Movie Review: Blinded by the Light

“Blinded by the Light” is an obscure true story from 1987, about a Pakistani teenager from a small town near London England who becomes obsessed with the songs and lyrics of Bruce Springsteen. Amazingly, through the music of Springsteen, Javed, played by newcomer Viveik Kalra is able to escape from his depressing life in a poor family who live in a depressing and typical apartment complex, constantly harassed by racists in his high school and neighborhood.

Despite his unemployed father’s wishes, Javed wants to be a writer and as I seen in so many movies, “Fences” being the best example, Javed’s father stands in the way of son’s dreams and ambitions because of jealousy and anger over his own life failures. Through the brilliance of Springsteen’s music and the lyrics of his great songs, Javed is able to escape from his life that seems to have nowhere to go but down. What this film shows, better than most I have seen like it, is the importance of great artists in the world, who can inspire others to never give up on the dreams, and to just for a little while, escape from their depressing reality and live one more day.

I agree with the high Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Blinded by the Light of 91%. This movie was very well written and well acted. While slow in some parts, the overall message was a good one, and I do recommend this movie. 




Movie Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Every once in a while as a movie blogger, I read a review or see a high score on Rotten Tomatoes and then see a movie that has no business having a high score, in the case of “Scary Movies t Tell in the Dark” at 80%. There is nothing special about this film. Nothing that scary, nothing we have all not seen many times before. Parts of this film were very slow and boring in too many places. There was also nothing special about the ending that did not rescue this run of the mill horror movie or the special effects that were at best, average.

The correct rating for Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is about 45%. This one should definitely be skipped.

Movie Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

For the latest Dog movie, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” – everybody knows going in that the formula will be the same as just about all the recent Dog movies that have been released. The Dog will slowly get old and eventually die. There will be scenes of extreme happiness and joy, followed by overwhelming depression.  The problem is, we have all seen movies like this too many times. Critics correctly call movies like this “tear jerkers”, and when the story is manipulative, like this one is, it can cause resentment from the audience.

The reason for the low reviews for this film is because there is nothing new in this story, other than the fact that the Dog is fan of the sport of Car Racing and the main character, played by Milo Ventimiglia races cars for a living. He gets married, his wife played by Amanda Seyfried and has a daughter – nothing new here. As with most of the recent Dog movies, the audience hears the Dog’s thoughts through the narration of an actor; for this film the narration is performed by Kevin Costner. I was surprised that Costner accepted this role, because in my opinion, the screenplay was not strong enough for someone of his caliber. All of this is a retread of so many Dog movies we have seen too many times already.

In the interest of trying a new idea for a Dog or a Cat movie, why not write a story where no Pet or human being dies for a change.  Formula movies can be enjoyable and work much of the time, but due to the flood of recent Dog movies like this one, this is all getting old very quickly. Its time to create something new.

I agree with the low 49% ratings for The Art of Racing in the Rain and I do not recommend this film.

Movie Review: Brian Banks

From Merriam Webster:

INJUSTICE applies to any act that involves unfairness to another or violation of one’s rights. The injustices suffered by the lower classes INJURY applies in law specifically to an injustice for which one may sue to recover compensation.

In all my years of being an avid movie goer, I have never seen a true story like the one depicted in the new movie “Brian Banks” that defines a level of monumental injustice as much as this story. As a matter of fact, if Brian Banks was not a true story, it would never work as a movie, because nobody would believe that something this outrageous could ever happen to anyone who lives in this country. All of us know that the legal system in this country is corrupt and broken in so many cases, but what happened to Brian Banks in 2002 is an outrage that was unbelievable to realize. Just one problem in our disastrous legal system are the plea bargain’s that occur in 97% of the cases, many times because the courts are so backed up and the defense attorney’s don’t care about their clients. As a result innocent people are thrown in jail because of expediency and incompetence, and as a result, lives are forever ruined.

Brian Banks was 16 years old in 2002 and a top college and future NFL prospect. He was accused of raping a 15 year old girl and he was not only innocent, but his innocence was so obvious that only a system as corrupt and broken as the legal system in this country could have convicted this young man who did absolutely nothing wrong. Many of the events in this very good film were difficult to sit through because anyone with any sense of empathy for another human being could only imagine what it was like to be only 16 years old with a great future and being forced to do hard time for 6 years only because of a broken legal system. Only because of a judge that didn’t care enough about a young man and a defense lawyer that was utterly incompetent. Imagine being trapped in a disgusting jail cell in constant danger, your life ruined before you are even 20 years old when you did nothing wrong. Put in solitary for 60 days, wondering “why me” every hour of every day for 6 long years. Then when you are released and on probation, you can never have a shot at getting into the NFL or even get a job – and you did nothing wrong. Your name is placed on every sex offender’s list in this country and you did nothing wrong.

Through it all his accuser knew he was innocent and never had enough humanity to come forward and tell the truth. What this film does extremely well is show how Brian was able to survive these horrible years only because of an instructor at the prison who taught him about life, including concepts like, “All you can control in life is how you respond to life.” – great advice given in the self help book
<u><a target=”_blank” href=”;camp=1789&amp;creative=9325&amp;creativeASIN=164032013X&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=sotifomufuin-20&amp;linkId=ace456800d22e067ba687a68eca65355″>As a Man Thinketh</a></u> mentioned in this movie several times. The most impressive aspect of this story is that through all of this, Brian Banks never gave up trying to clear his name despite the impossible odds and a broken legal system that included so many people that just did not care enough to help him.

The Rotten Tomatoes reviews for this film at only 55% are not only wrong, but this time around – absurd. I give this movie a 95% rating for the story, the great screenplay and the acting that includes Aldis Hodge as Brian Banks, Sherri Shepherd as Brian’s mother, Morgan Freeman who is great as the prison instructor and Greg Kinnear as the lawyer who saved Brian’s life and cleared his name. I give a strong recommendation to Brian Banks as one of the best movies about a true story and injustice that I have ever seen.

Movie Review: The Farewell

“The Farewell” is a true story about a large Chinese family who believe that if an older person gets Cancer, its better to lie to them because the fear of dying is worse than the disease itself. After seeing this movie its hard not to believe in this tradition born from of the Chinese culture. What sense does it make to tell an old person they have this horrendous disease, when they can live out their last days in comfort and without fear? Another perspective is, how often are doctors wrong about how long a person has left to live, giving more credence to this idea of lying to an older person about having Cancer.

The Farewell is one of the few movies I have seen that is equally in English and subtitles and both were very well done. The acting was also very good, even though at times it was hard to understand some of the English speaking. The sub story of the entire family lying to their grandmother about lung cancer is an impending wedding with the brother of the main character Billi, played very well by actress Awkwafina. There were some emotional and even very funny scenes in this film despite the depressing diagnosis of the beloved matriarch of this family.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for The Farewell are an extremely high 99% and I give this movie a 90% rating and strong recommendation.

Movie Review: Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw

For all of the movies in the long running Fast and Furious franchise, temporarily suspending all sense of logic and common sense is mandatory before spending two hours realizing just how ridiculous just about all of the stories are. One thing about this spin off of the Fast and Furious movies is that there are less cars being driven This movie involves secret agents, one of them, the sister of Shaw, played by Vanessa Kirby, a half human half robot played very well by Idris Alba and a programmable virus that could kill the population of the world. This part of the story does not make sense, but that is not what movies like this are all about.

In this version the special effects are very well done, with numerous fight scenes involving Hobbs, played by Dwayne Johnson and Shaw, played by Jason Statham. The ending scene involving a helicopter and a series of trucks all chained together that looked extremely dangerous to film and was the best action sequence in the movie. What is always most entertaining about action movies like these are the stunts and fight scenes and this one delivers as expected.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Hobbs and Shaw are a below average 67% and I give this movie 75%, mainly because of the well made action scenes and some of the comedic banter between Hobbs and Shaw. There will definitely be a sequel to this movie and perhaps another spin off involving Alba’s robot character.

Movie Review: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

“Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is Quentin Tarantino’s ninth movie that he has both written and directed. In every movie he has ever made, he has tried to make a movie that is different than any other film produced and he did succeed in making something very different with this production. What I admired the most was the perfectly created period from the year 1969, where every car, and every scene honored the world in that landmark year, 50 years ago. Somewhere in California there are a series of warehouses where thousands of cars are housed and maintained for movies like this one and that alone is very impressive. What I disliked the most was the constant chain smoking that arguably was prevalent in 1969 but to this frequency I thought it was way over done. I also hated the last scene of extreme violence was way over the top and completely unnecessary, regardless of how deserving the victims of the violence were.

Tarantino has succeeded once again in creating a movie unlike any other, however this one is different bad, rather than different good like all of his previous eight movies. I saw no evidence of a real story story here, just a series of disconnected and fragmented scenes involving an actor, Rick Dalton who is on the down side of his career, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and his stunt double Cliff Booth, played by Brad Pitt. There are other minor scenes involving the late actress Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie that never seem to have any real purpose or connection to the other part of the story involving Rick Dalton and Cliff Booth.  I was surprised how many of these disconnected scenes were not only not interesting, but very boring. I must have looked at my watch 20 times during this way too long 161 minute movie, obviously a bad sign.

The the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are giving this movie an 88% rating and this makes no sense to me because my rating is only 50% mainly for the sets, cars and the many memories of 50 years ago. I do not recommend Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. Its too long, there is no real story and there is way too much chain smoking and an insanely unnecessary violent scene at the end. This movie is only for die hard fans of Quentin Tarantino or the year 1969.

Movie Review: The Lion King

The big story for the movie “The Lion King” is that the critics, despite the spectacular special effects and simple but solid story are only giving this high quality production a low rating of 55%.

The most impressive thing about this film is that the computer generated animation is the best I have ever seen, and all the animals look 100% real. The story is simple and is about jealousy, power, friendship and greed. I thought the story was told extremely well, despite what the critics have said. It is definitely not the best animated film ever made, but it is at least, very good. So much for the critics who are in this case, once again, very wrong. Considering the enormous amount of hard work that went into making this movie for several years, to receive low ratings, is probably the most unexpected review of a movie I have seen for quite some time.

The Lion King is a very good movie for kids and adults and I give it a solid 85% rating and do recommend it.

Movie Review: The Art of Self-Defense

The movie “The Art of Self-Defense” starring Jessie Eisenberg is one of those films that tries extremely hard to be different than anything ever done before. Unfortunately, sometimes when a story tries too hard to be different, the result is illogical and in the case of this movie, too off the wall and weird. The strange story of this film, that involves a man who is mugged and almost killed, deciding to take Karate lessons, degrades into something that is not believable.

The story started out pretty well, showing the reasons why Casey, played by Eisenberg considers buying a gun after being mugged and almost killed by several motorcycle attackers and then changes his mind to wanting to learn Karate. From this point on, the story goes from run of the mill, to unexpected and then into a strange direction, that for me, did not make any sense. Its OK to be different and unusual but illogical and strange should not be what follows.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for The Art of Self-Defense is a high 83% but my rating is only 60% because of the strange story and ending. For those reasons, I do not recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Stuber

The thinking in Hollywood California about the idea of pairing actor Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista was probably that they are such an unlikely pair and so different culturally that this would lead to a new buddy-cop-comedy team. Nanjiani was so funny in the movie “The Big Sick”, that he will be funny again in this movie. Unfortunately the movie The Big Sick had a great script and Nanjiani was funny, because the dialogue and situation was funny. This is not the case with Stuber. Everything starts with a great idea, then a great story and screenplay and there are never any shortcuts.

The story of Stuber starts out impressively with some very good action scenes that were very effective, but not believable given that two characters fall from heights of over two stories, which is supposed to kill any human being. The Karate expert Iko Uwais is in these scenes, and he is arguably one of the best movie Karate experts of all time. Once the movie is past the opening scenes, what follows are some boring chases and a story-line involving corrupt police officers that we have all seen thousands of times before. Some attempts at comedy with Uber driver Stu, played by Nanjiani and a police officer Vic, played by Bautista mostly all falls very flat. The actress Mira Sorvino also appears in this film in a small role and it was nice to see her in a movie again, but its too bad that her white hot career of some 15 years ago is at least for right now, a distant memory. The comedy movie test that I always use also failed, because there were almost no laughs during the almost 2 hours of this film.

I agree with the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes for Stuber that are a low 46% and I do not recommend this movie.