Movie Review: Cold War

For those who hate reading subtitles for any foreign language film, the new movie “Cold War” is not for you.

I found this film highly unusual as its based mostly in Russian occupied Poland some years after the end of World War 2. Cold War is a love story between a woman who is a singer who travels around Europe in various musical troops and a man who did not have a defined profession in this story. The problem with this film as I saw it, were the reasons why the couple was not able to stay together were not portrayed clearly enough. The hardships and the aftermath of World War 2 was one obvious reason for their many breakups, but perhaps the real reasons were all lost in translation. I thought the quality of the film-making was very high, including some impressive black and white photography. There are some scenes of very good musical numbers in this film, all sung in Polish and Russian.

The ratings for Cold War are a very high 95% and this film has received three Oscar nominations this year including best Foreign Language film, but for me this story was too boring in many spots to give it a rating any higher than 75%.

Movie Review: Serenity

Movies like “Serenity” that are described by some critics as “January junk” are the kind of films that come out early in the year because they have no chance for any kind of an award and are essentially just early year filler until much better movies are released. Unfortunately Serenity is another example of January junk.

One reason why screenplays are so difficult to write is that when you are trying to trick the audience, everything along the way has to have plausibility. The story has to make sense and the way people react to what is going on, also has to make sense. In all my years of watching and writing about movies, this movie has probably the stupidest idea yet to trick the audience and in conclusion none of the entire 2 hours makes any sense. Movies like this anger audiences much more than entertain them, because a person would have to throw out all levels of common sense to buy into the insane high level idea that controls all of the action that happens for the entire movie.

Serenity stars Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Diane Lane and Djimon Hounsou and I thought it was very hard to believe that 4 actors who have won and been nominated for Academy Awards, still agreed to act in this movie after reading the script. Serenity is probably another example of deal making and Hollywood favors that have to be honored. Considering the large number of better scripts that will never be made into a film, this bad script being produced is another example of one that should have been thrown into the trash. I have seen worse movies than this one, but I cannot remember a more inane high level idea that does nothing more than try to trick an already bored audience. The last ditch effort to save this bad film was the heads up to US audiences about a few McConaughey nude scenes, but this will not save the box office for an idea this bad.

The Rotten Tomatoes reviews for this movie are a very low 22% and I agree with this rating and recommend that everybody runs from this 2 hours of mess.

Academy Award Nominations 2018

Best Picture:

“Black Panther”
“Bohemian Rhapsody”
“The Favourite”
“Green Book”
“A Star Is Born”

Lead Actor:

Christian Bale, “Vice”
Bradley Cooper, “A Star Is Born”
Willem Dafoe, “At Eternity’s Gate”
Rami Malek, “Bohemian Rhapsody”
Viggo Mortensen, “Green Book”

Lead Actress:

Yalitza Aparicio, “Roma”
Glenn Close, “The Wife”
Olivia Colman, “The Favourite”
Lady Gaga, “A Star Is Born”
Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Supporting Actor:

Mahershala Ali, “Green Book”
Adam Driver, “BlacKkKlansman”
Sam Elliott, “A Star Is Born”
Richard E. Grant, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
Sam Rockwell, “Vice”

Supporting Actress:

Amy Adams, “Vice”
Marina de Tavira, “Roma”
Regina King, “If Beale Street Could Talk”
Emma Stone, “The Favourite”
Rachel Weisz, “The Favourite”


Spike Lee, “BlacKkKlansman”
Pawel Pawlikowski, “Cold War”
Yorgos Lanthimos, “The Favourite”
Alfonso Cuarón, “Roma”
Adam McKay, “Vice”

Movie Review: Stan and Ollie

In 1937 Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy were the number one comedy act and movie actors in the world. Unfortunately Laurel and Hardy were at the top during a time when movie companies like Paramount, Warner Brothers and MGM signed all of their actors to contracts and those contracts guaranteed that the company made a great majority of the money generated by the movies produced. But the actors and screenwriters never got a fair share of the money they generated from their talent and creativity. This kind of financial injustice meant that Laurel and Hardy both had constant money problems and had to travel on the road to make money all the way up to the year 1953 when they went on their last tour in England. This last tour in England represents about 80% of this film and it shows many of the acts they did on stage together before Oliver Hardy’s heart problems, brought on by his weight, forced the end of Laurel and Hardy’s long collaboration.

Amazingly, Stan Laurel was married 5 times and Oliver Hardy was married 3 times – and one can only guess that the reason for this were the long hours and traveling away from their many wives that was large part of their careers as world famous comedy performers. Laurel and Hardy made over 150 movies together and even after Hardy died in in 1957, Laurel continued to write movie scripts for both them up until his death in 1965, refusing to ever work with anyone else. Laurel and Hardy had their problems and arguments, one big one was depicted in this film, but this was inevitable due to so many years working together and the pressures of show business.

This movie stars John C. Reilly as Oliver Hardy and Steve Coogan as Stan Laurel and both are outstanding in their roles. John C. Reilly’s facial and body makeup to play Oliver Hardy was about as good as any makeup I have ever seen in any film. Reilly has been nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance as Oliver Hardy and he will also receive an Academy Award nomination as well. The Rotten Tomatoes reviews for Stan and Ollie are a very high 92% and I agree with this rating as well as strongly recommend this film.

Movie Review: Glass

In the history of movies, one could easily argue that the best ending for any film ever made was “The Sixth Sense”, released in 1999. The Sixth Sense was both written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and this one movie that he created 20 years ago has been both a curse and a blessing for his career. Its a blessing because of the greatness of the storytelling and screenwriting and a curse because The Sixth Sense was so well made that following it for Shyamalan has been close to impossible. In fact Shyamalan after hitting such a huge home run in 1999 has made some bad movies over the years, in an ongoing attempt to reach the heights of the Sixth Sense. Shyamalan has never been able to make a movie as great as The Sixth Sense, but in my opinion, in terms of a great story and incredible ending, “Unbreakable” released in 2000 was close. Despite all of this, you cannot help but be extremely impressed with Shyamalan’s dedication to both screenwriting and directing his own movies considering all the trial and error, failed ideas, failed scripts and hard work it takes to create any movie. Shyamalan even mortgaged his entire house to make one movie several years ago and could have lost everything if the movie failed. Making movies is a gamble for everybody involved and then add the critics who can be both cruel and extremely wrong a great deal of the time.

The new movie “Glass” is Shyamalan’s attempt to bring Unbreakable and the good movie Split, released in 2016 together in a final trilogy, that according to Shyamalan he planned from the beginning. Unfortunately, Glass is a bad movie, with an ending that was muddled and made very little logical sense. Perhaps Shyamalan was trying too hard to end the trilogy with a huge ending and following two good movies and wanted a surprise ending that based on the crazy story idea was just not feasible. This story unites the star of Split played extremely well by James McAvoy – who is great at split personality acting, and the two actors of Unbreakable, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis inside of an insane asylum.

Their doctor is played by Sarah Paulson who tries to convince all of them that they are not super hero’s although it seems that Bruce Willis character has no business being considered the same as the other two, who are clearly insane. There are several scenes with Anya Taylor-Joy who was one of the victims in the movie Split, where she is in close contact in front hospital personal with the dangerously insane character played by McAvoy, even hugging and holding hands with him. What was Shyamalan thinking there, big mistake in my opinion because no young woman would go anywhere near this guy. She could have been killed instantly and this is just one of many things that make no sense in this film.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is a pretty low 35% and I agree with this rating, because Glass misses the mark in so many areas – starting with any of it make enough sense to recommend.

Movie Review: Replicas

The problem with all science fiction movies like “Replicas” is that you have to forgo any level of common sense to buy into the plot. For instance, there is technology that might be doable 500 or 1000 years from now, but people are driving around in cars that are from today. There is software and AI with a user interface that uses holograms – extremely far fetched and unnecessary for this story. At first the idea is to transfer the contents of a human brain from someone who has just died into a the computer brain of a robot, only to change all of this later in the movie to transfer the contents of one human brain into another human brain – a completely new and much higher level of technology. This idea seemed like it came out of the 30th re-write when they realized that having robots that were the cloned children and wife of the scientist Will Foster, played by Keanu Reeves would not make any sense. For the sake of the audience, you cannot change the technology of a science fiction movie on the fly to make up for mistakes in the screenplay. There is a level of far-fetched for this film that gets idiotic very quickly and it has happened many times before with other movies like this one. Like most Hollywood Science fiction movies, Replicas degrades into a formulaic series of chase scenes and an ending that was even more outlandish than the rest of the story.

The actress Alice Eve plays Keanu Reeves wife and I thought that the acting was overall good in this movie. The car accident that caused the death of Will Foster’s entire family was rather intense and hard to watch and you cannot help to think how anyone would survive losing their entire family in a car accident.

It is no surprise that this movie has a very low 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and the reasons are all the same – its just too ridiculous and does not make enough sense to be a viable and intelligent science fiction movie. For these reasons I cannot recommend Replicas.

Movie Review: A Dog’s Way Home

Someday, someone will do a study on how many dogs or cats are rescued from shelters or adopted after a movie like “A Dog’s Way Home” comes out. Over the years we have all heard about dogs that have gone through a miracle journey of hundreds or even thousands of miles to find their way back to their owner. Despite this, this story is not a true one and I thought that a better movie could have been made with a true story. This is a good movie about a Dog who gets separated from its owner and finds its way home and along the way goes through several hellish and depressing experiences. The worst part of this journey was when he wound up with a homeless man played by the actor Edward James Olmos – a part I would have left out of this movie. The dog also befriends a mountain lion and I thought that a flaw in this movie was the poorly rendered CGI for the mountain lion that looked very fake.

Several good things stand out about this film, starting with the incredible loyalty of dogs, who will go through anything to be with their owners. Where this level of loyalty and love comes from with mans best friend is one of the best things about owning a dog. As with most movies about pets, the downside of shelters and the realities of laws about controlling animal population comes up. The law in this movie is that Pit Bulls are outlawed in the Denver Colorado area, the reasons for this rather obvious due to the extremely severe damage a dog like this can cause with the strength of its bite.

This movie stars the actress Ashley Judd, who for several years after her extremely hot career in the 1990’s has been making movies like this one, forgoing a return to the big movie star status she had about 15 years ago. This movie is not for the younger children as some of the scenes would probably be too intense, but for any child over 13 I would say its an acceptable family movie.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is only 60%, I would give this an average 70% rating due to some of the flaws, but overally I do recommend A Dog’s Way Home.

Movie Review: On the Basis of Sex

The new movie “On the Basis of Sex” is not really a biography of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, but instead in the first 1/3 of this film shows Ginsberg’s early college years at Harvard Law School as a married woman with a child, her husband Martin Ginsberg played very well by actor Armie Hammer. Most impressive about Ruth Ginsberg in her college years is that due to her husbands cancer diagnosis, she attended all of his law classes as well as her own, to keep him on schedule with his law degree. Not only did she graduate Harvard, help her husband and raise a young child, but she also finished first in her graduating class. Despite her great accomplishments at Harvard, she faced nothing but condescending discrimination in the New York City job market, because she was a woman. Eventually, her only alternative was to become a law professor because she had no other offers from any law firm. While watching this movie it was easy to understand the extreme anger Ginsberg must have faced after so many years of never getting what she rightfully deserved.

What I thought was unusual about this film is that the the remaining part of this story is about an obscure legal case in Colorado involving a single man and caretaker for his mother, was denied a tax write off. The only reason for this tax deduction denial was because he was a man and the reason for this was the title of caretaker always implied a woman. Amazingly this obscure case was the first landmark and the beginning of a whole series of supreme court arguments for equal rights championed by Ginsberg. Over many years the discrimination of women within unfair and outdated laws were overturned. I thought the idea to center almost this entire movie on this one case and the background and arguments leading to the final trial was unusual, but effective. The ending scenes and arguments to the Colorado Supreme Court was very impressive with some great acting by Felicity Jones who played Ruth Bader Ginsberg. In my opinion Jones should receive an Academy Award nomination for best actress, but unfortunately due to no nomination for the Golden Globe, this is probably unlikely.

The Rotten Tomatoes reviews for On the Basis of Sex are a very surprisingly average 71%. I would give this movie at least an 85% and I give this film a strong recommendation.

Movie Review: The Upside

Kevin Hart is one of the better stand up comedians to come up in the last 20 years, his story telling ability and comedic rythym and confidence are some of the best skills I have ever seen, including even Richard Pryor. Hart is one of the very few who have parlayed his stand up success as a stand up into acting in comedy movies. With the exception of Hart’s stand up comedy movies, most of the other films he has made (with the possible exception of Jumanji), have been for the most part not good enough to show Hart’s talent.

The new film “The Upside” with Nicole Kidman and Bryan Cranston is Hart’s first mostly serious role and the difference with this movie is – the quality of the screenplay. The Upside is a true story of a wealthy man played by Cranston who become paraplegic due to a hang glider accident – and hires an x-con who had no experience as a care taker. I thought the contrasting realities and the questions that arise from this were extremely well done. Is it worse to be unable to move for the rest of your life, or dirt poor and an x-con with no chance of ever getting any decent job? When you think about it, despite the unlimited wealth – the majority of human beings in this world would choose to be able to move, even if that meant that they would be extremely poor and perhaps even homeless.

I thought the acting in this movie was extremely well done and for the first time Hart showed that he can be a very good serious actor in a movie. What makes no sense to me are the very low numbers on Rotten Tomatoes, only 33% and only a 3.8 rating on IMDB. I can only conclude that these unfair and inaccurate low ratings are a direct result of Kevin Hart’s recent controversy with the Oscars and his apology for comments he made in 2011. All of this is unfair to bash a movie that is overall very good, based on comments that were made in a Tweet so many years ago that Hart has already apologized for several times.

I give The Upside a solid 80% rating and I do recommend it. In this case, the critics are definitely wrong.

Movie Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

The movie “If Beale Street Could Talk” is set in Harlem in the 1970’s. The story is simple and commonplace and about a young black couple of 22 and 19 who find out they are about to have a baby followed closely by the extreme contrast of two families reacting to such unexpected news.

The simplicity of this story then slowly changes into racial injustice – a major problem now, but much worse in the 1970’s. The question this movie makes you ask yourself is, would I rather be dead than in prison for something I did not do? Considering the realities of prison and for a long period of time, my guess that a high percentage of us would choose death – most especially if they were completely innocent. This story makes all of think about how many innocent people have been incarcerated over so many years just because they are black or poor and living in the wrong neighborhood at the exact wrong time. Politics, racism, incompetent lawyers who just don’t care and just plain horrible injustice has ruined more productive lives than can ever be counted. Many of us have been victims of injustice in our lives, our jobs or by circumstance but when your young and black and surrounded by poverty and racist police officers, this movie depicts a level of injustice that is unbearable and foreign to anyone who is not poor, black and living in hellish conditions.

The story of If Beale Street Could Talk was originally a novel written by James Baldwin and now made into a very good movie by Barry Jenkins who also directed the Academy Award winning film, “Moonlight”.

The acting in this movie is outstanding, starting with KiKi Layne, Stephan James and Regina King. If Beale Street Could Talk has already been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Drama and will very likely receive and Academy Award as best picture as well. This film is very high quality and I do recommend it.