Friday, June 8, 2018

Movie Review Mom becomes a cartoon

I attended the Licensing Expo in Las Vegas last week and met an artist at one of the booths who drew this picture for me as the Movie Review Mom.   Cute, right?

Do you think it looks like me?

Sunday, May 27, 2018

I hope Sesame Street wins

The creators of the iconic children’s show Sesame Street are suing over an upcoming Melissa McCarthy film that they say hijacks the show’s brand to depict puppets engaging in lewd activities. 

I hope they win.  Have you seen the trailer for this movie?  It's disgusting.

In a lawsuit filed this week against the STX film studio, Sesame Street’s parent company says the R-rated movie, The Happytime Murders, threatens to damage its brand with “explicit, profane, drug-using, misogynistic, violent, copulating, and even ejaculating puppets.” The film, slated for an August release and directed by one of Jim Henson’s family members, features the tagline, “No Sesame. All Street.” “Sesame seeks an injunction that forces Defendants to cease and desist their trading upon the goodwill associated with Sesame Street in furtherance of box office receipts,” the lawsuit says. “The promotion of The Happytime Murders should succeed or fail on its own merits, not on a cynical, unlawful attempt to deceive and confuse the public into associating it with the most celebrated children’s program in history.” 

STX responded by expressing disappointment that Sesame Street “does not share in the fun” and vowed to fight the lawsuit in court.  Share in the fun?  The trailer depicts absolutely disgusting behavior.  STX needs to go back to kindergarten to learn the difference between right and wrong, distasteful and fun,  as well as disrespectful and fun.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story gets passionate mixed reviews

Movie Title: SOLO: A Star Wars Story

Grade:  B

Rating: PG-13,

In a Nutshell:   It’s always really fun to watch a movie with an enthusiastic crowd, especially fans of a beloved franchise like STAR WARS.  I've been a fan ever since I was a young girl when the very first one hit the Big Screen.

The audience clapped every time a significant moment of introduction appeared on the screen, like when Han Solo got his name, when he met Chewbacca, and when he first set his eyes on the Millennium Falcon.  The audience I sat with cheered and clapped, but I admit I was surprised at how small the audience actually was.  Where is everyone?  Apparently, they’re busy Tweeting about how much they don’t like this movie.

After a lot of directorial drama and studio politics, Ron Howard directed this prequel after saying no to the gig 18 years ago when he was asked to direct Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.  This becomes the first time an Academy Award-winning director ever made a Star Wars film.  Was it worth the wait?  I'd love to hear what YOU think!


Tips for parents: 
  • Lots of fighting and violence with a very high body count.
  • Some profanity.
  • Han Solo and his team are in perilous situations almost all of the time.

Uplifting theme: 
  • Good vs. evil
  • Hope
  • Trust and deceit
  • Friendship
  • Loyalty
Things I liked:
  • This new edition to the franchise includes fan favorites like Woody Harrelson, Paul Bettany, Donald Glover, and of course, Emilia Clarke.
  • Alden Ehrenreich does a good job as Han Solo.  He’s charming and playful enough.  Some fans are complaining that this movie doesn’t deepen Han’s character, but that's due to the writing, not to his acting ability.  I finally remembered where I had seen Ehrenreich before...the movie Hail, Caesar! 
  • Lots of fun, new creatures to entertain and delight audiences.
  • There are a lot of impressive action sequences and CGI.
  • I saw the film in 3D, but it’s also good without it.
  • There is a fun cameo appearance at the end of the movie that made the audience squeal.
  • Chewbacca is so awesome. 
  • There are some respectful nods to former episodes.

Things I didn’t like:
  • A lot of people are complaining that the movie feels like an obvious money grab. 
  • A lot of the scenes are shot in dark places, so it might be hard to watch the movie on a TV or computer monitor once it goes to DVD or streaming.
  • I was kind of hoping that the movie would include something that tied into how Han Solo (Harrison Ford) got that scar on his chin.
  • While we get to meet the interesting L3-37 droid, the absence of R2-D2 and C-3PO is definitely felt.  It's the first time they are both missing from a Star Wars movie.
  • Some lines seen in the movie trailer don’t actually appear in the movie.  In fact, some of the scenes don’t appear in the movie at all! 
  • The pacing could use some help.
  • I wanted an emotional moment that would make me cry, but it never happened for me.
  • There’s no real evil villain that makes us shudder.
  • "Social justice warriors" and Kathleen Kennedy are being criticized for always casting "strong" women in certain roles in the name of diversity, often weakening the impact of those characters.  What do YOU think of that?  There is a reveal in this movie that made the audience audibly roll their eyes, as in "Oh brother!"
Funny lines:
  • “You’re 190 years old?  You look great!” – Han
  • “What should we drink to?” – Qi’ra
“Let’s drink two and see where it goes.” – Han
  • “You will never have a deeper sleep than when curled up in a Wookie’s lap.” – Rio Durant (voiced by Jon Favreau)
  • “Sorry I punched your face.” – Beckett (Woody Harrelson)
“It happens more often than you think.” - Han

Interesting lines:
  • “I’ve got a really good feeling about this. – Han
  • “Assume everyone will betray you and you will never be disappointed.” – Beckett (Woody Harrelson)
“Sounds like a lonely way to live.” – Han
  • “I don’t know if he said ‘tribe’ or ‘family’.” – Han
“What’s the difference?” - Beckett



Sunday, May 20, 2018

The movie "Book Club" illustrates the power of books

Movie Title:  
    Book Club

Grade:  B-

Rating: PG-13, 104 minutes

In a Nutshell:  I guess you could say that this movie puts the sex back into the word “sexagenarian", although the majority of the leading ladies are in their 70's and 80's.

Sex is the main focus of this movie which, honestly, disappointed me because this talented cast could have done so much more.  There are so many interesting topics that could have been explored to develop the characters better.

The stellar cast includes four Oscar winners and two nominees: Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, and Richard Dreyfus.    

Designed for an older viewing crowd, the audience I sat with laughed non-stop, while I mostly rolled my eyes.


Tips for parents: 
  • Some profanity, crude language, and 1 F-bomb.  As Candice Bergan’s character says in the movie, “Must you always be so crass?”  Exactly.
  • TONS of wine.  Someone is drinking wine or some other kind of alcohol in almost every single scene.
  • Lots of sex out of wedlock and LOTS of talk about sex, often with metaphors. Just so you know, the four women in the BOOK CLUB read all of the books in the Fifty Shades of Grey series, which is what triggers the focus.  Sharon says, "I'm not sure this qualifies as a book."  Exactly.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “Reaching millions of people doesn’t come close to reaching just one you love.” – Arthur (Don Johnson)
  • “I know I’m getting older, but I’m still learning and one of the things I’ve learned is that I deserve to be happy.” – Diane (Diane Keaton)
  •  Friendship
  • Self-esteem
  • Love and connection
  • The power of books!

Things I liked:
  • I thought Candice Bergan’s character was the most enjoyable and realistic.  As a federal judge, I thought it was cute that she named her cat after Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  She's 72 in real life.  By the way, have you heard her famous hit TV show Murphy Brown: Season 1 is coming back to TV?  I used to love that show and am excited to see what they do with its revival.
  • The food at the ladies’ Book Club gatherings always looked so good.
  • Jane Fonda is 80 and looks amazing.  Have you seen her recent TV show Grace And Frankie Season 1 ?  She's really great in it and looks stunning.
  • You should read Robert Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken.”  It’s great and referred to in the movie.  What do YOU think it means?
  • Keep watching the rolling credits at the end for a few more scenes.
  • Craig T. Nelson and Mary Steenburgen also played a married couple in the movie The Proposal.  She is only 65, the youngest in the group.  He's 74.
  • This was Bill Holderman’s directorial debut.  Hopefully, he’ll bring more older actors and actresses to the Big Screen.  As evidenced by the large audiences I saw for this film on opening day, there is definitely a market there.  Jane Fonda revealed that studio bosses wanted younger stars to play the characters in this movie. Ageism is alive and well in Hollywood.

Things I didn’t like:
  • As much as I adore Diane Keaton, and I do, she pretty much plays the same character in all of her movies, including her clothing style with scarves, hats, and pant suits.  She even wore an Annie Hall hat in the pool scene.  It’s like she’s just playing herself in movies.  In fact, her character’s name in this movie is Diane.   Ha ha
  • There is such a huge age difference between Ed Begley Jr.'s character and Mircea Monroe's character that it was ridiculous.  I know this is a comedy, but it was just silly.
  • This is a true rom-com Chick Flick where all of the men fall all over themselves to please the women (except one). 
  • Sometimes it’s annoying when everyone in a movie has unlimited time and money to do whatever they want.
  • The second half of the movie really dropped for me. 
  • Andy Garcia played Diane Keaton’s nephew in The Godfather, so I thought their ages were unmatched in this film.  In this movie, she says she was born in  1951.  In real life, she was actually born in 1946 and is 72 years old.  Andy Garcia is 62.
  • The movie franchise of Fifty Shades of Grey is so pornographic and I’ve never understood how those movies could ever make it to mainstream box offices.  Don Johnson, who is one of the leading men in this movie, is the real-life father of Dakota who stars in those sadistic sex movies.  Gosh, isn’t he proud?
  • Blatant brand merchandising always annoys me.  This movie had tons, including Zillow, Bumble, Buca de Beppo, Brooks Brothers, Mercedes, and more.
  • Diane Keaton’s character never says “goodbye” when she talks on the telephone.  Do you know people in real life who do that?  So annoying.
  • I wanted to see more of Richard Dreyfuss and Wallace Shawn.  They're both so awesome.

Funny lines:
  • “The last time she went on a date, she got pregnant.” – Sharon (Candice Bergen)
“I don’t think that’s going to happen this time.” - Vivian (Jane Fonda)
*  "They say that memory is the second thing to go." - Arthur (Don Johnson)
    "What's the first?" - Vivian
    "I don't remember." - Arthur

Interesting lines:
  • Cupid is blind.” – Sharon
  • The choice should be ours.” – Vivian  


Friday, February 2, 2018

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Monday, December 4, 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas is one that authors will relate to

Here is my newest movie review and a film I think many authors will be able to relate to!

Movie Title:  The Man Who Invented Christmas

Grade:  A-

Rating:  PG, 104 minutes

In a Nutshell:   I admit it.  I loved this movie, because I'm an author.  

I have a particular fondness for movies that peel back the curtains on the life of a successful author and reveal the painful writing process, including writer’s block, muses, and taking notes of people’s names (I do all that too.)  In this case, Charles Dickens is the author and the book that he struggles to write in less than 6 weeks is the famous, beloved A Christmas Carol: Original illustrations by John Leech.

I love that he was inspired by life around him.  Charles Dickens’ father warns, “We must not disturb the poet when the divine frenzy is upon him.”  True THAT!  When I’m writing and “in the zone”, it makes me crazy when I get interrupted, so I got a kick out of watching Charles Dickens deal with the constant knocking at his door.

Based on the book, this family friendly film is perfect for almost all ages and will leave you with the desire to do something kind for someone this Christmas season.  In fact, after A Christmas Carol: Original illustrations by John Leech was released in 1843, charitable giving immediately surged.  I hope this movie gets the same reaction.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another.” –
  • “Christmas…the hope that our better natures will prevail.” - John
  • Are you fettered by chains that you have made in life?  Jacob asked, “Do you know the link of the chain you bear yourself?”
  • Poor vs. rich

Things I liked:
  • Dan Stevens and those blue eyes!  If you wanted to see more of him since you first discovered him in Beauty and the Beast (2017) (Theatrical Version), you’ll love watching him star in this movie as Charles Dickens.
  • Christopher Plummer was perfect as Ebenezer Scrooge. 
  • The set pieces, furniture, and costume designs are really great.  I loved the details like the oil lamps for street lights.  Speaking of sets, some of the pieces from the TV series Penny Dreadful: Season One were used to make this film.  Despite the fact that you really feel like you’re in 19th Century London, most of the filming was done in Ireland.
  • Some well-placed humor.
  • The audience laughed when Charles Dickens’ publisher said, “There’s not much of a market for Christmas.”
  • While A Christmas Carol addresses the spirit of Christmas more than particular Christian beliefs, Charles Dickens’ book The Life of Our Lord: Written for His Children During the Years 1846 to 1849 where he bears testimony of the Savior of the world and shares his Christian beliefs.
  • We don’t often see PG live action movies, so this was refreshing to see playing in theaters.
  • I love how the characters in Charles’ books come to life for him and through him and are a part of the cast in the film.  In fact, Charles explains, “Get the name right and the character will appear.”  I write non-fiction and have always been fascinated with how the writing process works for fiction authors who create characters and worlds.
  • There are several references to Shakespeare and, in fact, most of the cast in the film are trained Shakespearean actors.  In real life, Charles Dickens adored “The Bard” and acted in some of his plays.  Many of them had also previously worked on other adaptations of A Christmas Carol.

Things I didn’t like:
  • It’s a little slow moving.
  • Neither the title of the movie nor the original book are properly explained during the movie.
  • Some of the flashbacks were shown at odd times and might be a bit confusing for children.
  • While a biopic of sorts, some of the story is fiction.  We honestly don’t know as much about Charles Dickens’ writing process as we would like to!

Interesting quotes:
  • “Debt is an ogre.  If you’re not careful, it can eat you up.” – Charles Dickens
  • “People will believe anything if you’re finely dressed.” – John Dickens (Jonathan Pryce) 

Funny lines:
  • “I’m the author here!” – Charles Dickens
“Allegedly.” - Scrooge

Tips for parents: 
  • If your kids have never heard or read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, then you’ll want them to become familiar with it first.
  • Kids will be surprised to learn that Christmas wasn’t always so commercial as it is now.
  • Kids also won’t know about “debtors’ prison” in England, where people were sent when they couldn't pay their bills.  That always seemed strange to me, because there would be no possibly way for them to earn the money they owed while in prison!
  • Work houses in England are also mentioned several times.  Poor and destitute people were encouraged to go to work houses to live and earn money.  The conditions and stigma were so terrible that people would rather die than go there.
  • I heard profanity twice. One of those times was the British swear word “bloody.”
  • Some words your kids may not know are “nappies” (British word for “diaper”) and “necromancer” (conjurer).


Saturday, November 11, 2017

Agatha Christi comes to life in a new version of her best-selling Murder on the Orient Express

As an author, I'd love to write a book that becomes a classic and endures through the years.  

Agatha Christie's murder mysteries are timeless.  She was alive during the 1974 filming of Murder on the Orient Express.  I wonder how she would have liked this new version.  

Here's my movie review!

Movie Title:     Murder on the Orient Express: A Hercule Poirot Mystery (Hercule Poirot Mysteries)

Grade:  B

Rating: PG-13, 1 hour 54 minutes

In a Nutshell:  With an incredible A-list cast, this is a well-made, stylish “Who-dunnit” mystery directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also stars as the Belgium inspector Hercule Poirot.  

It’s extremely picturesque and beautiful, yet slowly fizzles with a disappointing reveal of who the murderer is.

Uplifting theme: 
  • “We seek the truth from within, not without.” – Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh)
  • “Sometimes the law of man is not enough.” – Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz)
  • “poison of deep grief”, healing, peace
  • Revenge 
  • Right vs. wrong and everything in between
  • Truth

Things I liked:
  • The period pieces and costumes of the 1930’s are beautiful.
  • You don’t often see movies that take their time telling the story.  Both the time period and the style of movie-making seemed old-fashioned.  It was shot in 65 mm and really immerses you in the various environments.  The sets are incredible.
  • The all-star cast includes the talented Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Penelope Cruz, Michelle Pfeiffer, Leslie Odom Jr., Daisy Ridley and Derek Jacobi.  Kenneth Branagh was absolutely outstanding. You might wonder how old Judi Dench is…She was born in 1934, making her 82 years old.
  • There was some humor, although the tone was a bit inconsistent, beginning with a very light feel and then remaining mostly dark for the rest of the film.
  • There were some really great camera sequences.  One scene was shot from above the characters as they talked.  Another scene was shot from outside the train as it scanned the people walking down the hall through the windows.  You really feel the movement of the train and feel like you're on one.
  • There is a reference to a murder on the Nile, possibly a sneak peek into a sequel, but definitely a reference to another one of Agatha Christie's books called Agatha Christie's Poirot: Death on the Nile.  Speaking of the author, Agatha Christie's Poirot: Murder on the Orient Express was her best-selling novel.
  • The movie begins at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem with some gorgeous vistas and a funny sequence.  One of these days, I'm going there.
  • There are some beautiful vistas in Istanbul.  One of these days, I’m going there too. 
  • Michelle Pfeiffer sings "Never Forget", which was co-written by director/actor Kenneth Branagh. Wow, he was really busy with this film.
  • The photo of Katherine, Hercule Poirot's lost love, is actually Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh's real ex-wife.

Things I didn’t like:
  • Some say it grinds to a halt, rather than get more intense.  Yeah, it's true.  The ending is anti-climatic.
  • In the 1974 version of Murder on the Orient Express, the star-studded ensemble had equal moments of importance; whereas this version doesn't have much character arc and kind of fizzles.  A lot of movie critics are comparing it to the movie Clue which was able to develop characters much better.
  • Daisy Ridley’s character is way too young for her character, who should be much older.
  • Sergei Polunin is a famous ballet dancer in real life, but we don’t get to see him dance at all!  Instead, we get to see him beat up some people.
  • All of the actors were great, but felt underutilized.  So much talent wasted.
  • I heard a lady sitting near me say, “That mustache has to go!” Hercule Poirot’s double-decker mustache is ridiculous, but his mustache mask is even worse.  Ha ha   When the 1974 movie of Murder on the Orient Express  Agatha Christie was still alive and she commented on how much she didn't like Albert Finney's mustache on his Hercule Poirot's character.

Interesting lines:
  • “Romance never goes unpunished.” – Hercule Poirot
  • “To a man with a hammer, everything is a nail.” – Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridley’s character is actually quoting Mark Twain.)
  • “There is right.  There is wrong.  There is nothing in between.” – Hercule Poirot  (He learns about grey areas.)
  • “Vice is where the devil finds his darlings.” – Pilar Estravados (Penelope Cruz) 

Funny lines:
  • “Did we die?” – Hercule Poirot 

Tips for parents: 
  • Young children may get bored, as it’s a “talking” movie that unfolds slowly.
  • There are some subtitles when two people speak German.
  • French is spoken, but there are no subtitles.