Category Archives: Movies

Flashback Friday-Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992)

When a movie is successful, the natural thinking is a sequel. The question is, how will this sequel compare to it’s predecessor?

The 1992 movie, Honey, I Blew Up the Kid (1992) is the sequel to the 1989 movie, Honey I Shrunk the Kids. Wannabe scientist Wayne Szalinski (Rick Moranis) is again experimenting with shrinking things and people. This time, the machine he has invented makes people and things bigger, not smaller.

Instead of shrinking his older kids, Wayne has increased the size of his toddler son, Adam. But there is more. When Adam touches anything electrical, he gets bigger. At his tallest, he is over 100 feet tall. In true toddler fashion, he goes through Las Vegas, creating a path of destruction in his wake.

To be fair, I have not seen this movie since it was released into theaters. As I recall it to be, it was mildly funny. But I was also a kid back then.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Why are the Oscars Still So White and Male?

This time of year, the buildup to the Oscar nominations is palpable.

The Oscar nominations were announced earlier this week.

Not surprisingly, most of the nominees are white and male. Among the major acting nominations, Cynthia Erivo (Harriet) is the only performer of color who was nominated. In the directing category, Bong Joon-ho (Parasite) is the only non Caucasian to receive the nomination.

Not that those who were nominated don’t deserve their nominations, but there is something to be said for representation. Two of my favorite movies from 2019 are Little Women and The Farewell. Both were directed by women and both were brilliant films. Little Women has 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Farewell has a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. And yet, in the major categories, did not receive their due.

I don’t know what is in the water in Hollywood. But it feels like like a slap in the face. It’s as if the powers that be are either afraid of diversity or don’t want it. They are content with the status quo which holds up their place in the world.

It’s 2020. It’s time for women and people of color to be seen and given the opportunity to succeed in Hollywood. But that will only happen when the Academy finally admits that they have a problem with diversity.

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The Nanny and Home Alone Reboots are Unnecessary

Every twenty years or so, Hollywood looks to the past for inspiration. Much of this inspiration turns into reboots of beloved movies or television programs.

The most recent reboots to be announced are a Broadway adaptation of the 1990’s television program The Nanny and the early 90’s Christmas classic Home Alone.

As I see it, both are unnecessary. As much as I dislike the overuse of stereotypes, The Nanny is a charming and funny program about a fish out of water with a Sound of Music narrative. Home Alone and it’s first sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York are outright classics. After all of these years, not only do I not only know these movies by heart, but I always have a few belly laughs while watching the films.

While I understand the reason for wanting to reboot both The Nanny and Home Alone, neither reboot is necessary. Its as if there are no new ideas in Hollywood or producers are unwilling to consider new writers with new narratives.

I have an idea. Instead of rebooting older ideas, how about giving new writers with new voices and new stories a chance? I have a few stories that I would love to see transferred from page to screen.

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Little Women Movie Review

For 150 years, readers have read and adored Little Women. Louisa May Alcott‘s timeless tale about the March sisters is a universal story of growing up, sisterhood and finding out who you are.

The new adaption, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, was released a couple of weeks ago.

Told in a non-linear narrative, the film starts as the girls are setting out on their own paths in life. Meg March (Emma Watson) is juggling marriage and motherhood. Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) has a day job as a private tutor and sells her stories to local newspapers. Beth March (Eliza Scanlen) remains content to be at home. Amy March (Florence Pugh) is in Paris and living with Aunt March (Meryl Streep) while she is pursuing her dream of becoming a painter.

The movie then flashes back and forth, from the present to the past. Growing up in New England during the Civil War, the girls are being raised by their mother, known as Marmee (Laura Dern) while their father fights for the North. Early in the story, Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Timothee Chalamet) introduces himself to Jo. He is literally the boy next door and becomes Jo’s best friend.

Though some fans might disagree with Gerwig’s choice of narrative, I think it was a wise choice. Given the number of filmed adaptations of this beloved book, she chose to make her adaptation stand out because of that unorthodox narrative.

One of the things that impressed me about the film is how Amy is no longer a brat. In most adaptations and in the eyes of many fans, Amy March is disliked because she is spoiled and remains so throughout the book. But in this adaptation, Amy is spoiled like many youngest children are spoiled. But she also grows up into a woman who knows she wants, in spite of a world that would hold her back.

Anyone who has ever watched a film adaptation of their favorite book are likely to be disappointed. Changes to either character or narrative are certain. But Gerwig remains true to the text, retelling this beloved tale with a modern spirit and a reminder of why 150 years later, Little Women is a cherished novel.

I absolutely recommend it.

Little Women is presently in theaters.

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My Favorite Movies of 2019

Going to the movies is sometimes akin to stepping onto a roller coaster. Sometimes you love the film your seeking. Sometimes you hate it.

My favorite movies of 2019 are as follows:

  1. The Farewell: The Farewell is my favorite movie of the year because it is heartfelt, genuine and thoroughly human. In the lead role, Awkwafina proves that she can play much more than the comic relief.
  2. Avengers: Endgame: If there was a perfect way to end a film series, this film is it. Balancing both action and narrative, this thrill ride is pure perfection.
  3. Judy: Renee Zellweger is an absolute shoe-in for the Oscars as the late film icon Judy Garland. Disappearing in the role, she tells the true story of the final years of Garland’s life.
  4. Downton Abbey: Transferring a popular television show to the big screen is often easier said than done. The Downton Abbey movie is the perfect film bookend to this beloved television program.
  5. Harriet: This biopic of Harriet Tubman is nothing short of tremendous. In the lead role, Cynthia Erivo is Harriet Tubman.
  6. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: This final entry in the Skywalker saga is not perfect, but it ends with both a nod to the past and an open door to the future.
  7. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood: The late Fred Rogers was more than a milquetoast children’s TV host. He taught generations of children in ways that go beyond the classroom. Inhabiting the role of Mister Rogers is Tom Hanks, who reminds viewers why we loved him.
  8. Joker: In this re imagined world from that Batman universe, Joaquin Phoenix adds new layers to this iconic character while talking frankly about mental illness.
  9. The Song of Names: Based on the book of the same name, the film follows a man who is trying to discover the secrets of a missing childhood friend.
  10. Frozen II: This sequel to the mega-hit Frozen was well worth the six year wait. Instead of doing a slap-dash direct to video type sequel, the filmmakers expanded this world in new ways, making the story even more relevant.

This will be my last post for 2019. Wherever you are, thank you for reading this year. May 2020 be bright and hopeful.

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Filed under Books, Downton Abbey, Feminism, History, Mental Health, Movie Review, Movies, Star Wars, Television

Best Books of 2019

To say that I am a bookworm is an understatement. As you might expect, I’ve read quite a few books this year.

Without further adieu, my list of the best books of 2019 is below.

  1. The Women of the 116th Congress: Portraits of Power: This book is #1 because it represents how far American women have come and how far we need to go before we are truly equal. In celebrating the success of these female politicians, the authors are paving the way for the next generation of women to represent their country.
  2. The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between: This compelling and true story of one small town and it’s Jewish residents during World War II is as compelling as any fiction novel of the Holocaust.
  3. Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II: Telling the story of Audrey Hepburn‘s childhood during World War II, this book is a must-read for both movie junkies and history nerds alike.
  4. Summer of ’69: History is not just facts in a book. It the lives and experiences of those who lived through that period. In telling the story of one specific family, the summer of 1969 comes alive.
  5. Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators: The revelation of Harvey Weinstein’s actions two years ago was appalling and world-changing. In bringing his actions to the light, the authors are giving his victims what should have been theirs in the first place.
  6. Unmarriageable: A Novel: This adaptation of Pride & Prejudice set in Pakistan proves why Austen’s novels are universally loved and rebooted time and again.
  7. The Mother of the Brontes: When Maria met Patrick: The previously untold story of Maria Bronte (nee Branwell) is a fascinating story of the women who would bring Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte into the world.
  8. Becoming Eve: My Journey from Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi to Transgender Woman: It takes guts to be yourself. It takes even more guts when being yourself means that you are no longer part of the community you grew up in.
  9. She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement: The reporters who broke the Harvey Weinstein scandal knew what they were up against. They also knew how important it was for the public to know the truth.
  10. The Winemaker’s Wife: Love and betrayal are enough to handle. Add in war and you have this marvelous novel set in France during World War II.

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Movies, Pride and Prejudice

The Song of Names Movie Review

Music has a unique way of reaching all of us.

In the new movie, The Song of Names (based on the book of the same name by Norman Lebrecht), Martin (Tim Roth) and Dovidl (Clive Owen) were as close as brothers when they were boys. But Dovidl’s past and his secrets have torn their relationship apart.

Their first meeting comes as World War II is on the horizon. As a young boy, Dovidl (Luke Doyle) is a wunderkind on the violin. But he is a Jew living in Warsaw. His talent takes him to England and a shared bedroom with Martin (Misha Handley). After the war is over, the boys are now young men (now played by Jonah Hauer-King and Gerran Howell) and are as close as ever. But as Dovidl becomes known as a music prodigy, he must also grapple with his faith and the fate of the family he left behind in Poland.

Decades later, Martin is searching for his friend, who has all but vanished. Can he find Dovidl and discover the secrets that he carries with him?

I loved this movie. I loved it because at its heart is a story of friendship that starts during a tumultuous time in history. As the years pass and the reality of their world is exposed, both Martin and Dovidl must grapple with their experiences. I also loved the ending. It was not a happy ending as Hollywood would see fit, but it worked for the movie.

I recommend it.

The Song of Names is currently in theaters.

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A Hidden Life Movie Review

It’s easier to follow the crowd. It’s harder to follow your gut and go against the grain, even if that means putting your freedom and your life at stake.

The new film, A Hidden Life, tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter. Franz (August Diehl) and his wife, Fani (Valerie Pachner) are farmers. Living in rural Austria during World War II, they have three children. Then Franz is called to serve his country.

But there is a catch. Every man who serves must swear loyalty to the Nazi Fuhrer. Franz’s conscious tells him that he cannot make such a statement. This refusal sends Franz to prison and potentially, to his death.

Written and directed by Terrence Malick, this film is as much a message on respecting your instinct as it is to honor the memory of its subject.

The problem with this movie is that is far too long. It is 180 minutes from opening credits to closing credits. As much as I understood where Mr. Malick was going as a writer and a director, he could have cut it down by an hour and it would have been fine as is.

Though the visuals were stunning and the narrative format was interesting, it cannot overcome more screentime than was necessary.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

A Hidden Life is presently in theaters.

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I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture Book Review

The image of a “geek” is not particularly attractive. He or she is socially awkward, has a limited social life or none at all and is known for being a fan of something that is not “cool”.

Writer A.D. Jameson is looking to change that image. In his 2018 book, I Find Your Lack of Faith Disturbing: Star Wars and the Triumph of Geek Culture, Mr. Jameson explores how so called “geek culture” has expanded to general pop culture. Using examples from Star Wars, Star Trek, the Harry Potter series, The Lord of the Rings, etc, the author talks about geek culture is not only accepted, it has become cool to let your geek flag fly.

I loved this book, it is brilliant. From one geek to another, Mr. Jameson talks about geek culture as only an insider can. One of the points he brings up (which many do not) is that movie/television studios and companies that make the accompanying paraphernalia is they think that fans are blindly loyal. Slap the name of the movie or the television show on anything and we will hand over our money. It is one of several misconceptions that Mr. Jameson brilliantly discusses.

I recommend it.

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Flashback Friday-Johnny Dangerously (1984)

Satire is a beautiful thing. But it has to be done right.

The 1984 film, Johnny Dangerously is a satire of the gangster flicks of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Johnny Kelly/Johnny Dangerously (Michael Keaton) is devoted to his sick mother. Unless she is able to pay for several expensive operations, she will die.

The only way for Johnny to pay for the operations is to turn to a life of crime. This of course, is not smooth sailing, especially when he crosses paths with Danny Vermin (Joe Piscopo) and gets involved romantically with Lil (Marilu Henner).

The reviews of this film, back in the day, were a mixed bag. To be fair, the criticism is warranted. Though there is plenty of material to spoof, at some point, I want the narrative and not an easy gag.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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