Saturday, May 20, 2017

Movie Review: The Lovers

The new movie "The Lovers" has all the messages of a relationship story that involves infidelity, complacency, the search for something better in the hopes of more excitement and the hope that the grass will be greener with someone else. Ultimately the message of most movies like this is "Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it."

The wife in this story about a married couple who are both having affairs is played by Debra Winger, who has been making a comeback into movies lately. Her husband is played by the actor Tracy Letts who was outstanding in last years "Indignation". There is nothing wrong with the acting in this movie, unfortunately, the problem with this film is that it is way too drawn out, too long and boring to make you interested enough in the relatable messages of the story.

The reviews for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes are very good and also claim that this film is mostly a comedy. There are some comedic overtones in this film but I found this story to be mostly a drama and not a comedy. I did relate to the boring jobs and the cubicles the married couple in this story had to endure day after day that contributed to their declining boring marriage and search for something more exciting. Far too many of us are trapped in lives that involve a small cubicle and constricted environment, 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

For me, this film wasn't compelling enough and the entire story was just too long and boring to recommend.

Movie Review: Alien Covenant

One could argue that the best space/alien movie franchise in movie history is clearly the Alien franchise. In my opinion, the best of all of these movies is 1986 Aliens, that was both written and directed by James Cameron, mainly because the level of tension almost never wanes during the entire 2 hours. This is one of my all-time favorite scenes from this great movie that shows the great level of intensity:

The first movie Alien that was released in 1979 introduced for the first time the concept of a lizard-like creature that is created by injecting an egg by a horrendous crab-like creature into the victim's mouth and a short time later the Alien breaks through the victim's chest. A short time after the alien emerges it is fully grown and capable of killing humans very easily. On top of this, the creature has acid for blood and a disjointed mandible that not only drools profusely but the alien can use as a projectile to kill its victims. All of these ideas for just about the scariest creature in movie history are great ones and the interest in this alien has not waned in 40 years since the first one jumped out of John Hurt's chest.

I was impressed with this latest installment of the Alien franchise Alien Covenant because it introduced not only new species of these alien creatures but also showed new ways that the creature can be injected into the human host and this included in one scene, a nasal injection using some sort of an alien mist. The special effects for this film I thought were as good as they were for Prometheus that was the first Alien prequel, released in 2012. Michael Fassbender starred in Prometheus as an android and in this movie, he appears as the character Walter and also as David that he played in Prometheus in an unusual duel role. There is a trick ending involving these 2 characters that I will of course, not give away, but I saw it coming a mile away so I thought that this part of the story could have been done better. There are some other flaws in the movie including leaving only one astronaut on a spaceship with an open door and everybody else is out exploring a cave. This is not something that would ever happen in real life or make any sense.

This film is once again directed by Ridley Scott, who directed the Alien prequel Prometheus and has taken over this franchise for all future Alien movies. Scott also directed the very first Alien movie in 1979 and his vision and ideas for this science fiction story from the beginning have always been great. The lead actress for this movie was played very well by Katherine Waterston and like past Alien movies, especially Aliens, she plays a very strong woman who fights the Aliens, accepting the possibility of certain death in several scenes.

I thought that this latest Alien movie was very well done, with excellent special effects, on a par with Prometheus and I do recommend it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Movie Review: The Wall

The new movie ""The Wall" is an extremely unusual war film. There is no real build up, no real battle or depiction of combat, it is just about a wall and an American on one side and a soldier from Afghanistan on the other side. One of the other soldiers is the wrestler-actor, John Cena and after getting shot early in the movie, spends almost the entire movie on his back with no lines. The other actor and man character in this movie is Aaron Taylor-Johnson who also spends the entire movie on his back behind the protection of a wall that is almost falling down and having an ongoing conversation with an Afghani soldier whom we hear but never see named Juba. I thought that this depiction of a small battle within a large war was definitely something worth exploring as a war movie, but the problem with an unusual attempt like this is that the great majority of this entire movie is extremely boring and seems to drag on long past its almost 2-hour length. It is simply not interesting to hear two enemies talking and threatening each other in a battle that never happens and in mostly failed attempts to get a good clean shot at the other. I remember looking at my watch far too many times and hoping that this very boring movie would be over soon.

For these reasons, I cannot recommend this boring war movie for its accurate depiction of a minor war battle, because the big downside of boredom overshadows most of the things that are good about this film.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Movie Review: Snatched

All of the previews I have seen for the new Amy Schumer movie "Snatched" had me expecting a very funny movie. Unfortunately, it turns out that the funniest moments in the entire film were only those in that are shown in the previews. My acid test for reviewing a comedy movie worked again for this film. Nobody laughed in the theater I was in and I didn't laugh once. The opportunity lost here is that Schumer is a very good stand-up comedian and perhaps the first female standup to follow that up with a very good movie which was Train Wreck, that came out in 2015. The problem is that you cannot follow a very good movie with a bad one because you might ruin your entire film career before it even gets started. The IMDB and Rotten Tomato ratings for this movie are extremely low, 2.5 and 38% respectively. I did not think that movie should have received ratings this low, especially the 2.5 from IMDB. This is at best a below average movie mainly because it is supposed to be a comedy and it mostly fails in just about all the attempts it makes to be funny. Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn do make a good mother-daughter combination in this story, so it is even more of a shame that the movie was just not nearly funny enough.

The movie starts out pretty well, with Amy's character losing her job and then getting rejected by her boyfriend. She then turns to her mother for support and then talks her into going with her vacation in of all places Equador. I thought that the idea of vacationing in Equador was a little funny at the start, because why would anyone want to vacation in Equador? Following this setup, just about everything about this movie fails from that point on. The problem is that it is very hard to make kidnapping, some of the depressing location shots, gunplay and murder funny. The situations these two women were in most of the time during their kidnapping and attempts to escape were never funny. The appearance of Wanda Sykes and a mute Joan Cusack were not funny. Supposedly, the writer and director thought that Joan Cusack's character cutting out her own tongue to be a better security agent would be something that people would think was a funny idea. There is nothing funny about the idea of cutting out your own tongue and her inability to talk during this entire movie removed any opportunity for her to say something funny. There were a few somewhat funny sight gags in this movie, but for the most part, this film was very disappointing.

If you are looking for a very funny and very well done Amy Schumer movie, get the DVD for Trainwreck and miss this mostly bad movie.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Movie Review: The Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2

A question I have written on this blog several times in the past is that is it possible to rescue a bad or average script with special effects? For many people, the answer to this question is probably yes, but for me, it has always been no. For me a great story is the most important thing, a story that makes sense and that has a good message. After a great story, very good special effects are a must, especially for a science fiction movie that takes place in space. I was surprised that this movie did not has much effective humor as the first film but it did have all the unusual aspects of the first film, which included the 60-80's music and the use of a Sony Walkman, that I thought showed great imagination for the first film. There are references to 70's and 80's TV shows like Cheers and Nightrider and several references and even an appearance of the actor David Hasselhoff, that makes you wonder if this is out of respect for Hasselhoff or an attempt to make fun of him.

The problem with this film are not the special effects which are the equal of the previous film, but the convoluted story and plot, that I thought at times were even boring and is the kiss of death for a film like this one. The start of this story is the meeting between Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt and his long lost father named of all things Ego, played by Kurt Russell. After this introduction, there is a story that goes all over the place, to different planets and involves Quill's adoptive father and even an appearance by Sylvester Stallone. I thought that the special effects at times provided overkill rather than action that enhanced the story. At times you barely knew what was going on in some of the later action scenes. There is some humorous banter in this movie like the last one and the addition of some new characters, including a sister to Zoe Saldana's character Gamora that will most likely be appearing in the sequels to this movie and there will probably be at least two more of those. I was rather surprised at the quality of the screenplay for this movie, considering that its been 3 years since the last one was released. Clearly, I was expecting something better for this new version of one of the big hits from 3 years ago.

Mainly for the special effects and some moments of humor I give this film a very mild recommendation.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Movie Review: The Dinner

There are thousands of ways to tell a story. In my opinion, for movies, the most straightforward way of creating a timeline and telling a story is always the best. When there is an overt attempt to be different, very often the strange and unusual storytelling becomes greater than the purpose of the film because following what is going on, becomes too much of a strange experience.

I admit that I have never seen a story told the way it is told in the new film, "The Dinner". Two brothers and their two wives meet at a very expensive restaurant, a restaurant so expensive that each course and every item on the menu requires a long explanation from the waiter. At the top of each new course of the dinner, there is a new part of the story that is revealed through the use of flashbacks.

The main characters in this story are Stan Lowman, who is a politician running for Governor, played by Richard Gere, his mentally disturbed brother played by Steve Coogan and their wives played by Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall. The flashbacks are mostly about Lowman's brother and the various reasons for his mental illnesses and how it relates to his job as a high school history teacher and of all things, Gettysburg and the Civil War.

The story telling at times during the many different flashbacks was I thought too scattered and seemed to be trying too hard to be different almost to the point of throwing the entire story under a bus. The main message of this movie had to do with a horrendous act of cruelty done by each couple's teenage sons and then discussing what was the best way to handle the situation, especially considering that Lowman is running for Governor. What followed was an extremely strange and abrupt ending to this film that seemed almost as if the director ran out of film.

For these reasons, despite the good acting in this film, I cannot recommend the Dinner.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Movie Review: The Lost City of Z

The odds are very high that nobody has ever heard of the explorer Percy Fawcett. This is the main reason why I like historical movies because you learn about events in history that you would have never known about otherwise. The greatest example of this in recent movie history is the great film Hidden Figures, where we all learned about who were the true heroes of NASA during the early years of space exploration.

The movie The Lost City of Z is about an explorer and army officer named Percy Fawcett from England in 1906 who became obsessed with finding an ancient city in the Jungles of the Amazon. What is most amazing about this story is how anyone can be obsessed with finding anything in just about the worst place on earth. The heat, bugs, wild animals, natives trying to kill you, the long trip there and back and the very high risk of death would for most people mean that looking for an ancient city so far away would be something you would only try once in a lifetime. However, Percy Fawcett tried to find this lost city 3 times during his life, the last time was after he survived being a soldier in World War 1. The rule for all risk takers is the same. The more you tempt fate the higher the odds that the math will just catch up to you one day. One thing you learn about Percy Fawcett during this movie is that he was extremely lucky to have lived as long as he did when you consider that he was in World War 1 and he had this obsession with finding a lost city in the Amazon.

This movie stars Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett, Sienna Miller as Fawcett's wife Nina and an unrecognizable Robert Pattinson as Fawcett's best friend. I thought the story about the incredible hardships and risks in trying to survey and explore a part of the world as dangerous as the Amazon jungle was very well done as was the acting. I recommend The Lost City of Z.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Movie Review: The Circle

I was very surprised to see the very low reviews on both IMDB (5.5) and Rotten Tomatoes (16%) for this movie.  I thought this movie was about average but not overly bad. The message of this film is a very good one, "when has technology gone too far", or "when do the good things about technology infringe too much on basic human privacy". This movie stars Tom Hanks, who probably has about 6 scenes and 20 lines and Emma Watson who is the real lead actor of this movie, so the trailers are somewhat misleading. The late actor Bill Paxton also has a small role in this movie as Watson's father, who has Multiple Sclerosis. I found it rather depressing to see Paxton in this movie so soon after he died of a heart ailment at only 61 years old. The actor John Boyega also has a relatively small role in this film as a disgruntled employee of the Circle but he seems to be a character that was added on at the last minute, rather than having any significant reason to be in this movie.

As this film progresses we see that this huge internet company called "The Circle" hires Watson and very slowly demands more and more of her personal information and private time and very quickly she is living in an insane world that believes that all information, regardless of how private, is everyone's business. Tom Hanks plays the CEO of the Circle and early in the film, he introduces a new kind of camera the size of a marble that the company has placed all around the world. This sophisticated camera is not only able to create pictures from all around the world, but also record all aspects of the environment it has been placed in. Considering the small cost of creating such a small camera and the ease they can be placed practically anywhere, its obvious that a device like this can get out of hand very quickly.

I thought it was brave of the producers of this film to show the campus of the circle as looking almost exactly like the new Apple Campus that is opening this month, (see video below). As a producer, I would think that doing something like this would be too risky considering the possibility of litigation from Apple concerning the negative aspects of this story. I was impressed by the message at the end, which I thought was if the person who believes that all aspects of someone else's private information are everyone's business, how would they feel if that very same spotlight was turned on them? Another way of looking at something like this is; if the people who vote to send young people to war would have to go to war and get killed themselves, would they still vote yes?

Despite the obvious flaws in this movie, I give it a marginal recommendation.

The Circle - Book Amazon

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Movie Review: Their Finest

The city of London in 1940, near the start of World War 2 had to be one of the most precarious places to live in this history of the world. The constant bombing of the city and the entire population of London was dedicated in some way to the war effort. At any moment your life or the life of any person you know can end because of a bomb or gunfire or a collapsing building or other injury related to a world war. I thought this movie should have been called "Precarious" rather than "Their Finest" and focused more on the real life dangerous existence of the people in London during 1940 by trying to understand how anyone can live a life that you know can end at any moment because of a bomb. There are moments in this movie of bombs going off and injuries, but considering that this is supposed to be at least in part a war movie there was not nearly enough of this reminder of harsh realities World War 2 and living in London.

The back story of this story is about a screenwriter, Catrin Cole played by Gemma Arterton who has a boyfriend who is a starving artist and they live in the center of London. Through connections and some luck, Catrin is soon one of the screenwriters of a war movie with a famous movie actor Ambrose Hilliard, played by Bill Nighy. For me, what didn't work here is that the mechanics and writing of a movie within this movie seemed contrived and rather boring and I was much more interested in what was going on with the war in London and less about the day to day problems with making a movie. One could argue that this film is more about the making of a World War 2 movie in London 1940 with some romantic side stories and less about the precarious life of Londoners who lived through World War 2 - and for that reason, this is really not a war movie at all. Bill Nighy provides some very good moments of humor during the making of the movie, but in my opinion, the best reason behind this story and the precarious life of anyone living in London during World War 2 were missed. The best line of this movie was when someone suggests to Catrin that she could not waste any life opportunity considering how quickly a person's life could end at any moment. Very true considering the precarious times. There is a shocking scene at the end that was completely unexpected that did remind me of how quickly a person can lose their life during those horrible times of World War 2.

I give Their Finest a very marginal recommendation because although I considered the acting very well done, the back story about the making of a movie within this movie I found too long and boring to give this a strong recommendation.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Movie Review: Free Fire

So many movies have been made over the years that if you want to get a new movie idea greenlighted, it has to be different, sometimes very different. The challenge for any screenwriter, when you realize that so many movies have already been made about so many different ideas, is that you have to not only be different but also write a high-quality script. The movie "Free Fire" is without a doubt a very different kind of a movie when you recognize that the entire film is shot in a broken down warehouse after an illegal gun deal goes bad. What follows are people getting shot and killed and crawling around cursing at themselves and each other. I thought the dialogue throughout this film was interesting and unusual however not up to Tarantino standards. The action was good enough for this story but it's impossible to make gunfire and injuries from gunfire any different that what we all have seen so many times in movies.

This movie stars Brie Larson who has made some pretty average movies since she won the Academy Award for best actress for Room 2 years ago, the most recent one was King Kong: Skull Island. Once you win the Academy Award and you're at the top of the very fickle movie industry and in demand, it is so important to select high-quality movies. For this reason, I was surprised to see her in this film mainly because I thought it should be beneath not only her standards but below the standards of a very recent Academy Award winner. This movie also stars Armie Hammer, so perhaps there was some kind of a deal made to have 2 named actors in this pretty average movie.

This is a good movie as far as a violent gun play but there is not much of a real story here. The unusual differences with this film are not different enough to make me consider this as a good movie and for that reason, I am giving Free Fire a very marginal recommendation.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Past Movie Review: Disclosure

The movie Disclosure was released in 1994 and was based on a book written by the late Michael Crichton and personally one of my favorite movies made from one of his novels.

It would have been something had this movie been released today, given the recent rash of sexual harassment stories coming out of Fox News the last few months. This movie is about sexual harassment in the workplace, but in this case, it is an evil woman played by Demi Moore who is the harasser. I thought the story and the acting were great in this film and I consider the portrayal of the lead character, Tom Sanders as one of Michael Douglas, best performances. I remember thinking when I saw this movie for the first time that there should be many more movies made about being an employee of a company to show the inevitable backstabbing and bad people that so many of us have to deal with to make a living.

What made this movie so good was how believable the complex political situations were and the injustice of what an innocent man had to endure once he is falsely accused of sexual harassment. It was amazing to see the attitudes of just about every one of Tom Sander's co-workers who could just not believe that he was the victim of sexual harassment because he was a man. Tom was considered completely guilty before even getting his day in court. The rest of this movie was also very well done, including the courtroom scenes and the final the comeuppance of Meredith Johnson, played by Demi Moore that we all would love to see in real life but almost never do. The comedian Dennis Miller also makes a very convincing appearance in this movie as one of Tom's co-workers.

This very good movie also stars Donald Sutherland who is the owner of the high-tech company who does a very believable job portraying the back-stabbing politics of the real working world. I highly recommend Disclosure as one of the few films I can remember about working in the real world.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Movie Review: Unforgettable

A framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a scientific community.

It should be obvious now to anyone who goes to movies with any regularity that the very specific paradigm of some crazy woman who wants some other woman's husband or boyfriend and then goes through an insane series of events to get him back, is something that producers in Hollywood believe will ultimately make money.

There have been so many movies like the movie "Unforgettable",, and it all started with the first film, which was the only good one of this type that was released 30 years ago, Fatal Attraction. Probably the main reason why Fatal Attraction was the only good movie is that it was the original and all the clones that follow are just pale imitations. I am more amazed that this exact story has been made so many times, with a storyline and action scenes that are so similar to the other movies. There is always a crazy unstable woman, this time played by Katherine Heigl and always a nice woman who is the victim, played by Rosario Dawson. There is always a scene where the two women fight, sometimes to the death. There are always several scenes where the insane woman plots to discredit or ruin the relationship of the other woman. There always seems to be some young child involved who can possibly be harmed during this insane conflict. There is nothing new in this entire story, other than to try and explain why Heigl's character is so crazy because of her overbearing mother who is played by Cheryl Ladd, who looks extremely good for her age, 65. The comedian Whitney Cummings also has a small part in this movie as the advisor and friend to Rosario Dawson and she seems completely out of place in this story.

This film could be considered some kind of a comeback attempt for Katherine Heigl and it's a shame she chose this bad movie to make but perhaps due to her problems in the past this was her only option. I have not seen Rosario Dawson in a movie for a while and perhaps she was in the same boat as Heigl and had no other options. The title for this bad film "Unforgettable" is unfortunate because not only will everyone forget this movie very quickly, you actually want to forget you made the decision to see this film while you are watching it. A better title for this bad film would be "Missable".

I thought this movie is not the worst of all of the many clones that have been made in the 30 years since Fatal Attraction was released, but it's definitely a film that should have gone straight to DVD.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Movie Review: The Fate of the Fast and Furious

One can only imagine the challenge the 2 screenwriters faced 2 years ago after the success of the last Fast and Furious movie. All of the actors in the last movie were signed to multiple film deals in this franchise and despite the fact that one of them, Jason Statham is in a maximum security level prison and one of the main stars, Paul Walker was very tragically killed in an auto accident. Now they had to come up a new story that would explain all of this for the new movie but for some reason, it seems that they completely forgot to explain why Paul Walker's character Brian was not in this story. The new actor who will probably be his replacement, Scott Eastwood, has been added to the cast as the new Mr. Nobody who works with the old Mr. Nobody played by Kurt Russell. On top of this, the murdering criminal enemy in the last film, played by Jason Statham, now has to somehow, miraculously become the "good guy" and friends to the entire Fast and Furious family at the end of this film. Didn't Statham's character try to blow up Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, his baby and his wife in the last film? Are we suppose to forget about the murders he committed and now consider him part of the family? Of course, all of this is just too stupid, but somehow we are expected to accept this as part of the story.

I thought that the last movie had a very good story and very good action and a great tribute to Paul Walker at the end of the film. This new one had a very stupid and convoluted story that made no sense and the action scenes were not nearly as good as the last film. You cannot blame the 2 screenwriters, Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson who were actually given the impossible task of writing a script that literally had to be "reverse engineered" into a story that had to satisfy the contracts of the actors and preserve the continuation of a franchise that has always been based on a stupid concept. Essentially, the idea of fighting terrorism and master criminals by driving cars fast is completely absurd from the start. We overlook stupidity like this for this movie franchise because the special effects and the stunts involved are so amazing to watch. However, at some point, the upside of seeing stunts and special effects are not enough to cover up a bad story, stupid plot, corny lines that are repeated too often and a series of events with the characters themselves that have now become ridiculously over the top and absurd. How many times can a character die in a movie series and not really be dead? What is the count of non-dead people in these movies so far? I lost count of this a long time ago.

Two new actors have joined the continuing cast of the Fast and Furious franchise, Charlize Theron and Scott Eastwood. It seems the producers are grooming Eastwood to take over for Kurt Russel or eventually take over for Paul Walker because he looks a little like him. As far as Theron, I thought she was miscast for this part as the evil mastermind criminal who obtains leverage over Vin Diesel's character so he turns rogue.  You had to figure that the producers thought they needed this new idea or twist with this movie to hopefully prevent it from becoming stale, but what they overlook is that the more convoluted and ridiculous the story the larger the threat to this franchise continuing. In my opinion, if in another 2 years they come up a story or illogical events for Fast and Furious #9 as bad as with this movie, then this entire franchise might just have reached its limit too soon.

For me, the best part of this movie is the violent banter between The Rock, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, when they first meet up in prison and later in the movie when they somehow, despite what happened in the last movie, slowly start to like each other? The Rock is becoming famous for several of his over the top lines in these movies and this one was no exception. The one time when the Rock tells Statham what he would do to him in a fight, that involved brushing his teeth, the audience I was in as well as the two actors just had to laugh out loud. It was by far the best line in this movie.

The ending of this movie that involved driving cars on a glacier in Russia seemed to be just an excuse to drive cars on ice and blow them up and like the rest of this movie made no sense. This final scene also involved the use of the submarine and an ending car jumping scene with Diesel that was far too similar to the ending of the last film. At this point in the movie, I was overwhelmed and very annoyed at the ridiculous plot that made no sense and action scenes entirely for the excuse to have special effects or stunts, rather than a story had some logic to it. This movie pushes the envelope of absurdity and over the top dialogue more than any of the other previous 7 films and because of that reason, ruined the film. At some point there just has to be a plot that makes some sense and not a storyline that was created just so all of the actors involved can have their contracts honored for future movies. Another flaw I saw in this story was the computer expert, played by Nathalie Emmanuel, who in this movie is a passenger in cars during the action scenes and in harm's way, even though she is the computer person who should be working on computer issues remotely. Why is she involved with these action scenes and almost getting killed when she never even drives a car? This just another example of stupid decisions for this movie that made no sense.

Normally I would say to see this movie just for the special effects, but the insane story and just above average special effects are not enough for me to recommend this latest installment in the Fast and Furious franchise.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Past Movie Review: Midnight Express

Some movies will always be impossible to ever forget. The film "Midnight Express", released in October 1978, is definitely one of those movies. This movie starred the late Brad Davis, who died of aids when he was only 41. This movie was written by Oliver Stone and won the Academy Award in 1979 for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. The late John Hurt was nominated for an Oscar for best-supporting actor and the movie was also nominated for best picture for 1978.

This story, about an American Drug Smuggler, Billy Hayes, who was arrested in Turkey is a true one and about as riveting and unbelievable as any movie about a true story has ever been. The series of events that lead to Billy Hayes arrest, his 5 years in prison and mostly the ending were so unbelievable I remember thinking that this story was almost impossible to believe really happened. I also remember one of the trailers for this movie in 1978 that simply stated, "If you get caught smuggling drugs over there, your in for the hassle of your life".

The horrible and depressing life during Billy Hayes imprisonment in Turkey was extremely well depicted in this film and the conditions in the prison he was in for 5 long years were both cruel and inhumane. His family and lawyers tried many times to get him released only to fail time after time after being lied to repeatedly by the corrupt legal system in that country. How Billy Hayes finally got out of this horrible death spiral in a Turkish prison is the most amazing and best part of this great movie.

For those who have never seen or heard of "Midnight Express" I highly recommend it.

Past Movie Review: Hitch

The movie "Hitch" that was released in 2005 is easily the funniest film both Will Smith and Kevin James ever made. The dancing scene in this movie (see video) below was so funny that Smith had to hold the stereo remote control over his mouth to not show that he wanted to laugh. There is also another practice kissing scene between James and Smith that is also very funny later in the movie.

Aside from the funny scenes in this film, I thought the message about life and the difficulties in dating were very strong throughout. "You only get one look, one kiss and only one shot, that is all we get", just to name one. Another scene in this movie as Will Smith, who is of all things a relationship consultant, has a meeting with a real lowlife who wants his services to just use a woman for a one night stand. I thought was also very significant in how well Will Smith's character handled him. Smith's relationship with Albert is also very well brought out because we sense that Smith wants to help him get the woman of his dreams because of his decency and niceness as a person, more than any other reason. The conclusion at the end was also great, "just try and be yourself", because eventually everybody who dates or finds the right person or never does, can only be themselves.

This is light mostly comedic subject matter but I thought this movie was highly entertaining and I recommend it.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Movie Review: Gifted

The movie "Gifted" has ingredients of films we have seen before about child custody; probably the most famous of those is "Kramer vs Kramer" that was released in 1979. What is different with the story in Gifted is the suicide of the child's mother, who was a mathematical genius and her suicide and prodigy are the connection to the 7-year-old child she left behind, who inherited her mathematical gifts. The rest of the story slowly uncovers the reasons why this brilliant woman killed herself and her brother, played by Chris Evans, who is trying to prevent her child from following her same depressing path in life. When your a genius at the level of Mary, the child in this movie played very well by Mckenna Grace, just like most everything else in life, there are good parts and bad parts. The good parts are your massive intelligence at a level where you could potentially change the world with your inventions or ideas. The bad parts are that you might become socially inept because you will be going to school in think tanks or special schools, possibly going to college with people much older than you and because of this you might never achieve your potential as a human being and as well as a gifted prodigy. Fundamentally, this movie asks the question: "is it even possible to be a child prodigy and also develop normal social skills"? As this movie shows, the young girl can be very impatient and rude around other ordinary children, which would be just one of many problems trying to raise a gifted child.

We find out during the story that one of the main reasons for the woman's suicide was because of her overbearing mother, who tried to control her life and put too much pressure on her to succeed, even to the point of trying to ruin her relationships. Most of this comes out during the child custody court hearings which were boring at some points, but in the end took an unexpected twist that I thought was well done and lead to a satisfying conclusion. Most movies about child prodigies that can only come for Chess, Music and Mathematics are for the most part very impressive when they show the prodigy performing their main talent and this movie has several impressive mathematical demonstrations by Mary that I thought were very well done. Octavia Spenser also stars in this movie as neighborhood friend of Mary and her uncle and she seems out of place in this story and perhaps there was a deal made to add her to the movie to obtain more ticket buyers due to her recent success in movies like "Hidden Figures" that was another movie about a mathematical child prodigy.

Gifted is a good movie about a child prodigy but not a great one and I do recommend it.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Movie Review: Going in Style

The movie "Going in Style" is a remake of the 1979 movie of the same title, that started George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. The idea behind this story is essentially the same, 3 men in their 70's and 80's who have nothing to lose, decide to rob a bank because all 3 are broke due to a major injustice. In the case of this new version, the major injustice is very understandable. One of the 3 men, played by Micheal Caine was tricked into getting a mortgage that ballooned into payments that tripled after a year. On top of this, all 3 men are retired factory workers and now because of cost cutting and typical screwing over workers, they have lost out on their pensions that it took them 30 years of hard work to earn. Now all of them are broke and after Caine's character witnesses a robbery, he decides to rob the very bank that tripled his mortgage payments and is now threatening to foreclose on his house. I found all of this believable and understandable, considering the kind of anger these 3 men and so many other Americans must feel when they are screwed out of their pensions or laid off because their job has moved overseas. Caine's friends are played well by veteran actors Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin and they both provide some comic relief and believability to the story. On top of all their other problems, Freeman's character is on dialysis and needs a Kidney transplant, which adds some perhaps unnecessary drama to the plot.

I thought that the story was entertaining enough, believable and considering the bank and the company involved that screwed over these 3 men almost justifiable.

The negative part of all this is that as you watch this 100 minute or so movie you slowly realize that most of the story you have seen many times before, so before long this film is over it can seem to be boring and average.  Ann Margaret also makes an appearance in this movie along with Matt Dillon, who I have not seen in a movie in a long time.

I give this movie only a mild recommendation, mainly because of the 3 great actors involved.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

A Tribute to Don Rickles

Once a month or so, back in the mid-70's the announcement that Don Rickles was going to be on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on Friday night was everything to me because you just knew it was going to be another great event of the best comedy there ever was. Carson was the perfect straight man to Rickles who could just make a face, make a noise or do one of the many jokes about his wife or any number of different people that we heard before but always worked because with Rickles, it was all about his face and his impeccable comedic rhythm and timing.

Rickles was 90 years old when he passed away today and he will be very sorely missed by everyone who loves comedy. Without Don Rickles, there would never have been the Dean Martin Roast shows in the 70's or all the roast shows that followed. Don Rickles was the all-time greatest roast master and one of the greatest comedians of all time.

Past Movie Review: Dances with Wolves

There are many messages that I remember the first time I saw "Dances with Wolves" that was released in 1990. The most thing I remember was that Dances with Wolves could be one of the best anti-war movies ever made. The story is about a soldier during the Civil war who deserts his unit after being wounded and almost losing his leg. After leaving his unit and living alone in the wilderness, he eventually befriends a local tribe of Indians and over a long period of time, he becomes part of their tribe and eventually part of their family. For me, the best message from this movie was that once you strip away the insanity of war, and being a soldier in an army with the singular goal of killing the enemy, what remains is humanity and how human beings relate to each other as people.

Dances with Wolves was a great movie for many reasons and won for best picture and also won 6 other Oscars, including best Director for Kevin Costner. Most of the movie was filmed on location in South Dakota, mainly on private ranches near Pierre and Rapid City, with a few scenes filmed in Wyoming. Specific locations included the Badlands National Park, the Black Hills, the Sage Creek Wilderness Area, and the Belle Fourche River area. The bison hunt scenes were filmed at the Triple U Buffalo Ranch outside Fort Pierre, South Dakota, as were the Fort Sedgewick scenes, the set being constructed on the property. What I remember the most about this movie are the incredible vistas and cinematography of the midwestern parts of the United States. The story was so well told and compelling that I didn't even realize that it was almost 3 hours long and in fact, the full version of this film is 4 hours long.

Dances with Wolves is another great example in movie history of a one hit wonder. As with the movies Ordinary People and Terms of Endearment, everybody involved with these great productions all hit a high note in their career and never made a movie even close to this good ever again. Kevin Costner won for best director and this film won for best picture and from there, he went on to make Waterworld and some other very average movies, proving once again that the movie industry is as tough as any profession there is. The movie viewing audience is fickle and creating a great screenplay like Dancing with Wolves should be considered nothing less than a miracle.

It has been almost 30 years since Dancing with Wolves has been released and for all who are reading this movie blog and have not seen this great film, it gets my highest recommendation.


Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Movie Review: The Zookeepers Wife

There have been understandably thousands of movies made about World War 2, mainly because it is the most compelling and most important story in human history. World War 2 is a 6 year period of human history that was easily the worst in terms of the destruction of so many cities and the death of so many hundreds of millions of people. World War 2 demonstrated the worst that humanity has ever shown and that there is no measurable lower limit to the atrocities people can inflict on other people. One could probably argue that of all the many thousands of World War 2 movies, that "The Zookeepers Wife" is the first film that involves the owners of a Zoo in Warsaw Poland; Jan and Antonina Zabinski, played by Jessica Chastain. Just like the rest of Poland on September 1, 1939, the Warsaw Zoo was bombed during the German invasion. I thought that during this invasion, this film did a very good job at showing the injuries and death of some of the animals while not actually showing the actual killing in any sort of gory or unnecessary detail. Animals just like all life during this time had to pay a price for the worst time in human history.

Where this movie fails is that it was not different enough or unique enough for me to be that memorable. While this is a true story, we have all seen the War movies where people are being hidden from the Germans and rescued from certain death and evil German officers who indiscriminately kill people and as in this movie, even innocent animals in a Zoo. There are also problems with continuity where Antonina is suddenly giving birth and we never even knew that she was pregnant, almost as if a major mistake was made while film editing. This also happens in few other areas of the film, although not as glaring as this obvious error. There is another Zookeeper from Berlin, who eventually becomes the German officer and villain in this story, but he is not nearly as bad as so many evil German officers have been in so many other World War 2 movies. I thought that this was another problem with this film because there was not enough conflict with the Zookeeper's wife and her husband and this German officer, that might have made the story more memorable.

Overall, I thought this was a pretty average and run of the mill World War 2 movie so I only give it a very mild recommendation.

TV Series Review: Crashing

The subject of the new series "Crashing" on HBO is about what a person really faces when they want to go into show business and into probably the toughest art form there is; stand-up comedy. We all see the few who succeed and make millions of dollars through TV shows, movies and stand-up specials. We all know about the Kevin Hart's, Amy Schumer's and Jerry Seinfeld's who have made it big and have the life far beyond what they probably thought was ever possible. However, we don't hear about the thousands who struggle for years and are forever poor and suffer and never make it. The show Crashing portrays some of this nightmare life but tries to make it funny which is a difficult thing to do considering what people who decide to choose this kind of life have to live through.

The story behind Crashing is about a man, played by Pete Holmes, who has the desire to do stand-up, is married and being supported by his wife. One day he catches her having an affair with another man and the marriage immediately ends and then he has to find couches to sleep on with the different people he meets while trying to make it in New York City comedy clubs. As Amy Schumer mentioned in her book, the reality of anyone starting in stand-up clubs in New York City is that you have to go out and hand out fliers and if you get a defined amount of people to attend the comedy show, maybe you can get some time on stage. This time on stage may or may not include even an audience and very often the comedy club is a very low paying flop house. This aspect of the stark reality and the paying of dues is very well done in Crashing as well as Pete Holmes almost having to beg for a couch to sleep on just about every night.

The lead actor and creator of Crashing is Pete Holmes who has been a stand up for a number of years and even has his own YOUTUBE channel. He is a good stand-up comedian, mostly unknown and he would know as well as anyone, how hard it is to make it as a comedian, and more importantly the extreme gamble you are making with your entire life, the point being is that if you are 40 and have tried to make it for 15 years, and it doesn't work out, what do you do? What is your skill? How can you possibly make a living after 15 years of traveling the country and barely surviving?  I have always thought that this life should be the subject of a movie that shows what is really like for so many people who think they are funny and just have to try this risky life gamble.  I recommend the Amy Schumer  book "The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo", because she mentions some of the struggles she went through in stand-up comedy that included after finishing 4th on the TV show last comic standing, then going on a bus tour and bombing in 90% of her performances during that tour. Early in her career, even Schumer had to pass out fliers in the hope of maybe getting some time on stage.  On top of everything you are risking and the inevitable bad times, the bottom line is that stand-up comedy is an extremely difficult art form to master.

I highly recommend the HBO series Crashing, which will have its season finale this Sunday.


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Movie Review: The Ghost in the Shell

The new movie "Ghost in the Shell" tries very hard to look like the 1982 cult classic film "Blade Runner" and for the most part, it was very successful in reminding me of Blade Runner and of the dark, murky and rainy futuristic world where robots are as commonplace as human beings. Given that movie and computer technology has advanced so far since 1982, I was surprised at the just average special effects for a movie with a budget of 130 million dollars, especially with all of the scenes of the outside world in the distant future that seemed like they were slapped together or taken from another movie. What is worse than the average special effects are what amounts to a very boring story, that barely keeps your attention for even 30 minutes much less than close to 2 hours. A bad sign for me is the watch test and this movie I must have checked my watch about 25 times, waiting for it all to end as soon as possible. The acting for this film is OK, but there is not much of a story to act, unfortunately. The star is Scarlett Johansson and I suspect she is hoping there is not going to be a sequel to this movie, considering the amount of work involved in making this pretty bad science fiction film.

This film is a remake of a cartoon movie with the same title made in 1995 also entitled "The Ghost in the Shell" and given the pretty high IMDB ratings for the 1995 version (8.0), I would suggest that anyone who is interested in this story should probably see this movie and skip this bad remake.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Movie Review: Personal Shopper

This movie is a hard one to review, understand and even try and understand why anyone liked it, as the reviews are mostly positive, which makes no sense to me. This is another example of a low budget movie trying to be different and in the process of trying to be different, creates differences from what we are used to in terms of story or plot that are overtaken by confusion and annoying tricks and references that do nothing more than annoy and confuse the audience. This movie is about a young woman played by Kristen Stewart who has a twin brother who has the same heart abnormality that she has and he died of a heart attack at only age 27. What follows is grief caused by her brother's death, fear of her own possible early death from the same heart problem her brother had, a murder that came out of nowhere, appearances of a ghost that we are lead to believe could be her brother, but we are never completely sure of this.

This movie has references that include ghosts, mediums, murder, an overly complex plot, nudity in several scenes that involve Kristen Stewart and an ending that you would probably need to have explained by both the screenwriter and the director. What was the point of all this? I will leave the point of this movie to whoever sees this strange and weird film to decide for themselves. I have never been a fan of movies like this because I have always been a believer of "less is more" and that when you try so hard to create scenes too fancy or complicated instead of just engaging an audience, all you have is one long annoying movie. For these main reasons, I do not recommend this very strange film.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Past Movie Review: Jaws

Before the release of Jaws in the summer of 1975 there really wasn't something like a summer blockbuster type of movie. Jaws, is based on the Peter Benchley book and was the first movie of its kind and the very first summer blockbuster. Horror movies and scary movies we had, but nothing like this. Nothing where a Giant Great White shark terrorized and killed several residents of an east coast beach town. And nothing like the opening scene of this movie where a woman is killed by a shark at night while swimming in the ocean. Accompanying all of this was the music of John Williams which was brilliant and never more effective than the now famous music when the shark would start to attack someone. It is hard to imagine more perfect theme music for Jaws than the musical score for this great film.

Over the years we all have learned through documentaries and stories we have read about the extreme difficulty everyone who worked on this film had with the mechanical shark that they named "Bruce". To get past many of the non-stop mechanical shark problems, the director of Jaws, Steven Spielberg eventually realized that showing less of the shark would be more terrifying than showing more and this, in fact, made the film even more scary than it would have been otherwise. In the end, despite so many production problems and the film constantly being overbudget, Jaws became the greatest box office movie hit up to that time.

All of the main stars in this movie were all at the peak of their acting skills, Richard Dreyfus, Robert Shaw and Roy Scheider and all of them probably thought at the time that the movie would be a bomb, mainly due to all the problems with the mechanical shark. Perhaps the greatest scene in the movie was the exact moment in time where the Great White shark showed his face for the first time, as Scheider was pouring blood into the water to lure him to be captured and killed. His slow backward walk towards the middle of the boat and his now famous line to Quint, played by Robert Shaw, "We are going to need a bigger boat", is the one line in the entire history of all movies that has been repeated more times than any other.  I cannot even begin to count how many times I have heard someone say, "We are going to need a bigger something" in a movie. Another standout performance for me was Murray Hamilton's portrayal of the town mayor, who throughout the entire movie, cared more about the money the township would be losing, rather than saving lives. His acting and bad decisions during so many arguments with Richard Dreyfus and Roy Scheider provide some of the most frustrating and funny moments in the movie. Hamilton's character is a politician and a personality that all of us have had experiences running into and disliking.

The ending of Jaws including several scenes of Hollywood overkill and showing some things that a shark would never do, including launching its entire body into the sinking boat, but the big explosive ending created the satisfying blockbuster ending we were all waiting for. The concept of a summer blockbuster had to start somewhere and Jaws started it all 42 years ago.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Movie Review: Wilson


The Definition of Catharsis:

1. The purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.
2. Psychiatry: Psychotherapy that encourages or permits the discharge of pent-up, socially unacceptable effects. Discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition.

The definition of the word Catharsis is a very good summarization of what the movie Wilson is all about. Once you realize very early on that this film is about a man named Wilson, played by Woody Harrelson, whose entire life has been a disaster, you start to wonder if a story about a person like this could ever be funny. Perhaps this could be possible, but Wilson fails to be funny often enough to conclude that it is not really a comedy movie or a very good movie either. Perhaps if Wilson was made more of a likable person, this movie would have been more entertaining and engaging or even funny, but far too often Wilson just bothers people, many of them total strangers and engages in rude conversations with everybody he encounters to perhaps temporarily make himself feel less alone. Ultimately the result of all this rude behavior is the audience has to endure an annoying and obnoxious person for the full 90 minutes this movie runs. I was surprised that during this entire story there was not one mention of what Wilson does for money or what he does for a living or even how he became such a disaster of a person in the first place. Considering our jobs are such a large percentage of our existence it would have been nice to see how or if Wilson is employed.

The story of Wilson is really no story at all, but rather a series of strange events and discoveries, including running into his x-wife and from there events go from strange, to weird, to pathetic, to very depressing and then back to pathetic again. There are several cameo appearances in this film, including Mary Lynn Rajskub, Cheryl Hines and Laura Dern, who plays Wilson's x-wife who has of all things the name "Pippi", and her life and reality since her divorce from Wilson many years earlier is almost as pathetic has his is.

The attempts to be a different type of a story are many in this film, but being different than most stories we have all seen before is not enough to make Wilson a good or even an average movie. It is hard to imagine how this movie was even made considering the uninteresting depressing story that tries to make a sad and pathetic life funny. On top of all this just about all the characters in this file are very unlikable and in the end, there is no attempt by Wilson or even his x-wife to somehow transition into a better person. For these reasons and so many others, I cannot recommend Wilson.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Movie Review: Chips

It can be embarrassing when I go to movies like the new movie "Chips" because I know it is going to be bad going in, but I still see films like this to perhaps learn more about movies and screenwriting and I still believe you have to experience the good ones as well as the bad ones, maybe to learn how not to write a screenplay. I also see movies like this for this movie blog, because moviegoers are interested in bad movies as well as good movies, or at least I think so, with the possible exception of this one.

Name recognition is a marketing tool. In this latest TV season, no less than three TV shows have been created based off of well-known movies, Taken, Training Day and Lethal Weapon. The idea here is that the name recognition could cause a greater number of people to tune in because they are curious about the TV show if they remember and liked the movie. The hope is that once they watch the first episode because of curiosity, then maybe they will get hooked and watch the entire series or many more episodes. This marketing idea also sometimes works for movies, that are based on TV shows. Starsky and Hutch released in 2004, 21 Jump Street in 20012, The Addams Family in 1991, others include Lost in Space, Miami Vice and Mission Impossible, which is the most popular movie franchise based on a TV show in movie history. Another example of using name recognition is to make a movie based on characters from a TV show and the best example of this is Saturday Night Live and there are no less than 12 movies that have been made from Saturday Night Live characters. Yes, 12 Saturday Night Live movies.

Clearly, this name recognition marketing idea works most of the time, (see link) otherwise there would not be so many movies made from well-known TV shows. The difference with the movie Chips, based on the TV show Chips that ran from 1977-1983 is that this TV show as at best barely average and not a TV series that anyone would think would be worth making into a movie and it has been off the air for 34 years. I have never understood the value of having police officers on motorcycles among cars and trucks on California highways. I would have liked to seen some kind of explanation in this movie as to why something like CHP (California Highway Patrol) still even exists, considering the danger of one person riding a motorcycle on a highway traveling at high speed chasing after some criminal. According to this website, of the 233 deaths for the CHP, 70 of them were from motorcycle accidents. Given this statistic alone, it is hard to understand why something like the CHP is still considered necessary.

Unfortunately perhaps through the Hollywood deal-making pipeline or some other reason, a very bad script, written by Dax Shepard was greenlighted and made into a bad movie. This movie is not the worst I have ever seen, but it probably has the most convoluted and "all over the place" nightmare of splintered story lines that I have ever sat through in a very long time. It is almost as if the screenwriter would write a scene, and then forget to explain how this scene is connected to or related to another part of the story. Different parts of this film seem to be just an excuse to show something raunchy or continue a disgusting running gag that didn't work the first or the second time it was attempted. This movie is supposed to be a comedy-drama but there was very few if anything to laugh about, and the police drama part was not interesting enough to keep your attention for any length of time. Additional to these problems is that the whole story barely made any sense, with the myriad of characters and scenes that jumped around through an unbearable almost 2 hours.

This movie stars Dax Shepard and Micheal Pena with a cameo from several other actors including Dax Shepard's wife Kristen Bell, but even with this pretty large cast and several cameos, there is nothing that can ever save a script this bad.  Run from the movie Chips, it is just not worth sitting through and should have gone directly to DVD and never released.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Movie Review: Life

The movie "Life" is one of the few films since 1979 and the release of the movie Alien that has attempted to address the idea of an alien life form that becomes violent on a spaceship and attempts to kill all on board. The main reason why so few, if any movies like this have been made in the last 38 years, is probably because Alien was such a perfect horror movie about Aliens and outer space that has ever been produced. The movie Alien, obviously, is a tough if not impossible act to follow.

Very early in this film, I was surprised that the space station was orbiting the Earth and not Mars as was suggested in some of the previews. One flaw was the point at which scientists aboard this space station suddenly have an alien life form in their laboratory, supposedly from Mars, but it was never really explained how they got the life form, other than the crashing of a space capsule that I assume was coming from Mars. Starting off with something this important to the flow of the story took something away from my understanding and enjoyment of the story because I always wondered once they started experimenting with this one cell microscopic organism, I was still trying to figure out where on Mars the alien was found, and how it was transported from Mars to a space station that was orbiting Earth. Fundamentally, movies about science or science fiction should make some sort of sense and not have glaring holes in the story, especially at the beginning.

This movie has two big stars, Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal and several other less famous actors and the entire film, with the exception of one shot of Time Square in New York city at the beginning, happens inside the space station.  The problems with this film are many, starting with the convoluted and ridiculous ideas the crew come up with to try and kill "Calvin", which is the name they lead scientist calls his alien. The reason for the name "Calvin" was also never explained, along with many other important details. Over time, Calvin grows bigger as he kills a mouse and members of the crew and starts to look like a combination of a jellyfish and an octopus. If there is life somewhere in the universe other than Earth, we can definitely believe that some variation of a creature like this could exist.

Even in the beginning of this movie, the way these genius level scientists handle this alien creature, by touching it with a rubber glove made no sense, because you just know that no one would ever be so relaxed with their scientific examination of an unknown alien creature. It is one thing to put yourself in danger because of the risky environment and reality of space travel, but way too many times, stupid decisions that made absolutely no sense were both idiotic and infuriating to sit through. There was no common sense here, no scientific validity and almost no decisions that super intelligent people would actually make. One incident, in particular, is when one of the female astronauts goes outside the space station in an attempt to try and kill or trap the alien that had escaped from inside. This entire idea and the events that followed during this scene probably are one some of the stupidest ideas I have ever seen in any science fiction movie. Why this entire scene wasn't scrapped in a conference room or somewhere on a cutting floor in Hollywood is a mystery. Why was this woman spacewalking outside with a dangerous alien? What was she trying to accomplish? This entire scene just made no sense.

The ending of this movie had a very similar feel to the end of Alien which is understandable, but the build up and convoluted trick ending the writer and director tried to pull off I saw coming a mile away. The movie Life is a pale imitation of Alien and due to the many inane plot ideas with so many decisions by the astronauts and scientists on board the space station that were downright ridiculous, I cannot recommend this movie.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Past Movie Review: Terms of Endearment

The movie "Terms of Endearment" that came out in 1983 is one of those films from many years ago that fascinates me, partly because just about everybody in this production peaked with this movie and never hit a note this high again, with the possible exception of Jack Nicholson. One could easily argue that Debra Winger, Jeff Daniels and Shirley MacLaine all had the peak of their careers with this movie, and this demonstrates once again, just what a miracle getting a part in a great movie is.

I remember going on going to see Terms of Endearment already knowing it was going to be a great and unforgettable movie because James L. Brooks wrote the screenplay and directed this film. Like all great James L. Brooks movies, there are some very funny moments, but this one stands alone as having one of the most difficult and saddest endings I have ever seen.  When most people think about this movie from 34 long years ago they will probably mostly remember the ending and Shirley MacLaine's face and expression when she realizes something very tragic has happened and brilliantly the director knew that showing the event was never necessary to tell the audience what has happened. This scene and so many other unforgettable moments make Terms of Endearment one of the best movies of its kind even produced. If you have never seen Terms of Endearment after all these years, it is one great film that I highly recommend.

Movie Review: The Last Word


Narcissist: 1. A person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish. 2. Psychoanalysis. a person who suffers from narcissism, deriving erotic gratification from admiration of his or her own physical or mental attributes.

Control Freak: A person having a strong need for control over people or situations.

The two words above describe specific types of mental afflictions that unfortunately many people suffer from. As the new movie "The Last Word" points out very well, people who have these mental problems are hard to live with, work with and especially ever like.  The lead character in this film, Harriet, played by Shirley Maclaine, has both of these afflictions and even more that make her a very unlikeable person.  In an ultimate example of being a control freak, she even tries to control what is written in her own obituary even before she dies. Harriet's obituary author, who Harriet also chooses herself works for a local paper and is played by Amanda Seyfried. What follows is the discovery that writing an obituary for a woman like this is close to impossible because just about everybody hates her, including even her own priest and her own daughter, played by Anne Heche. What this movie makes very obvious is that there is practically nothing more annoying than dealing with a person who is constantly condescending and never giving anyone any respect. A great example of this happens at the beginning of this film, as Harriet doesn't even think that her own gardener can cut her hedges correctly or that her own maid can even cut a lemon correctly. This is bad enough when the person is perhaps some kind of a genius, but when this is a mental affliction, dealing with someone like this can be unbearable.

For this movie, I thought that the opportunity that was lost was not devoting enough of this film to explaining why Harriet is such a condescending and annoying control freak, but instead the story goes into different and sometimes strange twist and turns that are meant to be surprising or different but ultimately, for the most part, do not work. One example of this is when Harriet suddenly decides she wants to be a DJ for a location radio station or when she befriends a poor black child who is very outspoken at her school. Some of these story lines work for a while, but not for very long. One would think that these sub stories are Harriets attempts to perhaps build herself a better final obituary, but for the most part, none of this really works. At the explanation, there is a big attempt to explain why Harriet was the way she is, but that explanation also does not work, based on we have seen up to that point.

Trying to surprise the audience or going into unusual directions is ok sometimes but for this movie, it seemed too obvious that the writer and director were all about being different, rather than coming up with a good story that works for the whole two hours.

For these reasons, I cannot give a positive recommendation to The Last Word.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Golden Globe Highlights: Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

For those who never have seen the 3 Golden Globe's that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler have hosted starting in 2013 through 2015 I have included them here. In terms of great stand up comedy, it doesnt get much better than this.

Movie Review: Kedi

The translation of the Turkish word Kedi to English is Cat. And that is as simple as this movie is, because it is only about stray Cats in Istambul Turkey. This movie seems to focus on all the positive aspects while following a number of very healthy looking well-fed cats that are taken care of by the people who live in Istanbul. All of these cats seem to not only survive while living on the streets but actually thrive. The missing ingredient with this story is not covering the negative aspects of having so many cats crowded into one city. This includes the fact that the Turkish Government has obviously done a very bad job controlling the cat population in Istambul. The problems with a massive failure in controlling a cat population would include starvation and diseases caused by sanitation and many other issues. There is some mention of the problems with having so many cats in this film, including some cats that have understandably been killed by city traffic, but the central part of this story is all about how good a life for a cat seems to be in Istanbul Turkey and glossing over the big picture that you knew has to be there. I would have liked to have known why or how the cat population became so prolific? How does Istanbul rank in terms of all the cities in the world as far as having so many cats? What does the Turkish government do to take care of and protect all of these cats and are they trying to control the cat population? None of this is really talked about during this film.

On the positive side, the cats in this movie are all outstanding and most of them are extremely attractive and very healthy looking. One that stood out the most for me was a male gray cat (see video below) who was described as a cat that had some manners. This cat was always alone, and never was rude or harassed restaurant customers for food. He would stand up against the window and rub the glass so he would be noticed and then given food. Some other cats were more aggressive and one seemed to only like to be petted aggressively, rather than gently. As the subtitles in this movie said many times over, cats have as many diversified personalities as humans do and throughout this movie, many philosophies about life, the love of animals and specifically cats are talked about, most of which I strongly agreed with. After watching this movie, it is hard to understand why anyone does not love cats. Obviously, this is a great movie for all animal and cat lovers.

I highly recommend the movie Kedi.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Past Movie Review: The Godfather

I have thought about writing a review about perhaps the greatest movie ever made or that will ever be made for quite some time now. One of the things I thought would be the most challenging about writing a review about The Godfather is, how can anyone define why or how a movie is great? Then I thought that this is really very easy to do. When the title of a movie is mentioned, do you remember the movie, because the majority of movies are mostly forgettable? Then, after the title of the movie is mentioned, how many pictures come to your head? How many scenes do you remember? What about the dialogue, the music? Considering these basic facts about any great movie, it is easy to believe that the Godfather is the greatest movie ever made because so many great scenes immediately come to mind and then you remember the great dialogue and musical score.

When the director of the Godfather Francis Ford Coppola was directing the Godfather, there had to be some worry not only with him but with the actors and producers that for the first time Hollywood was be showing the inside world of the Mafia and some of the most dangerous people on earth. There had to be some concern about possible retribution and even some backlash from Italian Americans who thought that this movie might show all Italians in a bad light and not just the murderers and criminals that are in the Mafia. On top of the greatness of this film, even considering doing a project like this took a great deal of courage.

When I think about the Godfather, released in 1972 and Godfather 2, released in 1974, and even Godfather 3 released in 1990 many great scenes and dialogue immediately come to mind. Without a doubt, I think that the scene where Michael Corleone comes out of the bathroom with a gun and is about to shoot two deserving lowlife at close range is the most tension filled scene that has ever been shot for any movie. The camera angles, the depressing dark environment of the restaurant, the look on Corleone's face for the minutes before he stood up and shot these two men, the close range shooting of the police officer shot in the neck and forehead and Sollozzo in his forehead and then Micheal walking almost calmly out of the restaurant, while throwing away the gun.

When people are asked about the Godfather, more than likely the first scene they think about is the horse's head scene that was horrible and shocking, but very effective. Killing an animal must be very easy for people who can kill a person almost as if it was like brushing your teeth and this was made very clear in this scene. What I remember the most about this scene is not only the screaming of the movie producer but the nauseous sounding version of the Godfather theme that was played before he discovers the horses head in his bed.

Other scenes that stand out as some of the best ever filmed include Sonny Corleone's assassination at the toll one of the most brutal murders ever filmed but true to the type of killings that the Mafia considered commonplace.

Throughout the Godfather trilogy, the pattern of killing for revenge provides the greatest insight into the precarious world of living within a Mafia family. If you kill indiscriminately as if you are in a war, it is inevitable that one day your time is coming.

I also remember Godfather 3, that was released in later 1990 and was never as critically acclaimed as the previous two films as having one of the greatest scenes of acting I have ever seen when Michael Corleone's daughter was killed at the end of the movie. This has to be the most difficult scene Al Pacino ever had to film and his emotions were the most real and grief filled I have ever seen. The end of this movie and the Godfather trilogy showed that after all the bad things that Micheal Corleone did in his life, in the end, he had to pay the ultimate price with his own daughter being murdered right in front of him. In the end, all of us want to believe that if you do evil to others that one day you will have to pay a price for what you did and this one scene at the very end of the Godfather trilogy showed that better than any film ever has.

For me, the ultimate measure of the greatness of any film are the pictures that come into your mind and the dialogue and the music that you remember and no movie has as much of this as the Godfather. What is most remarkable about the first two Godfather movies is that the first one came out 45 long years ago, and to this day, no movie has come close to approaching how great these two films are. The entire cast of this movie, many who have long past, would all have to agree that the highlight of their entire acting careers was the miracle of them being cast in the Godfather.

The Godfather 3-Movie Collection

Movie Review: Table 19

Perhaps the reason why the screenplay for "Table 19" was greenlighted to be made into a movie had more to do with the fact that this specific idea was never attempted before: A group of strangers meet during a wedding reception, all at table 19 and through their conversations about their private lives at the table, start to bond and interact with each other and have issues with other people at the reception. While this idea is a unique one, it is definitely not compelling enough or interesting enough to hold anyone's attention for two hours or even the 90 minutes of this movie, especially since the stories each of these people have to share are not interesting enough by themselves to hold your attention.

Anna Kendrick has been great in the first two Pitch Perfect movies and I am sure she will be great in the 3rd one. She is a good enough singer to have her own album released at some point during her career. Hopefully, she will have another movie in the near future that is up to her academy award winning performance in "Up in the Air" that was released in 2009, because this one was just average at best. The pairing of Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson as husband and wife not only didn't work but really didn't make any sense. This could be the worst casting for two parts I have ever seen in any movie.

I think this movie was supposed to be a comedy and a drama, or what is called a dramedy, but neither the comedy or drama parts worked for any length of time. This is another movie that you cannot believe was actually made, considering the millions of dollars wasted and the good or great movie that was not made instead with the screenplay still sitting on some producer's shelf for many years. This film should be completely avoided and considering I was the only one in the theater I was in, probably already has been by most everybody.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Movie Review: Kong Skull Island

There will probably always be a new King Kong movie every few years, the last King Kong came out in 2005 and was a remake of the original King Kong that came out in 1933 and the second remake that came out in 1976. The new movie Kong Skull Island is not a remake of the original story of King Kong but rather a series of events that happen on the Island that Kong inhabits and unlike the 3 previous movies, Kong is not removed from his Island to become a side show and then wind up on the top of the Empire State Building or the former World Trade Center. This movie occurs entirely on Skull Island, and it involves the special effects that are not quite as good as the 2005 version. Despite this, the special effects are impressive, but not as impressive as the 2005 version, regardless of the improvements in computer technology in the last 12 years. What stands out as better in this latest version is mostly the acting of Samuel L. Jackson and mostly the close-ups of his face, as he stares down Kong during several battles that occur not only with Kong but other creatures that Kong shares the jungle with. Some flaws in this movie include the opening helicopter scene where Kong knocks several helicopters out of the sky very easily so you would think that most of the rest of them would go out of their way to avoid this huge animal but instead, one by one, about 10 helicopters are destroyed by Kong and fall to the ground, killing the majority of the inhabitants on board.

After this, the story follows three different landing parties, one with mostly military, another with one isolated soldier and the third with civilians. For the remainder of this movie, there is not much of a story, other than the survivors being attacked and killed by huge lizard-like creatures on the island while the remaining survivors trying to find each other. One unusual twist on this Kong Skull Island idea is one of the surviving groups discover a World War 2 veteran who crashed landed on the island 28 years earlier as the time period of this movie is 1972. John C. Reilly plays the World War 2 pilot and provides some comic relief in this movie as people are being attacked and killed on a very frequent basis. Like most movies like this, it is all about the special effects and not much else. There are several big stars, Brie Larson, Tom Hiddleston, John Goodman, John C. Reilly and of course Samuel L. Jackson and they were hired to bring in more people to the theaters who might not necessarily be big fans of movies like this.

See this movie for the special effects and action scenes, but there is not much else here as far as a unique story. I give this movie only a mild recommendation.

King Kong (Extended Version)

King Kong - Ultimate Edition (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD)

King Kong (1933)