Movie reviews


It’s not perfect.  The forte of the British TV series ‘Downton Abbey’ is the scenery and costumes.  Otherwise, its a predictable soap opera with mostly likable characters.  The first half of the movie, “Hey!  Slow the camera, I want to see the scenery and costumes!”  Then, writer Julian Fellows’ bits and pieces of story fell, no surprise, into place in the second half, iced with dollops of wit and humor.

It’s silly, really, the whole idea that some people are to be bowed and curtsied to, and that a great big castle of a house will ‘last forever,’ among numerous other fantasies.  But it has a relic-like golden charm, undergirded by my need for beauty.  A candlelit ball with dancing to a live orchestra, an afternoon parade with soldiers emblazoned in red jackets riding horseback on a clear green field festively edged with Union Jack bunting.  That glowing golden ball dress that got sewn together in the nick of time…

One thing out of wack: Lord and Lady Grantham had hardly any scenes, and Butler Tom had too many.

If you loved Downton Abbey, you’ll love this.  I did.


A bike accident that breaks Jack’s two front teeth changes the world.  A world where no one has ever heard of the Beatles.

Danny Boyle, director of “Millions,” another ‘magical realism’ movie, plays with the idea of what real talent is, and makes fun of the industry that tries to sell it.  And, if we really did create something of genius, would anyone even notice?  “Yesterday” is full of the music that reminds us that the music the Beatles created makes our world a far better place.

All set in a love story.  Based in gritty England.  Funny; a highlight for me was Kate McKinnon as an L.A. music agent.  Himesh Patel real and likable as Jack.

Can’t be bothered to read why Rottentomatoes critics only gave it 60%.  The audience liked it 90%.  The audience is right this time.  Oh, and that is me on Abbey Road.


“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.”   This quote Winston Churchill wrote came to mind a half hour into “Rocketman.”

I realized that the difference between this movie and “Bohemian Rhapsody” was that Elton John is still alive and Freddie Mercury of Queen was not when they made that film.  Big difference.  I wondered how involved Elton was in the making of the picture, couldn’t wait to read the credits.  Executive producer.

When in a job interview, and the company asks, “Tell us about your bad qualities,” one correct answer is, “I work too hard.”  In a biopic of a living artist, the correct answer is, “my parents didn’t really love me, then booze, drugs and sex moved in.”  I believe Elton John has a more fascinating life than the Hollywood cliche recounted in “Rocketman.”

I’m not a fan of his over the top costumes, featured throughout, and the film was very much about his struggle with homosexuality, which as his own mother told him, “frankly doesn’t interest me.”   I went to the movie for Elton’s music.  Elton John has written so much great music, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more music in it.  I’m not sure they ever played more than snippets of his music throughout, using a surreal La La Land style.

Taron Egerton was believable, also enjoyed the story about his lyricist: Elton didn’t write the words to any of his songs.  Elton is beyond talented, but as Dad would say about the musical geniuses:  “They’re all nuts.”

Epic.  We went to the 6:15 showing and didn’t leave the theatre til 9:45, after watching all the credits.  Every Hollywood actor throughout time had a part.

Fresh writing.  Hulk has dealt with his anger issues.  The bad guy is evil but not grotesque.  Nice surprises in character development.   The Superheroes we love relating to each other in friendship.

Humor.  Hope.  Light.  Nice lakeside/outdoor scenes.

The story makes no sense whatsoever, of course.

Loved it.  I’m not giving many details because don’t want to spoil anything.  Just go.  A terrific time for adults and kids.

It’s British myth, King Arthur, retold in 2019 with a 12 year old boy.  It’s British humor, with a mesmerizing, quick witted ‘teen’ Merlin stealing the show.  London and Cornwall for settings.  The Four Point Chivalric Code explained for kids, as they ride the ‘coach’ on the M3 on their way to Tintagel. Now that is funny.

Kid actors:  100% believable.  As I watched the four main leads tromp through the marshy Cornwall countryside, following Merlin, I remembered Dr. McClatchey teaching “Arthurian Legend.”  We didn’t visit Tintagel on that Wheaton in England semester… have to go back.  I’ve been to Cornwall, though, and what I saw tonight on the screen is as stunningly beautiful in person.

The movie also taught me that every body of water, even a bathtub, holds a “Lady of the Lake,” with Excalibur, in case I am in need of it.

Great pacing and back and forth between reality and fantasy, which means the writing is excellent.  They creatively presented a great story; one of The Great Stories.

Perfect for families and adults who love England, heroes and a movie with heart.


5-star-movie reviews

“Eighth Grade” is a true and terrifying film.  Nominated for one Golden Globe, but ignored by the Oscars, it has won numerous acclaim.  We saw it on rental.   As if staring through the window of their suburban house, we witness a story about a 14 year old girl who lives alone except for a smartphone in her hand.  Her dad inhabits the house and tries to share her life; even his caring attempts illustrate today’s culture’s mixed up understanding of parenting.  We never see her mother.

Adolescence can be an awkward time.  However, this film trumpets the warning that technology has driven our country’s children into the poverty of loneliness.  The star, Elsie Fisher, should be up for “Best Actress.”  Her honest portrayal of life lived on a phone is heartbreaking.  She’s befriended in a superficial way by one other living person, a  high school girl in a rare but inappropriate school program.  (Why should an eighth grader be hanging around at the mall with high school kids?)

When I was 14, I lived with a family who loved me.  It was a weird time: I still loved my dolls, “This is the last Christmas you’re getting a doll,” my mother told me.  Yet it was also the year I started wearing a bra.  (Yes, that late in life (!) compared to now when mothers who shop at “Justice” now buy their daughters those ‘bra things’ at age 8!) My family also chose to attend church where I had youth group sponsors like Jerry and Carol Augustin who planned fun social activities for us middle school kids like tobogganing, “Dutch Date Nights”, sleepovers, trips to Hershey Park, etc etc.  I had friends.  I had friends at school/neighborhood.  Not many; I was not popular.  But I was not alone.

This film is heartbreaking and unfortunately true.  Must see for anyone who cares about their grandchildren and the next generation.

Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly are totally believable as film legends Laurel and Hardy.  The settings, in Hollywood and Britain, are impeccably 1953.  The film looks great.

Laurel and Hardy were comedians, but this is not a comedy but a snail’s pacing, melancholy story about their last years, when  they faced half empty seats in theatres.  Producers didn’t want to make their films.  Hardy’s gambling, arguing wives and bickering over business affairs soured their relationship.

This film is as predictable as a documentary, but I do not mean to belittle documentaries, which can be fascinating.

Duane said he liked it.  He liked the relational aspect of it, he said.  There were no guns or car crashes, I’ll say that.

My dad adored Laurel and Hardy and I watched him laughing hysterically at their movies.  I appreciated them, too.

I wanted to like it.  Five hearts for the actor’s great portrayals.  Comedians often make the best serious actors.  Minus three hearts for poor pacing/writing/storyline.  That makes two hearts.  Add one more heart for the scenery.

(The Queen’s crown is in the picture; this movie is the story of the British rock group Queen and its’ lead singer Freddy Mercury).

I love music; I was more into Broadway albums, Barbara Streisand, Judy Garland, Motown, the Beatles and romantic classical artists, like Rachmaninoff, than boy band groups like Queen.

But I’m a sucker for any well told story about a musical artist who comes from nowhere to become an international star. It’s a story of nonconformity and courage. And the cliche fall into drugs and arrogance. Then redemption.

The actors are brilliant, writing excellent and pacing sticks to their sermon. Queen wrote songs their followers could sing! Real singable melodies! A lesson for song writers.

Caveat: Freddy was a gay musician so the film goes there but that theme did not take over the film. Not sure of the truthfulness/timing of the last bits of the story – it got a bit too much of an ‘everything falls magically into place’ ending.

But I admire creative musicians and loved hearing Queens’ music; watching the process. My Dad, a great lover of classical music, would say about Tchaikovsky, etc, “they’re all nuts.” But he said it with a smile.



Based on a remarkable true story, Adam Driver and John David Washington sell this.

Loved it because it rang true and though not a happy film, the leads play heroic characters and I always go for that.   A bit preachy in one scene right at the end;  the filmmaker earned the right to preach.

I hope it does win some awards.


Mary Queen of Scots stayed in Dumbarton Castle as a child, just blocks from where my grandparents lived on 4 Wallace Street.  So I couldn’t wait to see this movie… I have Scottish blood in my veins!

Mary then fled to France, married Francis II, twenty years later returning to England and Scotland .   Lots of potential for story here with French court intrigue, religious power struggles for Elizabeth I’s throne, murders and deceit.  Too bad the film, with beautiful costumes and gorgeous settings, didn’t go there.  Whoever made the film was focused on conveying the message that men are jerks and women aren’t, and breezed through any attempt at a coherent storyline.  Saiorse Ronan sure looked pretty in her close up shots, but wouldn’t the real Mary have spoken with a French accent, having grown up pretty much in France?  

One of those films so eager to be ‘realistic’ they show detail of Mary getting her period, and then at the same time, they show Queen Elizabeth’s chief ambassador as African American and her courtiers as Asian. Really?!  

Except for the scenery and costumes, a waste of time to watch a filmmaker in 2018 with a gender axe to grind, fantasize about 16th century history.


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