Wednesday, November 25, 2020

AMC theater chain

Before the Dark Times, I had an A-List membership at AMC theaters where I could see up to 3 movies per week for $20 per month. Not a bad deal, but I typically saw only about 1 movie each week.

AMC suspended this program back in March when their theaters were forced to close, but they reopened their theaters in the summer at which time they informed me that I had till December 1st to reactivate my membership. They have a weird rule that if you quit the program then you have to wait 6 months to get back in, so I don't necessarily want to quit, but at the same time I don't want to go back to movie theaters until a vaccine is widely available.

Fortunately, they just extended the deadline to March 1st.  I am hoping that things will be much better by then.

For the last eight months, there were rumors that AMC is on the verge of bankruptcy. I imagine that this applies to many businesses. AMC is owned by Wanda Group, which is a Chinese company located in Beijing.

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Best wishes,

John Coffey

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Dead Don't Die


I thought that I might enjoy "The Dead Don't Die", despite the mixed reviews, because I like some zombie movies. I thought maybe with Bill Murray and Adam Driver it would be good. 

The humor is really deadpan. The characters are all lacking in emotion and are stiff like they are walking through some bad dream. The odd humor was maybe going to work for me until they got to the first gory scene which was over the top and too much. Still, the characters remain stiff and deadpan. This never changes, so the joke wears off. The movie gives us no reason to care about these characters.

The film breaks the 4th wall by having the characters reference that they are in a movie. Early on they hear the movie theme song on the radio and refer to it as the theme song. Near the end, they make references to the script in a throwaway joke.

This could have been a good horror movie or a good comedy, but the mix of the two is completely uninspired. It has nothing new to add. There is almost no suspense, which is the point of a horror film. The only thing I liked was the quirky characters and this just wasn't enough.

Better movies like this are "Shawn of the Dead" and "Cockneys vs Zombies", both of which are pretty entertaining and give us interesting characters. Maybe the British know how to mix humor and horror.

Rating: D. Don't waste your time.

Thursday, November 5, 2020

2014 Personality Lecture 06: Carl Jung

I can't seem to get enough of Jordan Peterson. I didn't have time to watch the whole thing, which I might do later.  However, at 51 minutes he gives a very interesting analysis of "The Lion King."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r8ISkQ4exM

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

What's inside the Millennium Falcon? (Star Wars)

More than you ever wanted to know about The Millenium Falcon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O5-WI7XN6uo

Contrary to what is presented in the video, I would expect redundant systems in any kind of spacecraft.  Nothing is mentioned of heat shielding for re-entry, although if you could slow a craft to a near stop then you wouldn't need it.

Even if we could create and store antimatter, which would be the most compact fuel possible, it would still take an enormous amount of fuel to continuously accelerate a craft all the way to the center of the Milky Way Galaxy.  Reaching anywhere near the speed of light takes several times more mass of antimatter than the mass of the ship.

Cats on HBO

Started watching the movie "Cats" on HBO Max. I'm 26 minutes into it. It was voted by some as the worst movie of last year. There were some problems with the CGI in the original release that was fixed in a later update.

As long as you aren't expecting much in the way of plot, which barely exists in this film, the movie consists almost entirely of energetic singing and dancing. As such it is a visual spectacle. If this were on stage it would seem brilliant, which is why "Cats" was one of the most successful stage musicals ever made, but it is not exactly what you would expect to see in a movie.

I like what I have seen so far, but I'm not sure if another 60 minutes of this will maintain my interest.

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Best wishes,

John Coffey

http://www.entertainmentjourney.com

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Fatman Trailer #1 (2020)

This is like the weirdest movie ever.  It sort of falls under the category of, "Is nothing sacred?"  

Nine Days Trailer #1 (2021) | Movieclips Trailers

The premise seems pretty questionable to me.  It is possible that this will actually be a beautiful movie.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LzKeEDael0

Saturday, October 10, 2020

The Vast of the Night


The Vast of the Night was released to drive-in theaters and on Amazon Prime in May of this year.

When I was reviewing the movie "The Signal", I said that the trouble with low budget science fiction movies is that these types of films might have one good idea, whereas a big-budget movie like "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" is loaded with many good ideas. The Signal kept you in suspense for the whole film, making you think that this story was leading up to something wonderful. There was a payoff in the end, but that payoff was so short that if you had closed your eyes for just a couple of seconds then you would have missed it. Literally. Everything I said about "The Signal" is also true for "The Vast of the Night", except the ending is a little longer. However, both movies are an exercise in prolonged tension to arrive at similar endings. The Vast of the Night feels like a master class in low budget filmmaking. It does a great job with its long camera shots and its unknown actors who give stellar performances. The movie starts by showing an old fashioned television screen like it is playing an episode of the old Twilight Zone. The camera zooms into the screen and now we are following characters in a 1950's small New Mexico town on the night of a high school basketball game. It spends a long 20 minutes introducing its settings and characters, after which the local switchboard operator starts noticing weird things happening. She teams up with her friend, a disk jockey at a one-man radio station to investigate what is going on. Many of the scenes drag on a bit, mostly with conversation. But there is a frantic tension that builds toward the conclusion. Fortunately, the actors really sell this story. We get a sense that these are ordinary people caught up in something big that they don't understand. The minimalist style of this film could be called experimental, but for 85 minutes it works really well. Rating: B+. A reviewer on youtube gave the film an A-. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HEcnacyI_8


Thursday, October 1, 2020

Sonic The Hedgehog



The first trailer for Sonic The Hedgehog sparked an internet backlash because many people thought that the Sonic character looked kind of creepy.  The production company responded to the backlash by redoing the animation, and the final result looks fairly good.  I noticed some very minor imperfections in the CGI, but nothing too distracting.

Because of the initial backlash, some of the critics expressed great surprise by saying that the movie is actually good.  This is not what they were expecting.  

Sonic is mostly a kid's film that is not intellectually deep at all, but it has enough jokes that connect and fun stuff to make it a good time.  Jim Carrey plays Dr. Robotnik.  He is essentially playing a cartoon villain, which he plays way over the top, so much so that I found him annoying, but Jim Carrey is also the funniest when he is way over the top.  I was laughing out loud several times, which is a good thing.  We get Jim Carrey at his full nuttiness, although it would have been better if he were more restrained.

There is a bar fight scene in the middle of the movie that is mostly gratuitous because it feels like filler.  However, like the rest of the movie, it is mildly amusing.

If we compare Sonic to another videogame adaptation, Pokemon Detective Pikachu, the story is much more coherent and less of a mess.

Rating:  B.



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

1917


The movie 1917 is likely to be one of the best movies I will see this year.  It follows a pair of World War I soldiers on a time-critical mission to get a message to another unit so as to avoid an attack that will end in disaster.  This is based on a real story told to writer and director Sam Mendes by his grandfather.

The movie is filmed in such a way that it appears to be one continuous shot, except for a couple of obvious breaks.  There are continuous shots that last at least 40 minutes.  The camera follows the soldiers through long trenches, across fields, into farmhouses, rivers, underground bunkers, and troop transports.  This is like another character because I spent the whole movie wondering how on earth did they film this?  It is technically very difficult to have everything properly lit while the camera follows the actors through miles of territory. 

The movie creates a suspense that is perfect.  There is not much direct combat, but the horrible aftermath of combat is everywhere in this movie.  On the journey, the soldiers are constantly passing dead bodies and destruction.  The way the movie is filmed gives it an extra sense of realism.

The movie is rated R for war violence and a few swear words.

Rating: A+.



The Mandalorian | Season 2 Official Trailer

This looks neat.  I'm not convinced that they are going to recapture the magic of the first season.  (P..S. I was wrong!)

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Dune Trailer #1 (2020)



I read the entire Dune series of books in the 1970's. Although good books, I can't imagine them making good movies. The story is overly convoluted and probably not very cinematic.

The previous attempt at a Dune movie was of questionable quality.

Frank Herbert tended to write very weird novels. His "Whipping Star" series of books are a good read, but weird as all get out.

The trailer gives us nothing to indicate that it will be any good. It could be another Battlefield Earth.

Friday, September 4, 2020

John Boyega DESTROYS Disney Star Wars!



In this video, Matt Jarbo actually says he is hoping that someone can "red pill" him on The Last Jedi.  So I had to take my shot:

I'm not sure if you have seen my previous comments over the last 2+ years defending The Last Jedi, because you never respond, but please allow me to make my case. There are several minor problems with the film that I didn't find too objectionable. I'll cover these, but first, let me say that if you look past these things then there is a pretty entertaining story there. There is so much in the movie that I like: All the interaction between Luke and Rey. The force bond between Rey and Kylo. Rey's vision.  Everything that happened in the throne room is gold, and it concludes with Ben practically proposing to Rey which is even more interesting. The Canto Bight story is not the best, but neither does it take up as much screen time as people claim it does. Parts of it, such as the chase scene, are interesting. Everything that happened during the Battle of Crait was also excellent, except for the stupid Rose scene. I liked being surprised by Luke's force projection. His passing, or becoming one with the Force, moved me to tears. 

If you look at Rey's vision, I really feel that they were going to make her a clone, but changed their 
minds later. 

For me, the good parts outweigh the bad by a good margin. 

The first time around I was a little uncertain how I felt about broom boy. I found the scene both emotionally moving and a little cheesy, but this scene has grown on me. It creates hope for the future. Also, The Last Jedi takes Star Wars in a slightly new direction and I really felt like it needed that. It needed something fresh, and not just you have to have the right bloodline to be a Jedi. 

The Last Jedi does what Lucas always did, which is to take us to new exotic locations and introduce new ideas that are controversial. (Ewoks, Jar Jar, Midichrorians.) Compare that to The Rise of Crapwalker which hardly does anything original. (I like the movie, but it is my least favorite of the nine. There are real logical problems, like Rey and Kylo both wanting the same goal, which is to go to Exegol to kill Palpatine, but somehow these two characters who have the same goal are fighting each other to the death.) 

Most of the things that people complain about as cringe-worthy didn't feel that bad. The big one was the direction that they took Luke in, but I feel like we don't own the story. It is up to them to tell the story that they want to tell, and if they want to make Luke a burned-out Jedi, then this actually makes for a pretty interesting story. It is not the story I would have chosen to tell, but I'm not a good storyteller. If they gave me exactly what I expected then I would be bored. 

I didn't mind the scene with Leia saving herself because I liked seeing her use the Force. It is logical that she could do that. I dislike people comparing this scene to Mary Poppins. I went and looked at the scene in Marry Poppins and they are nothing alike. The Poe joking around bit was not the best, but I kind of enjoyed it anyway. General Hux was always a comical character. His grand speech in The Force Awakens is over the top, so I never saw him as a serious character. 

Things I don't like in The Last Jedi: 1. Laura Dern's Professor of Gender Studies character. She does not look like a rebel and feels out of place. They are beating us over the head with Social Justice Warrior messages. 2. Rose's very bad dialog. More social justice warrior messages along with her stupid dialog in saving Finn. I like Rose Tico, but I don't l like her dialog. 3. Since when has fuel ever been an issue in a Star Wars movie? 4. The slow-speed chase doesn't make sense because the First Order could hyperspace ahead of the rebel fleet. 

Although I like The Force Awakens, I have some problems with the movie because they don't explain or set up anything. We learn nothing about the new Republic and there are so many unexplained things that the movie feels like it is full of holes. 

I had high hopes that the third film would pull it all together in a way that would redeem the trilogy, but the third film only proves that they didn't have a plan.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Terminator: Dark Fate


On the surface, Terminator: Dark Fate seems like an example of everything wrong with movie-making in the last five years:  Take a 35-year-old franchise and reboot it with new heroes, most of which are female who seem far more capable than they should be, throw in a few subtle political messages and then make the movie with essentially the same plot that we have already seen.  One critic called the movie "garbage" because the female lead takes down two men twice her size simultaneously in hand to hand combat, as if the laws of physics have no meaning.  

Dark Fate is essentially a remake of Terminator II Judgement Day, but not as good.  The movie has heart, but not as much.  It has suspense, but it doesn't achieve the fantastic level of dread that Terminator II did.

However, Terminator: Dark Fate still has much to offer.  It has some of the best action scenes of the entire franchise.  These scenes are not perfect, because they are a bit too frenetic, too dark, and a little over the top, but they kept me riveted to my seat.  The movie also offers a few new twists on the old formula.

It is easier to appreciate this movie if we look at the history of the Terminator movies.

"The Terminator" in 1984 was a great low budget science fiction horror film.  Terminator II took this story to a much higher level and higher budget in 1991.  However, that was the last time the franchise was really great.  

Every movie since then has attempted to continue the story while also serving as a reboot that would allow the franchise to move forward.  In this regard, all the previous films failed.  I like the mostly forgettable Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003) and the somewhat better Terminator 4 Salvation (2009), but the movies had mixed reviews and the franchise failed to recapture its former glory.  Then came Terminator Genisys in 2015 that completely flopped.  The story was a dud.

Therefore, since these films are based on time travel, Terminator: Dark Fate continues the story after Terminator II in a way that completely throws away the last three movies.  This is actually a good thing because it is entertaining enough to allow the franchise to move forward again.  

The way the movie achieves this reboot might rub some people the wrong way.  There are a number of people who dislike this film.  Therefore, it seems likely to fail as a reboot.  What matters to me is that the movie is plenty entertaining despite a few minor flaws.  This is like Terminator Salvation, which I thought was pretty good, but not everyone liked it as much as I did.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Terminator 3 movie

I watched Terminator 3 on Netflix, which I had not seen since it came out in the theaters in 2003. The problem with this film is that the entire movie is almost one long chase scene. It is lacking in the interesting characters and emotions that the previous film had. Despite this, it manages to be moderately entertaining, but it hasn't aged well. For the 167 million dollar budget, it feels only slightly better than a made for TV movie. Rating: B-.

I liked the 4th film in the franchise, but not everyone did. No matter how many times they have tried, they can't seem to recapture the magic of the first two films.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Onward


A long time ago there was magic. Magic was used to help people and to make their lives better.  However, magic was difficult to master, and once people discovered technology which was easier, they forgot about magic.

This feels like a world that could have been much more explored, but the movie plays it safe by having all the characters be no different than modern boring humans.  However, that is part of the point, since this is a culture that has lost its heritage.  The movie holds a surprise for us, because what seems on the surface like a three-star film, delivers in a big way with a four-star ending.  This is by no means the best Pixar film, but Pixar can still work a magic of their own.

Our two main characters, both elves and both brothers, go on a quest to find something magical that will bring back their long-deceased father just for a day so that they meet him.  As a result, they discover more about themselves and help their culture regain some of what it lost.

Rating: B+.    I would love to see a sequel where they better explore this world.

P.S. There is much stuff in the trailer that didn't make it into the movie.  This happens sometimes when a movie undergoes many revisions before being released.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Secret Life of Pets II


The Secret Life of Pets was way too dark for a kid's movie, with a psycho bunny who wants to kill humans. This movie is definitely not funny and has completely the wrong tone for an animated film. The bunny gets reformed at the end of the film, and in The Secret Life of Pets II becomes more of a nutty character who desperately wants to be a superhero. The best thing that I can say about the sequel is that it is not as dark as the first film, is somewhat funny, and has a brief sequence with Harrison Ford as an old farm dog who teaches the main character how to be brave. There is a second plot where the bunny rescues a tiger from a stereotypical abusive Russian circus master, and this part of the movie is still kind of dark, which bothered me a bit. Mostly the stereotyped cruel Russian circus master bothered me, and it still feels like the wrong tone for a kid's film. However, overall the movie is passable entertainment and parts of it are exciting.  Without Harrison Ford as the crusty old farm dog, the movie wouldn't be worth my time.


Rating: B. The Secret Life of Pets II is available on Netflix streaming.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Frozen II


The snow queen Elsa hears a voice calling her from the northern enchanted forest.  Elsa, along with her sister Anna, Kristoff, Olaf, and Sven travel north to uncover this mystery and a dark secret from their past.

I was pleasantly surprised that Frozen II is a musical, but I should have known this because the original Frozen surprised me in the same way.  At first, I was very impressed, but a couple of the later songs fall flat.  Overall the music is competent and does a good job of conveying the emotions of the characters, but none of the songs are particularly memorable, and none rise to the level of "Let It Go" or "Summer" from the first film.  I get the impression that the movie is trying very hard to reach the musical level of its predecessor, but falls short.

Visually this an amazing movie to look at.  The story is reasonably good, but it has the problem that it keeps promising a big payoff in the end because the characters are supposed to be journeying toward something wonderful, but the payoff is only just okay, which is what I suspected would happen.  The movie also throws in an environmental political message that seems a little out of place in a Disney film.  The story is also a bit convoluted because there are many storylines and characters to keep track of, so it wasn't clear to me if it all made sense.

Olaf, the snowman, is used for comic relief, and this works, but I found him more charming in the first movie.  Kristoff and Sven are also used as comic relief, but they feel underutilized because they had more important roles in the first film

Overall, Frozen 2 feels like a pretty good movie that is also visually very impressive, but it also feels like it didn't reach its full potential.

I think the problem with sequels is that it is hard to recapture the same magic.  Movies have release dates and production schedules that they have to meet, so the movies are only as good as they can make them in the time frame that they have.

Rating:  B+.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Sully

If you are looking for a movie to watch this weekend, then look no further.  Although Hell or High Water would be an excellent choice, my first choice would be Sully.  It is hard to image that Clint Eastwood could have made a better film about "The Miracle On the Hudson" or its pilot, Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.

On January 15th, 2009. US Airways Flight 1549 Airbus A320-214 took of from New York's LaGuardia airport.  Three minutes into the flight, the plane struck a flock of Canada geese and lost power in both engines.  Four minutes later Captain Sullenberger managed to safely land the plane in the Hudson River.  Fast response by nearby ships and local rescue forces helped save the passengers and crew.

The film focuses heavily on the investigations conducted by the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board, which initially tried to blame Captain Sullenberger for not returning the plane to the airport.  Meanwhile, the press and the general public were treating Sullenberger as a hero.  Tom Hanks does a marvelous job playing "Sully" as a man conflicted after the crash.

News stories that gain national attention like this one become part of our national identity.  As a result, we feel connected to these events.  Therefore it is easy to feel connected to the film, just like watching movies about 9-11.  These kinds of films are moving, and I am glad that Clint Eastwood did such a good job on this one.

Compared to Hell or High Water, which is so negative in its view of America, it is nice to get an uplifting film about an American hero who saved the lives of 155 people just by doing his job to the best of his ability.

Rating:  A-

Star Wars sequel trilogy

The three movies of the Disney made Star Wars sequel trilogy, episodes 7, 8 and 9, were entertaining enough, but they really feel like a huge opportunity lost to do something better. The movies could have been another Lord of the Rings, or another Game of Thrones, not that I'm a huge fan of either one of these things, but the new Star Wars trilogy had a chance to be epic, but instead, it was splintered into different creative visions that did not mesh well. I had high hopes that there was some master plan that would pull it all together in the end, but the final film pretty much proved that there was none.

The seventh film was largely a remake of the original Star Wars with new younger characters. Although it might have a few new ideas, it doesn't feel very original and its goal was to just evoke nostalgia. This is not how George Lucas made Star Wars movies because every one of his movies introduced new and sometimes controversial ideas and took us to new unfamiliar exotic locations.

J.J. Abrams, the writer and director of Episode 7, reportedly had a master plan in the beginning. Part of the plan involved Carrie Fisher being critically important to the 9nth film, but she died three years before the movie came out, and a year before it went into production. They did manage to use some old footage of Carrie Fisher in the movie. Colin Trevorrow was scheduled to write and direct Episode 9, and reportedly he had some really interesting ideas, but he was fired over creative differences that conflicted with Episode 8, so J.J. Abrams ended up also writing and directing the 9nth movie.

Part of the problem was that a mostly unproven director, Rian Johnson, was given free rein by Lucasfilm to do whatever he wanted in Episode 8, The Last Jedi. It appears that Rian Johnson ignored any plans that J.J. Abrams had, and made the movie that he wanted to make. Rian Johnson admitted that he had no concern for continuity or what came before, and that he was only interested in his own vision. Johnson introduced some news ideas that could have taken Star Wars in a slightly new direction, and I think that this had the potential to be interesting.

However, in Episode 9, The Rise of Skywalker, J.J. Abrams appears to have gone out of his way to disregard everything Rian Johnson did.

The problem is that Episode 8, The Last Jedi, split the fanbase. It was a little inconsistent with the Star Wars that fans were familiar with. Although I liked The Last Jedi a great deal and it is my favorite of the trilogy, at least half the fans hated it with an almost irrational passion. The was a major backlash to the film.

Because of the backlash to The Last Jedi, this created strife between Disney and Lucasfilm. There was an edict issued by Disney that Episode 9 had to please *all* the fans and not just half of them. George Lucas was brought back to act as a script consultant and introduced some of his ideas, but midway through filming Lucasfilm informed Disney that the new film might not please all the fans as they wanted. This caused the parent company, Disney, to put their foot down and demand rewrites and reshoots.

What we got with Episode 9 feels like it is too crammed full of crowd-pleasing moments. The story proceeds at such a frenetic pace that the audience doesn't have time to notice that much of the movie doesn't make logical sense. I think that the last act is way over the top. The problem is that movie is very entertaining just so long as you don't think about it too much. This might explain the critic score of only 52%.













Friday, July 31, 2020

Uncut Gems


Adam Sandler plays a jeweler who is also a gambling addict in trouble with the mob, and who can't seem to stop his gambling.  He is a bit of a conman because he has to be to keep at bay all the people who are after him.  He is also unfaithful to his wife with a couple of affairs, so his wife is planning to divorce him.

This is a good performance by Adam Sandler, but my problem with the movie is that it is about unpleasant people doing bad things.  In addition, the film is dropping f-bombs literally every five seconds.  I didn't hate the movie from start to finish, because the ending is pretty good, but overall I found the movie to be an unpleasant experience.  I feel the same way about Uncut Gems as I did about American Beauty; there is no way I want to spend two hours with such horrible people.  There is an unpleasant tension as Adam Sandler's character goes from bad to worse. The Guardian said, "Uncut Gems is so stressful it should come with a panic attack warning.  Adam Sandler thriller is brilliant, but watching it is a horrible experience."  I feel the same way.

All the tension in the film does make it somewhat watchable.  I actually considered walking out of the movie, but I wanted to see how the movie ended, so I stayed.  I am glad that I saw the ending because it is the only redeeming part of the movie.

Uncut Gems has a 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and I'm sure that there are some people who think that this movie is brilliant, but it is telling that the audience score is only 51%.

Maybe the movie serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of addiction.

Rating:  C.

The Seventh Seal

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Seventh_Seal

This is described as one of the greatest movies of all time.  I thought that it was a little boring.  The movie seems pretty dated now.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Knives Out


Knives Out is a mystery whodunit in the spirit of Agatha Cristie, but with quite a few twists, which is a given since it is from director Rian Johnson.  As entertainment, it works really well, although I didn't find it totally believable and I predicted the twist ending.  The movie also tries a little too hard to be a social commentary.

However, Rian Johnson shows that he can make a pretty entertaining movie.

Rating: A-.  My initial thought was to give it a B+, but I did find the movie thoroughly entertaining.   Knives Out has a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.


Thursday, July 9, 2020

28 Days Later

The 2002 "28 Days Later" was a pretty good zombie film. It was about the same level of quality as the Will Smith "I am Legend" that came out in 2007. Also out in 2007 was the sequel to "28 Days Later" called, guess what, "28 Weeks Later." It was okay. It was a good movie.

For a long time now, fans of the first two films have been demanding a third film. After years of telling us that a third movie was never going to happen, apparently it is now starting production. All these years the fans have been assuming that the next film would be called "28 Months Later" since we seem to be following units of time measurement. I see no reason why they would have to stick to this naming convention, but reportedly they are going to comply with the fan expectations.

If we take this naming scheme to its logical extreme, then the following two films will be called "28 years later" and "28 Decades Later."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/28_Days_Later

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Rocketman


Rocketman is probably the best movie that I will see this year.  It starts with Elton John checking himself into rehab around 1990, whereupon the film shortly breaks into song.  This is surprising, but it seems appropriate, if not downright brilliant, that a biopic about a musician should be a musical.  The movie has a habit of breaking into elaborate musical numbers when you least expect it, like when Elton John tries to kill himself.  However, for a musician as flashy as Elton John, this is the perfect way to tell the story.  I just kept thinking about how brilliant this all was.

In rehab, Elton John tells everyone just how very screwed up he is, and then he recounts the story of his life telling how he got that way.  This is where the movie shines, showing his boyhood living in public housing and his troubled relationship with an uncaring father and somewhat distant mother.  The young Reginald Dwight (his real name) quickly learns that he has a talent for the piano and is showing great musical prowess by his teens.  In the 1960's he struggled to make a living as a musician, but things begin to improve when he meets and teams up with Bernie Taupin, who was his lifelong collaborator and wrote most of the lyrics to Elton John's songs.   However, in 1970 he makes an appearance at the famous West Hollywood nightclub, the Troubadour, which he was almost too nervous to do.  There Elton becomes a huge hit and his career immediately takes off.  

All this success doesn't make Elton John any less screwed up.  His drug and alcohol problems get worse until finally, his close friends are urging him to get help.

The movie doesn't shy away from Elton John's homosexuality, depicting his relationship with his lover and manager John Reid.

My one complaint is that the end of the movie shows Elton John doing a music video post-rehab.  The movie plays loose with the facts, because the music video, "I'm still standing", is actually from 1983.  The only problem here is that the music video looks fuzzy like we are watching it on a television set.  This takes us out of the moment.

The film fails to tell us very much about Elton John post-rehab.  It is like the rest of his life is encapsulated into a minute of text and pictures at the end of the movie.  This misses out on possible dramatic moments showing how much better his life was after recovery.

Prior to the fuzzy music video, I was going to give the movie an "A+", because it is that brilliant.  In addition, the film could have given us more, if not a great deal more, about Elton John's life.  It is not like his life ended when he got out of rehab.

Rating:  A

Logan Lucky


Two redneck brothers from West Virginia, both with disabilities, one with a limp from a football injury, and the other missing an arm after serving in Iraq, decide to stick it to the system by pulling off the heist of the century at a Nascar race.

Logan Lucky is one of the most clever comedies to come along in recent years.  It also makes a good drama.  Although the characters are a little over the top with their country redneck accents, they feel as real as your neighbors.  Even the ending manages to touch your heart in a very sweet way.  This is a very smart comedy about dumb characters, who might not be so dumb after all.

Daniel Craig, former James Bond, is very convincing as a redneck bomb expert, and so are Channing Tatum and Adam Driver as the two brothers.

Rating:  A-

Logan Lucky is destined to become a classic.  It is rated PG-13 for crude language.

Cloud Atlas on Netflix

I was way impressed by the movie and its ambition. but the execution isn't quite as good as its vision.  As good as the movie is, it drags on a little too much. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

The Rise of Skywalker


I hesitated to see The Rise of Skywalker a second time, which is very unusual for me with Star Wars movies. There are minor problems with the movie. I didn't think that it was particularly logical, and the final act is a little over the top. However, it is much easier to appreciate this movie on the second viewing.

On the positive side, the film is a grand spectacle, and I pretty much had a blast for the first 75% of it. The last act is still a grand spectacle, and I understand the movie better and what it was trying to do by seeing it a second time.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Lion King


The 1994 hand-drawn animated version of The Lion King is nearly perfect.  The animation is beautiful, with most of it having a 3D look.  The characters are great and the voice acting by Matthew Broadrick, James Earl Jones, Jeremy Irons, Nathan LaneErnie Sabella, Whoopi Goldberg, and Cheech Marin all give those characters a very distinctive sound.  The music, which effectively pulls at our emotions, is so wonderful that it is like another character in the movie.

The only part of the original film that I did not like as much is the musical number "I just can't wait to become King."  This sequence is drawn in a 2D style like a classic Saturday morning cartoon.  Although it isn't a particularly bad sequence, its target audience seems to be just for kids.

The 2019 remake has many of the qualities that made the original good, but it also is lacking in many areas.  The insistence that everything be photorealistic means that the movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at, but it also means that the characters are far less expressive than their hand-drawn counterparts.  For example, the character of Scar had charisma in the original, but in the remake he just comes across as mean.  I don't think that the voices are as stylish either, although Seth Rogan does a good job as Pumbaa.  Why they didn't use the original cast?  Only Jame Earl Jones reprises his role.

The music had a powerful impact on the original.  It is strangely more subdued in the remake.  The star of the new movie, and by far the best reason to see it, is the computer animation.  It is a sight to behold.

Hand-drawn animation is expensive, so the original at 88 minutes feels slightly too short.  It is a very compact movie with scenes and dialog taking no more time than they need to in order to convey the story.  The remake is 30 minutes longer, with extra and more mature dialog everywhere.  Many of the scenes are longer.  Some of this is nice, but parts of it also feel unnecessary.  The final confrontation with Scar is too long and gives the impression of being more violent.

There are little things done in the original that weren't done in the remake, like Pumba picking up Simba with his horns, or Pumba getting stuck under a tree root while being chased by Nala.  I found myself wondering if this was just a technological limitation of the computer animation?

Should you see the 2019 remake of the Lion King?  Absolutely.  It is a wonderful movie to look at.  At times I felt like I was watching a beautiful nature show that just happens to be The Lion King.  However, the original is a better overall experience.

Rating:

The Lion King (1994):  A.
The Lion King (2019):  B+.

The Lion King (2019) has just a 55% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  My favorite movie critic, Richard Roeper, gives the movie 3.5 out of 4 stars.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Rouge One: A Star Wars Story

Every Star Wars film that I have ever seen has been so good that it compelled me to see it a second time within a week or less.  I probably would have done the same with Rogue One, except that I had a nasty virus for a couple of weeks.  I also felt like the movie didn't have the same rewatchabiltiy as previous Star Wars movies, so there was no need to hurry back to the theater and see it a second time.  I waited five weeks, and even then, going into it I felt like the movie might not be that compelling the second time around.

I was wrong.  What drives Rogue One is very strong plot and intense action.  In my original review, I wrote that the movie was not strong on characters except for the main character of Jyn Erso.  This isn't quite correct either.  Rogue One has a ton of interesting characters, but because there are so many of them, most of them don't get that much screen time.

Rogue One is a Star Wars movie with a strong slant toward traditional war movies.  This makes it different from the previous films, but every Star Wars film has had its own unique flavor.  This means that every new film has taken the fans by surprise, with a few of them inevitably being disappointed because the movie was not what they expected.  However, this speaks to the strength of the Star Wars movies that they have provided us with so many unique films.

I always feel better about these movies the second time around, because any flaws are easier to ignore on the second watching.  The previous film, The Force Awakens, had the most flaws of any Star Wars movie, but there is also a great deal of good stuff in the film, so it seemed to get better every time I watched it.

Rogue One is surprisingly beautiful.  We see shots of planets that are stunning in their detail and beauty, plus everything else in the movie looks gorgeous.  Movies like this are an incredible technical achievement.  A generation ago, a movie that looked this amazing would have blown audiences away, even if the story was terrible, which fortunately, it isn't.

I am revising my rating of the film from "B+" to "A-". 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker


Star Wars fans are hard to please.  If you make a new Star Wars movie that is too much like any of the previous films, i.e. The Force Awakens, the fans complain that the movie just recycles old plots.  However, if a Star Wars film takes the franchise in new directions, i.e. The Last Jedi, fans complain that it messes with Star Wars canon and doesn't feel right.  When George Lucas made Star Wars movies, each film would visit new exotic locations, introduce new creatures, while presenting new ideas that quite frankly pissed off some of the fans.  I think that the Lucas-made Star Wars prequels were brilliant, but there was such a backlash to them that Lucas decided to get out of the Star Wars business altogether and sell the Lucasfilm company to Disney.  This is the problem with Star Wars movies: they are either repetitive, or they are original in ways that some of the hardcore fans can't accept.  To his credit, George Lucas was always original.  Not everyone liked his vision, but he always took each movie in a new direction.

When I saw the first Disney made Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, I felt uneasy afterward.  The movie is plenty entertaining, but I wrote that it felt like an imperfect imitation of a Star Wars film, like they almost got it right but not quite.  Had Lucas made the movie, it wouldn't have felt so familiar, but instead would have been different, and this would have displeased many people.  This is why The Last Jedi feels to me more like a real Star Wars film.  The movie was solely Rian Johnson's vision, and he made many questionable choices, but he did what Lucas would do, which is to take us to new exotic locations and introduce new ideas that we had not seen before.  However, about half the audience rejected the movie outright.  There was such a backlash to The Last Jedi that when the movie Solo came out six months later, hardly anybody went to see it.  Disney lost money on Solo, and reportedly there were serious discussions at Disney about how to fix this problem going forward.

One of the problems with The Rise of Skywalker is that it tries too hard to not piss anyone off.  It is loaded with crowd-pleasing moments, which makes it entertaining, but it is not very original.  Instead of introducing new ideas, new locations, and new creatures, everything is comfortably familiar.  The movie tries so hard to be crowd-pleasing that parts of it, especially toward the end, seem a little hokey.  The ending has a Return of The Jedi hokiness to it.

I'm not sure that the movie makes sense. They chose to bring back a character in a way that makes no sense at all, but this was probably the most entertaining choice they could have made.  There are many twists that are problematic, and the movie proceeds at such a frenetic pace and so much happens and so many characters come and go that it is hard to grasp it all.   Had this been a George Lucas film it would have taken time to develop a less complicated story.

The plot is not unlike a video game, where the heroes need to get to a location, but to get there they have find an item, and before they can find the item they have to complete a task, and then they have to complete a sub-task before they can complete the main task.  It is enough to make your head spin, and this doesn't quite feel like what a Star Wars movie should be.

On the plus side, the movie is beautifully made.

Because of all this, it is hard for me to take this film as seriously as I would other Star Wars movies.  It is not quite the payoff I had hoped for, although there is some payoff.  However, I don't think it matters.  It is a fast-paced well-made entertaining movie, so the audience just wants to ride with it.  It doesn't have to make sense; it just has to entertain and make money.

Rating: B+.

As of today, The Rise of Skywalker has a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It deserves much better than this.


The King vs. Henry V


Henry V is a 1989 movie by Kenneth Branagh adapted from Shakespeare's play.  The King is a 2019 Netflix film covering the same historical events. 

Henry V had a falling out with his father, so his father Henry IV appointed Henry's younger brother to be the successor to the monarchy, but Henry's younger brother was killed in battle shortly before Henry IV's death and Henry V became king at the age of 26.  He succeeded in conquering France in an ongoing 100-year series of wars between France and England.  But he died at the age of 35 and most of his military victories would later be reversed.

Henry V was a young king.  Kenneth Branagh played him at the age of 39 in the movie adaption of Shakespeare's play

One of Henry V's major was victories was at the Battle of Agincourt.  It was a battle that he should have lost because he was badly outnumbered, but a combination of strategy and weather worked in his favor.   At this battle, it was said that Henry V gave a powerful speech to motivate his men, but history does not record this speech.  Shakespeare wrote a fantastic speech for the play ("We happy few. We band of brothers."), but the movie The King substitutes something less grandiose.   Shakespeare handles the battle by having the actors march offstage and the battle is not shown, and the movie version only shows a bit of the battle.  Instead, the King gives us what feels likes a historical re-creation of the battle.

Whereas the Netflix movie The King seems more historically accurate, the movie Henry V is more fun because it is hard to top Shakespeare.

Rating:  The King:  B.

Rating:  Henry V:  A-.

P.S.  I watched The King the same day I watched 1917.  I failed to notice that Dean-Charles Chapman was in both movies.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Superman: Red Son Review

The comic book version of this is really good ...

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Star Wars Sequel Trilogy

I enjoyed the Star Wars sequel trilogy, but in terms of story, it felt like a lost opportunity to do something more significant. What we got was like leftover turkey.  

--
John Coffey

Saturday, February 8, 2020

1917

I saw 1917 for the second time today and this might be the movie of the decade. Since it opened to limited theaters in 2019, I'm not sure which decade.  ☺

--

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Drinker Recommends... 1917

I recommend watching this video after watching the movie.