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

Hearts Beat Loud at Bookhouse Cinema

I had the pleasure of viewing an indie film yesterday, at Joplin’s indie theater, Bookhouse Cinema. This is a movie review of the sweet film…and, creating a play on words, this is also an expression of gratitude for the fun and unique venue.

Hearts Beat Loud at Bookhouse Cinema

Hearts Beat Loud stars Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Toni Collette, Ted Danson, Sasha Lane and Blythe Danner. This drama was directed by Brett Haley, who co-wrote the screenplay with Marc Basch. The film carries a PG-13 rating, for brief language and drug references, and has a run time of 1 hour and 37 minutes.

Samantha (Clemons) is spending her final summer at home in Brooklyn, with her dad Frank (Offerman), before attending UCLA in the fall. She has big dreams and goals that will help her achieve her dream of becoming a doctor. Taking preparatory premed classes over the summer leaves her little time for fun or for socializing with her new friend Rose (Lane) or for hanging out with her dad.

Frank, a former small time musician, owns and operates a vintage record shop in the trendy Red Hook section of Brooklyn. But after 17 years business is almost nonexistent. Frank feels restless and ready for a change, and as a single dad, he is eager to spend time with his only child before she flies across the country.

Hearts Beat Loud at Bookhouse Cinema

During a weekly jam session with his daughter, who is a reluctant participant, Frank discovers that Sam has written a song. Titled Hearts Beat Loud, the beautifully haunting song conveys an innocent yet genuine longing for love and connection in a relationship. Together the dad/daughter duo record the song and Frank downloads it on Spotify, with surprising results.

During a summer filled with making memories and tough decisions, facing changes and holding on to relationships, Frank and Sam experience a few minutes together in the limelight, in the unique position of having a band together.

Hearts Beat Loud at Bookhouse Cinema

This fresh indie film also featured Toni Collette as Frank’s landlord/romantic interest, Ted Danson as a laid back bar owner who discovers living life on the edge, and Blythe Danner as Frank’s aging mom who has sticky fingers when she shops. The whole cast worked incredible well together, creating believable relationships and touching interactions.

The highlight of the film was the father/daughter connection between Frank and Sam. That delicate balance between loving a child and encouraging her to go for her dreams, and wanting to keep her a child and at home forever was played out with poignancy and humor. Greg and I watched the movie with our own daughter, with whom we’ve experienced that time of letting go, and our grandson who will be returning to the university next month for his sophomore year. Elissa, like all parents, has been in the role of the one who set off to create her own life, and the parent who has raised her child to pursue his own dreams. It was all bittersweet.

Hearts Beat Loud at Bookhouse Cinema

This story on the big screen unfolded before us in the perfect setting and atmosphere. I’ve attended Bookhouse Cinema for several indie films and documentaries and I adore this theater! The staff is friendly and helpful and the owners hard working and engaging. I love the comfortable theater room. And the adjoining pub offers a place to gather before or after the show. They serve high quality foods with vegan options, snacks, and an assortment of alcoholic and non alcohol drinks.

Hearts Beat Loud at Bookhouse Cinema

I love too that Bookhouse offers help yourself lemon/lime water or cucumber water, free of charge. Drinks and food can be eaten in the pub or carried into the theater to enjoy during the movie. Check out Bookhouse Cinema HERE to see upcoming movies and documentaries, and see their schedule for other in-house events. And then check them out in person. They are located at 715 E Broadway in Joplin.

It’s wonderful to have such a unique theater in my city, operated by people who care deeply about offering quality films and a quality experience to their patrons. Hearts really do Beat Loud at Bookhouse Cinema.

Hearts Beat Loud at Bookhouse Cinema

Movie Review: Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic Park released in theaters in 1993. This movie about genetically engineered dinosaurs was such a big hit that two more films followed. After a long lull, a new film, Jurassic World, relaunched the franchise in 2015, much to the excitement of fans. Most of the characters in the new story changed, but dinosaurs were back in the park, contained better in their enclosures, ready again for visitors. Or were they better contained? If you saw that film, you know!

Late this afternoon, my mom, sister Linda and I were in the theater for the latest installment in the Jurassic World film series, movie number five.

Movie Review Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom stars Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rafe Spall, Justice Smith, Daniella Pineda, James Cromwell, Toby Jones, Ted Levine, Jeff Goldblum and Isabella Sermon. This action drama, directed by J.A. Bayona, is rated PG-13, for intense action and violence, and has a run time of 2 hours and 8 minutes.

Fallen Kingdom begins four years after the catastrophe in the reopened park, as portrayed in the movie Jurassic World. Humans abandoned Isla Nublar, leaving the dinosaurs to rule the island. But, humans just can’t leave dinosaurs alone. Drawn by fascination and appreciation for them or by a desire to control and exploit them, people once again travel to the island as the volcano that formed it becomes active, threatening to destroy it and all life upon it.

Before a US Senate hearing, mathematician Dr. Ian Malcolm (Goldblum) suggests the dinosaurs on Isla Nublar should be allowed to perish. He argues that nature is correcting the error that John Hammond made when he cloned extinct beasts. However, others feel differently.

Claire Dearing (Howard) has created the Dinosaur Protection Group in an effort to save the animals. She meets with Benjamin Lockwood (Cromwell), Hammonds’ former partner who helped create the cloning technology. Ill and near the end of his life, Lockwood and his assistant Eli (Spall) share with Claire their intention to rescue the dinosaurs and relocate them to a remote island where they can live without human interaction. In fact, the rescue is already under way. The men request help in locating Blue, the last living velociraptor that Owen Grady (Pratt), former trainer at Jurassic World, raised and trained.

Movie Review Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Claire gathers a team that includes Owen, paleo-vet Zia Rodriguez (Pineda) and tech wiz Franklin Webb (Smith). They travel to the island where they meet the head of the tracking operations, Ken Wheatley (Levine), a no nonsense man who cares little for the dinosaurs. His only interests are collecting teeth from the captured beasts as trophies for a necklace, and a big monetary bonus for completing the job.

The island is teeming with dinosaurs, but their lives are threatened by the volcano which is about to erupt. Owen quickly locates Blue, however, Ken and his team of hunters reveal their true intentions after they sedate the velociraptor. They transfer the caged dinosaurs to a waiting ship and abandon Claire and her team, leaving them to perish along with the inhabitants of the island. Quick thinking and daring actions land the team on the departing vessel just as lava pours down to the sea, destroying all life.

Movie Review Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Back in the US, the dinosaurs are taken by massive trucks to Lockwood’s estate. Eli never intended to relocate the animals to a safe island. He is joined at the estate by auctioneer Gunnar Eversol (Jones). They have much darker plans for the dinosaurs, plans that will bring wealthy bidders from around the world and greatly fatten their bank accounts.

Lockwood’s young granddaughter Maisie (Sermon) joins Claire, Owen, Zia and Franklin in attempting a countermove that will not only block Eli’s plans but save the last of the dinosaurs for becoming extinct again.

Movie Review Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

This was a fun film to watch. There was plenty of fast paced action, an abundance of humor, and many jump worthy moments scattered through the movie. I’m a big fan of Chris Pratt, also known for the Guardian of the Galaxy films, and I’ve enjoyed his character in the two newest Jurassic World films.

The real stars of the movies though are the computer generated dinosaurs. Isn’t that what we all go to see? Since childhood I’ve thought about how amazing it would be to travel back in time and see what dinosaurs looked like. How did the move and interact? What colors were they? What sounds did they make and did they smell bad? I’ve always been so curious about these animals that disappeared from the earth ages ago.

That’s the appeal of these films. I get to experience a bit of the wonder of seeing dinosaurs back on the earth. It truly would be a life changing experience. And…would it be right to bring them back? That is the question all of the movies in this series have posed. Is it ethically wrong to clone these beasts?

Movie Review Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

The massive amount of destruction that takes place anytime dinosaurs are present seems to indicate it’s wrong. There’s much running from dinosaurs, hiding from dinosaurs and being eaten by dinosaurs portrayed in the movies. So far, these massive creatures and humans have not mixed well.

And yet…I felt very sad as the island was destroyed, and trapped dinosaurs cried out as they died. And I was troubled again as decisions had to be made concerning the rescued beasts. The dilemma is, once life is created, rightly or wrongly, what responsibility do we have to protect that life? And at what costs?

It’s a question to think about…beyond the scope of this story. And it is a question that we will surely return to, in future Jurassic World films.

Movie Review Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom

Movie Review: Deadpool 2

My sister Linda and I took in an evening movie, viewing the sequel to the highly successful Deadpool film. Deadpool 2 was rowdy riotous fun, with some surprisingly touching deeper messages.

It’s late, however, so here’s a quick review!

Movie Review Deadpool 2

Deadpool 2 stars Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Leslie Uggams, Karan Soni, Brianna Hildebrand and Stefan Kapicic. This action/adventure/comedy, directed by David Leitch, carries an R rating for language, violence and sexual references, and has a run time of 1 hour and 59 minutes.

Wade Wilson, AKA Deadpool (Reynolds), is a mouthy mercenary with a dubious superhero status. Deadpool describes himself as a bad guy, who goes after other guys who are worse than him. His superpowers include above average strength and the ability to heal from any injury, making him impossible to kill. In his line of work, that’s a handy trait.

Movie Review Deadpool 2

Things quickly go awry when Deadpool’s work follows him home, causing him to lose his long time girlfriend Vanessa (Baccarin), and altering his life. He seeks healing at X-Mansion, home of the X-Men. During his time there he, Colossus (voiced by Kapicic), and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Hildebrand) engage in a stand off with an angry 14 year mutant. Russell/Firefist (Dennison) is unstable and holding people at bay at an orphanage for mutants. When Deadpool realizes the boy has been abused at the home, he kills an attendant. He and Russell are arrested and detained in a prison for mutants.

A cyborg from the future, Cable (Brolin), arrives with the intention of killing Russell. Cable knows what the boy becomes as an adult. He hopes to change the future and save many lives by removing Russell.

Movie Review Deadpool 2

Deadpool escapes from prison and confers with his small circle of friends…Weasel (Miller), Blind Al (Uggams), and Dopinder (Soni). He forms a team to help him stop Cable and rescue Russell, with the hope of changing the boy’s heart and his path. His new team quickly falls apart, leaving only Domino (Beetz) to help him, until Colossus, Warhead, and Dopinder join them.

When a new threat arrives, one that urges the boy on to foul deeds, Deadpool and his team must decide whether to end a life that greatly impacts the future…or to save the mutant boy by appealing to his humanity and his heart.

Movie Review Deadpool 2

While my description above is a short and accurate summary of the film’s story, it fails to capture the outrageousness of a Deadpool movie! These films from the Marvel Universe differ from the others in the franchise. Deadpool’s character is more of an anti-hero than a typical superhero. He’s funny, obnoxious, curses…a lot…spouts innuendo…a lot…and doesn’t hesitate to use extreme force to rid the world of bad guys.

And yet, Deadpool…played perfectly by Reynolds…has a good heart. He just has to get his heart in the right place, his girlfriend tells him.

In a quirky, out of the box, off the wall kind of way, Deadpool 2 is about family, friendship and transformation. It’s about growing into the person one is meant to be and being willing to change.

The Deadpool films aren’t for everyone, and certainly are not for children. But I enjoyed this latest adventure in the Marvel Universe with the unlikeliest of heroes. I smiled. I laughed. I teared up. And I look forward to seeing where Deadpool journeys to next.

Movie Review Deadpool 2

Movie Review: The Death of Stalin

I was excited this morning, when I spied a post from Joplin’s new indie theater, Bookhouse Cinema. The political satire film, The Death of Stalin, was playing this weekend! This is a movie I’ve been aware of for several months. The reviews have been excellent however, I figured I’d have to catch it later on Netflix.

Not so! Bookhouse listed movie times. I was in the full theater for the 4:15 showing this afternoon.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

The Death of Stalin stars Steve Buscemi, Jeffrey Tambor, Simon Russell Beale, Adrian McLoughlin, Michael Palin, Jason Isaacs, Paul Whitehouse, Andrea Riseborough, Rupert Friend and Paul Chahidi. This dark comedy, directed by Armando Iannucci, is rated R for adult themes, language and violence, and has a run time of 1 hour and 47 minutes. The movie is adapted from the comic book by the same name, written by Thierry Robin and Fabien Nury. Iannucci co-wrote the screenplay.

The movie begins in March 1953. As he listens to a recording of a concert, and reads a note from an unhappy citizen, Josef Stalin (McLoughlin), doubles over in pain and falls to the floor. When he is found, barely clinging to life, the senior members of his Council of Ministers hastily gather to make important, far reaching decisions. As they jockey for power and position, Stalin dies…and chaos ensues.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

The Council Members include Nikita Khrushchev (Buscemi), Deputy Malenkov (Tambor) who will assume leadership, Anastas Mikoyan (Whitehouse), Vyacheslav Molotov (Palin), Nicolai Bulganin (Chahidi), and Lavrenti Beria (Beale), head of the secret police.

Even though Malenkov steps into authority, he is beset by indecision and swings between emotional highs and lows. This polarizes the rest of the Council Members. Beria, a ruthless man who is responsible for the death of millions, has his own agenda, designed to seize control. The others attempt to safeguard their own lives while wavering between Malenkov and Beria.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

Stalin’s children arrive to further add to the confusion. Daughter Svetlana (Riseborough) mourns her father and tries to keep her alcoholic brother Vasily (Friend) in check. And Field Marshall Zhukov (Isaacs) brings the stoic discipline of the military into the mix as the uncertainty within the council spills over to the country.

After Stalin’s funeral, the tension between the quarreling would-be leaders comes to a head, forcing decisions to be made that will affect a nation.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

This was an amazing indie film. What can’t be discerned from my bare bones description above, is that this film is a comedy…a dark one, but full of humor nonetheless. The casting is brilliant, with great energy between the actors. The director made the decision early on to allow the actors to speak in their own accents, rather than attempt Russian ones. The result is Russian historical characters speaking in a mix of English and American accents…and it works.

The portrayals of these players struggling for power after Stalin’s death is over the top, which creates much of the humor, and yet they accurately convey historical events. I always fact check after watching a movie based on real people and real events. The Death of Stalin gets the important details in, although they compress the timeline somewhat.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

I was amazed to discover that some of the craziest scenes were true! The concert that had to be repeated, after locking the audience into the room, happened…a bit differently than portrayed but Stalin did request a recording of the performance. After failing to set up the recording equipment, the radio manager made the musicians repeat the concert so that Stalin got his record.

Many people in Stalin’s Russia did crazy things, because they were afraid. The dark part of this comedy is realizing that the fear the people lived in was real. Being in the wrong place, witnessing the wrong thing, displeasing those in authority resulted in immediate execution, or worse, a slow torturous death at the hands of Beria and his men.

As a satire, this film works incredibly well. The humor is needed, or this would be a heavy movie to watch. I appreciated being able to break the tension through laughter. And I appreciated as well the glimpse into another country’s history. It’s good to be reminded occasionally of what has transpired in the past so that history does not repeat itself because we are unaware.

I look forward to seeing what Armando Iannucci presents next.

Movie Review The Death of Stalin

Movie Review: A Quiet Place

My sister Linda and I took advantage of our Movie Pass cards, and in my case a free movie ticket because of racked up points, to catch an afternoon matinee. I’ve been interested in the film A Quiet Place since seeing the previews. The movie released in early April, and it’s doing very well, considering its genre. We were ready to see why this monster movie has experienced such a long and successful run.

Movie Review A Quiet Place

A Quiet Place stars Emily Blunt, John Krasinki, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe and Cade Woodward. This sci-fi horror was directed by John Krasinki, who also co-wrote the screenplay. The movie carries a PG-13 rating, for intense scenes of terror, and has a run time of 1 hour and 30 minutes.

The film opens on Day 89, somewhere in rural America. Lee (Krasinki) and Evelyn (Blunt) Abbott are out on a salvaging mission with their three children, Regan (Simmonds), Marcus (Jupe) and Beau (Woodward). The town they enter appears to be deserted, and the grocery store the family is loading up supplies from is dark and ransacked.

Evelyn carefully sorts through prescription bottles for a drug to give Marcus, who has been ill. The other children quietly look at items left on the shelves, searching for anything useful. When Lee appears with his backpack loaded, it’s time for the family to head home before darkness falls.

Movie Review A Quiet Place

Although this appears to be a typical trip to town for the Abbotts, it’s anything but normal. The family members wear jackets, scarves and caps, and yet each of them is barefoot. And no one says a word. They communicate by sign language. The path home, through eerily silent woods, is carefully marked with a thick layer of sand to soften their footsteps.

It appears that the US, and indeed the world, has come under attack. Most of the population is gone. Those who have survived continue to do so only by remaining silent. A tragic mistake, on the way home, provides a horrifying reminder about the importance of being as quiet as possible. If you make noise, you die.

Movie Review A Quiet Place

The story jumps ahead to Day 389. The Abbotts have settled into a soundless daily routine. Evelyn is very obviously nearing the end of a pregnancy. The children help with chores, receive school lessons from their mom, and play Monopoly at night using cloth pieces on the board. Regan, it seems, is deaf. She wears a cochlear device that her father keeps tinkering with, and yet her world remains deeply silent.

Lee divides his time between providing fish and vegetables for his family, monitoring their property for intruders and sending out SOS radio signals to countries around the world. No one has replied. There are people still living in their area though. They light fires at night, atop towers, to signal that they survive still. Lee rigs up a lighting system around his house and outbuildings. Clear lights mean all is well. Red means danger.

It’s in Lee’s basement room, set up with radios and the monitoring equipment, that signs of what happened a year ago are displayed. He has newspaper clippings, handwritten notes and drawings that tell the story. The world was invaded, in early 2020. One paper headline reads, “Meteor hits Mexico with the force of a nuke”. However, it wasn’t a meteor apparently. Tall, lanky creatures with sharp teeth roam the world, hunting down and killing anything that makes sound. Lee’s notes indicate the creatures are blind, covered with an armored hide that can’t be pierced, and have extremely sensitive hearing that leads them to their prey.

Movie Review A Quiet Place

As the time approaches for the baby’s birth, preparations are made. Lee and Evelyn do as much soundproofing as possible in the basement room. They fashion a box for the newborn, complete with an oxygen source and a tight fitting lid, to minimize sound, because babies are not quiet!

Lee and Marcus leave to check fish traps, after a silent but intense argument between father and daughter. And Evelyn is following her routine when her water breaks, signaling the baby is coming earlier than expected. Afraid and in pain, she inadvertently does the one thing she cannot do, and keep herself and her family safe from the predators. She makes a sound.

Movie Review A Quiet Place

This movie was intense…and very unique. The silence on the big screen, which was complete except for occasional background music and very brief conversations, penetrated into the movie theater itself, deepening the tension. People behind us stopped eating their popcorn, because it was too noisy! I needed to cough once…and choked it back instead. We all became so invested in the safety of the characters on the screen that we hesitated to make any sounds as well.

I loved how unique the story concept was. Sign language was used throughout the film with subtitles provided so the viewers could follow along. The level of intensity heightened the terror of the situation. I jumped several times. Close up camera shots and tight angles allowed the facial features of the actors to convey emotions such as terror or relief. Eyes opened wide, a tear running down a cheek or the mouth open in a silent cry made words unnecessary.

Movie Review A Quiet Place

Other things I appreciated about A Quiet Place include:

Emily Blunt and John Krasinki, who play husband and wife in the film, are married in real life. Their chemistry was amazing. I trust that means they have a wonderful relationship.

John co-wrote, directed and starred in the film, with his wife’s support and encouragement. He is known for several comedic roles, including a part in The Office. He did a phenomenal job carrying out multiple roles in the film.

Millicent Simmonds, who plays the Abbotts hearing impaired daughter, is actually deaf. Krasinki credits her with not only helping the rest of the cast learn American Sign Language, she also made valuable suggestions for scenes in the film, from her life perspective.

And, I liked that very little was explained in the film. The audience was forced to rely on visual clues, that weren’t overly obvious, and some speculation about what had happened in the past and how things might be resolved in the future. Linda and I agreed we would be thinking about this movie for a long time.

At the core of this monster movie is a story about a family learning to adapt and survive, together. The parents vow to protect their children while providing as much normalcy as possible. The children behave like children, most of the time, until more is demanded of them.

The overarching theme of A Quiet Place is love. And it shows. Literally. One of the most poignant scenes comes when Lee signs to his children, “I love you. I have always loved you.” He didn’t have to say the words aloud. They knew. I knew. And a silent tear rolled down my cheek.

Movie Review A Quiet Place