Category Archives: Movie Review

Victoria and Abdul Movie Review

We sometimes forget that legends are human too. We may not think of them that way, but sometimes we have to move past the legend to see the real human being underneath.

Queen Victoria is one of those legends.

The new movie, Victoria and Abdul, takes place at the end of her reign and life. She is celebrating her Golden Jubilee. Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) is a young man from India chosen to celebrate the Queen’s 50th year on the throne by presenting with a gift from her Indian subjects. It’s supposed to be a one shot trip.  But the Queen is taken by the intelligent and entertaining young man. Abdul not only teaches her about his world and his life, but he becomes a favorite. This, naturally does not go over well with Victoria’s son and heir, Bertie (Eddie Izzard) and her household. The question is, will this unusual friendship last and how far will those around Victoria go to remove Abdul from her life?

This movie is based on a book, entitled Victoria & Abdul: The True Story of the Queen’s Closest Confidant, by Shrabani Basu. I have not read the book, my review is strictly based on the movie. The cast is nothing but stellar. My favorite performance came from Eddie Izzard. While he started his career as a performer in comedy, he clearly has the chops to play a serious or dramatic part. I would not be surprised if a few nominations came his way during award season. His Bertie is a man who has been chomping at the bit to sit on the throne and is not happy that this Indian man is placing one more obstacle in the way of getting to the throne.

That being said, the movie was disappointing. It was disappointing because there were moments in the narrative that felt like endings, but they weren’t. By the time the credits rolled, it was a relief that it was over.

Do I recommend it? I would love to say yes, but I have to say maybe.

Victoria and Abdul is presently in theaters. 

 

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Flashback Friday-Mystery Men (1999)

Sometimes superhero movies take themselves a little too seriously.

In 1999, the genre was given the satirical treatment in the form of Mystery Men.

When the local superhero Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear) is captured by the local super villain Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), it’s up to a ragtag group of superhero wannabes to save the day. Led by Furious (Ben Stiller), the group includes Bowler (Janeane Garofalo) and Blue Raja (Hank Azaria), this bunch of second-rate superheroes must band together to save their city and their superhero from destruction.

As I recall, what I enjoyed about this movie is not the DC, Marvel Comics type movie that many fans of the superhero and comic book genre have come to expect. The film had an underbelly of dark satire that was unique to the genre and made the audience laugh.

And of course, what a late 1990’s movie without the requisite theme song sung by Smashmouth?

I recommend it.

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Flashback Friday-My Week With Marilyn (2011)

There is an old saying: all that glitters is not gold. The same could be said about Hollywood and the movie stars that fill up our screens. Behind the performer is the real human being who is dealing with the same sh*t that we all deal with.

In the 2011 movie, My Week With Marilyn, Marilyn Monroe (Michelle Williams) is in London in the mid 1950’s to film The Prince And The Showgirl. Being directed by and starring opposite Sir Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh), Marilyn is not the easiest performer to work with. Colin Clark (Eddie Redmayne) is a young film student who gets a job as a part of the film crew. As time goes on, Marilyn reveals that there is much more to her that the on-screen sex goddess and Colin begins understand some truths about people and life that only time, experience and maturity bring.

What I really appreciated about this movie was that it revealed some truths that many of us, regardless of whether we are a Hollywood star or a John or Jane Doe, deal with on a day-to-day basis. I also appreciated that the film humanized one of Hollywood’s best known icons and brought her down to a level that makes us appreciate and respect her as a person, not as a performer.

I recommend it.

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Battle Of The Sexes Movie Review

The Battle Of The Sexes tennis match in 1973 between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs was much more than a tennis match. It represented the future of America.

In the new movie, Battle Of The Sexes, Emma Stone plays Billie Jean King and Steve Carell plays Bobbie Riggs. At the start of the film, Billie Jean King is the women’s tennis champion and Bobby Riggs is the former men’s champion who now earns his living by working for his father-in-law. When Billie Jean and the rest of the women discover that prize money for the women’s tournament is far less than the men’s tournament, they revolt.

While this is happening, both Billie Jean and Bobby are dealing with personal problems. Bobby has a gambling addiction that could threaten his marriage. Billie Jean is married, but she is attracted to women and one woman in particular, Marilyn Barnett (Andrea Riseborough). The question is, who will win the Battle Of The Sexes?

I really liked this movie. I liked it on several levels. I like it a) because it is an entertaining movie b) the match itself is a historical moment that truly changed the world and c) it feels appropriate for what is happening in this country right now. I especially appreciated that both main characters were not slated into the typical hero/villain role. Riggs could have easily been shown as the big bad chauvinistic wolf (which he certainly was to certain degree) who is trying to blow King and the feminist house down. I also appreciated that Billie Jean King paved the way for only women in general to achieve whatever they want to achieve, but also in her own small way, paved the way for the modern LGBTQ movement.

I absolutely recommend it.

Battle Of The Sexes is presently in theaters.

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Flashback Friday-Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day (2008)

Sometimes, when life throws us a curve-ball, we can only think quickly and hope for the best.

In Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day (2008) Guinevere Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) is a middle-aged governess who has just lost another job. The agency who has found her work in the past is not so quick to find her a new position. With no other way out, she steals the information of a new client and presents herself as the new social secretary for Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams), an actress and nightclub performer. Delysia is juggling three men: Nick (Mark Strong), the owner of a night club, Michael (Lee Pace), who plays piano for Delysia and is ready to marry her at a moments notice and Phil (Tom Payne), a young theater producer who is eager to cast her in his newest production.

While juggling all of that, Guinevere has caught the eye of Joe (Ciarán Hinds), a fashion designer. Will Delysia choose from one of her three boyfriends and will Miss Pettigrew be unmasked for whom she truly is?

Set during World War II, this film is the perfect modern screwball comedy that was a staple of the movie going experience in the 1930’s and 1940’s. Amy Adams channels Marilyn Monroe as a goodhearted, but not all there actress who does not know what she wants. And of course, there a couple of 1990’s Austen leading men, which always makes a film that much better.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Throwback Thursday-Free Willy (1992)

A child and their pet animal has been a story that never gets old. The question, is how does a writer spin the story so it stands out among other stories in the genre?

In he 1993 movie, Free Willy, Willy is a orca whale who was caught by fisherman when he was young. Since then, he has lived in a marina. Jesse (Jason James Richter) is a young man with a troubled past. When he is caught vandalizing the marina, he is let off easy. His punishment is to clean up the mess he made. While cleaning his mess, Jesse makes friends with Willy and is able to train him. But when Willy cannot perform, the owners of the marina seek to kill him. It is up to Jesse and his friends to free Willy.

What can I say about this movie? It’s very early 90’s, especially with Michael Jackson singing the movie’s theme song.

However, it is quite sappy and borders and predictable.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Flashback Friday-Just Looking (1999)

Being a teenager is the most confusing, amazing and life altering experience that anyone will ever have.

In 1999’s Just Looking, Lenny (Ryan Merriman) is a 14 year boy living in the Bronx in 1955. Summer has just begun and Lenny has only one goal to complete by the time school starts: watch two adults, well, make whoopee, as was the phrase from the period. His mother Sylvia (Patti LuPone) sends him to Queens for the summer to live her pregnant younger sister and her husband. Meeting the gorgeous and much older Hedy (Gretchen Mol) turns Lenny’s world upside down.

Lenny’s original goal may be to catch two adults in the act, but he learn much more that summer.

Coming of age stories are nothing new. But in the hands of skilled writer, the coming of age story feels universal. It also helps that this film is set in the mid 1950’s, creating an emotional distance that allows the audience not only to consider the age of the main character, but the world he lived and grew up in.

I recommend it.

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Teri Garr Retrospective At BAM-Part II-Young Frankenstein (1974)

It takes a smart actor to play a dumb character. Teri Garr is one of those actors.

This weekend, the Brooklyn Academy of Music or BAM for short, is having a Teri Garr retrospective.

Earlier today, I saw Young Frankenstein (1974). A satire of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, as only Mel Brooks can conceive of, Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Gene Wilder) is the American grandson of the infamous scientist, Victor Frankenstein. Frederick will do anything to prove that he is not his grandfather’s grandson, but when push comes to shove, the blood and the infamous history of Frankenstein’s takes over.

Teri Garr plays Inga, Frederick’s assistant.

Inga may appear to be just a dumb blonde speaking in a faux Eastern European accent and wearing a low-cut dress, but her character is vital to Frederick’s development from the beginning of the film to the end of the film. Along with Igor (Marty Feldman), they travel with Frederick from his denial of who he is to his acceptance of his DNA and his fate. Inga also gets some of the best lines in the film, as per the scene above.

I recommend this film, if nothing else, for Teri Garr’s performance.

 

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Five Best Summer Movies Of 2017

The summer of 2017 has been a very interesting for movies. Listed below is the best movies of this past summer.

1. Wonder Woman

Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, this feminist blockbuster finally broke through the boys club solo movie superhero franchise. After watching her superhero brothers in arms have multiple movie franchises of their own, Wonder Woman finally began to tell her own story. It was the perfect combination of light and dark, growing up and classic bad-ass superhero. All in all, I say it was a good movie.

2.  The Big Sick

Based on the real life romance of Kumail Nanjiani and his real life wife, Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan play out the ups and down of their courtship, including Emily’s extended hospital stay. Also starring Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents, this film takes the standard romantic comedy and flips it on its head.

 

3. Lady Macbeth

A young woman is married off to a much older man who is need of a wife and an heir. Living in an isolated English country house, she has an affair with one of the servants. The film has the bone chilling psychology of a feminist Hitchcock thriller combined with the imagery and narrative of a Wuthering Heights adaptation. Starring Florence Pugh, the film is a completely new spin on the traditional BPD (British Period Drama) that goes where few stories in the genre would dare to go.

4. The Women’s Balcony

After the collapse of the women’s section in an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, the men turn to a new Rabbi. The problem is that the new Rabbi has very different ideas than what has been done before. The women are not pleased and take things into their own hands. Despite being set in a very specific community, the film is universal in its message about the consequences of pissing women off.

5. Menashe

Set in the ultra-Orthodox community of Borough Park Brooklyn, Menashe (Menashe Lustig) is a widower who has lost custody of his son to his in-laws. He has been told that he can only take his son back when he re-marries, but he is not inclined to re-marry and is trying to prove that he can be a good father without re-marrying. A story of of faith and fatherhood, this film speaks to all of us, regardless about the trials of being a parent and observing the rules we live with.

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Teri Garr Retrospective At BAM-Part I-Tootsie (1982)

It takes a smart actor to play a dumb character. Teri Garr is one of those actors.

This weekend, the Brooklyn Academy of Music or BAM for short, is having a Teri Garr retrospective.

Earlier today, I saw Tootsie (1982). Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) is an actor whose difficult reputation precedes him. Unable to get a job, he becomes Dorothy Michaels and gets a job on a soap opera. Garr plays Sandy, one of Michael’s actor friends whose neurosis is exacerbated by her inability to find work and Michael’s inconsistency during this period.

I’m not an actor, but I can imagine that many actors, especially those whose work history is sketchy, can relate to Sandy’s neurosis. She is the flip side to Jessica Lange’s Julie, Michael/Dorothy’s co-star and love interest. Ms. Garr could have gone completely out there, playing a stereotype. But there is a reality to her character. Sandy’s neurosis (which considering her choice of career is understandable) is firmly rooted in her lack of lack of self-esteem, which when done properly, can be incredibly funny. The character of Sandy is funny, as is the actress who plays her, Teri Garr.

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