Blood Money Movie Review

A young woman is begging for her life, trying to escape the clutches of a sadistic… John Cusack?!  I know.  Doesn’t sound right, does it?  Exactly!  But, as he often does, he pulls it off even though he would never have fit the role… on paper, that is.  I don’t know what it is with him but he manages to always surprise his audience and never lets them down.  The movie itself, well, that’s a different story, but let me tell you the story first. 
The credits roll with extremely fitting music that puts you in the mood to see a good thriller.  Popcorn in hand, drink nearby… we’re ready for a good flick.  We start the process of learning who the characters in the film are and we’re on our way.  We meet three people right away, Lynn (Fitzgerald), the girl everyone wants, Vic (Coltrane) the clingy type, and Jeff (Artist) the one to use when all hope is lost.  They’re three friends about to enjoy themselves in the wilderness when we cut to a man we find out is Miller (Cusack) propelling himself out of a plane after he first tosses bags of cargo out the side door.  The plane then continues flying itself before crashing into the forest below. 

To our surprise (not really), our young wandering besties seem to be heading in the same direction the bags are tossed  They run into Miller and outside of Lynn thinking he’s sexy, which I assure you, unlike when he was in Serendipity, Cusack is NOT sexy in the film, they find him odd.  Why do I sense this is going to get ugly?  OH!  I know… because they already show that to me in the first few moments of the movie.  You’re watching the movie because you’ve already been intrigued by the trailer, am I right?  There is no need to jump ahead in the story when I’m already watching.  I digress. 
So, our campers continue their deep forest frolic filled with friendship and FRUSTRATION.  Frustration due to the green-eyed monster rearing its horrid head.   Our buddies are caught in a love triangle which has the only female in the group running off in a huff and, as predicted, running into the money.  You’d think that instinct would kick in and that she’s run like hell away from big black bags of cash but nope; she takes it without for one moment considering who might be looking for it.

Both Jeff and Lynn (I wonder if either of the writers, Jared Butler or Lars Norberg, are ELO fans), salivate at the idea of going home with this kind of money and are spending it before it’s even counted.  Vic, the wiser head, bails.  And here were get a bit weird.  As Vic treks through the woods alone, he runs into Miller again.  They begin talking and through their shared resentment or disenchantment with women, strike or sort of bond.  It’s an interesting plot twist to be sure. 

Cusack’s ability to deliver a line far exceeds Coltrane’s who’s too flat, but the filmmakers manage a few moments of cat playing with mouse and it works really well.  However, when we go back to Jeff and Lynn, things aren’t going quite so smoothly.  Lynn is getting a bit ridiculous and I don’t say that lightly.  She’s acting crazy.  The idea of being rich has turned her into a maniac.  The dialogue written for these two is a bit far-fetched, Lynn has become a cold, witch with a capital B but when we’re on Vic and Miller, the story is much more interesting.  What you find out as they get to know one another is that Miller isn’t a killer, isn’t a terrible, evil person but, much like the case with Lynn, he got the money and intends to do whatever it takes to keep it. 

It’s said that money changes people.  That would be the perfect tagline for this film because, damn!  The two people in the power play positions here are almost savage.

*Opens at AMC Arizona Center and On Demand October 13th

The Foreigner Movie Review

What’s old is new again, sort of. In the movie “The Foreigner”, Jackie Chan is – um – not young, but he can still hold his own against an army of bad guys. And the bad guys are — the IRA? Yes, the defunct Irish Republican Army comes back, but only in cinema, to be the evil doers. And they are led by James B… I mean Pierce Brosnan (who has played Bond in the past). And the movie is directed by Martin Campbell, who has also directed prior Bond movies. So three cheers for the AARP crowd!

In London, a simple noodle shop owner named Quan (Jackie Chan) drops off his beloved daughter at a SOHO dress shop to find a wedding dress. Blink your eyes and will miss the IRA terrorist attack on the street, which destroys the shop. Quan’s daughter is dead. He is heartbroken, but determined to find answers. He finds out about a Northern Ireland deputy minister who is part of the British government. Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan) is a long standing politician in Belfast, and he once was a part of the old IRA.

Quan goes to the police and to Scotland Yard, but gets no answers. He decides to try and get the names of the bombers from Hennessy, but he just shrugs him off. “Surely, I don’t have any knowledge of who did this” Hennessy tells Quan. But Quan is determined, persistent and trained by many years in Special Forces Jungle Ops. So Quan knows a thing or two about making a homemade bomb that will rattle the windows and the rattle the deputy minister. Hennessy is put on notice that Quan is not taking no for an answer. Quan does his best ‘Jason Bourne’ to take control of the situation.

Hennessy keeps having major difficulties with his prior IRA contacts, who hate him for giving up. He has problems with his wife (Orla Brady), and also with his mistress (Charlie Murphy) – who might be deeply involved in the terrorist action. He has a problem with his nephew, who is visiting from New York – but still many connections with the old IRA.

But mostly Hennessy has problems with Quan. Hennessy’s office bathroom gets bombed, and then Quan targets his country estate barn and his car. Then Hennessy loses a few men who try and track Quan. He will not give up until he finds the people who killed his daughter…

Jackie Chan is an actor who can use his physical abilities to comedic or dramatic use. He plays an older character than he usually does, and his age does require that. Quan is smart and noble and dedicated, and he can MacGyver his way into gaining the upper hand. Pierce Brosnan also plays a character who attempts to scrape and claw his way into keeping a good thing that he has going. He does not know that his actions have triggered a relentless time bomb called Quan.

“The Foreigner” has the distinction of raising the specter of IRA terrorism in the modern day and age. It might be straight from the original novel, but that was written well before the peace accords in Northern Ireland. Perhaps not since “Patriot Games” has the IRA been cast as a boogeyman. It does not ruin the story, but it really stretches out the plausibility.

 

This movie will make you want to allow Jackie Chan to overstay his visa any day!

 

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women Movie Review

The origin of Wonder Woman goes back to one man named William Moulton Marston. He was a professor and an inventor. He came up with the first functional lie detector machine. But using his pen name of Charles Moulton, he created the Amazon warrior who was the female superhero that the comic books where waiting for. Only Professor Marston was quite a bit more Hugh Hefner than he was Stan Lee…

“Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” takes a look at the unusual mindset of Professor Bill Marston (Luke Evans) and his wife Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall). Marston was a respected psychology professor however his wife was not allowed to earn a PhD. She was limited by her gender, but not by her abilities. Marston and Elizabeth had very open ideas of sexuality. They both wanted to have a young female student as an assistant. They select Olive Byrne (Bella Heathcote) to help them in their studies.

However, their studies get off-track into three-way love triangle relationships. The university fires Professor Marston and they all are out in the cold. Bill and Elizabeth drag Olive into the whole thing. They have no real future without any income from the university. Bill starts writing textbooks and Elizabeth and Olive take menial jobs. They have a lot of sexual attraction between them, and much of it is on the kinky side.

 

Bill Marston has some unusual ideas for the early 1940’s, and most of them include sex. He is a fan of dominance and submission, and his life’s goal is to see it promoted and accepted in society. So his brainstorm is a new comic book character that will be a strong woman – a Wonder Woman.  Of course, her comic book world will be filled with subtle propaganda, such as the ‘Lasso of Truth’, and frequently being tied up and bound by ropes or chains.

Marston gets a comic book publisher named Max Gaines (Oliver Platt) to back him. Soon Wonder Woman is everywhere. Her story lines always involve somebody getting tied up or restrained. Mostly because Marston is one big kinky guy. He and Elizabeth, along with Olive are now living the sweet life. That is until the Decency Society starts a campaign to get rid of Wonder Woman…

The movie “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” might also have a different title: “Fifty Shades of Marston”. The type of open marriage and three-way affections that this group had were not in the norm during the 40’s. They lived a life on the edge, but Marston was able to turn his SMBD thoughts into comic book gold. It was a way to promote their lifestyle in a hidden agenda.

Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall and Bella Heathcote play it all as high drama, and yet it could have had a lighter touch. They are not performing Shakespeare in the park, but they are more inclined for doing threesomes in the dark.  The subject material is fascinating, and the final result makes you want to reconsider why Wonder Woman has become so popular.

 

It all makes you ‘Wonder’ what she was dong in that invisible plane…

Marshall Movie Review

“Marshall” is a movie that centers on Thurgood Marshall, a black man who is the main lawyer for the N.A.A.C.P. organization. His goal is to find ‘colored’ people who have been unjustly accused of a crime, and he will work diligently to get them freed. Marshall later becomes the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United State. But this story happens much earlier in his career, in a case that unfolded in 1940 in Connecticut.

 

Thurgood Marshall (Chadwick Boseman) gets assigned to a case in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Marshall does not have a law license to practice that state, so the N.A.A.C.P. finds a local lawyer to handle the case and have Marshall as an ‘associate’ attorney in the courtroom. Sam Friedman (Josh Gad) is the local lawyer, who has never tried a criminal case before in his life. Marshall comes to town and completely dominates. Sam is put off by Thurgood’s manner, but he sees that the outsider is loaded with self-confidence and moxie. Sam is Jewish, and he knows a little about feeling like an outsider.

 

The case involves Joseph Spell (Sterling K. Brown), who is a ‘colored’ man working for a married couple. The wife is Eleanor Strubing (Kate Hudson). She has accused Spell of attacking her and raping her in her home. She then accuses him of driving her out to a lake and throwing her over a side of a bridge to drown. The local law enforcement has collected testimony and evidence.

 

They have the local District Attorney named Lorin Willis (Dan Stevens) who is ready to see Spell put away for a long, long time. Spell meets with Marshall and Friedman, and he tells them he is innocent. When the case begins, the Judge (James Cromwell) has no love for outsiders in his court. He orders Marshall to stay in his seat and remain silent. He can assist the main lawyer, Friedman, but he must not speak in court or be an active member of the legal team.

 

Despite the Judge’s orders, Marshall becomes a useful part of the Spell’s defense team. He instructs Friedman which jurors to select or reject. He and Friedman go out to visit the bridge where the ‘attempted murder’ occurred. They gather evidence and spot clues that the prosecution seems to have missed.

 

Thurgood Marshall has a very abrupt manner and he has a high regard for himself. This puts him at odds with many people around him, at times including Sam Friedman. Civil Rights for ‘colored’ people were still pretty backwards in the country. Even the Jewish community was met with some discrimination and intolerance. Friedman and Marshall at one point are attacked by loser bigots, but it strengthens the resolve of the two men to see that justice is done.

 

But any justice for Joseph Spell is a little ways off, because they learn he is an unreliable witness himself. But if they show that there is enough doubt in the testimony of Eleanor Strubing, they can perhaps win the case. What will the jury verdict be? And will Marshall be still in town, or be pulled off on another case and be elsewhere?

 

“Marshall” is a study of the Civil Rights lawyer in his beginning years out on the road helping the downtrodden black folk to get a fair shot at justice. But actually the main character is found in Sam Friedman. Chadwick Boseman is a perfect choice for the Thurgood Marshall character. But the big surprise is the strength of Josh Gad playing the Sam Friedman role. Boseman is a perfect fit for a true iconic character. However Gad, more noted for light comedy roles, scores major points here.

 

Thorgood Marshall is self-assured, almost arrogant, at the start of the movie. He is also that same way at the ending, so he shows little character development. Sam Friedman, on the other hand, is settled in doing menial work for insurance companies, and his character really undergoes a great change when he is selected to work with Marshall.  His attitude and his confidence change drastically by the end of the movie.

 

But nobody would be interested with a movie called “Friedman”. So Marshall is the title and the main character of this movie. But the actual primary character is the main lawyer who is central to the case. After all, Sam Friedman did not go on many years later to become nominated and then be approved to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Goodbye Christopher Robin – Movie Review

The best-loved children’s book of all time is Winnie-the-Pooh.  It was published in 1926 by a man ruined by war, for his son who was ruined by the book.  This film brought a story that I wasn’t expecting to see.  A.A. Milne, the writer of the infamous tales of Winnie-the-Pooh, came up with the story in a lovely way but the history of it and infamy from it all but ruined what was left of his family. 

A very accomplished playwright and author, Milne found it hard to write at all after returning from a war he was so deeply against.  Milne served in both World Wars.  He joined the British Army in the WWI, served as an officer and was a captain of the British Home Guard in WW II.  He was against the wars and it affected him greatly to have been a part of them.  The film shows that the strain of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder destroyed an otherwise outgoing and accomplished man, making him somewhat misanthropic and reclusive.  When he heard or saw any loud sound or flash of light, his mind and body would prepare for battle.  Milne was against and afraid of war.  He was a pacifist but joined to fight evil Hitler.  He once explained that “In fighting Hitler, we are truly fighting the Devil, the Anti-Christ.  Hitler was a crusader against God.”   

The movie shows a man truly unhappy.  What he thought would happen to him because of his writing, did not.  What he desired to be known for wasn’t a little children’s book, no matter how popular.  He wanted to be appreciated for his novels.  The writers of the film, Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan, drafted for us a man torn completely in half, fighting what he wanted to and what he had become.  He wanted to make a prolific statement against war.  Milne shouts that he is, ‘tired of making people laugh… he wants to make them see.’  Once Pooh entered his life, however, that was all over.

What seemed so tragic is that Alan Milne, Domhnall Gleeson, (About Time, Calvary, The Revenant, American Made) and his wife Daphne, played ever so chillingly by Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street, Suicide Squad) had grown to enjoy a particular lifestyle that they didn’t want to leave behind.  Having a child, Christopher Robin (Tilston) did get in the way of partying with friends, especially for Daphne.  They hire a nanny right away named Olive, played rather warmly by Kelly MacDonald.  I use the word warmly because for years she watches the boy grow without much love toward him coming from where it should.  If it weren’t for her, he would have known almost none. 

They all move to the country, hoping to spark something inside of Alan to get him writing again and when this doesn’t work, Daphne returns to London to give him time to think.  She leaves her son, as well, which seems to bother neither of them.  When at this time Olive must leave, Alan is left to look after his boy.  He’s a father who loves his son but is broken and clueless about how to care for him on a day to day basis.  When this is worked out, he finds himself enjoying time with the child.  They walk through the giant wooded area that is their property and make up stories about animals in the wild.  This is the inspiration of the world of Pooh.  Alan sees the book come to life and gets his illustrator to come out and begin sketching.  The creativity on director Simon Curtis’ (My Week with Marilyn) part to include the real boy turning into sketches is magnificent.

Daphne returns, the book is published and Christopher Robin becomes a sideshow.  His parents allow him to be pranced around like a horse in a circus for any and everybody who wants to photograph, meet or speak to the child.  Olive is worried about his popularity, so is Alan but not for the reason one would think.  He didn’t want to write some story that made his child successful; the star of the show.  He wanted the attention.  The boy always seemed to get in the way of his desires and ambitions.  And though he loved writing, he didn’t much like having written books that stole his own dreams. 

Tilston is a cherub-faced, darling little boy with huge dimples in his cheeks and a cute haircut that frames his face.  His voice and accent are incredibly pleasant and sweet, so much so that you’ll find nothing else interesting to watch if he’s on screen.  He was absolutely adorable which makes you angry for how this boy is treated. 

My final thoughts are, Gleeson walks around half dead which brings the pacing down a bit but the boy and that face more than makes up for it.  The illustrations are striking, the acting is well done and the story itself, one I was so shocked to learn, make this a compelling film for you to add to your weekend theatre visit. 

Anyway, I haven’t told you the ending of what ultimately happens to the family.  I will warn that the film does take some liberties with the truth.  However, stay for the end to see real pictures and some postscript that gives you a little bit of extra detail.

J.K. Rowling alert! CASTING CONTINUES ON THE NEW “FANTASTIC BEASTS”

CASTING CONTINUES ON THE NEW “FANTASTIC BEASTS”

ADVENTURE SET IN J.K. ROWLING’S WIZARDING WORLD


Actors Join the Ensemble Led by Eddie Redmayne,
Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Jude Law and Johnny Depp

           
BURBANK, CA – October 2017 – Additions have been made to the cast of the all-new adventure set in J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World, the second of five feature films in the series that began with “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.”  The film, which is currently in production, is being directed by David Yates.

            Among the actors who have joined the international ensemble cast are: Carmen Ejogo, returning to the role of Seraphina Picquery; Wolf Roth as Spielman; Victoria Yeates as Bunty; Derek Riddell as Torquil Travers; Poppy Corby-Tuech as Rosier; Cornell S. John as Arnold Guzman; and Brontis Jodorowsky as Nicolas Flamel.  Fiona Glascott and Jessica Williams have also been cast in roles to be revealed.

Reprising their roles from the worldwide hit “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” are Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”), who stars as wizarding world magizoologist Newt Scamander; Katherine Waterston as Auror Tina Goldstein; Dan Fogler as No-Maj Jacob Kowalski; Alison Sudol as Queenie Goldstein; and Ezra Miller as Credence.  Oscar nominee Johnny Depp (the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies, “Finding Neverland”) returns as the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald, and Oscar nominee Jude Law (“The Talented Mr. Ripley,” “Cold Mountain”) portrays Hogwarts professor Albus Dumbledore. 

Rounding out the main cast are Zoë Kravitz as Leta Lestrange; Callum Turner as Theseus Scamander; Claudia Kim as a woman in a wizarding circus; William Nadylam as Yusuf Kama; Ingvar Sigurdsson as Grimmson; Ólafur Darri Ólafsson as Skender; and Kevin Guthrie as Abernathy.

J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay for the film, which opens in 1927, a few months after Newt helped to unveil and capture the infamous Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.  However, as he promised he would, Grindelwald has made a dramatic escape and has been gathering more followers to his cause—elevating wizards above all non-magical beings.  The only one who might be able to stop him is the wizard he once called his dearest friend, Albus Dumbledore.  But Dumbledore will need help from the wizard who had thwarted Grindelwald once before, his former student Newt Scamander.  The adventure reunites Newt with Tina, Queenie and Jacob, but his mission will also test their loyalties as they face new perils in an increasingly dangerous and divided wizarding world.

The film expands the wizarding world, moving from New York to London and on to Paris.  There are also some surprising nods to the Harry Potter stories that will delight fans of the books and film series.

David Heyman, J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Lionel Wigram are producing the film, with Tim Lewis, Neil Blair, Rick Senat and Danny Cohen serving as executive producers.

Collaborating with Yates behind the scenes are: Oscar-winning director of photography Philippe Rousselot (“A River Runs Through It”); three-time Oscar-winning production designer Stuart Craig (“The English Patient,” “Dangerous Liaisons,” “Gandhi,” the “Harry Potter” films), three-time BAFTA Award-winning editor Mark Day (the last four “Harry Potter” films, “State of Play”), four-time Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood (“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them,” “Chicago,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Alice in Wonderland”), Oscar-winning visual effects supervisor Tim Burke (“Gladiator,” the “Harry Potter” films), and Oscar-nominated visual effects supervisor Christian Manz (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1”).

The new adventure is being filmed at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden, which has been the cinematic home of the Wizarding World since the first “Harry Potter” film.

Slated for release on November 16, 2018, the film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Loving Vincent – Movie Review

Loving Vincent is absolutely breathtaking.  A marvel.  It’s a journey back in time much like what we experience when we stare at any piece of art.  Filmmakers, Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman and a team of 125 painting animators immerse you in the world of one of the most loved artists of all, the Father of Modern Art, Vincent Van Gogh.  What has been accomplished here will unquestionably affect you, bowl you over, however you want to say it but this here, this film, is a bona fide treasure.

Allow me to give you a few facts about what it took to bring this amazing production to you.  It took seven, SEVEN, years to make and is the first of its kind.  Each and every one of the film’s 65,000 frames is an oil painting itself, employing the same bold technique as Van Gogh used.  The painters spent up to TEN DAYS painting just ONE SECOND of the film!  Loving Vincent is the first ‘fully oil painted feature film.’  After watching, there’s no doubt there will be more to follow. 

The movie seems like an impossibility in the way it not only shows you the filmmakers talents but tells you all about the subjects.  Luckily for us, Dorota Kobiela didn’t keep it a short film as originally planned.  Oh, the loss that would have been.  What Van Gogh accomplished in only nine years is remarkable and you learn so much about his work through Loving Vincent that you’ll want to run and find out more.  He created over 860 oil paintings and 120 of them were used, fused into the film with loving, caring, compassionate artists out to tell the world this phenomenal story with their awe-inspiring work. 

When the artists best for the job were found for the film, they were put through a 180-hour training program before they could start painting but before that, the feature, which is a difficult task all its own, had to be shot!! 

It’s almost too much to comprehend but sets were built to mirror the images of Van Gogh’s paintings, Night Café, Portrait of Doctor Paul Gachet and Portrait of Adeline Ravoux to name a few of the 120 used.  With that detail and the use of green screen technology, you’ll thoroughly applaud the efforts to remove you from this world and drop you into his. 

His being, Vincent’s (Gulaczyk) but also Armand Roulin’s (Booth) world… the man trying to get a letter from Vincent to his brother, Theo (Cezary Lukaszewicz).  Arman is given the letter by his father, a postman by the name of Joseph Roulin (O’Dowd), both of them subjects of Vincent’s work.  The odyssey he finds himself on when he learns of Theo’s passing is not what he was expecting.  He wants only to try and find the rightful owner of the letter and instead finds himself entangled in a mystery.

After meeting several people who knew Vincent, Louise Chevalier (McCrory) who was not a fan of Vincent or his work, Adeline Ravoux (Tomlinson) the innkeeper’s daughter who is a wealth of information and Dr. Gachet (Flynn), himself a failed artist, Armand sees reason all around him to doubt whether Vincent took his own life or whether someone did it for him.  The film actually takes place in 1891, a year after his death so, some of the story is told in flashbacks which are the memories of the people he speaks with and what they feel compelled to recant. Vincent’s murder has now been suggested and if you weren’t aware of that, watching how the idea incubates here and how it unfolds is the perfect way to judge, chew on and then spread that very notion.
 

I’ll conclude with exclaiming that this is a must watch, a must own and a must see on occasion just to gaze upon the glory of it.  Subtle gestures, glances and movement are captured on canvas and exquisitely matched onto each frame so that you’ll be fully absorbed in the tale.  You’re so intoxicated by the movie that after a while you can’t imagine these characters having ever been only on film.  I have a deep affection for Vincent Van Gogh’s art.  I’ve read some of the letters that quotes in the film were pulled from and I utterly loved how they incorporated Vincent, his words, his affections and his illness and tragedy into this living, breathing display of craftsmanship and respect for the man.

Watch a Time-Lapse clip HERE

**Loving Vincent opens in Phoenix at Harkin’s Camelview Fashion Square and Tucson at Loft Cinema on Friday

 

Website: LovingVincent.com

Facebook: Facebook.com/lovingvincentmovie

Twitter: Twitter.com/LovingVincent

Instagram: Instagram.com/lovingvincentmovie

Official Hashtag: #LovingVincent

Happy Death Day – Movie Review

Happy Death Day is produced by Jason Blum, who produced Purge, Ouija, The Gift, Split and much, much more, so no matter what, you know you’re in for some fun… that’s just what he does.  And, yes!  You read that right, it’s PG-13 so the horror is weak but the thrills are a payoff, once you get over what an awful person the main character Tree (Rothe) is. 

Jessica Rothe does a fairly good job of portraying the character so, it isn’t her acting, it’s that maybe she was too good because she’s such a bitch… you kinda want the killer to succeed in his efforts to rid the planet of this foul beast.  She has friends who are as truly detestable as she!  It takes an effort to wrap your head around the good guy, Carter (Broussard) ever wanting anything to do with her. 

Our young, sorority girl heroine has found herself having Déjà vu issues.  Every morning when she awakens, she finds it’s the same day… her birthday.  Not only does she wake up to discover this reparative situation going on but at the end of her birthday, she is murdered in a new and horrific manner. 
If you feel you’re having Déjà vu, you’re not.  This is very much the structure of the plotlines in the films Edge of Tomorrow, Before I Fall and, most notably, Groundhog Day.  Happy Death Day is very aware of this and at the end of the film lets us know that loud and clear.  What you can find pleasing in this movie is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously and once you get beyond Tree finding out that she is repeating the same day over and over, you can more focus on how the day ends. 

She is, as I mentioned previously, not a nice person and discovers this about herself while she’s looking for someone to help her and there are no true friends to turn to.  Instead of friends, she is also waking up to the fact that what she’s finding instead is a new list of suspects.  Tree becomes more and more likable as Carter becomes more of an influence.  Knowing that you’ll be going through these days with her, you watch for the clues, you look for who it might be, but I’ll be honest… I didn’t see it. 

The ending, though a bit flimsy at times, was amusing.  But I did find myself wanting to shout, ‘Come on!  No one is going to be able to have their head bashed on the floor half a dozen times and walk away without a scratch!’  Continuity, guys!  Little things like that, and a man throwing Tree against the wall with such ease, could eat away at you and spoil your full enjoyment of it all but I don’t think so.  Is it a silly premise?  Yes.  Had this been a bit more of a fright, it would have been the perfect Friday the 13th release but I can’t say it was. 

Is it entertaining?  Yes.  If you haven’t seen Groundhog Day and the others listed, do… but check this one out, too.  I don’t recommend seeing it this weekend at the theatre; best saved for home viewing but the mystery was there and you’ll have a blast with the absurdity of it all.  I must say, however, that the waking up to the same day over and over loop gag should end here.  I haven’t seen it in a big children’s movie yet so they could be next to give it a go but no more after that.  It’s a bit tasking on the viewer. 

The Mountain Between Us Movie Review

“The Mountian Between Us’ is a movie that poses a question: What is more important in the wilderness after a horrifing plane crash in the Rocky Mountains, survival — or romance? Well, maybe is does not put it in those terms. But the end result is two strangers on a small plane struggle to stay alive, and then later, struggle with new-found love. When the plane cracks up on the mountain, two hearts crack open… Will they find death in the journey home, or a new life that will lead them on?

In a small airport in Wyoming, there are two people caught up with flight delays that will affect them profoundly. Dr. Ben Bass (Idris Elba) needs to get to Baltimore for a scheduled surgery he will perform the next day. Alex Martin (Alex Martin) is a photojournalist with an assignment completed. She needs to get back to Denver by tomorrow for her long-planned wedding to Mark (Dermot Mulroney). They are both in a bad spot with no flights available on the main carriers. Alex searches for a local pilot and gets a charter flight set up with Walter (Beau Bridges). Ben and Alex split the cost of the quick flight to Denver.

When they are flying over the Rocky Mountains, the weather changes quickly. Walter is overwhelmed by the bad storms and it triggers a stroke. With the pilot down, the plane also goes down. They crash land on a large snowy peak, with no civilization in sight. Walter is dead, his dog (he is not given a name) is OK, and the plane’s emergency beacon is broken. Ben wakes up with some minor injuries, and Alex is in bad shape. She has a severely injured leg that would make very tough to walk out. Ben takes his phone up to the closest peak, but still gets no cell signal. He nearly slides off a cliff and Alex has a run-in with ‘The Mountain Lion Between Us’.

Ben has a mysterious back story and will not talk about it. Alex was to be married, and now she is missing. Nobody knows that they took the flight with Walter, and he never filed a flight plan. If there is any type of search party, the people would not know where to begin to look. Ben wants to stay where they are, with the wreckage of the small plane. Alex wants to start moving down the mountain, so they would have a better chance to find anybody. They finally decide to move on from the peak and find a way down to a valley.

Ben starts to open up, and Alex explains her misgivings about her (missed) marriage ceremony.  They continue to fight the forces of nature and some wild animals, until they come across an abandoned cabin. They have limited food, but they can melt snow for water and have a small fire for warmth. But the pressing issue Alex and her need for medical attention and her inability to travel any more. These two are in a fight to stay alive, so of course the only thing to do is fall in love. Ben had a wife who has died from a terrible illness. Alex puts herself into extreme situations for her job. But mostly it is because that is how she likes to live.

Can a down-to-earth neurosurgeon and a thrill-seeking journalist find love and happiness in an extreme situation such as a plane crash? That is what makes up the bulk of this movie. But then when is shifts out of survival mode to back into real-life mode, the action and suspense slows and then stops.  The future of Ben and Alex is a bit more exciting when it is unknown if there will continue to be a Ben or an Alex. After that is cleared up, the pace crawls to a conclusion that is trite and superficial.

Idris Elba and Kate Winslet are both fantastic actors with a wide range and deep capabilities. This movie allows them to put an effort on the screen that proves they can act, and the movie is lifted up because of that. However, the best of actors cannot lift material that is mediocre at best and is substandard at worst. The production values are really nice, but with one exception. The fluid motion of the camera in the minutes just before the plane crash is astounding. The view glides from one part of he plane to another, and shows the distress that each of the characters is in. But then it ends the scene with a crash into the the snow that is so bad, it looks like it was stolen from a video game.

This movie really tries to get over that peak and climb to the highest position. But it just can’t seem to get over that mountain of clichés and plot devices that leave the actors stranded. This might be one “Mountain” that is best to be avoided.

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Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

“Blade Runner 2049” is a sequel 35 years in the making. In 1982, “Blade Runner” was released and did modest business, yet it has become a Sci-Fi classic. Now, director Denis Villeneuve is going to make a new classic and he has raised the bar for science fiction movies to come. Originally based on a book by Philip K. Dick, the original “Blade Runner” and now “Blade Runner 2049” are creating a well-defined world of dystopian future despair. But it is done with so much visual style and beauty that it becomes amazing.

 

“Blade Runner” was set in L.A. 2019, where Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) was employed as a ‘blade runner’ (a person who hunts down and ‘retires’ replicants. Replicants are android human-like recreations, and back in 2019 there are some who rebelled and caused major trouble. When Deckard ‘retires’ a replicant it means that he must kill them. Deckard meets a replicant named Rachel, and the two of them drop off the map and are never found. These events then echo into a future L.A. when the year is 2049.

 

Officer K (Ryan Gosling) works for LAPD doing ‘blade runner’ type operations for the department. His boss is Lieutenant Joshi (Robin Wright) who sends him on a mission to ‘retire’ Sapper Morton (Dave Bautista). Morton is an older style replicant who has gotten into trouble. Officer K takes him on and Morton is killed. But something is discovered on the property where he was living. There are bones inside a box, and the ramifications are huge.

The old Tyrell Corporation (from 2019) has been taken over by Wallace Industries, led by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto). He is a global billionaire who has recreated the replicants (once banned after an uprising in 2022). Officer K also has a companion named Joi (Ana de Armas) who is also related to the Wallace company. Wallace has an assistant named Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) who is efficient, brutal and lethal. Officer K has to visit with Wallace to find out some missing information.  Because of an event back in 2022, many of the electronic records are scrambled or wrong.

 

Officer K needs to investigate further and goes to the San Diego Landfill Area. There he finds an orphanage that is run by Mister Cotton (Lennie James). But there are critical pages missing from his records, and Officer K comes up short. Then he meets with a freelance ‘memory creation specialist’ named Dr. Ana Stelline (Carla Juri) who might hold some information. There are other clues that lead Officer K to the ruins of Las Vegas, where he locates the missing Deckard. There are many confrontations, and multiple people are searching for Deckard and the knowledge he might possess.

 

People think that Deckard holds the key to the mystery bones found on the Morton property. With so many people (and so many replicants) wanting to find out so much missing information, the city is ready to explode into violence and disruption again. There is a fear of a new rebellion from the replicant masses who want to become “more human than human”. Officer K is getting more and more confused about his own past and his own life. But will the mystery of the woman’s bones ever be solved? And was it true, that the woman was a replicant and she died in childbirth? How could that be true? And what does that hold for the future?

It takes a lot of guts to revive a movie that many consider a classic and make it the entry point into a new sequel. The first movie is not required to watch prior to seeing “Blade Runner 2049”. But it makes the story elements much more tangible. The various characters are introduced, and a few of them are carried over from the first movie. To say anything more would ruin parts of the story. But it really helps to get the original screenwriter (Hampton Fancher) to work on the overall story and the new screenplay.

 

Acting is superb for all characters. Ryan Gosling is very good at being stoic and unperturbed, but Officer K slowly gets drawn into a mystery. Harrison Ford reconnects with his Rick Deckard character, with all the added years of wisdom and loneliness. Robin Wright hits the right combination of tough leader and anxious participant in a story that could overwhelm society. Ana de Armas is fun to watch in an unusual role. Jared Leto and Dave Bautista have standout cameo roles. Sylvia Hoeks does really steal the show with her performance as Luv.

 

The story and music (Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch) balance out perfectly. With a score that sometimes echoes the original “Blade Runner” sound track (by Vangelis), it drives the action and signals the emotional arc of the movie. But because these are ‘moving pictures’ – then special thanks must be given to cinematographer Roger Deakins. He renders the movie as a visual treat, with each scene rich is color and striking clarity. His work here deserves to be rewarded by the Academy…

 

Of course, there are some issues, such as the length of the movie. It is close to three hours long, and that is pretty rigorous for most movie audiences. However, it would be hard to find any scenes that could be cut out totally (although some might be shortened). At times the sound and the audio seems to overwhelm, and certain audience members could have issues with that. The future city of LA still has future buildings adorned with ‘Atari’ and ‘Pan-Am’, and that puts a wrinkle into the production.

 

Overall, it is as close to being a Classic starting right at its release. If you enjoy Sci-Fi movies, and you have seen “Blade Runner”, then this is a must-see. If you enjoy well-made movies and know nothing about ‘Blade Runner”, you would still want to check this out. Do not wait until the year 2049, when they just might be getting around to making another sequel!