Past Movie Review: Twister

I remember the movie Twister that I saw when it first was released in May 1996 as one of the few movies that I saw twice within 2 weeks, mainly because the special effects were so spectacular. When I first saw this movie I could not believe that in the year 1996 we had the computer technology to create scenes of huge tornadoes destroying buildings and lifting cars and huge trucks up in the air. All of the budget for this movie went to the computer special effects as there was not much of a screenplay or really a story for this film, other than storm chasers trying to catch a tornado being formed so they could drop a device called “Dorothy” that could record the internal structure of a tornado. Many of the lines in this movie between Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt were extremely corny as they were either arguing or chasing the storms. “We Got Cows”, “We Got Sisters”, just to name two. The story and the bad dialogue didn’t matter for this movie because the entire purpose was the incredible special effects that lead toward the amazing climax that involved a Level 5 Tornado. Of course, many of the scenes, especially at the end were ridiculous and nobody would survive, but any kind of common sense or logic didn’t matter for this kind of a movie.

Tragically a few days ago we lost one of the stars of this movie Bill Paxton, during a heart surgery and he as only 61. Paxon had a very good run as a movie star and I am sure he would agree that the best movie of his career was Apollo 13 that came out in 1995. The academy award winning actor Phillip Seymore Hoffman also had a small part in this movie and he passed away of a drug overdose in February 2014. These two actors had many more great films in their future and they both left us far too soon.

If you have still not seen the movie Twister its a must see for some of the best special effects ever made.

Academy Award Winners 2017

As I watch the Academy Awards every year, there are always winners and losers that I agree with and do not agree with. This year was pretty obvious as far as some of the mistakes that were made in my opinion. The ending mistake with the wrong card being read for best picture was amazing when you think about how a mistake that bad could happen for the biggest award of the night. Not in 89 years of this award show had anything like this ever happened before.

In my opinion:

Clearly, Denzel Washington should have won for best actor. Casie Affleck was very good in his role but Denzel’s performance was one of a kind. The Academy does not want to give too many awards to one actor and Denzel already had two. Not a good reason for him not to win for Fences. I was happy to see Viola Davis win best supporting actress but her time on screen warranted a win for best actress.

There is no way that Moonlight was the best picture in 2016. Fences, Manchester by The Sea and Hidden Figures were by far better movies.

I was very happy to see Keneth Lonergan win best original screenplay for Manchester By The Sea. This movie was so good I even printed out the screenplay and it is one of the best screenplays I have ever seen.

Overall, the year 2016 was one of the best years for high quality movies in many years.

“Hacksaw Ridge”
“Hell or High Water”
“Hidden Figures”
“La La Land”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Moonlight” (WINNER)
Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” (WINNER)
Andrew Garfield in “Hacksaw Ridge”
Ryan Gosling in “La La Land”
Viggo Mortensen in “Captain Fantastic”
Denzel Washington in “Fences”
Jeff Bridges in “Hell or High Water”
Mahershala Ali in “Moonlight” (WINNER)
Lucas Hedges in “Manchester by the Sea”
Dev Patel in “Lion”
Michael Shannon in “Nocturnal Animals”
Isabelle Huppert in “Elle”
Ruth Negga in “Loving”
Natalie Portman in “Jackie”
Emma Stone in “La La Land” (WINNER)
Meryl Streep in “Florence Foster Jenkins”
Nicole Kidman in “Lion”
Viola Davis in “Fences” (WINNER)
Naomie Harris in “Moonlight”
Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures”
Michelle Williams in “Manchester by the Sea”
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“My Life as a Zucchini”
“The Red Turtle”
“Zootopia” (WINNER)
“La La Land” (WINNER)
“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” (WINNER)
“Florence Foster Jenkins”
“La La Land”
“Arrival” – Denis Villeneuve
“Hacksaw Ridge” – Mel Gibson
“La La Land” – Damien Chazelle (WINNER)
“Manchester by the Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan
“Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins
“Fire at Sea”
“I Am Not Your Negro”
“Life, Animated”
“O.J.: Made in America” (WINNER)
“Land of Mine”
“A Man Called Ove”
“The Salesman” (WINNER)
“Toni Erdmann”
“La La Land” (WINNER)
“Audition (The Fools Who Dream)” from “La La Land”
“Can’t Stop The Feeling” from “Trolls”
“City Of Stars” from “La La Land” (WINNER)
“The Empty Chair” from “Jim: The James Foley Story”
“How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana”
“Hacksaw Ridge” (WINNER)
“La La Land”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”
“Deepwater Horizon”
“Doctor Strange”
“The Jungle Book” (WINNER)
“Kubo and the Two Strings”
“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”
“Hidden Figures”
“Moonlight” (WINNER)
“Hell or High Water”
“La La Land”
“The Lobster”
“Manchester by the Sea” (WINNER)
“20th Century Women”

Movie Review: Get Out

The reviews the new movie “Get Out” on Rotten Tomatoes is one of the highest ever and right now it’s at 100%. IMDB ratings for this movie are close to 80%. Why? That is the question that had after seeing this mostly average movie. One of the reviews stated very accurately, “this movie mines racism for Thrills and Chills”. That is a true statement and in an effort to be new and different for a type of movie that has been done many hundreds of times before, this new type of horror movie twist for me seemed way too risky and racist for my tastes. The entire idea behind it is very far fetched because the payoff at the end of this film is not possible and because this movie takes place in the present day the ending is not plausible and downright absurd.

The actors Alison Williams in her first movie role and newcomer Daniel Kaluuya were good in their roles within a story that I found more strange than scary or even entertaining. The extremely high scores and great reviews for this movie are a mystery to me. While Get Out is certainly not a bad movie, it is not really that good either, so I give it a very marginal recommendation only because of the high reviews.

Movie Review: Collide

One of the things I admired about the new movie “Collide” is the risk the director and producers and stuntmen took in making some of the most dangerous high-speed highway car crashes and stunts I have seen in a long while. What I didn’t admire was the extremely average, run of the mill, something we have seen many times before story. Given the extremely average script, the big question is how the producers of this film were able to get Felicity Jones, Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsly to star in this movie. For me, the Hollywood deal-making business, favors, payoffs and leverage that must have been required to get these 3 top actors to be in a movie this average would be a far more interesting documentary than this action movie was. Felicity Jones is an Oscar-nominated actress and both Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley have won best actor Oscars and have been nominated several times each. Given all of this, I was more interested in how this film was cast, more than the story or even the action scenes.

This movie stars newcomer Nicholas Hoult, who does an OK job as a drifter who moves to Germany due to problems he was having in the United States and runs into Felicity Jones who has also moved to Germany to escape her drug abusing family. What follows is a love story, involvement with a criminal drug gang lead by Ben Kingsley and Anthony Hopkins and then a far fetched reason to need a great deal of money quickly which leads to chase scenes that wind up on the highway during the last half of the film.

The problems with this film are obvious, due to the fact that there is nothing new here, and the acting from 3 very good actors and the chase scenes are not enough to rescue this movie from its extreme averageness. For these reasons, I cannot recommend Collide.

Movie Review: Paterson

The new movie Paterson is about mundane, average, everyday, normalcy, the stark urgency and reality of having to make a living with a bad job. This film is about the dread many of us feel about facing another Monday. This movie is also about the beauty of simplicity. The actor Adam Driver plays a man named Paterson, who lives in Paterson New Jersey and he drives a New Jersey Transit Bus through the streets of Paterson New Jersey five days a week. He is married to an Indian woman named Laura who loves to think about fantasies about a what a happier life could be and expresses her artistic ambitions by painting many of the walls and cabinets in their tiny house black, with black and white dots and making cupcakes with black and white icing with small black dots. She also tries to be a singer, buying a guitar that they could barely afford. They have an English Bulldog. They seem happy together despite their very meager existence and the amazing thing about this highly unusual film is it is not about special effects or a high-stress story or gunfire but is at the same time very engrossing and entertaining. This very good film is only about one thing, real life, and what most of us in this world have to do to survive the life reality that is ours. We see a very good man trying his best to make a living and dreaming of escaping his depressing life by writing poetry. His dreams of something better help him survive his depressing and mundane day by day existence.

One of the things that also impressed me about this very small and simple film is that it gave me a much greater respect for Paterson’s job as a bus driver. When I thought about the day after day mindless boredom of driving a huge bus with many passengers over the same depressing streets I wondered how anyone could hold onto a job like this for a long period of time. I also thought about how important this job is because a bus driver transports people who have to get to a job, to the food store, or to the doctor. If you make a single driving mistake while driving a bus because you’re overly tired, or just plain sick of your boring job then someone could be killed and you would be held responsible. But somehow Paterson is able to get by day after day, going to a bar for one beer after work and then driving home to talk about his day and his poetry with his wife, who is the only good thing in his life. Paterson witnesses the real lives of many of his friends and acquaintances at the bar he frequents with the same numb look that he has when he drives the bus and listens to his passengers or when he writes his poetry. Paterson’s inspiration for his poetry is a famous poet from Paterson William Carlos Williams and his book of poems entitled Paterson. Paterson’s writing is displayed on the screen and we watch him write his poetry in what he calls a “secret notebook” and in narration throughout this film. ┬áThe poetry he writes is as simplistic as the story of this film and the simplicity and real life story of this very different kind of movie are ultimately what I appreciated the most including some of the scenery, bridges and parks of the city of Paterson New Jersey that also included some scenes at a park named after the late comedy actor Lou Costello.

I highly recommend Paterson, it is a one of kind type of small movie that we may never see again.

Movie Review: The Great Wall

A few days ago I saw Matt Damon on “The Late Show with James Corden” and he described his new movie “The Great Wall”, while averting his eyes downward as “a series of attacks on the Great Wall of China by thousands of lizard-like creatures” and incredibly, that is entirely what this movie is all about. Rather than making this very bad mess of a film the producers could have come up so many better ideas that involve the Great Wall of China. This could include a documentary about the Great Wall, narrated by Matt Damon. A recreation of a major battle many centuries ago that involve the Great Wall. Perhaps a documentary that goes through the entire process and the decisions that were made for probably close to 2 years, that lead to the producers to make this ridiculous movie. A narration by Matt Damon where he explains how or why he ever decided to make this movie in the first place would be a better idea than making a movie this bad. Did Matt Damon owe someone a favor to did he lose a bet? On top of all this, making this bad movie also included moving for a long period of time to China to make perhaps the worst movie in his career.

There are a series of action scenes in this movie that summarize the absurdity of the whole 2 hours. On many occasions, Chinese soldiers in an attempt to kill these lizard creatures who are trying to climb up the Great Wall, bungee jump while holding a spear in an attempt to kill them, even though thousands of them are on the ground and climbing the wall and just about every attempt to kill these creatures using this stupid method, resulted in some soldier being eaten alive. You would think that after perhaps 2 futile attempts like this, they would figure out that this idea was not working? This is the same type of thinking that allowed for this movie to be produced in the first place. The idea of creating creating action scenes with CGI no matter how absurd is never going to rescue any bad movie.

When you consider the total budget for this film is 150 million dollars and hopefully this huge figure includes all of those costumes that had to be made its a wonder why any producer after reading this very bad script would be able to raise this amount of money to market a concept that is this bad. Essentially, the entire plot of this movie is: Matt Damon and his friend are attacked by a strange lizard creature, then they kill the creature and cut off its arm. Later they wind up captured by Chinese soldiers at the Great Wall of China and then are attacked by thousands of these creatures, several times. There is a small rock they find that is some kind of a magnet that they find has some control over them, and other than this there is really nothing more to this story.

This movie should have gone immediately to the DVD shelves. I am very surprised that Matt Damon decided to make this movie and as far as I have seen this is the worst movie of Damon’s career. This film is yet another example that special effects will never be a band-aid for a bad script or a bad concept. Do yourself a favor and run from this waste of 2 hours.

Movie Review: Fist Fight

It is a rare thing in my experience that two actors were so perfectly cast for their parts in the same movie and occurs in the new film Fist Fight. Charlie Day is the perfect actor to play a very mild-mannered teacher in a nightmare school that has violence, constant pranks during what the movie called “senior pranks week” and over the top raunchy events that sometimes almost work, but most of the time, I heard nobody laughing in the audience. The actor Ice Cube is also perfectly cast in his role as the character he seems to play in all the movies he is in; a very angry bullying type of guy who always looks like he is a few seconds away from fighting someone. Underlying the main story of this movie, which is Ice Cube wanting to fight Charlie Day at the end of the school day is the subject of bullying that Day’s 10-year-old daughter is also facing at her grammar school. It doesn’t take this light, sometimes entertaining comedy movie about a bad high school to remind all of us, that bullying takes place in schools and also when you are an adult and have to make a living working for and with other people.

The fact that this movie is “all in” and entirely about one thing, an end of movie fight between two teachers is not enough of a strong premise to recommend this movie as an effective comedy and overall it is at best average because of my acid test for all comedy movies, which is, “did people laugh in the audience?” From the audience I was in, this movie got very few laughs, unfortunately. The appearance of Tracy Morgan is also not enough to rescue this movie as his lines were only mildly funny at best.

The scene at the end of the movie where Day’s 10-year-old daughter performs a Big Sean rap song that his laced with profanities I thought was in bad taste, much like the end of the recent film “The Comedian” where a young girl is using the worst kind of foul language during her comedy act at a school.

Considering the few moderately funny moments in this film and the majority of the scenes that did not work, I cannot recommend this movie.

Past Movie Review: Working Girl

The movie “Working Girl” that was released in 1988 is arguably the best role that Melanie Griffith ever had in her career. It is also one of the few roles that Harrison Ford ever made during this era where he was not the lead actor and in this movie; he played the eventual boyfriend of Melanie Griffith’s character. When I was experiencing this movie for the first time almost 30 years ago I was reminded why I go to the movies as often as I do. Firstly, because of my ambition to be a screenwriter, which is a very difficult profession to break into but mostly to relate to life situations that we all face every day.

The movie Working Girl captured the frustrations and outrage of a young woman trying to rise above herself because of her belief that she deserved better than her lot in life regardless of the opinions of other people who were deciding her fate because she had to make a living as a secretary. The problem with working for companies and other people is that your ability to advance is directly correlated to your ability to impress others and not just to complete your work every day. It is not enough that you complete a task very well, it must then follow that other people have to recognize what you have accomplished and then have the integrity to step aside and allow you to take credit for what you did. More simply stated, when you work for someone else, then your future is in the hands of someone else and no longer in your control. This is the fundamental message behind the movie Working Girl.

Sigourney Weaver played an evil, condescending, backstabbing and credit stealing boss of Melanie Griffith better than anyone I have ever seen in any movie. The great thing about movies is that we recognize characteristics and evil in the characters and relate them to people we know in our own experiences. Movies are also great because very often then have a satisfying ending where the hated antagonist gets what they deserve in the end and this unfortunately, does not happen very often in real life.

One the scenes that impressed me the most with Sigourney Weaver’s part in this movie was the moment where she found out that Melanie Griffith’s character had taken back her own idea and was going to present it at a meeting after she was injured in a skiing accident. Weaver’s outrage at this moment was an outstanding representation of the extent of evil in people like this. She was seethingly angry that her secretary took back the very idea that she stole from her in the first place. After this, the story took some believable twists and turns and eventually lead to an extremely satisfying conclusion that we all wish we could either live through ourselves or witness first hand.

If you have never seen Working Girl, you owe it to yourself to see one of the best movies ever made about the realities of life and having a job.

Movie Review: John Wick Chapter 2

Keanu Reeves has been around for 30 years now and after the Matrix franchise of 3 movies ended 13 years ago he can call his own shots and do whatever he wants as far as acting or producing any movie. Since the Matrix Reeves has been making mostly action movies, with the exception of, “The Lake House” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still”. Now, with the 2nd installment of the John Wick franchise and the extremely impressive reviews on IMDB (87%) and Rotten Tomatoes (90%), Keanu has found a movie franchise that could be the equal to the Mission Impossible franchise has been for Tom Cruise.

Like the first John Wick movie that came out in October 2014, this one has the same simple story, followed by extremely violent, bloody and one of kind hand to hand and gun fight sequences and action at a very intense almost insane level. Even if you hate violent movies like this, you cannot help but be impressed with the amount of preparation, training, stunts and risks the producers of both movies have taken to create so many dangerous action sequences. Both of these movies have perfected the art of the rapid-fire handgun shooting and a very high percentage of the people shot in this movie were shot in the head. Of course, the logistics of these action sequences are absurd. Thousands of bullets are shot at John Wick and even though he is wearing body armor, he is rarely severely injured or even killed and this is despite Wick killing probably 100 people in this film outdoors, indoors, in underground tunnels and even inside a series of rooms covered with mirrors. Wick is also hit by a car and then thrown no less than 2 times and is able to get up and continue fighting, which is ridiculous. He is also able to continue fighting after getting stabbed and even shot. If you forego the logistical problems in the action sequences and appreciate the choreography then this film will keep your attention during the entire two hours.

The actors Common and Laurence Fishburne both have strong performances in this film.

Go to this movie if you appreciate a great action film but not if you expect a good story. I recommend John Wick Chapter 2.

Movie: Fifty Shades Darker

Despite the very low ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes for the sequel to “Fifty Shades of Gray” that came out 2 years go, the second movie “Fifty Shades Darker” will still probably make a great deal of money only because people are sexually curious about what the actors do in several scenes in this film. As far as any kind of measurable compelling or interesting story, there really isn’t one in this movie or original one. The story for both of these films is surprisingly run of the mill and uninteresting, so you wonder why those 3 books made so much money for the author E.L. James, other than people are curious about the sexual acts mostly involving domination and submission.

You could also argue that no author of any book series has made more money and fame from less quality in the history of writing. Admittedly, this film is better and less stupid than the original one, but you have to at many times during both of these movies feel bad for the young actors trying to break into a career in Hollywood, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. As they read this script they had to weigh their desire to make movies in Hollywood against the mostly humiliating sex scenes which are at times pretty close to soft-core pornographic. They must have been worried about getting this big one-time score in their careers and then never working again.

The one part of this movie that I thought was only standout moment was when Dakota’s character takes over her bosses job and has a conversation with a co-worker who was now working for her, that was word for word the same as the ending scene in Working Girl, that starred her mother Melanie Griffith. As an avid movie-goer, I recognized the great dialogue in this very good movie from 1988 immediately. Working Girl is one of the best movies about the potential nightmares of working for other people, ever produced. And like any of us who have had their outrageous problems working for anyone, the happy and just ending in this movie was one of the best I have ever seen.

Kim Basinger and Marcia Gay Hardin also make appearances in this mostly bad film and considering that both of them won academy awards, I was thinking that perhaps given their age there are not that many movies offered to them because there is practically nothing worthwhile in terms of an opportunity for quality acting in this entire movie.

While this movie is better and less ridiculous than the first installment, I cannot recommend it.