Archive for the ‘REVIEWS’ Tag

Being Transgender: 2 documentaries and 1 ‘Hollywood’ film–reviews Gay Pride Month June 2021   Leave a comment

As a gay man I have been puzzled about transgender people because, in spite of what was said about gay men 70+ years ago, I never wanted to be a woman nor have I been exactly PC with drag queens. I did at one time, in the 1950s, have a relationship with Paul who I thought was a crossdresser but now that I think of it he might have been transgender though little was known about it at the time. This was just before Christine Jorgensen, an army veteran, who in 1951-1952 had sex reassignment surgery and made headlines when she came home from Sweden. (As an aside she went to Christopher Columbus High School which I, also, went to 2 years after she graduated but she is never mentioned there.)

It wasn’t until 22 years later that Renee Richards, a tennis champ, came out as transgender and battled to play in the women’s division!

Due to “Changing the Game” and “Growing Up Trans” I have become more understanding of transgenders and though we have many things in common regarding being ‘different’ and ‘coming out’ they have a much harder time and looked at differently than gay people, even from those of us who should know better. The more I learn about them–and I have a lot more to learn–the more I admire their tenacity, their struggle and their bravery.

“Changing the Game” (HULU) follows 3 high school athletes and how they navigate, fight to stand/play where they belong. “Growing Up Trans” (Prime Video) focuses on children and how they are handling their sexuality, mainly before puberty, of who they know they are and how the parents deal with it, in most cases with the father having the hardest time. It also emphasizes how doctors and researchers acknowledge the kids are pioneers. For the record “The results included the following LGBTQ suicide statistics: LGBTQ youth were 3.5 times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers Transgender teens were 5.87 times more likely Gay and lesbian youth were 3.71 times more likely Bisexual youth were 3.69 times more likely to attempt suicide than teens who identified as heterosexual.” (


“Adam” (HULU) is a ‘Hollywood’ satirical look, and not too good, at the above problems

Posted June 25, 2021 by greatmartin in GAY, Transgender

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For 23 years Mark Ruffalo has been a journeyman actor, always becoming the character he is called on to play as in his last 3 films. He was Dave Schultz the wrestling Olympic champ in “Foxcatcher”, Ned Weeks, AIDS activist, in “The Normal Heart”, and in today’s movie “Infinitely Polar Bear” is Cam, husband and father who is bipolar. Though probably not a “STAR” or  “A” list actor as defined in Hollywood he has had 55 nominations for acting roles in movies, on television and the stage. Lucky for us he can star in ‘large’ movies that allow him to star in ‘small’ movies.

In “Infinitely Polar Bear”, a name his youngest daughter gives to her father who was diagnosed as manic-depressive order in the late 1960s which will become bipolar disorder years later, Cam is handed the responsibility of raising his two daughters, Amelia (Imogene Wolodarsky) and Faith (Ashley Aufderheide) for 18 months in Boston while his wife Maggie (Zoe Saldana) goes to New York to earn her MBA at Columbia in New York while the born to a rich for generations family he is poor. 

The film opens with Cam having a mental breakdown and unable to hold down a job and though his family believed in a first rate education he was kicked out of Harvard and other schools. His background is explained somewhat but it doesn’t go into detail as to why his grandmother would pay his rent for an apartment and, offer him her Bently when his car is really in bad shape, yet won’t offer to send her grandchildren to private school. 

Though based on a true story written by the director-writer Maya Forbes about her family she seems to have handled her father’s illness with humor whether he was experiencing bipolar episodes or going out on a drinking binge. The fact that her mother is an African-American and father white of  an elite Boston family—remember this is in the 1960s–is referred to very briefly in a scene between Maggie and her daughter Amelia, who looks Caucasian as her father and Faith looks Black, telling the former she is Black having a Black mother. Sadly Saldana’s role is underwritten and we learn nothing about her family, or how she learned to deal with her husband’s illness but not why she stopped any sexual relations with him and seems reluctant to resume them.

Instead of looking into a man’s mind who is bipolar or a family who is biracial, and the problems both situations may have caused, we are given a warm, funny, feel good family movie where it might have been the way the director-writer dealt with the problems.

Mark Ruffalo IS Cam presenting a bipolar man who is a hoarder, a curser, an alcoholic who clearly loves his wife and daughters and takes care of the latter, not always in the best ways, but doesn’t hold back his love. Zoe Saldana is excellent even if her role is underwritten. Imogene Wolodarsky, as the older daughter, represents a teenager embarrassed by her father, which most teenage girls are, but even with dealing his bipolar loves him more. Ashley Aufderheide, the director’s daughter, is a little preconscious and loud but neither daughter changes in any way over an 18 month period.

The main reason to see this movie is for another memorable portrait by Mark Ruffalo.


Posted July 10, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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“DOPE”–A MOVIE REVIEW   2 comments

“Fun”, “One of the more commercial prospects coming from the Sundance Festival”, “Breakout star”, “Dynamic camera work”, “Vibrant comedy”, “Best movie soundtrack of 2015” and, once again, as happens 2-3 times every year I get pulled into a movie by the hype and sit there dumbfounded at what is up on the screen!

Let’s see what “Dope” has. A lot of violence, some gratuitous, definitely a lot of cursing, a woman urinating on the street and/or vomiting in the face of a guy, nudity, mostly female of course, a high school teenager masturbating a couple of times and, of course, let’s not forget drugs, a lot of drugs. And that soundtrack? Definitely a generational thing!

Is there a neighborhood in Inglewood, California, known as “The  Bottoms”? Do A students, with their eyes on Harvard, have their sneakers stolen in school, physically taken from their feet, with no adults around to stop the thieves? Do they have their bicycles stolen on the way home and is there no place in-between a geek and a dope dealer in Black neighborhoods? 

One of the reasons I love the movies is that I can learn about groups of people I may not know otherwise but in “Dope” I didn’t know whether I was watching a comedy about stereotypes, and/or clichés, or this is the way a segment of Americans live. I have never lived in a ghetto, always in a community of various races, sexes, genders, nationalities, religions, geeks, jocks and people who made their living from all the different walks of life but this is one movie I was completely lost.

Shameik Moore, as Malcolm, is a charmer as the Harvard want to be student who gets involved in a backpack full of drugs along with a gun , and, by the way, a Bitcoin, scheme. Tony Revolori, as Jib, who is ‘14% Black’ and Kiersey Clemons, as a butch lesbian, along with Moore are the stars of the movie as the best of friends. Zoe Kravitz is a much wiser than he is love/sex interest for the virgin Malcolm. I felt sorry for Chanel Iman as her role is demeaning to all women while Kimberly Elise, as a single working mother represents the best in women, which is rare in this movie. A$AP Rocky as a local dope dealer, Quincy Brown as Iman’s brother, Roger Guenveur Smith as a Harvard interviewer along with Keith Stanfield, De’Aundre Bonds, Blake Andeson, Rick Fox and Amin Joseph, along with producer/narrator Forest Whitaker add to the film in various roles.

The music, mostly by Pharrell Williams, along with Lee Haugen and Germaine Franco, definitely is not for me! The direction and screenplay by Rick Famuyiwa was lacking and confusing to me and for a ‘comedy’ there was very little reaction from the mainly Black audience.

I left the theatre asking myself, “What did I miss?”


Posted June 19, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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It has been almost two years since I was last to a Smashburger Restaurant and the one I went  to has closed. There are now at least a dozen more different burger franchises in the area and yet wanting to go for a good burger we couldn’t think of one we wanted to go to and after a process of elimination because of easy parking we decided to go to this one.

I ordered the Classic Big Smash ($5.99)–a cheeseburger–and wasn’t asked how I wanted it cooked but as soon as I got it I knew it wouldn’t have made a difference as it lived up to the name of being smashed. It was too thin to be cooked any way but well done. I prefer my burgers thick and medium rare. Do I need to add that it was way too flat to fit within the bun?

I am known for ’cleaning my plate’ but for the first time I can remember I left almost half of the sweet potato fries ($2.29) in the basket.

In addition I had a fountain diet coke ($1.99) for my drink.

By the way they had the worst muzak coming in over their speakers and when I said something to the  employee they agreed!

My check came to $10.89. The bottom line is that if I want a good burger the way I like it I have to go to a full service restaurant and expect to pay between $12-14 just for the burger.

To end on a positive note the place was clean and bright.


Posted June 7, 2015 by greatmartin in REASTAURANTS

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“SPY”–A MOVIE REVIEW   Leave a comment

There isn’t a crude word and/or gesture that I don’t know and have used at one time or another in my lifetime but I am from the ‘old school’ of being  a gentleman who doesn’t curse in front of a woman or give someone ‘the finger’. I avoid films with Adam Sandler and his ilk because they are guaranteed to have curse words, vagina and penis jokes, a foot in someone’s crotch and other things that appeal to the naughty 14 year old boy who secretly looks at the pictures in Playboy.

I admired Melissa McCarthy in “St. Vincent” where she was a supporting player in a quiet role and I have enjoyed her in “Mike and Molly” her television series where she is funny without the vulgarity of the ‘boys’. It was first in “Bridesmaids” where she started her way on to stardom and each movie after that had her getting more and more raunchy and in “Spy” she has reached her lowest.

McCarthy seems to be very comfortable with her body and can give and take fat jokes like the professional comedian she is but in “Spy” she curses more than any man, constantly hits guys in the crotch, vomits on someone and is vulgar from beginning to end. This is suppose to be a comedy, a spy spoof, a take off of James Bond’s films and yet I didn’t find anything funny in the film and, except for 3 audience members who laughed from beginning to the end even at very not funny scenes, no one else found it funny either.

“Spy” is full of unnecessary violence and in too many scenes it is very obvious that doubles were used and not for humorous purposes.

It is always good to see Jude Law and he is fine in this film but Bobby Cannavale, in my opinion, gives his first really bad acting job. Rose Byrne’s role and acting is cringe inducing at parts and Allison Janney continues giving good support in movies while Jason Statham and Peter Serafinowicz have very odd roles that should be funny but they strain too much. Miranda Hart takes a stereotypical role and does her best with it.

The writing and directing by Paul Feig is a mess, all over the place, and I hope somewhere he acknowledges the writers of “Criminal Minds” and  gives them big thank you for the way he wrote the relationship between Jude and Melissa which is almost word for word for the characters played by Shemar Moore and Kirsten Vangsness.

It is predicted that “Spy” will be a big hit for Melissa McCarthy but I would like to see her use her comedic talent without relying on all the vulgarity. I do not recommend the movie as either a comedy or a thriller or a film to see.


Posted June 5, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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After 40 years of marriage, and living in the same Brooklyn walk up apartment, it is obvious that Alex (Morgan Freeman) and Ruth (Diane Keaton) are still in love and very comfortable with each other. They were married at a time interracial couples were still not accepted in 30 States and ‘got looks from people in the other 20’. As it is her parents didn’t accept them. Alex is a painter and Ruth was a teacher whose students became her children when she found out she couldn’t have children. 

In “5 Flights Up” we meet them at a time Alex is getting too old to walk up the 5 flight of steps to their apartment and their 10 year old dog is having spinal problems so they have put their apartment on the market and her niece Lily (Cynthia Nixon), who is a realtor, is handling the sale telling them that they should be able to get a million dollars and they can downsize to a smaller, less expensive place with an elevator.

Though there is a secondary, needless, plot regarding a ‘terrorist’ this is a sweet movie with no special effects or wild car chases or explosives going off. Due to Freeman and Keaton charms and acting abilities you accept them as the long standing in love couple who know each others faults, quirks and endearments. He knows all the right answers to give her such as asking “What old Lady?” when she points to a recent portrait he had done of her and she remarks that she doesn’t know why he still is painting that old lady. She knows how to manipulate him even when he is aware what she is doing.

Aside from their love story anyone who has ever sold an apartment or house will recognize the many different types who will show up such as those who just come to see how other people live or the woman who has to lay down on the bed to get the ‘feel’ of the place. Lily gives them nicknames such as ‘the dog ladies’ or ‘blue  leggings’. It is an ongoing gag through the movie.

Instead of the terrorist story the screenwriter, Charlie Peters, and the director, Richard Loncraine, could have spent more time on the background stories of Freeom and Keaton. In the few flashbacks Claire van der Bloom and Korey Jackson look enough like the present day Alex and Ruth to add believability to the unfolding of the love story if more had been on the screen.

“5 Flights Up” is a sweet, believable, love story and shows changes that can, do, take place as people age. The photography by Jonathan Freeman shows Manhattan and Brooklyn as clean, sparkling boroughs and the music by David Newman adds, instead of distracts, to the film’s romance.

While the film won’t win any awards it certainly should be seen to remember when Hollywood knew how to make love stories with happy ever after endings!


Posted May 12, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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Mother always said if you don’t have something nice about someone/something then don’t say anything. I didn’t always listen to mother and in this case I have some things to say.

Our choice of movie going this Friday was “Avengers”, “Avengers” or “Avengers” and if I don’t go to a movie on Friday the world may shut down so I decided to go see “Avengers: Age of Ultron” with an open mind and though I meant well it didn’t turn out that way. When you watch a movie that is 2 hours and twenty-two minutes long with 2 hours of special effects and twenty minutes of a love story unless the reason you came was for the former then it was a waste of your time. The first time you see a special effect it can deliver but after the same effect is shown for the tenth time it is loud and boring as most of the effects and computer work is in this film. A perfect example is watching the first time Elizabeth Olsen, as Scarlet Witch, throws a psychic fireball until she throws so many you just want the next scene to come.

With the movie directed and written by Joss Whedon the only relief you get from noise is when he concentrates on a romance between  Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk and Scarlet Johansson as the Black Widow or when he is showing the home life of  Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner and his wife played by Linda Cardellini.  Hopefully Chris Evans who plays Captain America, Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Quicksilver, Olsen’s twin, will follow the leads of Johnansson, Ruffalo and Iron Man, Robert Downey, Jr., and use their avenger money to make and/or direct independent films.

People who go to see “Avengers: Age of Ultron” and will make it a record breaker, are fans of Marvel comics, comic books, loud special effects with accompanying loud music, shattering glass mindless chases and fights.

I did give the movie a chance but if next time there is a choice of another Avenger’s sequel or one of the many similar looking previews of summer ‘blockbusters’ or not going to a movie on a Friday then I will pick the last choice.


Posted May 1, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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Russell Crowe’s directorial debut, “The Water Diviner”, shows that he has learned enough about films after being in them for 25 years not to embarrass himself plus he shows a good hand at directing actors including himself. He, also, as a first time director, makes the usual mistakes.

“The Water Diviner” is, basically, an anti war and father-son saga, telling the story of a father who goes looking for the bodies of his 3 soldier sons lost in the battle of Gallipoli during World War 1 to bring their bodies home and bury them next to his wife (Jacqueline McKenzie) who commits suicide over their death.

The story is based, very loosely, on the true event of Joshua Connor (Crowe) being the only father who came looking for the bodies of his sons of the millions lost there. In flashbacks and/or imaginary scenes we meet his sons Arthur (Jack Patterson as a young boy, Ryan Corr as a soldier), Henry (Ben Norris/Ben O’Toole) and Edward (Adian Smith/James Frasier).

Along the way we meet Orhan, a preteen played charmingly by Dylan Georgiades, and his mother played by Olga Kurylenko, leading to a completely unnecessary romance between her and Connor, though she is used to show some of the ways women are treated and are expected to live in Turkey at that time. Steve Bastoni, as her brother-in-law, is a stereotype of Turkish males. 

Along with the romance, director Crowe and writers Andrew Knight and Andrew Anastasios, bring in some very cryptic and mysticism regarding Connor’s ability as a water diviner in his attempt to find the bodies of his sons. There is also the introduction of the father reading “The Arabian Night” to his young sons that really doesn’t pay off.

Along the way we meet military men such as a British officer, Dan Wyllie, who tells the father to return home , Jai Courtney who attempts to help him, and Turkish war veterans Yilmaz Erdogan and Cem Yilmaz are standouts, especially the former, supporting Connor. 

Aside from some fake, extraneous war scenes and one very ‘Hollywood’ love scene director Crowe does a good job while he reigns in actor Crowe’s tendency to be a ’star’.  

Next time Russell Crowe directs a film he should pay more attention to the story line and what is believable and what isn’t. Oh yes, though the production is fine that bombastic score is jarring.


Posted April 28, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINER

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By default instead of seeing “The Water Diviner” we went to see “The Road Within” a ‘small’ independent movie that wouldn’t be made by one of the big studios.

The film opens with Vincent (Robert Sheehan) in church  at his mother’s funeral ceremony sitting with his father (Robert Patrick), a politician, when all of a sudden he bursts into twitches and out loud foul language which includes calling the priest a pedophile, a faggot, telling the other people that the priest dyes his pubic hair. These are expressions of his Tourette’s Syndrome that he claims his brain controls.

In the next scene we see him being checked into an experiment treatment center in Nevada run by an experimental therapist (Kyra Sedgwick) as she introduces him to his roommate Alex (Dev Patel) who has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder along with a severe germ phobia. Very soon Marie (Zoe Kravitz), who is anorexic and has already had heart failure because of it, comes to Vincent’s room to tell she is to show him around.

Before you know what is happening Marie steals the keys to the therapist’s car and the trio are off on a road trip to spread Vincent’s mother’s ashes on the ocean in California. The center of the movie revolves how the 3 youths react to, and with, each other. In a way this is a triangle but not in the way you may think.

Kyra Sedgwick is wasted in her role and though Robert Patrick has 2 effective scenes it is the 3 young stars who save the movie that doesn’t really know whether it wants to be a  comedy or not and is hesitant to deal with what is known about the illnesses. 

Dev Patel, at 24, is building an excellent resume with his Slumdog Millionaire, the 2 Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films, this film and his role in the television series The Newsroom. I was not familiar with Zoe Kravitz, 26, before this film though she does have 2 famous parents plus having been in 26 films including 2 X-Men films and Insurgent: the Divergent series and will be in Mad Max opening in May. The most impressive is 27 year old Irish actor Robert Sheehan who I am certainly looking forward to seeing more of in future movies and will look into the 12 films he has already made.

“The Road Within” probably won’t be seen by many people but should be if no other rason the acting of the 3 young leads.


Posted April 24, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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Since the first of April I chose over “Woman In Gold” movies such as “Danny Collins” (good), “The Longest Ride” (okay), “While We’re Young” (awful) and “Desert Dancer” (okay) until today when I went to see “Woman In Gold” which I definitely should have seen before now.

The painting in question, “The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer” by Gustav Klimt, was used as a test case before the Supreme court regarding reparation for Jewish descendants whose family art was stolen by the Nazis. It is based on a true story that brought Maria Altman (played by Helen Mirren as an adult and Tatiana Maslany as young Maria) and a young lawyer, Randol Schoenberg (played by Ryan Reynolds) together to fight for the portrait of her aunt, along with other art works, that Austria claimed and saw as their “Mona Lisa”.

There are a series of flashbacks throughout the movie showing the Jewish Altman family, society and cultural leaders of Vienna, and what happened to them and their belongings when Hitler and his Nazis marched into Austria. Though many of these scenes are familiar they still resonate with the cruelty they caused on all levels.

The major part of the film is the interaction between the unsophisticated lawyer Reynolds and the refined Mirren, who can have a very sharp tongue. The chemistry between the two makes their journey together very believable as does Daniel Bruhl when he comes to their aid as an Austrian journalist aware of injustices of the past on a personal level.

Part Holocaust story, part courtroom drama and part history the whole movie is elevated by the acting of the leads especially, no surprise here, by Helen Mirren, who can throw out quips with gusto and whose face can express so much without dialogue. 

As with most ‘based on a true story’ films much is left out such as Maria having children and what happened to her husband, played by Max Irons, though a major scene and middle portion of the film involves him. Over the credits we see pictures of the real people and we learn what happened to most of them.

The direction, especially the Austrian scenes, by Simon Curtis are generally well done as is the screenplay by Alexi Kaye Campbell, though the latter does pull at the heartstrings at points while the score by Martin Phipps and Hans Zimmer adds emotional tension to some scenes.

“Woman In Gold” is a movie that pulls you into all aspects of the story to the point of involving you emotionally!


Posted April 21, 2015 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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