Movie Review: A Good Liar


The movie “A Good Liar” marks the first time that great actors Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen have even appeared in the same movie. Considering that Mirren is 74 and McKellen is 80, both with very long and distinguished careers, it is hard to believe that they have never acted together.

A Good Liar is about a scam artist, Roy Courtnay, played by McKellen, a person who has no conscience and finds it easy to steal and scam money from others, with no fear of retribution or a very long prison term. The problem with this film and ultimately screenplay is there are too many holes in the story, that starts with an online dating service where Mirren’s character meets McKellen’s character. This film has the “explain the story with flashbacks” method at the end to resolve all the action that happened previously, including new events that had never been shown before. Some of these events are impossible to believe and in some cases make absolutely no sense. There is an ultimate revenge aspect of this story at the very end that for the most part, holds no water.

I agree with the below average ratings of 64% for this film on Rotten Tomatoes and do not recommend this movie because there are just too many holes in the story.

 

 

 

Movie Review: Ford V Ferrari


The sport of Auto Racing has always been known as one of the most dangerous in the world. Over the years, the technology has greatly improved and deaths during races has reduced, but the danger is always there. In the 1960’s, the period where this movie is based, the cars they used in many cases did not even have seat belts and all had none of the new breakaway technology that absorbs the impact and protects the driver from certain death after a fire or collision. The dangerous cars of the 1960’s also burst into flames immediately after a crash, killing the driver in some cases, despite the protective suits they wore.

The new movie “Ford V Ferrari” starring Matt Damon who plays Carroll Shelby and Christian Bale who plays Ken Miles is about the competition that existed between Italian auto maker Ferrari and Ford. At the beginning of this film, Ford makes an attempt to buy the almost bankrupt Ferrari, in the hopes of appealing to baby boomers who at the time were reaching adulthood and buying their first cars. That deal did not work because part of the deal was that Ford could control what Auto races Ferrari was able to compete in. This is what created the angry competition with these two companies that lasted for years. One of the best parts of this movie was the politics between one executive at Ford who did not like Ken Miles and spent a great deal of effort trying to prevent him from representing Ford in any Auto race, or even winning a race. This was despite the fact that Miles was one of the best drivers in the world. Ultimately this film is about Ken Miles and his ability to push any car to its limit, never worrying about his own safety. Miles was also a mechanical genius, largely responsible along with Shelby for advancing Automobile technology.

I thought the many scenes that showed extreme danger of the Auto races including the Daytona 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans, was extremely well done.  There are certain people who just are born to drive fast and because they have no fear, they are able to reach the extreme speeds that are necessary to make them the fastest in the world.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Ford V Ferrari are a very high 92%. My rating is more in the 85% range and I highly recommend this film.

Movie Review: The Irishman


From Dictionary.com: The theory of Karma can be thought to be an extension to Newton’s third law of action and reaction where every action of any kind including words, thoughts feelings, the totality of our existence, will eventually have a reaction, same type of energy coming back to the one that caused it.

The one main theme to come from all great movies about the Mafia and people who indiscriminately commit crimes of stealing, arson, money laundering, assault and murder is that one day, they themselves will pay for their crimes, with either a very long prison term, or murdered themselves. This is the very definition of Karma. We all want to believe that what goes around, comes around, and for the men in the Mafia that seems to be the way of things for all who choose that way of life. A life of easy money from drugs and crime as a member of the Mafia comes with a lifetime of looking over your shoulder, because your day of reckoning is always coming.

The new movie from director Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”, is mostly about Frank Sheeran, played by Robert De Niro, who was a close friend and bodyguard for Jimmy Hoffa, played by Al Pacino. This outstanding film, that runs over 3 hours, has a great deal of speculation about who ultimately killed Hoffa, but also suggested that the Mafia was responsible for the Bay of Pigs, the Kennedy Assassination possibly the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was also suggested the the Mafia was responsible for getting John F. Kennedy elected in 1960 with voter fraud in the state of Illinois. Instead of receiving favors from the new President, including being able to build Casino’s in Cuba, Bobby Kennedy, the President’s brother became Attorney General, and aggressively prosecuted the Mafia criminals who got the President elected in the first place. This betrayal caused a great deal of hatred towards Kennedy with members of the Mafia and mostly Jimmy Hoffa, who tried to get even with Kennedy after he was elected. This movie is also about the corruption of the Unions led by Hoffa and the illegal no interest loans taken from the Union Pension funds to help Mafia causes.

The story of The Irishman is both violent and so engrossing, but most will not even notice that this movie runs over 3 hours. The ease that Frank Sheeran demonstrates with every one of the many murders he commits in this movie is hard to watch, but typical of people like this, who kill people like it is a trivial act. This movie will remind many of the 1990 Scorsese production of “GoodFellas” which is the equal of this film with both its extremely impressive story and violence. A director as great as Martin Scorsese, takes years to release a new film, this one written by screenwriter Steven Zaillian. It is always very impressive to realize the time it took to create the attention to detail and quality very evident in this great movie. The new face replacement technology in this film, making all of the major actors look much younger was another extremely impressive achievement.

For the second time in a year, this movie was released with a very small number of theaters, and ultimately will be released on Netflix on November 27, 2019. The last time this happened was with last years great movie Roma. Given the Irishman’s very high 159 million dollar budget, it is a risk for Netflix to finance this movie, hoping that millions will sign up for the service on 11/27 – where some will just buy the service for one month and others will stay with the service long term. This new Netflix paradigm for releasing films, may eventually replace the standard methods of releasing films in movie theaters.

The Irishman unites Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci for the first time along with many other very good actors including Ray Romano, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Steven Van Zandt and Sebastian Maniscalco. As with all Scorsese productions, this film is outstanding, and should win for best picture of the year, along with several more for acting and other categories. Robert De Niro should definitely receive an Oscar Nomination for best actor. I highly recommend The Irishman as the best picture of 2019.

Movie Review: Harriet


The definition of empathy from Dictionary.com: The psychological identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.

Regardless of anyone remembering the story of Harriet Tubman from high school history, everyone owes it to themselves to see the new movie “Harriet”. Finally realizing the full story of Harriet Tubman will give everyone even more appreciation to what this great woman did to save so many people from slavery.

What was so great about Harriet Tubman was her empathy for other people. Once she escaped slavery herself to the city of Philadelphia, a miracle in itself, Tubman returned many times to save other slaves without regard for her own safety. In the end she saved 70 other slaves and some years later, actually led a battle in the Civil War that rescued an additional 750 slaves – an amazing story that I never knew about.

As with every movie about the horrendous and cruel world of pre-Civil War slavery, watching many of the scenes in this film will make any normal person’s skin crawl, with the constant use of the N word, and the endless cruelty of the slave owners towards human beings that they believe are their property. The best line in this movie from Harriet Tubman is “No person should ever own another person”. This one sentence could be considered the entire reason for the Civil War.

The acting in this movie is outstanding, starting with Cynthia Erivo, who plays Harriet Tubman, who was known as Minty when she was a slave. The rest of the cast are mostly unknown actors, with the exception of Janelle Monáe who plays a free black woman who lives in Philadelphia and provides a great contrast between herself Harriet Tubman after she escaped from slavery.

Harriet has solid critical numbers, including 72% from Rotten Tomatoes and my rating is about 80% due to the very well told story about an important part of American History. I recommend Harriet.

Movie Review: Last Christmas


For “Last Christmas”, starring Emilia Clarke, the question is; can it still be an uplifting story, if the main character is a struggling young woman named Kate, who is almost homeless? Who has to sleep in the couches of her few remaining friends to survive? Who has a bad job working as an elf in an all year Christmas store in London? Who has tried for years, like so many other young people with a dream, to break into show business with no prospects and no luck?  Unfortunately, despite the likability of Kate and her endearing smile regardless of her horrendous lot in life, I found this movie mostly a downer because there is nothing funny about any young person with a life like this. There will never be anything uplifting about being homeless, a reality faced by far too many millions of people in this world.

There is also a very unusual love story in this film, with a twist that I did see coming but was still very well done.  Kate’s love interest Tom is played very well by actor Henry Golding. The other issue is that there are too many back stories mostly unrelated to the main story that at times seem disconnected and erratic involving Kate’s sister and her mother, played by actress Emma Thompson, who also wrote the screenplay.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Last Christmas are a low 49% and my rating is about 70% only for the acting of Emilia Clarke and music of singer George Micheal, with a very marginal recommendation.

Movie Review: Jojo Rabbit


The new movie “Jojo Rabbit” will be a mystery to most people. Why it was made? What is the point? How can anyone think that anything to do with Hitler or Hitler youth could ever be considered a farce or even remotely funny? Why is Scarlett Johansson or Sam Rockwell in this horrendous mess? Most importantly, why are the critical ratings as high as 79%? None of this makes any sense and for me as an avid moviegoer, I could not wait for this horrible waste of 2 hours to finally be over. Sitting through this disaster was hard to do, and for much of the 2 hours it was very hard to not leave early.

My theory about the positive critical reviews is that this movie is very different than any other movie, with a young German boy being followed around by a muse who looks like Hitler, with a teenage Jewish girl living in a closet in his house. What is interesting about this story or even remotely entertaining? This entire idea is different bad and never different good.

Despite the positive reviews of Jojo Rabbit this movie should be avoided at all costs and my rating is only 10%. Run from this mess of 2 hours.

Movie: Midway


The new movie “Midway” by director Roland Emmerich is not a remake of the original “Midway”, released in 1976, that starred Henry Fonda and Charlton Heston. This film provides a new perspective of arguably one of the most complex and significant war battles in human history. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 7, 1941, the Japanese had 9 Air Craft Carriers to our 3. The Japanese had many more and higher quality planes and battleships that the United States had. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese had a huge Naval advantage over the United States and only because of Army intelligence, right decisions of a few people and luck, the United States was able to win Midway and ultimately the war in the Pacific.

At the center of this story about a great moment in history, was Army intelligence led by Rear Admiral Edwin Layton, played by Patrick Wilson. Only due Layton’s and collaboration with a brilliant code breaker, Joseph Rochefort, the United States was able to outwit and out guess the Japanese.


As with the 1976 version of Midway and and “Tora Tora Tora”, released in 1970, this new version does a very good job of explaining the complex chess game of strategy that both sides faced from June 4-7, 1942. The logistics of being able to arm planes with torpedo’s to bomb the enemy Air Craft Carriers and Battleships, or stay nearby the carrier to defend from enemy bombers became a complex game of chicken and for Midway, the United States made more correct decisions and was more lucky than the Japanese, who lost 4 Carriers to our one, “The Yorktown”. The Japanese also lost 3057 men and the US casualties were 307.

I thought the special effects of showing the aerial battles and most importantly the dive bombing was outstanding. One can only wonder how any human being flying an airplane built in the 1940’s can aim this machine at a 75 degree angle straight into enemy fire and land a torpedo on the deck of an Air Craft Carrier and then pull away is hard to believe was even possible. Considering the number of guns aimed right at the pilot and co-pilot, it is a miracle that any of the planes that made such courageous dives into certain death ever made it through to drop the payload.

I thought the acting was very good throughout this film that included several known actors, including: Aaron Eckhart, Nick Jonas, Dennis Quaid, Woody Harrelson and Mandy Moore. As far as the low 36% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, the special effects alone, should give this film at least a 75% rating with another 10% for great story telling about an extremely important moment in world history. Once again, the critics are wrong, and I highly recommend Midway. 

 

 

Movie Review: Motherless Brooklyn


What is more interesting than the new film, “Motherless Brooklyn”, directed by Edward Norton, is the 20 year timeline on how this film was finally made.

This story all started in 1999 when Edward Norton purchased the rights to Jonathan Lethem’s novel Motherless Brooklyn. It was first decided to change the time of the film from 1999 to the 1950’s. Then 13 years went by until Edward Norton finally completed the writing of the script. Then another 2 years until 2014 until Norton decided to direct the movie himself. It then took another 4 years to finally start shooting this movie in February 2018 and within weeks on March 22, 2018 a fire broke out in one of the buildings used for production and a firefighter Michael R. Davidson of Engine 69 was killed in the fire. Production finally resumed over a week later, but there are outstanding lawsuits suing Norton’s production company that are still pending.

The point of all this is to remember that the road from idea to shooting, to end of production and then release of any movie can very often take many years, many millions of dollars and after all of this, the end result can be a movie like this one, that is both too long and too boring. Why so much time and effort was spent to make this film, that does not have enough of an interesting story, escapes me. This also escapes the critics who are giving this movie a very anemic 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a number that I unfortunately agree with.

This story is about political corruption in Brooklyn in the 1950’s and one of the most impressive things about this film is the attention to detail, with every parked car on every road filmed a car from the 1940’s or 1950’s, then add the period clothing and then set design and the budget for this film that looks like it might barely break even must have been very high.  Another tell tale sign of a movie that will no do well, is the small number of theaters in my area that show this movie. 

I thought the acting in this movie was good, regardless of the problems. Starring Edward Norton as a private investigator who has a severe case of Tourette’s Syndrome, Bruce Willis who has a small part in the beginning, and Alec Baldwin who has some very good scenes at the end of this film.  It seemed to me that introducing Tourette’s, was not only unnecessary but perhaps an idea to make a long and mostly boring movie more interesting. For me, this did not work, and neither do the 25 or so episodes of Tourette’s by Norton’s character. I can only wonder how Edward Norton feels after spending so many years trying to get this movie to theaters only to have below average ratings after so much effort for so long. That is the movie business in a nutshell, perhaps the most difficult and most risky business in the world.

Due to the mostly boring and too long story, I agree with the critics this time and do not recommend this movie.

 

 

 

 

Movie Review: Terminator: Dark Fate


“Terminator: Dark Fate” is the sixth Terminator movie in the franchise and what was done very right with this latest installment was that James Cameron, threw out all that happened in the previous movies and started all over again with a new timeline. This was the only way to continue this great movie franchise that started in 1984 with the original “Terminator” film.

In the last Terminator movie, “Terminator Genisys”, released in 2015, the timeline was so complex and convoluted that the entire film made no sense. Eventually, with any story that involves time travel, an understandable and common sense story can get lost very quickly. This newest Terminator movie restarts the original idea created in the original “Terminator”, with a new Armageddon created by robots with the same reason for time travel. This time, to go back in time to end the life of a young Mexican woman who was helping humanity to defeat the machines, before she had a chance to save the human race.

With all of Terminator movies, the special effects are extremely good, but this one is one step better than the previous films because some of the action scenes are spectacular at a level that it is hard to believe that even with computer generation, the director was able to pull off some of the amazing action.

This latest installment, brings back Linda Hamilton, who last appeared in a Terminator movie in “Terminator Judgement Day”, that was released in 1991. Her appearance in this sequel is vital to the story line and most will be surprised at how she had aged, because she does look older than her 63 years.

The new protector of the young Mexican woman, Dani Ramos, played by Natalia Reyes, is actress Mackenzie Davis who is a enhanced human, not a robot that I thought was a very good additional idea for this story. Arnold Schwarzenegger is once again in another Terminator movie, having appeared in all of them expect for “Terminator Salvation”, released in 2009. This time around Arnold has not only aged, but over the years has developed very human characteristics, including even empathy for other human beings. Another great new idea is that the new Terminator has all the technology of the liquid metal version introduced in 1991, but this one can actually split into two terminators, with the second robot only skeletal.

The critics on Rotten Tomatoes are wrong again, giving Terminator: Dark Fate only a 70% rating. For the special effects alone, this movie should be given at least a 90% rating and I highly recommend this film.

Movie Review: Black and Blue


The critics are saying that the new movie “Black and Blue” is a story we have seen before, about crooked cops, drug pushers and some very bad people who live in the some the worst areas of New Orleans. What the critics have missed is that when the production is very well done, like this one is, it doesn’t matter that we have seen some of this before.

The unusual aspect of this violent and realistic police drama is that the entire story centers around police cams that by law, are all placed in the center of the jersey’s of all police officers. Due to the many incidents involving police officers over the years, including too many illegal shootings, police h cameras provide evidence that can convict or exonerate someone in court.

This story involves a young female police officer, Alicia West, played very well by Naomie Harris who not only witnesses a murder, but also records the murder on her police cam. The rest of this film is about officer West trapped in a very dangerous part of New Orleans, fighting for her life and trying to bring the film evidence to a part of the New Orleans police department that is not corrupt. I am surprised by the low ratings on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, because this film was well done and well acted, including actor Tyrese Gibson, who plays a local shop owner who gets caught up in helping Alicia West bringing the recorded video to justice.

I give Black and Blue a solid 75% rating and once again, the critics are wrong.