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.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Movie Review: Blockers

The new movie "Blockers" is about 3 parents trying to stop their daughters from having sex on prom night. Obviously this movie is trying to be a raunchy comedy, but for me it did not work, because it was not funny enough. Also, the raunchy parts were too disgusting and too raunchy and this included a rectal beer chugging event and way too much vomiting. Why do people in Hollywood think that people in the real world find vomiting funny? Its not funny, never has been.

John Cena is a bright spot in this film and its amazing to see a professional wrestler have some natural comedy talent. However, I am surprised he did not have pride enough to reject that beer chugging scene, that was disgusting and way over the top.

There was some laughs in the theater I was in, but not nearly enough to recommend this below average comedy. Why the Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie are so high - 83% is a mystery to me - just like some other movies that have been rated high lately that I thought were bad movies.

Movie Review: Chappaquiddick

The movie "Chappaquiddick", which is about the accidental drowning in July 1969 of Mary Jo Kopechne. For me this story created many more questions than the it answered.

While sitting through this historic two hours I wondered why Ted Kennedy, played by Jason Clarke would ever even consider running for President in 1972 when his last remaining brother Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and his older brother John Kennedy was assassinated when he was president v5 years earlier? Why would Ted Kennedy think that he would not also be assassinated either while running or if he got elected President - even if there was no such thing as the Kennedy curse? The reason why this is so significant is because Ted Kennedy's desire to please his father, played in this movie by Bruce Dern, and run for President is entirely the reason for the long list of irresponsible and stupid decisions he made after driving over a bridge with a young woman in the passenger seat. As was shown in this film, some of the things Kennedy did after the accident were understandable, but by his own admission most of the things he did, including waiting 10 hours to report the accident to the police made no sense at all and are downright criminal acts. What followed was lying to the press and the police about almost everything including stating that Kennedy received a concussion during the accident when he was not injured.

What this movie also clearly shows is the rights of the rich and very privileged like the Kennedy family is entirely different than any other normal person in this country. Within hours of this tragedy, Kennedy had an army of lawyers and helpers with hundreds of contacts who were helping Kennedy clean up all the mistakes he made after Kopechne drowned and then ran from the scene of the accident. Many of the mistakes Kennedy made were out of sheer shock and panic, like any other person, but ultimately many of his terrible mistakes were because on his worries about his family name, his desire to run for president and because of his father.

One wonders about how accurate the depiction of Ted Kennedy's emotional reaction in the aftermath of this horrible tragedy that to me seemed uncaring and wooden. Kennedy seemed to only care about himself and almost never about this poor young woman, played very well by Kate Mara, who drowned. What the world does know is that Ted Kennedy was an alcoholic most of his life and this is very understandable considering the guilt he must have felt about this horrible incident in the prime of his life. Kennedy also had a very tortured personal life, including his wife Joan who was also an alcoholic and they divorced in 1983.

I thought the acting was very good throughout this movie and a standout was Bruce Dern who at age 82 looks more like 100 in his role as Joseph Kennedy. I thought it was quite ironic that this incident in July 1969 happened around the time of the first moon landing, given that the main catalyst for the landing was John F. Kennedy some 9 years earlier. The actor who played Ted Kennedy was born one day before this incident occurred and I thought that was another significant irony.

There is no doubt that this movie does not paint a good picture of Ted Kennedy concerning this tragedy and I wondered if the Kennedy family have stopped previous attempts to produce a film about Chappaquiddick in the past.

I thought Chappaquiddick was well done and is a good movie about an important moment in American history.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

A new idea. This is the problem with screenwriting because very often it seems that every idea or story has already been done. The new movie "A Quiet Place" is an exception because something like this has never been done before. The idea behind this science fiction horror movie is a genius idea. "Aliens have taken over the earth and they will not know you are there so they can kill you, unless you make a sound". Because of this new and very smart idea, this movie is the first ever "mostly" silent horror film. More impressive is that the screenplay was co-written and directed by the star, John Krasinski. Also unusual here is that the two main stars of this movie are married, John Krasinski and his wife Emily Blunt. I cannot remember the last time that has happened in any movie I have ever seen.

From the start this story takes us into the dark and depressing world of a family with 3 kids who can only communicate with sign language because if they make any sound at all they may be killed instantly by an alien creature that looks like a large brown flower that opens up showing a huge number of teeth with a skeletal lizard-like body. The killing is instantaneous because these alien creatures are so fast and vicious.

There are understandable rituals that we see with this family and routines they have created for emergencies, but what did not make sense to me is why any of them would ever risk going outdoors. What even makes less sense to me is that in some scenes the children are walking outside by themselves. Clearly this is done for dramatic effect, foregoing any reality about what any parent would allow under such extreme life and death conditions.

The rotten tomatoes ratings on this movie are very high, currently 96%, but my rating would be around 80% mainly because of the logistical problems. I was happy to see absolutely no smoking in this movie, unfortunately a rare occurrence today. I thought the acting was outstanding and this movie proves that acting in a film is more about showing than telling and a look in an eye, sweat and panic is not something that ever needs to be spoken.

I thought this movie was very good and I do recommend it.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Movie Review: Acrimony

Acrimony is a great word, defined:

From Dictionary.com:

noun 1. sharpness, harshness, or bitterness of nature, speech, disposition, etc.: The speaker attacked him with great acrimony.


I recently saw Tyler Perry on a talk show where he mentioned that he also thought that Acrimony was a great word and he had to look it up to make sure he had the correct definition. To me the word has always represented a very high level of anger, caused mainly by a major injustice in a person's life or the need for revenge.

In order to do justice to a word like this, Tyler Perry had a very tall order ahead of him and had to write a screenplay that was believable in terms of the buildup to an ending where everyone in the audience would believe that the woman scorned can be understood based on all she had gone through to get to this final moment. The scorned woman in this movie, played extremely well by Taraji P Henson, went through hell.

On all counts, I thought that Tyler Perry's screenplay scored and provided the buildup and emotion that made me believe everything that happened in this movie. I cannot remember a movie I have seen in a long time that provided this many emotions in two hours. Jealousy, rage, indifference, misery, fear, failure, success, regret, love and hatred. What I don't understand the most about this movie is that the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are only giving this film a very low rating of 25%. This could be that they don't like or are jealous of Perry's success as a movie maker or for perhaps because they think they have seen elements of a movie like this before. There are elements of other movies in this one and even in some of Perry's other movies but I thought this film was outstanding because of the unusual and believable story and the many twists and turns throughout the entire two hours. This is why it is so extremely difficult to write a screenplay that is loved by both the audience and critics; a concept reinforced when I read critical comments about a good movie like Acrimony that in my opinion are all dead wrong.

A couple meets in college, there are good times and some bad times and then the realities of having to make a living and having a big dream cause conflict and understandable financial problems. Life happens. As this story unwinds through the many years of a couple's relationship the harsh life realities of work, luck, misunderstandings and timing come into play and are written about brilliantly in Tyler Perry's impressive screenplay. Some critics are comparing this movie to Fatal Attraction that was released in 1987 but in terms of a real story I thought that this movie greatly exceeds the story from that movie.

I thought this movie was extremely well written and acted and I highly recommend it. The critics are wrong. This movie should be seen.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Movie Review: Ready Player One

When we all hear that Steven Spielberg had directed a new movie, even if that movie is mostly an animated one, we all expect a top notch high quality experience 100% of the time. Spielberg's latest movie is "Ready Player One" and I believe the first movie that he has directed that is mostly an animated feature film. The concept we have seen before - a human world and a computer world that people transfer to and from. The difference between the science fiction concept here and the 3 Matrix movies from 15 years ago is that in this film people choose to play a game where they know they are in a 3D world that they want to experience, but the world in the Matrix was created by computers that have taken over the world and the people in the Matrix had no idea that they were trapped in a world created by computers and are being used as batteries. In my opinion the science fiction concept of the Matrix that debuted in 1999 is the greatest ever produced in movie history.

As expected the special effects for this movie and mostly computer graphics were very impressive. The story at time was extremely convoluted and towards the end hard to follow and involved the inventor of this computer game and 3D world embedding 3 keys or Easter eggs in the game and whoever finds all 3 keys would win a great deal of money. The clues and eventual conclusion I thought was overly complex and not believable and in the end I thought the entire movie was way too long.

As I have said so many times in this blog, special effects will never be great enough to offset a bad or average story. The most important thing for any movie will always be the screenplay and I thought the screenplay in this film was less than Spielberg's normal standards. Overall, I thought that Read Player One was just an average movie and I give it only a marginal recommendation.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Movie Review: The Death of Stalin

This movie represents an experience that rarely happens to me. A movie that is very highly reviewed - 96% on Rotten Tomatoes that I did not like at all. This is supposed to be a farce that is funny and it was not at all funny. At times like this - also with the movie "Call me by your Name" it almost seems as if critics are paid off to like a movie that is obviously bad. I thought this movie was very boring and I actually had to walk out early. I just do not understand why this movie is highly rated. For these reasons I of course, do not recommend this boring and rather bad movie.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Movie Review: I Can Only Imagine

Most of us go to the movies to recognize ourselves in other people, to temporarily escape our own reality and perhaps to learn something about the world we never knew. The new movie "I Can Only Imagine" achieves all of these things in a short two hours.

I Can Only Imagine is about the real life story of Christian singer Bart Milard who was the child of an abusive father. Bart's father is played by Dennis Quaid - who was on a quest to ruin the life of his young son - because he is so miserable with his own life, his bad luck and the money he will never have. If I am miserable then my wife will be miserable and so will my kids -- is a common experience of too many children in the world, including me. Bad luck in life brings other people along for the ride and that is the tragedy that is the guiding force in the life of Bart Millard. There are many similarities in this movie to the film "Fences" that was released in December 2017, but the difference in this film is that this is a try story.

How such a bad childhood leads Bart into the world of Christian singing and then writing the #1 selling Christian song of all time "I Can Only Imagine" (see video below) is a very well told story and an example of excellent screenwriting that held my attention the entire two hours. The latter part of this story shows how difficult it is to rent a bus and go on the road with your friends trying to make money performing music in the deep south in the 1990's. Bart's show business life choice is a crap shoot that few of us are ever lucky enough to succeed at.

If your 30 years old and already know that you are going nowhere in you're career and will never have any money are so unhappy, drunk and miserable that you take out your bad life on your child, then you should never be allowed to have a child in the first place. Having a child is first and foremost about financial security and removing that from the equation of parenthood means that you do not get to be parent especially if along the way you make child's life as miserable as yours. When you are a child, as I have said so often in this blog, you have no choice, no options, no hope, you are going along for the ride.

This movie stars newcomer J. Michael Finley who does an outstanding job in his role as Bart Millard. 91 year old actress Cloris Leachman also has a small a role in this film - still acting at her age and still an excellent actress.

I thought this movie was very well done and it receives my highest recommendation.



Friday, March 23, 2018

Movie Review: Pacific Rim Uprising

Everybody who will see this movie will expect to see what they saw in the original Pacific Rim; giant robots fighting giant monsters that came out of the Pacific Ocean. What they will not expect is too many giant Robots fighting other giant Robots and not nearly enough monsters until the end. Perhaps there was not enough budget for the monsters this time around? Like the last movie the producer's strategy was still the same - people come to see the fighting giant creatures, who the hell needs a screenplay. I believe that movies like this follow the Michael Bay paradigm of special effects movies, "create the effects first and then just slap the story around the effects". Of course this is a stupid idea, but it must work in terms of money making, but it definitely does not work as far as making any kind of a good movie. The slapped together story for this second Pacific Rim installment makes absolutely no sense, and is all over the place.

Like the last Pacific Rim, I thought the overall quality of the film itself seemed less than a top notch special effects movie and I remember wondering while sitting through the long 2 hours, what is it about Japanese people that they are so fascinated with giant creatures that try to kill people running for their lives? For me this gets old pretty quickly. This Pacific Rim stars John Boyega the lead actor in the recent Star Wars movies who is clearly going for the money as an actor rather than quality roles. This is a risk for any actor who is interested in longevity in the movie industry. Sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn't but the list of those who went for the money and not the quality and are now no longer viable is long.

This is a movie for 9-10 year old kids who go for the robot fighting scenes, but even for them, there are not enough fighting scenes to keep even a 10 year old from falling asleep. This film, like the last one, should be missed.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Movie Review: Love, Simon

For the new movie "Love, Simon", I didn't notice anyone acting or anything contrived or forced during the entire two hours. These two simple things for me made this movie memorable and justifies the high scores on Rotten Tomatoes which are 91%.

The story of Love, Simon is a simple one. A 17 year old young man has known that he is gay for 4 years and he is afraid to tell anyone about it - understandable considering the pressures of being in high school and social media in today's world. The series of events that happen through social media after finding another young man his age by chance going through the exact same thing, are rather involved and elaborate but I thought, very well done and believable. The main character Simon, played by Nick Robinson is not overtly gay and plays the role with a very mid-America normal personality. Simon has 4 friends 3 of whom he drives to school every morning within a ritual that involves buying 4 ice coffees and having a group lunch in the cafeteria every day. Nothing unusual here, but what is unusual is the dialogue, every well written and the series of situations that lead Simon to his decision to announce to the world he is gay.

Jennifer Garner plays Simon's mother in a role as a mother that it seems she has played many times before. The message of this movie is just how desperate human beings are to be accepted and that most of us care too much about what other people think. The fear of not being accepted sometimes makes cowards of us all.

I thought Love, Simon was a very well done story and I do recommend it.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Movie Review: Tomb Raider

The original Tomb Raider series started in 2001 with Angelina Jolie as the star of that movie franchise. I wondered while watching this remake if it was made more because of the looks and star power of Alicia Vikander or because of the popularity of the original Tomb Raider movies from 17 years ago. When you think about movies like this and an upcoming star who is trying to make the big money in a movie role, you have to admire the months of training and hard to work to get into the shape necessary for all of the stunts and fight scenes that were all very impressive in this film. The problem now is, how do you make this new Tomb Raider movie unique enough so that is memorable or at least more memorable than the first Tomb Raider franchise?

I thought the story was just OK, nothing really special. A trip to Hong Kong, Lara looking for her father, a boat trip an island with caves, and very old machines that open up walls and ancient burial grounds and mummies. What makes this movie watchable are some of the impressive fight scenes, action sequences, special effects and the perfect Hollywood face of Alicia Vikander, but not the story. For these reasons, I do recommend Tomb Raider.