Movie Review: Us

For the movie “Get Out”, released in 2017, Jordan Peele won the Oscar for best original screenplay. His new movie Us, is very similar in design to Get Out in that he combines horror, strange, crazy and weird into what could be argued a completely new genre of film. Like Get Out the ratings for Us are extremely high, but for me, crazy, strange and weird is not scary. Crazy and strange is just strange, not terrifying. It is no surprise that Peele, who is being called the new Alfred Hitchcock, has made a second horror movie right after Get Out and you have to admire the effort to think of another strange idea like Us.

The story of Us, starts in 1986 around the time of the “Hands Across America” event of all things, where a young girl sees her exact counterpart in a haunted house on the beach. After many years she returns to this exact same beach with her husband, daughter and son, and the existence of these counterparts explodes into something that resembles a zombie movie. Us has only one known actor, Lupita Nyong’o and her acting in this movie holds your attention throughout.

I only recommend Us for those who enjoy a strange horror zombie movies and for the rest of us, this one should be skipped.

Movie Review: Gloria Bell

The new movie “Gloria Bell” is about many things, but mostly about survival after a divorce. Gloria Bell is played by Julianne Moore, a woman in her 50’s and after her divorce is trying to find someone in LA dance clubs that play music from the 1970’s and 80’s. The awkwardness of trying to have any conversation with anyone in a noisy dance club like this, I thought was played out very well. This entire movie is a series of connected and disconnected scenes with Gloria and her new boyfriend, played by John Turturro and her x-husband, her daughter who is moving away, her son who is having marriage problems and the complicated awkward emotions so common in all human relationships.

Given that the story was so disconnected there is less of a real story and more of a series of emotions based on something that is either going wrong or right at the time. The acting in Gloria Bell is outstanding and includes a large number of known actors Michael Cera, Holland Taylor, Brad Garrett, Rita Wilson, Sean Astin and Jeanne Tripplehorn who I have not seen in a movie in many years. Unfortunately and once again, there are too many scenes where people are smoking in this film, continuing this stain on so many movies that are financed by Tobacco companies.

The Rotten Tomatoes review for Gloria Bell is a very high 94% and my rating is a very solid 85%, more for the acting then the story.

Movie Review: Captive State

The new movie “Captive State” is about the aftermath of a massive alien invasion within the city of Chicago. The only 2 things interesting about this bad movie are that making a movie about the aftermath of an alien invasion is not a subject I have seen done before and the screenwriter and director managed to make a movie about aliens and an invasion, incredibly boring. Captive State is one of the bad movies that you will forget within hours of seeing it, after wondering why a great actor like John Goodman decided to make this mess.

Everybody should run from this very bad waste of 2 hours. The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is 47%, and my rating is 7%.

Movie Review: Five Feet Apart

If there is even the most remote silver lining in the shocking recent death of actor Luke Perry at the young age of 52 due to a sudden stroke, it is that he didn’t know it was coming. Very suddenly, with no warning he got a very severe stroke, then went into a coma and never woke up. Perry did not have to endure years of agony, fear and operations followed by hope that things would get better only to get sick again and after years of suffering finally die. The fear of knowing that death may be coming can very often be worse than the disease itself.

Diseases like CF(Cystic Fibrosis) are the most insidious because it attacks young people and slowly kills you after years of suffering as mucus builds up in the lungs making it harder and harder to breathe. The new movie “Five Feet Apart” is about two teenage patients who have CF within a well told story that takes place entirely inside of a hospital. Then we all learn about all aspects of one of the worst diseases anyone can get in life. The only cure for CF is a lung transplant but even with that miracle surgery the average life span after the transplant is about 5 years.

The title “Five Feet Apart” is the distance that the 2 teenage CF patients played by Haley Lu Richardson as Stella and Cole Sprouse as Will have to stand apart, so they don’t give themselves an additional infection that would make their condition worse. Throughout the story there are new clinical trials that provide hope for all the patients with CF as the hope that maybe this time it will work and will be the miracle cure. This is followed by more fear and depression as another attempted clinical trial fails.

We have all seen tearjerker movies like this one, where one or both of the main characters have a terminal disease and fall in love. All films like this are very hard to watch, and this one is no different. The acting is well done, and the story while not a great one, is good enough to recommend. Movies like this along with a tragic celebrity death like Luke Perry temporarily knock us away from our life of habits and very often feeling sorry for ourselves over a bad relationship, money problems, a bad job or any number of other issues that are trivial when we compare it to something like this.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie are only 53% and I think this is way too low. My rating is around 75% for a solid, but depressing story about disease and real life.

Movie: Apollo 11

Due to newly discovered NASA footage and 11,000 hours of audio recordings, the world can now see what really happened during the Apollo 11 mission of July 20, 1969 – almost 50 years ago. The documentary “Apollo 11” shows footage that even includes the late Johnny Carson attending the Apollo 11 launch and within a few hours of the launch a leak that required of all things, “bolt tightening”. Almost 50 years later, is unbelievable that any of the Apollo missions, save Apollo 13 that did not make it to the moon – did not include horrendous loss of life that might have included the Astronauts swallowing cyanide tablets because they were stranded on the moon or lost forever in space. The rockets, capsule and lunar module had millions of parts, any one of which could have failed, despite the backups and redundancy. Due to the intense cold, heat or vibrations on takeoff, something might have been missed and a rocket might not work at the exact wrong time or something could have exploded, like it did on Apollo 13. Due to the likelihood that something could have easily gone wrong, the odds of failure especially during the first mission to the moon was extremely high and this is one of the many reasons why everybody involved with the Apollo missions should be greatly admired.

The Astronauts had to be calm at all times, even though their heart rates, especially Neil Armstrong’s showed a high levels of nervousness at key points throughout the mission. All the Astronauts who flew to the moon had to prepare themselves for death, and this required incredible courage from all who went to the moon during the Apollo missions; the last one Apollo 17 on December 7, 1972. There was no way to test for every contingency considering the large number of unknowns of a mission like this. Consider the extreme level of risk with 1969 technology when we now know that 17 years later in 1986 and 34 years later in 2003 the Space Shuttle blew up during launch and re-entry, killing 14 Astronauts.

The United States has never attempted any man missions to the moon since 1972 and this decision had more to do with the extreme cost, than the extreme risk of life. There has been talk of going to the moon again, but considering our National Debt the huge costs, this may never happen. Since Apollo and the end of the Space Shuttle, non government organizations including Blue Origin, owned by Jeff Bezos and Space X, owned by Elon Musk have continued space exploration with large rockets and now NASA only flies robot missions to Mars and the other planets and even uses Russian rockets to send men into space. When necessary NASA uses external non Government companies to get their payloads into space as this is no longer part of what NASA does.

Everybody who witnessed the moon landing in 1969 thought that by now we would be at least landing on Mars, but we are a long way from that happening, for maybe another 20 or 30 years. The entire world still sends satellites, equipment and human beings into space using rockets, that are disposable, and with some exceptions not reusable. I would have thought that by now there would be a working space plane that takes off on its own and is able to get into space without huge and dangerous launch rockets, but it seems that this is another technology that might not see its day for a long time.

This documentary about Apollo 11 is outstanding and has an extremely rare 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes that I agree with. It is strange to see film from 50 years ago looking like it was created recently due to the restoration technology, also used on the World War I movie “They Shall Not Grow Old”, that has successfully restored film from 100 years ago. I highly recommend Apollo 11 as one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.

Movie Review: Captain Marvel

The newest Marvel movie,”Captain Marvel” starring Brie Larson, and once again Samuel L. Jackson – who seems to be in every Marvel movie lately – was good, but unfortunately not nearly as good as I thought it would be. The events that happen in different times that make time almost irrelevant was an interesting take on time travel and most of this film while on earth, takes place in the 1990s, where Blockbuster video and Radio Shack stores were prevalent.

The special effects were nothing that special, as all of us have seen action like this in super hero movies. I thought the acting was good, but the story dragged on too long in some areas. The presence of a very likable and cute tabby cat was a very good addition to this movie, most especially for cat lovers. I give Captain Marvel only a marginal recommendation.

Movie Review: Everybody Knows

The movie “Everybody Knows” stars husband and wife Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem in a story about Kidnapping that I thought was very well done. This is a foreign language movie with subtitles to alert those who do not like to read subtitles in any movie. Of all the Kidnapping movies I have seen the one that always comes to mind is “Ransom” that was released in 1996, starring Mel Gibson and Gary Sinise. Ransom, directed by Ron Howard, was a very good movie because it showed the extremely powerful emotions the parents of a kidnapped child have to endure when a tragedy like this happens to their child. This movie is a close second to Ransom as far as these powerful emotions, mainly because of the strong acting of Penélope Cruz who was the mother of a teenage girl who was abducted in a Spanish village and then held for a long period of time for ransom. Any situation that involves Kidnapping and ransom puts the subject of money in perspective. How much would any parent give to get their child back? Does money have any real meaning compared to the life of your child?

The Rotten Tomatoes for Everybody Knows are a solid 74% and I would give this movie an 80% rating. I give a strong recommendation to Everybody Knows.

Movie Review: Greta

The new movie “Greta” is another example of a solid idea, followed by a plot with a series of illogical scenes, then an ending that was absurd and yet another good story opportunity lost. Anybody who has ever tried to write a screenplay or has researched what it takes to write a screenplay knows that its not only extremely difficult but the process requires rewrites and in some cases many rewrites. The problem with Greta is that there is no common sense in the story and when common sense is lacking, the whole movie goes down the drain. The entire story plays like it was the first draft of an idea that was plausible, “a lonely older woman leaves purses around New York City, hoping that some young woman will return the purse and they could become friends”, and then the entire conclusion is ruined by any sign of intelligence. The story of Greta is not only a very good and plausible idea, but it has probably happened in cities around the world.

A young woman Frances McCullen, played by Chloë Grace Moretz, is the main character in this story who on a New York Subway finds a purse and returns it to the owner, Greta Hideg played by Isabelle Huppert. I found horror and disgust misplaced when Frances finds other purses in Greta’s house by accident. This is because a person is more likely to show compassion rather than fear to an older woman so lonely that she would leave her purses around a city just to find someone to talk to. The entire act of leaving purses around a city to find a friend is more sad and pathetic than it is sinister.

Following the discovery of the purses is a series of repeated stalker scenes that we have all seen in movies before, nothing new here. The big problem is the very bad ending, that has some Hollywood formula flashback trickery and an idiotic conclusion that could have been completely avoided by any visit from 2 police officers. All this movie needed was probably two more rewrites of the ending and maybe it could have been saved.

The star of this movie Chloë Grace Moretz has one of the most likable faces of any bankable actress in the movie industry, unfortunately after reading this bad script and agreeing to perform in this bad film was not a good move for anyone interested in longevity as a movie actor.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Greta are a low 58% and my rating would be only 40% mostly due to the nonsensical ending. Greta should be skipped.

Movie Review: Fighting With My Family

As probably the majority of the world knows, the sport of professional wrestling is fake, idiotic, ridiculous and even embarrassing to watch. The new movie “Fighting With My Family” is about an impoverished family of professional wrestlers who desperately try to make a living traveling around small towns and run down arenas near London England. A reality like this is depressing to watch and as soon as you ask yourself why would anyone want to do this for a living, you realize that in poor areas like this for many people, there is no other choice. You are poor, your parents are poor, your parents are wrestlers and where you live is a nightmare, so you do whatever you can to survive.

The last movie about the depressing reality of the wresting profession that has been produced was “The Wrestler” starring Mickey Rourke, released in 2008. The Wrestler was a very good movie and represented a comeback for Rourke due to his outstanding acting. With the wresting profession, like so many other professions like it, we only hear about the very few who made it to the top. It is extremely rare that anyone can parlay this ridiculous sport into acting like Duane Johnson and John Cena. Their success stimulates the fantasies of so many other poor people who think they can be rich and famous too. The road to fame with wrestling is years of performing in horrible arenas around the country while risking a career ending injury by flying in the air and landing on someone or someone landing on you. Why something like this is as popular as it is around the world is a mystery to most of us, but perhaps its popularity is born out of the rage people feel towards their job, their boss or their own depressing life reality.

The good news is that Fighting With My Family is not really just about the wresting profession, its about money, making a living, never giving up, injustice and extreme jealousy. It is also about the realization that unless you are your own boss, your life is very often in the hands of someone else who can decide your fate in an instant.

The brother and sister in this wrestling family played by Florence Pugh as Saraya Knight and Jack Lowden as Zak have dreamed their whole life to be rich and famous wrestlers and after a chance meeting in London with “The Rock” they are both called in to try out to be members of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment). Then the reality sets in that organizations like the WWE could care less about the dreams of two poor kids who live in the outskirts of London. They only care about making money and they will only choose the very few who have the right look or attitude that they alone judge. Unfortunately, the WWE only wanted Saraya and not Zak and for the rest of the movie the jealousy that Zak feels towards his sister greatly affects their relationship. Unfortunately for Saraya, the life of a wrestler or as women are called, Diva’s is not what she thought it would be and much to my surprise the physical training of all of these athletes is extremely difficult to get through with many people giving up along the way. The final story arc is not unlike a movie like Rocky and even an Officer and a Gentlemen with a singular moment during training that was remarkably similar to a turning point in that movie. The actor Vince Vaughn is very good in a serious role as the trainer of the wrestling recruits.

The Rotten Tomatoes for this film are an extremely high 91% and I give this a solid 95% for this outstanding true story that was turned into a great screenplay. I highly recommend this Fighting With My Family as the best movie so far in 2019.

Movie Review: Alita: Battle Angel

One of these days there will be a futuristic science fiction movie that is written, produced and released that does not paint such a dire picture of the future of the world, where there has been some sort of a nuclear war, and people live among pieces of broken machines and robots. This story takes place in the year 2562 and has one of the most depressing world environments I have ever seen in any movie.

The new movie “Alita: Battle Angel” has extremely impressive special effects that include some of the same technology that has existed since Avatar, released in 2007. Unfortunately and once again, special effects were considered more important than a great story. The main character in this movie, Alita is an animated robot created using a technology where the actor is fitted with motion detector devices and filmed in front of a green screen. Alita’s eyes are very big, like the characters in Avatar, and her big eyes make her a very likable character. She is found by a scientist played by actor Christoph Waltz and put back together and during the first third of this movie, it is found that she has special combat skills and is a robot over 300 years old. Even though she is a robot, she can love with a human and even eat food, something I have never seen a Robot do in any movie. Why would any Robot ever need to eat human food?

The problems with this movie are that its too long, well over 2 hours and the story is all over the place, especially at the end with a convoluted plot that was never explained well enough and even includes a Rollerball type of game where people can elevate to a higher world if they win. The fight scenes are many and probably too intense for any child under 15 years old and there are also scenes of bounty hunters who are hired to kill other robots and humans. The reasons for this part of the story, were another part that was never made clear enough. Alita: Battle Angel is another movie that has a comic book counterpart that the audience would have to read before they would be able to understand the entire story. This is all about bad screenwriting and it should not be necessary to know about any story before hand when you see a new movie. Its all about explaining what is going on in a concise easy to understand way and this movie skips over too many important things to make this story more understandable to the majority of the audience.

This movie also starts Jennifer Connely and Mahershala Ali who seem to have been added to this cast, only to attract more box office and other than the money, I wonder why either one of them decided to do this movie. Due to the technology and history with Avatar, James Cameron is also involved with this movie as a co-screenwriter. Cameron is both a great director and screenwriter, but for this script it seems he was too distracted with other projects to give his full attention to this one.

The Rotten Tomatoes review is only about 59% and I would have given this movie only about a 50% and due to all the problems, I cannot recommend it.