The Upside Movie Review


“The Upside”

Rotten Tomatoes: 42%

Movie Meter: 5/10 s

Release: 2017

Genre: Comedy-Drama


Review:

The Upside” is an awkward, feel-good comedy starring Kevin Hart and Brian Cranston, the latter being best known for his role as Walter White in AMC’s Breaking Bad.

Kevin Hart, (need no introduction) takes on the role of Dell Scott, a “hartless” dead-beat dad fresh out of prison, and looking for employment as part of of his parole requirements. Lucky for Dell, Phillip (Brian Cranston), a paralyzed and recently-widowed billionaire is looking for an in-home caretaker/personal assistant.

Phillip hires Dell instead of the other more qualified candidates because he sees something special in Dell, he sees what he lost when he was paralyzed. He sees hope. Hope and forgiveness are messages that should not be lost on this movie especially in this crazy world.

Dell’s character is a good guy at “hart”, and ultimately wants the best for his family, which is similar to Hart’s personal life outside of acting. If you get the chance, check out Kevin Hart’s “Short” on Netflix. It’s only like 45 minutes, and worth checking out. Nicole Kidman plays Phillip’s personal secretary/assistant Yvonne, and I thought she was great,. I’m not just saying that either, because I’m not a big fan and I think she’s batshit crazy in real life.

Director Neil Burger, best known for directing Limitless (2011) did a solid job of creating a realistic feel out of what seemed to be a boring and predictable script. I thought it was a well-acted movie that had its’ dark moments. There were a lot of gimmicky “old white man – young black man” mishaps and misunderstandings that were funny and appropriate to laugh at (I think).

Overall I thought “The Upside” had a great cast, and was well-acted, but it lacked a convincing script because of its predictability. Overall, I’m giving the Upside 5 generous ‘s out of a possible 10.


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The Town Movie Review


“The Town”

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%

Movie Meter: 9/10 s

Release: 2010

Genre: Thriller/Drama


Review:

“The Town” is an unbelievable movie with an outstanding cast, a fantastic storyline, and a convincingly realistic (yet not over the top) Boston-vibe that is hard to find in Hollywood movies.

 

It’s hard to fake a Boston Accent, and aside from Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, and Ben Affleck (who are all from Boston) there aren’t many actors who can pull it off.

 

However, two actors that certainly can and do are Jeremy Renner and Blake Lively, as they sounded more “authenticious” than some real life Bostonians. The two play James “Jem” and Krista Coughlin (brother/sister) respectively.

 

The movie follows a group of lifelong friends/career criminals as they perform intense heists in “the bank robbery capital of America”, Charlestown, MA (according to the film & Warner Bros.).

 

Director and lead actor Ben Affleck was awesome playing Dougie MacRay and was able to create an original realistic movie with an intriguing plot, and significant character development.

 

There is not much to say about Blake Lively besides the fact that she’s incredible and was on point in this movie. Her character has a thing for Dougie, and he has a weak spot for her, which symbolizes his character’s constant struggle between right vs wrong, good vs evil, and stay vs leave.

 

Dougie, however, is more interested in Claire (Rebecca Hall) who plays a local bank teller and community volunteer that Doug develops feelings for shortly after a casual bank robbery in the North End of Boston, in which she was held hostage.

 

The movie also features some awesome Boston scenery including the Bunker Hill Monument, the Freedom Trail, and of course “The Cathedral of Boston”, Fenway Park, which the gang plans to rob.

 

Jon Hamm plays a promising, pissed-off, and personally involved police investigator in quite a perplexing position. “The Hambone” is tasked with tracking down the group of “Townies” and the naturally hard-ass actor was a perfect fit for the role.

 

Jermey Renner’s performance was the highlight of this film, and his performance earned him a nomination for best supporting role at the 2010 Oscars.

 

The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2010 and received tremendous reviews from critics, and hauled in an impressive $154 million in box-office sales. I highly suggest this movie to anyone who hasn’t checked it out already. Overall, I am giving “The Town” 9 out of 10 s.

 



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Nightcrawler Movie Review

“Nightcrawler”
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Matter Meter: 7/10 ’s
Release: 2014
Genre: Thriller
Available: Youtube/OnDemand

Review:

“Fear is simply an acronym for – False Evidence Appearing Real” – Lou Bloom

 

Nightcrawler is a mystery thriller starring Jake Gyllenhall as Lou Bloom, an eccentric, sociopathic, and unemployed petty-criminal looking to fast-track his career and “crawl” up the corporate ladder of America.

 

After witnessing a car accident and speaking with the so-called “news reporter” cameraman on scene (a guy with a handy-cam), Lou discovers that videotaping violence and crime on camera is extremely profitable.

 

“Nighcrawling” is not a lone sport though, so Lou hires Rick (Riz Ahmed) as his navigator/radio-moderator during their crawls. Rick is a genuine and well-intentioned character that is desperate to make money, and so he takes the measly $30 per ride.

 

Lou is a cringe-worthy character at times, but an extremely intelligent person, and he shoots his shot (pun intended) and makes money doing it.  Gyllenhall was scary good playing a very creepy and diabolical business-oriented character.

 

The film represents and serves as a reminder to viewers that the media should not, and cannot always be trusted. Realistically all it takes to “fake news” is “a cellphone with a GPS, and a police radio”, as Lou notes in the film.

 

Lou also shares a close relationship with the news reporter he sells his vulgar and violent videos to, and by close relationship, I mean sexual blackmail.

 

Lou’s master plan in the film is to set up a crime between the police and a group of mob bosses so that he can tape it firsthand. It sort of reminded of the whole Jussie Smolett faking an oddly specific “racially-based” hit on himself.

 

“Nightcrawler” is a low-key solid-watch, and was nominated for best original screenplay at the 2014 Oscars.

 

The movie has solid replay value, and I suggest keeping an open-mind because the film gets dark at moments. Overall, I’m giving Nightcrawler seven out of ten bananas.

 

 


 

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Fractured Movie Review

“Fractured”
Rotten Tomatoes: 61%
Movie Matter: 7/10 ’s
Release: 2019
Genre: Thriller
Available: Netflix (Original)

Review:

“Fractured” is an intense psychological thriller from start to finish, and a must-see for Netflix-users! This Netflix Original features Sam Worthington, who is best known for his role as Jake Sully in James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), the highest grossing film of all time ($2.7 billion).

The talented Australian actor plays the role of Ray Monroe, a recovering alcoholic who is far from “the perfect father”, nor “the perfect husband.” In his defense, Ray does his best, and is a well-intentioned and sympathetic character. 

Lily Rabe co-stars as Joanne Monroe, a sympathetic, and understandably concerned wife. The couple shares a six-year old daughter named Peri, who seems to be the only reason the couple is still together.

The movie opens with Ray, Joanne, and Peri (the whole Monroe Clan) traveling home from Joanne’s Family Thanksgiving Dinner Party, and tensions are running high. I guess the holidays will do that to you (love a good dad joke).

Shortly into the awkward car-ride home, Peri pulls the classic young kid move and asks to stop for a bathroom-break (ten minutes into the car ride), and so the family pulls into the nearest rest-stop, which is beyond sketchy.

For a brief moment, Peri goes missing, and panic starts to set in for the already stressed-out couple. Luckily, Ray is able to locate Peri relatively quickly, but she is in grave danger. As Ray approaches, there is a hungry-looking wolf circling around a terrified Peri that appears to be looking for a quick meal (maybe a little Peanut Butter and Peri Sandwich).

Ray is able to scare the wolf off by throwing a rock at the wild animal, but it also causes Peri to slip and fall into a shallow pit next to the gas station. Ray does his best to leap in and catch her, but fails miserably, and hits his head pretty hard on the concrete, knocking him out cold.

When Ray awakens, Joanne is relieved to see that Ray and Peri have only suffered minor injuries. Peri walks away with just a minor arm “fracture”, and Ray serious blow to the head, so they decide it best to stop in at the nearest hospital.

Once admitted to the hospital, the doctor informs Ray and Joanne that Peri must undergo a CAT Scan before she can be discharged, which is an odd procedure for someone with a fractured elbow.

Regardless, Joanne accompanies Peri to the X-Ray unit in the basement of the hospital, while Ray waits in the lobby, and ends up falling asleep. Hours later, Ray wakes up and asks the hospital staff when he’ll be able to see his wife and daughter, and that’s when thing really start to escalate.

The hospital receptionist informs Ray that there are no records of either Joanne or Peri ever being admitted to the hospital. To make matters worse, all of the staff members have changed shifts while Ray was napping, so there is no one to confirm that the two were ever there. Ray believes the hospital is hiding something, is ready to do whatever it takes to find his family.

Overall, “Fractured” was a solid movie with a very talented cast. Sam Worthington is a genuinely conniving actor, and I think he was the ideal for this role. Lily Rabe was also excellent, and I wouldn’t be shocked if her performance lands her more significant roles in the future.

Lastly, I think the on-screen chemistry between Worthington and Rabe was undeniable, and would love to see the two pair up again in the future. Overall, I’m giving “Fractured” 7/10 Bananas.


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Ad Astra Movie Review

Ad Astra”
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Movie Matter: 5/10 ‘s
Release: 2019
Genre: Sci-fi/Thriller
Available: HBO

Review:

“Ad Astra” is sci-fi-space-thriller starring Brad Pitt as Roy McBride, a fearless and well-experienced “space cowboy” tasked with traveling across the solar system to rescue his well-respected and decorated astronaut father, Clifford McBride (Tommy Lee Jones), who has been missing in space for years.

When Roy was a boy, his father Cliff (aka dad-astra) embarked on the world’s first space expedition to Neptune, leaving a young Brad-astra without a dad-astra, which was kind of sad-astra.

“The Lima Project” was a space mission devised and executed by Clifford with the hopes of finding extraterrestrial life on Neptune, but when Mission Control loses contact with Cliff’s spacecraft, he and his crew are never heard from again.*

Until sixteen years later, when Mission Control gets a distress message from Cliff, and let’s just say Cliff is ready to jump off a cliff (good things there’s no gravity).

“Ad Astra” premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019, and received high praise from “critics”, which surprised me a little bit. Although, it certainly had some redeemable qualities.

Brad Pitt aka “The Brad-stranaught” was exceptional as usual, and I don’t think they could have casted a cooler, more level-headed individual than Brad Pitt.

Director James Gray has remained unclear on how far into the future the movie is supposed to be set, but scientists speculate that planet to planet space travel could be possible as soon as 2050, which is insane!

Neil de Grass Tyson (a well-respected astrophysicist) stated that “Ad-astra” is the most realistic on-screen representation of what outer space is truly like. In other words, outer space is dead silent, and extremely boring (sort of like my life).

Tommy Lee Jones was a weird fit for the role of Clifford McBride (dad-astra). I try not to be too harsh on actors who have to play weird characters like a man stuck in space for 16 years, but yikes that was uncomfortable.

I think it was an odd move to cast one of the “Men in Black” (1997) movie stars in a serious space movie.

I’m not usually a “space movie guy” so I might be slightly biased. Other than Interstellar (2014) with Matthew McConaughey, and Independence Day (1999) with Will Smith, I’ve never been hyped on alien/space films.

I thought “The Martian” (2016) with Matt Damon was pretty lame, but that movie received great reviews .

I also thought Gravity (2014) with Sandra Bullock was weak, but the film somehow won an astounding TEN Oscars, so I might just be “lost in space” when it comes to this genre of movies.

The movie comes out at an interesting time given the recent launching of SpaceX, multiple government-confirmed UFO sightings, and what seems like a general curiosity of the great beyond.

Brad Pitt narrates the movie, which gets old pretty fast, but I think it was necessary in a movie that is silent 75% of the time.

A major theme in the film is the idea that humans take earth for granted, which is probably true.

At the end of the day “Ad Astra” was a pretentious film with some redeemable qualities (mainly Brad Pitt).

The movie is a so-called “slow burn”, so try not to fall asleep. It has great replay value though, so you can pick up where you slept off.

I’d like to end on a high note, and say Brad Pitt is still absolutely killing the game, and I think his career is re-peaking, if that’s possible.

All things considered, I’m giving “Ad Astra” a generous 5 out of 10 Bananas!



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Big Time Adolescence Movie Review

“Big Time Adolescence”
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Movie Matter: 1/10 Stars
Release: 2019
Genre: Comedy
Available: Hulu

Review:

“Big Time Adolescence” is an awkward coming of age story starring Pete Davidson as Zeke, a 23-year-old high school dropout turned weed-dealer townie. Zeke’s best friend is his ex-girlfriend’s younger brother, Mo (Griffin Gluck), a nerdy high school teen who idolizes Zeke and his group of older friends.

Mo’s misguided admiration for Zeke is most likely the result of Mo’s overbearing helicopter father Reuben (Jon Cryer – Two and a Half Men), who doesn’t like Zeke, and isn’t afraid of showing it. Mo’s dad understandably can’t wrap his head around the fact that Mo, a straight-edge kid, wants to waste his high school glory years hanging out with a 23-year-old burn out like Zeke.

When Zeke, and his other close friend Nick (Machine Gun Kelly) hatch up the plan to have Mo sell weed at a high school party (knowing the kids will overpay), things get a little sticky (and I’m not talking about the weed). 

Pete Davidson, best known for his goofy characters on Saturday Night Live has really come into the limelight as of late, starring in his second feature film of the year, the other being The King of Staten Island (2020). I am usually a big fan of Pete, and I think he is hilarious on SNL, but his performance in this movie was weak. 

I think his character (Zeke) was too similar to his “real life” self, and it makes for a seemingly effortless acting performance (not in a good way). However, I thought Griffin Gluck was decent playing the role of Mo, and Jon Cryer was solid playing Mo’s father, but neither were standout performances. 

“Big Time Adolescence” got some solid reviews from critics, and received a rating of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. Personally, I thought the movie stunk, and seemed like a poor attempt at raunchy-teen-comedy-classics like Superbad (2007) and American Pie (1999).

Overall, I thought this movie was pretty weak. The plot didn’t make a lot of sense, the character development was lacking, and the movie uses every overused cliche in the book. However, if you enjoy the occasional bad movie (like myself), it might be worth checking out just for kicks and gigs. Overall, I am giving “Big Time Adolescence” 1/10 stars.


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Ex Machina Movie Review


“Ex Machina”

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Movie Matter: 9/10 stars

Release: 2014

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi


“One day, artificial intelligence will look back on humans the same way we look back at fossils and skeletons on the plains of Africa. As upright apes living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.” – Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).

“Ex Machina” follows the story of Caleb Smith (Dohmanll Gleeson), a 24-year old coding genius who works for the largest search engine optimization (SEO) company in the world (BlueBook).

Caleb wins a corporate-sponsored competition that gives him the opportunity to spend a week at the very luxurious, high-tech, and secluded home of the company’s CEO, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac).

Upon his arrival to the remote estate, Caleb quickly learns that he is there to participate in a fascinating (and controversial) experiment involving the evaluation of the world’s first true artificial intelligence. The AI is programmed into the body of an attractive female robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), who Caleb soon forms a close relationship with.

As an experienced coder himself, Caleb is tasked with performing the “Turing Test”, which is an examination designed to evaluate Ava’s human capabilities, specifically her mental capacity to form conscious thoughts.

Similar to movies like Frankenstein (1931) and iRobot (2004), “Ex Machina” is a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when humans try to play the role of God, and create artificial beings. The movie’s title is derived from the Latin phrase “Deus Ex-Machina” which means “God from the Machine.”

This theme of Man vs Machine, and where God fits in, also reminds me of TV shows like “Westworld” (2016-present), and “Black Mirror” (2011-present), as they evoke the same dark message of machine ultimately defeating man.

In his directorial debut, former novelist Alex Garland creates a well-written, mind-bending thriller with an ending that will go down in movie history.

“Ex Machina” is one of the most captivating movies I’ve ever seen and easily my favorite sci-fi movie of all time.

Unlike most sci-fi films, “Ex Machina”  creates an eerily realistic outlook on the future of humanity with regards to AI, and it makes for a fantastic film with tremendous replay value.

The film earned one Oscar for Best Visual Effects, and was also nominated for Best Original Screen Play at the 2015 Academy Awards. I thought this movie was exceptional, and I highly recommend checking it out. Overall, I’m giving “Ex Machina” 9 out of 10 Stars!


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Cop Car Movie Review

“Cop Car”
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Movie Matter: 4/10 stars
Release: 2015
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Available: Netflix

Review:

“Cop Car” is a dark-thriller that follows the story of two 10-year-old boys (Travis and Harrison), as they wander through the woods, and stumble upon an abandoned police cruiser.

After scoping out the scene, the boys decide to steal the cop car, and take it on a little joyride. Little do they know, the car belongs to the town’s corrupt Police Sheriff, Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon).

The film focuses on Sheriff Ketzer’s panicked, and persistent pursuit of the boys (and his cruiser), hoping to find them before anyone at the police station figures out the vehicle was stolen, and before the boys find out what is in the trunk of the car.

Kevin Bacon was solid in his performance as Sheriff Kretzer, and I think without him, this movie is a dud. I’m not a huge fan of the “Baconator” either, so that means a lot coming from me.

While I thought “Cop Car” had a decent plot, and a strong lead, I couldn’t get past how dark and sad it was. There are definitely some underlying meanings in this film, which I won’t get into because I think this type of movie is designed to be open to interpretation. 

If you enjoy dark thrillers, I think this movie is worth checking out. Otherwise, I’d look for other options. Overall, I’m giving “Cop Car” 4/10 ’s!


 

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Baby Driver Movie Review

 

 

“Baby Driver”

 

Rotten Tomatoes: 93%

 

Movie Matter: 8/10

 

Release: 2017

 

Genre: Action/Drama/Thriller

 

 

Review:

Written and directed by Edgar Wright, “Baby Driver” stars Ansel Elgort, as Baby, an emotionally damaged young man, whose mistakes as a child landed him in debt to a mysterious crime boss, “Doc” (Kevin Spacey). 

Doc finds Baby at a very young age boosting his car, and instead of reporting him, he forces Baby to be his exclusive getaway driver. Baby is a prodigy, and he makes getaway driving look easy, and stylish.

As a child, Baby lost both of his parents in a car crash, which caused permanent damage to his hearing. To drown out his “hum in the drum”, Baby listens to music 24 hours a day, and lives with his foster father, Joe, who is a deaf black man.

Jamie Fox, John Hamm, and Jon Berenthal highlight an all star cast, and act as the muscle in the heist operations. A lot of J’s, and a lot of talent. I thought all three were excellent in their roles of Bats, Buddy, and Griff respectively.

When Baby meets a girl at the local diner, Debora (Lily James), he is ready to get out of the game, but only after he completes one final job for Doc. You’ll have to see for yourself what happens from there!

I thought Ansel Elgort was awesome as Baby, and I can’t picture anyone else playing the character. I thought “Baby Driver” was a fantastic original, and one of the better movies I’ve seen in recent years. It features a great soundtrack, multiple iconic characters, and will soon be considered a classic.

 

 

I don’t like to oversell movies, but this movie is awesome, and an absolute must see. People are always surprised that I liked this movie so much, but I don’t see why, it’s a great story with an awesome cast! I highly suggest you check it out! Overall, I’m giving “Baby Driver” 8 out 10 stars!


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Uncut Gems Movie Review

“Uncut Gems”

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%

Movie Matter: 6/10 stars

Release: 2019

Genre: Drama

Available: Netflix


Review:

“Uncut Gems” tells the story of Howard Ratner (Adam Sandler), a scum bag jewelry-store owner in New York City’s Diamond District.

Howard operates his life like a poorly constructed Ponzi scheme. He is a compulsive gambler, and his addiction to high risk sports betting puts him (and his family) in danger constantly.

When Howard comes across some extremely rare “uncut” gemstones from Ethiopia, he sees the opportunity to turn his life around by placing the “bet of a lifetime”.

The film “centers” around Howard’s (fictional) friendship, and semi-working relationship with NBA All-Star, Kevin Garnett. Howard’s “bet of a lifetime” hinges on KG’s performance in a key 2012 NBA Eastern Conference Playoff matchup between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76’ers. 

While KG doesn’t “see a lot of minutes” in terms of acting in this two-hour and fifteen-minute movie thriller, his performance was shockingly good. I also think his assistant Demaney (LaKieth Stanfield) really brought the movie together, and added a realistic feel to the movie that KG and Howard wouldn’t have had alone. 

“Uncut Gems” is an intense thriller from start to finish (literally), and is one hundred percent worth checking out. It’s an ideal movie to watch at home because everything happens so fast.

Overall, the film is a true original, and unlike any other movie I’ve ever seen. However, I think the movie gets a little exhausting at points, and I think Sandler could have dialed it back a little bit on his character, but other than that I thought it was a good movie. Overall, I’m giving Uncut Gems 6 out of 10 stars.


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The Night Clerk Movie Review

“The Night Clerk”

Rotten Tomatoes: 34%

Movie Matter: 2/10 stars

Release: 2020

Genre: Crime/Drama

Available: Netflix


Review:

“The Night Clerk” follows the story of Bart Bromley (Tye Sheridan), a 23-year-old front desk clerk at the Mercer Hotel.

Bart has Asperger’s syndrome, a higher-functioning form of autism that makes him awkward in social situations.

To avoid social interaction, Bart works the graveyard shift (8 PM – 4 AM), which gives him the chance to explore his voyeuristic fantasies by setting up hidden spy cameras in some of the hotel rooms. Bart’s goal is to observe how people converse with each other, so that he can be less awkward in social situations.

One night, a woman is attacked during Bart’s shift, and he quickly becomes a suspect in the investigation. In the midst of the investigation, Bart is transferred to another hotel, where he meets an intriguing hotel guest, Andrea Rivera (Ana de Armas), and that’s where the plot thickens.

Overall, “The Night Clerk” was pretty bad, and I suggest skipping this one. I don’t mean to be too harsh on Tye Sheridan because I’ve only seen him in a few movies, but I think he stinks. He’s basically a poor man’s version of Lip Gallagher (Shameless).

On a lighter note, I thought John Leguizamo was solid in his role as Detective Espada. Also, Ana de Armas, who is best-known for her roles in “Knives Out” (2019) and “War Dogs” (2016) was excellent in her depiction of Andrea Rivera, and is 100% my new celebrity crush.

If you enjoy a bad movie here and there (like myself) give this movie a shot, but otherwise, I would not recommend it. All things considered, I am giving “The Night Clerk” 2 out of 10 stars.


 

 

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The Way Back Movie Review

“The Way Back”
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Movie Matter: 5 stars
Release: 2020
Genre: Sports/Drama
Available: Netflix

Review:

“The Way Back” follows the story of Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck), a former high school basketball star that has fallen on hard times since his high school glory years. Jack had the opportunity to play Division 1 Basketball, and potentially go pro, but decided to walk away from the game entirely. To fill the void, Jack turns to alcohol, and his life becomes somewhat of a downward spiral toward rock bottom.

When a coaching position opens up at his former high school alma mater, Jack has the opportunity to find “the way back” to a normal life. Initially, he isn’t interested, but ends up taking the job because he really has nothing to lose. Surprisingly, Jack is a natural teacher, and although his coaching tactics are a bit unconventional, the players buy-in to his competitive mindset, and the team starts winning games.

Director Gavin O’Connor has a history of creating iconic coaching characters, having directed “Miracle” (2004), which depicted legendary coach Herb Brooks. Like Herb Brooks, Jack Cunningham takes a stern approach to coaching, which makes for some funny one-liners. Similar to movies like “Coach Carter” (2005) and “Hoosiers” (1986), this film is a true underdog story that highlights the importance of strong leadership figures in sports, and in life. 

Ben Affleck was able to make a sad and relatively boring movie, interesting and inviting. For those who don’t know, Affleck suffers from alcoholism in real life, and entered rehab just before this movie began filming. My initial thought was wow, this is going to be difficult for him to relive his personal struggles on-screen, but after watching the movie, I think it might have been beneficial and/or therapeutic for the actor.

While I thought Affleck’s performance was exceptional, I don’t think it was enough to make up for the movie’s not-so-great writing (like mine), or its’ overly dramatic and depressing vibe. However, I still think it’s worth checking out for yourself! Overall, I’m giving “The Way Back” 5/10 stars!

 

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Us Movie Review

“Us”

Release: 2019
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Movie Matter: 8 stars
Available: OnDemand

Review:

“The lord shall bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hear them.”

– Jeremiah 11:11

The number sequence “11:11” appears in a variety of ways in Jordan Peele’s latest horror classic, “Us”, and its’ meaning is open to interpretation. In just his second time directing a feature film, Peele created another masterpiece to follow up his Oscar-winning debut film “Get Out” (2017).

“Us” follows the story of Adelaide Wilson and her family (the Wilson’s), as they vacation to Santa Cruz Beach, a place where Adelaide experienced an extremely traumatic event as a young girl. Her experience is depicted in the opening scene, which is the most important scene of the movie in my opinion. I don’t want to spoil anything beyond that!

When the Wilson Family arrives in Santa Cruz, things appear relatively normal, until a group creepy Wilson-family lookalikes show up at their house, and then shit really hits the fan. The doppelgängers represent “Us” (the movie title), and are designed to portray the “You vs Us” mindset that many people fall into in terms of racial issues and social change.

I thought Lupita Nyong’o was unbelievable as main character Adelaide Wilson, and I’d argue that she should’ve won an Oscar for her performance. Overall, I thought “Us” was a great film, and definitely a must-see movie for horror movie fans. If you don’t like scary movies, I would stick with Nickelodeon.

I don’t usually get creeped out by scary movies, and I don’t consider myself a “spiritual” person, but my experience with this movie was different. I say different because since the day I watched it, I’ve been constantly looking at the clock right at 11:11 (AM or PM), which apparently is a common experience.

Many neurologists believe that looking at the clock at 11:11 is purely coincidental, while others believe it represents something more ominous. I guess only God knows, but judging from his quote above he probably isn’t willing to help “us”.

After careful consideration, I’m giving “Us” a generous 8/10 stars.

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Joker Movie Review

Joker

Release: 2019

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%

Movie Matter: 6 stars

Available: OnDemand

Review:

“Forgive my laughter, I have a condition.”

Turns out that’s a big ask in the unforgiving city of Gotham, where laughter (unusual or not) can be seen as sinister.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as Arthur Fleck, a wanna-be standup comedian, who suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to laugh uncontrollably (PBA syndrome). The citizens of Gotham are not exactly an accepting crowd, and Fleck gets taken advantage of constantly because of his mental illness. The saddest part is, he actually hates laughing and seems pained by it. In an effort to become what he considers a “normal, happy person”; Arthur creates an alter-ego, the Joker.

The Joker’s isolation from society makes him daydream about a happier life. In one of his dreams he envisions himself on his favorite tv show “Live with Murray Franklin”, a talk show hosted by Murray Franklin himself (Robert De Niro). The Joker is searching for his biological father throughout the film, which he believes is either Murray, or Thomas Wayne (Batman’s father), won’t spoil anything further on that matter!

I thought this take on the Joker was fantastic and original because Arthur Fleck didn’t start out as the villain, he became the villain. The Joker was a direct reflection of how he was treated, and a product of the system, which is a metaphor for how many people with mental illness feel today. Director Todd Phillips created the ultimate anti-hero in in the Joker, and I thought the writing was exceptional.

Let’s be clear though, nothing will ever top Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker character in the Dark Knight (2008), which I believe was the best acting performance in movie history. However, I do think Joaquin Phoenix was excellent as the Joker, and his laugh was so convincing, it was honestly uncomfortable at certain points. If I ever do stand up comedy, he’s sitting front row as my personal hype-man. Overall, “Joker” was a solid movie, but it did drag a bit, especially at the end! All things considered, I’m giving “Joker” six stars!

 

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Ford v. Ferrari Movie Review

Ford v. Ferrari

Release: 2019
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%
Movie Matter: 7 stars
Available: Amazon Prime & OnDemand

Review:

“Ford is an ugly company that builds ugly little cars in an ugly factory.” – Enzo Ferrari.

An interesting take from the man who ended up selling his bankrupt luxury car brand to Fiat in 1969.

Ford v. Ferrari was an awesome movie, and I highly recommend checking it out. The true story is a refreshing, no-bullshit take on the auto industry and corporate America in general. Christian Bale, best known for his role as Batman in the Dark Knight Films definitely didn’t need the bat-mobile in this racing classic, and I thought he killed it playing British race-car driver Ken Miles.

The uniquely skilled, and well-experienced driver is known for his questionable antics and risky racing strategies. Luckily, he has his old pal Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) to keep him in check. Matt Damon was electric as Texas-native Carroll Shelby, a former-racing champion himself, and proud owner of Shelby Automotive. Despite his first name, Shelby is a man’s man, and it’s pretty hilarious watching him and Ken Miles go at it like teenage boys throughout the movie. After Shelby shows Henry Ford II just how fast Ford’s new and improved cars actually go, he decides to let Shelby and Miles represent Ford at the “24 Hours of Le Mans” car race in France.

Also, John Bernthal plays Lee Iococca who is a crucial, yet passive character in the story. Berenthal’s performance was unreal, and he is meant to represent the perspective of the audience in the movie. Not sure who John Bernthal is? He’s the guy who keeps showing up in modern classics like the Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Fury (2014), The Accountant (2016), WindRiver (2017). He’s “sell me this pen” guy in Wolf of Wall Street! Director James Mangold did an excellent job with this movie. The movie had an awesome cast, a terrific backstory, and walked away with 2 Oscars at this years Academy Awards! I’m giving Ford v. Ferrari 7 out of a possible 10 stars.

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Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Movie Review

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%

My score: 8/10 Stars

Available: OnDemand

Review:

I thought Once Upon a Time in Hollywood was awesome, and I highly recommend checking it out. However, I don’t think this movie is for everyone, and let me explain why. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is a unique film in that it lacks a clear plot, and instead focuses on multiple storylines and subplots. Although unconventional, Quentin Tarantino made the unique story-structure work, and I thought he did an excellent job of tying everything together.

As most people know, this isn’t the first time the legendary movie director has teamed up with Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt. Tarantino and DiCaprio paired up on “Django Unchained” (2012), which won an Oscar for best original screenplay. While Tarantino and Pitt paired up on the classic “Inglorious Bastards” (2009), which also won an Oscar. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood walked away with 2 Oscar wins out of 10 nominations at this year’s Academy Awards, which included best supporting actor and best production design. It was also a contender for best picture, but ultimately lost to “Parasite”, which many think was a snub.

The protagonist in the movie is Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a washed up TV actor, who starred in hit Western “Bounty Law” in the 1950s, a reference to Steve McQueen’s “Wanted Dead or Alive”. Since TV stardom, Rick has fallen on tough times, and is trying to make a comeback with the help of his personal stuntman and close friend, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Cliff also acts as Rick’s personal driver, bodyguard, and handyman. I thought Brad Pitt really stole the show in this movie, and his performance won him an Oscar for best supporting actor. Other strong performances included: Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate, Emilie Hirsch as Jay Sebring, and Al Pacino as Marvin Shwars.

The story intertwines real events with some awesome fictional storylines and characters. One of the main storylines relates to the “Manson Family Murders”, which took place in the summer of 1969 at the residence of Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski. In the movie, the couple are depicted as Rick Dalton’s next-door neighbors, and when storylines collide, things get pretty crazy and it makes for a fantastic ending. Some critics are calling it the best movie ending of all time. I would say it’s definitely Top 5. Overall, I thought this was a solid movie, and give it 8 stars!

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ELeMaP8EPAA

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Knives Out Movie Review

Knives Out

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%

My Rating: 4/10 stars

Available: OnDemand 

Genre: Mystery/Comedy

Review:

Knives out tells the story of a wealthy crime novelist (Harlan Thrombey), played by Christopher Plummer, who is found dead the morning after his 85th birthday party. The story takes place at the grandfather’s mansion, which is located on a small coastal town just outside of Boston, MA. The film details the events that took place following the discovery of the corpse.

The detectives brought in to investigate the case include: Lead Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig), Lieutenant Elliott (LaKieth Stanfield), and Detective Hardrock (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Things heat up pretty quickly when Detective Blanc starts questioning family members.

The movie had a solid cast and a very intriguing opening, but I ultimately couldn’t get over Daniel Craig’s attempt at a southern accent. Don’t get me wrong, I think he is a great actor and I loved him as James Bond, but this role just wasn’t made for him. His cringe-worthy attempt at a southern drawl was truly bad (no exaggeration).

Although, I thought some of the other performances were great, especially Chris Evans, who is best-known for his role as Captain America in the Avengers movie series. I also thought LaKieth Stanfield was solid, and he seems to be showing up in a lot of classics nowadays. Stanfield is best-known for his roles in “Get Out”, “Sorry to Bother You”, and “Uncut Gems”.

Overall, I thought “Knives Out” was kind of lame to be honest. If you have nothing to watch, I would maybe give it a shot, but don’t set the bar too high. I’m giving Knives Out a rating of 4/10 stars.

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The Invitation Movie Review

“The Invitation”

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

My Score: 7/10 stars

Available: Netflix

Review:

The Invitation was a solid movie, especially if you’re into horror and/or suspense films. With that being said, I think this movie is definitely worth a watch! The Invitation had some “Get Out” vibes to it, which I think makes sense based on their similar plots. If you enjoyed “Get Out”, you are definitely going to want to check this movie out!

The protagonist in the movie is Will, who is a well-intentioned, yet extremely uptight individual. Will and his girlfriend receive an invitation to a dinner party that is being hosted by Will’s ex-wife (Eden) and her new husband! To make things a little more uncomfortable, the dinner party is being held at Will’s old house, which Eden and her new husband now share. On their way to the party, Will and his girlfriend hit a wild animal crossing the road, which is eerily similar to the deer accident scene in the movie “Get Out.” I hope Get Out’s director didn’t “Peele” any material off of this movie.

Initially, things at the party seem normal and everyone is excited about the friendly reunion, but Will has a more sinister theory on the gathering. The reason for the party becomes evident toward the middle of the movie, and the director does a great job of dropping hints along the way. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that things get pretty “culty”, pretty fast. If you are into cults or anything along those lines, this movie is a must watch!

Overall, I think that the Invitation is a solid movie that really gets your mind racing. Again, definitely a great flick for horror, suspense, and mystery fans. There’s a lot of quality foreshadowing, hint-dropping, and misdirections that keep you guessing (and second-guessing) yourself throughout the movie. I think one drawback is that some of the key hints/clues could have been more subtle, but other than that I thought it was a solid flick. All things considered, I’m giving the Invitation a 7 out of 10 stars.

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