Thursday, February 15, 2018

15:17 to Paris

Clint Eastwood's latest film is not one that will live forever in the halls of excellence, but it's a good movie that lets you know what it's going to do -- and then does it. The film provides the childhood of three men, their teen years, and then their struggle to find themselves as adults. When they decide to tour Europe and share adventures, it is the everyday decision that leads to their destiny when confronted by a terrorist who is going to kill and detonate a bomb on the 15:17 train to Paris.

The three men do a good job of portraying themselves, both in the delivery of their lines and in the action required at their moment that forever changed their lives. It's a very relaxing movie to watch because it doesn't purport to do any more than tell the story, which is a refreshing change from all the symbolic message movies that want you to "get" a message far larger than the screen delivers.

This is a good film for older teenagers to watch because it shows the challenges of growing up and away from what doesn't work in one's life during the quest to find what does work. The boys get into minor trouble as young boys, and struggle to find themselves as teens. When they graduate from high school, they each take a different path, but it's easy to see how their present and past are connected. As a matter of fact, if these young men had not taken the journey they did in their personal growth, they would not have seized the moment and changed the lives of the passengers on the 15:17 to Paris.

I enjoyed this film for the story, for the simplicity of the telling, and for the strength of the message of what we do when we are called upon to "do something" but find ourselves wanting to do nothing because we may put ourselves into danger. I recommend this film to anyone who needs to remember that doing something when it's called for is a greater challenge than simply sitting back and waiting to see what happens.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Phantom Thread

I don’t know what I expected from Phantom Thread, but the film left me feeling cheated on the way out of the theatre. Daniel Day Lewis is … incredible, but I’m not sure at what or why. The movie is the story of a dress designer whose life is consumed with his art; he meets a server in a diner, moves her into his life, and then the film continues. She poisons him with mushrooms once to get his attention, then nurses him back to health. When he fails to need her the way she needs him, she poisons him again – and he laughs and feels revitalized by her actions.

I left the theatre wondering why someone made this film. I thought it was going to be about someone sewing hidden messages into clothing, messages that were, perhaps, vital to the security of a nation, but that’s not what the film was about. The audience is privy to only two messages, neither of which is of any importance, so even the title of the film is iffy.

It was dollar day at the movies, so I saved some money on the ticket; had I paid full price, I would have wanted my ticket refunded.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018


Hostiles is a Western film that just hit the theaters. My film-going friend is 25% Native American, so she was anxious to see the film and its portrayal of Native Americans. I was nervous based on the title: if it would portray fairly the ethnicities of the story was a big issue for me.

Well, there are many "hostiles," and not just Native Americans. There is conflict of man v. man, man v. woman, man v nature. The American soldiers are tasked with taking some Native Americans back to their own people and, of course, that journey is fraught with danger. The white soldiers are apprehensive, but eventually come around to accepting the Indians in their care. The Indians are resigned to their fate, but are able to fight for their right to complete this journey to their native land.

This film reminded me of the one with the American trapper out in the wilderness who is then confronted by an angry bear and has to survive both his environment and his own personal injuries. The cinematography is excellent, and the journey through the wilderness becomes its own character. The Indians, of course the people we immediately think of as the hostiles, are quite docile until the trappers rape their women. Then, the Indians take care of business and kill the men responsible.

This film is not for everyone, but I enjoyed the storytelling, as well as the beautiful scenery of the journey. The key issue, to allow the Native Americans to return to their own land, is well-told and engaging. I give this film a B+.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Cuba Fantastico!

I am back from my trip to Cuba and had the best time I've had in a while! (NOTE: I FORGOT TO POST THIS TRAVEL REPORT, SO AM DOING IT A COUPLE OF WEEKS LATE) The people of Cuba are so nice, so friendly, so caring that it made the time just fly by. I was in Cuba on a cruise that supports a people-to-people cultural exchange, so we had lots of lectures and demonstrations that we then followed up with in-port visits in Santiago del Cuba, Havana, and Sienfegios.

In Havana, I was shocked at the condition of the actual buildings: the best comparison I can make is that the city resembles Europe at the end of WWII: lots of crumbling infrastructure and residential areas. contrasted with government buildings and private residences that are well-maintained. But their living conditions don't seem to impact the people's attitude about life: they are joyous, friendly, and very interested in anything American. It is challenging to see how impoverished the people are without wanting to do something to change their living conditions.

In Santiago del Cuba, we saw a neighborhood that has been covered with ceramic mosaics -- and it is beautiful. All of the homes are covered in mosaic, as well as the walls around the various homes. There was a street market set up to accompany the mosaics, and it's obviously a big tourist attraction for the visiting cruise ships.

In Sienfegios, we went to a neighborhood that is working very hard to improve its appearance, with lots of maintenance done on the actual structures, then highlighted with brightly-colored paint that really catches one's eyes. In one neighborhood, we visited with a group that is working not just to improve the appearance, but to improve the quality of life where they live. The project was begun by a painter who lives there and uses what would be the livingroom of his home to have an art gallery that is open to the public. Some of the neighbors were playing in a small music band, while other neighbors were dancing in the street. Some of the gals from our ship, who had participated in the on-board dancing classes, joined in with an impromptu street event and really enjoyed being able to do the dance steps.

All in all, I'd love to go back and revisit all the various spots that I enjoyed on this trip. I understand more about the symbolism of the artists, who capture what it is like to be malnourished in spirit, as well as in body. I understand more what it is like when the government controls the income of its people -- and there isn't enough money to break free from the lifestyle and the government. I understand more why the people are willing to risk the journey of 90 miles to Florida, where they can live free and earn as much money as they are capable of earning to improve their station in life.

And I definitely feel the difference between a free America and a socialist Cuba, including the free medical and schooling for all residents, but the holding of the people hostage when it comes to earning income and bettering one's self.

The Post, H2O, and Forever, My Girl

Three movies to report on: Shaped Like Water, The Post, Forever My Girl

H2O is just not that good, but it really tries hard to make something of itself. The plot is predictable, but the filmmaker tries to make sure no one knows what’s happening next, but fails. The gal who plays the mute woman does an outstanding job portraying her role, but the rest of the actors don’t stand out. I was hard-pressed to stay until the end, which I predicted 1/3 of the way into the film.

The Post would have been a good 90-minute made for TV movie. Meryl Streep walks through her role, portraying little, if any, acting chops. Her cigarette has a bigger part to play and does it better than Streep.

Forever My Girl is a great rom/com and could have come off the Lifetime channel, which features appropriate films for every season. The music sound track is awesome, the acting is adequate, and the precocious young female role is rightly played by a very good precocious young female actor.

All in all, I give this week’s watching Cs across the board.