Friday, July 13, 2018

Weekend Movie Guide

Lakeith Stanfield & Armie Hammer (r) star in Sorry to Bother You

First Reformed - 4 Stars. Grieving minister Ethan Hawke tries to counsel an environmental activist on the value of bringing children into our world. Tension-filled and thought-provoking.

RBG - 4 Stars. Inspiring life story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She's quirky, smart and determined.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? - 4 Stars. Touching biography of seminary student/turned television pioneer Fred Rogers.

Sorry to Bother You - 3½ Stars. Outrageous science fiction comedy satire, that starts in a telemarketing pit and goes from there.

The Death of Stalin - 3½ Stars. Funny but painful history lesson of the dance for power to replace the Soviet dictator, with outstanding performances by Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, and Simon Russell Beale.

A Quiet Place - 3½ Stars. Wildly creative horror story. A family must stay quiet, lest they get eaten by blind, sound-sensitive space monsters.

Deadpool 2 - 3 Stars. More of the wisecracking, anti-hero superhero played by Ryan Reynolds.

Ocean's 8 - 3 Stars. Sandra Bullock masterminds a multi-million dollar heist with a gang of women you'd better not cross.

Avengers: Infinity War - 3 Stars. All of the characters in the Marvel Universe fight Thanos, who plans to depopulate the world. A Grand Opera approach to comic books, fans will love.

Hearts Beat Loud - 3 Stars. Single father Nick Offerman sadly and nostalgically sends his daughter into the world after one final bonding attempt through music. Touching and gentle.

Book Club - 2½ Stars. Four mature women begin reading "50 Shades of Grey" and things change. Great cast includes Jane Fonda, Candace Bergen, Diane Keaton, and Mary Steenburgen.

The Catcher Was a Spy - 2½ Stars. Based on true story of 1930s baseball player Mo Berg, who left sports for the CIA during World War II.

Ant-Man and the Wasp - 2 Stars. Uninspired sequel to the much better original.

Tag - 2 Stars. Childhood friends carry on a game of tag into middle age. Feels tedious, until the credits show video of the real guys involved.

Solo: A Star Wars Story - 2 Stars. Uninspired prequel to the 1977 original.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - 1 Star. Same old monster mash, only longer.

SICARIO: Day of the Soldado - Zero Stars. Violent sequel to a much better original. The ending made the audience laugh.

Great Movies of 2018, So Far...

Chadwick Boseman stars in Black Panther

Halfway Thoughts: 10 titles I liked, between January and June:

1. Black Panther - Re-energized the superhero saga.

2. A Quiet Place - Horror/thriller. Stay quiet or get eaten.

3. Won't You Be My Neighbor? - Mr. Rogers on civility.

4. RBG - Explains Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

5. Thoroughbreds - Two spoiled rich girls plot a murder.

6. Tully - A new mother makes an unusual friend.

7. The Death of Stalin - Veep style satire, but historically accurate.

8. First Reformed - Ethan Hawke as a minister in crisis.

9. Sorry to Bother You - Wildly creative, funny, and revolutionary!

10. Hearts Beat Loud - Father/daughter bond with music.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Sorry to Bother You Review - 3½ Stars

Tired of the same old, same old? Then step right up to the jaw-dropping science fiction comedy satire "Sorry to Bother You." Musician Boots Riley wrote and directed this mash-up about class, race and revolution. Lakeith Stanfield plays an ordinary guy, trying to satisfy his artist girlfriend Tessa Thompson. Stanfield's best remembered as the first victim in "Get Out." Thompson broke through in the comedy "Dear White People." Starting his new job as a telemarketer, old-timer Danny Glover gives Stanfield some sage advice, "use your white voice." Soon, he's breaking sales records and starts winning promotions. Meanwhile back in the pits, his friends form a union and stage a walk-out. While they starve, our man on the way up continues his rise, resulting in an invitation to a party at the owner's mansion. Armie Hammer plays the boss as a coked out, clueless goon, scheming to enslave his workers and make them more productive. "Sorry to Bother You" roars along with outrageous dialog & situations, and concludes with a punch in the gut. The audience gasped & laughed and screamed with delight. "Sorry to Bother You," rated "R," 3½ stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Outrageous comedy sci-fi satire. Is it entertaining? Laugh-out-loud funny. Is it worth the price of admission? Always great to find something really different.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp Review - 2 Stars

I had great fun watching the original "Ant-Man" in 2015. Paul Rudd made me laugh, slipping into his ant suit and shrinking with the touch of a button. The sequel begins with a flashback, featuring scientists Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer. They save the world by burrowing into a roaring nuke and pushing it out to sea. But to do this, Pfeiffer gets so small she's lost in quantum space. There's lot of "quantum" stuff thrown around in this episode, and most of it is confusing. Once the story gets started, we find Ant-Man (AKA Paul Rudd) under house arrest - a reference to another movie. Now he must jump back and forth between his house and anklet, and the things he must do to save the world. Evangeline Lilly joins as Hope Van Dyne, the daughter of the scientists in the opening flashback. She and her father believe they can bring her mother back. She becomes Wasp (and along with Ant-Man) fights evil scientists, who are after their shrinkable building/lab and what's inside. The plot is confusing, and the script feels like it's trying too hard. At two hours long, "Ant-Man and the Wasp" exhausts instead of entertains. "Ant-Man and the Wasp," rated PG-13, 2 stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Disappointing sequel. Is it entertaining? Long and often boring. Is it worth the price of admission? Skip it.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

SICARIO: Day of the Soldado Review - Zero Stars

"SICARIO: Day of the Soldado" presents a new episode of the determined DEA agents from the first film. Josh Brolin returns as the lawman with the 1,000 yard stare, assigned to start a war between Mexican cartels. He decides to kidnap the daughter of a cartel kingpin, and blame it on rivals. Instead, the plan puts the girl's life in danger. Brolin recruits Benicio del Toro to smuggle the girl to safety in the U.S. Brolin behaves like the character he played in "No Country for Old Men." The shootouts escalate between good guys, bad guys, Mexican police and even those who lead immigrants across the Rio Grande. Catherine Keener and Matthew Modine distract in roles as government officials. A twist at the end, had audiences simultaneously booing and laughing. The first film succeeded, because audiences supported Emily Blunt as she tried to fit in with the macho system. The sequel relies on blood, guns and nonsense twists. "SICARIO: Day of the Soldado," rated "R," zero stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Same actors with a bad script. Is it entertaining? Hardly. Is it worth the price of admission? A waste of time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Catcher Was a Spy Review - 2½ Stars

You could call this the biography of a Major League spy. "The Catcher Was a Spy" tells the story of Moe Berg's life. A Princeton grad who spoke multiple languages, he turned his attention to professional baseball, playing for several teams over 15 seasons. When World War II began, he volunteered for the OSS, the agency that became the CIA. The agency sent him to Europe to determine Germany's progress on building an atomic bomb. That included tracking German physicist Werner Heisenberg for possible assassination. "The Catcher Was a Spy" allows Paul Rudd to stretch his acting muscles. He plays Berg as a classic outsider... Jewish, intelligent and possibly bisexual. A good cast includes Jeff Daniels as the OSS chief, Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson, & Giancarlo Giannini as physicists, plus Guy Pearce as Berg's military support, Sienna Miller as his unsatisfied girlfriend, and Mark Strong as Heisenberg. Many of the German accents aren't very good. The music often overwhelms. The film ends with multiple updates, as if the script left out too much. The production feels like a made-for-TV movie; but I found the story fascinating. I went home and read up on Berg & Heisenberg, a sign this did something right. "The Catcher Was a Spy," rated "R," 2½ stars. Does it deliver what it promises? Interesting World War II story. Is it entertaining? The story covers poor production. Is it worth the price of admission? Not a waste of time.