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The Mule (2018)
Clint delivers, again
I love seeing Clint Eastwood continue to deliver strong films at this point in his life. In The Mule, Earl Stone (Eastwood) is a divorced grouchy old man who is struggling to keep his life financially viable. He was a professional gardener, but the internet seems to be changing that. He is at the point of losing his home.
He's already on the outs with his family - you gather that he was not the world's best father.
Then he gets the chance for some big money, so much that for him it's life-changing. The money allows him to make many positive changes in his life. But he suspects things are not as clean as he'd like.
Meantime, the FBI is trying to bust a drug cartel and their mules who transport the drugs. Bradley Cooper plays Bates, the lead agent in charge of the pursuit.
That's about it for the story. It's cat and mouse. Earl shows his wiles gained from his life experience, and he gets a bit of luck too. The acting was great, but as many have said, a lot of it was cliche'd lines that teach us life lessons. But, hey, Eastwood can do that because he's passing along those lessons again and again at this point in his life.
The Mule allows Eastwood to continue to deliver what his fans want - a tough guy who has had a hard life and is just trying to reconcile how he got to where he did from where he was, and the lessons he learned from that experience. That's worth the price of admission on its own. See The Mule - you won't be disappointed.
Disappointing due lack of action
Watching Glass reminded me of the first Hulk movie, which was equally disappointing. All you wanted to see was Hulk smash something, yet they kept trying to make it more complicated than that. Same with Glass. There is only one scene where the three adversaries finally take each other on, and it was disappointing at that too.
There was good acting from Jackson and McAvoy and Willis, but the script disappoints. There is this mysterious lady at the insane asylum where they are housed. You keep wondering what her story is because she gave you a bit of the creeps.
There was a side story with Willis's kid and Jackson's mom and that girl from the McAvoy movie, but this was supposed to focus on the 3 main characters. It failed to excite because it failed to let them fight it out more.
Disappointing. Only gets a 5 from me due to the story, though McAvoy did a terrific job switching between his split personalities. Needed more Beast vs Willis. Just a so so movie from M Night this time. Sorry.
The Mountain Between Us (2017)
Simple story saved by excellent casting and acting
Mountain Between Us is a simple enough story. Idris Elba (Dr Ben) and Kate Winslet (photographer Alex) are at an airport attempting to fly to Denver for various reasons. Most flights are being cancelled due to weather. Alex approaches Ben with an alternate plan. Then their plan falls to pieces and they are left stranded high in the snow-filled Rockies. After that, the story focuses on whether they will survive. Simple.
I was expecting something like The Grey or the book Touching the Void or even the movie Frozen about 3 people stuck on a chair lift. But the Director took a different tact. He focused on how these two strangers would work together, two people with really different ways of doing things, with different life experiences and characteristics.
Kudos - that saved the film from being completely boring. The casting director hit the jackpot by pairing Elba with Winslet. They are both accomplished actors, but they also had strong on-screen chemistry. You really felt their being pulled in different ways. You really believed how each was compromising a part of themselves to work together.
There really wasn't a heck of a lot of suspense. There was a cool dog who added something to the story on the humor side, but really, the focus was mostly on these two people working together.
The beautiful mountain scenery presents great cinematography photo ops, but even then, the most important shots are the close ups of these people in close quarters fighting for their lives.
The ending is straight out of Hollywood, but will probably leave you with a tear in your eyes. Mountain Between Us is a good movie with a simple story. Enjoy.
Awesome thriller - spellbinding!
Searching tells the story of David Kim (John Cho - Star Trek), loving father of Margot (Michelle La), as he searches for his daughter who goes unexpectedly missing while in high school.
This movie tells much of the story via the computer and phone screens of today's social media. What an incredibly interesting medium. David ventures into apps he's never used, searching for clues. He finds various devices from Margot and starts doing a deep dive into an unknown world - the internet.
Detective Vick (Debra Messing) gets assigned to the case. She has a long record of finding missing people and throws herself actively into the search for Margot. Along the way the plot twists and turns you inside out and around again. You learn about how Margot was affected by her mother, and influenced. You learn that maybe you don't always know your kids as well as you think. You learn that the internet is not always a nice place to venture.
There's not much for cinematography here, but actually, the screen medium beautifully shows you the inner thoughts of the father as he clicks around, thinks, changes his mind, what is he doing, oh, he's thinking this. The screen views throw you so many red herrings, you are not quite sure who is guilty of what, or not guilty of anything.
Cho is terrific as the father, with all the emotion you would expect from a father whose only daughter goes missing. Michelle La is terrific too for such a young actress, as Margot. And for the short time on screen, Sara Sohn as the Mom Pam is also really good. Messing delivers a solid job as the Detective too.
Acting is great. The plot is terrific - complex, scary, defeating, and maybe hopeful. You go thru so many twists. At 1 hr 42 mins, it's timed perfectly to keep you interested and gives pletny of tme for the plot to develop.
The Director, Aneesh Chaganty, suceeds wildly with his first feature film. With new Directors like him and Jordan Peele on the scene, we may be looking at the next gen of top Directors.
Searching is a thriller and a fantastic film. It's must-see filmmaking that will leave you gasping till the end. Enjoy!
John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
Revenge is even sweeter in Chapter 2
Keanu Reeves delivers a supercharged performance as the embattled ex-assassin, John Wick, who gets dragged back in to the world that he desperately wants to escape from. But a marker is a marker and Wick gets forced to pay back a debt he can't refuse. Then everything hits the fan.
Even though Chapter 2 is pretty much the same as Chapter 1, this is an even better, amazing film. Wick kills more people than I've ever seen in one movie.
Keanu is excellent as Wick, who is always cut up, tired, disshelved, wearing the weight of the world on his shoulders. Tired of everything, except living and killing. Laurence Fishburne is terrific as the bird man who kind of helps Wick out. The Continental Hotel is again central as a sanctuary - no business on the property - or is it? The hotel manager is again excellently played by Ian Mcshane. He has a terrific voice and is a superb actor. I love the role of the Reception Manager, played by Lance Reddick who you will recognize from the Bosch TV series on Amazon.
Fast-paced is insufficient to describe the speed of the story, including a terrific chase scene to open the movie. You also get treated to a beautiful trip to Rome and the catacombs, with some wonderful cinematography. The bad guy is an Italian mobster younger guy, and you just can't wait for Wick to slap the entitlement out of his smug little face. Be patient - you may get that or not.
Since there is now a Chapter 3 coming out this month May 2019, you know that Wick survives the onslaught in 2. How can they top this? I don't think they can, but if they can even equal it, that will be quite a feat.
I can't wait to see Keanu slip into the dirty black suit jacket, with his dog, and his car, and give it his all to defeat the challengers. Will be fun. For now, Chapter 2 is a big success. Not for the squeamish, but hey, if you like Wick films, you already know that. Enjoy.
First Man (2018)
Terrific, realistic, eye-opening biographical
First Man tells the inside story about the astronauts from the 1960s who were battling to defeat the Russians in the race to space. The focus is on Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling - LaLa Land), the first man to walk on the moon. Along the way you learn about his wife (Claire Foy - Girl in the Spiders Web) and their complex, strained marriage. Most revealing are all the details you learn about his family and the stress and strain they faced.
Gosling delivers a stellar performance as Armstrong, who is revealed as a quiet, humble, gracious man. He carries the weight of multiple tragedies on his shoulders. You learn that he's lost family, and friends, but somehow, space calls to him. He is revealed as a try pioneer who wants to go where no one has gone before. And this guy was REAL, not like Matt Damon in Martian. Which makes his story even more compelling.
The director does a terrific job of weaving in key incidents that led to decisions that caused things to happened that affected the entire Gemini and Apollo program. Finally, the focus was definitely on the first step on the moon, but also the journey to get there.
This film delivers real lifelike feelings throughout. These space ships were using computers that nowadays are antiques. You feel the ships shaking, You hear the groans and creaks of metal being stressed. You hear buzzers going off with warnings. You are there. If you watch the Special Features, you learn that the film is very realistic because instead of a green screen, they used a new, huge LED screen with images of the moon. This gave the actors and stage people the ability to see their surroundings and deliver a more real experience. It works!!! I really hope this LED technology advances movies to become more realistic, which benefits everyone.
Great acting by Claire Foy as Mrs Armstrong. She delivers the perfect portrayal of a 1960s wife of an astronaut who at any time could lose her husband. Other excellent supporting cast roles too. The landing reveals something that I did not know, and you will be surprised too. It reveals how much Armstrong loved his family, and how he felt about a greater power. Gosling should have been at least nominated for Best Actor - again - he was terrific.
First Man is an excellent film that stands right up there with The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 as superior space films. See it - you'll love it. Enjoy
Venom is fun !
Venom stars Tom Hardy (Batman - Bane) as Eddie Brock, investigative reporter. Eddies is somewhat of a loser. He's plays hard, drinks hard, loves hard. He lives life on the edge. His girlfriend is a lawyer played by Michelle Williams.
This origin story reveals that the bad guy, billionaire Drake, sent a rocket ship to space that came back with multiple Symbiotes, the body-sucking parasites that take you over, like Venom. No spoilers there. Drake is using his science labs to do some experimentation. Things get out of control and one of the symbiotes, named Venom, latches on to Eddie.
The first part of the movie is a bit slow, up until Eddie meets Venom. Then the fun begins. As the movie proceeds, it becomes hilarious to see Eddie and Venom interact with each other. It's almost like Eddie has a somewhat-controlled Hulk that he can call out when needed to fight the bad guys.
The movie then becomes mostly chase scenes and fight scenes. Over and over. That gets a bit tiring, but you get so see a lot of cool CGI effects for Venom. The movies ends with an obvious hint that things will continue in the Venom world - I think they have a winner here.
Tom Hardy delivers some strong acting. He also does the voice of Venom, which illustrates his strong voice skills. My biggest ding is the chemistry between Hardy and Williams. It's a lackluster sizzle. Perhaps a casting issue. Williams delivers a just ok performance. Otherwise, the big star is CGI because Venom is all over beating up bad guys and eating their heads, much to the dismay of Eddie.
Altogether, a pretty good movie that ends up really delivering in the second half. Venom will be trained by Eddie to fight for the good guy in sequels it seems, which could deliver fun vigilante times like The Equalizer, The Girl in the Spiders Web, or Death Wish. Enjoy.
The Girl in the Spider's Web (2018)
Foy excels in cool thriller
The Girl in the Spider's web continues the journey of Lizbeth Salandar in the role of a somewhat-vigilante figure like Charles Bronson from Death Wish fame.
Claire Foy (First Man) is outstanding as the standoffish, isolated, single-minded Lizbeth Salanadar. Black leather, tatoos, punk hair, body piercings, all while she demonstrates unbelievable hacker and research skills. This time though, she seems to have met her match - the Past.
Salandar has exceptional concentration skills, as she demonstrates in the awesome opening scene that you see in the trailer. She has planned all the outcomes, again somewhat like Robert McCall (Denzel Washington - The Equalizer). Just without the slow-down frames. But the brutality, oh yes, it is there. She will take out her pain on the bad guys without thought.
In Spider's Web, the plot revolves around a computer genius who contacts her about some special project he worked on. The project is now in jeopardy of getting into the wrong hands, which could have catastrophic consequences for the world.
The American spy network gets involved. Her geek friends get involved. But when the Past comes back to catch up with Lizbeth, she gets knocked off her game, falters, and several times you think she is finished. Is she though?
The story is scary, but not super complex. The cinematography is pretty good. The acting by Foy is terrific, while others deliver, especially her encounter with the Past. Flashbacks are used sparingly, thankfully, as the terror reveals itself in real-time.
The climactic ending has you breathless, somewhat like Atomic Blonde (Charlize Theron) and the fight on the stairs. This time, the fight is everywhere.
Two thumbs up for Spider's Web. Good pacing, strong story, terrific Foy. Plus, I love the vigilante stories where a somewhat bad good-guy takes on the bad bad guys. I look forward to the next installment. Enjoy.
A Simple Favor (2018)
Tries too hard to be too many different kinds of movies
A Simple Favor tells the story of a single mom, Stephanie (Anna Kendricks), who meets and becomes BFF with another mother Emily (Blake Lively) from school. Kendricks is this energetic Mom who volunteers for everything and runs this vlog documenting cooking. But she seems to be somewhat of a prude. Meanwhile, Lively is a hard-drinking, swearing, seemingly ill-suited mother who seeks to draw Kendrick out of her comfort zone in many different ways. But somehow, with the space of weeks, they call themselves best friends. pretty unbelievable right there.
Lively then suddenly disappears, and the search is on. You are then taken in so many different directions that your head spins off. Is Lively's husband to blame? Is Lively's office to blame. Is she dead, is she alive? For me, you are just twisted around so much that the story just gets too confusing, and also just plain stupid.
Kendrick's character morphs into so many different characters, with zero explanation why. She does so many stupid actions, and I felt little drama, despite the surprises thrown at you. At the climax scene, you are not quite sure who is on whose side, but by then, you really don't care - you just want to move to end because it's just plain silly.
Kendrick and Lively both hold up their ends with strong acting. But the direction and story just fall flat. I think the Director wanted this to be like Girl on the Train, or Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, or even part Kill Bill, and that, imho, was the key problem - trying to throw in every possible combo into a whodunit just made me say - who cares??
The movie ends up being slightly average because you get taken so far, you want to know the finish. But overall, A Simple Favor just simply is not a very good movie, despite strong acting. Good luck
Stays afloat but drags
Adrift suffers from the same problem as other stranded-on-a-boat movies like Life of Pi and All is Lost. When is enough, enough. Even though Adrift is only 90 minutes long, near the end, I couldn't wait for a conclusion because it was tiring to keep watching the mundane tasks of trying to save yourselves on a 50-foot boat over 41 days.
Shailene Woodley stars as Tami, a care-free 23-year old who travels around the world for 5 years, making enough money with odd jobs to pay for her life choice. Sam Claflin co-stars as Richard, the man she meets and falls in love with in Tahiti.
The director Baltasar Kormaker is no stranger to disaster movies. He directed Everest about the doomed ascent. In Adrift, he tackles the water version of survival. The direction is top notch, drawing on every ounce of pity he can from the audience for these poor souls enduring the battle of survival in the middle of nowhere, figuring they are more likely to die than survive. The screenplay is also quite good. You start out with Tami waking up in a water-filled cabin. she starts freaking out looking for Richard. The screenplay then goes back to the beginning, so you are on the complete opposite of the time line, where you start to learn about the stars and how they came to meet.
That storytelling method worked quite well, because the stories started to come together and you started to understand what happened.
But despite excellent cinematography, and decent music, the movie starts to drag. I wondered how the heck such experienced sailors didn't do a better job of scouting the weather. But this is based on a real life story, so it's unclear what parts are fact and what are Hollywood.
The ending somewhat sinks the movie, falling into that same genre as Life of Pi or 47 meters down, touching on the Sixth Sense even. I understand the director's and the screen playwrights rationale, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow.
You end up with an ah-ha ending, and I found myself crying while being disappointed at the same time.
Adrift is a good tear-jerker movie, with really good acting. The screenplay is pretty good, so overall, a decent movie. It will make you harken back to the days when you were in your early 20s and wanted to be free to see the world and not submit to the routine of life. All good things, and it makes Adrift a worthy film for you to watch. Enjoy
First Reformed (2017)
So Close to being a Great Film
First Reformed is a 250-year old church in upstate NY run by Pastor Toller (Ethan Hawke). The parish has very few members. Most people go to this nearby, trendy, modern Abundant Life church, with huge spaces and superb facilities. The Pastor there, Cedric the entertainer, keeps looking in on Toller because he's concerned about his health and his state of mind.
Toller is keeping a daily journal of all his thoughts for a year. This was an excellent medium to expose this thoughts with little camera action. You discover that he has a somewhat mysterious past, where something happened, but you're not sure what or how serious it was.
Enter Mary (Amanda Seyfried) as one of his parishoners, who asks Toller to speak to her husband who returned from the war. As Toller interacts with Mary's husband Michael, he becomes moved by the environmental cause that drives Michael.
That's when the story takes off, leading Pastor Toller thru and excruciating decision-making thought process that brings him great pain in many ways. Things happen, and you get to the 250th celebration, and the movie ends abruptly.
Let's start with the acting. It was absolutely outstanding. What a performance by both Hawke and Seyfried. The emotion, yet calmness, they both displayed keeps you riveted throughout. I loved the interactions too between Hawke and Cedric. Cedric has pretty much bought into the system in more ways than one you suspect. Something is helping his big church stay big and nice and updated. A fringe but important role is the catalyst Balq, a big multinational company that produces something that is apparently not good for the environment. Michael Gaston is the no-nonsense Balq, and he delivers a solid performance too.
The cinematography is simple yet effective. Excellent pan shots inside the church make you feel like you are there. There's a fantastic scene in the woods where you see just what Toller sees, when he sees it, and that helps the suspense.
The story has real potential, and for the most part, it delivers. But the Director, well, I've read that he does these kinds of endings. So when the movie ends, you sit there saying, what? Reminded me of the movie Enemy, with Jake Gyllenhaal. For me, the ending was terrible. Also, the build up to the ending leaves you shaking your head too. the ending is supposed to tie up the movie, but this ending disassociated the reality you drew from most of the movie with the decisions being made by Hawke.
The ending, in this case, ruined what could have been a great movie of 8/10. Still, I recommend this movie because of the story plot, and because the acting was terrific. First Reformed missed it by that much. Enjoy.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013)
Plenty of Action, not much of a story
The GI Joes return to do battle against the bad guys from Cobra. But little do they suspect the truth about the President. In the opening scenes, a harsh reality hits them hard and they need to use all their skills to get to the bottom of what the heck is going on.
Dwayne Johnson is excellent as the leader of the group. Other players hold their roles up well. Later on, even Bruce Willis gets involved, and the action gets piled on and on.
Snake Eyes returns fighting against Storm Shadow. There is one really epic scenes along the mountain cliffs which is one of the most awesome fight scenes you will ever see. there are plenty of fights and good guys against bad buys. In another scene with all the world leaders, some bad stuff happens and all the leaders are suddenly in danger. That was a pretty good and funny scene too.
But otherwise, there's not much of a plot. Bad guys want to take over the world, good guys want to stop bad guys. Lots of guns and fighting. That's pretty much it.
The acting was decent. The CGI was decent. The story was ok, so overall, a grade B+ movie that you should enjoy if you set your expectations accordingly. Enjoy.
Mona Lisa Smile (2003)
Dead Poet's Society with Young Women instead of Men
Mona Lisa Smile is pretty much Dead Poet's Society, except with young women. Julia Roberts plays this Art History teacher who takes this teaching job at a snobby, stuckup, all-women college in Wellesley, MA in the mid 1950s. Everything about the school reeks of money, entitlement, and doing things the accepted way.
Enter Julia Roberts, from California. While her friend, played well by Marcia Gay Harden, conforms and teaches women how to serve their husband, Roberts wants them to become more than just bearers of children. That's pretty much the story as Roberts pushes the boundaries of teaching, while getting pushed back from the leaders of the school and community.
The cast did a great job, especially Kirsten Dunst and Maggie Gyllenhall as polor opposite students. Dunst is the editor of the newspaper and takes a viscious turn whenever she pleases, while Gyllenhall is this carefree spirit who's smart but stupid at the same time. Julia Stiles also stars and the even keel of those three, knowing she's smart but watching and figuring out what she really wants.
Throw in a minor love interest for Roberts, and there you go. Will she conform?
The cinematography was pretty good, lots of nice scenes of the college and of the town. The 1950s dress was captured very well. I felt the story lacked the punch it needed. Oh, there are some twists and turns, but they are not as gut wrenching as Dead Poet's Society, which I kept comparing this to. So, the screenplay just didn't deliver what could have been a more adversarial, charged relationship, with more such events.
All told, you should enjoy this good story, with good acting, and smiley ending. But it could have been much better with a more charged screenplay. Enjoy.
Olympus Has Fallen (2013)
High-octane thriller although pretty unbelievable
Make sure you put on your seat belt before watching Olympus Has Fallen because it's a high-octane thriller of a ride. Gerard Butler is the head of the President's (Aaron Eckart) secret service protection and a long-time friend. Butler and the President experience a singular pain after a Camp David visit, which causes Butler to resign.
Fast forward 18 months and the South Korean Prime Minister visits the White House to discuss the North Korean threat. Then suddenly, all hell breaks lose. Highly improbable action takes place all around the White House, which is suddenly under siege from everywhere. Before you know it, Olympus has fallen and the bad guys are in charge.
The rest of the movie is your standard bad guy vs good guy thriller - a pretty cool cat and mouse game, leading to a showdown and a Hollywood ending.
The acting is good, but stereotyped. The President is tough. Butler is ruthless. The generals are all hardened vets who just want to act without thinking. Morgan Freeman plays the Speaker who get thrust into the President's chair, and he does his standard terrific job. The bad guy is the same from James Bond fame, and he's tough and ruthless too. There's a whiny Secretary of State, and well, good vs bad. No one strayed far from the standard.
The story was not plausible. Too many holes in plots that you could drive a Sanitation truck thru. So many people walking around with major weapons so close to the White House? No barriers around the White House? Lack of sense by jet fighter pilots? It just goes on and on. But put all that aside and enjoy the escapism. The White House was pretty well modeled. The bunker looks realistic. The plot, when revealed, was pretty ingenious. And the fighting was well choreographed. At times, Butler showed a little bit of John Wick because he'd been pushed well beyond his tolerance for punks.
All told, a lot of violence, and blood. Not a complex story, but good acting with what the script afforded them. A surprisingly decent film with Gerard Butler kicking butt and taking names. Enjoy.
Wow, blown away by Fallout
The IMF is back to save the world again, with most of the crew reprising their roles. A terrific new addition was Henry Cavill (of Superman fame) as CIA agent Walker, a powerhouse assassin who fills that role mightily.
Plutonium has been stolen and IMF must get it back before the bad guys reek havoc on the world. That's pretty much the general plot.
An old villain returns to add gas to Ethan Hunt's fire. There is a mysterious broker who can get the plutonium. There's another mysterious buyer who confronts the IMF force in an outstanding fight scene. There are fantastic motorcycle/car/truck chase scenes in Paris. There is an outstanding chase scene in London. And of course, the combatants take to the air in an unbelievably taut helicopter chase scene through mountain passes.
But Fallout wins because of the story. Ethan is still haunted by nightmares of his ex-wife Brigid Moynahan. He's still trying to figure out Rebecca Ferguson's role - is she trying to kill him? save him? What role is the CIA holding here? Who are the good guys, really? And can his arch-nemesis be stopped, or will he have the ultimate revenge against everything and everyone Ethan cares about?
The last 30 minutes ratchet up the tension like I can't remember in an IMF film, similar to the fantastic villain Owen Davian, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (rip) in IMF 3 around the mysterious Rabbit's Foot. Wow, I kept cheering on Ethan to try to save the world again. Whoa, the ending leaves you breathless.
Fantastic acting across the board. Terrific direction to keep things hidden but moving. Great choreography and super fight/chase scenes, and a tight story that leaves you gasping at the end. What else could you want from an IMF movie in a series that still stars Cruise after over 20 years.
The only questions remaining are - can they ever top this? and how much longer can Tom Cruise and his team keep going. At their ages, it can't be easy to get in shape for movies like this.
The Florida Project (2017)
Pretty terrible. Don't trust the reviews
The Florida Project is a hard movie to watch. Not because of the toughness, but because the movie just is terrible.
The characters are all struggling to survive in low-income lives. OK. I see that. I see how rich people fly into Disney World on helicopters while you live in this crappy 2-bit hotel. While the acting is ok, the story lacks any depth. The day in, day out drag of life just drags this film into oblivion. Nothing happens in this story. Absolutely nothing.
The kids are hard to watch as they just get taught to behave like little brats, destroy, steal, spit, curse. But this just goes on and on and on day after day, till you just say, is anything going to happen in this story? Nope, nothing happens.
I'm amazed this poor story won any awards. I found it extremely boring, fast-forwarding thru much of it because nothing happens.
Suggest the producers do better review of screenplays before producing messes like Florida Project. Even the well-respected Willem Dafoe could do nothing to save this terrible movie.
Mildly entertaining Tower of Destruction-type movie
Skyscraper is mildly entertaining, mostly because of the solid performance of the Rock. He plays an ex-soldier, ex FBI guy who suffered a terrible accident and changed careers to work on business security. He gets the break of a lifetime when an old contact gets him this dream contract to review the security on The Pearl, the world's tallest building ever, being built in Hong Kong.
The cinematography was pretty cool, while the unique design of the tower was incredible. The CGI was excellent throughout, and helped make every scene seem lifelike as possible.
The problem with Skyscraper is the plot. It's very thing. There's a rich guy, there are bad guys trying to take down the rich guy. There is some backstabbing going on that was revealed without giving you a second to think about it. There was a bad guy young woman who was taken right out of John Wick 2's same character, just this time of Asian descent. Guns, helicopters, grenades, and, oh yeah, fire, and lots of it. Stupid police made the movie even worse. They seemed totally inept in their jobs, chasing after the Rock for some stupid reason.
The building, as it turns out, was not enough to save this movie. Of course there are family involved, led by Neve Campbell as the Rock's wife, who did a solid job of acting too. Her two kids were average, but she was pretty good, especially in this one fight scene in a car.
So, solid acting, good CGI, but the story just wasn't good. There were too many holes in the plot. Why this, why that. that's so stupid. It made me think of the commercials with the dumb kids hiding from the Jason killer and they forgo the running car to go hide behind the deadly barn tools. You will find yourself screaming - why did you just do that? Are you stupid?
Also, you should pay attention to the Rock's acting. He shows some really good skills in portraying limited mobility, and it really worked because he focused on that throughout. If you watch the Special Features, you will learn more and how he got high praise from his real-world trainer.
I liked Skyscraper. It was entertaining, but if the plot could have just been better, like Die Hard, it would have been a much better film. Love the Rock. He lifted this up from the straight to video bin and delivered a decent flick. Enjoy.
Not much of a plot. Paper-thin characters. Heavy CGI.
Rampage is a B- grade movie because there really isn't much of a plot. It starts out pretty well with a mysterious incident in space, but once the action starts on earth, the storyline becomes paper thin.
Of course there are bad guys with guns trying to capture genetically modified creatures. Of course there is a creepy executive team that is trying to make gazillions of money. Oh, will they survive? Sigh, everyone knows the plot, we've seen it hundreds of time.
The Rock did as well as he could, trying to hold up the movie on his broad shoulders, but he really had nothing to hold up. Naomie Harris plays his sidekick heroine, but her character was also thin and lifeless. The star real person was Jeffrey Dean Morgan as this pistol-toting mystery man from some mysterious govt agency that allows him to intervene everywhere. He had fun with this character, going over the top with a Texan drawl and cliche after cliche.
The bulk of the movie relied heavily on CGI work, which was top notch. The director tried to create a bond between the Rock, who bonded with this gorilla George when George was little. They could even sign to each other and make jokes, but, IDK, it just doesn't seem to really work enough.
There is a ton of fighting animals and planes, rockets, guns, etc. You've seen this all before too. In the end, the lack of character depth and plot cannot be overcome by solid acting from the Rock and JD Morgan. A Hollywood ending wraps it all up in a nice tidy bow, but left me hoping that they don't dare try to create a sequel to this rather flat, unsatisfying movie.
Rampage is not terrible, but it's not very good either. It's a slightly below average film, and you certainly could do worse than watching Rampage.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Knock out hit
Pacific Rim is a surprisingly good monster movie with real plot lines that drive the movie to success. PR is way better than any Godzilla flic because it weaves an actual story involving people, not just cardboard characters that bring nothing to the story.
Some time in the future, Kaiju (Japanese for Beasts) start to emerge from a breach in the tectonic plates under the Pacific ocean. Humans end up creating Jaegers (German for Hunter), huge robot fighting machines, to stop the Kaiju. These robots are massive - tall as skyscrapers, and weigh thousands of tons.
The story pulls you in because the world is under siege and countries actually cooperate with each other for self survival. Your interest starts at the country level, while director Del Toro quickly brings it down to a level you can better identify with - the one-on-one type. You learn about a Jaeger pilot, Raleigh (played by unknown Charlie Hunnam), and his brother. These Jaegers require two pilots to operate them, left brain/right brain, because the neural stress is too much for one person. These brother pilots go out on a hunt and things go bad. There's a terrific fight scene in Alaska with a beach scene that introduces you to the sacrifices these people make to save the world. The story then pulls you in and never lets go.
Raleigh gives up piloting and takes up construction to help build a wall that no one believes can stop these monsters, but he withdraws from the world. Until we then meet Commander Stacker, played masterfully by Idris Elba - he was terrific. The story then goes all over the world, from New York to California, to England, to Hong Kong. Other interesting characters come into play, led by Mako (Rinko Kikuchi - actually a pretty well-established actress). Two crazy scientists, a con/Kaiju parts dealer (Ron Perlman is excellent), and internal adversaries join the excellent cast.
Casting was terrific. Raleigh and Mako have great chemistry on screen. Cmdr Stacker exudes leadership. Crazy scientists excude wild abandon in search of science. Bad guys are heartless. In the end, internal adversaries bond together, and it was all terrifically believable due to the casting. The acting was also top notch. All actors gave strong performances in their roles.
The cinematography was uneven, mostly due to lighting. As Jaegers and Kaiju did battle in various scenes, just like the Transformer movies, it was often hard to tell who was doing what to whom because of the darkness. Smashing battles in the city were easier, and monsters spewing colored venom helped, but that's my major issue with the movie. Better lighting definition would have drawn me in more to the fight scenes, which were numerous.
By far the best part of the movie, after the excellent storyline, was the CGI. The robot hunters were very realistic. The computer control rooms were very realistic, as were the graphics used by the Jaeger pilots in their control room. You never felt the monstors or robots were out of scale to themselves or their surroundings, which is often an issue with cheaper CGI films, like the old Godzilla vs Mothra type movies. The monsters were really well done too. You could tell that the fight scenes took a lot time and care to make them very realistic.
Pacific Rim succeeds on every level, while throwing in a cliche here and there, and your expected Hollywood ending. You'll feel happy, sad, happy/sad, and relate to these poor people fighting for their lives against all odds. Story, acting, casting, directing, CGI, oh, and the music too, which strongly supported the story. All were great.
PR is a must-see film for monster-movie enthusiasts and general film lovers alike. Enjoy.
The Equalizer 2 (2018)
Denzel has no equal. This film delivers
The Equalizer 2 continues the story line of Robert McCall (Denzel) who has a mysterious military background and fights for the common person.
This film succeeds on most every level. The director Fuqua weaves together various stories of McCall helping people whom he contacts in his day-to-day life as a Lyft driver. There's the terrific opening scene on a Turkish railways car, an old man seeking solace, a young woman who has been abused by colleagues, his young neighbor Miles who is fighting to escape ganghood. All these stories are beautifully intertwined throughout the movie, which centers around an attack on his only true friends from the first Equalizer, Susan (Melissa Leo) and Brian (Bill Pullman).
The cinematography excels, especially for those who know Boston. Beautiful pictures of neighborhoods and daily life adorn the screen, and underscore the daily grind that people go thru to survive - the skullers on the Charles river, the joggers on the Common, the Lyft drivers, waiters, students, and care givers. Fuqua does a superb job of making you feel that this film is about the common person, and someone with the right skills and character who can stand up for those who are abused by evildoers. In some ways, this film engenders the spirit of the Rocky films, which make you believe that anything is possible.
The acting is top notch, especially Denzel. The fight scenes illustrate his boxing and hand-to-hand combat skills where he again uses whatever weapons he can to defeat his opponents. In the Special Features, director Fuqua says that all weapons shown have really been used in fights, per the special contributors to the choreography and stunts. We again get the 500 Frames-per-Second slow down when McCall assesses the danger threat rising against him, and then speed back to regular speed as he implements his plan, all while timing his actions for his own compulsive tracking. He's a neat man, from his tea ceremony, to his lining up apples, to the plan he creates on the spot to destroy his adversaries.
One big negative to this movie is the main bad guys. We learned around halfway thru who the bad guys were, and it was a small surprise, but not an oh-sh-t-i don't-believe-it surprise, like No Luke, I am your father. The scene where he confronts his adversary at home made me think of the kitchen scene in Kill Bill 2 with Uma squaring off against I think it was Vivica Fox.
The other big negative was the entire final scene that took place under the onslaught of hurricane Frances arriving. Sure, I understand that Fuqua was underscoring the fury of Denzel by the fury of nature, as shown by the ocean. But the CGI storm was sup-par. The entire final seek-and-kill scene was very predictable and had me shaking my head asking why would the bad guys handle it this way, knowing who they were dealing with.
Otherwise, Equalizer 2 delivers a super thriller, especially for those who love Denzel and the first film. I watched the original TV Equalizer series with the British gentleman McCall, and I must say that having a more common-day man portrayed by Denzel was a stroke of genius that should appeal to a large number of people.
Equalizer 2 is a terrific, must-see film. Enjoy!
The Mummy (2017)
Uneven bordering on boring
The Mummy is a pretty uneven movie based on the ages-old topic of life after death. This flick is uneven on multiple levels. There are some good twists in the movie, particularly around Russell Crowe's character of a mysterious Doctor. The ending offers a decent twist too. But in between, this woman who is supposedly an artifacts collector is somewhat annoying. Sofia Boutella as the mummified princess is sometimes hot, sometimes cold.
The story has peaks and ebbs too. There's a fantastic scene in an airplane, but then other stupid chase scenes that look like they came right out of Night of the Zombies. Pretty ho-hum.
The makeup and CGI effects were outstanding, especially around Boutella's face and body, and the flashbacks to when she was princess in waiting.
But overall, I kept fast forwarding past boring parts and looked forward to some conclusion, which you don't quite get with the ending.
Tom Cruise's character was particularly annoying. He had to play a soldier who was a thief who got in over his head. But he tried to mix in a humorous side that just fell flat IMHO. This guy should have been scared sh-tless out of his mind, but well, that was not delivered well by Cruise.
Overall, an uneven, sometimes satisfying movie that mostly goes thru the motions.
Tomb Raider (2018)
Boring sums up Tomb Raider, starting Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in this 2018 reboot of the much better series with Angelina Jolie.
TR is a bunch of chase scenes with no thrills. There are attempts to build drama that fall flat. Croft needs money yet refuses to take her family's inheritance. Then she stoops to hocking a piece of family jewels to get money. Umh, did I miss something?
TR imitates the Indiana Jones movies, without the suspense. The acting was ok, but the fighting was so so. There were several "surprises" that really were veil thin. The ending is setting this up for an eventual sequel, which will probably draw young adults in to see Vikander. But the story was unappealing and boring. I suggest you find other, more useful ways to spend 2 hours. TR disappoints.
The Invasion (2007)
The Invasion is a remake of sorts of the famous Invasion of the Body Snatchers. A space shuttle crashes to earth and with it, some sort of creepy cellular life form. People start acting strangely - they are not themselves.
Kidman stars as a psychologist with a connection to the CDC in the form of an ex-husband. Daniel Craig co-stars as a Doctor/boy friend who basically supports Kidmans efforts to save her family.
The movies is a long chase film, across trains, cars, foot races. Kidman races to save her son who is in the clutches of her ex-husband whose plans are evil. More and more people become absorbed by the evil invaders. You start to wonder whom you can trust. If you show emotion, you get arrested and then bad things happen to you.
That's pretty much it. Can Kidman stay awake and save the world? Can her son help her? What will happen with her boy friend? How can we get rid of her annoying husband - yep, he was annoying.
Kidman's performance was electric, switching emotions to hide herself among a crowd of possessed. Then back to herself to save her son. She was terrific. Otherwise, this was a worthy remake with enough thrills to keep you going. Enjoy.
Lethal Weapon (1987)
Terrific Bang of a Movie
Mel Gibson delivers in this first of a series revolving around detective Martin Riggs, ex-Special Forces soldier, and his relationship with Danny Glover, aging police detective Roger Murtaugh with a family to protect.
You discover that Riggs recently lost his wife, which has given him no fear of dying. He drinks too much, plays russian roulette, and takes no crap from anyone. But he's got a funny side too that Gibson delivers on perfectly. Gibson delivers the perfect mix of crazy and sane that is balanced out wonderfully by Glover. They have excellent chemistry and end up working well together to fight the bad guys.
Gary Busey delivers as one of the key bad guys. Several scenes show you that this guy is just as crazy as Riggs. They have a psycho Commander leading his soldiers, and he commands Busey to do his bidding.
The back and forth lead to a highly anticipated final battle, mano a mano, between the crazy duo. Who will win out? Well, since they went on to make multiple Leathal Weapons, you are pretty assured that Hollywood will prevail and leave you cheering. The ending is similar to several Mission Impossible ones.
All told, great acting by the stars. Decent storyline of good vs evil. Gibson in his youth. A satisfying ending. A solid start to a terrific series. Enjoy Lethal Weapon.
Conspiracy Theory (1997)
Bourne-like Film that takes a while to warm up
Conspiracy Theory is a 1997 thriller that centers around Jerry (Mel Gibson), a spaced-out taxi driver, and his relationship with Alice (Julia Roberts), a Justice Dept lawyer. Jerry drives tons of passengers around (pre-Uber) in his cab spouting all sorts of conspiracy theories to them about anything you can imagine. He's whacky - or is he.
As the film proceeds, you learn he has been building a relationship with Alice, but you are not quite sure why. Gibson plays his role keenly, not revealing too much, other than that his character likes confined spaces - the cab, and his apartment, which is tiny and well fortified.
Events happen that bring in the antagonist, Dr Jonas, played beautifully by Patrick Stewart, who looked amazingly old even 20 years ago - or maybe it was makeup. His character seemed to be lifted right out of the film Marathon Man, with Sir Lawrence Olivier, with one very memorable scene in particular.
A cat-and-mouse game leads you on a chase, skullduggery, deception, even life and death. The film reveals pretty early on who the bad guys are - that could have been better handled. Otherwise, this was a pretty decent thriller, with Mel Gibson still young enough to pull this off. Julia Roberts was stunning in her role, which reminds me of how terrific she is as an actor. This role allowed her to be much more than a pretty woman with a cute smile. She had to kick some butt, and she does.
The film direction is, by necessity, confusing and often dark. Many of the scenes happen at night or in dark places. It was a bit jarring at times, but that supports the struggles that Jerry is going thru as he tries to figure out his life, and as Alice tries to understand the truth.
The ending was pretty predictable, and as Hollywood goes, leaves you with a good feeling. It's a worthwhile film that delivers some terrific acting with a decent plot that is Jason Bourne-like in some ways. Enjoy.