Past Movie Review: The Company Men

When I saw “The Company Men” six years ago this month, I thought it was one of the best movies I have ever seen about the realities of life, money and working for other people. This film is about injustice and greed and the story can be defined very simply as a CEO of a company, played by Craig T Nelson, who became extremely rich off of the hard work of his employees for 30 years and then when it was time to make even more money, he fired almost all of them, not caring what happened to any of these people who built the company that made him rich. This film is about people back-stabbing and screwing over other people for their own financial gain. Most of the employees of this major company were living at their means, felt financially safe and secure and then all of the sudden, they all lost their jobs and there were no other jobs to be had anywhere. Most of the people who were fired had families and lived as if things would always be safe and secure and the money would always be coming in, never thinking that they would ever lose their jobs, which is a tragic reality for too many people.

The main focus of the film centers around Bobby Walker, played very well by Ben Affleck and his family and their struggles after he loses his job after the massive downsizing at his company. We follow Walker through the process of going to a job search company where they supposedly try to help you to get another job. As the months go by, he is forced to sell his car and other possessions and is worried about losing his own home. He is screwed around by recruiters and other contacts for months as he desperately tries to find another job before it is too late. Walker’s desperation and extreme anger at the company he helped built and his inability to find another job is very well portrayed in this film as is another fired employee Phil Woodward played very well by Chris Cooper. Kevin Costner also has a small role in this film as Bobby Walker’s brother in law and this is one of his better performances in recent years.

This movie came out at the perfect time, less than two years after the 2008 financial crisis and everyone can relate to the sheer terror of losing your job and financial security and finding no way out. The voice of compassion in this movie is portrayed extremely well by Tommy Lee Jones, who is the vice president of the company and tries to talk some reason and human decency into the CEO to try and stop him from firing so many good people.

This movie is a hidden gem that came out in 2010 and one of those small movies that everyone can relate to. I highly recommend The Company Men for everyone who has not seen this great film.

Movie Review: Live By Night

It is a very rare thing in my experience when one person both directs and writes the screenplay for a movie. For the movie “Live By Night” Ben Affleck, wrote the screenplay, has the starring role, directed this movie and also had a producer credit as well. This must have been a ton of work, for probably years and the end result is a very solid gangster movie much like the gangster movies made in the 40’s about running molasses and selling bootleg liquor during Prohibition. I cannot remember the last time I have seen a period movie about the early 20’s and the Prohibition era like this one. There is a good deal of violence in this movie, which is understandable considering the crime and corruption during this time and you have to realize while watching this movie that the passing of Prohibition could have been one of the worst mistakes ever made in Congress, recognizing how badly that decision backfired over so many years. One can only speculate how many gangs were created, crimes committed and people who were killed as a direct result of Prohibition.

As I have recently said about the World War Two movie that came out about a month ago “Allied”, I am always impressed with movies that use many cars from other eras that for decades have been maintained in warehouses around the world, which you have to figure have to be paid for by the largest movie production companies just in case they make a period movie about the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s or 50’s. This must cost a fortune and it must be challenging to get these very old cars to run after so many years. On top of this, several vintage cars from the 20’s were destroyed in this movie.

As far as the story behind this movie, I thought it was well told and flowed well, so there were not too many areas that dragged or were boring. One flaw I thought was with the accents of the people involved and in some cases the slurring of words, very often you could not understand what people were saying. At certain points, the story was a little hard to follow, mainly because of the word slurring, but overall the story corrected itself along the way and everything made sense. Other stars in this movie include Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana and Chris Cooper and I thought that the acting was very well done throughout.

The fundamental message I got from this movie and especially the ending was that if you are a person who has no trouble killing people over a long period of time, then it is inevitable that your day is coming. What goes around comes around.

I thought Live By Night was a solid Gangster movie about the Prohibition era and I do recommend it.

Movie Review: Patriots Day

Mark Wahlberg along with director Peter Berg and his production company have been successful the last few years in buying the real life stories for the movies, Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon and now Patriots Day. It must have been a difficult challenge to buy three true stories like this, given the competition and realizing that these are three of the best real life stories to come out in many years, Patriots Day being the most important.

Patriots Day is about the April 15, 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, which at the time, was the second worst terrorist attack on American soil since 911. The explosions killed 3 civilians, including one 8 year old boy and injured an estimated 264 others, who were treated in 27 local hospitals. At least 14 people required amputations, with some suffering traumatic amputations as a direct result of the blasts. Eleven days later, 29 remained hospitalized, one in critical condition. Many victims had lower leg injuries and shrapnel wounds, which indicated the devices were low to the ground. At least sixteen civilians lost limbs, at the scene or by amputation in a hospital, and three lost more than one limb. Two police officers were also killed.

When you see this movie and realize that two sick diseased animals packed two pressure cookers with small ball bearings that had no other purpose than to both kill human beings and remove arms and legs you have an idea of the level of evil in these two terrorists. One of the terrorists Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed during a shootout with the police and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was later captured and is now on death row. What I found most telling about the shootout with the terrorists was how intense it was, almost like a war battle and the terrorists actually threw self-made bombs at the police. In the end, Tamerlan Tsarnaev was shot and killed by the police and then run over by his own brother who evaded capture during the shootout and was found days later hiding in a boat, parked on someones driveway.

Before the final shootout, the two terrorists assassinated an MIT college police officer, supposedly to get his gun. What didn’t make sense here was why did they kill a police officer to get his gun when they already had more than enough weapons? Perhaps it was because of panic or just plain stupidity that they killed the police officer and you had to wonder if they didn’t do this one stupid act, perhaps they could have escaped, at least for a few more days or weeks. The Terrorists later kidnapped a college student to steal his car, who later escaped and because he had memorized the GPS number of his Mercedes, the two terrorists were cornered by the police some hours later.

I thought that the acting in Patriots day was very well done, including Mark Wahlberg and John Goodman, who play Boston Police Officers,
Michelle Monaghan who plays Wahlberg’s wife and Kevin Bacon, who plays Special FBI Agent Richard DesLauriers who was in charge of the investigation. I was very impressed by the warehouse that was put together right after the two bombings that acted as a hub to investigate the crimes, and this included a very impressive recreation of streets where the two bombings occurred that lead to the investigators figuring out the location of the terrorists at various times outside the businesses on these streets, eventually leading to their identification through cell phone videos and surveillance cameras. I thought that the technology and facial recognition software was very impressive during this part of the movie. Unfortunately, the photos were leaked to the press which forced the FBI to release them to the public before they wanted to and this caused major conflicts between the Boston Police and the FBI.

The film Patriots day is up to the task of showing all that happened during the days in April 2013 where the Boston Marathon bombings occurred and I highly recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Sleepless

The movie “Sleepless” is about drug pushers, kidnapping, DEA Investigators, crooked cops, honest cops, undercover cops, Cocaine, gunfights, fist fights and the mob. We have seen all of this before, many times and there is nothing really groundbreaking or unusual about this film, other than the fact that this entire story takes place within a 12 hour time period, mostly at night, much like the TV series 24 where each entire season takes place within one day. The action is fast moving and in many cases engrossing and entertaining enough. Early in the story, the main character, played by Jamie Fox is stabbed and throughout the rest of this movie he is bleeding from his abdomen. What doesn’t make sense is how he is able to have so many fights, many of which he wins when he is almost bleeding to death. This is a major logic flaw in the story that could have been easily fixed, but it was not. There are other flaws in this movie as well, but they are mostly covered up by some of the action scenes.

The actress Michelle Monaghan plays a police internal investigator who gets involved with dangerous drug pushers, along with Jamie Foxx and this leads to many chase scenes, fights and shootouts throughout a gambling casino in Las Vegas, which I thought was an unusual venue for a police drama.

Overall I thought this film was entertaining enough, but the unique 12-hour real time idea for this movie was not enough to give this film any more than a very marginal recommendation.

The Golden Globe Awards for 2016

As is the case every year with all Award shows, there were some winners I agreed with and some I did not. Even though Casey Affleck’s performance in Manchester by the Sea was great, Denzel Washington’s performance in Fences was incredible and he should have won and will probably win the Academy Award.  For best screenplay clearly, the winner should have been Kenneth Lonergan for Manchester by the Sea rather than Damien Chazelle for La La Land. La La Land is a good movie but in my opinion it received too many awards because it was a highly unusual musical. Both Fences and Manchester by the Sea were better movies.

All of the Golden Globe awards for me meant nothing against Merrill Streep’s on point and great acceptance speech. Everything she said about Donald Trump and him making fun of a disabled reporter some months ago was as perfect and brilliant as any acting performance she has ever given.  The next day, Trump responded by calling Streep overrated as an actress and then repeating once again, that he never made fun of the disabled reporter, even though there is a video of him doing that exact thing. If Merrill Streep is overrated as an actress, then the profession of acting does not even exist.  

Best Motion Picture – Drama
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight” *WINNER

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
“20th Century Women”
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“La La Land” *WINNER
“Sing Street”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama
Amy Adams – “Arrival”
Jessica Chastain – “Miss Sloane”
Isabelle Huppert – “Elle” *WINNER
Ruth Negga – “Loving”
Natalie Portman – “Jackie”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama
Casey Affleck – “Manchester by the Sea” *WINNER
Joel Edgerton – “Loving”
Andrew Garfield – “Hacksaw Ridge”
Viggo Mortensen – “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington – “Fences”

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Colin Farrell – “The Lobster”
Ryan Gosling – “La La Land” *WINNER
Hugh Grant – “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Jonah Hill – “War Dogs”
Ryan Reynolds – “Deadpool”

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy
Annette Bening – “20th Century Women:
Lily Collins – “Rules Don’t Apply”
Hailee Steinfeld – “The Edge of Seventeen”
Emma Stone – “La La Land” *WINNER
Meryl Streep – “Florence Foster Jenkins”

Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture
Mahershala Ali – “Moonlight”
Jeff Bridges – “Hell or High Water”
Simon Helberg – “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Dev Patel – “Lion”
Aaron Taylor-Johnson – “Nocturnal Animals” *WINNER

Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture
Viola Davis – “Fences” *WINNER
Naomie Harris – “Moonlight”
Nicole Kidman – “Lion”
Octavia Spencer – “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams – “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Director
Damien Chazelle – “La La Land” *WINNER
Tom Ford – “Nocturnal Animals”
Mel Gibson – “Hacksaw Ridge”
Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight”
Kenneth Lonergan – “Manchester by the Sea”

Best Screenplay
Damien Chazelle – “La La Land” *WINNER
Tom Ford – “Nocturnal Animals”
Barry Jenkins – “Moonlight”
Kenneth Lonergan “Manchester by the Sea”
Taylor Sheridan – “Hell or High Water”

Movie Review: Underworld: Blood Wars

One day there will be a study from some college or psychologist who will try to figure out why people like Vampires so much. Could it be the eternal life thing or the weird ways you can kill a Vampire or their thirst for blood? I have never been a fan of Vampire or Zombie movies, and as far as films like this latest Underworld, this is just the latest in a long list of films in this franchise starring Kate Beckinsale. As long as these movies keep making money there will be more of them and probably most of the reason for their popularity is because of Beckinsale and her attractiveness on screen. But as far as the overall quality of these films, there is not much to speak of.

For this latest installment, “Underworld: Blood Wars”, there are long scenes of set-up for a payoff in a later scene that involves huge battles between different factions of Vampires or Vampires vs Ware Wolves. In my opinion, the set-ups for these war scenes took too long and made the movie more boring than it should have been. The special effects are nothing more than what we have seen before in the previous movies in this franchise, so there is really no reason to see this movie because if you have seen any of the other movies, then you have really seen this film already. It is all the same thing, repeated over and over again, therefore I do not recommend this movie.

Past Movie Review: The Devil Wears Prada

“The Devil Wears Prada” came out in 2006 and is great film for a number of important reasons. The acting was very good, starring Merrill Streep, Anne Hathaway, Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci. But for me, this movie was so great because it tapped into the stress and anger so many of us have to deal with every day when we work for other people. The Devil in this movie is played perfectly by Merrill Streep and during the entire story, she reminds all of us of one of my favorite quotes: “Power Corrupts Absolutely”. Merrill plays a famous fashion executive Miranda Priestly, loosely based on an actual fashion executive, Anna Wintour and in scene after scene, she is incredibly rude, condescending, short tempered, vicious, and abusive to everybody, especially her new employee played by Hathaway. Some scenes in this movie are difficult to watch, especially for those of us who have had to put up with abuse at work, to make a living. We all know that Priestley is so abusive to people because she can be, she answers to no one, and she has no sense of human compassion for other people.

I asked myself many times during while watching this film, why does poor Andy, played by Anne Hathway, have to put up with so much abuse by her boss, played by Merrill Streep and even her co-worker, played by Emily Blunt? Well, because if she doesn’t, she loses her job, potentially damages her career, loses money and it could take her a long time to get another job, if she can at all. So she contains her anger every day, doesn’t complain, or report this constant abuse and rudeness to the company or Human Resources. Stress builds and in some cases can even damage your health after months or years of abuse. There are many bosses in companies in this world who are decent, treat people with respect and remember what it was like when they had the job that their employee now has, but unfortunately, this seems to be too few and far between.

I really liked the messages at the end of this movie, where integrity wins out over screwing over someone else. Rising above it all, realizing that you have to like yourself as a human being first, before doing things that are beneath who you are to get ahead. We all like to believe that we could be Anne Hathaway at the end of this movie, but how many of us really could be, considering the payoff you would leave behind?

It is hard to believe that this movie came out over 10 years ago, and because of the work-realism, very relatable story and messages about making a living, I highly recommend The Devil Wears Prada.

Movie Review: Hidden Figures

The movie “Hidden Figures” is one of those rare great films where you have so many conflicting emotions while seeing it. In my case, the emotions included respect for how brilliant these 3 black women from the south were in the early 60’s. So brilliant that they were able to break into a field completely dominated by white men, which means that they had to be far smarter than anyone who had the job they got at NASA. I was amazed that all 3 of these women were able to get anywhere near the education they would need to get the jobs that they had, considering the prejudice and injustice they had to overcome during their lives just because they were black women. The other emotion I felt was anger over the disrespect these 3 women received because of who they were, even being forced within an institution as respected as NASA to use what they called “colored bathrooms”. Despite all of this, especially in the case of Katherine Johnson, they were able because of their mathematical brilliance to put many of their white male co-workers to shame and in several instances, save the Space Program and some lives along the way.

The movie Hidden Figures is about 3 women who worked at NASA during the early years of the Space Program, even before IBM Mainframe computers were used to perform all of the massive calculations necessary to get a rocket into space and return a space capsule flown by a man back to earth. These women were Katherine Johnson, played by Taraji P. Henson, Dorothy Vaughn played by Octavia Spencer and Mary Jackson played by Janelle Monáe. Of these 3 women, Katherine Johnson had the largest part of this great historical story, mainly because her work was the most instrumental in getting the United States into space to compete with the Russians, but more importantly due to her incredible genius at calculating orbits and complex mathematical equations, actually saved lives. From Katherine’s first day of being transferred to the part of NASA that was focused on planning and calculating the orbits of spacecraft, she was discriminated and disrespected by everyone she worked with, for being the only black person and the only black woman in her group. This included having to run over one half mile to a different building to use the “colored women’s bathroom”, which sets up what was in my opinion the best scene of this movie when her boss, played by Kevin Costner, questions where she is for 40 minutes at a time during a workday. Kevin Costner is also outstanding in his role, one of the best he has had in many years.

The other two women were also very impressive. Mary Jackson became the first woman engineer at NASA and Dorothy Vaughn became the first African-American supervisor at NASA and taught herself coding to eventually become an expert FORTRAN programmer. Both of these women also had to overcome long odds and long hours to gain any traction in their career, as the corporate world at NASA would “change the finish line”, whenever any of them had an opportunity to get promoted or even get a small raise.

What got me the most about this extremely impressive story was the realization that when so many people are oppressed by bigotry or sexism, so much potential and contribution from so many gifted people are lost for all humanity. How many geniuses do we lose to bigotry, money or circumstance or just being born in the wrong place or time, or to the wrong parents, never to realize their full potential to perhaps one day cure a major disease, or invent something invaluable to the human race? How many brilliant women never go into math or science for the simple excuse that they believe that this is a man’s job. When we realize that a brain is a brain then we recognize that a person’s sex or race have nothing to do with their intelligence or creativity. Unfortunately, humanity has lost so much due to so many years of injustice and stupidity making the fluke miracle of these 3 women, that nobody has ever heard of before all the more amazing. Why these 3 pioneers have not been honored by the President long before they have been or more widely known in this country, over 50 years after they accomplished so much for the US Space Program is another reason why I got so angry while watching this movie. Everybody has heard of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, but what about Katherine Johnson, whose mathematical genius made their famous spaceflights possible in the first place.

Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons also make solid appearances in this film as co-workers who made the lives of these 3 great women as difficult as possible.

Hidden figures is a highly informative and well made historical movie about the early years of the Space Program and receives my highest recommendation.

Past Movie Review: Armageddon.

The movie Armageddon, that came out in the Summer of 1998 is one of those movies than when you see it on TV, you will always watch it, mainly because of the special effects, the entertaining acting and even scenes of comedy throughout this film mainly from Steve Buscemi, who almost steals this whole movie himself. The subject of this film is very compelling, a huge asteroid has been created from a collision in space and now a rock the size of Texas is heading towards earth and will hit us in 18 days. This is known as “A Global Killer, nothing would survive, not even Bacteria”, which is the famous line from Billy Bob Thorton who plays the head of NASA, named Dan Truman. Bruce Willis plays Harry Stamper, who is the world’s greatest Deep Core Driller in what had to be considered the action star high point in his career, even considering the Die Hard movies.

Michael Bay directed this movie, and as everybody knows, all Bay movies come off almost like music videos that have rapid fire and sometimes confusing scenes of action, facial expressions and in many cases nothing to connect one scene to another. I find much of this kind of filmmaking very annoying but in this case, there was an acceptable amount of this and not too much like many of the Transformer movies that Micheal Bay makes. For me, the high point of this movie was in a conference room where Dan Truman tells Stamper and his daughter played by Liv Tyler, about the 3000-foot high tidal waves and waves that will travel at 1000 miles and hour once this asteroid hits the earth. The reaction of Liv Tyler, who just says, “unbelievable” and the harsh reality of what is coming in 18 days I thought was very well done in this one scene.

Apart from this, there are many problems with this film, starting with the stupidity of giving the world only 18 days to save itself. There is no way of course, that all that would have to happen to prepare to drill a huge asteroid could ever be pulled off in 18 days. Why not 30 days, or 60 days, or 90? Even with those lengths of time, we would all be in a huge amount of trouble on planet earth, but 18 days would never be doable. On top of this, the Space Shuttle is nowhere near a vehicle that could accomplish the task of going way out in space and land on an asteroid. The Shuttle, as everybody knows was designed to orbit the earth and nothing more and some of the scenes later in the movie are absolutely ridiculous and were thought of only for dramatic effect. The ending I thought was too melodramatic but once again was added for effect and emotion, but in the end, this movie was entertaining.

What is most amazing here about the year 1998 was that some months later, the movie “Deep Impact” came out that was about the exact same thing, a huge asteroid is about to hit the earth after a collision in space. I thought at the time that something had to have gone wrong with several production companies in Hollywood to put out both of these movies within months of each other. This movie had excellent drama and spectacular special effects at the end of the movie and starred Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni and Morgan Freeman who plays the President as one of the first black men to ever play a US President on screen. Like Armageddon, Deep Impact is a movie that I always tend to watch when it comes on TV. There are flaws with this movie as well, especially the ending which involves Tea Leoni and her father, played by the late Maximilian Schell , which I thought was something that nobody would ever do in real life and was actually ridiculous. At some point, drama has to be sacrificed for common sense and it was not for both of these films.

Overall I recommend both of these films and they make you think about what could happen and how the world would react but both of them are seriously flawed.