Movie Review: Nomadland

The new movie “Nomadland” starring Francis McDormand is about one of those subjects no person ever wants to think about – homelessness. In this country, homelessness has always been an ongoing problem for far too many good people. Now considering the Covid-19 health Pandemic that has killed almost 500,000 Americans, this problem is as bad as its ever been and could get worse in the coming months and years.

Fern, played by McDormand just lost her husband and after a local factory closed she is out of work and quickly ran out of money. Her only options are to get in her van and drive, anywhere. This film takes place in South Dakota, that is famous for barren vistas and cold and a great deal of this movie is all about Fern driving on very long roads with nothing by emptiness. Fern runs into a group of campers who all rationalize that their homeless life is better than the old ways, forgetting that they are living in their car, a camper or a van. Especially grim is showing the different sizes of rubber and plastic containers when it is time to go to the bathroom. Nothing is easy with a life like this, and far too many of us are homeless or are far too close to becomming homeless. It should not be this way, but in this world if you have no money, you are in for a very rough ride.

Francis McDormand is one of the best actresses during the last few decades, starting with her 1996 best actress Academy Award for Fargo. She won best actress again for  2017 “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” in 2017 and now looks to be a shoe-in for another best actress win for this impressive film.

Nomadland plays more like a documentary insight into the lives of homeless nomads who travel the country looking for temporary work and a legal place to park. This film is directed by Chloé Zhao who did an outstanding job showing the dark and depressing lives of people who are living on the edge, trying to survive from one hour to the next. Zhao is collecting a series of impressive credits lately and now is a major sought out director. She might win best director for this movie.

The Rotten Tomatoes rating for Nomadland are a very impressive 94% and I agree with this rating and recommend this movie that shows the true life of far too many millions of people.

On Demand Movie Review: Horizon Line

A small plane, 2 passengers, then the pilot has a heart attack and dies. How many times has this idea been written into movies or TV shows over the years. Too many. When you get on a small plane with one pilot the odds of a tragedy are greatly increased – mainly because if the pilot can no longer fly the plane, all the passengers are doomed. Then add the danger of getting on any small plane.

The new on demand movie “Horizon Line” stars Alison Williams as Sara, Keith David as the pilot and an unknown actor Alexander Dreymon as Jackson – a name you hear screamed far too often in this movie by Sara. There is very little story here other than some up front dialogue and a trip somewhere in the Pacific in a small passenger plane, that most people would never get on in the first place. Where this film fails miserably is there are far too many scenes after the pilot dies, that nobody in the world would ever try. Nobody would have the courage to climb to the outside of a plane, tethered by a rope. Nobody would climb to the top of of a small plane like this for any reason. Not only would nobody ever try to do things this stupid, but these tasks, even in a desperate attempt to save lives are not even physically possible. So why make this movie, where the 2 main characters are so dumb?

Once again there is far too much smoking in this movie by Sara and Jackson, something I find very annoying every time I see it. This practice should be banned.

Save your money and miss this mess. I agree with the very low 4.6 rating on IMDB.

Movie Review: Little Fish

I can only hope, after seeing “Little Fish”, that is about romance during a world wide Pandemic, that Pandemic films are not the new trend in the movie industry. Living through over a year of Covid-19 has been enough Pandemic at least for the next 100 years.

The Pandemic in this movie – something called, Neuroinflammatory Affliction or NIA, attacks the brain and over time erases the entire memory of the victim. Some kind of a cure is found, but in this case its a horrendous surgical procedure involving a long needle applied to the roof of someone’s mouth. All of this leads to massive worldwide panic both to avoid this horrible disease and then to somehow receive the cure. This is a Pandemic scenario just about as bad as it can get. It is rather unusual that the screenwriter even tried combine a concept like this with a romance story.

The main characters are Emma and Jude, played by Olivia Cooke and Jack O’Connell. Emma is a Veterinarian and there are no less than three scenes of her counting down the days where she would have to euthanize another dog – making anyone shy away from wanting to be an animal doctor. Emma and Jude are friends with another married couple who are affected by NIA, where the woman’s husband entirely loses his memory, making for some very emotional and well acted scenes. The romance between Emma and Jude is well played but rather depressing throughout the 2 hours as they desperately try to survive a horrendous Pandemic. I did not like the too-many scenes of chain smoking by the two main characters – even during a movie involving a health Pandemic. How stupid is this, that in this day in age, cigarrette companies are still making money in the movie industry?

The Rotten Tomatoes ratings for Little Fish is a surprisingly high 91%, my rating is only 75% with a marginal recommendation.

Showtime Series Review: Your Honor

The new 10 part Showtime series “Your Honor”, starring Brian Cranston is as close to a Shakespearian tragedy as I have seen in a long time. The story starts simply, “what would a parent do to save their child if they made a mistake”. In this case a judge Michael Desiato, played expertly by Brian Cranston has a son named Adam who has Asthma. Adam makes a tragic driving error by bending down to pick up his inhaler and hits a teenage boy on a motorcycle, who himself was driving erratically. Unfortunately this teenage boy has a father who is both a murderer and master criminal, making going to the police and confessing no longer an option. From the very beginning, this basic conflict make for a highly believable and unique story that I have not seen before, with extremely well drawn out twists and turns all the way to the last episode.

This series is brilliant because of the way all of the lies Judge Desiato tells everybody he knows, trying desperately to hide the fact that his son was involved in the accident that killed a teenage boy. The lies mutate and grow ever more complex and impossible to conceal as the story unfolds. Desiato’s friends notice little discrepancies that don’t seem right, other small lies slip out, other things are found out that at first seem to be perfectly hidden. With a lie this big, over time it becomes impossible to keep it a secret. The unwinding of so many lies during this story, is the best part of this series.

As he was with the great series “Breaking Bad” – arguably the greatest television series of all time, Your Honor shows Cranston at his best with great dialogue, story and most importantly, his great acting as judge Desiato. All of the remaining cast members are also great in their roles with an ending that is both a surprise and ultimately tragic.

The IMDB ratings are an outstanding 81%, which is an accurate number, along with a ridiculous 44% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that has only one very inaccurate critical review. Regardless, I highly recommend this series which is now available on Amazon Prime.

Movie Review: Land

In the case of the new movie “Land” both directed and starring Robin Wright, the screenwriter started with a woman in her 50’s named Edee played by Wright – traveling by herself to live in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely nothing but a few cans of food in a broken down and abandoned log cabin with no plumbing. From the start of the movie, the question is, “why would anyone want to do something like this?”. Slowly during the two hours, we find out that a horrendous tragedy has happened to Edee. A tragedy that would challenge even the strongest among us to their very limit. Survival instincts take over that at times can be out of your control, when the worst of life happens. The brain tries to find a way to numb the pain, and try to move on – some how, some way. Many cannot move on and either go insane or take their own lives within a situation like this one. Land is definitely not a happy film, but no story like this one could ever be told in a happy way.

This film is about human survival, intense levels of grief and most importantly, human empathy – something that is very rare in this world. During her attempt to live in the middle of nowhere, Edee befriends Miguel, played very well by Demián Bichir, who not only saves her life but teaches her how to survive in the middle of the mountains of Wyoming. Their friendship grows with his sporadic visits, even bringing his dog who becomes quickly attached to Edee. The Cinematography of the huge mountains of Wyoming was very well done, as was the first time directing debut of Robin Wright. The ending of this movie is both powerful and emotional and at the end Edee finally finishes her story, about why she is such a state of extreme emotional grief. The story of Land is a simple and very powerful one.

Once again the critics are wrong, with the Rotten Tomatoes only at 69%. This film is a solid 85% and has my full recommendation.

2020 Golden Globe Award Nominations

Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy

“Emily in Paris” (Netflix)

“The Flight Attendant” (HBO Max)

“The Great” (Hulu)

“Schitt’s Creek” (CBC)

“Ted Lasso” (Apple TV Plus)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama

Jason Bateman (“Ozark”)

Josh O’Connor (“The Crown”)

Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”)

Al Pacino (“Hunters”)

Matthew Rhys (“Perry Mason”)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Cate Blanchett (“Mrs. America”)

Daisy Edgar-Jones (“Normal People”)

Shira Haas (“Unorthodox”)

Nicole Kidman (“The Undoing”)

Anya Taylor-Joy (“The Queen’s Gambit”)

Best Director – Motion Picture

Emerald Fennell, “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

David Fincher, “Mank” (Netflix)

Regina King, “One Night in Miami” (Amazon Studios)

Aaron Sorkin, “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Chloé Zhao, “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Maria Bakalova (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)

Kate Hudson (“Music”)

Michelle Pfeiffer (“French Exit”)

Rosamund Pike (“I Care a Lot”)

Anya Taylor-Joy (“Emma”)

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama

Riz Ahmed (“Sound of Metal”)

Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)

Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”)

Gary Oldman (“Mank”)

Tahar Rahim (“The Mauritanian”)

Best Television Series – Drama

“The Crown” (Netflix)

“Lovecraft Country” (HBO Max)

“The Mandalorian” (Disney Plus)

“Ozark” (Netflix)

“Ratched” (Netflix)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama

Olivia Colman (“The Crown”)

Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve”)

Emma Corrin (“The Crown”)

Laura Linney (“Ozark”)

Sarah Paulson (“Ratched”)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Bryan Cranston (“Your Honor”)

Jeff Daniels (“The Comey Rule”)

Hugh Grant (“The Undoing”)

Ethan Hawke (“The Good Lord Bird”)

Mark Ruffalo (“I Know This Much Is True”)

Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

Sacha Baron Cohen (“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm”)

James Corden (“The Prom”)

Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton”)

Dev Patel (“The Personal History of David Copperfield”)

Andy Samberg (“Palm Springs”)

Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama

Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”)

Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”)

Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”)

Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”)

Carey Mulligan (“Promising Young Woman”)

Best Motion Picture – Drama

“The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)

“Mank” (Netflix)

“Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

“Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Sacha Baron Cohen (“The Trial of the Chicago 7”)

Daniel Kaluuya (“Judas and the Black Messiah”)

Jared Leto (“The Little Things”)

Bill Murray (“On the Rocks”)

Leslie Odom, Jr. (“One Night in Miami”)

Best Original Score – Motion Picture

“The Midnight Sky” (Netflix) – Alexandre Desplat

“Tenet” (Warner Bros.) – Ludwig Göransson

“News of the World” (Universal Pictures) – James Newton Howard

“Mank” (Netflix) – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

“Soul” (Pixar) – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, Jon Batiste

Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Lily Collins (“Emily in Paris”)

Kaley Cuoco (“The Flight Attendant”)

Elle Fanning (“The Great”)

Jane Levy (“Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist”)

Catherine O’Hara (“Schitt’s Creek”)

Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

“Normal People” (Hulu/BBC)

“The Queen’s Gambit” (Netflix)

“Small Axe” (Amazon Studios/BBC)

“The Undoing” (HBO)

“Unorthodox” (Netflix)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

John Boyega (“Small Axe”)

Brendan Gleeson (“The Comey Rule”)

Dan Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”)

Jim Parsons (“Hollywood”)

Donald Sutherland (“The Undoing”)

Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy

“Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” (Amazon Studios)

“Hamilton” (Walt Disney Pictures)

“Palm Springs” (Neon)

“Music” (Vertical Entertainment)

“The Prom” (Netflix)

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in Any Motion Picture

Glenn Close (“Hillbilly Elegy”)

Olivia Colman (“The Father”)

Jodie Foster (“The Mauritanian”)

Amanda Seyfried (“Mank”)

Helena Zengel (“News of the World”)

Best Motion Picture – Foreign Language
“Another Round” (Samuel Goldwyn Films)

“La Llorona” (Shudder)

“The Life Ahead” (Netflix)

“Minari” (A24)

“Two of Us” (Magnolia Pictures)

Best Screenplay – Motion Picture

Emerald Fennell – “Promising Young Woman” (Focus Features)

Jack Fincher – “Mank” (Netflix)

Aaron Sorkin – “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix)

Florian Zeller, Christopher Hampton – “The Father” (Sony Pictures Classics)

Chloe Zhao – “Nomadland” (Searchlight Pictures)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy

Don Cheadle (“Black Monday”)

Nicholas Hoult (“The Great”)

Eugene Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”)

Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”)

Ramy Youssef (“Ramy”)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Series, Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television

Gillian Anderson (“The Crown”)

Helena Bonham Carter (“The Crown”)

Julia Garner (“Ozark”)

Annie Murphy (“Schitt’s Creek”)

Cynthia Nixon (“Ratched”)

Best Original Song – Motion Picture

“Fight for You” from “Judas and the Black Messiah” (Warner Bros.) – H.E.R., Dernst Emile II, Tiara Thomas

“Hear My Voice” from “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (Netflix) – Daniel Pemberton, Celeste

Movie Review: The Little Things

“The Little Things”, like the recent release of “Wonder Woman 1984” has been released in theaters and on HBO Max for one month. Due to the pandemic, the movie industry is slowly changing into new methods of release and distribution. Odds are many of these new movie distribution ideas will remain, long after the Covid-19 Pandemic is over.

Considering 3 Academy award winning actors, Denzel Washington, Rami Malek, Jared Leto – agreeing to make this movie, one would have thought from the start, that the script would have been outstanding. It is not. Most of this story about a washed up cop Joe Deacon, played by Washington and a detective Jim Baxter played by Malek trying to find a serial killer seemed like a bad TV movie with a plot and action that we have all seen way too many times. I wondered during this entire boring film whether this entire bad production was made, only because of the drastic drawdown of the movie industry, due to this almost year long Pandemic. Everybody involved had to find a film that is less risky and low budget because of the continuing worry that so few people want to risk going to the movies. Unfortunately, the end result is a bad movie.

This time around the critics are accurate with their low 49% rating and this movie should definitely be missed because it is a waste of the talents of 3 A-list actors.

Amazon Movie Review: The Lie

There are many reasons why screenwriting is considered the most challenging of all art forms. For one thing, coming up with an idea that is original is a huge road-block because so many movies have been produced – all of them trying new ideas. Trying to surprise the audience is another challenge because the surprise must make sense and be believable. If there is a surprise ending or key moment that is not believable or absurd, then all the good ideas that happened before are ruined, resulting in an angry audience.

The Amazon produced movie “The Lie”, released in 2018, starring Mireille Enos, Peter Sarsgaard and Joey King has a story similar to “Your Honor” – a recent series on Showtime starring Brian Cranston. The idea is, what would any parent do to protect their child if they killed someone – by accident, or temporary insanity? To what lengths would they go to protect their child from dire consequences and a life ruined even before it starts? For most of The Lie, the story was told in an understandable and believable series of events. Unfortunately, in an effort to be extremely different, there is a surprise at the end that is absolutely absurd. All of the action and emotions that happened before, especially with Kayla, played by Joey King and her parents Jay and Rebecca, played by Sarsgaard and Enos – become instantly invalid, once you consider an ending this far fetched. No teenage daughter would ever do something like this and that is why this movie fails immediately.

The majority of people who see this ending are going to think, “give me a break” or “that is just insane”, “this makes no sense”. Anything good that happened before in this film, especially the acting is forgotten – all because another outrageous story idea that never should have been attempted.

The ratings on IMDB of 5.8 and Rotten Tomatoes 44% are low – and I agree with these numbers. Any movie with an ending this ridiculous, should be skipped.

Movie Review: The Marksman

Since the release of the great movie “Taken” in 2008, there has probably not been any A-list actor who has made more movies than Liam Neeson. One reason for this is the huge success of Taken, that spawned two sequels and perhaps another reason is the tragic death of this wife Natasha Richardson, who died in a fluke Skiing accident in 2009.

Not surprisingly, Neeson has never again achieved the heights he reached with Taken – due to the fact that this movie was a very hard act to follow. He has made some bad movies but mostly solid films, some of them B-level and most have been widely released. The new movie “The Marksman” is another generic Neeson film where he is a farmer who lives near the Mexican border – and his story is a tragic one heard far too often. Jim, a former Marine – played by Neeson, was financially ruined because of medical bills, trying to save his wife from cancer and unfortunately she died. How many times in this country has something like this happened to far too many good people.

While patrolling a part of the Mexican border Jim runs into a young mother with her son, trying to illegally break into the United States, while also being chased by a group of murderous members of a Mexican drug cartel. What follows is a gunfight between Jim and the members of the Cartel. The rest of this story is nothing new, with Jim transporting the woman’s son across country to her family in Chicago.

Several things did not make sense in this story, starting with how a group of drug Cartel criminals were allowed to enter this country so easily and then were able to track Jim and the young boy across this country with an efficiency that seemed like a series of insane miracles. At first they used his credit card transactions to follow him, that did make sense, but other methods were so outlandish and unlikely that they would never happen in the real world. Then add how quickly they seemed to make up so many hundreds of miles while tracking Jim and the boy. Somewhere along the line, within all screenplays, things just eventually have to make sense. I also did not like the ending, that had some similarities to the end of Taken 2 – once again forgoing a believable ending into a Hollywood-like unsatisfactory ending that also made no sense.

I agree with the 6.9 rating in IMDB with the 34% Rotten Tomatoes ratings way too low. Despite the many holes in the plot, I give The Marksman a modest recommendation, mainly because of Neeson.

Movie Review: Fatale

There is no better example of the highs and lows of a career in the movies, than the career of Hillary Swank.

Hillary Swank is one of the very rare actors who has ever won 2 Academy Awards, her last in 2004 with the Clint Eastwood film “Million Dollar Baby”. After that great movie, she make several movies that failed at the box office and even took some years off after things were not going well for some time. When I decided to see her new movie “Fatale” – which is yet another insane stalker movie – I was surprised she took this role because her past movies have signaled a major comeback. However, I was surprised (despite the critics) how good Fatale is. Once again the critics are wrong. with their very low 43% ratings.

This movie also stars Michael Ealy, who is the all time champion for appearing in movies like this, with the exception this time, that he is the victim of the stalker. I was impressed with the story and the many twists and turns – all of them believable. This is the first insane-stalker movie that I have seen that I actually not only liked but was impressed with the screenwriter who created something unique within this very tired genre.

The Rotten Tomatoes user rating is a very high 88% and once again, its hard to understand that the critics and the audience can be so far off in their opinions. My rating is a solid 80% and I recommend Fatale.