Green Book Review

Green Book is a depiction of the true life story of Dr. Don Shirley who was a piano virtuoso. He went on a tour of the south during Jim Crow to try to make a difference. For this trip he hires someone to drive and protect him through this journey. He hired Tony “Lip” who is known in the circles of gangsters as being a bit of a con artist and thug. The two unexpectedly become friends on the journey that will test and challenge them.

This movie depends on the performances of the two main characters and Viggo Mortenson and Mahershala Ali deliver. The script goes about how you would expect for these racially charged period pieces. It isn’t particularly shocking or powerful as we have all seen this before in other films of this kind. It is yet another little known story of resistance to remind us all of the horrors of the Jim Crow era which I hope we never forget and never repeat. Green Book is a light bit of entertainment with a reminder of the consequences of falling into the same traps and rhetoric of the past that keep cropping up.

Instant Family Review

Pete and Ellie are house flippers who have done well for themselves professionally. Ellie’s sister is trying to get pregnant and her and her husband have been having a hard time. She makes an off hand comment that Pete and Ellie are never going to start their own family which gets them thinking about it. They decide that adoption may be their best option. They meet a teen girl who they think is “cool”, but she comes with baggage… and two smaller siblings.

Instant Family is billed as a comedy, but is more of a family drama with comedic moments. Wahlberg and Byrne both do an adequate job as the parents, but it is the children that make the movie. They are all super cute and the dramatic turns will pull at your heartstrings at every opportunity. Entertaining and heartbreaking Instant Family is worth going to see.

Thanksgiving Weekend Movie Guide

I hope you all are having a great time with friends, family, and a crapton of food! When you can no longer stomach Uncle Wally’s diatribe on why the mongoose should be the state bird, you might want to get out of the house. What better place to go than the theater where that new movie is showing? The problem is that there are a bunch of new films out now. Which one should you see???

I am here to help. Below is a listing of the top 5 movies that I have seen that are currently in theaters for this holiday weekend. I will also include a list of movies I have not seen, but plan to see before the weekend is over. I will update the top 5 list here as I see more films.

The Current Top 5

5. Overlord – Review – The best (probably only) horror film currently in theaters. Fans of gore and grindhouse horror should love it.
4. Bohemian RhapsodyReview – Freddie Mercury is a rock icon and Malek’s portrayal is worth seeing. Queen fans should love it just for the music even if the story is quite sanitized from what happened in real life.
3. Creed 2Review – For all the complaints in my review, this is still a fantastic film. For those who enjoyed the first Creed movie this is a must see.
2. WidowsReview – If you like caper films with twists and turns then this is what you are looking for. If this had been a normal week then this would be my top pick, but….
1. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of GrindelwaldReview – This movie is amazing from start to finish. I can’t imagine another film taking this top spot although I also would not rank this as the best of the year, so I suppose it is possible!

New Movies Not Ranked

I can only rank movies I have seen, so here is a list of films that came out recently that I haven’t seen yet. I will post reviews and update the top 5 list as I see these films and rank them.

  • Green Book
  • Boy Erased
  • Instant Family
  • Robin Hood
  • The Grinch

Creed 2 Review

Adonis Creed’s boxing career continues after his stunning loss in the first Creed film. This sequel begins with him winning a heavyweight belt from a veteran who is well past his prime in the ring. Adonis has achieved his dream and decides to propose to his long time girlfriend. However, everything is threatened to be derailed by an old foe from Russia with the last name Drago. Adonis must face this imposing boxer and avenge his father’s name without his long time trainer, Rocky.

The script feels like a mish mash as the writers can’t seem to figure out what to do with Creed’s character at the beginning. Everything is kind of glossed over until Drago steps in to insert some drama. As soon as the Russians become involved the movie picks up, and I found the dynamic quite interesting between the young and old Dragos. The problem is that the film doesn’t properly set this up, and unless you have seen Rocky 4 then it might not make much sense. There are also some surprisingly silted scenes of dialogue, especially early in the film. I found that the film dragged whenever Creed or the young Drago weren’t in the center of the action. The drama between Rocky and Creed also makes no sense to me. Rocky is the one with the sage advice and the golden touch, but for some reason he still has to learn about things he already knows and has given that sage advice on?

Creed 2 is still entertaining and is still a Rocky style movie that brings the storyline from Rocky 4 full circle. I loved the angle with the Russians and finding out what happened to Ivan Drago after he fought Rocky. Michael B. Jordan is still a compelling and world class actor. He could carry just about any movie on his own these days and make it worth watching. The idea they had with Creed 2 was fantastic, I just wish it had been executed better. I think maybe my expectations were too high coming in.

Ralph Breaks the Internet Review

Wreck-It Ralph was a pleasant surprise when it first came out. Now comes the sequel that opens with a new “game” being plugged in called WiFi. The internet has just come to the old arcade. Vanellope von Schweetz wishes for more variety in her game and a new challenge. Ralph tries to help by creating a new track which results in the wheel on Vanellope’s game breaking. The kids in the arcade find a replacement part on the internet, but the arcade owner can’t afford it. So, Ralph and Vanellope go on a grand adventure into the internet to get the replacement part and save her game.

The charm of Wreck-It Ralph has worn thin behind a rather lackluster script in this 2nd offering. There are some parts that are entertaining, but it falls well short of the original’s overall greatness. Part of the problem has to do with the main narrative choice in this version. This is an animated film for children based on video games, yet for some reason they chose a script that is… well.. sad. I was in tears almost as often as I laughed, which for a movie like this is not a good thing. The way it blatantly berates the film’s main character makes you feel bad for him as well. Toy Story 3 and The Lego Movie did sad in the way it should be for these type of films. It may be sad, but at the end everything is resolved and you feel good. This one botches the recovery and you still feel kind of down at the end. I will say that the full scene with the Disney Princesses is a classic, but they throw it away for the most part in the preview. The film is still entertaining, but don’t go in with high expectations considering how good the original was. If you do then you will be disappointed.

Widows Review

Veronica Rawlins has lost her husband. He was a thief who was stealing from a local gangster. The local gangster also happens to be running for political office, so there are a lot of eyes on him. He can’t win without the money that was stolen, so he is in a rough spot. One of his henchmen goes after Veronica, telling her that she must pay the money back or he will kill her and her dog. She assembles the Avengers, or the next best thing… the wives of her husband’s crew who also died in their last heist.

Viola Davis is a force of nature in this film. Her performance in this is very good although it can be grating at times. The script is well done with some delicious twists that I enjoyed. The director made this for a more mainstream audience, so the twists are somewhat predictable. I found the manner in which they decided to reveal those twists to be quite clever. It made the film entertaining for those of us who saw the twist coming early on. The only knock on the film is that it can lose focus in the side stories at times. It could have been cut down to tighten up the narrative. This stellar caper film has very few flaws and should be enjoyable to most if you can sit through the 2 hour 8 minute run time.

Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald

The Harry Potter prequel series rolls into town with the full complement of lore and wizardry that comes with the series. This time around Newt finds himself in the middle of a war that he doesn’t want any part of. His brother tries to get him to join the aurors to fight back to back in the coming comflict. Newt refuses as he has more important things to take care of… magical creatures. The scoundrel Grindelwald escapes from prison and begins magical shenanigans as the bad guys do.

The Crimes of Grindelwald’s greatest success is in building a true villain for the new series that rivals He Who Should Not Be Named. Depp adds a sense of legitimacy to the role that cannot be understated even if the weird eyes detracts a bit from it. This new series of films in the wizarding world comes into its own in this offering and fulfills a lot of the promise shown at the end of Fantastic Beasts. Of course if you enjoyed any of the Harry Potter or the previous Fantastic Beasts then this is a must see. It will not disappoint.

The Girl Caught in the Spider’s Web Review

Lisbet Solander is back to hack into the lives of men who abuse women. This time she is hired to hack into the NSA to retrieve a program called Firewall that the programmer claims was being used for unintended purposes. Lisbet obtains the program by out hacking another hacker with the NSA. Now he is chasing her. A mysterious group then breaks into her place and steals the program from her. It has the capability of taking over missile systems around the globe. Now she must figure out who took the program, how to get it back, and how to avoid the NSA and the authorities while doing so.

The series of books was taken over by a new author and this is the first movie based off of that author’s work. In fitting reboot style they also employed a new cast with mixed results. Foy is an upgrade on the title character, but a lot of the more minor characters were downgraded. The story in this one is more action oriented and cinematic, but glosses over the technical aspects of Lisbet’s occupation. Instead of the nuanced and twisting storylines of the first 3 books and the movies based off them, this one is a much more straightforward tale.

The Girl Caught in the Spider’s Web ends up being a decent action movie with some light entertainment value. It doesn’t live up to the other films in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series though. It is a new direction for the franchise, but it feels like at least one step in the wrong direction.

Overlord Review

Paratroopers are being flown into Nazi occupied France as part of the initial invasion on D Day. Their Mission is to take out a radio tower that is jamming communications in the area. The tower is set up in a church in the middle of a small town. Only a few survive the original insertion with the anti-aircraft gunfire ripping their plane to shreds. When they arrive at the Nazi base they find another disturbing reason to complete the mission.

Overlord tries very hard to present itself as a B movie grindhouse treat. Similar to Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror it has zombies and a vague military angle, but even though the presentation is pure grindhouse, this is no grade B film. The script, acting, special effects, etc. are all that of a true Hollywood A level film. This turns what could have been a great mash up guilty pleasure kind of film into something a bit less than what it could have been. The problem is that it takes itself too seriously. All of the opportunities where the film could have gone over the top in true grindhouse fashion, it instead presents them with an ominous sense of gravity. This turns the film into a straight horror/action film.

I did enjoy this film as it is very well done for a Nazi/zombie horror flick. The opening scene where they are flying in is worth the price of admission by itself. Overlord is an intense and visceral ride that all fans of horror should enjoy. If only the filmmakers hadn’t been afraid to let the film go bigger and bolder, then it could have been a true classic.

Bohemian Rhapsody Review

Bohemian Rhapsody follows the life and times of Farrokh Bulsara, otherwise known as Freddie Mercury. A struggling band loses their lead singer and a stranger comes to them and asks if they would consider him. He shows them that he has some vocal talent, so they give him a shot. Once on stage this strange shy boy turns into something else, a rock icon. His internal struggle leads him through many trials that test the bond he has with Queen, his family.

Rami Malek’s performance in this film is amazing and possibly award-worthy. It is hard for anyone to fill the shoes of the enigmatic Freddie Mercury. Unfortunately the script writers for this biopic used a metric ton of sanitizer on the story of his life. I expected much more from this film in terms of Mercury’s life. Instead it is more a love letter to the band known as Queen while trying to gloss over much of Mercury’s life. I would have thoroughly enjoyed seeing Rami tackle more of the struggles in the rock icon’s life. Instead we get what amounts to several music videos pasted together with some story in between.

While I wouldn’t consider this anything close to a definitive history of Queen, it does touch on quite a bit of the band’s past which can be quite entertaining. What makes this movie is the larger than life icon Freddie Mercury and the other worldly performance of Rami Malek. I can’t imagine anyone else doing justice to Mercury after seeing this movie. Queen fans should feel satisfied with this film as they get the broad strokes right and capture what made the band special even though they couldn’t cram everything into the 2 hour and 15 minute run time.