Movie Review: Ad Astra


Ad Astra is a popular Latin phrase meaning “through hardships to the stars”.

The new movie starring Brad Pitt, “Ad Astra” is mostly about one thing. What would happen to any human being if he or she were traveling in space for a very long period of time, with no hope of ever returning home again?

What the world knows right now is traveling to Mars or further is going to take a huge amount of new technology, and trillions of dollars. Phase one of this new technology will have to address the huge problem of keeping any human being from going insane over months and years of traveling through the nothingness of space. Environment simulators, deep sleep and so many other technologies would be necessary for such a huge undertaking of long term space travel. The realization that the longer you travel away from the earth, would mean that much time again, to ever return home. Long periods of time being confined to small spaces with many hours of little or nothing to do is another problem. Like any person in prison knows, “while you’re in here, there is no place to go”.

As for the film Ad Astra, the story is about an astronaut Roy McBride, played by Brad Pitt trying to rescue his father, Clifford McBride, played by Tommy Lee Jones who is deep in space near Saturn and may have gone insane, along with all in his party – that left earth some 12 years earlier.

I thought this movie was either slow or boring in too many places, because the story is mostly about several mishaps in space as Roy tries to save his father and also prevent power surges that are being emitted from his father’s space ship. I thought the technology behind the power surges did not make much sense, considering the 2.5 billion mile distance from the edge of Saturn to planet Earth. The special effects of this film will remind everyone of “Gravity” from 2013, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. I thought Gravity was a far better movie, that had excellent space special effects along with a better story. Ad Astra tries to make up for a mostly weak story with great special effects and it fails in some areas and succeeds in others.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Ad Astra is a solid 82%, but because of the slow moving parts of some of this story, I give this movie only a 75% rating, with a mild recommendation.

Movie Review: Rambo Last Blood


“Rambo Last Blood” has one of the most infuriating scenes I have ever seen in an action movie. Rambo is completely surrounded by about 100 heavily armed members of a drug and sex trafficking cartel headed by two ruthless brothers. Just when they were about to kill Rambo one of the brothers says, “let him go”. In my opinion, this one scene alone is responsible for the 30% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. If there is any one cause that will ruin any screenplay, its the lack of believability. There is no way in one million years, that a violent cartel of 100 armed men would have let John Rambo go within this situation. The scenes leading up to this point also make no sense, as Rambo just walks into a series of buildings where many armed men are standing around. So many movies have done something like this in the past, including too many James Bond movies, and every episode of the 1960’s Batman TV series. The Villain can easily kill the hero by shooting them, but instead, the hero is let go either because of some elaborate and very often ridiculous method of killing them or they escape in some other way only because they are not immediately killed with a gun. In the case of this last Rambo movie, perhaps having Rambo escape by jumping off the building he was captured on would have saved this story, but instead, inexplicably, they just let him go.

Rambo Last Blood is different than all the other Rambo’s in that is not about any war. Its about Rambo saving his niece who has been sold into sex slavery in Mexico. Rambo, played by Sylvester Stallone, who now at age 73 has made 6 Rocky Movies, 5 Rambo movies and 2 Creed movies – the spin off of the 6 Rocky movies. In the history of cinema there has probably never been a longer running and more lucrative series involving 2 characters created by one actor and screenwriter. This new and most likely last Rambo plays more like the movie “Taken” without anywhere near the same level of satisfying ending. As a matter of fact, I did not like the direction this movie takes, especially the ending, which like the last Rambo in 2008, was far too unnecessarily violent. This last Rambo was made for the embedded box office due to name recognition, and not for quality like the last Rocky movie released in 2006, which was a very good film. All of this is very unfortunate, especially because most of this could have been fixed with about another few weeks of rewrites of the screenplay.

Overall, I agree with the low rating of 30% on Rotten Tomatoes and do not recommend Rambo Last Blood.

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Movie Review: Official Secrets


Some of the best movies ever released, are those that are true stories that fill in the gaps in world history. The new movie “Official Secrets” is about what happened in early 2003, when the United States and England were collaborating to fabricate reasons to invade Iraq, that the world now realizes was an “illegal war”.

The reasons for invading Iraq in March 2003 were many, but the most prevalent was revenge for the 2001 Terrorist attacks that caused the worst civilian casualties on American soil in this history of the United States. However revenge for mass murder on American soil is not an valid and legal reason to invade another country. A massive and collaborative effort began with England and the United States to convince the UN security council that Iraq had to be invaded and Saddaam Hussein removed from power before he could use his destructive weapons.

The final solution to finding an excuse to invade Iraq, repeated many hundreds of times, was that “Iraq had weapons of mass destruction”. During a speech in front of the UN security Council Secretary of State Colin Powell, pleaded with the UN to allow the United States and England to invade Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction. Colin Powell now considers this one moment, the worst in his entire career, because Iraq never had any of the weapons Powell was talking about.

The story of Official Secrets starts with a government agent in England, Katharine Gun, played by Keira Knightley whose job was to scan emails and translate messages, looking for possible information that could be used by the spy agencies of England. A single email was scanned one day, that suggested that a reason to invade Iraq was being fabricated by both England and the United States. Rather than ignoring this message, Katherine, realizing that she could possibly stop an illegal war and prevent the deaths of thousands of people, decided to send this email message to the press. The story that followed was all about politics, and the difference between doing the right thing no matter what the cost, or just doing your job.

This movie does an excellent job of showing this low point in the history of both the United States and England, like no other movie I have seen about this embarrassing incident from the year 2003. The legal ramifications and politics involved were also very well portrayed and fascinating throughout the two hours.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Official Secrets is a very solid 80% and I agree with this rating and recommend this film.

Movie Review: Hustlers


The movie “Hustlers” is one of the very few movies since “The Big Short” that is about the 2008 financial crisis that almost drove the entire world into a Great Depression worse than the one in 1929. Anyone interested in learning about what happened in 2008 should see the Big Short – which is a great movie, definitely not this film.

The easy money that was made during the DOT COM bubble that peaked in March 2000 indirectly caused the real estate bubble that started in September 2007. Corporations and individuals who lost fortunes in 2000 were looking to get it all back, starting in 2003 and as a result, financial restrictions were lifted and criminals were allowed to ruin the economies of the world due to their greed. The more easy money that was made, the stupider people became, thinking that the party would never end. Not only did it all end, were it not for the bailouts that started in 2008 the financial health of the world might have ended forever. The long term effects of the damage the 2008 financial crisis have been ongoing for millions of people around the world ever since. Due to the National Debt of the United States, now 22 trillion, largely due to the bailouts, the world might never fully recover from the repercussions of what happened in 2008.

Hustlers is a true story about a group of strippers who work at a strip club frequented by Wall Street employees who in the year 2007, like most of the world, were doing fantastically well within a fake economy driven by the insanity of the real estate bubble. Once the bubble burst, the easy money stopped for everyone, including all of the women who work at this strip club. The lead stripper is Ramona played by Jennifer Lopez, who eventually leads the group of women astray. For Lopez, this is one of her few serious roles in many years and while her performance is good in this film, nothing about this movie deserves the very high 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. More in line, due to the story and the acting is the 5.8 rating on IMDB.

After the easy money ended, a group of strippers, lead by Ramona decided to trick and then drug men. Once they were unconscious, they stole their credit cards to steal cash advances. Given that this is a true story, I was surprised at the number of men who fell victim to this, despite the blackmail and embarrassment involved. I thought the story did a good job showing the desperation of these women who needed money so badly, that they rationalized a crime like this, thinking that, “these are the men who stole money from so many people, so we can steal from them”. This movie also does a good job showing the horrendous life of most of these strippers who degrade themselves in clubs like this only to have so much of their money stolen from them by criminal club owners.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Hustlers is a very high 87%, but my rating is only 70%. Once again, there was way too much chain smoking in this movie, mostly with Lopez’s character – another thing I did not like about this film. I give Hustlers only a very mild recommendation, mainly because it is a true story that happened as a result of the 2008 financial crisis.

Movie Review: Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles


The new documentary “Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles” has an extremely rare rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and for that reason, I saw this film.

What almost everybody knows about the musical “Fiddler on the Roof”, is that it is just about the most popular and most performed musical in the world. Just about all the songs from this play are immediately recognizable to everyone, most especially, “I wish I were a rich man”. What this very good documentary shows is the history of this world renowned play that has its roots in Jewish culture, including even the Holocaust. This documentary shows the play’s derivations from a famous story based on the works of Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem (1859-1916) . I thought this documentary was very well done, including the many interviews from some famous people who have performed in this musical, including Linn Manuel Miranda.

I recommend this documentary, but my rating is more in the 80% range, with a solid recommendation.

Movie Review: It: Chapter 2


For “It : Chapter 2” the money was there from the first installment “IT” – released in 2017. When the box office is there from the first IT – the producers can hire well known actors including Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy and Bill Hader, knowing that there is a certain amount of guaranteed money because of the first movie. What is missing here, unfortunately, is a good screenplay.

This sequel starts almost full 30 years after the first one ended, where 7 friends that call themselves “The Losers” reunite because of a pact they made after they killed Pennywise the Clown, played very well by Bill Skarsgård. The pact was, “should Pennywise ever return again, we will come together again to kill him”. The first problem here was the horrible way Pennywise comes back again, in the aftermath of a gay hate crime that was way too violent and unnecessary – especially considering the overall story. This movie has several gay bashing scenes that are bad enough to create some backlash from the gay community. Why have so many scenes like this in a horror movie, what is the point? There are also horrendous scenes of extreme violence and death with small children, also part of the first film – and once again should never have been included in this sequel.

The rest of this film seems to be a series of visual and very violent excuses to show each one of the friends as they retrieve tokens from their past to kill Pennywise with some strange final ritual and the final conclusion is way too similar to the one in the previous movie.

The ratings for IT: Chapter 2 are a below average 66% – and because of the bad story and horrendous unnecessary violence, my rating is only 50% and I do not recommend this film.

Movie Review: Brittany Runs a Marathon


There are no better movies than the few that take a true story about a very average person who is living a real life and turns that story into something not only entertaining but relatable, and at times, very funny. Brittany, played extremely well by comic actress Jillian Bell, is living in a garbage apartment in New York City, is broke, fat, depressed, down on her luck and in general her life is a total disaster. How many of us can relate to a reality like this and one of the best lines is “all of us are f’ed up Brittany”.

There are several very funny moments in this movie and one of my favorites was a conversation Brittany has with a salesman at a gym trying to sell her membership for $128 a month. Her response, “you mean I could walk outside and get exercise for free or pay, how much again, to work out here?”

As with all well done transition movies like this one, Brittany’s transformation from an overweight depressed mess into someone who is capable of running a marathon is within itself a great tribute to the true story this film is about. Running a marathon is an extremely challenging thing to do, most especially from someone who is almost obese – and whose entire life is a disaster. Training like this involves hard work for months, and with the help of two close friends Brittany becomes obsessed with this goal of running the NYC Marathon, to the point that nothing else matters in her entire life.

There are so many great things about this movie, starting with the humor; despite Brittany’s depressing life, the great writing and following Brittany through the trials of her money problems, multiple bad jobs and condescending, nasty roommate who seems to derive pleasure from Brittany’s many miseries.  Welcome to real life for so many people in this world.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Brittany Runs a Marathon are an outstanding 91% and in my opinion this is one of the best movies of 2019 and it receives my highest recommendation.  This film should also receive a best picture nomination along with a best actress nomination for Jillian Bell.

Movie Review: Ready or Not


The new movie “Ready or Not” is an unusual idea about a wedding of a young woman into an insane wealthy family. The entire family believes they have a curse on them and because of this curse, they have to play a game of of all things “hide and seek” with all persons who marry into this crazy family. What follows is a young woman named Grace, played by Samara Weaving who is running for her life for just about this entire strange movie. There is a great deal of gore and blood, especially at the end and for me, this was not my kind of film.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Ready or Not are a very high 87% that once again made me curious enough to see this film that unfortunately is not nearly as good as its rating. My rating is 50%. This movie is not for the faint of heart and I thought that the gore was way overdone. The attempts at humor along with all the blood and guts also mostly failed in my opinion and overall, I do not recommend this film.

Movie Review: Good Boys


“Good Boys” is yet another movie that I went to see for this blog, that received high scores on Rotten Tomatoes, even though it is far from a movie worth seeing. Good Boys is about 3 friends in grammar school that get involved with stealing a drone, stealing and buying drugs, all because of a kissing party that some young Chinese 10 year old boy is organizing. The story line is all over the place, mostly disconnected and most importantly not funny at all. Nobody laughed in the audience I was in and I was more interested in checking my watch, hoping this mostly bad movie would be over soon. There are so many scenes that were very annoying including, too many times when one or all three of the boys were screaming with these high pitched squealing sounds.

Good Boys stars Jacob Tremblay, Brady Noon and Keith Williams who are close friends and fall into some ridiculous situations, the entire plot of this film. The one scene I disliked the most was when the 3 boys were trying to cross a two lane very dangerous highway to get to a mall. Only by some miracle did they manage to not get killed. There is nothing funny or entertaining about a scene like this considering the thought of a young child getting hit by a car. The problem with showing three young boys trying to cross a dangerous highway is there are children in this world who are just stupid enough to try something like this themselves and because of this, the producers of this film were extremely irresponsible by not removing this scene.

I can only guess why the critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave this movie a high 79% rating, because this is at best 40%. I do not recommend Good Boys.

Movie Review: Luce


I am sure there is no accident that the main character in the movie “Luce”, who is an overachieving high school student, looks a great deal like a young Barack Obama. The film Luce is highly unusual in that it is more about how people interact with someone who everybody assumes is a great person, who will be doing to do great things and is extremely likable. This story examines the reality that what people show the world is not necessarily what they actually are.
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The cast of this low budget “Indy” movie is impressive, with Naomi Watts as Luce’s mother, Tim Roth as his father and Octavia Spenser as his high school history teacher and newcomer Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Luce. What makes this story mostly work is that Luce was adopted by two white parents from a war zone and he needed years of rehabilitation starting at age 10 to recover from his PTSD due to years of being exposed to war as a young child. While Luce is a tremendous overachiever in high school, there are problems that start with the suspicions of his high school teacher Miss Wilson, played by Spenser, because of a paper that promotes violence Luce wrote for his history class. What follows are a series of events, including a scene where Miss Wilson’s mentally ill sister runs naked in the lobby of the high school, which I thought was not only unnecessary but not related enough to the main part of the story to even include in this film. The story has several other sub stories, some that enhance the story and others that seem unnecessary to the point of the film.
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The acting in Luce is of course outstanding, but what I did not like was the ending, that did left too many loose ends, and resulted in an unsatisfactory conclusion in my opinion.
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The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie is an extremely high 93% but my rating is about 80%, more for the acting and less for the story. I do recommend Luce.
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