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Showing posts from November, 2019

Last Christmas

You probably know Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen from  Game of Thrones , but her role in  Last Christmas  is more reminiscent of her character Lou Clark in  Me Before You , a sappy but engaging 2016 chick flick that seems custom made for the Hallmark channel. Here we have Clarke playing Kate, a somewhat self-sabotaging Christmas shop elf who keeps bumping into the mysterious Tom Webster, a strangely genteel suitor played by Henry Golding. We know Golding from  Crazy Rich Asians  as the puzzlingly English/Malaysian charmer who seems not quite Asian and not really British, but of course he is both. Also from  CRA  is Michelle Yeoh, Kate’s boss and “other dragon mother” who relishes the chance to play a comedic role instead of her usual hard-as-nails Asian matriarch persona. A movie with a soundtrack entirely based on the music of George Michael was off-putting (for me). The title song has always annoyed me with its pronunciation of “Gave” the way “Have” is spoken. “Last Chris

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

I’m going to strongly recommend that you see this surprisingly engaging movie. I’m also going to recommend that you bring some Kleenex. Is it possible that Fred Rogers has been gone for sixteen years already? And how can his show be a childhood touchstone for so many generations of viewers? Perhaps because the show’s lengthy national run between 1968 and 2001 overlaps so many early learning years among those of us who grew up watching network television. A short gap between 1976 and 1979 was addressed in the film as a period during which Fred, “ran out of things to talk about.” The first “last” show aired on February 20, 1976. On a personal note, this was the day before my mother died, and I never needed Mister Rogers more than I did then. Fred’s own growing young sons eventually gave him plenty more to talk about, and the show resumed for another long stretch, surpassing  Captain Kangaroo  as the longest running children’s television program. It took  Sesame Street  to raise th

The Good Liar

If you’re a fan of either Helen Mirren (age 74) or Ian McKellen (age 80), you’ll enjoy this showcase of their respective talents. I mention their ages since they factor heavily in the plot and inter-character dynamics. The lies in  The Good Liar  begin while the opening credits are still rolling. Mirren, who plays Estelle, is in the comfort of her home entering profile information into a (we assume) seniors dating website. McKellen, as Brian, is also typing feverishly, entering all kinds of false information, sipping whiskey and dragging heavily on a cigarette in what appears to be his office or library. Of course his dating persona neither smokes nor drinks. She is looking for companionship and he is interested in romance. I’ll depart from the rest of the story after their first meeting, where Brian admits that his name is actually Roy, and Estelle similarly confesses to really being Betty. As they drop their guards they quickly form a deep connection and we realize that only n

Ford v Ferrari

One of my favorite toys as a kid was an Aurora HO scale slot car racing set. The first car I bought was a light blue Ford GT 40 with black racing stripes. Even knowing that the chassis and motors for all subsequent cars were identical, the little Ford seemed to hug the track better and move faster than the rest of my growing collection. Years later I bought a full scale used 1969 Shelby GT 350. It was brilliant yellow with black racing stripes, a roll bar and a polished wooden steering wheel. As one police officer once commented, “That thing looks like it’s going fast while it’s standing still.” It had a pleasantly growling engine and enough heart-pounding muscle to plaster you in your seat when accelerating hard from a full stop. It was clear how people got hooked on racing the minute the automobile was invented. They raced horses, didn’t they? Even given my personal history with the Shelby-era Fords, I was unaware of the true story told in  Ford v Ferrari . This is the tale of

Motherless Brooklyn

I once had an egg cream in the Empire State Building’s main floor diner. I went to the observation deck, an open-air fright fest that I recall being cold, cloudy and windy. I later looked back over my shoulder from street level at the World Trade Center on a gloomy day and snapped a picture that had no meaning until I rediscovered the image many years later. And that is the extent of my knowledge of New York. I am also not a fan of jazz or of the noir genre of film popularized after World War II.  And I can’t say that I’m a particular fan of Edward Norton but am becoming increasingly fond of his work. Honestly, when I hear his name I think of Jackie Gleason’s hapless foil on The Honeymooners. This film was clearly a work of great passion for Norton, as screenwriter, producer, director and leading male actor. A very smart Yale graduate with seemingly boundless famous friends and his own multiple talents, Norton managed in  Motherless Brooklyn  to create a 1950s period piece so im


It’s fitting to see a film about a great military event on the eve of Veterans’ Day, and that is no doubt behind the timing of the release date for  Midway . I do not want to disrespect the valor and sacrifice behind this actual legendary naval victory. But this is a movie review, and I can’t turn a blind eye to the faults that abound in the movie version. There are so many fantastic war films, some of them very recent, and also true stories.  Saving Private Ryan, Full Metal Jacket, Platoon, The Hurt Locker, Hacksaw Ridge.  Sadly, it’s a long list, reflecting the human race’s perennial lust for conflict and battles. So, if you’re going to honor a battle that turned the course of a world war, the film should be great as well. I do not include 1968’s heavily politicized  The Green Berets  in the list of greats. It was a G-rated, star-studded vehicle for John Wayne to sashay through the jungle saying, “Come on, pilgrim, let’s go find Charlie.” (not a real quote) And that brings up


It’s hard to separate the incredible story of Harriet Tubman from the quality of the movie  Harriet . This biopic of her life is so amazing as to be unbelievable, but as the film winds down, the factoids begin to roll, and there we see the supporting details. Further research supports the screenplay at every turn. The writers adhered scrupulously to Tubman’s biography. She was born Araminta Ross, called Minty until she adopted her mother’s first name and husband’s last name, combining them into Harriet Tubman when asked what she would like to be called as a freed slave. Following a virtually impossible solo escape from Maryland to Pennsylvania, on foot and being pursued by slave owners and bloodhounds, Tubman arrives in Philadelphia a free woman at the end of a one hundred mile trek. But that’s where the story becomes astonishing. She made thirteen additional trips back to rescue seventy additional slaves and family members and became a prominent “conductor” on the Underground Rai

The Current War: Director's Cut

My father was an usher at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, titled  A Century of Progress . Somehow he managed to collect four unused souvenir tickets to the 1893 Columbian Exposition, also in Chicago. I treasure these along with a small collection of Chicago books and memorabilia. There are numerous buildings in Chicago from that period that are seemingly frozen in time, lovingly preserving the heavy and ornate woodwork and soaring ceilings, staircases and marble lobbies of the late 1800s. A Chicago architectural tour is a must if you are similarly intrigued. Sadly, not much remains of the original fairgrounds, which burned down within six months of the expo’s end. There are only a few remaining structures, most notably The Museum of Science and Industry (recently renamed for a major donor, but forget that!), on the south lakeshore. So it’s easy to imagine that this movie has been on my must-see list for some time. The Victorian era, including such notables as H.G. Wells, with his tim