Movie Review: What They Had

The new movie “What They Had” is about an adult brother and sister with older parents and their mother has advanced Alzheimer’s. With a story like this one, just about everything is hard to watch as their aging mother wanders off in the snow in suburban Chicago and tries to take a train to her childhood home. She thinks a stapler is a phone and over time remembers less and less and recognizes almost no one in her family. The story of this movie is mostly about the logistics of what to do with their mother and what is best for not only her but her husband who is refusing to send her to any care facility.

Any husband having to watch his wife of over 50 years go through something like this is heartbreaking and the real life acting in this movie is outstanding. Starting with Blythe Danner as the older woman with Alzheimer’s, Robert Forster as her long suffering husband, Hillary Swank as her daughter and Micheal Shannon as her brother. It was good to see Hillary Swank in this high quality film as she has had one of the most volatile careers in acting as anyone ever has – having won 2 Oscars and then a series of bad movies after “Million Dollar Baby” in 2005. Hopefully this movie will be a strong comeback for her career.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for What They Had is an extremely high 88% and I agree with this rating and highly recommend this movie. I really disliked the constant smoking in this movie that was 100% completely unnecessary. Hopefully one day this disgusting practice will stop, but for now we all have to tolerate producers accepting money from Tobacco companies and showing people smoking.

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Movie Review: Nobody’s Fool

The actress Tiffany Haddish is probably as in demand and in more movies than any actress who has become suddenly famous in many years. She seems to be in just about every movie and every talk show and because of this she is risking overexposure – the kiss of death for anyone in fickle show business. Haddish’s road to fame and fortune could not have come harder and unlikely as she frequently talks about her time being homeless, even mentioning living in her car – a small GEO Metro, which was a cheap car popular in the 90’s. While plugging “Nobody’s Fool”, another Tyler Perry movie on talk shows, Haddish has also brought up the fact that Tyler Perry was also homeless and also lived in a Geo Metro. Tyler Perry’s turnaround story is one of the greatest rags to riches show business stories of all time. Perry should do a movie about his life coming from despair and homelessness to being the owner of a movie studio in Atlanta and being worth about 600 million dollars.

A documentary or movie about Perry’s life would have been a far better project than Nobody’s Fool because like many of Tyler Perry’s movies, they seem to be mass produced with no original idea. This movie has an plot-line that involves the TV show Catfish and attempts a twist at the end that mostly does not work and does not make much sense. The screenplay of this movie seems like it was on a shelf for a while and the idea came to use Tiffany Haddish and some of her off the cuff mostly raunchy humor to save this story and for the most part, this does not work.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is a very low 21% with IMDB a low 4.6 – which is very low for IMDB ratings. This movie could have been fixed by relying more on screenplay re-writes and a better story rather than thinking that Tiffany Haddish could just save the entire movie because of her raunchy on the fly humor. For these reasons, I do not recommend Nobody’s Fool.

Movie Review: Overlord

One could easily say about the new movie “Overlord” that it has to be the most unusual World War 2 movie ever made. As the movie starts there is a scene that many World War 2 movies have started. A group of young men are about to parachute out of a huge plane behind German Lines at the start of the Normandy Invasion in June 1944. This scene will remind many people of the starting scene of Saving Private Ryan where a group of young men are on a boat about to be storm the beaches of Normandy where many of them will die before they even reach the beach. The harsh reality of war is very well done in this opening scene with anti-aircraft explosions and the inevitable explosions all around the soldiers. Once landed a group of young men are assigned to blow up a German tower to help the land invasion and this is where the movie ceases to be a run of the mill war movie and become a movie about German experimenting on dead people and eventually zombies.

The special effects for this movie are very good, as are the action scenes involving combat. For this who think that harsh realities war should be respected in all war movies this movie is not for you – because zombies in World War 2 is far fetched and considering the science rather ridiculous.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie are a very high 81%, I would be more in the 65-70% range and I give this movie only a marginal recommendation.

Movie Review: The Girl In the Spider’s Web

The new movie “The Girl in the Spider’s Web” is a sequel to the much better “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”, released in December 2011. Some of the things that were good about the first movie, including the computer hacking and coding are evident in this sequel, but not nearly enough. Also the main character, this time played by Clare Foy is not tattooed or pierced enough to make her outrageous as to be considered similar to the original character played by Rooney Mara. The story for this new movie is all over the place, too long and in too many places hard to follow. One wonders who the main character Lisbeth Salander, works for, or why she is involved in trying to stop so many bad people. This movie lacks basic story telling and tries to make up for that with explosions and some special effects, which will never be the solution to a bad screenplay.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is a pretty low 46% and IMDB has a rating of only 5.4. I agree with both of these ratings and I do not recommend The Girl in the Spider’s Web.

Movie Review: Wildlife

The new movie “Wildlife” is a low budget, understated story about real life in Montana in 1960 where the mountains and vistas are many but the jobs are very few.

When the jobs are few and what jobs there are – are bad and low paying, the desperation and fear increases as people are more terrified of a bad day at work or the random whim of an employer that can send a life spiraling downward. The story of Wildlife is about what can happen when a man loses his job in 1960 in the middle of nowhere and all the things that can go wrong in a relationship once that happens. The young couple is played extremely well by Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal – with a performance so outstanding by Mulligan that she will most likely receive an Academy Award nomination for best actress. The couple have a teenage son, played by newcomer Ed Oxenbould in a role where he showed very little emotion despite all the bad things that are happening around him. Perhaps his wooden performance was by design because he was too overwhelmed to believe the downward spiral he was witnessing.

After being fired from his first job Jerry Brinson has too much pride to go back to the landscaping job he had with a local golf club and eventually decides because of his pride to fight fires in the wilderness. His wife Jeanette Brinson, played by Mulligan misunderstands her husband’s male pride as he leaves his family for months at a time and this is where things start to go downhill very quickly.

The acting in this complex and unusual story about a relationship that goes bad because of money is outstanding. Relationship money problems is a life reality that happens far too often in too many marriages. If you can’t get a decent job or no job at all, where do you live? How do you survive?

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Wildlife is a very high 95% and I agree with this assessment. I give a strong recommendation to Wildlife because of the engrossing story and outstanding acting of Carey Mulligan.

Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

What does it take to be a great singer at the level of someone like Freddy Mercury? Its much more than just being able to sing, remember so may lyrics and having a voice that can last over a 2 hour concert. Being one of the best of all time takes the unique ability to stand up in front of one hundred thousand people and never get intimidated by the fact that so many thousands of people are hanging on every word you sing and all of them are looking just at you. With someone like Freddy Mercury, being able to do something this extraordinary was something he could do like a charging bull, not caring what anybody thinks good or bad. While performing in front of so many people – Mercury reached a thrilling level of hyper-awareness that very few human beings will ever get to experience. The problem with experiencing something this amazing is that everything else in life pales so much in comparison. So many uniquely talented people like this try desperately to get back to the highs of performing by using drugs and some of the other behaviors that eventually gave Mercury AIDS that eventually killed him in 1991 at the age of only 45. Contrary to popular belief Freddie Mercury was not gay, he was bisexual and the most important relationship in his life was with a woman who he married.

Mercury was of Indian descent and had an abnormal overbite caused by something called supernumerary incisors. His career in music came from out of nowhere after following a local band who needed a new lead singer. From there, the story covers their slow and brilliant rise to huge success through their unique ideas that included even combining opera with rock music. One of their biggest hits “Bohemian Rhapsody” was six minutes long, unheard of for any song that was ever played on the radio at that time. Their band that they eventually named Queen was also designed to be unique and shocking along with much of their music.

The new movie “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a movie mostly about Freddie Mercury and his fellow musicians in the band Queen and includes both the good parts and some of the bad parts of this career. At times this movie ran slow and boring and I thought that they should have shown more of the art of the music creation and performances and of the insane personal life Mercury pursued, eventually causing him to contract the AIDS virus. The reviews of this film on Rotten Tomatoes are a very anemic 59% and I would have given it more of an 80% rating mainly because of the great performance of Rami Malek – who must receive an Academy Award nomination for his performance regardless of any bad reviews for this movie, which I agree is not great but a just very good. Malek’s performance is one of the few times I have ever seen an actor actually become the person he is playing and this includes being able to sing like Mercury, which must have taken a great deal of hard work and training. You cannot help but admire this level of dedication to the craft of acting.

I was expecting that this movie would be a shoe in to be one of the 10 nominated movies for best picture this year, but due to the relatively low reviews, maybe it will not make the cut. Considering all the hard work, hiring so many extras and solid story this shows once again how fickle and unpredictable critics are and how difficult it is to make any movie.

I give Bohemian Rhapsody a solid recommendation – in this case the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are wrong and the opinions of IMDB giving the movie a rating of 84% are correct. This movie should be seen by everyone regardless if you are a fan of Queen or Freddie Mercury.

Movie Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The new movie “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” starring Melissa McCarthy in a very serious role is all about real life and desperation. For anyone who decides to try and make a living in this world as an actor, dancer, singer or a writer there are few paths to success and many more paths to failure. In the case of the main character Lee Israel her path to ultimate failure as a writer was her early success as the author of several biographies, one of which made the New York Times best seller list. Her early success made her believe that she found her true calling in life, until the best sellers faded away as well as the residuals. Then she had to write novels while desperate as phone calls were not returned by her agent, who was in love with her when things were going well, but now does not even have the humanity to treat her with any kind of respect. What have you done for me lately?

Even though Lee lived in a run down horrible apartment alone with her cat in New York, her rent was still due every month so she had to make money and fast. The depressing and desperate life of Lee Israel are all depicted extremely well in this movie, leading to her both forging and stealing letters written by famous people from museums and libraries and then selling them to pay her rent and buy food.

This movie was extremely well acted by McCarthy and her co-star, actor Richard E. Grant, who plays Lee Israels best friend who helps her with her letter selling scam. Ironically McCarthy who is much better known for her comedy has starred in her best role playing a very serious part and she will be nominated for best actress this year as the Academy appreciats serious roles far more than comedic ones. Lee Isreal went on to write a book about her life as a forger entitled, Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger that went on to achieve literary acclaim.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is an extremely high 99% and I agree with this rating as well as give this movie my highest recommendation – that is all about real life and desperation.

Movie Review: Beautiful Boy

It is inevitable that a movie like Beautiful Boy has been made about the very severe Opioid and drug addiction crisis on this country. This movie was painful to watch, not only because of the main character played very well by Timoth̩e Chalamet who has an extremely severe drug problem Рbut also for what his addiction puts his father through, played by Steve Carrel in probably his best dramatic role. Carrel plays a dedicated and outstanding father who has been devoted to his son throughout his whole life and despite all of this can not save him from a devastating drug addiction. The message here is that even if you are a perfect parent, you still cannot be so perfect to protect your child from so many bad influences. People do not live in a vacuum.

The other message of this story is that you cannot help anyone who does not want to help themselves. An addiction can be fought by anyone who goes to rehab and follows a defined process, refined through years of research and trial and error. A person in rehab has to realize that their success is life and death and in the long run of hard years of treatment and relapses – up to them. Anyone going through something like this eventually has to care more about themselves and their family than the drugs that give them a temporary escape from a reality that they can no longer tolerate. The difference between a disease like this and cancer is that a person does have a fighting chance to help themselves but they have to want this more than the drugs. This is what makes a story like this so difficult to watch, when you know that so many in this country have died from the epidemic of Opioid and drug addition.

This film is good enough to be nominated for a best picture Oscar along with Steve Carrell and Timothée Chalamet as best actor or supporting actor roles. Beautiful Boy gets my highest recommendation.

Movie Review: Mid90s

The first film actor Jonah Hill has ever written and directed seems more like a documentary of a life all too common on poor neighborhoods. The main character Stevie played extremely well by actor Sunny Suljic is a 13 year old kid who lives in a poor LA suburb in the mid 1990’s; raised by a single mother and living with an 18 year old brother who constantly beats him up. His entire survival, mainly because he a poor small kid in a very tough neighborhood is contingent on becoming friends with other lowlife poor kids in the neighborhood – and all they do all day long is drugs, drinking and skateboarding. I cannot remember any movie that has this much of non stop foul language – almost to the point where it is overkill or an over the top example of how young hoods like this talk in real life. However, to this degree of foul language I thought it was too much and mostly unnecessary.

Throughout this entire story you cannot help but feel very sorry for the likable 13 year old who desperately tries to fit in with this older and much taller friends even to the point of risking his own life several times. Most of this film was extremely difficult to watch, most especially during a scene where they all climb into an SUV when the driver was so extremely drop dead drunk. The dangerous and stupid things poor desperate kids this age will do to not look weak in front of their peers costs more lives than just about anything else they do that is life threatening.

For poor people with no hope or future in this country, ultimately it is all about what other people might think about you, never about doing the right thing – or even thinking about breaking out of your bleak existence with no future.

I thought the acting in this movie/documentary was never noticeable and the story while simple was well told, despite its short depressing message. I would recommend this movie to be nominated for best documentary, rather than best movie, but despite this it has a shot for one of the 10 nominations for best picture this year, including Jonah Hill for best director. I do recommend Mid90s.

Movie Review: Hunter Killer

Whenever I see a war movie that involves naval soldiers inside of a submarine I wonder why anyone who is in the Navy would ever volunteer for submarine duty. A submarine is far the most dangerous place to be during a war. If there is any damage to the submarine the likelihood is that you will drown, any explosion and the odds are you will never be found at the bottom of the ocean. The living quarters as are shown in the new movie “Hunter Killer” are extremely claustrophobic especially considering the number of men that can live on a submarine for a long period of time.

As far as the movie Hunter Killer starring Gerard Butler, I thought it was well made and well acted but the story is way over the top and because of that reason, not believable. I wondered while watching this film about how many different ideas and script re-writes went into this Russian vs United States story about espionage, kidnapping that involves a coup. I was surprised to see Gary Oldman, in this movie in a small role considering he just won the best actor Oscar.

I thought the ending was satisfying despite the insane story but because of the story I only give Hunter Killer a marginal recommendation.