Hey, your plot’s inside out…

I just saw three movies in a row, all happened to be organized in the same way: from the inside out. Maybe it’s all this snow getting to my head, but I didn’t like this way of storytelling. I am surprised, because I do like the nonlinear plots of Pulp Fiction and Memento. But for these three movies, I wanted a straight-up story, from beginning to middle to end. Twists always welcome. I am glad I watched the movies though.

This is the structure for the way they are organized:

Act One Scene One: Incomplete Flashback—something big is about to happen to a main character, but before you can say “What the F

Scene 2: The Beginningthe story starts from the beginning, waaaaaaay before the flashback moment.

Following scenes—the plot plods ahead until all of a sudden–

Middle Act: the first scene is repeated–this time in chronological order, so that the scene is complete and in full context.

The Rest: The story moves on from there.

The movies:

1. The White Tiger

Scene 1: A highway in India. Two Indian men, one Indian woman in a car, about to crash—

Scene 2: Balrum, an Indian man drafts an email about how he escaped his impoverished origins and became a wealthy entrepreneur.

Following Scenes: A young Indian boy born in school. He’s very clever,  but can not continue his education past elementary grades because he has to go to work and make money for his family. We see the jobs he takes.

Middle Act: The complete accident and its aftermath.

The Rest: He becomes an entrepreneur.

Does it work? Sure. Although, I think a straight-up story told from beginning to end would have been better, but the movie still is pretty good, because the acting is so good, especially that of the lead, played by an Indian actor and singer named Adarsh Gourav. It also stars Priyanka Chopra, who is married to one of the Jonas brothers. The movie is promoted as a tongue in cheek “how-to” story–how a servant can become an entrepreneur and join his master’s caste.

The White Tiger was written and directed by Iranian-American Ramin Bahrani, and based on a 2008 novel by Indian-Australian Aravind Adiga. Bahrani and Adiga were roommates at Columbia University in the US.

2. Cowboys

Scene 1: Mother looks for child in child’s room. Child is not there.

Scene 2: Unhappy girl who feels like a boy. Father accepts it. Mother does not.

Following Scenes—the child and father go off on a horse into the wilds of Montana.

The Middle: Once again, child not in room.

The Rest: Mother and police search for child and father.

Did it work? Not really.

I liked the transgender theme, but the movie played like an afterschool special, a little predictable, a little nonsensical, with a little overacting. Question: where did they get the horse? Seriously.

Although, I love Steve Zahn, who plays the father, and Ann Dowd, who plays a police woman.

3. The Vigil

Scene 1: Woman standing in front of man with gun

Scene 2: Yakov in someone’s apartment at a support-group meeting for people leaving the Hasidic faith. He has left the Hasidic fold.

Following Scenes: A rabbi hires Yakov to do something that he used to do when he was in the fold: be a shomer for an evening. A shomer watches over the body of a deceased community member. Someone abruptly left his post as shomer and the rabbi needs a replacement STAT. Yakov could use the money, so he sits guard in the wee hours of the morning, just he and the dead body in the house, with the widow in the upstairs bedroom. She has Alzheimer’s Disease and is a little batty.

The middle and the rest: All sorts of shenanigans take place.

Does it work? Maybe. Don’t look now—it’s a HASIDIC HORROR MOVIE! Combining themes of religiosity, superstition, antisemitism, to name a few. It’s like a B movie. Pure camp and fun.

It will be out one week from today (Friday 2/26/21). I saw it early as part of the Philadelphia Jewish Film Fest.


This woman looks like what I feel inside. It’s frigid, and I’ve been feeling the uncertainty covid has thrust upon us more deeply lately–it’s claustrophobic, and I’m trying to resist pessimism.

This woman’s angst stems from the pandemic too. Something has gone terribly wrong in the covid-safe séance that she and her friends hold on zoom.

This is a still from the movie Host, which is in The Economist’s list of Best Films of 2020. Touted as contemporary and topical (redundant?), Host is a British movie that was filmed during covid and is set in today’s covid times.


Plot: A few friends get on zoom and hold a séance. At the outset, a medium tells them that they have to respect the spirits or the spirits will get mad. Need I say more? The spirits get dissed and are pissed. The whole movie is shot as a zoom call, so that the audience’s perspective is that of a zoom participant.

It’s covid from inception to product. It was filmed using covid precautions. The director and the actors were in separate locations to make the movie. In fact, the actors needed to film themselves and do some of their own special effects.

The Economist (part 1)

Review by N.B. (sic)

Bottom Line: Sure this plot sounds stupid, but I like horror and I like clever. And The Economist said it was “ingenious.” The reviewer writes that “Host was conceived and shot during lockdown, while the cast and crew were in separate locations, so it could be the film which most accurately reflects this topsy-turvy year.”

The Guardian

Review by Benjamin Lee

Bottom Line: Grade B. It holds effective scares, building up the right amount of tension–

“There’s a smattering of devilishly well-timed jump-scares that work best when our confusion leads us to examine the screen closer, unsure where within the frame a demonic presence might lie.”

Interesting Inspiration: Lee explains that the concept for Host grew out of a medium’s telling director Rob Savage that her séance business was booming during covid.

Spoilers Skimmable: For the most part, yes.


Review by Louie Fecou

Bottom Line: it’s “well executed.” Horror fans will like it.

Spoilers Skimmable: On the whole, yes, though he does go into unnecessary detail about how the spirits are disrespected. You don’t need to know this detail to appreciate the review.

Best Line:

‘You have already seen this type of filmmaking before — you know, everything is conveyed through the computer screens of the cast. Just like found footage though, it runs the risk of becoming tired quite quickly, so you really have to be in the right frame of mind to watch this.”

The Economist (part deux)

I saw the movie. I was not drawn in.

Why would a movie like this even be in a “best of” list?

Maybe because it’s a novelty? The reviewer states that “‘Host’ is one of the few films to be more effective when watched at home on your laptop rather than at the cinema.”

I’m ok with disagreeing with a critic about a film. But when a movie is touted as among the year’s best, I expect a little more than a film that’s adequate for its genre. Maybe when you’re down in the bowels of a pandemic, you crave a good movie to bring you out out of it for a little bit. Best not to depend on a hit list at this time.

small movie for a small screen

Another Round

Do you know this face?

If you see THIS FACE on a screen, then it’s a MUST SEE because it is Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen, who has been in a ton of stuff, including the title character in the American TV show Hannibal that was on a number of years ago. (Here’s his filmography). He’s always good in whatever role he plays–many nefarious ones, but then all sorts of roles. And now we can see him in a new one, as an aspiring alcoholic in the Danish movie Another Round.

Plot: The title of the review in The Chicago Sun-Times drew me to this movie: ‘Another Round’: Four men experiment with teaching while intoxicated. Mads Mikkelsen plays a high school teacher who apparently needs a little umpf in his life. He and three colleagues decide to partake in a scientific experiment that poses the query: does day drinking improve your social and work performances? Yes, they drink on the job, while teaching. Note the rules: no drinking after 8 PM; no drinking on the weekend. (Do not try this at home, even if classes are remote.)

Where to Stream: Amazon


Review by Alissa Wilkinson

Bottom Line: “I cannot overstate my love for Another Round,…”

Existential: I love WIlkinson’s analysis of this movie. She says that it’s about daily existence, and whether alcohol can inject the passion that makes life worth living. Why would adults act like this, viewers might wonder. Wilkinson’s answer: “some combination of finding courage in unlikely places and needing to compensate for all the ways they feel they’ve failed themselves.”

Spoilers Skimmable? Yes. You do have to beware of them, however, Wilkinson does not use a series of spoilers to justify her every thought.

Wonderful Asides: This insightful review contains two interesting tidbits (the second one is really sad):

1. Mikkelsen trained as a gymnast and a dancer, and danced professionally for a decade before he began acting.

2. “(Director Thomas) Vinterberg treats the tale with a light hand, though he’s revealed in interviews that personal tragedy was an impetus for its story; his daughter Ida, who convinced him to make the film, was killed in a car accident four days into filming, and Vinterberg’s response was to rework the script to make it more life-affirming.”

Interview Magazine

Review by Sarah Nechamkin

Bottom Line: It’s great. The direction and acting are amazing.

This is not your typical Leaving Las Vegas tragedy about drinking, nor a Bachelor Party romp about wild nights. “It’s a rather run-of-the-mill mid-life crisis masquerading as thought experiment.”

Best line about the movie in the context of the pandemic:

“…we see, in real time, the insipid ways in which inebriation can lure a person into its steady grip. It’s at once beautiful and tragic, both Shakespearean tragedy and divine comedy—all the more so during a global pandemic that has seen a spike in alcohol.”

Spoilers Skimmable? Thumbs up. You can skip over them.

Chicago Sun-Times

Review by Richard Roeper

Bottom Line: Great acting, great story.

Spoilers Skimmable? NO. Oh woe unto me, I did not tread carefully. Thankfully, the story sounds interesting enough for spoilers not to totally ruin my experience.

Racial Appetites

Get Out is Jordan Peele’s directorial debut. Peele, half of the comedy duo Key and Peele–guess which half–also wrote the movie.  Looks like Peele’s career as a filmmaker has only just begun. I read two reviews that awkwardly address the film’s racial theme:


Plot: Guess who’s coming to dinner? Before embarking on a weekend in the country at his white girlfriend’s family summer house, Chris learns that she has not told her parents that he is black. After they arrive, strange happenings occur in and around the house. The film is in the horror genre.


review by Thelma Adams

Spoilers skimmable? No. It is too hard to avoid the bazillion spoilers.

Bottom line: the movie is very good. Adams particularly loves that it is an allegory for a black man’s living in a white society–Chris is paranoid in his girlfriend’s house; sounds like for good reason.

Thriller with a lesson: “Without a moment that sacrifices humor or shocks or narrative speed, Peele uses the mainstream thriller form to get under the skin—and behind the eyes—of a black man navigating the dominant white culture.” Adams adds there should be  more movies with diverse filmmakers so that they too can represent what it’s like to be part of their own marginalized groups. (Note that it’s referred to as a horror not a thriller everywhere else.)

Adams adds that production companies should be incentivized to hire more black directors because “black-driven entertainment” brings in big box office bucks: “In its opening weekend, Get Out struck a chord and grossed $30.5 million.”

Is it me? This review seems disingenuous. First, calling entertainment “black driven” sounds weird to me. Like looking for a politically correct euphemism when you don’t need one. Call it black movies or black entertainment, but not “black-driven entertainment.”

GRR: I was tricked into reading what looks like a MAJOR spoiler, and I’m looking to criticize the review in retaliation.

The lovely couple
The lovely couple


review by Matt Goldberg

Spoilers skimmable? NO. I now know too much.

Bottom line: grade A-. Peele uses the horror genre to great effect: “He utilizes the sharp subtext that the horror genre provides to create a cutting commentary on racial dynamics.”

You lost me: Goldberg says that the film “functions like a punch in the mouth to every Obama voter that went to Trump.” I assume he is referring to every white Obama-Trump voter? He’s talking about people who claim to be unprejudiced who actually are racist. I’d venture a guess to say that there are many Obama- and Hillary-voters who are also racist but claim not to be.

Peele directs





She’s got it going on

Something for everyone: a sci-fi thinking person’s zombie movie:

The Girl With All the Gifts

Meet Melanie
Melanie contemplating

(opens 2/24/17)

Plot: a fungus disease has turned most of humanity into zombies. In the hopes of finding a cure, a bunch of children who are infected are used as lab rats in a government lab led by a scientist played by Glenn Close. The children are infected with the disease, but act like normal non-flesh eating humans, although they are kept under lock and key. When there are too many  “hungries” (zombies) close to breaking into the lab, an adolescent named Melanie leads a search for a safe place to settle. Do not overlook this film. There is a theme lurking somewhere within–Although Melanie hungers for human flesh, she is adorable and forms a precious bond with her teacher in this dystopian story.

The movie was directed by Colm McCarthy, a Brit who also directs episodes of Sherlock and Peaky Blinders, another popular British TV Show. The screenplay was written by Mike Carey, who also wrote the novel (same title).

Melanie learning


review by Heather Wixson

Spoilers skimmable? Yes, if you’re careful.

Bottom Line: 4/5 stars. Wixson pronounces it  “One of Best Zombie Film Years.”

Zombie flick with a twist: the zombies here are not “mindless, flesh-eating monsters with no sense of humanity left to them.” Except for their eating habits and nasty personalities, the zombies may be as human as you and me–that at least applies to the kids. Wixson says this film is a “new and clever way to explore this oft-visited horror sub-genre.”


review by Leigh Singer

Be still my heart. Towards the beginning of the review, this reviewer whispers sweet nothings into my eyes:

“To reveal more would be unfair.”

I’m gonna get you sucka: after that, it’s a disaster. Two sentences later, Singer tells us what is in the first scene. And that is only the beginning.  This is one spoiler-laden review.

Melanie sitting
Melanie sitting

Hypocrisy: as  much as I would like to discount this review, it makes the movie sound interesting because Singer says that this isn’t just a zombie movie; it’s a “smart, exciting film in general.”

More: “But what’s instantly clear is how The Girl With All the Gifts respects genre conventions yet still springs plenty of surprises.”

Eyes wide open: according to Singer, it is light on the gore.

Spoilers NOT skimmable.



Woody Harrelson: Artiste Extraordinaire

A couple of best friends making a movie like no other

Woody Harrelson is a pioneer! On Friday, January 19th at 9 PM EST, he livestreamed his movie, Lost in London, in 301 movie theaters, as it was being filmed! It was like live theater, except that the action is in 14 different locations around London. The 100-minute movie was made in one shot with only one camera. It was livestreamed in 300 cinemas in the US, except for one, which was in London, where it was the wee hours of the morning, when its streets were most hospitable to a movie crew.

Woody Harrelson wrote, directed and stars (as fictional Woody Harrelson). Such innovation…yet there are only three reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!

Did critics have better things to do on a Friday night? Did they boycott Woody Harrelson for his well-known lifestyle of pot smoking? Or was it because this innovation was not purveyed by a master auteur of cinéma?

No matter. I had google to back me up and found plenty of reviews.



With a subtitled preface that reads, “Too much of this is true,” Harrelson’s film is a dramatization of the events of a horrible night he experienced in 2002 when he was living in London while starring in a play on the West End. He thought that all of the events of  that night would make for a great  comedy.  He rounded up a cast of 30 that includes Owen Wilson and Willie Nelson, and an additional 320 extras.
Even more ground breaking: SPOILER FREE PREVIEWS! (OK, not so astounding, given there are no filmed scenes to preview.) I saw three previews: one way too long (celebs, ad nauseum tells him he can’t do it), one a tad long (just him holding up silly photos), and one just right (just him).

[Apparently I now have to pay WordPress to embed videos, so I can only give you links.]

The Telegraph 

review by Tim Robey
woodydirectsSpoilers Skimmable: yes. There were very, very few!
Bottom line:  I’ll let the title of the review say it:
Woody Harrelson breaks boundaries with supercharged
Allen-esque live film. 3/5 stars
More: it was very funny!
One thing though: the filming is in real-time, but the story is not. At one point we are asked to believe that a couple of hours have passed. Kind of hard to do when the whole thing is live in one shot.

Vulture (American)

I love this review by Jackson McHenry!!
Spoilers skimmable? Yes. There are many, but you can skim over them.
Bottom Line: It was just OK, but the spectacle was great.
When perfect is boring: McHenry thought it would be cool if there was a mistake in the acting or filming because it would be fun–probably because the audience would be in on it. But it went off without a major hitch, and was even boring in places! When he was bored, he focused on the artistry: “single take films [like Birdman], have been shot before, but Lost in London had to get everything right live.”

Evening Standard (British)

review by Nick Curtis
Spoilers skimmable? No. The whole review is spoilers, except for the subtitle.
Bottom line: movie is meh, but technological livestream accomplishment is “astounding.”
Expectation: Lost in London was better than we could expect a movie from a first-time pot-head-hippie director.

Can’t put this any better: A daft idea, the kind of mad, experimental challenge dreamed up by stoned film nerds after a Hitchcock all-nighter, but one he pulled off with considerable wit and brio.



Although there have been no announcements about a post-live release, says The Hollywood Reporter, the filmmakers “are in discussions” about releasing the movie.


Sherlock Investigates Potential Russian Hack

This just in:

Not to be upstaged by the United States government, the BBC alleges that a hack into their system might be from Russian interference.

Oh really?

The extenuating circumstances: The Russian version of the final episode of this season’s Sherlock was leaked into Russia’s airwaves one day ahead of the scheduled air date last Saturday, 1/14.

Warning: No Spoilers!

In addition to investigating how its files were hacked and by whom, the BBC took special care to prevent viewers of the hacked episode from ruining the mystery for those who would be watching it when it was rightfully released.

Once producers realized that the episode was leaked early, they jumped onto twitter to appeal to those who have seen the episode not to reveal the ending to others. Here’s the tweet from Suevertue:

Russian version of TFP has been illegally uploaded.Please don’t share it. You’ve done so well keeping it spoiler free.Nearly there

Is that name a coincidence? Sue virtue? legally stand up to virtue?

Oh you crazy folks at the BBC.

See The Eagle Huntress

Seems like a good idea: the accolades are endless, except for the one cynical review (bah humbug). The photos are so beautiful that I couldn’t shrink them.


One of the photos that started it all (see below)

Plot: This is actually a documentary. In the remote Altai Mountains of Mongolia, director Otto Bell follows 13-year-old Aishopan, as her father trains her to be Mongolia’s first female eagle hunter. An eagle hunter is someone who snatches up a baby golden eagle from its nest and trains it to hunt foxes and rabbits. The Eagle hunting tradition has been passed down through generations of fathers and sons. The eagle helps the hunter capture rabbits and foxes so that there is enough food on the table.

This movie is being made into an animated film.


review by Ben Murray

Spoilers skimmable? Alas, not at all.

Bottom line: it’s fantastic. “Much more than a documentary, [it’s] a work of art.”

“Stunning cinematography, the flawless and natural way the story develops like a narrative sprung from the most family friendly of Hollywood screenwriters.”

Disney? No, but “were it not set in Mongolia you would almost certainly find it hard to believe that you had not come across this story before.”

the-eagle-huntress-trailer-970x545Little White Lies

review by Rebecca Speare-Cole

Spoilers skimmable? Yes, for the most part.

Bottom line: Excellent. Crispness to the cinematography—Bell dives into eagle POV aerial shots.

A celebration of female empowerment:

The Eagle Huntress is a celebration of female empowerment, boiling down the messy, complex nuances of modern day feminism into one simple idea: women everywhere can relate to Aistolpan’s straightforward belief that it is a woman’s right to choose.

The Naysayer:

Too good to be true?

The Guardian

review by anonymous

Spoiler skimmable? Yes, if you’re careful.

Bottom line: 2/5 stars.

Cynicism deluxe: Let me paraphrase what the reviewer has to say—

They expect us to believe that passion and sheer force of will is what Aisholpan needs? And the score is “suitably exalting.” (I see sarcasm in them thar words.)

I say, yes, Mr. Anonymous, that does seem reasonable.

The crescendo:  “Whether or not the storytelling here is disingenuous, there remains a manipulative quality to the film-making that is, in the end, off-putting.”

LIES: And it doesn’t even tell the truth, points out anonymous.

Let Seattle’s weekly rag, The Stranger, explain.

yesssThe Stranger

review by Suzette Smith

Spoilers skimmable? Yes.

Bottom line: Amazing.

The truth: Standford scholar Adrienne Mayor did the research–there actually was a female eagle hunter before: Princess Nirgidma in the 1920s.

Huntress’ marketing changed from distinguishing Aisholpan as “the first female eagle hunter in Mongolia” to “the first female eagle hunter in 12 generations.”

Does it matter? Not at all: “Those revisions [in marketing] don’t take away from what’s actually important about Eagle Huntress: There are GOLDEN EAGLES that look AWESOME.”

How in the World…

father, eagle, daughter, director, mother at Sundance

…did Otto Bell discover this story? From a BBC photo essay by  Israeli photographer Asher Svidensky. (See photo above.) He had gone into the back country and stumbled upon Aisholpan and her father. Bell emailed him through Facebook and they both went to see the nomads together.

Of interest: Otto Bell filmed part of the movie in -50° and he used drones for the aerial views, as well as a camera fastened to Aisholpan herself. In fact,  on the first afternoon they were there, a camera on her captured her snatching her golden eagle from its nest. (It was not planned.)

His crew was only 3 people.

Since Aisholpan had to train the same moves over and over, Bell was able to edit them into smooth sequences.

This is his first feature. Before this, he was filming ads for an ad agency.

Let the games begin…….

Ladies and gents, it’s a race to the finish–the time when studios enter their films into the Oscar race just in the nick of time, ahead of the 12/31 the deadline.

Many good movies open in December. The Oscar talk has been buzzing around them for so long that I thought that they had already opened, and that I missed them.

Do studios wait to see the competition before they decide whether to release their movies in December, versus releasing them the following year? Sure seems like it.

Well, la de da

The most buzzed-about movies? There’s Lala Land, a musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. Surely Emma will be a best actress contender, or so I have heard–ad nauseum. It opens December 9th. Then there’s Denzel Washington making his directorial debut with Fences. Well, he will be nominated for best actor, if you ask anyone in the know. It opens December 24th. And today is the opening of Jackie, which showcases guess what? That’s right, an Oscar-worthy performance. This one isf in the person of Natalie Portman. This week I review two movie reviews of Jackie from movie sites that are contenders for the weirdest-name category.


Plot: Jackie is based on an interview of Jackie Kennedy one week after JFK was assassinated, which had an unusual (and hopefully rare) stipulation:  Jackie had control of the content before it was published. In other words, whatever she wanted left out was left out. So parts of the interview have never been seen. This movie is a re-imagining of the unknown parts. The director, Pablo Larraine, is Chilean.


Review by Harvey Karten

Spoilers skimmable? No. Not even a pro can avoid them. The review starts out with good descriptions and then, just when it seems safe, it bites you in the butt.

Bottom line: Grade B. It’s not bad. It “springs to life at moments.” Portman’s performance is Oscar-worthy, says Karten. She’s got the voice down, and her facial expressions tell you what Jackie is feeling.

Compuserve.com? Sounds like the site should sell computers or find another name.

Separated at birth?

Punch, Drunk  Critics

Review by Travis Hopson

Spoilers skimmable: Yes. Good job, Mr. Hopson!

Bottom line: it’s great–” another political masterpiece by Lorrain (the director).”

Cool: Hopson points out that this biopic doesn’t go over what we already know; rather, it “builds upon” our common knowledge about Jackie Kennedy (Onassis), and so the events in the movie are “becoming part of her legacy forever.” (A tad histrionic, if you ask me.)

I love that the movie is not a rehash of the info that is already out there. Reminds me of going to a concert and the band plays their songs exactly as they are on their albums. We could have stayed home and listened to the songs if we wanted to hear them played like that! Give me some variation–that’s why we go to concerts! (Don’t get me started.)

Living in the public eye: Critic Hopson observes that the assassination was a “crippling blow that struck at the heart of our nation during a turbulent time. And while the country ‘suffered openly,’ one person was forced to share her most personal grief with the world, and that was First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.”

Life before H.P.

Let’s take a look at the #1 top grossing movie this past weekend and two opposing opinions.




Related image

Plot: 1926 New York City. Newt Scamander, magizoologist (Eddie Redmayne), arrives for a quick stopover on a world tour. He brings with him a briefcase full of fantastic beasts, which is placed in the care of his soon-to-be sidekick, Jacob, a nonmaj (plebeian who can’t perform magic; an American muggle), played by Dan Folger. The creatures escape and the hunt is on. In case you don’t know, this is a prequel to the Harry Potter (HP) movies. JK Rowling wrote the screenplay–her first.

PS The zoologist is writing a book about the beasts–guess what it’s called? Look no further than the name of the movie.

PPS Four sequels (to this prequel) are planned.


Review by Joshua Yehl


Spoilers skimmable? Not at all.

Image result for fantastic beasts and where to find them

Bottom line: It’s dull. We’ve seen the special effects before-in the Harry Potter movies. The movie does shine, however, when the fantastic beasts are in the spotlight:

“Please, could we just spend our two hours in the briefcase with the beasts?”

Nonmaj Jacob walks through the movie with his eyes wide open, mouth agape in astonishment–he reacts that way after every single feat of magic, says Yehl, although you’d think he’d get used to it after a while.

The director’s fault:
Critic Yehl blames it on the director, David Yates, who actually has directed FOUR Harry Potter movies!

What went wrong:
“static shots [the camera stands still, so the scene doesn’t change], dead air [screen is blank] and obvious  use of green screens [people superimposed over a fake background].”

There will be a quiz on these and other movie terms after the holiday break.

On the other hand–

COS (Consequence of Sound)

Review by Allison Shoemaker

Spoilers skimmable? with care.

Bottom line: B+. It’s a good movie, the special effects are awesome, the directing fantastic. Full of “terrific shots…a delightful adventure…a terrific piece of visual storytelling.”

Adult analogies: Samantha Morten heads a muggle supremacy group; Colin Farrill is a Hitler in the making.

Makes too much sense in today’s world: Shoemaker notes that the fantastical beasts “escaped and must be recaptured, not because they’re a danger to humans, but because we’re a danger to them.”

Only problem: the ending is not so good, which is the director’s fault.

Oh, what to do–to see it or not to see it?

Image result for fantastic beasts and where to find them

A Personal Film Vault

I’m back from a brief reprieve with a recent discovery–


It’s a Goodreads for movies: you can keep an archive of the movies that you have seen and review them if you want. You fill in 1-5 stars, and write a review if you want.

AND NOW, for the best part: you can be a model citizen and include a warning that there are spoilers! Simply check a box at the end of the form and consider us warned.

This site has my utmost respect. How could it not? It truly appreciates the movie-going experience. 

There is such a large movie data base that there are some very bizarre entries. Take, for example a list of Nunsploitation Films.” Who would have thought that such a fine genre actually exists! (Looks like lots of murderous nuns, with some kinky ones in the mix.)

Here’s a cult movie I found–check out the description, which was in a review:


1979 Directed by Rod Hardy

“Kate is a well-to-do housewife who gets kidnapped by a clan of conservatively dressed vampires who imprison her on their futuristic human cattle farm somewhere in Australia, but they don’t want to drain her [because] Kate is the descendant of an especially regal bloodsucker and the clan wants her to join them, and perhaps even lead them.”

Go on over and create an account. I need some friends to join me!



It’s OK to get Sullied

Most of us know the story: In 2009, US Airways Captain Chesley Sullenberger–“Sully”–made an emergency landing on the Hudson River six minutes after taking off from LaGuardia airport in NYC. The plane lost complete power when a large number of birds crashed into it. plane-in-water-2The media was all over the story and we learned every last detail. Then we learned all about the ensuing investigation–the media was all over that too. At issue: was the emergency landing in accord with emergency protocol, or did Sully take an unnecessary risk because he wanted to show some swag?

What was it like to lose all control of a commercial flight, heroically save said flight and everyone on it, and then be challenged for your judgment? Sully wrote a book about it called Highest Duty. Now, Clint Eastwood has taken that book and made it into a movie, Sully, starring Tom Hanks.

Here’s a review of a review by Carrie Rickey, the critic I used to rely on for my movie-going decisions when I lived in Philadelphia a long time ago.



(website motto is “drilling beneath the headlines.” )

Review by Carrie Rickey


Sully and First Officer Jeff Skiles

Spoilers skimmable? Absolutely. I’m not sure there are any!

Bottom line: It’s an excellent Eastwood movie:

Watching the characters modulate their answers while being accused of showboating creates the same degree of tension as watching them land a plane without working engines.

Her Analysis: I love what she has to say about the movies that Clint Eastwood directs–they’re great because they never give black-and-white answers.

She explains that this movie explores the nuances of:

personal responsibility, masculinity, the threat of untimely death and the kind of courage plane-in-the-watermistakenly referred to as heroism.

The many shades of Clint: She further says that Eastwood the man fits into as much of a gray area as do most of his movies: “Here is a guy who publicly inveighs against political correctness,” she points out. She explains that he then goes on to make two consecutive movies about the same battle in WW II–one film from the perspective of the American soldiers (Flags of Our Fathers); the other from that of the Japanese (Letters from Iwo Jima), which is completely in the Japanese.

Our due respect:
Carrie Rickey is a critic who respects her audience by engaging us with intelligent critique and enlightening content.

9/11: Rickey observes that the movie’s timing, opening on the eve of 9/11’s 15th anniversary, is apt because it is uplifting–it tells the story of how everyone on board came together to make a dangerous situation turn out well.


But we know that part.



Ticklish much?

Ever hear of the “Competitive Endurance Tickling Match” in L.A? Not many people had until the the movie Tickled came out.

Daily tickle workouts sculpt the body

Jane O’Brien Media hosts the competition, which takes place in L.A.–send them a photo and you have a 12/1000 chance of getting chosen to be a contestant. Then they will fly you to LA, put you up in a swanky hotel, so that you can compete at their studio. Note: contestants must be male.

The concept’s rather simple: you’re tied to a table while some hunks work on you–ie tickle you–and you try not to laugh. Whoever holds out the longest lasts. Need to see it to believe it? Jane O’Brien Media video tapes each contestant as he embraces the challenge.

Here is a review of a review of Tickled from playbackstl.com (no typo)–And below that is a review of an article about a lawsuit against the directors of the film.



review by Sarah Boslaugh

Topic: By happenstance, New Zealand journalist and film co-director David Farrier landed upon the website of Jane O’Brien Media, at JaneOBrienMedia.com. Go ahead and hit the link. It’s still there. The competition is labelled as “Salaried Reality TV/Movie Projects.”

Farrier was curious. Could there be a story worth reporting? He emailed Jane O’Brien media, asking to speak to them. They replied that they refuse to be interviewed by a gay reporter. Nice. That didn’t stop him from doing the research. Together with his friend Dylan Reeve, he not only researched the competition and Jane O’Brien Media, but also he and Reeve wrote a blog about their findings. Thousands of people around the world read it.

The nastiness continued. Jane O’Brien media sent Farrier emails, first notifying him that they were suing him for defamation and then letting out a torrent of anti-gay, anti-Semitic slurs.

HA! That intrigued Farrier EVEN MORE! If a company was that threatened, there definitely was a story. He asked Reeve to co-direct a documentary with him, and off they flew to L.A. to investigate the “subculture” up close. Initially, they could not find a contestant who would agree to an interview. But gradually some men came out of the woodwork. Turns out the tickling competition is not something that is followed up with pillow fights.There is more than meets the eye to Jane O’Brien media, and it ain’t pretty.

The film takes us along as the co-directors get deeper into their investigation.

Looks like the final round

Spoilers skimmable? No. What you really need to know is in the last paragraph, which does not have spoilers. Only by then it is too late.

Bottom line: It’s excellent– “an attractive and well constructed film…an example of investigative journalism at its finest.”

Boslaugh opines that the structure of the movie–where we learn the info as the co-directors learn it–is perfect because it makes the story credible. The more common construction of documentaries would not have worked:

The traditional style of documentaries: “If it were presented in traditional talking heads and voice of God narration you probably wouldn’t believe it anyway.”

No need for spoilers!!! The review is only three paragraphs long. Yet all that was needed was a little bit of summary from the first paragraph and all of the author’s opinion in the last one.

Her last paragraph is short, but rich with a solid, clear recommendation and the basis for it. And it’s interesting.

Perhaps Boslaugh felt that readers would not be interested if the review was fully devoid of spoilers. Au contraire, Ms. Boslaugh! Get rid of the spoilers and the review becomes even more intriguing.

MORE INFO from Indiewire:

tickeld co-directors
Co-directors David Farrier and Dylan Reeve

I did some research of my own–

Here is an interesting article from Indiewire, written in conjunction with the film’s showing at the Yes/No Fest. Yes/No is held annually in Columbia, MO, and presents the art of nonfiction, as well as whatever is “between fiction and nonfiction.” It’s all very esoteric (completely unclear). I can’t make heads or tails out of its mission. (Maybe I’m just tired.)

‘Tickled’: Why The Online Fetish Doc Was Hit With A Defamation Lawsuit

article by  Chris O’Falt

Spoilers skimmable? No. You think an article just might spare us all. Do not fall into the trap! SO UNFAIR

Fun facts:

  • People who have recognized David Farrier have approached and literally tickled him. O’Falt looks on the bright side:”At least it means they’ve seen the movie.”
  • Since Jane O’Brien media sued Farrier before the film was made, he and Reeve hired two legal aid lawyers to go over every fine detail of the movie.
  • Farrier is moving to LA (not for the tickle subculture).

The tickle competitions just keep going and going: Check out the videos and photos on Jane O’Brien Media’s Facebook page here.

Waiver: the opinions expressed herein do not reflect that of the blogger. They reflect those in the film review and the article.

(The article alludes to J.O.B.’s penchant for lawsuits.)





Finding Fish

2013-12-17 09.10.00
Lucy’s friend with benefits (x-rated pic withheld).


My daughter,  on a quick visit from the East Coast, wanted all of us to see Finding Dory on its opening day. I jumped at the chance to be with her and her BF. We’re going in two hours. But before I go, I want to know how low to set my expectations. (Pleasant surprises are always the best experiences.)

Without further ado, here is a review of a movie review of Finding Dory.

Plot: Dory is missing or she doesn’t know where she is. No one needs to know. I forget.

The NY Times

review by A.O. Scott

Help! I can’t contain myself and not review the reviews of The New York Times! But I think this one is kind of interesting.

Spoilers skimmable: Yes! The spoilers are aplenty, don’t get me wrong. But you know the Golden Rule of the NY Times Guidelines: Pretension begets spoilers. Thankfully the sentences and paragraphs begin with plenty of hints.

Example: A paragraph starts like this: “Instead of the open seas, Dory conducts her search….” WARNING WILL ROBINSON! It’s obvious that the very next word is the gateway to spoiler village.

Here she is!

Ladies and Gents, I may have perfected the art of the skim!

Bottom Line: It’s good, but not as good as Finding Nemo.

A.O., pro forma, starts his review with superfluous context–he pulls off reviewing a movie within a review of another movie:

Finding Nemo is “Pixar’s 2003 masterpiece”: A.O. extolled F.N. as brilliant in its technical innovation, resulting in “beautiful” visuals.

OK, I think that it’s interesting that Finding Nemo was a revelation in technology and filming, but was it a masterpiece for any other reason?

He continues his thought: “The movie,” he says, is “a visual revelation, was also a welcome defense of risk-taking in an era of anxiety, and something of a cautionary tale about the downsides of helicopter parenting.”

Really? Era of Anxiety? Story with a moral? The father was neurotic and overbearing. But did that cause the son get lost? Seriously.Did it? I forget.

Last point:

A.O.’s disrespect for fish with disabilities:  A.O. Scott calls Dory “absent minded.” Really? Swim with her and suddenly she forgets what transpired in the last few minutes; that’s not simply absent minded–it’s some sort of cross-wiring in the brain, and it’s endearing.

Oh A.O. Scott and The New York Times, thank you for so much fodder for this blog, but next post, I must move on.



SIFF Decision #1

It’s that golden time of year: when the daylight lingers past 9:30 PM, and SIFF is here! SIFF: Seattle International Film Festival. The largest film fest on this continent–that no one has ever heard of. There are many, many films in this fest, both good and bad.  The decision as to what movies to see has racked me with angst. What if I miss a unique opportunity to ask a director a Q? What if the movie will  never wash ashore on our continent again?

Luckily there are critics to help me decide what to see. Many of the films have already opened in other countries and played in previous international fests, like those of Toronto and Venice.

My first decision and the review that I found. Shall I watch this movie?


Plot: A newlywed Palestinian woman picks up a hitchhiker who later turns out to be involved in a terrorist bombing. Although she had no idea what the boy was about to do, she is jailed for being complicit in the crime. She is pregnant and the baby is born in jail. The movie takes place during a turbulent era in that region (as if there are non-turbulent times), the 1980s.

Middle East Eye 

Review by unknown critic

Spoilers skimmable? No. Plain and simple.

Bottom Line: It is excellent.

Of interest: Movie is based on interviews of Palestinian women about Israeli jails, conducted by Mai Masri, the Palestinian director3-000-nights-poster.

Palestinian actors play all of the characters, both Israeli and Palestinian. Syrian refugees were extras in the movie–playing prisoners.

The movie was filmed in an old Jordanian prison; most actors had been in jail themselves, or are connected to someone who was. It was painful for them to film and sounds painfully sad for the audience  to watch.



 What is the Middle East Eye?

It is an online news source that professes to tell unbiased news from the Middle East.

Fascinating: I found a list of five movies on this site that “will help you understand the Modern Arab World.”

silvered waterAn  intimate view of the Syrian Uprising. One such film is Silvered Water, which you can find on youtube. It is comprised solely of videos that eyewitnesses filmed with their cell phones and anonymously uploaded to social media, some with narration.

Defiance in Art. The article points out that Silvered Water is a “video archive” as well as “a form of defiance–searching for cinematic beauty in blurry mobile phone images as a resistance to tyranny and death.”