May December, Priscilla, Leave the World Behind

Movie 1: May December

Natalie Portman is an actress studying the real life of a character she is about to portray in a movie. She is looking for this inspiration from Julianne Moore who years earlier was arrested for having an affair with a minor who she later marries. This movie has the look, feel and acting of a much better movie than it is. It ends up being a confusing world of ugliness and lies. It’s a disappointment given the caliber of actors involved. (We should note, however, that many national critics give this movie four globes.) It was in theaters, currently on Netflix.


Movie 2: Priscilla

This movie is based on the memoir “Elvis and Me” by Priscilla Presley. We found it a fascinating and very well made peek into the lives of the famous couple, starting with Priscilla’s teenage years. Sofia Coppola does a very good job of writing and directing a somewhat toxic love story.


Movie 3: Leave The World Behind

Why this dramatic thriller and quasi-Syfy has not gotten more press and a wider theater release we have no idea. We found it fascinating from beginning to end. A family vacation on Long Island is interrupted by world events difficult to explain. This group of A list actors is superb. Limited theatrical release now but on Netflix later this month. Try and see this one.


Saltburn, All The Light We Cannot See, Wish

Movie 1: Saltburn

This is a film noir about an Oxford student who befriends a rich and handsome classmate and spends a summer at his estate. This is a gothic sexual thriller that alternates between creepy, comedic and fascinating. While this film is not for everyone it slowly draws the viewer into the wealth, obsessions and eventual madness of this British aristocratic family. Critics worldwide are giving this movie rave reviews. The acting is very good. In theatres now, Amazon Prime in December.


Movie 2: All The Light We Cannot See

Set near the end of WWII in St. Malo France, a young blind French woman and a young German soldier cross paths. The story parallels both their lives as each tries to survive until the war is over. Based on the Anthony Doerr novel of the same name, this is a very entertaining and satisfying drama. This is a four part limited series on Netflix.


Movie 3: Wish

We found this Disney animated movie somewhat disappointing. There was nothing unique about the animation, music or storyline. A young girl tries to find her dreams by wishing on stars. Parents and adults will find it slow, but kids will enjoy it.


The Killer, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, Napoleon

Movie 1: The Killer

This is an action thriller/film noir about an assassin who misses a hit and the following international hunt for retribution. While the premise and acting are very good, we found the story a bit slow. Michael Fassbender and Tilda Swinton are perfectly cast. Briefly in theatres, now on Netflix.


Movie 2: The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

This action adventure is a prequel to the original Hunger Games trilogy. It depicts the rise of President Snow (played by Donald Sutherland in the first three films) and the reasons for the Games. Frequently a prequel can be dumb and a waste of time. This one, however, is very intelligent and helpful. Viola Davis, as Dr. Volumnia Gaul, is a lot of fun. If you enjoyed the first three Hunger Games movies, don’t miss this one.


Movie 3: Napoleon

This is a spectacle on a grand scale. Once again Ridley Scott delivers. This movie chronicles Napoleon’s power and ego driven career as it intertwines with his wife Josephine. Joaquin Phoenix portrays a very moody and self-obsessed Napoleon. The cinematography, sets, costumes and sound are excellent. Several movies this year are vying for Oscars, and this will certainly be among them. French critics did not like this film at all, calling it “lazy”.


Nowhere, Fair Play, On Fire

Movie 1: Nowhere

This is an international thriller that is tense and riveting. A young couple try and leave their war torn country inside of a container and a large ship. The drama, action and isolation are palpable. Originally in Spanish but we watched the dubbed English version. On Netflix.


Movie 2: Fair Play

This is a very well done romantic thriller. Two high powered hedge fund analysts start a relationship against company policy. This drama explores masculinity, workplace politics, and sexuality. This movie debuted to a lot of well-earned buzz at Sundance. Currently in theaters but on Netflix later this week.


Movie 3: On Fire

This movie is based on actual events in last year’s Northern California wildfires. It’s entertaining enough, but the stock footage of forest fires and the acting are just ok.

Special Note: Our movie reviews will be on a short hiatus. We are off to hither and yon. Starting in Sofia, Bulgaria and ending in Nassau, Bahamas. Home November 22. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


Saw X, Reptile, The Creator

Movie 1: Saw X

A dying man goes to Mexico for a miracle cancer cure. While this film is getting its best reviews since the franchise started, we still think it’s 10 movies too many.


Movie 2: Reptile

This is an excellent film noir crime thriller. A young real estate agent is brutally murdered while showing a house. The detective on the case uncovers a lot more than just murder. The acting, writing and directing are very well done. Lots of twists and turns. Very limited theatrical release but fortunately on Netflix.


Movie 3: The Creator

Based in the near future, a nuclear device, set off by Artificial Intelligence, destroys Los Angeles. Very timely due to the current AI debate, the special effects in this movie are groundbreaking and stunning. The acting of nine-year-old Madeline Yuna Voyles, as a robot, is adorable and amazing.


Amerikatsi, Expend4bles, The Black Book

Movie 1: Amerikatsi

This is an excellent drama about a young American Armenian man returning to his homeland after WWII. After the war Stalin annexed Armenia into the Soviet Union and paid expats to return. This is a very poignant film about emotional connections and the human spirit. In English and Armenian with English subtitles. In limited theatrical release, but coming soon to a yet unannounced streaming service. Our showing had about 20 older folks who must have been Armenian because they applauded throughout the movie.


Movie 2: Expend4bles

This is the fourth movie in the Expendables series and it is entertaining, if not totally implausible. The over the hill gang, joined by new recruits, are on a top secret mission to extract stolen nuclear weapons from Libya. No awards here, but fun.


Movie 3: The Black Book

This is a Nigerian action crime thriller where a minister, with a violent past, avenges the death of his son. Set in and around Lagos, Nigeria, the acting, writing and action scenes are very good. In English, but the English subtitles are very helpful. On Netflix.


The Nun II, The Eagle, The Retirement Plan

Movie 1: The Nun II

This horror movie is filmed five years after the original. The Vatican sends two young nuns to a French boarding school to determine what, and why, demonic events are happening. It quickly goes downhill from there. Not particularly scary and very low budget visuals, this is not as good as the original, and that’s not saying much.


Movie 2: The Eagle

This is a 2011 movie that can be found on Netflix. Set in 140AD as the Romans continue to invade England, a young Roman man goes north of Hadrian’s Wall looking for his father. The acting, action and cinematography was very good. We had heard nothing about this movie and found it a very pleasant surprise.


Movie 3: The Retirement Plan

This comedy/drama action movie starring Nicholas Cage is a whole lot of fun. Cage is a special ops agent who comes out of retirement to save his daughter and granddaughter from south Florida underworld thugs. This won’t win any awards but is very entertaining.


Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Dumb Money, A Haunting in Venice

Movie 1: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

This is a beautiful, smart and poignant coming of age story about two Mexican teenagers in 1987 El Paso, Texas and the different roads they took in discovering they are gay. Excellent acting and writing, with breakthrough performances by the two young actors. Based on the novel by the same name.


Movie 2: Dumb Money

Based on real life events of ordinary folks getting rich on GameStop stock. Set in 2021 during the pandemic, this movie chronicles how small investors can, and did, outsmart Wall Street. Brilliant acting and just the right amount of tension. Really well done.


Movie 3: A Haunting in Venice

This is Kenneth Branagh’s third Hercule Poirot movie based on Agatha Christie novels. A retired Poirot attends a Halloween seance in Venice. This movie has several twists and turns and is scary in all the right places. Fun to see these actors in different roles, especially Tina Fey. The aerial views of Venice will have you packing your bags!


Equalizer 3, Bottoms, Joyland

Movie 1: Equalizer 3

The third movie in the Equalizer franchise does not disappoint. Set in the beautiful south of Italy, Denzel Washington’s character attempts to save the area he has moved to from the infamous and brutal mafia. This movie is more violent than the first two, but it is very entertaining.


Movie 2: Bottoms

This buddy comedy is about a pair of lesbian best friends who form a fight club in high school to try and make themselves more popular. It explores feminism, sexuality and masculinity in very clever ways within the high school environment. While entertaining and very well done, we missed a lot of the jokes, angst and nuances. Being 50 years younger probably would’ve helped..


Movie 3: Joyland

This is a Pakastani drama that explores homosexuality and transgender issues in a claustrophobic and repressive neighborhood in Lahore. A young couple marries, even though the husband is gay, and the family pressures them to have children. The stifling patriarchal attitudes are palpable. We found this movie fascinating, sad, uplifting and confusing. In Arabic with English subtitles. This movie has garnered accolades and awards all over the world yet has been banned in Pakistan and much of the Arab world. Limited release in theatres but also on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.


Retribution, Gran Turismo, The Pope’s Exorcist

Movie 1: Retribution

Liam Neeson gives another reliably satisfying performance in this action thriller. He plays a Berlin-based investment banker with several powerful enemies. Unlike previous movies where he is running on rooftops all over the world, here he spends most of the movie driving a car with a bomb under his seat. Most critics did not care for this movie, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.


Movie 2: Gran Turismo

What an unexpected treat this movie is! Based on the real life of auto racing champion Jann Mardenborough, this is a wonderful crowd-pleasing drama. A young man from Cardiff, Wales turns a popular online racing game into a brilliant career. Knowing very little about this sport, we found ourselves on the edge of our seats most of the way. Really well done.


Movie 3: The Pope’s Exorcist

The Pope sends the Vatican’s exorcist to Spain to investigate what appears to be a demonic possession. Based on actual writings from the Vatican’s archives this is a fun horror movie. Russell Crowe does not take himself, or the movie, too seriously and plays a whisky loving priest. Not great movie making but entertaining. On Netflix.