inkblot11

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Framed for Murder: A Fixer Upper Mystery
(2017)

Nothing to fix in this great movie! Romance and mystery fans will adore it
Shannon (Jewel) is a one woman dynamo. She runs her own home remodeling business, can change a flat, and solve mysteries. Just finished with a Bed and Breakfast project, she attends a lecture in Lighthouse Cove, her town. This talk is by Jesse, who hunts for sunken ship treasure and relates some of his more famous finds. Not long after, he is found murdered, at home. The police believe, at first, he fell and hit his head; no homicide. But, Shannon doesn't think so. Agreeing with her is new resident, Mac (Colin Ferguson) , a famous mystery writer who has just hired Shannon to re-do the crumbling mansion he has purchased. After some snooping and clues, S and M may be in danger themselves, as the killer strikes again. Could it all be over a famous necklace once owned by a Princess? This terrific move by Hallmark, who else, has it all. Jewel is a beautiful star, very talented and smart; she also gets to sing a small bit! In addition, Ferguson has long held my heart and the rest of the cast is wonderful, too. Seaside scenery, costumes, script (based on a series of books) and the enthusiastic direction make for a film that need no fix whatsoever. Get Framed, get it very, very soon.

Away and Back
(2015)

Lovely story, lovely actors, very lovely SWANS
In Oregon State, Jack (Jason Lee) is a struggling widower of three kids. The youngest, a girl Frankie (Maggie Elizabeth Jones), misses her mother every day and the bedtime reading of her favorite book, The Trumpet of the Swans. Dad, most times, only has time for a chapter. Also, Papa tries to keep his kids busy, making their own lunches and doing household chores, as he operates his door making carpentry business. Meanwhile, a bird-biologist, Jennie (Minka Kelly) nurses a swan back to health from a gun shot wound. All too soon, the kids favorite pair of Trumpeter swans come back to the pond near their home and lay eggs. Frankie and her middle brother row out to take a look but get too close. The swans, very protective and fierce, break her brother's arm. Then, tragedy happens. A power line kills the mother bird and Frankie takes the eggs to incubate at home. Realizing she is over her head, she eventually gets Jennie on the phone. Seemingly very disturbed, Jennie comes and confiscates the eggs, lecturing the children about the endangered species and her job to protect it. However, after this initially gruff meeting, Jennie does let the children come see the three hatched cygnets. Plus, the children are thrilled when Jennie comes to place them back in "their" pond, as father swan is still there. Its not a simple task and stretches into weeks. As Jennie lives in a trailer close to the family, romance and a new beginning may be in the offing. Then, Frankie comes up missing just as the swans are migrating. Will she be found? This lovely film has it all, lovely cast, scenery, script, direction, and gloriously lovely SWANS. Go away to the store and bring it BACK NOW.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
(2016)

Its complicated and scary, at times, but still rather fantastic, haha
Newt (Eddie Redmayne) arrives in New York with a bulging suitcase. All too soon, we learn why. Inside the carpetbag are "fantastic beasts", that is magical creatures unknown to earth. One slips out and its like the dam has burst as Newt runs to catch him while others escape. Meanwhile, in the city, there is a battle between wizards (one is Colin Farrell) and other magical beings and those who hate them, like Mary Lou (Samantha Morton). Caught in the middle is muffin-maker Jacob (Dan Fogler) who sticks by Newt to help battle the dark forces. From Central Park to Fifth Avenue, Newt and his gang have adventures to collect all the fantastic beasts and go back to England. Will he succeed? To explain the plot is quite difficult, so this viewer is not going to try. Suffice to say it has many twists, turns, ups and downs. Redmayne is sweet as the bumbling but caring Newt while Morton is absolutely scary as the evil Mary Lou who abuses the children she adopts on the pretense of saving them from the magical beings. Farrell is also great as the powerful wizard with a secret while Fogler is a total delight as film's comic, bewildered baker. Yes, too, the sets, costumes, and special effects are smashing. If you love fantasy, you shouldn't skip Fantastic Beasts.

Instant Family
(2018)

Don't wait an instant to see it, a funny and touching film!
Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) are a childless couple who renovate and flip houses. When Ellie's sister announces she and her husband are trying to get pregnant, Pete starts a conversation with Ellie about why they never had children. They don't quite know the answer. Soon after, the couple takes a look at foster children who are on the verge of being adoptable. Sharon (Octavia Spencer) and Karen (Tig Nitaro) are two likeable, truthful social workers who teach foster parent classes and hold adoption events. P and E take the classes, go to spy out a good-fit foster child. As they approach a group of teens, an outspoken foster girl, Lizzie (Isabela Monar) tells them they don't need to look them over, the teens know no one wants them. Oh, but now they do! Amazingly, Lizzie has two younger siblings, Juan and Lita, so Pete and Ellie agree to take all three. What a challenge for the family, including loveable dog Meatball. Lita only wants to eat potato chips, Juan is accident prone, and Lizzie is gradually more and more defiant to rules. Then, just as things get slightly better, the natural mother comes back in the picture and may want the trio returned to her. Can you say heartbreak? This lovely funny tale of trials and joys of adopting older children is wonderful. Wahlberg and Byrne are quite fine as the realistic couple with love in their hearts and fumbles in their parenting skills. Monar is fabulous as the rebellious teen while the rest of the cast, including sensational Margo Martindale, are likewise priceless. The settings, costumes, script and direction contribute to the final result of one grand movie. Don't wait an instant, movie lovers! This one is a timeless tale of love springing from tragic circumstances.

Beverly Hills Cop
(1984)

Very fun, very funny; Murphy shines brightly!
In Detroit, Axel Foley (Eddie Murphy) is a detective who sometimes does things his own way. This upsets his superiors quite a bit. When a supposed apprehension of a drug heist turns into a hair-raising adventure, Axel is reprimanded sharply. Shortly after, Axel is surprised to see a long-ago friend turn up at his apartment. This buddy has been living in California and tells Axel about a mutual friend who has a high class job at a Beverly Hills art gallery. But, he doesn't tell Axel he has stolen funds from the same seller until the guys come for him. The friend is killed and Axel barely survives. Unhappy with the way the investigation of Mikey's murder in Detroit is going, he asks for a vacation. He gets it. However, he is warned NOT to conduct his own detective work in Beverly Hills. Not listening, Axel goes out to CA in his somewhat junk car and gets a room at a posh hotel. Meeting up with the mutual friend, Jenny (Lisa Eilbacher), Axel learns some information about her boss that doesn't please him. He also incurs the wrath of the Beverly Hills police for "bothering" the art seller. This includes sergeant Taggert (John Ashton) and goofy partner, Billy (Judge Reinhold) who take to trailing Axel. At every turn, he outsmarts them, including putting a banana in their tailpipe to stop their police car. Soon, Axel really is on to something sinister about art seller Maitland (Steven Berkoff) and his gang. But, since the art man is a rich and highly respected member of the community, will anyone listen? This very fun, very funny film was one Murphy's first big movies and also one of his best. His laidback but ultrasmart turn as a Detroit cop making mincemeat of Beverly Hills finest men in blue is just priceless. Reinhold, too, is very funny and got oodles of future parts from his portrayal of dimwit but erstwhile Billy. Ashton, Ronny Cox, Berkoff and all the rest give rousing support. Naturally, the scenes from one of the country's richest communities are very fine while the script and zesty direction keeps all viewers in stitches. Yes, there's a bit of bad language and violence but mostly, there's great amusement. Therefore, keep a copy handy to keep your spirits upbeat.

Geostorm
(2017)

So much over-the-top fun with a fine, let's rock this cast!
Jake (Gerard Butler), as a concerned scientist and astronaut, built "Dutch Boy" satellite to help with the growing problems of global climate change. Its lasers work well and have prevented many natural disasters on earth. But, Jake is late to meetings and has an arrogance which rebuffs Congress. Soon, they ask his younger brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), also a scientist and second in command on DB, to fire his older brother and take over. Reluctantly, he does. Jake goes home to work on green energy sources with his young daughter and Max leads Dutch Boy. Yet, three years later, the satellite begins to falter. In Afghanistan, villagers are frozen like statues. Rio has an ice storm as well while Japan experiences beach ball size hail. In Hong Kong, one of Dutch Boy's climatologists watches as the earth beneath his feet goes white hot and barely escapes with his life. No one knows what is happening so Max contacts his older bro to help figure out an answer. Naturally, Jake is still honked off. Yet, he built DB and wants desperately to prove its worth. So, the investigation begins. All too soon it is evident that SOMEONE WITH HIGH GOVERNMENT AUTHORITY is sabotaging the system. But, who, who, who? Could it even be the President (Andy Garcia)? This vastly enjoyable movie has a serious message which may be lost in the tongue-in-cheek humor of the cast and script. Global warming is real and here to stay. However, there is no "savior" satellite, at least, not yet. Thus, its a hoot to see the fine cast struggling to find the deadly culprit of evil. Butler, Sturgess, Garcia, Ed Harris, Abbie Cornish, and the rest dive in and let the effects rock and roll. What a stormy blast of corny, raucous good times!

High-Rise
(2015)

Fascinating and funny, it nevertheless descends into wanton sexuality and ultra-violence; only for the over 18 and open-minded crowd
Based on 70's JG Ballard's amazing book, the film begins with disturbing images of a blood-soaked Laing (Tom Hiddleston), a ransacked apartment and a dead canine. Soon, it goes back to the "bright and shiny" 100 floor modern high-rise which Laing has chosen for his new residence. It is near his job as a medical-teaching physician. Indeed, the High-Rise is breathtaking in its beauty and amenities. Meant to be a community within its brick and mortar confines, the building has a school, a grocery store and a fitness floor, including a pool midway up the structure. Its creator, Royal (Jeremy Irons) occupies the fabulous penthouse with his wife, rooftop gardens, a bevy of servants, and spacious rooms. Ah, but "inequality" has been built into the community. The upper third floors belong to the rich and famous; they have a private elevator and the best parking spots in the huge lot. The middle floors are inhabited with folks like Laing, not extremely wealthy, but respectable middle-class professionals. As one can guess, the lower third of the residence is occupied by the strictly lower-to-middle folks, mostly families with lots of children. In this part resides tv journalist Wilder (Luke Evans) and his very pregnant wife (Elizabeth Moss) and two other children. Curiously, when Laing moves in, he has a pile of boxes, which he doesn't begin unpacking, and a photo of his sister which he tacks on the wall. One day, on his balcony, Laing is almost hit with a falling cocktail from Charlotte (Sienna Miller) who resides one floor above, with her ultra-bright son. Admiring the beautiful lady and her wild-and-wanton persona, Laing eagerly accepts her invitation to a party on the upper floors. Almost before one can see it, the building and its residents begin to break down. The elevators for the lower residents stop working, which means a lot of stair walking for some. Then, the garbage starts to pile up in the shoots and no one takes care of it. Similarly, the store starts having more empty shelves and the pool crowd gets into fights about who can swim and when. Wilder tries to work up emotion for a "war" with the snooty on the top floors. Cars get broken in the lot and, horribly, a jeweler commits suicide, landing on an expensive sports car. No one cares to find out why. Laing, once button-down and immaculate in his appearance, starts to dishevel as he sometimes believes Wilder's approach is the best. Soon, all chaos breaks loose, with wild sex parties and violence among the residents. Is this Lord of the Flies High-Rise? Yes. This fascinating and darkly humorous film is really not for most. Its graphic violence and sex, while not truly plentiful until the last third of the film, is repulsive. Yet, how would WE ACT IN SIMILAR circumstances is the main question and its answer is horribly true to the nasty heart of humanity. Hiddleston is great and all the other actors sharp as well. Scenery, costumes from the seventies, and the energetic, wanton direction are fine, too. Above all, Ballard was a witness to the "decay" of mankind when he was held, as a child, in a Japanese prison camp, so he knows what evil man is capable of inflicting on fellow man. Do try to find it, if you think you can handle the above descriptions, for it is a one-of-a-kind film in the sea of movies presented each year.

Ugly Benny
(2014)

Benny, the movie, is not ugly; however, the pace is so slow children will most likely be squirming
In the sweet west coast town of Summerville, Sam (Timothy Oman) and Emma (Karen Tarleton) run a fine pet store. Its the only one in town, which keeps the Cat Lady coming in once a week for a backpack-load of cans. Every day, the parrot greets Sam while Emma tends to most of the live animals. Most get adopted. Other customers include the sheriff, the minister, and the big-ego mayor. Two events occur to change the couple's world. One, an "ugly" puppy gets dropped off in a basket and no one cares to adopt him. Growing into a sweet dog, Sam and Emma keep him at the shop. Naturally, the doggie is so smart he can lead customers to the right aisle for their desired items. What a canine! But, two, one day a young boy comes running in and hides behind boxes as the general store owner barges in looking for a "milk thief". Sensing the child is troubled, Emma covers for him, pretending to have sent him to the store for milk but forgot to give the boy money for the purchase. Not really fooled, the grocer reluctantly leaves with the green cash. Sam and Emma hire the boy to work at their store and grow to love him. Yet, the child is hiding secrets and, when revealed, they create sorrow for all involved. Will there be a happy ending? This sweet film has good themes, fine actors, and a darling dog with special abilities. The "ugly" part is the direction, for the movie is so slowly paced, families will have trouble staying tuned. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a clean, mildly amusing flick for children, Benny is a fair choice.

The Seagull
(2018)

Don't miss this dazzlingly beautiful adaptation of a Chekhov classic, its SUPERB!
Irina (Annette Bening) is a famous actress in Moscow. Years ago, she had an affair with a fellow actor and a son, Konstantin (Billy Howle), was born. Now an adult, this son lives with his uncle Sorin (Brian Dennedy) in the country and has never garnered attention or much love from his mother. When she comes for a summer visit to the gorgeous, lakeside estate of her brother's, Konstantin sees a chance for him to put on his new play with the help of a beautiful young neighbor, Nina (Saoirse Ronan), who is an aspiring actress. She is also greatly loved by the young playwright. This is upsetting to Masha (Elizabeth Moss) who dresses in black and maintains a sorrowing countenance, for she is in love with Konstantin. The town's schoolteacher wants very much to marry Masha but, she declares she can't for she is in love with another. So, here comes Mother with her new love, Boris (Corey Stoll) , a famous writer, in tow. At the play's performance, Irina talks over so much of the rather stilted dialogue that Konstantin blows up in anger, ends the performance, and tries to shoot himself. Will his mother ever love him and appreciate his talents? Then, too, Boris casts his eye on Nina and she returns the infatuation, which brings Irina to a melting point and a swift exit from the country, with Boris tagging along. Naturally, Konstantin is now also hurt about Nina's wandering eye. To prove his affection in bizarre fashion, Kon shoots a seagull and places it at Nina's feet, as a love offering. Nina is not impressed. We can never say all's well that ends well with this party of Russians, can we? This dazzling film is beautiful in every way but it is sad, sad, and more sad. The actors are wonderful, with Bening giving a tremendous turn as the flighty Irina and Ronan also amazing as the naive Nina. Stoll, Howle, Dennehy, and the rest are beyond measure, too. Then, the scenery is lovely to the maximum, with a heavenly setting in the beautiful countryside, and the cinematography shows it off with many interesting and gorgeous shots. One expects lovely costumes for a period piece and they are marvelous. Finally, the direction is one of the finest this viewer has ever witnessed, making a 100 year old Chekhov play accessible to everyone. Don't miss The Seagull, it soars.

Colette
(2018)

Beautiful, bold, scandalous; a period piece with a gut punch
Colette (Keira Knightley) is a beautiful young French country girl when she catches the eye of a rising author, Willy (Dominic West) from Paris. They meet because their fathers were together in the military. Its love. After the marriage, the couple moves to Willy's house in Paris, where he provides the "idea" for plays and books while ghost writers do the work. If bills need to be paid, its Willy first. Running in a rather sophisticated circle, Colette feels somewhat excluded. Yet, Willy seems happy with her and he loves the stories she tells about her school days. Desperate for money, due to extravagant spending, Willy convinces Colette to write a fictional account of her memoirs, called Claudine at School. Polishing it up with minor touches, the book is a huge hit, under Willy's name! Subsequently turned into a play, the couple now is financially afloat. Willy even buys Colette her own house outside Paris, where she can write their next big "novel". But, Willy, who is already in trouble with Colette for his lies, soon locks Colette into a room until she produces the book, Claudine in Paris. This, too, is a big success. Yet, unexpectedly, Colette draws the eye of a Southern Belle who married a rich old duffer in France. A love affair between the two women begins, even as Willy starts another deception. Along down the road, when Claudine scores another hit novel, Colette and Willy have further extramarital flings. Than, Willy blows their money on a failed production and a big secret. Is this the end of the line? This sumptuously beautiful, bold, and scandalous film will be like a gut punch at any viewing. The story line veers into homosexuality, adultery, transgender relationships, and more. Yet, through it all, Colette shines through as a great writer at a time when women were marginalized. As the title character, Knightley is tremendous and beyond lovely. West, too, is absolutely grand. What amazing costumes, scenery, and cinematography delight the film fan, too! The script and direction are also above reproach. No, don't go to see it if you have values which will be supremely offended by the sexual scandals listed above. Yet, if you can keep an open mind while learning about a great French writer, don't pass it by.

When the Game Stands Tall
(2014)

Inspiring film about an inspiring team; Rah rah rah!
Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) has an unbelievable record at De La Salle High School in Concord, California. As the private high school's football coach, he has won an amazing 149 games in a row. Then, the team wins two more and finishes out the season with the conference crown and 151 win record. Amazing! It is shown, carefully, that this has to do with the coach's unique methods and abilities. Yes, he can recruit from a big area around San Francisco and Oakland. But, moreover, he inspires the athletes to work as a team and to write down their commitments to the sport and to a well-lived life. Very admirable this is. Two inner city players are rewarded with scholarships to the University of Oregon. But, things are not always perfect as they seem. For one, Coach Bob has neglected his family of wife, Bev (Laura Dern) and two sons, at times, causing his older son, the team's new quarterback, to smolder with inner anger. Then, Bob himself is a secret smoker, which results in a near-fatal heart attack. Its uncertain if he can continue coaching. Sadly as well, one of his players is killed in an act of random gun violence. Another player is being bullied and shamed by an abusive father. Then, even when Bob is given the chance to coach the team again, the band loses their first game in 152 tries! Will the team and Bob fall apart? This fine film is most inspiring and is based on an equally inspiring true story. Caviezel, one of this viewer's FAVORITE ACTORS, handles the nuances of his role very well and is a great hero on screen. Dern and all of the others, especially the teens, do outstanding work, too. With gorgeous scenery, wonderfully re-enacted football games and a well-paced direction, this film is tops for families, football fans, and those who want movies with a Christian theme. Rah, rah, rah, indeed!

The Mighty Celt
(2005)

Mighty is this tale of Donal and his love for dogs; tears will fall but don't stay away!
Donal (Tyrone McKenna, outstanding) loves greyhound dogs and works for a questionable owner/trainer "Good" Joe (Ken Stott). Joe has some fast dogs for the track, no doubt, but he is horrible to the dogs which do not win. As Donal is the son of a single mother, Kate (Gillian Anderson), in their Northern Ireland home, he needs the work and truly tries to check Joe's dark impulses. Meanwhile, O (Robert Carlyle) , a former IRA member who is released from prison, comes back to the same town to stir up uneasiness for Kate. for they have a past. In truth, O seems a reformed man who gets a respectable job and turns his very damaged apartment into a nice abode. Soon, Donal falls for a dog he names the Mighty Celt, who loses his first race badly. Pleading with Joe not to "get rid of him", he says he will train Celt personally and asks that if MC wins his next three races, Joe will give the dog to Donal. Amazingly, Joe agrees and indeed the dog wins his next two races. But, Joe has a black heart and sees a money winner he will have a hard time letting go. What will happen? This film, first, has great stars in Anderson, Carlyle, Stott and especially young McKenna. What a joy to watch them. Also fabulous is the put-your-eyes out scenery in Northern Ireland, being beautiful beyond description. The direction is quite meticulous and as for the story, what a heart-squeezer! There is a time for tears, so be cautioned. But, as it ends happily, please don't skip the film! Beyond a doubt, the movie is a mighty miracle.

Table for Three
(2009)

Funny but bawdy; those with sensitivities, find something else
Scott (Brandon Routh) walks into a bar and begs for others to hear his tale of woe. It's a long one. A few months ago, Scott set up an elaborate rooftop dinner proposal for his girlfriend but, she retched and refused. Boo hoo. Trying to recover, Scott decides to find a roommate for his LA loft, as he works from home, too, and needs company. Some of the applicants are immediately rejected but soon he finds a couple with a yen to share his gorgeous space. This is Ryan (Jesse Bradford) and his lovely girlfriend, Mary (Sophia Bush). Although Scott is skeptical, they appear to be a very nice couple so he agrees. All too soon, the perfect arrangement starts to unravel. This is especially so when Ryan and Mary make love noisily at any happening and tease Scott relentlessly about his uptightness. It seems if they make trouble for someone else in close proximity, they themselves never fight. Poor Scott is only the latest victim. Happily, Scott does meet another lovely gal, Leslie (Jennifer Morrison) and wants to pursue her in a big way. Yet, Ryan and Mary may sabotage all his efforts. Should he kick them out? This funny but raunchy romcom has assets in the cast. Routh is a doll and Bradford/Bush as a team are hysterical in their chattering mocks. The scenery is also wonderfully sunny while costumes, script, and lively direction are all pluses, too. Although not for all romance fans, those who can risk a little bawdiness should set the table for this one.

On the 2nd Day of Christmas
(1997)

Nice film for romance lovers; fans, go find it!
Bert (Mark Ruffalo) comes from a family of police officers and had aspirations for the profession himself. Unfortunately, his eyes are not perfect enough for the job. Therefore, he has settled into a security guard's position in a major department store. Meanwhile, Trish (Mary Stuart Masterson) and her niece Patsy run street cons where they pickpocket and trick folks out of their wallets. The duo comes to Bert's store where they endeavor to take a gentleman's wallet. But, Bert spies the action. Despite Trish saying that she was merely trying to find the owner of the wallet, the store owner orders her and her niece to the authorities. Yet, its Christmas Eve, as Bert points out. The image of the store will suffer to have a CHILD arrested on the holiday. Therefore, the owner commands Bert to take the two back to his, Bert's, apartment and keep an eye on the them until the day AFTER Christmas. Ho ho ho, this should be fun. Trish and Patsy try to run away at least a couple of times, but Bert matches wits with them. Since the two adults are single and good-looking, can a thief and a guard fall for each other? You bet! This sweet, somewhat derivative film has two attractive, talented lead actors who carry the film along nicely. All other actors, including Howard Hesseman, are fine while the film has good sets, costumes, and plot concepts. Are you the type who loves holiday romances? This one will work its warm and fuzzy charm on you.

Little Women
(2018)

Had my doubts going in; but, this is a beautifully realized modern update of a classic!
Jo March (Sarah Davenport) is one of four sisters, living in the Boston area. The others are Meg, Beth, and youngest one, Amy. Having aspirations to become a writer, Jo directs her sisters in home-grown productions of her works. Mother Marmee (Lea Thompson) encourages all the girls by giving them model "air castles" in the attic of the old, crumbling house, so they can decorate them with their aspirations. Meg, who is the oldest and home-schooled like the rest, wants to make friends with the popular crowd outside the family. By contrast, Beth loves home-life and playing the piano while Amy is a budding artist. Father is away fighting in the Middle East and the girls love skyping with him. Soon, a new young man, Laurie Lawrence, moves next door with his Grandpa. They, unlike the Marches, are wealthy. But, when Meg and Jo attend a party, Jo meets Laurie as they both seek refuge in small room. Friendship thrives. All the girls soon love Laurie as a brother. Laurie's tutor, John, develops an eye for pretty Meg, rescuing her from a party of temptations. Beth makes friends with Laurie's gruff Grandpa when she plays his piano on a visit while Amy constantly nags Jo to take her along with outings between her older sister and Laurie. But, as the four girls grow older, changes are inevitable. Jo, especially, has a hard time reaching her dreams, struggling on re-writes of her stories with a Columbia professor, Freddy Baer. Also, tragedy arrives. Will the girls make their parents are proud, as Papa always refers to them as "little women"? When I heard of this modern adaptation of a beloved classic, I was skeptical. Yet, this production is mostly faithful to the original, inspiring novel of Louisa May Alcott. The girls retain their unique personalities and the story is true to original plot. Sometimes the chronological ORDER of the events has been changed but it doesn't alter the impact. But, Meg still burns her hair with a curling iron and Amy still burns up Jo's writing notebook in a fit of revenge! As the principal character, Sarah Davenport is especially effective. Also, the settings around Boston, the costumes, and the careful direction make for a lovely movie to behold. Ladies, don't miss this chance to bring your daughters to a movie that is powerful in its "girls can be anything" message!

Irrational Man
(2015)

Excellent film for the thinking, analytic viewer
Abe Lucas (Joaquin Phoenix) is a philosophy professor with equal parts respect and disdain from others in the academic field. He has come to Newport, Rhode Island's smaller Braylin College to begin again in a new setting. But, Prof Lucas still has problems. For one, he drinks too much, startling the lady showing him his faculty housing by offering a flask before ten o'clock in the morning! But, more importantly, his alcoholic tendencies are the symptom of a larger problems: depression and disillusionment with life. What is life's meaning but a long string of broken relationships, natural disasters, petty day-to-day events, etc.? Despite the welcoming of a fellow philosophy professor, Rita (Parker Posey), Abe wants to keep to himself. Yet, when a beautiful student, Jill (Emma Stone), now in her senior year, insists on learning and conversing more with her prof, his icy demeanor begins to thaw. The two fall in love. Then, wonder of wonders, a miracle occurs in Jill's presence. At a local diner, Abe eavesdrops a conversation at the next booth about a divorce court judge ruining the "good" parent's existence in a match of wills. Eureka! Abe suddenly finds a new reason to live! What if he, Abe, could rid the world of a person making others miserable and broke? Wouldn't the murder of a colossal despot be the ultimate raison d'etre? He starts hatching plans even as Jill is obliviously to his determination, thinking it a big joke. Then, the judge indeed dies on a park bench. Is Abe responsible? This film is a deep-thinking person's dream, as it spews out philosophy of the world's greatest and those who aspire to be so. As the disenchanted professor, Phoenix is wonderful. Stone and Posey are sharp contrasts and the entire cast is very fine. As for the coastal RI setting, it is magnificent while the costumes are well-chosen. Naturally, however, the biggest acclaim must be given to Allen, whose words and direction are, again, something very, very special in a world of run-of-the-mill movies. Therefore, its entirely rational to run for places where this film is to be had.

Carpool Guy
(2005)

Ok, the best part is actors Jeanne Cooper and Corbin Bernson, real life mother and son!
Joel (Rick Hearst) has a great advertising job and a beautiful wife, Hope (Lauralee Bell). So, what's the problem? Its the Los Angeles traffic which makes Joel consistently late to work and late getting home. The head of his firm, Mrs. Lunsford (Jeanne Cooper) and her second-in-command son, Michael (Corbin Bernson) have been lenient on tardiness, for Joel is a valued employee. However, their patience is running thin. Then, too, some of Joel's ideas have been popping up at competing companies and the bosses are suspicious of Joel working against them. Also, Hope wants a child but things don't seem right for Joel at this time. One day, Joel spies two things. A homeless veteran holds a sign "will work for food" and the freeway has a sign announcing carpoolers can use the fast, fast lane. By making an agreement with the Vet (Anthony Geary), Joel can now make it to work and to home on time. But, is there someone still out to sabotage Joel's life? This mildly entertaining film, directed by Bernson, has an acceptable cast, script, etc. But, its nothing extraordinary. By far the best part is the fireworks between Bernson and Cooper, who are real life mother and son. Watching Cooper scream when things upset her and Bernson doing the same is entertaining. Also, Geary does good work while the real David Oreck of vacuum cleaner fame makes an appearance, too. If you come upon it at some late, late hour and you can't sleep, it can help you make it through the night.

I Give It a Year
(2013)

I give it a rousing cheer! Fun and romantic
Natasha, er, Nat (Rose Byrne) has met the man of her dreams, Josh (Rafe Spall) and in seven months, they are hitched. She's a very organized ad writer/creator and he's a author, with one rather famous book under his belt. But, others around them are very uneasy about the marriage. First, the parents of each are not happy or confident it will last into the future. Chloe (Anna Faris) was once Josh's girlfriend and she sees trouble ahead, even if he can't. Josh's close, goofus friend Danny (Stephen Merchant) gives them the most disastrous wedding speech ever and is totally oblivious. Soon after, Guy (Simon Baker) comes calling at Nat's ad agency and is smitten with the business lady. To prevent losing his account, she doesn't tell him she's married and takes off her ring when he is about. Between toilet seats left up, nagging, household decisions and no fun, will Nat and Josh stay together? Will counseling help when it becomes clear that the newlyweds have little in common? This is a funny, sweet film of mismatches. It might even make a good film for pre-marital counseling although those who think they are "in love" rarely pause for advice. Byrne and Spall are terrific as the newlyweds while Faris surprises with a subtle, touching performance and Baker is a doll! As for side-splitting funny, Merchant is amazing as a total moron. The costumes are wonderful, so are the sets, polished script and direction. So, I give it a rousing cheer and I really believe you will, too!

I Feel Pretty
(2018)

A fun romantic watch, thanks Ms. Schumer!
Renee (Amy Schumer) splits her pants at a gym workout and leaves embarrassed. As she tells her best friends, why do some girls get the looks and the men and she, Renee, struggles? At work, where she and one male employee are holed up in Chinatown to work on her favorite cosmetic company's catalog, this blonde lady asks the same question. There is no good answer. But, the next time Renee is on the spin cycle at the gym, she falls off the machine and bumps her head badly. When, she regains consciousness and looks in the mirror, Renee believes her wish has been granted, just like Tom Hanks' character in Big. NOW SHE IS BEAUTIFUL! After startling the gym employee who just wants to make certain she is okay, Renee breezes out to the dry cleaners. It is there she meets Ethan (Rory Scovel) and she flirts in a big way. She even has the confidence to grab his phone and insert her digits! Moreover, dropping off some proofs at Lily LeClair headquarters, she sees there is an opening as a receptionist and applies at once! Avery LeClair (Michelle Williams), the snobby partner in the firm is aghast but her mother (Lauren Hutton) thinks Renee would be grand. The firm needs an "ordinary folk" perspective. Whoa! As she amazes everyone with her "false" beliefs that she, Renee, is model perfect, she gives Avery great suggestions for a new line. Ethan asks her out again and again. But, she neglects her best friends and "old" life. In addition, what will happen if she ever "loses" her magical self perception from the blow to her head? This film is fun, romantic, and a great pleasure to watch. Schumer is most responsible, as she is a natural comedian with great instincts. Just watch her enter a bikini context with model-type contestants and generate a ton of laughs and kudos! Scovel, also, is quite a find, playing a wonderful, charming leading man. Williams, too, is funny with her baby-like voice and dim wits while what a pleasure to see Hutton! Costumes, sets, script and direction are quite nice. Let's hope Schumer continues to make many films as she is this generation's answer to comedy greats like Madeline Kahn, Diane Keaton, and many more.

A Very Merry Mix-Up
(2013)

Very merry, very sweet, very romantic, what's not to like?
Alice (Alicia Witt) met a man named Will on an online dating site. Although she runs an antique store with a modest income and Will is a high-powered salesman, she thinks she has found the right guy. The gentleman decides to propose to Alice in a restaurant, where his food choices have left her baffled. Nevertheless, she says yes. Just as they are making plans to meet his parents, Will has to miss the flight for business. But, he persuades Alice to go on solo and he will catch up. What a mistake! Alice's luggage goes missing and then her cellphone accidentally gets wet and dies. Thus, Alice doesn't know the address of Will's parents. By happy accident, Alice meets her fiancé's brother, Matt (Mark Wiebe) who has just returned home by plane, too. Initially apprehensive, Alice is welcomed warmly by Will's parents and grandfather and all is joyous. Or is it? Unbelievably, there are two families in the same town, with the same name. Alice is SUPPOSED TO BE at the other one! Once at the correct home, the poor redheaded, newly engaged lady is very much disappointed in Will's actual family. Plus, she misses Matt, whose likes and dislikes are more like her own. In addition, could Will possible working behind the scene to damage her business, which he doesn't truly like? This very merry, sweet, romantic Hallmark film is a fine choice for a snowy or sunny evening. Witt and Wiebe are attractive cast members with a great appeal and all sets, costumes, script lines, and direction talents are topnotch. Want to "get merry" ? Get this one!

Christmas Wedding Planner
(2017)

Funny, sweet, and romantic, plan to see it soon!
In a snowy northern US town, Kelsey (Jocelyn Hudon) is planning a wedding for her cousin, Emily (Rebecca Dalton). Its her first of what she hopes will be many future jobs. Making it somewhat difficult is Emily's mother, Olivia (Kelly Rutherford) who is an overbearing task-master. Kelsey knows this first hand. It was Aunt Olivia who finished her upbringing after Kelsey's mother died ten years ago. At her first pre-wedding event, a couple's bridal shower at Emily's home, an old boyfriend of Em's, Connor (Stephen Huszar) seems to crash the party! No, Em says its fine. But, privately, Connor reveals to Kelsey that he is there on a JOB; yep, he was sent to investigate whether Em's fiance, Todd is the successful businessman he appears to be. Horrors! What could be more upsetting to Kelsey's job than to have a P.I. snooping at nearly every turn! Plus, what if he finds something objectionable and her cousin's heart is broken, again? Yet, certain happenstances seem to indicate that Todd has something to hide. As Kelse agrees to help Connor, what will they find? Between Olivia's demands, catty bridesmaids, wedding dress difficulties and so on, will this wedding be a disaster? And, could Connor's charms be growing on Kelsey? Plan on seeing this funny, sweet, romantic romcom. It has a great, attractive cast, wonderful costumes, beautiful sets, catchy lines and an energetic direction. In short, romcom fans, its love Nirvana.

All I See Is You
(2016)

I like challenging films, usually; this one I didn't but Lively gives a great performance
Gina (Blake Lively) has been blind since her preteen years. Her parents died in the car crash which damaged her eyes yet she seems to have a good life. For one, she has a devoted husband, James (Jason Clarke) who has a lucrative insurance job. Two, the couple lives in Thailand, exotic and interesting. Finally, Gina has musical talent and teaches guitar while also enjoying swimming and caring for her dog. As she very much wants to become a mother, she consults doctors. One of them, an eye specialist, believes he can restore her right eye's sight. What happy news! The operation is a success and soon Gina is adjusting to the sighted world again. Only, things are not as happy for her as she expected them to be. James and she have always has a fine love life but it suffers when his appearance is not as appealing to her as it was when she couldn't see. Then, she doesn't like their apartment's drabness and tells James she wants to search for a house. She also buys new, more revealing clothes and dyes her hair blonde. This upsets James very much, as he feels her moving in directions he doesn't control. A "second honeymoon" in Spain doesn't rekindle their closeness, either. Also, Gina begins to think James has been tampering with the eye drops she must take every day, as her sight grows dimmer. Will the couple stay together? This challenging movie has a good story which is somewhat difficult to piece together. Amid a bevy of interesting camera shots, sparse conversations and "you figure it out" happenings, the viewer must struggle to keep up. In some flicks, this is appealing but, this time, along with a slow pace, it fails to keep a movie fans attentions at every moment. Then, too, while the settings are spectacular, the movie has many well-deserved R-rated sex scenes which makes it unsuitable for many viewers. Lively it truly wonderful in a difficult role but neither she nor the other actors are very likeable. Therefore, if all you can see are a few choice films a year, you can feel free to skip this one.

Stealing Christmas
(2003)

Sweet Xmas romance, fans of love tales will like it
Jack (Tony Danza) and his partner Harry are experienced thieves. Its their profession. But, alas, at a mall, security guards catch them in the act and they have to run for their lives. Thinking quickly, Jack grabs a Santa costume and bags the money in a duffel. Even this is risky and the handsome robber ends up opening the mall doors early and throwing money in the air to escape. He hops a bus to who-knows-where. Ending up in a lovely small town called Evergreen, he is soon mistaken for the Santa hired to listen to children at a local tree farm, run by attractive widow Sarah (Lea Thompson) and her seventeen year old daughter, Noelle (Angela Goethals). About to decline, Jack notices the bank in town. Ho Ho Ho, maybe Evergreen can spare some cash. Initially disliking one another, Jack soon discovers he can be a good Santa and a good fill-in father for Noelle, who has typical teenage problems. In addition, Sarah is soon working her way into his affections and visa versa. Jack even has great advice for luring shoppers to the stores in Evergreen for the holidays! How will this affect Jack's plans to make off with the town's monetary holdings? This sweet Xmas romance has two fine, eye-catching performers in Danza and Thompson. Also nice are the setting, costumes, script and direction. Betty White shows up to enchant the audience, too. Therefore, steal away to view this one in December or any other time of the year.

Crazy Rich Asians
(2018)

Rich and crazy in laughs, love, life lessons
Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) is a self-made professor at NYU. Raised by a single, immigrant mother from China, she has an impressive resume and she is beautiful and sweet as well. Thus, its no surprise that she has claimed the affections of businessman Nick Young (Henry Golding) for a year. Now, he wants to push the envelope of their relationship. Will Rachel agree to travel to Singapore for his best friend's wedding and meet his family? Certainly. Mother Chu helps pick out her important dress for the occasion. However, when the couple boards the plane, Rachel discovers that Nick has purchased first-class tickets, something she didn't think they could afford. Its then that Nick confesses that his family is "comfortable" ; read rich. Once they land in Singapore, this becomes even more apparent when Rachel goes to meet an old college friend, Piek Lin Goh (Awkwafina) before she shakes hands with the Youngs. PLG is ASTOUNDED Rachel doesn't know that Nick is the most eligible bachelor in the country and his family the richest of the rich. Holy Goldmine, Batman! Quickly giving Rachel another dress for the occasion, far more expensive and chic, Rachel is primped to meet Nick's mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh) and elegant cousin, Astrid (Gemma Chan). But, although seemingly welcome to her son's girlfriend, Eleanor soon reveals her true colors. She is deadset against the relationship going any further, as she tells Rachel on the QT. Nick is clueless about his mother's attitude, which upsets Rachel even more. But, can a young American from Flushing become a Chinese Cinderella? This wonderfully rich and crazy film is manna to a romcom lover's heart as well as a thoroughly entertaining film for most everyone else. Set in the fantastic setting of the super rich, its opulent scenery is amazing. This is true also of the fabulous costumes, comedic script and bouncy direction. Yet, even then, the storyline proves that riches can't buy everything. Most importantly, Wu, Golding, Awkwafina, Yeoh, Chan and all the others are near-perfect in their lively, touching roles. The one possible caveat is that the riches displayed make one hurt inside for those less fortunate. But, as "only a movie", most can dismiss this more easily. Movie tickets are happily not only affordable by the super rich so grab one soon, soon!

Funny Valentine
(2005)

Although it often feels like a deja vu romcom, its still enjoyable if a touch risque
Josh (Anthony Michael Hall) is a single gentleman looking for the right gal. Alas, he has trouble approaching women in bars and other typical meet-up places. Therefore, his "swinger" pals Sean and Tim try to give him advice on the different kinds of women out there and how to secure a date. They even create a profile for him on a dating site and insist they will pick the three finalists for Josh to review. However, as a shy magician, mime and book seller, Josh meets a beautiful woman, Doreen (Marlo Marron) when he performs at a child's birthday party and likes what he sees. But, once he is out of his mime make-up, will she look his way? Or, as Sean and Tim insist, is she way out of his league? For her part, Doreen is a working single mother and graduate student who truly doesn't want to give her heart to another jerk. Is this really a match made by Cupid's sure arrow? This is a sweet romcom, for the most part, but there are some rather risque scenes involving the two "love em and leave em" friends of the main star, Hall. Therefore, Doris Day lovers may not like it. But, the scenes involving Hall and Marron are sweet and touching. Especially nice are the movies Hall imagines in his mind, with him starring as Chaplin and Bogart, and Marron as his leading lady. Also darling is Marron's son. The movie does not have any spectacular scenery, costumes, lines, or direction but, even so, romantic comedy fans will be glad they chose it. If that's you, add it to the list.

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