Baby Driver Movie Review

Baby Driver is frenzied; just a CrAzY wild ride!!  It was written, directed and edited with schizophrenic prowess.  In the theatre this weekend, because I know you’re going to go see this, sit back and prepare to have your body attacked by an insanely high energy film where there will be no relief for you from the intensity of the madness playing out on the screen.  Your eyes and ears will be assaulted and your body will stiffen but when you walk out of that theatre you’re going to say (I know you will) ‘I gotta see that again!’  The cinematography, stunts and the special effects are just that good. 

The title refers to Baby (Elgort) who is an extremely talented driver of the getaway vehicles he drives for Doc (Spacey).  Doc is the big crime boss of Atlanta; even has some city police in his back pocket.  Not that Baby is long in the tooth, but when he was much younger, Baby did a stupid thing and took what wasn’t his; that thing belonged to Doc.  A bit eccentric and untrusting of people, Doc never works with the same crew twice and ever since except for this exceptional driver.  Luckily for Doc, Baby is paying Doc back by driving his bank robbing crew to safety until his debt is square.  Luckily for Baby, who isn’t a ‘bad guy’ that time is coming soon.  The film starts when he only has a few jobs left.  He desperately wants free of this obligation because the crews that Doc is hiring of late are getting worse and things are getting more dangerous.

What’s so exhilarating about this flick is that we don’t go into the bank with the crew and see the heist.  We’re inside the getaway car with Baby, waiting for them to come out and get them to a particular destination where they have yet another vehicle waiting for them to calmly drive away from the getaway car in case they were seen.  When Baby has his earbuds in, we are listening to the music with him and the music makes a lot of these scenes.  It’s a well-chosen soundtrack for us to jam to when he’s driving through the gorgeous city of Atlanta; running from cops at high speeds.  Why he loves cars and why he’s into music is because when he was a child, he was in the car when his parents were killed in an accident.  He was listening to music when the car rammed into the back of a truck and ever since, he has a ringing in his ears.  Playing his music is the only thing that momentarily gives him peace from this affliction.  That is until he meets Debora (James).  She gives him hope that there can be a life for him after his criminal behavior.  Debora wants what he wants and in their shared vision of the future, driving fast isn’t in the cards.  However, with Doc in the picture, is driving slow an option?

See Baby Driver… today!!  You’ll laugh, you’ll be shocked, and you’ll jump out of your seat.  Its fast pace will get your adrenaline running and its ending will surprise you… so will the appearance of Paul Williams!  Now, I KNOW you’re intrigued and I know you’re seeing it this weekend if not today, right?  Have fun and enjoy one of the best and most unique action films to be released in a long time.

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled is a film based on a film based on a novel.  The previous film is from 1971 and starred Clint Eastwood.  I haven’t seen the original but it is definitely in my plans for summer watching after seeing writer/director Sofia Coppola’s take on Thomas P. Cullinan’s written work.  Before getting into the film, I’d like to mention that I’m glad it was made.  Not only am I happy to re-enter the world of 70’s classics but this is another film that solidifies the reemergence of three of its stars careers, not to mention the director’s, as well.  The Beguiled earned Coppola some praise from Cannes this year which means more films from her for me to watch; pretty well always a good thing.  I had all but given up on Kirsten Dunst.  She has worked throughout the years, but she needed a film to introduce her as a grown up and this seems to be that film.  Nicole Kidman is always good but I want more of her.  She has this innate ability to weave in and out of characters and makes them completely believable; she’s flawless.  I applaud her work and with Lion and this, I believe she should be considered the new Streep.  Work more, woman!  Colin Farrell hasn’t been in much either but he seems to be choosing parts very selectively, of late.  His roles seem to be more developed.  With The Lobster, the best work he’s done in my opinion, and this, I think we’ll see him continue to play in the arena with the big boys. 

Now that I’ve let you know you won’t be disappointed in the cast, let me tell you a bit more about the film itself.  The Beguiled is set during the Civil War.  It’s the story of a Union soldier in the south, John McBurney (Farrell), who after being wounded badly in the leg, is found by a kind little girl who gets him help.  She takes him to her all-female boarding school.  The school is being run by two women, headmistress Martha Farnsworth (Kidman) and a teacher by the name of Edwina Dabney (Dunst).  They’re not too excited about a wicked man from the north being in their school but they are women of God and decide the Christian thing to do is to help him.  Luckily Martha is good with a sewing needle.

The ages of the girls in the school range from around 10 to late teens, Alicia, (Fanning) being the oldest.  The girls aren’t around men and are all aflutter when one so good looking is in their midst.  Some aren’t happy that he’s a yank and want to hand him over to the soldiers on their side but still are smitten.  This is incredibly delightful to watch play out.  I was ecstatic that the film was directed by a woman because Coppola really plays to her female audience with the way the girls fawn over him.  As he’s on the mend, each parades into his room to entertain him in every way they can think of.  They pay more attention to their wardrobes, too, as they fall in love with their charge.  It’s obvious to John, Martha and Edwina that the girls are batting their eyes quite a bit.  While watching some of these scenes, you’re propelled back to a time when you felt the flush of love in your young cheeks.  It’s adorable.  Martha and Edwina have also noticed his lovely face, very friendly character and that he’s in terrific shape; makeup and jewelry become the order of the day.

John is aware that the women are in need of company and begins to take advantage of that fact.  They entertain him in many ways as he plays to their affections.  Sexual tension builds which brings out the comedic aspect of the film but also many dark elements as it, in many ways, gets to the heart of humankind.  This being the case, you have a very well paced, well written, incredibly well-acted film that Coppola may consider her best to date.  Each girl is very accomplished for her age, plays to her strength and is genuine in her role, particularly Rice whom I believe is the best find since her co-star Fanning.

This is a see this weekend.  Take a wee small break from the summer actions or you’ll never forgive yourself.  This movie deserves your attention.  Okay, could the movie have ended better?  Yes.  It was so good but the ending does have some degree of disappointment, however, it’s quality work from awe-inspiring talent and you will not walk away unsatisfied. 
*Limited release in NY and LA today; nationaly release on June 30th! 

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Bayhem: defined as the non-stop assault of wild images and loud sounds that come at you from a movie directed by Michael Bay. That is what is expected from his movies, and “Transformers: The Last Knight” will not disappoint the Bay fans out there. It is a long, non-stop and nonsensical action meat grinder of a movie. Are there giant robots – yes of course. Are there gaping plot holes – yes of course. Are there spectacular scenes of motion and movement – yes of course. Will Bay fans eat it up – yes, without a doubt.

To sum up: Autobots are good guy robots that transform into various vehicles. Decepticons are the bad guy robots that fight the Autobots, and they also transform. Autobots are led by Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) who always pledges support to the humans. The robots go all the way back into history, back to the days of King Arthur. The last living descendant of Arthur, along with the “Last Knight” are needed to fend off an attack on Earth from the crazy robot who has taken over the robot planet and is going to smash it into the Earth. Or something like that…

Actually, there is a very broad outline of what goes on in this movie. There might be an overall plot line, but it is obscured by all the action set pieces. Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is a friend of Optimus Prime and is hiding a group of Autobots in a junkyard in the dessert. Viviane Wembly (Isabela Moner) is a Professor at Oxford in England, and she is the final one related to Arthur. Sir Edmund Burton (Anthony Hopkins) is an English earl with a vast knowledge of the Transformers history and why they are always coming back and mucking around on Earth. William Lennox (Josh Duhamel) is a military guy who is sometimes helping Cade and most times chasing after him. Due a set of some unclear circumstances, they all get together to work with the Autobots and save the world.

The action scenes are fantastic, yet the excessive editing cuts made them all look very choppy. The visual special effects are overwhelming and overbearing. They are done professionally and look terrific, yet the images are just thrown at you for more than two hours. It can just wear you down. The audio sound effects are growling and grinding and full of a lot of noise. There is a bombastic score playing under everything else, which increases the sound level. It is impressive and disturbing at the same time, like not being able to turn away from a bad car crash.

The story meanders from the US to England, where Sir Burton has brought Cade and Viviane together. There is some special staff that used to belong to Merlin, but it was given to him by an ancient Autobot. Viviane is the only one who control the staff, since she is the last of Arthur’s line. Cade had been given a special talisman that identifies him as “The Last Knight”. So, the major money of this movie went to the visual effects and not the script. However, there are a handful of performances that are OK. The plot is secondary to the stunning special effects, so call it a wash.


Mark Wahlberg is always a great action figure, even if the movie bumps into crazy dialog that could come from “The Happening”. He plays the earnest and trustworthy guy who can fight off anyone with his brains and brawn. Isabela Moner does a fair job in her role, nothing too special, but plays it with no problems. Anthony Hopkins does a delightful job as the slightly befuddled old guy who has a glint in his eye and tells you he knows more than he says. Just hope that he does not consider you a “friend that he would like to have for dinner”.

Granted, if Michael Bay is your thing and you have a deep appreciation for all things ‘Transformer’, then by all means, this is the movie for you. However, everyone else still need to determine how much of an action-packed blast in the face you can stand. If you have extra bucks, you can even see the “No Reason to be 3-D” version. It has 3-D on top of the already crowded screen of visual ADHD fever dreams. There are few scenes that use the 3-D to a good effect, but it sails through the film just fine without it.

More than likely “Transformers: The Last Knight” will make a ton of money, either here or abroad. Can it be too much to ask that Bay finally give up ‘his’ franchise? Or will he get enough incentive to come up with a sixth movie… “Transformers: The Ring of the Register”?


Rough Night Movie Review

“Rough Night” has a lot of promise, being a new original movie scripted and directed by a woman. It takes some cues from other raunchy R-rated movies, such as “The Hangover”, “Weekend at Bernie’s”, and “Very Bad Things”. However, the “Rough Night” turns out to be a ‘Rough Viewing”. There is a basic setup that could go on a beautiful honeymoon, but it fails to take its vows.

Five dorm buddies from 10 years ago now find themselves invited to a bachelorette party weekend in Miami. Jess (Scarlett Johansson) is finally getting married to her long-term boyfriend Peter (Paul W. Downs). Jess is running for state senate, but she needs some down time. Her best friend is Alice (Jillian Bell) and she is planning a crazy time. Also invited are Frankie (Ilana Glazer) and Blair (Zoë Kravitz).

When they are in Miami, they find that Jess also invited her friend from her Study Abroad trip to Australia. Pippa (Kate McKinnon) is new to all the other girls and there is some friction at first. But they do all do cocaine, drink a lot and dance at the clubs. When they get back, they stay at house that a donor has let Jess use for the weekend. Frankie calls up and gets a private male stripper.

Soon a man arrives, and he attempts to seduce Jess. Jess turns him down, but Alice gets a little too wild. The guy bangs his head and bleeds out onto the floor. All of the women start to freak out, but they decide to dispose of the body. They are at a beach house, and Pippa takes a Ski Jet out to dump the poor guy in the deep briny. But they are discovered by the creepy sex-pervert couple next door. Blair needs to keep them, ahem, distracted.

Soon another guy arrives in a police outfit. They knock him out and find out he is the stripper. But then who is the dead guy? Meanwhile, Peter thinks that Jess in trouble, and he has no other option than to do the “Sad Astronaut”. That means driving straight from D.C. to Miami with no stops, wearing a diaper and drinking Red Bulls.

Then the situation gets resolved, but it really has taken a turn for the worse. The women are hysterical, crude and morally indefensible. They keep adding worse choices on top the bad ones they have already made. The scenes all seem forced and not very pleasing to watch. There are some talented actresses in the movie, but none of them are making too much of an effort. Scarlett Johansson appears to be biding her time until they make a solo “Black Widow” movie.

The most awful is Kate McKinnon, who is most annoying with the fake Australian accent. It is like the movie part was written for an actual Australian (perhaps Rebel Wilson), but instead McKinnon came up and decided to do the part. Her character just removes any hint actual comedy or true drama that could have been there.

The movie could have been a hot ticket with the female audience and having a female director. But all of that gets wasted on the plot that just plods along without any pulse. The parts when Paul W. Downs is on screen are little be more fun, because his character is such a doofus with such a big crush on Jess.

There is so much promise and way to little to be enthused about. However, if you see this movie, do wait until the very final shot at the end of the credits. It brings back a missing item (or two) from earlier in the movie. It’s like finding ‘a girl’s best friend’…

47 Meters Down Movie Review

Perhaps quite a few people are uneasy about being in enclosed places, and then just as many are queasy about getting close to sharks. If that is you, well — get ready for “47 Meters Down”, because your personal spooked-out meter will be peaking in the red zone. This movie will take many of the scariest things you can imagine and blend them into a nice smooth frightening shake.

Two sisters are in Mexico for a summer trip. Kate (Claire Holt) and Lisa (Mandy Moore) are getting away on a vacation. Lisa tells her sister it is because her long-term boyfriend broke up with her. He thought that Lisa was too boring. Lisa and Kate meet a couple of local guys, and they hit it off. They convince Kate to go on an underwater scuba trip to see the sharks. Lisa is much more sensible and does not want to go. Kate tells her that if she goes on the tip, she will prove she is not boring.

They meet Captain Taylor (Matthew Modine) who owns the worn-out old boat and the crappy-looking equipment for a shark dive. They don the scuba gear and get in the cage and start to descend down around 20 feet. They have only limited oxygen in their tanks, and they have limited experience underwater. But that is about to change. The cable holding the shark cage snaps, sending them down to 47 meters below the surface.

Both Kate and Lisa know that they cannot swim straight up to the surface. Once they go up, every 20 meters or so they would need to stop and let their blood handle the nitrogen bubbles, or they could die from the bends. They have no communication with the boat on the surface. So they take turns to try things out. One will swim up to try and get radio contact, then the other will trace down a mysterious flashlight brought down with a different cable hook. If they get it attached, they can be gently pulled up to the boat.

But, yes there are sharks in these here waters. So every attempt to get free or get back up to the boat is met with a potential big toothy grin. The guy who brought down the flashlight and the new cable was attacked and killed. Either Kate or Lisa could be next. The new cable turns out to be as useless as the first cable, and now they are trapped again. The Coast Guard has been called for a rescue, but they are an hour away.

Lisa and Kate almost run out of oxygen, and they two new tanks are sent down. But the new tanks can keep them alive. However, being down for so long can bring on nitrogen poisoning.  This could lead to hallucinations and feelings of a dream-like state. They will both need to keep an eye on each over to make sure the other one does not get crazy ideas. After all, there is a rescue operation just about to begin…

To say anything more would deprive you of getting your feet wet and seeing this movie. The story is pretty straight-forward. Put two nice ladies in peril, and spend the rest of the movie trying to figure out how to get them freed.  Mandy Moore and Claire Holt do a decent job, but much of the dialog is scuba breathing and screaming. They prove to be intelligent characters, except for the fact that they got on such a dumpy boat to begin with.

The setup gets going really quickly, and the part underwater is intense and spooky. Each of the sisters does her best to comfort the other one. But it is hard to find any comfort when you are more than 150 feet below the surface. Since this movie is so tense and spooky, I will need to lighten it up…

Once I threw out all the chopped up fish and fish guts into the water, the sharks got real chummy.

Cars 3 Movie review

After a pretty successful spin in “Cars”, Pixar went and made “Cars 2”, but it went right off the track. So, Pixel has made a third outing with the NASCAR-influenced “Cars 3”. This is the first third attempt at a series from Pixar since “Toy Story 3”. That one was critically acclaimed and much beloved by the general audiences around the world. Will “Cars 3” get the green flag and maintain a high-octane level of excitement? Or will it sputter off to the junkyard? Let’s kick the tires and find out.

Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) is a famous racing car in the alternate world of vehicles only (and no people). He has run and usually won every major race, including the grand prize – The Piston Cup. He has fond memories of his mentor, and old-school racer named ‘The Fantastic Hudson Hornet’ (voiced by the late Paul Newman). McQueen spends his time in Radiator Springs, with his pals from the first movie – including Mater (Larry the Cable Guy). But McQueen has his heart in racing and winning.

But then some new next-generation race cars come onto the scene. They are sleek and custom-designed to be better than the older cars. Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) is one of the new super-fast cars, and he wins while McQueen crashes and sits out the remaining season. But his sponsors have special news for McQueen. They have sold Rust-eze to a new owner named Sterling (Nathan Fillion). He has created a state-of-the-art facility to train new racers. McQueen goes there and meets Sterling and a peppy trainer named Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo). McQueen is excited to start off with the training, but Cruz wants him to go slow.

Cruz and McQueen have different ideas about how to train. McQueen wants to get his tires dirty on the old-fashioned dirt tracks, just like Doc. Hudson taught him. Cruz wants to go high-tech, with lots of equipment. Sterling gives McQueen one chance to get another win, and then he will need to retire. McQueen wants his chance to beat Jackson Storm just one more time. So, he goes out to train in secret. He ends up in a demolition derby by mistake with Cruz. But they both learn some things about how to handle bad conditions. McQueen goes on a country-wide search to find Doc. Hudson’s old crew chief.

They find Smokey (Chris Cooper) and a bunch of Docs old pals in a worn-down speedway. But they still have some tracks and ideas for McQueen so he can compete in the next big race and beat Storm. Cruz and McQueen find out old secrets about the early days of racing and the origins of fast cars. They become good friends with Smokey and Docs old racing pals. But they all know that the upcoming race in Florida will take all that McQueen has got. And Cruz says that she would have been a racer, but when she had her one chance, she backed out and never even tried.

The Florida 500 will be the big race for Lightning McQueen. But will his practice and his skills be enough for a super-slick racer like Jackson Storm? Can the help of experienced crew, led by Smokey, help McQueen during each lap? There will be a lot of fans rooting for Lightning McQueen, rooting for his comeback and his success. Will McQueen find his greatest joy in winning another time? Or will he see a way that will make his future match the path of his own mentor – Doc. Hudson?

Pixar has gotten a lot of mileage (so to speak) from Cars. But in this movie, you can see that the quality that makes Pixar special. All the animation is gorgeous and sharp in every detail. All the characters are spot-on with the voice acting. There are family-friendly storylines and lessons throughout. There is a 3D version that makes the screen look like a place that you would want to visit.

From the original Cars characters, such as Lightning McQueen and Mater, and now including new characters – Cruz Ramirez and Smokey and others, this Pixar franchise still has some gas left in the tank. So give “Cars 3” a green light and ‘Cruz’ into a local theater to watch it.

It Comes At Night Movie Review

It Comes at Night is incredibly manipulative in the way it reels you in, first assisting you in comfort and then, in the blink of an eye, taking you to the edge of insanity.  The film is dark but not a horror film per se.  It’s an on the edge of your seat thriller that pulls you in several directions at once; barely allowing you a moment to rest before tugging at again you again.  Watching, you’re like the young woman in the opening scene of Jaws, being whipped about and then pulled into the depths of the unknown.  The unknown in this instance is what comes at night, in the darkness, when you’re alone and everything around you is a potential threat.      

This is a story about a family who has a home deep in the woods that is now their hideaway from whatever happened to the rest of the world.  What happened is unidentified but it was toxic.  Something made people who were exposed to ‘it’ violently ill.  This plaque of sorts kills you rather quickly and those who figured it out and hoped they weren’t exposed ran away and either contaminated others with their infection or learned how to live with it.  Paul and Sarah, their son Travis have learned how to cope and also protect themselves from being vulnerable.  Sadly, as we learn in the opening scene of the film, this has come too late for her father Bud who is already covered in blisters, barely breathing and about to die.  Paul, with Travis (who’s only seventeen), takes Bud to an open pit they dug.  After putting him down like an animal, they throw his body in and burn his remains to help stop the spread of the mysterious disease. 

A well lit and beautifully photographed, (complete with an eerily creepy yet gorgeous string instrument filled track) nightmare later, we awaken with Travis screaming that someone is in the house.  By the way, this scene has one hell of a memorable jump scare.   Anyway, the family, prepared for this kind of assault, finds that a young man has broken in and they surprise him, shove guns in his face, take him outside and tie him to a tree to teach him a lesson.  They’re not kind to strangers.  They live by rules that have kept them alive so far and this man has challenged those rules.  Before long, we discover that he simply wants to bring his family there; to live somewhere out of danger.  Sarah talks Paul into allowing this and though Paul is skeptical, he agrees.  Travis enjoys the family being there and what ultimately started out as a thriller becomes sort of a drama in that Travis begins to resent his situation as well as his father. 

It Comes at Night is aesthetically pleasing.  The music is outstanding and lends to the intensity throughout the film.  Tribal drumbeats explode so loudly from the speakers of one scene that it seems the vibration alone physically moves you.  Director Shults (Krisha) uses this tactic each and every time anything exciting happens.  It’s made better by the sheer skill in which he chooses to tell his story. 

My final take is that a lot of what’s going on in the film you’ll see coming if you’ve been watching page-turners your whole life.  I believe you’ll forgive this because of the imaginative nature with which these characters have derived.  The film is a survival guide on steroids and an unbelievably heartbreaking look at what we could become, leaving you to wonder how you’d behave in the same situation.  It’s a bit slow at times and there are a few moments that don’t quite add up but as I mentioned before, they’re nothing that will ruin the film for you.  I’d like to warn you of one thing, however, if you have a weak heart!  If Travis is on the screen, get yourself in defense mode.

I, Daniel Blake Movie Review

At the beginning of the film, there is only sound.  We hear a man answering questions presented to him by a healthcare professional.  The questions are frustrating him as they don’t have anything to do with the reason he’s calling but he gets on with answering them anyway as he’s expected to.  Some of this is quite comical but when you realize how serious his situation is, you see that the “professional” in health isn’t exactly helpful and certainly doesn’t seem to care much for what he has to say; which is the theme of the movie. 

Daniel Blake, (Johns, in his first feature film), is an older man who until recently was a carpenter.  He has a serious heart condition and his doctor hasn’t cleared him to work.  Due to something he’s sure is an error, he is all of the sudden considered eligible to work and loses his unemployment benefits.  Seems now he can only receive a “job seekers allowance,” which is considerably smaller and not something he can live on.  He can file an appeal, it’ll be looked at and, hopefully, it will come back in his favor.  Obstacle after obstacle is in this man’s way.  Not only is it nearly impossible for someone to get through on the phone to these “professionals” because they’re out of touch with patients (they’re sitting in a call center), but Daniel finds that almost everything in the modern world has to do everything from the computer.  He doesn’t own one and hasn’t used one.  Obviously, this is a big problem for him.  I wonder how many people truly have this problem around the world which makes this movie such an intriguing subject for writer Paul Laverty and director Ken Loach, both of whom made The Wind That Shakes the Barley together, to broach.  I’d think many will be glad they did; showing that not everyone is computer savvy which is a sort of discrimination.  The film also exposes the truth of what Social Security looks like in this day and age.  Are all of us one step away from losing everything we have and begging for food?  Told often in a comical fashion, the film is actually a drama that brings to light the social injustices that can befall any of us at any moment. 

Daniel is a marvelous character.  He may be down but don’t count him out.  Having paid his taxes all his life, he will fight to get what’s rightfully his.  While in the Social Security office going round and round with a member of the staff, getting nowhere and now being asked to wait, he notices a woman, Katie (Squires).  She’s with two children and is getting kicked out for daring to ask for some forgiveness.  She’s new to the area, got lost and couldn’t help being a bit late to her appointment.  Katie is being turned away and being the good, kind, caring person that  Daniel is, he steps in and creates a scene.  He essentially asks someone behind a desk to find a heart and treat her with dignity and respect.  They’re both kicked out and he ends up helping her himself.  This leads to a wonderful friendship.  It’s nothing sexual, just a beautiful, caring, friendship between two people who have what the other needs… some love to offer.  Daniel and Katie are in a class struggle and for the rest of the film we see what people are put through by a system not really meant to help people, but to rather lead them quicker to the deathbed to save the state some money.  They’re both stuck in the mother of all Catch-22’s. 

In order to keep his benefits, he’s asked to look for a job and show proof he’s looking or he’ll lose what he IS getting.  As we’ve established, with his heart condition, if he were to actually get a job, he’d have to turn it down because of his heart condition… not that any of this is doing him any good.  Helping Katie and her children, who have just moved into government housing and are having a tough time with things, puts a smile on his face and will yours, as well.  In an incredibly moving scene, Daniel takes Katie to a food bank and, so hungry that she can’t wait, Katie opens a can of food while standing at the shelf she took it from, she starts shoving it in her mouth.  The scene is so well done I couldn’t help but cry some.  Eventually, she ends up finding work to pay the bills but not a job  she, nor Daniel, are too happy about.       

There are exquisitely crafted scenes and also political tidings in I, Daniel Blake.  There are clear messages of the times that one might want to observe while being entertained but don’t see this as a political film because it’s not.  It’s a very human story that shows how fallible we are and reveals the truth about how we’re left stranded by the very organization that’s supposed to care for us all.  We also see people go out of their way for one another in a manner I haven’t seen in a film in awhile.  It’s a touching narrative and the cast is top notch.  In the end, Daniel gets to say how he feels.  His words are biting as he explains how he’s not a blip on a screen or a number but he’s a citizen who has paid his dues.  There’s a powerful ending with a message that says, ‘I’m just Daniel Blake; a person who needs to be treated like one.’  I expect your cheeks may flush when you see how this story ends.  I do strongly recommend this film.  There are a few times the accent gets a little too thick to understand but luckily it doesn’t happen very often. 

Megan Leavey Movie Review

This is a film about Megan Leavey, a Marine K9 Handler and the bomb-sniffing German Sheppard, Rex, with whom she’d do anything to save as he did her on the battlefields of Iraq.  They were involved in over 100 missions and saved countless lives but now, she must save Rex.  It begins by introducing us to Megan (Mara) and what ultimately leads her to make the decision to join the Marines.  Like many stories that lead to this same resolution, she’s from a broken family and after her best friend kills himself, she feels displaced and assumes the Military will give her what she’s desperately missing; some discipline and some personal strength.

Being new on base and still a bit naïve, she gets caught urinating in a bush and finds herself on kennel cleaning detail as her discipline.  She’s not happy but it could be worse.  She’s not terribly fond of a dog named Rex when their paths first cross and he’s not too fond of her either but before long, she likes how being around the animals makes her feel and the respect they give her is unlike any she’s gotten in her entire life.  She does the only thing that would possibly make her happy at this point in her life; she convinces Gunny Martin (Common) to let her train to be a handler.  It’s explained to her that being in control and being confident at all times is key to this job.  She’s told that everything she feels goes ‘down leash.’  If you can’t control yourself, you can’t control the animal.  When she has this down, Megan finally feels she has grown up and it shows in character. 

Soon, she and Rex are off to Iraq and she’s warned to be careful as there are large bounties out for female handlers.  She learns a lot, especially by making mistakes, but she also teaches the men in her unit that a woman is just as good as a man.  Similar to the views of this particular enemy, women only go so far in battle and Megan and Rex are somewhat relegated to only working at checkpoints; not allowed to go on missions.  This frustrates her.  This doesn’t last long, though.  Three months after her arrival, being the only handler available, she finally gets the opportunity she’s been hoping for and is directed to the front lines.  Well trained and following the prompting of this master, Rex finds a massive stash of arms, saving many lives in the process.  And just like that, they are the heroes of the unit.  Moving forward, their courage and abilities make them the team most wanted for missions.

After being incredibly successful, Corporal Megan Leavey and Rex are both wounded by an IED.  She’s sent to the hospital and is separated from the dog, who she now considers hers.  Another thing handlers are warned never to do is to ever see the dogs as theirs.  They belong to the Marines.  The dogs are soldiers, not pets.  Unable to forget him and his unconditional love, she does everything in her power to track him down.  Deciding not to re-enlist, she continues her quest after being told he is going to be retired.  Desperate to adopt him, she’s then told he’s not adoptable because he’s too aggressive and the military would rather put him down than take the chance Rex would mistake a child’s toy gun as a real gun and possibly take an innocent life.  All of that said, she fights harder to save him.  Putting her life on hold, she gets a petition going and even approaches Senator Chuck Schumer in the hopes of being listened to about what Rex means to her.  He may not stand on two legs, but being that he was a soldier in battle, he deserves the chance to live. 

Megan Leavey is a touching film and if you’re in need of a good cleansing cry, this would be the picture for you to see this weekend.  Mara is delightful, the script is engaging and the story is powerful.  There’s also a special treat so stay for the end because you get to see the real Rex and Leavey which adds more heart and even more of a reason to see the film.

My Cousin Rachel

My Cousin Rachel starts with a letter from one cousin to the other; cousins who love and respect one another but have been apart for a very long time.  This is writer/director Roger Michell’s (Notting Hill, Changing Lanes) take on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier and it’s rather entertaining, even if you do leave scratching your head. 

Having been orphaned as a child when both of his parents had died, Philip (Claflin) is raised by Ambrose who gladly took him in.  He, while single, managed to even play father figure while contemporaneously playing best friend to Philip.  One day, Philip gets a letter from him and within the letter, he notices a secret message to him regarding his cousin’s wife, Rachel (Weisz).  Ambrose believes that she is a danger to him and requests that Philip come as quickly as possible to help him.  Sadly, he isn’t fast enough.  Ambrose passes and he is beyond devastated.  He was already looking to help Ambrose with his problem, now he wants desperately, to hunt her down and exact his revenge.  

Philip speaks to the family lawyer, Kendall (Glen) about the estate and learns that Rachel had received no inheritance.  This being the case, what would she have to gain from doing anything to hurt Ambrose?  Philip is not deterred by this.  Kendall may think she’s innocent but Philip, now head of the estate, will use all of his power to find Rachel and acquire the truth.  Guessing she’s a foul beast, he calls on her and she comes to stay as a guest in the worst room Philip can put her in.  She’s ever grateful and sweet about everything; fine with the accommodations and pleased to be so welcome.  Once he sets his eyes on her, all plans Philip had are out the window.  As his cousin surely did, he falls instantly in love.  Is she a witch?  Is she a vixen?  Has she cast a spell on the impressionable young master of the house?  Louise (Grainger), Kendall’s daughter, who had joked with Philip about what an awful person this Rachel must be and knew of his plans to ruin her, had set her eyes on Philip long ago.  Once she sees Rachel with him, she knows she has no chance. 

As her heart breaks, the audience grows suspicious about who this woman is and what she’s really after.  If she is who Ambrose said she is, this young man who has zero experience with women has no chance against the likes of her.  Let the games begin.  It’s intriguing watching Rachel work her magic, both the actress and the character.  With just one look from her, he changes in an instant… one tiny little kiss and he’s wrapped around her finger.  She tells him intimate things such as the time she lost her baby and shows him honesty when people try to prove her anything but which leaves him more vulnerable and finds him more beguiled than before.  Seems all is going according to plan, wouldn’t you say?

That’s where I got a little lost.  I’m not certain of that.  As I previously mentioned, by the time the credits role, this could be a little bit of a head scratcher for you.  I must mention, however, that the performances were more than acceptable.  His infatuated boy trying to become a man is very good and Weisz is strong as a woman to be suspicious of.  She shows range as her character becomes sickeningly sweet one minute, full of despair the next, then suddenly turns back into someone you may have never known at all.  I recommend a theatre watch, but maybe just a matinee.  It’s beautiful to watch and the music is more than satisfactory for the period and is pleasing to your ears.