On Demand Movie Review: Greenland

In 1998 a rare thing happened in the movie industry. Two major movies were released in the same year, about the exact same thing – “A huge asteroid is about to hit the earth, destroying all life on the planet”. Both movies involved very different resolutions to this E.L.E (Extinction Level Event). In the case of the movie “Armageddon”, astronauts would land on the asteroid and then drill, planting a bomb that would blow the rock into pieces. In the case of “Deep Impact” a huge spaceship would land on the asteroid and leave nuclear ordinance below the surface, hopefully blowing up the asteroid. Both of these solutions seemed extremely unlikely while watching both films 22 years ago – with the Michael Bay directed Armageddon, seeming more like a music video than a movie.

The new movie “Greenland” is the very first asteroid movie that takes a realistic look at the horrendous possible reality of an asteroid or in this case the remnants of a passing comet creating an E.L.E. that would end all life on planet Earth. All of the questions about such a terrifying possible event are answered, including, would governments around the world lie to their citizens about what really is about to happen? Who would be the people who are chosen to survive in caves that are built deep underground in countries that include Greenland? What would the panic, looting and anarchy be like as people would do almost anything to survive a fireball that would engulf the entire world? This movie, only available through On Demand due to the current Pandemic, stars Gerard Butler and Morena Baccarin as the parents of a 10 year old Type-1 Diabetic child, after their lives are turned upside down when the news of minor rocks hitting the Earth become something much more.  The movie does an outstanding job of showing frantic desperation, extreme fear, violence, acceptance of mortality, and ultimately the end of the world. The perspective of this story is more in line with the real life of such a horrendous end of life possibility in that, there is likely nothing can be done with objects so large and fast moving. Ironically Covid-19 this year is so small and fast moving in transmission to so many millions of people around the world.  An asteroid or comet hitting planet Earth is far more deadly but also far less likely than any virus. Most of us thought a year ago that the possibility of a Pandemic like we have seen this year was probably as likely as an asteroid hitting the Earth. Daily routines and expectations of life have forever been altered by the horrible events of 2020.

The special effects for this film are outstanding throughout, as is the acting. I mostly agree with the 78% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, with my rating a slightly higher 85%. I highly recommend this movie. 

Past Movie Review: Unfaithful

The movie “Unfaithful” with Richard Gere and Diane Lane was released in 2002 and is arguably the best work of both of these actors. Diane Lane was nominated for best supporting actor Oscar and in my opinion, she should have won because her performance in this movie was so profound. 

Within the difficult art of screenwriting the mantra has always been, “show don’t tell”. The less said the better, show what is happening through subtext, subtle dramatic pauses and looks. Unfaithful has some of the best dramatic pauses, emotions and knowing glances that I have ever seen in any movie. No words are spoken, the best acting in this movie was all within the silence within the emotions that Connie, played by Diane Lane and Edward, played by Richard Gere as the emotional ride unfolds.

The story within this movie is obvious from its name. A happily married couple with a son has everything going for themselves.  But one day while in the Soho district of New York City, Connie runs into a French Book salesman Paul Martel, played by Oliver Martinez and the attraction for both of them is too strong for Connie to avoid cheating on her husband. What follows are numerous appointments at Paul’s Soho apartment and a scene on a train after one meeting where Connie just sits by herself,  remembering what happened at Paul’s apartment – one of the best examples of acting without saying a word, ever filmed. 

For those who have never seen this movie, I will not provide any spoilers as to how this great and far too common story of infidelity unfolds.  This movie is frequently on cable TV and is a must see for all who have never seen this great example of acting in the last 18 years.  I was also very surprised to realize the huge stupidity of the 50% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, once again dead wrong. My rating is a solid 90%.

Movie Review: Midnight Sky

The new George Clooney movie “Midnight Sky” is about a worst case scenario for the world in the year 2049 – due to Global warming. This entire story depicts a very depressing possible end to the world, within a mostly barren and cold story, with Clooney, playing scientist Augustine Lofthouse stuck in Antarctica and a group of Astronauts, including Sully Rembshire, played by Felicity Jones on their way back from one of Jupiter’s moons, in search for a new home for humanity.

The problem with this film is that it is surprisingly boring and too long, with no real or interesting story. In one part of this film, Clooney finds a 7 year old girl who was mistakenly left behind at a science laboratory and he decides they have to get to a better communication antenna and trek across the extreme cold of Antarctica. Nobody in their right mind would do this – most especially with a young 7 year old mute girl. The long and dangerous trek is another major flaw in this movie because it was way too long and way too boring.

I was surprised that someone with the clout the movie industry like Clooney would decide to make this movie, consider the weather hardships of filming in Iceland and the weak script. Considering the subject matter of Global Warming, there had to be a better script about this important problem facing humanity than this one.

On a positive note, I thought the special effects of space travel and a spacewalk with three Astronauts was well done, but unfortunately there is not enough good moments to recomend this movie.

I agree with the weak ratings on Rotten Tomatoes of 59% and rate this movie a pass.

Movie Review: All My Life

The new movie “All My Life” would be considered a typical manipulative tear jerker were it not for the fact that this film is based on a true story. Two young people Jennifer Carter and Solomon Chau (played by Jessica Rothe and Harry Shum Jr.) meet in a bar, hit it off, and fall in love very quickly.

Solomon hates his job as an IT professional and would rather be a Chef. I appreciated the work environment and relatable scenes of stress of Solomon’s job that so many of us experience in our own careers. Never enough time, or appreciation for completing so much work. After a dinner party at Jennifer’s apartment, Solomon is offered a job at a restaurant as a Chef, and soon after, due to financial reasons decides to move in with Jennifer to save on rent.

Everything could not be going better with Solomon and Jennifer and their many friends and soon after, they decide to get married.  Then real life enters the picture with the horrendous and terrifying ups and downs of Solomon getting liver cancer, and decisions that are entirely based on his prognosis.  With their friends financial help and a fund raiser, the wedding moves forward making the pain of watching this story unwind even more difficult to watch. The acting in this film is very good throughout, including Jay Pharoah and Mario Cantone.

All My Life is a tear jerker that we have seen before, but this one is done well enough to recommend.  Rotten Tomatoes is wrong with a rating of only 57%, my rating is more 70% range with a marginal recommendation.

HBO Series Review: The Undoing

Murder whodunit’s are as old as the movie industry, therefore the challenge for any screenwriter is to come up with something that has never been done before – a very tall order. The new 6 part HBO series “The Undoing” was created and written by David E. Kelly, arguably the most prolific television writer and producer of all time and because of this, probably the perfect person to come up with a new perspective for a murder-mystery series.

The Undoing stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant as Grace and Jonathan Fraser, who are both great in their roles as married medical professionals who become mired in infidelity when Jonathan has an affair with another married woman Elena Alves,  who has a son he cured of cancer. Under the emotional circumstances of curing her son of cancer, it is understandable that Johnathan and Elena would have a powerful connection that would lead to an affair that for Elena would lead to obsession. This is a unique relationship that I have never seen portrayed before in any movie. 

The remainder of this story is a winding and sometimes complex series of events where we are trying to figure out who killed Elena with a hammer.  This part of the movie, where we see too many times, Elena get hit in the head with a hammer, was completely unnecessary.  Even during the courtroom scenes, in the last two episodes of this 6 part series, there were way too many pictures of Elena’s unrecognizable face – was too over the top, because we have seen this horrendous picture too many times already.  

The legal aspects and acting in this movie were very impressive starting with  Jonathan’s lawyer,  Haley Fitzgerald, played by Noma Dumezweni. Haley believes that Jonathan is guilty, but her job is to always defend her client, no matter what. This defend at all costs dilemma is made clear several times in this series, especially when the murder weapon is uncovered. I was most impressed with the end of the 5th episode where Nicole Kidman’s locks eyes with another person who has the murder weapon and she is all but convinced at that moment in time that she knows who the murderer is. 

The simplicity of this story, the way it was told and the uncommon nerve wracking conclusion were all very impressive. The acting that also includes Donald Sutherland as Grace’s father is also outstanding throughout.  I highly recommend The Undoing. 

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.