Saturday, April 30, 2016

Movie Review: Keanu

Key and Peele is a comedy act that has been popular on the Comedy Central network for a number of years. Finally, after years of producing a small comedy show on cable, an opportunity comes along to make their first movie, entitled "Keanu", which is about a very cute cat that gets kidnapped by drug dealers.

I am sure the process of coming up with this idea and producing the script took a while, perhaps a year and during this period, many meetings took place and eventually the realization that this is "our shot, we sure better make this movie funny and great because we may never get a shot like this again" came up. Considering all of this, I was surprised that this movie was not that good or funny at all. Most of the comedy falls flat, the overuse of the N word was disturbing and the best part of the entire story, the cute cat, was barely in this movie nearly enough. There is a long scene with Anna Faris playing truth or dare during a drug deal that ran way too long and was never funny and a following shootout that seemed way out of place for a movie about a kidnapped kitten.

While I thought the premise of this movie was a good one and the story should be funny because kittens are both cute and funny, but after all of that, there really has to be a good story or something funny to hold it all together and this movie has none of this.

This movie is 100% definitely not for kids due to the very cute kitten,  because there are many scenes of extreme violence and murder throughout.  This movie should be missed mainly because it's a comedy and it was not nearly funny enough.

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Keanu - IMDB

Friday, April 29, 2016

Past Movie Review: The Sixth Sense

It rarely gets better than "The Sixth Sense" which came out in 1999. In my movie going experience, there has never been a better surprise ending than this movie, with the possible exception of the ending of Seven, 1995 which was more shocking than it was unexpected.

One of the most fascinating things about the difficult process of making a great movie, is that in so many cases a writer or director has only one great one in them during their entire creative working life. This is definitely true of writer/director M. Night Shyamalan who never got close to hitting a home run as good as this movie again in his career. I thought that the movie Unbreakable was very good when it came out in 2000 but this is a distant second to the Sixth Sense which had a level of quality that Shyamalan has never reached since.

If you have never seen The Sixth Sense, you owe it to yourself to see it. The ending is one of the best in movie history.

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The Sixth Sense - IMDB

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Past Movie Review: Jerry Maguire

I remember while sitting in the theater 20 years ago watching the film "Jerry Maguire" and thinking that this is one of the first movies I had ever seen where you I realized it had great quality within the first few minutes. Jerry Maguire was written and directed by Cameron Crowe and in 20 years it seems he has not been up to this level of quality considering both the great story idea and screenplay since then. Most recently Crowe released the movie Aloha, which came out last May and this was quite a bad movie. You can never guarantee that one huge hit from a great writer will ever lead to another one, considering the difficulty of writing a great screenplay. It definitely is very hard to believe that its been almost 20 years since Jerry Maguire was released.

Cuba Gooding Jr won the Academy Award for best supporting actor for Jerry Maguire and sadly he has never been lucky enough to ever get a part this good since. His performance in this movie was both outstanding and very funny and the catch phrase "Show me the Money" is as big as any catch phrase for any movie largely because of how well he yelled this famous line after Jerry found out he was losing his job and was desperate to keep his clients.

Tom Cruise was very good as the lead in this movie as was Rene Zellweger . Zellweger was not even nominated for an Oscar and neither was Tom Cruise, but he did win the Golden Globe for best actor. You have to figure that the Academy of Motion pictures has a problem with Tom Cruise, considering the number of times he has been snubbed. Jerry Maguire is definitely another one of those times and a nomination for best actor was definitely warranted here.

If there was a moment in time where this movie lost its high level of quality it has to be at the end when Zellweger's character said to Cruise, "You had me at hello". This line might very well be one of the stupidest and corniest likes since Love Story in 1970 and "Love means never having to say your sorry". Your kidding right? That cannot be a line in a movie?" Its hard to believe that it is.

This movie has great acting, humor throughout and the friendship between Cruise and Gooding's characters is very believable. The child who played Zellweger's son in the movie is another great added dimension of likability which also includes the music and great emotional ending.

This movie is televised quite a bit on cable and should be seen if you have not seen it already, many times.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Movie Review: Elvis and Nixon

Is it even feasible to make a 2 hour movie about an incident in time that took perhaps at most 2 hours? Despite the highly unusual side stories surrounding the meeting between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon on December 21, 1970 who would actually think that this relatively short meeting in 1970 could be made into a movie? Some of the unusual circumstances surrounding this meeting mostly include Elvis Presley's desire to receive some kind of an FBI badge so he could be an "Federal Agent At Large" and somehow despite his world wide fame, could go under cover for the FBI? Of course this never happened and Elvis even thinking that he could go under cover is both ridiculous and stupid but amazingly this is the main reason why Elvis wanted to meet Nixon in the first place as well as to get this special badge which seems in like something a 9 year old boy would desire. He also said he wanted to help the FBI with the Nation's drug problem, even though he himself was a very heavy drug user; another ridiculous irony.

When first approached with the proposal of this meeting with Elvis Presley, Nixon immediately rejected the idea but after some bribery with Nixon's youngest daughter Julie for pictures and an autograph Nixon finally agreed to meet him. Nixon originally only wanted to meet Elvis for only 5 minutes but after Elvis commented on how attractive his 2 daughters were and saying that because of his attractive daughters Nixon himself must also be attractive, the meeting between the 2 of them lasted several hours. This is another strange side effect of this famous moment in history between these two men almost 50 years ago.

Another weird side story is the letter Elvis wrote to the president while on board a commercial airline. The handwriting in this letter is barely readable, and poorly written: Elvis Letter to Nixon. The fact that Elvis even thought he had a shot at a special meeting with Nixon was rather insane in the first place but as this movie clearly shows, Elvis was rather insane and was using drugs frequently.

This movie is supposed to be mostly a comedy but it was not that funny. The acting was good especially by Kevin Spacey  who played Nixon and Michael Shannon who was an unusual choice to play Presley. None of these 2 actors overacted their impressions of these two men and I thought that they were both at just the right level. At the end of the movie it was announced that the most requested picture in the history of the White House archives is the picture (below) of Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon.

This movie was good, not great, not that funny, but good enough to recommend.

This is another link to the National archive page that documents this Nixon and Presley meeting:  

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Elvis and Nixon

Past Movie Review: Pawn Sacrifice

Chess is all about paranoia and the realization that in a Chess game, its extremely easy to miss something subtle or even something obvious and then quickly lose. Being a Grandmaster chess player could be the hardest and most taxing thing that anyone can do to a human brain. At a very early age, Bobby Fischer realized that he not only loved the game of chess, but he cared about nothing else. He barely had any kind of a normal childhood, coming from a poor and broken home, but he never really had a normal education and instead was allowed to concentrate 100% on the study and mastery of the most difficult and mentally taxing game there is.

Over the centuries, many great chess players have come and gone and a good number of them have gone insane trying to master this game and become the best player in the world. The most famous of them was Paul Morphy who in the 1850's was by far the best player ever but by age 21 was insane and soon after committed suicide. Alexander Alekhine was a Russian World champion who also went insane in his later years. Unfortunately for all of us, Bobby Fischer went insane too and in his later years became a vehement anti-Semite and even during the 911 Terrorist attacks went out of his way to say some very bad things about the United States. Bobby was a horrible anti-Semite even though he himself was Jewish.

Some of Bobby's paranoia was in terms of Chess was justified. It was a fact that the Russian Chess Federation went out of their way to destroy him and that most if not all of the Russian Grandmaster's intentionally drew their games in tournaments so they could concentrate all their efforts to defeat Bobby. Whether or not they were bugging his room or phone is another question but you just have to believe that there could be some truth to this too, considering the importance the Soviet Union put on Chess to prove they were mentally superior to the rest of the world.

In the summer of 1972 Bobby Fischer was by far the most famous person in the world when he defeated Boris Spassky for the world championship in Iceland. The entire world started playing chess like never before and now, 43 long years later you just have to believe that we will never see anything like that again. The whole world riveted over a Chess championship game? Even the idea of that was insane at the time, but the life and talent of Bobby Fischer and the United States trying to beat the Russians at their own game were the biggest thing the sports world had ever seen. I remember at the time that this match was so big that it was on the cover of Time, Newsweek and Sports Illustrated all at the same time proving not only how huge this event was, but that Chess was actually considered a sport because it was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

Bobby Fisher's paranoia almost cost him the title of world championship after he blundered in the first game, most likely because of his anger over the cameras, the noise and the proximity of the audience to the chess board. In game 2 he refused to even come to the game until a list of new conditions were met, so he forfeited. Bobby's comeback after that and his domination of Spassky is well documented in this movie "Pawn Sacrifice" as well as other things, but unfortunately, this movie does not dwell enough on Bobby's declining life after he won the championship in 1972. It might be an idea for a new movie about Bobby Fischer that solely concentrates on his life after 1972 and his extreme paranoia and mental illnesses. Perhaps this idea for the second movie about Bobby Fischer would a movie too depressing to get an audience to see it or a production company to fund it.

Three years later in 1975, Bobby was scheduled to defend his World Championship against Anatoly Karpov, but he refused to play because of a whole new list of demands. Most of these demands were met, but not all of them, so Bobby bowed out of the match and was never heard from again until 1992 when he played Spassky again for a return match which he won. By 1992 both of these great champions did not have the strength they had 20 years earlier but at the time, it was an exciting and highly newsworthy story for the world to watch. Bobby was told by the Unites States that he was not allowed to play Spassky in Belgrade because of current restrictions and when he refused he was never allowed to return the United States and would have been arrested if he did return. This lead Bobby to a return to his underground life and increased his hatred of Jews and the Unites States. Eventually, Iceland welcomed him to their country and he died in 2008 at the age of 64.

Bobby's life was depressing and tragic, but his chess playing skill will never be forgotten. I highly recommend the movie Pawn Sacrifice. Tobey Maguire is excellent in the lead role and Liev Shriver is also excellent in his role of playing Boris Spassky .



Pawn Sacrifice IMDB

Friday, April 22, 2016

Movie Review: Everybody Wants Some

Prior to making the mistake to see this bad and boring movie, I checked out the reviews online and they are mostly very good? Why? I have no idea. There have been very few college dorm type movies in the last few years and almost none that take place in the late 70's. This movie was expert in one thing - making what should be a very interesting story, very boring. Some baseball games, some drinking and drug use, going to bars a few times, some interaction with young college men and women, and in the end you cant wait until its all over.

Unless you are drunk on drugs or in college right now, this movie should be missed at all costs.

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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Past Movie Review: Unforgiven

Can a movie be considered great just for one single scene that may last as little as one minute? This possibility is very rare but for the movie Unforgiven which came out in 1992 a scene like this did occur. Of course, a movie could never be great if only one single scene was great in the whole movie. The quality of the film has to be there for the whole 2 hours, but for the movie Unforgiven, this one single scene changed it from a very good movie to a great one.

Unforgiven was directed by Clint Eastwood , who won a best Director Oscar as did the movie which won the best picture. Unforgiven was an old-fashioned Western and all of the best scenes had to do with the huge vistas which were shot most likely because of the reduced costs in Alberta Canada. The story was very basic, easy to follow and the mostly had to do with revenge. Morgan Freeman was excellent in his role as Eastwood's character's "Billy Munny" best friend and Gene Hackman in one of his best roles was also great as the antagonist in this movie.

The big payoff for me with the Unforgiven was, of course, the great ending, but the scene that was one of the greatest in the history of movies came in the middle where Eastwood put the camera at an "up angle" to his characters face towards the sky and in response to the regrets of the young man who killed someone a few moments earlier, there was a pause and he said one simple line: "We all got it coming kid". This one scene is so profound there is a special video on Youtube for this one minute moment in this great film.

If you have not seen this great movie, you owe it to yourself to see it. It could be considered the greatest Western ever made.



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Past Movie Review: A Few Good Men

Is it possible for 3 actors to peak 24 years ago? When you look at the history of Tom Cruise , Jack Nicholson , and Demi Moore and a great serious role that they were lucky enough to get, one could argue very strongly that the best movie all three of them were  in was "A Few Good Men" , which came out in 1992.

As far as Tom Cruise he has never been better in any movie, and that includes "Born on the Fourth of July" which came out in 1989. For some unknown and insane reason Cruise was not even nominated for a best actor or even best supporting actor academy award proving once again that there are some major problems with the voting for this award. Jack Nicholson was nominated for best supporting actor and Demi Moore, in arguably her best ever movie role was not nominated for any award which considering her great performance in this movie is ridiculous. Rob Reiner was not even nominated for a best Director Oscar for this movie, which is another snub for one of the best movies he has ever made. The movie was nominated for a best picture Oscar but did not win, in 1992 the movie "The Unforgiven", which is another great movie won. I will be reviewing that movie in this blog as well.

The acting in this movie was some of the best I have ever seen and this is largely due to the incredible on point writing of Aaron Sorkin , who was also ignored by the academy for this great screenplay.  In my opinion A Few Good Men is one of the best pictures of the last 25 years and for all who have not seen it, owe it to themselves to see this great movie.

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IMDB - A Few Good Men

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Movie Review: Criminal

According to Dictionary.com, the adjective plausible means:

Having an appearance of truth or reason; seemingly worthy of approval or acceptance; credible; believable: a plausible excuse; a plausible plot.

The entire premise of the movie "Criminal" is about the process of injecting the memories of one human being who has died into another person who is alive and is a dangerous criminal. Unfortunately the fact that a medical procedure like this is impossible is irrelevant to everyone who decided to make this ridiculous movie. Perhaps 500 years from now something like this will be possible through a brain transplant or some other means using computers but most likely not from injecting cells from one brain to another brain.  Had this movie been set in the distant future then perhaps it would have been a better experience, but this movie is set in the present day and from the beginning idea of transferring the memories of one brain to another is downright stupid and from there there is no reason to continue watching this mess.

For some unknown reason, Hollywood producers seem to be in love with the concept of one character becoming another character and having the memories of another person.  The movie "Face Off" is one example of this,   "Selfless" , which came out last year starting Ryan Reynolds , who is also in this movie is another example.  There are several other movies over the years with this theme of personality transfer and the plausibility and believe-ability of an idea like this means nothing to the producers. Perhaps the box office numbers for this idea has worked in the past, so the producers believe that if it works once then it will just have to work again.

Making matters worse is that the overall story of Criminal is a bad one. Some kind of spy played by Ryan Reynolds is killed before he is able to give valuable information to his CIA bosses about a mastermind who is trying to obtain software that can control nuclear devices. The idea to then inject his memories into an insane criminal played by Kevin Costner really makes no sense here but perhaps the thought was that this experiment was to see if injecting the personality of a good person into an insane criminal would make the criminal a better person? This stupid idea also does not work in this movie.

Kevin Costner has made a good number of bad movies lately, the last few include McFarland USA and Black and White . I was also surprised to see great actors like Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman in this bad movie and it made me think that there must not be too many good scripts out there for quality actors anymore because this was a pretty bad movie that should definitely be missed.

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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Movie Review: The Boss

The story behind this movie is a good one; have a very rich Martha Stewart-like billionaire woman getting caught insider trading. Then have her go to prison and lose her business and all her assets. This premise mostly makes no sense because just going to prison for 5 months would not result in the loss off a large fortune or a company, but for the purposes of this story this rich woman going broke very quickly creates the second act when she goes broke. Underlying this story is the main characters bad childhood which included several foster homes and eventually an orphanage. Her lack of a real childhood is the reason why she drives herself to being extremely rich by starting her own business.

After getting out of prison the main character played by Melissa McCarthy has to rely on the help of her former assistant played by Kristen Bell to keep her off the streets. What follows for this formerly very rich woman who is now practically homeless, is a period of wallowing around and some humorous dialogue and physical comedy followed by plan to use a girl-scout-like troupe of teenage girls to start a company that sells brownies similar in concept to Girl Scout cookies. The physical comedy in this movie is nothing new but the humorous dialogue at times is hard to follow due to its rapid-fire nature and obscure references, one involving the actor Benedict Cumberbatch which made no sense and was not funny. There is a good deal of foul language in this movie so its definitely not for kids, especially at the end when the overuse of a common phrase for oral sex is used way too many times, probably because they thought it would be funny to repeat it over and over again unnecessarily. Some parts are funny and the proof was some laughs in the audience, but not enough to make a below average story work for the whole two hours. "The Boss" is another example of the clout to get a movie made rather than the quality of a great script written by someone who is a talented and funny screenwriter.

This movie should be seen by big fans of Melissa McCarthy, but probably missed by most everyone else.

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The Boss - IMDB

Friday, April 8, 2016

Movie Review: Demolition

Any person's reaction to the sudden loss of a loved one, most especially a spouse is probably as different as their DNA. The movie "Demolition" is about the subject of grief and sudden loss of a spouse. The different way this depressing subject is examined is how the husband, played very well by Jake Gyllenhaal handles the shock and grief in extremely unusual ways which include trashing his house, volunteering to demolish other houses, taking machines apart and organizing and examining each individual part. This movie starts with a car accident which is tastefully shown as Gyllenhaal's wife is driving the car where he is the passenger and his reaction to her being hit on the drivers side by another car and then a flash of deployed air bags. I was relieved that the car accident scene was done without too much graphic display because that is the last thing any driver needs to see. We are all as drivers in this country at the mercy of the bad decisions, alcoholism or the texting of others whom we share the roads with.

From the beginning this movie is highly unusual and certainly not a big budget or widely released summer movie. After the accident Gyllenhaal has a problem with the hospital's emergency room vending machine where he loses $1.25 but rather than just attempting to get a refund he sends a long letter to the company that manufactured the vending machine and included the entire story about his wife's car accident, her death and even the details about his life after she died. What follows is a semi-relationship with a woman in the customer service department of the vending machine company played very well by Naomi Watts followed by a friendship with Gyllenhaal and her sexually confused son. Of course any movie like this would not be interesting if the entire story were just about a man going insane from grief and performing strange acts and there has to be several additional side stories to keep the audience interested. The challenge of this movie was; is an unusual story like this compelling enough to keep audience interest throughout the entire two hours? There were parts of these two hours that were slow at times, but for the most part this story did keep my interest the entire time.

I do recommend this movie.

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Demolition - IMDB

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Past Movie Review: Forrest Gump

When this great movie was released in the summer of 1994 I originally thought that it was going to be mostly a comedy. When I saw it, I knew that this movie was not only going to win the Academy Award for best picture and it was far more than just a comedy; this was a great drama that had moments of tremendous emotion unprecedented in my movie-going experience even to this day. Tom Hanks won for best actor for the second year in a row, having already won the previous year for Philadelphia about a gay man who was dying of AIDS. This picture also won for best director for Robert Zemeckis  and best screenplay for Eric Roth , which represents the top four for all awards given by the Academy of Motion Pictures.

Probably the greatest parts of this movie include the empathy that you gain over the two hours for Forrest Gump who is mildly retarded and has physical problems with this legs that he eventually overcame. Despite Forrest's mental disabilities he was able to go to college on a Football scholarship and excel as a running back and then inexplicably volunteered for the Vietnam War. During the movie, several flashbacks, where Forrest met President Kennedy and other famous people in history were shown that provided a humorous and different dimension to the film that I have never seen in any movie. Additionally, the empathy you feel for Forrest include his difficulty in making his childhood girlfriend his wife mainly because of his mental disabilities and her very bad childhood and as a result her dangerous lifestyle as a "flower child" . Forrest chasing Jenny is the central plot of the story and is the source of the best emotional scenes most especially the ending which was almost impossible to sit through.

In all my years of watching movies I have never had a worse experience as far as an emotional overload at the end of a movie, with the possible exception of "Terms of Endearment" , which came out in 1983. For those who have not seen this movie after almost 22 years, I will try to not give anything away, but there is a devastating death at the end that is unbearable to watch and the barometer I always use to measure any movie is audience reaction. At the end of this movie in the theater I was in, there was not a dry eye anywhere. The music, the emotion of the actors and at the very end a floating feather, which was symbolic of life was extremely well done but just made the whole ending so difficult to get through.

When it was all over,   I remember having great difficulty getting out of the theater when it was time to leave at first because of the crowd and then because of seeing the emotional devastation in the eyes of so many people in the crowd. I also remember driving home being especially difficult because of the emotional roller coaster I had just experienced.

I have not seen Forrest Gump too many times after I saw it in July 1994 mainly because of the ending, but for those after 22 years who have not seen it, you owe it to yourself to see it at least one time, because you will never forget the experience.



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Forrest Gump - IMDB

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Movie Review: Eye in the Sky

This is probably the most unusual movie about war ever made. There are very few scenes of war action in this movie and instead the entire 2 hours was about one thing: what is war really all about. Is it about the young 19 year old kid that gets killed because he was too poor to go to college or have a friend in a high place who can sign a form and get him out of a tour in Vietnam or IRAQ, or is it about the people who make the high level decisions that decide whether an innocent child or innocent people die in order to attain a higher goal and maybe save lives in the future by preventing a suicide bomber or terrorist attack. What we all agree on is that war is always the worst of humanity and war is hell .

We all know that war is no longer what it was in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam war. Now we have billion dollar drone planes that fly all day long unmanned and can take pictures of the enemy and at any given moment can blow up a building a road or a group of terrorists. The movie Eye in the Sky is about this new war and the decisions that are made that might save lives or could take innocent lives and the reality is that in our current dangerous world these decisions have to be made every day.

This movie did an excellent job in showing how difficult decisions like this are to make; so difficult that in about 10 different circumstances the officials involved did not want to make the life and death choices necessary and passed the ultimate decision to someone else. The major dilemma in this movie was the potential opportunity lost of blowing up a building to kill several suicide bombers before they could kill many people in a shopping mall or maybe kill a small child who was right outside of the building selling bread. The acronym CDE is used quite a bit in this movie and it stands for Collateral Damage Estimate and its this number which is given as a percentage that complicates the decision on whether to blow up the building populated with several North African terrorists and the military accepted risk of killing innocent bystanders.

Most of this movie is about 5 groups of people in different locations all watching and identifying terrorists through the use of a drone in the sky and amazing small robot drones that look like hummingbirds and a small flying bug that can fly close outside of a building or even inside undetected and record images that can be transmitted all over the world. The military technology in this movie some of the best I have ever seen depicted and is the backdrop of the the debates that go back and forth that are based on moral, legal and military complications. The decisions that are delayed, deferred and ultimately made and how they all conclude are the best part of the acting and final message of this movie.

It was sad to see Alan Rickman in one of his last performances in this movie and his last line really stood out as the best, "never tell a soldier about the cost of war". Alan Rickman was a great actor and he will definitely be missed. The actress Helen Mirren  is also very good in her role as a high level military officer who ultimately makes the final decision on whether to blow up the building.

This movie was well done and I do recommend it.

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Eye in the Sky - IMDB