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Crawl (2019)
Familiar plot - but still good summer scare flick
16 July 2019
There are some good jump scares in this alligator-fest survival movie ... but you're basically watching 2 people for 87 minutes. You'll either love the horror of 2 people stuck in a small crawlspace ... with gators or not.

My guess is that it depends on what you've seen before. If this type of theme is new to you ... you're in for a treat. The plot is constantly moving forward and you're wondering what's going to happen with a massive hurricane, lethal alligators, rescuers, a collapsing house and rescuers. There are big problems with the story, but you'll probably still have a good time.

It won't be as entertaining if you've seen movies like The Shallows, Open Water, Open Water 2, Frozen (2010 snowboarder movie - not the Disney film) and to some extent, Adrift. You'll likely feel you've seen the same movie before.

Given the lack of good horror-suspense movies this summer, this might be what you're looking for - especially if you haven't seen the aforementioned movies.
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Aziz Ansari: Right Now (2019 TV Special)
Not a laugh-fest, but good IF don't mind 1/3 being social commentary
11 July 2019
Aziz has had a tough year. In this Netflix special he tries to make a come-back into the public eye. If you were an Aziz fan, you'd say this show is exactly what he needed. If you're not a fan, you might find it boring and even offensive.

The reason is that he spends about a third of the time with social commentary - so if you're looking for immediate laughs, you going to be irritated. However, if you see this special in the context of his life and current society ... his comments are brilliant at times, in the way that Chris Rock use to be. But at other times he misfires - like when he jokes about other ethnicities. It's may be borderline offensive.

As such, he hasn't quite honed his material in a way that best channels his brilliance ... but for me it's clear that he'll get there.

The only other critique I'd offer is that he needs to stop dragging audience members into his act. It's can be a little uncomfortable for everyone. The material is good enough on its own.

If you start watching this - know that the show gets better as it goes on. It doesn't have the strongest start, but it's pretty engrossing by the end. He can be passionate and compelling with his storytelling and that's what comes through by the end.

Glad to see him back with a good, grounded outlook.
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The Twilight Zone (2019– )
Trying to be politically correct vs. interesting ...
6 July 2019
About half of episodes are interesting. The rest are poorly dressed up moral (and nowadays political) preachiness rather than mystical storytelling.

What's interesting is that I agree with the ethics behind the stories - and yet I'm appalled that they actually wasted entire episodes trying to force these moral concepts back at me.

In many ways the lackluster audience ratings are deserved. The show's producers ruined a great opportunity to talk about the human experience under extraordinary circumstances.

I hope they re-think this series for season 2. If they want to do ethical pieces, at least don't make them so obvious. We're already bombarded with these issues from the news and social media every day.
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Fun Movie - and great in 3D
5 July 2019
The actors of this version of Spider-Man continue to make it different from previous movies. Tom Holland is the youngest actor, by 8 years, to play Spider-Man and give the character a more boy-like presence. Zendaya, who's taller, dorky and more geek-girl than girly-girl provides a new take on Spider-Man's crush.

That said, this movie has a lot of action - maybe even a little too much. There are quite a few long battle sequences. Not sure all of that was needed ... but whatever. A running theme with the plot is the use of misdirection. Technology is used to create deceptive illusions. In other words, what and who you think you're seeing may not be what they appear to be.

If you get to see it in 3D, the effects are exceptional so it is a worthwhile experience. Do stay for the two end-credit scenes. The first is a stunner ... not to be missed and the second is cute and effects-filled - definitely worth the wait.
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Yesterday (III) (2019)
Romantic Comedy with a Spin on Reality
1 July 2019
Lots of witty dialog, colorful characters and a fun twist on Beatles music. While no one can match the vocals of the fab 4, it was fun to hear their popular tunes again.

While the two main characters were good, they were almost out-shadowed by Kate McKinnon (the money-hungry manager), Joel Fry (Jack's goofy assistant) and Ed Sheeran (just for being him).

While everything about this movie was pretty well done - I wouldn't say anything stood out as exceptional. Nonetheless, you can't help but have a good time.
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Toy Story 4 (2019)
Enjoyable Story with Cool New Characters
22 June 2019
Kudos to the new writers for coming up with a charming new story to tell. It's definitely got its moments.

On the plus side, it was interesting to see some interesting new characters like Forky, Gabby Gabby, the Benson puppets (Gabby Gabby's spooky henchmen!) and especially toy motorcyclist Duke Caboom (Keanu Reeves). Even Bo Peep, while present in Toy Story 1 and 2, is nicely re-freshed. This was a good move to prevent audience fatigue with existing cast -- it worked.

However, the stakes in the story are somewhat mild. There's no big catastrophe or catharsis involved. As such, it can't go as emotionally deep as its predecessors. Still it's really good - but just short of great.
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Great first half ... rough second half
4 June 2019
Before the alien invasion - this movie was amazingly great. Witty dialog, beautiful location shots and interesting characters.

But then the story goes into a survival movie. The problem is that all the fun dialog and interesting characters disappear in favor of 13 year olds saving the world. This is when the movie falls apart ... it's just implausible. They should have taken a cue from Stranger Things ... you need adult help to make the story believable.

It's mostly forgettable - but I still enjoyed the beginning.
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Rocketman (2019)
10/10 for beautiful EJ Music ... 6/10 for Story Presentation
3 June 2019
If you love Elton John music and are curious about his story - definitely see this movie. It's in the style of a broadway musical so it's less dramatic and more like a dancing, signing musical stage production.

I enjoyed the movie but feel that doing this as a musical wasn't the greatest choice. But the music is brilliant, the story is wonderful and the fact that he's still alive is a reminder to cherish this musical genius.
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10/10 for Special Effects & Monsters ... 5/10 for Story
1 June 2019
I'm a Godzilla movie fan and I've been looking forward to this movie for years. From looking at the trailers, it's hard to imagine this being anything but the coolest monster movie of 2019. In terms of special effects, soundtrack and monster count ... this film is a winner. But when it comes to telling a story, it's a a bit of a mess.

The main problem is that movie moves too fast for its own good. It's hard to care about the characters because there's little development. Compare it to the 2014 movie where the entire first part connects us to the characters. The humans here do little more than push buttons and fly aircraft.

Ok - enough criticism. I still liked it because of all the gargantuan monsters and the cool monster fights - esp. the ending which is epic. Irregardless of the problems, I'll still line up for the next Godzilla movie.

END CREDIT SCENE! ... Do stay till the end of the credits if you fancy an extra last scene!
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Booksmart (2019)
A high school of losers ...
26 May 2019
There's some occasional smart and witty dialogue here, but the movie quickly becomes an unbelievable pre-grad romp. I can't imagine anyone pandering to these two awkward, cynical girls ... yet it happens throughout this movie.

The story goes from promising to implausible pretty quickly. It makes all the other characters look like needy buffoons and loses any sense of realism. I doubt anyone can relate their high school experience to this mess.

In the theater I was in, there was rare, scattered laughter and most the time people were checking the time... when is this thing going to be over? It's not anywhere near as good as the trailer suggests.
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Aladdin (2019)
Beautiful, Imaginative and Tuneful ... Disney Magic is Alive!
25 May 2019
While not perfect, this is a high-energy movie that is colorful, action-filled and a lot of fun. Will Smith did a great job as the genie and really gave the movie some personality.

It's not without problems. There's predictable (clichéd) dialog and some dance & action sequences that are awkwardly sped up. However, they're not enough to ruin the movie.

The sheer imaginative scope of world that is created is so fantastical that I want to see more stories in this reality. This is definitely a worthwhile movie for adults, kids and families -- don't miss seeing it in on the big screen!
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Chernobyl (2019)
Great production values, great story, poor explanations of nuclear plants
19 May 2019
First, kudos to the writers of this miniseries. They've taken a big event and found a way to tell a story of human corruption and sacrifice with a core group of central characters. The production values are great - you really feel like you're looking back at the Soviet Union in the 80s.

However, the description of how a nuclear plant works is sadly lacking. Most of it is stuffed into a long recitation in the last episode ... along with an explanation of the failure. Good luck in understanding it. However, a few minutes on YouTube can answer those questions far better than show did.

But that aside, this is still worthwhile viewing. Perhaps no where else will you get an immediate sense of the scope and scale of the event than in this show.
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Andover (2017)
Despite a terrible script, the core idea is creative and interesting
18 May 2019
This movie is so bad that it will probably lose 90+% of the people watching it on TV in the first 15mins. It's not the acting or direction -- but rather the crazy, unbelievable writing of the events and the characters. It's like the movie was built with bullet points that were never fully thought through before being filmed.

However despite all of that, if you look at the "big picture" story, it's actually pretty interesting. To properly do it justice, I would guess this would need to be more of a miniseries. Given that amount of time and some rewrites to improve the believability, this could be a compelling and provocative story.

In its current form, can't really recommend it to anyone. But - if you find a good synopsis, read it ... the overall story is pretty cool.
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A Quiet Place (2018)
Tense, Suspenseful and Mostly Satisfying
10 May 2019
Amazingly good for a lower-end production budget. I had no idea it involved creatures / monsters - I would have seen it in the theater had I known!

Only points off were for the way the story ended. It's not about about what happens in the story - but rather the cheap way they chose to convey it. Otherwise - a must see for those who like a little mix of horror, sci-fi and action.
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UglyDolls (2019)
Good theme but boring if you're over 7yrs old
6 May 2019
Well the trailer was so well done that one would think this movie would be great - maybe even classic. This is further reinforced when you see the major recording artists involved - like Kelly Clarkson, Nick Jonas, Janelle Monae and Pitbull.

I guess you can't really blame the team behind Ugly Dolls for putting their best foot forward, but for potential viewers ... beware. The IMDB and RottenTomatoes rating scores are very low - and for good reason. The story, music and characters are a bore-fest.

There's nothing wrong with the theme. It's about the trouble with conformity and perfection. However something went very wrong with this movie's development. The story should have gone through a few more re-writes and critiques.

Maybe this is passable for kids under 7 who don't know any better ... but for anyone else, wait for it to be on TV (then you can at least change the channel).
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Long Shot (2019)
Good Romantic Comedy
5 May 2019
Never thought I'd see Seth Rogen as a lead in a Rom-Com with the likes of Charlize Theron. But this movie is all about extremes.

This was a nice rom-com -- but not really Rogen's best role. His character was kind of hit and miss with humor. I think a problem was that the character was too over-the-top and one-dimensional to really connect with.

Theron, on the other hand, was great and believable. The story overall was good. I like how much the gender roles are reversed from traditional storylines.

If you're a fan of romantic comedies this movie is definitely worth seeing. For everyone else ... it's a lightweight, above average movie.
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Epic story - massive cast
1 May 2019
It's really impressive how this movie pulls events and storylines from Marvel movies from 2012 onwards. That is epic storytelling for sure. Congrats to the writers and Marvel for integrating all the assets in their universe so well.

But was it well done? Generally, I'd say "yes". I think having so many characters involved watered down the movie's intensity and impact. But still, it's an amazing movie for the scope, scale and visuals that were achieved.

If you get a chance to see it in 3D, do it. Some good effort was spent in making the 3D version extra spectacular and immersive. Either way, if you enjoy Marvel movies, this one's not to be missed.
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Missing Link (2019)
A bigger, deeper movie than the previews let on ...
29 April 2019
This movie was a lot better than the trailers let on. I got the feeling that it was something kids under 10 would only appreciate. In reality, there's quite an adventurous story involved. The backdrops of many of the scenes are quite beautiful as well.

Unfortunately, the humor in this story is pretty antiquated. It seems reminiscent of films from the 1940s. The only people consistently laughing in the theater were little kids. If the humor were update or simply removed, it might have been a better experience.

All in all - it's still a better than average movie.
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"Technology doesn't lie" --- oh ... but it can ...
26 April 2019
A reality of life is that the average layman must rely on "techies" with specialized knowledge to translate the world of technology for them. Therein lies the potential for falsification and for the laymen to not know there's any problem.

That said, it's still amazing in this day and age, a female in her early twenties can fabricate the existence of a technology and get away with it for so long.

Amazingly, she was able to build a multi-billion dollar company, partner with Walgreens, get appointed a fellow of Harvard Medical School and for pass the scrutiny of investors and journalists worldwide ... for over a decade. Everything was based on non-existent technology.

As someone in this documentary indicates "she was a zealot and a zealot is such a believer in what they're doing that they're blind to the reality of what's happening."

This movie is a wake-up call to investors and stakeholders for the need of greater transparency in technology companies. Be suspicious of demos done "in-house", of delivery dates that keep getting pushed back and of a founder that seems infallible because of universal acclaim.
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Us (2019)
Great emotional experience, failed intellectual experience
20 April 2019
The first 2/3 of this movie are great, but it kind of falls apart at the end. But the acting, atmosphere and characters are pretty good and make the movie emotionally exciting.

However, the explanations, as they're revealed in the last 1/3 of the movie, are full of holes ... and therefore unbelievable. This is the only thing holding this movie back from being a truly great movie. In fact, it might have been better without the explanation!

However, If you want a tense, emotional thrill ride (and can let your intellect go on hold) ... this movie will fit the bill.
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The OA (2016– )
Something new for a change ...
17 April 2019
Rarely do we get to watch a new story unfold before us. What's great is that you really can't predict what's going to happen next. It's not easy to find parallels to other fantasy or sci-fi stories.

What starts out as a tragic tale of a young girl's past evolves into a story of near death experiences and parallel dimensions. It's a truly imaginative work that is best watched than described.

It's kind of a drama and new-age fantasy. Definitely worth a watch!
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Shazam! (2019)
Fun, lightweight adventure ...
9 April 2019
Enjoyable overall - but the story is a bit uneven. I did like the characters, but some goofiness in the story (such as the childish dialog of the demons and some bizarrely inefficient actions of the villain) keep it from being "great".

That's where Marvel movies tend to shine ... they can be funny without goofy and keep it feeling real in a world of fantasy. But DC is learning! The well paced plot, well-developed characters and fun factor (including the 2 extra end-credit scenes) make this movie a fun watch.
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Dumbo (2019)
Great Burton-esque Visuals but story not captivating
5 April 2019
One of the best aspects about a Tim Burton movie is his visual style. That's not lost here. There are so many scenes that you could take a picture of and frame. They're just visually imaginative and stunning! The music is great too - great to see Danny Elfman continuing his participation in another of Burton movies.

However, when it comes to the story ... something is off. I think it boils down to the kid characters - and that includes Dumbo. The human characters aren't developed enough and the actors themselves aren't captivating. They're just boring. The boy is animated but not charming ... and the girl is downright depressing.

Dumbo himself is hardly developed at all. There's not enough time to get into his personality and connect with his character. We don't really "know" Dumbo by the end of the movie.

Anyway - if you're a fan of Burton's imaginative visual style, see it for that alone. If you're hoping for more than that, you'll be disappointed.
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A-X-L (2018)
Full of holes but still mildly interesting
29 March 2019
I watched this on my laptop and phone. Through the low expectations of that experience, it wasn't half bad.

What was most interesting was to watch the robot dog in motion. The context of the lead character being a motocross competitor also made it kind of different.

However it's amazing how poor the script is when it comes to "military". They're brilliant enough to build such a machine but easily outwitted by a couple of 18 year old low-tech kids.

If you can somehow shut off part of your brain when you watch this, you might just enjoy. Seems I was able to.
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I was happily surprised ... a gem of a movie
17 March 2019
When I heard there was a movie about P.T. Barnum, I was immediately interested. Hugh Jackson's involvement made it further interesting. However, when I heard it was a musical ... ugh ... I lost all interest. I didn't see it in the theater.

But - I did finally watch it and the music was actually quite good. It wasn't exactly a watered down movie built on dancing and signing ... it was lavish, tuneful, quick-paced and engaging. While it wasn't a dramatic "inspired by true events" type move, that's ok. The end product was enjoyable and it was time well spent.

If you're interested in the subject matter, don't be turned off by it being a musical - it's still fun to watch.
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