Saturday, December 30, 2017

Movie Review: Father Figures

Movies like "Father Figures" have amazed me over the years for so many reasons. First of all, how can a below average screenplay like this get green-lighted to be made in the first place? Then, after so many big name actors read the script, why do they agree to do it? They must realize that its a boring story about 2 brothers trying to find their real father and nothing more than another road trip movie. My theories for how something like this happens is because of Hollywood deal making, actors who sign multiple picture deals to get the one movie they really want, favors to a friend or the basic fact that they believe that if they don't stay active enough as an actor then the one great part might never come along. This movie rightfully has pretty poor rankings on Rotten Tomatoes, 22% and 50% on IMDB, and it definitely broke my comedy rule that nobody laughed once during the whole film and was a pretty boring 2 hours. I also thought the ending was manipulative and not believable at all, given what happened in the story previously.

The list of actors in this film is both impressive and hard to understand given the below average and boring screenplay, including Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Ving Rhames, Genn Close, J.K. Simmons and even Christopher Walken. This is a movie that should be missed by just about everyone, except for the few of us who write movie blogs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Movie Review: All the Money in the World

The odds are extremely high that in the history of movies in this country, the highly unusual circumstances of having to completely re-shoot all the scenes of a major character within a few months of news a sexual scandal is something that has probably never happened before. The actor Kevin Spacey, who is one in a long line of famous men who have had their lives ruined by the sexual harassment scandals started by Harvey Weinstein some months ago, was completely removed from the new movie "All the Money in the World" and replaced by Christopher Plummer. While watching this movie and Plummer's performance I could not help wondering how Kevin Spacey must feel now that the movie he should have been in has been released without him and from Plummber's excellent performance this could have been one of Spacey's best roles. One could definiately argue that 2 months ago the 3 best male actors in the world right now are Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey and Danzel Washington and now, Spacey's career as an actor is most likely over forever.

As far as this film, which is about the kidnapping in Italy of J Paul Getty's grandson in 1973, I thought it was very well done, despite having to re-shoot Spacey's scenes months after the movie was completed. It provided huge insight into the greedy money sickness of J Paul Getty, who at the time was the richest man of all time, and despite this, didn't care to help one of own grandchildren who was kidnapped in Italy and originally held for a 17 million dollar ransom. He constantly delayed negotiations with the kidnappers and amazingly in the end even tried to make the payoff to them, through his divorced son as a tax deduction. In all my years of seeing so many characters in movies, I have never one person so obsessed with money and nothing else. The mother of Getty's grandson, was played by Michelle Williams who it seems every year is always in the highest quality movie and part. Williams started as a character on the TV show Dawson's creek and in all the years since that show ended she has consistently only taken parts in low budget high quality movies, never going for the big money and only caring about the quality of each role. She will be nominated again this year, her fifth Oscar nomination for best actress for this role and were it not for Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game might actually win this year. Christopher Plummer was also outstanding in his role as J Paul Getty and if he wins an Oscar, the irony of that achievement might be the final nail in Kevin Spacey's self-made career coffin.

I highly recommend All the Money in the world.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Movie Review: Molly's Game

I often wonder why I see so many movies every year. Its not just because of this blog, its much more than that. I started this blog in October 2014 and before then I was seeing this many movies a year. I became a movie buff because of the high I get from seeing a rare gem among so many bad movies that are made, realizing how rare it is when you see something great. I see so many movies to admire the acting and the dialogue and most of all the screenwriting that is the underlying purpose of this this blog from the day I started it.

While watching this brilliantly written and directed Aaron Sorkin movie, "Molly's Game" you immediately realize just like with all of Sorkin's dialogue that nobody talks that fast. Nobody can put together words and dialogue that well chosen so quickly in real life, but that doesn't really matter. It doesn't matter because Sorkin's dialogue is so brilliant and because of its rapid fire precision, it draws you in, mesmerizes you and before you know it, you are so engrossed with what is happening and what is being said that you don't realize that two hours have gone by. I think Sorkin's has people talk so fast in all of his screenplays and teleplays because he wants you to pay attention to what people are saying so you are more drawn into what is going on. This may not work with everybody, but it works for me.

Molly's Game originally was a book about a former world class Skier who was hurt and lost out on her chances for the Olympics. Her father, played extremely well by Kevin Costner, drove her way too hard and this created resentment and ultimately the reasons, like so many people in the world, to take her life into directions that at first she fell into, but later lead her into the dangerous world of high stakes poker games. This movie teaches you a lot about poker and about the dangers that will always seep into something like this, as we see people losing their entire life savings. We also see gamblers desperately trying to get back to even and like everybody with an addiction don't know when they have had enough losing and its time to stop playing.

Molly is played by Jessica Chastain who in my opinion, unlike last years Miss Sloan, should not only be nominated for a best actress Oscar but should actually win this year. Equally as good in his role, is Molly's lawyer played by Idris Elba who should also be nominated for best actor or supporting actor. I could not help but admire how these actors were able to memorize so many of these complex speeches that Sorkin wrote and directed and made it seem like it was their natural way of talking. Being an actor is most challenging with dialogue like this, that is so complex and so long that there are so many takes to get it just right. I also thought that this was Kevin Costner's best acting performance in many years, especially the brilliant and emotional ending scene with his daughter where he did 3 years of psychoanalysis with her in 3 minutes. We learn why Molly is the person she because of the problems with her spine injury and her desperation to please her father by almost killing herself trying to be an Olympic skier even after she was severely injured. Molly's Game is Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut and he just might receive a best director Oscar along with best adapted screenplay that I think should be a guarantee.

Molly's Game is one of the best pictures of 2017 and receives my highest recommendation.



Sunday, December 24, 2017

Movie Review: Darkest Hour

Historical movies are one of my favorites to see because if its a very good historical movie, then you might learn something that you never knew before. Everybody knows how important a person Winston Churchill has been to the world and what "Darkest Hour" shows is that without Churchill, and the incredibly difficult decisions he had to make around the time when 300,000 men of England's army were surrounded in Dunkirk, England might have either surrendered or fallen to the Germans. With England's opposition removed and the guns and armory the Germans would have been able to take from England, they could have in fact taken over the entirety of Europe and won the war. At the time of Dunkirk, Churchill was surrounded by weak men who wanted to negotiate with Germany a surrender, through of all people Mussolini of Italy. These men were very weak because of their fear and panic, they did not seem to realize that whatever terms they got from lowlife of the likes of Hitler or Mussolini would have been ignored and England would have been overtaken. Churchill steadfastly refused to negotiate but at times, was at least curious as to what terms England could have gotten. It took one amazing scene when he talked to some of the people of England to know the correct course he had to take. The people of England knew the best course of action for their country, far more than most of the people who were in charge. How many times in life is that a real truth.

The acting in Darkest Hour is outstanding, starting with Gary Oldman who will definitely be nominated for best actor and might actually win an Oscar for best actor. Lili James is also excellent in her role as Churchill's typist who at first is abused by him but later becomes a valued friend.

I highly recommend Darkest Hour.

Movie Review: Downsizing

The new movie "Downsizing", starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wig has one of the best ideas for a movie that I have seen in a long time. A scientific breakthrough has allowed for the downsizing of any human being to 1/2500 of their original size. Once they are miniaturized they can never turn back to normal size again. This amazing process will also enable any human being to have to many times their former net worth because of the tiny world they will live in and live a much better life while saving the world from over population.

Unfortunately for this film, after the process of making a person very small is over, they completely ran out of ideas, other than to have Matt Damon's wife, played by Kristen Wig change her mind about the whole thing and later divorce him. After Damon finds himself alone in the new small world, things got extremely boring very quickly and soon after Damon runs into a Vietnamese woman who lost her leg during some mishap during her miniaturization process and somehow they fall in love. The entire second half of this movie is not only very bad, but makes no sense. Why would Damon's character do any of the things they have him do after he arrives in the new small world? The truth is, he wouldn't. While watching the second half of a movie that could have been very good, I wondered how Matt Damon read this script and then agreed to do it? Why did Christoph Waltz agree to appear in this mess? How was the screenplay not completely re-written into something that actually made sense and was an understandable continuation of this amazing new scientific process?

I also realized towards the end of this way too long bad movie that this is the 4th bad film in a row that Matt Damon has made, including "The Great Wall", "Suburbicon" and "Jason Bourne". Somewhere along the line, the concept of less money and higher quality will have to be realized. This is too many bad movies.

I recommend that everyone miss this pretty bad film.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Movie Review: I, Tonya

The movie I, Tonya about the infamous skater from the 1990's Tonya Harding could very well be the greatest thing that ever happened to Harding's career and legacy. This film paints a very favorable and understanding picture of the famous knee attack on Nancy Kerrigan in January 1994 and the life and sports career of Tonya Harding. As I have said before on this blog, we are all products of our childhood, good or bad and the luck or bad luck we have in life all starts at birth, based on who your parents are, money, DNA, education and many other factors that decide whether we will have a chance at a decent life. Or like in the case of Tonya Harding, have to dig themselves out of a very deep hole. From the beginning as the youngest child of a very bad mother who had 5 kids with 4 husbands, was very abusive and Tanya Harding grew up from the very bottom in every sense of the word. During her career, Harding never got the respect she deserved for her performances, because the judges thought of her as white trash.

The most remarkable part of Tanya's life was that she was ever able to break out of her terrible life and became world famous and even got to the Olympics. Harding was married and later divorced to a horrible person who constantly hit her. Her mother was a major lowlife who also constantly hit her and verbally abused her. Her mother was married and divorced 4 times and its amazing, when you see this movie that someone like this could ever have been married 4 times and had 5 kids.

There is major Oscar buzz for the acting performances of Margot Robbie and Allison Janney as both performances were outstanding. You also have to admire the amount of work Robbie put in for 5 months to learn out to skate. The story was told in an usual way, with character interviews that seemed more like a documentary but I thought that the lead up as to why the bad people around Harding decided to do the stupid act of trying to break Kerrigan's knee were not explored enough towards the end of this film.

I highly recommend I Toyna.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 3

The movie franchise Pitch Perfect, that debuted in 2012 has worked extremely well for several reasons. The first is that the two judges played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks are very funny and they have great chemistry. The second reason is the singing and the music. The third reason is the music rift contests that have always been very good, especially in the second Pitch Perfect that was released in 2015. The fourth reason is the filler, or the part of the movie that is necessary for every screenwriter to make a movie 2 hours long. Unfortunately the 3rd and possibly last installment of Pitch Perfect failed big time because the filler part just did not work at all. To make this movie 2 hours, the screenwriters decided to insert a kidnapping and karate scene that not only did not work, it almost completely ruined the entire movie. Very clearly they just ran out of ideas and threw this in out of desperation because they were under the gun and needed another 30 minutes of screen time. I also thought that the other filler stories were much weaker than the other two movies and there was not enough music or great musical numbers in this 3rd installment.

The good news is that Anna Kendrick is still a great singer, exceptional enough to have a separate and even more successful singing career. Some of the characters still work, the one who you can barely hear talk, fat Amy and several of the other women who have now gone on after college and are very depressed with their lives and decide to reunite one last time for a USO tour. The movie starts out pretty well, but then goes into directions that did not work and then degrades into a kidnapping and karate movie. For these reasons I can only recommend this film for die hard Pitch Perfect fans.

Movie Review: The Shape of Water

The "Shape of Water" is another one of those movies that so desperately tries to be so different that it shoots too high and in my opinion forgets some important things about what is most essential when telling a good story. This starts with, it has to make sense. The log line for this movie is mostly, "A mute female custodian who works in a highly secure Government research facility in the 1950's meets an falls in love with an alien lizard creature". That sure is different, never been done before. But how can a custodian have total access to a highly secure Government research facility, so she would have the opportunity to fall in love with a giant lizard creature. Why would a human woman find a lizard creature attractive? One good thing about this movie is that the lizard creature costume and makeup and eyes were all extremely impressive. The acting was also good, with Sally Hawkins as the mute girl, Octavia Spenser as her co-worker custodian friend and Micheal Shannon who was very good as the head of the Government facility. The ratings for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB are both very high, for reasons that escape me. This movie was mostly just weird and I remember thinking was way too long and I could not wait for it all to end. For these reasons I cannot recommend this film.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Movie Review: Jumanji

There should be rules for remaking movies. The amount of time that has past since the original, the quality of the original and that goes both ways. For instance, nobody would ever be crazy enough to remake the Godfather, or Saving Private Ryan, but a movie that was good but not too great could be a good rule that Hollywood should follow. The original Jumanji that came out in 1996 was an OK movie, not that good, but just OK so I was pretty surprised that this movie was remade.

There have been several remakes of bad TV shows this year, Baywatch and Chips and were both very bad movies, and this is the first movie remake of 2017. The Rock, Dwayne Johnson teams again with Kevin Hart and this movie will remind everyone of movies that both have done in the past. There is nothing special here, just 4 high school students that get sucked into a video game and take on the personalities of the characters of the game. As far as the game they are all trapped in, it was not obvious what the game is, other than surviving different attacks from natives and charging rhinos and trying not to lose all 3 of their lives. I thought this movie was on a par with the original that starred the late Robin Williams and overall I give it a marginal recommendation.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Movie Review: Wonder Wheel

With the amazing wave after wave of sexual allegations that have destroyed the careers of so many in Hollywood, music and even Broadcasting, one has to be amazed that Woody Allen is still able to make whatever movie he wants and still hires some of the best names in the movie industry. Ironically, Allen's son with Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow was the journalist who started the dominoes falling with Harvey Weinstein and after he fell, it seems that the new reports of sexual abuse are never ending and careers and lives are ruined every day. The allegations against Woody Allen go back to 1992 and one can only wonder if this news came out now that Allen's career would have survived like it did in 1992. Why Woody Allen was able to survive in 1992 when so many careers are now over for good, for charges that are in most cases are far less than what Allen was charged with is another question. One could argue that Woody Allen is the greatest and most prolific screenwriter of all time, making the tragedy of what happened to him in 1992 all the more tragic, whether or not the accusations are true. All movie fans can only wonder what it must be like to be Woody Allen after his incredible career and great movies and fame, only to have something like this happen to him to shine a bad light on his legacy.

Allen's new movie "Wonder Wheel" is about a husband and wife, played by Jim Belushi and Kate Winslet who live on a boardwalk in Brooklyn right under a giant Ferris wheel called Wonder Wheel. I wondered if Allen's use of this Ferris wheel was a metaphor for life or the story in this movie, but perhaps the idea of people living so close to a noisy amusement park and huge wheel fascinated Allen and he just decided to put this idea in a movie. This part of Wonder Wheel reminded me of Allen's masterpiece Annie Hall, the only comedy to ever win best picture in 1977 because the main character in that film, Alvie Singer, played by Allen lived under a roller coaster when he was a child. I thought this entire story of Wonder Wheel was well done and believable and lead up impressively to one singular moment towards the end where Kate Winslet's character has to make a decision to either do the right thing, or selfishly save her own life.

Like many of Allen's recent movies, this one is completely serious that absolutely no comic moments. For all true Woody Allen fans, we are all hoping that one day he will revert back to his the comedy phase of his writing career and give the world another Annie Hall, but for now that seems like a remote possibility as Woody only seems to make mostly serious movies now.

Overall, I thought this was a solid movie and also included singer Justin Timberlake as one of the main characters. I am actually surprised at the low 30% ratings on rotten tomatoes as I would have given this movie a solid 75 out of 100. The acting was very good and even though the story did drag at parts, it kept my attention and had a great singular moment as I mentioned before with a good ending. I recommend Wonder Wheel.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Without a doubt, Star Wars which was first released 40 years ago in 1977 is the most prolific and profitable franchise in movie history, now spanning 9 films.

Some 20 years ago the inventor of this amazing movie idea, George Lucas, decided to make 3 new movies starting in 1999, after saying for years that his Star Wars idea was only going to be a movie trilogy and he would never make another sequel. The 3 new Star Wars movies received a level of success and critical acclaim that was far less than the first 3 movies received and perhaps because of that, Lucas decided to sell the entire franchise to Disney for 4 billion dollars some years ago. Two years ago "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" was released and the world now knows that there will probably be a new Star Wars movie released every December for the foreseeable future. The second movie, released in 2016, "Rogue One" was the first Star Wars movie that involved characters that were outside the original franchise, but this new one, "The Last Jedi" contains both the new characters introduced in The Force Awakens and the original characters that go back to the original movie released in 1977.

Everyone knows that a Star Wars release is virtually a guaranteed huge money maker and due to that obvious fact, very often due to the pressure to produce another film every years with so many special effects and action the screenplay takes a back seat, and in my opinion, that is the main problem with this film.

I have never been a fan of rapid-fire Michael Bay scene changes with no explanation or continuity or connecting thread as several stories move forward and then switch to another part of the story, then back again, then to another scene and before you know it, you have no idea what is going on and the entire experience becomes more annoying than entertaining. This movie plays like it was written by 5 screenwriters with so many different scenes and story lines going at the same time for over 2 hours. There are great special effects like like all of the Star Wars movies, but like I have said many times in this blog, special effects will never be a band aid for a poorly written screenplay or bad original story idea. While I don't think The Last Jedi is by any means a bad movie, for me it was not good enough movie because of the "all over the place direction". I expected more with this film and because of the rapid fire disconnected story telling, I was overall disappointed.

It was quite depressing to see the late Carrie Fischer in her last film role and in some ways, Mark Hamill, who looks looks much older than his 66 years. Perhaps the rapid aging of Fischer and Hamill is a reflection of the incredible highs and lows of their respective acting careers and after both of them reached such a huge highs 40 years ago, they found like so many that trying to be a Hollywood actor is an extremely difficult and precarious life choice.

See this movie for the special effects and the action scenes, but not for the great story.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Movie Review: The Disaster Artist

This movie is both a documentary and an actual movie about another movie called "The Room" which is known as the best worst movie ever made. The story is also about something that is never talked about enough. The number of poor people in Hollywood following their remote dreams of becoming actors, directors, producers and trying to become rich and famous like so many of the rare few in the most difficult and fickle business in the world, Show Business. This film is about a little known actor, writer and director, Tommy Wiseau, played by James Franco, who after a car accident has slurred speech but still tries to make it in Hollywood after years of constant rejection. The amazing part of this story is that somehow Wiseau obtains a great deal of money (its never revealed how he got this money) and like so many before him who have failed, he tries to make his own movie that he stars in, directs and writes. What ultimately results is an extremely bad movie that over the years after 2003 when it was first released, has become a cult movie around the world, only because its so bad, its rather funny. What I found fascinating about this is where does a movie that is very bad become entertaining and actually good because its so bad? Where is this fine line between just bad and funny bad? The yearly Television phenomenon Sharknado is a good example of something that is so bad and so stupid that its actually funny and entertaining. Another movie that has the distinction of being so bad its actually funny is the movie Plan 9 from Outerspace that was released in 1959.

Like so many people with no talent who think they can sing on shows like American Idol, Tommy believes that he is great actor, even though he has no acting ability and a great writer, even though he cant write a screenplay and with 6 million dollars along with his best friend Greg, played by James Franco, he sets out to make a very bad movie that he thinks is going to be a great masterpiece. The Room cost Wiseau 6 million dollars to make and on its first weekend in 2003 in only one theater it made only 1800 dollars, but over time and all over the world because of its cult following, in the ending credits it was revealed that the movie has made most of that 6 million dollars back.

For me the best line of this entire movie was from Judd Apatow who played a cameo in this film as himself being harassed in a restaurant by Wiseau. His line, "Even if you had the talent of a Marlon Brando you're odds of making it are still 1 million to 1". Apatow's other line was almost as good, "Just because you desperately want to make it, does not mean that you ever will." For me that says it all about the realities of life in Southern California for so many well-intentioned dreamers. The harsh reality is for so many good people, it doesn't matter if your talented and deserving, so often its just all about dumb luck. The millions of people who are destined to be always on the outside looking into a world that they see as nirvana, can only hope and pray that the lucky few who have made it, appreciate the miracle gift they have been given, but it seems that so many of them don't. The recent myriad of sexual allegations in Hollywood certainly prove that.

As far as this movie that I thought was good or average somewhat funny story about Hollywood and its harsh realities, I was surprised at the very high marks on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB this film has received. I would give it maybe a 7 out of 10, definitely not an 8 or higher.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Movie Review: Last Flag Flying

The movie "Last Flag Flying" is not really a war movie, but rather a story about the aftermath of war depicted in a way I have never seen before. Three friends from the Vietnam War reunite after many years, leading to a road trip where they transport the son of one of them, who was killed in the Iraq War in 2003 to his hometown to be buried.

This movie has 4 major stars, starting with Steve Carell who is the father of the solder who is killed, Brian Cranston, a local bar owner and Laurence Fishburne who is now a preacher. The story is about the transition for the father of the young solder killed, played very well by Steve Carrel from the anger he feels towards the United States at first for losing his only child to an unjust war based on lies about "weapons of mass destruction". Towards the end, he eventually coming to terms with his new reality of not only losing his wife to breast cancer a year earlier, but now his only son. War is hell and this story about how and why his son was killed in this story are typical of the aftermath of war.

One scene that impressed me the most was when Carell's character insisted on seeing the body of his dead son, despite knowing in advance how horribly he died. There is some humor in this story mostly during the the road trip, mainly by Cranston's character and excellent acting by all stars. There is a scene towards the end where the three men visit the mother pf one of their fallen friends from Vietnam, played by 93 year old Cicely Tyson and the conversation leads to a dilemma that represents another tragedy of war; do you tell a surviving loved one the real truth about how their son really died? Or do you spare their feelings to protect the memories they have of their son who was killed in action? The suffering because of War's in this world is beyond all comprehension and for those who are left behind to rationalize the loss of someone so young and to always imagine what could have been is unbearable.

I thought this movie was very well produced, directed and acted and I recommend it.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Movie Review: Murder on the Orient Express

The new movie "Murder on the Orient Express" is a remake of the original made in 1974. I always ask myself, when there is a remake of a movie like this, why a remake? Was the movie important enough or memorable enough to make another one? Very often and including this time, the answer to that question is no. Murder on the Orient Express is one of the most famous of all the Agatha Christie novels, but in my opinion the ending of this story is too unbelievable and convoluted to really believe possible and for that reason, and for the reason that the entire movie was quite boring, I cannot recommend this movie.

There are many known actors in this film, including Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer, but their appearances are not enough to have any reason to recommend this film.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Movie Review: Roman J. Israel, ESQ.

First off, I was pretty disgusted and shocked by the middle of the road estimates on Rotten Tomatoes for this very good movie. When I read some of the reviews, I wondered if some of these reviewers were in the wrong movie theater. Right from the start, I can state that Roman J. Isreal, ESQ. is one of the best movies of 2017.

"Roman J. Israel, ESQ. , played extremely well by Denzel Washington is about the conflict between idealism as a young lawyer starts out his career, and the desire and need for financial security that becomes more necessary as you get older.

As this movie explains very well, within the legal system today, prosecutors throw very severe maximum penalties at the accused in the hopes that they will accept a plea bargain, because if they fight the system and lose, their entire reason for living goes down the drain with their prison term. The only thing worse than going to prison is going to prison for something you didn't do, or living through a prison term that is completely out of proportion to the one time mistake you made as a young kid. Your choice is to fight prosecution, lose all your savings and if you lose, getting the worst case scenario prison term. If your found innocent because of a mistake by a prosecutor or a lying witness, you don't get a refund from the legal firm that charges you 500 dollars an hour to save your life. Your financially ruined for life and you did nothing wrong. These are the harsh realities of how the broken legal system in this country works for so many unfortunate people.

For me the most significant scene in this movie is towards the beginning, where Roman meets with a young 17 year old terrified kid, who is in prison waiting trial and while trying to negotiate a fair plea for this young man, who made a small mistake and to save his own life, wore a gang t-shirt. The female prosecutor made it very clear that she could care less about the life of this unfortunate poor 17 year old. She only cared about about her perfect batting average as a prosecutor as Roman desperately tried to plead for his life. This is what is wrong with the legal system in this country, humanity, common sense and decency takes a back seat to a batting average. Underlying all the complex and unfair laws are young human lives who either because being poor or being in the wrong place at the wrong time, face a horrible existence that is barely worth living, in prison, and far too often for something they didn't even do.

Fighting for the innocent and not being about the money is what Roman Israel is all about. Mainly due to his idealism, he has been living alone in a run down apartment for the last 35 years. Israel is a legal savant with a photographic memory but unfortunately is slightly autistic, with perhaps a mild case of Asperger's syndrome and because of that, just does legal research for a small firm that is very deeply in debt and then the owner of the firm has a heart attack, which is where this movie begins. Roman cares about helping the less fortunate so much that he has been preparing a huge legal brief for many years, in the hopes of cleaning up a system that just does not work and is grossly unfair to the less fortunate who get pushed through a system with plea bargains and sentences that are outrageously unfair.

I thought that Colin Farrell's performance as a rich lawyer who hires Roman was one of the best performances of his career. Colin plays a lawyer who is the opposite of Roman, and mostly cares about money and almost never about helping people. This film has a great story, great back stories, and transitions as the main characters find themselves through mistakes and by learning from others. There are some scenes as Roman attends a meeting of young civil rights advocates that I thought was also outstanding and inspiring.

I thought that Roman J. Israel, ESQ. is one of the best films of 2017 and it receives my highest recommendation. Tragically, Denzel Washington should receive another Academy Award nomination, but probably will not because of the average reviews for this very good movie.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Movie Review: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Aside from having one of the longest titles for a movie I have seen in a long time, "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri", is a story about grief and the loss of a child told in one of the most unusual ways I have ever seen. In order to make a movie today, considering just about every idea has been tried or tested, coming up with an idea this unusual is almost mandatory.

Surviving grief because of the loss of a child requires therapy, anti-depressant drugs and massive rationalization. Losing a child, especially one who was raped and murdered is just about impossible for anyone to ever recover from. The divorce rate for people who lose a child is understandably extremely high. Some people turn to drugs to cope with their grief and the constant reminders of what could have been, the opportunity lost, high school graduations, weddings, the birth of the first grandchild. But in this case of the story in this movie, some people get very angry, like the main character, played extremely well by Francis McDormand. Due to her frustration over the police never solving her daughters murder after 7 months, she decides to put put up 3 billboards to humiliate the police chief, played by Woody Harrelson. The billboards ask the police chief why nobody has been arrested for the crime of murdering her daughter after so many months. I thought that the 3 billboard idea in this story is not only very unusual and extreme but very believable when you get to know the main character played by Mcdormand who is tough, strong and takes no disrespect from anybody. There are very good side stories with the police officers in the town of Ebbing that include racial bigotry and the harsh reactions of the towns people towards this grieving mother because of her billboards, even despite her tragic loss that I thought was very well done.

The acting in this movie is outstanding enough to create several Academy Award nominations, starting with Francis Mcdormand with her best role since winning the Academy Award in 1996 for Fargo. I also think that this movie might also receive a nomination for best picture and it is one of the best films of 2017.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Movie Review: Justice League

One can only wonder or try and estimate when this incredible flood of Marvel movies over the last 15 years will finally get old. We all know from the comic books that there are many super heroes but at some point, they all blend together and seem like the same movie. This is true of "Justice League" and is backed up by the low ratings of 40% on rottentomatoes. Perhaps the pendulum has started to swing the other way because these movies all seem to use the same formula every time. Some massive super villain is trying to destroy the world, and a few or several super heroes step in to save the world. The end of the movie has a huge amount of special effects and then a climatic battle that we have all seen many times before. In the end, most of us will never be able to remember what was unique or different with any one of these movies.

Justice League stars Ben Afleck as Batman, Amy Adams as Lois Lane,Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman and some new super heroes making their Marvel movie debut. Jason Momoa as Aqua-man, Ezra Miller as the Flash and Ray Fischer as Cyborg, admittedly a super hero I have never heard of before. When this film was over, I felt like I have seen the same movie 10 in the past few years, and in fact I probably had. My advice to the producers is to hire a great screenwriter and come up with some new ideas we have not seen before. In my opinion, all of these Marvel movies have already reached their saturation point.

I thought that Justice League was too run of the mill to recommend.

Movie Review: Lady Bird

This is one of the few movies I have seen in many years that is all about one of the most difficult times in anyone's life; "You're about to leave high school, you have to choose a college and decide what to do and you are only 18 years old". Very often we all accept the way things are, even if the way things are is insane, like having to make a life decision so early in life. Some of us are able to figure out what we want to do when we are 18 years old, but what about the rest of us, who have no clue? The new movie, "Lady Bird" takes an unusual take on this adolescent dilemma and starts with the fact that the lead character wants to change her name from Christine to Lady Bird, but screenwriter never tells the audience why she wants to change her name to Lady Bird.

The reviews of Lady Bird are extremely high, reaching a very rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.4 on IMDB and I mostly agree with these high marks. The start of this story is a conversation in the car with Lady Bird played by Saoirse Ronan and her mother played by Laurie Metlcalf that could be called a summary of the whole movie based on one conversation. At the end of this argument Lady Bird actually jumps out of the car, because of her anger of what her mother is saying is so extreme. Given the fact that Lady Bird is so confused about what to do with her life and her very identity, her mother's constant criticism and at times cruel berating is hard to hear at times during this film. Lady Bird goes through a few friendships and two boyfriends during the time she is desperately trying to get into an East Coast college, mainly so she can escape her boring Sacramento California life and her mother. Unfortunately, as her guidance counselor in her Catholic Girls high school laughingly reminds her, her grades are not good enough to get into most colleges. There are some very good laughs in this film along with the realities of an 18 year old not nearly ready to take the next step in her life. I thought all of this was very well done.

The screenwriter and director for this film is 34 year old Greta Gerwig, and due to the acclaim this movie has received so far she just might get a few Academy Award nominations.

I Lady Bird is a very good movie and I do recommend it.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Movie Review Wonder

Its been very rare in my experience that a movie hits on every single aspect of what a great screenplay and film is all about. The new movie "Wonder" does all of this and challenges the harsh realities of peer pressure, bullying, empathy, compassion, abandonment, betrayal and friendship all in one story. This great movie also hits the marks with excellent acting and remarkably has significant sub stories about the peripheral people around the main character who has a facial deformity; at a level that I cannot remember ever seeing. The sub stories around the main character I found to be profound enough to create completely new movies around them.

The main character of Auggie is played by Jason Tremblay who at only 11 years old has proven himself to be a great actor, previously in the highly acclaimed movie "Room". This movie is not a true story, but is very loosely based on another child who was born with a very rare DNA combination that causes facial deformity. From the beginning you cannot help to have empathy for this child, not only for what he has already gone through at age 10 but what he will be facing for the rest of this life. People stare, people are cruel, most especially young children in school and for that reason, up to the 5th grade Auggie was home schooled by his mother played by Julia Roberts and his father, played by Owen Wilson.

I was most impressed with the real life depictions of bullying that Auggie faces from his first days at school. There seemed no limit to the rude staring and cruel remarks this young boy had to face from so many of his classmates. A great deal of this kind of cruelty is because of peer pressure and this even happens with the only friend Auggie is able to make that creates a significant moment in this movie. For me, equally as important as Auggie's plight is the difficult life his older sister, played very well by Izabela Vidovic has to face as her mother seems to completely ignore her, because she is so obsessed with protecting her son. The message here is that with a problem this challenging in the life of a young child, this would also greatly affect the lives of everyone around him.

It takes a special person to step out of themselves despite peer pressure and other fears and befriend a 10 year old boy in school with a facial deformity and this act of courage did happen twice during this story. There are several acts of extreme cruelty, most especially with one young boy who passed several horrible notes in class to Auggie. There are also moments of great transition as people, as they sometimes do, recognize their own evil and realize they have to change to be able to live with themselves.

This movie has all the ingredients of a film that should be nominated for an Academy Award, but perhaps because of the subject matter it might not get a nomination, but in my opinion, it definitely should.

I highly recommend Wonder that is one of the best movies of 2017.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Movie Review: Daddy's Home Two

Its very rare in movie history that an very average or below average movie like Daddy's home makes enough money to give producers confidence to make a sequel. "Daddy's Home 2" is one of those rare times. On par with the previous version, this new film takes some chances by casting Mel Gibson who 10 years ago, seemed to have no reasonable path back from the career abyss he was in. But since directing the great war movie "Hacksaw Ridge" last year he seems to have done the impossible and is once again accepted as a bankable actor.

As far this movie, it misses the mark of a comedy because in the theater I was in, there were almost no laughs at all. Most of the physical comedy and sight gags all involved Will Farrell, or John Lithgow getting hit with something or falling off of a house or just generally falling down. This can be funny maybe once or twice in a film, but this one does this too many times and its just not that funny.

The premise of this movie is about the same as the first, but this time to two main characters played by Mark Wahlberg and Will Farrell are close friends having gotten over all of their differences from the first film. Farrell is married to Wahlberg's x-wife and Wahlberg is now remarried with and has a daughter with his new wife. There are many kids involved in this story and for too long of a time, unless you just saw the first version, its not obvious who's kid belongs to which parent.

Will Farrell is a natural comedic talent and for that matter, so is John Lithgow and there is virtually nothing he has to do to be funny, unlike Wahlberg who is not funny but despite this there is not enough funny moments to recommend this below average comedy.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Movie Review: The Florida Project

Sitting through this film was like passing by what you know is going to be the scene of a very bad car accident. As as you roll by and look to your right, you don't want to look because you know what you might see. You look anyway, because this is life, a possible pathway, perhaps the end of someone's life and in the back of your mind, you wonder if this might happen to you one day and this scares you, but you keep looking anyway. "There but for the grace of God go I".

This film plays more like a documentary than a movie and has only one named celebrity as the star, William Defoe who plays the manager of this run down Motel in Florida, ironically named "The Magic Castle Motel". For 38 dollars a night you can live almost like a caged animal in one room squalor surrounded by lavender and pink paint. The tenants of this massive hell hole are who you would expect; poor people down on their luck, but what you would never expect are happy, dancing and running young children who are oblivious to their reality and are not yet old enough to realize that they have no chance. No future. No hope. No way out. These young children have to go along for the ride only because of who their parents are. For me the happy oblivious young children in this story were ultimately the most depressing part because they just don't understand about money and what its like to be on the outer fringe of homelessness. As an adult your brain has to rationalize a life like this somehow, because if you can't, you die. But when your a child your just still a child and you don't know anything other than your bleak existence.

This movie has remarkable acting and the best actor of them all is 6 year old Brooklynn Prince, who plays Moonie and is the only child of her single mother, played by Bria Vinaite, a drug addict hooker and complete disaster of a human being who was stupid enough to give birth to and then keep a child. So many scenes in this movie are very hard to watch, because you know that there are real people like this in this country who live lives like this and like passing a car accident, this is something that none of us want to think about or ever see.

This low-budget movie has received many high reviews on both IMDB and Rottentomatoes and I agree with these high ratings as this movie while being quite depressing is also and outstanding depiction of the harsh reality of being poor in this country. The Florida Project gets my highest recommendation.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Movie Review: LBJ

At first glance I was rather surprised at the relatively low ratings for the new docudrama LBJ, directed by Rob Reiner, only 5.8 on IMDB and 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. I thought this was a very solid and well done history lesson about the political life of Lyndon Baines Johnson, with some of the story told using flashbacks. Much of what happens in this movie is well known but just as much is not known including how difficult Johnson's life as Vice President to John F. Kennedy was, due to the Kennedy brothers disrespecting and shutting him out of the important decisions of the Kennedy administration. From the perspective of Bobby and John Kennedy, Johnson was an outsider from the South who was made Vice President for political reasons to get Kennedy elected in 1960. On top of this, as was made very clear in this story, Bobby Kennedy was in some ways using Johnson for his own Presidential ambitions for the election of 1968.

To this day its amazing how long it took this country to pass basic human rights legislation, including the Civil Rights act of 1964 that was started by Kennedy and finalized by Johnson after Kennedy was assassinated. What were we thinking for so many years in this country, suppressing the basic rights of millions of people for so many years? So much of this backward thinking was because too many of the wrong people were in charge, including a major character in this movie Senator Richard Russell, played very well by actor Richard Jenkins, who was both a very powerful Senator as well as a bigot who did everything in his power to prevent the Civil Rights act because of his racism and stupidity.

I was impressed with this movie for several reasons, starting with the acting of Woody Harrelson as LBJ, in one of the best roles of his career and Jennifer Jason Leigh who was unrecognizable as Lady Bird Johnson. The makeup and the sets in this movie were all outstanding and I thought Rob Reiner's direction was also outstanding.

Despite the average ratings for this movie, I thought it was very good and I recommend it.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Movie Review: Thor: Ragnarock

I found the definition of Ragnarock on Wikipedia and before seeing the new movie "Thor: Ragnarock" today I never heard of the word Ragnarock before. The reviews for this movie are quite high, 93% on rottentomatoes and 8.2 on IMDB and I agree with the high ratings for the special effects that are very impressive, but not for the story which is all over the place, at times hard to follow and is lacking in continuity. This story jumps from one scene to another scene and more than a few times during these 2 hours you have no idea what is happening or who a new character is; case in point the character played by Idris Elba. I wondered if the producers of this movie assumed that the audience read the comic book before seeing this movie.

This movie stars Chris Hemsworth as Thor for the 3rd time in this franchise, not including the Avenger series. Cate Blanchette plays Thor's sister and Jeff Goldblum as the leader of this strange planet that looks like a garbage dump for the universe. There are very good special effects and some fights including even the HULK character played once again by Mark Ruffalo. The most impressive performance in this movie was by Tessa Thompson who just may have had her breakthrough role with this movie.

Unfortunately, there is not much more to say about this film that I thought was average, at times boring and offered nothing that we have not seen many times before.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Movie Review: A Bad Moms Christmas

The message of "A Bad Moms Christmas" is as good as was the message for the original "Bad Moms", that was released in July 2016. Being a mother is very stressful and at times can be quite overwhelming and depressing but when its Christmas, it all can get much worse. Then the screenwriters of this sequel added the arrival for Christmas of the mothers of the 3 main characters, played by Mila Kunis, Christine Bell and Kathryn Hahn and the result is a movie that is funny at times, at other times too raunchy and in the end not as good as the original Bad Moms which I thought was a very good comedy movie.

The standout actor in this comedy is Christine Baransky, who plays Mila Kunis mother as the exact same character she plays on the Big Bang Theory. She is outstanding as the mother who always makes nasty stupid comments that constantly belittle and puts down her daughter. Of course all of this because this movie is a comedy is played to the extreme and I did laugh out-loud in a number of spots during this film. This movie does make you wonder why some mothers just have to knock down their child and always try to undermine everything their child tries to do. Its a typical phenomenon of some parents and over a many years of this kind of a abuse during a childhood and adulthood can cause many relationship problems, some of which are brought out during some of the funny moments in this story.

There is a very small appearance by Christina Applegate who was also in the first Bad Moms and I thought it was unfortunate that her part was so small. Susan Sarandon and Cheryl Hines play the other 2 mothers in this story and I thought they were both good in their roles, but for some reason the screenwriters thought that giving Sarandon's character the name Isis would be funny and I disagree that a name like this can ever be funny.

This movie was just OK, and unfortunately not as good as the original Bad Moms.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Movie Review: Thank you for Your Service

"Thank you for Your Service" is what we all say when we see an army Veteran, regardless of which war he was in. With all of the times I have said this to a War veteran, including even Senator John McCain, who I met in in April 2000, it has always felt like an awkward thing to say. Realizing that this statement that is the title of this movie; while sincere, always seems extremely inadequate compared to what many of these people have gone through. This movie is about the battle scars of war after these men return home and this aspect of the very harsh realities of war, was extremely well portrayed in this film.

Thank you for your Service is set in the year 2007, as the war in Iraq that started in March 2003 still raged on. Just about at the start of this film, 3 soldiers who are now close friends are on a plane returning home and what follows is a the story about the harsh reality of life and PTSD after fighting in a war. What this film did the best was to show the callousness of the Army officers these 3 soldiers encountered at the Veterans Administration that included stupid comments can be summed up by "Oh get over it". As these 3 men desperately struggled to recover from horror, the anger and the guilt they lived through in Iraq, they were faced with living in squalor when they returned home with no chance to ever get a normal job and the facing the incompetence of an overwhelmed Veterans Administration that seemed was completely incapable of helping any of them.

Very few of us are able to step out of ourselves and identify with a major trauma another person has gone through with the ability to not only relate to their trauma and give them empathy that is in proportion to the damage they have endured. The famous expression "Walk a Mile in my Shoes" comes to mind. This is never more true with War PTSD as compared any other type of psychological trauma. For solders like this, who have gone through hell and might never get over reliving the horrible events they witnessed, hearing something like "Just get over it" just might be the most infuriating and damaging thing they ever hear from anyone. Getting over PTSD is proportional to the severity of the trauma, the length of time involved and the ability of that persons brain to heal and stop reliving the events and the pictures that flash in their brain they can never stop replaying over and over again. Getting psychological help for many of these soldiers, due to the lack of funding and inefficiencies within the Veterans Administration has been inadequate in this country for many years, including the year the true story of this film is set; 2007.

I thought the acting with Thank you for Your Service was outstanding starting with Miles Teller who plays the starring role, Haley Bennett who plays Teller's wife,Beulah Koale who plays Teller's close friend from the war and surprisingly, comedian Amy Shumer who is proving that she is a very good dramatic actor as well as an outstanding standup comedian.

I highly recommend Thank you for Your Service.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Movie Review: Suburbicon

While sitting through this bad movie, hoping it would end soon, I could not help wondering what "Suburbicon" was really all about. A black comedy satire about murdering your wife for insurance money or a commentary on bigotry within an all white Suburban community in the 1950's where a young black family moves into an all white neighborhood and is terrorized by all of the white residents? When it was all finally over, I still didn't know the answer to this question.

A movie that is trying to be a black comedy, a satire, and a commentary on race relations all at the same time is a very bad idea. Even more surprising was that the screenplay for this film was written by Joel and Ethan Coen, two of the best screenwriters of all time. I thought it was surprising that both Matt Damon and George Clooney read the script for this movie and still decided to make it. My guess is that Clooney and Damon just thought that because the Coen brothers wrote this bad script then it must be good. Very bad decision.

The ratings on Rottentomatoes for this movie are very low, only 26% and for IMDB only 4.7. These numbers are very low and this movie deserves these low ratings. This film is yet another very bad attempt to be very different with a screenplay and movie idea and in the end the most important thing is lost - actually entertaining the audience.

I thought this was a pretty bad movie and it should not be seen by anyone.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Movie Review: Only the Brave

Once again, a Hollywood movie has been released that correlates to recent real life events. This movie is similar to Geostorm that is about curing extreme weather events that we have seen in this country during the last few months and "Only the Brave" is about wildfires and there have been huge deadly wildfires in Northern California in recent weeks. As I watched this movie, I wondered like most people, why anyone would ever want to risk their life doing this job to make a living. As was made very clear within this story many times, putting out forest fires is one of the most dangerous jobs in the entire world. Wild fires that occur in so many areas of this country move extremely quickly, change direction instantly and can kill someone is several different ways including burns, carbon dioxide poisoning, smoke inhalation and even suffocation.

"Only the Brave" is a real life story about the "Granite Mountain Hotshots" where 19 firefighters were killed when they were surrounded by a wildfire. Josh Brolin plays the administrator of the group and Jennifer Connely plays his wife. There are also very good side stories in this movie including a drug addict played by Miles Teller, who is invited to join the group, despite his addiction. I thought the acting and screenplay for this movie were outstanding.

I highly recommend Only the Brave.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House

Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House is the story of Mark Felt, one of the leaders of the FBI in the 1960's and 70's, who was passed over to be director of the FBI and turned out to be the legendary "deep throat", who along with the Washington Post and Woodward and Bernstein brought down the presidency of Richard Nixon.

What was very good about this movie was showing what Mark Felt went through, including some threats against his only daughter, the effect of being the main informant for the Watergate scandal and what that meant to his career in the FBI. Unfortunately this film was mostly too boring and too long to recommend. The cast, starring Liam Neeson and several other recognizable actors including Diane Lane who plays Felt's wife was good, but not very memorable. Unfortunately I cannot recommend this film because of these reasons.

Movie Review: Geostorm

The only remarkable thing about the new film Geostorm is the timing of its release, right after by far the worst Hurricane season this country has ever seen. Real life events and movies like this have correlated in the past but I thought the timing of this movie being made and released was rather amazing and its too bad this movie was not up to its level of coincidental release.

Unfortunately, the problem with this film was taking a great idea that would result in great special effects and having a number of producers and directors trying to add "Hollywood drama" to the story and the end result is an overly complicated and in the end, rather stupid story that involves politics, assassination and a series of events that really have no connection with end of the story. This movie could have been made so much better by just following the simple idea of less is more. How about a computer glitch or something that created a problem with the space station and the surrounding satellites that were built to fix extreme weather conditions? It would have been interesting enough to watch how the scientists were able to debug and fix the software and hardware problems. But some producer or director, who thought it was too risky to create an intelligent story to go with the special effects slapped together a formula story that follows the typical Hollywood paradigm and actually ruined what could have been a very good action movie. This is highly unfortunate considering the budget for this film and the low ratings on Rotten-tomatoes of only 11% backs up my opinion on where the mistakes were made.

Gerard Butler is the main actor of this movie, playing the lead scientist who created a space station and sattelites that control the weather along with Ed Harris and some other actors we have all seen before, but their appearance was not enough to make this any more than a very average movie. See this film for the special effects and for no other reason.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Movie Review: The Foreigner

The acting career of Jackie Chan goes back 55 years to a film called, Big and Little Wong Tin Bar and since then he has probably completed more films, preformed more stunts and has broken more bones and been hospitalized than probably anyone in movie history. Many of Chan's past martial arts films have elements of comedy in them that for the most part have worked over the years and his collaboration with Chris Tucker in 3 "Rush Hour" movies, with a forth installment recently announced has been very successful.

The movie "The Foreigner" is one of the few purely dramatic roles I have seen Jackie Chan in and his "have nothing to lose" and almost without emotion acting in this movie after losing his last daughter in an explosion by the IRA (Irish Republican Army) I thought was very believable and well done. Terrorism is a very unfortunate fact of life, and due to the Taliban and so many organizations like them, the world has almost forgotten about how many bombs the IRA has set off over the years.

As far as the story of a distraught Chinese man who wants to avenge his daughters death using his skills as Operative, I thought that the plot was a bit overly complicated but Chan's dogged determination and singular desire for the names of the terrorists who murdered his only daughter was well done throughout. The martial arts scenes in this movie were also well done and believable in their real life stumbling awkwardness, unlike many other fight scenes I have seen that look too choreographed. The actor Pierce Brosnan is also in this movie as one of the head people involved with an IRA organization and I thought his acting was also very good in this film.

I thought the Foreigner was a well made movie and I do recommend it.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Movie Review: The Mountain Between Us

Everybody has seen elements of the movie "The Mountain Between Us" many times before and more than likely on a TV movie on the LIFETIME network. This film is mostly about 2 people who survive a plane crash on a mountain with a dog and I admit that the dog is a slightly different twist on a story we have all seen many times before. At the start of this film I was thinking why anyone would want to fly in a very a small plane over a the snow covered mountains of the Colorado area, no matter how desperate they are to get to where they are going and its obvious that this is something most people would never do. There is no mystery her with this story and from the trailers we all know that this plane will crash and from there, the only thing we are curious about is how they will manage to survive and find their way off the freezing cold mountain. Once you crash and are huddled in the remains of a small plane, freezing to death, its hard to really write a story that is that interesting. The audience will wonder how they would react in a situation like this, but for the most part there is not much you can do, other than hope you are found and rescued, try to find food and water and when all hope is lost of being found, try to walk off the mountain. As a screenwriter I would find it very hard to make an interesting story about a situation like this, but the screenwriter did try a twist in such a way that at first seemed unlikely and then towards the end was somewhat effective.

Several things did not make sense in this story, starting with the dog who seems to be full of energy and running around even after not eating for days and trekking through a very cold mountain as one example. This movie stars Kate Winslet and Idris Elba and I thought that they were both good in their roles despite the weak overall story. In the end I thought this movie was not a bad one but just OK and I give it a very mild recommendation and I did like the ending.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Movie Review: Blade Runner 2049

In order to enjoy a movie like Blade Runner 2049, that is a sequel to the original Blade Runner, released in 1982, you have to either have seen and liked the original Blade Runner or be filled on on what happened in the original so you better understand this film. There are a few sentences at the start of this sequel to the original that talks about replicants and a bankrupt company that makes these replicants but not enough information to know what happened in the last movie.

Additionally, you have to get used to the dark, rainy and very depressing environment of this futuristic world where either a nuclear war, global warming or both have ruined the planet earth forever. For me the constant rain, darkness, bombed out buildings and extremely depressing world of the future offset some of the good special effects. I also thought that the screenplay was pretty hard to follow as the main character of K, played by Ryan Gosling tries to solve a complicated mystery that involves the daughter of the original Blade Runner played by Harrison Ford in the first movie. One bright spot is the virtual character played by Ana de Armas, but overall despite the very high opinions of the critics, over 80% for both Rottentomatoes and IMDB, I cannot recommend this movie, for the reasons I mentioned and for that fact that this movie was too long and boring in too many spots to recommend.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Movie Review: American Made

I always wondered why anyone would want to have a job working for the various Airlines in the world and that includes being a pilot. The pay for an Airline pilot considering the fact that you are never home, living in Airports and Hotels and constantly en-route to somewhere in the world, is definitely not worth it in my opinion. Why anyone would want to be a flight attendant is a whole new question because considering all the huge downsides, that has to be one of the worst jobs there is.

The new movie "American Made" is about an Airline pilot from the year 1978 named Barry Seal, played very well by Tom Cruise, who was married had a few kids and was like so many who had his job back in the 1970's needed to make a lot more money. What follows in this amazing true life story is a series of events that seemed more like a work of fiction then something that could ever have actually happened. From an opportunity with the CIA to aerial take pictures of a South American country, to drug and gun running followed by an upward and then downward spiral that is hard to believe, this is a story that when you see it you wonder why you never heard who Barry Seal was before this movie.

What happened to Barry Seal in this story is what happens to many people who get very rich quickly and then think they can never make a mistake or get caught because eventually all that money makes them very stupid and it all just goes south. Another recent movie that demonstrates greed and stupidity at this level is last years War Dogs and what is even worse with this story is Seal's involvement with some very dangerous drug lords in South America. American Made is a big departure from movies that Tom Cruise normally makes with a much lower budget than the big budget Mission Impossible movies and the bad "The Mummy" he made this year.

I thought that American Made is a very well told and amazing story about an American Airline pilot who went bad and I do recommend it.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Movie Review: Battle of the Sexes

In the last few days as the new movie "Battle of the Sexes" was about to be released, it was suggested that Bobby Riggs threw his game against Billy Jean King because he owed money to mobsters due to his gambling. Now, after seeing this movie, I am more interested to figure out how a 55 year old Riggs beat the #1 woman in the world, Margaret Court, 6-2 6-1 before he lost to Billy Jean, just a short time after Court beat Billy Jean King almost as easily. Many things don't make sense here, but perhaps Riggs paid off Court to lose to him easily, by promising her a piece of his winnings when he pulled off the Billy Jean King match. As the great promoter that Riggs was, he knew that he needed to have the tennis watching audience get interested first by beating the #1 woman player and then create all the hype and ridiculousness necessary to pull off one of the greatest spectacles in American History.

It is very clear that Bobby Riggs never meant any of the stupid male chauvinist things he said, he was just trying to generate huge interest to make the event become the big money maker it was, and ultimately it all worked. I would have liked to have learned more about the back story to this almost documentary like film about this famous match that happened in 1973 and even how much both Riggs and King were paid, but this was unfortunately never mentioned. The acting of Steve Carrel who played Riggs and Emma Stone who played King was very good, the story was slow at times but in the end the screenwriter and director did an effective job of remembering all that happened in the battle of the sexes, 44 years ago, so I do recommend this movie.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Movie Review: American Assassin

Despite the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes about the new movie American Assassin, I thought this was an effective movie about Terrorism and the people who try to eliminate Terrorism from the world. The story plays like movies we have seen before, even a little like the Karate Kid, but because of the action and the story, I thought it was an effective spy movie. The special effects, especially at the end I thought were very well done and the acting from Micheal Keaton and newcomer Dylan O'Brien was very believable.

Overall, I thought this was a good spy movie and I do recommend it.

Movie Review: Brad's Status

If I could summarize this brilliant movie "Brad's Status" about the doubts we all have about our lives it would be in one sentence: "Never compare yourself to other people". The reasons for this are obvious when you really think about it. Its never fair to compare the lives of two different people. Circumstance, parents, DNA, money, luck, the right job at the right time, health, finding love, never finding love, kids, no kids and so many other factors, many of which are out of our hands. When we compare ourselves to other people we have to do this by making assumptions. These assumptions may be accurate, but very often they are not accurate because most of us would have no idea what is the real truth of someone else's life. What we think someone else's life is all about, may or may not be true. What may seem to be a charmed life may not be that charmed at all. But sometimes we all make ourselves feel bad, thinking that time is running out and that just maybe we chose the wrong path because we are not as wealthy or happy as our friends or people we have known because we decided on a profession that doesn't pay as much as some other profession and we think our friends from college or high school are doing so much better than we are. But, are they really? What are the true parameters of success and happiness? Does anybody ever know the answer to this one simple question?

Throughout this movie, there is a voice over narration by the main character Brad Sloan, played very well by Ben Stiller in serious role where Brad is talking to himself as he tries to figure out his life at age 47. He wonders why he was not invited to a friends wedding with this 3 other friends from college and thinks that its probably because his friends think of him as a loser because he is not wealthy and decided to help people with a non profit organization he runs instead of making money. This is another part of the problem, caring so much about what we think - other people might think about us. Brad is very proud of his musical prodigy son who has decided he wants to go to Harvard, but wonders how he could ever pay for his son to go to a college this expensive. One significant scene was when Brad and his son, played very well by actor Austin Abrams meet up with two very attractive female Harvard musicians, one of whom is as idealistic about helping other people as Brad was when he was her age. What follows is some great dialogue about life and work and the reasons why we all exist in the world in the first place. You can also see the disappointment in the eyes of this young woman and she is so dismayed when Brad says that "if he had to do it all over again, he would have gone for the money".

Realization and transition happens in all great movies and this one is no different as Brad slowly realizes what is really important about his life and that just maybe what he thought was true about his reality and the lives of people he was jealous of might not be what he thought in the first place. Throughout this entire brilliantly written story, I was thinking the same thing. "Never compare yourself to anybody else, ever".

Brad's Status is an extremely well made movie that I highly recommend and I think the screenplay, written by Mike White is one of the best I have seen since Manchester by the Sea.

Movie Review: Kingsman The Golden Circle

This movie is the sequel to the first Kingsman that was released in early 2015. The idea of these two movies is the same, an over the top, popular music, fast paced special effects, James Bond like action, with some humor mixed in. The difference with this movie is that there are many more celebrities this time, including Hale Berry, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore and even Elton John.

I am not a fan of past paced scene changes and this movie has too many of those, although it was never as bad as a typical Micheal Bay movie. At times being so extremely unusual works and sometimes it doesn't and I thought this film had a mixture of things that worked at about a 50% rate. Julianne Moore's portrayal of a very strange, extremely even tempered female villain definitely followed the attempt by the screenwriter and director to do something that has never been done before, but throwing in the use of a meat grinder to kill the people who betray her was way too over the top.

I feel about this new version of Kingsman like I felt about the last one. Mostly entertaining, but overall a pretty average action movie.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Movie Review: Stronger

There are many horrible things about tragedies like the Boston Marathon Bombing that happened on April 15, 2013. Some of these horrible things are obvious when we see the aftermath and hear about the deaths and injuries, including for this terrorist attack 3 people who were killed including an 8 year old boy and 264 people were injured, 29 severely including the main character of the movie "Stronger" Jeff Bauman who lost both of his legs. For days and weeks after a major terrorist incident like this one, the press covers it almost day and night, but then very slowly, just like any other news event it fades day by day and what is left are the victims who wonder why and try to rationalize how something this horrible happened to them. After all the dust has settled they are left to continue to live the rest of their lives, somehow. A movie like Stronger is so important because we never hear about the victims of horrible terrorist attacks or some other tragedy like the Hurricanes in Houston and in Florida after the event happens. There is always newer news and in the case of the main character of the movie Stronger, its too upsetting to think about a poor young man who lost both of his legs because of two sick diseased terrorists. We learn that Bauman was poor, still living with his parents in a slovenly 2 bedroom apartment and working at a Costco prior to being a victim of this terrorist attack. So, even his life prior to losing his legs was never easy and then suddenly his life became unbearable.

We will all wonder after any terrorist attack about what was the point the terrorists were trying to make. Did they leave a note, explaining why they did what they did? We know they hate us, but why? Can we ever understand the reasoning of someone so insane that they would place ball bearings and nails into a pressure cooker to blow up innocent people, knowing that the weapons they put inside the bomb would maim so many, taking away their limbs, their eyes, their face and even their lives? The level of rationalization necessary for a normal person to understand something like this is impossible, so some of us try and forgive them for what they did, but most of us never can.

The main character Jeff Bauman is played extremely well by Jake Gyllenhaal and because of his acting in this movie there is talk of an Oscar nomination that I agree is justified. The subtlety of Gyllenhall's acting for me was the best part of his performance, realizing that to show the real life of a victim who lost both of his legs because of Terrorists, it was important to not show anything more than the zombie like, trying to exist day by day in a state of numb disbelief that I thought was a perfect and realistic performance. His girlfriend was also played extremely well by Tatiana Maslany and her performance was the equal of Gyllenhaal's in showing that in many ways the new reality of people related to a person of tragedy is almost as difficult as the victim's they live with. I thought the actors who played Bauman's family were also extremely good in their roles as they struggled to help him with regaining some kind of a normal life after such a huge tragedy and how they all struggled with what to say, realizing that there is nothing you can say to help someone who is going through something like this.

I thought this film was extremely well done and I highly recommend it.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Movie Review: IT

I can only speculate about what Steven King who wrote the It: A Novel many years ago was thinking about at the time. I think that King wrote this 1164 page novel about an evil clown because he was fascinated about the bullying so many young people have to endure in school and like the rest of us, wondered where this level of evil and cruelty comes from within a person so young. As most of us in this country have heard, bullying is an epidemic and in recent years this problem has become worse because of social media and cyber-bullying. We have all heard about news reports where some young person has committed suicide because of bullying or have gone on school shooting sprees, killing many people in retaliation, the most famous is the Columbine Massacre in 1999.

The evil clown known as Pennywise, played extremely well by actor Bill SkarsgÄrd in the new movie "IT", is in fact a metaphor for bullying and this film very effectively explores where evil like this comes from correctly pointing out that all people who bully others actually feed on the fear in their victims. Bulling is about pure evil and people who bully others never think about retribution or about the short and long term damage they are inflicting on their victims. Bullies are all looking to temporarily escape their pain from abusive parents, self loathing for any number of reasons, by finding a victim who they can make feel much worse than they feel about themselves. Its a crime very unique to certain human beings and happens more in childhood, but it also happens when you are an adult and in the working world. As an adult we are bullied sometimes because we are afraid of losing our jobs, so we put up with abuse to make a living. Very often bullying as an adult is a game of leverage and as a result a tremendous amount of stress and anger occur. On the negative side, I thought some of the bullying scenes were too extreme to make the point the story was trying to make although it was effective in showing the fear, rage and anger bullying causes with the victims.

The horror scenes and special effects in this film were very well done but for my tastes sometimes too unnecessarily shocking and violent, especially in the beginning where a young boy has his arm cut off. The beginning of this movie concentrated a great deal on the young characters who are all victims of intense bullying in the high school they go to and its mostly towards the middle of the story that we see more scenes and visions of Pennywise. I thought that this strategy did establish the main message of this film very well.

I mostly agree with the high ratings from Rotten tomatoes and IMDB, 85% and 8.0 respectively and overall I thought that IT was a very good, but not great film that I do recommend.



Saturday, September 16, 2017

Movie Review: Mother

Screenplays have to break new ground today. Most people have seen everything in one form or another and recognize small traits or plots or special effects or any number visual tricks in just about every new movie they see. This is why coming up with a new idea right now is about as difficult for any artist who toils for months to create a new movie idea that has never been seen before. The new movie "Mother" without a doubt succeeds in being as different and as new screenplay idea as I have ever seen. Where it fails is for the same reason, trying to be so new and different that it goes too far and that includes some scenes that are extremely objectionable and completely unnecessary even for a story as insane as this one. This film was both written and directed by Darren Aronofsky and considering the story of Mother, its difficult to imagine why this idea was green lighted by any production company.

The main character of mother is played by Jennifer Lawrence who is a young woman married to Javier Bardem who is a writer and a poet. Very soon, people start coming over to their old house where Lawrence's character is trying to fix up and Bardem is trying to write poetry. At first a few people come over, including characters played by actor Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer. These people are rude, strange and never listen to whatever Lawrence's character tells them and this includes going into her husband's private office. This then leads to things being broken in the house and even stolen. Then of course this trend of people coming over unannounced and uninvited continues and more people come over who are similar to the first two. Then eventually the people coming over are much worse and then the movie slowly goes into insane directions, that mostly make no sense. You start to wonder while watching this strange movie if all of these weird people are aliens or a cult or something, but this very important part of this story is never explained. This film answers the question, when is trying to be different turn into a movie that doesn't make sense or is objectionable? The answer to this question is for this film the most obvious I have ever seen. With any movie, sometimes less is more and a great example of this is the simple story of the recent great movie "Wind River", that has also been reviewed on this blog and I do recommend people see as much as I do not recommend anyone see Mother.

Due to the objectionable scenes and ending and the way too insane plot, I cannot recommend Mother.