Category Archives: Movie Review

Downton Abbey Movie: An Overview

Downton Abbey

Seeing the cast of the movie Downton Abbey was like entering a room of old friends that I had not seen in a while.  It all came back as I recalled which roles the main characters played and remembered why they left such memorable impressions.

Of course, Maggie Smith, the Countess of Grantham, stole the show with her one-liners and sharp wit as she responded to those around her.  She had people in the audience  laughing out loud and it brought us together as though we were attending a private viewing party.

The movie opened with the staff in a frenzy because King George V and Queen Mary were coming to the area and would spend one night at Downton Abbey.  The staff cleaned, polished and aired out the rooms as they got things ready for their royal visitors.

Mr. Carson had retired but was rehired by Lady Mary because she did not think that the butler Thomas Barrow could pull it off. There were several subplots and too many to share but the mood remained light, festive and even humorous most of the time. 

The King and Queen brought their own butler, woman of the house, chef and footmen and the regular Downton staff was appalled by that move. They had nothing to do until they came up with a plan to get the visiting staff out of the way.  I will not do too many spoilers, but I left the theater feeling happy that I had made the choice to see this movie.

It was a great way to escape into another world for over two hours. New people met and fell in love; spouses considered breaking up and  men secretly met at a gay bar almost putting reputations on the line. The lovable Betsy finally decided to plan her wedding much to Mrs. Patmore’s delight.

 Outside of the swift-moving plot, I enjoyed looking at the high fashion statements.   The dresses, the gowns with the long attached scarves and the rich jewelry gave me  ideas and I will try to replicate certain looks in the future..  One woman asked me if I liked the movie and all I could say was, “Those hats!  Oh, the hats.  Even the wait staff wore fancy hats.” This was a great vicarious journey back to the 1920’s as I  spent time inside of Downton Abbey!

Lynn M.                                                                 October 12, 2019

Rocketman: A Movie Review

rocketman_ver2Elton John is one of the most beloved and revered men on this planet in 2019.  I finally got around to seeing the movie Rocketman and there is so much to say here.  I first remember hearing of him when we rocked to Bennie and the Jets back in the day, as we say.

His songs have been the musical backdrop for many years of our lives and certainly for those of us who have been around for a while.  As he went through his changes, we went through ours.  This movie gave us insight into what sparked those songs during his personal battles.  Taron Egerton was so believable as the knighted one.

For starters, Reginald Kenneth Dwight was born in the UK and lived with a loving grandmother, a troubled and lonely mother and an impatient and distant father who goes off to leave the family. The movie shows him at age five, as a preteen and then as an adult. 

A lot of creative risks were taken as this biopic unfolds but we learn that Elton John wrestled with his own sexual preference.  His outlandish clothes, his cocaine addiction, heavy boozing and pill-popping were his soul’s way of screaming, “I don’t like who I am.”  One friend even told him, “When you finish killing yourself….”

His mother’s biting criticism, his father’s second marriage with two sons on who he doted and a love affair with a handsome but cruel business manager landed him in a hospital and a sanatorium.  The only constants in his life were his grandmother who had escorted him to the Royal Academy of Music years earlier and his songwriter and loyal friend, Bernie Taupin. He and Bernie remain friends and business partners today.

Thank goodness Elton John finally accepted himself for the gods know how to create a genius. One line in the movie said, in essence, “You have to kill the person you are so that you can become the person you were meant to be.”  He found a level of balance and peace through grace and we are all the richer for it. 

I only wish that more of his songs had been played in full length, but a movie only has so much reel time. So, I have done the next best thing and took to YouTube as I continue to enjoy the music of the incomparable Sir Elton John! 

Push play and Listen to Someone Saved My Life Tonight

      Lynn M.                                                                                                          July 20, 2019

 

 

Understood!

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I left the theatre today feeling a sense of euphoria after seeing Bohemian Rhapsody.  The life of Freddie Mercury was masterfully portrayed by Rami Malek.  Malek was a perfect fit for the look and artistry of Freddie Mercury because Freddie Mercury was of Indian descent in a British setting and Malek is of Arabic and Egyptian heritage.  He fully captured the essence of the exotic-looking Freddie Mercury.

The band Queen’s lead singer had just quit, and Freddie offered his services to them.  He auditioned in an alley and he also let them know that he wrote his own songs.  He told them,” The words just come.”  They teamed up and ventured on a long journey together filled with its ups and downs.

The eccentric Freddie Mercury met a girl named Mary Austin who helped him develop his risqué style.  She worked at a women’s dress shop and let him try on some women’s pants that he liked.  She even added a scarf to add to his flamboyance and put a touch of make-up on his eyes.

They become confidants and lovers and he proposed to her as his career began to take off.  He gave her a ring and made her promise to never take it off. But over time, it became clear that he was drawn to a gay lifestyle and he finally admitted to her that he was bisexual.

She moved on with other men but their allegiance to each other was unshakeable and no one was ever able to take Mary’s place in his heart.  In real life, though he had lived with a partner for years, he left his house, large amounts of money and part of his publishing house to Mary.  She still lives in his house and it is said that Mary is certainly cashing in upon the success of this film.

She went on to marry two times and he had a long line of male lovers and one partner, Jim Hutton, who stayed with him until his death in 1991.  I digress.  This movie showed Freddie Mercury’s climb to the top of high success and an almost tragic ruin.  His lover, Paul, was not delivering his messages from Mary, his family nor his agent.  He ended up firing his manager, disintegrating his band and almost drank himself to death until Mary showed up at his house  She told him that he needed to go home when she saw the mess in which he was living.

He finally saw through Paul and put him out of his life.  He was able to contact his agent and book a last- minute slot playing The Live Aid Concert.  He asked his members to forgive him and after some tart remarks, they knew that they needed each other. They reunited, practiced and he told his band members that he had AIDS.   They were tearful; but when they saw his resolve to move on, they supported him and their performance at the Live Aid Concert at Wembley Stadium in 1985 was a huge success.

He went home and made peace with his estranged father who never understood him.  Freddie Mercury brought his friend Jim home to meet his family and the father finally accepted him as an openly gay  man.  We later see the father sitting down to watch his son perform on the television and we see tears of joy in his mother’s eyes during the telecast.

Bohemian Rhapsody was tastefully done, and the band Queen had us swaying to songs such as We Are the Champions, We Will Rock You and Another One Bites the Dust.  I had not heard of Freddie Mercury nor the band called Queen, but I certainly know these songs. As a lingered to view the movie credits, I noticed that another woman remained as well.  I told her that I had totally enjoyed it and she said, “This is my 12th time seeing it.  I answered, “Maybe you should just buy the movie.” She responded, “I already own it!”

We laughed and parted ways and I thought of Emerson’s quote, “To be great is to be misunderstood.”  Many people who have left the greatest gifts behind for us to enjoy were misfits during their lifetimes. I now understand why Bohemian Rhapsody won so many awards and nominations.

The script writers did a remarkable job by sharing this man’s genius without depressing us nor taking us through the pain of his final days.  This artistic piece remained focused on Freddie Mercury’s talent, energy and natural ability to electrify his audiences and bring them to their feet!

Lynn M.                                                                           March 17, 2019

Green Book: A Movie Review

However inaccurate this account of the life of Dr. Don Shirley may be, I found  the movie Green Book to be a treasure.  I clapped at the end of the film along with a few others in the audience.  I have seen countless movies that I immediately forgot shortly after I left the theater.  This will not be the case here.51X9EKw6CwL._SX383_BO1,204,203,200_

This well-developed story establishes the unlikely bond that was formed between a classical pianist and his chauffeur.  They spend a couple of months on the road as Shirley plays concerts throughout the South.  He had to rely on the use of The Negro Travelers’ Green Book which directed African-American travelers to safe lodgings during the 50’s and 60’s.

Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) is highly-polished and he lives between two worlds, not quite fitting into either one.  Tony Vallelonga  (Viggo Mortensen),who sorely needs a job, is hired as his chauffeur and they have enough time to bridge their differences. They survive an arrest, some acts of violence and the never-ending threats of the racial divide in the American South.

They embark on their sojourn from New York City and drive south making stops for concerts in places such as Pittsburgh, Louisville, Memphis, Tupelo, Jackson, New Orleans and finally in Birmingham.  Each city brings both highs and lows as the culture shock continues to deepen as they go further south.

Octavia Spencer is the Executive Producer of Green Book and I think that she did a fine job.  Shirley’s family claims that it is filled with lies. It may be flawed, but hopefully they will realize that this is a new exposure to many people about the life of Dr. Don Shirley.  I had never heard of him.

After seeing this movie, I did plenty of research on him, looked at his images and even listened to some of his soothing piano pieces.  So, I would say that the movie Green Book offers a green light for viewers to take note of Shirley’ life and his many accomplishments. There will definitely be Oscar buzzes surrounding these two superb actors who portrayed two men from totally different walks of life!

Lynn M.                                                      December 1, 2018

A Star is Born. True Art!

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We often go to see a movie as a form of escapism or a reprieve from everyday life.  Yet, when I saw the new A Star is Born with Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, I thought, “Now this is art- a movie of real though sometimes raw substance.”

The credits at the end of the movie revealed that many of the songs had been written by each of them.  Wow!  A lot of real talent was involved in this piece and it is not only worth viewing a second time but should include the purchase of the soundtrack.

In A Star is Born, we are able to see a well-developed relationship between Jackson and Ally.  We see them go through many of life’s ups and downs together and we unfortunately see them outgrow each other.  It is all true of real life.  People come into our lives for a reason and a season.

I will not spend time here rehashing the plot because I would not want to spoil anyone’s chances to witness these art forms at their best on the big screen.  We know that it is a boy meets girl movie or shall I say husband meets wife.

The mere fact that both are musicians pushes the entertainment level up many notches.  He’s a rocker doing his thing and her performances reminded me of a little bit of Janis Joplin and at other times, Carole King.

It is the first time that we see Lady Gaga’s (Ally) natural beauty.  It made me wonder why stars adorn themselves where they are barely recognizable.  I liked her in this role because we see get to see her.  Bradley Cooper (Jackson) reveals sides of his character that haven’t been displayed in his other roles.  Their chemistry is steamy and they take us on a memorable voyage.

In closing, I would say that even though we are imperfect beings, this movie shows how we are all interconnected and sometimes, it takes that certain someone to hoist us up and put us on our charted path!

Lynn M.                                                                             October 8, 2018

An Artist’s Sacrifice: Whitney Houston

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I just saw the new documentary on Whitney Houston simply called Whitney.  At times I cried inside as I soaked up the new footage from her life.  It was done through participatory interviews of those who knew her best such as her mother Cissy Houston, her two brothers, hairstylist, aunt, personal assistants and various record producers.  It focuses more on who she was before she became a star and who she was when the world was not looking.

Nippy, as she was affectionately known, was a young girl from the inner city of Newark, New Jersey.  Her mother was often on the road singing backup for icons such as Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin. Dionne Warwick was her aunt so she had a tall order placed on her shoulders from birth.

The  movie begins with the interviewer speaking to Cissy Houston from a church pew where Whitney got her start. She stated that she taught Nippy to sing from her head, heart and gut.  Well, it worked. She and her brothers hated to see their mother hit the road and they were left behind to stay with other families.  Sometimes they were in good hands and sometimes they were not, as life goes.

This movie shares a well-tucked away secret about Whitney and her good friend Robyn. They met as young teens and became the best of friends and moved in together when Whitney was 18.  Their relationship was questionable and quite unacceptable for the image that others wanted Whitney to portray as a rising star.

Whitney was discovered and though Robyn stayed in her employ, her presence caused the disapproval of her family and her new handlers.  Yet, they were so close that Robyn was the only one who could get Nippy to behave and take off her shoes of rebellion.

Thus, the divided soul began to widen as Nippy had to become Whitney Houston who was this young, innocent fresh talent that was entering upon the world stage.  Nippy, the inner city girl with sass had to be silenced along her inner city jargon.  The new Whitney wore long gowns of grace and elegance and her love for Robyn had to be snuffed out as well.

Then, enters bad boy Bobby Brown on stage left.  As others said in the film, Bobby Brown was more like her than the world realized.  He was also an inner city kid and reminded her of her brothers.  He got to know the real Nippy and he made her laugh. With him, she could please the world and be married to a man with a family on the horizon.

The movie shows footage from her wedding day with Bobby Brown  He was crying because he probably could not believe that he had landed one of the world’s greatest talents.  But what I will not forget is how Robyn looked in her eyes while she was in her wedding gown.  It was as if she was saying, “Okay if this is what you want to do, I wish you the best.”

It was said that Bobby and Robyn would actually fight and vie for Nippy’s attention.  Bobby vowed to kill Robyn and bury her in his backyard.  Hence, the heart and chasm of  Nippy’s heart widened and the drugs poured in to numb the pain of trying to live up to others’ expectations.  Robyn finally left Whitney’s employ around 2000 and it was shortly afterwards when Whitney was seen looking skeletal in 2001.

We know what toil the world tours, the interviews and  the abusive marriage took on her.  But the pressure to maintain this image of someone who was so unlike the real Nippy proved to be too much.   If you look at any of Whitney’s interviews, you can hear the real Nippy from the inner city trying to break free.

There is one really memorable scene where Whitney is having a monologue with herself saying that Nippy cannot find Whitney or that Whitney can find Nippy.  It made me think of  the book called Divided Soul about Marvin GayeI thought of all of the artists who have changed their names and taken on some false persona to satisfy someone else’s  creation.  Think about Marilyn Monroe who was once Norma Jean.

As in all falsity,  it all comes crashing down and those who loved these stars while they were riding high quickly turn and become their worst critics. During this movie, it was revealed that Whitney would go and visit Michael Jackson when she was feeling overwhelmed.  They would sit for hours and not say a word because it was a wordless understanding of the demands of being a megastar.

I looked at her last interview with Oprah after seeing the movie and she said that on some days, she just wanted to put on some jeans and be herself.  But the world would have none of that. Some even referred to her as a national treasure as though she was not an individual with personal dreams and dilemmas.

This documentary delves into the inside of a woman’s soul who fought the good fight as she graciously shared her gift with the world.  Her mother told her in this film that “God had laid His hands on her.”  She gave what she had and I am thankful for Kevin McDonald’s approach to her life.  We know of her accomplishments, but this film shows all that Nippy sacrificed to belt out those iron-clad lungs that gave us all goosebumps.

Push play and listen to one of Whitney’s last songs as she cleaves to her faith and sings I Look to You!

 

 

Lynn M.                                                                            July 7, 2018

 

 

 

Our Souls at Night: Book to Film

Our Souls at night-bookIsn’t nice when a writer leaves a screenwriter some material that he or she can mold and make come to life?  Well, the late Kent Haruf did just that when he wrote Our Souls at Night.  I happened to pick it up from the New Books Shelf at the public library.

The plot is unique where a widow knocks on her neighbor’s door who is a widower and asks him to do something quite unusual.  She, Addie Moore, asks him to come over and spend the nights with her. She admits that the nights are the hardest for her and she simply wants to talk.

Louis Waters, a former high school teacher, is taken aback and quietly contemplates her offer.  They both have been alone for years and ultimately each feels that there is little to lose. So, on the next night, he travels through the alley with his pajamas and a toothbrush in a paperback. He knocks on her back door and thus, the story unfolds.

In the small town where they live, tongues start wagging but they are in their seventies and they are quite oblivious to what others think about their actions. They proceed and share many intimate details of their lives.

She talks about the tragic loss of her young daughter who was hit by a car.  Both her husband and son basically shut down and their marriage suffered along with the loss of any intimacy.  He, on the other hand, had an affair with a school teacher which almost ruined his marriage and did indeed destroy the other woman’s marriage.

Both Addie and Louis continue their new routine and at one point, they decide to make a public showing.  As others gawk, they walk down a main street arm in arm.  Just as they are reveling in their new-found friendship, the unthinkable happens.

Addie’s son calls and says that his wife has abandoned the family and that his finances are in shambles.  He asks her to take in her seven-year old grandson Jamie for the summer. This leaves Louis wondering how and if he will fit into the new scenario.

Fortunately, Jamie is in need of a lot of comfort, so the three of them have a number of experiences that help them bond.  He accepts and gets used to Louis coming over at night; they play catch ball; they go on a hike in the mountains and Louis gets him a dog as a reassuring companion.

And then, crash.  Gene, Addie’s son comes to her house outraged that she is allowing Louis to stay over around his son and things get pretty salty.  It was a prime example of how some people cannot run their own lives, but they still feel the need to control others.

As I was reading the book, I met a woman who saw the cover and told me that Our Souls at Night had been made into a movie.  To my astonishment, not only was it a movie, it starred Jane Fonda and Robert Redford.  Who knew?  I was excited and knew that I had to compare the two after finishing the book.

Souls-movie

Afterwards, I was able to see a blurred version of the 2017 movie on You Tube which I observed closely. The script pretty much followed the book with a few exceptions.  In the book, Louis used a family of mice to entertain little Jamie but the movie chose an electric train set instead.  Also, the movie added a scene which included Louis’ adult daughter Holly.  And most importantly, it minimized the son’s aversion to their union and this made for a much lighter ending.

When I finished the book, I was a bit disturbed because Addie was so vulnerable and was being victimized by her controlling son.  He made her leave her house after she experienced a fall.  She was subjected to him and his yelling wife who had returned home.  Addie had to sneak and call Louis to talk and it made me think of Romeo and Juliet’s tragic ending.

However, the movie’s ending was more tolerable and it left me feeling hopeful.  Yes, she did move in with her son and grandson after having a fall, but in the movie, the wife did not return home. It seemed like a more peaceful living arrangement for the three of them.  And yes, she does call Louis but she does not sneak and it signals a happy continuation of their relationship.

Thank goodness for great writers and thank goodness for optimistic screenwriters who know the importance of leaving their viewers with a good feeling!

Lynn M.                                                         June 9, 2018

The Life of the Party: A Movie Review

Mother and Daughter

The Life of the Party starring Melissa McCarthy was a little wild and even a tad risqué but enjoyable.  In the movie, Deanna (Melissa McCarthy) returns to college to finish out her last year some twenty years after leaving to get married.  Her husband abruptly asks for a divorce and she is blindsided.  But after brooding, she decides to join her daughter on the campus of her alma mater.

Her daughter Maddie (Molly Gordon) isn’t thrilled with the idea but after she gives her mom a makeover, Deanna begins to blend in and even becomes a valued part of the younger set.  Through a host of adventures such as partying, drinking, joining a sorority and even making out with a fraternity brother, she soon forgets her woes as she moves ahead to complete her Archaeology degree.

There were quite a few laughs and there were even some great scenes of revenge when Deanna encounters her ex-husband and his intended.  It was a good way to escape into another world and as I was driving home and reflecting on the movie, it dawned on me that there were quite a few similarities to my own life.

At the end of the film, I recalled that my mother and I had also attended college together.  She was a senior and I was a freshman.  I used to say, “Hi, Ma,” in the hallway.  And later, we taught on two of the same college campuses and marched as faculty together.

So, when Deanna and daughter were clothed in their graduation regalia, I was reminded of how fortunate I was to have had such an amazing experience.   During this month of honoring our mothers, I pause and recall the lines from a famous gospel song that say, “Precious memories.  Oh how they linger!”

Lynn M.                                                                                May 19, 2018

Chappaquiddick: A Movie Review

Chappaquiddick_(film)

I am so glad that I didn’t listen to the one of the film critics who gave the new movie Chappaquiddick a “D.”  As in most cases in life, we have to experience things for ourselves and then make a judgment call.  So, I followed my first mind and went on to see this movie.

Most of the people in the audience looked like they were baby boomers like me and were probably there to revisit their feelings about this indelible incident.  The year of 1969 was a highly sensitive time in our country after several assassinations of political figures and it was at the height of an unpopular war.  So, to my recollection, emotions were already running at an all-time high on so many levels and fronts.

When this story involving Ted Kennedy emerged, many did not know what to think.  This new movie, Chappaquiddick, reopens old wounds and yet it is done tastefully and handled with an air of sensitivity.  He was, after all, the youngest of the famous brothers and people wanted to hear what he had to say and give him a fair shake.

The highly polished and believable cast includes Jason Clark as Ted Kennedy; Ed Helms as Cousin Joe Gargan and Bruce Dern as Patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy.  We are allowed to take a walk back down memory lane hoping to get greater insight into one of the bigger political mysteries. We will never fully know what happened on that unfortunate night in July of 1969 so we can only speculate.  We certainly should thank Director John Curran and writers Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan for doing a fine job of recreating a grave and dark time in our history.

What we do know is, for whatever reason, Ted Kennedy’s life was spared. He went on to live a full life – something that fate did not afford his tragic brothers.  Obviously, his mission was not complete in July of 1969 and he went on to become one of the longest serving US senators in American history. He was able to push through many legislative bills.

We are all flawed in some way and though it is easy to pass judgment, it is difficult to continually stay the course and forge ahead.  As someone in the movie said, “Only history will decide.” I personally think that he proved his father to be wrong.  He survived the hurt, the shame and the embarrassment as he went on to accomplish many great things!

Lynn M.                                                              April 7, 2018

A Gift for Black History Month!

black panther

Black Panther is a movie that captures the times of today.  Though it encompasses much, its powerful message circles around what happens to families when they break apart due to deeply buried truths.  Warring relatives both vie for power and rightful positions as this tale unfolds.  It is based on a Marvel Comics series written by a variety of writers.

T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) has been newly installed as King of Wakanda after his father’s death and after successfully battling  a neighboring contender. He rules and protects his kingdom as his father did while remaining quite oblivious to the woes of the outside world.

That is until an angry and long, lost cousin Erik (Michael B. Jordan) shows up on the African land to take the throne.  He is filled with hate and rage because his father had been executed by the T’Challa’s father, though they were brothers.  He is stronger than T’Challa and takes the throne for a while after they fight a ferocious battle.  He plans on destroying many factions of the world to get revenge for his many years of suffering because of the world’s injustices.

There is so much to this star-studded cast and the best thing to do is just go and see it. Here are a few major actors:  Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o and Sterling K. Brown along with some great, new talent.  The acting is top-notched; the costumes are unforgettable and it is extremely high-tech.  What a fun experience!

When it ended, I turned around and everybody was basically still in their seats. No one wanted it to end. So I also lingered and sure enough, after the credits rolled there were two or three more sneak peaks and additions to the script.  One woman said, “I am going to see it again.”  As I think about it, I will too.  What a gift!

Lynn M.                                                                              February 18, 2018