Movie Review Aquaman

How fun, to kick off a new year with the new movie, Aquaman. Films have impacted my life in huge ways. Many a story, played out on the big screen, has enchanted me and revealed deep truths about who I am.

In particular, hero or superhero movies occupy an important place in my heart. I grew up as one of those nerdy kids who bought a new DC or Marvel comic book every Saturday. The tales of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman inspired me as a wee girl.

Because of that long, and dearly held connection, as an adult I see every superhero film that releases at the theater. Aquaman is part of the DC Universe, and a member of the Justice League. His comrades include Superman, Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman and Cyborg. Aquaman, also known as Arthur Curry, appeared in the 2017 movie Justice League. This is his feature film, that fleshes out his story.

Movie Review Aquaman

Aquaman Cast

This fantasy adventure film stars Jason Momoa, Amber Heard, Willem Dafoe, Patrick Wilson, Nicole Kidman, Temuera Morrison and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.

Directed by James Wan, Aquaman carries a PG-13 rating, for intense action sequences and mild language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 23 minutes.

Movie Review Aquaman

Origins

Aquaman (Momoa) begins life as Arthur Curry, the son of lighthouse keeper Tom Curry (Morrison) and Atlanna (Kidman), queen of the underwater kingdom of Atlanta. Fleeing an arranged marriage, Atlanna chooses a life on the surface with the human, Tom. They are happy together, raising their young son, until the past catches up with Atlanna. To protect Tom and Arthur, she agrees to return to the sea.

Arthur grows up with an awareness that he is different. He has unique gifts, including the ability to communicate with marine animals and adaptability that allows him to breathe and speak underwater, and he possesses superhuman strength. Arthur misses his mother, as he matures, however Vulko (Dafoe), an Atlantean, secretly teaches the young man how to develop his abilities.

Arthur hesitantly steps into the role of hero, rescuing those in peril as they travel the seas. Freeing a submarine from pirates, Aquaman angers one of the attackers, who vows revenge. This pirate morphs into Manta (Abdul-Mateen II).

Movie Review Aquaman

Return to Atlanta

Life develops a rhythm, until Mera (Heard) emerges from the sea, looking for Arthur. Atlanta needs a king. Arthur’s half brother, Orm (Wilson) threatens to wage war with the surface, uniting all the kingdoms beneath the sea against the earth dwellers.

Arthur is a reluctant hero. He’s adamant about not being a king. He dwells in both worlds, feeling inadequate to rule in either.

Aquaman’s challenge is to discover who he is, and his place in both worlds. As he journeys, beneath the sea and on land, he gathers around him a group of people who see his potential. And he alarms those who seek power for themselves.

Arthur: I’m no leader. I’m not a king.

Mera: Atlantis has always had a king. Now it needs something more.

Arthur: Well, what could be greater than a king?

Mera: A hero.

This is my favorite quote from the film. My whispered answer, to what could be greater than a king, was a queen! I’ll accept hero, however.

Movie Review Aquaman

My Thoughts About Aquaman

I enjoyed this action packed movie. Jason Momoa caught my attention as Aquaman in The Justice League. He did not disappoint as the star and focus of this feature film.

In fact, I can’t imagine anyone else playing this superhero. The Hawaiian born actor has a larger than life personality, perfect for portraying a big screen hero, even a reluctant one.

I appreciated the cinematography, the flow of the story and the development of the characters. Most of all, I loved watching Arthur become Aquaman. I loved how he accepted himself as the man who inhabits both worlds. His gifts make him the right person to bring those two worlds together. His wisdom and perspective make him Aquaman. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

“My father was a lighthouse keeper. My mother was a queen. They were never meant to meet. But their love saved the world. They made me what I am: a son of the land, a king of the seas. I am the protector of the deep. I am… Aquaman.”

Movie Review Aquaman

Movie Review: Bird Box

Bird Box, a recent Netflix release, is already setting viewing records. In its first week Netflix reports that 45 million subscribers watched the movie. Those are amazing numbers, during Christmas week when holiday films typically dominate.

After seeing a couple of previews, and knowing nothing more about the story, I can be counted as one of those 45 million. I’m still thinking about Bird Box.

Movie Review Bird Box

Cast

Bird Box stars Sandra Bullock, John Malkovich, Trevante Rhodes, Sarah Paulson, Danielle Macdonald, Tom Hollander, Vivien Blair and Julian Edwards. This drama thriller is directed by Susanne Bier and based on the novel by the same name, written by Josh Malerman. It carries an R rating for language, violence, adult themes and intense scenes and has a run time of 2 hours and 4 minutes.

Movie Review Bird Box

Chaos and Hysteria

*Warning – spoilers. Ending is not revealed.*

This apocalyptic type story alternates between current time and flashbacks that fill in the narrative.

In the present, a woman and her two small children navigate down a river in a simple flat bottom boat, blindfolded, seeking sanctuary. Malorie (Bullock) gives stern commands to the children, called Boy (Edwards) and Girl (Blair), telling them to listen for danger and do exactly what she says.

The three survived a dark menace that has wiped out most of the world’s population. Their only hope of survival is to reach a community of people that exists further down the river.

The flashbacks take us back five years, to the beginning of the chaos. A pregnant Malorie and her sister Jessica (Paulson) visit the hospital for a routine prenatal exam. Reports are coming in via television and social media that some sort of strange epidemic is sweeping through Russia and Europe. People are killing themselves by the thousands.

Hysteria and chaos quickly arrive in California, as Malorie and Jessica leave the hospital.

Movie Review Bird Box

Don’t Look

In moments people are dying on the streets. Without warning they become extremely frightened or hopelessly sad by something only they can see. The strong emotion drives them to kill themselves.

Jessica wrecks the car and immediately steps in front of a bus. In shock, Malorie is helped to her feet. People are dying around her, even as they try to assist her. A stranger named Tom (Rhodes) propels Malorie to a neighborhood house where they are permitted to enter.

The group inside, organized by a cynical man named Douglas (Malkovich), quickly realizes they must not look outside. The entities causing death and chaos cannot be physically seen, however looking toward them causes the viewer to see their worst fear or their greatest sorrow. The sight drives them to madness and their deaths.

Ultimately the little group includes another pregnant woman, Olympia (Macdonald), and an assortment of people who were once strangers to each other. They are bound together by their need to survive.

Movie Review Bird Box

Bird Box

When food runs low, several members of the group attempt to secure supplies at a nearby supermarket. Donning blindfolds and covering the windows of the car, they use GPS to successfully navigate to and from the store. During their first supply run, Malorie finds three caged birds. She discovers that the birds sense the presence of the entities and brings them back to the house.

The group survives, until Gary (Hollander) arrives, pretending to need help. He talks about people who can look at the entities and live. They find the creatures beautiful and want everyone to look at them. Douglas does not trust Gary. He is right to be concerned.

Ultimately only Malorie, Tom and the two babies survive. Olympia has asked Malorie to care for her daughter if something happened to her. Malorie never names the children, calling them Boy and Girl. For five years the two adults and the children move from place to place and learn how to get by.

And then there are three. Malorie is desperate to protect the children. Guided by a voice on the radio, she places Boy and Girl in the little boat, along with the birds, in a box, and follows the directions she’s been given. Down the river they go. They cannot look. And they must not remove the blindfolds, or they will die.

The fierce desire to live and the hope for safety and a life that is more than survival compels Malorie to keep fighting and to keep going.

Movie Review Bird Box

My Thoughts About Bird Box

This is a tense, well done film with underlying messages that are intended to be interpreted by the viewer. Neat and tidy answers are not provided, about the cause of the epidemic or the nature of the entities. The characters speculate and offer possibilities.

The most simple, but not necessarily correct, interpretation is that the entities have a dark spiritual nature. They are demon-type creatures drawn out by mankind’s downward destructive slide. They can’t be seen, other than as shadowy shapes as they pass a window or as a ripple of energy that disturbs leaves…and birds. However, the characters see troubling visions when the entities are present, causing them to kill themselves. Or those who are deemed mad already don’t harm themselves after seeing the creatures but seek to destroy others.

The birds are an interesting symbol in the film. They are considered messengers that go between humans and the spirit world. Birds have been used, historically, to give warnings of other unseen dangers, such as gas in a mine.

The blindness is symbolic on many levels. See no evil comes to mind. Blind trust also, which is connected to faith. The expression “seeing is believing” fits appropriately into this story. And the eyes being the windows of the soul give deeper meaning as well.

At the heart of Bird Box is Malorie. She’s tough, self-reliant and very protective of her heart. Not naming the children shows her determination to strengthen them so they will survive…as tenderness is seen as weakness…and it shows how much she fears losing them. Detachment seems vital to keeping her heart intact.

I enjoyed Bird Box. The intensity of some of the scenes certainly created tension however the symbolism, deeper messages and unanswered questions stirred my inquisitive nature. I’m still thinking about this movie and intend to watch it again so I can delve deeper.

I’d love to know your interpretations of the story!

Movie Review Bird Box

Movie Review: Robin Hood

I enjoy the story of Robin Hood, the nobility born man who becomes a thief. The outlaw robs from the rich and gives to the poor, transforming into a hero for the common people of Nottingham.

I’ve seen many versions of this story in my lifetime. So you can bet when trailers presented a new telling of this old tale, I intended to see it. This afternoon I slipped into the movie theater…and back to Medieval England.

Movie Review Robin Hood

Robin Hood Cast

This action adventure film stars Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx, Ben Mendelsohn, Eve Hewson, Jamie Dornan, Tim Minchin, J. Murray Abraham and Paul Anderson. Directed by Otto Bathurst, Robin Hood carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes and violence, and has a run time of 1 hour and 56 minutes.

Movie Review Robin Hood

Robin Hood’s Early Story

Robin of Loxley (Egerton) leaves his home in Nottingham, pressed into service to fight in the Crusades. He leaves as well Marian (Hewson) the woman he loves, promising to return. She vows to wait for him.

Four years later Robin is disillusioned with the war. His differing perspectives on how to treat captured Moors clashes with his commander, Guy of Gisborne (Anderson). The growing conflict between the two men comes to a head when Robin attempts to save the son of a Moor (Foxx), who initially tried to kill him. The youth is executed, however Robin frees the father.

Robin is shot with an arrow during the escape, and subsequently shipped back to England. There he finds his estate in ruins and Marian gone. Friar Tuck (Minchin) informs Robin that the Sheriff of Nottingham (Mendelson) seized his property two years ago, when Robin was declared dead. Marian now lives in a mining town with a man named Will (Dornan).

His old life destroyed, Robin intends to leave Nottingham. Instead he encounters the Moor he saved during the Crusade. The man stowed away on Robin’s ship bound for England. He wants to help Robin take back what’s his…his property, his title, and eventually the woman he loves. Robin of Loxley can’t pronounce his new friend’s name. The Moor tells him the English equivalent is John.

Movie Review Robin Hood

A Nobleman Becomes a Thief

John comes up with a two fold plan: Robin is to assume the role of nobleman to get close to the Sheriff of Nottingham and discover all he can about the heavy taxation that burdens the people. And in secret the young man becomes a thief, stealing from the Sheriff and giving back to the poor, which includes Marian and her man Will Scarlet.

Training begins. Robin is good with a bow, however John teaches him new techniques that enables arrows to be shot much more quickly.

John shortens Robin’s long coat, creating a jacket with a hood that covers the head. A scarf that belonged to John’s murdered son conceals Robin’s face.

As Robin of Loxley works his way into the Sheriff’s favor, he robs him in secret, setting up ambushes and pilfering coins. The people begin to call the thief The Hood, and remain unaware of his real identity. The Cardinal (Abraham) arrives, furious about the thefts and the elusiveness of The Hood.

At last Robin discovers the real intentions of the Sheriff and the purpose for the money collected by way of taxation. And the Cardinal backs the nefarious plan.

Robin must decide if he is a nobleman who has become a thief and an outlaw…or if he is stepping into the heroic role he was always intended to fulfill.

Movie Review Robin Hood

My Thoughts on Robin Hood

I enjoyed this latest adaptation of a favorite story. All the characters were present in the film, with fresh voices and slightly different relationships in a few instances. I liked the angle this story took, of Robin getting close to the Sheriff to better discover the man’s true intentions.

The cinematography was gorgeous and the action scenes well done. Visually this Robin Hood is a very appealing movie with much for the eyes to feast on and appreciate.

I’ve read criticism for the costuming, as the characters’ clothes were a unique blend of historical, contemporary and futuristic. This was intentional! The film’s set and costume designers were instructed very specifically about the desired look and they succeeded in accomplishing their directives. Rather than be critical that the clothes weren’t 100% historically accurate, I loved the overall look. The artist in me appreciated the marvelous creativity unleashed in the movie.

The use of the bows and the rapid firing of the arrows actually is an ancient technique. Lars Andersen of Denmark is an archery master. He was hired to teach the rapid fire and double arrow techniques to the cast. Take a look at one of his impressive YouTube Videos.

Movie Review Robin Hood

Fresh Robin Hood

I found a lot to like about this newest take on a familiar story. The fresh elements added to the retelling rather than detracting from it, for me. If I wanted to see Robin Hood told in the same way every time, I’d simply rewatch an older version.

But look what I would have missed! Alan Rickman’s darkly humorous Sheriff. Cary Ewles’ sarcasm. Russell Crowe’s gritty portrayal of the hero. Kevin Costner’s appearing and disappearing English accent. All the variations of the story combined create a much bigger and richer picture. I gain a nugget of truth, an aha, or words of inspiration from each one.

And that’s why I attend movies in the first place…to learn more about the way the world works and to discover in deeper ways who I am.

Movie Review Robin Hood

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

Yesterday I joined my mom and sister for a movie. We selected Fantastic Beasts : The Crimes of Grindelwald. I’m an ardent Harry Potter fan. I own the books and I’m slowing reading my way through the series. I’ve seen all eight of the Harry Potter films multiple times.

Two years ago a new series of movies launched, with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. This story in the wizarding world takes place in the 1920s and predates the time of Harry Potter, while building toward those events. The Crimes of Grindelwald is the second film of five in this series.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

The stars of this fantasy film include Eddie Redmayne, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Dan Fogler, Katherine Waterston, Zoë Kravitz, Callum Turner, Ezra Miller, Allison Sudol, and Claudia Kim . J.K. Rowling wrote the screenplay, based on characters she created in the Potter world. Directed by David Yates, the movie caries a PG-13 rating, for fantasy action sequences, and has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

Back to England

Set one year after the first film, the story opens with Gellert Grindelwald (Depp) escaping from his guards, en route to the British Ministry of Magic. Newt Scamander (Redmayne) is back in England as well, alone, caring for his growing collection of fantastic beasts.

He is approached by Albus Dumbledore (Law) with a mission: find Credence (Miller), the troubled young man thought dead in New York. Credence, who survived a vicious attack in North America, left his controlling adoptive mother. He seeks his birth family in Europe and desires to learn his story.

Credence ends up in Paris, France. He joins a traveling circus, and befriends Nagini (Kim), who has the ability to transform into a serpent. Together they abandon the circus, following a trail that might lead to Credence’s birth mother.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

Converging in Paris

As Credence searches for his true family, Grindelwald takes up residence in Paris. He is looking for Credence, whom he feels is key to a future where wizards rule the world.

Also arriving in Paris is Newt, with his impossible suitcase full of beasts. He unexpectedly meets up with companions from New York (and the first film), Jacob (Fogler) and Queenie (Sudol). Newt inquires about Tina (Waterston), Queenie’s sister and the woman Newt loves. As it turns out, Tina is in Paris too, hoping to find Credence before Grindelwald does.

And finally, Newt’s brother Theseus (Turner) and future sister-in-law, Leta Lestrange (Kravitz), are in the city as well, hunting for Credence with the intention of keeping him safe.

Wizards face off against wizards, and mysteries deepen as old families find new connections and new family members even. And a darkly charismatic master woos more and more from the wizarding community to join him and create a new world order.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

My Thoughts on The Crimes of Grindelwald

This film, that transitions to the middle of the story in this five part series, does exactly what it’s supposed to do. It adds depth to the tale, without resolving much of anything. In fact, it creates more questions than it answers…questions that will be answered as the story unfolds.

I enjoyed this return visit to the Potter Universe. As a fan I found much to rejoice over. Visually this is a stunning film, with fast paced action, rich backgrounds and those fantastic, magical beasts. I also appreciated all the Harry Potter references, known as Easter Eggs in movie terms. These are little nods to future events and characters that I know well.

It was wonderful to return to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, years and years before a boy named Harry would be a student there. And how fascinating to see a young Dumbledore, who would later become Hogwart’s Headmaster and the greatest of Wizards. Jude Law marvelously captures the older wizard’s gentle spirit, familiar mannerisms and twinkling eyes, in a fresh and dapper way.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

More Fantastic Beasts to Come

Jonny Depp, whom many felt was a controversial choice for Grindelwald, plays the dark wizard well. Depp excels at losing himself in a character and this is no exception. He is compelling to watch.

Being unfamiliar with this lead up to Voldemort and Harry Potter, I have no idea where the story goes from The Crimes of Grindelwald. However, I’m captivated and curious. I’m in. I look forward to seeing the next chapter, in 2020.

Until then, I’ll be rewatching the Harry Potter films and reading the books and humming that unforgettable theme song.

Fantastic Beasts The Crimes of Grindelwald

Movie Review: Outlaw King

The Scotsman Robert the Bruce, also known as the Outlaw King, began his reign in 1306 as a fugitive. This historical man is the subject of a new Netflix film, which released Friday on the network.

As one with Scottish ancestry, and a deep love for the country, I couldn’t wait to watch this biographical drama.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Outlaw King

Outlaw King stars Chris Pine, Stephen Dillane, Billy Howle, Tony Curran, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Florence Pugh and Josie O’Brien. David Mackenzie directed the film, which carries an R rating, for violence, language and brief nudity. Outlaw King has a run time of 2 hours and 1 minute.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Oppression and Civil Skirmishes

This story takes place immediately after William Wallace’s efforts to thwart the English by uniting the Scottish nobles against them. King Edward I (Dillane) of England seeks to control the Scots, and any desire to place a king of their own on the throne, by demanding taxation, pressing men into armed service, and creating alliances with nobility.

During this time of unrest and uncertainty, Wallace is killed by the English, inciting rage throughout Scotland.

Robert the Bruce (Pine), a descendant of Scotland’s King David, decides to challenge Edward I. First he eliminates a powerful rival for the throne, then he has himself declared king, becoming Robert I.

Robert the Bruce and his wife Elizabeth de Burgh (Pugh) are inaugurated King and Queen of Scots at Scone on March 25, 1306.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Fugitive King

The news immediately sends a ripple through Scotland and England. King Edward sends his son, Edward (Howle), Prince of Wales, to handle the upstart. Most of the Scottish nobility don’t recognize Bruce as king and fail to support him.

Robert the Bruce narrowly escapes capture when an English army attacks during the Battle of Methven. He sends his wife and daughter Marjorie (O’Brien) to safety while he becomes a fugitive. Not only is Robert trying to establish an independent Scotland, he’s also facing a civil war.

Surrounded by a small group of men led by his friend Angus Macdonald (Curran) and wild man James Douglas (Taylor-Johnson), the outlaw king strategizes. As they seek to draw more men to their side, for the battles that will come, the group seizes one castle after another. The Bruce makes the decision that every castle he takes is to be destroyed because for King Edward to win Scotland, he must garrison Scotland. And he can’t do that unless he has castles to seize.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Fight With Me

As more of Scotland’s people rally to the new king, England’s Prince of Wales closes in. King Edward I dies en route to battle the usurper. His son, whom many see as a weaker man, assumes leadership of the troops.

Robert I uses ingenious tactics to overthrow the superior military force that approaches. He arms hundreds of men with 20-foot-long spears that they hold, straight out in front of them. And he takes advantage of the boggy, marshy land that will become the battlefield. The Bruce deliberately chooses an area where the strength of the English troops can’t be brought into play. The English are knights in armor on horses, and the Scots are men on foot. They lead the unsuspecting English into the mire of the marshes where they become trapped.

Robert’s first victory as king comes in that place, on May 1307, at what is known as the Battle of Loudoun Hill.

Movie Review Outlaw King

My Thoughts on Outlaw King

I appreciate the attention to detail and the authenticity in this gritty action packed film. Fact checking is one of the things I do with historical movies and this one is extremely accurate in the telling of Bruce’s story.

I watched the unfolding of Outlaw King with teary eyes. This was a difficult time in Scotland’s history. Robert the Bruce sacrificed much to keep his country independent. The Scottish people suffered. As the English searched for the fugitive king, they ransacked and burned villages as they went, killing the men, sending the women and children to England.

Bruce’s wife and daughter were taken captive as well and sent out of the country. Fortunately they were recovered, unharmed, later. The King and Queen of Scotland raised a family together. Their descendant, James VI, later became king over both Scotland and England.

Movie Review Outlaw KingThe actor portraying James Douglas, who would become known as Black Douglas.

My Gratitudes

It’s easy to come up with five gratitudes, in connection with Outlaw King.

I’m grateful for this movie, which is in my favorite genre, historical drama. I especially appreciate its accuracy. My Scottish blood thrills to the fierceness of the people, and their desire to live in freedom. My own fierce independence is surely a result of my Scottish ancestry. And finally, seeing the mountains and rivers and lochs of Scotland pierces my heart and creates such a desire to “go home”.

Outlaw King drew from me hearty cheers for battles won, and a sigh of longing for Scotland. I’ll be there again soon. And when I next stand on Scottish soil I will pause to express gratitude for Robert the Bruce, who did so much to unite this beautiful country.

Movie Review Outlaw King

Movie Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

I’m taking a slight departure from the 5 Daily Gratitudes. Today I’m at last sharing the movie review for Bohemian Rhapsody, the musical biopic of Queen lead singer, Freddie Mercury. I’ll combine all five of today’s gratitudes with appreciation for this film.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody

Bohemian Rhapsody

This film stars Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee, Ben Hardy, Joseph Mazzello, Tom Hollander and Mike Myers. Directed by Byran Singer initially and later by Dexter Fletcher, Bohemian Rhapsody carries a PG-13 rating, for adult themes and language. It has a run time of 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody

From Smile to Queen

Bohemian Rhapsody is based on the true story of the rise of the legendary musical group Queen. Initially called Smile, the band has just lost its lead vocalist when a young unknown singer, with the self-given name of Freddie Mercury (Malek), boldly asks to step in as the replacement. The other band members, Brian May (Lee), Roger Taylor (Hardy) and John Deacon (Mazzello), reluctantly agree to let Freddie join the group.

It’s a good decision. Freddie’s gifted voice, high energy dance moves on stage and unwavering sense of self, launches the band onto the road of success. Freddie’s girlfriend at the time, Mary Austin (Boynton), encourages him to find his own sense of style, which he does, outlandishly.

“I love the way you move on stage. The whole room belongs to you. Don’t you see what you can be?” Mary Austin

As they rise in popularity, the band changes their name to Queen, at Freddie’s insistence. They acquire a team of managers, a label deal overseen by Ray Foster (Myers) and a legal advisor, Jim Beach (Hollander), who later assumes the role of sole manager.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody

Meteoric Rise

Freddie shatters stereotypes as the band gains an extraordinary following. With his showmanship and ability to connect with audiences, and the group’s unconventional and revolutionary sound and lyrics, Queen garners recognition and incredible success. Feeling the need to continually create fresh songs and sounds, the band presents the song “Bohemian Rhapsody” to Foster, eager to release it as a single from their newest album, A Night at the Opera. The six minute long song, with its mix of hard rock, ballad and opera, is deemed too strange and too long by Foster.

The band decides to go out on their own and promote their song…and the rest, as they say, is history.

Live Aid Concert

At the height of their rise to stardom, influenced by people with darker motives,  Freddie strikes out on his own for a time. But in trying to launch a solo career, he suffers greatly.  Cut off from the band members he considers family, and from Mary, whom he declares is the love of his life, Freddie flounders. He becomes caught in a cycle of drugs, alcohol and outrageous parties that last for days. Ultimately, Freddie returns to Queen and to the friendship with Mary, who has been his anchor throughout his adult life.

The band reunites in time to perform at the Live Aid Concert in July of 1985. Even though he has just received an AIDS diagnosis, Freddie leads Queen onto the stage and through one of the greatest performances in the history of rock music.

Movie Review Bohemian RhapsodyRami Malek as Freddie on the left, and Freddie at the real Live Aid Concert, on the right.

My Thoughts on Bohemian Rhapsody

I’ve appreciated the band Queen since my late teens. I have not really understood why, other than I loved their quirky lyrics on some of their songs. They performed a wide range of music, however, from songs with operatic overtones to classic rock to ballads. I’ve turned to their songs over and over again, during my life, and thrilled to movie soundtracks that included “We Will Rock You” and “We Are the Champions”. When I learned there would be a movie depicting Freddie Mercury and Queen, I was excited.

And I was not disappointed. It’s fun to see how the band came together and hear the beginnings of songs that later inspired the whole world. Those “behind the curtain” type of scenes made me smile.

One of the taglines of the film, however, is what drew me.

“The only thing more extraordinary then their music, is his story. The music you know, the story you don’t.”

Learning about Freddie’s story, I finally discovered why I have always been drawn to Queen.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody

A Bohemian’s Story

I was inspired by Freddie’s story. Yes, there are dark bits, and sad parts, and his crazy, over the top antics….and there is brilliance, and that powerful sense of self, and his desire to make people, especially people who live on the edges, feel connected. Freddie defied labels. If he called himself anything, it was a misfit. And he wanted other misfits to feel that they belonged to him, to Queen. He had a marvelous way of bringing people together and creating a family.

Becoming Freddie

Rami Malek brings Freddie back to life in amazing ways. He wore a mouth piece, to duplicate Freddie’s endearing overbite. And his singing voice, through the power of technology, was merged with Freddie’s and Canadian singer Marc Martel, whose voice is very similar to Mercury’s. Rami had a movement coach who helped him to duplicate every nuance of Freddie’s mannerisms. All that work shows. Rami becomes Freddie.

The man who shows us who Freddie was, has a wonderful quote that sums up what inspires me about the Queen lead singer.

“Freddie was a revolutionary. He was a defiant human being who refused to be segregated and marginalized in any way. You couldn’t put a label on him and what he wanted to do is live his most authentic self. And I think that’s what he preached with his music, and his relationship with his audience…to be exactly what you want to be. I hope people can sing as loudly as Freddie did and own every truth of theirs, and not feel like they have to hide anything…and to enjoy exactly who they were meant to be.”  Rami Malek

Yes, those words, that’s it. He shone brightly, Freddie Mercury did, and for too brief of a time. I wished I’d known more about him while he lived.

And so my gratitudes today are these: I am grateful for movies like Bohemian Rhapsody that give me a deeper glimpse into an extraordinary life. My appreciation for Freddie Mercury has expanded. I’m thankful for his music, for his life and most of all, for his desire to be who he knew he was created to be. He offered himself to the world through his music. And my bohemian spirit connects with this man, this self proclaimed misfit, and joins his rhapsody, his enthusiastic, ecstatic expression of being.

Movie Review Bohemian Rhapsody

 

 

 

Movie Review: A Star is Born

When I heard about this remake, the 4th movie titled A Star is Born, I was intrigued. The last version, starring Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson, released in 1976. I was ready for a fresh take on the musically rich film.

Daughter Elissa, who had not seen any of the previous versions, joined me for a Saturday night showing.

Movie Review A Star is Born

A Star is Born Cast

The musical drama stars Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Sam Elliot and Rafi Gavron. Bradley Cooper also co-wrote the screenplay, based on the earlier versions of the film, and made his directorial debut. A Star is Born carries an R rating, for language and adult themes, and has a run time of 2 hours and 16 minutes.

Many of the songs featured in the movie were written by Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper or both, and performed by them also, wonderfully well.

The Story

Jackson Maine (Cooper) is a seasoned musician, with some hardcore vices, traveling from concert to concert. His life revolves around singing and writing music, alcohol and drugs. Late one night he walks into a bar, in search of a drink, and catches a remarkable performance that enchants him.

Ally (Lady Gaga) is an aspiring artist who writes her own songs but does not sing them. She has almost given up on a career in the music industry. Too many times she’s been told she has a beautiful voice…but not the conventional looks needed to succeed as a musician.

Movie Review A Star is Born

Jack appreciates Ally’s unconventional beauty and her musical abilities. She has a fresh perspective on life and translates what she sees into soulful lyrics.

A relationship immediately blossoms between Jack and Ally. She accompanies him as he completes his tour. And he pulls her, literally, into the spotlight, encouraging her to use her voice to tell her stories. Jack’s older half brother Bobby (Elliot), an accomplished musician himself, travels with the entourage, acting as both manager and father figure.

After she’s recruited by high level talent manager Rez (Gavron), Ally’s star rises and opportunities abound. However Jack descends. He teeters on the edge of a dark abyss where alcohol and drugs wait. Their love is real, the musical talents of both are very real. Life lived publicly is hard.

Movie Review A Star is Born

My Thoughts on A Star is Born

This is a beautiful remake. I thought I remembered the story from the 1976 film. However, apparently I have very selective memories about it. Although the names change in each version, and the different times are reflected in each film, the basic story is similar. For me though it was like watching for the first time.

Lady Gaga and Bradley Copper are amazing together. They have strong chemistry that makes their onscreen relationship all the more believable and their struggles heartbreaking.

I love the musical soundtrack accompanying the story. Lady Gaga not only unleashes her voice, she shines as an actress. And Bradley Cooper possesses a wonderful voice as well. As the man behind the camera and in front of it, he skillfully builds an emotionally packed film that had the theater audience laughing and crying, in turns.

Movie Review A Star is Born

Telling the Story

My favorite quote from this movie occurs when Bobby shares with Ally Jack’s thoughts about creating music.

“Jack talked about how music is essentially twelve notes between any octave. Twelve notes and the octave repeats. It’s the same story told over and over, forever. All any artist can offer the world is how they see those twelve notes. That’s it. He loved how you see them.”

The same is true with telling stories. We have 26 letters, in the English language, to combine into words and sentences. How we combine those letters reflects how we view the world, and ourselves. Bradley Cooper offers A Star is Born as his story to the world, and it is a worthy one to receive.

View it. I intend to watch A Star is Born again, most likely after it releases digitally so I can enjoy the film at home. In the meantime, I am listening to the soundtrack. “Shallow” is on replay, on my phone and in my head. Have a listen too.

Movie Review: Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

What a treat this afternoon, to attend a movie after school with several of my grandchildren. When I announced we were headed to a showing of Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween, one child excitedly pulled a RL Stine book from a backpack, to show me this was an excellent choice.

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween Cast

Haunted Halloween stars Wendi McLendon-Covey, Madison Iseman, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Caleel Harris and Jack Black. This family adventure comedy, directed by Ari Sandel, is based upon the Scholastic Goosebumps series, written by RL Stine, who had a cameo in the film. Goosebumps 2 carries a PG rating, for suspense, and has a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween follows the adventures of siblings Sarah (Iseman) and Sonny (Taylor) and Sonny’s friend Sam (Harris), as the spooky holiday approaches. Single mom Kathy (McLendon-Covey) is busy working double shifts, leaving Sarah to keep an eye on her brother and Sam, who is spending a few days with the family.

While Sarah works on a college entrance essay, Sonny and Sam begin an entrepreneurial endeavor as the Junk Brothers. They offer their services cleaning trash out of houses, in exchange for items of value collected in the process.

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Slappy the Ventriloquist Dummy

The boys’ first junkin’ job takes them to a creepy abandoned house with the name STINE lettered on it. Inside they discovered a secret room containing a chest. Within the chest is a single object…a partially written book called Haunted Halloween. After opening the book and reading an incantation inside, Sonny and Sam are startled to find a ventriloquist dummy resting in the once empty box.

They soon realize this is no ordinary dummy. It comes to life, walking and talking, and he shares his name…Slappy. At first Slappy seems innocent enough, if an inanimate object that walks and talks can be considered such. The dummy helps with chores and homework, defends the boys against bullies and protects Sarah from an inconsiderate boyfriend. It seems Slappy just wants to be part of a family.

However, things turn more sinister when Slappy’s true motives are revealed. His magical abilities animate the town’s Halloween decorations, creating havoc while Slappy gathers a very unconventional family around him. Sarah, Sonny and Sam realize the key to stopping Slappy is finishing the book that reclusive author RL Stine (Black) began 30 years ago. Will they be able to write the ending of Haunted Halloween before Slappy’s takeover is complete?

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

Thoughts About Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

This was a fun movie to watch with kids…my grandkids and the other children in the theater audience. I love how expressive children are, even when they are reacting in hushed tones.

I found the film to be more humorous than scary, although an animated ventriloquist dummy definitely adds a high level of creepiness to the story. Slappy doesn’t come across as evil as much as he does calculating and determined. He does have a wicked cackle however!

I asked my grandkids what they would add to my review. All three have seen Goosebumps 1…and I have not. Two of the three kids preferred this movie to the first one. They were not bothered by Scrappy at all even though they agreed that they would not want a ventriloquist dummy in their house.

One of their favorite scenes in the movie involved gummy bears. Who would have thought that those little fruit flavored chewy snacks could have a mean streak? The kids enjoyed a film in which children their age, and slightly older, are the heroes of the story.

My favorite scene took place in a store with a seasonal aisle. As the Halloween masks came alive, arms, legs and bodies grew from the bottom edge of the mask, until a full sized form existed. The effect was very cool!

Most of all, I enjoyed watching my grandchildren’s reactions and listening to their whispered comments and chuckles. And if they occasionally held my hand or snuggled close, laying a head on my shoulder, or flashed me a grin in the darkness, well that was worth the price of admission.

Movie Review Goosebumps 2 Haunted Halloween

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

Yes.

Movie Review Queen of Katwe