Movie Review: Here Today


In the last few years, actor Tiffany Haddish has been in more movies than any other actor except maybe Liam Neeson. A detailed documentary should be made about Haddish’s life – because her path to show business fame required her to live for years in her car – a Geo Metro. A Geo Metro is a very small and dangerous car that for anyone who has driven one knows that this is barely even a car. Haddish shares this hard-life-road distinction with producer-actor-writer Tyler Perry, who also lived in a Geo Metro for several years. It is impossible not to be impressed with any human being, wanting something so badly that they are able to risk their lives to attain. How many of us would be strong enough or even crazy enough to live in a small car for years – all for the dream of fame and fortune in show business? How many other Tiffany Haddishes are out there right now, living in their car, hoping that their day in the sun might one day arrive but never will. The road to success in show business in almost all cases involves so much hardship that for most of us, it is not worth the risk. How many of us would have the staying power over years that both Tiffany Haddish and Tyler Perry had, knowing that at their lowest points, there is never any guarantee of any success? There is not a more challenging field to aspire to than one in show business. Even after you get your big break and hit it big, there is no guarantee of another great opportunity. The late actress Erin Moran of “Happy Days” is just one example of great success followed by nothing but failure.

The other thought I had while watching the new movie “Here Today” is how long did Billy Crystal and Alan Zweibel work on the script for Here Today, with re-writes, meetings, emails, more re-writes and then the waiting for the film to be released. All for an end end result of very low ratings of 48% and bad reviews on Rotten Tomatoes? Once again, the cruel critics are very wrong because Here Today is not a bad movie – it is a good movie about friendship and the onset of dementia. The reviews of this film have reminded me once again, how difficult the path to success in the art of screenwriting and movie-making can be – even for two writers with a known track record of writing and directing.

Here Today is another movie told well using flashbacks about the life of the main character, Charlie Berns, played by Billy Crystal – who is a head writer on a “Saturday Night Live” type show, slowly showing signs of mental deterioration caused by the onset of one of the many forms of dementia. Due to a Cameo-like raffle Charlie has lunch with Emma Payge, played by Tiffany Haddish and over time they develop a strong bond and friendship that I thought was very well developed. Over the course of this movie, the life of Charlie Berns slowly unfolds including both happy times and tragedy with his two children and his wife. As far as the comedy, some of the jokes and situations work, and some do not, but overall I thought this was a very well thought-out, well written and acted family-entertainment movie.

I do not agree with the very low 48% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes as this is more of a solid 75% – with a good story and solid message. I do recommend Here Today.

Movie Review: The Father


There was only one controversy in this years Oscars awards ceremony. Everybody was expecting the late Chadwick Boseman to win the Academy Award for best actor – becoming the 3rd posthumous award winner in Oscar history along with Peter Finch for “Network” in 1976 and Heath Ledger for “The Dark Knight” in 2008. Aside from this controversy, anyone who sees the great actor Anthony Hopkins play an older man suffering with dementia in “The Father” will have will immediately understand how Hopkins had to win best actor this year, and that would include Chadwick Boseman himself.

Even despite this horrendous year long Pandemic, I have been very surprised how difficult it has been to see a movie of the quality of The Father in the last few months. The Father has been in very few theaters and on demand in recent weeks. Nothing has been normal during with movie releases during the last year due to the Pandemic and we can only hope that this will return to more normal soon.

There have been quite a few movies about Alzheimer’s and Dementia in the last few years, but The Father is the first one I have ever seen that tells the entire story of the suffering, frustration and terror from the victim’s perspective. Throughout this entire 2 hour story the main character Anthony, played brilliantly by Anthony Hopkins confuses one person with another, remembers events that never happened, forgets events that did happen, does not know if he is living in his own house or the house of his daughter. He also never remembers that his youngest daughter died in a car accident some years earlier. All of this is made more agonizing by the screenwriter, who thought to tell this story through Anthony’s eyes until he eventually has no idea what is happening – almost as if he was being put through the most cruel of all college pranks. The acting of Anthony Hopkins, most especially within a devastating scene at the end of this film is some of the best I have ever seen. Of all the horrendous diseases and afflictions humanity has had to endure – Dementia and Alzheimer’s are two of the very worst. This movie shows the ravages of this disease better than any movie I have seen.

The acting is outstanding by all the actors in this movie, including Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams and Imogen Poots. I agree with the 98% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and I highly recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Wrath of Man


For those who think that the new Jason Statham movie “Wrath of Man” has karate-like-action in it – you will be very disappointed. This is the first 100% acting with no Karate movie that I think Statham has ever made in his career. Much to my surprise there was no martial arts action in this entire film.

Different variations of this story have been done before. “A gang of high end armored car robbers over time get more and more bold in their heists, culminating in a robbery involving numerous armored cars carrying over 160 million dollars.” The elaborate back story, involves Statham – who plays a character named H after he and his son become victims of circumstance due to one of the armored car heists that the gang pulls off. This mutates into a revenge story, that works and then does not work – mostly because the entire story is told within a tangled time line that goes from back to front, to back again, to the middle and then to a conclusion involving a seen-before machine gun fight. I have never seen any movie that has this many time line changes before – but somehow it was possible to follow all of these flashbacks, despite the insane and risky way this story was told.

I was a surprised to see actor Josh Hartnett in this film, who has had a greatly reduced career the last few years after peaking a decade ago – once again showing the world how precarious a career as an actor can be.

Overall, I thought the acting was good enough, but the story too elaborate and complex to believe. The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie are accurate at 68% – and because of the crazy way the story was told, I give this film just a marginal recommendation.

Amazon Movie Review: American Dreamer


When the company UBER was founded in 2009, there has probably never been an important invention that took advantage of another invention (The Smartphone and the internet) more than this company. UBER is the perfect merging of technologies that since 2009, has changed the world. Now anyone in the world can dial up their smart phone and hail a car driven by an ordinary person in the most efficient way, that uses amazing technology. UBER has generated billions of revenue for not only the company but also for millions of people around the world.

Like most things, even though UBER is a fantastic technology, there is a downside. The movie “America Dreamer”, released in 2018, starring Jim Gaffigan is about this downside. Actor and stand up comedian Jim Gaffigan plays Cam, a down on his luck UBER driver who is divorced and unfortunately for him, has little money, little prospects for a high paying job and owes child support payments. Cam’s desperation for money increases when it looks like he may have to go to prison for missing too many payments to his wife – a sad comentary on the realities of life and marriage in this country. There is one scene where the police show up as Cam and his x-wife are on the front lawn and he is pleading just to talk to his son for a few minutes. One of the saddest and most pathetic moments of this desperate man’s existence.

One day Cam picks up a vicious drug dealer who pulls a gun on another dealer while Cam looks on. Any person would have immediately driven off after seeing this, but Cam does not, setting the scene for a series of events that are entirely based on Cam’s desperation to get money. Unfortunately too many of Cam’s actions are far fetched, even despite his desperation to save his life. Nobody would do most of the things Cam does in this story which for the most part represent some serious flaws in the screenplay.

The acting is very good both with Jim Gaffigan and Robbie Jones who plays Mazz, the drug dealing criminal Cam picks up.

Once again the Rotten Tomatoes review of 53% is way off with my rating in the 75% range, mostly for Gaffigan’s acting which is outstanding. With Gaffigan’s acting ability in many films over the years, he just might be the first stand-comedian to win an Academy Award. I give American Dreamer a solid recommendation, despite the occasional flaws.

Movie Review: Four Good Days


We all probably knew that when the opioid crisis in this country hit its depressing highs in recent years that there would be many movies about this problem that would follow. The new movie “Four Good Days”, starring Mila Kunis and Glenn Close is another one of these movies and I thought the realities of this human disaster were very well told.

I recently discovered that Glen Close lost her 8th Oscar nomination last week for Hillbilly Elegy. While it is unlikely she will win a best actress Oscar for this role, it is still long overdue that she wins an Oscar very soon. Close plays Deb who is the mother of Molly, played by Mila Kunis – in arguably her most important role, as a seriously ill drug addict. One has to admire how bad Mila Kunis looked for this role, including some serious weight loss. Her face had serious marks, her eyes were dark and sunken and her teeth looked like they were rotting away. Like so many, her opioid and following Heroin addition came after a skiing accident where her doctor prescribed way too many pain pills. One of the most tragic parts of this National crisis is that doctors and drug companies are the most responsible for making the problem as bad as it has been. All because of the money. One of the most significant lines in this film was “Opioids have a 97% relapse rate“.

This story is all about Deb trying to practice tough love and Molly trying to lie and manipulate her mother in order to get more drugs, any way she can. We learn in this movie what we have all already known. The torture the parents and love ones go through to save their child is in many ways as bad or even worse than the drug addicts themselves. Deb’s new husband tries to help his wife to save herself, mostly to no avail. His attempts to use basic logic and common sense mostly caused huge arguments, as Deb lashes out at him to try and let go so much worry and frustration for so many years.

One of the best scenes in this movie is Molly’s speech to a high school class, trying to save them from the bad choices she made in her life that turned her from a straight A student at age 17, to a total disaster 31 year old. Molly’s drug addiction cost her custody of her kids and her marriage and for the most part probably ruined her health for good – to say nothing about her constant chain-smoking, that once again I found extremely annoying.

The title of this movie “Four Good Days” is about Molly’s challenge to stay clear for 4 days so a doctor can give her a drug that prevents any ability to get high from drug abuse. Molly and her mothers struggle to get through these 4 days is the cornerstone of this moving and depressing story.

From all of the movies about this level of extreme addition that I have seen in the last few years, the message has always been the same. The drug addict has to want to help themselves, because of they don’t, then nobody can help them. Any drug addict never has any right to drag their families down the drain with them. Primarily, you have to want to save yourself, you have to want to live, there is no other solution.

Due to the excellent acting in this film and the very good story, the idiotic 53% Rotten Tomatoes reviews are about the most absurd that I have ever seen. The critic Richard Roper was correct when he gave this movie a solid 80%, calling Mila Kunis acting the best of her career – a very accurate assessment. This is a solid story about one of the worst human disasters this country has ever seen, and it should not be discarded with a 53% rating. I give this movie a high 85% due to the acting performances and its message and I highly recommend it.

Amazon Prime Movie Review: Without Remorse


Based on the several trailers I have seen for the new Amazon Prime movie “Without Remorse”, I was expecting a much better film. The problem with this story (based on the Tom Clancy novel “Without Remorse”) is that we have seen all of this before. Michael B. Jordan plays John Kelly a Navy Seal, who after completing an operation involving the Russians that went wrong, his wife is killed. This is similar to a much better movie, “A Man Apart”, starring Vin Diesel released in 2003, where the main character goes on a rampage to avenge his wife’s murder.

The remainder of this movie is a story line very similar to so many other movies involving the CIA and covert military operations, where a series of high level executives in the US Government are suspected as being double agents. All of this leads to a standoff in a run down Russian building with massive gunfire and killings. The one scene that stands out in this movie is the scene where Michael B. Jordan sets a car on fire with gasoline, then opens the door of the car covered in flames, goes into the car and gets in the backseat with the person inside in an attempt to gain information. For this extremely dangerous scene, Jordan did his own stunt, risking his life or being a life long burn victim. Once again I thought about “its only a movie”. Why some actors – mostly Tom Cruise, insist on taking risks like this for a movie, is hard to understand. No matter how careful the planning, or how many times a stunt is tested, all it takes is one instant of time and someone dies, or is permanently disabled. As more and more actors take risks like this, its only a matter of time before a huge tragedy will hit the movie industry.

I dont think this below average movie will hurt the movie career of Jordan who has already announced he will be directing and starring in Creed 3.

I agree with the low ratings on Rotten Tomatoes for this film and I do not recommend it.

Netflix Movie Review: Stowaway


Movies about traveling to Mars have been becoming more prevalent the last few years. The catalyst has been all the Mars probes – the latest one Perseverance even includes a helicopter as well as a very impressive new method for landing. When any screenwriter writes a screenplay about traveling to Mars (the most important of these is “The Martian” released in 2015 starring Matt Damon) – the science and logistics have to be the most important parts of the story.

The new Netflix release “Stowaway” is lacking in both science and logistics, because the story here is that a maintenance worker become a stowaway during a trip to mars (this could never happen), and then other things go wrong (could definitely happen) and as a result the ship does not have enough oxygen for 4 people because the mission was planned for 3 people. The problem here, is that Nasa or Spacex would have redundant oxygen for any manned mission to Mars of the Moon, because there is nothing more important than Oxygen. Therefore, the odds of an oxygen problem like the one in this story, barring an explosion like what happened with Apollo 13 – would be highly unlikely. The other problem with this movie is that the story dragged on way too long in between the major action points, making the entire film rather boring.

The acting in this movie is good enough, despite the weak story, including Anna Kendrick, Toni Collette, Shamier Anderson and Daniel Dae Kim, but is far from enough to save this movie. Also I thought that the ending was far too abrupt, almost as if the screenwriter ran out of ideas.

I agree with the low ratings on IMDB of only 5.6 and I do not recommend this film.



Oscar Winners 2021


All avid moviegoers who look forward to the Academy Awards as a once a year major event, are now – after Pandemic Academy awards last night – looking for a quick return to normalcy. There was nothing watchable with the Academy Awards last night. This is understandable under the circumstances but this Oscar show was hard to sit through.

The winner for best picture “Nomadland” (reviewed in this blog) was a good movie/documentary about the plight of so many homeless and near homeless in this country, but it was also a movie that does not compare to a best picture winner within a normal year. Hopefully, maybe even next year, the Oscars will have a host again, maybe even Billy Crystal, and this show will be a major event again.

Best original screenplay

Judas and the Black Messiah
Minari
Promising Young Woman – WINNER
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best adapted screenplay

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
The Father – WINNER
Nomadland
One Night in Miami
The White Tiger

Best international feature film

Another Round – WINNER
Better Days
Collective
The Man Who Sold His Skin
Quo Vadis, Aida?

Best actor in a supporting role

Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah – WINNER
Leslie Odom, Jr, One Night in Miami
Paul Raci, Sound of Metal
Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah

Best makeup and hairstyling

Emma
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – WINNER
Mank
Pinocchio

Best costume design

Emma
Mank
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – WINNER
Mulan
Pinocchio

Best director

Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
David Fincher, Mank
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland – WINNER

Best sound

Greyhound
Mank
News of the World
Sound of Metal – WINNER
Soul

Best live-action short film

Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers – WINNER
White Eye

Best animated short film

Burrow
Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You – WINNER
Opera
Yes-People

Best animated feature film

Onward
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul – WINNER
Wolfwalkers

Best documentary short

Colette – WINNER
A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
A Love Song for Latasha

Best documentary

Collective
Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher – WINNER
Time

Best visual effects

Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Tenet – WINNER

Best actress in a supporting role

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman, The Father
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari – WINNER

Best production design

The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank – WINNER
News of the World
Tenet

Best cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank – WINNER
News of the World
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best film editing

The Father
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal – WINNER
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best original score

Da 5 Bloods
Mank
Minari
News of the World
Soul – WINNER

Best original song

Husavik, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Fight For You, Judas and the Black Messiah – WINNER
Io Sì (Seen), The Life Ahead
Speak Now, One Night in Miami
Hear My Voice, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best picture

The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
Minari
Nomadland – WINNER
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best actress in a leading role

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day, The United States vs Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland – WINNER
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Best actor in a leading role

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins, The Father – WINNER
Gary Oldman, Mank
Steven Yeun, Minari

Best makeup and hairstyling

Advertisement

Emma
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – WINNER
Mank
Pinocchio

Best costume design

Emma
Mank
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – WINNER
Mulan
Pinocchio

Best director

Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman
David Fincher, Mank
Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
Chloé Zhao, Nomadland – WINNER

Best sound

Greyhound
Mank
News of the World
Sound of Metal – WINNER
Soul

Best live-action short film

Feeling Through
The Letter Room
The Present
Two Distant Strangers – WINNER
White Eye

Best animated short film

Burrow
Genius Loci
If Anything Happens I Love You – WINNER
Opera
Yes-People

Best animated feature film

Onward
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul – WINNER
Wolfwalkers

Colette – WINNER
A Concerto Is a Conversation
Do Not Split
Hunger Ward
A Love Song for Latasha

Best documentary

Collective
Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher – WINNER
Time

Best visual effects

Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Tenet – WINNER

Best actress in a supporting role

Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy
Olivia Colman, The Father
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari – WINNER

Best production design

The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank – WINNER
News of the World
Tenet

Best cinematography

Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank – WINNER
News of the World
Nomadland
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best film editing

The Father
Nomadland
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal – WINNER
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best original score

Da 5 Bloods
Mank
Minari
News of the World
Soul – WINNER

Best original song

Husavik, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
Fight For You, Judas and the Black Messiah – WINNER
Io Sì (Seen), The Life Ahead
Speak Now, One Night in Miami
Hear My Voice, The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best picture

The Father
Judas and the Black Messiah
Mank
Minari
Nomadland – WINNER
Promising Young Woman
Sound of Metal
The Trial of the Chicago 7

Best actress in a leading role

Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Andra Day, The United States vs Billie Holiday
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
Frances McDormand, Nomadland – WINNER
Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman

Best actor in a leading role

Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Anthony Hopkins, The Father – WINNER
Gary Oldman, Mank
Steven Yeun, Minari

Movie Review: Together Together


On a recent episode of “Real Time with Bill Maher”, he mentioned the statistic that the single population of the United States has doubled in the last 50 years. This amazing statistic is based on the misery index of the millions who have gotten married and divorced, currently 53% for first marriages and 70% for second. Studies have shown the getting married and staying married is responsible for longer lives and more happiness – but we all know what happens when things, just don’t work out. Bill Maher is 65 years old and has never been married and more importantly, doesn’t care if he ever gets married and never wants kids. There is nothing wrong with this decision, when you consider the downside of divorce, child support, legal bills and even living in your car. The statistics show that the single percentage of the populations of the United States is now the fastest growing demographic. Trends are changing and for good reason.

The new movie “Together Together” is about a man in his late 40’s named Matt, played by Ed Helms – who through no fault of his own, never found the right woman to marry. Despite this he still wants to have children, and he turns to the help of a surrogate named Anna, played by Patti Harrison to give birth to his child. Most movies I have seen about surrogates always involve a woman who cannot have a child, this is the first one I have seen involving a man. This movie is unusual because it shows in a very subtle way how the relationship between Anna and Matt changes over time into a strong friendship, despite their 20+ year age difference. They visit the obstetrician together and discuss plans for the future, while slowly learning about what each of them has gone through in their lives. There is a good bit of humor in this story, most of which works and I thought the acting and directing was well done.

The Rotten Tomatoes review for this film is a bit too high in my opinion – around 93%. I give this movie about an 80% and do recommend it.

Movie Review: Minari


The new movie “Munari” reminded me of several others in the last few years, where parents who are barely surviving (the couple in this movie have jobs where they separate baby chicks by sex into boxes) bring their children along for the ride. The point is, if you are an adult and unable to make a living – then do not have children. Its always been just that simple.

Munari is a heartbreaking story about a Korean family mired in poverty and trying to break out of their plight by starting a farm in a field somewhere in the Midwest, all the while living in a run down tractor trailer that had some furniture and plumbing in side. Somewhat like the devastating movie The Florida Project, released in 2017 about young children being raised in a hellish-purple apartment building in Florida, Minari is also told within the perspective of two young Korean children, Anna and David, where David has a dangerous heart ailment. Children have no way of fully understanding, and have no perspective about poverty and squalor. All they know is that they have parents and an innate ability to look at the world in a way that allows them to survive. For me, the naive innocence of children living on the edge is the most devastating part of both of these films.

The father Jacob, is played by very well by Steven Yeun, who is most famous for his years on the TV series “The Walking Dead” and his horrific end that came from the side of a large baseball bat. The mother, Monica is also played very well by Yeri Han, who is always at the edge of taking the kids and leaving her husband to possibly avoid financial disaster. Their arguments about their many problems and lack of money create some of the best acting in this movie.

What bothered me about this depressing story about a Korean family close to becoming homeless is Jacob’s plan of running a farm is backed by bank loans – and what bank would give him money to do this? His only source of income, is sorting baby chickens (known as chicken sexing) with his wife, his collateral is his house which is the back of a tractor trailer, and his land looks like an abandoned field. Somewhere along the line, all movies have to make sense as well as entertain and educate and I think this bank loan part of the story just did not work in the real world.

It was very surprising to see the actor Will Patton in this Korean movie with subtitles, where he plays the character Paul who an almost insane religious fanatic who helps with the farm and on Sunday, carries a large cross on his shoulder while going to church. This definately is something I have ever seen any character do in any movie – except for films about Jesus Christ and the crucifixion.

Minari is one of the 10 films nominated for an Academy Award this year, and has very a very high 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. My rating is more in the 85% rating and I do recommend this film.