Movie Review: Honest Thief

Movie Review: Honest Thief

The word from the movie industry (much like Broadway) is that any thoughts of a realized rebound in 2020 are out the window. The promised release of all 2020 blockbuster movies coming out this year now have all been pushed into 2021. This is why Regal Cinemas has decided to close down all of its US locations for a second time this year. The final straw happening with the new James Bond movie being pushed to April 2021.

The other large movie chain AMC has recently announced that they are running out of money and could be out of business by year end.

Many in the financial world are predicting the total collapse of the movie industry as it existed in 2019 and unfortunately because of Covid-19, they could all be right. Nobody would have imagined 1 year ago all that has happened in 2020; a year far worse than any year anyone alive can remember. 

As far as the new movie “Honest Thief”, starring Liam Neeson and Kate Walsh many critics will say that we have seen most or all of the scenes in similar movies in the past and Liam Neeson is still capitalizing on his great 2008 performance in “Taken”. This is all true, but overall I thought that the story and the message make this one worth a visit.

This story is about a former bank robber, played by Neeson who wants to come clean and give back the 9 million dollars he stole years earlier in exchange for getting a much lighter sentence so he can be with his new girlfriend, played by Walsh. Unfortunately due to human greed and the amount money involved this idea goes very south quickly and what follows is a believable story and some good action. The very low 37% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes for this one are way off – once again proving that the critics are wrong too much of the time. To give a good movie like this one only 37% makes no sense. More in line with reality is the 71% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes that I agree with. I do recommend this movie.

Netflix Series Review: Away

Netflix Series Review: Away

The new 10 part Netflix series “Away” is about a real life trip to Mars and for the most part is about the reality of space travel of this magnitude and so many things that can go wrong. This series stars Hilary Swank as the commander of the spaceship that takes off from the moon and travel to Mars. During the trip to Mars, commander Emma Green, played by Swank and her crew encounter and then solve numerous problems life threatening problems. Some of them are solved by Green’s husband Matt Logon played by Josh Charles from Earth. I thought all of these problems were believable and the drama of finding solutions to each obstacle is one of the best parts of this 10 part series.

Many would argue that no woman who was married with a child would ever consider taking a trip to Mars that would take her away from her daughter and husband for years – one of the main areas of drama during this entire series. Over the last number of years, there have been people who have volunteered for trips to Mars, even under the condition where they would never be able to return. I have always wondered how long someone who made a decision like this, would have a huge change of heart after months and years in the middle of nowhere with no chance to ever return to earth. Before the United States or any other country can travel to Mars, thousands of problems and scenarios will have to be solved, starting with the human problems that will be the most challenging.

I thought both the science and the drama in this series was very well produced and acted and I am surprised at the relatively low 60% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, go figure. My rating for this series is a very solid 80% and I do recommend it.

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.

Movie Review: Force of Nature

Rather than reviewing one of the latest Pay Per View movies that have been released – “Forces of Nature”, I thought a better idea would be to examine how movies this bad, with well known actors are even made in the first place. This alone would be a great idea for a documentary entitled “Why and How Bad Movies are Made”.

In the case of this very bad movie, why any actor – known or unknown – could read this script and then decide to risk their careers by agreeing to take the part is more interesting than listing the boring details of one day in the lives of 2 cops, Cardillo and Jess during a Hurricane in Puerto Rico.

The two cops are played by Emile Hirsch and Stephanie Cayo. Cayo is an unknown actress and Emile Hirsch is well known and not too long ago was making some very good movies. While it is understandable to want to stay current as an actor, but choosing a bad role in a very bad movie, cannot be a good idea, no matter how badly things are going for you in the movie industry. This is also true of Kate Bosworth, who has not made many movies recently after being prolific about 10 years ago. Taking this role will do nothing to revive anyone’s acting career.

As for Mel Gibson, despite doing everything in his power to say and do the wrong thing for the last decade he is still a great movie director and is also very rich, so why did he decide to be in a movie this bad? Mel Gibson’s appearance in this bad movie is the most confusing part of this waste of 2 hours. This is one of those cases where I think there was some Hollywood favor that was owed. Despite being the main draw for this movie, Gibson’s appearance seems very awkward and out of place.

As far as the plot of Forces of Nature, the most interesting part of this entire story was one of the tenants in this run down Motel who has a violent pet Alligator who he feeds hamburger from a local food store. The criminals in the Motel trying steal valuable paintings in the building was completely unwatchable.

Forces of Nature has a 4.4 rating on IMDB and a 9 on Rotten Tomatoes and for a change, both of those numbers are accurate. Nobody should waste their time or money on this remarkably bad movie.

This excerpt from a review of Forces of Nature by Paul Byrnes summarizes one reason how and why bad movies are made:

“Some movies are born bad; some achieve badness through lack of care or budget. Some seem to aspire to it and director Michael Polish has had a long enough career to know the difference.”


Movie Review: Chemical Hearts

When a person has been through a traumatic event – the plot of the new Amazon Prime streaming film “Chemical Hearts”, a severe car accident – the worst thing you can say is “get over it”. Traumatic events in any person’s life heal in proportion to the level of trauma, and that person’s ability to rationalize and slowly set it aside over a defined period of time. There is no speeding up this process, and in many cases some people never are able to get past the traumatic event. The famous phrase “Time Heals All Wounds” is just not true in every case.

Chemical Hearts is about a young woman, Grace Towns, who is in high school and was a passenger in a car with her boyfriend. One day the car swerves into some rocks and her boyfriend is killed. Grace receives a severe leg injury that requires a cane for her to walk. This is an example of a life trauma that nobody will get over quickly. Then add the guilt of “why did I live” and “if we had only done this instead” – that are typical thoughts for anyone who has been through something as traumatic as a car accident where someone is killed.

Through the high school newspaper, Grace meets Henry Page, a fellow student and member of the newspaper. Over time, Grace and Henry get involved in a very complex relationship that includes Grace reliving the accident and her guilt over still being alive and becoming involved with someone else. The plot of this teenage drama is different than any other similar movies I have seen in the past and I thought the complex relationship drama was well done and well acted.

I thought the acting in this film was excellent, with Lili Reinhart as Grace and Austin Abrams has Henry. All of the other actors were very good in their roles throughout this film, even though one side story about two lesbian students seemed more like “2 hour filler”, than something that should have been included in the screenplay.  I have been mostly impressed with the quality of originally developed movies with both Amazon and Netflix over the years. 

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie at only 57% is completely wrong and the audience rating of 86% is a bit too high. My rating is around 75% for the solid story and acting and I do recommend this movie. 

Movie Reviews: Deep Blue Sea 2, Deep Blue Sea 3

In July 1999, a very well made Shark thriller was released called “Deep Blue Sea”. The story was a very good one. A woman scientist was desperate to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease because her mother died from it. Her plan was to breed Sharks and change their DNA, so their brains would greatly increase in size – hopefully finding a cure for Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, by increasing the brain power of Sharks they became much more dangerous and proceed to wreck havoc within an underwater lab comprised of huge compartments and tunnels – essentially the same idea behind all of the Jurassic Park movies.

The original movie in 1999 had four well known actors, Samuel L. Jackson and Thomas Jane, LL Cool J and Micheal Rapaport. The 2 sequels were low grade B movies with no known actors. The problem with all 3 of these movies, much more so with the last 2, is that there are too many scenes where supposedly intelligent people do very stupid things. Scenes where people dive unprotected into the water trying to save another diver, or investigate a known disturbance when they have no chance to survive within a large body of water with fast moving, super intelligent and vicious Sharks. The most iconic scene in Deep Blue Sea was Samuel L. Jackson’s speech to get all of his colleagues to calm down and a shark jumps in the air, grabs him from behind and drags him back into the water.

To me it is obvious that in 2017, 18 years after the release of the original Deep Blue Sea, that it was decided to finally make a sequel for one reason. The reason was the huge popularity of “Shark Week”, so two bad movies were thrown together with no real script only for marketing reasons. None of the two sequels were widely released and both went to DVD, recently resurfacing with On Demand. I for one, had no idea that two sequels were made from the original very good Deep Blue Sea that was released in 1999. In all 3 movies there are scenes of massive blood and gore, caused by human beings being eaten alive by large killer Sharks. Due to budget reasons, the special effects in the first version released in 1999 are much better than the sequels that were released in 2017 and 2019.

For fans of Sharks, Shark Week or a movie about highly intelligent vicious sharks, see the original movie, and run from the two sequels that are bad films with no real story. I agree with the very low ratings for the two sequels.