Movie Review: Little Women


The new movie “Little Women”, based on the novel Little Women is the latest adaptation of the famous book written by Louisa May Alcott  that was published over 150 years ago. This film was both written and directed by Greta Gerwig, who hit it very big with “Lady Bird” in 2017 and has to be respected to trying to turn a world famous novel into a movie.

Unfortunately for me, despite the very high critical reviews that are in the 95% range on Rotten Tomatoes, the story of this movie is all over the place. It was almost as if it did not matter what order any scene was positioned. The entire movie was one scene in present time, followed by a flashback, followed by another scene that was an alternate possible path then another that was reality. There were too many flashbacks in this movie and mainly because of this, I am very surprised by the very high reviews and did not like this film. I thought this was going to be story mainly about the financial oppression of women in the late 1800’s and there was some of that, but not nearly enough. Perhaps this film is for people who have read and are big fans of the book, but for me it played like a soap opera, rather than an interesting drama that had a strong beginning, middle and end. I did like the ending when Jo March, negotiated a favorable contract for the release of her book, with the publisher. Other than this, I found most of this movie forgettable.

The acting of the entire cast was very good, including Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothée Chalamet, Bob Odenkirk, Florence Pugh, Chris Cooper and Meryl Streep.

I do not agree with the high reviews of this film and do not recommend it, other than for die hard fans of the novel.

Movie Review: Uncut Gems


Adam Sandler has probably had one of the most remarkable careers in the entire history of the movie industry. Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of the movies he has made as an actor, director and writer have been panned by all the critics and many are considered some of the worst movies ever made, he has been able to get funding to make many more bad movies in his career, while amassing a huge fortune of 420 million dollars. There is no other profession in the world that could reward anyone who has made this many bad movies with this amount of money.

In 2002 Sandler made a movie called “Punch Drunk Love”, that was not only a very good movie, but proved that Adam Sandler can be an outstanding actor. I thought Punch Drunk Love was the turning point in Sandler’s career, turning the corner into making high quality movies demonstrating his acting ability. Unfortunately, the opposite happened and Sandler made several more bad movies including, Jack and Jill, Just Go with It, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan and Pixels. Hopefully this time around with his outstanding performance in “Uncut Gems”, Sandler will make more movies like this one that prove conclusively that in the right role, he can be a great actor.

I have only seen one other movie that shows the tragic and pathetic life of a compulsive gambler like Uncut Gems does. “The Gambler”, released in 2014 with Mark Wahlberg did a very good job at showing the desperation of a person insanely gambling away their life because the high of winning and even losing becomes greater than their intrinsic human desire to survive. Uncut Gems raises the bar about a story involving compulsive gambling to a much higher level and what happens in this movie is insane, fast paced, desperate and pathetic, with acting that is about as real as I have ever seen.

Howard Ratner, played by Sandler is the owner of a jewelry shop in a New York City high rise and on the side he places what are called “parlay” bets on sporting events that are bets on a combination of events during a sporting event, for this story Basketball. Ratner bets that basketball player Kevin Garnet, who plays himself in this film, will score a certain number of points, rebounds, his team will win the opening tip and his team will win. During this insane story, Ratner is constantly trying to pay off one gambling debt and at the same time opening up another one, all the while running for his life while one thug or several are trying to beat him up or even kill him. Ratner is married with a son and a daughter but despite his responsibilities as a husband and a father, he takes risk after risk placing insane bets that if he loses his entire life could be over in an instant. The high, so perfectly defined in this excellent film, is all about the fear of life ending disaster and the extreme euphoria of winning big. There is one scene in this movie where Kevin Garnet and his friends are trying to get into Ratner’s Jewelry store, but the security door is stuck. What follows are about 10 different and eventually desperate attempts to get the door opened, a scene that is greatly symbolic of the frustrating, desperate and crazy life of Ratner himself.

The high level of tension, and insane situations in this film is matched by the great acting by the entire cast and especially Sander, who even has a shot at winning an Academy Award for his performance in this movie, on a par with Joaquin Phoenix in Joker – for both the intensity and desperation. It would be hugely ironic to see Adam Sandler win an Academy award considering how many of his movies and performances have been trashed for so many years.  

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Uncut Gems are an extremely high 93% and I agree with this rating and highly recommend this film as one of the very best of 2019. Congratulations to Adam Sandler who proved once again, that he can be a great actor in the right role.

Golden Globe Award Nominations 2020


For the record, the omission of Robert DeNiro for best actor in a motion picture for both the Golden Globe and SAG awards this year, is one of the worst examples of biased voting in the history of movie award organizations. One can only guess that they did not vote for Deniro, despite his stellar and almost 3 1/2 hour performance in the Irisman because of his recent personal scandal involving his maid. However, what does his personal scandal have to do with his acting performance in the Irishman? This omission is a big mistake that hopefully will not be repeated when the Oscar nominations are released.


Best Motion Picture, Drama

“1917”

“The Irishman”

“Joker”

“Marriage Story”

“The Two Popes”

Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

“Dolemite Is My Name”

“Jojo Rabbit”

“Knives Out”

“Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

“Rocketman”

Best Director, Motion Picture

Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite”

Sam Mendes, “1917”

Todd Phillips, “Joker”

Martin Scorsese, “The Irishman”

Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Drama

Cynthia Erivo, “Harriet”

Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story”

Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”

Charlize Theron, “Bombshell”

Renée Zellweger, “Judy”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Ana de Armas, “Knives Out”

Awkwafina, “The Farewell”

Cate Blanchett, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette”

Beanie Feldstein, “Booksmart”

Emma Thompson, “Late Night”

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture


Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”

Annette Bening, “The Report”

Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”

Jennifer Lopez, “Hustlers”

Margot Robbie, “Bombshell”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Drama

Christian Bale, “Ford v Ferrari”

Antonio Banderas, “Pain and Glory”

Adam Driver, “Marriage Story”

Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker”

Jonathan Pryce, “The Two Popes”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy

Daniel Craig, “Knives Out”

Roman Griffin Davis, “Jojo Rabbit”

Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Taron Egerton, “Rocketman”

Eddie Murphy, “Dolemite Is My Name”

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in any Motion Picture

Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”

Al Pacino, “The Irishman”

Joe Pesci, “The Irishman”

Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Best Screenplay, Motion Picture

Noah Baumbach, “Marriage Story”

Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won, “Parasite”

Anthony McCarten, “The Two Popes”

Quentin Tarantino, “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood”

Steven Zaillian, “The Irishman”

Best Original Score, Motion Picture

Alexandre Desplat, “Little Women”

Hildur Gudnadottir, “Joker”

Randy Newman, “Marriage Story”

Thomas Newman, “1917”

Daniel Pemberton, “Motherless Brooklyn”

Best Original Song, Motion Picture

“Beautiful Ghosts,” “Cats”

“I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”

“Into the Unknown,” “Frozen 2”

“Spirit,” “The Lion King”

“Stand Up,” “Harriet”

Movie Review: Bombshell


When we work for other people, we have no choice but to play by their rules. Because of money, we are forced into a reality that for many millions of people can be extremely difficult, not only because of the work we do, but because we are dependent on the integrity of the people who we are forced to associate with and who hold your financial and professional fate in their hands.

When a person is harassed in the workplace, all of the commonplace problems that come along for the ride when we work for any company, mutate into a power struggle. The person who is harassed has a choice of putting up with the abuse to hold onto the job or risk losing that job by fighting back and reporting the abuse. This is a conflict that can cause huge amounts of stress and even health problems, proportional to the amount money and professional prestige involved. The worst examples of this are with the professions of acting and journalism, when the money is much greater than any normal job, and the loss of a very high paying job along with the fame, can cause a conflict that is impossible to manage or rationalize.

The new movie “Bombshell” is the first of many movies that will be coming out about the “Me Too” movement that all started in 2016 with Fox News, and Gretchen Carlson suing Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. This was followed by over 20 other women who worked at Fox news including Meghan Kelly, accusing Ailes of sexual harassment. Eventually Ailes was fired from Fox after decades of using his leverage and power in the industry to sexually harass women. We all ask why someone like Roger Ailes was able to harass and terrorize his employees for so long, but this is easy to understand. If you report him, as a high paid and in some cases famous television journalist, you might lose your job and most likely, might never work in the industry again. If you refuse Ailes’ advances, he might get angry and demote you or find some way to discredit or fire you. If you report him, you run the risk that nobody will believe you and then you will be shunned by your co-workers. Management might decide that there is an impasse between two people, and if one of them has less leverage, that person will lose their job. This is what happened when Ann Curry reported Matt Lauer to management in 2012, losing her anchor job on the Today show. Underlying all of this is someone like Roger Ailes, who could have cared less about the stress and misery he put so many women through. Unfortunately there are too many people like Ailes in this world, who rise to positions of power and ruin the lives and careers of others who are just trying to make a living.

The Me Too movement only became a movement in this country, because the number of people coming forward eventually became greater then those who had leverage over them. This is also true of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose and many others. Some years ago, there was a cover of Time Magazine with 60 of the women accusing Bill Cosby of drugging and violating them. Bill Cosby is now in jail. Many others formerly in power, including Bill O’Reilly, who also worked at Fox News, have lost their jobs and will never rise to their former levels ever again.

I thought that the movie Bombshell did a very good job of showing the working environment at Fox News, with the cubicles, confusion, stress and meetings with Roger Ailes that included blatant sexual harassment. The makeup for Charlize Theron who portrayed journalist Meghan Kelly was so perfect that she looked almost exactly like Kelly. The acting in this movie was also very impressive including John Lithgow, who was outstanding as Roger Ailes, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson and Margo Robbie as Kayla Pospisil, Allison Janney as Aile’s lawyer and Kate McKinnon as Jess Carr.

I am surprised at the anemic 65% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, as my rating is more in the 80% range as this film does a very good job of showing the high stress reality of life in the spotlight and living with blatant sexual harassment. I definitely recommend Bombshell.

Movie Review: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker


When I first saw the very poor reviews of the very last of the 9 Star Wars movies, the first one released 42 years ago – I originally thought that this could not be true. How could JJ Abrams, who both directed and co-wrote this last of the Star Wars movies, drop the ball and not spend enough time and resources to come up with a great story to end this greatest of all movie franchises? This could never happen. Impossible. Unfortunately, the critics are right and the failing grades on Rotten Tomatoes of only 57% are correct. The reason for this is the same reason for all blockbuster movies like this one that have spectacular special effects. All the money went to the computer graphics and the special effects and nothing was spent on coming up with one last final great story – like the first “Star Wars” or the second one, “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”.

The screenplay for this film, jumps from one battle, to another planet, to another scene, to another planet and then another scene, in many cases with no continuity and no connection, from one scene to the next. There is no way anybody can know what is really going on in this story and this problem also happened in the last Star Wars movie, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, released in 2017. JJ Abrams shared the screenwriting credit with another writer, Chris Terrio  and it was almost as if they both wrote two different screenplays, had many different ideas and then they tried to pull it all together in the end. The task of writing the last Star Wars movie is enormous, perhaps the biggest in the history of movie production and for this reason, more time should have been taken for screenplay re-writes, to avoid ending this franchise with a very disappointing finale.  Not because of the special effects, but because of a bad story.

As far as this movie being the last one, my understanding is that there will be no more Star Wars movies, that involve the original characters and story, but there will be many more Star Wars movies, like the one released in 2016, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”. The reason for this is that Disney paid so much money to George Lucas for the rights to Star Wars that, there is no way this will be the last time we will see a movie about Star Wars.

The cast for this last Star Wars film is very strong with appearances from the late Carrie Fisher, with the use of archive footage. Harrison Ford, Billy Dee Williams, Mark Hamill and the main characters for these last 3 movies,
Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac. Nobody can blame these actors for a bad script and they all acted well. I also suspect, when they all did their last group hug, for me the best part of this film, that they were all relieved that this chapter in their acting careers has come to an end.

Unfortunately, like most of the critics, I cannot recommend this movie, except for the most die hard Star Wars fans. There is a chance that the producers of this movie decided to make this the last of all Star Wars movies because they were worried that the critics would be so harsh that this film would bomb at the box office. Telling the world that this was the last in the franchise, might create the same box office hit as “Avengers End Game” that was released in April of this year. However, the difference with Avengers End Game is that that film had a good story and this one does not.

Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level


If a remake of an original movie, in this case “Jumanji” released in 1995, makes money then there will be a sequel. This kind of movie is all about making money, not about the art form of making movies. “Jumanji: The Next Level” is so similar to the first movie, released 2 years ago, “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” that I found the only entertaining thing about the 2 hours was trying to figure out some of the new ideas that were thrown into this sequel. Some of these ideas were, adding Danny Divito, Danny Glover and Awkwafina as new characters. Within the game, making it possible using a special type of water for the character Avatars to switch to different people. Other than this, the entire story, game and eventual ending is about the same as the last movie. The reason for this once again – is the built in audience means to any producer that all we have to do is what we did the last time and the movie will make money. Why spend more time on new ideas and a great script? The money is already there for the taking, lets just take the money, not make a great movie. Considering all of this, what a waste to have someone as funny and talented as Kevin Hart and give him no lines that were funny.

The critical reviews for this sequel are about the same as the last one, about 65-70%. The other interesting caveat is that Jumanji is a remake of a movie made in 1995 starring Robin Williams that was at best pretty average, apart from the huge talent of Williams. Why remake an average movie? Why not remake a great movie? None of this makes much sense other than, money over quality, that is one of the problems with too many movies like this one that are made far too often.

Jumanji: The Next Level should be missed except for die hard fans of Kevin Hart or Dwayne Johnson. For the rest of us, there are many better movies than this one that have been recently released. See those movies and miss this one.

Movie Review: Richard Jewell


Director Clint Eastwood knows what many avid movie goers have realized for many years; that the best movies are often the ones that are about true stories. “Richard Jewell”, the new movie about a security guard who was falsely accused of planting a bomb at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta is one of the best true story properties Clint Eastwood’s production company has made in the last few years – on a par with “Sully” released in 2016.

The most amazing thing about this story of FBI and media incompetence is that something like this could ever happen to any decent human being in this country who was not only innocent, but a hero who saved countless lives because he did his job so well. Richard Jewell’s problem was that he fit too many of personal characteristics of other similar criminals and bombers, including the fact that he was kind of a loner who lived with his mother. Due to the desperation of the FBI, the speed of their “rushing go judgement” including missing the simple fact that the person who called in the bomb threat at a pay phone outside of the Olympic park on July 27, 1996 was too far away to also plant the bomb. Once the FBI realized they missed this obvious piece of evidence, they tried to manufacture a second possibility that Jewell was using an accomplice. The FBI then also tried to trick Jewell into confessing, by telling him they were going to shoot a training video for FBI personnel – something that I was amazed to see could ever happen in this country.

This nightmare that terrorized Richard Jewell, played perfectly by Paul Walter Hauser and his mother Bobi Jewell played by Kathy Bates went on for 88 days. The lead investigator Tom Shaw, played by John Hamm, even leaked the details of the FBI investigation against Jewell to a ruthless police reporter, Kathy Scruggs, played by Olivia Wilde. Once the investigation was leaked, Jewell’s picture was on the cover of every newspaper and magazine in this country, effectively ruining his reputation and destroying his life. None of the members of the FBI or the thousands of reporters covering this false story cared about Richard Jewell, they only cared about themselves and their careers. To this day, there are still many people in the world who think that Jewell had something to do with the Olympic bombing. Were it not for Jewell’s lawyer Watson Bryant played by Sam Rockwell, who he met a decade earlier during his delivery job in Watson’s law firm, its possible that Jewell would have been railroaded into jail. The relationship between Bryant and Jewell and how much Bryant cared about Jewell as a human being and a friend is one of the best things about this movie. When we are at our lowest, all of us need a friend; a great message in this film.

While watching this movie, realizing that Jewell was not only under tremendous stress but also obese, I had to wonder how he lived through this without dying of a stroke or a heart attack. Unfortunately Richard Jewell did die in 2007 of heart failure brought on by Diabetes.

I agree with the mostly positive reviews for Richard Jewell that are in the 75% range and my opinion is a bit higher at 80%. I recommend this movie as one of the best Eastwood films about a true story.

Movie Review: The Aeronauts


In 1862, flight was all about hot air balloons and considering a straw basket, rope and a sewn together giant hot ball of air; flying or floating in a balloon in 1862 was about as dangerous as it could ever be.

The unusual new film “The Aeronauts” is very loosely based on the  July 17, 1862 balloon flight where James Glaisher, a weather scientists and expert balloonist Henry Coxwell took dangerous risks and rode a huge hot air balloon to an all time record height of 37,000 feet. In order to make this story marketable, Coxwell was replaced with a woman Amelia Wren, played by Felicity Jones and Glaisher is played by Eddie Redmayne. Jones and Redmayne starred in “The Theory of Everything” in 2014 and the hope here is that more audiences would be interested in this story because of the actors involved – correctly thinking that a movie about two men and a dangerous balloon ride would never draw enough people into theaters.

The problem with this entire movie is that about 90% of the story is entirely about this dangerous balloon ride with some flashbacks about Glaisher’s ambitions to understand and predict the weather and convincing Wren to fly with him. I was disappointed both with the lack of a story here and the fact that many of the amazing and dangerous feats during this highest ever balloon flight did not actually happen. There is one scene in particular where Wren climbed all the way outside of the balloon, almost 7 miles high and in the freezing cold, to the very top to free a frozen flap that was preventing the balloon from descending. The special effects with this scene with Felicity Jones is by far the best part of this movie.

On a recent talk show appearance, Eddie Redmayne talked about the first day of shooting this film, when he and Felicity Jones were almost killed when they accidentally threw out too much ballast (sand bags) and because of this they could not avoid trees and eventually crashed. Why a risk like this was taken with these two actors makes no sense on the first day of shooting considering the quality of special effects now available by using green screens makes no sense. When shooting any dangerous scene within any film, the concept of “its only a movie” should never be forgotten.

Despite the very good special effects and one amazing scene involving Amelia Wren climbing to the top of the balloon, I cannot recommend this movie, because there is nowhere near enough story.

Movie Review: Dark Waters


If any aspiring writer of fiction approached any literary agent with story like the movie “Dark Waters”, most would say that the entire story is absurd, because it would be impossible for any large company to knowingly poison the population of a town or city for 40 years for profit. Someone in the company would come forward and report something like this. People are dying, getting cancer, there are birth defects, large numbers of farm animals are dying. How can that many executives turn a blind eye to mass murder for profit? There is no way this could happen. That many educated executives could never be that cruel to so many people for so long. How could they rationalize causing serious health problems to other people and then lie about it, for profit? How could they sleep at night, knowing what they are doing to the health of so many people? Nobody would ever believe a story like this. So much for fiction.

The real world has produced a company like PG&E that knowingly poisoned the town of Hinkley California from 1952-1966 by dumping 370 million gallons of chromium tainted wastewater; the subject of the movie “Erin Brockovich”, released in 2000. In April 2014 the Governor of Michigan changed the water source for Flint Michigan to the Flint river and did not care that he was poisoning the water to Flint with lead. This criminal outrage went on for years, before it was finally stopped.

The subject of the new movie “Dark Water” is about Dupont, who “knowingly”, despite their own medial research dumped a chemical called C8, also known as Perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA to make a product called Teflon, invented in 1961, on the residents of Parkersburg, West Virginia. Like all products that involved chemical compounds, there is waste output involved and the problem always is, where to dump it? Dupont only cared that it was making over 1 billion dollars a year manufacturing Teflon, not about its own research that proved the extreme health hazard the chemical C8 – that represents 8 molecules of Carbon, was causing to thousands of people.

Dark Waters is both hard to watch and almost impossible to believe even happened because the crime is so huge. The story of this film is about a corporate lawyer, Robert Bilott who devoted almost his entire legal career through years of great hardship to force Dupont to be accountable for the decades of criminal outrage they perpetrated on thousands of people. Dark Waters is both a legal and human drama, with some complex legal judgments and hundreds of thousands of documents that Billot processed, looking for the trail of evidence he needed to sue Dupont in Civil court. Dark Waters also stars Anne Hathaway as Billot’s wife who supports him through years of stress, and Billot’s many health issues caused by this landmark case. In the end, Dupont was held accountable, eventually settling on a judgement of 670 million dollars, which for anyone who sees this great movie would agree was not nearly enough, when you consider the crime of knowingly poisoning so many human beings for 40 years. One of the most significant moments in this movie for me came at the end, where near the closing credits it was announced the 99% of the world’s population contain some traces of C8. Another memorable scene involves a young teen aged girl who smiles at Robert Bilott, showing her black teeth caused by the dangerous chemicals she ingested.

The acting in Dark Waters, including Bill Pullman, Tim Robbins, Victor Garber, Mark Rufalo who plays Robert Bilott and Anne Hathaway is outstanding and this movie should receive and Oscar nomination for best picture. I agree with the high critical acclaim for this movie and highly recommend it as one of the best films of 2019.,