basic concept and makes it something unique. For me this movie was one that held me in its grip from start to finish and caught me off guard as well. That’s rare these days and make this a movie that I can’t recommend highly enough.

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Author Dan Brown has made a tidy sum for himself writing mystery thrillers that are well worth taking the time to read. His plots rely not just on the mystery currently being solved but delve into the past, more often historical or culturally related, to offer a depth to the story many never bother with. Beginning with THE DA VINCI CODE he introduced us to Robert Langdon, a Symbologist (the study of symbols and symbolism) and professor who finds himself the center of a manhunt for a murderer. The symbol involved here was the Holy Grail. Up next was ANGELS AND DEMONS which found Langdon searching for 3 vials located in Vatican City that could spread a plague. Both of these were turned into films starring Tom Hanks as Langdon and have recently been released in 4k version, the highest quality available today.

This week Hanks reprises the role of Langdon in the next story from Brown, INFERNO. As you may have guessed the historical phase this time revolves around Dante and the first part of his poem DIVINE COMEDY, more often simply referred to as Dante’s Inferno. Langdon wakes in a hospital room handcuffed to the bed and unable to recall much of anything. Talking to his doctor, Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones), he learns he is in Florence, Italy. It doesn’t take long until he realizes he’s a target as well when an assassin dressed as a police officer shows up guns blazing. With the help of Brooks, Langdon escapes.

At her apartment the two begin to go through the items Langdon had on him when he checked into the hospital, items Brooks picked up before leaving. Among them he finds a Faraday pointer, a sort of image projector. The image it shows is the maps of Hell as described by Dante and pained by Botticelli. Various clues placed among the picture lead them to realize that this was sent to him by a billionaire named Zobrist (Ben Foster) who we saw leap to his death after a chase in the opening sequence of the film. A warning of a plague virus is there as well and Langdon and Brooks are off and running trying to find it before it can be unleashed.

Right behind them are members of WHO, the World Health Organization. They too are trying to figure out just what is going on and to prevent the virus from being unleashed. In addition to their search for Langdon and the virus the assassin continues to pursue him along with a few assist from others.

Using the map as a guide Langdon and Brooks travel through the streets of the city to various historical locations in an attempt to decipher the message left for him. It will take them down the back streets of the city, beneath it and into open areas where a well-placed bullet could mean the end for Langdon and the world.

As with the previous entries in this film there is a mixture of real and created history on display here that helps to enhance the central story of stopping the virus before it can be released. The back and forth from the historical images of Hell and the pains involved there with the possibility of a worldwide crisis just make the suspense more intense. The clues left behind to be deciphered and only readable by Langdon make his character indispensable. After 3 films we’ve grown to like this character, to care about him and to sit clutching the arm rest of our chairs as each step puts him in potential danger.

At the same time there is a nobility to the character. This isn’t his battle, it rarely is, and yet he finds himself in harm’s way with no means of escape other than to solve the mystery. But even with that as his reason to be involved you get the impression that to save others he would gladly take on the role of hero. What makes him interesting is that he isn’t the muscle bound type or the swaggering wisecracking hero we’re used to. Instead we are treated to a hero who uses his mind to find the solution to his problems.

Hanks has performed the role to the point I can’t imagine anyone else playing Langdon now. Having read all the books I can say that he is a perfect fit for this role. I said a few weeks back writing about SULLY that Hanks is one of the greats when it comes to the world of acting. He does what the best do which is make you forget that you’re watching someone act and believe that he is the character he is portraying. Jones does an equally fine job here, not an easy task when you consider she’s performing next to Hanks. Her star is on the rise, especially when you couple this film with her turn in STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE.

If you like mysteries that make you think and pay attention as they take you on the journey then you won’t want to miss this one. It didn’t do near the box office that the first two did and honestly might not be quite as good as those two, but it still offers an evening’s entertainment well worth the price of rental or even purchase. It’s a film that you’ll be able to go back and watch more than once and that’s saying something. A marathon of all three films might make for a fun weekend.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am a sucker for classic Walt Disney movies. At 59 years of age with no grandchildren I still make a point of adding the releases of classic Disney animated films to my collection. I never grow tired of watching them and they still retain the magic for me that they had when I viewed them decades ago as a child. I enjoy them with great nieces and nephews when I have the chance, exposing them to the magic that is Disney. They might find the animation lacking in a world of computer generated images but there is no mistaking that these films are works of art.

So it is with the release of PINOCCHIO: THE SIGNATURE COLLECTION EDITION on blu-ray. Yes, it has been released previously but as with all Disney re-releases new features have been added and each time they attempt to offer the cleanest and brightest picture possible. They never fail.

For those unaware of the story being told (where have you been to miss this?) it tells of a lonely marionette maker named Gepetto whose latest creation is a young boy he names Pinocchio. During the night a fairy arrives at his shop and brings the boy to life, placing a cricket named Jiminy in charge of watching over him, to be his conscience. Gepetto rises delighted to find him alive. But Pinocchio doesn’t want to be just a marionette. He wants to be a real live boy.

This goal sets Pinocchio and by association Jiminy on a set of adventures while Pinocchio tries to become that. As a young and uninformed person Pinocchio falls prey to the perils of life, kidnapped at one point and setting off to join a group of other young boys who want to grow up into a terror filled journey that finds some of them turned into burros. All the while Jiminy continues to warm Pinocchio of the dangers he is about to encounter but his warning seem to fall on deaf ears.

Pinocchio’s quest is a noble one. He loves his “father” Gepetto and wishes to become a real boy to be normal but also because he wants to please Gepetto. The bond between the two is as much parent to child as could be found. And before the story ends both will place themselves in danger because of the bond they have.

Watching this movie again after all these years it continues to hold up to the test of time. That was one of the most magical things about the classic Disney movies. They were not rooted in one decade or another 60 years later. The stories were timeless and always offered a bit of common sense guidance not determined by social mores of the time but based on things everyone should know and learn. It isn’t about political correctness or a cause but about life in general and that’s why they remain some of the best films around. In a year where we have all been pounded with politics it is wonderful to see a movie not mired in that but that offers a compelling story that teaches as well.

As I said earlier the movie itself is a masterwork of art, with images that were drawn by some of the best and brightest that Disney ever had working for him. Their ability to bring to life this story and to make it interesting is amazing. And it isn’t just the characters that make it so but the backgrounds, the settings and the attention to detail that make this film one that is a visual feast for the eyes. To just imagine the work that went into a single minute of film is stunning. To realize that the movie contains 88 minutes of that is astounding.

In addition to the remastered look of the film there are several new bonus items included as well. One is a reworking of the now famous tune from the film “When You Wish Upon a Star” as done by 3 Disney kids. Another is a behind the scenes making of on the film. A third is a behind the scenes look at items discussed for the Pleasure Island sequence that were abandoned and not used. There is a discussion with Walt Disney about the character of Pinocchio and the making of the movie. And there is a short cartoon featuring Oswald the lucky rabbit, one of the earliest creations of young animator Walt Disney. Not enough? Well there are indeed more extras to be found.

In addition to that the movie is available in a packaging that includes both the blu-ray and DVD versions on disc as well as a digital download for the film making it as portable as you possibly can right now. If you aren’t aware of digital downloads of films then by all means you need to begin looking into Vudu and ultra violet editions. This movie would be a great place to start.

When all is said and done PINOCCHIO remains the treasure that it was the first time you saw it. If you have children then don’t let this on pass you by. Normally Disney releases a film and then removes it from the market for several years. So pick this one up before that happens because by the time it comes around again your child might think themselves too “grown up” for a Disney flick. Have it on hand so they can enjoy it now. But don’t let them know that you’re enjoying it more than they are. Let it provide family memories now like it did for you when you were young. Isn’t your family worth the investment?

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