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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, February 20, 2018

The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner has been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards. The screenplay was written by Anita Doron and Deborah Ellis, and is based on the children’s novel, The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis. The film is rated PG-13 for thematic material including some violent images. The dialogue is in English. Angelina Jolie was executive producer for this thought provoking and visually striking film. An engaging story, it is about the life of a young girl, Parvana, living with her family in Afghanistan.

Parvana is an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in 2001. Her father is wrongfully arrested and taken to prison, and this places her mother Fattema, sister Soraya, and baby brother in peril without a man to provide for them. Parvana is ridiculed and threatened by neighbor boys, especially after her father is taken away. She serendipitously meets a friend, Shauzia, who has changed her identity to that of a boy and has become streetwise. Shauzia is willing to help Parvana with a similar deception. Women are not to appear in public without a male, and Parvana finds a way to navigate the job she takes on as breadwinner by cutting her hair and dressing as a boy. She is emboldened by the freedom this gives her.

Within the film is a mythical tale running parallel to Parvana’s story. She tells this story in pieces to her baby brother. Filled with beautiful, evocative imagery, the story Parvana tells her brother and really herself, adds richness to the very real situation that she encounters with no father to care for them. The mythology is really about childhood empowerment, and is a tale she had heard from her father about a boy who seeks to recover the stolen seeds of his village from the Elephant King. There is much danger along the path of this boy’s journey as he tries to retrieve what are rightfully the village’s seeds for the future, much like it is for Parvana, who decides to go to the prison where her father is held and ask for his release.

The story brought to mind another film where a female impersonates a male. A woman yearning for knowledge in a culture that does not support education for women, Yentl dresses as a man in order to study with other scholars and experience a freedom women could not. The film is Yentl with Barbara Streisand in the leading role, and is a tale that takes place in Jewish culture.

The Breadwinner is also in another culture that you might say is quite different from American culture and Christianity. I think it is good to hear these types of stories as it helps us understand other cultures and shows the similarities especially in women’s lives under the subjugation of men, and the discrimination that occurs. Also significant is the part of the story about people just trying to live as a family caught between empires fighting for dominance. I recommend The Breadwinner to you.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Victoria & Abdul

Victoria & Abdul is a historical and biographical drama about Queen Victoria and her friendship with a young Indian clerk, Abdul Karim. It was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The film is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language.

Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is in her 80’s, and has recently become Empress of India as her empire continues to expand. In 1887, two Indians from Agra are summoned to England to present the Queen with a mohur, which is a gold coin that has been minted in India to honor the Empress. Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is excited to be sailing the oceans on an adventure, whereas his companion Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar) is less than thrilled.

The subsequent ceremony to present the Queen with the mohur is really something to be seen. Victoria is charmed by Abdul’s innocence and allegiance to her, and they become friends at her insistence. She asks him to remain in England to teach her Hindi and the Qur’an. He insists that to learn Urdu is more suited to someone of her standing, and the Queen proves to be an apt pupil, to the consternation of her staff, advisors, and son Bertie, Prince of Wales (Eddie Izzard). She practices penmanship, speaking the Urdu language, and reading the Qur’an. She refers to Abdul as her Munshi, a term used for native language teachers at that time.

The film shows us the prejudice and racism that prevailed at the time of the occupation of India by British troops. Abdul is not just Indian, he is a Muslim, and is scorned, plotted against, and the Queen’s staff threatens to walk out if he remains on site. Her advisors would like to prove she is insane, which she most definitely is not. Abdul remains devoted to the aged queen until her death.

Stephen Frears, who also directed Philomena, The Queen, and Dangerous Liaisons, directed Victoria & Abdul. The screenplay was written by Lee Hall, and was based on the book by Shrabani Basu. Ms. Basu discovered the hidden friendship between the two unlikely companions during a visit to the Isle of Wight’s Osborne House, where she noticed a portrait of an Indian servant in the Durbar Room that did not appear to be the likeness of a servant. She began research into who Abdul Karim really was, and what he meant to the Queen. She wrote Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant after four years of extensive research.

These stories are essential to tell as we come to terms with empire, and the accompanying subjugation of native peoples that has occurred throughout recorded time. I enjoyed this film, and learning about Ms. Basu’s dedicated search for the truth about Victoria and Abdul. Here is a link to an excellent article about her search for the truth: http://time.com/4941313/victoria-and-abdul-true-story-shrabani-basu/ I hope you enjoy Victoria & Abdul and the history behind the film as much as I did.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Dunkirk

Dunkirk has been nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing at the Academy Awards. There are no acting nominations among these, and that’s because this is a war movie with lots of action and sometimes long drawn out scenes of waiting. Waiting to see if a soldier will escape detection by the enemy, waiting to see if the boats sailing across the English Channel will arrive in time to save the Allied troops, and waiting to see if any RAF pilots will prevail in the skies over the Germans. The historic evacuation of Allied soldiers from certain death by the Nazis, who have them surrounded and pinned in on the beach, occurs in May 1940.

The film is rated PG-13 for intense war experience and some language. I will first provide you with a few pointers to make your viewing of Dunkirk, if you haven’t already seen it, more enjoyable and less frustrating for you.

Number one: Turn on the subtitles on your TV. I am shamefaced to admit that I have difficulty hearing what British actors are saying due to their accents. Additionally, with the near constant drone of airplanes, boat engines, and screaming men, I had trouble hearing the dialogue. You will thank me for this tip if you’re watching the film at home.

Number two: At the beginning of the movie, the “Mole” is referred to. I looked this up and the mole is a long concrete jetty that protects a beach. It is not referring to a spy. Knowing this helps you understand what Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) is talking about when he describes the difficulty of getting any large craft close enough to shore to take on any men. The Nazi bombing had rendered the harbor useless, and the only way large ships could get close enough to shore to rescue anyone was by sidling up to one of the two moles.

Number three: The film alternates between three points of view during the relatively short time of the Dunkirk rescues. These are labeled at the beginning of the film. The “Mole” scenes on the beaches of France take place over the space of one week. The scenes at sea where the British civilian craft are deployed to rescue the troops encompasses one day. The planes flying overhead take one hour. If you understand this when you watch, you can see how these three points of view move forward to meet near the end of the film.

I liked Dunkirk. The writer/director Christopher Nolan did a good job showing what it may have been like for the three groups of men, and a few women who were nurses or were on board some of the ships that came for the rescue. The musical score with its percussive tones, composed by Hans Zimmer, accompanied the film’s action well. It is a different type of war movie, in a good way. I recommend that you see Dunkirk.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)

My husband and I watched Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) recently. It was such a fun movie! I enjoyed that this was a film virtually without violence, and especially that there was no violence perpetrated from human to human. It is rated PG for intense adventure action and some scary moments.

Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) is in charge of his 13-year-old nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) for ten days while his sister-in-law Elizabeth (Jane Wheeler) prepares to move to Canada. Trevor is a scientist and volcanologist, and his brother Max (Jean Michel Paré), Sean’s father, disappeared when Sean was three years old, presumed dead.

His lab on the chopping block due to reduced funding, Trevor is none too happy about it. He is tracking seismic activity and when Sean notices that there are four locations around the world where the seismic sensors are still working, coupled with Trevor discovering the book Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne in a box of Max’s things that Elizabeth gave him, he decides to fly to Iceland to investigate. Sean insists on accompanying his uncle.

They are in search of a Professor Ásgeirsson who is also a volcanologist. Instead, they meet the professor’s daughter Hannah (Anita Briem) who is a mountain guide. She clues them in to the fact that Max was a Vernian, as was her father. A Vernian is someone who believes Jules Verne’s world as depicted in Journey to the Center of the Earth was fact and not fiction. An accident involving lightening and the collapse of a cave leads the trio eventually to a fissure in the cave where they fall seemingly endlessly into the center of the earth.

This film is a good one for tying up the loose ends when a family member, especially a brother and a father, is lost. Grief is an issue that is dealt with, and moving on, finding one’s strength and destiny is another. All three of the travelers must work together and come up with ideas to rescue them from certain death in the center of the earth. When the temperature gets too high, they will suffer from dehydration and never return to the surface. This is where the action adventure really gets intensely underway, and it is immensely entertaining. I especially enjoyed the ingenuity of each of the characters to find a solution and a way out when it appears next to impossible.

I enjoyed this world inside the earth. Such a fantasy with dangers around every corner, and some of it was depicted as truly beautiful. There’s humor too as the journey progresses, but also heart stopping action adventure. It’s a very pleasurable film to watch.

Jules Verne published the science fiction novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth, in 1864. It captured the public’s imagination quickly. There have been films made in 1959 and 1989 based loosely on the book. This version is not a sequel, but rather stands on its own.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Boss Baby

The Boss Baby is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards. I enjoy a good animated film from time to time and watched it one night when I just wanted to be entertained and not think too much about anything.

This was a good story, and one that both adults and children may relate to. It is rated PG for some mild rude humor. How babies arrive on earth in this story is not quite as crazy as the stork bringing them in a folded diaper, but it is still of course a far-fetched scenario, updated for today’s technology inundated public. Babies are sent to earth if they are deemed to be family types, and the ones who are not become “management.” Such is the fate of Boss Baby (Alec Baldwin) who arrives in a taxi at the doorstep of the home of the Templeton’s: Dad (Jimmy Kimmel), Mom (Lisa Kudrow), and Tim (Miles Bakshi). (Tobey Maguire is the voice of adult Tim and the narrator of the story.)

Tim has had his doting parents all to himself for seven years, and is not exactly excited about having a little brother, especially one who is as demanding and time consuming as indeed all babies are to start with. He discovers that his brother is a baby when Mom and Dad are around, but the Boss Baby comes out when they aren’t looking, complete with a mission to execute on earth along with the help of five other babies living nearby.

The evil CEO Francis (Steve Buscemi) of Puppy Co, coincidentally where both Mom and Dad work, has a dastardly plan to scientifically give a formula to puppies so that they will never become adult dogs! Horrors! That way, babies will become obsolete, because who doesn’t love a puppy? Forget babies! I told my husband about this plot twist and he also thought it very funny (although he did not watch the film with me). Babies on one side of the scale, puppies on the other side? Which would win out? Really close call here.

So it is up to Boss Baby, his five cohorts and Tim to save the day and make sure that the puppies don’t get that magic formula. Otherwise babies on earth are a thing of the past. Oh no!

You can probably tell that I am amused by this story line, but what is really poignant is what both Tim and Boss Baby learn about themselves through this shared experience. Being brothers is not easy, being sisters is not easy, and I think that children may empathize with these characters, as they are parts of a typical family, one that grows and works together.

It was really a sweet story, the casting of the voices for the characters was spot on, and the magical fantasy nature of the film really worked. Allow the inner child in you to have some fun with The Boss Baby, and watch it while it’s still readily available.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I recently watched a documentary called Crazy About Tiffany’s. It was about the history of the famous jeweler in New York City. The film featured a few clips from the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. If I had previously seen the film, I didn’t remember much about it, other than Audrey Hepburn is impossibly skinny and beautiful and has a cute accent.

So I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s late one night. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) is a free spirit living in New York City, set on landing a rich husband. She appears to get most of her money for her modest apartment from escorting wealthy men about town.

Paul Varjak (George Peppard), a writer, moves into her building and they immediately strike up a friendship, mostly on behalf of Holly, but Paul soon falls in love with her. I think that if the movie was made today, it could lose some of its charm. There is no sexual activity in this beautiful film, other than oblique references. Paul also makes his money off of hiring himself out you might say, and his patron, Mrs. Failenson (Patricia Neal) pays him generously. She believes in his abilities as a writer, and he has even had something published, which he shows off to Holly during a trip to the library.

Holly has a past that becomes clear when her husband Doc (Buddy Ebsen) arrives and asks her to come home. Holly will have none of this, preferring to live day-to-day with her cat, and hosting crowded parties for a jet set she has inserted her way into. One of the funniest scenes is a party in her tiny apartment. Seeing how many people can drink and dance in such a small space is priceless.

Something I took offense to, however, is Mickey Rooney playing Mr. Yunioshi, a neighbor in Holly’s building. They should have had an Asian play this role. It was insulting to watch.

Paul and Holly are alike in that they are dreamers of a better day each in their own way. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is based on a story by Truman Capote and directed by Blake Edwards. It won two Academy Awards: Best Musical Score and Best Original Song, Moon River, for Henry Mancini (lyrics by Johnny Mercer).

Getting back to that glittering documentary Crazy About Tiffany’s, the history of this jeweler is fascinating. The marketing that was mounted was extremely successful, largely due to the designers, especially one who did the display windows on the street. At one point, a current designer sits next to a worker assembling the priceless jewels that sell for literally thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. She focuses on asking him about the pride he takes in his work. It is not mentioned what this man’s salary is, or what his benefits are, etc. Probably not very good. I’m cynical I guess. Despite all that, when I travel to New York City, I will waltz into Tiffany’s for a look around, just because.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Corrina, Corrina

Corrina, Corrina is a lovely comedy drama romance from 1994 that my sister shared with me while I was visiting her. It is one of her favorite films, and I now understand why. The film can be considered a period piece, as the setting is Los Angeles in 1959. It is rated PG for thematic material.

Manny Singer (Ray Liotta) is a working father attempting to raise his only daughter Molly (Tina Majorino) after his wife unexpectedly passes away. He is forced to hire someone to look after his little seven-year-old girl who has understandably taken her mother’s passing very hard and is refusing to speak. After interviewing several candidates who are unsuitable for the important job, and burning through trial runs from some really horrendous women, most notably Jonesy (Joan Cusack), Corrina Washington (Whoopi Goldberg) arrives on the scene for her chance at the job.

Initially unimpressed, Manny notices that she has a way with Molly that the little girl responds to. No one else has been able to begin to penetrate the grief that Molly remains in, and Corrina is hired.

Now 1959 is squarely in the beginnings of the civil rights movement, and unfortunately, there is still a lot of prejudice in the city of angels. Despite the odds, Manny and Corrina develop some affection for each other, feelings they are mightily trying to avoid, as the days turn into weeks with her daily presence in the home.

The costumes and settings for this era are very well done, and the acting is great, with good chemistry between Corrina and Molly and between Corrina and Manny. Ray Liotta plays his role well, and really, who could resist those blue eyes and that shy smile he is known for?

Molly gets a glimpse into the lives of black families in LA as Corrina totes her around with her instead of going to school, a choice that ends up placing her in estrangement from Manny, who was not consulted on this important decision.

The dialogue is spot on and makes the story believable. Manny and Corrina like a little bit of jazz, and this makes the selections for the soundtrack wonderful. The film was written and directed by Jessie Nelson. I’d like to see other films by her, one of which is Stepmom that I’m told is quite good. Don Ameche has a small turn as Grandpa Harry. It was the Oscar winner’s final film prior to his death.

This is a heartwarming film, one that I think you would find entertaining and thought provoking. How far have we really come in these last nearly six decades in terms of race relations in America? I think not quite far enough; there always seem to be more steps to take for equality and understanding to really develop and take hold. Corrina, Corrina is an example for how to treat people and mend bridges, a fine example for our present days, and a sweet romantic comedy for a night at home.