Saturday, January 13, 2018

Movie Review: The Commuter

The new movie The Commuter" is another example of a screenwriter trying to find something new and different within a genre that we have all seen many times before, "Intrigue and murder on a train". The problem with trying too hard to be different and new within something done so many times before is that the job of creating the story is even more difficult because of the problem of plausibility. How can you make something so new and at the same time make the whole thing believable? This is where this movie fails, because I didn't believe the story.

There were things to like about this movie, including the star Liam Neeson and some comments about his financial problems because of the 2008 financial crisis that the whole world can relate to and the other harsh reality of so many commuters in this world who have to take a crowded train to work, five days a week, which is something I could never do. Mainly because of the story, that I did not really believe, I can only give this film a very marginal recommendation.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Movie Review: The Post

Any time Steven Spielberg is involved in making a movie as a director or producer, you just have to go and see what its all about. Spielberg's new film "The Post" is a movie about something that happened in history, and this kind of film has always been my favorite because you may learn something you never knew. All us know how bad and how stupid the mistake this country made with the Vietnam War. Why Vietnam happened in the first place and why it took so long to finally end, are due to the politics involved that were as underhanded as they come.

Robert McNamara has been called the architect of the Vietnam War and he is played very well by Bruce Greenwood and the story of The Post really revolves around him and all of the bad reasons why the Vietnam continued for years long after the United States knew that the war was no longer winnable. The moment that got me the most was when it was said that 70% of the reason why the Unites States continued fighting an unwinnable war was to avoid looking like a loser in the eyes of the world. Over 58,000 young men died during the Vietnam War and to learn that 70% of the reason for continuing was for saving face; makes the entire war all the more worse than it already is.

Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee who was the executive editor of the Washington Post and Merryl Streep plays the woman who owned the paper after her husband died. Their courage to publish McNamara's memos and documents about what was really going on in Vietnam opened the flood gates of criticism and about the Vietnam War and could even have hastened its end. Overall, I thought that the acting was very good, but for a Spielberg movie I did expect something that was great, and not just rather good.

This is a good movie about an important moment in history and I do recommend it.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Past Movie Review: Office Space

When the movie "Office Space" was released in 1999, I remember thinking that I have never seen a film that so perfectly captures the reality of working in the corporate world. The frustrations, the insanity, the injustice, the managers who do nothing and have no skills and yet they are in charge and the fact that as you look around your cubicle environment very often it feels like you are throwing your life down the drain. Very often you are forced to do work that you do not want to do and feeling trapped in a depressing life, "because of the money".

This movie was also very funny, starring Ron Livingston who was perfect as the miserable employee who just didn't want do to any of this anymore, Gary Cole, as his annoying boss and Jennifer Aniston as Livingston's girlfriend who was given a hard time by her boss as a waitress, because she never wore enough buttons on her blouse to please him. What is also great are the irony's that all the employees of this fictional software company have to face as 2 men are hired to fire a mass of people and they are most impressed by Livingston's character who at that exact time, had decided to give up on working and do nothing all day. The famous TPS report scene and the idiotic nightmare at the beginning of the movie that summarizes all the frustrations and insanity are one of the best parts of this great film. (see video).

If you have not seem Office Space on cable or DVD, you owe it to yourself to see one of the best parodies of the nightmare of working for other people ever produced.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Movie Review: Father Figures

Movies like "Father Figures" have amazed me over the years for so many reasons. First of all, how can a below average screenplay like this get green-lighted to be made in the first place? Then, after so many big name actors read the script, why do they agree to do it? They must realize that its a boring story about 2 brothers trying to find their real father and nothing more than another road trip movie. My theories for how something like this happens is because of Hollywood deal making, actors who sign multiple picture deals to get the one movie they really want, favors to a friend or the basic fact that they believe that if they don't stay active enough as an actor then the one great part might never come along. This movie rightfully has pretty poor rankings on Rotten Tomatoes, 22% and 50% on IMDB, and it definitely broke my comedy rule that nobody laughed once during the whole film and was a pretty boring 2 hours. I also thought the ending was manipulative and not believable at all, given what happened in the story previously.

The list of actors in this film is both impressive and hard to understand given the below average and boring screenplay, including Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Ving Rhames, Genn Close, J.K. Simmons and even Christopher Walken. This is a movie that should be missed by just about everyone, except for the few of us who write movie blogs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Movie Review: All the Money in the World

The odds are extremely high that in the history of movies in this country, the highly unusual circumstances of having to completely re-shoot all the scenes of a major character within a few months of news a sexual scandal is something that has probably never happened before. The actor Kevin Spacey, who is one in a long line of famous men who have had their lives ruined by the sexual harassment scandals started by Harvey Weinstein some months ago, was completely removed from the new movie "All the Money in the World" and replaced by Christopher Plummer. While watching this movie and Plummer's performance I could not help wondering how Kevin Spacey must feel now that the movie he should have been in has been released without him and from Plummber's excellent performance this could have been one of Spacey's best roles. One could definiately argue that 2 months ago the 3 best male actors in the world right now are Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey and Danzel Washington and now, Spacey's career as an actor is most likely over forever.

As far as this film, which is about the kidnapping in Italy of J Paul Getty's grandson in 1973, I thought it was very well done, despite having to re-shoot Spacey's scenes months after the movie was completed. It provided huge insight into the greedy money sickness of J Paul Getty, who at the time was the richest man of all time, and despite this, didn't care to help one of own grandchildren who was kidnapped in Italy and originally held for a 17 million dollar ransom. He constantly delayed negotiations with the kidnappers and amazingly in the end even tried to make the payoff to them, through his divorced son as a tax deduction. In all my years of seeing so many characters in movies, I have never one person so obsessed with money and nothing else. The mother of Getty's grandson, was played by Michelle Williams who it seems every year is always in the highest quality movie and part. Williams started as a character on the TV show Dawson's creek and in all the years since that show ended she has consistently only taken parts in low budget high quality movies, never going for the big money and only caring about the quality of each role. She will be nominated again this year, her fifth Oscar nomination for best actress for this role and were it not for Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game might actually win this year. Christopher Plummer was also outstanding in his role as J Paul Getty and if he wins an Oscar, the irony of that achievement might be the final nail in Kevin Spacey's self-made career coffin.

I highly recommend All the Money in the world.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Movie Review: Molly's Game

I often wonder why I see so many movies every year. Its not just because of this blog, its much more than that. I started this blog in October 2014 and before then I was seeing this many movies a year. I became a movie buff because of the high I get from seeing a rare gem among so many bad movies that are made, realizing how rare it is when you see something great. I see so many movies to admire the acting and the dialogue and most of all the screenwriting that is the underlying purpose of this this blog from the day I started it.

While watching this brilliantly written and directed Aaron Sorkin movie, "Molly's Game" you immediately realize just like with all of Sorkin's dialogue that nobody talks that fast. Nobody can put together words and dialogue that well chosen so quickly in real life, but that doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter because Sorkin's dialogue is so brilliant and because of its rapid fire precision, it draws you in, mesmerizes you and before you know it, you are so engrossed with what is happening and what is being said that you don't realize that two hours have gone by. I think Sorkin's has people talk so fast in all of his screenplays and teleplays because he wants you to pay attention to what people are saying so you are more drawn into what is going on. This may not work with everybody, but it works for me.

Molly's Game originally was a book about a former world class Skier who was hurt and lost out on her chances for the Olympics. Her father, played extremely well by Kevin Costner, drove her way too hard and this created resentment and ultimately the reasons, like so many people in the world, to take her life into directions that at first she fell into, but later lead her into the dangerous world of high stakes poker games. This movie teaches you a lot about poker and about the dangers that will always seep into something like this, as we see people losing their entire life savings. We also see gamblers desperately trying to get back to even and like everybody with an addiction don't know when they have had enough losing and its time to stop playing.

Molly is played by Jessica Chastain who in my opinion, unlike last years Miss Sloan, should not only be nominated for a best actress Oscar but should actually win this year. Equally as good in his role, is Molly's lawyer played by Idris Elba who should also be nominated for best actor or supporting actor. I could not help but admire how these actors were able to memorize so many of these complex speeches that Sorkin wrote and directed and made it seem like it was their natural way of talking. Being an actor is most challenging with dialogue like this, that is so complex and so long that there are so many takes to get it just right. I also thought that this was Kevin Costner's best acting performance in many years, especially the brilliant and emotional ending scene with his daughter where he did 3 years of psychoanalysis with her in 3 minutes. We learn why Molly is the person she because of the problems with her spine injury and her desperation to please her father by almost killing herself trying to be an Olympic skier even after she was severely injured. Molly's Game is Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut and he just might receive a best director Oscar along with best adapted screenplay that I think should be a guarantee.

Molly's Game is one of the best pictures of 2017 and receives my highest recommendation.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Movie Review: Darkest Hour

Historical movies are one of my favorites to see because if its a very good historical movie, then you might learn something that you never knew before. Everybody knows how important a person Winston Churchill has been to the world and what "Darkest Hour" shows is that without Churchill, and the incredibly difficult decisions he had to make around the time when 300,000 men of England's army were surrounded in Dunkirk, England might have either surrendered or fallen to the Germans. With England's opposition removed and the guns and armory the Germans would have been able to take from England, they could have in fact taken over the entirety of Europe and won the war. At the time of Dunkirk, Churchill was surrounded by weak men who wanted to negotiate with Germany a surrender, through of all people Mussolini of Italy. These men were very weak because of their fear and panic, they did not seem to realize that whatever terms they got from lowlife of the likes of Hitler or Mussolini would have been ignored and England would have been overtaken. Churchill steadfastly refused to negotiate but at times, was at least curious as to what terms England could have gotten. It took one amazing scene when he talked to some of the people of England to know the correct course he had to take. The people of England knew the best course of action for their country, far more than most of the people who were in charge. How many times in life is that a real truth.

The acting in Darkest Hour is outstanding, starting with Gary Oldman who will definitely be nominated for best actor and might actually win an Oscar for best actor. Lili James is also excellent in her role as Churchill's typist who at first is abused by him but later becomes a valued friend.

I highly recommend Darkest Hour.

Movie Review: Downsizing

The new movie "Downsizing", starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wig has one of the best ideas for a movie that I have seen in a long time. A scientific breakthrough has allowed for the downsizing of any human being to 1/2500 of their original size. Once they are miniaturized they can never turn back to normal size again. This amazing process will also enable any human being to have to many times their former net worth because of the tiny world they will live in and live a much better life while saving the world from over population.

Unfortunately for this film, after the process of making a person very small is over, they completely ran out of ideas, other than to have Matt Damon's wife, played by Kristen Wig change her mind about the whole thing and later divorce him. After Damon finds himself alone in the new small world, things got extremely boring very quickly and soon after Damon runs into a Vietnamese woman who lost her leg during some mishap during her miniaturization process and somehow they fall in love. The entire second half of this movie is not only very bad, but makes no sense. Why would Damon's character do any of the things they have him do after he arrives in the new small world? The truth is, he wouldn't. While watching the second half of a movie that could have been very good, I wondered how Matt Damon read this script and then agreed to do it? Why did Christoph Waltz agree to appear in this mess? How was the screenplay not completely re-written into something that actually made sense and was an understandable continuation of this amazing new scientific process?

I also realized towards the end of this way too long bad movie that this is the 4th bad film in a row that Matt Damon has made, including "The Great Wall", "Suburbicon" and "Jason Bourne". Somewhere along the line, the concept of less money and higher quality will have to be realized. This is too many bad movies.

I recommend that everyone miss this pretty bad film.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Movie Review: I, Tonya

The movie I, Tonya about the infamous skater from the 1990's Tonya Harding could very well be the greatest thing that ever happened to Harding's career and legacy. This film paints a very favorable and understanding picture of the famous knee attack on Nancy Kerrigan in January 1994 and the life and sports career of Tonya Harding. As I have said before on this blog, we are all products of our childhood, good or bad and the luck or bad luck we have in life all starts at birth, based on who your parents are, money, DNA, education and many other factors that decide whether we will have a chance at a decent life. Or like in the case of Tonya Harding, have to dig themselves out of a very deep hole. From the beginning as the youngest child of a very bad mother who had 5 kids with 4 husbands, was very abusive and Tanya Harding grew up from the very bottom in every sense of the word. During her career, Harding never got the respect she deserved for her performances, because the judges thought of her as white trash.

The most remarkable part of Tanya's life was that she was ever able to break out of her terrible life and became world famous and even got to the Olympics. Harding was married and later divorced to a horrible person who constantly hit her. Her mother was a major lowlife who also constantly hit her and verbally abused her. Her mother was married and divorced 4 times and its amazing, when you see this movie that someone like this could ever have been married 4 times and had 5 kids.

There is major Oscar buzz for the acting performances of Margot Robbie and Allison Janney as both performances were outstanding. You also have to admire the amount of work Robbie put in for 5 months to learn out to skate. The story was told in an usual way, with character interviews that seemed more like a documentary but I thought that the lead up as to why the bad people around Harding decided to do the stupid act of trying to break Kerrigan's knee were not explored enough towards the end of this film.

I highly recommend I Toyna.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 3

The movie franchise Pitch Perfect, that debuted in 2012 has worked extremely well for several reasons. The first is that the two judges played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks are very funny and they have great chemistry. The second reason is the singing and the music. The third reason is the music rift contests that have always been very good, especially in the second Pitch Perfect that was released in 2015. The fourth reason is the filler, or the part of the movie that is necessary for every screenwriter to make a movie 2 hours long. Unfortunately the 3rd and possibly last installment of Pitch Perfect failed big time because the filler part just did not work at all. To make this movie 2 hours, the screenwriters decided to insert a kidnapping and karate scene that not only did not work, it almost completely ruined the entire movie. Very clearly they just ran out of ideas and threw this in out of desperation because they were under the gun and needed another 30 minutes of screen time. I also thought that the other filler stories were much weaker than the other two movies and there was not enough music or great musical numbers in this 3rd installment.

The good news is that Anna Kendrick is still a great singer, exceptional enough to have a separate and even more successful singing career. Some of the characters still work, the one who you can barely hear talk, fat Amy and several of the other women who have now gone on after college and are very depressed with their lives and decide to reunite one last time for a USO tour. The movie starts out pretty well, but then goes into directions that did not work and then degrades into a kidnapping and karate movie. For these reasons I can only recommend this film for die hard Pitch Perfect fans.

Movie Review: The Shape of Water

The "Shape of Water" is another one of those movies that so desperately tries to be so different that it shoots too high and in my opinion forgets some important things about what is most essential when telling a good story. This starts with, it has to make sense. The log line for this movie is mostly, "A mute female custodian who works in a highly secure Government research facility in the 1950's meets an falls in love with an alien lizard creature". That sure is different, never been done before. But how can a custodian have total access to a highly secure Government research facility, so she would have the opportunity to fall in love with a giant lizard creature. Why would a human woman find a lizard creature attractive? One good thing about this movie is that the lizard creature costume and makeup and eyes were all extremely impressive. The acting was also good, with Sally Hawkins as the mute girl, Octavia Spenser as her co-worker custodian friend and Micheal Shannon who was very good as the head of the Government facility. The ratings for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB are both very high, for reasons that escape me. This movie was mostly just weird and I remember thinking was way too long and I could not wait for it all to end. For these reasons I cannot recommend this film.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Movie Review: Jumanji

There should be rules for remaking movies. The amount of time that has past since the original, the quality of the original and that goes both ways. For instance, nobody would ever be crazy enough to remake the Godfather, or Saving Private Ryan, but a movie that was good but not too great could be a good rule that Hollywood should follow. The original Jumanji that came out in 1996 was an OK movie, not that good, but just OK so I was pretty surprised that this movie was remade.

There have been several remakes of bad TV shows this year, Baywatch and Chips and were both very bad movies, and this is the first movie remake of 2017. The Rock, Dwayne Johnson teams again with Kevin Hart and this movie will remind everyone of movies that both have done in the past. There is nothing special here, just 4 high school students that get sucked into a video game and take on the personalities of the characters of the game. As far as the game they are all trapped in, it was not obvious what the game is, other than surviving different attacks from natives and charging rhinos and trying not to lose all 3 of their lives. I thought this movie was on a par with the original that starred the late Robin Williams and overall I give it a marginal recommendation.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Wheel

With the amazing wave after wave of sexual allegations that have destroyed the careers of so many in Hollywood, music and even Broadcasting, one has to be amazed that Woody Allen is still able to make whatever movie he wants and still hires some of the best names in the movie industry. Ironically, Allen's son with Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow was the journalist who started the dominoes falling with Harvey Weinstein and after he fell, it seems that the new reports of sexual abuse are never ending and careers and lives are ruined every day. The allegations against Woody Allen go back to 1992 and one can only wonder if this news came out now that Allen's career would have survived like it did in 1992. Why Woody Allen was able to survive in 1992 when so many careers are now over for good, for charges that are in most cases are far less than what Allen was charged with is another question. One could argue that Woody Allen is the greatest and most prolific screenwriter of all time, making the tragedy of what happened to him in 1992 all the more tragic, whether or not the accusations are true. All movie fans can only wonder what it must be like to be Woody Allen after his incredible career and great movies and fame, only to have something like this happen to him to shine a bad light on his legacy.

Allen's new movie "Wonder Wheel" is about a husband and wife, played by Jim Belushi and Kate Winslet who live on a boardwalk in Brooklyn right under a giant Ferris wheel called Wonder Wheel. I wondered if Allen's use of this Ferris wheel was a metaphor for life or the story in this movie, but perhaps the idea of people living so close to a noisy amusement park and huge wheel fascinated Allen and he just decided to put this idea in a movie. This part of Wonder Wheel reminded me of Allen's masterpiece Annie Hall, the only comedy to ever win best picture in 1977 because the main character in that film, Alvie Singer, played by Allen lived under a roller coaster when he was a child. I thought this entire story of Wonder Wheel was well done and believable and lead up impressively to one singular moment towards the end where Kate Winslet's character has to make a decision to either do the right thing, or selfishly save her own life.

Like many of Allen's recent movies, this one is completely serious that absolutely no comic moments. For all true Woody Allen fans, we are all hoping that one day he will revert back to his the comedy phase of his writing career and give the world another Annie Hall, but for now that seems like a remote possibility as Woody only seems to make mostly serious movies now.

Overall, I thought this was a solid movie and also included singer Justin Timberlake as one of the main characters. I am actually surprised at the low 30% ratings on rotten tomatoes as I would have given this movie a solid 75 out of 100. The acting was very good and even though the story did drag at parts, it kept my attention and had a great singular moment as I mentioned before with a good ending. I recommend Wonder Wheel.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Without a doubt, Star Wars which was first released 40 years ago in 1977 is the most prolific and profitable franchise in movie history, now spanning 9 films.

Some 20 years ago the inventor of this amazing movie idea, George Lucas, decided to make 3 new movies starting in 1999, after saying for years that his Star Wars idea was only going to be a movie trilogy and he would never make another sequel. The 3 new Star Wars movies received a level of success and critical acclaim that was far less than the first 3 movies received and perhaps because of that, Lucas decided to sell the entire franchise to Disney for 4 billion dollars some years ago. Two years ago "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was released and the world now knows that there will probably be a new Star Wars movie released every December for the foreseeable future. The second movie, released in 2016, "Rogue One" was the first Star Wars movie that involved characters that were outside the original franchise, but this new one, "The Last Jedi" contains both the new characters introduced in The Force Awakens and the original characters that go back to the original movie released in 1977.

Everyone knows that a Star Wars release is virtually a guaranteed huge money maker and due to that obvious fact, very often due to the pressure to produce another film every years with so many special effects and action the screenplay takes a back seat, and in my opinion, that is the main problem with this film.

I have never been a fan of rapid-fire Michael Bay scene changes with no explanation or continuity or connecting thread as several stories move forward and then switch to another part of the story, then back again, then to another scene and before you know it, you have no idea what is going on and the entire experience becomes more annoying than entertaining. This movie plays like it was written by 5 screenwriters with so many different scenes and story lines going at the same time for over 2 hours. There are great special effects like like all of the Star Wars movies, but like I have said many times in this blog, special effects will never be a band aid for a poorly written screenplay or bad original story idea. While I don't think The Last Jedi is by any means a bad movie, for me it was not good enough movie because of the "all over the place direction". I expected more with this film and because of the rapid fire disconnected story telling, I was overall disappointed.

It was quite depressing to see the late Carrie Fischer in her last film role and in some ways, Mark Hamill, who looks looks much older than his 66 years. Perhaps the rapid aging of Fischer and Hamill is a reflection of the incredible highs and lows of their respective acting careers and after both of them reached such a huge highs 40 years ago, they found like so many that trying to be a Hollywood actor is an extremely difficult and precarious life choice.

See this movie for the special effects and the action scenes, but not for the great story.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Movie Review: The Disaster Artist

This movie is both a documentary and an actual movie about another movie called "The Room" which is known as the best worst movie ever made. The story is also about something that is never talked about enough. The number of poor people in Hollywood following their remote dreams of becoming actors, directors, producers and trying to become rich and famous like so many of the rare few in the most difficult and fickle business in the world, Show Business. This film is about a little known actor, writer and director, Tommy Wiseau, played by James Franco, who after a car accident has slurred speech but still tries to make it in Hollywood after years of constant rejection. The amazing part of this story is that somehow Wiseau obtains a great deal of money (its never revealed how he got this money) and like so many before him who have failed, he tries to make his own movie that he stars in, directs and writes. What ultimately results is an extremely bad movie that over the years after 2003 when it was first released, has become a cult movie around the world, only because its so bad, its rather funny. What I found fascinating about this is where does a movie that is very bad become entertaining and actually good because its so bad? Where is this fine line between just bad and funny bad? The yearly Television phenomenon Sharknado is a good example of something that is so bad and so stupid that its actually funny and entertaining. Another movie that has the distinction of being so bad its actually funny is the movie Plan 9 from Outerspace that was released in 1959.

Like so many people with no talent who think they can sing on shows like American Idol, Tommy believes that he is great actor, even though he has no acting ability and a great writer, even though he cant write a screenplay and with 6 million dollars along with his best friend Greg, played by James Franco, he sets out to make a very bad movie that he thinks is going to be a great masterpiece. The Room cost Wiseau 6 million dollars to make and on its first weekend in 2003 in only one theater it made only 1800 dollars, but over time and all over the world because of its cult following, in the ending credits it was revealed that the movie has made most of that 6 million dollars back.

For me the best line of this entire movie was from Judd Apatow who played a cameo in this film as himself being harassed in a restaurant by Wiseau. His line, "Even if you had the talent of a Marlon Brando you're odds of making it are still 1 million to 1". Apatow's other line was almost as good, "Just because you desperately want to make it, does not mean that you ever will." For me that says it all about the realities of life in Southern California for so many well-intentioned dreamers. The harsh reality is for so many good people, it doesn't matter if your talented and deserving, so often its just all about dumb luck. The millions of people who are destined to be always on the outside looking into a world that they see as nirvana, can only hope and pray that the lucky few who have made it, appreciate the miracle gift they have been given, but it seems that so many of them don't. The recent myriad of sexual allegations in Hollywood certainly prove that.

As far as this movie that I thought was good or average somewhat funny story about Hollywood and its harsh realities, I was surprised at the very high marks on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB this film has received. I would give it maybe a 7 out of 10, definitely not an 8 or higher.