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.

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.

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.

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2


A question I have written on this blog several times in the past is that is it possible to rescue a bad or average script with special effects? For many people, the answer to this question is probably yes, but for me, it has always been no. For me a great story is the most important thing, a story that makes sense and that has a good message. After a great story, very good special effects are a must, especially for a science fiction movie that takes place in space. I was surprised that this movie did not has much effective humor as the first film but it did have all the unusual aspects of the first film, which included the 60-80’s music and the use of a Sony Walkman, that I thought showed great imagination for the first film. There are references to 70’s and 80’s TV shows like Cheers and Nightrider and several references and even an appearance of the actor David Hasselhoff, that makes you wonder if this is out of respect for Hasselhoff or an attempt to make fun of him.

The problem with this film are not the special effects which are the equal of the previous film, but the convoluted story and plot, that I thought at times were even boring and is the kiss of death for a film like this one. The start of this story is the meeting between Peter Quill, played by Chris Pratt and his long lost father named of all things Ego, played by Kurt Russell. After this introduction, there is a story that goes all over the place, to different planets and involves Quill’s adoptive father and even an appearance by Sylvester Stallone. I thought that the special effects at times provided overkill rather than action that enhanced the story. At times you barely knew what was going on in some of the later action scenes. There is some humorous banter in this movie like the last one and the addition of some new characters, including a sister to Zoe Saldana’s character Gamora that will most likely be appearing in the sequels to this movie and there will probably be at least two more of those. I was rather surprised at the quality of the screenplay for this movie, considering that its been 3 years since the last one was released. Clearly, I was expecting something better for this new version of one of the big hits from 3 years ago.

Mainly for the special effects and some moments of humor I give this film a very mild recommendation.

Movie Review: The Dinner


There are thousands of ways to tell a story. In my opinion, for movies, the most straightforward way of creating a timeline and telling a story is always the best. When there is an overt attempt to be different, very often the strange and unusual storytelling becomes greater than the purpose of the film because following what is going on, becomes too much of a strange experience.

I admit that I have never seen a story told the way it is told in the new film, “The Dinner”. Two brothers and their two wives meet at a very expensive restaurant, a restaurant so expensive that each course and every item on the menu requires a long explanation from the waiter. At the top of each new course of the dinner, there is a new part of the story that is revealed through the use of flashbacks.

The main characters in this story are Stan Lowman, who is a politician running for Governor, played by Richard Gere, his mentally disturbed brother played by Steve Coogan and their wives played by Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall. The flashbacks are mostly about Lowman’s brother and the various reasons for his mental illnesses and how it relates to his job as a high school history teacher and of all things, Gettysburg and the Civil War.

The story telling at times during the many different flashbacks was I thought too scattered and seemed to be trying too hard to be different almost to the point of throwing the entire story under a bus. The main message of this movie had to do with a horrendous act of cruelty done by each couple’s teenage sons and then discussing what was the best way to handle the situation, especially considering that Lowman is running for Governor. What followed was an extremely strange and abrupt ending to this film that seemed almost as if the director ran out of film.

For these reasons, despite the good acting in this film, I cannot recommend the Dinner.

Movie Review: The Lost City of Z


The odds are very high that nobody has ever heard of the explorer Percy Fawcett. This is the main reason why I like historical movies because you learn about events in history that you would have never known about otherwise. The greatest example of this in recent movie history is the great film Hidden Figures, where we all learned about who were the true heroes of NASA during the early years of space exploration.

The movie The Lost City of Z is about an explorer and army officer named Percy Fawcett from England in 1906 who became obsessed with finding an ancient city in the Jungles of the Amazon. What is most amazing about this story is how anyone can be obsessed with finding anything in just about the worst place on earth. The heat, bugs, wild animals, natives trying to kill you, the long trip there and back and the very high risk of death would for most people mean that looking for an ancient city so far away would be something you would only try once in a lifetime. However, Percy Fawcett tried to find this lost city 3 times during his life, the last time was after he survived being a soldier in World War 1. The rule for all risk takers is the same. The more you tempt fate the higher the odds that the math will just catch up to you one day. One thing you learn about Percy Fawcett during this movie is that he was extremely lucky to have lived as long as he did when you consider that he was in World War 1 and he had this obsession with finding a lost city in the Amazon.

This movie stars Charlie Hunnam as Fawcett, Sienna Miller as Fawcett’s wife Nina and an unrecognizable Robert Pattinson as Fawcett’s best friend. I thought the story about the incredible hardships and risks in trying to survey and explore a part of the world as dangerous as the Amazon jungle was very well done as was the acting. I recommend The Lost City of Z.

Movie Review: The Circle


I was very surprised to see the very low reviews on both IMDB (5.5) and Rotten Tomatoes (16%) for this movie. ¬†I thought this movie was about average but not overly bad. The message of this film is a very good one, “when has technology gone too far”, or “when do the good things about technology infringe too much on basic human privacy”. This movie stars Tom Hanks, who probably has about 6 scenes and 20 lines and Emma Watson who is the real lead actor of this movie, so the trailers are somewhat misleading. The late actor Bill Paxton also has a small role in this movie as Watson’s father, who has Multiple Sclerosis. I found it rather depressing to see Paxton in this movie so soon after he died of a heart ailment at only 61 years old. The actor John Boyega also has a relatively small role in this film as a disgruntled employee of the Circle but he seems to be a character that was added on at the last minute, rather than having any significant reason to be in this movie.

As this film progresses we see that this huge internet company called “The Circle” hires Watson and very slowly demands more and more of her personal information and private time and very quickly she is living in an insane world that believes that all information, regardless of how private, is everyone’s business. Tom Hanks plays the CEO of the Circle and early in the film, he introduces a new kind of camera the size of a marble that the company has placed all around the world. This sophisticated camera is not only able to create pictures from all around the world, but also record all aspects of the environment it has been placed in. Considering the small cost of creating such a small camera and the ease they can be placed practically anywhere, its obvious that a device like this can get out of hand very quickly.

I thought it was brave of the producers of this film to show the campus of the circle as looking almost exactly like the new Apple Campus that is opening this month, (see video below). As a producer, I would think that doing something like this would be too risky considering the possibility of litigation from Apple concerning the negative aspects of this story. I was impressed by the message at the end, which I thought was if the person who believes that all aspects of someone else’s private information are everyone’s business, how would they feel if that very same spotlight was turned on them? Another way of looking at something like this is; if the people who vote to send young people to war would have to go to war and get killed themselves, would they still vote yes?

Despite the obvious flaws in this movie, I give it a marginal recommendation.

The Circle – Book Amazon

Movie Review: Their Finest


The city of London in 1940, near the start of World War 2 had to be one of the most precarious places to live in this history of the world. The constant bombing of the city and the entire population of London was dedicated in some way to the war effort. At any moment your life or the life of any person you know can end because of a bomb or gunfire or a collapsing building or other injury related to a world war. I thought this movie should have been called “Precarious” rather than “Their Finest” and focused more on the real life dangerous existence of the people in London during 1940 by trying to understand how anyone can live a life that you know can end at any moment because of a bomb. There are moments in this movie of bombs going off and injuries, but considering that this is supposed to be at least in part a war movie there was not nearly enough of this reminder of harsh realities World War 2 and living in London.

The back story of this story is about a screenwriter, Catrin Cole played by
Gemma Arterton who has a boyfriend who is a starving artist and they live in the center of London. Through connections and some luck, Catrin is soon one of the screenwriters of a war movie with a famous movie actor Ambrose Hilliard, played by Bill Nighy. For me, what didn’t work here is that the mechanics and writing of a movie within this movie seemed contrived and rather boring and I was much more interested in what was going on with the war in London and less about the day to day problems with making a movie. One could argue that this film is more about the making of a World War 2 movie in London 1940 with some romantic side stories and less about the precarious life of Londoners who lived through World War 2 – and for that reason, this is really not a war movie at all. Bill Nighy provides some very good moments of humor during the making of the movie, but in my opinion, the best reason behind this story and the precarious life of anyone living in London during World War 2 were missed. The best line of this movie was when someone suggests to Catrin that she could not waste any life opportunity considering how quickly a person’s life could end at any moment. Very true considering the precarious times. There is a shocking scene at the end that was completely unexpected that did remind me of how quickly a person can lose their life during those horrible times of World War 2.

I give Their Finest a very marginal recommendation because although I considered the acting very well done, the back story about the making of a movie within this movie I found too long and boring to give this a strong recommendation.

Movie Review: Free Fire


So many movies have been made over the years that if you want to get a new movie idea greenlighted, it has to be different, sometimes very different. The challenge for any screenwriter, when you realize that so many movies have already been made about so many different ideas, is that you have to not only be different but also write a high-quality script. The movie “Free Fire” is without a doubt a very different kind of a movie when you recognize that the entire film is shot in a broken down warehouse after an illegal gun deal goes bad. What follows are people getting shot and killed and crawling around cursing at themselves and each other. I thought the dialogue throughout this film was interesting and unusual however not up to Tarantino standards. The action was good enough for this story but it’s impossible to make gunfire and injuries from gunfire any different that what we all have seen so many times in movies.

This movie stars Brie Larson who has made some pretty average movies since she won the Academy Award for best actress for Room 2 years ago, the most recent one was King Kong: Skull Island. Once you win the Academy Award and you’re at the top of the very fickle movie industry and in demand, it is so important to select high-quality movies. For this reason, I was surprised to see her in this film mainly because I thought it should be beneath not only her standards but below the standards of a very recent Academy Award winner. This movie also stars Armie Hammer, so perhaps there was some kind of a deal made to have 2 named actors in this pretty average movie.

This is a good movie as far as a violent gun play but there is not much of a real story here. The unusual differences with this film are not different enough to make me consider this as a good movie and for that reason, I am giving Free Fire a very marginal recommendation.