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, 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.