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3 Reasons Everything, Everything is EVERYTHING! [MOVIE REVIEW]

Her world is the inside of a beautiful, contemporary home, her mother who is also her doctor (Anika Noni Rose) and her nurse (Ana de la Reguera). She is Maddy, (Amandla Stenberg) an 18-year-old, whose fragile immune system requires that she stay indoors in a controlled environment. Maddy’s knowledge of the outside world comes from books, the internet and looking through the big windows in her house.

It’s through those windows, she first sees her new neighbor, Olly (Nick Robinson). At first, they exchange glances, then notes (placed against the window), finally cell phone numbers which lead to a steady stream of texts. It’s through her relationship with Olly, Maddy finds the courage to venture out.

Everything, Everything, directed by director and screenwriter, Stella Meghie, a Black woman from Canada, is an amazing movie; and it’s a huge See It!

Its starts with the leads Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson; they’re captivating. This film wouldn’t work if they weren’t magical together. And they are. They have to make viewers believe and understand that what they have Maddy would risk her life for. They believe and they understand.

Writers J. Mills Goodloe and Nicola Yoon create two sympathetic characters (Olly has trouble at home) but not pitiful characters that you’ll embrace and cheer for.

Goodloe and Yoon do fall into a common screenwriters trap: writing dialogue which doesn’t make sense other than to try to convey information to viewers. Maddy’s father and brother were killed in an accident when she was a baby. There’s a family photo in Maddy’s room. Her mother picks up the photo and discusses all the details surrounding that photo. Maddy should already know that stuff. But the viewers don’t, so the writers use that device to inform them.

Some of the scenes are not thought through thoroughly. When Maddy does venture out, she goes into a shop, takes an item off the rack and goes straight to the fitting room. This is not the behavior of someone who has never been out her house and has never been in a store.

As to racial diversity, this cast gets an “A”. It’s a small group but diverse in that blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asians play prominent roles. This is a love story between a black woman and white man. But it’s not about race. In fact, race is not mentioned at all. This story could have been about a man and woman of any race.

Everything, Everything is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and brief sensuality and is 96 minutes in length. If you haven’t seen a movie this year, see this one.

 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul – Take This Trip! [MOVIE REVIEW]

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul movie cast centers on the Heffley family: dad, (Tom Everett Scott); mom, (Alicia Silverstone); Greg, the diary writer himself, (Jason Drucker); older brother, Rodrick (Charlie Wright); and younger brother, Manny (Dylan and Wyatt Walters) take off from their middle class abode to travel to Grandma Meemaw’s 90th birthday celebration. The multi-day journey in the family auto turns into an endurance and even a test of survival.

The key to any successful book, movie or play is conflict. What the characters have to overcome in the story being told. And the screenwriter of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long HaulJeff Kinney, and director David Bowers, take every opportunity to place hurdles in the way of the Heffley family trying to make it to Meemaw’s. This is conflict overload.

They start with battles between Greg and his brothers, parents listening to old folks music (in this case it’s The Spice Girl’s wannabe) road rage, vomit, a pig passenger, attacks by birds and so much more. And it all works! Dairy of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, gets a See It! rating.

The cast is solid; however, the older son doesn’t look like he’d be the kid of these parents. If this was real life, I would suggest that the dad book a date on one of Maury Povich’s paternity test shows.

At 91 minutes, it moves at just the right pace and will entertain kids and adults alike.

As to cast diversity, this movie gets a “B” no major roles for people of color but a strong presence in minor slots and background scenes.

Dairy of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, shot in Atlanta, is rated PG for rude humor.

Dairy of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul is a See It!

The Dinner, skip this meal for now.

Paul (Steve Coogan) and his wife, Claire (Laura Linney) are surprised by Paul’s brother, Stan (Richard Gere) and his wife, Katelyn’s (Rebecca Hall) abrupt invitation to have dinner at a posh local restaurant with difficult-to-get reservations. The brothers are not close and Stan, a congressman, is running for governor. Paul knows something is going on for Stan to meet with them at this key time in the campaign. As the couples dine, recollections of past family interactions unfold until the conversations lead to a very troubling story about the couples’ sons.

Based on Herman Koch’s international bestseller with the same title, the film, The Dinner, is not very appetizing. Movies simply cannot capture the nuance, character depth and the complexity of situations the way a book can.

The characters are enigmas but not in a realistic way, but in more of an implausible way. Claire is a strong, well-organized woman; Paul is unstable and angry about real or perceived childhood slights. Claire loves Paul but you’ll find yourself wondering why. He has very little appeal unless her affection is based on sympathy.

Stan tries to indulge his brother’s tantrums, as he goes from sympathetic to patient, but eventually becoming annoyed. Stan initially appears to be a person of character until he shows he can be talked out of his convictions with relatively little effort by his wife.

As the couples discuss past events, the adult characters look the same in the scenes revisiting the past, some taking place as long as a decade earlier. Their children are used as time markers. Their sons at the time of this dinner are 16-years-old but are shown in scenes of the past as six or eight-years-old. Again with the parents looking the same during all of the time periods. This reflects on the director, Oren Moverman’s lack of attention to details.

The Dinner does boast a five-star cast. Veteran performers Gere and Linney, as well as, lesser known actors Coogan and Hall are excellent individually as well as a group. But hard as they try, they cannot give authenticity to the dialogue and poorly developed characters of Moverman who is also the screenwriter.

As to cast diversity, The Dinner gets a B+. Black performers, Adepero Oduye who plays the congressman’s blindly loyal aide, Nina, and Judah Sandridge is Beau, his adopted son, both have very important roles in the film. Additionally, there are many other African-Americans with smaller parts and in background scenes; however, there are few other individuals of color featured.

The Dinner serves up just enough entertainment to get a Rent It rating; it’s two hours long and rated “R” for disturbing violent content, and language throughout.

Baby Boss orders you to go to the movie theater!

It’s bad enough that seven-year-old Tim has a new baby brother that completely saps his parents’ attention and energy, but Tim learns that his sibling is actually not at all who or what he appears to be. The infant, or Baby Boss as he is known, is a plant in their home with a scheme to undermine Tim’s parents’ business activities. Baby Boss sees cute pets as a threat to the appeal of kids. The parents’ employer, a pet selling enterprise, is about to introduce a little creature that is so adorable that tots will seem terrible in comparison. Tim and Baby Boss strike up a deal. Tim will help the little imposter get what he wants in exchange for the Boss wiping their parents’ memory of his ever being there and his returning to where babies come from.

Baby Boss is a thought-provoking story about sibling rivalries and how the fact that many people view their pets as their children impacts our society. However, the subject matter of Baby Boss is likely to go over the heads of the very young. But to keep them entertained, there are some bike chase scenes and toddlers engaging in toy-to-toy combat. Good films can and do entertain audiences at different levels of sophistication. Baby Boss does exactly that.

I am not sure what time period this is supposed to be, the vehicles look 20-years-old or more, and Tim records Baby Boss speaking like an adult on a cassette tape player. The film features music from many decades. There’s the classic from 1935 “Cheek to Cheek”; “What the World Needs Now " from 1965; LTD’s 1977 hit “Back in Love Again”, and from 1979, Kool and the Gang’s “Ladies Night”.

Voices for the characters include: Alec Baldwin as Baby Boss; Jimmy Kimmel speaks for Tim’s dad and Lisa Kudrow for his mom. The voices of Tim are Tobey Maguire as an adult and Miles Christopher Bakshi as a child.

Can an animated cartoon get a diversity rating? ABSOLUTELY! Baby Boss earns a “B”. There are a few babies of color in the Baby Boss’s playgroup.

Baby Boss is much more than a story about infants. You’ll enjoy it no matter what your age. Baby Boss earns a See It!

It’s rated PG for mild rude humor and is 97 minutes in length.

Ghost in the Shell is eerily bad

Set in the future, Ghost in the Shell follows a recently deceased young woman (Scarlett Johansson) who has her brain placed into the latest and most sophisticated robot. Believing that she was killed by terrorists, she targets a powerful and exceptionally deadly crime syndicate for revenge.

This is another one of those cases where a great movie concept, falls victim to inept execution. There are many creative options with a story about a human brain controlling a cutting-edge machine. But Ghost in the Shell is nothing more than a flat story. The screenwriters try to give shape to the film by using a lot of mindless violence and flashy special effects. Unfortunately, at points when this story is on the edge of being interesting, it reverts back to dullness.

The writers are also lazy in how they portray the future. For example, cars pretty much look and operate the same as they do today. However, self-driving cars are currently just a few years away. With all the advanced weaponry displayed in the film, a villain pulls out a knife to defend himself, which is reminiscent of a 1950 James Dean movie. Additionally, the dialogue offers no new words. The American vocabulary expands constantly, for example, blogs, unfriend, sexting, are all recent additions to the dictionary. Certainly, there will be terms used 20 years from now that are currently unknown.

Scarlett Johannsson does her best to carry this story. She has credibility as the mechanical crime fighter from her fit form down to her, I am going kick ass gait.

This film gets an “A” for cast diversity, featuring a wide range of human types and quite a few nonhumans as well.

Ultimately, it’s only fitting that Ghost in the Shell gets our Dead on Arrival rating. As I have said repeatedly, special effects are simply not enough. You need more than a phantom storyline.

Ghost in the Shell is PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence, suggestive content, and some disturbing scenes. Ghost in the Shell probably should have received an R rating for its violence. It’s just under 2 hours in length.

Movie Review: Life

The movie, Life, is Dead on Arrival 

Six astronauts find a life form on an internationally staffed expedition to Mars. They bring the specimen on board their space ship and it finds the conditions on the craft very much to its liking – and grows to be a threat to the crew.

This Life is Dead on Arrival. It simply lacks any originality. First choosing Mars as the destination shows no creativity. That planet has been the focus of film space travel for over 50 years. Then the organism looks and behaves like the ones from Alien. And it thrives on food, water, and oxygen. It must have taken the screenwriters hours, even days to come up with that theory.

Life features a star-studded cast including Ryan Reynolds, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Rebecca Ferguson. But their characters all look and sound like any other onscreen space shuttle crew.

The special effects are routine and unexceptional.

Life does boast a solidly diverse crew with a black actor (Ariyon Bakare) and a Japanese actor (Hiroyuki Sanada). Actor Samuel L. Jackson recently complained about Hollywood hiring black British performers to play black American characters. Bakare is British; but so is the person he plays in the film.

In the end, this Life doesn’t survive film critiquing scrutiny and gets our lowest rating, Dead on Arrival.

Life is rated R, for scary scenes and language and is 103 minutes.

MOVIE REVIEW: Kong: Skull Island

Only the special effects make this island worth visiting

It’s the 70s. The Cold War burns hotly. Bill Randa (John Goodman), a researcher and his assistant Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) use the, we have to do this before the Russian’s do argument to get the United States federal government to fund an expedition to a South Pacific island where strange images have been caught on camera. Not only do they receive the funding, they also get a military escort led by Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson). To round out their team, they need a tracker and outdoors' man and James Conrad (Tom Hiddleston) fits the bill. When the expedition arrives at their destination via helicopters, they are created by a massive, towering ape who swats the whirlybirds away as if they were annoying mosquitos. The team quickly realizes that they are in for more than bargained for.

Kong: Skull Island is a weak story about boring characters, but it still gets a See It! rating because this film delivers the special effects viewers who are fans of this film genre want to see.

The plots are so anemic that you’ll just want another appearance by Kong or some other creature.

The characters all speak with the same tones and vocabulary. But what is a major failure of the screenwriters Dan Gilroy and Max Borenstein is the absence of the rich '70s dialogue. Language that young soldiers would have undoubtedly used. There was not a single: Right On!, Funky, Hip, Can you Dig it? or Say, What?

And if you’re a film buff, you’ll definitely see scenes reminiscent of Jurassic Park and Avatar.

Shot in six months in Hawaii, Australia's Gold Coast, and in Vietnam, Kong: Skull Island’s cinematography is a treat for the eyes.

When it comes to casting diversity, King: Skull Island, gets a solid “A”. Blacks, whites, Hispanics, and Asian performers have both major and supporting roles.

Kong: Skull Island is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action and for brief strong language. The film is 118 minutes in length. The special effects will not disappoint and that makes King: Skull Island a See It!

MOVIE REVIEW: Get Out this week and see Get Out!

They’re an attractive young couple, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and Rose (Allison Williams). She who is white, assures him as they plan a visit to meet her parents, that they won’t care that he’s black. She adds that her father would have voted for Obama for a third term. When they arrive at the Rose’s parents’ stately home in its picturesque, bucolic setting, her father, Dean (Bradley Whitford) and her mother, Missy (Catherine Keener) greet Chris and extend their best efforts to make him feel comfortable. Chris also hears it straight from Dean: he would have voted for Obama for a third term. But after his first night there, Chris begins to realize that there are some occurrences that go way beyond the expected awkwardness of his being in Rose’s family home.

As I left the theater after seeing Get Out, I found myself thinking of the title of the New Zealand group OMC’s hit song, How Bizarre. While the film’s genre is horror, and it contains all the elements of that genre, there is so much more to this story. That’s what makes this film exceptional is it takes a common format and intertwines issues of race in the form of stereotypes about black men and white women, and the physical attributes of black people, to create a truly unique film going experience. And that makes it a See It!

Written and directed by comedian Jordan Peele, who takes viewers on an entertaining journey giving them clues to the underlying mystery and then fits all of the pieces together in some expected and unexpected ways. Additionally, the cinematography effectively enriches so many of the scenes and is a key to telling this fascinating story.

Get Out has some familiar horror film flaws. Chris, like many protagonists in this type of film, is sometimes a little slow to figure things.

There are other defects as well. Chris shares his growing-up experience which is a key to some of his reactions. He never knew his father and lost his mother to a hit and run accident when he was 11-years-old. And at one point he tells Rose, she is all he has. The problem with that scenario is 11-year-olds don’t raise themselves. Further, he’s a fairly polished young man and an accomplished photographer, indicating that at least one if not more adults invested time and money in his development. It’s unlikely that those “investors” would have disappeared from Chris’ life now that he is an adult, resulting in Rose being all he has.

As I discussed in my review of Fences, it is troubling that the ubiquitous portrayal of black families as dysfunctional is a theme often perpetuated by black writers. Peele creates Chris’s story as one with an absentee father, even though Peele’s own father was in his life.

As to cast diversity, Get Out gets an “A-“. When it comes to black and white characters, you won’t find a more diverse film. However, there is only one Asian-American and one Hispanic, each with a small speaking role.

Get Out is Rated R for violence, bloody images, language and sexual references, and is 104 minutes in length. Get Out is a unique film you’ll think about and talk about. And it’s a See It!

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