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Dog Days (2018)

Sit up and beg Hollywood to make more movies like this; WONDERFUL! Elizabeth (Nina Dobrev) is a rising star in the world of LA morning talk shows. But, that doesn't mean her personal life is great. Her ex cheated on her, at their apartment, and left her and doggie Sam very unhappy. A handsome guest, retired football star Jimmy (Tone Bell) starts flirting immediately, baffling Liz and ticking her off. Meanwhile, Grace (Eva Longoria) and her hubby (Rob Cordrey) adopt a shy five year old girl, Amelia, and are jumping through hoops to please her. Nothing works until Am spies a fat little pug dog whose owner is missing. The wee gal is enchanted and starts opening up. Also, barista Tara (Vanessa Hudgens) has a marketing degree but makes coffee instead for handsome vets, without noticing, truly, a nervous man, Garrett (Jon Bass) who has a crush on her. Then, too Dax ( Adam Pally) upsets his pregnant sister and her husband by failing to show up to be the disc jockey at her baby shower, as he is too busy practicing with his band, Fronk. Sis is so upset, she goes into labor for twin sons and Dax has to babysit their enormous dog, Charlie, even though his apartment doesn't allow pets. Finally, lonely professor (Ron Cephas Jones) has lost his dog, Mabel, who his deceased wife adopted long ago. A caring pizza delivering sixteen year old, Tyler (Finn Wolfhard) volunteers to help find the dog, a pug. Will love blossom for the single parties? Will happiness come to those who are lonely, starting over, and recovering from losses? You can bet they will when canines come to the rescue! Hollywood, thank you for, ha, throwing a big, big bone to us starving romcom fans. But, moreover, one that is intelligent, funny, caring, sweet and filled with great performances! This film lover especially liked the jazz-infused band, with outstanding vocals from Jasmine Cephas Jones. Add on great costumes, fab scenery, and a zesty direction and viewers have the gift of a TOP DOG FILM! Go fetch it now.

Atomic Blonde (2017)

Charlize Theron nukes the enemy but good! Intriguing but very, very violent, not for all As the film opens, a battered and bruised woman, Lorraine (Charlize Theron) is telling her story to skeptical CIA officials, including Emmet (John Goodman). A few days ago, the Berlin Wall was about to come down, causing most people in the free world to rejoice. However, the undercover spies were in danger, for Britain and the USA had operatives which were believed loyal to the other side, Russia and the communists. There was a "list" of these folks which must not fall into enemy hands. Flashing Back, Britain sends its one-woman A-bomb, Lorraine, an expert in martial and "other" arts, to find the list first. She is to meet with the local chief spy, Percival (James McAvoy) and plan her next move. However, the limo which picks her up at the airport is not the correct one, being full of Russian-side agents. Using her high heels as weapons, Lorraine soon gets the Russkies dispatched. But, ho, someone has blown her cover already. Percival arrives to help her at the last moment and he brings her to temporary safety. Now, a new plan must be hatched, one that involves Percival, the "watchmaker", a beautiful French woman named Delphine and others. But, there is believed to be a supreme traitor among the spies which puts Lorraine and company is grave danger, from within and from without. Who will win ? Wow, Atomic Blonde is quite an intriguing film, made special by Theron whose beauty and lethal limbs make mincemeat of the enemy. The other cast members are quite fine, too, such as McAvoy, Goodman, Toby Jones, and more. The seedy underworld which Lorraine inhabits always has a television playing the joyous news of Berlin re-unification while spies are suffering. Quite a contrast. Beware, viewers, this is a very violent film, with some funny ironies, such as the "shoe" daggers and a spy getting hit with a refrigerator door. Therefore, its not a view for children AT ALL or any one who hates smash-em-up. Then, too, there is a gay story line some will not appreciate. But. for others, its a guilty pleasure indeed to see a female nuclear weapon do her stuff.

Heavenly Creatures (1994)

Heavenly and Hellish; an amazing story of a friendship which results in death In 50's New Zealand, Pauline (Melanie Lynskey) had a rare bone disease as a child, with leg scars. She has no friends at an exclusive girls' school, which her struggling parents can barely afford. They take in boarders, for Pauline is bright. One momentous day, Paul's class gets a new student, imaginative Juliet (Kate Winslet), who is wealthy, intelligent, creative and outspoken. Because Juliet, too, has weak lungs and spent 5 years separated from her family in a warmer climate, the girls have a bond that begins a close friendship. Both girls love Mario Lanza and play-acting. In fact, they envision their own special heaven called The Fourth World, which has knights, princesses, and an elaborate landscape. Both the well-to-do family of Juliet and the poor one of Pauline are extremely concerned about the closer-than-close ties between the two girls. There are other family secrets afoot, too, which eventually result in Juliet's family planning to move away and in Pauline's mother taking steps to separate the girls. But, this results in a tragedy beyond comprehension for two young ladies driven into madness by their own imaginations and strong wills. This amazing film is one for the ages. Not only are the two young performers, Winslet and Lynskey, touching and horrifying beyond their years. but the creative landscapes, real and imagined, are superlative. Also fine are the supporting cast, the tantalizing script (based on true events), and the superb direction by Jackson. Don't miss this heavenly and hellish journey into New Zealand's most notorious crime of the twentieth century.

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018)

Hear, Hear! do GO to see Mamma Mia 2, its spirit lifter with charming music! Alas, poor Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) ! She has lost her beloved mother, Donna (Meryl Streep). Out of her three "possible" fathers, only Sam (Pierce Brosnan) has stayed on their exclusive Greek island to help her through the pain. Oh, she does have her fiance, Sky (Dominic Cooper) but, currently, he is in the NYC, interviewing for a job that may take him away from Greece. Besides this, Sophie has worked hard to re-open her mother's hotel-with-eatery and she is in a mild state of frenzy for 2nd father Bill (Stellan Skarsgaard) is getting an award in Sweden and 3rd papa Harry (Colin Firth) is negotiating a big business deal in Japan. As Sophie ponders her future with unease, the movie flashes back to a young Donna (Lily James) and her raucous college graduation. Her own mother, a mildly famous singer (later Cher), doesn't even make it. Therefore, Donna hatches a plan to travel willy nilly around the globe, where she meets a trio of eligible men on the way to a small, half-forgotten Greek island. Harry wins her heart, temporarily, by giving a rousing rendition of ABBA's Waterloo. Likewise, Bill is there to take her on his boat when she misses the ferry. Lastly, Sam rushes to help her calm a spooked horse. At every turn, romance finds young Donna but Sam seems to be THE ONE before a secret is uncovered! This action is interspersed with scenes from the present, where Donna's longtime friends (Christine Baranski and Julie Walters) arrive to help Sophie with the opening of the hotel. They are both struck with Sophie's manager, Fernando (Andy Garcia) although he confesses he gave up love long ago from a broken heart. Sky, also, rattles Sophie by hinting he may accept the NY job while an unexpected guest arrives to stir things up! Will Sophie's new venture be successful amid memories of her mother's grit and liveliness? Hear, hear, fans of ABBA and the original film. The joy and wonderful music just goes on and on. Waterloo is a smash among other dazzling ABBA hits aided by superb staging. The cast is a dream, where those who reprise their roles continue the delight while the new faces, especially James, charm us, too. How I wish Cher arrived in the movie somewhat earlier but she is a showstopper. Naturally, also, the scenery of Greece and the stunning blue ocean water are lovely, lovely, lovely. When the world is crashing in, Mamma Mia! There's hope when you watch this winner and its predecessor!

Fargo (1996)

Tantalizing film, superb cast; the violence will be a bit much for some viewers In wintery Minnesota, Jerry (William H. Macy) has big problems of his own making. Secretly deep in debt, he has few options, although he is married to the daughter of a very rich man, Wade (Harve Pressnell) and works as the manager of his father in law's car dealership. Wade dislikes Jerry, you see. Desperate, he turns to two seedy characters in Fargo, recommended by an auto mechanic, to kidnap his wife, forcing Wade to pay up. The trio will split the proceeds. One of the would-be nappers, Carl (Steve Buscemi) is a non-stop talker with a loose cannon. The other (Peter Stormare) is a blonde menacing giant who says hardly anything. A car from Wade's lot will be the operation vehicle. Almost immediately, there are problems. Huge ones. A highway patrolman pulls the vehicle over, as it still have dealership plates. As Carl starts to reason with the officer, the giant shoots the cop. They drag his body to a ditch. Not only this, a young couple sees the crime from their car and a high speed pursuit ends in their deaths, also. Now, a small city police officer, Marge (Frances McDormand), six months pregnant, must find the perps for these deaths while Wade, frantic, tries to negotiate for the life of his beloved daughter. Meanwhile, Jerry sinks deeper and deeper into lies and deceit. Despite Marge's pregnancy and small town roots, can she solve these crimes? This tantalizing film has a superb plot, careful direction, and an eye and ear for snowy venues and upper Midwest conversation. In addition, the cast is fabulous, with Macy, Mcdormand, Buscemi, Stormare, and all others pulling off performances of great power. Don't forgo Fargo, even though it has some rough violence. The film's magnitude is richly deserved.

The Groomsmen (2006)

As a HUGE fan of Ed Burns, THE WRITER, DIRECTOR & ACTOR, this one is above good but not on the level of Looking for Kitty Paulie (Ed Burns) has been living with his girlfriend, Sue (Brittany Murphy) for three years. Now the lady is pregnant and they are about to walk down the aisle. For the ceremony, Paulie has asked his brother Jimbo (Donal Logue) to be best man. Jimbo, however, seems to be going through a personal crisis. His wife (Heather Burns) has reported a loss of communication, several job switches, and weight gain to her brother, TC (John Leguizamo) who has come to Long Island for the wedding. Also invited are local "best buds" cousin Mike (Jay Mohr) and Dez (Matthew Lillard), the only one of the group who has kids already. There are a number of problems for each man, not just Jimbo, although he argues with Paulie so much that his best man status is in jeopardy. TC has a big revelation while Mike can't seem to get over a broken relationship. Even Sue creates doubt as to the timing of the marriage, for she is a bit mad that the nursery isn't finished and, yes, that Paulie doesn't bring her flowers anymore. Will the wedding take place and the men stay friends? First, this will not be my favorite Ed Burns film but its head and shoulders above most of Hollywood fare. Its polished, complicated script has much to say about everyday life and how we endure. Then, too, what a dream cast, all doing fabulous work! As for the Long Island scenery, it is so beautiful the viewer is enchanted. Some parts are funny, as when Dez tries to get his sons to help carry the groceries by pretending to throw away their favorite cereal. Other parts are touching as most of these men have strong bonds with their aging fathers and their longtime friends. So, while I prefer Looking for Kitty and Sidewalks of New York, The Groomsmen is a fine choice for those who love quality cinema.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

The movie's concept is beyond stellar while the cast is great, too Raymond Shaw (Lawrence Harvey) is not well-liked in his Army company fighting in the Korean War. While other guys try to relax with drinks and dames, Shaw is a straight arrow wet blanket. Even his commander Ben (Frank Sinatra) is not crazy about him. Yet, one night, the unit's interpreter leads the men to be captured by a Chinese-Russian operative who whisk everyone away to Manchuria. In short order, the men are brainwashed and then let go. Now, every man down to the last, says Raymond is a hero who lead the group out of danger. Back in America, Raymond is given the Medal of Honor which pleases his ultra-ambitious mother Evelyn (Angela Lansbury) to no end. She is the energy behind her McCarthy like husband Senator John Iselin and she is looking to put him on the upcoming ticket as the Vice Presidential Candidate. Raymond himself detests his mother and stepfather and finds work as an aid to a liberal publisher. Meanwhile, Ben has continuing nightmares which sometimes show Raymond as a killer. He suspects the hero's story is a fraud. But, what really happened in Manchuria? What does the Queen of Diamonds have to do with anything? Is Evelyn even more manipulative than she appears now? Is the USA in grave danger? This film made long ago from a 1959 book by Richard Condon, is still riveting, intelligent fare of the highest degree. What if Russia, China or whoever brainwashed a pawn to take out enemies and thus leave traitors as the step-in leaders of the Free World? Yes, it could happen with terrible consequences unless heroes and heroines emerge to stop it. Looking at the US President elected in 2016, where Russia is suspected of influencing the vote in his favor, and we have the Republic shaken to its core. In this movie, events are scary beyond belief and the suspense is palpable. A simple trigger induces a man to commit crimes he wouldn't do in real life and he's not aware he is even doing so. Take heed, folks! Harvey, Sinatra and the supporting cast is great but one actress rises above all. Lansbury's Evelyn is one of the most evil, manipulative, repulsive women in the halls of moviedom. Sets, costumes, and a strong direction also contribute to the fabulous final product. Want to see a film which seems ripped from headlines of any decade in its depiction of spies, superspies, and regime changers? TMC is colossally smart and fearsome.

Live by Night (2016)

A dark, violent film but fascinating Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck, who also wrote and directed) is Tom the police chief's son (Brendan Gleeson) in 20's Beantown. Nevertheless, he prefers the life of crime himself. He and his co-horts rob banks and poker games, upsetting his papa greatly. Love, however, remains strong between the two. Moreover, Joe is small peanuts in a town run by two mob leaders, one an Irishman and the other Italian. As fate would have it, Joe falls for the Irish mobster's "moll", Emma (Sienna Miller) and begins a clandestine affair, knowing the consequences if Boss Albert finds out. Joe daydreams so much about Emma that on a routine bank heist, his foggy mind upsets the apple cart. This leads to a police chase and fiery crash; Joe escapes, the cops do not. Albert IS looking for Joe, for he knows the score now, but doesn't get there before Tom arrives. Pulling strings, Tom gets Joe a very light sentence of three years. Wow. When he gets out, Joe doesn't know where Emma is, believing her to be dead, and decides to "relocate" to Tampa Florida, working for the Italian Boston Boss. He does this because the Irishman is worming his way into bootlegging and gambling down south, too, in Miami. Once there, Joe does a fabulous job, working with Cubans including lovely Graciela (Zoe Saldana). The straight-laced police chief, Figgis looks the other way and has a beautiful daughter, Loretta (Elle Fanning) who is off the star in Hollywood. But, what happens when the Italian mobster begins to believe Joe is weak and not into "killing" anymore? What about Albert, is he still looking for Joe? This very fine movie has great performances, many twists and turns, gorgeous sets, fabulous costumes, and a style that dazzles. Who can we thank? Why, first, Affleck who stars, writes, and directs and Dennis Lehane, whose novel came first. Purists may want to know that the ending of the film is different from the book while those who detest violence won't want to watch it. Even so, the violence is not pervasive and the story too good too miss. So, movie fan, don't skip it.

Days of Wine and Roses (1962)

If you want a good cry or a lesson in alcoholism, here is one the best Joe Clay (Jack Lemmon) is a stellar public relations man in San Francisco. Much of his time is spent wining and dining clients and Jack is a party guy first class, drinking to excess. He even is ordered to find lady "escorts" for CEOs partying on a yacht. It is there that he accidentally mistakes Kirsten (Lee Remick) for one of the "invited" women. Woe to him, she's the boss' secretary. Nevertheless, he discovers two things. One, Kirsten is part of the window dressing, being very beautiful, and she does very little of the actual work. Secondly, even she can succumb to an attractive man's charms and humor, as she starts dating Joe, and hurriedly gets married to him. But, alas, Joe doesn't want to drink alone, so he introduces cocktails to his teetotaler new wife. Starting with Brandy Alexanders, which has the chocolate Kirsten loves, she suddenly, too, gets in the alcohol "game". Even the birth of their daughter, Debbie, doesn't keep the couple sober. On one of their drunken binges, Joe smashes up his father-in-laws nursery. Joe also loses his job and a few others when his drinking leads to big problems. At last, Joe has had enough and realizes he has to join AA. Kirsten refuses to go. She even goes away to distant hotels for weeks and Joe doesn't know where she is. Eventually, Joe has to make a decision, a heartbreaking one. How can he stay sober if he lets Kirsten be part of his new life? This sad, sad film has the horrors of alcoholism on full display. Especially sad is Remick's role, for she is goaded to drink and then can't stop. Yes, there are moments of humor, romance, beautiful scenery, costumes and Blake Edwards great direction. But, unless you love the stars or are in the mood for a cathartic sobfest, this movie will put you in a sobering state of mind.

Overboard (2018)

Cute remake of a classic, with a gender reversal; Its manna for starving romcom fans! Leonardo (Eugenio Derbez) is the son of the third weathiest man in the world! Nice heritage from Mexico it is! Alas, he doesn't do much for his father's company, unlike his sisters. Instead, he voyages around on his huge yacht, partying with super models and drinking to excess. Meanwhile, single mom Kate (Anna Faris) lives in coastal Elk Grove, Oregon, where she delivers pizzas, cleans carpets, and studies AGAIN for the nursing exam she flunked the first time. Her three daughters sometimes feel neglected. As Leonardo goes up the Pacific coast, a wild party leaves the carpets dirty and Kate is sent to clean them. But, when she refuses to get Leo a mango juice, she is thrown overboard with her expensive equipment. What a creep Leonardo is! Later that night, Leonardo can't find something he needs desperately, goes out on a deck in a drunken stupor and promptly goes overboard, too. When he washes up on the Elk Grove beach, he has amnesia and ends up in the hospital. Naturally, the local newspaper runs a headline Do you know this man? Kate does and together with her friend, Theresa (Eva Longoria) they conspire to make Leonardo think he is married to Kate, a father to three girls, and a construction worker in the concrete business! What a scheme, so Kate can stay home to study and pay more attention to the gals, all the while getting back at Leonardo for stiffing her! But, wait, Leonardo is suddenly a "good guy", shouldering his responsibilities and charming Kate's socks off! Is romance in the air? This darling remake of the classic Hawn-Russell 80's film has many thing in its favor. Derbez is wonderful and attractive while Faris matches him well. All of the other cast members are terrific, too. Scenery, costumes, script and direction are very successfully delivered. MOST IMPORTANTLY, here is a romcom for the starving masses who Hollywood has mostly forgotten. This time, do go overboard and see it!

The Greatest Showman (2017)

New, contemporary music for a basically old-fashioned and inspiring film; IT WORKS! PT Barnum (Hugh Jackman) , as a poor child, lived near a wealthy mansion, for his father worked at the "big house". Unhappily, Phinneas Taylor is left an orphan while his best friend, Charity (Michelle Williams), the daughter of the landowner, is sent away to boarding school. Nevertheless, the two continue to write to each other consistently, for the young love turns into mature love. Bringing himself up by his bootstraps, PT finally convinces Charity's father to give him her hand but no money is bestowed on the couple. Dad thinks Charity will realize her mistake and come running back. NOT SO! PT has dreams of opening a museum of odd things even as the couple has two daughters. The museum soons evolves into a circus, with Tom Thumb, a midget, riding a horse, a bearded lady and other bizarre attractions. Its a big success, even though some of the folks in NYC object to what they call the exploitation of the deformed. Hooking up with a talented promoter, Phillip (Zac Efron) the enterprise becomes even bigger. Making things complicated is Phillips admiration and affection for the principal trapeze artist, Anne (Zendaya), for she is a mixed-race gal in a time when prejudices are front and center. Then, PT gets the notion to put Europe's greatest opera singer, Jenny Lind (Rebecca Fergueson) on a tour of many cities. Will the distance between PT and Charity and the girls bring strain? Ms. Lind, after all, is very beautiful. Then, another tragedy occurs. Can the Greatest Show on Earth continue? This biography of Barnum is an old-fashioned tale of love, endurance, hard-work and gumption. What rare values in today's society! Yet, the very fine music and songs are contemporary, making one doubt whether the two will mesh...they do! Days after I saw it I was still humming the music. Kudos to the composers. Also fine is the cast, with Jackman's handsome face and voice leading the way. Naturally, the period costumes are fabulous while the script and direction keep the tale moving along nicely. Folks, are you looking for a movie in the vein of of classic musicals but with a modern twist? You will find it here!

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Everyone should see Grapes of Wrath and be thankful for what they have! In rural Oklahoma, Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) is walking and hitchhiking home from prison, after a stay of four years. After taking a knife at a dance, Tom hit the attacker with a pan, killing him. Nevermind that it was self-defense, Tom still gets sent to prison. He hasn't heard from his parents, Ma (Jane Darwell) or Pa because they aren't the "writing types". A fierce dust storm makes Tom's final few steps treacherous. Arriving back at their small cabin, where his family are sharecroppers, Tom and his passing friend, Casy (John Carradine) are startled to find no one at home. A shell-shocked neighbor informs the other two that the family has been kicked off their land in foreclosure. They are nearby at Uncle John's house, where his family is about to suffer the same fate. Its the Depression and the Dust Bowl has ruined the land, taking off the top soil; no one can grow crops. When Tom catches up with his Ma and company, they are overjoyed to see him, for their plans are to pack a truck and move to California, where handbills show pickers are needed. Grandpa doesn't want to leave the only home he has ever known, so they drug him with medicine and haul him along. Now on the Mother Road, route 66, the journey is difficult; the truck breaks down frequently, no one wants them to stay long anywhere they rest, and Grandpa dies of a stroke. Will California really be the Golden, Promised Land? NOT ON YOUR LIFE! This heartbreaking adaptation of Steinbeck's classic is a must-see for the whole wide world. This family of hard-working folks has one calamity after another, just trying to earn an honest and living wage. Those who lived in the Dust Bowl part of the country were hit especially hard, as the soil had been overworked and winds took the topsoil off, creating damaging storms to crops, humans, and animals. No better were the "lies" of the handbills, advertisements that migrants were needed in California, where over 300,000 poor helpless folks showed up for very few jobs. The cast, with Fonda at the helm, is wonderful as is the scenery, costumes, and careful direction to show the truth of a desperate situation. Wanna get down on your knees and thank the Lord for what you have, Americans? You will when you view this amazing film!

Jersey Girl (2004)

Charming, edgy romantic drama, loved all of the cast! Oliver Trinke (Ben Affleck) is an up & coming music promoter. Its his job to whip up a frenzy for concerts and interviews. Although he is from "Joysey" , he works and lives in Manhattan with his beautiful wife, Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez), also a professional. They are expecting a baby and everyone is excited, including Ollie's Dad, Bart (George Carlin) , who runs the street sweeper in their NJ town. Sorrow suddenly descends, as Gertrude dies of an aneurysm giving birth to a daughter. Grieving greatly, Ollie parks his newborn daughter, also Gertie, with his Dad for the first month while he focuses on work. Naturally, this approach is a disaster and Ollie has a meltdown which gets him fired. Now, he must get to know his little girl and go limping back home to work in the same department as his Dad in Jersey. Flash forwarding seven years, Gertie is a spirited gal who charms even as she pushes buttons. Especially on her mind is a musical revue her class is doing for the parents; Gert insists they do a song from Sweeney Todd! Her dad will help her do it, with Gpa and his two closest friends also playing second fiddles. Meanwhile, Ollie has two new events in his life. One is the attractive sales clerk, Maya (Liv Tyler) at the video store who makes a pass at him. But, surprisingly, he also gets a job interview with a company similar to the one that fired him. Here is his chance to get back into a "classier", more exciting, more lucrative place in life. Or is it so? This movie, written and directed by Kevin Smith of Clerks and Chasing Amy, has its charms and humor. Especially wonderful is Affleck, Lopez, Carlin, Tyler, and little Raquel Castro as the younger Gert. Also nice is the Jersey scenery and the edgy talk and themes. Since all of us romcom fans have to "look back in time" to find new delights, I heartily recommend searching for this one.

Home by Spring (2018)

Sweet and saucy plus the scenery is spectacular! Loretta (Poppy Drayton) is from a small city in Louisiana, where she now works as an event planner for a lovely country hotel. Despite the place being very beautiful, there are not a great many events to plan in the area. In addition, Loretta longs for a chance to see the world and work in a large city, arranging hoity toity affairs. Therefore, in spite of a longtime boyfriend, Wayne (Steven R. McQueen), Lori makes the decision to move to LA and work with well-known planner, Amy. Wayne is miffed and semi-heartbroken. Fast forwarding two years, Loretta has risen the ranks but when her boss stiffs her for a promotion, she is hurt. By chance, an attorney crosses paths with Lori and, pretending to be her boss, Lori takes the requested job to pair the lawyer with his future pa-in-law in a rustic setting. This is because the older man likes the outdoors and won't give his blessing to his daughter marrying a sissy! What place could be better than Lori's town in Louisiana, where there is fishing, hiking, and bird-watching? That's right, Loretta takes the odd pair there. But, of course, Wayne has to pretend her name is Amy and is not very happy his ex is lying, even if its a white lie. Plus, does Loretta have any feelings for Wayne anymore? Does Wayne still have eyes for Loretta? Will the lawyer gain admiration from his grouchy future relative? This is a sweet and saucy romance from, what else, Hallmark company. It's terrific with spectacular scenery, nice scripting, and fine direction. Spring into action, fans, and bring this home.

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People (2008)

How to have fun on a Saturday night; rent this film! Two-bit journalist Sidney (Simon Pegg) has visions of mingling with famous movie stars and celebrities so he often tries to "crash" events like awards ceremonies. In his latest attempt, he brought a pig into a posh party and ended up nearly destroying the place. He's thrown out on his ear. But, this event, publicized to the world, ends up catching the attention of Clayton Harding. Clay runs an American magazine called Sharpe and he likes things a bit off kilter. Thus, Sidney comes to the USA where he begins by alienating his landlady, Mrs. Kowalski. In short order, he's in a bar where a beautiful lady, Alison (Kirsten Dunst) wants nothing to do with him only Sid won't quit. As revenge, Alison hooks him up with another woman who turns out to be a MAN! As one can see, when Sidney arrives at work, he's a natural at offending all of his co-workers and his ideas suddenly turn lame. Not only that, Alison works for the magazine, too! Mon Dieu. At some point, Sidney is given the job to right a puff piece on Sophie (Megan Fox) a gorgeous, rising star. But, given Sid's nonstop penchant to offend, will this guy do anything right? Will Alison ever look at Sid in a different way? This fun movie and romantic comedy is just delightful. No, Pegg is not movie star handsome but he is very, very funny while the rest of the cast is a terrific foil Costumes are gorgeous, scenery is fine, script is very comedic and the direction is zesty. You won't lose any friends if you invite the gang over to watch this one!

Traffic (2000)

Complex, amazing film, probably best ever on drug traffickers and drug users; huge wonderful cast In the year 2000, a new USA drug czar has been appointed, Robert Wakefield (Michael Douglas). As a former well-regarded judge from Ohio, Bobby has the credentials and the smarts to try new approaches to fighting drug trafficking. But, he soon learns, its complicated. Meanwhile, his own daughter Caroline, an intelligent, beautiful sixteen year old, is experimenting with drugs with her boyfriend, Seth (Topher Grace) and his gang. Her parents seem not to know. Also, a Mexican police officer, Javier (Benicio Del Toro) works for a small salary to try to stop the huge cartels from sending their wares to the USA. A good guy, Javier suspects his bosses are in bed with the traffickers. He witnesses torture. Lastly, rich beautiful Helena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) lives the good life in an exclusive community near San Diego. Her husband, Carl (Steven Bauer) is, to her knowledge, a hydroponic fruit grower and exporter. But, he's really the kingpin of drug smuggling in Southern California and well protected with his own lawyer (Dennis Quaid). Yet, police, especially Gordon (Don Cheadle) , determined to find out who he is, captures an underling and makes him talk. Now, Carl is arrested and the business is shut down. Helena, unaware of her husband's profession, receives threats against her five year old darling son and jumps into the fray to save her wealthy existence, despite being six months pregnant. Man, is this one tough lady who has no scruples about bumping off witnesses. Far away, Robert travels the country to learn how he can change the drug smuggling, Caroline disappears into the underground world of drugs, and Javier does the tap dance of a lifetime to stay alive. Who will make it in a dangerous, dangerous situation? This complex, amazing film, surely the best on drug trafficking ever, has a mesmerizing, four-tiered plot and a wonderful, huge cast. Everything it takes to make a movie terrific is here; cast, script, costumes, scenery, cinematography, and direction. One more important ingredient is its ambiguity, for it tells a tale and makes no judgments of what is right or wrong, for the most part. Do you love thrillers with a profound impact? Traffic is this and more.

The Departed (2006)

Brutal but splendid; a plot to be admired, savored In South Boston, one man reigns, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). As he himself explains, he rose from poverty, little by little, to become the leader of the leading gang in SB. Naturally, he is a thorn in the side of the Boston Police and they live to bring this man down. A secret task force is formed and Billy Costigan (Leonardo Di Caprio), a cleancut boy from South Boston who has graduated from the police academy, is given the special task of infiltrating Frank's mob, pretending to be a sworn follower. This is dangerous work indeed. However, Frank has the same brilliant idea. If the gang had a plant in the police department, above reproach, then he would know when the police are coming to mess up his plans. A disciple from his teens, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is the perfect choice; he is bright, good-looking and seemingly genial. He fools most everyone, including the brass (Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg) and a psychologist (Verma Farmiga). In fact, Colin and the shrink begin a relationship while, at the same time, Cop Sullivan is relaying crucial information to Frank. As such, eventually, Billy and Colin cross paths and get suspicious of one another. Billy even goes after Colin's lady. So, whose "traitor" in the midst will be the most successful? How many lives will be sacrificed? This brutal but splendid film is not really for the most faint of heart. Nevertheless, is ultra-fascinating plot has to be seen to be appreciated. The story even eclipses the GREAT work of Nicholson, Di Caprio, Damon, Farmiga and the entire crew. What a breathtaking twist and turn tale of betrayal and goodness. As many critics have found, this may be the ultimate Scorsese film as his hands are behind every scene. Thrillers come and go but The Departed will stay around for the ages.

Same Kind of Different as Me (2017)

Djimon Hounsou makes the film count; direction is very slow and labored In Fort Worth, there are two worlds. The first one is the successful part of town where art dealer Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear) lives with his beautiful wife, Deb (Renee Zellweger) and their two wonderful teenagers, in a spectacular house. The other side is where the poor and homeless reside, including Denver (Djimon Hounsou). Ron and Deb have grown apart as of late and Ron cheats on his wife. Yet, Deb, a strong Christian, decides to work through their problems and especially wants Ron to join her in volunteering at a soup kitchen near the homeless. Reluctantly, he does so. One day, Denver comes in with a baseball bat and starts breaking furniture. Deb confronts him and he leaves....for a spell. When returning more subdued, Deb and Ron reach out to him and a friendship begins. Little by little, they learn Denver's sad life story, from being abandoned by his mother, having his grandmother's house burn down, working as a sharecropper, etc. No wonder he is such a bitter man, at times. Yet, all parties learn how much they have in common, rather than dwelling on differences. Even over the objections of his bigoted and alcoholic dad (Jon Voight), Ron insists on staying pals with and helping Denver. Then, a huge crisis occurs, involving Deb's health. Will this crisis draw them closer together or tear them apart? This beautiful true story is hampered by a direction so slow that even a snail would object. As such, the impact of the tale is greatly diminished, despite good performances from Kinnear and Zellweger. Only Hounsou rises about the tedious pace; when he is on screen, the viewer is riveted. The Texas scenery looks great as do the costumes and art direction. Certainly, too, the message of forgiveness is welcome anytime so no one should be discouraged from seeing it for its themes. Yet, after a view, even the most casual movie fan will wish that the film had a better pace and better editing. Let's hope the producers of Pure Flix will learn from the down side of a story on screen which should have had greater meaning.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Amazing film, run to find it! K (Ryan Gosling) is a replicant made by Niander Wallace (Jared Leto) and company to "retire" replicants made by the Tyrell Corporation of the original Blade Runner. In the opening sequences, he has found a male Nexus hiding in a barren plot of land with the only tree for miles. K delivers the retirement, after a struggle. More importantly, all evidence near the house is collected, including a box of bones. It is determined that a female REPLICANT, in spite of impossible odds, gave birth at this outpost years ago and the child may have survived. Thus, K's boss (Robin Wright) tells him his new job is to hunt and retire the offspring. Meanwhile, Wallace and his principal henchwoman, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks) are watching K's actions, for they want his retirement project to succeed. The lone person providing support for K is his virtual reality girlfriend, Joi (Ana de Armas) who is thrilled when K buys a device that lets her accompany him on outings. In his investigation, K tries to locate previous Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and his sidekick Gaff (Edward James Olmos) for they may hold critical clues. More disturbing, K begins to have memories of his orphan childhood which seem more real than typical implanted recalls given to replicants. He even seeks out Dr. Steele (Carla Juri) a maker of memories for Niander Wallace. Incredibly, the doctor, who lives alone behind a glass fortress, reveals his memories are genuine as well. Is K's heritage now apparent? This amazing film has one minor flaw. It is a bit too long and slow paced for many viewers. However, its concepts are head-turning, its cast is incredible, and its design / effects are "out of this world". Villeneuve pays homage and breaks new ground in the saga of Philip K Dick's Blade Runner. Yes, I waited way too long to view a wonderful sequel to one of my favorite films of all time. Don't make the same mistake, run now to catch it!

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)

Powerhouse film, serious themes, not for all Mildred (Frances McDormand) has had a rough life. Her ex-husband was abusive but after the divorce, he still lives in the same town. More importantly, her beloved daughter was raped, burned, and murdered in cruel fashion. This was six months ago and there have been no arrests. The sheriff, Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and his erratic deputy, Dixon (Sam Rockwell) have done their investigations and there are few new options. Nevertheless, Mildred believes her daughter's case is being filed and forgotten. Therefore, when she drives down a little-traveled road near her town of Ebbing, Missouri, she spies three billboards ready for new ads. Plunking down a cool $5000 of her own money, she asks the advertising company to put up questions relating to her child's murder, goading the sheriff's office. No, Willoughby is not happy. For a spell, television crews come and focus on Mildred's cause. But, no leads emerge. Meanwhile, Willoughby is seriously ill with cancer , making some of the townfolk turn against Mildred. All this while Milllie's ex-husband is parading around with a 19 year old girlfriend, her son has difficulty at high school, the town's dwarf (Peter Dinklage) wants to date Millie, and Deputy Dixon has a love-hate relationship with his mother. Will a killer be brought to justice? This powerhouse film is strong and serious but is not for all. For one, the language is profane quite often and there is violence, too. Some viewers will not be comfortable with these two matters. On the other hand, the cast is superb, with McDormand and Rockwell leading the way but with all cast members contributing mightily. The setting is rustic and unusual while script and direction are complete treasures. There are valuable lessons and entertaining hours to be taken from Three Billboards. Give it a try why don't you?

A Long Way Down (2014)

Funny, sweet, touching Martin (Pierce Brosnan) was a successful television morning show host UNTIL he slept, inadvertently he claims, with an underage lass. Now, he's jobless, wifeless, kidsless and desperate. So, he climbs a well known London building on New Year's Eve to jump off. But, wait! Its a bit crowded up there! Also thinking of jumping is Maureen (Toni Collette) a single mother with a disabled son, Jess (Imogen Poot) a politician's daughter whose sister has gone missing, and J.J. (Aaron Paul) who says he has brain cancer. As they being chatting, they soon decide tonight is not the night. What they will do instead is make a "pact" to try to work out their problems until Valentine's Day. Then, if things are not better, its Geronimo. Jess seems the most troubled and is rushed to the hospital by the new "gang" as she has taken an overdose. Also, more secrets come tumbling out. Perhaps the only remedy needed is a friendship that binds them together? This lovely film, based on a book by Nick Hornsby, has humor, sorrow, sweetness, and insight in equal measures. The four principal characters are great and are supporting finely by Sam Neill, Rosamond Pike, and others. The London setting is interesting while a second setting in Tenerife is most lovely. Nice costumes are complimented by a great script and a surefooted direction. Are you "down" on life at this moment? Watch this heartwarming movie and then get up and make some new friends!

Mystic River (2003)

Fabulous film in every way, including its source material by Dennis Lehane In a rougher area of Boston 30 years ago, Jimmy (Sean Penn), Sean (Kevin Bacon) and Dave (Tim Robbins) are playing street hockey when the puck goes down the drain. Now without "game", the trio starts writing their names in wet cement on a public sidewalk. Suddenly, a car pulls up....its the cops! Well, they have a badge anyway. Scaring the kids, Sean points out that he lives across the street. But, Dave, who lives one street over, is ordered to get in the car so they can talk to his parents. Crying, Dave does. However, its soon obvious to the neighbors that Dave has been abducted; he escapes four days later. Now, flashing forward, Dave and Jimmy still live in the neighborhood, with Jimmy owning a corner store and Dave doing odd jobs. Both are married and parents. Jimmy's oldest, Katie (Emmy Rossum) is nineteen and from a previous marriage. With second wife, Annabeth (Laura Linney) he has two other daughters, one who is going to have her first communion the next day. Katie works at the store and is going out on the town with two galpals. Concerned about late hours, Jimmy reminds Katie that its an important day for her sister tomorrow. Yes, Dad. But, the next day, she doesn't come to the store for the early shift and she doesn't make it to the church. Unhappily, she has been murdered and the detective on the case is Sean, who moved to a different part of Boston but is with the BPD. Naturally, Jimmy is distraught and has a gang of goons, his wife's brothers, doing their own detective work while Sean tries to reason with his former friend. There are other secrets, too. Dave, who has never been "normal" after his abduction and molestation, came home the night of Katie's death with blood on his person. Wife Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) doesn't quite believe his story that he beat up a mugger. Also, Katie, unknown to all, was planning to elope with a man named Brendan Harris, who her father despises. So, what really happened one fateful night and who will pay for the crime or crimes? This fabulous movie is based on an equally fabulous novel by Dennis Lehane. Its Boston setting is seedy and beautiful at the same time and has a ring of authenticity few stories have, as Lehane was born and raised in Boston. Then, too, the actors are superb, with Penn terrifying as the tough guy Jimmy, Robbins touching as the "damaged goods" man, and Bacon rounding out the trio in a quiet, somber performance of power. Harden, Rossum, Linney, Laurence Fishburne, and the rest are great, too. Sets, costumes, and cinematography are wonderful as well. Add on the amazingly complicated but first-rate tale and Eastwood's terrific direction and what we have, folks, is a ten star, must-see several times movie!

Peter Rabbit (2018)

Hop Hop Hop to see a sweet, beautiful and funny family film! Brought to life from the classic Beatrix Potter tale, Peter Rabbit (James Corden) is still very interested in Mr. McGregor's (Sam Neill) garden. After all, it is a bounty for rabbits and all wild animals, filled with fruits and veggies. Only now, since Mother Rabbit has passed away, Peter has enlisted his three sisters, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail as well as Benjamin Bunny to be the look-outs for him as he enters the garden. Then, too, a kind lady neighbor-artist of McG's, Bea (Rose Byrne) tries to guard over the animals, for she dearly loves them. In most cases, this works out very well and Mr McG has not filled the hole underneath the gate where Peter can escape. One fateful day, however, Peter is caught and seems doomed. That is, until old Mr. McG hits the ground, a victim of a heart attack. The "ice cream truck" with the red stripes takes him away. Joy of joys, the animals now move in the house and eat freely from the garden. Its heaven! But, the tale is not over. A stuffy toy store manager and great nephew, Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson) comes to the country with the purpose of sprucing up the house and grounds to sell, as he prefers London. On the night of his arrival, what a shock, as he has to boot all the wildlife outdoors. In short order, Thomas begins to spiff the house AND repair any way into the garden via fences, gates, holes, etc. Peter and his family are dismayed. But, once Thomas meets Bea, things start to change. Maybe the country isn't so bad, after all? Yet, because she loves her bunnies, Thomas has to display two faces, depending on whether the creatures are near. Can Bea trust Thomas? Can Peter and the others change the man's mind about the beauty of all living things? What if his former life as a businessman comes beckoning Thom again? We shall see! What an absolutely delightful film this is, sweet, beautiful and funny. So many of Potter's animal friends, including Mrs. Tiggywinkle, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, and others show up to play support for Peter and his family. This should definitely send all children to the library, looking for the classic stories. As Peter, James Corden is magnificent as the voice while Gleeson and Byrne are likewise wonderful as the human friends. In truth, all the actors voicing the computer-generated animals are great while the humans that populate this scene or that are funny as well. Then, the animation is mind-blowing, colorful and lovely. What a treat for the eyes. Finally, the script, while faithful to Potter in most respects, has fattened out the tale in a most entertaining fashion, complete with a nice score and energetic direction. After the wonderful Paddington Bear, here is another gift for families barely a month later! No one should miss Peter Rabbit, so hop hop hop to the movie theater nearest to you!

Groundhog Day (1993)

Oh, the lessons we can learn from a GROUNDHOG! Phil (Bill Murray) is a weatherman in Pittsburgh who has been sent four years in a row to cover the event known as Groundhog's Day in Puxatawney Penn. To say the least, Phil is VERY UNHAPPY and his giant ego makes him approach the project with scorn. True, this year he has a new producer, the very beautiful Rita (Andie McDowell), but even she doesn't lift the burden of boredom off his shoulders. While the rest of the crew makes due in a local hotel, Phil actually gets digs in a lovely bed and breakfast. In any case, Phil does his duty, very begrudgingly, putting up with the constant music of the Pennsylvania Polka and the ceremony of the "little rat". Then, a blizzard arrives. Everyone is stuck and Phil is unhappy. But, there's more. The next morning, Phil awakes to the same song as the day before, Sonny and Cher's I've Got You Babe, and finds he has to live the whole Groundhog Day experience AGAIN, even though everyone else is in happy oblivion that this is anything but the day itself. This means more polka, more little rat, more pushy insurance man trying to sell him a policy since he and Phil "went to school together", more plain coffee at the B and B. Making it through the second reliving, Phil wakes to a THIRD GROUNDHOG DAY, again. And again and again. Will Phil come to realize that HE HAS BEEN GIVEN A CHANCE to become a better man and win the girl of his dreams? This very funny film has the greatest idea at its base. If you were given the chance to relive a fateful day, would you change your behavior for the good? In Phil's case, it takes more than one day, of course. As the into-himself-weatherman, Murray is priceless and the cast surrounding him is wonderful, too. Add on the great scenery, costumes, timeless script and sure direction and you have a movie experience that will never grow old, even with repeated viewings!

The Crow: City of Angels (1996)

Horribly violent, not for anyone under 18; it does, however, continue the intriguing story of "crows", people caught between worlds, hoping to avenge their murderers Sarah (Mia Kirshner) as a child loved Eric Draven, the original Crow, the man who avenged his murderers in the city of Detroit. Hoping to start a new life, Sarah has moved to LA, where she works as a tattoo artist and lives in an abandoned warehouse, unknown to anyone. One night, she has a vision of a man, Ashe Corven (Vincent Perez) and his young son Danny being likewise killed. It seems the two Corvens happened to accidentally witness a drug dealer being terminated by other nefarious dealers under the direction of Judah (Richard Brooks). Shot and thrown into the ocean, it was a dreadful happening. Sarah, drawn to the shore, goes to the very spot of the murders, where she sees a crow flying. just before Ashe rises from the sea as a victim intent on revenge for his family. Ashe and Sarah from a bond. One by one, Ashe finds a way to destroy the horrendous gang that carried out Danny's and his murders; sometimes by fire. When Ashe is on the move, his final target will be Judah. But, this drug kingpin has a blind seer, who warns him of impending danger. Will Ashe be able to complete his much sought revenge? First, this film is a violent but stylish movie; those who are under 18 or who can't abide ruthless killing, should stay away. However, beneath the violence is the strangely appealing plot that made the first movie with Brandon Lee so intriguing. That is. there is a halfway to heaven limbo for victims of violent death, in which they can emerge as a crow's companion and take down the bad guys or gals of the world. Who doesn't love to see good avenge evil? Lee, of course, died in the making of the Crow and, in this film, Vincent Perez takes his place, with fine results. The rest of the cast, including Kirshner and Brooks, do interesting work as well. One of the film's biggest assets is its art direction and style, for the effects are beautifully realized. As stated, this movie is not for all, so beware. However, some will find it riveting, compelling fare.

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