Welcome

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, December 04, 2018

A Christmas Carol


My husband really appreciates the talent of Jim Carrey, so when I discovered Jim had starred as Ebenezer Scrooge in a 2009 animated version of A Christmas Carol I rented it. The stylization of the animation reminded me of The Polar Express, a film that came out in 2004. They clearly used the same computer process to create their films. This is not a cutesy version of the classic Victorian era Christmas ghost story. It is rated PG for scary sequences and images.

The tale is one that should be familiar to all of you as it is based on the classic tale A Christmas Carol written by Charles Dickens. The miser Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, who foretells that he will be visited by three otherworldly spirits throughout the night. Because this is animation, the ghosts and the experiences they take Scrooge on are magical, delightful to watch, and sometimes downright scary.

Jim Carrey provided the voice of Scrooge at all the ages he is depicted (young boy, teenage boy, young man, middle aged man), and all three ghosts (Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come). It may not be the best film version of A Christmas Carol, but it was entertaining and will appeal to a younger audience that is used to animated features. Not too young though, as some of these situations the ghosts take Scrooge on are really very frightening.

Colin Firth is the voice for Fred, Scrooge’s very kind and forgiving nephew, and Gary Oldman provides the voices for Bob Cratchit, Marley and Tiny Tim. Robin Wright is Belle. All the actors’ voices fit the characters well.

Written and directed by Robert Zemeckis, whose credits include Back to the Future among others, you can be sure if you watch this version of the classic tale of hope and redemption that it will be a wild ride.

Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas in 1843, and the story of how this classic was created was the subject of a beautifully written and directed film from 2017, The Man Who Invented Christmas. I wrote a review of it last year (my review of The Man Who Invented Christmas). I enjoyed how it got into Charles Dickens psyche as the characters and action are brought to life. I think the reason this particular story is still so popular today and has had so many versions of it filmed is because we need to believe that even a lifelong stingy and hateful person can have an awakening and work for the good of all society. Dickens certainly had that hope and wrote about that theme often.

Which is your favorite film version of A Christmas Carol? Have you seen it performed in live theater? What are your favorite holiday movies? I hope you enjoy your favorites again this year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Enchantment reigns at each performance of the seasonal ballet The Nutcracker. With music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and the original choreography by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, it is a holiday classic and the fuel that allows most every ballet company to exist throughout the rest of the year.

Disney has jumped to the challenge of making a film about the characters brought to life in this classic ballet. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, currently in theaters, is an adventure fantasy that takes liberties with the story even while using familiar themes and characters throughout the revised tale. The film is rated PG for some mild peril.

With heavy use of special effects, Clara (Mackenzie Foy), the heroine of our story, ventures into the Four Realms (Land of Snowflakes, Flowers, Sweets and the scary fourth realm of Mother Ginger). She discovers that her now deceased mother visited these realms herself many years ago.

The story works well, and will bring a tear to anyone who is not hard hearted as we follow Clara as she grieves the loss of her mother. Herr Drosselmeyer (Morgan Freeman) is an inventor extraordinaire, and knew her mother well. He is the catalyst for Clara’s journey.

Once through the Land of Snowflakes, where Clara surprisingly walks in frigid weather in a world blanketed by snow in just a flimsy looking gown, she meets Sugar Plum (Keira Knightley). I would love to have Sugar Plum’s coiffure of cotton candy like hair! The costuming throughout this tale is equally exquisite.

Helen Mirren plays Mother Ginger. Good and evil are not at all what they first appear to be, and Clara learns about herself and her mother during her adventure. The beautiful and talented Misty Copeland of the American Ballet Theatre dances both during the film and through the final credits.

I would recommend this film to old and young alike, if you appreciate ballet and the story of The Nutcracker. Do you personally enjoy The Nutcracker each year, and do you know of any other films that celebrate this classic ballet?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Leap

I am a ballet fan. I love everything about this form of dance, so when I saw available on Netflix Leap, an animated feature film about a girl who wants to be a dancer, I was intrigued. The film is rated PG for some impolite humor, and action.

Not a great story, but an interesting one, Felicie (voiced by Elle Fanning) and Victor (Dane DeHaan) are two older children in an orphanage in Brittany, France. They want to escape, and go to Paris to fulfill their dreams. Here is my first complaint. Why would anyone care if a few children escaped from an orphanage? It’s not like they were toddlers after all, but the Mother Superior sends Luteau (Mel Brooks) to pursue them and bring them back.

Eventually, the two friends do make a successful escape and arrive in Paris, a city where dreams come true. Felicie ends up at the Grand Opera House in pursuit of her dream to become a dancer, and Victor finds a job as an assistant in the workshop of the architect of the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty, both currently under construction.

I found the city of Paris during these famous changes to the skyline to be enchanting. Felicie encounters Odette (Carly Rae Jepsen), (named after the ballerina in Swan Lake), a woman with a limp who is housemaid to a “dance mom” and her daughter Camille (Maddie Ziegler). Camille trains incessantly so she will win a role in the upcoming Nutcracker performance. Felicie steals the acceptance letter for Camille and enters the school of ballet under false pretences. At first awkward and a complete beginner, she prevails and begins to learn, especially when Odette begins instructing her.

The music of the film was taken from famous ballets, and that part was fun. Let me be clear: if you are a young girl who loves dance and especially ballet, you will like this film. If you are someone like me who is an adult and loves ballet, this little film may amuse you. Anyone else, please don’t bother.

The ending message is to not give up, and to follow your dreams, noble thoughts, but the stealing of the letter to get into ballet school is clearly not the way to go.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Renoir

I am an art lover, and Renoir is one of my favorite impressionists. Last year I read Luncheon of the Boating Party, a novel of historical fiction by Susan Vreeland. It is about Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s creation of the famous painting of the same name, painted beside the river Seine in France near Paris. It’s an excellent, intriguing book depicting how the painting may have come to life.

Not long after I read the book, an artist friend recommended the film Renoir. My artist husband and I watched it. It is a French film with English subtitles, and is rated R for sequences of art-related nudity and brief language.

The film is set in 1915, during a time that the elderly Renoir (Michel Bouquet) lived in the French Riviera. He has three sons who are at different stages of life. The youngest, Claude “Coco” (Thomas Doret) is portrayed as a little disturbed, and his older brother Jean (Vincent Rottiers) has enlisted in the military. His oldest son Pierre was injured in the war. A young redheaded woman, Andrée Heuschling (Christa Théret) arrives in the life of the family, and the elderly, crippled Renoir uses her as a model.

Jean returns from World War I after being wounded to convalesce at the home of his father in the Côte d’Azur. Jean soon falls in love with Andrée, even as she faces prejudice from the all-female household staff for her perceived special treatment. She is a strong-willed young woman, and causes no lack of drama in the home. Renoir’s wife Aline, who was much younger than him, has recently passed away. I remember reading about how he first met her while she was a model for him as he painted Luncheon of the Boating Party (she was the one with the little dog held in her hands).

The film’s color cinematography is exquisite, really capturing the light on the landscape that the great artist chose to immortalize in his work. The other portion where the film shines is in featuring Jean, and learning about his life and what shaped his choices. I had not realized that Jean Renoir was a great French filmmaker, and his wife Andrée an inspiration to his films. I read that he is considered one of the four best filmmakers in the history of cinema.

I felt a great deal of compassion for the elderly Renoir, as he is so crippled with rheumatoid arthritis that he has to have his paintbrush tied to his hand in order to use it to work with. He passed away at the age of 79.

If you enjoy art, or just good filmmaking, watch Renoir. It’s a glimpse into another age and the masters that lived during that time.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

The Artist and the Model

The Artist and the Model is a delightful black and white film with the backdrop of 1943 World War II occupied France as the setting. A well-regarded aging sculptor, still having the artistic yearning within him, uses a young model found by his wife to pose for his work. The film is rated R for sequences of graphic nudity. Languages spoken are French and Spanish, with English subtitles.

Léa (Claudia Cardinale) spots Mercè (Aida Folch), a young Spanish woman, on the streets while at the market, and befriends her. She gently suggests to Mercè that she pose as a model for her husband Marc Cros (Jean Rochefort). They will pay her and give her room and board during the time she is with them. Léa has to convince the young woman that no wrongdoing will occur during her nude modeling.

The couple lives in the countryside where nature provides the music to the silence of the art as it is undertaken. A bit frightened at first, Mercè becomes more comfortable with her body, and Marc finds inspiration, an idea for a new sculpture, from observing Mercè.

Amongst all of the modeling and sculpting, which seems to take several weeks at least, World War II continues. The Germans are nearby and pose a distinct threat. Allied paratroopers float into the woods, and Mercè reveals herself as a braver woman than her initial reticence at nude modeling might suggest.

I found the friendship between the German soldier Werner (Götz Otto) and Marc quite touching. Werner is an arts scholar writing a book about Marc, and his affection for the older man is genuine. That they can bridge the gap between whose side each is on is admirable.

Marc is philosophical and shares his thoughts on God and creation with Mercè, one of the more enchanting scenes in the film.

I didn’t care much for the ending. My husband, who is an artist, very much appreciated the film and seemed to have more of an understanding of what the artist did at the end once his sculpture was finished, once Mercè is on her way to Marseilles to a new life.

The black and white cinematography is exquisite in its play of light and shadow.  Fernando Trueba along with Jean-Claude Carrière wrote the screenplay and Trueba directed.

I recommend this splendid European film, a work of art in itself. You probably wouldn’t see a film like this come out of the U.S. or Hollywood. Too much repression, and artists are not really held in high regard here like they are in Europe. Most films glorify violence, not sensuality or the beauty of the human body like this one does.

I have seen the animated film Chico and Rita also by Trueba and his colleagues, which is a wonderful romantic adult animated feature film. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, the first nomination for a Spanish full-length animated film. I highly recommend you watch that delightful film as well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Fahrenheit 11/9

What do Fitbits, the U.S. Army bombing an American city for training, and greed have to do with the USA?

Michael Moore’s documentary film, Fahrenheit 11/9, will give you the answers. (His previous film, Where to Invade Next, is a good look at what could be improved in the USA and warrants a viewing if you haven’t yet seen it.) Michael Moore won an Academy Award in 2003 for Best Documentary Feature with his film Bowling for Columbine, and Fahrenheit 11/9 lives up to the high standard of that award winning film.

I almost didn’t attend the movie because I thought it would be too depressing. I’m glad I saw it. The film will affect you emotionally as it did me. I was aghast and angry with some of the things I saw on screen. Later, my husband fact checked a few situations, and found it was all true. The things that are happening with health care, the safety of drinking water, and engendering fear in order to control the population is truly disturbing.

The film is rated R for language and some disturbing material/images. I need to warn you that at the very end of the film, you’ll think something is wrong with the DVD or at the theater. What is shown is intentional and you need to just sit out the very powerful ending.

Watch this film as soon as you can, then take action by voting and becoming involved while it can still make a difference.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

A Ghost Story

A Ghost Story was not what I expected. Casey Affleck dressed in a white sheet like it’s a little kid’s Halloween costume? Unusual. I watched it with my husband anyway, and it’s the kind of story that I appreciated more when it came to a conclusion than I did while I was watching it. The film is rated R for brief language and a disturbing image.

C (Casey Affleck) and his wife M (Rooney Mara) are getting ready to move when his life is abruptly and unfairly cut short. He becomes a ghost and returns to the home they shared together. I can’t give the story line away in case you decide to watch it, but I will say that the writer and director, David Lowery, took some risks as a storyteller with his extreme uses of SILENCE, and very long scenes of not much happening at all. The reasons for the silence and stillness become clearer as the story goes along.

I asked my husband to be a guest reviewer, as he really liked the film, and had a different take on it than I did. Here is his review:

My wife, who writes movie reviews, and I (an artist) watched this movie together. My wife thought it was "weird" and she seemed disturbed by it enough to say she probably won't write a review. It must have hit a sensitive spot, one that is otherwise impervious to blood and guts and depraved acts that appear regularly on the silver screen. For my part, the longer I watched the film, the more intrigued and captivated I became — probably because I'm lost in some existential limbo land myself. There are a number of impressions the film left me with, but a couple of things I would like to mention, which I haven't read in any of the reviews are these: A Ghost Story might be too slow for today's short attention span audiences. Too bad. Second, I think the use of the sheet for the ghost was perfect and worked in a way that any other depiction of a ghost would not have. It hid all facial expressions of the ghost that might otherwise have cued the audience for a specific response. What’s more, the living can't know what the dead are feeling. Therefore, the sheet served as a blank surface for the viewer to supply his or her own emotional response. The sheet also represented a literal and figurative veil or barrier between the world of the living and the dead.

What the film is ultimately about, is time. Is time really a linear concept like we in the western world like to schedule our lives around ? Or is it a circle like native cultures profess? Is all of existence occurring simultaneously? Do ghosts really exist, and why do they hang around on earth when they could head into the light?

All of this and more is what A Ghost Story asks.