Category Archives: DVD MOVIE REVIEWS

Movies now on DVD.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (2017) – My rating: 8/10

I was pleasantly surprised when King Arthur: Legend of the Sword turned out to be a pretty descent movie.  Lots of noise and lots of fuss over a legendary fictional sword that been planted permanently into the ground for decades.  The story is a legend we’ve heard before but is always fun to revisit.  While this was not the best remake I’ve seen, it was one of the better movies being featured at this time.

Mordred, (Rob Knighton) who is a warlock has an army that he plans to use in order to defeat Camelot, thereby ruling over all of mankind while wielding his magic and power with an iron fist.  His plans were foiled only by his beheading thanks to Uther Pendragon, (Eric Bana) thus saving Camelot.  But wait, Uther has a ruthless, evil brother, Vortigern (Jude Law) who continues Mordred’s plan of a take over of Camelot, killing Uther and his wife.  However, in all the killing and excitement, he overlooks Uther’s baby son who is saved because he was hidden in a small boat and drifted down stream where he was found and raised by prostitutes in Londinium and renamed Arthur.

Arthur, Charlie Hunnam grew up as a commoner of the streets, well known and well liked.  He is also quite skilled as a fighter as has 2 best friends, Sir Tristan “Wet Stick” (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Backlack (Neil Maskell), as well as a mentor who is also a highly skilled fighter, Sir George, (Tom Wu).  Of course Arthur has no knowledge of his true lineage and when forced along with other men of his age to try and pull the magic sword from its current resting place, he protested despite successfully retrieving the sword.  To help Arthur, who is now in grave danger, is The Mage, (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) a woman identified as an acolyte who works for Merlin and supports Arthur as well the resistance, which is lead by Sir Bedivere, (Djimon Hounsou) a former knight of Uther’s.

If you’re familiar with the story, you know that the sword holds special powers and ensures that the owner will rule the land but first he must be able to pull the sword from it’s resting place, which no one, until now, has been able to do since the only one who can, is the true royal heir to the throne.

I found this version, directed by Guy Ritchie, to have been exiting and well acted.  I was thoroughly entertained and especially loved watching Djimon Hounsou who I’ve always thought of as “eye candy” run around fighting and flexing his muscles.  Also, the special effects were spectacular, especially the sea witches who were a mass of several women.  If you’re looking for a descent movie, check out King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.

 

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GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2 (2017) – My rating: 9/10

What can I say about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — history is repeating itself.  It’s even better than the first one, a different story, still a quality film.  Good humor, good plot, fantastic special effects, brilliant acting, awesome costumes, great makeup and great directing.  What else do you need.  I truly enjoyed this second sequel.

The Guardians of the Galaxy consist of: Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax  The Destroyer (Dave Bautista), voice of Rocket (Bradley Cooper), a genetically modified raccoon bounty hunter and mercenary who is also a master of weapons and military tactics, Voice of Baby Groot (Vin Diesel), a tree-like humanoid who began growing from a sapling at the end of the first film and is Rocket’s accomplice.   Vol. 2 opens with The Guardians of the Galaxy battling an inter-dimensional monster for Ayesha (Elizabeth Debicki), the golden High Priestess and leader of the Sovereign people, (a genetically engineered race who are “gold and perfect and wanting to be physically and mentally impeccable”) in exchange for Nebula (Karen Gillan), Gamora’s estranged, adopted sister who was captured while attempting to steal valuable batteries from Ayesha and her people.  The Guardians no sooner leave Ayesha before being attacked by a fleet of Sovereign drones because Rocket has stolen some of the batteries for himself.  The drones are mysteriously destroyed but the Guardians are forced to crash land on a nearby planet.  The mysterious attacker reveals himself to the Guardians as Ego (Kurt Russell), Peter’s father.

At this point the story begins to take shape.  We learn about the characters and their missions and many more are introduced and so the plot thickens.  We have a father who is meeting his son for the first time, and a son who never knew his father existed.  We also have sisters who have no love for each other, in fact one wants the other dead along with their father.  There is also Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker), a blue-skinned buccaneer who is the leader of the Ravagers and also the father figure who raised Peter Quill as well as a member of the Guardians along with Kraglin (Sean Gunn), Yondu’s loyalist.  If that isn’t enough, there’s Ego’s pet empath, Mantis (Pom Klementieff), Taserface (Chris Sullivan) leader of a mutinous group of the Ravagers and the dumbest of all characters in the film. Lastly, another character introduced in Vol 2 is Stakar Ogord/Starhawk (Sylvester Stallone) a high-ranking Ravager who has an intense history with Yondu, a kind of father/son type of thing, according to Stallone.

A little about Peter Quill:
He is a Half-human, half-Celestial leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy and was abducted from Earth as a child, raised by a group of alien thieves and smugglers called the Ravagers and is now famous throughout the galaxy for having saved many people.

A little about Ego, Peter’s father:
Ego explains he is a god-like Celestial, an immortal consciousness that manipulated the matter around it to form the planet with itself at the core. Forming a human guise, he traveled the universe to escape his loneliness and discover a purpose, eventually falling in love with Quill’s mother, Meredith. Ego hired Yondu to deliver Quill after his mother’s death, but he was never showed up and Ego had been searching for him ever since.

Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is quite entertaining and well worth seeing on the big screen.  I am happy to see Zoe Saldana’s character, Gamora being developed a little more. She seemed unfeeling and appeared to have an  angry attitude most of the time. In Vol. 2, she has warmed up a little and comes off a little more human. Hollywood has a tendency to drag out demolition and fight scenes as well as car chases, so you may find a couple of those drawn out scenes in Vol. 2, other than that, I think you’re in for a real treat!

 

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MR. CHURCH (2016) – My rating: 8.5/10

I recently viewed Mr. Church on Amazon even though it was said to be released in theaters in September of 2016 — I’ve never heard of it, too bad because it is a wonderful, feel good movie from beginning to end.  This one flew way under the radar.  Mr. Church is an unusual story of how I wish people really were but no sense in pondering over what isn’t, instead I’ll relate this story to you the best I can and urge you to see it if you can.  Mr. Church will warm the cockles of your heart.  The opening titles include the phrase: “Inspired by a true friendship.” In 2011, the screenwriter, Susan McMartin, posted “The Cook Who Came to Live With Us,” which appears to be the story on which the screenplay is based.

A little girl name Charlotte “Charlie” Brooks (Natalie Coughlin) lives with her single mother Marie Brooks (Natascha McElhone) in a small, just below the poverty line, apartment. The 2 lived alone happily together until one morning, Charlie is awakened by the heavenly smells of breakfast and a strange Black man in their kitchen named Mr. Henry Joseph Church (Eddie Murphy). Upset because Mr. Church was invading their privacy, Charlie was rude and asked that her mother get rid of him.  She later learns that Mr. Church was hired by Richard, her mother’s deceased ex-lover, to take care of them for six months because Marie has breast cancer and has been given just six months to live.

Six years later, Marie is still living and Mr. Church has become a fixture in the household. An older Charlie (Britt Robertson) is a senior in high school and even though her mother is still alive, she is weakened and on heavy medication and bed rest. Charlie had grown even closer to Mr. Church because of her inability to come to terms with Marie’s impending death. Marie lives long enough to see Charlie go to prom with her dream guy Owen (Xavier Samuel), but dies soon after.  Mr. Church stays with Charlie after Marie dies and remains as much of a mystery as the day he came into their lives.

There is so much to learn about Mr. Church.  Charlie gets accepted to Boston University, which becomes an adventure in itself.  It seem like there’s nothing Mr. Church cannot do, including designing and sewing a prom dress.  Mr. Church and Charlie gives us drama, mystery, love, tears and some OMG moments.  I absolutely enjoyed the movie and was thrilled that I got to see it for free on Amazon as a Prime member.  It’s also on DVD.  I highly recommend Mr. Church for a nice change of pace.

 

GIFTED (2017) – My rating: 8/10

Gifted is a heartfelt story about a seven year old who is a mathematical genius.  When someone tells you that, you tend to think algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry and maybe algorithms as the child gets older.  Gifted went into areas of mathematics way beyond the average.  I wondered if a child’s brain could truly be capable of handling some of the problems mentioned in the movie.  I found it remarkable that a child’s mind could actually process math as advanced as that.  Their living situation was somewhat unique, complete with an over zealous grandmother who is full of tricks and a dead mother, made for an interesting, suspenseful film with a most adorable child.

After much debate, Mary Adler (Mckenna Grace) starts first grade at a normal school, just outside of Tampa, despite her obvious mathematical genius.  She had already mastered advanced calculus, which her teacher, Bonnie Stevenson, (Jenny Slate) soon discovered. Mary is offered a scholarship to a private school for gifted children. However, her uncle and de facto guardian, Frank Adler, (Chris Evans) turns it down. According to a promise he made to his sister Diane and his knowledge of schools for the gifted, he thought Mary would have a better chance at a “normal” childhood if she stayed right where she was.

Mary’s mother, Diane had been a promising mathematician, dedicated to the Navier–Stokes problem (one of the unsolved Millennium Prize Problems) before committing suicide when Mary was six months old. Mary has lived with Frank ever since. However, Frank’s estranged mother and Mary’s maternal-grandmother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) seeks to gain custody of Mary and move her to Massachusetts, believing that Mary is a “one-in-a-billion” mathematical prodigy who should be specially tutored in preparation for a life devoted to mathematics. Frank remains adamant that his sister would want Mary to be in a normal public school and have the childhood she didn’t have. Frank hires a lawyer, Greg Cullen (Glenn Plummer) to fight against his mother in court. Here we learn family secrets and get to see the real character behind the players.  Frank and Mary enjoy a close family relationship with Roberta Taylor, (Octavia Spencer) who is also their landlady and Mary’s part-time caregiver.

From this point on, we see some interesting turns and wonder where Mary should end up.  I found Gifted to be enlightening, interesting and delightful.  Gifted is very well acted (a star is born in Mckenna Grace) and a good family movie.  Check it out!

 

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GOING IN STYLE (2017) – My rating: 7/10

Going in Style is a 1979 remake of a totally unrealistic answer to a realistic problem in today’s society. Too bad we couldn’t all be clever enough to pull off a guilt free bank heist, (just kidding). Going in Style is also a delightful,  humorous story of three senior citizens who are lifelong best buddies who are getting the shaft every where they turn. Living off their less than modest pensions, in situations that afford them little to no extras in life, they are now faced with the company they worked for all their lives being bought out, causing their pensions to become a thing of the past.  Ironically, an unusual incident at the very bank that’s threatening to take what little they have, becomes the very solution to a peaceful, happy existence for these 3 old geysers and their families.

Joe Harding (Michael Caine) has a small house in which his divorced daughter, Rachael Harding (Maria Dizzia) and his granddaughter, Brooklyn, (Joey King) are living in with him.  Joe has been receiving pink foreclosure notices from the bank and will have 30 days from the forthcoming red foreclosure notice that will render them homeless. Despite Joe’s x son-in law’s, Murphy (Peter Serafinowicz), estrangement from his family, Joe attempts to get Murphy involved in his daughter’s life.  Willie (Morgan Freeman) and Albert (Alan Arkin) live together, directly across the street from Joe. All three belong to the usual community clubs for the elderly and do the usual senior citizen activities like food shopping, frequenting the park, eating at the senior citizen shelter and for Willie, Skyping with his daughter, Cary Sachs (Melanie Nicholls-King) and granddaughter, Kanika (Ashley Aufderheide) who he seldom gets to see because of the long distance between them and his financial situation. Willie also learns that he is in need of a Kidney and should confide in friends or family members to get one asap or prepare for his funeral. In the meanwhile, Albert is having a much easier time at life being pursued by Annie, (Ann-Margret) a beautiful senior worker at the super market where he shops.

As Joe tries to deal with his foreclosure notice at the bank, he becomes a victim and a witness to a robbery in progress, carried out by three individuals wearing black masks. When, the robbers manage to escape with over 1.5 million dollars, Joe decides this might be a way out for the three seniors.  Of course the bank was no help to Joe regarding his foreclosure notice and any chance of getting their pensions reinstated was never going to happen, as they later learned the bank intended to steal their retirement.  Did I mention this plot was unrealistic but still fun to watch.  Here are some other actors and actresses that are definitely an excellent reason to see Going in Style:  Matt Dillon as Special Agent Hamer, an FBI agent who investigates bank robberies,  Christopher Lloyd as Milton, the guys’ lodge buddy, Annabelle Chow as Lucy, the child witness, Kenan Thompson as Keith, a grocery store manager, Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Mitzi and John Ortiz as Jesus, a man of unspecified credentials who agrees to show the guys the ropes.  Well done — no need to pick this one apart — just enjoy it for what it is, entertaining and funny!

THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS (2017) – My rating: 9/10

I honestly don’t know how they do it.  After seven Fast and Furious movies, they managed to make an eighth one even better than the others.  Dom turns bad?  Now there’s an interesting concept — the main character not only turns bad, he turns his back on the love of his life and the team he calls “family”.  That’s enough, if you’re a follower of the series, to hurry to your local theater and purchase a ticket to see it for yourself.

Director, F. Gary Gray has tied every scene together, giving every character a purpose.  Known for speed, excitement and fast and furious cars, this eighth installment is actually bigger, faster and features a barrage of fast, beautiful, slickly designed cars that would cause the likes of Mario Andretti to blush with envy.  So far The Fate of the Furious has grossed $690 million worldwide, making it the second highest-grossing film of 2017.  An untitled sequel is scheduled to be released on April 19, 2019.

The film opens with Dominic “Dom” Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michell Rodriguez) on their honeymoon in Havana.  Dom gets involved with his cousin’s spat at an auto show and is challenged to a street race by a local racer named Fernando (Janmarco Santiago). This turns out to be one of the most spectacular races I’ve seen because Dom is using his cousin’s beaten up, ancient, piece of car to race in.  I can only say by the end of the race, even I had new respect for Dom’s driving skills.   The next day, Dom encounters elusive cyber-terrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron), who appears to be a damsel in distress.  He tries to give her a hand with her car but her conversation lets him know that she knows him and is not very friendly.  She shows him a device right after telling him that he will now be working for her.  Cipher leaves after giving Dom full instructions as he fully accepts his new role.

SOME SPOILERS BELOW!

Dom and Letty along with team members Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson), Tej Parker (Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), are recruited by Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) to help him retrieve an EMP device from a military outpost in Berlin. During the getaway, Dom goes rogue, forcing Hobbs off the road and stealing the device for Cipher. Hobbs is arrested and locked up in the same high-security prison where he helped imprisoned Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham). After escaping, both are recruited by intelligence operative Mr. Nobody (Kurk Russell) and his protégé, Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood), to help the team find Dom and capture Cipher.  FYI:  Helen Mirren makes an uncredited cameo appearance as Magdalene Shaw, the mother of Deckard and Owen Shaw.

The whole cast moves to Russia where a long chase, war and shoot out takes place among the teams, which includes the Russians.  Here, there is a lot going on and the fate of the world, the movie and the plot depends on the outcome.  This lengthy scene was a bit much and a little hard to follow because it was easy to lose track of who was who.  The environment was extremely cold and the fight was cumbersome.  This may have shaved a few points off of an otherwise exciting thriller movie.  Charlize will blow your mind — you will probably want to blow hers right out of her head.  I highly recommend The Fate of the Furious. If you’re looking for a thriller, you’ve come to the right movie!

 

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THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE (2017) – My rating: 9/10

The Zookeeper’s Wife is based on a true story and portrays a pretty accurate account of the Warsaw Zoo and it’s keepers, Antonina and Jan Zabinski, who helped save hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion.

Dr. Jan Żabiński (Johan Heldenbergh) and his wife, Antonina (Jessica Chastain) were the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo (Miejski Ogród Zoologiczny), one of the largest and most prolific zoos in 1930s Europe. In the calm of September 1939, Antonina opens the zoo gates. Hours before the zoo opens for the day, a crowd had already gathered to view the many species on display in the zoo. Jan is the director of the Warsaw Zoo and faces the scornful, yet envious advances of Dr. Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl), the head of the Berlin Zoo and “Hitler’s zoologist”.

On September 1, 1939, Antonina and her son Ryszard (Timothy Radford and later, Val Maloku) witnesses the aerial bombardment of Warsaw as German forces storm Poland. The Zoo is not spared, as many animals are killed. Dr. Heck visits the zoo and tries to convince Antonia to let him save the “prize” specimens. Antonina reluctantly consents, but later learns that his motives are suspect. With winter coming, Dr. Heck revisits the zoo, this time to slaughter all the remaining caged animals, which he declares is an act of mercy since the cold would only kill the animals. However, Heck shoots an eagle himself, then casually tells an aide to have it stuffed.

As the scene worsens in Warsaw, Jews are singled out, their stores and shops are looted, and they are eventually herded into the Ghetto. While Two of Zabinskis’ friends, Maurycy Fraenkel (Iddo Goldberg) and his partner Magda Gross (Efrat Dor) looked for a safe place for another friend’s notable insect collection, Antonina makes an unusual offer to shelter Magda in an attic closet. Jan and his wife take stock of what defiance of the Nazis would mean, but come to the realization that they can save one life.

With the zoo to be closed permanently, Jan and Antonia seek out Heck, who has now set up headquarters in Warsaw for his groundbreaking research in animal breeding. The Zabinskis make a daring proposal to turn the remaining structures into a pig farm to ultimately provide food for the occupying forces.  In the meanwhile, they devise an elaborate plan to spirit away Jews from the Ghetto. While trying to rescue a group of Jews, Jan discovers a young girl, Urszula (Shira Haas), who had just been raped by two Nazi guards. He rescues her and Antonia and the others hiding at the zoo mentors Urszula through this awful ordeal.  The Żabińskis continue to save more Jews, and are even able to disguise women as Aryan by bleaching their hair. In 1942, the Nazis begin deporting Jews out of the Ghetto, and to the death camps. Jan is devastated to see young children being put into cattle cars, leading to the camps.  Of course there’s much more to be told but I don’t want to be the one to tell the whole story!

“Historical context
The Zookeeper’s Wife was based on not only Diane Ackerman’s non-fiction book The Zookeeper’s Wife but also relied heavily on the author’s use of the diaries of Antonina Żabińska, published in Poland as Ludzie i zwierzęta (translated as: People and Animals) (1968). In key aspects of historical context, the screenplay follows the story of Antonina and her husband, Jan, closely. Both worked at the Warsaw Zoo, although as shown in the film, Antonina was an assistant to her husband who was the director or “Zookeeper”. Animals were part of their family’s life, and the devastation that resulted from not only the attack on Warsaw and the subsequent pillaging of the zoo is well documented. The actions of Lutz Heck and his animal breeding experiments were also a matter of historical record, although the intimate relationship of the two protagonists, Antonina and Heck, were exaggerated. However, the defiance of Nazi occupation and ultimately, the rescue of over 300 Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto were depicted accurately. The contributions and participation of the Zabinski children, Ryszard and Teresa (credited as Theresa in the film) were also notable.”

The Zookeeper’s Wife is well acted and is a well told story.  It is always a sad, heart breaking account of a time that is extremely hard to revisit on screen or otherwise but it is so rewarding to know that there were those who successfully helped and cared enough to put their own lives in danger.  Very well done — everyone should see this movie!

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