Movie Review: Night School


When it comes to stand-up comedy, Kevin Hart is one of the best comedians to come around in many years. His story telling, facial expressions and natural ability to make people laugh are all about as good as it gets. This is why his stand-up movie specials are some of the best ever produced. Unfortunately, his excellent stand-up talent has yet to translate into a comedy movie that has been memorable – and this includes his latest movie also starring Tiffany Hadish, “Night School”. Writing and producing a great comedy movie is probably the most difficult to create and you cannot just put in some slap-stick scenes and think that the movie is going to be funny because of physical comedy. The problem with Night School is that there is too much physical slap-stick comedy with Kevin Hart and Tiffany Hadish – including some ridiculous wrestling scenes that were never funny. The other actors in this movie including Rob Riggle, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Taran Killam, Romany Malco and Ben Schwartz all seemed like they were sleep walking through their roles, hoping that the months of shooting will be over soon. The problem with this comedy movie is as always the obvious problem – its just not funny enough.

I thought that the message of this story was a good one, never give up and Dyslexia is an abnormality of the brain that can be treated and you are not stupid if you have this problem. Perhaps this is another flaw with this story, because Kevin Hart’s learning disabled character has a life affliction that can never be funny.

I remember thinking that this story has some parallels to Kevin Hart in real life because I read his book I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons. As I have said in the past within this blog, would any of us be able to go through all that Kevin Hart had to go through to become successful in a field as remote and challenging as stand-up comedy? Kevin Hart in the end was hugely successful after being a shoe salesman and almost a high school drop-out, but how few of us would be able to endure all the years of hardship and disappointment that he had to go through to get where he is today? Kevin Hart was raised by a hard working single mother, his father was a drug addict who was frequently in prison. He struggled for many years making almost no money trying to break into stand-comedy. In 2016 Hart made 87.5 million dollars, making him by far the highest paid stand-up comedian, but the dues he paid to get there are almost unbelievable and what he should be admired the most for.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Night School are a very low 30% and for IMDB, the rating is only 5.4. I agree with these ratings and if you are a fan of Kevin Hart, you would be better off renting one of his stand-up comedy movies – and miss this latest unfunny film.

Movie Review: Life Itself


There are several things I found shocking and unique about the new movie “Life Itself”. The first is the extremely low ratings of only 13% on Rotten Tomatoes for a film that does not deserve anywhere near ratings this low. The second is that the screenplay is in four acts where the first two acts are closely related and the last two initially seem to be not related and then the end connect to the first two acts – something I have never seen before. I appreciated the hard work it must have taken to write a story like this for the screenwriter and creator of TV show “This is Us”, Dan Fogelman and I also can relate to how bad he must feel now that the critics are trashing his film. The problem here is that this movie is “too much” of a tearjerker. There is too much death, too much loss and depression and downside. There are some very shocking scenes making this movie not an experience for any child under the age of 15. Aside from all of this – this movie is well acted and the story told well enough to appreciate the thought and hard work it told to create it and should have a rating more in the 60% range – not good enough, but definitely not a bad movie.

Life Itself also has several big named stars, including Annette Benning, Antonio Banderas, Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde and all are very good in their roles, although I did not like the smoking Annette Benning does at the start of this film or the insane narration done by Samuel L. Jackson, which seemed extremely out of place.

As far as the TV show This is Us, starting its 3rd season on September 25, 2018, Fogelman’s timeline idea is one of the most original and best concepts for a Television show of all time. Unfortunately, as always happens when a great new original idea is created, there are clones of the original idea – too many of them, that rip off the original. One of them, “Me, Myself and I”, starring SNL actor Bobby Moynihan has already failed and the new ABC Series “A Million Little things” debuts on ABC this fall – is also stealing the timeline idea. In my experience, TV shows that steal from another great idea always fail, not that this has ever prevented this phenomenon on TV from happening way too often.

The movie Life Itself is not for the faint of heart or for anyone who is depressed because it is almost overwhelming in some parts at how depressing it is. Despite all of this and the too low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, I do recommend this film, but prepare yourself for way too many depressing scenes.

Movie Review: Fahrenheit 11/9


Whether you like Micheal Moore or hate him because he is so extremely liberal, there is no denying the greatness of the documentaries he produces or his incredible energy, passion and anger when it comes to seeking out horrendous injustice and with his research and hard work. Moore tries to do something about the worst problems this country faces because he cares so much about this country and hard working people. The title of this new film is similar to Moore’s Fahrenheit 911 documentary, this time with the 119, meaning 11/9/2016 when Trump was officially elected.

The truth about his new movie, “Fahrenheit 11/9” is that its about far more than just the insanity of the 2016 election. Moore covers many other subjects in this movie and the number one criminal injustice he shows are the sick and callous actions of the Governor of Michigan Rick Snyder, who according to Moore, unnecessarily re-routed the water sources to the city of Flint entirely for his own financial greed. Then even after the water was found to be contaminated, Snyder continued to poison the citizens of Flint for a long period of time. The water contamination stopped only when the bad water was proven to be responsible for damaging automobile parts in a GM plant, one of Snyder’s main contributors. Since the water contamination in Flint, tens of thousands of children will forever have lead poisoning and many people have died from legionaries disease and other health problems that are caused by lead in their blood. This one part of Moore’s documentary is worthy of a major new film all on its own and is even more shocking and infuriating than the movie “Erin Brockovich”, that was released in 2000. While watching the Flint water contamination story, one can only wonder why Rick Snyder is not in prison for life right now along with all the criminals responsible for this criminal outrage.

Fahrenheit 11/9 is shocking with some of its revelations right from the start when it suggests that Donald Trump’s entire reason for wanting to be president was born from his jealousy of singer Gwen Stefani, when she was paid more on the TV show “The Voice” than Trump was being paid for “The Apprentice” – almost impossible to believe if this insanity is true. Moore also compares Trump being elected to what happened in Nazi Germany and Hitler, that many less angry people might consider a little over the top.

I was also amazed at how many political experts in this country – practically ALL of them, thought that there was no way Trump would ever win the 2016 election, many of them even laughing at the idea that Trump could ever win in 2016. From the beginning most people thought Trump was running to be President only for publicity and never really wanted to be President.

Moore also covers the Parkland, Florida shooting and showed many of his meetings with the students who after this horrible shooting in February 2018 – just had enough of this sick insanity of school shootings going on for decades and started a new movement including the marches on Washington in March 2018.

Moore’s movie is not all negative as he covers the emergence of new young politicians who actually are trying to do good things and effect lasting change in this country and many of them are winning elections. It was encouraging to see that there is still hope in this country and so many people, along with Moore, care greatly about the future of this country. Moore spares no one in this film and even has some negative segments about Hilary Clinton and surprisingly Barack Obama, who Moore has called a great President.

I thought Fahrenheit 11/9 is one of Michael Moore’s best movies, along with “Sicko” – a must see movie about the disastrous state of medical insurance in this country. Ironically this new film goes back to Flint Michigan frequently, the site of Moore’s first movie “Roger and Me”, released in 1989. I highly recommend Fahrenheit 119 as one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.

Movie Review: White Boy Rick


The new movie “White Boy Rick” would be impossible to believe even happened, were it not for that fact that this is a true story. Is it possible for any child born in 1970 in the declining years in the inner city of Detroit Michigan while being raised by a lowlife single father who is a gun runner to succeed in life? In a poor depressing environment in the mid-80’s in Detroit where a 15 year old kid by the name of Rick Wershe Jr. is born, is it even possible barring some miracle that someone like this could amount to anything but someone who dies young from a drug overdose, a drive by shooting or winds up in prison? What are your options? Your education is a disaster and your father is a gun runner. Very few ever make more out of a life like this – born to you because of where you are and who your parents are. I was most amazed by this true story because its about a young white kid of 15 who was used by the FBI to spy on a group of drug pushers who are all black. Somehow, he was able to get into their group and then somehow, was able to help the FBI get information to arrest them. How he was then treated by the police and FBI is another amazing part of this true story that was hard to believe. On top of all of this, his sister was a drug addict that left their home and lived in flop houses in local Detroit squalor.

This movie was well acted by Matthew McConaughey and newcomer Richie Merritt – who seemed very adept and getting the mumbling incoherent dialogue of not only that period in the 80’s but also to meld with the black drug pushers that he was able to become friends with. The downside of this is that very often its hard to understand what he is saying much of the time. The actor Bruce Dern was also in this movie, playing the boys grandfather and he also does a very good job despite his advanced age.

This movie as an average rating of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes and for me I would have given it about a 70%. I was surprised that McConaughey had so little screen time, given that he is supposedly the star of this film. I give a solid recommendation to White Boy Rick.

Movie Review: Blaze


“Blaze” is a movie about a little known Country and Western singer, Blaze Foley. For me this movie was all about the very harsh realities of pursuing a life in show business – any show business. With the few who make it an any art form, we all see the end result of their success, we will never fully realize what they went through to become successful. If any of us who have thought about making it in Hollywood as an actor, comedian or writer, how many of us would be willing to pay the dues necessary to succeed in an impossible business?

The new movie Blaze is one of the very few stories I have ever seen where the lows of trying to make it as a Country singer in the south are depicted in such a real life and depressing way. I recognized no acting or movie magic in this film – with the entire two hours all about living in squalor, hitching rides to a gig, getting drunk and doing drugs to drown your sorrows, audiences who ignore you and a failing relationship, because what relationship could survive a precarious life like this one? It would be nice to know that at the end of many years of misery that you will finally make it one day – but the reality is, so many people try their whole lives because they just have to and they never know if they will ever make it. All of us have heard famous actors who talk about their lean years of bad jobs and waiting tables, many of them just days or weeks from giving up their dream. Most recently an actor, formerly famous on the Cosby show was disrespected because he had to work at Trader Joe’s. In life we have to make a living, despite our dreams and despite having to do things that we just do not want to do. How many of us would be willing to go through so much to achieve a dream that may never happen, even if they knew that in the end they would succeed.

The problems with this film are the depressing songs, because the lead actor who played Blaze, Ben Dickey – sang nothing but depressing songs the entire movie. On top of of this, he talks with such a mumble most of the time that very often you have no idea what he is saying. This film was hard to watch, mainly because of the squalor and the depressing real life we are seeing – as human being wants to be a singer so badly he is willing to risk everything for that one and only goal. This movie also includes many other named actors, including Steve Zahn, Sam Rockwell, Kris Kristofferson and Ethan Hawk who both co-wrote and directed this movie. While watching this film I had great respect for the work that must have been involved and all the hours of filming in run down depressing areas that show the harsh reality of trying to be a Country singer is all about.

The ratings for this movie on Rotten Tomatoes are a perfect 100% – a very rare mark for any movie and just might get this movie an Academy Award nomination for best picture. I thought this movie was very well done, but not at a rating of 100%. I recommend Blaze, but for anyone who decides to see this film, prepare for a dark depressing story about a little known but talented Country singer who was one of so many who paid so many dues for little or no payoff.

Movie Review: A Simple Favor


It has been said that screenwriting is the most difficult of all art forms. The reason is that there are so many moving parts to any screenplay and they all have to interact with each other and be understandable and make sense and conclude in a satisfying way. This is why most screenplays require so many re-writes. The new movie “A Simple Favor” attempts a very challenging and complex story with many movie parts. The story works mostly, but there were several holes in the logic that involved many different movie parts that made this film very far from perfect, but OK enough to recommend. There is one caveat that involves the constant showing of a painting this movie that I thought was in very bad taste – most especially they showed this painting way too many times. The good news is that at least there was no smoking.

This movie stars two well known actors, Blake Lively with Anna Kendrick getting by far the most screen time. Both are very good in their roles but this movie is not up to Oscar level caliber.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie are a solid 82% and I agree with this rating. I do recommend A Simple Favor.

Movie Review: The Predator


In 1987 screenwriter Shane Black came out of nowhere and created a 4 movie franchise when at only age 22 he wrote and then sold a groundbreaking screenplay called “Lethal Weapon”. This is the dream of all aspiring screenwriters, to sell that one different movie idea that becomes a huge hit.

For some reason Shane Black is now involved in the Predator franchise with the new movie “The Predator” that he both co-wrote and directed. Unfortunately, he just may have ended this franchise, because this movie is so bad. The screenplay is both fragmented and boring with a group of known actors in an attempt to use their name recognition to save a bad script. This never works in my experience as a movie-goer.

As far as the actors in this movie I was most surprised to see the great actor Sterling K. Brown in his second movie since he has become famous on the great TV show “This is Us”. His first movie “Hotel Artemis” was also a very bad movie and now with The Predator it is now clear that Brown is going for the big money rather than waiting for quality productions. While you cant blame Brown for wanting to cash in on his new fame after the huge dues he has paid as an actor, the problem is that if he keeps making bad movies like this one, he may never get the movie role that shows what a great actor he is. I was also surprised to see the actor Thomas Jane in this mess, who seems to have had a downhill ride in the movie business since he made the very good movie “The Punisher” in 2004. Jane plays an soldier who has of all things Tourette’s – in an obvious attempt by Shane Black to puff up a bad screenplay with some verbal outbursts created to surprise the audience before they doze off; and I did myself, twice. Olivia Munn also appears in this movie as a Biologist who also seems to be well trained with high level military firearms – how stupid is this? The Rotten Tomatoes for this film are a very low 34% and my rating is only about 10%.

There was a hint at the end of this bad movie about a new Predator creature and a possible sequel. If that happens, hopefully there will be a much better script next time. The Predator should be skipped and represents another great opportunity lost to create something new within the now 31 year old Predator film franchise.

Movie Review: The Bookshop


The movie “The Bookshop” is the very definition of a low budget art movie. Its about a woman named Florence Green in a small town somewhere in the hills of England, where it is always dark and cloudy. This woman wants to open up a bookstore where there has never been a bookstore, and most of the population does not even read. There are numerous messages here, but the most important one I gleaned from this film is that no matter where you are in the world there are evil people who derive pleasure from hurting someone else or trying to destroy their dreams. This is more difficult to watch in the case of this story about an extremely likable main character played by Emily Mortimer, who just wants to sell books and be happy. She befriends an older wealthy man in the town who loves to read played by Bill Nighy who tries to help her when her business runs into problems because of the people trying to ruin her book shop.

The issue I had with this movie was that it was too slow and boring in too many places. I found the external shots of the outdoor scenes rather depressing because it always seemed like it was dark and about to rain. I did not really understand the point of the ending and in the end, this movie was perhaps trying to be too artsy for me to recommend. This might be a movie for some people, especially those who love books, but not for me.

Movie Review: The Nun


For those of us who have the impossible ambition of breaking into the business of screenwriting, movies as bad as “The Nun” are especially infuriating. This could be the first bad horror movie that I have ever seen, where even the moments of horror are boring. The movie is about an evil Nun who inhabits a giant old convent and the haunts the minds of many other unfortunate characters in this very bad story. Who cares? We have seen this before. Just because a story involves exorcism and a religious theme does not mean its going to work as a horror movie.

One can only guess the number of religious and exorcism movies that have been released since “The Exorcist”, easily the most terrifying movie ever made – released in 1973. The number of movies that have tried to capitalize on The Exorcist is too high, but for me the best of these is “The Omen”, that was released in 1976 starring Gregory Peck. An honorable mention is the 2009 movie “Drag me to Hell” which is a very well done horror movie and about as good as The Omen.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this mess is a very low 31% – I would have given this film a 5% rating. Very simply, this movie sucks and should have gone directly to DVD. Do yourself a huge favor and miss this mess.

Movie Review: Peppermint


For those of us who have the impossible ambition of breaking into the business of screenwriting, movies as bad as “The Nun” are especially infuriating. This could be the first bad horror movie that I have ever seen, where even the moments of horror are boring. The movie is about an evil Nun who inhabits a giant old convent and the haunts the minds of many other unfortunate characters in this very bad story. Who cares? We have seen this before. Just because a story involves exorcism and a religious theme does not mean its going to work as a horror movie.

One can only guess the number of religious and exorcism movies that have been released since “The Exorcist”, easily the most terrifying movie ever made – released in 1973. The number of movies that have tried to capitalize on The Exorcist is too high, but for me the best of these is “The Omen”, that was released in 1976 starring Gregory Peck. An honorable mention is the 2009 movie “Drag me to Hell” which is a very well done horror movie and about as good as The Omen.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this mess is a very low 31% – I would have given this film a 5% rating. Very simply, this movie sucks and should have gone directly to DVD. Do yourself and miss this mess.