Netflix Movie Review: Hillbilly Elegy

Netflix Movie Review: Hillbilly Elegy

The new Netflix movie “Hillbilly Elegy” is based on the best selling book that was released several years ago, about a man who made it out of extreme poverty and being raised by a single mother who was a drug addict.

Despite a horrific start in life, the main character in this film J.D. Vance, played by Gabriel Basso became a lawyer and even attended Yale Law school after joining the Army. This is an amazing feat, considering how his life began, and his abusive childhood progressed.

This film has two well known actresses: Glenn Close who plays J.D.s grandmother and Amy Adams as J.D.’s mother and one of the best directors, Ron Howard. Despite all of this, including what I thought was outstanding acting throughout, the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are giving this very strong movie only a 26% rating. In all my years of comparing the opinions of critics, this has to be the all time champion in regards to a group of critics who have no understanding of the the quality and significance of a film. The only good news is that the audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a very high 89% – in line with the quality of the screenwriting and acting. A rating of only 26% makes no sense, expecially considering the critical opinions are so completely different than the audience opinion.

Anyone who has a background of poverty or near poverty will appreciate what it is like to live in a situation where there is no hope, no future and no chance. Perhaps the critics who reviewed this film cannot relate to the stark and depressing reality of many millions of people who in so many cases, need miracles to survive. With this story, the poverty also comes with extreme levels of drug addition, with many depressing scenes where J.D.s mother is either shooting heroin, taking pills or overdosing. All of this was well done and well acted.

I agree with the audience rating for Hillbilly Elegy of 89% and highly recommend this movie.

On Demand Movie Review: The Secret: Dare to Dream

About 10 years ago, a video was released called “The Secret”. This video became so popular it even made it to the Oprah Winfrey Show. The message in this video was very simple, “if you think about something that you want so badly often enough and strongly enough, then the universe will give it to you”. It would be great if something like this were true, and the popularity of this message was mostly caused by so many millions of people wanting it to be true, rather than it being actually true. The fervor of the video and this message eventually died down, only a few short years later. Since then, I have not seen any sign of the The Secret, not until the new movie “The Secret: Dare to Dream”, starring Josh Lucas and Katie Holmes was released through On Demand some days ago.

I agree with most of the critics who have said that this story is too much like a small Nicolas Sparks book. While the story is rather simple and “Nicolas Sparks” like, I thought that overall, the story and message was good enough to give this film marginal recommendation.

The main character Miranda Wells is played by Katie Holmes. She is raising 3 kids as a single mother, ever since her husband died 5 years earlier. Her life is all about having no money and being in huge debt, with both a car and house that is falling apart. Then enters Bray, played by Josh Lucas who is a professor of Mechanical Engineering from Vanderbilt University. Through a series of coincidences that all start with a minor car accident, Bray starts to help Miranda and her 3 children with some of their money problems – the worst problem is fixing up their house after a Hurricane. I thought that the story did take too long to wind down, as Bray is carrying a huge secret from Miranda, all the way down to the last minutes of this movie. Other than that, the story was well told and the acting was well done.

The 28% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes are absurd – with the audience ratings of 76% far more accurate. My rating is 70% and I do give this movie a marginal recommendation.

Amazon Prime Series Review: Wayne

Amazon Prime Series Review: Wayne

The trend for several years within the challenging art of screenwriting is coming up with something that has never been done before. Unfortunately I have seen way too many different bad movies over the years, where the screenwriter tried so hard to break new ground and produce something that has never been done before, resulting in a very-different bad movie. A film still has to be good more than it has to be different.

The new Amazon prime 10-part series “Wayne” is very different from anything I have seen before but more importantly its also different-good, not different bad or average. There are no famous actors in this series, only few character actors we have all seen before. The story is about a 16 year old kid in high school, Wayne, played by Mark McKenna who has a life in shambles. His mother left the family and his father is dying and he lives in a rundown section of Brockton Massachusetts – the home town of Boxer Marvin Hagler. His daily life is all about violence, with him either getting beaten up or beating someone else up, any way he can. Wayne has a personality disorder where he feels he has to right any wrong he sees, which is why he is always getting into fights. The language in this movie is one for the record books because it probably has more F-words and S-words than any production ever made. This is now people talk on the hard streets Boston and the screenwriter made sure that this is made very clear in every scene in this series.

As the story progresses, Wayne leaves Boston and heads south to get back his father’s car his mother now has in Florida. His companion during this road trip to Florida is Del, his girlfriend and unfortunate daughter of a lowlife family of 2 stupid brothers and a violent loud-mouth father who hate Wayne and follow Del and Wayne to Florida. Del is played by actress Ciara Bravo, who just about steals this entire series with her completely natural acting ability.

The foul language and violence in this 10 part series are insane and frequent, mixed with crazy humor along the way.

The critics on Rotten Tomatoes are giving this series 100%, IMDB is a very high 8.4. If you can get used to the constant foul language and violence, this movie is a must see, but definitely not for children. I highly recommend this 10 part series on Amazon prime.

Movie Review: Freaky

Movie Review: Freaky

The new movie “Freaky” is one of those films that receives high reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and because I am maintaining a blog I felt obligated to see it. The first mystery was why this mostly average movie is receiving such high marks by the critics and the second mystery was why Vince Vaughn – mostly an A or a B list actor, agreed to make this teen-parody-B-horror movie in the first place.

This film is a parody of the many “Freaky Friday” movies, the last one released in 2003 with Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis. The plot is: due to some freakish event, two people switch places and inhabit the body of the other person. In the case of Freaky – a serial killer played by Vince Vaughn takes the place of a teenage girl played by Kathryn Newton. The rest of the story contains nothing really new or innovative, other than the presence of Vince Vaughn, who tries to act like a 17 year old girl for half of the story. The longer this goes on, the stranger the experience of watching Vince Vaughn play a 17 year old girl gets. There are attempts to be funny that mostly fail and the parody attempts will all be lost on most younger viewers who are not familiar with the previous Freaky Friday movies. There are the same old fake shock horror scenes, where someone pops out of nowhere, some over the top scenes of blood and gore, and that all too familiar trickery making the audience believe that someone is dead when they are really not dead. The movie viewing world is more than tired of this in all movies.

My guess is that there were agreements to make this film, and soon after, a realization that nobody would see it because of the weak premise. So a decision was made to pay Vince Vaughn a great deal of money, hoping that his presence would bring in viewers. After production a decision was made to release this movie into the “throwaway Pandemic fire”, period we are all in, to at least get some money back for this film that will ultimately lose money.

In the end, I have no idea why the critics are giving this movie an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, because it is nothing more than an average teen horror movie. My rating is 60%, for only the attempts at some humor but with no positive recommendation.

Movie Review: Let Him Go

Movie Review: Let Him Go

The new movie “Let Him Go” is the first movie released in theaters since the Pandemic that is high quality, and with the bankable stars: Diane Lane and Kevin Costner, with a great story and great cinematography – in this case, the barren vistas of North Dakota.

The story here is mostly believable, all the way up to the end, when there is an expected Hollywood climax. In real life, nobody would do what the characters do at the end of this movie. Within these two hours are scenes of domestic abuse, child abuse, massive injustice, a criminal family known as the “Weboys” and impressive scenes of conflict and tension performed at an extremely high level.

Margaret and George Blackledge live on a horse ranch in very rural North Dakota where life is cold, flat and at times very harsh. Ever since I saw the great movie “Fargo” in 1996 I have always wondered why anyone would want to live in cold, flat and sparsely populated places like North and South Dakota. At the start of this story Margaret and George are living with their son, his wife and their infant son and then, unfortunate events do occur that lead them into having to track down their grandson Their search leads them to meet a criminal family known as the Weboy’s in an even more rural area of North Dakota.

As the Blackledge’s try to visit with their grandson, a series of high stress events happen, starting with a dinner, where the Blackledge’s and Weboy’s meet for the first time – arguably the best acting in this film. A line is drawn where the Weboy’s make it very clear that they do not want the Blackledge’s to see their own grandson ever again.

The acting throughout this movie is outstanding, and the actress Leslie Manville is a standout with her role as Blanch Weboy, the patriarch of the Weboy family. Manville’s acting is so strong, she may just be nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress, despite this depleated Pandemic movie year.

Many years ago I learned that one of the fine arts of screenwriting is the use of reflection to show something early in a story, that gets used again in a much more significant way later. This movie has an example of a reflection that starts with Margaret Blackledge whispering in an ear of a dying horse, and ends with one of the most powerful examples of refection that I have ever seen in a movie.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Let Him Go are only around 75%, but my rating is a solid 90% for the great story and acting. Movies like this one remind many of us that one of the reasons why we go to the movies is because very often a great injustice is revenged. Unfortunately real life far too often, does not work that way. I highly recommend this film.