Rocketman Movie Review

If you’ve always liked Elton John songs, recently discovered his music or have no clue as to who he is, you’ll enjoy the way this movie presents his life story. Most biopics tell you about the person using dialogue to describe them but since Elton John was such a big star, director Dexter Fletcher allows the songs to tell you who Elton, originally named Reggie Dwight, is. You may not realize what you’re in for when purchasing a ticket to see this, so I’ll inform you. The movie is similar in style to films such as, ‘Mama Mia,’ in that the narrative is largely told through musical numbers, complete with dancers. I wasn’t quite expecting that but enjoyed the way it went about telling the audience who ‘Reg’ (Egerton) became, through lyrics in his songs. Though the songs were written by his partner Bernie Taupin (Bell) and weren’t necessarily used in order of release date, the lyrics were meaningful and impactful, and you don’t question Fletcher’s decision to be part of the script; to have the lyrics chronicle Elton’s personal development, concentrating on the earlier years. At times, the film gets depressing, but if he hadn’t experienced heartbreak, he would never have become the musician he did.
 

The movie starts with Elton Hercules John going to therapy for the first time, telling everyone why he’s there. He’s a sex addict, a drug addict, an alcoholic and a shopaholic. When his childhood is brought up, a young Elton is singing on the streets of where he grew up. Adult Elton, dressed in one of the wild costumes that he wore to the therapy session, stands and watches the child. He’s invisible to the child, much as the child he once was is invisible to the parents in the scene… particularly to his father. Luckily for the little boy, and luckily for music fans everywhere, his grandmother Ivy (Jones), notices his talents on the piano. The boy can play by ear. She supports him and gets him piano and music lessons which then leads to a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music. Once it’s clear how much talent the young boy has, it isn’t long before he’s playing backup for singers. Outside of his grandmother’s constant endorsement, he’s never had anyone really encourage him until he plays backup for a Soul tour from America. They’re more than happy to give him the advice he needs, which is to write some songs and let his inner musician out… stop hiding his true self. Since he can write music to a monologue, he takes that advice and finds a writer who needs music for his lyrics. That writer is Bernie Taupin. During this segment of the film, not only does Elton realize how talented he is but that he’s gay. Taupin supports him no matter who he is. They get on a record label and get booked in America at the famous West Hollywood nightclub called the Troubadour. The Troubadour has been hosting famous musicians since 1957.

Elton is excited for the chance to show America what he has until he finds out Neil Diamond is in the audience. He gets nervous but once that passes, he finds his strength and, consequently, this is where his unique style blossoms. He also meets John Reid (Madden) who becomes his new manager and lover. Scenes with Reid get rather steamy. This character and their time together aren’t exactly explained very well but go with it. You’ll figure out who he is and when their years together were. Reid is responsible for the young musician becoming the wealthiest musician in the world. Unfortunately, Elton is living proof that money can’t buy you happiness. His career couldn’t be better, but he still doesn’t have his fathers respect, something he has been trying to get since he was born. He tries to have thoughtful conversations with his mother several times throughout the film. The best she can do for him is to try and advise him that if he chooses homosexuality, he’ll never be loved.

Having mostly been disappointed by those closest to him, he eventually comes to the conclusion that, ‘Real love is hard to come by, so you find a way to cope without it.’ Soon after, he fights with Bernie and tries to end his own life in an underwater scene where wee Reggie makes another appearance. You’d think that her son trying to kill himself would soften his mother toward Elton but not Shelia (Howard). She gets worse. She likes his money, though. It’s hard to believe but she tells him that she should have ‘Never had kids.’


Next, comes the song, ‘Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word,’ which has the lyrics,

‘What have I got to do to make you love me?
What have I got to do to make you care?
What do I do when lightning strikes me?
And I wake to find that you’re not there?’ 


By this time, you’re most certainly invested in the film and the characters. The acting by Egerton and the entire supporting cast surpasses expectations and the script is authentic and true to who Elton was and is inside. After watching, you can’t help but think about the fact that most biopics of this nature are made after the artist passes on.
Knowing we’re all going to be watching, Elton gets to observe his life story unfold on the big screen and not only relive his experiences but see how others have interpreted his actions. It must be daunting.
After seeing the finished product, I believe he has to be happy with how it was done. However, why they decided to insert Egerton into the original video for ‘I’m Still Standing’ makes little sense, particularly since it was at the end of the film. That would have been a good time to have allowed the audience to see the real Elton John having some fun so using Elton in his own video would have been a better choice in my humble opinion. Regardless, see this movie asap! Good luck getting his songs out of your head after.


*Stay during the credits for more information.        


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Always Be My Maybe Movie Review

This is charming… just darling. I’ve made it a point to keep an eye on what Netflix has been putting out and I’ve been pleased. However, I’m not quite sure why they’re not releasing all their films in the theatres nationwide instead of only in select theatres. My advice to you is, if you’re near one of the theatres releasing ‘Always Be My Maybe,’ give it a watch this weekend. It deserves your attention. If you don’t have Netflix, but let’s face it, you most likely do, get it for the string of films Netflix has been releasing lately. There’s ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,’ ‘The Highwaymen’ and now this. If these films alone speak of what’s coming next, there truly may be a day when theatres become obsolete. Not that I’m hoping for this, it’s that Netflix is getting that good.

This isn’t the most original story, I’ll grant you that, but Randall Park and Ali Wong, who also helped produce and write the script, have been working together since 2015 on ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ and make this film feel, well, fresh. They’ve perfected their attitude toward one another’s work, are very familiar with one another’s style and approach to comedy and have chemistry you can’t deny. Had this movie been made with someone else, I don’t think it would have worked as well. Since these two truly identify with each other’s id, they sell the relationship and you’re happy to pay.
Park and Wong play Marcus and Sasha who have been best friends most of their lives. When we meet them it’s 1996. Young Sasha, a latch-key kid, is alone most of the time. Her parents are too busy to even be home for dinner. Luckily, she doesn’t always have to feed herself because the mother of her best friend Marcus usually invites her to eat with them. This is also where she learns how to cook and why she’s now a massively successful chef who’s going all over the country opening new restaurants.
In 2003, Sasha helps Marcus through the death of his mother. They become close. Soon after, sympathy and compassion turn to passion and they have sex. It’s an awkward and witty scene. Wait until you hear about the condom!
Anyway, after the sex, in the backseat of his car no less, they feel uncomfortable around and toward one another. It’s clear they weren’t ready and they both wish they could take the moment back.

Now we’re in present time. Sasha, L.A.’s latest Hot New Chef, is engaged to Brandon, played by Daniel Dae Kim, who’s also her manager. They’re planning to wed but you know how your best plans can go sometimes. Sasha spends most of her time with her pregnant assistant Veronica (Michelle Buteau), especially when Brandon ends up leaving town for a while. This is, of course, around the same time Marcus, who’s the lead singer of a band, living with his dad, comes back into her life.

When they see each other again, they remember why they’re no longer friends and instantly go for each other’s throats. Let the laughs begin. Wong and Park must have worked extra hard in front of the mirror to display just the right ‘If looks could kill,’ faces. The more scenes they have together, the better the film gets. Pay close attention to all the dialogue… you’ll greatly appreciate this character-driven, comedic gem. What you’re looking to happen throughout the movie is to see if Marcus can break through the rough exterior that this lost, heartbroken, intelligent and loving woman has built OR is he forever destined to live outside the walls of her heart?
See this and be sure to stay and listen to the song during the end credits. Again, the film and its concept aren’t new but Wong and Park designed this script for themselves so they couldn’t have done better with the casting. You’ll love the surprise guest, too. It was perfect. 
       

Watch ‘Always Be My Maybe’ on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/title/80202874

MA Movie Review

‘Ma’ is a moderately gripping, riveting movie with a few good jump scares but can’t quite live up to the genre that it’s labeled as. IMDB has it listed as a Horror/Thriller and the trailer sold us on the fact that this would be a terrifying movie. I generally count on a movie defined as a Horror to scare me at some point. I kept hoping for it and expecting it to come but the scares never did. ‘Ma’ was disturbing, and it was definitely macabre at times, but it wasn’t a horror film. Trust me… if you go in with lower expectations, you’ll enjoy it a lot more. That said, the characters are well defined and Ma, or Sue Ann, played on the nose by Octavia Spencer, is incredibly creepy with a cold stare that will send chills up and down your spine. She plays her as a warm, concerning woman who’s a friend to everyone she comes across but as the story unfolds, she changes. It isn’t long before the veneer falls away and her real temperament comes through.

After moving to her mother Erica’s (Juliette Lewis) hometown, high school student Maggie (Diana Silvers) almost instantaneously hooks up and becomes friends with a group of kids from class. She’s a nice girl, innocent, but decides to go out to the rock quarry to drink with her new pals. With her mom working nights at the casino, what else is there to do? What they like to do is go to a liquor store and attempt to talk an adult into going in and, for a small fee, purchasing something alcoholic for them to drink. It isn’t going too well until Sue Ann walks up. She tells them no, too, at first but then she obliges, and they love her for it. While they’re drinking, she calls the police and tells them she saw some kids drinking at the quarry. She does this for a reason. Next time they want to party, they’ll have to find a safe destination with which to drink. Her basement perhaps? She offers it to them the next time she sees them. They agree and now she’s in. They’re her friends. When they’re in her home, she has influence over them, gets on their good side and she can do other FUN things.

As we get to know her better, we also get to know the kids and their parents’ stories. Turns out, the parents of these very students went to school with Sue Ann. She knew them quite well and they weren’t very nice to her either. Several of these plot points get a bit sloppy but if you don’t look at the script under a microscope, the development of the narrative could be considered intriguing enough to keep you interested in its outcome. Once you learn Sue Ann or Ma has a history with the parents of the teenage partygoers, the movie has a ‘Carrie’ vibe to it. If it had been bolder and gone darker, it would have pleased horror film fans more but as it is, director Tate Taylor (The Girl on the Train, The Help) takes you only so far before pulling back and ultimately leaving you wanting more. With his resume, this surprised me.
Anyway, ‘Ma’ is the kind of movie I can recommend you see but keep in mind that if you’re a veteran horror fan and want to check this out, seeing this at a matinee might be the best way to spend your time.

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Late Night Advance Movie Screening

Movie Screening Summary

Legendary talk-show host Katherine Newberry (Oscar® winner Emma Thompson) is a pioneer in her field. The only woman ever to have a long-running program on late night, she keeps her writers’ room on a short leash ― and all male. But when her ratings plummet and she is accused of being a “woman who hates women,” Katherine puts gender equality on her to-do list and impulsively hires Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling), a chemical plant efficiency expert from suburban Pennsylvania, as the first and only female on her writing staff.

With rumors swirling that Katherine is being replaced by a younger, hipper male host, she demands that the writers make her funny and relevant again. A lifelong fan, Molly is determined to prove she’s not just a diversity hire, but the one person who can turn her idol’s career around. Going against everything Katherine has staked her reputation on, she urges her to make the show more contemporary, authentic and personal, a move that could make Molly’s career ― or send her back to the chemical plant for good.

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Movie Screening Date: Wednesday, June 5
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Movie Screening Time: 7:00pm
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Movie Screening Time: 7:00pm
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The Souvenir Movie Review

Sometimes, a movie based on a true coming-of-age drama based, on the life of a writer or a director, can be beautiful and moving. But then could also end up like “The Souvenir”, which has a fine setup – but totally misses the execution. When the main character is there in place as a stand-in for the writer/director, you can feel that the message should be delivered thoughtfully. However, here the cast is excellent – but the story meanders and drips out so slowly and in such a convoluted manner that you might kick yourself to stay focused. The level of the actors is so high that they deserve to tell a soaring tale, yet they are given very limited story that barely keeps any interest.


Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) is an English woman in her young 20’s. She is working to strike out on her own, using her skills in photography to get into film school. She has some very loving parents, including her mother Rosalind (Tilda Swinton). Julie has a boyfriend who is much older than she is. Anthony (Tom Burke) is somewhat charming and he has a broad education. But he has many woeful character traits. He works for British government in a high position. But he has left his wife, and he cheats and steals. The worst part is that he has a heroin addiction. Julie tries to see past all the bad stuff, and she accepts him with all his flaws.

They are together is a small flat in town. Anthony has strange hours for work and many times goes abroad. Julie is attending school and working on film project. She wants to make a documentary of a now defunct ship-building operation in a nearby town. How has the shutdown of the plant affected the people that remain? But when she has lunches with Anthony and diners with her parents – she is at a loss of words about how to describe her project. Mother Rosalind thinks that Julie could do much better for herself, by getting into a better school and finding a boyfriend who is not as unpredictable.


So, Julie attends school and meets with Anthony from time to time. They take a trip to Venice. But the little apartment also gets robbed one day. And then later Julie finds a shady character hanging out in the flat, waiting for Anthony. This other guy was looking to score some heroin, and he wants to get some from Anthony. Julie chases him out. But she is worried that Anthony is hooked up in something that is really bad. Anthony is defiant, but later on, he succumbs to the addition more and more. He is on a final downward spiral, and even Julie’s help will not save him. Julie works and struggles to get her documentary completed. Rosalind stops over quite often to see if there is something she can do, or if she can loan her some cash.

The resulting movie is a repetitive series of little scenes from Julie’s life. It is all well and good. But there is nothing compelling or nothing that drives any of the characters. So, the result is two hours of inaction that lead up to a non-conclusion. People pass into the Julie’s life, and people pass out of it. She does not take a hard stand much of anything. Even when Anthony is abusing his situation and taking advantage of Julie – she does not do anything. She remains a passive observer of her own life. This is far from a dramatic, edge-of-your-seat immersive experience. You just sort of see what is happening. The direction is such that the movie becomes a meandering stream of random events.


The acting of Honor Swinton Byrne (as Julie) and Tilda Swinton (as her mother Rosalind) is very believable. But of course, Tilda Swinton is the actual mother of Honor Swinton Byrne, so that is a little like typecasting. Tilda is highly respected and accomplished actor. It seems like her daughter, Honor, will be quite capable of following along that path that her mother has opened for her. Tom Burke has a very difficult role, since he is playing a charming cad who is on a downward slope. He just keeps getting worse and worse, as his character gets consumed by his addition. But it does not help that he is basically a ten-pound sack of manure out in the sun for several days…


When you participate in something meaningful, you might want to bring home a little reminder of what you accomplished. But when it comes to seeing this movie, you might pass on the chance to pick up “The Souvenir”.


In the Phoenix area, this movie will open exclusively at the Harkins Scottsdale Camelview…

Aladdin Movie Review

“Aladdin” is a new Disney live-action adaptation of the original Disney 1992 animated movie. The story is the ultimate in wish fulfillment, after all – who couldn’t use a Genie that can grant you three wishes? But the very successful animated version had several things going for it. There was a great story. There were great songs. And it had the great vocal talent of Robin Williams. With the updated version, it has two of those three.


Aladdin (Mena Massoud) is a ‘street rat’ in the desert city of Agrabah in a vague Mid-Eastern country. He is thief and a street hustler, making friends of the other poor folks in town – all while avoiding the palace guards. His little helper monkey Abu is with him everywhere. He runs into a person pretending to be just another poor beggar. But she is really Princess Jasmine (Naomi Scott) who can never escape from the palace to see the people in the street.  She is saved by Aladdin from a dangerous situation, and he goes with her to the palace.


Later that night Aladdin sneaks in and finds Jasmine with her loyal servant Dalia (Nasim Pedrad). But he is captured by Jafar (Marwan Kenzari), the trusted consultant to the royal Sultan (Navid Negahban).  Jafar and his equally evil parrot Iago find that Aladdin might be the one to get a special Lamp out of the Cave of Wonders. This Magic Lamp is said to contain a Genie, one that can grant three wishes to the owner of the Lamp. Aladdin is able to get the Lamp, and it is almost stolen by Jafar.

Aladdin finds the Magic Lamp does hold a Genie (Will Smith). He is all Big and Blue and he is waiting to take Aladdin’s order. He tricks the Genie to get them all out of the Cave, including a new member of the group – a Magic Flying Carpet. Aladdin does not want much, but he does want to meet and impress Princess Jasmine. Maybe if Genie turns Aladdin into a Price, then he could have a chance. Sure thing, he becomes Prince Ali, from Ababwa. The Sultan is very impressed, as well as all the people of Agrabah. But Princess Jasmine thinks that something is a little off with this new Prince. Jafar knows it is Aladdin and he begins scheming about how to seal back that Lamp.


Dalia is impressed with Prince Ali’s man-servant, who is actually Genie. Genie also becomes smitten with Dalia, so they both want Ali and Jasmine to get something going. But Jasmine thinks Ali is holding a secret, so he takes her on the Magic Flying Carpet to see the world, a ‘Whole New World’, that is. But before Aladdin can confess who he really is, Jafar decides to eliminate him form the picture. Genie is able to save Aladdin, as another wish gets used up. Aladdin had promised to use his final third wish to set Genie free, but that might not happen.


Jafar become more evil and more powerful, as he takes over from the Sultan. Hes has grabbed the Magic Lamp and he is now in control. Genie is no longer able to help Aladdin, so Aladdin and Jasmine might as well call the whole thing off. But does Aladdin have the street smarts to convince a powerful sorcerer like Jafar that he could become even bigger and more powerful? Could that be a way out for everyone?

This version of Aladdin has a nice cast and it redoes all of the great songs from the original animated version. There is even a new song for Princess Jasmine – one that gives her a stringer voice in her situation. Will Smith seems out-of-place at first as Genie. But within 15 minutes he takes this version of the Genie and makes it fit with his charm and sassy attitude. Naomi Scott has a very soaring voice that works wonders with her Jasmine songs. Mena Massoud is also charming as Aladdin and has a good voice.


Guy Ritchie as the director and co-writer is used to movies that have a rougher edge. His family-friendly version still has a couple of his visual traits (super slo-mo camera work). But most of the dirty and gritty features of his other films are glossed over with wild and bright costumes and bazaar scenes. The big musical numbers have a wild and over the top feel, like a cross between a Vegas show and Bollywood.


Remakes are becoming a big thing at Disney Studios, but rather than getting “A Whole New World”, this one just serves up “A Whole Lotta Sameness”.

The Biggest Little Farm Movie Review

The documentary opens on a farm facing great devastation and the looming question, ‘How did we get here?’ Do the farmers then ask if attempting to farm in harmony with nature is an impossible dream? We cut back to 2010 and meet the farmers, Molly and John. They were the perfect, happy, couple. They were living in Santa Monica and working in their chosen professions. At the time, Molly is a chef and John’s a cameraman who works extensively on wildlife films. Their professions kind of come together when they realize that healthy farming and cooking more traditional foods would benefit them both. Why work separately when they can work together? It’s not an easy task but people used to grow all their own food. Perhaps it’s time to get back to that. They adopt a dog named Todd and make him a promise that their home would be his last. Before long, they’re forced out of their apartment because of his barking. They look at each other and realize that the time might be ripe to try that farming thing. It’s their purpose. They start digging into what it would take, find a wealth of information on the internet and even find investors in their idea of living off the land. If this idea could spread, imagine the world we could have.

With climate change facing us today, this movie will have a long life on cable channels and should be falling off the lips of everyone who’s interested in educating the public about how and why certain creatures must live and how and why humans have to change the way they see things. We can’t go on living as we have. We’ve always thought the planet could sustain us, but this movie proves mother nature only has so much to give if we don’t treat her properly. It’s fascinatingly frightening to watch as it points out what we can do to save ourselves while at the same time, acknowledging the fact that we won’t do those things. Molly and John find 200 acres of nearly lifeless land about an hour north of L.A. in which to build their farm. They hire a consultant, a guru of sorts, to bring the farm back to life. He shows them that their soil is dead and teaches them the key to bringing the entire farm back to life… worm rich manure that feeds everything. Microorganisms. He explains to the young couple that, ‘Plants build soil. Without plants, there would never be fertility.’ They end up with a gorgeous farm filled with seventy-five varieties of stone fruit, chickens, pigs, cows, sheep, ducks, and horses. They become very successful but remember what I said when the review started.

I don’t want to give too much away about the movie but I must say, see this if you like documentaries and if you realize that the world needs to be balanced. With all of the problems that Molly and John face, nature has a natural fix for them. Wait until you see what they do about the snails. Oh, my goodness! And you had all but given up hope! By the way, before the movie is over, their motto becomes, ‘Poop is Gold!’ You’ll appreciate the dialogue in the film that explains what they learned and the explanations for it with deliberate detail. We go through year after year of their trying to manage the farm, what they gain and what they lose. At times the film is heartbreaking, at times it’s simply beautiful… what it will never be is dull. You’ll love the remarkable photography and the animal pairings. Our planet needs us and this movie should be shown in every theatre, boardroom, and classroom across the globe! The subject is too important to ignore.

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A Dog’s Journey Movie Review

“A Dog’s Journey” is a new feature that is a direct relative to ‘”A Dog’s Purpose”. The central theme of both movies is a secret ability for canine companions that have a reincarnation method to take an immortal soul into the bodies of various puppies. These dogs live with their owners, but they remember the commands from prior owners. Such as, in “Purpose”, a young dog knows to find his first owner (a young boy), and he gets back to him when the little boy is now a man. In “Journey” that older man gives the old dog a final command to watch out for his granddaughter.




Ethan (Dennis Quaid) and Hannah (Marg Helgenberger) live on a Michigan farm with their dog Ethan calls him ‘Boss Dog’ (voiced by Josh Gad), but the dog’s name is Bailey. Ethan was the young boy who turned into an older man, and a series of dog’s all held the soul of Boss Dog. And in the prior movie, Josh Gad said endless cute things when he gave the various dogs an inner voice. Now they live on the farm with their daughter-in-law Gloria (Betty Gilpin). Her husband was killed in an accident just before her little daughter was born. Ethan and Hannah really love their granddaughter CJ, and they want to help Gloria.




Gloria is succeeding at being the Worst Mother Ever, but she gets tired of Ethan and Hannah trying to help. She takes CJ and leaves to live in Chicago. Ethan knows that the old dog Bailey does not have any more time in this world. So he gives ‘Boss Dog’ a new command – Watch over little CJ wherever she is on the world. In a few years, ‘Boss Dog’ shows up in a little puppy named Mollie. Even a little girl dog needs to have a Josh Gad voice, ya know. Grade school aged CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson) finds Mollie and adopts her new friend. She keeps Molly from her mom, Gloria, at least for a while.

 

Molly does her best to help CJ growing up strong. She tries to steer CJ to be with her school chum Trent (Ian Chen) and away from away from loser boyfriends. Molly even learns a useful skill; she trains to have an ability to detect the smell of cancer in a patient. But one day Molly dies, and CJ fights with Gloria so much that she decides to move out. Now much older, CJ (Kathryn Prescott) is now out of school, and she lives in New York City. Again, she gets her share of loser boyfriends. But one day she finds that an older Trent (Henry Lau) has also moved just down the block.  Boss Dog had spent some time as a large dog in Pennsylvania, but now he knows it is time to move on.




Boss Dog winds up as a little stray in New York City. He meets up with CJ all over again. But now he is a little dog named Max, so CJ has now idea that the voice of Josh Gad is floating around in Max’s head. Max knows that he know has his true purpose, to keep CJ safe in the world. But Max remembers things as his time as Molly and the things she learned. So he is worried when he discovers that Trent has that weird smell like cancer. Trent needs treatment, and his current girlfriend cannot handle the pressure. She bails and leaves CJ to take care of Trent.




Trent gets better and soon CJ hears from her distant mother Gloria. She has been getting better and wants to be a part of CJ’s life. CJ and Trent discover some old letters with the address of an old Michigan farm. Could it be that farm that CJ barely remembers? What if her grandparents, Ethan and Hannah, still are there? What would it like to go back home? Boss Dog knows, because he has done it before in the lives of multiple dogs.

“A Dog’s Journey” is wonderfully creative way to show that the bonds between a dog and its owner can become inseparable. Even if it is nothing but wild speculation, it has a nice reassuring feel to the continuity. There is no way to now what a dog might be thinking, so the goofy dialog that Josh Gad has each of the many dogs is just perfect. Sometimes the dog might be thinking back to a prior life and an important commitment. But he could just as well be thinking about bacon.  The overall effect of the story could bring a few sniffles, especially if you have ever really cared for a dog – and then have a dog go out of your life.




This is very wholesome movie that should give you all the feels. All the animals are very cute and cuddly. Even when they get a big wide-eyed face with an especially goofy grin.  And here I am referring to Dennis Quaid, as well as most of the dogs. This movie is almost daring you not to like it. That is one bet that I do not want to take.




So you might as well go to the movie theater. Sit. Stay.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Movie Review

“John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” is further look into the violent and bloody world contained in the ‘Extended John Wick Universe’. This is where hand-to-hand combat is on steroids, and where beatings, stabbings and shootings have been given growth serum, and where the over-the-top violence has been ‘Turned Up to 11’ (to paraphrase “Spinal Tap”). In other words, it is a beautiful ballet of bullets, bloodshed, and battles. In the previous two movies, John Wick has delivered an action-packed and stunt-driven extravaganza of fights and chases. Based on the internal logic where a secret society of assassins live and work in our world – yet they are apart from reality. Now with Chapter 3 – the Wickian wave is cresting over the mere movies that have a few stuntmen. This is Zen Level pure action and adrenaline, perfected to its finest.



John Wick (Keanu Reeves) finds himself at odds with controlling leaders of all the assassins, the group called the High Table. Wick had broken the rules, because he shot and killed a member of the Table in a place called the ‘Continental’. This is a luxury hotel and safe space in downtown New York. It is run by Winston (Ian McShane) who is an old friend of Wick’s. Winston and the concierge at the Continental – Charon (Lance Reddick) – gave Wick a head start. But Wick now has a bounty on his head of $14 million. Anyone who gives Wick any help will pay the price. Wick turns to an old mentor, the Director (Anjelica Huston). Wick has an item that he can use to trade for safe passage to Morocco.

In Casablanca, Wick finds another old partner named Sophia (Halle Berry). John Wick holds a ‘marker’ that forces the other person to help out in time of need. Sophia and Wick approach a member of the High Table. Wick asks if there is a way to get back into the good graces. He is ‘excommunicado’ and he might be able to meet with The Elder (Saïd Taghmaoui). But Sophia and her attack dogs come under attack, along with Wick, so there is a massive fight in the bazaar. Back in New York, The Adjudicator (Asia Kate Dillon) comes to anyone who helped Wick. She speaks for the High Table, and she will extract a High Price. She visits Winston at the Continental. She talks with the Director and extracts a price. She also finds the Bowery King (Laurence Fishburne) – who had supplied Wick with a weapon. Each one that she meets must vow a fidelity to the High Table.



The Adjudicator also finds a special assassin named Zero (Mark Dacascos). He is given the task to hunt down John Wick and apply a permanent resolution to Wick’s bounty. Wick comes back to New York, but he must personally kill Winston to earn his forgiveness. Zero and Wick find each other, and the fur begins to fly. Wick finds Winston, and Wick decides to press pause on the “Killing Winston” part of his punishment. The High Table is ready to take down Wick, Winston, Charon and Zero – who are all hanging out in the Continental. Wick has a small request (“Guns. Lots of Guns”), and Winston might be helpful in that area. So, the High Table sends a SWAT team to the hotel to take care of business…

John Wick has now had a total of three movies. All have been directed by Chad Stahelski and written (at least co-written) by Derek Kolstad. Stahelski is a former stantman himself, and he did much of the stunt work for Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix”. They have a solid core foundation to come up with the most intense sequences of fighting and mayhem that has ever been put down on film. Add to this Ian McShane and Lance Reddick (who have been in all three films) and there is an easy understanding between the actors and stunt people and the director that makes impossible action scenes come to life. The result is a mind-blowing visual overload that will not let you look away.



Naturally, a movie like this might too violent or over-the-top for many people. There are some who cringe at seeing guns and cannot stand the casual use of firearms as weapons. But should you find yourself wanting to see expertly done action and stunt-work, then “John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” will be the mother’s milk of murder and mayhem. So, if you are not a sad-sack, pajama-wearing granola-munching peacenik – then grab yourself a Red Bull Slushie and put your brain and hold for couple of hours. It will be worth it…

Pokémon Detective Pikachu Movie Review

“Pokémon Detective Pikachu” is positioned to become this generation’s version of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”. But that is a beautiful thing, actually – because instead of marvelous world where ‘Toons’ and humans interact, in this movie the humans and various Pokémon coexist. It makes for a movie version of “Pokémon Go”, where a rich and full array of Pokémon characters are found in the cinema world.


The colorful and exotic ‘pocket monster’ creatures are rendered as normal as traffic cones and neon signs. There are plenty of those there, also – because the movie takes place in Ryme City. This paradise of Pokémon and human interaction is threatened by some mysterious events that are taking place. There is a plot to uncover and a missing detective to locate, and who better to take on that task but Pikachu? The small furry little Pokémon Detective is in a tough spot and could use a little help. There are clues to trace and adventures to be had…


Tim Goodman (Justice Smith) is a young son of a Ryme City Detective, Harry Goodman. There was an attack on Harry’s car, and he is presumed dead. Tim gave up on his dreams to be a Pokémon trainer years ago, so he goes back into Ryme City to try and get closure. He goes and meets his dad’s old boss, Detective Yoshida (Ken Watanabe). Everyone else in Ryme City has been connected to a Pokémon and has one for a friend and companion. But Tim has never found one that bonded with him. He visits is dad’s place and runs into Detective Pikachu (voiced by Ryan Reynolds).

There is some reason that Tim and Pikachu can hear and understand each other. Pikachu has lost his memory, but soon determines that he was Harry Goodman’s partner – up to the point where he disappeared days ago. Pikachu is still aware that there is a sinister plot that is on the move, but he has forgotten all the details. The mastermind behind Ryme City is Howard Clifford (Bill Nighy) who has created this perfect paradise for Pokémon. But his dedication to the task has led to a debilitating disease, and now he is bound to a wheelchair. He and his son run the media conglomerate, and there is young associate intern (that is: unpaid blogger) who sniffing out a big story.


Lucy Stevens (Kathryn Newton) and her sidekick Pokémon Psyduck meet up with Tim and Pikachu. Together they find that some awful things are about to happen in Ryme City. Bouncing from place to place and gathering more information about a mystery drug that make Pokémon go crazy; Pikachu, Tim, Lucy and Psyduck get closer to the evildoers. But they also get deeper and deeper into trouble. They find an ancient Pokémon called Mew Too that might hold the key to the mystery or might be the top bad dude on his own. There is a connection to Mew Too and the disappearance of Harry Goodman, and a connection getting closer between Pikachu and Tim.


When there is a final confrontation, everything turns out not quite the way that it seemed before. There are some tricks that were being played, and some folks are not as clean cut as they first appeared. Tim and Pikachu find that the Pokémon who are drugged and turn violent are not doing it on their own. There was some foul play and with the group catching the bad guys, all will be put back in order. Lucy gets noticed for all of her fine work, and Detective Yoshida gets a resolution to a mysterious case of Harry Goodman’s car crash. Detective Pikachu is ready to get back to work, and Tim might have a new career. But will all the Pokémon of Ryme City still be working with all the humans in harmony?

This is a delightfully fun movie that matches a reluctant hero (Tim) with a helpful, if sarcastic, sidekick (Pikachu). Justice Smith does a compelling job as Tim, and he is curious, yet halting in his discoveries. He is unsure of himself and why he is not able to bond with a Pokémon like everyone else. But then he meets up with Pikachu and things turn magical. Ryan Reynolds is playing the voice (and the facial expressions) of Detective Pikachu – this works in a charming manner. His dialogue is witty and sometimes slapstick. Reynolds gets just the right tone for the little yellow fuzzy Detective, and he makes it shine.


The computer graphics to design and render Detective Pikachu (and really all of the Pokémon) is very sharp and clear. Each of the little (and not so little) Pokémon characters has a distinct personally and sweet goofiness of their own.The story plays second fiddle to the spectacle of scores and scores of Pokémon living a city that is a cross between “Babe: Pig in the City” and “Blade Runner”. There is a futuristic atmosphere along with large portions of whimsy and frolic. Everyone there sees no problem having a Pokémon as a guide and companion. “Pokémon Detective Pikachu” brings everyone’s favorite Pokémon to the big screen in a big way…