A dark and disturbing comedy, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri keeps you guessing as the story twists on a dime. When Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) becomes frustrated with the local police (led by Woody Harrelson as the Chief of Police, William Willoughby) over their lack of progress on the rape and murder of her daughter, she takes matters into her own hands and pays to have three billboards put up keeping the crime in the town’s eyes.
The town of Ebbing is a small town still caught in the throes of racism and violence. The three billboards effect not only Mrs. Hayes and the Chief of Police but everyone in town, as sides are taken in a showdown between the lovable and dying Willoughby and the angry, bitter Mrs. Hayes.
It’s filled with characters such as the man in charge at the billboard office (Red Welby played by Caleb Landry Jones) who is trying to win the heart of his secretary. A dwarf (played by Peter Dinklage) who is willing to lie to the police in order to win the love of Mrs. Hayes, as well as the second-in-command Officer Dixon (played by Sam Rockwell) is a violent and immature mama's boy, who ends up becoming a better man in the end.
No one in the town is a typical character. Not only is Mildred dealing with the death of her daughter, she’s divorced from her abusive husband and feels guilty for her daughter’s death, all the while trying to maintain the day to day life of a working single mom. It’s her guilt which pushes her to find the real killer so she can finally be free of the guilt. Chief Willoughby is a wonderful father and police officer who is dealing with pancreatic cancer and the pain and suffering that he will face as well as the loss of his own life. He’s determined to find the killer but his time is running out. Officer Dixon’s violence appears to be a result of the death of his father and living with his angry mother who prompts him to violence in order to help the South rise again. But when he learns the sharp sting of violence, he puts his life on the line to gather evidence in an effort to find the killer.
Written and directed by Academy Award winner, Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards sends you down a twisted trail. Just when you think you know what will happen, slam, the story changes. Filled with enough swear words to fill a swear jar, Three Billboards also leaves many questions unanswered at the end of the movie. No you won’t have everything tied up in a holiday bow but that’s okay. Life is messy and sometimes doesn’t go the way you want it to. It’s not a holiday movie, nor is it one you necessarily have to see in the theater but I urge you to see it. The acting is brilliant and the story keeps you hoping for that happy ending.
Justice League brings together a variety of Metahumans in order to save the world from an otherworldly threat.
After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) sees the rise of crime and violence. Knowing that something big and bad is coming, he sets out to enlist the help of other super-humans, such as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gardot), The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher). However, without Superman, they may not stand a chance against Steppenwolf and his drive to reunite the “mother” boxes, especially since it took the entire universe including the old gods to come together to imprison Steppenwolf and separate the boxes.
Following the flop of Batman vs Superman and the smash of Wonder Woman, Justice League brings together, critics were hoping for a movie more like Wonder Woman and were excited about Joss Whedon’s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) role, taking over for Zach Snyder after his recent loss. Yet, the movie remains Zach’s vision, although viewers can see the influence of Joss in the snarky humor and “buddy” moments.
Sadly, while the movie has many great moments, it falls short of the Marvel superhero movie standard. The women’s outfits are skimpier and Wonder Woman’s assets are shown off in almost every scene. I couldn’t understand how she kept the long cascading curls out of her face. But there is also eye candy for the ladies—Jason Momoa is almost always shirtless with tight pants. (Look for his own movie coming in the future)
However, The Flash steals the movie with his humor and blunt honesty. Whether it’s his excitement about meeting and working with Batman or his short attention span comments, each time he’s on the screen, people take notice. His exuberance reminds me of the recent Spiderman: Homecoming movie.
Cyborg was very interesting and has a lot to explore, the character of Batman seems so tired. Is it Ben Affleck or the fact that he’s just a rich man with a grudge (unlike Tony Stark who is rich and sassy)? Maybe in the next movie, they can explore Batman being invisible, so that we can see more of the characters who thrill.
DC is getting wise with two after credit extra scenes, one funny and one hint for the future. They are also using more Easter Eggs in the movie such as a cameo by Marc McClure who played Jimmy in the original Superman movies.
All in all, fans of the series will enjoy the movie. At least it gives me hope that DC might get it right, someday.
The holidays are all about family but blended families face their own dynamics around the holidays. Daddy’s Home Two is a silly, laugh out loud comedy where family is key to all the laughs. This movie is a fun one to see during the holidays but only time will tell if it becomes a classic like Home Alone or Christmas Vacation.
In the sequel to Daddy’s Home, Brad (played by Will Farrell) and Dusty (played by Marc Wahlberg) are co-parenting after a divorce and remarriage. But like in many blended families, the dynamics between the two men (and their wives) are stressed by the holidays. After their daughter tells the whole school that she hates Christmas because of going back and forth between the two houses, the men decide to have one big family Christmas. Throw in two grandpas (John Lithgow and Mel Gibson) and you have a holiday to remember.
Daddy’s Home Two hits upon every type of family conflict. We have divorce, step-parenting, raising children, abandonment, bad influences, anxiety, doubt… the list goes on and on. There’s something which will connect with every viewer. A few times it hits a little too close to home for me as a blended family. I once likened the holidays to planning a military campaign and Daddy’s Home Two shows just how challenging it is, especially since each person in the dynamic has different views on raising children.
Will Farrell has become a slapstick actor along the line of Jerry Lewis. His over the top antics are only a few of the laugh out loud moments. Mel Gibson does a wonderful job as macho, ladies’ man and astronaut Kurt Mayron. He’s here for Christmas to stir up trouble since he has a chip the size of California on his shoulder due to his own lack of parenting skills. Mel is funny and buff. It’s nice to see him get back to his comedic roots. Mark Wahlberg does a nice job as Dusty. He’s more often than not the straight man to Farrell’s antics. John Lithgow plays Farrell’s father who is hiding a secret. Lithgow’s character is whiny and sad.
The children share in the laugh out loud moments as they search for the way to kiss a girl for the first time and get drunk. And while the wives don’t have as much of a role in this movie, Dusty’s wife is an author who writes in a little notebook all day. She’s knockout gorgeous and intimidates Dusty’s ex-wife who thinks she is writing about her.
The entire movie takes place in the two weeks before Christmas and leads up to the climax of being stuck together in a snowstorm at a movie theater. Coincidental, you bet but still a perfect place for the final confrontation.
All in all, an enjoyable movie for the family (just not young children). A little over the top with the challenges of parenting and blended families. But a nice holiday movie to maybe catch together over the long holiday vacation. If you wait for it to be on DVD, you will still enjoy it.
By far the most humorous of the Thor franchise, Thor: Ragnarok keeps you laughing.
After setting out to deal with the visions he’s been having, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) returns to Asgard to find that his brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is alive and has been pretending to be their father, Odin. Thor and Loki set out to find Odin (Anthony Hopkins) but end up learning more about their family than they knew…they have an older sister-Hela (Cate Blanchett) who upon the death of Odin will be released from her prison.
Both Thor and Loki end up on Sakaar, a planet run by the Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum) after Hela battles them in the Bifrost. Loki lands on his feet as a friend to the Grandmaster while Thor becomes the next challenger in a battle to the death against the champion—The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). With the help from some new friends, Thor must return to Asgard to save the planet and its people from Hela before she destroys everyone and then sets out to conquer other planets.
This installment of the Thor movies is by far the most humorous. Going mostly without a dialogue script, the actors were encouraged to improvise as the director Taika Waititi wanted to showcase Chris Hemsworth’s comedic talents. But it’s some of the other characters which steal the show! Korg, a sentient rock being has the soul of a gentle giant even while appearing to be dangerous. Voiced by Taika Waititi, Korg’s lines are deadpan serious but come off hilarious. As well, the Grandmaster is both vicious and goofy. One minute killing his cousin and then “screaming like a girl” that the goo is touching him. But it’s the buddy moments between The Hulk and Thor which bring to mind classic buddy movies like Starsky and Hutch or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
Karl Urban is almost unrecognizable as Skurge, a man whose only ambition is to stay alive. With cameos by Luke Hemsworth, Matt Damon and Sam Neill as well as Benedict Cumberbatch and Stan Lee, you can’t blink or you’ll miss something important. The TWO after credit scenes will keep you in your seat and set up the story for Thor and his part in the Infinity War movie coming next year.
All in all, a laugh out loud movie with an incredible musical score to keep you engaged throughout the movie (and while it’s music is one for fans of my age, the music keeps the story moving) and one I’ll see again and again, even if only to capture those moments I missed the first time through. :)
Suburbia in the 1950’s isn’t the perfect place it’s made out to be. I’m giving Suburbicon a C.
Suburbicon is advertised as the perfect place for families. Well-kept lawns, beautiful homes and friendly neighbors but it hides a dark side. When an African American family moves in, the horrible underbelly of the town begins to unravel. Gardner Lodge (played by Matt Damon) has what appears to be a perfect family, but he’s hiding secrets which end in bloodshed and death.
Based on an early script by the Coen Brothers, George Clooney and Grant Heslov rewrote the story moving it from a more humorous story to a dark commentary on life in suburban America. Additionally, directed by Clooney, Suburbicon tells two stories simultaneously of the first African American family in an all-white neighborhood and the racial hatred which occurs, alongside the breakdown of a typical suburban family who is more demented than they first appear.
The two stories don’t really blend. While the African American family faces some very realistic hatred and racial bigotry, it’s the “normal” family who is the main focus. It’s this heavy handedness about the message of the “con” of Suburbia and what is hidden behind the perfect lawns and homes, which is pummeled over the viewer’s head.
Additionally, the story is dark and deeply disturbing. The poor child of Gardner faces many horrors which leave you feeling icky as you exit the movie. Not only that, but the movie leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Plot points are brought up and never explored. It left me wondering about my own perception and what Mr. Clooney wanted the characters to show. In fact, the ending feels very awkward, moving back to a “normal” place after all the horrors, but we don’t know what will happen next.
Certainly not a movie for a family fun night, and not one for a date. If you are a fan of Damon’s acting or the Coen brothers, this might interest you, but wait and see it at home where you can take a shower to clean the filth off afterward.
With the recent crazy weather events, Geostorm is a timely movie with danger and thrills. I’m giving it an A-.
In 2019, a catastrophic weather event set in motion the creation of a system of satellites to control and prevent major weather events from happening. The Dutch Boy program was Jake Lawson’s (played by Gerard Butler) baby, but when he doesn’t play nice with the politicians, he’s pulled by his own brother, Max, (played by Jim Sturgess) from the project. Just as the United States is about to turn over the control to an international governing body, malfunctions occur causing horrible weather events to happen. Now it’s up to Jake and Max to figure out who is behind the sabotage and fix it before the whole world’s weather explodes.
Geostorm is more than an apocalyptic tale, it’s about family. The dynamics between Jake and Max, as well as Jake and his daughter are touching and are realistic. Families fight and disagree, families don’t always see eye to eye, yet families are forever. Then there’s the idea of the Dutch Boy being Jake’s baby as well. He can’t let it fail nor be used as a weapon.
Another amazing dynamic is the character of Sarah Wilson played by Abbie Cornish. She’s a female secret service agent on the detail to protect the president, but she’s breaking the rules by dating Max who is a member of the government. Sassy and professional, she’s a strong woman in a role we don’t’ often see females in. She’s conflicted but ultimately does what she needs to do, even it costs her.
The twists and turns keep you guessing as to who is the person or people behind the sabotage. I liked the interplay between Butler’s character and everyone else. I could be blindfolded and just listen to him talk all the time. His character in Geostorm was reminiscent of his character from Olympus has Fallen, but with a less guns and more outer space.
Reminiscent of San Andreas and Independence Day, Geostorm features stunning visual effects and wonderful characters. It’s slow to start off but the pace picks up as it heads to a stunning conclusion. Some may say that the ending is too wrapped up for their taste, but it does give us a launching point for a sequel… or at least a dialogue about playing God.
With the stunning visuals, this is a great movie to see on the big screen, but even if you don’t catch it there, it’s a fun afternoon movie.
You can only push a good man so far- I’m giving The Foreigner an A-.
Quan (played by Jackie Chan) longs to see his last remaining daughter wearing the dress of her dreams at her school dance but when a younger IRA group bombs the nearby bank, his daughter, along with a dozen other innocents are killed. Quan has lost all his family. His wife in childbirth. His two other daughters to Thai pirates. He has nothing remaining but his vengeance.
Liam Hennessey (played by Pierce Brosnan) has been on the honest edge of his dealings with the IRA for many years, serving as a British official although he’s not as clean as he seems. Family means something to both men and they will fight for their beliefs. But when Liam won’t give Quan the names for his vengeance, Quan will stop at nothing, even bombing Liam’s own home to get what he wants.
Two stories intertwine in the movie. Liam’s story and Quan’s. Each is compelling and not without passion and determination. It’s the complexity of these two families against an act of terrorism and politics which tell the whole story. I enjoyed that it was a twist with the IRA and not ISIS as the bad guys in this movie, however, I felt the ending left it too open. I wanted Liam to be a stronger man.
Chan has aged. It shows in the extra lines along his face but not in his moves. He retains the moves and easily takes out men half his age, even going against more than one at a time. But it’s his expressive face which tells the heartbreak of losing a child, the frustration of not getting the vengeance you seek and the pain of age and wounds on the body and soul.
Jackie Chan also produced this movie which is based on a book, The Chinaman by Stephen Leather, “one of the UK’s most successful thriller writers”. The supporting cast fills out the movie storyline but Pierce and Jackie carry the story on their shoulders. Certainly one to see whether at the movies or on DVD.
Sequels are always a challenge but more so with a beloved movie. I’m giving Blade Runner 2049 a B.
Working for the LAPD, K (played by Ryan Gosling) is a Blade Runner, a replicant whose job it is to find and eliminate the replicants who have gone rogue including former models who set out to take on the people who made them. During the recovery/disposal of an older version, K finds a secret which could change the world…and now must set out to not only discover if the secret is real, but to eliminate it. To do so, he seeks out former Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (played by Harrison Ford) and faces his own mortality in the bargain.
Set thirty years in the future, the Blade Runner sequel is a long movie, almost three hours. The time is filled with vivid images of a dark, gray world filled with metal buildings, snow and rain. Japanese language and video images dance through the landscape (reminding me of Ghost in the Shield). Sunshine, plants and animals are missing and clearly leave a void. Niander Wallace (played by Jared Leto) has taken over Tyrell’s creations, them quicker allowing for him to take over more and more of the outer planets.
But K is more human than others thought as he lives this secret life with a video droid/companion who knows his deep dark secrets. It is her who he loves and poses a question about ‘what is alive?’ Their relationship is much like a marriage with silly banter, inane discussion about their days and sexual longing. Speaking of sex, Blade Runner has a lot of nudity. While I felt it was gratuitous, it does appeal to the male audience.
Sequels are naturally difficult. More so when they are a popular one. Blade Runner 2049 has enough nostalgia to connect to the original while deepening the storyline, sending it into a new direction. With Harrison Ford, Edward James Olmos and Sean Young, the sequel brings the characters back as if we just left them for a bit. However, the slow pace during K’s search feels as if it drags on. The last half hour of the movie is the finest as we finally get to see the truth cross K’s face. Certainly whether you are a fan or not of the original, this Blade Runner sequel will have you talking after the movie is over about it.
No one can hide from revenge. I’m giving American Assassin an A-.
When Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) loses his girlfriend to a terrorist attack right after getting engaged on a Spanish beach, he sets out to infiltrate and bring down those responsible. But he didn’t count on the CIA being interested in his new skill set. Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton) becomes Rapp’s black ops trainer and mentor as they set out to find who has abducted enough plutonium to start World War 3.
Based on the series of books by the late Vince Flynn, American Assassin feels like a younger Jack Reacher or Mission Impossible movie with the sexy Dylan O’Brien taking off his shirt or brooding for the camera every chance he gets. Dylan is a better action hero than Cruise was, and his youth will allow for more longevity with this series. But when you finally get to see Michael Keaton, the movie becomes Beetlejuice training Teen Wolf (both actors’ previous roles). At times, Michael’s facial mania recalls his famous characters and viewers aren’t sure if they are watching Batman or Stan! You have to love a man who can bite the ear off another man and enjoy it while being tortured.
But don’t think that American Assassin has eye candy for only the ladies. The beautiful Shiva Negar is Annika, a deep undercover American CIA operative who knows how to charm European bank heads and install secret cameras with a smile all while wearing heels. But it’s the beauty of the US Navy’s Sixth Fleet which might get male viewers’ attention as they prepare for a nuclear explosion. Which spy movie can claim to rattle an aircraft carrier without losing a single plane?
American Assassin begins as a typical spy thriller movie but amps up the surprises. Just when you think you know who the bad guys are, a new twist is thrown into play and surprise! While other spy franchises are beginning to feel a little old and worn out, American Assassin will keep viewers on the edge of their seats.
It knows your fears and feeds on them. I give It: The Movie a B.
Based on the Stephen King novel, It tells the story of seven kids in the 1980’s who set out to uncover the reason for the disappearance of the children of Derry, Maine. Bill Denbrough lost his brother one day when he made Georgie a boat to play with in the rain. He’s determined to find out what happened to him. When he and the rest of his friends begin encountering a demented clown who gives them each their own fears, Bill and his friends must band together to end the clown, Pennywise’s (played by Bill Skarsgård) reign of terror.
Unlike the previous mini-series, this movie focuses on when the children battle Pennywise, eventually sending him back to the well. This movie is only the first chapter since a second movie is planned which will focus on 27 years in the future when Pennywise returns. Feeling more like a “Goonies” or “Stand By Me” movie than a horror story, the clown is frightening but it’s the coming together of the seven nerds who learn to stand up for themselves against bullies and the evil clown which is the true heart of the story.
Sadly, Pennywise isn’t the only evil in Derry. We have a father who is raping his daughter, a mother with Munchausen’s syndrome who is drugging her son all while she sits in front of the television and feeds her face. We have racial bullying and fat shaming by the “cool” kids who we learn are really just kids dealing with the violence in their own homes. It’s no wonder people believe the town of Derry is cursed. The adults who live in this town are psychotic. I don’t believe I saw a single one in the movie which wasn’t messed up.
While the young cast did an amazing job, the story felt like it was missing more of the horror aspects. Pennywise was creepy but not jump out and frighten you scary. It’s also hard not to compare the previous mini-series with the movie. Maybe because most people saw the original It as something truly terrifying which kept them up at night but this movie didn’t live up to that fear. Could it be because they had been children seeing it previously? It’s one of the challenges of a remake.
I’ll have to see what the second chapter holds for this remake but unless you are fan of the book, you may want to catch this on DVD.
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