Movie Review: Uncle Drew

As far as movies I have seen about basketball over the years, the best one by far has always been “White Men Can’t Jump”, released in 1992. White Men Can’t Jump hit all the marks, including great basketball action and a very funny and good story. Its impossible to believe that its been 26 years since this very good movie was released.

As far as the new movie “Uncle Drew”, I was impressed with most of the basketball scenes, but the story had too many road trip diversions and not enough good story and basketball. I was most impressed with the acting of NBA star Kyrie Irving who showed not only his incredible ball handling skills and the fact that he can act too. By far the best line in the movie was when Kyrie said twice “You will miss 100% of the time, if you never take a shot”. The actress Tiffany Haddish is also in this movie – and her career is exploding lately. Considering she was living in her car trying to make it in show business, she is a very lucky person. I thought this film was a good family movie with an average story and some humor but could have been more memorable. I give Uncle Drew a marginal recommendation.

Movie Review: Sicario: Day of the Soldado

It was very hard to see the message or even the reason for the new movie “Sicario: Day of the Soldado – other than its a sequel to the much better original Sicario, released in 2015. For me, I thought the message was, “when you are dealing with terrorists who are willing to blow themselves up along with hundreds of other innocent people, then any thoughts of fair play and humanity when we fight people like this are out the window”. When you deal with animals who are willing to murder innocent people with suicide bombs – you have to be ruthless and this part of the message I agreed with.

Unfortunately this movie degraded from something that started out to be a promising insight into Terrorism into the kidnapping and transporting a young Mexican teenage girl played by Isabela Moner. Too much of this part of the story dominated this film and was too long and at times boring. The good part of this movie was the acting and presence of Moner who should have a very bright future in movies.

Some of the scenes of terrorists blowing themselves up were well done as far as the horrible special effects, but it was unnecessary to be that graphic showing what something like this would look like at close range. The acting of Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro I thought was as good as the last movie, but nothing that stood out. The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie are an anemic 60% and I would have rated it about 45% because the story mostly went nowhere and had no real message. For these reasons I do not recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Gotti

Getting a zero on Rotten Tomatoes is a rare occurrence and the new movie “Gotti” starring John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston, currently has a zero rating. I do not agree with this film getting a zero – something 25% would be more appropriate with less cruel reviews. When you consider the amount of time and years of planning it must have taken to make this movie, there is no way anyone can say that it is a zero. Making movies and writing a great screenplay are both extremely difficult things to do, and in the case of Gotti, the problem is simple; horrible screenwriting and film editing. As far as the disconnected scenes in this movie, its almost as if they decided to film all the scenes in any order and then when it was time to combine all the finished scenes, they threw them into the air like sticks and then just pasted it all together wherever they landed. There are few things about a movie that are more annoying than a story that is badly told and does not make any sense. For Gotti, the story lines are not explained, what is going on is not explained in many cases, characters come and go without any idea of who they are and how they are connected. However, in the end I thought the acting of John Travolta was good. Good enough to guarantee that the movie did not get a zero rating.

When I found out that Gotti received a zero rating, I immediately thought of the fact that this movie was in the planning stage for several years and then the weeks and months that went into making it and how cruel the critics can be. Just for the effort and acting this movie is a 30% – well below average but not a zero. But why make a movie about a murderer and a gangster like Gotti? Why show so many actual films from the 80’s and 90’s of people in the streets of New York City and Brooklyn defending a person like this?

This movie could have been substantially improved by just showing the scenes in sequence and adding some obvious additions to the story so you at least know what is going on. A director like Martin Scorsese could have turned this movie into something very good or great, but unfortunately when the wrong people are in charge, the end result is a movie like this.

This movie should be missed but could have been good. Unfortunately too many obvious mistakes were made.

Movie Review: Won’t you be my Neighbor

This is a documentary about the late Fred Rogers, arguably the most likable person who has ever been on TV. Fred Rogers was in real life exactly as he appeared on his PBS show, where all he cared about was helping children. Very few have ever had the talents to make people feel better about their life, maybe less unhappy, less nervous, but Fred Rogers had the innate ability to make everybody who saw his show feel just a little bit better. In the audience I was in, some people were weeping because they were so moved by the niceness and human decency in Fred Rogers just watching the tapes of some of the many shows he did on PBS. At one point, Rogers decided to take a break from his show, hoping he could reinvent himself trying to help adults, some of whom were in prison – but he was not as adept at that aspect of relating to people. Rogers even tried to help children get through death, divorce, bullying and even the 911 tragedy with his show.

What amazed me the most about this very good documentary that has a 99% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes is that even a guy as nice as Fred Rogers did not escape the stupid criticism of some critics – who accused him of being responsible all the ills of the current generation of children because he told them that they were all special. Rogers believed that we are all special in the eyes of God, but the cruel and stupid critics thought that this gave too many children an excuse not to work hard. Obviously, this criticism is even more cruel than it is completely idiotic but its also part of being in the public eye. This shows that in this world, no matter what you do, there is always someone close by just waiting his or her turn to knock you down and make you feel bad about yourself. As Rogers himself said in this documentary – “people who go out of their way to knock other people down are the very essence of evil”. All of us have met people like this in our life and careers – including me. Its part of life, an unfortunate reality.

“Won’t you be my Neighbor” gets my highest recommendation.

Movie Review: Jurassic World: Forgotten Kingdom

The good news about the latest in the Jurassic Park series of movies that started in 1993, 25 years ago – is that this one is bad enough that maybe they will stop making these movies. The Rotten Tomatoes rating is only 50% and I would have given this movie a 20% rating.

The logline for this entire franchise is – there are dinosaurs somewhere, people are around the dinosaurs and then something goes wrong and people run for their lives and some die. Considering a logline like this its no wonder that all of this can get old pretty quickly. The first Jurassic Park was released in 1993, the second in 1997 and the third in 2001. Then it was 14 long years before the new one was released in 2015. I thought the 2015 version was a good film, but this followup is a bad movie that could wreck the franchise for good. The story was convoluted and not believable, many of the things that the main characters, played by Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, are not things that anyone with any level of intelligence would do. Somewhere along the line, the producers of these movies have to realize that special effects cannot rescue a bad idea, or worse a bad script.

This movie is only for kids who love any kind of dinosaur movie or for the most die-hard Jurassic Park fan’s. For everybody else, this one should be skipped.

Movie Review: Hearts Beat Loud

The new small movie “Hearts Beat Loud” has very big ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of 91% and I agree with those numbers. The story here is simple and that is why it is a very good film because most of the time, the simple small stories about real life are always the best.

This story is about the grief of a widower Frank Fisher played by Nick Offerman and the difficulties of running a small record store and raising a teenage daughter,played extremely well by the actress Kiersey Clemons by himself. They have almost no money, the business is failing and Frank’s daughter is about to go to college to become a doctor. One line that stood out for me is that the tuition for one year of medical school is 62,000 a year but if you have no money at all, its 12,000. How completely insane is this? Somewhere along the line the amount of money that the vast majority of people make in this country became completely disconnected to what things cost and this movie depicts this harsh reality very well. This problem is at its absolute worst when it comes to the cost of college, law school and medical school.

This movie also stars Toni Collette who plays the landlord of the failing record store and Collette was also in the recent and very good movie Heredity – recently reviewed in this blog. One problem in this movie was the chain smoking of Nick Offerman’s character – a problem I still see in almost all movies today.

I thought the singing and music in this movie, especially at the end was very well done and adds even more to like to this very good film.

I highly recommend Hearts Beat Loud.

Movie Review: Incredibles 2

The reason why big budget computer generated movies like “The Incredibles” and “Incredibles 2” are always either good or great is because so much money is at stake and failure is not an option. One cannot help but admire the huge number of many hours of computer work that it takes to create all of these animated characters, worlds and action scenes. Also, unlike so many non-animated movies made today, the story is the #1 priority and like the original Incredibles that was released a long 14 years ago in 2004 this second installment also has a very good story.

This is the first cartoon that I have reviewed on this blog and because I saw the original Incredibles and admired the quality I decided to see the second one knowing that I would be impressed with this film and I was not disappointed.

The story is as good as the first movie and it stars the same voices as the original starting with Holly Hunter and Craig T. Nelson as the main characters and super heroes and both of them were outstanding in their voice-over roles.

I recommend this film for both adults and children and it is one of the best animated feature films I have seen in a long time.

Movie Review: Tag

There is no way funding would have happened for the new movie “Tag” were it not for that fact that it is about a true story about a bunch of men in their 50’s who have been playing a game of tag for 30 years. The challenge with a movie like this is to turn the true story into something interesting by adding some Hollywood fluff that we know didn’t happen in real life – but is interesting enough to hold and audiences attention for 2 hours and add enough humor to make it funny. Unfortunately this movie failed in both of these areas in a big way and the result was a pretty boring two hours with several well known actors like John Hamm and Jeremy Renner in a bad movie.

This one should be missed and is another good idea lost.

Movie Review: Hereditary

Ever since the release of the Exorcist in 1973, all horror movies that are about the Devil, Seances or the Spirit world have been trying to come close or even surpass the benchmark of the Exorcist. The problem with this is that no movie will probably ever be as scary and well done as the Exorcist in terms of pure movie making horror. In 1973 people were fainting while watching the Exorcist, some were vomiting and many more could not sit through the entire film.

The new movie “Hereditary” does a very good job at scaring the audience and one woman who was sitting next to me left early. The buildup and story were very well done, with many scenes that both surprise and scare the audience. For me the #1 best part of this movie was the amazing acting of Toni Collette, who gives and outstanding Academy award winning performance in this film. Colette definitely deserves an Academy award nomination for this role that required extremely difficult scenes of horror and grief throughout the film. The young actress Milly Shapiro is very unusual looking without makeup and with makeup she looks the part of a disturbed young girl who dabbles in the occult. This movie will remind some people of the 1999 huge hit the Sixth Sense with its subltely and impressive camera angles and film editing. Tony Collette also appeared in the Sixth Sense as well. The actor Gabriel Byrne appears in this movie in an understated role as the father.

I thought that Hereditary is one of the better Horror movies I have seen in many years and I give it a strong recommendation. However, this movie is not for young children or the faint of heart.

Movie Review: Oceans 8

All of the five Ocean’s movies are caper movies – and the challenge with writing a caper movie is that you have to make whatever crime the group pulls off both plausible and understandable to the audience. This is not easy, because any detective or anyone with a keen eye can find flaws easily if all of the misdirection that goes into stealing something big – in this case a 150 million dollar necklace. I noticed a few things in this 2 hour caper that did not hold water but not enough to consider this a bad Ocean’s movie. Overall, this 5th installment seemed to be about as good as all the other ones I have seen but I have never seen the original 1960’s Ocean 11 movie starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

The idea with Oceans 8 starring all women, like with the previous 3 Ocean’s movies starring George Clooney and Brad Pitt is to make a good enough first installment so it will spawn more sequels. The jury is out on this on if there will be enough interest to make new Ocean’s movies starring the same cast of women, lead by Sandra Bullock. One good sign is that the movie theater I was in was 100% filled.

I thought that Oceans 8 was a good movie, definitely not great and I do recommend it.