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The Haunting of Hill House (2018)
Smart and complex
The Hainting of Hill House is smartly written and directed. The scare is in not just in jump scenes but in the tension that is built in every episode. Each time someone turned a corner or turned around or got into a car I felt like something was going to happen. On the edge of my seat. The acting was superb. But just the main players but all of the secondary ones as well, the caretakers, the woman who lost her husband in a crash, etc. the series drew me in slowly and it was so satisfying. Bravo. Great scary drama.
Harley and the Davidsons (2016)
This series was not meant to be a documentary, so historically inaccurate segments are expected. What it turned out to be is a fast moving (3 decades in three episodes) dramatization of the spirit of entrepreneur-ism, which accurately depicts many failures. I used this show as an example to my kids about how entrepreneurs and business people often fail, but those that succeed are the ones who continued to push in spite of the failures. These guys never gave up on the idea itself and never gave in to the setbacks and outright disasters along the way; the war, the great depression, personal illness, patent issues, failed designs, failed races, competition, money issues, etc. (many of which did happen). That is the true heart of entrepreneurship - even if some of the situations never occurred or were exaggerated. The spirit was there and you felt it throughout the entire series. Kudos...
The Invitation (2015)
Brilliant! Great thriller
The Invitation is by far the most suspenseful and creepy movie I have seen in a long time. From the very beginning I was pulled into the story and the characters, couldn't take my eyes off the screen. I can't say enough about the actors, they made the characters come alive and you felt something for each of them and their situations. Tammy Blanchard was superb as Eden, the goddess of her own home. Michiel Huisman, as her new man, delivered a fantastic performance as he carefully balanced that line between good and evil. And Logan Marshall-Green made me feel his grief, even before I knew what he was grieving about. The rest of the cast is equally as good. Some of the best moments are between Huisman and Marshall-Green, like two alpha males posturing for the upper hand.
This movie really makes you feel uncomfortable with its awkward dinner dialogue and questionable party games. Its a slow burn, but not as slow as I was expecting as the dinner party antics keep you engaged. I loved the pace - I could feel my tension grow and subside along with the scenes. The ending is superb and thankfully not too drawn out. This is one where you say "hold on tight and enjoy the ride".
Kudos to Karyn Kusama for giving us this gem that I might just break out at say, a dinner party?!
Good Movie - worth seeing
This movie is very well made, with some great performances - notably Kate Dickie as the wife/mother. She is very fitting to this role as was the male lead.
What I loved: Its portrayal of the 1600's puritanical thinking; strong ties to religion and therefore the devil, willingness to see the devil in anything that went wrong. The desperation of trying to hold on to your family and way of life. The performances of the actors were tremendous and very believable. The mother/ daughter relationship was well done - the daughter looking for her mother's acceptance and approval, the Mother always at odds with her. The younger siblings that were as annoying as today's younger siblings. The bond between the siblings. The setting, so lonely and isolated. The animal scenes, i don't want to spoil anything so i won't say more. The building desperation over grief, fear, threat of starvation. The ending - loved this. The twins were creepy! And I loved that I had no idea if there really was a witch, and if there was, who was it.
What I didn't like: What season was it in New England that there are no leaves on the trees yet the weather seemed temperate? I'm thinking November, but they must have been some really hardy people. They never once seemed cold or were tending a fire. Whereas a movie like The Revenant literally made me feel cold throughout, this one seemed to be filmed during an Indian Summer. The music - I liked parts, but hated how the music would rise and get louder only to simply end in literally nothing significant. It would simply change to a black screen and then a new setting. While the music was exotic, it failed to match the tempo of the scenes. The dialogue was hard to hear and at time I could not make out what was being said because of both the accent and the old style language.
I would definitely recommend seeing this movie - but I do think that it could wait until it is available on demand.
Jurassic World (2015)
Jurassic World is nothing more than a simple action movie. If you like action, it might be your cup of tea. If you like more of a story or good characters, you won't find it here. The dinosaurs are the most interesting characters. The main hero and heroine are too silly to be taken seriously. He in his Indiana Jones outfit, she all in white, riding around trying to save to very forgettable kids. I can't even remember anyone's name in the movie. The love story is so weak, they could have done without it. I can recall all of the characters from Jurassic Park clear as day all these years later. But not one from this movie. The dinos fare better but my major complaint is that the genetically engineered dino was made to look too much like T-Rex. I could barely tell them apart. A lot of mayhem and fast scenes, but nothing more.
Aw, who doesn't love these cute minions? They are simply adorable as they search for the best 'bad' leader. I fell in love with the little Bob and his bear. The story was good and I liked how it eventually tied them to Gru. My kids laughed throughout the movie and its one that we would watch again when it comes on TV. The gibberish they speak never left you wondering what was said. You got the idea and many of the words come through anyway. This is a movie I would recommend to any family. I can't say that i cared for the villain too much, i generally dislike villains that never seem to get hurt etc. But I love those little yellow dudes!
Best show ever
Jon Stewart is a genius. He has a genius comic presence, the most awesome comic delivery, and the best material. His subjects are very, very timely (after all it is a news show) and relevant. I adore his mascots, his hashtags, and his use of his hands on his desk. He is very watchable. The phillip-morris smoking bit, FIFA ridiculousness, Miss America debacle, 50 Shade of Gray dumping, Putin roasts, and just about everything else is crazy funny! And in spite of it being a comedy show, he tackles very serious issues in just the right manner.
I love that he is not afraid to say anything about anyone in spite of real threats. I never miss this show, its my laugh for the week! #WeLoveJohnOlvier
True Detective (2014)
True Detective is masterfully made. While the detectives first set out to solve a murder it is really issues in their backgrounds and history that they strive to overcome. The intermingling of people's lives and situations overlaps more and more as the story continues. Its fascinating for the most part. I do like that they introduced a female detective this year. Haunted by her own past and trying to do the right thing, she is a welcome relief from all of the male posturing. Rachel McAdams does a great being badass. Its a good story but a bit difficult to follow at times. It does leave one wondering, however, if all real life detectives are tortured souls looking for some sort of redemption.
The Age of Adaline (2015)
So I've read the critics reviews and have come to the conclusion that critics have no special talent for assessing movies than any of us. They all go into a movie somewhat biased by their personal genre favorites, their tolerance for character development, their previous opinions on actors, etc. When critics are split 50/50 that's when this becomes very clear. For example, how can Blake Lively be both fantastic and utterly horrible in a movie? How can some critics praise Harrison Ford's delivery while others thought it laughable? And how can some adore the chemistry between Blake Lively and Michiel Huisman while others felt it didn't exist?
So approaching this movie with that in mind, I ignored the critics and sat down to watch what ended up being one of the most enjoyable movies I have seen in ages. First, it is stunningly shot. It feels very rich and well made from the beginning to the end - with a genuine warmth that just draws you right in. Second, the acting is so good - all of the roles are well-played and genuine. Blake and Michiel were adorable together and his role as the effervescent Ellis gave the movie a younger feel needed un-age Adaline. Third, it easily makes us feel a wide range of emotions - it has truly funny and sad parts - the audience laughed and sniffled collectively. And finally, its a nice "what if" story that feels magical. The references to tragic historical events and lost loves and opportunities made it all fit together.
Take all movies for what they were meant to be (i.e. see action movies for the action etc.). Take this one for the bittersweet romance it is and enjoy the ride!
Slow and meandering
For starters, any movie that is 2 hours and 45 minutes long had better have some action in it or it runs the risk of losing the audience. For me this movie was at least 45 minutes too long. The beginning showed promise but along the way I found more to dislike than like. First, I have to say that I really liked Patricia Arquette in this role. She seemed so natural as the mother who deals with bad marriages, single parenthood, and a life that didn't quite go the way she had hoped. She never overacted once and I related to her emotional states. Two things bothered me about the film, once is the boy's sister. rude and impertinent from the start I wondered how that behavior was left unchecked. Its like no one tried or cared enough about her to intercede and set her straight. Second, the boy himself grew increasingly unlikable with his laid back, mumbled manner. I found it harder to care what happened to him.
I judge a movie by the question "would I ever watch this again"? The answer would have to be no. I didn't hate it, but it was too long and too annoying. I'm not even sure I would recommend it to most people. However, I am sort of glad that I saw it as I did relate a lot to the mother and her plight. I don't know about boyhood but it certainly put some perspective on motherhood.
Into the Woods (2014)
A Disney film gone bad
The first half of this film was wonderful. The storyline, singing, and integrated stories made for easy viewing. The story moves quickly and is easy to understand. All looks happy in this developing forest wonderland. Then for some inexplicable reason, the movie takes a really wrong turn. It slips into adult territories of murder, adultery, and abandonment (with adultery being the most noticeable and egregious. The prince declares himself "Charming" but not "Sincere" as makes his moves on another woman.) The hunt to kill the giant seems too premeditated and the songs at the end are annoyingly long and boring. It was like torture watching the last 1/2 hour. My kids of 14 and 10 weren't sure what to make of it, but I know they enjoyed the first half as I did. This would never be a movie that I would recommend and certainly not one that I would buy on DVD.
very funny and light-hearted. No major themes to sort out, just a wild ride with very funny characters. The move to the British Museum was a wise one, allowing for new characters (and it never hurts to have a few British accents). Sir Lancelot is especially engaging and is the museum night watch-woman. Robin Williams is wonderful as Teddy once again and I overheard more that one person whisper a tribute during the film. Ben Stiller's character could be a little less insipid, at times I felt bored when he was on. For someone so funny, a few better lines with better timing would have been good. Went with a lot of people, kids included, and we all loved this film.
Beautiful portrayal of grief and redemption
This movie is a beautifully written, directed, and acted portrayal of the means to which we must sometimes go to rid ourselves of internal demons that hold us back from moving forward with our lives. In the film, its grief that shapes Cheryl's life, onto a path she would otherwise not be on. Coming to terms with grief can take many roads and Cheryl embarks on one of self-imposed isolation and physical burden. Her path is filled with obstacles but she never lets that get in her way, instead forging forward without a real end in sight. Reese is brilliant as Cheryl and Laura shines as her ailing Mother. He dealings with others from her past as well as new people she befriends on her journey all add to the real feel of this film. It feels natural, not Hollywood. It has no need to rely on fake action or heroics. Just the portrayal of a real person, with a real life and struggles. I could have sat there for much longer, watching her come to terms with the past and opening herself to her future. Extremely well done! Great music, great supporting characters, lush scenery. Go see this movie!
The Book of Life (2014)
My 9 year old and I loved this movie. Full of richly colorful animation with funny moments. The characters were easy to like and not too over the top. The movie really kept our attention from beginning to end. Only the idea of the main female character being fought over for marriage turned me off. They made a lot of efforts to make her seem like a strong female, but in the end they never made her choice seem like her own. The Mexican setting and theme were beautiful. The theme of being true to yourself, even under pressure, but being flexible enough to consider others was well done. I thought that the theme would be too dark, but it was surprisingly upbeat. I would definitely recommend this film for children between 7 and 12.
Gone Girl (2014)
Waste of Time
Not much to like about this movie. Two seriously unlikable characters, one totally unbelievable plot, and about an hour too long. The main actors are practically emotionless and move like robots, I was so disappointed. The most interesting character (and well acted) was the lawyer. And there is NO WAY anyone could believe that a woman who arrived at a hospital covered in her kidnappers/rapist's blood, was examined, dressed in scrubs, appeared in a ridiculous press conference the same day all while STILL COVERED IN BLOOD - just so she can do a shower scene at home! That and so many other awful scenes and dialogue ruined it. I never once believed that the main characters even fell in love, let alone spent 5 years together. Waste of time.