Saturday, October 14, 2017

Movie Review: The Foreigner

The acting career of Jackie Chan goes back 55 years to a film called, Big and Little Wong Tin Bar and since then he has probably completed more films, preformed more stunts and has broken more bones and been hospitalized than probably anyone in movie history. Many of Chan's past martial arts films have elements of comedy in them that for the most part have worked over the years and his collaboration with Chris Tucker in 3 "Rush Hour" movies, with a forth installment recently announced has been very successful.

The movie "The Foreigner" is one of the few purely dramatic roles I have seen Jackie Chan in and his "have nothing to lose" and almost without emotion acting in this movie after losing his last daughter in an explosion by the IRA (Irish Republican Army) I thought was very believable and well done. Terrorism is a very unfortunate fact of life, and due to the Taliban and so many organizations like them, the world has almost forgotten about how many bombs the IRA has set off over the years.

As far as the story of a distraught Chinese man who wants to avenge his daughters death using his skills as Operative, I thought that the plot was a bit overly complicated but Chan's dogged determination and singular desire for the names of the terrorists who murdered his only daughter was well done throughout. The martial arts scenes in this movie were also well done and believable in their real life stumbling awkwardness, unlike many other fight scenes I have seen that look too choreographed. The actor Pierce Brosnan is also in this movie as one of the head people involved with an IRA organization and I thought his acting was also very good in this film.

I thought the Foreigner was a well made movie and I do recommend it.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Movie Review: The Mountain Between Us

Everybody has seen elements of the movie "The Mountain Between Us" many times before and more than likely on a TV movie on the LIFETIME network. This film is mostly about 2 people who survive a plane crash on a mountain with a dog and I admit that the dog is a slightly different twist on a story we have all seen many times before. At the start of this film I was thinking why anyone would want to fly in a very a small plane over a the snow covered mountains of the Colorado area, no matter how desperate they are to get to where they are going and its obvious that this is something most people would never do. There is no mystery her with this story and from the trailers we all know that this plane will crash and from there, the only thing we are curious about is how they will manage to survive and find their way off the freezing cold mountain. Once you crash and are huddled in the remains of a small plane, freezing to death, its hard to really write a story that is that interesting. The audience will wonder how they would react in a situation like this, but for the most part there is not much you can do, other than hope you are found and rescued, try to find food and water and when all hope is lost of being found, try to walk off the mountain. As a screenwriter I would find it very hard to make an interesting story about a situation like this, but the screenwriter did try a twist in such a way that at first seemed unlikely and then towards the end was somewhat effective.

Several things did not make sense in this story, starting with the dog who seems to be full of energy and running around even after not eating for days and trekking through a very cold mountain as one example. This movie stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba and I thought that they were both good in their roles despite the weak overall story. In the end I thought this movie was not a bad one but just OK and I give it a very mild recommendation and I did like the ending.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

In order to enjoy a movie like Blade Runner 2049, that is a sequel to the original Blade Runner, released in 1982, you have to either have seen and liked the original Blade Runner or be filled on on what happened in the original so you better understand this film. There are a few sentences at the start of this sequel to the original that talks about replicants and a bankrupt company that makes these replicants but not enough information to know what happened in the last movie.

Additionally, you have to get used to the dark, rainy and very depressing environment of this futuristic world where either a nuclear war, global warming or both have ruined the planet earth forever. For me the constant rain, darkness, bombed out buildings and extremely depressing world of the future offset some of the good special effects. I also thought that the screenplay was pretty hard to follow as the main character of K, played by Ryan Gosling tries to solve a complicated mystery that involves the daughter of the original Blade Runner played by Harrison Ford in the first movie. One bright spot is the virtual character played by Ana de Armas, but overall despite the very high opinions of the critics, over 80% for both Rottentomatoes and IMDB, I cannot recommend this movie, for the reasons I mentioned and for that fact that this movie was too long and boring in too many spots to recommend.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Movie Review: American Made

I always wondered why anyone would want to have a job working for the various Airlines in the world and that includes being a pilot. The pay for an Airline pilot considering the fact that you are never home, living in Airports and Hotels and constantly en-route to somewhere in the world, is definitely not worth it in my opinion. Why anyone would want to be a flight attendant is a whole new question because considering all the huge downsides, that has to be one of the worst jobs there is.

The new movie "American Made" is about an Airline pilot from the year 1978 named Barry Seal, played very well by Tom Cruise, who was married had a few kids and was like so many who had his job back in the 1970's needed to make a lot more money. What follows in this amazing true life story is a series of events that seemed more like a work of fiction then something that could ever have actually happened. From an opportunity with the CIA to aerial take pictures of a South American country, to drug and gun running followed by an upward and then downward spiral that is hard to believe, this is a story that when you see it you wonder why you never heard who Barry Seal was before this movie.

What happened to Barry Seal in this story is what happens to many people who get very rich quickly and then think they can never make a mistake or get caught because eventually all that money makes them very stupid and it all just goes south. Another recent movie that demonstrates greed and stupidity at this level is last years War Dogs and what is even worse with this story is Seal's involvement with some very dangerous drug lords in South America. American Made is a big departure from movies that Tom Cruise normally makes with a much lower budget than the big budget Mission Impossible movies and the bad "The Mummy" he made this year.

I thought that American Made is a very well told and amazing story about an American Airline pilot who went bad and I do recommend it.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Movie Review: Battle of the Sexes

In the last few days as the new movie "Battle of the Sexes" was about to be released, it was suggested that Bobby Riggs threw his game against Billy Jean King because he owed money to mobsters due to his gambling. Now, after seeing this movie, I am more interested to figure out how a 55 year old Riggs beat the #1 woman in the world, Margaret Court, 6-2 6-1 before he lost to Billy Jean, just a short time after Court beat Billy Jean King almost as easily. Many things don't make sense here, but perhaps Riggs paid off Court to lose to him easily, by promising her a piece of his winnings when he pulled off the Billy Jean King match. As the great promoter that Riggs was, he knew that he needed to have the tennis watching audience get interested first by beating the #1 woman player and then create all the hype and ridiculousness necessary to pull off one of the greatest spectacles in American History.

It is very clear that Bobby Riggs never meant any of the stupid male chauvinist things he said, he was just trying to generate huge interest to make the event become the big money maker it was, and ultimately it all worked. I would have liked to have learned more about the back story to this almost documentary like film about this famous match that happened in 1973 and even how much both Riggs and King were paid, but this was unfortunately never mentioned. The acting of Steve Carrel who played Riggs and Emma Stone who played King was very good, the story was slow at times but in the end the screenwriter and director did an effective job of remembering all that happened in the battle of the sexes, 44 years ago, so I do recommend this movie.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Movie Review: American Assassin

Despite the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes about the new movie American Assassin, I thought this was an effective movie about Terrorism and the people who try to eliminate Terrorism from the world. The story plays like movies we have seen before, even a little like the Karate Kid, but because of the action and the story, I thought it was an effective spy movie. The special effects, especially at the end I thought were very well done and the acting from Micheal Keaton and newcomer Dylan O'Brien was very believable.

Overall, I thought this was a good spy movie and I do recommend it.

Movie Review: Brad's Status

If I could summarize this brilliant movie "Brad's Status" about the doubts we all have about our lives it would be in one sentence: "Never compare yourself to other people". The reasons for this are obvious when you really think about it. Its never fair to compare the lives of two different people. Circumstance, parents, DNA, money, luck, the right job at the right time, health, finding love, never finding love, kids, no kids and so many other factors, many of which are out of our hands. When we compare ourselves to other people we have to do this by making assumptions. These assumptions may be accurate, but very often they are not accurate because most of us would have no idea what is the real truth of someone else's life. What we think someone else's life is all about, may or may not be true. What may seem to be a charmed life may not be that charmed at all. But sometimes we all make ourselves feel bad, thinking that time is running out and that just maybe we chose the wrong path because we are not as wealthy or happy as our friends or people we have known because we decided on a profession that doesn't pay as much as some other profession and we think our friends from college or high school are doing so much better than we are. But, are they really? What are the true parameters of success and happiness? Does anybody ever know the answer to this one simple question?

Throughout this movie, there is a voice over narration by the main character Brad Sloan, played very well by Ben Stiller in serious role where Brad is talking to himself as he tries to figure out his life at age 47. He wonders why he was not invited to a friends wedding with this 3 other friends from college and thinks that its probably because his friends think of him as a loser because he is not wealthy and decided to help people with a non profit organization he runs instead of making money. This is another part of the problem, caring so much about what we think - other people might think about us. Brad is very proud of his musical prodigy son who has decided he wants to go to Harvard, but wonders how he could ever pay for his son to go to a college this expensive. One significant scene was when Brad and his son, played very well by actor Austin Abrams meet up with two very attractive female Harvard musicians, one of whom is as idealistic about helping other people as Brad was when he was her age. What follows is some great dialogue about life and work and the reasons why we all exist in the world in the first place. You can also see the disappointment in the eyes of this young woman and she is so dismayed when Brad says that "if he had to do it all over again, he would have gone for the money".

Realization and transition happens in all great movies and this one is no different as Brad slowly realizes what is really important about his life and that just maybe what he thought was true about his reality and the lives of people he was jealous of might not be what he thought in the first place. Throughout this entire brilliantly written story, I was thinking the same thing. "Never compare yourself to anybody else, ever".

Brad's Status is an extremely well made movie that I highly recommend and I think the screenplay, written by Mike White is one of the best I have seen since Manchester by the Sea.

Movie Review: Kingsman The Golden Circle

This movie is the sequel to the first Kingsman that was released in early 2015. The idea of these two movies is the same, an over the top, popular music, fast paced special effects, James Bond like action, with some humor mixed in. The difference with this movie is that there are many more celebrities this time, including Hale Berry, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore and even Elton John.

I am not a fan of past paced scene changes and this movie has too many of those, although it was never as bad as a typical Micheal Bay movie. At times being so extremely unusual works and sometimes it doesn't and I thought this film had a mixture of things that worked at about a 50% rate. Julianne Moore's portrayal of a very strange, extremely even tempered female villain definitely followed the attempt by the screenwriter and director to do something that has never been done before, but throwing in the use of a meat grinder to kill the people who betray her was way too over the top.

I feel about this new version of Kingsman like I felt about the last one. Mostly entertaining, but overall a pretty average action movie.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Movie Review: Stronger

There are many horrible things about tragedies like the Boston Marathon Bombing that happened on April 15, 2013. Some of these horrible things are obvious when we see the aftermath and hear about the deaths and injuries, including for this terrorist attack 3 people who were killed including an 8 year old boy and 264 people were injured, 29 severely including the main character of the movie "Stronger" Jeff Bauman who lost both of his legs. For days and weeks after a major terrorist incident like this one, the press covers it almost day and night, but then very slowly, just like any other news event it fades day by day and what is left are the victims who wonder why and try to rationalize how something this horrible happened to them. After all the dust has settled they are left to continue to live the rest of their lives, somehow. A movie like Stronger is so important because we never hear about the victims of horrible terrorist attacks or some other tragedy like the Hurricanes in Houston and in Florida after the event happens. There is always newer news and in the case of the main character of the movie Stronger, its too upsetting to think about a poor young man who lost both of his legs because of two sick diseased terrorists. We learn that Bauman was poor, still living with his parents in a slovenly 2 bedroom apartment and working at a Costco prior to being a victim of this terrorist attack. So, even his life prior to losing his legs was never easy and then suddenly his life became unbearable.

We will all wonder after any terrorist attack about what was the point the terrorists were trying to make. Did they leave a note, explaining why they did what they did? We know they hate us, but why? Can we ever understand the reasoning of someone so insane that they would place ball bearings and nails into a pressure cooker to blow up innocent people, knowing that the weapons they put inside the bomb would maim so many, taking away their limbs, their eyes, their face and even their lives? The level of rationalization necessary for a normal person to understand something like this is impossible, so some of us try and forgive them for what they did, but most of us never can.

The main character Jeff Bauman is played extremely well by Jake Gyllenhaal and because of his acting in this movie there is talk of an Oscar nomination that I agree is justified. The subtlety of Gyllenhall's acting for me was the best part of his performance, realizing that to show the real life of a victim who lost both of his legs because of Terrorists, it was important to not show anything more than the zombie like, trying to exist day by day in a state of numb disbelief that I thought was a perfect and realistic performance. His girlfriend was also played extremely well by Tatiana Maslany and her performance was the equal of Gyllenhaal's in showing that in many ways the new reality of people related to a person of tragedy is almost as difficult as the victim's they live with. I thought the actors who played Bauman's family were also extremely good in their roles as they struggled to help him with regaining some kind of a normal life after such a huge tragedy and how they all struggled with what to say, realizing that there is nothing you can say to help someone who is going through something like this.

I thought this film was extremely well done and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Movie Review: IT

I can only speculate about what Steven King who wrote the It: A Novel many years ago was thinking about at the time. I think that King wrote this 1164 page novel about an evil clown because he was fascinated about the bullying so many young people have to endure in school and like the rest of us, wondered where this level of evil and cruelty comes from within a person so young. As most of us in this country have heard, bullying is an epidemic and in recent years this problem has become worse because of social media and cyber-bullying. We have all heard about news reports where some young person has committed suicide because of bullying or have gone on school shooting sprees, killing many people in retaliation, the most famous is the Columbine Massacre in 1999.

The evil clown known as Pennywise, played extremely well by actor Bill SkarsgÄrd in the new movie "IT", is in fact a metaphor for bullying and this film very effectively explores where evil like this comes from correctly pointing out that all people who bully others actually feed on the fear in their victims. Bulling is about pure evil and people who bully others never think about retribution or about the short and long term damage they are inflicting on their victims. Bullies are all looking to temporarily escape their pain from abusive parents, self loathing for any number of reasons, by finding a victim who they can make feel much worse than they feel about themselves. Its a crime very unique to certain human beings and happens more in childhood, but it also happens when you are an adult and in the working world. As an adult we are bullied sometimes because we are afraid of losing our jobs, so we put up with abuse to make a living. Very often bullying as an adult is a game of leverage and as a result a tremendous amount of stress and anger occur. On the negative side, I thought some of the bullying scenes were too extreme to make the point the story was trying to make although it was effective in showing the fear, rage and anger bullying causes with the victims.

The horror scenes and special effects in this film were very well done but for my tastes sometimes too unnecessarily shocking and violent, especially in the beginning where a young boy has his arm cut off. The beginning of this movie concentrated a great deal on the young characters who are all victims of intense bullying in the high school they go to and its mostly towards the middle of the story that we see more scenes and visions of Pennywise. I thought that this strategy did establish the main message of this film very well.

I mostly agree with the high ratings from Rotten tomatoes and IMDB, 85% and 8.0 respectively and overall I thought that IT was a very good, but not great film that I do recommend.



Saturday, September 16, 2017

Movie Review: Mother

Screenplays have to break new ground today. Most people have seen everything in one form or another and recognize small traits or plots or special effects or any number visual tricks in just about every new movie they see. This is why coming up with a new idea right now is about as difficult for any artist who toils for months to create a new movie idea that has never been seen before. The new movie "Mother" without a doubt succeeds in being as different and as new screenplay idea as I have ever seen. Where it fails is for the same reason, trying to be so new and different that it goes too far and that includes some scenes that are extremely objectionable and completely unnecessary even for a story as insane as this one. This film was both written and directed by Darren Aronofsky and considering the story of Mother, its difficult to imagine why this idea was green lighted by any production company.

The main character of mother is played by Jennifer Lawrence who is a young woman married to Javier Bardem who is a writer and a poet. Very soon, people start coming over to their old house where Lawrence's character is trying to fix up and Bardem is trying to write poetry. At first a few people come over, including characters played by actor Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. These people are rude, strange and never listen to whatever Lawrence's character tells them and this includes going into her husband's private office. This then leads to things being broken in the house and even stolen. Then of course this trend of people coming over unannounced and uninvited continues and more people come over who are similar to the first two. Then eventually the people coming over are much worse and then the movie slowly goes into insane directions, that mostly make no sense. You start to wonder while watching this strange movie if all of these weird people are aliens or a cult or something, but this very important part of this story is never explained. This film answers the question, when is trying to be different turn into a movie that doesn't make sense or is objectionable? The answer to this question is for this film the most obvious I have ever seen. With any movie, sometimes less is more and a great example of this is the simple story of the recent great movie "Wind River", that has also been reviewed on this blog and I do recommend people see as much as I do not recommend anyone see Mother.

Due to the objectionable scenes and ending and the way too insane plot, I cannot recommend Mother.



Saturday, September 9, 2017

Movie Review: Home Again

There are many reasons why writing a screenplay is so extremely difficult. The first that comes to mind is writing a good one or a great one could take months or even a year or more and represents a huge amount of work that most likely, unless you are an insider, will never see the light of day with any producer anywhere. Then as a writer you have to come up with a plausible story that makes sense, not only as to what happens in the story, but also makes sense because it flows into a plausible direction that a real person might actually take in real life. These are the fundamental reasons why "Home Again" fails. Even the title of this movie fails because this entire story has nothing to do with going home again.

The story line of this movie is about an almost divorced woman who turns 40, meets a 27 year old man in a bar, then has an affair with him and because he is trying to break into the movie business and her father was a famous director takes him AND his 2 friends in her home obviously makes no sense. From the very beginning this story is not plausible because why would a single woman who has 2 young daughters invite 3 men in their 20's into her home who she barely knows, just because her mother, played by Candice Bergen says, "your father would have liked them". Ultimately if a movie doesn't make sense from the very beginning, it doesn't matter what happens the rest of the way. This film seems a lot like a Nancy Meyers movie and that is because the writer director is Hallie Meyers-Shyer, is the daughter of Nancy Meyers, immediately removing any mystery of how a 30-year-old woman got to write and directs a major motion picture at such a young age.

The star of this movie is Reese Witherspoon who has made romantic comedies like this in the past, this one being one her weakest in recent years. The IMDB and Rotten Tomato ratings for this film are low, 5.6 and 32% respectively and this movie does deserve those low ratings.

This is a film that plays more like a B movie that should have went to DVD and never released.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Movie Review: The Layover

I never thought I would ever see a movie rated as low as the new movie starring Kate Upton, entitled "The Layover". This movie got a 0% approval on Rotten Tomatoes but I do not agree that this movie was that bad as I would have given it a 20 or a 25% rating. I have seen worse movies than this one over the years, much worse. Of course this is not a good movie, its stupid, the story is dumb and contains decisions and action that normal people would never do. Its embarrassing for the two actresses who play best friends, Kate Upton and Alexandra Daddario who make fools of themselves competing for this one guy they meet at random on a plane. You just have to wonder if these 2 actresses ever read this script or did this movie only to remain in the public eye as an actress or as a favor to a friend or for any number of other bad reasons. With ratings this low, you have to think that perhaps Kate Upton has ruined any chance of having an acting career and then wonder if Daddario has hurt her acting career too severely by making this bad movie. Equally amazing is that the great actor William H. Macy directed this bad movie. What was he thinking? Did even he read this script for this bad movie? Considering how bad this film is, he either didn't read it or just wanted a movie directing credit and didn't care how bad the screenplay was.

Fundamentally the story for any movie has to make sense and this movie just does not make any sense. Two very attractive women who have been close friends for years destroy their friendship doing a series of stupid things to either impress or make the other look bad for some random man they met on an airplane. This one central part of the story for this film was never believable, funny or made any sense. The layover from an East Coast plane trip to Fort Lauderdale Florida was diverted to St Louis because of a Hurricane, which also makes no sense. Then, after spending about 2 days in St Louis they all decide to drive 17 hours from St Louis to Ft Lauderdale, just to make sure the plane is not delayed again, even after they were told that the weather had cleared. Four people would never do something this stupid. There are other stupid story lines in this bad movie that also make no sense, but the movie is not worth elaborating too much more about, given all the things that everybody would agree is bad about it.

I saw this movie because of the blog but I recommend everybody else stay away.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Movie Review: Ingrid Goes West

Aubrey Plaza has one of the most unusual names I have seen in many years and her name perfectly suits her effortless comedic personality. Plaza can just make some kind of an absurd comment, or make a face or do something very subtle with her eyes and you cant help but laugh and most of the time its not even obvious that she is trying to be funny, she just is. Her comedic abilities have always seemed effortless and the best comedy is always that way; never anything that you see coming at you that is ever obvious, at times something surprising and always flows without any noticeable effort.

As far as her new unusual movie "Ingrid Goes West", its all about social media and how it affects normal people or the main character in this film, Ingrid, played by Plaza who is a bit mentally disturbed. Social Media can make shy people not shy and lonely people have many friends, or it can have a reverse effect where a person who has mental problems can manipulate people through social media to create a fake person that doesn't even exist to trick someone, in this case Elizabeth Olsen who is the somewhat famous person Ingrid tries to trick into being her friend. This movie is funny in some places, pathetic in some other places and ultimately depressing as you feel for Ingrid who is trying to rescue her lonely life and doing everything wrong to achieve her goal.

The ratings for Ingrid Goes West on Rotten Tomatoes are very high and I found this to be very surprising given that I thought that this was just an above average movie that I do recommend.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Movie Review: The Hitman's Bodyguard

The movie "The Hitman's Bodyguard", does have ton of action, explosions and special effects. What it doesn't have is anything new, or something unique that has never been done before. The constant cursing dialogue has been done in many movies before, along with the car chases and this movie is mostly about 2 guys being chased around by criminals, with accompanying explosions and gunfire. So none of this new.

In the theater I was in, the director Patrick Hughes was in an opening segment, thanking the audience for paying to see his movie and then ratting off amazing statistics about 1200 people who were employed to make this film, in about 3 countries for about 9 months. I was amazed to learn that it takes 1200 people to make a movie like this, but not too amazed about the story of this film, or the fact that we have all seen this kind of movie too many times before. In order to make a hit in movies today, you have to create something innovative, otherwise the film is considered run of the mill, as the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and D- rating from Richard Roper for this movie prove (see Richard Roper's review below).

The Hitman's Bodyguard stars Ryan Reynolds, Samuel L. Jackson and Selma Hayek and Gary Oldman and is so typical and run of the mill that I cannot recommend it, but I do not agree that the movie is as bad as Roper's review below.