Sunday, August 20, 2017

Movie Review: The Glass Castle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Movie Review: The Only Living Boy in New York

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

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

Movie Review: Logan Lucky

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

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

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

Movie Review: Wind River

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

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

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

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

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



Sunday, August 13, 2017

Past Movie Review: Seven

This film has perhaps the best, most dramatic and most perfect ending I have ever seen in all my years of going to the movies. The premise was perfect, seven deadly sins and the amazing ending tied the whole movie together for a perfect conclusion that involved the seventh deadly sin and one of the evilest villains I have ever seen in any movie. The music and sound effects during the dramatic conclusion also greatly enhanced the ending.

The actors were also top notch, including Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey in one of his greatest performances. The story was as dark and depressing as the rainy and dark scenes throughout the film. I also thought that Brad Pitt has never been better in any movie, especially during the last scene.

If you ever see the movie Seven, that was released in 1995, you will never forget it. For those who have not seen this great movie in 22 years, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Movie Review: An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

There are still many people in this world who still believe that Global Warming is a hoax. Some of them believe that Al Gore created this Global Warming hoax to make money because he made something around 100 million dollars from this first movie "An Inconvenient Truth" that was released in 2006. These same people ignore the pictures, they ignore the ever changing weather patterns, they ignore the average temperatures around the world always going up every year and the ever increasing occurrences of storms and droughts around the world. They ignore the rising ocean levels in many areas around the world, one of the worst in Miami Florida. Most amazingly they ignore the obvious pictures of the polar icecaps reducing every year. To them, despite all the alarming evidence, they still think Global Warming is a hoax. They believe its all a vast conspiracy to make a few people very rich, starting with Al Gore. Very recently, as was mentioned at the end of this documentary, President Trump pulled out of the Global Warming Paris Agreement for reasons that for me had some merit, but the real reason Trump pulled out was because of political pressure from very large coal and oil companies and ultimately Trump's continuing insane belief that Global Warming is still a hoax. I remember thinking during Trump's speech about why he was pulling out of the Paris agreement is that progress in the United States should not stop just because we pulled out of the Paris agreement. At least I sure hoped it wouldn't.

Al Gore's sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power", is similar in many ways to the first documentary as we follow Gore's travels around the world educating others about Global warming by giving speeches and seminars. What is lacking in this movie is more of the same scientific proof of the severity of Global warming around the world provided in the first movie, mostly due to carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. Perhaps the reason for this is there is nothing more scientific to say about something that is now pure fact. I did like the fact that this documentary was not all doom and gloom like the last movie and there were some very encouraging evidence that many millions of people around the world are working hard to increase the use of solar energy and wind power and some cities in the United States are now using Solar and Wind power for 100% of their energy needs. From this point on, all humanity can do is hope that the progress continues and more importantly, that its still not too late to not only halt the damage to this planet but to even turn it all around so the planet earth can heal itself. If not then humanity is in a great deal of trouble.

I have often wondered since the year 2000, when Al Gore lost the Presidential election he really won, about how different the world would be now, if Gore was allowed to take his rightful place as President. Would we have had the Terrorist attacks in 2001, the IRAQ War or even the financial crisis because of the real estate bubble of 2008 had Gore been President instead of Bush? Another way of looking at what happened in 2000 is, would we have made anywhere near the progress around the world with Global Warming were it not for Al Gore because he was not the President? Was Al Gore more valuable as President or as the leading advocate for perhaps the most important crisis in the history of the world? This is a question that everybody can decide for themselves.

This is a very good documentary about one of the biggest challenges humanity has ever faced and I do recommend it.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Movie Review: Detroit

There is not a white person in this world who can ever say that they understand what its like to be black person and under the injustice of how the police sometimes treat black people. The reality of police brutality has happened many times during the last few years but it was at its worst during the 60's in this country because of the protesting and rioting that went on for many reasons, most of them socioeconomic.

Most of us have heard about the LA Riots or the Riots that happened after the Rodney King verdict, which is the costliest in US history but the third worst is the riot that happened in Detroit in July 1967, known as the 12th Street Riot and this is the subject of the new movie Detroit. This movie was shot in a very unusual way, with lower quality film and has the look of a documentary.

The first half of this movie focuses on the Detroit Riot that was born out of frustration and unemployment as factory jobs were taken away from the inner city to the suburbs and this trend accelerated after World War 2 but then the rest of the story is about what is known as the "Algiers Motel Incident". The Algiers Motel Incident occurred in Detroit, Michigan on July 25, 1967, during the racially charged 12th Street Riot and centered around several young black men who were in a hotel with 2 white women. What happens in this motel is very difficult to watch both for the brutality and the injustice of several white police officers, the worst one, is played very convincingly by actor Will Poulter. This one young and very evil police officer believed that because he was a police officer, that the law or any level of decency or humanity did not apply to him. I thought the motel part of this film was unnecessarily long, especially because the brutality and insanity of the police officers was so difficult to witness. There is a trial after this incident and I will of course not give anything away about the verdict.

Overall, I thought the acting was very well done including John Boyega and Anthony Mackie but I didnt think this was a great movie about an important incident in American History only a good one and I do recommend this film.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Movie Review: Kidnap

We have all heard the stories about a mother rescuing her child from under a car by lifting the car up with temporary super-human strength. In many ways this movie demonstrates super-human strength and determination of a mother, played very well by Hallie Berry who would do anything to save her son who she witnessed being kidnapped by two very disgusting criminals. After the abduction of her six year old son at a carnival, what follows are some very horrendous car chase scenes and some massive car accidents on several highways. All of this is believable because of the acting of Hallie Berry and her desperation to save her son at all costs. Some of the scenes and ideas here are a little outlandish but ultimately I ignored all of this because of the intensity that engaged me about what was happening on the screen. The two criminals in this thriller were also very believable and well played by Chris McGinn and Lew Temple.

The reality of this world is that kidnapping rings run by lowlife like this actually do exist and unfortunate parents have to live the rest of their lives wondering if their child is dead or alive and this is a life very few of us could ever endure. This movie does a very good job in demonstrating what such an abduction of a young child would be like and what the desperation and anger of a mother would be like within such an intense situation.

For some reason the reviews for Kidnap are not very high and this movie completed filming in 2014 and was then shelved for several years before finally being released that could have something to do with the bankruptcy of the film studio that produced this film.

Despite some negative opinions and several flaws in this story I do recommend this movie.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Movie Review: Valerian and the City of One Thousand Planets

At the beginning of this film, I thought it presented some of the most imaginative aliens and space special effects I have ever seen. At the end of this movie, and I had to leave early because I could not stand to sit through it anymore, I thought it was another typical special effects with no story movie where the producers were only interested in the computer graphics and had no interest in taking a year to write a good story. In fact, there is no real story here at all. I would recommend this movie for people who are on LSD or Heroin, but for the rest of us who are trying to at least stay awake for 2 hours, this movie is a waste of time and computer software. In the end, after going into my 3rd coma watching this mess, I just about had to run away from this disaster.

The few good points of this film are some of the special effects and the actress Cara Delevingne who should have a bright future in Hollywood but given the fickle nature of that business and this bad film who knows. Towards the end there is an appearance of Rihanna who has a small cameo, but not nearly enough of an appearance to rescue this film.

This is a B movie that should have went straight to DVD and I do not recommend it.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Movie Review: Atomic Blonde

What will draw people into this movie because of the previews are the action scenes of hand to hand fighting and martial arts which are very well choreographed and impressive, but unfortunately the rest of this movie was disappointing as far as the complex spy story in Berlin combinations of which we have seen before, the depressing and gray locations where the film was shot in Hungary and the constant chain smoking, mostly with Charlize Theron's character that was done far too much, even for the 1989 time this story takes place. Once you are drawn into a movie like this to see some of the action scenes, you want something more and for me that was just not present in this film which at times I found rather boring and run of the mill.

This movie also stars James McAvoy and John Goodman who play parts we have seen them in before, specially Goodman as one of the leaders of the MI6 organization Theron's character is working for. While watching this film, that I thought was too long, I wondered about people like this who risk their lives every day as spies, realizing that at any minute they could be killed. You just have to admire the dedication and courage of people who believe in their cause so much they are willing to give up any sort of a normal life but unfortunately this movie tells a mostly bad and boring story and for that reason I cannot recommend this movie.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Movie Review: Girls Trip

For two reasons, this blog and the relatively high ratings for "Girls Trip", 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and 71% on IMDB, I decided to see this movie. Everybody can tell just from the previews that this film was going to be pretty raunchy and it was, but what is funny? In my opinion, not funny enough because there were not many laughs in the theater I was in and in my opinion the last movie that created the perfect combination of raunchy and funny was the film "Animal House" that was released in 1978.

If I were Jada Pinkett Smith and I read the script for this movie, I would have demanded that some embarrassing scenes that included her character on top of a zip line in New Orleans urinating on people on the street below or some of the other overly raunchy or embarrassing scenes, be either toned down or eliminated altogether if for no other reason than pride or reputation. But, once again the pressure to remain relevant and active in Hollywood seems to be greater than pride for too many actors today who are lucky enough to be in movies and this would include the two other famous actors in this movie Queen Latifah and Regina Hall.

I thought the bright spot of this film was Tiffany Haddish who showed some real comic timing and instinct and to some degree almost saves this story, which is about 4 old friends from college that are reunited in New Orleans for a festival for black women. Some of the later drama that included Regina Hall's husband having an affair and that affair threatening the release of their new book, was well done but rather misplaced in a raunchy comedy like this one.

Even allowing for the fact that some people might find a movie like this entertaining, I cannot recommend it, because there were not enough laughs to cover up the many flaws in this film that included a story that for the most part was not unique enough to anyone to remember.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Movie Review: Dunkirk

I am very amazed at the very high scores for the new Christopher Nolan film "Dunkirk", 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and 89% on IMDB. I thought this was a war movie that was trying so hard to be different that it forgot to teach the audience the history of what really happened on May 26 to June 4th 1940, during an important battle of World War 2. One scene jumps to another scene, there is no real story or character development and at times I found the movie boring. Considering this is a war movie about an important battle of World War 2 "The Battle of Dunkirk" I was not expecting to be bored. I believe that in order to be respectful to the men who died in a major battle in any war, you cant try so hard to direct a movie where your goal is more about trying to tell a story in a different way rather than creating an accurate depiction of an important battle of World War 2.

This movie stars Tom Hardy who spends his time in this film in the cockpit of an airplane and most of his face is covered by a mask which I thought was highly unusual. Kenneth Branagh plays Commander Bolton one of the leaders of the trapped forces who appears mostly towards the end of the film. Both of these actors seem to be misplaced in this film, almost as if they were added on at the end, so the movie would have a few more famous actors to perhaps generate box office.

The bottom line is that this movie does not educate the audience about exactly what happened during the Battle of Dunkirk because it tries to tell a story in a new way and because of this, it ignores the most important part of a war movie, which is to tell a story accurately and to respect the people who died in battle.

For these reasons I cannot recommend Dunkirk.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Movie Review: War for the Planet of the Apes

The reviews for "War for the Planet of the Apes" are very high, 94% on Rotten Tomatoes and 83% on IMDB. I am surprised at numbers that high for this film, because for me, for reasons I will explain I am more in the 70% range as overall I thought this was just a good and not a great movie.

However, I do give the special effects and the "Performance Capture" technology a 100% grade and you realize immediately that none of the 3 recent Planet of the Apes movies would be possible without this technology because the actor would be in a makeup chair for 8 hours a day. The technology they use involves the capturing of the movement of each actor and then filling in the ape makeup using CGI later. The facial expressions of the apes, as well as the hair on the body and the movement of each ape actor in this movie, is flawless and extremely impressive. Where this film becomes more average is with the story, that I thought was too simple, took too long to progress and in the end was pretty average.

The original Planet of the Apes was released in 1968 and was one of the first films I had ever seen in a movie theater. The original story had to do with a nuclear holocaust where the apes take over after humans destroy the world and this movie explains more about a virus that followed the nuclear conflagration that made apes more intelligent and humans more like animals, starting with their inability to talk. The acting is very good, including Woody Harrelson who plays an evil Colonel and Andy Serkis, who reprises his role as Ceasar, the leader of the apes for the 3rd time, I was hoping for a more interesting story here and I thought that the story for this movie dragged on too long and was too simplistic.

I give War for the Planet of the Apes a mild recommendation.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Movie Review: Spider-Man Homecoming

One thing a movie must do, if it is a continuation of a previous movie, in this case, the latest Avenger film Avengers: The Age of Ultron, is to explain all of the items that carry through to the new movie. Unfortunately, this new Spider-Man movie does not really explain the left behind alien machines that the evil villain in this movie, played by Michael Keaton, was trying to use to dominate the world. I thought the story of Spider-Man Homecoming was told in an unusual and erratic way, almost as if the screenwriter was trying to invent a method of telling a story. For the most part, this method of storytelling worked, but I thought that there was too much jumping around and less control over the continuity of the scenes.

The new Spider-Man is a 15-year-old boy still in high school and is played very well by 21-year-old Tom Holland and like all of the other Spider-Man movies, the special effects for this film are outstanding but I still think, like many others that the second Spider-Man movie that was released in 2004 was the best in the series so far.

Robert Downy Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man makes several appearances in this movie as the mentor of Spider-Man as well as Stark's best friend played by Jon Favreau. There are also several mentions of the next Avengers movie, Avengers: Infinity War that will be released next year as this is the new marketing campaign for all of these Marvel movies when they try and connect each Marvel movie to the next one.

Overall I thought this movie was very good and on a par with all of the previous Spider-Man movies and I do recommend it.

Movie Review: The Big Sick

Aspiring screenwriters go to the movies more often than most people, mostly for writing inspiration and perhaps to escape from reality.  In my experience going to many movies, it has been a rare event to be inspired by any movie that is a comedy in recent memory.  The new movie "The Big Sick"  is one of those rare movies that has inspired me to write another screenplay because it is just that good.  The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are extremely high, currently 97%, and that is a very well deserved score.

From the start, I was amazed at the quality of the screenplay for this movie as it was the first screenplay about a true story co-written by the star of this movie Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon who is played very well by the actress Zoe Kazan.  This movie is great on a number of levels, starting with the subtle and natural real-life dialogue, the high level of acting and the roller coaster ride of emotions this story takes you through, starting with the romance and breakup between an American woman and a Pakistani man, who is pressured by his family and the traditions of arranged marriages that understandably leads to great conflict. The true story behind this movie is a great idea for a romantic comedy and I cannot remember a story like this ever being done before.  I thought it was an amazing achievement to provide so many solid moments of subtle humor, considering some of the difficult things this story is about including a dangerous unknown infection and hospitalization of Emily that forces her doctors to put her into a medically-induced coma.

The acting throughout this film is outstanding, starting with Ray Romano as Emily's father and has now successfully transitioned from a standup comedian to comedy actor in Everybody Loves Raymond and is now becoming an outstanding dramatic actor. It was also great to see Holly Hunter, who perfectly plays Emily's mother.

The main part of this story is about Emily falling into a coma because of some unknown infection that is spreading throughout her body and this leads to several heart-wrenching scenes in the hospital where her parents and her Pakistani boyfriend played by Nanjiani, agonize over decisions about her treatment and even consider moving her to a different hospital, despite the fact that their daughter has been placed into a medically induced coma as her 5 doctors desperately try and figure out what is wrong with her so they can save her life. The transition and eventual love and respect that Emily's parents gain over time with her boyfriend were also another very impressive aspect of this story.

I thought overall, this film is one of the best written and acted I have seen in many years and will definitely receive Academy Award recognition for everyone involved, and in my opinion, this should include best original screenplay.

I highly recommend this great movie.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Past Movie Review: Unfaithful

One could easily argue that the movie Unfaithful, released in 2002, was by far the best acting role in Diane Lane's career and probably the best movie in recent memory about adultery. There are unexpected twists and turns in this story and an ending that was very messy but considering the shocking events of how this story concluded, the ending was well within any set of irrational human emotions that involve panic, anger, jealousy, and fear.

During the times I have thought about this film or discussed it with someone else, the scene where Diane Lane as Connie Summer on a train, on the way home after her first encounter with her lover; the expression on her face reliving the events of the day, was one of the best acting performances I can remember in many years.  This film is also a great role for Richard Gere as Edward Summer who is very believable as the jilted husband and over time he suspects his wife is cheating on him.  There are some side parts to this story that are necessary to make the movie last 2 hours and are somewhat connected to the affair Edward's wife is having but they flow very well within the story.  This movie is a lesson about a short term decision that at the time might seem harmless but in the long term can completely ruin your life.

I thought that Unfaithful was one of the best dramas about the potential downside of marriage and life in many years, the acting was outstanding and I highly recommend this film from 2002.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Movie Review: Beatriz at Dinner

The idea behind the movie "Beatriz at Dinner" is a brilliant one. By chance, a massage therapist who is a healer of people who have cancer at a local hospital, a lover of animals, who even has goats living in her modest house, visits a gated community where she has given massage therapy to a wealthy family there. When she is about to leave her broken down car fails to start and soon after finds herself having dinner with 3 couples, all of whom are very wealthy. Beatriz is played by very well by Salma Hayek and during the dinner, she meets her exact opposite, a wealthy African game hunter, played by John Lithgow, who only cares about money and cares nothing about people. What is very interesting are the conversations at this dinner, the condescending remarks and the attitudes that some rich people have towards average or poor people. This kind of "rich people attitude" depicted in this film is not true of all rich people, but it was definitely true of the 6 people who attended this dinner. In my experience, it is the rare rich person who over time is always above money going to their head, almost as if having money gives a person some kind of immortality or the right to look down on hard working decent average or poor people. As the saying goes, "We are all equals in the eyes of God". Donald Trump is a very good example of a person like this as he calls poor people losers, conveniently forgetting that without his father and that "small loan" he was given in the 1960's, he would never have been as wealthy as he claims to be.

A key scene in this movie was when Lithgow's character was bragging about killing an African Rhino and even passes around a cell phone picture of the Rhino he killed. Beatriz takes the cell phone and throws it at him and storms out of the room; understandable given her extreme love of animals. One wonders how people like this consider it a challenge to kill a defenseless Rhino, an animal that eats plants and lumbers around in lakes and rivers and is no harm to anyone.

Other actors in this movie include Connie Britton who the wife of the home owner and it seems Beatriz's only real friend during the dinner. Some of the scenes in this movie were very awkward, especially when Beatriz was always lagging behind the others during and before dinner, never really fitting in, especially during the many conversations during this film. Many of us can relate to feeling like an outsider within situations like this. I thought the acting in this film was very good throughout but I did not really understand or like the ending, which at first was a trick ending and then ended in an unexpected and for tastes, a very unsatisfying way.

I thought that Beatriz at Dinner was a good movie experience and I do recommend it.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Movie Review: The Beguiled

The movie "The Beguiled" is a remake of the version made in 1971 starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page. My first question about this movie is that I did not consider the first version of this movie made 46 years ago groundbreaking enough to produce a remake so many years later. When I saw the original movie on TV many years ago I thought it was at best a good movie but definitely not a great one or one that was significant enough to shoot a remake many years later.

The story of Beguiled happens during the Civil War in Virginia when a wounded Union corporal is found by a young girl who lives in a plantation with 6 other women who range in age from 45 to about 11. Due to the extreme circumstances of the Civil War, it seems that none of the women who live in this house have been around or seen many men in their lives or at least for many years and this understandably creates some tension and jealousy among the women. After the soldier is treated for his leg injury, this movie seems to very slowly move forward and for my tastes too slowly before it gets to the point that things start to get very insane, both because of the circumstances and because several of the people involved are a little crazy, perhaps due to the horrific insanity of the Civil War. I had the same thoughts about this movie that I did when I saw the 1971 version on TV only once, even though that version is more insane and about 12 minutes longer. This is only a good movie, not a great one.

The Beguiled is directed by Sophia Coppola and starts Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell as the Union soldier. All of the acting is solid throughout and somewhat haunting but for me the movie took too long to get going and what actually happened in the story was not compelling enough to give this film any higher than a marginal recommendation.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Movie Review: The House

What is funny? Both Will Ferrel and Amy Poehler were two of the best to performers on Saturday Night Live for many years and they are both funny. Both Ferrel and Poehler are great in comedy sketches and Will Ferrel has the very rare talent of just making a face or doing something with his eyes and getting a huge laugh just for showing up. What is not funny is the movie both of these talented people are in, titled "The House".

The premise of the House is a very good one. Two parents facing the nightmare of trying to pay for the huge cost of sending just one child to a good college. Right at the start, trying to make paying for college funny is a daunting task because there is nothing funny about putting your financial future in jeopardy by taking a second mortgage out on a house or risking your health by working more than one job. The couple in this story try to pay for college by opening up an illegal gambling house and while this story may have started out a little funny, the whole idea took a very bad, unfunny and stupid turn and in the end turned out to be a pretty bad movie. This is too bad because both Ferrel and Poehler are very talented but the problem has always been finding both a screenplay and a great idea that actually results in a funny movie and in my experience this has been very rare.

I thought there was one scene in this entire movie that was funny, when Ferrel thinks that he has 401,000 dollars in his bank account and his accountant tells him that he is has a 401K account. That was a very good line, but unfortunately the only funny line in this entire movie. I thought it was unusual that the actor Jeremy Renner appears at the end of this movie, but the scene where he is set on fire was not funny and the scene where one of his thugs lost a finger and bleeds all over Will Ferrell was also not funny.

This movie should have gone right to DVD and should be missed.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Movie Review: Baby Driver

It is extremely rare that movie reviews are strong as they are for the new movie Baby Driver, 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and 86% on IMDB. In my opinion, this movie fully deserves all of the positive reviews it has received.

When you think about the screenwriting task of trying to figure out a new and different idea within the hundreds of bank robbery, getaway, crime movies that have been produced over the years, you can probably understand what was facing Edgar Wright, who wrote the screenplay and directed this very good movie. The new ideas in this film are many and they start right at the beginning of this entertaining film with the use of a bright red 2006 Suburu Impreza WRX in a driving sequence that has to be considered one of the most intense and impressive in movie history. The use of a very average car like this one for the opening chase scene, on the one hand, to blend in with traffic but at the same time is bright red I thought was a very funny and original idea. The star of this movie is played by very well by Ansel Elgort whose name is of all things, Baby - again very original. Baby has to constantly listen to music to drown out his tinnitus that was caused by a car accident with his parents when he was a child and this provides a big excuse to have frequent music throughout this film, mostly through Baby's original style IPOD.

Other actors in this movie include John Hamm, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Fox and all were outstanding in this film. The unexpected twists and turns in this impressive story were some of the best I have ever seen as was the dialogue which was equally as unexpected and impressive. Other very unsusual and humorous moments include Baby's habit of recording conversations he has with people using an old style casset tape recorder and later turning those conversations into music.

Central to Baby Driver is the love story between baby and a young waitress Deborah, he meets at a diner played very well by Lily James and as the story progresses Baby's girlfriend is understandably put in greater danger as the bank robbers he is forced to drive for threaten her life. There are scenes of extreme voilence of gunplay that are all expected in a movie like this, but this movie just does all of that better than most ever have.

I highly recommend the movie Baby Driver.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Movie Review: The Hero

It is about time there is a movie that is about the reality of show business and especially an actor who was part of the "lucky few" and in later years, because of some bad breaks or the fickleness of the audience or producers who decide that you are no longer viable, the career you once depended on for a happy life and financial independence are long gone. A recent great example of this is the tragic story of actress Erin Moran, who died at a young age after having such a promising career in the 70's and 80's because of the TV series Happy Days. After Happy Days and the failed TV series Joanie Loves Chachi, which was a very bad show, she no longer had any future in show business and probably had to learn that harsh reality the hard way over a period of many years. Like so many young actors before her, Moran did what she was told and performed in that bad TV show and because of that, she paid a horrible price by being associated with a bomb that ultimately ruined her career in show business. For many people like Moran, the realization that its time to give up the dream may happen for them, or may never happen, leading to many years of hardship and unhappiness when you can never stop remembering the glory days when you were on top of the world.

For the majority of human beings, careers and financial future are very often in the hands and decisions of other people. This is especially true in the world of show business where every job requires some an audition and competition where you are up against many other actors. Rejection and humiliation are part of your world, perhaps for your whole life just because of your desire to be an actor will never go away. I admire those actors who are able to go through years of this rejection, never giving up and having to take horrible and menial jobs to support themselves for years because their dream is so strong. A good example of this is the great TV actor Sterling K. Brown of "This is Us", who proved that just because you are a great actor, it does not mean that your opportunity will come quickly or will ever occur in your lifetime. There are those who make it and stay on top, those who never make it and like the main character in this movie "The Hero", those who make it and then falter and never achieve those heights again. Perhaps this last possibility is the worst one to endure because once you think you made it once, you will always long to achieve those heights again.

The movie "The Hero" is a story about an actor Lee Hayden, played by Sam Elliot, who is 71 years old and achieved great heights and even a TV show in the 70's and 80's and now his only chance at making a living is making voice over radio commercials. He still has fans from his days when he was making popular Western movies and even a TV show, but now hs career is essentially over. He decides to accept a lifetime achievement award from some Western movie association while becoming involved with a woman, played by Laura Prepone who much younger than he is and is employed as of all things, a stand-up comedian. There are health issues and realizations that his career is mostly over and one audition where Elliot gives his best performance of the movie that I thought was very impressive. Lee Hayden also has a daughter, played by Krysten Ritter and their relationship is understandably very strained due to Hayden's divorce and being an absentee father, which is another very common drawback of trying to be an actor.

The best moment in this film for me was when Hayden tell his girlfriend that the second thing to go when you get older is your memory and when she asks what the first thing is, he says, "I forgot".

I thought both the story and the acting in this movie were very well done and I do recommend this movie.

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.