Category Archives: Movie, Television & Play Reviews

Reviews of Movies, T.V. shows and Plays

The Death of Channel Awesome

Sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, copyright infringement, physical threats and starvation pay are just some of the conditions  that have been rampant at Channel Awesome. This is all according to a 70 page memo issued on line by numerous people formerly associated with the upstart internet company. That’s right seventy pages documenting these abuses.

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

This is disappointing and shocking to those of us who loved watching the shows on Channel Awesome. From the outside,  Channel Awesome appeared to be such a fun place to work, where everyone got along and everyone shared in whatever small profits were to be made. We even posted a story called 6 Reasons Why Channel Awesome Is Great.

Doug Walker - The "Nostalgia Critic" and "That Guy With Glasses"

Doug Walker – The “Nostalgia Critic” and “That Guy With Glasses”

In fact, Channel Awesome was started as an alternative to the internet giant YouTube (which is owned  by Google). Contributors to YouTube complain that it is almost impossible to make much money uploading videos, no matter how many hits they receive. As a near monopoly, Google gets almost all the money, and sets all the terms.  YouTube also takes down videos that receive even the slightest complaint of copyright  infringement, even if the complaint is totally ridiculous.  As a contributor to YouTube, you are basically considered guilty with no right to appeal other than a cumbersome and costly fight.

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

However, behind the scenes, Channel Awesome was not the YouTube-alternative paradise  it appeared. Most of the criticism revolves around CEO Michael Michaud, who allegedly is a truly terrible person. Like all great scandals, the Michael Michaud scandal involves sex, violence and money. Michaud is accused of sexually harassing almost every woman who ever worked for Channel Awesome. He also has a violent temper and goes into rages against employees and contributors (those who upload videos to Channel Awesome).

Lindsay Ellis, the former "Nostalgia Chick"

Lindsay Ellis, the former “Nostalgia Chick”

Reportedly Michael Michaud fired the head of H.R. Holly Brown, since she was 15 minutes late for a Skype call. He then made physical threats against her to the point where she had to hide in a “safe house”.

Robert & Doug Walker

Robert & Doug Walker

The money controversy revolves around how much contributors get for their product. Contributors are the people who have their videos on Channel Awesome. Without them Channel Awesome cannot exist. They complain that Channel Awesome became every bit as bad as YouTube, with the contributors doing all the work and Channel Awesome taking almost all the money.  It is tempting to say that maybe this is just a few malcontents complaining. However, the statistics show otherwise.  Contributors to Channel Awesome have been leafing in droves. One year ago there were 41 regular contributors to Channel Awesome. Today there are 10.

Looking at the evolution of Channel Awesome, we are reminded of the George Orwell book Animal Farm. The animals take over the farm, but by the end the new farm is just as corrupt and evil as the old farm.  The Animal Farm line “some animals are more equal than  others” applies perfectly to Channel Awesome. There is a lot of money being made, however, it is being horded by a small few at the top.

There is a lot of debate as to how much blame to attribute to Doug Walker, whose brand names are The Nostalgia Critic and That Guy With Glasses. His show is great,and he seems like such a nice guy in the  videos.  So far, the has been completely silent surrounding the controversies at Channel Awesome.  However, that is the problem. He is too big a star at the station to not take sides. Many say he is committing what Roman Catholics would call Sins Of Omission.  Critics say Doug Walker is a defacto part of management and must take responsibility.

Doug Walker has a real money problem. He does not own the rights to the internet character The Nostalgia Critic. Somehow Michael Michaud was able to get control of that. If Doug Walker leaves Channel Awesome, he has to start over with a completely new character and rebuild followers from scratch. Does he have the courage to walk away from the money to do what is morally right?

However, others say Doug Walker is more directly involved in the problem, especially when it comes to the fun spoof “movies” that Channel Awesome makes. Most of the actors in these films got paid nothing other than airfare. However, Channel Awesome and Doug Walker made lots of money selling DVSs of these movies. The other people involved did not even get a free DVD of the film.

Lindsay Ellis, formerly known as the Nostalgia Chick on Channel Awesome has come out strongly on the side of those criticizing Channel Awesome. This make a difference, as Lindsay Ellis is one of the smartest and most respected people on the internet. Anything she posts or says is fact-based and well researched. If she says something at Channel smells, that you can believe it stinks.

Will Channel Awesome die? In effect, it already has. Even if the company does not go bankrupt, the dream of a place where creators of unique and fun videos would be treated with respect is already dead. The internet continues to be a place where the creators of content are the lowest people on the Totem Pole.  On the internet, budding writers, film makers, video producers and actors make pennies while huge profits go to the the corporations using their work. Maybe someday a new platform will come along to accomplish what Channel Awesome could not.

An Eye For Beauty – A Quebec Love Story

An Eye For Beauty is a love story that takes place in Quebec, but is also a love story about Quebec. The breathtaking beauty of the Province of Quebec is as much a character in the film as the actors themselves.  After watching An Eye For Beauty you will want to immediately pack up and move to Quebec. At the very least you will wish you had paid more attention in French class.

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Thierry in "An Eye For Beauty"

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Thierry in “An Eye For Beauty”

Eric Bruneau stars as Luc,  a French-Canadian architect living in rural Quebec designing incredibly beautiful homes. His life seems perfect. He is surrounded by a group of loving friends. His wife Stephanie (Melanie Thierry) is smart, talented and gorgeous. Then, bit by bit things start to fall apart. Stephanie is slowly falling into a deep depression, and nothing seems to be able to stop it.

"An Eye for Beauty" features beautiful Quebec homes.

“An Eye for Beauty” features beautiful Quebec homes.

Luc is invited to Toronto to be part of a panel of architects judging the work of promising students. Luc realizes he is the “token French-Canadian”, but decides to join the panel anyway. In Toronto he meets Lindsey,  (Melanie Merkowsky) who is running the panel, and the the two of them begin a passionate affair.

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Thierry in "An Eye For Beauty"

Eric Bruneau & Melanie Merkowsky in “An Eye For Beauty”

The love scenes in An Eye For Beauty are lovely and erotic, since they are quite natural. In fact, unlike most movies, all the people in An Eye For Beauty are real and complex.  An Eye For Beauty demonstrates that being successful and attractive and well off does not insulate a person from the tragedies of every day life.

Quebec

Quebec

In some ways, the beauty seems like a cruel joke to Luc’s wife Stephanie. She asks herself “how can she possibly not be happy.” She should be ecstatic with the perfect life, yet her depression keeps getting worse.

Melanie Thierry is Stephanie in "An Eye For Beauty"

Melanie Thierry is Stephanie in “An Eye For Beauty”

Anyone who has ever dealt with someone truly  clinically depressed will realize how accurate Melanie Thierry’s portrayal is. There is often no outside reason for depression, and seeing everyone around you being happy just makes it feel worse.

Skiing in Quebec

Skiing in Quebec

An Eye For Beauty is is French and English, depending upon what part of Canada the people are in and who is speaking. It is interesting that when the French Canadian goes to Toronto he has to speak English to everyone . However,  when Lindsey from Toronto goes to Quebec, she speaks English to everyone, without even attempting a French word. No doubt this double standard in supposedly bi-lingual Canada drives Quebeckers crazy.

An Eye For Beauty is an exquisitely filmed move. There are stunning scenes of rural Quebec with its breathing vistas, wildlife and homes. The love story is real and the tragedies  and heart wrenching. An Eye For Beauty is a film worth watching.

 

Red Sparrow – Jennifer Lawerence’s Worst Movie

Even Jennifer Lawrence naked does not make Red Sparrow worth watching. The plot is dull, the acting wooden and the sex scenes amazingly non-erotic. It is also a remake of a low budget 1985 movie called Secret Weapons starring James Franciscus, Linda Hamilton, Gina Davis & Sally Kellerman  The low budget Secret Weapons was actually far better than Red Sparrow.

Jennifer Lawrence & Joel Edgerton in Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence & Joel Edgerton in Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence is one of our favorite actresses, so it was a shame to see her in  Red Sparrow, which seemed to have no purpose other than to show Jennifer Lawrence naked as often as possible. She is naked during spy training; naked in hotel rooms, and she is even naked when being tortured. For her whole career, Jennifer Lawrence has fought against taking roles that exploit women. Why she gave in for a piece of junk like Red Sparrow is a mystery.  Either she needed the money (which we doubt), or she actually thought Red Sparrow would be good. Get a new agent to find better scripts Jennifer.

From Russia With Love - 1964

From Russia With Love – 1964

Jennifer Lawrence plays Russian ballerina Dominika Egorova  who breaks her leg in an accident. She is then recruited by her uncle into a spy school. There  they train beautiful young women and men to become seductive “under cover” agents. She is sent on assignment to seduce a CIA agent (Played by Joel Edgerton) and get all his secrets. Of course, she falls in love with him, just like the female Russian spy in  the James Bond movie From Russia With Love.

Boris & Natasha - the Russian agents from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons

Boris & Natasha – the Russian agents from the Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons

Not a single actor in Red Sparrow is actually Russian, and they all use a variety of Russian “accents”. The result is that they all sound like people mimicking Boris and Natasha from the old Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons.

"Secret Weapons" in 1985 has Sally Kellerman, Linda Hamilton & Gina as seductive Soviet agents

“Secret Weapons” in 1985 has Sally Kellerman, Linda Hamilton & Gina as seductive Soviet agents

The 1985 film Secret Weapons was far better  with more interesting plot twists and even better acting. (The Soviet Union was still around when Secret Weapons was made.) Unlike Red Sparrow, the spy school in Secret Weapons concentrated on much more than the art of seduction. The Soviet spies were being taught to become under cover Americans. They  were trained to have American accents, and were given false American backgrounds. Their goals were to infiltrate the United States and eventually marry high level government and military officials. Red Sparrow would have been better if it had stuck with the original plot instead of concentrating just on the  sex.

Anna Chapman - the real Russian spy who was caught in the U.S. in 2010

Anna Chapman – the real Russian spy who was caught in the U.S. in 2010

The 1985 Secret Weapons actually predicted the real Russian plan which Anna Chapman and her fellow spies tried to carry out over 35 years later. Ironically for the modern Russian spies, the seduction worked in reverse. Anna Chapman and her fellow spies completely fell in love with the materialism of the United States. Instead of gathering secrets they apparently spent most of their time buying expensive luxuries  and demanding more money from their spymasters in Moscow. It would have been much more fun if Red Sparrow had been a comedy about Anna Chapman and her inept secret agents.

Jennifer Lawrence has now chosen 2 terrible movies in a row.  The weird and disgusting Mother, followed by the semi-pornographic Red Sparrow. We hope that she gets back on track and that her next film is worthy of her talents.

The Shape Of Water – A Stupid Choice for Best Picture

The Shape Of Water was a stupid choice for best picture. It plagiarizes Splash and The Creature  From the Black Lagoon but is not as good as either of those two classics. The plot was idiotic and the “creature” absurd. The Shape Of Water is reminiscent of 1950s “monster movie porn”. In the 1950s and even early 1960s movies were very tightly censored. Movie producers knew that they could increase ticket sales by revealing as much of a woman’s naked body as they could get past the censors.

Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito) shares lunch with The Creature in The Shape Of Water

Sally Hawkins (Elisa Esposito) shares lunch with The Creature in The Shape Of Water

The solution was what insiders jokingly  called “monster movie porn”. Every monster movie had a beautiful woman and the monster always seemed to attack when that woman was in a nightgown, or a bathing suit, or naked in the bath tub. That way producers could argue that the nudity or implied nudity was “essential to the plot”. In addition, censors tended not to waste much time watching low budget monster movies. The censors main focus was on regulating main stream movies by major studios. Consequently, the cheesy monster movies got away showing a lot more female flesh than  the Feature Films. (Male nudity,  was completely taboo.)

1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

The Shape of Water pretends to be an intellectual art film about the importance of accepting people of all kinds. However, it manages to get character Sally Hawkins (wonderfully played by Elisa Esposito) naked on screen within the first 5 minutes. The film opens with her alone in her apartment where we see that she is deaf and lonely and poor. Was it really necessary to the plot to then show her naked in the bath tub?

Elisa Esposito & Octavia Spencer in The Shape Of Water

Elisa Esposito & Octavia Spencer in The Shape Of Water

The plot of The Shape Of Water was also ridiculous. The U.S. military has a sea creature locked in a secret facility where Sally and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are cleaners. There are armed guards and closed circuit T.V. cameras everywhere. That is, everywhere except the actual room where the creature is kept. The whole point of the security is to guard the creature, but for some reason there is no guard or T.V. camera in the room where the creature is kept. In fact, security in that room is so lax that Sally often eats her lunch in that room with no one being aware of this.

Michael Shannon in The Shape Of Water

Michael Shannon in The Shape Of Water

Michael Shannon plays the evil Agent Strickland, who wants to kill The Creature. Michael Shannon’s trademark is playing “over-the-top” semi-insane authority figures. He is perhaps best known for his portrayal of FBI agent Nelson van Alden in Boardwalk Empire. However, in The Shape Of Water he really overdoes it. In one scene, he literally rips off two of his own fingers, throws them away and then continues on his quest to kill The Creature. This really seems like something that belongs in a 1950s drive-in movie horror film and not in The Best Picture Of The Year.

Julie Adams in a very revealing outfit in the 1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

Julie Adams in a very revealing outfit in the 1954 The Creature From The Black Lagoon

The ending of The Shape of Water (spoiler alert) is a complete rip off of Splash. At the end of  the 1984 film Splash, Tom Hanks dives into the water after the Mermaid (Daryl Hannah) only to discover that he can actually breathe underwater. At the end of  The Shape Of Water Sally dives into the water after the creature, only to discover that she can breathe underwater.

Daryl Hannah in Splash

Daryl Hannah in Splash

The worst part of The Shape Of Water getting Best Picture is that there were so many wonderful movies in 2017 that would have been better choices.  Ladybird and Get Out were both terrific movies. There was also Dunkirk, Darkest Hour, The Post and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri. Any one of these would have been a better pick for best picture than The Shape of Water.

Ratings for the Oscars ceremony have been falling for years. This is partly due to the fact that the (pompously named) Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences seems further and further out of touch with the actual movie-viewing public.

 

Counterpart – a terrific Sci-Fi/spy thriller

Counterpart on the Starz network is a fantastic  sci-fi/spy story thriller with a fascinating plot and great acting. Counterpart explores the possibilities of what our  lives would be like if just one or two decisions had been different. Haven’t we all wondered what the trajectories of our lives might have been if we had just made one key choice differently?

Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

J.K. Simmonds plays Howard Silk, a low level worker at a secret agency that monitors a portal to a parallel world. Until 30 years ago the two worlds were exactly alike, including all the people, places and events. Each person has a duplicate in the other world. Then one day he is confronted by his counterpart (duplicate) from the other world, who expects Howard to help stop a deadly murderer.

J.K. Simmonds in Starz "Counterpart"

J.K. Simmonds in Starz “Counterpart”

For some unknown reason, 30 years ago the 2 worlds began to diverge. Now, the people in the two worlds are still duplicates, but their lives are different. Sara Serraiocco in our world is an accomplished violinist, but in the other world she is a deadly assassin.

Olivia Williams as Emily in "Counterpart"

Olivia Williams as Emily in “Counterpart”

Counterpart is great because it is much more of a physiological spy mystery than it is a sci-fi series. There are plots within plots and each of the characters are complex individuals. In our world Howard Silk is an unsuccessful career man, but a very good person. In the other world he is quite the opposite. Yet,  in the Ying and Yang of life there is no such things as 100% good or 100% evil. All people are a mixture of both.

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in "Counterpart"

Nazanin Boniadi and Sara Serraiocco in “Counterpart”

Olivia Williams is Howard’s wife, Emily,  who is not what she seems in either world. Nazanin Boniadi is Clare,  whose motives are not truly revealed until the final episode. Harry Lloyd is Peter Quayle, a high level spy who ties to keep peace between the two worlds while sill maintaining secrecy and his job.

Harry Lloyd and J.K. Simmonds in "Counterpart"

Harry Lloyd and J.K. Simmonds in “Counterpart”

As you can tell, we are purposely trying not to give away too much of the plot. Counterpart is fascinating and beautifully acted.   In one moving episode, the Howard Silk (J.K. Simmonds)  from our world exchanges places with the “other” Howard, and secretly goes to the other world.  There he discovers he has a daughter (played by Sarah Bolger) that he never had in his world. What is worse is that the daughter cannot stand him.

Sarah Bolger

Sarah Bolger

The scenes between Sarah Bolger and J.K. Simmonds are moving and beautiful. Howard tries desperately to reconnect with his estranged daughter, without revealing that he is not actually the father she knew.

Counterpart is a series you will definitely want to binge watch. We give it our highest rating.

 

 

Chuck- The Bayonne Bleeder or the Real Rocky Balboa

Chuck is the story of boxer Chuck Wepner, the real-life inspiration for Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky. In 1975 Chuck Wepner fought Muhammad Ali for 15 rounds, when everyone said   Wepner would never last more than 3. This should have lead to a happy ending, just like the Rocky movie.  However, after the fight  Wepner’s life went on a  path of arrogance, self-destruction and eventually prison.

Chuck Wepner & Muhammad Ali fight in 1975

Chuck Wepner & Muhammad Ali fight in 1975

People love the movie character Rocky since he is a humble guy who passionately loves Adrian and never even looks at another woman. That’s not Chuck Wepner. After his fight with Ali, Wepner suddenly had the fame and respect he had never received before, and it went to his head.

Liev Schreiber & Elizabeth Moss in "Chuck"

Liev Schreiber & Elizabeth Moss in “Chuck”

Before the Ali fight , Wepner’s nickname had been  the Bayonne  Bleeder, for his tendency to bleed profusely if hit in the face. Although ranked as a “contender”, he was considered a joke in boxing circles.  He could not even make enough money to box full time. Chuck Wepner was a liquor route salesman who happened to pick up  some extra money boxing in clubs and small venues.

In 1975, Muhammad Ali thought he could make a fortune defending his heavyweight title against a White fighter, due to all the racial tension of the times.  Chuck Wepner was the only White fighter ranked in the top 10, and Wepner got the call to fight Ali. Just like the Rocky movie, Ali thought of the fight as a show, but Chuck Wepner trained hard. He even knocked Ali down during the fight.

Chuck & Linda Wepner with Liev Schreiber

Chuck & Linda Wepner with Liev Schreiber

After the fight, Wepner’s new found fame went to his head. He became a jerk, drinking  to excess and cheating on his wife. Then in 1976 the movie Rocky came out and things got 100 times worse. Wepner and his friends  thought he was Rocky, and starting referring to his movie.

Michael Rapaport is Don Wepner in "Chuck"

Michael Rapaport is Don Wepner in “Chuck”

Everyone assumed Chuck Wepner had made a fortune from the Rocky movie. However, Wepner had never even met Sylvester Stallone and never got a penny from the film. But Chuck started spending money like he was a wealthy Hollywood film star. He got into using cocaine and then started selling drugs to support his spending habits.

Chuck is a excellent and honest film. Unlike the Rocky movie, Chuck Wepner was fully involved in the production, which makes its honesty that much more remarkable.

Liev Schreiber is perfect as Chuck Wepner. Very few actors would have the physical ability to portray a 6 foot five inch bruiser, and still be able to show him as a complex character. Elizabeth Moss plays Chuck’s long-suffering wife Phyllis who inwardly is actually much tougher that Chuck as she tries to save her family.

Michael Rapaport is Chuck’s brother Don, who turns out to be a real hero when Chuck needs him most. Naomi Watts is Linda, the woman Chuck turns to as his life falls apart. Naomi Watts is so good at portraying Linda, that we never even realized it was Naomi playing the role.

Like the original Rocky movie, Chuck does have a happy ending. However, the redemption does not take place inside the boxing ring but out in the much tougher real world. Wepner finally comes to realize  that he is not Rocky Balboa, or Sylvester Stallone or even the Bayonne Bleeder. He is just Chuck from Bayonne New Jersey with only a small group of friends and family that actually know him and care who is really is. It turns out that when he finally accepts that and learns to return the love they give him it is better than being with all the shallow adoring fans. Maybe that’s not as dramatic as a Hollywood movie ending. Or maybe it is even better.

 

Will Season 3 Of “The Crown” Dare Mention Northern Ireland?

The Crown has so far managed to go through two complete seasons without once touching on Ireland or any Irish political struggles. The Crown has covered events in Sub-Saharan Africa, Eqypt, and even showed Prince Philip visiting Antarctica. However, Ireland has been a taboo subject.  This will be a hard policy to maintain in Season 3 of The Crown , which is already in production.

Newspaper account of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland

Newspaper account of Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland

Season 2 of The Crown  ended in 1964, which means that the violent period known as The Troubles are just about to begin in Northern Ireland.  It is difficult to see how going forward The Crown will be able to present a series about Queen Elizabeth II and continue to avoid the topic of Ireland.

Below is a quick timeline of Irish events from one perspective, quoted from Gerry Adams’ Book A Farther Shore.

  • 1964 Divis Street Riots in Belfast
  • 1967 Civil Rights Association established in the north.
  • 1968  The Royal Ulster Constabulary – RUC- attack civil rights marchers in Derry.
  • 1969 Explosions occur which are initially blamed on the IRA. It subsequently emerges that they are carried out by the unionist paramilitary organization the Ulster Volunteer Force – UVF.
  • 1970 – The siege of St Matthews in The Short Strand in East Belfast and the Falls curfew by the British Army leads to significant support for the IRA.
  • 1971 – The war between the British Army and the IRA intensifies. Internment without trial is introduced.
  • 1972 – Fourteen civilians are killed on Bloody Sunday in Derry when the British Army attacks a civil rights march.
  • 1973 Bomb attacks in London.
A file photo taken on June 11, 2010 shows a memorial in Londonderry (or Derry) Northern Ireland, depicting the names of the 13 people who died on January 30, 1972, known as "Bloody Sunday" and John Johnson who died later from his injuries sustained the same day. British police said on November 10, 2015, they had arrested a former soldier for the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry in 1972, one of the worst atrocities in Northern Ireland's three decades of unrest. It was the first arrest since a murder investigation was opened in 2012 into the killings of 13 civil rights protesters in the streets that day. AFP PHOTO / PETER MUHLYPETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

A file photo taken on June 11, 2010 shows a memorial in Londonderry (or Derry) Northern Ireland, depicting the names of the 13 people who died on January 30, 1972, known as “Bloody Sunday” and John Johnson who died later from his injuries sustained the same day. British police said on November 10, 2015, they had arrested a former soldier for the Bloody Sunday killings in Londonderry in 1972, one of the worst atrocities in Northern Ireland’s three decades of unrest. It was the first arrest since a murder investigation was opened in 2012 into the killings of 13 civil rights protesters in the streets that day. AFP PHOTO / PETER MUHLYPETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images

Season 3 of The Crown will be taking place exactly when all these events occurred. Will The Crown continue to ignore Ireland and instead focus only on the various royal sex scandals? We hope that instead, The Crown will take the riskier approach of trying to show the reaction of  Queen Elizabeth II as a part or her “empire” is being torn apart and its citizens killing each other.

Queen Elizabeth II & Lord Mountbatten

Queen Elizabeth II & Lord Mountbatten

It is hard to imagine that The Crown Season 3 will possibly be able to ignore August 27, 1979. That was the day an IRA bomb killed Lord Mountbatten, who was the great uncle of Prince Charles. He had been a mentor to Charles, who was devastated by his death. On that same day, in an IRA shootout and ambush, the IRA killed 17 British soldiers in Northern Ireland.

Of course, the Queen is forbidden by the Constitution from taking a political stance. However, as we have seen in the first two seasons of The Crown  Queen Elizabeth II is quite determined to have a behind-the-scenes influence on major world events.

What exactly are the views of Queen Elizabeth II in regards to Ireland, Northern Ireland and the various political and paramilitary groups? Did she play any role in bringing  the warring factions together for  the eventual peace process ? Was she aware that the elite British SAS force was  being used as an assassination squad in Northern Ireland to kill suspected members of the IRA with no trial and many times no evidence? Perhaps the producers of The Crown don’t really know and don’t want to take a chance by making wild guesses about such a touchy subject.

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness

Queen Elizabeth II shakes hands with former IRA Commander Martin McGuinness

The Good Friday Agreement was only signed in 1998 and many people in Ireland and the U.K.  have been walking on eggshells ever since, worried that the slightest insult, or misunderstanding could set off events in Northern Ireland. Maybe that is just too much pressure for the writers of The Crown to face.

Prince Charles & Gerry Adams share a handshake & conversation.

Prince Charles & Gerry Adams share a handshake & conversation.

Tourists  to Ireland and Northern Ireland often quickly find out how hard it is to get the Irish to talk to outsiders about any political subject. Ask about the IRA or the UVF or any events of The Troubles and you will find the Irish quickly and politely change the subject to a nice friendly chat about the weather or local sporting events.

American author William Faulkner famously wrote that “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Of course, he was not referring to Northern Ireland, but that quote describes perfectly the Irish “situation.”

Every word spoken about Northern Ireland is a potential landmine, which is undoubtedly why The Crown has chosen so far to pretend that Northern Ireland does not exist. Even today, a fight can quickly ensue depending on whether or not you refer to  a particular town in Northern Ireland as  Derry or Londenderry

So will Season 3 of  The Crown dare take on Northern Ireland? Well, no  matter which direction Season 3 of The Crown takes, we know one thing for sure. We will be watching it.

Loving Vincent – The Mystery of Vincent van Gogh’s Death

Loving Vincent is an exquisitely drawn film exploring the final days of Vincent van Gogh, and the mystery of van Gogh’s death.  Don’t dare call it a cartoon. Over 100 original painting’s in the van Gogh style were commissioned for this film. Top tier actors and a fascinating plot make you feel like you have actually stepped inside a van Gogh painting.

Douglas Booth as Armand Roulin in "Loving Vincent"

Douglas Booth as Armand Roulin in “Loving Vincent”

Loving Vincent envelopes the audience in an 1890 world of vibrant colors, emotions and characters that van Gogh was able to capture for all time in his paintings. The plot delves into the mystery surrounding the death of Vincent van Gogh. Most people today simply accept as fact that the emotionally unstable van Gogh committed suicide. However, Loving Vincent shows that van Gogh actually might have been murdered.

Saoirse Ronan as Margaret Gachet in "Loving Vincent"

Saoirse Ronan as Margaret Gachet in “Loving Vincent”

Loving Vincent is the true story of a quest undertaken by Armand Roulen (played by Douglas Booth) to deliver to Vincent van Gogh’s brother the last letter than Vincent ever wrote. Along the way. Roulen discovers that van Gogh’s death may have been more that just a straight forward suicide.

Final words of Vincent van Gogh

Final words of Vincent van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh died on July 29th, 1980 of a gunshot wound inflicted 2 days earlier. Although van Gogh himself insisted he had tried to kill himself, the physical facts made no sense.  Who shoots himself in the stomach when trying to commit suicide? Was van Gogh trying to protect someone by claiming he had actually shot himself?

The list of murder suspects is long. Today the world reveres Vincent van Gogh as an artistic genius. However, while he was alive, he was considered a crazy trouble maker whose artwork was idiotic and bad.

van Gogh self portrait

van Gogh self portrait

In his lifetime, Vincent van Gogh only sold one painting. He lived off the charity of others. His brother Theo gave Vincent so much money over the years that Theo almost went bankrupt.

Vincent van Gogh’s main patron was Doctor Gachet (played by Jerome Flynn). Doctor Gachet recognized the artistic genius of van Gogh but was also extremely jealous of it. Vincent even lived with the Gachet family for a time, and gave most of his paintings to Dr. Gachet in return for Gachet’s help.

van Gogh painting of Margaret Gachet at piano

van Gogh painting of Margaret Gachet at piano

However, Dr. Gachet did not like that Vincent was becoming too close to Gachet’s daughter Margaret (played by Saoirse Ronan). Doctor Gachet and Vincent had a huge, almost violent,  argument and Vincent was no longer welcome at the Gachet home. Margaret Gachet never married, and her whole live she proudly displayed in her home, a painting van Gogh had done of her at a piano.

van Gogh painting sells for $109.4 Million

van Gogh painting sells for $109.4 Million

Like van Gogh’s paintings themselves, Loving Vincent is not intended to be an exact representation of reality. Vincent van Gogh’s painting were meant to elicit an emotional response. They show the beauty, complexity and hidden colors and feelings in every day scenes that most people take for granted. Loving Vincent shows the beauty and hidden depth of a man who was at the time either ridiculed or overlooked by most people.

Van Gogh’s simple painting of flowers  sold at auction for $109,400,000. Do people really see today what Vincent van Gogh was trying to show them, or are they just interested in a good investment? We wonder what van Gogh would think of the fabulous sums of money rich people are now willing to pay for his paintings. Ironically, van Gogh was never interested in rich people. His painting were not portraits of the wealthy, but views of ordinary people, scenes and events.

Loving Vincent is a wonderful film and we highly recommend it.

 

 

Cablevision drops Starz and Encore and Cheats Its Customers

Cablevision just dropped the Starz and Encore networks, without any drop in price to Cablevision customers. In fact, this was just one month after Cablevision had actually raised its prices. Less service for a higher price. Starz has some of our favorite shows, including, Outlander, Power and Ash vs Evil Dead, all of which we have reviewed on this blog.

Cablevision abruptly dropped Starz, but did not lower the fees to Cablevision customers

Cablevision abruptly dropped Starz, but did not lower the fees to Cablevision customers

This move by Cablevision  is typical of the way that all cable providers continue to behave as if they still have a monopoly and can treat customers any way they want. In fact, cable companies should be bending over backwards to be giving more service to customers and lowering their prices. People no longer need cable companies to get access to shows. Many people are going “unplugged “and getting access through the internet or satellite with no payments to any cable provider.

Outlander is gone from Cablevision

Outlander is gone from Cablevision

The behavior of Cablevision and other cable providers is reminiscent of the way that Blockbuster once treated its customers. Blockbuster not only charged a lot to rent movies, it also hit up  their customers with ridiculous late fees. You had to physically return a video before the due date, but the system was rigged to maximize the late fees.

Will Cablevision one day go the way of Blockbuster?

Will Cablevision one day go the way of Blockbuster?

Most people rented movies on Saturday or Sunday, since it was hard to get to Blockbuster during the work week. However, if you rented on a Saturday, the movie was due by Wednesday. If you returned it the next Saturday, you owed as much on late fees as you had paid to rent the movie. In the early days of Blockbuster, they even charged a 50 cent “rewind fee” on tapes. (Remember the days before DVDs when you had to rewind tapes?)

Power is no longer available on Cablevision

Power is no longer available on Cablevision

While Blockbuster was squeezing their customers for every nickle, Netflix was busy reinventing the business. With Nexflix, customers could get videos at home and keep them as long as they wanted with no late fees. Blockbuster could have beaten Netflix, if Blockbuster had reacted quickly. In the early days, Blockbuster actually had many more titles available than Netflix.

Tower records once seemed like a money making machine.

Tower records once seemed like a money making machine.

Blockbuster should have eliminated late fees, and started letting people order movies online and shipping them to people’s homes. At the time, Blockbuster had the financial might, the customer base and the video library to be able to wipe out Netflix. However, Blockbuster was so intent on trying to maximize short term profits, that it ignored the anger of its customers.

Towards  the end, Blockbuster finally realized the danger it was in, and did try  to fight back against Netflix. Blockbuster eliminated all late fees, lowered its rental charges and began using the internet. But it was too late. Angry customers had left Blockbuster in droves and they never came back.  Blockbuster went bankrupt and its outlets closed.

Cablevision thinks it can cheat its customers forever.

Cablevision thinks it can cheat its customers forever.

Will Cablevision and the other cable providers one day go the way of Blockbuster? They are certainly making the same mistakes as Blockbuster, by arrogantly ignoring competition from new technologies. Some day, perhaps sooner than expected, the idea of paying a company hundreds of dollars a month for video content will seem as as antiquated as dial up internet access.

So our message to Cablevision is simple. Ignore the best interests of you customers and soon they will ignore you. If you think you can last forever, just remember Yahoo, AOL, Tower Records and Blockbuster.

Editor’s note: Since the first  publication of this story, Optimum Online Cablevision has announced that it made a deal with Starz. The Starz Network will be returning to Cablevision, along with Encore. This is planned for the end of February 2018.  Of course, Cablevision is not planning any refund to Cablevision customers for the 2 months they did not have Starz or Encore. Congratulations to the thousands of Cablevision customers who called and emailed Cablevision to demand the return of Starz and Enclore. Customers need to continually remind the large cable companies that the ultimate power lies with the customer.

 

SMILF- Rosie O’Donnell Gives The Best Performances Of Her Career

In Showtime’s series SMILF, Rosie O’Donnell gives the best performances of her career. Her character is “Tutu”, a tough, loud, crazy,  but loving Boston-Irish mother whose entire goal is to make sure that her daughter has a better life than Tutu’s own miserable upbringing. It is the role of a lifetime for Rosie O’Donnell, and she is perfect in the part.

Rosie O'Donnell is perfect as Tutu on SMILF

Rosie O’Donnell is perfect as Tutu on SMILF

The SMILF (Single Mom I’d Like to F**K) herself is Bridgette Bird, Tutu’s daughter. Brigitte is played by Frankie Shaw, who is also SMILF’s creator  and main writer. Frankie Shaw’s writing  and acting talents are amazing.  SMILF has comedy, pathos, fantasy sequences, and yet the characters are always true to life. Some of the best scenes are the interactions between Tutu and her daughter Brigitte. A scene may begin with the two of them having a screaming argument but end with Tutu gently giving her winter coat to Bridgette and making sure Bridgette does not get cold walking  home. SMILF reflects the hate-love-insane relationship between a mother and daughter when both are strong willed, stubborn, independent women.

Frankie Shaw as Wonder Woman on SMILF

Frankie Shaw as Wonder Woman on SMILF

In many ways Rosie O’Donnell is like the character she plays on SMILF. Rosie’s career and life have had huge ups and downs. The downs are usually because Rosie O’Donnell does something crazy to sabotage herself. For example, Rosie O’Donnell at one point said that she thought there might actually be something to the conspiracy theories claiming that the Bush Administration, not outside terrorists, was responsible for destroying the World Trade Center on 9/11. This idiotic statement got her hated for years, especially in the New York area.

SMILF pay homage to the German film Run Lola Run

SMILF pays homage to the German film Run Lola Run

Rosie O’Donnell also managed to get herself fired from The View, not once but twice. The View is that obnoxious T.V. show where a bunch of very loud women sit around screeching about subjects that they think are interesting.  If you can watch this show for more than 10 minutes you deserve a medal. Rosie simply could not take a back seat to any of the other women, especially Barbra Walters or Whoopi Goldberg. In any difference of opinion Rosie just could not let go of the argument. Apparently when the cameras were off,  there were several occasions where Rosie O’Donnell had to be physically restrained from attacking one or more of the other women back stage.

Samara Weaving as Nelson Rose in SMILF (Season 1, Episode 3). - Photo Credit: Lacey Terrell/SHOWTIME. - Photo ID: SMILF_103_1550.R.jpg

Samara Weaving as Nelson Rose in SMILF (Season 1, Episode 3). – Photo Credit: Lacey Terrell/SHOWTIME. – Photo ID: SMILF_103_1550.R.jpg

However, these  very personality flaws are what make Rosie O’Donnell so perfect to play the wild mother in SMILF. In one episode Tutu (Rosie) has a manic episode in whcih she wades into Boston harbor in the middle of winter. She then walks to her local bank to withdraw money. When a concerned bank official points out that she is soaking wet, Tutu calmly and politely points out that as far as she knows there are no rules against withdrawing funds while wearing wet clothing.

Ravin Goodwin & Frankie Shaw on SMILF

Ravin Goodwin & Frankie Shaw on SMILF

The apple does not fall far from the tree for Tutu’s daughter Bridgette. This single mom has a very hard life tying to make ends meet on a series of dead-end jobs. However, she does have a wild fantasy life where she imagines what her life should be. In one episode, Bridgette imagines herself as Wonder Woman, complete with the costume and swordplay. Another episode of SMILF is a takeoff on the famous German film Run Lola Run. (If you have never seen Run Lola Run, we highly recommend it). The Run Bridgette Run  episode of SMILF  even has parts where Bridgette’s hair turns bright red, and she starts speakign German. Viewers who had never seen the German original probably wondered what the Hell was going on.

 

Frankie Shaw on SMILF. Beautiful, crazy, complex, but a great mom.

Frankie Shaw on SMILF. Beautiful, crazy, complex, but a great mom.

Frankie Shaw has taken a real chance in creating the character of Bridgette Bird on SMILF. Bridgette is not perfect at all. She is beautiful, but also very self centered. There are times where Bridgette is unnecessarily cruel to her friends and especially her mother. However, Bridgette’s redeeming quality is that her son Larry (yes she named her son Larry Bird) is always the most important aspect of her life. No matter what other stresses there are, Bridgette never loses her patience with Larry, and always makes sure he is well taken care of.

Connie Britton as Ally in SMILF Rich but half crazy

Connie Britton as Ally in SMILF Rich but half crazy

The rest of the cast is also terrific. Rafi Gomez is Rafi, the baby daddy, who has his own struggles with alcoholism and relationships. Connie Britton is Ally, a rich Bostonian who Bridgette works for part time as a handy woman and confidant. Ally shows that even people with lots of money can have crazy lives. Samara Weaving is Nelson Rose, Rafi’s new girlfriend. She is optimistic, cheerful and successful; everything Bridgette is not, and it drives Bridgette crazy. Raven Goodwin plays Bridgette’s best friend Eliza, who is responsible for bringing some sense of sanity into Bridgette’s life. Everyone needs a best friend like Eliza.

We recommend SMILF as one of the best new shows.

Hamlet 2 – The Musical sequel to Shakespeare’s classic play

Hamlet 2 is a hilarious 2008  comedy about a high school drama teacher who decides to create a musical sequel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. The fact that every character dies in the original Hamlet is the first obstacle to overcome. Drama teacher Dana Marschz (played by Steve Coogan) has a bizarre solution.  Hamlet 2 uses a time machine, Jesus, and a collection of semi-obscene musical numbers to set everything right.

Steve Coogan as Jesus in "Hamlet 2"

Steve Coogan as Jesus in “Hamlet 2”

The drama students all realize that Mr. Marschz is having some sort of mental breakdown. His marriage is falling apart and his career is a failure. He so desperately wants Hamlet 2 to work, that his students decide to give it their all; knowing that an idea of a sequel to Hamlet is idiotic.

Joseph Julia Soria in “Hamlet 2”

Joseph Julian Soria is Octavio Marquez, the de facto leader of the students. He pretends to be a tough street-wise kid, but actually comes from a wealthy and well-educated family. When the school administrators decide to ban Hamlet 2, Octavio takes this as a chance to become the rebel he has always wanted to be.

Skylar Astin & Phoebe Strole discuss "Hamlet 2"

Skylar Astin & Phoebe Strole discuss “Hamlet 2”

Elizabeth Shue plays herself, as a frustrated actress who has left Hollywood due to all the insincerity  the business. However, when she sees the passion behind the attempt to make Hamlet 2, it rekindles her love of acting. Phoebe Strole is student Epiphany, who is a star in Hamlet 2 and one of the main singers, with a beautiful voice. Skylar Astin is Rand, who changes from believing that Mr. Marschz is crazy to  simply believing in Mr. Marschz.

Steve Coogan & Elizabeth Shue in Hamlet 2

Steve Coogan & Elizabeth Shue in Hamlet 2

One of the best parts of Hamlet 2 is that we actually do get to see the the play. “Incredible” is the only word that describes it. Hamlet 2 is sort of a cross between Jesus Christ Superstar, The Time Machine, and Grease. One of the parents (played by Marco Rodriguez) states it best when he says. “I am at once both horrified yet fascinated”.

Hamlet 2 is a fun, silly movie to watch. It reminds us how important it is to believe in our friends’  ideas, no matter how idiotic  or impossible to achieve their ideas may seem.

“The Crown” Insults Jackie Kennedy

Netflix The Crown portrayed Jacqueline Kennedy as a drug addicted, anorexic idiot who felt completely inferior to Queen Elizabeth. President John F. Kennedy was portrayed as a wife-beating moron who did not know how properly address Royalty and who pumped Jackie full of drugs against her will. The Crown episode “Dear Mrs. Kennedy”  is an insult to the memories of Jack & Jackie Kennedy.

Jodi Balfor as Jackie Kennedy in The Crown

Jodi Balfour as Jackie Kennedy in The Crown

Jodi Balfour gives one of the worst Jackie Kennedy impressions of all time. This South African actress somehow makes the elegant Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy sound like she has a thick New York accent.  In addition, Jodi Balfour does not look like Jackie Kennedy. The real Mrs. Kennedy was slim and elegant. Jodi Balfour simply looked anorexic; like a bread-stick in an evening gown.

Michael C. Hall as Jack Kennedy in "The Crown"

Michael C. Hall as Jack Kennedy in “The Crown”

Michael C. Hall as John F. Kennedy was just awful. Michael C. Hall, is best known as the star of Dexter, in which he was perfect.  In The Crown, Michael C. Hall kept trying to do what was supposed to be a Boston Accent. It was not. He also had Jack Kennedy being tongue tied and awkward when speaking to the Royal family. The real Jack Kennedy was never awkward. The real Jack Kennedy was at ease addressing people of any station in life. It was one of his greatest strengths.

.S. President John Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy return to the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, France on May 31, 1961. The President and the First Lady return from a formal dinner given at the Elysees Palace as guests of French President Charles De Gaulle. (AP Photo)

U.S. President John Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy return to the Quai d’Orsay in Paris, France on May 31, 1961. The President and the First Lady return from a formal dinner given at the Elysees Palace as guests of French President Charles De Gaulle. (AP Photo)

As bad as the acting was, the plot was worse, and completely false. The Dear Mrs. Kennedy Episode of The Crown  takes place just after the Kennedy’s triumphant trip to Paris, during which Jackie Kennedy charmed Charles de Gaulle with her fluent French. In the  actual historical event President Kennedy was thrilled with the way all of France fell in love with  Jackie Kennedy. Charles de Gaulle was notoriously difficult to negotiate with, and Jackie Kennedy smoothed the way for a successful negotiation between the French and the Americans. Jackie Kennedy was more useful than all the ambassadors and State Department professionals put together.

Jack & Jackie Kennedy with Charles de Gaulle

Jack & Jackie Kennedy with Charles de Gaulle

However, in The Crown,  the show has President Kennedy  being jealous of Jackie to the point where he physically beats her after the dinner with de Gaulle. It also has Jack Kennedy as a drug addict who gives drugs to Jacqueline to make her perform better at public events.

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie Kennedy

This is such a twisting of facts that it it obscene. President Kennedy suffered from Addison’s Disease and also had back pain from injuries suffered in World War II. During the War his PT Boat 109 was cut in half by a Japanese destroyer. He had to swim miles to shore, dragging a wounded man through the water. This gave him permanent back trouble.  Jack Kennedy took doctor prescribed medications for these ailments. He was not a drug addict. He was a war hero. He did have affairs with many women. However, the idea of Jack Kennedy physically attacking Jacqueline is absurd.

05 June 1961 Buckingham Palace Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip host Queen's Dinner for President and Mrs. Kennedy. U. S. Department of State photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

05 June 1961 Buckingham Palace Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip host Queen’s Dinner for President and Mrs. Kennedy. U. S. Department of State photograph in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

The real Jacqueline Kennedy took no drugs and was not a heavy drinker. Jackie Kennedy’s father, the strikingly handsome “Black Jack” Bouvier was an alcoholic, and in fact was so inebriated that he could not attend Jacqueline’s wedding to Jack Kennedy. Because of this, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was very careful her whole life not to follow in her father’s footsteps. She never drank to excess and never got into illegal drugs.

"Black Jack" Bouvier, the father of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy

“Black Jack” Bouvier, the father of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy

In The Crown, Jackie Kennedy is at a party high on drugs and alcohol and says insulting things about Queen Elizabeth II. Later in the episode, Jackie begs forgiveness of the Queen in a private meeting, basically grovelling and confessing that Jack Kennedy beats her and gives her drugs.

Michael C. Hall & Jodi Balfor as Jack & Jackie Kennedy

Michael C. Hall & Jodi Balfour as Jack & Jackie Kennedy

The Crown is generally an excellent show and fun to watch . However, the Dear Mrs. Kennedy episode is such an inaccurate portrayal of Jack & Jackie Kennedy  that it makes one  question the accuracy of any of the historic figures shown in the series.

"The Crown" writer Peter Morgan

“The Crown” writer Peter Morgan

Is The Crown just a fictional result of British writer Peter Morgan pretending that The United Kingdom is the center of the universe? Many people today argue that  the modern U.K. is a third-rate power and that Queen Elizabeth II is closer to a Disneyland attraction than she is to a World Leader. Her only function is to attract tourists to the U.K., much like the Disney Princesses bringing in the crowds to the theme park.  Is the writer Peter Morgan having The Crown change historical events to make it look like Queen Elizabeth II really was a major world leader at one time?

The real Jack & Jackie Kennedy

The real Jack & Jackie Kennedy

If the writer of The Crown wants to make Queen Elisabeth II seem more interesting and stronger than she really is; that is fine. Just don’t do it by insulting the memory of Jacqueline Kennedy who was one of the strongest women of the century in all the ways that truly matter.  She deserves better than that.

ILL Behaviour – The comedy about Cancer & Kidnapping

ILL Behaviour is the British  comedy about Cancer & Kidnapping now playing on Showtime. As bizarre as this sounds, it is really funny. Tom Riley plays Charlie, who has just been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The good news is that chemotherapy has a 94% cure rate for this disease. The bad news is that Charlie refuses chemo and instead decides trying to cure himself using only fruit juices, beet paste and other “natural” medicines.

Tom Riley & Lizzy Caplan in ILL Behaviour

Tom Riley & Lizzy Caplan in ILL Behaviour

Charlie’s Friends Tess (Jessica Regan) and Joel (Chris Geere) decide that they cannot simply stand by and let Charlie die just because he is too pig headed to take chemo. Luckily, Joel is fabulously wealthy. He comes up with a plan to kidnap Charlie, hold him prisoner in a rented castle and pump him full of anti-cancer drugs against his will.

Lizzy Caplan, Chris Geere, Jessica Regan & Tom Riley (seated) in ILL Behaviour

Of course to do this, they will need an actual doctor. In comes Nadia (Lizzy Caplan), an American doctor in England, who also happens to be an alcoholic coke-head in desperate need of money. She agrees to the plot, and the kidnapping is on.

Christina Chong is Kira in ILL Behavior

Christina Chong is Kira in ILL Behavior

ILL Behaviour is a show where  the British understated sense of humor really works perfectly. Even though Joel and Tess have kidnapped Charlie, and hold him in an old castle, they want to make his life “fun.” They even give him an internet Call Of Duty game to play with, unaware that this allows Charlie to contact the other players around the world. When Charlie tells the other players that he is being held in an old castle and being given drugs against his will, the other players think it is just part of the game. “Cool. How do I get to that level?”, is the response from the other players.

Ill Behaviour's Tess (JESSICA REGAN), Joel (CHRIS GEERE) - (C) Fudge Park Too LTD - Photographer: Jon Hall

Ill Behaviour’s Tess (JESSICA REGAN), Joel (CHRIS GEERE) – (C) Fudge Park Too LTD – Photographer: Jon Hall

As the episodes go on, the plot of ILL Behaviour gets darker and darker. Charlie is married to Kira (Christina Chong) and has two kids. Kira, of course, is very upset that Charlie has disappeared, so Joel keeps going over to “console” her. Kira is beautiful and kind and Charlie starts getting used to the idea of this becoming His family.

ILL Behaviour is not for everyone. Some people may find the humor too dark and the concept too strange. However, we loved it.

 

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” – The Sexual Predator’s Christmas Song

Baby It’s Cold Outside is the sexual predator’s Christmas song that gets played this time of year. It is meant to be a romantic duet. But if  you really listen to the words you will see it  is a song saying that sexual harassment is O.K.  It is  the story of a young woman repeating over and over that she wants to leave.  An older, more powerful  man keeps making unwelcome sexual advances while he pressures her to stay. The “romantic” conclusion to the song is that the young woman finally gives in and stays with the man, even though this will completely destroy her reputation with her family and neighbors.

Ricardo Montalban & Ester Williams singing "Baby It's Cold Outside". Ester Williams definitely looks like a woman being sexually harassed

Ricardo Montalban & Ester Williams singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. Ester Williams definitely looks like a woman being sexually harassed

Baby It’s Cold Outside was written by Frank Loesser for the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter. The surprising part is that the original song in the film is sung by Ricardo Montalban and Ester Williams, who are not known as singers.  In that version, Ricardo Montalban gets very “handsy” with Ester Williams. Several times she tries to leave his apartment and every time, he grabs her arm and moves her back onto the couch.

Ricardo Montalban forces Ester Williams back on to a couch while singing "Baby It's Cold Outside", in the film Neptune's Daughter

Ricardo Montalban forces Ester Williams back on to a couch while singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, in the film Neptune’s Daughter

The more times we read the lyrics to Baby It’s Cold Outside, the creepier the song seems. Especially  disturbing is the fact that the woman says “Say, what’s in this drink?” right after drinking something the man gives her. It sounds like the guy is using a page right out of Bill Cosby’s playbook. The song has been covered many times, with Dean Martin singing many versions with many different female vocalists. One of Dean Martin’s versions is what you usually hear on the radio.

Bill Cosby would be the perfect singer for "Baby It's Cold Outside."

Bill Cosby would be the perfect singer for “Baby It’s Cold Outside.”

So, here are the complete  lyrics of the duet  Baby It’s Cold Outside, and we have indicated the man and the woman’s parts. Read them and decide for yourself, if this is innocent flirtation, or a creep trying to force a young woman into doing something against her will?

Woman:   I really can’t stay
Man:          but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman:  I’ve got to go away
Man:         but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman: This evening has been
Man:        been hoping that you’d drop in
Woman: So very nice
Man         I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice.
Woman: My mother will start to worry
Man:        Beautiful what’s your hurry?
Woman: My father will be pacing the floor
Man         listen to the fireplace roar
Woman: So really I’d better scurry
Man:        beautiful please don’t hurry
Woman: But maybe just a half a drink more
Man:        put some records on while I pour
Woman: The neighbors might think
Man:        baby, it’s bad out there
Woman: Say what’s in this drink?
Man:        no cabs to be had out there
Woman: I wish I knew how
Man:      your eyes are like starlight now
Woman:  To break this spell
Man:        I‘ll take your hat, your hair looks swell
Woman:  I ought to say, no, no, no sir
Man:        mind if I move in closer?
Woman: At least I’m gonna say that I tried
Man:        what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?
Woman: I really can’t stay
Man:       oh baby don’t hold out But baby, it’s cold outside
Woman I simply must go
Man:         but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman:  The answer is no
Man:         but baby, it’s cold outside
Woman: Your welcome has been
Man:       how lucky that you dropped in
Woman: So nice and warm
Man:     look out the window at this dawn
Woman: My sister will be suspicious
Man:       gosh your lips look delicious
Woman: My brother will be there at the door
Man:       waves upon the tropical shore
Woman: My maiden aunts mind is vicious
Man:       gosh your lips are delicious
Woman: But maybe just a cigarette more
Man:        never such a blizzard before
Woman: I’ve gotta get home
Man:         but baby, you’d freeze out there
Woman:  Say lend me a coat
Man:          it’s up to your knees out there
Woman:   You’ve really been grand
Man:          i thrill when you touch my hand
Woman:   But don’t you see?
Man:         how can you do this thing to me?
Woman:   There’s bound to be talk tomorrow
Man:        think of my lifelong sorrow
Woman: At least there will be plenty implied
Man       if you got pneumonia and died
Woman:  I really can’t stay
Man:      get over that old out
Woman: Baby, it’s cold
Man:        Baby, it’s cold outside
The clear message in this 1949 song is that a woman’s “no” does not really mean “no”. The message to men is that if you simply refuse to let a woman leave, keep giving her drinks, and over and over keep pressuring her for sex, then eventually you will be successful.
Time Magazine's 2017 Person Of The Year, "The Silence Breakers"

Time Magazine’s 2017 Person Of The Year, “The Silence Breakers”

Time Magazine just named The Silence Breakers as their 2017 “Person Of The Year.” Along with the five women whose faces are shown, there is a sixth women on the cover, where we see only her elbow. That unnamed women is meant to represent the thousands of women who have been sexually harassed over the years , but whose stories have never become public. Like the woman in Baby It’s Cold Outside, who is trying over and over to politely get away from a man who simply will not stop grabbing at her.

 So we at East Cost Stories say that  2017  is the year that radio stations should finally stop playing that “Christmas Classic” Baby It’s Cold Outside. Goodbye and good riddance to this song.

The Orville – better than Star Trek Next Generation

The Orville is a high quality Sci-Fi show with good character development and great plots. We were afraid that Seth MacFarlane would give us a one-dimensional low brow Star Trek spoof. Instead, The Orville has high production values, great special effects, and plots that give interesting social commentary.

Giorgia Whigham & Seth MacFarlane star in The Orville

Giorgia Whigham & Seth MacFarlane star in The Orville

Our favorite The Orville is Episode  called Majority Rule, which is a about a planet completely run by social media. Every person of the planet wears a badge showing exactly how many “likes” or “dislikes” they have received in their lives. You career, your social standing, even whether or not you get arrested is entirely dependent on being popular. What is true or real or right no longer matters. All that matters on that planet is being popular. Of course, this is a commentary on America’s current political climate, where truth and facts no longer seem to matter.

Giorgia Whigham and the crew of The Orville

Giorgia Whigham and the crew of The Orville

Seth MacFarlane has been able to bring together a great group of actors for the crew of The Orville and each week’s episode has terrific guest stars. Charlize Theron is a traveler from the future who tries to kidnap the crew. Giorgia Whigham stars in The Majority Rule episode.

Scott Grimes, Charlize Theron & J Lee in The Orville

Scott Grimes, Charlize Theron & J Lee in The Orville

Scott Grimes is Lieutenant Gordon Malloy, and  J. Lee is Lieutenant John Lamarr. Malloy and Lamarr enjoy playing jokes and gossiping about the fellow crew members as much as they enjoy piloting The Orville.

Seth MacFarlane & Adrianne Palicki in The Orville

Seth MacFarlane & Adrianne Palicki in The Orville

Adrianne Palicki is the Kelly Grayson, the second in command of the ship, and coincidentally the ex-wife of the commander, Ed Mercer (Seth MacFarlane). You may remember Adrianne Palicki as the fun contract killer in John Wick. Fortunately, her character’s life expectancy is a lot longer in The Orville.

Halston Sage when she is not in her The Orville makeup

Halston Sage when she is not in her The Orville makeup

One of the most interesting characters is head of security Alara Kitan (perfectly played by Halston Sage). Despite being young and small, Alara is super strong compared to humans, since she comes from a large planet with  huge gravitational pull. Her super strength intimidates all the young men she tries to date and pretty much ruins any change for a love-life. Halston Sage herself is only 24 years old, and does a remarkable job bringing this character to life.

Halston Sage as Alara Kitan in The Orville

Halston Sage as Alara Kitan in The Orville

O.K. Star Trek fans brace yourselves. We actually prefer The Orville to Star Trek Next Generation. The crew of The Orville knows how to have fun and consequently the show is fun too. Star Trek Next Generation, and especially Patrick Stewart were just so serious all the time that it got to be ridiculous.

Patrick Stewart over-acting as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek Next Generation

Patrick Stewart over-acting as Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek Next Generation

We all know that Patrick Stewart is a great Shakespearean actor, who used to have contests with Sir Lawrence Olivier. However, Star Trek Next Generation was NOT Shakespeare and it got to be a little tedious watching Patrick Stewart pretending it was.

Peter Macon as Bortus in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

Peter Macon as Bortus in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

Peter Macon is Bortus, a macho alien from an all male planet, who lives with his husband on the ship. One of the most moving and serious episodes of The Orville is when Bortus  and his mate  have a baby that turns out to be female, which is a one in a billion chance for that species.  They have to decide whether to accept the child as is and condemn her to a life as an outcast, or else force a sex-change operation on the infant.

Adrianne Palicki & Charlize Theron in The Orville

Adrianne Palicki & Charlize Theron in The Orville

Completing the main cast is Penny Johnson Jerald as Doctor Claire Finn, who is also trying to be a single mother aboard the ship. Of the two jobs, being the doctor is far easier than being the mother. There is also an episode where Claire has one of the weirdest sexual encounters ever shown on regular. T.V. Let’s just say it includes a naked Penny Johnson Jerald, an alien blob and background music that sounds like a cheesy 1970’s porn soundtrack. It is disturbing and hilarious at the same time.

Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

Penny Johnson Jerald as Dr. Claire Finn in the new space adventure series THE ORVILLE

So have fun watching The Orville. We certainly did.

Rape & Murder in Hollywood – Virginia Rappe & Fatty Arbuckle

In 1921,  Hollywood film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was accused of the brutal rape and murder of beautiful 26 year old actress Virginia Rappe. Fatty Arbuckle went to trial for manslaughter 3 times, resulting in 2 hung juries and finally an acquittal. Despite the “not guilty” verdict, Fatty Arbuckle’s career was ruined and his life left in shatters.  He died in 1933 of a heart attack at the age of 46. Before the rape allegations, he had been earning $1 million a year; an incredible amount for 1921.

Virginia Rappe, who allegedly was raped and murdered by film star Fatty Arbuckle

Virginia Rappe, who allegedly was raped and murdered by film star Fatty Arbuckle

But what really happened the night of September 5, 1921 in Fatty Arbuckle’s hotel room, that resulted in the death of Virginia Rappe? The tabloids wrote  that after a wild party filled with drinking illegal booze (it was Prohibition), Fatty went wild and raped Virginia Rappe. His great weight was such that his attack actually caused the Virginia Rappe’s bladder to rupture. She died in horrible agony.

Film comedian Roscoe "Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

Film comedian Roscoe “Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

The titillating details of the scandal sold newspapers by the thousands, and the Tabloid Press went into a feeding frenzy attacking Fatty Arbuckle. The public could not get enough. People no longer saw Fatty Arbuckle as the adorable overweight clown. He was now just an oversized sex-crazed monster.

The Fatty Arbuckle story sold thousands of newspapers

The Fatty Arbuckle story sold thousands of newspapers

The truth is that Virginia Rappe did die of a ruptured bladder, but she was not raped and did not even  have sex on the night of the party. Despite her beauty, Virginia Rappe was a very unhealthy young woman. Months of drinking poor quality Prohibition-era liquor had done its damage, as did the several illegal abortions she had undergone. She also had cancer, which is the most likely cause of the rupture that resulted in  her death.

Virginia Rappe who despite her healthy looks was actually very ill

Virginia Rappe who despite her healthy looks was actually very ill

However, the truth did not  matter to San Fransisco District Attorney Matthew Brady. He wanted to get elected Governor of California, and the fame surrounding the Arbuckle trial was his ticket to becoming known as the “law & order” candidate who sent a crazed sex maniac to the gas chamber. Brady intimidated witnesses, kept key information from the defense team, and outright lied.

Minta Durfee- Fatty Arbuckle's ex-wife. Someone tried to kill her outside the courthouse.

Minta Durfee- Fatty Arbuckle’s ex-wife. Someone tried to kill her outside the courthouse.

The public and press had already decided that Arbuckle was guilty, even before the trial began. Fatty Arbuckle’s ex-wife  Minta Durfee came to court to show support and testify as to his good character. Her appearance was cut short when someone fired a gun at her outside the courthouse.

Film comedian Roscoe "Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

Film comedian Roscoe “Fatty Arbuckle, accused of rape and murder

The public did not seem to care about the facts of the case. The first fact was that no rape charges were ever even filed, since there was no evidence of any sexual activity. The second fact was that the Hearst newspapers were paying big bucks for the “true stories” of anyone who was at the party or claimed to be. Hearst knew that the headline”actress raped and murdered” sells a lot more papers than “actress dies of cancer.”

Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle on trial

Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle on trial

There was some damning testimony from the Prosecution. An “expert criminologist” was produced, who said he found Arbuckle’s bloody fingerprints all over the wall in  Virginia Rappe’s hotel room. The Defense team, however, brought forth the hotel maid who testified that she had completely cleaned the room days before this so called “criminologist” had ever even been allowed to  examined it. She also stated there  was no blood and no bloody fingerprints on the wall even before she had cleaned the room.

The Hotel Doctor, Arthur Beardslee testified that Virginia Rappe’s injuries were caused by the external force of a large weight on her (like Fatty Arbuckle). In fact, the doctor was really just trying to save his own career and medical license . Early at the party, Virginia Rappe was in extreme pain and Arbuckle  had immediately called the hotel doctor (Beardslee). The doctor’s diagnosis was that “This girl’s just drunk. Let her sleep it off.” Arbuckle followed the doctor’s advice and put her in a separate room while the party continued in the main room. Poor Virginia Rappe died alone and in agony in a hotel room, while a wild party raged a few rooms down.

It took 3 trials, and bit by bit the Defense team was able to bring the true facts to light.  The third jury came in with a Not Guilty verdict, and even wrote a letter of apology to Mr. Arbuckle for all he had been through.

But the stress and financial burden of the trials had been too much. Fatty Arbuckle was never the same again. Even today,  the majority of people who recognize the name “Fatty Arbuckle” identify him as “an old-time movie star who raped and murdered a young woman.”  The Truth has a short lifespan, but really juicy Rumors and Lies live forever.

 

 

 

 

Lady Bird – The Best Independent Film Of The Year

Lady Bird is, without doubt, the best independent film of the year. It stars Saoirse Ronan as Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, a Sacramento high school senior discovering who she is and what is really important in life. Unlike most “high school” movies, the characters in Lady Bird all come across as real people coping with real problems.

Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan & Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird

The main dynamic of the film is the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother Marion (perfectly played by Laurie Metcalf). Lady Bird is trying to be independent, while her mother is constantly trying to help by giving well meaning advice, and more advice and even more advice. The resulting mother-daughter clashes are humorous, and something that every parent will instantly recognize. There is no bad guy in the film. We sympathize with both Lady Bird and her mother, even when their views are in direct opposition.

Saoirse Ronan & Beanie Feldstein in Lady Bird

Saoirse Ronan & Beanie Feldstein in Lady Bird

In addition to dealing with an over-protective mother, Lady Bird is facing a number of moral and ethical choices   at school. Like all teenagers, sometimes she makes the right choice and sometimes she does not. Lady Bird attends  a private Catholic school, and it is nice to see a film that does not resort to Catholic stereotypes for cheap laughs. The school is a well run caring place  using modern teaching techniques while trying to maintain the Catholic faith.

Odeya Rush

Odeya Rush

Lady Bird is lucky enough to have a wonderful caring best friend Julie (Beanie Feldstein), who Lady Bird does not appreciate as much as she should, and instead is drawn to a beautiful rich classmate Jenna (Odeya Rush). Again the film Lady Bird avoids using any of the cliches we see in so many movies. Jenna is not a “rich bitch”. She is nice, but simply part of a completely different group.

Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush & Beanie Feldstein

Saoirse Ronan, Odeya Rush & Beanie Feldstein

Director Greta Gerwig has done a masterful job of having Lady Bird be an honest, witty and fun film about the challenges faced by young women in today’s world. Despite a very limited release, Lady Bird is one of the top films in the U.S. playing to full houses every night. If you are lucky enough to find Lady Bird playing near you, it is definitely  a film you should experience.

The Naked Milk Bath – Claudette Colbert in the 1932 Sign Of The Cross

In the 1932 Sign Of The Cross, Claudette Colbert frolicked naked in a milk bath, briefly fully exposing her ample breasts to shocked Depression-era movie audiences. Sign Of The Cross contained a number of fully naked women, almost naked men, and hints of homosexuality and bisexuality. Sign Of The Cross was able to get away with showing this much naked flesh, by disguising itself as a “religious movie”.

Claudette Colbert reveals her breasts in the 1932 Sign Of The Cross

Claudette Colbert reveals her breasts in the 1932 Sign Of The Cross

Theoretically Sign Of The Cross was about the struggle of the brave Christians being persecuted by the sinful Romans. But director Cecil B. DeMille was no preacher. The real focus of the film is on the decadent Romans, not the pious Christians. As Billy Joel was to say many decades later “sinners are much more fun”. Depression-era movie audiences did not come in from the cold street to see other people suffering. They wanted some fun and titillation and who better to provide that than the wild Romans?

Charles Laughton as Emperor Nero in "The Sign Of The Cross" 1932

Charles Laughton as Emperor Nero in “The Sign Of The Cross” 1932

There was no movie censorship in 1932, but that did not mean theaters would show something considered pornographic. However, Cecil B. DeMille came up with the perfect formula for giving people what they wanted, while letting audiences pretend they were not really watching a sex film.

The 1932 Sign Of The Cross was before censorship and full of nudity

The 1932 Sign Of The Cross was before censorship and full of nudity

Religion was the perfect way to disguise audiences desire to see sex. Sign Of The Cross showed in great detail the gluttony, orgies and sexual depravity of the Roman Empire, while pretending to point out how “bad” this all was. That way movie audiences got the best of both worlds. Audiences were able to see the naked flesh, all the while pretending they were really watching a film about the early struggles of Christianity. Of course, many of the Christian martyrs being sacrificed in the Coliseum just happened to be beautiful naked women.

Charles Laughton an the decadent Nero in Sigh Of The Cross

Charles Laughton an the decadent Nero in Sigh Of The Cross

Sign Of The Cross was especially shocking for its hints of homosexuality and bisexuality. Emperor Nero was played by Charles Laughton who, incredibly for the times, was open about being a homosexual. (The word “gay” would not come into the language for many years.) Emperor Nero is surrounded by well-built slave men who are wearing almost nothing. In other scenes Nero is attended by near-naked young women. Apparently Nero had quite a diverse sexual appetite.

Claudette Colbert takes naked direction from Cecil B. DeMille in Sign Of The Cross

Claudette Colbert takes naked direction from Cecil B. DeMille in Sign Of The Cross

But the most famous scene in Sign Of The Cross is Claudette Colbert as Empress Poppaea and her naked milk bath. She does not just lie there passively. Swimming around and exploring herself sexually, there is one quick flash where her nipples are full exposed. Watching the film today, you can still almost hear the gasps from the 1932 movie audiences.

Claudette Colbert in a naked milk bath in "The Sign Of The Cross"

Claudette Colbert in a naked milk bath in “The Sign Of The Cross”

Claudette Colbert’s acting actually was actually amazing, considering how non-sexual  the real situation was. The bath Claudette Colbert was in actually was filled with milk. Powdered milk had been mixed with water to give the water a translucent quality. Even Cecil B. DeMille did not dare film the scene in clear water. That would have shown Claudette Colbert completely naked throughout the whole scene.

Claudette Colbert & Charles Laughton in "Sign Of The Cross"

Claudette Colbert & Charles Laughton in “Sign Of The Cross”

The powdered milk mixed with water looked great on film, but the hot movie lights quickly turned the milk sour. So while Claudette Colbert was acting sexual and seductive, she was actually breathing in the stench of sour milk the whole time. That’s acting.

Charlize Theron naked in a milk bath in "Snow White And The Huntsman"

Charlize Theron naked in a milk bath in “Snow White And The Huntsman”

Of course the “moral authorities” in the United States went berserk. However, the full force of their wrath did not become apparent until 2 years later in 1934 when Tarzan And His Mate was released. In that film, Jane swims completely naked in clear water for a considerable period. As a result of that scene, censorship was born and nudity was out of American films for many many years.

Naked Christian woman being sacrificed to the lions in The Sign Of The Cross

Naked Christian woman being sacrificed to the lions in The Sign Of The Cross

However, the Naked Milk Bath never left American cinema. One of the most recent reincarnations was Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna in the PG-13 rated Snow White And The Huntsman. Charlize Theron emerges naked from a milk bath. However, the milk is much thicker and Charlize Theron’s hands strategically cover her breasts. Claudette Colbert’s 1932 Naked Milk Bath was about 100 times sexier.

We recommend Sign of The Cross as a fascinating film to watch. Long before CGI and other special effects, you can be sure that when you see actors wrestling with Lions, they really were wrestling with lions. It is amazing that no one got killed making Sign Of The Cross. Beautiful naked and semi-naked women and men, a cast of thousands, ferocious animals and of course, the most memorable Naked Milk Bath of all time. A true Hollywood classic.

Mother – the movie explained

Critics hate the movie Mother because they cannot understand it. So here is an explanation (Spoiler Alert) detailing what this film actually about. Javier Bardem is a very bad writer (The Poet) who has created one perfect character (Jennifer Lawrence) and then can’t craft a good story to put her in. Jennifer Lawrence (Mother) only vaguely understands that she is actually a character in a story and not a real person. She is completely subservient to The Poet  and continues to trust him no matter how bizarre the story gets or how badly The Poet treats her.

Jennifer Lawrence as the confused main character in "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence as the confused main character in “Mother”

In the end, The Poet realizes that his story is utter crap, and the entire house and all the characters burn up in a massive explosion. Then Mother re-awakens on a sunny day in her own bed and the story starts again. This is, of course, the story being re-written. This is exactly how the movie began, so we realize that the story has been re-written over and over many times.

The idea of people being characters in a story controlled by someone else has been done often. The Twilight Zone has several episodes like this. Mother, however, takes the concept to the ultimate extreme. It details what happens to our hapless main character, when her existence is controlled by a very bad hack writer. Of course, we love Jennifer Lawrence as the main character. She is beautiful and kind and sweet, so it is painful to watch the terrible ordeals The Poet puts her through.

Jennifer Lawrence broke a rib in the action sequences of "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence broke a rib in the action sequences of “Mother”

Speaking of painful, Jennifer Lawrence was so dedicated to the film that she continued once action scene even after breaking a rib when an extra fell on her.

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in "Mother"

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in “Mother”

There are many hints in Mother that this is all just a draft story by a bad author. Here are just a few of the hints:

  • None of the Characters have names. Jenifer Lawrence is simply called “Mother”, and Javier Bardem “The Poet”. As the story progresses, more and more characters appear, but not a single one is given a name.
  • A writer is worshiped. Let’s face it, writers are very bitter that they never become celebrities they way actors do, even when they have written the films that made the actors famous. In Mother, The Poet writes one poem that is so good he becomes a cult hero worshiped by thousands who travel to visit his house as a shrine.

 

Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer in "Mother"

Ed Harris & Michelle Pfeiffer in “Mother”

  • There is no world outside the house. All of the action takes place in one beautiful house but outside there is nothing but grass. No farms, no roads, no cars, no buildings. The author  apparently used all his creative energy making the setting of the house and did not have enough imagination to describe a community to go with it.  Even the house itself is not fully constructed,
  • New Characters are brought in awkwardly and with no reason. Ed Harris shows up at the house and later brings his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer). The poet simply invites them in to live in the house, which is something no person would do in real life.
  • When the story seems to be going nowhere the author just makes it a violent as possible. This goes on and on to a ridiculous extent. When Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer just show up, the story drags, as it seems to revolve around how to get rid of annoying and unwanted guests.  Then in the last 20 minutes of the movie we get a murder. Then a riot. Then an attack by the army.

 

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in the strange world of Mother

Jennifer Lawrence & Javier Bardem in the strange world of Mother

  • When all else fails, a bad author goes for”Gross & Disgusting”. As a grand finale Jennifer Lawrence gives birth to a baby which is then killed and eaten by the crowd worshiping The Poet. At this point in the theater where we saw Mother  several people actually booed. One fellow shouted out “What the F**k”?

So there it is. Mother is a bad story that is supposed to be a bad story. But we actually liked it. If you take the story seriously, you will hate Mother. However, we recommend you watch it as intended. The story of a beautiful and sympathetic charter (Jennifer Lawrence) who is forever trapped in a world being made and re-made by a bad creator.  Despite all this, she still loves The Poet. She has faith that one day, he will finally create for her a perfect world in which she and her baby can live forever.

3 Generations – Elle Fanning as a transgender teen – Good concept but Hallmark Channel” ending

3 Generations stars Elle Fanning as “Ray” a transgender teen.   A good film is almost ruined by a “Hallmark Channel” ending. In real life, people don’t reconcile, prejudices run deep and every problem does not have a solution. On the Hallmark Channel, of course, every complex issue can be resolved within a two hour show. We expected more from a a film tacking the controversial issue of transgender teens

However, despite these flaws, 3 Generations is worth seeing simply for the superb acting of every cast member.   Even though Ray is  part of a very progressive New York City family, Ray’s decision to physically become male puts tremendous stress on the 3 generations of her family living in 1 apartment.

Elle Fanning as a transgender teen in "3 Generations"

Elle Fanning as a transgender teen in “3 Generations”

Elle Fanning gives a masterful performance as Ramona, who never felt comfortable in the body of a girl. Very early in childhood she insisted on being “Ray”, – dressing & behaving as a boy. Now at age 16 she wants to complete the transition with hormone treatments and surgery, to become truly male.

Naomi Watts & Elle Fanning in "3 Generations"

Naomi Watts & Elle Fanning in “3 Generations”

Of course, at age 16 she needs parental consent. This causes anguish for Ray’s mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) Maggie wrestles with what the right decision should be. The pressures on Maggie are made even greater by the fact that she and Ray live with Ray’s grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon). Despite being a lesbian herself, Dolly completely rejects the concept of a transgender teen. Dolly also feels it is necessary to express her opinions as often as possible.

Tate Donovan & Naomi Watts in "3 Generations"

Tate Donovan & Naomi Watts in “3 Generations”

Just when Ray thinks the situation cannot become any more complex, there is a new issue. Even if Maggie does consent for the procedure; that will not be enough.  It turns out that Ray’s father also needs to approve, even though he has not  been around for many years. Ray decides to search out her father and confront him with the fact that “his little girl” is not who he thought.

Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon & Elle Fanning at the premier of "3 Generations"

Naomi Watts, Susan Sarandon & Elle Fanning at the premier of “3 Generations”

Throughout her career Elle Fanning has always played a very feminine “girly-girl”. Recently she was a a fashion model in Neon Demon, and a young seductress in the Civil War drama The Beguiled. Her performance  as Ray demonstrates her range.

Naomi Watts, Sam Trammell & Elle Fanning in "3 Generations"

Naomi Watts, Sam Trammell & Elle Fanning in “3 Generations”

The problem with 3 Generations is that the film went in too much for “feel good” scenes and touching family moments, rather than the stark realities of family conflicts. People are just too understanding of Ray. There is 1 scene in which Ray gets beat up by a bully on the street. However, the injuries are just a black eye.

Aside from that 1 incident, everyone accepts Ramona as “Ray”. School officials, other teens doctors, and eventually all family members all have no problems with the issue. Real transgender teens will say that the world is not quite like that.

The most unbelievable part of 3 Generations is that of Ray’s father Craig (played by Tate Donovan).  Without spoiling the film, let’s just say that his actions are not normal for someone who has a transgender kid they have not seen in 10 years suddenly show up.

Still, we do give 3 Generations Four Stars because the acting is superb, and it does have the courage to look at a “hot button” issue.  3 Generations does show the love that can be the part of the life of a transgender person. However, the film also should have realistically shown the hate that also exists in the world of every transgender individual.

Rememory – murder with a science fiction and psychological twist

We are our memories.  But which of our memories are real and which are simply lies we have created over time to smooth the pain of life? Peter Dinklage stars in Rememory, a murder mystery where deciphering the difference between real and false memories becomes a matter of life and death.

Peter Dinklage as Sam Bloom in Rememory

Peter Dinklage as Sam Bloom in Rememory

Peter Dinklage is Sam Bloom, a man who is tormented by memories of the death of his brother in a horrific car crash years earlier. The worst part of the crash is that Sam cannot even remember exactly what happened, including the last words his brother said to him.  Sam seeks out the help of the Rememory machine, a prototype device that can tap into the brain and pull up exact pictures of the past.

The Rememory Machine

The Rememory Machine

The inventor of the Rememory machine is genius scientist Gordon Dunn (Martin Donovan). Dr. Dunn genuinely wants to help troubled patients by getting them to delve into past events that shaped their lives. But perhaps the past was never meant to be relived. Perhaps our minds remold the past into a vague nostalgia for a reason.

Evelyne Brochu as the brilliant scientist's bitter mistress in Rememory

Evelyne Brochu as the brilliant scientist’s bitter mistress in Rememory

As Sam tries to rediscover his own past, Dr. Dunn is murdered and the Rememory machine stolen. Sam goes on a quest to find the murderer and recover the machine. Part of his motive is selfish as this is the only way Sam can find out what really happened to his own brother.

Martin Donovan as Dr. Gordon Dunn - inventor of the Rememory device

Martin Donovan as Dr. Gordon Dunn – inventor of the Rememory device

Rememory is brilliantly acted and directed. Written by Michael Vukadinovich and Mark Palansky. Despite some Sci-Fi aspects, it is a psychological drama rather than a sci-fi movie. The emotions and conflicts of the characters are much more important than the machine. Mark Palansky is also the director of Rememory. The beautiful and remote locations emphasize  how the characters have tired to remove themselves from the world and their own pasts.

Michael Vukadinovich, co-author of Rememory

Michael Vukadinovich, co-author of Rememory

Each of the actors in Rememory bring added depth to the story. Julia Ormond is Carolyn Dunn the tormented wife of Dr. Dunn. She loved her husband deeply, but also knows that he was not the perfect genius the world has come to worship.

Julia Ormond stars as Carolyn Dunn in Rememory

Julia Ormond stars as Carolyn Dunn in Rememory

Evelyne Brochu is Wendy, the former mistress of Dr. Dunn, who is bitter and resentful at being treated as second best.  Matt Ellis is Dash Bloom the rock star brother of Sam. Dash died in the car crash long ago, but Sam is slowly able  to remember more and more about Dash.

Matt Ellis is rock star Sam Bloom in Rememory

Matt Ellis is rock star Sam Bloom in Rememory

Rememory has mysteries within mysteries. Who killed Dr. Dunn? What really happened to Dash Bloom? What are the hidden secrets of Dr. Bloom’s patients?

Mark Palansky - Director & co-author of Rememory

Mark Palansky – Director & co-author of Rememory

Google Play is currently offering Rememory for free. We would have gladly paid to watch such a fine film. However,  it was kind of fun to get something for free and then have it turn out to actually be good. Google Play is a new service Google has rolled out to compete with Netflix and Amazon. This may not be good news for Amazon and Netflix, but it is great news for the moving-loving public. The competition will keep prices low and give us more variety.

Wind River- Murder On An Indian Reservation

Wind River is about hunting the killers of a young Arapaho woman found raped and murdered on the reservation in the dead of a  Wyoming Winter. Filmed entirely on the Wind River reservation, it a a gripping and brutal tale of survival and loss. The Wind River reservation is the size of Rhode Island and Delaware combined and has a total of six tribal police officers to patrol it. The only outside help is that In a murder or other major crime, the FBI may send in an agent to investigate.

Jeremy Renner & Gil Birmingham in Wind River

Jeremy Renner & Gil Birmingham in Wind River

In this case, the FBI sends in Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who is originally from Florida and knows nothing about the reservation or the people. She even has to borrow winter clothing simply to keep from freezing to death. However, she is smart enough to enlist the help of local hunter Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) who is an expert.

Kelsey Chow as murder victim Natalie Hanson in Wind River

Kelsey Chow as murder victim Natalie Hanson in Wind River

Unlike many murder mysteries, Wind River lays bare the devastating impact that a murder has on a family and the entire community. Gil Birmingham gives a truly powerful performance as the father of the murdered girl. He and his wife are devastated by the loss. The film focuses not just on finding the killer, but on how the family is going to try to survive.

Elizabeth Olson & Graham Greene in Wind River

Elizabeth Olsen & Graham Greene in Wind River

Unfortunately, the events of the film are not all fiction.  The Wind River reservation does have high unemployment, a high suicide rate, and did have a series of murders. Wind River does not try to give us a poetically stylized version of the noble American Indian stereotype.  A backdrop to the story is a blunt look at modern problems in today’s Native American population.

Jeremy Renner as the hunter Cory Lambert in Wind River

Jeremy Renner as the hunter Cory Lambert in Wind River

Jeremy Renner is the bitter Cory Lambert; a Fish and Game agent, whose job consists of tracking and killing predators on the reservation such as wolves and mountain lions. His own daughter had frozen to death in the snow years earlier, and he is wracked with guilt that he could not save her. Corey’s wife (played by Julia Jones) has never forgiven him.

Julia Jones

Julia Jones

When Corey is now  brought in to help track the murderers of this  young girl, he takes it as a chance for redemption. Everyone on the Reservation  knows that when a hunter like Cory is sent to track men, he has no intention of bringing any of them in alive.

The bitter Winter on Wind River Reservation

The bitter Winter on Wind River Reservation

The brutality of the murderers is matched only by the brutality of the Wyoming Winter, which is almost its own character in Wind River. None of the events could be imagined in Springtime.

Wind River is a beautifully filmed and acted movie. Graham Green gives the perfect performance as the Tribal Police chief, who has seen it all, but who still feels deep pain for the desperation of his people. Kelsey Chow is Natalie, the murder victim. In too many movies, the murdered person is really a forgotten character.  In Wind River, we are reminded that in the real world, the lives that murders snuff out belonged to actual people with hopes and dreams that never got to be fulfilled.

Natasha Leggero – The Key to the Comedic Success of Showtime’s “Dice”

Showtime’s Dice is now in its second season, and is hilarious. A key to the success is the classic “straight man” (or in this case “straight woman”) performance of Natasha Leggero. In Dice, Natasha Leggero plays Carmen, the long-suffering, ever -patient girlfriend of comedian Andrew Dice Clay.

Natasha Leggero

Natasha Leggero

In Dice, Andrew Dice Clay portrays himself as a down and out comedian whose glory days were 27 years ago. In 1990  Dice’s comedy routine sold out Madison Square Garden. Today living in Las Vegas, he can barely eek out a living telling jokes in the small lounges of casinos. He has not taken this decline in popularity  well, and is constantly cooking up bizarre  schemes to get himself back on top. Of course, Dice’s aggressive “Brooklyn style” personality is his own worst enemy. He refuses to change with the times, no matter how practical or politically correct  that would be.

A still from the Showtime original series DICE (Season 1, Gallery). - Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/Courtesy of SHOWTIME - Photo ID: DICE_Group_01.R Pictured: Kevin Corrigan as Milkshake, Andrew Dice Clay as himself and Natasha Leggero as Carmen

A still from the Showtime original series DICE (Season 1, Gallery). – Photo: Brian Bowen Smith/Courtesy of SHOWTIME – Photo ID: DICE_Group_01.R Pictured: Kevin Corrigan as Milkshake, Andrew Dice Clay as himself and Natasha Leggero as Carmen

Andrew Dice Clay, of course, is known for his “over the top” crude humor and crazy antics. In Dice, he is able to go into the full scale wild man routine, since his performance is offset by the calm normality  of Carmen (Natasha Leggero) In any comedy team the “straight man” is always underappreciated. Bud Abbott set up the routines for Lou Costello to get the laughs. Part of Lucille Ball’s comedy was the fact that Desi Arnaz was always trying to save Lucy from her own crazy schemes.

Straight Man Bud Abbott with Lou Costello

Straight Man Bud Abbott with Lou Costello

In Dice, Natasha Leggaro’s role is almost one of audience participation. She is the voice of reason, constantly pointing out what a normal person would do in the circumstance. This makes Dice’s antics even funnier, since he never does the normal,  reasonable thing.

Andrew "Dice" Clay in 1990 when he sold out Madison Square Garden

Andrew “Dice” Clay in 1990 when he sold out Madison Square Garden

It must take a lot of discipline for Natasha Legarro to remain in character, since she is a great stand up comedian in her own right. Part of her routine is fighting the stereotype that people expect a female comic to be ugly. In one stand up routine a heckler in the crowd yelled out, “Don’t you think you’re too good looking to be a comic?” Natacha’s immediate comeback was “don’t you think you’re too ugly to be speaking to me?” She herself states that good looking female comedians performing for a mostly male audience  are simply “smarter, less molested versions of strippers.”

Straight Desi Arnaz with Lucille Ball

Straight Desi Arnaz with Lucille Ball

But on Dice, Natasha Leggaro never tries to use  her own comedic style to  upstage Andrew Dice Clay. Her performance is the mark of a true processional. As the calm “straight woman” she sets the stage for Andrew Dice Clay to showcase his unique talents to the fullest.

Natasha Leggero as "Carmen" tries unsuccessfully to reason with Andrew "Dice"Clay in Showtime's Dice.

Natasha Leggero as “Carmen” tries unsuccessfully to reason with Andrew “Dice”Clay in Showtime’s Dice.

On Dice, Kevin Corrigan is Dice’s strange side kick and hanger-on named “Milkshake” (whose moniker is never explained.) Kevin Corrigan’s deadpan humor is the perfect foil for Andrew Dice Clay’s blunt style.

Natasha Leggero

Natasha Leggero

Throughout the show, there is no doubt that Carmen loves Dice and simply accepts that his strange way of doing things is a part of who he is and what makes her love him. There is also no doubt that “Dice” loves Carmen and realizes how lucky he is to have found her. Off screen, Andrew Dice Clay also knows exactly how fortunate he is to have found, in Natasha Leggaro, the perfect match to help bring to life some of the best performances of his career.

 

 

 

 

The Last Supper – Liberals Kill Right-Wing Wackos

The Last Supper is a dark comedy in which a group of Liberals, fed up with being intimidated and  threatened by right-wingers, begins murdering them. The film was made in 1995, but the political tension makes you realize that nothing has changed in America. The first killing of a Conservative happens as a bizarre accident, but once the Liberals get a taste for blood there is no going back.

Jonathan Penner & Bill Paxton in The Last Supper

Jonathan Penner & Bill Paxton in The Last Supper

The Liberals are a group of grad students who live in a big house and once  a week have a fancy dinner and discuss how to fix the world. Like all good murder stories, the first death takes place on a dark and stormy night. On that night, they are joined for dinner by a truck driver named Cody (Bill Paxton). When the discussion turns to politics, Cody becomes more and more heated, spewing right-wing, hatred-filled conspiracy theories. Cody becomes violent, breaking the arm of one Liberal and holding a knife to the throat of another. The Liberals finally fight back and end up killing Cody.

Ron Eldard & Cameron Diaz in The Last Supper, with a bottle of poisoned wine between them

Ron Eldard & Cameron Diaz in The Last Supper, with a bottle of poisoned wine between them

At first the Liberals are shocked at what has happened. But then they begin to feel a real sense of power and elation. For the first time in their lives they have actually taken action, instead of just taking about what other people should do to improve the world. Instead of calling the police they decide to hide Cody’s body and start on their own mini-campaign to rid the world of people they perceive as evil.

The Liberals toast the person they are going to kill in The Last Supper

The Liberals toast the person they are going to kill in The Last Supper

This is where The Last Supper turns into a sort of political version of Arsenic And Old Lace. The Liberals search out right-wingers and one by one invite  them for dinner. After a sumptuous meal, the Conservative is  slipped a glass of poisoned wine.

But once the “revenge of the Liberals” begins there is no stopping it. At first they murder those that are the worst of the worst. They invite to dinner a Reverend (Charles Durning), who believes that AIDS is God’s way of punishing homosexuals, and the faster the homosexuals die the better.  However, as The Last Supper progresses the Liberals begin to kill people who are less and less offensive. One victim is a woman who simply has bad taste in literature.

Murder By Death

Murder By Death

The Last Supper may not sound like a comedy, but it is hilarious. The murders take place in the style of Murder By Death or Clue so that the audience always understands this is a spoof.

Clue

Clue

The Last Supper, also has a cast of terrifically talented actors. The Liberals all have the names of Apostles, although there are not 12 of them Cameron Diaz is “Jude”, but it is never clear who she betrays. Jason Alexander is a slob of a dinner guest whose “crime”is that he just doesn’t care about the environment.

The political tensions and violence make The Last Supper feel like it was filmed yesterday instead of in 1995. Bill Paxton is perfect as Cody the truck driver. There is no doubt that Cody would have been marching with the White Supremacists in Charlottesville. Unfortunately, we now  live in an America where political violence is not just on the movie screen.

The Last Supper is a fantastic movie to see today, since it can be watched on so many levels. It is great as the dark comedy it was intended. However, given today’s political environment it can also be seen as a warning of what can happen, if well meaning intellectuals were to give in to their baser desires for revenge.

As a final bizarre note, there was a violent end to the  movie set itself. Days after The Last Supper was finished, the beautiful old house in which it was filmed burned to the ground.

 

 

Rosewater- a Daily Show joke gets an Iranian jailed as a spy

Rosewater is the true story of Iranian Journalist Maziar Bahari who was jailed as a spy, for skit on The Daily Show. In 2009, The Daily Show’s Jason Jones was in Terhan filming a comedy skit. Jason Jones  sat in a cafe and pretended to be an American spy who was openly asking random Iranian citizens to reveal State secrets. The joke was supposed to be about how inept and amateurish the CIA is.

Maziar Bahari  was an Iranian citizen working for Newsweek magazine. He happened to be at the same cafe, and appeared in The Daily Show skit as a joke. Little did he know that this would  land him in jail charged with treason.

Jason Jones pretending to be an American Spy

Jason Jones pretending to be an American Spy

The Iranian authorities already had their eyes on Maziar Bahari. He had filmed the riots that had occurred when  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President of Iran. Many people considered this election a fraud, and large violent riots occurred. Maziar Bahari had filmed the riots and sent the pictures out to the world.

Gael Garcia Bernal & Kim Bodnia in Rosewater

Gael Garcia Bernal & Kim Bodnia in Rosewater

Most of Rosewater takes place in the Iranian prison and is the interaction between Maziar, and the man interrogating him. We never learn the interrogator’s name. Maziar thinks of him as “Rosewater”, since the man constantly wears rosewater cologne.

Golshifeth Farahani in Rosewater

Golshifeth Farahani in Rosewater

Rosewater is a fascinating movie and the acting is superb. Even if you know nothing about Iranian politics, it is a terrific psychological prison drama. Gael Garcia Bernal plays Maziar Bahari and is perfect in the role.

At first Maziar believes his imprisonment is  just a misunderstanding, and that he will quickly be able to explain the truth and then be let free. When Rosewater shows Maziar the tape of Maziar talking to American “spy” Jason Jones, Maziar laughs and explains it is just a comedy show. Then he slowly comes to realize that the Iranian authorities do not see anything as a joke, and that Maziar could be in prison for life.

Claire Foy at the Premier of Rosewater

Claire Foy at the Premier of Rosewater

Kim Bodnia is” Rosewater”, the interrogator. Rosewater does not think of himself as a cruel or evil man. He truly believes himself to be an Iranian patriot protecting the country from dangerous outsiders. He does not physically torture Maziar, and even gives him fruit and tea.

Maziar Bahari & Jon Stewart

Maziar Bahari & Jon Stewart

The worst part of the imprisonment is that Maziar is kept in solitary confinement and blindfolded for most of the day. In his mind he begins to have conversations with his deceased father (played by Haluk Bilginer) and sister (played by Golshifeth Farahani).

Jon Stewart on the set of Rosewater

Jon Stewart on the set of Rosewater

Unbeknownst to Maziar, huge international pressure was being put on Iran to release him. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton hammered the issue over and over again and simply would not let the world forget about Maziar Bahari. The world also fell in love with Maziar’s beautiful pregnant English wife Paola (played by Claire Foy).

Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton would NOT let the world forget about Maziar Bahan

Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton would NOT let the world forget about Maziar Bahari

Rosewater was written and directed by Jon Stewart, who felt terrible that a joke on his show ended up getting a man imprisoned. John Stewart and Executive producer Catherine Farrell made Rosewater a fascinating film that focuses on the human side, rather than becoming too preachy or political.

 

The Minus Man – Owen Wilson As A Laid Back Serial Killer

In The Minus Man, Owen Wilson is a laid back serial killer whose good looks and soft voice keep people from ever suspecting that he is a psychopathic monster. The Minus Man premiered 7 years before Dexter, and in many ways is a far superior presentation.

Owen Wilson as a psychopathic killer in The Minus Man

Owen Wilson as a psychopathic killer in The Minus Man

Owen Wilson is Vann Siegert, who  one day rolls into a sleepy rural town in his old pickup truck and rents a room with a local couple. Vann is handsome and blond with a voice that is so soft and smooth it is almost hypnotic.

Owen Wilson & Sheryl Crow attend the premier of The Minus Man

Owen Wilson & Sheryl Crow attend the premier of The Minus Man

However, even before he arrives in town, we have already seen Vann commit one murder. Unlike television’s Dexter Morgan, The Minus Man has no “code”. Vann does not search out bad people to kill. There is no logic to who The Minus Man murders. He is a very opportunistic killer, taking advantage of whoever is naive enough to drive with him alone at night.

Owen Wilson is amazing at playing this chilling killer. Audiences used to seeing Owen Wilson in light comedies will be stunned to see him as the bad guy. Owen Wilson is so perfect in The Minus Man that you cannot imagine anyone else playing the part.

Jeanne Garofalo - makes the mistake of trying to love a psychopath in The Minus Man

Jeanne Garofalo – makes the mistake of trying to love a psychopath in The Minus Man

There is no bloodshed or gore in The Minus Man, which only serves to make it more frighting. Vann poisons his victims, and they simply fall into a deep sleep from which there is no awaking. He does not have any feeling of hatred towards the people he kills. In fact, he seems to have no feelings whatsoever about anything. His complete lack of empathy and his inability to connect with anyone or anything is the mark of a true psychopath.

Dennis Haysbert as a fictitious cop in The Minus Man

Dennis Haysbert as a fictitious cop in The Minus Man

The one person to suspect there is a dark side to Vann, is Ferrin (Jeanne Garofalo), who is desperately trying to be his girlfriend. Vann gets a job at the local post office, and Ferrin is thrilled to find herself working next to a gorgeous guy her own age. They begin to date, but the more they see each other the more Ferrin begins to suspect that Vann is just acting the part of a boyfriend instead of really being one. Of course, Dexter was to steal this same theme years later.

Brian Cox in The Minus Man

Brian Cox in The Minus Man

All of the actors in The Minus Man are superb, which is one of the features that makes it a great film. Singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow plays a burned out-drug addict who is unlucky enough to be in a bar where Vann stops in for a drink. Her acting is fantastic, and this was also her acting debut.

Dennis Haysbert is a tough-as-nails police officer who only exists in The Minus Man’s mind. Over and over again, Vann imagines what it will be like when some day he is brought in for questioning for a murder. The fictitious cop is not at all fooled by Vann’s charm or smiles. Is this what Vann really wants? Does he dream of a time when someone will see him for the monster he really is?

Brian Cox is Doug, who rents a room to Vann and treats Vann like a newfound son. However, it turns out that Doug has dark secrets of his own.

Joran van der Sloot who has killed at least 2 young women

Joran van der Sloot who has killed at least 2 young women

One of the most frighting aspects of The Minus Man is the fact that we have actually seen this scenario played out over and over again in real life. The general public continues to believe that somehow evil people must be ugly and that a good looking person cannot possible be bad. Take for example, the gorgeous Joran van der Sloot, who murdered at least 2 women (Natalee Holloway and Stephanie Flores Ramirez). Even in prison, he received hundreds of proposals of marriage from young women thrilled by his looks.

Robert Chambers- The Preppie Killer who murdered Jennifer Levin

Robert Chambers- The Preppie Killer who murdered Jennifer Levin

Who can forget Robert Chambers, the “preppie killer” , whose good looks are matched only by his arrogance. He strangled Jennifer Levin to death during sex in Central Park at night, and then had the arrogance to say he was acting in “self-defense”.

Dzhokhat Tsarnaev one of the Boston Bombers

Dzhokhat Tsarnaev one of the Boston Bombers

Most recently there is Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Bomber, whose cute photo was on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Rolling Stone was heavily attacked for publishing such a nice looking photo of a terrorist. People who make those criticisms missed the point. The whole reason Rolling Stone published the photo was to show that the eyes are not the window to the soul.  You cannot tell who is good and who is evil just by looking at them. Mother Teresa did not have a beautiful face. Joran van der Sloot does.

The Minus Man is a chilling glimpse into the mind of a psychopath killer. It shows us what is there, and more importantly what is missing in the mind of a killer. We highly recommend The Minus Man.

Becoming Carey Grant – the sad secrets of a movie star

Becoming Carey Grant documents the sad life that the movie star kept hidden from the public. It is based on Carey Grant’s own never-published autobiography, and the beautiful home movies he filmed. The world knows him as Carey Grant, but he never really got over being Archibald Leach, the poor cockney boy he once was.

Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn

Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn

Archibald Leach was born in 1904 in Bristol England. His parents were poor but extraordinarily beautiful. His mother was petite with long dark hair, and his father was rakishly handsome, sporting a fancy mustache.  However, his parents never seemed to be very happy. When Archie was 11, his mother Elsie went away, supposedly to “visit friends” It was many weeks before Archie figured out that she was never coming back. Soon after that Archie was shipped off to an even poorer section of the city to live with an aunt. Archie’s father moved away, remarried and started a new family.

Carey Grant's mother - Elsie Leach

Carey Grant’s mother – Elsie Leach

It was not until 20 years later, when Archibald Leach had become the famous movie star Carey Grant, that he discovered the truth. His mother had not run away, but had been committed to an insane asylum. Extraordinarily, she was committed only on the word of the husband Elias. He said that she sometimes felt she heard voices, but that she was not a danger to herself or others. The state of mental health medicine was so backward in those days , that instead of trying to treat her with psychotherapy, the “solution” was to   commit her for life.

Carey Grant's father- Elias James Leach

Carey Grant’s father- Elias James Leach

Abandoned by his family, Archibald Leach joined a new “family” by becoming part of a group of performing acrobats touring the vaudeville circuit. That’s why Carey Grant was able to do many of his own stunts in movies. He really was a trained acrobat.

The acrobats got a chance to perform in New York, and Archibald Leach fell in love with America. When it came time for them to return to England, Archibald decided to stay in America. All alone, and with very little money, he headed off to Hollywood, to try to get into the movies.

Carey Grant taking home movies

Carey Grant taking home movies

He was not in the film business very long before the studios decided that Archibald Leach is a terrible name for an actor; and the name “Carey Grant” was decided upon. Carey Grant’s amazing good looks soon got him into many films. In his early films, his parts were mainly just as a handsome prop, but soon his acting talent became apparent and he developed into the movie star we all know and love.

Becoming Carey Grant shows us the side of the movie star few people knew. After being abandoned by his parents, he had difficulty truly trusting anyone. Relationships with women were particularly difficult. Carey Grant was divorced three times. In later life he admitted that his wives were all wonderful women, but that he was always afraid to let them get too close. He naturally assumed that everyone would eventually let you down.

Carey Grant was an established movie star when he discovered that his mother was still alive and in a mental institution. He immediately got he out and set her up in a house in England. He visited his mother throughout his life, but she never moved to America. He always said it was because she would not come. However, the filmmakers speculate that he wanted to keep his two lives completely separate. By then, his mother was the last person in the world who still called him Archie. In America he was the great movie star Carey Grant. In England with his mother, he was still a scared little boy.

Becoming Carey Grant is a fascinating documentary. The details it has of Carey Grant’s life are astounding. For example, Carey Grant was a fan of “LSD therapy” being offered by a psychiatrist in the 1970’s. Unlike most patients who tried this radical treatment, Grant actually found it cathartic.

In the end Carey Grant found fame and fortune, but never true peace of mind. He was never the relaxed self-assured gentleman he played so well on screen. One of Carey Grant’s often repeated sayings was “Everyone wants to be Carey Grant. Even me.” People always laughed whenever Carey Grant said that, but he did not mean it as a joke. He was trying to tell the world that he was not really the perfect man he portrayed. However, people could not accept that. The public wanted Carey Grant to be perfect, and so to please them he was.

 

 

Baby Driver- fast, fantastic, LOUD and perfect. A rock concert on wheels.

Baby Driver is fast, fantastic, LOUD, and perfect! A rock concert on wheels, combined with an action movie, love story and bank heist film. Director Edgar Wright did an amazing job of blending the music and action so that the songs are basically an essential character in the film. Baby Driver is a unique concept, and we give it our highest rating of Five Stars.

Ansel Elgort, Jamie Fox, Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort, Jamie Fox, Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort stars as Baby, a driver who can outrun any police chase, all while listening to blasting rock music. His beautiful girlfriend is played by Lily James, who we last saw in Pride Prejudice and Zombies. This sweet and innocent couple, is trapped in a world of killers and maniacs controlled by criminal mastermind “Doc” played perfectly by Kevin Spacey.

Lily James & Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver

Lily James & Ansel Elgort in Baby Driver

Now we know that this plot sounds like hundreds of others, but what makes Baby Driver unique is the way in which Edgar Wright has put it all together with group of talented actors in all the parts. Unlike a lot of action movies, each of the characters has a unique personality and background story that makes them fascinating to watch.

Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Eiza Gonzalez & Jon Hamm in Baby Driver

Doc controls a group of criminals that pulls off  a string of supposedly impossible robberies. The key to their success is Baby, who is the “wheel man” on all the heists. Baby is caught up in this dangerous game, since he has a debt to pay back to Doc. The key to Baby’s driving success is the way he perfectly times  his driving with the songs blasting in his ears. In fact, Baby is actually helpless without his music. However, when the music is blasting, Baby is like a machine, feeling no pressure or doubt.

Kevin Spacey & Edgar Wright on the set of Baby Driver

Kevin Spacey & Edgar Wright on the set of Baby Driver

Jamie Fox is “Bats”, whose violent tendencies put the whole crew at risk. Rounding out the crew is an ex-Wall Street executive, (“Buddy” played by Jon Hamm) and his lap dancer girlfriend (“Darling”, played by Eiza Gonzalez).

Ansel Elgort is "Baby" in Baby Driver

Ansel Elgort is “Baby” in Baby Driver

The action scenes have to be seen to be appreciated. There is no real way to describe them in print. In one scene Baby is running away fro the police, while the 1971 song Hocus Pocus by the Dutch band Focus is blasting. Baby Boomers will remember this as the “yodeling” rock song. If you are too young to remember this song, check it out – you will love it.

Anyway, during the chase scene, every step, every jump and every gunshot times perfectly with the beat of the music. It must have days for Edgar Wright to film this one scene. That attention to detail is what makes Baby Driver great.

 

 

The Beguiled- Civil War sex but no slaves

The Beguiled is a film of sex and betrayal set in an exclusive girls’ school in  the Civil War South. However, the film has been “whitewashed” to remove slavery from the plot. It is a huge  disappointment that Sophia Coppola completely  left out the character  of a female slave that was in the classic 1971 film.  By doing this, the modern version sidesteps the issue of slavery.

Mae Mercer & Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled in 1971

Mae Mercer & Clint Eastwood in The Beguiled in 1971

In the 1971 The Beguiled, Mae Mercer played the slave Hallie. Some African-Americans thought that Hallie was a token black character with a weak story line.  Instead of dropping that character completely Sophia Coppola should have expanded it. The dynamic, complex and intertwined relationships between educated White women and the female slaves they lived with is one of the most fascinating parts of American history.   In a story about  strong young women of the South under severe pressure, why leave out one of the strongest and most interesting simply because she is Black?

Sophia Coppola a great director but scared to tackle the issue of slavery

Sophia Coppola a great director but too scared to tackle the issue of slavery

Sophia Coppola has said that she did  “not want t brush over such an important topic in a light way,”  She expanded that to say,  “Young girls watch my films and this was not the depiction of an African-American character I would want to show them.” Of course, there is no reason why Sophia Coppola would have to handle slavery in a “light way.” She is the director and could handle it openly and honestly as the subject deserves.

Elle Fanning & Nicole Fanning in The Beguiled

Elle Fanning & Nicole Fanning in The Beguiled

We at East Coast Stories believe it was a huge mistake to leave slaves out of The Beguiled. The “young girls” that Sophia Coppola considers her audience are a lot smarter about race issues in The United States than she gives them credit for. How can we possibly deal with the racial issues of today, if we ignore that slaves were an integral part of America from the beginning?

Colin Farrell as John McBurney in The Beguiled. A face no woman could resist

Colin Farrell as John McBurney in The Beguiled. A face no woman could resist

The basic plot of The Beguiled is that the schoolgirls  find and take in John McBurney (Colin Farrell), a wounded Union soldier. It is their duty as Southerners to turn him over to the local Confederate patrols. However, McBurney is able to use his good looks and smooth talk to win over the young women one by one.

CANNES, FRANCE - MAY 24: (L-R) Actors Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst attend "The Beguiled" photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 24, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 24: (L-R) Actors Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst attend “The Beguiled” photocall during the 70th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 24, 2017 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Beguiled can mean hypnotized, seduced or bewitched. All three meanings apply in this film. The Beguiled is a remake of the classic 1971 film of the same name in which Clint Eastwood played the wounded Union Soldier.

Martha Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) is the headmistress of the dying school. The slaves have all run away and most students and teachers have gone home to escape the war. Miss Farnsworth continues to hold classes and music lessons, despite the fact that smoke from battles can be seen in the distance. Prayer is often accompanied by the sound of cannons.

The one teacher left is Edwina Dabney (Kirsten Dunst). It is clear that her background is somehow different than that of the other women. She is used to fancier settings and more revealing clothing. We are never sure if this is because she comes from wealth, or if her background is something more scandalous.

Elle Fanning is Amy, a beautiful young woman with a rebellious streak, who is continually testing how much she can get away with.

This structured, stark world is thrown into chaos by the arrival of McBurney. For McBurney it is if he has arrived in heaven. He has escaped the war and is surrounded by women; each more beautiful than the next. If he had carefully chosen one woman to quietly and cautiously pursue, then heaven it might have remained. However, like a kid in a candy store, McBurney wants it all and ends up finding himself in Hell.

The 1971 version of The Beguiled with Clint Eastwood

The 1971 version of The Beguiled with Clint Eastwood

McBurney works his charm on Miss Danbey, Miss Farnsworth and Amy, instinctively knowing the separate needs of each. Amy wants excitement, Martha Farnsworth needs appreciation and educated courting and Edwina Dabney wants a knight in shining armor to save her. Despite his good looks and charming smile, McBurney is really a callous hunter of vulnerable women. A classic sexual predator.

The phrase “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, is a fitting expression for what happens when the women discover the truth about McBurney and each other. We will not give away the plot other than to say it is exciting, unexpected and chilling.

The casting of the (all white) characters for  in The Beguiled is perfect. Every actor gives a powerful performance. Nicole Kidman is spellbinding. Miss Farnsworth is trying to maintain an icy exterior, yet it is clear that deep passions burn withing her soul. She is tormented between the choices of what is best for her and what is best for the school and the girls she has a duty to protect.

Colin Farrell as Corporal John McBurney has the looks the charm and the arrogance to seduce three women simultaneously while only really loving himself.

Kirsten Dunst is wonderful as the beautiful and mysterious  Edwina Dabney. Director Sophia Coppola made the right choice in never fully revealing Edwina’s background. The mystery only adds to the tension. The 1971 version of  The Beguiled explained Edwina’s background, but it is more effective as a secret.

When Elle Fanning plays Alicia, audiences can see that she has graduated from little girl roles forever. She was superb as the dangerous young seductress, who may or may not truly understand her influence on a man or  the  damage she can do with the games she is playing.

Ooon Lawrence is excellent in The Beguiled

Ooon Lawrence is excellent in The Beguiled

Young Oona Lawrence is Amy, the innocent  child who first discovers wounded Corporal McBurney in the woods. Unlike the adults in the film, Amy wants nothing for herself. Amy’s only motivation is to do what is kind and right.

In total, the The Beguiled was a very good film. If Sophia Coppola had taken the time to bring in complex African-American characters, it could have been a great film. It would have been harder to write and added a level of complexity to the plot, but it would have been worth the effort.

I’m Dying Up Here – where all comedy comes from pain

Showtime’s fantastic new series I’m Dying Up Here, is based on the old adage that “all comedy comes from pain.” Many comedians use jokes as a bizarre sort of therapy  to try to purge the demons from their souls. From the first slapstick comic who ever slipped on a banana peel, to modern-day jokers  who tell stories about their miserable childhoods, comedians invite audiences to laugh at the comedians’ suffering. Executive producer Jim Carrey drew from his own personal experiences to create I’m Dying Up Here.

Jim Carrey, executive producer of I'M Dying Up Here

Jim Carrey, executive producer of I’M Dying Up Here

I’m Dying Up Here is about a group of young comedians in Hollywood in the 1970’s trying to reach the ultimate pinnacle of success – an appearance on The Johnny Carson Show. Getting noticed in the 1970s was a much different process than it is today.  There was no YouTube or Facebook you could use to promote yourself. The gatekeepers to comedic fame and fortune were the owners of sleazy comedy clubs. If you were a comedian  just starting out, a comedy club owner might let you go on stage to tell jokes to a bunch of drunks at 2:30am.

Melissa Leo as Goldie in I'M DYING UP HERE

Melissa Leo as Goldie in I’M DYING UP HERE

The cast of I’m Dying Up Here is terrific. Melissa Leo is Goldie, the tough as nails owner of Goldie’s Comedy Club in Hollywood. She has connections with all the top T.V. producers including those at Johnny Carson. One word from Goldie can make or break a comedian’s career.

Ari Graynor as Cassie and Andrew Santino as Bill in I'M DYING UP HERE

Ari Graynor as Cassie and Andrew Santino as Bill in I’M DYING UP HERE

Ari Graynor is a Cassie, a young Jewish comic from rural Texas. Because of her unusual background, audiences have a hard time relating to her. She is not the stereotype that audiences expect from a female comedian. She is very attractive, in a world where female comedians are “supposed” to be ugly and base their acts on  making fun of their physical failings. Instead, Cassie has a more sophisticated sense of humor that requires audiences to think. One of her jokes is “There are not very many Jews in my home town. Let’s just say that there are more Jews at a Walt Disney dinner party than in my home town.”

Andrew Santino is Cassie’s boyfriend Bill. All the other comedians hate Bill since his career is starting to be successful. He has developed his act to be in that perfect “middle ground”. Sharp enough to play in the comedy clubs, yet “safe” enough to appear on television. Bill feels the full hatred from the other comics, when he gets tapped to appear on the Midnight Special.

RJ Cyler is Adam, a would-be comedian on I'm Dying Up Here.

RJ Cyler is Adam, a would-be comedian on I’m Dying Up Here.

RJ Cyler is Adam, an African-American comic, who is too young to be taken seriously by the other comedians. Just to make ends meet, he takes a job as a handyman at Goldie’s house, where he discovers she is much more complex and sensitive than most people believe.

Ari Graynor & Jim Carrey 'I'm Dying Up Here' TV show premiere, After Party, Los Angeles,

Ari Graynor & Jim Carrey
‘I’m Dying Up Here’ TV show premiere, After Party, Los Angeles, USA – 31 May 2017

I’m Dying Up Here is great. It has complex plots and character development, and gives a real feel for the 1970s. A lot of shows about the 1970’s overdo the cliches about afros, bell-bottom trousers and drugs. I’m Dying Up Here gives a much more realistic picture, and remembers that there was a lot of hatred in the country in the 1970s. Divisions over The Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and Richard Nixon were pulling at the fabric of the country. It was a perfect time for the relief of comedy.

 

 

Baywatch – raunchy and silly and we loved it

The new Baywatch movie is a raunchy, silly comedy based on a cheesy old T.V. show, and we loved it. Come on, don’t be such a snob. When you go to see Baywatch, you know you aren’t going to be seeing Hamlet. Baywatch has action, comedy, an easy-to-follow plot, and beautiful women and men running around  in skimpy bathing suits on a gorgeous beach. Who could ask for more?

Alexandra Daddario & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

Alexandra Daddario & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

In other words, Baywatch is pure mindless escapism. With all the troubles and bad news in the world today, that is exactly what audiences need once and a while. Escapist movies have a long cinematic tradition. During The Great Depression, audiences flocked to see musicals about super wealthy people with yachts and mansions. During World War II, comedies were very popular. Winston Churchill would periodically block out the war by locking himself away for a few hours to watch a Marx Brothers film.

Kelly Rohrbach who plays C.J. In Baywatch

Kelly Rohrbach who plays C.J. In Baywatch

With the current news filled with nothing but terrorism, wars and bickering politicians, people need mindless entertainment more than ever. Baywatch fits that bill perfectly. Of course, be warned that Baywatch is not a kids’ movie. There are a lot of sexual jokes and extensive male nudity. That’s right, we said male nudity.  Female nudity has been on screen in main-stream movies even since Tarzan And His Mate in 1934. However, the penis has been taboo, except in hard core X-Rated films. Baywatch, on the other hand uses the male appendage as a comic tool (pun intended). Baywatch  has a hilarious scene in a morgue in which a corpse’s private parts play a prominent role.

Jon Bass & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

Jon Bass & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

The cast of Baywatch does a fantastic job with the script. It is obvious that the actors really had fun making the movie, and enjoyed each other’s company. Be sure to stay for the extra scenes after the closing credits, to see the out-takes and on-set jokes.

Dwayne Johnson and Pamela Anderson in Baywatch

Dwayne Johnson and Pamela Anderson in Baywatch

Dwayne Johnson stars as  Mitch Buchannon, the head lifeguard who is not content with just saving people from drowning. He and his team of incredibly   gorgeous fellow lifeguards decide to go undercover to discover who is selling drugs that are so prevalent, bags of crack are washing up on the beach.  Dwayne Johnson, who at one time was the professional wrestler “The Rock”, has become well known as a respected comic actor. He also has the reputation of being one of the nicest guys in Hollywood.

Dwayne Johnson ans David Hasselhoff in Baywatch

Dwayne Johnson ans David Hasselhoff in Baywatch

Alexandra Daddario is Summer Quinn,and Kelly Rohrbach is C.J. These two lifeguards  perform heroic rescues, fight bad guys, and solve crimes all while looking stunningly beautiful in every situation.

Zac Efron & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

Zac Efron & Dwayne Johnson in Baywatch

Zac Efron is Matt Brody, an ex-Olympic gold medal swimmer who thinks he is way too good to be just a lifeguard.  It is obvious that his character is based on Ryan Lochte, the American swimmer who made a fool of himself at the Rio Olympics. Ryan Lochte, was the idiot who got drunk, vandalized a Rio gas station, and then claimed he had been robbed when he was forced to pay for the damages. Despite winning swimming medals, Ryan Lochte ended up being hated and ridiculed by his fellow Olympians. Zac Efron plays the part perfectly.

Ryan Lochte was the inspiration for Zac Efron's character in Baywatch

Ryan Lochte was the inspiration for Zac Efron’s character in Baywatch

Jon Bass is Ronnie, the only lifeguard who has what might be considered a “normal” body. He got on the lifeguard team, because he always  gives 100%, even though his body is no match for the Supermen and Superwomen physiques of the people around him.  This, of course, makes him one of the most likable characters in Baywatch. Ronnie is hopelessly in love with C.J. who is obviously completely out of his league. However, there is more to C.J. than meets the eye and she is also in love with Ronnie. This is an old and corny sub-plot, but it still works.

Of course, no Baywatch movie would be complete without cameo appearances from David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. They both still look great. Apparently all that swimming really does keep a body  in shape.

So stop feeling guilty and go to see Baywatch. Let your mind take a break for a few hours.

 

 

The Lost City Of Z – the best movie most people didn’t see

The Lost City of Z is the best movie in 2017 which most people didn’t see. The cinematography is  stunningly beautiful and the plot is moving and thoughtful. Filmed in the Amazon jungle, it is the story of a British explorer, whose main discovery is about his inner self.

Charlie Hunnam as explorer Percival Fawcett

Charlie Hunnam as explorer Percival Fawcett

The Lost City of Z is the true story of Percival Fawcett, a British Army officer whose life is going nowhere in 1905. Advancement in the British Army was still very dependent upon social status, and unfortunately Percival’s father had been a drunk and a disgrace to the service.

Henry Costin & Charlie Hunnam in "The Lost City Of Z"

Henry Costin & Charlie Hunnam in “The Lost City Of Z”

Desperate to make a name for himself, Percival (played by Charlie Hunnam) agrees to lead an expedition to explore the length of the Amazon river. Amazingly, even by 1905, no European had yet traversed the complete length of the river. Percival really has no interest in the Amazon or the natives who live in the jungle around it, but he does think the trip will make him famous and help his career.

Percival Fawcett finds the South American natives to be kind and intelligent

Percival Fawcett finds the South American natives to be kind and intelligent

Percival is lucky enough to have an excellent team including Herny Costin (played by Robert Pattison) as his tough-as-nails second in command. The trip is excruciatingly exhausting  and dangerous and it changes the men profoundly. Their main discovery is that the South American Indians are not the “savages” the British had assumed. Despite being almost naked, these natives are intelligent, resourceful and kind. The explorers admire the way the natives are able to use the jungle to provide food, clothing and shelter, whereas the British almost starve to death despite bringing food supplies with them.

Fawcett and his team do find the end of the Amazon, and also discover a few pieces of ancient pottery. They hear stories from the natives that there was once a huge and advanced city in the jungle, that could rival the great European cities.

Sienna Miller as Nina Fawcett

Sienna Miller as Nina Fawcett

When Percival Fawcett returns to England he is hailed as a great explorer and becomes world famous. Despite achieving his dream, the victory is bittersweet. His statements that the South American natives are highly intelligent people are ridiculed. No one but other members of his team believe there is a Lost City of Z waiting to be discovered in the jungle. Percival Fawcett dedicates the rest of his life to finding the city and returns to the Amazon 2 more times.

The Lost City Of Z ambitiously covers the period from 1905-1925, including World War I. It is in many ways a “period piece” showing how difficult it is for even the most intelligent people to rise above the norms of their times. Percival’s wife Nina (played by Sienna Miller) helps him to do all the research and raise the funds for his expeditions. She excitedly wants to join him on his expeditions. Despite his advanced views about the South American natives, Percival still believes that the “proper place” for a British wife is at home. Percival absolutely refuses to let Nina come to South America.

Although it is a wonderful film, The Lost City Of Z did not bring in a big box office, making only  about $12.7 million in theaters in the U.S.  It was a direct theatrical release from Amazon, which is a completely new venture for the company. Apparently Amazon knows how to make a great film for the theaters, but has not yet mastered how to promote a theatrical release.

We highly recommend The Lost City Of Z. If it you cannot find it in the theaters there is no doubt it will be available on Amazon.

 

 

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night – a beautiful Iranian vampire on a skateboard

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night  is about beautiful Iranian vampire who stalks men at night while cruising on her skateboard and wearing a burka. (We are not making this up). It is a terrific independent film that combines elements of Sin City, Dracula,  and High Plains Drifter

Sheila Vand as the vampire

Sheila Vand as the vampire

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is filmed in black & white and the actors all speak Farsi (Persian). They live in Bad City (paying homage to Sin City) which is filled with repugnant violent characters who peddle drugs and abuse women. The hero of the story is Arash (played by Arash Marandi) who is trying to work hard and lead a good life, despite the evil all around him.

Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi and Masuka the cat

Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi and Masuka the cat

Then into the town comes a strange and beautiful girl who appears only at night. Despite being a “girl alone at night” she is completely unafraid of the men in the town.  This is because she is a vampire, who feeds on the men who disrespect women. No one is aware of her actions as she strikes only single targets late at night.

Arash Marandi & Sheila Vand

Arash Marandi & Sheila Vand

Arash almost becomes one of her victims when he staggers home drunk one night after a party. He becomes lost in the city and runs into the girl. However, she can see that he is somehow different than the other men in Bad City. She takes care of him and, of course, Arash falls in love. Arash makes it his mission to find out who this girl really is, and to win her love.

Ana Lily Amirpour the writer/director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Ana Lily Amirpour the writer/director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night was written and directed by Lily Amirpour an Iranian-American film maker from California. She could have made the movie in English and in color, but it is so much cooler in Farsi and black & white. The whole idea is that A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night takes place in a fantasy world. The strange language (for most of us) and the film noir imagery  give A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night a complete “other worldly” feel. It also has a fantastic sound track which adds to the overall experience.

We loved A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. It is great to see a film where the writer/director has taken a real chance and where it all fits together perfectly.

 

Get Out – A Horror Movie, Comedy, Racial Commentary

Get Out is a combination Horror Movie, Comedy, and Documentary on American Race Relations. It sounds like an odd mix, but Get Out makes this a wonderful combination for a great movie. Producer/Director Jordan Peel has taken some old genres and mixed them together in a unique way to come up with an entirely new blend. Parts of Get Out are scary as Hell while other parts are uproariously funny. Mixed into all of this is the way Get Out makes us think about the odd sate of race relations in the United States.

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in Get Out

Daniel Kaluuya and Allison Williams in Get Out

Get Out stars Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Walsh, a young African-American with a beautiful White, wealthy girlfriend named Rose Armitage. Their life is great until they decide to leave the city and spend the weekend in the country  with Rose’s parents. This is where you expect the movie to take the traditional route of having the parents be prejudice. Instead, Get Out goes in the opposite direction. Some of the funniest parts of the film are the scenes where Rose’s parents desperately try to show they are not prejudice. The father (played by Bradley Whitford) constantly talks about how much he liked Barack Obama. Then he makes things worse by trying to talk using what the middle-aged White man thinks is black slang. Rose, of course, is dying from embarrassment.

Betty Gabriel as the creepy maid in Get Out

Betty Gabriel as the creepy maid in Get Out

The Horror part of the film begins when Chris meets the other African Americans associated with the Armitage family. The family is very wealthy and has a black gardener (Walter) and a black maid (Georgina). Of course, Mr. Armitage points out how well Walter and Georgina  are paid and that he respects them very much. Still, there is something very creepy about the two. Georgina always seems to be in a daze, and the very muscular Walter is constantly giving hostel looks to Chris.

Without giving anything away, we will say that Get Out does get very bloody and scary as it progresses. There is a reason why Walter and Georgina are so weird, and it is more frighting than can be imagined. Get Out is one of the few movies, where the audience will laugh one second and scream the next.

Milton "Lil Rel" Howery in Get Out

Milton “Lil Rel” Howery in Get Out

As the weekend gets stranger and stranger, Chris keeps calling his friend Rod in the city, to describe how weird everyone is. Rod (perfectly played by Milton “Lil Rel” Howery), is a TSA worker, and not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer. He comes up with the bizarre (and totally incorrect) theory that these rich White people must have captured the African Americans in the community to make them sex slaves. His “proof” is that one young American American man in the community is married to an older White woman. Rod even goes to the police with his allegations assuming that he will be treated with respect as a “fellow law enforcement officer.” Rod is oblivious to the fact than no one in the United States has any respect for the TSA, and the police laugh him out of the building.

The acting throughout Get Out is perfect. Allison Williams is wonderful  as Rose,  the rich beautiful young White woman, who simply takes her privileged place in society for granted. In one scene, she is driving with Chris and accidentally hits a deer.  When the police arrive at the accident the White police officer immediately asks to see Chris’ identification even though Rose had already explained that she was the driver.

Chris meekly gets his I.D. to show to the police, but then Rose steps in.  She calmly refuses to let Chris show the identification to the police and explains to the police office that the police have no right whatsoever to ask to see Chris’s identification. The police officer eventually backs down.  As the police officer walks away, Rose flashes a gorgeous smile and cheerily thanks the officer for his help.

To Rose, police officers are servants working for her. To Chris, police are a force to be afraid of and never to challenge. Despite the fact that this scene comes in a Horror/Comedy movie, it is one of the best examples ever on film of the different attitudes that White and African Americans have towards law enforcement officers.  Allison Williams is best known for her role as Marnie on the HBO series Girls.

Get Out is not at all preachy about race relations. It is a fun Horror/Comedy film that happens to have a racial component to it.  The ending of Get Out is exciting and totally unexpected. There are twists within twists and the audience was clapping at the end of the film.

 

 

Happy Birthday Saoirse Ronan

East Coast Stories would like to wish a happy 23rd birthday to Irish actress Saoirse Ronan. Despite her young age, Saoiese Ronan is one of the best actors in a generation. She is also one of the hardest working. In just the past year, Saoirse starred in the film Brooklyn, and the Broadway play The Crucible.

Saoirse Ronan

Saoirse Ronan

While some actors settle for playing the same type over and over, Saoirse Ronan continually hones her skills in small independent firms playing a wide variety of characters. Saoirse is especially known for her ability to instantly don any type of accent. In fact, the film Brooklyn was one of the few movies where Saoirse actually used her real accent, which is a beautiful Irish brogue.

Saoirse Ronan at the Oscars when she was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan at the Oscars when she was nominated for Best Actress for her role in Brooklyn

In the independent film How I live Now, Saoirse played an American teenager. Not only did she perfectly capture the American accent, she nailed the sarcastic, condescending attitude of a certain type of overly-privileged American teen. In the quirky comedy The Grand Budapest Hotel , Saoirse Ronan was a baker of fine pastries. Saoirse said that the most difficult part of the film was that she actually had to learn how to make pastries.

Despite the Irish Brogue, Saoirse Ronan is a true East Coast girl, having been born in The Bronx, while her Irish parents were living there. Her parents moved back to Ireland when she was little, but she still holds dual American-Irish citizenship.

So from all of us at East Coast Stories Happy Birthday Saoirse! We look forward to watching all of your future performances.

 

Kong Skull Island- A combination of Apocalypse Now and Moby Dick set to rock music

The new Kong Skull Island movie is a combination of Apocalypse Now and Moby Dick, with a fantastic 1960’s & 1970’s soundtrack and wild action scenes. It is far better than any of the modern remakes of the  classic 1933 King Kong and even has  has some improvements.

Brie Larson in Kong Skull Island

Brie Larson in Kong Skull Island

For one thing, the female lead is a war correspondent/photo-journalist instead of a “damsel in distress”. In all other King Kong movies, including the 1933 original, the female lead does nothing but look beautiful and scream constantly.  In Kong Skull Island Mason Weaver (played by Brie Larson) never screams. She is an integral part of the action scenes, rather than being relegated to just watching the men do the action.

Tian Jing in Kong Skull Island

Tian Jing in Kong Skull Island

In fact, there is no damsel in distress in the movie. Tian Jing plays San, a shy scientist on the expedition, who ends up being excellent in combat when the time comes to fight.

Samuel L. Jackson as a modern day Captain Ahab who treats Kong as the White Whale

Samuel L. Jackson as a modern day Captain Ahab who treats Kong as the White Whale

Samuel L. Jackson is Lieutenant Colonel Preston Packard but he really plays the role of Captain Ahab. Kong Skull Island takes place just at the end of the Vietnam war, and Packard is filled with rage that all the sacrifices he and his men have made have been for nothing. When he gets a chance to lead a military escort to Skull Island, he lets the full force of his anger out on the wild and innocent King Kong.

In  Moby Dick, written in 1851, Herman Melville understood this kind of rage when he described Captain Ahab by saying:

“He piled upon the whale’s white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down.”

The final resting place for Captain Ahab and all his hatred

The final resting place for Captain Ahab and all his hatred

Kong Skull Island also has a very Apocalypse Now vibe to it. There are helicopter assaults over a jungle, while rock music blasts from the choppers. The solders eagerly follow into battle a leader that, in their hearts, they know to be insane.

One of the best characters in Kong Skull Island is Lieutenant Hank Marlow, perfectly played by John C. Reilly. Marlow was a World War II pilot who was shot down on Skull Island and has been living there for over 30 years. Marlow lives peacefully with the natives, and has come to accept the power and beauty of Kong and the island.

John C. Reilly as a pilot trapped on Skull Island since World War II

John C. Reilly as a pilot trapped on Skull Island since World War II

Marlow’s main goal in life is to find a way to get back to his true love –  the woman he married in Chicago just before he shipped off to war. When this  new expedition arrives on the island Marlow realizes he might be able to finally get home.  However, first he has to guide the expedition and keep them all from getting killed.  Even though Marlow has seen the same violence of war that Packard has, Marlow’s motivating force in life is  love rather than hate.

The unstoppable King Kong

The unstoppable King Kong

Kong Skull Island is a fun movie that can be watched on many levels. Teenagers will love the action, while adults will understand that the film also has some deeper meaning as well. Be warned that it may be a little too intense for small kids. Along with the action scenes comes a huge body count.

 

Life Itself – Film Critic Robert Ebert’s fascinating life and final days

Life Itself is a beautiful movie about film critic Robert Ebert’s fascinating life and painful final days. Life Itself also delves into the the decades-long love-hate relationship between Robert Ebert and Gene Siskel. Both of them were strong personalities who were best known for their T.V. show Siskel & Ebert At The Movies.

Robert Ebert & Gene Siskel

Robert Ebert & Gene Siskel

We find that Roger Ebert was a much more complex character than most people realize. A brilliant writer from a young age, he brought film criticism to a new level at the Chicago Sun Times. Prior to Ebert, the film reviews were done by whoever happened to see a movie that weekend. Ebert turned it into a high art. He saw a movie every day, and took the time to write an in-depth analysis. In 1975, Roger Ebert was awarded a Pulitzer Price.

Ebert was proud of his Chicago working class roots. The Chicago Sun Times is the paper read by the every day people who ride mass transit. After Ebert won the Pulitzer, he was offered a huge amount of money to move to Washington D.C. and become the film critic for the Washington Post . He turned the offer down flat saying simply that he “did not want to have to learn new streets.”

Robert Ebert on the cover of Esquire, after his cancer surgery

Robert Ebert on the cover of Esquire, after his cancer surgery

However, there was a dark side to Roger Ebert as well. He was a hard drinker with the rest of the reporters, and for a number of years was a complete alcoholic. Then one day, he suddenly had enough. He took a last drink, joined Alcoholics Anonymous, and never drank again.

Roger Ebert also had a huge ego. He loved being the center of attention and telling endless stories while a group listened.  Whenever he met anyone new, he somehow was able to work into the conversation that he had won a Pulitzer Prize. Roger wanted to be a wild celebrity with beautiful women at his side. However, the fact that he was about 300 pounds meant that he was never very successful with the ladies. At one point in his career, he wrote the screen play for the cheesy soft core porn film Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. He later admitted that the only reason he participated in such trash was that he wanted a chance to meet some of the actresses. Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls is so bad that it actually became a cult film classic. People still watch it today to laugh at film making at its worst.

Marlene Iglitsen & Chaz Ebert

Marlene Iglitsen & Chaz Ebert

Roger Ebert was not happy to have Gene Siskel come into his life. Both Siskel and Ebert wanted to do a movie review show alone. However, the T.V. producers rightly thought it would be more interesting to have two reviewers discussing a movie, instead of one guy lecturing the audience.

It was the conflict and disagreements between the two that made Siskel & Ebert At The Movies so much fun to watch.  The were both egotists and both convinced that their view was correct and anyone disagreeing with it was an idiot. Their arguments about films were not just for show. Often their fights and discussions about a particular film  would continue for hours even after the  cameras were turned off.

Life Itself has many parts that are difficult to watch, since it also documents the final days when Roger Ebert was dying from cancer.  In attempts to remove the cancer, Ebert’s lower jaw had been removed, and he could no longer speak or eat any solid foods.  However, he refused to give up on life. Roger Ebert became a prolific blogger and continued to review movies constantly. He also adapted his computer so that he could “speak” electronically. He communicated to the world this way for a number of years, and even attended movie conferences and “spoke” to crowds with his electronic keyboard voice.

Robert Ebert & Martin Scorsese

Robert Ebert & Martin Scorsese

Life Itself is brilliantly directed by Steve James, who also created the stunning film Hoop Dreams. There are in-depth interviews with Gene Siskel’s widow, Marlene Iglitzen, as well as Robert’s wife Chaz Ebert. There are also touching interviews with fans ranging from everyday readers to famous movie people like Martin Scorsese. Steve James does not try to make Roger Ebert a larger than life celebrity. He shows Roger Ebert as a real multifaceted individual, whose passing was mourned by all film lovers.

 

Hoop Dreams- the film showing the evil side of “March Madness”

Hoop Dreams  is a documentary that shows how young  African American kids are used and abused by an athletic system that treats them as free labor whose only purpose is to play basketball so that schools can make money. The kids are told they will one day become millionaires playing in the NBA. They are not told that the chance of making  the NBA is about the same as winning the Power Ball lottery.

Win at all costs

Win at all costs

Hoop Dreams takes place over a number of years and details the lives of two inner-city Chicago Kids who are recruited to play basketball for a wealthy suburban high school. St. Joseph High is a Catholic school that has a man scouting Chicago middle and grammar school playgrounds looking for good basketball players. He looks for kids who are athletic and who seem like they will become unusually tall. St. Joseph High then offers these kids a partial scholarship to play for St. Joseph.

Coach Gene Pingatore of St. Joseph High School

Coach Gene Pingatore of St. Joseph High School

Of course the officials at St. Joseph High talk about how much they are helping the community. In fact, they thought that Hoop Dreams was going to show how great the school is. It did not turn out that way. After Hoop Dreams premiered, various St. Joseph High officials tried to sue the film makers.

St. Joseph High is in an all-White suburb and the African American scholarship kids are seen as only there to play basketball. The first thing you notice is what St. Joseph’s does not have. It does not have anyone looking for inner-city kids with great math or reading or artistic skills. It does not have academic scholarships. The message to kids in the ghetto is clear. Sports is the only way out. Academic skill is not useful.

William Gates in "Hoop Dreams"

William Gates in “Hoop Dreams”

Hoop Dreams follows William Gates and Arthur Agee who are both recruited and given partial scholarships. They end up being treated very differently at the school, completely based on their athletic skill. William continues to grow very tall and his basketball skills improve. A supporter of the school gives William a part time job to supplement the partial scholarship.

Arthur Agee in" Hoop Dreams"

Arthur Agee in” Hoop Dreams”

Arthur, on the other hand is not so lucky. He does not grow as tall, and he suffers a knee injury. Coach Pingatore pressures William to play even though the knee is not quite healed. William re-injures the knee and needs a second operation. The injuries and intense pressure the kids are under seems like something from the pros, but you have to keep reminding yourself that these are unpaid high school kids.

When Arthur’s athletic performance becomes bad, the money starts to be a problem.  Unlike William, the school does not find a wealthy supporter to help Arthur.  This is when the school suddenly  reminds Arthur that this is a partial scholarship, and that Arthur will not be able to stay at St. Joseph’s unless his family can pay the back tuition. They cannot come up with the money and Arthur is sent back to the public high school in the inner-city.

As a final insult to Arthur, St. Joseph’s high will not release his transcripts to the public high school, since the back tuition is not paid. This will keep Arthur from graduating high school unless his family comes up with the money.

Neither William or Arthur ever do make the NBA. Both did go to college but even there, the main function was just to play basketball. One went to a large rural college that only had 6 African American kids in the whole college. Five of those 6 kids were on the college basketball team.

Hoop Dreams shows the bad side of American sports that no one likes to talk about. For every one NBA star there are thousands of kids who made sacrifices for  a high school or a college and got nothing in return. Supposedly the kids got an education in return, but many schools were never really interested in trying to educate any of them or give them any real help in life .

At one point in Hoop Dreams Arthur tells the story of when he had some very personal issues with his family that were upsetting him deeply and impacting his schoolwork . He still considered the coach his mentor, so Arthur went to Coach Pingatore to ask for advice.  The coach’s “advice” was very simple. He told Arthur to completely cut ties with his family and girlfriend, since they were interfering  with his ability to play basketball. Thanks coach. Way to help a kid in trouble.

In the 22 years since Hoop Dreams premiered, unfortunately not much has changed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In “Logan” The Wolverine’s final enemy is Trump

Logan is The Woverine’s final appearance and in the movie this X-Man hero battles the immigration policies of Donald Trump.  Of course, Trump is never mentioned, but any adults watching the film will get the message. Logan is far different from the proceeding X-Men movies, and covers subjects more geared towards adults than kids.  When a superhero gets old and senile do his powers become a danger to society? Is a simple peaceful life superior to that of a “hero”? Does the government have a right to break  hard-working families apart?

Dafne Keen & Hugh Jackman in "Logan"

Dafne Keen & Hugh Jackman in “Logan”

In Logan, The Wolverine is long retired from the superhero business, and is undercover trying to make a living as a limo driver. He is caring for a 90 year old Professor X, who is going senile and has periodic seizures.  Since Professor X has the most powerful mind in the universe, these seizures are dangerous for anyone around him.  In his demented states, Professor X’s mind can send out powerful waves that harm or kill innocent people.

Partick Stewart as the 90 year old semi-senile Professor X

Partick Stewart as the 90 year old semi-senile Professor X

Logan’s dream is to earn enough money to buy a yacht so that he and Professor X can live far out on the ocean where they will be of no danger to anyone. The Wolverine himself is feeling the effects of age. He still has superpowers, but now walks with a limp and has a chronic cough. He can heal if wounded, but this takes more and more time after each injury.

Dafne Keen give a mischievous smile in "Logan"

Dafne Keen gives a mischievous smile in “Logan”

Logan’s simple life is interrupted when a Hispanic woman recognizes him as The Wolverine and pleads for his help. She and her daughter are being chased by government agents who are trying to capture them and take them away. She offers Logan money to take them to Canada, which is giving sanctuary to undesirables the U.S. government is hunting. (Anyone not seeing the Trump connection at this point must have been living under a rock for the past 2 years).

The Hispanic woman is killed, and Logan is left caring for Laura, the little girl. But she is no ordinary little girl. She is, in fact a Wolverine, just like Logan. Laura is played by Dafne Keen, and she is absolutely the best part of the movie. Laura has superpowers and is great at fighting bad guys, but she is also a little kid with all of a kid’s funny quirks and infuriatingly annoying habits. Laura also desperately wants Logan to be a traditional father figure, despite the fact that he is completely unsuited to this task.

Hugh Jackman & Dafne Keen at the Berlin Film Festival screening of "Logan"

Hugh Jackman & Dafne Keen at the Berlin Film Festival screening of “Logan”

The acting throughout Logan is superb. Patrick Stewart gives a masterful performance as the aging Professor X. Hugh Jackman is perfect as Logan, the man who never wanted to be The Wolverine. Logan sees that with Laura he may have a way to find redemption for all the bad things he has done in his life. Dafne Keen is terrific, and we predict she will go on to become a major star.  She does not speak for most of the film, which means that she has to use her body language and facial expressions to get the meaning across to the audience. That would be a difficult task for even an adult actor, but Dafne Keen handles this challenge with ease.

There is a very moving scene in Logan in which the three superheros get a glimpse into the lives they might have had. They have dinner with a farm family, and the superheros pretend to be a family of their own. Professor X is the grandfather, Logan his son, and Laura is Logan’s daughter. For the only time in the film, they are completely relaxed and enjoy the simple pleasures of a good meal, friends and laughter. It is a picture of what they could be if the government had not labeled them as unwanted aliens.

Logan is an excellent film and despite being a superhero movie, it is not really for kids. It is R rated, has extreme violence and a very high body count.  It is also one of the best X-Men movies yet. It actually concludes a number of stories, and is not one of those films just trying to set up a sequel. We highly recommend Logan.

Fifty Shades Darker- Dull, Unimaginative, Not Erotic

Fifty Shades Darker is dull, unimaginative and not at all erotic. We saw it in an AMC Dine-In Theater, and what the people in front of us were eating was more interesting than the movie. It was a  pasta dish with extra cheese and lots of garlic. They were having a real hard time eating it in the dark. Oh- you want to hear about the movie? Let’s just say that the pasta was hotter and spicier than the sex scenes in Fifty Shades Darker.

Jamie Dornan & Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades Darker

Jamie Dornan & Dakota Johnson in Fifty Shades Darker

This is, of course, the much anticipated sequel to Fifty Shades Of Grey.  However the advertising was completely misleading. Fifty Shades Of Grey ended with Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) walking out on Christian (Jamie Dornan) since she refused to be a “submissive” who was going to be brutalized by him. That was the best part of Fifty Shades Of Grey, when she stood up to this abusive creep.

The advertising for Fifty Shades Darker implied that in the sequel, Christian has changed and  they get back together as a regular normal romantic pair of equals. Then, someone from Christian’s dark past tries to stalk and murder the happy couple. Fifty Shades Darker was billed as a romantic mystery-thriller.

However, that is not what happens.  In  Fifty Shades Darker, Anastasia now suddenly  finds the controlling, abusive and stalking behavior of Christian somehow “romantic”.  It is a complete departure from the ending of the first film. Christian controls every aspect of her life. He  slaps her around, ties her up, tells her where to go , and even buys and picks out her clothing. Sorry, but this is not romantic. It is abusive.

There is no point in Fifty Shades Darker where Anastasia behaves at all like a real woman.  In the situations portrayed in Fifty Shades Darker any real woman would have been running for the door and calling the police.

Bella Heathcote as the world least frightening stalker in Fifty Shades Darker

Bella Heathcote as the world least frightening stalker in Fifty Shades Darker

There  is stalker in the film we are supposed to be scared of. Bella Heathcote plays Leila, an ex-submissive who used to be involved with Christian. She is now jealous of Christian and Anastasia and is stalking them. The problem is that she is so meek and mild mannered, that there is no point you ever get the feeling that she could really hurt anyone. She is about as scary as being stalked by a chipmunk.

Kim Basinger in Fifty Shades Darker

Kim Basinger in Fifty Shades Darker

Kim Basinger plays Leila, the older woman who first introduced Christian into the world of S&M. Kim Basinger always gives a terrific performance. The previews make it look like she is a main character in Fifty Shades Darker, but she is actually hardly ever on screen. In fact, the credits of the film just state “with Kim Basinger”.  The “with” connotation is what is traditionally used for someone who does a cameo appearance.

So lets, get back to the main story, about the people in front of us in the theater having their dinner. As Dakota Johnson cavorted naked on screen, there was a loud crash when the couple in front of us somehow knocked all of their silverware onto the floor. Instead of ringing a waiter for more, they decided to use their breadsticks as utensils to eat the rest of the pasta.

Can breadsticks be utensils?

Can breadsticks be utensils?

This creates a technical problem since breadsticks tend to snap if too much pressure is put on them. Perhaps at this point we should point out that as well as food, AMC Dine-In Theaters serve alcohol. Suffice it to say that the breadstick pasta eaters had consumed quite a few cocktails as the film progressed.

This is what people have at the movies now instead of popcorn

This is what people have at the movies now instead of popcorn

So, to wrap it up, we have two recommendations. The first is to skip Fifty Shades Darker. There are a lot of great movies playing right now, but Fifty Shades Darker is not one of them. The second piece of advice is more practical.  Please, if you do see a film in a dine in theater, skip the pasta and order a sandwich instead.

 

 

 

John Wick Chapter 2 – Humorous over-the-top violence and great acting

Saying  that you don’t like John Wick Chapter 2 because it is too violent, is like saying you don’t like the ocean because it is too wet. The violence in John Wick Chapter 2 is meant to be so over-the-top that it can’t possibly be taken seriously.  In many parts of the movie, the theater audiences laugh or break into cheers after a particularly absurd fight scene.

Keanu Reeves & Lawrence Fishburne joke around on the set of "John Wick Chapter 2"

Keanu Reeves & Lawrence Fishburne joke around on the set of “John Wick Chapter 2”

Keanu Reeves is perfect reprising his role as John Wick, the world’s most deadly assassin. John Wick is forced out of retirement to assassinate a Mafia princess (beautifully played by Italian film star Claudia Gerini). She is, of course, one of the world’s most protected people, surrounded by  hundreds of bodyguards that Wick must fight.

Claudia Gerini is the Mafia princess in "John Wick" chapter 2

Claudia Gerini is the Mafia princess in “John Wick” chapter 2

As in the original John Wick movie there are terrific scenes at The Continental, which is a hotel for professional assassins. At The Continental you can order guns, knives and bullet proof suits and have them delivered directly to your room. Ian McShane is the upper class manager of The Continental who provides every service a successful killer could desire.

Ian McShane as the man who runs The Continental in "John Wick Chapter 2"

Ian McShane as the man who runs The Continental in “John Wick Chapter 2”

The casting in John Wick Chapter 2 is excellent as are the locations. The film was beautifully shot at interesting locations in New York and Rome. Many of the fight scenes are in modern museums, or ancient Roman ruins.

Ruby Rose as the silent killer Ares in "John Wick Chapter 2"

Ruby Rose as the silent killer Ares in “John Wick Chapter 2”

Lawrence Fishburne is The Bowery King, who controls an army of homeless beggars throughout New York as a well-armed intelligence gathering network.  After seeing John Wick Chapter 2 you may look differently at the homeless people on the streets of New York.  Is it possible that they really have Uzis under those filthy blankets?

Common does a perfect performance in John Wick Chapter 2

Common does a perfect performance in John Wick Chapter 2

Ruby Rose is wonderful as the deaf-mute killer Ares. Ruby Rose is having an incredible acting year, with major roes in Resident Evil-the Final Chapter, and The Return of Xander Cage. Three key roles in three motion pictures in one year is an amazing accomplishment and must have been exhausting, since each one is a physically demanding action part.

Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., better known by his rap and stage name “Common”, excellently plays the Mafia bodyguard Cassian. Although he and Wick are friends, they are now on opposite sides of a deadly battle.

John Wick Chapter 2 is a fun movie if you are in the right mood for mindless entertainment.  Be aware that it  is rated R for violence. We literally lost count of how many people get killed in the movie, but it had to be well over a hundred.  However, we were in the right mood and thoroughly enjoyed this movie.  We eagerly await John Wick Chapter 3.

Primer- a terrific indie movie made for $7,000

Primer is a terrific independent film made on a budget of just $7,000. Primer is sort of a combination of Silicon Valley and The Time Machine. It starts out like a documentary with 4 techie guys in a garage trying to become the next Apple or Microsoft. Primer then  slowly changes into a story about the dark side of human nature, and forces that people are unprepared to explore.

David Sullivan & Shane Carruth in "Primer"

David Sullivan & Shane Carruth in “Primer”

It is incredible that Primer was made for $7,000, when you consider how many terrible Hollywood movies have costs hundreds of millions. There are no special effects and the people are all genuine, but it is definitely a Sci Fi film.

The techie guys start out with really stupid inventions, like a gas that makes refrigerators colder, but has the downside of possibly making the ice cubes poisonous.  Then two of the guys –  Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) – construct a machine that has some wondrous properties they don’t really understand. Aaron and Abe know they are onto something big, but they don’t know what.

Of course, the first thing Aaron and Abe do is to hide the machine from the other members of the team. Anyone who has ever worked in a startup company recognizes how real this scenario is. In startups, everyone is “an important part of the team” until it looks like the company might actually make some money. Then the knives come out.

The machine seems to be able to put out more electricity than it takes in. It also seems to make objects slightly  lighter. Most wondrous of all, it appears that The Machine might impact Time itself.  Adam and Abe don’t know if these events are really happening. The changes are so slight that maybe their instruments are just measuring things wrong. They decide to go the next step and build a huge version of The Machine.

H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine in 1895

H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine in 1895

People have been fascinated with the possibility of time travel, ever since H.G. Wells first published The Time Machine in 1895. Primer is one of a huge number of movies that explore the possibilities and pitfalls of trying to tinker with the natural order of time.

Rod Taylor in the 1960 movie "The Time Machine"

Rod Taylor in the 1960 movie “The Time Machine”

In Primer, the time machine does work, but only in a very limited way. Arron and Abe are brilliant scientists, and they are well aware of the risks of time travel. Therefore, they set up all sorts of fail-safe ways to protect themselves, the timeline and the world from this most dangerous of inventions. Of course, even the most brilliant scientists cannot think of every possibility.

We will not reveal any more of Primer’s plot, other than to say it has stories within stories and you have to watch very carefully to see exactly what is really going on.  Primer was written by Shane Carruth who also stars as Aaron. Primer first premiered in 2004, and despite its $7,000 budget, took in a Box Office gross of $424,780.  The film still holds up today. Primer shows how good a film can be when movie makers concentrate on great writing instead of car chases and special effects.

Don’t Bother To Knock – Marilyn Monroe shows her true acting skills

In the 1952 film   Don’t Bother To Knock, Marilyn Monroe showed the world that her acting skills deserved  better than the stupid ditzy blonde roles she was normally given. Don’t Bother To Knock is a thriller, in which Marilyn Monroe plays a mentally unstable woman who might kill an innocent child.

Knock" has Marilyn Monroe in a sexy outfit that was not in the movie.

The poster for “Don’t Bother To Knock” has Marilyn Monroe in a sexy outfit that was not in the movie.

Despite this tense  plot, Hollywood could just not resist promoting it as a sexy Marilyn Monroe movie rather than a thriller. The movie poster featured Marilyn Monroe in a skimpy outfit that was not part of the movie. The advertisements called her ” a wicked sensation as the lonely girl”.

Donna Corcoran & Marilyn Monroe in "Don't Bother To Knock"

Donna Corcoran & Marilyn Monroe in “Don’t Bother To Knock”

In Don’t Bother To Knock, Marilyn Monroe is Nell Forbes, whose pilot boyfriend has been killed in a plane crash. Unable to deal with her loss, Nell attempts suicide and spends time in a mental institution.  After being released, she goes to New York to live with her uncle Eddie (played by Elisha Cook Jr.)

Elisha Cook Jr. in "Don't Bother to Knock"

Elisha Cook Jr. in “Don’t Bother to Knock”

Eddie finds Nell a baby sitting job in the hotel where he is a elevator operator. Nell seems fine and gets along well with Bunny, the little girl (played by Donna Corcoran). However, Nell is actually quite unbalanced. When she meets Jed (Richard Widmark), a pilot staying at the hotel, she believes he is actually her dead boyfriend. In her mind,  Nell creates a fantasy world. When Jed rejects her, Nell thinks it is because he does not want the little girl Bunny keeping them apart. That is when Nell decides to take action against Bunny.

Richard Widmark & Anne Bancroft in "Don't Bother To Knock"

Richard Widmark & Anne Bancroft in “Don’t Bother To Knock”

Don’t Bother To Knock, is a fantastic movie, whose plot and tension still hold up today. It is also the debut film for a stunningly beautiful Anne Bancroft as Lyn Lesley, a lounge singer. This was 15 years before Anne Bancroft would gain international fame as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate.

Richard Widmark & Marilyn Monroe in "Don't Bother To Knock"

Richard Widmark & Marilyn Monroe in “Don’t Bother To Knock”

Don’t Bother To Knock did well in the theaters and was a critical success. Although she was only 26 years old at the time of her brilliant performance, Marilyn Monroe never went on to a full career as  a true dramatic actor. Hollywood producers continued to  cast her in a series of very profitable “dumb blonde” movies. There were lots of actresses who could do drama, but directors knew that only Marilyn Monroe would be perfect for films like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes  (1953)or Some Like It Hot (1959).

Anne Bancroft as a lounge singer in "Don't Bother To Knock"

Anne Bancroft as a lounge singer in “Don’t Bother To Knock”

Unfortunately, off-screen, Marilyn Monroe had much in common with the mentally troubled woman she played in Don’t Bother To Knock. Despite being a world-wide celebrity, Monroe was very unhappy, and  committed suicide in 1962 at the age of 36.  (Of course, rumors still swirl that The Kennedys actually killed Marilyn Monroe).

 

 

Riverdale – Archie Comics in an Alternate Universe

Baby Boomers who see Riverdale on the CW network will feel like they have entered into an alternate universe. Murder, intrigue and illicit sex have made their way into the Archie Comics town of Riverdale. Archie himself has been transformed from a goofy geek into a major hunk who shows off his six-pack abs every chance he gets.

Classic Archie joke

Classic Archie joke

Despite these changes, Riverdale is actually a good show with an interesting plot and excellent acting. We are just  not sure why the producers chose to base the show on a comic book that first came out in 1941.  The target audience for Riverdale is about 50 years younger than anyone who actually  remembers the classic Archie Comics.

KJ Apa as Archie, showing off his abs

KJ Apa as Archie, showing off his abs

KJ Apa is Archie, who like in the comics, is continually caught in the middle between Betty (Lili Reinhart) and Veronica (Camila Mendes). Both Lili Reinhart and Camila Mendes really nail their characters. It is not easy to play a comic book character without going “over the top”, but both of these fine actors resist that temptation, and play the characters straight. Like in the comics, we always feel sorry for Betty, who despite being nice and beautiful is relegated to the “just friends” category by Archie.

Lili Reinhart perfect as Betty

Lili Reinhart perfect as Betty

Archie himself is the biggest change from the comics. He is a bulked-up football star, who has an illicit sexual affair with a beautiful young teacher. What happened to the nerdy guy from the comics, who never quite got what was going on?  What made the original Archie great was that he was not cool.

Camila Mendes & Lili Reinhart

Camila Mendes & Lili Reinhart

Archie was the average high school guy that kids could identify with. Archie was not a star athlete, or brilliant student. He did have a car, but it was a rattling piece of junk (as opposed to rich Reggie’s sports car).

The real Archie definitely did not have the body of a hunk

The real Archie definitely did not have the body of a hunk

In Riverale, Archie and his friends investigate what might or might not be a murder. To say much more would be to give away the mystery. Riverdale is actually a good show and teenage viewers will like it. Older viewers of a “certain age” can also have fun taking a look, just to see how times have changed in the sleepy, likable town. Still, Baby Boomers may get a twinge of nostalgic sadness seeing Riverdale.

The original Riverdale in Archie comics was a fantasy even when it was created in 1941. It was a place where nothing bad ever happened. No one ever got hurt, got sick,  changed or grew older.  Kids could read these comics and retreat from the “real world” that was being forced onto them. The CW network’s Riverdale is an interesting place, but if given a choice, we would still choose to live in the original Riverdale from the Archie comics. Let’s face it; the real world is highly overrated.

 

 

 

Split – classic horror intertwined with mystery and psychological drama

Split is the story of three teenage girls kidnapped by a  dangerous psychopath with multiple personalities.  Some of the personalities are kind, some stupid and some dangerous. All of the personalities are afraid of “the monster” which will be unleashed on the girls.

James McAvoy & Anya Taylor-Joy in "Split"

James McAvoy & Anya Taylor-Joy in “Split”

James McAvoy gives a masterful performance as the kidnapper, who becomes increasingly strange and dangerous as the film progresses. Intertwined with the classic horror elements, are themes of mystery and psychological drama.

Jessica Sula & Haley Lu Richardson in "Split"

Jessica Sula & Haley Lu Richardson in “Split”

The three girls kidnapped come from a privileged suburban background, and are completely unprepared for the violence and degradation they are suddenly thrust into.  Their natural tendency is to simply freeze from panic. This is, in fact, the normal response when everyday people are confronted with unexpected violence.   Jessica Sula and Haley Lu Richardson are perfect as two young women trying to cope with a situation beyond their comprehension.

Anya Taylor-Joy in "Split"

Anya Taylor-Joy in “Split”

Anya Taylor-Joy plays Casey Cooke, the third kidnap victim.  Her background is far different from the other girls. She has had a childhood of sexual abuse, and holds a deep inner shame that she never fought back. Casey is determined that this time will be different.  Anya Taylor-Joy is a fantastic actor, and we noted her skills when she starred in The Witch.

Izzie Coffey plays an abused little girl in Split

Izzie Coffey plays an abused little girl in Split

Izzie Coffey plays 6 year old Casey. In flashbacks we see what she was subjected to, and understand why the teenage Casey is considered “strange” by the other girls. Her damaged childhood is a key to the plot of the film.  As a little girl, Casey was far too small to fight back. Can the teenage Casey now summon the strength and the will?

Betty Buckley as psychiatrist Karen Fletcher in "Split"

Betty Buckley as psychiatrist Karen Fletcher in “Split”

Betty Buckley is Psychiatrist Karen Fletcher who has been treating the multiple personalities of the kidnapper for years. So far, he has been able to successfully hide the violent and evil parts of himself from her. However, she knows there is something she is just not seeing. Something about “the monster”

Director M. Night Shyamalan has created a terrific horror film, with less gore and more mystery than most films of the genre.  It is exciting throughout, with a moving subtext touching on the issue of female vulnerability in a male-dominated world.

 

 

 

I Am Your Father – the man inside the Darth Vader helmet

I Am Your Father is a documentary about David Prowse, the man inside the Darth Vader helmet in the original Star Wars trilogy. He is also a pariah; hated by George Lucas, and  banned from any official Star Wars reunions or conventions.   Lucas believes that he was betrayed by Prowse.

Mark Hamill & David Prowse

Mark Hamill & David Prowse

By the time the first Star Wars movie was made in 1977, David Prowse was already known by film directors in England. He was the the former British weight lifting champion and stood 6 feet 7 inches tall. This physique made David Prowse the go-to actor to play bad guys and monsters. He was particularly popular as the Frankenstein monster.

David Prowse in "A Clockwork Orange"

David Prowse in “A Clockwork Orange”

Then in 1971 he was cast by Stanley Kubrick in A Clockwork Orange, showing that he could play more than grunting monsters. He was the perfect choice for the commanding presence needed for Darth Vader. David Prowse was Darth Vader in Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return Of The Jedi (1983).

David Prowse today at age 80

David Prowse today at age 80

So after making 3 of the most successful films in history how did George Lucas and David Prowse end up hating each other?  Betrayal is the word that sums up the issue. Each man feels he was twice  betrayed by the other.

David Prowse as the Green Cross Man

David Prowse as the Green Cross Man

The two betrayals by Lucas have to do with Darth Vader’s voice and final death scene. We all know that James Earl Jones is the voice of Darth Vader.  Unfortunately, no one bothered to tell that to David Prowse ahead of time.  David was the voice of Darth Vader all the way through  the filming of Star Wars.  It was not until the movie premier that David found out his voice had been dubbed over by James Earl Jones. Imaging what it must have been like to sit in the premier and find that every one of your lines in a movie had been replaced by that of another actor.

Lou Ferrigno - friend and defender of David Prowse

Lou Ferrigno – friend and defender of David Prowse

However, David Prowse knew that he would finally get the recognition he deserved, when Darth Vader had his beautiful death scene in Return Of The Jedi. At last, the Darth Vader mask would be removed, and the world would see David. However, this was not to be. Sebastian Shaw was the actor who performed the Darth Vader death scene where Darth’s helmet is removed.

Sebastian Shaw in Darth Vader's death scene

Sebastian Shaw in Darth Vader’s death scene

Richard Marquand, the director of Return Of The Jedi was very worried about what David’s reaction to this news was going to be. After all, who wants to incur the wrath of a 6 foot 7 inch weight lifter? So the director took the cowardly path of just not telling David. The death scene was filmed in secret in one part of the studio while David was kept busy in another part.  Just in case, however, the director had hired lots of extra security for the day.

But why does George Lucas feel betrayed by David Prowse? Well, David was always a very friendly guy and loved taking to reporters. Somehow, two major secrets were leaked to the press just before the release of The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi.  The secret that Darth Vader is Luke Skwalker’s father hit the British tabloids before The Empire Strikes Back hit the theaters.  The fact that Darth Vader dies in Return Of The Jedi also hit the press before the movie came out. George Lucas was convinced, and apparently remains convinced, that it was talkative David Prowse who told the reporters. Almost 4 decades later, Lucas is not ready to forgive and forget.

I Am You Father researches the events and presents a very good case that David Prowse, in fact, was not responsible for either of these leaks to the press.  However, to this day, Prowse is banned from any official Star Wars conventions. Consequently, he is relegated to signing autographs at cheesy little “off-brand” conventions. One of Prowse’s good friends and defenders is Lou Ferrigno, best known for playing The Hulk on T.V. Lou knows first hand the struggle of being a weight lifter trying to be taken seriously as an actor.

Ironically, David Prowse’s most important acting gig had nothing to do with Star Wars. In 1975 he appeared in  a series of public service ads in the U.K. as the Green Cross Code Man. This was a superhero who taught kids about crossing the street safely. David went above and beyond what he was originally hired to do. He tirelessly campaigned for road safety and made many personal appearances at schools talking to kids.

Statistics show that the deaths of children hit by automobiles in the U.K. went down by 50% as a direct result of David’s campaign. Thousands of kids lives were saved.  Later in life, David Prowse was decorated by Queen Elizabeth II for this work. Darth Vader will always be remembered as one of the most evil men in the universe. It turns out that the man behind the mask was actually a good guy all along.

Monsieur Verdoux – Charlie Chaplin as a talkative murderer

In 1947 Charlie Chaplin shocked movie audiences by playing a talkative serial killer in the film Monsieur Verdoux.  It was completely against type for the man famous for playing the lovable little tramp in silent movies.

Martha Raye & Charlie Chaplin in Monsieur Verdoux

Martha Raye & Charlie Chaplin in Monsieur Verdoux

Monsieur Verdoux is a very dark comedy in which Charlie Chaplin plays a man who successively marries, then murders,  women so that he can steal their assets. His only redeeming quality is that he is using the money to support his real wife, who is suffering from polio. She thinks he is just a kind successful businessman who travels a lot for work.

Serial killer Henri Desire Landru - he was convicted and sent to the guillotine

Serial killer Henri Desire Landru – he was convicted and sent to the guillotine

Monsieur Verdoux was based on the real-life serial killer Henri Desire Landru. In France between 1914 and 1919, he married then killed 11 women.  Due to World War I, there were thousands of widows in France who were easy prey for Landru. He went undiscovered for a long time, since he would destroy the victims in an oven.

Some of the murder victims of Henri Desire Landru

Some of the murder victims of Henri Desire Landru

It is hard to understand why Charlie Chaplin thought this subject would make a good comedy. However, Monsieur Verdoux does have some amusing parts. The funniest person in the film is Martha Raye, who plays Annabella, one of the unsuspecting women Monsieur Verdoux has married. Unlike the other women, Annabella is basically indestructible. No matter what he tries Monsieur Verdoux simply cannot kill Annabella, but does succeed in almost poisoning  himself.

Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp we all know and love

Charlie Chaplin as the Little Tramp we all know and love

Audiences in 1947 did not like Monsieur Verdoux.  World War II has just ended. After years of war and millions of deaths, people wanted to see Chaplin in a light comedy.  No one wanted to be reminded of death and destruction and evil people in the world.

Charlie Chaplin & Marilyn Nash in Monsieur Verdoux

Charlie Chaplin & Marilyn Nash in Monsieur Verdoux

Monsieur Verdoux himself tries to defend his action by saying that what he is doing is nothing compared to the millions killed in war. Marilyn Nash plays a young woman who is lifted out a poverty by marring a weapons manufacturer. These anti-war themes seem grafted into and out of place in the movie.

Even watching the film today, it tends to fall flat. We can see what Chaplin was trying to accomplish, but it just does not come across. In order for the comedy to work, you have to like and root for Monsieur Verdoux. However, we  could not get over the fact that in the film, he does kill many of the woman and burn their bodies in an incinerator.  It would have been much funnier if Monsieur Verdoux was an unsuccessful murderer.  If all of his “wives” were as indestructible as Martha Raye, audience might have cheered for the bumbling little man trying to be a criminal. Instead, they were shocked to see that Charlie Chaplin had turned the lovable little tramp into a bad guy.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox who wrote" "Laugh and the World laugh with you; weep and you weep alone. For the poor old Earth must borrow its mirth, but has troubles enough of its own."

Ella Wheeler Wilcox who wrote” “Laugh and the World laughs with you; weep and you weep alone. For the poor old Earth must borrow its mirth, but has troubles enough of its own.”

Still, Monsieur Verdoux is a film worth seeing for two reasons. First of all, you get to hear Chaplin speak, which is unusual in itself. More importantly, it gives us a glimpse into the man that Chaplin usually kept hidden from the world. Like many comedians, Charlie Chaplin had a dark side which looked at the world as a place or cruelty and evil. Seeing him as the little tramp, audiences would never guess the depths of his depression. As the character Monsieur Verdoux, Chaplin takes off the smiling mask and lets people see the pain beneath.  Chaplin should have realized that no one wanted to see that. He should have remembered the lines of Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s poem Solitude.

“Laugh and the World laughs with you, weep and you weep alone. For the poor old Earth must borrow its mirth, but has trouble enough of its own.”

Lovelace – the sad story behind the star of Deep Throat

Lovelace is the sad story of Linda Boreman, better known as “Linda Lovelace” from the infamous Deep Throat movie.  Based on her book Ordeal, it details how she was forced into adult films and prostitution by her abusive husband Chuck Traynor.  Linda later became a spokeswoman against pornography and for for women’s rights.

Peter Sarsgaard & Amanda Seyfried in "Lovelace"

Peter Sarsgaard & Amanda Seyfried in “Lovelace”

Linda Boreman (Amanda Seyfried) came from a strict Catholic family that was shamed  when she had a child out of wedlock. After that, Linda’s parents became completely over-protective and monitored every aspect of her life. Linda rebelled by marrying Chuck Traynor (Peter Sarsgaard) the dominating owner of a sleazy topless bar. At first, it seems like life with Chuck will be exciting and fun. However, when Chuck runs into financial problems, he forces Linda into prostitution. After that, the adult film industry actually seems like a step up.

Sharon Stone in "Lovelace"

Sharon Stone in “Lovelace”

Sharon Stone plays Linda’s mother Dorothy. Sharon Stone does such a good job as this uptight cruel woman that we honestly did not realize this was the same actress from Basic Instinct.

Robert Patrick as the devastated father of a porn star in "Lovelace"

Robert Patrick as the devastated father of a porn star in “Lovelace”

Robert Patrick is John Boreman, who is completely devastated when his daughter becomes a porn star.

Linda Lovelace & Chuck Traynor

Linda Lovelace & Chuck Traynor

Deep Throat was a cultural phenomena in 1972. It was a porn film that somehow crossed over and attracted mainstream audiences. It was also one of the first porn films available on video tape which meant that people could see it without having to “be seen”. Supposedly Deep Throat made $600 million dollars. For her staring role, Linda Lovelace was paid $1,250.

One of the aspects only lightly touched on in Lovelace, is organized crime’s involvement in the pornographic film industry. Porn films are sleazy, but they are legal. Therefore, the mob funnels the profits from its illegal activities into those films. There is no way that Deep Throat actually grossed $600 million. The Oscar winning Best Picture in 1972 was The French Connection. It had a domestic gross box office of $51 million.

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace

Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace. Here the publisher of Ordeal has her take a lie detector test to make sure her story is true. She passed the test.

Amanda Seyfried was perfect as Linda Lovelace. Amanda took a real risk with her career on Lovelace, since prior to this Amanda has always played the sweet innocent girl. Peter Sarsgaard, as always, puts in a powerful performance. He is one of America’s best actors and continually challenges himself with new roles in independent films.

We recommend Lovelace, but be warned that it has strong sexual content. Parts of Lovelace are difficult to watch, with the graphic depiction of the abuses Linda was subjected to.

 

20th Century Women- a quirky comedy with excellent acting

20th Century Women is a wonderful film where Hollywood finally lets a middle aged woman be the star. Annette Bening gives a perfect performance as Dorothea Fields, a single mother trying to raise her teenage son amidst the turbulent changes of the 1970s.

Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann in 20th Century Women

Billy Crudup, Elle Fanning, Annette Bening,  Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann in 20th Century Women

If you ever get the feeling that real life has no plot, and that you don’t know what you are doing, then you will sympathize with Dorothea. She wants to be the perfect mom, have a fulfilling life, and make everyone around her happy and enlightened. She is a failure at all of these goals, but she never stops trying. You can’t help falling in love with Dorothea.

Elle Fanning as the rebellious teen Julie in 20th Century Women

Elle Fanning as the rebellious teen Julie in 20th Century Women

Dorothea and her son Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) live in a big old house surrounded by odd characters. There is William (Billy Crudup) a combination hippie/carpenter/car mechanic. Greta Gerwig plays Abbie, a sensitive artist, trying to cope with cervical cancer. The next door neighbor Julie (Elle Fanning) is a rebellious teenager who spends most of her time at Dorothea’s house.

Annette Bening & Billy Crudup in 20th Century Women

Annette Bening & Billy Crudup in 20th Century Women

Somehow this odd mix of people becomes a family of sorts, helping each other through trials and changes in their own lives. Jamie never comes out and says he wishes he was in a “normal” family, but you know he has thought about it.

If you are expecting a structured plot and a lot of action then 20th Century Women is not the movie for you. 20th Century Women is more like real life than a movie. Things just happen to people. Sometimes they cope well and sometimes they don’t.

We loved 20th Century Women. Ever character is memorable and every actor gives a great performance.

 

 

The Founder- Ray Kroc builds McDonald’s by being a genius and a McPrick

The Founder is the fascinating story of McDonald’s. In 1954, McDonald’s consisted of 1 hamburger stand and Ray Kroc was a 52 year old milkshake-machine salesman. Today, McDonald’s has 36,615 locations and annual revenues of $24 billion.  Ray Kroc was the man who made that possible. He was a combination of genius, hustler, and smooth-talker. He was also a cold-blooded business shark ready to devour anything or anyone in his way.

Ray Kroc

Ray Kroc

In 1954, Ray Kroc (Michael Keaton) by chance eats at the only McDonald’s in the country. Mac and Dick McDonald (played by Nick Offerman & John Carroll Lynch) have invented something entirely new.  The idea of “fast food” seems very routine to us now, but in 1954 it was revolutionary. Before McDonald’s, there was no way to get a quick lunch. At restaurants and drive-ins of the day it took 20-30 minutes to get even the simplest meal.

Michael Keaton in The Founder

Michael Keaton in The Founder

Ray Kroc immediately understood the potential and was frustrated that the McDonald brothers did not realize what they had . Mac and Dick were perfectly happy running their successful little hamburger stand.  They finally let Ray Kroc talk them into the idea of franchising the system, mainly just to shut Ray up. They really didn’t think expansion would work.

John Carroll Lynch & Nick Offerman as the McDonald brothers

John Carroll Lynch & Nick Offerman as the McDonald brothers

The Founder is the story of how  Ray Kroc built the business and slowly pushed the McDonald brothers out. Ray Kroc wanted it all. The term “The Founder” is what Ray Kroc eventually put on his business cards, despite the fact that he obviously did not found McDonald’s.

B.J. Novak & Michael Keaton in The Founder

B.J. Novak & Michael Keaton in The Founder

Michael Keaton is perfect as Ray Kroc. He is the smiling wolf in sheep’s clothing. B.J. Novak plays Harry J. Sonneborn, the financial wiz-kid who comes up with a revolutionary idea of his own. He shows Kroc that the real money  to be made is from the real estate, not the hamburgers.  He devises a plan for Kroc to own all the land that the franchises are built on, and then making a fortune leasing the land back to the McDonald’s stores.

Kate Kneeland as June Martino

Kate Kneeland as June Martino

Kate Kneeland plays June Martino, who was the loyal assistant to Ray Kroc from the beginning. Her hard work and loyalty paid off  and she eventually became a hugely successful businesswoman, trading stock on the New York Stock Exchange.

Ray Kroc

Ray Kroc

So who was the real Ray Kroc? Was he an American icon who built an empire through hard work, or was he a nasty McPrick willing to take credit for other people’s ideas? The truth is he was both. He did push out the McDonald brothers from their own business and told the world he had invented it all. However, he also made Mac and Dick McDonald rich men. In addition, Ray Kroc provided opportunities for thousands of small entrepreneurs  who did very well buying McDonald franchises.

The Founder is an excellent movie. It is a fascinating look at what has become a worldwide institution. From its lowly beginnings, McDonald’s now feeds 1% of the world’s population every day.