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Graveyard Shift

Scary, creepy, not sure how well done
I've previously stated I just watch what's on instead of going in search of movies I like. Sometimes movie's that aren't typical of what I want end up being quite enjoyable. This was not one of those movies.

But let me say what ends up being done right. The early scenes very effectively show a noisy, dangerous and hot outdated textile mill where everything appears to be falling apart with dirt and debris all over the place and, of course, rats. There is the obligatory death of an employee who is actually friendly with the rats.

I'm not sure how to describe it but there is one particularly effective action sequence that starts with one event which is really done well. I can't call it a scene but it's the start of one. Well, the middle of one, but the start of a lot of action. All I will say is Brogan is climbing a ladder, and then wow!

I'm not sure what to say about Stephen Macht as an actor. In his first scenes he has all the emotion and acting ability of a robot. Who knows what kind of accent he has. I know I've never heard it. Later, in most of his scenes, he is quite intimidating and hateful. He's not always this way, but mostly he just seems right at home in the horror genre. Most of the other actors could be in any type of movie.

Also, there is Brad Dourif as the exterminator. I'm not that familiar with him, but if he's not an escaped mental patient he does an outstanding job giving us the impression that's what he is. Sometimes he acts "normal", but mostly that man is just plain weird.

Kelly Wolf is likable and looks good. She must work out.

The one African American actor behaves like a stereotype at times, with his eyes opening really side in one scene, and the way he shows fear in another scene. In other scenes he seems intelligent.

Regarding how scared people are, some of these tough men who bully John aren't so tough when things get bad. Some of them are really cowards. Incidentally, I know what it's like to be John. Not that I've done that kind of work, but I've had plenty of experience with people treating me like those men behaved toward John. I can't say how good David Andrews is as an actor, but he gets the job done.

One person just can't act. She calls Warwick "Sweetheart". But when the time comes for violence, she does that well. That 1960 Cadillac was so pretty.

If you're looking for creepy, dirty, nasty and even dangerous, that has definitely been done. I have to wonder how dangerous the set was for the actors. You have to wonder about set decorators, but maybe in some ways the building already looked that bad. Upstairs things seem quite normal, but much of the movie takes place where things are bad.

Are the rats really that scary? Well, their behavior is quite creepy. But if you were to consider rats to be friendly, they actually could pass for that.

What's really scary is whatever that thing is, which is unseen the first time, and then the audience gradually sees more and more.

And there is the really creepy rundown cemetery shown during the opening credits. It gets shown again.

I can't comment on the gore. I've seen descriptions that indicate a lot was removed for broadcast TV.

Some horror movies have humor. This one doesn't have a lot, but a Beach Boys surfing song while rats are floating on objects in the water? Now that's funny.

On the subject of music, the drums with the closing credits sound very much like Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel". I'm not saying I like it, but it's just very industrial sounding, very fitting for the setting of most of this movie. And if you liked any of the movie's best quotes, they are repeated during this time, some more than others.

And in the diner where the working people eat, the country music sounds good.

Is this any good? I'm not a horror fan. I'm not the one to ask.

What Maisie Knew

Well done, lots of good performances, hard to watch at times
I've heard a lot of good things about Julianne Moore. And this movie shows everything said about her was correct. She plays a loving mother who almost always shows how much she cares about her daughter when she is with her. Almost. Susanna doesn't seem to get along with anyone else when she feels threatened regarding her daughter, and she is very protective. Though based on her behavior at times, someone should have protected Maisie from Susanna. Susanna is not abusive and not really mean to the girl, but she just doesn't try hard enough to make sure the girl is taken care of when she can't. As a rock star, she has to travel, but one thinks she could have done better somehow. After all, on several occasions there is no one to pick up Maisie when she is at school or when Susanna really has to go. Overall, I couldn't really dislike Susanna, but she's not truly worthy of being liked.

I'm not familiar with Steve Coogan, but he too plays a loving parent who is nothing but nice to his daughter when he is with her, and better at getting along with people than his ex, but too quick to let others take responsibility for the girl when work calls, and gone for long periods of time. Again, I can't really dislike him when he is with the girl.

Onata Aprile is a delight, not because she does cheerful so well, because she doesn't get to be happy often. That's not the objective here, though we all want the little girl to be happy. She does get to be happy sometimes. But mostly she just looks sad most of the time. She doesn't say that much, but she gets the job done. Can this girl really be that good at age six?

And then we have the pretty nanny played by Joanna Vanderham. Also a very good actress, quite caring most of the time. But not all is happy in her life. When Susanna can't be her mom, Margo is a great substitute and really more caring and more like a mother should be. She gets upset too, but she has good reasons.

Finally, the last of the major actors is Alexander Skarsgård. Not confident, not someone you should trust as a father but very nice and very likable. More like the bumbling big brother. For all his faults, Maisie likes him and they are great together.

And I have to single out several other actors who have few lines. I think Nadia Gan, listed as the hostess, was the really nice woman at the restaurant. If you don't need her as an actor, this is the person you want in charge at your restaurant. And James Colby is the really nice doorman at one of the apartment buildings. He lets Maisie help him sort mail in one cute scene.

If there are any weaknesses, the big one would be the lack of detail. Some things are just not explained. We just have to assume.

So is this appropriate family viewing? Cleaned up for TV, maybe. I could tell a lot of bad words were used. In front of the six-year-old girl, no less. Does no one care how this girl will turn out? She seems remarkably well-adjusted for someone treated as she is. And yet no girl Maisie's age should see what Maisie has to go through, even if the whole story seems to be from her vantage point. Zoe's discomfort at the sleepover makes this obvious, even if Maisie has gotten used to things. Susanna spends time with friends who don't seem appropriate for Maisie to be around, though I wasn't clear if anyone was taking drugs or actually doing anything that bad. Just watching Susanna perform horrible "music" on TV. There are lots of fun scenes, some with toys and friends, many with her substitute parents. There is a puppet show. Some scenes in the park. Scenes with turtles. A new pet turtle. Monopoly. The beach. In this day and age one could record the movie and cut out the bad parts, and a six-year-old could watch these fun scenes. But a child would have to be older even to watch the entire cleaned up version I saw. The good news is as bad as the actual parents are, they're not abusive in the usual sense of the word. Just neglecting.

I mentioned music. There may be some good music playing in the background in most scenes, and what I would consider at least tolerable in the credits. Some rock songs are worse than others. What Susanna is shown performing, on a TV screen and in a recording studio, is about as bad as it gets. I was very surprised someone Julianne Moore's age would want anything to do with such absolute garbage.

There are times when the actual parents must fight for custody, and while these scenes aren't shown, the building is old and fabulous. There is one shot of stained glass (I think) in the ceiling, for example.

And the apartments where these spoiled rich people live are really nice but quite modern.

But getting away from the city is pleasant, and there is nice scenery on the beach. Also in the park.

It's a fine effort.

Welcome to Me

Award-worthy performance from Wiig, but not always funny
I didn't start watching "Saturday Night Live" until prime-time shortened reruns of the previous week's episodes began in 2013 (later, the reruns were older but they have continued) . I had seen numerous clips on "Best of" episodes, but Kristen Wiig was from before my time. I have come to realize from this series and several other performances just what a talented actresses Wiig is. But this is the one.

No, this isn't exactly laugh-out-loud funny like "SNL" might be, and it's nothing like what one would expect from that show. And sometimes this isn't funny at all and it is not obligated to be. Wiig's Alice starts out very low-key, not showing much emotion. In fact, the lack of emotion is what makes her funny because it seems so strange. Alice seems to think her quirky behavior is normal, though she knows very well something is wrong with her.

So when she realizes her money can buy her whatever she wants, she starts going crazy. Still lacking the emotion one might expect, Alice starts planning the Oprah-type talk show that she wants, acting as if the whole world wants to see everything she has to say about herself, and clueless about what it took to make Oprah what she was. She's just plain silly but can't see it.

Later, Alice seems quite normal and confident and she knows she is popular. Still, she rarely gets angry or upset. When she does have to show emotion, Wiig does this quite well. It's not excessive, but the emotion just shows up when needed.

And as one would expect, there are scenes when Alice has to get quite depressed. Nothing like Oscar-worthy movies, but still well-done. And yet Wiig probably should have at least been nominated for some award for this.

I won't quibble with the exact details of Alice's illness. All one needs to know is Alice has problems and tries to cope. And Wiig gets this done quite effectively.

And of course Wiig has a nice body, even if she is not always as pretty as she could be. How this was handled in the original version I don't know, but for me Wiig's body was blurred when she was completely naked, facing the camera, head to toe. In addition to that, she has one brief scene in a bikini and is shown from the back in just panties when changing clothes. She also shows off her pretty shoulders when her chest is bandaged in the hospital.

But don't get the idea this movie is all about Alice, even if Alice makes it all about her.

Linda Cardellini has a few good scenes as Gina, who has always stood by Alice no matter what. She's quite good when her own life starts falling apart and Alice is nowhere to be found, as she has everything she needs and doesn't need friends.

I've heard of Tim Robbins but wouldn't have known him. As the therapist he comes across as very professional and dignified, a voice of reason that can't get through, who finally has to do what is right, not what is desired, so he won't compromise his values.

I also know the name Joan Cusack, but wouldn't know her here. She must have been the crew member who was always frustrated with Alice's bizarre behavior but had to push through no matter what, to keep her job.

Jennifer Jason Leigh is no longer sexy, at least not here, but her character is even less patient.

I also want to single out the crew member who must have been the stage manager. I'm not sure of the title, but she is the one who tells Alice when she has to be ready. Very professional, never getting frustrated like the others. Everything you want her to be if you are nervous about doing your own TV show.

Fans of the show are shown watching in the "real world" occasionally. Including children. No, children definitely should not be watching. Not the talk show, not the movie. Sometimes the sound went out and I missed a number of details. But I can certainly say there was humor that isn't family friendly in the least.

The movie had a lot of good music in the style of the big band era. That's not to say all the music is good. And Wiig definitely lacks singing talent; Alice is terrible when she does her own theme song. If Wiig can sing, she should have at least tried.

And if you want to see lack of talent, the talk show has reenactments of Alice's life. Absolutely terrible! Perhaps the actresses were really good. One cute little girl in a bikini seemed talented and likable but I don't think she spoke.

It's definitely worth seeing but do not expect to laugh all the time.

Pretty Persuasion

Dark, disturbing, still entertaining
Kimberly is deceptively nice, but as time goes on, you discover there is nothing nice about her and she has no redeeming qualities. Everything she does is to get what she wants and she cares little about anyone but herself. Evan Rachel Wood does a wonderful job but does it mostly quietly and in a deceptively dignified way.

Ron Livingston does an amazing job as the English teacher accused of sexual crimes. I can't say any more than that, but everything he does is done quite well.

Elisabeth Harnois has several really good scenes. What she does best is get upset or nervous.

Adi Schnall doesn't say much but mostly she has to look shocked at the racist and otherwise offensive actions of those around her, and she certainly does that.

Jane Krakowski is great as a shallow TV reporter.

I didn't recognize James Woods. Maybe that's just as well. To me, he seemed nervous and confused in his role as a rich jerk.

This is the second movie I have seen from early in Octavia Spencer's career where she has only one or two lines. She delivers them well.

Roxbury Academy has fabulous architecture.

I think it goes without saying this is not appropriate family viewing. Some scenes had so many words taken out it was difficult to figure out what was going on. Don't look to this movie as an example of morals, but rather look at pretty much everything that happens as how not to behave.

You may even be able to laugh, though I wonder when it is appropriate to do so.

But if you can get past how bad everyone is, it's all quite well done.

Swallows and Amazons

Pretty good for a children's adventure
I have previously stated that I watch what is on. The title looked interesting, but I had absolutely no knowledge of the book or any versions of the story. Once I realized what was going on, I enjoyed the movie.

It looked like Roger was going to be the main character, but even if he was supposed to be, Bobby McCulloch wasn't the real standout actor. He was good, I suppose, but the real reason to watch is Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen as the enthusiastic nine and a half year old with an active imagination.

Other actors were pretty good, but no one else really stood out. Maybe Jessica Hynes as Mrs. Jackson, who had an attitude and criticized her husband constantly, though she wasn't on that much, and don't be misled by her imdb photo. She's not that pretty here. Seren Hawkes offered a "mean girl" contrast to her timid but nicer younger sister played by Hannah Jayne Thorp. The mom was surprisingly tolerant when she could be, but sometimes she had to act when the children had done something really wrong.

The kids do a remarkable job of surviving on their own with all the obstacles and dangers. Even the younger kids seemed quite mature. Whether they should have been doing what they did is another matter. It's a fantasy. They could have been better prepared and more skilled for what they did, but they got through it. And then there was the biggest challenge of all later.

I assume this was filmed somewhere in England, and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous.

I believe this was family friendly, so I don't understand the V-chip rating when I watched being TV-14-D. Nothing justified such caution. I assume someone decided if you are the same age as Roger or Tatty, you shouldn't be watching this. But I believe most younger children can handle what took place. No real violence unless you count the blurry image that I assume was an animal being cut up to be eaten. The danger level from those who meant to do harm was appropriate for most kids, in my opinion. Parents of someone Roger's age might be justified in being more concerned.

All I can say is, not having anything else to compare to, it's not a great classic, but it's a fun adventure for the family.

A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints

Well done, I'm sure, but I didn't enjoy it
The title of this movie made it look like a comedy. I went ahead and recorded it and quickly found out it was not.

Although the subject matter was mostly unpleasant, the film had its good moments and some good performances. It was best when there were nice moments with Dito's family.

Chazz Palminteri stood out as a loving father, though we never found out how he made his money. He rarely got angry, though there was one scene where he went back and forth between "Don't you raise your hand" or "Don't you raise your voice" to once again showing his love. It was a strange scene but he could go back and forth really well, as if such a thing was realistic.

Anthony DeSando as a dog walker who used drugs was quite a character and provided some of the few laughs. And he really liked "Baker Street" by Gerry Rafferty.

Rosario Dawson was so nice and so pretty as Laurie in the present. And then she showed she didn't have to be nice, but told the other person in the scene what needed to be said, whether the other person liked it or not.

Dianne Wiest was good as Dito's mother, but didn't quite make me like her the way her similar "Life in Pieces" character did.

Like him or not (I didn't really like him) you have to admit Channing Tatum's Antonio also stood out.

Other than that, I'm sure the other actors were good but they just didn't do that much for me.

Astoria, Queens looks good even if it's not a neighborhood you would want to live in. I've never lived in a city so I can't say I would. There's also nice scenery on the way to Ryker's Island. Who would have believed such pretty woods on the way to such a place?

And the girls looked good, mostly not wearing a lot. Interestingly, when the credits told who did costumes, one of the girls was on screen and whatever she was wearing was not.

I made the decision recently to start recording movies from a channel I receive only with an antenna, and lately I've had mixed results. The problem with the sound was not necessarily the interference that I was getting with the signal, but it might as well as been. Some scenes had so much dialogue removed there was almost nothing left.

Violence was not excessive, at least in the version I saw. Most everything was implied and if there was blood, we saw it later. We could see someone getting hit with a baseball bat, but unless there was editing, it didn't look all that bad as it was happening. We could see the result.

I suppose if we are to believe this is a place a person would want to leave, it could have been worse, but there was enough to make this unpleasant. Unpleasant can mean good, in terms of quality.

If you are willing to be uncomfortable, I suppose this is worthwhile.

Love, Kennedy

Mostly sad but a feel-good movie with a strong faith message
I was kind of disappointed that Kennedy got older because I was really liking Scarlett Hazen as the bratty little girl and even Liza Brown as the concerned younger sister. What I hoped was that the whole movie would be about her, although I had looked at the brief summary and knew something terrible would happen. The young girl came back briefly in flashbacks, though.

Then Tatum Chiniquy took over and she just wasn't as good or as likable, but she sure was pretty. She too showed a strong faith but didn't have this bratty quality. Okay, maybe she's a little naughty, doing things she shouldn't, and annoying her brother. Chiniquy improved greatly later on, as she had challenges that showed how skilled an actor she really could be. What a loving girl, and what a positive effect she had on others. And what a great personality.

One very loving scene is the one where the family meets Charlee, who has the same disease as Kennedy and is almost unable to do anything and hasn't spoken.

I hated to think that people would mistreat this girl because she was so different, but even the shallow cheerleaders showed they had a good side. There was actually little negativity. Not even from the opponents in football games when Kennedy became a cheerleader. As hard as she tried, she couldn't do what they did, but she did the best she could and everyone appreciated it. And those girls were fantastic.

Everyone loved Kennedy, and why not? She loved everyone. She couldn't have a negative attitude. I am reminded of television's JJ DiMeo. Okay, he could have a bad attitude at times. That's what some might think this movie needed. She certainly had a good reason for a bad attitude. She didn't need to, because she had faith.

It is never stated that the Hansens were anything other than Christian. Some Mormon boys are shown training to do their missions, and missionaries spread their message late in the movie, but it is never stated that Jason is part of that faith. But Jason's faith is strong, whatever it is. There is no secret about why Jason feels the way he does. And he receives divine messages from time to time.

The faith message in this movie is strong and some might object to being preached to. Still, those already in the faith will see a powerful message and a wonderful example. Some who aren't might be inspired.

We do get to laugh from time to time. For example, Kennedy's behavior annoys her brother Beau, but I am referring to perfectly normal teenage girl behavior and a perfectly normal reaction from her brother.

But just be prepared. If you stay away from "This Is Us" because of what you've heard about tears, be warned this is far worse.

There are several styles of music, including at the dance. Later, there is a hymn I like performed in the way I like. Other than that, I don't share Kennedy's musical taste. The credits specifically told us what she liked, and I did not. I suppose that's not important. And there is the obligatory "praise and worship" song which doesn't have explicitly have Christian lyrics. I just can't stand that style. For some, in could be inspiring.

It's certainly worth seeing.


Hard for me to enjoy but worthwhile
Woody Harrelson has been playing a lot of bad or tough guys lately, but this time he was more like the first of his characters that I saw. Not quite that naive, although there were times when you had to wonder about his intelligence, given the situation she got into. Still, for me, he gave me the biggest reason to watch. I just watch what's on, if you didn't know that already. Not only was he sometimes funny, but he was overly enthusiastic about trains, to the point of being childlike and nerdy. And nothing bothered him. Any inconvenience was just an adventure. The choice was made not to focus on him when he gets separated from the group, but most of the interesting action was taking place with the others. Later, even he has a hard time, but I won't explain this because I shouldn't give too much away.

Sir Ben Kingsley, as always, gave us a fine performance, seemingly on the right side of the law, but later turning much darker and more menacing. We don't know at first just what his character is going to be like, but what he ended up doing was unexpected to me. Regardless of what he really was, the movie could have gone in different directions based on that. We had to anticipate which of those directions the movie would take.

Emily Mortimer gave the real standout performance. Her character was likable enough at first, though too calm and sensible compared to her excited husband, if we were supposed to believe she was the adventurous one before meeting him. And yet something happens that makes her feel very guilty, and she is constantly in fear her secret or secret will be discovered. Occasionally, she is able to pretend to be content despite what is happening.

Eduardo Noriega was quite charming and mostly likable. We suspect there is more to him than is telling us. And then he has one scene where he shows he's not so innocent.

The scenery was magnificent, considering it was the bleak Siberia. There is one shot of the Great Wall of China, or at least I believe that's what it is. I had no idea there were so many trees. There is also a ruined church which must have been quite beautiful and still showed some nice architectural features.

And there were some great looking old trains. Of course there were, because Harrelson's character had to get really excited.

There are a couple of scenes with babushkas who have few or no lines, which adds some nice realism. One doesn't want her picture taken.

For me at least, the music was enjoyable. Occasionally I could hear popular American classics from the 60s and 70s, and sometimes Russian style music, but mostly there was either pleasant instrumental music which was apparently playing as background music in the train. Not particularly appropriate given the situation, and sometimes the good music just seemed to completely contradict the mood. In one of the more unsettling but exciting scenes, the person driving the stopped train has to start it up quickly and pushes the wrong button, giving us music. That was almost funny.

On the subject of excitement, we have a stunt person hanging off the back of the train as someone has to pull the person back in. Quite well done.

Yes, there is violence. Someone is tortured to get information, and we can't see what is happening in the version I saw. But the person is screaming.

Kingsley's character thought things were better under the Soviet government. This is unsettling to hear as (maybe this is a coincidence) the station that aired this movie did so after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when some are saying Putin wants to bring back the USSR. And there are frequent reminders in the behavior of police and other authorities of what Russia used to be, and apparently still is to some extent.

Not really what I am looking for, but worthwhile anyway.

The Revengers' Comedies

Hilarious, when it works
I saw the hilarious "Throw Momma from the Train" many years ago, and the basic premise of this movie is similar. One main character is quite enthusiastic about destroying the life of the enemy of the other, while the other main character is reluctant. This is different from that movie, though I understand "Strangers on a Train" inspired both. This movie is missing a truly evil character that simply must be dealt with, but it still a real pleasure to watch a mildly hateful villain get what he deserves. It is the enthusiastic participant who gets that job, while the reluctant person loses interest in the scheme entirely.

I know the name Helena Bonham Carter from awards shows. She is absolutely brilliant and shows why she gets nominated or wins for so many performances. She starts off vulnerable and suicidal then quickly shows a naughty side, and makes it clear she won't put up with men treating her like a damsel in distress. Later she changes into a nerdy, seemingly clumsy office worker who has to give the impression of efficiency and competence. But she is a deliciously conniving schemer who takes every opportunity to ruin her boss' marriage. And if that's not enough ... well, you'll just have to watch. Later, think of Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" but never quite that extreme.

Steve Coogan is a demanding and unpleasant boss, but someone you'd want to kill? Not really. But it is a pleasure to watch his life go downhill and watch him turn into a pleading mess. And yet he seems to be trying with his wife. Bruce isn't so bad, really. But you know his life has to be destroyed so you enjoy it anyway.

Liz Smith is surprisingly accepting despite being elderly and close to retirement as a maid. She witnesses some naughty behavior and it doesn't bother her, and whatever happens, she doesn't let it bother her.

Martin Clunes is the one you'd want to get rid of. He doesn't care about his wife but is said to be with multiple women. He is generally not a nice person. He has no redeeming qualities. A good performance but not overwhelmingly evil.

Anita Dobson briefly impresses when attacking people she is mad at.

I've heard the name Sam Neill. He is likable enough and cares about people and I suppose his performance is good. But mostly he is the victim of various unfortunate incidents. If that's what you want, fine. He's just not a strong lead. I enjoyed watching him as the victim and hoped he'd get what he wanted.

I also know the name Kristin Scott Thomas and associate the name with quality. She's likable enough and certainly not someone you'd want anyone to kill. Though she starts off effectively uppity. That attitude suggested maybe she will be dealt with, but surely no one will want Henry to go through with the original plan after her second scene.

Rupert Graves seems like a spoiled loser at first but his character has more substance later. Charlotte Coleman is a maid trainee in over her head. And rounding out the cast is John Wood who looks like Captain Peacock but is somewhat less uppity. He's proper but likable.

What a magnificent castle Karen and her brother live in. Britain has some nice scenery if you're lucky enough to see it when it's not raining. The good news is sometimes the rain stops quickly.

Not family friendly, for a number of reasons. Some words I didn't hear, and one man is naked and tied to his bed. Occasionally the sexual humor gets really raunchy, but really, prime time broadcast TV in the U. S. can be worse.

I mostly had a good time.

Are You Here

Sometimes funny, sometimes not, and not quite satisfying
Owen Wilson plays characters I like, and Steve Dallas was no exception. Through most of the movie he was this charming irresponsible jerk who showed promise of improving his life. Whether he did that or not, I'll leave it to the viewer to decide.

Zach Galifianakis I am not that familiar with but I know the name. With the beard he reminds me of Jack Black but isn't quite that good an actor, at least not here. But his mentally unstable loser is appealing in a way and he shows promise like his friend. It's when he seems to be improving that I don't find him as fun to watch.

I just plain don't like Amy Poehler but she does a good job here. We're supposed to hate her because she is so controlling and wants to stop these losers from getting anything and to drive that hippie who stole her father out of her life. She accomplishes only making us despise her, but maybe there will be more to her.

If Laura Ramsey was supposed to be this evil person who married a rich older man, I think people were just being paranoid. She wasn't that petty, though for a hippie type who doesn't seem to wear makeup, she was quite attractive. And there was nothing evil about her. She didn't seem to want anything even though her late husband had money. Still, she was pleasant enough but not all that appealing.

Lauren Lapkus I am familiar with mainly because she was the government agent who made the lives of the "Good Girls" cast miserable during its last several seasons. I could have like her here but she wasn't used enough, and maybe there wasn't a lot that could be done under the circumstances. But in order for a good-looking weather reporter to have a job, someone has to give him the knowledge he needs.

Another actor with a brief role was Edward Hermann. I knew him for years as the sensible patriarch of the Gilmore family. Here, he does quite a good job. Despite all the craziness from Ben, he keeps his calm and delivers a logical diagnosis of the situation.

Dov Tiefenbach was one of the hippie types who became Ben's friend. I liked him.

In an amazing coincidence (since I recorded this movie somewhat earlier) I saw this just after the death of the great Peter Bogdanovich. He was the judge who ruled on Ben's inheritance. In a very brief role, he did a good job, though I imagine he's considered great because of his directing. His acting ability here didn't suggest this was a big part of his career.

The ending left me feeling unsatisfied. Some movies wrap things up in a way that will make the audience happy. This movie suggests things will work out but offers more of a challenge.

Although parts of this movie were filmed near where I live, and I watched it on a TV station located in a city that was a filming location according to the credits, I didn't know in time. I halfway suspected when I saw a U. S. 220 road sign, but figured U. S. 220 goes to Pennsylvania. There was some attractive rural scenery that could have been North Carolina, but that's all I know. There are plenty of nice small towns that resemble the one where the family's store was located.

Was this family friendly? The presence of Amish means nothing, except that conservative values are shown in a few scenes. So many words had to be bleeped I couldn't follow what was going on sometimes. Steve went from one beautiful woman to another. Amazingly, the only time a couple supposedly did the deed, this movie managed to not say or show it explicitly. But this isn't for kids.

I suppose it was worth seeing.


Well done family fantasy
This is a nice family Christmas movie with a crazy story, which could have been a story on its own, but it was primarily an amazing story told to cheer up a sad girl.

Zoe Andrews does a wonderful job not just as an actress but also as a skater. Of course, sometimes i couldn't see her face, and several atunt skaters were listed in the credits. At first I thought the same actress played both the girl hearing the story and the girl who was the subject of the story, but they just look alike. Jennifer Pisana is the sad girl and her role is brief but effective.

Brenda Blethyn is a good storyteller and quirky.

I am familiar with Kevin Pollak but had forgotten he was in the credits by the time I saw him. Every movie like this needs a nasty villain and he does just that. One thinks of Santa's workshop as a happy place but he has a Scrooge running things.

As for Santa himself, the great Christopher Plummer shows as much talent here as he ever has. This is a Shakespearean level Santa, and not one who looks like the expected image. Gray hair and a beard, not white, and his clothes are not red either, unless you can see red in the pattern of the clothes, which is a challenge.

The elves wear beautiful colorful costumes that show a fantasy place. And the buildings are magnificent.

As for Whoopi Goldberg, if I hadn't been told it was her, I wouldn't have known. She doesn't sound quite like herself, but she becomes Blizzard, a very determined reindeer who will break rules in order to help those who need it. The other reindeer are also appealing enough, mainly Donner Jr. (DJ).

Back in the "real world", Jan Triska starts our creepy and almost evil, but he turns Katie into a cahmpion-level skater and changes personality to ecome more appealing.

Brittany Bristow is your typical spoiled bad girl but I assure you she has another side. She can also skate pretty well but it appeated to me she fell just short of Katie's ability, which is important. Those are hard moves for a young girl, though.

Miracles happen, of course, along with a number of "only in the movies" situations. Rules must have consequences, but sometimes it's best to make it look like things could happen as long as the offenders show they have leanred a lesson.

Is this family friendly? Of course. I don't understand the TV-PG V-chip rating. A couple of scenes are a little scary but I don't think anything here would mean even young children shouldn't watch.

There is some diversity. One Black man, and possibly two, have lines. One trains Santa's reindeer. The other, who might be the same man, patrols the city at night and has some funny moments. One of the skating girls is Black but has no lines, and Katie appears to have an Asian friend who also has no lines.

I think it's a fine effort.

Christmas Takes Flight

Typical Christmas romance with miracles
We know there will be some kind of Christmas miracle before it's all over, but what we don't know is what or how. Or how many people's lives will benefit from what has happened. I will only say there's plenty to make people happy, eventually.

Not having seen a lot of these Hallmark-type movies in recent years since I don't pay for the channel, I can't say whether this is better or worse than the others.

It's not outstanding. But there are some appealing characters and pleasant experiences in a small town up north.

I didn't remember seeing Katie Lowes' name in the credits and wouldn't have known her, but I do know her from 'Scandal" where she was intelligent and tough. Not the typical pretty and perky romantic comedy star, but good enough. Jenny has a nice personality, intelligence, courage and determination and you want her to succeed in getting what she wants. You want this small town to keep its biggest industry.

Evan Williams is supposedly good-looking but I didn't find that much appealing about him. He's the typical villain in movies like this, with little sense of humor and the attitude that the bottom line is important and people's happiness is not. But he does occasionally smile before the inevitable change in personality, and he shows signs of becoming more like we would want before what we just know will happen. I won't say he becomes easy to like, and he's not great, but he is typical of what would be expected.

Gabriel Jacob-Cross stands out as an enthusiastic kid with a dream of being a pilot.

There are a couple of nice scenes with another child who is scared to fly until Jenny talks to her, and then encourages others who are afraid.

I like Charlie's band, which is surprising. Jazz is not what one would expect in the tavern where they play, but what they do is mostly my kind of music. Later, there is a Christmas song I consider annoying which is also unfamiliar. People who like Christmas movies will probably like it.

Is this family friendly? Like the previous week's movie on CBS, it received a TV-G rating and I couldn't find anything wrong with it. And this movie actually has plenty of kids in a few scenes for kid appeal. Most of the movie is devoted to an event for the children which is threatened in several ways. So kids at least have that.

Put this one on your list, if you don't have too many.

A Christmas Proposal

Cute (but not overly sweet) family holiday movie
This movie fits the usual formula for a Hallmark Christmas movie. I don't want to spend the extra money for that channel and don't have the time to watch lots of movies like this, but the fact is I enjoy these movies.

And it doesn't matter that people are lying and could get in trouble for it later on. That's part of the fun.

And yes, there are plenty of "only in the movies" moments. Who wants to see real life if they don't have to?

The most important thing is Maria will make these people's lives so much better if they let her.

Jessica Camacho is not my ideal female lead in a movie like this, but she is quite beautiful, and while not cute, she is intelligent and confident. Not the traditional cute potential romantic partner, but of course as in so many of these movies, she is shocked at first by the idea that she would ever be with this man. She looks amazing in a ball gown.

I'm not that crazy about Adam Rodriguez either but he's good enough and someone I am willing to root for.

Luisa d'Oliveira as the best friend is just edgy enough and appealing in her own way. And I really like her festive pajamas in one scene. Are they beautiful? As a sweater, the design might be an "ugly holiday sweater".

Bianca Caroca is quire appealing as Julian's sister.

And I like Jaime M. Callica, Julian's friend, who I thought was Alfonso Ribeiro at first.

Frank Crudele is very appealing as the man who runs one of the family's favorite restaurants.

I also liked Serge Houde as the man who runs ... wait ... Pendergast Tool? Didn't Archie Bunker (of New York City) work there? This is Washington, but it is a big company. There must be a story there because Pendergast is not an ordinary name.

Renee Taylor has one line as a server in another restaurant but she does it so well.

Julian found "The Nutcracker" to be torture. At first. I'm not saying I like ballet, but I like the music. The part of the ballet that was shown, while well done of course, did not have the familiar music. What I recall is that my father's LP has two sides, one with all the music we know, and another with less familiar music. I will assume the music in this movie was from the other side.

Is this family friendly? It was rated TV-G on CBS, very unusual in 2021. The most offensive content I was aware of was "shove it up their Christmas stocking" and "nutcracker of a comment", so nothing too serious. Daphne, Juiian's sister, described coming out as gay to her parents, but in 2021 this is perfectly fine in G-rated content, though maybe not for everyone. I don't think Daphne's being gay was ever mentioned again.

Is this a movie you want to watch? I can't speak for those who have Hallmark Channel and watch lots of them, but if you can only choose a few, this is one you can surely enjoy.

My Dad Is Scrooge

Enjoyable and entertaining family holiday movie
Okay, it's not exactly outstanding. Most of the leading actors playing people don't really show that much talent. Christian Kerr is quite appealing as the boy who realizes he must save Christmas for the Woodsleys and their animals, and hopefully get his parents back together.

The movie sticks with the tried and true formula. Sometimes this is just plain silly. There are obstacles and villains, and sometimes it appears the problems will not be solved. But then things happen that would only be possible in the movies.

Several actors playing people stand out. Keith Cooper, who wrote the movie, does a great job as an overly optimistic and somewhat childlike elf-type who supports charities and then believes he is a ghost. Cooper is also one of the animals, but more about that in a minute.

Peggy Calvert makes the most of a brief role as Mrs. Woodsley, who loves animals.

And Michael Rubinstein has just enough nastiness about him in a very brief role as the previous year's play director who hopes Heather will fail.

I should also mention Daniel Solokhine as a bully who is much like Eddie Haskell, very polite to parents and a bully to other kids. But he has a change of heart which is quite entertaining.

Eva Greig is simply adorable as the very young sister. Not talented in the usual sense, but quite realistic. But stay around for the blooper reel at the end. She really shows her personality there, and that makes me wonder if she didn't have more potential.

The actors doing animal voices, on the other hand, are very talented for the most part. Joe Marth as Clark the Dog sounds like Wallace Shawn and has quite an attitude. He is friendly enough but he takes his job quite seriously and has high expectations of people.

Charles Shaughnessy is Judge the Goat and has an important role to play as well.

Bonnie Wright I don't know but she is Connie the Bunny.

And Jon Heder. Is a rat with a real attitude. He's just nasty, but he also has an important role.

Is it family friendly? I see nothing wrong here, and don't know why a TV-PG V-chip rating was given. The entire family can watch this. I doubt most adults would want to.

It's not a great classic, but it should be on your list and you want a warm and fuzzy comic holiday adventure.

Annie Live!

Mostly well done, too long and maybe too naughty for young kids
It has been years since I saw the movie with Aileen Quinn and Carol Burnett, and I don't remember enough to make a comparison, so for the version of the story set in the Depression, I have to evaluate this production based only on the few details I remember, and the 2014 movie with Jamie Foxx and Quvenzhané Wallis set in the present day,

Let's start with comparing the two Annies. They were both excellent. It's not just the performance but the writing, as Wallis was given some opportunities Celina Smith was not, and vice versa. Smith did a wonderful job singing and was quite likable, though unlike the 2014 Annie, she cried and and did that quite well. Smith effectively showed us a wider range of emotions, though Wallis got to have somewhat more attitude. I can't say one was better than the other. They were both great.

The singing and dancing by large groups were excellent. The orphans, at least some of them, were skilled gymnasts as well. I did notice some sound problems and had a little trouble understanding words. In one case late in the production, one girl was hard to hear but then the problem was quickly fixed and she sounded clear. That's a potential problem with live theater.

On the subject of live theater, things went smoothly most of the time, but I did see some equipment briefly that we maybe weren't supposed to, and Sandy might have done something naughty on the stage.

When the orphans sang "It's the Hard-Knock Life" the sound quality was too perfect. I believe the vocals were pre-recorded so the kids could focus on doing everything else, and it looked and sounded great if that's how it was done. If they sang live, then wow!

The music was great. I heard some songs might have been added for this production, but I don't remember. All I know for sure is the songs sound so much better not done like it's the 21st century.

Transitions between settings sometimes had to be done quickly, as when Warbucks, Grace and Annie went to Broadway. From the mansion to the street, the change took place seamlessly, and once they arrived on Broadway, it was like they were there, with the minimum required to convince us. It all went really well.

The sets and costumes were beautiful. A stark contrast happens when the orphans visit the Warbucks mansion. The place is fabulous and the staff members, Annie, Grace and Warbucks all look amazing. And then these kids come in looking like The Waltons (and not the CW version). You can really see the contrast.

And now for the other actors. Taraji Henson is appropriately over-the-top and quite impressive. Tituss Burgess I know mainly from "Match Game", and he's quite good. He's also very good at being bad, meaning a bad actor, but I won't say what that means for those who don't know the full story. I didn't know Megan Hilty until I saw the credits, but I know her mainly as a potential Broadway Marilyn Monroe in an NBC series. She's also very good and has to be a bad actor as well.

Harry Connick Jr. I'm not that familiar with as an actor, though I know I've seen him act before. He's a great singer, of course. I thought he was kind of flat much of the time, but he was very good in other scenes. I first believed maybe Warbucks was supposed to be that way, but it's not necessary. He could have shown more personality. And it's not quite obvious (writing may have been part of this) how he comes to feel so much affection for Annie. It just seems to happen too fast and too magically. He's not quite grumpy enough for what I would have expected, though he is quite loving and enthusiastic later. One thing that really bothered me was a wire running above his right ear. I don't know what it was buy it was distracting. In 1933 it couldn't have been some kind of real technology, and in 2021 if he needed something in his ear it could have been done in a way we wouldn't see.

Nicole Scherzinger did okay, but probably could have more personality as Grace. Maybe she was just written that way.

Alan Toy impressed in his brief appearance as FDR.

Jeff Kready as ventriloquist Bert Healy and his NBC singers were good. Also, the newscaster FDR was listening to sounded quite realistic.

A couple of child actors stood out to me. I don't know their characters' names so I don't know who they are, but one had a nightmare in an early scene and another pretended to be Miss Hannigan.

There was also a singer who was quite good in the Broadway scene. I don't think she was in the show itself but was just an aspiring star. And she should have been.

Appropriate for kids? Well, mostly. There was one use of a naughty expression that should have been left out of any production intended for kids. And one word kept getting used that probably shouldn't be if kids are going to be watching. It was unnecessary, really. Miss Hannigan made some inappropriate comments of a sexual nature. Also, I think kids would have been getting tired and bored after a while.

Not the best live production NBC has done, but it is impressive.

The Waltons' Homecoming

Nice job if you're not going for realism
I watched a number of episodes of the original series and while I don't remember it, I did watch "The Homecoming" at some point.

This is supposed to be the Depression? Well, I suppose John could have been making a good living before he had to go 90 miles away just to find work. The family home is really nice. So are the clothes. John-Boy even has his own room. No one in this movie looks poor, despite it being the Depression. Now it is true the Waltons don't have much, meaning they seem to be just about out of food until John gets back with his paycheck, and the kids are making do with what they have when playing. And the statement is made that without the library, they don't have a lot of books.

Virginia must not be that far south. The Black people are in the back of John's bus. But one Black man is closer to the front and John sits with him and makes friends with him. Olivia and Rose are good friends even though one is white and one is Black. Why, Olivia and the family have even been invited to the Black church for Christmas Eve. Elizabeth asks why they don't go there all the time, since it's closer. Well, there's a reason, but Olivia creatively finds a way around that. But there must be some reason whites and Blacks don't attend church together. Well, I can see one reason. Black people have all this enthusiasm and (while this movie doesn't show it) white people just sit there bored and dignified. That's the way it was for me, and that's how I prefer it.

Oh, and on the subject of race, who is the police officer who won't let people through when there is a wreck? A Black man, of course. Yes, people are equal in this world.

Some words and expressions didn't exist in 1933 which are used today, which the writers must have thought were fine to use..

Once you get past the lack of realism, the Waltons have the family values we have come to expect. Except they curse like sailors, especially John but I guess that's to be expected from a tough mountain family. This being a family movie, only one word gets used a lot. I heard that word once from Mary Ellen in all the times I watched the TV series, and Rev. Fordwick, practicing his sermon, was not pleased. A couple of other words would have been forbidden on the original series.

Oh, sure, these are not perfect people. Olivia, a fine moral woman, admits she fell for John and her now-deceased parents did not approve.

Mary Ellen is rebellious and she wants out. But before the movie is over, she learns the meaning of family in a way she hadn't before.

The Baldwin Sisters are pretty much what I remember. "Father's Recipe" is not evil. And sheriff, it's legal now. They're good women, really.

Charlie is a character. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but hunting out of season when you give what you shot to those who need it ... how can that be wrong?

The acting is pretty good, I suppose. It's a pleasure to see Bellamy Young, the naughty First Lady and later President from "Scandal", playing a character with morals. And she does it well. I'm pretty sure Patricia Neal was better.

Grandma Walton is quirky, but there was something special about Ellen Corby that's missing here. But I knew her already from other roles, some not fine upstanding citizens. Some of that attitude made Grandma different in earlier versions. This Grandma is okay.

Grandpa is also missing something. Will Geer was such a character. This man is fine, I guess.

John is such a good and perfect man, except for his language. Hard to believe he's not religious.

I was quite pleased to see Marilyn McCoo and her husband Billy Davis Jr. From The Fifth Dimension. I first knew them from a short-lived variety show and her from "Solid Gold", and then I found out who they were. They can still sing quite well, and she looks pretty good still.

It's an enjoyable story and if you can get past the language it's fine for the whole family.


Fine job and almost good for entire family
This is an enjoyable family adventure which always seems to have the threat of war in the background. All the leading actors do a good job and even the one bully has a softer side, while the other bully remains just that. We even get to laugh every now and then.

Penelope Wilton makes a remarkable transformation from what seems like an evil witch to a kind and caring person.

Emily Flain is kind but tough as a possible romantic interest who is mainly just a good and helpful friend.

Toby Jones stands out as an obnoxious security guard at the zoo, but even he has a kind side he just won't let show.

James Stockdale is a little person with an attitude, who lets people know he's just has capable as anyone else. His role is ... short, but he makes us notice him.

I don't know why a family film like this would get a TV-14 V-chip rating. I do know some words didn't make it to broadcast TV, but there isn't really anything here to justify such a stern warning. Little kids probably shouldn't see some scenes because this is war, people are frightened, and there is damage. Not everyone survives to the end, but no one is shown dying. People grieve, but life goes on. And of course not all animals survive because certain people are overly cautious with the threat of bombing, but again, you don't see what happens.

In the U. S., we don't have prayer in the public schools but we might have back then. It's not clear whether the kids attend a Catholic school but the teacher does pray. Pauline Hutton, I believe it is, does such a good job in that scene.

There is nice scenery, mainly at the zoo, but we don't really get to see just how beautiful Northern Ireland is. Other scenes show a working class neighborhood which is not really attractive, but that's just how it is.

It's a fine effort.

Literally, Right Before Aaron

Mostly pleasant and often funny, with some depressing moments
I know Justin Long mainly for two reasons: He was Mac in the commercials where he was supposed to be cool and IBM's PC was a nerd, but I have always been a PC person. And he was Jess' boyfriend for a while in "New Girl". Here, he comes across as a likable loser. He is reluctant to cause trouble or make demands, and in this way he seems mature, going against what would be expected in romantic comedy movies. And yet the audience is supposed to support him getting the girl and taking her away from this perfect guy we don't like. It all just seems unbelievable. This beautiful girl with that loser? Maybe. And if you want him to do what is expected in movies like this and come across as either a jerk or a hero, depending on your view, he does get a couple of opportunities. I won't say what the result is.

Cobie Smulders I am not familiar with but I recall her being on "How I Met Your Mother", a show I never got interested in but of course I had to see that finale. Still, I don't remember what she did in that episode, so she is basically new to me. She was always gracious to an old friend, and mature, and gorgeous. There is one scene where she has to admit the truth, but it's not the stereotypical scene that movies like this are supposed to have. It's actually another example of mature behavior, which movies like this don't always have.

Saying that the main characters behave as mature adults is not to say there's never one of those outrageous scenes you get in crazy comedies. We do get a couple of those, and that's fine.

Even the older women in this movie are beautiful. Lea Thompson has a pleasant scene as Adam's mom when he visits her during his trip to San Francisco. Dana Delany as Allison's mom is at the wedding. She too is really nice.

Actually, not all the women are pretty. Kristen Schaal I know best as the last woman on Earth, at least until she wasn't, and she doesn't quite live up to that role here, but she has her funny moments. She's more personality than looks.

A couple of people with small roles stand out. Luis Guzmán is outside smoking during the wedding reception and appears dressed to serve food. He has advice for Adam. And then there is Parvesh Cheena as an overly enthusiastic hotel clerk who can't stand that Adam is alone.

Also, there is the man in the nature documentary that Adam is often shown working on for his job. He's really good, but not too serious.

We get to see San Francisco from a number of different viewpoints. I'm almost certain someone reused footage from the opening credits of "Full House". There are a couple of brief scenes with a cable car, and a longer scene with a beautiful view of the bay from a pedestrian bridge running parallel to the Bay Bridge for traffic.

The music is good. I would say great but it changed when the wedding happened. Before, most of the music was standards, such as Tony Bennett's "I Left My Heart in San Francisco". There was fast-moving but pleasant jazz in the hotel lobby. Then at the wedding, there is loud rock music. Don't ask. The reception has mostly pleasant rock and roll or R&B oldies, which are okay but not as good in my opinion as standards. Though these days if you can find a standards radio station (there are many online, but few with lots of real standards) the type songs at the reception are played along with the standards.

Is it family friendly? Let me put it this way. Adam has a talk with a little boy and what Adam says is not heard on TV. The little boy says he's not supposed to use that language. And words get left out a lot on TV. Sometimes many words in a row.

Did I enjoy it? Let's face it. Adam is often shown depressed that he can't be with Allison. It's done in a way that is more appealing than if this had been a straight drama. So it's not really depressing. But it's just not as enjoyable as it could be.

I mostly had a good time.

Miracles from Heaven

Well done with challenging faith message
If there is going to be a miracle, it had better come soon. And it doesn't, at least not that fast. And the challenges and the constant bad news are enough to make Christy lose her faith. That plus a sermon about how we might be to blame for our own problems because of our actions and possibly even sins we committed, after which two concerned ladies tell Christy she should look at her life and that of her husband and daughter to see if there's something one of them is doing wrong.

Of course this movie does what so many inspiring movies do. The lead actor (in this case Jennifer Garner) must constantly remind people of the seriousness of her situation and even annoy people until she gets what she needs. But Christy is at least restrained enough and tried not to get angry.

And if you're worried there's going to be nothing but crying, there is plenty of humor and Anna gets to be happy even while she is supposedly in constant pain. And Anna can even make friends when she is feeling bad. Plus there is the beauty of an aquarium and a museum which aren't funny but pleasant.

It's not that much of a challenge for Kylie Rogers to pretend to be fine when she is really sick because she's not the one who is sick. But of course she does a great job with whatever Anna has to experience, and she's not this brave little girl who can endure anything. She is terrified and upset and frustrated like any little girl in the situation would be.

Queen Latifah stands out as this friendly waitress who also has an attitude and makes friends with Christy and Anna. She doesn't get used enough.

And Eugenio Derbez is an amazing doctor, knowledgeable and able to be serious when he has to be, but with a great sense of humor. He's really good with kids even while dealing with some of the most serious illnesses.

And Jennifer Garner carries the movie, though she's pretty much on the level of Lifetime TV drama. Good, but not outstanding.

There are opportunities to show faith, and scenes where the wrong message is delivered, as well as the outright rejection of the message. Still, the faith message is there.

A couple of kids at the Boston hospital really do look sick, though one is an actor with lines and was just made to look sick. However, I am reminded Ryan White really knew how to briefly play a sick child who wasn't him in a movie about his life, and the acting wasn't quite at that level. It probably didn't need to be.

The music is not really my taste. In church there is a band playing what sounds like what they call country music these days. Not really my taste, since I want organ music in church, but as secular music I might have considered it okay.

There is wonderful vision of Heaven which is as colorful as the live audience in "The Hunger Games", which I recently saw. And some impressive visual effects for a movie not intended to be an action film.

Yes, the miracles do happen even if they take a while, otherwise, where would the title come from? I also didn't know it was fact-based, or at least I saw the beginning to make sure it was the right movie, and forgot what I had seen a week later when I had time. There may have been more that I missed because the movie had not ended when the recording stopped. Maybe this was longer than the listings said it was, or maybe I made a mistake because I'm learning a new DVR. I hope to see the rest soon, and these TV stations do tend to repeat movies a week or two later.

Would I recommend this to kids? They'd have to be able to deal with a lot of suffering by a child but some children do have to learn about these things at too young an age. Other than that, there's nothing really inappropriate.

It's a fine effort.


Excellent (mostly), if you like today's music
It has been many years since I saw any adaptation of this musical. I had forgotten this was done with African'-American characters playing the two lead roles, so of course I was fooled by the red-haired girl in Annie's class. But Annie quickly made us notice her with her craftiness, intelligence and charm. If not for the fact Will and Jada Smith seemed to be in charge, I would say it's not about making the two leads black. It's about building a movie around this phenomenal talent. I thought Hannigan looked familiar so I went back to the description on my TiVo to see who she was. It didn't say but I quickly recognized the name of the youngest person ever to be nominated for an Oscar. I knew to expect a lot, and she clearly showed she was up to the task. Was she better than the first Annie in a movie? It has been too many years to say. But she was fantastic and so very appealing, and written as a caring person who didn't let her difficulties in life make her bitter or demanding.

Well, there is one thing that wasn't perfect about Annie. Could she actually sing without Auto-tune? As fine a job she did showing her personality while singing, her voice sounded metallic. More about the music later.

I can't think of anyone better than Jamie Foxx for the anti-social but scheming and charming billionaire. Such a complex role and he handled it well. Maybe Will Smith? Sure, he can play grouchy. I think. But Foxx has the ability to do whatever is required--frustrated, demanding, disgusted, all while showing the potential to be caring. Annie managed to get through and turn this character ... somewhat more human. In one scene he is definitely a changed man, at least because he is recalling a life that meant something to him, even if it doesn't benefit him now. But that's not a real change, yet.

As a singer, he's not as good as some people say, in my opinion. I'll get to the music.

Rose Byrne I never heard of, but what a performance. She's so professional at first but when she is with Annie acting like a kid, that's something special. And then she goes back to professional, but could she possibly be a romantic partner? Oh, come now.

So many appealing characters here. I don't know that anyone stood out among the foster kids, but they were all good at acting, singing and dancing. Amanda Troya as Pepper seemed to old but she was beautiful and somewhat annoying, in an appealing way.

David Zayas as Lou who ran the store and Ray Iannicelli as the kind waiter were so likable. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje did such a good job as the chauffeur. A really nice man when he needed to be.

Stephanie Kurtzuba is the quirky bureaucrat Annie must go through to either find her parents or change her foster care situation. Not sure why she had to have an accent, but over time she became somewhat appealing.

Not every leading actor did a good job. We weren't supposed to like Bobby. Cannavale's scheming campaign manager. We certainly weren't supposed to like what he did. But there was just something about him that didn't live up to the rest of the movie.'

I mentioned Hannigan looked familiar. Finally, I saw Cameron Diaz in the credits. I like her. Just not here. Unbelievably nasty, with no redeeming qualities. But she's actually pretty good when trying to scheme her way into or out of a situation. Okay, that's good acting, at least in those scenes.. And there is a total character change later, though not with the girls. She's doing something else. Still not a superior performance, though.

Really bad acting was shown in the auditions. Which is probably good acting. No, I can't say why there were auditions.

Also, the couple who might have been Annie's parents did a good job because they changed personalities completely.

I'm not sure what to say about the movie in which Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher and others appeared. I didn't know those were them until seeing the credits. Didn't seem to be that great a movie but the reactions of Stacks and the others were enjoyable.

A car chase! Here? Of course. It's quite exciting. Not Hobbs and Shaw exciting, but good for a family movie.

And then of course there's the chase on foot that led to Annie and Stacks meeting. Supposedly the boys were mistreating Sandy. That was Sandy, right? Sandy definitely showed up later because the dog Annie adopted was named Sandy. Not a big role that I could see, but I don't like dogs to begin with.

The original movie took place during the Depression, and Annie lived in an orphanage. Here she's in foster care, and an apartment that is quite large by New York City standards. And we have cell phones, and the Internet and the opportunity to take full advantage of how people can use it.

Now about the music. Was it really necessary to update the musical styles? Some of the familiar songs were there. I only remember two clearly. And they were done pretty well. But the others may have been changed, and they definitely sounded contemporary, which for me is not a good thing. Based on the credits, Sia got involved, and she even co-wrote some new material. Not a good thing, in my opinion. But maybe for people with a certain musical taste, these songs were good. Speaking of Sia, she seemed to have had a role when Sandy was adopted. Her face wasn't shown but her voice was supposedly heard.

Yes, those who performed showed talent, even if aided by Auto-tune. Their personalities showed, as we would expect. Everyone was having a good time. That's what really counts. Getting back to Foxx, the way he sings is not what I look for in a singer, and I just didn't see the talent some people saw.

Is it family friendly? There were two words young kids aren't supposed to hear, and one of those was in the movie within a movie. And some brief naughty sex talk from Hannigan. Nothing serious.

So was in worth doing again? For this Annie, sure. And for this interpretation of the billionaire. And modern life and technology. Not so sure about modern music.

Malika the Lion Queen

Wonderful job, great scenery, great narration
I recently got around to seeing this special that aired earlier in the year. It didn't seem all that interesting if it was going to be two hours, but there is a story to be told. Whether Angela Bassett really knew what was going on I can't say, but she did an admirable job telling us the story as if she was the lion being followed. Was it one lion? The females all looked alike to me.

The lions get to play, of course, and these scenes are as cute as if we were watched house cats raising kittens. But no one is feeding these cats except themselves. The males let the females to the work while they take charge of guarding the pride. That seems to be what I've been told is how these things work. And when an animal is brought down and eaten, it is real. No assurance that "no animals are harmed". This is nature. Some young kids won't be ready for that, but overall I think kids can watch this. There is, however, a tragedy and we are not subjected to the graphic truth. No young lions are being shown being harmed. Nevertheless, the narration indicates something terrible has happened, and the reactions and the absence of certain characters indicates this is true. Older lions are shown being hurt, but it's not graphic like with the predator-prey relationship.

This being Africa, there is great scenery. During a drought it does not look all that good, but droughts end.

Even when grown, the lions still know how to have fun. And then they have to get serious. And sometimes things get desperate. At least that's what we are told. If things weren't desperate, though, I guess it wouldn't look that way.

As much danger as the lions are shown to be in, one has to wonder about the photographers. Zoom lenses help, and films like this have been done for decades, but they really seemed to get too close to the action. Perhaps with editing, the photographers and editors were able to create situations that didn't really exist but were close enough to the reality, and safer than actually following the real action.

I don't remember enough about nature specials from when I was a child, or films we were shown in school, to make a comparison to other films or programs. And I don't watch cable channels unless I am staying in a motel. And not channels with nature shows at all. I can only speak for this program. It makes a good introduction to lion behavior for those not familiar with it. Assuming, of course, the males are really jerks.


Might be good if you like this sort of thing
I was more impressed when I saw how few people there were in the credits. That's a sign of independent film and those are usually good. I'm not really sure what to say about how good this film was, because it's not really my style, but I was entertained enough at times. Something about eh way it ended seemed less than satisfying but the circumstances of April's situation were explained. I'm not sure what Brian's contribution was.

I wouldn't say the acting was outstanding but it was good enough. If you're looking for creepy this film delivers. There is some mystery as you wonder why April is being treated like a criminal, even though she's clearly the victim of something. We don't see her tell her story to the cop or whatever he is, but we see flashbacks showing what she experienced.

April's dreams reminded me of the movie "The Parallax View" where people watched videos that resembled those dreams. These were intended to brainwash. In this case, everything was blue except a red blanket, and editing was very quick. Most of the video was shots of New York City, and there were words on screens apparently intended to form a message.

There was a also a dark green flashback to New Year's eve but I didn't understand the purpose other than to show April was unhappy and drinking.

I am confused about one thing. Who gave this film a V-chip rating? While TV-14 was clearly correct, there was no sex. Why wasn't there a V for violence? A couple of scenes do get quite bloody.

And as far as attention to detail goes, a newspaper story explaining the movie's events at the end has misspelled words.

I've seen better, but I'll give the few people who made this movie credit for accomplishing a lot.


At least Iceland looks pretty, and we were occasionally entertained
I don't have cable, in the sense of channels you can't get with an antenna, except what used to be WGN America, and I don't pay for other ways to get movies, so I watch what is on. Last week, I had an even bigger opportunity last week at the beach to watch what was on, and what I chose was mostly violent action movies. So I was ready for a break.

If you like poetry readings in places that serve coffee or tea, if you watch movies in independent theaters and don't like anything "commercial", or if you don't own a TV, you may like this. Maybe. Not much happens. In the movies I saw last week, there was nearly always action and if there was not, there were brief tense scenes that would be over soon. Most of this movie seems to be those tense scenes.

It starts out pleasantly enough. I had forgotten the plot summary I saw. It was just a couple touring a beautiful place on vacation. I didn't even know where, but it had geysers, lakes to swim in, huge rocks, caves, and other great scenery. There were several nice churches, one of which had a priest explaining the history of the people who once lived in the area. The man took photos with an old-fashioned camera whose photos would have to be developed, while the woman reminded him she could help him buy something better.

In the middle of the night there was this bright light, and then at 10:30 in the morning they finally got up and found themselves going in search of other people. After hours of this, they came back to the hotel and the clock radio still said 10:32. No, 10:31.

Is it going to be this depressing? No, they finally steal a car and go shopping, and they have some fun, before the woman starts getting depressed and homesick again.

And there are more enjoyable scenes, such as when they go out to the country and find a lake they can go skinny dipping in. Broadcast TV, so not that much to see. And the woman walks in a meadow with beautiful purple flowers. A glacier and a waterfall are also shown, and a beautiful rock formation that looks like a sloppy mess of a pipe organ. Which they climb, after the woman said no taking risks because there's no one to help them if they get hurt.

The man seems like he could be content living like this. The woman is not and wants to go home or at least find other people. So there's that. There are philosophical discussions, if you like that sort of thing. Why did this happen? Is there a god? There's nothing spectacular here, though.

The woman's questions get asked again in front of a statue and a beautiful church. The man takes photos of some nice graffiti style art on walls.

More arguing in a depressing place. There is a kind of beauty in what looks like a black desert. Volcanic rock, I assume. But it drives home just how things have become. I prefer the scenery where there are plants, but nothing in Iceland compares to Luke Hobbs' former home in Samoa.

When the water stops working the man puts together a system to bring water to the nice house they decided was theirs. When it works for the first time, it's pretty amazing to watch. The water gradually starts moving toward its destination and finally comes out in the sink. This alternates with something else. An editing choice.

Hope comes eventually, or does it?

Was it all really worth it? I didn't find the ending satisfying, and I expect only a minority will. But we were entertained a few times, and maybe challenged, and all that great scenery. Still, Will Forte and Kristen Schaal did this better.

White Water Summer

A miserable experience, but rewarding
I would identify strongly with Alan in the adventure, but it was older narrator Alan who was really good and would have made this an even better movie. Two totally different styles of acting, and what seemed like two different characters. And yet the movie works mainly because the nerdy, scared Alan who get picked on who makes the movie work. Of course we know Sean Astin went on to be a success, and the narrator shows the talent that he was going to be. The kid in the adventure, not so much., but he does a good job too, with a clear evolution and maturing of the character.

Kevin Bacon has been a success too, and his character was always smiling when things went well, or at least his definition of well. Like a marine drill sergeant, he is not someone you will like, but you will appreciate how he made your life better. Or in the case of the viewer, how his actions made you feel a sense of accomplishment at the end. You suffered through all this misery to finally feel good.

Amazing scenery, and lots of tension with dangerous activities. Spectacular views from unbelievably scary places. And the faster-paced action in the canoe. Really amazing.

The music seems designed for the movie's target audience. Teenage boys in the 80s would be in their 50s now. It just seems strange to me that old men would like that noise. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. And yet there was just something about that Journey song at the end, even for someone like me. Considering the action taking place, it just seemed quite fitting.

A family movie? Not to me. People just don't treat young teenage boys like that. And yet it does make a man out of them. I think to be able to cope, one has to already be well on the way to being a man. Or woman. I guess some females could enjoy it. Kevin Bacon does take his shirt off. The only women in the movie, though, are Alan's mom at the very beginning and a hot babe on the cover of Penthouse.

If you can take it, You'll be rewarded.

The Shepherd

Even I sort of liked it, you might really like it
I'm not necessarily a fan of action films but I've seen enough of Jean Claude Van Damme to know I might get rewarded. There were some good scenes and some good music.

I think everyone knows you don't watch a Van Damme movie to see him act. You do it to see him fight, and he gets to do that pretty well several times, mostly with his fists or feet and sometimes with a gun. Also, Van Damme is very good, at least here, of looking tough without saying a word. The camera is on that determined face a lot. I was really hoping this nice polite man who won't even drink alcohol wouldn't make trouble in that bar, but it is clear they provoked him and how can you not respond? And of course he will get in trouble with his superiors for that and many other things.

Plus this tough man carries around a bunny. This is one of several sources for a few laughs here and there. Another source of laughs is loner Van Damme being paired with an uptight partner. Actually, Van Damme is the one who is uptight and this guy actually has a personality, but what I mean is he tries to follow rules.

We get a few car chases and of course a bus which cannot be stopped merely by ;parking cars in front of it. And stuff gets blown up several times, and, unfortunately people do too. Some of them are innocent.

And there is tension where good people are threatened and very close to getting killed.

I particularly liked a telephone conversation between someone in trouble and some government employee who could help, who wasn't really in a position to be any help. He was professional and courteous but he got the response he deserved, I suppose, since everyone knows you don't follow the rules but you get things done however they have to be. This is a movie.

There are some standout characters. Emile is the Border Patrol janitor who only has a few lines but is very friendly. Mayor Arthur Pennington acts like a politician and he wants to take advantage of the presence of this hero, and he's funny. And the stereotypical Ernesto, a Mexican cop who doesn't appreciate Van Damme causing trouble in his country. Also funny.

While she doesn't have any lines, Van Damme sees flashbacks of a pretty girl I was amazed to learn is his real-life daughter.

And Van Damme is not the only martial arts fighter. I don't remember his name but one guy has moves I didn't think a human could make. Was there CGI or a green screen involved?

This being outside Mexico, the movie has a lot of great music that sounds like it was performed by people who speak Spanish, although it was instrumental. And some of the other music has a more American sound but is still good.

Family friendly? You've got to be kidding. But I saw it cleaned up, so maybe some very permissive parents would approve.

Is this good? It depends on your view. It's nothing spectacular but if you really like action movies, sure.

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