I look for movies that have some redeeming value; something more than a simple romance or adventure or who-done-it. I love movies that have metaphysical components, or an unusual twist. I don’t use a rating system because I only review movies that I enjoy. I consider (almost) all of these to be four or five stars. Thanks to NetFlix, we now have access to movies from all eras.
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Come back frequently, because I add new movies, in red, every two or three months.They're listed alphabetically.
Combine a slice of Ireland with a passionate friendship between two gutsy women, living through thick and thin, and you have the story of Agnes Brown, complete with laughter and joy, a widow with seven kids, and a mean money-lender. It’s a precious movie that will make you laugh and cry. If you’re a woman, see it with your best girlfriend. Angela Huston combines a great performance with fine directing.
Personally I think this is one of the funniest, most wonky movies I have ever seen. It features Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin at their absolute best. They were both nominated for Golden Globe awards as best actor and actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical. Steve Martin won the Best Actor award from the National Society of Film Critics and from the New York Film Critics Circle. Australia Theatrical called it “The funniest movie since Tootsie.”
It’s a loony spoof on New Age spirituality, full of peculiar twists. Jon Carroll’s review says it all: it has the funniest 10 minutes of screen time since the movies started talking.
And the most unpromising premise. Lily Tomlin is a sickly rich person who wishes her soul to be transferred to someone else's body just at the moment of her death. Richard Libertini is the guru who will make it all happen; Steve Martin is the skeptical lawyer who is working for Tomlin. Complications ensue. Tomlin dies, her soul moves to an odd brass bowl, which is then knocked out a window. The bowl hits Martin on the head, and suddenly Lily Tomlin is inhabiting the body of Steve Martin (with Steve Martin still in it).
A power struggle ensues. The right side (Tomlin) does not wish to cooperate with the left side (Martin). Both personalities are angry, confused, inept. It is an astonishing illusion: Your brain knows that it's only watching Steve Martin hurling his limbs around, but nothing you see on-screen confirms that. His left foot moves bravely outward, intent on getting back to his office; his right foot remains glued to the ground. His right hand clings to a parking meter desperately; his left hand just as desperately tries to pry it off. All the while, he is engaged in a furious argument with himself, by turns sarcastic, seductive, wheedling, raging.
Briony is a highly precocious adolescent and would-be playright. She has a crush on Peter, the older son of the cook. Her father took Peter under his wing and sent him to Cambridge. Peter has returned to the mansion, perhaps for the summer, where Briony’s older sister tries to avoid him, because he is not of her class.
What I liked best about this movie was the reenactment of sexually-charged scenes, first from the perspective of Briony, who accidentally witnessed them, while drawing her own confused conclusions, and then later from the perspective of the would-be lovers.
This is an extraordinary movie. It has texture, dimension, and many surprises. It has poetry, romance, war, and betrayal. The second half of the movie is entirely different from the first. Based on Ian McEwan’s novel, it captures many radically different scenes, all of them rich in color and texture—you can almost smell some of them. The strongest part of the movie is the cinematography; it is a minor artistic masterpiece.
This is Briony’s story, as told by her. It is about something terrible that she did when she was an adolescent, about how her actions totally ruined people’s lives, and how she attempted to attone for that,
Briony, is played at different ages by three actresses, with the final stellar performance by Vanessa Redgrave (she received the Marion Award as the Best Supporting Actress for this role). Briony at age 13 is played beautifully by Saoirse Ronan, who was nominated for an oscar as Best Supporting Actress. James Mcavoy and Keria Knightly were excellent as the lovers. The movie was nominated for Best Motion Picture. This is definitely a film worth seein— if you’re a romantic.
But I must admit that it left me feeling a little flat. The lovers were beautiful to look at, but I never really got to know them well enough to care about them as deeply as the storyline demanded. (2007)
How could it get any better? Freddie Highmore plays August Rush, an orphan boy who hears the music of the spheres, and knows that music will somehow lead him to his parents (played by Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers). He does not know that his parents are musicians and that his father and mother are still looking for each other. How music brings the three of them back together, after the boy has an amazing interlude with the Wizard, played by Robin Williams, who plays Daddy and John to a bunch of musical street kids, housing them in an abandoned theatre like something out of Bertolt Brecht. Then another interlude with a black church choir and a wonderfully talented girl singer (played by Jamia Simone Nash) culminates in August Rush’s concert, complete with singing wine glasses and a kind of bull-roarer, and the special way that August and his father play the guitar by banging the strings like a drum. This is delightful fairy tale, love story, and adventure—if you don’t mind being blatantly sentimental. It is one of my favorite movies! (2007)
What if there really was a shangri-la? And suppose it was peopled by a bunch of young, idealistic dope-smoking hippies? How long would it last? What kinds of problems would they encounter amongst themselves, and how would they keep it a secret?
Becoming Jane is based on the true story of Jane Austen (played by Anne Hathaway). Born in 1775 in Hampshire, England, this unconventional, budding authoress loved to write novels.
Then a rebellious young man, Thomas Le Froy (played by James McAvoy), who was studying to become a lawyer (thanks to a generous allowance from his wealthy but highly controlling and judgmental uncle) was punished for his lack of respect for his elders by being sent to the country.
Here the two young people met and were at first put off by one another. He critiqued her novel, saying it showed no sign of true experience—particularly in relation to lovemaking—then he loaned her a copy of Tom Jones, with all its explicit and delicate sexual descriptions, which she devoured, while pretending not to care for it.
I have not seen another movie that makes the viewer so extremely aware of the subservient position of women during that era, even before women were allowed to be teachers and nurses. Jane’s father, a minister who loved her very much, told his congregation, “If a woman happens to have…a profound mind, it is best kept a profound secret….Wit…is the most treacherous ‘talent’ of all.”
You had one day and night together and it was the best. You intended to meet again, a year later, but one of you didn’t show up. Ever since, you’ve been remembering each other. Why didn’t you exchange phone numbers? You were young. You had no idea how special it was.
If you enjoy having your mind twisted, and going through secret portals, and the possibility of literally being inside someone else’s head, you will like this very strange movie. John Malkovich is an actor, actually, and he plays himself, but then, so does everyone else. No need to say anything more. Just sit back and let your mind get bent.
Truly one of the most amazing films I have ever seen, this is a gut-wrenching, far too realistic portrayal of life during the middle era of slavery. Oprah Winfrey plays the slave who was sexually abused late in her pregnancy and then escaped, running barefoot from North Dakota to Ohio. She should have received an academy award for her role, and Thandie Newton was amazing as the creature who came out of the water, still wet and barely able to speak or to stand up, like a newborn colt, but dressed in black and strangely distorted. They were all nominated for Image awards.
Best of all were the sermons by the Negro Matriarch, the Grandmother (Beah Richards) who told her people, “They won’t love your flesh. So you have to love it. Love your flesh. Love your hands. Kiss your hands.” The movie is based on a novel by Toni Morrison, by the same name, which received a Pulitzer Prize in 1987. It is directed by Jonathan Demme and produced by Oprah Winfrey.
This movie is frightening, and I would not recommend it for children under 16, There is a lot of violence, but it is historic fact and not entertainment. It is a heavy movie, brilliantly executed in every way, including the haunting songs that could be Appalachian. Based on what I have heard from people I trust, it could be true. In some aspects, it is like a newer version of The Exorcist, which also could have been true, but the acting and special effects were greatly distorted. In this case, Thandie Newton’s performance was unbelievably believable. (1998).
For a silly romp with lots of laughs and a darn good time, this movie is a winner. I still can’t figure out how they managed to make the topic of female oppression and the inquisition into something funny! Heath Ledger plays Casanova, and Sienna Miller plays the one woman who scorns the man whom even the nuns adore and protect. It takes place in lush 18th century Venice, as Casanova falls in love and attempts to pursue the woman who tries to avoid him.
I am so impressed with Anne Bancroft! She was 54 when she made this movie, and she died at 74. I’ve been looking for a movie star version of a natural older woman, and I’ve finally found her. This woman is stunning, without trying to be. Her inner beauty shines through. The character she plays in this movie has that same quality. You can’t help but fall in love with Helen Hanff, a Jewish woman writer who is, by turns, witty, outspoken, charming and outrageous.
This movie is a masterpiece from Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi. The whole story centers around the shoes that the older brother lost that belonged to his younger sister. They dare not tell their father, because he will be furious and he cannot afford to buy another pair. So they go to incredible lengths to figure out how to share the brother’s pair of shoes, making it just barely possible for each of them them to attend school, given that the boy’s school begins when the girl’s school is over.
But the movie isn’t really about the shoes. It’s about the expressions on the children’s faces when they are watching soap bubbles. It’s about the shoemaker’s hands as he stitches the shoes, in movements that are thousands of years old. It’s about innocence and simplicity and little tragedies and poverty, as seen through the eyes of children.
It is an incredibly beautiful, artistic movie. The acting, the filming, the directing are all consummate poetry. A great pleasure to watch. And a rare opportunity to go inside of Iranian culture, to experience it firsthand. (1999)
If you’re interested in communal living, this may be the most fascinating documentary you will ever see. Starting in 1968, a bunch of hippies in their twenties and early thirties got some movie stars and rock stars to put up money so they could buy 80 acres of beautiful land, about 40 miles on a dirt road into the wilds. They left San Francisco and moved to the forested mountains of Northern California, with the slogan “Free Land for Free People.”
The one fly in the ointment, from my perspective, is that the diminishing of the electromagnetic field has happened fourteen times before, and when this occurs, the fluid next to the earth’s core just starts spinning in the opposite direction, sometimes causing the polarities of the poles to switch direction.
It’s a sad movie, but it’s also joyful. It’s a slice of life in Ireland in the 1930s. We look in at the lives of five sisters and their elder brother, all single, living together, trying to keep the family together and to survive under difficult circumstances. It’s the time of the first “wireless;” a radio that brings Irish music to these people who, despite such hard times, cannot resist an opportunity to sing and to dance. The acting is completely believable, and Meryl Streep shines as the eldest sister who tries to stay in control but fails miserably.
The story is told by the young and only son of one of the sisters, whose father came back when he was about eight, before leaving again to fight in the Spanish Civil War. The brightest time for this group came one evening, after the radio had been on the blink for a long time, and the boy’s father managed to fix it, and the music came pouring back into their lives, lifting one sister after another—despite every effort to stay prim and proper—into the most glorious riotous reveling dance. The boy tells us, “When I think of that summer, I think of it as dancing—dancing as if language had surrendered to movement—dancing as if language no longer existed, because words were no longer necessary.”(1998)
This is a complex story of love, from the perspective of Maya (Abigail Breslin), a pre-adolescent girl who has just had her first sex education class, and wants her father (Ryan Reynolds) —who has just received his divorce papers—to tell her what really happened when her mother and father got together. As she pushes past her father’s resistance, she gets considerably more than she bargained for!
This is a true story about a man from Ghana who was born without a tibia, so he has one very short leg. Ten percent of the people in Ghana are disabled, and they aren’t allowed to work; they’re expected to become beggars—and they actually earn more than most people who have regular jobs. Having a disabled child is considered a curse upon the parents; a punishment for past-life sins. The parents are expected to kill these children. Emmanuel’s father abandoned the family after his son was born.
Joel (Jim Carey) lives a meaningless existence. “I go to work and come home from work. My journal is empty. Nothing ever happens to me.” One day Clementine, a gorgeous, wild woman (Kate Winslet) comes into his life, complete with blue hair. She picks him up on the subway—or did they meet at a party on the beach? In any case, within a year it’s obvious their lifestyles aren’t meshing, especially when she crashes his car and comes home drunk at 3 am, and he accuses her of “making friends by sleeping with them.”
This movie begins in the fifties in Connecticut. I grew up during the fifties in San Diego and in Los Angeles. Other movies that depict this era feel to me like a vague facsimile. This movie made me feel like I’d been dropped down into my old neighborhood; I couldn’t believe how real it was.
The title refers to the hairy man (Downey Jr.) that the girl (Nicole Kidman—stunning performance) falls in love with. The movie is a surreal portrait inspired by the life of a highly unusual woman photographer who was fascinated by the strange and the unusual (including dwarfs, midgets, sexual deviants, and nudists). At first she is repressed, frightened, obedient and timid. But soon she finds the courage to follow her inner truth and to love—passionately and unconditionally—both the man and her own unique work as a photographer.
Kidman portrays these changes completely convincingly, transmuting through several completely different personalities impeccably.
This movie challenges the viewer to stretch his or her perceptions—to witness a world that most people are repulsed by. Yet there is a fascination behind the repulsion, and photographer Diane Butus conveyed that world by fully entering it, much as Toulouse Lautrec entered the brothels of his day.
The camerawork for the film acts as a reflecting mirror for the actors and the scenes that are portrayed in a continuously surreal format.
This is a haunting, inspiring, and throught-provoking film that I highly recommended for those who like getting their minds blown. (2006)
This TV miniseries has gone through 82 episodes and 4 seasons, between 2005 and 2009. It was created by John Gray, produced by and starring Jennifer Love Hewitt, with famous Spirit Communicator, James Van Pragh, as one of the executive producers. This is what drew me to the series, because I have great respect for Van Pragh. It is also based the work of Mary Ann Winkowski, another Spirit Communicator. So I expected to see some accurate, informative and educational episodes.
I found that the basic portrayal of ghosts, and why they stick around, and how to communicate with them and with their relatives who don’t believe in them, and how to help these disembodied spirits go into the Light, makes this a valuable and fascinating series, especially for anybody who has an inclination to help those who have passed over.
In the first half of the first series, most of the information was in alignment with what I personally have experienced in working with earthbound spirits. I was pleased to see a portrayal that felt basically accurate, and I hoped that it would help the public to be more open-minded about this aspect of reality that is too often shut away in dark closets.
I was disappointed to see the series take on more and more Hollywoodish exaggerations and unnecessarily ghoulish scenes. I realized that this was what would keep up their ratings, and I resigned myself to this part of it, while still enjoying the excellent stories and all of the good information.
As part of the CD with the second series, there is an interview with John Gray, and we learn that as a child he loved horror films, and he thinks that scary movies are funny. In fact, the whole erroneous idea that the wall between the worlds is getting thinner, and the dead are increasingly able to manipulate things in the material world, was an idea that he came up with in order to make the program increasingly exciting. I believe it is a huge disservice to people who are struggling to understand the truth of earthbound spirits to have it mixed into their subconscious minds along with a bunch of scary garbage. (2005-2009)
What a movie! It combines an awkward but touching romance with a powerful political message. When one young woman comes out and fearlessly states her truth, that we are committing genocide when we ignore the fact that every two seconds a child dies of starvation. This powerful movie shows how young people who are full of passion can inject a sense of humanity into an environment that is otherwise frozen into rigid corporate facts and figures that are devoid of humanity.
A young Dustin Hoffman (age 30, but a convincing 21) brilliantly portrays Benjamin, a mixed-up rich college graduate, contemplating his future, feeling paralyzed, hoping for some kind of wisdom from his elders, but instead being told: “Here’s my advice to you, Son. Plastics. It’s the wave of the future.”
The Guru is actually the Guru of Sex who is actually a dance teacher who admires John Travolta and travels to America to follow his heart and live his dreams. In pursuit of an acting career he inadvertently ends up on the set of a porn flick and befriends the leading lady. She turns out to be spiritually oriented, and he puts himself under her tutelage so that he can learn the wisdom that he then teaches under the guise of the Guru. This is a clever and funny movie. (2003)
Using the basic information conveyed in March of the Penguins, a beautiful movie about the remarkable mating and breeding behaviors during a year in lives of the Emperor penguins of the Antarctic, Happy Feet looks, at first, like a simple cartoon and children’s version of the same story, with a slightly different slant. It tells the age-old tale of the Ugly Duckling; in this case, Mumble, the one Emperor Penguin who cannot sing, and thus cannot attract a proper mate. But he has a different gift, though at first it is shunned and he is shamed for having it; he can dance.
I thought it was just a cool, funny, clever movie, and believe me, I really laughed a lot! I was glad it was a DVD, because I would have embarrassed myself by laughing that much at the theater!
His mother died. He’s six years old. It’s 1973. His brother, who is like a Dad to him, turns him on to acid and then walks through a glass door and dies. Bobby becomes friends with Jonathan, and turns him on to grass and hangs out at his house and gets ‘adopted’ by his mother (Sissy Spacek). The two guys become sexual. One day Jonathan’s Mom walks in while they’re smoking grass, and Bobby turns her on. Bobby’s father dies and he moves in with Jonathan’s family.
The filming of desert scenes is pure poetry, as this movie, brilliantly directed by Andrucha Waddington, tracks the lives of a mother and daughter through several generations as they move from the city to the desert (to get out of debt) where they literally become trapped by the dunes and are forced to make alliance with a band of men who are descendants of runaway slaves, who do not believe that the slaves have been freed.
Every now and then a really funny movie comes along, and this one certainly qualifies. Goldie Hawn plays a cute babe (Gwen) who lies through her teeth and weasels herself into the most improbable circumstances with an architect she sleeps with once (Newt, played by Steve Martin) who has built an exquisite house for his hoped-for bride-to-be who turned him down flat. The story of how Gwen moves into the house he built, in a small town where he once lived, and befriends his parents, his neighbors, and even his ex-girlfriend and boss, convincing them all that she is his wife before he gets a chance to protest makes for a hilarious story—particularly when Gwen’s clever lies engage his boss so that he is ready to give Newt a coveted promotion, and his old girlfriend starts to think he’s pretty desirable after all. (1992)
This is such a beautiful, touching movie. Forty years ago a young man and woman fell in love, and then she had to leave, and they went their separate ways. Each of them married, had children, and lived reasonably good lives. Or did they? Twenty years ago the woman’s husband had an affair, and though she forgave him, they stopped being lovers. Her life has been fairly empty since then, and she hardly knew what she was missing until this old lover showed up in her life, and swept her off her feet again. At the age of nearly seventy.
This is a classic film about a Mountain Man, a trapper, played by a young Robert Redford, with some of it filmed on his own ranch in Utah. The land itself plays a major role in the film. Redford personally took Art Director Edward Haworth over 26,000 miles in search of the perfect locations to shoot. Almost 100 different locations were used, and a complete village was built in a remote mountain location. Sydney Pollack, the Director, went to great pains to make this film as authentic as possible, filming high in the mountains, in 25 below zero weather.
I don’t normally care for operas or operettas, and especially not in English. This is a rock opera, and it began as an opera score in 1970, written by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber (who also wrote the score for Evita, which also preceded that movie). Then Norman Jewison came on board as an incredible director, and this film adaptation was released in 1973. It was the eighth highest-grossing film of that year.
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