Movies: The Great Wall, Get Out, Logan

The Great Wall

This was a fascinating film.  Not because it was created and produced by a collection of international companies, but because it was a visual treat, with a great cast of characters and new blockbuster monsters.

By contrast, critics generally poo pooed this movie with terms like “passable”, “clunky” and “overstuffed”.  Maybe the venue swayed us, (a new and modern Mall in Chennai, India) or maybe the 3D, reserved stadium seating and Dolby Sound system overshadowed the movie itself.

Matt Damon and Willem Dafoe were the featured American actors with Jing Tian from Beijing, the prolific Andy Lau from Hong Kong, Pedro Pascal from Chile and Eddie Peng of Taiwanese-Canadian background along with an extensive cast deliver from an impressive series of performances.

It is listed as a Fantasy/Drama that runs 2 hours.  It is rated PG-13 but a fair amount of violence should be noted for little ones.

Note:  Here are a few shots of the movie complex.

Lobby of the 12 screen complex.
Restrooms: Men to the left, Ladies to the right.
Reserved stadium seating, Dolby Surround Sound.

Other interesting observations:  the Indian National Anthem is played before every film to a standing audience, and there was an intermission where most of the audience left the theater for snacks and beverages while everyone else watched numerous advertisements.  Lastly, the restrooms were the most elaborate (and spotless) we have ever seen in a public venue.


Get Out

One day back from India, we decided to dive into a theater for a movie as jet lag therapy.  It sort of worked…  In any case, the draw was the critics harty approval for this movie.

It is a satire of other films in the same genre, but it is also often funny, fearless, brutal, shocking and a bit of a social critique.  Truly a unique film for first time Director Jordan Peele.

It is well made, well acted without taking itself too seriously.  The cast stars Daniel Kaluuya as the boyfriend, Allison Williams as the girlfriend, creepy parents played by Bradley Whitford and Catherine Keener, with even creepier “servants” played by a spooky Betty Gabriel and an erie Marcus Henderson.

Rated R for violence, adult subject matter and some disturbing images.  It is not suitable for young children.  Listed as a Thriller/Horror running 1 hour, 44 minutes.



Finally an “X-Men” movie that takes the gloves off Logan, one of the most popular characters from the X-Men franchise.

It is a refreshing story that deals with the future of mutants.  Hugh Jackman plays dual Logan roles, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Stephen Merchant, Richard E. Grant and Eric La Salle play super powered bad guys.  And newcomer Dane Keen plays Logan’s daughter, yup, his daughter.

To be sure, it is an action pack romp from beginning to end.  It runs 2 hours, 21 minutes.  It is listed as a Science fiction/Drama.  It is rated R for violence and adult subject matter.  It may not be suitable for youngsters.


89th Academy Awards, Jim & John’s Picks

This year, for the first time, we watched only some of the Oscars Show live from Jodhpur, India at 5:30 AM.  Some of the show because the power failed several times this morning (not uncommon) and the cable system took several minutes each time to “reboot”.

Overall, we were pleased with our predictions, the snafu over the Best Picture category notwithstanding.

Our final tally was 16 correct (66.6%) and 8 incorrect (33.3%).  Respectable although not our best, or worst.

Later this afternoon we journeyed out of the city for a Camel safari.  Tomorrow we begin our journey home via New Delhi and then Frankfurt, Germany.  We arrive home Wednesday, March 1.

Until then, here’s looking at you, long distance!

Udaipur Palace, India
From a tuk tuk in the Jodhpur market.



The Oscars 2017 / 89th Academy Awards: Official JIM JOHN Picks

Dear Friends and Family,

It is our continued pleasure to deliver our predictions for the 89th Academy Awards, Sunday February 26th, 2017.

As most of you know, movies are a major passion of ours.  We started keeping track of our movie going back in 2003.  Since then our records indicate we have seen over 2,000 movies.  Most years our goal is to see nominated movies so we can offer our best guess for the Oscars.

This year for the first time in many years we will miss viewing the three short subject categories only because they will not be released until just before the Awards ceremony sometime mid-February (normally released in January).

Nonetheless, we have scoured the industry websites and are feeling relatively confident in making our predictions for those categories.  We have personally viewed all other nominated movies, cross checked our opinions with industry insiders and pundits, and feel optimistic about this years predictions.

We leave tomorrow for a month in India and there will be no Movie posts until we return on March 1.  We will try to send Travel posts as the internet services will allow.

Best wishes to all,



  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • Moonlight

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortensen, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester by the Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Moana
  • My Life as a Zucchini
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

  • Land of Mine, Denmark
  • A Man Called Ove, Sweden
  • The Salesman,Iran
  • Toni Erdmann, Germany

  • A Man Called Ove
  • Star Trek Beyond
  • Suicide Squad

  • Jackie
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Moonlight
  • Passengers

  • “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” La La Land
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Trolls
  • “City of Stars,” La La Land
  • “The Empty Chair,” Jim: The James Foley Story
  • “How Far I’ll Go,” Moana

  • Arrival
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Hail, Caesar!
  • La La Land
  • Passengers

  • Blind Vaysha
  • Borrowed Time
  • Pear Cider and Cigarettes
  • Pearl
  • Piper

  • Arrival
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Moonlight
  • Silence

  • Allied
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
  • Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Jackie
  • La La land

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea
  • Denis Villenueve, Arrival

  • Fire at Sea
  • I Am Not Your Negro
  • Life, Animated
  • OJ: Made In America
  • 13th

  • Extremis
  • 4.1 Miles
  • Joe’s Violin
  • Watani: My Homeland
  • The White Helmets

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • Moonlight

  • Ennemis Interieurs
  • La Femme Et Le TGV
  • Silent Nights
  • Sing
  • Timecode

  • Arrival
  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Sully

  • Arrival
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  • 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

  • Deepwater Horizon
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Kubo and the Two Strings
  • Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hidden Figures
  • Lion
  • Moonlight

  • Hell or High Water
  • La La Land
  • The Lobster
  • Manchester by the Sea
  • 20th Century Women

Printable copy of our 2017 Oscar picks, for use off line.



Movies: xXx: Return of Xander Cage, A Dog’s Purpose

We will be traveling from February 2 returning March 1.  It is unlikely we will have the opportunity to see Western movies until our return.  We will do our best to get caught when we get home.  Cheers!!  J&J

xXx: Return of Xander Cage

This is an action movie, pure and simple.  Vin Diesel plays Xander Cage, retired but returns to active duty to save the planet from sinister bad guys hell bent on destroying the world’s satellites with a new weapon called Pandora’s Box.

The good news is it is actually pretty entertaining.  Plenty of action from the first scene to the last.  Lots of extreme fighting, clever dialog, extraordinary stunt work and more.

A good cast including Deepika Padukone, Nina Dobrev, Ruby Rose (Jim’s favorite), Donnie Yen and Samuel L. Jackson.

It is rated PG-13 but we would caution parents that it is not suitable for little ones due to extensive violence and adult subject matter.  Listed as a Thriller/Action film that runs 1 hour 50 minutes.


A Dog’s Purpose

This charming film uses several dog lives to explain and remind humans about the power of pets and lessons of love and laughter.  Director Lasse Hallstrom skillfully touches the emotional heartstrings of the viewers.

It’s a small cast of characters, Dennis Quaid as the older Ethan, Britt Robertson, Josh Gad as the voice of the dogs, John Ortiz and D K Apa as the young Ethan. And for you late 1960’s Mod Squad fans Peggy Lipton makes a cameo appearance!

Audiences and some critics gave this film tepid reviews.  We found it charming and touching.  Any current or former pet owner will relate to this story and some non-pet owners may be motivated to give it a whirl.  It is rated PG and is suitable for children.  It is listed as a Fantasy/Drama and runs two hours.


Movies: The Red Turtle, Deep Water Horizon, Buddies in India

The Red Turtle

Nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Animated Feature Film category, The Red Turtle is a remarkable film. The most intriguing aspect of this movie is there are no words, except for an occasional emotional grunt or gasp, but not one word.

Nonetheless, it unfolds scene after scene to reveal its message in a powerful and emotional way: loneliness, despair, hope, joy, love, tragedy, contentment and so much more.

This film is the product of a collaboration of Japan’s Studio Ghibli’s and its first international co-production with the Dutch Academy Award winner, Dudok de Wit.

The Red Turtle will become an instant global classic.  It is suitable for any age, rated PG as a Fantasy/Animation running 1 hour 20 minutes.  Ultimately it is a beautiful story told in a simple, graceful way.

Note:  Will it win the Academy Award?  It’s a tough category this year.  Stay tuned for our Oscar picks later this week!


Deep Water Horizon

The story of the Deep Water Horizon disaster in the Gulf Of Mexico and the environmental crisis it caused was also a story about survival under unimaginable circumstances.

Much to our surprise, this movie was engaging, credible, well written, well acted and thoughtfully touching as it honored the 11 workers who died in this diaster.

It features performances by Mark Wahlberg, Kate Hudson, Kurt Russell, John Malkovich and a dozen more actors.  It is intelligent, suspenseful, tragic and thrilling.  It is rated PG-13, listed as a Thriller/Drama running 1 hour 47 minutes.

It is nominated for an Academy Award this year for Visual Affects and Sound Editing categories for good reasons.

We must admit we did not seen this film when it was first released last Fall, mainly because we were too busy travelling.  We Bad! Once nominated, we thought we had better see it.  We are so glad we did.


Buddies in India

We had not heard about this film until we stumbled upon it in the local press on line website.  Two Chinese friends head to India to find the last will and testament of one’s deceased father.  Adventure ensues…

Well, our experience was a little unique bordering on bizarre.  It started with the previews.  All the previews were in Hindi, rattling along with subtitles in English at a frantic pace.  It was virtually impossible to keep up with the speed reading. At first we thought, how interesting to finally have South Asian films distributed in the US.

Then the movie started.  It was a cross between a cartoon, live action slap stick and a corny farce.  We must say it was colorful, action packed, occasionally funny, often confusing and childish, definitely unique.

It was clearly a peek at the global emergence of the Chinese film industry into Western markets.  We later learned the marketing is rarely seen outside the Mandarin speaking Chinese communities.  I guess we are not part of that market demographic.  It will be interesting to see where this segment of the industry goes.

This film is not rated.  It is listed as an Action/Comedy.  It runs 1 hour, 39 minutes. Mandarin and Hindi with English subtitles.


Movies: Split, The Handmaiden, Toni Erdmann

Oscar News!

As you undoubtedly know, the 2017 Oscar nominations were announced this week.  Most of the nominations did not come as a surprise to us.  It was quite a busy year in the movie industry.

There were a few big omissions that caught our attention including:

  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals, Screen play
  • Amy Adams, Arrival, Best Actress
  • Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane, Best Actress
  • Jake Gyllenhaal,  Nocturnal Animals, Best Supporting Actor
  • Tom Hanks, Sully, Best Actor
  • Elle, Best Foreign Film

The Academy Awards will be presented February 26 this year.  Unfortunately we will be in the Rajasthan desert of India that day unlikely to have Television access.  But fear not!  We will post our Oscar Predictions Ballot before we leave next Thursday, February 2.

Happy viewing.   J&J


This film was written and directed by the prolific M. Night Shyamalan.  As with most of his movies, there is a contemporary supernatural plot.  This one is especially creepy, intense and somewhat mind boggling.  The focus is on a man with dissociative identity disorder (split personalities).  In this case 23 personalities.

James McAvoy is brilliant as the kidnapper.  The young victims are played well by Haley Lu Richardson, Jessica Sula and Anya Taylor-Joy.   Betty Buckley shines as the psychologist.

It is rated PG-13 but we suggest it is not appropriate for young children.  It is scary and quite unsettling.  It is listed as a Thriller/Drama with a running time of 1 hour 57 minutes.

This is arguably the best film Mr. Shyamalan has delivered in recent years.  “He’s back…”


The Handmaiden

Let’s start with the good.  This film is visually stunning.  The story has more twists and turns than a bag of pretzels.  The acting overall is very good to excellent.  It is a throw back to the grand cinema productions with its fable of love, betrayal and tragedy set in Korea of the 1930’s.

That said, it is broken into three different versions of the same story line, each revealing a different aspect of the plot.  This takes almost three hours to unfold. There are copious scenes depicting erotic fantasy, love and betrayal, and…lots of sex.  OK, call me a prude, but this is just an artsy fartsy porn movie.

The critics loved this film and gave it one of the highest ratings of the year.  The film was released without a rating.  Can you guess why?  Obviously, children should not see this film (and we would suggest adults shouldn’t either!).  Korean and Japanese with English subtitles.


Toni Erdmann

This is a most unusual film.  Toni Erdmann lives in Germany.  He is the estranged father of his career driven daughter who is working in Bucharest as a business consultant.

She is not happy when her Dad unexpectedly shows up and inserts himself, and his copious pranks, into her daily life.  Again the critics are raving about this movie.  Again garnering some of the highest ratings of the year.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are plenty of funny moments.  Unfortunately, much of the humor comes from silly antics and slap stick routines popular years ago.  That said, there is a charming quality to much of the material.  (Many of the scenes of Bucharest brought back warm travel memories too.)

Sandra Huller is exquisite as the daughter.  Peter Simonischek perfect as the goofy father.  Ingrid Bisu shines as the assistant.  There is a large cast of actors playing as business associates and regional locals.

It is rated R for nudity (there is a party that is too funny!) and adult material.  It is not suitable for youngsters.  Here is another 2 hour 42 minute run time.  English, German, Romanian with English subtitles.


Movies: 20th Century Women, Sleepless, The Founder

20th Century Women

The much anticipated release of this movie has been enjoying very favorable reviews from audiences and critics alike.  The story is set in 1979 Santa Barbara where a single Mom is raising her only son with the help of three boarders:  two young women and a carpenter/mechanic.

It is an interesting story, intelligently written and well acted, but ultimately fails to deliver any punch or powerful emotional conclusion.  Annette Bening delivers an often exceptional, and yet somewhat inconsistent, performance as the Mom. Elle Fanning, Gretta Gerwig, and Billy Crudup are the boarders.  Lucas Jade Zumann shines as the teenage son.   There are a dozen other cast members as well.

It is listed as a Drama/Comedy with an R rating for adult themes.  The movie was written and Directed by Mike Mills and runs just short of two hours.



This is an unflattering story about the undercover Las Vegas Police, the Department’s Internal Affairs, and drug gangsters.  It is a remake of the 2011 French thriller Sleepless.  Critics and audiences have not been kind to this film. We saw it because it was one of the only new releases in theaters early this January.

Jamie Foxx was the leading man.  Gabrielle Union was well cast as the wife. Michelle Monagan, David Harbour, Dermot Mulroney, and Scoot McNairy rounded out most of the rest of the main actors.

There was plenty of action and twists but the production itself was weak.  Shaky camerawork, story blunders, i.e. Foxx gets stabbed in the abdomen on the left side and the wound for the rest of the film appears on the right side, puts this movie on the B list.

It is rated R for violence and strong language.  It is listed as a Crime/Thriller running 1 hour, 35 minutes.


The Founder

Based on true events, this film chronicles the roots of the creation of the McDonald’s restaurant empire.

Michael Keaton is excellent as Ray Kroc, the struggling traveling salesman turned founder.  Mac, played by John Carroll Lynch and Dick McDonald, played by Nick Offerman are equally good.  The latter two created the brand and mapped the business model in 1950’s San Bernardino, California.

While much of the world sees Kroc as the genius “Founder”, the reality is deception, double crossing, manipulation and legal maneuvering played a major role in how this enterprise evolved.

The film is well made, acted and produced.  Ultimately, the commentary on the underbelly of Corporate steamrolling is what many viewers will recall when digesting this story.

Rated PG13 as a Drama/History.  1 Hour, 55 minutes.


Movies: Live By Night, Patriot’s Day, Neruda

Live By Night

It was the Roaring ’20s and Prohibition was in full swing.  This is a story of rum running from Florida to Boston, power, corruption, the KKK, religion and so much more.

It boasts a great cast.  Ben Affleck, Elle Fanning, Zoe Saldana, Sienna Miller, Chris Cooper, Scott Eastwood, Brendan Gleeson and Remo Girone.  It is visually stunning, a throw back to an earlier style of film making.

It is not perfect, though.  It tends to get a little lost in itself, and some parts are confusing.  The critics scored the film good but not great.  Audiences were not so kind and were less than 50% favorable.

We liked it overall.  Ben Affleck wrote the screenplay, directed, starred and co-produced this movie.  It is listed as a Crime/Drama.  It is rated R for sexual content and violence.  It runs a whopping 2 hours, 8 minutes.


Patriot’s Day

Patriot’s Day is a recreation of the April 15, 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon.  The attention to detail is impressive and disturbing at the same time. The focus on the personal trauma and the aftermath was a grim reminder of those real events.

The cast includes Mark Wahlberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simmons, and Michelle Monaghan among several others.  The angst, tension, pressure and fear were captured and delivered with skill and compassion.

This film is listed as a Drama/Thriller with an R rating for violence and graphic images.  Some if it was difficult to watch.  Run time is 2 hours, 13 minutes.  It is not suitable for young children.



This is the story of the Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda.  It takes place in 1948 when Chile was struggling with democracy, communism and the emerging dictatorship of Pinochet.

Ultimately it is the story of the struggle between political authority and the creative arts mixed with class warfare between the privileged elite and the struggling working class.

There is a huge cast of characters.  Most notably Gael Garcia Bernal as the relentless detective, Luis Gnecco as Neruda and Mercedes Moran as his steadfast wife.

The cat and mouse plot is lengthy but far from boring.  It journeys from refuge to hideout to exile.  The story is unorthodox, filled with idiosyncrasies and ironies of the human ideals.

It is listed as a Biography/Drama.  It is rated R for nudity and violence.  It runs 1 hour and 47 minutes.  Spanish with English subtitles.


Movies: Patterson, Underworld: Blood Wars


This much acclaimed film Written and Directed by Jim Jarmusch flows gently from scene to scene.  Everything about this film is subtle, gentle and mellow (except a short scene or two).

Paterson, a bus driver and poet is played by Adam Driver.  (The role is quite the departure from his recent performance as the Jesuit missionary in Silence.) His costar, the talented Iranian actress, Golshiftteh Farahani, is a delight as the quirky and lovable wife and muse.  Their chemistry together is core to the storyline.  There is also a bulldog named Marvin that plays a pretty important role.

Audiences and critics really liked this film and so did we.  It is listed as a Drama/Comedy and runs almost 2 hours.  It is rated R but we cannot imagine why.  It is a charming feel good story, told in a unique way.


Underworld: Blood Wars

First, we didn’t realize there have been five movies in the “Underworld” series.  Nor did we understand the conflict between the “Draculoids” and/or the “Werewolves” and the “hybrid” versions of either.    We are guessing, once again, we were clearly not part of the market demographic for this franchise.

We knew we were going to see a Kate Beckinsale movie.  The last one we saw in which she starred was the charming and witty Love & Friendship of last year.  Oh no no no!  This was a slash ’em up, blow ’em up, rip ’em up, blood and guts kind of thing.

I am surprised it was only rated R.  And I certainly would not let any person under 21 see it. (The Puritan in me!  BTW we were the ONLY ones in the theater over 21!!  And as long as I am on a rant, I’m blaming John for picking this movie out of the 10 new releases this week!)  It is listed as an Action/Adventure and runs 1 hour, 32 minutes.  Sorry Kate Beckinsale!  I must give this a rare blazing zero globes.



Movies: Mifune: The Last Samurai, Julieta, Silence, A Monster Calls

The question was asked ‘Where were the film reviews from last week?’

The answer:  There were no new films released (that we were aware of) in the last  week of the 2016.  No worries!  There are several new releases the first Friday of 2017.  Here’s what we have seen:

Mifune: The Last Samurai

The latest Documentary by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Okazaki is focused on the career of Toshiro Mifune and Director Akira Kurosawa who together made 16 incredible films during the post WWII Golden Age of Japanese Cinema.

The documentary is narrated by Keanu Reeves and features commentaries by Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Wataru Akashi, Kyoto Kagawa and Hisao Kurosawa.

It is important to note the influence of these movies on the American film industry.  They inspired films like the Magnificent Seven, A Fistful of Dollars and ultimately Star Wars.  Think Samurai’s future as Darth Vader!

It is hard to say if this will be nominated for any major awards but it is worthy of a look from any serious movie fan.  It is also an intriguing look at the Japanese and American film industry of the mid 20th Century.  The genre is Art House and International Documentary.  Run time is 80 minutes.  English and Japanese with English subtitles.



This is Spanish Director Pedro Almodovar’s best work in many years.  It is the story of heartbreak and guilt.  It is both a thriller and melodrama.  The film spans 30 years in the life of Julieta.

The core cast includes over 14 actors, most notably Adriana Ugarte as the younger Julieta, and Emma Suarez as the older Julieta.  The amazing Rossy de Palma gives a great performance as the disapproving housekeeper.  Daniel Grao gives a compelling performance as Julieta’s husband.

The story is unique, well executed and great storytelling. Rated R for adult themes.  Listed as a Drama/Romance and running 1 hour 39 minutes.  Spanish with English subtitles.



Martin Scorsese delivers an epic story about the introduction of Christian Missionaries into 16th century Japan when Christianity was outlawed by Japan’s rulers.  The film is based on the 1966 novel authored by Shusaku Endo.

The film has an R rating for graphic violence and torture.  It is not always easy to watch.  At the same time, it is beautiful, often magnificent and masterfully filmed.

It boasts another large cast including lead performances by Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver as Jesuit Priests, the prolific Liam Neeson, and a long list of talented Japanese actors.

This may well be an Oscar worthy movie.  It is listed as a History/Drama with a hefty 2 Hour 41 minute run time.  English and some Japanese with English subtitles.


A Monster Calls

This story is about a boy, his ill Mom, her Mom, and of course a monster.  It is listed as a Fantasy Drama with a PG-13 rating. It is beautifully crafted, well acted and remarkably creative.  That said, the subject matter is pretty mature for children and adolescents.

It has a great cast.  Liam Neeson is the monster, Felicity Jones plays the mother, Signourney Weaver is Grandma and Lewis MacDougall plays the young boy Conner.

The screenplay was adapted by author Patrick Ness.  At times it can be emotional and heart wrenching.  It is also innovative, complex and wildly creative.  Run time is 1 hour 48 minutes.  Even with the often serious subject matter, we liked this movie, a lot!