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.



Saturday, August 26, 2017

Movie Review: Good Time

The movie "Good Time" is about people who are barely alive in this world and wondering how they will survive or avoid winding up in prison or dead. Its about two brothers, one a criminal and the other mentally disabled, then a bank robbery, then the mentally disabled brother winding up in prison and from there an insane ride into oblivion that proves that as low as you may be in life, you can always go lower. I wonder of the title Good Time is being sarcastic because no one watching this movie can consider one minute of this story a good time.

Good Time is a low budget movie starring Robert Pattinson who it seems has decided to make mostly low budget movies ever since he hit it big with the "Twilight Saga" a few years ago. Pattinson's acting in this film is impressive, perhaps even impressive enough to receive an Academy Award nomination, despite the fact that this movie is very small and low budget. Good Time is directed by the Benny and Josh Safdie hwo have collaborated on several movies over the years and this is the first one of their films I have seen. The most impressive directing achievement with this movie was capturing the gritty and desperate environment that Pattinson's character and his brother live in, with no chance, purely by accident of birth to ever break out of their miserable depressing existence. This movie also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, who has a very small part and Bennie Sadfie who plays Pattinson's mentally disabled brother.

This movie captures a desperate world of running from the police and barely surviving in the streets of New York City, has very good acting and do recommend it.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Movie Review: The Glass Castle

If your child and your born to parents who are poor, who don’t care, who think its OK to be homeless squatters and have no money then, very simply, your going along for the ride. You are a child, you have no options, no money, no hope and no chance.

While I was watching the movie “The Glass Castle” in an agonized and infuriated state witnessing the lives of 2 irresponsible adults who are basically homeless squatters who have 4 children, 3 girls and a boy I remember thinking that there were actually people like this in the world, never realizing until the end of the movie that this is a true story written by Jeannette Walls The Glass Castle: A Memoir.

Ultimately the solution for so many thousands and perhaps millions of people to avoid stories like this is very simple. If you don't care about screwing up your life by getting drunk, living in abandoned buildings, eating from garbage cans then go ahead; but because that is your life choice you should have no right to ever have children. Children need a home, shelter, food and an education. Children need one parent or both parents to have a job and some level of security, not homelessness and desperation. No person in this life has the right to ruin the life of anyone else, they only have the right to ruin their own life and they never have the right to ruin the life of a child, even before it even begins. This story might have even more to do with irresponsible people who don't care about the welfare of their own children, it also could be as simple as "Misery Loves Company".

Much like the movie Fences that I reviewed on this blog last December, when you have a parent whose life is a total disaster and your a child, your even more unlucky if that parent wants you to be just as unhappy and pathetic as they are. The responsibility of any parent is to work towards making your child's life better than yours was. Not the same or even worse. This is the essentially the concept of misery loves company. The concept of misery loves company is: "If I hate the world and don't want to be a part of it and don't care if I am a homeless squatter than my kids are coming along for the ride".

There should be a test for any parent before they are allowed to have a child, but unfortunately anyone can be a parent in this world and many people have no business having a child and that includes the 2 parents in The Glass Castle.

I thought the acting in this film was outstanding, including Woody Harrelson who plays Rex, the leader of this disastrous homeless family, Naomi Watts as his wife, and Brie Larson, one of their 3 daughters, who somehow escapes her horrible childhood and eventually is able to get a job with New York Magazine. This story and many incidents of abuse are hard to watch and infuriating to any human being who appreciates the sacred responsibility of raising a child.

I highly recommend The Glass Castle, but be prepared to witness a very difficult story about the childhood of 4 children and two irresponsible parents.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Movie Review: The Only Living Boy in New York

The message of this movie for me was, that people want want they think they can't have and they are bored or disinterested in something that may appear to be too easy to have. We have all seen movies like "The Only Living Boy in New York" before and some critics have compared this film as a Woody Allen type of movie. A man is having an affair and his son finds out and later stalks his mistress. Unfortunately the story here is not compelling or new enough to recommend and the surprise ending is too convoluted based on what happens in the story and not really believable. For me the most interesting and memorable thing about this movie was the unusual title.

This film stars Pierce Brosnan, Kate Beckinsale, Cynthia Nixon Jeff Bridges and newcomer Callum Turner, who plays the son who finds out his father, played by Pierce Brosnan is having an affair with Kate Beckinsale's character and then proceeds to stalk her, ultimately having an affair with her himself. What is lacking in this film is any kind of Woody Allen like humor to go along with what I thought was mostly a run of the mill and rather boring and drawn out story. For these reasons I cannot recommend The Only Living Boy in New York.

Movie Review: Logan Lucky

More heist movies have been made than perhaps any other type of movie genre so when you make a new one that is directed by Steven Soderbergh it has to be new and very different and maybe something we have never seen before. The movie Logan Lucky sure is different, strange, at times makes no sense and at other times is funny and ultimately is a completely different type of heist movie motivated by the main character, played by Channing Tatum, losing his job and his x-wife, played by Katie Holmes wanting to move to a different state. What is also highly unusual are all of the characters who are all uniquely strange in their own way. The actual heist that involves a prison break and stealing money through an elaborate network of underground pipes is extremely complex, so complex that its part the inside gag of this story that everybody involved does at first not seem very intelligent. This movie compares in some way to the Oceans 11 movies, also directed by Soderbergh with its complex and very involved caper plot that involves many moving parts and even more characters played by named actors.

This movie has many named actors including Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Katie Holmes, Seth MacFarlane and Hilary Swank, who seems to have been out movies for a few years after hitting a huge high with Million Dollar Baby in 2005, demonstrating once again how precarious the acting profession is. Of all the characters in this movie, one of the strangest is Swank's character who is an FBI agent investigating this robbery and her strange acting included many weird facial expressions.

This movie is highly unusual, somewhat funny and mostly successfully walks a fine line between trying to be very different and strange while still being believable and entertaining. I give a solid recommendation to Logan Lucky.

Movie Review: Wind River

One of the things I notice about a great movie is when it does not seem like a movie at all. Nobody is really acting, its just an insight into real life somewhere in the world, where a new story is being told. There is no noticeable acting in the movie Wind River, just subtlety, subtext, snow and the vistas and wilderness of Wyoming within the life of a hunter played very well by Jeremy Renner and an FBI agent played by Elizabeth Olsen. They are investigating the rape and murder of a young American Indian woman who is found frozen to death after running for her life for 6 miles in the freezing cold and snow. The cause of her death was running in extreme cold for a length of time where small vessels of the lungs burst and the fluid freezes and she died very soon after. At first the death of this young woman and how she was found in the middle of nowhere seems to be a complicated mystery but we learn later in this story that what happened to her was very sudden, immediately obvious and perhaps even typical of life in the wilderness where there is nothing but dirt roads, snow, extreme cold and some very poor and depressed people.

What impressed me the most about Wind River was the contrast between its very simple story and slow moving investigation into sudden and striking outbursts of action that compel the story forward. What happened in this story is rather basic without the typical movie tricks we are all used to and with a message about parents having to live with the profound grief of losing a teenage daughter. There are some great speeches about the grief of a parent by Jeremy Renner's character who I believe should receive an Academy Award nomination for his performance. There are many insights into life in the middle of nowhere that also make this film a very unique experience. One can only wonder why anyone would want to live in a place like this but perhaps the love of the land and the big sky's of Wyoming could be the only reason why people stay despite the impossible and depressing conditions.

Wind River is written and directed by Taylor Sheridan who was nominated for an Academy Award for last years Hell or High Water, that had this same level of simple but impressive story telling.

At the end of this movie it is stated that almost no American Indian women are ever reported missing and nobody knows how many are missing emphasizing the part of this story that reminds us of the plight of American Indian people in the American plains.

Wind River is a very good and well acted film and I do recommend it.