Read My Older Blog Posts here

Visit my previous Blog "Movies and More: Positively Personal Reviews" for my earlier (pre-May 2011) reviews and ramblings.

Friday, December 30, 2011


Jamie Bell is "Tintin,"  intrepid young (teenage?) reporter  (excuse me, he calls himself a "journalist"),  accompanied by his intrepid dog "Snowy," solves crimes and writes about such escapades.  Steven Spielberg is the intrepid Director (and one of the Producers) of this intrepid adventure.   (Me motto is, find a word I like, and use it, me hardy, aargh.)  That was a Clue:  the story has to do with Pirate Ships and the not one, not two, but THREE !  model duplicates of "The Unicorn." Hidden in one (or all?) of the models is a secred coded message, of course.  I liked this film, but as you know, I don't like lots of noise, and it was, really, really over the top in decibels, including cannons on the high seas.   Last of the "Haddocks"  (not the fish, the seafarng men of that name) Andy Serkis is "Captain Haddock."   This movie was made using the special technology of starting with live actors, and then superimposing computerized animation over them.  Actually, I like the result.   I also liked the dog.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


As seen through the eyes of Colin Clark, the 23 year old writer portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, "Marilyn" (Monroe, of course, who else is known by this first name only except this world famous star?)  perfectly portrayed by Michelle Williams.  With a fantastic cast, including Kenneth Branagh who was magnificent (I have to add brilliant!) as Sir Laurence Olivier, and the inimitable Judi Dench every inch Dame Sybil Throrndike, and one of my favorite actors, Derek Jacobi and other excellent performers you will recognize, I was delightfully surprised at how much I enjoyed this film. Lots!  Michelle Williams was spot-on as Marilyn Monroe-- not a cariature, but a living breathing, actually likable ( and certainly lovable by men!) human being.   Directed by Simon Curtis.  Congratulations to all.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Yes, I saw this Woody Allen triumph for the second time the other day, and I enjoyed it possibly even more this time!   Knowing what was coming, I could appreciate the details of each moment.   Thought I should let you know, and encourage you to do the same!


The irresistable and marvelous (as always), Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law reprise their roles as "Sherlock" and his friend and partner in crime-solving, "Dr. Watson," in this somewhat complicated plot, sprinkled with lots of fisticuffs, which I'm not fond of - (or,  "of which I'm not fond" -- for those who expect  acceptable grammar herein ).  Directed once again by Guy Ritchie, the "...Game of Shadows" is bound to delight Holmes fans.  (When I saw it, the audience applauded at the end.  Oh, and do stay and watch the final credits roll, nicely done!)  Stephen Fry as Sherlock's brother, "Mycroft Holmes" has a few scenes, one of which is totally, hysterically, straightfaced memorable! Rachel McAdams is "Irene Adler."  Jared Harris is the evil "Professor James Moriarity" (hiss-boo).   'Nuff said.  Go see it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Of course you know it's based on the John le Carre novel of the same name.  The part of the British spy-master of MI6 (known as the "Circus"), our hero, "George Smiley," is inhabited (as we professionals, say), by Gary Oldman. I didn't recognize the names of any of the other excellent actors (and they're all excellent). Of course I did recognize Colin Firth  (Who can forget him after "The King's Speech." ??)   I was unable to hear a lot of the dialogue (yes, I know, I definitely need a hearing aid) but nevertheless I was fascinated with the film, so it must have been marvelous!  Obviously a lot of credit for the success of the film must go to the Director, Tomas Alfredson. The story is about trying to unmask the "mole" in the upper echelons of MI6. A double agent?   (Saw this one Wednesday the 14th December)


Ah,  Young Love!   Actually, because of the marvelous performances by Felicity Jones as "Anna" and Anton Yelchin as "Jacob," under the expert inventive Direction  of Drake Doremus, I found myself caring about the characters and wanting to know how they would overcome the obstacles (her expired student visa, she's from England, he's an American) to their romance.  Wonderful photography.  The love scenes were sweetly beautifully artistic without having to be graphic.   Only near the end of the film, after some plot changes, I have to admit I was getting weary, and started to get bored, and then, fortunately, it was over.  I guess the film is supposed to be a tribute to "true love" -- the ideal idea of "soul-mates that cannot be denied.".  It shows some of the realistic pitfalls to long distance affairs.   Anyway, I especially appreciated Alex Kingston and Oliver Muirhend who play "Anna's" lovely British parents.  It was wonderful for a change to see parents portrayed as nice people!


The old Muppet theater in Hollywood is in ruins, and the apathetic Tour Guide, AlanArkin, grudgingly shows visitors around .  However, "Gary" -
played by Jason Segel - who also shares writing credits; and Amy Adams, perfectly cast as his fiancee, "Mary" (as usual the quintessential sweet young thing),  visiting from Smalltown USA accompanied by "Gary's" brother "Walter"(yes, they have grown up together, and seemingly never noticed until now that "Walter" is really not a person!) decide to try and find where the Muppets are these days. "Miss Piggy" has become a fashion editor at Vogue (of course!), but the others have fallen upon much harder times.  Even "Kermit" (our  hero) needs some rescueing.  But with the help and encouragement of the three visitors, "Kermit" decides to round them all up. He finds the downtrodden old gang and nearly utters those immortal words ( with due respect to Mickey Rooney's classic line, "Hey kids, let's put on a show.")  There are at least 10 cameo appearances of famous faces you will recognize, along with roles by Jack Black and Chris Cooper who are important to the plot.  Yes, there is a plot, more than I've included here (mainly the need to raise a lot of money to save the old theater) along with singing and dancing --  I have to say, I found, the group dancing in Smalltown, near the beginning of the show really annoying, but overall, bottom line,  I had fun.    (Note: I saw it on Dec. 7th, over a week ago.)

Saturday, December 3, 2011


If you're going to see this in 3D (which is its main, and probably only,  real selling point), be sure to get to the theater early enough to sit about half way up, middle of the row, so  you are looking directly at the screen.   Alas, I was unable to take this excellent advice (courtesy of Guruka Singh) and found myself as a latecomer, forced to sit quite close to the screen.  So, already, I've got a headache.   Granted, I suppose, the camera work by the renowned Director, Martin Scorsese, seemed as if it were quite excellent (hard for me to really tell), with lots of winding staircase scenes and running through the streets of London, and peeking out through the huge clock, inside of which is Hugo's bed, his home, and where he daily winds the clock to keep it running.  My favorite actors in this are: handsome Sacha Baron Cohen who plays the "Station Inspector" from whom Hugo is always running (in order not to be caught and sent to an orphanage) and the always superb Ben Kingley as "Georges Melies" the famous 'inventor' of motion pictures.  There's also a minor plot device in which Emily Mortimer (another excellent actor) is the flower girl, "Lisette" for whom the "Station Inspector" has a thing.  Oh, and yes, there's another small romance brewing between a much older couple which seems hopeless because the lady's dog keeps biting the would-be suitor.   If only the lead ("Hugo" - in case you've forgotten) had more than one rather boring expression throughout the picture.  Sorry, Asa Butterfield, it's probably not your fault; the Director was probably much too busy workiing with the 3D phenomenon (phooey, I say!)   Chloe Grace Moretz, is a charming young actor. As "Isabelle," she tries to help "Hugo."  Meanwhile, back to the story, which unfolds so slowly I wish I'd gotten the large size popcorn, so I'd have something substantial on which to gnash my teeth:   Hugo's father, now deceased (well played by Jude Law) only shows up briefly to establish that he was working in a museum (?) where he found an old broken Robot (Automaton), which he is trying to restore. He has left Hugo with a book listing parts needed, which Hugo steals (and gets caught stealing by the shop owner) and loses the book.   Anyway,  movie buffs and historians may find the history (actually interesting, and kind of fun)  of how movies were first "discovered" and created by Melies, worth the effort to sit through "HUGO."   This review is perhaps  unfairly negative, due to  the factors first mentioned.  Mea Culpa

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


If you love movies, you'll love this one! It's about the transition from the era of Silent Films into the talkies. It is funny, and tragic, and fascinating! (Did I mention funny ?) The lead actor is fantastic, Jean Dujardin, playing "George Valentin" -- the silent film star who just couldn't be better as such! (The ultimate "ham" - not on rye, though he does drink a lot.)  Pert, pretty, and definitely peppy, not in name only, is Berenice Bejo, perfectly playing "Peppy Miller," who starts as an extra in silents, and when sound kicks in, becomes becomes a big star.  She talks, she dances, she falls for "George" - even though she is much  younger.  "The Artist" is an example of truly great film making.  Congratulations to the casting director for giving John Goodman an opportunity to show his acting chops (as well as his jowels) silently! And there's also the always excellent James Cromwell as "Clifton," playing "Valentin's" loyal chauffeur.   Unfortunately I couldn't catch the name of the terriffic dog who has a pivotal role in the story.  Don't miss this film, expertly directed by Michael Hazanavicius.!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

"Puss In Boots"

Always charming and appealing, Antonio Banderas inhabits his "Boots" (except when the amazing and seductive "Kitty," voiced by  Salma Hayek, steals them briefly -- just because she can!) Quite a drama, with sword fights, daring rescues, betrayal, redemption, and romance! (Plus more!) Exceptionally excellent animation, perfect casting (including Zach Galifianakis as "Dumpty,"  Billy Bob Thornton as "Jack,"  and Constance Marie as "Imelda."  The story fills in the early years of "Puss" (before he meets "Shrek") and how he and "Dumpty"  (as in "Humpty") became brothers.  The cats' expressions are priceless. Chris Miller is given credit as Director -- but really, these cats surely seemed to be alive on their own.-  They knew what they were doing, and how to do it!  (Wait till you see the dancing!   I really loved this movie.  Great fun.  (and I did NOT see it in 3D-- no need) Not just for kids.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

J. Edgar

Directed by Clint Eastwood (who also supplied the music!) and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, this biopic may not be what you expected, but it certainly held my attention and I found the history it included quite fascinating.   I can remember, for instance, the Lindbergh kidnapping.  As for J. Edgar's personal life, well, he was obviously a tortured soul, under the domain of his  (I need an adjective here, but domineering is the only one I can think of) mother, whom he adored, played by the inimitable Judi Dench.  This film co-starring handsome young Armie Hammer as his "constant companion"  shows Hoover's  determined, and certainly sincere  (although obsessively fanatic) dedication to preventing crime and radical, communistic influences in America,  his avowed 'mission."    A power-hungry man, conflicted in his personal life, trusting hardly anyone, J. Edgar Hoover also wanted to be recognized and revered.   Flashbacks are not my favorite thing, but I guess they were necessary to show what shaped the career and life of this controversial head of the FBI.  Noteworthy also was the performance of his faithful private secretary, well played by Naomi Watts, who remained loyal to him, no matter what.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


George Clooney just keeps getting better and better, as if that were possible!  In this drama, he plays "Matt King" - up until now --- mostly absent -- husband and father of two young girls. Preoccupied with business (very successful) interests, he comes home when his wife is severely injured in a boating accident. Masterfully directed by Alexander Payne, the story takes place in Hawaii and doesn't fall into the usual cliche of surfing, etc.  There's history here, and superb performances, especially by 20 year old Shailene Woodley who plays "Alexandra" the older (seventeen) daughter. Deeply moving, full of heart (and when the heart is full, it can overflow into tears),this is a film worth seeing.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


 I did not see these two on the same day! Just for fun, go see "Tower Heist"  starring Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck, and Eddie Murphy who work for the owner of the impeccable, luxury Tower hotel/residence. (Alan Alda, no more "nice guy,"  plays against type as the multi-billionaire , who has swindled his employees -- and a bunch of other folks -- who invested with him, out of all their money).  This film is clever, funny, entertaining, and well done in every department.  The employee/victims of the boss's greed decide to steal back their money they believe is hidden in his Penthouse dwelling. Change of pace:  Going from the ridiculous to the sublime"Pianomania" -- a brilliant, fascinating documentary showing the work of Stefan Knupfe, who is a genius at tuning pianos to suit the needs of the various (famous) artists and the various concert halls where they play.  I thought it might be boring, but on the contrary, it was fabulous!  With outstanding music, photography, and an insight into the extraordinary abilities of those who can hear the subtle nuances of tone, power, clarity, resonance of various pianos under the hands of brilliant virtuosos.  This was one of the best documentaries I've ever seen!  If you've ever played the piano, or listened to  music on  the radio,  or attended a concert, you will be astounded (I certainly was) at the amount of painstaking work that goes into finding the "right" piano, (They number them!) and keeping it tuned before, during and after a performance.  You get to go inside the Steinway factory and see the amazing intricacies and details of the multitude of moving parts that comprise a Piano. Flawlessly directed by Lilian Frank and Robert Cibis.  I have to gush with exhuberance about this film!!

Monday, November 7, 2011


Did W. Shakespeare write all the plays, poems, etc. attributed to  him?  This question has been asked ever since I can remember.  In "Anonymous," once again that controversy is presented  against the background of Elizabethan England, with the always fine actor, Vanessa Redgrave portraying the elderly Queen herself.  The main credits list her, David Thewlis and Rhys Ifans.  But the most outstanding, memorable performance, and the scene I actually enjoyed the most, was the "Prologue," impeccably pronounced in stentorian syllables (no subtitles required!) by the inimitable Derek Jacobi. Excellent!   His turn was worth the price of admission.  The rest of the film was confusing. Too many characters with too many sub-plots (love affair of Queen Liz and Essex? Illegitimate offspring (or not?)   I can't fault the acting, nor the photography, nor the costumes, all of which seemed fine, but in general, I didn't think it was a very good movie.  But I didn't mind sitting through it.  Whereas, when I went to see "Footloose" a few days later (silly me);  I almost walked out.  It was obviously made for an audience of mostly male,  rebellious teenagers, which I am not. Yes, there were a couple of dance scenes worth watching, but the frantic group stomping around scenes were too wild for me.  And the music, if you can call it that, was way too many decibels noisy! A remake of the story  from bygone days was unfortunately just outdated.  Poor Dennis Quaid cannot be faulted for the good job he did, valiantly portraying the Minister (in the town that had outlawed dancing)  father of Julianne Hough (one of the rebellious dancers). She was really worth watching. The other excellent main dancer, was Kenny Wormald. 

Friday, October 28, 2011


Reluctantly I went to see this story of a 27 year old young man ("Adam" played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) diagnosed with Cancer, and his battle to overcome it. I'm not a great fan of movies that include, or focus on disease and show hospitals, but this movie came so highly recommended, that I took a chance, and I'm glad I did.  It was truly excellent.  Brilliantly Directed by Jonathan Levine, written by Will Reiser, all component parts meshed beautifully to create this marvelous film. Acting honors to the entire cast, headed by Gordon-Levitt, whose performance is superb,  (Oscar?) Seth Rogan does a terriffic job playing his best friend (perhaps the best role of his career - so far.)   Anna Kendrick  in a delightful turn as a young (only 24!) psychologist.  And though she doesn't have many scenes, the movie is enhanced by the wonderful presence of Anjelica Huston who plays "Adam's" mother. Yes, it's good for a few tears, but also a lot of smiles.  Well worth your consideration (as we say in the biz.)

Monday, October 24, 2011


Ryan Gosling was great in "Ides of March" yet in "Drive" he possibly surpasses his excellence playing a very different type of role. As a stunt driver for the movies by day, and a "pick up" (waiting at a specified location, for no more than five minutes) driver for hire by criminals at night, willing to pay the price,  Gosling's  performance is simply marvelous.  Amazing car chases and stunts (that I usually don't like) were fascinating. The photography was superb, closeups of his (handsome/photogenic) face, which barely seemed to move, conveyed the exact thought/emotion intended.  This was probably the bloodiest, most violent films I've ever seen, with vicious hands-on attacks so brutal that I had to close my eyes.  Dare I admit I loved this film?  Well, I did.  I also appreciated the acting skill of Alan Arkin, another fine member of the cast.  Carrie Mulligan, playing a neighbor of Gosling's character, supplied a unique love interest with an unexpected sub-plot.  Be prepared to cover your eyes at times-- and enjoy.

Saturday, October 22, 2011


It's always wise to go in with low expectations in order to avoid disappointment. So I did.  Because this film had received luke-warm reviews, I wasn't anticipating anything more than what it was: basically,  to coin a very lame pun,  "for the birds."   Yes,  "The Big Year" was mediocre, even with Jack Black, Steve Martin, and Owen Wilson as main actors. (Brian Dennehey plays Black's father.) Dad  has no interest in birds, and thinks it's a silly waste of time.) The story has to do with the  competition among those who go "birding"  (not, what I, in my ignorance, had always called "bird watching") to establish who can see (and usually photograph) the largest number of different kinds of birds within one calendar year ("The Big Year").    Not all Birders are out to do a Big Year, some just go out anyway.  But if they are trying for a Big Year, well, it includes driving, flying, sailing all over the world to places where the birds are likely to be found!  That means following weather reports, and rumors -- and unfortunately, some mis-direction from some competitors.    Oh, well,  I had my popcorn and a comforttable seat in a nice theater. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


George Clooney has my vote anytime! He and Ryan Gosling, who plays his campaign manager, head up an excellent cast including Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Marisa Tomei.  The plot reveals (and revels in!) the seamy side of politics. (That politics has a seamy side is no surprise, but nevertheless, this "expose" has some surprising twists.)  Running for office is not for sissies, and what happens behind closed doors doesn't always stay behind closed doors.  The story is set during an Ohio Presidential Primary, where all kinds of stuff is going on, such as betrayal, loyalty, friendship, secrets, infidelity (as distinct from "High Fidelity"). This one isn't about baseball, but it covers all the bases needed to make it a winner!  I was particularly impressed with Ryan Gosling's performance. (FYI : Clooney Directed, and also had a hand in bothWriting and Producing.)


If you are a baseball fan, as most people are, you will be ecstatic over this movie!  I know nothing about baseball, and I was never interested in it, yet I loved this film!  Brad Pitt was outstanding, and I wouldn't be surprised if he (and/or the film) get to stand up when Oscar time comes around.   Phillip Seymour Hoffman (whom I barely recognized) also turns in his usual  perfect performance. Based on true events in  baseball history, the story reveals the behind the scenes economic realities that pull the strings that move/trade  players from one ball club to another, or retire them.   Quite a revelation, and brilliantly portrayed.   Especially noteworthy is the work of Jonah Hill, playing the mathematical wizard who computes what (which combination of players) the team should have for success. Apparently Billy Beane is the name of the real life ball player that Brad Pitt plays.   I don't get the constant spitting, that seems to be required by the game, but then, that's just me.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011


So, what if possibly (probably?) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid didn't die in 1908 as legend had us believing, but instead escaped to Bolivia, and lived there incognito, until about 1927 when this story takes place, well, you have the makings of film with lots and lots of scenery, and lots and lots and lots more of horses galloping (with and without riders), across the endless bleak scenery -- that some folks find beautiful.   I'm not one of them. Nor am I a fan of frequent flashbacks providing (ostensibly providing) plot background.    Sam Shepard plays the aged Cassidy, going by the name of "James Blackthorn" in a small Bolivian village.  He has a local love interest, there's the obligatory "mystery" of money missing from a mine robbery, and a sort of a "buddy" in the wilderness sub-plot.  Eduardo Moriego (really handsome guy) and Shepard take turns saving each other's lives, or chasing and shooting at each other, across the salt flats. Horses die, people die.  Critics liked this film.  Sorry, I was disappointedI found it boring, despite a few scattered scenes of interest (including conversation).  Not that I haven't enjoyed westerns in previous years.    This just wasn't one that I liked. (John Wayne, I miss you. Steeve McQueen, I miss you...)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

"Ides of March"

Before I read some "professional critics" criticism of this film,  I was about to gush all over about it --- because I loved it!   But, in order not to be considered too much of a pushover, I figured I'd have to qualify my enthusiasm by saying that it may not have been magnificent, but I since I wasn't looking for flaws,  I simply enjoyed it! For me, it was a treat just to watch the superb cast - headlined by George Clooney (who doesn't love George?) and Ryan Gosling (exceptionally excellent !) with equally fine performances by Philip Seymour Hoffman (who is always wonderful) and Paul Giamatti. Several other recognizable actors filled out the first rate ensemble cast, telling the sordid (and probably fairly accurate) story of nasty behind the scenes  political campaign strategies. I've never liked politics, so I was not disillusioned by what were probably all too true-to-life goings on.   (Directed by Clooney, in case  you're wondering, and he also participated in writing the screenplay.)  

Monday, September 26, 2011

"Bobby Fischer Against the World"

Director, Liz Garbus, has done a brilliant job of presenting not only the most important events that shaped Bobby Fischer's life, his unprecedented fame, and then his tragic deterioration, but she has enabled the viewer unusual insight into the complexity that characterize the workings of the brain of a chess master.  Most famous, of course is Fischer's 1972 chess match in Iceland against the then World Champion Title holderSpassky, Russia's pride and joy.  Garbus researched and reviewed hundreds and hundreds of hours of existing film before selecting the sequences that comprise this excellent movie.   I was totally fascinated, though saddened by the terrible toll Fischer's genius took on his life. He began playing when he was six, winning when he was seven, and publicly noteworthy by the time was 13.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"My Afternoons with Margueritte"

(FYI: No, I didn't see two films today, I just didn't get around to writing about this one until now.)  Starring one of my all-time favorites, Gerard Depardieu,  cast as "Germain," the  unlikely park bench companion for delicate, elderly (95 year old?) "Margueritte," perfectly played by (or as they say, the role of "Margueritte" was "inhabited by")  Gisele Casadesus. That "Germain" is nearly illiterate, and "Margueritte" is highly educated sets the scene for the story of their evolving friendship. She reads aloud to him, and thus invites him into the world of sophisticated ideas captured by the written word. You've just got to love both of these special people!  (Depardieu more than ever in this film!)   It's not going to be a blockbuster, it's a sensitive, subtle, quietly charming tale of soul to soul connection -- you can call it love, if you wish. Kudos to Jean Becker, the Director, whose light touch allowed these two great actors to just be their great selves!

Higher Ground

Vera Farmiga already demonstrated  her expert acting skills in "Up In the Air," and now, in addition to starring in "Higher Ground," in her Directorial debut, she gets the best out of an  outstanding cast. Despite having read general plot themes (Christian) ahead of time, I was not prepared for the  unexpected, clever twists and turns of this film.  I really, really liked it!  It was different and original. Joshua Leonard plays "Ethan,"  the sincerely born-again preacher husband to Vera Farmiga's "Corinne," and Dagmira Dominczyk is her sister "Annika." And, though he doesn't appear in many scenes of the film,  I loved Sean Mahon in the role of "Corinne's" mailman.   I look forward to anything and everything that Farmiga does in the future!   Terriffic talent! 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


French film (subtitles, of course), directed by Mona Achache who obviously brought out the best in a superb cast starring a remarkable young actress, Garance Le Guillermic, who plays "Paloma," an 11 year old girl who, using an old camcorder is making a film of what she terms the "Goldfish bowl," hopeless, useless lives of her rich family and the people she sees around her. Her depressing view of life is transformed by her unexpected discovery of the secret of the concierge (janitor!) in her building  "Renee Michel" played by the excellent Josiane Belasco), and an unlikely but marvelous friendship she develops with the charming, debonair Togo Igawa perfectly playing "Kakuro Ozu," a new neighbor in the building.  Only after seeing the film will you appreciate the title. What a joy to see such a totally enjoyable, unique, artistic, satisfying movie! 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sarah's Key

Kristin Scott Thomas plays a journalist researching the horrors of the French (no, not German!) round- up of Jewish families in 1942.  This movie is not for the faint-hearted. It is a gut wrenching tale of the suffering and mass murders of the Jewish people that took place in France, and particularly the story of one little girl named Sarah, who, in order to save her younger brother, locks him in a closet in their apartment (so the gendarmes don't catch him and take him away), and tells him to stay there until she comes back for him. She carries the key to the closet with her throughout the story, and tries desperately to get back to Paris for him.  There is no happy ending.  The film is very well done, but the story is  terribly tragic.  If you are willing to feel miserable, in order to learn more about this shameful period in history of "Man's Inhumanity to Man, " this movie is for you.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Detective Dee and the Phantom Flame

Very Chinese, very noisy, extremely violent, confusing plot.  Subtitles help, but not enough to figure out for sure who are the good guys, and who are the bad guys.  Excellent photography, though. Lots of improbable,  if not impossible,  spectacular martial arts leaps and bounds and catches made with perhaps just one talented toe. There is an evil (is she really?) Queen, who becomes the first, and only woman Emperor of China.   A huge statue of Buddha, and of course, the famous Detective Dee, who sometimes has a beard, and sometimes hasn't. Oh, I almost forgot, the "Phantom Flame" refers to the mystery DD is hired to solve: why several people catch fire from the inside out and within seconds are reduced to ashes.  Not a pretty sight.  I found the film actually rather tedious after a while, but then, that's me.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Directed by Errol Morris, this is the true story (at least Joyce McKenney's version of truth) of what she calls her "special romance" with Kirk Anderson, a devout Mormon whom she rescued (or kidnapped?) in England and had consensual sex (or forced it upon him?) for three days.  She spent time in jail and became quite a celebrity - which she no doubt enjoyed (though she claims not). A former beauty queen with an IQ of 168 (so she says), her obsession with Kirk made tabloid headlines as did revelations of her colorful past as well as some adorable puppies, the product of a successful cloning process she paid for later in life.  She is deftly interviewed by Morris, and talks nearly non-stop thoughout this fascinating, expertly crafted documentary(showing copies of newspaper articles, and using some animated illustrations apppropriate to some of events in her story) .  She spews out a powerful denunciation of  Mormon beliefs and practices, (She calls it a 'cult,' and claims Kirk was brainwashed by them.) What really happened? Is she lying? or not? Deluded? You decide. Anyway, there isn't a boring minute in this compelling film. (And, of course, she's writing a book about her undying love for Kirk.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness

Remember the charming film, "Fiddler on the Roof?" Well, "Tevya the Milkman" was a character created originally by a great Jewish author and humorist, using the pen name, Sholem Aleichem.  He became famously acclaimed for the wit and wisdom of the tales he spun, bringing laughter to the lives of milliions, most of whom were not living in happy circumstances, to say the least.  This documentary of his life is brilliantly put together by Writer, Director, and Producer (!) Joseph Dorman. Narrated by Alan Rosenberg with Peter Riegert voicing "Tevya,"  This movie presents a moving, unforgettable  history of a people who were cruelly slaughtered, not just in Nazi Germany, but in Russia and other countries. Discriminated against, persecuted, the Jewish people found much solace in Sholem Aleichem's stories (which he wrote in Yiddish, the common language of the masses, rather than the scholarly Hebrew). An excellent film that is insightful and meaningful.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Help

This wonderful film is based on the excellent Best Seller, deftly directed by Tate Taylor with a fine cast, starring Emma Stone as "Skeeter," college grad who aspires to be a novelist. Co-starring Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis,  "Skeeter" comes up with the revolutionary idea of  writing about the real experiences of "colored help" serving their white employers, lovingly raising their white babies, etc.  It's not easy to convince them to tell their stories to her, considering how dangerous it could be for them (in the '50s in Mississippi !)  however, when they finally agree, the result, the publication of her book, comes at the perfect time in U.S. history, when Civil Rights are coming to the forefront.  Of course, "Skeeter" publishes anonomously. (Watch  for the always splendid Allison Janay and Sissy Spacek.)  As usual in my experience,  books are able to be richer in detail than films, but this movie is an  impactful drama yet includes plenty of laughs.
 "The Help"  ----  Read it, or see it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Winnie the Pooh

Disney Studios at its best. A delightful movie for very young children, using all the well loved characters from the original book by A.A. Millne.  (Sp?)   (Why did I go?  Because my cleaning lady came on a different day than usual, so I needed to get out of the house for a couple of hours, and I'd already seen everthing else that I was willing to sit through!)  I don't recommend it for adults, unless you want to study the simple, effective artistry of the non-digital drawings.  It's a sweet story, and it's ideal for  little ones enjoyment. (Older kids and teens probably won't care for it.) 

Crazy, Stupid, Love

It wasn't bad, but it wasn't as good as I had hoped, with such a good cast.  Julienne Moore, Steve Carell, and Ryan Gosling the main players.  Most believable was the young (13 year old boy) who is hopelessly in love with his, and his sister's 17 year old baby sitter.   Basically it's about the mating-game, with people falling in love with the wrong people, and the pain they go through when it doesn't work out.   Carell seems to be trying to get away from comedy into romantic drama --not too successfully in my opinion.  There were actually some very funny scenes, but not enough of them.  Nuff said. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Guard

Remember "In Bruges" ? Well here's the incorrigable Brendan Gleeson again. This time he plays "Sgt. Gerry Boyle," small town very Irish cop, paired with Don Cheadle, playing an FBI agent. This unlikely "team" is dealing with 1/2 billion dollars worth of drugs being loaded onto a ship, a missing, presumed dead young policeman, three evil drug traffickers, police corruption, charming prostitues, and Boyle's surprisingly sweet relationship with his dying mother in the mix.  In the sold-out theater I was in today, the audience laughed almost non-stop and I did my share (when I could understand the Irish accents).  As the FBI agent remarks to Boyle, "You're either very stupid, or very smart."  John Michael McDonagh both wrote and directed this quirky, fun, fast moving film.


Kevin James loves the animals in his care, and when they break their "code of silence" in order to help him win the girl he wants to marry, you get wonderful actors voicing the lions, the bears, the giraffe, etc. etc.  I don't know what's the matter with the critics who mostly gave "The Zookeeper" very low marks, whereas I found it entertaining and quite enjoyable.  OK, it's not a great, Oscar contender, but other than a few lame lapses, overall, it was fun and the dialogue was quite clever.  I especially loved the Orangatang  ("Big Gorilla" would have been easier to spell) who has been mistreated by another zookeeper, but is finally won over by Kevin James and they become "best friends." If you are unsophisticated enough to simply appreciate talking animals, and the power of kindness, this is worth seeing. Directed by Frank Coraci.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Captaiin America

Based on the Marvel Comic Book hero, "Captain America," the movie does a good job of capturing the appropriate look and presentation for those who are comic book fans. Depending upon your age and gender, you may find it great fun and enjoyable, or not. The story takes place during World War II, when patriotic flag waving themes were all the rage. If you're old enough to recall the Charles Atlas ads on the back page of many comic books promising that a 95 pound weakling (the kid who gets sand kicked in his face at the beach, and gets beaten up regularly by every bully in the neighborhood) can become a "muscle man," then you'll appreciate how our hero in this film, through a break-through scientific experiment, turns into the symbol of American's fighting spirit, and finally a "real" Army hero.  Chorus lines of beautiful dancing  girls in skimpy red-white and blue outfits  surround the costumed "Captain America."  But his real ambition is to get into the war, and fight for his country. And so he does.  The good guys are really good, and the bad guys are really evil, think Nazis. (Please rate it yourself. Here's why:  I've realized that my ratings are affected by the state of my digestion, level of fatique, and whether I see a film alone, or with other people, or for a second time.)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Second Viewing

Seeing "Another Earth" for the second time (went with friends who hadn't seen it yet), gave me a much less enthusiastic opinion from my previous review!  I realized that despite some clever places, most of the suspense was created by almost continuous eerie background music, and weird, off kilter camera angles.  Yes, the acting was great, but all in all, I felt I'd been bamboozled (fooled or cheated) the first time I saw it.  So,  this time, I'm giving it just TWO STARS.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Trip

(FYI:  Though I'm posting two reviews today, I did not see both films the same day! - just haven't had time till now.)    Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are well known British comedians.  This film is a compilation of BBC Miniseries (Directed by Michael Winterbottom)  of their hilarious (at least I thought so!) attempts to out-do each other with impersonations - notably Michael Caine and Sean Connery (and 007's enemies.)  The two marvelous masters of improv set off together, in this story, to gather material that Steve needs to write an article for the Obsever describing the culinary arts of obscure, but really fancy, expensive restaurants in Northern England.  The story says that because Steve's girlfriend couldn't join him, he asked Rob to go on "The Trip."  And it is, indeed, a trip and a half!   I laughed a lot.
 If you like this "Dinner With Andre" (on acid) type of "conversation," you will too!FOUR STARS

Another Earth

Brit Marling, the star, shares writing and producing credits with the director, Mike Cahill (with five other producers involved), all to create a marvelous suspenseful, unexpected story. Brit and William Mapother, who plays "John Burroughs," a composer,  are both excellent.  Best to see this film without any expectations, and enjoy the surprises that it offers!  FOUR STARS 

Friday, July 22, 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows

All the great things you've heard about this film are true!  I wish I had read the books more recently, but nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie a  lot.  I don't understand why they needed to show it in 3D -- fortunately I saw it in the regular 2D format, and it was definitely exciting enough! All the young actors who have been with the series since the beginning have matured and honed their acting skills beautifully.  Of course, Daniel Craig has already gone on to further his career -on stage as well.  Sorry this will be the last of the inspired stories of wizardry and the Hogwarts (is it s or z?) school that we poor deprived muggles will be able to see.  Thank you, J.D. Rowlings, for a great ride!  FOUR STARS

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Directed, or I should say "mis-directed" by Gil Cates Jr. who shared writing dis-credits with Kent Sublette, the film was my unlucky choice! Despite interesting previews (which included one scene that wasn't even in the final cut), other than Jeffrey Tambor (playing the police inspector) and Ann-Margaret (as the Mother of "Ben," played by Colin Hanks, nobody else was outstanding. Ari Graynor does seem believable as the girl "Lucy" who marries "Ben" for his money, after he wins the Lottery.  (And she eventually goes off the deep end also.) Slight problem is that "Ben" has killed several women.  A bizarre premise without any real foundation, peopled with obviously deranged characters (including Ann-Margaret as "mama" who seems, at best,  rather strange). I went primarily to see Tom Hanks son.  Perhaps in a better story, he might fare better.  I felt cheated.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Several years ago I read the book on which this disappointing (to say the least) film was based.  The book was wonderful.  I disliked the movie intensely!  However,  I saw it with a friend, who had not read the book, and she liked the movie a lot!   The plot revolves around the friendship established between two very young girls who are ceremoniously made "lautong" or "soul sisters." This relationship is is permanent one, supposed to continue through generations. In the film, which jumps around from the 19th Century to contemporary times (including two different years -- just to add to the confusion) and shows Snow Flower and Lily, the protagonists, as children (the only good part of the film) and as adults. (The movie script, unfortunately added a lot of the contemporary scenes that were not in the book.)  There are long, lingering, sorrowful looks the camera seemed to love.  I did not. Over the top sentimental melodramaSoap opera stuffboring!!  Directed by Wayne Wang.

Horrible Bosses

The dialogue is not just vulgar; it is vile! The premise is clever, the acting by most of the leads is excellent, especially Kevin Spacey who plays one of the three obnoxious "Bosses." Jennifer Aniston's behaviour as the sex predator dentist boss is beyond disgusting. The three victims' desire to kill their bosses is understandableHorrible film!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Page One

Not to be confused with the 1928 Broadway comedy, "Front Page," written by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur  (later made into a 1931 film starring Pat O'Brien and Adolph Menjou, plus another version with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau), "Page One: AYear Inside the New York Times" is a fascinating documentary with exceptiionally revealing interviews with David Carr, Brian Stelter and Tim Arango among others. Directed by Andrew Rossi, "Page One" covers the inside world of reporting, editing, and the print Jouralism vs all the modern day devices that the Internet has spawned. It includes an interesting segment about the whole WikiLeaks situation - including  interviews with its founder.  It is, of course concerned about the possible demise of Newspapers from the financial crises they have been suffering, due to lack of Advertising revenues, as well as the competition presented by all the electronic sources for 'news.'  - I really appreciated this movie.  I  am still firmly attached to the Los Angeles Times delivered daily to  my front door, and books in hard copy  (despite my Kindle).   "Page One" gave me a greater understanding  of the complexity of what it takes to put together a first class Newspaper like the New York Times.  I heartily recommend it. FOUR STARS

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Monte Carlo

This one took me by surprise.  The trailer looked promising:  three teenage girls are on vacation in France, and one of them is a dead ringer for an extremely rich and famous spoiled and obnoxious heiress.  If you are a 12 years old girl, or a very young teen, you probably would like this film.  Otherwise, avoid it!   Cliche situations. Over the top caricatures of mishaps that can happen when you travel).  Unlikely romantic meetings. Dashing, handsome young men ( one from Australia). The nice sincere boy friend from Texas who follows "Emma," his one true love to reclaim her. OMG -- The usual OK photography of well known Paris sights.  A totally wacky tour bus leader goes at an absurd breakneck pace, not allowing anyone to really see anything.  Katie Cassidy plays "Emma." Leighton Meister plays "Meg." and Selena Gomez gets the role of both "Grace" from America, and the wealthy, spoiled"Cordelia." Oh, and another plot conceit is the eventual bonding of "Meg" and "Grace" who have recently become step-sisters.  The  "accidental" impersonation by "Grace" of "Cordelia" enables the three girls to live in luxury for a few days. Directed by Thomas Bezucha.  I'm too old to give this film a twinkle, much less a STAR: 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


It was a very hot day in Los Angeles, so sitting in a nearby air-conditioned theater (not a multi-plex) on the Fourth of July seemed likd a good idea, even though "Submarine" sounded like a film I would not particularly like.  --- And I was right.  It was mostly slow moving, artsy, and therefore, boring. Welsh accents didn't help the too many minutes spent in the occasionally whimsical fantasies of a fifteen year old boy, named Oliver Tate, played by Craig Roberts, who narrates this supposedly 'biopic' of his life.  His acting as well as that of Paddy Considine, who plays a New Agey lecturer and TV personality was fine.  Directed by Richard Ayoade (GOK what he had in mind), I reluctantly give "Submarine" (title does not relate to the film at all) ONE STAR for the acting.  (Well, at least the A/C was working.) Sigh.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Rejoice and Shout!

The history of Gospel music, narrated by several famous names in the genre, especially Smokey Robinson, was truly wonderful!  Interesting, informative, and entertaining, with lots of clips of former performers and performances.  I especially loved the groups with their expert a capella harmonies!   If you like Gospel music, you will love this film, as I did.  I must admit, however, that by the end, the "Shout" aspect got to be a bit much -- but not enough to detract from the overall excellence of this documentary. I was tapping my foot through a lot of it!  FOUR STARS

Larry Crowne

The main flaws in this film are the fact that Julia Roberts (playing an unhappy boozy college teacher) dialogue with her writer husband are so annoyingly boring and repetitious. And to think that Tom Hanks (always delightful to watch) co-wrote the script with Mia Vardolos (sorry about my spelling), and Directed!  Overall, however, I enjoyed the movie - especially once Roberts gets sobered/cleaned up, and Hanks joins a motorcycle gang he meets when he goes back to school (after being downsized from his managerial position at a large box factory, because he didn't go to college.  (And therefore cannot be promoted up the Corporate ladder.) The leader of the motorcycle gang is a really, really handsome dude ( who could/should be given a starring role in something soon!) and there's an appealing pretty girl in the group also.   Anyway, I know the critics panned this, but I had a good time, and that's all that matters to me!  So,  THREE STARS!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Tree of Life

This was painfully sad to start with (telegram comes, obviously son has been killed- probably in a war); muted dialogue of mourning parents; boring 'artsy' photographs of tall trees alternatiang with loud, ear splitting sound track to accompany somebody's idea of how the earth began, with shrill soprano vocalizing, and then just shrieking sounds.  (Indicating heat and explosion of creation?) By the time the first dinasaur-like creature emerged from the primal ooze (I had endured about 45 minutes) I couldn't stand it any longer and I escaped from the theater.  It is rare that I walk out on a movie.  Over the years, less than a handful. This one joins the group.  Believe it or not, the film has Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.  What were they thinking?????   Maybe ONE STAR (for photography of the trees!)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

One Lucky Elephant

Lisa Leeman, the director,  took ten years to make this wonderful documentary starring  David Balding, and his elephant, "Flora," who was not only the star of the circuses he created, but his companion and friend. "Flora" became like a daughter to him. With the best of intentions, he had adopted the orphaned Flora when she was  about two years old. As Balding became older (65), he realized he had to provide for Flora's future (as she would surely outlive him), and the film portrays his search for the proper environment for her, including  failed attempts to take her to Africa, and various Zoos.  I learned a lot about elephants - and human behavior -- from David, as well as from Carol Buckley, the owner of an Elephant Sanctuary who, again, with the best of intentions had her own ideas of what Flora needed, contrary to David's opinion. You hear from Mrs. Balding ( a lovely woman), and various elephant caregivers. The Writer, Cristina Colissimo (who shared Producer credits as well) has Balding narrating.  According to a review I read, Leeman says that David didn't really need a script, having told the story of what might be called, "A Ten Thousand Pound Love Story," so many times through the years.   (I stopped going to circuses a long time ago, because I felt the way the animals were treated, and trained, just wasn't right.  But David's way with Flora was based on love, not fear.)  Absolutely a FOUR STAR film.  (P.S.  I think Carol was wrong, and David was right. But no one asked me.)

X-Men: First Class

Probably best of the "X-Men" series (though to tell you the truth, I don't clearly remember the others), this is a pre-quel, and is definitely a "First Class" film!  Expertly directed by Matthew Vaughn, starring James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon and Jennifer Lawence among other excellent actors, I loved this movie -- and, surprise, I  even loved the fantastic special effects, seamlessly achieved!  Seeing the various characters mutate into their colorful (literally and figuratively) "real' selves was amazing.  Plus, the film includes real newsreel footage of the  then President of the USA regarding the  Cuban missile crisis. Altogether, a splendid movie, with intelligent dialogue, marvelous camera work, suspenseful plot.  Good stuff!  (Watch for a cameo performance by a favorite actor)  FOUR STARS

Friday, June 24, 2011

Movie Marathon

Three reviews for you!  1) "Kung Fu Panda 2"  Fabulous voices of Jack Black (of course, he's the hero, "Po," heading the lineup which includes Angelina Jolie, Dustin Hoffman (his wise mentor, who tells him to master himself, and Kung Fu, he needs "Inner Peace." Add Gary Oldman and Jackie Chan and others in a worthwhile story, well told, directed by Jennifer Yuh,all together, I say FOUR STARS!  Next - 2)Parts of the film, "Super 8" were terrific, the parts where the young kids, played by wonderful young actors Kyle Chandley, Elle Fanning, and Amanda Michalke,  are making an 8 Millimeter film.  That's half the movie.  But the rest, the sci-fi part with special effects that were wasted on me,  I did not enjoy. So TWO STARS.  Directed by Rob Marshall, I suggest you stay for the credits on this one. You may like it fine.  Finally, the best of the lot, 3) "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."  First rate super cast, headed of course, by the incomparable Johnny Depp, at his very best!  With Geoffrey Rush, Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz, directed by Rob Marshall.  Lots of sword play, mermaids, several plots interwoven,  just plain (actually, not "plain" -- rather "fancy" FUN!)   I say FOUR STARS, and "...a bottle of rum, me matees!

Monday, June 20, 2011


This film is the opposite of "escape to the movies."   It portrays misery, suffering, violence, religious fanatic slaughtering for 130 minutes.  I wanted to walk out, but was curious enough to stay to learn the final outcome of the searches by these twins (brother and sister) whose mother's will had left them each with an envelope to deliver. His, to be delivered to his brother (his existence up to then unknown) and hers, to her father (previously assumed to be dead.) With confusing flashbacks throughout, and taking place in an unknown country, with both French and some Arabic type of language spoken  -- even subtitles didn't make it possible to know for sure what was going on.  Oh, and they are trying to track their mother's past, and that's another snake pit -- including prison and torture.  Definitely not a fun film.  Unless you are a masochist (or a film "Critic" by profession, since many of them praised it!) I suggest you avoid this French Canadian movie.  Acting was good (they certainly could portray misery!) and photography was good.   ONE STAR 

Friday, June 17, 2011


If you love horses, and riding horses, you'll be in heaven watching this documentary about Buck Brannaman, a unique and wonderful human being who teaches people how to get the most out of their relationships with these beautiful, intelligent animals.  Even I, being a non-rider, with no personal interest in horses, found this film a wonderful experience -- and of course, developed a great admiration and appreciation for Buck, who, despite a horrible childhood turned out to be (made the decision to be!)a kind, compassionate and truly loving and lovable man. There is some great footage of Robert Redford talking about his discovery of Buck when Redford was making his movie, "The Horse Whisperer."  Directed by Cindy Meehl, and listing eight (yes, eight!)  Producers of various areas, the photography was superb. You get to see Buck's wife and daughters, as well as pictures from his childhood, when he and his older brother were featured as trick ropers. I don't remember the exact quote, but Buck's philosophy (which works beautiuflly when applied) is that problems are usually not with the horse, but with the people.  He says that the horse's behavior is a reflection of the owner's problems. "Buck" deserves FOUR STARS