Five Documentaries

I was looking through Netflix and I realized that I had not seen very many documentaries this year.  So I decided that I would watch several of the docs over the next month to get ready to see which one was the best one around. All these have been released in 2019.

Image result for fire in paradise posterI started on Netflix and watched a short one (around 42 minutes) called Fire in Paradise.  This told the story of a terrible camp fire in 2017 that decimated a town in California named Paradise.  This was totally shocking and tense, seeing pictures and cell phone images from the heart of the blaze.  The interviews with the people who survived this encounter was absolutely heart wrenching.  You could almost feel the heat coming through the screen. This doc was seriously good.

4 stars


Image result for amazing johnathan movie posterNext doc I moved over to Hulu to watch The Amazing Johnathan but this one was less involving to me than the last one.  Johnathan is a magician who found out that he had a heart condition, and that was something that I was not interested in seeing.  I did not find Benjamin Berman that charming and the doc went into a different path that was odd.

2 stars



Image result for the biggest little farm, movie posterI had had the chance to see this one in the theaters, but I did not want to see it.  That was too bad, because The Biggest Little Farm was tremendous.  I would have loved to see it in the movie theater.  This told the story of a couple and their dog in an attempt to bring an area of farmland outside of Los Angeles back to life.  They faced all kinds of problems from birds to coyote to soil that was “dead.”  This was wonderfully education and as compelling as could be. I should not have skipped this one.

4.4 stars


Image result for jawline movie posterNext up on Hulu was a documentary called Jawline and it was about a 16-year old boy named Austyn Tester, who wanted to build a career by posting videos on YouTube and Instagram.  This film was interesting because it followed the young man who had some initial success, but apparently wound up back in his life in Tennessee.  The film discusses some of the drawbacks of social media too.  While interesting, I would have liked to know more, go deeper.  It never seemed to go fully into the theme.  It was entertaining though.

3.3 stars


Image result for Ask Dr Ruth movie posterThe final one today on Hulu is Ask Dr. Ruth which is the story of iconic sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s life, career and influence to the world.  The documentary included more than just the sex talk that she had became famous for, but also looked at her past, including her escaping the Holocaust and how she grew up to be Dr. Ruth.  Ruth Westheimer is such a charming and funny person who is able to speak so honestly that you can understand why she became such a sensation.

4.5 stars


More to come later…looking for the time to watch the Bob Dylan/Martin Scorsese doc on Netflix.


Edit:  BTW…Dr. Ruth was a sniper.


Motherless Brooklyn

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It’s been a while since we have had a good pulp noir film, and Edward Norton’s passion project fills that gap respectfully.

Norton is the writer/director/lead actor of this new film. Motherless Brooklyn, which tells the story of a detective whose boss/friend gets killed in pursuit of a big case.  Lionel (Ed Norton) has some version of Tourette’s Syndrome, though that name is never used, and it gets in his way as he tries to weave his way through the complicated case at the heart of his friend Frank’s(Bruce Willis) death.

The film is slow and it is long, but I did not find either of those as a drawback to the movie.  I found this interesting and engaging.  It was a mystery story that we had to uncover exactly what had happened.  We knew the result and who committed the crime, but we had to discover the reasons.

Part of that had to do with Alec Baldwin’s big bad New York developer character, Moses Randolph.  I am not really sure where the inspiration for this character came from… (just kidding).

The story took place in the 1950s in New York.  The atmosphere of the film was one of the best parts.  The atmosphere helps make the noir successful.  Ed Norton did the voice over and it worked.

The performances were good to great.  The story was fine.  I had picked out the “surprise” part early on so that did not shock me.  And there was some epic music happening with the score too.

I believe that watching this movie requires patience, because it is a slow burn, but the trip is worth it.  These days of instant gratification, this is a throwback to the old days of movies.

4.1 stars



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I legitimately had no idea anything about director Bong Joon Ho’s newest film, Parasite.  All I knew about it was that it was an international film (I am not even sure if I knew it was a Korean film although I did know it was subtitled) and that a bunch of the online critics that I like and respect claim that it is one of the best movies of the year.

I even did not realize who Bong Joon Ho was.  Later on I discovered he was the director of Snowpiercer (which I loved) and Okja (which, not so much).

I have seen some older Korean movies this year, Old Boy and Train to Busan, but those did not give me any idea what I might be seeing.  I thought maybe the parasite in the title of the movie might be some kind of plague like the zombies in Train.

So I really did go into this movie with as much of a blank slate as you are going to get in this world of social media and easy accessible online trailers.

I am glad that I knew so little because it was able to let me move along with the story and allow the movie to provide its twists and turns as it is meant to be.

I don’t want to spoil anything so you can have a chance to go in as fresh as I was, but the film features two families of differing classes that intersect with each other in a strange and original way.

The cast is great.  All of these actors brought the goods here, creating characters that were appealing despite being people that may not be the grandest example of humanity.  You can understand all of them and relate to them which is quite a feat.

The film is shot beautifully and the contrasts between the classes were distinct.  The film has many great moments of humor and also has some dramatic darkness.  Midway through the second act, the film shifts a little bit to become even darker than it had been up until that point.

It is one of the top international films of the year and should be an Oscar contender.  Go in with as little knowledge as I did.  It is worth it.

4 stars

Playing With Fire

Playing with Fire Movie Poster

The previous to movies that I have seen in the theaters, Jojo Rabbit and Doctor Sleep, I gave five star reviews.  Can that string continue?


The latest John Cena comedy called Playing with Fire came out this weekend and saw Cena as a “smokejumper” which is a kind of fire fighter who jumps from helicopters into the heart of blazing fires to battle them.  Cena’s character, Jake Carson, is a legacy smokejumper descended from one of the greatest smokejumpers off all time and he has a drive to follow in his late father’s footsteps.  One day, Jake and his crew arrived at a cabin in the woods that was one fire and saved three children.  Unable to contact their parents, the firefighters had to look after the kids.

I already knew that this film was going to be a major step down from the recent run of top notch movies I have seen.  While I understood that this film is really not made for me (it is targeted at those around 10, maybe), that does not excuse the film from being as poor as it is.  Lots of poop jokes and predictable plotlines punctuated this film.  John Cena is fine and his comedic timing is pretty good. He just needs something comedic to do.

The film also has a couple of great actors in it.  I love Keegan-Michael Key and he was the one character that I found even remotely funny.  He is another actor in this movie that deserved more than what was given to him.   John Leguizamo is here too, but he is totally unremarkable as a character.  Tyler Mane (Sabretooth from the X-Men movies) plays a character named Axe, who does not speak, but does carry around an axe, for no apparent reason.

The kids are competent.  Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead from Deadpool) is the oldest of the kids, Brynn.  None of these kids, who apparently have lived through some serious crap in their lives, act as if they are anything but mischievous kids.

Though this movie is supposedly targeted toward children, there are several storylines that do not feel like a child would want to see.  There is a relationship between Cena and Judy Greer that is as forced as could be and there is a subplot about John Cena’s job and desire for a promotion.  Neither of these feel as if they belong in a kids movie.

To be fair, the movie does have some heart and should get some points for being sweet.  The ending, while seen from a mile away, does its best to tug on the heartstrings of the audience.  The ending was sweet enough to make me bump its score up probably a half a point.

Not that it is going to be a big score.  Halfway through the movie, I was considering this one of the worst films of the year.  Now, it will probably make the top 30 list, but it may not be in the top 10.

1.5 stars 

Doctor Sleep

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I am a fan of The Shining.  When I say this, I mean the movie.  I have not read the book written by Stephen King that apparently is different enough to have King hate the Stanley Kubrick movie version.  It is a big dust up between them.  So when King wrote a sequel to the book, that made adapting it to the big screen a serious challenge.

The major issue is that audiences are very familiar to the Kubrick movie and if the sequel, Doctor Sleep, would not embrace the film, I believe that there would be issues.

I have also not read Doctor Sleep, the novel by King so I will not be looking at how they adapted the book to film.  I heard some people criticizing the movie because of some changes or omissions from the source material.  I do not believe that is fair, but I certainly understand it.

I go into this detail mainly to show that I will only be reviewing the movie that I saw on the screen, not the book or the adaptation of said book.

The movie I saw was fantastic.  One of the best horror films of the year.

We meet a grown up Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) years after the events at the Outlook Hotel and the years have not been kind to Danny.  He had become an alcoholic to depress the shine that caused him such troubles.  However, after starting his life over and hopping on the wagon, Danny receives a mental contact with another Shining user, young girl Abra (Kyliegh Curran).

Everything is not perfect though.  There is a group of creatures, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), who feed on the Shine of people like Danny and Abra.  The power of the young Abra attracted the vampiric characters toward her and forced Danny to step up to help her.

This was a truly scary film that did not rely on jump scares.  The terror was real, built on tension and creepiness.  The horrific situations were difficult to watch at times.  There was one brutal scene involving Rose the Hat, her cultists, and a baseball playing kid (who is played by a kid actor in a surprise cameo) that absolutely stays with you.

The moodiness of this film is tremendous as I was constantly shifting in my seat.  It makes the viewer uncomfortable because you really do not know what is going to happen and that uncertainty is a gift in today’s movie going experience.

The performances were wonderful throughout Doctor Sleep.  McGregor is as good as he always is and Rebecca Ferguson raised her game.  However, Kyliegh Curran deserves a ton of praise for her work.  She had to bring a lot to this role as the new kid with the Shine and she delivers big time.  She was one of those young actors whom you know you have to keep an eye on because, if her career continues as such, she is going to be a superstar.

Thanks to Rebecca Ferguson and a group of very strong actors, the villains, which could have been disposable one note monsters, are actually very well developed for the minimal screen time they received.  You see the connection between this group of killers and you can almost appreciate how their relationship is shown.  They are obviously monsters, as the scene with the baseball kid showed in spades, but you can somewhat see their warped view of their lives.

The movie looked great and horror veteran director Mike Flanagan simply knows what he is doing in this genre.  The shots are wonderful and the pacing is just right.

I have heard some complaints about the third act of this movie, but I thought it was just about perfect.  I loved the resolution of the story and the emotional depth from these scenes.  There is one scene in particular between McGregor and Henry Thomas (yes, the kid from E.T.) that was powerful to me.

I was fully engaged with Doctor Sleep from the start.  It has a long run time, but it did not bother me in the slightest.  Great performances and amazing horror elements make this an experience that is frightful and anxiety-ridden.  It is a excellent sequel to the Kubrick classic.

Second one in as many reviews, but I think it deserves it.

5 stars 

Jojo Rabbit

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I have been excited for Jojo Rabbit for some time now.  However,when I hear about these independent films that are supposed to be so amazing, many times they are fine, but not to the level that everyone claims.  There have been several this year that fall into that category for me.  I worried that I was looking forward to Jojo Rabbit too much.

After seeing this, I can safely say that Jojo Rabbit is utterly brilliant and one of my absolute favorite films of 2019.

I can understand the tentative nature of people who may not think it is a good idea to have a film where a young boy has an imaginary friend who is Hitler.  I have to say it caught me off-guard when I first heard about it too.  But with Taika Waititi attached as writer and director, my anxieties soothe.  I loved Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok and What We Do in the Shadows so I believed that, if anyone could navigate the issues, it would be Waititi.

Anyone who lists the version of Hitler in this film as a reason to hate it has already made up their mind that they were going to hate it.  Taika Waititi does a masterful job of playing this “Adolf”, the imaginary friend of Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis), a 10-year old German boy who idolizes the Fuehrer and joins the Hitler Youth.

After an unexpected result, Jojo discovers that his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) has been hiding a Jewish girl name Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in the walls of their home, shaking the boy’s preconceived notions to their core.

The performances of this movie are off the frickin’ chart.  Let me start with the actor playing Jojo, Roman Griffin Davis.  This is Griffin’s feature film debut and that is totally unbeleivable because everything in this film depends on this young actors ability to deliver his lines and carry the emotional heft of the scenes.  There are some moments of levity that Davis pulls off brilliantly playing opposite Waititi and, also, Sam Rockwell, who plays a heavy drinking and quickly sinking Nazi Captain Klenzendorf.   Yet, Davis has some deep and life-affirming moments with Scarlett Johansson as well.

Still, the heart of the film is probably the relationship and the interactions between Jojo and Elsa.  These two young actors make you fall in love with them in one of the most unconventional ways imaginable.  Thomasin McKenzie is a star in the making.  Her every minute on screen lights it up and you cannot help but notice how effervescent she is.

There were also a couple of scenes that caught me completely off guard and nearly caused me to break down. No spoilers, but the emotion in this movie is powerful and elevates this above just another comedy.

It is a comedy, though and it is laugh out loud funny all the way through.  Stephen Merchant appeared as a Gestapo S.S. agent and he brings a ton of humor while still being as tense as any moments in the movie.  It also led to a ridiculously funny “Heil Hitler” scene.  Rebel Wilson gets to do some broad comedy as Fraulein Rahm, an assistant to Captain Klenzendorf.  Wilson brings some fantastic physical comedy in a supporting manner.

Then, Taika Waititi’s performance as Adolf was note perfect, and it had to be because he was walking a dangerous line with this role, but Waititi understood that humor allows one to transcend almost anything and that the satire of Adolf Hitler, one of the worst monsters to ever step on the planet, can be used to spread a message of anti-hate.

Jojo Rabbit delivered on every expectation that I had and it is a damn near perfect movie.  I loved this film and Taika Waititi has done it again, bringing a vision to a story that sounded as if it had plenty of hand grenades. I don’t think anything was ever going to catch up for me to Avengers: Endgame, but Jojo Rabbit is right there.

5 stars

The Intruder

The Intruder Movie Poster

Back in May, a film came out called The Intruder, and I skipped watching it.  You see, the trailer to the movie basically showed everything that I needed to see, including a big chunk of the third act so I was not sure why I needed to see it.  So, despite a couple of times when I thought about going to The Intruder, I decided to let it pass by.

Then today I found it for $0.99 on Vudu and I thought that that was a price that I could not turn down.  Certainly, it would be worth $0.99, right?

Well, it wasn’t quite worth the $0.99.

Dennis Quaid played Charlie Peck, a widower who sold his beloved house to Scott and Annie played by Michael Ealy and Meagan Good.  At first, it appeared that Charlie was just having a difficult time parting with the house that he had spent so many years in, but then it became obvious that he was mentally unhinged and wanted to have Annie for himself to the point of attacking her and trying to keep her against her will.

You say that is too much detail and that I may have spoiled too much.  Well, you’d be right, but that was what the trailers had in it so it is fair game.

There are some really dumb scenes in this predictable film.  It takes Annie way too long to accept the fact that Charlie is a loon because she was too busy getting mad at Scott for stupid things.

It seems that Dennis Quaid is having fun hamming it up as this coo-coo but he does not have near enough energy to make up for this film.

I am not unhappy I watched it, and I am glad that I did not spend the full cost on it.

2 stars



Terminator: Dark Fate

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I have heard a lot of critics say that this is the best Terminator movie is T2, and, while that is definitely the case, it is not setting the bar very high.

The movies in the Terminator franchise have fallen somewhere between poor and totally rotten since T2: Judgement Day so a competently made Terminator movie would easily be the best since T2.

That does not mean this is a great movie or that I loved Terminator: Dark Fate.  The best I can say for the film is… it’s fine. However, there are no new ideas as the entire film is basically a retread of a strange combination of Terminator and T2.

A powerful Terminator (Gabriel Luna) is sent back from the future to kill someone, in this case a girl named Dani (Natalia Reyes).  The resistance of that future time line sends a protector, Grace (Mackenzie Davis), to keep Dani alive.

Does that sound familiar?

The film also adds Linda Hamilton back in as Sarah Connor and Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Terminator for nostalgia.  It was the film’s way to connect the films of the past to the new film of 2019.

I enjoyed both Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performances in the movie and they did a nice job interacting with the new characters.  Schwarzenegger was very funny in his role and makes a character, that could be the worst of the film, likable.

However, something happens at the very beginning of the movie that.I suspect will be a major dividing point among Terminator fans.  While I did not hate what happened, I can certainly understand why some people do.  I do find the eventual result of the first scene to play out in a silly way that stretches my suspension of disbelief.

I found the action to be a mixed bag.  The highway chase, as seen in the trailers, was not bad, but it felt like something I had already seen.  I was bored with the action in the airplane, but I thought the final third act throw-down was decent.  Some of the CGI was shaky at times, especially when showing the future timeline with the Terminators coming out of the water.

Natalia Reyes and Mackenzie Davis are both very good in their roles, even though you could easily assign previous characters from the Terminator franchise as being replaced by them.  There really is not a lot or originality in this new film.  Still, The Force Awakens was very similar to New Hope and that does not make Episode VII bad, per se.

I have a feeling that this film may be one of those films that I originally recommend but, over time, continue to think poorly about.  I found Terminator: Dark Fate to be an okay movie and it looked good on the IMAX screen that I watched it on, but there is just something unremarkable sticking in my craw.

3 stars



Harriet Movie Poster

When I was younger, I really liked Harriet Tubman.  I really did not know what it meant or how heroic she actually was, but her story appealed to me.

This was why I was excited to watch the biopic Harriet, based on the harrowing life of Harriet Tubman, one of the top conductors on the Underground Railroad.  Starring Cynthia Erivo, Harriet does a very good job of showing us the challenges faced by one of our nation’s truest freedom fighters.

There were many things about Harriet Tubman’s life that I did not know and I wondered how accurate the film was in portraying her life.  I especially wonder how close to the truth it came with her former master Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn) and his pursuit of Harriet.  This feels very much like a cinematic addition to the story, but I will admit to not knowing for sure. (edit… looks as if he is made up, but the Brodess family was in fact Harriet’s owners).

The film may have brushed over the voyage Harriet went on when she escaped from her master and traveled to Pennsylvania.  I am not sure that the movie showed how distressing the trip truly was and how unbeleivable it is that she was able to survive, let alone go back to aid other slaves in their journey to freedom.

Cynthia Erivo was wonderful as Harriet, bringing the iconic hero to life and showing how strong and determined she was.  Cynthia Ervio is a star in the making and this movie may give her the push to start that progression.

While the biopic may be a conventional one, Harriet still brings a really string story of a historical figure that spreads a positive message, something we could really use these days, and whose bravery and heroism in the face of cruelty and hatred is inspirational.  I always liked Harriet Tubman, and, now that I know more about her, I like her even more.

4.1 stars

The Lighthouse

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This one is one of the most original films of the year that will absolutely keep you thinking well past the end of the movie.

Two men arrive on an island to run the lighthouse that is located there.  However, there is clearly more going on here than that.  It is difficult to go into much more details without spoilers.

The two men are Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe).  Winslow a young man who is running from his past and Wake, an older man who looked as if he were a sea captain.  As they worked on the island, both men started to slip into madness.

Willem Dafoe was utterly brilliant in this film.  His performance was Oscar worthy and he could absolutely win the award.  He handled the difficult lingo of the sailor beautifully and brings a gravitas to this role.

Robert Pattinson perhaps gave his finest performance of his career.  Although Dafoe may have been the real standout, Pattinson held his own in every moment with him.  I did not even realize that it was Pattinson until the end of the film.  He truly lost himself inside this multidimensional character.

Another major aspect of The Lighthouse is how beautiful the film looked.  First, of course, the film was shot in black and white and it was amazing to watch.  There were so many great images throughout the movie that stands out as artistically as any and the cinematography was wondrous.  The second aspect is the fact that this was shot in a way that the picture was more of a square, not full screen and it fit the story great.

Robert Eggers, director of The Witch, brought a visual style to this film unlike many you will see.  Eggers has a pretty strong early career so far and this is beautiful.

The film is challenging and does not feel the need to explain every scene that has some ambiguity to it.  I love the fact that you can interpret the film in the way you want.  And there is some weird stuff going on here. It is a film that you are never sure what is happening, what might have been a character’s delusion instead of reality.

I can see where some people may not like The Lighthouse, but I found it challenging and fascinating.  The performances were next level and the technological aspects were beautiful.  The Lighthouse is a different type of movie.

4.25 stars



The Omen (1976)

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With October coming to a close quickly, the October Horror Binge will conclude soon as well.  So this morning I watched another of the horror classics from the mid 1970s, The Omen.

Gregory Peck brought his all to the role of Ambassador Robert Thorn, whose wife Kathy (Lee Remick) gave birth to a stillborn child.  A priest named Father Spiletto (Martin Benson) brought Thorn another child whose mother had died in childbirth and gave him to Thorn to raise in place of their lost son.  His wife would never need to know.

It does not take long to find out that the boy, Damien (Harvey Stephens), is more than just another young child.  He is evil incarnate. He is the son of the devil.

The Omen is an iconic horror film that has been an inspiration to many films since.  This is the film that helped create the sub-genre of horror known as evil children.  Think of all the evil children movies over the years and wonder where they would be if not of The Omen.

Gregory Peck is exceptional in this movie and helps bring a credibility to the project.  He plays this completely serious and that helps what could have been a silly storyline elevate into more than that.  And much depended on the performance of Harvey Stephens to pull this off and he is tremendously eerie and creepy as the Anti-Christ child Damien.

The film is excellent at creating the tone and mood that will have audiences on the edge of their seat, despite a relatively slow build to this point. Jerry Goldsmith’s score is very effective in building that tension and of punctuating each moment with emotion and energy.

The ending of the film is every bit as chilling as any horror film you will see.

The Omen is one of the greats in horror genre.


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Dolemite is my Name

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Eddie Murphy is back with a vengeance.

Murphy returns in the Netflix biopic focusing on the life of Rudy Ray Moore, a comedian and Blaxploitation film star of the 1970s.

Rudy Ray Moore was a struggling comedian, rejected on a regular basis, until he created a character to play on stage, a foul mouthed, obscene pimp who rhymed his way through his act named Dolemite.  Moore was told repeatedly that he was never going to be successful, but he refused to give up.  He parlayed the character into several bootleg record albums and eventually a feature film.

There is a great cast of actors involved in Dolemite is my Name, which is lead, of course, by Eddie Murphy.  This is easily Murphy’s best performance in years.  He looks to be having a ton of fun as Moore.  The film also includes Keegan-Michael Key, Craig Robinson, Tituss Burgess, Mike Epps, Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Kodi Smit-McPhee.  There are some great cameos as well, including the scene-stealing Wesley Snipes as D’Urville Martin, the co-star and director of the first Dolemite movie.

The real Dolemite movie has become a classic of the Blaxploitation genre, one of those “it’s so bad it’s good” films.  Watching the biopic, I must say that I got some flashes of The Disaster Artist, the film detailing the creation of one of the worst films ever, The Room.  Both of these films showed us the charismatic lead actor that may not have much acting chops, but can still find ways to get things done.

Moore would become an idol and an inspiration for many modern day rappers, who looked at his rhymes as an early form of rap music.  Moore would become known as the “Godfather of rap.”

There are some real feel good moments in this movie.  I found the relationship between Rudy Ray Moore and Lady Reed aka “Queen B” to be extra special.  Moore found Lady Reed in a night club one night, knocking out her boyfriend, and she became a muse for him.  The bond they formed that night carried the pair through the years of challenges ahead.  The fact that neither of them were the typical Hollywood shape sends a wonderful message to the fans who may not be as slim as they wish to be.

Dolemite is my Name is a great movie, funny, sweet and filled with tremendous performances.  Sure there is a lot of swearing, but it is fully part of the time and of the real Moore.   Eddie Murphy is magnificent here and I hope he continues this run.

4.5 stars

Black and Blue

Black and Blue Movie Poster

Black and Blue is the new film featuring Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson that tells the story of corruption on the police force.

Sure there are dozens of films that tell that story so what about Black and Blue that is different?  Well…not that much to be honest.  They toss some racial tension into the concept, but truly the racial tension could have been left out and not that much would have changed.

Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is a rookie police officer who covered a shift for her partner and wound up with a group of crooked police officers who execute some drug dealers.  West records the murder on her body cam and suddenly, she is being chased by police and the drug dealers all at once.

She winds up at the doorstep of Milo Jackson (Tyrese Gibson), a local community member, and she talks him into helping her.  She is desperate to get the body cam to the station.

Frank Grillo played Terry Malone, one of the crooked cops and he really was solid.  Naomie Harris worked her tail off for this script.  The performances are all decent.

It was hard for me to see Mike Colter as a drug dealer instead of Luke Cage, but that is my problem, not the film’s.

Unfortunately, the script is predictable and there are a lot of ridiculous moments.  Some that are downright stupid.  Some scenes that would never be able to happen in the real world.  However, there are some moments that are very tense as well, building some decent anxiety.

Despite the film’s flaws. I was engaged in the film.  The performances helped make up for the weakness and implausibility of the story.   I left the theater feeling pleased about the film overall.

3 stars



Western Stars

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Western Stars is Bruce Springsteen’s newest album, a series of beautifully composed, poetically written and soulfully performed songs, and now it has been put on screen with a lovely filmed movie where Springsteen performs these songs under the cathedral ceiling of his historic nearly 100-year-old barn.

The songs are really nice.  The images are well done.

I entered the film with one major issue… I had never heard any of these songs before.  Since I was unfamiliar with these Springsteen songs, they tended to blend together and sound alike to me.

That is not to say that they were not great songs because they clearly were well written and deeply moving, especially with the orchestral accompaniment.  However, these songs kind of mixed together for me and I had trouble distinguishing them apart.  There were a couple that stood out for me, especially the title track and the song called “Moonlight Motel.”

If I had been more familiar with these songs, I am sure that I would not have had the same issues.

Yet, at the end of the film, he played a cover version of Glen Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy,” which was a rocking great song and really brought some energy.  I would have liked something like that in the middle of the film to break up the songs that sounded so identical to my ears.

Still, the music was beautiful and the vision was clear.  Bruce Springsteen is one of the legends of our time and this film is excellent.

3.6 stars

Girl on the Third Floor

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As a lifelong professional wrestling fan, I was excited when I heard on Collider Live that Phil Brooks was starring in a brand new horror movie coming out on October 25th.  Brooks, better known as the former pro wrestler C.M. Punk, left the WWE and pro wrestling over five years ago, leaving a gap in the sport.

So when I looked on Vudu today, I was excited to see that the film, Girl on the Third Floor, starring CM Punk was available.

Don Koch(CM Punk) was a disgraced investor who was starting over by buying a new house in the Chicago suburbs for his wife Liz (Trieste Kelly Dunn) and their unborn daughter.  The house needed plenty of work, but Don insisted on doing the work himself.  It becomes apparent quickly that the house held more secrets from its past than anyone expected and that the house played on the bad habits of Don.

Don slipped into his bad behavior easily, showing himself to be an unlikable man and a poor husband.  Still, the fate that befell him may have been a tad extreme.

The film was a nice mix of humor and horror.  CM Punk does a good job in the lead role, which was impressive for his debut as an actor.  He had to carry bug chunks of the movie, especially in the first two acts.  The third act belonged to Trieste Kelly Dunn, who came in an killed it.

This movie does an admirable job of taking the fairly played sub genre of the haunted house movie and brought some originality to it.  The past of this house was as fascinating as anything else in Girl on the Third Floor.

There was another mysterious inhabitant of the house, named Sarah (Sarah Brooks).  Her past was important and well-developed.  The mysteries of the house were slowly revealed as the film progressed.  Even though they laid out a dramatically bad past, the film does not try to give her a break for her own poor behavior.  Sarah Brooks is top level creepy in this role and she does a solid job.

The film does become gory at times, but it does not go too far.  There is a painful scene involving Don’s dog that takes things over the edge, but it feels as if it fit into the narrative being told.

I was a huge CM Punk fan during his days in WWE so I am thrilled that he has gotten a horror film that is so well done.  Punk was great in the role and, hopefully, he’ll be able to parlay this into more in the future.

4 stars