Movie Review: Black and Blue

The critics are saying that the new movie “Black and Blue” is a story we have seen before, about crooked cops, drug pushers and some very bad people who live in the some the worst areas of New Orleans. What the critics have missed is that when the production is very well done, like this one is, it doesn’t matter that we have seen some of this before.

The unusual aspect of this violent and realistic police drama is that the entire story centers around police cams that by law, are all placed in the center of the jersey’s of all police officers. Due to the many incidents involving police officers over the years, including too many illegal shootings, police h cameras provide evidence that can convict or exonerate someone in court.

This story involves a young female police officer, Alicia West, played very well by Naomie Harris who not only witnesses a murder, but also records the murder on her police cam. The rest of this film is about officer West trapped in a very dangerous part of New Orleans, fighting for her life and trying to bring the film evidence to a part of the New Orleans police department that is not corrupt. I am surprised by the low ratings on both Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB, because this film was well done and well acted, including actor Tyrese Gibson, who plays a local shop owner who gets caught up in helping Alicia West bringing the recorded video to justice.

I give Black and Blue a solid 75% rating and once again, the critics are wrong.

Movie Review: Western Stars

The movie “Western Stars” is a concert given by Bruce Springsteen and his wife Patty Scialfa in a barn somewhere in the American Northwest. This movie is not only for die hard Springsteen fans because even if you are not a fan of Springsteen, its impossible to not respect many years of dues that he has paid, and his talent as a singer and song writer. There are about 15 songs in this relatively short movie with each song preceded by some scenes in the countryside, narrated by Springsteen previewing each song. The cinematography showing the scenery of the American West is very well done. I thought all of the songs Springsteen sang during this movie were very good.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Western Stars is a very high 90%, my rating is about 75% mainly for my respect and appreciation of Springsteen, who is now 70 years old, and his impressive career.



Movie Review: The Current War: Directors Cut

The people who lived in the dark days of 1880 did not even have light or electricity and it is hard to imagine a world like this, 140 years ago. Human kind has advanced so far in 140 years that anyone who lived in those times could never have imagined what has happened in a relatively short a period of human history. Someone had to invent generators, electricity and the light bulb and essentially the 3 inventors responsible for the inventions that changed the world were Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.

The movie “The Current War” is not only about these amazing inventions, but also about the ruthless political and personal war between Edison, Westinghouse and Tesla over the use of AC (Alternating Current) and DC (Direct Current). Edison was the inventor of Direct Current and Tesla invented Alternating Current and eventually collaborated with Westinghouse to compete against Edison to light different cities over a 12 year period. The conflicts and “current war” between these 3 men went on until 1892 when AC eventually won the war. All of the conflicts could have been avoided if these 3 men forgot about their ego’s in favor of what was best for the world based on the cost of providing power and light. AC was always considered cheaper but much more dangerous than DC.

Unfortunately, Edison spent much of his time during this current war by trying to discredit AC, telling the press it would kill many people and even at one time held a demonstration to the press, where he electrocuted a horse; just to prove the dangers of AC. This movie does not paint a positive picture of Thomas Edison and how he handled himself during this stressful period. Eventually AC was used to electrocute a man on death row and unfortunately the first time this was used, it did not work effectively and the poor man had to be electrocuted several times until he died.

The problem with this film, pointed out by a number of critics is how erratically the story was told, bouncing between different scenes too quickly and not explaining enough about what was going on within each part of the story. This film is a very good account of an important time in history, but the story telling could have been done much more cleanly and efficiently. For this reason, I agree with this part of the criticism of this movie. It is also rather suspect that this movie was produced in 2017 and has not been released until October 2019, the implication here is that much work was put into re-cutting this movie long after shooting was completed.

I recommend this movie for its excellent account of an important time in history, but I do agree with the critics about the erratic story telling and give The Current War a mild recommendation.

Movie Review: Lucy in the Sky

In February, 2007 there was this extremely strange story about a female NASA Astronaut, Lisa Novak – who in a fit of jealousy drove across the United States to Orlando Florida to confront her former boyfriend and his new girlfriend. She took many items in her car with her on the cross country trip, including diapers so she would not have to stop, to improve her time for the trip. What is most interesting about this story, diapers aside, is that nobody would expect a highly educated and intelligent Astronaut to do anything insane and irrational like this, that included spraying her former boyfriend with pepper spray. It is well known that NASA Astronaut’s are chosen not only for their high level of intelligence, but also for their ability to stay calm within any extreme situation, making this story from 2007 that much more shocking. The question then is, is this story interesting and strong enough to make a movie about it, 12 years later? Unfortunately the critical consensus is no. There are some good ideas here, including the fact that any human being can crack under extreme stress or work injustice, but there is not enough story here to keep an audience interested for two hours.

“Lucy in the Sky” stars Natalie Portman and Jon Hamm, two very well known and bankable stars who took this movie most likely because they were impressed with the work of director Noah Hawley in the TV Series Fargo, which has been outstanding. Unfortunately, this is one film that should have been made as a documentary produced for Netflix or Amazon and never a major movie release.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Lucy in the Sky are extremely low at 22% and the movie has been released in very few theaters, most likely due to the very low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. My rating is more in the 50% range, agreeing that the movie is not good, but it does not warrant a rating of only 22%. This one should be skipped.

Movie Review: Zombieland: Double Tap

The logline for “Zombieland”, released in 2009 and the sequel, “Zombieland: Double Tap” are about the same. “A story about some friends after a zombie Apocalypse, who try to survive by running from and killing zombies, with some humor, camp and sarcasm mixed in”. The problem with both of these movies is, we have all seen many zombies being killed and zombies eating people and the humor is not strong enough to rescue either one of these movies.

This sequel to Zombieland, released 10 years after the original, is about the same as the original and I was surprised that they made a sequel but did not add anything new or special to this version. This movie stars all of the original cast members, Jesse Eisenberg. Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone,
Abigail Breslin and Bill Murray – who makes an appearance at the end of this movie.

The end of this film has one of the new trends in the industry where the audience thinks the movie is over, but its not, with this one having an unnecessary scene involving Bill Murray, who was killed in the first film. Once a movie is over, the audience wants to stand up and go home, but far too often, we have to stand up, wanting to leave, but we are forced to see one last scene that most of the time should never have been added. I hope this practice ends, because it does nothing more than annoy the audience. With some other movies, some last teaser scenes are shown long after the ending credits start, a good example being the recent “Hobbs And Shaw”, released this summer. I happened to see several of the “end of film teasers” for this movie by accident, while waiting for the start of another film. Why is this done? I have no idea.

Like with the last Zombieland this one fails with its most important ingredient, its just not funny enough. I agree with the anemic ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of 67% and I do not recommend this film.

Movie Review: Where’s My Roy Cohn

The new documentary, “Where’s My Roy Cohn” is about the late Roy Cohn, arguably the most criminal and corrupt lawyer in the history of the United States. Despite his years of lying, stealing and destroying other people (including the Joseph McCarthy hearings in the 1950’s), he had many celebrity friends, including even Barbara Walters, Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. All of them turned their back on him, after he was disbarred after years of corruption in the legal profession. Cohn was disbarred in part, for getting a wealthy dying man on his death bed, to sign over his property so Cohn could steal his money as his executor. It later turned out that the man’s signature was not only invalid, but nothing but a series of illegible lines.

Roy Cohn was a genius, with a photographic memory and an extremely high IQ. Despite this, he turned his powerful mind into wrecking the lives of other people rather than helping others. This documentary, like the recent movie “Joker” does a very good job not only showing the bad things Roy Cohn did in his life, but also why he became the hateful and despicable person he was. People become who they are for reasons, and it is never enough just to show the end result of anything. Cohn even became the lawyer to the Mafia, including even John Gotti, one time getting him a reduced sentence of 2 years for murdering someone in broad daylight in front of many witnesses.

The story about Roy’s mother was that she was so unattractive that her family had to promise a Judgeship to a local lawyer so he would marry her. Roy was an only child, who was spoiled and doted on by his mother, turning him into a selfish and mean child, who was smart enough to graduate from Columbia Law school when he was only 20 years old. Roy was very short and ugly man who was gay, but considering the time he lived could never admit he was gay. In fact, Cohn never admitted he was gay even days before he died of AIDS at age 59 in 1986. Roy’s vicious and attacking legal style attracted the likes of Donald Trump who considered Cohn his mentor, adopting many of his tactics to win legal judgement’s including getting away with not paying hundreds of Polish Immigrants who helped to build the Trump Tower in New York City in 1983.

While watching this documentary, it became easier to understand Cohn’s angry and vicious personality. Many of us have encountered in our personal lives or at work, people like Roy Cohn. People who are bitter about the way they look, and in the case of Cohn, having to hide being gay to save his career. People like Roy Cohn turn their anger outward and derive pleasure from damaging other people and for a time, make themselves feel temporarily better about their own miserable reality.

I agree with the very high rating for this documentary of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and highly recommend this film.

Movie Review: Gemini Man

“Gemini Man” is yet another sad example of special effects over a great screenplay. The special effects for Gemini Man are almost entirely about a new technology called “Face swapping AI”, where any person’s face can be superimposed on top of someone else’s image. This technology will also be used for the new Martin Scorsese film “The Irishman” that will be released on November 27th.

For this film, Will Smith is fighting a clone of himself, some 25-30 years younger and for most of this movie, the young Will Smith looks very realistic. Unfortunately, this amazing new effect is almost completely ruined at the very end of the film, when one of the last scenes has the young Will Smith looking very fake. For me, it was hard to believe that the quality of this technology did not follow through all the way to the end of the movie – how could this have been missed?

The problem with this story, accounting for the very low ratings of 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, is that its all about Henry Brogan, played by Will Smith, who is an assassin hired by the CIA and Danny Zakarweski played by Mary Elizabeth Winsted being chased from one part of the world to another for reasons that either made no sense or are too boring to even care about. There is not enough story here and considering the great director Ang Lee – it is hard to believe he read this script and thought it was good enough to make into a movie. It is almost as if Lee thought that the new special effects of using face replacement was enough to make up for a bad screenplay. It was not.

I am sure that Will Smith was hoping for a great movie comeback, but unfortunately this was not the one that is going to return him to the top of the box office. There was nobody in the theater I was in and with the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, this film will probably be out of most theaters by next week. There will never be a substitute for a great story idea, followed by months of hard work creating an equally great screenplay; one of the most difficult of all art forms. I agree with the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and do not recommend this movie.

Movie Review: El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie

The problem with trying to follow arguably the greatest Television series of all time, “Breaking Bad” is how do you follow perfection and at the same time not tarnish the perfect last episode “Felina” that aired on September 29, 2013.

The reason why “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” works is because Vince Gilligan, the writer and creator of Breaking Bad wrote and directed this movie. Breaking Bad is one of the greatest ideas for a drama series ever created where an average man, Walter White who teaches high school Chemistry slowly becomes a drug king pin, master criminal and murderer due to a series of events that started simply and exploded into out of control insanity. Throughout the entire Breaking Bad series, Gillian kept the tension at a very high level and constantly surprised the audience with many shocking scenes that have never been attempted before. The critics consensus is that Breaking Bad is the greatest TV show ever produced and I am in full agreement.

This movie follows Jesse Pinkman, played extremely well by Aaron Paul, right after the end of the final episode of Breaking Bad in an El Camino. What follows are a series of well written scenes of a desperate Pinkman who has to find some way of evading the police and somehow start a new life and this is the part of the story that has some connections to the Breaking Bad series. I thought the acting was very good throughout, including all of the new characters in this movie and several of the characters from Breaking Bad who return for this story.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for El Camino are a very high 94% and my rating is about 90%, meaning that this film is very good, but not great like many of the episodes of Breaking Bad.  I highly recommend El Camino.

Movie Review: Joker

For those who think the new movie “Joker” is just another Batman or Batman villain movie, this is not the film for you. Joker is about one thing: “Cause and Effect”. Within almost all films that deal with the criminally insane or a deranged individual who has done something horrible – its all about the act of violence or the aftermath. The movie Joker is about the how and why someone like the Joker becomes criminally insane, which in my experience is something that is extremely rare in any movie. This disturbing story is about a man, Arthur Fleck whose life is a total disaster and this includes physical and emotional abuse from thugs,a horrible demeaning job as a clown, co-workers and even his mother. From the depressing and never ending abuse of a life that was never worth living, this story makes it very understandable why someone like the Joker could mutate into a psychopathic killer.  The issue that this excellent but very bleak movie points out is that, all human beings have a breaking point and once that point is reached, the downside is unlimited.

In the history of movies there has probably never been any one character that has delivered an Academy Award to two different actors; in this case the late Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight” in 2008 and for this movie,  Joaquin Phoenix. For Joker, Joaquin has hit a high point in this career with this performance and will definitely win best actor without question.  While seeing this movie I realized that there is no other actor who could have played this part.  As for Health Ledger, the story is that he got so into the role of the Joker in the Dark Knight, that he overdosed on prescription drugs.

The Joker also has a very good performance from Robert Deniro, who plays a talk show host who Arthur Fleck is obsessed with and one of the final scenes between these two characters includes a shocking ending.

The IMDB rating for Joker is an extremely high 9.3 but the Rotten Tomatoes only has an average 70% rating – which in my opinion is wrong. I highly recommend this movie for the brilliant and subtle story telling and the fantastic acting performance of Joaquin Phoenix.