Sunday, August 20, 2017

Movie Review: The Glass Castle

If your child and your born to parents who are poor, who don’t care, who think its OK to be homeless squatters and have no money then, very simply, your going along for the ride. Your a child, you have no options, no money, no hope and no chance.

While I was watching the movie “The Glass Castle” in an agonized and infuriated state witnessing the lives of 2 irresponsible adults who are basically homeless squatters who have 4 children, 3 girls and a boy I remember thinking that there were actually people like this in the world, never realizing until the end of the movie that this is a true story written by Jeannette Walls The Glass Castle: A Memoir.

Ultimately the solution for so many thousands and perhaps millions of people to avoid stories like this is very simple. If you don't care about screwing up your life by getting drunk, living in abandoned buildings, eating from garbage cans then go ahead; but because that is your life choice you should have no right to ever have children. Children need a home, shelter, food and an education. Children need one parent or both parents to have a job and some level of security, not homelessness and desperation. No person in this life has the right to ruin the life of anyone else, they only have the right to ruin their own life and they never have the right to ruin the life of a child, even before it even begins. This story might have even more to do with irresponsible people who don't care about the welfare of their own children, it also could be as simple as "Misery Loves Company".

Much like the movie Fences that I reviewed on this blog last December, when you have a parent whose life is a total disaster and your a child, your even more unlucky if that parent wants you to be just as unhappy and pathetic as they are. The responsibility of any parent is to work towards making your child's life better than yours was. Not the same or even worse. This is the essentially the concept of misery loves company. The concept of misery loves company is: "If I hate the world and don't want to be a part of it and don't care if I am a homeless squatter than my kids are coming along for the ride".

There should be a test for any parent before they are allowed to have a child, but unfortunately anyone can be a parent in this world and many people have no business having a child and that includes the 2 parents in The Glass Castle.

I thought the acting in this film was outstanding, including Woody Harrelson who plays Rex, the leader of this disastrous homeless family, Naomi Watts as his wife, and Brie Larson, one of their 3 daughters, who somehow escapes her horrible childhood and eventually is able to get a job with New York Magazine. This story and many incidents of abuse are hard to watch and infuriating to any human being who appreciates the sacred responsibility of raising a child.

I highly recommend The Glass Castle, but be prepared to witness a very difficult story about the childhood of 4 children and two irresponsible parents.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Movie Review: The Only Living Boy in New York

The message of this movie for me was, that people want want they think they can't have and they are bored or disinterested in something that may appear to be too easy to have. We have all seen movies like "The Only Living Boy in New York" before and some critics have compared this film as a Woody Allen type of movie. A man is having an affair and his son finds out and later stalks his mistress. Unfortunately the story here is not compelling or new enough to recommend and the surprise ending is too convoluted based on what happens in the story and not really believable. For me the most interesting and memorable thing about this movie was the unusual title.

This film stars Pierce Brosnan, Kate Beckinsale, Cynthia Nixon Jeff Bridges and newcomer Callum Turner, who plays the son who finds out his father, played by Pierce Brosnan is having an affair with Kate Beckinsale's character and then proceeds to stalk her, ultimately having an affair with her himself. What is lacking in this film is any kind of Woody Allen like humor to go along with what I thought was mostly a run of the mill and rather boring and drawn out story. For these reasons I cannot recommend The Only Living Boy in New York.

Movie Review: Logan Lucky

More heist movies have been made than perhaps any other type of movie genre so when you make a new one that is directed by Steven Soderbergh it has to be new and very different and maybe something we have never seen before. The movie Logan Lucky sure is different, strange, at times makes no sense and at other times is funny and ultimately is a completely different type of heist movie motivated by the main character, played by Channing Tatum, losing his job and his x-wife, played by Katie Holmes wanting to move to a different state. What is also highly unusual are all of the characters who are all uniquely strange in their own way. The actual heist that involves a prison break and stealing money through an elaborate network of underground pipes is extremely complex, so complex that its part the inside gag of this story that everybody involved does at first not seem very intelligent. This movie compares in some way to the Oceans 11 movies, also directed by Soderbergh with its complex and very involved caper plot that involves many moving parts and even more characters played by named actors.

This movie has many named actors including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane and Hilary Swank, who seems to have been out movies for a few years after hitting a huge high with Million Dollar Baby in 2005, demonstrating once again how precarious the acting profession is. Of all the characters in this movie, one of the strangest is Swank's character who is an FBI agent investigating this robbery and her strange acting included many weird facial expressions.

This movie is highly unusual, somewhat funny and mostly successfully walks a fine line between trying to be very different and strange while still being believable and entertaining. I give a solid recommendation to Logan Lucky.

Movie Review: Wind River

One of the things I notice about a great movie is when it does not seem like a movie at all. Nobody is really acting, its just an insight into real life somewhere in the world, where a new story is being told. There is no noticeable acting in the movie Wind River, just subtlety, subtext, snow and the vistas and wilderness of Wyoming within the life of a hunter played very well by Jeremy Renner and an FBI agent played by Elizabeth Olsen. They are investigating the rape and murder of a young American Indian woman who is found frozen to death after running for her life for 6 miles in the freezing cold and snow. The cause of her death was running in extreme cold for a length of time where small vessels of the lungs burst and the fluid freezes and she died very soon after. At first the death of this young woman and how she was found in the middle of nowhere seems to be a complicated mystery but we learn later in this story that what happened to her was very sudden, immediately obvious and perhaps even typical of life in the wilderness where there is nothing but dirt roads, snow, extreme cold and some very poor and depressed people.

What impressed me the most about Wind River was the contrast between its very simple story and slow moving investigation into sudden and striking outbursts of action that compel the story forward. What happened in this story is rather basic without the typical movie tricks we are all used to and with a message about parents having to live with the profound grief of losing a teenage daughter. There are some great speeches about the grief of a parent by Jeremy Renner's character who I believe should receive an Academy Award nomination for his performance. There are many unique insights into life in the middle of nowhere that also make this film a very unique experience. One can only wonder why anyone would want to live in a place like this but perhaps the love of the land and the big sky's of Wyoming could be the only reason why people stay despite the impossible and depressing conditions.

Wind River is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan who was nominated for an Academy Award for last years Hell or High Water, that had this same level of simple but impressive story telling.

At the end of this movie it is stated that almost no American Indian women are ever reported missing and nobody knows how many are missing emphasizing the part of this story that reminds us of the plight of American Indian people in the American plains.

Wind River is a very good and well acted film and I do recommend it.



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Past Movie Review: Seven

This film has perhaps the best, most dramatic and most perfect ending I have ever seen in all my years of going to the movies. The premise was perfect, seven deadly sins and the amazing ending tied the whole movie together for a perfect conclusion that involved the seventh deadly sin and one of the evilest villains I have ever seen in any movie. The music and sound effects during the dramatic conclusion also greatly enhanced the ending.

The actors were also top notch, including Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey in one of his greatest performances. The story was as dark and depressing as the rainy and dark scenes throughout the film. I also thought that Brad Pitt has never been better in any movie, especially during the last scene.

If you ever see the movie Seven, that was released in 1995, you will never forget it. For those who have not seen this great movie in 22 years, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Movie Review: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

There are still many people in this world who still believe that Global Warming is a hoax. Some of them believe that Al Gore created this Global Warming hoax to make money because he made something around 100 million dollars from this first movie "An Inconvenient Truth" that was released in 2006. These same people ignore the pictures, they ignore the ever changing weather patterns, they ignore the average temperatures around the world always going up every year and the ever increasing occurrences of storms and droughts around the world. They ignore the rising ocean levels in many areas around the world, one of the worst in Miami Florida. Most amazingly they ignore the obvious pictures of the polar icecaps reducing every year. To them, despite all the alarming evidence, they still think Global Warming is a hoax. They believe its all a vast conspiracy to make a few people very rich, starting with Al Gore. Very recently, as was mentioned at the end of this documentary, President Trump pulled out of the Global Warming Paris Agreement for reasons that for me had some merit, but the real reason Trump pulled out was because of political pressure from very large coal and oil companies and ultimately Trump's continuing insane belief that Global Warming is still a hoax. I remember thinking during Trump's speech about why he was pulling out of the Paris agreement is that progress in the United States should not stop just because we pulled out of the Paris agreement. At least I sure hoped it wouldn't.

Al Gore's sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power", is similar in many ways to the first documentary as we follow Gore's travels around the world educating others about Global warming by giving speeches and seminars. What is lacking in this movie is more of the same scientific proof of the severity of Global warming around the world provided in the first movie, mostly due to carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Perhaps the reason for this is there is nothing more scientific to say about something that is now pure fact. I did like the fact that this documentary was not all doom and gloom like the last movie and there were some very encouraging evidence that many millions of people around the world are working hard to increase the use of solar energy and wind power and some cities in the United States are now using Solar and Wind power for 100% of their energy needs. From this point on, all humanity can do is hope that the progress continues and more importantly, that its still not too late to not only halt the damage to this planet but to even turn it all around so the planet earth can heal itself. If not then humanity is in a great deal of trouble.

I have often wondered since the year 2000, when Al Gore lost the Presidential election he really won, about how different the world would be now, if Gore was allowed to take his rightful place as President. Would we have had the Terrorist attacks in 2001, the IRAQ War or even the financial crisis because of the real estate bubble of 2008 had Gore been President instead of Bush? Another way of looking at what happened in 2000 is, would we have made anywhere near the progress around the world with Global Warming were it not for Al Gore because he was not the President? Was Al Gore more valuable as President or as the leading advocate for perhaps the most important crisis in the history of the world? This is a question that everybody can decide for themselves.

This is a very good documentary about one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced and I do recommend it.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Movie Review: Detroit

There is not a white person in this world who can ever say that they understand what its like to be black person and under the injustice of how the police sometimes treat black people. The reality of police brutality has happened many times during the last few years but it was at its worst during the 60's in this country because of the protesting and rioting that went on for many reasons, most of them socioeconomic.

Most of us have heard about the LA Riots or the Riots that happened after the Rodney King verdict, which is the costliest in US history but the third worst is the riot that happened in Detroit in July 1967, known as the 12th Street Riot and this is the subject of the new movie Detroit. This movie was shot in a very unusual way, with lower quality film and has the look of a documentary.

The first half of this movie focuses on the Detroit Riot that was born out of frustration and unemployment as factory jobs were taken away from the inner city to the suburbs and this trend accelerated after World War 2 but then the rest of the story is about what is known as the "Algiers Motel Incident". The Algiers Motel Incident occurred in Detroit, Michigan on July 25, 1967, during the racially charged 12th Street Riot and centered around several young black men who were in a hotel with 2 white women. What happens in this motel is very difficult to watch both for the brutality and the injustice of several white police officers, the worst one, is played very convincingly by actor Will Poulter. This one young and very evil police officer believed that because he was a police officer, that the law or any level of decency or humanity did not apply to him. I thought the motel part of this film was unnecessarily long, especially because the brutality and insanity of the police officers was so difficult to witness. There is a trial after this incident and I will of course not give anything away about the verdict.

Overall, I thought the acting was very well done including John Boyega and Anthony Mackie but I didnt think this was a great movie about an important incident in American History only a good one and I do recommend this film.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Movie Review: Kidnap

We have all heard the stories about a mother rescuing her child from under a car by lifting the car up with temporary super-human strength. In many ways this movie demonstrates super-human strength and determination of a mother, played very well by Hallie Berry who would do anything to save her son who she witnessed being kidnapped by two very disgusting criminals. After the abduction of her six year old son at a carnival, what follows are some very horrendous car chase scenes and some massive car accidents on several highways. All of this is believable because of the acting of Hallie Berry and her desperation to save her son at all costs. Some of the scenes and ideas here are a little outlandish but ultimately I ignored all of this because of the intensity that engaged me about what was happening on the screen. The two criminals in this thriller were also very believable and well played by Chris McGinn and Lew Temple.

The reality of this world is that kidnapping rings run by lowlife like this actually do exist and unfortunate parents have to live the rest of their lives wondering if their child is dead or alive and this is a life very few of us could ever endure. This movie does a very good job in demonstrating what such an abduction of a young child would be like and what the desperation and anger of a mother would be like within such an intense situation.

For some reason the reviews for Kidnap are not very high and this movie completed filming in 2014 and was then shelved for several years before finally being released that could have something to do with the bankruptcy of the film studio that produced this film.

Despite some negative opinions and several flaws in this story I do recommend this movie.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Movie Review: Valerian and the City of One Thousand Planets

At the beginning of this film, I thought it presented some of the most imaginative aliens and space special effects I have ever seen. At the end of this movie, and I had to leave early because I could not stand to sit through it anymore, I thought it was another typical special effects with no story movie where the producers were only interested in the computer graphics and had no interest in taking a year to write a good story. In fact, there is no real story here at all. I would recommend this movie for people who are on LSD or Heroin, but for the rest of us who are trying to at least stay awake for 2 hours, this movie is a waste of time and computer software. In the end, after going into my 3rd coma watching this mess, I just about had to run away from this disaster.

The few good points of this film are some of the special effects and the actress Cara Delevingne who should have a bright future in Hollywood but given the fickle nature of that business and this bad film who knows. Towards the end there is an appearance of Rihanna who has a small cameo, but not nearly enough of an appearance to rescue this film.

This is a B movie that should have went straight to DVD and I do not recommend it.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Movie Review: Atomic Blonde

What will draw people into this movie because of the previews are the action scenes of hand to hand fighting and martial arts which are very well choreographed and impressive, but unfortunately the rest of this movie was disappointing as far as the complex spy story in Berlin combinations of which we have seen before, the depressing and gray locations where the film was shot in Hungary and the constant chain smoking, mostly with Charlize Theron's character that was done far too much, even for the 1989 time this story takes place. Once you are drawn into a movie like this to see some of the action scenes, you want something more and for me that was just not present in this film which at times I found rather boring and run of the mill.

This movie also stars James McAvoy and John Goodman who play parts we have seen them in before, specially Goodman as one of the leaders of the MI6 organization Theron's character is working for. While watching this film, that I thought was too long, I wondered about people like this who risk their lives every day as spies, realizing that at any minute they could be killed. You just have to admire the dedication and courage of people who believe in their cause so much they are willing to give up any sort of a normal life but unfortunately this movie tells a mostly bad and boring story and for that reason I cannot recommend this movie.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Movie Review: Girls Trip

For two reasons, this blog and the relatively high ratings for "Girls Trip", 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and 71% on IMDB, I decided to see this movie. Everybody can tell just from the previews that this film was going to be pretty raunchy and it was, but what is funny? In my opinion, not funny enough because there were not many laughs in the theater I was in and in my opinion the last movie that created the perfect combination of raunchy and funny was the film "Animal House" that was released in 1978.

If I were Jada Pinkett Smith and I read the script for this movie, I would have demanded that some embarrassing scenes that included her character on top of a zip line in New Orleans urinating on people on the street below or some of the other overly raunchy or embarrassing scenes, be either toned down or eliminated altogether if for no other reason than pride or reputation. But, once again the pressure to remain relevant and active in Hollywood seems to be greater than pride for too many actors today who are lucky enough to be in movies and this would include the two other famous actors in this movie Queen Latifah and Regina Hall.

I thought the bright spot of this film was Tiffany Haddish who showed some real comic timing and instinct and to some degree almost saves this story, which is about 4 old friends from college that are reunited in New Orleans for a festival for black women. Some of the later drama that included Regina Hall's husband having an affair and that affair threatening the release of their new book, was well done but rather misplaced in a raunchy comedy like this one.

Even allowing for the fact that some people might find a movie like this entertaining, I cannot recommend it, because there were not enough laughs to cover up the many flaws in this film that included a story that for the most part was not unique enough to anyone to remember.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Movie Review: Dunkirk

I am very amazed at the very high scores for the new Christopher Nolan film "Dunkirk", 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and 89% on IMDB. I thought this was a war movie that was trying so hard to be different that it forgot to teach the audience the history of what really happened on May 26 to June 4th 1940, during an important battle of World War 2. One scene jumps to another scene, there is no real story or character development and at times I found the movie boring. Considering this is a war movie about an important battle of World War 2 "The Battle of Dunkirk" I was not expecting to be bored. I believe that in order to be respectful to the men who died in a major battle in any war, you cant try so hard to direct a movie where your goal is more about trying to tell a story in a different way rather than creating an accurate depiction of an important battle of World War 2.

This movie stars Tom Hardy who spends his time in this film in the cockpit of an airplane and most of his face is covered by a mask which I thought was highly unusual. Kenneth Branagh plays Commander Bolton one of the leaders of the trapped forces who appears mostly towards the end of the film. Both of these actors seem to be misplaced in this film, almost as if they were added on at the end, so the movie would have a few more famous actors to perhaps generate box office.

The bottom line is that this movie does not educate the audience about exactly what happened during the Battle of Dunkirk because it tries to tell a story in a new way and because of this, it ignores the most important part of a war movie, which is to tell a story accurately and to respect the people who died in battle.

For these reasons I cannot recommend Dunkirk.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

The reviews for "War for the Planet of the Apes" are very high, 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and 83% on IMDB. I am surprised at numbers that high for this film, because for me, for reasons I will explain I am more in the 70% range as overall I thought this was just a good and not a great movie.

However, I do give the special effects and the "Performance Capture" technology a 100% grade and you realize immediately that none of the 3 recent Planet of the Apes movies would be possible without this technology because the actor would be in a makeup chair for 8 hours a day. The technology they use involves the capturing of the movement of each actor and then filling in the ape makeup using CGI later. The facial expressions of the apes, as well as the hair on the body and the movement of each ape actor in this movie, is flawless and extremely impressive. Where this film becomes more average is with the story, that I thought was too simple, took too long to progress and in the end was pretty average.

The original Planet of the Apes was released in 1968 and was one of the first films I had ever seen in a movie theater. The original story had to do with a nuclear holocaust where the apes take over after humans destroy the world and this movie explains more about a virus that followed the nuclear conflagration that made apes more intelligent and humans more like animals, starting with their inability to talk. The acting is very good, including Woody Harrelson who plays an evil Colonel and Andy Serkis, who reprises his role as Ceasar, the leader of the apes for the 3rd time, I was hoping for a more interesting story here and I thought that the story for this movie dragged on too long and was too simplistic.

I give War for the Planet of the Apes a mild recommendation.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Movie Review: Spider-Man Homecoming

One thing a movie must do, if it is a continuation of a previous movie, in this case, the latest Avenger film Avengers: The Age of Ultron, is to explain all of the items that carry through to the new movie. Unfortunately, this new Spider-Man movie does not really explain the left behind alien machines that the evil villain in this movie, played by Michael Keaton, was trying to use to dominate the world. I thought the story of Spider-Man Homecoming was told in an unusual and erratic way, almost as if the screenwriter was trying to invent a method of telling a story. For the most part, this method of storytelling worked, but I thought that there was too much jumping around and less control over the continuity of the scenes.

The new Spider-Man is a 15-year-old boy still in high school and is played very well by 21-year-old Tom Holland and like all of the other Spider-Man movies, the special effects for this film are outstanding but I still think, like many others that the second Spider-Man movie that was released in 2004 was the best in the series so far.

Robert Downy Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man makes several appearances in this movie as the mentor of Spider-Man as well as Stark's best friend played by Jon Favreau. There are also several mentions of the next Avengers movie, Avengers: Infinity War that will be released next year as this is the new marketing campaign for all of these Marvel movies when they try and connect each Marvel movie to the next one.

Overall I thought this movie was very good and on a par with all of the previous Spider-Man movies and I do recommend it.

Movie Review: The Big Sick

Aspiring screenwriters go to the movies more often than most people, mostly for writing inspiration and perhaps to escape from reality.  In my experience going to many movies, it has been a rare event to be inspired by any movie that is a comedy in recent memory.  The new movie "The Big Sick"  is one of those rare movies that has inspired me to write another screenplay because it is just that good.  The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are extremely high, currently 97%, and that is a very well deserved score.

From the start, I was amazed at the quality of the screenplay for this movie as it was the first screenplay about a true story co-written by the star of this movie Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon who is played very well by the actress Zoe Kazan.  This movie is great on a number of levels, starting with the subtle and natural real-life dialogue, the high level of acting and the roller coaster ride of emotions this story takes you through, starting with the romance and breakup between an American woman and a Pakistani man, who is pressured by his family and the traditions of arranged marriages that understandably leads to great conflict. The true story behind this movie is a great idea for a romantic comedy and I cannot remember a story like this ever being done before.  I thought it was an amazing achievement to provide so many solid moments of subtle humor, considering some of the difficult things this story is about including a dangerous unknown infection and hospitalization of Emily that forces her doctors to put her into a medically-induced coma.

The acting throughout this film is outstanding, starting with Ray Romano as Emily's father and has now successfully transitioned from a standup comedian to comedy actor in Everybody Loves Raymond and is now becoming an outstanding dramatic actor. It was also great to see Holly Hunter, who perfectly plays Emily's mother.

The main part of this story is about Emily falling into a coma because of some unknown infection that is spreading throughout her body and this leads to several heart-wrenching scenes in the hospital where her parents and her Pakistani boyfriend played by Nanjiani, agonize over decisions about her treatment and even consider moving her to a different hospital, despite the fact that their daughter has been placed into a medically induced coma as her 5 doctors desperately try and figure out what is wrong with her so they can save her life. The transition and eventual love and respect that Emily's parents gain over time with her boyfriend were also another very impressive aspect of this story.

I thought overall, this film is one of the best written and acted I have seen in many years and will definitely receive Academy Award recognition for everyone involved, and in my opinion, this should include best original screenplay.

I highly recommend this great movie.