Posts

ON THE ROCKS

Image
Author Laura (Rashida Jones), struggling with writer's block on the next promised book, begins to suspect there's trouble in her marriage. While she stays home taking care of two young daughters, husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) is off on many trips with employee Fiona (Jessica Henwick) trying to make his business succeed. Little things, like late nights at the office, lead Laura to fear infidelity. She turns to her retired art dealer father, the debonair playboy Felix (Bill Murray), for advice and help. Together, they set out to find clues and end up bonding.Director/writer Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation") takes us on an enjoyable lightweight romp. Rashida Jones (TV's "Angie Tribeca") carries the lead well as a distraught woman, but it's Bill Murray who runs away with this film. At age 70, the iconic star is still charismatic in his own familiar way. The scenes he's not in are less satisfying. This is not the fault of the cast surrounding him.…

KAJILLIONAIRE

Image
Old Dolio (Evan Rachel Wood) has spent her entire life learning to scam with her con artist parents Robert (Richard Jenkins) and Theresa (Debra Winger). Robbing post office boxes and other low-level illegal efforts highlight their meager existence. With past rent due on their dilapidated office building dwelling, the threesome hit upon a travel insurance scheme. During the trip, they meet the charming Melanie (Gina Rodriguez). Eager to change her lifestyle, she joins the grifters in thieving endeavors. The lives of all involved are affected.Director/writer Miranda July ("Me and You and Everyone We Know") paints a quirky portrait of human foibles and desires. While too slow going at times, the character-driven plot gets a huge boost from some fine performances. Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger and Gina Rodriguez (TV's "Jane the Virgin") are award-worthy indeed. But it's Evan Rachel Wood who is the main attraction. In a subtle turn, she draws focus to Old Dolio …

MULAN (2020)

Image
When the Emperor of China (Jet Li) is threatened by Northern invaders, a decree is issued that one man per family must join the Imperial Army to defend the country. Courageous Mulan (Yifei Liu), eldest daughter of ailing honored warrior Zhou (Tzi Ma), disguises herself as a man and joins the army in his place. It will test her spirit and determination to help defeat the ruthless forces of Böri Khan (Jason Scott Lee), out to avenge his father's death, and his ally - the powerful witch Xianniang (Gong Li). This entertaining epic adventure is visually stunning. Yet another Disney animated feature gets the live-action treatment and the result is one of their best efforts in recent years. Director Niki Caro ("Whale Rider") masterfully guides a huge international, primarily Asian, cast through this grand saga. Yifei Liu is magnificent as the beautiful and fearless heroine. Besides the supporting players mentioned above, Rosalind Chao and Xana Tang portray Mulan's mother an…

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD

Image
On stage, David Copperfield (Dev Patel) recounts his life from birth to aspirations of becoming a writer. His carefree countryside youth with his widowed mother Clara (Morfydd Clark) changes after she marries the cruel Mr. Murdstone (Darren Boyd). The new stepfather beats him and eventually sends the boy to work in his London bottle factory. Bad working conditions and news of his mother's death send the young Copperfield escaping back to the country. Living with his wealthy Aunt Betsey (Tilda Swinton) and eccentric distant relative Mr. Dick (Hugh Laurie), life improves. But there are many ups and downs before his dream can be realized.Charles Dickens' novel gets a refreshing cinematic revamp in this lively period piece. Director/writer Armando Iannucci ("The Death of Stalin" and TV documentary "Armando's Tale of Charles Dickens"), with screenplay help from Simon Blackwell, manages to satisfyingly condense the lengthy book. The essence of Copperfield rem…

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN

Image
Ivan (the voice of Sam Rockwell), a silverback gorilla, is the main attraction at the Big Top Mall. With a circus-like atmosphere, owner Mack (Bryan Cranston) and his small menagerie of animals entertain a shrinking audience. Looking to boost crowds and stay open, Mack buys baby elephant Ruby (voiced by Brooklynn Prince). Now out of the spotlight, Ivan ponders his past and future. Among those helping him through this new phase of life are aging elephant Stella (the voice of Angelina Jolie), Bob the dog (voiced by Danny DeVito) and Julia (Ariana Greenblatt), the young daughter of mall employee George (Ramon Rodriguez).CGI talking animals, a cute kid, and ringmaster Bryan Cranston keep things moving along in this entertaining diversion. Based on Katherine Applegate's novel of the same name, the story is a fantasy version of real-life gorilla Ivan - who gained fame for his paintings. Director Thea Sharrock ("Me Before You"), working from Mike White's (who also provides …

THE SECRET: DARE TO DREAM

Image
Raising three children in Louisiana, widow Miranda Wells (Katie Holmes) struggles to make ends meet while dating her boss/boyfriend Tucker (Jerry O'Connell). A destructive storm brings new problems and helpful stranger Bray (Josh Lucas) into her life. Things begin to change for the better, but the new arrival with his positive attitude has a secret that could change everything.
This inspirational family drama is engaging - even without action and violence. Based on, or more inspired by, Rhonda Byrne's 2006 bestselling self-help book "The Secret", the feel-good film is

GREYHOUND (2020)

Image
Navy veteran Ernest Krause (Tom Hanks) is assigned a mission as first-time captain of a destroyer, code-named Greyhound, to protect a convoy of 37 supply ships across the North Atlantic during the United States' early involvement in WWII. With only three escort ships and no air cover, the leader and his crew must navigate through a dangerous stretch of ocean known as "The Black Pit", where they encounter a group of Nazi U-boats. Survival depends on the outcome of the battle against the determined German submarines.
Tense action and the formidable Tom Hanks steer this compact thriller. Inspired by events that took place during the Battle of the Atlantic, Mr. Hanks'