Movie Review: Booksmart

As a professional movie blogger, a must see movie is any movie that is rated 95% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes. Almost without exception a movie ranked that high is either very good or great, with the exception of “Booksmart”, that is at best a below average teenage comedy.

For me, the entire premise of this story did not work. Two girls about to graduate from high school realize that all their years of never partying or having any fun was wasted, because other students who partied and skipped school also got into the best schools. Already this is a bad idea, because this would never happen in real life. The two girls then decide that they will make up for all this lost fun in one night, another bad idea. This movie was somewhat raunchy but mostly not funny and did not work as a comedy. Why the critics liked this movie so much I makes no sense. My rating is only 50%.

Booksmart is the directorial debut of actress Olivia Wilde and I thought the directing for this film was OK, but nothing that stood out as out as memorable.

I do not agree with the critics for Booksmart and I do not recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Trial By Fire

Getting thrown into jail for something you did not do is bad enough for any human being to live through, but to be put on death row when you are innocent is for most of us a fate worse than death. What the new movie “Trial By Fire” shows better than just about any movie I have ever seen is a true story of massive injustice. The main character Cameron Todd Willingham, played very well by Jack O’Connell was railroaded onto death row in Texas for arson and the murder of his 3 young children, even though he was completely innocent.

The corrupt court system in Texas in the early 1990’s that illegally forced an innocent man onto death row by convicting him of arson and the murder of his 3 infant children was one of the most outrageous stories of incompetence and the treatment of the poor that I have ever seen. Witnesses were paid off and given reduced sentences, Willingham’s lawyer did not care enough to do his job at all, the arson experts who testified that the fire was set on purpose were 100% wrong. Despite all of this Willingham was on death row for 12 years until Elizabeth Gilbert, played by Laura Dern, through a series of letters became involved with Willingham’s case. Gilbert’s efforts over several years eventually became more desperate as Willingham’s execution date became closer and her realization that nobody in charge cared enough to help an innocent man.

The state of Texas has executed more people than any other state for many years and this movie showed at the end that as many as 158 people in recent years, were days away from being executed before new evidence was found to save them. In the case of something as extreme as the death penalty, killing another human being should not only be the last resort, it should be something that happens only when all avenues of evidence and doubt have been completely exhausted. Unfortunately because of the politics and corrupt, incompetent people in charge, too many innocent people have been put to death in this country.

I thought that this movie was very well done, despite the low 61% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and I give a strong recommendation to this film.

Movie Review: A Dogs Journey

The problem with making a sequel to 2017’s “A Dogs Purpose” is that a movie about the constant death and then reincarnation of several dogs for 2 hours can become extremely depressing. The new movie “A Dogs Journey” is unique in that it is a film both for Dog lovers and not for Dog lovers at the same time, because of the death scenes of beloved dogs. There is nothing in this world like the pure unconditional love of a pet and the pain of an understanding that most pets do not live much longer than 15 years at best. Dealing with this harsh reality can be devastating no matter how much we prepare ourselves for the inevitable loss.

This sequel once again stars Dennis Quaid and I thought that the story for this movie was better because it included less dogs who are reincarnated and one central story throughout the entire movie about a dog who protects the granddaughter of Dennis Quaid’s character. I thought this story was very well done throughout this film.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is an anemic 47%, but I would give it a solid 70% because of the good job it does with emotional impact, especially at the end. I give a solid recommendation to A Dogs Journey, but prepare yourself for some very painful moments that are hard to watch.

Movie Review: The Sun is also a Star

The new movie “The Sun is also a Star” is a romance and fate movie, at the level of the memorable “Serendipity” released in 2001, starring Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack. The problem with Serendipity is that Beckinsale’s character believed in miracles and fate so much, that the odds of that relationship actually happening after the ridiculous beginning of this movie were a billion to 1. I thought the ending of Serendipity was very well done however.

This movie has many scenes of fate and unlikely circumstances, and most of them are not believable. I also did not believe the unlikely relationship between the main character Natasha Kingsley played by Yara Shahidi and Daniel Bae played by Charles Melton. The underlying story of Natasha’s family being deported back to Jamaica connects the action of this entire film and I found the conclusion to the deportation and the final scene unsatisfactory. I would have gone into a completely different direction with this story. Another problem was the many time killing music with no dialogue in this movie, that mostly means they did not have enough screenplay for 2 hours. Not a good sign for any film.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for The Sun is also a Star is a low 50% and I agree with this, and do not recommend this film.

Movie Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

Anyone who has seen any of the 3 John Wick movies knows how extremely violent they are. None of these movies are about a great story, they are all about expertly choreographed gun-play, martial arts and extraordinary action. A high number of the violent scenes in “John Wick 3” are so well done they surpass the extreme action of the previous 2 movies. There is a knife fight towards the beginning of this movie that is incredible, another fight scene in a library with a very tall assassin that is as well filmed as it was violent. There are scenes with motorcycles that are some of the best I have ever seen, and some other scenes with different horses that are extremely impressive. If you forego any sign of a screenplay or common sense and concentrate on the incredible amount of work that went into a movie like this, you cannot help but appreciate how well all of this was done.

John Wick 3 stars Keanu Reeves and Halle Berry and both must have trained for a long time to look as good as they did in the action scenes in this film. Also returning is Laurence Fishburne and Anjelica Huston and both are excellent in their roles. This movie starts when John Wick 2 ends and the convoluted story of a consortium of assassins and a 15 million dollar bounty put on Wick at times makes little sense, but none of this matters against the extremely well done action scenes.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for John Wick 3 are a very high 88% and I agree with this rating and highly recommend this movie, but only for people who do not mind extreme violence like this.

Movie Review: Poms

The problem with the new movie “Poms” starring Diane Keaton is it tries to combine a depressing story of a woman dying of cancer with a comedy about older women competing in a cheerleader competition. The cheerleader practicing and issues along the way are the majority of this movie and way too boring to fill two long hours. The part about the main character, played by Diane Keaton, dying of cancer ruins any chance of the cheerleader part of the story, which is supposed to be uplifting, from working at any level.

This movie was not very bad, but not good either and the story is so minimal I was surprised it was made into a movie. I agree with the low Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this film at 31%, and I cannot recommend it.

Movie Review: The Hustle

“The Hustle” is another one of those bad movies where you wonder if anyone read the script before signing on the dotted line. You wonder why a respected and bankable actress like Ann Hathaway would take this bad part, her second this year along with the horrible “Serenity”. This is a bad movie for someone like Rebel Wilson, who can probably afford to be in a film this bad, but one wonders what Hathaway is doing with her career lately. Unless you are spending money like water, less is more especially when it comes to making two bad movies in a row.

Everything about this movie was bad, it was supposed to be funny like the movie “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” was, starring Steve Martin and Micheal Cane, released in 1988. There was not a single laugh during the entire 2 hours. Many of the scams and the rip off’s in this story made no sense and had no logic to them. The entire movie was extremely boring and I for one had to fight just to stay awake. Through it all you wonder how millions of dollars could have been spent just because some producer thought making a female version of an above average movie from 30 years ago, would somehow draw an audience. The Hustle is easily one of the worst movies this year.

The good news is that this movie has such low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, 17% and is so bad that it will be out of the theaters in a few more days.

Movie Review: Tolkien

The movie “Tolkien” is about the famous writer J.R.R Tolkien who in 1937 wrote the book, “The Hobbit”, followed by “Lord of the Rings” that resulted in high grossing movies, directed by Peter Jackson many years after Tolkien’s death in 1973. Tolkien is played well by actor Nicholas Hoult.

This movie is about Tolkien’s childhood friendships with 3 other men, their horrendous experiences in World War I and Tolkien’s relationship with his eventual wife Edith Bratt, played very well by Lily Collins. The problem with this film is the story and how it is told with flashbacks, that for me created an experience that flowed more like a series of events than a well told story.

The overall quality of Tolkien is high, including the grim World War I scenes that were out of necessity very well done to honor the men who died. However because of how the story was told with the disjointed use of constant flashbacks, I can only give this movie a very mild recommendation.

Movie Review: The Intruder

Over the last 10 years there have been many movies released that have the same formula as “The Intruder”. Normally this formula involves a single black woman or a black couple who are stalked or attacked by a white woman or a white man. What happens is a big payoff at the end where the a person or persons have to fight off the stalker or this case an intruder. Clearly, this formula stalker movie makes money at the box office, otherwise so many stories with this exact same idea would not have been made. The problem is, what is the point of making what amounts to the same film, this many times? There has to be a new wrinkle or new idea somewhere within this genre.

This film stars Dennis Quaid as the intruder, a huge departure from most of his recent movies that have been family oriented and involve dogs. The couple in this story who buy a house in Napa Valley, and are stalked by the former owner are played by Meagan Good and Michael Ealy. Unfortunately there is nothing new here and this explains the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of only 28% and 5.3 on IMDB and I agree with these numbers and also agree that this movie is not worth seeing. Many will object to the ending, that has the same idea that was shown in the movie Breakdown with Kurt Russel, released in 1997. The ending was probably an attempt to generate more box office for a movie that is just not that good.

Movie Review: Ask Dr. Ruth

The new documentary “Ask Dr. Ruth” reminds anyone who has seen Dr. Ruth on over 500 talk show appearances since 1984 or heard her on her own radio show that started in 1981, that she is one of the most likable celebrities of all time. At age 90, she is constantly busy and walks as fast as anyone and is at all times showing her happy smile that along with her laugh is her most likable attributes.

Ruth Westheimer’s life and success as a famous sex therapist has been a miracle, starting with how she became famous when she was called by a radio station to answer some general questions about sex therapy. Even more of a miracle is how this amazing woman ever lived past the age of 10, when her parents were taken away by the Nazi’s and she was miraculously sent to an orphanage in Switzerland, barely missing being sent to a concentration camp herself.

Westheimer even became a soldier for a time in the Israeli Army and almost lost both of her legs when she was wounded. She was married 3 times, the last time lasted almost 40 years. She had had two children, now has several grandchildren and still at age 90, seems to have the energy she displayed on so many talk shows for the last 35 years. All of Dr. Ruth’s appearances on talk shows like Johnny Carson and David Letterman were always very funny because of her extremely blunt sex talk and the reactions of the embarrassed host.

Ask Dr. Ruth is one of the best biography documentaries I have seen in many years and this film receives my highest recommendation.