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Marrying Millions (2019– )
Awkward at times ... but amusing as well
5 April 2020
If you've ever been interested in marriage-track relationships where one party is very rich and the other isn't ... this show explores that idea in many ways.

There are 6 couples followed through 10 episodes of season 1:

A 60 year old real estate developer and his 21 year old girlfriend.

A 36 year old publishing heir and his 25 year old yoga instructor girlfriend (who won't accept a prenup agreement)

A 37 year old mother of 4 whose dating her daughter's 23 year old male friend.

A 44 year old female real estate investor who's dating a 48 year old construction worker (who lives with his parents).

A 40 year old business owner who's dating a 22 year old he met on a sugar daddy website.

A 20 something eccentric entrepreneur / rapper who's dating a 30 something girl who's fearful she's wasting time as her biological clock ticks away.

If those kinds of matchups sound interesting ... you might enjoy watching the sparks fly in this series. While topic screams of shallowness and gold-digging, the direct and indirect power that money exerts in a relationship is real -- and you can see it played out in this show.

It's as pointless and superficial as any soapy relationship reality show ... so if that's your thing ... and the subject matter interests you, might consider checking it out.
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The Outsider (2020– )
First 2 episodes by Jason Bateman = Great, Then falls off ...
29 March 2020
Most of the great critical and audience reviews you'll see are based on the first couple of episodes directed by Jason Bateman. But then he's gone and other directors step in for the remaining 8 episodes. Sadly the show gets slow and boring from that point to the end.

I didn't know about any of this as I watched but found myself slowly procrastinating on watching new episodes. I did finally watch through to the end and wish I never watched any of it.

So ... if you're excited by the characters and mystery in the beginning - just realize, it never ever is that interesting again. If you do continue to watch beyond episode 2, you'll see what I mean.
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Underwater (2020)
Novice Director and Writer ... Good attempt but ends up short
18 January 2020
Though there are some newbies behind this movie, it does do some things well: good special effects and production values. However, two big problems bring it down.

First, except for TJ Miller's comedic character, the characters aren't interesting enough to care about. Except for good jump scares, it's hard to care for any of the characters.

Second, there's not enough context or background information about what's happening to intellectually follow the plot changes. It's easy to understand scenes where they're alone and may be attacked -- but not intelligently follow what's happening at a bigger story level ... except in retrospect.

This movie may work well for younger audiences (which is where I think some of the high reviews are coming from), but if you're seeking intellectual satisfaction, this is not the right movie to see.
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Underwater (2020)
The trailer is the best part; the movie is surprisingly awful
13 January 2020
I'm a sci-fi fan and the bar is pretty low for me on sci-fi movies. The trailer looked like it might be a typical underwater monster movie ... nothing new but that's fine with me.

What I wasn't expecting was something that looked great on the surface but was a train wreck on screen. It turns out that both director and writer are relative novices when it comes to movies ... and this is the sad mess that resulted.

It's amazing that they blew through $80M without someone noticing things were going south. Somehow they made "B" movies and low-budget sci-fi look great in comparison. It's not because of bad special effects or production values (they were good), but rather the complete lack of character development, poor scene planning and empty story-telling. It's barely watchable.

If you look around, there is no audience or critical rating for this movie that indicates it's anything more than mediocre. Don't waste your time on this one, watch a rerun of any other sci-fi movie instead.
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Almost feel asleep in the first half, but very alert during the 2nd
29 December 2019
Maybe it was the recliner chairs in the theater, but I struggled to keep my eyes open during the first half of the movie. Nobody was laughing in a near-full theater.

But ... by the 2nd half, the main story got defined, the jokes were better and the action made sense. Plus, there were some good laughs (though almost all from little children).

I like the actors involved and the idea for the movie, but I think this is a little too simple-minded for adults; it's definitely a kids movie.
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Has all the right elements ... but falls short each time
23 December 2019
If you were to take a step back and think about all the different plot sequences (short events), they look good on the surface: fast-paced action, good dialog, humor, characters from previous movies, lots of cool worlds and great F/X.

Furthermore, if you look at the big-picture story ... it's quite acceptable for a Star Wars story.

So what went wrong? For me, the plot-sequences are not well-thought out and there too many of them for the movie's runtime. Many of the sequences have highly-convenient endings (like someone always swoops down at the last moment to avert disaster). You can almost count on that happening each an every time. It's a cop-out formula that's overused.

Furthermore, the big "reveals" were easy to guess. I'm usually terrible at guessing what happens next, but here it seemed obvious. They'd pose a question in a leading way, for example when raising the question of Rey's birth, pause for a long time ... and ... it's not that hard to put 2 and 2 together. It's like a spoiler during the movie.

Secondly, the movie needs to be longer or have fewer plot sequences. The sequence endings seemed rushed and not well integrated with the film itself. If they had a bit more time to edit the movie and catch these kinds of problems, the result could have been very different.

But without a doubt ... this is one of those movies you "have" to see sooner or later because it involves the completion of the culturally iconic Star Wars story.
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I wasn't going to leave a review until ...
20 December 2019
This movie is a great wake up call about the media. I wasn't going to leave a review until I read the media outcry about the film. I believe in a strong and free media but for all the good can they do, they can also be a self-serving destructive force.

This movie nicely brings that point across without getting into politics. Perhaps if Eastwood hadn't used real names of reporters and newspapers, there might have been less media blowback. But ... it's kind of like they're getting a taste of their own medicine. So it's unfortunate that they're targeted - perhaps with some fictionalization, but you can see how they scramble and plead "unfair" when the tables are turned ... like they were with Jewell.

I remember the news reports about Richard Jewell when the bombing occurred. I only recall that he was said to have discovered something about the bombing and then he was suddenly in trouble for being the prime suspect. The impression I got was that he was a troubled person and guilty -- never heard what happened afterward and never gave it any more thought.

It was amazing to watch this movie and see the events that actually transpired. It's definitely a worthwhile movie to see because it's both captivating and based on real events. Keep in mind that like any movie, some aspects are fictionalized, but the core story isn't. It's scary and real.
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Dark Waters (2019)
Scary as hell when I learned what the movie was about
1 December 2019
This is one scary movie because it's something that stretched into recent times ... and really happened. It's about self-regulation, big-business, medical disasters and cover-ups on a scale that just doesn't seem possible in today's world.

I had no idea this movie was about one of the most well-known brands in the world (that DuPont owns) ... and the terrible secret behind it. Since the name is not advertised in the previews, I won't spoil it here ... but everyone has heard of it and ... ugh ... been somewhat contaminated by it.

This is not really an "action" movie ... it's a bit of a slow-burn as developments take place over stretches of time. Mark Ruffalo's performance is fine ... though it's fair to say there are other actors who could have put in more compelling and watchable performances.

I'd have to admit that if the movie wasn't about real events, it would be so-so. However, because it is based on actual events ... you can't help but want to know how the movie unfolds.

While there are some unexplained issues relating to the main character's law firm and boss (who inexplicably seem to side with an underdog case) ... it's not enough to derail the story ... because the main plot really did transpire.

It's a good movie to remind us that we're not as protected by our systems, institutions and government as we'd like to think.
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Frozen II (2019)
25 November 2019
This one's not quite up to Disney standards unless you're very young. If you look at isolated elements like the animation, the scenery and characters ... they are pretty amazing. Even the idea of aging the characters a bit was a great idea.

But the story itself? Minimal and weak. There is no way you can compare this story with the original Frozen, Lion King, Aladdin, Little Mermaid. Heck - even the Maleficent sequel had more depth.

Much of dialog seemed manufactured and inauthentic. It's like this movie was created by a committee with checklists. And when they should have been advancing the plot, they sing incessantly. And the ending? Quick and simple.

This reminds me more of a 3 minute Disney ride than a timeless epic. It's an ok movie as far as movies go ... but a misfire in terms of a Disney movie.
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Indirectly about Mr. Rogers
23 November 2019
The movie is loosely based on Tom Junod's life around 1998 when he wrote an article on Mr. Rogers for Esquire magazine.

It's interesting because the journalist, named Lloyd Vogel in the movie, is introduced as a harsh cynic who's notorious for shredding the character of the people he writes about. Mr. Rogers, fully aware of this, still invites him into his world.

Here, Vogel is actually the subject of the movie ... and Mr. Rogers is the enigmatic subject of the article he's writing. You don't get too much insight on Rogers himself but you do get a feel for how he affected people and why.

If you're interested on learning more about Rogers, see the documentary "Won't You Be My Neighbor" (2018). You'll get more of a feel for who he is. But if you're in the mood for a touching story from his life, this is a good one to see.
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Ford's foray into 1960s endurance racing
20 November 2019
You can't but help but root for Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles ... they're kind of the real racing die-hards being used like pawns by Ford management of the time. The movie leads up to the dramatic 1966 24-hour endurance racing event in Le Mans, France.

What a great story! It brings together luminaries of the time like Enzo Ferrari, Henry Ford and Carroll Shelby in a fascinating true historical event. We also learn of a name that should be honored in like, namely Ken Miles. The movie has great characters, action, suspense and an amazing ending.

For me, one of the coolest scenes in the movie is when Henry Ford II takes a ride with Shelby in the GT race car. He is overwhelmed with awe of what cars have become since his grandfather's time. The GT is no model-T.

The 2.5 hour run time breezes and it's hard not to be glued to the screen the whole time. The movie's a winner in my book.
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Doctor Sleep (2019)
Best Horror movie since 2017's "It"
8 November 2019
This is a must-see movie if you're picky about finding good horror movies to watch. There are scenes that are hard to forget - like the dying screams of a tortured child or the astral-like travel of the top-hat lady ... or even just the opening scene with the little girl. Done right, this is what chilling horror movies can do.

During the quiet scenes, it's easy to become aware of how much people cough, clear their throats, burp and skip out to the restroom ... because it momentarily breaks the tension of this very engrossing movie.

It's a fantastic story that stands well on it's own apart from "The Shining". If anything, I'd say that there was an over-use of visual references to the first movie that was unnecessary and possibly even a distraction.

But still - the 2.5 hours seemed to zip by in this movie. The twisty nature of having scary-powerful main characters was great (vs. the usual all-powerful evil character). I also think that this was such a good story that it would have made a great 10-part series.

But aside from all that - if you're into scary / horror flicks, this could be one of best movies of the year.
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A little low on ideas but still ... I like the menacing new terminator
3 November 2019
If you enjoyed Terminator movies, this is another action-heavy addition to the franchise. The plot is very simplistic and adds virtually nothing to larger Terminator storyline ... but I still liked it.

I thought the action sequences were great. While not done in a modern style (where the film is artificially sped up and goes on for 10 minutes) ... they nicely highlighted a virtually unassailable new terminator.

It was cool to have 3 characters from the future: the Rev-9 Terminator, T-800 Terminator (Schwarzenegger) and an augmented human (Mackenzie Davis). Having Linda Hamilton's gritty character back in the mix was also a fun addition.

For me, watching fights amongst the 3 future characters ... along with the awesome stone-cold performance by Arnold Schwarzenegger ... was enjoyment enough. For me, it made up for the empty storyline.

The token character, though I'm pretty sure that wasn't the intent at all, seemed to be the young female "Dani". You could almost have substituted anyone into that role and it wouldn't have mattered.

If they continue the franchise, I hope the next one brings a good story with it.
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Parasite (2019)
An odd movie ... but good
2 November 2019
I can't help but think that if I were Korean, I'd somehow catch more nuances and details ... and end up appreciating this movie a bit more.

I kind of wish Bong Joon Ho called it something else. Since he's done several well-received sci-fi themed movies, I couldn't get it out of my head that "maybe" a sub-plot in the movie involved sinister parasites. Nope - it's purely a metaphor. And that's still fine.

I liked the movie and was interested to see how it developed. But I wouldn't say it was spine-tinglingly suspenseful, shocking or fully engrossing. There were a couple of plot twists that took the movie in new directions. However, I don't think Ho was able to fully capitalize and leverage the twists after the moment had past.

The story is unusual but I didn't find myself having any thought-provoking ideas after the show was over. No doubt it still was interesting to watch the story of two families from different socioeconomic classes interact. It kept my attention throughout it's 2 hour runtime ... but I'd still call it "good" ... not "great".
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Critic say it's terrible ... but it was actually decently good
27 October 2019
Many times critical review can help you steer clear of terrible movies. I like to look at both audience and critical scores. Sometimes there's a disparity like here. Audience scores were high and critic scores were low ... so I took a chance.

And yep - this is one that I'll side with voting audiences. It's actually pretty decent. While it's a far cry from Disney perfection, it has a lot of typical Disney storytelling, imagination and "moments".

I think the underpinning of the story comes from something the Queen of Prince Philip says. It's something like: ruling over humans is far more complex than ruling faeries and forest beings (the Moors). She believes that you need fear against an enemy to create unity, order and ultimately safety for the kingdom. She uses this idea to justify her corrupt behavior ... from which the story unfolds.

While I can't call it "great", it is reasonably good and hits its peak in the last third of the movie. If you want a little escapism Disney-style, this could do it for you. Otherwise, you won't be missing much if you never see it.
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The Lighthouse (I) (2019)
Should have left after 15 mins
25 October 2019
I went to the opening night in my area - the theater was full. About 15mins into the show, I realized what I was getting into. Only small squarish portion of the screen was used, there were only going to be 2 actors, I could understand only 40% of the dialog, the characters are weird but not interesting and it's very, very slow.

I could see people clearing out of the theater the moment it looked like it was over. I was one of them - I couldn't wait to get out.

The main thing to know is that even though it's listed as "horror" (and in some listings sci-fi / fantasy) ... it's an art film. This means it's generally unconventional, experimental and geared at a niche audience. A lot of times such movies will capture critical praise but be unappealing to mass audiences.

That's what's going on with this movie. It's bizarre, psychological, atmospheric and if it happens to grab you - intense. Otherwise, it will be a massively disappointing. If you saw "The Witch", Egger's other key movie, you'll understand. People went in expecting a typical horror movie, but were instead given a slow, shakespearean-like drama with complex language and minimal, slow scares.

For me, the problem with this movie is that I didn't care about either of the characters. Neither seemed relatable or engaging. If anything, it was uncomfortable to watch them. The story seemed more about madness than anything spooky. If it had been a short film - it might have been palatable, but not in its current form.

Unless you liked "The Witch" or are into artsy / experimental movies, definitely be forewarned and eliminate your expectations. It could be a big letdown.
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Zombieland still has "Attitude"!
18 October 2019
The original Zombieland showed that zombie movies could be fun, serious and adventurous at the same time. It was clever. But after being inundated with with so many zombie shows ... how could they recapture that special "attitude" and keep it fresh?

Well, somehow they did. The unique personal styles of Harrelson, Eisenberg and Stone put you back into the mindset of the first movie. It's like no time had passed and they just picked up where they left off and start a new adventure filled with travel, mahem and "evolved" zombies.

I think the magic of this Zombieland (and the last) is the witty characters and fast-moving plot. Zoey Deutch makes a hilarious addition to the cast. I didn't want it to end and hope they'll make more of these.
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Joker (2019)
Intense, dark ... and maybe even relatable
7 October 2019
This is not your typical comic book movie. No superpowers, superheroes or end-of-the world scenarios. In fact, there's not really any modern special effects. If the "Joker" wasn't one of a most culturally recognizable villains, this movie may not have the wide impact it's having.

However - he is a central character in the DC comic universe. This movie gives him a plausible, wildly dark and often sad origin story. This would not be the same movie without Phoenix's eccentric performance. He made it disturbing and believable. If he wins the Oscar for lead actor, it will be the second time someone won an Oscar for being the Joker (the other being Heath Ledger in 2009).

The story may hit a deep note with many people who've felt disenfranchised, alienated or ignored by society or their families. For 2 hours, I felt drawn into the world and crazed reality of the main character, Arthur Fleck (aka Joker). For that - I have to say it was a compelling watch.
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Unbelievable (2019)
It's a real story with little fictional padding
21 September 2019
This series is based on a series of rapes that occurred in Washington and Colorado between 2008 and 2011. The original reporting of the story won a Pulitzer prize. The real "Marie" has seen the Netflix series and felt that they got it right.

It's great to see the essence of this story translated into a captivating miniseries. It was hard to stop watching until I got the end.

Even though the style of storytelling is basically the same that you'll in Lifetime TV movie, it's still very well done. In part this is due to the sense that these events really happen, with little fictional padding, and in part to some great acting by the main cast.

There are a lot of "lessons" that we all can collectively take from this story. It's well worth a watch if the topic interests you.
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Ad Astra (2019)
Ad Astra is Latin for "to the stars"
21 September 2019
This is a more of a single character movie with great visuals and a cool message. If you're looking for an action movie or a "fun" movie ... this isn't it. It's more of a psychological melodrama.

Many of the planetary special effects were pretty great ... and some of the scenes were quite spectacular. However, Pitt's character is pretty stoical and not very interesting to watch.

But even given that, the grand visuals that accompany his journey make this unique movie-going experience. If you plan to watch it, see it on the big screen ... I can't imagine it having the same impact on a TV screen.
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Unexpectedly good, dark comedy about body image
14 September 2019
I liked this movie because takes a realistic, contemporary look at body image issues through the eyes of a broke, overweight girl in NYC. Instead of preaching the traditional "everyone loves the person inside" theme, this one allows quite a bit of complexity through a depressed and damaged character. It reminds me of Ricky Gervais' After Life.

Now even though the main character is mostly unlikable (by design), she and her journey are interesting. What's great is that she says all the unpleasantness that people in her situation would realistically be thinking. Furthermore, the show also realistically depicts how life sometimes takes "left-turns" at just the right time to crush you when you try to take control.

The only thing that this movie gets wrong (and many movies are like this - perhaps by necessity) is that socially unpleasant characters like Brittany generally don't attract nice, generous people into their lives ... like they do here. But I'll give it some some slack ... it is after all ... a movie. And - it does allow a good story to be told.

It's great that there's a real Brittany (Brittany O'Neill) that inspired this story and that writer / director Paul Colaizzo was able to spin it into a kind of dark rom-com. Nice work.
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A few good scare scenes and funny lines ... but not really scary
11 September 2019
It's good - but not like the first. That one had the proverbial "80s kids on bikes" ... and it was scary: the desolate locations, the jump scares, the bizarre creature movements and unexpected visuals. It also had a great layered story.

This one feels like remanufactured scare tactics with a very simple story. They're following the book and it's a really just a repeat of the childhood story.
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Gelflings look like Cats, Skeksis like Rats and the Mystics ... maybe weird dogs
9 September 2019
LOL - I'm not sure Brian Froud had that in mind but if you closely at head shapes, mouths and ears, maybe you'll see something familiar.

Nonetheless - Henson and company finally succeeded this time. They built a believable puppet world in which you can tell epic stories ... for a mass audience.

Netflix is probably rethinking how they can expand the show and do more with it. It's unusually unique and proprietary. It could be one of the ways they remain competitive to Amazon, Disney and HBO.
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Would have blown minds if this was released in '82
3 September 2019
First - to those who might be initially turned off by visual look of the characters and creatures - I get it ... it happened for me back in the original movie. But - if you can keep watching an episode or two, you'll acclimate to the artistic style. If you're a scifi or fantasy buff, you really don't want to miss out on an amazing experience.

When the original Dark Crystal movie came out, there was a curiosity about the kind of world that could be created using puppets that were meant to look like puppets. While the end-product had its merits, it wasn't enough to sway audiences or producers into believing that there was a future there. I liked the story but was underwhelmed at the result.

So ... having memories of the movie, characters and world created in the Dark Crystal movie, it's really amazing to watch this modernized version. So much of the design seems the same ... and yet the end result works beautifully this time.

No doubt there's good use of CGI and technology in the production - but still, the world and characters feel real enough that you can lose yourself in this imaginary universe.

The clans, characters and language styles are nicely developed. The visuals are impressive and the plot moves along at a brisk pace. And the story? It's epic. It's worth checking out this show - especially if you're looking for a new and different visual experience.
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Dora at 16 years old ... and in High School
1 September 2019
This was a cute movie - not exactly something you'd go with a friend or a date to see, but by yourself or with a family -- it's cute.

The opening scene is charming - everything from the opening advisory about foxes and swiping ... to her habit, at 6 years old, of talking directly to the audience.

But now she's entering high school and has to deal with a new type of "indigenous specious". But of course, it's not long until she ... and a trio of her peers ... are unexpectedly back in the jungle.

What's interesting is that teenage character is revealed to be smart, confident and outgoing (albeit a little socially unadjusted). This makes her interesting to watch.

Although I didn't grow up watching Dora, it was familiar enough with the show to enjoy most of the call-outs to the series. The only thing that seemed to awkwardly stand out was the animation of the monkey (and maybe the fox too). It was a little too basic given the level of CGI we see in movies these days.

All in all, it's got humor, a fast moving plot and a good dose of adventure. If you're a kid, there's a lot to like. As an adult ... it's a combination of fun and cringing at parts that are a little too child-oriented.
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