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 27, 2018

The Post

Nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, The Post is a fine example of what film can be: educational, thought provoking, historical, entertaining, and all without gratuitous violence.

This film is based on the true story of the unfolding of events in the early 1970’s when The Washington Post received stolen government documents that had been laboriously photocopied and would come to be known as the Pentagon Papers. They were volumes of top-secret files outlining the deceit that occurred within the U.S. government to prolong the Vietnam War, a war that could not be won.

Over 50,000 American servicemen and women died during this ill-fated conflict, including a cousin of mine that is a bitter and traumatic memory still today for me. I had to witness his burial at the tender age of a high school freshman. It made me the anti-war/pro-peace person I am today. But enough about me.

The publisher of The Washington Post, Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), came into her position after the untimely death of her husband. Her right hand man is Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks), a rather irascible and keen editor who has the trust of both Katharine and his employees.

Journalist Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) gets a lead on obtaining the government documents, and when The New York Times is censored by the Attorney General’s office from publishing them, the caretakers of the purloined papers, who believe it is necessary to make them public for the good of the country, contact Bagdikian.

The decision of whether to publish this information is not taken lightly. The press and national government are closely linked. They are shown celebrating each other’s birthdays and retirement, and dining at expensive restaurants together. They are friends and colleagues. Katharine really agonizes over this decision as she and others could be jailed for printing it.

She also has to overcome the distrust of male colleagues and superiors in the company, as this is after all the 1970’s, and she is the first woman to serve as CEO of a major newspaper.

I enjoyed seeing the actual newspaper come to print, including the focus on the typesetting procedures, something that is no longer used today. Technology has certainly advanced quite a lot in the last four plus decades.

Similar to Best Picture winner Spotlight (2015), journalism and its value to the public interest is a focus here. Steven Spielberg does a fantastic job keeping the forward motion of the story going. Meryl Streep is unlikely to win for Best Actress, as there are some great performances by women at the Academy Awards this year. Bob Odenkirk, from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul fame, is cast well as Bagdikian and plays his role brilliantly. Liz Hannah and Josh Singer wrote the screenplay. Josh  co-wrote the screenplay for Spotlight, for which he won Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. The Post is a great film and one I hope you’ll watch. It is rated PG-13 for language and brief war violence.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards. Remember that financial crisis that happened back in 2008? When the financial institutions committed financial crimes and mortgage fraud that affected an astounding number of people in America? And how not one of the banks or its employees were brought to a reckoning for what they perpetrated, much less had to face consequences for the crimes?

Ah, but there was one bank that was prosecuted: Abacus Federal Savings Bank in Manhattan’s Chinatown, New York City. This film is the story of that trial and subsequent outcome.

Thomas Sung came to America as an immigrant, as did many Chinese who settled in this case in New York City, making a community for themselves not unlike what was the norm in their villages in China. Mr. Sung was a well-educated attorney, and decided that in order to help his community, he will open a financial institution, Abacus Federal Savings Bank. (An abacus is a type of calculator that was used in China before the advent of computers.)

Unfortunately, Mr. Sung has a few employees, and one in particular, who is unethical and is seeing to it that those applying for home loans are approved even if they are not really qualified. Just like all the other banks are doing during the same time period. The difference is, Mr. Sung doesn’t know about it. When he and his daughters, Jill Sung and Vera Sung, who both work at the bank, discover it, the employee is promptly fired.

But the District Attorney’s office brings them to trial anyway, in a blatant racist move. Coincidentally, his third daughter has been working for the DA’s office and resigns when the conflict of interest becomes evident.

I thought that the filmmaker, Steve James, did a good job of explaining complicated financial matters in an engrossing manner, as well as showing the trial progress through artist drawings sketched after the fact. Mr. Sung, his wife Hwei Lin, and his daughters appear in the film, as well as people from the DA’s office, which was surprising. Guess that office hoped to vindicate themselves for actions taken.

Why should you watch this film you may ask? Just to get incensed all over again about the way financial institutions gutted the savings and foreclosed homes of people they never should have approved in the first place? Not just that. Abacus: Small Enough to Jail is a fascinating look at a part of New York City where hard working immigrants do their best to survive in a community that is perhaps more closely knit than any other you may find in America. Everyone knows everyone else here it seems, and you can’t say that for most people living in bedroom communities across America.

Still the prejudice and labeling that went down in this investigation and subsequent court trial when no other banks were prosecuted is shameful. America has a long way to go. Start with your vote.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner has been nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards. The screenplay was written by Anita Doron and Deborah Ellis, and is based on the children’s novel, The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis. The film is rated PG-13 for thematic material including some violent images. The dialogue is in English. Angelina Jolie was executive producer for this thought provoking and visually striking film. An engaging story, it is about the life of a young girl, Parvana, living with her family in Afghanistan.

Parvana is an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in 2001. Her father is wrongfully arrested and taken to prison, and this places her mother Fattema, sister Soraya, and baby brother in peril without a man to provide for them. Parvana is ridiculed and threatened by neighbor boys, especially after her father is taken away. She serendipitously meets a friend, Shauzia, who has changed her identity to that of a boy and has become streetwise. Shauzia is willing to help Parvana with a similar deception. Women are not to appear in public without a male, and Parvana finds a way to navigate the job she takes on as breadwinner by cutting her hair and dressing as a boy. She is emboldened by the freedom this gives her.

Within the film is a mythical tale running parallel to Parvana’s story. She tells this story in pieces to her baby brother. Filled with beautiful, evocative imagery, the story Parvana tells her brother and really herself, adds richness to the very real situation that she encounters with no father to care for them. The mythology is really about childhood empowerment, and is a tale she had heard from her father about a boy who seeks to recover the stolen seeds of his village from the Elephant King. There is much danger along the path of this boy’s journey as he tries to retrieve what are rightfully the village’s seeds for the future, much like it is for Parvana, who decides to go to the prison where her father is held and ask for his release.

The story brought to mind another film where a female impersonates a male. A woman yearning for knowledge in a culture that does not support education for women, Yentl dresses as a man in order to study with other scholars and experience a freedom women could not. The film is Yentl with Barbara Streisand in the leading role, and is a tale that takes place in Jewish culture.

The Breadwinner is also in another culture that you might say is quite different from American culture and Christianity. I think it is good to hear these types of stories as it helps us understand other cultures and shows the similarities especially in women’s lives under the subjugation of men, and the discrimination that occurs. Also significant is the part of the story about people just trying to live as a family caught between empires fighting for dominance. I recommend The Breadwinner to you.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Victoria & Abdul

Victoria & Abdul is a historical and biographical drama about Queen Victoria and her friendship with a young Indian clerk, Abdul Karim. It was nominated for two Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, and Best Makeup and Hairstyling. The film is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements and language.

Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) is in her 80’s, and has recently become Empress of India as her empire continues to expand. In 1887, two Indians from Agra are summoned to England to present the Queen with a mohur, which is a gold coin that has been minted in India to honor the Empress. Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is excited to be sailing the oceans on an adventure, whereas his companion Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar) is less than thrilled.

The subsequent ceremony to present the Queen with the mohur is really something to be seen. Victoria is charmed by Abdul’s innocence and allegiance to her, and they become friends at her insistence. She asks him to remain in England to teach her Hindi and the Qur’an. He insists that to learn Urdu is more suited to someone of her standing, and the Queen proves to be an apt pupil, to the consternation of her staff, advisors, and son Bertie, Prince of Wales (Eddie Izzard). She practices penmanship, speaking the Urdu language, and reading the Qur’an. She refers to Abdul as her Munshi, a term used for native language teachers at that time.

The film shows us the prejudice and racism that prevailed at the time of the occupation of India by British troops. Abdul is not just Indian, he is a Muslim, and is scorned, plotted against, and the Queen’s staff threatens to walk out if he remains on site. Her advisors would like to prove she is insane, which she most definitely is not. Abdul remains devoted to the aged queen until her death.

Stephen Frears, who also directed Philomena, The Queen, and Dangerous Liaisons, directed Victoria & Abdul. The screenplay was written by Lee Hall, and was based on the book by Shrabani Basu. Ms. Basu discovered the hidden friendship between the two unlikely companions during a visit to the Isle of Wight’s Osborne House, where she noticed a portrait of an Indian servant in the Durbar Room that did not appear to be the likeness of a servant. She began research into who Abdul Karim really was, and what he meant to the Queen. She wrote Victoria and Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant after four years of extensive research.

These stories are essential to tell as we come to terms with empire, and the accompanying subjugation of native peoples that has occurred throughout recorded time. I enjoyed this film, and learning about Ms. Basu’s dedicated search for the truth about Victoria and Abdul. Here is a link to an excellent article about her search for the truth: http://time.com/4941313/victoria-and-abdul-true-story-shrabani-basu/ I hope you enjoy Victoria & Abdul and the history behind the film as much as I did.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018


Dunkirk has been nominated for Best Picture, Director, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Score, Production Design, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing at the Academy Awards. There are no acting nominations among these, and that’s because this is a war movie with lots of action and sometimes long drawn out scenes of waiting. Waiting to see if a soldier will escape detection by the enemy, waiting to see if the boats sailing across the English Channel will arrive in time to save the Allied troops, and waiting to see if any RAF pilots will prevail in the skies over the Germans. The historic evacuation of Allied soldiers from certain death by the Nazis, who have them surrounded and pinned in on the beach, occurs in May 1940.

The film is rated PG-13 for intense war experience and some language. I will first provide you with a few pointers to make your viewing of Dunkirk, if you haven’t already seen it, more enjoyable and less frustrating for you.

Number one: Turn on the subtitles on your TV. I am shamefaced to admit that I have difficulty hearing what British actors are saying due to their accents. Additionally, with the near constant drone of airplanes, boat engines, and screaming men, I had trouble hearing the dialogue. You will thank me for this tip if you’re watching the film at home.

Number two: At the beginning of the movie, the “Mole” is referred to. I looked this up and the mole is a long concrete jetty that protects a beach. It is not referring to a spy. Knowing this helps you understand what Commander Bolton (Kenneth Branagh) is talking about when he describes the difficulty of getting any large craft close enough to shore to take on any men. The Nazi bombing had rendered the harbor useless, and the only way large ships could get close enough to shore to rescue anyone was by sidling up to one of the two moles.

Number three: The film alternates between three points of view during the relatively short time of the Dunkirk rescues. These are labeled at the beginning of the film. The “Mole” scenes on the beaches of France take place over the space of one week. The scenes at sea where the British civilian craft are deployed to rescue the troops encompasses one day. The planes flying overhead take one hour. If you understand this when you watch, you can see how these three points of view move forward to meet near the end of the film.

I liked Dunkirk. The writer/director Christopher Nolan did a good job showing what it may have been like for the three groups of men, and a few women who were nurses or were on board some of the ships that came for the rescue. The musical score with its percussive tones, composed by Hans Zimmer, accompanied the film’s action well. It is a different type of war movie, in a good way. I recommend that you see Dunkirk.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)

My husband and I watched Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008) recently. It was such a fun movie! I enjoyed that this was a film virtually without violence, and especially that there was no violence perpetrated from human to human. It is rated PG for intense adventure action and some scary moments.

Trevor Anderson (Brendan Fraser) is in charge of his 13-year-old nephew Sean (Josh Hutcherson) for ten days while his sister-in-law Elizabeth (Jane Wheeler) prepares to move to Canada. Trevor is a scientist and volcanologist, and his brother Max (Jean Michel Paré), Sean’s father, disappeared when Sean was three years old, presumed dead.

His lab on the chopping block due to reduced funding, Trevor is none too happy about it. He is tracking seismic activity and when Sean notices that there are four locations around the world where the seismic sensors are still working, coupled with Trevor discovering the book Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne in a box of Max’s things that Elizabeth gave him, he decides to fly to Iceland to investigate. Sean insists on accompanying his uncle.

They are in search of a Professor Ásgeirsson who is also a volcanologist. Instead, they meet the professor’s daughter Hannah (Anita Briem) who is a mountain guide. She clues them in to the fact that Max was a Vernian, as was her father. A Vernian is someone who believes Jules Verne’s world as depicted in Journey to the Center of the Earth was fact and not fiction. An accident involving lightening and the collapse of a cave leads the trio eventually to a fissure in the cave where they fall seemingly endlessly into the center of the earth.

This film is a good one for tying up the loose ends when a family member, especially a brother and a father, is lost. Grief is an issue that is dealt with, and moving on, finding one’s strength and destiny is another. All three of the travelers must work together and come up with ideas to rescue them from certain death in the center of the earth. When the temperature gets too high, they will suffer from dehydration and never return to the surface. This is where the action adventure really gets intensely underway, and it is immensely entertaining. I especially enjoyed the ingenuity of each of the characters to find a solution and a way out when it appears next to impossible.

I enjoyed this world inside the earth. Such a fantasy with dangers around every corner, and some of it was depicted as truly beautiful. There’s humor too as the journey progresses, but also heart stopping action adventure. It’s a very pleasurable film to watch.

Jules Verne published the science fiction novel, Journey to the Center of the Earth, in 1864. It captured the public’s imagination quickly. There have been films made in 1959 and 1989 based loosely on the book. This version is not a sequel, but rather stands on its own.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

The Boss Baby

The Boss Baby is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards. I enjoy a good animated film from time to time and watched it one night when I just wanted to be entertained and not think too much about anything.

This was a good story, and one that both adults and children may relate to. It is rated PG for some mild rude humor. How babies arrive on earth in this story is not quite as crazy as the stork bringing them in a folded diaper, but it is still of course a far-fetched scenario, updated for today’s technology inundated public. Babies are sent to earth if they are deemed to be family types, and the ones who are not become “management.” Such is the fate of Boss Baby (Alec Baldwin) who arrives in a taxi at the doorstep of the home of the Templeton’s: Dad (Jimmy Kimmel), Mom (Lisa Kudrow), and Tim (Miles Bakshi). (Tobey Maguire is the voice of adult Tim and the narrator of the story.)

Tim has had his doting parents all to himself for seven years, and is not exactly excited about having a little brother, especially one who is as demanding and time consuming as indeed all babies are to start with. He discovers that his brother is a baby when Mom and Dad are around, but the Boss Baby comes out when they aren’t looking, complete with a mission to execute on earth along with the help of five other babies living nearby.

The evil CEO Francis (Steve Buscemi) of Puppy Co, coincidentally where both Mom and Dad work, has a dastardly plan to scientifically give a formula to puppies so that they will never become adult dogs! Horrors! That way, babies will become obsolete, because who doesn’t love a puppy? Forget babies! I told my husband about this plot twist and he also thought it very funny (although he did not watch the film with me). Babies on one side of the scale, puppies on the other side? Which would win out? Really close call here.

So it is up to Boss Baby, his five cohorts and Tim to save the day and make sure that the puppies don’t get that magic formula. Otherwise babies on earth are a thing of the past. Oh no!

You can probably tell that I am amused by this story line, but what is really poignant is what both Tim and Boss Baby learn about themselves through this shared experience. Being brothers is not easy, being sisters is not easy, and I think that children may empathize with these characters, as they are parts of a typical family, one that grows and works together.

It was really a sweet story, the casting of the voices for the characters was spot on, and the magical fantasy nature of the film really worked. Allow the inner child in you to have some fun with The Boss Baby, and watch it while it’s still readily available.