Movie Review: Yesterday

For so many screenwriters who have writers and idea block, a ridiculous premise in the new movie “Yesterday”, “a world wide 12 second power failure creates a new world that excludes the Beatles (and several other things)”, definitely open up a huge number of new ideas for new screenplays. Like so many time travel and science fiction movies like this one, the audience must suspend all levels of common sense before you can appreciate the story and possibilities that follow.

The beginning of this story defines the real life of a struggling singer Jack Malik, played very well by Himesh Patel and his schoolteacher manager
Ellie Appleton also played very well by Lilly James. The world sees the end result of successful singing careers but we all never see the years of struggle and misery it takes to ever have a remote possibility of success in any part of show business. This movie does a great job of showing a young singer who is tired of the bad gigs and no money and is about to give up all hope, before the miracle happens and he becomes the only person in the world who remembers the Beatles.

I thought that this entire idea was rather risky, because it mixes Romantic comedy with science fiction and the power failure premise is so ridiculous. Once this miracle where some of the greatest songs ever produced are slowly reintroduced to the world, where can the story go from there with a satisfying conclusion? I also though that Lilly James, even though she is very good in her role, was miscast as the eventual love interest of a character played by Hamish Patel, as they just did not look like they could ever be involved romantically.

The best part of this movie is the appearance of Kate McKinnon, who in my opinion has finally gotten the movie role that shows that she can be very funny, by doing nothing other than showing up. She had just about all of the best moments in this film. There are several other funny and ironic moments in this movie that worked very well, especially when the story shows about 4 other things, other than the Beatles that also no longer exist in this new altered world.

The Rotten Tomatoes critics are wrong with their 60% grade for this movie, that I thought was at least a solid 80%. I highly recommend Yesterday.

Movie Review: Pavarotti

The new Ron Howard documentary “Pavarotti” is about the late Luciano Pavarotti, arguably the greatest Opera singer of all time. This film is a collection of many home movies about Pavarotti’s life that collectively show what it is like to be a world wide prolific performer. The good parts are the world wide fame, love of the fans and money. The bad parts are the lack of privacy, with your life played out in Tabloids, living your entire life on the road from one depressing plane flight to another hotel in another city, almost never being home or being able to spend time with your family. All of this takes its toll, both emotionally and physically. The old expression, “be careful what you wish for”, comes to mind.

During this documentary there are many film clips of Pavarotti singing different Opera’s, mostly in Italian. One cannot help but be extremely impressed with Luciano’s dedication and years of hard work learning to master so many lyrics and accomplishing so many high notes; mostly as they called it in the movie, “The high C”.

There are recent interviews with many of Pavarotti’s relatives throughout this movie who comment on his amazing talent, his generosity with so many charities, his triumphs and mistakes throughout his life. Pavarotti died of Pancreatic Cancer in 2007.

This movie is very well received with the critics, with 88% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. I highly recommend this documentary.

Movie Review: Anna

The biggest problem with the new movie “Anna” is the chronological jumping around, easily the worst I have ever seen. Its 3 years ago, its 6 months ago, its 6 months later, its present day, its 3 years ago again, then its 3 months from now. I lost count on the number of scene transitions that involved flashback story telling, that at this frequency will never work for any film. At some point, a screenplay should be re-written to reduce flashback story telling so that it makes sense to any audience, not increase it to this extremely annoying level. There is nothing wrong with telling a story in chronological order.

This movie stars newcomer Sasha Luss, Luke Evans and respected actor Helen Miren, who could not have read this script before taking the part.

There are great similarities to the movie “Point of no Return” starring Bridget Fonda, released in 1993, with Ann Bancroft in the Helen Miren and Gabrielle Burn in the Luke Evans role. The idea is the same, take a disaster woman who happens to be attractive and turn her into a contract killer. Point of no Return is a far better movie than this one.

There are a number of very good hand to hand combat scenes in this movie, including one in a restaurant that was very impressive. With all movies like this one, with one highly skilled martial arts character and so much gunfire, the fact that nobody can easily kill one person with so many guns, is always ridiculous. I would appreciate more realism as opposed to one woman who is built like a high fashion model taking out 25 men armed with weapons.

I agree with the low 26% rating for this film on Rotten Tomatoes and do not recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Toy Story 4

“Toy Story 4” is the 4th installment of a great animated movie franchise, and all four of these movies are of the highest quality. Considering the amount of software development, planning, science and hundreds of technical decisions, involved in creating the extremely impressive graphics for these movies there is no way that Pixar would ever forget the most important part of any film – the screenplay. Arguably this fourth movie could very well have the best story of all of them, and I thought it was the most emotional of the 4. Like so many movies with special effects, decisions are made to forgo any story believing that explosions and computer movie graphics are all that is needed. This is never the case with any film that is produced by Pixar.

Toy Story 4 has the same two actors that have appeared in all four movies: Tim Alan and Tom Hanks, the first Toy Story released in 1995. Both actors where as always, outstanding in their parts as were all the new voices played by Annie Potts, Tony Hale, Keegan Micheal Key and even Keanu Reeves.The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Toy Story 4 is a very high 97% and I agree with this rating. Toy Story 4, like all four movies in this franchise are for both children and adults and I highly recommend this great film.

Movie Review: American Woman

The movie “American Woman” is nothing about a typical Hollywood formula with a beginning, followed by a huge conflict in the middle and then a conclusion. This film is about the real life desperation and misery of a divorced woman Debra, played extremely well by Sienna Miller, in her late 30’s. She has a teenage daughter who is also a single mother and they both live with her. The relentless harsh reality of the garbage house Debra lives in across the street from her sister, played by Christina Hendricks and her husband, their children and her mother, played by Amy Madigan is at times extremely overwhelming to see, knowing that so many millions of Americans live like this in this country.

The most difficult parts of this story to watch, is the desperation of Debra, who is forced to take demeaning low paying jobs and live with an abusive boyfriend because she thinks she has no choice but to put up with his constant physical and emotional abuse – because she does not have enough money to walk away. Depicting real life is where this story hits home in the most impressive way. Just because a human being has suffered and deserves for their luck to change – if for no other reason than the law of averages – does not mean that this will actually happen. This is real life, not a Hollywood formula happy ending and that is the main reason why this film stands out.

Much of this story plays like a roller coaster throughout with extreme highs and lows and I agree with all the critics who are saying that this is Sienna Miller’s best performance in her career. She is definitely deserving of an Academy Award nomination, even though this movie has not been released at the end of this year.

There is another story within this movie about Debra’s daughter, that I would not reveal in this review, but it does involve another possible harsh reality of living in a poor or lower middle class neighborhood.

This movie has outstanding acting with all the actors involved, including Aaron Paul who plays one of Debra’s boyfriends.

What I did not like in this movie throughout was the constant chain smoking of Sienna Miller and once again, this happens because of Tobacco companies funding the production of too many movies, even after decades of knowing that smoking will kill you. I hope to one day see this ongoing disgusting practice of money over health, finally end.

Despite this depressing story, and tough life reality of American Woman, I highly recommend it and agree with the Rotten Tomatoes rating of 81%.

Movie Review: The Dead Don’t Die

The new movie “The Dead Don’t Die” is an experiment of a low key, campy, strange, dark comedy that for me did not work. The problem with this experiment was mixing extreme horror of dead people eating live people with sarcastic, dry, subtle, lazy humor is not funny enough to actually make these two hours entertaining. To offset the strange horrific world of zombies, the jokes, the irony and the situations have to be much funnier than in this film. Inside of 1 hour of this almost 2 hour film, it all got old very quickly.

The director and screenwriter Jim Jarmusch, is great friends with all of the many named celebrities in this movie and it appears that many favors were called in to get well known actors like Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tom Waits,Chloƫ Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Rosie Perez, Tilda Swinton and Selena Gomez to appear in what amounts to a low range zombie comedy.

Why zombie movies and TV series like the long running “Walking Dead” series continue to be popular makes no sense to me. How many times can a zombie get their heads cut off or shot in the head or stabbed in the eye, until we have all collectively seen enough already. For me, its time to stop making zombie movies, especially those that dare to be funny.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for The Dead Don’t Die is a low 52% and I give this only about 40% for the few jokes that almost worked. This is one zombie comedy that should be skipped.

Movie Review: Late Night

The new movie “Late Night”, is the first I have seen since “The Devil Wears Prada” released in 2006 that shows the working reality of so many millions of Americans. The Devil in this movie is the star of late night talk show, Katherine Newbury, played very well by Emma Thompson. Katherine is so rude and abrupt with all the writers in her staff, she doesn’t care to remember any of their names and at one point starts calling them numbers, “you are 1, 2, 3, etc”. This level of condescending and outrageous treatment of other people is all too common in the working world, and this film, written by Mindy Kaling does a very good job of showing this reality.

Not only is Katherine Newbury rude to everybody who works for her, she only hires men for her staff, because she hates women. This is where Molly Patel, played by Mindy Kaling comes in, as the token woman hired to fix this men only problem. Molly is hired into the writing staff even though she has no experience as a writer and works at a Chemical Plant in Pennsylvania. In real life, something like this would almost never happen, but this situation was believable enough for this story. It turns out that Katherine is losing her show after many years because of low ratings and there are many scenes of stressful talk show reinvention debates with Molly and Katherine that I thought were very well done.

There was the expected screenplay paradigm in this story as a major conflict comes in the middle, followed by resolution at the end, and I thought the ending was a strong resolution to a very good story.

This is Mindy Kaling’s first screenplay but it comes off as a story written by a more seasoned screenwriter. The best line in this movie was “people who hate themselves do whatever they can to make other people feel the same as they do”. A great line, and very true of real life and the cut throat world of working for other people.

The Rotten Tomatoes for Late Night are a very solid 81% and I agree with this rating and highly recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Men in Black International

As for the latest sequel in the Men in Black series, the newest movie “Men in Black International” has most likely has ended this movie franchise, because this is a bad movie. If I were a Hollywood executive I would recognize the long term financial windfall these movies will provide and protect the franchise by making sure there was always a great script first, before large amounts of money was invested for special effects. Once again, the same mistake has been made by an executive who believes that name recognition and special effects are all that are needed, not the long term commitment required for a great screenplay. In my opinion this movie was bad in every aspect, including both the acting and the story, that was boring and all over the place.

Men in Black International stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Liam Neeson. As far as Neeson, he probably just agreed to do this movie for the money and never read the script. A bad sign for me was looking at my watch many times, waiting for the 2 hours to be finally over and it was never over soon enough.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie are a very low 26% and I agree with this rating. This movie should be missed with the possible exception of die hard Men in Black fans, but even for them this is a pretty bad movie.

Movie Review: Tomorrow Man

The movie “Tomorrow Man” is about an unlikely pairing of two single people in their 70’s who at first seem very similar, but we find out that Ed, played by John Lithgow believes that the world will soon be coming to an end, and Ronnie played by Blythe Danner is of all things, a hoarder.

I thought the acting was good throughout this simple film about dating and the expected problems that occur in all relationships. Unfortunately most of this is rather mundane and boring in too many areas to recommend, despite the solid acting. I thought the ending was an ironic surprise that almost saved the story, but not quite enough.

I mostly agree with the below average ratings of 49% on Rotten Tomatoes, and its a shame because with a better script, I would have recommended this movie.

Movie Review: Dark Phoenix

According to the critics on Rotten Tomatoes, the latest X-Men movie “Dark Phoenix” is a bad film with a rating of only 22%. Dark Phoenix is an average action movie, not a bad one and unfortunately because it is only average, the odds are that it might reduce the chances that X-Men will continue as a movie franchise. The problem with this movie is that we have seen all of this before, there is nothing really new here. The special effects are good not great and the story is boring in too many areas to make it something unforgettable, that for any super-hero movie in recent years is a rare event anyway.

Dark Phoenix, like all the X-Men movies has many known actors, including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Sophie Turner and Jessica Chastain. Unfortunately for all movies like this, throwing a large number of famous people at an average or bad script and you still have an average or bad script. It will always be story first, then script, then many re-writes. Nothing is easy when producing a great movie.

I give Dark Phoenix about a 50% rating and only a very marginal recommendation for the biggest X-Men fans.