Movie of the Day – Contagion

Well, I think this movie perfectly sums up how I feel currently.  I am in the midst of battling illness, one that is definitely winning as I came home work and pretty much it all hit me like a sack of bricks.  I was fine Saturday, I was ok this morning, but something about coming really lets your defenses down and the cold to take over.  I assure you, I don’t need Matt Damon to come and help me out, but it would be cool to hang out with him for the day.   Just saying if that ever happens it would be cool.

So, what a perfect movie to instill fear in the populace with the threat of a global pandemic of sinus infections, coughing and chest congestion.  CONTAGION!

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Movie of the Day – Syriana

I don’t know about a lot of people, or just people in general, but I love me some political thrillers.  More so, in the case of today’s pick, Geo-political thrillers.  Syriana is about as topical as film can get in our day and age.  Gas prices, petroleum and Middle East concerns all play a vital part in this big circle jerk of a political and economic issue we face today.  I will admit, I try and follow as closely as possible to world politics when I am not watching movies, but the world of oil and petroleum prices, production and their relation to the geo climate of politics in countries not the US, it’s all so damn confusing.   I guess that is why this movie is so damn good, it manages to at least present the complicated and global effect that politics and distribution plays in oil production.  So you learn as you are entertained!

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Movie of the Day – Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

As you all well know, I am a fan of heist movies.  You should know if you have been following my blog since the humblest of beginnings, but if not that’s cool, I can fill you in on the details.  There is something so sly and cool about heist movies.  I love watching the inner workings of a crime caper unfold and see the gears start to turn as the act is being committed.  From the assembling of the crew, the explanation of the act and then watching everything fall into place.  Ocean’s Eleven (the most recent one) had all the hallmarks of what makes a good heist film for me.  While capturing all the parts of the act, they managed to interject a stylistic rhythm to the whole proceeding that made the film have this unique vibe that leads you to believe that Clooney and Pitt really do steal from people on the weekends.

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Movie of the Day – Rounders

Lets be honest, everyone who has seen this movie, surely has a weekly poker game that host in their basement on a cheap poker table with either this movie or some ESPN showing of the World Series of Poker on in the background.  I will fess up and say that this was me back in 2000 and sometimes I still like to play poker.  It was this out of nowhere phenomenon back in the late 90s and early 2000s where poker was everywhere.  In our ever-increasing world of televised sports, poker for some reason was the thing to watch.  I am personally waiting for ESPN 8 The Ocho to happen so I can watch professional Dodgeball and competitive Scrabble.  If you ever played poker though or thought of making it to the final table, this is your Bible.  This was the movie that you idolize, much to the same akin that rappers idolize Scarface for some reason.  I still wonder if they get the irony of liking a movie where Al Pacino might be a badass, but ultimately gets brought down by some Columbian drug lord with a shotgun.  I guess if you dream, dream big gangsta!

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Movie of the Day – Dogma

I was once a practicing Catholic.  Actually let me rephrase that, I was once sent to Catholic school for 8 years of my life and the worse class that I performed in was Religion.  My dad found it ironic that they sent me and my siblings to get a catholic education and failed the class that we should theoretically ace.  I understand their reasoning for sending us there.  They wanted to raise us right and having a strong relation to the faith will provide us a sense of guidance in life.  As a child I was fascinated by the faith and much like the other children, I accepted what was taught to us, even if it might have been a bit ridiculous.  In some instances, now that I am older and maybe wiser (not sure on that) I can look back on my time learning about the faith as a preparation for what lies ahead of me.  I understand the faith and what it wants from me, but it ultimately isn’t for me.  I lost the faith a long time ago and it was more a conscious, deep decision that I live with and don’t regret.  I am happier in life knowing that there isn’t some form of unseen control and that I am the person who shapes my life.

So with a long winded explanation as to why I don’t practice the Catholic faith, which ultimately could have been summed up by saying I like my Sunday mornings to sleep in, I can get to the reason why I choose Dogma.  Not only is it a fantastic movie, but it is a movie in which it looks the dogmatic practice of Christianity.  It aims to not lampoon the faith, but present a story that challenges the belief of those that practice the religion.

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Movie of the Day – The Good Shepherd

A good espionage thriller is hard to come by these days.  Most of the time the pacing is slow and there isn’t much intrigue that goes along with the story.  Movies that focus on spying and our secret agencies that protect the public, but also keep them in the dark, never really show the cloak and dagger side of espionage.  More than likely to sate the need of the audience, we see more dagger rather than cloak in espionage films.  To my delight, Robert De Niro decided to tell a story about the beginnings of our secret, counter-intelligence agency, the CIA.

The Good Shepherd tell the “untold” story of how the CIA began.  I put quotations around “untold” since there is no real official start to their beginning, which is shrouded in secrecy, much like the agency.  The movie follow the story of Edward Wilson (Matt Damon), who is based loosely on two members of the CIA.  We see the early upbringing of Wilson, briefly as a child and then to his college years.  The early childhood scene sets up the closing of the movie, where we see Edwards dad going through a difficult situation in his life and eventually takes his life.  We move on to Edwards years at Yale, where he is then tapped to join the Skull and Bones society.  He then is recruited by a FBI agent played by Alec Baldwin, to spy on his poetry professor because of possible to ties to the Nazi party.

After completing the task given by the FBI and being a member of the Skull and Bones society, Edward is approached to help in World War II by assisting with the OSS in London.  This is where Edward receives training in the art of counter-espionage.  Edward quickly learns about the underhanded dealings of information and informants, what role it plays in shifting the balance and eventually how to trust no one.

After the war ends, Edward is once again approached to utilize his skills in counter-espionage to help with a new government organization, CIA.  The story now focuses on the brewing Cold War and Edwards family life, both of which are bad at the current time.  Before the war, Edward married (Angelina Jolie plays the wife) and had a child whom he left to serve his country.  After coming back, Edward and his wife are distant with one another, but she is still kept in the dark as to what he really does.  With the Cold War tensions at their height, Edward must learn to deal with the fact his son is also joining the CIA and must make a difficult decision.  A decision that challenges his loyalty to his wife and son, but also his loyalty to the CIA.

The movie itself is not an action movie.  This is a slow, cat and mouse movie that has incredible pacing since the subject matter is generally slow.  De Niro does a great job in keeping the audience moving from scene to scene, but also keeping us engaged with the story.  Damon does a wonderful job playing a secretive and distant character.  There is never a real strong development or attachment you will have with him.  Much like theme of the movie, he is kept in shadow as to his emotions and the way he presents himself.  The Good Shepherd leans heavy on the secret nature of both the CIA and the people that comprise the movie.  All throughout the movie, the idea of trust and secrets is riddled in every scene.  Before Edwards must burn his first informant, he is told to get out while he still has a soul.  Other agents express their disdain for having to always look behind them when they walk home.  Friends are a luxury that they will never truly have.  When your life is built around a secret, who can you ever be honest too?

De Niro assembled a stellar group of supporting actors and actresses to fill in important and small roles.  Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, Joe Pesci, John Turturro, and Michael Gambon all bring their incredible skills to a great ensemble piece.  Every actor brings their little touch to their role and each play a pivotal role in Edwards life.  You don’t see many of the actor’s often in the movie.  This goes in line with the whole isolation and secrecy aspect of movie, where only Turturro and Jolie have prominent roles as the Edwards right hand man and Edwards wife.

The Good Shepherd may seem like a heavy movie, but the subject matter sheds a light on those that live in the shadows.  You feel sorry for what the characters in the movie go through.  You feel sorry that their lives are nothing but secrets and whispers.  De Niro did an amazing job with the script and directing to bring us a very tightly paced movie about a subject that not a lot of people are aware of.  We see a lot of movies that deal with spying and our secretive agencies, but those are more whiz bang action rather than story driven.

If you are in the mood for a good thriller with an engaging story and superb action, rent this on Netlfix or put it on your waiting list.