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The Bickering Critics – Anita and George

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Episode 1 of “Big Little Lies” – reviewed by George

Dear Anita,
I was drawn to this too, mainly because of Nicole Kidman, about whom I’ve been crazy since “Five Mile Creek” and “Moulin Rouge” (totally off the subject musing: Why doesn’t the Disney Channel show “Five Mile Creek” again?).
You’re right – the structure is one of the main attractions that will hook viewers if they watch. Starting off with the discovery of a body at a school fundraiser and then showing a press conference where the detectives say it is a murder, but don’t say who is dead – that’s a dynamite beginning. Throughout Episode One that identity is never revealed and will doubtless be the big reveal for the next-to-last or last episode.
Reese Witherspoon, Nicole, and Shailene Woodley are the stars, along with Laura Dern as the monster mom of the school who can’t be reasoned with over an episode where her firstgrader daughter says she was choked (and there are marks on her neck), and she has picked the only new kid in school to blame (Shailene’s first grader son on his very first day, when all he wanted was to make friends). Laura wants the boy ostracized, and maybe deep in her heart she’s thinking burning at the stake.
That sounds like I believe the boy and not the girl, and that’s not really the case. It’s just that he seems more believable than she (and lots nicer as well), though it could easily turn out that he did it.
As you continue meeting family members of the four women, and see the interactions, you see that everyone here, though wealthy enough to live in Monterey, California, is unhappy about something. The writer is David E. Kelly (“Picket Fences”), so the at-home dialogue is as sharp as the proverbial serpent’s tooth.
And it’s not all serious: my favorite line was from Reese’s teenaged daughter, who refers to the community theater’s latest show, “Avenue Q”, as a puppet show. Reese responds, “It’s actually a play that you should see, because it deals with the struggle of young adults being disillusioned with life, feeling demoralized and defrauded by the false promises of tomorrow.”
The kid’s reply? “I can get all that here.”

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Big Little Lies (2017) Reviewed by Anita-***.5

HBO ran a promotional over the four-day weekend and I happen upon a new mini-series Big Little Lies  featuring a few stars such as  Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Shealiene Woodley and Alexander Skarsgard.  Based on a crime drama by Liane Moriarty, three mothers of first graders appear to lead a perfect life.  We all know this is NOT true.  apparently  there has been a murder taken place in Monterey, California and everybody is a suspect.

This 7 episode mini-series appeared to be worth watching.  I do not have HBO so I hope you folks give it a viewing and let me know how it turns out.  It premiered February 19, 2017 so if you have the HBO channel I have no doubt you can catch up.  I liked what I saw, the characters are each sassy and tragic.  I found the story telling interesting.  Not your standard front to back.  Rather beginning, to end to middle back to current time.  That can be a very confusing way to tell a story but it does work if the director pays very close attention to detail and continuity.  That will make or break this type of story telling.  In my opinion (based on what I saw) it seems to be working in this case.  So!  Watch it and let me know what you think.  I’d like to know if I really missed something.

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Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in “The Scarlet Claw” (1944) – reviewed by George

In the small Canadian village La Mort Rouge, strange lights have been seen on the moors, and the next day sheep are found with their throats torn out. So when Potts (Gerald Hamer), the mailman, driving out late to Penrose Hall to deliver an important letter, sees lights, it’s not surprising that he turns right around and heads back to the village and straight to the pub. But when the church bell starts to toll and the priest wants to hurry out there to see what’s the matter, only Potts can drive him there, back in the direction of the Hall. As they drive toward the church the tolling stops, and when they arrive at the church, Potts lets the priest out and nervously says that he might as well deliver that letter, leaving the priest to discover the body of Lady Penrose, one hand still clutching the bellrope – and her throat torn out.
In Quebec Lord Penrose (Paul Cavanagh) is chairing a meeting of the Royal Canadian Occult Society which Holmes and Watson are attending. Lord Penrose is regaling the meeting with the happenings in his village, and making the point that exactly one hundred years ago an apparition appeared and the next morning three people were found with their throats torn out. He and Holmes spar a bit on facts versus the conclusions made from them, when a lad with a salver enters and holds out the salver to Penrose saying that he is to call La Mort Rouge urgently. The call tells him of his wife’s death, and out of respect the meeting is abandoned. As Holmes and Watson check out, the desk clerk is played by our old friend Olaf Hytten, who hands Holmes a letter. It is a plea for help from Lady Penrose, and Holmes remarks that it is the first time he and Watson have ever been retained by a corpse.
As you can tell, this is one of the grimmest Holmes movies of all. Directed with his usual flair by Roy William Neill, with a screenplay by Edmund L. Hartmann and Neill, from a original story by Paul Gangelin and Brenda Weisberg and heavily influenced by “The Hound of the Baskervilles” (strange lights, murders around the moors, strong support for supernatural explanations, Watson falling into bogs), this is great fun. But it is also a suitably bloody mystery for the audience to solve. And wait till you see what the scarlet claw is!
Supporting players include Judge Brisson (Miles Mander), Sergeant Thompson (David Clyde), the judge’s housekeeper Nora (Victoria Horne), Lord Penrose’s butler Drake (Ian Wolfe), and inn and pub keepers Emile Journet and his daughter Marie (Arthur Hohl and Kay Harding).
And there’s another stirring quote from Winston Churchill for Sherlock to close the piece: “Canada – the lynchpin of the English-speaking world, with relations of friendly intimacy with the United States on the one hand and unswerving fidelity to the British Commonwealth and the Motherland on the other. Canada – the link that joins together these great branches of the human family.”

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Elizabeth (1998) Reviewed by Anita-*****

Elizabeth is simply one of the most visually stunning films made.  Cinematographer Remi Adefarasin is an artist.  Rich, layered and colorful are how he shoots this epic event of history.   Set in 1558 Remi manages to create a world of violence into brutal beauty.  In particular his overhead shots and moving shots plunge you into this world as more than just a movie watcher instead you–as the viewer– become a sort of spiritual spectator.  A fly on the wall so to speak.

Shekhar Kapur directs this classic British biographical film with the hand of a master of the set. He captures this battle of sisters and religions with as much color as Adefarasin shots it.  Kapur’s talents bring to life this royal political battle as a suspenseful journey.  Aside of  Blanchette’s outstanding performance as Queen Elizabeth, a veteran cast of talent boasts actors  such as Geoffery Rush, Christopher Eccleston and Joseph Fiennes just to name a few.  Kapur has taken Michael Hirst’s screen-play and created a very well-done (not for the faint of heart) picture of the bloody and violent life of the time and era.

Elizabeth is more than a period film.  Rather it is more of an adventure, a journey of a woman, a nation, and the most studied time in English history.  Blanchette brings class to the role as only she can.  Beautiful, innocent, later becoming one of the most powerful woman in global history.  There is simply no one else that could bring that screen presence.

By all means watch this movie.  Watch this version.  You will not be let down.  As a matter of fact you will watch it a second time.  I did.

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Legend of Tarzan (2016) Reviewed by Anita-**

Legend of Tarzan is loud and violent as well as an action packed adventure.   Sadly, David Yates did not direct a film made for all ages as the original story is. This version is not children friendly, it is dark and very adult.  Aside of the violence it is made for the audience who can’t go a minute without an explosion or someone getting killed.

Alexander Skarsgard is nice eye candy as Tarzan, so is Margot Robbie who is his Jane.  Eye candy is not enough.  And I did wonder how much of them (the actor)  are CGI as most of the film is.  CGI does not always make a good film.  It can enhance but it is almost the core in this interpretation of Tarzan.  Committed performances don’t even save it.  The film is a generic plot, some changes from the original story as to be expected however the slow pace does not help redeem the creative licenses.

The trailers led me to believe I’m in for a really exciting rollercoaster.  I did find myself sucking in my breath and I did have a couple wow factors; Not enough of them.  I often turned away from the screen because of the gore.  I like some blood shed but come on….

If you do decide to watch it, watch it on the big screen.  Might as well enjoy all the CGI.  Be sure to leave the children out of it.  I would recommend no one under the age of 13 watch it.  Even 13 might be a bit young for all the violence, but then again watching the news can be just as bad or worse.  By no means spend any money on this film.  Save it for the cable bill.

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Bickering Happens – Comment by George

Because basically so far I have liked all of Anita’s reviews and she has been kind about mine, some people think the name of the blog is wrong. But gosh, we don’t always agree, and if you doubt me, read my review of “Noah”, posted June 18, 2016. Just click on June, 2016 in the Archives list to the right.

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Noah (2014) Reviewed by Anita- ****

This is obviously an American biblical epic.  Directed by Darren Aronofsky, it is (in my opinion) a beautiful interpretation.  I do enjoy big biblical films such as the ones made back in the 50’s and 60’s.  They tend to be my favorite part of the Easter holiday.  This film did not disappoint me in so much as a BIG film.  It is good on the small or large screen but if you can see it see it on the big one.  My only real complaint is the over-all pace of the film.  In many places it took too long to get to the point.

I have read where several folks of the non-secular community argue this is NOT a biblical version.  For example Ham taking a woman on-to the Ark for a wife only to have her trampled to death.  Also the addition of Emma Watson’s character Iia is for the sake of the story.  So what? How many Pope’s though-out time have done the same with the actual Bible?  Most of them.  This idea of how events unfolded does seem to make sense when one starts to really study the story of Noah. Besides if you are educating yourself about the Bible via film you are not going to catch up anyway.  Despite the difference of opinions the film does give a good grounding of moral values.  As well as just how hard it is to live by your personal values.

I liked the introduction of creatures like the Rock Creatures.  I’d go so far as to call them fallen Angels.  The addition of magic is also worthy here.  Why not?  Would you believe 100 years ago some of the technology we take for granted today?  NO.

We all may know the story (most of us do anyway), some know the standard telling a few know a bit more.  No matter what if you watch this with an open mind and a love for good directed film you will enjoy this one for sure.  Even if it is a bit long in the tooth.

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Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016) – reviewed by George

Well, I was really looking forward to seeing this and thinking it would be funny. Instead I found myself watching a film that unfolds rather like a disaster movie. First the storm appears and then the winds get faster and faster and things begin to fly about, severely injuring some of the characters, and then BANG, somebody gets killed.
Nobody actually dies here (an injury does occur). But nobody’s reputation is severely injured; the characters had crap reputations to start with. In fact everybody gets a laugh or two. It’s just so totally weak compared to expectations. And if you look at the Extras, you see that an entire subplot about a Hawaiian-cooked whole pig for the wedding reception evening was eliminated after shooting it. So they must have filmed everything that stuck to the wall in the writing phase of the project. And hey, if an entire sequence has to be discarded AFTER shooting – shouldn’t you take a really good hard look at the rest? If the pieces are not funny, how crazy do you have to be to think that assembling pieces is going to make them funny?
Continuing the comparison: the storm appears – the brothers Mike and Dave (Zac Efron and Adam Devine) are complete ass-hats and their parents warn them about the women they bring to their sister’s wedding in Hawaii.
The winds get faster – they meet Alice and Tatiana (Anna Kendrick and Aubrey Plaza), who are just like Mike and Dave, but can hide it better.
And faster – the guys think they are working the girls really well, when in fact they are being hustled by pros.
Things begin to fly about – accident after accident happens, and the bride-to-be’s face is severely injured. Or at least it looks severe; it sure heals fast though.
There’s a sequence that the characters are supposed to think is funny, but the audience is supposed to see as embarrassing. For me the whole movie was like that.
Written by Andrew Jay Cohen and Brendan O’Brien, and directed by Jake Szymanski.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (2016) – reviewed by George

How would you feel if your father loved your son more than you? And was more interested in him, and had a real knack for ignoring you? Well, Chris O’Dowd has the semi-thankless job of playing this man, stuck between Terence Stamp as his father and Asa Butterfield as his son. And he brings a real sense of hurt to the part, yet still convinces us that he loves them both. That’s not just acting talent, that’s grace, and it’s the single thing that grounds this high-flying fantasy. And his role isn’t even very large!
The movie was directed by Tim Burton, and has many things that we expect Burton to show us ever newer versions of, like horrible monsters and horrible things. There’s a scene where a huge bowl of eyeballs is displayed and then they are eaten by creatures with incredibly long forearms and calves (although I have seen that basic creaturee-design somewhere else – just can’t think where – doesn’t at all lessen the hideousness of watching monsters eat eyeballs).
The basis of the story is a new kind of time travel, where you stay in the same day forever, but because you want to, not as in “Groundhog Day” where you have no control. Watching Eva Green, as Miss Peregrine, hold her stopwatch up to a rainy sky and wait for the German bomb to appear, than stop the watch, which stops time, then wind the watch backwards, which sends the bomb back up into the sky and into the belly of the backward-flying plane, is a real thrill. AND it gives her houseful of peculiar children another day of life. It’s just a bit unfortunate that that day, and every day, is in 1943.
The main villain is played by Samuel L. Jackson (quite good), and the children are played by a very talented group of young British actors. Each child has a peculiar gift, like floating unless lead boots are worn, or controlling plant life.
Screenplay by Jane Goldman, from the book by Ransom Riggs. I liked it.

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Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes in “The Spider Woman” – reviewed by George

A rash of “pyjama suicides” has the London press agog. Men are going to bed, then arising in the middle of the night and killing themselves. The public’s reaction is personified by one married couple: the husband rants that suicide is a crime; where are the police? where is Sherlock Holmes? And his wife agrees: where is Sherlock Holmes?
Turns out that Holmes and Watson are in Scotland fishing, and Holmes (Basil Rathbone) confides in Watson (Nigel Bruce) that these are all murders: no one goes to bed and then gets up in the middle of the night and kills himself. Watson says, “So we must go back!” And Holmes explains that crime is over for him. His symptoms indicate that a cerebral hemorrhage is probable. He stops fishing and walks a little ways off, faints, and falls into the fast-moving stream. Cut to newspaper headlines, the first proclaiming his death and the second reporting the crime wave that follows.
His records, case memorabilia, and the furnishings of his receiving room are donated to the British Museum. Mrs. Hudson (Mary Gordon again, who has appeared in every Rathbone-Bruce film so far without billing, but gets billing in this film in the closing credits) sniffles that she doesn’t want to see his things gone. Lestrade (Dennis Hoey) arrives to accompany the museum van, waiting outside, and chides Watson pretty roughly, “Why didn’t you jump in after him, you blunderhead?!” And Watson replies sadly, “He was gone. When I got there he was gone.”
As Lestrade leaves, a mailman arrives with a package for Holmes that requires a signature. Lestrade indicates Watson and says, “He’ll sign.” The mailman, who is rather full of himself, looks around and denigrates the furniture, “I suppose it suited ‘im all right.” And then, in a prescient nod to Matthew McConaughey, he adds, “all right, all right, all right.” And then he says it again. He continues to insult Holmes until Watson puts an end to his bosh with a bash – to the chin.
And then we meet the brains behind the scheme (which at this point we still don’t understand), the Spider Woman Miss Adrea Spedding (the great movie villainess Gale Sondergaard) and her half-brother Norman Locke (Vernon Downing). She is reading a newspaper story out loud about an Indian named Rajni Singh, who is reported to be a lover of the gaming tables, but says he is in London to see if British surgeons can restore his left arm, injured in the service of the Empire. She tells Norman to be sure that Singh receives a card to the Urban Casino.
There follows a tale of poisonous spiders, a seriously weird child, and a scheme to get life insurance policies away from their owners. This is one of the best Holmes movies so far, fast-moving and suspenseful, with a nail-biting ending at an arcade, where Watson has been set up to commit murder.
Directed by Roy William Neill from a screenplay by Bertram Millhauser, based on a Doyle story.

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