Saturday, May 31, 2014


Writers Linda Woolverton and Charles Perrault have created a wonderful revision of the Sleeping Beauty tale with Maleficent and it’s been admirably brought to the screen by Director Robert Stromberg.

The production is Disney at its best, with amazing forest creatures, flights of fantasy and a story that would touch the hearts of anyone except those sick souls, who are in to “honor killings” or raping the environment.

Anjelina Jolie is the perfect actress for the part of the tragic Maleficent, who began life as a happy pixie, but was betrayed and violated by a greedy human she befriended.  Her ultimate transformation from hate and revenge is a lesson for young and old alike.

If you have or are a daughter, this film is a must-see. 

I give Maleficent a 4+ out of 5.

A Million Ways To Die In The West

The person who seemed to be having the most fun in the theater where I saw Writer/Director/Producer Seth MacFarlane’s A Million Ways To Die In The West, was the onscreen actress Charlize Theron, who was playing down to the rest of the cast with a wry twinkle in her eye, indicating she knew this was just a lot of nonsensical fun…at least, for her.

For me, not so much…although I did appreciate the light slumber the first part of the film induced.  That’s not to say there weren’t a few chuckles later and even a few good scenes toward the end, especially the one provided by the Indians.  But, though it tried to be, this was no Blazing Saddles. To paraphrase the old political rebuke, “I’ve studied with Mel Brooks and Seth MacFarlane is no Mel Brooks…at least, not yet.”
Much ado about nothing sums it up.  The main weakness was the script.  No story to care about and no characters to care about.  Cinematographer Michael Barrett made beautiful images, but a comedy doesn’t want or need beautiful images.  It’s supposed to look quirky.  The nice look sent the wrong message.

The overreach is best summed up when Neil Patrick Harris’s character has to defecate in bystanders’ hats. Gross, yet funny.  But, then, to show what’s in the hats!  A mess, to be sure.

On the other hand, if you enjoyed Neighbors, you’ll probably like this film, as well.

As for me, I give it a 3 out of 5…and that’s mostly for Charlize Theron, Sarah Silverman and Giovanni Ribisi...three, who know how to be funny.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Words and Pictures

Director Fred Schepisi’s Words and Pictures is one of the great finds of the year. 

Clive Owen and Juliette Binoche play rival teachers of Advanced English and Advanced Fine Arts at a prep school in Maine.  Their rivalry concerns what is more important to humanity, words or pictures?


Spoiler alert: they both are, but not just words and pictures, but music and feelings, as well.  But, knowing that doesn’t ruin anything.  The words supplied by Screenwriter Gerald Di Pego are witty and wise, the paintings supplied, surprisingly, by Binoche are world-class, the music by Composer Paul Grabowsky is spot-on and the chemistry between Owen and Binoche is pure magic. 

If you want to have cinematic fun without guns and digital effects, Words and Pictures is for you.

The only tragedy is that this battle between words and pictures is not being waged in both public and private schools throughout the nation.

I give Words and Pictures a 4+ out of 5.

Friday, May 23, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

 X-Men: Days of Future Past delivers on all levels.  First, it has a great story Writer Simon Kinberg developed with Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn.  Director Bryan Singer, backed by Cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, Production Designer John Myhre, Visual Effects Designer Richard Stammers and Editor/Composer John Ottman, has turned their work into the best action film, so far, this year.
In an all-star cast, including Michael Fassbender as the Young Magnito, Ian McKellen as Magnito, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, Halle Berry as Storm, Peter Dinklage as the villainous Dr. Trask, Ellen Page as Kitty Pride, Anna Paquin as Rogue, Nicholas Hoult as Beast and Omar Sy as Bishop, the standout performances are Evan Peters as Quicksilver, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, James McAvoy as the Young Professor X and, best of all, Jennifer Lawrence as Raven.

Now, if you’re not a viewer of the previous X-Men films and don’t know who those characters are, you’ll still have a great time seeing this film.  If you are a fan, you’ll be ecstatic with this production.

I give X-Men: Days of Future Past a 4+ out of 5.


Sunday, May 18, 2014


I was all set to be unimpressed with the new Godzilla, directed by Gareth Edwards, but that was not the case, at all.

The story by David Callaham and scripted by Max Borenstein is fast-moving and exciting.  Production Designer Owen Paterson is a master at science fiction and Editor Bob Ducsay knows how to build action out of Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey’s wonderful images.
Godzilla and the monsters he is pitted against are the real main characters, with Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Bryan Cranston, David Strathairn and the rest of the cast backing them up.

If you like a good popcorn thriller, then Godzilla is for you.  I give it a 3+ out of 5.

Sunday, May 11, 2014


Belle, directed by Amma Asante and written by Misan Sagay is truly a beautiful film that is well-worth seeing. 

Based on a true story, the action takes place from approximately 1769 to 1779 in England.  A mulatto young girl is placed in the custody of her aristocratic uncle by her father, who is an Admiral in the Royal Navy. 
Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Dido Elizabeth Belle and does so, expertly, exuding passion and depth.  Tom Wilkinson plays her uncle, Lord Mansfield, who is the equivalent of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. 

The bulk of the action takes place when Lord Mansfield must make a decision in the Zong Affair, which was a seminal case leading to abolishing the slave trade in England…a time when the plight of women was akin to the plight of African slaves.

Cinematographer Ben Smithard offers up some of the most beautiful images you’ve seen, taking full advantage of Production Designer Simon Bowles’ exquisite sets.

Belle is movie-making at its finest.  I give it a 4+ out of 5.