vchimpanzee

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Reviews

Tortilla Soup
(2001)

Mostly pleasant and sometimes funny film about a Latino family, great music
I mostly know Hector Elizondo as a successful businessman who doesn't seem all that bright and has trouble holding a marriage together. Here, I had some trouble forgetting Ed Alzate but eventually came to really like him as Martin, a loving but sometimes strict father. And I especially liked his relationship with young April, who seemed destined to become a part of the family as a result of his romance.

I already knew two of the other actors here. Elizabeth Pena, unfortunately, I know mostly from the cute "I Married Dora" but I've seen her give quality performances in other better roles. Here, she's kind of hard to get used to, but she ends up not being as uptight as she started out. I won't say I ever really liked the character Leticia, but she had her moments.

Paul Rodriguez is the other actor I am familiar with. Can we call him a good actor? I'm not sure, but you have to like him, no matter what he does.

If I have to pick one character to like the best it is easily Maribel, who is cute, attractive, funny, and lacks ambition. She just wants to do what she wants.

Another great character is Carmen, but she's very driven and very responsible. Not as easy to like, but someone needs to be the voice of reason. Plus she is gorgeous.

Also gorgeous is Raquel Welch, who still wasn't showing her age but was playing her age, and not really doing that. Hortensia (terrible name that suggests someone really her age) wanted to stay young for as long as possible. And while she had trouble keeping a marriage together (sounds familiar, based on who the lead is), there is potential here for the next one.

Nikolai Kinski's Andy is quite good, very patient at first with the fun-loving Maribel, but even he has his limits.

One of the best things about the movie is its music. Some is performed in Spanish and some just sounds like it should be. And nearly all of it is great.

And the food! Normally you have one person in the credits representing the caterer. Not here. There is a whole staff listed, and the scenes showing food being prepared are quite detailed and quite effective. You know this will be a movie about food as well as family.

I would have liked this movie better if it had really been a comedy, but it gets too sad or too angry several times.

Predictable? Not really. Maybe there is a Sherlock Holmes out there who could see all these twists coming, but not me. I often see comments or imdb reviews that say something like "I saw this coming", but that's rarely true in my case.

And while the ending is surprising, it is also satisfying.

I thought it was quite good.

Chances Are
(1989)

Cute fantasy, great music (mostly)
It's a formula, but I mostly enjoyed the formula. Even I had to admit it was an unlikely pairing.

Cybill Shepherd does a great job here, mostly funny, but when she has to get serious she's completely serious and we have serious doubts we will ever see what we hoped for. Also, she's gorgeous, considering her age. At the time this movie was made, though, she had a more uptight attitude as she solved cases with the more light-hearted Bruce Willis (and if you're not familiar, Perdita Weeks and Jay Hernandez have a similar style). Here, she's more willing to have fun.

Robert Downey Jr., however, is not someone I easily recognize. That's good because he has played a number of very different roles and played them well. I liked him here just fine as our hero who has a goal we worry he will never reach, but we root for him just the same. And he has other goals in life, as we watch him scheme and struggle.

But would we settle for Alex being with Miranda instead? She certainly is cute. It would not be immediately clear to me that Mary Stuart Masterson will be a respected actress based on this, but I know the name and I saw who she was later. The library scene was just adorable.

And Ryan O'Neal is likeable enough. Would we be willing to settle for Philip and Corinne together? Either way looks good.

And of course there are the early scenes where Louie is either still alive or in that white place where everyone is processed. Seeing Louie so upset in that white place is fun.

One of the best things about this movie is the music. Of course, with this title we know we get one good song, but there are many, considering the first scenes happened in 1963. And the good songs continue throughout the movie, with one major exception. That is the theme song. While Corinne loves Johnny Mathis and so do I, and the movie starts with that one song, Louie plays "After All" by Peter Cetera and Cher on the piano, either like he is learning to play it or like he is writing it. And when Alex plays the same song, that's a clue to Corinne that maybe Alex's crazy story is true. On the piano it sounds good. At the end of the movie, the well-known singers perform it and, while that song gets played on the same radio stations that still play Johnny Mathis and his style of music, to me it just doesn't sound nearly as good as the other songs. Plus I can't stand Peter Cetera.

The ending won't please everyone but it is satisfying.

Overall, I had a good time.

Face 2 Face
(2016)

Outstanding, funny, cute and then quite disturbing
This starts out as an adorable comedy as two old friends who haven't seen each other in years enjoy communicating online. Occasionally it gets a little serious, but nothing to be concerned about. Then things get very serious. And even more serious than that. I have seen a number of horror movies that started out as cute comedies and then turned dark. This is sort of like that.

And of course everything we see is something that appears on a device, whether it is the entire computer screen belonging to Teel, or just the video he sends Madison, or the video Madison sends Teel. It's amazing how all this can be accomplished. I do wish we had gotten a close-up look at the text messages. On my small TV screen I was never able to read them, and the audience was not necessarily helped by seeing Teel's full screen as they were being typed.

I did not know I was seeing Daniela Bobadilla until the end credits. Had I known, I was familiar with her from two series. She was Charlie Sheen 's perfectly ordinary and adorable daughter in "Anger Management", which I have seen most episodes of on whatever channel it was on. I had forgotten she was Sue's friend, if I even knew that was her, on "The Middle". I liked her in both roles.

But never mind all that. Bobadilla makes us like her--a lot--for the minute she first shows up on Teel's computer screen. Not only is she gorgeous, but she is so friendly and outgoing and just has this great personality. Of course she annoying when she tries too hard, but that's part of her charm. And she has a vulnerable side too, which Bobadilla shows very well. She also effectively shows concern when something is upsetting but not happening to her. And then there is something absolutely terrifying before the end, and she makes that work too. Who knew Sheen's daughter Sam was capable of so much? On the other hand, Sheen would have grounded her for all that makeup, though she has a more natural look later in the movie. I could make another comment about Sheen here, but I can't say too much.

Daniel Amerman does a capable job. He has no ability to be friendly to start with and is a completely awkward nerd who has all the personality of Mark Zuckerberg. That changes and we soon like Teel as well. And while he is mostly receiving help coming out of his shell, he can give help too.

Madison has terrible taste in music. That means she's typical of girls her age. Some of the songs are better than others. Nothing quite measures up for me but I'm not in the target audience, I'm sure. Teel also doesn't like good music, though his taste is not as macho as I would have expected. Then again, he is a nerd. Anyway, the list of songs goes on for days at the end and certain names show up a lot. I have never heard of any of these people and wouldn't want to know more about most of them.

There is some nice scenery between Michigan and California. I won't explain how or why we get to see it.

I was enjoying myself for a while, and I wish the movie's tone had stayed as adorable and positive all the way through. I still liked how it turned out, but not as much. But a message at the end indicates there was a more important purpose here.

The Wedding Party
(2016)

Funny at times but not quite what I want; at least the music is good
How I feel about this movie isn't that important, because I believe it is a movie a lot of people will like. I didn't enjoy that much of it, but there were highlights for me, and plenty of good comedy. Just not enough.

What I liked more than anything else was the music. Most of it, anyway. A man named Sean asked for his recorded so-called music to be played and he did a breakdance. He was quite good, actually, and more of this should have been shown, though I was grateful not to hear any more of his "music". Also, the kitchen staff had music playing that I couldn't really hear but didn't care for. But the swing band led by Erik Ekstrand was outstanding. Sure, one groomsman wondered why someone would care so much about nostalgia, but one bridesmaid liked swing music. And so do I. It doesn't sound old. Some of it is pretty hip, and in fact not particularly different from early rock and roll at times. And several cast members danced really well. There were great solos on clarinet and trumpet. Now best man Colt should never have tried to sing that one time.

Plenty of acting performances stood out, but I want to start with the truly unusual.

One man who is never named talked like he came in a pickup truck. He was very happy and nice but obnoxious and not dressed for the occasion. And he said he was sick. Based on what the credits say, I will say this is Chris Rodrick.

The man in charge of catering, who I will conclude is Maxilmiliano (Arturo del Puerto) was Hispanic or Italian and always angry about being asked questions. Until someone makes a comment which is misinterpreted and he is very happy with the attitude "Viva la Revolucion!" And yes, this contributes to one of the many disastrous events.

Greta is one of the bridesmaids and I believe she may have been maid of honor (even though Alex took chare of everything). She shouldn't have been. Not only was she quite drunk the entire movie, but she kept getting in unfortunate and embarrassing situations, such as her underwear being exposed as she came out of the bathroom. Plus she apparently lost her shoes at some point.

Moving on to more normal people, the real standout performer was Allison Paige. Alex took charge and, while she was usually somewhat annoying, she stood out and showed more range later. She was more than just accomplished and intelligent and determined to let everyone know it.

Blake Lee was another main character, Jim, a good friend of Paul and someone Alex used to date. And he wanted to go back to her. He was nice enough.

And then there is Moses Storm as Skyler, a bumbling and awkward guy who we were really supposed to like, even as he had unpleasant experiences.

Was this family friendly? As with so many movies I watch on TV, this one had the sound go out a lot and a character's mouth blurred when it did. A shocked Aunt Sylvia heard the c-word, and was told that's not a bad word these days, but actually a compliment. And couples went in the restroom to do you-know-what, or they at least made out on the grounds of the venue. Or talked about doing you-know-what.

It is suggested that a bird explodes. We just see feathers flying and comments that it happened.

What I didn't like was so much relationship drama and arguing about this and that.

However, this reception had one crisis after another and a couple of disasters.

I liked it enough, but it just wasn't ideal.

G.B.F.
(2013)

Entertaining, funny, also offensive
In order to enjoy this movie, you have to get past a couple of details some people might find very offensive. In this movie gay people are treated like pets or mascots. Imagine if that was what people did with African Americans. In fact, at one point during the movie, that is exactly what happens. The other detail is that people believe the stereotypes and can't understand why a gay person wouldn't like this or that, or do this or that.

If none of this bothers you, this is quite a good movie, with some important lessons.

Yes, much of what is here seems typical of a teenage movie, but in its own quirky way the movie seems to teach tolerance and doesn't quite fit a formula. The uptight moral types are made to look like morons, and those we would normally hate in a movie like this actually turn out to be quite good people.

Most of the leading actors deliver very good performances. Tanner, who narrates, is quite appealing and doesn't really act like the gay stereotype. It is obvious from the beginning that Brent is SOOOO GAY. Paul Iacono is great and you just have to like Brent.

I haven't seen a lot of Sasha Pieterse, but I do remember the name from when she was Buffy in the WB version of "Family Affair". She still looks sort of like she did back then, but she also reminds me of AnnaLynne McCord. She offers the right balance of spoiled brat in public and good friend in private.

Andrea Bowen is so very perky and you just can't hate 'Shley who somehow manages to be appealing. Her version of an uptight religious personality is quite a contrast to Evanna Lynch, who is nasty and judgmental and not likable at all. Both performances are good.

Megan Mullally is considerably toned down from. Karen Walker but still shows signs of that type of character. She is quite nice and tolerant as Brent's mom.

Taylor Frey as 'Shley's boyfriend, who resembles Michael Rosenbaum, is just plain creepy and there's an additional reason why which you maybe should learn about later. Interesting that I noticed this resemblance because when Brent and Tanner had problems with their friendship, what happened was compared to Clark Kent and Lex Luthor. As far as I know, they must have been referring to "Smallville" on The WB, because I know of no other version of the story where they were best friends.

Jonathan Silverman and Rebecca Gayheart, as Tanner's uptight parents who he hasn't told, are quite good but their best performances come in the outtakes at the end. Yes, you have to stay around for those. Some are bloopers and some are scenes that just didn't make it into the final movie.

Ann Russo is hilarious, with only a couple of lines, as a frightening German teacher who could intimidate Nazis.

At one point, Tanner tells Brent he doesn't like pop-dance music but Brent tells him this is what gays like. Actually, there is good music that gay people like, but none of it is in this movie. And for someone with my taste in music, there is little if anything. There may have been good background music I don't remember, but the only good music that was actually played, in my opinion, came when Tanner was eating at 'Shley's house.

I think we've established this was far from family friendly, but exactly how bad it was I don't know. The sound went out many times and in some scenes there was almost nothing left and I had a hard time figuring out what was going on. Based on what seems appropriate, I think many words allowed on broadcast TV were bleeped, so maybe this wasn't as bad as all that. But protest signs were blurred, and one of the outtakes, on broadcast TV, was completely obscured and I couldn't even hear anything.

I mostly had a good time.

Rushlights
(2013)

Interesting thriller and mystery
This is a pretty good thriller as well as a mystery that takes many twists and turns with some unexpected surprises along the way. And the surprises don't end when the movie does.

I was going to say Crispian Belfrage, whoever that is, gave the standout performance. As drug dealer Eddie he looks and talks like Keith Urban, if Urban didn't shave for a while and let his hair grow even longer and was an angry blue-collar soccer fan from Liverpool. And was hoarse from too much singing.

But, no. While both Beau Bridges and Aidan Quinn did good jobs early, they really showed what they were capable of later. Especially Bridges.

I'm not familiar with Haley Webb but she showed quite a range, starting out cute and nice but then having to be strong in the face of danger. Plus there is one close-up of her in her underwear. I do wonder why if it was so hot she was wearing shorts on one of the nights, why was she covered up so much in bed the other nights?

I saw the name Joel McKinnon Miller in the credits but couldn't remember who that was. He is the warm and fuzzy if incompetent senior detective Scully on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine". He isn't warm and fuzzy here and in fact, in a brief role, he gets quite angry and violent.

There's quite a contrast between lawyers here. Cameron is professional and seems honest and moral. Once you see Philip Lenkowsky knowing he plays a lawyer, you know he is exactly who you want if you intend to sue for a lot of money and don't care what you have to do to win.

We also get two types of waitresses. Sarah is cute and friendly but she is in the big city. The small town sassy blonde waitress is found in Tremo, and at first I thought she was Amy Poehler. She just looks like her.

Is this family friendly? I don't think so. There may have been some details missing when this was cleaned up for TV. A lot of words certainly were. But there were references to being gay and suggestions of something that would have ruined the reputation of the respected Niles whose fortune was supposed to go to Ellen. Plus there is some violence, but not a lot considering the type of movie. The bloodiest scenes involve a body wrapped in a sheet and being dragged, with blood dripping all along the way, and someone being shipped in the way slaves were in "Roots".

Most of the music was not my taste. A couple of songs were what I would describe as "real country". Most of the music, including a lot of the background music, was a style related to blues and classic rock. This might be what is referred to as "roots" music. A less aggressive version of the style can be a part of bluegrass.

Overall, this was really well done, and while not ideal for me, quite exciting at times.

Imagine I'm Beautiful
(2014)

Not my taste, often depressing, but well done
Naomi Jones wrote and starred in this movie, and it's an amazing accomplishment. You don't have to imagine she's beautiful because she is. I would compare her appearance to Anne Hathaway in "The Princess Diaries" or Rachel in "Glee". But maybe Lana is insecure (maybe this is the reason for the movie's title?) because in an early scene she feels she has to make herself look like a hooker. People with anorexia have a similar problem, thinking they are fat. And whether it is intentional or not, in one scene late in the movie, Lana doesn't look good at all. She could pass for a man dressed as a woman, and she looks older. Maybe it's the lighting.

However, Lana is so nice and considerate of others, always trying to help. Her personality makes me think of a less annoying Rachel. And yet there's always the feeling that she will end up going off the deep end or doing something else crazy. With others, she seems so nice, but alone, there is always the hint Lana has some mental problem. In fact, there's something weird about the editing, like we're always going back to the past in a very brief flashback.

Another great acting performance comes from Katie Morrison. Kate is a very complicated character and not predictable at all. Jones' writing for this character is superior. She seems fine but cynical when we first meet her. Well, of course. She's a typical New Yorker. Not really friendly, but not mean. Yet. Then it turns out maybe she's the insecure one, always depressed, always alone listening to terrible music, drinking, smoking, possibly doing drugs, even suggesting suicide. If she's an artist, her work looks like what kids do at elementary school. She's attractive but not really pretty. Yet. Later on, Lana has a positive influence on her and she shows promise of getting her life back, and at one point she looks beautiful. Not in an overdone hooker kind of way like Lana was earlier. Actually, there is a video on imdb at the time I am writing this and the first image you see is Kate when she looks beautiful. And Kate's ups and downs throughout the rest of the movie could have given us a quality production on its own, without Lana having any problems.

The men who played the boyfriends did a good job, and both were nice. Geoff had the bigger challenge in Kate, but he was patient.

If you're one of these people who likes a film that didn't take the easy route giving us something obvious and formulaic that will bring in audiences and money, but rather something that might get Oscar nominations or some other honor instead, this may be for you. I found the women's relationships interesting if complex, but I prefer my movies to be happier with simpler plots. Maybe simpler isn't the word, but you can have complicated and be more accessible.

There's not much here in the way of good music. There's Kate's loud depressing junk. And there is new age synthesizer as a character is just sitting there not doing much and, to me at least, annoying. I remember one scene that had something pleasant, and that still wasn't my taste. That's not important.

Some creative editing takes place at the end. It's very confusing but effective. We keep jumping back and forth between two scenes so it takes a while to understand what is happening. It doesn't fit a formula I certainly didn't see it coming. It's not ideal, but it's somewhat satisfying.

I guarantee this is not family friendly. Plenty of words get bleeped out. Sometimes it's hard to figure out what's going on. And there is sex and suggestions that sex will happen, and cheating.

This isn't the first movie I've seen that does this, but in the closing credits there is a list of people that are thanked that goes on for days. I can't imagine how all these people played a role in making the movie possible. There are several theater groups on this list. Anyway, the more people who are thanked, the less likely the film is to have been "commercial" or successful.

If I just watch what I get on broadcast TV, sometimes there will be a nice surprise. Surprise, yes, but nice? Sort of.

2 Days in Paris
(2007)

Well done, sometimes funny, not always my style
Julie Delpy's name is all over the credits, and she obviously plays a major role in making this such a good movie. As an actress she does a fine job, occasionally serving as narrator. Mostly Marion is calm and reasonable and somewhat likable. When she speaks French she is very pleasant and gracious (mostly). But she can get angry when she has to. And she can be vulnerable, such as when she has a bad reaction to something she eats and thinks she is dying. She is sort of pretty but her blonde hair is often a mess. And she needs these Clark Kent glasses when she doesn't have her contacts, or she is nearly blind. Strangely, they actually do make her look prettier when she's not dressed up and in full makeup.

I mostly know Adam Goldberg (no, not that one) from his role as the suspected creator of God's Facebook account in "God Friended Me", but I had forgotten his name and just though he looked familiar. He does a capable job here. Whether I can say I truly like Jack, I don't know. Ironically, while we were told he has anger management issues, he doesn't really get angry, and he certainly has reasons to. Jack has to go through so much because of his lack of ability to speak French and all the ordeals he must go through, some because of Marion and some not.

Anna and Jeannot, Marion's parents, are pleasant enough. But they can be embarrassing, and he has kind of an attitude.

There are plenty of laughs but this is not always a comedy. And sometimes there is humor which is dark.

If you like cats there is one, but it's not cute. Not mean either. Just there, and not that often.

A lot of dialogue is in French with subtitles. This makes the movie a real challenge to watch, but it's effective, especially when it's Marion talking. I had two years of French in high school but i know little more than Jack.

Five cab drivers really stand out. This is especially true of the one who hates everyone who doesn't meet his standards.

There is music for every taste. I don't like a lot of the music here. There is rock, contemporary dance music, disco, and a couple of songs that sound like people are high on drugs or enjoying life in the 60s. Delpy, it turns out, sings on the music in the closing credits, and I thought it sounded like it might be her. It's sort of folk rock, the kind of thing she would like, but not really my taste.

If you watch this I hope you have the ability to freeze the video or at least slow it down. If you watch it on TV and commercial breaks last as long as they did for me, you really need this ability at 0:42 and 1:23. Delpy get editing credit, so she must be responsible for this. In the first case, apparently we get to see every single photo Jack took in Italy. It's really something but it will all be a blur if you just watch the movie straight through. It's an interesting editing choice. And I liked the music in this sequence, sort of like New Orleans style jazz but European style, whatever that means. The second time Marion and Jack are in the cab where the driver is really nice and plays pleasant music. The cab seems to be racing through the city like Barry Allen. To see anything requires the ability to slow down, and Pizza Hut and Starbucks can be seen.

Is this acceptable for the entire family? Of course not. A lot of times the sound goes out or words are blurred in the subtitles. Way too many words. And yet all the French words are spoken. This makes me wonder if fluent French speakers are being subjected to something that violates broadcast standards or perhaps the translation is naughtier than it needs to be. There is a work of art based on Marion that we cannot see.

If you like Oscar winning movies that don't fit stereotypes and don't have the obvious perfect choices for leads, if you like poetry readings in places with good coffee, and especially if you are a woman, I believe this is for you. It wasn't always ideal for me.

September 12th
(2017)

Well done but not really my taste
The actors here all do a good job, and the writing is good quality. Still, this is not my idea of entertaining. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn't. The conversations go from worried to funny to philosophical to just plain angry.

At one point some kind of keyboard is playing, and the music is kind of depressing. Up until that point I don't think there has been music, at least not as background in the scenes in the dorm room, and it doesn't last all that long. The really, really slow closing credits also have music, and not the kind I like either. Briefly, there is actual loud music coming from elsewhere in the dorm. It's weird that no other sound comes from anywhere else, because these five people surely aren't the only ones in the building.

If I have to pick any of the students to like, it is Lynz. She seems to be the voice of reason and prettier than Shelly, who is kind of nerdy. Actually, Shelly wears glasses just to look smart but doesn't really need them. Justin is also likable, while Eric to me is more of a challenge.

Of all the characters Don who delivered the pizza was my favorite. He was Wojo in "Barney Miller" and it was nice to see him again, but he seems so much nicer here. At first I thought he was Christopher Lloyd because of the hair, but he doesn't have that distinctive voice.

Is this family friendly? Of course not. Sometimes the sound went out so many times when I saw this that I had a hard time figuring out what was going on. The students seem to use a lot of bad language, and yet I guess it's nothing more than what would be realistic.

If you are or recently were a college student and enjoyed sitting around talking about every subject there is, this should certainly look familiar. I've never done it, and it wasn't really what I would choose to watch, but it is was worth seeing.

Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing & Charm School
(2005)

Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, sometimes quite sad, and that music!
John Goodman is wonderful here. Even though his character is seriously injured and near death, Steve just keeps on telling his story and his mind seems clear, despite all that is going on. Steve even cares about Frank, as bad a shape as he's in! Of course, when he is narrating and we see something else, he sounds perfectly normal. He tells the story two different times, though, and the other time we see at the very beginning of the movie. We just don't get to see that much.

I know Robert Carlyle mainly is a crafty and sometimes gleeful villain, and I'm quite used to seeing him go back and forth between the present day and an earlier life, which is what this movie does a lot. Here, there is one scene that hints at his future, but mostly he is a kind and caring man who also shows he hasn't gotten over his late wife. It's a different side of him, certainly, though he had not played the villain yet.

The scenes with kids are fun and just edgy enough, with the humorous attempts to be "proper".

I've seen Mary Steenburgen in so many great roles. She's kind of flat here a lot of the time, trying so hard to be proper, but she gets an attitude change later. It's still a good performance because that's just how the character is. And she is a wonderful dancer.

Marisa Tomei is quite likable and someone I can support as a potential romantic interest, quite a contrast somehow to a role of hers I saw earlier.

I'm not familiar with Donnie Wahlberg though I've heard of him. He's mostly your typical bully but has a vulnerable side.

A couple of other actors have only a few lines, but they are well known and do quite well. Danny DeVito was Steve's cellmate in prison.

And Octavia Spencer has one line. But she does it so well it's clear she will go on to be highly regarded.

The best thing about the movie for me was the music. No, they're not the original versions of the songs in most case, but the sound of the big band era is back, baby! This movie swings!

But of course not everything here is positive. Not everything will work out the way we would hope and yet some endings are happy.

I had a good time. Mostly.

100 Streets
(2016)

Well done but mostly depressing
I didn't know Idris Elba was the star of this movie until it was over, but I have heard great things about him. However, He has been honored repeatedly, and while he was quite good in the role of Max, He wasn't the one actor who truly stood out. But he still gave us quite a range as Max, a celebrity sports star who doesn't have much to live for but puts on a positive front for his fans. Max went through various emotions--charming, pleasant, demanding but reasonable, seriously depressed, angry. He even had a good time with his children in one of the more enjoyable scenes for me.

Franz Drameh spoke the first lines in the movie, reciting poetry that had an edge. And he did this several times, including in his audition at the Great Hall. If anyone in this movie was headed for Oscar recognition, I would have thought it would be him. And he had a number of pleasant scenes, especially with Terence, that I found quite enjoyable. Kingsley also dealt well with adversity, and his character was written in such a way that he didn't always do the obvious and expected. He had to grieve and did that well.

And on the subject of Terence, what a performance by Ken Stott. He too recited poetry and gave advice to his friend, and he accepted adversity in an unexpected way.

Gemma Arterton is pretty, but more than that. She had a lot to cope with and did it admirably.

Charlie Creed-Miles also does a good job as the taxi driver and coach who doesn't seem all that confident and has to deal with adversity, but like the others, he figures out how to pick himself up and go on with life. and he does this with supportive wife (or is it girlfriend) Kathy, who is portrayed capably by Kierston Wareing.

With all that is good about this movie, I just didn't enjoy it all that much. Yes, Kingsley's poetry is powerful. Not something I cared that much for. There are plenty of nice scenes but in so many of them, there is conflict or tragedy.

London is a beautiful city, though, with nice bridges and some nice parks, even if parts of the city aren't much to look at. The Great Hall is a magnificent building. It would have been nice to see more of the city's classic architecture.

And this isn't exactly family friendly even with the kids. Not even cleaned up for TV, which in my case included a lot of times when the sound went out, sometimes so much I had trouble following, and with British accents, that made things even worse. Smoking of cigarettes is shown, but smoking anything else means a blob in the location of whatever it is, even when it is being sold and not smoked.

Is this a good movie? Of course. Will you like it? Depends.

Mean Girls 2
(2011)

Appealing, not just mean but Incredibly cruel
Except for Tim Meadows, who is also a school principal in the role I am most familiar with, no one here was familiar. And he was about what you would expect, which is pretty good and not exactly inspiring confidence. But it's all right that no one else was familiar. Many of the characters here were quite appealing.

I don't know who Meaghan Martin is but she has this face that makes me think I've seen her numerous times. She is beautiful (too pretty to be familiar with engines, and yet she is). And so incredibly appealing. And smart. And tough. I certainly didn't want her to be treated so cruelly by the in crowd. But no matter what is thrown at her, Jo can take it and she can get her revenge. It's no wonder she ended up with so many friends, but even for her there is such a thing as going too far. And that's one of the lessons she had to learn. Jo takes us on an emotional roller coaster.

Abby is not much to look at but she is also very appealing and you hate to see her also be a victim. When she has the friends she deserves, she can also be quite a good friend, and she certainly doesn't deserve what comes later. Jennifer Stone does a great job.

Two young male characters I also found appealing. Diego Boneta as Tyler and Colin Dennard as the geeky but brilliant Elliott are pretty much what one would expect in a movie like this.

I'm not entirely sure who the shop teacher was but he was also appealing in a quirky way, and I'm guessing he was the goofy referee for the football game that came later.

And you have to like Linden Ashby as Jo's father. I believe he shows the best acting skill of anyone.

Of the three mean girls, I found Claire Holt as Chastity the most appealing. Not only gorgeous but she has no brains and is so funny as a result.

But whoever Maiara Walsh is, she just didn't have what it takes as the meanest girl of all. Something was missing in her performance, though it's a pleasure whenever she gets what she deserves.

She spoke no actual words, but Autumn Dial does a great job looking silly while doing martial arts moves. Or perhaps she's quite good at those.

Early in the movie a lot of different schools were shown, and there's one in particular that looked great. I wish that had been the school chosen. Without a DVR I never would have gotten a good look. It's on screen for one second, but so many TV and movie schools look like this, the way most new schools in small to medium size cities looked in the 1920s.. And the schools shown range from amazing architecture to very bland 1950s or 1960s styles. The school for this movie was somewhere in between and not what I would call particularly attractive on the outside.

Music? This movie is obviously targeted at teen girls, and I am definitely not one of them. There's not a lot here for me.

Yes, it's a silly teen formula movie. Yes, it's hard to watch at times. I still mostly had a good time.

Arthur Newman
(2012)

Adorable, occasionally funny, sometimes sad
This is a fun couple, even if what they do isn't always quite legal. In fact, the more illegal, the more fun their adventures are.

Emily Blunt does an amazing job here. Mike goes through so many changes, starting out as goth and insane when we first meet her, then pretty but somewhat unbalanced, then quite likable. She does impressions of the people she pretends to be, and does them so well. Sometimes she can be normal, and sometimes she is going off the deep end. And then there are the really sad moments. And she looks good in her underwear.

Colin Firth is a different matter. I couldn't imagine Arthur being someone I would actually like, and yet eventually he comes across as the voice of reason and basically carries the movie, while his wacky "girlfriend" provides comic relief or shows a vulnerable side. When he is needed Arthur is very helpful, and eventually he doesn't seem like the loser Wallace was, but is quite convincing as if he is established in a career and confident of who he is.

Anne Heche does okay and is somewhat likable. What I like best about her was her beautiful long hair. When I first learned who she was she had very short hair.

Lukas Hedges is likable enough as the son, but he doesn't seem all that concerned about his father, and if anything, he seems inappropriately close to Wallace's girlfriend. Not enough is done to develop his character and we don't even hear much from the boy's family.

We see a lot of nice scenery on this road trip, and I don't know where it all is, but North Carolina was mentioned a lot in the credits, and that's where I live. One sign on the interstate was obviously on I-95 because it showed towns I knew about, though I've never been on that stretch of highway. There was a great looking bridge at the beach which didn't get nearly enough screen time, and we didn't really get a good look at it.

Eventually, important lessons are learned, and maybe we have a happy ending. I don't think it's quite what I was hoping for but it satisfies.

Overall, I had a pretty good time.

Dinner for Schmucks
(2010)

Hilarious and even insane
Steve Carell is amazing. Barry has this positive attitude no matter what and manages to get on everyone's nerves having no clue how truly nerdy he is. Barry pushes himself on people thinking he can solve any problem and indeed, must solve any problem he can. And sometimes getting hurt in the process, but not really hurt. But of course his feelings can be hurt. Carell makes the movie really work.

And while it's not definitely him, someone is doing a great job in the opening credits with the wonderful mouse art. The mice are depicted as silly, of course, but this art work is truly worthy of respect. And of course it's funny that many of the works imitate the great masterpieces.

On the subject of art, Kieran's work is disturbing and certainly not my taste, but there is talent there as well.

I don't know who Jermaine Clement is but he has such a sophisticated British accent and a serious delivery, in stark contrast to some of the quirky behavior and attitudes he shows.

Another of the real standout performers is Zach Galifianakis as a co-worker of Barry whose over the top behavior surely couldn't be a real person anywhere outside a Vegas show. I didn't care for him but you might.

I'm not familiar with Paul Rudd but I've heard the name. He gets the job done. We want Tim to succeed and laugh when his life is a mess.

Stephanie Szostak is Tim's girlfriend who we like, and want to see with him, but we are constantly wondering if that's even possible. She shows a lot of patience but even she has her limits.

Kristen Schaal is always likable. She doesn't have much to do as Tim's secretary but she does it well.

Lucy Punch is borderline insane as Time's ex, sometimes appearing to be in control but often behaving as if she needs to be locked up, and definitely not a family-friendly character. She likes adventurous sex and wears a lot of black leather. No, I don't really care for her. You might.

And the dinner is attended by many talented people.

Jeff Dunham makes a good ventriloquist. Not one who appeals to me, but he's good.

Octavia Spencer in this? Of course. As her character receives a message from the Great Beyond, what she does would be equally at home in a zany comedy which this is, or in a serious horror movie.

And Chris O'Dowd is very funny as a blind man who fights with a sword.

There are plenty of other good performances.

I have one criticism. Randall Park is a talented man but he never spoke a word that I can recall at the dinner. I think he was one of Tim's co-workers, but if he spoke early on, I certainly don't remember. And that's a shame. I like him and you'd think I'd have noticed him, but he was easily recognizable later.

As for the music, I really liked the use of what I will call a Jimmy Riddle harmonica, which helps add to the comic atmosphere.

This was a wonderful effort.

Year of the Dog
(2007)

Sometimes funny, sometimes depressing, often preachy, Shannon wonderful
I don't like dogs and would have no sympathy for Valentine in real life but even I found Pencil the Beagle sort of cute.

This starts off suggesting it will be a cute romantic comedy, but no. Peggy's best friend mentions "getting laid".

And while this film is sometimes funny, such as when Peggy tries to handle a large number of dogs, but then it becomes disturbing. How well you can handle disturbing depends on you.

So what's going to happen to poor Peggy?

Molly Shannon gives a wonderful performance here. She is quite likable, of course, but she has a lot to do and does it quite well. When she loses a dog it is quite painful to watch her reaction. Then she goes around essentially telling everyone she is right and they are wrong. I think we are also supposed to feel guilty if we eat animals. Yeah, don't try to convince me these plant-based products are any good. If they were, I'd already be eating them. Finally, Shannon really looks quite disturbed. And this is partly the work of the makeup people too. I don't think Shannon looks that bad without makeup. I think they had to make her look really sick, like it was cancer or something.

Several other actors give very good performances. I'm not crazy about John C. Reilly but he's not quite what one would expect, even if some of Al's actions are predictable. Even his girlfriend isn't a stereotypical bimbo.

Regina King is one of the most respected actors working today. I couldn't tell from this performance that she would be, but she does a good job.

Laura Dern is also one of today's top actresses. Again, I couldn't really see it, but she just makes Bret quite unpleasant. And I'm sure that was the objective. Knowing who she is, I'm sure Dern did it well.

I don't know who Peter Sarsgaard is but he's quite likable and not preachy. He had to deal with a range of emotions and did it well. One of the movies terrible events was his fault and he too had to grieve. He did that well.

Sonya Eddy had to be the woman at the vet's office. Even if she was just an actress, you know that's the type of person you want with you when the worst happens.

Something was familiar about an employee at the dog pound. That was Liza Weil of "Gilmore Girls", who was quite nice here.

The twins playing Lissie were a delight.

I'm not sure what to say about Josh Pais as the boss. If he was supposed to come across as incapable of being a leader and easily pushed around by others, he achieved that. At the same time, I wonder if he could have been more.

I don't know how many dogs played Pencil. The last dog to do so stays really still quite well.

In an ironic twist, I saw the head dog trainer listed in the cast. She must have been the dog owner whose tiny pet was attacked by Valentine. So you KNOW she was in control and the little dog she held was not in danger.

I got the impression the movie was intended to make us hate eating animals or letting anything cruel happen to them. Didn't work on me. But if a person's mind can be changed, this movie certainly makes a worthy effort.

Anyway, I'd rather see a "Year of the Cat" or listen to Al Stewart's great song by that title. But this was quite entertaining too.

Yoga Hosers
(2016)

Insanely funny
If you are offended by "Family Guy". or get "triggered" by minor offenses, or think Confederate statues should come down, perhaps you should avoid this film.

I've seen a number of horror movies that start as comedies. I'm not even sure "horror" should be listed as a genre here because, while there are some scenes resembling a horror movie, this never stops being a comedy. It later turns into a comedy/adventure, but horror? Not really. And while there is graphic violence, you can't really consider it anything more than cartoon violence. These are cartoon characters, after all, even if they are live-action.

Good acting? I think so. It's never anything more than silly but everyone seems to do quite a good job of being silly. I can't even say nothing is anything approaching Oscar quality. Well, yes I can, because you have to be far better than this to be mentioned for Oscars.

The girls are adorable, in an edgy sort of way. Johnny Depp is a quirky Quebecois (or at least he has a French accent). And Ralph Garman, whoever he is (I know the name only the credits of "Family Guy"), does really good impressions and gives us a campy ubervillain. Stan Lee, even though this doesn't seem to be a Marvel movie (though it does reference DC's Batman several times), has an effective cameo as the uniformed man who answers a 911 call. And can that really be Haley Joel Osment? I didn't know he was the nutty Nazi until later. Justin Long as the yoga instructor has never been wackier. Or even wacky.

Is it family friendly? Nein! Nein! So nein it's almost a ten! Words were bleeped so often in the version I saw that it was occasionally hard to follow the plot. The entire cover of Guy's book had to be blurred and they couldn't even really talk about what it was about. And this movie is anything but politically correct. On the other hand, the Black principal has an attitude, as do so many characters. She reminds the girls their lives aren't so tough, imagining a movie like "12 Years a Slave" that describes their ordeals. Insults that made it past the censors include "basic" and "hosers". Yes, the girls get called "yoga hosers" a couple of times.

Music? There's a lot of variety. The girls are actually talented singers if heavy metal or rap-metal is your taste (not mine) and especially on soft rock (trying to get on the good side of Colleen C's dad). Despite the angry tone of their music, the girls seem to be enjoying themselves. The girls also seem to like the dance music with auto tune that Justin Bieber does. Classical music shows up for the explanation of the evil plot, including the romantic song in the opera where Elmer Fudd wants to kill the wabbit. I think I also recognized the music from that scene in "The Shining". I've only seen that scene. And the Canadian National Anthem gets a metal version.

It's a silly mess, but fun.

A Miracle on Christmas Lake
(2016)

Depressing with little to reward us at the end
Will Bobby miraculously learn to love Christmas? Will he save the lake? Will he leave town? Will his family have to move?

If you're looking for an inspiring movie with a positive message, this may not be it. If you're looking for a family movie, this isn't that either. Plenty of curse words have been bleeped out in the version I saw--though Sarah looks foolish criticizing Bobby's for cursing around his sister after some tamer words are substituted. And Roxy imitates him and also gets yelled at.

This movie eventually gets where it is going but takes a long route to get there. And then runs off the road into a ditch.

Aside from one of Bobby's mysterious visits which suggest something about life after death which is not consistent with the Christian faith, this movie has little in the way of spiritual messages. The change in tone toward the end is at least inspiring but not the "miracle" some movies like this have. At least it's not predictable.

The biggest positive quality of the movie, and maybe the one reason to watch, is Siobhan Williams as Karen, who is such a great character and so nice. She sees something in Bobby that apparently we don't, because there's not much to like about Bobby. Although we are supposed to hope he gets what he wants.

Other that Williams and Will Sasso as a terrible Santa, the acting here is mostly on the level of people sitting around a table reading the script for the first time. Even the mysterious characters don't really impress. Jeremy is a particularly unlikable character until the end.

If you enjoy this movie, that's the true miracle.

Dr. Seuss' the Grinch Musical
(2020)

Well done, mostly faithful to the Boris Karloff special, kind of long for kids
Matthew Morrison? Really? The nice, helpful, politically correct choir director? Surely not! Surely his nemesis Jane Lynch will have the green fur and the nasty attitude. No, it is in fact Mr. Shue who plays the iconic villain. And yes, he is quite evil, but like so many versions of Ebenezer Scrooge, he starts to show signs there is good in him early on. But when we finally meet him, which takes a while, he's so mean he even hates the kids watching TV! Yes, several times The Grinch breaks the fourth wall. Unlike the Jim Carrey movie, this production never really explains why The Grinch hates the Whos so much. We just know he DOES. We do learn the last straw is that sign the kids put up. But more on that later. That's an important feature of this movie.

Back to who The Grinch is here and what makes him different. He does show up in a department store, in disguise, before he ever steals Christmas (or at least its material representations). And the Whos are so nice. How can he still hate them? Also, the big scene with Cindy Lou is very different, and her reaction to him is quite unexpected. I think you just need to see it. And because this is a stage production, a lot of the excitement of the fast=paced scenes from the Boris Karloff special is missing.

I can't really say who is the best of the three: Morrison, Carrey or Karloff. They were all very good. Just different. If this is your first introduction to The Grinch, it is a good one, but the writing here does miss something. So I recommend this production for people who already know the character and just want to see a different interpretation. Morrison does a very good job with what he is given.

A new feature here is "Old Max", the narrator, who appears alongside his co-stars even though he is from a different time. He takes a lot of lines spoken by Karloff as the narrator back in 1966. The Grinch also gets some lines that Karloff spoke as the narrator. Actually, I think there are many more rhyming lines than Dr. Seuss wrote himself. If they're in the book, they weren't in the animated special. Dennis O'Hare is quite good but he takes too long to establish the story, and that's a writing problem, not anything negative about the actor. Considering this is a kids' story, I think they wasted a lot of time and made the production too long, and kids might get bored. Also, in some time zones it was way past their bedtime. Old Max tells us a lot about what it was like to be the sidekick to The Grinch. Believe me, it wasn't nice. And he takes the Thurl Ravenscroft role, singing the big number "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch". I like hearing it here, but I wish radio stations wouldn't play it. It isn't nice. It sure isn't nice the way O'Hare sings it, and that's a good thing.

Young Max actually helps The Grinch with his misdeeds. I remember the dog from the animated special being a lot happier, while Young Max behaves very much like a human and knows he is mistreated. Booboo Stewart is good too.

There are two other even younger actors playing Max. One is quite a gymnast or breakdancer. Can humans actually move like that? And there are also two characters who sort of act like servants in a few scenes. They resemble elves with green hair, one who seems to be a short adult rather than a child. They are funny.

Amelia Minto is the true standout here. If she isn't a big star in years to come I will be very surprised. Cindy Lou was a minor role in the animated special and a bigger role in Carrey's movie. She is not only a major character here but an outstanding one. While she has hair that makes Cyndi Lauper look like a cranky old librarian, she is so perky and so friendly, and has such a positive outlook on life. She is a supremely talented actress and singer for her age. And Cindy Lou and her friends are not ready to give up on The Grinch. Whatever his faults, she wants to send a message that even he is a friend, putting up a sign with her friends that says so. The R falls off and that's what The Grinch sees, making him so mad he has to take away everything good from these people. But all through the movie it is clear Cindy Lou and other kids think the villain is not beyond redemption.

Cindy Lou's mom also has a great role but I don't know the name of the actress. She too has the hair color that did not occur in nature.

The grandparents also add a lot. It should be noted that members of the same family are of different ethnic backgrounds. This is the politically correct version of the story, and several performers are African American or some other ethnic group that is not Caucasian, and some of these are married to characters who are, or have children who are, white.

Other characters have wild looking hair and costumes, but the hair colors are much more reasonable. Of course the costumes have a certain look, because Dr. Seuss created these people. And the same is true of the sets. This being a stage production, there is very little of the outdoors, and sets mostly show what is inside.

There is lots of talent here, including acting, singing, and dancing. The kids are talented gymnasts.

The familiar songs are here, with some revisions. I still don't know what "Dahoo Doris" means or how to spell it. Some of the songs must have been in the Carrey movie. I only saw it once and don't remember a lot about it. And maybe some of the songs are new to those who have only seen the other two versions of the story.

As I have said, there is a lot of wasted time here if your goal is too entertain children. I wonder if children will get bored during certain scenes. That's the only weakness I am aware of if this production is not compared to other versions. And I do wonder how much children will enjoy the older styles of music here. I am constantly being told online that the only people who like the music that I do are in their 80s and 90s. And yet the same basic musical styles from over fifty years ago are used here. The logic is that those who have seen the animated special will know the songs. But how did the kids of today learn to like those songs too?

There are at least two references to the present day. The Grinch uses the word "hashtag", and refers to "social distancing", which in his case was the result of being different from everyone else. Like Tigger from "Winnie the Pooh", he seems to be the only one, as he explains to Young Max. And something that was never allowed on TV back in the day does happen, and it's quite loud too. The Grinch shouldn't have eaten the food left for Santa Claus. Because certain foods can be quite noisy later.

This is a worthy effort, and one fans of the other versions of The Grinch can still enjoy.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
(2018)

Outstanding if you like mixing insane comedy and touching tragedy and being confused a lot
Along with the opening credits, Don Quixote delivers a speech explaining who he is and why he is such a great man. This is the first of several fine performances of the character. Don't get the idea this film will be easy to follow or understand.

Don Quixote No. 2 attacks a windmill. Again, a great job and very funny.

There's nothing normal or predictable about this movie, and what else would you expect from a member of Monty Python? I discovered their brilliant work some years ago on PBS, long after they were still popular as a group. I wasn't actually thinking about who wrote this until I saw the credits at the end. But it's a brilliant job if you're not looking for logic.

I've heard of Jonathan Pryce, and I've heard he is quite a good actor. What he does here is Oscar caliber, not just because he is quite funny, but because later in the movie Javier comes to realize people laugh at him, and not in a good way, and yet he struggles to keep his dignity. He even seems to realize that he is in fact not Don Quixote. It's a brilliant job.

Adam Driver does a fine job as well as Toby, having to go through so many different situations and emotions, and doing all of this admirably.

If I have to single out any other actors, it would be Joana Ribeiro as Angelica and Olga Kurylenko as Jacqui.

And I didn't quite know where to include this, but there is one funny scene where one of the Don Quixotes attacks a trio of giants. That's quite a funny scene, actually.

There were so many locations listed in the credits, which were too small for me to really read, but wherever this was filmed, it looked great. Wonderful outdoor scenery, an impressive castle, even what appeared to be the ruins of a once fine church. Set decoration should have been considered at Oscar time.

And the costumes! So much of this movie looked like it took place when Don Quixote lived. I won't explain why but it will all eventually make sense. You should find out on your own whether someone was dreaming or fantasizing or whether you were seeing a film or something else.

And let's not forget the music. This was supposed to be Spain, and it had plenty of flamenco guitar which was quite good. Background music was appropriate for an adventure and sometimes sounded like a circus. And in the castle, there were even African drummers and dancers which didn't get shown nearly enough.

Is this family friendly? Even cleaned up for TV, I doubt it. There was one scene where so much was bleeped there wasn't really anything left. But what violence there was didn't have a lot of blood, and some was just funny. A few people die, but in some scenes it's not certain what happened. And one person is shown being burned and then from another angle it's just fabric and what must be fans making it look like flames.

My only explanation of why this movie wasn't mentioned at Oscar time is to compare it to Carrie Underwood in "The Sound of Music". A fine job, but so many others in that production were so much better. And I guess this happens when movies get Oscar nominations. There are just so many great ones.

12 Dogs of Christmas: Great Puppy Rescue
(2012)

Inspiring and funny family film
Yes, of course this is a formula holiday movie, with the usual techniques and problems.

Danielle Ryan delivers an outstanding performance. She is so appealing and intelligent and determined, and what a smile.

Heather Beers is one of the other standouts as the mysterious and wonderful Zoe.

And, of course, the dancers and singers do an amazing job. Some of them are very young. And the cheerleaders are outstanding.

Only two or three lines, but Danor Gerald as the conductor makes a real impression as a caring man.

If you like dogs (I don't) there are a few that really stand out, and some that people who like dogs will just say are cute.

I can't say everyone does a good job acting.

Alexis Baigue (yes, apparently that's a man) seems too corny to be convincing as the Bing Crosby we all know and love. And yet he's appealing enough. And a fabulous singer. He has a bigger role than you might expect.

I've heard great things about Sean Patrick Flanery, and he does make Finneas quite evil, but there's just something missing from his performance. My first impression was he's someone in a bad disguise doing a bad accent, failing in his attempt to convince people he was someone he was pretending to be. The writing accomplishes what it is supposed to, but he never really improves. And no one else in this movie is from the South, so why the terrible Southern accent?

This is an inspiring story with the usual formula, and yet this movie gets everything done quite spectacularly. Well, almost.

Blue Iguana
(2018)

Sometimes funny, sometimes appealing, but lots of bad language and violence
This isn't an easy movie for me to enjoy, but it has its moments. It's not really laugh out loud funny, but more low key.

Phoebe Fox is very appealing and smart, and pretty. Make that a fox by movie's end when Katherine actually tries to look pretty. She's like the girl in those romantic comedies who look plain and boring but get a makeover and look fabulous.

There is a museum with fabulous classic architectural detail inside,

There is one scene involving a quirky old man named Uncle Martin. Our heroes and three older men appear to be reading the script for a play or film. I have no idea what's going on there but it's sort of funny. Except so many words are bleeped that about all I hear is something like "This makes no sense" and "What's the point?" I was considering using this at the top of my review but of course the movie is too good for that.

The building used for the surveillance operation has some amazing art on the walls that looks like it would be found in a poor neighborhood. The operation is worthy of big-city cops or maybe even the FBI.

Sam Rockwell is the voice of reason, and he's mostly just there. He does a good job. But Ben Schwartz is the one who stands out here, with his sometimes bizarre behavior.

I know the name Amanda Donahoe. She's quite good here as a bartender who is not very nice, but is somehow charmed and pleasant to Paul.

Simon Callow has a quirky appealing quality as an old man whose connection is not clear to me.

The mystery is interesting, but the movie goes off in all different directions. We wonder how anything is going to get accomplished. This is not a bad thing, as long as you accept there is not a predictable finish.

This is not as violent as some adventure movies, but people do die and there are some serious injuries (some of which are funny).

And a lot of bad language that was bleeped for TV. I mentioned that one scene that ended up being pointless.

There is music for just about every taste. There is one singer Dino Laine who falls somewhere between big band and soft rock who I liked. There is a bar with lots of good Latin music. In a particularly violent scene with a gunfight, I would describe the music as Tom Jones with a banjo, in a style somewhere between Johnny Cash at his most adventurous and Arlo Guthrie. There is the futuristic "Pop Muzik" which was popular when I was in college and still sounds like it's from outer space. And various styles of what I guess would be alternative rock.

Not the best movie of its type, but it's fun to watch at times.

Road to the Well
(2016)

Not great at first but eventually satisfies, though it is disturbing ... wait! a comedy?
Micah Parker does a great job here. Frank is a loser. but at least he has a job. Jack, on the other hand, seems quite intelligent and is a take-charge kind of guy. Laurence Fuller is good too but what he does is effectively give us a man who is in over his head.

Marshall Teague does an outstanding job as the military man. I would even say Oscar caliber if this were a better or more well-known movie.

Now, I never suspected this would be a comedy. I had to figure it out from the music at the house where Frank and Jack met up with Chris and Trudy. I went back and checked the listing on my TiVo and, yes, "comedy" is listed first, before "suspense" and "thriller". But some of the pair's misadventures are actually funny. Like their attempts to move the body in the suitcase. I finally realized a lot of the situations were supposed to be funny. But to call this a comedy? That's a little much. I've seen numerous adventure movies that were really funny where "comedy" was not listed as a genre. If this is a comedy it's a very dark comedy.

Still, we want the guys to succeed, and "suspense" is definitely there. We want the guys to get away with it even if everything they are doing is against the law and every attempt to cover up their actions will get them in even more trouble. And we see not one but multiple murders. I saw this on broadcast TV, so there may have been more violence than what I saw.

And on the subject of appropriateness for family viewing, definitely not. Words were often bleeped and mouths were blurry.

Near Tahoe we did have some beautiful scenery. Though I wonder why the trees looked so brown. Not every scene was like this but this must have been a conscious choice in filming technique. Scenes which showed more close-up action had trees that were very green.

At first I wanted to say "Bury this movie, not the body" but give it a chance.

Happy Birthday to Me
(1981)

Violence or its results not too bad except at end, Anderson amazing, and what an ending!
Anything I say has to consider that I watched on broadcast TV, which means I saw a lot of implied violence but never anything really bloody. That's one way to do a horror movie (my listings said ""Mystery". Oh, really?). But based on what I have read, this was a n excessively bloody movie.

I'm amazed I never heard of this. I recorded it having seen an interesting title and not knowing it was a horror movie. Well, how could I? The listing didn't really describe it.

I did see Melissa Sue Anderson in the opening credits. I liked her when she was Mary in "Little House on the Prairie" (which I saw some episodes of, but nowhere near all). I must issue a stern warning to any little girl who likes that show: DO NOT WATCH THIS! PLEASE! Maybe when you're older.

But if you are mature enough to handle it, while I didn't think much of Anderson's acting at the start of the movie, she really impressed later on. I mean REALLY impressed. Her character had to deal with some major challenges and an incredible range of emotion. It was suggested we would see a lot more of Anderson a couple of times and that was kind of a disappointment. Even in the shower, very little of her was visible. What we did see was her in a bra which we never saw taken off, and showing off her legs when she was dressed for bed (and the suggestion of more to come).

One other actor who appeared in this who was familiar to me was Tracey Bregman. I won't say I liked her on "The Young and the Restless" back when I watched it. I hated her. Or maybe I should say I loved to hate her. She is wonderful here. Not because she has challenges like Anderson, but because she does perfectly ordinary very well. Oh, she has a challenge later and she is up to the challenge. I will say after seeing her name, I thought Bernadette looked like her and I was surprised she did such a terrible job acting. No, that wasn't her. And she is gorgeous here. I had forgotten just how pretty she was.

Frances Hyland did a good job as the headmistress of the school. Also Sharon Acker as Ginny's mom in flashbacks. I guess Glenn Ford was good too but ... isn't he usually in better movies than this? Also, I'm not that familiar with him.

And the actor playing the killer (or was this the killer?), when seen doing the deed, can be compared to the great Anthony Hopkins in "Silence of the Lambs". I remember a comment about that movie. He wasn't creepy because he was creepy. He was creepy because he wasn't creepy, after we had just seen several truly demented people. And this person just doesn't seem to care or have morals. It's just ordinary behavior for this person.

But at the end the killer ... wait. Is that the killer? Well, both actors do such a good job in that scene, in very different ways. I'm not sure which one did the killing because there are several ways that could have been interpreted. What I do know about that scene is that it was the only truly gory scene for me, after all the editing for TV. Yes, what is shown in that scene is very unsettling.

Other than these people, most of the acting is not very good. I guess that's to be expected when a horror film is so bad it's good. The thing is, I saw the one star in the listings but that meant nothing. This was actually quite good. At times. If you ignore the mediocre acting.

I saw one movie recently that was criticized for excessive use of scary music. I guess this movie could be accused of that. But the idea is you're always supposed to anticipate that a scare is coming and sometimes it is, sometimes it is not. This is not a bad thing.

About the music: Whoever wrote it quite possibly has a case against the writer of the music for Billy Ocean's "There'll Be Sad Songs".

Like so many horror movies I have seen, this one has a lot of comedy, and that's what I enjoyed the most. A bunch of high school kids acting up and getting in trouble, or having a fun moment in class.

And there are exciting moments that aren't really scary, such as the multiple "Dukes of Hazzard" stunts at the drawbridge, two of which go wrong, one horribly wrong. Oh, wait. The one that goes horribly wrong wasn't reckless. Well, she was drunk and not paying attention.

I really like the classic architecture of the school and its chapel.

What else? Well, it's interesting to watch the details revealed very slowly. And thing happen that don't mean a thing, or don't mean what you think they do. The kids are scared but not that scared as they start disappearing one by one.

Is it a classic horror film? Maybe. I don't have the real classics to compare it to because I was always too scared to watch them. If you can see this cleaned up, maybe you can handle it too.

Dial a Prayer
(2015)

Does not start out as inspirational Christian film, but be patient
Brittany Snow does a great job. She is not one of those nearly perfect Christians you would expect in a movie like this. In fact, there is doubt as to whether she is a Christian at all, for most of the movie. And there's nothing goody-goody about her, if you're concerned about that. Certainly not the sweet girl I remember from another role where she danced on "American Bandstand". She's just enough of a bad girl to attract those who would stay away from a sweet Hallmark type film.

William H. Macy is always good. This isn't one of his best roles, but he does a better job when Bill is serious.

Glenne Headly also does a good job as a woman who may possibly be disturbed. On the other hand, her character seems perfectly fine and a loving mother in other scenes.

The one other standout actor would be Kate Flannery as Cora's best work friend, who has some challenges of her own. Even she has to be cleaned up for TV!

People who would be scared away by perky goody-goody Christians might still not like the other workers. Although one of the worst offenders gets mad once and says, "What're YOU looking at?'

One expectation one might have in a movie like this is Christian music. What most Christian radio stations play. and what might be standard in a movie like this, I can't stand. But this movie has numerous Christian songs that are actually good! Fans of today's music will find this music hopelessly outdated. I wish the group had been identified on "Over My Head" because they were really talented. There's only one song (at least of the Christian songs, and I'm not even sure that's what that is) that has that type of quality, and I find that one annoying. There are other pop and rock songs I don't care for but Cora has most of those on in her car, and another is playing in the flashback that appears to precede Cora's offense. Also, the workers are dancing in one scene to something I don't like, but I couldn't tell whether it was Christian.

There are a couple of nice scenes with snow out in the country.

By the end, there appears to be a message of redemption that would make this a Christian movie teaching Christian values. Before that, even cleaned up for TV, it's not exactly family-friendly.

I do wonder why a bad boy drives a Camry. Isn't that about the most boring car you can drive?

It's still worth seeing if you can deal with the way the message is delivered.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
(2009)

Should have kept it private
It's just my opinion that this is an unpleasant film to watch. There is a lot that is good about it, and even I enjoyed certain things.

The first time I remember mentioning Robin Wright Penn in an imdb review, I didn't really care for her. I didn't even know who the star of this movie was, but she did a good job and managed to be appealing and somewhat likable even as she was falling apart. My biggest problem was that the mix of comedy and drama didn't seem right. Most of the comedy is quite dark and any attempts to make it more of a laugh out loud comedy didn't work for me.

This is a spoiler for both movies so I can's ay any more, but it's interesting that in the same weekend, I saw two movies where essentially the same thing happened to Alan Arkin toward the end. I liked him better here, especially when his character was younger. No, he's not old and falling apart. He has to constantly fight that impression. But his young wife is.

I'm not sure whether we were supposed to laugh at Suky and her constant struggle with mental problems and drugs. I won't say I liked the character, but I'm sure Maria Bello did a good job playing her. Pippa's birth was obviously supposed to be funny. Who wears high heels giving birth? And yet such a scene seemed out of place here.

Blake Lively is quite pretty and I've seen her in other movies. And she's a good actress too. It wasn't easy to watch Pippa at that age, but Lively got the job done. I'm assuming she was the one who looked like a hooker by the time she met Henry. She was so much more attractive as a more plain looking teen.

I've heard many great things about Julianne Moore. And she shows her talent here. Kat isn't my idea of an enjoyable character to watch, but Moore excels here. The one thing I liked about the S & M photography session was the polka music, which shows up in a sequence later that includes Pippa getting married. Based on the credits, I would say Strauss wrote the original music.

I did not recognize Keanu Reeves. I've heard good things about him and have been entertained by his characters many times, but if I don't know him, it's probably better because then he is the character. I found the relationship between Chris and Pippa to be enjoyable even if it was in a sense Pippa cheating on her husband. Chris lacked ambition but was sort of likable, and he was quite helpful to Pippa when she needed it.

Family friendly? Absolutely not.

So would I recommend it? I would say someone who likes films that aren't "commercial", who goes to theaters that show films you never heard of, would enjoy this more.

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