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American Assassin – Movie Review

American Assassin is kind of your typical spy thriller in that it has a very Jack Reacher or Jack Ryan or whoever has the name Jack and is a detective of some sort these days, feel to it with one very big exception; those guys don’t have Michael Keaton walking around in their movie.  Keaton gives every performance a little something special and this is no different.  Mitch Rapp, the hero in the book series by Vince Flynn, and what will no doubt be a successful movie franchise now, does have Keaton. 

Mitch has the drive, strength and the determination to get his immediate goals accomplished, even sometimes acting before he thinks.  What I like about the characters is that he is rarely ever wrong and his mentor and guru, Stan Hurley (Keaton), has to bang his head against the walls to try and pound sense and procedure into him.  However, Mitch runs on adrenaline and something else… the sense of what is right and wrong.  Love drove him to be a vigilante and is what, ultimately, led him to Hurley, a retired SEAL.  Hurley’s now training a Black Ops mission led by Irene (Lathan) of the CIA.  Hurley knew and worked with Irene’s dad and though he doesn’t trust her instinct on young Mitch, he agrees to train him and see if he’s what they need for their counterterrorism operation. 

Irene first stumbled onto Mitch while following his digital footprint.  At the beginning of the film, Mitch (O’Brien) was proposing to his girlfriend on the beach when terrorists struck the area and started shooting everyone in sight.  Mitch was struck several times but not fatally.  While passing out from his wounds, his beautiful fiance’ lies dying beside him.  After, he is determined to bring down every terror cell he can.  He learns Arabic and studies their history and ideology.  He learns to fight, practices martial arts and masters weaponry.  He grows a beard and becomes a one-man killing machine out for revenge.  Everything you could want in a good guy and your new spy. 

On his own and without the help of anyone, Mitch gets close to a terrorist cell but is captured.  He’s saved at the last minute by the CIA.  When they tell him how stupid, naïve and dangerous his scheme was and tells him he was lucky to have been rescued, he reminds them of the fact that they followed him in, not the other way around.  However, what remains a recurring theme in the film is a question, ‘is Mitch too driven by emotion to be any good to a team?’  A big lesson Hurley needs to get through to him is to never let it get personal… it clouds the judgment.  The scenes where Mitch is being trained are difficult but he takes his licks and remembers his training.  These scenes are entertaining and imaginative but in thinking of the training the actors had to go through to get all the training and fighting scenes shot, I couldn’t help but wince some watching it. 

Before long, Hurley decides Mitch is their guy and they go out on a mission to recover stolen plutonium.  Iranian operatives intend on making a nuclear weapon and must be stopped.  There are other characters introduced and some character driven subplots come and go, which all work in the film’s favor, especially when it comes to the most important one of all, Ghost (Kitsch).  He is a former student of Hurley’s with a chip on his shoulder.  He has different plans for the bomb once the trigger and a physicist is found to make it complete.  His plans are to get back at Hurley and the country that let him down.  Taylor Kitsch does a good job in a scene having fun torturing his old guru.  He may have had too much fun with it, in fact.  Dylan O’Brien, almost a Taylor Kitsch look alike, is terrific in this film, both looking the part and handling the script.  He’ll make a very admirable spy movie hero for both new and old fans of the genre, alike.

I liked American Assassin and I think you will, too.  Don’t take it too seriously; know you’re going to be captivated by this world for a while.  Just sit back and enjoy the show.  I did and I was in no way influenced by the audience I watched the screening of the movie with, which were a whole lot of Phoenix police officers who have read the series, love Mitch Rapp and are going to be there to support this film and any that follow.  I support it because it did one thing and that was, it entertained the hell out of me.  I am looking very forward to the next one.  This is a fresh perspective on an overly used but seemingly timeless subject and was appreciated.  It’ll be enjoyed by anyone who likes action thrillers and it’ll please them more by giving them a new hero to look up to.

Rebel in the Rye Movie review

Hollywood will never be allowed to make a movie adaptation of the book “Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger. So the next best thing is to make a biographical picture of the reclusive author. Jerome Salinger was known as Jerry to his friends, except he did not have any friends. He would love women he could never have, and ignore the wife and children he did have. He held his inner ghosts tightly, until he could unravel his thoughts out to the page. While his creative outlet makes for some great short stories and novels, it also made for a troubled life.

 

Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) was not a great student in college. His wealthy father balked at Jerry attending Columbia University just to study creative writing. But his mother urged him to follow his passion for story telling. In class he met Whit Burnett (Kevin Spacey). Whit was a professor and also the editor at Story Magazine. He saw the raw talent in Jerry and also encouraged him to reach for his goals, to be published. At first there was a long string of rejections. But finally Whit published one of Salinger’s short stories. Many others followed, and Salinger was becoming well known.

 

Jerry began dating Oona O’Neill (Zoey Deutch), who was the daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill. He had a passion for her and a few short stories reflected their relationship. But World War II breaks out, and Jerry enlists. He is put into battle and helps storm beaches in Normandy and frees prisoners from Nazi concentration camps. But Oona did not remain true, and married another man. His best friend dies in battle. Salinger is a severely broken man. His constant writings about a character named Holden Caulfield had kept him focused on life and getting home. Now that the war was over, all thoughts of Holden bring up the horrors of the war.

 

Salinger spends months in a veteran’s hospital, mentally unbalanced. Back stateside with a war bride, Jerry is lost and adrift. Whit Burnett tries to get a book of Salinger’s short stories published. But he failed, and Jerry never forgives him. The wounds of the war are painful, but he finds that meditation calms him down. His ability to write about his internal stories comes back. He creates “Catcher in the Rye” and his agent Dorothy Olding (Sarah Paulson) gets it published. It becomes a nationwide sensation, but Jerry is not comfortable with all the attention.

 

He marries a young woman named Clair (Lucy Boynton) and they move to a very secluded place in New Hampshire. He is far away from his New York City roots, and his mind is free to create. Clair and Jerry have children, but he ignores them and his wife. Seclusion and privacy for Salinger extends even to his immediate family. Jerry continues to write and to meditate. He is still abrupt and not fond of the public. He will never allow Hollywood to destroy his novel. Not even to his death…

This movie ends up like a ‘greatest hits’ edition that quickly mentions Salinger’s various accomplishments. It does a tiny bit of digging into why his personality was so closed off to the world. He feet that many things in life were phony and just for show. That is brought out in the Holden Caulfield character. It becomes his alter-ego when he writes. This is not the first time this idea has ever emerged, but it is key to the movie.

 

Nicholas Hoult does a serviceable job with a character that is very difficult to present. He has some tell-tale facial tics that shows when he gives someone disdain and can return satire for counter argument. He stretches over a few decades, but always appears boyish. Kevin Spacey is a great supporting actor in his role. Whit Burnett is always ready to match wits with Salinger. But he does see the talent within and gets JD on the right path.

 

All in all, this is an enjoyable movie, but mostly for big fans of literary works and of Salanger. Making a movie about a person who rose to fame, only to reject the public that adored him is a tough thing to do. If you have more desire to see a popular author come to life, then this should be a movie that you might want to catch.

mother! Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky has a track record for being the Pied Piper of the Perverse. See any of his prior movies and you see disturbed characters acting in increasingly bizarre manners. Take the movie “Pi”, or “Requiem for a Dream”, or “The Fountain” or “Black Swan” or “Noah”. Each has a main character who tilts a little towards crazy, and everyone else in there does not fare much better. And that brings us to “mother!”…

Since none of the characters are named, there is a young Woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who is married to a much older Man (Javier Bardem). He is a famous poet of some repute, but he is having terrible writer’s block. She is a devoted wife who is very busy fixing and redecorating his old house. This house had burned down years before. Now they live in the very isolated house while she works building it up. It is so far from everybody that he hopes to get his poetry back on track.

The Man and the Woman do not have any children, yet that does not seem to be an important aspect. But one day a older Sick Man (Ed Harris) comes to the house. He says he is a big fan of the Man’s poetry. He is ill and he needs place to rest, so the Man says it is okay. But soon the Sick Man is joined by his Wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). Soon the two of them are flattering their way into the Man’s life, but leaving the young Woman out of all the fun.

 

The Sick Man and his Wife have two grown boys, and somehow they find their way to the house. They all argue and fight over a will and during a major conflict one of the brothers is killed. The Man is deeply moved and again opens his home to the various friends of the Sick Man and his Wife. They mourn the death of the son, and soon there is a party atmosphere. The young Woman is getting more and more upset at all of these people taking advantage of the Man’s generosity. Once they leave, the two make love and the young Woman will become a mother!

The Man loses his writer’s block and becomes great and famous once again. The very pregnant young Woman is about to serve a very special and very private meal with just her and the Man. But then she hears all the voices outside the door. Press people and publicists have come to interview and fawn over the wonderful poetry from the Man. The young soon-to-be-mother! is disturbed and shocked that people have come her secluded place. But it goes past disturbing to insanity when more and more people keep coming.

During that single night, dozens turn into hundreds and even more are on they way. The Man is looked up to and becomes adored. His word cause people to worship him and a religious cult is created. But there are also people out to loot and pillage and steal items from the home as souvenirs. The riot police come and huge fights break out just as the young Woman is about to give birth. But there is swirling chaos and unending waves and violence erupting in the house. Perhaps the better thing is to leave. but the Man will not have any of that. This is his house and this is where he and the mother! will stay. Perhaps…

 

To say this movie breaks down normal movie conventions is saying the least. This takes a typical domestic relationship and turns it into the Seven Levels of Hell. The story is no longer about two people in a struggling marriage, but it becomes microcosm of the world at large: fans who become fanatics and loose all control,  people who force all of life into the narrow scope of their own fears, police who use brutality to handle all situations, protestors who feel the need to destroy just to get their point across.

Jennifer Lawrence does a noble job playing a concept more than a character. Javier Bardem is also more a collection of traits than an actual character. Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer both do a fine job, but there is more going on between them than there is between the Man and the young Woman. Everyone else pretty much comes into the house in waves, but few people stand out. Of course, this whole production is based on the twisted mind of Darren Aronofsky.

Aronofsky seems bound and determined to, how shall we say… fornicate up your mind. This movie is a testament to the lengths he will go to make you feel uncomfortable…

 

IT – Movie Review

 What IT gives you is a smart and psychotic action-thriller more than a horror film, to be honest. Yes, there were some fabulous jump-scares and a delightfully big creep factor going on, of course, but it didn’t really scare me all that often. The film is based on one of Stephen King’s bestselling books about a killer clown named Pennywise so that alone should tell you that it’s going to be worth the time. It was originally a TV miniseries in 1990. The original had the entire nation afraid of clowns and we may have that going on again. Creepy is definitely a good way to define what the character offers the audience but what you might not expect is some of the sound acting from its young cast.

Not surprisingly, some of the best comes from the Skarsgård in the group. There is plenty of talent to be had in his family and he’s no different. Bill, plays the movies evil clown. He’s the son of Stellan Skarsgård (Good Will Hunting, Thor) and the brother of Alexander Skarsgård (True Blood, The Legend of Tarzan). At age twenty-seven, Bill already has twenty-seven film credits to his name and now has gotten this opportunity to be the memorable Pennywise as did Tim Curry who originally played the role.

I would have preferred it if the script had given Pennywise more of a chance to be… scary! Skarsgård had what it took to frighten the pants off of you but the focus was more on the trials of the boyhood pals and their new friend Beverly. Beverly is played by Sophia Lillis who is another shining piece of the pie. Her story is that of an abused daughter who offers love and support to others in need rather than display the resentment and pain she may feel from the maltreatment and violation she is exposed to daily. She is not weakened from her struggles she is strengthened despite them.

The movie starts by giving us the information that children in Derry, Maine are disappearing. Little Georgie, (Jackson Robert Scott) an adorable boy afraid of his cellar who director Muschietti set us up to feel bad for right away, is Pennywise’s first victim. This is dreadful and sets up an expected tone. What you presume you’ll see is more of this but what you get is more like The Expendables when the men were pre-teens… facing their fears together and refusing to give up on defeating their biggest demons. At the end of the school year, Georgie’s older brother Bill (Lieberher) and Bill’s friends look for Georgie.

As the story plays out, each child’s inner skirmishes are displayed and what Pennywise ends up being is a metaphor of the life they are no longer willing to live. An emblem, even, of their fortitude. What one might wonder is, does this clown really exist? Is what they’re experiencing really happening or is he the manifestation of their trepidation to grow beyond childhood; to lose what they now have and be exposed to their vulnerabilities? Georgie was afraid of the cellar because of what his imagination made materialize. Bill and his boyhood friends are, essentially, suffering that same fate… each of which will get worse if they don’t confront their beast.

IT is an engaging watch that keeps you interested in the outcome of the characters. The friends are, for the most part, different from one another and you do care for them as they face their plight. The cinematography is beautiful and the humor and feeling sorry for all of them is a big part of what makes the kids more likable.  You’ll be rooting for them every step of the way.  I’d like to note for you that for the biggest chills, don’t miss the scene when Ben, (Taylor) follows the balloon into the back of the library or the scene in the garage.

Home Again Movie Review

If you like the movies of Nancy Meyers, then you enjoyed ones like “It’s Complicated”, “The Intern” and “Something’s Gotta Give”. Along comes her daughter Hallie Meyers-Shyer, and she is taking her family heritage to heart. She is the creator of “Home Again”, which a similar type of romantic comedy with a strong central female character, surrounded by a group of unusual characters. However, this outing feels less like a new model and more like a retread.

 

Alice Kinney (Witherspoon) had grown up in Los Angeles, the daughter of a famous movie director and his much younger starlet wife. Alice later married a music producer named Austen (Michael Sheen) and lived in New York, later having two young girls. But the marriage is on the rocks, and Alice moves the two girls back to LA. Her mother Lillian (Candice Bergen) wants Alice to start a new chapter in her life. During her fortieth birthday party with friends, she happens to meet up with three much younger guys.

 

The three guys are film-makers in LA to turn a small award-winning short into a full-sized movie. They just need the right connections, the right meetings, and oh yeah – a new place to live. They have almost no money and are getting desperate. The young director is Harry (Pico Alexander) and he meets Alice in the bar. Harry’s brother George (Jon Rudnitsky) is the writer and their friend Teddy (Nat Wolff) is an aspiring actor. Harry meets Alice, but at the end of the night, the party has moved to Alice’s place.

The next morning, her mom Lillian meets the guys and finds out that they need some short-term housing. Alice agrees to let them stay in the cozy little guest house on the property. They find the arrangement quite suitable. Especially Harry, because he and Alice start up a hot little romance. Alice has some built-in babysitting and help with the chores, while she attempts to get her business up and started. She is going to be an interior designer, and she has a new client.

 

Alice meets her client Zoey (Lake Bell) and finds that she is bit more than she can handle. Zoey thinks that a consultant in her house is always avaialble for odd jobs, like unloading furniture and giving her child a bath. Life for Alice keeps getting even more complicated when Austen decides to come to visit at the old house. He meets the trio of much younger men and sees he has some competition. Alice and Austen are together, but the problems in the marriage have not gone away. Will Alice and Austen reconcile, and will the three upcoming film-makers be rewarded by Hollywood?

 

This movie does its best to keep you involved in Alice’s rich white girl struggles. But the basic plot thread of making the best of an awkward ‘blended’ family does not ring true. The scenes are set in picture book beautiful places, and they are filled with attractive people. However there is not a real situation faced by honest everyday folks for miles. It is all a wonderland fantasy of how some people might want to live.

 

Reese Witherspoon is a very talented actress. Playing Alice takes about a fraction of her talent and charisma. Not that Witherspoon is bad, but there is not a whole lot room to develop a character. Michael Sheen is very reliable, and he plays Austen mostly in his rugged facial expressions. Candice Bergen still has great timing for dialog and comedy.

 

The three guys playing the film-makers are just OK. Wolff, Jon Rudnitsky, Pico Alexander leave a handsome impression. But sometimes it is hard to know which is which, and who has what name. The characters are underdeveloped. Even Pico Alexander, who is playing Alice’s love interest, is not on the same level as Reese Witherspoon. He is in the same game, but playing in a different stadium.

 

If this is your cup of chamomile tea, than “Home Again’ will be a delightful little movie for you. Not everyone has that type of interest in estrogen-powered comedies. So your mileage may vary. Reese Witherspoon does have quite a potential for playing a role and making a character really stand out. Too bad that in this movie, she only can be “Legally Bland”.

Crown Heights Movie Review

“Crown Heights” is a story of a man unjustly sent to prison for a crime that he did not commit. But because it was in 1980 and it was a period of high criminal activity in New York City, this man had no chance. Even worse, he was a black immigrant from Jamaica. His life was changed when some dishonest cops pressured some young teenagers to testify against him. But he had one thing that kept him going, a good friend on the outside who would stop at nothing to see him set free.

 

Colin Warner (Keith Stanfield) was originally from Trinidad in Jamaica. But his family moved to the Crown Heights area in New York. When he was 18, he was picked up by the police for a murder that happened a few blocks away. Colin’s friend named Carl King (Nnamdi Asomugha) attempted to get him released. But the police had gotten some local kids to falsely testify that Colin was involved in a drive-by shooting. There was another guy who was picked up for being the actual gunman, but the police claimed that Colin drove the car in the shooting. Even when in truth there was no drive-by and there was no car.

 

Colin was railroaded and he thought that being innocent would save him. It did not. He was found guilty and was sentenced to 15 years to life. He had no idea that the legal system would not help a young black man when the cops wanted to close a case at any price. The price for Colin was his freedom. Carl King, along with Colin’s family and local friends did everything to come to his aid. They tried to publicize his case, but to no avail. They raised money for a legal defense to attempt an appeal to Colin’s conviction. But the lawyer they hired did not care about the case and it went nowhere.

 

Colin’s months in prison turned into years. His frustration grew to the point that he attacked a guard. He then spent two years in isolation. He just about gave up hope, but a local woman from his old neighborhood remembered about Colin. Antoinette (Natalie Paul) started to visit him in prison, and they eventually became sweethearts. Years later, they were married, even as Colin was still behind bars. His friend Carl would never give up on his quest to free Colin.

 

Carl’s devotion to the goal took a toll on him and his family. He lost his job and his wife separated from him and took their children. Still Carl sees that he could do some good. He became a process server to learn the legal system and to meet more lawyers. He soon meets an honest lawyer named William Robedee (Bill Camp). Carl make his plea to Bruce and asks him to review the case. Bruce is fascinated that such a miscarriage of justice can occur and that nobody has appealed correctly.

 

Meanwhile, Colin has been rejected for parole and has become resigned that he will be behind bars for the rest of his life. He is aware that Carl has found some lawyer who will review his case, but that does not give him much hope. There is not a day that Colin wakes up in the morning with his eyes closed and he does not say “Please don’t let it be a cell”.

Based on true story, this is a tale of a broken legal system that delivers justice as an after thought. Especially when the person charged is a young black man in New York City. Even with such a depressing topic, this movie shows that the underdog can always have the last word in court. The fact is that Colin Warner was convicted based on false evidence, and that he was finally released, 21 years later. But by then, Colin had spent more years in prison than he had spent as a free man.

Keith Stanfield and  Nnamdi Asomugha do tremendous work as Colin and Carl, respectively. There is a worn-down acceptance that Colin has in his face over time. And Carl also faces adversity, but in a different way. He needs to teach himself the rawest points of a flawed legal system, so that he can use any pressure that he can to free Colin.

 

This movie is co-presented with Amazon Studios. So there is a lot going for it in the movie marketplace. In the Phoenix area, this movie will be playing at these theaters:

  • Harkins Gateway Pavilions
  • Harkins Christown
  • Harkins Arizona Mills
  • AMC Westgate

The Trip to Spain Movie Review

Two good friends, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, have taken journey’s together eating wonderful food while Coogan writes about their experiences at the restaurants and the food they enjoyed.  The Trip to Spain is the third adventure they’ve had so far.  The first go-round was to review the best restaurants that the UK had to offer.  He was thrilled with the opportunity but when his girlfriend couldn’t join him, it was Rob who took her place.  Rob and Steve are very similar and constantly nag one another but they got through the trip without killing one another and the writing was successful.  Their second trip was to travel around Italy.  They went to Rome and Tuscany and though it has the same spirit, their travels and the film itself wasn’t quite as entertaining. 

Well, the boys have decided to do it once again and I’m very pleased they did.  Here, Brydon will work on a series of restaurant reviews while Coogan fits in time to put pen to paper on that new novel.  They take a week to wine and dine their way through beautiful Spain, enjoying one another’s repartee while basking in the magnificence of the scenery around them.  I’m not sure they take enough time to truly appreciate where they are for they are probably cracking wise too often to take it all in but director Winterbottom makes sure that we absorb the beauty of the land.  Once again, we go through every breathtaking moment of the trip simply in awe of where they are and what they get to do for a living and he makes the film better by accompanying the backdrop of Spain with the most marvelous music.  He takes us through the winding roads, the tiny villages and into the kitchens of the restaurants as the food is being prepared.  Most of the dishes will have you wanting to jump through the screen to join them. 

And then we have Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.  It seems Coogan is having a rough time of things.  When the trip started, everything was fantastic but as we move further and further into the week, more and more of his life seems to get complicated and plans begin to fall apart.  On the contrary, Rob’s life couldn’t be better, especially since he can get away from his crying baby for a week without question. 

But evading everything when he can and concentrating only on the trip, Coogan battles Brydon as he did before in impersonating stars they romanticize and respect such as Robert De Niro, Sean Connery, Mick Jagger and John Hurt.  One of the best moments is when they, like a couple of gossips, discuss men having children too late in life.  They take it deep with how old Jagger was when he had his last child.  Never being able to avoid doing it, they both give their best Jagger impression and then get into specifics of why theirs was better than the others.  It’s a classic moment because they then start feeling their age but bury it quickly by adding they feel they are in the ‘sweet spot of life.’  I don’t think either of them convinced the other of that either.

This banter continues throughout and rarely gets old.  Speaking of never getting old, Brydon takes out his ‘small man trapped in a box,’ at one point and when the topic of the death of so many celebrities enters the conversation, they examine another favorite; David Bowie.  Coogan defines Bowie’s death as almost an ‘artistic act’ and starts to sing some notes.  Rob topped Coogan with explaining how he found out that before his death, Bowie followed him on Twitter.  This, of course, could never beat Coogan’s relationship with Dame Judi Dench or his Oscar nomination for Philomena so, of course, there’s plenty of time to mention this in case Brydon has had a chance to forget.  There are several musings which are hashed out in the previous films brought up again in this one but this adds to the charm of this The Trip to Spain.  It proves these characters know one another very well.  You buy into the characters more and by doing this, it makes you feel like you’re a part of this friendship, as well.

As if it would be hard to tell they were fans, they give a nod to Monty Python’s brilliant work and award a fair amount of time to the Spanish Inquisition.  Being a big Monty Python fan, I applaud them for this decision.  Python has touched us all at some point so it was special to see them included here in this very witty film.  They also talked about Terry Gilliam’s work.  The dialogue surrounding this accomplished writer/director’s is another highlight as they get into how much they value him. 

The film isn’t perfect because I must point out that on occasion, Braydon did get irritating.  The most bothersome is when Coogan explains the history of the Moors, and is even getting a little political, Brydon constantly interrupts with his Roger Moore impression.  I was enjoying what Coogan was saying and the interruption by Brydon was a bit much but, again, it makes the film authentic and maybe this was the intention. 

At the end, with Coogan blissfully upset that he is being dropped by his agent, replaced as the writer of an upcoming film, his son (who he was looking forward to seeing) can’t fly in now… he’s feeling lost.  That said, the ending couldn’t have been better.  The trip wraps up with the line, ‘It’s always good to say goodbye in the mist.’ Steve is left alone and when you think things may turn around for him… they don’t.  We are perfectly set up for The Trip to…???    

Patti Cake$ Movie Review

Patti Cake$ is a rather unusual coming of age story. It wasn’t something I expected to take very seriously. I thought it would be interesting, based on what I knew of it, but hadn’t expected the life lesson that’s woven into the plot. As the movie played on, the more I realized how uncommon it was. It’s nice to run across a diamond in the rough. This very much is one.
The very authentic approach it took in telling Patricia Dombrowski, a.k.a. Patti Cake$, a.k.a. Killa P’s (Macdonald) tale was sometimes almost painful to watch. What could be lost through your being repulsed or shocked at times, is more than made up for in its charm and ability to win you over as you start to feel for this young woman who seems to have everything against her.
Patti is a dreamer. She’s the overweight, overwhelmed, overworked, underappreciated and underpaid daughter of Barb (Everett), granddaughter of Nana (Moriarty) and best friend to Hareesh (Dhananjay). She takes everything expected of her seriously and gives all tasks her full attention but she isn’t necessarily happy about anything she does because what she wants to do seems, thus far, so out of reach. But she’ll never give up. Caught between negativity that surrounds her and the posters in her room of the Rapper, O-Z (Sahr Ngaujah) she idolizes and dreams of working with someday, she feels stuck. She wants to make it on her own but is starting to realize she can’t do it on her own. This is very frustrating for her.

Her diet alone could kill her but she eats what she can afford to and that isn’t exactly gourmet dining. It speaks of what many face daily as America becomes more divided into only the rich and the poor with no middle ground to be found. This is a very strong message in this film. Patti and her family are the very descriptions of what has happened to this country. But going back to food and to dining, Patti enjoys going out to eat with her friend. It’s a way for her to get out of the house and away from her routine and having to take care of Nana all the time. She and Hareesh like to hash out their plans to conquer the world while they eat as the restaurant is their sanctuary where bullies and tormentors out to kill their dreams don’t reside.

But no wonder Patti doesn’t want to go home. It’s bad enough that thugs around town tease her every waking moment but her mother doesn’t treat her much better. Barb is jealous of her daughter’s youth and often finds ways of making Patti regret having been born. Barb was on the brink of making it as a singer in the music business when she got pregnant and has never let Patti forget that it was because of the pregnancy that her life virtually came to an end. She’s been in a bottle ever since and Patti has been a useful tool to abuse. Now old enough, she’s good for one thing and that’s to help pay the bills.

Patti is getting worn down by not being taken seriously but one night out with Hareesh, Patti is impressed by the performance and attitude of a very angry punk rock musician, (and Marilyn Manson/Snoop Dogg mix), who refers to himself as the Antichrist (Athie). She eventually burrows her way into his life and she, Hareesh and Bob, as his name turns out to be, end up making a rather fun Rap song together. With Bob’s equipment, Hareesh’s vocals and Patti’s producing/Rapping skills, they make a demo and start passing it around. By the way, ‘PBNJ’ is still stuck in my head and Nana’s part of the process cracked me up way beyond anything I ever expected! You just have to see this to see what I mean.

So, watching this all happen, her dreams slowly become reality and seeing exactly how hard it is to do so much when the odds are not in your favor from day one, is awe inspiring. She proves you can battle with the best and come out okay. The big takeaways are don’t give anyone your dreams and don’t ever give up. No. This isn’t the typical Hollywood ending so don’t think that you don’t have anything new to look forward to. This is a very innovative film.
Macdonald, who is from Australia and had never rapped before, is absolutely fantastic and will win you over instantly, and this is Geremy Jasper’s feature film directorial debut so there is a lot of unfamiliar territory covered here. I recommend you see the pay off from Jasper’s years of being a music video director. You’ll be quite surprised at just how thought provoking and innovative Patti Cake$ turns out to be.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3D Movie Review

Should I assume that I will not give away anything new in the plot or reveal any spoilers? After all, this movie was originally released in 1991. Just about everyone has seen it by now. There will be some people in the audience who may not have been born back then, but they have probably seen this movie on DVD. So, will a reboot to make a 3-D version of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” do justice to the original? I mean, this was one of the greatest Sci-Fi action movies ever! Putting a new depth into the action SHOULD just make it better…

“The Terminator” (1984) brought out Arnold Schwarzenegger as the killing machine android type T-800. He was a relentless assassin sent from the future to kill Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton). But that movie was so popular that “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was created to carry on the story. In the future, Skynet dominates the world, and schemes to destroy the person(s) who could end the future artificial intelligence, before it becomes self-aware. The plan is to send a new, better quality Terminator back to the past to kill John Connor (Edward Furlong).

 

The upgraded Terminator is a type T-1000 (Robert Patrick). It arrives in 1995 to find and eliminate John. However the future Resistance (led by an older John Connor) sends back a type T-800 (Schwarzenegger). But this android is reprogrammed to find and protect John. The T-800 will face off against the T-1000, and will keep John safe. Sarah and John go with the T-800 to Cyberdyne Systems, which is the place where the future androids are being developed. The chief engineer is Miles Dyson (Joe Norton), who does not believe that the future will be filled with Terminators that he helped to create.

But by the sacrifice of Dyson, Cyberdyne Systems is destroyed. That puts an end to the development of a neural net processor that would form the basis of the future SkyNet. But the chase is not yet over. The T-1000 is still hot on the trail of Sarah, John and the reconfigured T-800. There is still more action yet to happen. Before you can say “Hasta la vista, Baby!”, the three of them are found by the T-1000 and more mayhem ensues. They get trapped in an old steel mill, and the T-800 seems to be out for the count. But he prevails and the T-1000 is defeated. All traces of the future androids are destroyed, so nobody can reverse engineer the future tech. So, there can be no more sequels, right? Don’t bet on it!

 

“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was always considered a rare sequel that lived up to, and improved on the original. James Cameron had quite a few restraints in 1984 that were gone in 1991. Movie making technology had gotten so much better that “T2” now seems better than the first one. The carryover of the two main stars, Schwarzenegger & Hamilton, also gave it a big boost. Even a minor character Dr. Peter Silberman (played by Earl Boen) gave a continuity to both movies. Computer Graphic Imagery (CGI) also was way ahead by 1991. However, the movie used CGI in some scenes but did not go overboard.

All the acting in right on point. Arnold Schwarzenegger makes an about-face from the original movie – where he was the ultimate bad guy. Here he works on the side of angels to protect young John Connor. Linda Hamilton makes Sarah into one tough chick, and she does not back down. Robert Patrick plays the creepy T-1000 with a strange detachment from humanity. Joe Norton plays the doomed engineer Dyson, and he is perfect in the critical role. If there is any quibble, it could be with Edward Furlong, but he does just enough to get by…

 

The biggest role is in the movie is the action and special effects. The story mixes quite well with the original movie, and the new aspects relate with most of the first story. Making the T-800 out to be a savior rather than the original mechanical death machine is a smart move. Making the T-1000 into a major upgrade of the earlier T-800 also works out great. The story sizzles along with a lot of energy, especially when the T-800 (Schwarzenegger) is taking on the T-1000 (Patrick). There are chases and fights and a few slower periods, but all are mixed together beautifully.

 

But why this re-release? Because now there are 3-D effects added to the original movie. The addition of 3-D is pretty minimal, but there are some scenes where it does stand out and you can notice extra depth. So while it does not substantially improve the viewing experience, it does not distract.

Does it matter why “T2” is again on the big screen? Not really, and as long as it can be viewed in the regular theater…

I’ll Be Back!

 

Good Time Movie Review

An independently produced film can be very uneven, compared to a major studio release. But if the small film has a lot of heart and some great acting, then it could be ready for success. Ben & Josh Safdie are brothers who have come up with a movie equivalent of “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” with one called ‘Good Time’. It takes a main character who has a dubious moral code and follows his as he embarks on a crosstown adventure in New York City. With a minor budget, they have made a major effort to produce a fine movie.

Connie Nikas (Robert Pattinson) is a smooth-talking con-man loner. His mentally-challenged brother Nick Nikas (Ben Safdie) depends on Connie to protect him. He has a girlfriend Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who sponges off her grandmother. Low on cash, Connie schemes to hold up a bank with Nick. But all hell breaks loose and Nick is arrested. Connie swears that he will get his brother out tonight, because his brother will not be able to survive. He gets the cash from the robbery, still stained with the explosive ink dye, and takes it to Bail Bond place. Connie is still short on the bail amount for Nick.

However, Nick is not going for a bail hearing tonight. He has been injured in a fight and is at the hospital. Connie goes to where they have taken Nick. A police guard is at the door, but Connie sneaks past and gets the guy handcuffed to the hospital bed. He somehow gets away with the injured man he puts in the wheelchair. Connie sweet-talks an older lady to let him and the injured guy a place to stay. He meets the older lady’s grand-daughter named Crystal (Taliah Webster). The injured sleeping guy wakes up and Connie finds out it not who he thought it was.

Instead, it is Ray (Buddy Duress) who is an ex-con who just got out of jail the day before. He has a wild story to tell about how he got into the hospital. Ray tells a fantastic tale of his first day of freedom, and how he got mixed up with drinking and drugs. He remembers that a load of money and lot of drugs got stashed at a local amusement park. Connie takes a car and goes with Ray and Crystal. Connie is always talking up a great story with elaborate lies. He and Ray go to search the empty amusement park while Crystal stays in the car and waits. Connie and Ray search for the money and drugs, but a security guard named Dash (Barkhad Abdi) finds them. They overpower Dash and Connie dresses up as the guard. Crystal gets caught by the police and they also take Dash, who is now unable to prove who he is.

Connie and Ray leave and go to Dash’s nice apartment. They still have no money, but they found the drugs – so Connie plans of selling them to get the money for Nick’s bail. Ray has a friend who can help with that, but they get suspicious of Connie. But has there been enough laws broken and innocent people hurt for one night? Or does Connie think that his web of deception is strong enough to get his brother back and make with square with his girl? Connie is such a sociopath that he thinks whatever he does will work.  So far this single evening, he has not been proven wrong….

Robert Pattinson does an incredible job with this role, his commitment to the role is outstanding. He lives the part playing Connie, with all of his flaws and unrealistic dreams. Connie has a deep emotional bond with his brother Nick, and he will stop at nothing to try and make their lives better. He tells people want they want to hear, with no intention of following through. He even dyes his hair after the robbery when he sees his photo on the evening news. He is dangerous and vicious and he creates a wave of destruction in his path.

The other actors are quite good, even with limited experience. Ben Safdie plays Nick, but he is also the co-director. Buddy Duress plays Ray, and he plays a convincing down-on-his-luck man with a face full of (make-up) injuries. Taliah Webster plays Crystal, and she holds her own against some more seasoned actors. Jennifer Jason Leigh has a little more than a cameo role, as does Barkhad Abdi (he is remembered from the movie ‘Captain Phillips’).

The low-budget does not stop the Safdie bothers from telling an engaging, yet meandering, story. With the pulsating background music that sounds like an all-night rave, this movie has a very wild and almost out-of-control feeling. The craziness of Robert Pattinson in this role gets a person thinking – whatever will come next? You are always kept guessing and wondering, what is the next bad choice will Connie make? And what type of major lie will he tell to get it to happen? What results will occur that could harm even more people?

 

“Good Time” is a very unusual film, but you can see that there was a lot of thought put into it. The way that it starts like a spinning top, spinning fast in a tight little circle. And then slowly going to wobble just a bit, and then a little bit more… Soon the whole thing could just topple over, but it is fascinating to see what happens next…