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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, July 18, 2017

Independence Day: Resurgence

I’m a big fan of the film Independence Day that was released in 1996. The perfect cast starred in this apocalyptic kind of tale where the world must come together to combat the aliens that are intent on doing humanity and all earth’s creatures in.

Now, 20 years later (2016), we have Independence Day: Resurgence. The film is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and destruction, and for some language. Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith) has unfortunately died, but his stepson Dylan (Jessie T. Usher) has become a fighter pilot in his footsteps.  His mother Jasmine (Vivica A. Fox) seems to have dropped her career as a stripper to become a nurse.

We have former President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who seems to be suffering from a type of dementia, and new hotshots Jake (Liam Hemsworth), and the President’s daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe), now all grown up. David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) is in Africa where he meets an old flame, and a strong African man who has noticed signs of the resurgence. Seems the world has hung together over these twenty years in anticipation of the aliens striking again. Good thing we did, because yes! They are back!

I only saw this recently on DVD, and must say that some of the same themes are revisited. There are portions that seem old, but ultimately the story and the action won me over and I was on the edge of my seat, hoping that my favorite characters wouldn’t bite the dust during the inevitable fighting that occurred. Some of the communication themes kind of reminded me of Arrival, a messy film I reviewed earlier on my blog.

Sequels are difficult to make. A lot of them go flat because they use the themes and what worked from the original blockbuster rather than taking on new, fresher material. But Independence Day: Resurgence was okay for an evening’s entertainment. The call to action for the people of the world to bond together to fight a common foe doesn’t get old. Isn’t that what we still need to do today? Come together to fight greed and corruption in government, to assure that the planet is not further destroyed by global climate change, to combat the centuries old archaic religious beliefs that only serve to divide humanity instead of illuminating our commonalities.

The special effects were pretty good, but I was only watching it on my screen at home. Those aliens had the biggest space ship I’ve seen in an alien type film. I noticed that earth’s ally was a smooth sphere, and the aliens were gangly, ugly monsters. One intelligent and serene looking, one stupid and aggressive. This didn’t seem to me to be simply a random choice!

There is a little romance going on here and there, and people coming together to survive some really horrifically devastating destruction when the aliens attacked. You might find it fun to watch the first one and then this sequel directly afterwards as a double feature.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Bad Education (La Mala Educación)

Bad Education (La Mala Educación) is a film by Pedro Almodóvar, Spanish writer and director. It stars Gael García Bernal in a gender bending performance. He shines as characters Juan, Àngel, and as Zahara, a transgender candidate.

This film depicts the sexual abuse of young boys by priests in an all male school, thankfully, not in a graphic manner. The film is rated NC-17, for a scene of explicit sexual content, the first to receive that rating that I have ever reviewed here. It was released in 2004 with English subtitles. There are other scenes later in the film of gay sex that are somewhat explicit.

Bad Education shows the evolution of Ignacio who is unfortunately the prize pupil of Father Padre Manolo (Daniel Giménez Cacho) who is a sex offender. Ignacio and another young student Enrique grow to care for each other, and when Padre Monolo realizes this, he sends Enrique away from the school in a jealous fit, wanting Ignacio only for himself.

It is a sordid world at this all boys school where the priests abuse the boys at will and wreck each of their lives. We come to know the story onscreen when Àngel/Juan visits the adult Enrique (Fele Martínez) who is now a filmmaker, and pitches to him a screenplay he has written called The Visit. Almodóvar is inventive in the way he travels to and from the past through the evolving screenplay of the story unfolding at a Catholic boys school, and the present reality of Enrique and Juan who have met and are creating the film.

Also in the film in a minor role as Paco/Paquita is Javier Cámara who was later in Talk to Her and Living is Easy with Eyes Closed. Gael García Bernal delivers an incredible performance acting as transgender Zahara. He is so authentic, and he really carries the film.

Almodóvar breaks all the rules, and I am always amazed at his creative talents to tell a story in a unique manner. This film is not for everyone obviously. If you will be upset by a true to life tale of the molestation of young boys by priests, don’t watch. If you are offended by the thought of gay male sex, don’t watch. If you want to watch really good acting, and are not afraid of these subjects, tune in.

It really is heartbreaking to think that the sexual abuse of children still occurs at the hands of the clergy, where it is not only an abuse of the child, but also a spiritual abuse due to the perceived authority of the priest. This film makes clear how lives are ruined due to the Church not doing enough to prevent it or prosecute those who are sex offenders. An excellent film I reviewed here is Spotlight, which is about the journalists in Boston who discovered the cover up by the Catholic Church of abuse that was occurring. It’s a film you should see for the fine acting and story.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

My Cousin Rachel

Rachel Weisz is My Cousin Rachel in this adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s 1951 novel of the same name. I became enamored of Ms. Du Maurier’s writing when I was a teen, reading the esteemed novel Rebecca that had been made by Hitchcock into a brilliant film. She also wrote the short story The Birds, once again garnering Hitchcock’s attention resulting in a stunning film; Don’t Look Now, a short story that was made into a film starring Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland; and the novel Jamaica Inn, also made into a film by Hitchcock, but with a lesser degree of notoriety.

My Cousin Rachel is a Victorian period film of the drama, mystery, romance genre, taking place in breathtakingly beautiful Cornwall, England. Ambrose Ashley has gone to Italy for his health, leaving his cousin Philip (Sam Claflin) at the estate to oversee the day-to-day work on their extensive land holdings. Ambrose adopted Philip at the age of three when he was orphaned, and they have been very close. Ambrose writes Philip telling him that he has married Rachel (Rachel Weisz). Philip becomes increasingly worried about Ambrose’s health through his letters that describe Rachel as a sinister woman he believes is poisoning him.

When Philip travels to Florence Italy to rescue Ambrose from the hands of Rachel, he finds that he has already passed away. So begins his intense hatred for Rachel, whom he is certain has caused his cousin’s death.

Philip returns to England and after a period of time, Rachel comes for a visit. Philip is distrustful of her and angry, but the intrigue mounts as he questions her motives for being there, and as she begins her smooth seduction of Philip.

Philip’s good friends Nick Kendall (Iain Glen) and his daughter Louise (Holliday Grainger) see the changes in Philip as Rachel works her feminine wiles on him, but Philip seems to be clueless. The question to ask is, “Did she? Didn’t she? Who was to blame?” It will keep you guessing.

The film is rated PG-13 for some sexuality and brief strong language. This film won’t be for everyone, but for a certain group of Anglophile and romance lovers, this may be just what you need over the summer. Having seen the film, now I’d like to read the novel, which is no doubt a much more nuanced story. Roger Michell adapted the book for the screen and directed the film. I liked his romantic comedy Notting Hill, which is quite different from this one, but if you like romance, Julia Roberts and/or Hugh Grant, you will like that movie too.

I saw My Cousin Rachel in the theater a few days ago, so it may still be playing in theaters near you. Rachel Weisz won a Best Supporting Actress award in 2006 for her performance in The Constant Gardener. She is a very talented actress. Look for her in a film called Agora from 2009. She plays Hypatia of Alexandria, and it is an incredible film.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Mary Poppins

My favorite uncle took my two younger sisters and me to the theater to see Mary Poppins when it first came out in 1964. It made an impression on all of us, and later, I took two of my young nieces to see the film when it was re-released a decade or more later. Mary Poppins was a story that Walt Disney had long tried to make for the screen. He had to first convince the author, P. L. Travers, to allow him to undertake the project. This is chronicled in a recent film, Saving Mr. Banks, starring Tom Hanks as Disney and Emma Thompson as Travers. It’s a film worth watching.

But back to Mary Poppins. The film was a critical success, starring Julie Andrews in the title role. Dick Van Dyke plays the chimney sweep Bert, and sings and dances his way into our hearts, as does the perfection of young Julie.

There is magic galore in this story of a nanny who cleans messy nurseries with a spoonful of sugar, and impresses her young charges Jane (Karen Dotrice) and Michael (Matthew Garber) by allowing them all to jump into Bert’s chalk paintings on the park sidewalk for a lovely holiday. The whole experience with animated creatures and the four of them cavorting through this magical world is not skimpy on time, and the whole film in its entirety is long by today’s standards, 2 hours and 19 minutes. (It is rated G and is suitable for any age child, or just the young at heart.)

Mr. Banks (David Tomlinson) tries to run a tight ship, and is not really all that great of a father. His wife (Glynis Johns) is active in the suffragette movement, a wonderful role model for her young daughter, but also lacking a motherly instinct, leaving the children in the care of a nanny. A financial institution employs Mr. Banks, and the greed of his capitalistic associates is simply a precursor to today’s wealth obsessed corporations. No surprise there. Mrs. Banks is the better role model.

There are memorable songs throughout the film, and tunes you will keep humming once the film is over. Good dance sequences as well, most notably on the rooftops of London by Bert’s fellow chimney sweeps. Uncle Albert (Ed Wynn) loves to laugh and his joy transports him floating up to the ceiling, in one of the movie’s greatest sequences.

Some of the special effects are a bit dated, but this was after all, 1964. The film won five Academy Awards: Best Actress for Julie Andrews, Best Film Editing, Best Special Visual Effects, Best Song for Chim Chim Cher-ee, and Best Original Score.

For me, Bert is the most fascinating character. Sure, Mary Poppins is a magician, but Bert is a storyteller, and paired with Dick’s physical agility and a face like silly putty, he steals every scene he’s in.

See it with your kids if you haven’t already; just learning how to say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious is reason enough!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Paris Can Wait

I remember watching Diane Lane for the first time in A Little Romance when she was only 13 years old. I’ve been a fan of hers ever since. So it was a no brainer when I noticed that she was starring in Paris Can Wait, and I went to see it in the theater.

It’s a sweet little film set in France. Anne (Diane Lane) and her husband Michael (Alec Baldwin) are in Cannes. Michael is a high-powered movie producer and due to illness, Anne cannot fly with him to Budapest. A business associate, the Frenchman Jacques (Arnaud Viard), offers to drive her to Paris where Michael will meet her later. Paris Can Wait is rated PG for thematic elements, smoking and some language.

So the joy of driving across the countryside of France begins. They cruise in Jacques’ Peugeot, taking their time, seeing the sights, and slowly Anne begins to relax and let down her armor. They eat, they drink, they see things tourists do, and meet up with a couple of old flames of Jacques.

Paris is still waiting, as Jacques is in no hurry to deliver Anne to her flat in Paris. The film moves a bit slowly at first, but as Anne warms to Jacques, and we see him acting the stereotypical flirting Frenchman that they are rumored to be, it is all very intriguing and romantic.

Close quarters have them finally sharing their deepest secrets with one another. Will this lead to a sexual fling for Anne, or will she stay loyal to her flawed husband of 20 years? You’ll have to watch to find out. I found myself gently smiling throughout the entire film. Diane Lane gives a beautifully nuanced performance. You can read her emotions just by looking at her face.

You’ll like this gentle film if you: 1) like Diane Lane; 2) are a Francophile; 3) are a romantic; 4) like good food and wine (You’ll want to go to a French restaurant once you leave this film.); or 5) like character driven films that show the humanity in all of us.

Eleanor Coppola of that famous Coppola family wrote the screenplay and directed the film. If you don’t already know, there is her husband Francis Ford, her daughter Sophia, and the cousin Nicholas Cage, who changed his name to distance himself from the famous clan to make it on his own. Creativity knows no age boundaries, as she was 80 years old directing her first feature film. Bravo!

Diane Lane was in another beautiful film, Under the Tuscan Sun, from 2003. I recommend that film as well as many others she’s been in. She is just a wonderful actress. I found it amusing that in this film she takes a lot of photos, and when she played Dalton Trumbo’s’ wife in Trumbo, she took a lot of photos playing that woman too.

See Paris Can Wait in the theater for the best scenery you’ll likely see all year at the movies.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Blue Bird

The Blue Bird has got to be one of the strangest movies I have ever seen. Starring Shirley Temple, the film was released in 1940. My husband happened upon it one late evening, and intrigued by the couple of segments he saw, asked me to watch it with him in its entirety on YouTube. I consented.

The Wizard of Oz had been released the previous year, and trying to cash in on the genre, Twentieth Century Fox released this fantasy. Mytyl (Shirley Temple) and her younger brother Tyltyl (Johnny Russell) live in an idyllic town with their devoted parents, Mummy and Daddy Tyl (Spring Byington and Russell Hicks), a dog and a cat. (Yes, you read the names correctly.)

The experiences Mytyl and her brother have are somewhat like that in A Christmas Carol, sort of visiting the past, present and future. There’s a bit of magic thrown in by a fairy, who looks a lot like the good witch in The Wizard of Oz. She changes their dog and cat into humans. I especially liked their cat Tylette (Gale Sondergaard), as she is as crafty as a human cat should be. The group together looks for the bluebird of happiness.

The kids visit their grandparents in the land of the past, the lap of luxury in a mansion with a couple of spoiled adults, and then end up in danger in the forest where the trees are alive (clever actually, I liked that part). There are a few scenes that seem too scary for kids, with a serious storm underway and the trees attempting to kill them. Scarier than anything on the way to Oz.

Finally, they journey to the future to the most surreal part of the story. They meet children of all ages, waiting to be born and go to earth. A lot of time is spent here talking to a few of the children, who seem to know what will happen to them once they get to earth. Some are scared at their destiny, others thrilled, and a young couple in puppy love despair at ever being able to see each other again.

Mytyl and Tyltyl awaken in the morning from their apparently shared dream experience, with the caged bird they had captured the day before now a bright blue. They have found the bluebird of happiness and Mytyl especially is no longer the ungrateful little girl she started out to be.

Shirley Temple would have been about 12 years old filming this. The setting kind of reminds me of the story Heidi that she starred in just three years earlier. I heard that she was offered the role of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and turned it down. So, quick, make another film! The Blue Bird didn’t do nearly as well as the classic Oz story.

The Blue Bird was actually nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Cinematography and Best Special Effects! If you like Shirley Temple, maybe you’ll appreciate this surrealistic little film.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Wizard of Oz

My husband had never seen the movie Mary Poppins. His favorite movie from childhood is The Wizard of Oz, so we made a deal to watch both of them together (on separate nights). The film was released in 1939 and is rated G.

I was probably a teen the last time I saw Dorothy (Judy Garland, 17 years old at the time the film was made) whirl away from Kansas and land in the magical world of Oz. I was babysitting a little girl, and she became quite frightened. Not enough to turn it off, however.

I enjoyed the sepia tones of the cinematography at the beginning of the movie. The main characters are introduced, including the three hired hands, Dorothy’s dog Toto, Auntie Em (Clara Blandick) and Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin), and of course the wicked Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton, also the Wicked Witch of the West) who rides away on a bicycle with the very scruffy and not at all pretty Toto.

Dorothy never gets dirty on her journey, not one bit, even when she tips over into a pigsty. The crew should have paid more attention to this mistake. The story is cute, and the colorful world of the Munchkins a sight to see. Their world is all quite plastic looking, and magical to Dorothy as is Glinda, Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke). Dorothy sets off on her journey, following the yellow brick road in hopes that the Wizard will be able to get her back to Kansas. Along the way she meets the Scarecrow who needs a brain (Ray Bolger), the Tin Man (Jack Haley) who would like to have a heart, and the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr) who just wants some courage.

Her red shoes are really smart. While at the Smithsonian in Washington a few years back, I saw those red shoes, and they do indeed sparkle. The music and singing in the film are superb. This film introduced songs that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. There are many memorable quotes from this film, and many memorable songs. The Wizard of Oz won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards for Over the Rainbow, as well as Best Original Score.

A quote not often repeated, but that I loved is, “A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others,” so speaks The Wizard.

No one interested in film can get away without seeing this movie. Even though it didn’t win Best Picture, it’s a really great film (lost to Gone with the Wind). The story is good, the journey of people on a quest to find the all-powerful wizard, who turns out to be wise, but not exactly the savior they expected.

The film previewed in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on August 12, 1939 at the Strand Theatre. I like including this as I am originally from Wisconsin. There is a memorial in this small town that commemorates The Wizard of Oz world premiere.