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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!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Leap Year

With 2016 being a leap year, I decided to watch the romantic comedy Leap Year, partially for the plot, and partially because it stars actress Amy Adams. I have been a fan of hers since her performance in Catch Me If You Can, and decided if she was in the movie, it was worth a go. My other favorite films of hers are American Hustle, Julie and Julia, Sunshine Cleaning and Enchanted. Leap Year is rated PG for sensuality and language, and now ranks up there as another of my favorite Amy Adams movies.

Anna Brady (Amy Adams) stages homes for real estate agents. She is meticulous, cultured, sophisticated, everything her boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott), who is an up and coming cardiologist, would want in the woman in his life. Except for he hasn’t yet proposed and it’s been going on four years.

With a tale by her father (John Lithgow) inspiring her, she travels to Ireland to propose marriage to Jeremy on February 29th, leap day, a time when women can successfully propose marriage to the lucky man of their choice.

Every travel delay imaginable happens to poor Anna, and she ends up having to make a cross-country trip through Ireland in order to arrive in Dublin in time to propose to Jeremy on the 29th. She meets up with an innkeeper, Declan (Matthew Goode), and he agrees to get her to Dublin. A series of further misadventures occurs, mostly due to Anna being a total klutz. The two grate on each other because of their annoying idiosyncrasies, even while they attempt to ignore a growing attraction between them.

At one point, the two of them crash a wedding. My favorite quote from the film is spoken by the bride to her groom:  “May you never steal, lie, or cheat, but if you must steal, then steal away my sorrows, and if you must lie, lie with me all the nights of my life, and if you must cheat, then please cheat death because I couldn’t live a day without you.” It is moments like this that make the movie sing.

I know there were negative reviews about this film, and when my sister and I first began watching it, I had my doubts. If I can predict what’s going to happen next, that’s not a good sign for the movie. But that ability soon disappeared, and it turned out to be a sweet love story about how you sometimes find your way to your one true love when you’re not really looking for it. We both really liked it.

An added plus to the film was that the landscape the two travel through is simply breathtaking. They traverse the gorgeous countryside of Ireland, sometimes barren, mountainous, or filled with rushing water. In each case, it may make you want to have your plane diverted in order to travel by train or car across the Irish countryside.

Rent Leap Year if you're searching for a romantic comedy to enjoy.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

What Happened, Miss Simone?

I have long been a fan of singer Nina Simone. Her distinctive voice and the way she sings the blues are a favorite of mine. In fact, one of my stations on Pandora Internet Radio is “Nina Simone.” If you are not familiar with her, she is an African-American singer, pianist, and civil rights activist, a legend of her time (she is now deceased).

But I didn’t really know that much about her as a person, other than that she was born in the United States, and had moved to France at some point in her life. That’s about it.

So it was with interest I watched What Happened, Miss Simone? on streaming Netflix. The film has been nominated for Best Documentary Feature at this year’s Academy Awards. It is not rated.

The film by Liz Garbus paints a portrait of Nina over the course of her life from being a gifted child on the piano, to her adulthood as a troubled woman trying to find her way. The turbulent sixties were a prominent time for her, and is a time I remember well having lived through them during my formative years as a pre-teen and teen, observing the civil rights movement and Vietnam from the comfort and safety of my home in the country with my family. At that time, Nina was an activist in her 30’s, daring to write songs that highlighted the struggle for equal rights in America. She moved among circles of people who were high profile in those years, and I was amazed at whom she knew, as well as about her radical nature concerning civil rights. She was a woman with a voice, and I don’t mean just in music.

Featuring archival footage from Nina’s public appearances, interviews with her daughter and her ex-husband, as well as musician friends she worked with, it is an honest and open glimpse into her life. It didn’t disappoint in the area of her music either, allowing us to hear several of her songs from start to finish.

If you don’t normally watch documentaries, I encourage you to do so. They can be entertaining, illuminating as to the history of a region or a person, as well as thought provoking. Documentaries probably don’t cover the things you’d learn in school. They are a way to continue your education about life on earth, how people think, what impact culture has on someone, learn about history not covered on the evening news, or in the newspapers. In the process, what you see may impart an understanding about others, developing a sense of empathy for humanity, animals, and nature, whatever it is you’re learning about.

This documentary allowed us to see Nina’s life unfold as it did for her, and as she struggled to find purpose and meaning and answers to her life’s experiences. As she discovered life, so do we. I highly recommend you watch it. It illuminates not just her life, but also America and all its troubles with race and inequality.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


I’ve found my favorite film of the Academy Award season. Spotlight is based on the true story of how a team of investigative journalists at the Boston Globe brought to light the cover-up by the Catholic Archdiocese of decades of pedophilia perpetrated by priests. It is a film that will move you, perhaps to tears. It will draw you along with the Spotlight team as they discover the truth of the injustice done to the victims, all within the shortest couple of hours I’ve spent in a movie theater in recent weeks.

The film boasts an all-star cast including Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crudup, and the Best Supporting Actor and Actress noms, Mark Ruffalo and Rachel McAdams. Also nominated were director Tom McCarthy, the film itself for Best Picture, and for Film Editing.

This drama (biography/history) is rated R for some language, including sexual references.

I remember hearing about priests molesting young boys sometime during the 1970’s. I wasn’t much out of high school, and not being raised Catholic, didn’t know what to think about that disclosure. But as I recall, the person sharing this information made a joke of it, laughed it off, happy it hadn’t happened to him (or had it?).

“If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse them,” is a quote from the film. Personal responsibility is brought into question for all who knew about the abuse and did not loudly protest what was happening. Instead it was ignored, and at its worst, involved attorneys taking money to pay off the families and victims. Where was their personal responsibility? It is time we all vow to break the silence where any abuse is concerned.

This is a film I’d recommend be first on your list to jog out and see while still in the theaters, prior to the Oscars. There are scenes where victims tell their stories to the journalists, both moving and revealing. It didn’t make me uncomfortable to hear since I have a background in counseling and therapy. These types of disclosures don’t set me off into a bout of PTSD, although I still empathize. There appeared to be some people in the theater having a hard time with it because I heard talking and someone asking them if they just wanted to leave. I can’t stand people talking during the movie so that was distracting and rude. But I could sympathize if that’s what was going on with them.

I have a couple more films to see this year that were nominated, but as of this point, I doubt that anything else will live up to Spotlight. In my opinion, a movie that wins Best Picture should be the greatest film of the year for future generations of movie watchers to seek out. It should be of the highest caliber, with an inspirational message, and I can’t imagine some violence filled picture fitting that standard at all.

This is the one.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Star Wars. It’s a film experience that started for me in 1977. I have seen every installment in the theater, all six of them (see my review of Star Wars Episode III:  Revenge of the Sith on this blog). It had me hooked. So it is no surprise I went to see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.

A coworker of mine who took annual leave on the day of the premiere said I would love this movie. I would meet old friends, be introduced to new friends, and that it was everything she’d hoped for and more.
With that recommendation, and her constant pestering me about why I hadn’t seen it yet, I finally went with my husband to a matinee after the crowds had thinned somewhat. The film is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

Sitting through all of the previews before the movie, I was getting kind of down. There were several previews clearly intended for teenage boys, who are the vast majority of the theater going public. This is something studios know, thus the constant action films, superhero movies, and violence spewing trash I was getting glimpses of. I said to myself, please don’t let Star Wars be like these awful films. Please. Give me the old Star Wars with good character development, characters we can root for, and a story where the Force is central.
It was good, much to my relief. I can’t say too much here, but the media has broadcasted it around so much that I knew we’d see our old friends in the characters of Han Solo, Chewbacca, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker.
We are introduced to new characters:  Kylo Ren, of the dark side (Adam Driver), Rey, an independent and resourceful young woman (Daisy Ridley), Finn, a stormtrooper who has deserted his post (John Boyega), and Poe Dameron, daring pilot (Oscar Isaac). One thing I really enjoyed was that the main characters are shown struggling between the pull towards evil and the centering of the Force. It makes for some suspenseful moments.

My husband said that seeing the film served to remind him of just how special the earth we live on is with all of its stunning nature, and amazing animals. We stayed for all of the credits to see where this Star Wars was filmed; it featured the stark landscapes of Abu Dhabi, Iceland, and Ireland. All of earth is thankfully not like those landscapes. He said that science fiction films always seem to depict devastated, unwelcoming planets, and that part of the film is disappointing. The violence is overwhelming, and the pace caters to a world of people who seek constant stimulation, rapid sound bites, twittering, and I phone-using fools who can’t look up and around them to see the beauty that is the earth.
That said, if you haven’t seen Star Wars yet, what are you waiting for? I’m looking forward to the next installment and hope it has more Yoda and fewer machine guns.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


My maternal grandparents immigrated to America in the late 1800’s from Denmark and Norway. My interest in Brooklyn stemmed from having such close relatives make that trip across the Atlantic with the hope of an opportunity for a better life.

Brooklyn tells the tale of Eilis, a young Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan in an Academy Award nominated performance) coming to America fully a half century later than my ancestors immigrated, but I figured some of the same issues they faced would be depicted.

Brooklyn has also been nominated for Best Picture and Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards. It is rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality and brief strong language.

It wasn’t until after I had seen the film and began to do research for my review that I found I had seen Saoirse Ronan in three other films:  The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Host (previously reviewed on my blog; search for it by entering the name of the movie in the search engine above on this page), and The Way Back. I enjoyed her characters in all of those other films, and since I never connected any of these four performances to the same woman, I would say she is adept at taking on different characters without being recognizable as herself. Of course, that may change as her list of movies grows and then she may become as easily recognizable as other accomplished actresses.

Back to Brooklyn. Another quiet film, set in the 1950’s where one’s personal conduct is always proper, especially for young ladies.  Father Flood (Jim Broadbent) is a kindly priest who helps Eilis adjust to life in America. She meets Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) of Italian descent, and begins to blossom and not be as homesick as their friendship and love develops. This relationship seemed very natural as that’s what happened here; the children of immigrants from different countries meet and fall in love and we get the melting pot we are today in America.

Eilis needs to return to Ireland suddenly, and finds that things have changed. Or is it that she has changed? Once in Ireland, Eilis begins to realize who she is:  a good worker, educated in her trade as a bookkeeper, and a confident and ultimately loyal young woman. The suspense grows as we wonder along with Eilis about returning to America versus remaining in Ireland.

Seeing the city of Brooklyn portrayed from a 1950’s point of view made the movie charming and interesting, particularly the scenes in the department store where Eilis has her first job.  I recommend this film. It’s visually appealing, and a good story from a woman’s point of view, something we don’t get that often in films. Take your daughters or your mothers with you for an afternoon matinee and then go have a nice leisurely dinner to talk about it.

Let me know what you think of the films you see and about my reviews. You can leave your comments below. Happy movie going!