Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label movies. Show all posts

Thursday, November 23, 2017


I have been anticipating the movie Coco for a very long time because the trailers looked so magical.  I wanted to take my niece and nephew (we have a tradition of seeing a movie together over the Thanksgiving break) but Sean goes to a charter school and he had classes yesterday so, even though I extremely anxious to see it, we waited for him and saw it last night.  I was really surprised that the theater was practically empty which is such a shame because this movie is an absolute treat!  All three of us loved it so much!  It is a heartwarming story about the importance of family as a twelve year old boy named Miguel travels to the Land of the Dead on Dia de Meurtos to uncover a mystery about his ancestors.  I found the story to be incredibly moving and I was reduced to a puddle of tears when Mama Coco sang "Remember Me" with Miguel near the end of the movie.  I really loved the way that death is portrayed and how the importance of remembering those who are gone is emphasized.  Such a great message!  Miguel is an endearing character and the ancestors he encounters in the Land of the Dead made me laugh out loud as did the border guards on the way in and out.  The animation is visually stunning with all of the vibrant colors in the Land of the Dead.  I loved all of the scenes involving marigold petals and it was interesting to learn that the petals are what guide the dead back to their family members.  The bridges of marigold petals took my breath away.  I also really loved the use of the beautiful papel picado as exposition at the beginning of the movie.  This movie is absolutely wonderful and both Sean and Tashena loved it just as much as I did!  This is the perfect movie to see with your family over the Thanksgiving holiday!

Note:  I had so much fun with Sean and Tashena!  I am glad that I get to spend so much time with them!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Lady Bird

Ever since the film Lady Bird got glowing reviews at TIFF I have been eagerly anticipating its release at my favorite art house theater and I finally had the chance to see it yesterday.  I thought that I would probably love it because I am a huge fan of Greta Gerwig's particular brand of humor (go here and here) and I have loved every one of Saoirse Ronan's performances since I saw her in Atonement but I was unprepared for the deep emotional connection that I had to the film.  It perfectly captures the narcissism of youth as it follows Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Ronan) throughout her senior year of high school as she struggles to assert her independence and yearns to leave her hometown and her critical mother behind.  What I loved most about this typical coming-of-age story is that two flawed people, who have an incredibly combative relationship, are finally able to realize how much they love each other.  Ronan is brilliant as is Laurie Metcalf (who plays the mother) and the scene where she drives away from the airport is completely shattering.  I also really enjoyed Lucas Hedges (who is outstanding in Manchester by the Sea) as Danny, her theatre geek boyfriend, and Beanie Feldstein as Julie, her best friend, especially in the scene where Lady Bird and Julie listen to "Crash Into Me" by the Dave Matthews Band as they commiserate over their failed romances.  Everything about this film feels so authentic because the script is incredibly well-written and the ending, especially, made me emotional because it completely mirrored my own experience of going away to college.  I laughed and cried and, when I walked out of the theater, I wanted to call my Mom and thank her for everything she has done for me (even though she always criticized my hair).  I loved this movie so much and I highly recommend it!

Sunday, November 19, 2017


A few years ago my niece recommended the book Wonder by R.J. Palacios to me but I never had the chance to read it.  I decided to pick it up again in anticipation of the movie adaptation and I read it all week during free reading time in my classes (I noticed quite a few of my students reading it, too).  When I was over at my parents' house last week, I noticed that my Mom was reading it as well so I mentioned that we would have to see the movie when she finished with it!  My Mom is a lot like my nephew in that when I hypothetically mention doing something they both interpret it to mean that the plans are set in stone!  My Mom had planned in her mind that we were going to see it on Saturday and she talked about it all morning.  My sister gave me a head's up so I decided we better go see it!  When we got to the theater the only seats available were on the very front row because every other seat was taken.  There were lots of families with elementary school age children in the audience.  Now that is usually enough to make me run for the hills but in this instance I was actually glad to see so many kids because I think bullying is such a huge problem and I hope they got the message that kids who are different can be remarkable people.  When I picked my Mom up she made sure that I grabbed some Kleenex on the way out the door and I am actually glad that she did because I cried in about four places (my Mom cried through the whole thing and ended up sharing her Kleenex with the woman sitting next to her).  I loved this movie about a boy with a facial disfigurement who is going to school for the first time so much!  I was particularly struck by the scene where the bully's parents are called in to talk to the principal about his behavior.  Unfortunately the parents' reaction is an all too common occurrence that I see in education all of the time.  Parents want to blame the victim for being too sensitive, that their student was just playing a joke and that being picked on is just a part of living in the "real world."  I was so happy to see that the bully received a punishment despite the fact that the parents were influential members of the school board!  Bullying in never okay!  Jacob Tremblay, Julia Roberts, and Owen Wilson all give great performances.  I especially loved Izabela Vidovic as Auggie's sister and she does a great job showing the impact of having a sibling with special needs and I loved seeing Daveed Diggs (the original Lafayette/Jefferson in Hamilton) as the teacher who helps the students choose kindness.  Definitely go see this movie!

Friday, November 17, 2017

Justice League

Last night I went to a Thursday preview of Justice League, one of my most anticipated films of the fall, and I loved it!  Bruce Wayne (Ben Affleck), feeling tremendous guilt over the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), begins investigating a threat known as Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds), a mythological being released from his imprisonment by the loss of hope felt throughout the world.  Steppenwolf is trying to locate three Mother Boxes (one is entrusted to the Amazons, one to the Atlanteans, and one to humans) which, when united, will destroy the world.  He and Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) begin recruiting other meta-humans to help:  Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa), Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), and Victor Stone (Ray Fisher).  After one attempt to stop Steppenwolf fails, Wayne decides to use one of the Mother Boxes to resurrect Superman stating that the team needs his leadership.  I loved so many things about this movie!  The character development is really fun for Aquaman, the Flash, and Cyborg and I look forward to their standalone movies.  Miller, especially, has a lot of fun with the role and Momoa is definitely easy on the eyes.  I also really liked the character arcs of both Bruce Wayne and Diana Prince as they grapple with their leadership roles.  The return of Superman was, perhaps, my favorite part of the movie.  I've always been a fan of the darker and grittier tone of the DCEU but I did like that this installment is much more hopeful and Superman's character is a big part of that.  The fun and rowdy crowd at my screening cheered when Superman joined the final battle.  The other aspect that I really enjoyed is that it took all of them, individuals who are loners and often viewed as misfits, to work together to defeat Steppenwolf.  Each of them, at one point in the final battle, is rescued by another.  Danny Elfman's score is a lot of fun and I loved when we got to hear some of the original Batman theme!  The only problem I had was that the visual effects, especially the scenes with Steppenwolf, looked too much like a video game.  I loved this movie despite that criticism and I think that most people will enjoy it, including die-hard DCEU fans because it is just dark and brooding enough as well as more mainstream fans because it is a lot of fun.  The crowd at my packed theater clapped and cheered well into the credits!

Note:  Stay for the mid-credits and end of credits scenes.  They are great!

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Yesterday afternoon I went to see the film Wonderstruck and let me say at the outset that it is not for everyone.  I am quite sure that many people will find it tedious and boring but I, however, found it to be a lovely and often magical meditation on the need for human connection.  The story is about two children, both deaf, who travel to New York City fifty years apart looking for a lost loved one.  In 1927, Rose (Utah native Millicent Simmonds) takes the ferry from New Jersey looking for her mother (Julianne Moore) who abandoned her to be a silent film star.  In 1977, Ben (Oakes Fegley) travels by bus from Minnesota looking for the father he has never known.  After following a series of clues they both end up at the Museum of Natural History looking for an exhibit known as the Cabinet of Curiosities.  Scenes seem very episodic and there were many times when I wondered what the narrative was leading up to.  There is a connection but it is a little bit understated and, once I knew what it was, I realized that it really didn't matter.  It is more about the process of discovery, of finding out who you are and where you belong before you can find who you are looking for.  There are some achingly beautiful scenes of Rose wandering the city with such a sense of wonder on her face (Simmonds, who is actually deaf, is wonderful) at everything she is seeing and Ben has similar scenes exploring the museum.  The added dynamic of having deaf children as the protagonists made what they were seeing all the more poignant and there are long stretches of this film where there is no dialogue so the audience is forced to focus on the visual as well.  Speaking of which, the cinematography is enchanting.  The scenes in 1927 are in black and white and have the aesthetic of an old silent film while the scenes in 1977 are suffused with a soft golden hue, almost like a Polaroid photo from that era.  This film is like its own Cabinet of Curiosities:  some people are going to love it and marvel at everything there is to see and some people are going to be bored and want to find a more exciting exhibit.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Forrest Gump

I have really enjoyed the Silver Screen Classics series this year and I honestly can't believe how fast ten weeks has gone by!  I hope that the Megaplex Theatres will continue with this series every year because it is so much fun to see classic films on the big screen where they were meant to be seen.  The final film in the series was Forrest Gump which is a film that I did not particularly enjoy when I saw it on the big screen the first time.  I know that I am in the minority with my opinion and most of my friends think I am completely pretentious.  Last night I decided to give it another chance and tried to watch it with an open mind.  It is a beautiful movie with an incredible central performance by Tom Hanks.  It is definitely one of his most affecting performances and I did get a tear in my eye when he talked to Jenny's grave about how smart their son is.  The rest of the cast, including Sally Field, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, and Mykelti Williamson, also do a great job.  The soundtrack is definitely one of the best out there, featuring incredible songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Byrds, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Mamas & The Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, and Buffalo Springfield among others.  My problem with the film is the story itself.  I am unable to suspend my disbelief enough to accept that a man with intellectual disabilities could have such an impact on the history of the U.S. through sheer dumb luck.  He most certainly did not inspire John Lennon to write the song "Imagine" (I almost walked out of the theater during that scene the first time I saw it because that just offends me on so many levels).  Forrest doesn't do anything but react to the tumult around him and I find him to be an incredibly static character.  Also, as someone who likes to question everything, I find the message to be somewhat alarming because Forrest is rewarded time and again for simply doing what he is told while Jenny, who stands up for herself and challenges the status quo, is seemingly punished at the end.  This film is just not for me and that is all I have to say about that.

Monday, November 13, 2017


The first time I saw Casablanca was when I was living with my Aunt June in Canada.  She loved classic movies and was appalled when she learned that I had reached the ripe old age of eighteen without having seen what she considered to be the greatest movie of all time.  She made me watch it forthwith (I watched a lot of classic movies with her that summer) and, of course, I loved it because it is all about sacrificing love for a higher purpose and that really appealed to my idealistic younger self.  It was interesting to have the opportunity to see it on the big screen yesterday as someone older and a little more cynical (this time I think Rick should have chosen love but I understand that his choice made him a more noble character).  Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) is a hard-drinking club owner who is only out for himself in Casablanca, a haven for European refugees desperate for exit visas to escape the Nazis during World War II.  He ably navigates the world of black marketeers, corrupt officials, and German officers until Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) walks into his club with her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid), a hero of the resistance who is in need of safe passage.  Ilsa was once Rick's lover in Paris but she abandoned him and, even though he has documents that will ensure safe passage for them, he is bitter and refuses to help.  Ilsa loves Rick but admires and respects Victor and will do anything to help him continue his work with the resistance.  Even though I knew the outcome, I still found the final scene to be filled with intrigue and suspense.  In fact, I found some of the scenes to be even more poignant the second time around.  When Ilsa sees Rick for the first time in his club, the expression on her face was even more heartbreaking to me because I knew her past with Rick and I knew the outcome.  My favorite scene is when Victor has the crowd sing the "Marseillaise" to drown out the German officers singing a drinking song.  It is so incredibly powerful and it made me understand Victor's appeal for Ilsa despite her love for Rick.  I really loved anticipating all of those famous lines, and there are a lot of them, but I think my favorite one is said by the corrupt prefect of police (Claude Rains):  "I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling going on here."  I laughed out loud!  Seeing this movie reminded me that today's actors don't have anything on the likes of Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains.  Bogart is so handsome and debonair in a dinner jacket and I was captivated by the way Rains smoked a cigarette.  Definitely try to see this brilliant movie on the big screen on Nov. 15 (go here for tickets).

Friday, November 10, 2017

Murder on the Orient Express

It seems like I have been waiting forever for Murder on the Orient Express to be released!  The wait was finally over last night because I went to an early Thursday preview with my family and boy did I love it!  I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie.  I have read every one of her mysteries multiple times and Murder on the Orient Express is a particular favorite because of the clever plot twist.  Kenneth Branagh's version is stylish and entertaining but it also adds a bit of poignancy that the other versions lack.  Hercule Poirot (Branagh) boards the Orient Express in Istanbul hoping for a few days of rest and relaxation.  However, one of the passengers, Samuel Ratchett (Johnny Depp), is stabbed to death just as the train is derailed during an avalanche.  Poirot is enlisted to solve the crime before the murderer can strike again while the train is stranded.  Everyone, it seems, is a suspect:  Ratchett's assistant Hector MacQueen (Josh Gad), Princess Dragomioff (Judi Dench) and her companion Hildegarde Schmidt (Olivia Colman), Caroline Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), the missionary Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz), Dr. Arbuthnot (Leslie Odom, Jr.) a governess named Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley),  Professor Gerhard Hardman (Willem Dafoe) Ratchett's valet Edward Masterman (Derek Jacobi), Biniamino Marquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) and the Count and Countess Andrenyi (Lucy Boynton and Sergei Polunin).  I really enjoyed the all-star cast, especially Pfeiffer who has an incredibly affecting scene and I can think of no one better to play an imperious princess than Dame Judi Dench.  They all have their moment to shine as they are interrogated one by one.  Branagh's iteration of the famous Belgian sleuth is a bit more emotional and tormented than the ones I've seen before and I actually really liked his portrayal (although his accent was a bit affected).  I also liked the claustrophobia of the sumptuous train cars juxtaposed with wide sweeping shots of the train traveling through the snow covered mountains.  Since I've read the book countless times and seen several versions, my enjoyment was not derived from trying to figure out "whodunnit" but from seeing a classic tale told in a new and surprising way.  I loved this movie and I would definitely recommend it!

Note:  The ending implied that Poirot's next case would be in Egypt.  Dare we hope that Death on the Nile will be next?

Thursday, November 9, 2017


Last night I went to the Broadway once again to see LBJ and I hate to admit it but I was a bit disappointed.   The film begins on that fateful day in November when President Kennedy (Jeffrey Donovan) is assassinated and Lyndon Johnson (Woody Harrelson) assumes the presidency.  Then the film flashes back to when Johnson was the most powerful member of the Democratic Party as Senate Majority Leader only to lose all of his power once he becomes the Vice President.  Despite a fantastic performance by Harrelson, as well as one from Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird, my biggest problem with the film is that it really isn't about Johnson.  Rather, it is about the Kennedys.  The script takes great pains to point out that Johnson was thwarted at every turn by the Kennedys, starting with losing the 1960 presidential nomination to John Kennedy then being relegated to a bit player at the White House by Bobby Kennedy (Michael Stahl-David) and finally having the first days of his presidency overshadowed by the nation's grief over President Kennedy's death.  The film ends with President Johnson giving a speech to a joint session of Congress advocating for President Kennedy's Civil Rights Act.  His one shining moment in the film is fighting for President Kennedy's legacy.  Then we see a few seconds of text on the screen outlining everything Johnson was able to accomplish during his presidency such as his Great Society legislation, Head Start, Medicare, and Medicaid, as well is his disastrous escalation of the Vietnam War.  I wish the filmmakers had focused on that.  I also felt that for being a biopic about such a bombastic character it was rather dull.  There is a lot of talking and many of the characters are difficult to distinguish from each other.  My mind definitely wandered.  The most stirring moment came during Johnson's speech when the film was practically over.   I would recommend giving this one a miss.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Yorgos Lanthimos is one of the most provocative directors currently working.  His film The Lobster definitely generated more conversations with people in line for screenings at Sundance two years ago than any other film I saw.  Honestly, I still think about it and I am certain that I will be thinking about his latest film, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, for a long time to come.  Cardiologist Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) begins spending time with Martin (Barry Keoghan), the son of one of his patients who died.  Their relationship is very undefined until Martin insinuates himself into Steven's life which makes him uncomfortable.  Soon his children fall ill with a strange paralysis.  We learn that Steven may have been responsible for the death of Martin's father and, seeking justice, Martin demands that Steven kill a member of his family or all three of them, including his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), will eventually die of their illnesses.  The narrative is deeply disturbing on so many levels and some of the images are absolutely horrifying and yet I could not look away!   Every single shot evokes such a sense of menace and the crescendo of strings at key moments adds to the general unease.  I found myself nervously laughing several times.  Farrell is absolutely brilliant, speaking the oddly stilted dialogue in a monotone voice which serves to highlight his detachment from everyone and everything (he even has his wife pretend to be under anesthesia when he has sex with her).  This makes his emotional undoing all the more powerful.  Kidman gives an incredibly intense and chilling performance as a woman who can't quite accept the fact that her perfect life is crumbling around her and Keoghan gives one of the best performances I've seen this year as a twitchy teenage psychopath.  It is definitely not for everyone (I can't remember when I've felt more uncomfortable watching a film) but it is bold and brilliant.  Whether you love it or hate it, I guarantee that you will have a strong reaction to it and, in my mind, that is what the best films are able to do!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: High Noon

High Noon, the next installment in the Silver Screen Classics series, is another film I remember watching in college.  I vaguely remember writing a paper about the political overtones found in it.  Last night I got to see it on the big screen with my Dad which was really fun because he remembers watching it on the big screen with his Dad when he was a little kid.  Will Kane (Gary Cooper) is leaving his job as the marshal of Hadleyville, a western frontier town, after marrying Amy Fowler (Grace Kelly) who is a Quaker.  Just as they are leaving town the news arrives that Frank Miller (Ian MacDonald), an outlaw who Kane sent to prison, is on the noon train and looking for revenge.  Amy begs Kane to leave with her but he refuses to run because the new marshal hasn't arrived yet.  Kane's deputy (Lloyd Bridges) abandons him because he didn't recommend him as the new marshal and all of his attempts to round up a posse from the tavern and the church are met with hostility until he is forced to face Miller and his gang alone.  What I love about this film is that it isn't a typical western with lots of action but a tense character study of a man who won't abandon his principles.  The shots of the train tracks as the town anticipates the coming of the train and the shots of the ticking clock are extremely effective at building suspense (the action happens in real time).  The shot that slowly widens to reveal Kane standing all alone in the deserted town square is incredibly effective at conveying the futility of his final stand and the battle with the outlaws is quietly powerful rather than thrilling.  The final shot of Kane throwing down his badge as the townspeople emerge is also a great moment.  My Dad clearly enjoyed this film and grabbed my arm at several key moments!  What a hoot!  At the end he told me that they don't make movies like this any more!  They certainly don't!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Loving Vincent

After spending Saturday night seeing a blockbuster at the megaplex I went for something totally different on Sunday afternoon.  I saw the independent film Loving Vincent at my favorite art house theater and I was completely captivated by this beautiful and heartbreaking film!  Every one of the frames of this film was hand painted by over 100 artists to mimic the style of Vincent Van Gogh so the images on the screen are absolutely dazzling.  I was spellbound by the beauty of what I was seeing!   I also really enjoyed the narrative about the last weeks of Vincent Van Gogh's life.  Armand Roulin (Douglas Booth) is tasked by the Postmaster, his father, to deliver a letter written by Vincent to his brother Theo Van Gogh.  Roulin travels to Paris but when he learns that Theo has also died, he travels to Auvers, where Vincent died, to interview everyone who knew him during his final weeks.  What I loved about this portrayal is that Vincent is not depicted as a madman but as a profoundly lonely man who had a sensitive soul and felt things deeply.  There is a scene between Roulin and Marguerite (Soairse Ronin), the daughter of Vincent's doctor, that had me sobbing.  I also loved this film because it doesn't definitively answer the question of how Vincent died because his life is more important than his death (which is what Marguerite conveys so beautifully in that pivotal scene).  I also loved that this portrait is not from Vincent's point of view (which is how other biopics tend to present his life) because there is no way we can fully understand this enigmatic artist and the story is as much about Roulin's journey as it is Vincent's.  His paintings must speak for themselves and I have always loved his paintings!   I absolutely loved this film, as well, (I suspect that I will be haunted by it for some time to come).  I highly recommend it!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok

Last night I finally had the opportunity to see Thor: Ragnarok and I had a blast watching this movie with a rowdy late night crowd.  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) battles against his long-lost sister Hela (Cate Blanchett) for control over Asgard but first he must escape from the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum), the leader of the planet Sakaar, by fighting in a gladiator battle with the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and enlist the help of the treacherous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a disillusioned Valkyrie (Tessa Thompson).  This movie is absolutely hilarious and I was laughing out loud within the first minute as was the rest of the crowd.  Hemsworth is a great comedic actor and I especially enjoyed all of Thor's goofy banter with Loki (my favorite character in the series) and the Hulk.  I also really liked the villain Hela and it is clear that Blanchett had a lot of fun with the role, vamping and strutting around.  There are so many funny lines in this movie but I think my very favorite is said by Korg, a rock creature who is also imprisoned by the Grandmaster, when he explains how he came to be working as a gladiator: "I tried to start a revolution but I didn't print enough pamphlets."  I laughed and laughed at that!  The production design is fantastic, especially on Sakaar with all of the psychedelic colors and retro patterns.  There are some great action sequences and the use of Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" in the opening and final battles got my adrenaline pumping.  It is really lighthearted and zany but I actually did enjoy the story because the notion of Ragnarok, or apocalypse, where an old world is destroyed and a new and better one is reborn is particularly compelling.  I definitely recommend this entertaining movie for a great time at the movies!

Note:  There are some fabulous cameos, especially in the play performed on Asgard (pay attention to who is playing Loki!) and the scene where Thor's hair is cut (I think I prefer Thor with long hair, though).  The scene with Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) had me laughing the whole time ("I have been falling for 30 minutes!").

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Citizen Kane

The next selection in the Silver Screen Classics series was Citizen Kane.  This film is such a masterpiece that almost everyone has seen it (I saw it for the first time in a college film studies class) but, believe it or not, I have actually seen it on the big screen before.  It was re-released in honor of its 70th anniversary at a local theater and I thought it was amazing.  I had the same opinion last night.  After newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) dies, a journalist tries to learn the significance of the last word spoken by Kane before he died.  He reads the memoirs of Kane's guardian (George Coulouris) and interviews his closest friend (Joseph Cotten), his business manager (Everett Sloane), and his second wife (Dorothy Comingore), who are all unreliable narrators, to find out who the man behind the headlines really was.  The narrative is told though nonlinear flashbacks as Kane acquires his first newspaper, builds a publishing empire, marries the niece of a president, runs for governor, becomes embroiled in a scandal, loses his reputation supporting his second wife's opera career, builds the opulent palace Xanadu, and then, finally, dies alone.  It is a cryptic portrait a complicated man who has everything but the one thing he desires: love.  I love this film for the sheer scope of the narrative, the powerful performance by Orson Welles, and the ground-breaking cinematography.  It is a masterpiece and I am so glad I had the opportunity to see it once again on the big screen.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Goodbye Christopher Robin

I went to see an early matinee of Goodbye Christopher Robin yesterday (there aren't enough hours in the day so I had to fit it in when I could).  It tells the story of how the beloved classic Winnie-the-Pooh came into existence.  After World War I the playwright A.A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) returns from battle suffering from shell shock.  He decides to move to the country for some peace despite his wife Dapne's (Margot Robbie) strenuous objections.  When Daphne decides to return to her socialite lifestyle in London and the nanny (Kelly MacDonald) is called away to tend to her mother, Milne is left on his own with his young son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston).  The two share an enchanted few weeks together roaming through the woods surrounding their house with Christopher Robin's stuffed animals.  These adventures becomes the basis of a story which is eventually published to world-wide acclaim.  The fame and adulation eventually takes a toll on the young boy who cannot escape the pressure of being Christopher Robin.  Milne achieves his greatest success but at what cost?  This is a very conventional biopic but I absolutely loved it and, at one point, I was in tears.  It is a lovely story about the relationship between a father and a son with great performances by Gleeson, Robbie, and an adorable Tilston.  The film is simply gorgeous, especially in the sun-dappled woods, and the scenes where Christopher Robin's stuffed animals come to life are enchanting and whimsical.  I did feel that the events of the older Christopher Robin's (Alex Lawther) life were really rushed but this is exactly the type of movie that I really enjoy and I highly recommend it.

Note:  Gleeson reminded me so much of Julian Sands in this role.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Florida Project

Tangerine, a film about a transgender prostitute who roams the streets of Los Angeles on Christmas Eve looking for the boyfriend (pimp) who cheated on her while she was in prison, is Sean Baker's hilarious and heartbreaking debut.  It is a brilliant portrayal of a subculture rarely shown on the screen and I admired its authenticity (it was shot using an iPhone).  Baker's follow-up, The Florida Project, is no less brilliant.  This time his subject is a group of children who live in the cheap hotels that line the freeway leading to Disney World with the dysfunctional adults in their lives.  Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) knows that she is living in poverty but she chooses to turn every day into an imaginative adventure, whether it is getting customers at an ice cream stand to buy her a cone or wandering into a nearby field to look at cows (otherwise known as going on safari).  Her young mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) can't get a job and struggles to pay the weekly rent at the motel by selling perfume to the wealthy tourists on the way to Disney World (as well as other unsavory things).  Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the manager of the motel who clearly has his own demons, takes a proprietary interest in both Halley and Moonee and there is a brilliant scene where he chases away a pedophile who has taken an interest in the children.  Everything in the film is from Moonee's perspective and her life seems magical without ever ignoring the desperation of her situation.  This tonal balancing act is what makes this film so brilliant.  We see Moonee do many things multiple times and yet my attention never wavered.  I found Halley to be an incredibly sympathetic character.  Even though she does some truly reprehensible things I think it is best to reserve judgment to really see how she, like many people living in the margins of society, copes the best she can.  Brooklynn Prince is wonderful and I would say that this is one of Dafoe's best performances yet.  My favorite moment in the film is when Moonee says,"Do you know why this is my favorite tree?  Because it is tipped over and still growing."  That, in a nutshell, is what this amazing film is all about.  It is not for everyone but it is one of my favorite films of the year!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Breakfast at TIffany's

Seeing Breakfast at Tiffany's, the next selection in the Silver Screen Classics series, last night was just what I needed after a long and difficult day.  I absolutely love this movie and this was the first time seeing it on the big screen which was an absolute delight!  The beautiful Audrey Hepburn plays Holly Golightly, a New York society girl with a past who is only looking for $50 for the powder room from the many men she dates rather than love (I love how she classifies them as rats and super rats).  George Peppard plays Paul Varjak, a disillusioned writer who is being kept by an older woman (Patricia Neal).  Both characters are simply doing what they need to do in order to survive.  They meet when Paul moves into Holly's apartment building and they soon become friends.  When Paul eventually wants more, Holly rejects him thinking that it is better to be a free spirit rather than trapped in a cage.  I know so many people who love this movie!  Most people will cite Hepburn's luminous portrayal of an interesting character.  Others will mention the iconic little black dresses designed by Givenchy.  Still others point to the Academy Award winning score featuring the song "Moon River" by Henry Mancini.  For me, the appeal of this movie is the simple love story.  Two flawed characters bring out the best in each other and I love the scene in the rain after Holly realizes this.  I had such a lovely time watching this movie and I'm so glad I got to see it on the big screen.

Note:  I know that many people find Mickey Rooney's portrayal of Mr. Yunioshi to be offensive but I think he is so funny!

Friday, October 20, 2017


Fall break continues and I spent yesterday sleeping in scandalously late and then reading all afternoon.  In the evening I went to a Thursday preview of Breathe which I had been looking forward to for quite a while.  I am a sucker for British period pieces and the trailer for this inspirational true story looked gorgeous.  However, it left me feeling a bit flat.  Andrew Garfield plays Robin Cavendish and Claire Foy plays his wife Diana.  They meet, fall in love, get married, move to Kenya, and become pregnant with their first child in rapid succession.  Then Robin is stricken with polio and is paralyzed from the neck down.  He begs everyone to just let him die but Diana demands that he fight to live.  With her help Robin is able to leave the hospital, become mobile with the help of a wheelchair that breathes for him, and travel the world advocating for the rights of the severely disabled.  Garfield and Foy give wonderful performances and the cinematography is breathtaking but there is something lacking in the story itself.  We never really get to know the characters beyond a superficial level.  Diana's devotion to Robin doesn't feel authentic because their love story is never fully explored.  Robin sees her at a cricket match, in the next scene they are going on a date, in the next Diana tells her brothers (both played hilariously by Tom Hollander) that she is getting married, and then they are in Kenya.  It is literally that quick, almost as if the filmmakers are merely ticking boxes.  The whole film moves from one episode to the next without much explanation.  Also, the difficulties that the Cavendishes must have surely faced are glossed over so that their life looks like one big garden party after another on their sprawling estate.  They laugh when the dog unplugs Robin's respirator and throw a party when they are stranded on the road in Spain.  It ends up feeling very bland and I was hoping for so much more.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Foreigner

I am now on fall break and to celebrate I went to see The Foreigner last night. Now I am not normally a big fan of Jackie Chan action movies but, to me, the trailers for The Foreigner made it seem more like a political thriller so I decided to take a chance.  I really enjoyed it!  After a terrorist bombing claims the life of his daughter in London, a distraught Quan (Chan) goes looking for answers.  When a faction of the IRA claims responsibility, Quan looks to Liam Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), the Deputy Minister for Northern Ireland and a former IRA member, for answers.  Hennessy is less than forthcoming, and is clearly more involved than he will admit, so Quan sets out to convince him to tell him the names of the bombers in some fabulous action scenes.  Details about both men are slowly revealed and I found the conclusion to be quite satisfying.  The story reminded me of the novels of Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth, or John Le Carre, which I love, and I found the twists and turns to be very engaging (I've heard some critics say that the story is convoluted).  Chan gives an intense portrayal of a grieving father out for revenge but Brosnan is fantastic, one of his best performances in years.  The movie has a few flaws (lots of scenes with politicians talking in offices while drinking scotch) but I had a great time watching it and I recommend it to fans of action-thrillers.

Note:  This movie features Rory Fleck Byrne as Hennessey's nephew.  I may have found my latest celebrity crush.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Silver Screen Classics: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

The next film in the Silver Screen Classics series was Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  My Mom and sister came along with me to this screening and we had so much fun!  I mean this film stars Paul Newman and Robert Redford so what more could you ask for on a Monday night?  They are both so handsome and charismatic and their chemistry is what makes this movie so great and so much fun to watch.  All of their banter had my Mom giggling through the whole thing!  The film follows the exploits of Butch Cassidy (Newman), the Sundance Kid (Redford), and the rest of the Hole in the Wall Gang as they rob a series of trains.  Cassidy and the Kid get separated from the rest of the gang and are pursued by a posse hired by the owner of the railroad.  They hide with the Kid's girlfriend Etta (Katharine Ross) and the three of them decide to run away to Bolivia where they rob a series of banks in some highly amusing scenes.  When a bounty is placed on their heads they attempt to go straight by guarding the payroll of a mine but eventually start robbing the mines.  They are finally captured in an epic shoot-out in a Bolivian town square.  Even though they are committing crimes throughout the whole movie, the characters are so endearing that you want them to succeed and you hope that they somehow make it out of that shoot-out alive.  In addition to the two lead actors, I really loved all of the Western scenery (it was filmed in Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Mexico), especially the scenes shot in Zion National Park which is one of my favorite places on Earth.  After watching The Princess Bride it was fun to see another funny and charming movie written by William Goldman (he won an Oscar for this screenplay).  We had such a great time watching this classic film on the big screen and I recommend it highly.

Note:  Speaking of the Sundance Kid,  I was able to get a pass to the  2018 Sundance Film Festival yesterday.  It was quite the ordeal because the website crashed due to the overwhelming response.  My friend Marta and I surreptitiously tried to order passes during a meeting after school to no avail but we were both successful eventually!  I am so excited!
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