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“GRANDMA”–A MOVIE REVIEW   Leave a comment

“Grandma” is a movie for every woman, grandmother, mother, daughter, any man who has been involved with the aforementioned, and definitely any fan of Lily Tomlin. She has been a force of nature from her early days in “Laugh-In” from 1970-1973 to winning a Grammy for her comedy album in 1972  to an Oscar nomination for her film debut in 1974 in “Nashville” and winning a Tony Award in 1985 for the brilliant one woman show her partner of 42 years, Jane Wagner, wrote for her “The Search For Signs Of Intelligent Life In The Universe” up to and including a 2015 Emmy nomination for outstanding lead actress in a TV comedy for “Grace and Frankie”. If there is any justice in the movie business Tomlin should have an Oscar nomination for her role in “Grandma”.

Though her role of Elle is a tour de force for Lily Tomlin she has a strong supporting cast especially Sam Elliot in a scene that is the highlight of the film. Judy Greer, her girlfriend of 4 months, “Just a footnote”, Elle tells her breaking up with her, Julia Garner as Sage , Elle’s granddaughter, Marcia Gay Harden  as Elle’s daughter, and Sage’s boyfriend, Nat Wolff, who is responsible for Sage’s pregnancy which puts the story into motion. Laverne Cox as a tattoo artist friend of Elle’s, Elizabeth Pena as the owner of a small book store not to forget John Cho as the owner of a coffee shop all have what are basically cameos but each impresses as being chosen for their scenes by the director and screenwriter, Paul Weitz, who wanted the best from each actor and got it.

Is Lily Tomlin Elle or is Elle Lily Tomlin? From the public persona of the entertainer we all know, it is hard to decipher if they are separate or combined into one. We see Tomlin’s highly skilled comic talents and in her scene with Sam Elliot plus an earlier scene where she grieves for her lover of 38 years, who died a year and a half before the movie starts, we feel the emotional range she can and does show as an actress or is it Lily Tomlin, the woman we think we know?  

“Grandma” is a short film, about 80 minutes including the end credits, that shows Lily Tomlin as an actress who can turn on a dime going from sarcasm to laugh out loud jokes to putting a tear in our eye with, seemingly, little effort. It touches on pregnancy, abortion, independent women, loneliness, growing/being old and what that entails, fleeting fame, how we can hurt people unknowingly, how we hurt each other mostly in short but effective scenes. One scene alone with Elle taking a shower, brushing her teeth, is more than worth the price of admission. 

Grandma Trailer

Posted September 11, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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Larry Kramer is my hero as an activist and as a writer. It is due to him and ACT-UP in 1987, which he organized, that AIDS drugs prices were brought down and made available to many who couldn’t afford them. It is due to him, in 1983 that the Gay Men’s Health Crisis was founded to help people with AIDS.

In 1978 he wrote a book called “Faggots” that warned gay people because of their promiscuity there would come a day of reckoning.

In 1983 he wrote an essay “1, 112 & Counting” that pointed the finger at the government and gay people for their failure to not recognize AIDS as an epidemic.

In 1985 his played “A Normal Heart” brought AIDS to the stage and tears to the eyes of everyone who saw it just as the revival on Broadway a couple of years ago and the film of it last years still brings tears to the eyes of those watching it.

This year he published “American People: Volume 1 Scenes For My Heart”–an 800+ opus seeing our country through gay eyes.

He had a liver transplant in 2001, is a long time AIDS survivor, and married his partner in the hospital not knowing if he would ever walk out of that room.

Larry Kramer is known for his anger, an anger that turned off many gay people, but first and foremost he is a man who believes what he is saying and says it to everyone including presidents, governors, doctors and/or anyone who doesn’t want to hear him or his message.

He celebrated his 80th birthday this past Thursday,  June 25, and the Supreme Court gave him a birthday present the next day.

WATCH “LARRY KRAMER IN LOVE & ANGER” ON HBO, TOMORROW, MONDAY, JUNE 29, AT 9 PM (and to be repeated during the month of July)

Posted June 28, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERYTAINMENT, GAY

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Though I hate to limit myself, regarding genres of movies, after last week’s “Dope” and this week’s “Me And Earl And The Dying Girl” (from here on refereed to as “Earl”) each about 3 nerdy/geek kids and each, seemingly, critic’s darlings, I think I will add teenage movies about nerds to my list with westerns, horror, violent, raunchy boy/man, comic strip and most sci-fi pictures I will avoid seeing. (Hey, I am looking forward to “Magic Mike XXL” next week, what can I tell you?)

In the case of “Earl” and “Dope” I think there is definitely a very wide generation gap. The last time I saw my teens was 60 years ago and though I enjoyed “The Fault Is In Our Stars” last year it was more of a drama than teenage angst. There is some humor in “Earl” regarding the movies that Earl (RJ Cyler) and Geg (the ‘Me’– Thomas Mann) make redoing classics, especially the titles they give their films. Olivia Cooke is certainly endearing as ‘the dying girl, Rachel, while Greg grows up over the course of the film and Earl is a wise young man before his time. 

Molly Shannon as Rachel’s single mother and Connie Britton as Greg’s mother, both overbearing parents, along with Nick Offerman as his beatnik father—by the way Earl doesn’t have any parents and lives with his older brother who threatens Greg with telling him his dog will bite off his face–and Jon Bernthal as a teacher and, more or less, a guidance counselor to the boys, are sort of annoying adults you will find in most pictures about teenagers though the latter less than the others.

“Earl” is being sold as a comedy, a sort of John Hughes movie with lessons to be learned. Greg is constantly reminding the audience–there is a lot of voice over– that Rachel doesn’t die and there are screen titles telling the passing of time and where we are at in the story. As a social misfit Thomas Mann carries the film and RJ Cyer is his effective sidekick and shows his many sides. Olivia Cooke is endearing as the dying girl who has leukemia and is very instrumental is helping Greg grow up.

The direction by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon is all over the place, somewhat like the movies the boys make, while the screenplay by Jesse Andrews, who wrote the best selling novel, is low key without trying to tell the audience how to feel. The director of photography shows off Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, almost always in a glow of light, even in the night scenes. 

I laughed once and that was the boys film take-off of “Midnight Cowboy”  with the “Everybody’s Talking” theme song and, for a comedy, laughing once is not a good endorsement.

I left the theatre wondering whatever happened to the girl who got stood up on prom night–maybe that’s the sequel?


Posted June 26, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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Watching the 2 hour and 10 minute film “Tomorrowland’ I was amazed, amused, bored and puzzled with the negatives running about even with the negatives which also seems to be the theme of the movie and people‘s choices. 

The screenplay by Brad Bird, who also directed, and Damon Lindelof have quite a few funny lines but a story that is all over the place and actually stops to explain what has happened and what will happen. The director’s vision of the future, with photography by Claudio Miranda and production design by Scott Chambliss, is amazing with multi level swimming pools, a world of transportation that doesn’t need roads and glass buildings and homes in various shapes and sizes. Looking at Tomorrowland from a distance it looks like Oz from the poppy fields only here over wheat fields but at the same time can look like the Disney company logo.

Under the amazing part is Britt Robertson, playing Casey Newton who aside from looking and sounding very much like Jennifer Lawrence, makes the same impression as an actress and personality. Raffey Cassidy, in a very limiting role, does the best she can while Hugh Laurie, as a prize winning inventor, makes things rough for young Frank, played by Thomas Robinson and then the adult Frank played by George Clooney. Robinson does a good job but part of my puzzlement is why Clooney decided to be unshaven during the whole movie–hey this is a Disney film!–unless he thinks this is what all older curmudgeons looks like but still his natural charm comes through. Tim McGraw as Newton’s father doesn’t have much to do but is a presence whenever on the screen. Another puzzlement is why 10 minutes are wasted on a scene with Michael key and Kathryn Hahn, though they do a good job they don’t add anything to the screenplay being handled by other actors getting the same message across.

There are some dazzling special effects in the film and the Eiffel Tower scene is a standout. 

“Tomorrowland” is a feel good ending Disney film but can seem like a long time getting to the end. I have not seen Britt Robertson in her previous movie roles though looking up her credits I was surprised to see that she in in the television series “Under The Dome” which I have seen but don’t recall her part, so I would recommend seeing her in this movie.

Full disclosure, and you will understand if you see this movie, I worked as a server in the Gas Pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York in 1964 and 1965.


Posted May 22, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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MOVIE HAPPENINGS PART 6   Leave a comment

My list seems to be ever ending–I think of 1 title and dozens leap to mind–so if I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on this series I guess I’ll have to end it after this entry–oh, maybe, one more with just a list of films  :o)

“Cabaret” and how I came to love it–I had seen the original Broadway production in a preview and my buddy and I both thought it wouldn’t last a week! (Shows you what we knew.) I didn’t particularly look forward to the movie version but I had no choice when I took a trip to New Zealand/Australia from Memphis–it was shown on EVERY flight I was on coming and going—Memphis to Dallas to Hawaii to the islands-to Auckland to Sidney and the return trip back–Liza was too good a singer (back then) for the role of Sally Bowles who is suppose to be third rate–I finally succumbed to it and have watched it multiple times since

“Notorious” Bergman and Grant are HOT as soon to be lovers and their chemistry is sizzling–I love Claude Rains as the ‘mama’s boy’–and there are a few scenes (such as the wine cellar one or their coming down the stairs) that make you hold your breath.

“Torch Song”–“Johnny Guitar”–“The Female On The Beach”–“The Best of Everything”–“Whatever Happened To Baby Jane”–“Humoresque”–I was never that much of a Crawford fan but these movies are favorites of mine–if you haven’t seen Torch Song YOU MUST–Joan in black face–Joan showing off her legs and making sure the line, the lighting, etc., are all perfect–in Johnny Guitar she and Mercedes McCambridge are the ‘butch-est’ females ever! –Female has her being ‘used’ by Jeff Chandler and Jan Sterling out for revenge–what’s there left to say about Baby Jane–a classic–Humoresque has her as the rich society dame ‘sponsoring’ John Garfield–pathos–classical music–and the classic ending–Joan walking into the ocean! (Johnny Guitar will be on TCM Wednesday May 20)

“Mommie Dearest”–okay, how can you mention Joan without mentioning this movie? Faye Dunaway brilliant (though ‘beaten up by Hollywood for making the movie and her career never really survived the glory she previously experienced) and one of the ‘campiest’ movies ever made–who doesn’t know “NO WIRE HANGERS!”

“Running On Empty” Christine Lahti (I love her)–Judd Hirsch–River Phoenix–antiwar activists as fugitives trying to give their children a normal life and the child who has to make a decision which means he may never see his parents again.

“Without a Trace” Kate Nelligan (a very underrated actress) is intense, heartbreaking in this story of her young child who goes missing on his way to school.


Posted May 14, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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Though I am a great list maker regarding things I have to do and things I must do on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. My problem comes when I am asked to make lists of my favorite actors, actresses, movies, plays, musicals, books, etc. I look over these lists and I see so many names I have left out plus how many if I were making the lists today wouldn’t be on it or at least the position they are on.

I’ll stick by these lists for now, especially the ‘yesteryear’ categories, but the new ones can change from day to day. All lists are arbitrary but there are two things I am sure of with the first being that Charlize Theron gives/gave THE best performance on the silver screen ever given and “A Chorus Line” is THE best stage musical I have ever seen but that’s for another day!


1. Marlon Brando

2. Gene Kelley

3. George Sanders

4. Jeff Chandler

5. Claude Raines

6. Ryan O’Neal

7. Jack Lemmon

8. Rod Steiger

9. Laurence Olivier

10. Robert Mitchum


1. Ralph Fienes

2. Michael Fassbendor

3. Jake Gylenhaal

4. Edward Norton

5. Matthew McConaughey

6. Ian McKellan

7. George Cloooney

8. Viggo Mortissen

9. Al Pacino

10. Dustin Hoffman


1. Ava Gardner

2. Lana Turner

3. Rita Hayworth

4. Cyd Charisse

5. Hedy LaMarr

6.Kathryn Grayson


1. Bette Davis

2. Susan Hayward

3. Kim Stanley

4. Joan Crawford

5. Jennifer Jones

6. Vivian Leigh

7. Judy Holliday

8. Judy Garland

9. Ida Lupino

10. Melina Mercouri

11. Geraldine Page

12. Betty Hutton

13. Doris Day

14. Ingrid Bergman


1. Jennifer Lawrence

2. Rosemary Pike

3. Glenn Close

4. Russell Crowe

5. Barbra Streisand

6. Charlize Theron

7. Shirley McClaine

8. Shailene Woodley

9. Judi Dench

10. Gugu Mbatha-Raw

11. Matt Damon

12. Daniel Day-Lewis

13. Hugh Jackman

14. Michael Caine

And a dozen more! :O)

How many of the following do you know? Have seen?

Posted April 25, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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GAY FILM GENRE PART 1   Leave a comment

In 1993 I sent in a check to help make the groundbreaking 1981 “The Celluloid Closet” book by Vito Russo into a documentary and I would like to think that the award winning film was due to me though in no way was it!

As a gay kid and teenager in the 1940s and 1950s who was an avid moviegoer I had to ‘read’ into films what I didn’t see up on the screen. What I did see were the effeminate butlers or male secretaries or, once in awhile, hinted at, the gay man as a murderer and/or a psycho.

Vito Russo, first in his book and then in the documentary, covered how eventually the gay genre of movies came into their own. In 1946 we had to imagine that Glen Ford spurned George Macready in “Gilda” and the latter got revenge by marrying Rita Hayworth. In the 1951 “A Streetcar Named Desire” film version the fact that Blanche’s husband had been gay was obliquely referred to but ‘out’ gay men were still having to commit suicide under ’the movie code’. In 1962 Arthur Miller’s play “A View From The Bridge”, directed by Sidney Lumet, had to be made as a Italian-French production due to one man accusing another of being gay and kissing him full on the mouth.  In 1965 Robert Redford played a closeted gay man in “Inside Daisy Clover” and in 1968 Frank Sinatra as “The Detective” investigates a murder and a suicide.

In 1970 a milestone in American gay cinema finally hit the mainstream big screen when the play “The Boys In The Band” revolving around 8 out gay men and 1 possible in the closet friend. Today it has a rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and even back then  the reviews were favorable including those for the actors and the direction by William Friedkin, the latter in 1980 directing Al Pacino in the film “Cruising” which looked at the gay S & M scene.

An aside–the Lesbian movie history takes a different path so I am not getting into that aspect here except to relate the story about the adaptation of Lillian Helman’s “The Children’s Hour” play to the screen first in 1934 when Lesbians weren’t allowed to be portrayed on the screen so it was called “These Three” and sold as a movie about ‘a lie’

Posted April 6, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, GAY

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The best words to describe “The Divergent Series: Insurgent”, the second in the movie series, is ‘too much of everything’. There are too many special effects, too loud and annoying a soundtrack, too many actors playing one not roles, though doing the most they can with them, too much gratuitous violence uncalled for, too much that doesn’t make sense unless you have seen the first film, not to forget 2-3 scenes too many of the heroine tearing up.

I fell ‘in love’ with Shailene Woodley in “The Fault In Our Stars”. She looked great and did a good job of acting as she does in this film and still has those big, shining, expressive eyes, which director Robert Schwentke fills with tears too often. As an action star and/or love interest she is always worth watching. Ansel Elgort, her lover in “Stars”, is her brother in this film while Theo James has taken over the role of  her boyfriend. In a role, offering the only humor in the movie, Miles Teller, who was excellent in “Whiplash”, continues good work here.

The adults such as villainous Jeanine, played by Kate Winslet, Johanna, the leader of a feel good, what looks like a commune, living group, acted by Octavia Spencer, the parents of Woodley’s character Tris Prior, Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn, along with another Leader played by Daniel Dae Kim and, sure to play a more prominent role in the next series of the film, Naomi Watts as Evelyn. Jai Courtney, an Australian actor I am not familiar with, did an impressive job as Eric.

Schwentke, the director, and screenwriters Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman and Mark Bomback seem to reach for violence, special effects and Woodley on the verge of crying to bother making a better, more compact movie.

If you haven’t seen the first movie in this series, or read the book, the first half of “The Divergent Series: Insurgent” may be confusing. Come to think of it if you haven’t seen the first film, I didn’t, don’t bother seeing this one.


Posted March 20, 2015 by greatmartin in FILM REVIEWS

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“McFARLAND, USA”–FILM REVIEW   Leave a comment

“McFarland, USA” is a film that should be busting records this weekend but will probably be lucky to even make it in the top 5 grossing films. Based on a true story, showing the real people at the end, the reel people do an excellent job holding your interest in what is a formula movie where you know it is heading, including who will ‘save the day’.

Directed by Niki Caro and a story and screenplay by Christopher Cleveland and Bettina Gilios,  will put a smile on your lips and occasional tears to the eyes not by any manipulation but just presenting what happened. About half way through the movie, from the scene where poor boys who have never seen the ocean dive in with pure joy until the fade out you will be moved.

We are taken to the real town of Mcfarland, California, where the population are mainly poor Mexican-Americans and teenagers are lucky just to graduate high school. The most they can see of their life is picking vegetables and fruits, not getting paid by the hour or pound  but by the field, to help their family.

Having recently been fired from his job for being too rough with a student Jim White (Kevin Costner) and his wife  (Maria Bello), teenage daughter (Morgan Saylor) and preteen (Elsie Fisher) finds themselves fish out of water in McFarland where you don’t find hamburgers but tacos, neighbors present you with a live chicken as a welcome present and not only explain what a Quinceanera is but make one for the teenager as she celebrates her 15 birthday.

White, of course, is made fun of not only for his name but his not understanding what people who are different from him go through just to make it to the next day. Talking the principal (Valente Rodriguez) into letting him start a cross country running team, after seeing a couple of the boys run, not knowing anything about coaching runners you know where the picture is going even if you aren’t aware of the true outcome.

Never having been a fan of Costner’s in the sense I had to go see his pictures I will say after seeing him last month in “Black & White” and now in this one I am definitely a fan of his. All the adult performers, including the mother of  3 boys who are runners, and who live next door, played by Diana Maria Riva, are excellent but it is the boys: Ramiro Rodriguez, Carlos Pratts, Hector Duran, Sergio Avelar, Rafael Martinez, Johnny Ortiz and Michael Aguero that are the backbone of the movie.

“McFarland, USA” is a must see movie if you like upbeat, moving, feel good, get your pulse going and leaving with a smile on your face movies.

Posted February 20, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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Take a little of Cinderella, first seen cleaning toilets, add her prince or even better put in some DC Comics Superman who can’t fly–well he lost his wings–but does have floating boots that light up and help him skate all over the planetary system. Be sure to have a Lois Lane/Superman flying scene. Oh yes give this guy some pointed ears like Spock from Star Trek and make sure he leads battle after battle after battle after battle from Star Wars

Never hurts to throw in some King Lear and/or Games of Thrones. When things get too hectic slow it down–very slow–and add a nonsensical love story. Here and there give the Cinderella/toilet cleaner/alien in Chicago a wise crack which would be funny in any movie but this one. Oh yes let’s not forget to throw in some Speilberg’s E.T.s and Lucas mutants.

Directors/screenwriters Lana and Andy Wachowski  seem to have their second bomb in a row, after “Cloud Atlas”, and “Jupiter Ascending” is a $175 million seemingly unrecoverable mistake.

At one time special effects made a movie-goer’s jaw drop but now they have become such a part of various genres they really don’t have the effect they had and in a movie such as this where they as wall to wall and constantly repeated is almost becomes laughable if not boring.

Channing Tatum showed he is a first grade actor in “”Foxcatcher” while Mila Kunis earned her drama stripes in “The Black Swan”. Sean Bean has received several acting honors in his career while Gugu Mbatha-Raw showed her versatility last year in “Belle” and “Beyond The Lights”. Here’s hoping no Oscar voters will see Eddie Redmayne in this film or they may punish him when it comes to voting!

There are many supporting actors in the film who will probably forget to put this movie on their resumes which is understandable. The music is annoying and/or unforgettable while some of the costumes even Cher or Lady GaGa wouldn’t wear.

One suggestion, if you feel you have to see it, see it in a movie theatre as the only thing it has going for it is the first time they show a special effect.

Ending on a positive note I want a pair of  Tatum’s floating boots, that light up, so I can go air skating up to visit you!

Posted February 6, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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