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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, November 14, 2017

Suburbicon

Joel and Ethan Cohen wrote the screenplay for Suburbicon. Once I heard that, I knew I was in for seeing something strange on the big screen. Their most famous film is Fargo, Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay as well as Best Actress for Frances McDormand. The Cohen brothers always have a moral to their stories, and it is usually that people are blinded by money and do all sorts of dastardly deeds just to get more money.

This film has an added message in that the money leads to murder and the disintegration of society. While true evil lurks in one of the white homes in Suburbicon, that of Gardner Lodge and his family, a black family has moved in just on the other side of the fence from them. The white residents of this 1959 suburb that could exist anywhere in America focus on the dangers of a black family moving into their neighborhood, while the Lodge family plays out a drama of deceit, murder, fraud and adultery.

The law-abiding family in back of the Lodge’s attempt to ignore the threats to their home and family and the nightly chaos from the stupid white racists who live in the community. Stereotyped to the extreme by the white residents, the black family never gives away their dignity, and endures.

So the message I got from this film was: wake up! While evil exists right next door to you, stupid fearful racists profile and make life miserable for law-abiding citizens who just happen to be a different skin color.

Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) lives with his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) and his son Nicky (Noah Jupe). Rose’s sister Margaret is also in the home and she is also played by Julianne Moore. Rose is wheelchair bound. One late night, two men enter their home, ostensibly to rob them, and proceed to put them all under, probably with chloroform, and give Rose too much of it, killing her in the process.

With Rose gone, Margaret stays on to take care of Nicky. The action intensifies as Nicky becomes suspicious about the circumstances of his mother’s death. An insurance investigator, Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac), comes sniffing around in an attempt to see if Gardner’s insurance claim is fraudulent in any way, and the two thugs continue to terrorize Gardner.

Meanwhile, the attacks on the black family have not let up. The contrast between the two situations is intensely disturbing. The film is rated R for violence, language and some sexuality.

I can see why some people would not like this film. At first glance, it appears that there are two separate stories going on in Suburbicon, but because the two families exist side by side, the pointed contrast between the two come out strongly.

If you can stomach some blood, I recommend the film. It reminded me of Fargo actually, just in another setting and with the racial message thrown in. It’s not a great movie, but makes its point clearly.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Blade Runner (1982)

In anticipation of the new Blade Runner film, my husband suggested we watch the original released in 1982 prior to seeing the sequel. I thought I had seen this film when it first came out. If I had, I didn’t remember much from it. Blade Runner is rated R for violence.

Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is what is known as a blade runner, a hunter and destroyer of replicants, androids with artificial intelligence that look exactly like and usually act like humans. The replicants were used as slave labor on other planets’ outposts, and were banned from coming back to planet earth. If they do, they are terminated.

Rick is coerced into hunting down four replicants, leader Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), Leon (Brion James), and Pris (Daryl Hannah), who have entered the world in 2019, not so long from now, right? Believe me, the world today doesn’t look like this film depicted, and won’t in just two years. It is strange that writers place future scenarios so close to present day. At least Star Trek set things ways out there in the future which made the scenarios and worlds more plausible.

Earth is a dismal planet as depicted, nowhere I would want to live. Rick is intrigued by the replicant Racheal (Sean Young) who doesn’t seem to know she is one. She was given a memory of childhood, and so remembers things she never experienced. The others he encounters are violent, and dangerous.

The replicants have a life span of four years, and they want their creator, the scientist or developer who made them, to extend their time in the world of the living as long as possible, removing their impending death sentence. Pris is waif-like, but with a mean temper and a fighting spirit who entreats the loner J. F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), one of the genetic designers, to allow her to stay in his strange home filled with creations of his own making, toys that look real and wander about the cavernous rooms he calls home. The replicants seek his help in getting to the scientist who may be able to reverse their ticking time clocks.

I thought the film moved rather slowly, especially at first. An unusual choice was Rick as narrator of his story. It gives a sort of Dragnet feel to the action, or what is sometimes very little action. The soundtrack by Vangelis, a popular musician during the 1980’s, adds distinction to the film. Blade Runner has been touted as sci-fi film noir, and it has that feel, which makes it unique.

The ending was the best part of the film. It had a message to be delivered, and was succinct and poignant. However, I am simply growing tired of films that are so violent, and with apocalyptic story lines. It is boring and tiresome, and I frankly couldn’t wait for this film to be over. Let’s hope that Blade Runner 2049 shows up the original film. I’ll let you know.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Conjuring

While little kids and teens were out asking for candy Halloween night, we watched The Conjuring (we don’t have many children in the neighborhood, so forgo having any candy on hand).  This film was based on true events, involving Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), who are paranormal investigators, intervening with a demon possession in a family in 1971.

The Perron family, father Roger (Ron Livingston, from Sex and the City) and mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor) have five beautiful girls, ranging in age from not yet in school to a teenager. They have moved into an old farmhouse in the countryside of Rhode Island to get away from the city. Almost immediately after settling in, a series of supernatural happenings begin to occur.

When Roger and Carolyn find they cannot cope with whatever is haunting their home, they reach out to Ed and Lorraine. The evil that has planted itself in this house attacks any residents, and Ed and Lorraine must do an exorcism to rid the family of its malevolence. They must ask for permission from the Catholic Church all the way to the Vatican to do this, and since no priest is readily available, Ed, who is a non-ordained demonologist recognized by the Catholic Church, must perform it himself with Lorraine’s help. Poor Carolyn is the one possessed, and Lili Taylor gave an amazing job acting in The Conjuring. All the actors are stellar in their performances and it helps make the film really excellent.

I recall watching The Exorcist when it came out in the 1970’s, and that was a sufficiently horrifying film to watch, I didn’t see horror films again for a long time. I feel that the filmmakers may have taken some liberties to make this supernatural possession even scarier for the film. Special effects can create a world in a horror film that is absolutely terrifying. I said to my husband, that if this story is true, then I am not open to such occurrences in my world. He stated that if possession by a demon is true, then evil exists in the world, and not just in a full-blown possession. Interesting to think about.

The film was released in 2013 and is rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror. A sequel to The Conjuring was released in 2016; I have no intentions of seeing it. I enjoyed this first film, and I actually recommend if you like the horror genre, but I think that the entire series may be a little too scary for me.

This is the final horror or Halloween season film I’m reviewing for the year, and will get on to perhaps happier films (although Ghost Town and Shaun of the Dead that I reviewed earlier in October are both more in the romance or comedy genre).

If you have any suggestions on what types of films you’d like to see me review here, please comment below. As always, thanks for reading my reviews!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Contagion

Not exactly of the horror genre, Contagion is still a very scary movie. My sister and I watched it recently. Billed as a drama/thriller, it is spot-on in depicting how an epidemic could spread throughout the world, killing hundreds of thousands in its wake. Steven Soderbergh directed Contagion, released in 2011. It is rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language.

Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a business trip in Hong Kong to Minneapolis, her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) and her young son, and falls ill with flu-like symptoms. She dies fairly quickly, and then others around the country and world also grow sick and die. The film is clever in that it begins on Day 2 and then shows others around the planet succumbing to the same illness as each day passes, which eventually brings the illness to the awareness of health organizations. But why? Why are so many people dying? And why does Beth’s husband Mitch not become sick and die? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other international organizations scramble to curb the epidemic and to find a vaccine to combat it. But it is really difficult work.

Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) is a hard-working staff member at the CDC taking risks to help others and investigate the spread of the virus. Her boss, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) cautions her to watch her step so she does not also become ill. Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) is employed by the World Health Organization and is seeking clues to the spread of the disease in parallel to the CDC’s efforts.

Meanwhile, the population is grieving as death is everywhere. Fear is rampant, helped along by bloggers like Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), who reports on the development of a vaccine. Mitch has his hands full with his daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron), keeping her safe, as it is hard for a teenager to spend days and days at home away from her friends. How did this virus begin? And how does it spread? You will have to come along on the journey as the connections are revealed.

I will say that after watching this film, I am more cautious than ever about washing my hands, not touching my face, etc. It will scare you into taking these actions preached by health care professionals and your mom seriously. Exacerbating my sudden paranoia was my coincidently beginning to read Stephen King’s The Stand, the complete and uncut edition he published in 1990.

I had never read it before and it is a truly chilling tale, making Contagion look tame in comparison. The Stand deals with an epidemic of huge proportions when the U.S. government accidentally releases a deadly virus. It is really ghastly what can happen when disease spreads unchecked.

In the end, yes, I recommend you watch Contagion. The story is well written, directed and believable. The actors will have your sympathy for their plight. Just remember: Wash your hands. And quit touching your face.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Baby's Room

What would you do if you placed a baby monitor in the little one’s room and heard eerie voices emanating from the speakers in the night? Get a video monitor to go with it of course. Then what if you see shadowy figures sitting by the infant’s crib?

For Juan (Javier Guttiérez) and Sonia (Leonor Watling), that is exactly what happened. Having bought an old fixer upper of a house, they need to know if the sounds they are hearing in the baby’s room are real or a figment of their overactive imaginations.

The Baby’s Room (La habitación del niño) is a Spanish film that is included in a set of six films entitled collectively: Films to Keep You Awake. It is the only one we watched, and it was scary enough for one night’s viewing without adding any other stories to the mix. There are English subtitles, easy enough to read as you watch.

Leonor Watling played the beautiful Alicia in Talk to Her (see my review) and in this film has quite a lot more room for movement! The Baby’s Room was released in 2007 and came after her part as Alicia. In a film of only one hour and 17 minutes, this is a much larger role for her. It is Juan, however, that the story most focuses on. At risk of losing his job as a sports reporter at a newspaper, he spirals downward into paranoia and fear, making Sonia believe he is going crazy.

But what he sees in those baby monitors is truly scary. (It is a real shock at the end when the story reaches its horror film conclusion.)

In an attempt to bring sanity back into his life, Juan visits Domingo (Sancho Gracia), who has some knowledge of physics and parapsychology. This serves to educate and intrigue the viewer, but doesn’t seem to help Juan very much. He continues dabbling in the supernatural world his fixer upper seems to encapsulate.

The other thing that is interesting is a consideration of ghosts or specters. Where do they come from? Are they an entity that exists alongside of us in this world, or do they inhabit a parallel universe that few can see and even fewer travel to?

Do we have evil twins who lurk in the shadows beside us? The consideration of an inter-dimensional world, kind of like the one that UFOs are believed to come from, is something to think about as you watch this film. That is, if you’re not spilling your popcorn and drink all over the sofa as you are scared out of your wits at yet another shocking glimpse into the dark side.

I recommend The Baby’s Room if you like the horror genre and a mystery both. Films to Keep You Awake is a 3-disc set, but we watched it on Amazon. They’re all drama, horror, thriller, mysteries, and perhaps at some time I’ll watch those also. In the meantime, this is a good one for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Thing (1982)

I was at my niece’s house recently, and during a conversation about my October plans for posting reviews about scary movies, her husband asked if I had seen The Thing. No, I had not, and we all promptly watched it together on their big screen TV.

The Thing is a John Carpenter film, a horror tour de force. It is rated R for strong graphic sci-fi/horror violence and gore, grisly images, language and some drug content. It was released in 1982. Kurt Russell is the most famous actor in the film.

A group of Americans and a group of Norwegians inhabit two separate research stations in Antarctica. As you can imagine, the terrain is an unforgiving landscape of snow, cold and ice.

The Norwegians have dug up something long buried in the earth during their archeological research. It appears to have driven them mad and destroyed them, as well as making some of their dogs crazy. The Americans are incredulous to find that all the Norwegians have died and their camp destroyed in a very gruesome manner.

Mayhem ensues as the thing that has escaped the Norwegian base is very much alive, and stalks the animals and humans in the Americans’ camp. Paranoia runs high as each member of the party questions if the other has been taken over by this alien thing. MacReady (Kurt Russell), a helicopter pilot, becomes the leader of the crew, taking charge when others seem unable to do so. Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) attempts to understand the thing from a scientific perspective, but the other men soon witness firsthand just what it is capable of doing. It doesn’t help that their isolation is so complete with communication to the outside world cut off. An alien life form buried in the frigid ice and snow of Antarctica for centuries is not something to be taken lightly. It makes any regular aliens from a UFO movie seem very, very tame.

The gore and horror is really something else. My sister, known for a very loud scream when startled, really let out a good high decibel shriek upon one particularly unsuspected and horrible scene. Actually, everyone in the room screamed, even the ones who had already seen the film.

You have to have a strong stomach for this kind of tale. If only you could fast forward through the horror and concentrate on the suspicions of the men and how they go about trying to eliminate the thing and save themselves, that would be preferable. The techniques they use to search out who the thing has taken over are really quite clever. That was good storytelling, showing the detective work they undertook to save themselves.

If you’re a die-hard horror film fan, this one’s for you. Otherwise watch one of the other films I’ve reviewed this month for lighter Halloween fare. That remake of John Carpenter’s The Fog would be a good place to start. Just some ghosts floating about, nothing like the sheer terror of The Thing.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ghost Town

Ghost Town is a cute, cute, cute little movie with lots of comedy and pathos. Frank (Greg Kinnear) is a not so great husband who meets his untimely death one afternoon, leaving his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) behind.

Dr. Bertram Pincus, DDS, (Ricky Gervais) is a less than happy individual who finds he can see ghosts following what should have been a routine colonoscopy, during which he died for a few minutes. He and his surgeon/physician (Kristen Wiig) have some of the best comedic scenes in this film together. Really priceless, spot on dialogue between them that will have you laughing out loud.

Frank tries to enlist Pincus to help him break up the relationship and pending marriage between his wife and her new boyfriend Richard (Billy Campbell), a human rights attorney. Pincus reluctantly agrees, and surprisingly, he is charming in a very odd way, which begins to endear him to Gwen. She is an Egyptologist and when dentist Pincus offers to look at a mummy’s dental work, she agrees, resulting in yet another very funny encounter in the story.

Other ghosts pursue Pincus in a manner not unlike the ghosts who haunt Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Oda Mae, in the classic film Ghost. Ghost Town is lighter, will make you smile and laugh out loud, especially due to Ricky Gervais, who delivers his lines like a standup comic should.

What is keeping all these ghosts earthbound? What are they hoping to get from Pincus that he rarely gets any space to himself in the real world sans ghosts? That’s a question you will have to see answered for yourself when you watch Ghost Town.

Ghost Town was written and directed by David Koepp, whom I discovered was born in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. This interests me as I am from Wisconsin, and am quite familiar with Pewaukee. David Koepp has quite the writing credits in his bio, including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, War of the Worlds, Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, and more. Most impressive. Despite all those blockbusters, I will argue that Ghost Town, this sweet, witty, character driven piece, has all of those other films beat. No over the top special effects to carry the film along, it relies on great dialogue, a good premise and fine comedic timing and acting.

The film is rated PG-13 for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references, and was released in 2008. This time of year, with Halloween preparations coming up, you could probably watch this with family and not scare anyone to bits, or offend anyone for that matter. You may even shed a few heartfelt tears near the end. The writing is very good, and the actors are really doing their best, and it all pays off in a very enjoyable film, more of a romantic comedy than a true ghost story. Even Ghost was scarier than this film.

Watch it when you want to feel all happy/good inside. It would make a good date night film.