Elvis – The Movie

I can’t believe someone hasn’t done an Elvis Presley movie before this one. ‘Elvis’ is an in depth look into his life, starting with how he was drawn to music as a child, and later being ‘discovered’ by Colonel Tom Parker. I found it interesting that the rock legend’s story was actually told by the Colonel, a man who defrauded Elvis of much of his fortune.

Why is it that so many great and talented people fall for or trust the wrong person and get taken to the cleaners? Are they too focused on their career’s and assume life the finance will take care of itself. It doesn’t make sense to me, but then I’m no rock and roll star.

The movie seems to have the jitters at first, while it finds it’s footing, but you’ll be tapping your foot or singing along to the awesome music in no time. The flick is almost two and a half hours long but it moved along well. I’d never heard of Austin Butler but I’m sure plenty of folks will now. To me, his awesome performance was only overshadowed by Tom Hanks, who portrayed Elvis’ promoter, the Colonel Tom Parker.

No matter how much you think you know about Elvis Presley’s life and his music, I’m sure you’ll come away with at least a few new facts after seeing this movie. Cathryn and I did. I even learned of other black musicians where the King got some of his inspiration. And I didn’t know that he wrote some of his own songs or that he died at such a young age. Sad.

Cathryn and I saw the movie with her mother and a friend, who spent much of the film singing along with the music. The movie was good and we recommend seeing it. We both give it an 8 out of 10, not worthy of a perfect score from me only because of it was the Colonel’s perspective of the King’s life.

Jurassic World – Dominion

I lost track of how many sequels of Jurassic Park there have been but we’ve managed to see them all and have to admit they are fun to watch. We decided to see this latest instalment in Imax format for extra-sized fun. Add that to the bigger and badder dinosaurs that roamed the earth along with mankind, and this movie was a CGI extravaganza.

Dominion brings back the original cast – some almost dinosaurs themselves, and (spoiler alert) chooses not to have any of them eaten alive during the movie. But don’t fret, plenty of others are snatched up and become dino-food. It is quite amazing how they can blend real people and a gigantic computer-generated animal into the same scene.

And as with other Jurassic movies, there are bad guys and good guys – not the creatures themselves, but people who want to exploit the dinosaurs and our heroes who want to save them. Add in a greedy bio-engineering company and Dominion has all the makings of a scary but lovable family movie.

With nothing else on the big screen these days but superhero movies, Cathryn and I enjoyed the movie. She rated it a 9 out of 10, mostly because nobody really dies. I give it a 6.

Top Gun: Maverick

Bigger, better, louder, and more action-packed than the original, Top Gun Maverick will literally pound on your chest and rumble the floor beneath your seat. Tom Cruise pulled all the stops making this blockbuster, spending $11,000 an hour to use the navy’s F18 fighter jets. Yes, the jets, top gun pilots, and much of the arial action was real. Filmed live with special cameras, designed to fit the aircraft.

Cruise even put his cast of top gun actors through boot camp and had each and every one of them go up in the fighter jets so that they could experience what actual pilots go through. Their distorted faces are the real deal, while they experienced the G forces that would make most of us throw up.

This movie is a must-see on the big screen with surround sound, to truly appreciate the awesome power of the supersonic jets portrayed in this film. There is one scene with Ed Harris where a low-flying jet literally blows the roof off a small building. It was unexpected but really happened so they left it in for effect. There were several other times where the sonic booms and jet wash rumbled our seats.

The story is good, bring back an old flame of Maverick’s who’s referred to in the original. There are a few flashbacks, triggered by Goose’s son, Rooster, who is a Top Gun selected for a dangerous mission that Maverick is called on to lead. The two of them must resolve an unresolved issue between them to survive what awaits them.

Enough said, check out the trailers and behind the scenes clips to see how this awesome movie was made. It is one of a kind. Catherine and I give it 10 out of 10 and will probably see it again before long.

The Last Duel

New movies are finally gracing the big screens again, and the cast and director of this film looked impressive. With all the hype about medieval television shows and movies, and the action-packed trailer, we went for it. Our first disappointment was with the uncomfortable old-style seats – how spoiled we’ve become with the more comfy recliners.

The Last Duel is set in France (although you’d never know it by the dialogue presented) in the 12th century, where armor-clad knights on horseback fought for king and country. The story is about two squires, Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver), who become friends but then drift apart when one is favored by the king’s cousin (Ben Affleck), more than the other.

Things get worse when Le Gris allegedly rapes Carrouges’ wife (Jodie Comer) and she makes the decision to speak out. The movie goes above and beyond in explaining the repercussions of such a choice in chaotic medieval times. As a result of the allegation, Carrouges challenges Le Gris to a duel to death.

The movie is split into three chapters, each told by one of the main characters. This is where the film gets disjointed and a bit boring, forcing viewers to watch the same scenes over, and then over again. Although the trailer leads one to believe this is a Ridley Scott action-packed thriller, it is not the case. The movie opens and finishes with plenty of bloody battling but everything in between is quite slow.

Although Cathryn and I felt the acting was superb and the cinematography was excellent in this flick, we thought it fell short of being a blockbuster. She gave it a 7 and I a 6 out of 10.

No Time to Die

After over a year of pandemic-related delays, the latest installment in the James Bond 007series has finally hit the big screens. This movie is Daniel Craig’s last fling as the British Agent who’s licensed to kill. The movie starts with Bond living out his retirement in Jamaica, but he’s soon drawn back into service by his old friend Felix Leiter, of the CIA.

The explosive action starts within the first ten minutes, with Bond almost blown up, and then getting into the type of wild and crazy chase scene that 007 fans have come to love. And the action never really stops after that, with lots of fights, more chase scenes and explosions, and a new villain.

James has grown older and a bit tired of saving the world, but as usual he stops at nothing to complete his mission. He only beds one woman in this story, the same one he tried to settle down with, but left behind after he felt betrayed by her. She shows up later in the story with a little surprise.

Ernst Blofeld and Spectre are still a formidable force for evil, but Rami Malek’s Lyutsifer Safin has his own plans for taking over the world. The movie runs 2hours and 43 minutes and may have you fidgeting in your seat, but there’s no time to fall asleep.

The cinematography, film locations, and action scenes were second to none, as per usual in a 007 movie. Although I guessed what was coming at the end, the music and actors played heavy on my emotions. All I can say is that the conclusion was a surprise, and a shock to some viewers around us.

Cathryn hated the ending and refused to rate the movie, but I know she enjoyed the majority of it. I thought it was excellent, and a must-see to any James Bond fan. 10 out of 10 from me. Having said that, I can’t say I agree with those who want the next 007 to be a female.

RESPECT – The Aretha Franklin Story

Find out what RESPECT really means to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The movie tells her life story from the time she was a little girl singing in her father’s church, until she becomes an international star. If you’re a music lover or a fan of Aretha you won’t want to miss this movie. My first surprise in the flick was learning the extent of talent in her family, from her mother to her sisters.

Her over-bearing father, a Baptist Minister, plays a huge role in Aretha’s life, and is socially connected to important people like Doctor Martin Luther King. Franklin comes of age in an era when blacks have taken to the streets in a quest for equality. Many of Aretha’s singing engagements were in church or to raise money for the movement.

As with many other celebrities, Miss Franklin is haunted by demons from her childhood and continual conflict with her father. Her choice in men only exacerbates her problems, to the point where it all becomes too much and she breaks down. The church and gospel music re-inspire her and she becomes the music icon we all know.

Jennifer Hudson plays Aretha in the movie and delivers one of the best performances of her career. Respect is not a movie you really need to see on the big screen, but the soundtrack is awesome and will surely have you tapping your foot. Cathryn even got up and danced in the isle to one song. We were the only ones in the theater.

We both enjoyed the movie. I gave it a 9 and she a 10 out of 10.

Stillwater

Wow, two trips to the movie theater in less than a week – I almost feel normal again. My wakeup to the new normal was at the candy counter where I paid $9 for a small bag of popcorn. It seems recovering from the pandemic means adding dollars to the cost of everything except the movie.

Stillwater is the name of an American town where an out of work Roughneck turned construction worker (Matt Damon) lives. It’s also the pendant on a necklace that he gives his daughter before she goes off to university in Marseilles, France, where she is convicted of murder and sent to prison for the death of her girlfriend.

The story drags like a tractor pull, led by a baseball-capped redneck version of Jason Bourne in slow motion. Damon visits his daughter in prison but their communication skills are about as far apart as France and the U.S. on a world map. Cultural differences are brought to light in this flick, pointing out the bullying image of Americans and how France has nearly lost their identity to the mass influx of immigrants.

With the exception of a few scenery shots along the rocky shore of the Mediterranean Sea, this is not a movie you need to rush out and see on the big screen. If fact, it’s our opinion you don’t need to rush out and see this flick for any reason. Cathryn and I both give it a 6 out of 10.

Jungle Cruise

I can’t remember the last movie I rated or the last time Cathryn and I were able to get out and watch one at a real live movie theater. We are happy that Lakeshore Cinemas didn’t fold, like so many other businesses during the global pandemic. The theaters are close to us and not as busy at the larger venues.

A quick note for those who like to buy tickets at the door – there is no ticket booth anymore. You either buy them online and reserve your seat at the same time or take your chances at one of the kiosks inside the building. Staff is now limited to the popcorn counter, and they also act as ticket checkers or ushers.

It was nice that we had a choice of two decent-looking movies, Stillwater with Matt Damon or Jungle Cruise with Emily Blunt and Dwayne Johnson. We chose to latter for something light and hopefully fun. We chose correctly; the movie was great.

I compare the Disney movie to an Indiana Jones instalment, with Blunt and the Rock sharing the Amazon River adventure. As with Indy, the river runners are in search of an ancient item, this one something that can save mankind. There’s a good mix of action, adventure and humor in a movie that relies heavily on CGI.

This is the type of movie you’ll want to see on the big screen and I even found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions. We both enjoyed the movie and Cathryn rated it 10 out of 10. I gave it a 9, mostly because I’m an action junkie and don’t want to be dubbed a Disney Duck.

Streaming – The New Normal

I think it’s safe for me to say that 95% of those who read this are now streaming movies and/or television shows via their mobile device or Smart TV. And that’s only because the remaining 5% are either computer illiterates or simply don’t watch the squawk box. And it’s so convenient and easy for us to do nowadays, right? Just sign up for Netflix or one of the other streaming companies that are popping up like dandelions on a Spring lawn.

Or maybe you opt for Prime if you have an Amazon account; it’s only another 5 bucks a month. And there’s Crave for those of you who subscribe to Bell. That’s only 5 bucks too but if you want to watch anything good you need to drop another fiver (each) to get HBO, Showtime, Starz or the Super Channel. Apple TV is another conglomerate that is free, until you find you have to pay for Netflix or Crave or anything else under their umbrella.

Then there’s Gem, CBS All Access, CTV, Tubi, Global, Ted, A & E, Sundance or Sundance Plus if you want to watch anything decent. And I forgot You Tube, which is still free if you can figure out how to navigate the gazillions of videos that everyone with an iPhone has posted. I’ve recently seen Paramount Plus advertised, apparently one of the new ways the company can release movies without having to sell them to Netflix or Prime.

So, what does all this streaming really cost? My wife and I have taken to listing dollar amounts and effective dates on our calendar to keep track. Many say it’s cheaper than going to the movies. Really? Take your $100 to $150 basic cable or satellite bill, then add another $10 a month for one of the big shots like Netflix. But then add another $5 a month so you can binge on one of your favorite TV shows. Then a couple more fives here and there for whatever others you’ve forgotten to cancel, and remember that you’re paying this each and every month!

I know some who are paying $200 a month to watch television. That’s quite a few trips to the movie theater. I don’t know about you but I’m finding it more frustrating every day when I see a new show or movie that’s about to be released, but I have to subscribe to another provider to watch it. If this is the new normal I don’t like it.

News of the World – the Movie

For movie buffs like Cathryn and I, the year 2020 was painful. And because of of the worldwide pandemic with Covid 19, 2021 isn’t shaping up to be much better. Old movies in our DVD collection and streaming companies like Netflix and Crave have been our only saving grace. Even the producers of television shows had to take a hiatus in the name of safety.

After exhausting the list of decent movies to stream, and for a change from binge-watching our favorite TV shows, we’ve taken to searching for decent movies that have to be rented. Major motion picture studios seem to have caught on to our dilemma, and since they can’t release their new movies in theaters, they are making them available to rent.

Last night we rented the latest movie by Tom Hanks, News of the World. We were shocked that we had to pay $25 to watch the new release, but took into consideration that it would have cost us more to see it in a theater. And since we’re not allowed out of our house, what choice did we have. We were able to rent and download the movie through Apple TV.

News of the World is a western with a completely different story line that’s never been done before. It takes place after the American Civil war, when the country is trying to heal, and the south has suffered the most. Tom Hanks’ character travels from town to town, reading from the latest newspaper articles, apprising folk of what’s happening in their part of the world.

I found the movie a bit slow at times, typical of some westerns, but there was enough action and a great story line that kept me interested. We both loved the movie, with Cathryn giving it a big 10. I can’t say there was anything wrong with the flick but I’m giving it a conservative 8, just because I can.