Archive for the ‘FILM REVIEWS’ Category

“Black Panther”–movie review   Leave a comment

After recently seeing “Logan”, “Wonder Woman” and “The Ant-Man” I thought I should rethink the sci-fi movie genre after years of avoiding them and then today I did just that by going to see “Black Panther” and realized that I had been right from the beginning.

The movie, from opening to closing, is special effects whether between the actors or in the background or car chases, battle sequences, even in hand to hand combats. Talking about things like fights and car chases, why have one of each when you can have two? Also, let’s have two villains instead of one plus instead of an all-white cast with one, maybe two faces of color, here we have an all-black cast with two white faces.

As with other sci-fi movies this runs around 20 minutes too long but this, in a way, distinguishes itself by having 2or 3 more storylines, even going for Shakespearean plots here and there of kings and queens, family treachery and rivalry.  All in all, at certain times it gets convoluted and you just have to shake your head and skip on to the next special effect.

Chadwick Boseman does a fine job as the Black Panther but Winston Duke who challenges Boseman and is another Black Panther at times, except for the shifting color of his costume, makes a good rival. The two scene stealers are Andy Serkis as an over the top villain and Letitia Wright as Boseman’s sister who can cracks jokes that are hilarious, that make you laugh out loud and can walk into any James Bond film as Q and steal that movie from Bond.

Also in the cast are Angela Bassett,  Forest Whitaker, Daniel Kaluuyya, Lupita Nyong’o and Sterling K. Brown. It was directed by Ryan Coogler, who also wrote the screenplay with Joe Robert Cole, with a lo0t of help- from the editors Michael P. Shawver and Debbie Berman.

Along with Letitia Wright the musical score by Ludwig Goransson are the two outstanding features of the movie.

“Black Panther” will obviously appeal to the millions of sci-fi fans and Marvel comic followers and by the same token not appeal to the rest, like me!


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“A Fantastic Woman”–a movie review   Leave a comment

“A FANTASTIC WOMAN is the story of Marina, a waitress and singer, and Orlando, an older man, who are in love and planning for the future. After Orlando suddenly falls ill and dies, Marina is forced to confront his family and society, and to fight again to show them who she is: complex, strong, forthright, fantastic.” So goes the synopsis for this movie nothing mentioning that she is transgender which is the reason for/of the movie.

Sixty years ago it would have been Orlando’s mistress and twenty years ago his male lover, today it is his transgender partner. When Orlando unexpectedly dies, just like the mistress and gay lover in past years and still sometimes today, if they aren’t married, the family comes and takes away everything the couple had from the car to the apartment and even the dog. The most hurtful is not being allowed to attend the funeral or say goodbye.

The mistress, the gay lover and Marina had/have to face the indignities that all might face such as being called names, accused of murdering the lover, being abused by him or, with the latter two, being beaten up and possibly killed for being gay or transgender but Marina has the extra humiliation of having to strip for an excruciating body exam under the eyes of a female detective and a male doctor.

Maybe I have been around too long and have read too many books, seen too many films and movies where the mistress and/or gay man has been shunned or I have personally seen what happens to a gay couple when one dies and I don’t see the transgender person being any more degraded, though yes, today they are the target of hate and being misunderstood.

The director Sebastian Lelio, who also wrote the screenplay with Gonzalo Maza, doesn’t seem to involve the audience in what should be an emotionally touching story except in two scenes, with one being the strip search, which definitely shows how people can mistreat other people and the one scene that shows Marina for being the strong person she is.

Marina is played by transgender actress Daniela Vega who seems to be hindered by the director. There are certain moments when she shows vulnerability and/or strength but not enough of them. As difficult as it is for someone in that position one doesn’t feel empathy for her character. People who are new to what transgender and/or gay live through and what hostilities they face may find this movie interesting.

“A Fantastic Woman” is nominated for an Oscar as Best Foreign Film but I don’t recommend seeing it.

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“Film Stars Don’t Dies In Liverpool”–movie review   Leave a comment

One of my favorite behind the scenes in Hollywood is the film “The Bad and the Beautiful” for which Gloria Graham won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. In “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”we see the last 3 years of her life when she was having an affair with a man 28 years younger than her. 

The film takes place mainly in California and England with scenes melding into each other and going back and forth between the years and places superbly edited by Nick Emerson. Gloria, married 4 times, is way past her movie career prime and is acting on the stage in England and while playing Sadie Thompson in “Rain” she meets Peter Turner who wrote a book about them and which this movie is based on, the screenplay written by Matt Greenhalgh.

Both Annette Bening as Gloria and Jamie Bell as Peter Turner make their relationship believable and create a chemistry that makes you forget the age difference except when she brings it up but even they can’t make this just another picture that can’t be saved by top performances though they do give the film whatever power they can find in it!

With Kenneth Cranham and Julie Walters as Peter’s parents and Vanessa Redgrave, in a too short scene, as Gloria’s mother with Frances Barber as Gloria’s very jealous sister the director Paul McGuigon does what he can to elevate the love story but doesn’t quite succeed and it could be a story about any two lovers with a large age difference.

As huge a fan as I am of Annette Bening, and admirer of Jamie Bell for his role in “Billy Elliot, along with always glad to see Redgrave and Walters in a movie I just can’t recommend this film. Instead, if you aren’t familiar with Gloria Graham see her in “The Bad and the Beautiful”, “The Greatest Show on Earth”, “It’s A Wonderful Life” or/and “Crossfire”.

By the way, the whole audience was over 50 and they were shocked at two exchanges that I thought everyone knew!

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Posted February 9, 2018 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, FILM REVIEWS, Uncategorized

“Westchester”–a movie review   Leave a comment

“Winchester” is based, very loosely based, on the true story of Sarah Winchester, widow of William Westchester, whose family started the famous Winchester rifle.

After his death, Sarah was left very rich and lived in a 150+ room house that she constantly worked on it having construction done 24/7. The house, today, is a California magnet for tourists.

With such a large house, directors Michael and Peter Spierig, who also helped Tom Vaughn write the screenplay, it all seems to be confined to the same walls, rooms, hallways, windows, stairs and the one big bell clanging.

The main story is about Sarah being haunted by the ghosts of the people killed by Winchester rifles and that story is a bunch of clichés that is filled with violence and not a scary moment.

When Helen Mirren’s presence can’t make a movie better you know you are in a movie worth skipping.

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“Phantom Thread”–movie review   Leave a comment

Being this is, supposedly, Daniel Day-Lewis’s last movie before he retires I wish he had retired after doing “Lincoln” and winning an Oscar, though he is retiring with an Oscar nomination for his role as Reynolds Jeremiah Woodcock.

Woodcock is at the center of British fashion dressing royalty, movie stars, rich women and socialites with the House of Woodstock along with his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville) who manages the business and, to a certain extent, him. He is, and seems to boast about it, a confirmed bachelor and has women coming into his life and his sister getting rid of them when he is tired of them.

Taking a break he goes to his out of town cottage and in a restaurant, he meets a clumsy waitress, Alma, played by Vicky Krieps, starts dating her and she becomes his muse, lover and then wife. His falling in love with her disrupts his life and his work. As Cyril tells Alma her brother likes quiet in the morning, especially at breakfast, and she is noisy such as scraping and cutting her toast, noisily pouring her tea and stirring her spoon just for starters.

Soon he is using all this ‘noise’ as excuses to end what they have and looking at his sister to do her job which is to send Alma away but then he gets sick and she takes care of him only endearing her to him.

At that point, I lost it. I lost what was going on. I lost interest in the film and Daniel Day-Lewis and the two women and the fashions but, also, where it was going if it was going anywhere.

When I got home I read three rave reviews to see what I had missed and one reviewer referred to Hitchcock’s “Rebecca”, another to Gene Tierney in “Dragonwyck” while another mentioned films made in the 1940s and 1950s and I could understand those references. The film starts with the song “My Foolish Heart” from the 1950 movie starring Susan Hayward and Dana Andrews, which was a favorite of mine and I wish I had seen that instead of “Phantom Thread” which takes place in the 1950s probably the reason for the song.

For the record it was announced today that “Phantom Thread” received the following Oscar nominations:  1) Best Picture 2) Best Actor 3) Best Director Paul Thomas Anderson 4) Best Supporting Actress Lesley Manville 5) Best Costume Design Mark Bridges and 6) original score Johnny Greenwind.

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“The Post”–a movie review   Leave a comment

Steven Spielberg is such a fine director that he can make you sit on the edge of your seat for the answer to a question you already know. You lived through the exposure of the Pentagon Papers and the ruling of the Supreme Court—as most of the members in the audience did—yet as it comes closer and closer to the outcome you question yourself as to whether you remembered it right!

“The Post” shows that our current President wants to curtail what and which news reports on him, including what reporters, just as President Nixon did when, at first, the New York Times exposed the massive report on the Vietnam War and was challenged by him and brought to the court.

“The Post” tells the story of the Washington Post, whose owner Katherine Graham inherited the paper left to her husband by her father and she became the owner after the former committed suicide. The company is talking about going public and her decision to print the Pentagon Papers, started by the Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a good friend of hers, could bring disgrace to him for continuing the indefensible war, she and her editor played by Tom Hanks could go to prison and the new shares of the company could be worthless.

There is a lot of exposition to be told but Spielberg, along with writers Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, keeps the movie going until the story takes over with the decisions Graham must make, the actual showing how a newspaper is put together from setting the type to getting the paper in bundles and delivered. There is very little time wasted in this 1 hour and 55-minute movie that doesn’t seem even that long!

From Bruce Greenwood as Robert McNamara, Bob Odenkirk as the Post’s managing editor Ben Bagdikian, Matthew Rhys as Daniel Ellsberg who  leaked the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times  reporter, along with other actors like Tracy Letts, Sarah Paulson, Bradley Whitford, Alison Brie, Carrie Coon among others get their time/moments to shine.

Tom Hanks, as good as he is, fights the memorable Oscar-winning performance of Jason Robards as Ben Bradlee in “All The President’s Men”. I am not particularly a fan of Meryl Streep as I always see her ‘acting’ but in this movie, she becomes Katherine Graham.

“The Post”, in spite of the story, the actors and writers, is a Steven Spielberg movie from beginning to end, who at 70 seems to still have not reached his height yet!


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“Molly’s Game”–movie review   Leave a comment

(Possible spoilers.)

Watching “Molly’s Game” seems to be the same as listening to a ‘Talking Book’ with its almost wall to wall narration by Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom.

In Aaron Sorkin’s director’s debut, he makes the mistake of many first-timers not following sometimes less means more with this 2 hours and 20 minutes film. As the writer of the screenplay, as he is known for his rat-a-tat dialogue in his television scripts, the talk is fast but in film his characters are more stationary.

Jessica Chastain does a good job of showing how Molly Bloom became a tough, mostly unfeeling, woman when as a child her demanding father, played by Kevin Costner, training her for the U.S. Olympic Ski team, constantly tells her she isn’t good enough. Her two brothers are overachievers, just as her father is, so when she has a freak accident skiing in competition, ending her career, she looks to do something else, entertaining the idea of law school but, instead goes to Los Angeles. Taking jobs to support herself while living on a friend’s couch she eventually becomes an assistant to a man who runs an exclusive poker game for high rollers.

Molly soon moves to New York where she outsmarts her former boss and starts her own high stakes poker games having the rich and famous as her clients. She runs everything by the books legally besides offering the players more than other operations ever did in the way of luxurious snacks, drinks and comfort. Again there is nothing illegal about her operation such as though she has beautiful women working for her attending bar, being dealers, making the men as comfortable as they can they never exchange sex for money or anything else.

At one point, due to pressures of running 2-3 all-nighters a week, she starts taking drugs to get sleep and to stay awake which makes her sloppy and inadvertently gets mixed up with the Russian mob and gets caught by the FBI.

She seeks out Charlie Jaffey, played by Idris Elba, a sharp lawyer, to defend her and though he can get her a great deal with the Feds he isn’t able to convince her to name names. As she points out to him she didn’t name names in the book she had published for which, if she had, she could have gotten an advance of a million dollars instead of the thirty-five thousand she did get and she wouldn’t now.

The film is based on that book, “Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker.” In the film Molly comes across as a smart, forceful, sharp, hard as nails woman but, in only one scene, shows that she has any feelings and that is in a talk with her father who relates an incident that is never even hinted at before that talk. Men fall in love with her but she rebuffs them though she will offer help to men she sees ‘drowning’, in over their heads, becoming gambling addicts, giving cash and/or credit when needed but her feelings belong to only her.


Aaron Sorkin does keep the picture moving but too many times, talking/showing the poker games, has Molly saying too much, so rapidly that not only does it get monotonous it also becomes incomprehensible at times. There are one too many skiing scenes and, though touching, an unnecessary storyline regarding the lawyer and his daughter.

Jessica Chastain is being talked up as a Best Actress Oscar nominee, deservedly, as she really is the main reason to see “Molly’s Game” plus, if you are a fan of Sorkin’s writing, as I am.


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