Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Hero - Review

The Hero

Actor Sam Elliott, known for his supporting character roles in such films as “Mask”, “Tombstone”, “Road House”, “The Big Lebowski” and “We Were Soldiers” takes the rare turn as the lead actor in the contemporary story called “The Hero”.

The plot is essentially about a 71 year actor named Lee Hayden (Sam Elliott) who back in the 1970’s was a Western icon with a recognizable golden voice. But he realizes his best performances are now decades behind him, so he spends most of his days doing voice over for TV product commercials and at night smoking way too much weed with his former co-star-turned-now drug dealer, Jeremy.

Early on Lee gets a surprise medical diagnosis that brings his priorities into much sharper focus. He also soon strikes up a totally unexpectant, exciting, but also sometimes contentious relationship with a stand-up comic named Charlotte who is very much younger that he is.

As Lee deals with his medical news he attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter, Lucy, all the while searching for that one last final role to cement his legacy and take stock of his past mistakes back when his career always came first.

REVIEW: The Hero, while a small budge film, nonetheless exudes large authentic emotions that were spot on conversationally speaking, that felt like l was viewing Lee’s story in that very dramatic moment(s). You watch Lee deal with his life altering concerns of career and his health with the projection of genuine warmth, angst, humor, charm and fear. 

Elliott’s costars Nick Offerman (best friend – drug dealer) and Laura Prepon (Charlotte – girlfriend) do an equally great job in providing for the overall arc of the film two genuinely decent "real people" who are naturally willing to help their friend deal with his real problems. But it is Sam Elliott’s fearlessly effective performance that is the most compelling component to this story with his rich voice and warm glances that keep you immersed to his every uttered word. Sometimes with the use of dry laconic wit and other times with his expression of moving and heartfelt emotions.

The Hero, is a very much understated and intimate piece that will never give you a “wow” moment along the way. But while it can be a bit melancholy at times, the story of Lee’s life is still a very pleasurable journey to watch.


3.25 Stars  

Maudie - Review

Maudie

MAUDIE, is based on a true story taking place during the 1930’s in Nova Scotia focusing on the unlikely romance of an unrefined – illiterate reclusive named Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke) and the slightly disabled Maud Dowley (Sally Hawkins) who by coincidence became a prominent painter of pictures.

Early on we see Maud (as she is called - correct spelling) is very upset at the prospect of living with her stern Aunt after her older brother sells the family home upon the passing of their mother.  Determined to have an independent life of her own she looks to find work in the local town when she has a chance encounter with a local fish peddler named Lewis who is “looking to hire a woman” to keep his 500 square foot home clean and cook his meals as he works his three odd jobs. Maud takes the job but realizes early on Lewis is a tyrannical man, but nevertheless forwards on to make the best of her decision to live in his dank small home. The result was over time Lewis and Maud begin falling in love with one another.

In her attempt to spruce of the home Maud picks up her childhood hobby of painting that her mother encourage to do. One day when a wealthy woman named Sandra who worked in New York, but lived in Nova Scotia comes by to hire Lewis to provide fish to her home on a regular basis, she see’s some of Maud’s art work through the door painted on the walls of Lewis’s home. Realizing the potential in her work, Sandra commissions Maud to do more art work that eventually leads to Maud achieving surprising national fame as a folk painter

REVIEW: While I am almost certain she will not be considered, for me actress Sally Hawkins gives a surprisingly Oscar nominating worthy performance as Maud.  She offers a vivid inspirational performance of a woman who was determined to have her own life with an abundance of personal optimism to keep her afloat. Hawkins keeps the story of this charming and talented woman singularly focused on her unassuming and gentle soul without ever soliciting narratively any notion of sympathy for her.

For the film "Maudie", offers up again the enduringly old adage that home is where the heart is and for Maud her heart – her happiness – her home was living in that smal town, off that dirt road, in that small house, with her clucking chickens, barking dogs, overly demaning husband and her paintings.  

I found Maudie to be one of the more endearing and touching films I have seen in quite a while.


3.50 Stars 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rough Night - Review


Rough Night
Actresses Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Zoë Kravitz, Ilana Glazer and SNL star Kate McKinnon bring their ensemble acting and comedic talents to a film called “Rough Night”.  A story about very 5 very close former college millennial-ish girlfriends who reunite after 10 years for a wild bachelorette weekend in Miami. Their hard partying takes a hilariously dark turn when they accidentally kill a male stripper. Amid the craziness of trying to cover it up, they're ultimately brought closer together when it matters most.

Review: “Rough Night” is a reverse gender take on the 2009 male bachelor party – road trip hit film “The Hangover”. The creators of the female version go to great depths in their attempts to literally try in re-capturing the same magic of its predecessor by assembling similar casting personalities for the viewing audience’s “road trip gone badly” fodder. “The Hangover” however is the far superior effort largely because it was better written and better acted as a film overall as it artfully and adroitly moved between biting and contemporary humorous situations to the occasional lightly dramatic tension filled situations and then back to its comedy themes again.  “Rough Night” not only failed directorially to accomplish this balancing act, it failed in the worse imaginable ways.

Look I won’t bore you and get right to the bottom line. I have never felt so frustrated to having to endure such horribly writing, acting and directing of a film. NOT ONCE in the 1:45 minutes did I laugh or even smile at any of the scenes that bent way over backwards to try and make me laugh and smile. Each scene was stale, dumb and predictably stupid which was very hard for me to conceptualize given that this was framed about 5 accomplished college educated women who in the film all of a sudden could not reasonably navigate their way out of the basic plot of the film while remaining equally funny through the cascade of un-anticipated problems that would follow along their way. Instead I just watched a film filled with cliches that relied too often the lamest of brain dead solutions over and over again to the point of ad nauseam. Apparently some film executive thought when this film was greenlighted that simply watching bright women fall pray to panick attacks while making fools of themselves with one another in the process would be both funny and hilariously interesting. And I haven't even begin to mention how stupid the fiance's subplot role in this film was. His story situation (if you could imagine) was even more lame and lifeless.

I could go on in more detail, but I choose not to as I will end this now by going downstairs to my kitchen to take a couple shots of Wofford Bourbon and maybe even a Xanax to stand on my head for an hour in the hopes of “etch a sketching” this out of my archive of movie going experiences.

I was going to give this film a lower score than noted below and then I reminded myself how Scarlett Johannsson was (barely) the only one character that came across as viably entertaining and it didn’t hurt also she look radiantly gorgeous during my time in the theater.

1.00 Stars      

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The Mummy - Review


The Mummy
A list actors Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe team up in the 13th film version of “The Mummy”, with an added twist of a female actress playing the lead as the ancient mummified Egyptian named   “Princess Ahmanet” (Actress Sofia Boutella). Her version of "The Mummy" is historically and loosely based on an Egyptian goddess named Amunet.

In this adaptation Cruise plays a man named Nick Morton who is a soldier of fortune who plunders global ancient sites for their timeless artifacts and sells them to the highest bidder. When Nick and his partner come under attack in the Middle East, the ensuing battle accidentally unearths Ahmanet, a betrayed Egyptian princess who was entombed under the desert for thousands of years. With her powers constantly evolving, Morton must now stop the resurrected monster as she embarks on a furious rampage through the streets of London.
REVIEW: In the simplest possible terms, “The Mummy” is a writing and directorial amalgamated mess. Running 2 hours even, the films starts out in the first half to being a mix of “Tom Cruise and The Raiders of the Lost Ark”, then it becomes “Tom Cruise Tomb Raiders” and then it becomes “Deputy Sheriff Tom Rick Grim Cruise and The Walking Dead”. And there’s more. There is an abundance of ego stroking references to past Tom Cruise films – characters  such “Jack Reacher”, Ethan Hunts “Mission Impossible and finally channeling the self-involved but slightly romantic personality of Jerry McGuire from the film of the same title.

And then there is Russell Crow’s character as Dr. Henry Jekyll. Notice the last name? If there was ever an advance hint as to what his story line was about you couldn’t send up any bigger flairs and not be more obvious. What I don’t get is even why his character was necessary at all? I swear if you put Crowe under Sodium Pentothal, he would probably swear he thought he had signed on for a part into a one dimensional Guy Ritchie film; he was that much out of place here.

The Mummy lacked structure, lacked coherency and most of all lacked a cinematic soul for you to embrace as we go on this mercenary adventure. Ultimately you don’t care about any of the cast because they don’t give us a reason to. You end up more as an observer to action and chaotic events than a meaningful heartfelt compelling story. To my larger point, if someone at Universal Studios would have asked me under Sodium Pentothal what I thought of their movie in some advanced screening, I would probably have said to the executives there………”So, this is the 2 hours that was cut out and left on the editing floor?” Yep, that messy.

Look, the movie did have a good look about it, but that’s not enough of a reason for you to venture into seeing it this opening weekend as a paying customer. Unless? Well, unless you just so happen to find yourself before a Court Room Judge who has just rendered down a sentence to you doing a 100 hours of community service for some minor public offense. I almost guarantee you if you tell the Judge you saw “The Mummy” he will almost certainly knock of 25 hours just for torturing yourself. 50 hours if you saw it in 3-D.

1.25 Stars

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Wonder Woman - Review


Wonder Woman
Starting in 1975 and for four years on ABC TV actress Linda Carter became the first popular face of the character “Wonder Woman”. In comparative terms by today’s standards Carter’s earlier presentation of the female super human crime fighter while smart, beautiful and sexy, had a tad vulnerability especially while playing her disguised incognito persona of Army Officer Lt. Diana Prince against her mortal superior in the way of Captain Steve Trevor of the Office of Strategic Services United States Army Air Service Corps (actor Lyle Waggoner).

In retrospect Carter’s “Wonder Woman” offered up some rather modest displays of super hero ability such as being able to leap high, use her lasso for great effect, to ward off bullets with her arm bands and to occasionally toss objects farther than her male counterpart. But in the end carter’s version was always sanitized to what I could only surmise was an attempt to appeal to a broader wholesome family TV viewing audience. Well it’s 2017 and man oh man has Wonder Woman changed, this time out with actress Gal Gadot in the leading role as Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman.
We find the film version beginning with the young woman’s earlier life as a 5000 year old Amazon immortal princess named Diana, daughter of Hippolyta and Zeus and the half-sister of  a God named Ares. From the onset as an Amazonian woman she is continuously and ruthlessly trained to be an unconquerable warrior on her sheltered island paradise. 

On a chance encounter one day young Diana meets an American pilot named Steve Trevor, a Captain from the United States Army Air Service. Steve tells Diana about a world she is totally unfamiliar with, particularly a world filed with massive conflict, filled with political and human strife raging worldwide. Translation, its World Ward 2.
Upon listening to Steve’s stories, Diana becomes convinced that she can stop the global threat, so she leave the confines of her safe home for the first time to fight alongside strange men in a war. Ultimately it is the war conflict that helps her discovers the full measures of her powers and her true destiny as an Immortal Amazonian.  

REVIEW: With an opening sequence that narrates the early origins of Diana Prince and the Amazonian Island women’s commitment to their way of life, “Wonder Woman” gets off to an exhilarating start by offering a concise back story of their origins from the God Zeus. It also showcases their relentless “muscular” fighting and training techniques, their bravery to fight ferociously and mercilessly in battle and to be collectively connected through emotional strength as a superior race of women without ever being simplistically or mythically only female driven. They are within their own right intense, strong, intelligent, passionate and gifted people, who just so happen to be women too. 
Actress Gail Gadot is perfectly cast as “Wonder Woman” as she delivers a powerfully fresh new face to add to the whole superhero franchise storyline. Gadot doesn’t just fly about in some sexy skimpy outfit with a glowing lasso, she creates a far more substantive character by embracing her natural given intelligence and confidence without ever being “the girl” or “the daughter” in the movie. Her Diana Prince exudes from start to the film’s finish an ability to convey an effective moral earnestness to command and to lead with charisma and personal fortitude. She receives respect for who she is without having to repeatedly ask for it.  Her words, her actions and her abilities speak for themselves which serve as the conduits to the respect she receives.

Now, there are some minor flaws to the film. One in particularly early in the film involved the sleeping arrangements on a boat that I am sure on paper was meant be funny with some typical male – female exchanges encased in some nervous unrequited sexual tension between Diana and Steve. For me their interaction here was awkward in its execution and really never offered up anything that was either funny or interesting between these two leads. I wish the Director had taken note to delving more deeply into the films major subplot about the moral decay of humans in the world. Examining more intimately their perspectives into their different lives and their different views of how two worlds coexisted one in a constant state of peace (Diana’s) and the other in a perpetual state war (Steve’s). To me this was a wasted moment for the films overall arc.

The other minor problem I had was the overall transitioning of Diana’s story as she leaves the island to come to the modern world of London in the 1910s. There were an array of new characters introduced here as we learn what the new mission will be for Diana that would hopefully save the world (as Diana saw it). Most of the dialogue here and some of the new characters introduced here seemed very one dimensional, lacking any real depth of why they or any part of their story was important to the mission going forward. You could make the case that they were forgettable and irrelevant to the films overall story.

Still, I found this adaptation of “Wonder Woman” to be more than empowering for women for women sake as a central heroic role model. For me it provided a unique new character that is both erudite and beautiful, erudite and witty and erudite and strong and at no time were these virtues ever in conflict with one another. Nor did the film to its credit take up any useless time offering up cliché scenes where a women lead would normally spent time verbally justifying her existence and place in the world before being fully accepted. This “Wonder Woman” moves very freely and confidently on the screen to be who she is without any equivocation or explanation. This is especially unique given the historically period of World War 1 when the film takes place where women generally back then were not so readily recognized first for their intellectual assets before their obvious beauty.

'Wonder Woman” has a running time of 2:21 that has a solid narrative story filled with genuine fireworks especially in the last 50 minutes. Gadot takes her lasso acting talent to deliver a cut above superhero filled with just the right powerful emotions, spectacular actions scenes, well timed – well placed comedic humor and above all a display of goodness and heart that felt real. These qualities will only get better as the story moves forward with many more sequels to come offering much, much more in the way of genuine excitement and thrills to come.


3.50 Stars


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"25 Possible Best Picture Nominees 2017" - Updated



"25 Possible Best Picture Nominees 2017" 
(Updated)

 “Marshall” – Actor Chadwick Bozeman who played Jackie Robinson and James Brown takes on another iconic African American in Thurgood Marshall and his earlier life before becoming the first African American on the Supreme Court.  As the nation teeters on the brink of WWII, a nearly bankrupt NAACP sends Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick A. Bozeman) to conservative Connecticut to defend a black chauffeur against his wealthy socialite employer in a sexual assault and attempted murder trial that quickly became tabloid fodder. In need of a high profile victory but muzzled by a segregationist court, Marshall is partnered with Samuel Friedman (Josh Gad), a young Jewish lawyer who has never tried a case.

“The Greatest Showman” - An upcoming American biographical musical drama film directed by Michael Gracey and written by Michael Arndt, Jenny Bicks, and Bill Condon. The film stars Hugh Jackman and Michelle Williams with Jackman in the lead in the story of American showman P.T. Barnum, the founder of the circus which became the famous traveling Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

“Dunkirk” - Director Christopher Nolan of the Batman trilogies, tell the true story of May 1940, when Germany advanced into France, trapping Allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops were slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated. Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh and Thomas Ryland star in this epic.  

“Phantom Thread” (or Title Could Change) – Director Paul Anderson who gave us “Boogie Night and “There Will Be Blood” offers up an American drama film set in London's fashion world in the 1950s. The film stars 3 time Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis and Lesley Manvi. The music will be composed by longtime Anderson collaborator and Radiohead member Jonny Greenwood.

“Suburbicon” – George Clooney gets behind the camera as Director of a story written by Joel and Ethan Coen of Fargo fame. The film stars Matt Damon, Julianne Moore, Josh Brolin and Oscar Isaac and it’s a dark comedic turn when there is a deadly home invasion in the quiet town of Suburbicon, a seemingly perfect family turns to blackmail, revenge and betrayal. 

“Downsizing” - Director Alexander Payne of Oscar nominated films “The Descendants” and “Nebraska” tells the story of a man and his wife join a community of miniaturized people after undergoing a process to shrink themselves. The film stars film stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Alec Baldwin, Neil Patrick Harris, and Jason Sudeikis. Buzz has this film listed as an early front runner.

“Blade Runner 2049” - Directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) and starring Harrison Ford, Jared Leto and Ryan Gosling “BR2049” tells the story of LAPD Officer K – a Blade Runner  (Ryan Gosling), who discovers a dark secret that might bring an end to humanity. K's discovery leads him to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former blade runner who disappeared thirty years ago.

“Battle of the Sexes” – Director Danny Boyle  (Trainspotting and 28 Days Later) tells the story of The 1973 tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell) which became the most watched televised sports event of all time. Trapped in the media glare, King and Riggs were on opposites sides of a binary argument, but off-court each was fighting more personal and complex battles. With her husband urging her to fight for equal pay, the private King was also struggling to come to terms with her own sexuality, while Riggs gambled his legacy and reputation in a bid to relive the glories of his past.

‘'The Post” (or it could change) - Director Steven Spielberg offers up a true story about the Washington Post and Pentagon Paper and the newspapers publication of highly classified Defense Department documents about the Vietnam War known as the Pentagon Papers and the ensuing legal battle with the federal government over the newspaper’s right to publish them. The film is expected to star Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, then the Post‘s executive editor, and Meryl Streep as publisher Katharine Graham.

“Darkest Hour” - An upcoming British war drama film directed by Joe Wright. The film stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill who faces a crucial moment against Adolf Hitler's army in the beginning of the Second World War.

“The Shape of Water” – Directed by Guillermo del Toro the film tells the story of in 1963, in a hidden, high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa a mute who is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda discover a secret classified experiment where an amphibious man is being held captive. Sally Hawkins is Elisa, Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer who is Zelda.

“Mudbound” - Directed by Dee Rees, with a script written by Virgil Williams based on the novel Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Stars Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige about a family who relocates to rural Mississippi when they find themselves trying to cope with numerous issues, including racism and a relative's return from World War II.

“Detroit” – Oscar Winning Director Kathryn Bigelow (Zero Dark Thirty) tells the true story of an incident during Detroit's 1967 12th Street Riot. Starring John Boyega (Star Wars), Will Poulter, Algee Smith, John Krasinski and Anthony Mackie, the plot revolves around when police raid The Algiers Motel in Detroit in 1967 during one of the largest citizen uprisings in United States history.

“The Current War” - The film is about the competition between electricity titans Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to create a sustainable system and market it to the US public. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch (The imitation Game), Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max F.R.), and Tom Holland.

“Molly's Game” – Proliferate Screen Writer Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) starring a great cast including Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Chris O'Dowd, Bill Camp, Graham Greene and Jeremy Strong. It’s the true story of Molly Bloom, a young skier and former Olympic hopeful who becomes a successful entrepreneur and a target of an FBI investigation when she establishes a high-stakes, international poker game.

“The Glass Castle” - is an upcoming American drama film starring Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, Woody Harrelson and Sarah Snook about a young girl who comes of age when her dysfunctional nonconformist nomadic alcoholic siblings and family move to New York to be near here.

"The Snowman" - Detective Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) investigates the disappearance of a woman whose pink scarf is found wrapped around an ominous-looking snowman. Also starring Toby Jones, J.K. Simmons (Whiplash), Jakob Oftebro and Chloë Sevigny (HBO’s Big Love).

“Mother” - An upcoming American psychological horror thriller film, written and directed by Darren Aronofsky starring  Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Michelle Pfeiffer, Domhnall Gleeson, Ed Harris and Kristen Wiig with the plot being about a couple's relationship being tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.

“Thank You for Your Service" - Three American soldiers return from Iraq and struggle to reintegrate with their families and adjust to civilian life while also struggling to forget their memories of war. Miles Teller (Whiplash) as Adam Schumann stars along with Amy Schumer and Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider).

“The Death of Stalin" - An upcoming film directed by Armando Iannucci and chronicles the events that transpired after the death of Joseph Stalin in 1953.  Adrian McLoughlin as Joseph Stalin, Jeffrey Tambor as Georgy Malenkov and HBO’s Boardwalk Empire Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev.

"Murder on the Orient Express" - A lavish trip through Europe quickly unfolds into a race against time to solve a murder aboard a train. Everyone's a suspect as Detective Hercule Poirot sifts through 13 strangers to find the killer before another person ends up dead. Directed and starring Kenneth Branagh, along with Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp and Michelle Pfeiffer. 

“The Book of Henry” - upcoming American drama film starring Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Jacob Tremblay (Room) and Sarah Silverman.  In a small suburban town, a precocious 11-year-old boy, Henry Carpenter and his younger brother, Peter (Jacob Tremblay), are being raised by their single mother, Susan (Naomi Watts), a waitress. Henry has a crush on their neighbor Christina (Maddie Ziegler), stepdaughter of the Police Commissioner (Dean Norris). To protect Christina from harm at the hands of her stepfather, Henry comes up with a plan to rescue her that he writes down in a book.

 “Wonderstruck” - Set in 1927 and 1977, Rose (Millicent Simmonds) escapes her home in New Jersey to catch a glimpse of her idol Lillian Mayhew (Julianne Moore) while Ben (Oakes Fegley), who lives with his family in Minnesota, runs to New York after his mother dies and he finds a mysterious note.

“The Personal History of Rachel Dupree” – 2017 Oscar Winners Viola Davis and Mahershala Ali are husband and wife set during the early 1900s in South Dakota, Rachel (Davis) and Isaac Dupree (Ali), an African American couple, raise their family on an isolated ranch in the Badlands.

“Mercy” - Lucy, the daughter of a man who is on death row, falls in love with Mercy, a woman on the opposing side of her family’s political cause. As a result, Lucy’s value for truth is tested as her world begins to unravel. Kate Mara & Ellen Page.












Friday, May 19, 2017

Alien: Covenant - Review

Alien: Covenant

Sir Ridley Scott, Director of “Alien”, “Blade Runner”, “Black Rain”, “Thelma & Louise”, “Gladiator”, “Black Hawk Down”, ‘Hannibal”, “Match Stick Men”, “Robin Hood”,  “American Gangster”, “Body of Lies”, and “The Martian”  brings to the screen his latest in “Alien Covenant”  the sequel to his 2012 “Prometheus”.

THE ALIEN FRANCHISE: Over a span of 38 years "The Alien Franchise" has become a bit of a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. If you try connecting these stories solely with the years they were released .i.e.  Alien (1979), Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), Alien: Resurrection (1997), Alien vs Predator (2004) and Prometheus (2012), you will surely discover they are no longer chronological linked, with some no longer even relevant at all. Such is the case with the films from 1992, 1997 and 2004 who are not really worth any of your consideration going forward if you are an "Alien" purist as I am.

As it stands now Director Ridley Scott has offered up a new energized interpretive refurbishing of "The Alien Franchise" with the development of a series of cinematic prequels to tell the story i.e. “Prometheus and Covenant”, as well as for any future “Alien” films he may portend to deliver that will eventually take us back to the very beginning of the original “Alien” in 1979. Got it?

BACKGROUND No.1: In the film year 1979 “Alien” starring Sigourney Weaver, we find her as Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley with a seven person crew on a mining spaceship called the Nostromo. On their way home to earth they receive a distress signal that results in them landing on an abandoned planetoid designated as LV-426. When the crew investigates they come upon a crashed derelict "horseshoe shaped" spaceship. Once inside crew member Kane becomes infected with a face hugging creature that kills him using him as a host to eventually evolve into a killing xenomorphic entity that eventual forces Ripley to both abandoning and destroying her ship. It’s the galactic year 2122. Got it?

BACKGROUND No.2: In the film year 1986 “Aliens” Ripley is discovered in her shuttle in hyper sleep for 57 years after destroying her ship the Nostromo. Awakened, she is told that the same Alien planetoid LV-426 that she landed on years ago is now inhabited with a large group of scientist working to "terra forming it" for sustainable life. The problem is they have not been heard from the workers there in a while. So a contingency of hardnosed Marines and Ripley as a special advisor are dispatched back to LV-426 to investigate why they lost communication with the people there. When they arrive Ripley discovers the scientists have been overran by the same “Aliens” species she previously battled on the Nostromo to be now embryonic host for “baby aliens”. Ripley narrowly escapes by nuking from orbit the entire LV-426 planet from the mother ship USS Sulaco.. It’s the galactic year 2179. Got it?

BACKGROUND No.3: In the film year 2012 “Prometheus” (A prequel to the 1979 "Alien") we find two archeologist as part of a science exploration crew landing on a distant moon now labeled LV-223 aboard the scientific vessel named Prometheus. Searching for “Engineers" who are believed to be the creators of human life on earth, the ship Prometheus is destroyed when it was discovered the Engineers wanted now to destroy life on earth with a “black goo” substance. Crew members Android David and Dr. Shaw survive the catastrophe by commandeering an alien “horseshoe shaped” spaceship to find the home planet of the Engineers to answer the questions …………. “Why they made us and then want to kill us?”. It’s the galactic year 2094, - 28 galactic space years BEFORE THE 1979 "ALIEN” story where Ellen Ripley begins. Got It?

“ALIEN COVENANT” PLOT: In "Alien Covenant" it’s the galactic year 2104, nearly 10 years after Dr. Elizabeth Shaw and android David blasted off from LV-223 to the engineers’ "paradise planet" in their commandeered alien "horseshoe shaped" spaceship.

On the ship Covenant we see a new crew on a deep space mission transporting sleeping 2,000 colonists in cryostasis to a paradise planet designated Origae-6 in order to start a new life. There is also a new synthetic android on board named Walter who is an identical look alike to the android David who was a survivor with Doctor Shaw of the previously doomed Prometheus expedition.

When they are almost to their destination the Covenant is alerted with a random transmission sounding like John Denver’s song “Country Roads” which alerts them to the presence of a nearer by planet that has better conditions for supporting life.

The Covenant crew takes the easy option by setting down on the untested and uncharted planetoid environment…………... “Wow!!! There is air here. There is wheat to eat. What could be bad about this place?”……………. Uhh, why are there no animals around?..........Gulp.

Shortly after arriving on this mysterious wonderful looking world things soon turn ferociously dark and dangerous when a hostile alien life-form becomes a terrifying entity for the crew to battle for their survival. Got it?

REVIEW: Smartly so, Director Scott draws his Covenant inspiration from his 1979 “Alien” and James Cameron’s 1986 “Aliens” while connecting in a satisfying way a link to his “Prometheus” and its conclusion.  That’s good.

Technically speaking, from both “Alien and Aliens” we see the return of the original elongated helmet head "alien” with bag pipes coming out of his back, acid for blood and slobbering drool to be the central menace that "Alien" Science Officer Ash once said was   …….. “The perfect organism, who’s structural perfection is matched only by its hostility and purity as a survivor..............completely unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality”.

You know, I have never figured out why the Alien's primordial instinct is to always kill everything that is human,........... Is he in some pain physically, need a root canal or an aspirin, especially with all of those endless rows of extending teeth of steel.........Maybe he is just "alien" lonely and has no real way of conveying his deeper more intimate emotional needs, so he lashes out................Ehh, I digress.

Structurally speaking, Covenant recaptures the infusion of the moody sense of ominous dread lurking about. In addition we see the balance of the film's uniqueness as both a science fiction story as well as a monstrous horror film. There is also the eerie evoking of isolation while trying to survive in space. And there are some crafty directorial moves for the feel of genuine raw tension that kept adding up to something bigger, faster, chaotic and more amped up to the very end.  That’s good too.

But the best and most interesting aspect about “Alien: Covenant” is Michael Fassbender, who clearly deserves Oscar nomination consideration for his David - Walter imagining. As stated he plays two virtually identical-looking synthetics as David from the Prometheus and as Walter on the Covenant with absolute brilliance. A performance somehow he manages to draw clear distinctions from on the surface as two identical characters who wear the same outward poker face personas and yet making enough of a subtle enough effort to be intimately different with different agendas and different alliances. It is astounding to watching him play off one another, especially when David teaches Walter how to play a flute for some odd reason (later explained in the film). That scene is so compelling and flawlessly drawn out we hardly stop to question were there indeed two actors actually on the screen; it just felt naturally that there were.  But the critical difference is watching Fassbender Michael Fassbender’s make David from Prometheus, into some Shakespearean mix of the erudite charming dashing hero of Lawrence of Arabia and a mean as hell Lucifer-esque Frankenstein-ish Monster. He will make you squirm.

"SO DAMN IT MAN THIS IS GETTING WAY TOO LONG, IS THE MOVIE ANY GOOD?" Well yeah and you notice it right a way from its visual look. From the set design, to its graphics design and to the special effects itself, Scott spared no expense in making this  story; it is a stellar looking film. And overall it is still just a fascinating concept that continues to work these many decades later that is gripping for those of us who like our science fiction with intellectual thought put into it...............AND YET, there were some obvious flaws as well

With the exception of Fassbender’s work and Danny McBride’s “Tennessee” as the pilot, the rest of the crew were kind of cookie cutter, man to woman, inter-changeable with nothing to make them really distinctive. They lacked the chemistry for some unifying camaraderie as was obvious from the “Alien and Alien” films. Oh I get it; a large crew on board, clearly they are the predictable assortment for a diversified crew, but in reality they are cannon fodder; - "the body count" if you will for the pending doom to come as we systematically watch them be horrifically dispatched by the “alien". 

Also, while the story is solidly connected from beginning to end it does go a little flat after David introduces the crew to his dark and damp home for the past ten years. While Fasssbender was great to watch, I got the feeling the rest of the actors were just hanging around the set waiting for their cue to see who was going to die next..........."Hey Ridley is it my turn to be gored or decapitated now?"

“Alien Covenant” is good. It is also crazy, kinetic, macbre, theological, loopy, creepy, poetic, operatic, Shakespearean, sinister and above all just plain fun to watch. Its a quality compliment - a quality companion to "Prometheus" and the "Alien Franchise". But I  suspect Scott will keep getting this story better probably in the two more films he promised to come. BUT WHAT I ADMIRED THE MOST was the taking of Alien Covenant in the direction of giving the fans probably what they wanted, ………an interstellar frightening gory tale that stays in its gory horror lane by delivering nonstop fear and terror whether it is completely plausible or not with some twists and turns you may anticipate and others you may not.

WARNING: I noticed with the ending screen credits that hockey masked wearing, machete toting and murderous sociopath killer Jason Voorhees of “Friday the 13th” fame wrote the screenplay for "Alien Covenant"……………Hell, I'm just kidding. BUT, this is a heads up for some of you that "ALIEN Covenant" is a gruesome display which Director Scott seemed to readily enjoy. Yes, “Covenant” is drenched in a lot of erythrocytes and thrombocytes (medical terms for red & white blood cells) as Ridley goes all Vin Diesel-ish “Fast and the Furious" on the slaughter factor holding nothing back, executing the carnage in very imaginative ways.

In the end Covenant clearly moves on to another film. It also moves on to creating more questions to be answered.  Who again are the engineers?   Why again did they create us? Why again did they want to kill us?  What is the black goo? Who and why created the “xenomorphic alien”? Why do humans who touch the goo turn into monsters? WHY? WHAT? WHERE?

“Covenant” does leave Ridley Scott with a plenty of plot possibilities for his two more films. To a larger point, while I have no direct script knowledge on how these series of prequels will link up to the LV-426 planet of the 1979 Alien,  I still have a pretty good idea as to what might happen going forward. But in the end, according to the timeline I laid out, Ridley Scott has about 18 more "galactic  years" to take us back to that crashed derelict "horseshoe shaped" spaceship on that cold uninhabitable planet with the crew of the Nostromo and it's Captain Dallas, Warrant Officer Ripley and their crew of Lambert, Kane, Brett, Parker and that creepy milk drinking android named Ash................... The Alien future looks sinisterly good and I cannot wait. 

Got it?

3.50 Stars

Sunday, May 14, 2017

The Wall - Review

The Wall

Starring only two actors in John Cena and Aaron Taylor-Johnson ("Nocturnal Animals), “The Wall” is a deadly psychological thriller that takes place in 2007 following two US soldiers who are pinned down by an Iraqi sniper with nothing but a crumbling brick wall between them. Their fight becomes as much a battle of physical will as well as emotional wits to out maneuver one another in this cat mouse game of lethally marksmanship.

REVIEW: “The Wall” is a smart examination of personal self-examination while under the duress and threat of being killed by an anonymous assassin – killer. Specially, the film is more about a personal cathartic cleansing than it is purely about military combat. It’s a bare bones look at how life and death stress and situations seems to be an unusual catapult launching point for unbridled confessions of one‘s most inner deep regions of the soul.

HEY, DOES THIS PLOT SOUND FAMILIAR? Well it should. In 2003 Director Joel Schumacher along with Colin Farrell in the film “Phone Booth” examined similarly a street hustler named Stu who became locked both figuratively and emotionally in a perilous pinned down captive situation inside a New York City phone booth, all the while an anonymous caller (the voice of Kiefer Sutherland) threatens to put a bullet in his head if he ever leaves the booth.

But what started out in “Phone Booth” as a simple action thriller about a deranged killer on the loose, cleverly flipped into a careful meticulously story along the lines of a significant psychological thriller.

We watch Stu go from fearing for his physically life to also fearing having to reveal personal dark secrets of his life all the while his nervously concerned wife waited nearby, including one such secret revealed he had cheated on her with other women.

Comparatively speaking (in a good way) “The Wall”, with a running time of only 80 minutes felt more like 2 hours with its gritty intensity, especially in the long moments when the Iraqi sniper and the US solider engaged in highstakes intellectual verbally jousting with each other, leaving the viewer when long periods of silence kicked in ………………”What’s going to happen next”. And while “The Wall” did have a few moments where these silences and conversations felt more tedious and dull, the story overall is pretty solid throughout.

 “Phone Booth” and “The Wall” are almost identical in structure and plot development, with “Phone Booth” the better of the two as it worked harder and smarter into gradually building up to a finale that had more reflective heft at the end. Which is the one major drawback I had with “The Wall” as its finale felt more like someone just ran out of things to say or to do.

Still overall I found “The Wall”, mostly satisfying, griping and entertaining to watch. It’s a very good rental.


3.00 Stars

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Snatched - Review

Snatched

Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer team up together in the Mother – Daughter comic adventure pairing simply titled “Snatched”.  What they should have called it was “The exhausting, stale, obnoxious, boring, off putting, brain dead film that “snatches” an hour and a half out of your life that you will never get back”. Yeah I know it’s a much longer title but I think you already know where this review is going.

PLOT: When emotional slacker Emily (Amy Schumer) gets dumped by her boyfriend (Randall Park) right before they’re planning to take a trip to South America, she decides to go with her overly cautious conservative mother (Goldie Hawn) instead. Things start out rocky as it’s clear the two are very opposite in their approaches in life as they end up bumping their heads at every turn instead of having fun by bumping margarita glasses together. Things only get worse as the two find themselves embroiled in a dangerous kidnapping scheme by an overly charming and handsome tourist Emily meets at a bar. Once captured the criminals call to their home back in the states speaking to Emily’s Brother Jeffrey demanding a $100,000 ransom for their safe return. Only problem is Jeffrey is a 40 year old man who still lives with their mother because he has a phobia about leaving the house as well as interacting face to face with strange people.

Feeling they are going to die given the plight of their circumstances both mother and daughter reluctantly band together forgetting all of their petty differences in the attempt to making it out of paradise alive.

REVIEW: “Snatched” may be one of the dumbest films I have seen given that the plot and trailers looked to have offered far more promise. Generally speaking if you categorize a film as a “comedy adventure” then I should do more than chuckle two times the whole movie. More importantly, I should not chuckle in a crowded theater by myself. Literally I heard not one patron in the theater laugh out loud once during its 90 minute running time. This film was depressing to watch two actors make such fools of themselves trying to connect the plot to something that was designed to be an homage to mother – daughter relationships as well as take you down the path of some good biting humor and “adventurous” entertainment.

Take it from me, entertainment wise, you would derive more pleasure by driving cross country from California to New York just to watch your initials harden in some freshly poured sidewalk cement…………………….in the dead of winter…………………in below zero temperatures ……………….than to spend money on this clunker of a film.

Per usual I never say not to see a film, but if you do want to see it, I suggest you do not waste your mother’s day money watching this in the theater. Nor should you Netflix it, Redbox it or pay $6.99 for it on cable “On-Demand”. Instead wait for it to come on TNT as part of your free basic cable…………………..in the year 2055. You will be senile enough by then to laugh out loud.


1.00 Star 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 - Review

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

Coming off the highly successful debut 2014 film “GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY”, we again find Peter Quill aka “Star Lord” intergalactic bounty hunter leading his unusual assortment of team members thrust into danger with the mission of saving the galaxy.

In this 2017 sequel “GOTGV2” we find the “Guardians” (as they call themselves) traversing the outer reaches of the cosmos after being hired by a powerful alien race called the Sovereign to protect their precious “energy batteries” from invaders. When it is discovered that Rocket has stolen these items they were sent to guard, the Sovereign dispatch their armada to search for vengeance. But as the Guardians try to escape, the mystery of Peter's parentage is revealed causing a whole new circumstances for them to be concerned about while fighting off their pursuers.

In the original 2014 film “GOTG” it had a concept that was smart, fresh, tongue and cheek silly, irreverent, sexy, filled with timely humor, good music and a big heart, all the while encasing all of these attributes into a solid plot for these rag tag adventurers to protecting an object called “orb” that would end up saving the universe. The technical strength of that 2014 film was it never strayed too far from its principle lead character “Star Lord” while at the same time balanced out the rest of the story with timely supporting performances from “Root”, “Rocket”, “Yondu”, Drax and “Gamora”. The result was a fun filled refreshing new take on the science fiction space adventure genre.

In this 2017 sequel effort Director Peter Gunn directs “GOTGV2” with the same characters and the same refreshing and imaginative look, but he totally ignores the need to keep one foot of the film rooted in some timely comedic interplay between all of the “Guardian” principles. This result this time out is a film that was not only narratively confusing with its sloppy storytelling, it also felt for all of its 2:18 running time to be perpetually hollow, obnoxiously loud, routine in its execution and just plain depressing to watch. Somehow Director Gunn, who directed the first film, managed to double down on the “smart dumb stuff" from the original effort and made this film just dumb. At the same time he completely strips all of its crafty comedic timing for a dramatic bloated exotic mess of a story between the principles that never made any real sense and never was very clever.

“GOTGV2” still does offers a few good moments of crazy laugh out loud humor, but not enough of it to keep the film focused into having some meaningful purpose or direction.

If you go to see this film thinking you will get the same good feeling you got from the 2014 film, something tells me you will be terribly disappointed. It seems Director Gunn forgot he made a funny film back in 2014 and instead tried to make an overly dramatic serious film this time out with very few gags along the way. Ultimately “GOTGV2” works way too hard to please all of our “senses” with too many boring characters and too many boring scenes.

Venture into the deep intergalactic cosmos of your local movie theater to see this sequel effort if you really want to, but you do so at your own $12.50 ticket price peril. I suggest waiting to see it when it is playing in your local “Red Box Galaxy” dispenser.


2.50 Stars

Friday, May 5, 2017

America’s 50+ Most Iconic TV Shows


         "America’s 50+ Most Iconic TV Shows"
                                  " They Generated Conversation Throughout The Week"
                                "They Had Broad Cultural Appeal - Some Were Made Into Movies"
                                                               



                        24
                        60 Minutes
                        All in the Family
                        American Bandstand
                        American Idol
                        Bonanza
                        Breaking Bad
                        Cheers
                        Dallas
                        Deadwood
                        Dexter
                        Dragnet
                        ESPN Sports Center
                        Fargo TV Series
                        Fraser
                        Friends
                        Game of Thrones
                        Hill Street Blues
                        Homicide Life on the Streets
                        I love Lucy
                        Jeopardy Game Show
                        Laugh In
                        Lost
                        Mad Men
                        Married with Children
                        Mary Tyler Moore
                        MASH
                        Miami Vice



 

 
                        MTV
                        Oprah
                        Oz
                        Price is Right
                        Saturday Night Live
                        Seinfeld
                        Sesame Street
                        Sex and the City
                        Sopranos
                        South Park
                        St. Else Where
                        Star Trek
                        Survivor
                        The Americans
                        The Cosby Show
                        The Daily Show
                        The Dick Van Dyke Show
                        The Jefferson’s
                        The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
                        The Simpsons
                        The Super Bowl(s)
                        The Tonight Show - Johnny Carson
                        The Walking Dead
                        The West Wing
                        The Wire
                        Twilight Zone
                        X- Files