Storm Boy Movie Review

“Storm Boy” is a new movie based on a 1963 book concerning a boy growing up in a wild section of Western Australia. There was a prior movie also created, so this is a reboot of that prior version. It is a coming-of-age story of a young boy who helps raise some orphaned pelicans back in the 1950’s.  The shots of the ocean and the beach and the surrounding wildlife make up a large part of the allure of this movie. Also, the boy meets and befriends an older aboriginal native who is wise in the ways of nature and in the ways of the human heart. The story line moves from the present time back to flashbacks in the 50’s, where the majority of the plot unfolds.

In present day Adelaide (Australia), there is an older man named Michael Kingley (Geoffrey Rush) who is there to vote on a business deal. The deal is for his son (Erik Thomson), who has taken over Michael’s business now that he is retired. But the local folks do not what this deal to go thru, including Michaels’ grand-daughter Maddy (Morgana Davies). The sale of land to a mining company would ruin the land, they all say. The vote gets delayed, and Michael begins to tell Maddy of his childhood – which was near Coorong National Park. That is a home to a large pelican nesting ground.

The young Michael (Finn Little) lived a simple life with his fisherman father, called ‘Hideaway’ Tom (Jai Courtney). They lived in a small shack on the beach, across from the nature preserve. Tow would take his small boat to off shore a ways to fish. He would sell his fish in the ‘big’ city of Adelaide, and he would very often need to extend his credit with the local stores. But they all knew that Tom was good man, even if he did keep to himself. Tom was just not same after his wife and young daughter were killed in a freak auto accident

Michael meets an aboriginal man named Fingerbone Bill (Trevor Jamieson). Bill is very wise in the ways of the land and the ocean and the storms. When Bill meets Michael, a pelican has just been shot by hunters. That means a storm will be coming soon. And it does come, to drench the beach and the town. After that, Bill called Michael “Storm Boy”.  The pelican mother that died left three orphan chicks, and Michael tries to raise all three of them. He calls them Mr Proud, Mr Ponder and Mr Percival. These little hatchlings grow until they eat most of the fish that Tom can bring home. So, when they are all grown up – they need to go.

Except that Mr Percival comes back, and he wants the easy life – not to fish for his own food. But there is a day when Tom is out on his little boat in a storm, and he becomes stranded. Michael and Fingerbone Bill find a way to get Mr Percival to fly out to Bill and drop a fishing line. The other end is connected to a stronger rope. Bill pulls the rope to himself, and then Michael and Bill haul him back onto land. The pelican has saved the day! Michael becomes a local hero, and Mr Percival is well known.

Michael grows up to build a huge empire, and now his son controls it. Michael and two of his old friends have enough control over the vote to postpone getting the deal put through. So the mining company will have to wait to tear up the land, or look elsewhere. But there is not much else to say about the plot, and the actual purpose is still unclear. Except that the photography and the visual vistas of the Western Australia are amazing to see. Even at a basic level, this movie is wonderful ad campaign for the tourist bureau in the Land Down-Under.

All the actors do a very reasonable job with the roles they have been given. The story is slow and there is not much in the way of plot movement. Young Michael never has a true antagonist – a person or thing that is against his. At times you think it could be the local hunters. Then you think is might be his father is against him. Then it almost turns into a movie where Nature is against him. But none of these actually follow through with being driving force for Michael.






Shazam! Movie Review

“Shazam!” is a magical treat from the DC Comics Universe, because it takes a totally different approach to this version of a Superhero. It goes back to echo the 1988 film “Big”. Take a young kid about fifteen years old, and transform him, but not into Tom Hanks as an adult. Instead this movie will infuse him with Superhero posers that come from Ancient Gods and Warriors. Turn him into the “Champion of Eternity” – with all these powers: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, powers from Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. Hey, doesn’t that spell out “SHAZAM”?

An orphan in Philadelphia named Billy Batson (Asher Angel) gets into trouble with the police, again. His last chance is with a foster family who has a few other kids in their home. Billy meets his foster-brother Freddy Freeman (Jack Dylan Grazer) who has crutches and gets bullied at school. Billy defends his friend and needs to flee from the bully’s rage. Escaping onto a subway car, it turns into a magical entrance to a Hall of Champions. There is an ancient Wizard named Shazam (Djimon Hounsou). He is the last of the Champions. He had tried to find a human with a pure heart in the past, but he failed to find the right one. Billy is the best one to take control, only thing he needs to do is say the word.

Billy says the magic word, and the Ancient Wizard is gone. Billy has now become the (much older) superpowered one named Shazam (Zachary Levi). He can use the name to transform back and forth into the Billy (the Kid), or back into the Eternal Champion – Shazam. All in all, a pretty good day! Shazam makes it back and convinces Freddy that the massively super-powered person named Shazam is really still Billy on the inside. Freddy is well-versed in all Super-powers, since he reads all the DC Comics. Billy needs to become Shazam when there are people he can save, so they can both make a little money on the side.

However, there is another person in the city who was once tested by the Ancient Wizard. Years ago, Thaddeus Sivana (Mark Strong) was taken but he proved himself unworthy of the honor to Eternal Champion. Sivana finds a way back to the Wizard and steals an energy ball power by the Seven Deadly Sins. He takes the ball to become a Super-powered villain. Now, Sivana finds that the Wizard has given his powers away to a young boy. He sets out to find young Billy Batson, so he can be destroyed. Perhaps along with his new foster family. Silvia has many of the same type of powers that Shazam possesses, but he will use them for evil and for destruction.

So far, the DC Universe films have been awfully sketchy in the past years. However, they had started getting back on the right track with “Wonder Woman”. They followed that up with the very popular “Aquaman”. And now, they reach for an out-of-left-field wonder by bringing us “Shazam!”. The fun and entertainment level is maxed out with this movie. It is funny and clever and it gets the tone just right. Credit a good story and script and a Director who brings out the sheer joy of being a Superhero to the screen. Plus the casting choices are also Super. Zachary Levi and Jack Dylan Grazer really stand out, and Mark Strong and Asher Angel do a superb job. 

You can let the DC Extended Universe people know that movies like “Shazam!” are better than many of the other bleak and joyless movies that have come before. Vote with your pocketbook and see a great Superhero movie. Let the DCEU know with your support of “Shazam!”. Just Say The Word.

Blast from the Past (March 2019)

Yeah, the Box Office is rockin’ today with a whole lot of movies. But there are some from prior years that you may (or may not) remember. These older movies came out 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago, maybe even longer back. Some were instant classics, while others were not. So let’s jump into the DeLorean and travel backwards in time to revisit a few of these forgotten gems…

March 2014 (5 years ago)   — The Grand Budapest Hotel  – Wes Anderson checks you into a magnificently quirky movie that was so artsy and fun

The bellhop will take your bags now, and get you to relax in this movie’s perfectly portrayed display of nuance and nattiness. Ralph Fiennes is the Hotel’s Heart and Soul – a wonderful, slightly off-kilter concierge named Gustave H. and a new Lobby Boy named Zero (Tony Revolri). Together they deal with difficult guests and some false accusations of murder. But always in a gloriously color-coordinated, quirky way…

March 2009 (10 years ago)  — Watchmen – once a major cult Graphic Novel that was never able to be made into a movie, and here we can see why

The DC Comics limited series about some underground Superheroes was turned into a Graphic Novel. It was not adapted into a movie for decades. The themes were very dark and disturbing, and there were difficult special effects hurdles to be crossed. But when Zach Syder took it over and pushed it into the theaters, the fans had mixed reactions. But it was made, but the muted response seemed to keep the box office receipts from jumping over a skyscraper in a single bound.

March 2004 (15 years ago)  — Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet create a ‘memorable’ movie about removing memories

Erasing memories to forget a ruined love affair is what can create the ‘Spotless Mind’. But the effect that it has on the mind can lead to sadness and madness. A slightly Sci-Fi vision of Roto-Rotor for the Brain, writer Chalie Kaufman and director Michael Gondry made a jigsaw puzzle of a movie. Oddball characters and out-of-sequence scenes also give the audience a twisty puzzle box to work with…

March 1999 (20 years ago)  — The Matrix – This brought in a totally new dimension into mind-bending movies, by mixing heavy philosophy with ‘bullet-time’ special effects

Keanu Reeves stars in this twisty tale of questioning every aspect of your existence and seeing if you’re just plugged into some very elaborate virtual reality. The Wachowski siblings had created an original science fiction universe that turned pumping ‘lead’ into box office gold. But then they ruined their own reality with the awful sequels…

March 1995 (25 years ago)  — Outbreak – Very fictionalized version of a potential Ebola strain virus that comes to a small city in California

The true-life Centers for Disease Control were put up as a front-line defense against a potent strain of deadly virus that finds its way to the US, when it was first located in Africa. The CDC doctors are struggling with some military commanders who would want to fry the virus, along with all the people in that small town. Dustin Hoffman plays the main doctor who puts his life on the line to save the people and cure the sick.

March 1989 (30 years ago)  — Chances Are – A Dull Romantic Comedy for the Spring doldrums

This is an early effort by Robert Downey Jr. to star in a comedy with the likes of Cybill Shepard and Ryan O’Neil. With some convoluted plot of a man with the memories of a man who had died 23 years earlier, and then is attracted to the dead man’s daughter – but then later to the dead man’s wife – and he figures out that he is a somewhat reincarnated version of the man who died…  You catch all of that so far? Perhaps that is why this movie did not quite break even at the box office…

Hotel Mumbai Movie Review

“Hotel Mumbai” is a ‘ripped from the headlines’ look at the 2008 terror attack in Mumbai, India. The carnage was vast, and no more so than at “The Taj Mahal” luxury resort in Mumbai. The hotel staff and guests were cut down and killed, without regard to nationality or status or wealth. The tension and fear that existed in that hotel for three days is recreated for the screen. It feels very much like “You Are There”, but in this case – you don’t want to be there! The attack turned “The Taj” into “The Grand Terrorist Hotel”.

The Taj staff is very dedicated to the client’s wants and needs. It is one of finest hotels and luxury resorts in the world. The head chef Hemant Oberoi (Anupam Kher) runs a very tight crew. One staff member is Arjun (Dev Patel) who is Sikh and wears the traditional beard and turban. Somes guest arrive that day including Vasili (Jason Isaacs), a wealth Russian with a secret background. Also coming in on that day were newly married David (Armie Hammer) and his Muslim wife Zahra (Nazanin Boniadi). They have a small newborn son, and they travel with a nanny named Sally (Tilda Cobham-Hervey). There are many guests and staff, and all are shocked when a small band of terrorists enter and take over the hotel.

The attackers have come from Pakistan, but they are with an international terrorist group. They have attacked the railway station, a hospital, a Jewish center, and several cafes. They get to the Taj Mahal, and then situation worsens. They have plenty of targets, and they are indiscriminate in who they kill. There are some people in the dinning room, including David and Zahra. Also, Vasili is in the dining room loudly discussing his later plans (and supposed sexual conquests) with several female escorts. Arjun is soon aware that the hotel is under attack. He leads a group into the back-kitchen area. Chef Oberoi allows any staff to leave and be with family – if they must. Then Oberoi leads the staff, including Arjun and the group from the dining room up to a secure room called The Chambers Room. This is a place with very heavy door and secure locks. Sally and the baby are alone in a hotel room, while terrorists roam the building shooting staff and guests.

There are very tense moments when roving gunmen get into the room with Sally and the baby. Will she be able to keep the infant quiet as they search the room for more victims? David is locked away in the secure Chambers Room, but he wants to leave to find Sally and the baby. Arjun meets up with a couple of police officers who want to access the monitors in the security room. He helps them out, and he also alerts his boss Oberoi that the gunmen are right outside the door in the Chambers Room. They all run and hide, and the Chambers Room door stays closed. Zahra and Vasili leave the secured room a little later, attempting to find a safe passage out to the safety of the streets. Zarha wants out because she does not know where her husband and her baby are located.

The local police are not in any position to take on the terrorists who roam the Taj hotel. They are in stand-down mode, until the National Anti-Terror squad comes into the city. Many persons lay dead or dying. There are random attacks still going on in the hotel, and most of the other terrorists have been killed or captured. Through several nights and day, the level of tension and terror increases. Several guests are taken hostage by the gunmen, perhaps for future ransom payment. Or more likely, it will be for future death in front of the hundreds of TV cameras focused on Mumbai.

“Hotel Mumbai” is a very detailed recreation of a terrorist tragedy. There are many deaths caused by a relative few people. The story is taut and very fast-paced. Any second a new danger could be found, and a life could be ended. It is a devastating thing to watch, because the stakes are so high. The motives of the terrorist group are somewhat explained, and they look to be more brainwashed youngsters rather than demonic monsters. But the way the movie is filmed and the level of the acting is so precise and accurate that it gives you chills seeing what is occurring. Can the nanny keep the baby quiet long enough to elude the gunmen? Can Arjun help the overwhelmed police officers, and can they help any of the guests? Can families be reunited, and can the guests and staff continue to work together to avoid discovery by the terrorists?

This movie is not for the faint-of-heart. It will not lead you a new and deeper understanding of world issues. But it shows you that many different people can stick together, and make sacrifices for others, when faced with a horrible situation. It is display of an real-life event, and it may feel a little too real to some people.

The Aftermath Movie Review

“The Aftermath” proves that “War is Hell” – but also that “Love Ain’t Just a Stroll in the Park, Either”. Based on a novel of the same name, the movie explores the aftermath (duh!) of the Allied victory in Germany during World War II. But it has a laser focus on a couple who are having problems in their marriage, but the reasons and the solutions to these issues are magnified by the war setting. Hamburg has suffered from a huge bombing effort by the Allied forces. But when the British troops move into town, they displace the few people who still have housing that stands upright. This makes for a lot of animosity and hatred by the locals. There are searches and inquiries to find any Nazi sympathizers. There are Germans who just wanted the War to end – but now they have gotten their wish – and it is not all that it seems. The couple in the story must deal with past tragedy, and current temptations.

Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) is sent to Hamburg several months after the War has ended. She has missed her husband Lewis (Jason Clarke), who is still very active in the British Forces to handle the reconstruction of a devastated city. They have been apart for years, including the time when their young son died during The German Blitz on London. Rachael was heartbroken, and Lewis could not (or would not) even take leave from duty to attend the funeral. She expects that the two of them will be able to settle down together in this new place, so they can work out any differences. But that will not be the case for Rachael and Lewis. Rachael wants time to be with Lewis, so both of them can heal from their difficult past.

The British have taken over a large mansion outside of town. It is owned by German architect named Stefan Lubert (Alexander Skarsgård) and he lives there with his daughter. His wife was killed in the bombings, so he is distressed and forlorn. But he speaks perfect English, so that is why is can communicate with Rachael so well. Lewis allows Stefan and his daughter Freda (Flora Thiemann) to remain in the house, using the upper servant’s quarters. But Stefan has not been cleared by the British, so he has limited permissions to travel. Rachael is surprised that she and Lewis will be in this stranger’s house. But Lewis is called out on duty so often that he is seldom around. That leaves Rachael to ponder the past, and gaze upon the present – in the form of Stefan. There is an attraction that begins as a low-energy spark, but it soon engulfs both Rachael and Stefan in passionate flames.

Rachael and Stefan are playing a dangerous game, hiding a secret love affair from everyone around them. Freda, his daughter, is also toying with a crush of her own, but it is with a young underground Nazi sympathizer. Lewis is spending so much working in the Forces, so he can avoid the emotional pain of his son’s death. There is so much suppressed anger and rage. There is so much suppressed grief and sadness. There is so much suppressed logic, that in the last portion of the movie – many characters make choices that seem very different than what the story has led to, up to this point. Can a German widower run away and find happiness with a British woman who has lost her only child? Can the actions of a British officer make any difference to improve the impoverished lives of the German population? Can a movie that slowly unravels the three-way love triangle be any more glacial to reveal any more details? Can the ending be any more out-of-whack with all the things that happen before it?

Keira Knightley does a beautiful job portraying Rachael. It is unfortunate that the story jumbles up her actions right at the end. Alexander Skarsgård is also very good as Stefan Lubert – the lone German in Hamburg who can speak perfect English. Who would have known, right? Jason Clarke does fine, as his role does not ask him to do that much. However, the locations and set pieces are fabulous. The scenes of burnt-out buildings, and the sight of the Lubert mansion is very breath-taking. The post-WWII cars and fashions are right on the money. It is the attitudes and morals of the characters that seem out of step with the surroundings.

General William Tecumseh Sherman made the phrase “War is Hell” come alive in our culture.  But this movie also shows you that Love is not that much easier…

In Phoenix area – playing exclusively at the Harkins Camelview

Five Feet Apart Movie Review

“Five Feet Apart” is a story of medically-crossed lovers. Like star-crossed lovers, they meet and fall in love, but something keeps them apart. In this movie, that something is cystic fibrosis, a degenerative lung condition that causes a person to slowly drown in their own excess fluids. It is not a laughing matter. Yet, there is enough hope in the young teenage girl and the slightly older teenage guy to think that this relationship might last. Because they both suffer from CF, those chances are not that good. They need to keep separated by at least six feet at all times. Or maybe five feet apart will do…

Stella Grant (Haley Lu Richardson) is a girl with CF who spends her days in the hospital. She is driven and focused, and her OCD issues keep her life in meticulous order. She must stay in the pediatric ward, even though she is nearly 18 years old. She has a loving mother and father, but illness puts a terrible strain on them. She had a loving older sister, who has passed away about a year ago. Stella makes it a point to visit the neo-natal unit often, because the premature babies give her hope and strength to keep on going. She has a friend in the ward named Poe (Moises Arias) who also has CF. He is just slightly younger than Stella, and they spend a lot time together, always at a safe distance apart.


One day a new CF patient comes in, and he is in a new drug trial case study. Will Newman (Cole Sprouse) has a severe case of CF, with a bacteria strain that is very hard to manage. He is there to test out a new drug, and to become a hot new thing in Stella’s life. Of course, she is ordered and measured – and he is older and more of a rebel. Whatever the doctors want from him, he is in no mood to comply. But he is smitten with Stella, and he has a desire to draw her. He sketches and does charcoal drawings and wants to draw the beauty of Stella. Stella, of course, will have none of that. Not unless Will changes and starts to fully get into his medical testing regimen.

Stella and Will can have no physical contact, yet the both of them have fallen deeply in love with the other.  They do things with Poe, and always at a safe distance. The head nurse in the ward, named Barb (Kimberly Hebert Gregory) loves these kids – but she must be strict. She remembers other cases where CF patients found love in the hospital corridors, but then they took it too far. The other CF kids caught that bad bug from the other and both died. Barb states that it will not happen again “Not on my watch”. That is why Poe and Will and Stella still try to have fun without getting caught. Stella picks up a pool cue from the pool table. She decides that for her and Will – it is a good comprise. They will keep the distance of the cue stick – five feet apart.

But these are young adults with major medical issues. Sometimes, people die. There is sometimes hope for a lung transplant. But most times that will never come. Will’s disease is so bad that it is not even an option. So, they can live, and they can love, but they do not dare to touch or hug or kiss. It is a very difficult relationship at best. Will is about to turn eighteen, and when that happens – he can no longer be in the pediatric ward area. There are big changes in the air, and not all of them will make it. They will feel a great loss and want to ditch everything behind and try new paths. But that might not be the best way to go, when there is a potential for new lungs around the corner.

“Five Feet Apart” is a movie respectful of the pain and suffering of cystic fibrosis patients. It shows all the various difficulties that they endure, because of a bad gene that make their own body a slow death trap. The idea behind a hospital or sick bed romance is fine, but it is not new. See “The Fault in Our Stars” or “The Space Between Us” or “The Big Sick”, among others. The story and writing in this movie is fine, but tapers off a lot right at the ending. There are just too many things that happen that are against the character of Stella that we have seen so far. There is a sudden death, and midnight stroll and some close encounters with a frozen pond. It seems to throw out most everything that has guided Stella’s motives up to this point.

That being said, Haley Lu Richardson does a very splendid job in the role as Stella. She is weary from all her CF trials and tribulations, but she is not down hearted. She is still a positive and forward-looking girl. Cole Sprouse is also good. His role as Will gives him free range to pout and sneer a lot more. His character is much more fatalistic than Stella. He wants to think something good will come from it all, but he is not that hopeful. Moises Arias is very funny as Poe, who can turn being the ‘third wheel’ into a best adventure of a lifetime. He is great for that role and he makes for a great mutual friend for both Stella and Will..

The movie “Five Feet Apart” just might have a better tag line: “Better stay ‘Five Feet Apart’ if you don’t want to end up ‘Six Feet Under’…

Wonder Park Movie Review

“Wonder Park” is an animated comedy for children, but there are some darker themes floating just below the surface. There is a true celebration of imagination and display of joy for having family and friends. However, there are a few ominous notes in the background. There is a parent who is very ill and must move away for treatment. This leads to the abandonment of a cherished imaginative creation, called “Wonder Park”. The little girl grows up from being a small child and must put away childish things to take on the new role of caregiver for the dad, who is lost day-to-day without the help of his spouse.

Hey, but push all that nonsense aside, let’s get on with the “Wonder” of Wonder Park.

A little girl named June (Brianna Denski) works tirelessly with her Mom (Jennifer Garner) who helps her create ‘Wonder Park’. When June is about middle-school age, she and some friends try to build the park for real, in her yard. The results are a disaster. June is no longer interested in ‘Wonder Park’, the place that she designed and built, in miniature, in her room. Also, her Mom gets very ill, and she needs to move away for medical care.

Her Dad (Matthew Broderick) is very distraught, but tries to put on a happy smile. June knows that is miserable, and one day without her assistance would be awful for him. But Dad gets June to agree to go to her favorite summer activity – Math Camp. Just so much fun on the bus, singing the jolly song about “Pi”…

June escapes from the trip, because she is worried about her Dad. She walks into the woods to get back to town. But lo and behold, she comes across an entrance to ‘Wonder Park’. Never mind that it is only an imaginative place that she and her Mom created over the years. She has found it for real, and boy – it is in real bad shape.

There are some friendly animals that run ‘Wonder Park’. Greta (Mila Kunis) is a wild boar who is the ‘glue’ of the operation. Boomer (Ken Hudson Campbell) is huge blue bear who is in charge of taking naps. Steve (John Oliver) is a porcupine, and he works as the safety officer of the Park. Gus and Cooper (Ken Jeong and Kenan Thompson) are two brother beavers who are in charge of construction work. Peanut (Norbert Leo Butz) is brilliant chimpanzee and the one with the ideas for the magical Wonder Park rides. But Peanut would get his inspiration from the whispers of June and her Mom to design the fantastic places.

But now June is in an actual full-size creation of ‘Wonder Park’, and it is not in good shape. When June put away all of her ‘Wonder Park’ things as she grew up, this caused the Park to fall into disrepair.  There is a giant black cloud called ‘The Darkness’ hovering over, sucking up all the pieces as the Park falls apart. There used to be cute little chimp toys in the Gift Shop turned into vicious ‘Chimpan-Zombies’. These little devils have taken over the Park. Peanut has gone missing, and the rest of the group is on the run. Greta and June agree to save the Park and find Peanut. Boomer always tries to help, but he keeps passing out. Gus and Cooper keep getting in each other’s way. Steve is so enamored with Greta, and he sometimes forgets to keep safety first.

June is a really smart cookie. But will she be able to figure out how to stop the damage to the Park. Will she be able to save Peanut? Will she ever be able to get that catchy, jolly song about “Pi” out of her head? Well, because this movie is aimed to the younger set, you can probably figure out the correct answers. She finds that she works really well with Greta, Boomer, Steve, Gus and Cooper. But that is because she imagined them many years ago. But when Peanut is found and The Darkness is vanquished, then June will be free to get back to her home. Her Dad is worried that she is missing, and her Mom is back from the medical leave.

“Wonder Park” turns on a lot of charm when it finally gets going. It has a very capable voice cast. John Oliver is probably the funniest, but he has the best lines. It is nice to see Matthew Broderick getting a turn with some voice work too. The action does get a little frantic at times. But the overall layout and design of the Park is very imaginative. The transition from June’s real life town to the world of fantasy in the woods never does get explained. But then again, that would spoil the ‘Wonder’ of it all. The story never takes you to any place that you have not been to before, that is – if you have seen any children’s movies in the past twenty years.

This movie gets up to bat, and it takes a swing and gets a two-base hit. It just doesn’t hit the ball out of the “Wonder Park”.

Instagram: @wonderparkmovie

Twitter: @WonderParkMovie

Facebook: /WonderParkMovie


Gloria Bell Movie Review

“Gloria Bell” is a mulligan do-over from Sebastián Lelio, who had written and directed this story already as “Gloria” (2013). Lelio has taken a very mundane story of a woman (you can guess the name) who is middle-aged, divorced and has some indifferent kids and a supportive ex-husband. Gloria has some unusual life experiences with her love life. She has a very positive outlook on life, which makes her a good friend. But as a girlfriend, she expects to have a steady relationship. When it turns out that the relationship that she gets is very shaky instead, she has a few choice words.

Gloria (Julianne Moore) spends most of her day working, but when she has free time in the evening – she loves to dance at a club. She has very large glasses and she will occasionally smoke. She likes to sing along with songs on the radio. She has an apartment with a very loud upstairs neighbor and a silly little cat that always winds up in her room. The cat is not hers, and she throws it out every day, just to see that same cat the next day. Her son (Michael Cera) and daughter (Caren Pistorius) do not have a whole lot of time for Gloria. That is why she goes to the club at night.

She meets Arnold (John Turturro) one night and the hit it off. They start to see each other more and more. Arnold runs a place that does a lot of outdoor fun stuff; trampolines and paint ball guns and the like. He even lets Gloria borrow one of the paint ball guns. She invites Arnold to a party with her family. Her son and daughter are there, along with her ex-husband (Brad Garrett) and his current wife. Arnold feels more and more out-of-place, as the conversations are about the family history. He gets a phone call, and then leaves without saying anything. After a while they notice Arnold is gone, and they don’t know if there has been something that happened.

Gloria is especially upset that he left without an explanation about where he was headed or where he went. He explains that he has two daughters, and they are very ‘fragile’ (as he puts it). He is a helicopter dad hovering over his kid’s lives and watching everything that they do. At the least provocation, he will split from the scene and go be with his kids. Mind you, these are grown young women, but they are so incapable of dealing with life that they must call Daddy for everything. Gloria is furious that he dumped her at her own party without an explanation. Arnold begs and begs and begs and begs for a chance to come back into Gloria’s life. But she always tells him no.

Until she tells him yes. He arranges for a private weekend for just the two of them in Las Vegas. It works out wonderfully. Until Arnold gets a phone call. There is an emergency with his daughter. He refuses to leave and go to help them. Until he does leave. And Gloria is alone once more, left in the lurch. Nothing to do now but dance and drink the night away. Which is all well and good, until she wakes up after being passed out on a pool lounge chair… Arnold asks for forgiveness (again). What will Gloria do? Can she afford to be burned again by a man who to more dedicated to his immature kids than to her? Can she ever find a use for those extra paint ball guns that Arnold had loaned to her?

“Gloria Bell” is very thin mast used to haul up the main sail of Julianne Moore’s performance. She kills it (as typical for her) in this role, even when there is not much meat on the character bone. She is great and does a very believable job. John Turturro is also up to the high bar of acting that he is known for, but his character is not very deep. There is an attempt to give a slow narrative structure to this move. But more often it falls apart into tissue-like segments that feel disconnected. The original movie (“Gloria” 2013) was in Spanish. So maybe something was lost in the translation.

Captain Marvel Movie Review

Marvel Studios is now calling upon its own namesake “Captain Marvel”, and this movie rises to meet the challenge. The biggest challenge is to make a Marvel stand-alone movie with a strong female lead character. Carol Danvers is a top military fighter pilot, and due to some extraterrestrial incident, she is infused with an unearthly amount of amazing powers. She is taken to a far-away galaxy and becomes a Special Forces type agent. Her past is stripped away, but she never has forgotten all the things from her childhood. She is still human, but now also a part of an interstellar race called the Kree, and she is part of the elite ‘Starforce’. She never quite gets the new ‘Captain Marvel’ nametag in this movie, but everyone knows it is there. This character is first female badass super-powered hero, and Marvel Studios needs this to be as significant as “Black Panther”.

Away on the Kree planet Hala, there is a small special military unit called ‘Starforce’. It is led by Yon-Rogg (Jude Law) and it includes a new half human yet part Kree woman that they call ‘Vers’. She is Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) who had most of her memories of Earth erased when she encountered a powerful energy explosion that gave her many Kree-type powers. Yon-Rogg and his other unit members, such as Korath (Djimon Hounsou) Minn-Erva (Gemma Chan) are with Vers on a special mission.

The Kree are fighting against a powerful enemy, an alien race called the Skrulls. These are sworn enemies to the Kree, and they have abilities to shape-shift into other forms. They can pretend to be a Kree, or even a human. There is a faction of Skrulls that is led by Talos (Ben Mendelsohn). The special mission goes very wrong, and Vers is taken captive by the Skrulls. But she gets away and takes refuge on a place the Kree refer to as C-53. It is back on Earth, in 1995. It is about six years after Carol Danvers had disappeared.

Vers, back on Earth, still does not remember that she is Carol Danvers and she was a successful fighter pilot. She used to fly with a fellow jet ace named Maria Rambeau (Lashana Lynch). They both had worked with Wendy Lawson (Annette Bening) who was a scientist involved in top-secret projects. It was Lawson’s experiment that misfired and gave Danvers all her super powers. Vers is found by SHIELD agents named Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Colson (Clark Gregg). They had never discovered any people with unusual powers up to that point. No Iron Man, Thor or Incredible Hulk.

So they take an interest in Vers, and eventually find that she is the missing Carol Danvers. The shape-shifting Skrulls are around, because they followed their escaped prisoner to Earth. Soon, they have infiltrated SHIELD and followed Danvers onto the Metro rail. A great fight between Danvers and a Skrull ‘old lady’ happens, while Fury is chasing the rail train in the city streets below. This is back when Fury still had two good eyes.

Nineties imagery and music are all around, while Danvers and Fury meet up with retired Maria Rambeau to confirm what Carol Danvers thinks has occurred. They are joined by the Skrull leader named Talos, and asks Danvers to consider an alternative. All things are not quite the way that they seem. The Starforce group has honed in on where ‘Vers’ has gotten to, and now they want her back. But Danvers and Fury have a slightly different idea about what needs to happen. They all get to a scientist Lawson’s secret lab in low-space orbit. Oh, and there is also a stowaway on the space ship, a cute orange tabby cat named ‘Goose’. Nicky Fury takes a real liking to the cat, until it turns out to be another odd alien species called a Flerkin.  Watch out, Fury – You’ll put your eye out!

This movie starts off a little choppy, and it finally settles into a fun groove when Danvers and Fury get paired up. Danvers has glimpses of her past, but not until the ending does really know that she is now “Captain Marvel”. Brie Larson seems a little tentative in the role at first, but she really powers up the screen in the latter half. She has a lot of interaction with Samuel L. Jackson as Fury, and they are great as a intergalactic ‘Good Cop, Bad-Ass Cop’ duo.  Ben Mendelsohn is also a hoot to watch, when he is pretending to be a human, or as the Skrull leader.

Marvel Studios trusts that this movie will satisfy the long-time fans and also people who like strong female-led movies. The pair of Directors (Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck) includes the first Marvel female co-director. That makes sense for a movie like this. The soundtrack with 1990’s era grunge and hair metal bands adds to the atmosphere. So does the backwards glance into the wonderful world of nineties technology and pop culture.

Brie Larson as “Captain Marvel” proves that Blondes have more interstellar, intergalactic, super-strength powered, photon-energy shooting, bad guy ass-kickin’ fun!

Fighting With My Family Movie Review

“Fighting With My Family” is the sports movie that brings Professional Wrestling out into the public view. It brings it to a level like “Rocky” would do for boxing. Set up a lovable underdog character who does not have a chance and give that lower middle-class schlub the opportunity to get in the ring and go against the greatest. Oh, and also make this ‘Rocky’ a young woman from England who has been doing this professionally with her family since she was sixteen. Instead of being a fictional story, base this ‘Rocky’ on a true story… the story of WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) Champion Wrestler Paige.

In Norwich England, a small family is getting by with Professional Wrestling as the family business. The dad “Rowdy Ricky” (Nick Frost) and the mum “Sweet Saraya” (Lena Headey) get by with their three kids by running a wrestling association. The oldest boy is in prison, but still at home are Zak (Jack Lowden) and the youngest Jade (Florence Pugh). They kids are born showmen, and wrestling is in their blood. Zak and Jade get a chance for an audition for a WWE tryout in London. They happen to meet a retired wrestler named The Rock (Dwayne Johnson). He gives them this advice: “Don’t be another me – be the first YOU”. The tryouts are completed and there is Coach Hutch (Vince Vaughn) who selects the one who can come to America and train. It is going to be Jade, and she will go under the name of ‘Paige’.

Their parents are ecstatic about her new opportunity. Zak is less happy, because he was not selected. He and his girlfriend are about to have a baby, and he is falling into a depressive state. But ‘Paige’ finds out the WWE development league is a tough nut to crack. There are many other people in the up-and-coming training group. Many are very attractive women, ex-models and cheerleaders. Paige feels out of her element. The workouts are super tough, and she is making no friends anywhere. The competition level is high, and somebody could get cut at any moment. Paige feels that her brother Zak would be the only who knows how she feels, he is not taking her calls.

But after a trip back home over the holidays, Paige feels like giving up on her dream. But she decides to make one more go-for-broke attempt to pull off the impossible. She is back in the States, and she works so hard that she even impresses Coach Hutch. The other women on the squad see that Paige has the internal spirit to pull out a big surprise. They all head over to a big WWE Smackdown event and Paige once more runs into The Rock. He knows that she is ready for Prime-Time Event. Paige is shocked, but she is put on the roster to go up against the reigning Woman’s Diva Champion. Paige has a Golden Ticket, a chance to grab the Brass Ring and a way to make to the very top. What will happen next…

The WWE organization has made a very good choice by getting this movie put together. Instead of the typical idea of WWE as a male-dominated (and therefore a sweaty, grunting wild-eyed Wolf Pack of 260 lb. dudes dressed in leotards) it presents a really different face. The unlikely rise of Paige as a Professional Wrestler is a unique story. And the way that is gets told on-screen is a funny and heart-warming depiction of her success. For the movie to work, it needed someone special to play Paige.

Florence Pugh is just the right person for that role. She is tough and gritty, and with a Goth fashion sense, she gets attention. But her portrayal is also of a young girl who has self-doubts and thinks she is in over her head. Jack Lowden as her brother Zak is also right up at the top. He shows a gruff and all-business exterior, but you know he is broken up inside when he is not picked in the tryouts. Also, Lena Headey & Nick Frost are fun to watch as the mum and dad who might not be welcome at a school Parent’s Night.

“Fighting With My Family” is a fun and fast-paced movie that puts you into a headlock at the very start, and does not let up until you are pinned to mat with enjoyment.