Movie Review: Boogie

There have been many films about young basketball players over the years, with main characters wondering if they can ever make it to the NBA, or even a college team. Nothing is easy for athletes in high school, there is only so much time in a day, to do homework, and attend class all day and then after school practice with the team. For the few who are very good, the pressure can be overwhelming. One bad game, one missed shot or one career ending injury. The odds are very long for Football and Basketball, maybe 1 in 10,000 great high school players will ever make it to the NBA or NFL.

The new movie “Boogie” is highly unusual because its about a very good Chinese Basketball player who has to overcome the rarity of any Asian making it to the NBA, or any major organized sport. During this film I was thinking about Jeremy Lin who had a miracle season with the New York Knicks some 10 years ago and even attended Harvard, creating an extremely rare sports sensation that may never be seen again. Lin lasted a few more years in the NBA, then went to the China and now is back in the G league trying to make it back to the NBA again. Everyone has to admire an athlete like Jeremy Lin who is doing his best with the highs and lows of being a professional athlete.

The problem with Boogie is that the story is not strong enough and there are not nearly enough impressive basketball scenes, making the movie mostly boring. There is some controversy over Alfred ‘Boogie’ Chin, played by Taylor Takahashi – possibly going to China for a $750,000 contract rather than taking a college scholarship that is somewhat interesting, as is his relationship with his girlfriend Eleanor played by Taylour Paige – but not nearly enough to save this film.

I agree with the low 47% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and do not recommend this movie.

Amazon Prime Movie Review: Coming 2 America

Available on Amazon Prime, the sequel to 1988’s “Coming to America”, “Coming 2 America” has been released. Unfortunately this story committed the #1 cardinal sin of any comedy movie – it is just plain not funny. Not only is this film surprisingly unfunny, considering the first movie and the cast, it is also too long and very boring in too many areas. One would have thought after almost 33 years since the first film was released, that a better story idea would have been created and a much better screenplay would have been written. This is nothing more than a bad movie, highly unfortunate considering the cast and the quality of the first movie.

The cast is mostly the same, with the addition of Leslie Jones who plays Mary Junson who had a son with Prince Akeem (played by Eddie Murphy) 33 years earlier, during a drunken evening in Queens New York. Wesley Snipes plays the leader of another African nation that is threatening war with Prince Akeem’s country if one of his daughters or new son do not marry into this family. Other than these 2 new characters, there is nothing new here and definitely nothing funny, during the entire 2 hours. I actually remember feeling amazed at how boring and unfunny this movie was, with no surprises or new ideas during the entire run.

Amazon spared no expense with the sets and wardrobe with this lavish film, but unfortunately they raced through and commissioned a bad script, skipping over the obvious re-writes and creation of a better story that actually had some laughs or anything interesting. This movie was a slow moving nightmare to sit through and I was very happy when it was finally over. Odds are high that this sequel will ruin this franchise for good and I doubt there will be another sequel after this one.

I agree with all the very low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes – 47%. and IMDB 5.6 and do not recommend this mostly bad movie.

Our Lost Year

A year has past since the start of one of the worst events that has ever happened to the world. Towards the end of January 2020, we were all in a state of disbelief over what happened to Kobe Bryant, his 13-year-old daughter, and 7 other people in a horrendous Helicopter crash. Most thought, this is just about the worst thing that has ever happened. Recently after an intensive investigation, it was discovered that the Helicopter pilot was not qualified to fly in fog or at night – a tragic similarity to the death of JFK Jr in 1999 along with his wife and her sister.

In an unknown city in China called Wuhan, a virus started to mutate around this time, and it was at first reported as mostly a minor news story. Slowly the news of this new Corona virus grew until it reached the United States on February 29th when someone died near Seattle. Even after this, Corona virus was considered a minor news story, mainly because the world thought that the WHO (World Health Organization) would have everything under control. We all believed; our scientific breakthroughs would make the world far better prepared for something like this than 1918 when the last major World Pandemic occurred. Unfortunately, the WHO could do nothing to prevent this disease or stop its rapid spreading around the world.

Most shocking to the world was how fast this new virus spread, shutting down, country after country and causing mass unemployment in the United States, along with a stock market disaster even worse than 1929. The United States has been over the past year, the most inept in preventing the spread of this disease for many reasons, but mostly because there are just too many people who just do not want to follow the rules of social distancing and wearing a mask. The mistakes from those in charge have been many, including initially telling us a year ago that masks do not help, and then doubling back to say that yes, masks do help. This kind of mistake added to the mistrust of too many thousands who thought that those in charge just did not know what they were doing.

The hundreds of protests around this country starting last May led to too many people who were in huge crowds, rightfully angry about the horrendous incidents that started with George Floyd but forgetting that there was a virus killing thousands of people that had to be respected. They did not keep a safe distance and far too many did not wear a mask. Too many did not listen when they were told to stay out of crowds and not to travel during the passing Holidays. The news for a solid year has been all about overwhelming death, night after night. As depressing as it has been unbelievable. Like nothing the world has ever seen before. At its worst over 4000 people a day were dying in the United States. When 500,000 deaths were reached, we realized that this is more people than died in World War I, II and the Vietnam War combined. In recent weeks the numbers have improved, and we do have 3 vaccines, but we also have at least 3 new variants of this disease. Most recently the numbers have been leveling off, rather than going down further. We can now only hope that we have seen the worst of this, and because of the vaccines the end may be in sight.

So now what? Could something this shocking and horrendous ever happen again? Will the WHO improve to be an organization that does a far better job rooting out and preventing another world Pandemic? There is now no more important an organization in the world that the WHO, because we have lived through one year of non-stop misery. Every country in the world cannot afford anything close to this bad again, considering the extreme financial and human loss. The world now knows what can end humanity, so any amount of research and money to prevent another Pandemic is worth it.

One good thing did happen during this horrible year. Working from home is now the norm for most companies and should be in the future. This will end bad commutes for many millions of people around the world, reducing the world-wide carbon footprint commuting. It will reduce stress and car accidents. Thanks to the miracle of the internet, enabling high speed videos to communicate, people can stay in their own homes and be more productive. Its too bad it took a Pandemic to make the world realize what it already should have known for a long time.

Netflix Movie Review: I Care A Lot

Number one on Netflix today is the new movie “I Care A Lot”. A highly unusual title for a film about a crime that is far too common in this country – criminals preying on older people to steal their money. Marla Grayson played by Rosamund Pike is a swindler who poses as a legal guardian along with her partner Fran played by Eiza González within an elaborate scheme that involves a corrupt nursing home and an incompetent’s judge who OK’s Marla’s legal guardianship of many older people. Most of these senior citizens are put in the corrupt nursing home, even though they are capable of taking care of themselves. Their cell phones are taken away and they are given drugs to keep them quiet while their life savings are being stolen from them.

Unfortunately for Marla, one older woman, Jennifer Peterson played by Diane Weist has a son – Roman Lunyov, played by Peter Dinklage who is a gangster in the Russian Mob. This is a satisfying story idea, because all of us love to see horrible people get what they deserve, especially those who have no decency or conscience while they steal millions from the retirement savings of older people. Many of us go to the movies because we love to see justice done, in a highly unjust real world.

One huge flaw I found in this movie is that when you use criminals like the Russian Mob in a screenplay, you have to be realistic. Murdering criminal members of the Russian Mob just kill people immediately by shooting them in the head or some other part of the body that guarantees death. Rather annoyingly, far too often in this film, the victim is not killed immediately which is not realistic, because it allows the person to stage a miraculous comeback. This might be good for an elaborate and longer lasting story twist or a James Bond movie, but this has nothing to do with real life. I thought the ending was very well done and highly ironic with a satisfying conclusion, especially for those who believe in Karma.

The acting in this movie is outstanding, especially with the 3 main characters played by Pike, Gonzalez and Dinklage. The Rotten Tomatoes rating is a very solid 81% and I agree with this rating and recommend this movie.

Movie Review: The Mauritanian

There is always the expectation in this country that we are always the good guys. In the United States we believe in doing the right thing, due process, common sense, justice for all. Unfortunately this has not been not true in far too many legal cases in this country for many years. The movie the “The Mauritanian”, starring Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley is the latest example of massive legal injustice and like last years “Just Mercy”, this film shows how horrendous the legal system in this country can sometimes operate. In the case of Just Mercy, the main character was put on death row in Alabama in 1987 before he was even tried in court. In the case of this film, the main character was put in
Guantanamo Bay Cuba without ever being charged with a crime – and he remained there for 15 years. This is the kind of injustice that happens within 3rd world countries and is never acceptable in this country.

The Mauritanian is a true story, based on a book Guantánamo Diary written by the main character Mohamedou Ould Slahi, played extremely well by Tahar Rahim. Unfortunately Mohamedou was arrested 2 months after September 11 along with many others – because of the United States desperation to prevent another 911 attack. Due to 911, many hundreds of innocent people were imprisoned and violently tortured, with the justification that information at all costs to prevent terrorism was worth torture and illegal imprisonment. All of this was started during the Bush Cheney administration, who gave the military full authority to attain information from any prisoner using any method they saw fit. This could include water boarding, freezing cold jail cells, playing loud music day and night, non stop psychological torture and in this case, telling the prisoner they were going to arrest his mother and send her to Guantanamo Bay. My question while watching the torture of Mohamedou in many scenes was that why no person in charge did not know that torturing a human being for weeks and months would mean that the information attained would be meaningless, because anyone would say anything to stop the agony.

Jodie Foster and Shailene Woodley play lawyers hired to defend Mohamedou and their many trips to Cuba to visit their client and the legal questions surrounding this extremely complicated case are some of the best parts of this movie. Many of the torture scenes of Mohamddou happen towards the end of this story, and it was hard to understand how any human being could still be alive, much less having any mental ability left, including the acuity to write a book. What this innocent man went through for 15 years, is unbelievable. The standout actor in this film is Tahar Rahim who does an outstanding job playing Mohamedou at a level that might win him an Academy Award nomination.

The Mauritanian is one of the most important movies about massive injustice, ever made. This country is far from perfect, especially our legal system, and has a long way to go to be fair and humane to all people.

I am surprised at the mediocre 70% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB. My rating is at least 85% with a strong recommendation.

On Demand Movie Review: Black Bear

Over the last 10-15 years, Aubrey Plaza is known as one of the most naturally funny actors, especially on talk shows. Her talent is in her eyes and her ability to make a mundane story funny just by the way she talks, describes something or makes a face . Few people can use their eyes to be funny. Johnny Carson, John Candy, Will Ferrell, Chelsea Handler, are some of the people who have had this very rare talent.

In the new movie “Black Bear” Aubrey Plaza plays a struggling movie director, Allison who visits a married couple who have a long cabin. Within a few minutes it is obvious that the young couple Gabe, played by Christopher Abbott and Blair – who is pregnant played by Sarah Gadon are bickering and obviously are having massive marital problems. This very strange film has two parts – the first part nothing but conversation with these 3 people and the second part, is a group of people making a movie in the same log cabin.  None of the two parts are connected or make any sense and I have always hated movies like this.  The only good part of this movie is in the second part, where Aubrey Plaza conclusively shows that she is a very good dramatic actor as well a very good comedic actor. Unfortunately, the audience has to sit through 2 hours of a disconnected mess of a story to get to the only good part within a screenplay, that never should have been made into a movie. 

The critics are viewing this movie rather highly, and I have no idea why. This is a pretty bad 2 hours, that should be missed.

Movie Review: Nomadland

The new movie “Nomadland” starring Francis McDormand is about one of those subjects no person ever wants to think about – homelessness. In this country, homelessness has always been an ongoing problem for far too many good people. Now considering the Covid-19 health Pandemic that has killed almost 500,000 Americans, this problem is as bad as its ever been and could get worse in the coming months and years.

Fern, played by McDormand just lost her husband and after a local factory closed she is out of work and quickly ran out of money. Her only options are to get in her van and drive, anywhere. This film takes place in South Dakota, that is famous for barren vistas and cold and a great deal of this movie is all about Fern driving on very long roads with nothing by emptiness. Fern runs into a group of campers who all rationalize that their homeless life is better than the old ways, forgetting that they are living in their car, a camper or a van. Especially grim is showing the different sizes of rubber and plastic containers when it is time to go to the bathroom. Nothing is easy with a life like this, and far too many of us are homeless or are far too close to becomming homeless. It should not be this way, but in this world if you have no money, you are in for a very rough ride.

Francis McDormand is one of the best actresses during the last few decades, starting with her 1996 best actress Academy Award for Fargo. She won best actress again for  2017 “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in 2017 and now looks to be a shoe-in for another best actress win for this impressive film.

Nomadland plays more like a documentary insight into the lives of homeless nomads who travel the country looking for temporary work and a legal place to park. This film is directed by Chloé Zhao who did an outstanding job showing the dark and depressing lives of people who are living on the edge, trying to survive from one hour to the next. Zhao is collecting a series of impressive credits lately and now is a major sought out director. She might win best director for this movie.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Nomadland are a very impressive 94% and I agree with this rating and recommend this movie that shows the true life of far too many millions of people.

On Demand Movie Review: Horizon Line

A small plane, 2 passengers, then the pilot has a heart attack and dies. How many times has this idea been written into movies or TV shows over the years. Too many. When you get on a small plane with one pilot the odds of a tragedy are greatly increased – mainly because if the pilot can no longer fly the plane, all the passengers are doomed. Then add the danger of getting on any small plane.

The new on demand movie “Horizon Line” stars Alison Williams as Sara, Keith David as the pilot and an unknown actor Alexander Dreymon as Jackson – a name you hear screamed far too often in this movie by Sara. There is very little story here other than some up front dialogue and a trip somewhere in the Pacific in a small passenger plane, that most people would never get on in the first place. Where this film fails miserably is there are far too many scenes after the pilot dies, that nobody in the world would ever try. Nobody would have the courage to climb to the outside of a plane, tethered by a rope. Nobody would climb to the top of of a small plane like this for any reason. Not only would nobody ever try to do things this stupid, but these tasks, even in a desperate attempt to save lives are not even physically possible. So why make this movie, where the 2 main characters are so dumb?

Once again there is far too much smoking in this movie by Sara and Jackson, something I find very annoying every time I see it. This practice should be banned.

Save your money and miss this mess. I agree with the very low 4.6 rating on IMDB.

Movie Review: Little Fish

I can only hope, after seeing “Little Fish”, that is about romance during a world wide Pandemic, that Pandemic films are not the new trend in the movie industry. Living through over a year of Covid-19 has been enough Pandemic at least for the next 100 years.

The Pandemic in this movie – something called, Neuroinflammatory Affliction or NIA, attacks the brain and over time erases the entire memory of the victim. Some kind of a cure is found, but in this case its a horrendous surgical procedure involving a long needle applied to the roof of someone’s mouth. All of this leads to massive worldwide panic both to avoid this horrible disease and then to somehow receive the cure. This is a Pandemic scenario just about as bad as it can get. It is rather unusual that the screenwriter even tried combine a concept like this with a romance story.

The main characters are Emma and Jude, played by Olivia Cooke and Jack O’Connell. Emma is a Veterinarian and there are no less than three scenes of her counting down the days where she would have to euthanize another dog – making anyone shy away from wanting to be an animal doctor. Emma and Jude are friends with another married couple who are affected by NIA, where the woman’s husband entirely loses his memory, making for some very emotional and well acted scenes. The romance between Emma and Jude is well played but rather depressing throughout the 2 hours as they desperately try to survive a horrendous Pandemic. I did not like the too-many scenes of chain smoking by the two main characters – even during a movie involving a health Pandemic. How stupid is this, that in this day in age, cigarrette companies are still making money in the movie industry?

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Little Fish is a surprisingly high 91%, my rating is only 75% with a marginal recommendation.

Showtime Series Review: Your Honor

The new 10 part Showtime series “Your Honor”, starring Brian Cranston is as close to a Shakespearian tragedy as I have seen in a long time. The story starts simply, “what would a parent do to save their child if they made a mistake”. In this case a judge Michael Desiato, played expertly by Brian Cranston has a son named Adam who has Asthma. Adam makes a tragic driving error by bending down to pick up his inhaler and hits a teenage boy on a motorcycle, who himself was driving erratically. Unfortunately this teenage boy has a father who is both a murderer and master criminal, making going to the police and confessing no longer an option. From the very beginning, this basic conflict make for a highly believable and unique story that I have not seen before, with extremely well drawn out twists and turns all the way to the last episode.

This series is brilliant because of the way all of the lies Judge Desiato tells everybody he knows, trying desperately to hide the fact that his son was involved in the accident that killed a teenage boy. The lies mutate and grow ever more complex and impossible to conceal as the story unfolds. Desiato’s friends notice little discrepancies that don’t seem right, other small lies slip out, other things are found out that at first seem to be perfectly hidden. With a lie this big, over time it becomes impossible to keep it a secret. The unwinding of so many lies during this story, is the best part of this series.

As he was with the great series “Breaking Bad” – arguably the greatest television series of all time, Your Honor shows Cranston at his best with great dialogue, story and most importantly, his great acting as judge Desiato. All of the remaining cast members are also great in their roles with an ending that is both a surprise and ultimately tragic.

The IMDB ratings are an outstanding 81%, which is an accurate number, along with a ridiculous 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that has only one very inaccurate critical review. Regardless, I highly recommend this series which is now available on Amazon Prime.