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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 28, 2017

Loving Vincent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Blade Runner (1982)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 04, 2017

The Conjuring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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