May 22, 2016

Movie Review: Money Monster ****

George Clooney is Lee Gates, an arrogant and self-centered financial guru with an over-the-top TV show,  and Julia Roberts is his producer.
I would have liked Clooney's character to be less of a buffoon in the beginning - he opens his show with an overabundance of shtick (crazy costumes and nerdy white-man dancing) - and I imagine he felt like an idiot filming those scenes, but that goofiness is easily forgotten when the hostage situation unfolds.
George and Julia really work - they have great on-screen chemistry. You can tell they really like each other, so they're easy to watch.
The story's a good one - we relate to the hijacker, an everyman who lost his life savings and wants someone held responsible; we relate to Clooney as he freaks out and panics and then finds some humanity; and we relate to Julia as she works to try to save the day for everyone.
It gets a little slow in the middle but all in all Money Monster is an engaging story; charming, funny, nail-biting, heartbreaking.
Four out of five stars for Money Monster.  

May 11, 2016

Movie Review: Sing Street *****

It's Dublin, it's the 1980s, the new kid in school gets bullied by schoolmates and tormented by the cruel priest. He meets a girl, forms a band to impress said girl, and gets retribution against all who harrassed him.
Is there anything new in this story? Not really. But Sing Street is a joyous film with wonderful performances, especially from Ferdia Walsh-Peelo who plays Conor, the main character.
This is a heartwarming underdog tale and it's not a secret that I love this genre, especially when the underdog is immensely likable and charming.
The best scene is early on, when he meets the girl (who, by the way, looks much too old for him) and asks her to be in his band's music video and when she says yes he turns away, crosses the street and says to his friend, "We have to form a band!"
Wonderful, feel-good movie.
Five out of five stars for Sing Street.

May 10, 2016

Movie Reviews - Mini-reviews

If you read my reviews and you generally disagree with me I have three new movies and a play for you:

The Family Fang **
Jason Bateman directed this and stars in it, and he's a favorite of mine (his performances are always effortless and understated) and so he was the best part of this goofy movie. Nicole Kidman and Christopher Walken also give fine performances but I couldn't buy into the story line of parents who exploit their kids in crazy ways and call it "performance art" and are renowned because of it.
If you can buy the premise, you'll like this film.

The Meddler **
Susan Sarandon is The Meddler, quite the understatement. This is exactly the kind of writing I hate: a character who is so in-your-face, so broadly drawn, so annoying that they're hard to watch. Sarandon looks great, but she's still hard to watch.
Here's a woman who attends a baby shower she's not invited to, and later ends up planning and paying for an over-the-top wedding for a lesbian friend of her daughter's, whose last name she doesn't even know. Too stupid for me. Sweet romantic thread with JK Simmons, tho.

Maggie's Plan*
I decided, after watching this film, the third or fourth I've seen Greta Gerwig in, that I really don't care for her as an actor. There's something appealing about her looks and her manner but her acting seems very self-conscious, and distracted.
This is a crazy story that could have been called The Controller, or...The Meddler,  with weird, not believable happenings.
I saw an advance screening and it seems so rude to walk out on one of those, and besides, I was in the middle of a packed row...otherwise I would have.

Sender *
A play at The Red Orchid Theatre, Chicago
Four people screaming at each other and repeating lines, again and again and again. Effective device used sparingly, which it's not, in this play. "I'm sorry," was said by one character twelve times in a row. We get it already.
On the plus side there was some male nudity.

March 26, 2016

Me and Naked Anthony Bourdain

Sometimes people appear in my dream and I had no idea they were even in my head; people I haven't seen or talked to in years and years, famous people...
I've kept a dream journal since 2001 and I have to say, there is some weird shit in mind is a very strange dwelling. Some of the famous people who've appeared are Michael Jordan, Al Pacino, Paul McCartney and the pope.
Last night my dream starred Anthony Bourdain, of all people. Why Anthony Bourdain? Undoubtedly that came from a book I've been reading called My Last Supper (thank you Mikki, for the early b'day present), where famous chefs answer questions about what their final meal would be, where, with whom, etc., and Bourdain is one of the chefs.
And there are pictures that accompany each spread - some normal, some funny, some bizarre... and here is Bourdain's.
The dream wasn't all that interesting (he wasn't naked) but he was very charming and very tall.
He started chatting me up as we waited in a line for something, and after a while I could see he was getting interested in me, which was amazing since I'd just come from the gym and my hair was a fright and I had on no makeup.
Every night there's a little adventure in my brain.

March 21, 2016

Movie Review: 'Tis the Season...

Oscar season is over, it's way too early in the year to release a film that might be a contender for next year's awards so what's being released now are the throwaways. If you're looking for a movie to see right now you should be aware: 'Tis The Season of Stupidity.

Two cases in point:

Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot, the Tina Fey vehicle. Immensely stupid. Tina Fey has an engaging screen presence no matter what she's doing but this film isn't worthy of a review. I couldn't sit for more than an hour of this.
0 stars

Hello, My Name is Doris, the Sally Field vehicle. Almost more stupid than Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot but I sat through it. If you can buy the concept that a sixty-something woman (even an adorable little woman like Sally Field) believes that a cute (not as hunky as the movie would have you believe) 30-something would be interested in her romantically, well...then maybe you'll like this. I couldn't and I didn't. Too stupid for me. I do love Sally Field and she does her best in the role but I couldn't get into the story at all. And I hated her clothes.
1 star

Meanwhile, some others I've seen recently:
Eddie the Eagle - A silly little movie that's over-directed in parts (mostly the downhill crash scenes, which no one could survive yet he just gets up and does it again), but sweet, too.
3-1/2 stars

Race - Well-done, well-written, well-acted, touching story.
4-1/2 stars

The Finest Hour - Melodramatic, crazy music, terrible direction.
2 stars

February 28, 2016

The Academy Awards: Should Acceptable be the New Exceptional?

I look forward to the Academy Awards all year long; I've seen all the nominated films, I read all the press, I watch Entertainment Tonight - I keep up with it all. It's 5:00p on Oscar night and I'll soon turn on the TV and watch all the Red Carpet hoo-hah until the Oscars begin.
But before I do that I just have to say I'm a little weary of all the grousing about how 'white' the Oscars are this year. I don't see that there's any 'snubbing' of people of color. I believe the Academy judges the films on  excellence in film making. Should they also judge by who wrote/produced/directed/acted in the film? Wouldn't that compromise the quality of the awards?
I believe in equality. I believe everyone has the same opportunity. I believe that people like Jada Pinkett Smith should do something to right what she thinks is wrong, instead of boycotting this celebration which will serve no real purpose. She has enough money to hire people of color to write great scripts and then to produce them and then to hire amazing black directors and actors. If there are no black people up for Oscars this year maybe it's because other performances/films outshone them.
It's not snubbing. It's rewarding excellence, regardless of color. That's equality.
Should 'acceptable' be the new 'exceptional' so we have more diversity?

February 26, 2016

The Good and The Bad of Writing

Let's get the bad out of the way: Writing is tough. Not that it isn't fun, but it's not an easy process and even if you finish a book or two, it's certainly not easy to get published. But if you love to write then you write. And if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Harry Bernstein

And here's the good: You can write whenever you want; you don't need any special equipment, you don't need a partner, you don't even have to get dressed. Just sit down at your computer, or whip out your favorite notebook, and start writing. All you need is motivation and inspiration.

Maybe you started writing in your youth, without success. If you gave up back then, but you still love writing, then get back to it. It doesn't matter how old you are.
If you need inspiration check out this post from one of my favorite writing sites: Live, Write, Thrive
about late-blooming writers (of which I'm proudly one).