Posts Tagged ‘john goodman’


In 2027, a Chicago neighborhood has been held captive for 9 years by an extraterrestrial force of insect like beings nicknamed roaches by the local populace.  The citizens of this neighborhood are also being held hostage by a local group of politicians who collaborate with the aliens to keep the locals subjugated.  Over time, a group called the Resistance forms, the goal of The Resistance to break the  hold of the collaborators on the neighborhood, and then break the stranglehold of  the aliens on the neighborhood.  Two brothers, and members of the Resistance Rafe (Johnathan Majors) and Gabriel (Ashton Sanders) plan to break up a Unity Rally, held by Mayor Ed Lee, (Mark Grapey) but the brothers are being tailed by Police Commander William Mulligan. (John Goodman)  Mulligan used to be a friend of Rafe and Gabriel’s father, but is he working for the collaborators now?

I wanted to like Captive State, the premise sounded extremely good, but the execution is awful.  The writing is not cohesive, the exposition is muddled, unfocused, the characters are shallow, and underdeveloped, and the story is just plain boring.  The story fails as sci f, it fails as action, it fails as political allegory. The writers may have thought by naming the group of dissenters The Resistance, they would attract a built in audience, and make lots of money, but the movie tanked, probably because it was missing one major sci fi element.  It felt like half a movie, but it was almost two hours long.  If the writers and director can’t tell a cohesive, interesting story in almost 2 hours, please stop trying.

John Goodman is a great actor, but to say he sleepwalked through this film is a large understatement.  He looked pallid, expressionless and wooden.  I rented this movie in large part because I think so highly of him.  Vera Farminga is an actress who never impressed me much, and that streak continues as she plays a member of Hollywood’s profession with absolutely no enthusiasm.

The director and writer share responsibility for this miasma.  The director substitutes shots from  odd camera  angles for special effects, not that big budget special effects are necessary for a sci-fi film, but if the film lacks special effects, it must make up for it in some way, but it doesn’t.  The director jumps from character to character, and that hurts what little narrative there is.  It’s like watching a person with a short attention span direct a movie.  There are no good performances, even from veteran actors, and the pacing is sluggish.


Captive State:  Left me in a state of confusion.

Atomic Blonde

In November 1989, in East Germany, a British agent with MI6, named James Gascione,(Sam Hargrave) is shot by KGB Agent Yuri Bakhtin. (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson)   Gascione, kept a list of allied spies in his watch and the list was stolen by Bakhtin.  Another MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, (Charlese Theron) is brought in to find the list and get out of East Germany alive.  She knew Gascione before he was killed and he told her there was a double agent working for the Soviets.  While trying to track down Bakhtin, she meets another British spy, David Percival (James McEvoy) who has an East German defector named Spyglass (Eddie Marsan) with him. Spyglass says he has committed the names of the spies to memory.  The other secret agent is a French novice, Delphine Lasalle (Sophia Boutella) who Lorraine feels protective about. But in a place, where she can trust no one, and where someone is a double agent, can Lorraine afford to develop feelings for anyone?

Atomic Blonde is a standard issue spy movie, with all the elements of all the other spy movies, from Bond to Bourne.  There’s action, sex and even a double agent.  But there is too much violence, not just shooting, but fist fights so intense that the participants end up bloody beyond recognition.  If the difference is that Lorraine is a female spy, there is a vastly better female spy movie called Salt.  The difference is, with Bond and Bourne and Salt, the audience cares about what happens to their characters, Lorraine Broughton is written in such a hard-edged way that it was hard to care for her.  The identity double agent was obvious, and the ending was predictable.

The acting is mixed.  Charlize Theron continues to try to prove she can act and fails again.  She tries speaking with a British accent and it sounds like an odd mix of British and American, which is odd, because she’s South African. Theron apparently thinks that if there’s enough fight scenes in a movie, that’s a substitute for actual acting. This was a movie made for Angelina Jolie, but it seems like she’s been blacklisted.  James McEvoy, who is usually likable in his films, plays such a unlikable character in this movie, that means his acting was good, but it didn’t really matter, because it’s Charlize Theron’s movie.   Sophia Boutella is just eye candy for the men in the audience, and didn’t have much of a character to play. John Goodman is good, he plays a no-nonsense CIA agent.

Atomic Blonde seems to be a movie interested in style over substance.  The whole movie wants to convince the audience that it takes place in the 80’s.  The movie looks like a bad 80’s music video and there’s a soundtrack filled with 80’s songs.  In fact, sometimes the songs overpower the movie.  Sometimes, the visuals overpower the plot.  The sequencing of the movie is shot in such a way that it gives away the fate of the hero in a matter of minutes.  Why make a spy film and give away the main spy’s fate?  The pacing is slow, and the performances are mixed.

Atomic Blonde:  A bomb of nuclear proportions.



kongs kull island

In 1973,Bill Randa (John Goodman) works for a government agency called Monarch, Randa and his assistant Houston Brooks (Corey Hawkins) convince a Senator not to defund Monarch by showing him a picture of Skull Island, a heretofore undiscovered island.  Brooks says the U.S. must explore the island before the Soviets do, and that convinces the Senator to fund the trip, complete with a military escort. Preston Packard (Samuel L. Jackson) leads the military escort, and brings along a tracker from the Royal Air Force, James Conrad, (Tom Hiddleston) who is paid handsomely for his duties.  The military escort also carries with it a photographer, Mason Weaver (Brie Larson) who wants to find out what the secrecy behind Monarch is all about.

The group flies through a storm and find Skull Island, they also find what Randa and Brooks are looking for, Kong, a giant ape who rules the island, and doesn’t care much for helicopters.  Kong slaps down the helicopters like flies, but miraculously, not only do Conrad, Brooks, Randa, Packard, and Weaver survive, they meet a group of natives, and Hank Marlow (John C. Reilly) another American soldier, who has been stranded on the island since WWII. There are two schools of thought among the Monarch survivors, one led by Packard, wants to hunt and kill Kong for killing his men, the other, led by Marlow, wants to save Kong, because there are worse monsters on Skull Island.  Which side wins the argument?

The viewer has to suspend a lot of belief to find this movie the least bit believable.  First of all, suspend belief that the big hairy ape grounds all the helicopters and all the passengers don’t die instantaneously from impact or the conflagration that follows impact.  All sci-fi asks viewers to suspend reality to some degree, but this movie does so more than most.  The characters have no depth, even the main characters are one dimensional.  The story really adds nothing to the Kong mythology, Kong is still the protector of people, but yet he kills some people.  Kong also still has a soft spot for the ladies, a tired holdover from the Fay Wray era. And the shift in location and time period from Japan to an island off Vietnam, only sets off a faux debate on the merits of the Vietnam war.  This is hardly a topic to be discussed with sound bites in a science fiction movie about a giant ape.

For all the fine, A-list actors in this movie, the acting is only so-so.  Samuel  L. Jackson is clearly having fun playing an alpha-male bad guy, and it shows. Tom Hiddleston plays a mercenary with a heart of gold.  Has anyone ever heard of a nice guy mercenary?  Me neither, therein lies the problem.  Brie Larson won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for her performance in Room, but why would Larson  go from playing such a weighty role to a do-nothing character like Mason Weaver is mystifying. Larson essentially takes still pictures for the whole movie, like a glorified tourist.  John Goodman is convincing as a tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorist, whose conspiracy turns out to be true. John C. Reilly provides a lot of the comedy relief as an American pilot who takes a decidedly Zen approach to Kong.  If Jackson, Goodman, and Reilly were in this movie alone, Kong Skull Island would have been a lot more fun.  Hiddleston and Larson play their roles a lot more seriously than they should, and that wrecks the campy nature of the film.

In a movie with a weak script, and somewhat lackluster acting, the direction is something that stands out for being quite good. The cinematography is spectacular, and the high altitude shots of Vietnam are spectacular, I’ve seen pictures of those mountains and it was very well represented in the movie.  The CGI, which usually interferes with my enjoyment of a movie, was really well done.  Kong looked very real and moved in a realistic way, some CGI just looks like a bad video game, but this CGI seemed natural for some very unnatural creatures, and the creatures were well integrated with their backgrounds, everything seemed well-matched.  The pacing was good, for a long movie, and  director Jordan Vogt Roberts got mostly good performances from everyone involved, although this cast didn’t need much help. Vogt Roberts is mostly a TV director, so this was an extremely ambitious big screen project to take on.

Kong Skull Island:  Kong doesn’t monkey around, but the film has limited a-peel.


Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) is a woman on the run from an abusive relationship, when she gets into a car accident.  She wakes up in a bomb shelter, handcuffed to the radiator.  The man who handcuffed her is named Howard. (John Goodman)  Howard tells Michelle that there has been some kind of chemical or biological strike against the U.S. and he’s rescued her and brought her to his basement to save her.  Howard gives her the keys to the handcuffs, and while exploring the shelter, she also meets Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.) who actually fought to get in the shelter after seeing red beams from the sky and seeing explosions. Emmett helped Howard build the shelter and is completely comfortable living in the shelter with Howard.  Michelle, however, is not comfortable with the regimented, quick tempered Howard, and she is less comfortable with him the more she learns about him.  She wants to escape, does Emmett help her?

10 Cloverfield Lane is a suspenseful character study for about one hour and 20 minutes.  Little details emerge about each character as the suspense build.  I also like how Winstead’s character evolves from a woman running from dange r to a woman ready to face whatever is in front of her.  There is just the right amount of comedy to break up the tension.  As long as it stays with the three main characters, it is a focused, tension-filled, thrill-ride of a movie.  The last 25 minutes gets sloppy with the details, and a big reveal, but overall, this is a pretty good suspense thriller. I had low expectations given JJ Abrams’ similarly titled Cloverfield, but this story goes in a totally different and more satisfying direction.

John Goodman is one of the best character actors making movies today, and he just enriches that opinion with this role.  He plays the obsessive compulsive, survivalist, with a “black belt in conspiracy theories” with absolute ease.  He modulates his voice in the beginning of the movie making it higher and thinner than usual, and then the voice drops, and it is masterful. Mary Elizabeth Winstead gives her character lots of complexity, and makes the character’s transition believable. She also switches from the comedic scenes to the dramatic scenes with ease, and that’s not easy. John Gallagher Jr. is mostly in the film for comedy relief, but is effective in that capacity.

The director is not well-known, but he achieves the necessary claustrophobic feeling to heighten the suspense, and keeps the pacing going strong.  He gets great performances from the cast, and shoots the film from some interesting angles.

10 Cloverfield Lane:  A great performance from a Good-man.


In the mid-1940’s Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) was the most highly paid screenwriter in America, and a card carrying member of the Communist Party.  In 1947 Trumbo and 9 of his friends were summoned to testify to the House Un-American Committee, but refused to testify to Congressman J. Parnell Thomas. (James Dumont) Trumbo and his friends were charged with contempt of congress, and jailed.  When he came out of jail, Trumbo and his associates were blacklisted by Hollywood heavyweights John Wayne (David James Elliot) who was aided by gossip columnist Hedda Hopper. (Helen Mirren) Despite the blacklist, Trumbo was determined to work, re-writing low budget movies for B-movie maven Frank King. (John Goodman) Sometimes, Trumbo wrote uncredited scripts sometimes he wrote with a front name.  Trumbo stopped writing B-movie scripts long enough to write The Brave One under a pseudonym, Robert Rich, for which he won his second Oscar.  Would Trumbo ever be allowed to come out of the shadows, and use his own name to write a Hollywood screenplay?

I first learned of Dalton Trumbo in a film class I took in college, and I thought it was an interesting subject.  Somehow Hollywood took this interesting intersection of film and politics, and turned it into a dull melodrama with too much focus on Trumbo’s home life.  Also, the writer couldn’t decide whether this was a comedy or a drama, the comedic scenes work, the dramatic scenes come off as preachy or treacly.  The ending is predictable.

This is a case where the acting exceeds the material written on the page.  Bryan Cranston does a superb job as Dalton Trumbo, and handles the comedic and dramatic scenes with equal aplomb. He received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor, and deserved one. Helen Mirren is also incredible as Hedda Hopper, Trumbo’s chief nemesis.  Mirren clearly enjoys playing someone who makes the Hollywood studio execs and Trumbo himself squirm.  John Goodman is fantastic as smarmy B-movie king, Frank King.  Goodman uses his gifts of physical intimidation, deadpan delivery, and perfect comedic timing to deliver a great performance.  Louis CK also turns in a surprisingly good performance as fellow blacklisted writer Arlen Hird.  Michael Stuhlberg also deserves mention here for a great performance as Edward G Robinson, he doesn’t do an impression, but tries to delve deeper to explain why Robinson did what he did. On the other end of the spectrum was Elle Fanning as the older version of Trumbo’s elder daughter, she was robotic and unemotional.

The direction, by Jay Roach is inconsistent, he clearly knows how handle the lighter scenes, but the pacing of the drama is slow and boring He did get many good performances, but that’s not hard with a cast like this. Roach is mostly known for light comedies like the Austin Powers movies, and Meet The Fockers, which could explain the trouble with the more serious scenes.  Roach ties to imitate Robert Zemekis’ groundbreaking work in Forrest Gump, by having actors in the foreground asking questions while the actual HUAC hearings are going on in the background.  Somehow it’s less effective, because it’s been done before.

Trumbo:  A lot of mumbo-jumbo.

monsters university

When he was a young monster, in elementary school, Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) took a field trip to Monster’s Inc., the company that powers a city by scaring children.  Mike wants to be a scarer, but he isn’t very scary.  By the time he gets to college, Monster’s University, Mike knows all the theoretical ways to scare children, but he still isn’t scary.  James P. Sullivan is the opposite of Mike, big, hairy with legendary lineage, he should have a cakewalk at Monster’s U.  But both Mike and Sully run into an intimidating Dean, Dean Hardscrabble, (Helen Mirren) who kicks both of them out of the Scare program, Mike for not being scary, and Sullivan for using only one technique, roaring.

On the verge of heading for an exciting career as a scream can designer, Mike discovers a flier for the Scare Games, where fraternities compete to see who the scariest monsters are.  He joins a fraternity of outcasts called Oozma Kappa, which finally has enough members after Sullivan joins.  Mike and Sully are still rivals because of their different approaches to scaring, but can they put aside their rivalry to win the Scare Games?

This is a funny movie, but it’s far too derivative of movies like Animal House and especially Revenge of the Nerds to be considered original.  The writers even steal a scene from Carrie.  That’s what happens when a sequel gets made 12 years after the original. Monster’s University is about a half hour too long, and suffers from a sudden shift in tone, when the movie turns serious.  The story tries to be heart rending, but it’s not even close to the authentic tearjerker that Toy Story 3 or Despicable Me are. The animation is wonderful, bright and colorful, but there are some dark scenes, both in tone and content, and some scenes might be too scary for younger children.

The movie is funny, but unfortunately, not because of Billy Crystal and John Goodman, who sadly are playing the same characters they played in the first movie, only younger.  This is a movie that is saved by its secondary cast.  Sean Hayes, Dave Foley, and Charlie Day were very funny, as were lesser known actors Peter Sohn and Joel Murray.  I don’t think there will be another sequel, but Pixar made Cars 2, when I didn’t think there should have been a Cars 1.

Monster’s University: Funny, to a degree.

Movie Review: Flight (2013)

Posted: December 8, 2013 in Drama
Tags: , ,


Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is an airline pilot with a complicated life.  He is divorced from his wife estranged from his son, and is in a sexual relationship with one of the stewardesses who he works with, Katerina Marquez. (Nadine Velasquez)  In addition, he drinks to excess and snorts cocaine, which he does on the morning of a particular flight.  He pulls the flight out of some tough weather, and then drinks while the plane is on autopilot.  The plane then starts to dive for some unknown reason and Whip Whitaker miraculously lands the plane, saving 96 of 102 people on board.  But the NTSB is doing an investigation and, and despite airline lawyer Hugh Lang’s (Don Cheadle) success in killing the toxicology report from the NTSB hearing, they still find out that there were two empty vodka bottles on the plane. Will the NTSB find out the truth about Whip’s drinking, or will a heroic act by a flawed pilot obscure the truth of his alcoholism and drug use?

I did not like Flight.  This is an example of a very good premise that goes awry, a hero pilot with very big personal flaws, must face his addictions or possibly face jail time.  This is an excellent starting point, but the movie gets so weighed down with its overwrought melodrama that it forgets to answer one of the basic questions posed in the film.  Why does Whip Whitaker drink?  In over two hours of what becomes a tedious morality play, the central question is never even addressed.  Many of the movies subplots are simply unnecessary, and add nothing to the central idea in the film.  Once again Hollywood has a strange take on religion, and the way down the plane clips a Pentecostal church, and the crash was somehow God’s will.  Instead the movie should be saying that all of us despite our many flaws are capable of heroic things, and that is through God’s grace.  The movie of course makes the co-pilot a fundamentalist Christian, whose wife’s every utterance ends with the phrase, ‘Praise Jesus.’  It’s sad that Hollywood wants to pigeonhole an entire religion as judgmental Bible thumpers , but they do. If that’s not bad enough, the ‘evidence’ that the movie hinges on is silly.  The plane is destroyed, people died, but two vodka bottles are unscathed.  Really?  Finally, this movie has an interesting take on alcohol detox, take drugs.  Not a good idea.

The acting is not great.  Denzel Washington, who I like, and think is an excellent actor, has gotten into something of a rut lately, playing a grizzled anti-hero a tough talking guy with all the answers. This take no-prisoners attitude was first and display in the movie Training Day, and it was eye-opening. Denzel could really play a bad guy with the face of a movie idol, but he played a similar role in American Gangster, Unstoppable and now Flight.  It’s time to put this character away for a while.  Don Cheadle plays a lawyer in the dullest, most uninteresting way, I’m really tired of seeing Cheadle give another lifeless, bland performance.  John Goodman was at the very least funny, but totally unnecessary . Goodman essentially serves  as Washington’s drug supplier.

Flight is very slowly paced and inexplicably long.  The director Robert Zemeckis, who made the very successful Back To the Future films and writer John Gaitains are responsible for the pacing and length of this film, a lot of editing was required to get to the essence of the film, but that was not done. The movie has nudity and numerous scenes of drug taking.  This is absolutely not a movie to watch with kids.

Flight.  Never takes off.


“The Dude”(Bridges) is a California slacker/stoner, who is unemployed, has no prospects for work and doesn’t seem to care. He likes to bowl with his friends Walter (Goodman) and Donny (Steve Buscemi) Suddenly, The Dude’s life takes a bizarre turn when two thugs break into his house, and one starts urinating on his rug.  The Dude’s name is Jeff Lebowski, and he is a victim of mistaken identity, the crooks wanted The Big Lebowski,(David Huddleston) also named Jeff Lebowski a millionaire philanthropist whose trophy wife Bunny is busy spending money all over town.  The Dude doesn’t care about the Big Lebowski or his philanthropy or his trophy wife, he just wants his rug replaced.  Well, the Big Lebowski tells The Dude to go peddle his papers, he’s not interested in compensating The Dude in any way.

No sooner does The Dude leave The Big Lebowski’s house then he gets a call from the Big Lebowski’s sycophantic assistant, Brandt, (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) saying that Bunny has been kidnapped and the kidnappers want 1 million dollars in ransom. The Big Lebowski wants The Dude to make the drop to the kidnappers.   The Dude brings Walter to make the drop, Problem:  Walter is a high strung Vietnam vet with a plan of his own, which The Dude knows nothing about.  Walter switches the million dollars with a suitcase full of underwear, so the kidnappers now have dirty underwear.  Soon thereafter, someone steals the Dude’s car.  After the car is stolen, Maude Lebowski (Moore) the Big Labowski’s daughter calls the Dude, and says Bunny is faking the kidnapping and is a porn star, and that this is a plot with Bunny’s boyfriend and fellow porn star Jackie Treehorn. (Ben Gazarra) Who stole The Dude’s car? Is Bunny really kidnapped?  Who ends up with the million dollar ransom?

This is a very funny movie, the jokes come from the finely drawn characters, and rapid-fire dialogue.  “The Dude” could have been a stereotype. The California slacker stoner has been played by Keanu Reeves and Owen Wilson has made a career out of playing.stoner/slacker dudes, but Bridges plays him so naturally with such ease, that he doesn’t seem so hackneyed. The Goodman character also could have been a stereotype, the psycho Vietnam vet character has been done before as well, but Goodman is clearly having fun, so the audience has fun too.  Speaking of fun, Julianne Moore has plenty of fun with her character, affecting an aristocratic accent, and playing a avant-garde artist type.  This is a difficult comedic role, but Moore plays it with flair.

The Big Lebowski.  Big laughs.

Barton Fink

It is 1941, and Barton Fink has just written a successful play.  Hollywood is now beckoning.  Barton is conflicted, he believes that he writes to echo the feelings and attitudes of the common man, and he feels as if he hasn’t tapped into the source of his best work yet.  Despite his inner turmoil, Baton decides to move to Los Angeles, into a fleabag hotel, and begin writing a wrestling movie for studio boss Jack Lipnick. (Michael Lerner) Lipnick asks Ben Geisler (Tony Shaloub) to oversee the writing process.  Baton, try as he might, can’t get past the first paragraph of his movie script, he has writer’s block.

Barton runs into influential writer WP Mayhew (John Mahoney) at the studio and asks Bill, as Mayhew is known, if he could stop by Bill’s hotel room to ask the prolific writer any questions to help resolve his writer’s block.  When he stops by, Barton sees that Mayhew’s best days are clearly behind him, he drinks heavily and beats his secretary, Audrey Taylor (Judy Davis).  Barton is clearly attracted to Audrey, but she tells him that she is involved with Bill. Unable to meet with Mayhew, Barton is stuck having long conversations with insurance salesman Charlie Meadows (John Goodman), who Barton perceives as being a common man.  His conversations sparsely help his writers block, and under pressure from Geisler, Barton reaches out to Audrey for help.  They make love, and the next morning Audrey is dead in a pool of her own blood, lying next to Barton.  Who killed her?  Why was she killed?

This is a very enjoyable movie for the first hour and a half.  It feels very much like a noir film from the 1940’s and reminded me a lot of LA Confidential.  The character of Barton is a hard one to like, because he thinks he’s writing in the voice of the common man, but he has a very grandiose, self important image of himself, as creator of art.  So he writes for the common man but sees himself as above the common man, as illustrated by a fight Barton has with a member of the Navy as a USO show.  The story moves along nicely until the big reveal, which in my opinion, ruins the entire film, and the theme of common man versus artist, unless the Cohen Brothers were trying to build some kind of metaphor about the hellishness of the creative process, I missed the point of the ending completely.  What makes this movie better than most is the liberal use of comedy to lighten the mood of what could have been a tediously dark film.  Turturro is fantastic as the geeky nebbish , Fink who is literally struggles with writing for the common man, although that’s what he purports to want to do.  The viewer can see the struggle on his face. Goodman gives a stellar performance as the common man, who’s not so common after all.  His performance is both comedic and tragic and comedic.  This is his best performance since the Big Lebowski, also a Coen Brothers movie.  This movie is good, not as good as Fargo, or The Big Lebowski or O Brother Where Art Thou.

Barton Fink:  A badly written ending, sinks Fink.