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.