Monday, January 30, 2017

SAG Award Winners 2017

In the past, the tradition has been that a SAG Award winner has a much higher percent chance of winning the Oscar. Given this tradition, I was very happy that Denzel Washington won for best actor and Hidden Figures won for best picture rather than "La La Land", which is a very good movie but not as good as Fences, Manchester By the Sea or Hidden Figures, in my opinion.

Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture: Hidden Figures

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series: Stranger Things

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture: Emma Stone, La La Land

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role in a Motion Picture: Denzel Washington, Fences

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series: Claire Foy, The Crown

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series: John Lithgow, The Crown

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series: Bryan Cranston, All the Way

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in Television Movie or Miniseries: Sarah Paulson, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Viola Davis, Fences

Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series: Orange Is the New Black

Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series: William H. Macy, Shameless

Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Comedy Series: Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Veep

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Movie Review: A Dog's Purpose

The movie "A Dog's Purpose" is about much more than just the reincarnation of one dog into the lives of several different people. This movie is about the human condition, it's about a bad marriage born out of husband who is miserable in his job and very sick of being a traveling salesman and ironically because he is so good at selling things on the road, he is doomed to never be promoted. Because of his misery, just like the recent movie "Fences", he takes out his anger on his family and then turns to alcohol. You wonder while you watch the unraveling of this family because of the anger and misery over a job, just how often something like this happens to people in this country and around the world. Is it possible to ever be fulfilled and happy when you hate your job and you know deserve so much better? But the problem really is, it is not your family's fault, so why take it out on them? This movie does a beautiful job in blending together complex human problems with the simple thoughts and the simple life of a dog and suggests that a dog's purpose is all about being there, to give some happiness and joy to people and ultimately, this is the real message of this film.

There are several different stories within this movie and they all connected to the repeated reincarnation of the same dog and within each reincarnation, the dog is able to remember previous lives. The most important story is the first one about a young boy, who is an only child, and gets his first dog and ultimately his parent's divorce because of alcoholism. Throughout this whole film, there is narration so we can hear the thoughts of the dog, although I would have selected a different sounding voice than the one they chose for this movie. Some parts of the dog's narrations are funny but other ones can break your heart because of their simplicity and purity. This movie doesn't try too hard to make you cry but at times it is impossible not to, most especially at the end when the last story is expertly tied together for a very emotional ending. I would not recommend this movie to any young children because of the multiple deaths and reincarnations of this dog, but I thought overall that A Dogs Purpose was a throwback to Disney movies about animals and was very well done.

The actor Dennis Quaid is in the last story within this film and he does a solid job as one of the owners of this reincarnated dog as well as Peggy Lipton who I have not seen in a movie in many years.

Unfortunately, there is some controversy over this movie because of some possible trainer abuse of a German Shepard for one scene where the dog had to jump into water and this probably accounts for the low ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. I have heard that there was no real abuse of any animals in this film including the incident with the German Shepard and it was obvious to me that everybody involved in this film loves animals and especially dogs so I believe this controversy is unwarranted. A Dog's Purpose is a very good movie about the love of dogs and I give it a very solid recommendation.

A Dog's Purpose: A Novel for Humans

Friday, January 27, 2017

Movie Review: Gold

One has to admire Matthew McConaughey and the fact that for two movies he has made recently, he lost and gained a great deal of weight. The first was for "Dallas Buyers Club" where he won the academy award for best actor and now for the movie "Gold" he gained a great deal of weight. For the movie "Dallas Buyers Club" he had to lose a life-threatening amount of weight to play a character who is dying of AIDS, as Tom Hanks did for "Philadelphia" in 1993. But for this movie, it didn't seem to be necessary to gain so much weight for this role, at least 40 pounds. When you remember as an actor, that "it's only a movie", then you should realize that no movie or movie award is ever going to be worth your health.

As for the film, I was expecting something stronger, especially from what I have been hearing about this movie before I saw it. Overall this film was just a good story that is loosely based on the Bre-x Gold Mining scandal in Indonesia in 1993 that involved a massive fraud. What this movie shows is how extremely difficult the Gold mining business is because the risks both financially and physically are so extreme. I had to admire McConaughey's character, Kenny Wells and his constant living on the edge of financial ruin and then the extreme risks he took investing in an area within the hot jungles of Indonesia. The risks of finding Gold anywhere in the world are obvious, but then you also run the risk of any country deciding to Nationalize your Gold Mine and that would mean a 100% total loss of all the money spent to find the Gold up to that point.

Bryce Dallas Howard plays Kenny Well's wife in this movie but she seems miscast because of McConaughey's run down and overweight appearance in this story. The actor Edgar Ramírez plays the friend of Kenny Wells who originally finds the Gold in Indonesia. The acting in Gold is solid throughout and there are some twists and turns at the end of this story that make the film more interesting overall, but not enough to give Gold any more than a marginal recommendation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Tribute to Mary Tyler Moore

When a great Television icon like Mary Tyler Moore dies, we are all immediately reminded of the work they have left behind. Without any doubt, the Mary Tyler Moore show, most especially during the last 5 years of its seven-year run from 1970-1977, will be known as the greatest situation comedy of all time. The unique and once in a lifetime collaboration of great actors like Edward Asner, Ted Knight, Betty White, Gavin McCloud, Cloris Leachman and Valerie Harper will most likely never been seen again. Then add the great writers, like David Lloyd, James L. Brooks, Ed Weinberger and Stan Daniels who wrote such great and funny episodes and you have the ingredients of the best comedy show ever produced. I will never forget the day in March 1977 when this great show went off the air, it was a very depressing and I thought it ended way too soon. I am always reminded of the value of a great comedy show like the Mary Tyler Moore show when a tragedy like Mary's passing today on January 25, 2017 happens. A great comedy show can lift your spirits temporarily for 30 minutes, and when your life is in a depressing and dark place like mine was in the 1970's these 30 minutes can mean everything to you. To this day I can remember almost every funny line from all the episodes of this TV show. The great timing and rhythm that this unique comedy show had set it apart from all others. The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a standard of comedic perfection that can never be surpassed.

Mary Tyler Moore tried again with other TV shows after this show ended, but she was never able to set herself apart from her Mary Richard's character. Years later she did go on to win a Tony Award on Broadway for "Whose Life is it Anyway" and was nominated for an Academy Award for "Ordinary People", that was released in 1980, won for best picture that year and is one of the best movies I have ever seen. What is most extraordinary about "Ordinary People" is that every single one of the actors that appeared in this movie was not only outstanding and at the very peak of their movie careers, but none of them ever got even close to appearing in a movie or won a part that good ever again. This is most disappointing for Mary Tyler Moore, who was so good in this role as the mother of a suicidal son, that it has never made any sense to me, and most likely Mary that she was never able to get another role this good ever again. She proved to everyone in Ordinary People that she was not only a great comedic actor but a great dramatic actor as well and this is something very rare.

Mary's passing today will be hard for everyone who loved the Mary Tyler Moore show to rationalize, but at least Mary is finally past her many years of suffering with Type 1 Diabetes. Mary also had a good deal of tragedy in her life, that included the accidental death of her only son by gunshot in 1980.

I will never forget Mary Tyler Moore, her great show and the 30 minutes of escape it gave me so many times during some very dark days in the 1970's.

Mary Tyler Moore Seasons 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 1-7 Complete Series

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oscar Nominations 2017

I agree with most of the nominations below however, Tom Hanks should have been nominated for best actor for "Scully", Amy Adams should have been nominated for best Actress for "Arrival" and Jessica Chastain was a major omission for best actress for "Miss Sloane". Taraji P. Henson was essentially the lead actress and is equally as deserving for a nomination as Octavia Spenser for Hidden figures and also did not get a nomination. Perhaps the solution for these obvious omissions is to increase the number of nominations like they have done for movies.

On top of this Viola Davis in Fences is not a supporting actress, her time on screen warrants a Best Actress nomination and this is also true with Dev Patel, who is in almost every scene. I would like to learn the logic of how the Academy decides these categories which very often makes no sense. The worst example of this was Timothy Hutton in "Ordinary People" in 1980 who was the lead actor, was in every scene, but was nominated for best-supporting actor and did win the award.

The movie La La Land received 14 nominations, now tied for the most in Oscar History. La La Land is very good, but both Manchester by the Sea and Fences are better movies overall, in my humble opinion. The movie the "Lobster" is nominated for best original screenplay, even though it was one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Manchester by the Sea should win in this category, but like the Golden Globes, the odds are that La La Land will win this award as well.

Best picture: “Arrival” “Fences” “Hacksaw Ridge” “Hell or High Water” “Hidden Figures” “La La Land” “Lion” “Manchester by the Sea” “Moonlight”

Lead actor: Casey Affleck, “Manchester by the Sea” Andrew Garfield, “Hacksaw Ridge” Ryan Gosling, “La La Land,” Viggo Mortensen, “Captain Fantastic” Denzel Washington, “Fences”

Lead actress: Isabelle Huppert, “Elle” Ruth Negga, “Loving” Natalie Portman, “Jackie” Emma Stone, “La La Land” Meryl Streep, “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Supporting actor: Mahershala Ali, “Moonlight” Jeff Bridges, “Hell or High Water” Lucas Hedges, “Manchester by the Sea” Dev Patel, “Lion” Michael Shannon, “Nocturnal Animals”

Supporting actress: Viola Davis, “Fences” Naomie Harris, “Moonlight” Nicole Kidman, “Lion” Octavia Spencer, “Hidden Figures” Michelle Williams, “Manchester by the Sea”

Best director: Damien Chazelle, “La La Land” Mel Gibson, “Hacksaw Ridge” Barry Jenkins, “Moonlight” Kenneth Lonergan, “Manchester by the Sea” Denis Villeneuve, “Arrival”

Animated feature: “Kubo and the Two Strings” “Moana” “My Life as a Zucchini” “The Red Turtle” “Zootopia”

Animated short: “Blind Vaysha” “Borrowed Time” “Pear Cider and Cigarettes” “Pearl” “Piper”

Adapted screenplay: “Arrival” “Fences” “Hidden Figures” “Lion” “Moonlight”

Original screenplay: “20th Century Women” “Hell or High Water” “La La Land” “The Lobster” “Manchester by the Sea”

Cinematography: “Arrival” “La La Land” “Lion” “Moonlight” “Silence”

Best documentary feature: “13th” “Fire at Sea” “I Am Not Your Negro” “Life, Animated” “O.J.: Made in America”

Best documentary short subject: “4.1 Miles” “Extremis” “Joe’s Violin” “Watani: My Homeland” “The White Helmets”

Best live-action short film: “Ennemis Interieurs” “La Femme et le TGV” “Silent Nights” “Sing” “Timecode”

Best foreign language film: “A Man Called Ove” “Land of Mine” “Tanna” “The Salesman” “Toni Erdmann”

Film editing: “Arrival” “Hacksaw Ridge” “Hell or High Water” “La La Land” “Moonlight”

Sound editing: “Arrival” “Deep Water Horizon” “Hacksaw Ridge” “La La Land” “Sully”

Sound mixing: “Arrival” “Hacksaw Ridge” “La La Land” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”

Production design: “Arrival” “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” “Hail, Caesar!” “La La Land” “Passengers”

Original score: “Jackie” “La La Land” “Lion” “Moonlight” “Passengers”

Original song: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream),” “La La Land” “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” “Trolls” “City of Stars,” “La La Land” “The Empty Chair,” “Jim: The James Foley Story” “How Far I’ll Go,” “Moana”

Visual effects: “Deepwater Horizon” “Doctor Strange” “Jungle Book” “Kubo and the Two Strings” “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Monday, January 23, 2017

Movie Review: XXX The Return of Xander Cage

One of the things you never expect with an action movie, where the entire point of the film is an excuse for explosions, fights and gunplay is for that movie to be extremely boring. You might expect the movie to be stupid, as are all of the XXX movies, or it to have a ridiculous convoluted story that mostly makes no sense, corny over the top dialogue maybe, but never boring. The new movie "XXX The Return of Xander Cage" achieved this one rare feat of being boring and for the entire middle of this film, nothing really happened as it seemed that everybody in the film was sleepwalking through their part. I actually lost interest in the entire story at around the mid-point of this ridiculous movie. As far as the script for this bad film, it is all over the place and mostly makes very little sense. The entire process of getting from the beginning of this very bad film to the end, where there is some action is long and drawn out waste of time. I was looking at my watch the entire two hours hoping and waiting for the whole nightmare to be over.

Vin Diesel returns to the XXX series for the first time since 2002 as does Samuel L. Jackson. In 2005 Ice Cube took over the starring role in the movie "XXX: State of the Union" that was another bad movie and Ice Cube makes an appearance at the end of this film, that all movie goers pray will be the last in this series, but it probably will not be.

Run from this very bad movie that is a total waste of two hours.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Past Movie Review: Back to the Future

Without a doubt, "Back To the Future" is the best science fiction movie about time travel ever made. The idea and the story of this movie are brilliant, using a Delorean car because of it was built with stainless steel, using plutonium and nuclear energy for power and then having to reach a speed of 88 miles before you are transported anywhere in time. On top of all of this, this movie is funny and that is rare for any quality science fiction film. It is hard to believe that it has been almost 32 years since this great movie came out in the summer of 1985. This movie is so good it spawned two sequels and the producers were confident enough in the box office for the first film that they almost guaranteed part 2 at the end of this movie. This movie is also one of the first big hits for Robert Zemeckis who did a great job directing this film.

Back to the Future is the high point for Micheal J. Fox in his movie career, he has made several other good movies, but nothing as good as this one. Christopher Lloyd is also at the top of this career in this movie as he is both funny and believable as the scientific genius who invents a time machine. Thomas F. Wilson who plays Biff is one of the best villain/bullies in movie history. Biff Tannen is as unlikeable as any fictional character I have ever seen in any movie and as hateful and miserable a human being as ever been portrayed. This movie is such a great escape because all of us like to see the bad guy get what he deserves in the end, that way too infrequently happens in real life.

Back to the Future is an American classic and if you have never seen it after all these years, you owe it to yourself to see it, at least once.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Movie Review: Split

One of the problems as a young director if you have early huge success, which is what happened to M. Night Shyamalan in 1999 with "The Sixth Sense" is that if you make a movie that good with such huge box office success in the beginning of your career, you will probably be forever chasing success like that for the rest of your career. In my opinion, Shyamalan got very close with the movie "Unbreakable" in 2000 that had a very good story, a great conceptual idea that even involved comic books and a surprise ending, but this movie had nowhere near the box office success and critical acclaim as The Sixth Sense. I thought the movie Devil, that came out in 2010 and was written but not directed by Shyamalan was good but the overall result was not nearly as impressive as the Sixth Sense or Unbreakable.

Shyamalan's latest movie "Split", which he both wrote and directed is his first movie since "The Visit" is an attempt by Shyamalan to create something new, which is always the first and most difficult challenge any screenwriter has to overcome. There have been many movies about kidnapping or abduction, but this is probably the first movie where the insane criminal who kidnaps 3 young women has 23 distinct personalities and also makes regular visits to his psychiatrist played very well by Betty Buckley. The insane kidnapper with 23 personalities is impressively played by James McAvoy in what had to be the most challenging role of his entire career. I also appreciated the depth of the story here, showing not only a man with 23 personalities and one of the disturbed kidnapped women, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, but explaining through flashbacks throughout the film, how they got to be the way they are, by various forms of abuse during their childhood.

I noticed no real surprise ending that Shyamalan is famous for in this movie, as the conclusion of the story seemed to be a nothing out of the ordinary. Overall the acting is very good in this movie and I thought that the young actress Anya Taylor-Joy may have gotten her breakthrough role and should have a very promising career in the movies. She has very symmetrical looks and big eyes that are very dark and unusual. Her previous movie "Morgan" was not good, so its good to see her bounce back with this solid movie. There is a unique surprise in the ending of this film, involving the actor Bruce Willis, where he mentions "Glass Man", which is a reference to the movie Unbreakable. I thought this idea to end this movie was very original, but many people who have not seen Unbreakable will probably not understand this reference.

I give a marginal recommendation for Split, mainly because of the solid acting and because of newcomer Anya Taylor-Joy

Friday, January 20, 2017

Movie Review: The Founder

“When the competition is drowning, stick a hose in their mouths.”, Ray Kroc

The best line in this great movie is the one above. I have never seen a movie about the reality of money, business, success or failure that is better than the film "The Founder" which is the true story about Ray Kroc and how the corporation Mcdonald's was originally founded.

Prior to getting involved with McDonald's, Ray Kroc was a failure, trying to sell milkshake machines to restaurants around the United States before he stumbled onto two fast food founders named McDonald in San Bernadino California who amazingly to Kroc, wanted to buy eight of his milkshake machines. During his entire life, Kroc failed at many ideas he tried, but due to the success recordings he was encouraged by, he relied on his perseverance to rise above all the bad times he had in his career. While watching this movie and all that Kroc had to go through, you just had to admire him for surviving all he had to endure to finally become successful.

The Mcdonald's brothers were the original founders of the fast food idea in the 40's, inventing a brand new mass production technique for food, much like Henry Ford who did the same thing for the automobile. Most fascinating was their story about the large number of setbacks they had to go through and their move from a small town in California to San Bernadino. This included putting their restaurant on a truck and then sawing it in half so it would clear a bridge in the town of San Bernadino. After that amazing feat, they ran into problem after problem until they finally perfected the idea of fast food. The Mcdonald brothers were two very honest men and two very nice guys and what this movie shows so well, is that very often in both business and in life, "Nice guys finish last".

Everyone who sees this film will have to make up their own mind of how good or bad Ray Kroc is as a person is in this true story. In my opinion, some of the things he did were justified and some were more than just because of business, they were about revenge and perhaps taking out his many years of frustration and money problems on other people. Much like the true story in the movie Joy, even after Kroc had success, he still had major money problems and many huge obstacles in his way that he had to overcome. Kroc needed a ton of perseverance to be successful, but as this story shows, he also needed quite a bit of luck too.

The Founder is a great film and one of the best acting performances in Micheal Keaton's entire career. There is a scene in this movie that was remarkably like the movie "Pacific Heights", that starred Keaton and came out in 1990, where Kroc walked into a hospital room holding flowers where one of the Mcdonald's brothers was having a major heart problem because of extreme stress. I was rather amazed at how similar this scene was to a major turning point scene in Pacific Heights, which is another great movie that Keaton starred in.

I highly recommend this movie because the story is amazing and its message about success and failure in business and in life is very significant.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Past Movie Review: We Were Soldiers

I remember thinking when I saw the great war movie "We Were Soldiers" in March 2002, that it was probably one of the best and most realistic war movies ever made. Mel Gibson has now made two of these, this one and the recent Hacksaw Ridge, that is the equal to this movie with its battle realism and story. War is a horrible reality of life that never should exist but unfortunately, it probably always will. Humanity has always been extremely adept at killing people.

This movie is outstanding for showing the strategy of a battle, this one taking place in Vietnam and known as the Battle of Ia Drang which happened on November 14, 1965, one of the worst battles in the entire war. Mel Gibson played Lt. Col. Hal Moore and most amazing about a man with his high rank in the military is that he stood right in battle with all of his men and always insisted on being the first soldier to enter a battle and the last one to leave.

The other memorable parts of this movie included all the wives back home who for days during that battle in Vietnam were receiving telegrams telling them that their husbands had been killed in battle.

We Were Soldiers is not for the faint of heart, but no movie that shows what war really is all about should ever not be truthful about its extremely harsh reality. I highly recommend this film.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Past Movie Review: The Company Men

When I saw "The Company Men" six years ago this month, I thought it was one of the best movies I have ever seen about the realities of life, money and working for other people. This film is about injustice and greed and the story can be defined very simply as a CEO of a company, played by Craig T Nelson, who became extremely rich off of the hard work of his employees for 30 years and then when it was time to make even more money, he fired almost all of them, not caring what happened to any of these people who built the company that made him rich. This film is about people back-stabbing and screwing over other people for their own financial gain. Most of the employees of this major company were living at their means, felt financially safe and secure and then all of the sudden, they all lost their jobs and there were no other jobs to be had anywhere. Most of the people who were fired had families and lived as if things would always be safe and secure and the money would always be coming in, never thinking that they would ever lose their jobs, which is a tragic reality for too many people.

The main focus of the film centers around Bobby Walker, played very well by Ben Affleck and his family and their struggles after he loses his job after the massive downsizing at his company. We follow Walker through the process of going to a job search company where they supposedly try to help you to get another job. As the months go by, he is forced to sell his car and other possessions and is worried about losing his own home. He is screwed around by recruiters and other contacts for months as he desperately tries to find another job before it is too late. Walker's desperation and extreme anger at the company he helped built and his inability to find another job is very well portrayed in this film as is another fired employee Phil Woodward played very well by Chris Cooper. Kevin Costner also has a small role in this film as Bobby Walker's brother in law and this is one of his better performances in recent years.

This movie came out at the perfect time, less than two years after the 2008 financial crisis and everyone can relate to the sheer terror of losing your job and financial security and finding no way out. The voice of compassion in this movie is portrayed extremely well by Tommy Lee Jones, who is the vice president of the company and tries to talk some reason and human decency into the CEO to try and stop him from firing so many good people.

This movie is a hidden gem that came out in 2010 and one of those small movies that everyone can relate to. I highly recommend The Company Men for everyone who has not seen this great film.

Movie Review: Live By Night

It is a very rare thing in my experience when one person both directs and writes the screenplay for a movie. For the movie "Live By Night" Ben Affleck, wrote the screenplay, has the starring role, directed this movie and also had a producer credit as well. This must have been a ton of work, for probably years and the end result is a very solid gangster movie much like the gangster movies made in the 40's about running molasses and selling bootleg liquor during Prohibition. I cannot remember the last time I have seen a period movie about the early 20's and the Prohibition era like this one. There is a good deal of violence in this movie, which is understandable considering the crime and corruption during this time and you have to realize while watching this movie that the passing of Prohibition could have been one of the worst mistakes ever made in Congress, recognizing how badly that decision backfired over so many years. One can only speculate how many gangs were created, crimes committed and people who were killed as a direct result of Prohibition.

As I have recently said about the World War Two movie that came out about a month ago "Allied", I am always impressed with movies that use many cars from other eras that for decades have been maintained in warehouses around the world, which you have to figure have to be paid for by the largest movie production companies just in case they make a period movie about the 20's, 30's, 40's or 50's. This must cost a fortune and it must be challenging to get these very old cars to run after so many years. On top of this, several vintage cars from the 20's were destroyed in this movie.

As far as the story behind this movie, I thought it was well told and flowed well, so there were not too many areas that dragged or were boring. One flaw I thought was with the accents of the people involved and in some cases the slurring of words, very often you could not understand what people were saying. At certain points, the story was a little hard to follow, mainly because of the word slurring, but overall the story corrected itself along the way and everything made sense. Other stars in this movie include Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana and Chris Cooper and I thought that the acting was very well done throughout.

The fundamental message I got from this movie and especially the ending was that if you are a person who has no trouble killing people over a long period of time, then it is inevitable that your day is coming. What goes around comes around.

I thought Live By Night was a solid Gangster movie about the Prohibition era and I do recommend it.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Movie Review: Patriots Day

Mark Wahlberg along with director Peter Berg and his production company have been successful the last few years in buying the real life stories for the movies, Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and now Patriots Day. It must have been a difficult challenge to buy three true stories like this, given the competition and realizing that these are three of the best real life stories to come out in many years, Patriots Day being the most important.

Patriots Day is about the April 15, 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, which at the time, was the second worst terrorist attack on American soil since 911. The explosions killed 3 civilians, including one 8 year old boy and injured an estimated 264 others, who were treated in 27 local hospitals. At least 14 people required amputations, with some suffering traumatic amputations as a direct result of the blasts. Eleven days later, 29 remained hospitalized, one in critical condition. Many victims had lower leg injuries and shrapnel wounds, which indicated the devices were low to the ground. At least sixteen civilians lost limbs, at the scene or by amputation in a hospital, and three lost more than one limb. Two police officers were also killed.

When you see this movie and realize that two sick diseased animals packed two pressure cookers with small ball bearings that had no other purpose than to both kill human beings and remove arms and legs you have an idea of the level of evil in these two terrorists. One of the terrorists Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during a shootout with the police and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was later captured and is now on death row. What I found most telling about the shootout with the terrorists was how intense it was, almost like a war battle and the terrorists actually threw self-made bombs at the police. In the end, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and killed by the police and then run over by his own brother who evaded capture during the shootout and was found days later hiding in a boat, parked on someones driveway.

Before the final shootout, the two terrorists assassinated an MIT college police officer, supposedly to get his gun. What didn't make sense here was why did they kill a police officer to get his gun when they already had more than enough weapons? Perhaps it was because of panic or just plain stupidity that they killed the police officer and you had to wonder if they didn't do this one stupid act, perhaps they could have escaped, at least for a few more days or weeks. The Terrorists later kidnapped a college student to steal his car, who later escaped and because he had memorized the GPS number of his Mercedes, the two terrorists were cornered by the police some hours later.

I thought that the acting in Patriots day was very well done, including Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman, who play Boston Police Officers, Michelle Monaghan who plays Wahlberg's wife and Kevin Bacon, who plays Special FBI Agent Richard DesLauriers who was in charge of the investigation. I was very impressed by the warehouse that was put together right after the two bombings that acted as a hub to investigate the crimes, and this included a very impressive recreation of streets where the two bombings occurred that lead to the investigators figuring out the location of the terrorists at various times outside the businesses on these streets, eventually leading to their identification through cell phone videos and surveillance cameras. I thought that the technology and facial recognition software was very impressive during this part of the movie. Unfortunately, the photos were leaked to the press which forced the FBI to release them to the public before they wanted to and this caused major conflicts between the Boston Police and the FBI.

The film Patriots day is up to the task of showing all that happened during the days in April 2013 where the Boston Marathon bombings occurred and I highly recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Sleepless

The movie "Sleepless" is about drug pushers, kidnapping, DEA Investigators, crooked cops, honest cops, undercover cops, Cocaine, gunfights, fist fights and the mob. We have seen all of this before, many times and there is nothing really groundbreaking or unusual about this film, other than the fact that this entire story takes place within a 12 hour time period, mostly at night, much like the TV series 24 where each entire season takes place within one day. The action is fast moving and in many cases engrossing and entertaining enough. Early in the story, the main character, played by Jamie Fox is stabbed and throughout the rest of this movie he is bleeding from his abdomen. What doesn't make sense is how he is able to have so many fights, many of which he wins when he is almost bleeding to death. This is a major logic flaw in the story that could have been easily fixed, but it was not. There are other flaws in this movie as well, but they are mostly covered up by some of the action scenes.

The actress Michelle Monaghan plays a police internal investigator who gets involved with dangerous drug pushers, along with Jamie Foxx and this leads to many chase scenes, fights and shootouts throughout a gambling casino in Las Vegas, which I thought was an unusual venue for a police drama.

Overall I thought this film was entertaining enough, but the unique 12-hour real time idea for this movie was not enough to give this film any more than a very marginal recommendation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Golden Globe Awards for 2016

As is the case every year with all Award shows, there were some winners I agreed with and some I did not. Even though Casey Affleck's performance in Manchester by the Sea was great, Denzel Washington's performance in Fences was incredible and he should have won and will probably win the Academy Award.  For best screenplay clearly, the winner should have been Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea rather than Damien Chazelle for La La Land. La La Land is a good movie but in my opinion it received too many awards because it was a highly unusual musical. Both Fences and Manchester by the Sea were better movies.

All of the Golden Globe awards for me meant nothing against Merrill Streep's on point and great acceptance speech. Everything she said about Donald Trump and him making fun of a disabled reporter some months ago was as perfect and brilliant as any acting performance she has ever given.  The next day, Trump responded by calling Streep overrated as an actress and then repeating once again, that he never made fun of the disabled reporter, even though there is a video of him doing that exact thing. If Merrill Streep is overrated as an actress, then the profession of acting does not even exist.  

Best Motion Picture - Drama "Hacksaw Ridge" "Hell or High Water" "Lion" "Manchester by the Sea" "Moonlight" *WINNER

Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy "20th Century Women" "Deadpool" "Florence Foster Jenkins" "La La Land" *WINNER "Sing Street"

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama Amy Adams - "Arrival" Jessica Chastain - "Miss Sloane" Isabelle Huppert - "Elle" *WINNER Ruth Negga - "Loving" Natalie Portman - "Jackie"

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Casey Affleck - "Manchester by the Sea" *WINNER Joel Edgerton - "Loving" Andrew Garfield - "Hacksaw Ridge" Viggo Mortensen - "Captain Fantastic" Denzel Washington - "Fences"

Best Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Colin Farrell - "The Lobster" Ryan Gosling - "La La Land" *WINNER Hugh Grant - "Florence Foster Jenkins" Jonah Hill - "War Dogs" Ryan Reynolds - "Deadpool"

Best Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy Annette Bening - "20th Century Women: Lily Collins - "Rules Don't Apply" Hailee Steinfeld - "The Edge of Seventeen" Emma Stone - "La La Land" *WINNER Meryl Streep - "Florence Foster Jenkins"

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture Mahershala Ali - "Moonlight" Jeff Bridges - "Hell or High Water" Simon Helberg - "Florence Foster Jenkins" Dev Patel - "Lion" Aaron Taylor-Johnson - "Nocturnal Animals" *WINNER

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Viola Davis - "Fences" *WINNER Naomie Harris - "Moonlight" Nicole Kidman - "Lion" Octavia Spencer - "Hidden Figures" Michelle Williams - "Manchester by the Sea"

Best Director Damien Chazelle - "La La Land" *WINNER Tom Ford - "Nocturnal Animals" Mel Gibson - "Hacksaw Ridge" Barry Jenkins - "Moonlight" Kenneth Lonergan - "Manchester by the Sea"

Best Screenplay Damien Chazelle - "La La Land" *WINNER Tom Ford - "Nocturnal Animals" Barry Jenkins - "Moonlight" Kenneth Lonergan "Manchester by the Sea" Taylor Sheridan - "Hell or High Water"

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Movie Review: Underworld: Blood Wars

One day there will be a study from some college or psychologist who will try to figure out why people like Vampires so much. Could it be the eternal life thing or the weird ways you can kill a Vampire or their thirst for blood? I have never been a fan of Vampire or Zombie movies, and as far as films like this latest Underworld, this is just the latest in a long list of films in this franchise starring Kate Beckinsale. As long as these movies keep making money there will be more of them and probably most of the reason for their popularity is because of Beckinsale and her attractiveness on screen. But as far as the overall quality of these films, there is not much to speak of.

For this latest installment, "Underworld: Blood Wars", there are long scenes of set-up for a payoff in a later scene that involves huge battles between different factions of Vampires or Vampires vs Ware Wolves. In my opinion, the set-ups for these war scenes took too long and made the movie more boring than it should have been. The special effects are nothing more than what we have seen before in the previous movies in this franchise, so there is really no reason to see this movie because if you have seen any of the other movies, then you have really seen this film already. It is all the same thing, repeated over and over again, therefore I do not recommend this movie.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Past Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada

"The Devil Wears Prada" came out in 2006 and is great film for a number of important reasons. The acting was very good, starring Merrill Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci. But for me, this movie was so great because it tapped into the stress and anger so many of us have to deal with every day when we work for other people. The Devil in this movie is played perfectly by Merrill Streep and during the entire story, she reminds all of us of one of my favorite quotes: "Power Corrupts Absolutely". Merrill plays a famous fashion executive Miranda Priestly, loosely based on an actual fashion executive, Anna Wintour and in scene after scene, she is incredibly rude, condescending, short tempered, vicious, and abusive to everybody, especially her new employee played by Hathaway. Some scenes in this movie are difficult to watch, especially for those of us who have had to put up with abuse at work, to make a living. We all know that Priestley is so abusive to people because she can be, she answers to no one, and she has no sense of human compassion for other people.

I asked myself many times during while watching this film, why does poor Andy, played by Anne Hathway, have to put up with so much abuse by her boss, played by Merrill Streep and even her co-worker, played by Emily Blunt? Well, because if she doesn't, she loses her job, potentially damages her career, loses money and it could take her a long time to get another job, if she can at all. So she contains her anger every day, doesn't complain, or report this constant abuse and rudeness to the company or Human Resources. Stress builds and in some cases can even damage your health after months or years of abuse. There are many bosses in companies in this world who are decent, treat people with respect and remember what it was like when they had the job that their employee now has, but unfortunately, this seems to be too few and far between.

I really liked the messages at the end of this movie, where integrity wins out over screwing over someone else. Rising above it all, realizing that you have to like yourself as a human being first, before doing things that are beneath who you are to get ahead. We all like to believe that we could be Anne Hathaway at the end of this movie, but how many of us really could be, considering the payoff you would leave behind?

It is hard to believe that this movie came out over 10 years ago, and because of the work-realism, very relatable story and messages about making a living, I highly recommend The Devil Wears Prada.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

The movie "Hidden Figures" is one of those rare great films where you have so many conflicting emotions while seeing it. In my case, the emotions included respect for how brilliant these 3 black women from the south were in the early 60's. So brilliant that they were able to break into a field completely dominated by white men, which means that they had to be far smarter than anyone who had the job they got at NASA. I was amazed that all 3 of these women were able to get anywhere near the education they would need to get the jobs that they had, considering the prejudice and injustice they had to overcome during their lives just because they were black women. The other emotion I felt was anger over the disrespect these 3 women received because of who they were, even being forced within an institution as respected as NASA to use what they called "colored bathrooms". Despite all of this, especially in the case of Katherine Johnson, they were able because of their mathematical brilliance to put many of their white male co-workers to shame and in several instances, save the Space Program and some lives along the way.

The movie Hidden Figures is about 3 women who worked at NASA during the early years of the Space Program, even before IBM Mainframe computers were used to perform all of the massive calculations necessary to get a rocket into space and return a space capsule flown by a man back to earth. These women were Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson, Dorothy Vaughn played by Octavia Spencer and Mary Jackson played by Janelle Monáe. Of these 3 women, Katherine Johnson had the largest part of this great historical story, mainly because her work was the most instrumental in getting the United States into space to compete with the Russians, but more importantly due to her incredible genius at calculating orbits and complex mathematical equations, actually saved lives. From Katherine's first day of being transferred to the part of NASA that was focused on planning and calculating the orbits of spacecraft, she was discriminated and disrespected by everyone she worked with, for being the only black person and the only black woman in her group. This included having to run over one half mile to a different building to use the "colored women's bathroom", which sets up what was in my opinion the best scene of this movie when her boss, played by Kevin Costner, questions where she is for 40 minutes at a time during a workday. Kevin Costner is also outstanding in his role, one of the best he has had in many years.

The other two women were also very impressive. Mary Jackson became the first woman engineer at NASA and Dorothy Vaughn became the first African-American supervisor at NASA and taught herself coding to eventually become an expert FORTRAN programmer. Both of these women also had to overcome long odds and long hours to gain any traction in their career, as the corporate world at NASA would "change the finish line", whenever any of them had an opportunity to get promoted or even get a small raise.

What got me the most about this extremely impressive story was the realization that when so many people are oppressed by bigotry or sexism, so much potential and contribution from so many gifted people are lost for all humanity. How many geniuses do we lose to bigotry, money or circumstance or just being born in the wrong place or time, or to the wrong parents, never to realize their full potential to perhaps one day cure a major disease, or invent something invaluable to the human race? How many brilliant women never go into math or science for the simple excuse that they believe that this is a man's job. When we realize that a brain is a brain then we recognize that a person's sex or race have nothing to do with their intelligence or creativity. Unfortunately, humanity has lost so much due to so many years of injustice and stupidity making the fluke miracle of these 3 women, that nobody has ever heard of before all the more amazing. Why these 3 pioneers have not been honored by the President long before they have been or more widely known in this country, over 50 years after they accomplished so much for the US Space Program is another reason why I got so angry while watching this movie. Everybody has heard of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, but what about Katherine Johnson, whose mathematical genius made their famous spaceflights possible in the first place.

Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons also make solid appearances in this film as co-workers who made the lives of these 3 great women as difficult as possible.

Hidden figures is a highly informative and well made historical movie about the early years of the Space Program and receives my highest recommendation.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Past Movie Review: Armageddon

The movie Armageddon, that came out in the Summer of 1998 is one of those movies than when you see it on TV, you will always watch it, mainly because of the special effects, the entertaining acting and even scenes of comedy throughout this film mainly from Steve Buscemi, who almost steals this whole movie himself. The subject of this film is very compelling, a huge asteroid has been created from a collision in space and now a rock the size of Texas is heading towards earth and will hit us in 18 days. This is known as "A Global Killer, nothing would survive, not even Bacteria", which is the famous line from Billy Bob Thorton who plays the head of NASA, named Dan Truman. Bruce Willis plays Harry Stamper, who is the world's greatest Deep Core Driller in what had to be considered the action star high point in his career, even considering the Die Hard movies.

Michael Bay directed this movie, and as everybody knows, all Bay movies come off almost like music videos that have rapid fire and sometimes confusing scenes of action, facial expressions and in many cases nothing to connect one scene to another. I find much of this kind of filmmaking very annoying but in this case, there was an acceptable amount of this and not too much like many of the Transformer movies that Micheal Bay makes. For me, the high point of this movie was in a conference room where Dan Truman tells Stamper and his daughter played by Liv Tyler, about the 3000-foot high tidal waves and waves that will travel at 1000 miles and hour once this asteroid hits the earth. The reaction of Liv Tyler, who just says, "unbelievable" and the harsh reality of what is coming in 18 days I thought was very well done in this one scene.

Apart from this, there are many problems with this film, starting with the stupidity of giving the world only 18 days to save itself. There is no way of course, that all that would have to happen to prepare to drill a huge asteroid could ever be pulled off in 18 days. Why not 30 days, or 60 days, or 90? Even with those lengths of time, we would all be in a huge amount of trouble on planet earth, but 18 days would never be doable. On top of this, the Space Shuttle is nowhere near a vehicle that could accomplish the task of going way out in space and land on an asteroid. The Shuttle, as everybody knows was designed to orbit the earth and nothing more and some of the scenes later in the movie are absolutely ridiculous and were thought of only for dramatic effect. The ending I thought was too melodramatic but once again was added for effect and emotion, but in the end, this movie was entertaining.

What is most amazing here about the year 1998 was that some months later, the movie "Deep Impact" came out that was about the exact same thing, a huge asteroid is about to hit the earth after a collision in space. I thought at the time that something had to have gone wrong with several production companies in Hollywood to put out both of these movies within months of each other. This movie had excellent drama and spectacular special effects at the end of the movie and starred Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni and Morgan Freeman who plays the President as one of the first black men to ever play a US President on screen. Like Armageddon, Deep Impact is a movie that I always tend to watch when it comes on TV. There are flaws with this movie as well, especially the ending which involves Tea Leoni and her father, played by the late Maximilian Schell , which I thought was something that nobody would ever do in real life and was actually ridiculous. At some point, drama has to be sacrificed for common sense and it was not for both of these films.

Overall I recommend both of these films and they make you think about what could happen and how the world would react but both of them are seriously flawed.