I was disappointed in Adam McKay’s latest film, “Vice”, which tells the story of Dick Cheney. The acting is very good, especially Christian Bale as Cheney, Amy Adams as Lynne Cheney, and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush. However the way that the story is told is choppy. Whether you admire the man or not, it just isn’t compelling. The narration is done with an interesting twist and is quite clever. The film is an interesting piece of recent history.
“Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the second in a proposed series of films that sort of serve as a prequel to the Harry Potter films. Eddie Redmayne is a warlock who has a talent with interesting creatures from their world. He is enlisted by a young Albus Dumbledore to help bring down a dark lord. The first movie was more magical, especially with the creatures it introduced. This one is more chasing and standard fare. The special effects are good as is the acting. Not a bad entry, just not great.
In the 1960’s we had the classic television cartoon, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, narrated by Boris Karloff. In 2000 Jim Carrey starred in a live action version of the story. Now we have a CG animation version. My opinion is that they should have left well enough alone after the original. The latest version adds some clever scenes, but by making the tale feature length the filmmakers are stretching it. Children will enjoy it, but adults who remember the original will be less than impressed.
I know that I am in the minority, but I did not like “First Man”, the story of Neil Armstrong and how he got to be the first man to set foot on the moon. Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling have teamed up again after doing “La La Land”, and while the film is technologically proficient, it did not hold my interest until the end. All of the astronauts are portrayed as good men who are focused on one thing-getting to the moon. The problem is that Gosling as Armstrong is so stoic, he was boring. I don’t think he smiled once. The film reminds the viewer how dangerous space flight was in the 1960’s when everything was an experiment. When, after almost two hours, the story gets to the Apollo 11 mission, it picks up pace. Chazelle chooses to tell the story with close ups and hand held cameras, another thing that is not my favorite. The film is receiving rave reviews and will probably be a big part of awards season. Not my favorite.
“Whitney” is a documentary about the life of Whitney Houston. Unlike a like a lot of films like this one, there is a lot of footage of her from the time she was young. Her mother was a singer and her cousins were Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick. Houston was an amazing talent and was at the top of her profession, but drugs and depression ruined her life. It is hard to sit through a clip of one of her last concert performances when the audience boo-ed her. The saddest part for me is how her daughter’s short life turned out. I have mixed feelings about this film; It is fascinating to learn about a star I liked, but I found it sad and disturbing how she ruined her life.
“Sicario: Day of Soldado” is the sequel to the 2015 movie. This time the drug cartel in Mexico is sending terrorists across the border. In order to combat them the government enlists a band of renegades to fight them. Led by Josh Brolin and Benicio del Toro. They end up kidnapping the kingpin’s daughter with the intent of scaring the cartel leadership, but everything spins out of control. A parallel story of a teenager who is brought in to the cartel is also told. This is a very violent movie with a huge body count. There are a couple of plot twists and a lot of action. Not for the faint of heart.
Melissa McCarthy is back as the mother of a college age girl. Her husband dumps her and to cope with her crisis she goes back to college. There are a few funny bits, especially when a college age guy has the hots for Melissa. However, there is one scene that will knock your socks off. This is one of those films that McCarthy and her husband, Ben Falcone, wrote and he directed. It’s cute, has a few laughs and is an enjoyable piece of fluff. Not the greatest, but not bad.
It is normally not a good sign when film makers wait seventeen years to make a sequel. This is especially true when the original wasn’t a hit initially, but became a cult classic. Most people have heard of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”. How about it’s sequel “Shock Treatment”? Probably not because the latter was horrible. Well I am happy to say that “Super Troopers II” is a worthy sequel to the original. All of the same actors are back, the comedy is low brow and many of the scenes are laugh out loud funny. There even is a segment where the boys ticket drivers outrageously like they did in the first one. This is a slapstick comedy that is not meant to stimulate your intellect. So check your I.Q. at the door and enjoy.
“Beirut” is a suspense thriller starring Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike. It’s a kidnap/ransom story with a lot of twists. There are Americans, Palestinians, Lebanese, and Israelis in this intriguing story. The film shows how Lebanon changed from the 1970’s to the 1980’s, basically from a nice, modern city to a war torn hell hole. Hamm starts off as a well connected power player who loses it all when his wife is killed during a kidnapping. He is brought back to negotiate the release of a high level diplomat who happens to be his friend. It is hard to figure out who are the heroes and who are the villains. The story is based on fact with a lot of twists. Not a lot of action, but interesting.
The historical drama “Chappaquiddick” tells the story of when Ted Kennedy’s car went off a bridge and a young girl drowned. The film shows how Kennedy’s mishandling of the incident turned a tragedy into a scandal. I remember watching the story unfold in the news. Watching it on the screen was interesting, especially learning the details of the tragedy. Jason Clarke plays Kennedy and does a great job. The rest of the cast is spot on, but the one who stood out for me was Bruce Dern as Joseph Kennedy, the leader of the clan. As played by Dern, Joe Kennedy is a mean, terrible old man who is only interested in power. This film is well done, but like a lot of dramas of this sort, there isn’t a lot of action. An interesting and informative film.