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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, May 22, 2018

The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman was a Golden Globe winner for Best Original Song, This Is Me. It was more of a musical than I thought, not just a song or two in the story, but rather a full musical. I liked it when I saw it recently on the big screen in my dollar theater. So much going on during Awards season, I hadn’t gotten around to seeing it just yet. It is rated PG for thematic elements including a brawl.

Phinneas “P. T.” Barnum (Hugh Jackman) is the son of a tailor and a poor one at that. He becomes enamored at a young age with Charity (Michelle Williams), a beautiful girl from a wealthy family. She marries him despite his lack of prospects as her father would put it, and they soon have two beautiful daughters that enrich their lives.

Phinneas is a dreamer, and his imagination proves to be everything to him. Remember, this is based on the true story of the man responsible for the Barnum and Bailey Circus. We watch how his inspirations become reality when he opens his museum of oddities in New York City, and how it expands to the live acts his troupe was known for.

There is also the scandal that occurs when he puts Jenny Lind (Rebecca Ferguson), an opera singer from Sweden, on tour. She is dubbed the Swedish Nightingale, and the lengthy tour away from home almost costs him his marriage. Helping him through the rough spots is his right hand man, Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron). Phillip finds Phinn intriguing and inspiring, and working with him gives Phillip the joy in his life that coming from a staid, wealthy and boring family could never provide.

The film is also a romance, not just between Phinn and Charity, but also between Phillip and Anne Wheeler (Zendaya), the trapeze artist. From different worlds, Phillip and Anne find it difficult to bridge the gap in class and color that prejudice and privilege have created.

All in all, I really enjoyed the choreography and the singing and dancing. The sets are colorful and beautiful, and the cinematography first rate. Where the movie really shines is in its message: This Is Me. We are not freaks, we are human beings, deserving of respect and not disdain or horror. That could be said for anyone who has a disability or some trial to overcome. And where Phinn was out to make money and perhaps to gain respect that way, he also managed to give his unusual employees a sense of purpose, and a dose of self-esteem and self-acceptance.

I must have seen a circus during my childhood as the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus had its headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin. I just don’t have a clear memory of it, but I think I remember the colorful railroad cars that transported the circus to the towns.

Did you go to the circus when you were a kid? What did you think of the experience?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Invictus

Invictus is a film from 2009 directed by Clint Eastwood. It is based on the true story of Nelson Mandela, newly elected President of South Africa, who takes an interest in the nation’s rugby team, encouraging them to win the Rugby World Cup in 1995. It is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

President Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is a wise leader, seeking to promote reconciliation and forgiveness to heal his country. He asks staff of the former leader to stay on and work with him. He seeks to mirror unity and cooperation amongst his staff first and foremost as an example of how the country should proceed.

Mandela sees an opportunity in the sport of rugby to further unify the citizens of South Africa. He summons Francois Pienaar (Matt Damon) to meet with him. Francois is understandably impressed with Mandela and his quiet, firm leadership. As Captain of the Rugby team, Francois takes on the task of nurturing a winning team.

This is a true story, and we know who won the World Cup in 1995. Mandela learns about rugby, a sport described as, “ . . . a hooligans game played by gentlemen.” I am not much of a sports enthusiast, at least for those that are watched in a stadium or obsessively on TV. I found rugby to be a brutal game, even worse than football. There are no helmets, no protective gear to shield the men from what is very much a contact sport.

I think men would enjoy this film. Women, rent it for your spouse or boyfriend and watch it with him. He’ll like the sports scenes while you will like the progression of the action as the team improves, leading up to the final game against the Maoris of New Zealand.

I have heard the Maoris described as fierce warriors and these seasoned rugby players certainly looked the part. They were a formidable opponent to the South African team who had just recently experienced a winning streak.

I would say that Invictus is not a great film, but just a good one, for the only reason that it shows what Mandela strove to do in order to build unity among their citizens. What I found most interesting was how the film showed snippets of Mandela’s life and how he struggled with family issues, overwork, and the running of the government to the point of exhaustion.

I also found myself, perhaps not surprisingly, thinking of a certain leader in the U.S. and how he could use some lessons from Nelson Mandela and the type of leader he was. Where slavery was part of history, much healing needs to happen. It is not helpful when a leader shows bigotry and hatred towards the citizens he is elected to serve. What will happen? I don’t presume to know. But I find myself wanting to know more about South Africa as a result of this film.

Have you seen Invictus and what did you think of the film?

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Reflection

Another successful Blogging A to Z Challenge! This was my third year of blogging 26 days in April. I thank everyone who came to my blog and read my Best Original Screenplay movie reviews. Thank you to all who took the time to leave comments!

I enjoyed meeting some new bloggers, and will be following you via email now the challenge is over. I will begin posting movie reviews again on Tuesdays, and sometimes on Saturdays depending on what’s playing in theaters and how many films I’ve seen.

Thank you to the organizers of this annual challenge. I hope the challenge will return in 2019. In the meantime, keep writing and posting!

Monday, April 30, 2018

Z is for Z


Z is for Z, a 1969 film by Costa-Gavras that is now considered to be a classic suspense thriller. The story is based on true events that occurred in Greece in May1963 when a pacifist statesman was assassinated (real name Grigoris Lambrakis). Z was highly regarded for its time for using unique filming techniques, and a storytelling style that was considered avant-garde. It is rated PG.

The film won Best Foreign Language Film, and Best Film Editing at the Academy Awards. It was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay (lost to Midnight Cowboy). The famous French actor, Yves Montand, plays the progressive public figure that is assassinated. The Democratic politician is left leaning, charismatic and inspires the populace, just what the government doesn’t want to have happening. He is assassinated as he is making an anti-nuclear weapons speech. Initially, it appears he died as the result of an accident, but we find in the telling of the story that was not the case.

As the action and the investigation of the crime progressed, I thought to myself that this film has parallels to present day. Corruption is in every level of government including the military, the police, politicians, and their silence can be bought.

The other thing I noticed was that when the people were demonstrating, it began as a peaceful gathering, and then when the police intervened with their clubs and force, things got out of hand. There were no guns being brandished about, and even the assassination was not by gunshot. It was actually refreshing, and I thought how much better the world would be without everyone waving a gun around.

I liked the way the film had us learning about the way the assassination was carried out as the investigators found the truth for themselves and the investigation was brought to a conclusion. Not that it ended there, and this is not a story where justice is served. That in itself was depressing.

I also enjoyed the unique way they showed the widow Hélène (Irene Papas) as she recalls moments with her husband after his death. It served to emphasize his humanity, and show how cruel it was to silence him by assassination, taking him from the people who loved him the most and were closest to him. Corruption is ever present yet again, and those in power want to keep the control to themselves and stop at nothing to keep it that way.

The ending was chilling, as it listed the things the military regime banned after this incident. Not the finest moment for Greece, that is for sure.

I highly recommend Z (you’ll have to watch the film to the very end to discover why it is named this; I won’t give that away). If you’re at all interested in the history of film, the history of Greece, or if you want to see a cautionary tale for our times as events similar to this one could happen at any time again, sorry to say.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Y is for Young Frankenstein


No Best Original Screenplays beginning with the letter Y, so I give you: Young Frankenstein that was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the Academy Awards (lost to The Godfather: Part II). It is a film from 1974 directed by Mel Brooks, and written by Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder. The film is a comedy and a satire of the Frankenstein story that was written as the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and first published anonymously in 1818. The film bears little resemblance to the famous story of the mad scientist piecing together parts of dead bodies and bringing the sad individual back to life.

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder), a young neurosurgeon, is a descendant of the famous Dr. Victor von Frankenstein who lived and worked on his scientific experiments in Transylvania. Frederick is engaged to Elizabeth (Madeline Kahn), an interesting and slightly eccentric young woman. He takes leave of Elizabeth and his teaching career at the university to travel to the country where his grandfather, the famous Dr. Frankenstein, lived as he has inherited the man’s castle.

He has quite the journey ahead of him as he comes to know himself and his ancestors once he arrives. He acquires a beautiful lab assistant, Inga (Teri Garr), and has the hunchback servant Igor (Marty Feldman) also at his side. The evil seeming housekeeper Frau Blücher (Cloris Leachman) is no friend to them. Frederick comes upon a diary/journal where Victor has described how he brought dead people back to life, and when a poor villager dies, the good doctor decides to bring him back to life using a brain he sends Igor to fetch for him from the morgue. This of course results in misfortune, for the wrong brain is delivered.

Peter Boyle is absolutely wonderful playing the Monster. As he awakens to his life, he is of course confused, runs off, and a truly hilarious bit occurs when he happens upon the Blind Man (Gene Hackman) who invites him into his cottage for a bite to eat. The Monster is mute and therefore has trouble communicating his thoughts and feelings to others, setting up all sorts of not so funny predicaments for him, but lots of humor for us!

The slapstick comedy doesn’t truly begin until about halfway through the film, and I confess that during the first half of the story, I was kind of bored, wishing it would move along. But when it does, it really moves!  Mel Brooks had a crazy sense of humor and the situations Dr. Frankenstein and his progeny encounter are inventive and very funny. Mel Brooks went on to create other innovative comedy films, such as Blazing Saddles.

The film is rated PG and is in black and white. I recommend you see Young Frankenstein if you are interested in comedy that goes a step beyond. It was truly groundbreaking in its time, the actors are great, and it’s a good way to spend an evening when you need a good laugh.

Friday, April 27, 2018

X is for SeX, Lies, and Videotape


X is for SeX, Lies, and Videotape, a film from 1989. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. Written by Steven Soderbergh, it lost to Dead Poets Society that year. If you’re an intelligent person who is not afraid of sensitive subjects, you may enjoy this finely acted film. This is an adults only movie, and is rated R. There isn’t much sexual activity in the film, but there is a lot of talk about sex. It’s a morality tale about double standards and the secrets that intimates keep from one another.

Ann Mullany (Andie MacDowell) lives with her husband John (Peter Gallagher) in what seems to be an average sized city in Louisiana. Ann’s sister Cynthia Bishop (Laura San Giacomo) lives nearby, and works as a bartender. The two sisters are polar opposites: Ann a repressed housewife, and Cynthia a free spirit.

John is an attorney, an adulterer, and a liar (like some members of Congress). His friend from college, Graham Dalton (James Spader), comes for a visit and is the catalyst for many changes within this strange family.

John is having an affair with Cynthia. Ann is in therapy and discloses to her shrink the details of her seemingly dying relationship with her husband. Graham has a strange hobby being an amateur filmmaker of sorts. He interviews women, not just about anything, but about their sexual histories. It all shakes loose when Cynthia introduces herself to Graham, and he videotapes her. Secrets should be thrown into the title of the film as well as lies, as there are plenty of clandestine thoughts and actions going on.

This is an interesting film if you enjoy stories about the human psyche. It’s almost as if Graham is a psychologist, only in a very different manner, encouraging people to talk about their innermost thoughts and feelings and about subjects they’d never discuss with any of their friends or family. He’s like a therapist, just doesn’t tell the women he interviews what to do, and shrinks sometimes tell their clients what to do. What I found interesting about Graham is that he shows such unconditional positive regard for the women and their stories. His motivations are questionable, but I wondered if the women’s intimate partners would be so accepting if they told the truth like they do with Graham.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape was directed by Steven Soderbergh, and is a groundbreaking indie film. The actors all do a great job with their roles. Peter Gallagher went on to star in the TV series, The O. C., one of my favorites, and Laura San Giacomo played Vivian’s best friend and fellow hooker in Pretty Woman, not to mention her role in the TV series, Just Shoot Me. Andie MacDowell has had a full acting career. One of my favorite films of hers is Groundhog Day, all sweetness and light, kind of like her role in this film.

Have you watched Sex, Lies, and Videotape? What did you think?

Thursday, April 26, 2018

W is for Woman of the Year


W is for Woman of the Year, a romantic comedy from 1942 directed by George Stevens. The film is not rated and is in black and white.

Sam Craig (Spencer Tracy) and Tess Harding (Katharine Hepburn) are both columnists at the New York Chronicle. Sam is a sportswriter, and Tess is an international affairs correspondent. They come to each other’s attention quite accidentally, and a feud between them in their columns develops. They had worked on different floors of the newspaper, and met for the first time being reprimanded by their boss. Attraction is instantaneous and the courtship begins.

Tess is a worldly woman, having lived in China, traveled extensively, and she speaks several languages fluently. Sam is just a small town kind of guy who decides to ask Tess to a baseball game for their first date. One of the funniest segments of the film is Sam patiently attempting to explain baseball to Tess while at the game, difficult in that she has never attended a game in her life. It is truly comical as she is so very, very naïve.

Despite Tess inviting Sam to a party at her apartment where he can interact with virtually no one due to language barriers between him and the guests, he persists to woo her, and they eventually are married. No time for a proper honeymoon due to their career commitments. The arrival of a Dr. Lubbeck at Tess’s door on their wedding night escalates to their bedroom filling with her friends, and then Sam’s friends that he invites in response to the growing entourage of Dr. Lubbeck’s. This leads to some funny slapstick humor involving Sam’s friends, one of whom has been a boxer.

They finally make a go of their relationship, not without bumps in the road. Tess is chosen as “America’s Outstanding Woman of the Year,” and Sam has really had it by this time with his assertive career woman. Whether they will make it or not is something you’ll have to see for yourself.

Interesting about this film is the era, World War II, in which it was created. I noticed an altered map in Tess’s office showing Europe, outlining which countries Hitler had invaded and occupied. Women became part of the workforce during World War II, and were becoming more assertive and independent, characteristics that Tess possesses to the extreme. On the other hand, she has no skill in the kitchen, and there is a really funny scene near the end of the movie where Sam quietly reads the paper while she attempts to cook him breakfast with disastrous and very amusing consequences.

Woman of the Year won Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards for Michael Kanin and Ring Lardner, Jr. It deserves the award, as the writing is clever, the comedic situations really priceless, and it’s basically a sound story. This was the first of nine films Tracy and Hepburn would star in together and the one said to have launched their romantic relationship.