Category Archives: Movie Review

Flashback Friday: The Last Days (1998)

The only way to learn from our past is to not repeat it. Sometimes, that requires reliving it, as painful as it sounds.

The 1998 documentary, The Last Days, was released on Netflix back in May. The film follows five Hungarian Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. During the last year of World War II, the Jews of Hungary were the last intact Jewish community in Europe. That would quickly change. Within six weeks, hundreds of thousands were deported to Auschwitz. Only a handful would survive. Containing interviews with survivors, a SS doctor, and American soldiers who helped to liberate Dachau, it is powerful and haunting reminder of both the light and the darkness in humanity.

I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. It was riveting, emotional, and a punch to the gut that is absolutely necessary. Hearing about this time in history from the people who lived through this nightmare reminds us all that the Holocaust is not a myth and not strictly relegated to the world of literature. It is an event that happened in the lifetimes of many people who are still alive. While we cannot bring back those who were murdered, we can honor their memory by remembering them, and open our eyes to the negative energy and destruction that hate drags behind it.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Throwback Thursday: Spotlight (2015)

The purpose of religious observance is to provide community and structure to the ins and outs of our daily lives. That does not mean, however, that some within the clergy will use their power for less than honorable means.

The 2015 film, Spotlight, tells the story of how a group of journalists at the Boston Globe discovered that the Catholic Archdiocese was covering up a decades long child molestation scandal. Led by Michael Keaton, the team includes Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, and Brian d’Arcy James. Taking place over the course of a year, the audience is taken on a journey to uncover the truth and the lengths that were taken to cover up what the church would have preferred to remain hidden.

When this movie originally came out six years ago, I tried to see it in the theater. There is a reason why it was sold out. It is gripping, intelligent, and a bare knuckle ride from start to finish. This is why we go to the movies. It is also a reminder of why journalism is so important and can never be overlooked.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Throwback Thursday: Freaky Friday (1976 and 2003)

The only way we can truly understand someone else is to walk in their shoes.

In 1976, the movie Freaky Friday was released. In 2003, the reboot hit theaters. When a mother and her teenage daughter switch bodies (Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster in 1976 and Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan in 2003) for a day, the only way to return to normal is to see the world as the other sees it.

I like the unique appeal of both films. Besides the comedy of misunderstanding, the narrative comes from a genuine conflict that the mother has no idea what her daughter is going through and visa versa.

Do I recommend them? Yes.

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Throwback Thursday: Meet the Fockers (2004)

Meeting one’s potential or future in-laws can be a harrowing experience. You want to be yourself, but you also want to prove that you are the right person for their child.

The 2004 film, Meet the Fockers is the sequel to Meet the Parents (2000). Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and Pam Byrnes (Teri Polo) are engaged. Now that they have cleared the hurdle of her parents, Jack (Robert De Niro) and Dina (Blythe Danner), the next step is his parents. Compared to the straight laced, middle of the road Byrnes, Bernie and Rozalin Focker (Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand) are very out there. Can these two very different set of parents find a middle ground and ensure that their children become Mr. and Mrs.?

Like it’s predecessor, this film is a satire. The comedy comes from the fact that the Fockers are a complete 180 from the Byrnes. My problem is that while it is funny, it relies a little too heavily on Jewish stereotypes when it comes to Hoffman’s and Streisand’s characters. While the cast is top notch, the script does not match the on-screen talent.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Ophelia Movie Review

The good thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is the room to find a new narrative angle. The bad thing about adapting a Shakespeare play is how quickly it can go wrong.

The 2018 movie, Ophelia is a feminist re-write of Hamlet. The title character is not the mad prince, but his love interest, Ophelia (Daisy Ridley). Raised as an unofficial daughter of Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), she is one of the Queen’s ladies in waiting. As with the play, Ophelia and Hamlet (George McKay) fall in love while his uncle Claudius (Clive Owen) usurps his dead brother’s throne and marries his widow. As the political turmoil and and the danger grows tenfold, she must choose between the man she loves and finding a way to survive.

Ridley is fantastic in the role, proving she can play other characters besides Rey. As is Watts, who also expands her role beyond the confines of the source material. The problem is that the promise of the drama is just that. While I would give it an A for effort, I am glad that I saw it on Netflix rather than pay money to see it in the theaters.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Ophelia is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Throwback Thursday: The Exception (2016)

Love has to power to change everything. Hate included.

The 2016 film, The Exception, takes place in Holland during World War II. Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) is a Nazi officer whose task is to ensure that spies have not found a way into the home of the former German Emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm (the late Christopher Plummer). Along the way, he falls for housemaid Mieke de Jong (Lily James), who is hiding her Jewish identity in hopes of surviving the war.

This movie would normally be celluloid catnip for me. While the cast is fantastic and at the top of their game, I could not get into it. There is no other explanation other than I was bored. Whatever narrative hook this film possesses, it was lost on me.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Throwback Thursday: American Wedding (2003)

First come high school. Second comes college. Then comes wedding bells.

The final film in the original American Pie trilogy is American Wedding (2003). Jim (Jason Biggs) and Michelle (Alyson Hannigan) are engaged. Anyone who has planned a wedding knows that it is not a simple process. There are too many things that have the potential to go wrong. That potential grows tenfold as Jim’s buddies step in to ensure that the day itself goes smoothly and Stiffler (Seann Williams Scott) puts together a bachelor party as only he can.

It felt like a natural end to the series and the emotional growth of the characters. You can only go so far with this stage in life before it gets old. The best writers know when it is time to tell new stories, it was time to close this book and start a new one, so to speak.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Rotten Tomatoes: Rotten Movies We Love: Cult Classics, Underrated Gems, and Films So Bad They’re Good Book Review

Going to the movies is always an experiences. Regardless of whether we loved them, hated them, or somewhere in between, there is something fascinating about the conversation that comes from the sitting in a dark room and watching the flickering lights of the screen with strangers.

Rotten Tomatoes: Rotten Movies We Love: Cult Classics, Underrated Gems, and Films So Bad They’re Good, was published back in 2019. Written by the editors of Rotten Tomatoes, the book delves in 101 films that according to the website are rotten. But what the critics said, the audience didn’t always agree with. Neither do the writers of this book, who also point out why some movies don’t initially do well at the box office, but somehow become cult classics.

This book is the perfect read for the film buff. It reminded me why fans and critics sometimes disagree. I loved that there is a down to earth feel to the writing, talking to reader instead of talking down to us.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Flashback Friday: American Pie 2 (2001)

The difference between high school and college is night and day. Though we may not feel it right away, it is a transformation that will soon become obvious.

The 2001 film, American Pie 2, is the sequel to the 1999 film, American Pie. Jim (Jason Biggs) and crew have just finished their first year of college. Renting a beach house for the summer, they plan a end of summer party that will last forever in their memories. Along the way, shenanigans will ensue and a few lessons will be learned.

First of all, the fact that this film is twenty years old is mind-blowing. I feels like yesterday when I saw in the theater. This is The Empire Strikes Back of the franchise. It is raunchiest and funniest of the three original movies. It is also a love letter to that time in our lives when we are growing, but it is not felt until we can see it in hindsight.

My favorite scene, though it wouldn’t fly today if it was released, is the scene with the “lesbians“.

Warning: this clip has language and imagery that might be be a turnoff to some people.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Fatherhood Movie Review

When our children are born, we see nothing but possibilities and a bright future. But nothing, as we all know, is promised. Life gets in the way and forces us to face reality.

In the new Netflix movie, Fatherhood, Matt Logelin (Kevin Hart) has just become a father for the first time. He has also lost his wife the day after their daughter is born. Though his friends and his family are trying to be supportive of Matt, there is some concern that he will be able to parent his daughter alone. As time passes, he proves them wrong. Like any parent, he is juggling raising his child and working. There is also the potential of a new romance, making his complicated life that much more complicated.

Comedy wise, there is nothing special about this film. However, it feels emotionally authentic. Though I have not had the experience myself, I imagine that anyone who is raising or has raised children will connect with Matt and the challenges he goes through.

Do I recommend it?

I am leaning toward yes. It is also appropriate that it was released on Father’s Day weekend.

Fatherhood is available for streaming on Netflix.

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