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Modern fable of sorts, build a boat and head west.
29 November 2020
I have been a Christopher Lloyd for many years, of course as Doc Brown but even before that as Reverend Jim in the old Taxi TV series. He is the old boat builder Abner in this title and truthfully in this small movie without him it probably would not be worth a watch. The script is often very clumsy and many actors just aren't very good at all, but Abner is always authentic.

Filmed mostly in the Pacifica, California area, on the coast just south of San Francisco, Abner is a retired sea-going captain and is building this 20-odd foot sailboat on his property. But zoning prohibits that and when neighbors complain he has two weeks to get the boat out of there. An orphan boy living temporarily with his relatives comes to Abner's aid, what starts out as an adversarial one turns into a friendly relationship.

As I said, a good smaller move for Lloyd, interesting and entertaining. My wife and I watched it on Amazon streaming movies.
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Misbehaviour (2020)
It was London in 1970, the Miss World beauty contest was on and Bob Hope was in town.
28 November 2020
This is a fact-based movie about the early stages of Women's Liberation. A group of young women in 1970 were activists of sorts but not really accomplishing much. Then the Miss World beauty contest with Bob Hope as host was being staged and they decided to attend and make some noise.

I found the movie to be very enjoyable and seems very close to factual. It was interesting to see the staging of contestants and how the pageant was prepped. All this happened 50 years ago so at the end, and in the DVD extras, we get a chance to see some of them now in their 70s, including the contestant chosen that year as Miss World.

As an aside it also brought back fond memories for me, in 1987 I was part of a musical group on stage with Bob Hope for a fund-raising performance for a local Christian school. He brought along Miss USA for the entertainment. Yes Bob Hope was part of the problem back then but he was also a very generous person.
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Uncle Frank (2020)
Well-woven set of family issues in the early 1970s, worth a watch.
27 November 2020
This is a newly released Amazon movie. The significance of the title is the focus on Frank, now 46 in 1974, and the issues that formed him starting in his teen years when he realized he didn't have the so-called normal attraction to females. I already knew Paul Bettany as one of the best actors of his generation and here he is superb in the difficult role of Frank.

He is called Uncle Frank because Sophia Lillis is his niece Beth and she has the second most prominent role. As an 18-yr-old starting college in New York, where her Uncle Frank is a professor, she has a very quick coming-of-age regarding sexuality and Frank's lifestyle.

Back home in S. Carolina where Frank's family remains are yet unresolved issues which only come to a head when Frank returns, with partner Wally and Beth in a road trip of sorts, for a funeral. A number of issues are introduced in the first 3/4 of the movie and at that point I found myself wondering if the filmmakers could pull them all together in a satisfying resolution. And I am happy to report that they did.

This is a really good movie, my wife and I enjoyed it, streaming on Amazon. I remember the 1960s and 1970s well, the issues are authentic for the time.
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Good premise, lackluster cast, good for a free viewing.
27 November 2020
Beware, there are several "10" reviews by people who just now have established their accounts, most likely studio shills to get the rating up. This is becoming more and more routine on the IMDb. You'd best ignore them.

My greatest disappointment with this film is casting jaden Smith as the boyfriend. If you do a search on the terms "can't act" you might well get a photo of Jaden Smith. The only reason he gets roles is his famous father and famous mother. He really has no acting chops. He drags the movie down.

A few years ago he was featured in "After Earth" with his dad, on that role I wrote, "This is a very plain story, and relies on young Jaden Smith to convince us he can carry an action movie. He showed us he can't. He is not a good actor, and he enunciates so poorly that we often had difficulty even understanding what he said."

Other than that it is a good story, although told many times before, and Cara Delevingne is really good in a challenging role. See the movie if you will, just don't expect too much. It is available free on Amazon so you are only out a bit of your time.
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The Owners (2020)
A definite British "B-Movie" but fun to watch.
26 November 2020
As an American I have watched and enjoyed, often in a perverse way, British movies with outlandish characters and outlandish story lines. "Trainspotting" and "Snatch" are two that come to mind. If you are in the right frame of mind they can be very entertaining.

This one, "The Owners", does not come very high up to the standard but is fun because (1) you can see quickly how amateurish and sloppy the would-be thieves are and (2) you just know the owners, the old short meek doctor and his half-crazy wife, will somehow get the best of the intruders.

Much of it is funny but in total it is a very dark story, as the movie ends the doctor and his wife are found needing to plant three new bushes in their backyard garden.

I watched it at home on DVD from my public library, my wife skipped. I enjoyed it as a diversion, for something quite different from mainstream movies. But in truth it isn't a very good movie.
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A story of friendship and healing, with the garden as a character.
25 November 2020
As the movie starts it is 1947 and a small British girl and her family are living well in India. Then when both parents die, newly orphaned she is sent to her wealthy uncle's estate in England. Not sure what age she was supposed to be, the actress was 12 during filming.

She has led a privileged life and at first is difficult in her new surroundings. Then wandering around the large estate encounters a dog, she feeds it the meat from her sandwich, soon the two are looking for each other each day.

Then the dog takes her to a place surrounded by a tall, old wall overgrown with various vegetation, she climbs and inside finds a wonderous, somewhat magical garden, the "secret garden" of the title. Further investigation reveals it was a favorite getaway for her mother and aunt.

She also discovers she has a cousin living in the same big house, a boy mostly bed-bound. Then she meets a local boy out at the garden, eventually the three of them explore together.

All of them, and including the dad, had healings that were needed, the friendships and perhaps some of the magic of the garden help all of them.

Good movie, my wife and I watched it at home on DVD from our public library. Watching the extras on the disc, for the filming in the secret garden they actually used a number of the best gardens in the UK for sites and stitched them together for the film to seem like it was all at one place.
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The Great (2020– )
Good concept on Catherine the Great but ruined by making it so dirty and profane.
24 November 2020
Twenty years ago I saw a 20-something Catherine Zeta-Jones in the A&E Original historical drama "Catherine the Great" and it is a fine accounting of the ruler so important in Russian history.

This Hulu adaptation in 11 episodes is not intended to be as accurate or serious but generally follows the real story. A 20-something Elle Fanning is the young Prussian girl who becomes Catherine and Nicholas Hoult is the young Peter.

The big problem I have with the script is the insistence on the over use of profane language and dirty sexual dialog. Too much pervasive F-word use in most dialog, along with many references to "eating pu$$y" or "sucking d!ck" by both male and female characters. Was that really the general manner of conversation in the 1700s? Regardless that is not the sort of dialog that I find interesting or appropriate and it totally took away from the otherwise good features of the series.

So I watched episodes 1, 2 and 11, that gave me a good coverage of the whole program, I like Hoult and I like Fanning, but I must give her some credit for the profane approach because she was an executive producer.

All in all I find it a wasted effort, a good concept that is totally spoiled by the insistence on pervasive and wholly unnecessary dirtiness in the script.

I watched it at home on a 4-disc DVD set from my public library.
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Mostly factual account of the last years of Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man."
23 November 2020
For a movie which attempts to portray a mostly accurate portrayal it is curious to me they used his erroneous name of John, his real name was Joseph Carey Merrick. Still it is a very well made movie, in the 1880s England ordinary people did not know what to make of his deformities.

I watched it at home, the 2-disc Criterion edition that I found at my local library. The second disc includes several interviews, including with John Hurt and director David Lynch.

Good movie, should be seen by everyone at some point in their lives. Merrick died at age 27.
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Mulan (2020)
An entertaining remake of the 1998 animated version, with a few changes and real people.
22 November 2020
Just about exactly 18 years ago I watched the Disney animated "Mulan" and wrote, "...young girl Mulan disguises herself as a young man and reports to fight the Huns instead of her ailing father, and becomes a hero. I felt some of the silly characters, and the "spirits", were making fun of the Chinese. And, while Eddie Murphy's character, the midget dragon, was funny, it was too much like the talking donkey in "Shrek."

This version is with real people and much more serious in tone. My wife and I enjoyed it, we found it entertaining and the actress who plays Mulan (and also sings the closing song) is very good in her role.

The IMDb rating at this point appears artificially low, due to the approximate 18% of "1" votes, which is impossible to justify. While it won't go down as a great movie of our times it is certainly NOT a "1" movie. More like a "6" or "7" movie.

My wife and I watched it at home on DVD from our public library. Unfortunately no "making of" extras on the disc.
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First Cow (2019)
Catchy title, interesting movie that moves slowly and seems overlong.
22 November 2020
The movie begins with a modern day scene, we know the period only because we see a modern ship on the river. Then soon a skull is discovered and then two adult skeletons laying side by side in either a shallow grave, or maybe just covered by debris over the past 150+ years.

Most of the story is in the 1800s as explorers travel west to build a new life and perhaps find some of that gold. Gradually two men become friends, one a Chinaman the other a man from Maryland trained as a cook after being orphaned. When the first cow shows up, owned by a wealthy man, the two hatch a plan to form a business.

It is a nice story of friendship and cooperation to overcome obstacles, but as the period would dictate the men are dirty, the scenes are unattractive, and the story often moves quite slowly. It is almost 2 hours and I found myself wishing it had been 80 to 90 minutes.

The user reviews are quite polarized, many love it while many hate it. I can understand both extremes, I am somewhere in the middle.

My wife and I watched it at home on BluRay from my local library.
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My Spy (2020)
Great choice for just an evening of entertainment.
20 November 2020
This is a comedy, with some romance thrown in, surrounding a 50-ish man who has special ops experience and is assigned to monitor a family to see if the wanted ex-husband will show up. His nemesis becomes the smart 9-yr-old daughter that figures out ways to get ahead of them all. The "romance" isn't with the young girl, as in "The Professional", it is with the girl's mother.

Rough, huge, and capable Dave Bautista, in real life a WWE star before he became an actor, is the former special ops man JJ. The young girl is Chloe Coleman as Sophie and their chemistry works very well.

Although it was set in Chicago almost all of it was filmed in Canada. I found it on Amazon streaming movies, it is a very nicely entertaining movie. Many of the professional reviews are too harsh.
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Big Sky (2020– )
Ha, ha! Montana show filmed in Canada?
18 November 2020
I watched the first episode last night. While the story is hit-N-miss I am disappointed that they didn't actually shoot it in Montana, a state that I love to visit. Don't suppose there is enough open space there? (T.I.C.)

There was enough there to have me want to watch the next episode, only time will tell if this is a keeper.
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Daisy Miller (1974)
May have come off good in 1974, but for me no longer tolerable.
17 November 2020
This is a movie I had been aware of but had never seen. So I found the DVD at my public library.

Frankly I found it difficult to watch and decided to give it at least 30 minutes, just in case it develops slowly. But that is all I was able to give it. Cybill Shepherd, rising star in her early 20s, is Annie P. "Daisy" Miller. The movie starts off at a resort hotel in Italy, Daisy meets an interesting young man, a relationship seems to be budding.

However I found the Daisy character to be totally annoying, with her rapid fire dialog in long, run-on sentences, and paying no mind to what anyone else is saying. Plus her young brother always getting into annoying trouble. I just lost all interest.
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Madcap comedy of cheating husbands and wives.
15 November 2020
The movie begins with a statistic of sorts, 1 of every 4 married men cheat on their wives, 1 of every 10 women cheat on their husbands. At the end it is turned around, 3 of every 4 men are faithful, etc and maybe that's pretty good!

This movie has lots of characters portrayed by lots of good actors. My two favorites here are Steve Coogan as Ray Elliott who runs the discrete service, if a person wants to cheat and not get caught then he makes arrangements and alibis. The other is Rebecca Romijn as Lola who interviews then goes to work for Ray.

Things get heated when one client ends up with a dead girl in his bed. From that point on it is virtually impossible to describe easily where the story goes. Suffice to say it is intricate and well-woven into unexpected developments and an unexpected ending.

This is just an entertaining comedy with good actors. I watched it on Amazon streaming movies.
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Bull (2019)
Hyper real story set in the world of small time rodeo.
14 November 2020
My wife and I just finished watching this movie last night, our main reaction is how realistic it all feels. Many of the characters are portrayed by unseasoned, or even first-time, actors and it all comes across as authentic. Instead of watching actors play roles it feels like I was actually watching real life unfold.

There are two main characters, the first is Rob Morgan as Abe, former bull rider who now works rodeos as one of the guys who distracts bulls and protects the rider after he is on the ground. He lives in a run-down little house and has chickens in the yard.

The second is local first-time actress Amber Havard as 14-yr-old Kris, she lives down the street with her grandmother and little sister, her mother is in prison but hoping to get out soon. It is clear that Kris has little guidance, doesn't pay attention in school, and is easily influenced by the wrong crowd of boys and men. But she has spunk and gradually decides in what direction her life will go.

The catalyst for the story comes when Kris' dog kills one of Abe's chickens, he scolds her, warns that he will shoot the dog next time, and when he is in San Antonio on a rodeo job Kris and her friends throw a party in Abe's house and trashes it. Being a basically good and caring person Abe gives her a chance, if she will clean up his place and continue to do odd jobs to help out then he won't press charges.

The meat of the story is the bond Kris and Abe gradually form, when her mother gets in yet another prison fight and her release is delayed indefinitely Kris realizes she has little chance of a conventional family life, it appears that Abe will become her unofficial adopted dad. And through it all Kris decides she wants to become a bull rider.

My wife and I watched it at home on DVD from our public library. It was filmed primarily in a local north Houston area called Acres Homes, just 4 or 5 miles NW of downtown
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Dark Figures (2020)
Curious movie, for what is missing.
11 November 2020
This movie is curious because none of the filmmakers or actors have any credentials in movie-making. Well you've got to start somewhere. However the fact that almost all of the initial 15 to 20 votes were "10" makes one suspect that the filmmakers and friends are up-voting this movie to make it seem better than it is. If they really did that, it is called "cheating."

Also very curious is that there are no "external" reviews and that should always trigger some doubt. I'm curious about the movie but I will wait until I can read several external reviews, those are objective and will help greatly. If this movie never gets any external reviews then that is a sure sign it is unwatchable. And may be the reason to hide it from external reviewers.

But don't despair if it turns out to be a really bad movie, you can't fully appreciate good filmmaking unless you occasionally see some really bad filmmaking.
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Pleasant movie with Holmes and Lucas.
10 November 2020
I'm sort of a kid at heart when I watch a movie filmed in places I have been. A key location in this one is Middendorf's seafood restaurant in Manchac, just north of Laplace where I used to live.

There is a hurricane coming and Katie Holmes, kinda broke widow Miranda Wells, and her three children ride it out but not cleanly. A large branch crashes down making a big hole in the roof.

At this same time someone is hunting her down, Josh Lucas as Vanderbilt Engineering professor Bray. He has a mysterious envelope for her, we suspect it is something really good, related to a project Bray and her late husband were working on, but the storm interrupts the process. But Bray volunteers to help make repairs and in the process has a positive impact on her and the three kids.

This is mostly just a nice, pleasant movie with pleasant characters. I don't say that with any disrespect, I like this type of movie and find myself wishing more of them were available. We found this one to be very enjoyable.

My wife and I watched it on Amazon streaming movies via Roku.
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A series of Louisiana crimes that may never be solved.
9 November 2020
This was a Showtime network presentation, I found it available as a 5-part series on a set of DVDs from my public library.

I grew up not far from Jennings, as college students we drove through Jennings on weekends to get to the night spots in Lake Arthur. Four of us even spent part of a night in the Jennings jail for mischief in 1965. So I have a natural curiosity for these yet unsolved murders over a 4-year time period 40 years later in the Jennings area. The area seems to have seriously gone downhill over the past 40+ years.

While the subject is always interesting 4.5 hours is a long time to spend watching more and more of what is basically the same result. So I watched the first and the last episodes completely. The gist is the Jennings locals, particularly family and friends of the eight victims, are frustrated by what they judge is lack of interest and lack of effort by law enforcement, including the FBI. Conversely law enforcement think they are doing everything they can to solve the crimes.

There definitely is a "power of the pen" at work here, the way the journalist put together the material for his book and ultimately the documentary. While he can't declare this without facing libel, he strongly suggests that more than one person in law enforcement are responsible for the murders, after each victim came to know too much and put the men in danger. The victims in general were young street ladies who were involved in the local drug and prostitution activities, and certain statements indicate certain law enforcement men were in on the action.

Overall a very interesting, if perhaps a bit too long, presentation of a yet unsolved crime spree. If nothing else it puts a face of reality on how difficult it is to investigate and solve crimes like these, it seldom works out quickly and neatly as we see on fictional movie and TV murder cases in small communities.

To the person who says he will avoid Jennings when traveling by highway east or west, I say don't worry, I-10 only passes on the extreme north boundary of Jennings, you'll not really see Jennings unless you head south on highway 26.
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Tommaso (2019)
Living the Bohemian lifestyle in Rome.
7 November 2020
If you dig a bit you find this is a semi-autobiographical film of the writer-director's life. In fact the young wife and young daughter are actually his real life wife and daughter.

I really looked forward to seeing this as it has Willem Dafoe in the title role as Tommaso. And he in fact does justice to the role. The problem is the movie in total is not that interesting. It contains lots of stilted language and long monologues but basically is a story of a man, an actor and writer, living in Rome and working to overcome his addictions and balance life with a much younger wife that seems to be losing interest in him.

I suspect this is the kind of movie that film students and critics love but most viewers of mainstream movies will not warm up to.

I managed to find it on the Kanopy streaming movies site via my public library's subscription.
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Sequoia (I) (2014)
Nicely interesting diversion, nice to see Sequoia National Park.
6 November 2020
I came across this independent movie on Amazon streaming. Tired of watching post-election news I watched this instead.

I was pleasantly surprised at how well made and well acted it is for a movie made with crew and cast with hardly any movie-making credentials. The core story centers on a 20-something girl who, as the movie begins, receives an unfavorable diagnosis. Confiding only in her teen sister she decides to travel to Sequoia National Park and to a location called Hanging Rock and presumably end it all.

Traveling by bus she meets a 20-something man who is headed to a volunteer job to build things for the less advantaged. They connect to some extent and he eventually gives her a ride in the rental car he is picking up.

Meanwhile we witness some really strange family dynamics back home between sister, dad, estranged wife, and wife's new boyfriend. It actually all works pretty well and isn't trite at all.

In a really good movie the whole first 80% to 90% of running time sets things up for the ending, but the way it is all tied up into a satisfying ending is always the payoff. The filmmaker is a juggler, with lots of balls in the air, and has to catch them all in a satisfying manner. Here the payoff is just mediocre, perhaps all the filmmakers are saying is "change what you can and try to know the difference", borrowing from AA. But to me the ending doesn't do justice to everything that was set up in that first 80% to 90% of the movie. I wanted more.

Still I found it suitably interesting and entertaining for a difficult subject.
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Quirky Australian coming-of-age story.
4 November 2020
Not a newer movie, I found this on the Kanopy streaming site via my public library's subscription.

The featured character is Danielle Catanzariti as 13-yr-old Jewish girl Esther Blueburger. She has a twin brother but his story doesn't come into play much. Both teens are going through typical changes that accompany hormone changes.

Esther is pretty much an outcast at her private school and after a chance encounter with a girl attending the local public school Esther decides she will go there too. No transfer, no registration, just borrow school clothes and start attending.

The movie is very entertaining, young Danielle Catanzariti is really very good in her role. (As an aside she is also a talented singer, doing "Sometimes" as one of the songs on the soundtrack.) Her decisions make for some interesting and mostly unexpected turns of events, and kept my attention for the entire running time.

Good movie!
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Has come down as one of the Eddie Murphy classics.
2 November 2020
Eddie Murphy was only 23 during filming. This movie was released in late 1984 and I first watched it in the theater in 1985.

The story starts in Detroit where Murphy is police detective Axel Foley, always a bit nonconforming and seemingly always on the verge of losing his job. When an old friend shows up from California and is promptly murdered in what looked like a professional hit job, Foley takes it personally and vows to solve the crime.

Since he can't do anything officially he takes his vacation and drives to California in his beat up car. Using his own unique methods, often not sanctioned by the police departments, he digs in to find the crooked smuggling operation.

I just rewatched it on DVD from my public library, part of a six DVD "binge box" of Murphy movies. Most of the movie was pretty fresh after all these years but the one scene I remembered well, and I suspect most do, is where he used bananas up the tailpipe to stall out the car of the cops who had been assigned to tail him.

A very good movie for Eddie Murphy fans, but be prepared for lots of F-bomb language. For 1984 it is a lot.
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Truth Seekers (2020– )
Eight part series on Amazon, not particularly funny or scary.
1 November 2020
In general I am a fan of various British programming and the British sense of humor. Like I found in the movie "Fighting With My Family" which also stars Nick Frost.

The best I can do is rate this series as very mediocre, I like the actors but the stories in each episode are uninspired. There is a bit of humor but the focus on ghosts comes across as more annoying than anything.

I just finished the first three episodes, I will take a break then see in a week or two if I want to finish it. There are so many viewing choices I don't want to waste my time on one that is just mediocre.
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Too dark and gritty to enjoy, no characters to root for.
30 October 2020
This is a review of only the first half of this movie. I found it so uninteresting and distasteful that I just shut it off and ejected the DVD (from my public library).

Apparently there really was an Australian outlaw in the mid 1800s named Ned Kelly but as this movie begins we are told that the story here isn't true, it is all fiction. In this movie George MacKay is in the role of Ned Kelly. I suppose I have just tired over the last 65 years of movie-watching of excessively violent and gritty movies, I like things more pleasant.

No, I could not recommend this movie to anyone, although I must admit maybe the second half gets better.
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Bad Education (2019)
Mostly faithful telling of the Frank Tassone story, Superintendent of schools in Roslyn New York.
29 October 2020
We went into watching this movie with no prior knowledge of the story. We were pleasantly surprised to find it was all based on real people and real events roughly 20 years earlier.

Frank Tissone is a charming man, with a PhD and a strong dedication to education built his school district into one of the best in the nation. But he had a dark side, actually more than one dark side.

Most of the story presented in the movie is factual, do a search on "Frank Tissone" and you'll get several articles. Some of the characters are fictional and some are presented in a slightly different manner but all are authentic to the setting and the story.

Good movie, Jackman, Romano, and Janney are at the tops of their games. My wife and I watched it at home on DVD (no extras, just the movie) from our public library.
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