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Welcome to my website!
Have you ever wondered why some critics review films? They don't even seem to like movies that much from what they write. I LOVE movies, and think about them long after the last credits roll across the screen. My reviews are meant to inform, entertain and never have a spoiler.
Enjoy my reviews and please comment and come back frequently! Thanks for visiting!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Stardust

I had not heard of the film Stardust until my neighbor brought the DVD over one night for my husband and I to watch together. Ian McClellan narrated this 2007 adventure/fantasy from England where the characters travel to different worlds in search of love and family.

My neighbor described it as being reminiscent of The Princess Bride. It has been years and years since I saw that film, but I recalled it as having some good humor to it. This film was also funny in the situations that arose and the dialogue between the characters.

Young Tristan Thorn (Charlie Cox) decides to travel beyond “the Wall” that is a barrier between the town in which he lives and another world, where no one is ever to visit. He wishes to find a star to present to the object of his affections, a vapid young lady named Victoria (Sienna Miller). Beyond his small town, on the other side of the wall, is Stormhold, a world of magic and intrigue. He soon meets pretty Yvaine (Clair Danes), and they set off together on a journey that will test them.

This journey brings them into the paths of witches, who are a trio of aged sisters led by Lamia (Michelle Pfeiffer), as well as seven princes all vying for the throne as their father (Peter O’Toole) languishes on his deathbed. The crown must be passed to a male heir and besides that, their only sister has disappeared years ago. Two actors I recognized, Rupert Everett, and Ricky Gervais, lend great comic humor to their characters. Surprising developments have all these players on their three separate journeys or quests, colliding into one shared journey in the least likely of star-crossed stories.

Tristan and Yvaine at one point find themselves the reluctant passengers of a vessel plying the skies guided by Captain Shakespeare (Robert De Niro). This captain’s role is one of the funniest and most entertaining of all, and a great character for De Niro to inhabit.

Tristan must grow up quickly and turn himself from victim to champion in his quest for the star. As could be predicted, he and Yvaine are getting along famously, and this beautiful star that has a glowing countenance, especially around Tristan, finds herself in the earthly world that she has only ever been able to look at from afar.

I thought the special effects were good for the type of scenes that were staged, and quite fun. The magical kingdoms are quite wondrous with all the fantasy one could dream up.

The screenplay is based on a novel by Neil Gaiman. The film is rated PG-13 for some fantasy violence and risqué humor. It was filmed in Scotland and Iceland, and the scenery is breathtaking, very desolate and wild.

I liked Stardust. It was a sweet fantastical film, one that can take you far away from your current circumstances and place you in a world of danger, intrigue, magic and most importantly, of love. I recommend it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Academy Award Winners for Best Original Screenplay


Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is fast approaching! Last April, I participated with daily entries on my Family Reunion Keepsake Book blog (link on the right). This year I will be blogging from A to Z on my movie review blog, A Movie for Every Mood. Twenty-six unique and informative movie reviews for your entertainment and educational pleasure.

The theme for my A-Z reviews focuses on films that won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The process I used in selecting the 26 films was to look at a list of all the winning and nominated films in this category, scanning back in time from present to past in order to find one winning film for each letter. Some letters were not available as a best original screenplay win, but I was able to use some films that at least were nominated in that category (finding XYZ was challenging, but I found them!).

Whether you are a screenwriter yourself, or an avid movie lover, there is something for everyone in my reviews. No spoilers, lots of film history, and musings about what makes a film memorable.

I invite you to join me in April as we look at some truly great films. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Brothers Grimm

Matt Damon and Heath Ledger; how could it go wrong? The Brothers Grimm is a fantasy stemming from the tales of the famous children’s fairy tale authors, the Grimm brothers. It was directed by Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame. It’s a comedy/fantasy about the two con men/brothers who ostensibly help villagers rid themselves of supernatural disturbances.

It is 1796 and Wilhelm “Will” (Matt Damon) and Jacob “Jake” Grimm (Heath Ledger) find themselves in the village of Marbaden encountering a very real supernatural spell, with children having disappeared, including Little Red Riding Hood and Gretel among others. With the help of an independent, spirited young female guide Angelika (Lena Headey), they traverse the forest that has enchantment throughout.

I started to fall asleep. This is very rare, my falling asleep during a movie, so that is not a good sign. Matt Damon sounded like he was copying Heath Ledger’s Australian accent, and Heath played the wimpy younger brother well. They were in period dress, and it seemed odd to watch Matt Damon with that hair and costuming.
What did stand out were the special effects. The forest that was very much alive was teeming with all types of creepy, crawly bugs, lots of them. I don’t like bugs and didn’t like that much. There are other scenes where people turn to glass and shatter, which was pretty spectacular.

I seem to recall that in my childhood I had a worn copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Whether they were whitewashed like the Disney movies or remained true to the original “grim” stories, I can’t recall. But the fairy tales they wrote were kind of horrific. Think about Little Red Riding Hood for instance. She is stalked by a wolf in her grandmother’s clothing, and barely escapes with her life. Hansel and Gretel are about to be eaten by a cannibalistic witch (if you can equate a witch in their tale with being human), all scary and dismal stories. No doubt intended to keep kids on the straight and narrow to behave, not wander away lest they suffer a fate worse than death.

Maybe I was just tired; I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt. As I mentioned earlier, I am a great fan of both Damon’s and Ledger’s work, but I found myself thinking some other actors would have been better in these roles, less famous perhaps as their acting legends precede them and they were always so recognizable as themselves.

The film is rated PG-13 for violence, frightening sequences, and brief suggestive material. The Mirror Queen (Monica Bellucci) is responsible for some of this as it is her goal to drink the blood of 12 young girls to restore her beauty.

If you like fantasy, you might enjoy The Brothers Grimm. It was a clever story after all, supposing that the brothers’ inspiration for their fairy tales was actually real supernatural events. If you’ve seen the film, please leave a comment on what you thought of it. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

I Am Not Your Guru

“Life happens for you, not to you.”                        ~ Tony Robbins

I read a small book by Anthony “Tony” Robbins once that a friend of mine gave me. I found it inspiring, and his suggestions good. Hard to follow, but sound.

The Netflix feature length documentary, Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, follows Tony through a weeklong event called Date With Destiny, which was held in Boca Raton, Florida. Joe Berlinger, a documentary filmmaker, directs it. Tony gives conferences worldwide and this was just one of the many offerings he schedules for his followers.

The film is not rated, but I’d give it an R rating as it features very liberal use of the f-word by Tony during the event. He explained that all cultures have certain taboo words, and when he uses these taboo words, it keeps people in the present and engaged. Perhaps.

Over 2,500 people attend an event such as this, paying over $4,000 each to attend. That should give you an idea about the financial status of people he attracts. Tony has a fleet of helpers, some of whom are assigned to groups of people as a kind of moderator or group leader for the individual, and for the group exercises they engage in when not in the main convention area listening to Tony.

I had heard some of Tony’s background previously; his growing up in poverty in an abusive home, a bout with homelessness that inspired him to “sculpt” his life and his persona so his family will never have to endure such deprivations or angst.

I found the documentary fascinating. Some really troubled people, abused themselves, attend these conventions and we see their sharing and Tony’s response live. I found him to be authentic, compassionate, intuitive and sometimes unpredictable. Participants bring other members of the audience to tears, as they sometimes did me. Tony says change can happen in a moment. And for some in the audience, it did.

Unconventional in his approach, he apparently has a wide following. I liked some of what he was saying. He says he’s not just a positive thinker kind of guy, and seems to really emphasize action.

I thought there was a good balance of private talks with Tony (for the viewer to get some of his personal history), live coverage of the event and of what the participants were doing, along with updates on the few individuals who had interventions with Tony that were a focus in the film.

I have a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology and have spent many years as a therapist in all types of situations. After watching this documentary, I would caution you to take what you need and leave the rest. I didn’t care for every technique Tony used to help people, but some of what he was advocating are things I will use in my own life. I recommend it if you have a curiosity about psychology, the science of change, or just about people and their stories.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The Breakfast Club

I had the opportunity to see the 80’s teen movie The Breakfast Club at a special screening recently. It was to help launch the publication of Kevin Smokler’s book, Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to ‘80s Teen Movies. Kevin was there along with John Hughes son James for Q&A following the film.

I was familiar already with The Breakfast Club having seen this John Hughes classic when it was originally released in 1985. It is rated R.

Five teens labeled as delinquent are sentenced to an entire Saturday in the high school library for various infractions. Supervised by slimy Richard Vernon (Paul Gleason), they spend eight-plus hours getting to know each other, some for the first time.

There’s Clair Standish (Molly Ringwald), a pampered girl in the clique everyone wants to be in; Andrew Clark (Emilio Estevez), an athlete hoping to get into college on a wrestling scholarship; Brian Johnson (Anthony Michael Hall), the brainy kid not in the popular kids world; John Bender (Judd Nelson), the bad boy with the mouth; and Allison Reynolds (Ally Sheedy), a wallflower unseen and unheard.

We are let in on their innermost secrets as they bond and open up to each other during their imprisonment. Judd Nelson plays John brilliantly. Everyone is good, but he really shines. It was very uncomfortable watching him verbally abuse the other teens, and especially his sexualized harassment of Claire. It has been a long time since I watched this film, and none of that is funny. At the same time, we feel for John, how he grew into the bad boy through nothing other than the parents he was born to. Judd has continued to work as an actor, but this was his most notable role.

Emilio Estevez has gone on to be a writer and director, helming the films The Way and Bobby. Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy have continued to work as actresses, and Anthony Michael Hall has appeared in The Dead Zone.

Some of the discussion after the film focused on the ethnic makeup of the group of students, all white from the suburbs of Chicago. Back in 1985, that town would be all white. Today, it would be much more diverse ethnically, and be a different film. The issue of inclusion is a big one due to the discussions at the Academy Awards to be more diverse for ethnic and LGBTQ actors. John Hughes films reflected the times of 30 some years ago, and the times, they have changed.

Even so, if you’re a student of film, or even just a film lover, The Breakfast Club is a must see. Much more serious than some of John Hughes’ other films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and the Home Alone movies, it peers intimately at high school age adolescents and really gets in their psyches and what that stage of life is for them.

Give Kevin Smokler’s book a look too. You can order it by clicking on this link: Brat Pack America: A Love Letter to '80s Teen Movies

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Manchester by the Sea

The landscape in Manchester by the Sea is as much a character as are any of the actors. Taking place on the Eastern seaboard, we accompany the cast through the seasons, the dead of winter to the hopefulness of early spring. We watch as the family’s boat, the Claudia Marie chugs out to sea. The quaint town where close-knit families live and grow and die is a part of the story.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is living in Boston, working as a handyman in an apartment building, when he hears the news that his older brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has passed away. He travels to Manchester and thus begins a journey of coming home to the town of his childhood and early adulthood.

Joe has left behind a teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) and has given Lee guardianship. This is problematic for Lee who doesn’t really want to be in Manchester due to the ghosts of memories that haunt him. Lee has suffered through tragedy so extreme, I’m kind of surprised he managed to stay alive. But he rises to the mandate of his brother and sets into motion actions that will keep Patrick safe.

Randi Chandler (Michelle Williams), Lee’s ex-wife, enters the scene as she attends Joe’s memorial service and later the funeral. This couple’s shared tragedy is so horrific, and yet their scene together where Randi tries to heal from it with Lee is so touching, and the best acting in the whole film.

The contrast between Patrick and Lee in how the death of their father and brother is handled is quite distinct. Patrick has the hope and dreams of a young man, whereas Lee has given up hope and has settled for a marginalized sort of existence, isolated from others. Will Patrick help to move Lee towards reengaging with society? With his small circle of family and friends? You will have to see it for yourself.

This film is rated R for language throughout and some sexual content. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Michelle Williams and Lucas Hedges. It won Best Actor for Casey Affleck, and Best Original Screenplay for Kenneth Lonergan.

The film moves through every detail of Lee dealing with arrangements after Joe’s death. Thoughtful and sparing us nothing, it shows the grief and stress that go along with a sudden death. Even if you know it’s coming, you’re never prepared for when it actually happens and someone suddenly vanishes from your life.

When I saw the film, I knew why Casey Affleck was nominated, as well as Michelle Williams. Their performances were spot on, and they managed to make it seem like they weren't even acting; it was so natural and real. Lucas Hedges gave an excellent performance in his role as well. He has a good future ahead of him. I recommend you see Manchester by the Sea. It is a story that is well written and painfully real.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Arrival

I was looking forward to seeing the film Arrival. It was promoted as an intellectual sort of film about aliens, with little in the way of explosions and death, and more on the level of cerebral discourse.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I came away wondering if something was lost in the adaptation. The screenplay was based on a short story by Ted Chiang, Story of Your Life. Sometimes it is hard to translate the written word into a visual representation onscreen, and I suspected this might have been a problem of translation, in terms of the written word onto the screen.

One screen adaptation I really enjoyed was The Shawshank Redemption. The screenplay was based on a short story by Stephen King called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I read the story after having seen the film and the screenwriter did an exemplary job translating it to a full-length film. This film was not up to that standard. I am going to read Story of Your Life, and determine for myself how this film could have been better.

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is selected to travel to a site in Montana where a spaceship has landed in order to hopefully communicate with the aliens. The pod shaped spaceship is just one of twelve that has mysteriously descended upon the earth. She is a linguist, and to me her willingness to face the aliens is never fully explored. What has made her such a daring young woman to go there with no support from anyone she knows?

Also in attendance is a physicist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), reporting along with Louise to Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). If someone doesn’t figure out why the aliens have come to earth, war against them will commence.

What I did like was the depiction of the communication by the aliens. They were shooting out what looked like ink from their octopus looking appendages, kind of in a Rorschach inkblot way, and it was Louise’s job as a linguist to interpret or crack their language in order to see what these pod aliens wanted.

I thought that Louise and Ian’s relationship was not fully explored as the days progressed, and I think that was a mistake. It would have added more to the film and helped fill in the blanks. The film has to do with time, how modern society is aware of time passing in a linear fashion, whereas quantum physics postulate that time exists all at once, perhaps inter dimensionally?

The film is rated PG-13 for brief strong language. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Film Editing. It won only Best Achievement in Sound Editing, not that it is a small award, just that it was the only one of eight they were nominated for that won. I’d recommend you watch the other nominated films first and leave this one for last, for when you have the time.