The Tomorrow Man Movie Review

This debut film by Noble Jones is a notably distinctive love story but not the most fascinating. I say this primarily for the reason that the main character’s logic for being who he is and doing what he does isn’t intriguing enough to keep you as engaged as you could have been. It’s a nice story of two older people finding each other but throwing in the threat of the apocalypse and concentrating so much on the predictive nature of the main character kind of spoils what could have been. Ed, played by John Lithgow, feels he’s in the know. He’s paranoid, refuses to be controlled and is preparing for the worst. He chats online about his doomsday scenario with others who believe as he does. He and his only friends discuss that no one is to be trusted and that the end is quite possibly near. It will be for him if he doesn’t take his medication properly but I’ll leave that for you to discover.

In his home, he has a shelter for when he needs to hide. In this shelter is a massive supply of everything he could possibly ever need to survive if he were required to hide for a long stretch of time. Since he built this, Ed likes to journey out to the grocery store to make sure his shelter is always stocked with a fresh supply of food. One day he sees something at the store that he doesn’t usually see. Someone he’d like to actually get to know. Based on the contents of her basket, is she a ‘doomsdayer,’ too? In a show of bravery, he makes his move and speaks with her. Ronnie (Danner) is quite meek and sweet and in an awkward but brave moment, Ed asks her out.

He doesn’t seem prepared when her answer is ‘yes.’ Adorable. This is what I liked about the movie! More of this, please! If the story had stayed with these two and this blossoming story of love, it would have been fantastic. John Lithgow and Blythe Danner are splendid together with glowing on-screen chemistry, something not used as much as it could have and should have been. When the film veers away from the romance between these two stellar actors, the expectations and interest in its outcome deteriorates.

Ed’s self-serving, almost manic race to be ahead of the game if the ‘shit hits the fan’, if there’s ever a need to be prepared for anything, grows weary fast. Ronnie listens to his conspiracy theories and is supportive though she doesn’t believe a word he’s saying. She placates him because she, too, has her secrets. He calls himself a ‘preparer’ and believes she is, too, but he sees what she’s been trying to keep from him when he finally goes to her house. She’s anything but prepared. In fact, she’s a hoarder. This seems to confuse him. ‘What to do with this information?’

This was fascinating because it proves how perfect they are for one another. They’re both keeping things just in case, aren’t they? She started holding onto things when her daughter died. He holds onto things in case of trouble. They’re both hoarding, aren’t they?

I can see this movie appealing only to an older crowd. Some conversations are a bit too contrived, but some points are right on the money. At the end of the film, one of these characters grows and the other isn’t yet ready to. It’s curious as to why it was one and not both but, regardless, Danner and Lithgow play these characters to a T with perfect harmony. What isn’t puzzling is why Jones hired these two to star in his film. The film can be slow but the performances can’t be missed. 

Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (Netflix) Movie Review

Just in the nick of time, there is a new movie called “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle”. It is based on Rudyard Kipling works, including “The Jungle Book”. But do not confuse this movie with other movies called “The Jungle Book” (versions released in 1967, 1994, and 2016) or “The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story” (1998) or “”The Jungle Book 2” (2003). Those other movies are not like this new movie, because this is based on “All the Mowgli Stories”. Also, it is not part of the Disney franchise, so there are no musical numbers or singing vultures.  Is does feature Mowgli, so that clears up everything for you…

Mowgli (Rohan Chand) is a boy orphaned in the jungles of India long ago. As a little baby, his parents are killed by the striped Bengal tiger named Shere Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch). Mowgli is found by Bagheera (Christian Bale) who is a black panther in the jungle. He finds the boy and leaves him with the nearby family of wolves. Mowgli knows that he is unusual, but he also knows that his wolf parents care for him. He is taught, like the other wolf cubs, by the Himalayan brown bear named Baloo (Andy Serkis). Mowgli learns of the Man Village, but he avoids it and wants no part of it. He knows that some day Shere Khan will return and will try and kill him. Mowgli plans to be ready for that day. There is an ancient python named Kaa (Cate Blanchett) who knows the past and the future. She knows that Mowgli can be a great leader in the jungle, or he might one day destroy their home.

The people of the Man Village have hired a Great White Hunter named Lockwood (Matthew Rhys) to track down and kill Shere Khan. Mowgli studies with Baloo, and he learns that he can use his human features to also be fast in the jungle. He can run upright, he can climb trees and swing on vines, and he can use tools. That makes Mowgli very different form the wolves. He is also different from other jungle creatures. Mowgli makes friends with the elephants, and one day he is kidnapped by the apes. He is almost turned over to Shere Khan by the apes, but he is rescued by the elephants, Bagheera and Baloo. Mowgli is found by the hunter Lockwood, and he stays for a while in the Man Village. But Mowgli knows that he must face Shere Khan some day, so he leaves the Village to find and fight the ruthless tiger.

So in case you have not seen any of the other five or so movies about the Jungle Book or about Mowgli, then this will not give away any surprise endings. But if you want to know “The Bare Necessities” about this movie, than you can “Trust in Me”. Andy Serkis has taken an old favorite and has given a new and talented cast a shot at making something different. He gets close to it in a few places, but the fact that everybody knows the story hold this adaptation back from being great. There is an amazing visual landscape that is created, and it all looks good. The CGI creatures created for the main animal characters are really well done. The voice acting is very convincing. There is a section of the movie where Mowgli spends in the Man Village, and that part has never been explored in the past.

Rohan Chand makes a very good impression as Mowgli, very skinny and spritely. He is very physical in this role, and he does it well. Christian Bale and Andy Serkis are very stable and upright as Bagheera and Baloo. They match up very well with the characters. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Shere Khan, but is couple of scenes he almost goes from drama to parody (“I will not rest until I drink the blood of the Man Cub !!!!”). The human characters (other than Mowgli) never too much attention. So this will be released to a limited run in theaters, but most of the viewing will be done when it gets to Netflix.

The Outlaw King (Netflix) Movie Review

“The Outlaw King” is an historical look at what happened in Scotland after the end of the movie “Braveheart”. After William Wallace failed to lead the people of Scotland in a rebellion to gain freedom from England, another person took over. That person was from the family of Bruce, who once had an actual claim to the royal leadership of the Scots. When England took over and held the land for generations, finally a true rebellion grew from the mistreatment. English kings held Scotland like golden goose, always taking the golden eggs. They are leaving only the shells for the Scottish people.

When the failed Rebellion put William Wallace on the run, the Scottish nobles were forced to declare loyalty to King Edward I (Stephen Dillane) The King’s son was Edward, Prince of Wales (Billy Howle). He was put in charge of keeping the Scots in line and paying taxes. One Scotsman was ready to break against the brutal leadership of England. That was Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine). His father was the one to give up the fight and swear the oath to the King. But Robert was not willing. Robert had agreed to be a marriage to an English nobleman’s daughter named Elizabeth de Burgh (Florence Pugh).  Robert still had a daughter from his first marriage, but his wife had passed away.

But when William Wallace is found and killed by the English crown, Robert says that the King went back on his word. There is not way to serve a King who is not worthy of trust. So Robert gathers his brothers and talks about a new Scottich rebellion. But his one will be led by a Scottish King. That King would be him, of course. Robert the Bruce meets with his main rival, John Comyn (Callan Mulvey). But he does not get Comyn’s agreement to make Robert the new King of Scotland. So, he kills him. But there are enough clans of Scotland who believe in the royal line of Bruce, that Robert is crowed King of Scotland.

The King of England and Prince of Wales begin a military campaign to destroy Robert the Bruce and all of his followers. They will fight without civility or chivalry, so that any action is acceptable. Just before the first battle, the English troops attack the nighttime camp of the Scottish army. Robert’s troops are unprepared, and many are slaughtered. They are declared ‘Outlaws’ by the English crow, and anyone helping them will be arrested or killed. Robert is on the run, an ‘Outlaw King’. His wife Elizabeth and his daughter are taken by the English and held prisoner. Robert the Bruce has few loyal warriors who are still with him.

Some of his fellow freedom fighters are Angus Macdonald (Tony Curran) and James Douglas (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). Robert, along with his brother Neil (Lorne MacFadyen), run into other clans which are against him. There are clashes between the clans. Robert loses many more warriors, but he comes up with ways to fight the English intruders. The English are staying in Scottish castles and Robert needs to fight dirty. They all attack with surprise and take back, then burn, each castle.

When the new King of Scotland cannot be captured by the English, he become more famous and he attracts more fighters. Then will be a final battle of the rag-tag Scottish forces, against the fully equipped and much larger English army. With English soldiers on horseback and with ‘modern’ weapons – the Price of Wales plans to crush the Scots. But The Scots have a few deadly tricks up their kilts, er, I mean sleeves…

“The Outlaw King” is very beautifully photographed look at the period after William Wallace.  This movie would make a great double-feature with “Braveheart”. There is a good many brutal battle scenes that are tough to watch. The ‘Mud and Blood’ view of the fighting is close-up and is raw and wild. The acting is good from all the main characters, and the Scottish accents are fairly on target. Chris Pine is stoic and sullen, as the flawed leader of the Scots. The sense of “Ye Olde” England and Scottish countryside is very convincing. The movie drags a slight bit in the middle section, but the final battle between the two armies is a stirring, yet very disturbing, masterfully-filmed sequence.

“The Outlaw King” will have a limited release in the theaters. Then on November 9, it will be released for streaming on Netflix.

Battalion (Video on Demand) Movie Review

Science Fiction and War type movies are difficult to do on a tight budget. Especially when they are done for around 50,000 Australian Dollars. The result is a very decent attempt at watchable movie. But the crude special effects, rough acting ability and jumbled plot lines are all working against the independent release called “Battalion”. This mixed-up mash-up of lots of other (and better) movies make this one DOA. Seeing that other movies, such as “Independence Day”, “Battle: Los Angeles”, “Starship Troopers” and even “Skyline” have done this same thing before, make this movie limp into the starting gate, just to go nowhere.

The story is as such: John Blake (Jesse Richardson) is a cool surfer dude style slacker in sunny California. Tracey Gleeson (Ellen Williams) is a lecturer at an Ivy League school in New England.  John has a ‘brother’ named Chris Jackson (Michael Thomson), and Chris is a Marine. He is like a brother because the Jackson family took John in as a little boy when his parents died. Chris is very moody due to the war he has been fighting in South Africa. Tracey is wondering with her first date about the meaning of life and if there is a parallel universe. But then the low-rent special effects take over to show that an alien race of robots come to Earth to destroy everything.

The alien spaceships come from a parallel universe and destroy much of L.A. thus killing Chris Jackson’s family, and John Blake’s adopted family. Chris goes back to fight, because – after all – he is a Marine. And guess what? John and Tracey both join up, and they enter the Marines. But they are sent to train with… you guessed it Chris Jackson. And he will take no Schlitz from nobody. The training ramps up, and they all go into combat. Located of course in Australia. There are some magnificent views of the beautiful shoreline and the wonderful areas in Australia and New Zealand. But they keeps getting ruined by coming back to a second-rate story and Grade-Z level ‘special effects’.

Lots of fades to black later, the story gets to a time where Chris finally goes nuts, Johns steps up to lead, and Tracey is the only one who can face off and sacrifice to stop the aliens. It all works out, sort of, in the end. Much of the world is destroyed, and more fighting must continue, but John is no longer a slacker out to play rooftop football. How inspiring!

I must give the guys behind this some credit to come up with a (mostly) original story with a Sci-Fi twist and with War of the World themes. But overall, the production values are very low-rent. The special effect CGI could have been done better with “Call of Duty” graphics. The ADR (post production voice dubbing) is bad. Even the scenes inside a car, looking out a moving image on a ‘green screen’ are troublesome. The time sequence is all over the place, with starting in the present, then going back seven months and then cutting back and forth at random.

The acting is nothing awful, but it could be better. Ellen Williams has a bit of charm with her role as Tracey, and Jesse Richardson has the surfer dude life down pat. Also, Michael Thomson has some biting lines as Chris – who is suffering from a complete lack of hope and sinking into a depression. But there are many ‘Down-Under’ actors doing many of the other roles, and quite often the accent comes out here and there. Even if they are supposed to be American Marines, or what not…

This movie is attempting to make its life running as ‘Video on Demand’ . Good on Ya Mate! But next time, don’t so much for shrimp to throw on the barbie… Try to get a few more bucks for the special effects, righty-oh?

NETFLIX – Shimmer Lake Movie Review

‘Shimmer Lake’ is a NETFLIX Original movie, and it shows that creativity is not limited to the big screen. This is now available for streaming right now, so you can check it out for yourself. This takes a tale of a bank robbery in a small Midwestern town and turns it upside-down.

More accurately, it tells the story in reverse. That is, the movie is told in backwards order. The first thing shown are the events of Friday, which is three days after the robbery. The following day that is portrayed is Thursday, and so on. This structure does have a very important reason, but you do not see that until the first day. That first day is the day of the robbery, and it is the last day that is shown in the movie.

The events surround Sherriff Zeke Sikes (Benjamin Walker) who is caught up in the chase for the bad guys. One of the three turns out to be his brother Andy Sikes (Rainn Wilson). The local bank is owned by Judge Dawkins (John Michael Higgins), who had large amounts of cash on hand for the annual crop payments. The other thief is Chris Morrow (Mark Rendall). However the leader is Ed Burton (Wyatt Russell), a local meth dealer just released from prison.

Because the bank was federally insured, there are two bumbling FBI agents in town to ‘help out’. Agent Biltmore (Rob Corddry) and Agent Walker (Ron Livingston) don’t mind if Sherriff Zeke does all the work and solves the case, because they are pretty lazy. One of the main leads is Ed Burton’s wife, Steph Burton (Stephanie Sigman). She says that Ed said he was going to flee the country, so he beat her up and left. Steph is still upset with Ed because of what he did way before…

Ed’s time in prison was a result of an accident at his meth lab near Shimmer Lake. He and Chris Morrow were cooking the product. Ed Jr. was also there, because Ed had no other place to put him.  An accidental explosion blew up the cabin. Ed Burton Jr. was only five years old when he died. Steph has never forgiven Ed.

Judge Dawkins was the one who gave Ed Burton an extremely light sentence. And Sherriff Zeke’s brother Andy Sikes was the chief Prosecutor who approved the unusual plea deal. There are a lot of shady characters and plenty of blame to go around. Since it is such a small town, the people there are keeping secrets.

When some of the secrets get revealed, there is a price to be paid by the people involved. Since the story gets told in reverse, the most shocking reveal happens on the first day. But you do not have that full impact until the very end of the movie. And that is a smart way to deliver some important facts…

You can say that the ‘backward story’ thing is a gimmick. However, the way that Oren Uziel tells the story, and way the facts are slowly revealed; it makes this the only way that it could have been done correctly. There are a lot of minor clues and little reveals that make you sit and ponder. The overall concept of working backwards in the calendar makes a lot of sense.

Quite a few of the actors are known mostly for comedy roles. But they do a fine job with this interesting and well-paced drama/mystery. Benjamin Walker comes off a little flat as Zeke. But that is how his character needs to be at the moment, not emotional but focused on the facts of the crime. Wyatt Russell, Rainn Wilson and John Michael Higgins do the tense drama very well. Ron Livingston & Rob Corddry do most of the comedy relief.

Perhaps this movie is in the shadow of ‘Memento’, another famous backward-sequenced film. Also, like that film, ‘Shimmer Lake’ is about a crime and the search to find the bad guys and see that justice is done. Then at the very end of the movie, you get some important information that changes everything. I guess you call it a ‘twist beginning’.

Chuck Movie Review

Chuck is based on a true story.  Interestingly enough the film is based on the man who Sylvester Stallone based his Award Winning film Rocky on and that is Chuck Wepner (Schreiber) of Bayonne, New Jersey, who was a humble yet moderately successful prizefighter… and liquor salesman.  His nickname was the ‘Bayonne Bleeder.’  This came from his childhood and stuck with him because one thing he could do almost better than anyone was take a punch.  It didn’t matter how many times a fighter hit him, he took it and kept coming back for more.  He and his manager, Al Braverman (Perlman), had a ‘Never stop the fight!’ agreement.  Wepner seemed also to be a self-centered narcissist, though he’d never see himself that way… putting himself above all others was his style and only when he needed help did he truly allow people into his life.

In 1975 he was going to get his big break.  He was given the chance to fight George Foreman but suddenly, Muhammed Ali beats Foreman and the fight is off.  He’s crushed as his future depended on a match of this size.  At what seemed like the final hour, his manager gets a call from promoter Don King.  Since Chuck is a white fighter with stamina, King has the idea that he’d be ideal for a fight with Ali.  Odds of Wepner winning are Forty to One. 

Only someone like Chuck would love those odds.  Then we’re in the ring where it’s a much different story.  It’s a good match where Chuck admits to liking to ‘wear him down with my face.’  The crowd loses its mind for the butt kicking he’s taking, but he sends a surprised Ali (Pooch Hall) to the mat once and the crowd loves him even more.  Chuck’s inner dialogue during the fight is insanely comical and shows how erratic his thinking was and how unstable his mind was at the time.  If you don’t want to know the outcome, don’t read this part (skip to the next paragraph) but at the end of the fight, and much in the same way that Balboa ends his fight with Creed, he almost ‘Goes the Distance’ with Ali.  Just nineteen seconds shy of making it the entire fight, the fight is called and it’s a technical win for Ali.

I enjoyed this film.  The 70’s music and the styles are represented incredibly well; the overall look of the film itself shouts another time.  The characters are great.  Chuck shows you who he is before this fight and who he becomes after the fight… neither guy particularly pleasant but somehow still loveable.  When he’s depressed he looks for women to make him feel better… which doesn’t go over well with his wife, Phyliss, played by Elisabeth Moss who should get recognized for this performance.  She’s frightening as she approaches Chuck sitting with his latest conquest.  Her performance is excellent.  She has to hold the family together by herself because her husband, who desires to get knocked out for a living, can’t take the beating once it’s over.  She alone is worth seeing this movie. 

I really liked Chuck.  It’s perfect for both men and women; not at all just a guy film, despite the subject matter.  It’s interesting to learn that this boxer was the inspiration for Rocky and intriguing to watch him interact with Sly before the making of Rocky II.  It’s also a fascinating look at the relationship between men and women.  A quote by Chuck at the end of the film sums up his views flawlessly.  ‘Sometimes life is like a movie… and sometimes, it’s better.’  He has enjoyed being Chuck as Rocky enjoyed being who he was.  Winning or losing, it didn’t matter, as long as he was in the ring.