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!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Sabrina (1995)

Hollywood cannot resist a remake of a classic film. They think it is a sure moneymaker if the first was a proven winner. Thus, the remake of the classic Billy Wilder film, Sabrina. I reviewed the original a few weeks ago, and promised to see this remake and give you a report. It is rated PG for some mild language.

Directed by Sydney Pollack (Tootsie), it was updated from 1954 to 1995 with a great new screenplay. We are again privy to the lives of the super-rich Larrabee family on their Long Island estate.  This time, they made Maude (Nancy Marchand), the matriarch of the family, a widow, and her two sons are Linus (Harrison Ford) and David (Greg Kinnear).

Sabrina Fairchild (Julia Ormand) is the gangly daughter of their chauffeur (John Wood). Sabrina is infatuated with David, a sort of puppy love that has not dimmed over the years, even though he remains inaccessible and self-involved. In this remake, Sabrina goes to Paris, but becomes a photographer’s assistant at a fashion magazine, a much better fit than her training as a chef.

When she returns to Long Island transformed (her physical transformation is more apparent than that of Audrey Hepburn’s in the first film), David is pulled into her wake, much to the dismay of Linus and their mother. David has recently become engaged to Elizabeth (Lauren Holly), a beautiful physician, with the added bonus that she is from an affluent family with business ties Linus and Maude covet. For this marriage to never happen would be decidedly inconvenient for their dreams of expansion.

Linus proceeds to monopolize Sabrina’s time in an effort to get her mind off David. I liked Harrison Ford in this role much better than Humphrey Bogart. Julia Ormand is fine, but if it had been possible, which of course it’s not, I would have liked Harrison Ford and Audrey Hepburn in the starring roles. William Holden or Greg Kinnear would be fine in either case.

Angie Dickenson and Richard Crenna play Elizabeth’s parents, and they add some spice and charm to the story. I liked that David fell for someone like Elizabeth, an intelligent woman who can keep him in line. David is not without his own smarts; he just hasn’t chosen to put them to good use yet.

This excellent screenplay gave more range to the actors. We really get to see Linus as a vulnerable man who has postponed love in exchange for empire building with his mother. The interactions between Linus and Sabrina are poignant, and I even shed a few tears! When Sabrina is won over by Linus, it comes as no surprise.

Billy Wilder gave a good plot to work with and Barbara Benedek and David Rayfiel successfully updated it by 40 years. I highly recommend this film. Linus and Sabrina’s characters are well delineated, making the ending more believable than the first Sabrina. Those class divisions that the rich want to maintain can only be broken down through love.

Sunday, September 25, 2016


Hollywood loves to make movies about themselves, even if it means stirring up old, shameful periods of their history. In a previous post, From Caligari to Hitler, I made mention near the end of my review about Hollywood screenwriters being blacklisted if they were suspected of being communists in the late 1940’s and 50’s. Trumbo is about the famous award winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo who was forced to work in secret because of his affiliation with the Communist party. Studios would not hire someone with ties to Communism during that time period.

This film stars Bryan Cranston of Breaking Bad fame as the idealistic Trumbo. Directed by Jay Roach, it is rated R for language including some sexual references.

Trumbo refused to testify before the congressional House Un-American Activities Committee resulting in a prison sentence. He was someone who had money, and yet stayed true to what he believed in for the working class. If you have a sandwich, and see someone who has none, do you share? He asks this of his young daughter Niki (Elle Fanning), who comes of age during the civil rights movement in the 60’s, following her conscience and her father’s example, much to the worry of her mother Cleo (Diane Lane).

I cannot reveal too much about this film, as I don’t want to give away the surprises that I was treated to as I watched. Suffice it to say that no writer would relish the thought of not being given credit for what he/she had written, but that’s exactly what happened to Trumbo. Unable to take credit for his work, Academy Awards were given to nonexistent writers instead of to him, who was actually the screenwriter, and customary salary was cut, all because of fear and paranoia. He and others had to fight for the integrity of their personal and professional life. He found work after release from prison writing or fixing screenplays for a low budget B-movie producer, Frank King (John Goodman).

It is chilling to see how manipulative and threatening gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) was, and I don’t doubt the portrayal. She was a bigoted, anti-Semitic witch. She wielded influence over Hollywood executives who covered their assets and profits, and left others to suffer.

It was not a pretty time for America, these years of censorship and denying the right to the first amendment. We see other well known celebrities who played pivotal real life roles in this time period: Edward G. Robinson (Michael Stuhlbarg), Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman), John Wayne (David James Elliott), Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) occupying two sides of the spectrum. Who will they be loyal to?

Bryan Cranston was nominated for Best Actor at the Academy Awards for his portrayal of Trumbo and I can see why. This is an excellent film and entertains while it enlightens about the heroes like Trumbo who stayed true to his ideals even under harsh persecution. A great film for anyone who appreciates good storytelling and real life drama.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Star Trek Beyond

Star Trek Beyond is the third in the trio of films that take the classic Star Trek story back in time to when the seven members of the crew were fairly new to piloting the Enterprise.

Like most in my generation, I embraced the TV series Star Trek when it aired for three years in the late 1960’s. My sister and I even went to an event to hear Gene Rodenberry give a talk, where a comical bonus was clips of Star Trek bloopers.

I was pleased when the first of these films came out, as I liked seeing the crew in their relative youth. This third in the series does not disappoint. It is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

Star Trek Beyond is still in theaters where my fellow moviegoers and I watched with rapt attention. Simon Pegg, who plays Scotty in the film, wrote the screenplay. Simon was Hector in a great film I reviewed here on my blog recently, Hector and the Search for Happiness. He is quite a talented actor and writer.

It is Stardate 2263.2, the Enterprise is in deep space, and Captain Kirk (Chris Pine) and Commander Spock (Zachary Quinto) are at stages of their lives where they are questioning their choices. Lieutenant Uhura (Zoe Saldana) and Spock are still an item in this film. Scotty (Simon Pegg), Sulu (John Cho), Chekov (Anton Yelchin), and Bones (Karl Urban) complete the beloved seven of the Enterprise crew. (It was sad to watch Anton as Chekov, knowing of his untimely death.)

A decision is made to come to the aide of a space traveler and the action/adventure begins. All members of the Enterprise are forced to leave the ship, and land on a harsh planet that is, however, conveniently suited for oxygen breathing life forms. The bad guy Krall (Idris Elba) has a mysterious past, and he threatens to destroy the starbase Yorktown.

The crew is separated, and each individual must find his or her way to the others. A capable new character, Jaylah (Sofia Boutella), gives an interesting new perspective to their predicament.

I loved this screenplay. The more I think about it, the more impressed I am. Of course, there was lots of action and adventure going on, but there were also touches of humor here and there to help alleviate all the tension and adrenalin pumping action.

My husband commented that these types of films show humans surviving extremely physically demanding events in a superhero kind of way, which is unrealistic. I agreed, but it is fantasy after all. We both loved the film.

The plot point in the other films about Commander Spock meeting his older self in the form of Ambassador Spock (Leonard Nimoy) makes one’s head swim. That whole time travel, meeting yourself from the future is just plain bewildering. But somehow it works. This film ties up those loose ends in a way. See it while it’s still in theaters on the big screen.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Age of the Masses

My husband suggested we watch the German documentary film, From Caligari to Hitler: German Cinema in the Age of the Masses, on streaming Netflix. I didn’t need much convincing, as I’m sure you are aware I love all things cinema. This film by Rudiger Suchsland won best film at the Venice Film Festival in 2014.

Back when I was getting my undergraduate degree, I took an elective class in history. The theme was film as history, and we viewed several films and discussed whether the movie reflected the times it was made in, how factual it was, or if instead it projected the hopes and fears of America into the plot.

This English subtitled documentary reminded me of that class I took many years ago. Film was in its infancy coming out of World War I, and was still of the silent film genre. I wondered how those films shaped or reflected the society they were made in. German filmmakers were an experimental lot, and I had heard of some of the directors, Fritz Lang the most prominent. Some of the films I had heard of that are now deemed classics, were discussed in this documentary, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis the most well known.

The populace during this time period (1918-1933) didn’t know another World War would be on its way. They were happy, hopeful, carefree and unrestrained following the end of World War I, the war to end all wars. It was a time of social and cultural upheaval that seemed to parallel the roaring 20’s in America.

Brewing on the horizon is the dictatorship of Hitler. The film historians who are interviewed key in on the social climate of the times to explain the nature of the films that were being produced. The films were controversial even then, and when Hitler started to come into power, many actors and filmmakers were essentially exiled, leaving the country for their own safety. Hitler couldn’t very well have filmmakers exercising the freedom of expression they had been used to, and censorship was their fate.

I was surprised to see that Billy Wilder, beloved screenwriter in America, was a European of Jewish descent and had worked in the film industry in Germany. I understood once I heard about all the directors, actors and screenwriters who relocated to Hollywood when the political atmosphere became threatening. (See my previous review for the classic Billy Wilder film, Sabrina.) The exodus of these stars and creators of the German cinema to Hollywood are a lasting gift to American film lovers.

It is interesting to reflect that not that many years later, after World War II, with the Cold War and the alleged Communist threat looming, Hollywood screenwriters were blacklisted for their political beliefs, even jailed. The censorship continued on with McCarthyism, in the wave of paranoia and fear that swept the country.

I highly recommend From Caligari to Hitler if you are the least bit interested in the history of film.