Movie Review: Kajillionaire

Movie Review: Kajillionaire

The new movie “Kajillionaire” is for any person in the world, who thinks that being broke, heavily in debt or even being close to homeless is not a big deal. Not only is all of this a big deal, but for so many millions of people in the world, it can be a fate worse than death.

The story of Kajillionaire is about an older man and woman and their 20-something daughter who are on the outer fringes of living on the streets. They run scams, some of them very complex that involve faking lost luggage at the airport. They duck under a fence to avoid their landlord who is renting them a former small office room that leaks foam from a next door car wash. This film stretches to a highly unusual level of storytelling that in some areas barely make sense with storylines that in some ways seem connected but then drift away. Many times when I see movies that try so hard to be different – they do not work, but this movie works and for the most part well done.

Kajillionaire stars Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger, Richard Jenkins and Gina Rodriguez. This is movie is not a comedy, it is a dark drama about the harsh realities of life in this country for people with no money. Over time, people become desperate animals just to survive one day to the next – and all of this makes Kajillionaire a difficult story to watch. The acting is very solid throughout, with Rodgriguez character joining this group of 3 drifters in the middle of this story – a part of the story I found to be somewhat unbelievable.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Kajillionaire are a very high 88% but a very low 54% audience rating. I am more in the middle, around 72%, with a passing rating. This is not the great movie some of the critics are raving about because some parts of this story did fail and other areas are so disjointed that they do not seem to make sense. Trying to be unusual too often in any story can ruin the final production – the best recent example of this is the movie Tenet. Overall, I do recommend this movie for its stark and depressing reality of people living on the edge.

Movie Review: Challenger The Final Flight

The reality of working for most companies, regardless of the field is the stress of “it has to be done yesterday”. “We lose money if this is late”. “Despite the poor planning, we still have this delivery date, that just has to be met, even though it is not possible”. All of this increases stress and reduces productivity.

Within my career in the Information Technology field I have had many instances where a deadline or a time frame for completing a task has been unreachable, mostly due to the inability to accurately combine a measurement of time with a complex task.

In the case of the Space Shuttle Challenger, that exploded during its launch on January 28, 1986, one would have thought that because of the 7 people involved, including a school teacher, that the corporate and very often insane “beat the clock” paradigm would not apply in this case. Of course the safety of the astronauts is always the first priority? Even worse in the case of Challenger, the problems with the O-Rings (that were rubber protective seals for the fuel tanks), were known for a long time before the Challenger exploded. Unfortunately it was also known that fixing the O-Ring problem could have taken a year or more to redesign and implement. So the cost and time of the redesign became much more important than the lives of 7 brilliant people.

The new Netflix 4 part series “Challenger The Final Flight” is about the years of corruption and mistakes that led to one of the worst tragedies in the history of the United States Space program. All that went wrong on that tragic day in January 1986 was not only known about but completely preventable. The Challenger tragedy was eventually found to be much worse because so many people knew that it was only a matter of time before one of the fuel tanks would leak and cause a huge explosion. On the day of the tragedy, it was too cold to launch – another red flag – so the entire launch should have been cancelled, but it wasn’t for political reasons. Nobody in charge cared enough about the 7 lives that were eventually going to be be lost. Pressure to meet a deadline and to avoid the loss of money should never be more important than human life. On January 28, 1986 – money won.

History would repeat itself on February 1, 2003 when the Space Shuttle Columbia burned up on re-entry due to a problem with the heat shield, that was also known about and preventable long before the accident.

The Netflix four part series Challenger The Final Flight is an outstanding documentary about one of the worst tragedies in American history and should be seen by everyone.

Movie Review: Ava

The trend right now in movie theaters, especially after the release of the horrendous Tenet is that for a significant period of time, low rated movies will be released because the vast majority of the movie-going public is still not going to movie theaters. The thinking here is, why risk releasing a huge and very expensive movie before we know if anyone is going to risk going to see it? All of this makes sense, and we all wonder when the movie industry will ever get back to normal again assuming this can ever happen, considering this world wide Pandemic.

As far as the new movie “Ava” starring Jessica Chastain, John Malkovich, Common, Geena Davis and Colin Farrell, I wondered how such an impressive list of A rated actors would all agree to make a movie like “Ava” – at best a below average production. This film reminded me of last years bad movie “Anna”, where a woman who is working in some kind of a high level spy agency (never fully defined or explained) is fighting and killing everybody she faces, despite being outnumbered and injured during so many of her encounters. All movies like this are both unrealistic and in most cases ridiculous because there is just no way that any one person can overcome so many attackers at the same time. The movie Die Hard 1,2 and 3 are examples of “realistic action” where the person is fighting off one person at at time, and sometimes does not actually win the battle. Hopefully one day we can do away with unrealistic action movies like Ava, in favor of physical conflict that not only makes sense, but is realistic.

The other problem with Ava is that the reason for Ava, played by Jessica Chastain is never really explained. She is assigned to kill people, but why? What is the purpose of this spy agency Ava works for and who are these people she is killing? This is all skipped over in favor of mostly inane Karate action. The third problem with this movie is the side story, involving the actor Common who was Ava’s previous boyfriend who is now about to marry her sister. He has a gambling problem and his issues with gambling and a late night dance and gambling club has no connection to the main story, that is never fully understandable on its own.

The Rotten Tomatoes ranking for Ava are a very low 20% and I agree with this ranking and wonder once again, why any named actor would take the role after reading the screenplay. I have seen worse movies that are like this one, but Ava is not worth wasting your time.

Movie Review: Class Action Park

The documentary, currently streaming on HBO MAX – “Class Action Park” is one of the rare documentaries that has to be seen to be believed. From the late 1970s to the mid 1990s, entrepreneur Gene Mulvilhill created a water park he called “Action Park” in Vernon New Jersey. For reasons that will not make sense to anyone who sees this documentary, this entertainment resort became the most dangerous in the history of the United States. Despite 5 deaths and hundreds of injuries, this park continued to operate unchecked for almost 20 years. One would have thought that because of all the lawsuits and injuries, the State government of New Jersey would have shut the park down, but this never happened – until word of mouth and financial issues finally closed the park for good on September 2, 1996.

There are numerous side stories in this documentary and interviews with many of the former workers and one woman who lost her son who died on one of the most dangerous rides in Action Park. The owner of the facility, the late Gene Mulvilhill, never settled any of the many lawsuits, choosing instead to fight every one of them to make others think twice about suing him. The rides were never inspected and even built by workers who had no engineering experience and as a result just about every ride in the resort was extremely dangerous.

Mulvilhill even created his own fictional insurance company, so he would not have to pay the very high insurance rates to cover the park. The events that led to this resort being open for so many years is another documentary in itself, to investigate the corruption of that allowed this park to be open for so long with no government regulation.

I highly recommend “Class Action Park” as one of the best documentaries of his kind I have ever seen.

Movie Review: 7500

The new movie on Amazon Prime “7500” is about the hijacking of a passenger Jet by a group of terrorists. What I liked about this movie is the acting, mainly from the lead actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the realistic action throughout this film. What I did not like is the ongoing trend with terrorist movies – giving new ideas to insane criminals in this world. In this case using glass – made into knives to stab and kill people while trying to take over the controls of the passenger Jet. One has to wonder if this is a solution to getting a weapon on board any plane, because how can the x-ray machines detect glass?

One of the worst offenders of this is the movie “Executive Decision”, released in 1996 where the terrorist took over a plane in an attempt to crash it into Washington DC, releasing a nerve agent that would have killed thousands of people. With all movies like this one, some middle ground has to be reached where extreme action and drama that is acceptable, along with never giving terrorists any new ideas. The world has enough problems with terrorist as it is, without coming up with new ideas inside of a movie.

One of the other thoughts I had while watching this movie was, why would anyone want to work as an Airline Pilot or be a Stewardess? Not only are you employed by a precarious business, most especially now because of the Pandemic but you are almost never home, always living out of a hotel, and at any time there could be a mechanical failure, horrific accident or a Terrorist attack. My guess is that you must have a calling to want to work in this industry, definitely something I would never be interested in as a career.

Overall I agree with the middle of the road, 70% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and give this film a mild recommendation, mainly because of the acting of Levitt.

Movie Review: Unhinged

You are a typical American, who like so many millions, has a job you hate and a boss who loves to make your life miserable. On top of that you are getting a divorce and unfortunately, live in one of the thousands of locations in this country, where the traffic is horrendous. This is the believable scenario that summarizes the beginning of the movie “Unhinged”, starring Russel Crowe.

Actress Caren Pistorius plays Rachel, the woman who at the start of this movie is in her car with her son, desperately trying to find her way to work despite the horrible traffic. Eventually she runs into the worse case scenario other driver played by Russel Crowe, when she herself is at her lowest. The road rage that follows is some of most effective and believable that I have seen in any movie.

When encountering “The Man” in the other car, Rachel makes the exact wrong mistake by honking her horn too loudly after he would not move after the light turned green. This is a story that should have been a very good one, reminding many people of the movie “Duel”, directed by Steven Spielberg released in 1971 and the road rage that exists on so many roads in this country.

Unfortunately too many parts of this story and mostly bad ending have what is called “Hollywood-ified” illogical action to pump up the conclusion. This ongoing practice almost never works and both the villain and the woman trying to protect her son would never do any of the very stupid things they do at the end of this story. People rush to the police to save their lives and a villain in real life will always kill any person who gets in their way immediately. There are no second chances giving the victim an opportunity to save their lives when you are dealing with a desperate and very angry mass murderer. The case of Unhinged is that it is a good thriller with a very believeable beginning that was greatly diminished by a bad ending.

For those who remember what a great actor Russel Crowe is, now some 20 years after winning an Oscar for “Gladiator” in 2000 and a nominated for “A Beautiful Mind” in 2001 – in what is arguably his greatest role, it is hard to see him in a lower quality movie like this. Movie roles like those great parts 20 years ago have not come to Crowe since, although he has had some very good acting parts over the years, including the excellent “Cinderella Man” in 2005 and most recently his role playing Roger Ailes in “The Loudest Voice” in 2019. One can only wonder why Crowe is so extremely overweight – perhaps not able to lose the weight for the Ailes role, or other reasons including the stress of his divorce and his movie career not going as well as it has in the past. His acting in this movie is very good, but I am surprised that due to his clout as a bankable star, the script was not made better with many more re-writes.

I agree with the low 47% ratings for this film on Rotten Tomatoes and unfortunately, mostly because of the bad ending, I cannot recommend it.

Movie Review: Tenet

I never would have thought a year ago that I would not see any movie in a theater from early March to early September 2020 or that I would have to wear a mask. Things have changed in the movie industry in the past year, and the reality is that things may never be the same as they were again. Now there are rules for all theaters, starting with extreme cleanliness, no working water fountains, bathrooms with every other appliance blocked off. Social distancing stickers were all over the floor and understandably there were only a small number of people in the movie theater. The reality is, due to the world wide tragedy of the Corona Virus, the number of people who regularly go to the movies may never get back to the way it was in 2019.

Unfortunately my return to a movie theater after 6 months included sitting through 2 1/2 hours of one of the worst movies I have ever seen – “Tenet”, written and directed by Christoper Nolan. As Nolan has tried to prove in every movie he has ever made; he is more interested in being very different than entertaining or inspiring an audience. In just about every scene in Tenet, there is no explanation, no transition, no real story and no respect for the viewing audience. After two hours of this, I could not wait for this ridiculous nightmare of a movie to be over. After 2 1/2 hours, it was almost impossible to not walk out of the theater. I find movies like Tenet that make no effort to make the story understandable – infuriating. With Nolan it seems at times he has this attitude of, “its not my responsibility to explain my stories, let the audience fend for themselves.” For those of us who aspire to write a great screenplay and have it made into a great movie, seeing bad movies like Tenet are even more unbearable to sit through.

Tenet mostly stars John David Washington and in a much smaller role, Robert Pattinson. They are both part of some kind of a CIA organization called Tenet with a purpose that is never explained. What is also never really explained are these various tools and bullets that when used or touched act in reverse time – which is some kind of new science that was invented by some Russian organization, for reasons that are also never explained. What is the purpose during this entire movie to have the ability to reverse time? Where was the gain, financial or otherwise in reversing time within this story? None of this is ever explained. This movie makes no sense on any level and is a complete waste of 2 1/2 hours.

Some of the reviews I have read on Rotten Tomatoes include:

“The final action sequence is completely incomprehensible. Does Nolan even care? Like “Inception,” “Tenet” characters spend gobs of screen time explaining to us, and each other, what’s happening. That’s a rookie screenwriting tic that Nolan can’t stop repeating. Then again, what could possibly clear up this 2 hour, 31 minute smoke bomb of a movie.” – Sean Collier

“A massive, sprawling, largely incomprehensible mess, albeit with Nolan’s usual slick action scenes and sense of weight.” – Christopher Lloyd

Despite all of these horrendous reviews, the overall score for Tenet is an ridiculous 74%. My rating is a 3% – only for some of the special effects. Can we finally put an end to movies like this and directors who do not care about the audience, including Michael Bay and all of his Transformer movies? Just because something has never been done before with an idea that has never been seen before, does not make any movie good, or ever worth seeing.

I have no idea why Micheal Caine , Himesh Patel or Kenneth Branagh agreed to act in this perfect example of an extremely bad movie, other than perhaps giving back a favor they owed to Nolan or some production company.

Tenet is one of the worst movies I have ever seen and should never even be copied to DVD – because it is just that bad. Run from this horrible mess.