Saturday, June 23, 2018

Movie Review: Won't you be my Neighbor

This is a documentary about the late Fred Rogers, arguably the most likable person who has ever been on TV. Fred Rogers was in real life exactly as he appeared on his PBS show, where all he cared about was helping children. Very few have ever had the talents to make people feel better about their life, maybe less unhappy, less nervous, but Fred Rogers had the innate ability to make everybody who saw his show feel just a little bit better. In the audience I was in, some people were weeping because they were so moved by the niceness and human decency in Fred Rogers just watching the tapes of some of the many shows he did on PBS. At one point, Rogers decided to take a break from his show, hoping he could reinvent himself trying to help adults, some of whom were in prison - but he was not as adept at that aspect of relating to people. Rogers even tried to help children get through death, divorce, bullying and even the 911 tragedy with his show.

What amazed me the most about this very good documentary that has a 99% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes is that even a guy as nice as Fred Rogers did not escape the stupid criticism of some critics - who accused him of being responsible all the ills of the current generation of children because he told them that they were all special. Rogers believed that we are all special in the eyes of God, but the cruel and stupid critics thought that this gave too many children an excuse not to work hard. Obviously, this criticism is even more cruel than it is completely idiotic but its also part of being in the public eye. This shows that in this world, no matter what you do, there is always someone close by just waiting his or her turn to knock you down and make you feel bad about yourself. As Rogers himself said in this documentary - "people who go out of their way to knock other people down are the very essence of evil". All of us have met people like this in our life and careers - including me. Its part of life, an unfortunate reality.

"Won't you be my Neighbor" gets my highest recommendation.

Movie Review: Jurassic World: Forgotten Kingdom

The good news about the latest in the Jurassic Park series of movies that started in 1993, 25 years ago - is that this one is bad enough that maybe they will stop making these movies. The Rotten Tomatoes rating is only 50% and I would have given this movie a 20% rating.

The logline for this entire franchise is - there are dinosaurs somewhere, people are around the dinosaurs and then something goes wrong and people run for their lives and some die. Considering a logline like this its no wonder that all of this can get old pretty quickly. The first Jurassic Park was released in 1993, the second in 1997 and the third in 2001. Then it was 14 long years before the new one was released in 2015. I thought the 2015 version was a good film, but this followup is a bad movie that could wreck the franchise for good. The story was convoluted and not believable, many of the things that the main characters, played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, are not things that anyone with any level of intelligence would do. Somewhere along the line, the producers of these movies have to realize that special effects cannot rescue a bad idea, or worse a bad script.

This movie is only for kids who love any kind of dinosaur movie or for the most die-hard Jurassic Park fan's. For everybody else, this one should be skipped.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Movie Review: Hearts Beat Loud

The new small movie "Hearts Beat Loud" has very big ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of 91% and I agree with those numbers. The story here is simple and that is why it is a very good film because most of the time, the simple small stories about real life are always the best.

This story is about the grief of a widower Frank Fisher played by Nick Offerman and the difficulties of running a small record store and raising a teenage daughter (played extremely well by the actress Kiersey Clemons) by himself. They have almost no money, the record store is failing and Frank's daughter is about to go to college to become a doctor. One line that stood out for me is that the tuition for one year of medical school is 62,000 a year but if you have no money at all, its 12,000. How insane is this? Somewhere along the line the amount of money that the vast majority of people make in this country became disconnected to what everything costs and this movie shows this harsh reality very well. This problem is at its absolute worst when it comes to the cost of college, law school and medical school.

This movie also stars Toni Collette who plays the landlord of the failing record store and Collette was also in the recent and very good movie Heredity - also reviewed in this blog. One problem in this movie was the chain smoking of Nick Offerman's character - a problem I still see in almost all movies today.

I thought the singing and music in this movie, especially at the end was very well done and adds even more to like to this very good film.

I highly recommend Hearts Beat Loud.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Movie Review: Incredibles 2

The reason why big budget computer generated movies like "The Incredibles" and "Incredibles 2" are always either good or great is because so much money is at stake and failure is not an option. One cannot help but admire the huge number of many hours of computer work that it takes to create all of these animated characters, worlds and action scenes. Also, unlike so many non-animated movies made today, the story is the #1 priority and like the original Incredibles that was released a long 14 years ago in 2004 this second installment also has a very good story.

This is the first cartoon that I have reviewed on this blog and because I saw the original Incredibles and admired the quality I decided to see the second one knowing that I would be impressed with this film and I was not disappointed.

The story is as good as the first movie and it stars the same voices as the original starting with Holly Hunter and Craig T. Nelson as the main characters and super heroes and both of them were outstanding in their voice-over roles.

I recommend this film for both adults and children and it is one of the best animated feature films I have seen in a long time.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Movie Review: Tag

There is no way funding would have happened for the new movie "Tag" were it not for that fact that it is about a true story about a bunch of men in their 50's who have been playing a game of tag for 30 years. The challenge with a movie like this is to turn the true story into something interesting by adding some Hollywood fluff that we know didn't happen in real life - but is interesting enough to hold and audiences attention for 2 hours and add enough humor to make it funny. Unfortunately this movie failed in both of these areas in a big way and the result was a pretty boring two hours with several well known actors like John Hamm and Jeremy Renner in a bad movie.

This one should be missed and is another good idea lost.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Movie: Hereditary

Ever since the release of the Exorcist in 1973, all horror movies that are about the Devil, Seances or the Spirit world have been trying to come close or even surpass the benchmark of the Exorcist. The problem with this is that no movie will probably ever be as scary and well done as the Exorcist in terms of pure movie making horror. In 1973 people were fainting while watching the Exorcist, some were vomiting and many more could not sit through the entire film.

The new movie "Hereditary" does a very good job at scaring the audience and one woman who was sitting next to me left early. The buildup and story were very well done, with many scenes that both surprise and scare the audience. For me the #1 best part of this movie was the amazing acting of Toni Collette, who gives and outstanding Academy award winning performance in this film. Colette definitely deserves an Academy award nomination for this role that required extremely difficult scenes of horror and grief throughout the film. The young actress Milly Shapiro is very unusual looking without makeup and with makeup she looks the part of a disturbed young girl who dabbles in the occult. This movie will remind some people of the 1999 huge hit the Sixth Sense with its subltely and impressive camera angles and film editing. Tony Collette also appeared in the Sixth Sense as well. The actor Gabriel Byrne appears in this movie in an understated role as the father.

I thought that Hereditary is one of the better Horror movies I have seen in many years and I give it a strong recommendation. However, this movie is not for young children or the faint of heart.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Movie Review: Oceans 8

All of the five Ocean's movies are caper movies - and the challenge with writing a caper movie is that you have to make whatever crime the group pulls off both plausible and understandable to the audience. This is not easy, because any detective or anyone with a keen eye can find flaws easily if all of the misdirection that goes into stealing something big - in this case a 150 million dollar necklace. I noticed a few things in this 2 hour caper that did not hold water but not enough to consider this a bad Ocean's movie. Overall, this 5th installment seemed to be about as good as all the other ones I have seen but I have never seen the original 1960's Ocean 11 movie starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

The idea with Oceans 8 starring all women, like with the previous 3 Ocean's movies starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt is to make a good enough first installment so it will spawn more sequels. The jury is out on this on if there will be enough interest to make new Ocean's movies starring the same cast of women, lead by Sandra Bullock. One good sign is that the movie theater I was in was 100% filled.

I thought that Oceans 8 was a good movie, definitely not great and I do recommend it.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Movie Review: Hotel Artemis

The Logline for "Hotel Artemis" is a very good and original idea. "Hotel Artemis is a paid for medical service and Hospital for criminals with rules and regulations".

Unfortunately the only thing interesting and original about this movie is the Logline, not the screenplay and definitely not the movie. For me it was a struggle just to stay awake for the almost 2 hours of this pretty bad movie that was too long and too boring in way too many areas. The most interesting thing about this film is why a great actor like Sterling K, Brown of "This is Us" , Jeff Goldblum and Jodie Foster decided to make this film in the first place. In the case of Sterling K. Brown, who is trying to parlay his great TV role with movie roles, making this film was a mistake he cannot afford to make too many times. Didn't anybody read the script?

There is nothing interesting here, just a series of criminals that have their different issues when they are arrive, fight or are treated at a hospital for criminals. Who cares? I sure didn't.

This movie is simply a bad one and should be skipped and considered an opportunity of a good idea for a story - lost forever.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Past Movie Review: An Officer and a Gentleman

As as a movie that had a huge ending emotional impact, now some 36 years after its release - I cannot remember a movie greater than An Officer and a Gentleman" that had better lead up to an emotional ending. I remember seeing this great movie in July 1982 and after it was all over - I was amazed at how well the screenwriter and director captured the extreme highs and lows of the story during the last 30 minutes. The ending is a love story that all of us can see ourselves experiencing and the music made the whole conclusion even more emotionally overwhelming.

After all these years, I cannot think of a better movie that Richard Gere has ever been in, along with Debra Winger, but some would argue that "Terms of Endearment" in 1983 was her best role. It has been 36 years since An Officer and a Gentlemen" has been released and nothing like it has ever been produced since.

I highly recommend An Officer and A Gentleman.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Movie Review: Adrift

For those of us who think that being a movie actor is some easy job where you can work a few months, make far more than 99% of most people and then take the rest of the year off - part of this is true. When this is not true is when you hear about the hardships of making the new movie "Adrift", which is the true story of a young couple who decide to take a long trip on a yacht and then get hit with one of the worst hurricanes ever recorded - Hurricane Raymond in September 1983.

The problem with this movie is that many of the scenes of survival and being adrift in the ocean have been seen way too many times. To get around this, the story is told in well positioned flashbacks and some movie trickery that caught me by surprise. The special effects of the huge ocean waves hitting the boat were extremely well done, but after a while, despite all the well done flashbacks, what remains can be pretty boring over a 2 hour period.

Shailene Woodley is the star and producer of Adrift which is about a true story of a young couple and her characters 41 days at sea trying to survive. Considering the incredible ordeal facing Woodley in making this movie, I am surprised she took on the part considering the months of nausea for not only her, but everyone in the movie crew. There is nothing easy about filming anything in water and because of realism this movie was shot in the middle of the ocean.

Despite the good parts of this movie, I can give it only a marginal recommendation.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Movie Review: Solo A Star Wars Story

I may be wrong, but I think in the history of the entertainment industry there has probably never been a bigger deal than Disney buying the rights to the Star Wars franchise (Lucasfilm) for 4 billion dollars. When you pay 4 billion dollars for a popular movie franchise, you want your money back and so far this has been the problem with all the Star Wars films that have come out in recent years - at a rate of one a year. In all the previous Star Wars movies that have been released since the Lucas deal the problem has always been the story and the screenplay because this is the part that takes the longest and is the most difficult to create. The cost of special effects is so high that it seems that the producers and directors create a story to support the finished special effects that were based on nothing more than a story board. This is the backwards, Michael Bay method of making a movie and ultimately the biggest problem in almost all of the new Star Wars movies. Another issue is overexposure with too many Star Wars movies coming out - anything gets old when you see it too many times.

The new movie Solo is the story of Hans Solo - the part played in 4 Star Wars movies by Harrison Ford, plays like a chase-caper, with nothing special or interesting other than some revelations about the life of Hans Solo and his partner Chewbacca. This film is also too long, well over 2 hours - another problem because the story is boring within too many areas. I thought all of the acting was good, including Emilia Clarke, Woody Harrelson, Donald Glover and newcomer Alden Ehrenreich, but unfortunately this entire movie was special effects over good content, all the more disappointing considering the director is Ron Howard.

I recommend this movie only for very hard core Star Wars fanatics. For the rest of us who would rather see a compelling and interesting story, this one should be missed.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Movie Review: Book Club

Someone should do a study to determine what was the worst book that made the most money and then spawned 2 more books and 3 movies. I would be very surprised if the 50 Shades of Grey series is not the all time winner for inept writing and movie making that made the most money in the history of the world. What now is even stranger is that the new movie "Book Club" might spark even more interest on this very bad book and movie franchise - making even more money for both the books and the movies. Even during the movie Book Club the 4 main characters in the film, played by Jane Fonda, Mark Steenburgen, Candice Bergen and Diane Keaton comment not only on how bad the book is, but that they were embarrassed even to hold it.

Considering that the first book in the series "50 Shades of Grey" was released in May 2011 and incredibly sold 125 million copies by June 2015 - its rather strange that a movie like this has come out now after so many years. One can only guess at the outrage and disbelief of so many talented authors in the world, who just could not believe that a book this bad could sell so many copies and make so much money. Go figure.

As far as the new movie Book Club, it is very similar to the format of so many multi-story Gary Marshall movies in the past, where one movie has several stories and all of them have a beginning, middle and end. The problem is, just about all of the stories are mundane and boring and none of the 4 stories contained any new idea. While watching this movie that starred 4 very viable but older female stars my guess is that all of them took their parts only to stay active in the very difficult field of acting, despite the very weak screenplay. We all know how difficult it is to get a movie role after a certain age, but in terms of quality this movie is at the low end of the scale - so I would have rejected this part just to save my reputation.

The movie Book Club should be skipped along with the 3 50 Shades Books and 3 very bad movies.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Movie Review: Dead Pool 2

The reviews for "Dead Pool 2", the sequel to Dead Pool that was released in February 2016 are mostly in the 80% range on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. Many of the ideas that worked in the first Dead Pool are present in this new version, although I thought it was not nearly as funny as the first one. Dead Pool 2 once again stars Ryan Reynolds as Dead Pool, the cancer ridden and facially deformed super hero who cannot be killed, even if he is ripped in half. I thought the story in this film was much more erratic and off the wall than the first one and for this reason, I lost interest in what was going on several times.

Despite the very solid reviews, I give this movie only a marginal recommendation only for big fans of the Dead Pool character, and Ryan Reynolds sarcastic and at times funny lines.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Movie Review: The Rider

When your born in the middle of nowhere in South Dakota, where there is nothing but plains, cold, horses and cattle your life options are very limited. You're probably going to be poor and working on a farm, or training horses or riding dangerous animals in a Rodeo bucking bronco contests hoping you don't get kicked in the head and become brain damaged for life. This is the story of "The Rider" about a young man who is kicked in the head by a horse in a Rodeo and his life after the accident. Obviously these are all not very good life options, but when your are born and live in the middle of nowhere and live in a trailer with no money, what are your alternatives? As I have said in this blog before with other films I have reviewed, "you're going along for the ride". We are all the products of our parents, our DNA and where we are born.

Very unusual for this movie is that the characters are fictional but the actors in "The Rider" are the actual people who lived through the real events in this story. One of the actors is Lilly Jandreau who is the mentally disabled sister of Brady Jandreau who was brain damaged in the Rodeo accident. The main character Brady Blackburn, played by Brady Jandreau does not have severe brain damage and despite his severe injury throughout most of this film, seems to be able to function normally. Another actor in this film was not as lucky and his brain damage was severe and some of the most depressing scenes in this movie involve his struggles in the hospital while Brady visited him.

The ratings for this movie are very high 97% on Rotten Tomatoes, but my rating for this movie is more in the 70% range, mainly because the film dragged too long in several areas and I thought there was enough of a story to tell. The huge vistas of South Dakota were impressively filmed, providing one good reason to see this movie. I thought this was a very simple story, very well told, but due to the other problems, I give The Rider only a marginal recommendation.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Movie Review: Disobedience

In some ways, the movie "Disobedience" reminds me of last years "Call Me by Your Name" that I did not like. The difference here is that two adult women know that they are gay but the devout Jewish community they live in make their relationship almost impossible.

The two women in this story are played by Rachel McAdams and Rachel Weisz. McAdams plays Esti, who is woman married to a Rabbi and after her relationship with Roni, played by Weisz she was disowned by her father and left home for good only returning for this funeral.

The story and message in this film are good ones - be yourself first and never live your life based on the opinions or even religious beliefs of other people. I hated the constant chain smoking mostly by Weisz's character and the fact that so many movies are still funded by cigarette companies is a disgusting practice that has to stop.

I admired the courage of both McAdams and Weisz with one sex scene that I thought had one way over the top moment - as did Call me by your Name and the fact the neither one of them wore makeup throughout the entire film. Most of this movie was shot in dark, lower middle class environments both inside and outside that I found rather depressing for the whole two hours. At certain points the story dragged on too long, mainly because there was not enough of a story to tell. The ratings for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes are very high 88% that I agree with only because of the acting, not for the overall movie.

Only for the quality of the acting, I recommend Disobedience.