Movie Review: The Commuter

The new movie The Commuter” is another example of a screenwriter trying to find something new and different within a genre that we have all seen many times before, “Intrigue and murder on a train”. The problem with trying too hard to be different and new within something done so many times before is that the job of creating the story is even more difficult because of the problem of plausibility. How can you make something so new and at the same time make the whole thing believable? This is where this movie fails, because I didn’t believe the story.

There were things to like about this movie, including the star Liam Neeson and some comments about his financial problems because of the 2008 financial crisis that the whole world can relate to and the other harsh reality of so many commuters in this world who have to take a crowded train to work, five days a week, which is something I could never do. Mainly because of the story, that I did not really believe, I can only give this film a very marginal recommendation.


Movie Review: The Post

Any time Steven Spielberg is involved in making a movie as a director or producer, you just have to go and see what its all about. Spielberg’s new film The Post” is a movie about something that happened in history, and this kind of film has always been my favorite because you may learn something you never knew. All us know how bad and how stupid the mistake this country made with the Vietnam War. Why Vietnam happened in the first place and why it took so long to finally end, are due to the politics involved that were as underhanded as they come.

Robert McNamara has been called the architect of the Vietnam War and he is played very well by Bruce Greenwood and the story of The Post really revolves around him and all of the bad reasons why the Vietnam continued for years long after the United States knew that the war was no longer winnable. The moment that got me the most was when it was said that 70% of the reason why the Unites States continued fighting an unwinnable war was to avoid looking like a loser in the eyes of the world. Over 58,000 young men died during the Vietnam War and to learn that 70% of the reason for continuing was for saving face; makes the entire war all the more worse than it already is.

Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee who was the executive editor of the Washington Post and Merryl Streep plays the woman who owned the paper after her husband died. Their courage to publish McNamara’s memos and documents about what was really going on in Vietnam opened the flood gates of criticism and about the Vietnam War and could even have hastened its end. Overall, I thought that the acting was very good, but for a Spielberg movie I did expect something that was great, and not just rather good.

This is a good movie about an important moment in history and I do recommend it.

Past Movie Review: Office Space

When the movie “Office Space” was released in 1999, I remember thinking that I have never seen a film that so perfectly captures the reality of working in the corporate world. The frustrations, the insanity, the injustice, the managers who do nothing and have no skills and yet they are in charge and the fact that as you look around your cubicle environment very often it feels like you are throwing your life down the drain. Very often you are forced to do work that you do not want to do and feeling trapped in a depressing life, “because of the money”.

This movie was also very funny, starring Ron Livingston who was perfect as the miserable employee who just didn’t want do to any of this anymore, Gary Cole, as his annoying boss and Jennifer Aniston as Livingston’s girlfriend who was given a hard time by her boss as a waitress, because she never wore enough buttons on her blouse to please him. What is also great are the irony’s that all the employees of this fictional software company have to face as 2 men are hired to fire a mass of people and they are most impressed by Livingston’s character who at that exact time, had decided to give up on working and do nothing all day and the famous TPS report idiotic nightmare at the beginning of the movie that summarizes all the frustrations and insanities (see video).

If you have not seem Office Space on cable or DVD, you owe it to yourself to see one of the best parodies of the nightmare of working for other people ever produced.

Movie Review: Father Figures

Movies like “Father Figures” have amazed me over the years for so many reasons. First of all, how can a below average screenplay like this get green-lighted to be made in the first place? Then, after so many big name actors read the script, why do they agree to do it? They must realize that its a boring story about 2 brothers trying to find their real father and nothing more than another road trip movie. My theories for how something like this happens is because of Hollywood deal making, actors who sign multiple picture deals to get the one movie they really want, favors to a friend or the basic fact that they believe that if they don’t stay active enough as an actor then the one great part might never come along. This movie rightfully has pretty poor rankings on Rotten Tomatoes, 22% and 50% on IMDB, and it definitely broke my comedy rule that nobody laughed once during the whole film and was a pretty boring 2 hours. I also thought the ending was manipulative and not believable at all, given what happened in the story previously.

The list of actors in this film is both impressive and hard to understand given the below average and boring screenplay, including Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Ving Rhames, Genn Close, J.K. Simmons and even Christopher Walken. This is a movie that should be missed by just about everyone, except for the few of us who write movie blogs.

Movie Review: All the Money in the World

The odds are extremely high that in the history of movies in this country, the highly unusual circumstances of having to completely re-shoot all the scenes of a major character within a few months of news a sexual scandal is something that has probably never happened before. The actor Kevin Spacey, who is one in a long line of famous men who have had their lives ruined by the sexual harassment scandals started by Harvey Weinstein some months ago, was completely removed from the new movie “All the Money in the World” and replaced by Christopher Plummer. While watching this movie and Plummer’s performance I could not help wondering how Kevin Spacey must feel now that the movie he should have been in has been released without him and from Plummber’s excellent performance this could have been one of Spacey’s best roles. One could definiately argue that 2 months ago the 3 best male actors in the world right now are Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey and Danzel Washington and now, Spacey’s career as an actor is most likely over forever.

As far as this film, which is about the kidnapping in Italy of J Paul Getty’s grandson in 1973, I thought it was very well done, despite having to re-shoot Spacey’s scenes months after the movie was completed. It provided huge insight into the greedy money sickness of J Paul Getty, who at the time was the richest man of all time, and despite this, didn’t care to help one of own grandchildren who was kidnapped in Italy and originally held for a 17 million dollar ransom. He constantly delayed negotiations with the kidnappers and amazingly in the end even tried to make the payoff to them, through his divorced son as a tax deduction. In all my years of seeing so many characters in movies, I have never one person so obsessed with money and nothing else. The mother of Getty’s grandson, was played by Michelle Williams who it seems every year is always in the highest quality movie and part. Williams started as a character on the TV show Dawson’s creek and in all the years since that show ended she has consistently only taken parts in low budget high quality movies, never going for the big money and only caring about the quality of each role. She will be nominated again this year, her fifth Oscar nomination for best actress for this role and were it not for Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game might actually win this year. Christopher Plummer was also outstanding in his role as J Paul Getty and if he wins an Oscar, the irony of that achievement might be the final nail in Kevin Spacey’s self-made career coffin.

I highly recommend All the Money in the world.

Movie Review: Molly’s Game

I often wonder why I see so many movies every year. Its not just because of this blog, its much more than that. I started this blog in October 2014 and before then I was seeing this many movies a year. I became a movie buff because of the high I get from seeing a rare gem among so many bad movies that are made, realizing how rare it is when you see something great. I see so many movies to admire the acting and the dialogue and most of all the screenwriting that is the underlying purpose of this this blog from the day I started it.

While watching this brilliantly written and directed Aaron Sorkin movie, “Molly’s Game” you immediately realize just like with all of Sorkin’s dialogue that nobody talks that fast. Nobody can put together words and dialogue that well chosen so quickly in real life, but that doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter because Sorkin’s dialogue is so brilliant and because of its rapid fire precision, it draws you in, mesmerizes you and before you know it, you are so engrossed with what is happening and what is being said that you don’t realize that two hours have gone by. I think Sorkin’s has people talk so fast in all of his screenplays and teleplays because he wants you to pay attention to what people are saying so you are more drawn into what is going on. This may not work with everybody, but it works for me.

Molly’s Game originally was a book about a former world class Skier who was hurt and lost out on her chances for the Olympics. Her father, played extremely well by Kevin Costner, drove her way too hard and this created resentment and ultimately the reasons, like so many people in the world, to take her life into directions that at first she fell into, but later lead her into the dangerous world of high stakes poker games. This movie teaches you a lot about poker and about the dangers that will always seep into something like this, as we see people losing their entire life savings. We also see gamblers desperately trying to get back to even and like everybody with an addiction don’t know when they have had enough losing and its time to stop playing.

Molly is played by Jessica Chastain who in my opinion, unlike last years Miss Sloan, should not only be nominated for a best actress Oscar but should actually win this year. Equally as good in his role, is Molly’s lawyer played by Idris Elba who should also be nominated for best actor or supporting actor. I could not help but admire how these actors were able to memorize so many of these complex speeches that Sorkin wrote and directed and made it seem like it was their natural way of talking. Being an actor is most challenging with dialogue like this, that is so complex and so long that there are so many takes to get it just right. I also thought that this was Kevin Costner’s best acting performance in many years, especially the brilliant and emotional ending scene with his daughter where he did 3 years of psychoanalysis with her in 3 minutes. We learn why Molly is the person she because of the problems with her spine injury and her desperation to please her father by almost killing herself trying to be an Olympic skier even after she was severely injured. Molly’s Game is Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut and he just might receive a best director Oscar along with best adapted screenplay that I think should be a guarantee.

Molly’s Game is one of the best pictures of 2017 and receives my highest recommendation.

Movie Review: Darkest Hour

Historical movies are one of my favorites to see because if its a very good historical movie, then you might learn something that you never knew before. Everybody knows how important a person Winston Churchill has been to the world and what “Darkest Hour” shows is that without Churchill, and the incredibly difficult decisions he had to make around the time when 300,000 men of England’s army were surrounded in Dunkirk, England might have either surrendered or fallen to the Germans. With England’s opposition removed and the guns and armory the Germans would have been able to take from England, they could have in fact taken over the entirety of Europe and won the war. At the time of Dunkirk, Churchill was surrounded by weak men who wanted to negotiate with Germany a surrender, through of all people Mussolini of Italy. These men were very weak because of their fear and panic, they did not seem to realize that whatever terms they got from lowlife of the likes of Hitler or Mussolini would have been ignored and England would have been overtaken. Churchill steadfastly refused to negotiate but at times, was at least curious as to what terms England could have gotten. It took one amazing scene when he talked to some of the people of England to know the correct course he had to take. The people of England knew the best course of action for their country, far more than most of the people who were in charge. How many times in life is that a real truth.

The acting in Darkest Hour is outstanding, starting with Gary Oldman who will definitely be nominated for best actor and might actually win an Oscar for best actor. Lili James is also excellent in her role as Churchill’s typist who at first is abused by him but later becomes a valued friend.

I highly recommend Darkest Hour.

Movie Review: Downsizing

The new movie “Downsizing”, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wig has one of the best ideas for a movie that I have seen in a long time. A scientific breakthrough has allowed for the downsizing of any human being to 1/2500 of their original size. Once they are miniaturized they can never turn back to normal size again. This amazing process will also enable any human being to have to many times their former net worth because of the tiny world they will live in and live a much better life while saving the world from over population.

Unfortunately for this film, after the process of making a person very small is over, they completely ran out of ideas, other than to have Matt Damon’s wife, played by Kristen Wig change her mind about the whole thing and later divorce him. After Damon finds himself alone in the new small world, things got extremely boring very quickly and soon after Damon runs into a Vietnamese woman who lost her leg during some mishap during her miniaturization process and somehow they fall in love. The entire second half of this movie is not only very bad, but makes no sense. Why would Damon’s character do any of the things they have him do after he arrives in the new small world? The truth is, he wouldn’t. While watching the second half of a movie that could have been very good, I wondered how Matt Damon read this script and then agreed to do it? Why did Christoph Waltz agree to appear in this mess? How was the screenplay not completely re-written into something that actually made sense and was an understandable continuation of this amazing new scientific process?

I also realized towards the end of this way too long bad movie that this is the 4th bad film in a row that Matt Damon has made, including “The Great Wall”, “Suburbicon” and “Jason Bourne”. Somewhere along the line, the concept of less money and higher quality will have to be realized. This is too many bad movies.

I recommend that everyone miss this pretty bad film.

Movie Review: I, Tonya

The movie I, Tonya about the infamous skater from the 1990’s Tonya Harding could very well be the greatest thing that ever happened to Harding’s career and legacy. This film paints a very favorable and understanding picture of the famous knee attack on Nancy Kerrigan in January 1994 and the life and sports career of Tonya Harding. As I have said before on this blog, we are all products of our childhood, good or bad and the luck or bad luck we have in life all starts at birth, based on who your parents are, money, DNA, education and many other factors that decide whether we will have a chance at a decent life. Or like in the case of Tonya Harding, have to dig themselves out of a very deep hole. From the beginning as the youngest child of a very bad mother who had 5 kids with 4 husbands, was very abusive and Tanya Harding grew up from the very bottom in every sense of the word. During her career, Harding never got the respect she deserved for her performances, because the judges thought of her as white trash.

The most remarkable part of Tanya’s life was that she was ever able to break out of her terrible life and became world famous and even got to the Olympics. Harding was married and later divorced to a horrible person who constantly hit her. Her mother was a major lowlife who also constantly hit her and verbally abused her. Her mother was married and divorced 4 times and its amazing, when you see this movie that someone like this could ever have been married 4 times and had 5 kids.

There is major Oscar buzz for the acting performances of Margot Robbie and Allison Janney as both performances were outstanding. You also have to admire the amount of work Robbie put in for 5 months to learn out to skate. The story was told in an usual way, with character interviews that seemed more like a documentary but I thought that the lead up as to why the bad people around Harding decided to do the stupid act of trying to break Kerrigan’s knee were not explored enough towards the end of this film.

I highly recommend I Toyna.

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 3

The movie franchise Pitch Perfect, that debuted in 2012 has worked extremely well for several reasons. The first is that the two judges played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks are very funny and they have great chemistry. The second reason is the singing and the music. The third reason is the music rift contests that have always been very good, especially in the second Pitch Perfect that was released in 2015. The fourth reason is the filler, or the part of the movie that is necessary for every screenwriter to make a movie 2 hours long. Unfortunately the 3rd and possibly last installment of Pitch Perfect failed big time because the filler part just did not work at all. To make this movie 2 hours, the screenwriters decided to insert a kidnapping and karate scene that not only did not work, it almost completely ruined the entire movie. Very clearly they just ran out of ideas and threw this in out of desperation because they were under the gun and needed another 30 minutes of screen time. I also thought that the other filler stories were much weaker than the other two movies and there was not enough music or great musical numbers in this 3rd installment.

The good news is that Anna Kendrick is still a great singer, exceptional enough to have a separate and even more successful singing career. Some of the characters still work, the one who you can barely hear talk, fat Amy and several of the other women who have now gone on after college and are very depressed with their lives and decide to reunite one last time for a USO tour. The movie starts out pretty well, but then goes into directions that did not work and then degrades into a kidnapping and karate movie. For these reasons I can only recommend this film for die hard Pitch Perfect fans.