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Movie Review: “Jamaica Inn”

Based on the book by Daphne du Maurier

Version: 2014; starring Jessica Brown-Findlay

Genre: classic; suspense; costume drama

Plot Summary: [from imdB.com:]  A young woman moves in with her aunt and uncle and soon discovers unsavory happenings in her new home.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book. “Jamaica Inn” has been made into a movie at least three times (Alfred Hitchock- 1934; 1983, starring Jane Seymour; current review) and I have seen all three.  This is not because I especially love the story, but because I was usually bored with nothing else particularly appealing to watch.  The 2014 caught my attention because of Jessica Brown-Findlay playing the lead character.  I have to say that out of all three, this most recent version is my preferred version.

For those who may not be aware, the story is very dark and tense.  What I liked about this movie was the way it kept it tight and the viewer guessing; there is also a lot of texture, wind, and weather.  Watch it for the moody atmosphere if nothing else.  But the acting is pretty well done, and there is interesting cinematography, too.

Unfortunately, there is a pretty racy scene between Mary and love interest Jem.  There is some amount of foul language as well (lots of rough and rowdy fellows and drunken tavern scenes).  An attempted assault is made on Mary, but her uncle defends her.  There are several scenes of murder and some gore.  Obviously, this film is not for sensitive folks.

SPOILER: I often get weary of the church as being painted as the villains in movies.    However, if this storyline has started to lose its shock-and-awe value it is because we live in an age where #metoo has reared its ugly head within the church and the reality is that one mustn’t take even religious leaders for granted.  Even so, we have a pervading sense that this is not the way it is supposed to be—injust, mercy-less and hypocritical so-called “Christians.”  It is not supposed to be this way because Jesus Christ was not this way and deep down the world recognizes the contradiction.  The Bible says that the man who says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.  (1 John 1:4-6)  Rev. Davy appeared to be living God’s commands, yet his life was full of darkness, control, and death.  Whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness.  But whoever is truly a Christ-follower lives in the light, and there is nothing in him to make him stumble.  END OF SPOILER. 

Is Jamaica Inn worth the watch?  I think it can be thoughtfully viewed and learned from.  Some themes to talk over include addiction, codependency, fear and control.   How does each character’s choices come back to haunt them in the end?  It makes for interesting dialogue.  But it’s certainly not a family movie.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Movie Review: True Grit

Based on the book by Charles Portis.

Version: 2010; starring Jeff Bridges; Matt Damon; Domhnall Gleeson

Genre: adventure; classic

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:]  Mattie Ross, 14, from Dardanelle, Arkansas, narrates half a century later, her trip in the winter of 1870s, to avenge the murder of her father. She convinces one-eyed “Rooster” Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshall, to tag along, while she outdickers and outmaneuvers the hard-bitten types in her path.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

I’ve been wanting to watch this film for a while, but you should know by now I’ve never been up to speed on pop culture.  I have never seen the John Wayne movie made in 1969, so I cannot compare it to that or the book which (as stated) I have not read.

I could immediately see why this story is such a classic.  The plot sounds like one that could easily be written today.  One could also appreciate the detail and attention taken in the production of this movie.  Much of the story’s tone is cold and austere, the characters are often grungy and hardened.  This gave it a believable feel, taking place in a tough atmosphere and time period.

I was struck by such a quick-witted heroine only aged 14 years.  She is forced to grow up far too early and therefore she is mature and capable.  She doesn’t let any scoundrel monkey with her and isn’t shy in standing her ground.  She makes for a very admirable character!  The question isn’t whether she has true grit, but whether others are up to the task of staying faithful to their word even when the trail grows cold.

I wanted to give thought to the choice of background music.  Orchestrated by Carter Burwell, much of the theme delineates from the hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”  At first I wondered why this choice was made.  The sound fits well in the background, but what about that song connects it to the story?  After thinking about it, I realized that although the film is not overtly religious and many of the characters do not recognize God (except through swearing), our young heroine Mattie Ross does come from a God-fearing family.  Mattie is not after personal revenge per se, something the Lord commands us not to seek.  But she is after justice which is a major attribute of God.  After local officials refuse to take correct measures, Maddie pursues her case with a local bounty hunter.  She wisely chooses a man she believes will not be soft on the matter of holding a wrongdoer accountable… Rooster Cogburn.  He isn’t an easy character to deal with, but Mattie is not faint of heart.

It’s a good thing she isn’t timid because there are plenty of gorey scenes that aren’t so pretty.   This isn’t exactly a family-friendly flick, and also contains some amount of swearing.

But overall, I was glad to be able to watch this movie at last and counted it as a positive experience.  I would encourage fans of both the book and the previous film version to give this a try.  No, Bridges isn’t John Wayne, but I believe he made the character all his own.  I especially got a kick out of Matt Damon’s egotistical Mr. LaBoeuf.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Movie Review: “The Aviator”

Based on the book by Ernest K. Gann.

Version: 1985; starring Christopher Reeve; Tyne Daly

Genre: adventure; classic

Plot Summary: A physically and emotionally scarred US mail pilot is commissioned to escort a young teenager over the lonely Rocky Mountain wilderness during the 1920’s.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that work.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book. 

When I first came across this streaming for free online, I thought it was an early version of The Aviator that starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Cate Blanchett.  I thought it might be about Howard Hughes.  The story turned out to be quite different than I expected and was a pleasant surprise.

Though this movie may be lacking a lot of the frills and fancies of today’s world, the story was still interesting because of the well-developed characters.  Reeve plays a good pilot that is still suffering from a war incident and lives in isolation from those around him.  Tillie is a young teenage girl that on the surface seems spoiled and immature, but when put to the test proves she has courage to survive hardships.

Some beautiful cinematography from the air and accompanying filmscore is lovely.  Acting may not be A1, but there aren’t any scenes you wouldn’t want your parents to watch.  I believe there were a few ‘d’ words sprinkled throughout.  Tillie does confess that she was ‘banged up’ by a boy prior to her plane trip and declares that it ‘certainly wasn’t love.’  She begins to develop a bit of a crush on Edgar, but nothing inappropriate comes of it.  Rather, it was sweet and humorous and Edgar comes to realize that there may be something in him the right woman could love about him.

I believe that the character Tillie was made older in the movie than she was in the book, but I think this was actually in the story’s favor.  If you’re looking for something a little different, I believe you would enjoy this for entertainment.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Movie Review: “Charlotte’s Web”

Based on the book by E. B. White.

Version: 2006; starring Julia Roberts; Oprah Winfrey; Robert Redford

Genre: children’s classic

Plot Summary: Everyone thinks the phase won’t last when a runt piglet is adopted by a young girl.  Obviously, pigs are raised for one purpose only… consumption.  Wilbur won’t last a chance unless his friends can do something.  One brave and intelligent spider sets out to save him.

My Review: It’s hard to believe this movie has been around for 12+ years now.  I remember when it came to theaters and I was so excited to see it!  But our family couldn’t go to the movies very often, and so I never got the chance.  My friend saw it with her family though, and I heard her tell all about it while I harbored feelings of envy.  It was so good, she claimed that even her dad cried over it!

Finally I found this movie at my local library bookstore for $1.  I’ve been saving it for sometime special and watched with family over New Year’s.  But actually, this movie is quite an ordinary type of story.  No, not ordinary in that it lacked creative entertainment value.  Rather, I mean the story is about noticing and enjoying the ordinary miracles we encounter daily.

Perhaps it might sound like a worn out theme– this one of mindfulness.  But one we need to be reminded of over and over again until we get it and even then refuse to ‘get it’ because then we will close ourselves off from discovery.  I’m very familiar with the story of “Charlotte’s Web.”  I read the book in 3rd grade (the first one I ever cried over), and watched the old ’70’s animated version countless times.  But I’m not sure I ever picked up on this message in the storyline.  I appreciated this newer version for the quiet simplicity with which they mined the story, and staying true to the spirit of E. B. White’s tale.  One reason this story seemed to jump out at me so is because I spent a lot of last year struggling with contentment with my time in life.  I finally came to the conclusion that there are things I enjoy and also things I do not enjoy about now, but my business is to seek out the joy of the present things that God has for me in today.

For Wilbur, this is his natural born gift.  Being a young spring pig, he marvels in sunrises and sunsets, he treasures the gift of a carrot and every silvery wisp of web.  The other barnyard animals have been around for a time or two and have become complacent in their everyday living.  But by the end of the story, they too have fallen under the magic of everyday-ness.  It was a beautiful transformation to watch.

I also noticed how it was of great significance to Wilbur what things were named.  And Charlotte searched for just the right word to describe something.  It was important that it be correct and true.  Somehow, naming something affirms that that person or event in time (no matter how small) has value.

Charlotte lived and used her life to save her friend, and then died. As the narrator (the late Sam Shepard) said at the end of the film, “…but she lived on in the hearts of those who knew her.”  It was ironic because my pastor had just said that morning that our Savior Jesus is alive– “not just in the hearts of those who remembered Him, but as a real scars and eating-grilled-fish alive.”  Because of that, we can truly live too.  And we can enjoy abundant life and all of the beautiful gifts He blesses us with.

I always wondered how life-like animals would work for Charlotte’s Web.  When it came out in 2006, it was one of the first successful of it’s kind.  Of course, animation and cgi has made great leaps and bounds since then.  I was relieved to discover they didn’t churn out a hokey production.  Voice actors were chosen with care.  I’m not always a big fan of choosing big name celebrities for projects just because of their name.  They have to earn the voice acting role in my book.  But I have to say they were all pretty good, even the young actor who played Wilbur (cute as all get out).  The only exception where I’m not sure I was 100% convinced was Julia Roberts as Charlotte.  She has a splendid, proper voice, both stern and soothing when need be and suitable enough.  Yet she didn’t seem to “fill out” all the colors of her character.  My personal favorite was the voice of Templeton.  I encourage anyone to watch the special features (if available) to see the behind-the-scenes casting decisions and recording studio.  That stuff always fascinates me!

I know this was a successful adaptation of the book, because it made me tear up just like the story did when I was 8 years old.  Definitely a family movie I wouldn’t mind seeing again!

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Movie Review: In the Heart of the Sea

0bba4907568246579cbeaea9a220b52fBased on the book Nathaniel Philbrick.

Version: 2015; starring Chris Hemsworth; directed by Ron Howard

Genre: adventure; drama; based on true story

Plot Summary: Herman Melville is looking for his next greatest story in order to make ends meet and thinks he make have a lead.  An aged seaman has a story to tell, if only he can glean the truth from him.

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

I make no apology for my puns. I was hooked from the first glimpse of the trailer.  I only wish I could have seen it on the big screen!  Oh, the drama!  It seemed to promise to do big scale justice of the story behind the world’s most famous whale.

And it delivered! What a riveting tale told through great acting, costumes, props, the works!  Best of all, a story that kept me glued throughout.  This was right up my alley of love for seafaring adventures.

Parts are a little hard to stomach, such as how the whalers went about harvesting whale oil. But it seemed historically accurate, and similar to the book “Moby Dick” in many ways (capturing the factual details of the whalers’ chores).  Also, a group of men adrift at sea are forced into some difficult decisions, SPOILER ALERT: namely cannibalism.  But we are not shown graphic details. END OF SPOILER.

I think one of my favorite aspects of it was the psychology behind the different characters. When you have an extreme situation with different people coming from different backgrounds, with different values and beliefs, what will each person choose and why?

It was apparent to me that this film was made with somewhat of an agenda [ie, whaling was ALL bad], and not one I would entirely agree with. But it did make for an exciting story and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend for an older audience.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Movie Review: “Lincoln”

 

3dead818f8bb0491dba54bfac1dd62b2Based on the book, “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Version: 2012; Daniel Day-Lewis; Tommy Lee Jones; Sally Fields; David Strathairn; Lee Pace; Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Genre: historical drama

Plot Summary: [from IMDb:] As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that work.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

I remember reading high praise for this movie when it first came out. Actually, I believe I had my eye on it when it was first announced it was in the making, and Daniel Day-Lewis was cast in the role of Abraham Lincoln.  The similarities between their looks are amazing, but would the movie do history and the man himself justice?

Oh wow. I can’t begin to tell you about the amount of research that went into the creating of this film.  I would love to know more about the ‘making of’ it.  I do know that the actors and actresses really gave this one their all and went into full-depth character to accurately portray these historical people.  Day-Lewis in particular researched Lincoln’s mannerisms, way of walking, speech, and voice in order to become him.

I am not so steeped in Civil War history as to know how many facts in this movie are correct, but I do know that it was inspired by the thoroughly researched book, “Team of Rivals,” by Doris Kearns Goodwin. The author worked closely on the making of the film as well.

LINCOLNActing is top-notch. I really felt as though I were viewing a fragment of my country’s history, and that felt exciting.  Even though I knew how history played out, this movie caused me to doubt for a little bit what would happen.  The behind-the-scenes politics of history made for a tense plot and kept me on the edge of my seat.  In fact, it was so identifiable in this day and age and maybe that’s why I felt nervous for what would happen.

One drawback of the film is that many of the historical facts presented escaped me in one viewing. I will definitely need to rewatch it to glean more from it.  Because of this, I felt somewhat confused and didn’t understand some of the plot structure.

However, I did learn a lot about the genius of Abraham Lincoln. I’ve always had the impression that he was so morally simple as to be sort of uninteresting.  Not so!  This man had a talent given to him by God that he used in the time and position he was placed in.  He was an absolute chess-master at politics, but had a core of integrity that kept him straight and true.  I believe watching this shed some light for me in deciding how to vote this past presidential election.  It also caused me to love a person I’ve never met, and left to wonder why God would allow such a man who did so much good and suffered greatly for it, to die at the hands of an assassin so soon after victory was achieved.

My favorite scene is near the end, with the singing of “Battle Cry of Freedom.” It was so inspiring, and caused me to be grateful to God for His working in our country’s history.  When’s the last time you felt excited about history?

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2018 in Movie Reviews

 

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Movie Review: “The Little Prince”

ec4e725b6d1c1d6faf94e3a956f7a7e4Based on the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

Version: 2015; starring Jeff Bridges, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, James Franco

Genre: children’s; animation

Plot Summary: [from IMDb:] “A little girl lives in a very grown-up world with her mother, who tries to prepare her for it. Her neighbor, the Aviator, introduces the girl to an extraordinary world where anything is possible, the world of the Little Prince.”

My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not by comparing it to that novel.  Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.  

Growing up, my mom had two copies of the French classic “The Little Prince.” One was in French (and incomprehensible to me), the other in English. Neither interested me very much.  The pictures looked bland and too unbelievable.  I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy the story.

Not too long ago I saw that Netflix had made an animated version of the book and I didn’t mind sitting down to spend an evening that way. I was mildly curious.  I was not prepared to be blown away.

I think I was drawn into it from the first notes of music. The art, the plot, the script were beautifully done.  The old phonograph playing was enough to melt my heart alone!  I was nearly crying by the end of it.  And now I want to read the book very much.  It isn’t often that film versions inspire me to read the book, but when they do…  🙂

This movie is actually told in two stories. One is of a little girl who is expected to live a life where childhood is forgotten.  She unexpectedly meets her next door neighbor, an eccentric old man (and self-proclaimed ‘hoarder’) who used to be an aviator once upon a time.  He begins to woo her friendship by telling her the story of the Little Prince he met in another world long ago.  The story of the Little Prince and his rose is told through stop-motion animation, and I loved every bit about it!  I enjoyed it even more for it’s nuances, and thought-provoking lines about life that are hidden like gems throughout where you have to mine them to interpret the meaning for yourself.  Wonderful!

5dc9afdfecd8144ffddd97bd0c8b18e9There are many who abhor this film because they say it takes too many liberties with the book. Apparently the story of the little girl trying to live the expected life of an adult is not in the original.  Since I’ve never read it, I don’t even know if the part of the Little Prince is told faithfully.  But I know I loved the film and that it has inspired me to pick up a book I never knew I needed to read before.  I would say that is the effect of a well-told, don’t you?

One of my favorite lines comes from the Aviator consoling the little girl when she tells him she doesn’t want to grow up. He responds, “Growing up isn’t the problem– forgetting is.”  I wish someone had been able to tell me that when I was a kid and afraid of graduating to adulthood.  This wisdom makes a world of difference because it is true!  I have found that becoming a true adult is really only becoming the person you were meant to be, which includes the parts of childhood that are good and pure and young in heart.  Idealistically, the aim is to shed the ‘juvenile’ ways we used to think and act.  Juvenility is to be differentiated from being childlike in that it is immature, selfish, and narrow-minded.  (1 Cor. 13:11)  Childhood, on the other hand is essentially joy, wonder, and innocence.

1631c1a78f3a24aa2c2690874535b559I have met older adults, even Christians in their 60’s, behave like juveniles. I have met adults who have completely forgotten what is childhood, instead exuding joylessness, hyper-practicality, and busyness.  But I have also met other adults who have retained their openness to life, wonder at the world, and quest to learn and grow- the mark of a true ‘child at heart.’  That is what God means for us to be, I think.  And for us believers, we are all to be trusting children in relation to Him.

And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3)

I do have a qualm about the movie’s plotline, and that is although it is an indie flick, it does not escape the usual Hollywood storyarc of children being better-knowing than their parents (or more often single parent): rebelling against the ‘status quo’, and teaching the parents they do not know what is best for their kids. See an excellent article on this topic here.

But the voices (esp. Jeff Bridges’ for the Aviator) were great!  Bridges has a voice that has aged well, resulting in a friendly, comforting effect.  I also loved the Fox, voiced by James Franco.  So adorable!

I recommend this glimmering, luminous movie for family viewing, young and old alike. If you approach it being prepared that it’s more loosely based on the book, I think you’ll enjoy it.

 
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Posted by on December 13, 2017 in Movie Reviews

 

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