Monthly Archives: September 2017

The Woman In Cabin 10 – murder & mystery on the high seas

Ruth Ware’s The Woman In Cabin 10 is a terrific murder mystery novel with an added twist. The twist is that we are not sure if a murder really took place. The only “witness” is an excitable young woman who was high on  prescription drugs and alcohol when she supposedly heard the murder.

Was Woman In Cabin 10 murdered?

Was Woman In Cabin 10 murdered?

The setting for the “murder” is a small luxury cruise ship at sea. Like Agatha Christie’s Murder On The Orient Express, this means that the list of suspects is limited to passengers and crew.

"The Woman In Cabin 10". Murder on a luxury cruise ship.

“The Woman In Cabin 10”. Murder on a luxury cruise ship.

The heroine of the story is travel writer Lo Blacklock, who has been given the once in a lifetime  assignment of traveling and reporting on the maiden voyage of the luxury ship Aurora. Unlike the giant cruise liners catering to the masses, the Aurora has only 10 cabins, and is designed to serve an exclusive clientele of billionaires.

Agatha Christie would have loved The Woman In Cabin 10.

Agatha Christie would have loved The Woman In Cabin 10.

Unfortunately, Lo is recovering from a a recent break-in at her London flat, where she was confronted and attacked by the thief.  Ever since that traumatic event,  she has been shaky, and consuming more alcohol than is good for her.

Getting ready for dinner the first night of the cruise, Lo realizes that she has forgotten her mascara. She borrows some from an angry young woman in the #10;  the cabin next door. Many hours later, after a night of eating and drinking, Lo  is in bed when she hears a scream from cabin 10. Going to balcony facing the sea, Lo is sure there is a body in the water.

Norway's Fjords. A perfect murder setting.

Norway’s Fjords. A perfect murder setting.

When Lo reports the crime, she is told that there never was a passenger in Cabin 10, and that none of the crew are missing. Either there is a conspiracy, or the stresses of Lo’s life have become too much to deal with and she has hallucinated the whole event.

The Woman In Cabin 10 shares many similarities with The Girl On The Train. In both stories, the heroine is a fragile but determined woman fighting internal and external demons. We loved The Woman In Cabin 10. Anyone can be a hero when you are strong and confident and trusted by all around you. But what can you do to  summon up courage for an emergency when just making it through every day life is an ordeal?

Ruth Ware. Author of "The Woman In Cabin 10".

Ruth Ware. Author of “The Woman In Cabin 10”.

Agatha Christie would have loved The Woman In Cabin 10. It is a classic mystery story where all the clues are given, but the reader still cannot guess the ending. The setting is also wonderful. A luxury ship sailing the Nordic fjords, where the cliffs are so high that they block the cell phone and internet access that could be used to call for help. Whatever is going on, the frail young Lo Blacklock is definitely on her own. If the murder did not happen, she is going crazy. If she is sane, that means Lo is the only witness to a murder. And the killer is still on the ship.

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.