Movie Review: The Circle


I was very surprised to see the very low reviews on both IMDB (5.5) and Rotten Tomatoes (16%) for this movie.  I thought this movie was about average but not overly bad. The message of this film is a very good one, “when has technology gone too far”, or “when do the good things about technology infringe too much on basic human privacy”. This movie stars Tom Hanks, who probably has about 6 scenes and 20 lines and Emma Watson who is the real lead actor of this movie, so the trailers are somewhat misleading. The late actor Bill Paxton also has a small role in this movie as Watson’s father, who has Multiple Sclerosis. I found it rather depressing to see Paxton in this movie so soon after he died of a heart ailment at only 61 years old. The actor John Boyega also has a relatively small role in this film as a disgruntled employee of the Circle but he seems to be a character that was added on at the last minute, rather than having any significant reason to be in this movie.

As this film progresses we see that this huge internet company called “The Circle” hires Watson and very slowly demands more and more of her personal information and private time and very quickly she is living in an insane world that believes that all information, regardless of how private, is everyone’s business. Tom Hanks plays the CEO of the Circle and early in the film, he introduces a new kind of camera the size of a marble that the company has placed all around the world. This sophisticated camera is not only able to create pictures from all around the world, but also record all aspects of the environment it has been placed in. Considering the small cost of creating such a small camera and the ease they can be placed practically anywhere, its obvious that a device like this can get out of hand very quickly.

I thought it was brave of the producers of this film to show the campus of the circle as looking almost exactly like the new Apple Campus that is opening this month, (see video below). As a producer, I would think that doing something like this would be too risky considering the possibility of litigation from Apple concerning the negative aspects of this story. I was impressed by the message at the end, which I thought was if the person who believes that all aspects of someone else’s private information are everyone’s business, how would they feel if that very same spotlight was turned on them? Another way of looking at something like this is; if the people who vote to send young people to war would have to go to war and get killed themselves, would they still vote yes?

Despite the obvious flaws in this movie, I give it a marginal recommendation.

The Circle – Book Amazon

Movie Review: Their Finest


The city of London in 1940, near the start of World War 2 had to be one of the most precarious places to live in this history of the world. The constant bombing of the city and the entire population of London was dedicated in some way to the war effort. At any moment your life or the life of any person you know can end because of a bomb or gunfire or a collapsing building or other injury related to a world war. I thought this movie should have been called “Precarious” rather than “Their Finest” and focused more on the real life dangerous existence of the people in London during 1940 by trying to understand how anyone can live a life that you know can end at any moment because of a bomb. There are moments in this movie of bombs going off and injuries, but considering that this is supposed to be at least in part a war movie there was not nearly enough of this reminder of harsh realities World War 2 and living in London.

The back story of this story is about a screenwriter, Catrin Cole played by
Gemma Arterton who has a boyfriend who is a starving artist and they live in the center of London. Through connections and some luck, Catrin is soon one of the screenwriters of a war movie with a famous movie actor Ambrose Hilliard, played by Bill Nighy. For me, what didn’t work here is that the mechanics and writing of a movie within this movie seemed contrived and rather boring and I was much more interested in what was going on with the war in London and less about the day to day problems with making a movie. One could argue that this film is more about the making of a World War 2 movie in London 1940 with some romantic side stories and less about the precarious life of Londoners who lived through World War 2 – and for that reason, this is really not a war movie at all. Bill Nighy provides some very good moments of humor during the making of the movie, but in my opinion, the best reason behind this story and the precarious life of anyone living in London during World War 2 were missed. The best line of this movie was when someone suggests to Catrin that she could not waste any life opportunity considering how quickly a person’s life could end at any moment. Very true considering the precarious times. There is a shocking scene at the end that was completely unexpected that did remind me of how quickly a person can lose their life during those horrible times of World War 2.

I give Their Finest a very marginal recommendation because although I considered the acting very well done, the back story about the making of a movie within this movie I found too long and boring to give this a strong recommendation.

Movie Review: Free Fire


So many movies have been made over the years that if you want to get a new movie idea greenlighted, it has to be different, sometimes very different. The challenge for any screenwriter, when you realize that so many movies have already been made about so many different ideas, is that you have to not only be different but also write a high-quality script. The movie “Free Fire” is without a doubt a very different kind of a movie when you recognize that the entire film is shot in a broken down warehouse after an illegal gun deal goes bad. What follows are people getting shot and killed and crawling around cursing at themselves and each other. I thought the dialogue throughout this film was interesting and unusual however not up to Tarantino standards. The action was good enough for this story but it’s impossible to make gunfire and injuries from gunfire any different that what we all have seen so many times in movies.

This movie stars Brie Larson who has made some pretty average movies since she won the Academy Award for best actress for Room 2 years ago, the most recent one was King Kong: Skull Island. Once you win the Academy Award and you’re at the top of the very fickle movie industry and in demand, it is so important to select high-quality movies. For this reason, I was surprised to see her in this film mainly because I thought it should be beneath not only her standards but below the standards of a very recent Academy Award winner. This movie also stars Armie Hammer, so perhaps there was some kind of a deal made to have 2 named actors in this pretty average movie.

This is a good movie as far as a violent gun play but there is not much of a real story here. The unusual differences with this film are not different enough to make me consider this as a good movie and for that reason, I am giving Free Fire a very marginal recommendation.

Past Movie Review: Disclosure


The movie Disclosure was released in 1994 and was based on a book written by the late Michael Crichton and personally one of my favorite movies made from one of his novels.

It would have been something had this movie been released today, given the recent rash of sexual harassment stories coming out of Fox News the last few months. This movie is about sexual harassment in the workplace, but in this case, it is an evil woman played by Demi Moore who is the harasser. I thought the story and the acting were great in this film and I consider the portrayal of the lead character, Tom Sanders as one of Michael Douglas, best performances. I remember thinking when I saw this movie for the first time that there should be many more movies made about being an employee of a company to show the inevitable backstabbing and bad people that so many of us have to deal with to make a living.

What made this movie so good was how believable the complex political situations were and the injustice of what an innocent man had to endure once he is falsely accused of sexual harassment. It was amazing to see the attitudes of just about every one of Tom Sander’s co-workers who could just not believe that he was the victim of sexual harassment because he was a man. Tom was considered completely guilty before even getting his day in court. The rest of this movie was also very well done, including the courtroom scenes and the final the comeuppance of Meredith Johnson, played by Demi Moore that we all would love to see in real life but almost never do. The comedian Dennis Miller also makes a very convincing appearance in this movie as one of Tom’s co-workers.

This very good movie also stars Donald Sutherland who is the owner of the high-tech company who does a very believable job portraying the back-stabbing politics of the real working world. I highly recommend Disclosure as one of the few films I can remember about working in the real world.

Movie Review: Unforgettable


from Dictionary.com:

A framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a scientific community.

It should be obvious now to anyone who goes to movies with any regularity that the very specific paradigm of some crazy woman who wants some other woman’s husband or boyfriend and then goes through an insane series of events to get him back, is something that producers in Hollywood believe will ultimately make money.

There have been so many movies like the movie “Unforgettable”, and it all started with the first film, which was the only good one of this type that was released 30 years ago, Fatal Attraction. Probably the main reason why Fatal Attraction was the only good movie is that it was the original and all the clones that follow are just pale imitations. I am more amazed that this exact story has been made so many times, with a storyline and action scenes that are so similar to the other movies. There is always a crazy unstable woman, this time played by Katherine Heigl and always a nice woman who is the victim, played by Rosario Dawson. There is always a scene where the two women fight, sometimes to the death. There are always several scenes where the insane woman plots to discredit or ruin the relationship of the other woman. There always seems to be some young child involved who can possibly be harmed during this insane conflict. There is nothing new in this entire story, other than to try and explain why Heigl’s character is so crazy because of her overbearing mother who is played by Cheryl Ladd, who looks extremely good for her age, 65. The comedian Whitney Cummings also has a small part in this movie as the advisor and friend to Rosario Dawson and she seems completely out of place in this story.

This film could be considered some kind of a comeback attempt for Katherine Heigl and it’s a shame she chose this bad movie to make but perhaps due to her problems in the past this was her only option. I have not seen Rosario Dawson in a movie for a while and perhaps she was in the same boat as Heigl and had no other options. The title for this bad film “Unforgettable” is unfortunate because not only will everyone forget this movie very quickly, you actually want to forget you made the decision to see this film while you are watching it. A better title for this bad film would be “Missable”.

I thought this movie is not the worst of all of the many clones that have been made in the 30 years since Fatal Attraction was released, but it’s definitely a film that should have gone straight to DVD.

Movie Review: The Fate of the Fast and Furious


One can only imagine the challenge the 2 screenwriters faced 2 years ago after the success of the last Fast and Furious movie. All of the actors in the last movie were signed to multiple film deals in this franchise and despite the fact that one of them, Jason Statham is in a maximum security level prison and one of the main stars, Paul Walker was very tragically killed in an auto accident. Now they had to come up a new story that would explain all of this for the new movie but for some reason, it seems that they completely forgot to explain why Paul Walker’s character Brian was not in this story. The new actor who will probably be his replacement, Scott Eastwood, has been added to the cast as the new Mr. Nobody who works with the old Mr. Nobody played by Kurt Russell. On top of this, the murdering criminal enemy in the last film, played by Jason Statham, now has to somehow, miraculously become the “good guy” and friends to the entire Fast and Furious family at the end of this film. Didn’t Statham’s character try to blow up Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, his baby and his wife in the last film? Are we suppose to forget about the murders he committed and now consider him part of the family? Of course, all of this is just too stupid, but somehow we are expected to accept this as part of the story.

I thought that the last movie had a very good story and very good action and a great tribute to Paul Walker at the end of the film. This new one had a very stupid and convoluted story that made no sense and the action scenes were not nearly as good as the last film. You cannot blame the 2 screenwriters, Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson who were actually given the impossible task of writing a script that literally had to be “reverse engineered” into a story that had to satisfy the contracts of the actors and preserve the continuation of a franchise that has always been based on a stupid concept. Essentially, the idea of fighting terrorism and master criminals by driving cars fast is completely absurd from the start. We overlook stupidity like this for this movie franchise because the special effects and the stunts involved are so amazing to watch. However, at some point, the upside of seeing stunts and special effects are not enough to cover up a bad story, stupid plot, corny lines that are repeated too often and a series of events with the characters themselves that have now become ridiculously over the top and absurd. How many times can a character die in a movie series and not really be dead? What is the count of non-dead people in these movies so far? I lost count of this a long time ago.

Two new actors have joined the continuing cast of the Fast and Furious franchise, Charlize Theron and Scott Eastwood. It seems the producers are grooming Eastwood to take over for Kurt Russel or eventually take over for Paul Walker because he looks a little like him. As far as Theron, I thought she was miscast for this part as the evil mastermind criminal who obtains leverage over Vin Diesel’s character so he turns rogue.  You had to figure that the producers thought they needed this new idea or twist with this movie to hopefully prevent it from becoming stale, but what they overlook is that the more convoluted and ridiculous the story the larger the threat to this franchise continuing. In my opinion, if in another 2 years they come up a story or illogical events for Fast and Furious #9 as bad as with this movie, then this entire franchise might just have reached its limit too soon.

For me, the best part of this movie is the violent banter between The Rock, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, when they first meet up in prison and later in the movie when they somehow, despite what happened in the last movie, slowly start to like each other? The Rock is becoming famous for several of his over the top lines in these movies and this one was no exception. The one time when the Rock tells Statham what he would do to him in a fight, that involved brushing his teeth, the audience I was in as well as the two actors just had to laugh out loud. It was by far the best line in this movie.

The ending of this movie that involved driving cars on a glacier in Russia seemed to be just an excuse to drive cars on ice and blow them up and like the rest of this movie made no sense. This final scene also involved the use of the submarine and an ending car jumping scene with Diesel that was far too similar to the ending of the last film. At this point in the movie, I was overwhelmed and very annoyed at the ridiculous plot that made no sense and action scenes entirely for the excuse to have special effects or stunts, rather than a story had some logic to it. This movie pushes the envelope of absurdity and over the top dialogue more than any of the other previous 7 films and because of that reason, ruined the film. At some point there just has to be a plot that makes some sense and not a storyline that was created just so all of the actors involved can have their contracts honored for future movies. Another flaw I saw in this story was the computer expert, played by Nathalie Emmanuel, who in this movie is a passenger in cars during the action scenes and in harm’s way, even though she is the computer person who should be working on computer issues remotely. Why is she involved with these action scenes and almost getting killed when she never even drives a car? This just another example of stupid decisions for this movie that made no sense.

Normally I would say to see this movie just for the special effects, but the insane story and just above average special effects are not enough for me to recommend this latest installment in the Fast and Furious franchise.

Past Movie Review: Midnight Express


Some movies will always be impossible to ever forget. The film “Midnight Express”, released in October 1978, is definitely one of those movies. This movie starred the late Brad Davis, who died of aids when he was only 41. This movie was written by Oliver Stone and won the Academy Award in 1979 for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium. The late John Hurt was nominated for an Oscar for best-supporting actor and the movie was also nominated for best picture for 1978.

This story, about an American Drug Smuggler, Billy Hayes, who was arrested in Turkey is a true one and about as riveting and unbelievable as any movie about a true story has ever been. The series of events that lead to Billy Hayes arrest, his 5 years in prison and mostly the ending were so unbelievable I remember thinking that this story was almost impossible to believe really happened. I also remember one of the trailers for this movie in 1978 that simply stated, “If you get caught smuggling drugs over there, your in for the hassle of your life”.

The horrible and depressing life during Billy Hayes imprisonment in Turkey was extremely well depicted in this film and the conditions in the prison he was in for 5 long years were both cruel and inhumane. His family and lawyers tried many times to get him released only to fail time after time after being lied to repeatedly by the corrupt legal system in that country. How Billy Hayes finally got out of this horrible death spiral in a Turkish prison is the most amazing and best part of this great movie.

For those who have never seen or heard of “Midnight Express” I highly recommend it.

Past Movie Review: Hitch


The movie “Hitch” that was released in 2005 is easily the funniest film both Will Smith and Kevin James ever made. The dancing scene in this movie (see video) below was so funny that Smith had to hold the stereo remote control over his mouth to not show that he wanted to laugh. There is also another practice kissing scene between James and Smith that is also very funny later in the movie.

Aside from the funny scenes in this film, I thought the message about life and the difficulties in dating were very strong throughout. “You only get one look, one kiss and only one shot, that is all we get”, just to name one. Another scene in this movie as Will Smith, who is of all things a relationship consultant, has a meeting with a real lowlife who wants his services to just use a woman for a one night stand. I thought was also very significant in how well Will Smith’s character handled him. Smith’s relationship with Albert is also very well brought out because we sense that Smith wants to help him get the woman of his dreams because of his decency and niceness as a person, more than any other reason. The conclusion at the end was also great, “just try and be yourself”, because eventually everybody who dates or finds the right person or never does, can only be themselves.

This is light mostly comedic subject matter but I thought this movie was highly entertaining and I recommend it.

Movie Review: Gifted


The movie “Gifted” has ingredients of films we have seen before about child custody; probably the most famous of those is “Kramer vs Kramer” that was released in 1979. What is different with the story in Gifted is the suicide of the child’s mother, who was a mathematical genius and her suicide and prodigy are the connection to the 7-year-old child she left behind, who inherited her mathematical gifts. The rest of the story slowly uncovers the reasons why this brilliant woman killed herself and her brother, played by Chris Evans, who is trying to prevent her child from following her same depressing path in life. When your a genius at the level of Mary, the child in this movie played very well by Mckenna Grace, just like most everything else in life, there are good parts and bad parts. The good parts are your massive intelligence at a level where you could potentially change the world with your inventions or ideas. The bad parts are that you might become socially inept because you will be going to school in think tanks or special schools, possibly going to college with people much older than you and because of this you might never achieve your potential as a human being and as well as a gifted prodigy. Fundamentally, this movie asks the question: “is it even possible to be a child prodigy and also develop normal social skills”? As this movie shows, the young girl can be very impatient and rude around other ordinary children, which would be just one of many problems trying to raise a gifted child.

We find out during the story that one of the main reasons for the woman’s suicide was because of her overbearing mother, who tried to control her life and put too much pressure on her to succeed, even to the point of trying to ruin her relationships. Most of this comes out during the child custody court hearings which were boring at some points, but in the end took an unexpected twist that I thought was well done and lead to a satisfying conclusion. Most movies about child prodigies that can only come for Chess, Music and Mathematics are for the most part very impressive when they show the prodigy performing their main talent and this movie has several impressive mathematical demonstrations by Mary that I thought were very well done. Octavia Spenser also stars in this movie as neighborhood friend of Mary and her uncle and she seems out of place in this story and perhaps there was a deal made to add her to the movie to obtain more ticket buyers due to her recent success in movies like “Hidden Figures” that was another movie about a mathematical child prodigy.

Gifted is a good movie about a child prodigy but not a great one and I do recommend it.

Movie Review: Going in Style


The movie “Going in Style” is a remake of the 1979 movie of the same title, that started George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strasberg. The idea behind this story is essentially the same, 3 men in their 70’s and 80’s who have nothing to lose, decide to rob a bank because all 3 are broke due to a major injustice. In the case of this new version, the major injustice is very understandable. One of the 3 men, played by Micheal Caine was tricked into getting a mortgage that ballooned into payments that tripled after a year. On top of this, all 3 men are retired factory workers and now because of cost cutting and typical screwing over workers, they have lost out on their pensions that it took them 30 years of hard work to earn. Now all of them are broke and after Caine’s character witnesses a robbery, he decides to rob the very bank that tripled his mortgage payments and is now threatening to foreclose on his house. I found all of this believable and understandable, considering the kind of anger these 3 men and so many other Americans must feel when they are screwed out of their pensions or laid off because their job has moved overseas. Caine’s friends are played well by veteran actors Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin and they both provide some comic relief and believability to the story. On to of all their other problems, Freeman’s character is on dialysis and needs a Kidney transplant, which adds some perhaps unnecessary drama to the plot.

I thought that the story was entertaining enough, believable and considering the bank and the company involved that screwed over these 3 men almost justifiable.

The negative part of all this is that as you watch this 100 minute or so movie you slowly realize that most of the story you have seen many times before, so before long this film is over it can seem to be boring and average.  Ann Margaret also makes an appearance in this movie along with Matt Dillon, who I have not seen in a movie in a long time.

I give this movie only a mild recommendation, mainly because of the 3 great actors involved.