Apple TV Movie Review: Coda

The new movie streaming on Apple TV “Coda” is about a teenage girl in high school, who is the only hearing member of her family with extraordinary singing ability. Ruby Rossie, played perfectly by actress Emilia Jones is the most valuable member of her family due to her hearing ability. Her father owns a fishing business and Ruby’s ability to hear makes her importance to the family business paramount, creating a great deal of responsibility and pressure for a girl so young. She has a brother a few years older who is also deaf and has problems with Ruby being so important all the time..

From the start of this outstanding movie, it was immediately obvious that this was something special. A rare film that you will remember long after you see it. Coda is the reason why avid moviegoers to to the movies – to hopefully stumble on a great film. Coda is one of this films.

Marlee Matlin stars as Ruby’s mother, and since winning the Academy Award in 1986 for “Children of a Lesser God”, Matlin has continued to be one of the very few deaf actors to appear in mainstream movies. Troy Kotsur plays Ruby’s father Frank and the owner of a fishing business that is getting ripped off by the bigger players who underpay for the fish they catch, and add a Government backed machine to track the movement of each fishing business. This side story is a very important part of the story because of the responsibility it adds to Ruby’s life as a teenage girl about to go to college.

Most impressive is actress Emilia Jones who plays Ruby. She can not only sing, but is a natural actor – so good in this movie that in my opinion, she is a shoe-in to receive an Academy Award nomination for best actress. I was also impressed with the music in this film, as Ruby’s music teacher tries to teach her how to be a great singer, leading to a shot at a scholarship at a local music school. Ruby’s conflict over leaving her very dependent family and pursuing music school provides the best parts of this excellent film.

The Rotten Tomatoes reviews for Coda are an extremely high 96% – and I agree with this high rating and give Code my highest recommendation.

Movie Review: Respect

Arguably just about the most important word in the English language is “Respect”, the title of the new biopic about Aretha Franklin, starring Jennifer Hudson. Respect is what we all want, what we all work for and just because a person deserves respect, because they have earned it from years of hard work – does not guarantee that we will ever receive it.

This new biography about the life of Aretha shows how difficult getting respect or even a hit record in the music business is. Aretha Franklin put out 9 albums and did not have one hit within any of them. Her career proved once again that to be talented is only small part of the battle. You have to be able to perform in front of thousands of people, handle the pressure and exhaustion of touring around the world, with financial worries and the highs and lows of the fickle opinions of both fans and random critics along the way. You also need the skin of rhinoceros to handle all the bad people that are out to knock you down. The late Whitney Houston showed better than anyone how not to be extremely talented and world famous.

Amazingly, Aretha gave birth to two sons when she was only 13 and 14 years old with two different men. Unfortunately this movie did a very poor job including these two children in this story; only showing them in one scene when she visited them when they were living with her stepmother. There was no mention that she was 14 years old and already had two children.

Towards the end of this movie, we see that Aretha had her share of problems at the top of her career. She was an alcoholic during a time where she lost her ability to handle so much pressure and stress after so many years. There was a small scene early in the movie where she might have been molested by a family member. It also seemed that Aretha did not have much to do with raising her sons, when she was very busy with her music career. Aretha was married twice. Her first husband, played by Marlon Wayons, physically abused her during the time he tried to manage her career. Her second husband was her road manager and they had one child, and her fourth son was with another man. She had numerous problems with her father, played by Forest Whitaker during the time he tried to manager the start of her career. The most important part of this story, was about Aretha learning to take charge of her own career, rather than relying on the opinions of others about what she should sing.

Some of the problems with this movie are that it was way too long at 2 hours and 25 minutes. The movie was slow and weak in too many areas. There were not enough singing scenes, showing the talent of Jennifer Hudson. There seemed to be way too many unnecessary additions to the story that slowed it down even more. Unfortunately, due to these weaknesses it is unlikely that Jennifer Hudson will receive another Oscar nomination because the film on the whole, is not strong enough.

I mostly agree with the Rotten Tomatoes critics and their relatively low 63% ratings. I give this movie a recommendation only for Aretha Franklin fans, for the rest this one is a toss up.

Movie Review: Free Guy

The new movie “Free Guy” starring Ryan Reynolds as “The Guy” has more to do with marketing than a movie. This film has elements of “Groundhog Day”, “Star Wars”, “Men in Black” and the “Matrix” all rolled into one giant series of events that occur inside of a computer game. We have all seen this before, as well as most or all of the action scenes in this film. The mystery here is why the ratings are so high for this movie, 84% on Rotten Tomatoes and 7.7 on IMDB. None of this makes sense. Most movie is a passable 70% only because of the special effects.

Other actors in this film are Channing Tatum who plays one of the action figures inside the computer game and
Lil Rel Howery (easily the most unusual name of any actor in movie history), who plays the Guy’s friend. Life inside of this computer game is all about bank robberies, people getting shot, beaten up and hit by cars – more than a few times. It was hard to see the point of all of this, mainly because the story was disjointed and for the most part, rather boring.

My rating for Free Guy is a passable 70% only for the special effects with a border line recommendation.