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!

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

The Christmas Chronicles

I'm back! Seven weeks on the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain was a one of a kind experience. I am ready to get back into the swing of writing film reviews and what better way to begin than with a Christmas film.

Searching around for something to watch, I was intrigued to see Kurt Russell in a Santa suit in the trailer for The Christmas Chronicles. A Netflix original, I decided why not? I’ve always liked Kurt Russell and the story looked cute. The film is rated TV-PG.

I sat down with drink and popcorn and thoroughly enjoyed this fantastical romp through the night skies of Christmas Eve. Brother Teddy (Judah Lewis) and sister Kate (Darby Camp) are left alone to decorate the home and Christmas tree while Mom Claire (Kimberly Williams-Paisley) has to go to work. The family has recently lost their father Doug (Oliver Hudson), who was a firefighter, so emotions run high this Christmas time.

Kate believes in Santa with all her heart and much to their delight and ours, Santa (Kurt Russell) pays them a visit, complete with sleigh and reindeer. But a mishap occurs and he enlists Kate and Teddy to help him fix Christmas.

Kurt Russell does a really great job playing Santa. I’ve always liked his acting abilities, and he is a really lovable funny guy in this role. I recall from years and years ago that he played Elvis Presley in the TV movie Elvis. He was really quite good, and is a good singer. Be forewarned. One of the best scenes recalls a certain "jailhouse?"

There is lots of magic and fantasy and great special effects as Santa swoops through the sky, bounds across rooftops and down chimneys, and the reindeer almost look real (not some mechanized puppets I mean).  Delightful story, well written and delivered, The Christmas Chronicles is now one of my favorite Christmas movies. I plan to watch it again.

Have you seen it? Do you think Kurt Russell is the best Santa ever?

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

El Camino

I will be walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain beginning next week, and so I was searching on my streaming channels for any documentaries or movies about the experience. I came across the film El Camino, and even though it is not about the famous trek across northern Spain, it is about a path of sorts. The film was released in 2008, and is not rated. (El Camino is not to be confused with the upcoming film inspired by Breaking Bad which, unfortunately, bears the same name.)

When Matthew (Richard Gallagher) passes away, three of his friends come together at the memorial services hosted by Matthew’s family. Having known Matthew in different periods of his life, they don’t seem to have much in common. Elliot (Leo Fitzpatrick) was a childhood friend while the two boys were in foster care, Lily (Elisabeth Moss) a former girlfriend, and Gray (Christopher Denham), another friend made along the pathways of life.

Gray decides to take some of Matthew’s ashes to Mexico’s coast to scatter across the ocean waves, and Lily and Elliot join him. The trio takes off in a station wagon with Elliot mostly footing the bill for this road trip. As the journey continues, they learn about each other, the type of relationship each had with Matthew and come to a tentative respect for one another.

I enjoyed the film even though it wasn’t what I had been looking for. I think sometimes friends know each other better than family members.  When someone grows and changes, it can leave family behind. The people who know us best then are the friends we’ve formed relationships with along the way. This is no less true of this trio and their friend who has left too soon.

Have you seen this film or one like it? El Camino is an independent film. The trailer will give you an idea of the characters’ journey in the film.

Signing off then, until I return from my personal Camino. As always, thanks for reading and commenting.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Quiet Place

Husband/wife duo John Krasinski and Emily Blunt star in this well done horror film. What if you couldn’t make a sound lest a horrible monster attack and kill you? A Quiet Place is all about this question. It is a post-apocalyptic film where much of the world has been exterminated by barely seen monsters. The film is rated PG-13 for terror and some bloody images.

Evelyn (Emily Blunt) and Lee Abbott (John Krasinski) have three children, and you can imagine how keeping three children quiet would be a seemingly insurmountable task. They have adapted though, and have managed to make a life for themselves in the basement of their home. They do occasionally have to venture out to retrieve supplies. Lee is experimenting with hearing aids, something I did not pick up on until later in the film. My husband said to me that the oldest girl Regan (Millicent Simmonds) is hearing impaired. That must be why they can all use sign language! (Millicent Simmonds is in fact a hearing impaired actress.)

As often happens to a woman in a relationship, Evelyn becomes pregnant. In the trailer I saw a scene of her giving birth in a bathtub. Whoever heard of a woman quietly giving birth? Lots of tension during those scenes, and throughout the whole film. 

I don’t want to give too much away, but their lives depend on finding the weakness of the monsters. What will be the bloodthirsty creatures’ Achilles heel? The film was nominated for one Academy Award: Best Achievement in Sound Editing. I watched A Quiet Place in the silence of my own home and was glad I did not see it in a noisy theater. It is now one of my favorite horror films.

Did you see A Quiet Place? Did you like the film? What is your favorite horror film?

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

Velvet Buzzsaw

Velvet Buzzsaw, a Netflix original, won’t be for everyone. I watched it based on the intriguing trailer I saw on streaming Netflix. It is rated R for violence, language, some sexuality/nudity and brief drug use.

Velvet Buzzsaw is a supernatural horror film set in the art world; the ultra rich world of high finance installation and abstract art that I find tedious and boring. I loved this film and it’s unique sense of humor that is an undercurrent through all the mystery and horror that unfolds.

Art critic Morf Vandewalt (Jake Gyllenhaal) is front and center in this film where the legacy of art goes very, very wrong. Rhodora Haze (Rene Russo) is a gallery owner and a wheeler dealer in the art world. Her assistant Josephina (Zawe Ashton) comes across an apartment full of art in her building after her neighbor Dease passes away. She recognizes his work as having possibilities, despite Dease’s request that they all be destroyed upon his death. Rhodora takes charge of the artwork to create a market for the dead man’s paintings (works of dead artists sell better than the living I am sorry to say). Dease’s paintings have supernatural effects on all who come in contact with them, and dead bodies begin to turn up.

Velvet Buzzsaw makes fun of the high class art world as indeed it should be made fun of. Jake Gyllenhaal is brilliant in his role as the art critic, and is really fun to watch. Since my husband is an artist, I spend a fair amount of time in galleries and art museums. I’ve been in some of these pretentious establishments where the price tags are in the 5-6 figure range, none of it worth the canvas it’s painted on. Particularly amusing to me is what happens to art advisor Gretchen (Toni Collette) and how the public initially respond to it.

Did you see Velvet Buzzsaw? Is it more of a horror film or a satire for you? Would you recommend the film to anyone?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Great Escape

A notable film from 1963, The Great Escape features an all-star ensemble cast. The action takes us to a German World War II prison camp to witness a truly great escape in the making.

The screenplay is based on the true story of men who were able to escape a Nazi prison camp. It is a glamorized war film. You can expect no less from Hollywood for a film made during this time period. It is not rated, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Film Editing.

A long film of 2 hours 52 minutes, I didn’t feel that any part of it dragged. These brave and cunning men are building a tunnel to escape in the hundreds, and the ingenuity used to make this work is really extraordinary.

Hilts “The Cooler King” (Steve McQueen), although not the most important character, is always remembered in this film. McQueen’s bad boy kind of persona shines through in his role as Hilts. Also notable is Hendley “The Scrounger” (James Garner), able to sweet talk his way into obtaining any forbidden item they require in order to make the escape work. His scenes with young Nazi soldier Werner (Robert Graf) are believable, the fear of the young man in service to the Nazi’s used to Hendley’s advantage.

Liberties were taken with the story, but it is true that men escaped from this prison camp. Allied soldiers from Canada, Great Britain, and Australia, the U.S., the Netherlands, and Norway were all at the camp and participated in making the escape happen. I read that some German officers actually helped the prisoners acquire what they needed to make the escape as successful as it was. 

After you watch the film, look up The Great Escape on Wikipedia and read about the real men who inspired the film.

Have you seen The Great Escape? Did you like it? Are there other films set during the World War II era that you think are worth a watch?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Shoplifters was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2019 Academy Awards (lost to Roma). It is in Japanese with English subtitles, and is rated R for some sexual content and nudity. The film won the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

This film is about family in all its permutations. Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky) has instructed his “son” Shota (Jyo Kairi) in the art of shoplifting. Also in the family is Osamu’s wife Nobuyo (Sakura Andô), Hatsue (Kirin Kiki), an elderly woman in whose home they all live, and Aki (Mayu Matsuoka), a young woman with ties to Hatsue.

One day, they come upon a girl, Yuri Hojo (Miyu Sasaki), who appears to be neglected and abused. They take her home and quickly become attached to her. Yuri relishes the attention and caring the family give her and doesn’t appear to miss her mother, who hasn’t even reported her missing. 

The Shibata family is very poor, despite Osamu’s job as a laborer, and Nobuyo’s work in an industrial laundry. Aki has a job at a “hostess” club, which is really some kind of a sex club for voyeurs. The grandmother receives a pension from her deceased husband. They cannot make ends meet, and the shoplifting in their eyes is essential to feeding and clothing all of them.

When Yuri’s mother finally reports her missing, it leads to a chain of events where secrets are revealed, and consequences paid for crimes committed. Shoplifters will make you think about what makes a family: biology or choice?

I very much enjoyed watching this film. The cinematography was beautiful, the heartbreak of the members of this makeshift family real and poignant. The performances were excellent. 

Did you see Shoplifters? Do you enjoy watching foreign films? What are some of your favorites?

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The Bikes of Wrath

The Bikes of Wrath is a delightful documentary film about five young men from Australia who ride bicycles across the southwestern United States. Enraptured with the famous novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, they set out to bike from Oklahoma to Bakersfield, California, the same route the fictional Joad family took in their exodus from the Dust Bowl.

They undertook this trek in July. You heard me right. I live in New Mexico, and this is nothing short of foolhardy. But they persist in this 2600 km (1,612 mile) journey, taking only the same amount of money the Joad’s had with them on their trip.

This documentary was fascinating, and I’m so glad a friend asked my husband and I to go to our local art cinema to see it. It is much more than just a bike trip. Interspersed in the action are people they meet along the way reading excerpts from the novel, along with a look at how the Dust Bowl was created, as well as the hardships that followed. The people they meet are often themselves the descendants of Dust Bowl survivors. The documentary does a great job showing what this part of the United States is like culturally and economically.

The look at America through the eyes of these Australian men is enlightening, and sometimes heartbreaking. Class divides and prejudice continue to this day, not completely abolished with the passage of time.

Are you a long distance biker? Did you see The Bikes of Wrath? What did you think of the film? What other documentaries would you recommend?