Tag Archives: movie reviews

Terminator: Dark Fate (2019)

I’ll be back, 3.5 readers…with a review of the latest time traveling kill bot movie.

After the last Terminator movie of a few years ago, I really thought this franchise had been terminated.  They made two great films a long time ago, and everything else has been garbage ever since.

Generally, they are all the same story.  The robots travel through time, wanting to kill John Connor.  Someone has to save John, usually Arnie in the form of a good terminator, usually with a human helper and so on.

That gold has been mined and nothing but dirt remains.

I’ll admit I was surprised as this latest installment, IMO, didn’t totally suck.  It doesn’t deserve a spot next to the first two, but among the list of garbage sequels, it is the least trashy.  It has great effects, at least an attempt at a plot and action that kept me riveted, even if it is all just the same story told over again.

Linda Hamilton and Arnie are given a break from the nursing home, this time to play Sarah Connor and yet another terminator turned good.  While Hamilton makes the flick, the storyline that gets Arnie back into the picture causes the movie to jump the shark (he’s a terminator who learned the error of his ways and retired from terminating to start a family and um…how the hell does that even work?)

Together, they help an augmented human from the future (that girl from Halt and Catch Fire and I’m too lazy to look up her name) save Dani (again I’m too lazy to look up her name) who will become the leader of the next robot resistance if she can be saved from a new brand of terminator who is able to seperate his robot self from his human-looking self (also not going to look up his name.)

Yes, it’s the same old story jammed into a different wrapper but the best I can say it is if we rank all Terminator films, it is number three on a scale of best to worst, though a distant third from the two originals.  Really, this franchise should have stopped at two.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – The Addams Family (2019)

They’re still creepy and kooky, 3.5 readers. (Snap, snap).

Everyone’s favorite family of ghoulish weirdos is back, this time in an animated film.  The Addams Family have always existed as a twisted parody of American suburban family life.  They are a strange clan who are preoccupied with all forms of death, dismemberment and overall mayhem and yet, father Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and mother Morticia (Charlize Theron) are madly in love with each other.  They are devoted to kids Wednesday (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Puggsley (Finn Wolfhard) and don’t treat extended family like Grand-ma-ma (Bette Midler) and Uncle Fester (Nick Kroll) as burdens.

In short, maybe they know more about being a family than most people give them credit for.

The villain is Margaux Needler (Allison Janney) a home make over expert who wants to see the Addams’ spooky manor destroyed or at least redecorated in pink for her home make over show, as well as to bring it in line with her planned community down the mountain.

It might have been interesting to see what live actors could have done this time around, though animation does have its benefits, allowing characters to do things that wouldn’t have been captured well in a live action version.

The plot of the Addams’ home being threatened by mean quote unquote normals who turn out to be the baddies and make the Addams’ seem normal in comparison has been overdone, though that is essentially the schtick of this series.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie (2019)

Jesse’s back, bitches!

BQB here with a review.

When I heard they were making a Breaking Bad movie, my reaction was one of revulsion.  It’s rare that a TV show concludes with all the loose ends tied up, with an overall sense that the writers and producers really, truly cared about all the time the fans invested in watching the show and wanted to reward that time with payoffs galore.  Thus, to create a sequel seemed like trying to paint Mona Lisa Part 2: This Time The Bitch Really Smiles.

Turns out the movie is great, though it’s less of a movie and more of an extended episode.  My main fear was that they were going to bring Walter White (Bryan Cranston) back from the dead and have to conjure up silly, absurd reasons about how this guy has been able to live with terminal cancer for 11 years and how he’s still cooking meth when everyone from the cops to the coast guard are looking for him.

My fears subsided when I learned Walter was left to RIP and this was Jesse’s flick.  When last we saw Jesse, he was looking like an unkempt, unwashed, bearded mountain man, escaping from Nazi captivity in weirdo Todd’s El Camino.

This film tells us what happens next.  With police on his tail and plenty of rival crooks out to get him, will he be able to flee and start a new life, or will he go out in a blaze of glory just like his meth cooking mentor?

Series regulars come and go throughout the flick.  Badger.  Skinny Pete.  Mike.  Even Walter stops by.  Relax, those who ended up in body bags at the end of the series only reappear in flashback form.

Is this a movie we needed?  No, bitch.  To be honest, I never put much thought into what happened to Jesse after his escape.  That being said, it is a nice wrap up, tying up that one last loose end.

It’s fitting the movie is on Netflix.  After all, Breaking Bad is a show that became successfully largely due to the streaming age.  I’ll admit I avoided it for several years because a show about a sad old man dying from cancer after a lifetime of regret didn’t exactly sound like fun viewing to me, but once I kept hearing rave reviews, I started streaming it and I was hooked.  Dying science teacher depressed about his lack of success recruits his wayward former student to start a meth empire and eventually goes from underdog anti-hero to vile villain that you want to see lose?  Yeah, that’s not something that any network was going to pour a lot of dough into promoting.  Word of mouth and “hey, go stream this when you have a minute” was the key to BB’s success.

Still, I’m not sure how much juice can be extracted from the Breaking Bad world.  I suppose there’s always a prequel or a sequel.  I suppose, even for a truck of cash backed up to Bryan Cranston’s house and, hopefully, the right script, we could find out that Walter White survived but honestly, I felt this movie worked because it was just 2 hours.  Would I want to see an entirely new Jesse based spinoff series?  I can’t imagine it.  I did give Better Call Saul a couple of seasons before I gave up.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy, bitch.

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Movie Review – Gemini Man (2019)

Will vs. Will = a battle of wills.

BQB here with a review of Gemini Man.

This movie neither sucks nor blows.  It’s not really destined to become that old standby that you’ll go to over and over again when you want some thrills, but as a diversion, it is worth the price of admission.

Will Smith plays Henry Brogan, one of the world’s greatest, most prolific spy agency assassins, though as he’s gotten older and more thoughtful, he has decided that he can’t stomach all the death and destruction anymore and decides to retire.

Alas, his superiors aren’t having any of that shit.  His former superiors are worried he knows too much and they can’t have that.  At first, they hire Danny (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) to keep tabs on him, posing as a potential love interest.  When Will proves that he still has some of that Big Willy style left, he converts a foe into a friend as the duo go on the run from the agency.

Clay Verris (Clive Owen) one of Henry’s ex-bosses, brings out the big guns.  He’s the head of Project Gemini (and rather humorously, operates out of a high rise building labeled “Gemini” which seems like a good way to blow his cover).  This project, is, you guessed, a cloning initiative.  It seems that years ago, Henry was cloned and the result, Junior, a version of Henry half his age that knows all his moves, is out to get him.

The CGI based aged shaving, clone making tech is at its peak, as there are times where Junior looks like Will has morphed back into his Fresh Prince days.  The fight scenes where young and old Will go mano y mano are fun, though the overall plot is convoluted and unlikely.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Stuber (2019)

Laughs.  Action.  Driver ratings in peril.

BQB here with a review of Stuber.

At the outset, this is a fun action comedy.  It’s not something I’d want to watch over and over again, but it was worth the rental fee.

Kumail Nanjiani plays Stu, a down and out sporting goods store clerk who makes money on the side driving for Uber, thus earning him the undesired nickname, Stuber.

He pines for friend Becca (Betty Gilpin, and who doesn’t?) but despite his best efforts, including forking over his savings so she can start a spin class business, he’s permanently in the friend zone.

His life of boredom is interrupted for a night of action, adventure and sheer, out and out terror when Vic Manning (Dave Bautista), a bad ass cop on the hunt for his partner’s killer, who rather conveniently just had eye surgery and can’t drive (or in reality, do anything but you have to suspend disbelief) hires him to drive and forces him into service as his unwilling partner for the evening.

They become the ultimate odd couple, Vic helping Stu to man up, Stu helping Vic to tap into his softer side.  Will Stu be able to save the day, get the girl, and maintain the highly coveted 5 star rating that all Uber drivers desire?

Bonus points for adding Mira Sorvino to the cast.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Joker (2019)

Put on a happy face, 3.5 readers.

BQB here with a review of Joker.

At the outset, I wondered about the necessity of this film.  After all, when we have the Justice League films trying to get off the ground, is it wise to put out a standalone film about Batman’s nemesis set in the early 1980s?

And does a Joker origin story interfere with the Clown Prince of Crime’s mystique?  After all, one of the scarier parts of 2008’s The Dark Knight is that the Joker is a wild card, and we know so little about who he is or what motivates him, so he is unpredictable and can’t be reasoned with.

But oh well.  Screw all that.  The movie was made and if you take it on its own, without delving into deeper comic book nerd considerations, its a rather intense look at how a combination of mental illness and a breakdown of the system can cause a man to snap.

Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a socially awkward loner who eeks out a meager living as a party clown while trying to launch a stand-up comedy career, an art form in which he has no talent whatsoever, despite his grand delusions to the contrary.  He dreams of one day being discovered by Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro playing a Johnny Carson-esque late night talk show host.)

Arthur’s reality is much more grim.  He lives in squalor and spends his free time taking care of his equally mentally ill mother, Penny (Frances Conroy) while pining for his neighbor, Sophie (Zazie Beetz of Deadpool’s Domino fame.)

Without delving into spoilers, the majority of the film focuses on Arthur’s descent into madness as little by little, the little he had that kept him going is taken away from him.  The system is the villain of the film, that cold hearted, uncaring, unfeeling bureaucracy that takes away his psychiatric appointments, his medication, his job, his hopes, his dreams and after plunging him into failure, tells him there’s no opportunity left for him, because he’s such a lousy failure.

This movie has been controversial because, well, I suppose I can’t tell you exactly why without spoiling the ending and admittedly, 3/4th of the movie is a bit of a slog, slowly building up to the ending that leaves you on the edge of your seat when Arthur finally stops giving a shit about the norms of the society that stopped giving a shit about him.  Suffice to say, there’s a lot of media concern that this movie celebrates and/or glorifies the idea of people committing violence in attempt to garner attention but…well, at the end of the day, it is a movie and perhaps these concerns miss a point, namely that taking away movies is but a band-aid, whereas developing a comprehensive plan to provide mental health care and opportunities for those who are struggling would be the better solution.

As a comic book nerd, I didn’t like that Batman’s father, Thomas Wayne, is portrayed as a villain.  The Waynes are usually portrayed as the only rich people in Gotham who care, so this is a deviation.  However, without giving much away, there’s a do-it-yourself aspect to this movie, in that you can choose what you want to believe and what you don’t.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Rambo: Last Blood (2019)

Last Blood?  I sure hope so!

BQB here with a review of one Rambo film too many.

Part of me gets it.  Sylvester Stallone may be old, but he’s still kicking, so he wants to work.  The film franchises he’s made over the years are like multi-million dollar businesses, so you can’t blame a guy for wanting to make as much dough as he can for as long as he can.  Maybe, just maybe, he even loves the characters he’s created and wants to add more to their story.

It worked with Rocky 6 and the spin-off Creed movies.  But in Creed, an old Rocky is passing the torch to a younger fighter, whereas in Rambo…well, Rambo is old now.  The appeal of the original Rambo films was that Rambo was a bad ass who could murder throngs of villains with his pinky finger.

Today?  Not so much, and at least the powers that be realized that a shirtless old Rambo running around, shooting 700 henchmen without reloading his gun once wasn’t going to fly.

Ultimately the film is a mashup of Taken (in that the beloved niece of his housekeeper gets kidnapped by a Mexican sex trafficking gang) and Home Alone (as Rambo lures the bad hombres back to his ranch where he subjects them to a series of elaborate and brutal traps.

Part of me is nostalgic for the 80s action flicks I grew up with.  That part of me enjoyed it.  Another part of me is an adult and that part wonders whether, you know, just because something can be made, does that mean it should be made?

Was there a Rambo film with an elderly protagonist that could have kicked a lot of ass?  Possibly.  Trainers are an essential part of a fighter’s life, so that led to a lot of screen time for Rocky in Creed.  Maybe Old Rambo could have taken the role of a mentor to a younger soldier who goes berserk and, you know, as I say it, no that wouldn’t have worked.  This was probably the best Rambo that was possible.

Still, was it necessary to see our longtime hero tortured in his old age so needlessly?  The film begins with Rambo on a ranch, enjoying the outdoors, being one with nature.  He’s found friendship with his housekeeper because I assume the idea of Rambo marrying an age appropriate woman made Sylvester Stallone want to puke.  He’s even found the daughter he never had in the form of the housekeeper’s daughter that he helped raise so…I guess there wouldn’t have been much of a movie in letting Rambo live out his retirement years in peace but holy shit, it’s just sad this guy keeps getting tortured.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  The violence is a bit over the top, even for a Rambo film.  There were a few parts where the gore was so silly I openly laughed.  If you’ve never seen the films before, the first two are the best and the third acceptable.  This latest, and hopefully last one, is worth a rental, but nothing to rush to the theater for.

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Movie Review – Ad Astra (2019)

Space.  There’s a lot of it.  BQB here with a review.

Similar to Interstellar, this film gives us a peak into the future of so-called “doable” space travel, i.e. there are no space operatic ships that fly at warp speed or laser sword battles or what have you.  Instead, it focuses on the idea that deep space travel is indeed possible if man is willing to invest the time and money.

Brad Pritt stars as Roy McBride, an astronaut who has been recruited for a sensitive mission – to find his long lost father (Tommy Lee Jones as Clifford) who, thirty years prior went on a mission to Neptune to search for alien life and then disappeared, never to be heard from again.

The first half of the film starts out strong, meditating on a number of blunders that humans would likely export from earth to outer space, namely America’s moon base has become commercialized with fast food joints on every corner and warring factions fighting over resources back home are fighting over moon resources as well.

The film is visually beautiful and inspiring, reminding us that, at least in terms of getting to the far reaches of the Milky Way, doing so doesn’t have to be the stuff of science fiction as long as we open our hearts, minds, wallets and are able to find people who are willing to spend long chunks of their lives on space travel.

While I don’t want to give away spoilers, I’ll say that the second half of the film is riddled with gaping plot holes and though I’m but an amateur, I’ll just say there are parts where the science doesn’t add up and the doings are unlikely.  There are points where it feels like the writers pushed hard through most of the movie only to take a nap at the end.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Gets a little disappointing at the end.

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Movie Review: It: Chapter 2 (2019)

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I don’t like the It movies.

However, I admit that I don’t like them because they scare me on a psychological level, which is, I suppose, Stephen King’s overall goal, thus quite ironically, what makes the movie a success makes me not want to watch it again.

Both films deal with how children grow up and confront their fears, how they either overcome the obstacles that hold them back and succeed or if they don’t, are eventually consumed by them.

Frankly, the first film would have been enough, but I suppose the second shows how in a weird way, even as adults, we are still kids inside, unsure of ourselves, scared of the future, afraid to confront our demons.

“It,” a demonic being that often takes the form of uber scary clown Pennywise, takes great joy in exploiting the fears of a group of kids, later turned adults, in Derry, Maine.  As the second installment progresses, each adult will have to face a fear that has paralyzed them since childhood, and the old clown is there at every turn, rubbing their fears in their faces.

So, on a psychological level, yeah, the movie will mess you up.  I’m an adult man and I had trouble sleeping after this one, though less so than after the first one.  Sometimes too much of anything and while Pennywise had me shitting my pants in the first one, and for most of the second, I eventually just felt by the end of the second that someone should just drop a nuclear missile on this dumbass clown’s head and be down with it already.

There’s a lot of things I don’t like.  For example, kids getting murdered.  Kids getting their heads chomped off by a clown.  I get that its about confronting the fears that have plagued you since childhood, but come on, we don’t need to see children being murdered in such gruesome detail.  Maybe split the difference and have the clown’s big teeth coming at the kid, then cut away, but no, they show the kids getting chomped in horrifying detail.  Gross, disgusting and unnecessary.

Some great performances by the adult losers – Jessica Chastain, Bill Hader and the guy who plays Young Professor X being the only ones I recognize, though all did well.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy, though please keep it off my shelf.  I never want to see it again, which I suppose means King did his work.

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Movie Review – Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019)

Grab your time travel machine, 3.5 readers.  It’s time to go back all the way to 1969.

BQB here with a review of Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film.

I’ve been a longtime Tarantino fan, 3.5 readers.  I suppose most Gen Xers are.  His films have always been known for 1) time jumps, i.e. starting at the end and working back to the beginning, so that the end of the movie becomes essentially how the whole mess started 2) long pieces of expository dialogue where characters drop key plot points by word of mouth in passing and 3) 1960s and 1970s pop culture references galore.

Remember Inglourious Bastards?  This film is another alternate history project.  Just as Tarantino rewrote WWII, so too does he give the infamously terrifying Manson family murder of actress Sharon Tate a rewrite.  The tale centers around down on his luck actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his trusty stuntman/errand boy Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt.)  Together, they are a pair of old Hollywood legends who once put out a popular 1950s cowboy show, only to fizzle in the middle of their lives.  Rick is having a tough time finding work, and if he can’t work then Cliff can stunt.

Long story short, Sharon Tate and her husband, director (later turned on the run pervert) Roman Polanski, are Rick’s neighbors, and I could tell you more but suffice to say, during their quest to restart their careers, Rick and Cliff get sucked into the Manson family madness in a big way.

Having studied Tarantino’s movies for a long time, I have to say this one is far different.  His 1960s pop culture references are there, but there a but more subtle, with the occasional hint toward what is being referred to for the millennial generation.  Tarantino’s adoration of the 1960s and 1970s was already a bit stale in the 1990s when he got his start, and I remember as a teenager, watching his films was the first time I learned of some of the 60s/70s references to which he was referring.  So, his work is cut out for him in trying to stay afloat in a sea that is now dominated by young adults who were in short pants at the turn of the century.

Somehow, he pulls it off.  And he also, much to my surprise, refrains from the heavy, heady dialogue that is his trademark.  True, his dialogues were often a joy to behold, but here, he focuses more on showing rather than telling.  Ironically, it’s almost like this grandmaster blew up all the writing rules in his youth, only to begin grabbing hold of them in his old age.

It’s in the showing where this movie excels.  We see Leo as Dalton sitting on a float in his backyard pool, reviewing his lines for a part in a movie that he needs to remain relevant in the acting game.  This shows us that Dalton is desperate.  He’s old but he isn’t ready to quit just yet, and wants to give it his all before his final curtain call.

We see Cliff Booth sitting alone in a dingy trailer, his only friend a big dumb dog.  His house is a mess, looking as though he never cleans.  He cooks a pot of mac and cheese, then sits down before the TV to eat it straight out of the pot.  He is a consummate bachelor.  Unlike Dalton, he is used to a shit life.  Aspirations of anything else don’t compute with him.

And finally, we see Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate.  So proud of herself for making it in the movie business is she that she goes to a cinema and takes in one of her films, in awe of her accomplishment.  It’s a sweet moment.

Overall, this is Tarantino’s love letter to his favorite flicks, genres, actors, directors…really, his kiss for that period of time in Hollywood history that formed the foundation of his work.

Ultimately, Rick and Cliff have to take everything they thought they knew about the movie business and turn it up on its ear to keep going in a world that’s changing, and Tarantino does that here as well.

After all, this is a movie that starts at the beginning and ends at the end.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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