Movie Review: The Lovebirds

Ever since the release of one of the best comedies in the last decade, 2017’s “The Big Sick”, actor Kumail Nanjiani has been in demand in several movies in the last few years. The problem with hitting it so big with The Big Sick, is that it is going to be close to impossible to surpass or even equal the quality of this film – which is a true story about Kumail and his wife Emily and her almost dying of a rare disease.

The new movie “The Lovebirds” was supposed to be released in theaters prior to the Pandemic, but instead it has been released on Netflix, that one day may be the place we all see movies in the new world that will be unveiled after this horrendous Corona-virus finally goes away.

The Lovebirds is a farce that starts out with a young couple Jibran and Leilani, who are having nothing but problems and arguments in their relationship, until they run into a crooked cop and witness his murder of a man on a bike. What follows is a disjointed story that even involves a sex club of masked people that reminded me of “Eyes Wide Shut” – another strange movie from 1997, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.

For the most part, the farcical story that follows does not work, despite the subtle and sarcastic humor that Kumail is becoming known for. Some of the jokes do work, but not enough of them to recommend this film as a solid comedy. I mostly agree with the low 66% critic and 53% audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes, and unfortunately I do not recommend this film.

Past Movie Review: Hangman

In 2017 the movie “Hangman” was released and because it rated so badly (only 5% by Rotten Tomatoes) it was bought by almost no theaters in this country. Most unbelievable about this bad movie, is that for some reason Al Pacino, one of the best actors of all time, signed on to make it. Hangman is one of those Hollywood situations where there are favors involved and a named actor might agree to act in several movies for a production company or an up and coming director – regardless of the quality of the script. In situations like this, the favor is greater than the desire to only act in the best possible productions.

This story is about the game Hangman and a serial killer who hangs his victims and then decorates the crime scene with the hangman game – adding a new letter from the last name of each victim with each new murder. Many of the scenes are unnecessarily gruesome and there are not nearly enough twists and turns to make this movie interesting enough to recommend. I do not agree with the 5% consensus on Rotten Tomatoes, giving this film now on Netflix – a low 30% overall rating. If you are a big fan of Al Pacino, Brittany Snow or Karl Urban, then maybe this movie might be worthy of some time during quarantine, but for the rest of us, this one should be missed.

Past Movie Review: Platoon

As most would agree, especially the veterans of World War 2, “Saving Private Ryan”, released in 1998 is by far, the best and most realistic war movie ever made. Some 12 years before Saving Private Ryan, the movie “Platoon” directed by Oliver Stone was considered the best and most realistic war movie of all time. So good in fact that Platoon won the best picture Oscar in 1987 and Oliver Stone won best director.
There are many things that stand out in this film, starting with Charlie Sheen as the lead actor in what turned out to be his best ever movie role, by far. Costars Tom Berenger and Willem Dafoe were nominated for best supporting actor and Sheen was not nominated and in my opinion this was yet another Oscar mistake. The war action was some of the most realistic and horrific that I have seen in any movie battle scenes. Most especially the final jungle battle at night that also included a Vietnamese soldier who ran into a tent with a bomb, blowing up everybody inside. Hand to hand combat as the American forces are overrun by the North Vietnam soldiers during the final battle is some of the most impressive war action ever filmed.
Platoon is still shown on many cable stations and for the few who have never seen this great war movie, I give this film my highest recommendation.

Past Movie Review: The American President

“The American President”, released in 1995 is one of those cable movies that are broadcast frequently over the years because no matter how many times you see this great movie, it still is very entertaining and still relevant.
The American President, directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin, is one of those rare films that is a combination of great dialogue, relevant and believable story, great acting and even romantic comedy all in one. For this film, Sorkin’s dialogue is never over the top, or rapid fire like many of his other great films, including “Molly’s Game”, 2018 and “The Social Network”, 2010. In this movie, people more or less, talk the way normal people talk.
The American President is one of the few serious movie roles in the career of Michael J. Fox, who has several scenes in this film that are at the highest level in his many years as an actor. Micheal Douglass and Annette Benning are both outstanding in their lead roles with Douglass as the President and Benning as a lobbyist pushing for a 20% Global Warming fossil fuels reduction. This is all still very relevant even today. Throughout the story, the politics that included choosing between an anemic crime bill and global warming was always interesting, as the President and the Global Warming lobbyists, led by Benning fight for votes to pass legislation.
1995 is now 25 years ago and The American President has been shown on cable countless times. For those few who have still not seen this very good movie, I highly recommend it and agree with the very high 91% rankings on Rotten Tomatoes.

Past Movie Review: The Blind Side

At the start of the movie “The Blind Side”, released in 2009 a video is shown about one of the worst injuries in the history of the NFL. On November 18, 1985, quarterback Joe Theisman’s career ended when his leg was shattered during a tackle where he was surrounded by several Giant’s linemen, putting his leg into a backwards position that considering the video (see below) it is amazing that he still has this leg . Due to this one horrendous leg injury, the NFL changed; creating the need for offensive linemen who were responsible for protecting the quarterback’s blindside.

The story about the movie The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock is a true story about a homeless man who is taken in by a rich family and eventually adopted. This is one of those movies that if the story were not true, nobody would have green-lighted the screenplay, because nobody would believe that this could ever have happened. The homeless man was Micheal Oher, a huge 300 pound offensive lineman who would eventually make it to the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens and eventually win the Super Bowl with the team in 2013. Were it not for Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, played by Sandra Bullock, Oher would have probably remained homeless for the rest of his life. Oher was raised by a drug addict mother, who was frequently in and out of prison, and despite his huge size and athletic ability he would have never found his true calling as an elite NFL offensive lineman.

In 2008, one year before the release of The Blind Side, Sandra Bullock was known as an actress who had made several good, but never great movies; the best being “Speed”, released in 1994. Most would have thought that she would have continued making mid-level quality movies for the rest of her career, and was not really an Academy Award level actress. Bullock won the best actress Oscar for The Blind Side in 2010, proving that all it takes is one miracle role or opportunity in any career, to prove the critics wrong. Miracles like this one in Bullock’s career are extremely rare and never guaranteed to any actor.

2009 is 11 years ago and Bullock has never gotten a role as good as The Blind Side since, proving once again how rare great acting roles come along for any actor. Just because a well known actor gets one great role, like Julia Roberts in 2000 for “Erin Brockovich”, this never means that lightning will strike twice, regardless of fame or clout. This is also true of the late Mary Tyler Moore who starred in “Ordinary People” in 1980. All movies start with the screenwriter, struggling to write and then re-write a great story that is first noticed by the right people and then, somehow, is made into a movie. This is why great acting roles like The Blind Side are so hard to find, because its not just because of the great writing or great story. It is also about luck and timing.

All the actors in the Blind Side were outstanding, especially the actor Quinton Aaron who played Oher in his first ever movie role. Kathy Bates is also great as the tutor who tries to get Oher’s grades up so he could be accepted into college and Tim McGraw, who plays Leigh Anne’s husband is also outstanding. This film has excellent moments of humor and emotion and I thought was one of the best movies released in 2009. For the few who have never seen The Blind Side, I highly recommend this outstanding movie.


Corona Virus: Global Pandemic

If someone would have asked the best odds maker who ever lived on December 1, 2019, “what are the odds of a global pandemic that in less than 4 months would kill almost 34,000 people, and cause extremely serious damage to the economy of the entire world”, his answer would probably have been, “trillion to 1 odds”. The reason why the odds of something like this happening were so unlikely a short 4 months ago, is because medical advances have been astronomical since the Spanish Flu killed 50 million people in the world, 102 years ago. Medicine has leaped forward since the days of medical treatments that included blood letting. There are agencies, including WHO (The World Health Organization) that were created to prevent viruses like COVID-19 from infecting the world that have been vigilant in preventing viruses like this one.

What we all have right now, is one of the most fast moving and unlikely events in the history of the world.  Almost everyone is either quarantined or staying at home as much as possible. Working from home is now the standard, taxing the internet and servers more than ever before. Who would have ever thought that we would all see every movie theater close?  All gyms are closed, malls are closed, and the phrase “social distancing” the most common phrase. Through it all, there are still people who refuse to follow the common sense edicts that included  avoiding crowds, no doubt causing more people to test positive for this disease.  From the current ongoing pandemic nightmare, the world now is fully aware that it could all end one day. Not from an asteroid or another world war that would involve nuclear weapons, but from a tiny microscopic disease that is measurably more fast moving and deadly than COVID-19.

Against this disaster that has forever changed everything as we knew it before, we have all learned that inevitable losses in the stock market mean nothing against 34,000 people who have died so far and many more thousands who will suffer with this disease in the future. Then add the thousands more who will lose their jobs and businesses that will fail. The entire world is now on the same page. How long will this go on? Will life ever get back to the way it was before this all began?  We all now routinely worry about respirators, lack of hospital supplies and medical professionals. Will we be overwhelmed by this disease beyond the medical resources of countries around the world? For those who have compared this virus to the flu, and claim the media is making too much of this, the alarming growth rate of this virus, mortality rate and the fact that there is no vaccine are the obvious reasons why this is nothing like the flu. This virus has also taught us that we are all the same, regardless of fame, wealth or luck in life. Tom Hanks and his wife have this disease, Prince Charles, Boris Johnson and even Harvey Weinstein have all tested positive. This disease makes no exceptions. Anybody can get it and anybody can die from it.

As far as movies and the loyal readers of this blog, my first thought after all movie theaters have closed was NETFLIX or Amazon prime movies. Unfortunately, I have not found a movie on these two services so far that have inspired me to write another blog entry. Hopefully this will change in the near future and thank you to all who have read any of my movie reviews that I have been compiling for over 5 years.

What else is there to say about this extremely challenging and unusual time in the world other than for all to stay indoors, stay safe and pray that this will all be over soon.

Movie Review: The Way Back

Over the decades since the beginning of the movie industry, many films have been made about alcoholism. Most of these films deal how alcoholism effects the person with this disease and those around them. Fewer movies deal with the reason why the person became an alcoholic in the first place.

The new movie “The Way Back” is about a down and out construction worker Jack Cunningham, played by Ben Affleck who becomes a high school basketball coach, despite being a very heavy drinker. What makes this story great, is because it explains why Jack became a dangerous alcoholic. One reason was because of the problems he had with his father while in high school, when Jack was a great high school basketball player. The other reason is a huge tragedy he shares with his wife Angela, played by Janina Gavankar. Considering the trauma Jack and his wife endured, anyone could easily understand Jack’s problems with alcoholism

The story starts with Jack being hired as the high school basketball coach of same high school where he was the greatest player in team history. At first Jack is very reluctant to take this job, but over time he turns a very bad team with a record of 1-11 into a huge winner. The basketball scenes are outstanding as are the practice sessions, where Jack hammers home the most important basketball concepts, starting with constant trapping and rabid team defense. As with all great stories, nothing is easy, and the twist at the end is very well done. In the history of movies, there has probably never been a better actor to play this part, than Ben Affleck, who has had years of publicized and very severe alcohol problems himself. I agree with many of the critics who believe this is the best acting performance of Affleck’s career. This is a very well done sports movie, one of the best I have ever seen.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie are a very high 87% and I agree with this rating and hope, despite the early release of this film, that Affleck receives a best actor nomination.

Movie Review: Ordinary Love

It is certain that most of us would rather not have any advance notice when its our time to leave this world. Many would probably pay for this privilege, knowing that the fear of knowing they have some kind of terminal illness, might very well be worse than the illness itself. At the top of this list is Cancer, the disease that has both ravaged and terrified the population of the world for centuries.

The new movie “Ordinary Love” is all about Cancer and a couple in their 60’s , Joan, played by Leslie Manville and Tom, played by Liam Neeson coping with Joan finding out that she has breast Cancer. This story is not for the faint of heart because it shows all of the ups and huge downs of being diagnosed with life’s most devastating disease. We all know the main recommended cures; removing body parts and chemo therapy that ravages the human body and reduces the immune system to almost nothing. This barbaric method of treatment can kill cancer cells, but it also kills other cells as well, and this weakening of the body can cause other diseases and bring the cancer back in the future. Then add the constant worries that include, “will the insurance company cover this treatment?”.

It is so hard to believe that after many years and trillions of dollars of research, that a real cure to Cancer has still never been found. Considering the world wide economy that includes cancer treatment, does the world ever really want to cure this dreaded disease, considering the financial loss? Most difficult to watch are scenes where Joan and Tom are the waiting for test results or encouraging news, followed by bad news, then nausea, loss of hair and non stop terror caused by this terrible disease. The worry and the terror weakens any person as much as the Cancer itself.

Ordinary Love is one of the very few non-action movies that Liam Neeson has made in the last 15 years, and his performance in this real-life movie as well as Leslie Manville is outstanding. I agree with the very high 93% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and strongly recommend this well acted movie.

Movie Review: The Invisible Man

The last invisible man movie I remember seeing was “Hollow Man” in 2000 starring Kevin Bacon. The idea in that film was changing the body chemically to make the skin and all internal organs and skeleton translucent. The problem with this approach was; the drug Bacon’s character was taking to make him invisible also made him insane.

For “The Invisible Man”, the body suit that the scientist invents with thousands of small cameras that absorb light is a much more believable science, no matter how far-fetched. There is some good trick photography demonstrated here, along with some very well done action scenes.

Overall, I thought the story was well told, and the acting well done by everybody, with some excellent twists and turns at the end. The lead actor of The Invisible Man is Elisabeth Moss who plays the wife of her abusive scientist husband who invents this incredible technology and then terrorizes his wife after she runs away.

I thought this was a solid thriller, with a rating of about 80%, not the 90% I am seeing on Rotten Tomatoes. I do recommend this film.


Movie Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

As a movie blogger, based on a very high opinion poll on Rotten Tomatoes, sometimes I am obligated to see a movie that I ordinarily would not see.

The movie “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” has 98% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, so out of curiosity, and even though it has subtitles, I decided to see it. This movie is about a woman in her early 30’s who paints portraits of three other women who are living with her. One woman is older, another who is her age and another in her mid teens. Other than that, there is no story, no direction, no plot and no reason to understand why this non-movie was ever made. I have no idea why the ratings are so high, other than the well done photography of a surrounding ocean, house and cliff, somewhere in France.

For this film, I decided to leave early because the mindless boredom was so unbearable. As I left the theater I thought of a purpose for this very bad movie, with no story. One day while on cable, it could cure insomnia for hundreds of thousands of people, who just cannot get to sleep. Run from this extremely boring waste of two hours.