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.

Totally Under Control

Totally Under Control is a new documentary and not fake news that follows the Trump administration’s response to the Covid – 19 pandemic in the United States. I don’t usually get too involved in politics, especially those south of the Canadian border, but in considering current world events I’m posting my review of this film.

Having recently finished the book, ‘The Fifth Risk“, about the undoing of democracy in the U.S., I wasn’t too surprised by the Trump administration’s political mishandling of a pandemic, that had they had been warned about and planned for in advance.

We are all aware of Trump’s bold-faced lies and how he bullies his way through every conversation, on or off-camera. Like the book (written separately from the documentary and by a different author), Totally Under Control points out Trump’s basic flaw – that he doesn’t believe in science.

Case in point is global warming, but I won’t go there. When he took over for the Obama administration, he pretended he was back on his television show, and fired all kinds of scientists and experts who were in charge unimportant things like their nuclear arsenal and disease control. Then, for reasons only known to him, he replaced them with family members and rich buddies.

This documentary was secretly made while the pandemic was spreading around the world, and it includes interviews with disease experts and even some of Trump’s own staff. I think it was very well presented, and probably strategically released just before the election. Judge it for yourself.

I watched it on Prime and there are clips on YouTube.

Honest Thief

Do you remember the days, long ago, when you could go to a special place to see movies on a big screen? I’m not talking about your living room to watch Netflix on your sixty inch TV. I mean a real movie theatre with a screen as wide as your house, sound that vibrates your love handles, and freshly buttered popcorn that costs as much as your monthly cable bill.

Well, guess what? If you look up your local theatre you might just find they’ve dusted off their projectors and are actually playing some newly released films. Cathryn and I went to Lakeshore Cinemas last night to see Honest Thief, with Liam Neeson.

The movie is about what the title suggests…a bank robber who’s never hurt anyone, and decides to go straight when he meets a woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. It’s an action movie but not like many of Neeson’s other flicks where the body count is higher than Covid.

Turning himself into the FBI doesn’t go exactly as planned and the retired bank robber has to fall back on his military skills to keep a couple of bad agents from cashing in on his windfall. It’s a thriller kind of love story that both Cathryn and I enjoyed. We both rate it 10 out of 10.

Our only complaint was with Lakeshore Cinemas who obviously didn’t clean or sanitize our seats before the show, popcorn and refuse left behind were big clues. Cathryn also complained the back of her recliner smelled of dirty hair. She complained to one of only two staff working, who did nothing. We will say more later in a written complaint to the company.

Rants, Raves & Reviews – The Irishman

imagesAt three and a half hours, I”m glad we watched this movie on Netflix at home and not at the movie theatre – I would have needed at least two bathroom breaks. Honestly, there’s no reason to see this flick on the big screen. There’s no special cinematography to gawk at, but if you’re into seeing blood spatter left by the guy who paints houses, then go for it.

Being a fan of gangster films, and hearing of the star-studded cast and special aging effects, I was a bit hyped and looked forward to seeing this movie. For me, it was a let-down. Granted, the cast and acting was top-notch but the plot steered us toward certain events in history and then left us hanging. Millennials and those unaware of politics and history will be totally lost.

Continue reading “Rants, Raves & Reviews – The Irishman”

Rants, Raves & Reviews – Midway

imagesBeing a lover of war movies, I had to see the new ‘Midway’ movie on the big screen. And since the genre’s not Cathryn’s favorite I brought a buddy. The previews looked amazing, especially with today’s CGI technology and special effects. I knew the battle scenes would be explosive, literally. I was also anxious to see how the new movie stacked up to the 1976 version.

Unlike many American-made war films this story is told and viewed from both sides, the United States and Japan. It’s about the battle of Midway, which turned the tide of war in the South Pacific during WWII. As in the earlier version, the movie starts with the attack on Pearl Harbour – the decisive blow that forced the U.S. into the war.

The story was a bit choppy. It covered a lot of material and tried to focus on the personal lives of certain soldiers, along with naval strategies behind the scenes. There was plenty of action and battle scenes to carry the movie past the two hour mark. It didn’t drag on but definitely outlasted my popcorn.

The acting was good but there were only a few recognizable faces in the cast – unlike the ’76 version with its star-studded ensemble. That version also used actual battle footage which brought a sense of realism to the movie. In this new installment viewers get a look at director John Ford on the island of Midway, while he films the 1942 publicity documentary of the same name.

Overall the movie was good, but it felt lacking and got a 7 out of 10 from both my bro-friend and I.

Rants, Raves & Reviews: Judy

imagesWhere were the new movie releases this past summer? And I don’t mean the remakes of superhero flicks. I’m talking about good drama or even action movies – blockbusters that used to debut in July or August, or even September. Are they saving all the good movies for November, just in time for Oscar nominations perhaps? It would seem so with the list of releases set for this winter season.

Cathryn and I couldn’t remember the last time we went to a movie so we were happy to get out and see Judy, with Renee Zellweger portraying the famous singer Judy Garland. The previews looked enticing and the reviews raved about Renee and the story.

I didn’t know much about Garland prior to the movie, other than her performance in the Wizard of Oz. The film is about her life during and after Oz, and it taught me a lot. Considering what the movie executives did to the young actress, it was no surprise that she died at the age of 47.

The story was bleak at times, but many hollywood biographies usually are. As she was in real life, the movie Garland was likeable and easy to root for. Zellweger nailed the part and will surely win some awards for her performance. I felt as though I was on an emotional roller coaster following this woman’s life. The ending was heart-warming and a tear-jerker.

Cathryn and I both enjoyed the movie. She gave it a 10. I gave it an 8.