Category Archives: Movie Review

Throwback Thursday: The Adjustment Bureau (2011)

The question of our fate is one that is open ended and based upon the beliefs of the individual. Is it in our hands or is it preset even before it has begun?

The 2011 movie, The Adjustment Bureau (based on a short story, Adjustment Team, by Phillip K. Dick), is a science fiction inspired love story that is not supposed to happen. According to the powers that be, politician David Norris (Matt Damon) and contemporary dance Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) are supposed to live separate lives in New York City. But when he sees a flash of his future with Elise, David goes against those are keeping them apart, The Adjustment Bureau, to be with her. David and Elise have two choices in front of them: accept that their relationship is not meant to be or fight for it.

This movie is so good. It asks existential questions in a way that both speaks to the audience and keeps within the boundaries of the genre. Blunt and Damon have fantastic chemistry and the narrative is perfect taught with tension and suspense.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Throwback Thursday: Howards End (1992)

The appeal of adapting a beloved novel for the stage or the screen is never easy. It has to be as true as possible to the original text. However, there may be the necessity of some changes, which may not or may not please those who love the story in its original form.

The 1992 film, Howards End, is based on the book by E.M. Forster. It is the story of three different families from three different social strata in early 20th century England. The Wilcox family is firmly entombed within the upper class. The Schlagels are middle class and believe in helping others who are not so fortunate. The Basts are at the bottom of the barrel and doing their best to survive. Starring Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, and Helena Bonham Carter, it is a story of class, breaking boundaries, and getting to know someone beyond where they are in the social hierarchy.

This movie is amazing. Not only is this BPD adaption loyal to the book, but it is well written, well acted, and thoroughly engaging. It immediately hooks the audience, taking them on a ride that is unexpected and not forgotten anytime soon.

Do I reccommend it? Yes.

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Mass Movie Review

School shootings have sadly become just another headline in the evening news. The latest one in Arlington, Texas this week was far from the most important news of the day.

The new movie, Mass, takes this all too familiar event and makes it personal. Written and directed by Fran Kranz, it tells the story of two couples who lives have been upended by one student killing his classmate. Jay and Gail (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton) are the parents of the victim. Richard and Linda (Reed Birney and Ann Dowd) are the parents of the shooter. They meet in a church basement to iron out what led to the shooting and how they can live with their new normal.

This film is important and timely. Kranz’s script is deep, emotional, and speaks to the harsh truth of the reality that comes with an experience such as this. It explores question that lead to school shootings. It is due to mental health, the lack of gun control laws, a combination of both, or perhaps something else that has not even been considered?

Though the screenplay is not as strong as it could be, the interrogation of what leads to one young person killing another on school grounds and its aftermath is potent and unfortunately still too relevant.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Throwback Thursday: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

The wonderful thing about the movies is the ability to take us away from our daily lives for a short time. The not so wonderful thing about movies is that stereotypes can easily be spread.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was released in 1984. This chapter of the Indiana Jones narrative takes place in 1935 in India, which was then part of the British Empire. When a mystical stone is taken from a small village, Indy (Harrison Ford) teams up with Wilhelmina “Willie” Scott (Kate Capshaw) and Short Round (Ke Huy Quan) to find the rock. It has been taken by a secret cult who is driven by death and slavery.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. As an adventure film, it’s fine. Ford is at his finest as the title character. I understand that this is a heightened reality that would never exist in real life. The one thing that stands out to me how extremely annoying Capshaw’s character is. She is whiny, she is needy, and she contributes nothing to the story other than being the obligatory female. I don’t understand how Capshaw and co-screenwriter Gloria Katz could bring this 2D character, who is completely unlikable, to life. I was also struck by the portrayal of the Indian people. I wish this image had been a little close to the truth and less of a caricature. While I appreciate the inclusion of Short Round, it does little to improve my opinion.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Throwback Thursday: The Bachelor (1999)

Love, in theory, should be simple. You find the right person, you settle down with them, and hopefully live happily ever after. But we all know that love is never simple.

In the 1999 film, The Bachelor (not to be confused with the reality show of the same name), James Shannon III (Chris O’Donnell) will soon be celebrating his 30th birthday. Though he has been with his girlfriend Anne Arden (Renée Zellweger) for a while, Jimmy is not quite ready to propose. When he finally gets down on on knee, it does not go as planned.

Needing space and time to think, Anne goes out of town for work. Just as she leaves, Jimmy receives an ultimatum from his recently deceased grandfather (the late Sir Peter Ustinov). Unless there is a ring on his finger by 6:05 pm on his birthday, he will receive nothing from his grandfather’s will. Scheduled to blow out the candles in 24 hours, he desperately tries to contact Anne. But she is incommunicado. Feeling desperate, Jimmy starts to contact his old girlfriends.

On a scale of 1-10, I would say that The Bachelor is 4. The plot is fairly predictable as a romantic comedy. Though O’Donnell and Zellweger have reasonably chemistry, there is nothing new or fresh about this film. The hapless male who needs a kick to the proverbial butt to prove to his significant other that he is serious about their relationship is nothing new. Its all rather generic and to be honest, boring.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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The Eyes of Tammy Faye Review

Those of us above a certain age remember the late Tammy Faye Bakker for her boundless enthusiasm, her makeup that some might call excessive and how she was portrayed in the press. When she and first husband, Jim Bakker made the news in the 1980’s for the financial scandal surrounding their television ministry, there was no escaping the headlines.

The new movie, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, takes the audience behind the flash and the noise to reveal the real woman. Stepping into the shoes of Tammy Faye and Jim are Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield. The film follows Bakker from her early years, where she is an outcast due to her parents divorce to the high of being the face of televangelism for a generation, and finally when she became a late night punchline that revolved around the fiscal mismanagement of the Bakker’s Christian ministry empire.

First of all, kudos to the makeup and hair department. They were able to recreate Tammy Faye’s iconic look without making it look like Chastain was wearing a Halloween mask. What I liked about the film is that the woman on the screen is much more than was in the news back in the day. She has a big heart, genuinely believes in her mission (and her husband), and unlike others in her world, is willing to embrace members of LGBTQ community.

A nice counterpoint to Tammy Faye is her mother, Rachel, played by Cherry Jones. Rachel is down to earth and practical. She does not exactly want to burst her daughter’s bubble, but wants to bring Tammy Faye back to reality. What I did not realize is that in her own way, Bakker was a feminist. She was not the typical wife of religious leader who quietly stays in her lane. Tammy Faye was an equal partner in sharing their message with viewers and fans. My only complaint is that towards the end of the film, a few minutes could have been cut from the final presentation.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is presently in theaters.

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My Octopus Teacher Review

Nature has a lot to teach us. But we must be willing to listen.

My Octopus Teacher premiered last year on Netflix. This nature documentary follows Craig Foster, a documentary filmmaker from South Africa as he spends a year bonding with an octopus. Recovering from a depressed state, he takes to the water, looking for a reason to feel good about himself. This comes in the form of his eight legged friend. In the year that they spend together, she teaches him about life, the importance of saving the natural world, and appreciating what he has.

This movie would not be my first choice to watch. It is certainly interesting and is educational without the viewer realizing it. I can see its value and why it won the Oscar for Best Documentary. But ultimately, it is meant for a niche audience who can truly appreciate what this film has to offer.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

My Octopus Teacher is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Throwback Thursday: Ant-Man (2015)

A parent’s love for their child is a powerful thing. Sometimes, this leads to actions that might be considered odd or out of the box.

In the 2015 film, Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a con-man with a past and a record. He is also a father who adores his daughter. Given a super suit that allow him to change his size, Scott joins his mentor Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to save the world against Darren Cross (Corey Stoll). Joining Scott on his path to superhero-dom is Hank’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).

This movie is so much fun. I can’t comment on the transfer from the page to screen because I have never read the comic book. The best thing is that it does not take itself too seriously, which allows the audience to have fun in a fully engrossing and entertaining manner. The actors have amazing chemistry, the special effects are nicely balanced with the narrative, and Lilly’s character stands on her own two feet without being limited to the relationships she has with the male characters.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Price of Freedom Movie Review

Change starts with a conversation. But first, we must be able to have that conversation, which is sometimes easier said than done.

The new CNN movie, The Price of Freedom, is about the battle for gun control and the measures both sides have taken to win the hearts and minds of both the public and those in the halls of power. It examines the power that the NRA holds over certain sectors in this country and its unchanging belief in the 2nd amendment. On the other side, family members of victims, survivors, and pro-gun control politicians plead for being reasonable and coming to the table to compromise.

I enjoyed this film. The filmmakers did a good job of letting both sides make their case and let the viewer decide where they land. They also provided a historical background to this topic, giving a greater grasp of the topic beyond the last few decades. Though it did not change my mind, it is a good start in bringing both sides and their beliefs to the table. Hopefully, it opens the door to a dialogue and perhaps understanding one another.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings Review

Movies and/or television shows that are based on comic books have been part of our modern entertainment era for decades. What is important is the balance between the source material and the enjoyment of the audience.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was released into theaters a few weeks ago. Based on the comic book of the same name, we are initially introduced to twenty something Shaun (Simu Liu). Living in San Francisco, he and his best friend Katy (Awkwafina) earn their living parking cars. Reality intervenes when Shaun’s ancient warlord father Xu Wenwu (Tony Chiu-Wai Leung) send his goons to bring his son back to China. On the plane, Shaun tells Katy that his real name is Shang-Chi and the truth about his family. Meeting up with his sister Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), they have to come together to defeat their father and prevent an even greater disaster from occurring.

I loved this movie. Though I have no knowledge of the narrative or the character arcs within the books themselves, I can say with certainty that the film adaption is superb. I loved the balance of the comedy and the action. The female characters who surround Shang are not sitting in the background, waiting to be rescued. They are as important to the action as the male characters. The one role that stood out to me was Xu Wenwu. He is akin to Anakin Skywalker in that his intentions are good, but his actions are not exactly on the up and up.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is currently in theaters.

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