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, January 30, 2018

Breakfast at Tiffany's

I recently watched a documentary called Crazy About Tiffany’s. It was about the history of the famous jeweler in New York City. The film featured a few clips from the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. If I had previously seen the film, I didn’t remember much about it, other than Audrey Hepburn is impossibly skinny and beautiful and has a cute accent.

So I watched Breakfast at Tiffany’s late one night. Holly Golightly (Audrey Hepburn) is a free spirit living in New York City, set on landing a rich husband. She appears to get most of her money for her modest apartment from escorting wealthy men about town.

Paul Varjak (George Peppard), a writer, moves into her building and they immediately strike up a friendship, mostly on behalf of Holly, but Paul soon falls in love with her. I think that if the movie was made today, it could lose some of its charm. There is no sexual activity in this beautiful film, other than oblique references. Paul also makes his money off of hiring himself out you might say, and his patron, Mrs. Failenson (Patricia Neal) pays him generously. She believes in his abilities as a writer, and he has even had something published, which he shows off to Holly during a trip to the library.

Holly has a past that becomes clear when her husband Doc (Buddy Ebsen) arrives and asks her to come home. Holly will have none of this, preferring to live day-to-day with her cat, and hosting crowded parties for a jet set she has inserted her way into. One of the funniest scenes is a party in her tiny apartment. Seeing how many people can drink and dance in such a small space is priceless.

Something I took offense to, however, is Mickey Rooney playing Mr. Yunioshi, a neighbor in Holly’s building. They should have had an Asian play this role. It was insulting to watch.

Paul and Holly are alike in that they are dreamers of a better day each in their own way. Breakfast at Tiffany’s is based on a story by Truman Capote and directed by Blake Edwards. It won two Academy Awards: Best Musical Score and Best Original Song, Moon River, for Henry Mancini (lyrics by Johnny Mercer).

Getting back to that glittering documentary Crazy About Tiffany’s, the history of this jeweler is fascinating. The marketing that was mounted was extremely successful, largely due to the designers, especially one who did the display windows on the street. At one point, a current designer sits next to a worker assembling the priceless jewels that sell for literally thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars. She focuses on asking him about the pride he takes in his work. It is not mentioned what this man’s salary is, or what his benefits are, etc. Probably not very good. I’m cynical I guess. Despite all that, when I travel to New York City, I will waltz into Tiffany’s for a look around, just because.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Corrina, Corrina

Corrina, Corrina is a lovely comedy drama romance from 1994 that my sister shared with me while I was visiting her. It is one of her favorite films, and I now understand why. The film can be considered a period piece, as the setting is Los Angeles in 1959. It is rated PG for thematic material.

Manny Singer (Ray Liotta) is a working father attempting to raise his only daughter Molly (Tina Majorino) after his wife unexpectedly passes away. He is forced to hire someone to look after his little seven-year-old girl who has understandably taken her mother’s passing very hard and is refusing to speak. After interviewing several candidates who are unsuitable for the important job, and burning through trial runs from some really horrendous women, most notably Jonesy (Joan Cusack), Corrina Washington (Whoopi Goldberg) arrives on the scene for her chance at the job.

Initially unimpressed, Manny notices that she has a way with Molly that the little girl responds to. No one else has been able to begin to penetrate the grief that Molly remains in, and Corrina is hired.

Now 1959 is squarely in the beginnings of the civil rights movement, and unfortunately, there is still a lot of prejudice in the city of angels. Despite the odds, Manny and Corrina develop some affection for each other, feelings they are mightily trying to avoid, as the days turn into weeks with her daily presence in the home.

The costumes and settings for this era are very well done, and the acting is great, with good chemistry between Corrina and Molly and between Corrina and Manny. Ray Liotta plays his role well, and really, who could resist those blue eyes and that shy smile he is known for?

Molly gets a glimpse into the lives of black families in LA as Corrina totes her around with her instead of going to school, a choice that ends up placing her in estrangement from Manny, who was not consulted on this important decision.

The dialogue is spot on and makes the story believable. Manny and Corrina like a little bit of jazz, and this makes the selections for the soundtrack wonderful. The film was written and directed by Jessie Nelson. I’d like to see other films by her, one of which is Stepmom that I’m told is quite good. Don Ameche has a small turn as Grandpa Harry. It was the Oscar winner’s final film prior to his death.

This is a heartwarming film, one that I think you would find entertaining and thought provoking. How far have we really come in these last nearly six decades in terms of race relations in America? I think not quite far enough; there always seem to be more steps to take for equality and understanding to really develop and take hold. Corrina, Corrina is an example for how to treat people and mend bridges, a fine example for our present days, and a sweet romantic comedy for a night at home.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Big Sick

The Big Sick is a semi autobiographical film written by stand up comedian Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily Gordon. The film is rated R for language including some sexual references. The Big Sick received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, a well-deserved honor.

Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a Pakistani man driving for Uber in Chicago and doing stand up comedy at night. He has a close knit family, direct from Pakistan, and a circle of comedian friends. He meets Emily (Zoe Kazan) one night at the comedy club, and they are quickly attracted to one another.

Kumail is reluctant to tell his parents that he is dating a white woman, as they are intent on marrying him off in an arranged marriage that is the Pakistani way. Kumail wants nothing to do with this, not even before he has met Emily. Despite their growing affection for each other, Emily realizes that Kumail will not be in her future plans, as he simply cannot see himself ever introducing her to his family.

A turn for the worse occurs when Emily falls ill and is hospitalized. Her condition is very grave and she is placed in a medically induced coma. Kumail was there when this all occurred, and summons her parents to Chicago.

Terry (Ray Romano) and Beth (Holly Hunter) have heard all about Kumail from their daughter, who apparently keeps nothing from them. They are initially mistrustful and dismissive of Kumail, but he sticks around, realizing that he deeply cares for Emily and cannot leave her when possibly at the verge of death.

The three develop some respect for one another as their vigil continues, and eventually Emily’s parents disclose all sorts of intimate details of their life to the captive Kumail. Ray Romano and Holly Hunter are well cast for their roles as the distraught parents not knowing when their daughter may make a recovery and be healed.

The film reminded me of My Big Fat Greek Wedding in that there are cultural differences between the families depicted within both films. Both were created and filmed on fairly low budgets, and both did fantastically well financially at the box office. These little films, based on the realities of families from different cultures, resulted in big draws for moviegoers who want real stories about really serious issues, but delivered with some comedy now and then for a breath of fresh air.

I really liked this film. It held a taunt line between the scariness of Emily’s mysterious illness, comedic moments (as a crisis tends to make people kind of crazy), and really heart wrenching drama between Kumail and his parents.

Kumail is particularly aggrieved at the prospects of his family disowning him should he not toe the line and marry a woman who is also Pakistani. How he makes his decision, and whether Emily will live through her illness are something you will have to see for yourselves. I highly recommend The Big Sick. Have a tissue handy.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

I, Tonya

Child abuse, domestic violence, mental illness, personality disorder, and a gift. This is the subject matter of I, Tonya. I watched with fascination as the dysfunctional life of Tonya Harding unfolded on the big screen. Once upon a time I was a therapist, and I guess I still hold some sympathy for those poor souls who have a harder than usual time with life. Tonya Harding is perhaps best remembered for having some part in the infamous incident with Nancy Kerrigan who unfairly and cruelly was bashed in the knee before the Olympics by a then unknown perpetrator.

It is sad that Tonya (Margot Robbie) is not remembered as much for the brilliant and gifted figure skater she was, and instead for the incident that essentially ended her career. She grew up poor in Portland, Oregon, ice-skating her passion. Her mother LaVona Golden (Allison Janney) makes the mother in Lady Bird look like a good mom. Abusive and belittling to her daughter, it is no wonder Tonya grew up to be the punching bag for a no good man, Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan), who would eventually become her husband.

What is even more unfortunate is Jeff’s choice of best friends, as he hangs with the seriously delusional, and mentally ill Shawn Eckhardt (Paul Walter Hauser). Shawn later puts into play the horrible assault on Nancy Kerrigan. (Nancy barely shows up in this film.)

What I liked about I, Tonya was the way it was put together, including interviews with the important players in Tonya’s life that were based on real life interviews. Allison Janney won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy for her role as Tonya’s mother. Even though there are comedic moments because of how the film is put together, there are plenty of heart wrenching scenes, and other moments where you’ll physically flinch in your seat due to the abuse and the sad circumstances that Tonya grew up in. The poverty and being from the wrong side of the tracks didn’t give her a chance at the career in figure skating she should have been afforded. Her history remains that in 1991, she was the first woman to complete a triple axel in competition. This is very difficult, and she was apparently fearless out there on the ice.

The ending of I, Tonya was interesting in that it coincided with the media latching onto O. J. Simpson and his fleeing down an LA freeway in his Ford Bronco. Already the fickle public was turning their attention to the next big scandal, Tonya forgotten in the wings.

The film is rated R for pervasive language, violence, and some sexual content/nudity. I recommend it for you, particularly if you are interested in human psychology as I am. The skating scenes are really well filmed, and I wondered how they could do them. Margot Robbie certainly couldn’t do a triple axel like Tonya could, but it looks like she is actually jumping and skating like Tonya did.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

First They Killed My Father

Angelina Jolie has created an excellent and heartbreaking film based on the true story of Loung Ung, author of the autobiographical book First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia. Angelina and Loung wrote the screenplay that is about Loung’s experiences as a young girl during Cambodia of the 1970’s. It is unique in that the film is seen entirely through the eyes of seven-year-old Loung (Sareum Srey Moch). There is no preachiness in this film; it simply shows us what she and her family endured as a consequence of the United States bombing Cambodia (even though they were a neutral country), and the subsequent rise of the Khmer Rouge.

First They Killed My Father was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes this year although it did not win. I watched it on streaming Netflix, and it is rated TV-MA. There are English subtitles that are easy to read.

Once the Khmer Rouge comes into power, those Cambodians living in the city are made to leave their homes and walk on foot deep into the country where they are forced to work in what are essentially slave labor camps. Loung doesn’t really understand why they are growing all this beautiful food - eggplants, string beans, and rice - and then given meager rations while the food is sent off elsewhere. The people are nearly starving, and to make matters worse, her father Pa (Phoeung Kompheak), who has previously worked for the government, is taken away and murdered.

This is a large family with seven children, and their mother, Ma (Sveng Socheata), attempts to hold the family together, but the three oldest children are sent off somewhere for fates unknown, leaving the four younger children with her. Loung is a bright, assertive little girl, and is eventually selected by those in charge to be sent to a special school where she learns how to bury land mines, shoot a gun and otherwise become a mercenary. It is chilling to watch how the authorities work to brainwash the residents of this work camp to be just like one another, everything from their hair to their clothing, and in referring to them as comrades.

Exquisitely filmed, I liked how we see the land of Cambodia from above, a bird’s eye view perspective, as well as on ground level though Loung’s eyes.
I thought this film was respectful of the culture and people that were so cruelly victimized. Angelina’s oldest son Maddox Jolie-Pitt was adopted from Cambodia, and he was an executive producer of the film. Another adopted son, Pax Jolie-Pitt from Vietnam, did the still photography.

I highly recommend watching First They Killed My Father. At first I thought it would be a documentary, but it wasn’t and I liked it better than what a documentary would have been. It was a well-designed story about the times and struggles of the Cambodian people, especially the children who endured very difficult times of death and deprivation during this era.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water is a beautiful, beautiful film. I initially wondered about what I’d encounter in a “monster” movie by Guillermo del Toro, his Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone notwithstanding, as I enjoyed both of those films. I loved it even more than I could those two films, and I feel that The Shape of Water is his masterpiece to date. The writer/director has stated this is a fairy tale for troubled times, an apt description. The film is rated R for sexual content, graphic nudity, violence and language.

Taking place in Cold War era 1962, an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones) from the Amazon is brought to a secure government facility in Baltimore for testing and observation. The humble cleaning crew, Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) and Zelda Fuller (Octavia Spencer), are tasked with wiping up the messes that occur in the lab where the creature lives in a deep pool of water, or in an upright tank.

Elisa is mute, and communicates through sign language. She lives in a building above a cinema, as does her friend Giles (Richard Jenkins), who understands her silent language. Zelda can also read her sign language and is her confidante and friend at work.

In charge of the lab is Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon), a hard, no nonsense and cruel man who has a hatred for not just the creature under his jurisdiction, but it seems everyone else as well. Also deeply involved with the Amphibian Man is Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), who comes to see that the wild creature everyone is afraid of is intelligent and capable of learning.

Elisa is not at all afraid of this unusual life form, and befriends him. When his fate is determined to be certain death by the hands of government officials, she mounts a daring plan to abscond with him from the lab so he can be free again.

The Shape of Water won Best Director for Guillermo del Toro at the Golden Globes, as well as Best Original Score for Alexandre Desplat. The music beautifully sets the scene, whether it is during a tender moment between Elisa and Amphibian Man, or during the white-knuckle scenes where she seeks to free him. I felt that Sally Hawkins should have been awarded Best Actress in a drama at the Golden Globes, and I can only hope that is rectified at the Academy Awards, her performance is so strong. The cinematography of the film is excellent with beautiful colors and shapes throughout what could often have been just a stark and antiseptic setting within the lab. The building where Elisa and Giles live with the cinema below is filled with color and mystique. It was a delight to watch.

How will this fairy tale end? You’ll have to watch it to see. I’ll watch this film again once it comes out on streaming, I admire it so much. If you’ve seen the film already, why do you think it is named The Shape of Water?

Tuesday, January 09, 2018


Mudbound was not an easy film to watch, particularly in the second half of the movie. Man’s inhumanity to man is how my husband described it. It is still a very worthwhile film if you can stand the heartache.

The story takes place around the time of World War II in the Mississippi River delta. Henry McAllan (Jason Clarke) marries Laura (Carey Mulligan) late in life, and takes her and their two young girls, and his father Pappy (Jonathan Banks) to a farm he has purchased deep in the south. They interact daily with the black family living on the land, who pick the cotton and do everything else a farmer does. This place is truly mud bound, with torrential rains nearly flooding their land, and making the crops tentative every year.

Henry’s brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) has been in the air force during the war and arrives at the farm, as does Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell), the son of the sharecroppers, Hap (Rob Morgan) and Florence (Mary J. Blige). They strike up a friendship despite their differences in color, having a mutual understanding of the death and hardships they survived in Europe.

The South being what it is, disgusting white men take it upon themselves to punish Ronsel, bringing in members of the Ku Klux Klan for really degrading torture. They drag Jamie over to where the torture is taking place and he has to decide Ronsel’s fate.

It was horrible to watch this, but I never turn away from what’s on the screen. The story was really well thought out, and told from the viewpoints of several characters. Carey Mulligan does a fantastic job as the reluctant yet desperate wife of Henry. She married him not wanting to be an old maid at 31. Even though they try to make her appear homely, she is anything but. When she smiles, a radiance comes over her that can melt anyone’s heart.

Mary J. Blige was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes, as was the song Mighty River that she sings (neither took the award). You wouldn’t know Ms. Blige to look at her; she gets into the character of Florence so deeply. All the actors did a fine job, even the ones we hate. The film is rated R for some disturbing violence, brief language and nudity.

We watched it on streaming Netflix. We still need to keep telling these stories. Ronsel was treated better in Europe than he is in the US. We should remember this disgusting part of American history so perhaps the current bigotry can be called out for what it is, and shown where it can lead if allowed to be taken to extremes. America may have a history of slavery, injustice and cruelty, but it doesn’t mean we have to allow it today. Hate crimes need to be punished severely. I don’t want to go on and on here, but the only things I’m intolerant of are hate, cruelty, and intolerance.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour is the story of Winston Churchill, just elected prime minister of Britain, who has some serious decisions to make almost immediately. Hitler had invaded several countries in Europe, and thousands of British troops were stranded in Dunkirk, France. In parliament, there were those who wanted to negotiate with Hitler, and those who believed a like response to his aggressions would be necessary.

Which way would Churchill go? If you’ve ever been in history class, I’m sure you know the answer to that question, but you likely do not know the process by which Britain entered World War II. This film spans just a month or so, and shows us the inner workings of the monarchy, parliament, and 10 Downing Street.

Winston Churchill (Gary Oldham) is an older man who is eccentric, drinks too much, and is motivated to rise in British government. He moves into the position of prime minister accompanied by his wife Clemmie (Kristen Scott Thomas) who proves to be the woman behind the man in some respects.

Churchill nearly terrorizes his new secretary, Elizabeth (Lily James) who has a brother in the military, and is understandably concerned about his welfare and those of the others stationed with him.

Churchill’s opposers in Parliament, especially Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) and Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane) work behind the scenes to try to get him removed as soon as possible, and meanwhile, the decision for war or peace looms over Churchill’s head.

The film is rated PG-13 for some thematic material. Gary Oldham was nominated for Best Actor in a drama at the Golden Globe Awards for his performance as Churchill. Truly, there were times I really forgot I was watching a movie and not a newsreel of Churchill himself. It is a masterful performance. My husband commented on how well Kristen Scott Thomas played his wife. To be a loyal support to him through all the years of service to England could not have been easy, and she makes Clemmie believable.

I hope people do get out and see this film. Remembering history and lessons to be learned from the past mistakes or triumphs of those who came before us and took the risks for mankind is vitally important now. I also find it interesting that the film Dunkirk came out this year as well. I haven’t seen the film yet, but am intrigued now.

Churchill had his darkest hour as he had to decide whether to negotiate peace with a raving genocidal maniac, or send thousands of British and others in the fight to death. Not an easy choice. It was quite moving when during a scene in Darkest Hour, Churchill boards the tube and rides to Winchester Cathedral with commoners. He asks for their opinion, and resoundingly, they denounce Fascism and voice their support of the fight. Never succumb to the Fascists.

Perhaps we will need to be so bold again. Hopefully not to the extent of a war, but rather to the extent of resistance.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Lady Bird

Lady Bird has received many accolades for being an all around great film. I looked forward to seeing it when I heard it was written and directed by Greta Gerwig. I have been a fan of hers ever since I saw her film Frances Ha. (My review of Frances Ha is here on my blog, and you can view it by typing the name in the blog search engine.)

Christine, aka Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan), is a senior at a Catholic all-girl high school, the kind where the nuns closely monitor the length of the skirt on your uniform. Her best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein) is an intelligent young lady with a smart mouth.

About all the teen issues you can think of come up in this film, set just after 9/11 in Sacramento, California. Ms. Gerwig is from Sacramento, thus the easy depicting of the area in and around the city.

Lady Bird’s mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) is a bitch. Sorry, it’s an honest assessment. I find it interesting as well as troubling that so many moms we see in films are not that great, and so many troubled relationships between mother and daughter are the focus of stories. I’m one of the lucky ones I guess, because my daughter/mother relationship was a stellar example of how it should be.

Lady Bird’s long-suffering father Larry (Tracy Letts) is there to help ease the conflict between her and her mother, and lucky for Lady Bird, he is there for her. Also in the home are adopted son Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues), and his live-in girlfriend, Shelly (Marielle Scott).

The family lives on the other side of the tracks, and Lady Bird longs to fit in with the more monied class of Sacramento, seeking out Jenna (Odeya Rush) to be her friend. She joins theater at school that pulls in boys from another Catholic school for performances, and meets Danny (Lucas Hedges). Falling in love has never seemed so sweet, but there are complications as in any first love. The bad boy she falls for next, Kyle (Timothée Chalamet), is just too cool and Lady Bird is setting herself up for heartbreak, you just know it.

Her decision about where to attend college is fraught with drama, as her mother wants her to go to school in California, and Lady Bird wants to get as far away from Sacramento as possible. Why her mom wants her nearby when they are such a bad fit for each other remains a mystery for a long time.

The film is rated R for language, sexual content, brief graphic nudity and teen partying. I loved Lady Bird. Saoirse Ronan is a little old to be playing a teen, but she does a good job and was nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy at the Golden Globes, along with Best Supporting Actress for Laurie Metcalf, Best Screenplay for Greta Gerwig, and Best Comedy. I will not be surprised when Lady Bird receives many awards this year.