“Wonder Wheel” – Movie Review

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Took my Mom with me to the Amazon screening of “Wonder Wheel” on Wednesday night at the Santikos Bijou Theater.  It was an unusual screening experience in that there were very few people in attendance and neither any official reviewing press nor any studio representative(s) were present.  The movie itself was a bit of a disappointment.  

The wonder wheel is the Ferris wheel at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York. “Wonder Wheel” the movie is set in 1950s Coney Island and is about a dysfunctional (to say the least) family that lives above the amusement park.  It is obvious that director, Woody Allen, intentionally used the imagery of the Wonder Wheel because the story goes completely full circle and leaves you wondering.  Not much changes in the lives of the characters from the beginning to the end.

If you are from Brooklyn or have roots from there you may want to see the movie for the nostalgic memories that either you, your parents, and/or your grandparents shared from the early 50s. It should be noted that what the movie lacks in storyline, it makes up for with the brilliant performances of the actors, who are in roles like you’ve never seen them before. Kate Winslet is superb in her role as a frustrated Brooklyn housewife.  If you didn’t know it, you would really believe she is from Brooklyn. Jim Belushi gives an intense demonstration of his acting skills as a man struggling with alcholism. Justin Timberlake also rocks the Brooklyn accent.  JT also looks cute in the one-piece lifeguard suit!

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My mom, a Brooklyn native, was impressed by the authenticity of the music, costumes, props, locales, cars and the all-around atmosphere of the Coney Island boardwalk and amusement park. We both agreed that the movie didn’t necessarily leave the audience hanging, it was just a metaphor for life.  The lesson being relayed is that life is like a Ferris wheel ride; it continuously turns and if we don’t get off, we wind up right back at the beginning.

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As we exited the theater, one of the patrons yelled out loudly, “I’m upset there is no studio rep here is because I can’t tell them that that movie sucked.”   I wouldn’t go that far as to say it “sucked,” but I would recommend waiting until it’s out on video. Perhaps Amazon isn’t quite ready for the big screen? – BMT

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Movie Review – “Wonder” is Extraordinary!

13903354_547373992118160_5134283992449717803_nI screened the movie “Wonder,” among a full house of adults and children, at the Regal Cielo Vista Cinema on Wednesday night. Since I did not read the book by R. J. Palacios, I didn’t go in with any expectations. I did hear that it was going to be a tear-jerker but admittedly, forgot to bring tissues. So, if you don’t get anything else out of this review, trust me, bring tissues. The screenplay, written by director, Stephen Chbosky, along with Steven Conrad and Jack Thorne, intertwines funny and heart-wrenching moments throughout the entire 1 hour and 53 minute runtime.   18582065_677791469076411_6673081395783239762_n

Rated PG, Wonder is the story of a ten-year old boy named, August (“Auggie”) Pullman born with a rare genetic disorder  called mandibulofacial dysostosis also known as Treacher Collins Syndrome (TCS.) Jacob Tremblay, gives a great performance as Auggie, who despite his distorted face, is a normal, loveable kid. The story is told by multiple viewpoints, opening with Auggie’s point of view. Auggie feels that he is not an ordinary kid.  But after watching this movie, you will come to the conclusion that he is correct, he’s not ordinary; he’s extraordinary! Jacob Tremblay is adorable!

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Julia Roberts plays his mom, who is torn between being over-protective and allowing Auggie to learn how to function in the real world. Her performance is flawless. Owen Wilson plays his dad, who also worries about Auggie, but he’s more of the “fun” parent – he too is perfectly cast. Izabela Vidovic plays Auggie’s teen-aged sister, Via. She’s had to live in her brother’s shadow because he’s had 27 surgeries in his short life.  Izabela does an impeccable job portraying the overlooked child, who has more responsibilities placed on her because her parents are busy tending to her “sick” brother.  She says that August is the sun and she, her mom and dad, are the planets that revolve around him. Being raised in a Greek/Italian household and the oldest of two brothers, I can sincerely relate.  Sons generally tend to be the “chosen ones” of families.  Though she understands why Auggie needs her parents’ attention, Via can’t help but feel neglected. 22552575_741072239415000_7206454157344952997_n

Auggie has been home-schooled, but his mother wants him to go to regular school and thinks this is a good time since all the kids will be new to the middle school.  Auggie is scared.  His sister whispers in his ear, to be himself, not to fit in when “you were born to stand out.” A Dr. Seuss quote. As he expected, he is met with ridicule and extreme bullying. But he carries his mother’s advice with him, “If you don’t like where you are, just picture yourself where you want to be;” and “. . . be the bigger person.”  The other child actors in this film, Millie Davis, Noah Jupe, Bryce Gheisar, Elle McKinnon, and Danielle Rose Russell are also fantastic – you’ll have flash-backs from middle school – or junior high if you’re from my generation!

There are so many important life lessons to be learned from this movie by adults and children alike, lessons about friendship, love, compassion, acceptance, courage, and why society should adopt a universal, zero tolerance for bullying. The principal, Mr. Tushman, played by Mandy Patinkin, makes a profound statement to the parents of one of the bullies. I think it sums up the theme perfectly.  He said, “if we can’t change the way we look, maybe we can change the way we see.”

As we were leaving the theater, a parent asked her child which was better6548645, the movie or the book.  The kid’s reply was, “I liked the movie better because I didn’t have to read it!  Then she said, “plus, the movie was a lot more touching than the book.”  It was very touching. I highly recommend this movie as a perfect family outing during Thanksgiving break. Please let me know what you think of my review and come back and tell me what you thought of the movie. I’d love to hear from you. Thanks – BMT

(Images obtained from https://www.facebook.com/WonderTheMovie/ and http://rjpalacio.com/book.html)

“Some Say Freedom is Free, but I Tend to Disagree. . .” “Thank You for Your Service” – Movie Review

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“Thank You for Your Service” is a rated R movie adaptation of David Finkel’s best seller by the same name.  The movie is produced by Jon Kilik, best known for “The Hunger Games” movies.  Executive producers are Ann Ruark and Jane Evans. This is director and screenplay writer, Jason Hall’s first entry into the directorial arena and I don’t think it will go unnoticed by the Academy. (The 90th Annual Academy Awards will be on March 5, 2018.)  Hall also wrote the screenplay for “American Sniper.”  Last week on the “Harry” show. Harry Connick, Jr. asked why he wanted to make this movie.  Hall said that he wants people to understand the sacrifices our soldiers make.  He gets two thumbs up for that!

Based on true events , “Thank You for Your Service” is an eye-opening story about the unbelievable lack of a program for transitioning from soldier to civilian and the tragically deficient health care system in place for our combat veterans, especially when it comes to mental health.  The title can be construed as being sarcastic in that when veterans come home the military basically sends them home to navigate their way back into society with a “see ya later, thanks” attitude.

The movie follows the story of five soldiers that served an 11-month tour of duty  at Camp Rustamiyah in Iraq in 2007.

Staff Sgt. Adam Schumann

As the lead character, Miles Teller gives an astounding performance as Staff Sgt. Adam Schumann.  He comes home to his wife, Saskia, played by Haley Bennett, and their two children, one an infant son, from whom he is a bit detached, since he is meeting him for the first time – another subtle revelation of the sacrifices made by soldiers and their families.  Schumann returns not only with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD,) but feeling guilty for the death of his Sgt. First Class (SFC) and his friend’s handicapped state, even though he was given high honors for his actions during those same events.  Teller does a great job portraying the kind of friend you would want to have your back at home as well as on the battlefield.  There is no doubt this is the kind of man Schumann is.

Will Waller

Joe Cole plays Will, who the guys nicknamed “Chip,” probably because of the chip he appears to have on his shoulder. He is excited to get home to his fiance, but comes home to an empty house, the utilities cut off, no note, and his calls to her keep going straight to voicemail.  Despite the offer of support from his “brothers,” his depression gets the best of him adding to the guilty feelings of Schumann.

Specialist Sol Aieti

Beulah Koale gives an emotional performance as Specialist Sol Aieti, an American Samoan, who became an American citizen after enlisting.  He comes home to a pregnant fiance, Alea, played by Keisha Castle-Hughes.  He has brain damage caused by a head injury he got on the mission that lost SFC Doster.  He has PTSD and constant hallucinations of Doster (I’d call them “daymares” – if there was such a word.) He also displays the symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE,) but the army won’t help him because they don’t seem to have a record of his being on that mission! As if that should matter – they knew he was stationed there! Though he’s virtually “thrown to the dogs” (pun intended) by the army, he is a loyal soldier that keeps saying, “the army saved my life.”  He is completely lost now and just wants to return to the battlefield.  It seems the soldiers don’t know how to define themselves other than being soldiers. I guess it’s a phenomenon similar to “Stockholm Syndrome;” they want to go back to a routine where even though they were in constant danger, their purpose was well-defined.

SFC James Doster

Amy Schumer gives an uncharacteristically serious and convincing performance as the grieving widow of SFC James Doster, played by Brad Beyer.  As I mentioned, Adam, Sol, and Will are all struggling with PTSD and are particularly plagued by memories of the death of SFC Doster and the events leading up to it. When they de-board the plane, she immediately rushes to them to ask if they were with her husband when he died, but they avoid communicating with her because they are burdened by the guilt that he is gone and they survived. This is a problem that most of us civilians, including military spouses do not understand.  These vets have seen so much death and evil that we cannot imagine and they harbor survivor’s guilt.  It’s a heavy load that they keep bottled-up inside and it causes many to commit suicide or turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. 

Michael Emory

Scott Haze plays Michael Emory, a soldier that was shot in the head during an ambush. Emory is severely handicapped and Schumann blames himself for dropping him while going down a flight of stairs trying to get him medical assistance. Though he probably has his own nightmares, his role is that of the optimist who is just grateful to be alive.

The guys realize that it is important for them to talk about what they are feeling. They seek help from their local base, but  are put on year-long waiting lists, so they turn to the VA for assistance where they are shamed by their superiors who don’t want them to “send the wrong message” to the young people newly enlisting.  So they try to battle their mental demons on their own.

Saskia, through Bennett’s performance, paints the picture of the supportive yet unaware spouse. She continually tries to  get him to open-up, but he can’t talk about it. She accompanies him to an appointment at the VA. A few points that stuck in my mind were when the VA Rep. told her, “there is no cure for trauma.” It is sad that the VA realizes that hundreds of thousands of veterans come back suffering from mental trauma, yet there are not enough resources to take care of those that come asking for help and if they don’t come asking for help, no one is checking on them.  (When we hear that the government is making “military cuts,” realize this is one of the areas that is “cut.”) It is tragic that nothing will cure them, but if they can get immediate and proper treatment, they can learn to cope. Additionally, in this scene we learn that Schumann has been bestowed many honors. As they are leaving his wife asks why he didn’t tell her that she was married to a hero. He doesn’t see himself that way, he’s so depressed and down on himself. Coincidentally, as I was writing this, on the TV in the background, I heard Dr. Phil being interviewed. They were talking about the heroism displayed by so many in the recent Vegas tragedy. Dr. Phil said, “I don’t think crises make heroes.  I think crises reveal who you were before it happened.” Probably 99% of our soldiers do not see themselves as heroes; they feel that they are just doing their job and being who they expect themselves to be. I guess you could substitute “war” for “crises” in Dr. Phil’s sentence and draw the conclusion that combat soldiers are born heroes.

The last image of the movie is the same image shown in the beginning – a vast array of dog tags slowly twirling and glistening like golden pendants. I think this is director Hall’s artistic way of driving home an important point – our men and women in the armed forces are our nation’s most precious jewels and we should admire, honor, and value them as such.

I found this movie to be deeply emotional and was infuriated to learn that not enough help is provided to our post 9/11 soldiers when they get home. While they are active duty, they “belong” to the government, but once they become civilians they are basically on their own. Every adult American, especially the family and friends of combat soldiers should see this movie.  There are so many movies that show the losses and victories of combat, but very few movies show the silent battles veterans face when they return to “the land of the free.”  Many look at our armed forces as video game characters and make thoughtless comments or ask shallow questions.  A cab driver in this movie asked, “did you kick their *sses?” Meanwhile, the soldier is trying to take in the sights and scents of freedom; the clean, fresh air that we civilians take for granted.  When they come home all in one piece, we have no idea what they’ve seen and had to endure.

Several years ago (probably around 2007) I had a friend in his mid-20s who just got home from Iraq and was working part-time. He had trouble sleeping and often called me late at night. He told me that he slept with a machete under his bed.  It was hard for me to comprehend why, when he was now home and safe.  He really couldn’t explain it to me, except to say that he was “messed-up.” Mental wounds are just as bad, if not worse than physical ones, but if you are not a mental health expert, they are impossible for the average person to understand. Mental illness can make it difficult to focus and thus render a person unable to work or handle everyday activities. This often gets misconstrued by family and friends as laziness. I know this from my own personal experience, but that is another story for another time.

I mentioned at the beginning that the movie title can be taken as sneering, however it can also be taken literally as reminding us that the first thing we should say, when we see our men and women in uniform, is – “Thank you for your service,” but it should be followed-up with a thoughtful question. Ask how they are feeling, what was it like, if they need any assistance, do they have a place to stay, and what it feels like to be home. Maybe they don’t have a home to go to and maybe we can help. They’ve bravely served us, now that they are back from combat, we need to think about how we can be of service to them.

As the credits roll, the somber singing by Bruce Springsteen of the traditional army chant known as the “Freedom Cadence,” really gets to the point  of the movie – “Some say freedom is free, but I tend to disagree, I say freedom is won by the barrell of a gun.” I think we need to remember that and stand tall and be reverent the next time the “National Anthem” is played.

If you are or know a soldier who is suffering from PTSD, CTE, depression, anxiety, anger, and/or other post-deployment or combat related mental health issues, please seek help.  Contact one of the below listed facilities.  As I close, let me say that I, personally, thank you for your bravery and service. – BMT

The Pathway Home, Inc., 100 California Drive, Madison Building, 2nd Fl. Yountville, CA 94599 – Telephone Number: (707) 948-3031 or email info@thepathwayhome.org – (This was a facility featured in the movie.)

or Cumberland River Behavioral Health at 1-(800) 273-8255

or one of the providers listed in this link: https://www.thankyouforyourservicemovie.com/veterans#MentalHealth

“Victoria & Abdul” – A Royal Friendship Swept Under the (Persian) Carpet

It is difficult to express how much this movie exceeded my expectations.  Of course from the previews and the photo ads I knew it was going to be a historical tale of two friends, maybe even two lovers.  I was expecting the royal charm that it did, in fact deliver, but I had no idea that it would be so funny.  “Victoria & Abdul,” a Focus Features film, is as much a charmingly fun movie as it is a bit of a heart-wrenching one.

Historically, and to her subjects, Queen Victoria has been made out to be somewhat of a callous, uncaring ruler, but in “Victoria & Abdul,” we see her in a totally different light.  No better actress could have been chosen to play the Queen than, Dame Judi Dench.  To say she is stupendous in this role would be an understatement. Danny Cohen, the cinematographer, should be commended for the beautiful scenery which at times, especially during the harbor scenes, felt as if postcards were coming to life.

Ali Fazal plays Abdul Karim, who was sent from India in 1887 to present Queen Victoria with a special coin called a Mohur, which was minted in honor of her “Golden Jubilee” (a celebration commemorating her 50th anniversary as Queen.) He’s given specific instructions not to make eye contact with her, as is the rule for all non-royals. Somehow, he manages to catch her eye, she finds this amusing and their friendship ensues. Queen Victoria is so intrigued and becomes so obsessed with Abdul that the royal household thinks she’s lost her mind. Director, Stephen Frears, uses the artistry of close-ups to give the audience and intimate view of the Queen’s feelings and true personality.  I personally thought the movie portrayed Queen Victoria as someone who, despite her position of power, was also humble and tolerant of racial differences way ahead of her time.

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Abdul teaches Queen Victoria how to write in Arabic

Queen Victoria was the Empress of India, but had never been there because her court feared she would be assasinated.  When Abdul comes to the palace, she is fascinated by his knowledge of history, culture, language, and the Muslim religion and she wants to learn about all of it. She quickly promotes him from servant to teacher; she even gives him his own servant.  To the disappointment of her son, future King Edward VII (“Bertie,”) played by Eddie Izzard, who is a dead ringer for the real the Edward VII, the Queen continually uses her power to bestow royal titles upon Abdul, sometimes even referring to him as “son.”  

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Actual photo of Queen Victoria working with Abdul ready to assist. 

When the Queen passed away and Edward VII became King, he did everything in his power to sweep Victoria and Abdul’s relationship “under the rug,” but nearly 100 years later, a journalist named Shrabani Basu discovered the story and wrote the book on which the movie is based.  I think you’ll find “Victoria & Abdul” amusing and a “feel good” movie to watch with the family.  Note, it’s rated PG-13.

Are you planning to see it? Check back and let me know what you think by posting your comments. – BMT

 

TBT – Movie Review – “Bad Moms” – Now on DVD

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You may have missed it on the big screen, or know someone that did.  “Bad Moms” is now on DVD and a perfect gift for anyone who needs a good laugh; and who doesn’t?   Here’s my previously posted review.

Movie Review – “Bad Moms,” So Good, It’s BAD!

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If you want to buy it, right now Target has it for $16.99. You can also find it at Redbox and on Netflix.  A great movie to watch no matter what medium you choose. – BMT

Movie Review – “Kevin Hart: What Now” #HittingTheatersThisFriday

Kevin Hart, Ride Along Red Carpet Premiere, Sydney Australia

Image from wikimedia.org

I laughed so hard, I thought I was going to have a stroke!  True story – “Kevin Hart: What Now” is hilarious.  I really did feel as if I was going to bust blood vessels from laughing!

I purposely left a set in between me and the first group of people in my row (I would have given the seat up if someone needed it, but it never came to that) because I was worried that the people sitting next to me were going to get mad at me. “Reason why is” I can’t watch Kevin Hart and not crack-up and when I crack-up, it’s LOUD! However, there were two seats on the other side of me.  Two nice young women asked if they were open, so of course I said, “yes.” I struck up a conversation with them about how much I loved Kevin Hart.  Luckily, one of them (the one sitting closest to me) saw him live and was a big fan.  As soon as the movie began, I was so happy she sat next to me because Kevin did what he does best – – make us laugh!

Kevin was firing off one funny “true story” after another; each one funnier than the last and the two of us were screaming with laughter from the very first joke!  It was as if she was my “sista from another mista” because she laughed just as loud as I did, she held her stomach and moaned from the laughter pains, just like me!  She even sat up trying to get air, just like me!  The movie was so funny that so many times I laughed so hard that no sound came out, because I was losing oxygen (she did the same thing!) We weren’t just laughing, we were losing our minds and it was the best feeling ever!!  I can truthfully say, I never laughed so hard and so much at a movie, in my life and having a “laughing partner” felt so liberating!  Of course, the rest of the theater was laughing too, so there was no way they could get mad at me.  Honestly, you’d have to have been in a coma not to laugh.

“What Now” is somewhat of a documentary movie.  It is Kevin’s stand-up comedy routine, which he performed in front of a record-breaking, sold-out crowd of 50,000 at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on August 30, 2015. It was the first time in history that a comedian sold out a football stadium.  Kevin wants to make history again by breaking box-office records for this opening weekend by showing the film around the world.  If you follow @kevinhart4real, he’s asking everyone to help him make history this weekend. He’s using the hash tag – #ComedicRockStarShit for all posts related to “What Now.”

The movie can also fit into the action, drama, and comedy, movie genres.  It opens with a James Bond-like title sequence.  At first, you will think it’s an action comedy.  For the first ten minutes or so, it’s a comedic parody of a Bond movie, featuring Halle Berry as herself but as Kevin’s “Bond-girl.”  Kevin is agent 0054! This movie within the movie satirizes all of the cliché things that happen in spy movies.  For example, there’s a room labeled, something like “convenient changing room with clothes that fit Kevin Hart!”  There is even a bloody shootout scene, which is rather gross and actually made me and my “sista” cover our eyes.  Therefore, besides for the language, the bloody scene also makes this an adult only movie.

When the “mission” is accomplished, Halle and Kevin make it to the venue, where Kevin shoots up an elevator shaft onto the stage, and the concert begins.  It was so awesome  to see the aerial shots of the sold-out stadium!  Kevin teared-up when he took his final bows.  You can tell how grateful he is to have been able to go back to his hometown and sell out the stadium. It was as if that moment was when he realized he made it as a star!  It’s inspiring to see someone who has worked hard, realize his dream.  I also have a lot of respect for big stars who are not afraid to be humble.  My favorite part, which made me love Kevin even more, was just before he left the stage and thanked the crowd.  He told the audience to “look around,”  he said, “I see every race, ethnicity, and nationality possible.  I see some of everybody. We all came under the same roof and we laughed tonight.  If you can laugh together, you can live together; if you can live together, you can love together.  I live by those rules and I’ll be damned if I didn’t see that s**t here tonight. . . in my city I made history. . .and this has been the best night of my f**’n life. ..” You can actually find video of this moment posted by a fan on YouTube.  I didn’t post the link here because I try to keep my content PG-13.

When the Universal Pictures studio representative asked what I thought of the movie, I told him that I thought I was going to have a stroke and that I was so lucky the girl next to me laughed as loud as I did.  He replied, “everyone was laughing.”  They were; the room was roaring with laughter for the entire run of the film!  The stand-up routine is full of so many funny and animated stories about Kevin’s kids, his “lady,” his dad, and his friends, all prefaced with “true story.”  Kevin says he doesn’t lie, “unless the truth is not believable!” I don’t want to give away and jokes or punch lines, you have to see this movie for yourself.  Please remember it’s rated –R; it’s not for kids and if you get offended by foul language, then it’s not for you.  If you are a Kevin Hart fan, the answer to the question, “What Now?” is go buy your tickets!  “Kevin Hart: What Now” opens Friday! Don’t miss it! – BMT

P.S.  Don’t get up when the credits start rolling, there’s more movie! As always, please let me know what you think. – Beth

“The Girl on the Train” – Movie Review

the_girl_on_the_train_logoIntense! There is really no other word to perfectly describe “The Girl on the Train!” Walking out of the theater I heard a few other comments, such as, “you women are crazy” and “that was crazy,” but my immediate reaction when the studio representative asked, “what did you think?” was – “intense.”

“The Girl on the Train,” directed by Tate Taylor is the theatrical adaptation of the book by the same name written by Paula Hawkins. It is a psychological thriller with a lot of twists and turns. I’m not big on “thriller” movies but I am always intrigued by psychological thrillers that have a good story line. This is one of those movies that captivates you from the first scene.

Someone said the movie was a “train wreck” and it was the worst movie they’d seen in a long time. I disagree; although I do like the use of the expression “train wreck” because in my opinion, the movie is about relationship train wrecks. The movie focuses on one main character Rachel Watson, who is the center of this relationship “Ven diagram.” As expected, Emily Blunt’s performance as Rachel is superb. As the story unfolds you see that every character is related by “six degrees of separation” to Rachel.  I recently read a review and the author said that it was difficult to follow along. I wouldn’t say it was difficult; you just have to pay attention. Isn’t that why we go to movies? – to engross ourselves into the story-line?  I thought the suspenseful plot twists made the movie interesting.

It is difficult to review movies without spoiling it for future viewers, and I can’t stand reviews that actually tell the entire story. So, I won’t do that to you.  I’ll just touch on what you already may have gleaned from the trailer. Rachel is an artist with a vivid imagination, which is fueled by alcohol. She rides the train into the city every day and fantasizes about Megan and Scott Hipwell, a couple that lives in a house she passes daily.  Luke Evans, plays Scott; he’s ruggedly sexy (on and off-screen).  We feel sorry for him and fear him at the same time. Luke was on Harry Connick, Jr.’s talk show – #Harry – this week. I didn’t know that he is also a singer! I mean he’s already a hot actor, but once you hear him sing, you’ll be, as Harry put it, “smitten.” Watch the clip here:

Haley Bennett plays Scott’s wife, Megan, another complex character. Edgar Ramirez, plays her psychiatrist, Dr. Kamal Abdic. Rebecca Ferguson is Anna, Rachel’s ex-husband, Tom’s (Justin Theroux) new wife. Rachel’s daily train ride represents her inability to move forward; she sits rear-facing – looking back. Rachel appears to be a typical “crazy-ex” who is fixated on the past and stalks her ex-husband.

Laura Prepon of “That 70s Show” fame, plays Rachel’s friend, Cathy, who took Rachel in when she had nowhere else to go. Allison Janney is the detective investigating the murder case. She is perfectly cast as she seems to always play the role of an arrogant woman of power, who always gets to the bottom of things and doesn’t care who she takes down in the process. Lisa Kudrow plays Martha, Scott’s ex-boss’s wife.  Though she is not a main character, her role in the movie is crucial to the plot line. Rachel runs into her on the train and suddenly learns unnerving information about her ex-husband.

It is all seems so far-fetched, yet, so real due to the awesome cinematography by Charlotte Bruss Christensen and the artistry of director, Tate Taylor. The story is basically told through the use of flashbacks. We feel Rachel’s confusion and fragile mental state through her eyes and the reflections in the train windows. In one scene her reflection is superimposed with the reflections of the trees as the train passes them. You feel the speed of the train and Rachel’s internal conflict. As in Alfred Hitchock’s classic movie, “Strangers on a Train,” the train ride is used as a means to create suspense and the place where the main character impulsively makes her next move.  Though “Strangers on a Train” is about a criss-cross murder plot; “The Girl on the Train” involves an unplanned murder alliance. That’s all I’m going to say.

I highly recommend you see this movie. Did you see it this weekend?  What did you think?  I’d like to know, so please post your comments below. – BMT

“Deepwater Horizon” – Movie Review

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Photo of movie screen taken by me before the movie.

“Deepwater Horizon” #deepwaterhorizonmovie dramatically tells the story of the Deepwater Horizon (#deepwaterhorizon) oil spill and explosion that occurred on April 20, 2010 about 41 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Unfortunately, the technical cause of the oil well explosion is way over my head, so rather than bore you with the details and technicalities of the actual event, if you want a full background, I would direct you to the Wikipedia page – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill.

I am embarrassed to say that I barely remember hearing about this event. That may just be my ignorance or the fact that 2010 marked the beginning of some serious health issues for me. Perhaps I just wasn’t “tuned-in” to current events or maybe it didn’t get the news coverage it deserved due to the political nature of all things oil related??  I don’t know, but this story of the worst oil spill in U.S. History needs to be told and director, Peter Berg, and screenplay writers Matthew Michael Carnahan and Matthew Sand do a great job telling it.

The cinematography is incredible. I thought it was especially effective that the movie began with the audio of a hearing asking Transocean employee, Mike Williams, to recount the events. As he gets to the point of the explosion, it goes quiet, we can feel Mike’s hesitation as he goes back to the dark place in his memory where he really doesn’t want to go, and the opening credits begin. Of course there are many scenes with injuries, blood, fire, and explosions that add the necessary “shock value,” but this movie is more than that. This movie takes a very personal approach. The camera focuses on their individual faces. We see that the workers are ordinary people, we learn a little about their personal lives and the loved ones that they leave behind every time they go out to sea.  We see that most of them have a good rapport with each other. They kid around and seem to work well together.  The movie gives more focus to the fact that the crew of 126 that was on board the Deepwater Horizon was just performing their daily routine when suddenly they became faced with an extraordinarily catastrophic chain of events. In a matter of hours, these average oil workers became superheroes, risking their lives to save the lives of their co-workers.

The acting is phenomenal.  Mark Wahlberg plays Mike Williams, one of the heroes, who seemed to have a premonition that something would go wrong as he kissed his wife goodbye at the heliport just before he took-off to work, offshore, on the Deepwater Horizon for what was supposed to be 21 days.  Kurt Russell plays “Mr. Jimmy” Harrell, essentially the captain of the rig. Mike and Mr. Jimmy work for Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon. John Makovich plays Donald Vidrine, one of the BP Oil Company representatives that smugly made some fatally disastrous decisions. You hate him (and BP) right away and you can sense that the crew doesn’t like him either. The Transocean crew seems resentful of the way BP, who (they make a point of stressing) is just “leasing” the rig, was exerting its control over the rig operations about which they knew very little. Those decisions were cost-driven and gave no priority to safety and the “human factor.”  Bottom line, it is evident that monetary greed is what caused this disaster.

I was especially moved by a particular scene – when the injured survivors are on board the rescue ship, after role is called, they all kneel down and recite the Lord’s Prayer.  It is rare, (especially in movies) but awesome when it happens, to see victims immediately giving thanks and praise to God, instead of asking “why?”. It was also very somber at the end of the movie to see the photos of the eleven crew members that died.

I think this movie is excellent. Another “must see”.  I highly recommend you buy your tickets early.  I saw this on the day of its third or fourth screening and people were turned-away because the theater was full.  Please go see Deepwater Horizon and let me know what you think. – BMT

P.S. Country Music Fans, there’s a cameo but well-done performance by Trace Adkins, who plays the father of one of the deceased crew members.

Checkmate for “Queen of Katwe” – Movie Review

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Photo taken by me of the screen before the movie.

“Queen of Katwe” #QueenofKatwe is a Disney movie, based on a book of the same name written by Tim Crothers, based on the true story of a young Ugandan girl from the small village of Katwe, who becomes an international chess “Queen”. The screenplay was written by William Wheeler. The executive producers of the film are Will Weiske and Troy Buderand and the producers are Lydia Dean Pilcher and John Carls.  It is a real life “rags to riches” story worthy of the Disney name.

I had the opportunity to attend a special advanced screening followed by a live Q&A session (via twitter – #askqueenofkatwe) with the director and the movie cast.  It was even attended by the real main character, Phiona Mutesi.

Phiona’s family sells corn on the streets of a war-torn and impoverished village in Katwe, Uganda. The homes are basically run-down huts without roofs and four walls. The children cannot afford to go to school; they barely have food to eat. She meets coach Robert Katende, played by David Oyelowo. He is a well-educated man who left the corporate world and decided to become a missionary in Uganda. He sets up a make-shift game room, which becomes a safe haven for the local children to get a hot meal and learn to play chess. Phiona’s mother, Harriet, played by Lupita Nyong’o, is at first reluctant to allow Phiona and her brother to attend this chess group.  She doesn’t understand the game and based on rumors, thinks Katende is teaching them some type of voodoo.  Coach Katende realizes very quickly that Phiona has a natural talent for the game and that she could win tournaments and earn scholarships to get an education. He pleads with Harriet to allow Phiona to pursue this opportunity. Phiona goes on to become an international chess champion.

Having the advantage of watching the live Q&A session, I learned that the movie was filmed on location, in Katwe, Uganda, many of the players are local villagers. Phiona is played by a native Ugandan girl, Madina Nalwanga, the director, Mira Nair, spent much of her life living in Uganda, and the real characters were on-set to offer their true accounts.  This ensured the authenticity of the movie. I was a bit shocked when Phiona revealed that watching this movie was her very first time to ever see a movie on the big screen! It also made me happy to know that she had come so far.

I thought the movie was fantastic.  The director uses many close-up shots to focus on the character’s faces, allowing the audience to see into the character’s souls and make a connection with them. These are strong, proud, and faithful people despite their hardships. “Queen of Katwe” sends the message that education does not make people smart or intelligent.  Education allows brilliant people to sharpen their minds. There are some interesting scenes in the movie that show that there is even prejudice among Africans against their own people.  The affluent, educated students that participate in the chess tournaments, as well as the tournament sponsors, turn-up their noses at the kids from Katwe. Eventually, when they show their chess skills, the Katwe kids earn the respect of their opponents.

This is a must see movie.  There are so many lessons learned within this film.  We see how much Harriet loves her family by the sacrifices she makes to allow Phiona to play chess and go to school. We also see how much the children love and respect their mother. One night, they give up their dinner portions to allow the mother to eat. We learn that if we work hard, stand tall, and believe in ourselves, our dreams can become reality.

I see Oscars in the future for the stars and the movie itself.  I also see this movie being shown in schools once it becomes available. “Queen of Katwe” is rated PG and opens Friday, September 30, 2016, get your tickets now.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Please post your comments to let me know what you think about the movie.  – BMT

 

Rest in Peace Gene Wilder

Together again, in Heaven.  Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner.

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Gene Wilder and Gilda Radner in 1986 – photo from Wikipedia.org

Gene Wilder. Born Jerome Silberman on June 11, 1933 died today – August 29, 2016 from complications due to Alzheimer’s Disease. He was 83 years old.

I probably realized it when I watched the film a few years ago, but it was interesting for me to read today at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Wilder that his first movie role was in 1967, as a hostage in “Bonnie and Clyde.” There are so many awesome roles he played but one of my favorites was “Stir Crazy” with Richard Pryor and of course, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.”  May he rest in peace. – BMT

What’s your favorite Gene Wilder movie? Please comment below.