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The Flick Chick
There are always a few swell films out there. In the Cineplex, On the Box at home. Don't know which ones they are? Check here for the Chick's flickpicks.
Do your opinions match mine? Then take in the ones I like. Hate my choices? Okay, you know what to avoid. Simple, huh?
GREAT STUFF TO SEE
(And, helpfully, the Chick also flags some bad stuff to avoid):
I LOVE films about Genius. Good ones, I mean, not just the "Oh you're beautiful withut your glasses, Dr. Madeline, and thank you for saving the universe." Really, really smart people are intrinsicly interesting, and they do interesting and often useful things. They are also very human. Movies that convincingly show really smart people are few and far between. But this is one of them!
Before there were mainframes or laptops or I-pads, the only way to solve a math problem was to do yourself. Using the computer in your head, plus maybe a pencil & paper. Imagine that! So what's the square root of 2209, Barbara? And, listen, Chuck, this hotel expects to host a banquet for 315 people in ten days, so how much food will we need, to buy, how many waiters will we need? Go figure out how much will it all cost, includng utilities, and how much must we charge in order to pay for it all and make a 30% profit? And oh, yes . . . somebody here do the numbers that will take three men to the moon and bring them safely back.
And yet there were people . . . some of them women . . . some of them African American women who did those numbers. They were real people, good looking people, who had the great, gifted intellects required to do that work. Because that was before there were reliable mainframes, my friends.
This is their story. And also how they were snubbed and inconvenienced, and how they were loved, and how they succceeded. Beautiful story. Beautiful film. Loved it. Don't miss it. (2/17)
THE ACCOUNTANT (video)
And yet . . . Ben Afflek's character touched me. A high functioning autistic (Asperger's Syndrome?), accounting genius, he had almost no ability to relate to other humans, yet, even so, he had some moral ground, a core of -- what can we call it but virtue. And a sense of what he was missing. A sense of what he had missing. Hmm. Not a great film. And yet I do recommend you see it. It's worth the time and money.( 2/17)
Of course it was good. It was about a genuinely heroic, true story. Of course it was good. It starred Tom Hanks. I guess you know the true story about the plane that ran into a flock of birds, lost its engines, had to land in the Hudson river rather than crashing into New York City, killing everbody on the plane plus a couple of blocks of New York apartment dwellers. Instead they saved everybody!
Less familiar is what happened next: how the airlines were mad at the pilot for not turning around and coming back to LaGuardia (? I think it was LaGuardia) and landing the plane so they could just repair the engines. Never mind that he had about 23 seconds in which to do it.
The film tells "the rest of the story" also, and we watch Sully sweat it out in a different kind of danger. The expectation of losing his life in another sense: losing his job, his pension, his reputation. He could lose his future, become a marked man -- don't hire HIM! He lost a half-a-billion bucks for his company, the dummy!
There are a very few familiar actors who can disappear into a role. You completely forget that you're watching Tom Hanks or George Clooney (or, in the old days, Alec Guinness) and instead you are seeing another person entirely, a colorless man, trapped in a situation he cannot control. Good story Masterful performance! Take my word for it! (1/17)
ANOTHER STAR WARS
OBOY! More starships streaking theough space. A reprise of Princess Leia and Han Solo. (We miss you, Carrie Fisher.) We have a girl hero at last, and not all the humans have the same skin color. Lots of extraordinary BEMs, but no BEM band, alas. Really enjoyed it all. Can't wait for the next one. (12/16)
FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM
Well, it was pretty cute. Englishman Newt Scamander comes to America with his magic bag that carries, not his socks and a clean shirt, but several thousand pets, a trip downstairs, and a variety of other surprises. Only some of the pets get loose and magic is strictly banned in the US (except for the Underground, of course, which includes many vindictive Enforcers,who get nicely trounced by the end of the film).
Not really much plot. There is not quite a love story, although there is a delicious femme fatale, as well as an pretty girlfriend-to-be for Newt. The fantastic animals are attractive and mostly friendly, there are a couple of genuinely touching moments. But, well, it looked like a series that is hoping to happen. Even so, it was fun and we enjoyed it. (12/16)
WHISKEY, TANGO, FOXTROT
Tina Fey was charming, and before you ask, yes, that really was Billy Bob Thornton playing the colonel. And it was more or less from a true story. And we did pretty much enjoy it, I guess.
But it's hard to say what makes a really great film. Although billed as a sort-of comedy, it certainly was not funny. Of course, there were a lot of huge explosions, if you require that. And some sex play, if you need that. And some touching scenes, if you like touching scenes. Interesting insights into daily life in Afghanistan durning the war, couple of pretty good jokes and several brutal betrayals, and yet . . .
And yet . . . the Chick felt it didn't quite ring the bell. Also, nobody ever did the Tango. Or the Foxtrot. (Yeah, yeah, I know. Sorry.) (2/16)
THE BIG SHORT
Praise it to the skies! If you ever wanted to know how it worked, how the evil deeds got done . . . this is your chance. There is a scene in which two young mortgage brokers (maybe somewhat inebriated) are laughing and saying, "But it is so easy to sell these ARMs to stupid people!" They just look at the teaser rate! They don't even know to ask what the ceiling is on the rate when it changes! And we're making so much money!" (Not a direct quote. Relying on the meaning of their statements here.) And two of the sane guys are listening, and one sane guy says softly to the other, "Why are they confessing to us." And the second guy answers, "They're not confessing. They're boasting." Oh.
And later when it all falls apart, the two young guys who had gotten help from a youngish, retired mortgage broker (Brad Pitt, whom you would never recognize because he has on a fright wig and a mssive uncut beard) were leaping on sofas, shouting and spilling Champagne when the bubble burst, because they had shorted the mortgage sales, that is, they had bet that the bundled mortgages would fail, rather than betting they would succeed. When they had won, as it were, Brad Pitt comes to them and says, "You see, this is how it works. All the people who took out those mortgages will lose their homes, and their money will be gone, and they will lose their jobs, and they won't be able to take care of their kids, and their lives will fall apart."
The young guys say, "Oh. We never thought of that." And Brad Pitt says, "Not your fault, really. But that what's going to happen now."
And that is indeed what did happen. You'll see it all. This movie explains it. Excellent writing. Excellent acting. Happy ending for the ones who had shorted. Tough on the guys who got taken.
For your own sake, don't you dare miss it. You need to know how it works.(1-16)
STAR WARS 2016
OH BOY! Could hardly wait, and it was really fun. Plot a little thin (not unusual), but great BEMs, great action, good to see some of the original characters, though Harrison Ford is really showing his age (must be just his makeup, no?). And what a splendid change to have some diversity of main characters! Although the beachball robot failed to thrill me, I hopefully await the next film in which . . . maybe . . . the bit layer with the fishhead will turn out to have a charming character and start a close friendship with . . . a mermaid? Anyway, you've already seen it, so -- what more can I say? (12/16/2015)
BRIDGE OF SPIES
Hey, this is a wonderful film! Wonderful talents: Tom Hanks (can't miss,of course), Stephen Spielberg as director, written in part by the Cohen Brothers, a small part for Alan Alda, and (wait for it!) Mark Ryland -- the memorable actor who played Thomas Cromwell in the PBS series, Wolf Hall. I could go on and on, but I'd rather you just saw it for yourself, and that way you can supply the admiring adjectives.
Been a long time since there was a film this good. (10/15)
Huge respect for Will Smith as an actor. His performance was stunning, and it made this only-moderately-good film worth seeing. The Chick has commented earlier on the abilities of Dustin Hoffman, of the super-great Tom Hanks and a very few others. This performance rates up there with them. Without wanting to be a spoiler, I can say that Smith's character is troubled and torn, while masquerading as cheery-normal, and he does it so splendidly that I was spellbound. I'd definitely recommend it for that reason, if for no other ... and it was not that bad a film anyway. (11/25) DVD
While desiring to cast no aspersions on Angelina Jolie . . . so sorry, but you can't perform the same trick twice. Has to be a new trick every time. Or at least wait a long while before you do the trick again. You know, make them guess which trick it will be this time. Otherwise, ho-hum. Anyway, Disney of all people should know better. Fractured fairy tales is one thing, but same new trick twice in two years? C'mon. It was devastating in Frozen, but this time, well, spoiled it. (10/15)
CHARIOTS OF FIRE
Two Englishmen are in fierce competition for the Olympic gold in track. You like them both, sympathize wth them both, and can't help but root for each of them. This 1981 prizewinner is still a great film. On the edge of your seat by the end of the day . . . who wins? Watch it and see. You'll love every minute! Would the Chick stiff you? 'Course not!
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TOM AND VIV
This is a great film. Willam Dafoe (superb actor, superb performance) plays Tom -- T.S.Elliot, to you , Miranda Richardson is Vivian Haigh-Wood, his ailing wife -- and she got an Acadamy Award for it in 1984. True story. But . . . you'll hate this film.
This Wikipedia quote may explain why: Virginia Woolf famously described Haigh-Wood on 8 November 1930 in her diary: Oh – Vivienne! Was there ever such a torture since life began! – to bear her on one's shoulders, biting, wriggling, raving, scratching, unwholesome, powdered, insane, yet sane to the point of insanity, reading his letters, thrusting herself on us, coming in wavering trembling ... This bag of ferrets is what Tom [Eliot] wears round his neck.
Are you sure you want to see it?
THE IMITATION GAME
Really a very successful film. There's a question as to whether charming Benedict Cumberbach can present a character who is not arrogant and socially insecure, but Sherlock fitted very nicely into the Alan Turing character. And it is a truly moving true story, with a genuinely heartbreaking ending. Best of all, the writers did not mess it up (as writers have been known to do -- especially with true stories). So: yes, absolutely yes. This is one to see, to enjoy, and to remember. (11/2014)
Robert Downey, Jr. couldn't save this 1996-made Restoration-period film. Sam Neil couldn't save it. Meg Ryan couldn't save it. Hugh Grant couldn't save it. Ian McKellen couldn't save it. The producers couldn't save it. The writers and directors most certainly didn't save it.
So miss it! (10-2015)
INTO THE WOODS
Admitting to being a bit of a softie for fairy tales, and having looked forward to seeing this flick, I must tell you that I was dismayed at this soggy porridge of fairy-and-folk tales that were slammed together without much rhyme (even in the songs!) or much reason. None of the characters were very appealing, and the heavy-handed cynicism with which they were treated made me want to turn away from the screen.
Now don't get me wrong: I don't need saccharine to sweeten my opinion. I have enjoyed other such films, e.g.I laughed happily with the rest of the audience when Mrs. Shreck, imprisoned with Sleeping Beauty (yawning) and Snow White in her headband and all the other helpless darlings, was busted out of the castle with one socko punch by Mrs. Shreck's pretty mama. Nor do I require that everything be heavily sanitized. (Read my review of The Brothers Grimm.)
Just that this one's a loser, that's all. (April '15)
WOMAN OF GOLD
The marvelous Helen Mirren carried this film. Looking German, tight-lipped, and slightly dowdy, she made a good case for the film's premise: that stolen property should be returned to its owner, even after many years of its traveling from hand to sometimes-governmental hand. It does not make up for other losses, but there is indeed satisfaction in having justice done. Excellent film, frequently touching. (March ' 15)
Not generally a big fan of Disney anime', but the Chick must say good words about this huge hit. Not just because it was the biggest-grossing anime' ever, so far, but (amazingly) because of its message! At this remove in time, It is hardly a spoiler to say that the switcheroo on what constitutes "true love" was a moving change. So if you like Disney at all, this is a flick you can probably really enjoy.
Sorry only watched the first 20 minutes. Joaquin Phoenix is an excellent actor, but no can sell this one. BTW: It was a rented video, and there were approximately 721 very unappetizing teasers (over 15 minutes worth!) before we ever got to the film. That may have influenced our opinion. (3/15)
Well, the earth is falling apart. Crops die, horrible dust storms, everybody denies how bad it is (maybe they forgot) and there's no help anywhere. Except . . . (yeah, always there's an except) . . Hero & Brilliant Young Daughter, by the merest chance, manage to find the secret, secret, secret group of scientists who have (surprised?) been building a secret, secret space ship, the most recent of several, to send into a black hole to find out why the other space ships never came back with news about where the human race can find another planet to move to.
Oh, and did I mention that (quite coincidentally) our Hero just happens to be the last, and one and only superduper test pilot who can take the ship up! Oh, and did I forget to mention the secret binary messages written in the dust?
After that it gets better.
The word is that much of the scence and special effects are in accord with our current knowledge of physics. Never learned much in physics class, so I can't vouch for that, but, despite the Chick's scathing sarcasm, she did enjoy the film, and she clutched at the man sitting next to her when the giant wave threatened to carry away that charming computer which so often came to their rescue. En fin, if you like this kind of stuff, you will like this one also. (12/2014)
Oh wow! This venerable Monty Python offspring is so charming, so off-the-wall, so wierd, so adorable that, well, words fail the Chick. Thank you, Pythons. Do it again, please!
THE STATION AGENT *****
This review should be written in gold! What a grand film! What a stellar performance by Peter Dinklage! Touching but not sentimenal. Makes you think, but not preachy. Funny but not slapstick.
Hard to locate the DVD . . . but really worth it. Get it. You'll thank me.
THE SHIPPING NEWS
Suave, smart-alec, clever Kevin Spacey is convincing as an innocent sort of dummy, wearing a watch cap and/or with his hair in his eyes, who slowly wakes into warm, real life. Stars Julienne Moore and Dame Judi Dench are equally compelling. Even the weather is great in this one. After I saw the film, I read the book, and that was great, too. Only one thing is lacking: In the novel, as our hero is learning to write for the Shipping News newspaper, and is practicing writing snappy headlines each chapter is prefaced by its own snappy headline. But that aspect is only faintly marked in the film. Nevertheless, the Chick really recommends this one. (She also recommends the book, in case you're interested.)
A NEW LEAF *****
Oh, this is a wonderful film! Walter Matthau (Henry) as a spoiled, selfish, heartless wastral who marries sweet and innocent and fabulously rich, but astonishingly klutzy Henrietta (Elaine May). Yes, the results are predictable, but the journey to their happy ending is hilarious! One viewing is not enough. Two is not enough. You may want to buy the DVD!
GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
Well, it was really funny. We laughed and laughed. The actors were adorable, completely unbelieveable, charming, disarming, some foolish, some ghoulish. There were unexpected walk-ons by famous persons (sometimes impersonating infamous persons). There were gorgeous settings, people running upstairs and downstairs very fast, like characters in a French farce. There were sly asides, ridiculous behaviors, and lots and lots of pastry boxes! And of course, Ralph Feinnes, Jude Law, Bill Murray (not enough Bill Murray, of course, but who can get enough of Bill Murray?) Ditto Jeff Goldblum, ditto Owen Wilson, ditto Tilda Swinton, ditto Tom Wilkinson. And lots of Tony Revolori, and several other younger actors, of whom I had never heard before, but of whom you will very probably hear again.
Possibly you must like this sort of thing in order to like this. But see it anyway. (4/2014)
Oh, one more thing: Please note the similarity between the hotel's exterior view and those famous pastries! (7/15)
Many, many years ago, a TV comedian named Red Skelton ended his show with a pantomime of a Space Walker who has broken his tether and is slowly, slowly slipping away into the dark, writhing in terror.
And a long-time SF-reader like the Chick cut her teeth on the concept. And yet . . . and yet . . . when George Clooney's voice faded away, and Sandra Bullock's air was running out, I felt the old tug at my heart. Well, of course the whole film was mostly impressive computer graphics, but . . . I teared up when George Clooney said, "Tell me you'll miss my blue eyes," just as he was saying, "Farewell."
Although, I know, of course that George Clooney's eyes are brown.
How great Saving the Art Wonders of the World from evil-doers! How great a film starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, and Jean Dujardin! And really, it was a very nice, enjoyable film. Not really great, maybe. But certainly the 1940s effort was a great enterprise especially in real life. And it was certainly worth celebrating. So, all things taken into consideration, the Chick liked it well enough to recommend it, if you don't get MUCH better offer instead. Oh, yes Cate Blanchett was in it, also, looking very repressed. (2/14)
SAVING MR. BANKS
How can any film that stars Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks be anything but excellent? Hmm . . . well . . . it wasn't exactly bad, but it was not as excellent as one had hoped. True, Emma Thompson did a splendid job. True, Tom Hanks did a splendid job. True, the Chick was still humming music from the Mary Poppins film for a week afterward. But the P.L. Travers character was so thorny, and the Walt Disney character was so like Walt Disney himself that, well, there was not much to love about either of them. (Sigh.) Even though I had enjoyed the Mary Poppins books and the Disney film. (Sigh.)
FOYLE'S WAR *****
NOT A MOVIE! This was/is a long running British TV series probably the least violent, least flashy, and most satisfying group of characters and episodes you will ever run into. Set in Great Britain during WW II, Michael Kitchen plays Timothy Foyle, gently announcing, "I'm a policeman," when mistaken for a swell because of his quiet authority. Honeysuckle Weeks is his bright-eyed driver (no romance, there, though) and Anthony Howell is the wounded vet who is mercifully returned to Foyle's side. Most of the storylines are good,may are excellent, and you wi;ll never forget these characters!
A splendid film: beautiful; touching; heart-wrenching; gripping; funny. All the good adjectives. Daniel Day Lewis is too pretty in real life to play Lincoln, of course, but with the makeup and the beard, he was intensely believable. Lots of Lincoln's beautiful words, all the parts we already knew, plus some we didn't know about him. (Note that the Chick was reading Gore Vidal's Lincoln simultaneously which may have added to the fervor of her appreciation. ) But gosh! of course it had to be great. It was about Lincoln! When the film ended, we were all crying. And clapping. Of course! (11/2012)
This is definitely a winner. Simple story: Two pre-adolescents run away together; chaos results.
Bill Murray is the dad, in a bit part. Frances Mcdormand is the mom, in an even smaller part. Bruce Willis, playing against type, is the fairly dumb sheriff, but it's the kids who carry the show: Gold stars to Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who are quirky, natural, always intent. While thinking, "Hey, kids aren't really like that," you realise that they really ARE like that.
The storyline is a farce . . . but it's also extremely touching. Impossible? See for yourself. You won't be disappointed. (Yeah, even you the one who hates flicks about kids!) (11/12)
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS
Ah . . . a darkened street, the sound of jazz playing over the radio on a silent evening, and then an elegant, antique car stops at your feet, a hand reaches out holding a brimming champagne glass and invites you in. And then you're off to ornate drawing rooms filled with great paintings and enlivened by the presence of beautiful women in jeweled flapper-style headbands and feather boas, and tall, thin gentlemen in evening clothes, speaking with English accents. Take time for a chat with Hemingway, Picasso, F.Scott Fitzgerald. Consider dreams and dreams come true.
That sound good to you? Then you 'll love this film.
Owen Wilson is appealingly American, and if the dopy ignorance of his character does not quite ring true as the portrayal of an aspiring author, his golden charm makes up for it. What we have here is a delicious, gilded evening, with almost none of the cruelty of Woody Allen's recent films. We came away smiling and ready for ice cream. Bet you do, too. (August, 2011)
SHERLOCK HOLMES I & II
Well! This is not the Holmes with whom we have previously been acquainted. Nor the Watson. We have always suspected, my dear Reader, that there were areas of Holmes' life into which we had hitherto never delved. But now the veil is lifted, and we discover that Master Detective is also a master of the manly arts, as a bare-knuckle fighting event displays his skills. His softer side is also on display from time to time, and we frequently see him dishabille, unkempt and unshaven. Moreover, we are made privy to his genuine regard for his young friend's rapier-like wit and also his skill with the rapier. (Obviously, in Watson's narratives, his innate modesty has kept him from revealing the true extent of his own abilities.) And, as we always suspected, the fair sex is not immune to Holmes' charms, nor is he immune to theirs.
The films play havoc with the literary tradition, but all in all, the Chick found Holmes and Watson both to be great fun and Really Hot! These are rousing thrillers and Robert Downey, Jr, and Jude Law have distinguished themselves! (1/2010)
JULIE AND JULIA
Been a long time since a film gave such pleasure.
While acknowledging her great acting ability I'd never entirely liked Meryl Streep until now, but the radiant warmth of her Julia Child has won my heart. Stanley Tucci's glowing benevolence was an inspired choice for Paul Child. And Amy Adams and Chris Messina were winning performers as Julie and her kind and long-suffering (and hungry) husband. This is a very funny, immensely good-humored production. A gold star to Nora Ephran for screenplay and direction. Gold stars all around.
You know, films (and novels) today too often portray lovers and married partners only in states of confict. We view rough love, tough love, the struggles of narcissistic and shallow relationships, often based on competition, and laced with sarcasm and unkindness both deliberate and accidental. It's as if the film-makers thought the end purpose of human relationships was to do harm. Or take coup. The cutting word almost always trumps the loving one. As if our best hope is for no more than quiet desperation.
Ah, but in JULIE AND JULIA, for a touch over two hours, we had the joy of sharing time with two very different but equally loving couples treating each other with good humor and affection in easy times and in hard times, too. When Paul Child comes home to a mountain of smelly, chopped onions, he shakes his head, sighs mildly, and goes downstairs. He does not wave his fists and shout "To the Moon, Julia!" When Eric Powell has put up with one too many obsessive cooking catastrophes, he does not flee to the arms of some cutie . . . he just camps out on the couch at his office until she calms down and his temper has cooled. These married people are good to each other. Patient with each other. This is what it should be like! So . . . this is THE film. Be good to yourself and see it now. (And maybe buy the DVD later, so you can enjoy it again!) (8/09)
Yes. It's way old. But this film confirms all the horrible things we always suspected were true about fast food. It's bad for your health. It makes you fat. And eating it makes you act dumb. Our protagonist (playing himself) goes from doctor to doctor and is pronounced in super health before he goes on a one-month three-meals-a-day diet of MacDonalds. At the end of the month he has gained 20 pounds, feels awful all the time, raised his cholesterol into the danger zone, possibly damaged his liver and (according to his outspoken girl friend) seriously damaged their sex life. OOps!
Although the film picks on the Golden Arches exclusively, and although, admittedly, most people do not make fast-food stops at every meal, the evidence against a steady diet of burgers-and-fries-and-oil-based-shakes is compelling. You may not come out of the film as a confirmed vegan, but I bet you won't take quick run-through at the local drive-in on your way home.
Compelling or not, will this make a permanent dent in the fast-food biz? Only time will tell. My guess: A word to the wise is sufficient. (7/04)
Yep, this 2004 film is still on the top page. Just consider it a reminder to you from me . . . on behalf of your heart. Available on DVD.
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