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, February 28, 2017


I was looking forward to seeing the film Arrival. It was promoted as an intellectual sort of film about aliens, with little in the way of explosions and death, and more on the level of cerebral discourse.

Unfortunately, I was disappointed. I came away wondering if something was lost in the adaptation. The screenplay was based on a short story by Ted Chiang, Story of Your Life. Sometimes it is hard to translate the written word into a visual representation onscreen, and I suspected this might have been a problem of translation, in terms of the written word onto the screen.

One screen adaptation I really enjoyed was The Shawshank Redemption. The screenplay was based on a short story by Stephen King called Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. I read the story after having seen the film and the screenwriter did an exemplary job translating it to a full-length film. This film was not up to that standard. I am going to read Story of Your Life, and determine for myself how this film could have been better.

Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is selected to travel to a site in Montana where a spaceship has landed in order to hopefully communicate with the aliens. The pod shaped spaceship is just one of twelve that has mysteriously descended upon the earth. She is a linguist, and to me her willingness to face the aliens is never fully explored. What has made her such a daring young woman to go there with no support from anyone she knows?

Also in attendance is a physicist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), reporting along with Louise to Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). If someone doesn’t figure out why the aliens have come to earth, war against them will commence.

What I did like was the depiction of the communication by the aliens. They were shooting out what looked like ink from their octopus looking appendages, kind of in a Rorschach inkblot way, and it was Louise’s job as a linguist to interpret or crack their language in order to see what these pod aliens wanted.

I thought that Louise and Ian’s relationship was not fully explored as the days progressed, and I think that was a mistake. It would have added more to the film and helped fill in the blanks. The film has to do with time, how modern society is aware of time passing in a linear fashion, whereas quantum physics postulate that time exists all at once, perhaps inter dimensionally?

The film is rated PG-13 for brief strong language. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Director, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Film Editing. It won only Best Achievement in Sound Editing, not that it is a small award, just that it was the only one of eight they were nominated for that won. I’d recommend you watch the other nominated films first and leave this one for last, for when you have the time.

Saturday, February 25, 2017


Moonlight has been so highly lauded (it won Best Drama at the Golden Globes this year), I wanted to be sure I saw it before the awards on Sunday. I was not disappointed. What really made this movie shine was the acting. I have seldom seen such range of emotion from literally every major character in a film. They brought the story of a disadvantaged African-American youth to life for us with poignancy and passion.

The story of Chiron is presented in three vignettes, the first when he is just a nine-year-old boy called Little (Alex Hibbert), mercilessly bullied by his “friends” and ignored by his drug addicted single mother, Paula (Naomie Harris). With no father around, a chance meeting with Juan (Mahershala Ali) gives him a substitute father figure for a while. Juan is a drug dealer with a heart. He takes to Chiron and may be that one influence that gave some stability to Chiron’s young life when none was available.

We next see Chiron (Trevante Rhodes) as an awkward teenager, still the brunt of harassment by his schoolmates. When Kevin (Jharrel Jerome) befriends him, he finds in him a friend and someone he can open up to. Their loving encounter makes a lasting impression on Chiron.

The final part of Chiron’s story is when he is an adult. He has shaped himself into a strong, assertive man, following in the footsteps of his father figure Juan. What impresses in this final chapter we see of Chiron (Ashton Sanders), is that Kevin (Andre Holland) contacts him after several years. The interactions between the two friends are done so well by the actors, and the compassion and love between them is poignant and beautiful. They both should have been nominated for best supporting actor for their performances.

The film is rated R for some sexuality, drug use, brief violence, and language throughout. It is nominated for eight Academy Awards: Best Picture and Director, Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris, Best adapted screenplay, cinematography, film editing, and original score.

The score is beautifully haunting, and serves to accentuate the actions of the characters, in a way that is both noticeable and yet unobtrusive. I found it fascinating that three different actors played Chiron and Kevin. That is to be expected given the years involved. Somehow they were all believable. I found myself thinking this really could be the grown up Chiron, the teen Chiron, so sensitive and vulnerable, driven to do what he had to do to survive, to get along in the world he was born into.

Tomorrow we’ll find out how many awards Moonlight will win at the Oscars this year. My favorite is still La La Land for Best Picture. Moonlight will be remembered for a very long time by filmgoers who have the opportunity to see it. It is beautiful in its depiction of humanity, the bad as well as the good that overcomes. I highly recommend you see it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017


Lion has been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Actress for Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay for Luke Davies. Lion is rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sensuality.

This is one film you won’t want to miss. Based on a true story, it tells the journey of Saroo (Sunny Pawar), a boy from India who is tragically separated from his family at the age of five years. He wandered the streets of Calcutta alone, meeting other children and adults, narrowly escaping those who would use him for their own private gain or perversions.

He is adopted by an Australian couple, John (David Wenham) and Sue Brierley (Nicole Kidman), and brought up in the beautiful island countryside of Tasmania, and by all appearances, adjusts well to his new family.

When he becomes older, he goes to Melbourne, Australia to continue his schooling, and there meets a diverse group of students that become his friends, including his girlfriend Lucy (Rooney Mara). This exposure to other cultures, particularly the food of India, brings back a flood of memories. When he opens up to his friends, they encourage him to search for his family, and even give helpful suggestions of how he could go about doing this.

It seems like searching for a needle in a haystack. Saroo only recalls bits and pieces of his lost five year old memories, cannot find the name of the little village he lived in on a map, and is discouraged at his lack of progress. Thank goodness for Google Maps and some accurate calculations to at least narrow down his search area, or he may never have begun his search.

More than Saroo’s search, Lion is a look into the adoptive family, Saroo’s feelings and his brother’s feelings about being adopted, as well as his adoptive parents who took him in. Nicole Kidman does a wonderfully sensitive portrayal of the woman who graciously and whole-heartedly took these boys into her home. Saroo was very lucky to have such parents.

I highly recommend that you see Lion. Dev Patel deserves his nomination as he delivers a highly nuanced performance. He shows the many emotions and struggles Saroo went through during the process of his searching. I really enjoyed his work in the series The Newsroom, and his vibrancy in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing much more of him in cinema land.

There are estimated to be 80,000 children going missing in India each year, and 11,000,000 children living on the streets in India. The Lion Heart Campaign is collaborating with extraordinary organizations to support children in India and around the world. We can all help, and one way to begin to build awareness is to encourage others to see this excellent film about Saroo’s journey. Then go to: Lion movie for information on how you can help protect street children through the Lion Heart Campaign.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures was nominated for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actress for Octavia Spencer, and Best Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards. Based on real events, and real African-American women, the film chronicles their work at NASA when the push to get a man into space was a priority.

It was 1961, and a number of African-American women were employed at Langley as mathematicians. Remember this was pre-computer era; in fact, IBM was just delivering the first computer system to NASA at this time.

The Russians were the first to get a man as well as that little dog into space, and the U. S. needed to follow suit promptly. This was the Cold War, and the fear of Russian missiles aimed down on America from space was a very real fear.

Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) is the chief of the program, supervising a team of white males until math genius Katherine Johnson (Taraji Henson) comes on board. Her two closest friends also work at NASA, Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae). Civil rights for blacks in America is in the forefront, and the struggle does not omit the women who work in a predominantly while male world in the space program.

The chipping away at prejudice and degrading practices is depicted for all the women, and it’s really a mutual enlightening for the management and coworkers of the women. I’m not going to go into detail on this because you need to see it happening for yourself in this film.

The other thing I found fascinating was these scientists and mathematicians put John Glenn (Glen Powell) into orbit around the earth without computers! All using calculating machines, pencils and paper, huge equations that certainly did not make sense to me on gigantic chalkboards. The extent to which they persevered and made it work is incredible.

Dorothy and Mary take their careers into their own hands and strive to further educate themselves. These women are shining examples for all little girls to see, so they too can believe in themselves and not ever give up.

They were not unlike most women today who have to juggle work and children either. Added in is the discrimination that was rampant and waiting to be torn down.

The film is rated PG for thematic elements and some language. The costume design and settings were authentically crafted. I loved seeing all those rows of now vintage automobiles in the Langley parking lot, and the clothing the women wore was a blast from the past. Skirts and heels, and the men all wore suits. Sometimes I really long for those days when even to go to the grocery store, people dressed like they deserved respect.

It is sad that discrimination and prejudice are still undercurrents of American society. Although some things have changed, there is much still to be done. This film and others like it brings to awareness the inestimable contributions of those women of color that until now have been Hidden Figures.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Oscar Nominated Short Films

A category of award at the Oscars that is fun to seek out prior to the big night are the Oscar Nominated Short Films. They have three categories: Live Action, Animation, and Documentary. Running time is 40 minutes or less for each nominated film.

They may be playing now at your local theater. I went to the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque to see the Animated shorts. They are playing through February 13th, and then the Documentary shorts will be screened beginning February 14th (just in time for date night on Valentine’s Day!), followed by Live Action shorts beginning on February 17th.  Follow the Guild Cinema at:  Guild Cinema Albuquerque
In addition to viewing the films in a theater, the nominated Live Action and Animation short films will also be available to buy online and on VOD/Pay Per View Platforms (AT&T, DirecTV, COMCAST, Cable Vision, XBOX, Sony, Century Link, Vimeo, Frontier & Google Fiber) so you can obtain them through these sources if they are not playing in your area.

I highly recommend making the effort to see these little gems. Often, filmmakers get a start in their career making these shorter films that they can show as hard evidence of their storytelling abilities, filmmaking, and directing skills, or production capabilities. They each have an intriguing story to tell and you can watch all the nominated films in one sitting, unlike going back and forth to the theater to watch the nominated much longer Best Picture films.

Disney or Pixar has been nominated every year for the last six years, winning two awards out of those six nominations. Not as well known production companies created the others, and the types of animation used can be quite experimental, not techniques I am very familiar with.

This year, I very much enjoyed the Animated shorts. There were the five nominated films shown along with three other honorable mention shorts. They were so diverse in terms of the techniques of animation that were used. Everything from a classic Pixar offering, to really different line drawings that come alive, to sketches that look like someone is creating them right on the screen. I don’t pretend to know anything about how animation is created; I just know I enjoy it, possibly like everyone who ever grew up watching cartoons on TV.

My question to all of you is how would you vote for the best-animated short? Would you give the largest percentage of your decision over to the type of animation it utilizes? Or would you go with which story tugged at your heartstrings the most? A well-developed story in such a brief amount of time is an art. Technique, style, and content all played a role in what was chosen out of the 70 films that qualified for the competition in the 2017 nominations for animated shorts.

I’ll be going back to the Guild Cinema this week to view the Documentary shorts, and later the Live Action shorts. I encourage you to seek these out. You won’t be disappointed.

Monday, February 06, 2017


Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was a great poet from Chile, and an inspiration to the masses when rights for all workers were in question. He was also a notorious Communist. In 1971, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Back in 1994, I watched the Italian film Il Postino: The Postman, where a young man is inspired by Neruda to write his own poetry and to become politically active. It is a beautiful film that won my heart and the hearts of many others, as well as winning numerous awards. Il Postino is a fictional tale, perhaps inspired by Neruda’s brief stay on the island of Capri. It was a romantic and inspiring story.

In the 1940’s, Neruda served as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party. When the President of Chile, Gabriel Gonzalez Videla, outlawed Communism, he fled and escaped through a mountain pass to Argentina.

The 2016 film Neruda takes liberties with those facts and runs with it. It stars Gael Garcia Bernal, one of my favorite actors, as a detective hunting down Pablo Neruda (Luis Gnecco) in a sort of cat and mouse game. Neruda leaves morsels of crumbs to taunt Inspector Oscar Peluchonneau (Gabriel Garcia Bernal), in the form of novellas that he autographs. It was more of a fantasy film, very loosely based on actual events in Pablo Neruda’s life, but with the spirit of how he affected people being shown again and again. His admirers wanted him to recite his poems, to write one especially for them, to dance and drink with them. His legend was all encompassing.

We hear the Inspector’s thoughts through voice over, his assigned job by the President to trail and arrest Neruda becoming a personal obsession with finding him regardless of any cost or danger to himself. In this way, the Inspector is the central character, whereas in real life, it would be Neruda whose thoughts and impressions of the chase are most important.

The director Pablo Larrain, also directed the recent film Jackie, a biopic about Jacqueline Kennedy. I have not seen Jackie as yet, and am curious as to how it will impress me, or if it will. I found the film Neruda to be somewhat disappointing. I felt like it couldn’t make up its mind whether to present itself as fact or fiction, and the voice over of the Inspector’s thoughts to ultimately be boring. I think if you have an interest in South American history, and particularly of this time period when Communism was a dirty word in countries striving to be Democratic, you would find it interesting.

If you’re more interested in the poetry of Neruda, I recommend watching instead Il Postino. The cinematography and music were outstanding, the story touching, and it will elicit the romantic in you.

Neruda is rated R for sexuality/nudity, and some language. It is currently playing at the Guild Cinema in Albuquerque through Tuesday, February 7th. It will be shown again at the same theater from February 20th through the 23rd.

Saturday, February 04, 2017

The Salesman (Forushande)

The Salesman (Forushande) is nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards. The film is from Iran, and is in Persian with English subtitles. It won two prizes at the Cannes Film Festival: Best Actor for Shahab Hosseini, and Best Screenplay for Asghar Farhadi. It was both written and directed by Asghar Farhadi. The Salesman is rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements and a brief bloody image.

This is an engrossing movie, setting the scene for tension right from the opening sequences when residents in an apartment building in Tehran have to evacuate, as the building has been damaged and is unstable.

The two main characters, Emad (Shahab Hosseini) and Rana (Taraneh Alidoosti), are a young married couple. After they evacuate their apartment, they set up a home in another building, renting their flat from an acquaintance. The woman who previously lived there has not removed her belongings yet, and this sets up a chain of events that shake the couple to their core.

I appreciated getting a glimpse into the life of people living in Iran. I have had friends from Iran, but their descriptions of the country did little to prepare me for the environment depicted here. It sometimes left me wondering about the culture in Iran, why certain things remain unsaid in the film, and about the societal norms that were displayed during the progression of the story. It leaves me with a curiosity about this culture that is different, yet similar to my own in terms of human relationships.

Despite struggling economically, the couple has interests in the theatre, and Emad has a job as a teacher. His male students are reading “classic” books that are standard reading assignments in English classes in American high schools.

Emad and Rana are also actors, and are in the midst of performing American playwright Arthur Miller’s classic play, Death of a Salesman. This playacting and staging of the depressing story of Willie Loman very effectively alternates with their life turned upside down when an intruder enters their home. (Arthur Miller won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and the Tony award for Best Play for Death of a Salesman.) It is no accident the screenwriter chose this play to be the play they are staging. Asghar Farhadi wrote a very finely crafted screenplay. Emad plays Willie Loman and Rana his wife Linda in the production of the play.

The tension builds and stays at a high as Emad seeks to find Rana’s assailant. The metaphors and parallels between the play and the couple’s lives being played out before us work so well together. It’s really a brilliant piece questioning what it takes to forgive, the motivations behind revenge, and the damage that happens to both love and trust when the unthinkable happens.

I saw it at my local movie theater, the Guild Cinema. It is playing there through Tuesday, February 7th, and will return for repeat screenings on February 20th through the 23rd. I highly recommend The Salesman.