Movie Review: The Lobster

I became aware of this film this year as I watched the Academy Awards. During the program, as film clips are shown and Oscars handed out, I make a list of movies that intrigue me. The Lobster was one of those that snagged my attention. When I realized it was on Amazon Prime, I added it to my must watch list. This evening I at last pulled it up to see why this movie is described as one of the most innovative films of the year.

The Lobster stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Coleman, John C Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Lea Seydoux and Angeliki Papoulia. This black comedy/romance was written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. The film is rated R, for sexual content, language and a few violent scenes and has a run time of 1 hour and 59 minutes. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. It did not win an Oscar.

In a dystopian future, it is the law that everyone must have a partner. If a partner dies, or a divorce takes place, or a young adult hasn't married by a certain age, the single person is taken to The Hotel, run by the rule enforcing Hotel Manager (Coleman). Each "guest" has 45 days to find a suitable partner within the hotel. If they don't succeed during that time, he or she is turned into the animal of their choice and released into the wild.

David (Farrell) is escorted to The Hotel after his wife informs him she's met someone else and she's ending their marriage. He takes his dog, Bob, with him, who was his brother formerly. David quickly makes a couple of friends, Limping Man (Whishaw) and Lisping Man (Reilly), but finds it more difficult to form a romantic relationship. He is told to select the animal he would most like to become, should he fail to find a partner. He chooses the lobster because it can live 100 years, remains fertile its entire life and it lives in the sea.

As his time at the hotel runs out, David attempts to fool the Manager and everyone else by becoming a seemingly ideal match for Heartless Woman (Papoulia). But he can't keep the pretense up, especially under the stress of sharing living quarters with his new partner during their trial period. On his way to a severe punishment for lying, David escapes and runs into the woods where single people, called Loners, live hidden among the many wild, domestic and exotic animals that used to be people.

Released from the pressure of finding a mate, David meets a woman who seems perfectly suited for him. Near Sighted Woman (Weisz) even shares a physical trait with him…she can't see well. Where the Hotel required each person to find a partner, the Loners, led by Leader (Seydoux) are not allowed to pair off. They must maintain the single state, or receive harsh punishment.

David is faced with the choices of falling in love again…or being turned into a lobster…or living as a single man for the rest of his life.

Caught between two societies that control relationships, or encourage the lack of them, David must decide where he fits in and whether to share life with anyone else.

I have to state immediately that this film wins the distinction of being the most bizarre movie I have watched in a long time. And yet, it was oddly compelling. Because the quirkiness rather quickly turns into unsettling strangeness, and there are a few disturbing scenes, I am refraining from recommending it. If you choose to watch it, remember you have been warned!

There is no year given for this futuristic story and no explanations offered for why society has created laws ordaining that everyone must be in a relationship. We are dropped into the story and left to interpret it as we will. In fact, Lanthimos' desire was that each viewer would decide what the movie meant to him or her, as seen through their own perspectives and beliefs. I have to give him credit for original and creative thinking.

The people of the future are repressed, direct, and fearful of being alone, lest they become an animal that can be killed and eaten by other animals in the woods. The other alternative, of escaping the City or the Hotel, and foraging in the woods as a Loner, seems equally frightening to them. And so they define each other by physical characteristics, hence the lack of proper names in the film, and match up with partners who are just like them. No one seems happy in their relationships. How could they be? They are fear based and forced. And if the couples feel stress or tension, or argue, they are assigned children. I did laugh at that.

At its core, this movie is a romance. Those who are alone are not allowed to remain so. And if you are a Loner, you aren't allowed to be partnered. The two extremes on the relationship spectrum have similar bizarre rules for living and no tolerance for those who wish to adopt a different lifestyle. David and Near Sighted Woman attempt to create a world of their own, where true love has a chance to take root. The question for David becomes how far is he willing to go, to keep that growing relationship? As with the synopsis of the movie, you get to interpret the ending for yourself.

Intriguing? Yes, this movie was. Hidden truths buried within it? Yes, I had interesting reactions to the extreme relationship viewpoints that will undoubtedly cause me to examine my own beliefs. Bizarre, uncomfortable and disturbing? Thought provoking, original and unforgettable? The Lobster is all of those things.

Movie Review: The Girl on the Train

I enjoyed a Sunday evening movie night, watching a film I meant to catch on the big screen. I am grateful for online viewing options, DVD rentals, and free movies at the Joplin Public Library. That means I can always find a film I missed. I checked this one out of the library.

The Girl on the Train stars Emily Blunt, Luke Evans, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Allison Janney and Edgar Ramirez. This suspenseful thriller, based on the novel by Paula Hawkins, was directed by Tate Taylor. The film is rated R for strong language, sexuality and suspense, and has a run time of 1 hour and 52 minutes.

Recently divorced, and struggling with alcoholism, Rachel (Blunt) commutes to Manhattan every day on the train. Although she feels that everything important to her has been ripped away, she still has her imagination and her ability to sketch. She spins a story around a young couple, Scott (Evans) and Megan (Bennett), that she sees daily as the train rumbles past their home.

To Rachel, the attractive couple are living the perfect life. They have a beautiful home, in a neighborhood she once lived in. They appear to share a deep and passionate love. Two houses down is Rachel's former house, where her ex-husband Tom (Theroux) now lives with his new wife Anna (Ferguson) and their baby daughter.

Rachel can barely look at that house. All that she longed for…a loving relationship and a child, the furnishings and security…is captured within that home. And none of it is hers. All she has is a spare bedroom at a friend's house and this beautiful story she has created about strangers she catches glimpses of as she rolls by.

But one day, as the train passes Scott and Megan's house, she sees something that shatters her idyllic story and upsets her reality. Megan is kissing another man on the backyard deck. Rachel feels that infidelity as keenly as she felt it in her life when she discovered that her husband was having an affair.

Drunk and in a rage as she returns home, Rachel exits the train near her old neighborhood, with the mixed up intentions of warning the husband that his wife is being unfaithful. The night becomes a blur to her. She awakens the next morning with an injury to her head and no clear memory of how she got it.

Rachel finds herself in the center of a dark and dangerous story she could not have imagined. Megan is missing. Detective Riley (Janney) has a list of suspects that includes Rachel, Megan's husband Scott, and her therapist Dr. Abdic (Ramirez).

The case hinges on what Rachel can remember, and what she saw, really saw, the night Megan disappeared.

This was an excellent crime thriller. Well written, with a flow that only revealed bits and pieces of the truth at a time, I found myself on edge and leaning forward toward the screen as I watched the story unfold. Emily Blunt gives a stark performance as a woman who has lost everything due to her addiction to alcohol. But there is so much more to her than that story. I hurt for Rachel, watching her struggle. I cheered for her, with every painful step she took to reclaim her life.

At the heart of this drama is the truth that things are often not what they seem. People have backstories. They have wounds that go so deep that they struggle to ever heal completely. Instead, their personalities form around those gaping holes in the soul, affecting their future lives and their future relationships.

What did Rachel see, from the train window? The answer is crucial in solving a crime, and just as crucial for Rachel's healing. This movie was a good reminder to me, to look beyond what my eyes see, to find the person hiding beneath surface behavior.

What do I see, as I move through my day, rushing by, not in a train, but carried along just as rapidly by the busyness of life? That's a good question for me to answer!

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Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

For months, I have had this 2016 movie in my Watch List on Amazon Prime, at the recommendation of my  daughter Elissa. She not only enjoys films, like I do, she has a good idea of what I will like and appreciate in a movie. Late this afternoon, I pulled up this based on a true story film. I woke up this morning, saying the word “Fey”. It was time to watch the movie. 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot stars Tina Fey, Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie, Billy Bob Thornton, Alfred Molina, Christopher Abbott, Stephen Peacocke, and Nicholas Braun. This biographical comedy adventure was directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and carries an R rating for language and sexual situations. The run time is 1 hour and 52 minutes. 

In 2006, Kim Baker (Fey), a New York copywriter with a desk job, accepts a three month assignment in Afghanistan, covering the war. Although an experienced journalist, she is not emotionally or physically prepared for the realities she finds in war torn Kabul. 

Kim has a team that accompanies her on all assignments, and includes a secuity man, Nic (Peacocke), Tall Brian (Braun), her cameraman, and Fahim (Abbott), her young and wise Afghan translator. She befriends Tanya Vanderpoel (Robbie), a correspondent from London, and Iain MacKelpie (Freeman), a Scottish photographer. 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Kim quickly learns how to thrive, based in Kabul and following the news, wherever interesting stories are unfolding. She is allowed to interview Marine General Hollanek (Thornton) and his men, and accompany them on patrol. And her direct, honest approach to people wins her friends in high places, such as Ali Sadiq (Molina), one of the most influential men in the country. 

When asked why she took the assignment in Afghanistan, Kim shares that her life was in a rut. She had a mediocre job, and a long relationship with an uninspiring man. She had ridden the same stationary bike for thousands of miles, and comparing that to her life, she realized one morning that she was going nowhere. It was time for dramatic change. 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

The three months stretches into years. Kim grows to love her new home and her colleagues and the Afghan people. She feels especially drawn to help the women, who are beginning to seek political and domestic change. However, the people back in the US have grown tired of war news from Afghanistan. Kim gets less and less airtime, which pushes her to take more risks to find bigger, better news stories. 

Kim must decide if there is a balance between pursuing the news and taking risks. And, what is the ultimate cost of risking it all? 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
I loved this fast paced film. Tina Fey was one of the producers, and she pursued the rights to the film after reading Kim Barker’s book, Taliban Shuffle, about her real life experiences in Afghanistan. Although liberally laced with humor, there was also a darker, underlying grittiness, due to the nature of the circumstances, that gave the movie a punch of reality. 

I am accustomed to Fey playing the comedian, but she excelled in this story of a woman discovering who she is and what she has to offer to the world. I admired her gutsiness and determination, and her willingness to move beyond her comfort zone and embrace change and growth. 

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot Kim Barker, on whom the movie is based. 

And, I appreciated the message that sometimes we can take a life lived beyond too far. Going after the adrenaline rush of bigger experiences, we can lose sight of the cause we are fighting for, even when the cause is greater personal growth. 

I am grateful my daughter recommended this movie. It is the kind of film that stays with me for a few days, while I ponder it and let it speak deeply to me. And, I can now recommend it as well. I give Whiskey Tango Foxtrot two thumbs up!

Movie Review: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

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Girls’ Movie Night

I’m posting briefly this evening, and late, because I am at a party…a grandmothers and granddaughters sleepover! The night kicked off with Aubrey and I meeting my sister Linda and her granddaughters, London and Aralyn, for dinner at the mall food court. 

After Chick Fil A meals, we settled in with the girls at the nearby theater for a showing of Despicable Me 3. 

Girls' Night at the Movies
This third installment in the Despicable Me franchise stars Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Trey Parker, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, and Nev Scharrel. The animated adventure film was directed by Kyle Balda, Pierre Coffin and Eric Guillon, and has a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes. Despicable Me 3 carries a PG rating, for action sequences and some rude humor. 

Gru (Carell) is back in this humorous adventure, now a devoted family man with a crime fighting wife Lucy (Wiig), and adopted daughters Margo (Cosgrove), Edith (Gaier) and Agnes (Scharrel). While adjusting to marriage and parenthood, Gru and Lucy suddenly lose their secret agent jobs. 

Girls' Night at the Movies
As they consider career options, Gru receives a surprising summons from an unexpected source. Gru learns that he has a twin brother Dru (Carell), and that the boys were separated as infants when their parents divorced. 

Dru is a mirror twin to his long lost brother, with opposing characteristics. He is cheerful, optimistic, emotionally expressive…and  he has a full head of hair! Not all is at it seems, however. Gru discovers the family secret, and he and his brother set off on a wild escapade against an evil foe named Balthazar (Parker), who is definitely stuck in the past! 

Girls' Night at the Movies
We all enjoyed this charming and hilarious film, featuring familiar characters, a new villain and those oh so lovable yellow minions. Since this was a girls’ night out, I asked everyone what they enjoyed most about Despicable Me 3. 

 London (age 7): I liked the part where Gru and Dru stole the diamond from Balthazar.  

Aubrey (age 8): The whole movie was fun…and I liked the last diamond scene too. 

Aralyn (age 3): I liked the big robot who said, “I’ve been a bad boy!”

Gigi (Linda): I liked when Gru lost his clothes and ended up wearing pink bubble gum and he floated by the birthday party where everyone was singing. 

Yaya (Cindy): I enjoyed the family relationships as stronger connections were formed…Gru and Lucy as a couple, Lucy learning to be a mom to the girls, and especially Dru and Gru as they forged a brotherly bond. 

Girls' Night at the Movies
As fun as Despicable Me 3 was, that was just the beginning of our girls’ night. Snacks were secured and pjs donned. Gigi and Aralyn have gone to bed. As I write, Aubrey and London are curled up on an inflatable mattress in the living room, whispering together and watching a DVD. A Dog’s Purpose has just started. I’ll watch the movie with them. Mostly though, I’ll enjoy watching these two cousins interact with each other as they discuss the movie, giggle and chat. 

It is definitely a girls’ movie night!

Girls' Night at the Movies

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van

I picked up the DVD of this British film at the library last week. On this night that feels like a Saturday rather than a Monday, being on the eve of a holiday, I settled in to watch The Lady in the Van. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
The Lady in the Van stars Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Gwen Taylor and Jim Broadbent. This biographical comedy was directed by Nicholas Hytner and is based on the memoir of Alan Bennett, who also wrote the screenplay. The film is rated PG-13, for a brief unsettling image, and has a run time of 1 hour and 44 minutes. 

Alan Bennett (Jennings) is a writer, newly moved into a genteel neighborhood in London. He finds his life rather dull and gleans most of the material for his plays from his relationship with his mam (Taylor). 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
Into his neighborhood, and his life, comes Miss Shepherd (Smith), an older homeless woman who lives in her van. Moving down the street, she parks her van in front of various houses, taking up residence until something displeases her. Then she moves further down the street. 

She parks her van across the street from Alan’s home. From the window of his study, he can’t help but be intrigued by this woman who seems querulous and fiercely independent, and yet fearful of questions and calling too much attention to herself. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
The pair enter into a friendship of sorts. He checks on her daily and she shares snippets of her story. Alan notices that a mysterious man (Broadbent) approaches the van occasionally, which upsets the occupant. When Miss Shepherd runs afoul of parking regulations and has an unsavory encounter with a couple of unruly young men, Alan offers an unexpected invitation: move the van, which Miss Shepherd has painted bright yellow, into his driveway. 

Alan suggests that the easily agitated woman remain in his driveway for three months, until she decides what she wants to do, and where she wants to go. 

Miss Shepherd remains as Alan’s unusual guest for 15 years. During that time, he learns more about who this dynamic woman is, and who he is as well. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
I loved this charming film, and all the more because it is based on real people and events. I remembered as the movie began that Maggie Smith was nominated for a Golden Globe for her role, in 2015. She didn’t win, but she should have! She so beautifully portrays a woman whose whole world is reduced down to living in self imposed confinement. Miss Shepherd was poor, due to the lifestyle she chose. But I discovered, along with Alan, that she was intelligent, interesting and had hidden talents. 

Life presented difficult challenges for Miss Shepherd, and she handled them in the way that seemed most safe to her…she went into hiding. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van
In many ways, Alan was hiding his true self too. I liked the clever way that Alan’s character was split in two for the film. Jennings played both roles…Alan the writer and Alan who lived life. Since Alan didn’t engage in life much, his writer self had little to create with, beyond his relationship with his mother. And yet, Alan started with where he was in his life. He wrote and performed plays, monologues about his oft forgetful and unintentionally humorous mam. 

As the years passed, Alan helped a woman whose life had been shaped by fear and regret. And she helped him to step outside of his comfort zone and into life. Watching their journeys, I understood the need to see beyond another’s exterior…the noxious smells, the argumentative attitudes, the disengaged and closed off hearts…to the soul of a person. 

The mind can be so fragile, so fractured by the hurts accumulated over a lifetime, but the spirit can remain strong and indomitable. May I look always for the spirit within those I encounter, and see beyond the persona thrown up to protect. 

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales

This evening my sister Linda and I enjoyed a fun movie night. We watched the 5th installment in the long running Pirates of the Caribbean series, Dead Men Tell No Tales. The appeal of a Pirates movie is that I don’t have to concentrate to keep track of plot twists. I can sit back and simply be entertained. These films are quirky and a visual delight, sure to garner my appreciation and plenty of laughs. 

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales
Dead Men Tell No Tales stars Johnny Depp, Javier Bardem, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Brenton Thwaites, Kaya Scoldelario, Kevin McNally and David Wenham. The action adventure film was directed by Joaquin Ronning and Espen Sandberg and carries a PG-13 rating for intense action scenes and suggestive humor. Dead Men Tell No Tales has a run time of 2 hours and 9 minutes. 

In this hilarious romp of a movie, young Henry Turner (Thwaites) is determined to free his father, Will (Bloom) from the curse that keeps him lost at sea. After years of studying stories and legends about the sea, and a brief reunion with his dad on board the water bogged Flying Dutchman, Henry determines that to rescue his father he must locate Poseidon’s trident, rumored to have the ability to break all sea curses. 

To find the hidden relic, Henry needs the help of the most well known pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow (Depp).

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales
Serving with the British Royal Navy as he searches for Jack, Henry has a difficult time staying out of trouble. Thrown in the brig for insubordination, Henry is the only man to survive an attack on the ship by a band of cursed ghosts, led by Captain Salazar (Bardem). Salazar seeks the pirate as well. A young Jack Sparrow was responsible for Salazar’s ship sailing into the Devil’s Triangle, where the ship and crew were eternally cursed. 

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales
Jack and Henry meet by chance on the island of Saint Martin, where they enlist the aid of a young woman with a map only she can read. Carina Smyth (Scoldelario) has been accused of witchcraft. In reality she is an astronomer with a clever mind and sharp wit. Using the map, located in a diary left to her by her father, Carina is sure she can locate the trident. 

As Captain Jack and his crew, including his loyal first mate Gibbs (McNally), team up with Henry and Carina to find the trident, they are in turn being pursued. Captain Salazar is driven by vengeance and a deep hatred of pirates. He finds Captain Barbosa (Rush), a former adversary of Jack’s, and persuades him help capture the cheeky pirate. And the British Royal Navy, led by Captain Scarfield (Wenham), wants to hang them all. 

Can Henry find the trident before the pursuers catch up with them?

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales
Linda and I enjoyed this film. We laughed, a lot. The characteristic Pirates of the Caribbean humor was there, as established in the earlier films…the one liners and innuendos, and the sight gags, including a wonderfully funny scene in which a bank is robbed, quite literally. 

The special effects are always amazing. Every film has a cursed group, and this poor lot in film 5 played out well, visually, with their missing body parts. And the characters, both familiar and new, were intriguing. 

Javier Bardem portrays a deliciously bad villain. And Geoffrey Rush is a joy as the self indulgent Captain Barbosa. I loved the return of Orlando Bloom as Will Turner. Watching him, I was reminded of the early Pirates movies and the love story between him and Elizabeth. 

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales
Young Turner and his companion Carina provided a return to that type of storyline, offering a hint of romance and plenty of verbal sparring. In these films, however, it is Johnny Depp who shines as the lovable, incorrigible, rum soaked Captain Jack. Depp brilliantly created Jack’s characteristic mannerisms and slightly slurred speech. It was like seeing an old friend, watching Jack again on the big screen. 

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales
In spite of all the humor and the sword fights, there were some surprisingly tender moments in Dead Men Tell No Tales. I confess to tearing up a few times. It was partly nostalgia, I think, and partly a strong sense of rightness at the end of the story. 

I don’t know if there will be a 6th Pirates of the  Caribbean film or not. Although this movie concluded neatly, Captain Jack has quite a loyal following who would savor another adventure with their favorite pirate. I count myself among them. 

Movie Review: Pirates of the Caribbean-Dead Men Tell No Tales

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

My sister Linda and I declared this evening a movie night. For our viewing enjoyment, we selected the latest installment in the DC series that is leading to the formation of the Justice League. We were excited to see Wonder Woman. 

Wonder Woman stars Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis, Saïd Taghmaoui, Ewen Bremner, Eugene Brave Rock and Elena Anaya. The fantasy adventure was directed by Patty Jenkins. It’s rated PG-13, for action sequences and violence, and has a run time of 2 hours and 21 minutes. 

Diana (Gadot) is raised on an island of warrior women, known as the Amazons, hidden from the world by Zeus. Fiercely trained in combat by her aunt, Antiope (Wright), and fretted over by her mother, Queen Hippolyta (Nielsen), Diana grows up believing it is her destiny to protect mankind from the war god, Ares. 

Movie Review: Wonder Woman
Movie Review: Wonder Woman
When a pilot named Steve Trevor (Pine) crashes into the sea near the island, Diana encounters her first man. He brings news of a mighty world war that is destroying millions of lives, and of an evil woman, Dr Maru (Anaya), who is developing bioweapons that will have catastrophic effects. Against the wishes of her mother, Diana leaves with Steve, bearing a shield, a magical lasso and a sword she refers to as the “god destroyer”. She believes if she kills Ares the war will immediately stop. 

Away from Themyscira, Diana discovers that humans are more complex and the world more strange than she imagined. Dr Maru, also know as Dr Poison, is working a sinister plan with Germany’s General Ludendorff (Huston). While in England, meetings led by Sir Patrick Morgan (Thewlis) are underway to negotiate an armistice with Germany. 

Fearing resolution will come too late, Steve and Diana gather a group of experts and head to the front lines, searching for Ludendorff, whom Diana believes to be the god Ares in disguise. Sameer (Taghmaoui) is a spy who specializes in languages. Charlie the Scotsman (Bremner) is a skilled marksman. And Chief is a smuggler. 

Movie Review: Wonder Woman
The team must stop a threat that is greater than anyone realizes. As they battle to save the world, Diana discovers who she really is and what she is capable of. 

I enjoyed this movie so much! As a child, I read all the Marvel and DC comics, so I was familiar with Wonder Woman. However, as a wee girl and then a teen, I was never particularly drawn to the only female character among a host of superheroes. She seemed like the token girl to me. I’m curious if I missed her courage and “wonder” when I was a child or if that was an accurate perception. 

Regardless, I found plenty to admire about Gal Gadot’s fresh portrayal. This was indeed an epic adventure and she wasn’t a token female. I loved Diana’s convictions about her purpose in life. She never wavered on her desire to offer to humanity by destroying evil. Even as she discovered more about the mankind she had vowed to protect, and learned who she truly was, she never backed down from living out of those desires. 

Movie Review: Wonder Woman
There was humor to balance the action sequences, and a fun performance by Chris Pine. And at the core of the film, and Diana’s journey, lay the realization that we are all of us a mixture of light and dark. We choose, daily, which we will surrender to…the Light or Darkness. In the end, says Wonder Woman, “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.” 

I am so looking forward to seeing Wonder Woman own her space in the Justice League!

Movie Review: Wonder Woman

Movie Review: King Arthur Legend of the Sword

The trailer for this film caught my attention months ago. From childhood, I have loved the stories of Camelot, of Arthur who became king, and his knights of the round table. I didn’t have an opportunity to see the movie before leaving on my trip. When I returned, I was sure I had missed the latest version of King Arthur. I was delighted to discover the movie was still playing at a local theater. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
King Arthur Legend of the Sword stars Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, and Eric Bana. This action adventure drama was directed by Guy Ritchie and carries a PG-13 rating for sequences of violence and brief strong language. It has a run time of 2 hours and 6 minutes. 

The story begins with a fierce battle between King Uther Pendragon (Bana) of Camelot and the dark mage, Mordred. King Uther defeats Mordred, using his sword, Excaliber. But the victory is short lived. Uther’s power hungry brother, Vortigern (Law), stages a coup, taking the crown by force. Before his death, King Uther sends his young son away in a boat, to the city of Londinium. 

The boy Arthur is taken in by the women of a brothel. He grows up on the streets, fighting, stealing, hoarding away what money he scrapes together. As a man, Arthur (Hunnam) has learned to survive by his fists and his wits, street smart, with a good heart beneath a tough exterior. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
Although he doesn’t consciously remember who he is, he has troubling dreams that haunt him. Fate intervenes. The sword Excaliber is revealed, embedded in a stone, when the sea inexplicably recedes. No man has been able to free the sword from the stone. Vortigern seeks advice from the sirens in the lake beneath the castle. They tell the dark hearted king that his nephew Arthur lives and he must be destroyed so that the sword can come to Vortigern, increasing his power. 

Young men about Arthur’s age are brought to the kingdom, to try pulling the sword from the stone. Arthur is arrested in Londinium, and brought to the stone. Before a crowd of people, including Vortigern’s henchmen, the Blacklegs, Arthur frees the sword, signifying his right to the throne. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
Vortigern must kill Arthur to obtain the sword, and ultimately, supreme power. Arthur must remember who he is, whether he wants to or not, to be able to wield Excaliber. He is assisted in his journey of remembrance by a female Mage (Berges-Frisbey), sent by Merlin, and King Uther’s former general, Bedevere (Hounsou).

As they prepare to battle Vortigern for the kingdom, the trio assembles a group of common but noble-hearted men who are willing to sacrifice everything to put the rightful heir on the throne. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
I loved this movie! It is the kind of epic adventure, with a hero’s transformative journey at the heart of it, that so inspires me. This is the genre of movie that spoke to me so deeply as a child, and continues to enthrall me. 

And I appreciated the fresh telling of a familiar story. Guy Ritchie, known for his two Sherlock Holmes films, brings his characteristic style to this classic tale. And it works. At least, it did for me! The characters’ clothing has been updated, a slightly modern twist that creates a wonderfully sensual and rugged look. The dialogue is sharp and surprisingly funny at times.

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword
The scenes are beautifully choreographed, whether they are depicting battles or the angst of self discovery, and behind all is an outstanding musical score. Jude Law deliciously portrays the dark and villainous bad uncle. However, this is Charlie Hunnam’s film. He shines as the reluctant young man who should be crowned king. 

I read that King Arthur Legend of the Sword is intended to be the first installment in a six part series. I hope that is true. I can’t wait for more of the Arthurian legends to come to life on the big screen, under Ritchie’s creative direction. 

Movie Review: King Arthur The Legend of the Sword

Movie Review: Moonlight

With thunderstorms in the area all day, bringing heavy rains, it was the perfect afternoon to watch another Best Picture nominated film. I prefer to save the Oscar winner in that category until last. However, when I visited the DVD rental store, only Moonlight was available. So Moonlight it was, film 6 out of 9.

Movie Review: Moonlight
Moonlight stars Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Naomie Harris, Ashton Sanders, Janelle Monae, Trevante Rhodes, Jaden Piner, Jharrel Jerome and André Holland. This drama, rated R for language, sexuality and violence, was directed by Barry Jenkins and has a run time of 1 hour and 51 minutes. Moonlight was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Ali, Best Supporting Actress for Harris and best Music-Original Score. It won in Best Supporting Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.

Chiron, known as Little (Hibbert), is a young boy growing up in a rough neighborhood in Miami. He lives with his single mom, Paula (Harris), who drifts in and out of Little’s life in a drug and alcohol induced haze. Other than his friend Kevin (Piner), Little has no one to help him navigate through challenges such as bullying at school, being left on his own, and feeling different.

Movie Review: Moonlight
A rescuer shows up, literally, as Little is hiding from his pursuers in an abandoned house. Juan (Ali) forms a frienship with the quiet boy, filling the role of father for Little. Juan and his girlfriend Teresa (Monae) provide stabilty and a sense of family for Little. He opens up enough to ask Juan questions, including how would he know if he was gay. Juan tells him, “You will know when you know.” 

Little is slowly gaining confidence in himself and in Juan and Teresa, until he finds out Juan is a drug dealer, selling to his mother. Both Little and Juan are devastated by this revelation.

Movie Review: Moonlight
The second segment of the film follows Chiron (Sanders) as a troubled teen. His relationship with his mother continues to deteriorate, Juan is gone and although Chiron occasionally visits Teresa, he is more and more isolated until he reconnects with his childhood friend Kevin (Jerome).  Sadly, shortly after their relationship begins to grow again, Chiron feels betrayed by Kevin. This sensitive, thoughtful young man snaps, with horrific consequences.

Movie Review: Moonlight

The film’s final segment finds Chiron grown, going by the nickname Black (Rhodes) and living a much different life in Atlanta. What dreams he had have been replaced with harsh realities. Black has made himself into a new man, a hard man. And yet he is just as alone in his life as he always has been, until his old friend Kevin (Holland) calls unexpectedly, offering an apology along with a glimmer of hope.

This was an incredible film, very much in alignment with the majority of the Best Picture nominated films. It was beautifully filmed with an amazing musical soundtrack. And it was heavy, bleak, dark.

These movies this year have made me ache with compassion, and Moonlight was no exception. I felt especially protective of young Chiron, when he was called Little. He possessed such promise, had such a sensitive heart and spirit. And there was no one to help him grow into that promise. He longed to be different from his schoolmates. But his differences only brought him pain and grief.

Without guidance or the freedom to live fully as himself, Chiron lost his way, and ultimately became the very person he did not want to be. His journey was heartbreaking to me. It is crushing to realize that there are so many children and youth like Chiron, struggling and alone in life. Rather than fighting against what I was feeling, I stayed open and allowed the tangle of emotions to pass through my heart and sort themselves out.

Moonlight was powerful and painful and sobering. Was it the best of the nine? I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know after I watch the remaining three movies.

Was it thought provoking and heart expanding? Most definitely.

Movie Review: Moonlight

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Movie Review: Hell or High Water

Tonight was movie night as I popped the crime drama Hell or High Water into the DVD player. In anticipation for film five out of nine, in the best picture nominated category for 2017, I was under the impression this movie was a comedy, perhaps even a dark comedy. I was so wrong!

Movie Review: Hell or High Water
Hell or High Water stars Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Gil Birmingham. Rated R for language, violence and brief sexuality, the movie was directed by David MacKenzie, and has a run time of 1 hour and 42 minutes. Hell or High Water was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Actor for Jeff Bridges, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Editing. It did not win in any category.

Movie Review: Hell or High Water
Toby Howard (Pine) is an unemployed gas and oil man faced with losing his family’s west Texas ranch to foreclosure. He enlists the help of his ex con brother, Tanner (Foster), to carry out a bold plan to rob from branches of the very institution, Texas Midland Bank, that is in the process of seizing the property.

The brothers hit branches in sleepy little Texas towns, taking small sums of money in unmarked bills. With their stolen stash in hand, Toby and Tanner cross into Oklahoma to exchange money for casino chips, that they then cash in for fresh bills. All is going well, until Tanner deviates from the plan, going solo to rob a different bank.

Movie Review: Hell or High Water
The string of robberies attracts the attention of Texas Rangers Marcus Hamilton (Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Birmingham). The two men have worked together as partners for years. Although Hamilton is nearing retirement, he hopes to go out in a blaze of glory…or at least by solving one last crime. Parker pretends to dislike Hamilton’s droll sense of humor and the constant jabs at his Native American and Mexican heritage, but in reality, the men respect each other and have a close working relationship.

Movie Review: Hell or High Water

As the brothers in crime plan the last robbery, Toby’s motive is revealed. He is attempting to give his sons a future beyond poverty. Oil has been discovered on the ranch. The only way to secure that future is to pay off the lapsed mortgage with the stolen funds, and place the property into a trust for his boys.

Time is running out as the foreclosure is about to take place and the Texas Rangers, anticipating where the robbers will strike next, close in.

Movie Review: Hell or High Water
I was so mistaken about this movie. I had seen previews and from those short teasers, thought this film would have comedic overtones. There were a couple of humorous moments, particularly between the laid back but cunning Hamilton and his long suffering partner.

But this was not a comedy. If there is a theme that flows through all of the best picture nominated films, it is grittiness. The stark and oft times bleak situations provide a launching place for the characters to delve deeply within themselves and discover who they are. Hell or High Water certainly supplies the grit and the bleakness…and the platform for inner exploration.

Movie Review: Hell or High Water
Movie Review: Hell or High Water

All of these movies have stirred my compassion. There are so many ways for people to hurt, so many ways to face despair and overcome it or succumb to it. Watching the portrayals in tonight’s film, and each actor gave an outstanding performance, made my heart ache with empathy.

Interestingly, the expression, “come hell or high water” originated in Texas in the late 1800s, possibly in reference to herders who had to get their cattle to the midwest, no matter the terrain, temperatures or challenges. The phrase now indicates a strong desire to succeed in spite of difficult circumstances.

Hell or High Water showcases such dogged determination, from the Howard brothers and from the Rangers pursuing them. And my gut reaction to this well done movie? I just wanted to give everyone a hug and listen to their stories.

What this movie, and the four before it, creates in me is the strong desire to walk alongside others, offering hope and compassion and tenderness. And that makes Hell or High Water a very powerful film.

Movie Review: Hell or High Water

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