Netflix Movie Review: The Ice Road


Ever since the release of “Taken” in 2008, there has probably not been a more prolific actor than Liam Neeson. The problem is that just about all the parts Neeson has taken since his huge hit with Taken, seem to be more or less the same character. This is an error in strategy, with not choosing film roles that would stretch Neeson as an actor. Instead it seems that Neeson is going for the money resulting in roles that blend together, ultimately into nothing memorable enough, considering how good an actor Liam Neeson is.

The idea of “The Ice Road”, released on Netflix is a unique one, probably taken from the TV series “Ice Road Truckers”. There is an accident in a coal mine in Canada where 26 workers are trapped. The only solution is to commission 3 tractor trailers – for redundancy – to transport a machine that can pump poisonous air from the collapsed mine and save the 26 coal miners. The problem is, the only way to this Canadian coal mine via frozen road over lakes, during the most dangerous time of the year.

The main character Mike is played by Neeson, a professional truck driver who lives in barren and cold North Dakota and Gurty, played by Marcus Thomas, who is Mike’s mentally disabled brother, who was injured in the Iraq war. Another trucker Tantoo, played by Amber Midthunder has a brother who is one of the trapped coal miners. Laurence Fishburn has a surprise small part in this film as a manager of a trucking company who also makes the trip across the dangerous ice roads. The main story here is all about corporate greed and cruelty, that any person who has been an employee of a large company can easily recognize. I thought that the story was somewhat convoluted and perhaps overly complicated, but in the end was an effective thriller with a good ending.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for The Ice Road are a very low 47%, which is ridiculous considering the solid story and acting. My rating is 75% and I do recommend this film.

Movie Review: F9


About 25% into the new and extremely stupid Fast Five movie “F9”, Tyrese Gibson makes a speech about all of the insane action scenes in this franchise and wonders why nobody ever died and nobody even has a scratch on them. I think this was the screenwriters attempt at making fun of this 9 movie series, because there is no reason to make action that are this level of insane and over the top. What is the point of making movies this out of the world-makes-no-sense-idiotic-crazy and stupid. Less is more.

Why cant the creators of these movies make the simple decision to do two things. First make a movie that has a plot that makes sense and then create special effects are not so ridiculous. For example , there is a scene where Torreto played by Vin Diesel with passenger Letty played by Michelle Rodriguez decide to jump onto a broken bridge that seems to be made out of rope – in the hope that the rope will wrap around one of the wheels and then propel them into an arc onto the other side of a mountain. Why write a scene like this? Why do the producers and director have to be so over the top ridiculous? Another scene has Roman played by Tyrese Gibson and Tej played by Ludacris has both of them inside a Pontiac while floating in space. The reason why they were in space was part of an incongruous and once again – ridiculous plot that made zero sense. Like the last movie, why the producers of these movies take no time to explain why the characters are doing what the are doing is just about the most infuriating part of sitting through these two hours. Why not come up with a good solid idea that involves action and science and then fill the audience in on why things are happening? The reason why this does not happen is because the producers only care about the special effects, a good story that makes sense takes too long to write.

Charleze Theron is once again in this movie, making her debut in the last and also bad movie in the franchise “The Fate of the Furious” playing the evil Cipher. The bad news is that she agreed to make the last movie and the good news is that in this latest installment her part is very small. There is no explanation why her character hangs out in a giant plastic enclosure, adding another annoyance to this two hours. Also her hairdo this time around is as bad as her character.

The big action scenes at the end of this mess involve super powerful electric magnets and when they are turned on, all metal items are immediately attached to this. These magnets are used by several cars to pull other cars to them, and then when the magnets are turned off, they propel away from the magnet and crash into walls and other cars. There is a very large train-like car that is pulled by the magnets by two other cars making it stand on its front and then fall over on its back. This probably violated all laws of physics and within the audience I was in, people were actually laughing at how ridiculous this stunt was. A better movie would eventually be a documentary showing how all the non CGI stunts were filmed. Apart from that there is nothing good in this movie because even the special effects were so ridiculous they invoke laughter rather than awe.

John Cena plays Dominic Torreto’s brother in this film and there is only one scene where they fight that I thought was well done, with a back story involving their father, a car race and a misunderstanding that would in normal circumstances have been resolved between the two of them, long before their conflict within this story.

The actor Sung Kang returns to this franchise even though his character Han died in a car accident several movies ago. The explanation about how or why he is still alive was as equally ridiculous as the rest of this very bad story. I find the too often story line involving characters dying in this film franchise and then later they are alive again, insulting to the audience. Plausibility, continuity and a rational story is always better than another cheap special effect.

The ratings for this movie on IMDB are a correct and very low 5.3. Rotten Tomatoes is a too high 62%. My rating is 40% only because of the hard work of the stunt people who created some of the special effects. This movie is so ridiculous and stupid it should not be seen unless you are drunk. All of this being said, the movie “Furious 7”, released in 2015, the last film involving the late Paul Walker was a good movie, with a good story and excellent special effects. If you have not seen Furious 7, see this movie and run from this latest horrendous mess.

Netflix Movie Review: Good on Paper


Comedian Iliza Shlesinger has been one of the best standup comedians in the last few years, along with Amy Shumer, Kevin Hart and Dave Chappell. In one of her standup specials she has told a story about a man who she met on a plane who then became her boyfriend. It turns out that this man lied about every aspect of his life, including graduating from Yale, managing a hedge fund and even lying about his mother dying of Cancer. Shlesinger has written a screenplay about this experience – now on Netflix called “Good on Paper”. Unfortunately the ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB are around 50%, once again demonstrating how difficult it is to write and produce any movie.

I thought this movie had some good aspects, including Shlesinger mixing parts of her standup act throughout this entire movie with some good acting with the remaining cast including Margaret Cho and Ryan Hanson. The problem with this idea however is that in the end, there was nothing new here, not enough comedy and eventually the whole story degraded into a revenge film. This movie would have been much better with more humor from Shlesinger both with her standup act and within the story and some new ideas that we have not seen before.

The critics are wrong ranking this film as only 50%, my rating is in the 65% range but I cannot recommend it, with the possible exception of big fans of Shlesinger’s standup act.

Movie Review: The Truffle Hunters


Over 100 years ago, on September 20, 1920, the Princeton Garden Theater in Princeton New Jersey opened to the public. Since that time this theater has been a landmark in Princeton on Nassau Street for all movie goers. Almost 100 years later in March 2020, this great theater closed due to the world wide Covid-19 Pandemic and many thousands of us who have walked the streets of Princeton New Jersey wondered if it would ever open again. On June 4, 2021 the Princeton Garden theater opened again and I when I watched the new movie “The Truffle Hunters” there today, it was almost as if no time had passed. All people who live in the Princeton area are very happy that this theater is reopened. According to the owners, what saved this business was the many donations made by the people who have supported this movie theater for the last 100 years. Over 100 years ago, on September 20, 1920, the Princeton Garden Theater in Princeton New Jersey opened to the public. Since that time this theater has been a landmark in Princeton on Nassau Street for all movie goers. Almost 100 years later in March 2020, this great theater closed due to the world wide Covid-19 Pandemic and many thousands of us who have walked the streets of Princeton New Jersey wondered if it would ever open again.

On June 4, 2021 the Princeton Garden theater did open again and when I watched the new movie “The Truffle Hunters” there today, it was almost as if no time had passed. All people who live in the Princeton area are very happy that this theater is reopened and hopefully will never close again. According to the owners, what saved this business was the many donations made by the patrons who have supported this movie theater for the last 100 years.

The Truffle Hunters is a foreign documentary from Italy with subtitles and is about the precarious business of using dogs to smell out and then dig for Truffle’s in the remote forests of Italy. Without the use of dogs, it would be close to impossible find truffles because they are so hard to find, mainly because you have to dig for them underground. This is a big business in Italy and the people who make the money are the few at the top of the food chain, not the hard working men who search with their dogs for days trying to make a meager living. Most disturbing is the practice of competing truffle hunters trying to poison the dogs who are trying smell and then dig for truffles.

Despite the very high ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of 97% I thought that this movie was unnecessarily long and a bit too boring in too many areas – mainly because there is just so much you can say about finding and selling Truffles. I give The Truffle Hunters a marginal 75% recommendation.

Netflix Movie Review: Fatherhood


For anyone who has read Kevin Hart’s book , I Can’t Make This Up: Life Lessons one cannot help but admire his talent as a stand-up comedian but more impressive is how he survived his childhood, his criminal drug addict father and starting out as a shoe salesman. What followed was many years of hardship and dues paying, to eventually becoming the highest paid stand-up comedian in the world. Success in standup comedy could just be the most difficult road in show business.

As far as acting, all of Hart’s early films were comedies with the exception of 2017’s “The Upside”, with Brian Cranston. His latest movie “Fatherhood” – available on Netflix is Hart’s most serious role and there are scenes within this film that demonstrate conclusively that Kevin Hart is a very good actor.

Fatherhood is a very serious movie about tragic circumstances that could happen to anyone including the remainder of the story about the lead character Matt, played by Hart, adapting to a new life raising his daughter as a single father. Matt constantly has to make difficult decisions that are all about the welfare his child and trying to hang onto a job and making a living. The best part of this story is that sometimes responsibility and a person’s professional career can conflict to the point where there is no perfect solution, no best answer. The supporting cast is also very impressive, including Alfre Woodard, Paul Reiser and Lil Rel Howery.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie of only 69% are too low, my rating is more in the 80% range and I recommend Fatherhood, mainly for the surprisingly good acting of Kevin Hart and the relatable but tragic story.

Movie Review: The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard


Within the first 45 minutes of the bad sequel of the bad original “The Hitman’s Bodyguard”, Ryan Reynolds is covered with another man’s blood and brains as the man is shot in the head. For the remainder of this movie, Reynolds never cleans the blood off his face. Is this supposed to be funny or entertaining to anyone? Why was a bad movie from 2017 considered to be good enough to have a sequel? The formula here is, Ryan Reynolds+Selman Hyack+Samuel L. Jackson = will make enough people go and see this film, even though this is a bad script. This formula worked 4 years ago, of course this will work again. At least this is the thinking of the producers. If this movie makes money this time around, then there will be a 3rd movie, unfortunately. Money over quality, money over paying the price to wait for a great script, that most often takes to long to create.

The is not much to report on as far as the story of this movie, other than the other two stars that promised to appear in this film are Antonio Banderas and Morgan Freeman. Aside from that just about all the attempts at humor also fail, as does the action scenes.

I agree with the very low 25% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and agree that this one should be missed.

Movie Review: In the Heights


The new musical “In the Heights” which is based on the stage play created by Linn Manuel Miranda is not for anyone who does not like musicals. Like the musical “Hamilton”, one of the most talked about musicals in recent years, one cannot help but admire the work to turn so many normal spoken sentences into rap music, so all of this takes some gettin used to.

The new musical “In the Heights” which is based on the stage play created by Linn Manuel Miranda is not for anyone who does not like musicals. Like the musical “Hamilton”, one of the most talked about musicals in recent years, one cannot help but admire the work to turn so many normal spoken sentences into rap music, so all of this takes some getting used to. I thought the best part of this movie was the struggles of Nina Rosario, played by Leslie Grace and her father Kevin Rosario, played by Jimmy Smits with finding the money for her to continue her education at Stanford. Kevin would do anything to help his brilliant daughter and that included mortgaging and even selling his business. There is much more to this story, that did a great job in demonstrating the financial struggles of the insane cost of college.

There is a great deal of singing and dancing within these two hours and I thought that the movie would have been better with more normal talking scenes and less musical rap scenes.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie is a very high 97%, along with many celebrities giving their opinions on how good this film is. My rating is in the 85% range, mainly because I am one of those people who does not like musicals. Regardless, I strongly recommend In the Heights.

Showtime Series Review: The Kings


The Showtime series “The Kings” is about what is probably the most significant period in the history of boxing in the 1980’s when Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran and Thomas Hearns were all at the peak of their careers. They all fought each other, in some cases like Duran and Leonard (3 times) Hearns and Leonard (2 times) more than once. This period in the 1980’s was the first time in the history of boxing when the heavyweight boxers did not dominate the sport. Several of the fights, especially the one in April 1987 when Hagler fought Leonard were considered at the time, fights of the century. After the 1980’s it was unfortunate that Leonard, Hearns and Duran continued to fight well past their primes. This is a frequent problem with too many fighters, including Ali, who never seemed to know know when it was time to quit. What followed the Kings era was the Mike Tyson era, that reestablished heavyweight boxing as the top of the sport

The Kings is a four part series that can be seen on SHOWTIME or through Hulu. I thought this series did a good job with mixing the news of the day with the major fights of these 4 boxing legends. In March of this year, Marvin Hagler died and what followed were a series of false rumors about the cause of his death at age 66. From my research on the internet, the cause of Hagler’s untimely death is still not known.

I recommend The Kings as a very good series about a time when Boxing was the #1 sport in the world – a time that has long past, unfortunately replaced with MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) boxing.