It looking like the coronavirus is here to stay in 2020 and 2021. Since few movies have been released in 2020, I’ve relied on streaming services to watch some old and really old movies. I’ve taken a step back from it since I need to finish some writing deadlines. As they say, I can’t have it all. I do hope to watch more movies in 2021, but time will tell.
06/04/2021: The Last Five Movies I Watched in May 2021
Because I never got around to writing my short movie reviews for these in May, here are the last five movies I watched last month. They are in no particular order and of course, the two movies I encourage anyone to watch or watch again are The Great Debaters and Dredd. Next, I would watch Ninja Assassin and The Greatest Show. I can’t really recommend Rampart because it wasn’t all that good. Woody Harrelson was convincing, but there wasn’t enough substance.
The Greatest Showman (2017) stars Hugh Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zach Efron, and Zendaya. Jackman portrays the real life P.T. Barnum. He goes down as one of the great rags to riches stories. He was a true businessman in every sense of the word. The acrobatics, singing, and choreography were done well for a musical. It purposely leaves out the whole controversy of animal entertainment, but the inequities of the freaks makes up for it.
The Great Debaters (2007) stars Denzel Washington, Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Forest Whitaker. Washington portrays Melvin Tolson who coaches an all black debate team from Wiley College in Texas. The team wins enough debates to challenge Harvard for the national championship. The excellent performance by Nate Parker alone is enough to watch this movie.
Dredd (2012) stars Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Wood Harris, and Lena Heady. Urban portrays Dredd who is a police officer in a city where drugs and crime are the two main enemies. While training a rookie cop, he comes face to face with a drug lord named Ma-Ma. Think a lot of gun fighting, betrayal, and cool DP shots. This movie was a trip even without the drugs. I liked the ending too.
Ninja Assassin (2009) stars a K-Pop singer named Rain as Raizo. He’s a boy who was trained as a ninja by a ruthless man. It leads to him wanting revenge as he gets older. The ultimate fight is between him and the Yakuza. The choreography was good, but maybe I was wanting a little more substance. Overall, I did like the movie but it dragged a little bit in some scenes.
Rampart (2011) stars Woody Harrelson as a LA cop with Cynthia Nixon, Anne Heche, and Brie Larson as his family. He’s the burnt out, do it my way cop that needs to retire. Except he can’t because he doesn’t want to and won’t be told what to do. His family is dysfunctional because he is a drunk. I’ve seen this movie before. I should’ve watched Serpico again instead.
04/18/2021: Wonder Woman (2017) Vs. Wonder Woman 1984 (2020)
I wanted to see for myself if the reviews were justified. I’m not going to go so far as giving WW1984 a green splat (Rotten Tomatoes). It’s incredibly hard to have a second film be better than the first one. This franchise is similar to many other franchises. It is the repeated story over and over like Mission Impossible or Fast and Furious. This one is different as it is based on a comic and it seems the diehard fans tend to be pickier about these films. I will give a quick synopsis of each one and give reasons why I overall liked both movies and why one edged out the other.
Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984 star Gal Gadot as Diana, Chris Pine as Steve Trevor, Connie Nielsen as Hippolyta, and Robin Wright as Antiope. Both are rated PG-13 for action and violence and directed by Penny Jenkins. The WW script was written by Allen Heinberg and the WW 1984 script was written by Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callaham. Wonder Woman is about the evolution of a Amazonian princess named Diana. She is raised and trained by her mother and aunt, Antiope. As she grows, her fighting skills improve and become beneficial during WWI. Wonder Woman 1984 is about Diana trying to live a normal life as an archaeologist at the Smithsonian. She encounters an unstable entrepreneur named Maxwell Lord. This meeting sets off a chain of events where she must once again use her lasso and shield for the greater good.
I thought both movies were worth watching. Because it was the first movie in this “new franchise,” Wonder Woman had the advantage. Before WW, Gal Gadot was best known for her role in Fast and Furious movies. I had seen her previously on Conan when he visited Israel. She killed it in this role as Diana. She was the perfect actress to play her. It wasn’t only her previous experience in the IDF (Israeli Defense Forces), but her beauty doesn’t hurt either. Previous to getting into acting, she was a model. The first movie opens up with strong women teaching strong girls to become better than themselves. This is the lesson Diana learns and keeps as a warrior. She expects the best from others and herself. This is quickly forgotten as she sees the effects of war and how her influence isn’t what it seems. As the war rages on, the battle of all battles presents itself and Diana must fight against Ares hopefully for the last time. Wonder Woman 1984 takes place in, you guessed it, 1984. If you haven’t noticed already, there has been a huge revival of this decade. This sequel begins with Diana learning a valuable lesson that she carries with her. It is that cheating even if you think it is justified only hurts yourself. Since this lesson and about forty years after WWII, Diana meets Barbara, who was recently hired at the Smithsonian. They both take interest in a stone with magical powers. If it falls into the wrong hands, it can do great damage. As Diana and Barbara learn more about the magical stone, Maxwell Lord has other plans. To make things more complicated, this stone sets off a chain of events where another war could begin, only this time nuclear.
Both of the WW movies were entertaining but because of the newness of the first one, I preferred it over the second. I could not see any character that weakened the story. The scenes were amazing to watch especially the fighting scenes. The enemies to Wonder Woman were creepy and disgusting. There was the notable sacrifice throughout and up until the end. The second one had a great opening scene with the horses. While all the scenes can’t be this exciting, the strength of the movie weakened as it progressed. I have to say Kristin Wiig was not my first pick as Cheetah. My personal preference was more along the lines of Anne Hathaway. While her role was not as powerful as Wonder Woman for obvious reasons, she was severely handicapped. I wanted to see her as more equal. Her outfits should have been less furry and not as subdued in their colors. She gave up all her smarts for dressing provocatively and became a power hungry woman. For what? She wasn’t going to end up with Maxwell. He was on his own collision course of crazy. The bottom line is the reasoning behind Cheetah turning so quickly should have been a little longer and more pronounced. I will hand it to Pedro Pascal as Maxwell because his character was down right creepy. The winner between Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984 should be a no brainer.
March 24, 2021: The Ten Movies I’ve Watched in March
The Odd Couple (1968) is about two men, one already divorced and one in the beginnings of his separation, who end up living together. The only problem is they realize they can’t stand each other. I don’t know much about Neil Simon as a playwright, I look forward to watching more of his adaptations. The dialogue in this movie is so sharp and crisp, it’s like biting into an apple on a fall day. The duo of Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau makes it even better.
The Quiet Man (1952) is about an ex-boxer who travels to Ireland to escape his torment of killing another boxer. I’ve been on a John Wayne kick of watching his older movies. Maureen O’Hara as his love interest holds her own. There’s a perfect scene near the end that by today’s standards is pretty terrible, but it’s the little details I noticed in the filming of it that I seldom see today.
The King (2019) is about King Henry V’s reign after his father died. He never wanted to be king, but he has no choice but to do his duty. He leads England into battles with France successfully and is played by Timothée Chalamet. The pageboy haircut also makes an unfortunate appearance, making Joel Edgerton as about as unattractive as I’ve ever seen him on screen.
The Informer (2019) is about an ex-con working undercover for the FBI to help them weaken the Polish mob. He basically is doing the dirty work without recognition. Not everything goes as planned and it becomes a race for survival for Koslow and his family. What is great about this movie is there is nothing to sidetrack the story.
Deepwater Horizon (2016) is about the true events of the 2010 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico. The oil rig explosion led to miles of polluted water, investigations, and lawsuits. It’s the worst environmental disaster so far in U.S. history. It’s also the story of lost lives and traumatic memories of those that survived.
The Indian in the Cupboard (1995) is about a young boy growing up in Brooklyn, NY. He realizes his toys come alive when placed in a wooden cabinet. The problem is he needs to keep the peace between Litefoot and Boone. As a fantasy movie, the action is minimal, but it keeps the viewer’s attention.
Easter Parade (1948) is about a nightclub performer who has to find a new dance partner. It’s the first movie I’ve ever seen with Fred Astaire. It opens with a great dance number in a candy store and ends with a great dance number with Fred Astaire and Judy Garland.
Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) is about a CIA agent and KGB operative in the 1960s. They clearly don’t like each other for obvious reasons but have to work together for a common cause. Who’s the better spy is never answered as intended Guy Ritchie style.
In Time (2011) is about a futuristic movie where time is limited, and certain people have all the resources to live a long time. This movie is commentary on the have and have nots. This movie wasn’t well received, but I enjoyed the ruthlessness of Cillian Murphy’s character and survival of Justin Timberlake’s character
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) is about the continuation of Hiccup and Toothless. After they find wild dragons, a battle ensues to protect them. Since I watched them out of order, it made less sense to me, but a worthwhile rated PG movie.
February 25, 2021: Last Six Movies I’ve Watched in February
Easy A (2010) is about a high school student in Ojai, CA that enjoys the attention she gets when a lie is spread in the hallways and classrooms. It stars Emma Stone, Amanda Bynes, and Penn Badgley. It is rated PG-13 and is one hour and 32 minutes.
Saving Mr. Banks (2013) is about P.L Travers resistance to having her book, Mary Poppins, adapted into a movie by Walt Disney. It stars Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, and Colin Farrell. It is rated PG-13 and is two hours and 5 minutes.
The Deep Blue Sea (2011) is about an unhappy wife and her affair with an Air Force pilot. It stars Simon Russell Beale, Rachel Weisz, and Tom Hiddleston. It is rated R and is one hour and 38 minutes.
Alone in Berlin (2016) is working class couple that denounces the German government during WWII. It stars Daniel Brühl, Emma Thompson, and Brendan Gleeson. It is rated R and is one hour and 43 minutes.
The House on Carroll Street (1987) is about an FBI agent and blacklisted journalist trying to uncover the smuggling of Nazi war criminals into the U.S. It stars Kelly McGillis, Jeff Daniels, and Mandy Patinkin. It is rated PG and is one hour and 41 minutes.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019) is about Hiccup and Toothless trying to save the dragons before they are caught for greedy purposes. It stars Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, and F. Murray Abraham. It is rated PG and is one hour and 44. minutes.
February 1, 2021: Six Movies I’ve Watched in January 2021
Ava (2020) is about an assassin who is being targeted along with her family. The storyline is average and Jessica Chastain holds her own, but I wish there was more action. It is rated R and is one hour and 36 minutes.
R.I.P.D. (2013) is about a police officer who unravels the mystery of whose who betrayed him. A great movie from start to finish. Good concept and hilarious scenes. It is rated PG-13 and is one hour and 36 minutes.
Mr. Brooks (2007) is about a successful businessman trying to control his serial killer urges. The best part of this movie was William Hurt. The ending was a little off. It was okay. It is rated R and is two hours.
Chapter 27 (2007) is about Mark Chapman, the man who killed John Lennon. It fell flat because Mark Chapman was not all that interesting in how he was portrayed. I’m sure his personality was spot on, but there isn’t any redeeming quality I see in who he was and is today. It is rated R and is one hour and 24 minutes.
My Cousin Rachel (2017) is about a man who avenges to find out why his cousin died. It is adapted from the writer, Daphne Du Maurier’s book. It’s a slower movie but engaging throughout. It is rated PG-13 and is one hour and 46 minutes.
Deadpool (2016) is about a man who will go to any length to live and becomes an unlikely hero upon his transformation. The humor can be crude and dark but hilarious movie. It is rated R and is one hour and 48 minutes.
January 26, 2021: If I Was Stuck on an Island, I Would Want These Movies With Me
If I was stuck on an island and somehow found a way to provide enough electricity to watch a movie, these are the ten movies I would want with me. Hopefully, I would eventually be found but if not, at least there would be some form of entertainment to keep me company.
Independence Day (1996) because there are so many memorable lines and there’s never been the theme of working together for a common cause as this movie. “All right, you alien assholes! In the words of my generation: Up Yours!” “We’re gonna have to work on our communication.” “Oh god, I hope they bring back Elvis.” The only downfall is Dr. Brakish Okun (Brent Spiner) isn’t nearly on the screen enough.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (2007) because there is nothing more comedic than Michael Myers as a thawed out cryogenic spy. Elizabeth Hurley doesn’t hurt either. It would hopefully cheer me up on those days I have lost all hope or delusional because I haven’t eaten in a long time.
Wizard of Oz (1939) is a movie where I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s a simple story that resonates with most people, those with feelings, at least. The great songs, the dance routines, and the magical world of Oz makes it pretty spectacular.
Jaws (1975) will serve as a reminder if I need to swim in the ocean for any reason while stranded. Most shark attacks happen in shallow water but due to the decrease in their food supply, I should be aware no matter how deep the water.
Cast Away (2000) for obvious reasons. I would watch this movie first after I stopped panicking about being stranded. I’m sure I would eventually talk to whatever floated on shore as if it was a real person. It would give me hope of being able to have the courage to survive on my own.
Ex Machina (2014) would be a reminder that things could always be worse. The motivations of animals on any island is pretty self-explanatory, but then again I might want to rather deal with a robot of undeterminable intelligence. Getting stung by mosquitoes all day long or having to protect yourself against a rogue robot are both miserable experiences. Okay, this movie might be the last one to watch.
Into the Wild (2007) for obvious reasons too. It can’t get any closer to realism than this. I would use this as an example of trusting my gut instincts and be cautious about eating anything. It would force me to accept I might never be found and deal with this possibility.
The Faculty (1998) because the teachers are creepy as all hell and it’s highly entertaining to see students outsmarting their teachers.
Breach (2007) would be my comfort movie. Sounds weird but espionage is a topic that not only intrigues me but makes me feel my life is okay. It gives me perspective that for all my faults, at least, I didn’t sell out my country.
Pretty in Pink (1986) is where James Spader plays such an asshole and Molly Ringwald wears that horrible looking dress at the end. This would be the movie that will remind me of my youth and how far I’ve come. If I knew my end was near, it would be one of the last ones to watch.