The Movie Elf

As Your Movie Elf (Janne Swearengen), I strive to provide a heart-felt review of movies seen with Movie Mate Terry Woosely. We endeavor to attend a movie a week but often find we are in a vacuum. I am a totally visceral reviewer with no claimed cinematic expertise. So there you go. Enjoy!

'This Beautiful Fantastic'

June 18 & 20 2020

LORD!! We (meanin' Movie Mate Terry Woosley and I) haven't been to a movie in FOREVER!! Darn this COVID19!! Howsomever, we have watched a few on Amazon Prime and Netflix that deserve some words...some good, one awful, and one REALLY TERRIFIC! So that's the one we'll start with. The title is This Beautiful Fantastic' made in 2016 and I owe Terry a huge shout-out of gratitude for recommending this.

It's a movie about a quirky young lady, her start in life was rather challenging, who aspires to be a writer of children's books. She, Bella Brown, works in a library, rents a small flat in London (I think), and is terrified of plants; her next door neighbor, Alfie Stephenson, is a crotchety old guy whose demeanor can be expressed in two words...bitterness and sarcasm. When these two meet, well, you just have to see the movie.

As I was watching this movie, mesmerized, I began to jot down how it made me feel; I'd like to share some of these words with you with a brief explanation:

Tender -- there is an element of tenderness in this movie that reminds us that tenderness is a good thing and we could all benefit from both giving and receiving it.

Funny -- the writing, dialogue, and delivery by the acting ensemble will not only make you laugh, it's a good natured laughter and not laughter at someone else's expense.

Magical -- though not magical in terms of fairies and elves, there is magic in the evolution of the characters as the film moves on. Though, there is a bit of magic in Luna (you have to watch the movie). The chemistry between the actor's characters is a joy to watch. Tom Wilkinson (Alfie), Jessica Brown Findlay (Bella), Andrew Scott (Vernon), Jeremy Irvine (Billy) and Anna Chancel (Bramble the librarian) work magic for sure.

Passionate --the passion we speak of is not of the flesh so much as the whole concept of the movie and how that concept or original idea actually made it to the screen intact and without so much as one word of profanity. Bella's passion for writing, Alfie's passion for his garden, Billy's (Billy is an artist friend Bella helps in the library) passion for creative sculpture, Vernon's (Alfie's cook) passion for food.

Beautiful -- the way this movie unfolds over 92 minutes is absolutely a work of art and is beautiful.

Fantastic -- the definition of this word is 'extraordinarily good'; 'imaginative and fanciful'. Well, yes to both.

We hope we have piqued your interest in this delightful film. No evil is about to take over the world; there are no gun battles, car chases/crashes, no violent deaths or maimings, and no sitting in your seat following the end saying 'What on earth did I just watch?'

It's simply wonderful.

The Call of the Wild

2.25 & 2.27 2020

Well, this should be a well focused review as YME has seen this movie twice this week. Movie Mate Terry Woosley and YME saw it Tuesday (2.25) and today (2.27) YME and her long-suffering husband, affectionately known as Big Solid, viewed it as well. 

Today’s viewing only solidified our initial reaction to the film...‘anthropomorphize much?’. Look, we are just as captivated as the next Elf at the unbelievable magic Computer-Generated Imagery artists/technicians can create. Using a technique called mapping, producing hundreds of hours viewing animal movements and expressions, these technical wizards are able to recreate them on film. The result is such amazing, ‘is-it-real-or-is-it CGI’, breathtaking acting and actions. It’s almost like seeing a ‘real animal’ is a let down—they don’t talk (in words, anyway), they don’t laugh, they don’t get the idea.  Such was the case with this movie.  We do have to make one thing very have made this movie WITH real animals would have been almost impossible. Dog Sledding, escaping avalanches, getting beaten with clubs, not to mention the use of bears, elk, and wolves—the coordination, assurances that no harm negative behavioral tactics would most definitely have made this a most difficult movie to make with the ‘real’ Buck and friends. 

It’s been many, oh so many years since Your Movie Elf read Jack London’s magnificent story of Buck, first published in 1903, but we are pretty sure that this adaptation took substantial liberties. The original story/book was fraught with significant violence, not only against Buck and the sled dogs of the Yukon Gold Rush but also within the sled dog teams themselves and humans who were crazed by the lure of riches. 


Unfortunately, Mr. London’s descriptions of how horribly pack animals (dogs, horses and mules) were treated is well documented and very difficult to see or even know.  If you haven’t read the book or haven’t read it recently, Wikipedia’s plot outline is a nice review for one to compare with the screen adaptation. However, the main story line remains fairly true...Buck, a massive St. Bernard/Scotch Collie mix, is stolen from a loving home in California to be sold as a sled dog in the Yukon. His transformation from a pet to a trail hardened sled dog over a varied number of ‘masters’ culminates in a deep connection with the troubled John Thornton (played by a grizzled Harrison Ford) while at the same time exploring his wild instincts with a local wolf ‘maiden’ and pack.


This is an ok movie. It’s not outstanding or powerful or anything to write home about. It’s a decent tale of a man and a dog who both endured hard times to finally find each other. The scenery is so breathtaking one would almost believe it was computer-generated as well. There is not much acting to assess; Harrison Ford as John Thornton and Omar Sy as Perrault (the sled mailman) are credible onscreen. No other substantial roles really emerged. A few issues with consistency and reality:  when François (Perrault’s ‘woman’) falls through the ice in her fur coats, is carried under the river for yards and is eventually rescued by Buck, as she is waiting for Buck to emerge from the river, her hair and clothing shows no dampness; in almost all of the scenes in a very cold environment, no one’s breath is frosty. That alone makes us think that considerable portions of this movie were filmed indoors.


Nevertheless, if the book appealed to you, if you are a fan of Alaska, if you like adventure and dogs, and IF you love to watch animals being human…by all means, go see this movie.




On Tuesday, February 18, Movie Mate Terry Woosley and YME wove through flooded areas of Jackson MS to find the ONLY theatre in the area that was showing the Best Picture Oscar Winner ‘Parasite’. Other than knowing it was a film from South Korea that had gotten a lot of positive buzz, we knew nothing about it other than it was not a horror film. We also recounted some movies that had previously gotten either the Best Picture Oscar or some very strong critical acclaim that we thought was some kind of betrayal of good filmdom and the average movie goer...namely, the dreadful ‘Mother’. But we went with a positive attitude.

The movie, obviously, is sub-titled; and once you adjust to reading the dialogue while paying attention to the non-verbal communications via expressions and gestures, the movie becomes much easier to follow, albeit that takes a bit of time. That being said, this review is quite a challenge as we are not quite sure we’ve ever seen anything like it.

This is the story of two families...a family of four living hand to mouth in a ghetto/slum area in South Korea, their tiny underground apartment known as a sub-basement dwelling. The other, likewise a family of 4 (or so we think) living in an expansive, beautiful home with a yard in an exclusive part of the city. How these families became entwined encompasses the first third of the movie. The needy family is desperate for a way out of the ghetto/slum and the two kids figure a way for that to occur, in a rather ‘no-holds-barred’ conniving sort of way. AND, they are successful! Through a series of mean-spirited and downright nasty efforts, the chauffeur for the rich family man is replaced by the head/father of the poor household AND the housekeeper is likewise replaced by the wife/mother of same.  This particular replacement is of utmost importance.


It is at this point, we begin to realize that this ‘ain’t no feel good movie’, though it is filled with humor and laugh out loud moments. 


When the rich folks depart for a weekend to celebrate their young son’s birthday by going on a camping trip, free rein is taken by the ‘family who smells’ to take over the luxurious home for the weekend and frolic through the extravagances with glee and disdain...they eat, drink, bathe, and lounge on every bed without a thought in the world but for themselves. As this is occurring, a secret is unveiled which turns the weekend on its head. AND, as a blinding rainstorm hits the area, the camping trip is cancelled and the rich folks are headed home. Yes, the poor family gets its act together enough to escape discovery of all the advantages they have taken of the luxury environment, including the ‘secret’. 


We could go on but we will stop here to say the movie gets heavier and darker from here on out. It is a pretty interesting tale of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ and the emotional toll being poor and, yes, wealthy, can take. The poor want a way out from under the burden of being looked down on; the rich have lost a key component of being human, that of compassion. But, as the ending reveals, everyone has a breaking point.


We found this movie ran the gamut from funny to tragic without missing a beat and for that, it is so very well done. The poor family’s wretched escape from the luxury home in a torrential rain beautifully portrayed the vast gap between wealth and poverty; between having it all and hopelessness. We are not convinced that it was Best Picture material but certainly worthy of the nomination. 


If you can handle the sub-titles, go see it for yourownself.




~~~Learn, Live~~~

You know what? We had almost completed our review of this movie that Movie Mate Terry Woosley and YME saw Tuesday (Feb. 4). The  more we thought about it, the more the review seemed dull and repetitious AND it was not saying what we really wanted to say. So we scrapped it and are starting over.  We will not repeat the accolades, awards, and pending Oscar nominations this movie has received. 


The story is no stranger to the screen, especially when dealing with films of combat and war.  Soldiers are given an assignment of epic proportions to save many lives; the assignment will most likely cost them their lives.  Such is the start of this tale about the War to End All Wars.

Did we ‘enjoy’ the movie? Well, not is a brutal, suspenseful, stark, and graphic depiction of the extent the human spirit can go in two directions…unconditional love and uncompromising hate; blind obedience and reckless rebellion; resolute courage and paralyzing fear. So using the word enjoy just didn't work 

Movie Mate Terry brought us an article from Time Magazine about this movie; we will read it after we finish this review…we don’t want to be swayed from our current mindset. 


‘1917’ was not an easy movie to watch and there were even spots in it that we thought were overdone (one too many challenges) and even formulaic (skin-of-his-teeth escapes). Yet, we suppose, in order the capture the essence of WWI, the savagery of the battlefield (soldiers/animals trapped in barb wire) as well as moments of near normalcy (a freshly milked cow/a woman with a babe in arms), one has to make sure the scenes are crafted for impact.


Our final decision on how we felt about his movie was that, as difficult to see as it is, it is an important film. It is well-crafted, the attention to the detail of ‘trench warfare’, complete with knee-deep mud, the early days of ‘dog fights’ in the air; and the futility of war altogether.  So, if you haven’t seen it, give it a go. This is not a chick flick and we were among the minority sex when we went. It is well done and cinematically strong. We would not view it a second time but came out of the movie glad we went. Now, to read that article.


'Just Mercy'


~~~Learn, Live~~~

Yesterday, Tuesday (1.28.20) YME and MM Terry Woolsey saw ‘Just Mercy’. And, you know, considering all the issues that have surfaced in our own prison system here in Mississippi, a very timely viewing. Just Mercy is based on the actual events of an African-American Death Row inmate (Walter McMillan), arrested in 1987 for a murder that he

did not commit (a teenaged white woman). In spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary (much of which was never presented), Mr. McMillan was convicted on the brutally coerced false testimony of another inmate, Ralph Myers.  Mr. McMillan was actually placed on Death Row prior to his trial and left to wait a ‘date’ for his execution following his conviction in 1988; his trial lasted a day and a half.  The recommendation from the jury was a life sentence; this was over-ruled by the judge who kept Mr.McMillan on Death Row with a death penalty sentence.

Enter Bryan Stevenson, fresh from Harvard Law School where he served an internship in Alabama which convinced him that his services to represent those who could not afford legal counsel were most needed…especially those on Death Row. With a grant to provide such services, the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) was born and remains active today.  Mr. Sevenson was drawn to Mr. McMillan’s case and the lack of proper legal proceedings which resulted in his conviction.  This case drew national attention via a ’60 Minutes’ segment in 1992 (you can find that segment on You Tube, by the way).


This movie is a well-crafted, beautifully acted recreation of both Mr. Stevenson’s and the EJI’s efforts to uncover the ‘hidden’ evidence, to bring Mr. Myers’ coercion and perjury to light, and to pursue appeal after appeal until it reached the Alabama Supreme Court where all charges against Mr. McMillan were dropped and he was freed after 6 years on Death Row. The two prisoners on each side of Mr. McMillan’s cell were also waiting a ‘date’; Herbert Richardson, a mentally ill VietNam veteran suffering from severe PTSD, was executed in August 1989 following the denial of a plea of a stay until further evidence could be brought to bear on Mr. Henderson’s mental state; and, Anthony Ray Hinton, who stated his innocence over and over, was also found innocent by the EJI due to false testimony and a improper ballistics report; he was released in 2015 after 30 years on Death Row. 


IF it were not for the fact that this movie is true, it would not be so hard to watch. Particularly disturbing is the execution of Mr. Richardson; the scenes beginning with Mr. Henderson’s walk to the electric chair, the shaving of his head, his asking one of the guards if ‘my song will be played’, his being strapped down, the final placement of the cap on his head, hearing ‘The Old Rugged Cross’ played throughout the prison, shouted inmate support and tin cups rattling, the ultimate initiation of the electricity, and the agonized reaction of Mr. Stevenson (who was requested by Mr. Henderson to be present) was one of the most powerful and excruciating movie scenes Your Movie Elf has EVER seen.


While YME is not a huge fan of Jamie Foxx, his Walter ‘Johnny D’ McMillan was strong without over-emoting; he was able to portray the anger, helplessness, hopelessness, and despair in a believable nuanced performance. Michael B. Jordan was impressive as Bryan Stevenson, who still runs the EJI. You know, when an actor can speak louder with his/her expressions and non-verbal language as well as making the words come to life, you have a strong and committed actor's work, such was Mr. Jordan's.


The other cast member we wanted to single out was Tim Blake Nelson who played Ralph Myers. He was nothing short of stunning. It was not a BIG role as in screen time, but a HUGE role in the eventual release of Mr. McMillan. A foster kid, abused and burned horribly, Mr. Myers was coerced into falsifying his testimony by being sent to Death Row with Mr. McMillan where he could hear and smell the results of an electrocution. After one time, he gladly provided the testimony that convicted McMillan for being taken out of Death Row. He eventually found his soul and told the truth. Mr. Nelson’s performance was remarkable. 


This is a most worthy movie. Injustice, bigotry, perseverance, dedication, and commitment are front and center. We see characters who are changed and some who remain the same. Above all, are witness to helplessness being turned into hope,  captivity into freedom, and despair into joy by the dedication of those in search of the truth.


Please see this movie.


'Little Women'


~~~Laugh, Live, LOVE~~~

Movie Mate, Terry and YME saw Little Women yesterday (1/21/20). Before diving into the review, I must admit that I have never read Little Women. While my friends were reading books like that, I was reading The Black Stallion, TickTock and Jim, Call of the Wild, and every other dog and horse book at the Livingston Branch of the Jackson Public Library System. No Bobbsey Twins, no Little Women, no Nancy Drew…you get the picture. So, I went to this movie pretty oblivious to detailed knowledge of the book other than the names of the ‘little women’. The two main reasons I it was a  draw for me were Two Grown Women…namely Greta Gerwig (director/screenplay) and Saoirse Ronan (Jo).  These two women were a large part of why 2017’s ‘Ladybird’ was such an honored film, and deservedly so.  Ms. Gerwig’s enormous talent for intelligent writing and skillful direction is once again on display in ‘Little Women’. We will address the remarkable Saoirse Ronan later.

A brief look at the book is helpful to showcase the timelessness of Alcott’s novel (published in two volumes in 1868-69).  Set during the Civil War, it is the story of the March family. With the head of the household off to war, we follow the women, Mother, Housekeeper, and four young girls, Jo, Meg, Amy and Beth as they grow from youngsters with talents for writing (Jo), art (Amy), love (Meg), and music (Beth). At a time when women were not recognized for abilities and talent beyond the home, Ms. Alcott wrote strong-minded youngsters who grew into passionate women who exceeded those culturally imposed boundaries. It is the story of love and loss; laughter and tears; envy and pride; and retaliation and forgiveness. It is the story of the strength and bonds forged in times of plenty and hardship.


Several interpretations of the book have been made into feature films which underscores the magic of the writing and the story. The first ‘Little Women’ movie was made released in 1917 in Great Britain as a silent movie; it is now considered lost, The second was the 1918 American release, also a silent film that was actually shot on location around homes of Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson in Concord, MA. The next version was made in 1933 during the Great Depression; starring Katherine Hepburn and a pregnant Joan Bennet (who played the 12 year old Amy).  The book once again lit up the screen in 1949 with an all-star cast including June Allyson (also pregnant when playing Jo), Margaret O’Brien, a blonde Elizabeth Taylor, and Janet Leigh. And the most recent prior to the current movie was released in 1994 starring a strong cast including Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale (!), and Gabriel Byrne.


This is an absolutely lovely movie; made for women about women. Men have roles in this movie but but not the power. Timothée Chalamet, playing one of the larger male roles as Laurie, is a terrific actor yet I found myself not believing him at all.  He just doesn’t carry off a substantive Laurie; he looks totally breakable. Bring back Christian Bale. The other male roles are filled nicely but only as they serve the growth and substance of the women.


Laura Dern as the ‘Little Women’ Mom is credible; Meryl Streep as the feisty (and rich) old maid aunt, also carries her role as she always does…with talent and poise. However, the roles of the the girls/women as nicely cast. I do have to say that this movie spotlights their talents which are strong. BUT, the role of Jo as captured and validated by the amazing Saoirse Ronan stole my heart. She was spectacular as ‘Ladybird’ and Greta Gerwig must have KNOWN she was the pick for Jo.


I would be remiss to omit the costumes and wardrobe of the movie.  In one scene, Meg is desirous of a new dress but is challenged financially to purchase (if I remember correctly) FIFTY yards of material. A woman sitting behind me gasped out ‘FIFTY yards!!’. I can barely thread a needle but knew what a LOT of clothing women of that day and age had to wear. The wardrobe folks put on a sensational sartorial display, for sure.

The one drawback, which I quickly got over, was how the timeline of the movie is adjusted; one scene show the girls as ‘girls’ and the next, they are grown up. Folks who expect a linear timeline (as was the book) will no doubt be thrown for a loop by trying to keep up with the multiplicity of timelines. Once I ‘got it’, it became a favorable vehicle for understanding the expanse of time and the story line became more clear.


That being said, I repeat, this is a lovely, lovely movie. It is sweet, tender, funny, sad, poignant, and moving. Go see it for yourownself.


'Knives Out'


~~~Laugh, Live~~~

No one in their right mind would have been out driving 15 miles to a movie in rains so torrential the Interstate traffic was moving about 40 MPH (except for some 18 wheelers) YET Movie Mate Terry and I did. She from one direction and me another to meet in the middle at the Pearl Cinemark. Needless to say, we had no companions in the theatre, although several folks were on hand fo ‘1917’.

This movie initially was not high on our cinematic radar but after hearing how good it was from other folks, we decided to go. And, as it turned out, we were very glad we did. IF you like ‘who-dun-its’ this is a movie for you. If you like fun characters, this is a movie for you. If you like smart writing, this is a movie for you. AND, if you like clever and intricate plot twists, THIS indeed is a movie for you. Not dissimilar to a good Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes mystery, Knives Out takes us to Massachusetts where the Thrombey family has gathered following the death of their patriarch, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer). Mr. Thrombey was found with a slashed throat by a staff person following his 85th birthday party. As you can imagine, there was an inquiry in which each family member as well as Mr. Thrombey’s nurse were questioned about their activity on the night of Mr. Thrombey’s death.  Two officers conducted the interviews accompanied by a stranger with an even stranger accent. Enter Benoit (pronounced Ben-Wah) Blanc (Daniel ‘007’ Craig). Though the name clearly sounds like Louisiana, Mr. Blanc hails from the great state of Kentucky and was hired anonymously to investigate Mr. Thrombey’s death as a possible homicide. As family members are quizzed, evidence of a dysfunctional family slowly emerges as flash-back scenes of the previous evening unfold.  The elder Mr. Thrombey left a literary legacy as a mystery writer par excellence as well as a publishing company worth a fortune.  His children, grandchildren, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, staff, and nurse all seemed to be withholding information, lying, or scared to reveal information about each other and or the events of the birthday evening. Yet, the undercurrent of who was going to benefit and how was clear from the beginning and family machinations were delightful to watch. The one person who appeared to be completely above suspicion was, believe it or not, 85 year old Mr. Trombley’s MOTHER (understatedly played by 84 year old K Callan) who HAD to be a centenarian PLUS. Her clothing alone was enough to bring a smile…whoever picked out her style was right on point. 


Every person interviewed COULD be the culprit IF the elder Mr. Trombley actually was murdered. Was he? Wasn’t he? Suicide or homicide? There are a myriad of twists and turns are brilliantly conceived and smartly written. We wouldn’t dream of spoiling it.


The set of the Trombley mansion was spectacular…a magnificent edifice of turrets, secret entrances, creepy statues and artwork, the mansion provided the perfect backdrop for the  mysterious death of the owner.


It’s a delightfully fun movie with some name stars we have not seen in a while…Jamie Lee Curtis and Don Johnson to name a couple. When the movie was over, Terry and I turned to each other and commented on how clever and smart it was. We thought maybe Ladybird was the other movie in recent memory that was as clever. We both recommend it; just ignore Daniel Craig’s really dreadful attempt at ‘speaking Southern’. 




~~~Learn, Love~~~

With apologies to all who have waited with bated breath for The Movie Elf reviews...we are just plain delinquent. Movie Mate Terry and I saw ‘Bombshell’ last Tuesday as we ventured to the New Malco theatre in the Renaissance Shopping Center. The theatre boasts reclining seats and the capability to order snacks (pizza, etc) to bring to your seat with a tray that attaches to your armrest. We did not avail ourselves of that option (and a bar soon to come). The theatres are small and cozy. Since we are matinee folks, we rarely run into a full house. 

We have wanted to see Bombshell ever since we saw the trailers for it several weeks back. Heck, just the thought of Charlize Theron, Nichole Kidman, and Margot Robbie on screen together was enticement enough. But the factionalized account of Roger Ailes fall from FOX News grace after dozens of women came forward with charges of sexual harassment certainly piqued our interest. We say fictionalized account because there is a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie that some of the story includes supposition and embellishment, creating issues for some critics

The nuts and bolts of the movie are true, however. Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), a co-anchor of 'Fox and Friends 'is demoted to a less popular show after expressing some concerns about how women are treated; she is ultimately fired from the network. She files a sexual harassment suit against Ailes, counting on the fact that many other women at the network have also been subjected to harassment.  Initially, her lawsuit gathers no traction as few women come forward. Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron), a star reporter and protege of Ailes, gets into hot water during an interview with then candidate Donald Trump regarding his treatment of women. Ms. Kelly's sentiments are divided between loyalty to Ailes and the knowledge (first-hand as well as awareness of others) of his penchant for sexual favors by his ‘peeps' and the pressing realization that she needs to take a stand. Margot Robbie plays an up and coming producer (a fictionalized character) who wants more than anything to move up in the network. She is given that opportunity after a particularly disturbing and degrading ‘interview’ with Roger Ailes (John Lithgow).  Megyn Kelly finally realizes that Ailes’ treatment of women cannot be allowed to continue, though she will lose her job and status, and comes forward. Though several other women have also come forward, her position at the network lends a level of credibility that forces media mogul Rupert Murdoch to remove Ailes from his post at FOX. One quick mention - Richard Kind plays Ailes defense team lawyer Rudy Giuliani as a caricature that is, well, beautiful.


Whatever your leanings are, this movie is watch worthy if nothing more than for watching Kidman, Theron, and Robbie. There is certainly no denying their beauty (bombshell looks/bombshell story), these women capture a screen with presence, talent, and charisma. And then there’s John Lithgow’s superb turn as the overbearing, over-sexed, over-blown (no pun intended), and overweight purveyor of career opportunities contingent on loyalty coupled with a little ‘somethin’ somethin’ (wink, wink). Enjoy.


'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood'


~~~Learn, Love~~~

Since the initiation of the Movie Elf a few years back, we have seen our share of good movies, award winning movies, critically acclaimed movies that we thought were a waste of time, hilarious movies, mediocre movies, light-hearted movies, movies that were so awful as to be dreadful, entertaining movies, and boring movies. A very few movies have been truly unforgettable for their depth, artistry, substance, use of talent, writing, and creative design and direction. 'A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood' now joins that revered list. Movie Mate Terry and I thought it magnificent. And for goodness sake, in this time of dissent, anger, polarization, and materialism, this subtle powerhouse of a movie could not be more timely.

Just hearing the opening the theme song evokes an emotional tilt toward goodness and being kind. The ‘play’ town where Mr. Rogers lives with it’s little jerky moving cars, his home is a wonderful reminder of how sets used to be before everything sent digital and high-tech. AND, the absolutely fabulous way the ‘toy’ towns, rivers, and airports such as Pittsburg and New York City, complete with the World Trade Centers, were interspersed with the real was lovely…keeping you grounded in both worlds.

This is a very different movie than the biopic from last year’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” that we saw, loved, and reviewed. This movie smartly takes the real-life story of Lloyd Vogel’s Esquire assignment, interviews, and resulting friendship with Fred Roger’s over a period of time and uses it to show the manifestation of change that kindness can effect. The biopic shared Mr. Rogers’ life, beautifully. Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood kicks that up a notch by focusing on the real transformative impact Fred Rogers had by sharing the story of Fred and Lloyd.


The folks who put this movie together did so with an incredible degree of thoughtfulness, attention to the depth and substance of Fred Rogers, and accuracy of the story; to their credit, they did not take the easy way out and allow superficiality and dollar signs to propel them into a lesser product. In other words, Mr. Rogers got what Mr. Rogers deserved.


The casting was beyond admirable. Seriously, who could play Fred Rogers any better than Tom Hanks? Just as Renee Zellweger WAS Judy Garland, Tom Hanks IS Fred Rogers. ‘Nuff said. 


Matthew Rhys’ portrayal of Lloyd Vogel is understatedly moving, revealing this Welshman’s capacity to ‘be’ the part rather than ‘play’ it. No easy feat considering range of emotions that simmered in Mr. Vogel. Not to mention, he’s really easy on the eyes.


Susan Kelechi Watson was also excellent in her role as Mr. Vogel’s wife, Andrea.   Her ability to play a new mom; staying home from working as an attorney, wife to a man of much talent and even more anger; go-between in family matters, and soft-spoken (mostly) interventionist, reflected her acting ability. 


Chris Cooper’s role as Jerry, Lloyd’s wayward father, offered him the challenge of wanting and needing forgiveness for a lifetime of being an absentee father. Both father and son struggle with the emotional drain of years of being estranged; Mr. Cooper surely did look the part of someone who’d lived large and partied hard for a very long time…what we here say, “Rode hard and put up wet”.


This is a ‘beautiful day in the cinematic world’ and you will no doubt find much more erudite reviews providing details of the psychology of kindness and forgiveness. Or, better yet, go see it for yourownself and drink it in.


The Movie Elf --'Last Christmas' 



After a few weeks of either powerhouse movies (e.g., ‘Judy’) or movies we would not wish on anyone (‘The Lighthouse’), Movie Mate Terry and I decided we needed a ‘fluff’ film (not to be confused with a snuff film). We had seen the trailer for ‘Last Christmas’ a few times and thought it a light appealing option. And that’s exactly what it was…although, to be truthful, I thought the first 30 minutes were silly to distraction. Thankfully, Michelle Yeoh’s character ‘Santa’ was enough to get us through the über-fluff; in fact, as the long-suffering Christmas Shop owner and supportive friend of Kate (Emilia Clarke), she was terrific. I was especially fond of her clothes and some of the more bizarre Christmas items she sold.

In a nutshell,Kate/Katarina (Emilia Clarke) is woefully on the ropes of her life. A wannabe songstress, she is burning the candle at both ends, resulting in one cluster you-know-what after another. The antagonistic relationship with her mother (the talented Emma Thompson), the openly hostile relationship with her sister, Marta; the multitude of friends she has leaned on and ultimately alienated all combine to make Kate a sadly driven young woman. Enter Tom Webster (Henry Golding) who seems to appear just as Kate is at her neverending nadirs. He provides comfort, solace, fun, and a bit of romantic pique. He also begins to drawout her capacity to give and in so doing, find peace. 


Watching the changes that begin to evolve are the highlights of the film. And not solely the changes in Kate…her growth serves as a catalyst for change in others. The family scenes toward the end of the movie are just plain fun to watch. Emma Thompson, who wrote the story and screenplay, is the epitome of an overprotective and over-wrought mother.  Emilia Clarke, best known for her Game of Thrones role as Daenerys, Mother of the Dragons, is a cute and talented actress (though for the life of me, I cannot keep my eyes off of her eyebrows). She also starred in the tear-jerker rendition of Jojo Moyes book ‘Me Before You’. 


This movie has a message of giving…it IS a Christmas movie. It also has a twist that we will not spoil for you. And, it also has a fun musical score featuring mostly George Michael songs, obviously including one of his most popular, “Last Christmas”. Movie Mate Terry reminded me that the talented Mr. Michael actually died on Christmas Day in 2016. 

The Movie Elf --'The Lighthouse'



Movie Mate Terry Woosley and Your Movie Elf (YME) saw this movie Tuesday, Nov. 12.  If there was ever a doubt in our* mind of having the intellectual prowess of a true critic of the cinema, it is there no longer; and at 73, the likelihood of developing it is greatly diminished.


A brief synopsis is in order before we proceed. Willem Defoe is a lighthouse keeper, Thomas/Tommy, somewhere off the coast of Massachusetts in the late 1800’s. Thomas is a man determined to utilize his helper mercilessly. Robert Pattinson, long and thankfully removed from Edward Cullen, is Winslow. His assignment is to help Thomas for a couple of weeks with the maintenance of the lighthouse and provide some much needed human company. The work is back-breaking, hauling coal from what seemed one end of the island to the other, stoking the furnaces, and doing whatever else Thomas ordered him to do. What was initially meant to be a two week gig turned into eternity when a monster storm prevented any replacement helpers or supplies. 


We try NOT to read any reviews prior to a movie and especially after, lest our immediate reaction to the movie be tainted or influenced in any way. Well, fellow Movielfsters, today we depart from that. While searching for a photograph to use, we inadvertently found our eyes diverted to some sidebar comments. We almost always use Internet Movie Database (IMDb) because it has substantial information all in one spot. Today, we also touched briefly on Rotten Tomatoes, actually by accident. YET, in both locations, we could not HELP but see some highlights which flashed before our very eyes. Words like “Brilliant!”, “Powerful”, “Masterpiece”, “Gripping” to name a few. We were actually stunned. Seriously. So, we decided to use these descriptions to assist us with our review. Buckle up.



Since the movie IS about a lighthouse, one would HOPE, nay expect, the light is brilliant. And it was. Next.



OK, this gives us a bit of a pause. The story is purportedly based on lighthouse keeper diaries describing the stress and impact of the severe and often lengthy isolation that comes with being a ‘keeper’ of the light. There is a plethora of emotional upheaval in this movie, with good reason.  If only we could have understood the actors as they spoke, there is likely some important conversation(s) that were completely missed because they were either mumbled, garbled, or otherwise distorted out of comprehension. If screams, screeches, foghorns, and squawking seabirds count; if crashing waves, drinking from a cistern of human excrement, incessant physical/mental altercations, and violent retching count; this was indeed a powerful movie. There is little left to the imagination.



Without a doubt, the intent of the movie is to portray the descent into madness of two men stranded without provisions, save a case of whiskey which only fueled the madness. It certainly did just that. Everything was frightfully over-wrought; a bit of subtlety may have helped us simple folk focus on the story rather than the starkness. So Masterpiece is a stretch…of epic proportions.



The starkness of the lighting, shooting in black and white, and depictions of hallucinations that accompany mental and emotional implosion are intended to grip us like a vise. The brutality of the work, the isolation that tends to amplify and intensify all sound; the potential friendship/collaboration overshadowed by Thomas’ need to dominate Winslow. Basic human needs and instincts are transformed and deteriorate into savagery and violence. With graphic imagery, neither man was ‘Master of His Domain’, which is the only part of the movie we thought was gripping.


And we thought “Annihilation’ was bad. 


*YME is loathe to write in first person, therefor, the  use of the words our/we/us are a personal reflection and do not necessarily mean to include Movie Mate Terry. We tried desperately to throw this review her way…she politely and wisely declined.

The Movie Elf --'Motherless Brooklyn'



Urban blight, ethnic discrimination, and devious urban corruption. Mid to late 1950’s when cars had fins. Private Investigators sporting Fedoras. Illegal landlord practices. Tourette’s Syndrome and a brilliant mind.  Smoke-filled jazz clubs in Harlem. Shades of ‘Boston Blackie’ and his pencil-thin mustache. Fists, guns, and car chases. Red lipstick, spectator shoes, and dresses. Relationships gone awry; relationships found.  Good against evil; intrigue galore.

These are all of the ingredients of Motherless Brooklyn; a film noir written, directed, and starred in by Ed Norton. This is the movie YME and Movie Mate Terry saw on Tuesday, Nov. 5. This movie has some strengths and some weaknesses, as most do. 

Strength - the performance of Ed Norton as the brilliant private investigator with Tourette’s. He plays the role superbly, capturing the pathos, physicality,  and humor (yes, humor) of living with Tourette’s. The tics, the OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), and the explosive language outbursts are magnificently portrayed. And what makes his character more moving is both his acceptance of the condition and his capability to tell people with complete honesty that something is wrong in his brain.

Weakness - as much as YME likes Alec Baldwin (the actor/not the man), his performance was kind of over done. Bruce Willis wasn’t in it enough, and nobody else really stood out. Willem Defoe is a terrific actor but his role was not developed as well as we think it could have been. Other characters were just substantial enough to warrant discussion.

Strength - the look of a bygone time. The clothing, cars, sets—one feels like they are in a neighborhood gone the way of leaking pipes, broken windows, and no utilities. The early days of social justice awareness and demands for fair housing.

Weakness - for YME, the plot was almost too complex and hard to follow. And, we actually dozed off a couple of times.

Strength - the music was just the right touch for this movie. We have to thank Movie Mate Terry for this observation; though, it was reminiscent of a time gone by when one could go to a club, listen to great music/performers without having the noise of the crowd get in the way.

Weakness - YME is NOT a fan of jazz. We know that’s sacrilege as it’s truly America’s music. Sorry…just don’t like it. Our weakness but it interfered with enjoying the movie.


All in all a watchable movie; not great, not awful. It is most worthy for Ed Norton’s talent. We never realized he was that good, especially as a writer/director as well as participant.  This is a movie you'll have to see for yourself; it was ok and partly really good. 

The Movie Elf --'Judy'



Your Movie Elf (YME) and Movie Mate (MM) Terry Woosley traveled to the Cinemark in Pearl Tuesday October 8 to see this long anticipated movie, touted as a 'tour de force' for Renee Zellweger. The Dictionary defines the phrase ‘tour de force’ as follows; “an impressive performance or achievement that has been accomplished or managed with great skill”.  The Thesaurus offers the following alternative and supportive words or phrases, ranked from most meaningful on down: "triumph, masterpiece, supreme example, marvelous feat, feather in one’s cap, wonder, sensation, master stroke, coup de maître, hit, knockout”.  ALL of these apply to Ms Zellweger’s transformation from actor to person as she becomes Judy Garland from head to toe, from expressions to performance gestures, from impaired to sober with all the emotional volatility that Ms Garland was famous for.

So, this review will be an unabashed release of emotional response to this movie for which YME has little ability to stifle. There is not only the unbridled admiration for Ms Zellweger’s performance but the parallel connection with YME’s mother who made us watch Judy Garland many, many years ago when Ed Sullivan ruled Sunday night. Mama taught YME about Ms Garland’s struggle with her weight, alcohol, stage fright, drug use, and emotional fragility not only from Mama’s description but also her own personal struggles with the same issues. There was also an uncanny physical resemblance coupled with musical talent. It was indeed an afternoon of intensity.

The intelligence with which this movie was developed is reflected in the fact that it was not a linear timeline from child star to financially strapped, emotionally fragile woman; instead we get two of the pivotal sequences of her life. Indeed the child star of 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz’, completely and utterly controlled by the leadership of MGM studio (think Louis B. Mayer). Though 17 years old and already a veteran performer of vaudeville, Judy's every waking and sleeping moment was directed. She was deprived of food to keep her weight down (some accounts indicate she was only allowed a bowl of soup for her daily meal), provided with drugs to both stimulate her to complete 18 hour days and to reverse the synthetic energy to allow her to sleep. Flash forward to the years when she was considered too difficult to deal with, washed-up, struggling to keep her children with her and provide a home for them. In 1968, she opted for a last chance opportunity to make some much needed money by performing in London, where her talent and star-power had not faltered.  Yes, there is a lot of ‘story’ in the years not covered…marriages, divorces, movies (A Star is Born among others), children, extreme highs and dreadful lows.

One of the more entertaining side-bars of this movie is the recollection of a venue gone by—the supper club where formally attired patrons, dined, drank, and delighted in live entertainment. We think this still occurs in Vegas, but not nearly the scale of post-Depression America.

Ms. Zellweger does indeed radiate the older adult Judy, even carrying out the demanding vocals; Darci Shaw’s performance as child Judy, was an admirable and nuanced performance in her own right.

Almost everyone on this planet has seen, more than once, The Wizard of Oz’; so, the ending of this wonderful movie will no doubt take your breath and bring on some tears. Go see this movie and let 'your troubles melt like lemon drops’ at such talents as Ms Garland and Ms Zellweger. And, we might selfishly add, Annie Patterson.

The Movie Elf --'Downton Abbey'



You know, movie friends, we go to movies, to laugh, to cry, to be scared out of our wits, to see good triumph over evil, and perhaps most of all, to escape the world for a while. Well, we are here to tell you that Downton Abbey doesn’t get any ‘escapier’ than that. With all the pomp and circumstance and ‘Up the Down Staircase’ that the British Empire can muster, this movie picked up seamlessly from the series that ended in 2015 to reel (no pun intended) us right back in. If nothing more than the opening, it was magnificent. The scenery, hustle and bustle around Downton, the arrival of the letter informing the Crawleys that ROYALTY would be spending the night and the immediate frenzy, that majestic Downton music building to a crescendo at the the appearance of that iconic building that was/is Downton—my goodness, it was damn near as perfect a start as any show we’ve seen lately. But it WAS so much more than the opening!


After two weeks of really awful movies (Ad Astra and The Goldfinch), today we luxuriated in a really fun and delightful one. It was a reunion of family and friends; a relapse to a time well spent; a delight to the eye, the brain, the sense of humor, the gentility and heartbreak of lords and ladies; the drama and intrigue of the landed gentry and those that served them; and the appreciation of all that is British. Once again, the writing secured our awareness that though the aristocracy and the serving class are worlds apart in ‘status’, they are still human. The ‘haves’ retain that ‘stiff upper lip’ capability while emotions run rampant under the skin; the ‘have nots (who really do have quite a bit) share the same emotions but put them on full display. 



There are so many highlights to this movie…we just want to share a few. First, the storyline and writing were so crisp and tight; the inimitable Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton have maintained their capability to raise biting sarcasm and repartee to an art form; and, gosh darn and golly gee, the costumes were simply breath-taking. Both Movie Mate Terry and YME said we’d snatch the dress that Lady Mary (far left) was wearing at the end right off her AND the return of the cloche was the icing on the cake.

The sole concern YME had was the often hard to discern British accent. Those with hearing issues may do well to opt for a closed caption service to be sure to hear all the delightful barbs that are tossed about.


There seems to be room for yet another as we walk through the twilight of the Empire that was Great Britain, with some trepidation. One can hope. Enjoy this quite lovely movie!!


The Movie Elf --'Ad Astra'



When this movie was over yesterday (9.20.19), YME leaned over to Movie Mate Terry and said, “This review will be short. Only two words.” Her response was, “Don’t bother?” Our response was, “Well, four words. It sucked and don’t bother.”

Seriously, if you have a real need to see Brad Pitt’s face (with no acting involved); enjoy the scenery of outer space exploration; have no real need for a plot and good writing; or just need a quiet place for a nap…this may be your cup of tea.  Otherwise...two words.


In all fairness, the trailer for this movie looked pretty interesting. Brad Pitt is the son of the Mother of All Astronauts, Clifford McBride (played by Tommy Lee Jones). Following in his father’s space steps, he too is a famous astronaut. As the earth is experiencing unexplained and catastrophic power surges (from outer space), Younger Astronaut, Roy McBride, is tapped to be a part of a super secret mission to find the source of these surges. Turns out, the surges appear to be coming from the vicinity of his father’s last mission seeking extra terrestrial life AND his father, long thought to be dead, has surfaced via space tv. Younger McBride is engaged to determine if indeed his father can be contacted and ostensibly brought home. But, things aren’t always as they seem; the plot (and we use that term loosely) thickens and Young McBride becomes a renegade astronaut hell bent on finding Daddy Dearest.  All of this is set, obviously, in a future where space travel is advanced, the moon has been colonized and used as a ‘jumping off point’ for further exploration. 


The underlying theme, as such, is really a look at the toll that the isolation of long space flights, the extreme distances from earth, the demands that being confined with fellow crew members, and the stress of interplanetary exploration takes on the human psyche. Crew physical responses (heart rate, respirations, response to crises) are assessed along with frequent psychological questioning. In other words, are the verbal responses to computerized questioning such as ‘how are you feeling?’ compatible with the physical responses. In other words, if one’s heart rate is 120 beats per minute and the person responds verbally with ‘I am fine’, there’s a problem…or is there. THAT part of the movie is interesting, especially after Young McBride orders a response to an SOS from a Norwegian space craft and runs into some very disturbing scenes of complete psychological deterioration.


Tommy Lee Jones’ role is minimal and could probably have been much more powerful and intense if the Father/Son was explored more. The talented Donald Sutherland is completely wasted in the few minutes he is on screen as is the also talented Liv Tyler.


This movie, in our opinion, had promise…but does not deliver. After checking some of the ratings (only after seeing do we EVER look at them and/or reviews), it seems we are in the minority. Oh well…


The Movie Elf --'The Goldfinch'



Friday the 13th was the most recent outing for YME and Movie Mate, Terry. We selected ‘The Goldfinch’ from a paucity of movies that appealed to us. We had seen the trailers and knew a bit of the story. We also wanted to give it a nod because the 2014 Pulitzer prize winning novel of the same name was written by yet another outstanding writer from Mississippi, Donna Tartt.  The book received critical acclaim across the board and was considered an epic work; not only because of the richness and depth of the story itself, weaving the reality of the 9/11 attacks and a fictional account of a child caught up in the maelstrom of that day but also by the length of the book itself (771 pages or 32+ hours in audio). 

With this tremendous investment in a book of such length, it did surprise us that Ms. Tartt was not (notably) a part of the screenplay. We do not know if she declined to be involved or was not invited to be involved but we feel that perhaps her participation might have been helpful in the continuity of the movie version.


The book is an epic coming-of-age story of young Theo Decker (Ansel Elgort of ‘Baby Driver’ and ‘The Fault in Our Stars’) who at 13 loses his mother, an art connoisseur, during the World Trade Center attacks. They were visiting a local gallery where they saw ‘The Goldfinch’, her favorite when the attack occurred and hell was unleashed. 


Told in retrospective scenes and vignettes of Theo's life as a teenager and a young man, we follow Theo as he finds his way to an art/antiquities dealer and then to a stable foster situation with the family of a schoolmate to life in Las Vegas with a father who wants nothing from Theo but his money to an introduction to drugs via troubled Russian boy (well-played by 'Stranger Things' Finn Wolfhard). Intersperse this turbulence with scenes/vignettes of adult Theo who is now an accomplished art/antiquities dealer many years (and scenes later) after returning to New York following the death of his father, all the while guarding a small package wrapped in newspaper, kept in a backpack. 


OK…if you had trouble following the above paragraph, do not bother going to the movie because that’s how disjointed and hard to wrap your mind around it is. And, when the book is touted as a coming-of-age book, you will no doubt feel like you have also aged considerably during the length (2 hours and 39 minutes) of the movie. And, at pushing 73, Your Movie Elf can ill afford to age any faster. Understanding that much of the length of the novel (both written and spoken) consists of extreme attention to detail which can be managed with articulate scenery (which took pages/hours to describe in the book), the movie still doesn’t resonate with consistency and continuity. 


And, as good as Mr. Elgort was in ‘Baby Driver’, his performance in The Goldfinch was lackluster and one dimensional. The young man who played Theo as a child (Oakes Fegley) gave a much more substantive and nuanced performance. The remaining characters with the exception of Jeffery Wright (Hobie, the antiquity/art dealer) and Nichole Kidman (Theo’s foster mother) gave performances worth watching, though even Ms. Kidman’s was woefully underwritten for the talent she is.


So, not wishing to delay further, it’s not on our list of movies to recommend. And we have a feeling that had we even read or listened to the book, it still wouldn’t be.


The Movie Elf --'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'



Well, never say never. In spite of the fact that an actor YME typically does not like stars in this movie; in spite of the fact that this movie contains flagrant and gratuitous violence; in spite of the fact that hard-core profanity is a major part of the dialogue; and in spite of the fact that this movie initially had absolutely no appeal to us whatsoever....we loved it. Go figure, it’s Quentin Tarantino. For every twist, there is a turn and for every turn, there is a twist. It is both hilarious and chilling, primarily due to the excellent writing and damn fine performances by DiCaprio and Pitt.

Leonardo DiCaprio (the actor we do not particularly like) plays an aging TV actor whose time as a leading man (Rick Dalton) is drawing to an end; Brad Pitt (the actor we DO like) plays the part of his stunt double (Cliff Booth) and for many years has been his loyal companion. These two men are attached to each other like, well, a ball and chain. 

If you are not a child of the 60’s, this movie might not make as much sense to you; don’t let that discourage you, though. Go home and research California in the year 1969. Without offering up too much in the way of spoiler information, the research will prove helpful.

If you ARE a child of the 60’s and remember things like the hippie movement, the psychedelic music, Flower Power, spaghetti westerns, shows like Bounty Hunter, The FBI, and Hogan’s Heroes, and the Playboy Mansion…you’ll quickly get where this movie is going…or so you think.

There is a terrific mix of real people with fictional folks and the casting is superb. Not only do we have two outstanding ‘guys’ who play fictional characters,  we also have a strong supporting cast playing real people of the day such as Bruce Lee (Mike Moh), Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), James Stacy (Timothy Olyphant), and Steve McQueen (Damian Lewis) to name a few. Other surprising names that appear in cameo or brief on-screen time are Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Al Pacino, Luke Perry, Rumer Willis, Brenda Vaccaro, and, hold your hat…Clu Gulager!! And finally, a stunning performance (albeit brief) is turned in by youngster Julia Butters. This little gal is something special. 

And then there is the relationship between DiCaprio who lives in wealth couched in the Hollywood hills and Pitt who lives in a single-wide behind a drive-in movie with his Staffordshire Terrier. We watch as that ball and chain begin to stretch thin as work for DiCaprio’s character slows down and with it, his self-confidence. Pitt, always in the background, remains dependent on DiCaprio for his livelihood. Pitt hides his growing concern with his typical boyish and laconic attitude; DiCaprio sweats bullets as a man desperate to remember lines and stay sober. To YME, his best role ever was as the mentally challenged child in 'Whatever Happened to Gilbert Grape?' Yet, he carries this current role with an engaging and completely believable performance.

The ending of this movie is a surprise to many but there are clues along the way which give the title more meaning than just a way to identify the movie. This is a rich movie and even with all the previously mentioned concerns, a most worthy film.


The Movie Elf --'Blinded by the Light'



In keeping with our penchant of late for rock music related movies, today Movie Mate Terry and YME saw ‘Blinded by the Light’. A coming of age movie based on the true story of a young Pakistani high schooler (Javed) who becomes enchanted by the music of Bruce Springsteen. Set in Margaret Thatcher’s England during a recession, Javed’s passion is writing rather than studying economics as his father wishes. There is a strong anti-Pakistan/NeoNazi component to the movie which compounds Javed’s ‘stranger in a strange land’ angst. Not only is he a writer being pushed to a career in economics but also a dark-skinned foreigner in a sea of white. However, once he is led to Springsteen’s music and lyrics, a world of being understood opens up to him. He shares his poetry with his high school literature teacher who realizes his talent and serves to encourage him to pursue writing further. The rest is history as his confidence and commitment grows...confidence in his writing and his commitment to see Bruce Springsteen in person. He pesters himself into a published piece in the school newspaper where his talent is again realized. The side story is the impact on all children in this household of the cultural differences and the need for teenagers to be independent from their parents.

This is a predictable movie that is fraught with the music of Bruce Springsteen made even more manifest by having the lyrics superimposed as well. If anyone out there remembers the Beatles’ first movie, “A Hard Day’s Night!”, then there is the memory of the frenetic/exaggerated chases, cavorting, and gamboling around whatever country they were in.

Of course, there is the customary parental distress, especially when Javed’s father loses his job and finances are desperate.  As the control over his livelihood dissipates, the control over his family increases ultimately reaching a breaking point.  Javed is the recipient of an award which would take him to America, specifically New Jersey where he could visit the home of his idol. His father forbids it and he goes anyway, banishment from the family be damned.

The culmination of the movie is nothing startling...Javed receives yet another accolade during graduation, looks up to see his parents/siblings in the audience (thanks to a visit by his Literature teacher). All is forgiven and the show is over.

What we DO learn in the credits is that Javed is indeed a real person who has now been to more than 130 Bruce Springsteen concerts and is considered a friend of the Boss. It’s not a well put together movie, has WAY too much Springsteen, and does not particularly resonate. However, YME and MM have seen worse. See at your own pleasure.


The Movie Elf --'The Lion King'



Yesterday, YME and Big Solid (Mr. Movie Elf) saw The Lion King in 3-D. Today, the movie is still with YME. We have some mixed feelings about this movie, so we’ll start with the things we liked and appreciated. As you know, YME cries at the drop of a Kleenex (or a Kroger opening), so it was no small surprise that the tears began at the opening rendition of ‘The Circle of Life’; what a magnificent song and an absolutely stunning presentation.

The CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) is beyond phenomenal. There is no telling how many hours of study went into translating the animals the the screen with such realism, seriously! The  detail that went into gaits and movements, the musculatures, the bearings, and the coats were beyond extraordinary. One would wonder how they got all those REAL animals to ACT! From even the smallest of roles/appearances to the ‘stars’ of the show; from the impressive giraffes, to the always adorable meerkats, to the shadowy hyenas, to the royal family of lions, it truly was like seeing them for real! AND, the anthroportification (is that a word or did we make it up?) had us totally engaged and believing that these creatures could really talk, sing, dance, and cavort together like one big family. The facial expressions of emotion, the speaking, the cleverness of the script, and the marvelously done voice-overs all contributed to making this such a real experience of the world of these animals and the overall story. In addition, equal care was taken to replicate the environment…the waterfalls, deserts, lush jungles, vast plains, sunsets and rises…my goodness, though we’ve never been to Africa, we most certainly felt as if we had.

The story does not differ markedly from the original; good versus evil, survival of the fittest, betrayal and redemption, and the importance of family remain the key components of the story. The music that we have come to know since the first Lion King movie and ensuing theatrical presentations is terrific, as always. The characters of Mufasa (the always perfect James Earl Jones), Adult Simba (Donald Glover), Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Zazu (John Oliver), Sarabi (Alfre Woodard), Pumbaa (Seth Rogan), Timon (Billy Eichner) and Adult Nala (Beyoncé)—all these voices and many more completed the anthroportification we spoke of earlier. The timing of the delivery of the script was quite well done as was the cleverness of the script, for the most part.

What we had second thoughts about had more to do with the nostalgia of the ‘old’ cartoon movies that really did take us away from reality. We KNEW these people/creatures were not real, they were drawings that were made into a movie. And sometimes, we long for those days. We also thought the violence among the animals at the end was really hard to watch and not for small kids (or adult kids). Realizing that the animal kingdom is not all sweetness, understanding, and following the Golden Rule, it’s still hard to watch sometimes. And finally, to us, the movie was a bit on the long side.

Overall, it was a splendid movie and most certainly view worthy. With the rate of species decline in the animal kingdom, we may well look at this film in the future and have our grandchildren ask, “Is that what a lion (substitute zebra, giraffe, cheetah…) looked like?”


The Movie Elf --'Faces, Places'


Since there has been such a dearth, paucity, and downright cinematic drought of substantive movies over the summer, we have no choice to look beyond the current offerings in theatres and see what Amazon and Netflix have to offer. Well, boy howdy, do we have a DANDY for you. ‘Faces, Places’ is one of the most creative endeavors YME (Your Movie Elf) has ever watched. When an aged (83) and famous French movie director, Agnés Varda, meets a young (33) innovative muralist/photographer, JR, an idea is sparked, a movie evolves, and a friendship forged.

This is a documentary, so understand that from the get-go BUT it has as much passion, drama, poignance, humor, and whimsy as any movie out there. Traveling to various communities, villages, and businesses throughout France, these two artists take pictures that are literally transformative.  And the pictures are not your ordinary photo booth fare...they are enormous and wind up as murals that impact in a  most dramatic, endearing, and powerful way.

Just a heads up, the movie is in French with English sub-titles; even if sub-titles give you pause, they really do not detract from the movie at all.

The photographic session about the miners affected YME very strongly, though it was hard to single out one that was more potent than another. Perhaps it was because this was the first of many murals developed. Truth be told, there are none that are in the least unimaginative or boring.

This is a documentary, so understand that from the get-go BUT it has as much passion, drama, poignance, humor, and whimsy as any movie out there. Traveling to various communities, villages, and businesses throughout France, these two artists take pictures that are literally transformative.  And the pictures are not your ordinary photo booth fare...they are enormous and wind up as murals that impact in a  most dramatic, endearing, and powerful way.

Released in 2017, 'Faces, Places'  was name one of Time Magazine's top ten movies (2017) and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary. It is available for purchase or rental on Amazon Prime or Vudu. We wound up buying it because it’s a treasure of a movie.