Movie Review Juliet, Naked

My daughter Elissa and I met this afternoon at Bookhouse Cinema, Joplin’s wonderful indie theater. The newly released film, Juliet, Naked, was playing and both of us wanted to see it.

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Juliet, Naked

This romantic comedy stars Chris O’Dowd, Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke and Lily Brazier. Juliet, Naked, directed by Jesse Peretz, is based on the Nick Hornby novel by the same name. It carries an R rating, for language and adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Annie (Byrne) lives a careful life in a small English sea side town. She runs the local historical museum, a job she inherited from her father, interacts with her spirited sister Ros (Brazier), and feels more and more confined in her relationship with her boyfriend.

Annie and Duncan (O’Dowd) have lived together for 15 years. He teaches classic literature and American films at a nearby college. However his passion, which borders on obsession, is with an obscure US singer and song writer, Tucker Crowe (Hawke). It matters not that Crowe hasn’t performed in years or released new albums. Duncan collects facts, posters and demos and hosts an online site devoted to the elusive singer and his die hard fans.

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Too Small a Story

Duncan’s obsession over the rocker is too small a story for Annie to live and thrive in. Chafing within the confinement she’s helped to create, Annie considers having children as a way to expand her life. And then life itself intervenes. An acoustical demo arrives, of Crowe’s early hit Juliet, Naked. Annie attempts to dampen Duncan’s over-the-top enthusiasm for the demo by writing a less than complimentary review of the song, which she posts to his website.

To her surprise, her comments draw a response from the artist himself, who agrees with her statements. Annie and Tucker begin a transatlantic correspondence that deepens day by day. They share openly and honestly about the disappointments and challenges each has experienced the past twenty years.

When Tucker seizes an opportunity to fly to London, he and Annie arrange to meet. Communicating via email and text was easy. In person, life is messier and people and relationships are more complicated. There is much to discover and sort out as new connections are created.

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Familiar Story with a Fresh Feel

Juliet, Naked is most definitely a romantic comedy, with an emphasis on the comedic element. Chris O’Dowd, with his strange and singular focus on another man’s life, caused me to laugh out loud numerous times.

This film manages to go beyond the rom com label however. It offers a sincere glimpse at what a stuck life can look like and feel like. All of the characters are caught in small stories of their own making, and challenged to free themselves.

As the film’s storyline unfolds, with strong performances by Byrne and Hawke that balance O’Dowd’s humor, the characters grow in awareness and depth. They figure their crap out…or at least, they begin to. And they realize that past decisions shaped their lives, but new choices shift the future. Bigger stories to live in are possible. It’s up to each person to create them.

This movie can be summed up well by a quote from an older character in the film, Edna. During a museum exhibition, she looks at an old photo of herself with friends and shares, “[This] was George. He was a fast worker. He wanted a bit of fun. I wish I did too, but I fought him off. I thought, ‘Edna, you can never go wrong not doing something. It’s the things that you do that get you into trouble.’ Here I am 84 years old and I’ve never been in trouble in my whole bloody life. Goddammit!”

It’s the things you do that you remember and the things you don’t do that you regret.

Juliet, Naked is the kind of movie that I deeply enjoy…funny, sweet, and insightful with characters that open up, explore who they are, and grow as they learn. I left the theater appreciating this indie film and it’s message of creating a bigger life.

Movie Review Juliet Naked

Queen of Katwe

Although I watched Queen of Katwe last week, I saved the review until after the Hygge Challenge, for a reason. I needed time to unpack the truths. This film, based on a true story, found its way to me in an unusual fashion. Not only did the story inspire me, it underscored that something magical is occurring in my life.

This trek down the rabbit hole began when my daughter Elissa sent me a quote:

“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place where you belong.” From the film Queen of Katwe

She had not heard of the movie, nor did she look it up. Elissa loved the quote and thought I would appreciate it. Plus, there was the intriguing word queen listed in the source of the quote. The queen chess piece is my symbol for 2019 and the word and image continue to show up daily in my life.

I loved the quote too. And being unfamiliar with the film, I looked it up. This is what I read, as a summary of the storyline:

A Ugandan girl sees her world rapidly change after being introduced to the game of chess.

Amazed, once again, I had to watch the movie.

Move Review Queen of Katwe

Queen of a Film

Queen of Katwe stars Madina Nalwanga, David Oyelowo, Lupita Nyong’o, Martin Kabanza and Hope Katende. This biographical drama, directed by Mira Nair, is based on the book by the same title written by Tim Crothers. The movie carries a PG rating, for adult themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

A young Ugandan girl, Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga), lives in the slum town of Katwe with her mother and siblings. After the death of her husband, Phiona’s mother Harriet (Nyong’o) struggles to feed and provide for her four children. She moves them from house to dilapidated house, barely able to survive.

The children are removed from school and help their mother by selling maize on the litter strewn streets.

Movie Review Queen of Katwe

Changing Her Life

Life is difficult and the future bleak, until Phiona follows her younger brother Brian (Kabanza) one day to a neighborhood mission. There she meets Coach Robert Katende (Oyelowo) and watches as children from Katwe play chess. The boards are hand painted and the chess pieces rough, however Phiona and several of the other children discover that they have a knack for the game of strategy.

In fact, Coach Katende quickly realizes that Phiona is a chess prodigy, able to visualize eight moves ahead. He and his wife Hope (played in the film by the real life Hope Katende) alter their plans and make choices that allow them to help Phiona and the children of Katwe have a chance at a better life.

From the poorest of the poor families struggling in the slums, Phiona learns to read, studies books about chess and yearns to become a master of the game. This brilliant and amazing girl moves step by step, from a mission house to competitions to international tournaments, her life shifting to parallel the game she is mastering.

Movie Review Queen of Katwe

Movie Review Queen of Katwe

From Pawn to Queen

I was so deeply moved by this film, which is available on DVD and Netflix. What an incredible impact chess had on Phiona and the other children of Katwe. And how life changing was the love of Coach Katende and his wife Hope, for families whose lives appeared hopeless. Coach showed great respect for Phiona’s mother, honoring her as he recognized the difficult sacrifices she made for her children.

This feel good movie is cheer worthy. I was in tears by the end and literally applauding. As I usually do after watching a film based on a true story, I fact checked and found the events and portrayals in Queen of Katwe to be accurate. To my delight, an added bonus during the end credits brings together the actors and the people that they played.

Movie Review Queen of Katwe

I don’t yet fully understand what is going on in my own life, however it revolves around this idea of moving, step by step, from being a pawn to becoming a queen. It’s more than an idea. It’s a Divine invitation to learn, to grow, to leave some things behind and enter into new territory. Queen of Katwe inspired me and challenged me to step up my game, so to speak.

The rest of the quote that Elissa sent me is this:

“Sometimes the place you are used to is not the place where you belong. You belong where you believe you belong.” Queen of Katwe


Movie Review Queen of Katwe

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

In between appointments today, I slipped away to catch an early showing of a film I’ve been wanting to see. Perhaps because the matinee was just after lunch, or maybe because the movie has been out for a couple of weeks, I had the large theater auditorium to myself. As the lights dimmed the experience felt like a private showing. This is a movie review of Crazy Rich Asians.

Movie Cast

Crazy Rich Asians stars Constance Wu, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Jemma Chan, Lisa Lu, Awkwafina, Sonoya Mizuno, Chris Pang and Pierre Png. This romantic comedy, directed by Jon M. Chu, is based upon the novel by the same name, written by Kevin Kwan. The film carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes and mild language, and has a run time of 2 hours.

Movie Summary

Rachel Chu (Wu), an economics professor in NYC, travels east with her boyfriend of one year, Nick Young (Golding). Nick’s best friend Colin (Pang) is marrying his sweetheart, Araminta (Mizuno) and Nick is the best man. When Rachel hears “out east” she pictures Queens. In reality, east is Singapore.

Rachel’s first clue that there are things she does not know about her boyfriend comes when the pair is seated in a luxurious first class suite aboard the airplane. During the flight she discovers that Nick’s family is wealthier than she imagined.

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

After arriving in Singapore, Nick and Rachel are met by the soon to be married couple. They enjoy an evening together exploring the city, dining on exquisite street vendor food, and chatting.

The next day Rachel plans to meet Nick at his grandmother’s house for a family dinner. She spends the day visiting with a former college roommate, Peik Lin Goh (Awkwafina), and her eccentric family. During lunch she mentions her boyfriend’s name, shocking her friend. Thereafter, Rachel finds out that Nick’s family is one of the wealthiest in Singapore with vast business and real estate holdings.

Nervous about meeting the Young family, Rachel allows Peik Lin to loan her a formal gown to wear to the dinner and to chauffeur her to the grand estate. There she meets Nick’s sad but beautiful cousin Astrid (Chan) and her husband Michael (Png), his disapproving mother Eleanor (Yeoh) and the matriarch of the family, Nick’s grandmother Ah Ma (Lu).

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

Eleanor immediately dislikes Rachel and makes her feelings known. She frowns upon Rachel’s American birth and the single mom who raised her. Eleanor intends for her son to take over the family businesses and to marry a woman more suited to the traditional Chinese way of life. Consequently, she views Rachel as being too ambitious and ridicules her for chasing after her passion, which is to teach economics to college students.

Far from home and a familiar life, Rachel is surrounded by jealous young women who had hoped to catch Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, suspicious members of the Young family, and a culture that differs greatly from her own. Is her love for Nick, and his for her, strong enough to survive such overwhelming challenges?

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

My Thoughts About the Movie

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. The story is very much a Cinderella one, with such a reference made during an extravagant ball-like party. The “evil” family members, however, are all on the boyfriend’s side. The characters are more complex than just being good or evil. Eleanor’s backstory reveals why she reacts so strongly to her son’s girlfriend.

The visual impact of the movie is one of opulence, with brilliant cinematography accompanied by a lively musical score. There is a classical feel to the film, reminiscent of the movies I grew up watching as a child.

And while the story of poor girl meets rich boy is familiar, there is freshness throughout the film with beautiful Singapore providing a textured backdrop and cultural interest. Chinese Americans differ from those in Singapore, giving me the impression that the former don’t quite fit in anywhere.

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

Awkwafina was a joy to watch as Rachel’s friend. She provides a great deal of the humor in the film. Constance carries the role of Rachel well, in a deliberately understated way. And Michelle Yeoh, who plays Eleanor, is why I wanted to see this movie. I am familiar with her as a regular on Star Trek Discovery. She offers a powerful performance as a woman who honors tradition and wants the best for her son, and also fears losing him.

At its heart, this charming film is about relationships of all kinds…friendship, romance and family connections. As is true for most of us, it is the family relationships that most define us and challenge us. There is love amongst family, and heartbreak as well, and often sacrifice. Crazy Rich Asians offers thoughtful insights into all three.

Movie Review Crazy Rich Asians

The Disaster Artist

This film, The Disaster Artist, came into my awareness earlier in the year, during the Golden Globes. I had not heard of Tommy Wiseau, who wrote, starred in, directed and produced The Room, a flick called “the best worst movie ever made”.

However, James Franco won the Globe for best actor in a leading role in The Disaster Artist, which is a movie about Tommy creating the terrible film that has gone on to amass a huge cult following. James called Tommy up onto the stage to stand with him as he accepted the award. In those few minutes in the spotlight, I could tell that Tommy was an unusual man. I was intrigued.

I still haven’t seen The Room. However I watched James Franco’s movie by way of Amazon Prime this afternoon.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist

The Disaster Artist stars James Franco, Dave Franco, Seth Rogen, and Ari Graynor. This comedy drama, directed by James Franco, carries an R rating for language, sexuality and nudity, and has a run time of 1 hour and 43 minutes. The film is based on the book, The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero, the actor who helped Tommy create his disasterpiece.

Greg (Dave Franco) meets Tommy (James Franco) in an acting class in San Francisco, in 1998. Greg lacks confidence before an audience, causing him to greatly admire Tommy, who is not only fearless but way, way outside the box in terms of technique.

The two men agree to do scenes together in class, and in the process of practicing lines, they become good friends. Like Greg, Tommy aspires to be an actor and a filmmaker. However, people in the industry don’t “get” Tommy or appreciate his unique acting style.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist

Although he claims to be from New Orleans, Tommy has a heavy Eastern Europe accent, owns property in San Francisco and Los Angeles but won’t divulge how he acquired his wealth, and remains vague about his age. None of that matters to Greg. He appreciates the passion with which Tommy pursues his dreams against overwhelming odds.

Greg and Tommy make a pact to move to Los Angeles and break into the acting industry. Greg begins to date Amber (Graynor), after the two hit it off at a bar, and signs on with a talent agency, but the hoped for roles are scarce. No one will give Tommy a chance. A well known producer tells him, “Just because you want it doesn’t mean it can happen. In a million years it will never happen.”

Movie Review The Disaster Artist

Because they made a pact to help each other succeed, Tommy and Greg decide that if no one will hire them, they will create their own movie. Tommy writes the screenplay for a film he calls The Room. Greg agrees to star in it. It’s obvious the two don’t have a clue what they are doing, however they proceed with enthusiasm as they assemble a production team led by script supervisor Sandy Schklair (Rogen).

A casting call goes out for an actress to play the female lead. The auditions alternate between hilarious and painful to watch, until Tommy at last finds his leading lady, beginning actress Juliette Danielle (Graynor). A 40 day shooting schedule is arranged at a studio that provides all the equipment needed, and filming of The Room begins.

It’s a shared adventure between Greg and Tommy that leaves the other actors and the film crew confused and perplexed. Everyone sees the alarming project through to the end, resulting in an unforgettable premiere.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist Tommy Wiseau with the actual poster he created for his film, which premiered in 2003.

I had no idea what to expect with The Disaster Artist, and no prior knowledge of Tommy and his movie apart from his five minutes on the Golden Globe stage. Remaining open and curious as the story unfolded, I fell in love with this film.

James Franco marvelously captures Tommy’s eccentricities, from his speech patterns and mannerisms to his unabashed excitement over creating a film. And Dave, James’ real-life brother, steps into the role of Greg equally well. The friendship that Greg and Tommy cultivated endured the stresses and rigors of a creative project that no one else believed in, and continues today.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist James Franco on the left, Tommy Wiseau on the right.

Movie Review The Disaster ArtistDave Franco on the left and Greg Sestero on the right.

The Disaster Artist is a brilliant movie about a movie. I laughed, often, at the outrageous boldness of Tommy Wiseau, and just as often I teared up because he so believed in his dream. He didn’t care what anyone else thought or said about him or his film. Instead he moved unwaveringly toward its completion.

Although the movie does not shy away from any aspects of Tommy’s story, it does not ridicule or belittle the man or his beliefs. And I deeply appreciated that. I could not help but cheer Tommy and Greg on. They beat the odds and brought their dreams into reality.

Although The Room, which cost Tommy 6 million dollars to create, only made $1800 its opening weekend, the movie has become a cult classic. It still plays in major cities around the US each year, generating between half a million and a million in revenue for its creator.

After watching The Disaster Artist, I’m glad to know that Tommy’s dream is alive and well and continuing to bring him fame and fortune. I’m inspired by his persistence and his faith in his own abilities. Now if I can just find a way to view his masterpiece, The Room.

Movie Review The Disaster Artist

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Having recently watched a film at the theater, about this famous young companion to Winnie the Pooh, I was intrigued when a movie from last year, Goodbye Christopher Robin, appeared on Direct TV. Undecided about whether it was really necessary to view another movie that seemed similar to the theater version I had just seen, I tuned in for a few minutes in the middle of the story.

It was immediately obvious that this film about a boy and his imaginary friends had a very different tone. And rather than focusing on the relationship between Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear, this movie provided a peek into the complex relationship between AA Milne and his son. My intrigue shifted into curiosity. I recorded the movie and watched it a few days later.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Goodbye Christopher Robin stars Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald, and Will Tilston. This biographical drama directed by Simon Curtis carries a PG rating for a few war scenes and adult situations, and has a run time of 1 hour and 47 minutes.

Alan Alexander Milne (Domhnall), who goes by the nickname Blue, returns home from WWI suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. Crowds and loud noises set his nerves on edge and the pursuits that once interested him, such as writing plays, no longer have the same appeal.

His pretty socialite wife Daphne (Robbie) tries without success to call forth the man she knew before the war. She at last resorts to having a baby, with the hopes that a child will cheer Blue up and restore his spirits.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

After a painful labor and delivery, both parents find it difficult to connect with their infant son. Daphne vehemently hoped for a daughter. Blue is uncomfortable around children and doesn’t know how to relate to a child or play.

Their solution is to hire a nanny to care for the child and for the next eight years Christopher Robin (Tilston), called Billy Moon by his family, is cared for by Olive (Macdonald), whom he calls Nou. Daphne and Blue travel and attend gatherings. He writes a couple of plays but feels increasingly unsatisfied with being a playwright. Daphne immerses herself more and more in London society.

When Blue decides he cannot abide city life any longer, he purchases a country estate near a huge wooded acreage, and leaves the noise and bustle of London for the peace and quiet of Cotchford Farm in East Sussex. For a time the little family and Nou live together on the farm. Daphne prefers city life however and disappears for weeks at a time during visits to London.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

She brings Billy Moon gifts when she returns home…a stuffed bear, a donkey, a tiger and a tiny piglet first, and later a mother kangaroo and her joey. These plush animals become a connection to Billy’s often absent mother, and being an only child, they become his playmates.

Blue avoids his study and writing projects and spends time creating a chicken coop and finding odd jobs to do around the farm. When Nou is called away to attend to her seriously ill mother, Blue and Billy are left alone for the first time. Ill at ease at first, the father seeks to move beyond awkwardness and get to know his son.

The two finally connect over stories about Billy’s animal friends and they name each one. They decide upon Winnie the Pooh, after a real bear at the zoo, for Billy’s favorite toy. The donkey becomes Eeyore, Tigger is the tiger and the baby pig Piglet. During the weeks the two spend alone together Blue and Billy walk daily in the woods and create imaginative stories and games around the stuffed animals and pretend friends Owl and Rabbit.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Inspired by his son and the boy’s friends, Milne begins to write again…poems about Christopher Robin and Pooh Bear and later short stories. To his surprise, the adventures he pens are a huge success. However it’s not the author that everyone wants to meet, it’s the real life Christopher Robin that the world is curious about.

While his parents handle the attention well, Billy Moon resents the publicity and the intrusion into his privacy. Schoolmates tease and bully him, his life is upended and he wonders if it will ever be the same again.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

This is the kind of movie that stays with me for a while. I enjoy films based on real people and events and being a fan of the Winnie the Pooh stories, this one caught and held my interest. How sad to realize that the idyllic childhood Milne wrote about was more fiction than reality, and that he found it challenging to be a father.

However, most families are dysfunctional on some level. I could find compassion within me for the behavior of the parents. Daphne had her heart touching reasons for desiring a daughter. Milne never fully recovered from the War and while he wanted most to write a book that expounded on the horrors of war, he was remembered for slim stories about a boy and his bear.

And that boy, who so resented being made a celebrity, had to find his own way to make peace with who he was and the exploitation he felt from his father. Their lives weren’t all bad, nor were they always good. They were real though and the Milnes struggled and learned and made decisions, poor ones and better ones, that affected them for many years.

Goodbye Christopher Robin explores the darker side of a familiar story that we think we know. At its core, this is a movie about family and relationships and growing up. It’s thoughtful and insightful and tugs at the heart, all important features of an excellent film that sends the viewer to Google to search deeper.

Goodbye Christopher Robin…hello Billy Moon.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

Movie Review: Alpha

My mom, sister Linda and I slipped away for a couple of hours for an impromptu movie night. We are animal lovers in my family, therefore we found ourselves drawn to the film that portrays the discovery of man’s best friend. Grab some popcorn, the healthier kind please, and enjoy this movie review of Alpha.

Movie Review Alpha

Alpha stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Natassia Malthe, and Spencer Bogaert. This adventure film, directed by Albert Hughes, carries a PG-13 rating for scenes of peril, and has a run time of 1 hour and 36 minutes.

Set in Europe, 20,000 years ago, the movie opens with the men from a small tribe closing in on their prey. Once a year the men, led by Chief Tau (Johannesson), trek for days to a distant hunting ground where huge shaggy bison roam. The tribe’s survival during the harsh winter depends on their success.

Movie Review Alpha

This year, for the first time, Tau’s son Keda (Smit-McPhee) and his friend Kappa (Bogaert) accompany the men as part of their rite of passage into manhood. Keda’s mother (Malthe) is reluctant to let her son join the hunt.

“He leads with his heart, not with his spear,” the mother says of her teenage son, when Tau declares that it’s time for the boy to learn to lead.

It’s a learning journey for Keda. His father instructs him on the art of making fire, goads him into attempting his first kill for food (Keda refuses) and points out the Big Dipper constellation in the sky. “It points toward home,” Tau tells his son.

Things go awry when the tribe encounters the bison. As the hunters drive the herd over a cliff, Keda is caught on the horns of a charging bull and flung from the cliff as well. Unconscious on a narrow rock ledge, beyond the reach of his tribe, Keda is left for dead by his grieving father.

Movie Review Alpha

Keda is not dead, but he is alone in a magnificent and challenging landscape. Injured and frightened, the boy begins the journey home, one painful step at a time. On the way he is surrounded by a pack of hungry wolves. Keda knifes one wolf as he scrambles up a tree.

The next morning, only the injured wolf remains. Keda’s heart does indeed lead him. Rather than kill the wolf, he muzzles him and carries him to a cave where both can heal. A relationship forms, between the boy and the wolf, as they learn to trust and respect each other. Will they be able to help each other reach the safety of the tribe encampment before the winter snows begin?

Movie Review Alpha

This turned out to be a beautiful film, visually rich with outstanding cinematography. The simplicity of the story, which could be classified as a blend of coming of age meets a boy and his dog, lent itself well to the unfolding journey.

The actors spoke in another language, requiring subtitles on the screen. I read that it was a made up language and also that they spoke a Native American dialect. Either way, it didn’t detract from the story. I found the language to be beautiful. Short sentences or singles words were used primarily while facial expressions and hand gestures conveyed more.

At the heart of this charming film is a young man who discovers his own unique strengths while developing patience, perseverance and loyalty to the wolf who journeys with him. The two play together, hunt together, and curl up before the fire together in the cold. Each night Keda looks for the Big Dipper. Each day the pair trudges northward.

An uncertain boy left the camp. A young man returns home, with a surprising companion. Alpha is a feel good movie that allows the viewer to leave with a smile on the face and a warmth in the heart and the strong desire to hug a dog.

Movie Review Alpha

Movie Review: The Meg

I admit, I’ve seen all the Jaws movies, and most of the other films featuring those terrors of the sea. My grandkids even got me to watch the Sharknado movies recently, that are more humorous, in an eye rolling kind of way, than scary. Not being a frequent swimmer in any of the world’s vast oceans perhaps eliminates any sense of fear I might have about sharks. (This line of reasoning doesn’t hold true, however, for my younger daughter, Adriel. For years, after seeing the original Jaws movie as a young child, she was afraid sharks might show up in the bathtub…and forget getting her into any large body of water!)

When The Meg opened last week, my mom, sister Linda and my elder daughter Elissa met at the theater to watch this latest shark on the attack flick.

Movie Review The Meg

The Meg stars Jason Statham, Bingbing Li, Rainn Wilson, Cliff Curtis, Winston Chao, Shuya Sophia Cai, Robert Taylor, Òlafur Darri Òlafsson, Jessica McNamee and Masi Oka. This action horror film, directed by Jon Turteltaub, is based upon the novel Meg, written by Steve Alten. The Meg carries a PG-13 rating, for action/peril, bloody images and some language, and has a run time of 1 hour and 53 minutes.

On a mission in the Mariana Trench, in the Pacific Ocean, a submersible discovers a deeper section beneath a cloud of hydrogen sulfide that has formed a thermocline. In this never before explored place in the sea, scientists Lori (McNamee), Toshi (Oka) and The Wall (Olafsson) are excitedly reporting to the Mana One, a nearby underwater research facility, when the unexpected happens. A large unidentified animal strikes the sub, disabling it.

On Mana One, billionaire financier Jack Morris (Rainn), Dr. Zhang (Chao) and his daughter Suyin (Li) are supervising the dive with their team. Knowing rescue is dangerous and nearly impossible, and unsure about the cause of the mishap, they send for expert diver Jonas Taylor (Statham), whose ex-wife Lori is trapped aboard the damaged sub. Jonas has retired from diving, after an incident five years before in which a rescue dive went awry due to an attack from a giant sea creature. An associate, Dr. Heller (Taylor), dismissed Jonas’ story, citing pressure-induced psychosis. Dr. Heller is now a team member aboard Mana One, and he opposes bringing Jonas in.

Movie Review The Meg

He is overridden and Mac (Curtis), another team member at the underwater facility, fetches Jonas from Thailand. Back at the lab, Suyin decides to attempt a rescue on her own. Her small sub successfully sinks beneath the thermocline however it too is attacked, first by a huge squid, and then by a massive shark. Jonas shows up in time to distract the shark so that Suyin can return to the surface. While attempting a rescue of the scientists aboard the damaged sub, the shark strikes again. Toshi sacrifices himself, staying behind in the battered sub and blowing it up so that the others can return to the lab.

Back at the facility, as the team analyzes the data, Suyin’s young daughter, Meiying (Cai) sees the shark outside the lab when it strikes a glass wall. The team discovers that the monster sized creature is a megalodon, a prehistoric shark thought to be long extinct. Similar to a great white shark, the meg can grow to a length of 75 feet and has a huge jaw span. When the rescue sub rose back through the thermocline, a temporary trench was formed, allowing the meg to pass through.

Movie Review The Meg

The most fearsome and powerful predator the world has ever known is now free to roam the ocean, and she is hungry. No ship, no beach, no swimmer in the water, is safe. It’s up to Jonas, Suyin, and the Mana One team to warn the world, and find a way to stop a monster.

As far as shark movies go, this one was well done. I always research a film, after I’ve seen it, and megalodons did indeed exist at one time, which is a terrifying thought! The movie accurately portrays the size and ferocity of these ancient sea creatures.

Of course there are heroics, pockets of humor, a smattering of romance and the obligatory gory scenes of toothy shark attacks, which are all the right pieces that fit together to make up a shark movie. However, it was packaged as a fun and intriguing movie to watch, with jump worthy moments and some truly tense action sequences.

And that’s why we go to see shark movies, unless your name is Adriel, bless her heart…to be a little scared, and much relieved when it’s all over, and to ponder the wisdom of ever swimming in the deep blue sea again! I’m glad at the moment that I’m land locked.

Movie Review The Meg

Movie Review: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society

My daughter Elissa recommended this 2018 British film, distributed in the US by Netflix. I had the opportunity to watch it late last night, thinking I’d start the movie and finish it later in the week. I never found a place to hit the pause button, which is a good sign of an excellent film. I watched the whole movie.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society stars Lily James, Jessica Brown Finlay, Tom Courtenay, Michiel Huisman, Katherine Parkinson, Matthew Goode, Glen Powell, Penelope Wilton, Kit Connor and Florence Keen. The historical drama, directed by Mike Newell, is based on the novel by the same name written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. The movie carries a TV-14 rating, for mature themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

In the aftermath of WWII, people in England are picking up the shattered pieces of their lives, and attempting to cobble together a new existence. One such person is a young writer, Juliet Ashton (James), who lost her parents during the war. Juliet has found some success as an author, writing under the pen name Izzy Bickerstaff. Her long time friend, and publisher, Sidney Stark (Goode), arranges a contract for her to write a story for the London Times Literary Supplement and a modest book tour, promoting her last book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Juliet does book readings, attends events, and meets an American member of the Armed Forces, Mark Reynolds (Powell). They begin a whirlwind romance as Juliet ponders what piece to write for the Times. Life is at last going well, and yet Juliet feels restless and unsettled. Her interest and curiosity are captured when she receives a letter from Dawsey Adams (Huisman), who lives on the island of Guernsey, in the English Channel.

Dawsey explains in his letter that he is a member of a literary society that meets every Friday evening. He had come into possession of one of Juliet’s books, and wondered if she could secure another book for him, written by Charles Lamb. Intrigued, Juliet agrees to send the book, in exchange for the story behind the book club’s unusual name, The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

In correspondence between them, Dawsey tells Juliet the story. While the island was under occupation in 1941 by German soldiers, Dawsey and his friends and neighbors, Eben Ramsey (Courtenay) Elizabeth McKenna (Finlay) Isola Pribby (Parkinson) and Amelia Maugery (Wilton) discover that perhaps the worst of the hardships endured by the islanders is the isolation and fear that they live in. The friends gather together one night, secretly, to share a meal, and homemade gin, and conversation.

Walking home after the restorative evening, they are stopped and questioned by soldiers. To avoid arrest, Elizabeth says that the group had just left a book club meeting. When asked the name of the club, she and Eben make up the name…The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society. An inebriated Eben contributed the potato peel pie part.

Suspicious, the Germans send a representative to attend the book club, which must now become a reality. The group meets, and it is allowed to continue. The friends discover that they enjoy reading books and gathering together to share thoughts and ideas. Five years later, the society still exists.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Juliet is so enchanted by Dawsey’s story that she travels to Guernsey to attend a Friday night meeting of the literary society, with the intention of writing about the formation of the club for her Times piece. Mark proposes to Juliet before she goes. She accepts his proposal and promises to return after a long weekend. However, once she arrives in Guernsey, Juliet discovers there is more to the story.

The people of Guernsey have been deeply impacted by the war as well. They have experienced loss. Juliet meets Eben’s charming young grandson, Eli (Connor), who has joined the society, and Dawsey and Elizabeth’s four year old daughter, Kit (Keen). Elizabeth, however, has vanished, and none of the society members want to talk about what happened. They also don’t want Juliet to write and share their story.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

As Juliet’s stay lengthens into a week, she works to uncover the deeper stories and mysteries within the society story. She forms connections with each of the club members. They begin to feel like family members to Juliet, rather than strangers, and Guernsey begins to feel like home.

This was a beautiful and charming film that relies heavily on story development and heart felt performances by an excellent cast. I loved the literary connections, and the lively discussions among the society members. And the island life depicted in the film was captivating. I would like to visit the island of Guernsey as a result of watching this movie.

Most of all, I appreciated the connections formed among Juliet and her new found friends. She later writes that she felt she had always known them, and always would. I too like when I meet someone and it feels like we are already old friends. On an individual level, each of the characters grow as well, healing old hurts, releasing the past, and uncovering strengths, and that growth deepens the bonds that form between them.

If you have Netflix, and a free evening, check out this warm and delightful movie. I think you will be glad that you did.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Movie Review: Christopher Robin

I had the opportunity today to see a film that has a strong appeal for children, judging by the number of small kids in the theater, and yet attracts adults as well. I love the stories of Christopher Robin and his stuffed animal friends as they have adventures in the 100 Acre Wood. Winnie the Pooh, mostly known as just Pooh, may be a bear with little brains, but he is a wise bear and a incomparable friend.

Movie Review Christopher Robin

Christopher Robin stars Ewan McGregor, Orton O’Brien, Hayley Atwell, Bronte Carmichael, Mark Gatiss and the voices of Jim Cummings, Brad Garrett, Peter Capaldi, Nick Mohammed, Sophie Okonedo, Sara Sheen and Toby Jones. This adventure comedy, directed by Marc Forster, carries a PG rating, for action and adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 44 minutes.

During the opening credits of this charming family film we see “chapters” of Christopher Robin’s life as he grows from boyhood (O’Brien) to adulthood (McGregor). His beloved friends, Pooh Bear and Tigger (both voiced by Cummings), Rabbit and Owl (voiced by Capaldi and Jones), Eyeore (voiced by Garrett), Kanga and Roo (voiced by Okonedo and Sheen) and Piglet (voiced by Mohammed), join Christopher Robin as he roams the 100 Ace Wood, exploring the terrain and his place in the world.

Movie Review Christopher Robin

As children do, Christopher Robin grows up, heading first to boarding school, then meeting his wife Evelyn (Atwell) before he serves his country during WWII. He at last returns home to his wife and young daughter Madeleine (Carmichael), a changed man. Long forgotten are his happy memories of Pooh and Piglet and the woods.

As a man with a family and responsibilities, Christopher Robin loses himself and his joy in a menial job, selling luggage to England’s wealthy travelers. His overbearing boss Giles (Gatiss) expects Christopher to sacrifice family time for the sake of the company.

Movie Review Christopher Robin

During another working weekend, in which he sends his family on holiday without him, Christopher Robin is shocked to see his old friend Pooh in London. The bear can’t find his friends, back in the woods, and he has come to ask the boy he once knew for help. Pooh is disheartened to discover little of his playful and imaginative companion in the serious and harried man. And Christopher Robin is initially more flustered than happy to see his silly old bear. Gradually though, as the two set off to find Piglet, Eeyore and the others, something stirs and awakens in Christopher Robin.

Can the man reconnect with the creative boy he once was? Is it too late to bring restoration to his family? And where are the rest of his childhood companions? Could it be that there are heffalumps in the 100 Acre Wood after all? The adventure becomes about so much more than finding his scruffy looking animals. It is a search for Christopher Robin’s heart and soul and happiness.

Movie Review Christopher Robin

This is an incredibly sweet and nostalgic film for anyone familiar with Winnie the Pooh. Using CGI for the animals, the stuffed ones and Owl and Rabbit, this movie cleverly blends the Disney animation characters with the older style illustrations from the books. During the opening and ending credits, in fact, live action sequences transform several times into the drawings by E.H. Shepherd that graced the A.A. Milne books.

All of the portrayals of Christopher Robin’s animal friends are well done, endearing and laugh worthy, however, it is Pooh Bear who takes center stage. His grumbly tummy, slightly matted fur, gentle expressions and wise Poohisms create a longing in me for such a magical and valuable friend. I have three of my childhood bears stashed away upstairs in the attic. Perhaps I should dust them off and bring them downstairs.

At the very least, I can brew a pot of tea and my bears and I can have an impromptu tea party while we watch Christopher Robin after it releases on Netflix. Silly old bears. What words of wisdom would you have for me?

Movie Review Christopher Robin

Movie Review: Mama Mia 2 Here We Go Again

When Mama Mia The Movie came out, in 2008, it instantly became a favorite with me. The high energy musical, created around ABBA songs, was fun and playful and I watched it over and over again. I’ve been eagerly anticipating the sequel, which released in theaters a week ago. I slipped away for a matinee this afternoon, joining a mostly female audience who seemed to be as excited as I was.

Movie Review Mama Mia Here We Go Again

Mama Mia Here We Go Again stars Amanda Seyfried, Dominic Cooper, Lily James, Pierce Brosnan, Jeremy Irvine, Andy Garcia, Stellan Skarsgard, Josh Dylan, Colin Firth, Hugh Skinner, Julia Walters, Alexa Davies, Christine Baranski, Jessica Keenan Wynn, Cher, and Meryl Streep. The musical comedy, directed by Ol Parker, carries a PG-13 rating for adult themes, and has a run time of 1 hour and 54 minutes.

Set 5 years after the first film, this story is both a sequel and a prequel. As Sophie (Seyfried) prepares for a grand opening of the fully refurbished hotel, the Bella Donna, on the Greek island that her mother (Streep) settled on years before, she finds herself surrounded by a swirl of conflicting emotions. She suspects she is pregnant. Her husband Sky (Cooper) is away in New York City, learning about hotel management.

One of her fathers, Sam (Brosnan) lives on the island with her, but her other two fathers, Bill (Skarsgard) and Harry (Firth) can’t be present for her big celebration. And her melancholy hotel manager Fernando (Garcia) is predicting that a storm is on its way. If the storm hits, the grand opening party will be ruined. Her mother’s best friends, Rosie (Walters) and Tanya (Baranski) arrive ahead of the storm, ready to bolster Sophie.

Movie Review Mama Mia Here We Go Again

As the present day story unfolds, the movie switches back and forth between Sophie and her mother’s backstory. Young Donna (James) graduates from Oxford with her friends and band mates, Rosie (Davies) and Tanya (Wynn). Rather than making plans for the next stage of her life, Donna wants to explore the world, and make some memories.

On her way to Greece, she first encounters Harry (Skinner) and then Bill (Dylan), who takes her by boat to the Greek island that is her destination, and lastly she finds Sam (Irvine). Sam is spending a week on the island, seeking freedom from the obligations and arrangements waiting for him when he returns home. Donna has a romantic encounter with each of the men, however, it is Sam who captures her heart…and then breaks it when he departs, as scheduled. It is later, after Sam leaves, that Donna discovers she is pregnant and makes the decision to remain on the island.

Movie Review Mama Mia Here We Go Again

Back in the present day, the storm does arrive, changing the grand opening plans. But Sophie has bigger problems to fret about. She has concerns that she and Sky are growing apart. She feels extremely close to her mother, as she considers her upcoming pregnancy on the island, and yet she feels overwhelmed and very alone.

Ultimately Bill and Harry make it to the island, bringing with them Sky and boats full of out of work fishermen and their families. And Sophie’s grandmother (Cher) makes a surprise appearance at the party, even though she wasn’t invited. Sophie discovers, as her mother did years before, that life can’t be scripted. It can only be embraced and enjoyed.

Movie Review Mama Mia Here We Go Again

I had such fun watching this musical. As in the first film, the songs are from ABBA and they are cleverly woven into the storyline. I liked the sequel/prequel format. The audience got to see a youthful Donna meet each of the men who were important in her life, one of whom is Sophie’s biological dad. The young actors playing Sam, Bill and Harry did a great job capturing the older actors’ mannerism and speech patterns, as did the young women who portrayed Donna, Rosie and Tanya. The backstories were well done, and merged beautifully with present day scenes featuring Sophie.

I expected to smile and laugh during this movie. I expected to hum along and tap my foot with ABBA songs. What I didn’t expect were the teary eyed moments and a scene toward the end that created noisy sniffles throughout the theater. I wanted to bawl. My body said nope, not here you won’t.

Overall, Mama Mia Here We Go Again is entertaining, thought provoking and heart warming. I want to see it again and purchase the soundtrack. It is worth sitting through the end credits for the extravagant song and dance number by the cast, and an extra scene after all the names scroll by. The entire audience sat with me until the lights came back up, and then we all clapped. I love a good musical.

Movie Review Mama Mia Here We Go Again