VIEWING THE VIDEOS: Early Presents At Home, Coal In Theater Stockings

Christmas comes to the movie theaters with “Last Christmas” and horror fans will be happy with “Doctor Death.” A couple of gems, “The Farewell” and “Peanut Parker Falcon” are available for streaming and purchase.

It’s Viewing the Videos.


The Farewell

A warm comedy/drama about a Chinese family who decide to keep secret from the grandmother that she has been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

While it might seem cruel, it serves as the basis for an emotional and humorous look at family relationships in Chinese society, with a sprinkling of spice provided by granddaughter Billi (Awkwafina), who lives in New York.

The family stages a fake wedding to give everyone a chance to say goodbye.

In lesser hands, this could have been a bad, snarky comedy, but it’s skillfully written and directed by Lulu Wang, who based it on her memoir.

Prepare to be entertained and moved at the same time.

Highly recommended.

Peanut Butter Falcon

“Peanut Butter Falcon” is another gem.

A movie with Shia LaBeouf as a low-level criminal and an actor with Down syndrome playing a character with Down syndrome has the potential to dissolve into a festival of self-indulgent over-acting, but fortunately that’s not what happened with “Peanut Butter Falcon.”

It also could have been overly sentimental and patronizing, but “Peanut Butter Falcon” is a buddy movie, the story of an unlikely pair who set off to find their destiny, although they wouldn’t know that.

Tyler (LeBeouf) is on the run along the North Carolina coast after causing trouble with his fellow crabbers. Zak (played by Zack Gottsagen) is a grown man with Down syndrome In his early 30s, he has ended up in an old age home because there’s no place even remotely able to take care of him. Early on, he goes out the window and hooks up with Tyler.

The movie is about pursuing your dreams and finding family and overcoming obstacles.

You’ll meet interesting characters here and leave with some good feelings.

Highly recommended.

Good Boys

“Good Boys” is just rip-roaring funny.

It can be funny hearing foul language come out of the mouths of sixth graders, but “Good Boys” does it with some style.

It’s hard to say an R-rated comedy (For “strong crude sexual content…and language throughout,” according to the movie rating people) is classy, but in its own disgusting way, “Good Boys” has a plenty of appeal.

But there also is a full, rich story about what it’s like to be a sixth grader. You’re on the edge of puberty. There are things about sex and being an adult that you don’t really understand.

And now, there’s a new set of rules with the #MeToo movement.

“Good Boys” is a welcome addition to the “Superbad”/"40-Year Old Virgin”/"Bridesmaid” genre of movies for adults that use profanity and vulgarity without being gratuitous.


The Angry Birds Movie 2

“Angry Birds Movie 2” calms things down a little, with a movie that’s fun for everyone.

Turning video games into movies is difficult.

Making a sequel equal or better to the first movie is difficult.

“The Angry Birds Movie 2” overcomes both obstacles.

The birds and the pigs are fighting again in “Birds 2,” but they are forced to team up to fight a greater foe.

Add in great voice work by Jason Sudekis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones, Bill Hader, Rachel Bloom, Awkwafina, Sterling K Brown, Tiffany Haddish, Peter Dinklage and more and it’s quality work all the way through.


After The Wedding

Unlike the majority of movies these days, we don’t know what’s going to happen in “After the Wedding.” The plot twists are not jaw-dropping or breathtaking, but they are surprising and add to the enjoyment of the movie.

Julianne Moore (Theresa) is a media mogul, preparing for the elaborate wedding of her daughter.

Isabel (Michelle Williams) works at an orphanage in India and is seeking a financial donation from Theresa. To get the money, Theresa requires Isabel to come to New York, where Isabel forces her to stay for the wedding.

Here is where the secrets are revealed (no spoilers here).

This could easily have been a pulpy soap opera but things are in good hands with actors like Moore and Williams.

Perfect movie for viewing at home. Recommended.


Doctor Sleep

Fans of horror films in general and the work of Stephen King will be happy with “Doctor Sleep.”

Set several decades after the events in “The Shining,” the new film combines elements of the original as well as part of King’s novel “Doctor Sleep.”

After escaping events at the end of “The Shining,” young Danny, who is now full grown in 2011, has become an alcoholic to help control his abilities known as Shining. Meanwhile, a group of human-like creatures known as the “True Knot” travel the world. They need ‘“steam” given off by dying people with Shining.

The movie jumps forward to 2019, where Dan communicates with a young girl, Abra Stone, whose Shining ability is stronger than Dan’s. In an especially grisly scene, the True Knot group abducts and kills a young boy, but both Dan and Abra sense the event.

The story continues in traditional Stephen King manner, with complicated things like astral projection that allow members of the Knot to enter other people’s minds

This is a dark story. Besides people possessed with Shining, Danny struggles to overcome his alcoholism and explores his Shining abilities that allow him to work in hospice where he comforts dying people.

In the end, the forces of good and evil confront each other. And as is customary in King’s work, the outcome is unpredictable.

Genuinely frightening if overlong at two hours and 31 minutes.

Three Palm Trees

Last Christmas

How much you enjoy Last Christmas depends in part on your enjoyment of gooey holiday movies about love and relationships set against a holiday background.

“Last Christmas” is above average for this kind of movie, helped in no small part by the fact that it’s directed by Paul Feig.

Feig, known for comedies like “Bridesmaids” and the black comedy mystery film “A Simple Favor,” brings a snarky, slightly wise guy edge to “Last Christmas” that helps lift it over the somewhat monotonous (but highly popular) Hallmark Christmas movies.

The phenomenally talented Emilia Clarke stars as Kate, who works as an elf in a London Christmas store open year round. She doesn’t have a regular place to live so she couch surfs with various friends, showing up for work every day with her suitcase on wheels behind her.

As if the Christmas store weren’t enough, the story is set in London before Christmas, which allows for plenty of beautiful holiday locations in London. That city may not be as wondrous a place as New York City in the run-up to Christmas, but it’s still great to look at.

Kate has suffered a major illness, but seems to get by okay even if she is mostly estranged from her immigrant mother Petra, played with a dubious accent by co-writer Emma Thompson.

Kate is stumbling along in her life when she encounters the strikingly handsome and charming Tom (Henry Goulding from “Crazy Rich Asians”). It might seem odd that she doesn’t have a phone number for Tom and he magically appears at certain times in her difficult life to encourage her to “look up” and not miss life around her.

He takes her to a closed skating rink for a naturally romantic interlude and leads her to volunteer at a homeless shelter.

The story moves on to a surprising conclusion that viewers might seem coming. I didn’t. I never do, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable, because it is.

The late George Michael provides most the music, including his classic “Last Christmas.”

“Last Christmas” offers a pair of charismatic, attractive stars in a traditional romantic comedy, solid sharp-edged supporting roles from Emma Thompson and Michelle Yeoh with a good soundtrack, a beautiful setting and smart directing.

An excellent feel-good diversion for the holiday season.

Three Palm Trees


“Midway” is a throwback to classic war movies like “Tora Tora Tora” (1970), “In Harm’s Way” (1965), and the first “Midway” in 1976.

This is good news and bad news.

The good news is they are solid entertainment, packed with stars, and say good things about bravery, loyalty and America.

It’s bad news because the dialogue is stilted and there’s so much going on that it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening.

This version of “Midway’ is directed by Roland Emmerich, who knows his way around big movies. He directed both “Independence Day” films and “The Day After Tomorrow,” a sprawling special effects-laden story of a climate disaster that caused global cooling.

The new “Midway” is a case of spectacle over story.

The battle of Midway in 1942 is considered a turning point in World War II. The Japanese had the momentum in their favor after attacking Pearl Harbor. Foresight and bravery by our side helped turn the tide after that.

The special effects battles in “Midway,” including bombings, strafing, and sinking ships, are lavish, but seem oddly artificial today in the golden age of special effects.

But the rest of the atmosphere is rich and detailed with perfect-period costumes and characters who smoke and drink brown liquor like scotch and brandy.

Perhaps Emmerich was so focused on the action that he neglected the script.

The dialogue is truly throwback to the old days.

In a secret meeting before the war, a Japanese commander says “Don’t push us into a corner.”

After a hotshot pilot is criticized by his actions, he says “Let’s take it upstairs to the old man.”

A large cast keeps moving in and out, spending time explaining details of military strategy and espionage.

Making appearances are Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Luke Evans, Mandy Moore, Luke Kleintank, Dennis Quaid, Aaron Eckhart and Nick Jonas. That’s a lot of actors.

Except for the slightly substandard special effects, “Midway” is an affectionate return to a style of movie making in the past.

Three Palm Trees.

Playing with Fire

This is a silly, childish movie. Virtually all of the humor is on the level of fart jokes, people getting sprayed with excrement and dialogue like “Moi is French for chef.”

Actor/professional wrestler John Cena stars as Jake Carson, the boss of a squad of smokejumpers who fight wildfires. Known as Supe, he’s clean cut, muscle bound, by the books and is living up to the memory of his father, who died fighting fires.

Cena has shown considerably comedy ability as one of Amy Schumer’s boyfriends in ”Trainwreck” and to a lesser degree in “Blockers.” But this a mess, despite a cast that includes John Leguizamo and Keegan-Michael Key. Also on board is Judy Greer, a talented actress who struggles with the role of Supe’s would-be girlfriend, trying to bring some credibility to the low level of shenanigans.

The firefighters rescue three children and end up having them live in the firehouse in the forest near Redding until their parents can come and pick them up.

Two little kids and one teenager, so let the slapstick begin. Most of the action is shown in the trailer such as firing off flare guns inside and filling a room with foam while trying to clean up a spill.

While this is a very forgettable movie, it does raise the question, what happened here? Cena’s okay as an actor, but Leguizamo and Key and Greer are good actors. It seems like they received no guidance because, except for Greer, their work is undisciplined.

Kids will love this but adults will be glad it’s only one hour and 36 minutes long.

One Palm Tree.



“Trainwreck” is a solid comedy written by and starring Amy Schumer and directed by Judd Apatow. It provided a good role for John Cena (“Playing with Fire”). He shows timing and skill as a boyfriend who is discarded by Schumer.


Home videos are simply rated recommended or not recommended.

New Releases are rated as follows:

Five Palm Trees: Must see

Four Palm Trees: Worth seeing on the big screen

Three Palm Trees: Recommended for home viewing or on the big screen

Two Palm Trees: OK if you’re not paying

One Palm Tree: Skip it. Save your money and your time.