Tag Archives: Movie Reviews

Maureen O’Hara: The Biography Book Review

Maureen O’Hara is a movie legend. The list of her leading men include John Wayne, Henry Fonda and Tyrone Power.

Aubrey Malone’s biography, Maureen O’Hara: The Biography  follows Ms’ O Hara’s life from her childhood in Dublin through her decades long movie career to her present retired state.

Born in 1920 in the suburbs of Dublin, she made her screen debut in the late 1930’s.  The movies she made are all very different: family classics (The Parent Trap, 1961, Miracle on 34th St, 1947), technicolor pirate and sword and sandal adventures (The Black Swan, 1942, Sinbad The Sailor, 1947) and Westerns (The Redhead From Wyoming, 1953, McClintock, 1963).

The book not only sheds light on her career, but on her private life. Unlike many of her colleagues, Ms. O’Hara lived a very quiet life, keeping her personal life out of the headlines. Compiling press clippings, movie reviews and film journals, Mr. Malone  presents a complete picture of a performer whom many did not know about outside of her films.

I recommend this book.

On a related note, if there is one movie of her vast career that I would recommend, it would be Only The Lonely .

Made in 1991, Ms. O’Hara took herself out of retirement for this movie. She plays Rose Muldoon, the very overprotective mother to her son Danny (the late John Candy). Danny has sacrificed himself for his mother and brother (Kevin Dunn). When Danny meets Theresa Luna (Ally Sheedy) and starts fall in love with her, he finds himself torn between his mother and his girlfriend. Very sweet movie that just tugs at the heart strings.

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Labor Day-Tense and Suspenseful

Romantic dramas and coming of age stories usually fall into two categories: Sappy and predictable or suspenseful and unpredictable.

Labor Day, thankfully falls into the second category.

Based on the book of the same name by Joyce Maynard, Labor Day is a love story, but also a coming of age story.

Adele (Kate Winslet) is a divorced single mother who has become anxious and isolated since her husband Gerald (Clark Gregg) left her for another woman. Her son, Henry (Gattlin Griffith) tries to make up for his father’s absence, but is lacking. When a convict, Frank (Josh Brolin) uses them as a means to hide until he can escape from the police, he becomes the father Henry needs and provides the love that Adele needs. 

I enjoyed this movie. It sort of had a Wonder Years type of narrative. Toby Maguire narrates the story as an adult Henry, remembering those fateful 5 days.  It could have been sappy, cliched or predictable. But it wasn’t. I was on the edge of my seat the entire movie. Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin have electric chemistry, Gattlin Griffith plays his character as both a young boy on the edge of growing up, but also taking on the responsibility of being the man of the house.

I may just read the book.

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Anchorman 2- No Sequelitis Here

Anchorman is a comedy classic. The movie came out only 9 years ago and was instantly quotable.

The sequel, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, is as brilliant and funny as the original.  More often than not, many movie sequels suffer from sequelitis. Anchorman 2 is not afflicted.

The movie starts 7 years after the original ends. Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate) are married with a young son and co-anchor the news.  After Veronica is offered and accepts her own solo anchor seat, Ron, who has been fired from his position forces her to choose between him and her job. When he is offered an opportunity to anchor a new 24 hour news network, he brings back the crew: Brick Tamland (Steve Carrell), Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd) and Champ Kind (David Koechner).

This movie is funny. Even after 7 years, Ron Burgundy is still Ron Burgundy. Even when trying to be to open to diversity and meeting his boss Linda Jackson (Meagan Good), he is still the same.

I won’t give the details away, but the fight scene and the cameos in that scene is just the icing on the cake. It’s 2 hours, but a funny 2 hours.

 

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Saving Mr. Banks- Behind The Scenes Of A Classic

Tonight I saw Saving Mr. Banks, the biopic of how Mary Poppins was transferred from the page to the screen.

The film has two alternating, but equal story lines.  PL Travers (Emma Thompson) is the author of Mary Poppins.  Sales have dried up and she is in need of an income. For the past twenty years, Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) has been asking her for the rights to make a film based on the book. She has finally agreed to travel to Los Angeles to discuss the possibility of making the movie, but she is determined that it does not become too Hollywoodized.

The other story line is the flashbacks of her childhood in Australia. Her father (Colin Farrell) loves his family, but has flaws that prevents him from being the father and husband that he needs to be. Her mother (Ruth Wilson) does her best to be a good mother, but finds herself hindered by her husband’s actions.

We all know Mary Poppins, the movie has been part of our lives since it premiered. It’s like any classic, sometimes when you know the details and experiences of the author’s life, the story takes on a different meaning.

The movie clocks in at 2 hours. It’s a little long, but enjoyable.

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Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom- A Walk That Must Be Taken

Last night, I saw Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom.

The late Nelson Mandela is an icon. Next to Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, Mr. Mandela, represents the change many wish they could enact in the world, but few are willing to take the steps to make it happen.

The movie starts with brief clips of his childhood. As an adult, Nelson Mandela (Idris Elba) is a lawyer, trying to defend his clients in  a country where the native blacks are second class and the whites have all of the power.  He is initially hesitant to join the African National Congress, but circumstances change his mind. After he is charged with treason and thrown into jail for 27 years, his second wife, Winnie (Naomie Harris) is forced to raise their daughters by herself and deal with the constant assault by the police.

I will warn that the movie is long, it clocks in at 2 hours and 20 minutes. But the time is needed to tell this man’s story.

Elba completely transforms himself into Mandela. It’s as if he was born to play this character. Harris, as Winnie Mandela is also perfectly cast. Her transformation from being just an ordinary wife and mother to becoming a revolutionary in her own right is incredible. I wouldn’t be surprised, that when award season comes, the movie, as well as Elba and Harris receive numerous nominations and awards.

I highly recommend it.

 

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Thor: A Dark World Sequel- Just As Good The Second Time Around

There are some movies where one movie is more than enough, making a sequel is a waste of time for the film makers and the audience.  Thor: The Dark World, is not one of those movies.

The movie starts 2 years after the previous movie. Thor (Chris Helmsworth) has been fighting to bring peace to the nine realms. When Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) is pulled into the conflict between Asgard and The Dark Elves, led by Malekeith (Christopher Eccleston), Thor must choose between his destiny and the woman he loves.  In his desperation, he must turn to Loki (Tom Hiddleston) for help.

Despite what some reviewers have said, this movie is so good. Its just about 2 hours long, but it doesn’t feel 2 hours long.   While Thor is the title character, Hiddleston is dynamic and unpredictable as Loki.

My only complaint is that the Jane Foster is, except for a few scenes, relegated to the traditional love interest/damsel in distress. The only scenes with strong female characters are not as numerous as I would like.  But overall, this movie is excellent and highly recommended.

And don’t leave right after the credits. There is some fun stuff afterwards.

 

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The Oscar Goes To….. 12 Years A Slave

If I were a betting woman, I would say that 12 Years A Slave will  not be at a loss for nominations and awards come  award season.

It is a brilliant piece of film making that brings the crime of slavery to life in such a way that is as real and raw as if the viewer lived that life.

Based on the book of the same name written in 1853, the movie tells the story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is a free black man living with his family in Saratoga, NY in 1841.  Under the guise of a business trip, he travels with two men to Washington DC who drug him, kidnap him and sell him into slavery.

His first master, Ford (Benedict Cumberbatch) is as sympathetic as he can be.  But his next master, Edwin Epps (Michael Fassbender) is a cruel man with a jealous wife (Sarah Paulson) who is obsessed and infatuated with a fellow slave, Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o).

With the arrival of Bass (Brad Pitt) Solomon sees what might be his way out of slavery.

This movie, despite being just over 2 hours, is incredible. Most American adults and children over the age of about 10 have been taught about African-American slavery.  It’s one thing to learn about it in a history book, but it is another thing to watch the brutal and violent honesty of the subject on screen.

I predict nominations, if not for the movie in general for Fassbender and Ejiofor.

 

 

 

 

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A Romeo And Juliet Review- This Rose Does Not Smell As Sweet

I heard once that when writing a script, whether is for stage or screen, the single key to the project’s success or failure success or failure is the script.

William Shakespeare, in all of the years that he wrote and with all of the plays he wrote, never wrote a bad play.  Romeo and Juliet is one of his most famous works.  It has been adapted countless times over the years and has been a staple of an English teachers curriculum for generations.

Anyone who had read my blog knows that Downton Abbey is one of my favorite television. As far as  I am concerned, Julian Fellows can do no wrong as a  TV writer (though some of the story lines in season 2 are a bit questionable, which is another topic for another time).  That being said, and please pardon my French, Julian Fellows, what the f*ck did you do to Romeo and Juliet?

I cannot blame the cast. Romeo (Douglas Booth) and Juliet (Hailee Steinfeld) are both age appropriate and have reasonable chemistry, in addition to having the proper amount of romantic teenage angst.  Ed Westwick, as Tybalt plays his part very well.  Juliet’s parents, Lord Capulet (Damien Lewis) and Lady Capulet (Natascha  McElhone) are well played, along with the rest of the cast.

The problem, itself, is in the screen play. Some scenes are missing and some have been added.  The fact that it was filmed on location in Verona does provide a sense of reality.  It was a valiant effort on the part of the filmmakers, but unfortunately, the movie fell short of my expectations.

The next time I want to see Romeo and Juliet, I will either watch the 1968 movie or the 1996 movie.

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Don Jon Review- There Is A First For Everything

Tonight, I saw the writing and directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s film, Don Jon.

Jon (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a twenty something Italian male from New Jersey who is fixated on the external images of himself and his world. While he has no problem finding female companions, he prefers pornography over the real thing.

He meets Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) at a club and they start a relationship.  But Jon is still addicted to porn, despite his promise to Barbara to stop.  She also encourages him to attend night school where he meets Esther (Julianne Moore).

Included in the cast of characters are Jon’s friends, Bobby (Rob Brown) and Danny (Jeremy Luke) and his family.  His parents,  Jon Sr, (Tony Danza) and Angela (Glenne Headley) and his sister Monica (Brie Larson).

There is a first for everything. While the lead character is certainly compelling, it is a very stereotypical view of Italians and more specifically, those of Italian descent who live in New Jersey. To paraphrase another reviewer, the character is almost out of Jersey Shore.

It an admirable first film for Gordon-Levitt, as a writer and director.  But it not the best film I have seen this year and I hope he will take both the good and the bad from this film and apply those experiences to future films.

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The Butler- Worth Every Moment and Every Award

Today I saw the new Lee Daniels movie, The Butler.

The Butler is story of Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker), a man who was born and raised in the cotton field of Georgia and worked for three decades as a White House Butler. His wife, Gloria (Oprah Winfrey) tries to support her often working husband while raising their sons Louis (David Oyelowo) and Charlie.

Against the backdrop of the Civil rights movements and Cecil’s disagreement with his oldest son, Cecil works for eight Presidents starting with Dwight Eisenhower (Robin Williams) and ending with Ronald Reagan (Alan Rickman).

This movie clocks in at 2 hours and 12 minutes. In most cases, I dislike movies that go over 2 hours, but in this case, it was well worth it.

I foresee that this movie will gain both nominations and awards come award season, especially Whitaker, Winfrey and Oyelowo.

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