Category Archives: Movie review

Beyond The Lights – A Movie Review

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“Beyond the Lights” was beyond predictable. I have to admit that I was very ambivalent about going to see the film and figured that if I didn’t make to the cinema it I would always be able to catch it on cable.

A fan of the film posted on Facebook that it made him/her believe in love again. Whoa. Really? That’s not what I got from the film. Maybe because I’ve seen the story a couple of times before. This one gave a glimpse into the life of a popular (fictional) musical celebrity, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is on the cusp of even greater fame.

Unfortunately, we see that some of that notoriety comes with its own baggage, not the least of which is being marketed like a commodity, where even though you’re the boss you’re really not the one in charge.  

The little girl who made the rounds – at her mother’s insistence – and paid her dues at numerous talent contests eventually makes it big with her “momager” in tow. Fueled by her mother’s insistence that second place is never good enough, she aims to please her and everybody else at her own expense.

Her cry for help as she tries to jump off a balcony goes unheard by her mother, and the only one who “sees” her and her obvious pain is the police officer who happened to be standing in for the one who was appointed to provide security outside her hotel room. 

Officer Katz, played by Nate Parker had the body of an Adonis but he lost me whenever he had to say his lines. He spent the entire movie looking so intense that my stress level was up by the time the credits rolled. Even when he delivered a memorable line (even though I can’t remember it), it just didn’t come off as natural. 

The pop star wasn’t the only one who was overly influenced by a parent. The “hero” policeman was starting to position himself for a run in politics because his father thought it was the natural progression after his stint on the police force. Unfortunately, his association with a singer known for performing in various states of undress would not a good First Lady make.

Luckily for him, she finds herself, which includes telling the truth about why she was hanging from the hotel balcony that night. Coming into her own meant divesting herself of all the props that we think being a celebrity requires – extra hair and nails included. 

And as she was able to sing her own songs, get help for her issues, find the man of her dreams and be her natural self, we can assume that she eventually finds true happiness.  

Sweet – and predictable.


What’s Your Story? – A Movie Review

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The “Book of Life” is dark – literally and figuratively. Well, it is at first. The heavy subject matter didn’t seem to lend itself to a children’s movie, but the vibrant colours associated with Mexican culture disguised the fact that this movie was basically about a wager between two spirits who rule two “lands” of the dead.

I was about ten minutes into the movie before I realized what was wrong. I thought there might have been a problem with low voltage in the theatre, but when I saw my daughter wiping her 3D glasses, I realized that it wasn’t just me who thought that things were a little overcast.

The movie is based on the Mexican celebration of “Day of the Dead”, which takes place every year at the end of October or the beginning of November. It is a day when people remember their loved ones who have gone on before them, so they build altars to them in their homes, clean and visit their graves, sometimes leaving their favourite items.

Visiting and cleaning graves (usually around Easter time) is a practice that I grew up with and which probably took place more in our village cemeteries than in the main cemetery on the outskirts of town. The movie probably got it right when they showed figments of the dead standing right next to their burial places, watching their devoted loved ones hard at work.

Here’s my only problem with the movie. I understand the main premise that we should never forget the ones who pass away because when we do, it’s as if they never existed. And which one of us wants to be forgotten? But the only thing resembling hell (or someplace to get one’s just due) in the movie, was The Land of the Forgotten which as previously mentioned, you ended up in if your people didn’t think about you anymore.

So it appears that even if you weren’t the best specimen of humanity but your relatives still bore you in mind, you could be up there in perpetual Mardi Gras. Which, might I add in the movie, looked a whole lot livelier than where we are now? It seemed to just be one big party – it was much more colourful, everyone seemed to get along really well, and there was food galore.

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So when Manolo, voiced by Diego Luna ends up in The Land of the Remembered after being twice-bitten by a snake, he is able to see his mother and his other relatives who got there before him. All of them. Even the ones who “killed the bull” and the one who wouldn’t stop singing. But I understand him wanting to go back on the other side of the curtain to be with Maria (Zoe Saldana), since he never got his chance to write his story with her.

That’s pretty much the take-away from the movie. There were many other side stories including bravery, trickery and friendship – but since everything we do forms a part of the story that is our life, we should probably choose carefully what we put into the narrative. All our stories won’t be best-sellers, but hopefully they’ll make for some good reading.


This Girl Gone Crazy – A Movie Review

The local saying, “See me and live with me” takes on new meaning in the movie “Gone Girl”.

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Usually meaning that it’s after you move in with somebody that you get to see the true person – in this movie, it was after she “went missing”, that the husband (played by Ben Affeck), saw who he had really been sleeping with. He was no innocent by any means, and he deserves his own set of blows – a couple of them for stupidity alone, but luckily he knew her well enough to know which weakness he could exploit.

Most relationships aren’t perfect, but you have to really not like the person you’re living with to want to frame them for your murder which (at first) you have every intention of carrying out by yourself. But as the wife (played by Rosamund Pike), later realizes – him in jail, and her at the bottom of the river meant that she wouldn’t actually get to enjoy the fruits of her labour.

Labour that included taking the time to painstakingly write several journal entries, partly burn the book, hide it in an oven and write a cryptic clue to lead someone to it. Work that meant befriending someone who she ordinarily wouldn’t give the time of day to, revealing to that person her innermost secrets knowing that they would be revealed to others when the time was exactly right.

Who wants to spend an inordinate amount of time and money online to purchase items that you neither want nor need, but must have in order to make the point about somebody else’s unhealthy spending habits? Who would actually want to drive that compact car she bought in her attempt to get away from it all while trying not to stand out? Which woman do you know wants to deliberately put on weight unless she doesn’t want unwarranted attention?

But you have to like how she thinks on her feet. When the people in the motel steal her money, she has to find a way to live without it. An old boyfriend who still holds a torch for her is the perfect resource – and when it turns out that he’s made a success of his life, well, that makes it even better.

When the CCTV system that monitors all movements in and out of his house means that she won’t be able to claim an intruder got in to kill him, she decides to use the cameras to her advantage and pretend that she can’t get out.

In the end, the husband saw what she was and still decided to live with her. My movie mates thinks this means that a sequel is in the works, because surely he must have something else up his sleeve.

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Now I don’t like calling people names, like “fooley”, because even someone like that can see that she (still) has something up hers.





Guardians of the Galaxy – A Movie Review

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Nothing to see here folks. Let’s move it along.

How to Ruin Wedding Plans with a Napoleon Complex – A Movie Review

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Some things should really be left alone. I’m referring to movies that enjoyed so much success the first time that a decision is made to repeat the formula – but it doesn’t always work as well the second time around.

But maybe that’s what happens when the movie doesn’t really have a reason to “be”. At least not under that title.

Unlike movies based on superheroes, book sequences and the ones that set you up for the sequel before the movie even ends, I must admit that I didn’t see this one coming. I never expected to be sitting in the movie theatre being schooled by Steve Harvey once again.

To tell the truth, the buzz about the movie “Think Like A Man Too” had been going on for so long that I thought I had missed it. Clearly, I was mixing it up with something else.

But did Kevin Hart’s character (Cedric) have to be so annoying? With his usual Napoleon syndrome antics on display, he succeeds in derailing the couple’s best-laid wedding plans. Meanwhile I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling of deja vu.

(If he’s not careful, Hart might find himself being typecast as the petulant man-child with the overwhelming need to overcompensate for his lack of height).

Hart’s comedic talents are what carried the movie to its inevitable conclusion – but only after his scheme that landed the entire entourage in jail unfolded, (he was really reaching in the earlier scenes) – because up to that point the movie was just a series of disjointed scenes following one after the other.

It wasn’t any different from your average movie about a couple of guys and girls going to Vegas for a wedding weekend, and it was about as interesting as the tea party that Ms. Loretta forced the bridesmaids to sit through.

Happily, none of the funny had anything to do with bathroom humour and Hart was in his element in the jailhouse scenes. But who sleeps until broad morning when it becomes clear that the reason you made the trip to Vegas looks like it’s not even going to happen? Because you’re in jail.

Incidentally, if I was Sonia, played by La La Anthony, I would quit liming with these girls because everybody is paired up, except her. And she ends up in jail.

Eventually, the wedding takes place and the relationships of all the couples seem to get on firmer footing. Another couple gets engaged at the end of it all, leading me to wonder where that wedding will take place. But it’s okay if they don’t issue me an invitation – because Kevin Hart or no – I’ll be sending my regrets for that one.

Good Girl Gone Bad – A Movie review

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Finally some back story about the villain.


Because no one just wakes up one day deciding to take you down. There’s always something that pushes a person over the edge.


I’m going to admit that I wasn’t familiar with the character called Maleficent who played such a crucial part in the Sleeping Beauty story. Sure, I remember that a spell was cast on the girl by somebody, but I didn’t remember her having a name.


In preparation for seeing this movie, last weekend my husband decided to re-visit the animated version of the fairy tale – and indeed, there she was horns and all.


Come to think of it, my experience with this story and many other tales like it, come from the illustrated books rather than Disney animation, so that may account for my bad memory.


“Maleficent”, the name reminding me of a cross between the words magnificent and malevolent really turns the Sleeping Beauty story on its head.


We see why the fairy became an evil force to be reckoned with. Who could blame her for becoming just a little distrustful of folks, because how would you feel if somebody stole something from you? In the first instance of date rape ever recorded in a fairy tale, the most powerful fairy has her wings stolen by someone she trusted and considered her friend.


She had already forgiven the sorry excuse, Stephan, for preferring to live in the human world, but when his ambition causes him to take from her the very things that made her who she was, her heart understandably turns to stone.


Maleficent crashing the christening party of his baby girl must have been most uncomfortable for him, seeing as how it was the first meeting between his former flame and the one who got the ring. It was during this meet and greet that he might have started to get an inkling (belatedly) that he had chosen the wrong girl – to mess with.


After this, nothing goes according to the original story line because the queen dies before she sees her daughter again, the king goes half crazy with his desire to kill Maleficent, and Maleficent’s “true love” kiss is the one to break her own spell. Proving once again that men (Prince Charming or not), aren’t the answer to all our problems.


In one of her interviews, Angelina Jolie said that she had always taken a liking to the Maleficent character, admiring how she carried all that evil with such poise and grace. In my opinion, the actress was meant to play the part. With her chiseled cheekbones (aided by some amazing contouring), and the penetrating stare, Jolie succeeds in bringing just the right amount of smoulder to the screen.


It’s a tad dark for a Disney movie, but I’m reminded that quite a few fairy tales have been sanitized in their re-telling, prior to the Disney machine getting its hands on them. (Did you really believe that Ariel from “The Little Mermaid” kept her legs and remained on land?)


So maybe this is really how the story went. This version of the fairy tale for all its special effects may have been the most realistic, because life isn’t always fair, and it definitely isn’t always pretty, but we all hold out hope that it will have a happy ending.


The Pursuit of “Power” – A Movie Review

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In “The Amazing Spiderman 2”, the guy who no one pays any attention to, the one who no one considers, is allowed to get his own back.

How many of us wish that we had the power to wreck selective havoc on all those people who piss us off?

If I was to acquire a superpower, it wouldn’t be electrical power like Max, because I’ve been “shocked” before and I didn’t like it. It wouldn’t be flying, scaling or leaping over buildings in single bounds either because I’m afraid of heights.

I’d take invisibility. Now technically I suppose that it’s not a “power’, but the ability to render myself impalpable would afford me the anonymity that would be necessary to achieve that little thing called payback.

Besides, since most superheroes wear some kind of mask to hide their identities anyway, I’m just taking it a step further.

Talk about not being accountable.

That fender bender you got into with that car that seemingly came out of nowhere after you cussed me out a few yards back? Oops, that was me.

And as a clueless cell phone user, you may be wondering just how that device got lassoed right out of your hand. Oh my. That was me.

I’ll say this though. If like me, Max had seen fit to settle his scores individually and on a one-on-one basis he would probably have lived to fight another day.

Why didn’t he go looking for that nasty co-worker who never had anything nice to say? What about finding the worker who abdicated his responsibility, causing him to risk his life and end up in that tank that changed his molecular structure forever – and on his birthday at that?

I’m pretty sure that there were tons of other personal scores he could have settled, but he just had to go and show that he was large and in charge. I was rooting for the underdog that he was, but not for the overachiever that he became.

But that’s what happens when some people get power and don’t know how to handle it.

They get the notoriety and the accompanying benefits, and everybody else gets to pay for it.