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, 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.

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.