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.

Movie Review: Life of the Party

Melissa McCarthy is one of the most likable comedic actors to come around in many years and it has been her likability rather than the quality of the movies she has made that has contributed to her longevity with a so many films in recent years. Her new movie "Life of the Party" also takes advantage of McCarthy's likability rather than the quality of the script that was written by McCarthy and her husband Ben Falcone. The screenplay for this movie reads like it was a series of disjointed vignette's - rather than a story that flows into a beginning, middle and end. Each story within this film is almost standalone, going for a big laugh each time and in the audience I was in there were very few laughs, unfortunately.

This is a movie entirely for big fans of Melissa McCarthy and not for people who like a very good comedy movie. For this reason I give this movie a marginally negative review.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Movie Review: Breaking In

The problem with a movie like "Breaking In" is that we have seen this movie so many times before. Even this specific idea about armed criminals trying to break into a sophisticated high technology house is just about the same as the recent movie "Traffik". Its bad enough to make a movie like this, but to release this film about 2 weeks after Traffik came out makes very little sense.

This movie stars Gabrielle Union and its too bad a very good actress like her has to take a role in a bad movie like this one. The reviews for Breaking In are pretty bad, only 29% on Rotten Tomatoes and this time around the critics are correct. This screenplay is run of the mill and never should have been produced. This movie should be skipped in the hope that we have seen the last of this same story ever again.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Movie Review: Overboard

Once again while seeing the new movie "Overboard" I was fascinated by the Hollywood decision making machine when it comes to deciding what movie to remake.  The star of this movie Anna Faris has said on a few talk shows promoting this movie that she saw the original Overboard starring Goldie Hawn something like 80 times.  The question anyone would have for Faris is, why did she see this average movie so many times and then why was it remade? I have heard rumors that the original Overboard is some kind of a cult classic so perhaps that is the reason why this movie was remade, but who knows how this kind of decision is made in Hollywood.

As far as the movie I thought it was better than the low ratings, 30% on Rotten Tomatoes and only a 4.1 on IMDB and seemed like more of a remake of the movie Regarding Henry that was released in 1991. Regarding Henry was a much better movie than this one and starred Harrison Ford and Annette Benning and had close to the same idea as Overboard. "A rich and self centered person suffers a head injury and transitions into a much better person after the injury." This is a good log-line for a movie, but only if its believable. The problem with Overboard is the idea of how this rich man with amnesia becomes the unwitting husband to Anna Faris character and father to 3 young girls was not at all believable. Adding to the problems with this story is the plight of a single mother financially struggling to the point of having 42 dollars left in her bank account and having to raise 3 daughters. This is a comedy and there is nothing funny about struggling financially as a single mother.

The other star of Overboard is Eugenio Derbez who is the biggest star in Mexico. Why he would choose this relatively mediocre movie to make his main debut into the American film industry is anyone's guess.

For this movie I cannot either recommend or reject seeing it and whoever reads this blog should make up their own mind from the trailer. I would give this film a grade of 50%.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Movie Review: Tully

When the movie "Juno" was released in 2007 written by a stripper by the name of Diablo Cody who then won an academy award for best original screenplay - anyone who ever had ambitions of being a screenwriter took notice of this, because of the remote possibility of hitting a home run like Juno after writing a first screenplay. Diablo Cody writes real life - extremely well in Juno and now Tully.

The difference between her new movie Tully and Juno is that Juno was more of a comedy and Tully is more of a very serious real life look into - the reality of lower middle class life with 3 kids. Anyone who has ambitions of having a family with 3 or more kids should see this movie to realize that there is no nirvana. No magic bullet. Middle class life with kids and little money is hard, very hard. Middle class life with kids is about not having enough money, never getting enough sleep, never ending problems, weight gain for a long list of reasons, arguments, stress, frustrations and anger. Adding to all the problems facing Marlo, played by Charlize Theron, is her learning disabled and autistic son and this movie demonstrates this excruciatingly well. Marlo's husband is played by actor Ron Livingston who seems barely awake during most of this movie, surviving one day at a time, trying to get some sleep, like way too many people facing the reality of life, a job you hate and never enough money.

I thought Cody took some risks with this screenplay, creating the character of Tully, played by actress Mackenzie Davis who provides an interesting twist at the end of this story that many people might miss if they are not paying attention. I thought the risk with this part of the story was worth it but the payoff was not as satisfying as I would have liked it to be. That fact that its been 11 years since Juno was released and now Tully being Cody's second very well reviewed mainstream movie - shows anybody who has tried to write a screenplay how difficult it is and how long the odds. You also have to admire the 50 pound weight gain that Theron put on to perform this role and its depressing look into the reality of being a lower middle class mother.

The ratings for Tully on Rotten Tomatoes are a very high 89% and for the most part I agree with this assessment but more in the 75% range. The acting of Theron and Davis is very good and carries most of the story and throughout this entire film, I never noticed anyone acting and the dialogue was as natural and real life in any movie that I can remember.

I thought Tully was very well done and I do recommend it.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Movie Review: Avengers: Infinity War

One thing I did not know about this movie at first was that this is a 2 part story and the conclusion will be released next summer.

I had to admire the screenwriting involved with this huge movie because a writer or a team of writers had to come up with a story that had to include just about all the Marvel Comic characters from the last 15 years and even some new ones we have not seen before. The entire cast of the "Guardian's of the Galaxy" are also in this film, adding even more of a challenge to fit everybody into this 2 1/2 hour movie. The story reminded me of many other Marvel movies in the past, somewhat complex and disjointed and the computerized special effects were as good as I have seen in all of the other movies like this. There is a giant battle at the end of this movie that was the most elaborate end of movie battle for a Marvel movie in recent memory and overall this film has all of the action and special effects that just about all fans of this franchise will appreciate. I did not like the ending however, because of the way it leaves the audience completely hanging and I thought that part could have been handled better. This movie left me wondering about the conclusion next year and thinking about the huge amount of money and the number of movies that have been generated all due to Marvel comic book characters. At this point it has to surpass even Star Wars.

I thought this was a good action movie, not a great one and I do recommend it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Movie Review: You Were Never Really Here

With rare exception with some movies like Gladiator in 2000, Joaquin Phoenix has been making low budget art movies throughout his career. Most of this is admirable because its obvious that he is not interested in the money, only the art form of making movies. His new movie "You Were Never Really Here" is another example of one his art movies and this film is unusual in many ways including the story telling and the over the top method of showing flashbacks to explain the action and the main character's abusive childhood.

Like the recent movie Traffik this film deals with the tragedy of human trafficking. Joaquin portrays a man whose job it is to find young girls who have been abducted and return them to their families. This story is about one abduction that becomes far more involved and violent than others he has done in the past, although the details on the reasons behind why all of this is happening is never explained. In other reviews I have done in this blog in the past, I have said several times that its one thing try something new but if that idea is too off the wall or doesn't make sense, then this is not a movie I will review positively. You Were Never Really Here is pretty close to going off course but for the most part, the movie made sense and was not too strange to give a negative review.

I give a marginal recommendation to You Were Never Really Here.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Movie Review: I Feel Pretty

It all starts with a logline: "A woman with low self esteem hits her head and suddenly thinks she is extremely attractive". This idea is simple, brilliant and perfect for Amy Schumer, who has made a huge career out of self deprecating comedy and now with her third movie "I Feel Pretty".

Why the ratings for this movie are so low I have no idea because I thought this was a very solid comedy that in the end had a very strong message. There were several laugh out loud moments in this movie not only for me but for several other people in the audience, which is always the most important test of any comedy.

This is Amy Schumer's third movie, her first "Trainwreck" was very good and her second movie, "Snatched" did not work. There were moments in this film where I was impressed with Schumer's acting as I was with her acting in Trainwreck. She is one of the few comedic actresses who can be funny with her eyes by just looking at the camera. I have seen this innate ability in very few other actors including Will Farrell, Steve Martin and the late John Candy.

The message of this movie through the transformation of Renee played by Schumer from someone who hates herself to after a head injury to someone who loves herself I thought was very strongly portrayed in this film. There is a scene in this movie that for me stood out the most - when a salesperson in a clothing store went out of her way to go over to Schumer and knock her down by telling her that she would have to go online to find her size. People like this are everywhere in life; callous, diseased people who believe they can be the judge over someone they don't know and in many cases over someone who is obviously hurting. There are many people like this in this story, as Renee works for a high fashion makeup company. For me the best message in this film is why do so many of us give others the power to judge us. Why is the opinion of others, even total strangers so important to so many of us, even to the point of hating ourselves.

This movie also stars Michelle Williams in what I think is her first comedy performance and Lauren Hutton who is the creator of the fictional fashion company and I thought both were very good in their roles. Renee's friends are played by Saturday Night Live cast member Aidy Bryant and Busy Phillips who were also very good in their roles as well providing some funny moments in this movie.

I thought Renee's transition to a likable self hating person to someone who became an egomaniacal jerk due to her head injury was another very important message in this film - the message being love yourself but show respect to those around you, especially your friends.

I thought I Feel Pretty is the best comedy of 2018 and I recommend it. Once again the critics are very wrong about this very solid comedy.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Movie Review: Traffik

I can only assume that the reason for the title of the new movie "Traffik" being spelled with a K so it wont be confused with the movie Traffic that won won 4 Academy Awards in 2001. Assuming this was the reason, I would have called this movie Trafficking because of what this movie is all about - Human Trafficking.

The ratings for Traffik on rotten tomatoes are very low at 24% and most of the reviews are saying that this movie is exploitative of the 150 billion dollar business of human trafficking that is a world wide epidemic. My review is that this movie has too many scenes that we have all seen before and does not have that many new ideas, but I did not think this film is exploitative.

Traffik stars Paula Patton and Omar Epps who were both effective in their roles within a story that I thought achieved its goal to be an engaging thriller. Unlike Rotten Tomatoes I am giving this movie a score of 50% mainly because of the lack of original content. For this main reason, I give Traffik only a marginal recommendation.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Movie Review: The Miracle Season

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for the new movie "The Miracle Season" are only 44% and once again the critics are wrong. I thought this was an outstanding real life sports movie, one of the best I have ever seen.

Over the years in my experience, the most successful sports movies are true stories and The Miracle Season is an amazing true story about a girls high school volleyball team from Iowa City Iowa in 2011. This movie stars Helen Hunt as the coach of the team and William Hurt as the father a standout high school girl volleyball player who is tragically killed when she loses control of her moped. I wondered how any father of a child could have survived what he went through losing his daughter in a tragic accident and then his wife to cancer some weeks later. The grief he must have endured is beyond belief.

The miracle here is how the young girls came back from their overwhelming grief of their star player Caroline "Line" Found - who has the most unusual last name I have ever heard about. The first challenge was even being able to play Volleyball again much less coming so far back to win a state championship. I thought the acting was outstanding throughout this film. Of course this is a tearjerker type of story, but how could it not be, considering that this is true story about a true life tragedy and a group of athletes who overcame their grief to win a championship.

I thought this movie was very well done and I recommend it, despite the critics, who are once again, very wrong.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Movie Review: Rampage

Most movies that involve huge creatures that have grown because of a nuclear incident or because of some DNA experiment rely on the audience to suspend all sense of common sense to believe what is happening on the screen. In my experience the enjoyment of a movie like this is dependent many times on how much we have to suspend our thinking for two hours.

The new movie "Rampage" starring Duane Johnson requires a great deal of common sense suspension and because of this at least for me, the special effects were not enough to offset some of the downright stupid things that happen in this movie. For instance, there is a giant gorilla, wolf and alligator in this movie and for some reason massive rockets and non-stop machine gun fire cannot kill any of them. Regardless of how these 3 animals got to be so huge, there is no way any of them could stay alive if they were ever hit with any kind of an explosive rocket - much less many hundreds of bullets. This is also confirmed later in the movie were we see what does injure them, which adds to the nonsensical action during the final sequences of this film. When you have to forego this much common sense for a science fiction action movie, the amount of eye rolling becomes too much to continue to enjoy the story. For this reason, I cannot recommend Rampage. This movie might be a good to see for a young child who is less than 10 years old, but for the rest of us, it should be missed.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Movie Review: Beirut

The main thing that stood out about this movie for me was seeing the bombed out disastrous city of Beirut Lebanon in the early 70's and 80's. Within all scenes of this film it was amazing to see the shape this city has probably always been in - due to never ending wars that have gone on for decades. As far as the movie and the plot that involved CIA agents and a kidnapping, I did not see anything in this story that was significant enough or something I have not seen before. The star of this movie is John Hamm in the first movie I can remember where he is the lead actor and I thought his performance was very good.

Unfortunately this movie was too run of the mill to recommend, despite the relatively high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes.