Movie Review: Father Figures


Movies like “Father Figures” have amazed me over the years for so many reasons. First of all, how can a below average screenplay like this get green-lighted to be made in the first place? Then, after so many big name actors read the script, why do they agree to do it? They must realize that its a boring story about 2 brothers trying to find their real father and nothing more than another road trip movie. My theories for how something like this happens is because of Hollywood deal making, actors who sign multiple picture deals to get the one movie they really want, favors to a friend or the basic fact that they believe that if they don’t stay active enough as an actor then the one great part might never come along. This movie rightfully has pretty poor rankings on Rotten Tomatoes, 22% and 50% on IMDB, and it definitely broke my comedy rule that nobody laughed once during the whole film and was a pretty boring 2 hours. I also thought the ending was manipulative and not believable at all, given what happened in the story previously.

The list of actors in this film is both impressive and hard to understand given the below average and boring screenplay, including Ed Helms, Owen Wilson, Ving Rhames, Genn Close, J.K. Simmons and even Christopher Walken. This is a movie that should be missed by just about everyone, except for the few of us who write movie blogs.

Movie Review: All the Money in the World


The odds are extremely high that in the history of movies in this country, the highly unusual circumstances of having to completely re-shoot all the scenes of a major character within a few months of news a sexual scandal is something that has probably never happened before. The actor Kevin Spacey, who is one in a long line of famous men who have had their lives ruined by the sexual harassment scandals started by Harvey Weinstein some months ago, was completely removed from the new movie “All the Money in the World” and replaced by Christopher Plummer. While watching this movie and Plummer’s performance I could not help wondering how Kevin Spacey must feel now that the movie he should have been in has been released without him and from Plummber’s excellent performance this could have been one of Spacey’s best roles. One could definiately argue that 2 months ago the 3 best male actors in the world right now are Tom Hanks, Kevin Spacey and Danzel Washington and now, Spacey’s career as an actor is most likely over forever.

As far as this film, which is about the kidnapping in Italy of J Paul Getty’s grandson in 1973, I thought it was very well done, despite having to re-shoot Spacey’s scenes months after the movie was completed. It provided huge insight into the greedy money sickness of J Paul Getty, who at the time was the richest man of all time, and despite this, didn’t care to help one of own grandchildren who was kidnapped in Italy and originally held for a 17 million dollar ransom. He constantly delayed negotiations with the kidnappers and amazingly in the end even tried to make the payoff to them, through his divorced son as a tax deduction. In all my years of seeing so many characters in movies, I have never one person so obsessed with money and nothing else. The mother of Getty’s grandson, was played by Michelle Williams who it seems every year is always in the highest quality movie and part. Williams started as a character on the TV show Dawson’s creek and in all the years since that show ended she has consistently only taken parts in low budget high quality movies, never going for the big money and only caring about the quality of each role. She will be nominated again this year, her fifth Oscar nomination for best actress for this role and were it not for Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game might actually win this year. Christopher Plummer was also outstanding in his role as J Paul Getty and if he wins an Oscar, the irony of that achievement might be the final nail in Kevin Spacey’s self-made career coffin.

I highly recommend All the Money in the world.

Movie Review: Molly’s Game


I often wonder why I see so many movies every year. Its not just because of this blog, its much more than that. I started this blog in October 2014 and before then I was seeing this many movies a year. I became a movie buff because of the high I get from seeing a rare gem among so many bad movies that are made, realizing how rare it is when you see something great. I see so many movies to admire the acting and the dialogue and most of all the screenwriting that is the underlying purpose of this this blog from the day I started it.

While watching this brilliantly written and directed Aaron Sorkin movie, “Molly’s Game” you immediately realize just like with all of Sorkin’s dialogue that nobody talks that fast. Nobody can put together words and dialogue that well chosen so quickly in real life, but that doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter because Sorkin’s dialogue is so brilliant and because of its rapid fire precision, it draws you in, mesmerizes you and before you know it, you are so engrossed with what is happening and what is being said that you don’t realize that two hours have gone by. I think Sorkin’s has people talk so fast in all of his screenplays and teleplays because he wants you to pay attention to what people are saying so you are more drawn into what is going on. This may not work with everybody, but it works for me.

Molly’s Game originally was a book about a former world class Skier who was hurt and lost out on her chances for the Olympics. Her father, played extremely well by Kevin Costner, drove her way too hard and this created resentment and ultimately the reasons, like so many people in the world, to take her life into directions that at first she fell into, but later lead her into the dangerous world of high stakes poker games. This movie teaches you a lot about poker and about the dangers that will always seep into something like this, as we see people losing their entire life savings. We also see gamblers desperately trying to get back to even and like everybody with an addiction don’t know when they have had enough losing and its time to stop playing.

Molly is played by Jessica Chastain who in my opinion, unlike last years Miss Sloan, should not only be nominated for a best actress Oscar but should actually win this year. Equally as good in his role, is Molly’s lawyer played by Idris Elba who should also be nominated for best actor or supporting actor. I could not help but admire how these actors were able to memorize so many of these complex speeches that Sorkin wrote and directed and made it seem like it was their natural way of talking. Being an actor is most challenging with dialogue like this, that is so complex and so long that there are so many takes to get it just right. I also thought that this was Kevin Costner’s best acting performance in many years, especially the brilliant and emotional ending scene with his daughter where he did 3 years of psychoanalysis with her in 3 minutes. We learn why Molly is the person she because of the problems with her spine injury and her desperation to please her father by almost killing herself trying to be an Olympic skier even after she was severely injured. Molly’s Game is Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut and he just might receive a best director Oscar along with best adapted screenplay that I think should be a guarantee.

Molly’s Game is one of the best pictures of 2017 and receives my highest recommendation.

Movie Review: Darkest Hour


Historical movies are one of my favorites to see because if its a very good historical movie, then you might learn something that you never knew before. Everybody knows how important a person Winston Churchill has been to the world and what “Darkest Hour” shows is that without Churchill, and the incredibly difficult decisions he had to make around the time when 300,000 men of England’s army were surrounded in Dunkirk, England might have either surrendered or fallen to the Germans. With England’s opposition removed and the guns and armory the Germans would have been able to take from England, they could have in fact taken over the entirety of Europe and won the war. At the time of Dunkirk, Churchill was surrounded by weak men who wanted to negotiate with Germany a surrender, through of all people Mussolini of Italy. These men were very weak because of their fear and panic, they did not seem to realize that whatever terms they got from lowlife of the likes of Hitler or Mussolini would have been ignored and England would have been overtaken. Churchill steadfastly refused to negotiate but at times, was at least curious as to what terms England could have gotten. It took one amazing scene when he talked to some of the people of England to know the correct course he had to take. The people of England knew the best course of action for their country, far more than most of the people who were in charge. How many times in life is that a real truth.

The acting in Darkest Hour is outstanding, starting with Gary Oldman who will definitely be nominated for best actor and might actually win an Oscar for best actor. Lili James is also excellent in her role as Churchill’s typist who at first is abused by him but later becomes a valued friend.

I highly recommend Darkest Hour.

Movie Review: Downsizing


The new movie “Downsizing”, starring Matt Damon and Kristen Wig has one of the best ideas for a movie that I have seen in a long time. A scientific breakthrough has allowed for the downsizing of any human being to 1/2500 of their original size. Once they are miniaturized they can never turn back to normal size again. This amazing process will also enable any human being to have to many times their former net worth because of the tiny world they will live in and live a much better life while saving the world from over population.

Unfortunately for this film, after the process of making a person very small is over, they completely ran out of ideas, other than to have Matt Damon’s wife, played by Kristen Wig change her mind about the whole thing and later divorce him. After Damon finds himself alone in the new small world, things got extremely boring very quickly and soon after Damon runs into a Vietnamese woman who lost her leg during some mishap during her miniaturization process and somehow they fall in love. The entire second half of this movie is not only very bad, but makes no sense. Why would Damon’s character do any of the things they have him do after he arrives in the new small world? The truth is, he wouldn’t. While watching the second half of a movie that could have been very good, I wondered how Matt Damon read this script and then agreed to do it? Why did Christoph Waltz agree to appear in this mess? How was the screenplay not completely re-written into something that actually made sense and was an understandable continuation of this amazing new scientific process?

I also realized towards the end of this way too long bad movie that this is the 4th bad film in a row that Matt Damon has made, including “The Great Wall”, “Suburbicon” and “Jason Bourne”. Somewhere along the line, the concept of less money and higher quality will have to be realized. This is too many bad movies.

I recommend that everyone miss this pretty bad film.

Movie Review: I, Tonya


The movie I, Tonya about the infamous skater from the 1990’s Tonya Harding could very well be the greatest thing that ever happened to Harding’s career and legacy. This film paints a very favorable and understanding picture of the famous knee attack on Nancy Kerrigan in January 1994 and the life and sports career of Tonya Harding. As I have said before on this blog, we are all products of our childhood, good or bad and the luck or bad luck we have in life all starts at birth, based on who your parents are, money, DNA, education and many other factors that decide whether we will have a chance at a decent life. Or like in the case of Tonya Harding, have to dig themselves out of a very deep hole. From the beginning as the youngest child of a very bad mother who had 5 kids with 4 husbands, was very abusive and Tanya Harding grew up from the very bottom in every sense of the word. During her career, Harding never got the respect she deserved for her performances, because the judges thought of her as white trash.

The most remarkable part of Tanya’s life was that she was ever able to break out of her terrible life and became world famous and even got to the Olympics. Harding was married and later divorced to a horrible person who constantly hit her. Her mother was a major lowlife who also constantly hit her and verbally abused her. Her mother was married and divorced 4 times and its amazing, when you see this movie that someone like this could ever have been married 4 times and had 5 kids.

There is major Oscar buzz for the acting performances of Margot Robbie and Allison Janney as both performances were outstanding. You also have to admire the amount of work Robbie put in for 5 months to learn out to skate. The story was told in an usual way, with character interviews that seemed more like a documentary but I thought that the lead up as to why the bad people around Harding decided to do the stupid act of trying to break Kerrigan’s knee were not explored enough towards the end of this film.

I highly recommend I Toyna.

Movie Review: Pitch Perfect 3


The movie franchise Pitch Perfect, that debuted in 2012 has worked extremely well for several reasons. The first is that the two judges played by John Michael Higgins and Elizabeth Banks are very funny and they have great chemistry. The second reason is the singing and the music. The third reason is the music rift contests that have always been very good, especially in the second Pitch Perfect that was released in 2015. The fourth reason is the filler, or the part of the movie that is necessary for every screenwriter to make a movie 2 hours long. Unfortunately the 3rd and possibly last installment of Pitch Perfect failed big time because the filler part just did not work at all. To make this movie 2 hours, the screenwriters decided to insert a kidnapping and karate scene that not only did not work, it almost completely ruined the entire movie. Very clearly they just ran out of ideas and threw this in out of desperation because they were under the gun and needed another 30 minutes of screen time. I also thought that the other filler stories were much weaker than the other two movies and there was not enough music or great musical numbers in this 3rd installment.

The good news is that Anna Kendrick is still a great singer, exceptional enough to have a separate and even more successful singing career. Some of the characters still work, the one who you can barely hear talk, fat Amy and several of the other women who have now gone on after college and are very depressed with their lives and decide to reunite one last time for a USO tour. The movie starts out pretty well, but then goes into directions that did not work and then degrades into a kidnapping and karate movie. For these reasons I can only recommend this film for die hard Pitch Perfect fans.

Movie Review: The Shape of Water


The “Shape of Water” is another one of those movies that so desperately tries to be so different that it shoots too high and in my opinion forgets some important things about what is most essential when telling a good story; starting with, it has to make sense. The log line for this movie would mostly be, “A mute female custodian who works in a highly secure Government research facility in the 1950’s meets an falls in love with an alien lizard creature”. That sure is different, never been done before. But how can a custodian have total access to a highly secure Government research facility, so she would have the opportunity to fall in love with a giant lizard creature. Why would a human woman find a lizard creature attractive? One good thing about this movie is that the lizard creature costume and makeup and eyes were all extremely impressive. The acting was good, with Sally Hawkins as the mute girl, Octavia Spenser as her co-worker custodian friend and Micheal Shannon who was very good as the head of the Government facility. The ratings for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB are both very high, for reasons that escape me. This movie was mostly just weird and I remember thinking was way too long and I could not wait for it all to end. For these reasons I cannot recommend this film.

Movie Review: Jumanji


There should be rules for remaking movies. The amount of time that has past since the original, the quality of the original and that goes both ways. For instance, nobody would ever be crazy enough to remake the Godfather, or Saving Private Ryan, but a movie that was good but not too great could be a good rule that Hollywood should follow. The original Jumanji that came out in 1996 was an OK movie, not that good, but just OK so I was pretty surprised that this movie was remade.

There have been several remakes of bad TV shows this year, Baywatch and Chips and were both very bad movies, and this is the first movie remake of 2017. The Rock, Dwayne Johnson teams again with Kevin Hart and this movie will remind everyone of movies that both have done in the past. There is nothing special here, just 4 high school students that get sucked into a video game and take on the personalities of the characters of the game. As far as the game they are all trapped in, it was not obvious what the game is, other than surviving different attacks from natives and charging rhinos and trying not to lose all 3 of their lives. I thought this movie was on a par with the original that starred the late Robin Williams and overall I give it a marginal recommendation.

Movie Review: Wonder Wheel


With the amazing wave after wave of sexual allegations that have destroyed the careers of so many in Hollywood, music and even Broadcasting, one has to be amazed that Woody Allen is still able to make whatever movie he wants and still hires some of the best names in the movie industry. Ironically, Allen’s son with Mia Farrow, Ronan Farrow was the journalist who started the dominoes falling with Harvey Weinstein and after he fell, it seems that the new reports of sexual abuse are never ending and careers and lives are ruined every day. The allegations against Woody Allen go back to 1992 and one can only wonder if this news came out now that Allen’s career would have survived like it did in 1992. Why Woody Allen was able to survive in 1992 when so many careers are now over for good, for charges that are in most cases far less than what Allen was charged with is another question. One could argue that Woody Allen is the greatest and most prolific screenwriter of all time, making the tragedy of what happened to him in 1992 all the more tragic, whether or not the accusations are true. All movie fans can only wonder what it must be like to be Woody Allen after his incredible career and great movies and fame, only to have something like this happen to him to shine a bad light on his legacy.

Allen’s new movie “Wonder Wheel” is about a husband and wife, played by Jim Belushi and Kate Winslet who live on a boardwalk in Brooklyn right under a giant Ferris wheel called Wonder Wheel. I wondered if Allen’s use of this Ferris wheel was a metaphor for life or the story in this movie, but perhaps the idea of people living so close to a noisy amusement park and huge wheel fascinated Allen and he just decided to put this idea in a movie. This part of Wonder Wheel reminded me of Allen’s masterpiece Annie Hall, the only comedy to ever win best picture in 1977 because the main character in that film, Alvie Singer, played by Allen lived under a roller coaster when he was a child. I thought this entire story of Wonder Wheel was well done and believable and lead up impressively to one singular moment towards the end where Kate Winslet’s character has to make a decision to either do the right thing, or selfishly save her own life.

Like many of Allen’s recent movies, this one is completely serious that absolutely no comic moments. For all true Woody Allen fans, we are all hoping that one day he will revert back to his the comedy phase of his writing career and give the world another Annie Hall, but for now that seems like a remote possibility as Woody only seems to make mostly serious movies now.

Overall, I thought this was a solid movie and also included singer Justin Timberlake as one of the main characters. I am actually surprised at the low 30% ratings on rotten tomatoes as I would have given this movie a solid 75 out of 100. The acting was very good and even though the story did drag at parts, it kept my attention and had a great singular moment as I mentioned before with a good ending. I recommend Wonder Wheel.