Thursday, June 22, 2017

Movie Review: Transformers: The Last Knight

The good news is that this is the fifth and last time Micheal Bay will direct a movie in the Transformers movie series that started in 2007 with the original Transformers film. While trying to understand why all of these Transformers movies are so bad, with the possible exception of the first one, my explanation is that the computer graphic scenes are probably produced first through several different software vendors and the screenwriter later tries to connect the computer graphics scenes to some kind of disconnected nonsensical story. This means that essentially all of the Transformer movies are developed backward. For me, this would explain why nothing makes sense in these movies and there are no connections between scenes or any kind of flow or respect to the audience so they can follow what is going on. Is it possible to produce a good movie that is all about special effects with no story? The answer to this question seems to be obvious to everyone, except Micheal Bay. I actually think a better movie would be a documentary about how the computer graphics for movies like this are made and perhaps some filming of the production meetings that lead to the creation of this horrible movie because I am very curious about how a movie monstrosity this bad could ever be created.

Michael Bay should take a page from all the Disney cartoon movies, where the story and screenplay are paramount and include years of discussions and storyboarding. These Transformer movies throw all sense of continuity and logic out the window, not caring to create any kind of a story to connect scenes or help with the understanding of what is going on. Eventually, you slowly fall into a sort of a coma and I actually dosed off for about 20 minutes during this mess, probably due to some kind of subconscious self-preservation. What is worse about this latest movie in the Transformer franchise is that it runs for almost 150 agonizing minutes. All of these Transformer movies should be run as a loop to torture prisoners in Guantanamo Bay because sitting through them is a nightmare. More amazing is that this movie is the worst one of the 5 and Bay seems to outdo himself with each new movie but in the wrong direction.

When this very bad movie was finally over, I remembered feeling very angry because I had wasted 2 1/2 hours of my life sitting through this mess. The budget of 217 million dollars for this movie was money that could have been put to far better use and people who are bad at their jobs will become much more wealthy. A great deal of the money that comes from these movies are the toys and the young kids who just want to see robots fighting and so it seems that everyone involved with these 5 movies only cares about the easy money and never about creating a movie that has some meaning or even a story. I think I was most angry because I know that this Transformer movie will make a great deal of money and that will encourage more very bad movies like this one.

Mark Wahlberg is once again the star of this latest Transformer movie, also appearing in the last one. Clearly, Wahlberg appeared in this movie for the money and there is nothing wrong with that, but at some point, integrity and pride should be more important than money. What does not make any sense is why the great actor Anthony Hopkins is in this movie. One would think that Hopkins has more than enough money and would care more about his reputation at his age than money. Hopkins role and his decision to appear in this terrible movie just make no sense. The only bright spot is the appearance of a young 16-year-old actress Isabela Moner, who has movie star looks and might have a very promising future as an actress, despite the mistake of being in this God awful film.

This movie should be avoided by everyone including small children because it is that bad.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Movie Review: 47 Meters Down

They say there is a sucker born every minute. When it comes to thrill seeking and risk taking, it seems there is also an idiot born every minute. Why would anyone want to risk their life or any of their limbs for the temporary thrill of swimming near a shark? In this movie, the divers are in a shark cage, which is supposedly safe, but is it really? Stupidly, there are actually trips you can take when you can swim with sharks, which is very hard to believe. Here is one website that talks about 8 different places where you can swim with sharks - click here. People think they are experts and understand everything there is to know about sharks, but nobody can guarantee that one moment in time will kill you or cause you to lose a leg, your arm or worse. So why take this kind of risk with your life, or your limbs? I hear about celebrities swimming with sharks all the time and each time I wonder how low their IQ is, especially considering how much they have to lose.

The movie "47 Meters Down" is about 2 sisters, played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, vacationing in Mexico who decide after meeting two other Mexican men to dive into a shark cage to look at Great White Sharks. From the title you can tell that the shark cages breaks off from the boat and sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor, 47 meters down, and the rest of this movie is nothing more than a series panic-stricken of events as these two women try to save their lives before they run out of oxygen or are killed by the many sharks that are swimming overhead. I found this movie extremely annoying because watching the stupid decisions of these two women as they desperately tried to save their own lives was infuriating. Even allowing for the extreme circumstances and the panic anyone would feel under these conditions, it seemed that every strategy or idea to escape from the bottom of the ocean was born out of making this movie more suspenseful, rather than making any basic common sense. What wrecks this movie, which could have been a good one, are the dumb stupid decisions that everyone involved made in order to rescue these two women who are the bottom of the ocean. Ultimately, no two women in their 20's would dive into a shark cage in some old broken down ship in Mexico in the first place, but without this first stupid decision, there is no movie and after sitting through this annoying two hours, I wish there was no movie. There is a strange plot twist and trick at the end of this movie that also did not work. Perhaps they threw that in to rescue a bad movie at the last minute.

I cannot recommend 47 Meters Down because the story and the decisions made are too ridiculous and annoying to sit through.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Movie Review: The Book of Henry

This film is going to be hard to review for several reasons. The first reason is that it is difficult to talk about this movie to any extent without revealing too much about what happens in the story, which is something I will never do in this blog. The second is that many other reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes did not like this movie, thinking that the story, especially how it unfolds at the end is too outlandish to believe or even be plausible. It has been rare in my experience that my opinions are so far away from average reviews for a movie in recent memory and regardless of these opinions, I thought The Book of Henry was a very well developed and well-acted movie that I definitely recommend.

What I liked most about "The Book of Henry" is that it makes you think about how you would react to extreme situations and extreme grief. The intense and involved story makes you think about what true justice really is and what is the right thing to do when facing politics and people who are supposed to do the right thing, but instead turn their head away because they are more afraid of facing consequences than even saving a child's life.

This story is mostly about a child genius named Henry, played by very well by Jaeden Lieberher, his mother Susan played by Naomi Watts and his younger brother played by Jacob Tremblay. Henry's genius is so profound he is really the adult in the family, handling everything in the household, especially the finances. His mother Susan plays video games all day and Henry handles all the household responsibilities and she insists on working in a low-paying local waitressing job and driving a broken down old car, despite the fact that the family is financially well off, probably from a divorce although the source of their wealth is never revealed. I thought the depiction of Susan's intense frugality was very unique and a refreshing look into the real value of money. Susan's close friend at the restaurant is played by Sarah Silverman and her boss is played by Bobby Moynihan and I thought that both of them played their parts very well.

For the critics who think that the story of this film too outlandish or implausible, perhaps they do not buy into the Einstein level of genius of the 12-year-old boy who creates a plan and writes an illustrated notebook to save a child's life. I also thought that this part of the story was a stretch, but based on the extreme nature of the crime involved, to me, it all made sense in the end and lead to a very satisfying conclusion.

I highly recommend The Book of Henry.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Movie Review: Rough Night

The movie Rough Night is what is known as a black comedy. I have never been a fan of black comedies, mainly because they involve gore or death and I have never understood how that could be considered funny. This movie was not funny, not by any stretch was it funny. Nobody laughed in the audience I was in and I sure didn't laugh. I was more surprised that Scarlet Johannesson was in this movie than I was interested in the story or the bad plot, that involved the accidental death of a stripper and a whole series of stupid events that even included Johannesson's boyfriend wearing an adult diaper to drive over a long distance to get to his fiance to find out of she still wants to get married. What the hell were they thinking with this part of this very bad movie?

This movie is raunchy, very stupid and worst of all, not funny. They also thought to give Kate McKinnon an Australian accent in this bad film perhaps thinking that because her part was so unfunny that this accent would fix her part. It didn't. Going in I sure didn't expect Rough Night to be a good movie but I did not expect it to be this bad. The only thing the producers of this movie managed to pull off is to make a very talented Kate McKinnon unfunny. The only notable thing about this movie.

Miss this movie as its a waste of two hours and not the least bit entertaining.

Past Movie Review: Interstellar

For many movies, a great deal can be realized just from the previews, and I remember the movie Interstellar was no exception. What everyone could tell from the previews of this movie was that a former Astronaut who is now a farmer had to go into space to somehow save the world, but he had to leave his young daughter and son behind. Even from the previews, I could tell that there were going to be moments scenes of profound emotion in this movie and the one that stood out the most was when the Astronaut, played by Matthew McConaughey had to leave his daughter and was driving his truck away from his home and she was running after this truck, desperate to try and get him to stay. I thought it was rare that an emotional scene like this would be in a science fiction movie and when I saw Interstellar in November 2014 I thought it was one of the best movies about space travel I had ever seen. We all go to movies to experience emotions outside our own lives and to try and imagine what we would do when faced with huge obstacles. How many of us would be able to risk our lives and never return to Earth for the one remote chance to save not only our own family but even the entire world?

The problems with this film actually start after the first hour and the rest of the movie was set up by circumstances of the world no longer able to grow food and it is suggested that this is because of Global Warming. I thought the advanced physics and time travel concepts involving wormholes were all very impressive, but many times towards the end of this movie, several events and explanations started to not make any sense. For these reasons, Interstellar started to remind me of the movie Contact that was released in 1997 which started out with great ideas and special effects and at the end degraded into a very unsatisfying ending. The idea of a 4th or a 5th dimension, a time portal into a room from the distant past all were so outlandish that for me it almost spoiled all of the great things about this film. It is obvious that the director and writer of Interstellar, Christopher Nolan wanted people to talk about and try to figure out this film long after they had seen it. But in order to accomplish this goal, too many events at the end of this story just were either ridiculous or made no sense. In my opinion, the ultimate goal in telling any story is to make it feasible, enjoyable and understandable and this is why screenwriting is such a difficult art form.

Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain also star in this film along with John Lithgow and Michael Caine and they are all excellent in their roles. In my opinion, the impressive parts of this movie and excellent acting outweigh the flaws that all come at the end of the story. I definitely recommend Interstellar.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Movie Review: Megan Leavey

At the start of this very good movie, I remember thinking what a huge shame it is that so many young people, through some accident of birth, were born into a poor family with virtually no way out of a bleak existence and they believe that their only alternative is to join the military. There is always a ton of money that is available to train people to kill other people, but there is far too little money to rescue the lives of so many millions of poor people, whose potential is forever lost just because of the meager circumstances under which they are born. The only caveat to this military option is that you may get killed or maimed, blinded, lose one or several limbs or have permanent PTSD that you never recover from. Apart from this, the job training that you were promised when you joined whatever military service you decided on, may not be a skill that could ever parlay into an actual job in the real world. How many jobs can you get after you leave the military when your only skill is repairing a tank? Once you're in, you do what you are told and there is nothing you can do to control your own future. You are the property of the United States and other people dictate your future and that includes whether you live or die starting the first day you join the service. My thinking while watching the start of this film was why can't we invest our money into the potential of a young person who has no viable future, instead of making this deal where maybe they can have a future and some money, but only if they risk their lives first.

The new film Megan Leavey is a true story about a young woman, played very well by Kate Mara, whose life after high school is a disaster. Living in a poor town with her mother and her boyfriend and a product of divorced parents, she wanders through bad jobs with no future until she realizes like so many other young people like her, that her only option is to join the Marines. A great scene in this movie was when Megan's mother actually asked her daughter how much money she would get if Megan was killed in Iraq, confirming how bad her childhood must have been. What follows is the verbal and physical abuse of boot camp that eventually leads her, after getting punishment duty due to a public drunkenness incident, to cleaning out dog cages. The dogs in this part of the Marines are bomb smelling German Shepards whose special skills are badly needed in Iraq and Afghanistan and have saved many lives. What this movie makes clear is that these military dogs are as valuable and important as any soldier in a war and there is no such thing as "just a dog". After begging her commanding officer and passing all of her exams to get the opportunity to be a dog handler, Megan Leavey finally gets her chance when another soldier is not able to handle the most difficult of all the dogs, named Rex. The greatest part of this movie is the friendship and bond that develops over time with Megan and Rex and that love grows understandably much stronger when they both face the extreme adversity of the war in Iraq. All of this leads to a very emotional ending that I thought was one of the best conclusions to a movie about the love of dogs I have ever seen.

That acting in Megan Leavey is outstanding and I think there is a chance that Kate Mara might actually receive an Academy Award Nomination. I highly recommend this movie.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Movie Review: The Mummy

There had to be a phone call during the time this movie was under consideration for production some years ago. Someone must have said, "well the script is really not that good and the story is rather poor". The response probably was, "people love zombies and mummies and explosions and we can put an expensive plane crash scene in this mess, so who cares about the story".

The truth will always be the same with movies; you just cannot throw expensive special effects at a bad script and expect anything but a bad movie to be produced. The ratings for The Mummy on Rotten Tomatoes are a very low 17%, so the odds are that this movie will probably not be received well enough to warrant another Mummy franchise are high. The first Mummy franchise was released in 1999 starring Brendan Fraser and I thought that movie was much better than this one.

The only scene that held my attention in this film, as I almost dozed off twice during the two hours, was the plane crash scene that was shot using the famous Vomit Comet that has been used so often to shoot weightless effects in movies. After the plane crash, this entire film is very quickly reduced to a series of chase scenes involving Tom Cruise and Annabelle Wallis who is an archeologist and a resurrected mummy queen named Ahmanet, played by Sofia Boutella. Russel Crowe is also in this film playing none other than Dr. Henry Jekyll in a role that was probably only created to increase the audience for this below average film with his fans.

This movie was a big disappointment and most likely a huge opportunity lost because it is likely that the critics will destroy any chance this movie may have in spawning a sequel in the next few years. Unless you're a huge fan of zombies, this movie can be missed.

 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

The ratings for the movie Wonder Woman are extremely high; 84% for IMDB and 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. While I agree that this is a good movie, I do not agree that it as good as these very high scores. This movie has very good special effects but a story that is not exceptional enough to consider this a great movie. The story of this film is essentially about good vs evil and in this case, the evil is Germany in World War 1.

An air force captain from England, Captain Steve Trevor, played by Chris Pine, flys through some kind of a time portal into a world of Amazon women while escaping from German soldiers who soon arrive in this strange ancient world. Within this Amazon world, the evil force they are fighting is someone named Aries. After a battle between Amazon women and the German soldiers from World War 1, it is decided that Diana, played by Gal Gadot will return to the Steve Trevor's world of world War 1 and her reasoning is that she wants to kill Aries. What is not clear at this point is why Diana aka Wonder Woman does not realize that Aries does not exist in the World War 1 world, despite her obvious intelligence including being able to speak 10 languages and obviously going through a time portal. It is also not fully explained where or how this time portal came to being in the first place, although some meager explanation is offered at the end of the movie. Another interesting thought I had is that if Wonder Woman has huge powers by clicking her bracelets together, why does she waste so much time and take so much risk getting involved in so much hand to hand combat? Why not just click your bracelets and win the battle immediately?

Like most of the many Marvel comic movies that have been released in the last few years, the most important thing are the special effects and not necessarily the story. I thought this story was better than most of the other Marvel movies but not as good as the Iron Man series and the best in that franchise was the first one, released in 2008. Overall, I thought Wonder Woman was a very good but not great addition to the Marvel Comic movie franchise and I do recommend it.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Movie Review: Paris Can Wait

I found it hard to figure out what this movie is really all about. Was it a travel log about what it is like to drive through France on your way to Paris, stopping at very old museums and eating at very expensive French restaurants, or was it a story about infidelity and a marriage that is not going that well? After the movie was over, I thought this movie was about both of these things.

This film stars Diane Lane as Anne, who is a woman traveling through Europe with her movie producing husband played by Alec Baldwin and it is obvious from the beginning that her husband is much more interested in the problems he is having with producing a film and constant phone calls than his wife. Due to high altitude and inner ear pain, Anne decides to drive to Paris France rather than fly with her husband and her driver is a friend of her husband, Jacques played by French actor Arnaud Viard who is very clearly attracted to Anne. From this point, this movie is nothing more than conversation and very subtle flirting between the Anne and Jacques as they drive through France and take several diversions along the way. This film probably has the least story of any movie I have seen in a long time. The acting is good throughout, but it is hard to fully recommend a movie that has so little going on. I thought it was nice to see parts of France that very few of us will probably ever see, so this is a good movie for anyone who has had the desire to visit France. The end of this movie was very strange, with a shot of Diane Lane looking directly into the camera enjoying some chocolate covered roses. I have not seen an actor looking directly into a camera like that since the release of Ferris Bueller's Day Off 31 years ago. Why the director decided to put that at the end of this movie, I thought was completely out of place.

As far as recommending this film, I do recommend it as a travel log about the countryside of France, but I do not recommend it as a movie because the story was not strong enough to keep your attention for the entire 2 hours.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales

The one thing I will give this film is that unlike the previous one, and most of the ones before that, at least there is a followable story here or a sequence of events and scenes that make sense and connect to the previous scenes. The mystery for this movie series for me still remains, why are these movies so popular? Is it only because people believe that Johnny Depp is so good at playing a drunken Pirate? This part of Captain Jack Sparrow has given Depp by far the most money of his career but for me, the whole drunken Pirate bit got boring after the second installment in this franchise.

The story for this newest Pirates movie is about the same as the other ones. There are evil ghost Pirates trying to find and kill Sparrow. There are other criminal Pirates who are fighting each other on the ocean, there is always some kind of treasure everyone is looking for and in this movie, the treasure is something that will remove all curses in the world. This movie actually has dead ghost sharks that try and attack Sparrow and others. All of this involves some good special effects but for me nothing that is entertaining enough to recommend. This movie, like all of the others, will once again make a great deal of money and once again, I will find it a mystery that so many people like these movies.

This movie also stars Javier Bardem and Geoffrey Rush who are both very effective in their roles.

I recommend this movie only for fans of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, but for everybody else, this film can be easily missed.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Movie Review: Baywatch

Just about everybody who has seen the trailers or even the TV show Baywatch from the 80's would expect to see a bad or stupid movie even before it starts. For these people, you would not be disappointed. Aspiring screen writers like myself will probably have a different viewpoint of a movie this ridiculous and wonder how an idea and screenplay this bad could ever have been greenlighted in the first place, most especially considering the long odds of any screenplay being made into a movie. While watching this stupid film I was thinking about a conference room in Hollywood somewhere, probably two or more years ago when the final meeting for funding and planning this film happened. I think it probably went something like this:

Producer: We have selected you, based on similar previous work to direct Baywatch for us.
Director: Baywatch? You mean that bad TV show from the 80's?
Producer: It was both stupid and bad, but also the most popular TV show of all time.
Director: It was?
Producer: Yes, it was.
Director: Your kidding.
Producer Number one money maker.
Director: Wow, I had no idea.
Producer: Name recognition. People remember this stupid show and all the women on the beach. Hasselhoff embarrassing himself every week. They will flock to this.
Director: Really?
Producer: Of course. There are plans for a Chips movie too, same reasons.
Director: Another bad TV show.
Producer: It doesn't matter, its all about making money and name recognition. People remember that idiotic show and those 2 guys on bikes.
Director: If you say so. But for Baywatch, how can you make a two-hour movie about lifeguards running on a beach and saving some people who might drown?
Producer: Easy, you make them solve crimes!
Director: What?
Producer: Yes, they solve crimes, break up a drug ring, that will make it interesting and kill two hours!
Director: But they are not police officers. They are not allowed to solve crimes.
Producer: It doesn't matter, it's a stupid movie. Nobody cares about anything making sense and we have to kill two hours. We have about 45 minutes of material for the beach. That gets too boring very fast. We need a hook! And that is solving crimes and chasing after crooks with lifeguards!
Director: This whole idea is just too stupid.
Producer: It's about money, not quality.
Director: No kidding.
Producer: Interested?
Director: Of course not, the entire idea is too stupid and ridiculous. Lifeguards solving crimes? I have a reputation.
Producer: We will pay you double what we paid you last time.
Director: I'm in.
Producer: That was fast. See, its all about the money.
Director: One question.
Producer: What?
Director: Are you planning any cameos from the TV show?
Producer: Of course, Pamela Anderson and David Hasselhoff have already signed.
Director: Sounds like a hit.
Producer: Name recognition is what makes money. Just ask the Kardashians.
Director: One last question?
Producer: What?
Director: Do I have to use my real name on the credits?

Meetings like this are how bad and stupid movies are made. Most recently the movie Chips was released about a very bad TV show from the 70s and the movie was worse than the TV show. Chips grossed only 18 million so hopefully after this movie also bombs we will not see any new bad TV shows made into bad movies anytime in the near future. The reviews for Baywatch (Rottentomatoes 18%) and the box office are very bad so far, so we can all only hope that this is the last of the bad TV shows becoming bad movies, at least for a while.

This movie stars Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron and one has to wonder of Efron will ever make a good movie in his entire career or suffer a career nosedive at any point after making so many bad films.

This film is very bad for many reasons. First of all, the TV show was ridiculous and the idea of creating a story about lifeguards solving crimes involving dirty politics and drug trafficking is absurd. What were they all thinking? If your going to make Baywatch into a movie the least any audience should expect is a little common sense. The actress Priyanka Chopra also stars in this movie as an evil drug crime boss. The entire storyline involving her character is also ridiculous. There is a scene in this movie where the lifeguards not only act as police officers in a morgue but also as forensic scientists, leading to a disgusting moment where 3 of them are hiding in the sliding containers for dead bodies and then some horrible liquid drops onto Efron's face. Did the producers of this mess decide that something like this is funny or just disgusting or both?

It is very hard to understand or even justify the thinking at any point in this entire film because the decision making is so unbelievably stupid. All attempts at comedy also failed and nobody laughed in the theater I was in.

Run from this embarrassing mess of a movie and hope that the people involved never make a sequel.



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Movie Review: Norman

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”

― Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience and Other Essays

The new movie Norman, starring Richard Gere reminded me of this quote from Henry David Thoreau almost as soon as the film started. Norman Oppenheimer, played by Gere, is what is called a fixer who lives in New York City. A fixer is a deal maker who collects friends and business relationships by asking, "What do you need", "What can I do for you". Richard Gere does a great job playing this character who is a dauntless, relentless and annoying person always trying to make a deal with someone. Norman tells lies to people he meets and is lied to in return. He is given phone numbers by the people he harasses on the street and these people almost never answer his call or return the messages he leaves. His entire life and career are in the hands of the people he thinks are his friends or who he has done business with in the past, but they are clearly not his friends. During this entire film, Oppenheimer learns over and over again what he already knows, that all of these people will only show him respect if he makes money for them, otherwise they could care less about Norman Oppenheimer.

This film is complicated by Norman's relationship with of all people the prime minister of Isreal and Norman's attempts to save a Jewish temple by trying to orchestrate a deal to have a benefactor donate 7 million dollars. All of this leads to a very involved conclusion that I found to be very well done but perhaps unnecessarily complex. The actor Hank Azaria plays another fixer in New York City who runs into Norman Oppenheimer and there was very well done scene where Norman sees his annoying self in this other lower level fixer. I also found it interesting to know that there are fixers like this in the world, living right at the edge of survival in quiet desperation.

I thought the story of this movie was very well told and the acting well done and I do recommend Norman.

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

from Dictionary.com:
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.