Category Archives: Movie Review

Flashback Friday-40 Days And 40 Nights (2002)

Recovering from a breakup is never easy.  Especially when we thought that our ex was the one we would spend the rest of our lives with.

Matt (Josh Hartnett) is unhappily single.  He has not gotten over his ex-girlfriend, who is now engaged. Matt tries to get over her, but no matter how hard he tries, she is always on his mind. In a last-ditch attempt to finally get over his ex, he decides to give up all forms of sex for Lent. Then he meets Erica (Shannyn Sossamon), who might just be the one. The problem is that Lent has just begun and trying to be celibate is only the beginning of Matt’s problems.

I have mixed feelings about this movie. On one hand, the narrative is not the cookie cutter romantic comedy. But on the other hand, the narrative is not entirely unique.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Throwback Thursday-Swimfan (2002)

Stupid mistakes are part of life. The question is, what will the consequences of those mistakes be?

In the 2002 movie, Swimfan, Ben Cronin (Jesse Bradford) has it all. A promising swimming career, a past that is behind him and a solid relationship with his girlfriend, Amy Miller (Shiri Appleby). Then he has a one night stand with Madison Bell (Erika Christensen).  Ben tries to make it clear to Madison that he has a girlfriend and is not interested in her, but Madison does not seem to care. She only wants Ben and will say and do anything to have him.

 

This movie is best described as Fatal Attraction set in high school. It’s not entirely bad, but the narrative and characters are a little cliche for me.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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The Shape Of Water Movie Review

The story of a romance between a human female and a non human or super human male is not new to readers or audiences.  This basic narrative has been rebooted many times over in many different ways for generations. The question is, can the writer or writers make their narrative stand out from similar narratives?

The new film, The Shape Of Water, takes place in 1962 Baltimore. Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute woman who works for a government facility in the janitorial department. She spends her time with her co-worker and friend (who talks enough for both of them),  Zelda (Octavia Spencer) and her middle-aged bachelor neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins). One day, a new classified experiment arrives the facility under the control of Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon). Elisa and Zelda are told to keep their time in the laboratory short, but Elisa’s curiosity gets the best of her.

The experiment is an Amphibian Man (Doug Jones), who Mr. Strickland would like to kill and experiment on. But Dr. Robert Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg) has a conscious and a secret reason for keeping the creature alive. Can Elisa save this creature and how will that forever change them both?

Using a fairy tale, Beauty and The Beast motif, this film is one of my favorite in 2017. I loved the basic fairy tale narrative blended with life in the early 60’s. Both The Cold War and The Civil Rights Movement are so seamlessly blended into the plot that the audience forgets about the history lesson they are receiving. I would not be surprised if this film did well come awards season.

I recommend it.

The Shape Of Water is presently in theaters. 

 

 

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Thoughts On The 20th Anniversary of Anastasia

*Warning: this post contains spoilers read at your own risk.

On November 21st, 1997, the animated film Anastasia hit theaters.

Loosely based on the myth that Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia somehow survived the murder of her family in 1918, Anya (voiced by Meg Ryan) is an orphan who wants nothing more to find her family. Two con men, Dimitri (voiced by John Cusack) and Vladimir (Kelsey Grammer) convince her that she is Anastasia. Unbeknownst to Anya, there is a reward for the safe return of the grand duchess to her grandmother, The Dowager Empress Marie (voiced by Angela Lansbury). Neither Dimitri or Vladimir had any plans of splitting the reward with Anya, if she is believed to be Anastasia.

While this is happening, Rasputin (voiced by Christopher Lloyd) has risen from the dead and is eager to finish what he started ten years ago.

I look at this film, as I do its 1956 predecessor starring Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman, as a what if version of history. Especially in regards to the fact that Anastasia and Dimitri lived happily ever after. Marriages between commoners and royalty did not happen in that period.

Granted, the remains of  all of the Romanovs were not found and made saints of the Russian Orthodox Church until after this film came out. This left wiggle room for the screenwriters to use the myth of the surviving Anastasia as the skeleton of the narrative.

As a narrative loosely based on a myth, it’s a reasonably good film. But to hold it up as historical fact requires a bit too much for me.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Flashback Friday-Legend (1985)

One of the great things about movies is that they can take us to places that we could never go to in our daily lives.

In the 1985 movie Legend, Darkness (Tim Curry) wants to destroy daylight and create a world where only darkness reigns. To do so he must kill the last of the unicorns and marry the fairy princess Lili (Mia Sara). Lili happens to be the significant other of forest boy Jack (Tom Cruise).  Jack must both save Lili and prevent Darkness from taking over the world.

I have mixed feelings about this film. While the magical elements add to the supernatural reality of the world in the film, the narrative is completely predictable. My issue with the film is also that Mia Sara’s character is the typical damsel in distress/hero’s love interest.  There is nothing more to her other than to the girl in the film.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Late Throwback Thursday-A Goofy Movie (1995)

When you’re a teenager, the last thing many of us want is to be hauled halfway across the country by our parents.

In 1995’s A Goofy Movie, Max Goof (voiced by Jason Marsden) hates nothing more than to be embarrassed by his father, Goofy (voice by Bill Farmer). He also has a crush on Roxanne (voiced by Kellie Martin). To impress Roxanne, Max makes a promise that seems impossible to keep. In addition to the promise that will probably never become reality, Max is also dragged by his father on a cross-country road trip.

Goofy has always been on of those Disney characters that has always seemed to be on the periphery. It’s nice to see that he was given the spotlight without having to share it. I commend the creative team for trying to reach an older audience by creating a new character that they can relate to. My view of the film is this: if you’re a pre-teen or a early teenager, the movie is fine.  It’s not exactly intellectually stimulating, but not every movie has to be. But if your adult, this film feels too simple and too predictable.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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The Man Who Invented Christmas Movie Review

A Christmas Carol is the progenitor of every Christmas story has been published since 1843.  The Charles Dickens novel has not only become synonymous with the holiday, but also with the idea of being kind to our fellow mortals.

The new film, The Man Who Invented Christmas, stars Dan Stevens as Charles Dickens. With the recent success of Oliver Twist,  Dickens is under pressure to write his next novel. But with the creative well running dry and his bank account running equally as dry, he has to do something. Soon the idea for his next novel will start flowing, but so will the tension with his wife, Kate  (Morfydd Clark) and his father, John (Jonathan Price). He must also contend with the characters that are talking to him, including the man who will soon be known to the world as Scrooge (Christopher Plummer) and face his own past.

 

As a writer, it is always fascinating to see how other writers go on their creative journey to create their work. As an audience member, for me at least, it is fascinating to watch how a screenwriter can expand not just upon the myth, but on the everyday human struggles of their characters, especially ones that are as well known as Charles Dickens.

I recommend it.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is presently in theaters. 

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Flashback Friday-Tamara Drewe (2010)

Returning to our childhood homes can either be a heartwarming or traumatic.

In the 2010 movie Tamara Drewe, the title character played by Gemma Arterton returns to her childhood home in the English countryside to sell her family farm after the death of her mother. It should be a simple affair, but it proves to be more complicated, especially when her neighbors get involved in the process. Tamara also has three men vying for her affection: Andy Cobb (Luke Evans) who has nursed a crush on her for years, Nicholas Hardiment (Roger Allam), who is older, married and unfaithful to his wife and Ben Sergeant (Dominic Cooper), the drummer of a popular rock band.

Loosely based on the Thomas Hardy novel, Far From The Maddening Crowd, this movie is an interesting reboot of the source material. The thread that ties the narrative in the movie and the narrative in the book together is not only the question of how we would like to live our lives, but who we potentially spend our lives with.

I recommend it.

 

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Throwback Thursday-Susie Q (1996)

The genre of teen fantasy romance is an interesting one. Depending on the writer(s), the narrative and character arc can be either predictable/boring or compelling/different.

In the 1996 television movie Susie Q, Susie Q (Amy Jo Johnson) is a teenager in the 1950’s. She and her boyfriend are killed in a car crash. Decades later Zach Sands (Justin Whalin) moves into Susie’s former house with his sister and widowed mother, Penny (Shelley Long). Zach will soon discover that not only are they are not alone, but Susie’s ghost still haunts the property and he is the only one who can see her. In her own way, Susie tries to help Zach’s family and of course, it goes without saying that a romance develops between Zach and Susie.

Does this movie require a lot of thinking on the part of the audience? No. But it’s harmless and mildly entertaining.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Lady Bird Movie Review

The year before we graduate high school can often be described as trans-formative. Especially when we know that the last thing we want to do is going to college near home.

The new movie, Lady Bird, written and directed by actor/director/writer Greta Gerwig, is about Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). Set in Northern California in 2002,  Lady Bird is starting her senior year of high school and wants nothing more than to go to college out-of-town. She does not get along with her equally strong-willed mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and has a decent relationship with her father, Larry (Tracy Letts). As the year goes on, both Lady Bird will learn a few things about life and relationships.

I really enjoyed this movie. I enjoyed it because Lady Bird’s character arc and narrative feels universal. The struggle to find herself, the need to get away from home, the arguments with her parents, it all feels normal for a 17 year old girl.

I recommend it.

Lady Bird is presently in theaters. 

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