Movie Review: Replicas

The problem with all science fiction movies like “Replicas” is that you have to forgo any level of common sense to buy into the plot. For instance, there is technology that might be doable 500 or 1000 years from now, but people are driving around in cars that are from today. There is software and AI with a user interface that uses holograms – extremely far fetched and unnecessary for this story. At first the idea is to transfer the contents of a human brain from someone who has just died into a the computer brain of a robot, only to change all of this later in the movie to transfer the contents of one human brain into another human brain – a completely new and much higher level of technology. This idea seemed like it came out of the 30th re-write when they realized that having robots that were the cloned children and wife of the scientist Will Foster, played by Keanu Reeves would not make any sense. For the sake of the audience, you cannot change the technology of a science fiction movie on the fly to make up for mistakes in the screenplay. There is a level of far-fetched for this film that gets idiotic very quickly and it has happened many times before with other movies like this one. Like most Hollywood Science fiction movies, Replicas degrades into a formulaic series of chase scenes and an ending that was even more outlandish than the rest of the story.

The actress Alice Eve plays Keanu Reeves wife and I thought that the acting was overall good in this movie. The car accident that caused the death of Will Foster’s entire family was rather intense and hard to watch and you cannot help to think how anyone would survive losing their entire family in a car accident.

It is no surprise that this movie has a very low 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the reasons are all the same – its just too ridiculous and does not make enough sense to be a viable and intelligent science fiction movie. For these reasons I cannot recommend Replicas.


Movie Review: A Dog’s Way Home

Someday, someone will do a study on how many dogs or cats are rescued from shelters or adopted after a movie like “A Dog’s Way Home” comes out. Over the years we have all heard about dogs that have gone through a miracle journey of hundreds or even thousands of miles to find their way back to their owner. Despite this, this story is not a true one and I thought that a better movie could have been made with a true story. This is a good movie about a Dog who gets separated from its owner and finds its way home and along the way goes through several hellish and depressing experiences. The worst part of this journey was when he wound up with a homeless man played by the actor Edward James Olmos – a part I would have left out of this movie. The dog also befriends a mountain lion and I thought that a flaw in this movie was the poorly rendered CGI for the mountain lion that looked very fake.

Several good things stand out about this film, starting with the incredible loyalty of dogs, who will go through anything to be with their owners. Where this level of loyalty and love comes from with mans best friend is one of the best things about owning a dog. As with most movies about pets, the downside of shelters and the realities of laws about controlling animal population comes up. The law in this movie is that Pit Bulls are outlawed in the Denver Colorado area, the reasons for this rather obvious due to the extremely severe damage a dog like this can cause with the strength of its bite.

This movie stars the actress Ashley Judd, who for several years after her extremely hot career in the 1990’s has been making movies like this one, forgoing a return to the big movie star status she had about 15 years ago. This movie is not for the younger children as some of the scenes would probably be too intense, but for any child over 13 I would say its an acceptable family movie.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is only 60%, I would give this an average 70% rating due to some of the flaws, but overally I do recommend A Dog’s Way Home.

Movie Review: On the Basis of Sex

The new movie “On the Basis of Sex” is not really a biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but instead in the first 1/3 of this film shows Ginsberg’s early college years at Harvard Law School as a married woman with a child, her husband Martin Ginsberg played very well by actor Armie Hammer. Most impressive about Ruth Ginsberg in her college years is that due to her husbands cancer diagnosis, she attended all of his law classes as well as her own, to keep him on schedule with his law degree. Not only did she graduate Harvard, help her husband and raise a young child, but she also finished first in her graduating class. Despite her great accomplishments at Harvard, she faced nothing but condescending discrimination in the New York City job market, because she was a woman. Eventually, her only alternative was to become a law professor because she had no other offers from any law firm. While watching this movie it was easy to understand the extreme anger Ginsberg must have faced after so many years of never getting what she rightfully deserved.

What I thought was unusual about this film is that the the remaining part of this story is about an obscure legal case in Colorado involving a single man and caretaker for his mother, was denied a tax write off. The only reason for this tax deduction denial was because he was a man and the reason for this was the title of caretaker always implied a woman. Amazingly this obscure case was the first landmark and the beginning of a whole series of supreme court arguments for equal rights championed by Ginsberg. Over many years the discrimination of women within unfair and outdated laws were overturned. I thought the idea to center almost this entire movie on this one case and the background and arguments leading to the final trial was unusual, but effective. The ending scenes and arguments to the Colorado Supreme Court was very impressive with some great acting by Felicity Jones who played Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In my opinion Jones should receive an Academy Award nomination for best actress, but unfortunately due to no nomination for the Golden Globe, this is probably unlikely.

The Rotten Tomatoes reviews for On the Basis of Sex are a very surprisingly average 71%. I would give this movie at least an 85% and I give this film a strong recommendation.

Movie Review: The Upside

Kevin Hart is one of the better stand up comedians to come up in the last 20 years, his story telling ability and comedic rythym and confidence are some of the best skills I have ever seen, including even Richard Pryor. Hart is one of the very few who have parlayed his stand up success as a stand up into acting in comedy movies. With the exception of Hart’s stand up comedy movies, most of the other films he has made (with the possible exception of Jumanji), have been for the most part not good enough to show Hart’s talent.

The new film “The Upside” with Nicole Kidman and Bryan Cranston is Hart’s first mostly serious role and the difference with this movie is – the quality of the screenplay. The Upside is a true story of a wealthy man played by Cranston who become paraplegic due to a hang glider accident – and hires an x-con who had no experience as a care taker. I thought the contrasting realities and the questions that arise from this were extremely well done. Is it worse to be unable to move for the rest of your life, or dirt poor and an x-con with no chance of ever getting any decent job? When you think about it, despite the unlimited wealth – the majority of human beings in this world would choose to be able to move, even if that meant that they would be extremely poor and perhaps even homeless.

I thought the acting in this movie was extremely well done and for the first time Hart showed that he can be a very good serious actor in a movie. What makes no sense to me are the very low numbers on Rotten Tomatoes, only 33% and only a 3.8 rating on IMDB. I can only conclude that these unfair and inaccurate low ratings are a direct result of Kevin Hart’s recent controversy with the Oscars and his apology for comments he made in 2011. All of this is unfair to bash a movie that is overall very good, based on comments that were made in a Tweet so many years ago that Hart has already apologized for several times.

I give The Upside a solid 80% rating and I do recommend it. In this case, the critics are definitely wrong.

Movie Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

The movie “If Beale Street Could Talk” is set in Harlem in the 1970’s. The story is simple and commonplace and about a young black couple of 22 and 19 who find out they are about to have a baby followed closely by the extreme contrast of two families reacting to such unexpected news.

The simplicity of this story then slowly changes into racial injustice – a major problem now, but much worse in the 1970’s. The question this movie makes you ask yourself is, would I rather be dead than in prison for something I did not do? Considering the realities of prison and for a long period of time, my guess that a high percentage of us would choose death – most especially if they were completely innocent. This story makes all of think about how many innocent people have been incarcerated over so many years just because they are black or poor and living in the wrong neighborhood at the exact wrong time. Politics, racism, incompetent lawyers who just don’t care and just plain horrible injustice has ruined more productive lives than can ever be counted. Many of us have been victims of injustice in our lives, our jobs or by circumstance but when your young and black and surrounded by poverty and racist police officers, this movie depicts a level of injustice that is unbearable and foreign to anyone who is not poor, black and living in hellish conditions.

The story of If Beale Street Could Talk was originally a novel written by James Baldwin and now made into a very good movie by Barry Jenkins who also directed the Academy Award winning film, “Moonlight”.

The acting in this movie is outstanding, starting with KiKi Layne, Stephan James and Regina King. If Beale Street Could Talk has already been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Drama and will very likely receive and Academy Award as best picture as well. This film is very high quality and I do recommend it.

Movie Review: Holmes and Watson

When I saw the extremely low 8% review ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and 3.4 on IMDB for “Holmes and Watson” I made the mistake of thinking that because Will Ferrell was in this movie that it could not be that bad. Unfortunately, this movie is that bad and one of the worst comedy movies I have ever seen.

In the over 43 years since Saturday Night Live premiered on NBC in 1975 most will argue that Will Ferrell was one of the best cast members to ever appear on that show. Unfortunately, being a great performer and very funny on a ensemble show like Saturday Night Live does not mean this will result in funny movies in your acting future. Other than the two Anchorman movies, the first one being the best one of the two, Will Ferrell has made very few funny movies in this career.

Ferrell is one of the very few comedy actors in history who can made an audience laugh just with his eyes or a sudden change of a facial expression alone, the other actor being the late John Candy. Where are the comedy screenwriters who can write something great for Ferrell? It has happened once before with Anchorman, why cant this happen again? If I were Will Ferrell I would hold off on ever making another bad comedy movie again, because too many of movies like Holmes and Watson and his career in movies could be over.

Like all bad comedy movies I have seen over the years, and there have been many, nobody laughed at any point in this film. I was looking at my watch, counting the minutes until it was all over. Why a script like this was made into a movie – is anyone’s guess, but perhaps a favor was involved or some kind of a barter or payoff.

This movie teams Ferrell up again with the actor John C. Reilly, the last movie they made was Stepbrothers in 2008. Reilly and Ferrell do have some chemistry, but that was not nearly enough to save this very bad film.

In this case, the critics are right, Holmes and Watson should be missed by all.

Movie Review: Welcome to Marwen

Best Motion Picture – Drama

“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“If Beale Street Could Talk”
“A Star Is Born”

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

“Crazy Rich Asians”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book”
“Mary Poppins Returns”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama>

Glenn Close (“The Wife”)
Lady Gaga (“A Star Is Born”)
Nicole Kidman (“Destroyer”)
Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)
Rosamund Pike (“A Private War”)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”)
Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”)
Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased”)
Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)
John David Washington (“BlackKklansman”)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Emily Blunt (“Mary Poppins Returns”)
Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”)
Elsie Fisher (“Eighth Grade”)
Charlize Theron (“Tully”)
Constance Wu (“Crazy Rich Asians”)

Best Director

Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”)
Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)
Peter Farrelly (“Green Book”)
Spike Lee (“BlackKklansman”)
Adam McKay (“Vice”)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Christian Bale (“Vice”)
Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Mary Poppins Returns”)
Vigo Mortensen (“Green Book”)
Robert Redford (“The Old Man and the Gun”)
John C. Reilly (“Stan and Ollie”)

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

Amy Adams (“Vice”)
Claire Foy (“First Man”)
Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)
Emma Stone (“The Favourite”)
Rachel Weisz (“The Favourite”)

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture

Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”)
Timothee Chalamet (“Beautiful Boy”)
Adam Driver (“BlackKklansman”)
Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)
Sam Rockwell (“Vice”)

Best Original Score in a Motion Picture

Marco Beltrami (“A Quiet Place”)
Alexandre Desplat (“Isle of Dogs”)
Ludwig Göransson (“Black Panther”)
Justin Hurwitz (“First Man”)
Marc Shaiman (“Mary Poppins Returns”)

Best Original Song in a Motion Picture

“All the Stars” (“Black Panther”)
“Girl in the Movies” (“Dumplin'”)
“Requiem for a Private War” (“A Private War”)
“Revelation” (“Boy Erased”)
“Shallow” (“A Star Is Born”)

Best Screenplay in a Motion Picture

Barry Jenkins (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)
Adam McKay (“Vice”)
Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)
Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara (“The Favourite”)
Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga, Brian Currie (“Green Book”)

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language

“Never Look Away”

Best Animated Film

“Incredibles 2”
“Isle of Dogs”
“Ralph Breaks the Internet”
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

Movie Review: Mary Poppins Returns

The central story of the 1964 Disney Classic “Mary Poppins” is about a single father whose wife has recently died and who then has forgotten to make mortgage payments for 3 months and now faces losing his house, despite having to raise two children on his own. The callous inhumanity shown by the bankers in this story has nothing to do with fantasy or dancing and singing and everything to do with the the harsh reality of life and money.

For many people of a certain age, they will remember Mary Poppins as the very first movie they have ever seen in a movie theater, myself included. Given the great quality of the original, I thought this remake was extremely unnecessary. Despite never being a fan of musicals, most of the story here is quite boring with a film that is too long and with music that was not nearly good enough as the original. This could be a film that is enjoyable for young children younger than 12 years old but for everyone else, it drags on into uninteresting scenes that seem disjointed with a constantly overcast and rainy sky typical of London, reminding all of us that we would never want to live there.

The star of this film, Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda are both good in their roles, with some Oscar buzz for Blunt so it is unfortunate that this was not a better movie.

I recommend Mary Poppins Returns only for young children, but this version should be skipped in favor of renting the original Mary Poppins, which is a far better movie.

Movie Review: Vice

The new movie “Vice” Directed by Adam McKay rings very similar to his other film “The Big Short” with its use of extremely unusual and never seen before movie ideas. For instance this movie starts rolling the end of movie credits in the middle of the film, in an attempt to be funny because the audience knows the movie is not over and what was going to happen next. Numerous flashbacks throughout the life and career of Dick Chaney, played extremely well by Christian Bale, try to enhance the viewing experience by surprising and tricking the audience. I thought a very simple point in the movie where Cheney was standing at the entrance of what was going to be his office as the Vice President flashing back to where it all began was extremely well done. In my opinion just about all of these new ideas worked in this movie like they did in The Big Short that was released in 2015, which was a great movie about the 2008 Financial Crisis.

As the story of Vice unfolds it uncovers what everybody knows who has followed politics and Cheney’s career have always suspected. Cheney was really the president during the Bush administration from 2001-2009 and George Bush was mostly a figurehead and even as this story makes clear, a buffoon. The problem is, the United States did not elect Dick Cheney to be President, we elected George W. Bush.

There are many references to the 911 attacks on September 11, 2001, even at the very start of this movie. There are several scenes that suggest that Cheney was in charge of the country during the 911 crisis and making all the critical decisions including the orders to shoot down any plane that might seem to be threatening the United States. The scenes involving decisions about the Iraq war point out what many also thought about this unjust conflict – the Bush administration thought that the people of the United States wanted revenge after 911 and Iraq was the country we used to get even. To achieve the end result of an invasion of Iraq in March 2003, they conducted interviews with American citizens and collected data from polls. This culminated with a speech that Colon Powell, played by Tyler Perry, gave to the United Nations citing “weapons of mass destruction”. Powell later called this speech that essentially green-lighted the Iraq war, the most difficult thing he has ever had to do. There are many suggestions that Dick Cheney profited very well when Halliburton, the company that he was formerly the CEO, gained tremendously from the Iraq war including the stock rising 500% during this period.

If there is any flaw in this movie it was about not showing the missing years where Cheney rose from being a hopeless drunk who was thrown out of Yale, to the White House where he eventually held many important jobs, then Vice President and in between became the CEO of Halliburton. I think this was a very important part of Cheney’s life story and it should not have been left out. This movie also shows several scenes where George W. Bush was himself a hopeless drunk even embarrassing himself at a party where Cheney and his wife Lynne Cheney, played very well by Amy Adams, attended. There are many scenes about Cheney’s frequent heart problems even putting him in a hospital about to die because they could at the time, not find a heart donor. In my opinion, there should be Academy Award nominations for this movie, Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Steve Carell who played Donald Rumsfeld.

I was surprised at the relatively low ratings for Vice on Rotten Tomatoes at only 66% because I thought this movie should be given a solid 90% and as a result I give a solid recommendation to Vice. I am sure that both Dick Cheney and George W. Bush will not have this high of an opinion as it paints a pretty bleak picture about both of them.

Movie Review: Aquaman

There are many tell-tale signs that you’re in a theater watching a bad movie. People are constantly getting up to go to the bathroom, or to buy food to distract themselves. In my case I was happy I have my cell phone to look at something – or anything other than this 2 hours and 20 minutes of what amounts to a mess. Its obvious that in the end all of the DC Comic and Marvel super hero’s will eventually be made into a movie – but this is the worst super hero movie I have seen yet. There is a disconnected convoluted story and once again, when there is no good screenplay, the workaround is huge special effects, fight scenes and explosions. What is worse is that this bad movie is way too long, well over 2 hours. Why drag on a bad movie? Give the audience a break before there is a mass rush for the exits. This bad film seems to be making money, only because its a new Super Hero Comic movie, so unfortunately there will probably be a sequel.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Aquaman are an average 64% – way too high in my opinion. I would have given this movie about a 10% rating. This movie stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard and even Nicole Kidman, who makes appearances in the beginning and end of this film. The question I asked myself when I saw Kidman in this movie was, why?

Run from this worst ever Comic Super Hero movie, its not worth 1 hour of your time, much less almost 2 1/2 hours.