Category Archives: Movies

Harriet Movie Review

It’s not uncommon to see a movie/television show or read a story about a man who stands up against injustice. However, the same story with a female protagonist is sadly, not as commonplace.

The new Harriet Tubman biopic, Harriet, was just released in theaters. Known on the plantation as Minty, the future Harriet Tubman (Cynthia Erivo) was born a slave. Though her father was born free, she is enslaved because her mother is a slave. After the death of her master, Minty knows that she will soon be sold. Her only choice is to escape to freedom.

After a 100 mile journey from Maryland, Harriet arrives in Philadelphia. Assisted by William Still (Leslie Odom Jr.) and Marie Buchanon (Janelle Monae), Harriet settles down into the quiet life of a free person of color. But while she resides in freedom, Harriet feels uneasy that her family is still in bondage. This uneasiness sends her back to Maryland, to free as many slaves as possible.

Going back and forth earns Harriet a reputation and a target on her head. One of those who would like to see her captured is Gideon Brodess (Joe Alwyn), the son of the family who owned Harriet. History tells us that Harriet Tubman does eventually achieve her goal, but not without many obstacles in her way.

This movie is brilliant and I believe, a must-see for anyone who believes in the freedoms that the United States is built on. Director and co-screenwriter Kasi Lemmons tells the story of her subject in a manner that simultaneously humanizes Harriet and gives her the proper moment in the spotlight.

I loved this film because it is educational and entertaining. From a writing standpoint, this is a balancing act in which many try, but few succeed. I also loved that there was no love interest for Harriet. Though the viewer is introduced to her first husband, his prominence in the narrative ends with the first act. He is not the raison d’être for everything that occurs within this film. I wish more filmmakers and screenwriters told the story of a female protagonist without relying on a romantic narrative because it’s the easy thing to do.

I absolutely recommend it and I would not be shocked if this film did well come award season.

Harriet is presently in theaters.

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She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement Book Review

Throughout history, there has been an obvious power imbalance between men and women. Especially when it came to sex.

When the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke in 2017, it forever changed the way that rape and sexual assault are viewed. But bringing that story to the front page was not easy. In the new book, She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement, New York Times writers Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey recount the months long and difficult process of bringing this story to the public.

For decades, there were whispers within Hollywood about producer Harvey Weinstein. But as soon as reports surfaced of allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they were put down as mere rumor. That is until Kantor and Twohey started digging. That digging opened a Pandora’s box of truth, lies and the people who would do almost anything to close that box again.

This book reads like a fictional thriller instead of a real story. It is a heart pounding roller coaster ride until the very end of the book. We know how the story ends, but there were so many blockages for Kantor and Twohey that I started to wonder if justice would finally prevail. When I finally finished the book, I was relieved that Weinstein was finally getting what was coming to him.

The thing that strikes me about this book and this story is that it is universal among women. The women who come forward in this book tell the same story, with minor details changed for their specific narrative. They range from Hollywood A-listers to fast food workers to teenage girls assaulted by their drunk male classmates. If nothing else, I think that this book and others of this nature are a starting point for a conversation that is more than overdue.

I absolutely recommend it.

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Thoughts On the Final Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Trailer

Last night, after months of excitement and hype, the final trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was released.

The purpose of a movie trailer is to reveal just enough about the film to entice the audience to see the movie. This trailer is really good. Like any Star Wars trailer, the details are kept under wraps (at least until December 20th).

We know that is going to be a battle between good and evil, which has always been the basis of the Star Wars story. But it is supposed to be the be all and end all for this saga and these characters. However, knowing Disney and Lucasfilm, I would not be surprised if there was another leg to the narrative released in the next twenty years.

If nothing else, the fact that the pre-sale tickets for this film outpaced Avengers: Endgame by 45% speaks of the love of this film series.

I can only hope that the love is returned to us by a movie that blows us all out of the water.

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Happy 63rd Birthday, Carrie Fisher

Courtesy of Vanity Fair

It has been said that what defines us is not how we fall, but how we rise after a fall.

The late Carrie Fisher rose many times in her 60 years. Today would have been her 63rd birthday.

What she went through might have stopped some people in their tracks. But she found the will to survive, the courage to look her demons in the eye and the sense of humor to publicly laugh about them.

She was more than the lone female for most of the Star Wars film series. She was a daughter, a mother, a sister, one hec of a writer, a bad ass and a mental health warrior. She was not afraid to speak her mind and speak for those who could not speak for themselves. Though many might be shamed into silence by their addiction and mental health issues, Carrie spoke openly and honestly about her demons. In doing so, she allowed others to do the same.

Wherever you are, Carrie, RIP and Happy Birthday. I can’t think of a better birthday present than the release of the final Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker trailer tonight.

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Ashes in the Snow DVD Review

War has a way of forever changing one’s life.

The 2018 movie, Ashes in the Snow (based on the book Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys) takes place during World War II. Lina (Bel Powley) is an average teenage girl living in Lithuania with her family. She is also a gifted young artist with a dream and the potential to see that dream become a reality.

Then Lina, her family and thousands of others are deported to Siberia. It is her art and her growing relationship with Andrius (Jonah Hauer-King) that provides a sense of normalcy in a situation that is as far from normal as one can get. Will Lina survive or will she perish with thousands of others?

I read this book previously, so I had an idea of what was coming. The movie is just as good as the book. It is a story that within the genre of World War II stories, is not told as often as it should be. Granted, like many book to movie adaptations, the film does not match the book scene for scene. However, that does not detract from the power of this story and the strength of this young girl who finds the will to survive when many did not.

I recommend it.

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil Movie Review

Fairy tales have a way of reaching across time and cultures. They may seem frivolous and fantastical, but they tell human stories about human characters.

The new movie, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, takes place five years after the first movie ends. Aurora (Elle Fanning) and Prince Philip (Harris Dickinson) are newly engaged. The hope is that this marriage will bring peace to the land. But hope often springs eternal.

Before Aurora and Philip can walk down the aisle as newlyweds, Aurora and Maleficent are invited to have dinner with King John (Robert Lindsay) and Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer). The dinner is supposed to be a “getting to know you” for the future in laws. But in true Meet the Parents fashion, the dinner does not go as planned.

The bond between Aurora and Maleficent begins to weaken as their relationship changes and the drums of war are heard in the distance. Will Aurora and Philip say “I do” and more importantly, will her relationship with Maleficent return to what it was?

I liked this movie. There are some sequels that for any number of reasons, feel unnecessary or feel like they are not adding to the reputation of their predecessor. This film is neither. Without spoiling the movie, there are themes of growing up, respecting diversity in the face of persecution and what happens in the mind of a parent when their child grows up. None of which are easy to deal with on an emotional level.

This film is well written and well acted. Though it may seem to be the predictable fairy tale, it is not.

I recommend it.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is presently in theaters.

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Joker Movie Review

Creating a villain for the sake of opposing the hero or heroine is easy. It’s harder to create a three dimensional character who is still a villain, but is just as human as the hero or heroine.

The new movie, Joker, is a standalone/maybe prequel in the world of Batman. Set somewhere in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, Arthur Fleck/Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) lives in a Gotham City plagued by crime and poverty. Arthur earns his living as a clown for hire, though his professional goal is to be a stand up comedian.

He lives with his mother, Penny Fleck (Frances Controy) in a beaten down apartment. He dreams of following in the footsteps of his idol, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), a Johnny Carson like late night talk show host. He also suffers from mental illness and has daydreams of dating his neighbor, Sophie (Zazie Beetz).

Over the course of the film, Arthur slowly transforms into the villain that we know of as the Joker.

I admire that director Todd Phillips and his co-screenwriter Scott Silver tried to tackle the very complicated ideas of mental health and economic disparity. However, I found the violence to be a little much for my taste. The film was also a little on the long side.

Since the release of the film last weekend, there have been some concern that the portrayal of Arthur’s mental illness might be a trigger for those who suffer in real life. While I can completely understand that concern, I am also concerned that some in the audience might come out of the theater with the general idea that everyone who suffers from mental illness has violent or criminal tendencies.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Judy Movie Review

Judy Garland was a performer with a capital P. She is an icon above icons, a movie star in every sense of the word. She was a human being whose life off camera was far from perfect.

The new movie, Judy, tells the story of the last years of Judy Garland‘s (Renee Zellweger) life. She is no longer the young starlet (played by Darci Shaw) who was the apple of the movie-going audience’s eye. At the age of 47, she is battling addiction and facing major career and financial hurdles while trying to be a good mother.

The only gigs she can get are small clubs. Then she is offered a series of concerts at London’s Talk of the Town. Knowing that it is her only option, she takes it. While in London, she marries her fifth and final husband Mickey Deans (Fitt Wittrock) and is given to Rosalyn Wilder (Jessie Buckley), who acts as her assistant.

Judy has the reputation, but can she be the performer that she is known to be or will her personal demons get in the way?

This movie is awesome and without a doubt, is Oscar bait. Zellweger completely disappears into the role, making the audience forget that it is not the real Judy Garland that they are watching. Based on the stage play End of the Rainbow, by Peter Quilter, this film is many things. It is a tearjerker, a reminder of how destructive addiction can be and a story of fighting to survive when it feels like all is lost.

I absolutely recommend it.

Judy is presently playing in theaters.

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Downton Abbey Movie Review

On the surface, transforming a popular television program into a film seems easy. The beloved characters and well known narrative are already in place, it is just a matter choosing how to expand the world beyond what already existed on the small screen.

But like many things, it is often easier said than done.

The Downton Abbey film premiered last night. Set a year and a half after the television show ended, everything is tranquil. But tranquility, as it always does on Downton Abbey, does not last.

King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James) will be visiting the Crawleys while on a tour through Yorkshire. The news forces the Crawleys and their servants to be on their A-Game. But being on their A-Game is a challenge to say the least.

Upstairs, Robert (Hugh Bonneville), Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) and the rest of the family are preparing to be the perfect hosts for their majesties. Downstairs is a flurry of activity, which requires the steady hand of Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) to keep everything running smooth. That steady hand is not helped by the royal servants, who take over the running of the ship while the King and Queen are in residence at Downton.

There are quite a few movies that have been made based on television programs. A good number try, but don’t live up to the reputation of it’s television predecessor. Downton Abbey not only lives up to that reputation, it builds the reputation of the series and the world within the series.

Though some reviewers have stated that this movie is strictly for the Downton Abbey fan base, I disagree. It helps to have at least some knowledge of the television series, but it does not hinder the overall enjoyment of the film if one goes in as Downton newbie.

I absolutely recommend it.

Downton Abbey is currently in theaters.

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Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II Book Review

When it comes to Hollywood personalities, there are sometimes two people: the real person and the image crafted to sell tickets.

Audrey Hepburn is one of the most recognized and revered celebrities of Hollywood’s golden age. Movies such as Sabrina, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and My Fair Lady have endeared her to generations of film fans.

The new biography, Dutch Girl: Audrey Hepburn and World War II, by Robert Matzen, tells the story of a portion of the late Ms. Hepburn’s life that is sometimes overlooked: her childhood during World War II. She was born in 1929 to a British father and an aristocratic Dutch mother. Her parents divorced when she was young. Her father left the family soon after and Audrey was raised by her mother.

When she was a pre-teen, World War II started. The Dutch believed that because their country was neutral during World War I, nothing would change. Little did they know how history would forever change their country and affect the future film icon that is Audrey Hepburn.

I loved this book. I was aware previously that Ms. Hepburn was a child during World War II, but I had no idea of how much the war would have a life long affect on her.

I absolutely recommend it.

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