Film review: Hell or High Water (2016)

On the surface, this is another clichéd cops and robbers film. Two brothers, the older one having spent ten years in prison for a series of crimes, set out on a spree of robbing banks in rural West Texas, stealing fairly small amounts of cash from each, and pursued by a grizzled old Texas Ranger on the verge of retirement and his partner who is of mixed Mexican/Indian ethnicity.
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Black Acting School

In 1987, Robert Townsend wrote, directed, and starred in the comedy Hollywood Shuffle that satirized the then-popular blaxploitation films. He played aspiring actor Bobby Taylor and the limited range of roles that that he was able to audition for and the expectations the filmmakers had about how black people behave, as shown in this funny scene from the film.
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Murder inspired by film?

The Guardian has a bizarre story in which a New York state couple is charged with setting fire to their house and killing their 16-year old son who had unspecified mental and physical disabilities. Prosecutors allege that the couple did this right after seeing the film Manchester by the Sea starring Casey Affleck as a man who late one night accidentally sets fire to his own home that kills his three children after he went out shopping.
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Murder in the English village

The 19th season of the British TV series Midsomer Murders has started streaming on Netflix. This is quite an achievement in longevity. I wrote about this long-running show two years ago and it sparked a lot of interesting comments and suggestions for other similar series. Thanks to those, I have watched episodes of Death in Paradise, Inspector Morse, and the first two seasons of the much more superior show (in terms of writing, acting, and plotting) of Broadchurch and am looking forward to the third.
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Film review: A Man Called Ove (2016)

This Swedish comedy was nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film though it did not win. It tells the story of Ove, a 59-year old man who lives in a housing complex. He is the type that we are all familiar with, someone who is grouchy and knows all the rules governing the immediate community and takes it upon himself to vigorously police the place to make sure everyone else is following the rules and upbraiding them when they do not. He is generally regarded as a pain, the one redeeming feature being that he is very handy at fixing things.
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Film review: The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared (2013)

The premise of this utterly hilarious Swedish film is right there in the title. On his 100th birthday, as the staff of the nursing home where he lives are getting a cake ready for the celebration, Allan Karlsson decides that he has had it with nursing home life. So he climbs out of the window of his room, wanders down to the local bus station, and buys a ticket for as far as the little money he has on him will take him.
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Film review: The Brand New Testament (2015)

As we all know, the big theological problem that theologians try to explain away but never succeed is that of theodicy, why a loving god would allow so much evil in the world. Well, this French film, one of the most wildly imaginative comedies I have seen in a good while, answers that question. God turns out to be a real bastard who enjoys deliberately creating wars and setting people against each other. But he is even more wicked than some of us imagined. He actually creates all the laws that really annoy people, such as the phone ringing just when you start to enjoy a bath, the line next to you moving faster in the supermarket, and the bread with the jam side falling on the floor.
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Frank Oz talks about his work with the Muppets

Long time readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of the Muppets when they appeared on Sesame Street and in the TV shows and films. I was particularly fond of Grover, Cookie Monster, Fozzie Bear, Bert, Ernie and Kermit, and the first four of them were the creations of master puppeteer Frank Oz who later went on to be director of feature films while still keeping his hand (literally and metaphorically) within the Muppet world. He was also Yoda in the Star Wars films.
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Film review: 13th (2016)

I recently watched the powerful Netflix documentary 13th that deals with the scandal of mass incarceration in America. Directed and co-written by Ava DuVernay (who also directed Selma), it is a searing indictment of the war on black people that has been conducted by the criminal justice system. The numbers are staggering. With just 5% of the world’s population, the US has 25% of the prison population. 2.3 million people are locked up and in addition another 3.5 million are either on probation or on parole, meaning that about 2.5% of the entire US population is on the wrong side of the law.
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