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!

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Hours

Based on the novel by Michael Cunningham, The Hours follows a day in the life of three women, separated by time, but not by life experience. This DVD was one that we inherited from my husband’s mother, one of only two she had in her house (the other was Chicago). After watching it, I wonder what she liked about the story, and if she received it as a gift or bought it herself.

The film depicts a time in the life of the author Virginia Woolf; the other two women portrayed are fictional. Virginia (Nicole Kidman) lives in the countryside of England. She is writing the novel Mrs. Dalloway. Plagued by periods of depression, her husband Leonard (Stephen Dillane) worries about her, fearing she will attempt suicide yet again, having tried twice already.

In 1951, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) lives in suburban Los Angeles. She has a son not yet in school, is pregnant and reading Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. Her husband Dan (John C. Reilly) is unaware of her unhappiness. Her only friend appears to be Kitty (Toni Colette), who visits her on the day she is baking a birthday cake for her husband.

A few decades later in 2001, Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) is hosting a party for her good friend Richard (Ed Harris). He is a poet being honored for his work. He is also very ill and depressed. The film is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some disturbing images, and brief language.

The musical score by Philip Glass is hauntingly beautiful. His music fits well in the film, tying the women’s lives together beautifully. Nicole Kidman won an Academy Award for Best Actress playing the esteemed author Virginia Woolf. She looks very different with her makeup that changed the shape of her nose. She probably looks more like Virginia wearing the prosthetic nose.

I watched three of the special features on the DVD: The Mind and Times of Virginia Woolf, Three Women, and The Lives of Mrs. Dalloway. All served to inform and stimulate my thinking about the writers across the decades: Virginia; the novelist; and the screenwriter.

I confess I have not read anything by Virginia Woolf. I have added her novel A Room of One’s Own to my reading list, and plan to read it soon. Michael Cunningham said his reading of Mrs. Dalloway at the age of fifteen was a moment that changed him. He was later inspired to write The Hours incorporating Virginia’s work Mrs. Dalloway into the stories of the three women across the years. David Hare did a wonderful job as screenwriter to this tale that weaves the women’s experiences together.

The Hours is more of a literary film and one that will probably keep you thinking afterwards. There are surprises in this film that will give you some aha! moments, and of course I won’t give these away. I highly recommend The Hours to you. I’m going to gift the DVD to someone I think may appreciate it.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

True Lies

True Lies, a film from 1994, is an action comedy thriller with an all-star cast. It works beautifully thanks to the screenwriting and directing skills of James Cameron. The longish movie at 2 hours 21 minutes flies by because it is nonstop action with surprising developments. The film is rated R for a lot of action/violence and some language.

Harry Tasker (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Albert Gibson (Tom Arnold) are secret agents working for an agency called Omega Sector headquartered in Washington, D.C. Harry has kept the true nature of his work hidden from his wife Helen (Jamie Lee Curtis) for all of their 15-year marriage. Their domestic life in the suburbs is somewhat dull, and even their 14 year old daughter Dana (Eliza Dushku) is bored and acting out.

Harry discovers that Helen is having an affair with Simon (Bill Paxton), and at that point we get to the real heart of the film. Harry is shocked to learn that his wife is less than happy with him, and sets out to teach her a lesson, which ends up seeing her for who she truly is, and taking the time to be there for her again. Tom Arnold plays well opposite Arnold as his coworker and friend. His wit and delivery is spot on as he supports Harry through these trials.

In the midst of all of this domestic drama, a crazed Islamic jihadist Salim Abu Aziz (Art Malik) enlists the help of Juno Skinner (Tia Carrera) who deals in antiquities to smuggle nuclear warheads into the USA. Due to the deceptiveness of Simon as he attempts to seduce Helen, and Harry subsequently attempting to get even with her, when Aziz enters the scene, Harry and Helen together must work to stop him before he detonates a nuclear missile. Some very crazy action occurs as the warhead is being driven over the Key West Bridge towards a destination on the mainland.

This film really works due to the fine comedic acting by the main players. It is easily my favorite Bill Paxton film. He unfortunately passed away earlier this year due to complications from heart surgery, and he will be sorely missed in the movies. He was brilliant as the con man/salesman Simon just looking for some fun with bored housewives. Other favorites I saw him appear in were as Morgan Earp in Tombstone, an astronaut in Apollo 13, A Simple Plan, and Twister. I recommend all of these to you.

Arnold and Jamie Lee have good chemistry, and a scene in a hotel room with the two of them is one of the sexiest I have seen on screen. She won the Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical for her role as Helen.

Have you seen True Lies? Do you like these actors? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. I’m going to pass this DVD on so someone else gets a chance to enjoy it as much as I do.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Saint (1997)

Next in my drawer is a movie from 1997, The Saint. I don’t recall exactly how I acquired the DVD, but it is a favorite of mine. It’s not a standout in special effects or even inspired dialogue, but the premise is sound, the acting pretty good, and it has a happy ending. The film is rated PG-13 for action violence, brief strong language, some sensuality, and drug content.

Simon Templar (Val Kilmer) is the Saint; the aliases he takes are the names of Catholic saints. Simon enters into an agreement with Ivan Tretiak (Rade Serbedzija), a wealthy criminal in Russia, to steal the formula for cold fusion from an Oxford University professor.

Simon travels to England to obtain the equations from the brilliant scientist Dr. Emma Russell (Elisabeth Shue), who has worked out a formula for an unlimited source of energy. Thus begins the romance between Simon and Emma that propels them through the rest of the film. The action takes place in England and Russia. The soundtrack was beautifully written by Graeme Revell, and the music adds a sense of magic and mystery to the quieter, more soulful scenes.

Val Kilmer has had several good films in his career; the early Top Gun, the memorable performance he gave as Jim Morrison in The Doors, and this film as the thief with a heart. The Saint is a master of disguise, and takes on the persona of an assortment of characters in order to escape detection by either the criminals hiring him or Scotland Yard. He escapes detection again and again due to his masquerading costumes and accents, and it is quite fun to watch.

Elisabeth Shue I first saw in Adventures in Babysitting (I liked that movie!), and then her famous role in Leaving Las Vegas. The chemistry between her and Val really works, and so it is not surprising when they fall for each other. Especially sweet is the scene where Simon is working at seducing her, they are getting tipsy drinking a lot of very expensive wine, and yet despite this, she sees into Simon’s soul, and that initially upsets him. Can he steal her work on cold fusion when he’s falling in love with her?

The Saint has action, adventure, and romance all rolled up into one neat package. Given it was filmed some twenty years ago, the technology is a bit dated, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s light entertainment with a bit of romance thrown in.

Roger Moore famously starred in a TV series in the 1960’s as The Saint. There is a British TV movie out just this year of The Saint starring Adam Rayner. It wasn’t picked up as a series, but was shown on TV as a tribute to Roger Moore. Simon Templar is a good character and I can see why he is brought back to film again and again.

Have you seen any of these versions of The Saint, and if so, what did you think of them?

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Runaway Bride

Another DVD in my drawer was Runaway Bride, pairing Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in a romantic comedy again, nine years after Pretty Woman debuted. The film is rated PG for language and some suggestive dialogue. Garry Marshall, the director who got such great performances from Gere and Roberts in Pretty Woman, directed it. The screenwriters of Runaway Bride, Josann McGibbon and Sara Parriott, wrote a beautiful and funny screenplay, impeccably rendered by cast and crew with fine acting and attention to detail.

Ike Graham (Richard Gere) is a columnist for USA Today, always the “last-minute” man, ideas for his column not striking till an hour or so before deadline. He meets George Swilling (Reg Rogers) who tells him about Maggie, a runaway bride from Hale, New York, who has jilted men at the altar 7 or 8 times.

Ike writes the column without checking the facts, and Maggie Carpenter (Julia Roberts) is infuriated with the fabrication of her life. She gets his editor Ellie (Rita Wilson), who also just happens to be Ike’s ex-wife, to fire him.

Now out of a job, Ellie’s husband Fisher (Hector Elizondo) suggests to Ike that he write a full-length article about Maggie to redeem his reputation. Ike drives out to Hale in search of the truth. He quickly wins over the entire town, and friends and family of Maggie’s eagerly tell him about Maggie’s three failed attempts to tie the knot.

Ike and Maggie, first at odds with each other, eventually feel sparks of attraction between them. Ike couldn’t be more charming, and this is one of Richard Gere’s best romantic roles. He gets to deliver some great lines about romance, marriage proposals, and honeymoons. It is no surprise that Maggie eventually falls for him.

Maggie backs out of her 4th scheduled wedding to Coach Bob Kelly (Christopher Meloni), and Ike and Maggie are set to be married instead. But will Maggie flee from Ike as she has the previous three grooms?

Runaway Bride is clever and enjoyable, the small town of Hale in autumn is brought to life in quaint detail (was actually filmed in Maryland), and there is great chemistry between all the actors, thanks to Garry Marshall as director, and of course the inherent talent of the actors. Joan Cusack delivers another fine performance as Maggie’s best friend, Peggy Flemming, who helps coach her to success. By the end of the film, Maggie has examined her life and why she always gets cold feet. I highly recommend it to you, and it would be a good film for teens to watch as well. There is not a lot of language that parents might object to, and no sex scenes. The messages about marriage that are delivered as Ike researches Maggie and who she is are really priceless. It would make a great date night movie, and one for those who are newly engaged! I’ll be passing on this wonderful comedy so others can enjoy it as much as I do.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Brighton Rock

A friend gave me this DVD of a British film, Brighton Rock. I don’t recall why she thought I might like it. It is a period piece, taking place in 1964 when the mob ruled parts of England and susceptible youths became the bosses’ minions. From 2010, the film is rated R for violence, language and some sexual content. It is a thriller, crime drama.

Pinkie (Sam Riley) is an ambitious tough young man, who will stop at nothing to gain his way into the world of Colleoni (Andy Serkis), who’s kind of like the Godfather, only British style.

Rose (Andrea Riseborough) works in a teashop as a waitress, and her employer Ida (Helen Mirren) becomes concerned when she begins hanging out with Pinkie. Her friend Phil (John Hurt) helps her try to save Rose from sure ruin or even death. Rose has unfortunately seen a man who was later murdered and even has a slip for a photo of them one of those pesky photographers take when you’re on the boardwalk of Coney Island. Pinkie is determined she keep her silence, and feigns interest in her. He warns her about what could be done to her by others if she talks to anyone about what she’s seen. How much of Pinkie’s interest in Rose is an act, and how much is real fondness of her is much of the story’s question.

Rose falls head over heels in love with Pinkie, why I don’t know as he is about as unappealing as a pit bull. They could have at least made Pinkie endearing somehow to explain why Rose is attracted to him. She is not ugly in the least, just a little dowdy in her appearance, so I find it difficult to believe he was the first young man to show her any attentions. Their relationship really doesn’t work for me.

These are volatile times in England with youth rioting, not really clear why, and the mob taking hold of owners of shops to “protect” them. This seaside community doesn’t seem to be very well off and is dreary and wet, aside from the Hotel Cosmopolitan where Colleoni lives.

Brighton Rock is based on the 1938 novel by Graham Greene, and has a sort of film noir feel to it. There was an earlier Brighton Rock film made in 1947, and this adaptation updates the action to 1964. Andy Serkis gives the best performance. You may recognize his name as he played the evil Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He’s a fine actor all around, and his performance here as Colleoni is at least memorable. I can’t say much for the other actors in this film. Pinkie rarely has anything other than a scowl on his face, and Ida is rarely animated either. Ms. Riseborough has the naïve Rose character down pat, but she is unlikable, not good for the story.

Save your time for one of my other recommended films. This DVD goes out for sale.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999)

The Thomas Crown Affair (1999) is one of my favorite films, and a DVD I purchased. I never saw the original 1968 film starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, and from the looks of the trailer, I haven’t missed anything. The Windmills of Your Mind was introduced for the film of 1968, and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It is featured in the remake. The film is rated R for some sexuality and language.

This smart, sexy movie has it all as far as I’m concerned. Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) is a wealthy businessman who has a penchant for fine art. He frequents the Metropolitan Museum of Art where he seems to prefer the impressionist paintings. Faye Dunaway appears in a cameo as his shrink, and these brief scenes together clue us in to his psyche and motivations.

When a Monet is stolen from the museum, the insurance company hires Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) to investigate and recover the missing piece of art. Detective Michael McCann (Denis Leary) from the NYPD is assigned to the case along with his partner Detective Paretti (Frankie Faison). McCann is none too happy about Catherine’s arrival as she digs around employing unusual techniques to figure out who stole the painting and how.

Thomas is a suspect, and Catherine begins her pursuit of him, much to his pleasure and delight. Finally, a worthy woman who matches him in cunning and confidence. The two of them play a game of, “Can I trust you?” You won’t know until the end if they can. In the meantime, there are some sexy scenes between the two of them, great adventures, and some beautiful scenery near the ocean in Martinique. The luxury is fun to behold, and their snappy repartee most entertaining.

The music fits the action well, particularly the distinctive voice of Nina Simone singing Sinnerman. The film is visually appealing, as are the actors, and I can’t think of a better pairing than Brosnan and Russo for the roles. The music is by Bill Conti, Academy Award winner for original score in The Right Stuff.

Pierce Brosnan would have been 46 years old at the time of this film, and Rene Russo about 45. They are both in their prime, and are two of my favorite actors. I loved all four of Brosnan’s James Bond films, among others. He was in a recent film called Love Is All You Need that I reviewed on this blog. Enter the name of the film on the upper left of the blog, and the search engine will take you right to it. Rene played well opposite Kevin Costner in Tin Cup.

After you watch the film, and you are confused by Catherine’s final words, come back to my blog and ask me about it. I solved the mystery, but don’t want to say anything until you watch it for yourself. The Thomas Crown Affair is one I like to revisit every so often. It’s a keeper.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


The DVD Chicago came to me from my husband’s mother, Dolores. After I watched this flashy musical at home the other night (I’d already seen it in the theater when it came out in 2002), my husband commented that his mother used to practically beg him to watch it with her, and told him he didn’t know what he was missing. She really enjoyed Chicago and wanted everyone else to enjoy it with her.

I loved seeing this again. My husband commented that he likes South Pacific better, as the songs are more musical, tunes you’d like to whistle or lyrics you’d like to sing aloud. Chicago I admit is a bit louder and a bit raunchy. After all, it’s about women who murder their husbands and lovers. It’s also about show business, how fleeting fame can be, and the fickleness of the public who latch onto anyone involved in a scandal for entertainment, no matter how gruesome.

The film is rated PG-13 for sexual content and dialogue, violence and thematic elements. It won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Catherine Zeta-Jones, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Sound.

For me, one of the biggest pleasures are the dance numbers. Originally choreographed by Bob Fosse, they are exciting and memorable. My favorite is the Cell Block Tango, “he had it comin’ …” Any woman who’s been wronged by her man can get a little vicarious enjoyment out of these women telling their stories. Exaggerated scenarios yes, but true to human nature where jealousy and anger aren’t let go of so easily.

Chicago was based on two women accused of killing their lovers in 1924. As is typical of Hollywood, there are no other resemblances aside from this inspiration for the characters.

Roxie Hart (Renée Zellweger) is a wannabee entertainer who shoots her low-down lying lover when he doesn’t deliver on the promise he made to get her on that stage. Her husband Amos (John C. Reilly) is a long-suffering simple man, very well cast. Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is successful on the stage until she ends up in the women’s prison for killing her sister and husband.

When Roxie ends up in the cellblock too, they start to compete for attention from the press, enlisting the assistance of Billy Flynn (Richard Gere), an attorney who sets out to gain the public’s sympathy for Roxie. Who knew Richard Gere could actually tap dance? He does a great job. Queen Latifah is wonderful as Mama Morton, the not so honest matron of the women’s cellblock. Other notable actors are Taye Diggs as the bandleader, and Christine Baranski as the reporter Mary Sunshine.

It would be dynamic seeing Chicago on stage; I don’t know if it tours anymore. Live theater and dance are like nothing else, but if you can’t see it at your performing arts center, second best is on your screen at home. I’m keeping this DVD. Thanks, Dolores.

That’s Chicago.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Like Water for Chocolate

Like Water for Chocolate (Como agua para chocolate) is a delightful film from 1992. Watching it is a wonderful way to spend an evening. The screenplay is based on a novel by Laura Esquivel. I was given the DVD by someone from work and had never gotten around to watching it until a couple days ago. The film is rated R for sexuality.

It is the tale of a Mexican family living near the Texas border in the early 1900’s. Tita (Lumi Cavazos) is the youngest of three daughters. Her mother, Mamá Elena (Regina Torné) tells her that she will never marry and must care for her as long as she lives. Her mother is a domineering woman and not likable at all. They live on a farm and appear to be well off, although Tita is kept busy in the kitchen and in meeting her mother’s unreasonable demands.

Tita and Pedro Muzquiz (Marco Leonardi) have fallen in love, but when Pedro is denied her hand in marriage, he agrees to marry her sister Rosaura (Yareli Arizmendi) just so he can be close to Tita. This is a setup for all sorts of troubles, and Tita takes out her sadness in the kitchen. She is a fantastic cook and baker having been trained by her beloved Nacha (Ada Carrasco). Tita also expresses her joy and love for Pedro through her cooking, just one of many exquisite moments in the film, and a fine example of magical realism in a story. The quail in rose petal sauce she prepares looks incredibly delectable, especially from the reactions the diners give while savoring it.

The film is subtitled in English, but since some of the action takes place in Texas, most notably with a physician, Dr. John Brown (Mario Iván Martínez), who is in love with Tita, some dialogue is in English. The film is noted for being erotic, and it is erotic in some places early on, but in scenes where they are eating, not ones involving sexuality. I am surprised this film wasn’t nominated for any Academy Awards, but it did receive a nomination for Best Foreign Film at the Golden Globes that year.

Laura Esquivel was married to the director of the film, Alfonso Arau. It must have been a wonderful experience for them making this film together. Laura wrote the screenplay. The actors are all suited to their roles, and the themes of love and obligation to family, and the failings of many of the family members in faithfulness to their chosen ones in marriage, is a familiar one. The third sister, Gertrudis (Claudette Maillé) is a beautiful and vibrant young woman who has an interesting life unfold for her. I won’t say more as I don’t want to spoil the surprises for you.

This is a movie I may just keep and not discard. It’s very rich in metaphor, and the magical realism that is just right in depicting the mysticism of the folk culture of that era.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

A Farewell to Arms

I opened the drawer that has some games and DVDs stored in it, and wondered how we collected all of them. I am acquainted with people who buy DVDs frequently, and on the other side of the spectrum, a friend who only owns three.

We are somewhere in the middle. I noticed a couple we had inherited from my husband’s mother, and some that were gifts. Still others were an impulse buy at the bookstore or wherever DVDs are typically sold.

I decided to watch some I had never seen, review some favorites and then sell them to my local rental store. Decluttering always feels good! And in the age of streaming services, and DVDs on Netflix, I don’t need to own these at all.

The first one I pulled out was a gift from my sister of A Farewell to Arms, a 1932 black and white feature based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. Frederic (Gary Cooper) is an American ambulance driver in Italy during World War I when he meets Catherine (Helen Hayes), a British nurse, and falls in love. They secretly marry, and due to the nefarious scheming of Rinaldi (Adolphe Menjou), who is also in love with Catherine, the newlyweds are separated.

The screenplay is not that well written, but it is after all fairly early in the history of filmmaking, and writers had a lot to learn. The cinematography however, is brilliant, and I was pleased to discover after I had watched the movie that A Farewell to Arms won an Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Charles Lang. I can see where the award was a good choice. The camera angles, use of shadows, and choice of subjects during certain scenes was inspired. Charles Lang had a long, illustrious career in filmmaking, and I think you’d be surprised if you look up his other feature films. A Farewell to Arms also won an Academy award for Best Sound Recording.

Gary Cooper is very tall, six foot three inches of handsomeness, and with little petite Helen Hayes at just five feet, they make an unusual pair walking along the streets of Italy. Both actors had long filmmaking careers; this is an early one for both of them.

I have not read Hemingway’s highly regarded novel of A Farewell to Arms, but I have read several of his short stories, and his storytelling abilities and writing is impressive. I think that his novel just didn’t translate to the screen very well, and that his story on the page was likely much more detailed and significant than this film.

The ending, for both my husband and I, left us wanting. He said it was “maudlin” and I just found it cloying and unrealistic. But like I said, it was 1932 after all.

If you are a student of film, you may enjoy watching it for the groundbreaking cinematography by Lang. Otherwise I wouldn’t recommend you take 90 minutes out of your cinema viewing time to watch it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Brainwashing of My Dad

Jen Senko is a documentary filmmaker who watched her tolerant and loving father turn into a bigoted, angry person beginning in the 1980’s when he began watching Fox News and listening to Rush Limbaugh. Alarmed, along with her mother, at the change in their father/husband, she set out to try to understand what had happened to him.

The Brainwashing of My Dad is her documentary feature film about her journey to discover what happened to her father to create such an angry man. The film features interviews with psychologists, media specialists, scholars, and historians, and is presented along with tons of information about the media and how laws being repealed made it easier to report false and inaccurate information on the airwaves. We see how the media was manipulated in order to effectively blast right wing propaganda to the masses of America. The history of how exactly the Republican agenda came to be broadcast to those gullible citizens lacking in critical thinking skills is what this film is about. And for Jen to find her father again.

Jen’s father was a World War II veteran and a long time Democrat, not particularly political during her childhood, which occurred during the volatile 1960’s and the Vietnam era. Her father is shown in home movies as a man happily raising his children, being an all-around stellar, likable, fun-loving father and husband. The turning point for him occurred when he encountered a long daily commute alone in his car, listening to radio talk shows, including the voice of the pompous Rush Limbaugh, and he began to change.

Particularly interesting to me in the film were the interviews with other people, recovering talk show addicts if you will, who were younger, even significantly younger than her father and who were also brainwashed by the propaganda machine. My husband and I know people in our family who have succumbed to this brainwashing too. It is well known to us that simply presenting the facts to them will not get them to change their belief system, so we don’t even bother to talk to them about those touchy subjects. The film shows what parameters are in place by those in power in order to manipulate the masses, and how the brainwashing works on a psychological level.

Jen researched this film very well, and my husband and I watched it on Hulu. It is also available through other video on demand sources: http://www.thebrainwashingofmydad.com/vod-platforms/

In these times that are growing more volatile, I think it is important to watch a documentary such as this one because it may be someone you know who is being brainwashed along with Jen’s dad. Education is vital to understanding what is happening in America.

Is there a happy ending for Jen’s father? I’m not going to say, because I think you should watch the film, and I hope not just “liberals” will do so. Challenge yourself to get educated, because you need to know what you’re up against and how to respond.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared

The very funny Swedish adventure/comedy film, The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, is well worth your time. The film is partially narrated in English with subtitles for the dialogue. It is rated R for language and some violence. The screenplay was based on a novel by Jonas Jonasson.

It was the third highest grossing film in Sweden, and I can see why. (First and second highest grossing films are the Swedish films The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and The Girl Who Played with Fire.) The format of the film reminded me a bit of Forrest Gump, the Tom Hanks movie where the unlikely character of Forrest meets famous people throughout his life as he traverses some very volatile times in America.

This film follows the life of Allan Karlsson (Robert Gustafsson) in flashbacks and in the present. He also has met famous people through the years, but in this case, they are dangerous world leaders during the World War II years and Cold War times. Like Forrest Gump, he is a bit of a simpleton too, but one who skates through his life untouched and unharmed even when others are falling like leaves around him.

We see him first as he is soon celebrating his 100th birthday while living in a nursing home/retirement home, and who’s to know why he suddenly decides to climb out of the window of his small room and take off walking down the road. Adventures follow, as his 100-year old mind is not the brightest or clearest these days, especially when we see later that he’s been a bit daft his whole life.

The people he gets mixed up with are badass gang members who pursue him until the end for a suitcase of theirs with some valuable contents that Allan has unwittingly walked off with. He also has police trying to find him, as it doesn’t look so good for the retirement home to simply lose a resident. Allan essentially ends up being on a road trip, hooking up with other willing travelers who assist him in various ways. Julius (Iwar Wiklander) is the first to join him, and eventually includes Gunilla (Mia Skäringer) with her pet elephant. It is all very comical, and I smiled or laughed throughout the entire film. My husband enjoyed it too.

The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared  was nominated for an Academy Award in 2016 for Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling. Robert Gustafsson was born in 1964, so is clearly not 100 years old, not even close. Most of that expert makeup and hairstyling was for him, as he depicts several different decades of Allan’s life during the movie. There is a sequel that came out recently, The 101-Year-Old Man Who Skipped Out on the Bill and Disappeared. More silliness I’m sure, and I hope it doesn’t suffer the fate of many sequels that all too often come up short, not living up to the original.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a film by Guy Ritchie. It is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language. Admittedly, I had only seen one Guy Ritchie film to date, and that was Swept Away starring his then wife Madonna. I actually quite liked it, possibly one of a very few people who got what they were trying to say in the film.

I learned of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table when I was a kid or teenager. I can only imagine the attention the legend commands in its native England. From watching the trailer, I knew this film would have monsters in it and would be more supernatural than the tale I had first heard.

As for King Arthur, aside from the monsters, which I really don’t care for, I soon became entranced by the way Ritchie tells a tale. It is established early on that Arthur narrowly escapes with his life as just a toddler, and ends up in the city where good-hearted women who work in the brothels take him in.

I really enjoyed the way we see Arthur grow up, in little segments showing how he gets his street smarts and fighting skills as he matures. This wasn’t the only time the director used this technique and it worked to full advantage.

Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is soon an adult, is captured and transported to the kingdom where his uncle Vortigern (Jude Law) lives and rules. The famous sword, Excalibur, waits in the stone for the heir to the throne to arrive and pull it out. Men are traipsed through there and of course, no one is able to lift it free, until Arthur comes on the scene.

The magic begins, but not without Arthur denying who he really is. His search for himself and his lineage progresses with the help of The Mage (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), a fearsome woman who is ruthless in her tutelage of Arthur.

Basically, I liked the film, although tiring of the fighting sequences as it progressed. This is allegedly the first installment of a six film series. I would like to see the round table and the knights again, not so much the monsters and the fighting. Surely they must have just talked once in awhile. And then there’s the love interest with Guinevere.

King Arthur was said to live in the late 5th, early 6th century and led the defense of Britain against Saxon invaders. Scholars debate his historical existence, but it makes for a good story. He is said to have established an empire over Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Gaul (a region of Western Europe).

The legend lives on and has been rewritten many times over the centuries, storytellers taking great license in the retelling of the gallant tales. This version, King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword, is no exception. I saw it in the dollar theater, and that’s where it’s probably best seen.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Learning to Drive

Learning to Drive is a romantic comedy with dramatic overtones that takes place in Manhattan. A new divorcee, Wendy (Patricia Clarkson), decides to learn how to drive. Driving is not something everyone in New York City chooses to do, and despite her fears, she employs the services of Darwan (Ben Kingsley), a Sikh gentleman who is a taxi driver and instructor in the ways of the road for wannabee travelers.

I enjoyed the way we stepped into both Wendy’s and Darwan’s lives, comparing and contrasting the cultures they live in. Darwan is brand new into an arranged marriage with someone from India he’s just met, while Wendy is newly divorced from her husband Ted (Jake Weber) of 21 years. They find they have significant commonalities, as Darwan is an educated man who was a professor in India, and Wendy is a very intelligent woman who works as a book reviewer.

They support each other emotionally, and as Wendy learns to drive, she learns to take the driver’s seat in her life. Her daughter Tasha (Grace Gummer) is living in Vermont, which is the impetus for Wendy wanting her driver’s license to be able to go visit her.

I also liked the way the film addressed racial profiling, and the trials of immigrants in the United States. It is up to you the viewer to decide for yourself what the most appropriate policies are about immigration and how the people in this film were treated.

My husband watched the film with me, staying for the whole movie so I think it’s a film both men and women would appreciate. It’s an intelligent film and when he saw the name Katha Pollitt as the inspiration for the screenplay, he recognized the name as someone who writes for The Nation. Sure enough, he was right, and she wrote the short story upon which the film is based. Katha is a progressive author and journalist. Nice to see thoughtful films actually being made, even if they don’t make a ton of money at the box office.

Something that troubled me a bit was the casting of Ben Kingsley in the role of Darwan, an Indian Sikh man. Ben is British. I suppose they selected him for the name to promote the film more effectively, but I really think an Indian man should have played that role. However, he did play Gandhi for which he won an Academy Award for Best Actor. Darwan’s wife Jasleen (Sarita Choudhury) is a beautiful woman and I loved the way she dressed. I have a fascination for Indian culture I admit, and her clothes were absolutely gorgeous.

I recommend Learning to Drive. It is rated R for language and sexual content, probably mostly for a brief sexual encounter between Wendy and a friend of her sister’s that is actually quite comical.

As an aside, Grace Gummer is the daughter of Meryl Streep. She is a good actress, and I particularly enjoyed her role in The Newsroom. Check it out.

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.