Movie Review: Mid90s


The first film actor Jonah Hill has ever written and directed seems more like a documentary of a life all too common on poor neighborhoods. The main character Stevie played extremely well by actor Sunny Suljic is a 13 year old kid who lives in a poor LA suburb in the mid 1990’s; raised by a single mother and living with an 18 year old brother who constantly beats him up. His entire survival, mainly because he a poor small kid in a very tough neighborhood is contingent on becoming friends with other lowlife poor kids in the neighborhood – and all they do all day long is drugs, drinking and skateboarding. I cannot remember any movie that has this much of non stop foul language – almost to the point where it is overkill or an over the top example of how young hoods like this talk in real life. However, to this degree of foul language I thought it was too much and mostly unnecessary.

Throughout this entire story you cannot help but feel very sorry for the likable 13 year old who desperately tries to fit in with this older and much taller friends even to the point of risking his own life several times. Most of this film was extremely difficult to watch, most especially during a scene where they all climb into an SUV when the driver was so extremely drop dead drunk. The dangerous and stupid things poor desperate kids this age will do to not look weak in front of their peers costs more lives than just about anything else they do that is life threatening.

For poor people with no hope or future in this country, ultimately it is all about what other people might think about you, never about doing the right thing – or even thinking about breaking out of your bleak existence with no future.

I thought the acting in this movie/documentary was never noticeable and the story while simple was well told, despite its short depressing message. I would recommend this movie to be nominated for best documentary, rather than best movie, but despite this it has a shot for one of the 10 nominations for best picture this year, including Jonah Hill for best director. I do recommend Mid90s.

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Movie Review: Hunter Killer


Whenever I see a war movie that involves naval soldiers inside of a submarine I wonder why anyone who is in the Navy would ever volunteer for submarine duty. A submarine is far the most dangerous place to be during a war. If there is any damage to the submarine the likelihood is that you will drown, any explosion and the odds are you will never be found at the bottom of the ocean. The living quarters as are shown in the new movie “Hunter Killer” are extremely claustrophobic especially considering the number of men that can live on a submarine for a long period of time.

As far as the movie Hunter Killer starring Gerard Butler, I thought it was well made and well acted but the story is way over the top and because of that reason, not believable. I wondered while watching this film about how many different ideas and script re-writes went into this Russian vs United States story about espionage, kidnapping that involves a coup. I was surprised to see Gary Oldman, in this movie in a small role considering he just won the best actor Oscar.

I thought the ending was satisfying despite the insane story but because of the story I only give Hunter Killer a marginal recommendation.

Movie Review: Halloween


The new movie “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” starring Melissa McCarthy in a very serious role is all about real life and desperation. For anyone who decides to try and make a living in this world as an actor, dancer, singer or a writer there are few paths to success and many more paths to failure. In the case of the main character Lee Israel her path to ultimate failure as a writer was her early success as the author of several biographies, one of which made the New York Times best seller list. Her early success made her believe that she found her true calling in life, until the best sellers faded away as well as the residuals. Then she had to write novels while desperate as phone calls were not returned by her agent, who was in love with her when things were going well, but now does not even have the humanity to treat her with any kind of respect. What have you done for me lately?

Even though Lee lived in a run down horrible apartment alone with her cat in New York, her rent was still due every month so she had to make money and fast. The depressing and desperate life of Lee Israel are all depicted extremely well in this movie, leading to her both forging and stealing letters written by famous people from museums and libraries and then selling them to pay her rent and buy food.

This movie was extremely well acted by McCarthy and her co-star, actor Richard E. Grant, who plays Lee Israels best friend who helps her with her letter selling scam. Ironically McCarthy who is much better known for her comedy has starred in her best role playing a very serious part and she will be nominated for best actress this year as the Academy always appreciates serious roles far more than comedic ones. Lee Isreal went on to write a book about her life as a forger entitled, Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger that went on to achieve literary acclaim.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is an extremely high 99% and I agree with this rating as well as give this movie my highest recommendation – that is all about real life and desperation.

Movie Review: The Hate U Give


The new movie “The Hate U Give” is about a subject that was inevitably going to made into a movie one day; Police violence and shootings of young black men in dangerous neighborhoods. The reason why this movie was brilliantly made is because it perfectly demonstrated both sides of this issue showing how difficult this problem always has been because of the complex gray areas involved.

Police are stopping black men either for cause or no reason and what follows is the understandable resentment and hatred the person stopped has toward the officer. There is no easy or obvious solution to this problem that has existed for many years. Within a dangerous neighborhood, a high percentage of young black men who are stopped by a Police officer own a gun, the officer is terrified of being shot and because of this the tension levels are extremely high. Under circumstances like this, as is explained so well by the actor Common, who plays a police officer in this movie, the officer in some cases reacts out of fear of being shot and so he has no choice but to react. The solution is to train police officers to be better at their jobs and never overreact in any situation. Then the person stopped should follow the officers instructions exactly, never argue or give the officer any reason to fear for his life. An opening scene in this movie shows a black father telling his children if they are ever stopped by the police to put their hands on the dashboard of the car and follow the orders of the officer.

This excellent film is not about the cut and dry shootings of young black men that are entirely about racism, but rather about the difficult problem of police officers trying to do their jobs and black people trying to just live their lives and are unjustly targeted by the police only because they are black.

The Hate U Give stars an upcoming young actress Amandla Stenberg, who is so outstanding in her lead role that she might just win an Academy Award nomination this year for best actress. Other actors in this movie are Common, Anthony Mackie and Regina Hall and all are outstanding in their roles. The screenwriter for this movie is Audrey Wells who tragically died this year of Cancer at only age 58. I predict she will get a nomination for best original screenplay and this film could just win the best picture of the year.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is an almost perfect 96% and I agree with this rating. The Hate U Give gets my highest recommendation and it will definitely nominated for best picture this year.

Movie Review: Bad Times at the El Royale


The new movie “Bad Times at the El Royale” tries very hard to be different and it does succeed in being different. I have never seen a movie like this that starts with Hotel with a red line that runs through it dividing its location in half between a Nevada section and a California section. Unfortunately the movie is way too long – over two hours, when the entire story could have been told in 90 minutes. The conclusion and the addition of a character outside of the hotel contains too many loose ends and in the end does not make enough sense.

This film stars Jeff Bridges, Dakota Johnson, Jon Hamm, Chris Hemsworth with a cameo by Nick Offerman. I thought the acting was good throughout the strange story. The Rotten Tomatoes rating for this movie is a solid 72% with 7.5 on IMDB, but I give this movie a marginal recommendation because it was too long and too boring in several areas.

Movie Review: Free Solo


The new documentary “Free Solo” is about mountain climber Alex Honnold, who is the greatest free mountain climber in the world. The term “free climber” means that the climber climbs a mountain or large rock without any ropes or even a parachute. Why something like this would not even include using a parachute is a mystery to anyone who would never understand people who risk their lives like this. Of all mountain climbers, less than 1% free climb, because it is so dangerous. Many free climbers have fallen to their death in this sport, especially during the last few years.

In the entire history of climbing the famous rock formation El Capitan, nobody has ever climbed it without ropes. This one task is the central point of this documentary and the main goal in life for Honnold. This movie is also about the very unusual life of Alex Honnold, who dropped out of college at the age of 19, to pursue the life of a professional mountain climber. I thought that the one thing lacking in this film is how exactly Alex makes money from this profession, but I assumed its mostly from endorsements for mountain climbing products. Honnold travels the country risking his life climbing mountains and living in a Van and from his attitude about life and his complete lack of all fear, due to a brain abnormality we learn about during an MRI he receives in the film. Honnold’s entire existence is only about feeling alive by taking huge risks with this life. The problem with successful climbers like Honnold is that they inspire other young people to take the same risks, without anywhere near the same level of talent and many of them will be killed. The other problem with risk taking like this is that just because your successful 100 times or 1000 times, all it takes is one gust of wind and one mistake and your life is over in an instant. This is the same issue with Tom Cruise and the huge risks he takes with all of the Mission Impossible movies – all it takes is one small miscalculation and your life is over. Is it worth it?

The majority of this movie are about the practice runs Honnold takes on El Capitan with ropes to master the many different areas of the rock that are the most difficult to traverse. Most fascinating are the artistic and complex body and hand movements that Alex perfects to get past areas of the mountain that seem impossible to climb – until the end of the documentary when he takes the ultimate risk of his life and tries to climb the rock with no ropes.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Free Solo are a perfect 100% and as documentaries go, I agree with this rating. I highly recommend this movie.

Movie Review: First Man


While watching the very good new movie “First Man” about Neil Armstrong, I remember wondering why the story of this great American was not made into a movie 30 or 40 years ago, especially considering that the first moon landing happened almost 50 years ago. Hollywood decided in 1995 to make the movie about a failed moon mission Apollo 13 where 3 astronauts were very close to losing their lives when an explosion happened in their capsule – why not make a movie about this successful mission? It is impossible to not have great respect for all the astronauts who risked and gave their lives, especially in the 1960’s when the risks of space travel and a trip to the moon were at their highest.

Since the 1960’s a total of 20 NASA astronauts have lost their lives, including 3 astronauts who died in a fire inside their space capsule in the early stage of the Apollo missions. There were so many things that could have gone wrong in the incredibly risky ventures of both the Gemini and Apollo missions that eventually led to the moon. Due to the high level of danger involved, the courage of those who risked their lives was the most impressive part of human beings landing on the moon in July 1969. It is understandable that the cost and risk of death was so great that NASA decided to never go to the moon again, after the last Apollo Mission in 1972, with Apollo 17. I was most impressed with this film when it showed the small and dark environment of the space capsules and the extreme vibrations involved when the rocket takes off into space. Due to these vibrations, its hard to believe that so many more explosions and accidents did not occur, considering the millions of parts that were involved for each space flight. During all of the Apollo Missions to the moon, Apollo 13 being the only failure, one can easily imagine the many ways all of or some of the astronauts could have been killed, and this even included being stranded on the moon forever.

Ryan Gosling stars as Neil Armstrong, playing this this part wooden, almost emotionless, which was the personality of Neil Armstrong and one of the reasons why he was chosen to be an Astronaut in the first place. In order to fly missions as dangerous as all the astronauts did in the 1960’s being able to stay calm in an inevitable crisis was paramount. Gosling also looks like Neil Armstrong who died in 2012 of a heart ailment and I thought it was a shame that he was not alive to see this very good movie about his life and trip to the moon. Armstrong’s wife was played by Claire Foy, who does an acting job so outstanding, she will probably receive an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress.

First Man is one of the best movies of 2018 almost a guarantee to receive and Academy Award nomination for best picture and it receives my highest recommendation.

Movie Review: Venom


The new movie “Venom” follows the same Hollywood paradigm for Marvel action movies. “We don’t need a story or a script because we have a built in Marvel audience. All we need is special effects and explosions and people will come.” Unfortunately, this idea works as Venom, which is a pretty bad movie is making very good box office, but for those of us who are looking for a quality screenplay or some kind of a story, this film is a nightmare to sit through.

I was most surprised to see Michelle Williams in this movie because her entire career has been all about quality over money, but perhaps she was angry over being paid so little in last years re-shoot of “All the Money in the World”, and decided that it was her time to get a big payday. The star of the movie Tom Hardy looks like he is drunk or in some kind of a coma during this entire 2 hours and at times he is hard to understand because he mumbles many of his lines.

This movie should be avoided, even for die hard Marvel comic fans. The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie are a very low 30% – my rating is around 15%. Unfortunately there will be more bad movies like this in our future that forego a script, story and quality in favor of special effects.

Movie Review: The Old Man and the Gun


Robert Redford has said that at age 82, this will be his last acting role. If this is true, its unfortunate but for any profession there is a limit for most people in just how much they want to do, even with such an enviable career like Redford has had. Ironically, the high point in Redford’s career was winning best Director for “Ordinary People”, in 1980, arguably the best picture of its kind ever made. Redford has never won a best actor Oscar, nominated in 1973 for the Sting, which like so many other actors as good as Redford has been, makes no sense.

The new film “The Old Man and the Gun” is about Forrest Tucker, a career criminal who robbed many banks and more amazingly escaped from prison no less than 16 times. The interesting part of this story is the fact that Tucker robbed all of these banks without any violence and was actually polite when he walked into a bank and asked for their money, just showing the gun he had under his coat. Tucker also worked with two other accomplices, played well by actors Danny Glover and Tom Waits. Tucker was just a person who enjoyed robbing banks and could never have been rehabilitated; to him being a criminal was life to him and very often he had a smile on his face while robbing a bank or running from the police.

At the start of this movie they mention that this story is “almost true” and we do not learn what parts are true or Hollywood embellishment and this includes the girlfriend Tucker finds while escaping the police, played by Sissy Spacek, who I have not seen in a movie for a number of years. Casey Affleck plays the police detective assigned to find Tucker and his gang and this is the first role I have seen him in since his Academy Award performance in the great movie “Manchester by the Sea”, released in 2016.

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for this movie are a very strong 89% and I agree with that score. Hopefully Redford will change his mind and act again and even direct again. I highly recommend The Old Man and the Gun.

Movie Review: A Star is Born


The latest remake of “A Star is Born” directed by actor Bradley Cooper is one of the rare film experiences where there is no evident acting. Every actor in this movie comes across as real, as if whatever they are saying was never written down. This is a tribute to the great screenwriter Eric Roth who wrote the screenplay. As far a movie remakes one would be hard pressed to find any other movie that has been remade 5 times like this one has. The reason for this is the great story and the music – but 5 times is a rather hard to understand total.

The music and especially the lyrics during the musical segments in this film are all outstanding. There is no doubt that Lady Gaga can sing, but she is also a great songwriter as well and is perfect for this role, almost as if it was created just for her. I was also impressed with Bradley Cooper not only for this acting but also for directing his first movie – the last time I remember this happening was in 1980 when Robert Redford directed the great movie Ordinary People, that won for best picture and best director with Timothy Hutton winning for best supporting actor. Most of the other actors cast for this movie were a surprise including Andrew Dice Clay, Sam Elliott and even Dave Chappelle who has a small role in this movie. All of them were outstanding in their roles. I expect there will be several Oscar nominations for this film, including best director, best picture and best actress for Lady Gaga.

This is one of the only movies I can remember seeing that shows both the highs and lows of success in show business and specifically the music industry. The constant travel, the two hours of high during a performance and the many days of lonely traveling, hotels and as shown in this story drugs and alcohol that far too many turn to to escape this very difficult life. One need only think of Whitney Houston and the recent documentary “Whitney”, also reviewed in this blog as one of the best examples of how difficult a life in the spotlight can be.

The ratings for A Star is Born are a very high 91% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.5 on IMDB and I agree with both of these ratings. A Star is Born gets my very strong recommendation.