Movie Review: Personal Shopper


This movie is a hard one to review, understand and even try and understand why anyone liked it, as the reviews are mostly positive, which makes no sense to me. This is another example of a low budget movie trying to be different and in the process of trying to be different, creates differences from what we are used to in terms of story or plot that are overtaken by confusion and annoying tricks and references that do nothing more than annoy and confuse the audience. This movie is about a young woman played by Kristen Stewart who has a twin brother who has the same heart abnormality that she has and he died of a heart attack at only age 27. What follows is grief caused by her brother’s death, fear of her own possible early death from the same heart problem her brother had, a murder that came out of nowhere, appearances of a ghost that we are lead to believe could be her brother, but we are never completely sure of this.

This movie has references that include ghosts, mediums, murder, an overly complex plot, nudity in several scenes that involve Kristen Stewart and an ending that you would probably need to have explained by both the screenwriter and the director. What was the point of all this? I will leave the point of this movie to whoever sees this strange and weird film to decide for themselves. I have never been a fan of movies like this because I have always been a believer of “less is more” and that when you try so hard to create scenes too fancy or complicated instead of just engaging an audience, all you have is one long annoying movie. For these main reasons, I do not recommend this very strange film.

Past Movie Review: Jaws


Before the release of Jaws in the summer of 1975 there really wasn’t something like a summer blockbuster type of movie. Jaws, is based on the Peter Benchley book, was the first movie of its kind and the very first summer blockbuster. Horror movies and scary movies we had, but nothing like this. Nothing where a Giant Great White shark terrorized and killed several residents of an east coast beach town. And nothing like the opening scene of this movie where a woman is killed by a shark at night while swimming in the ocean. Accompanying all of this was the music of John Williams which was brilliant and never more effective than the now famous music when the shark would start to attack someone. It is hard to imagine more perfect theme music for Jaws than the musical score for this great film.

Over the years we all have learned through documentaries and stories we have read about the extreme difficulty everyone who worked on this film, on Martha’s Vinyard with the mechanical shark that they named “Bruce”. To get past many of the non-stop mechanical shark problems, the director of Jaws, Steven Spielberg eventually realized that showing less of the shark would be more terrifying than showing more and this, in fact, made the film even more scary than it would have been otherwise. In the end, despite so many production problems and the film constantly being overbudget, Jaws became the greatest box office movie hit up to that time.

All of the main stars in this movie were all at the peak of their acting skills, Richard Dreyfus, Robert Shaw and Roy Scheider and all of them probably thought at the time that the movie would be a bomb, mainly due to all the problems with the mechanical shark. Perhaps the greatest scene in the movie was the exact moment in time where the Great White shark showed his face for the first time, as Scheider was pouring blood into the water to lure him to be captured and killed. His slow backward walk towards the middle of the boat and his now famous line to Quint, played by Robert Shaw, “We are going to need a bigger boat”, is the one line in the entire history of all movies that has been repeated more times than any other.  I cannot even begin to count how many times I have heard someone say, “We are going to need a bigger something” in a movie. Another standout performance for me was Murray Hamilton’s portrayal of the town mayor, who throughout the entire movie, cared more about the money the township would be losing, rather than saving lives. His acting and bad decisions during so many arguments with Richard Dreyfus and Roy Scheider provide some of the most frustrating and funny moments in the movie. Hamilton’s character is a politician and a personality that all of us have had experiences running into and disliking.

The ending of Jaws including several scenes of Hollywood overkill and showing some things that a shark would never do, including launching its entire body into the sinking boat, but the big explosive ending created the satisfying blockbuster ending we were all waiting for. The concept of a summer blockbuster had to start somewhere and Jaws started it all 42 years ago.

Movie Review: Wilson


From Dictionary.com:

The Definition of Catharsis:


1. The purging of the emotions or relieving of emotional tensions, especially through certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music.
2. Psychiatry: Psychotherapy that encourages or permits the discharge of pent-up, socially unacceptable effects. Discharge of pent-up emotions so as to result in the alleviation of symptoms or the permanent relief of the condition.

The definition of the word Catharsis is a very good summarization of what the movie Wilson is all about. Once you realize very early on that this film is about a man named Wilson, played by Woody Harrelson, whose entire life has been a disaster, you start to wonder if a story about a person like this could ever be funny. Perhaps this could be possible, but Wilson fails to be funny often enough to conclude that it is not really a comedy movie or a very good movie either. Perhaps if Wilson was made more of a likable person, this movie would have been more entertaining and engaging or even funny, but far too often Wilson just bothers people, many of them total strangers and engages in rude conversations with everybody he encounters to perhaps temporarily make himself feel less alone. Ultimately the result of all this rude behavior is the audience has to endure an annoying and obnoxious person for the full 90 minutes this movie runs. I was surprised that during this entire story there was not one mention of what Wilson does for money or what he does for a living or even how he became such a disaster of a person in the first place. Considering our jobs are such a large percentage of our existence it would have been nice to see how or if Wilson is employed.

The story of Wilson is really no story at all, but rather a series of strange events and discoveries, including running into his x-wife and from there events go from strange, to weird, to pathetic, to very depressing and then back to pathetic again. There are several cameo appearances in this film, including Mary Lynn Rajskub, Cheryl Hines and Laura Dern, who plays Wilson’s x-wife who has of all things the name “Pippi”, and her life and reality since her divorce from Wilson many years earlier is almost as pathetic has his is.

The attempts to be a different type of a story are many in this film, but being different than most stories we have all seen before is not enough to make Wilson a good or even an average movie. It is hard to imagine how this movie was even made considering the uninteresting depressing story that tries to make a sad and pathetic life funny. On top of all this just about all the characters in this file are very unlikable and in the end, there is no attempt by Wilson or even his x-wife to somehow transition into a better person. For these reasons and so many others, I cannot recommend Wilson.

Movie Review: Chips


It can be embarrassing when I go to movies like the new movie “Chips” because I know it is going to be bad going in, but I still see films like this to perhaps learn more about movies and screenwriting and I still believe you have to experience the good ones as well as the bad ones, maybe to learn how not to write a screenplay. I also see movies like this for this movie blog, because moviegoers are interested in bad movies as well as good movies, or at least I think so, with the possible exception of this one.

Name recognition is a marketing tool. In this latest TV season, no less than three TV shows have been created based off of well-known movies, Taken, Training Day and Lethal Weapon. The idea here is that the name recognition could cause a greater number of people to tune in because they are curious about the TV show if they remember and liked the movie. The hope is that once they watch the first episode because of curiosity, then maybe they will get hooked and watch the entire series or many more episodes. This marketing idea also sometimes works for movies, that are based on TV shows. Starsky and Hutch released in 2004, 21 Jump Street in 20012, The Addams Family in 1991, others include Lost in Space, Miami Vice and Mission Impossible, which is the most popular movie franchise based on a TV show in movie history. Another example of using name recognition is to make a movie based on characters from a TV show and the best example of this is Saturday Night Live and there are no less than 12 movies that have been made from Saturday Night Live characters. Yes, 12 Saturday Night Live movies.

Clearly, this name recognition marketing idea works most of the time, (see link) otherwise there would not be so many movies made from well-known TV shows. The difference with the movie Chips, based on the TV show Chips that ran from 1977-1983 is that this TV show as at best barely average and not a TV series that anyone would think would be worth making into a movie and it has been off the air for 34 years. I have never understood the value of having police officers on motorcycles among cars and trucks on California highways. I would have liked to seen some kind of explanation in this movie as to why something like CHP (California Highway Patrol) still even exists, considering the danger of one person riding a motorcycle on a highway traveling at high speed chasing after some criminal. According to this website, of the 233 deaths for the CHP, 70 of them were from motorcycle accidents. Given this statistic alone, it is hard to understand why something like the CHP is still considered necessary.

Unfortunately perhaps through the Hollywood deal-making pipeline or some other reason, a very bad script, written by Dax Shepard was greenlighted and made into a bad movie. This movie is not the worst I have ever seen, but it probably has the most convoluted and “all over the place” nightmare of splintered story lines that I have ever sat through in a very long time. It is almost as if the screenwriter would write a scene, and then forget to explain how this scene is connected to or related to another part of the story. Different parts of this film seem to be just an excuse to show something raunchy or continue a disgusting running gag that didn’t work the first or the second time it was attempted. This movie is supposed to be a comedy-drama but there was very few if anything to laugh about, and the police drama part was not interesting enough to keep your attention for any length of time. Additional to these problems is that the whole story barely made any sense, with the myriad of characters and scenes that jumped around through an unbearable almost 2 hours.

This movie stars Dax Shepard and Micheal Pena with a cameo from several other actors including Dax Shepard’s wife Kristen Bell, but even with this pretty large cast and several cameos, there is nothing that can ever save a script this bad.  Run from the movie Chips, it is just not worth sitting through and should have gone directly to DVD and never released.

Movie Review: Life


The movie “Life” is one of the few films since 1979 and the release of the movie Alien that has attempted to address the idea of an alien life form that becomes violent on a spaceship and attempts to kill all on board. The main reason why so few, if any movies like this have been made in the last 38 years, is probably because Alien was such a perfect horror movie about Aliens and outer space that has ever been produced. The movie Alien, obviously, is a tough if not impossible act to follow.

Very early in this film, I was surprised that the space station was orbiting the Earth and not Mars as was suggested in some of the previews. One flaw was the point at which scientists aboard this space station suddenly have an alien life form in their laboratory, supposedly from Mars, but it was never really explained how they got the life form, other than the crashing of a space capsule that I assume was coming from Mars. Starting off with something this important to the flow of the story took something away from my understanding and enjoyment of the story because I always wondered once they started experimenting with this one cell microscopic organism, I was still trying to figure out where on Mars the alien was found, and how it was transported from Mars to a space station that was orbiting Earth. Fundamentally, movies about science or science fiction should make some sort of sense and not have glaring holes in the story, especially at the beginning.

This movie has two big stars, Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal and several other less famous actors and the entire film, with the exception of one shot of Time Square in New York city at the beginning, happens inside the space station.  The problems with this film are many, starting with the convoluted and ridiculous ideas the crew come up with to try and kill “Calvin”, which is the name they lead scientist calls his alien. The reason for the name “Calvin” was also never explained, along with many other important details. Over time, Calvin grows bigger as he kills a mouse and members of the crew and starts to look like a combination of a jellyfish and an octopus. If there is life somewhere in the universe other than Earth, we can definitely believe that some variation of a creature like this could exist.

Even in the beginning of this movie, the way these genius level scientists handle this alien creature, by touching it with a rubber glove made no sense, because you just know that no one would ever be so relaxed with their scientific examination of an unknown alien creature. It is one thing to put yourself in danger because of the risky environment and reality of space travel, but way too many times, stupid decisions that made absolutely no sense were both idiotic and infuriating to sit through. There was no common sense here, no scientific validity and almost no decisions that super intelligent people would actually make. One incident, in particular, is when one of the female astronauts goes outside the space station in an attempt to try and kill or trap the alien that had escaped from inside. This entire idea and the events that followed during this scene probably are one some of the stupidest ideas I have ever seen in any science fiction movie. Why this entire scene wasn’t scrapped in a conference room or somewhere on a cutting floor in Hollywood is a mystery. Why was this woman spacewalking outside with a dangerous alien? What was she trying to accomplish? This entire scene just made no sense.

The ending of this movie had a very similar feel to the end of Alien which is understandable, but the build up and convoluted trick ending the writer and director tried to pull off I saw coming a mile away. The movie Life is a pale imitation of Alien and due to the many inane plot ideas with so many decisions by the astronauts and scientists on board the space station that were downright ridiculous, I cannot recommend this movie.

Past Movie Review: Terms of Endearment


The movie “Terms of Endearment” that came out in 1983 is one of those films from many years ago that fascinates me, partly because just about everybody in this production peaked with this movie and never hit a note this high again, with the possible exception of Jack Nicholson. One could easily argue that Debra Winger, Jeff Daniels and
Shirley MacLaine all had the peak of their careers with this movie, and this demonstrates once again, just what a miracle getting a part in a great movie is.

I remember going on going to see Terms of Endearment already knowing it was going to be a great and unforgettable movie because James L. Brooks wrote the screenplay and directed this film. Like all great James L. Brooks movies, there are some very funny moments, but this one stands alone as having one of the most difficult and saddest endings I have ever seen.  When most people think about this movie from 34 long years ago they will probably mostly remember the ending and Shirley MacLaine’s face and expression when she realizes something very tragic has happened and brilliantly the director knew that showing the event was never necessary to tell the audience what has happened. This scene and so many other unforgettable moments make Terms of Endearment one of the best movies of its kind even produced. If you have never seen Terms of Endearment after all these years, it is one great film that I highly recommend.

Movie Review: The Last Word


From Dictionary.com:

Narcissist:
1. A person who is overly self-involved, and often vain and selfish.
2. Psychoanalysis. a person who suffers from narcissism, deriving erotic gratification from admiration of his or her own physical or mental attributes.

Control Freak:
A person having a strong need for control over people or situations.

The two words above describe specific types of mental afflictions that unfortunately many people suffer from. As the new movie “The Last Word” points out very well, people who have these mental problems are hard to live with, work with and especially ever like.  The lead character in this film, Harriet, played by Shirley Maclaine, has both of these afflictions and even more that make her a very unlikeable person.  In an ultimate example of being a control freak, she even tries to control what is written in her own obituary even before she dies. Harriet’s obituary author, who Harriet also chooses herself works for a local paper and is played by Amanda Seyfried. What follows is the discovery that writing an obituary for a woman like this is close to impossible because just about everybody hates her, including even her own priest and her own daughter, played by Anne Heche. What this movie makes very obvious is that there is practically nothing more annoying than dealing with a person who is constantly condescending and never giving anyone any respect. A great example of this happens at the beginning of this film, as Harriet doesn’t even think that her own gardener can cut her hedges correctly or that her own maid can even cut a lemon correctly. This is bad enough when the person is perhaps some kind of a genius, but when this is a mental affliction, dealing with someone like this can be unbearable.

For this movie, I thought that the opportunity that was lost was not devoting enough of this film to explaining why Harriet is such a condescending and annoying control freak, but instead the story goes into different and sometimes strange twist and turns that are meant to be surprising or different but ultimately, for the most part, do not work. One example of this is when Harriet suddenly decides she wants to be a DJ for a location radio station or when she befriends a poor black child who is very outspoken at her school. Some of these story lines work for a while, but not for very long. One would think that these sub stories are Harriets attempts to perhaps build herself a better final obituary, but for the most part, none of this really works. At the explanation, there is a big attempt to explain why Harriet was the way she is, but that explanation also does not work, based on we have seen up to that point.

Trying to surprise the audience or going into unusual directions is ok sometimes but for this movie, it seemed too obvious that the writer and director were all about being different, rather than coming up with a good story that works for the whole two hours.

For these reasons, I cannot give a positive recommendation to The Last Word.

Movie Review: Kedi


The translation of the Turkish word Kedi to English is Cat. And that is as simple as this movie is, because it is only about stray Cats in Istambul Turkey. This movie seems to focus on all the positive aspects while following a number of very healthy looking well-fed cats that are taken care of by the people who live in Istanbul. All of these cats seem to not only survive while living on the streets but actually thrive. The missing ingredient with this story is not covering the negative aspects of having so many cats crowded into one city. This includes the fact that the Turkish Government has obviously done a very bad job controlling the cat population in Istambul. The problems with a massive failure in controlling a cat population would include starvation and diseases caused by sanitation and many other issues. There is some mention of the problems with having so many cats in this film, including some cats that have understandably been killed by city traffic, but the central part of this story is all about how good a life for a cat seems to be in Istanbul Turkey and glossing over the big picture that you knew has to be there. I would have liked to have known why or how the cat population became so prolific? How does Istanbul rank in terms of all the cities in the world as far as having so many cats? What does the Turkish government do to take care of and protect all of these cats and are they trying to control the cat population? None of this is really talked about during this film.

On the positive side, the cats in this movie are all outstanding and most of them are extremely attractive and very healthy looking. One that stood out the most for me was a male gray cat (see video below) who was described as a cat that had some manners. This cat was always alone, and never was rude or harassed restaurant customers for food. He would stand up against the window and rub the glass so he would be noticed and then given food. Some other cats were more aggressive and one seemed to only like to be petted aggressively, rather than gently. As the subtitles in this movie said many times over, cats have as many diversified personalities as humans do and throughout this movie, many philosophies about life, the love of animals and specifically cats are talked about, most of which I strongly agreed with. After watching this movie, it is hard to understand why anyone does not love cats. Obviously, this is a great movie for all animal and cat lovers.

I highly recommend the movie Kedi.

Past Movie Review: The Godfather


I have thought about writing a review about perhaps the greatest movie ever made or that will ever be made for quite some time now. One of the things I thought would be the most challenging about writing a review about The Godfather is, how can anyone define why or how a movie is great? Then I thought that this is really very easy to do. When the title of a movie is mentioned, do you remember the movie, because the majority of movies are mostly forgettable? Then, after the title of the movie is mentioned, how many pictures come to your head? How many scenes do you remember? What about the dialogue, the music? Considering these basic facts about any great movie, it is easy to believe that the Godfather is the greatest movie ever made because so many great scenes immediately come to mind and then you remember the great dialogue and musical score.

When the director of the Godfather Francis Ford Coppola was directing the Godfather, there had to be some worry not only with him but with the actors and producers that for the first time Hollywood was be showing the inside world of the Mafia and some of the most dangerous people on earth. There had to be some concern about possible retribution and even some backlash from Italian Americans who thought that this movie might show all Italians in a bad light and not just the murderers and criminals that are in the Mafia. On top of the greatness of this film, even considering doing a project like this took a great deal of courage.

When I think about the Godfather, released in 1972 and Godfather 2, released in 1974, and even Godfather 3 released in 1990 many great scenes and dialogue immediately come to mind. Without a doubt, I think that the scene where Michael Corleone comes out of the bathroom with a gun and is about to shoot two deserving lowlife at close range is the most tension filled scene that has ever been shot for any movie. The camera angles, the depressing dark environment of the restaurant, the look on Corleone’s face for the minutes before he stood up and shot these two men, the close range shooting of the police officer shot in the neck and forehead and Sollozzo in his forehead and then Micheal walking almost calmly out of the restaurant, while throwing away the gun.

When people are asked about the Godfather, more than likely the first scene they think about is the horse’s head scene that was horrible and shocking, but very effective. Killing an animal must be very easy for people who can kill a person almost as if it was like brushing your teeth and this was made very clear in this scene. What I remember the most about this scene is not only the screaming of the movie producer but the nauseous sounding version of the Godfather theme that was played before he discovers the horses head in his bed.

Other scenes that stand out as some of the best ever filmed include Sonny Corleone’s assassination at the toll one of the most brutal murders ever filmed but true to the type of killings that the Mafia considered commonplace.

Throughout the Godfather trilogy, the pattern of killing for revenge provides the greatest insight into the precarious world of living within a Mafia family. If you kill indiscriminately as if you are in a war, it is inevitable that one day your time is coming.

I also remember Godfather 3, that was released in later 1990 and was never as critically acclaimed as the previous two films as having one of the greatest scenes of acting I have ever seen when Michael Corleone’s daughter was killed at the end of the movie. This has to be the most difficult scene Al Pacino ever had to film and his emotions were the most real and grief filled I have ever seen. The end of this movie and the Godfather trilogy showed that after all the bad things that Micheal Corleone did in his life, in the end, he had to pay the ultimate price with his own daughter being murdered right in front of him. In the end, all of us want to believe that if you do evil to others that one day you will have to pay a price for what you did and this one scene at the very end of the Godfather trilogy showed that better than any film ever has.

For me, the ultimate measure of the greatness of any film are the pictures that come into your mind and the dialogue and the music that you remember and no movie has as much of this as the Godfather. What is most remarkable about the first two Godfather movies is that the first one came out 45 long years ago, and to this day, no movie has come close to approaching how great these two films are. The entire cast of this movie, many who have long past, would all have to agree that the highlight of their entire acting careers was the miracle of them being cast in the Godfather.