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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, December 12, 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas

If you’ve ever enjoyed the story A Christmas Carol, I predict you will love this holiday release of The Man Who Invented Christmas. Based on the life of Charles Dickens, who famously wrote said story as well as many others, it takes place in England in 1843, the year he wrote and published the book.

The film is rated PG for thematic elements and some mild language. As I am also a writer, I was intrigued by the way the film depicted the creative process of Charles struggling to bring his characters to life on the pages of a book. Back then, writing was even more difficult, one page after another laboriously written out in longhand by the author.

Charles (Dan Stevens) lives in a nicely appointed home with his wife and several children. He’s just had three flops after the astounding success of Oliver Twist, and needs to write something that will sell. He is visited by his characters, most notably Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), as he writes his story. (Any writer will tell you that your characters do follow you around, and will never leave until you tell their story.)

Tara (Anna Murphy), a young servant from Ireland, becomes a sort of muse for Charles when he discovers she can read, and he then begins reading her what he’s written as he goes along. He also has a deadline, something all writers will be familiar with. There is nothing like a deadline to get the creative juices flowing until the task becomes almost an obsession.

The film shows flashbacks of the young Charles as a boy, and what he endured due to some setbacks of his father John (Jonathan Pryce), and being sent to a children’s work house to toil for 12 hours a day, pre-child labor laws. He is haunted by these memories and they influence how he writes.

He bases his story on bits and pieces of tales he hears from others, and it kind of reminded me of the now classic Shakespeare in Love that I reviewed for the A-Z Blogging Challenge last April. The screenwriter, Susan Coyne, did a marvelous job getting into the creative process of Charles as he creates perhaps his most memorable work.

A Christmas Carol was of course a huge success when it was published, and established the name Scrooge to indicate someone who is greedy, self-involved, and miserly, caring for no one other than himself. A term best used today to describe certain elected officials and heads of industry. Despite how far humanity has progressed since this story appeared in 1843, there is a long way to go until the poor are not seen as “those people,” and until all are seen as worthy of the same regard as those with greater wealth or education. This film was so good, I’ll likely watch it again once it is released on streaming channels. I highly recommend The Man Who Invented Christmas for your holiday movie night.

God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Daddy's Home 2

Movie sequels are not easy to pull off. Many sequels often just recycle the same jokes and situations as the first film, giving us nothing new or particularly interesting.

Daddy’s Home 2 is an exception, and hit a home run! A few days ago, I posted my review for the first film, Daddy’s Home. I decided to see the sequel as it is out in theaters now. I believe I have found my new favorite Christmastime holiday movie. I loved it!

We return to the families of Brad (Will Farrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), consisting of Brad’s wife Sara (Linda Cardellini), children Dylan (Owen Vaccaro), Megan (Scarlett Estevez), and the baby Griffy, as well as the stepdaughter Adrianna (Didi Costine) as Dusty has married her mother Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio).

Concerned that their families will have a miserable Christmas due to having to share time, mostly driving in cars getting to and from activities, Brad and Dusty decide to have a shared Christmas amongst all of them. Great idea, isn’t it? Except for they are informed that Dusty’s father Kurt (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s father Don (John Lithgow) are both arriving for a holiday visit.

Mel Gibson and John Lithgow are well cast as the fathers of these two men trying to do right by their families. Kurt is a hardened military kind of guy, having served with NASA, and Don is just as goofy as Brad is with his exuberant cheerfulness.

Kurt has booked a gorgeous chalet in the mountains for a shared holiday adventure, and adventure it is. All kinds of crazy shenanigans take place including some turkey hunting, chopping down a Christmas tree, a live manger scene, and heart to heart talks with Dylan who has a big case of puppy love. The film primarily showcases the father-son relationships and the dynamics of the stepfamily, and the four main male actors do wonderful jobs, portraying their characters so convincingly and holding nothing back.

Daddy’s Home 2 is rated PG-13 for suggestive material and some language. I recommend you see Daddy’s Home 2 in a crowded theater so you can share the laughter with everyone else. I loved the ending. It was perfect, and I left the theater feeling pumped up and happy. It is definitely a cure for any blues you might experience around this time of year if you are prone to that. Plus, it has none of the violence that so many films today showcase and even glorify. Sean Anders was the writer and director, and I applaud him for taking the risks in writing this family comedy. We need more uplifting movies like this one that remind us what we have in common and that we are all deserving of love, anytime of the year.

What holiday films are your favorites? What do your favorite holiday films have in common? Mine seem to be music, a good heartwarming story, and good acting. Daddy’s Home 2 delivers on all three. Happy holiday movie going to you!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Daddy's Home

A family comedy from 2015 in effect asks the rhetorical question: How do blended families cope when the biological dad shows up, the person the mom always made out to be the bad guy in their relationship? Daddy’s Home tackles this subject using plenty of humor and sight gags to make light of the struggles between stepchildren and their new fathers.

Brad Whitaker (Will Farrell) is a stepfather to two children, Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro), having married their mother Sara (Linda Cardellini). Unexpectedly, the children’s real father, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) shows up, striding back into their lives unwanted except for the kids who are overjoyed to see him again. Dusty is a bad boy riding an Indian motorcycle and working out his muscled physique in the family’s garage. He inserts himself into their home, crashing at their house to compete for his youngsters’ devotion and in an attempt to get his former wife to come back to him. I guess there’s nothing like someone else falling in love with your ex-wife and marrying her to get the jerk to realize just what he’s given up.

The comedy is pretty great. Brad works at a smooth jazz station. His boss Leo Holt (Thomas Haden Church) is an annoying man who tells Brad stories to try to make him feel better or teach him something, but they just end up being truly bizarre stories, some of which are so absurd, I just laughed out loud, amused by his delivery of these over the top scenarios.

Additionally, there are some really crazy situations this strange family deals with. Most notably, the hidden desire of Sara for another child, and the inability of Brad to conceive due to an unfortunate incident involving radiation. Dusty interferes and sets up an appointment with a fertility specialist, Dr. Francisco (Bobby Cannavale), that goes way overboard in my opinion. I don’t see how children should see this particular set of events unfold. It’s the one part of the movie I thought was rather tasteless.

Daddy’s Home is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, crude and suggestive content, and for language. A sequel, Daddy’s Home Two, is now in theaters adding Mel Gibson as Dusty’s father, and John Lithgow as Brad’s father in a story taking place at Christmas. Looks like it will be as funny as this first one.

If you’re a fan of Mark Wahlberg, you will like this film. He plays the charming ex-husband who seeks to give his replacement a run for the money with such bold maneuvers, you can’t help but like him. My husband finds Will Farrell really nauseating, so he didn’t watch the movie with me. Will Farrell is adept at playing kind of effeminate men, silly, stupid men, which is actually a compliment to his acting abilities. If you’re the dad in a blended family, it may be all too painfully real. For an evening of light entertainment, you may find Daddy’s Home to be a pleasant diversion.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent is my favorite film from 2017. The story is about famed artist Vincent Van Gogh, and depicts an amateur investigation into the mysterious circumstances of his death in 1890. The film is animated in a unique and groundbreaking manner. Artists paint every scene, and the characters in the film are real actors, with their images painted over by the artists to create a beautiful moving, animated feature. It is visually compelling, stunning and magical. You will think your eyes have entered one of Van Gogh’s paintings. Flashbacks to Vincent’s life prior to his death are painted in a black and white format, making for fascinating visual storytelling.

The film is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violence, sexual material and smoking. It is now showing in theaters. Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman directed Loving Vincent.

You may have heard of Vincent Van Gogh in art history class, or even have had the honor of seeing some of his paintings in person in a museum. (I had the privilege of viewing some of his work in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, an enchanting museum, and Van Gogh’s work is even more stunning in person.) You may have heard the famous tale of how he cut off his ear. Why? Due to hearing voices? What about his mysterious death, which I had not heard much about. It was attributed to a suicide attempt, but did he really try to kill himself?

Loving Vincent will have you wondering about all these questions and more up until and beyond the dramatic ending. Vincent (Robert Gulaczyk) has settled in Auvers-sur-Oise, France to paint. He is frequently out in nature painting plein air, being tormented by village boys, and having luck, or the lack of it, in love. Vincent was a patient of Doctor Gachet (Jerome Flynn) who lived in the village, and by all accounts, had improved his mood considerably. Was he in love with Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan)? How upset was her father Doctor Gachet about Vincent and Marguerite becoming involved?

When he met his death, a letter to his brother had been left undelivered. Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), the son of a postman, seeks to deliver it to its rightful owner, and becomes intrigued by the circumstances surrounding Vincent’s death, and therefore his life. What secrets went to the grave, and what can be deduced from examination of the events that transpired in his last year on earth? Armand interviews villagers, and those who knew Vincent best in his last two years on earth.

I know I’ve asked many questions here, and hopefully it will serve to push you along to the theater to see Loving Vincent. As always, I cannot say more about the content of the film without a spoiler. Trust me on this one: the tale will captivate you as will the extraordinary artistry of the film itself.

And a gift for you, Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues singing Don McLean’s Vincent: Justin Hayward - Starry, Starry Night

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Crooklyn

Let me say this right up front: I am a fan of Spike Lee’s films. I sometimes wonder where he’s been all these years, as nothing monumental has come out of Forty Acres & a Mule Filmworks for some time. When a friend asked me to watch Crooklyn, a film from 1994, I eagerly said I would. After all, it’s Spike Lee, and is semi-autobiographical. Crooklyn is rated PG-13 for drug content.

The first thing I noticed is the soundtrack. The first song is pleasant enough, serving as background to the camera that’s showing us the streets of Brooklyn, the children playing on the sidewalks and on the steps of their apartment buildings. It sets the scene well.

But the music never stops. One after another song is inserted into the action and the dialogue. It’s distracting, annoying, and I hated it. This film is supposed to be about a family and their colorful neighbors, not about ‘70’s music. Music is supposed to be used in a film to enhance the story, not drown it out.

The film’s main characters are the Carmichael family: Mom Carolyn (Alfre Woodard), Dad Woody (Delroy Lindo) and their five children growing up in 1973 in difficult financial times. The four brothers have only the one sister, Troy (Zelda Harris).  Carolyn is a hard working schoolteacher, mostly carrying the weight of bringing in the money, and in caring for her rambunctious children. Woody is a musician, a composer who prefers jazz, something that is not bringing in any money these days.

One aspect of the film I noticed was the cinematography. It seemed to me that certain scenes between Carolyn and Troy were super clear, very distinct and visual. When Troy went south to stay with relatives for the summer, the visual effects were quite different, distorted almost. I’m sure these choices were intentional. It did make parts of the story stand out more, so that when the reveal happens, you think back to what those periods in Troy’s life meant to her.

Interestingly, New Yorkers selected Crooklyn for the One Film, One New York screening this year, which is a contest where the whole city is encouraged to watch one film on the same night (September 13, 2017). The other nominees for this contest were Desperately Seeking Susan, On the Town, New York, New York, and The Wedding Banquet. For Crooklyn to win over these other films is a tribute and a nod to the filmography of Spike Lee. I don’t live in New York, and I have never even visited the city, something I will correct in the next few years, so I don’t fully understand their choice. Perhaps it is nostalgia for the 1970’s, the music of our youth, or for Mr. Lee.

I’d recommend watching some of Spike Lee’s other films instead of this one. Jungle Fever, She’s Gotta Have It, Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, even Summer of Sam are preferable to this loud, messy tale.

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.