Sometimes Life is stranger than fiction.
Based on a real life person from Michigan, The Mule tells the tale of an elderly man who becomes a drug courier for the drug cartel. Earl Stone (Clint Eastwood) has lost his wife (Dianne Wiest) and family due to his need to put work before them. The 90-year-old lily grower loses his house when the internet changes the nature of shopping. Earl takes a job as a driver, unknowing what he’s delivering and how his life will change.
Using the money to buy back his home and help his family, Earl tries to make up for the times he missed out when they were younger. Unable to change the past, Earl risks his life to spend the last week of his ex-wife’s life with her rather than meet his deadline. As the FBI seeks to stop the drug cartel, Earl shares his personal philosophy with the FBI agent in charge (Bradley Cooper) in a daring meeting.
Directed and produced by Eastwood and featuring two of his daughters, The Mule is a family affair. JHis daughter Allison plays Earl’s estranged daughter and Kimber works as the lead makeup artist. But the movie isn’t just about family and the importance of family…. The Mule reminds us to spend time with who is important, spreading kindness- even with a simple word or gesture.
With the screenplay written by Nick Schenk who also wrote Gran Torino, Eastwood returns to the big screen as another grumpy older man. In addition, Eastwood works again with Cooper (playing the FBI agent) who he worked with on American Sniper.
Clint’s acting in this movie feels less like acting and more like him being himself. But viewers won’t help but wonder if he is talking about his own mistakes as a father. Notorious for having numerous children with various women and not spending time with them, The Mule feels like an apology to those children. How ironic that we hear on the day of the movie’s release about the loss of Eastwood’s paramour- Sandra Locke who passed from complications from cancer. As I said…life is stranger than fiction.
Robin Hood is a classic tale, but this movie gives it a twist.
Robin of Loxley (Taron Egerton) would like nothing more than to hang around his manor house with his girlfriend Marian (Eve Hewson) but when the Sheriff of Nottingham (Ben Mendelsohn) needs money and soldiers, he sends Robin off to fight in the Crusades.
When Robin returns four years later, he’d lost everything…his manor, his money and Marian. But with the help of one of the Moors he’d been fighting (Jamie Foxx), Robin sets out to bring the Sheriff to his knees by taking the money away from the church and the Sheriff. And hopefully win back Marian from her husband, an up and coming politician who is trying to bring change to the mines and people of Nottingham.
Re-made to feel edgy, the action scenes in Robin Hood feel modern rather than historical. The crusades were fought like a SEAL mission against a Gatling gun shooting metal rods. They wore dessert colors and hid among the pillars to avoid the arrow-fire. Horses climbing stairs and racing across wooden catwalks will make you want to check that no animals were harmed. The clothes were out of place within the medieval time period. Machine stitched leather and high-heeled shoes. The movie felt more like a cross between Gladiator and Matrix. However, the action was exciting and kept me engaged, even though I had no personal interest in the lives of the characters.
The big twist came about at the end of the movie when you find out the whole tale is only the beginning…Robin in the forest with his Merry Men. A new sheriff is in town and he has every reason to hate Robin—he stole the sheriff’s wife.
Taron’s Robin was both charming and secretive as he cozied up to the Sheriff, earning a spot at the “big table”. Fresh off the Kingsman 2 movie, Taron was handpicked as the lead. The director even held up filming for him. Did the delay put Robin Hood out at a bad time? Or was it the remaking of a familiar tale that had it struggling at the box office (cost 100,000,000 to make and only earned 25,000,000).
The movie has over the top action but shows very little changes to the story which has been told over and over again. Much like last year’s King Arthur, Robin Hood leaves viewers reminiscing over the originals which were hard to beat.
Sometimes family is more than blood.
When a professional couple decides something is missing in their lives, they look into fostering and adoption. Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie Wagner (Rose Byrne) get in over their heads when they foster three siblings who were removed from their home when their mother went to jail. Lizzie (Isabela Moner), Juan (Gustavo Quiroz) and Lita (Julianna Gamiz) bring more to their lives than the instant family they expected.
This funny movie shares the heartwarming moments as well as the frustrations of becoming a foster parent and adopting children. It’s a rollercoaster ride. The humor comes from the situation in addition to the comments of other foster parents in the group. The support-group scenes make me wish that every parent had somewhere to complain and receive validation. All parents (not just foster parents) could use someone who will be a shoulder to cry on or someone to give us a sarcastic come back to bring us back to Earth.
Mark Wahlberg’s character is very similar to his character from Daddy’s Home and I think some of the same comedic moments came from there but this is a very different movie. It was based off the real life events in Director and Screenwriter, Sean Ander’s foster and adoption tale of three young children. There are moments which will resonate with parents everywhere.
This movie has star power galore, besides Wahlberg and Byrne, it has Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, Julie Haggerty (Airplane), Michael O’Keefe (Caddyshack) and Joan Cusack (Working Girl). Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro play two social workers at the foster care center. Many of the funniest moments involve their wisecracking comments.
While this movie is entertaining and filled with an important message about family, it doesn’t have to be seen on the big screen, but it could be a fun movie for a family Christmas time, especially if you have teens…it might lead to a wonderful family discussion. :)
Creed 2- One to Watch!
Sometimes the past does come back to haunt you.
Ivan Drago was defeated by Rocky Balboa in Russia after killing Apollo Creed (Rocky 4). His life has been one of hardship. His country turned their back on him and his wife left him. Using his son to regain his legacy, he trains Viktor to take out Apollo’s son, Adonis as the Heavyweight Champ.
Adonis was an underdog who came from not so humble beginnings but sought out his father’s former friend, Rocky who helped him find his strength in the ring. After winning the Heavyweight belt, he proposes and believes his life is perfect. But a greedy promoter is setting up the fight of the century and trash talks Adonis.
Feeling forced to defend himself and show how he was better than his father, he sets out to fight Viktor without Rocky’s blessing, sending him to the hospital and down a dark path.
The hits are amazing in slow motion. The bodies are sculpted as the action reigns supreme in this story of overcoming odds and doing what you need to do for yourself, not anyone else. (Pause to admire the amount of time these guys must have put into making those bodies so amazing- eye candy!) What is interesting is the growth of Adonis from his takedown to his rise again. The director also shows us a depth to Ivan and Viktor that we didn’t realize as they had been simply the evil Russians trying to beat America. The theme is family and we see it quite clearly with the arrival of Brigitte Nielsen and Robert Balboa.
The story is a nice nod to the old Rocky movies with snippets of famous Philly landmarks where Rocky is remembered but the return of Dolph Lundgren was worth the money. He has become Ivan Drago, a man lost for the last decade, forgotten by Hollywood. His words to Balboa hint at the bigger picture of “You made me important and then it disappeared.”
With Stallone as Executive Producer, Michael B. Jordan as a producer and partially written by Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler, this movie has a lot of power behind it!
Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grndelwald- The One for Fans
Secrets abound as Grindelwald and the magical community struggle to find their place in the larger world around them. Featuring many of the previous cast members but less fun animals, this movie has a darker feel. With JK Rowling serving as both author and screenwriter, the movie stays true to the book, yet can be confusing to muggles who aren’t fans of the series. Rowling likes to pepper her books with many false leads and twisted surprises. And ultimately, Fantastic Beasts 2 leads to Harry and Voldemort, although there’s three more movies planned to bring us closer in the time frame.
Fantastic Beasts 2 is about taking sides in an inevitable war. Newt has tried to stay out of it since his priority is the animals and his friends, but when Grindelwald forces Newt’s hand, he chooses to fight, no matter the cost.
This movie is a tad confusing and feels like it only leaves more questions, especially as we know whatever Rowling has shown is possibly a red herring, I’d catch this one on the small screen when there might be a chance to pause it and discuss with fans!
This Queen biopic will rock you.
Bohemian Rhapsody tells the tale of the beginnings of the rock group, Queen, to their iconic show at Live Aid. Set against the band’s music, Bohemian Rhapsody is the story of the whole group with a focus on front man, Eddie Mercury and his struggles with his family, sexuality, and drugs.
Reviewers panned this movie but they forget that this isn’t a movie about Mercury and pan the movie for its lack of depth into Mercury’s sexuality and feel that they glossed over his life. But the movie is about more than Freddie. It’s about the whole band. With two Queen band members, Brian May and Rodger Taylor, as well as Jim Beach, the band’s lawyer and manager, serving as executive producers, the script focuses on the band from their point of view. The script also plays loose with the timeline to increase the drama and tug at the viewers’ heartstrings.
Rami Malek portrays Mercury with zeal. His movements and mannerisms will have you forgetting the real Mercury isn’t on the screen. Rami worked with a movement coach and viewed hours of tapes in order to mimic Mercury’s iconic stage presence and expressions. I suspect that Rami will get an Oscar nod for this role, but I doubt he’ll win.
With a fun cameo by Mike Meyers as the record producer, Ray Foster, who turned down Bohemian Rhapsody, saying it would never be a hit because kids couldn’t bang their heads in a car to the song, the movie comes full circle from Wayne’s Bohemian Rhapsody piece in Wayne’s World.
For fans of Queen and their music, the movie will have you singing along. The theater was packed on a Friday morning with the entire audience clapping when the movie was over. This is a movie I will purchase and watch again. Even though it takes liberties with the timeline, it is a movie which shows how family can be more than blood and even with differences, love will prevail.
Hunter Killer keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) is put in charge of a top secret mission to rescue any soldiers who survived after a nuclear sub goes missing just on the edge of Russian territory. But things aren’t what they seem. At the suggestion of a member of the NSA, RA John Fisk (Common) sends in a SEAL team to get eyes on what’s going on in the area. Then all hell breaks loose. A rogue Russian military officer kidnaps the Russian President and sets about to start World War Three. And it’s up to Captain Glass and his men on the sub as well as the SEAL team to rescue the Russian President and avert a war.
This movie was based on the book “Firing Point” by George Wallace and Don Keith and feels very much like a John Clancy novel. The action is pivotal to the plot as viewers hold their breath as life and death decisions are made which leave the characters in peril. The title, Hunter Killer, is the name of the class of submarine, not necessarily a plot point.
Butler serves as executive producer on this project and held on to the script for years until the tensions rose again with Russia, making this story more plausible. He also spent about three weeks on a US Navy nuclear class submarine, with the director observing the training and running simulations in order to make the story more realistic. The movie highlights the often frightening and tense situations on a “floating tin can”.
Gerard Butler is good as Captain Glass but it’s the other characters who shine brighter. Michael Nyquist plays a Russian submarine captain who must work with Butler in order to avert a world war. Common’s character remains calm in the face of verbal abuse from his commanding officer, yet keeps silent and ends up being right. No “I told you so’s needed.”
Fans of military and action movies will really enjoy Hunter Killer. The big screen only immerses the viewers deeper into the action. The best part though is the hope you leave the theater with…maybe some people will do what is right, putting not only their lives on the line but their careers in order to make the world safe. And we need to know in these times more than any other that people make a difference.
Forty years after the first Halloween movie, Michael Myers returns to finish the one person who got away.
Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) walked away decades ago after Mike Myers started his killing spree in his hometown. She’s wished for a chance to end him since then and has prepared for the day she’ll get the chance. She’s become a paranoid, alcoholic who has lost her daughter and hides behind locks and walls.
Mike Myers has been silent since his capture. He’d been serving time in a mental facility under the supervision of a new doctor but is finally being sent to a maximum-security prison, labeled the Hellhole. When two investigative reporters show him the mask, they hope he’ll say something…anything…but the mask sets the inmates on edge. Mike escapes during a transfer and cuts a bloody swath through his hometown again on his way to Laurie’s house.
With many nods to the original movie, as well as the other movies in the series, Halloween is a treat for fans of the original. It wipes out the movies after the first and re-sets the timeline. Nick Castle returns to the role of Mike Myers, giving the character the original feel but this movie is more of a redemption than a horror movie. There’s suspense and gore but not the jump out and scare you frights. And sets up the rematch between Laurie and Michael with both appearing to have nine lives.
With John Carpenter and Jamie Lee Curtis serving as executive producers as well as musical director and lead actress, the movie leans heavily on the past nostalgia of the first movie. Unless you are a fan of the original though, you probably won’t enjoy this movie. With the many spooky offerings such as Lore, The House on Haunting Hill and even the Conjuring series, Halloween seems tame in comparison.
Disappointed that we never learn more about why Mike set off on his killing spree or how the town picks up the pieces after this latest massacre, the ending leaves it open for a sequel (and the director, writers and actors are on board- contracts were set in place when this movie was being made, just in case).
A good movie for fans but not one you have to spend your money on. J
Cancel any reservations at the El Royale. The place is murder.
Set in the 1960’s, the El Royale was a popular tourist destination which attracted Hollywood stars and celebrities. With the loss of its gambling license, the hotel which straddles Nevada and California has become a ghost town. When four strangers, each with a secret, check into the hotel one rainy night, all hell breaks loose and bodies will fall.
The hotel itself has secrets from hidden microphones to one-way mirrors where unsuspecting guests are filmed. This night, a priest (Jeff Bridges), a black singer (Cynthia Erivo), a vacuum salesman (Jon Hamm), and a hippie woman (Dakota Johnson) walk into the hotel but none are who they seem. Some of the guests are searching for redemption while others are trying to escape their life but on this one night, things will never be the same.
Bad Times at the El Royale is a twisted suspense-filled movie with plenty of twists and turns. Viewers see a variety of perspectives as the movie unfolds, sometimes from two differing points of view. Each of the seven people who arrive at the El Royale are dangerous and aren’t afraid of killing to get what they want.
Jeff Bridges is both devious and sad in the role of Father Daniel Flynn as a former convict who is facing memory loss. Even with his criminal past, he’s a righteous man who is troubled by his choices. Another strong character is Miles Miller, the bellboy/hotel clerk/cleaning staff (Lewis Pullman). His choices aren’t always his own but when push comes to shove, he finds his backbone.
However, the arrival of Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) which sets in motion the explosive ending. Chris’s character seems to be a blend of Charles Manson and Jesus—as a cult leader who seeks to teach his followers about life. His ability to be cut and dry about death will leave you shaken and more than a little frightened.
Written and directed by Drew Goddard, who wrote The Cabin in the Woods, which also starred Chris Hemsworth, set out to create a movie in the same vein of Quentin Tarantino with the non-linear storytelling and shocking violence, Bad Times at the El Royale will keep you on the edge of your seat but doesn’t have to be a movie seen on the big screen to grab you. With plenty of surprises and nods to bigger historical events, this is a movie you might need to see a few times to put all the puzzle pieces together.
It’s all fun and games until aliens try to take over the world.
When a wealthy entrepreneur decides to bring back some specimens from outer space in his quest to create a better human being, he doesn’t realize the havoc they will cause.
Eddie Brock (Tom Hardy) is a hard-hitting journalist who isn’t afraid of pushing to find answers. But when he sneaks into his girlfriend’s (Michelle Williams) computer and finds evidence against Life Foundation founder, Carlton Drake and sets out to expose his undercover dealings. Sadly, all it does is get his girlfriend and himself fired, and destroy their relationship. Fast forward and one of the Life Foundation doctors develops a conscience after tests run on the outer space specimens ends up killing people. She reaches out to Eddie who breaks into the lab and ends up with a specimen inside him.
Venom is a “nerd” on his planet but on Earth and connecting with Eddie, he decides to go against his own people who set out to destroy the planet. With Venom inside him, Eddie is unstoppable as Carlton Drake sends his paid killers out to get the specimen back.
While originally seen as a villain in the third Spiderman movie (with Toby Mcguire), Venom gets his own movie and origin story. Both silly and violent, Venom is more like Deadpool than Captain America. The wise cracks and unsuspecting surprise of the symbiote provide more than a little humor. Who wouldn’t end up thinking they are going crazy when their body suddenly changes in front of their face?
With a Stan Lee cameo, Venom sets itself as a part of the Marvel Universe but not in the main group. The two extra after credit scenes give viewers a sneak peek at the bag guy for Venom 2 as well as a special scene from the new upcoming comic Spiderman movie.
Certainly a must for fans of the Marvel superhero franchise and one worth seeing more than once, if only for the quirky smile of Tom Hardy.
Based on a children’s book of the same name, The House with the Clock in its Walls (written by John Bellairs) will delight the younger audiences with magic and fright.
After the death of his parents, Lewis Barnavelt (Owen Vaccaro) is sent to Michigan to live with his uncle Jonathan (Jack Black) who is a warlock, and lives in a house with a mysterious clock in its walls. As the young Lewis is learning to cope with his own tragedy, he must find his own power as well as the power of true friendship.
Jonathan’s best friend and warlock, Isaac Izzard (Kyle MacLachlan) returns from World War II a changed man. He’s evil and is bent on ending the world. When his plans go awry and he dies, he must return from the dead with a little unwitting help from Lewis in order to complete his master plan. Now it’s up to the non-warlock Lewis to find his magic and save the day.
The house is a magical place. One any child would love to be a part of, from a lion topiary which acts like a mischievous house cat to a dirty old recliner which acts like a dog. The picture frames play Lewis’ favorite television shows and the stained glass window predicts the future.
Jack Black plays his character much like he plays most of his other characters, over the top and a little too much like himself. However, Cate Blanchett as Mrs. Zimmerman, a friendly witch who lives next door, is amazing. The quips fly fast and furious between the two as the one up each other with silly name-calling.
Owen Vaccaro is a fun fresh face who has been in Daddy’s Home and the sequel most notably but he’s a young actor we will see more of in the future. He plays Lewis with a nerdy and needy bent which delights viewers.
The House with the Clock in its Walls is sure to delight audiences even though the ending is a bit forced. Fans of the children’s book will enjoy seeing a favorite come to life. For Michigan fans though, this movie has a special honor since the author wrote about his hometown of Marshall, Michigan and used places such as the Cronin Mansion as a basis for his books.
While some of the scenes could prove frightening to younger audiences, the mix of laughter and silliness as well as a happy ending will dispel some of the frights. Just be sure to know your child since even the doll scene could upset some adults. Maybe your children can cover your eyes!
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