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!

Monday, January 25, 2016


Joy. The name of a woman I had never heard of, and upon watching her story, will never forget. This film by David O. Russell is based on the story of Joy Mangano, doyenne of QVC. I was hoping the film would be joyful, and was pleased that it had a happy ending. It moved slowly at first, very slowly, and is told partially from the perspective of Mimi, Joy’s devoted maternal grandmother (Diane Ladd). The film is rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Robert de Niro, Isabella Rossellini, and Bradley Cooper, the film held a promise of greatness. I would call it a quiet film, however, with subtle performances, especially from Jennifer Lawrence who plays Joy, and Bradley Cooper as Neil Walker. Even dialogue is delivered in whispers at times, and it serves up the message of a woman who would not give up.
Having just seen this the day after The Big Short, a film that just left me angry (see previous review), I was once again inspired. Good things do happen to people providing they don’t give up, don’t allow themselves to be walked on, and believe in themselves.
It helps to be smart, finish high school, and be determined. How many women who could go on to college don’t, because they fall for a singing, dancing lothario who sweeps them off their feet, and before they know it, they have kids and a nowhere life. Joy didn’t let that stop her. Her role models weren’t very positive, like her mother who has given up and does nothing all day long but watch soap operas.
For all of you complainers out there saying, “If only I had (fill in the blank), then things would be different.” Don’t wait for a role model, be your own role model. Seek out those who can help you fulfill that dream you’ve buried deep within thinking you can’t have it now that you’re a mom, caretaker, breadwinner, you name it.
I saw Jennifer Lawrence in her two other Golden Globe winning roles with David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook (for which she also won the Academy Award) and American Hustle. But I was her fan beginning with Winter’s Bone, where she played a strong teenager caring for her two younger siblings, taking on that responsibility from her absent parents. She displayed a quiet intensity for that role, as she does for this Academy Award nominated performance. In this film as Joy, she is so consistent in playing the character, that we see glimmers of who she will become, we watch the integrity with which she approaches her life, all leading us on to the older, wiser Joy.

But she was wise all along. Go see this film (and be patient; remember I said it is slow in the beginning), especially if you are a woman who has a dream longing to burst out. Joy may be just the inspiration you need to push you to take that first step.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Big Short

The Big Short was a film I was hoping would be understandable and entertaining, despite its subject: the housing crisis and fraud that transpired over the last years of the decade ending in 2010. It has been nominated for several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale), Best Director for Adam McKay, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay from the book by Michael Lewis (who also wrote the screenplay for Moneyball), and for Film Editing. It is rated R for pervasive language and some sexuality/nudity. All the nominations are well deserved.

I admit that even as early as high school, when one of my classes touched on the subject of the stock market, it confused me. I have since come to understand it a little better, but wouldn’t feel comfortable explaining it to anyone else. I saw the films Margin Call and Moneyball, and enjoyed both. The way these stories were developed made difficult mathematical subjects easier to understand. So it is for The Big Short.
The truth is, you don’t have to understand the financial crisis completely to get that the average American was screwed over in a big way in those years. This film has a stellar cast including Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carrell and Brad Pitt, who was also a producer. Lesser roles went to Marisa Tomei, and Melissa Leo. The film cleverly tried to make clear the situations that transpired and what the big short was. Basically, a few investors realized the housing bubble would burst and placed bets with the big banks that it would. If they were right, they stood to make a great deal of money. Essentially they were betting that the American economy would fail due to the practices of the big banks on the housing markets.
The film is based on the true stories of these investors. The market is explained in the film in ways even I could follow, via what looks like a Jenga game (pull one block at the base and it all comes tumbling down), and a cameo by Selena Gomez in Las Vegas. She places a bet, then someone behind her places a bet on her winning, then someone behind them places a bet on him winning when she wins, etc. It all falls apart when Selena doesn’t win, as it did for the housing market. The going to Las Vegas and explaining it at the gaming tables is an apt way to show that it’s all a game to the big banks and investors, a game where the public always loses.
We know that despite the fraud perpetrated by the big banks, it was the American people, who stay poor while the wealth of the few skyrockets, bailed them all out, while losing their homes, their jobs, and their hope.
This is a film everyone should see. It’s entertaining, illuminating, and will inform you of an issue that should influence the way you vote in upcoming elections. Enough is enough.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Beasts of No Nation

Beasts of No Nation is a film about the experiences of Agu, a young West African boy recruited into a rebel militia after his family is murdered or disappears. The name of the country is never disclosed, thus the name of the film. The actor Idris Elba, portraying the commandant, was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor award at this year’s Golden Globes. I watched the film streaming on Netflix, so it is easy to find right now. This drama is not rated, although I would suspect it would be an R rating if it was, due to the violence.
Some may ask why I’d watch a movie sure to be violent and depressing. This is Africa, a place on the planet I have never visited.  Africa is the Dark Continent, not called that due to the color of its people’s skin, but because it is a hard continent to live on; disease, extreme conditions, and dangers abound whether in the desert, jungle or oceanside. I like to be reminded that there are other people on the planet living very different lives from that of privileged Americans. It could be another planet for all we are aware of what goes on there.
The town portrayed is in a jungle, resources are unequally distributed, poverty is endemic, and yet the people have families, love fiercely, and just want to be able to enjoy their lives like we all do. Care for their babies, get the pretty girl in school to fall in love with you, learn and grow, and most importantly, enjoy life on planet earth.
But when there is civil unrest, and warring parties with machine guns try to get their way through force, all those desires and needs are left unfulfilled.
It was a captivating tale, and yes, there was violence. The part of me interested in human behavior found it fascinating how the young scared recruits become hardened soldiers, capable of committing heinous crimes against their fellow humans. Brainwashing at its most effective, preying on the vulnerability of the young.
I was spellbound throughout the whole film, which led to a surprising ending. I got to thinking about where the weapons come from. Where are the factories for the production of guns and ammunition, and who by working there contributes to the deaths of fellow human beings and the destruction of earth? With gun issues at a breaking point in America, what about broadening the discussion to the armed nature of this entire planet?
Every spirit that comes to earth wants the same things, to experience this world, and to be safe and loved. Breaking the cycle of the willingness to use violence as a means to settle disputes is a concept whose time has come and is long overdue. Violence is not a solution to a multi-faceted problem that encompasses lack of education for women leading to a higher birth rate, subsequent poverty, and despair. War does not bring peace for the children forced to fight or for the nations involved.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Jingle All The Way

Jingle All The Way is a 1996, comedy/family film, rated PG for action violence, mild language and some thematic elements.
The movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rita Wilson, and Sinbad, with cameos by Robert Conrad, Phil Hartman, Martin Mull, James Belushi, and Harvey Korman and Laraine Newman. (See if you can spot them as you watch.)
I admit that I enjoyed watching Arnold’s movies back in the day. There is something really funny about a big body builder playing comedic roles, like in Twins, and Kindergarten Cop (I liked the sci-fi films he did too, particularly The Terminator films), and then there’s True Lies. I didn’t doubt that Jingle All The Way would be a funny film I’d like.
Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a successful, driven businessman, overworking to the point that he neglects his son Jamie, and is seldom there for his wife Liz (Rita Wilson). All comes to a head when he realizes he did not get the one thing in the entire world his son wants for Christmas, a Turbo Man action figure.
With mere hours to spare, he sets out to find this elusive action figure doll that has sold out in every store. He meets another late shopper, postal worker Myron Larabee (Sinbad), and they proceed to travel their way around the city in search of Turbo Man.
Meanwhile, Ted (Phil Hartman), a divorced single father, is putting the moves on Liz, eating Howard’s cookies, and ingratiating himself with his neighbors by somehow getting a real live reindeer for his yard.
It is a fight to the end as to who will nab the last of the Turbo Man action figures. Lots of slapstick comedy ensues, and Howard gets to come to the rescue as he stumbles upon the Wintertainment parade float featuring Turbo Man. Here Arnold gets to do a turn in a bigger than life role reminiscent of other action heroes he has portrayed, redeeming himself with his son and wife in the process.
I liked the film, it was funny and made me laugh, sometimes just at Arnold delivering his lines in his famous Austrian accent. It was fun seeing all the actors from 20 years ago, and how the world has changed (no cell phones around; Howard has to use a pay phone). In a world where commercialism runs rampart around Christmas time and in fact begins much earlier, pre-Thanksgiving and then with Black Friday, these scenes of mad, desperate shoppers should not be foreign to anyone tuning in. There is a poignant sadness to the distance between father and son and husband and wife brought on by materialism and a disregard for the important (do not allow the urgent to displace the important).
The soundtrack features plenty of familiar Christmas songs you’ll like. If you let the credits roll while you’re cleaning up the popcorn you spilled, you will see a final scene with Howard and Liz at the Christmas tree. A priceless moment after all Howard has been through.