Hail, Caesar!, Deadpool, Where To Invade Next, Ingrid Bergman In her Own Words

Hail, Caesar!


This star studded story about the 1950s movie studio industry by the prolific Coen Brothers is visually impressive, moderately entertaining but ultimately disappointing.  Too much slap stick humor.  Often just plan silly.

The song and dance scene with Channing Tatum and the water dancing with Scarlett Johansson were high points.  Josh Brolin was one of the only believable characters as the Head of the Studio.  Ralph Finnnes made an good uppity Director.  To be fair, George Clooney, was a solid Clark Gable.

There was an attempt to make a statement about the Communist movement in Hollywood of the day that fell short and how that connected to the Nazi Submarine scene is still a puzzle.

Rating: 1Globe



Oh My!  I don’t know where to begin.  There is a group of highly skilled special forces crowd that wager on each others life expectancy called the Deadpool.  Ryan Reynolds character is the top dog and meets his sexual match in a local bar and quickly fall in love.  Reynolds character suddenly develops a life threatening illness and desperately seeks a medical fix.

Reynolds discovers some underground group that promise a cure, but turns out to be some demented way of torturing its victims and results in horrid mutations but also super powers.

There are some interesting super hero scenes, some very good special effects and some of the dry humor was actually quite clever.  That said, there was also a fair amount of vulgarity simply for effect sake.  It is very violent, bloody and down right gross.

All that said, I must share, the IMAX theater was packed.  (We were the oldest people there by a long shot.)  It turns out Deadpool was the highest grossing R rated film to date.

Rating: 1Globe

Where To Invade Next


This latest Michael Moore film is not what the title implies.  His “invasion” of countries like Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, and other countries is actually “harvesting” policy practices from these countries and bringing them to the USA as remedies for failed US practices.

The topics vary wildly but are mostly social related: School lunches, workplace benefits, make up of Corporate Board of Directors, college education, prison systems, racism, sexism and more.

I would argue this is the most relevant film Moore has produced yet.  It is a thought provoking examination of American standards and values that challenges American conventional standards of living.

Rating: 4 globes

Ingrid Bergman In Her Own Words


This is a Swedish Biography/Documentary film about the life of actress Ingrid Bergman and her family, many of whom appear and contribute first hand experiences in the film.

It is a fascinating story told using a lifetime of carefully collected personal documents, extensive collection of original film clips and first hand testimonials from family and friends.

It shares the incredible acting success Ms. Bergman earned, the complicated history of three marriages, several children and the evolution of her passion for life.  Her life and impact on those around her is simply remarkable.

This is well worth seeking out.  It enjoys international critical acclaim.  It does not enjoy a broad distribution in the US.  It is well worth the effort to track this one down.

Rating: 4 globes


Theeb, Oscar Nominated Animated Shorts and Live Action, Pride+Prejudice+Zombies



This film is nominated for Best Foreign Film from Jordan.  It is set in 1916 in a remote province of the Ottoman Empire of Hajiz during World War 1.  It is the story of a young Bedouin man and his little brother when they encounter and guide an unexpected British officer into the desert for some secret military purpose.  They encounter bandits and suddenly the older brother is killed while the younger brother is left for dead.

It is artfully made, yet used no professional actors.  Appropriately called a Bedouin Western, it was filmed in the vast Wadi Rum desert of Jordan.  Ultimately it is a story of survival, endurance and revenge.  It is unique and worth seeking out.

Rating: 4 globes

Academy Award Nominated Animated Short Films

Animated Shorts

     Bear Story (Chile)

An old, melancholy bear tells his life story through a mechanical diorama.  It is a touching story for people of all ages.  A strong candidate to win the Oscar.

Rating: 4 globes

     Prologue (UK)

This unusual film about the a battle between four warriors set hundreds of years ago depicts in graphic detail the horrors of the event.  I did not understand the use of nudity and strongly caution against viewing by young children.

Rating: 1Globe

     Sanjay’s Super Team (US)

This Pixar production based on “mostly” true events is about a Hindu father and his young son who imagines Hindu gods as action heroes.  It is beautifully crafted and a strong contender for the Oscar.

Rating: 4 globes

     We Cannot Live Without Cosmos (Russia)

Two inseparable astronauts in training is funny, playful, inventive and charming.  It achieves a touching message in less than 10 minutes.

Rating: 3 globes

     World of Tomorrow (US)

An inventive story about a little girl and her future based Mom tries to explain the world of her future being.  It is clever and complicated, funny and confusing.  Favorite concept is the Internet becomes the “outernet”.

Rating: 3 globes

     Catch It (France) Highly Commended but not nominated.

Meerkats versus vulture for coveted fruit results in a prolonged chase.  The football punt is hilarious.

Rating: 3 globes

     If I was God (Canada) Highly Commended but not nominated.

Based on a true story about school science class dissection of frogs is excellent storytelling.

Rating: 2 globes

     Short Story of Fox and Mouse (France) Highly Commended, not nominated

Visually stunning animation.  Prey and predator evolve to become intimate companions.  Unique.

Rating: 3 globes

     Loneliest Stoplight (US) Highly Commended but not nominated.

A stop light in a one-light-town becomes an overnight sensation when a freeway jams up.

Rating: 2 globes


Academy Award Nominated Live Action Short Films

    live action

     Ave Maria (Palestine, France, Germany)

A Jewish family gets lost and their car breaks down in Arab territory in front of a Catholic Nunnery.  The nuns agree to let the husband use their phone to hire a cab to get home.  No one will come because they are in Arab territory.  Finally, the nuns agree to allow the family to use the car of a deceased nun.  It is both funny and weird at the same time.

Rating: 2 globes

     Day One (US)

Set in a war zone in a Muslim country, an American military team conducts a mission with a new Muslim-American woman interpreter when the squad encounters conflict.  They discover a pregnant woman in labor.  The husband is driven by strict religious customs and will not allow the local doctor to enter the home.  In a compromise, the Doctor instructs the interpreter what to do. The baby is born after much turmoil.   The story is quite powerful and tragic.  A strong contender for the Oscar.

Rating: 4 globes

     Everything Will Be Okay (Austria, Germany)

A Father picks up his young daughter for a scheduled visitation with at stop at shopping for toys and a local fair to ride the bumper cars. Then he begins the process to abduct the girl and escape the country for the Middle East.  Their flight is cancelled and father and daughter end up at a hotel.  The final scene is full of trauma and angst.

Rating: 3 globes

     Shok (Friends) (US)

Two Albanian boys from school earn money for bicycles during the war in Kosovo when Serbian forces take over their town.  The boys are at odds when one bike is confiscated for a soldiers son.  The two reconcile as their families are driven from their home.  It is a small peek at a horrific time.  Also a strong contender for the Oscar.

Rating: 4 globes

     Stutterer (UK, Ireland)

This is a charming story about a young couple during an internet phase (texting) before meeting.  Clearly the two like each other and have established a rapport.  The only glitch is the young man has a terrible stutter.  It is so bad he often acts mute in public.  Finally the time comes to meet…they both sign.

Rating: 3 globes

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies


I know it sounds goofy but hear me out on this one.  When I first saw the previews I thought, ‘are they out of their minds’.  Once the film was released, the critical reviews were not half bad.  So with nothing else new in the theaters on a quiet Sunday morning with nothing to do, we went to see an early matinee.

If you like period piece films, this one has just enough of the classic elements to hold your interest.  If you like classic horror films including the occasional zombie movie, then you might find this one interesting.

Imagine privileged debutants, masters of the martial arts, vying for the attention of wealthy suitors.  Together, they protect their mansions and lifestyle against the legions of the undead yearning to eat their human brains.

Okay, no Oscar material here, but it might kill a couple of hours on a long plane ride.

Rating: 2 globes

Straight Outta Compton, The Finest Hours, 45 Years

Straight  Outta Compton


This film was set in 1988 and chronicles the then groundbreaking events that brought hip-hop to pop culture.  It is also a peek behind the scenes at the culture of sex, drugs and thug life.

It tells the story of the mercurial rise of the hip hop industry and gangsta rap.  Front and center is the story of the young Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Easy-E, DJ Yella and MC Ren.  (Dr. Dre and Ice Cube co-produced the film along with Tomica Wright, Matt Alvarez and F. Gary Grey who was also the Director.)

The film does not hold back as it reveals the good, the bad and the ugly.  It is intense and still relevant to today’s music scene and the influence it brings with it.  Run time is 2 hours, 36 minutes that simply flew by.

The film has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.  It had also been nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture (but did not win).  Also the Critics Choice Award for Best Acting Ensemble and numerous other industry awards of recognition.

Rating: 4 globes

The Finest Hours

finest hoursThis film is based on the book of the real events of a 1952 US Coast Guard rescue mission in Chatham, Mass. A team of three, lead be Chris Pine as team leader Bernie Webber,  are ordered to conduct a rescue of the remaining crew of 30 on an oil tanker cracked in half by a massive winter storm.

The tanker’s Captain is killed during the accident and there is a fair amount of chaos until the Ship’s Engineer, played by Casey Affleck, comes up with a plan to keep the ship afloat until they can be rescued.  Lots of angst and tension until they are obviously rescued.

Concurrently the rescue team somehow managed to overcome seemingly impossible conditions, the loss of their compass and still manage to find the tanker.

Meanwhile, back on shore, Holliday Grainger plays the local outsider, Miriam, and the love interest to Webber. She causes a stir within the close knit community.  Ultimately the community pulls together to help the overloaded rescue boat find its way home.

Rating: 2 globes

45 Years

45 yearsMost critics are raving about this movie.  Charlotte Rampling is nominated in the Academy Awards Best Actress category for her performance as the wife in this story.  Tom Courtenay plays her husband.  Together they are the textbook couple in their Senior years in domestic bliss when suddenly the wife discovers her husband was once engaged prior to their 45 year marriage and upcoming anniversary event.

This news slowly builds to a boil within the Rampling character.  I must admit Rampling delivers a powerful performance with the minimum use of words and replaced with just her eyes, a look and the twitch of her mouth.

The actor’s chemistry is excellent and was a strong contribution to making the storyline work.  But the film seemed to drag on too long and the turmoil, while understandable, seemed too much ado about nothing.

Rating: 2 globes

The Fifth Wave, Aferim!

The Fifth Wave

5th wave We’ve seen and heard this before.  Aliens to take over Earth so they can have our planet.  The first four waves of the invasion pretty much destroy everything but those resilient humans just won’t die easily.

Liev Schreiber is the Commander of the military trying to round up the remaining humans and protect them from the aliens.  Humans discover a way to identify the aliens who in the fifth wave are waging a ground war to finish off humanity.  Or so we think.  What they are actually doing is recruiting the young to fight the aliens supposedly by killing the humans who have been “occupied” by the aliens now controlling the human hosts brains.

Oh, human girl falls for alien human.  ( I cannot explain it, just trust me.) So so special effects, a weak science fiction thriller.  Much to our surprise the somewhat younger audience applauded at the end.  At almost two hours, we were just relieved it was over.

Rating: 1Globe



This story is set in Romania, 1835.  It is filmed in black and white.  It is the story of a constable and his son in search of a runaway Gypsy slave after having an affair with the nobleman’s wife.

They journey through many different villages each with different nationalities and beliefs.  They finally capture the slave, hobble him and embark on the journey back home.  There are glimpses of what it might have been like then. Village life was remote, crude, uncivilized, dangerous, yet in some way adventurous.  The power structure of the feudal lords and Orthodox Church was absolute and unforgiving.

The pace was quite fast.  Subtitles flew past by on the screen and required significant concentration.  There was an old Western quality to  the production.  Ultimately, we were disappointed.  It was an interesting experiment that just didn’t work.  Bulgarian/Romanian/Czech Production.  Romanian with English subtitles.

Rating: 1Globe

Thirteen Hours: The Secret Soliers of Benghazi, Son of Saul, Anomalisa

Thirteen Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

benghaziApparently based on true events, this movie tells the story of 6 contracted security members, not part of the State Department or US Military, who stepped forward to defend the American diplomatic compound against repeated attacks by Islamic militants on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Fact finding reveals “creative liberties” were taken in the making of the film.  There was even some “hair splitting” on some topic;  i.e., the movie claimed air support was denied.  A House Armed Services report stated air support was “unavailable”.

In any case, the movie watching experience was very good.  Good story telling, good tension, characters you could care about, and definitely some good guys you would want on your side in a real pinch.  There is quite a bit of blood and some disturbing images.

Rating: 3 globes

Son of Saul

son of saulWith all the movies made about the Holocaust, this Oscar nominated film shows a perspective not seen before.  (At least not that I am aware.)  It takes place in 1944 in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp where Hungarian Jewish prisoners were forced to incinerate the bodies and remove the ashes of their Jewish brethren.

It is a dark and painfully difficult film to watch.  It is almost incomprehensible to imagine life under those conditions.  Yet one man discovers a young boys body and tries relentlessly to arrange a proper Jewish burial, requiring the prayers of a Rabbi, which is virtually impossible under the conditions.

Side bar:  Many Hungarians on social media are calling the film and events untrue and a hoax..

Rating: 3 globes


AnomalisaThis animated feature length film has enjoyed near record breaking critical accolades from film critics across the country.  Considered by some as the best animation ever.  Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman uses stop-motion animated puppets to create a life like film.

Personally, I disliked it very much.  There is nothing in the trailer that hints what the film is really about.  It is about a miserable man who apparently cannot maintain any type of decent personal relationship.  He makes his living on a conference circuit lecturing organizations about good customer service practices.

He drinks like a fish and preys on admiring groupies for sexual satisfaction.  All this is graphically on parade, stalking, nudity, sex and all.  Call me a prude on this one: guilty as charged.

Rating:  1Globe

Break Point, Concussion, Shaun the Sheep

Break Point

point breakThis film was apparently inspired by the 1991 classic of the same name starring then newbie Keanu Reeves and a youthful Patrick Swayze as leader of criminal devil surfers and Reeves as undercover officer infiltrating the surfer gang.  At the time, groundbreaking filmmaking.

This years version is not so much.  The plot is basically the same as the original movie.  It has been updated with interesting sea, alpine mountain scenes and snowboarding worthy of an audience.  The cinematography of the skiing and sky diving is worth the price of the ticket alone.  So catch this on pay per view, or on a long haul plane ride.

Rating: 2 globes


ConcussionThis film confronts the medical diagnosis for concussions football players have endured over the course of their football playing lifetime.  The topic is not new to the sport, the NFL or the medical industry.

This film does, however, zero in on the science behind the disorder athletes often suffer from known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy which often shortens lives.  There is a fair amount of tension as the football industry tries to oppress the public awareness on the topic and its discoverer, Dr. Bennet Omalhu brilliantly played by Will Smith.

Other notable performances are David Morse as the tormented former football player Mike Webster, Alec Baldwin as NFL team Dr. Julian Bailes, and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Dr. Omalhu’s love interest.

Overall, well done, well acted, powerful topic with  a real life connection to the reality of the football industry.

Rating: 2 globes

Shaun the Sheep

shaunNew from the creators of Wallace and Gromit, comes a full length claymation production of adventure and mayhem with virtually no dialog unless you consider the indecipherable gibberish dialog.

Over at Mossy Bottom Farms, the Farmer goes about his daily routine along with his dog Bitzer when the flock cause mischief and escape to the Big City for ‘fancy food’.

The Framer develops amnesia and forgets who he is, and somehow converts his shearing skills into a celebrity hair stylist.  In the mean time, the dog catcher is hot on the trail of the sheep.

The flock hit town with the precision of a military force.  The sheep dress in a series of camouflage and undercover dress to find the Farmer and find there way back to the Farm.  The result is a series of escapades that will make you laugh.

Nominated for a 2016 Oscar in feature length Animation category.

Rating: 3 globes


The Revenant, Mustang, Hateful 8

The Revenant

revenantSet in the 1820s in the wild frontier of the Pacific Northwest, this is a gritty story of survival, betrayal, and vengeance.  There are many times this film is difficult to watch and may even make you squirm in your seat or take an extra tight grip on your arm rest.

The acting is exceptional, especially Leonardo DiCaprio along with Tom Hardy as a really good bad guy.  DiCaprio won the well deserved Best Actor title in yesterday’s Golden Globe Awards.

The cinematography (by Emmanuel Lubezki) is incredible.  Nine months of filming in extreme winter conditions create the backdrop for both breathtaking and bleak scenery.

The enigmatic Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu delivers a film that is a powerful, unique production that will certainly garner audience approval and industry accolades.  It will be a classic.

Rating: 4 Globes


mustangThis is the story of five sisters in a rural Turkish village and their coming of age experiences.  They are orphaned, raised by their Grandmother and overseen by their Uncle who demands strict adherence to conservative cultural behavior.

Incrementally, their home becomes a repressive island and one by one the sisters are targeted for arranged marriages.  There is still joy and laughter amongst themselves despite their situation.  There is tragedy and ultimately hope.

This may garner an Oscar nomination.  It is sweet, innocent, thought provoking, funny, frustrating, and bewildering.  This is a French production, with Turkish language and English subtitles.  In any case, it is absolutely worth seeking out either in the theaters or Pay-per-view.

Rating: 4 Globes

The Hateful Eight

hatefulThis is Quentin Tarentino’s eighth major motion picture.  I’m unclear if there is a connection to the title but there can be no doubt this is a Tarentino film.  This one is a Western, with outrageous characters, lots of twists and turns, lots of irreverent dialog, and oh, of course it wouldn’t be a Tarentino film without a healthy dose of blood, lots and lots of blood.

It has an impressive cast of characters.  Most notably, Kurt Russell doing his best John Wayne as bounty hunter; Samuel L. Jackson as Samuel L. Jackson as bounty hunter and Jennifer Jason Leigh as the ultra bad outlaw.

More notable bad guy portrayals are expertly delivered by Tim Roth, Bruce Dern, and Walton Goggins.  At three hours, you might come away exhausted.  But isn’t that what ‘pulp fiction’ stories are all about.  Oh, 70mm cinematography is off the charts good.

Rating: 3 Globes

This weeks movies.

Star Wars, The Force Awakens

We saw this again last week in Milwaukee with the little ones, 8 and 10.  We loved it as much and more the second time around.  And so did the kids!  It seems they have inherited a passion for the cinema.  Yippee!  Years of fun to look forward to. The Force looks like they will be with us for a while.  What fun!

Rating (repeated): 4 Globes


joyJennifer Lawerence and Bradley Cooper just have great chemistry together.  Add Robert DeNero and the true to life QVC success story and you have the frame work for a very good story.  That said, the telling of the story is fundamental to the film actually connecting with the audience.  This one works.

There is a fair amount of drama and trauma throughout this film that can cause some angst.  Divorce, in fighting, greed, betrayal, deceit, cheating and perhaps too few moments of joy.

Nominated for two Golden Gobes, it could muster interest from the Academy.  I liked it, a lot, but couldn’t love it.

As a side bar, Melissa Rivers delivered a hauntingly impressive depiction of her Mother.  Kudos Melissa!

Rating: 2 Globes.

The Lady in the Van

ladyA virtual who’s who of British actors qued up for a cameo or two along with the star performances from Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings.  Ms. Smith plays the perpetually down and out homeless character clinging to a ramshackled van between herself and the street.

Alex Jennings plays his character as a kind hearted, yet an unnerving dual personality type that somehow works for this comedic yet befuddling story.  There are moments of laughter and moments of painful reality.

Maggie Smith is one of my favorite actors.  I liked the movie a lot but felt continuously uncomfortable about the real world connection of the subject matter.  Perhaps that was the point after all.

Rating: 2 Globes.

December 20, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Episode VII) Star wars awakening

Updated special effects, CHECK.  New scary Darth Vader, CHECK.  Great sound track that sounds both familiar and new at the same time, CHECK.  New cast of characters melds well with original characters, CHECK.

This Episode has certainly set the stage for a new series of Star Wars movies with new storylines, characters, and upgraded special effects for both old and new audiences.

New to the franchise, Director JJ Abrams retains the Star Wars roots but with a fresh next century twist.  It is a very forward focused storyline and I won’t give away any of it.  You’ll have to see it for yourself.  The energy in the theaters was absolutely electric and tangible.  It is 135 minutes long but you will hardly notice.  We saw it in 2D, reports are the 3D and IMAX version is worth the extra cost.

Rating: 4 Globes.


youthLet’s start with the Actors, Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Madalina Ghenea (all of her) and Jane Fonda round out the tremendous cast of characters and equally impressive performances.

Filmed in Switzerland, the settings and backdrop were key to the look and feel of the part spa, part old folks home, part seniors center/hotel/rehab center.  The storyline follows the friendship between an aging Maestro and a equally aged Movie Director and their entourages.  It is filled with twists, turns and surprises.

It can be a bit confusing and I wasn’t always sure what was going on but it still was a visual feast.  Jane Fonda’s performance alone was worth the price of admission.  The ending is quite spectacular.

Rating:  2 Globes.

Beast of No Nationbeast of no nation

Set in West Africa, this is a haunting study of the manipulation and manufactured loyalty during the turbulent years of political and social unrest when boys and young men were brainwashed into hardened soldiers committing unthinkable atrocities under the control of warlords.

It was painfully difficult to watch in spite of the exceptional cinematography and the skillful portrayals from these young actors.  Idris Elba plays the charismatic Commander who transforms innocence into killing machines.

While it takes place in an “unnamed country” it is a grim reminder of events in West Africa not too many years ago.  It is a story that needed to be told.  Nominated for a Golden Globe, Supporting Actor.

Rating: 3 Globes.

December 14, 2015

You can tell the year end holidays are approaching.  The film industry is releasing as many movies as possible, good and, well, not so good too.  With Christmas and New Years just around the corner, Oscar season is not too far behind.

It will be a challenge to cram in all the likely candidates.  We will scramble to digest all the chatter by pundits and critics and draft that ever popular Oscar predictions ballot many of you look forward to each year.

The good news this week, all four movie reviews below may be Oscar worthy!

In the Heart of the SeaHeart of the Sea

The unusual story of a young Herman Melville interviewing one of the few surviving crew years after the shipwrecked Essex, is the basis for the book Moby Dick.

It’s a visually stunning movie, artfully directed by Ron Howard.  There is an admirable performance by leading man Chris Hemsworth as the First Mate and the conflict with the ship’s Captain, Benjamin Walker, is tangible.   The special effects are believable if not completely plausible.  But (you knew that was coming didn’t you), the movie suddenly starts to drag on and on.  I won’t tell you why because the surprise is an important part of the movie you won’t see in the trailer.

There could be some technical Oscar nominations nonetheless.  Worth a watch.

Rating: 2 Globes.

The Big ShortBig Short

The Big Short is the explanation of the events leading up to the 2008 economic crisis that ultimately cost the country $5 trillion, huge unemployment, countless loses and foreclosures.

It is a very complicated story and often difficult to follow. So much so the production occasionally cuts to an effective casino themed example that dummies down the topic at hand.

The acting is excellent.  Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, Steve Carrel and Brad Pitt deliver convincing portrayals as financial industry movers and shakers.

I came away a bit disgruntled but enlightened.  Hollywood will love this film and it would not surprise me if there were a few Oscar nominations in the wings.

Rating: 4 Globes.


Set in the early 1950s New York, this film adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel is flawless, a visual masterpiece.  Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara have perfect stage chemistry together.  Ultimately it is a story about attraction, conflict, and heartbreak.

It was a visual feast, an emotional roller coaster, it powerfully depicts what was then a scandalously unconventional love.

There will be Oscar nominations from this one.  Probably Actress, Supporting Actress, Screenplay, Art Direction, and Director.

Rating: 4 Globes.

The Danish Girldanish girl

Based on true events, this film is about a transgender journey almost a hundred years ago.  Husband and wife artists enjoy a comfortable living in Copenhagen, Denmark.  They are intelligent and passionately in love.

Eddie Redmayne plays husband Einer who slowly grows to accept his inner being as Lili with the full love and support of his wife played by Alicia Vikander.  The story unfolds to expose the vulnerable inner beauty and the mental evolution for the audience to consider.

Beautifully filmed and produced by a UK/German/US production team.  Directed by Tom Hooper.  Too early to determine Oscar buzz but it would not be a surprise.

Rating: 4 Globes.