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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, 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.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Shaun of the Dead

More of a comedy than a horror film, Shaun of the Dead satisfied my need to see yet another film from the talent of Simon Pegg. Curious, and not opposed to a story about zombies, I watched this really funny movie enjoying it every step of the way.

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is one of those less than stellar guys that can’t seem to keep his girlfriend happy and has a fairly mediocre job, and an even more mediocre loser friend Ed (Nick Frost). His girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) has had it with Shaun and dumps him.

In his despair at losing Liz, Shaun doesn’t notice at first that England is being overrun with zombies. For what reason, we never do entirely discover.

He and Ed, always a team, set out to find Liz and also rescue Shaun’s mother Barbara (Penelope Wilton) and stepfather Philip (Bill Nighy) from a fate worse than death. For you see, if a zombie bites you, that’s it, into a zombie you become.

One thing about zombies, they move very slowly. At least in this film. It gives the inept heroes some time to figure out how to kill them, and it is really hilarious. This is so much more than a zombie movie, it’s a romantic comedy, and the dialogue and situations Shaun and his family and friends encounter are very, very entertaining.

The film is rated R for zombie violence/gore and language. The film was released in 2004, and it is really not that bad in terms of being scary or that bloody. Yes, there are a few scenes you might have to shut your eyes for, but not for long.

Shaun is an unlikely hero, and we watch him rise to the occasion to become a zombie fighter extraordinaire, becoming a leader, something he never could pull off at work.

Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, who also directed the film, wrote the screenplay. The film won 13 awards during award season, mostly for screenplay and film. The soundtrack that accompanies the action is great, several Queen songs, and it all fits in nicely. It’s so much more than a movie to watch at Halloween.

I have been a fan of Simon Pegg since seeing him in Hector and the Search for Happiness, and reviewed that film on my site (type in the name on the upper left of the screen to search for the review). The only other two actors I recognized were of course Bill Nighy (love Actually) and Penelope Wilton, who acted with Nighy in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel duo of films.

I liked this movie so much, I’d watch it again. Maybe have a Simon Pegg marathon of my very own: Shaun of the Dead, Hector and the Search for Happiness, and Star Trek Beyond where he plays Scotty so well. Or just search his films and pick out something entirely new and see if I can be as surprised and entertained as I am by these films. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Mist

The Mist is a film that is pure Stephen King horror. Frank Darabont, famed director of The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile, made King’s novella, The Mist, into a feature length film. I had not read much about this prior to viewing, and wondered if it would be like the movie The Fog I recently reviewed.

It was not. Much scarier, and I have to say I prefer The Fog to this very, very intense film.

David Drayton (Thomas Jane) lives in a sleepy little community somewhere in Maine, with his wife and young son, Billy (Nathan Gamble). He is an artist, something I will refer to at the end of my review.

An eerie mist hangs over the lake after a storm sent a tree crashing through their bay window, and the neighbor’s downed tree destroyed their boathouse. Their neighbor, Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) has not always been on the best of terms with David, but they warm up to each other after the natural disaster.

David gives Norton a ride into town with him and Billy, leaving his wife behind at the house. The mist envelops them and a great many other townspeople and tourists while they are in the grocery store and the terror begins.

The mist harbors incredible bloodthirsty monsters. King has written a good story here, inhabiting the grocery store with a microcosm of society: common, not overly bright townspeople; smart rational thinkers; a few men from the military; and Mrs. Carmody, a crazed religious lunatic, brilliantly played by Marcia Gay Harden. Amanda (Laurie Holden) serves as an ally and a protector of Billy. We never really find out much about her, but she is an optimist where others are not. How will these diverse people survive, or not, in the close, confined quarters of a local grocery store? A good plot line, and one by one, or several at once, succumb to the monsters, as their numbers dwindle.

David is a leader with other strong members of the community, and they grow increasingly concerned about Mrs. Carmody and the negative influence she is having over some of the more vulnerable people trapped in the store.

The trauma suffered by these people is really quite disturbing. It had me writhing in my chair. The film is rated R for violence, terror and gore, and language. It deserves this rating. I wouldn’t let any child watch this. And in fact, I don’t recommend it for you. Personal preference if you will, I’d much rather you watch Frank Darabont’s other films, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Majestic for very high quality stories and work.

I mentioned that the main character, David, was an artist. We first see him in his studio in his lakeside home, painting movie posters. This is homage to the famous movie poster artist, Drew Struzan. I watched the special feature that highlighted his artistic talents. It was the best part of the DVD. Watch The Mist at your own risk.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The Fog (2005)

It’s October and Halloween is approaching, so get ready to watch a variety of scary or strange films in anticipation of the night of ghosts and goblins. I will be choosing several I have watched to review for you.

“Their past has come back to haunt them.” Tagline from The Fog

The Fog (2005) is a remake of a 1980 film with the same name from none other than John Carpenter, master of horror. The only actor I recognized in this film was Selma Blair (Legally Blonde; A Guy Thing). I had not seen the original. It looked intriguing in the trailer, all that fog drifting in from the Pacific Ocean onto an island ostensibly off the Oregon coast.

The little town on Antonio Island has a history, quite a sordid history, which is unknown to the descendants of the original settlers. The supernatural qualities of the very dense fog, that looks more like a bank of clouds as it overtakes boats and the island, become evident quickly.

Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace) has been away from the island for a few months, and has returned home to her former boyfriend Nick Castle (Tom Welling). Nick owns a fishing charter company, the Seagrass, taking tourists out to sea. Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair) is a single mom depending on a sitter for her son while she hosts the island’s only radio show. They are each descended from one of the four founding fathers of the settlement that established the town in 1871. As with any creepy movie where one by one people succumb to the evil that lurks in their midst, others bond together in an attempt to survive.

The sea is surprisingly calm for the Pacific, which I’ve read is inaccurately named. The fog does the damage. All I can say is be careful what you pick up on the beach.

I found the movement of the plot to be quite suspenseful as a good horror film should be. John Carpenter is well known for horror films. My taste in horror leads me away from any slasher movies, and this is not one of those. The characters are placed in danger, narrowly escape, or not, all in a way where you’ll sit there and verbalize, “Oh, no!”

If you’re looking for some ghost stories for the month, this one is good. There are ghosts, a surprise ending, and good detective work from the characters that are being led to the clues that will explain why the fog is ravishing their town.

An update of 20 years or so for this film has likely resulted in some improvements in special effects, but the plot is still a classic ghost story.  It is rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and brief sexuality. Filmed in British Columbia, Canada, the scenery and the ocean are quite beautiful.

What is your favorite film to watch in this month leading up to Halloween? Do you prefer ghost stories or something else? Comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sex and the City [The Movie]

The only way you’ll like this film is if you are a die-hard Sex and the City (SATC) fan. Watching this movie is a guilty pleasure. SATC was only on for six seasons, but it made quite an impression on women and a few men I know. The names Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda will always be associated with this story that celebrates women, relationships and Manhattan.

The film picks up where the series left off, Miranda making a family with Steve and little Brady, Samantha making Smith a star, Charlotte happily adopting a baby with Harry, and Carrie and Big finally a committed couple in love. As with any relationship, trials arise in the forms of infidelity, boredom, and marriage, not necessarily in that order or for each of our girls.

The film is rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. It is two hours and twenty-five minutes of indulgence, particularly when Carrie gets an article and photo shoot about her upcoming nuptials in Vogue at the insistence of her editor Enid (Candice Bergen). That bit could have been nixed for me (boring!), but I can see where it helped set up the soon to be cold feet of Carrie’s betrothed John Preston, aka Mr. Big (Chris Noth).

Also, that catwalk at Fashion Week: too much. It’s self-indulgent and boring, the fashions vapid and phony. You can see I’m not much for the labels!

What does work for me and likely all SATC fans, are the relationships between the women. That’s why we watch these sitcoms or dramas in the first place, right? Whether it’s from way back 90210, where the friends are everything to each other beginning in high school, or Friends, another group of devoted twenty-somethings struggling to get through life with a few laughs, or the classic Sex and the City, it’s all about friendship, things you don’t get from your families, or even your partners in life.

That’s why we keep watching. Fiction can showcase truth more completely than a documentary can, and there are no documentaries about women in New York City, not like SATC. Someone once said to me she didn’t like SATC because the women were promiscuous. It’s fiction! Please! Anyone who’s been in the dating scene can relate to at least one story line sometime in this run, and the actresses make it come together to entertain and to make us sad.

Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), and Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon) are now icons. In this film, they continue on in the characters they so expertly first created for HBO. If you fast forward through the Vogue and Fashion Week fluff, I think you’ll find a well-rounded story about love, forgiveness, and being true to one’s own self and heart.

Chick flick? Yes. Don’t invite your man to watch unless the two of you binge watched SATC together. Enjoy the movie, and have a Cosmopolitan while you’re at it.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Hours

Based on the novel by Michael Cunningham, The Hours follows a day in the life of three women, separated by time, but not by life experience. This DVD was one that we inherited from my husband’s mother, one of only two she had in her house (the other was Chicago). After watching it, I wonder what she liked about the story, and if she received it as a gift or bought it herself.

The film depicts a time in the life of the author Virginia Woolf; the other two women portrayed are fictional. Virginia (Nicole Kidman) lives in the countryside of England. She is writing the novel Mrs. Dalloway. Plagued by periods of depression, her husband Leonard (Stephen Dillane) worries about her, fearing she will attempt suicide yet again, having tried twice already.

In 1951, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) lives in suburban Los Angeles. She has a son not yet in school, is pregnant and reading Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. Her husband Dan (John C. Reilly) is unaware of her unhappiness. Her only friend appears to be Kitty (Toni Colette), who visits her on the day she is baking a birthday cake for her husband.

A few decades later in 2001, Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) is hosting a party for her good friend Richard (Ed Harris). He is a poet being honored for his work. He is also very ill and depressed. The film is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some disturbing images, and brief language.

The musical score by Philip Glass is hauntingly beautiful. His music fits well in the film, tying the women’s lives together beautifully. Nicole Kidman won an Academy Award for Best Actress playing the esteemed author Virginia Woolf. She looks very different with her makeup that changed the shape of her nose. She probably looks more like Virginia wearing the prosthetic nose.

I watched three of the special features on the DVD: The Mind and Times of Virginia Woolf, Three Women, and The Lives of Mrs. Dalloway. All served to inform and stimulate my thinking about the writers across the decades: Virginia; the novelist; and the screenwriter.

I confess I have not read anything by Virginia Woolf. I have added her novel A Room of One’s Own to my reading list, and plan to read it soon. Michael Cunningham said his reading of Mrs. Dalloway at the age of fifteen was a moment that changed him. He was later inspired to write The Hours incorporating Virginia’s work Mrs. Dalloway into the stories of the three women across the years. David Hare did a wonderful job as screenwriter to this tale that weaves the women’s experiences together.

The Hours is more of a literary film and one that will probably keep you thinking afterwards. There are surprises in this film that will give you some aha! moments, and of course I won’t give these away. I highly recommend The Hours to you. I’m going to gift the DVD to someone I think may appreciate it.