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, December 26, 2017


I thoroughly loved the comedic sci-fi drama Downsizing. Scientists in Norway have discovered a way to impact global climate change by shrinking humans to dollhouse size, so less resources are being used. Fewer resources depleted, less garbage is created and pollution is a thing of the past, at least in the small world that the downsizing humans inhabit. It seems like a winning solution to an unprecedented growth of human numbers on earth, and to a crisis of climate change.

Paul Safranak (Matt Damon) is an occupational therapist, quiet, compassionate, and caring. He is married to Audrey (Kristen Wiig) who seems nice enough. They decide to join what is ultimately 3% of the world population who becomes small and lives in special communities where money goes far, and leisure time is great.

Complications arise, however, when Audrey chickens out at the last minute, leaving Paul high and dry. I wouldn’t normally tell you that, but I saw it in a trailer that I watched prior to seeing the film. Paul being suddenly single again figures prominently in the rest of the film as he sorts out his life in Leisureland.

He meets fellow small people from other parts of society, including Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz) who is a freewheeling entrepreneur partying like it’s 1999, and taking Paul under his wing to show him a good time. But who cleans up these mansions the small people live in? Marginalized ethnic groups, that’s who. Paul meets a Vietnamese woman, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau) who was injured being illegally smuggled into the U.S. and she introduces him to the reality of the lives and lower class housing of those that do the work.

In this world of small people, there really isn’t much difference from our present society. You have the workers, and the wealthy. Certain groups of people are still seen as being somehow inferior, and there continues to be corruption in governments who use the process of downsizing in unethical ways.

I loved the character of Paul, and Matt Damon is able to portray this thinking and compassionate man very well. Christoph Waltz is wonderful as free spirit Dusan, and adds a lightness to Paul’s existence. Hong Chau was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes this year for her performance as Ngoc Lan Tran. I liked her, but the way they had her speak English was annoying. The director had her speak in very broken English, and I think if she’d been in America long enough, she’d have picked up better sentence structure, and not been so limited linguistically. That’s about the only criticism I have of this film, and one that not everyone will likely agree with.

Downsizing is rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity and drug use. It brings to awareness the dire predicament the world is in. The ending is quite sobering and touching. If you enjoy other films from Payne/Taylor (Election, Sideways, The Descendents) you will enjoy Downsizing too.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week-The Touring Years

I was around eight years old or so when the Beatles came into their touring years, which is what the film Eight Days A Week is about. I recall some friends of mine in grade school asking me if I’d seen the Beatles on TV, likely on The Ed Sullivan Show, and I replied with something like, “Who’d want to watch a bunch of bugs?” So due to my younger age at the time, I missed out on that screaming, fainting phenomena of teenage girls who swooned over the Fab Four in such great numbers and so often it was called Beatlemania.

The Beatles: Eight Days A Week-The Touring Years, was released in 2016. The documentary is not rated. I wonder at this point during my writing if I have to say who the Beatles are. I hope you already know them. John Lennon, George Harrison, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr made up the legendary Beatles hailing from England. If you didn’t know that, I am sorry for you. (I listed them in order of my favorites!)

Ron Howard has created this documentary about the Beatles touring years with many interviews, still photos, and live performance film that will have you remembering the sixties all over again. Because I did become aware of the Beatles shortly after learning about them in school, and I loved their music, I did the Twist along with my girlfriends, sang along endlessly to their love songs on the radio, and matured year by year just as their music did.

I liked that the movie did not skimp on the music, often allowing an entire song to be played by the band for our viewing pleasure. Paul McCartney and John Lennon mainly composed the songs during that time period, and had quite the collaboration going for them. The Beatles toured all over the world, and I even knew an older neighbor girl who saw them perform in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was a bit of a legend in our rural community because of that.

This film will leave you feeling nostalgic if you are of a certain age, and if you’re even younger, it should be an education about not just the Beatles rise to fame and fortune, but to a world that was haunted by racial tensions, a deceitful war, women’s rights, and young people coming into their own power. I even shed a tear or two at the memories so eloquently brought to life once again through the interviews with the Beatles and the films from the times.

John and George were taken from us too soon. I still miss them, but at least have their music to listen to. Only Paul and Ringo are left behind. If Ringo shows up in Albuquerque again with his All-Starr Band, I’ll go see him. I came to appreciate his music more with the years.

See Eight Days A Week (we saw it on Hulu). And put some old Beatles music on. Your heart will appreciate it.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas

If you’ve ever enjoyed the story A Christmas Carol, I predict you will love this holiday release of The Man Who Invented Christmas. Based on the life of Charles Dickens, who famously wrote said story as well as many others, it takes place in England in 1843, the year he wrote and published the book.

The film is rated PG for thematic elements and some mild language. As I am also a writer, I was intrigued by the way the film depicted the creative process of Charles struggling to bring his characters to life on the pages of a book. Back then, writing was even more difficult, one page after another laboriously written out in longhand by the author.

Charles (Dan Stevens) lives in a nicely appointed home with his wife and several children. He’s just had three flops after the astounding success of Oliver Twist, and needs to write something that will sell. He is visited by his characters, most notably Scrooge (Christopher Plummer), as he writes his story. (Any writer will tell you that your characters do follow you around, and will never leave until you tell their story.)

Tara (Anna Murphy), a young servant from Ireland, becomes a sort of muse for Charles when he discovers she can read, and he then begins reading her what he’s written as he goes along. He also has a deadline, something all writers will be familiar with. There is nothing like a deadline to get the creative juices flowing until the task becomes almost an obsession.

The film shows flashbacks of the young Charles as a boy, and what he endured due to some setbacks of his father John (Jonathan Pryce), and being sent to a children’s work house to toil for 12 hours a day, pre-child labor laws. He is haunted by these memories and they influence how he writes.

He bases his story on bits and pieces of tales he hears from others, and it kind of reminded me of the now classic Shakespeare in Love that I reviewed for the A-Z Blogging Challenge last April. The screenwriter, Susan Coyne, did a marvelous job getting into the creative process of Charles as he creates perhaps his most memorable work.

A Christmas Carol was of course a huge success when it was published, and established the name Scrooge to indicate someone who is greedy, self-involved, and miserly, caring for no one other than himself. A term best used today to describe certain elected officials and heads of industry. Despite how far humanity has progressed since this story appeared in 1843, there is a long way to go until the poor are not seen as “those people,” and until all are seen as worthy of the same regard as those with greater wealth or education. This film was so good, I’ll likely watch it again once it is released on streaming channels. I highly recommend The Man Who Invented Christmas for your holiday movie night.

God bless us, every one.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Daddy's Home 2

Movie sequels are not easy to pull off. Many sequels often just recycle the same jokes and situations as the first film, giving us nothing new or particularly interesting.

Daddy’s Home 2 is an exception, and hit a home run! A few days ago, I posted my review for the first film, Daddy’s Home. I decided to see the sequel as it is out in theaters now. I believe I have found my new favorite Christmastime holiday movie. I loved it!

We return to the families of Brad (Will Farrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg), consisting of Brad’s wife Sara (Linda Cardellini), children Dylan (Owen Vaccaro), Megan (Scarlett Estevez), and the baby Griffy, as well as the stepdaughter Adrianna (Didi Costine) as Dusty has married her mother Karen (Alessandra Ambrosio).

Concerned that their families will have a miserable Christmas due to having to share time, mostly driving in cars getting to and from activities, Brad and Dusty decide to have a shared Christmas amongst all of them. Great idea, isn’t it? Except for they are informed that Dusty’s father Kurt (Mel Gibson) and Brad’s father Don (John Lithgow) are both arriving for a holiday visit.

Mel Gibson and John Lithgow are well cast as the fathers of these two men trying to do right by their families. Kurt is a hardened military kind of guy, having served with NASA, and Don is just as goofy as Brad is with his exuberant cheerfulness.

Kurt has booked a gorgeous chalet in the mountains for a shared holiday adventure, and adventure it is. All kinds of crazy shenanigans take place including some turkey hunting, chopping down a Christmas tree, a live manger scene, and heart to heart talks with Dylan who has a big case of puppy love. The film primarily showcases the father-son relationships and the dynamics of the stepfamily, and the four main male actors do wonderful jobs, portraying their characters so convincingly and holding nothing back.

Daddy’s Home 2 is rated PG-13 for suggestive material and some language. I recommend you see Daddy’s Home 2 in a crowded theater so you can share the laughter with everyone else. I loved the ending. It was perfect, and I left the theater feeling pumped up and happy. It is definitely a cure for any blues you might experience around this time of year if you are prone to that. Plus, it has none of the violence that so many films today showcase and even glorify. Sean Anders was the writer and director, and I applaud him for taking the risks in writing this family comedy. We need more uplifting movies like this one that remind us what we have in common and that we are all deserving of love, anytime of the year.

What holiday films are your favorites? What do your favorite holiday films have in common? Mine seem to be music, a good heartwarming story, and good acting. Daddy’s Home 2 delivers on all three. Happy holiday movie going to you!

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Daddy's Home

A family comedy from 2015 in effect asks the rhetorical question: How do blended families cope when the biological dad shows up, the person the mom always made out to be the bad guy in their relationship? Daddy’s Home tackles this subject using plenty of humor and sight gags to make light of the struggles between stepchildren and their new fathers.

Brad Whitaker (Will Farrell) is a stepfather to two children, Megan (Scarlett Estevez) and Dylan (Owen Vaccaro), having married their mother Sara (Linda Cardellini). Unexpectedly, the children’s real father, Dusty Mayron (Mark Wahlberg) shows up, striding back into their lives unwanted except for the kids who are overjoyed to see him again. Dusty is a bad boy riding an Indian motorcycle and working out his muscled physique in the family’s garage. He inserts himself into their home, crashing at their house to compete for his youngsters’ devotion and in an attempt to get his former wife to come back to him. I guess there’s nothing like someone else falling in love with your ex-wife and marrying her to get the jerk to realize just what he’s given up.

The comedy is pretty great. Brad works at a smooth jazz station. His boss Leo Holt (Thomas Haden Church) is an annoying man who tells Brad stories to try to make him feel better or teach him something, but they just end up being truly bizarre stories, some of which are so absurd, I just laughed out loud, amused by his delivery of these over the top scenarios.

Additionally, there are some really crazy situations this strange family deals with. Most notably, the hidden desire of Sara for another child, and the inability of Brad to conceive due to an unfortunate incident involving radiation. Dusty interferes and sets up an appointment with a fertility specialist, Dr. Francisco (Bobby Cannavale), that goes way overboard in my opinion. I don’t see how children should see this particular set of events unfold. It’s the one part of the movie I thought was rather tasteless.

Daddy’s Home is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, crude and suggestive content, and for language. A sequel, Daddy’s Home Two, is now in theaters adding Mel Gibson as Dusty’s father, and John Lithgow as Brad’s father in a story taking place at Christmas. Looks like it will be as funny as this first one.

If you’re a fan of Mark Wahlberg, you will like this film. He plays the charming ex-husband who seeks to give his replacement a run for the money with such bold maneuvers, you can’t help but like him. My husband finds Will Farrell really nauseating, so he didn’t watch the movie with me. Will Farrell is adept at playing kind of effeminate men, silly, stupid men, which is actually a compliment to his acting abilities. If you’re the dad in a blended family, it may be all too painfully real. For an evening of light entertainment, you may find Daddy’s Home to be a pleasant diversion.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Loving Vincent

Loving Vincent is my favorite film from 2017. The story is about famed artist Vincent Van Gogh, and depicts an amateur investigation into the mysterious circumstances of his death in 1890. The film is animated in a unique and groundbreaking manner. Artists paint every scene, and the characters in the film are real actors, with their images painted over by the artists to create a beautiful moving, animated feature. It is visually compelling, stunning and magical. You will think your eyes have entered one of Van Gogh’s paintings. Flashbacks to Vincent’s life prior to his death are painted in a black and white format, making for fascinating visual storytelling.

The film is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some violence, sexual material and smoking. It is now showing in theaters. Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman directed Loving Vincent.

You may have heard of Vincent Van Gogh in art history class, or even have had the honor of seeing some of his paintings in person in a museum. (I had the privilege of viewing some of his work in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, an enchanting museum, and Van Gogh’s work is even more stunning in person.) You may have heard the famous tale of how he cut off his ear. Why? Due to hearing voices? What about his mysterious death, which I had not heard much about. It was attributed to a suicide attempt, but did he really try to kill himself?

Loving Vincent will have you wondering about all these questions and more up until and beyond the dramatic ending. Vincent (Robert Gulaczyk) has settled in Auvers-sur-Oise, France to paint. He is frequently out in nature painting plein air, being tormented by village boys, and having luck, or the lack of it, in love. Vincent was a patient of Doctor Gachet (Jerome Flynn) who lived in the village, and by all accounts, had improved his mood considerably. Was he in love with Marguerite Gachet (Saoirse Ronan)? How upset was her father Doctor Gachet about Vincent and Marguerite becoming involved?

When he met his death, a letter to his brother had been left undelivered. Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth), the son of a postman, seeks to deliver it to its rightful owner, and becomes intrigued by the circumstances surrounding Vincent’s death, and therefore his life. What secrets went to the grave, and what can be deduced from examination of the events that transpired in his last year on earth? Armand interviews villagers, and those who knew Vincent best in his last two years on earth.

I know I’ve asked many questions here, and hopefully it will serve to push you along to the theater to see Loving Vincent. As always, I cannot say more about the content of the film without a spoiler. Trust me on this one: the tale will captivate you as will the extraordinary artistry of the film itself.

And a gift for you, Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues singing Don McLean’s Vincent: Justin Hayward - Starry, Starry Night

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


Let me say this right up front: I am a fan of Spike Lee’s films. I sometimes wonder where he’s been all these years, as nothing monumental has come out of Forty Acres & a Mule Filmworks for some time. When a friend asked me to watch Crooklyn, a film from 1994, I eagerly said I would. After all, it’s Spike Lee, and is semi-autobiographical. Crooklyn is rated PG-13 for drug content.

The first thing I noticed is the soundtrack. The first song is pleasant enough, serving as background to the camera that’s showing us the streets of Brooklyn, the children playing on the sidewalks and on the steps of their apartment buildings. It sets the scene well.

But the music never stops. One after another song is inserted into the action and the dialogue. It’s distracting, annoying, and I hated it. This film is supposed to be about a family and their colorful neighbors, not about ‘70’s music. Music is supposed to be used in a film to enhance the story, not drown it out.

The film’s main characters are the Carmichael family: Mom Carolyn (Alfre Woodard), Dad Woody (Delroy Lindo) and their five children growing up in 1973 in difficult financial times. The four brothers have only the one sister, Troy (Zelda Harris).  Carolyn is a hard working schoolteacher, mostly carrying the weight of bringing in the money, and in caring for her rambunctious children. Woody is a musician, a composer who prefers jazz, something that is not bringing in any money these days.

One aspect of the film I noticed was the cinematography. It seemed to me that certain scenes between Carolyn and Troy were super clear, very distinct and visual. When Troy went south to stay with relatives for the summer, the visual effects were quite different, distorted almost. I’m sure these choices were intentional. It did make parts of the story stand out more, so that when the reveal happens, you think back to what those periods in Troy’s life meant to her.

Interestingly, New Yorkers selected Crooklyn for the One Film, One New York screening this year, which is a contest where the whole city is encouraged to watch one film on the same night (September 13, 2017). The other nominees for this contest were Desperately Seeking Susan, On the Town, New York, New York, and The Wedding Banquet. For Crooklyn to win over these other films is a tribute and a nod to the filmography of Spike Lee. I don’t live in New York, and I have never even visited the city, something I will correct in the next few years, so I don’t fully understand their choice. Perhaps it is nostalgia for the 1970’s, the music of our youth, or for Mr. Lee.

I’d recommend watching some of Spike Lee’s other films instead of this one. Jungle Fever, She’s Gotta Have It, Malcolm X, Do the Right Thing, He Got Game, even Summer of Sam are preferable to this loud, messy tale.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Joel and Ethan Cohen wrote the screenplay for Suburbicon. Once I heard that, I knew I was in for seeing something strange on the big screen. Their most famous film is Fargo, Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay as well as Best Actress for Frances McDormand. The Cohen brothers always have a moral to their stories, and it is usually that people are blinded by money and do all sorts of dastardly deeds just to get more money.

This film has an added message in that the money leads to murder and the disintegration of society. While true evil lurks in one of the white homes in Suburbicon, that of Gardner Lodge and his family, a black family has moved in just on the other side of the fence from them. The white residents of this 1959 suburb that could exist anywhere in America focus on the dangers of a black family moving into their neighborhood, while the Lodge family plays out a drama of deceit, murder, fraud and adultery.

The law-abiding family in back of the Lodge’s attempt to ignore the threats to their home and family and the nightly chaos from the stupid white racists who live in the community. Stereotyped to the extreme by the white residents, the black family never gives away their dignity, and endures.

So the message I got from this film was: wake up! While evil exists right next door to you, stupid fearful racists profile and make life miserable for law-abiding citizens who just happen to be a different skin color.

Gardner Lodge (Matt Damon) lives with his wife Rose (Julianne Moore) and his son Nicky (Noah Jupe). Rose’s sister Margaret is also in the home and she is also played by Julianne Moore. Rose is wheelchair bound. One late night, two men enter their home, ostensibly to rob them, and proceed to put them all under, probably with chloroform, and give Rose too much of it, killing her in the process.

With Rose gone, Margaret stays on to take care of Nicky. The action intensifies as Nicky becomes suspicious about the circumstances of his mother’s death. An insurance investigator, Bud Cooper (Oscar Isaac), comes sniffing around in an attempt to see if Gardner’s insurance claim is fraudulent in any way, and the two thugs continue to terrorize Gardner.

Meanwhile, the attacks on the black family have not let up. The contrast between the two situations is intensely disturbing. The film is rated R for violence, language and some sexuality.

I can see why some people would not like this film. At first glance, it appears that there are two separate stories going on in Suburbicon, but because the two families exist side by side, the pointed contrast between the two come out strongly.

If you can stomach some blood, I recommend the film. It reminded me of Fargo actually, just in another setting and with the racial message thrown in. It’s not a great movie, but makes its point clearly.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Blade Runner (1982)

In anticipation of the new Blade Runner film, my husband suggested we watch the original released in 1982 prior to seeing the sequel. I thought I had seen this film when it first came out. If I had, I didn’t remember much from it. Blade Runner is rated R for violence.

Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is what is known as a blade runner, a hunter and destroyer of replicants, androids with artificial intelligence that look exactly like and usually act like humans. The replicants were used as slave labor on other planets’ outposts, and were banned from coming back to planet earth. If they do, they are terminated.

Rick is coerced into hunting down four replicants, leader Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), Leon (Brion James), and Pris (Daryl Hannah), who have entered the world in 2019, not so long from now, right? Believe me, the world today doesn’t look like this film depicted, and won’t in just two years. It is strange that writers place future scenarios so close to present day. At least Star Trek set things ways out there in the future which made the scenarios and worlds more plausible.

Earth is a dismal planet as depicted, nowhere I would want to live. Rick is intrigued by the replicant Racheal (Sean Young) who doesn’t seem to know she is one. She was given a memory of childhood, and so remembers things she never experienced. The others he encounters are violent, and dangerous.

The replicants have a life span of four years, and they want their creator, the scientist or developer who made them, to extend their time in the world of the living as long as possible, removing their impending death sentence. Pris is waif-like, but with a mean temper and a fighting spirit who entreats the loner J. F. Sebastian (William Sanderson), one of the genetic designers, to allow her to stay in his strange home filled with creations of his own making, toys that look real and wander about the cavernous rooms he calls home. The replicants seek his help in getting to the scientist who may be able to reverse their ticking time clocks.

I thought the film moved rather slowly, especially at first. An unusual choice was Rick as narrator of his story. It gives a sort of Dragnet feel to the action, or what is sometimes very little action. The soundtrack by Vangelis, a popular musician during the 1980’s, adds distinction to the film. Blade Runner has been touted as sci-fi film noir, and it has that feel, which makes it unique.

The ending was the best part of the film. It had a message to be delivered, and was succinct and poignant. However, I am simply growing tired of films that are so violent, and with apocalyptic story lines. It is boring and tiresome, and I frankly couldn’t wait for this film to be over. Let’s hope that Blade Runner 2049 shows up the original film. I’ll let you know.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Conjuring

While little kids and teens were out asking for candy Halloween night, we watched The Conjuring (we don’t have many children in the neighborhood, so forgo having any candy on hand).  This film was based on true events, involving Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson) and his wife Lorraine (Vera Farmiga), who are paranormal investigators, intervening with a demon possession in a family in 1971.

The Perron family, father Roger (Ron Livingston, from Sex and the City) and mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor) have five beautiful girls, ranging in age from not yet in school to a teenager. They have moved into an old farmhouse in the countryside of Rhode Island to get away from the city. Almost immediately after settling in, a series of supernatural happenings begin to occur.

When Roger and Carolyn find they cannot cope with whatever is haunting their home, they reach out to Ed and Lorraine. The evil that has planted itself in this house attacks any residents, and Ed and Lorraine must do an exorcism to rid the family of its malevolence. They must ask for permission from the Catholic Church all the way to the Vatican to do this, and since no priest is readily available, Ed, who is a non-ordained demonologist recognized by the Catholic Church, must perform it himself with Lorraine’s help. Poor Carolyn is the one possessed, and Lili Taylor gave an amazing job acting in The Conjuring. All the actors are stellar in their performances and it helps make the film really excellent.

I recall watching The Exorcist when it came out in the 1970’s, and that was a sufficiently horrifying film to watch, I didn’t see horror films again for a long time. I feel that the filmmakers may have taken some liberties to make this supernatural possession even scarier for the film. Special effects can create a world in a horror film that is absolutely terrifying. I said to my husband, that if this story is true, then I am not open to such occurrences in my world. He stated that if possession by a demon is true, then evil exists in the world, and not just in a full-blown possession. Interesting to think about.

The film was released in 2013 and is rated R for sequences of disturbing violence and terror. A sequel to The Conjuring was released in 2016; I have no intentions of seeing it. I enjoyed this first film, and I actually recommend if you like the horror genre, but I think that the entire series may be a little too scary for me.

This is the final horror or Halloween season film I’m reviewing for the year, and will get on to perhaps happier films (although Ghost Town and Shaun of the Dead that I reviewed earlier in October are both more in the romance or comedy genre).

If you have any suggestions on what types of films you’d like to see me review here, please comment below. As always, thanks for reading my reviews!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


Not exactly of the horror genre, Contagion is still a very scary movie. My sister and I watched it recently. Billed as a drama/thriller, it is spot-on in depicting how an epidemic could spread throughout the world, killing hundreds of thousands in its wake. Steven Soderbergh directed Contagion, released in 2011. It is rated PG-13 for disturbing content and some language.

Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns from a business trip in Hong Kong to Minneapolis, her husband Mitch (Matt Damon) and her young son, and falls ill with flu-like symptoms. She dies fairly quickly, and then others around the country and world also grow sick and die. The film is clever in that it begins on Day 2 and then shows others around the planet succumbing to the same illness as each day passes, which eventually brings the illness to the awareness of health organizations. But why? Why are so many people dying? And why does Beth’s husband Mitch not become sick and die? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other international organizations scramble to curb the epidemic and to find a vaccine to combat it. But it is really difficult work.

Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) is a hard-working staff member at the CDC taking risks to help others and investigate the spread of the virus. Her boss, Dr. Ellis Cheever (Laurence Fishburne) cautions her to watch her step so she does not also become ill. Dr. Leonora Orantes (Marion Cotillard) is employed by the World Health Organization and is seeking clues to the spread of the disease in parallel to the CDC’s efforts.

Meanwhile, the population is grieving as death is everywhere. Fear is rampant, helped along by bloggers like Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law), who reports on the development of a vaccine. Mitch has his hands full with his daughter Jory (Anna Jacoby-Heron), keeping her safe, as it is hard for a teenager to spend days and days at home away from her friends. How did this virus begin? And how does it spread? You will have to come along on the journey as the connections are revealed.

I will say that after watching this film, I am more cautious than ever about washing my hands, not touching my face, etc. It will scare you into taking these actions preached by health care professionals and your mom seriously. Exacerbating my sudden paranoia was my coincidently beginning to read Stephen King’s The Stand, the complete and uncut edition he published in 1990.

I had never read it before and it is a truly chilling tale, making Contagion look tame in comparison. The Stand deals with an epidemic of huge proportions when the U.S. government accidentally releases a deadly virus. It is really ghastly what can happen when disease spreads unchecked.

In the end, yes, I recommend you watch Contagion. The story is well written, directed and believable. The actors will have your sympathy for their plight. Just remember: Wash your hands. And quit touching your face.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The Baby's Room

What would you do if you placed a baby monitor in the little one’s room and heard eerie voices emanating from the speakers in the night? Get a video monitor to go with it of course. Then what if you see shadowy figures sitting by the infant’s crib?

For Juan (Javier Guttiérez) and Sonia (Leonor Watling), that is exactly what happened. Having bought an old fixer upper of a house, they need to know if the sounds they are hearing in the baby’s room are real or a figment of their overactive imaginations.

The Baby’s Room (La habitación del niño) is a Spanish film that is included in a set of six films entitled collectively: Films to Keep You Awake. It is the only one we watched, and it was scary enough for one night’s viewing without adding any other stories to the mix. There are English subtitles, easy enough to read as you watch.

Leonor Watling played the beautiful Alicia in Talk to Her (see my review) and in this film has quite a lot more room for movement! The Baby’s Room was released in 2007 and came after her part as Alicia. In a film of only one hour and 17 minutes, this is a much larger role for her. It is Juan, however, that the story most focuses on. At risk of losing his job as a sports reporter at a newspaper, he spirals downward into paranoia and fear, making Sonia believe he is going crazy.

But what he sees in those baby monitors is truly scary. (It is a real shock at the end when the story reaches its horror film conclusion.)

In an attempt to bring sanity back into his life, Juan visits Domingo (Sancho Gracia), who has some knowledge of physics and parapsychology. This serves to educate and intrigue the viewer, but doesn’t seem to help Juan very much. He continues dabbling in the supernatural world his fixer upper seems to encapsulate.

The other thing that is interesting is a consideration of ghosts or specters. Where do they come from? Are they an entity that exists alongside of us in this world, or do they inhabit a parallel universe that few can see and even fewer travel to?

Do we have evil twins who lurk in the shadows beside us? The consideration of an inter-dimensional world, kind of like the one that UFOs are believed to come from, is something to think about as you watch this film. That is, if you’re not spilling your popcorn and drink all over the sofa as you are scared out of your wits at yet another shocking glimpse into the dark side.

I recommend The Baby’s Room if you like the horror genre and a mystery both. Films to Keep You Awake is a 3-disc set, but we watched it on Amazon. They’re all drama, horror, thriller, mysteries, and perhaps at some time I’ll watch those also. In the meantime, this is a good one for Halloween.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Thing (1982)

I was at my niece’s house recently, and during a conversation about my October plans for posting reviews about scary movies, her husband asked if I had seen The Thing. No, I had not, and we all promptly watched it together on their big screen TV.

The Thing is a John Carpenter film, a horror tour de force. It is rated R for strong graphic sci-fi/horror violence and gore, grisly images, language and some drug content. It was released in 1982. Kurt Russell is the most famous actor in the film.

A group of Americans and a group of Norwegians inhabit two separate research stations in Antarctica. As you can imagine, the terrain is an unforgiving landscape of snow, cold and ice.

The Norwegians have dug up something long buried in the earth during their archeological research. It appears to have driven them mad and destroyed them, as well as making some of their dogs crazy. The Americans are incredulous to find that all the Norwegians have died and their camp destroyed in a very gruesome manner.

Mayhem ensues as the thing that has escaped the Norwegian base is very much alive, and stalks the animals and humans in the Americans’ camp. Paranoia runs high as each member of the party questions if the other has been taken over by this alien thing. MacReady (Kurt Russell), a helicopter pilot, becomes the leader of the crew, taking charge when others seem unable to do so. Dr. Blair (Wilford Brimley) attempts to understand the thing from a scientific perspective, but the other men soon witness firsthand just what it is capable of doing. It doesn’t help that their isolation is so complete with communication to the outside world cut off. An alien life form buried in the frigid ice and snow of Antarctica for centuries is not something to be taken lightly. It makes any regular aliens from a UFO movie seem very, very tame.

The gore and horror is really something else. My sister, known for a very loud scream when startled, really let out a good high decibel shriek upon one particularly unsuspected and horrible scene. Actually, everyone in the room screamed, even the ones who had already seen the film.

You have to have a strong stomach for this kind of tale. If only you could fast forward through the horror and concentrate on the suspicions of the men and how they go about trying to eliminate the thing and save themselves, that would be preferable. The techniques they use to search out who the thing has taken over are really quite clever. That was good storytelling, showing the detective work they undertook to save themselves.

If you’re a die-hard horror film fan, this one’s for you. Otherwise watch one of the other films I’ve reviewed this month for lighter Halloween fare. That remake of John Carpenter’s The Fog would be a good place to start. Just some ghosts floating about, nothing like the sheer terror of The Thing.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Ghost Town

Ghost Town is a cute, cute, cute little movie with lots of comedy and pathos. Frank (Greg Kinnear) is a not so great husband who meets his untimely death one afternoon, leaving his widow Gwen (Tea Leoni) behind.

Dr. Bertram Pincus, DDS, (Ricky Gervais) is a less than happy individual who finds he can see ghosts following what should have been a routine colonoscopy, during which he died for a few minutes. He and his surgeon/physician (Kristen Wiig) have some of the best comedic scenes in this film together. Really priceless, spot on dialogue between them that will have you laughing out loud.

Frank tries to enlist Pincus to help him break up the relationship and pending marriage between his wife and her new boyfriend Richard (Billy Campbell), a human rights attorney. Pincus reluctantly agrees, and surprisingly, he is charming in a very odd way, which begins to endear him to Gwen. She is an Egyptologist and when dentist Pincus offers to look at a mummy’s dental work, she agrees, resulting in yet another very funny encounter in the story.

Other ghosts pursue Pincus in a manner not unlike the ghosts who haunt Whoopi Goldberg’s character, Oda Mae, in the classic film Ghost. Ghost Town is lighter, will make you smile and laugh out loud, especially due to Ricky Gervais, who delivers his lines like a standup comic should.

What is keeping all these ghosts earthbound? What are they hoping to get from Pincus that he rarely gets any space to himself in the real world sans ghosts? That’s a question you will have to see answered for yourself when you watch Ghost Town.

Ghost Town was written and directed by David Koepp, whom I discovered was born in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. This interests me as I am from Wisconsin, and am quite familiar with Pewaukee. David Koepp has quite the writing credits in his bio, including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, War of the Worlds, Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, and more. Most impressive. Despite all those blockbusters, I will argue that Ghost Town, this sweet, witty, character driven piece, has all of those other films beat. No over the top special effects to carry the film along, it relies on great dialogue, a good premise and fine comedic timing and acting.

The film is rated PG-13 for some strong language, sexual humor and drug references, and was released in 2008. This time of year, with Halloween preparations coming up, you could probably watch this with family and not scare anyone to bits, or offend anyone for that matter. You may even shed a few heartfelt tears near the end. The writing is very good, and the actors are really doing their best, and it all pays off in a very enjoyable film, more of a romantic comedy than a true ghost story. Even Ghost was scarier than this film.

Watch it when you want to feel all happy/good inside. It would make a good date night film.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Shaun of the Dead

More of a comedy than a horror film, Shaun of the Dead satisfied my need to see yet another film from the talent of Simon Pegg. Curious, and not opposed to a story about zombies, I watched this really funny movie enjoying it every step of the way.

Shaun (Simon Pegg) is one of those less than stellar guys that can’t seem to keep his girlfriend happy and has a fairly mediocre job, and an even more mediocre loser friend Ed (Nick Frost). His girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield) has had it with Shaun and dumps him.

In his despair at losing Liz, Shaun doesn’t notice at first that England is being overrun with zombies. For what reason, we never do entirely discover.

He and Ed, always a team, set out to find Liz and also rescue Shaun’s mother Barbara (Penelope Wilton) and stepfather Philip (Bill Nighy) from a fate worse than death. For you see, if a zombie bites you, that’s it, into a zombie you become.

One thing about zombies, they move very slowly. At least in this film. It gives the inept heroes some time to figure out how to kill them, and it is really hilarious. This is so much more than a zombie movie, it’s a romantic comedy, and the dialogue and situations Shaun and his family and friends encounter are very, very entertaining.

The film is rated R for zombie violence/gore and language. The film was released in 2004, and it is really not that bad in terms of being scary or that bloody. Yes, there are a few scenes you might have to shut your eyes for, but not for long.

Shaun is an unlikely hero, and we watch him rise to the occasion to become a zombie fighter extraordinaire, becoming a leader, something he never could pull off at work.

Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, who also directed the film, wrote the screenplay. The film won 13 awards during award season, mostly for screenplay and film. The soundtrack that accompanies the action is great, several Queen songs, and it all fits in nicely. It’s so much more than a movie to watch at Halloween.

I have been a fan of Simon Pegg since seeing him in Hector and the Search for Happiness, and reviewed that film on my site (type in the name on the upper left of the screen to search for the review). The only other two actors I recognized were of course Bill Nighy (love Actually) and Penelope Wilton, who acted with Nighy in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel duo of films.

I liked this movie so much, I’d watch it again. Maybe have a Simon Pegg marathon of my very own: Shaun of the Dead, Hector and the Search for Happiness, and Star Trek Beyond where he plays Scotty so well. Or just search his films and pick out something entirely new and see if I can be as surprised and entertained as I am by these films. Enjoy.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

The Mist

The Mist is a film that is pure Stephen King horror. Frank Darabont, famed director of The Shawshank Redemption, and The Green Mile, made King’s novella, The Mist, into a feature length film. I had not read much about this prior to viewing, and wondered if it would be like the movie The Fog I recently reviewed.

It was not. Much scarier, and I have to say I prefer The Fog to this very, very intense film.

David Drayton (Thomas Jane) lives in a sleepy little community somewhere in Maine, with his wife and young son, Billy (Nathan Gamble). He is an artist, something I will refer to at the end of my review.

An eerie mist hangs over the lake after a storm sent a tree crashing through their bay window, and the neighbor’s downed tree destroyed their boathouse. Their neighbor, Brent Norton (Andre Braugher) has not always been on the best of terms with David, but they warm up to each other after the natural disaster.

David gives Norton a ride into town with him and Billy, leaving his wife behind at the house. The mist envelops them and a great many other townspeople and tourists while they are in the grocery store and the terror begins.

The mist harbors incredible bloodthirsty monsters. King has written a good story here, inhabiting the grocery store with a microcosm of society: common, not overly bright townspeople; smart rational thinkers; a few men from the military; and Mrs. Carmody, a crazed religious lunatic, brilliantly played by Marcia Gay Harden. Amanda (Laurie Holden) serves as an ally and a protector of Billy. We never really find out much about her, but she is an optimist where others are not. How will these diverse people survive, or not, in the close, confined quarters of a local grocery store? A good plot line, and one by one, or several at once, succumb to the monsters, as their numbers dwindle.

David is a leader with other strong members of the community, and they grow increasingly concerned about Mrs. Carmody and the negative influence she is having over some of the more vulnerable people trapped in the store.

The trauma suffered by these people is really quite disturbing. It had me writhing in my chair. The film is rated R for violence, terror and gore, and language. It deserves this rating. I wouldn’t let any child watch this. And in fact, I don’t recommend it for you. Personal preference if you will, I’d much rather you watch Frank Darabont’s other films, The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Majestic for very high quality stories and work.

I mentioned that the main character, David, was an artist. We first see him in his studio in his lakeside home, painting movie posters. This is homage to the famous movie poster artist, Drew Struzan. I watched the special feature that highlighted his artistic talents. It was the best part of the DVD. Watch The Mist at your own risk.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

The Fog (2005)

It’s October and Halloween is approaching, so get ready to watch a variety of scary or strange films in anticipation of the night of ghosts and goblins. I will be choosing several I have watched to review for you.

“Their past has come back to haunt them.” Tagline from The Fog

The Fog (2005) is a remake of a 1980 film with the same name from none other than John Carpenter, master of horror. The only actor I recognized in this film was Selma Blair (Legally Blonde; A Guy Thing). I had not seen the original. It looked intriguing in the trailer, all that fog drifting in from the Pacific Ocean onto an island ostensibly off the Oregon coast.

The little town on Antonio Island has a history, quite a sordid history, which is unknown to the descendants of the original settlers. The supernatural qualities of the very dense fog, that looks more like a bank of clouds as it overtakes boats and the island, become evident quickly.

Elizabeth Williams (Maggie Grace) has been away from the island for a few months, and has returned home to her former boyfriend Nick Castle (Tom Welling). Nick owns a fishing charter company, the Seagrass, taking tourists out to sea. Stevie Wayne (Selma Blair) is a single mom depending on a sitter for her son while she hosts the island’s only radio show. They are each descended from one of the four founding fathers of the settlement that established the town in 1871. As with any creepy movie where one by one people succumb to the evil that lurks in their midst, others bond together in an attempt to survive.

The sea is surprisingly calm for the Pacific, which I’ve read is inaccurately named. The fog does the damage. All I can say is be careful what you pick up on the beach.

I found the movement of the plot to be quite suspenseful as a good horror film should be. John Carpenter is well known for horror films. My taste in horror leads me away from any slasher movies, and this is not one of those. The characters are placed in danger, narrowly escape, or not, all in a way where you’ll sit there and verbalize, “Oh, no!”

If you’re looking for some ghost stories for the month, this one is good. There are ghosts, a surprise ending, and good detective work from the characters that are being led to the clues that will explain why the fog is ravishing their town.

An update of 20 years or so for this film has likely resulted in some improvements in special effects, but the plot is still a classic ghost story.  It is rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and brief sexuality. Filmed in British Columbia, Canada, the scenery and the ocean are quite beautiful.

What is your favorite film to watch in this month leading up to Halloween? Do you prefer ghost stories or something else? Comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Sex and the City [The Movie]

The only way you’ll like this film is if you are a die-hard Sex and the City (SATC) fan. Watching this movie is a guilty pleasure. SATC was only on for six seasons, but it made quite an impression on women and a few men I know. The names Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda will always be associated with this story that celebrates women, relationships and Manhattan.

The film picks up where the series left off, Miranda making a family with Steve and little Brady, Samantha making Smith a star, Charlotte happily adopting a baby with Harry, and Carrie and Big finally a committed couple in love. As with any relationship, trials arise in the forms of infidelity, boredom, and marriage, not necessarily in that order or for each of our girls.

The film is rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language. It is two hours and twenty-five minutes of indulgence, particularly when Carrie gets an article and photo shoot about her upcoming nuptials in Vogue at the insistence of her editor Enid (Candice Bergen). That bit could have been nixed for me (boring!), but I can see where it helped set up the soon to be cold feet of Carrie’s betrothed John Preston, aka Mr. Big (Chris Noth).

Also, that catwalk at Fashion Week: too much. It’s self-indulgent and boring, the fashions vapid and phony. You can see I’m not much for the labels!

What does work for me and likely all SATC fans, are the relationships between the women. That’s why we watch these sitcoms or dramas in the first place, right? Whether it’s from way back 90210, where the friends are everything to each other beginning in high school, or Friends, another group of devoted twenty-somethings struggling to get through life with a few laughs, or the classic Sex and the City, it’s all about friendship, things you don’t get from your families, or even your partners in life.

That’s why we keep watching. Fiction can showcase truth more completely than a documentary can, and there are no documentaries about women in New York City, not like SATC. Someone once said to me she didn’t like SATC because the women were promiscuous. It’s fiction! Please! Anyone who’s been in the dating scene can relate to at least one story line sometime in this run, and the actresses make it come together to entertain and to make us sad.

Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte York (Kristin Davis), and Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon) are now icons. In this film, they continue on in the characters they so expertly first created for HBO. If you fast forward through the Vogue and Fashion Week fluff, I think you’ll find a well-rounded story about love, forgiveness, and being true to one’s own self and heart.

Chick flick? Yes. Don’t invite your man to watch unless the two of you binge watched SATC together. Enjoy the movie, and have a Cosmopolitan while you’re at it.

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.