Movie Review: Where’s My Roy Cohn

The new documentary, “Where’s My Roy Cohn” is about the late Roy Cohn, arguably the most criminal and corrupt lawyer in the history of the United States. Despite his years of lying, stealing and destroying other people (including the Joseph McCarthy hearings in the 1950’s), he had many celebrity friends, including even Barbara Walters, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. All of them turned their back on him, after he was disbarred after years of corruption in the legal profession. Cohn was disbarred in part, for getting a wealthy dying man on his death bed, to sign over his property so Cohn could steal his money as his executor. It later turned out that the man’s signature was not only invalid, but nothing but a series of illegible lines.

Roy Cohn was a genius, with a photographic memory and an extremely high IQ. Despite this, he turned his powerful mind into wrecking the lives of other people rather than helping others. This documentary, like the recent movie “Joker” does a very good job not only showing the bad things Roy Cohn did in his life, but also why he became the hateful and despicable person he was. People become who they are for reasons, and it is never enough just to show the end result of anything. Cohn even became the lawyer to the Mafia, including even John Gotti, one time getting him a reduced sentence of 2 years for murdering someone in broad daylight in front of many witnesses.

The story about Roy’s mother was that she was so unattractive that her family had to promise a Judgeship to a local lawyer so he would marry her. Roy was an only child, who was spoiled and doted on by his mother, turning him into a selfish and mean child, who was smart enough to graduate from Columbia Law school when he was only 20 years old. Roy was very short and ugly man who was gay, but considering the time he lived could never admit he was gay. In fact, Cohn never admitted he was gay even days before he died of AIDS at age 59 in 1986. Roy’s vicious and attacking legal style attracted the likes of Donald Trump who considered Cohn his mentor, adopting many of his tactics to win legal judgement’s including getting away with not paying hundreds of Polish Immigrants who helped to build the Trump Tower in New York City in 1983.

While watching this documentary, it became easier to understand Cohn’s angry and vicious personality. Many of us have encountered in our personal lives or at work, people like Roy Cohn. People who are bitter about the way they look, and in the case of Cohn, having to hide being gay to save his career. People like Roy Cohn turn their anger outward and derive pleasure from damaging other people and for a time, make themselves feel temporarily better about their own miserable reality.

I agree with the very high rating for this documentary of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and highly recommend this film.

Movie Review: Gemini Man

“Gemini Man” is yet another sad example of special effects over a great screenplay. The special effects for Gemini Man are almost entirely about a new technology called “Face swapping AI”, where any person’s face can be superimposed on top of someone else’s image. This technology will also be used for the new Martin Scorsese film “The Irishman” that will be released on November 27th.

For this film, Will Smith is fighting a clone of himself, some 25-30 years younger and for most of this movie, the young Will Smith looks very realistic. Unfortunately, this amazing new effect is almost completely ruined at the very end of the film, when one of the last scenes has the young Will Smith looking very fake. For me, it was hard to believe that the quality of this technology did not follow through all the way to the end of the movie – how could this have been missed?

The problem with this story, accounting for the very low ratings of 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, is that its all about Henry Brogan, played by Will Smith, who is an assassin hired by the CIA and Danny Zakarweski played by Mary Elizabeth Winsted being chased from one part of the world to another for reasons that either made no sense or are too boring to even care about. There is not enough story here and considering the great director Ang Lee – it is hard to believe he read this script and thought it was good enough to make into a movie. It is almost as if Lee thought that the new special effects of using face replacement was enough to make up for a bad screenplay. It was not.

I am sure that Will Smith was hoping for a great movie comeback, but unfortunately this was not the one that is going to return him to the top of the box office. There was nobody in the theater I was in and with the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, this film will probably be out of most theaters by next week. There will never be a substitute for a great story idea, followed by months of hard work creating an equally great screenplay; one of the most difficult of all art forms. I agree with the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and do not recommend this movie.

Movie Review: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

The problem with trying to follow arguably the greatest Television series of all time, “Breaking Bad” is how do you follow perfection and at the same time not tarnish the perfect last episode “Felina” that aired on September 29, 2013.

The reason why “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” works is because Vince Gilligan, the writer and creator of Breaking Bad wrote and directed this movie. Breaking Bad is one of the greatest ideas for a drama series ever created where an average man, Walter White who teaches high school Chemistry slowly becomes a drug king pin, master criminal and murderer due to a series of events that started simply and exploded into out of control insanity. Throughout the entire Breaking Bad series, Gillian kept the tension at a very high level and constantly surprised the audience with many shocking scenes that have never been attempted before. The critics consensus is that Breaking Bad is the greatest TV show ever produced and I am in full agreement.

This movie follows Jesse Pinkman, played extremely well by Aaron Paul, right after the end of the final episode of Breaking Bad in an El Camino. What follows are a series of well written scenes of a desperate Pinkman who has to find some way of evading the police and somehow start a new life and this is the part of the story that has some connections to the Breaking Bad series. I thought the acting was very good throughout, including all of the new characters in this movie and several of the characters from Breaking Bad who return for this story.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for El Camino are a very high 94% and my rating is about 90%, meaning that this film is very good, but not great like many of the episodes of Breaking Bad.  I highly recommend El Camino.

Movie Review: Joker

For those who think the new movie “Joker” is just another Batman or Batman villain movie, this is not the film for you. Joker is about one thing: “Cause and Effect”. Within almost all films that deal with the criminally insane or a deranged individual who has done something horrible – its all about the act of violence or the aftermath. The movie Joker is about the how and why someone like the Joker becomes criminally insane, which in my experience is something that is extremely rare in any movie. This disturbing story is about a man, Arthur Fleck whose life is a total disaster and this includes physical and emotional abuse from thugs,a horrible demeaning job as a clown, co-workers and even his mother. From the depressing and never ending abuse of a life that was never worth living, this story makes it very understandable why someone like the Joker could mutate into a psychopathic killer.  The issue that this excellent but very bleak movie points out is that, all human beings have a breaking point and once that point is reached, the downside is unlimited.

In the history of movies there has probably never been any one character that has delivered an Academy Award to two different actors; in this case the late Health Ledger for “The Dark Knight” in 2008 and for this movie,  Joaquin Phoenix. For Joker, Joaquin has hit a high point in this career with this performance and will definitely win best actor without question.  While seeing this movie I realized that there is no other actor who could have played this part.  As for Health Ledger, the story is that he got so into the role of the Joker in the Dark Knight, that he overdosed on prescription drugs.

The Joker also has a very good performance from Robert Deniro, who plays a talk show host who Arthur Fleck is obsessed with and one of the final scenes between these two characters includes a shocking ending.

The IMDB rating for Joker is an extremely high 9.3 but the Rotten Tomatoes only has an average 70% rating – which in my opinion is wrong. I highly recommend this movie for the brilliant and subtle story telling and the fantastic acting performance of Joaquin Phoenix.

Movie Review: Judy

If there was ever a handbook written to instruct someone who chooses a life in the spotlight, either as a famous singer, actor or social media celebrity it would include the realization that having talent is a small part of the equation of being famous. You also need the courage to stand in front of a huge audience and perform. You need very thick skin to ignore the cruel critics and the hecklers. You need to be able to deal with long periods of time when you are not performing and are either traveling to another performance or killing time in yet another bland and depressing Hotel room. You need to handle your finances and never overspend, or worse, never marry the the wrong person or persons and then lose a fortune in a divorce. In the case of Judy Garland, she was married an incredible 5 times.

None of this has ever been easy for anyone who has tried to make it in show business and for Judy Garland, her career started at the very young age of 2. Then she was handed off to the Hollywood studio system when in the 30’s and 40’s, the big studios owned and manipulated all of their actors like they were commodities. With Judy Garland, these same Hollywood executives also hooked her on drugs, that followed her for the rest of her life. After watching the biopic “Judy” starring Rene Zellweger, I remember thinking that just like Whitney Houston, Judy Garland would have been far better off just being an average singer and actor, rather than the global star she eventually became. The reason is, just like Whitney Houston, Judy Garland was not equipped to deal with the stress and the many downsides of being hugely famous. What good is potential fame and fortune, when you die at a young age?

Almost exactly like Whitney Houston, who died of a drug overdose at age 48, Judy Garland died of a drug overdose at age 47 while in the bathroom of a Hotel room. Both of these two tragic deaths at young ages, could have been avoided if there was someone there who cared enough to manage their careers. The other reason is both women married the wrong men, especially in the case of Garland who married Sydney Luft, who then gambled away a good part of her money.

As far as the movie Judy, the only reason to see it is to see the great performance of Rene Zellweger, who is practically a shoe-in for winning the Academy award this year for best actress. I was surprised at the lack of a real story in Judy as most of this film deals with the last few months of Judy Garland’s life and most specifically with her final series of concerts in London England. There are many scenes showing her erratic performances in London, including some where she was drunk and cursed at the audience. The last few years of Garland’s life were the most difficult due to severe money problems that even included being almost homeless with the two children she had with Sydney Luft.

The high ratings for Judy of 83% on Rotten Tomatoes are exclusively about Zellweger’s performance and not about the mostly dull story, and I agree with this rating and recommend this film.

Movie Review: Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” is a documentary about the life career and great talent of Linda Ronstadt. With all documentaries and movies about a life in show business, depicting the life of a professional singer, whether or not you have enough talent to ever make it, can be extremely daunting. A successful career in show business is all about gambling with your life and if you fail, you will have to live through many difficult years. We always hear about the few who make it who are always prevalent on TV, movies or social media, but we never hear about the thousands who never give up on their dream, travel the world desperately trying to succeed within a field that very often can be impossible to navigate.

The thing about someone like Linda Ronstadt is, her voice was so rare and powerful that there was no way she could not have made it as one of the best female singers of all time. While watching this documentary I could only wonder how she could have sang in so many concerts, recordings and practice for that many years and did not overuse her voice long before it was finally lost when she contracted Parkinson’s disease in August 2013. While watching this documentary, you just cannot help but admire Linda’s work ethic and sacrifice for so many years.

Ronstadt’s family and Mexican heritage was all about singing, and she developed a strong talent and love for music very early in her life. For someone with this level of talent, becoming a singer who travels the world seemed her destiny from birth. Due to her choice to become a famous singer who travels the world, Ronstadt’s personal life suffered and she was never married or had children. Her most publicized relationship was with the Governor of California, Jerry Brown and she was even engaged to director George Lucas. Now 73 years old and suffering with Parkinson’s, Linda Ronstadt can look back on her great career with satisfaction and pride. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

This documentary was very well done and includes appearances of many of Linda Ronstadt’s friends in show business, including Dolly Parton and Bonnie Raitt. I highly recommend this film.

Movie Review: Downton Abbey

The simple logline for “Downton Abbey” is: “A huge Hotel/Mansion in the 1930’s is surprised when the King and Queen of England decide to stay there for a few days”. How an idea this trivial has been made into a 2 hour movie is a mystery to me. There are a few side stories along the way to the coma this film creates and they are all equally boring. Downton Abbey was a TV show that ran from 2011-2016 – a show that I never watched and considering how bad this movie was, I never will. I am at a loss to figure out why this movie has such high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. My only theory is – people are very curious about the lives of Royalty and the extremely wealthy, so it doesn’t matter if there is not much of a story or no story at all.
This movie was a nightmare to sit through that involved constantly checking my watch and even taking the risk of turning on my cell phone. This movie is so boring, with so little story that its almost impossible to even review. In summary, run from this trivial and boring waste of 2 hours.


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.


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.