Movie Review: BlacKkKlansman

It is no accident that the new Spike Lee movie “BlacKkKlansman” is now released almost a year to the day of the White Nationalist Rally in Charlottesville Virginia. There are references to President Trump in this movie as well as several disturbing videos at the end about the racial incident in Charlottesville, where one woman died after being hit by a car that was driven by a White Nationalist. Much of the dialogue is highly disturbing with the frequent use of the N word and so other horrendous racial language. The depiction of the members of the Klu Klux Klan is highly accurate with their pathetic lack of intelligence and overwhelming all consuming hatred of every other human being who is not white and Christian. Fundamentally this level of life-long hatred is derived from an extreme lack of intelligence and an ongoing generational passing down of idiocy that seems to have no end – as we were all reminded of last August in Charlottesville.

Surprisingly, despite the disturbing images of hatred, this movie has its share of humorous moments as well, in an attempt by Spike Lee to try and diffuse the non stop bigotry and hate, which over a long two hours can become overwhelming. This movie stars the son of actor Denzel Washington, John David Washington, who has some huge shoes to fill as a film actor, but in this movie does an outstanding job playing the lead character. Washington plays police officer Ron Stallworth who in 1972 was able to fool representatives of the Klu Klux Klan and was signed on as a member. Another white police officer, played by Adam Driver shared the undercover responsibilities and they both walked a precarious line within a very dangerous organization and ultimately were able to prevent the bombing of local black neighborhood.

I thought Lee did his best work both in directing and casting many of the pathetic idiots who make up the group of Klan members who sit around all day, drink beer and use foul racial language attempting to make themselves feel better about being a bunch of incredible losers. The level of hate and stupidity depicted in this movie is difficult to sit through, and it will be always impossible to believe that lowlife morons like this exist in this or any other country.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for BlacKkKlansman are an extremely high 98% and while I do not agree with a rating this high, I do strongly recommend this movie.


Movie Review: The Meg

The title of the new movie “The Meg” is short for Megalodon, which is a the largest shark that has ever existed and lived millions of years ago and is thought to be extinct.

The way this story brings back this huge shark I thought was well done, but after the shark comes back to terrorize and kill almost everybody in this movie – some of the logistics due to the decisions the characters make to try and kill or escape this shark are some of the stupidest I have ever seen. What makes making a new shark movie so difficult is that it has to be something we have not seen before – and this idea is new. Then the story has to make sense, but for this movie any level of plausibility is thrown out the window within the first 30 minutes. One scene that stood out for me as one of the dumbest ever was when one professional diver played by Jason Statham makes an idiotic decision to go into the water with a 70 foot shark – in an attempt to spear him with a tracking dart. He decides to do this after a scientist says to him, “sharks are not threatened by one person in the water”. The problem here is a total lack of common sense in an attempt to create a dramatic moment. Nobody would ever do something this stupid, no way, never. There are so many idiotic decisions like this from too many characters to make this film enjoyable enough to recommend. If a movie makes no sense because the decisions of the characters are so absurd – then the whole story dies.

This movie probably marks the first time that Jason Statham has ever been in a role where he did not use his impressive Karate skills. Statham is also the only named star in this movie and the only other standout actress, who I thought was the best part of this entire movie is actress Shuya Sophia Cai – who is just about the cutest child I have ever seen in any movie. Her presence just about steals the entire story about a prehistoric shark that comes back to life. Anyone who has seen the 1975 first summer blockbuster will recognize about 3 references to Jaws – including a dog named Pippin.

The ending of this story has the usual expected attempt at a twist that really did not work and surprisingly I thought the special effects were probably the result of a budget that was not high enough for impressive special effects.

The Rotten Tomatoes review of this movie is an anemic 50%. For me, mostly because of the idiotic decisions of the characters in this movie – to create drama, I cannot recommend The Meg.

Movie Review: Dog Days

The new movie “Dog Days” is another screenplay that follows the “Gary Marshall” paradigm of having about 10 stories in one script that loosely connect together. This multi-story concept is kind of like fishing with dynamite. The idea is, to have as many stories as possible because if 2 or 3 of them work then the movie will make money and become a success. The common thread throughout this story is dogs and for those who see this film, some will want to get a dog and others will not – mainly because of the constant barking of more than a few of them during the 2 hours. The barking issue and having to get up in the morning and walk your dog is a major commitment for anyone who is not a big dog lover. I for one do not like the constant barking, which is why I am more of a cat person.

As far as the many stories of this film, I thought some of them worked and some of them did not. Towards the end there were several emotional moments that were very well done and for me was enough to give this movie a mild recommendation. Dog Days stars Vanessa Hudgens Eva Longoria and Nina Dobrev as the only well known actors and they do enough good acting carry the series of about 10 stories.

Overall I give Dog Days a mild recommendation – despite the Garry Marshall mass produced story.

Movie Review: The Spy who Dumped Me

One problem with this movie right from the start is the title – trying too hard to be funny. “The Spy who Dumped Me” is a reference to the movie “The Spy Who Loved me” starring Roger Moore from 1977. As soon as any movie tries too hard to be funny it will fail as a comedy and unfortunately most of the one-liners in this story from Kate McKinnon fall flat because they seem like she is trying too hard to be funny – and that never works.

What everyone has learned in the last 43 years is how rare it has been where a cast member of Saturday Night Live has gone on to be a huge success in the movie business. The obvious rare exceptions to this are Eddie Murphy who was a major success in 48 hours, Beverly Hills Cop and Trading Places. John Belushi’s break out role was in Animal House and The Blues Brothers with Dan Aykroyd. Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd were a big hit with the Ghost Busters franchise and Chevy Chase had some early hits with Fletch and a few Vacation movies. Since those early years getting a huge breakout role from SNL – has not really happened since then and this is despite having some extremely talented cast members: Kate McKinnon and Kristen Wiig being two of all time best. The problem is that being extremely successful on a show like SNL does not necessarily translate into a great movie role. A great movie role has more to do with a great idea, great writer and luck than anything else. This is the first co-starring role for McKinnon and while there were some flashes of brilliance from her in this movie, the screenplay was not nearly as as good as she deserves.

As far as this film I thought the story was too “all over the place” and trying to hard to not only be funny but different. Different is great, but not if trying to be different makes the story ridiculous.

Kate McKinnon’s co-star Mila Kunis was good in her role and she has been very likable in all the movies I have seen her in – but unfortunately the script for this movie should have had about 20 more re-writes before it was green-lighted.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this film are a low 37% and I agree with this rating and I do not recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Eighth Grade

The CEO of Spanx, Sara Blakely recently made a statement, “I have to get better at not caring about what other people think”. This comment from a self made billionaire is one of the key ingredients to winning in life and being successful. Unfortunately, when you’re 13 years old and about to go to high school, caring about what other people think is your entire world. When you are 13 years old and the early stages of adolescence all you care about are the opinions of other kids in your age group. Most of this need to be accepted is an innate part of growing up, the other part of this is the extreme fear of being made fun of, of feeling like you will never belong, as if you are not as good as everyone else – an outcast, a freak.

Age 13 has always been a very tough time in anyone’s life but today, with cell phones, the internet, email and social media – its exponentially much harder, so difficult that bullying causing suicide is a common story in the news. Age 13 is especially difficult for adolescent girls who have to tolerate the subtle cruelty of other girls who can destroy another girl with one nasty look, eye roll or well placed debilitating comment during a lunch hour. This form of bullying where one individual can give themselves a temporary high by totally destroying another person is a fundamental evil in far too many young people – and adults.

What is most impressive about the new movie “Eighth Grade” is its realism about how difficult it is to be 13 years old in today’s world. I saw no evidence of acting in this movie, most especially with the lead actress Elsie Fisher, who in my opinion should receive and Academy Award nomination for best actress this year. Elsie plays Kayla who is the child of a single father and she has bad skin, is a little overweight and is terrified of not fitting in with everyone else. One scene that stood out the most was a phone call that Kayla gets from an older girl who is trying to help her get ready for high school and Kayla cannot stop pacing during the call – because her nervousness over the importance of this one call is so profound. Why do so many of us put so much weight on what people think of us? What makes the random opinion of someone who we don’t even know an important barometer of our self worth? Why is their opinion ever even relevant – have they walked a mile in our shoes? What makes this even worse is the bully’s that frequent this age who feed off the terror of someone feeling like they are not accepted by others and delight in adding fuel to their misery.

Kayla’s father Mark is played extremely well by actor Josh Hamilton, who is desperately trying to understand his only daughter and rescue her from her pain, even though Kayla is too anguished to ever listen to a word her father says. Mark is also raising his daughter as a single father and his wife’s absence is only explained late in the movie as “she left”. I thought the acting with this cast was outstanding.

Eighth Grade has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I agree with this assessment. This film is the most real life depiction of what it is like to be a 13 year old girl about to go to high school that I have ever seen. This movie will make you wonder how you survived when you were 13 years old – realizing that there is a big price to pay for being young especially in today’s world.

Eighth Grade gets my highest recommendation and should receive a best picture nomination.

Movie Review: Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot

There are so many things bad about being an alcoholic – the list is almost endless. The new movie “Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is a true story about just one of many scenario’s that happen to far too many people. The horrendous potential dangers of driving while drunk or in the case of this true story about Cartoonist John Callahan – getting into a car, at age 21 that is driven by someone who is seriously drunk. The result of the car accident was that Callahan was crippled for the rest of his life and wound up in a wheelchair and the driver walked away from the accident with a few scratches. This was despite the fact that the car he was driving was a Volkswagen Beetle and ran into a pole at 90 miles and hour. This movie is a survival story about a man who was an alcoholic most of his life and there are many scenes of Callahan attending Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and trying to get through a 12 step recovery program.

This low budget movie was written and directed by the great director Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) and is based on a book written by John Callahan. The acting in this film that included Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara and Jack Black was outstanding and I have always been impressed at the career decision of Joaquin Phoenix to only make low budget high quality movies for far less money.

This story is about a very depressing list of subjects including alcoholism and trying to recover from losing your ability to walk and take care of yourself. One cannot help but put themselves into the position of John Callahan who knew at age 21 that he would never walk again. Many people would commit suicide when facing something this horrendous at such a young age. This story is about survival, rationalization, trying to heal and understand why someone drinks to escape unbearable pain – in this case of Callahan his mother abandoned him as a child. Much of this was difficult to watch, but in the end the story was extremely well told.

Throughout this film, some of Callahan’s cartoons were shown – some of the better ones were:

“Two Ku Klux Klansmen heading out at night in their white sheets. Says one: “Don’t you love it when they’re still warm from the dryer?”

“A beggar in the street wearing a sign that reads, “Please help me. I am blind and black, but not musical.”

“A sign in the window of a small, street-side restaurant says: “The Anorexic Cafe, Now Closed 24 Hours a Day!”

I thought this film was a high quality low budget movie worthy of a great director like Gus Van Sant and I recommend it.

Movie Review: Mission Impossible – Fallout

The only problem with an action movie that was this well made is the danger in making it so spectacular and the belief that in the next movie, dangerous stunts and action scenes can be made even more amazing than the previous film. It has been a forgone conclusion for many years now that there is no doubt that Tom Cruise is by far the best stuntman in the history of film making. For reasons that can only be attributed to some kind of a brain abnormality – Tom Cruise has no fear of anything. This one abnormality may one day kill Tom Cruise while making an action film. The thought of “Its only a movie” seems to not be part of Cruise’s thought process.

In the latest Mission Impossible, “Mission Impossible – Fallout”, Cruise sky dives out of a plane at 25,000 feet, he climbs up a rope to a Helicopter, only to fall and save himself on a giant ball the Helicopter is carrying. He rides a motorcycle through dangerous streets in Paris France with no helmet and then crashes into a car and flies over the car. He flies a Helicopter at very low altitudes and at top speed, and very dangerous stunt flying. In this movie he broke his ankle and considering all the risks he took making this movie and all the takes (the sky diving scene took 106 takes) he is very lucky to be alive. Many have said recently about this 6th Mission Impossible movie that Tom Cruise must have a death wish and after seeing this incredible film – I agree with this assessment. Tom Cruise is worth close to 600 million dollars and he will be 56 this month. He has nothing more to prove – so why he or anyone like him would take risks like this makes no sense. With today’s technology using computers can create extremely realistic special effects and any number of stunt men could have done most or all of the action sequences that Cruise insisted on doing himself in this movie. So the question is, why does Cruise insist on risking his life so many times? Its not just the strong possibility of dying while making a movie – what about being crippled for life or a paraplegic from the neck down – which for someone like Tom Cruise would be worse than getting killed. One can only wonder the cost of hiring an insurance company to insure a movie like this one when the main star insists on doing all the most dangerous stunts himself.

As far as this film, I thought it was the best of the 6 Mission Impossible movies right above Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol that was released in 2012 and in that movie Cruise ran down a rope on the tallest building in the world. This is the first Mission Impossible movie that has a direction continuation of the previous one and I thought the story, which at times was a little far fetched was extremely well done and kept my attention for the entire 2 1/2 hours. This movie probably contains more dangerous and impressive action scenes in the entire history of film making.

With the exception of Jeremy Renner who starred in the last two Mission Impossible films this new film has all the regular characters, played by Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg, Alec Baldwin, Angela Basset, Michelle Monaghan and newcomer Henry Cavill and all were outstanding in their roles.

This film is one of the best, if not the best of the entire year and considering the work involved, the great directing and incredible action sequences – should be nominated for best picture, but probably will not be because its not the kind of a movie that the Academy nominates – unfortunately.

Mission Impossible – Fallout gets my highest recommendation.

Movie Review: Unfriended: Dark Web

The new movie “Unfriended: Dark Web” seems to be another part of a new trend in the movie industry – Social Media Horror Movie. I have seen another movie like this as well, where the entire film takes place online, within Facebook, Google Email, Skype and other social media sites. The concept with this movie is that there are criminals selling and buying snuff videos were people are being murdered and a group of friends in their mid-20’s somehow, through a laptop that was bought on Craigslist – get into a great deal of trouble.

Despite the fact that all the acting in this movie is 100% online and we only see the actors faces – I thought the acting was quite good, and the story while very convoluted and in some areas completely implausible was well written. The entire cast is composed of newcomers, all of whom hope that they have a career in Hollywood and we all have to start somewhere.

Overall, I give Unfriended, the Dark Web a marginal recommendation.

Movie Review: Equalizer 2

Most of us like movies like the Equalizer and the sequel “Equalizer 2” because we want real life to work out like the way fictional life plays out in movies like this one. The hero evens the score and makes sure that the lowlife, the murderers and kidnappers pay a price for who they are and what they do to good people. We like to see this because justice like this is more than often, not the way real life plays out. Far too often the lowlife and the criminals in the world escape retribution and do not pay a commensurate price for what they do to other people. Movies are an escape from reality but for two hours I thought Equalizer 2 was a well done escape into a world where the good guy makes the criminals pay dearly for what they have done.

The acting of Danzel Washington in this movie was outstanding and he is outstanding in everything that he does. I thought this movie was on a par with the original that was released in 2014 – and I was very surprised with the anemic score of only 51% on Rotten Tomatoes – I give this film a solid 80%. Some of the action scenes are rather far-fetched with the incredible speed that Washington’s character dispatches so many bad guys and at time the story was rather slow and predicatable, but overall I give Equalizer 2 a very solid positive recommendation.

Movie Review: Three Identical Strangers

This movie is a documentary about a story that is so unlikely that if it was pitched as a movie, no studio would buy it – because nobody would believe it could happen.

The good news here is that this 2 hour documentary does hold your attention and the story is told in such a way that new and in some cases very surprising things happen that come out of nowhere and this even involves a government study that under the circumstances should have been prevented because it is illegal.

The three men who are subject if this film are identical triplets who were born on July 12, 1961 and later adopted about 6 months after they were born. How they discover each other is how the movie starts and is a very unlikely story. Soon after they find each other, they become Nationally famous, especially in the New York area – appearing on many talk shows – although I do not remember them from 30 years ago when this first happened.

This documentary has very high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes – 95%, and despite the very interesting story I thought this movie would have been better suited as a cable TV movie rather than a mainstream release.

Three Identical Strangers is a very well done documentary and I do recommend it.