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, May 31, 2016

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2

It’s been a long time coming. Finally, a sequel to the ever-popular breakout film My Big Fat Greek Wedding written by Nia Vardalos. This film that came out in 2002 was a little sleeper that was not really expected to be a big money maker. Much to the delight I’m sure of the famous couple of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, who were two of the producers of the film, it did very well, grossing over $222,000,000 by the end of the year it was released! Proving that a quality story and good actors can make a classic film for all time, and that word of mouth really works to draw people into the theater.

Nia Vardalos is a comedienne who wrote a great screenplay about her Greek family. Also starring in the film with Nia is easy on the eyes John Corbett (Northern Exposure, Sex and the City), and these two ended the first film in wedded bliss.

I like that Nia did not immediately do a sequel. She let time pass and developed a really great screenplay in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2. Toula (Nia Vardalos) and Ian (John Corbett) have a 17-year old daughter, Paris (Elena Kampouris), and she hates all things Greek, which is primarily her embarrassing extended family. She’s on the verge of leaving the nest empty for her parents when she goes away to college.

Meanwhile, Toula’s parents, played by Michael Constantine and Lainie Kazan, discover they were never officially married, and this causes much distress for them, leading to another wedding to be planned and executed. Lainie Kazan is perfect as Toula’s vibrant mother Maria, and her Aunt Voula (Andrea Martin) is back, never mincing words whether she’s advising Toula, Ian or Maria on the ways of love.

While the world may have changed in 17 years, some things about being Greek apparently never do. Is Gus really descended from Alexander the Great? Does everything in the modern world really stem from early beginnings in Greece?

We get to look in on Toula and Ian’s marriage as they navigate “middle-age” together. The sweet Ian remains tolerant of his Greek in-laws, as well as Toula’s over-protective focus on their daughter. There’s just enough memories and call backs to the first film to make it memorable all over again, although I think if you hadn’t seen the first, you’d still enjoy this film. It could stand very well on its own.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding II is rated PG-13 for some suggestive material. I thought it would be just another chick flick, but there was lots of laughter from the other people in the theater, and one man present was really guffawing. It is a feel good movie about the connections we make between family, spouses, and even friends. There should be more films made like this one.

I discovered that Nia Vardalos also co-wrote the screenplay for Larry Crowne with Tom Hanks, a cute little film you should check out if you haven’t already.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Purple Rain

Prince Rogers Nelson passed away on 4/21/16 at age 57, and I mourned along with the world. As therapy perhaps, I just had to watch Purple Rain again. Immediately after seeing it in the theater back in 1984, I bought the album, and later, after selling all my albums, I replaced it with a CD. Prince and the Revolution, Purple Rain, will always be in my collection of music.

The film is rated R for sexuality, some nudity, language, and some violent content. The film is said to be quasi-biographical about Prince, who plays a musician named simply “The Kid”.

I liked Purple Rain then and I liked watching it now. I enjoyed seeing Prince perform again. His raw energy astounds me; the passion with which he delivers his songs is just intense. The era that the film was made was one of changing identities for men and women in the music scene. It is visually stunning in terms of sets and makeup. The story moves along fairly well too. A nice mix of intense drama and sometimes ridiculous comedy, often supplied by Morris Day and the Time, a rival band to Prince’s crew.

One of the film’s subplots deals with domestic violence. The Kid’s parents have an abusive relationship, and his father is played by Clarence Williams III of Mod Squad fame, who’s had a long career in film. The Kid’s father has broken dreams, never got a break in life where his creativity would be recognized, and when The Kid realizes this, it changes him. He has an awakening and transforms. It’s a very satisfying story in that sense.

Some criticisms of the film from other reviewers included that Apollonia and the girl group Morris Day set her up in were horrible. I agree that the song they performed, Sex Shooter, was awful. In fact, that song was nominated for a Razzie award for worst original song that year. But I would argue that Prince wrote it to be awful. (You’ll notice Sex Shooter is not on the Purple Rain CD, for good reason.)

Apollonia was selling herself short joining that little trio, and that horrible song fit in perfectly with the plot. As did all of his other exceptional songs in the film. If you look at what a good musical should project in its musical numbers, every song should tell a story and move the action along.

Prince received an Academy Award for Best Original Song Score, the last award given out in this category (no films have met the qualifications to even be nominated in the category since then).

Here is a link to the announcement of Prince’s win at the Academy Awards, and his brief acceptance speech with Wendy and Lisa accompanying him:  Prince accepts Academy Award

Watch Purple Rain again if you haven’t seen it in years, and if you’ve never seen it, watch it for the classic film it now is, and to see Prince’s musical genius. You will always be missed, Prince.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Out-of-Towners

The Out-of-Towners is a remake of the 1970 Neil Simon comedy that originally starred Jack Lemmon and Sandy Dennis. This remake from 1999 stars Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn as two empty nesters searching for a way to redefine their relationship. The film is rated PG-13 for some sex and drug-related humor.

Henry and Nancy Clark (Steve Martin and Goldie Hawn) live in relatively small town Ohio, and are definitely not big city types. Their home now bereft of children, when Henry gets a job interview in New York City, Nancy follows him. Her presence leads from one comical situation to another as their trip to the Big Apple unravels.

Steve and Goldie are such fine comedic actors that there are many, many laugh out loud moments in this film. Plus, you get to see New York through their eyes as they experience it for better or worse. Some scenes are pure slapstick, and the film is timeless in that any empty nester could relate to the thoughts and feelings they’re having as they redefine their lives without their children.

At one point they stumble in on a group therapy meeting by accident, and none other than Cynthia Nixon, of Sex and the City fame, plays one of the group members. In her short time on screen, she plays the sultry, sexual woman that she embodied so well as Miranda Hobbs in SATC. I could see exactly why she was selected for one of the best HBO series of all time.

One of the reasons for enjoying this film so much is Steve Martin. He is one of my favorite comedians. His facial expressions are so expressive, his smile spreading like the Cheshire cat. He is especially funny when he accidently gets high, much to his wife’s chagrin. Goldie is beautiful and plays off of Steve’s shenanigans in her unique style. Goldie justifiably won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1969 for her role in Cactus Flower. And as for Steve Martin, his career achievements are just too many to list, but my personal favorite is All of Me with Lily Tomlin.

Goldie’s real life son, Oliver Hudson, has a small role playing the Clarks’ son Alan. John Cleese appears as Mr. Mersault, a pompous hotel manager I couldn’t see being played by anyone else.

Neil Simon has written an honest portrayal of a couple going through big changes and how overcoming adversity serves to bring them together again. The craziness that the couple encounters in their travels in NYC are nonstop, and I can only imagine what fun he had writing the screenplay. He is an accomplished and awarded writer, in television (The Odd Couple), on Broadway (Biloxi Blues) and in films (The Goodbye Girl), not to mention having won the Pulitzer Prize for Lost in Yonkers.  

I came across this film on streaming Netflix one night, and was glad we chose it. If you’re looking for a light, funny, classic comedy, this would be a good choice.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Where to Invade Next

I’ve been following Michael Moore’s career since 1989 when he released his breakout documentary, Roger & Me, which incidentally was one of film critic Roger Ebert’s favorites. Michael Moore won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2002 for Bowling for Columbine. He’s an accomplished writer, director, and producer, and someone conservatives love to hate.

We’ve waited six years for this, his most recent film, Where to Invade Next. It is rated R for language, some violent images, drug use and brief graphic nudity.

Michael has created another strong documentary feature, this time “invading” other countries to see what Americans can learn from them. I found this concept refreshing, as it focused on what other individuals and governments on the planet are doing right. It’s ultimately a hopeful film.

He utilizes his trademark humor much of the time. He had to use humor to balance out certain segments that were downright heartbreaking.

He admits early on that he is looking to pick the flowers, not the weeds, the things that are working and which set an example for excellence. Some critics have skewered him for this, saying it’s complicated; he’s ignoring the things that aren’t working, blah, blah, blah. Again, he said very clearly that he’s picking the flowers! Save the criticism for some other time. A film is not going to work or be cohesive if it’s not focused. Michael is focused.

And the examples he shows are astounding! He visits Europe, Scandinavia, and Africa, interviewing businessmen and women, political leaders, government officials and regular people. Children too.

You will see how Italy treats its employees, what France serves schoolchildren for lunch, and how Finland has the best educational system in the world.

Portugal was noted for decriminalization of drugs, Norway for the unique way they treat their prisoners, and Germany for the way they heal from the sins of their fathers in the holocaust (truly tear jerking, that segment).

Slovenia provides free college education, not just to citizens, but to foreigners as well. Tunisia is a leader in women’s rights, as is Iceland, who actually prosecuted and sent to prison those responsible for the financial corruption of the banks.

This film is one of the best Michael Moore has done. I attended the movie with three others and afterwards over dinner we asked each other, “If there was one idea from another country that we would like to see initiated in America, what would it be?” We each selected a different country’s example, showing that we are individuals with unique concerns for the welfare of individuals in our country. That was encouraging.

Because if everyone who saw this film asked themselves, “What is the one thing that spoke to me?” and then told others, started a discussion of what could be, and what steps would need to be taken to create this change, our country would be going in a positive direction.

I especially ask WOMEN to see this film. You’ll see why. Be inspired.