Movie Review: The Big Sick


Aspiring screenwriters go to the movies more often than most people, mostly for writing inspiration and perhaps to escape from reality.  In my experience going to many movies, it has been a rare event to be inspired by any movie that is a comedy in recent memory.  The new movie “The Big Sick”  is one of those rare movies that has inspired me to write another screenplay because it is just that good.  The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are extremely high, currently 97%, and that is a very well deserved score.

From the start, I was amazed at the quality of the screenplay for this movie as it was the first screenplay about a true story co-written by the star of this movie Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon who is played very well by the actress Zoe Kazan.  This movie is great on a number of levels, starting with the subtle and natural real-life dialogue, the high level of acting and the roller coaster ride of emotions this story takes you through, starting with the romance and breakup between an American woman and a Pakistani man, who is pressured by his family and the traditions of arranged marriages that understandably leads to great conflict. The true story behind this movie is a great idea for a romantic comedy and I cannot remember a story like this ever being done before.  I thought it was an amazing achievement to provide so many solid moments of subtle humor, considering some of the difficult things this story is about including a dangerous unknown infection and hospitalization of Emily that forces her doctors to put her into a medically-induced coma.

The acting throughout this film is outstanding, starting with Ray Romano as Emily’s father and has now successfully transitioned from a standup comedian to comedy actor in Everybody Loves Raymond and is now becoming an outstanding dramatic actor. It was also great to see Holly Hunter, who perfectly plays Emily’s mother.

The main part of this story is about Emily falling into a coma because of some unknown infection that is spreading throughout her body and this leads to several heart-wrenching scenes in the hospital where her parents and her Pakistani boyfriend played by Nanjiani, agonize over decisions about her treatment and even consider moving her to a different hospital, despite the fact that their daughter has been placed into a medically induced coma as her 5 doctors desperately try and figure out what is wrong with her so they can save her life. The transition and eventual love and respect that Emily’s parents gain over time with her boyfriend were also another very impressive aspect of this story.

I thought overall, this film is one of the best written and acted I have seen in many years and will definitely receive Academy Award recognition for everyone involved, and in my opinion, this should include best original screenplay.

I highly recommend this great movie.

Past Movie Review: Unfaithful


One could easily argue that the movie Unfaithful, released in 2002, was by far the best acting role in Diane Lane’s career and probably the best movie in recent memory about adultery. There are unexpected twists and turns in this story and an ending that was very messy but considering the shocking events of how this story concluded, the ending was well within any set of irrational human emotions that involve panic, anger, jealousy, and fear.

During the times I have thought about this film or discussed it with someone else, the scene where Diane Lane as Connie Summer on a train, on the way home after her first encounter with her lover; the expression on her face reliving the events of the day, was one of the best acting performances I can remember in many years.  This film is also a great role for Richard Gere as Edward Summer who is very believable as the jilted husband and over time he suspects his wife is cheating on him.  There are some side parts to this story that are necessary to make the movie last 2 hours and are somewhat connected to the affair Edward’s wife is having but they flow very well within the story.  This movie is a lesson about a short term decision that at the time might seem harmless but in the long term can completely ruin your life.

I thought that Unfaithful was one of the best dramas about the potential downside of marriage and life in many years, the acting was outstanding and I highly recommend this film from 2002.

Movie Review: Beatriz at Dinner.


The idea behind the movie “Beatriz at Dinner” is a brilliant one. By chance, a massage therapist who is a healer of people who have cancer at a local hospital, a lover of animals, who even has goats living in her modest house, visits a gated community where she has given massage therapy to a wealthy family there. When she is about to leave her broken down car fails to start and soon after finds herself having dinner with 3 couples, all of whom are very wealthy. Beatriz is played by very well by Salma Hayek and during the dinner, she meets her exact opposite, a wealthy African game hunter, played by John Lithgow, who only cares about money and cares nothing about people. What is very interesting are the conversations at this dinner, the condescending remarks and the attitudes that some rich people have towards average or poor people. This kind of “rich people attitude” depicted in this film is not true of all rich people, but it was definitely true of the 6 people who attended this dinner. In my experience, it is the rare rich person who over time is always above money going to their head, almost as if having money gives a person some kind of immortality or the right to look down on hard working decent average or poor people. As the saying goes, “We are all equals in the eyes of God”. Donald Trump is a very good example of a person like this as he calls poor people losers, conveniently forgetting that without his father and that “small loan” he was given in the 1960’s, he would never have been as wealthy as he claims to be.

A key scene in this movie was when Lithgow’s character was bragging about killing an African Rhino and even passes around a cell phone picture of the Rhino he killed. Beatriz takes the cell phone and throws it at him and storms out of the room; understandable given her extreme love of animals. One wonders how people like this consider it a challenge to kill a defenseless Rhino, an animal that eats plants and lumbers around in lakes and rivers and is no harm to anyone.

Other actors in this movie include Connie Britton who the wife of the home owner and it seems Beatriz’s only real friend during the dinner. Some of the scenes in this movie were very awkward, especially when Beatriz was always lagging behind the others during and before dinner, never really fitting in, especially during the many conversations during this film. Many of us can relate to feeling like an outsider within situations like this. I thought the acting in this film was very good throughout but I did not really understand or like the ending, which at first was a trick ending and then ended in an unexpected and for tastes, a very unsatisfying way.

I thought that Beatriz at Dinner was a good movie experience and I do recommend it.

Movie Review: The Beguiled


The movie “The Beguiled” is a remake of the version made in 1971 starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page. My first question about this movie is that I did not consider the first version of this movie made 46 years ago groundbreaking enough to produce a remake so many years later. When I saw the original movie on TV many years ago I thought it was at best a good movie but definitely not a great one or one that was significant enough to shoot a remake many years later.

The story of Beguiled happens during the Civil War in Virginia when a wounded Union corporal is found by a young girl who lives in a plantation with 6 other women who range in age from 45 to about 11. Due to the extreme circumstances of the Civil War, it seems that none of the women who live in this house have been around or seen many men in their lives or at least for many years and this understandably creates some tension and jealousy among the women. After the soldier is treated for his leg injury, this movie seems to very slowly move forward and for my tastes too slowly before it gets to the point that things start to get very insane, both because of the circumstances and because several of the people involved are a little crazy, perhaps due to the horrific insanity of the Civil War. I had the same thoughts about this movie that I did when I saw the 1971 version on TV only once, even though that version is more insane and about 12 minutes longer. This is only a good movie, not a great one.

The Beguiled is directed by Sophia Coppola and starts Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Colin Farrell as the Union soldier. All of the acting is solid throughout and somewhat haunting but for me the movie took too long to get going and what actually happened in the story was not compelling enough to give this film any higher than a marginal recommendation.

Movie Review: The House


What is funny? Both Will Ferrel and Amy Poehler were two of the best to performers on Saturday Night Live for many years and they are both funny. Both Ferrel and Poehler are great in comedy sketches and Will Ferrel has the very rare talent of just making a face or doing something with his eyes and getting a huge laugh just for showing up. What is not funny is the movie both of these talented people are in, titled “The House”.

The premise of the House is a very good one. Two parents facing the nightmare of trying to pay for the huge cost of sending just one child to a good college. Right at the start, trying to make paying for college funny is a daunting task because there is nothing funny about putting your financial future in jeopardy by taking a second mortgage out on a house or risking your health by working more than one job. The couple in this story try to pay for college by opening up an illegal gambling house and while this story may have started out a little funny, the whole idea took a very bad, unfunny and stupid turn and in the end turned out to be a pretty bad movie. This is too bad because both Ferrel and Poehler are very talented but the problem has always been finding both a screenplay and a great idea that actually results in a funny movie and in my experience this has been very rare.

I thought there was one scene in this entire movie that was funny, when Ferrel thinks that he has 401,000 dollars in his bank account and his accountant tells him that he is has a 401K account. That was a very good line, but unfortunately the only funny line in this entire movie. I thought it was unusual that the actor Jeremy Renner appears at the end of this movie, but the scene where he is set on fire was not funny and the scene where one of his thugs lost a finger and bleeds all over Will Ferrell was also not funny.

This movie should have gone right to DVD and should be missed.

Movie Review: Baby Driver


It is extremely rare that movie reviews are strong as they are for the new movie Baby Driver, 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and 86% on IMDB. In my opinion, this movie fully deserves all of the positive reviews it has received.

When you think about the screenwriting task of trying to figure out a new and different idea within the hundreds of bank robbery, getaway, crime movies that have been produced over the years, you can probably understand what was facing Edgar Wright, who wrote the screenplay and directed this very good movie. The new ideas in this film are many and they start right at the beginning of this entertaining film with the use of a bright red 2006 Suburu Impreza WRX in a driving sequence that has to be considered one of the most intense and impressive in movie history. The use of a very average car like this one for the opening chase scene, on the one hand, to blend in with traffic but at the same time is bright red I thought was a very funny and original idea. The star of this movie is played by very well by Ansel Elgort whose name is of all things, Baby – again very original. Baby has to constantly listen to music to drown out his tinnitus that was caused by a car accident with his parents when he was a child and this provides a big excuse to have frequent music throughout this film, mostly through Baby’s original style IPOD.

Other actors in this movie include John Hamm, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Fox and all were outstanding in this film. The unexpected twists and turns in this impressive story were some of the best I have ever seen as was the dialogue which was equally as unexpected and impressive. Other very unsusual and humorous moments include Baby’s habit of recording conversations he has with people using an old style casset tape recorder and later turning those conversations into music.

Central to Baby Driver is the love story between baby and a young waitress Deborah, he meets at a diner played very well by Lily James and as the story progresses Baby’s girlfriend is understandably put in greater danger as the bank robbers he is forced to drive for threaten her life. There are scenes of extreme voilence of gunplay that are all expected in a movie like this, but this movie just does all of that better than most ever have.

I highly recommend the movie Baby Driver.

Movie Review: The Hero


It is about time there is a movie that is about the reality of show business and especially an actor who was part of the “lucky few” and in later years, because of some bad breaks or the fickleness of the audience or producers who decide that you are no longer viable, the career you once depended on for a happy life and financial independence are long gone. A recent great example of this is the tragic story of actress Erin Moran, who died at a young age after having such a promising career in the 70’s and 80’s because of the TV series Happy Days. After Happy Days and the failed TV series Joanie Loves Chachi, which was a very bad show, she no longer had any future in show business and probably had to learn that harsh reality the hard way over a period of many years. Like so many young actors before her, Moran did what she was told and performed in that bad TV show and because of that, she paid a horrible price by being associated with a bomb that ultimately ruined her career in show business. For many people like Moran, the realization that its time to give up the dream may happen for them, or may never happen, leading to many years of hardship and unhappiness when you can never stop remembering the glory days when you were on top of the world.

For the majority of human beings, careers and financial future are very often in the hands and decisions of other people. This is especially true in the world of show business where every job requires some an audition and competition where you are up against many other actors. Rejection and humiliation are part of your world, perhaps for your whole life just because of your desire to be an actor will never go away. I admire those actors who are able to go through years of this rejection, never giving up and having to take horrible and menial jobs to support themselves for years because their dream is so strong. A good example of this is the great TV actor Sterling K. Brown of “This is Us”, who proved that just because you are a great actor, it does not mean that your opportunity will come quickly or will ever occur in your lifetime. There are those who make it and stay on top, those who never make it and like the main character in this movie “The Hero”, those who make it and then falter and never achieve those heights again. Perhaps this last possibility is the worst one to endure because once you think you made it once, you will always long to achieve those heights again.

The movie “The Hero” is a story about an actor Lee Hayden, played by Sam Elliot, who is 71 years old and achieved great heights and even a TV show in the 70’s and 80’s and now his only chance at making a living is making voice over radio commercials. He still has fans from his days when he was making popular Western movies and even a TV show, but now hs career is essentially over. He decides to accept a lifetime achievement award from some Western movie association while becoming involved with a woman, played by Laura Prepone who much younger than he is and is employed as of all things, a stand-up comedian. There are health issues and realizations that his career is mostly over and one audition where Elliot gives his best performance of the movie that I thought was very impressive. Lee Hayden also has a daughter, played by Krysten Ritter and their relationship is understandably very strained due to Hayden’s divorce and being an absentee father, which is another very common drawback of trying to be an actor.

The best moment in this film for me was when Hayden tell his girlfriend that the second thing to go when you get older is your memory and when she asks what the first thing is, he says, “I forgot”.

I thought both the story and the acting in this movie were very well done and I do recommend this movie.

Movie Review: Transformers: The Last Knight


The good news is that this is the fifth and last time Micheal Bay will direct a movie in the Transformers movie series that started in 2007 with the original Transformers film. While trying to understand why all of these Transformers movies are so bad, with the possible exception of the first one, my explanation is that the computer graphic scenes are probably produced first through several different software vendors and the screenwriter later tries to connect the computer graphics scenes to some kind of disconnected nonsensical story. This means that essentially all of the Transformer movies are developed backward. For me, this would explain why nothing makes sense in these movies and there are no connections between scenes or any kind of flow or respect to the audience so they can follow what is going on. Is it possible to produce a good movie that is all about special effects with no story? The answer to this question seems to be obvious to everyone, except Micheal Bay. I actually think a better movie would be a documentary about how the computer graphics for movies like this are made and perhaps some filming of the production meetings that lead to the creation of this horrible movie because I am very curious about how a movie monstrosity this bad could ever be created.

Michael Bay should take a page from all the Disney cartoon movies, where the story and screenplay are paramount and include years of discussions and storyboarding. These Transformer movies throw all sense of continuity and logic out the window, not caring to create any kind of a story to connect scenes or help with the understanding of what is going on. Eventually, you slowly fall into a sort of a coma and I actually dosed off for about 20 minutes during this mess, probably due to some kind of subconscious self-preservation. What is worse about this latest movie in the Transformer franchise is that it runs for almost 150 agonizing minutes. All of these Transformer movies should be run as a loop to torture prisoners in Guantanamo Bay because sitting through them is a nightmare. More amazing is that this movie is the worst one of the 5 and Bay seems to outdo himself with each new movie but in the wrong direction.

When this very bad movie was finally over, I remembered feeling very angry because I had wasted 2 1/2 hours of my life sitting through this mess. The budget of 217 million dollars for this movie was money that could have been put to far better use and people who are bad at their jobs will become much more wealthy. A great deal of the money that comes from these movies are the toys and the young kids who just want to see robots fighting and so it seems that everyone involved with these 5 movies only cares about the easy money and never about creating a movie that has some meaning or even a story. I think I was most angry because I know that this Transformer movie will make a great deal of money and that will encourage more very bad movies like this one.

Mark Wahlberg is once again the star of this latest Transformer movie, also appearing in the last one. Clearly, Wahlberg appeared in this movie for the money and there is nothing wrong with that, but at some point, integrity and pride should be more important than money. What does not make any sense is why the great actor Anthony Hopkins is in this movie. One would think that Hopkins has more than enough money and would care more about his reputation at his age than money. Hopkins role and his decision to appear in this terrible movie just make no sense. The only bright spot is the appearance of a young 16-year-old actress Isabela Moner, who has movie star looks and might have a very promising future as an actress, despite the mistake of being in this God awful film.

This movie should be avoided by everyone including small children because it is that bad.

Movie Review: 47 Meters Down


They say there is a sucker born every minute. When it comes to thrill seeking and risk taking, it seems there is also an idiot born every minute. Why would anyone want to risk their life or any of their limbs for the temporary thrill of swimming near a shark? In this movie, the divers are in a shark cage, which is supposedly safe, but is it really? Stupidly, there are actually trips you can take when you can swim with sharks, which is very hard to believe. Here is one website that talks about 8 different places where you can swim with sharks – click here. People think they are experts and understand everything there is to know about sharks, but nobody can guarantee that one moment in time will kill you or cause you to lose a leg, your arm or worse. So why take this kind of risk with your life, or your limbs? I hear about celebrities swimming with sharks all the time and each time I wonder how low their IQ is, especially considering how much they have to lose.

The movie “47 Meters Down” is about 2 sisters, played by Mandy Moore and Claire Holt, vacationing in Mexico who decide after meeting two other Mexican men to dive into a shark cage to look at Great White Sharks. From the title you can tell that the shark cages breaks off from the boat and sinks to the bottom of the ocean floor, 47 meters down, and the rest of this movie is nothing more than a series panic-stricken of events as these two women try to save their lives before they run out of oxygen or are killed by the many sharks that are swimming overhead. I found this movie extremely annoying because watching the stupid decisions of these two women as they desperately tried to save their own lives was infuriating. Even allowing for the extreme circumstances and the panic anyone would feel under these conditions, it seemed that every strategy or idea to escape from the bottom of the ocean was born out of making this movie more suspenseful, rather than making any basic common sense. What wrecks this movie, which could have been a good one, are the dumb stupid decisions that everyone involved made in order to rescue these two women who are the bottom of the ocean. Ultimately, no two women in their 20’s would dive into a shark cage in some old broken down ship in Mexico in the first place, but without this first stupid decision, there is no movie and after sitting through this annoying two hours, I wish there was no movie. There is a strange plot twist and trick at the end of this movie that also did not work. Perhaps they threw that in to rescue a bad movie at the last minute.

I cannot recommend 47 Meters Down because the story and the decisions made are too ridiculous and annoying to sit through.

Movie Review: The Book of Henry


This film is going to be hard to review for several reasons. The first reason is that it is difficult to talk about this movie to any extent without revealing too much about what happens in the story, which is something I will never do in this blog. The second is that many other reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes did not like this movie, thinking that the story, especially how it unfolds at the end is too outlandish to believe or even be plausible. It has been rare in my experience that my opinions are so far away from average reviews for a movie in recent memory and regardless of these opinions, I thought The Book of Henry was a very well developed and well-acted movie that I definitely recommend.

What I liked most about “The Book of Henry” is that it makes you think about how you would react to extreme situations and extreme grief. The intense and involved story makes you think about what true justice really is and what is the right thing to do when facing politics and people who are supposed to do the right thing, but instead turn their head away because they are more afraid of facing consequences than even saving a child’s life.

This story is mostly about a child genius named Henry, played by very well by Jaeden Lieberher, his mother Susan played by Naomi Watts and his younger brother played by Jacob Tremblay. Henry’s genius is so profound he is really the adult in the family, handling everything in the household, especially the finances. His mother Susan plays video games all day and Henry handles all the household responsibilities and she insists on working in a low-paying local waitressing job and driving a broken down old car, despite the fact that the family is financially well off, probably from a divorce although the source of their wealth is never revealed. I thought the depiction of Susan’s intense frugality was very unique and a refreshing look into the real value of money. Susan’s close friend at the restaurant is played by Sarah Silverman and her boss is played by Bobby Moynihan and I thought that both of them played their parts very well.

For the critics who think that the story of this film too outlandish or implausible, perhaps they do not buy into the Einstein level of genius of the 12-year-old boy who creates a plan and writes an illustrated notebook to save a child’s life. I also thought that this part of the story was a stretch, but based on the extreme nature of the crime involved, to me, it all made sense in the end and lead to a very satisfying conclusion.

I highly recommend The Book of Henry.