Coffee & Kareem

Coffee & Kareem (2020) - IMDb

There is a new comedy that popped up on Netflix recently.  It is called Coffee & Kareem.  It is an odd couple movie featuring Ed Helms as a police officer who gets involved with a foul mouthed son of his girlfriend.

Barely competent cop James Coffee (Ed Helms) is in a relationship with Vanessa (Taraji P. Henson), whose 12-year old son Kareem (Terrence Little Gardenhigh) is a foul-mouthed kid who doesn’t want any part of Coffee the police officer in their lives.  As Kareem tried to get Coffee out of their lives, he accidentally gets them involved in a drug enterprise.

I did not like this movie at all.

First of all, I hated the way that the Kareem character talked and how the movie glorified it.  The movie constantly showed that the kid was right and his behavior was excused or even shown to be the way it should be.  It was obscene and offensive.

Second, the story was ignorant and totally unrealistic.  The kid was going to hire some people to “paralyze” Coffee because he was sleeping with his mother.  Coincidentally, they walked right in to the middle of the case Coffee had been involved in.  The other characters in this movie, especially the villains were completely over-the-top and ridiculously played.

Ed Helms had some decent moments, but his character and the arc he went through was so painfully predictable that there is practically no reason to watch it.  The relationship with Helms and Gardenhigh was not believable either.  I felt little connection with the pair until the very end.  Then the switch came too suddenly.

Why did Helms want to be with Taraji P. Henson?  I don’t know because they did not seem to have any chemistry and I saw little reason for either of them to have any connection whatsoever.

The film was just too loud and bombastic.  There was nothing worthwhile in the story, the bad cops were so obvious and the events to get to the conclusion were dumb.  The scene with Kareem driving a car, using a handgun, etc were all just stupid.

There was nothing that was funny here.  I have said it before, but funny can overcome plenty of mistakes in a movie. The humor here was so lacking and dumb.

I have already talked more about this one than I should have.  It is a bad movie.

1 star

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) - IMDb

This French movie was one of the top foreign films from last year.

In the 18th century, a young painter Marianne (Noémie Merlant) was brought to an island to paint the wedding portrait of another young withdrawn lady Héloïse (Adèle Haenel).  Héloïse has been angry about the death of her sister and she is unhappy about being promised as a bride.

Since Héloïse refused to sit for the portrait, and even drove the previous painted away.  Her mother brought Marianne in to be a confidant for Héloïse.  As they spent time together, the two ladies grew closer to one another.

The acting was solid and the story was good.  It was a beautifully shot movie.

In the end, this was a fine way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but I would not consider this one of the great movies around.  It was solid.

goodstuff

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) - IMDb

Disneynature’s Elephant

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Last year, I was a huge critic of the last Disneynature film, Penguins.  It made my worst 25 films of 2018 because of the way they modeled the story.  There was way too much personification and the main characters went through an idiotic situation that had me rolling my eyes.

So now Disney + has released the next Disneynature film, this time called Elephant.

It is wonderful.

Every complaint I had about Penguins was done perfectly well in Elephants. There was some personification in the documentary, giving the elephants names and motivation, but it did not overpower what was happening on screen.  It managed the humor properly and everything seemed to fit.

The doc followed a herd of elephants on their journey across the Kalahari Desert, from the Okavango delta to the Zambezi river and back again.  The herd’s matriarch was named Gaia and we also saw a mother Shani and her son Jomo.  What they do with these characters really work for the film, as does the dangers they face on their trip such as lions and mud pits.  The scene where Gaia goes into the mud to save a young elephant from suffocating in the mud.  That was an exceptional scene that fit into the narration.

Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, is the narrator and does a wonderful job.  She is clear and provides the perfect amount of humor and balance in her work.

The shots in these nature documentaries are consistently amazing and beautiful.  The creators of these docs, even the Penguins one that I disliked, bring unbelievable imagery of mysterious lands with animals that you rarely get to see.

This film was a real return to the entertainment of this series and I was very happy.  Sadly, this would have looked great on the big screen, but, with the Disney + outlet, my guess is that we will not see these released in theaters again.

4.5 stars

Big Time Adolescence

Big Time Adolescence (2019) - IMDb

I have been searching for new content on the streaming services recently since the theaters are currently closed with the COVID-19 pandemic.  I had seen this on Hulu once but I thought it was a series.  So when I heard the podcast Critically Acclaimed with William Bibbiani and Witney Seibold review this as a movie and give it a positive review, I went back to Hulu to check it out.

Mo (Griffin Gluck) is a young teen who has bonded with his sister’s former boyfriend Zeke (Pete Davidson), who is several years older than Mo.  They continue to hang out even after his sister and Zeke break up.

After years of friendship, now 16-year old Mo is convinced by Zeke to sell marijuana at his high school parties, which Mo is suddenly the star of the show.  However, the world starts condensing on him.

This coming of age story is actually quite solid.  Pete Davidson does a top level job as the loser who cares more than he lets on.  Zeke does have feelings for the kid and he tries to give him advice that he thinks will be helpful, despite the fact that his advice is poor most of the time.  Davidson has some real charisma and feels like he works in this type of film.

Young Griffin Gluck does a great job as well.  He has a natural feel to him and looks very comfortable on the screen.  He has chemistry with the other actors and portrays the awkwardness of the teen life extremely well.

Jon Cryer plays Reuben, Mo’s frustrated father.  Reuben is unsure how to deal with his son and his strange connection to Zeke.  Cryer is excellent in showing his exasperation with Mo and how he does not understand why Mo wants to spend so much time with Zeke.  Cryer is very believable and could have used more on screen time.

Big Time Adolescence is a sweet and enjoyable coming of age story that has good performances and a fun story.

4 stars  

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)

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This morning, I finished the “Dollars Trilogy” by Sergio Leone, by watching what is considered one of the best, if not the best, spaghetti Westerns ever made.  An argument could be made that this is the best Western period, spaghetti or not.  While I may not go that far, there is no denying that this is an iconic classic in the world of cinema.

The Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) returns for the third installment, carrying on a con with his partner Tuco (Eli Wallach), where “Blondie” (what Tuco called him) turns Tuco in for the bounty and then saves him just before he is hanged.

“Blondie” leaves Tuco because he was never going to be worth enough reward for this to be worthwhile, which ticked Tuco off and sent him on the path of revenge.

Meanwhile, Lee Van Cleef, playing a character named Sentenza (or Angel Eyes), and he is in search of a Confederate officer named Bill Carson, who had stolen $200,000 in gold and had buried it away.  Angel Eyes was in search of the gold.

The three of them interact along the way and you never know what each of them may do next.

Lee Van Cleef made his second appearance in this trilogy, but it feels as if he is playing a different character.  Though it is implied that the Man with No Name had met Angel Eyes before, and it makes it feel as if he was the same as the character he played in For a Few Dollars More, he had enough different character traits to make me think that he was meant to be a different person.  Perhaps they just used the character to do whatever they needed.

Early in the film we find out that The Man with No Name is the “good,” Angel Eyes is the “bad” and Tuco was the “ugly” of the triumvirate.  This must be one of the themes of the film because it is hard to classify Eastwood as “good” when he really is no different than either Angel Eyes or Tuco.  The three of these characters are shown as equals in their actions.

The finale of this movie was just tremendous.  It was filled with tension and uncertainty where the three of our characters facing off over the gold.  The filming, the close ups, the music did an amazing job setting the tone of the Western.

I did think the film was a bit too long and there were a few scenes that I think could have been removed to tighten this up.  The whole Civil War part of the film seemed to be tossed in for no reason.  Admittedly, the way the two sides of the Civil War are shown as neither being heroic could fall into that theme I mentioned earlier.

So I was engaged with this movie and it truly was the best of the three.  This trilogy sent the career of Clint Eastwood into the stratosphere.

paragon

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For a Few Dollars More (1965)

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The second film in Sergio Leone’s “Dollars trilogy” was called For a Few Dollars More and it was the next Western I watched today.

This saw the return of the Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood), although he was called Manco early in the film (as he was called Joe in A Fistful of Dollars).  The Man with No Name met up with, as one of the posters called him, the Man in Black.  This was Lee Van Cleef, who played Colonel Douglas Mortimer, another “bounty killer” who joins up with the Man with No Name on a mission that was more personal than the Colonel let on.

As with A Fistful of Dollars, Eastwood was the major star of this film, but he and Van Cleef worked together brilliantly.  Their pairing was tremendous in many different ways.  Not only were they a great pair, you were never quite sure what was going to happen.  You always felt as if either one could turn on the other in a split second.  Even when it appeared that they were working together, the thought of betrayal hung in the air.

There were several things that were similar to the original film, but the sequel takes them a bit further.  The action was fine, but the gunfights were pretty repetitive.  I did like the reveal at the end of the reason for the Colonel’s pursuit of the villain El Indio (Gian Maria Volontè).

The score was a true standout in this Western.  Ennio Morricone created a score that presented the perfect soundtrack for what was happening on screen.  Many times I do not hear the score as the film is going on, but this one seemed to work in such a tandem that it was easy to hear.

I do believe that the film was a tad long and could have done with some tightening up in the middle, but I think I liked this more than the last film in this trilogy.

vintage

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A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

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I have been wanting to improve my knowledge of Westerns and so I decided that I would watch the “Dollars Trilogy” to begin the stretch.  These Italian “spaghetti Westerns”  from director Sergio Leone starred Clint Eastwood and really catapulted him into stardom of the genre.

I chose to go in the order that the films were released, which meant I started with A Fistful of Dollars.

The Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood) arrived in a small border town where two gangs are at conflict.  The Man with No Name began working on setting the two gangs against one another in hope of gaining wealth himself.

Eastwood is the star of this movie and he stands out among all of the other actors in the film.  His presence really brings The Man with No Name to life and provides him with his gravitas.  The screen simply fills when Eastwood is on and he is powerful and dominant in this Western.  It is clear why they went ahead with two more movies featuring this character.

The film did not hold back with the violence of the West, especially in the third act where the body count truly picked up.  However, the film did not have blood or any kind of really gruesome moments in it, so the brutality was dampened somewhat.

A Fistful of Dollars had a plot that was heavily borrowed from Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo (1961) and, in fact, faced a lawsuit over that.  This film was another of the “dubbing” issues I have been having lately as most of the voices, excluding Eastwood, did not completely match the lips of the speakers.  This was an initial distraction, but I tried my best to ignore that.

The first of this trilogy got off to a fantastic start and really set the tone for the Westerns of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

vintage

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Bloodshot

Bloodshot (2020) - IMDb

I never got around to this while the theaters were open and it was there.  I had intended to see it in the theaters, but I wasn’t feeling great and the timing just never worked out so I skipped Vin Diesel’s latest comic book based project, Bloodshot.

However, it came to the video on demand early after the theaters were closed nationwide.  I have to say that I still ignored it for a time because, by this point, I had heard the bad reviews on it and I wasn’t sure that I wanted to drop the money to see it.  Boredom took over tonight and I went ahead and purchased it.

Boy this was terrible.

Vin Diesel played Ray Garrison, an elite soldier killed in battle, but who was brought back using technology that gave him special abilities and powers.  After returning from beyond the grave, Ray turned his attention to the man who murdered his wife in front of him.

Or so he thought.

This is not a spoiler, since trailers gave it away, but it turns out that Ray’s mind is being messed with and his memories manipulated in order to make him an assassin.

So the story is convoluted and I couldn’t have given a bigger crap about Ray Garrison or anyone in his orbit.  The film does not make any real attempt to give us any reason to support or cheer for Ray and the mission he is on.  In fact, it is clear that he is not on a heroic mission.  Vin Diesel provided us with zero emotions outside of anger and vengeance.

There are zero side characters that are worth anything either.  Eventually we come across Lamorne Morris, whose comedic sidekick type character is fine, but we have little to no backstory or reason to care about him either… except that he was funny.

The action was fine, but nothing that you haven’t seen before.  The CGI was below average, especially when compared to other comic book movies and the exceptional work that they are providing the world.

This was quite boring.  There was nothing that made this stand out.  I probably should have left it alone.

1.65 stars 

 

Blow the Man Down

Blow the Man Down (2019) - IMDb

All the theaters are closed, so I need to depend on streaming for movies.  It has been kind of slow for movies.  However, today I found a movie released on Amazon Prime today, Blow the Man Down, and I was excited.

Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and her sister Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) wind up trying to cover up a crime.  By doing that, the small town of Easter Cove revealed some of the darker secrets of the town.

The story picks up immediately after Priscilla and Mary Beth’s mother’s funeral.  Their mother had been involved in a group of elderly women who are part of the underbelly of the town.

Margo Martindale played Enid, the local madam.  The other ladies included June Squibb, Annette O’Toole and Marceline Hugot.  These women are a fun part of the film, but I could have used more with all of them.

The film has a definite Fargo feel to it which was cool.  The movie was a funny, dark comedy with lots of dramatic undertones.  The characters are intriguing and creative.

My problem with the film was everything felt a little rushed, especially the ending.  I liked how they were weaving everything together, but it felt as if it resolved too quickly.  The film is only an hour and a half in length and I think they had enough here for more.

I love June Squibb.  She is the most engaging actress and I love when she shows up in any movie.  Margo Martindale was totally enthralling as Enid.

Both of the young girls leading the film are strong too.  It is just a well acted film with a fun story.

There are fun transitions with sailors singing shanties as well.  Very quirky and creative.  I enjoyed this a great deal.

4.2 stars

 

Clemency (2019)

Clemency (2019) - IMDb

Okay, this one is a kick to the gut.

Clemency is a film about Warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) and the stress and psychological pain and demons that comes with watching the executions in her prison.  This comes to the head when a young man named Anthony Woods (Aldis Hedge) is scheduled to be next to which she connects.

Alfre Woodard is heartbreaking in this movie.  Her anguish is sapping her will out of her body, effecting negatively not only her own job but her relationship with her husband Jonathan (Wendell Pierce).  Woodard is easily the standout in this movie as the entire basis for the film is riding on her performance and she knocks it out of the park.

Not to be overlooked though is Aldis Hedge, who has been coming on strong over the last few months/year.  He brings his best work as of yet in this film.  His scene with the Chaplin (Michael O’Neil) is crushing.

Though this movie has undeniably brilliant performances, the fact that it is a difficult film to watch and an even more challenge to enjoy.  It is dower and painful.  There was very little hope on display in the film.  Though gripping, it is a film that I have no desire to see again.  So while I recommend that you see it, I will not want to see it again.

tweener

Clemency (2019) - IMDb

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

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They call me Mr. Tibbs.”

I had a friend who would use that line while we were gaming and, at the time, I did not know where it was from.

Of course, I found out.  In the Heat of the Night was a successful film during the sixties and was developed into a television series in the eighties.  As I was looking through the Amazon Prime list, I came across the original movie from 1967 and thought this was a good chance to see it.

Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) was a homicide detective from Philadelphia who was traveling through the south.  While waiting for a train to take him back to Philly, he was picked up by local police on suspicion of committing a murder of a wealthy local businessman.

Of course, the only reason he was picked up was because of his skin color.  He was in Sparta, Mississippi and African-Americans were not exactly welcome, let alone a well dressed, intelligent man with a wallet filled with cash.

They brought Virgil to the office of Sheriff Gillespie (Rod Steiger), who discovered that Virgil was a police officer and that he was a homicide expert.  Gillespie asked Virgil to look at their case, but pressures from the community tried to get Gillespie to run Virgil out of town.

This was a very engaging movie to watch, but it was also quite difficult.  The people portrayed in this movie from Mississippi were about as backwoods as you could get when it came to their thoughts and actions toward a black man, especially a black man as successful and intelligent that Virgil was.  Watching the hatred displayed by the locals for no other reason than his skin color was disturbing.  The attitude of Gillespie was not too much better, to be honest.

The cruelty made me really want to see Virgil lash back at these racist humans, but he did not engage with the hatred.  You could see how he wanted to respond, but staying stoic was a much better choice.  However, he was not shown as being perfect either.  There was a suspect in the murder that Virgil was convinced was guilty because of his own personal feelings, and, when he realized his own biases, the case was able to get broken open.

The film also made me wonder just how many people were arrested in the south during the 1960’s just because it looked like they could have done it and that there was pressure to solve a case.

Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger were amazing in the movie.  Steiger won an Academy Award for his role and it won for Best Picture.  Quincy Jones’s score was another major piece of the film, creating an atmosphere of uneasiness.

This is a hugely important film taking on the concept of race in the south.  It is also a highly entertaining and thrilling movie.

paragon

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Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) Original One-Sheet Movie ...

They say the sea is cold, but the sea contains the hottest blood of all”  -D.H. Lawrence, Whales Weep Not!

I’m ready to review a film that should cause some division.

I know there are a lot of people, including several of my friends, despise this movie.  They call it the “whale movie.”  However, I think that Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is second only to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan as the best in the series.

Earth in the 23rd century is being attacked by an alien probe approaching from space.  The probe’s message was the song of the Humpback whale which, unfortunately, was extinct at the time.  So the crew, led by Admiral James Kirk (William Shatner) and Captain Spock (Leonard Nemoy), time traveled back to 1986 to try and find some whales to bring back to the future.

The Star Trek adventure turns into a clever “fish-out-of-water” story as the crew interacts with the world of 1986, the medical community, the language, the engineering.  Some of the lines of dialogue from the deadpan Spock are very funny.

The crew split into groups, each with vital missions in the past, in order for them to accomplish their mission and return to their own timeline.  The time travel aspect here is not really touched on much, though they implicate some ideas that, may or may not, work together.

The fact that this movie is willing to not take itself deathly serious really makes this a fun movie to watch.

Catherine Hicks joined the cast of the movie as the 20th century marine biologist Dr. Gillian Taylor, who helped Kirk and Spock find the humpback whales.  She is a nice addition to the group, if not fairly unnecessary.

In the end, this was a lot of fun.  I disagree with the complaints of the bits of the whale being dumb or that it is too preachy.  The reasons behind the probe communicating in whale song is unimportant.  It is simply a plot point to lead to the adventure.  And a message of preserving the animals of the world cannot be bad.

classic

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) Original One-Sheet Movie ...

 

Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

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Almost three years ago, I saw the remake of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express starring Kenneth Branagh.  I had never seen the 1974 version, and, though I did not hate the new version, I did not love it either.  I thought maybe one day I would watch the original, but, with the knowledge of the solution, it did not become a top priority.

Seeing it on Amazon Prime, I decided that this was the perfect chance to see the murder mystery.  I am glad I did.

When noted Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) wound up on the Orient Express, he found himself in the middle of a murder mystery.  American businessman Ratchett (Richard Widmark), who had approached Poirot to be his bodyguard on the train (which Poirot refused), was found dead in his cabin, Poirot began an investigation which was hampered by red herrings and the train being stalled by an avalanche of snow in remote Yugoslavia.

Directed by Sidney Lumet, this film featured a remarkable cast of Hollywood stars, led by Finney, including Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bisset, John Gielgud, Anthony Perkins, Vanessa Redgrave, Martin Balsam, and Michael York.

Even though I knew the eventual solution to the mystery, the process getting their by Hercule Poirot was fun and entertaining.  Finney was just wonderful as the Belgian detective flexing his “little grey cells.”  Much of the fun of watching Poirot piece together the seemingly unsolvable case is truly part of the pleasure.

There is a definite flair to the look of the movie, style throughout.  The direction of the film is impeccable.

The only piece that might knock this down a bit is that the solution is something that is far fetched.  Still, it really works here and became iconic in mysteries moving forward.

The Murder on the Orient Express (1974) was beautifully done and expertly put together.  It features one of the strongest casts you will ever see and a great mystery.  Hercule Poirot deserves his spot as one of the most epic of the “gentlemen detectives.”

vintage

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3022

3022 (2019) - IMDb

This movie has been on my Netflix queue for a few weeks and I finally got around to watching it.  3022 is a science fiction/thriller set in the future.

A group of astronauts on a space station try to desperately survive after an extinction level event happened on earth, a event that caused a massive power surge.

John Laine (Omar Epps) is the captain of the shuttle and his crew included Richard (Angus Macfadyen), Jackie (Kate Walsh) and Lisa (Miranda Cosgrove).

Much of what is here is fairly typical sci-fi fare in a futuristic space station film.  There is really nothing here that is new.  That does not mean it is bad.  It just means that it is normal.

The acting is solid.  Though it is a typical story, the performances within were great, especially Kate Walsh, who brought a lot of emotion to the role when placed into the desperate situation provided.

This movie is short and runs quickly.  There is a good feel of anguish and darkness in the film and that worked well.

3.2 stars

Stand By Me (1986)

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I thought that I had already reviewed this one for Doc’s Classic Movies Reviewed, but I could not find it on my list.  So, since I had started it on Roku, I figured I could finish it and review it.

Rob Reiner directed Stand By Me, one of my favorite movies.  Reiner has directed at least two others that I loved totally, The Princess Bride and This is Spinal Tap.  Stand By Me is the third.

Four friends discover where the body of a missing kid was at and they decide to travel along the train tracks to find the boy to become famous.  Along the way, the kids face challenges and dangers.

The four boys, played by Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, are remarkably well developed. Wil Wheaton is Gordie Lechance, a boy with the skill of storytelling whose brother died recently in a car crash.  River Phoenix is Chris Chambers, a boy from a rotten family who is seen as a thief.  These two are you main characters of the film and receive the most development.  Gordie’s older self (played and voiced by Richard Dreyfuss) acts as the narrator for the story and has the most powerful of arcs.

Corey Feldman played Teddy Duchamp, a kid whose father was abusive and held his ear to the stove.  Duchamp was an extremely complex character and they do a lot with less time with him.  Finally, Jerry O’Connell, in his film debut, played Vern, the least developed kid in the group but the one with the most innocence.

The interactions between these four characters are funny, powerful and real.  These kids talked like kids talk and they acted like 12-year olds.  The is a real depth to them all.  Even Vern, who is the least damaged of the crew, is more than what you see on the surface.

Kiefer Sutherland was here too, playing one of the biggest a-holes in the film as Ace.  Ace and his gang of thugs were one of the conflicts that the boys had to face and the stand off with them in the third act was full of tension.  There was also one of the most anxiety-filled scenes ever involving the boys, a bridge and a train.  I remember holding my breath the first time I saw that scene and today, it was every bit as suspenseful.

The story telling of this movie was great.  It set up scenes throughout the film and showed us how each one was important to the kids.  There was little wasted in the film and had purpose.  The writing was beautiful and the dialogue, particularly with the kids was spot on.

Based on a Stephen King short story called The Body, Stand By Me is a masterful tale of a group of kids and their path to adulthood.  It is a brilliant movie.

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