Family can really be the death of you…
In the final installment of the Medea movies, Tyler Perry once again dons the wig and dress, playing Madea, Joe, Brian and a new character, Heathrow. This time Madea and her cronies head off to celebrate a special anniversary when death and secrets get in the way.
Madea puts herself in charge of the funeral, creating an event to rival Aretha’s show-stopping stunner. In addition, she sets out to comfort the family and provide the harsh reality she’s known for. While Joe and Heathrow set out to set the Me Too Movement back a decade.
Reminiscent of the old Eddie Murphy movies where Eddie played all the characters, Madea’s outspokenness is just another reminder of Eddie’s Nutty Professor matriarch, Mama Klump. In the Nutty Professor, Eddie even played more characters in a single movie than Tyler Perry.
A Madea Family Funeral was shot in under a week and it shows. Some of the actors struggled with their lines or maybe they were hired for their looks not acting chops. Over the last decade, Medea has helped families come together, saved a family from the mob and gone to jail. Many fans are saying it’s time to hang up the dress. I agree. The dramatic moments went on too long and the jokes repeated…over and over.
For fans of the movies, it’s nice to see Madea once more before she leaves us… but this movie is one to pass. Save the money and call your grandma instead.
It’s hard to say goodbye…
The final installment in the children’s movie-How to Train Your Dragon is one for the family.
Hiccup, now chieftain, sets out to find a place where humans and dragons can live in peace. But an evil hunter is out to derail his plans and kill Toothless. Relationships abound as Toothless (A Night Fury) finds a female Light Fury dragon and Hiccup faces questions about when he’ll marry Astrid. Both Hiccup and Toothless must make some tough decisions in order to find a happily ever after.
Originally based off the children’s books by Cressida Cowell, How to Train Your Dragon is about a boy taught to hate dragons and a dragon who isn’t able to fly. Through the series, we see how the boy and dragon are more alike and become best friends—overcoming their handicaps.
The third movie features a more grown up set of characters (yes, they age) and touching storyline. Growing up is never easy. Sometimes pain comes with the happiness. This movie will have you dabbing at your eyes and cheering for the heroes as they battle. With the voices of Gerard Butler, Kit Harrington, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett and Craig Ferguson, the characters come to life.
How to Train Your Dragon will be a hit with fans of the previous movies and the ending credits feature scenes from the first two movies, showing the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless. It also appeals to families with the crazy antics of the dragons who steal the movie, but not necessarily a teen or older audience.
Isn’t it Romantic shines a spotlight on the commonalities of romantic comedies in a way that reminds us why this genre is well-liked.
Disillusioned about love as a young girl, Natalie (Rebel Wilson) works in New York City as an architect. She’s shut herself off of love because she feels unworthy. When mugged, she hits her head and wakes up in a romantic comedy version of her life where things are cleaner, more spacious and comes complete with musical numbers. Now the wealthy businessman (Liam Hemsworth) she’s designing a parking structure for finds her beguiling and now her best friend and assistant is her top rival. But no matter how gorgeous and wealthy he is, Natalie realizes that there is still something missing from her life and sets out to make it right.
With many songs and references to popular romantic comedies like Pretty Woman and When Harry Met Sally, Isn’t it Romantic is a sweet story of what is really important- loving yourself and how we often hide behind walls to keep our hearts safe. Rebel Wilson has a slapstick comedic style reminiscent of Carol Burnett and shines in this movie. Also serving as one of the producers, she was able to hand pick the people who starred in the movie alongside her.
While the movie has it silly moments, it does fall flat in some areas. Many of the big scenes were already shown in the trailers so you aren’t as surprised during the movie. Also Rebel’s constant putdowns about her looks and low self-esteem can become grating. All of us have esteem issues and while those comments flow through our heads, we don’t spend as much time focusing on them as this movie portrays. Certainly appealing to the female audience, including a shirtless Hemsworth, Isn’t it Romantic does have its laugh-out-loud moments but isn’t one you’ll need to see on the big screen. Cute but not memorable. Enjoy it as a night out with your girlfriends but don’t spend the big bucks to see it.
Goonies meets Sword in the Stone… The Kid Who Would Be King is a remake with a few surprises.
Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) is low man on the totem pole at a local school. Bullied by two older kids and fighting back to protect his friend, he doesn’t believe in magic until he stumbles upon the mythical sword in the stone, Excalibur. With the assistance of Merlin (Angus Imrie/Patrick Stewart) and his classmates, Alex must save the world from Arthur’s evil sister, Morgana.
Like Arthur, Alex turns his enemies into his greatest allies as he battles flaming swords and animated dead who are out to steal Excalibur. But this movie is more than just a retelling. It reminds us that we are all bigger than who we believe we are and that everyone is capable of changing the world.
The Kid Who Would Be King weaves the ancient tale with modern references such as Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. This movie features real acting royalty- the actor playing Alex is the youngest son of actor, Andy Serkis (Black Panther, Lord of the Rings) but it’s Patrick Stewart who steals the movie. Merlin ages backwards but the young Merlin can become the older Merlin at certain times. Wild eyed and messy haired Patrick Stewart is a perfect mix of reverence and crazy.
Hollywood has a habit of remaking movies over and over again. Recent movies based on classics, King Arthur and Robin Hood, have bombed at the box office. While this movie was a blend of classic and modern retelling, it is one that will only appeal to a small audience and would be better to see once on cable or pay-per-view. With so many other exciting and interesting movies out there, this is one which isn’t worth the money to see. Save your money since your children will want to see the new Lego Movie but you can check this out once it’s on TV.
Gender equality wasn’t always equal.
On the Basis of Sex tells an important part of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life (Felicity Jones) from her first days at Harvard Law School through her appearance at the 10th Appellate Court, fighting for Charlie Moritz’s tax case.
Like many recent biopic’s, On the Basis focuses on a small period of Ruth’s life—the part which set her on the road to the Supreme Court. We see the strong woman who took on not only law school as a wife and mother but attended both her classes and her husband’s (Martin Ginsburg- Armie Hammer) classes when he developed testicular cancer. This is a woman who no matter what setbacks she faced, she pushed through them.
First time screenwriter, Daniel Stiepleman, is Ruth Bader Ginsburg's nephew and met with her and Jane (Ruth’s daughter) to go over the details in the script. But even with the first hand insights, artistic license was taken with the story. However, Daniel’s lack of experience shows in the storytelling. As well, director, Mimi Leder, has more experience with TV dramas (ER and China Beach) and On the Basis of Sex comes off more as a made for TV movie.
Even with these glaring issues, On the Basis of Sex is an important look at an iconic woman and the battle she began for equality for all, but especially for women. You should see it with your tribe of women and celebrate the huge changes which came about due to the work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
A good movie is one that you still talk about long after the movie finishes. Green Book will have you talking way into the next day.
Set in 1962, Green Book tells the tale of an interesting friendship between an Italian nightclub bouncer, Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and an African American pianist, Dr. Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali). Dr. Shirley hires Tony to chauffeur him during a record tour set in the Deep South. As the two men travel, an unlikely friendship forms which leads to changes in Tony’s understanding and treatment of African Americans.
The movie gets its title from a popular travel book which was a bible for African Americans traveling across the United States. "The Negro Motorist Green Book," also known as "The Negro Travelers' Green Book” was published from 1936-1966. It was a guide that helped African-American travelers find lodging, restaurants, and other businesses that would serve them during a time when segregation was rampant. Being caught on certain roads after dark in Sundown towns would precipitate African American being jailed or worse.
Much like last year’s Hidden Figures, Green Book is a movie that provides an interesting look at a time in America’s history which we need to revisit in order to stop it from repeating. While based on two real people, the movie is mainly from Tony’s point of view. It is his character which grows and changes. Written by Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber and There’s Something about Mary) and Nick Vallelonga (Tony’s son), the screenplay was developed from actual audio tapes from Tony about the events that happened while he worked for Don Shirley. Featuring Octavia Spencer as executive producer and featuring many of Tony’s real life family members portraying his family in the movie, Green Book has hutzpah.
Sadly the producers didn’t get Dr. Shirley’s family’s input and they have dismissed the movie as just another “white hero” movie. Yet, the movie does a nice job portraying the isolation of Dr. Shirley and the unique dynamic between the two men. Not meant to be a biography, Green Book does what it set out to do—showcase the horrible time in America’s history and how one man changed his feelings and behavior towards African Americans based on his relationship with one man.
After winning three Golden Globes, Green Book is an odds on favorite for taking home at least one Oscar. This is a movie you will want to see again and again as you walk away with hope that if one man can change, then the world has a chance as well.
Based on a true story, The Upside leaves warm fuzzies.
Philip (Bryan Cranston) is a quadriplegic billionaire, who is not willing to live anymore. He hires an ex-con to care for him, hoping Del (Kevin Hart) will help him end his life. Along the way, Del helps Philip care about living again, while Philip helps Del reconnect with his son and become a better man.
A French movie, The Intouchables won awards for telling this true tale of a wealthy French businessman who hired an ex-con to care for him. Set in New York, not Paris, The Upside stays true to the original tale. Also featuring Nicole Kidman as Philip’s assistant, she’s much more believable than she was in Aquaman. While Kevin Hart really doesn’t have to act for his role, Bryan Cranston is outstanding as Philip. Unable to move more than his head, he uses his chin to move his wheelchair and viewers will forget he’s not disabled.
Featuring music by Aretha Franklin, the movie will appeal to Motown audiences who grew up listening to the Queen. The Upside uses humor to draw the viewer into the world of Del and Philip. Most of the jokes are made at the limited abilities of Philip with a laugh-out-loud scene with a catheter. As well, the movie doesn’t hit you over the head with the message to live each day to the fullest.
The Upside isn’t one you need to see in the theater. The message comes through as well on the small screen but it will give you a much-needed boost during the winter months.
Movies can entertain and inform. It’s a good director who brings the written word to life on the screen.
Arthur Curry (Jason Mamoa) is a child born of two cultures. His father is a lighthouse keeper. His mother is an Atlantean Queen who had been promised to another. In order to protect her child, Queen Atlanna returns to Atlantis and marries another man. While Arthur has always known he was of two worlds, he never had an interest in the people who murdered his mother. But when his half-brother sets out to turn the Earth into a water paradise, Arthur must gain the trident of the previous king in order to keep peace between Atlantis and Earth.
Campy dialogue but rich, lush world-building make this a fun movie sure to entertain. Mamoa seems born for the role of Aquaman and makes it hard to tell when he’s acting and when it’s just the way he is. The violence is over the top with giant monster-beasts last seen in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The storyline is predictable and seems to mimic Black Panther with the five tribes and outsider fighting a death match. With amazing actors like Nicole Kidman and William Dafoe (even Julie Andrews voiced a character), the acting should be stellar but comes up floating like dead fish. It’s one to see for fans.
Vice tells the story of another family-the Cheney’s- from his drunk-driving and fist-fighting years working as a lineman through to Washington’s political fishbowl. Dick Cheney (Christian Bale) rises to the second highest political seat in the nation. All it takes is some friends like Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) and George Bush (Sam Rockwell).
Christian Bale put on forty-five pounds to play the larger statesman and does so convincingly but he still has that mole by his eye, he should really get it looked at. Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) is the strength behind the man, bolstering his resolve as he does everything to make her proud of him. Vice can’t make up its mind if it’s a drama or comedy as it takes pot shots at everyone, down to the people watching the movie. The soundtrack is the best part. You’ll find yourself humming along to many popular songs. However, the subject matter is gritty and in-your-face, making you wish for a bleach shower after watching it. Vice sets all the current world problems from the California wildfires to Donald Trump’s presidency at the feet of Dick. Luckily, Will Farrell and Brad Pitt have acting to fall back on as Vice’s box office struggles over the holiday showings. This is the only movie I have considered walking out on. It left me feeling nauseated and dirty. Better to leave for those who are fans.
Two very different movies. Vice has been nominated for six golden globes as well as Australia’s premier award but is dragging at the box office while Aquaman has beat many movie sales records, earning more than fifty million dollars in its opening weekend. Which would you rather see?
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.
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