Gideon58's Reviews

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Father Stu
Despite some solid performances, the 2022 docudrama Father Stu suffers from inexperience behind the camera, resulting in a cliche-ridden script, and lethargic direction that take a lot of the entertainment value out of this true story.

This is the story of Stuart Long, an amateur boxer who has to quit the sport for medical reasons and then decides that he's going to Hollywood to become an actor. During this chapter of his journey, he meets a virginal Latina who won't give him the time of day because she's Catholic, which eventually leads Stuart to seminary school and joining the priesthood.

The mediocrity of this film is painful to report because this film was a real passion project for its star, Mark Wahlberg, who couldn't get a major studio to back the project so he financed it himself. Unfortunately, director and screenwriter, Rosalind Ross, a relative newcomer to the business seems to be a little over her head here. Her depiction of the title character, a cocky, self-absorbed jerk who wants life on his own terms who, after meeting a girl, decides to become a priest, just never rings true. It's no fun watching a guy becoming a priest because of a girl, considering priests can't marry, but we never see exactly when Stu finds God, making the rest of his journey hard to swallow. It gets worse when the character is struck with a crippling disease taking away his ability to walk, making the film dissolve into a melodramatic puddle from which its difficult to recover.

The only time the film comes to life is during Stu's scenes with his parents, beautifully played by Mel Gibson and Jacki Weaver. It was so interesting seeing Gibson and Wahlberg playing father and son in a dramatic vehicle, after they had played a comic father and son in Daddy's Home Two, but if the truth be told, the most powerful moments in this film came when Gibson and Wahlberg brought this very complex father and son relationship to the screen.

Wahlberg works very hard at making this role work, including a remarkable physical transformation, something akin to what Robert De Niro did for Raging Bull. Mention shoud also be made of Malcolm McDowell as a sensitive Monsignor and Aaron Moten and Cody Fern as Ham and Jacob, but slogging through this schmaltzy melodrama posing as engaging docudrama was a chore.



Before Sunrise
Five time Oscar nominated director and screenwriter Richard Linklater originally knocked it out of the park with 1995's Before Sunrise, a lyrical and unconventional love story that examines the concept of love at first sight from a twisted angle that fascinates from opening to closing credits.

American Jessie meets French Celine on a train traveling from Budapest to Paris. Celine is traveling all the way to Paris, but Jessie is getting off the train at Vienna where he is catching a plane back to the states. After having a sparkling conservation and meal on the train club car, Jessie impulsively asks Celine to get off the train with him and spend the night with him until he has to leave Vienna the next morning and she, surprisingly, agrees.

What can I say, I absolutely LOVED this movie. This is one of those magical love stories that stays just within the boundaries of realism, enabling us to accept everything that happens and that it happens in less than 24 hours. Jessie and Celine play tourist in Vienna, each place they visit becoming a vignette in their very special love story. From their lovely meeting in the lounge car, the connection between these two is based on intelligent conversation, shared passion, and the sexual tension that arouses from their getting to know each other first. They don't share a kiss until 30 minutes into the film and whether or not they have sex is addressed, but left up to the discretion of the viewer to decide if it happened and I loved that.

The film features gorgeous Italian scenery and I loved that after the film was over, the camera visits everyplace that the couple did. This was one of those movies that had me so completely invested and wanted more when it was over. I was so relieved to learn that there is a sequel called Before Sunset, which earned Linklater his first Oscar nomination for co-writing the screenplay. The effervescent performances by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy as Jessie and Celine, respectively, light up the screen. Lovers of classic movie romance will eat this one up.



Stargirl
2020's Stargirl is a pretentious, quirky, confusing, and ultimately pointless coming-of-age drama that is one of the oddest things I've ever seen from Disney. The film work so hard at being offbeat and quirky that its quirkiness eventually does it in as the story goes in several different directions but never commits to any of them.

Based on a novel by Jerry Spinelli, this is the story of sensitive teenager named Leo who moves to a fictional Arizona town called Mica with his widowed mom. Almost immediately Leo finds himself drawn to an odd newcomer to the school named Stargirl Caraway, who dresses like a bag lady, has a pet rat named Cinnamon, and writes songs that she performs on her ukelele. Leo's attraction to the girl gets lost in the shuffle as the girl seems to become some kind of good luck charm to the school...the school's losing football team starts to win when she comes to the field at halftime and accompanies herself on the ukelele singing a song she wrote called "Be True to Your School". It's not long before Stargirl might be casting some kind of spell over the school, bringing it all kinds of luck, including her winning a speech competition and there's even a scene that implies she might have made it rain.

Director and co-screenwriter Julia Hart seems to go a little overboard in the imaginative mounting of this story that goes in a million different directions but never settles anywhere. Initially, the story seems to be about this awkward kid Leo, who provides a pretentious narration to provide backstory, and how this Stargirl has affected his life. Then the story seems to be about Stargirl and how she has affected the school. We see how Leo's friendship affects his real friends, but that never gets efficiently addressed. Neither does the story's implications that Stargirl might have some kind of "powers". If she does, just like Mary Poppins or Nanny on the sitcom Nanny and the Professor, she never admits to them. And just when she has the entire school behind her, she makes a bold move at a football game that turns the whole school against her.

Her explanation for why she makes this move doesn't work, or her pretentious speech at the regional speech competition that she has to take her shoes off before delivering. Her breakup with Leo and the phony John Hughes finale that took forever to play out didn't work for me either. This was a strange and confusing cinematic experience that just went on and on and on and on...Incredibly, a sequel was released this year called Hollywood Stargirl, upon which I think I'll be taking a hard pass.



The Marrying Kind
Three years after collaborating on Adam's Rib, director George Cukor, screenwriters Garson Kanin and Ruth Gordon, and Oscar winner Judy Holliday reunited for a rich comedy drama called The Marrying Kind, which works thanks to an unconventional and at times, unpredictable screenplay and near brilliant performances from the stars.

As the 1952 film opens, we are introduced to Florence Keefer (Holliday) and her husband Chet (Aldo Ray) are in divorce court, but the judge presiding over the hearing senses that these two divorcing is a mistake. They leave the courtroom and meet privately where the judge asks them why they are here, leading to a group of scenes from a troubled marriage that seem to fit an earlier remark by the judge that "there are three sides to every story, his side, her side, and the truth."

Kanin and Gordon really scored with a sometimes complex look at the institution of marriage seems to follow what is traditional for marriage in 1952, but as the story progresses, this is a couple who don't fit the mold of marriage in the 1950's. Chet initially rebuffs the remarks from his work buddies who say his life will change completely and Florence refuses to be an obedient little hausfrau, even though she loves her husband. Love the opening vignette where Florence and Chet simultaneously talk about their first meeting. I loved when Florence and Chet would be narrating on the audio and their dialogue would match the characters onscreen.

Initially the stories from their marriage that Chet and Florence share are amusing, but hardly worth ending a marriage over, because we never believe that these two have stopped loving each other. However, at the halfway point, the vignettes become much darker, showing a true relationship crisis that actually has us wondering if divorce is the answer.

I never believed for a minute that these two would divorce, but the journey to that revelation was such a pleasure. Florence and Chet are so much fun...I love that a good chunk of their scenes they're talking to each other at the same time, this is where Cukor's skills as a director come in. Cukor makes us believe that these two are meant to be together.

Judy Holliday won a Best Actress Oscar for Born Yesterday, but I don't think she has ever been better than she was here...an effervescent and angry performance that galvanizes the screen and this film was a perfect showcase for Ray, who Columbia was grooming hard at the time, even giving him an onscreen acknowledgment. Holliday and Ray create one of the most realistic screen marriages I have ever seen in an intelligent film that keeps the viewer guessing. I'm beginning to think Judy Holliday never made a bad movie.



George Carlin's American Dream
The legendary George Carlin has finally been given a long overdue cinematic testament to his career in George Carlin's American Dreams,a loving and detailed look at the life and career of the comedy icon that, like a good celebrity documentary should, offers consistent surprises about the man that were news to me, but is also mounted with the same style and panache as the 2020 documentary Belushi.

I would like to preface by saying that this review is coming from one of Carlin's biggest fans...a man who reinvented standup comedy and a man who I think everything he said was absolutely correct. Not long after he released his most famous album, Class Clown, i had it memorized and was performing excepts from it whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Co-producers and directors Judd Apatow and Michael Bonfiglio open the HBO documentary with black and white footage of Carlin showing us around the neighborhood where he grew up. Now I don't know when this part of the movie was actually filmed, but it is set up as if Carlin is hosting his own biopic. This opening is brilliant and surreal because it gives the viewer the feeling that Carlin is still with us, which is such a comfort. The film then flashes back to his childhood which is where the surprises begin.

Imagine my surprise that Carlin had an abusive father who he felt he barely knew and was raised by his mother, who he called "a drama queen." Glimpses into his early career provided surprises as well, including a professional comic teaming with Jack Burns, who was more famous for working with Avery Schreiber and for replacing Don Knotts on The Andy Griffith Show. Loved learning that Carlin's first cinema hero was Danny Kaye and on that famous night in a Florida nightclub where Lenny Bruce was arrested for obscenity, George, as an act of solidarity, managed to get himself arrested right alongside Bruce.

One of the most shocking elements of this story was the reveal that Brenda Carlin, George's wife of 36 years, was an alcoholic, who fought the disease for decades before finally going to rehab and getting sober. George's use of marijuana, acid, and cocaine was no surprise, but the impact it had on his daughter, Kelly was.

Some of George's most memorable routines are showcased including the one that got him the most acclaim and actually arrested one night...the seven words you can't say on television, which, in later years, was revised to the seven words you can't say all the tine. A nice chunk of this documentary is focused on the origin of the routine and the firestorm it caused and continues today.

The documentary slides nicely into home plate with Carlin's introduction as the first host of SNL, which Carlin felt was the sunset of his career. Commentary is offered along the way by Chris Rock, Bette Midler, Jerry Seinfeld, Patton Oswalt, Tony Orlando, Brenda and Kelly Carlin, and Carlin's older brother, Patrick. A loving tribute to an entertainment legend.



Daisy Kenyon
The heated direction by Otto Preminger and the steamy performances by the stars make a slightly soapy melodrama called Daisy Kenyon worth a look.

The 1947 film features Joan Crawford in the title role, a commercial artist who has been having a dead end affair with a married attorney with children named Dan O'Mara (Dana Andrews). Without really looking for it, Daisy thinks she's found real love with Peter Lapham (Henry Fonda), a hypersensitive war veteran trying to start a boating business, but still haunted by the memory of his late wife. Dan's wife, Lucille (Ruth Warrick) eventually finds out about the affair and that's when things get really ugly.

David Hertz' screenplay, based on a novel by Elizabeth Janeway, is a typical movie love triangle, traveling a familiar path we've seen in dozens of other films. but this story is complicated by the fact that Dan seems to be just as much in love with Daisy as he is with Lucille, not to mention the fact that Peter doesn't put up any fight to keep Daisy. The story frustrates the viewer because Dan doesn't deserve Daisy and Lucille's innocent guile about her husband's infidelity turns nasty and manipulative on a dime.

The film also frustrates because the real chemistry onscreen was between Crawford and Fonda but as the story progressed and we learned that Peter was still awash in feelings for his late wife, we knew this was never to be. The big trial for Dan and Lucille's divorce was classic Preminger, reminding me Preminger's classic 12 years later, Anatomy of a Murder, but this kind of divorce trial looks kind of silly in 2022, where a divorce is handled in a couple of meetings and phone calls. It's a familiar story, it's just a little too "Aren't we civilized?" for this reviewer's tastes.

Despite the B&W filming, the film was given a pretty big budget for 1947 and Preminger knew what to do with with it. The film features handsome art direction, costumes, and Alfred Newman's music. Preminger's direction is solid and the ending is a bit of a cop out, but the performances by the stars make it worth watching.



Turning Red
Disney Pixar offers another lushly mounted, but overly complex story rich with universal cinematic themes called Turning Red that offers a fun story but, as with most Disney Pixar features, tests viewer patience with too many endings.

This is the story of Meilin, a hyperactive and energetic Asian teen who lives in Toronto and runs a tourist attraction with her mother. One day, Meilin learns that she has a family curse that, when she looses her temper, turns her into a giant red panda. She initially learns that if she can control her temper, she can control her inner panda, but her mother confesses to that the curse can only be removed during a special ceremony that she has to wait a month for. In the meantime, Meilin tries to live with her curse, while learning to take advantage of it as well.

Director and co-screenwriter Domee Shi has created a fairy tale that borrows from a lot of other television and film works like Clueless, The Incredible Hulk, and Teen Wolf and then wraps it around the atmosphere of the TV show Kim's Convenience. The story is centered around a delightful central character, that the story takes a little too much time to introduce along with her problems, but the story does waver in terms of how much power she has over this curse and how, of course, her family spends the majority of the running time keeping the curse a secret, leading to at least two too many endings, a Pixar staple.

The film is beautifully mounted with splashy animation and there is standout voicework from Rosalie Chiang as Meilin and Sandra Oh as her mother, I just wish it had been a little less leisurely getting where it's going and then wrapping up.



The Men
Three years after electrifying Broadway with his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire, Marlon Brando made an impressive film debut in an intense 1950 drama that Brando makes worth watching all by himself, though it does have much to recommend.

Brando plays Ken Wilocek, a war veteran still in the VA hospital after returning from the war paralyzed from the waist down, housed on a wing with dozens of other soldiers in the same position. Ken thinks his life is over and has told his fiancee, Ellen (Oscar winner Theresa Wright) that he doesn't want her coming to the VA hospital because he's ashamed and embarrassed. Ellen comes to the hospital anyway and manages to convince Ken that her feelings haven't changed just because he's lost his legs. Ken then throws himself into physical therapy and exercise with such zeal that he thinks he's getting feeling back in his legs. Ken almost gives up again when he realizes this isn't true, news that Ellen reacts to by demanding she and Ken set a wedding date, a ceremony Ken manages to participate in standing.

Blacklisted writer Carl Foreman provided the screenplay for this dicey melodrama that takes on a pretty messy subject, showing a lot of balance in the mounting of the story. The action rarely leaves the one wing of this hospital, but the story is so engaging we don't really notice. I love the opening scenes of Dr. Brock making his way through the wing, checking on all the patients progress or lack thereof. It was very interesting being introduced to over a dozen patients in this opening scene and each one of them is dealing with their ordeal differently, including Ken and the soldiers sharing his corner of the wing: Norm. Doolin, and Angel.

It is the complicated relationship between Ken and Ellen that anchors most of the story, going a lot of squirm-worthy places where the viewer understands how both parties feel. We are initially impressed with the way Ellen bucks Ken up with her love and the story progresses a lot further than we thought and we understand when she begins to waver. Brando really commands the show here, completely immersing himself in a physically demanding role, which requires the peak physical condition he displays here. I never thought Brando looked better than he did in Streetcar, but I was wrong.

Fred Zinneman's direction is simultaneously sensitive and sizzling. Everett Sloan scores in the complex role of Dr. Brock as do Richard Erdman as Doolin, future television icon Jack Webb as Norm, who has one terrific drunk scene after finding out his girlfriend stole $900 him, and Arthur Jurado as Angel, who research revealed was a real life paraplegic. It's Brando's show though, in one of the most powerful film debuts I have ever seen.



Pleasure (2021)
2021's Pleasure is a raw and uncompromising look at the adult film industry which supposedly sheds a light on myths and misconceptions about the business, but ultimately leaves the viewer confused and squirming as the film seems to be unsure as to what kind of statement it's trying to make.

As the film opens we are introduced to a beautiful blonde named Bella Cherry, getting off a plane from Sweden, with the intention of becoming a porn star. We watch as her path to "stardom" is not unlike a lot of show business stories. but eventually several show business cliches that we're all familiar pop along the way while actually trying to tell a balanced and realistic story.

Director and co-screenwriter Ninja Thyberg has mounted what appears to be a realistic portrait of the business, with a leaning of sympathy toward the filmmakers. This story attempts to pain some of directors as sensitive and caring people, truly concerned about the safety and comfort of the women in the business, but it's hard to tell how far that sympathy goes. The screenplay also tries to explore women's motivations for doing porn...do they do it for the money or do it because they like to have sex and want to get paid for it. One problem with the story was that it's never really made clear why Bella is doing it, making it hard to invest in what was going on.

As one might imagine, this film is filled graphic sexual content and nudity so be forewarned regarding that sort of thing. One of the film's best scenes is also one of the most confusing. Bella gets a job making a movie where she is filming a very rough scene and backs out of it in the middle of the shooting. Now Bella requested this job because this kind of work pays more, but once in the middle of it, could not finish. The gentlemen involved in the shoot all treat her as such and allow her to leave, but not without informing her what leaving would cost her or them. We're supposed to feel sympathy for Bella, but do we?

Considering the subject matter, there should have been some element of titillation of erotic feelings aroused here, but this reviewer felt nothing. Sofia Kappel works hard in the starring role, but if the truth be told, I kept picturing Jodie Comer in this role and with her I might have added an extra bag of popcorn to my rating. It should be noted that a lot of the actors and directors are real life members of the porn industry, but I found this film to be kind of an empty experience. despite a lot of artistry from the director.



The Emperor's New Groove
Disney Studios really knocked it out of the park with a slick and smart action fantasy from 2000 called The Emperor's New Groove,whose strongest elements are some richly drawn characters, an extremely clever screenplay, and some wonderful voice work.

Emperor Kuzco (voiced by David Spade), the selfish and self-absorbed leader of a jungle kingdom, has just finished telling a local shepherd named Pacha (voiced by John Goodman) that he plans to destroy the village where Pacha lives to turn it into a summer home. The next day, Kuzco's administrative aide, Yzma (voiced by the legendary Eartha Kitt) and her assistant, Cronk (voiced by Patrick Warburton) plan to poison Kuzco in order to take over the kingdom. The poison turns out to be a potion that turns Kuzco into a Llama, who is ostracized from his kingdom and his only hope of becoming human and regaining his throne ends up in the hands of Pacha.

Almost a dozen writers contributed to the crafting of this wonderful story which not only starts off near the end with the Llama emperor alone in a swamp and then flashes back to the real beginning of the story, accompanied by a very funny narration by the emperor that not only helps the viewer understand the story, but helps the viewer to understand the kind of person this emperor is, reminding us every couple of minutes during the story what's going on with him and when the story strays from him, he is given the power to bring the story back to focus on him. There is even a brilliant moment where the character actually breaks the 4th wall in order to put audience focus back where it belongs...on him.

The film starts a little more deliberately than we want, but we begin to understand that the self-absorbed attitude of this emperor is at the root of his behavior during the the story and why. even though he often doesn't serve it, we like the friendship that he develops with Pacha, who we remember Kuzco treated like crap at the beginning of the film. As the warm friendship between Kuzco and Pacha develops, we are even more entertained by the relationship between the evil Yzma and the bubble-headed Cronk, which provides equal entertainment. The scene where Cronk is preparing the poison glass of wine for the Emperor had me on the floor.

The animation is bold and colorful and the voice work is superb. I have never enjoyed David Spade more in his voicing Emperor Kuzco. I haven't enjoyed Spade onscreen this much since he did "The Hollywood Minute" on SNL. Goodman and Kitt are terrific as well, but the film is just about stolen by Warburton as Cronk, one of the funniest animated characters I have ever seen. A rich animated fantasy that kept a grin on my face the entire running time.



Jerry and Marge Go Large
With the director of The Devil Wears Prada in the director's chair, 2022's Jerry and Marge Go Large, is a breezy, Capra-esque, fact-based comedy that draws its story in pretty primary colors, but never fails to entertain thanks to an engaging true story and a terrific cast with a serious dose of star power.

Jerry (Bryan Cranston) is a retired factory worker, not really feeling the concept of retirement after 42 years on the job, who sits down one day and figures out how to beat the odds on the lottery. After winning about $15,000 and hiding it all over the house, Jerry finally confesses to wife Marge (Annette Bening) what he's been doing. Instead of calling him insane, Marge is on board and the couple start purchasing thousands of dollars worth of tickets, even when it involves driving eight hours to another state and playing at a bodega owned by a lonely divorced guy (Rainn Wilson). Jerry and Marge win enough money that they start a corporation bringing in all their friends into an actual corporation making money for all of them. Things are going great for Jerry and Marge until a group of pampered Harvard college students, led by an entitled brat named Tyler, figure out Jerry's system and try to drive them out.

Brad Copeland's screenplay adapted from a 2018 article in the Huffington Post, brings facts and humanity together in an irresistible combination that engages the viewer from the beginning, even if we're not sure of every little thing that happens here. Admittedly, as I watched Jerry first trying to figure out the system, I didn't no exactly what he was doing. I did know enough to know that Jerry knew what he was doing, and as an outside looking in, I realized I knew all I needed to know, but I think more details might be revealed upon a re-watch. Copeland gives us a lovely slice of small town Americana that evolves into a simple contemporary story good guys vs the bad guy.

Love the way the movie begins because it doesn't give any indication to where the story is going. We see Jerry being gently pushed out of the job he's held for 42 years and into the bosom of his family, which he doesn't seem to be too thrilled about. Even being gifted with a fishing boat by his family doesn't buoy his spirits. We think we're going to see a contemporary version of Norman and Ethel Thayer here and that's not what we get at all. We get a couple in denial about their "golden years" and making the most of them instead.

Director David Frankel puts a lot of love into his depiction of small town life and the underlying theme of this true story that life doesn't end at 60. Frankel has assembled a terrific cast to pull this off. Bryan Cranston is just glorious as Jerry, a role he disappears inside of the way Gary Oldman disappears inside a role and he's matched note for note by the beautifully aging Bening as Marge. Michael McKean, Larry Wilmore, and especially Uly Schlesinger as the snotty Tyler also score in supporting roles. Big shout out to Jake Monaco's music as well. A pretty smooth cinematic ride.



American Pie 2
From the "If You Liked the First One" school of making sequels, comes 2001's American Pie 2, another rowdy and raunchy look at a special group of high schoolers now trying to bring their still thriving obsessions with sex to college.

This sequel to the 1999 comedy smash reunites Jim (Jason Biggs), Oz (Chris Klein), Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas), and, of course, Stifler (Seann William Scott) as they decide to make up for the missed opportunities at prom by moving into a beach house and picking up where they left off.

Jim has reunions with both sexy foreign exchange student Nadia (Shannon Elizabeth) and band geek/sex freak Michelle (Allyson Hannnigan); Oz struggles to remain faithful to Heather (Mena Suvari), who is spending the summer in France; Kevin and Vicky (Tara Reid) are still struggling with the parameters of the "will they or won't they" relationship and Finch still can't think about any woman but Stifler's mom (Jennifer Coolidge), which continues to make Stifler insane.

The screenplay by Adam Herz and David Steinberg nicely re-establishes the character and where they were at the end of the first film without completely re-enacting scenes or doing flashbacks, though its attempts to spread the sexual depravity of the first film do get spread a little thin and fall flat. The scenes of Oz and Heather attempting to keep their love alive via phone sex and everything with Kevin and Vicky just felt forced and uninteresting.

There were enough going on that did work that kept the film moving at a nice clip. As always, every moment onscreen with Jim and his dad (Eugene Levy) was gold, as was Jim's struggles with some superglue that Jim mistook for lube. Biggs had me on the floor throughout this scene, displaying a Jerry Lewis-level skill with physical comedy that produced huge laughs. Big laughs also come when Jim, Finch, and Stifler encounter a pair of bikini-clad beauties pretending to be lesbians. The script tends to meander a little bit, but if you liked the first movie, laughs are to be found here too.



Shirley
Despite a story based in fact and some terrific performances, the 2020 film Shirley never fully engages the viewer thanks to a rambling screenplay that clumsily tries to combine fact and speculation into a muddled story that rarely provides focus on the story's most interesting elements.

The film begins in the 1950's where we meet a young college professor named Fred Nemser who is traveling with his pregnant wife, Rose to accept a job at a college where Stanley Hyman is one of the most popular professors. On the train, Rose is observed reading the short story "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and is fascinated when she learns that Hyman and Jackson are married. Jackson is allegedly beginning to write a new novel called "Hangsmen" but hasn't written much , not mention hasn't left her home in three years. Fred and Rose find themselves a little too tangled into the lives of Hyman and Jackson, though Hyman and Jackson do find themselves as obsessed with the Nemsers as they seem to be with them.

There's a really good film in here somewhere, but Sarah Gubbins' screenplay, based on a novel by Susan Scarf Merrell, is just a little too confusing as it attempts to meld fact and fiction, real and imaginary characters with only middling success. Other than the fact the she wrote "The Lottery", I knew precious little about Jackson and didn't learn much more after watching this film. It would have been interesting if this film had focused upon the time that she was writing "The Lottery", which might have made a much more interesting story. Instead, what we get is a slightly insane Jackson thinking she has complete insight into Rose's marriage and Stanley's on and off attempts to seduce Rose while controlling Jackson. It's sort of an inane melding of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with Trumbo, that turns out pretentious and a little too angry to keep us interested.

Director Josephine Decker shows some imagination in her direction, I just wish she had a better screenplay to work with. Elisabeth Moss and Michael Stuhlberg (The Color of Water; Call Me By Your Name) give Oscar worthy performances as Shirley jackson and Stanley Hyman. Logan Lerman (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)) also impresses as young Fred, but the whole things is just too syrupy and heavy to function as geniuine entertainment.



There's a really good film in here somewhere, but Sarah Gubbins' screenplay, based on a novel by Susan Scarf Merrell, is just a little too confusing as it attempts to meld fact and fiction, real and imaginary characters with only middling success.
I haven't seen this film, but I did read the novel it was based on, which similarly had some rough patches trying to integrate the real people with the fictional characters.

I did like the sinister implication (in the book) that Rose thinking she's gaining insight into the marriage is actually just part of this weird ritual between Shirley and her husband. But the novel hinged so much on Rose's point of view and mental state, that I had serious doubts about it being adapted well to the screen.

If you haven't read much (or any) of Jackson's work, I highly recommend starting with her short story "The Tooth". It's dreamy and creepy.



Remember Me (2010)
An emotional journey is guaranteed with 2010's Remember Me, an intimate and explosive tale of family and romance that takes the viewer through a bumpy and unpredictable story climaxing in an ending you don't see coming at all.

Robert Pattinson plays Tyler, a young man who several years ago found his younger brother after he committed suicide, who enters into a relationship with Ally (Emile de Ravin), who several years ago witnessed her mother mercilessly murdered on a subway platform. We are treated to a tentative relationship rich with roadblocks and secrets as we are simultaneously introduced to Tyler and Ally's family, who bring a lot of reveal into why these two people are so broken and why a real relationship seems virtually impossible.

Will Fetters, who would later receive an Oscar nomination for his screenplay for 2018's A Star is Born, does Oscar-worthy work here with an edgy story rich with unpredictability from beginning to end. It's impossible to gauge exactly where this relationship is going to go from scene to scene. This romance is given a strong anchor in the introduction of their families, especially Tyler and Ally's father, characters who are polar opposites as are their relationships with their children. Ally's father is a cop who to this day blames himself for his wife's death, while Tyler's father is a wealthy workaholic who really doesn't seem to have time for his family.

The film is rich with eye-popping scenes that come out of nowhere. There is one particular scene where Tyler bursts into his father's office during a meeting to brow beat dad for missing his baby sister's art show that galvanized the screen and had me holding my breath and I'm pretty sure this scene was a collaboration between Pattinson and director Allen Coulter (Hollywoodland) that produced a scene with De Niro-type intensity as well as the scene where he escorts his sister back to school after a hazing incident, which leads to one of the most mind blowing climaxes I have seen in a movie in a minute that had me fighting tears.

Pattinson brings a disturbing intensity to Tyler and de Ravin lights up the screen as young Ally. Oscar winner Chris Cooper delivers as Ally's dad and I also liked Tait Ellington as Tyler's roommate and Kate Burton as Tyler's dad's assistant, but if the truth be told, it is the surprisingly powerful performance by Pierce Brosnan as Tyler's icy dad that was the real standout here...Brosnan never has done much for me as an actor over the years, but he's Oscar-worthy here. An emotionally charged motion picture experience that sticks the ending, which upped by rating half a bag of popcorn.



Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
A glorious and utterly enchanting performance by the always watchable Emma Thompson makes a 2022 comedy-drama called Good Luck to You, Leo Grande worth watching all by itself.

The two time Oscar-winner plays Nancy Stokes, a widowed teacher who hasn't had sex since her husband died two years ago and has decided that she has to have sex...no commitments, just for fun, good sex that will hopefully lead to the orgasm that she has never had. Nancy books an unbelievably handsome sex worker named Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack) to help her get what she wants.

During their first meeting, Nancy's nerves get the best of her, despite Leo being a perfect gentleman, as she fights what she wants with every fiber of her being. Her deflection eventually leads her to questioning Leo about his personal life, which we can see is a mistake. As she backs off, their meeting seems to end on a positive note and we are overjoyed as three more meetings take place between Nancy and Leo; however, Nancy makes a serious misstep during the third meeting that seems to destroy a relationship we are really beginning to enjoy.

Katy Brand's screenplay is sexy and intelligent featuring two sexy and intelligent people who don't know how sexy and intelligent they are. I especially loved the first meeting where Nancy is freaking out and can't understand why Leo would want to be with her and he does everything correct to put the woman at ease, futile as it might be. We are happy that their first meeting, 40 minutes into the movie, ends with a kiss and we're not sure what's going to happen next, but I actually cheered when the screen went black and when it came back up, the words "Meeting Two" flashed across the screen.

Films like Breakfast at Tiffany's and Pretty Woman did flash through my head as I watched this film. Nancy spends a lot of time stalling Leo by questioning the legitimacy of what he does, despite the fact that he makes it clear he doesn't want to talk about. It almost gets to the point that we want to shake Nancy and tell her just to get what she wants from this man who is being paid and more than willing. Loved the reveal that neither Nancy nor Leo use their real names and the reveal of Nancy's real name was a particular delight.

Thompson and McCormack are pretty much the only characters onscreen for the majority of the film and never make you regret it. Thompson is deliciously offbeat as Nancy and McCormack offers the best sex-on-legs performance I've seen by an actor since Brad Pitt in Fight Club and has the most beautiful eyes I've seen on an actor since Cillian Murphy. Oh and be forewarned that the film does feature full frontal Emma. A sexy and fun film that offered smiles, giggles, and warmth throughout.



Good Luck to You, Leo Grande
Thompson and McCormack are pretty much the only characters onscreen for the majority of the film and never make you regret it. Thompson is deliciously offbeat as Nancy and McCormack offers the best sex-on-legs performance I've seen by an actor since Brad Pitt in Fight Club and has the most beautiful eyes I've seen on an actor since Cillian Murphy. Oh and be forewarned that the film does feature full frontal Emma. A sexy and fun film that offered smiles, giggles, and warmth throughout.
I saw this pop up on Hulu and was intrigued (I really love Emma Thompson's energy). Good to hear some positive word of mouth about it!



Super Size Me
Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock put himself on the map with a groundbreaking and genuinely frightening film called Super Size Me, a thoughtfully documented look at the effect that the fast food industry has had on this country that received an Oscar nomination for Best Feature Documentary, though for this reviewer, this movie belongs in the horror genre. I can't think of any film experience in the last 50 years that terrified me as much as this one did.

Spurlock begins the 2004 film with some mind-blowing statistics regarding nutrition and health in the United States. Apparently, America has the largest overweight population on the planet and the city with the most overweight people is Houston, Texas. Spurlock's research leads him to the hypothesis that one of the biggest contributors to this problem is McDonalds, offering himself as the guinea pig in a very dangerous experiment: Spurlock decides to eat nothing but McDonald's food for 30 days. He has chosen to eat all three meals a day at Mickey D's, has pledged to try every item on the menu before the 30 days is over, and only super sizes his meals if the counter person ask him.

Spurlock put a lot of thought into making this experiment authentic. Before he begins this bizarre diet, he is examined by a team of doctors to document his health at the start, which was deemed practically perfect. Spurlock's humorous approach to this became less and less amusing as the man gained 17 pounds in twelve days and almost 25 pounds when it was over. There is a horrifying scene about 10 days in where he is seen sitting at a drive thru window, consuming a super size Happy Meal. Consuming the entire meal took about 23 minutes and when he was done, he threw up.

It was fascinating that when he would check in with doctors during this dangerous journey, they begged him to stop but he wouldn't. Even the totally understandable dismay from his vegan girlfriend does not deter Spurlock. As the film progressed, we learned that this experiment seriously affected Spurlock's heart, liver, and his sexual functions. He is observed waking up in the middle of the night on Day 22, being unable to breathe and suffering from chest pains.

Don't get me wrong, Spurlock does not blame this battle with obesity completely on McDonalds. Other subjects are broached like lack of proper exercise, food industries being tight-lipped behind their motives, school lunches being prepared with mostly pre-processed foods, and lack of access to general nutritional information, but watching what Morgan Spurlock does to himself, physically and emotionally, was enough to keep me off Big Macs and fries for awhile. Spurlock made a sequel in 2017 centering on chicken fast food.



and only super sizes his meals if the counter person ask him.
I think that this is a particularly nice and nasty detail. We all expect corporations to be merciless in exploiting people, but so many people in sales positions are evaluated on how often they offer upsells/extras.

I also thought that the documentary was very strong.