Peanutbutter Falcon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5

The peanutbutter falcon is a buddy movie, a romance, a road movie and lovely tale with laughter and joy. There are bits of tall tales, like "Big Fish" and some Huckelberry Finn, and touch of any movie set in the south. The characters are all working people in the bayu who fish and trap crabs or net shrimp for a living, and the they are people we all know. Even the "bad Guys" are defending their way of life and the income for thier families. These are people who don't have much. Zak (Zack Gottsagen) most of all does not have much. His Down syndrome has left him without his family, and he is a ward of a retirement home where his roomate Carl (Bruce Dern) a retired engineer, helps him escape, ans our adventure begins.

Along the way Zak meets Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) as his friend and caretaker Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) searches for him. Each character has issues that they are dealing with, and are motivated differently, but Zak is a binding influence as they each resolve.

Zack Gottsagen who portrays Zak, is a down syndrome individual, and if you have ever had the luck to know someone similar, you will appreciate how well this story is told. Zack has to carry many scenes and his acting is on point. Shia LaBeouf has never had a better role, or acted it so well, I hope he gets recognized for his work here. The casting we was really well done, the only character I felt didn't feel natural was Jake "the Snake" Roberts, who perhaps by virtue of editing or maybe he just didn't quite fit the role, was stiff and his acting was below the standard set by the rest of the film. The story and cinemetography are exelent in a palce of amazing beauty. I enjoyed this movie thouroughly..

Starring

Shia LaBeouf

Zack Gottsagen

Dakota Johnson

John Hawkes

Bruce Dern

Jon Bernthal

Jake "the snake" Roberts

Thomas Haden Church

Directed & Written

Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz

Ad Astra ⭐️⭐️ out of 5

I so wanted to like this movie, but I just don’t. The vague plot wanders around and is as lost as its main character played by Brad Pitt. The story has been compared to Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, and its best known movie interpretation Apocolypse Now, which has been rereleased in theatres recently as the Final Edit. Frankly, it is a much better film if you are looking for an individual diving into self exploration. Director Gray has said he wanted to make the most realistic movie about space ever made, and I am not sure he hit that target unless his interpretation of Realistic is dull and with a strong plot or reason for being there. Each of the actors does a good job, and the visuals are top notch, but it is the underlying story that is not present in the movie as it is presented. I have to wonder if it is the editing, writing or direction that is the cause, but either way, Mr. Gray is responsible for at least 2 of the three and presumably he oversaw the editing as well.

Ultimatly I spent the entire film waiting for something to happen and for some explanation for the characters behavior. In this cinematic world, who is in charge, what is this space force that sends Roy McBride off to find his father, and is that realistic. How is H. Clifford McBride still alive, but not in contact with earth for years? None of this is really answered well, and the trip Roy takes to get to Neptune to find his father is laced with unbelievable plot devices that fit better in a Marvel comic book movie than in a movie attempting to present a realistic depiction of space travel, and I didn’t even mention the space pirates.

Staring

Brad Pitt - Roy McBride

Tommy Lee Jones - H. Clifford McBride

Donald Southerland - Colonel Pruitt

Liv Tyler - Eve McBride

Directed

James Gray

Written

James Gray & Ethan Gross

Hustlers ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ OUT of 5

First of all this is an adult oriented film covering characters that work in strip clubs and it contains adult conversations about sex, drugs and depicts nudity that exists in that world. It is based on true events surrounding the Scores strip club in the last decade.

That said, this film while a gritty depiction of that world and the illegal actions of some of the women who worked there, it is peppered with humor. The story also shows the warm family that these women created with each other, and of course the down fall that occurred as they eventually were caught and betrayed each other. The story is compelling and the acting is superb. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and everyone in it played their role to perfection.

Starring

Jennifer Lopez

Constance Wu

Julia Stiles

Keke Palmer

Lili Reinhart

Lizzo

Cardi B.

Directed and Written

Lorene Scafaria

The Predator ⭐️⭐️⭐️ OUT of 5

The Predator, is about what you’d expect for a sci-fi action movie genre film. If you are a fan, this fits nicely in the Predator movie universe. If you want a strong story, interesting dialog or engaging plot lines, this is not your movie. This is not to say that it is not satisfying on the surface. The movie gives you fun but thinly developed characters, and lots of action, chases, and things go boom action.

My niggles with the characters include things like a child on the spectrum, who is displays communication deficits, that conveniently are not bothered with as the plot needs. His mom is oddly sold as a tough mom, who stays home while dad goes out to save his son, and a series of soldiers with mental issues that have them in custody for things like turrets? It makes no sense, but it gives the writers liberty to create characters that are odd, goofy, and somewhat endearing but not too much so, as the Predator, as in all his movies cuts through humans like a knife through birthday cake. I won’t ruin it by telling you who makes it, but needless to say, a sequel has been setup again...

The Predator C+

Starring

Boyd Holbrook -Quinn McKenna

Trevante rhodes - Nebraska Williams

Jacob trembly - Rory McKenna

Keegan-Michael key - Coyle

Olivia Munn - Casey Bracket

Sterling k. Brown - Traeger

Allie Allen - Lynch

Thomas Jane - Baxley

Augustin Aguilera - Nettles

Jake Busey - Keyes

Steven Wilder Striegel - cut from film due to registered sexual Predator status.

Yvonne Strahovski - Emily McKenna

Brian A. Prince - Predator

Directed

Shane Black

Writen

Shane Black

Fred Dekker

Captain Marvel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ OUT of 5

Captain Marvel takes a risk by starting the movie at a point where the lead charater, doesn't know who she is. She doesnt remember, and that choice leaves the audiance in a strange place for the first 10 to 15 minutes of the film. Eventually she figures it out, and we who are watching come along for the ride. But the beginning, left me cold towards the film, the characters, and lost in a story that was setup poorly. Granted its poor form to knock a two plus hour movie for the first 10 minutes, but lets face it, the first 10 minutes are what usually hook you. In well constructed movies, in the classics, you get pulled in and want more. Here I had the sense that I stepped into the middle of a story that was complex, with lots of characters and I dont know what is going on, which is ok for a minute or two. This just went on too long, and to top it off, everyone was an alien, so I couldnt trust that I know what to expect of them. So, overall I was left with a feeling that I was confused and not engaged with any of the characters for too far into this film.

Ok, so enough about the start, after 15 minutes or so, Captain Marvel falls from the sky into a blockbuster video, and into the 1990's. Nick Fury shows up and we begin to build a sense of who she is. We get to see a bit of who he is and where he started and i connected with the characters. If only I had started there. The entire film to that point could have been a flashback once the viewer was connected to the characters and cared about them.

Taken in it entirety, this film introduces the most powerful MCU character we have seen and we get to see how she got there and a bit of who she is. Since it is set in the 1990's we also get to see why we havent seen her to this point in the MCU, but it also begs the question as to why she wasnt summoned into the MCU sooner given the threats that have been intoduced into this fantasy world. Of course if you can set aside your disbelief of super powers then you can get past some story inconsistancies. The production quality of the film is top notch as one has come to expect from Marvel, and the Mavel comics preroll common to all MCU movies was reworked as a tribute to Stan Lee, who make his final MCU cameo. A sweet and pleasent surpise.

Captain Marvel

Starring

Brie Larson - Danvers

Samuel L. Jackson

Ben Mendelsohn

Djimon Hounsou

Lee Pace

Lashana Lynch

Gemma Chan

Annette Bening

Clark Gregg

Jude Law

Directed

Anna Boden

Ryan Fleck

Written

Anna Boden

Ryan Fleck

Geneva Robertson-Dworet

American Made ⭐️⭐️⭐️ OUT of 5

Tom Cruise is a movie star, and though I have misgivings about him as a person, I am an unabashed fan of his movies. He just knows his genre and embraces it whole heartedly. In American Made, he is an unhappy airline pilot who is approached by a CIA operative to become a gun runner for the CIA, delivering weapons to central American countries ostensibly to help quash communist regimes. In the process he in noticed by drug kingpins who entice him to take a few things back to the US on his return trips. 

All of this is done with a certain disbelief in how it came to be by Cruises character, which is helped by some voice overs by Cruise along the way to explain his state of thought. The subject matter lets itself to horror and blood, yet the movie treats it like a regular guy who stumbled into an outrageous situation because of his specific skill set. 

It is never explained why they picked him other than to make it clear that he had been watched and the CIA operative knew he had an abundance of moral flexibility that made him easy to seduce into dangerous and dubious activities. 

But, I am a fan, so I enjoyed the movie with its weaknesses and feel it is worth the time and money if you too enjoy Tom Cruises movies, if not the man.

Patriots Day ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ OUT of 5

rated R
released 1-6-2017, 127 minutes, Columbia Pictures

directed: Peter Berg
written: Peter Berg, Matt Cook, Joshua Zetumer
starring: Mark Walhberg, Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, J.K. Simons, Michelle Monaghan

Patriots Day is a retelling of the events of April 15, 2015 in Boston Massachusetts as runners were crossing the finish line of the Boston Marathon. for the few who don't recall, two bombs went off near the finish line killing five people and injuring many more. This is not a happy movie, and the R rating is earned as the scenes of carnage and human loss are graphic. That said, those scenes are no over done. They are there to help viewers realize the extent of the devastation. This is not an easy film to watch, and many people may stay away because of the subject, and knowing the outcome. It is however, that very outcome that you need to see. You see heroes running towards the victims, they didn't run away. You see the people of Boston and the surrounding area come together to find the two men responsible. Walhberg and director Berg have done this kind of film before, Deepwater Horizon, and they as then have tried to create a responsible telling of the events, with some artistic license.

There have been some criticism for telling the tale too soon. The producers met with all of the major characters they used in the film and reportedly got their blessings to tell the story. There were a few locations, a school campus and the city a Waterton declined to allow filming on their turf feeling that the disruption and subject were not appropriate. Some of the shootout scenes were clearly Hollywood, with giant fireballs for explosions. The real bombs are unfortunately both more deadly and less spectacular. Finally, the major character played by Mark Walhberg is a composite character who does not actually exist. The director has said that Walhbergs character was created to create a line of continuity in the telling of the story. For my part I can forgive that addition, and I value the movie for reminding me of the events and the amazing response of the city of Boston, and Americans in general. This movie serves as a reminder to those who wish us ill, that we will rise, and that we are Boston Strong.

Hidden Figures ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ OUT OF 5

rated PG
released 1-6-2017, 127 minutes, Columbia Pictures

directed: Theodore Melfi
written: Allison Schroeder, Theodore Melfi, (based on a book by Margot Lee Shetterly)
starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons

 

Hidden figures is a phenomenal story and solid well made film. It amazes me that it was 2016 before the story got told. These women were a crucial part of the early NASA program, and their story told against the backdrop of the social norms of 1964 is something every person who appreciates this country should see. The people who came together to put a man in space created business systems, electronics, educational systems and standards that are reflected today in to many ways to count. While everyone in the film does an outstanding job portraying real people in that moment in time, the the three lead actresses should stand tall durning awards season. They were inspirational, educational, endearing and entertaining all at the same time, making you feel like you knew these women, and in a very small way felt what they felt durning that time. Finally when John Glenn launched every viewer feels the pride of accomplishment and of being an American all over again. In this day when we talk about building walls across our southland, it does us good to remember that we once built rockets to the moon, and that we can do that again and more if we choose to.

La La Land ⭐️⭐️⭐️ out of 5

rated PG-13

released 12-09-2016, 128 minutes, Summitt Entertainment

directed: Damien Chazelle
written: Damien Chazelle
starring: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, Rosemarie DeWitt

 

La La Land is an unabashed homage to the golden age of movie musicals of the 30's 40's and 50's. From the ziegfeld  follies to singing in the rain, this love letter to movies from another time is sweet, and fun. It is eye candy for those who have a place in their heart for musicals. At its heart this is a passionate movie about passion, for the movies, for jazz music, and for each other. The story telling is thoroughly modern, by which i mean that a viewer from the golden age of hollywood musicals would find the dialog and scene cuts uncomfortable and lacking continuity. However, today's audiences are used to music videos, and reality television where the story sequence varies and is subservient to the wow factor and shock value of any given scene. That is not to say that this is a hatchet job, it most certainly is not. It is just a stylized telling of the tale. In the end, the creators manage to evoke emotion from the audience and the actors make a connection well with both the audience and each other, that sells this tale love and loss and passion.

The performers, a term I prefer for this film to actor, are stretched to their limits. Today's actors very often have had dance and voice lessons as well and acting and learned an instruments along the way. These are talented people who have worked incredibly hard to achieve the success they enjoy. Most will readily admit that no small amount of luck was also involved, and that both will continue to play a role in their career moving forward. I both like and admire both Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, but I did get the sense that much of the vocal work was compromised, and scaled back to match their limits.  There were few full voice songs, instead much of their vocal work was very quiet, and on songs requiring limited range. John Legend belted out a great on stage song as one would expect, and his acting chops were also scaled a bit. The songs were well written and fit neatly into the film. They were heartfelt and executed very well. On item of note, is that the director claims there were no stunt doubles for goslings hands. He played every note that you see him playing. Gosling reportedly spent four months of full time every day practice learning the songs. That in itself is an achievement worth seeing. So, bottom line, do I recommend this movie? I do, giving it 3 stars (I don't give half stars, but if i did, this one would get 3 and a half). I liked it very much, and only mark it down because I feel it is a limited audience movie. There are just many many people who will never go to see this movie, and it is too bad. It was made as a love letter to the dreams and dreamers in Hollywood. Have lost so many icons of glamor this year (Debbie Reynolds pass just a day ago). Hollywood deserves some love.

Passengers ★★★★ OUT OF 5

rated PG-13
released 12-21-2016, 116 minutes, Columbia Pictures

directed: Morten Tyldum
written: Jon Spaihts
starring: Chris Pratt, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Sheen, Laurence Fishburne

Passengers has gotten a bum rap from critics who are caught up in Star Wars mania. This is a good film with likable characters that are set in a tough situation. It is easy to put yourself in their position and empathize with them, and let yourself disappear into the story. There are only 4 characters in the main story, and one of them doesn't show up till late in the movie (Laurence Fishburn). SO, the success of the film hinges on the believability and likeability of those three actors. For me it was a success, and a movie I would like to see again, which is a pretty good measure of a movie. 

This film is set in space but it is mostly a small film, with almost everything taking place inside the ship. The grand concourse of the ship reminds me of current day cruise ships with luxury everywhere and shops and open areas within a bubble that is the ship. At its hearts, this film is a moral tale and a love story. Jim Preston (Chris Pratt) is faced with the dilemma of living alone in space for the entirety of his life, or selecting a passenger to share that time with him. By making that choice, as you see in the previews, he condemns Aurora Lane (Jennifer Lawrence) to the same fate. Neither of them will live to see the ship reach its destination in 88 years.

One thing I both liked and disliked about the film was the way they portrayed the science. Some things they got so right, and it comes as a shock that radio waves will take 30 plus years round trip, so communication with earth is a waste of effort. But then while in weightlessness we see tears roll down cheeks, which would not happen. All in all, though, they get enough right to make this a worthy contender for you entertainment dollar. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Rouge One ★★★★★ out of 5

 ★★★★★ out of 5

rated PG-13
released 12-15-2016, 133 minutes, Disney Studios

directed: Gareth Edwards
written: Chris Weiz, Tony Gilroy
starring: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelson, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelson,  Alan Tudyk, Riz Amhed, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker

The Disney buyout of Lucas films Star Wars franchise was the best thing that could have happened to the franchise. The first film in the franchise from Disney was a fun romp that reintroduced us to many original characters and some great new ones, and extended the Star Wars story further along the original timeline. In Rouge One, we are taken back to a time between the two sets of three movies. To a time just before the first movie (episode 4 which was released in 1977). This film tells the story of the "Many" who lost their lives to get the secret weakness of the death star to the rebel fighters. This film is both darker and more intense than last years and sets a somber tone despite moments of humor. There are plenty of moments where fans will pick up on characters or lines that are classic Star Wars and in that respect this film delivers in spades. My only complaint is tha the first 10 minutes or so, there is no clear understanding about what is going on. A character or two is introducted and then we jump to a different scene. This went on for several jumps and I was getting irritated when finally the director started stitching a plot together. The movie took off from there and I was hooked. It moves at a brisk pace and is a blast. I give this Film 5 stars and recommend it as a must see. This film is violent and several major characters die. So, it is not for younger children.

Office Christmas Party ★★ out of 5

★★ out of 5
rated R
released 12-8-2016, 105 minutes, Paramount Pictures

directed: will speck, josh gordon
written: jon lucas, scott moore, timothy dowling
starring: jason bateman, olivia munn, tj miller, jillian bell, courtney b vance, rob corddry, kate mckinnon, jennifer aniston

Office Christmas party wants to be an ensemble comedy with layers and multiple stories or themes, that all come together as you become engaged with each character in this ludicriss situation. This film fails on many different levels, and while it is not awful, it is best left to viewing at home where it will soon be available. There is little character development, so you can't ever engage with the characters, and everything in this film hinges on the intended hilarity of the party situation, that of course gets out of hand. These characters all think they are loosing their jobs, they have no reason to party, and where did all the other people come from? There just seems to be little rhyme or reason to anything. So, if you can get past the fact that there is very little story here, and you like this group of actors then this mindless drivel can be an escape for a bit over an hour and a half. Don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed.

Arrival ★★★★ out of 5

★★★★ out of 5
rated PG-13
released 9-1-2016, 116 minutes, Paramount Pictures

directed: dennis villeneuve
written: eric heisserer (adapted from the novela by ted chiang)
starring: amy adams, jeremy renner, forest whitaker

I have to confess, I am a fan of science fiction. This is a well done piece of science fiction, that does what good fiction always does, which is to pose the question "What if". In this case, what if aliens came to earth, and they were so foreign looking and acting, that we struggled to find any means of communication. How do you talk to someone who has no common history, and who physically interacts with the world differently than you do. There are fundamental precepts to all languages on earth because we all have vocal chords and brains that while having differing opinions and using different sounds all represent the same set of ideas and are formed from the same observations. We as humans make sounds to represent things and actions. We use verbs and nouns. So, what if those aliens don't, and what if they showed up here tomorrow. How would we react? 

Arrival takes that premise and plays it out to an unlikely end, but this is a story about the journey to communicate, not the ending. I loved the interplay between amy adams and jeremy renner throughout this film, and the reveal as the movie progresses (no spoiler here) is subtle and handled with a deft touch by director dennis villeneuve. forest whitaker is easily one of my favorite "go to" actors who makes each film he is involved with better for his presence and this is no exception. those three actors and the director manage to cover a breadth of emotion from fear to wonder with ease, and you believe they are the characters they inhabit for two hours you watch this film. I believe this is adams best film in a body of work that includes, american hustle, trouble with the curve and julie and julia to name just a few. she is fast becoming a member of that "go to" list of actors, as she has done great work on film in drama, comedy and sy-fi film. I give this film 4 out 5 stars and recommend it to anyone who is a fan of the actors or sy-fi in general. While there is action, this is a dramatic and wondrous and scary film all at once, without an extravagant amount of explosions and pyrotechnics.

Moana ★★★★ out of 5

★★★★ out of 5
rated PG
released 11-23-2016, 103 minutes, Walt Disney Studios

directed: ron clements, john muster
written: jared bush
starring: auli'i cravalho, dwayne johnson, rachel houe, alan tudyk

Ever since disney bought out pixar, and the pixar folks ascended to leadership roles in the company, disney animation has been on a roll. The studio is run once again by people passionate about making animated films and each movie is created with care and skill. Moana, the latest offering is no different. The movie is visually stunning and the music and songs are well crafted and enjoyable. That said, the movie left me a little flat. There was no memorable songs that I left the theatre humming, and while some have knocked the story for being formulaic, I felt that is worked well, but only on one level. The best animated movies hit points with young kids, teens and adults, and this film really just skipped over that latter. And, while there is nothing wrong with  targeting kids, and making a sweet movie for them, the parents who have to sit through the film might find their minds wandering a bit in this film. Don't get me wrong, this is a well crafted film, in the way that some cars are well built, but not for you. For example, I can appreciate a  well make mini van, but being an empty nester, I know it is not for me. Overall, I'd give Moana 4 out of 5 stars and offer the caveat, that this film is for younger audiences.