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Movies Reviewed

Reviews are arranged in reverse chronological order. The oldest review on this page dates back to late 2009.
Years of movies reviewed down this page: 2009   2010   2011   2012   2013   2014   2015   2016

 The easiest way to find a movie reviewed on these pages is to search this page
with the words of the title, then do the same through the pages linked just below.
Listed titles ignore first words when they are The or A.

A    B    C-D    E-F    G-I    J-L    M    N-R    S    T-U    V-Z

So far this century, I have reviewed 2,459 movies on these pages — back to the end of 2010 down this page of reviews I still imagine I will someday put into the alphabetically arranged pages linked above.

I reviewed 89 movies in 2006; 127 in 2007; 106 in 2008; 121 in 2009 [These links take us down this page]; 174 in 2010, 149 in 2011; a whopping 214 in 2012; 129 in 2013; 157 in 2014172 in 2015, and in 2016 that I'll probably never top — and can't imagine wanting to, a measly 95 in 2017. And so far in 2018, 33.

These reviews are written in reverse chronological order. The most recent movies I have seen are reviewed near the top.

I write these quickly, change them often, and make egregious spelling, typing and other errors I eventually fix. Bold Gray movies were previously reviewed with different opinions, but I only count them once. I see very few dark red ones in theaters, nearly none on TV (I don't own one.), and so much TV online that it has to be the right way. Movies I cannot finish are in pink, but I only started that in August 2016. Both before and after that I began adding the green italics info streams with date of realease, rating & length.

Four asterisks is the most I award — five if it seriously advances the medium, but there's getting fewer of those.

The asterisks (*) are stars. The / (slash) adds a half.


I knew I'd seen this one [below] before, so I can't count it here, and I knew that as I re-entered it this time, but I stayed with it, again. About an Indian (that country in the south of Asia) mathematician and his difficulties at Oxford College in England. I love movies about geniuses, and this is another true one of those. 2016 PG-13 1h48m

This one's probably not true in many circumstances, although there may actually have been someone named Tom Horn***, who may actually have got rid of a bunch of cattle rustlers very early in the 20th Century for a cattleman's organization who were to chicken-livered to get rid of the bad guys themselves. And others before. Eventually, when most of the bad guys are got rid of, our hero is framed for the murder of a kid with nearly no evicdence whatsoever, jailed, then hanged after a "jury" found him "guilty." The gunslinger's name was Tom Horn. There's the thinnest romance perhaps ever seen in one purports to be a Western movie, and our hero is hanged. Essentially stupid movie. Steve McQueen's last. Except for all the idiot over-simplifications, McQueen does a fine job. 1980 R 1h37m

The best. Smartest. True. Movie. I've seen in a long. Long time. Is Molly' Game*****. Molly starts and ends this movie as a competitive skier. She's very good at that, but not nearly as good as she was at running a high-stakes poker game in NYC. Mostly strictly legal, although she gradually let a little illegal sneak in. And that, and being roped in with some really bad guys — the movie always calls them the Russian Mob — netted her a long, boring string of charges from Unca Sam's idiot lawyers, who are supposedly protecting the rest of us. Jessica Chastain is Molly; Idris Elba, her lawyer; Kevin Costner (who no longer looks like himself) as her Dad the psychotherapist; and Graham Greene, the judge. Written and Directed by Aaron Sorkin — and if I'd known that, I'd have rested easy starting this flick three times — even before getting it going. Some of the online listings call it a true story, which just makes it all the more amazing. Best things about this movie is that it's got a female lead, and she plays it very, very smart. That she's smart — most of the time — makes the movie smart. Lotta quick thinking going on here. Amazing fun to watch. 2017 R 2h21m

It was awfully slow to start. I longed for the newspaper movies of the 40s, when newspapering was exciting. Course it seemed brand new then. This is nearly ancient history. The Pentagon Papers. I wonder if today's school children know what that was. Rabble up a movie set in 1971 when I was busy publishing an Underground Newspaper in Dallas after Stoney Burns, and we get chills of our democratic freedoms. I can't believe anyone still thinks Meryl Streep is our best actress, and Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee is nearly as lame, but it does get exciting toward the end. The Post*** 2017 PG13 1h55m

Not that good a title, but it fits with all that other sap. This is a very sappy flick. A girl and her dog. She's a Marine, but so's the dog. They work together in Iraq, then a bomb sent her home, and him back to war, and when he was to retire, they said he couldn't belong to a human, so she went up the chain of command to her senator and congress, and they lived happily ever after. Well, not ever, but I enjoyed the movie, which I saw because I've been audio-reading about another woman and a dog who were over there doing that, and now they sniff bad guys over here. And they'd make a much better string o flicks. Those books are not sappy, but sap flows plenteous here. Morgan Leavey*** 2017 PG13 1h56m

I think I asked somebody about this one when it was playing theaters, and they didn't like it much. But I do. I did. Wow. Impressive. It's one of those that photographers understand better than a lot of people, and I know a lot of people think they are photographers now, but most of them just line it up and go click, and we don't get into the mind of the photographer. Those don't usually work out well, because really, nobody knows what's going on in there. We just get hints, and we're not all AHs, but this guy was, mostly. A lot of the time. Kodachrome**** is about fathers and sons and lovers and other people who get caught up in life, not so much the picture-taking part, though it gets its mention. 2018 NR 1h51m

I thought I'd been movied earlier today but this …… This is amazing wonderful best in years. Love and hate, man and woman, differents and the sames. Stupid and trancendental. The Shape of Water***** 2017 R 2h3m Someday, I have to watch this one again, and figure it all out. But for now, it's just fabulous. And strange.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arch***. You know, high adventure. Low intelligence. Fun to see it again, but … I doubt I've seen it in this century. Goofy fun. 1981 PG 1h55m

Ooof! Wow. Doesn't happen nearly often enough, but I've just been movied. A psycho shocker about the truth that doesn't set you free and several kinds of love. Bad LA cops is nothing new, but this story sneaks up on us and pushes us off a precipice. Shockingly well done. Dark. A new movie after an Argentinian movie after a book. This one's got Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts in startlingly well-played roles with Chiwetel Ejiofor. All are shockingly good. Wikipedia tells the whole story. Nothing held back. I'd missed the passage of time. Both, as Wiki reports, "based on the novel La pregunta de sus ojos by author Eduardo Sacheri." Secret in Their Eyes**** 2015 PG13 1h51m

I love time-travel movies with their various methods of going back or forward in time to meet future or former coincidental possibilities, and somehow Donovan's Echo***/ is one of those. But it's a different kind of love story, and, for a change in the genre, this one's got lots of heart, and I'm not at all sure how I came to it, or it to me. But Danny Glover's in it, and that's just enough. 2012 PG13 1h31m

Have been watching this one seems like a long time. Whenever I needed a laugh or to see am utter goof that always worked out, I saw another episode. Couple days ago, I noticed a notice that said "Available until 3/31/18," so I paid more attention and saw the next episode, which happened to be the last one. The stupid parts exceeded the fun, serrendipitous ones, but it seemed to be leaning in the right direction, then it just fell into an ending of sorts. Liked it while it existed. Have half a mind to track it down in the net, but will miss it when I'm lost in all those movies/TV shows I think I want to see (till I do), and though I thought I could always go back to The Finder***/, it turns out I can't. The Finder could always find just what he needed, and that piece would turn the cog, that turned the story, and another episode would follow. Till now 2012 TV-14 1 Season

I found Woody Woodpecker*** on NFLX tonight and wondered if it was the same old Woody, and it were though updated with an added and addled sitcom. The live-action human parts are inane and worthless, but let Woody on the set, and it's the good old days again, except now in 3D. And he's up to no good (for anybody but himself), but that's what we loved him for all those years ago.2017 PG 1h31m

Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi*** was fun to watch, even though even I knew what was going to happen at nearly every turn. We all do. Hardly worth turning. I saw this one after Molly's game, just didn't want to besmirch it up there. Lose it instead down here. Under Woody Woodpecker. Ha ha. 2017 PG-13 2h32m

One of my all-time favorite movies is The Princess Bride**** 1987 PG 1h38m, and I've just watched it again after finding it after losing it and paying Netflix for it (cheap, but I'll get the money back. I really like it, but not enough to keep it). It was fun watching. I knew how it ended, that was always obvious, but some movies are for the watching again.

Cameraperson*** is about some of the subjects cinematographer Kirsten Johnson has videoed over the years. The mix is about man's inhumanity to women and men and children, but not in any direct way. We have to figure it out, not that it's a mystery. It's obvious as it is obvious those who were involved want to forget. It's a documentary by not documenting the action but instead of what's left and who remembers. It's pure without being slick. It's real. 2016 NR 1h42m

Disney's A Wrinkle in Time* is lousy. It's not a children's movie. It sucks on almost all levels. I thought it was going to be a time-travel movie. It's not that, either. It's over-dramatic and stupid — innane.

For more than a month now, I've been watching The West Wing**** from series one epodoses one to S5 E10 (so far). I used to watch it — as much as I could between living my life. Now I watch it end-on-end when I get a chancee. I've not only caught up with stuff I missed the first time though, but everything, else, also. Only very lately, I'm up to S5 E16 now, has it become, ocassionally, disappointing. Long series do that. Short series never get that far.

I don't think I'll ever go back and finish West Wing****, which just got stupider and stupider towards — or really — past the end. I got better things to do. Four seasons = four digits on the clock-ometer.

I was never a Dead Head. I never traveled to always be with them, though the notion brings a big smile, and once I drove from a truly mediocre — even with Willie and The Boys — Dripping Springs to Dallas to see them, then back back to Dripping Springs for more mediocrity music festival, in one night. I barely knew who those guys were. Now I recognizee Jerry Garcia when I saw this. I still doubt I could pick out Bob Wier, Phil Lesh or Pigpen, but this was a fun ride. I have to get a bunch new, long, Dead tunes. Good, solid documentary, a lot of great footage. The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Weir***/ 2015 TV14 1h51 23:58 23:58

Meanwhile: I've been sporadically watching Stranger Things [but didn't care for Season Two], Longmire, Limitless, The Finder, NCIS, Diana In Her Own Words [but couldn't finish it], Godless, The Crown, Sherlock, 9, Shetland, Predestination, Chloe, Judd Apatow and an occasional dip back into Doc Martin; The New Yorker, Audio from Terry Gross' Fresh Air. Then I slowly added NCIS, Merlin and a suite of plainspoken interview shows, My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman, The Hollywood Masters and Off Camera.

But I keep coming back to movies.


Erased*** has its moments, but it's not great overall. It's got a lotta action, especially toward the end, but I kept putting off watching the next few scenes, often for weeks. I was about as interested in seeing the end as I was in adding one more movie to this summary. 20152 R 40m

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri***/ is dark, elegant and obscure. Funny in a Cohen Brothers way. I saw it for Frances McDormand, who stars — and she was worth it. And one guy wrote, produced and directed it. 2017 R 1h55m

Joseph Beuys***/is one strange artist, and this movie about him often seems like it's not going anywhere, although there is, finally, after two long hours of not really all that much action, an end to it, though it usually does not progress in any meaningful way, until you consider it later. Like Beuys himself, it's intellectual, deep, real but difficult unto nearly opaque, though eventually rewarding. He's German, but after he gets his teeth fixed (one of the few purely visual transitions in the movie — though never noted) he often speaks English.     He may well be one of the most important artists of the 20th Century, and now that we're in the 21st C., we can start counting those. You pretty much have to be a fan of his work or at least understand what he's about, to thoroughly enjoy this movie, although, excepting our selves, we didn't see any people leaving during, and the The Texas theater, at 231 W Jefferson Blvd, Dallas, TX 75208 — established 1931 was more than 2/3 full. We stood in the back exit, where it was warmer.       If you are not fascinated by conceptual art, I might not attempt it. But if you are visually and artistically more intelligent than most, you might even find a wry humor in it. 2017 R 1h47m

Marcel DuChamps* is a cheaply made guy reading a script over a slide show. At no time does anything move, so it is not a movie at all. Decent enough information, but lackluster presentation. The color is barely present. It's 50 minutes long, educational, but the visual always follows the vocal description by about five seconds, so it's essentially cheap, and hardly fascinating.

Steve Jobs: One Last Thing***/ is yet another of the How Great Steve Jobs Was documentaries, and he was, it's true. And this one is well done and informative in areas some of the others haven't been. I've been a big Steve Jobs fan since before I bought my first Macintosh computer back in 1985, and I'm writing this on another one.

Netflix describes 9/11* as a heartfelt documentary, and that should have been enough. Bo-ring-gah! 2002 NR 2h10m

I thought I'd seen all of Jodi Foster's flicks, but I'd missed The Brave One**, and now that I've seen it, I know why. So many of her flicks have been right on target, but this one misses big-time. I kept thinking of Charles Bronson, because they're both vigilantes.    2007 R 2h2m

This Blade Runner flick sounds familiar. It's even got Harrison Ford as an elder Rick Deckard, but it hasn't the story, the intelligence, the… oh, name it and claim it. It didn't really get me interested until the end, but even then it wasn't really worth the trouble. I thought the title should have been Lame Rudder. I wanted to believe, but I just couldn't. Ryan Gosling's good. But at least I don't have to watch the original again. I've seen it so many, many times This one has some ideas, but they're not all that well executed. Loved the bad lady replicant in the end — her end. But the movie didn't have the sense to stop well before that. Blade Runner 2049* 2017 R 2h43m

The plot, the story, the emotions, the good people, the bad guy. Are all full of holes. Except in that fantasy land called movies, nobody'd ever believe any of it, unless they gushed sloppy sentimentalism all over it. Then, for a few seconds, we'd believe and think, that could happen. But … The Book of Henry** can, if you let go of reality and logic and all those hard and fast realities, and just … oh, whatever. I wanted to believe, but … 2017 PG13 1h45m

Slippery. Interesting. Veddy interesting. But slidey and unsure. De Niro's good, but not his best. He mostly emailed this one in. Cillian Murphy did much better, and I can't wait to see his really best in some other flick. Psychic games and who's really the best at that. Sigourney Weaver is a has-been. Don't know most of these actors. Don't care to. The college's chief "scientist" has a great presence. I want to see the next segment. Not thrilled with the title. Red Lights***/ 2012 F 1h53m

Didn't know what to expect with this one. Turned out nearly spectacular. Solid story. Fine Acting. Meaningful filming. In a place (Wyoming) I've always loved but still don't know well enough. It's a mystery, but it's got a superb story that backs up just when I thought it would never, and explains everything — or enough. Gorgeous scenery, ugly mean people. Beautiful places and people. The hero's expert without being shallow. The female lead — his helper — is inexpert but learns a modicum of depth. It's got just enough Indian and a deep quality of intelligence. I'd see it again, maybe real soon, but I loaned it to Anna. Wind River**** PG13 2017 1h51m

Talk about smarm! This one's got Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kaira Knightly, Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren, and I liked a lot of it, but in the end (and too much of the way through), it's smarm. I might give it two or three asterisks, for the switch-back curves the movie throws. But … I'm so glad to see Smith can still act — even if he doesn't always, so I'll see more of his elder period flicks, but I was disappointed in this one. Collateral Beauty**/ PG13 2016 1h35m

Not sure about this one. Beautifully filmed. Many, many, many delicious little segments, but baffling as a whole — as I suspect was Dunkirk. I like the view of individuals in war, and the general and all those soldiers. But… Dunkirk*** PG13 2017 1h47m


Gifted**/ is a smarmy medium-sized movie about a grown-up guy whose sister killed herself because she didn't have a life, and she didn't want her big mathmatical proof published until she and her smothering mother were both dead. The guy became the father the cute little White girl never had, but then — I'm not so sure there was a father. Well, I know there had to be a father, and the mother of the cute little star of this smarmy movie, that I actually like. I mean, I'm giving it three stars for heaven's sake, and I'm not sure who the cute, big Black woman is, but I like her more than most people in most movies, and the superstar mathmatician left her cute-little girl-child with the math genius' brother, who's as father a relationship as the cute little girl's ever had. The Math Mom let her own smother-Mother herself, and SmotherMother did MathMom in, and MathMom's brother didn't want that to happen to her own child, but… It's all cute, and it's all smarmy as hell, but the cute little girl lives, well, you know. PG-13 2017 1h41m

Chasing Trane***/ is trying to catch up to whom John Coltrane really was and what he was about. With explanatory background facts from  Hillary's husband, also a saxaphonist and former President. Some of my favorite musicians have expressed amazement in Trane. I wanted to understand. Now I have a gist. Years ago I bought A Love Supreme. I am learning.

Jim Carey is a trip. Andy Kaufman was a trip. Jim Carey as his friend Andy Kaufman is like being there and being Andy who was sometimes in control of who he was, and Carey was sometimes in control of who he was, but together, Jim being Andy is way beyond just a trip. A movie about identities that's scary and true and about as real as it can get and still be just a movie. Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond***/ TV-MA 2017 1h 33m

Good title. Good acting. Great story. Allied***/ Brad Pitt and 2016 R 2017 2h 4m

Didn't really think I'd have any feelings for this one. Then when I watched, I kept feeling it. Thought it would just be a hack. Foolish notion. Serious movie. Slow, but sure. Not a great title, but truly a fine movie. Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, both nearing their dotage, but both capable of deep feeling that I felt, too. Our Souls At Night**** TV14 2017 1h 43m

I've probably seen several movies lately I didn't put down in this. Netflix has a way of checking through all the disks we're rented, but I haven't found a way to list all the flicks I've seen all the way through. I doubt there's more than a half dozen. I'm in no hurry.

I liked this one but I cannot describe it very well, because I'm still not sure what happened in it. I liked most of the characters, and that there was a palpable per the title — The Sense of An Ending***/, there's still a lot of confusion around it. I may need to see it again, but I don't want to. PG-13 2017 1h48m

I really did not expect to like Goodbye Christopher Robin****, because I've always loved Pooh (since the mid-1940s, and I still have my badly crayoned original copy of that one) and the gang, not much or much depth of whom we see in this flick. But I liked it a lot, even if I'd really like to see a non-Disney version of an animated version of the story instead. I suspect such an animated version would be much more, well, animated. This one's not stupid, but it is kinda lame, because it's about a real father and son in what appears to be another time — or place (Merry Old England) when fathers and sons don't much associate with each other when the sons are young. Which sound too much like my own family. Maybe I need to see it again, and I probably will. PG 2017

I've come to the conclusion that I don't have to have a television to get caught up in its stupidity. Right now, I'm mindlessly swithcing from one series to another among — Mind Hunter, Stranger Things, Sniffer, Sherlock (perhaps the least interesting of them all), Crossing Lines, Limitless, Longmire, MIB, various The Doors movies, Wallender (which I watched all the way through years ago after watching the whole original series in some other north European language with English subtitles), and The Saint. None of which I can stand for very long. And like almost all TV shows, the longer they go on, the less I like them.

Meanwhile I'm "reading" (actually listening to) one novel I can't wait to get through, actually reading a couple short and long story collections and listening to another novel. And no, I don't have an iPlaid. I have a Azon Fire I paid less than a $150 for. And I think I'm running out of intelligent (not that most are anything near) movies and/or series.

I've seen a lot of TV lately, even if I don't have one, but there's always a sameness about TV shows that really good movies, even documentaries, just don't get stuck in. I was genuinely moved by Joan Didion The Center Will Not Hold****. I only knew peripherally about her and her books, none of which I've ever read, but this movie got to me, and I found it deeply inspiring. To write, and to write about me, as I write about others and their art. Or birds. NR 2017

I just watched it on Netflix but now I can't even search for it. It doesn't come up. Jerry Before Seinfeld*** is Jerry after Seinfeld in a comedy club, where he's pretty good, pretty funny. I laughed out loud several times. But I'm atuned to his humor. We all probably are. This was decent. Not a great movie. Plain nothing cinematography. Not a biography. Yeah, just three asterisks. TV14 2017 1h1m

I keep starting movies or series that are so stupid that nobody in their right mind would believe anything any of the characters say or purport to believe. This one has, in just two episodes, already magically determinded that Ted Kaczynski is the Unibomber, even though no proof has been presented. Yet. The idiot FBI-ers have, so far, depended only upon suppositions. So now, quite suddenly they somehow know who TK is. What? Huh? We gonna get that filled out in flashbacks in episodes to come. What an insipid construction to have, of all things, a flash forward in Episode 2, just to confuse everybody. I want to stop watching Manhunt***/, but it's got its hooks in me. It's not difficult to believe a governmental agency like the FBI operates like this. We know it's lame, because it is a governmental agency. Yet, creepy as that is, I keep wanting to know what happens next, and we're now into flashforwards that may be what they found out later, only the movie keeps presenting us with facts — Kaczynski talking about how the gummint thinks it can convict him, even though they've gone about it illegally, so our hero and his motley crew are going to figure it out, like all those motley B-movie scientists always eventually figure out how to kill the monster. NR 2017 one season

I saw a lame, excessively censored and cut version of Eyes Wide Shut in a theater when it was new, and either I didn't understand or I was just in it for the sex. Having now watched it with care and subtitles, so I wouldn't miss anything, I still don't give a rat's ass for this stupid movie. It's about a guy who in real life (?) was married to the same woman actor we see acting as if she loved and was married to the guy. They both have fantasies they feel guilty for, and they've either had or fantasized about having sex with all sorts of other people. Before the night of the story, they proclaim their love for each other — and they do it again at the end. Then she gets lost in her lust dreams, and he gets lost in a remarkably unsuccessful attempt to get laid over and over and over all that night. But it never happens. So they're burdened with guilt without anything ever happening. Sex, but no sex act. A delicious subtext is that they (the actors) broke up soon after (during? before already?) the movie was cast, made and/or released. So I was always watching for those subtle touches and looks between two human beings, if we can call actors that. Eyes Wide Shut*** R 1999 2h38m

I'm pretty sure I never read nor saw this one before. I was always a little lost as an English major. I should have been in Art but the lowly Conservative U of D could only conceive photography as a "potential art form", so I could not, at that silly time, major or take any classes in it. I liked to read, and I liked to write poetry. Some of my poems are good. I remembered paintings and sculpture and knew who did them immediately, that I could never do for other people's poetry or novels. So I was stuck out of time. Acing art classes and bumbling lit. So, anyway, I'd heard of this one but never read it, and later never got around to watching this movie, which strikes me as pretty old-fashioned. Movies are always better. But there were never any surprises. Great Expectations*** PG13 2012 2h7m

I know I've never seen this one. It's Bogie, so I got it, even if I'd never even heard of it, but it was truly strange. A psych flick with real depth about a dark, once-famous screenwriter who gets a gig to work up a screenplay for a very popular book, falls mercurially for a beautiful woman who lives next door, then gets accused of murduring the woman who'd read the book and explained the all the plot lines to him. She was a tiresome lame-brain whom he has nothing for, but after she leaves, he gets accused of murdering her. And only then do we start seeing him acting psychotic, so it's like his diseased mind has been reading the script for this movie. And several times he grabs the new woman, with whom he has very lately fallen for, and he holds her like the murderer held the murdered woman, and… Talk about a convoluted plot. We watch him go berserk trying to kill some dolt whose car got close to his. Thus showing signs of being the murderer, and he gets worse and worse. There's quality in this flick, but there's also way too much stupidity. In a Lonely Place*** NR 1950 1h34m

Avatar***/ is much better than I remembered it.

I keep seeing movies I've already seen and not recognizing them for way too long. I used to remember every photograph I'd ever taken, and I used to remember every movie. Now I don't remember either. A lot of the photos I've taken were pretty good, so if a little of that quality sneaks into the new shots, that's probably a good thing. As for the movies, there are actors and movies I've loved for years, and now I can watch a lot of those as if I hadn't ever seen them before. That way, I'm enjoying movies I've already seen too many times until I finally start getting glimmers of having seen it already well past half way through. The top-dog psychologist at the local VA tells me I don't have Alzheimers and that I think like most people think, and I know for certain that I've always forgot important stuff. Sometimes I only wonder whether I'd already seen it after I'd seen it and enjoyed it. Sometimes I just don't remember. I'm watching The Worikker Trilogy**** that I'm pretty sure I'd seen already, but I enjoy Bill Nighy as a smooth and sophisticated spy so much, I don't mind reseeing them all again. I'm loving it this time. I've watched all of the Matt Damon Bourne movies at least four times each, and I actually bought them (I may own two other movie DVDs), so I can watch them again and again. I think I feel the same way about Nighy and the Worrikers and probably anything else he's been in since his resurgence. Before that, they're iffy. But I'd chance it.

Resurgence*** is short and to the sob-story points. I like watching wounded warriors — or anybody else — surf, even with all the talk of suicide and giving up, etc. I don't think I'd want to surf, but watching it is involving, as is this little movie.

Norman Lear changed America in ways that haven't been tried much lately. It was a joy sorting out who he was and what he did. I watched Meathead and the rest of the people in all those families for so many years. I was amazed American Television could be so smart. We were all All In The Family. Norman Lear was why. This is his story. Norman Lear, Just Another Version of You***/

I don't like beer. Never have, but I once had passing fancies with Bourbon and long-time lusts with Galliano and I still especially adore Kahlua. So it was not without notable interest that I allowed Netflix to stream The Truth About Alcohol***/, a sprightly, mostly fun = enjoyable documentary about booze and its effects upon us, our variable vulnerabilities to cancer, how much food we'd likely ingest after, and our sleep patterns. All done in Great Brtitain, which has had the intelligence to lower the recommended weekly dose for both men and women, and it's presented with much attempted humor, that mostly works out. Its facts and surmises are fascinating.

I've probably seen Pan's Labyrith**** before, and this century, so I can't count it [again]. Last time, I didn't understand it. This time I did. Nice. I've been watching many, older films lately. Such a joy when I don't need to count them, and I can simply enjoy…

By the time sad little sperms were rendered inert whenever they were even artificially introduced to an egg — and the doleful music played, we knew it was over for men in this world. Yeah, it's funny, but the women didn't think so. They were finally getting to take over, and since boy babies were no longer being born, we had to do what we could. If they'd let us. It was funny. For awhile. Then it just got stupid when man after man complained and complained but didn't do anything about it. At that point, I gave up on the flick. Maybe I'll go back later, much later. No Men Beyond This Point**

Title's kinda goofy, but pertinent. Performances are on target all the way. The story too true to be true maybe, but we want to believe. The guy, Michael Douglas is perfect, a little confused, mostly, but on-target all the throughout. But so's Pendergast (Robert DuVall), who thought he was retiring from the police today. Instead he figures out what they guy is doing, and where he's going, almost before the guy himself knows how it's gonna end. Lotta nutcases in this one. The cop's wife (whom I never would have identified as Tuesday Weld), the guy's mother, the guy's wife — really — and several of the folks the guy encounters along the way after he abandons his car in traffic as he walks across L.A. to the ocean. Once we're past the gangbangers early in East L.A., the mayhem drops back a couple of steps. All the other cops, except Pendergast's old partner — she's with him on this track-down — are useless. Falling Down**** R 1993 1h52m

I've seen Second Sight before, when it was on TV, and I had a TV — years at least. I liked it, but I didn't fully understand the glaring blindness, pinched sight thing, but approved of the Second Sight***/ part. Don't yet know how many stories in this season. Wish it had English translations, even though the audio is English, it's often slurred.

Our Little Sister**** is one of the most charming movies I've watched in months. In Japanese with English subtitles that move too fast, so I chose the vocal English tracks that explained too much, but like the rest of the film had its deep charm. It's an elegantly told story of three sisters who meet and include their orphaned younger sister at their father's funeral. Although neither visually nor as simply as elegant as the story, the acting and the sense of place in the home they will inherit, it's a deep and usually joyous exploration of family. PG 2016 2h8m

The Zookeeper's Wife***/ is a scintillating movie. It shreds and tears life and joy when the Nazi's tried to destroy Warsaw and its Jewish people. I hate Nazi movies for their evil, and I still have a hard time getting through them. But eventually, the Good Guys win, and the zookeeper and his wife saved many lives.

I think I'm several laps ahead into Minimalism than most people, but I have yet to let go of a lot of things I just don't need. I have closets full of clothes I rarely wear, and rooms full of junk I'll never get clean. I'm inordinantly proud of not having a TV or a cell phone, but I have stuff I never use, and I still feel the lingering alure of buying more I don't need. My house is hardly minimalist, but it's paid for, and I love having a car that sometimes gets 60mpg, but I haven't gone near enough places that sing to me from afar. So soon as I found out about this movie, Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things***/, I started watching, paying attention, and I have learned much, and I am again imbued with the spirit of minimalism.

I didn't have high hopes for How I Live Now****. But I was wrong. It was, at first, at least, a great setting. Good character development of the female lead, and despite some obvious clichιs, a more than adequate adventure quotient, an excellent spectrum of good and bad things that happened and were learned from. Exciting, sad, etc. R 2013 1h50m

When I started Take This Waltz****, it was free on Amazon Prime, but halfway through I had to go do something, and when I came back it was gone, and when I did eventually find it, it was exclusive to some other Amazon pay channel. (Then later still, it was safe on Netflix. I wonder if its producers sold it to everybody. I hope they all do.) That it had jumped ship in the middle of watching seemed annoyingly Amazon. But I had to join something for a free few weeks to see the end of the movie that started free. When I say Amazon Movies is screwed up, I'm not kidding. I was amazed to find as intelligent a movie as this — directed by Sarah Polley — anywhere, really. About a shy married woman who is afraid of being afraid, and who falls for a guy who's carefully and gently falling in love with her. But she didn't want to leave her husband, even though he was definitely not right for her or her for him. Yada-yada. Lotta female frontal nudity of the star and all her variously shaped swimming buddies (It's from Canada.), but no male parts. Superb acting and story and the filming is delicious. As is the way it thinks. There's some sweet and gentle quirk going on here, and it works spectacularly. R 2012 1h56m

Thurgood*** was almost great. Many of his jokes weren't all that funny, and some of his inspirational speeches weren't all that inspirational. Lawrence Fishburne was pretty good as Thurgood telling his story and history, but I wanted everything to be better, and it just wasn't. There are even some ugly clunky edits. But he told some good stories righteously. And he was there. And he did good. TV14 2011 ih45m

I finished the first season of Hinterland**** that I'd long since fallen for, and am now into season two. Another superb (everything) detective series on the edge of an ocean somewhere.  I used to read several books at a time. Two or three. Four was stretching it. I could do five or six but I had to space them out more. After that, it was all just too complicated. I do projects that way now. Usually. But I can only keep maybe three books or movies in my mind at a time. Sequentially.        
     I don't keep them in there, I just remember them — serially, not everything in me at the same time. Takes too much thinking. But movies and serials are less an issue. Maybe because of the rhythms and music and story lines and visuals, each so different and distinct, I can usually just fall back into another flick. I'm loving Hinterlands' Welsh deeply depressed but tres intelligent detective and heinous people crimes in a bleak landscape on the edge of an ocean somewhere

, A Drummer's Dream with many many lessons and many more rhythms, and finally finished Job's in the Machine with joy and anger and deceit. I'd still be watching Bosch, but he ran out of episodes, though two detectives at a time is too confusing. I kinda want a real jazz movie in the mix. Those drummers put life into me.

I wonder sometimes how I came to choose some of the flicks I get. Like was I just not paying attention? Well, yeah. That's obvious. But when I chose them, I thought I was in for a treat. Often the treat is not forthcoming.

Worse than the paranoia it seems to be, this one has truth in it, without being entirely honest. I liked the first part showing the many amazing parallels among the religions of the past and present. I knew some of those facts, but I had no idea the world's religions were so much alike while making people believe they are so vastly different. Then jump-cut to airplanes slamming into The Twin Towers. I gave up on it for a couple days, then went back and finished it among thickly-pasted paranoia about world banking and how we keep getting into wars while we know they are not good for us. A little scary, a lot true, but mostly paranoid. Zeitgeist, The Movie**/ NR 2007 1h56,

It was going along pretty good, explaining the multitudinous similarities of the world's religions — virgin births on December 25, et al, when that quite suddenly wound down, and now we have entered into Conspiracy Theory Hell with rapid-fire airliners piling into the World Trade Center. I found peace in the world religion take-down, but I'm still leery of 9-11 theories. So my fascination with all that religion hoo-hah boiled over and stopped in its tracks when started the 9-11 theorizing. I woulda given the religion part a Zeitgeist, The Movie***, but …

I kept trying to watch Nocturnal Animals*, but I never did get it or like it in any way. I kept avoiding it. I just hated it, so finally, with about thirty minutes to go, I ejected the disk and sent it back. I still like Jake Gyllenhaal, and I look forward to seeing him in something — anything — else, but I hated this one — and did not finish the fool thing. R 2016 1h56m

Saw this one in one sitting, too. About Darius McCollum, an Autistic boy, then man, who was utterly fascinated by trains and buses, which he drove first with permission, then without ever, made all the stop announcements, kept the speed limits, etc. on several lines, never had an accident, but never once was employed by any transportation unit. It was obvious he was crazy for trains and buses, and he was certifiably Autistic (back then they called it Asperger's), but he was never once given the opportunity to be treated by an intelligent, humane doctor who could help him. One idiot judge read about Asperger's on WikiPedia and without asking anybody who might know more, declared that Darius did not have Asberger's, so he was ineligible for any help. He tried, but failed to tame his obsession, and now he's back in jail, where our so-called Justice system parks people sometimes forever. So we've failed yet another psychologically ill human in a country where jail is the only place we can think to put them. Off the Rails***/ NR 2016 1h29m

I did pause it a couple times to re-watch little bits because I didn't understand something one elderly woman too Southern drawled, but otherwise, I saw Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird**** straight through. The first movie in a long time I did that with. All hour and twenty-two minutes of it was a charmer, and a joy to watch. I'd read some of the facts of the story — some of which were true, and probably more that were not. And I loved this cinematic reminder. Superbly pieced together. Great other voices remembering.  NR 2010 1h22m

I finally finished Blue Jay**/, but I watched it in so many segments — getting bored and stopping it over and over and over, that I just don't care. Pretty blonde woman and bearded brunette guy so very unsure of himself talk about a relationship that ended with a pregnancy that neither could quite handle then, and now she's married and he laughs a lot, but he's still not ready for real life. TV/MA 2016 1h20m

Far From Men***/ is a profound but simple story. A teacher of children is sent with a man who killed his cousin in several days walk from where he taught. He did kill the cousin, so he would be executed. They become friends and have many adventures, most of which involve war. At the end there are choices made and choices taken. In French NR 2015 1h41m

I don't think I've seen Contact***/ with Jodie Foster this century, so I can add it in here. Made 20 years ago, the special effects are elderly and plain, but the story is profound, even if many people don't believe it, and probably never will. We see her visit a beautiful place, then come back. The time measured on earth a tiny fraction of a second, but she remembers it much longer, and her tape of it is 18 hours. It's a love story, too. And a good one. With Matthew McConaughey as a preacher who insists there is a god; and she doesn't know it until the end. Superb and directed by Robert Zemeckis. PG 1997 2h29m

I've been watching Quantico***, about FBI trainees and their incredibly manipulative guides and bosses. It switches back and forth from some time ago — nine months, I think, so it stays fairly confusing, but some classmembers are confusing and/or confused, and it's become obvious that the dimwads who teach or operate the school are going to find out the star pupil, whom they now believe to be a terrorist, will turn out to be a hero instead, even though we've been spoonfed "proof" on both sides. Low credibility, but interesting people, who, they have to keep telling us, are incredibly intelligent, even if we don't see all that much proof. I'm enjoying it, even if it's kinda silly.

PBS' Animals Remembering*** was about reunions during which it became obvious to humans that animals who had once known and loved those humans that they remembered from many years past and just a few. It was, of course, a set-up. We had no way of knowing the animals — no birds — were the same ones. and it wasn't clear how the humans knew, either. And it was played for sentimentalism, but it seemed to show that animals — from monkeys, to a Cheeta and others remembered the humans who helped them through a difficult transition, usually from zoos or worse, back into the more or less "natural" world.

Didn't think it was nearly this silly, goofy and absurd last time I saw this one, some time back in that other century, but I can still see the magic in it, even if it is badly splattered with goofiness. Supposedly about an Autistic boy, and I guess I still identify with those (and have been diagnosed as on the spectrum), so that's probably why I still like candy like this. The Boy Who Could Fly**

I used to be one of those big fans that R. Crumb loves to hate, although at least I never saw him in person, nor sought to. I still have one of the Cheap Suit Serenaders' albums — from which my fave tune, My Girl's Pussy is badly reproduced in the movie, and I loved Fritz the Cat and just about everything else he ever did. This movie explains who he really is better than anything I've ever read, seen or wanted to. I guess I identify with him in some ways. The Confessions of Robert Crumb**** does it for me, though it's hardly perfect.

Not at all sure how I came upon this delicious little movie that mixes many Japanese actors and one American and too much else to attempt to explain here. Netflix says, "A popular crime novelist and a small-town sheriff investigate the disappearance of a mysterious man and the suitcase of clues he leaves behind." Which really does precis it, though it's fathoms more complex than that, while holding to intriguing and fascinating people and a turned-around way of being and always being a couple steps ahead of the woman writer and the sheriff, although eventually the write joins the ahead-of-everything. This one lilts and was a joy to watch and understand. Man from Reno**** NR 2014 1h51m

By Sidney Lumet*** is Mr. Lumet and his movies and his reasons, but most of all, his movies. Most of the way through, I wanted to see the rest of all those movies, again since I'd seen most of them way back in that last century. NR 2016 1h49m

Oh, wow! I finally finished the first season of Sniffer****, even if I had to get through S2 E2 to figure out I can park some asterisks behind its title, and I'd tell you about it, but I have been telling you about it all along, so I'll just pilfer my previosities per it and be done with it till this new season's done, too. I don't want to like it, because it's Russian, but I do like it despite that it's Russian. The Snif is higher res, slicker, weirder and possibly more beautiful); hipper than Foyle, Shetland, Hinterland or Broadchurch's one episode wonder. … The Russian [with English Subtitles] Sniffer is a hoot; a superbly stylized series from, of all places, Russia. I wish it were dubbed, but it's visually kinda stunning, especially when we are given moving images of smoke representing what The Snif is smelling. Our hero takes this thing out of his nose, so he can smell what happened, and we can see its smokey reenactment.

Now I'm watching Jessica Jones. So far the story works. Everything works. She's different enough. Great back story. Fascinating character. Uh… characters — with a buncha her old friends and new trists. And just this one enemy, but he lurks deep. I never read her comix. So I skipped through her Marvel Universe Wiki, and I'm mighty pleased I missed her whole stupid history of, except in that one she could fly, instead of just sorta jumping. Hmmpf. Guess the SFX would be too expensive. Is the bad guy here also Purple Man? (Whose Marvel page has been removed, so I know from nothing about him). But now I'm seeing her pix in Wikipedia, with Luke Cage (who is in the last couple Jessica Joneses), but I'm only to S1 E3. It's odder than Sniffer (and that's saying a lot, although The Snif is higher res, slicker, weirder and possibly more beautiful); hipper than Foyle, Shetland, Hinterland or Broadchurch's one season/episode wonder, but not Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries I'm only on the second E (episode) of. I suppose this is a lot like watching television, except no ads or PA.

Shimmer Lake*** has its deep, personal brand of humor, even if it is backwards. No, really, the story is told from back to front, so it makes sense, I suppose. Frontwards, it would reveal too much too soon. Sometimes backwards is just right. TVMA 2017 1h26m

I'm watching a half dozen, maybe more, episodal TV series [mostly on Netflix, because Amazon just keeps getting screwier], but my faves always seem to be English-speaking detective stories with strong male leads, like Foyle's War (which has just released its eighth season, but for pay, not free streaming, via Amazon, whose videos are very confusado right now); Shetland [below] is at least as good as Foyle, though a little more surreal; the Russian [with English Subtitles] Sniffer is a hoot; I finished off both versions (the original language with English subtitles, then English] of Wallander years ago, though I don't know if there's more of the English version; Hinterland is amazing and better now there's two seasons; Sherlock has at long last continued past all the explainers, which was hellishly tedious; Broadchurch may have been the best of the bunch, but it hasn't acquired a next act yet; and I haven't really found anything else I want to join for more than one episode, though I may be too picky.

I watch a lot of trailers, which are usually set back in time by about as much as the movies I watch — from two or three months to years or decades. I was playing the preview of this one when three words caught my mind and attention. "Introducing Reece Witherspoon. Huh? A surprisingly good movie with good acting and a strong story, I assume from a much longer book. And Reece was amazing for that young. What I especially liked with all the classic compositional extras, framing and following something into the frame. Classic, sweet and weepy. The Man in the Moon*** PG13 1991 1h39m

Took weeks, maybe longer. But I finally finished For the Love of Spock***, which kept surprising me, then boring me. I'm glad it's over. I'm glad I saw it. Now maybe I should see the rest of the Star Trek movies, although I had the same feelings about them. NR 2016 1h52m

Simply eloquent. Beautiful. Calming. The Red Turtle**** by Studio Ghibli. Animation with human sounds, but no words. PG13 2016 PG 2017 1h20m

Another lame Amazon flick I got on purpose, knowing their ways, because this was a flick — Fortress*/ — about B-17s. In Europe, instead of Pearl Harbor to Australia, up toward Japan in that second big world war my father flew them in. I just wanted to see it flying and any maneuvers or lore. And I saw that, mostly. Insipid story, really, with a lot of shortcuts on sense and reality, but it was (barely) adequately done. Amazon's interface keeps getting stupider. I'd wondered whether Netflix would let them get away with stealing so many interface tricks — but apparently not, so the 'Zon i-face is worse than couple months ago when I last traipsed through it. It's rarely been worth the time and energy, and in general, I'd just rather not, even though I have to pay Netflix and Amazon is free with Prime delivery I can't do without. Hell to find anything, and now they're mixing pay-for flicks in with free, Prime movies, too. Or they just list them twice. Poor stupid Amazon. 1h 40m

A remarkable exhibition an exhibition combining fine art and fashion, of both Chinese and Americans at The Met takes some doing, and we get to see a lot of it, as it happens, as it is discussed and created. It's great to watch the people who create a show, and always know just what they want, so it works. Art, celebrities, organizers — all aspects. The First Monday in May**** PG13 2016 1h 30m

Okay. I saw Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore**/ for the first time this century, and it was kinda okay. I must have liked it a lot more last century. I saw it for Ellen Burstyn (Wow! I spelled it right the first time.), not Kris Kristofferson, Harvey Keitel. Jodie Foster, Laura Dern or Diane Ladd, though it won some Academy Awards. It wasn't a complete waste of time, just mostly. 1974 PG 1h52m

Sometimes the previews tell us too much. This movie's trailers were all about evil, sex and societal disruption. I worried about that too long, but it had Anthony Hopkins in it, so I was more curious than anything. Now, I'm a little more than halfway through it, and what we have right here is a psychic car chase. What could be more intriguing? I don't yet know who the hero is, but we've just discovered the so-called villain, although as the remarkably psychic Anthony Hopkins character has just explained, the man who's killing people the FBI's trying to stop, is "murdering" people who are supposedly going to die anyway. Our psychic Hopkins "hero" knows that much, but the FBI-ers want to stop the killer anyway. Even if it kills them. We've forseen visions of the female lead bleeding (but not necessarily dying from it), but both she and the FBI-guy who pulled Hopkins out of retirement, are ever so intent on killing the "bad" guy anyway, and right now, where I've stopped the screen, they're "chasing" the "bad" guy through a downtown area and … Then we find out one of our heroes is dying of cancer, thus ripe for reaping from the "bad" guy. What a fun writing romp. The guy in the cab wasn't the "bad" guy after all. If it wasn't so much fun watching, I might, like the "reviewers" on Netflix, think ill of this flick, but I'm enjoying the ride. It's not a mean-spirited movie. The Hopkins character is genuine and positive, even though he knows way too much about everybody. 1:20:25 into it now, and we're dancing with alternative near futures with multiples of them playing out before us. Who wins? Who loses? Solace**** is really kinda ingenius and almost as good as I thought it might be. 2016 R 1h42m

I saw Anne of Green Gables probably on Public TV years ago — at least twice, though this one — Anne with an E*** — is more detailed and has much more depth than that smarm, and I like it more than that other long-ago one, but it does have its issues. It's almost a family, then it isn't, then it is. Then when the three principles — two elderly siblings whov'e been living in that house, house-keeping and farming for decades, when a young girl (Anne) comes haltingly into their life. After a lot of confusion about whether they love her or not, the family faces one, major difficulty, which they pull together as a family, and it looks like they're all going to stay, when somebody comes to the door. And it ends. I assume who came to the door was the boy Anne liked, but it is not explained, and by then it's over. I guess I wanted more seasons and more episodes. Or at least more explaining.

Le gιnie de la boite de raviolis**/ pleasant-enough. Short. Goofy take on wishes from a genie. Now I can't remember what movie it came with.

Hmm. Another M. Night Shyamalan flick. I expected another letdown, but it's one of those levels he's come down in recent years back up. But so twisted, important pieces are left in tatters on the cutting room floor. Overlong for all the personalities. Almost scary. Almost confusing. Almost good. Split** PG13 1h56m 2017 gives us the M. Night end-of-movie reveal way too early, so we're not even surprised. Then he force-feeds it a couple more times. Lame.

"The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It is not a pretty story," Writer James Baldwin says late in this historic documentary based on his unfinished book about the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.," but in this movie, it is a poetic, dramatic and violent story. "This is not," says Baldwin, "the land of the free. It is only unwillingly and sporadically the home of the brave." and "You cannot lynch me and keep me in ghettos without becoming something monstrous yourselves," Baldwin says, "Not everything that is faced, can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced." I'm not sure what I expected, but I procrastinated watching this strangely beautiful movie, and so glad I saw it, and I wish many other Americans would, too. I Am Not Your Negro***/ PG13 1h34m 2017

Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You***/ is an outstanding lifetime documentary, with plenty of bits from many of the 1970s television shows he produced — All in the Family, Sanford and Son, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, Good Times, and Maude. Fun, funny and serious and fascinating in the details, amazing in the output. Nice.

I'm watching The Sniffer, a superbly stylized series from, of all places, Russia. Not dubbed, just English subtitled, but visually kinda stunning. Our hero takes this thing out of his nose, so he can smell what happened, and we can see its smokey reenactment.

Sissy Spacek was 27 when she starred as a teenager in Carrie**, probably older than anyone else at the Senior Prom. The story is rude, and the cinematography, story, etc. remarkably unsophisticated, yet it scared a lot of audiences back then. Brian De Palma directed with little subtlety, and the camera almost always looked down on Spacek to make her seem smaller — and we suppose, younger. I'd never seen it before, and now I think it's just so goofy tame, lame, rude and mean. Then, at the long, drawn out end, when her religious nutcake Mom tries to stab her, and Carrie uses her powers — well, it's just laughably insipid. Annother movie made by committee. I'd love to see it remade by somebody with intelligence and class who could really make it fearsome, like maybe Lars Von Trier. He'd put a proper scare into it.

What an enlightening and joyous documentary! Fuddy-duddy Netflix rated it barely 3 stars for — supposedly — me, but it was easily the best artist documentary I've seen. I watched it nearly always with a big smile on my face. In so many differing ways, this movie showed us how Hockney***** thinks/thought and acted. Beautiful and I stopped it several times to go do something arty, it was so inspiring. Unlike most films about artists, it follows him through his life and styles and techniques and … NR 1h52m 2016

Hidden Figures*** is way too cute for comfort. I wanted to like it, and I almost did. But it was presented more as a fairy tale of White & Black simpatico than reality. Those heroic Black women deserve better than this smarmily sentimental bullshit. PG 2h7m 1982

I've just finished Mark Twain (A Film by Ken Burns)***/ for the I-don't-know-how-many-eth-time. I know I've seen it before, and that I will very probably see it again. I read his most famous books, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and especially Adventures of Huckleerry Finn, lying front-down on the floor of our living room wherever we were living then when I was about 11. The scene made much less impression in my mind than the books, which I still love, and I am still reading Huck on my Amazon Fire.

I heard about this one on my favorite interview show — 3 PM weekdays on KERA-FM Dallas but originating out of Chicago — Terry Gross on Fresh Air, so I had to see it. Old TV drama doesn't often hold up, but this is remarkable, especially the so-long-ago performances by then very young Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walken. Amazing intelligence for a movie of the week or whatever in 1982, but then it's from a story by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. And whenever it got a tad turgid, I switched to 20th Century Women, but I always came back. Two things about it were very less than. The subtitles were always one screen back from the action, and the colors were always so 50s TV low contrast. And the title? Who Am I This Time***/ — indeed. Just don't read the Amazon blurb. NR 1h 1982

I got 20th Century Women****, because it had Annette Bening and with some other women and guys and her kid. They were trying to figure out about love and happiness and all that other stuff nobody really understands, but they keep making movies about it that edge us a little closer. It's a lilting movie with more sense than nonsense, but a lot of both. And it really is about last century's women. And it gets it across with joy, humor, pain and other scary stuff. R 1h58m 2016

I tried to watch The Fifth Estate about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, but it was just so 2013 in the way it portrays computers and they way they work, when that's really not important. When I looked him up I learned there's a new movie called Risk that documents him premiering "on Friday," and I decided to wait for that. This one just jumbled in my mind, and I couldn't wait to send it back.

A lovely movie called by a monster. Scary in the way a child cries for his mother. A tale of fear and wanting. Loss and gain. Remarkable, really. Superb. A Monster Calls***/ PG-13 1h48m 2016

What a surprise. The good guys win. Or mayhaps I shouldn't tell you that, even if down deep we always know it. There are a few moments when the sell is a little too hard, the special effects a tad too creative, and well, you know… But it was fun, and it wasn't that kid in that school, and we have just so much to thank for that. It's fun and sometimes funny and other times cringe-worthy. There's a couple of romances, and the certainty of villains. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them***/ is good. PG-13 2h13m 2016

It was scary. They got that right. Her in that cowgirl outfit seemed way off kilter, and some of the spooky reenactments were just a little too odd, but it was scary, and it was supposed to be scary, so it worked. Way better cinematography than it otherwise deserved, and I still can't make sense out of a lot of it. But it was scary. The title makes no sense whatsoever. But it was … Lavendar***

Garden of Words**** is lovely anime, beautifully drawn and elegantly animated, a 48-minute almost-romance that ends, well… without quite ending, although they tack on some possibilities. TV14 2013 48m

I've just got loose from three seasons of another English-ish other place detective series called Shetland**** that I watched end on end all of over the last week. Superb characterizations, outstanding stories, fine acting, marvelous setting, elegant videography. Shetland is a remote, subarctic archipelago of 566 square miles north of The United Kingdom and west of Norway. A beautiful, spare landscape of sky, ocean, rocks and gorgeous, rolling hills, where, like everywhere else, crime happens — either home-grown or imported from not so far away. With a small, high-tech police force, following whose lives and growth is fascinating.

I'm on a Benedict Cumberbatch jag these days. I thought I'd seen The Last Enemy***/ before, but I could not find it listed on my already-seen DVD queue or reviewed here, there or beyond, so I might as well do that here. It's a PBS Masterpiece Theater production, and it's pure paranoia through and through. The bad guy here is the British Government, but the US or any other major power would fit as easily. It's frightening, and it does not begin nor end well, but it takes its own sweet time getting there.

Queen of Katwe***/ is about Phiona Mutesi who was born in Katwe, the largest of Kampala's eight slums, where she sold maize in the street market and one day followed her brother to a Christian sports mission whose after-school program run by Robert Katende taught her to play chess. And after much difficulty she became a champion — the first titled female Ugandan player.. It's a Disney flick, so it has quality and joy and story and fine acting. What more could anyone want?

This is a joyous movie, then inconsolably sad after people who want decide to do wrong. And then all three main characters come to understand that they all need forgiveness. Tears will fall, but joy will be had by the end. I was angry at him for letting her get away with it. Then at her for not seeing what a gem he was. Then at the real mother of their child for not forgiving. Then the end sewed them together into a family. Late, perhaps, but real enough. And if you get it from Netflix, don't read the blurb. It's not true and must have been based on the book. I assume there was a book. The Light Between Oceans*** PG13 2016 2h 13m

Just saw the latest version of The Flash*/, and it started out pretty good indeed. Then it got worse and worse, then even badder than that. I don't have to see any more. It'll have its moments, but generally, it just sucks.

I love movies about androids and other forms that or whom confuse or confound the sames and differences between human and not. And this was one of the better — though more vicious, though in a humane context. Morgan*** is an extremely human-like android whose real genesis we only learn late. And there's a slight, easily twigged twist toward the end that just messes with our perception but doesn't jig the movie. That's implicit in the wigged-out bunch who raises her. R 2016 1h 32m

I was really hoping it wasn't going to be another serial, but I guess there's way too many special effects for that. I was amazed, and I love that feeling. Been awhile. My first realization was that it was Benedict Cumberbatch, whom I love in whatever he's in at the moment. I keep finding him in movies quite by accident, and I do want that to continue. I'm blown away by the special effects, story, action, magic. Oh, pretty much everything. Dr. Strange***** PG13 2016 1h55m

I've read magazine stories about Koko, and I've watched other, documentary-style movies about her. I just did a search for her name down this page and only got the one above in this paragraph, so it's been awhile since I've seen a Koko movie. This one is Koko, the Gorilla Who Talks***, which seems odd, because she can do so many other things, but she can only "talk" using her fingers, by signing. She can't really talk. The scientific question is can she think, and at least one famous scientist decided after careful study that she cannot. But the woman and the man who raised her and have been with her nearly all her life believe she can think and feel. I agree, but it's a close race. I suspect if she could really talk, with her mouth, there'd be no doubt. R 2016 1h37m

I've known Indians who look a lot less like Indians than Steve McQueen in this movie, but I still don't believe for a minute that McQueen is one. That basic tenet of this flick is pure hogwash, but I'm sorta liking the movie, which is more about friendship than the revenge motive and Indian identity we're being fed. Really, there's a lot about this elderly movie that is only half credible, but it's remarkably pleasant for a revenge flick. Max — McQueen's character — is bent on killing the bad cowboys who murdered his father and mother, and he doesn't seem to mind terribly others along the way, and we're along for the ride. Sometimes there's a little religion thrown in, but it doesn't seem to be taking. Steve is joined here with Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Arthur Kennedy, Suzanne Pleshette and Martin Landau. Nevada Smith**/ wasn't his first film, but it plays like it could have been. And I'm a fan.

I think I've finally finished the series Saving Grace's last season. I'd thought it was over awhile back, then it continued another year's worth that got a tad more religious without losing its lust for life, sex and joie de vivre. But I still wouldn't mind another couple — or forever's worth — of extension.

I tried a couple times to get out of this one, but I kept coming back. Couldn't let go. Single Dad and son on a train that passes their stop, then everybody else's. Then it won't stop, and they meet a single woman who is movie-star gorgeous (Wouldn't it be nice sometimes to have ordinary women in movie roles, so we could believe them? But who'd go? Oh, well …) Great little movie brings together opposites — three guys: an Eastern European engineer who says the F word a lot (but soon everybody does, except the woman and the kid), a mean-minded professor or something, and the the good doctor Dad. And his beautiful new love who likes the kid, too. How do they stop the madman bent on a glorious suicide driving the train into the eventual wall — or do they? Last Passenger*** R 2013 1h37m

I hadn't seen Bullitt**** for almost fifty years, then didn't care for the long slow preamble and almost dropped out, but Anna promised it'd be worth my while, and it was. I thought I'd got it crossed with some other Steve McQueen movie, although I thought I'd loved them all. I suspect I'll be seeing others again now, since I seem to be going back in history. Great early chase scenes through San Francisco and a bit-part by a young Robert Duvall. PG 1968 1h54m

They could have mentioned on the wrapper or in the listing that this is the mostly pre-singing Leonard Cohen from his years as a poet, but that would seriously cut down on rentals. I'm glad I didn't know. Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen***/ is still Leonard Cohen, and as one of my favorite people knowing that which preceded his singing — except for one song, I'm Your Man anachronistically placed toward the end — is of serious value. Now, though, where's the renta-movie about him since? NR 1965 45m biography

This one's about a food critic with soul and a serious sense of place in Los Angeles. It often reads and looks like poetry. I dearly wish I could smell and taste all those ethnics of food cooking. But a lot of those are in his stories. This is an excellent introduction to LA Food Critic Jonathan Gold, his family, his favorite foods, his friends. I like. City of Gold***/ 2016 1h 30m

Ever wonder about the facts and true history of 'the Iran Nuclear Deal'? Well, by exploring one, major American-Israeli cyber attack on Iran, this movie goes a long way into uncovering what happened and why, as well as how truly important it was in these early days of the international internet era — and cyber warfare. Under a great many, very complex bits of information lie a few scintillating understandings. But nobody's talking. Zero Days***/ is chilling but vastly informative. And that information is presented carefully, logically and visually. Even I understood most of it.

Netflix promised I'd get to see Mongolian teen Aisholpan Nurgaiv dedicate herself to the art of taming and training golden eagles to hunt game in the stark Altai Mountains. Except we didn't see much of taming it and nothing at all of training it, but we did, later, see it finally (after two failed attempts) catch a fox. I got it to see close-ups of the eagle in action, but that didn't really happen, either. I loved seeing the eagle up close and in great detail. Otherwise, the movie was pretty lame. It made a lot of her being the first girl eagle hunter, and it kept telling us stuff we had not seen. It obviously wasn't the director's first movie, and the editor put it together very well, and the place was gorgeous. But it was difficult to trust it, and it really wasn't excellent, but at least it wasn't all Hollywooded up. The Eagle Huntress** 2016 The Eagle Huntress 1h 27m

That it was directed by Mel Gibson, which I didn't find out till the credits rolled after the end of it, explains a lot of the overload of schlock and malarkey, but it's very close to a good movie anyway. A better director would have nipped that in the bud, but a better director didn't get it, so I guess we're thankful someone did the story, even if it was stupidly overdone. It was a movie needing to be done. Hacksaw Ridge*** 2016 2hr 11m

I'd gone through about five of Netflix' latest movie bombs, got bored quickly each time, so I turned to Mike Birbiglia's I Love Jokes***/, and I almost instantly felt at home. I'd heard of Birbiglia via This American Life on public radio, so I figured he'd be alright, and he was much, much better than that. So I laughed my ass off for awhile, had a think or two, considered the greater possibilities, then had to find something else that could be even half that human, funny and noble.

Artist/Performer/Musician Laurie Anderson has long been on the leading — sometimes bleeding — edge of art presentation, and she continues with this intriguing nonlinear story involving many mediums to tell rather complicated stories that are often fascinating though occasionally baffling, or enigmatic. The artist in me needed to see this movie. Long ago I began watching her performance art pieces, I have some recordings and just watching her explaining herself is utterly fascinating. Lots of that here among the extras. Heart of a Dog***/ is about Anderson, her family and dog, who recently died, and pretty much everything else. 2015 NR 1h 15m

The movie itself is so bad I could not finish it. Really and truly stupid all the way to insipid and shallow in a bad attempt to be funny. But the accompanying documentary explaining the movie is so good, it's a worthwhile endeavor, and we learn many things from it. It's in the Special Features section and is called I think they just got confused and threw in that stupid movie, because they didn't trust their real jewel, the documentary, which is listed as The Nature of the Movie***/, but the movie to which that doc is added, is called Oddball and the Penguins* 2015 1h 35m

I remember that my father used to figure out who was who in the Westerns by what color hat they had on. Who was who in movies was what my mother and dad talked about most during movies on TV (Mom knew; Dad kept asking). I still get pretty confused sometimes, but really good movies figure it out for us. I began writing this when there was still a lot of promiscuity going on (in the movie), and that always confused me, too. But it turned out to be one of the better ones of those endless dysfunctional family tales, and I liked it more and more, but it still had too many brunettes. Stuck In Love***/ 2016 1h 36m

At the end of this affecting movie, we learn that "since 2013, more than 130 White Helmets have been killed" and "In the same period, they have saved over 58,000 lives." I had heard briefly of The White Helmets****, but I didn't know anything about them. For awhile I assumed the were UN troups, but I have ill feelings about those who work at not getting involved. The White Helmets do the opposite. They don't care whom they save. They save all the people. "As daily air strikes pound civilian targets in Syria, a group of indomitable first responders risk their lives to rescue victims from the rubble." Unlike the Red Cross here, they don't charge anybody anything. They don't get paid. They do what needs doing, because it needs doing. 2016 40m

Netflix' Marcella***/ is gruesome, maddening. She's crazy, gets involved with all the worst people, then — of course — solves the mystery and catches all the bad guys and girls, too. One series, so far. Hard to imagine doing another one. But I'd still give this one three-and-a-half or four asterisks. Intriguing. Involving. Unrelenting. 2016 1 season

Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict**** was really quite marvelous. Personal and fascinating. I didn't know much about her except that she was important in modern art, and now I know a lot about her, including why she's so important. A remarkably good story told very well indeed. 2015 1h 35m

Always nice to see cameos by Judi Densch even if only briefly. But it's dread-inducing to see Samuel L. Jackson again. I kinda wilted every time he tried to steal another scene. But there was much else to dread about this one. It was a disappointment when It could have been just so much better with a little subtlety every once in a while. But a lot of it was fun. It was just too much of too much — and too long, to boot. I'd give Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children*** three astersiks, and wish some one better would try it again later. 1979 2h 7m

I so enjoyed The Dressmaker that I took the first Judy Davis movie I hadn't already seen. And I was so surprised that it was made way back in 1979 with her and an also very young Sam Neill in a so-far unrequited love in more luxurious (and the much less luxurious) Australian Outback, both were Aussie films, and both were very good indeed. My Brilliant Career***/ follows a head-strong, mighty independent young woman who wants to write and live her own life to learn who she is — before she marries some guy and ruins his life. 1979 1h 40m

First time I saw Arrival***** was in a big, freezing cold theater at NorthPark. Everybody we saw there had on thick winter coats. As did we. Nobody talked in the theater. I think there was only one other watcher there. But the dialog was often difficult to hear or understand. Though the story was easy enough. Especially once someone on the screen spoke of "nonlinear time." That was the key, and it was exemplified nearer the end. The movie's main issue was understanding what the aliens wee trying to communicate. The movie is high in my queue, so I should get to see it again soon, and that viewing should make more sense (didn't really), but I kinda liked the not-knowing the first time through. Remarkable film with a message, though hardly an original one. 2016 1h 59m

By the end, it looks like cowboys might have learned some things along the way, though maybe not the one Indian here we grow to appreciate. The title comes from something the banker says. It's about two brothers who rob banks to pay off a mortgage at the same bank company. They're pretty good at it till they go back on their own plan, then things get sticky. And an aging lawman (Jeff Bridges) near retirement who is even better at what he does. Hell or High Water***/. 2016 1h 42m

I keep telling myself I need to see this one again to figure out all of what it's really about, although I already know the answer — family. The Accountant*** of the title is also a high-functioning autist, financial forensics expert and trained assassin, and there's lots of close-up murder and bloody action here. 2016 2h 8m

Harry and Snowman**** is about a man, a horse and a family. Harry saw the dirty gray already loaded on a trailer to the slaughterhouse when he got to the auction late to buy some lesson horses, and bought him for $80. Then gave it to a neighbor, but it kept jumping over a five-foot fence to get back home to Harry. So he kept the horse he later named Snowman and trained him to be a show jumper that LIFE Magazine much later called "The greatest rags-to-riches [horse] story since Black Beauty." The movie's got heart and joy and inter-species affection. It's a gentle weeper and a real family movie. Very nice. An ad for it called the movie "heart-warming and captivating." I'd go along with that. 2016 1h 23m

I've been wanting to see the Barack and Michelle movie for awhile. Mellow, pleasant, joyful in a slightly worrisom way that works out pretty well overall. Southside with You***/. 2016 1h 24m

The Dressmaker***/ was a total surprise. I got it because Judy Davis was in it, and she is fabulous. As usual. I assumed it were a drama, but I missed the melo leading the way. At least one rather more famous actress also starred in this Aussie farce that I'm so pleased I kept at. 2016 1h 59m

Lately watching at least three ongoing TV shows, mostly on Netflix, because it's so squirrely about finding them again on Amazon. Crossing Lines, Paranoid and The Magicians (sort of a poorly-written adult Harry Potter). And there's several shows I never bothered to watch the rest of, because I just got bored with them, but they're still in my queue — Last Cab to Darwin, Shelter and The Pearl Button, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events and Sherlock. I like Cumberbatch's version, although I'm still partial to Basil Rathbone's many decades ago's. When Holmes gets back to solving crimes instead of bandying characters, I'll be happier.     Lately I've picked up on Frequency, the episodic TV version of one of my favorite, old-time pseudo time-travel detective flicks, also called that. Not as good as the movie, but kinda intriguing. Not quite as good as Crossing Lines but better than The Magicians, which I've let drop. Haven't watched Paranoid for at least a month …

Crossing Lines***/ has been a solid good, mostly intelligent bunch of specialist crime-fighters who gather information from high and low tech for important cross-border European crimes. I've just finished the first two seasons, and suddenly several 'stars' have winked out, including my favorite, William Fichter, who probably wanted more money. The group's leader fell out last season, but we've still got Tom Wlaschiha, the tech guy, who could easily take over. It's been decades since Donald Sutherland has captured my imagination — don't know if it's bad directing or he just didn't care in oh, so many B movies, including some amazing popular ones, but here he's very good and quite elegant. We'll see if the downsized crew does nearly as well, but they're gathering more stars and starlets. And the new leader is a woman, but the new hero with American TV creds (Luca Kovak in ER) is Goran Visnjic. In some ways, he's more than adequate as a Fichter replacement, and in others not nearly, but they've got him on an angry, desperate personal vengeance angle.

Nice to know, at long last, some of the fictionalized truths behind the Edward Snowden case. I knew we would never get much in the way of the truth from the government. Nice that movies can — in the right, experienced hands — tell so much. Now, many more of the known pieces make sense. Snowden**** directed by Oliver Stone. 2016 2h 14m

The worst oil disaster in U.S. History. Kinda like watching the My Lai flick, I wanted to have a better idea what really happened. Deepwater Horizon***/ helped me understand. Very exciting. I'm still shaking. 2016 1h 47m

American Experience: My Lai*** tells the story of American soldiers murduring innocent noncombatant civilians in America's dirtiest little war. Happened before I went to Viet Nam but didn't blow up till after, but I know its cause deeply. Lt. Calley led his soldiers into My Lai (ironically pronounced me lie) and brutally murdered mothers, fathers and babies, because he had been ordered to do just that. His higher-ups told him the only people in My Lai at that time were enemy combatants. They weren't — those guys were 150 miles west — but Calley's commanders told him they were, so he had to do it, even if he took way too much personal pleasure in it. I was in Nam, because my commanders were idiots, too. There was a lot of that going on in that war. 2019 1h 30m

Just finished watching something called iBoy** on Netflix, and I remember starting it, and nearly finishing it, but except for some odd special effects and that he got his cellphone smashed into his head giving him the ability to tune in on other people and things, I don't remember any of the inbetweens, excetp that it was truly mediocre. 2017 1h 30m

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon***/ is the rather good history of that magazine, and peripherally, the history of humor and humorists in 1979, and the 80s into the 90s. 2015 1h 33m

It's called Paranoia****, which is hardly original, and the intro to each episode, comprising largely of that word, sinks all the way down to stupid, then suddenly in episode 8 (last in this season) all the Germans who had been speaking English, suddenly began speaking German, even though I kept changing the audio setting to Englsh, like I had several times before. But the series was truly paranoid, living up to its title. The acting was terrific. The characters credible. The sets were beautiful and always appropriate. Scary and pretty amazing. 2016 xh xm

Moana**** was Disney wonderful with Pixar soul. Many laughings out loud. Wild action I believed every minute of. Have to go back and see it again later on DVD to fully parse it. Saw it in a theater with a big bunch of little kids I'd worried would act out, then we didn't hear a peep out of them — they were so took up by the fast action, great humor and deep reality of it all. 2016 xh xm

This one's strange, and a little hard to follow, but hang in there. Guys invent a device that let's them follow someone's memory, not dreams, not exactly time travel but similar. It's a dark movie. They want to build it for positive reasons, to help people, but the only people who are willing to pay for the experiment want it for things the inventors don't want to have to do, but they want their invention more than they don't want to do that, so they work for the guy with money, and after that, for awhile, everything goes wrong. But they keep pressing. The Extraction***/ — weird, dark, fascinating. 2016 xm

I'm really having fun with video this year. I'm in no hurry, and I'm doing it for un, not necesarily art, video, film or otherwise. I am now engaged in Stephen Fry in America, which is not entirely unlike the various animals explored by Martin Clune (Doc Martin), whose self I might probably enjoy more, though whose video stories I am somewhat less engaged by. I used to joke that I'd lived in "every state west of the Mississippi," it's not strictly true, but west of the Mississippi is where mostly I have lived, and almost entirely here since 1962. So I'm fascinated by all those other colonies I don't know by sight or smell.

I've also begun, but not nearly edged close enough to finishing Travelers about yet another aspect of time travel; Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events; Bill Maher's Religulous; keep waiting for Sherlock to go back to mysteries and leave self-promo; and maybe mix it up with one of their latest crop of episodic TV.

I really like to get into a good movie, get out, go on to something else, but with more and more TV on the internet, and some of it better than the best of broadcast or cable television, I can't help myself. I keep drifting into episodic TV, now including the pilot for Crossing Lines, which I haven't even watched enough of to know what the title means, if it means anything, but it's got my attention with outlyer characters. We'll see …

Sometimes it is lovely to consider, daydream or contemplate what-ifs about the Internet. That's what this Werner Herzog documentary is about. He talks with the best experts and they all daydream together. Fascinating conjecture and real-life possibilities. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World***/ 2016 1h 38m

Art Basel: A Portrait*** is a glitzy little (short) promo piece for what they are calling "The most important art show in the world," which may be stretching it, but it is fascinating, although the art show shown was already three years ago, I found it all visually interesting, especially the bits about Basel, the city. But really, no entirely fascinating. 2014 26m


When I speak of "climbing a mountain," which I have done often, I don't mean all the way to the top, just climbing on a mountain. And even that has been wearing on my lungs and strength now that I'm in my 70s. I've seen real mountain climbers climbing mountains from the bottoms to the tops and had not expected much from this climb, but it was greatly enhanced through re-enactment and extensive footage of the real mountain. As the Netflix envelope states, "Hilary's triumphant saga is retold using both modern footage and recordings and photos from the time." The summer of 1953 is when they finally arrived at the top. And this movie told it step-by-step and, thankfully, showing where on the mountain they'd got to. This flick is way more exciting than all those tedious documentaries, although there are a number of badly focused images taken by the climbers, including Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, who, together, were the first humans to actually climb to the top of the highest mountain in the world. And this was a remarkably well done re-enactment. Glad I saw it. It is probably the last movie I'll see this year, with midnight just two hours off, Saturday, December 31, 2016. Beyond the Edge**** 2013 1h33m

I rather enjoyed Alice Through the Looking Glass***/ much more than I thought I would at first. Way more. Probably what I liked least about it was Johnny Depp's look and the broken, rather corrupt look of much of the scenery, but even that gradually grew on me. Intriguing sub-plots and inuendi were pushed enough into the background to concentrate on the story I have known and loved all through my life. And the Cheshire Cat, though usually absent here, was superb. 2016 1h53m

What a wonderful, whimsical and imaginatively frollicsome story about the dire plausibility of giants eating little childrens in the night. The BFG**** (The Big Friendly Giant), himself just a runt of a dwarfish jumbo among the idjit, slatherin' whoppers, but truly gentle a yarn for all that. Joyous delightful, amazing magical inventiveness in language, setting, story and players. Glorious for children and us adults also. Roald Dahl's original tale writ large and full animated motionary.

After Anna and Alice saw it, they recommended it to me, and I was willing to wait till it was released on DVD, just a few days ago. I'm a huge fan of dragons, especially in movies. This dragon raises a boy whose parents die in a car accident not terribly far from where the boy grows up with his protector. The guys who were pushing the barriers to keep them from over-de-foresting decide, upon seeing the semi-mythical beast that it belongs to them, and then follows an adventure. More of an adventure. It's got actors I've never heard of (I really don't pay much attention to actors.) and Robert Redford, who's responsible, I assume, for the reality and gentleness of this particular dragon. I was moved, and of course, always pulled for the dragon. Pete's Dragon**** is Disney and quality. Joyous and not nearly so, then joyous again. 20161h 43m

Touching. About Faith. Quiet. Mostly very gentle and quiet. All the nuns in a remote Polish abbey were raped by Russian soldiers at the end of World War II. None was a doctor or nurse, but one was provided. And she is the heroine. Eventually she got one more doctor from the temporary military hospital where she was stationed nearby. Dark and gloomy till the end, which was noisy and joyous. The Innocents**** 2016 1h5 5m

I saw all of Aspergers Are Us/, though not in one sitting. I kept having to return to it, because so little ever happened. I thought I wanted to see the performance they were working toward, but when I did, and I just did not understand or care, and being on the spectrum myself, I really wanted to. Pity. All that film. The T-shirts were the best. Otherwise, kinda abstruse-ive myeh. 2016 1h 22m

What happens when a married White woman has an affair with a Black man and gives birth to a little girl, who is darker than her siblings, but nobody ever says anything, so when she goes off to college and is shunned by the White kids but fits right in with the Blacks, the questions she's always had are accentuated? That's what this documentary is about — The Black girl who was raised as White. Interesting conundrum, very well performed — in family movies early and in moving, glossy, documentarian style later, and it's always an intriguing question. For Blacks as well as Whites in this movie written, produced and directed by Lacy Schwartz, the little girl in question. Little White Lie**** 2014 1h 3m

Here's another film I started earlier, tired of, then went back to see most of it again. Unlike some here, I was never bored with this one, and oddly enough it never confused me, despite the translator between the two great film directors audibly speaking French throughout, so we were always hyper-aware of the dialogue. I liked it most of all for all the snippets of Hitchcock's films, nearly all of which I had seen before — and snippets of Truffaut's only a very few of which I'd seen. Fascinating comparisons and just as fascinating comments from the directors. A film-lover's film. Hitchcock/Truffaut***/  2015 1h 20m English & French subtitles

Dark and gloomy almost all the way through. "Johnny" recruits a woman who has recently endured reconstructive facial surgery to play his wife returned from the concentration camp, so he can claim her fortune. He teaches her to 'be' his wife whom he turned in to the Nazis — to walk like her, to dress like her, to act like her. She's been told he turned her in, but she doesn't want to believe it, until it becomes painfully obvious. Scintillating story, subtle, fraught acting. A sizzler. Phoenix**** 2015 1h 38m

I thought this was going to be another exciting spy movie, but it turned out a documentary of a different sort of intelligence work. Involving guys who created inflatable tanks and fake artillery equipment, blasted precisely edited audio of divisions moving heavy equipment into someplace at night — deceptions good enough to fool the advancing and later, the retreating German army. Lots of film from then and talking heads now of guys who made it happen. And, because of the nature of the deceptions, a lot of it was hilarious, although the Germans probably don't think so. The Ghost Army***/ 2013 1h 8m

Thank goodness, this is the third, and at the moment, the last of three Department Qs, all macabre, deeply dread-full and horrific — two hapless detectives and a small crew of maybe two more, solves another case, too late, this time, to save the victim from twenty years ago. Rich kids in college rape and murder, but they all get theirs in this Q that nearly kills the detectives. Department Q: The Absent One**** 2016 2hr 1min English Subtitles

Department Q: The Keeper of Lost Causes**** follows two "disgraced" cops who wouldn't follow orders, and were banished to Department Q, full of cold cases to list the possibilities. Instead, they found one and followed it to its ultimate conclusion, disobeying more orders, but eventually solving the case. In Danish with excellent English subtitles, and this is the first of three cases for Danish TV, but I'm counting each as a movie, because it is. The two cops are smart, tough, creative and unrelenting, and the story was gritty, tense, fierce and vicious. 2016 1hr 37min English Subtitles

I've just finished Department Q: A Conspiracy of Faith****, and if anything, this one is darker and more diabolic than the first. Chilling is almost adequate for this deep, dark and evil bad guy who steals children then makes them watch as he drowns them. By chance, Department Q gets a letter found in the sea written by a child held captive. But where? And why? 2016 1hr 52min English Subtitles

This one's a goof, but a very pleasant goof. A lot of stars even I recognize, even if I don't know all their names. I need to tell a bit about the story, so when I try to check it out again, I will remember. Though it was be a pleasant romp. Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School**** is just that, a place and a time every week when and where young boy and girl children are introduced to the joys and senses of accomplishment from knowing the latest dance steps, and where dozens of years later they can return or begin and find the girls and boys of their dreams. Human funny, maybe even a few laughs out loud, a lot of irony folded in. Utterly delightful. 2005 1h 44m

Minimalism: A Documentary***/ is two guys who have found they can get along and be happy with far fewer things than most of us have that don't make us happy at all. Really, it's that simple, but simple isn't always easy, so they talk about it a lot, write a book, then talk about that all over the country, and that's the documentary part. Their core belief is that we can actually become happier by ignoring advertising that urges us to buy, buy, buy. 2016 1h 18m

I'm watching OA, because it seemed interesting and still does and there's only one season. Last time I tuned in, I had no idea what was going on. But I'll probably go back, though maybe not this year.

I hadn't seen The Sixth Sense***** for several years. I've loved it since I saw it in a theater. It still scintillates. I still love watching it and letting it make its own sense now I know the facts. I identify with the lost little boy, of course, but also with the late psychologist. 1999 1h 46m

I've now watched one and two of a much longer series of David Attenborough's The Life of Birds, which I think I saw on TV back when it was new in 1998. I'm thoroughly enjoying the series, even if it is presented in the old-fashioned squarish format of last-century TV with nary a nod to high resolution, let alone full-screen. But it's fascinating. I have always been a fan of birds, but for the past 10 1/2 years, I have published The Amateur Birder's Journal online. Click the Last Year link at the top of its pages to see what birding in Dallas or wherever I was back then was like.

I accidentally found this movie while shopping on Amazon. So far, that's the only way I've found anything different there. I assume there is a more correct procedure, but I haven't seen or known it yet. I got Netflix down pat. I think this was an anime love story between differently gravitied persons, and it was fascinating to watch anime again. Depending upon which way you are gravitied she's upright or he is as they cling to each other through this adventure with absurdly evil bad guys running both camps, up and down. Patema Inverted**** 2014 1h 39m

Lots of minor visual and story inconsistencies — milk is really bad for cats, and the murderer repeatedly shoots victims (so it's a serial killer) by pointing the gun down instead of up through the brain. An engaging story, and both leads are very attractive. He's a detective, his partner turned down the clue she found when she cleaned up the crime scene (her job). But he got it, and they were looking like a possible Nick and Nora. Then it twists and turns, and it isn't funny anymore. But it was still very interesting. Swept Under***/ 2015 1hr 31m   Earlier on, I was thinking this one could have become a series. And I guess it still could…

I am impressed. A made-for-Netflix movie called Spectral****, and an intelligent title it is, for a change. And, for that matter, a very impressive movie. Eastern Europe, somebody said. A scientist and an attractive (of course) CIA agent had seen the creatures up close and way too personal. So they and a mean bunch of marines are taken to where the mostly invisible creatures who could only be seen in the right light first turned up. They go there to destroy them all, and, of course, they do, but that can't be any surprise, although it was always iffy. Great action. Lots of spiffy weapons. Excellent dialog. Very well plotted. Top-notch acting. The director must have been very busy. Exciting. Wow, I've been movied.

In 2002 I saw the American copy in English of this same story and plot, starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hillary Swank [which I keep attempting to watch again, but Netflix keeps sending me damaged DVDs]. This is the is the original version starring a younger-than-I'm-used-to Stellan Skarsgarde, whose performance here — as so many of his are — is amazing. I don't think this original Norwegian version was available then, but it's better, more haunting and robust — although to prove that to myself, I have to see the American version that I gave four Netflix stars to, again. Insomnia**** 1997 1h 37m Norwegian with English Subtitles

I've been enjoying seeing really famous actors in the movies I assume they choose to be in after their fame dwindles. John Cusak is still my favorite in this regard, because he always seems to select interesting movies, though not always great ones. Pretty much ditto with De Niro, although his choices have not always been nearly so fascinating. What the hell; let's see this one.       It's also got Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy — and it's billed as a psychological thriller, mystery and dark, all movie descriptions that get my attention. I gave up on it early and often, but I persevered as did this movie. Glad I did, really. A lot of sturm und drang. [German for storm and stress.] One unexplained and really stupid man-to-man fight in a bathroom at nearly the end. A lot of carefully plotted "psychic" shenanigans. Good unto very nearly great. I might have to see it again, now I know all the tricks. Red Lights***/ 2012 1h 53

This one is scary. Deeply terrifying. It's about how colleges allow rapists to run wild on college campuses. And how many survivors are pushing to stop them. The Hunting Ground, offers a feeling of hope without the statistical backup that there's any real cause for hope. Colleges, among them Notre Dame, USC, Berkeley and many, many others in the United States, are afraid to try to stop rapists, because they are so often college athletes and potential high-earning sports stars who may donate to their graduating schools who have protected them from their criminal activities. The Hunting Ground**** is truly frightening, because so far the colleges are winning, and the women and men who are raped are not even listened to. Thousands more are raped every year. 2015 1h 44m

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers — and More Inspiring Tales**/ is for kids, and the animation is slow, and the stories are simplistic (because it's for kids). Slow animation means it is both low resolution and there's much fewer than 24 frames per second. Not full animation — not even half that. Pleasant-enough stories, even inspiring, but essentially lame. 2005 1h 12m

I loved this movie. Didn't at the beginning, but I stopped, thought about something else for awhile, and scooped right back into it and ran with it. A guy whose wife just died (by her own hand) was about to be buried and he and their kids were not invited, because he was seen as disruptive, which he joyously was. At their church funeral he read a letter from her saying how she wanted to be cremated and have her ashes dumped down a toilet, but the good Christian parents, especially the dad (Frank Lanjella) wasn't having any of it. He (Vigo Mortensen) had been living "in the wooded isolation of the Pacific Northwest" and learning and teaching his six kids by reading books, doing yoga, climbing mountains and keeping their minds and bodies busy. Then, well, there's always a then. Then the Dad faced himself with serious changes… Captain Fantastic***/ 2016 1h 59m

Can't really claim to have seen Diplomacy**/ even though I did see every frame of it, only I fast-forwarded (32X) most of it. There's a bit of scenery, guys coming and going from the general's office, including the diplomat's secret entrance, but mostly it was two guys talking. The general explaining that his wife and family were being held and would all be killed, if he didn't destroy Paris as Hitler had commanded. And the diplomat promising the general would be a hero, if he did not destroy Paris. All of which took a long, long time. I don't think I missed much. Paris remains. English Subtitles 2014 1hr 23m

I know from obsessive-compulsive, and I am intimate with depression, so I thought I had a pretty good inkling of the autistic spectrum, but as I watch this movie, I wonder. It's a love story between two persons on the spectrum. He's easy: very nervous about human interactions and way too easily caught up in his mathematical computations, which are, after all, an escape mechanism, and we all need those. But I'm not sure what mine are, yet. So I've been watching any flick that has been labeled with the A word. Autism. And she's hyper, among other behaviors I cannot diagnose. Manic. She does things. Often without permission. Changes people's lives. Changes his life. He has many habits, upon which he relies. She likes disrupting them in hope of making him more normal, which doesn't make any sense in the context of this movie, but if you just accept autism as being kinda crazy (which it definitely is not), they both are. According to HelpGuide dot org's page on Autism Spectrum Disorders, "Autism Spectrum Disorder is diagnosed based on the presence of multiple symptoms that disrupt a person’s ability to communicate, form relationships, explore, play, and learn." Which is fascinating to me as I explore my own symptoms, but that simple sentence does not really explain what's going on in this movie, and I think it should come closer, but I'm no expert. Mozart and The Whale*** 2005 1hr 34m

Floyd Norman — An Animated Life*** is the story of Disney's most famous Black artist, animator, story boarder, story-teller and story-writer, film-maker, etcetera for Disney, of course, but also Hanna-Barberra and Pixar. What I got out of this story is that the Disney corporation is incredibly racist, and mostly what Floyd Norman had to take was their racism. Otherwise, he would have become one of their most famous old masters, which he probably is, anyway.

The Lion in Your Living Room***/ is about cats. I've had at least one in my home for the vast majority of the past fifty years thinking that setup was perfect for both of us, but cats need to hunt, and apparently, at least according to some of the cat experts in this documentary, they don't cause as much damage to other species — I'm thinking especially birds — as we are led to believe. Other than that conundrum, it is a fascinating story, full of facts and history and how they relate to us, and we relate to them, and I'm glad I saw it and learned from it, and I may return to it often. 2015 50m

I gotta quit watching old Bogie flicks. They're getting me down. There's so much so wrong about most of them, I'd much rather watch a bad car chase in a new thriller than another scene with everything edited out down to the stupidest center. Yuck! Give me details that make sense by connecting. Dead Reckoning*** 1947 1hr 44m

TV watchers are a lot less discerning than movie-watchers, and as a result, four Netflix stars for a TV show is about the same as three for a movie, and by now I should know that and avoid more mediocre movies. But I was looking for something short to watch on a Sunday night, so I settled for this one about a woman whose job has been to investigate plane crashes and is a part of a fear-of-flying group, who was herself too nervous just before take-off with the group, her brother and the rest of the passengers, and demanded to get off the plane, which she was allowed to do — and the plane crashed killing all aboard. Then we get lost in TV-land script-writing and she's prevented from investigating the plane, because her brother was on it — and because she turned down the boss for a date a couple years ago. Anyway, she figured out the plot to take that plane and others to U.S. Military sites and Washington D.C., and everybody but the people on the plane lived happily ever after. Which all smells like a grade B TV show pilot in the all-too-short time period of one hour and thirty minutes. Plot was interesting, but it blew up before we got a chance to admire or hope she broke it. And other TV time tricks. So maybe it's best it didn't get foisted on us all. With just a little more attention to detail and a lot less stupidity, it coulda been a contender. Brace for Impact*** 2016 1hr 31m

I didn't quite know what to expect. Eddie Murphy has had such terrible taste in movies for such a long time, I thought he really needs a hit, and the Netflix computer really thought I would like this one, so I gave it a chance. It's not a comedy, except as in the human comedy — as best opposed to the human tragedy, of which some of here obtains. But mostly there's joy. There's so much to smile about, we didn't need any jokes or stupidity. Just honest humans dealing with each other. And as we all know, it takes awhile to really get to know anybody. I like Mr. Church, and I like this movie. Mr. Church***/ 2016 1hr 44min

Here's a very appealing little movie, The House of Small Cubes****/ — all 12 minutes of it. It's a lovely little animation about an old man who lives in the top story of a house that he has built up — into the future — as the water rose. He accidentally drops his pipe, possibly his greatest pleasure, then uses a diving suit to plum the depths of his memory, ever lower, even after he retrieves his pipe. Each layer brings more memories back into his life. 

Bill Nighy's in it. That's all I needed to know. Well, that, and that it is about time travel. I don't recognize any of the other actors' names, but that's hardly new. The time-travel method is to stand in a dark closet, clench both fists and think about when you're going back to. Can't go forward, only back to where you have been and when. Then, when I was beginning to think it got stupider, it just got subtler. It's a lovely movie that just kept getting better till it was very, very good. Really a sweet and kind movie. Classy title, too. About Time***/ 2013 2hr 3min

(Dis)Honesty: The Truth About Lies***/ Netflix tells the truth. "Professor Dan Ariely examines the truth behind lying: why we do it, when we do it and how society suffers from whoppers and little white lies alike." 2015 1h 29m

Haunting, dark, beautiful, psychological. Dad and two sons. One grown, with wife and kid. The other a teenager not fitting in. Dad's having an affair with his teacher, who looks like a younger mom. Mom had been a war photographer, gone then back a little while to rest and try to fit back in with her home family, then back gone over there. But only a spare few war and its aftermath scenes. Spooky home life with Dad and the boys. Strange, a hair this side of gloomy. Louder Than Bombs**** 2016 1hr 49min

I've been wanting to see this one again since… since I saw it first. Some genres just fold me into concepts I want to believe in and see every — good, bad, indifferent — movie of that ilk available. But a tiny minority are outstanding, and this is one of those. It's already delicious to see it again. Like a favorite meal, except it lasts longer. Of course, it's a wildly romantic story/movie. I read the book before I saw the movie, but now it's hard to tell which I remember. The Time Traveler's Wife****

Netflix didn't even give it three stars, but I got it anyway, and I'm delighted I did. I don't know if it was his last movie or anything like that, but it looked interesting — and who cares about all that shit, it starred Robin Williams. That and that I hadn't seen it already were all I needed to know. It had its low points, but only a couple, and those were over and forgotten quickly. The movie had many more high points. Laugh out loud moments, serious chuckles, and lots of smiles. It even got smarmy in a few places, but I liked it, and I bet you would, too. The Angriest Man in Brooklyn**** 2014 1hr 23min

I just finished Gilmore Girls***/, and I loved it. It's just one last season — well, one episode for each of four seasons. I always loved Gilmore Girls, but going back to the same old ones seems a little stale this late in the game, so when I heard there's a new one with the same players (mostly), I jumped on it. It wraps many continuing stories up in ribbons, all neat and pretty in just those four episodes.

Oh... Hmmm... Here's an odd little movie [Big movies have great social significance; little movies don't.] about a guy who not only sees dead people, he cleans up after them and helps them work through their issues and too many beautiful women with low-cut tops. Essentially, this is a stupid movie that's largely without reason or intelligence. But it's also silly without quite being funny often enough. For me, the Netflix computer rated this four stars and a smidgen of another. Amusing, but not hilarious. Odd Thomas*** 2013 1h 36m

I thought I remembered seeing this many decades ago on TV, but what I remembered was dark, dank and scary. This simply alludes to those emotions, without a shadow of fear. In its day it may have seemed sinister or frightening, but now, 74 years later, it is slick, glossy and black & white unto sepia — and too tepid to scare anyone. The acting is goofy slick and only the concept is fearsome. Cat People*** 1942 1hr 13mi

This one could easily have been predictable, but it was not until minutes from the denouement. After that, we knew what was going to happen. But by the end we were left up in the air again, and that was perfect. Patricia Clarkson was perfect. The guy, Scott Speedman was, too, really. But the story leading up was pitch perfect, a lot of nostalgia, an apparently pre-scripted end, then they walked out of the cop shop together. And. Very nice. Beautiful. Suspenseful. Tense when that needed to happen. Briefly exciting. Nearly perfect. October Gale***/ and Netflix pegged it perfectly. 2014 1hr 31 min

Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child***/ 2010 1hr 20min was probably the best of a long and longer series presenting his life and rise to fame. Most of the video leaves something to be desired — it ain't Hollywood Quality, but it was fun and real and had a lot of real documentary evidence — letters, postcards, TV and other real, live interviews. Great Fun.

Didn't realize I only had a few seconds left of Cave of Forgotten Dreams*** 2010 1hr 20 min about France's Chauvet Cave of the oldest human-painted images found on Earth (so far) as documented and narrated by Werner Herzog. It's a credible job of documentation, and the place is utterly astounding.

Then I noticed Netflix had a new police drama starring Stellan Skarsgard, who's a favorite, in a psycho-thriller from the BBC, so I don't have to read subtitles to know which way the wind's blowing. And it is blowing me away. A lot deeper than any other mere whodunit, this guy's psycho enough to identify deeply with, and there's still hope he'll become human again, but we don't want him to come back too far. This compound complex detective movie is beautiful to look at, superbly scripted and chilling. Deep psychology blown large. A crazy detective who sees people who aren't there or are dead. Solves several crimes with his new partner. His old partner, whom he was never able to tell he loved her, though he did, was murdered at point blank distance. That's the crime he spends the most time on, and she keeps coming back to him. All that, and it's deeply intelligent. I'm sad it's over. I really enjoyed it.lRiver***** 2015 1 season

Netflix didn't give it near enough stars, but John Cusak's in it, so I got it thinking it would at least be interesting. It was. He doesn't always choose the best movies, but he usually does. And he seems to do the movies he wants to, so he's always a great hero, anti-hero, whatever. The beginning is shocking. Everybody who's connected to a Cell phone at the airport goes stark, raving berserk. Lotta murder and mayhem. Oodles of blood. I keep thinking I don't have one of those, so my job would be to get the hell out of there. I couldn't help but laugh. Reminded me a lot of when I saw Night of The Living Dead sitting at the front of the balcony on LSD 44 years ago. People kept telling me to shut up. I didn't. I laughed and laughed. I'd seen it as scary twice when I was straight, and I loved it as a comedy. Sam Jackson's in this one. So's Stacy Keach. More murdering everywhere they look or go. Yes, very definitely, this is a zombie movie with a cell phone subtext. Conceptually hilarious. Kinda exciting. Really odd. Cell***/ 2016 1 hr 37 min

I liked the title. It Might Get Loud***/. It's about three famous guitar players. Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Talking about inspiration and making music. The former not nearly as fascinating as the latter. I could feel the inspiration in what they were doing. Them talking about it was far less interesting as them just doing it. I like the noises guitars make. I never got past a couple chords and dead-even thump thump thump. But these guys have, so the process is equally applicable over any medium. When they get going, it's usually amazing. Sometimes I had no idea what they were doing, but I didn't mind. 2008 1hr 37 min

Didn't know what I'd got myself into. Seen Wallace & Grommit a billion years ago. Loved them, of course, but hadn't been in the loop in a long time, so missed them after those first half dozen or so of those wonderful movies, then I stumbled into A Grand Night In: The Story of Aardman****, which I had to look up the name of after it was over, because by fourteen seconds after it was over, Netflix was pretending it'd never heard of any such movie, though I searched for it multiple times. But I found the name on the BBC. This history of features lots of animated scenes from all their movies I'd loved and a whole bunch I'd never heard of now I could immerse myself into if only I could find them somewhere. Whatta joy. And people with wonderful voices whom I thought I recognized by their faces who were in those movies I get to start all over with.

The Story of Luke**** was a delight. Another — I had to look up the a word. My computer's dictionary calls it "a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts." I have come to appreciate that word, but that particular definition scathes. I have been watching autism movies lately, and even if they are horrid, I always learn something. I test best at using language and deal especially well with abstract concepts, although Luke in this movie does not. He is a much more typical autist, very shy and those messy abstractions truly complicate his life, yet he deals with it best he can. While he struggles, however, he naturally makes friends with the family that has inherited him after his grandparents die. And he has found a job — and a friend where he works. It's an often funny movie, usually without making fun of Luke or being stupid or insensitive, although his relationship with his boss goes over the edges, but there's plenty of dysfunction to go around. Except for Rain Man, which I saw in 1988, this is the most honest autism movie I've seen yet.2012 1 hr 36 min

I finally, at too long last, finished watching Limitless***/, which should be right down my alley. Echoes of Flowers for Algernon and several movies since that danced with that same notion, like this one is, though there are differences, mostly in the way of mind-control complications. It's episodic TV, and it's just one year's worth, which has got to mean it gets worse, then it wraps up and mercifully stops. Counting the pilot, there's 22 episodes. See also Lucy [below]. Last time I saw this plot it was also called Limitless [below] but was a movie with Bradley Cooper (who is Executive Producer for this romp) and Robert DeNiro (MIA), and I gave it four asterisks. By episode 7, it was getting the stupids, and that almost sucks, except it's sort of, a little funny. Episode 11 now, and they're rocking from intelligent to insanely stupid, so their idiot audience can keep up. Sad, but the humor is almost socially redeeming. And I'm still digging it. Ya always have to grimace a little when ya watch TV. 2016  22 39-44m episodes

When a stranded Orca Whale befriends a town and its people, all the "authorities" try to stop them. The whale, whose extended family had left him, needed attention and got it from humans, but the government was firm — even though they didn't know what they were talking about — and insisted the whale should not interact with the humans, whose attentions it so obviously needed. What happens next was both a joy and a tragedy, and the movie, The Whale****, is several kinds of wonderful — and sad. 2011 1 hr 29 min

I'm a sucker for good, old-fashioned newspaper movies, and this is one. Starring Humphrey Bogart, the editor thereof, this is about murder and money, a stuck-up old family-owned newspaper that's going out of business just as soon as that last edition, featuring a major crime story gets to its readers. Movies were different back then. Took me a long time before I realized I was watching it in black & white, and the story was a lot contrived, and Bogie and everybody else was a little over the top, but it was fun. Deadline U.S.A.***/ 1952 1 hr 27 min

I've always been fascinated with stories about autists — truth, fiction or in the betweens. I adore science fiction stories about them. Took a long time to figure out why, but turns out I'm on the spectrum, and knowing that just feels right. Comfortable. So, given the opportunity to tune into another autistic life, I go. Learn what I can, figure the differences and the sames. I'm pretty high functioning and somewhere between and among Mild learning disability, Above average I.Q. and Extreme ability in some areas, but though I've experienced and enjoyed many higher communicative interchanges in my life, my social skills still pretty much suck. In this movie, Owen has to work on some things he finds challenging. So do I, and slowly I am learning what they are and dealing with a few of them. I keep wishing there was a club. In Life, Animated***, Owen organizes The Disney Club, where a bunch of autistic kids and young adults watch and identify with scenes in Disney movies. I have a deep familiarity with the concept, but without seeing this movie might never have understood it this well. The whole movie is not animated, but every time it is, the mood soars. Well, mostly. Bambi crying for his mother after the hunter shot her is especially poignant after Owen moves into his own apartment in Assisted Living. 2016 1 hr 31 min

Netflix only gave it 3.5 stars. But I liked it. Creepy without going monster crazy. Well, monster our loving 'father' definitely was, but we don't figure all that out till the end. A bully finally gets caught 20 or more years later. We see a man and his wife trying to get back together in a really nice new home, with a dog, and eventually, a new kid on the way. Good acting. Nice everything except the story and the ending and the guy. And that other guy. The Gift***/ 2015 1 hr 48m

I've known the title deep down for many years, and I have enjoyed Werner Herzog's many films. This one is better and worse. Better in an exploration of art from the long-distant past. Worse for the odd choices of music and filming and that really odd, pseudo-philosophical ending. Cave of Forgotten Dreams*** 2010 1hr 30m

It's a thriller. In the first twenty minutes the honor guard at Buckingham Palace pulls out machine guns and mows everybody in sight down. Then the terrorists destroy London and kill all the dignitaries gathered to honor some high Brit who died, then they try to get the U.S. President, so they can murder him online. Somewhat thrilling but eminently predictable. A lot of shooting and car chases and bombs and noise. But the Prez' body guard keeps him safe until. Well, you know. My heart was pumping, even though I knew better. Oh, and Morgan Freeman's the Vice President. Does the President live or does the evil arms dealer? Many plot lines were obvious. Not many surprises. I didn't recognize the mole when he got his. Not a terrible movie, but hardly perfect. At least it doesn't drag on. London Has Fallen**/ 2016 1hr 38m

Anita Hill's testimony against Supreme Court Nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991 created a fire storm of accusations and cover-ups. The controversy continues, but this dramatization — not a documentary — explains many aspects of the controversy. I believe Anita Hill, and I always have. But it's a strikingly good bit of history to explore. It's hard to believe how badly now Vice-President Joseph Biden and the Republicans acted. That frightened me, so the movie's power is demonstrable. I suspect American citizens on both sides will continue to argue about it, but Thomas is still on the Supreme Court. Her allegations against Thomas were never disproved, and Anita Hill is still a university professor of social policy, law, and women's and gender studies. She has also become a published author, with a 1997 autobiography Speaking Truth to Power and the 2011 book Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home, which focused on the effects of the 2008 financial crisis on the African-American community.   Her opening statement delivered on 11 October 1991 to the Senate Judiciary Committee [from 14:00 to 32:00 on the video linked] is listed as #69 in American Rhetoric's Top 100 Speeches of the 20th Century, and she was inducted into the Oklahoma Women's Hall of Fame in 1993. I'm glad I saw Confirmation****. It straightened out my memories of the event. 2016 1 hr 50m

By now we all know I just love time-travel flicks. And I've learned not to expect great things from them. In fact, I kinda like the cheesy ones too. In fact, I expected this one to be one. Then, it surprised me with its intricacy and organization. It's not superb camera work, but it'll do. It's about three twenty-somethings who share an apartment. The Painter and the woman are in something like love, and the bettor is a creep who keeps losing money on dog-racing. The two guys find a camera in an apartment across the yard from and learn that it takes photos 24 hours into the future. Then the creep wins every day on the dogs, so the bookie and his henchman come visiting. Then it gets even more complicated, but it feels about right, except of course, by then there's a few murders. And eventually, even though they've promised not to screw with time, they do, and it gets even more complicated. Very well put together. Good (Well, bad, but it's done well.) story. Suspenseful. Decent acting. One of the few titles that hasn't already been overused in this genre. Time Lapse**** 2014 1hr 43m

LBJ was shit. A shit who got Civil Rights and Voting Rights passed. And a bunch of other stuff America needed, by then desperately. But he really was a horse's ass, too. Nobody could say he had a heart of gold. But he did a lot of good for this country despite himself. This movie explores many of President Lyndon Baines Johnson's contradictions, and I think I have a better handle on who he was, even if I only very reluctantly voted for the bastard. All The Way*** 2016 2hr 12m

The end of Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang***/ was a let-down, antithetical, limp after so many beautiful pyrotechnics. I understand the philosophic logic of connecting the earth and sky with a ladder. But I adored all the previous fireworks and exquisite smoke projects, and I may watch many of those again. Like all major artists who need governmental assistance, all the lofty ideas get brought back down closer to earth. But that's hardly new or all that interesting anymore. Governments gum thing up. That's what they do. China, USA, wherever. But the fireworks and smoke projects were amazing, beautiful, often unique, spectacular, gorgeous. I really liked the guy, too. A joyous man and a great artist in a field that has no equal. Wow! 2016 1h 19m

I couldn't finish Swiss Army Man*. It was just too stupid. 2016 1h 35m

I kept seeing this one in colorful lists on Netflix — with the requisite number of stars, but I confused it with the 1988 French movie, La Latrice. which I loved sometime in the last century. This The Reader***/ is different. It is about pride. A pride that gets in the way of everything. There's a scene in this movie that says that all of modern literature is based on not telling the really important truths, and I have long been angered by such movies in the 40s, 50, even much more recent. Someone in this story has a secret, and though it would save them, it is never uttered. The reader in this movie is a young boy of 15. An older woman takes him for her lover, then she wants him to read to her, and he does. He doesn't figure out her secret for decades, but if she would only tell others, she wouldn't have to stay in prison. But pride holds her back, and the boy, now a lawyer with a family, allows her to keep her prideful secret, and it is just maddening that neither will release the utterance whose simple telling could could save her. But they don't. Dramatic. Remarkably well-acted, shown and told. Rich in story and human emotions. Sad. 2008 2h 5m

Remember Kitty Geonovese who was stabbed to death while 38 witnesses watched and did nothing in New York City in 1964? Well, even thouse few, widely-known "facts" from the NY Times story aren't true. She was stabbed — multiple times in two separate attacks, but a woman who was her friend went to her and held her while she died. Several residents of the building called the police, but the local precinct — the real bad guys in this story although nearly nothing is made of it here — hung up on them thinking theirs were yet more complaints of noise from the bar down the street. And the guy who murdered her and who is still batshit crazy spent at least 50 years in prison for it. And there's lots more her little brother Bill learned while making this remarkably well put-together, moving, sensitive and revealing documentary. The Witness****

I've just seen Vera: Series 6: Discs 1, 2 & 3, each of which is long enough to be its own movie, and mostly pretty good, although after awhile it settles into a sort of drudge. But I'll watch the whole season and count it as just one movie. Very well produced. She's not a Hollywood-beautiful woman who cracks cases. Vera probably cracks cases like they are really cracked. One bit of info at a time, and she's human about it. And she has an interesting crew of human beings. I'm hooked.

Third time I saw Primer****, I remember the warning before it started. "Short language" I thought that was funny, because everybody in this movie spoke in short bursts of uncomplex words. Thinking back. I didn't then know it was a time-travel movie. I didn't know what it was. It didn't make any sense my first two watchings. I didn't know what was happening, and I wasn't sure it did. This is at least the third time I've seen it, and a lot of it is beginning to make sense. There's still much that escapes me. It's on my play list, so I can watch it when I want to. Except I don't want to. Just when I'm in the right mood and mode. It's only 1hr 17min. But it still seems complex. Faster than I can catch up. The more I understand it, the more I like it. That makes sense, doesn't it?

Minimal dialog. Just enough. Wildly varying scenes and scenarios. A physical actor. His make-up room the back of a long white limousine sliding through Paris. Appointments set and acted. Amazing moving visuals. Little movies end on end. He the constant, but each in different make-up. 38:04 to go and we have another death scene, this time no blood. Then another love scene. Ends of romance. Near deaths. In some scenes he is not the only actor. Shadows, ambers, reds and the many shades of light and dark. A rendezvous after 20 years, walking through the detritus of her characters those years apart. 26:11 to go and we have a song but only the echoes of a dance number. Then they part. One more appointment a little closer to home. He smokes another cigarette. And she drives the car back to Holy Motors*****. 2012 1 hr 55 min

Now I'm watching another all-time-favorite top ten movie. One that I used to see in consecutive bits and pieces as I walked on my old treadmill before I finally got rid of it. I've probably seen this one thirty or forty times in all. Maybe fifty. I love watching it. I've just seen the lengthy how and why this movie was made with all the stars and directors and special effects guys, etc., that I don't think I've ever seen before. Now I get to see all two hours and 16 minutes of it in hd on my little Mac from my most comfy office chair. Can't wait.

It's amazing this movie I've seen that many times (maybe 20) still makes me laugh with pleasure and joy and understanding. No telling how many times over the years, but now I'm watching it again. Keep forgetting the little bits. Groundhog Day is one of my maybe ten all-time favorite movies. I'd like to just stream it like I'm streaming Primer just a little at a time. I know how it ends, but I don't care any more than I usually care about such things. I like watching it. And I'll probably watch it again. Every couple of years.

Every single time a new scene opens, she's wearing the goofiest clothes possible. Obviously hasn't a clue who she is. He's just there. Handsome, etc., but though we may have some sympathy with his condition, we don't know much about him yet at 23 minutes in. At 32 minutes, her outfit's coordinated and will continue the rest of the movie, and she looks good. Maybe I can watch the rest. He's determined to his right to die in Switzerland, and she'll give her all to try to stop him, but the end is bittersweet and weepy, but it's still a happy movie. Me Before You**** 2016 1 hr 50 min

On my second and a half viewing of Ender's Game**** on my high-res iMac screen, I loved it more than in a movie theater with a giant screen and all that noise. But I've never enjoyed the movie as well as in Author Orson Scott Card's original short story in the August 1977 issue of Analog Magazine. When Card expanded it into a novel, I read that, then nearly all the novels that followed, each centering on one or another of the central, then peripheral characters here. I still read Orson Scott Card books sometimes, even read a couple of his religious ones long ago, but for many years I only read his stories of Ender and Alvin Maker, all of which began as trilogies, then gradually expanded to too many more books. After awhile, it all just got too much. I have since and long before read many other science fiction novels and other books, and I still love Time-Travel movies, with which Card sometimes dabbles in the Ender series. First time I saw Ender's Game in a theater, I didn't love it. The second time, on disk I didn't finish it. Now, in early October 2016, I much more thoroughly enjoyed the story and vision of it, but the novels and all their density that followed, are still nestled in my mind. 2013 1hr 54 min

The Hundred Years Show***/ is about Abstract Minimalist Carmen Herrera who was making abstract minimalist art when all those guys who are very very famous for doing it back then were making abstract minimalist art, but because she was a woman, she didn't count. Now after 70 years of working at her art, she counts big time. 2015 30 min

A kid breaks onto a live TV show by a stock market guru who told his audience last week that a stock would go up, way up, then it went down, way down, and the kid was overinvested. So he straps a bomb onto the guru. And the adventure begins. Shades of Network and The Big Short, except faster paced and more exciting and funnier. Directed by Jodie Foster, starring George Clooney and Julie Roberts. Eventually the stupid cops shoot the guru instead of the kid, on purpose, and the truth about that stock comes out, way out — a nearly non-stop hoot. Funny, endearing, exciting, and things moved fast. Money Monster**** 2016 1hr 38min

And this one's looney-tunes goofy. A long, slow chase through the New Zealand Wilderness. But fun and pretty often funny. Children's Welfare gives an old couple a kid. She likes the kid but dies. He didn't much for a long time, but since they've been on the run out in the wild for months past winter, now the government's got the army and a big bunch of other idiots closing in on them. The idiots think the old man's a pedophile, but of course, he isn't. Never did. The Welfare lady is the worst of the idiots chasing them. Seems like about to catch them now, finally. It's got beautiful out back country, two guys. One short and fat, the other much older and smarter. The short one grows up on the chase. Based on the book, Wild Pork and Watercress by Barry Crump, the movie sings a different song that's pretty out of tune, but wonderful, though only a couple times laugh-out-loud funny. Hunt for the Wilderpeople***/2016 1 hr 41 min

This one's a real charmer. Funny in unexpected, but human places. The old dysfunctional family comes home for holiday, death in the family, whatever, tries to get together for awhile in peace, but when that doesn't work, in love. Beautifully told story with lots of complications, many of which continue past the end. Pretty places. Pretty people in a variety of ages and issues. Lovely movie. There's some hokum about sitting Shivah, but it's no more Jewish that it is human, or at least American. But another stupid title. This Is Where I Leave You**** Starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey and Jane Fonda, among others. 2014 1 hr 43min

Eames: The Architect and The Painter***/ is about Charles and Ray Eames, husband and wife. Both were dreamers and schemers and creators. There's the chairs, of course, but also so many other design objects, films, multi-media productions — amazing output. There also were many helpers who never got much credit. During his lifetime, most of that went to Charles. This movie is first an inspiration. Charming and intelligent and creative. Gradually, the story built of a collaboration between man and wife and others. Then we came to see he took most of the credit. Then, tacked onto the end, we got a smidgen of Mrs. Eames for the ten years after his death, till hers.

Compressing a 473-page novel into a six-hour and two-minute movie necessarily leaves a lot out. And from words to action there must necessarily be changes. Though the author, John le Carrι was not upset by having this novel made into A BBC miniseries, I think he might have helped the script in many places. Featuring Hugh Laurie as the bad guy and Tom Hiddleston as our hero, The Night Manager***/ began sweeping with grandeur, then ended numerous steps lower. I always love Laurie in things before and since House, and though he is not always, he was good in this. But I especially liked Olivia Coleman as the pregnant spy-master. 2016 6h 2m

I'd hoped Disney's latest Jungle Book****/ version would adhere more to Kipling's original story, but it is way better than that, combining live action and animation into a story that combines all the best stories and characters from all the preceding versions into a movie that is way better in every category. I'll be watching it on disk soon, and probably enjoying it even more. Wow! 2016 1h 45m

I had watched every single episode of Longmire**** since Netflix took it over, and they did a fine job extending the franchise with many of the same and other better-than-average actors, story writers and production. I got hooked into it when the broadcast bunch did it. Really nice of Netflix to take it on. I was impressed. Cowboys, Indians and others working out stories that make sense, adventure, fun and lots of evil. But by the last episode, it seemed they were turning it all in, and it looked like no more episodes, with all the bad guys turned either good or dead. Sad. I would like to have seen it continue.           Then it did. And the fifth season was good enough I want more, but I'll probably have to wait.

I'm sure thre's a page on the script somewhere where all the abrupt turns and wiggles of this ever-changing plot are delineated, but it was a fun story even if its fictions were ficticious and its facts largely missing. Fairly decent car chases and crashes, too. I always worry the last ten years or so when Liam Neeson stars in something, but I liked him in this, squirelly as it was. It was exciting and confusing and intricate, and those are usually enough for a B-grade thriller like this. Stupid title though. Unknown***

Two crazy kids living with their parents flip-out manic and go or are sent to the mental hospital, where they meet, find they have much in common and go crazy fireworks manic, are sedated for about six months, then seredipitously find each other and are running along the tender edge of romance. A visually beautiful movie. Lush with realities and unrealities. The more I watch, the more I realize her mom and his dad and all those doctors are nuts. But we shall see. Like Van Gough's Starry Night, which figures heavily in this story, they spin and whorl, down and up. Then he's not taking his medicine, but she is. When they are manic together their world is full of color and bright. And there is beauty in that wild state, but …  Touched With Fire****

I've seen 200 Motels twice but only this one of the eight movies (Frank Zappa: Music in Review; Frank Zappa: Baby Snakes, Frank Zappa: and the Mothers of Invention: In the 1960s, Frank Zappa: Does Humor Belong in Music?, Frank Zappa: The Torture Never Stops, Frank Zappa: The Dub Room Special, Frank Zappa: Apostorphe/Over-Nite Sensation) listed on Netflix. 200 Motels had me convinced he'd done LSD or 'shrooms or something more than a couple time, but he says not, and I nearly believe him. This movie is a compilation of interviews, mostly in Europe where they seem to like him more than he is appreciated here. And his music, though few of his early hits. I enjoyed expanding my understanding of his music into Classical, with strong hints of Jazz, but I still have his early LPs, and now I want to go back and listen. Eat That Question: Frank Zappa in His Own Words**

I started watching this series soon after it started. I've read many complaints online about it just stopping at Episode 15, but that's okay with me. It's not really the highest quality sci (science) or fi (fidelity/truth), but it's not utterly dreadful. So I'm glad I only have only one more episode. It's one of those stupid government or big corporation or some such organizations using pesudo-science to create attack creatures after a nice boy learns to love one of them stories. It's a lot more complicated, yet far stupider than that, but that'll do for a review and/or synopsis. I'm enjoying it about three and a half asterisks worth, and it's gotta count for something that I stuck through it all fifteen episodes, but there's there's no second season. Hooray! Surface***

Not sure how I came to list this one. It's been in my queue for years, I think. I might have read the blurb, "Over the course of six years — and possibly in parallel universes — Kimberly and Dall try to overcome their differences and build a lasting romance." But it doesn't seem at all familiar. Maybe I saw how many stars the computer pegged me liking it — 4.5 of 5. It was right. I love this movie, but no way I can explain it. It's different doesn't seem to come anywhere close. But it is. Visually. Verbally some of the time. Comet**** 2014  1h 31m.

Netflix says this movie starred some has-been actor we all know too well already, but the real stars were Randy Johnson, Bob Feller and Nolan Ryan, because their throws were the fastest ever in the history of baseball. Fastball**/ never directly compared films of those three, but it did show some cockamamie rigs developed along the way to measure the speed of fast balls. Better than that it talked with guys who went up against pitchers with reputations for throwing them. This is kinda an ordinary baseball movie. Really nothing new or unusual, but some of the stories — especially the earlier ones were thrilling and almost chilling. The only guy I ever followed or knew by sight was Nolan Ryan, who was with the Texas Rangers toward the end of his career, and I'm not big enough a baseball fan to have paid all that much attention. But this is a pretty average movie, and not nearly enough of a big deal.  2016 1h 26m

In the end, it is plain to see, as the title states. But in the betweens it could have been better. A long day trying to get a very fat man who probably did not just fall into a well threatening to destroy its water by rotting there. So the aid workers are called and they attempt to get the man out of the well, but to do that seemingly simple task, they must obey the rules of a half dozen forces, official and unofficial, and everybody says they want to help but nearly none of the armed forces there have any plans but to keep them from doing the right and simple thing. This is what war is all about. I have seen one up close and personal. These people are in Bosnia. Mine was Viet Nam. All wars are incredibly stupid. The one in the movie has come to peace, which means the stupid UN and the stupid local guerillas and the stupid everybody elses, whether they mean to or not, are in the way. So simple tasks become impossible, but there is some humor along the way, pathos, bathos and understanding. A Perfect Day***/ Well acted, beautifully filmed, maddenly human.

Many months ago I started watching the movie called Skinwalkers, which was part of an American Indian series on Public TV. I'd read the Hillerman books, then had to see the movies, whose stories were somewhat different. Not sure why, but I know what the filmmakers said, but that's mostly bunk. The books by Tony Hillerman are richer and substantially better than the TV shows, which may tend to prove a rule. But I know these people who are in this movie, and I like them whichever form they may adopt. Unfortunately it makes for poor movie-making when they do the sort of rot that changes the older detective, who in the book is much more of a traditionalist, into a nonbeliever in this made-for-TV hogwash. Skinwalkers**

I'm used to dealing with intelligent people who travel back and forward in time, but this guy has so far, ignored all the good advice his predecessor gave him: Don't drive a flashy car, he was admonished, so our hero buys a flashy car. But then, most of the cars in this show are flashy — so many new in 1960 Caddies, Impalas and T-birds… Maybe whoever collected all those 50s and 60s cars only kept the flashy ones. "Don't fuck with the past," he so said, so our idiot hero tries to call his dad and calls him "Dad." "Don't make flashy bets," he warns after giving our idiot boxing and other sports records, so the dolt goes into a secret bookie joint, places an outlandish bet and wins big. How stupid. Now he's in Dallas and thugs are chasing him, and I kinda hope he gets stomped — then he nearly does. What a dufus! I have stopped watching this one six times already, but the notion of going back to before 11 22 1963*, even if more than half of all movie time travelers go then to try to do that, is haunting. But this two-disk set is just too stupid.

I've long had this silly notion that, after I'm finally dead, I'd want my ashes to be scattered off the point above Cormorant Bay at White Rock Lake where used to be wild weeds and flowers, before the idiot City put in sidewalks and a dog park and cleaned everything up within an inch of its life. As if I'd know where I was being scattered. Now I wonder if a ride in a garbage can dumped in the trash truck and hauled off wherever might be at least as interesting. What a nuisance to want the living to fuck with my dead ashes. The first few minutes of this quirksome flick gave me that much, at least. I'd prefer a plastic bag to something heavier, larger or more ornate. Then again, a road trip might be worth it. … I like these people. They're honest, though upset. Right now, they're on a road trip but lost. … And now they (two women. I don't know who.) are at the first stop. The dead guy's narration on the laptop continues with a story about when he was there as a kid and taking a piss against the wall and talking about how his father thought the place was very spiritual. The two women look pleased.   Now he's talking about being dead and quoting Kerouac about "Burn, Burn, Burn." **** Using every second. etc: "The only ones for me are the mad ones. The ones who are mad to live. Mad to talk. Mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time. The ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars."  Brit deadpan humor keeps the trip lively in a gone church where Lancelot was buried. Then a night in a barn with a large straw person incendiary like Zozobra burning in the square in Santa Fe that long autumn ago. … When three guys take turns putting the women down in a grocery shop. One woman goes stark raving and explains to the other: "Panic row your arms. Confuse the attacker. The majority of people don't actually want to assault someone who manifests genuine psychiatric problems. Too much hassle." …  Then Dan, the dying man's tape turned sour and mean, and too much else going on to tell all. It's all over the place with psychology and madness and too much sanity. It's wonderful and dark and bright and…  2015 1hr 45m

A documentary shot in an ER of people on death's door, but they or their family are not yet ready to decide to let them die. A Netflix original. Gripping. Tender. Open minded in the face of death. Extremis***/ 2013 24m

The idea of two hours and forty-five minutes reading English subtitles for a German movie nearly rolled my eyes back, but I guess I'm used to it by now. It's a remarkable film of the 1959 novel, Die Blechtrommel by poet, playwright, social critic, graphic artist and novelist Gόnter Grass, and Ralph Manheim's English translation of the book became a best-seller in America that same year. Grass also won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1999. But Netflix only mentions Filmmaker Volker Schlondorff. This is the story of a three-year-old boy who decides not to grow up, so he stays small until he gets hit in the head by a rock thrown by his much-younger brother from a different mother. Along the way, he also becomes a proficient, if not particularly eloquent drummer on a long series of tin drums. The Tin Drum***/ is a collection of adventures and misadventures leading up to, then through the breadth and depth of depravities in World War II in Germany, where one of his possible fathers becomes a big fan of Hitler, and the other a partisan who is murdered before his eyes. 1980 2hr 45m

This is a stupid, stupid movie. One of my cousins' husbands was sent to Qatar to try to sell them something, and they gave him the Royal runaround for days and days, and only eventually did he discover they were never going to buy anything from him. The Qatarians must have thought it grand fun driving the Americans nuts. The major, first part of this movie is just that story. I think he might as well give up. But there's 32 more minutes in this, and now, finally, reading the Netflix envelope blurb I see "he unexpectedly finds romance." So maybe there's a modicum of hope for this stupid movie that is still, so far, Waiting for Godot.  So, it's really two movies (but only counts as one, if that.) A long one waiting for nothing to happen. And a much shorter one reveling in joy and romance that doesn't really make the stupid thing worth watching. A Hologram for the King**

Saw it, because Zooey Deschannel (Frances) was in it. And Harry Dean Stanton (the Alzheimered movie theater owner). Didn't know much more about it. And after seeing it I still don't. Our anti-hero played by Mark Webber is a loner who works at the theatre and accidentally gets involved with Frances who spins a tale right out of a movie. And there's a murder via a gift from the kid's Dad. The kid and Deschannel make up the best part of it, although Harry Dean Stanton is his usual quirky self. The Good Life***

Started to see a different movie with Zooey Deschannel with the exact same beginning, and I just wasn't up to it. Gigantic

I tried to watch this before. Had no idea what was happening. Stopped it somewhere in the middle, unenlightened. Later, I began again from the beginning. In synch now. See it for the marvel it is. This time I know the male is the director Roman Polanski or close-enough an actor look alike. The actress is superb. The Polanski character is the playwright/director, but she's in charge of this reality in a play, wiser than he. And the play is about what she knows it is. He submits. Then the roles change again. And again. Venus in Fur****/ superb yet quite mad. In French with English subtitles. Genius. 2013 1hr 35m

When I read the team in this movie's name, un-sportsguy I am, I assumed they were football, but it was basketball, and this was an inspiring, moving, positive, often thrilling, exciting documentary of a Cinderella team called the North Carolina State Wolfpack. Remarkably well balanced among court action, the team talking many years later at a reunion (Blacks on one side of the table, and White on the other.) Coach Jim Valvano and everybody else important to the team as talking heads. Good story. Lots of great b ball action, really stupid title. 30 for 30: Survive and Advance**** 2013 1h 41m

First Contact: Lost Tribe of the Amazon*** is a primitive documentary of two Amazonian tribes formerly living in total isolation. One who has come out of the jungle and is living under protection by the government. The other wants to wear clothes and be cured of illnesses. Some see it as a tragedy they are no longer hidden. Others believe they can be protected and helped. Perhaps it is more interesting a film because we get to meet the tribe members, instead of having them anthropomorphized. 2016 49m

I've been watching bits and pieces of this one for months. He's a cop and has been stationed in a little town where his daughter lives, and there's a lot of crime going on. But nobody's talking. All drama, not much sense of what's up, but our hero, who is an Aborigine has an old but true rifle and has been practicing with it, so, near the end, he gets to use it. Mystery Road***

I assumed it would be predictable, and it was. A long-shot horse from the Welsh countryside wins big thoroughbred races. Not all big wins, though Dream won often and was wicked fast. The owners were a syndicate of ordinary people, not like the rich who own horse-race winners. The movie was exciting often and a real charmer. Dark Horse***/ 2015

At first I thought it was gonna be a movie. Quirky and quirkier. Turns out it was a TV Show with 46 episodes. Four seasons, and they added three new episodes so the end makes some mad sort of nonsense. I have wound through episodes sometimes nine or more at a time. Reason I wanted it to be a movie, was so it'd be more intelligent and over quicker, but it was intelligent and needed about three years to get to know all the characters. She (Holly Hunter)'s a cop. She cusses, lies, sleeps with different guys, does what she wants. Been getting away with it. Now a tobacco-spittin' angel (Remember Clarence?) named Earl (Leon Rippy) appears to her when he feels the need after she asked for God's help awhile back. He's here to save her, although so far, he's just ornamental but mellow. Now I've got used to it, it's way good, and though it's pretty heavy on a TV sort of philosophy yet shows lots of skin, it is not bad. Saving Grace**** is the best TV I can imagine with both male and female nudity, upper frontal and full backsides, especially in the earlier seasons. Unfortunately, they kinda jump the shark at the end, apparently after all the really good writers got fired. But still, nice.

Starts with the most peculiar trailer I've ever seen or heard. Oddest rendition of Poppeye The Sailor Man gave zero reason to see that. But Mowgli's Brothers***/ is the most honest adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli story I have yet seen or heard, although when I recent actually read that classic, I found it very tame indeed, and I am actually looking forward to the exciting (I've seen trailers) new (2016) version. Very inspired though there's not much — or enough — of the third dimension in this early (1973) animation. Its disc companion, A Very Merry Cricket** is much less engaging, but the drawings are remarkable. Animated Cartoonist Chuck Jones was truly amazing.

I picked The Real Death Star*** somewhere online, because it was interesting and short. Turned out it was fascinating. And thanks to its brevity (48 minutes), I can see it multiples of times, till it actually makes sense to me. It gives great meaning to wishing upon a star, but not the malarky Disney sloshes, although I've always loved Jiminy Cricket crooning.

Until the very end, Noam Chomsky's Requiem for the American Dream**** seems rather depressing. At that end he reminds us that "the activists are the people who have created the rights that we enjoy. … It is a very free society, still the freest in the world. … The government has very little capacity to coerce. Corporate business may try to coerce, but they don't have the mechanisms. So, there's a lot that can be done if people organize, struggle for their rights as they've done in the past, and can win many victories." Quoting Chomsky's close friend for many years, the late Howard Zinn, "What matters is the countless small deeds of unknown people, who lay the basis for the significant events that enter history. They're the ones who've done things in the past. They're the ones who'll have to do it in the future."

It's called A Conversation with Gregory Peck***, and it was gentle like a conversation, like I suspect he was. As he was throughout this movie of his life and him doing evenings with Gregory Peck all over America. His and my favorite of his roles was always Atticus Finch, and he named his son Harper after that story's author. A good peek behind the facades. Rather old fashioned a biopic, but fitting and nice.

Maggie — played by Greta Gerwig — 's Plan was to get rid of the husband — played by Ethan Hawke who was a waste of time and space — she stole from a woman played against type by Julianne Moore, and there's a bunch of kids involved, too. It's essentially stupid, but it works. Not the plan, the movie. Well, maybe the plan, too. It's funny, but in a human kind of way, not so much laughing out loud. Maggie's Plan***

Unjustly accused, indicted, arrested and jailed on the word on a single informant who told the DA's office what they wanted to hear, Dee Roberts allowed the ACLU to use her in a test case to stop the Texas town she lives in from raiding homes on the basis of race in this story "inspired by true events." American Violet***/

They had me at the title. At least I'd heard of and read books by the author. How could I not watch it with attention. But that eponymous character is strange and hard to take. It's a period piece, soon after the start of The Great Depression. In color so tame it looks like sepia-toned black & white. But, it was not so much that I could not finish it. It was that I could not continue it once I had started.  I keep coming back. Guy's so crazy it frightens me, and I've had nine good friends commit suicide. I knew those people deep down well, but this guy in this movie scares me over and over. All the crazies I've known and loved, have been mostly pleasant, but Tom Wolfe — if this movie is to be believed — is not. He is cruel, and I want him to stop, so I can watch some gentler movie about murder or mayhem. Cruelty, however, is not the worst part. He is so full of himself it is boring. That's really hard to take in someone so immensely talented. Now, with 12 minutes and nine seconds till the end. He looks like death warmed over. The fire out but for a few brief words to his editor. Genius****

I've had this one in my queue for years. I always let it drop down to favor other movies. Sounded so pat. An Israeli doctor who repairs people blown-up in terrorist bombings learns his wife blew herself up that way. He denies even the possibility of it. They keep him. He begins to believe his cherished wife murdered all those people. Then he gets a letter from her, and he believes. Then he needs to learn who made her into a terrorist. Superbly written story, very well acted and beautifully filmed. But the heart of it is in the conflict between the Palestinians and the Jews. The Attack****

Another Charlotte Rampling movie. No idea who the guy is. They've been married 45 years, and there's a party with all their friends planned, but first the body of his first love, who fell into a crevasse more than 45 years ago is found and it rocks him, and that rocks her, and this is the story of the loving couple. 45***/2016

Oh, gosh. Another dreary stupid movie in the guise of peace, love & understanding. It's about a wild and free mother and her grown daughter who is uptight and uptight and uptight, and she's taught her kids to be uptight. And the mom and her daughter and son are with grandma in Woodstock and progressing somewhere between the uptight they've always been and learning new ways, but the mom, whose own mother is free and a little wild, keeps taking a few steps on the wilder side then running hiding back to being utterly uptight, and it's a vicious circle that keeps circling back, and instead of the story taking her back and letting her grow and free, she keeps ending up uptight and uptighter, and I'm about fed up with the stupidity of this movie. I'm sure it will end all luvvy-dovey, but it's gonna go round that same circle at least a couple more times, and it's all just stupid. Neither the daughter who's just been told by her husband that he wants a divorce, or her two kids have a chance in hell of slipping the surely bonds. But of course, magically, at the end of the movie, everybody's happy and has achieved Peace Love & Misunderstanding** …

It's a difficult film. In French-only. We rarely see Vincent expressing himself to anyone. There's far more of the doctor with whom he's staying's daughter who desperately wants him to love her — but he clearly does not — than any emotion from the painter. He just goes through the motions. Except when he's drinking and dancing. Those scenes are lively and bright, and there's more joy there than anywhere else in the film. But soon after that, he apparently shoots himself out in the country somewhere, off camera, then stumbles back into the scene. Very strange and disconnected. A couple times we see him painting, but even those scenes are brief and nearly inconsequential. This film is hardly worth watching. No new information. No glimpse into his mind or soul or state of being. Vacant. A waste of two hours and thirty five minutes of reading subtitles. Van Gogh*/1992

I suppose it's for kids, but it must be for adults, too, because I got hooked early and have just finished watching all eight episodes of the first season. End on end. Dungeons & Dragons into the fourth dimension, with enrapturing kid and adult stories tucked into the action. There's a Season Two soon, but I'll wait till it's over and binge watch it all in one fell swoop, too. Stranger Things****

I'd looked forward to Grantchester**. It's a Brit Mystery, and I usually love those. But this one is so Last Century, and after just three episodes, I'm tired of the formula. I don't think I could bear a whole season. Which reminds me of the last formulation of my plan here to count only an entire season as one movie, when seasons vary in length significantly. American seasons are 22 - 39 episodes, the Brits have 3 - 6. At least some of Netflix' are 8. Where in all that does math tell me what to do? I thought I was going to change my rules again. But that doesn't make any sense. I'm just so glad I don't have to watch any more of Grantchester.

Usually I enjoy great fiction about war photographers and journalists, but this is true, although much of the movie is re-creation. Knowing James Foley was beheaded by the isis infidels, I knew better than to expect hope, yet hope there was here. This movie is like a prayer. James Foley had hope and the ability to give it to others. As does this movie. I was deeply moved by Jim: The James Foley Story***/

A lushly beautiful and magical Irish fantasy. Elegant and colorful animation serving an exquisite tale of love, loss and joy resplendent — and family. Song of the Sea****

Full male but no female frontal nudity in this one, and it's part of the plot, but it has not much to do with sex. Two bachelor farmer brothers who haven't spoken to each other in 40 years endure a catastrophe that imperils both their sheep flocks. And one of them keeps passing out. First time, the other brother (I never could tell which was which.) hauled him into town and dumped him at the ER. The second time, he dug an igloo in the freezing snow storm they were trapped in and held his brother's passed out and naked body next to his own. That's probably TMI, but at least I'm not typing out what Netflix says about it. It is about being family and having deep friendship when a friend is needed. They both raised sheep, and they seemed to cherish ramming into each other till now. Rams****

I really hoped this one would be better. It's not bad. It just falls into a lot of stereotypical ruts. Teen escape is what it is. Rough home life kid starts a band and within seconds is writing intelligent tunes with impossibly great lyrics. There's some other parts, too. They're in a school run by the Christian Brothers in Ireland, and apparently the Brothers are like all the other Catholic Irish authority figures in recent movies. They're mean, bullies, heavy on physical abuse, etc. But the boys in the band — even those who'd never touched an instrument — are in tune playing advance rock 'n roll, doing harmonies, etc. within a couple weeks. And of course, we believe all that. And the girl he falls for is a little wild and goes off to London. And if you're paying any sort of attention, you know what happens next, and after that, too. I enjoyed it. It's not rocket science. It's just a movie. I'm an old guy, and I liked it. Not sure whether today's teeners will. Movie's named after the band (or visa versa), Sing Street**/

I like it. I liked it a lot, but I don't know quite how to describe it. Sometimes I describe movies, so when I look back through, it jogs my memory. I could tell you the story, but it's long and complicated, though it bunches itself together at the beginning and at the end. Anesthesia***/ is, as the lecturer who holds this movie together in many ways teaches, about what life is all about. I promise I won't keep doing this, but the Netflix envelope says, "After opening with the savage mugging of a Columbia University philosophy professor, this nonlinear drama flashes back to events leading up to the incident, following the lives of numerous people connected to the assault." [Or not connected to the assault, at all, but connected to the professor. It is also very much about chemical and other ways we anesthetize ourselves.

I'm watching the 1967 Disney version of The Jungle Book***, so I can intelligently compare it with the new one in theaters now, when I finally get to see that one. It has its moments when they're not all singing some silly song, but it is a far cry from the original published in words by Rudyard Kipling in 1894. That book was the reason I first saw this pathetic, bad copy back in the 60s. Now I'm seeing it again, and wishing I could, instead, see an intelligent enactment of Kipling's original story. Best thing would be to read the book, I thought. And Amazon had a version for free (copyright expired) with audio less than a buck extra. But as I am pursuing that notion, I am finding Kipling's prose slow and his poetry daft. But it's a remake of the 60s Disney version with even less to do with Kipling's original, and I assumed I'd hate it, but I've already seen a half-dozen trailers for the 2016 Disney update, and at first I assumed I wouldn't like it. Now I wonder, so I'll probably attempt it.

Sweet Bean**** was the first full-length movie I've watched in one sitting in awhile. It was lovely, gentle, bittersweet, sad and in Japanese with English subtitles. About a Dorayaki stand operated by a sad man who does not like Dorayaki, a Japanese confection made of small red bean pancakes filled with sweet red bean paste. His pancakes were okay, but he had no feeling for the beans or the paste, when a 70+ year-old woman asked to work there. He put her off, because she was so frail and old, but she made some bean paste for him that he really liked. When he finally let her work there, they sold amazingly well; and there were many happy customers. But word got out that the new cook had leprosy, and the customers quit coming. Then the mean shop's owner told the man her plans to reorganize the shop and install her son as the new owner. The movie ended with a positive outlook, but … Everything about this movie felt real and honest.     Then I stumbled on a succinct review on Wikipedia's page on Dorayaki: "In 2015 filmmaker Naomi Kawase released [this] film about an elderly woman who has a secret recipe for truly transcendent dorayaki."

Kubo and the Two Strings***/ reminded me deeply of Japanese anime, only it was stop-action. The story is Good vs. Evil in the shape of a family — the mom, a dim-witted Buzz Lightyear-ish dead dad shaped like a cockroach and our hero the kid, with some crazy mean, low-grade dark Cruella De Vil aunties thrown in. And an awful lot of crazy complicated battle action — i guess to keep it hyperactive. I expected the movie to appeal to kids, but be mellow, and its best moments were, but too often it was way over the tops. But pretty to watch with a good-hearted, though busy plot. I wanted Studio Ghibli or at least Disney, but it had its moments. Kubo's paper-flying storytelling early on was fanciful and enrapturing, but even though they didn't at the end, the bad guys dominated the action.

Okay. I'm back into Anomalisa, which is getting strange and stranger. All the characters are felt puppets who are stop-motion animated to richly resemble human actors, except they sometimes show their seams, where different parts of their anatomy, usually faces, become apparent to us. His face fell off in the long hotel hallway when he banged it against a wall. Very odd to have him hold it in his hands, look at it, then carefully fit it back into his head, then go on with the show.    The Lisa of Anomalisa's voice is fully female now. Not sure when that changed, but probably before they made love on his hotel bed. Then he smoked yet another cigarette. She's plain, not the ugly she believes, and he's married with kids, so we have to wonder what he's up to. We assume breaking her heart, which won't be difficult for him. He's a motivational speaker whose motives here seem obvious to everyone but him — and her.

Overwatch's animated short, The Last Bastion*** is a pleasant little forest interlude that suddenly explodes into World War III, Death of the Machines until a little yellow bird bids the robot back to the forest. Quick 7:58 online freebie.

The Present*** short film by Jacob Frey - simplistic story of a boy and his dog, a present from his mom. Four minutes and 18 seconds. Hardly outstanding but not bad for free.

One Rat Short ***/ by Chrlx and Alex Wil 10:02 is really quite good. The wild rat who gets suckered into the lab seems almost real. There's remarkable animation, good story, frenetic action and it feels poignant.

This one put a big, happy smile on my face. At the end, yes, of course. It was a happy ending. But in so many other places along the way. It's a beautiful movie with many personally amazing moments. All I knew before I got it was that Jake Gyllenhaal starred. That was my deciding factor. Impressive. Not totally non-linear, there's a story that drives the action. But non-linear enough the story stream kept reminding me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Demolition***** 2016

I got it because it co-starred Jeremy Irons, and I love movies about exceedingly intelligent people. It shocked me it was so good, and seriously dismayed me that the English would have treated Srinivasa Ramanujan so poorly, even though most who did were so stupid and so deeply prejudiced I'm surprised they could get out of bed in the mornings. (If he'd gone over to the Americans instead, he'd probably be dead.) Not a perfect movie, of course, but close. The Man Who Knew Infinity**** 2016

This film is an opportunity to hear the teacher and his students and friends discuss the emotional and intellectual and performance aspects of making music on the piano, which oddly enough, equates to almost any creative endeavor. Lovely, eloquent, hand-made musics, of course, but lofty notions also. Sweet and inspiring. Seymour, An Introduction**** 2014

I'm pretty sure I first heard about Ramblin' Jack Elliot from one of Bob Dylan — who worshipped Elliot for a long time in his early days — 's songs, but I've been curious who he was and what he'd got up to, and this movie seems to be explaining all that pretty well with new video and old movies and photographs and especially many long visions of Ramblin' Jack ramblin' then singing his songs. It's a story that'd long been needing telling, and it's cohesive, interesting and fully fascinating. The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack***/ 2000

This one's got smarm (oily, unctuous, ingratiating). No doubt about it. And we're in for a major helping of smarm in a movie that's essentially a road trip with a man who's a caregiver for a kid with enough diseases to keep him in a wheelchair the rest of his life. Along the way, they've picked up two women, one very pregnant and another a 21-year-old who cusses up a storm. These four people are mostly real or just around the corner from it, but the wheelchair kid's mom back in Seattle and her ex-husband car salesman who left when the kid was born are in suspension with reality. The whole idea of the road trip to go see The World's Largest Pit is starkly unreal, but it's a movie, so it can do anything it wants. Just know that there's a major helping of smarm to always get around till we willfully suspend our disbelief and get into enjoying this odd romp that's a rollicking, silly, necessary, fun, even joyous sometimes, road trip. So, smarm or not, it's an up and down and all around growth experience for all concerned. The Fundamentals of Caring***/ 2016

In Writer/Director Marya Cohn's movie, The Girl in the Book****, the girl in the book is alive and well some of the time but deep down a sad and misused psychological wreck too much of the time she was alone, because a much older man, who has since become a famous writer, who wrote about her when she was still a teenager, stole her secrets, called her fiction when the facts of her filled out his wildly popular book, and robbed her of her Self too long. His initial attraction, besides the obvious physical to a pretty young teenager, was that he at least pretended to be interested in her writing. After that, she couldn't write, because she was so haunted by the words in his book about her and their illicit affair right under her parents' misattentions. It took her years to begin to understand what real love was about and worth, but by the end of it, she got her Self back, and was free enough to write her own book called The Girl in the Book, and the movie kept coming back upon herself in the ways good books sometimes do.

I didn't actually go looking for a mercifully short film with the anti-hero of one of my used-to-be favorite Brit TV shows. But I found Martin Clune: Heavy Horsepower*** while looking for something else. I love Clydesdales. I remember getting very excited when I got to see them pulling that huge, bright red beer wagon through the downtown streets when we lived in St. Louis, and I didn't just get excited that first time. I still get giddily excited when I see them, though I cannot for the life of me explain why. So a movie about them and Clune (Doc Martin himself), who owns two Clydesdales, what's to lose? Besides, all the way through it, I kept catching myself with the biggest grin. This film makes me happy to watch it, as Clune has fun with his own Clydesdales and a variety of other horses on side trips through Europe, Britain and among the Amish in Indiana, USA while his horses learn some basics at what he calls "Hoof Camp." There's something really marvelous about moving things around with real horse power. I will, however, pass on Martin Clunes & His Dogs.

I was only mildly curious about Wofly, The Incredible Secret**, but surely this movie is nothing incredible at all. Kinda silly overall. About a Wolf, whose best friend is a rabbit, and for some reason they go to Wolfland (or some other equally silly name, to get Wolfy tied back up with his family. Everything's goofy, as befits a color cartoon, then everything's not. Then everything is goofy again. Then it ends. Myeh.

I wasn't at all sure the world needed another ambitious chef movie, but I watched it, and where I assumed it would zag, it zigged, and where I expected zigs, I got zags. Plenty of emotion. For a long time, it was the chef yelling. Later it was quieter, gentler. He was learning. Very nice to have never seen — or remembered — the actors before. This impressively complex tale gradually blends smooth. Burnt***/

It's not hardly the best animal animation, but it's okay. Couple times, it's even sly unto intelligent and funny. Stupid title, though. Zootopia***.

This one is a delight. A visual and sensual joy set in Italy with all its colors and loosened inhibitions. About a young virgin, who is either looking for her father or a lover. Perhaps both. Odd but interesting, yet somehow joyous a difference. Whom she's visiting are friends who have been close for years, decades and lifetimes. A luscious young Liv Tyler as Lucy, Jeremy Irons who, dying, wants back his youth, and a sculptor who wants her as model and maybe muse, but they are the crux of it. Everybody wants or thinks they need something, and some get it. We who watch want Lucy to find her lover, and that kept almost, but not quite happening, till, of course, the end. In this movie, the connections, even the wrong ones, are put together with finesse near perfection. And love is saved till the end, with romance and family. Joy is abundant. The title doesn't move me, but the movie does. Stealing Beauty**** 1996

The main characters in this film are three of "The Lost Boys of Sudan" and they are very precise about morality. If they did not already know what a good lie was, their brother and chief tells them. This is the story of four who got the opportunity to live in America, and the White women — and men — who helped them learn our ways. Slowly, we are introduced to some of the injuries they experienced before they got here, though the film does not dwell on it. It is also the story of the White woman who has been appointed to serve as their guide, even though she perhaps has to learn more than they do. Fascinating story about what everybody learns and leaves to live here. The Good Lie***/

This one had me at the get-go. I started to fast-forward through them, but I really liked the titles, and soon as he started talking, I liked Robert Reich, even if he did do all those fancy-sounding jobs for Democratic politicians. He moves his lips, I lean to listen. He knows a lot, and the director, et al, knows how to show us data. Robert Reich has a plan to make America work again, and that plan is succinctly proposed in a movie called Inequality for All***/. It's not a difficult plan, it's just there's a lot of very rich people who don't want to pay their fair share. And because of that, Americans work more jobs and make less money, and American companies don't thrive. It's a rousing good movie that tells how how we got into our current financial woes, and how we can get out.

Jason Bourne*** is all excitement and car, etc. chases. Nearly no character development. We don't learn much more about the guy we've seen in all those Bourne movies, and that's a shame. There's a potential new love interest that's already on shaky ground, who shows up seconds after the previous one is gunned down. No explanation. I love the Bourne movies in which he settles more into being who he is and little less into whom he might have been. So this was a disappointment, really, although the chases and action sequences were both different and often better.

Hank Williams deserves a better movie than this mess. I know his life was hell off wheels, he did drugs, hurt down deep enough it came out in his music, didn't trust nobody, even his own self, but this just isn't a good enough depiction to be his life story. It was hard to watch the whole thing, and now I wish I had not. I Saw The Light**

Even the end titles are hilarious. The whole movie is, really. Although there's a lot of mayhem, gobs of blood and enough CIA stupidity and insanity to fill Langley and all the other places those idiots hang out. Really stupid stoner movie that's laugh out loud funny almost all the way through. But exciting, too. Got 'em both. It's about this sleeper agent who wakes up and … well, you know, you gotta see it. I strongly recommend it. Only thing egregiously dim-witted about it is the title. American Ultra****. 2015

Call it morbid curiosity. I can't think of any other reason to finish this hideous movie. If it is science fiction it's the soft sort. And evil, too. It literally gives me the heebie-jeebies. No redeeming social value I can discern. And yet, here I am watching the fool thing. All so I can have one more notch on this year's movies total. How sick is that?      Well, there were a few laughs and a giggle or two. The thing about Science Fiction is the ideas, but in this movie, even those are pretty lame. Eventually, I began to enjoy the fool thing. Then I didn't again. By the end, I'd forgot the important parts, so it made even less sense, but I finished it, and there's lots of movies I didn't. I'm just sorry this was one I did. The Lobster*

This one has already been worth several broad smiles and one LOL. Didn't know exactly what I was getting into, but those words — the title — had something to them with which I already had an historic association. Didn't know from where or when, but it was in here buried deep. And soon I became immersed in the utterly charming animation. Simple but not simplistic. Often joyous. The story of the man next door…   Ah! There it is. The first right out loud guffaw. 27 minutes and some odd seconds in. I had to stop it there and catch you up. A serious laugh, and I'm identifying even more with the old guy in the rickety little house next door. Although he's got an airplane in the back yard, and I just have all that ground cover that's nearly taken over and trees that I planted then let God deal with that are now way bigger than I ever imagined they would get to. But unlike mine, the old man s backyard is remarkably well-clipped and kept low.   Then the uptight mom caught the little girl when the old man tried to drive her to a place that gave free pancakes on your birthday, even if it wasn't her birthday, and … and the cop caught him again, so the little girl is having a crisis of acceptance, and she can't accept. She wants to, but all we see is her trying to be the little automaton her mother needs her to be.   The Little Prince continues to be his little magic self, but he needs us to believe, and the little girl is having trouble believing right…   I was going to tell you about the stars on the ceiling just like the stars I've had on my ceiling since I started living here 37 years ago, but the little girl got disillusioned and vacuumed them off the ceiling in her moments of doubts that I thought must be near the end of the movie, but there's a while yet to go. And now the old man's in the hospital, and I gotta go back to see what'll happen next…  There's a lot of junk in this movie that has nothing whatsoever to do with the original version of this story, but something there is that loves a happy ending. Too many parts added on were stupid and mean but some of the new wasn't. A lovely story extrapolated from a beautiful dream of something from long ago. The Little Prince****

I heard about it on NPR, and they said it was streaming on Netflix, so I plugged in, and after a lot of nothing, Netflix said it wasn't available in this region, which apparently meant the U.S., so I tried again a different way and got it. And watched it all before they could take it away again. It had the same star and oddball lilt of Juno, which I also loved. Tallulah**** steals a baby from a woman who's also clueless and stupid, and our little heroine tries to take care of it without knowing anything about babies — or having any money, a home, etc. Alison Janey's in it, too, playing the also-clueless wife and mother of Tallulah's in-and-out-of-her-life boyfriend, so when he was gone for another while, Tallulah attempts to live off the Alison Janey character. It's a comedy without much in the way of laughing out loud or even quietly to yourself, but it's still deeply funny in a wacked-out, we're-all-idiots-in-this-life kind of way. The movie is populated with sad, stupid, out of their realm people, so we can all identify.

This one's a charmer. Predictable, of course, but gentle, sweet and family-oriented. About a woman who runs a fruit stand in an Hispanic neighborhood who then gets a job cleaning up at a Sushi Bar, where she befriends one of the Sushi cooks, who teaches her and she learns by herself. Then there's a regional competition for a national championship of Sushi cooks and the boss at the Sushi bar who does not want women up front preparing food. Our Latina quickly learns to be a very good sushi cook, and she works hard and enters the competition. East Side Sushi***/

I remember the day when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. I was far away, but I knew. She had been waging an attempt to regain her fairly-elected position as Prime Minister of Pakistan, but the evil government shot her and blew her up as she promised the people of Pakistan that, God-willing, she would return. I guess God wasn't willing, although in the wake of her murder, Pakistan earned a new civilian government. It's not difficult to imagine why the military government hated and feared her, and in the movie we learned many of the reasons. Watching it, we all know how it ends, but it's a fascinating portrait of a politician who had one stab at being Prime Minister already and blew it. Bhutto***/

We see a woman very much in love with her husband and child and, more quietly, her mother. That ends well into the movie, when we discover that she was a spy for Stasi (East German Secret Police) and, eventually, she cops to it, tells whom believe they are her family, but doesn't tell about her handlers, who are too close by. Lots of rending drama in telling her story, which is sad and scary. Two Lives***/

I tried four times to watch Whiskey Tango Foxtrot*, but I just couldn't stand it. Way too insipidly stupid, not funny, just a waste of DVD space. I never thought it would be my kind of movie, but I thought I owed it to myself to try it, because it's been immensely popular. But I didn't. I knew better, but I did it anyway.

Serious sci-fi that stays pretty much on the earthly plane with a few less-than-spectacular special-effects near the end. Hard sci-fi has lots of hardware; soft sticks with ideas. There's shooting and racing around. All kinds of people are after this kid. Church people, most of whom aren't Christian; the FBI are their usual shoot-first-and-figure-out-why-later selves in way over their heads; same with the army. The kid has powers unlike we've seen or seen in movies. Interesting, really, without many answers. Kid's Dad and Mom love him. Almost everybody else only wants him for what they can get, even if they don't know what that is. Some of them may actually believe he's the Second Coming, but those are pretty obviously nutters. Everything's open enough to keep us interested. Then it happens, and it was sorta spectacular but so obviously fake; and then it went away. Ridiculous title, Midnight Special***/

For a change, whoever wrote the blurb on the Netflix envelope got it just right, "A penetrating character study into the nature of denial, Under the Sand***/ showcases Rampling at her very best that most comparable American actresses would kill for in Hollywood." Watching Rampling is always amazing.

Two little boys switched at birth, grown six years up, then separated when it's found they are each not kin to the family that raised them. Then the difficult path to raising their own children after they've lived with the wrong family that long. A kind and gentle story about family and belonging and love and all those things families sometimes come with. In Japanese with English subtitles, but worth the hassle to be part of this story. Like Father, Like Son****

I subscribe to The New Yorker**** but saved them up to read later, hoping my Rx would run out, but now I think they've got me on auto re-up and rejoining costs more than a dollar I was happy to spend. So when I was added to their online videos, I paid scant attention till now. I think Amazon has it, and it is a video presentation of diverse stories only a few of could have been done in more traditional text format. But it's remarkably well-done video, so it makes more sense. Amazon tries to sell us disks, but mostly I stream it, and have been vastly enjoying its fluid presentation and oddly off-topic shorts.

Race**** is about Jesse Owens and his coach, especially at the 1936 Olympics held in Nazi Germany when Jesse won five gold medals, despite the Nazis' best efforts to show the mastery of the White Race by fixing many events. It's probably historically fairly accurate, and it is inspiring — it's still a winning story told well.

When it really matters in the plot line, both these mind-implant movies cut corners in the little things that add up, but don't really get in the way of the story, which they cheap out or stupid up. Sad, because both often offer intelligent or fascinating takes on occupying a younger body with an older — and wiser — personality. And both are intelligent and logical within the realm of the science fiction that holds up their plots. And both have very exciting moments, but I guess they feel they must underestimate our intelligence, which won't be that much of a problem for most. The most aggressive violence award easily going to Criminal***/, which is way too easy and stupid a title, and It gets weepy at the end, while mostly avoiding it else times. There's probably more action and mayhem in Criminal with better-than-average car chases, intelligence and a more sophisticated personality change than Selfless***. But I had long moments of incredulity with Kevin Kostner as the bad guy, till later when the role turned to the usual, schlocky sort of roll that's perfect for him. Whereas in Selfless we lost the big star — Ben Kingsley — near the beginning, so less a loss. Selfless is a great title, but the transition from bad guy to good was uncredibly smooth and nearly automatic. Criminal's transition was harsher, and more credible.

I cannot begin to explain the story or why it was the way it was, but during the cultural revolution in China, a headstrong little girl turns her father in, and he spends many years in a prison somewhere dark and cold and away from the woman he loves — and the snotty kid. After the revolution, when he comes back and is officially forgiven, his wife not only cannot forgive him, she cannot even recognize him. She does not believe who he is. She believes he is the man who took advantage of her while her husband was gone, and she cannot recognize him, so they are never reunited, even though she still loves him and waits for him, and he still loves her, because her mind twisted and cannot be untwisted, so she is unhappy without him, and he is unhappy even when she lets him be there under the guise of him reading his daughter Lu's letters to her. It's sad and it's about memory, and it is slow and Chinese, and there's nothing to be done about it. Still, it is a beautiful, if dark, movie about love and love lost. Coming Home****

This Norweigian flick started with the most egregiously bad English Dubbing I've ever heard. I didn't want to continue, but later went back, and it wasn't altogether so terrible, and the thriller already has some chills vibrating through it, so I watched and just wished the English were better, thankful I don't have to read a zillion subtitles. Then we see an email on the screen that isn't translated. Not sure I wanted to finish this absurdity, but eventaully I did. The early warning crew saw early-warning signs the mountains were going to fall, but since nobody bothered to train them in how to do their job, they didn't warn anybody till the mountains had already fallen, and the water wave sluiced through the valley killing a lot of people, but of course, not our heroes and his wife and family, and if you can believe all that malarky, you might enjoy this stupid flick. The Wave*

Finished the first — and what could easily be the only — season of Manhattan****, which is a fictionalized account of the A-bomb project in New Mexico, not the city. I don't know if it will continue. I'll probably watch it if it does. But this really is enough. Paranoid army spreads its sickness onto everyone involved — the scientists, their wives. It's a fascinating story we know could never be the truth, but it's done so well, acting is superb, story is interesting — pieced together so carefully visually and verbally. Wow. If I thought there was a lot of this on TV, I'd still have one.

I tried to watch Miles Ahead*/ with the Miles of the title being Miles Davis, but it's just so stupid, I could't continue it. Didn't want to. It might have got better. Doesn't matter if it's true — I doubt it. Or if it's just stupid — it truly is. Still love his music, but …

I started to watch Love & Mercy*** mostly because John Cusack was in it, then I learned it was about Brian Wilson, and I hadn't caught up with him in too long a time, and the biopic was getting goofy without knowing the real history — was that stupid, egomaniacal shrink still running his life? etc., so I found Brian Wilson, Songwriter 1969-1982***/ and watched it so I could see what happened. Fascinating, engaging, the real gritty nitty on psychiatric, artistic, recording and interpersonal Beach Boy band relations levels. I liked it a lot, but it just stops not nearly close enough to now, since that whole series was made in the early Eighties. It's an old-fashioned documentary in all the right and some of the wrong ways, but vastly informative and interesting. So I went back to Love & Mercy, quickly tired of that again, then found Brian Wilson, Songwriter 1962-1969 and then was just too curious about the rest of the Cusack movie, which is amazing.

After it was all over but that beautiful music playing I had that elusive sensation I'd seen this one before, so I checked back through the 2,253 movies I'd got from Netflix this century, and it wasn't there, and I hadn't given it any gold stars yet, so I guess not. Not sure how I missed it. It's about friendship and learning someone without romance. Asking and understanding. A pretty young woman temp nanny and a very intelligent boy. Both musicians, though she hadn't touched a cornet in a long time. It's very much about that connection we go lifetimes without sometimes. Gentle, endearing and affecting flick. Like Sunday, Like Rain***** Like wow!

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi***/ Governmental CIA idiocy gets a delta-force-like bunch of private contractors to protect them, but the U.S. Government lets too many of them die, and the stupid Ambassador sneaks out of the compound supposedly to go to the airport and fly home where the contractors can't protect him, so he gets himself killed. This is the Benghazi the Republicans keep wanting to blame on Hillary. Somebody should get the blame. Probably the Ambassador. He was the decider here.

Some remote-control killings in a remote-control war we all get to watch step-by-step. Will they collaterally kill a little girl selling bread along with their high-numbered targets who are donning their suicide vests as we watch? It takes all the movie to find out. … Eye In The Sky****

Not a particularly righteous super-hero name, but it'll do. I wanted action and adventure, and I like funny. This has those and a lot else. There's a love interest, a lot of ugly, mean people, really bad shots and shooters, and this jokester super-hero who's neither or both. Disfigured super hero afraid to show his face to the woman he loves so he… Oh, just about everything. It's really funny. More than anything else it's funny. But there is a lot of slamming and bamming. Deadpool***/

I didn't really expect a story about a famous baseball hero to move me. But this one did. I was hooked when the promo said he'd pitched a no-hitter in the major leagues high on LSD. I know LSD. It's been decades since I did it, but I did at least 70 trips, and the last one scared me enough I never did it again. But to maintain anything zinging on acid is amazing. I knew I had to see this movie. And I was surprised to find it moving, even long before he retired from baseball and became a drug counselor. Amazing guy, really. Black in the age just after Jackie Robinson, who was his friend. I envy Dock Ellis his many really good, close friends, who tell his story here. No-No: A Dockumentary****

Several levels of sophistication deeper than Studio Ghibli without losing the subtle magic, I may finally be ready to begin to understand and appreciate greater anime. Intriguing. Mamoru Hosoda's Boy And The Beast**** begins with a lost boy, with whom we can identify, transitions into a very long story of studying with a master, who learns from his student, who is now becoming his own and known self. I already see I will be enjoying deeper, more intelligent stories, but this one has its grip on me. What an intriguing passage.

So the Anthony Hopkins character kills his wife and gets away with it, then he pulls the plug on her life support, and gets away with that, and the tired, poor, slow-learning lawyer finally gets him, and double jeopardy, and all that pseudo drama, and by then I was just tired of watching, and I didn't care. Fracture**/ I guess the older TonyHop is settling for less intelligent flicks, so I should let him go. Probably most everybody else already has.

Think I'll skip Brother Bear 2. Brother Bear*** was barely good enough to watch, but it kept getting caught up in goofy adult stuff for children that was more hokum than intelligent. Not a terrible story, but the music was. I kept thinking the original, pre-Disney Mowgli's (from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book stories) bear was Brother Bear, and that's the bear I wanted, but I so dislike Disneification of my childhood heroes, especially Poo. But that's a whole 'nother bear.

No outward signs of romance, but this was a love story. From childhood difficulties to adults beating around bushes, almost never getting around to points. All of it was guided, and we with it. It was a lovely story, with exquisite animation. We got to know them slowly, over time. And then the romance blossomed after the credits rolled beyond our seeing. Only Yesterday**** directed by Isao Takahata for Studio Ghibli, is a gem. I only wish they had translated the soundtrack songs as well as the dialog. 2016

I expected the usual Michael Moore hoot. Wry, funny, mildly informative, lotta laugh out loud and worse. You know. But wow. It is a moral indictment of our cherished American Ways of Life. By visiting other countries and seeing how they react to the issues of the day that are so different from the way America does it, we learn that we are almost certainly not the greatest country in the world. Worse, we're probably the stupidest, most insane. That our way of doing makes us the laughing stock of the known universe. This kind of deeply humane humor is what Moore is all about. And this movie shows that he's getting better at it. Where To Invade Next**** is the best he's done.

Not Yet Begun to Fight**/ is kinda sappy. About wounded warriors who learn, and what this movie is mostly about is fly fishing. Yup. Casting and catching fish, and at least in the flick, every time one of these injured vets throw a line in, out comes a fish. Every time. Don't know 'bout you, but that doesn't sound like fishing to me. Sounds like a setup. Must be. I don't believe it, but I know that doing almost anything with some camaraderie thrown in makes it better, and helps make sense of it. There's more to it, but we don't get it in this movie.

What a relief that this is over. It was only 50 minutes, yet I almost couldn't wait till it finished. Okay, now I've seen my first The Little Tramp movie. It'll be awhile till I want more. It wasn't terrible, though, and I'm glad I finally saw a Charlie Chaplin original. Just it's so very dated, and I kept wanting desperately to get away from that drippy music that was the only soundtrack. It wasn't a talkie, and while I can both remember and imagine seeing movies with no talking or sounds audible, I bet there were lots of them better than this a century ago. The Kid**/ 1921.

How to Die in Oregon**** follows people who have decided to take the Death With Dignity way out of life. We follow them through good times, bad times, contemplative and playful times in their lives while they struggle with horrible diseases, then they swallow the contents of 120 Seconal caps and get to die the way they choose with their families and loved ones. Usually as narrated by themselves. This movie gives dignity to their death.

The making and undoing … of the self-styled "World's Greatest Bass-Player," As Rush's Geddie Lee said as the hour-and-fifty-six-minute movie about Jaco Pastorius' life and music and contributions was wrapping up, "Whatever the genre can take, it can take. So stretch it, bend it, pull it. It won't break," but Jaco did. I knew the name. I didn't know that music was his, but it was and is, and now I understand better. The only real issue I have with Jaco***/ is that the English subtitles often do not show what is actually being said. Whoever translated it, did a lousy job. Pity. But I really liked the collage of family movies while the credits rolled.

A lot corny. Five young horsemen supposedly decide — although I'm sure it was all a setup just to do this movie — to ride horses from the Mexican border to Canada on mustangs somebody caught and they trained as pack and carry beasts to draw attention to the plight of the mustangs on public land in the the western U.S. Too much was made of stuff that did not matter. It was an adventure. They were adventurers, and they had it. Fun to watch even though there had to be a pro camera crew hidden in all the major stops, over the major ranges, down through the Grand Canyon, etc. But we don't see those guys. We only see the young cowboys and catch up after each leg of what might have been going on in their heads as we mosey along. Silly in many ways, but nonetheless fun. More an adventure than a deeply intelligent undertaking. I would not have wanted to do all that work, but I liked watching the movie. Unbranded***

I needed an adventure, so I got The Finest Hours***/, and though it took its sweet time, it gradually built to just what I needed. At first Casey Afleck seemed to lack credibilty as the hero, but he was great at playing a boy becoming a man and a real hero. Good acting all around. Excellent story. Wonder how their commanding officer felt for being played the fool he obviously was, but maybe he died before the flick came out. The title's weak, but everything else holds up. Oh, it's a love story, too. Played different with a woman who leads. Nice.

Saw this one sometime the last century and loved it. Now, seeing it was fun, exciting. Like watching a bunch of really smart people figure out what was going on, and what they could do to make it better, often almost immediately. With no dirty tricks. The War Room**** by D.A. Penebaker and Chris Hegedus shows the inner workings of the first Clinton's run for the Presidency, and it still holds its excitement. But I only count one review, so this one is indented and the title in bold gray.

I didn't like her almost all the way through. She might have redeemed herself on the ice late, but it's as if whoever wrote this didn't want us to like the main character, and I did not. For so many reasons I won't go into here, because now, here at the end, they don't make sense anymore. I kept thinking this should have been a comedy, or maybe whoever wrote it thought it was, but it was just never that funny. Then she tells him he got it all wrong, and he goes back to NYC and comes back with the book she promised him more money than she should have spent, and, we are led to believe, he writes a masterpiece, only we don't get to read it, and now they are in love. Which makes about as much sense as anything else in this stupid movie, but even I am pulling for them. And now they're ripping off each other's clothes — which is entirely the opposite to the rabbit lovemaking we saw her and some other idiot engage in earlier. That sex was really insipid. Didn't even look like sex. You suppose the creators of this farce knew that? So, they tried not to write this book about her lover who fell — or jumped — off a mountain to his death, after being the heart throb singer songwriter to millions for just one album, and now the biographers are having sex. What no literal fireworks? And then they're back to being stupid with each other. Oh, do I have to finish this stupid movie? Please, no. Then a too-cute denouement, and she flies back to her writer-lover, and I just hope this silly flick will end. Happily ever after. Arghhhh! But instead, we get happy-sappy, then quiet and gentler. At least — and at last — it's over. Tunneldown**

This Studio Ghibli production is remarkably different, better and several kinds of wonderful. In Pom Poko****, the raccoons try everything they can imagine to stop the humans from ruining their homeland. The characters are not positive, but they are close to human, so we love them and their feeble attempts to stop the destruction of our cities. Not quite all aces, but close. And it's almost exactly two hours long. 1994

In my attempt to see all the Studio Ghibli flicks I didn't, I am learning why. While inventive and clunkily magic — not the gentler magic I've come to expect from them, The Cat Returns** is inept, inconsequential, insipid and inane. I don't care about the characters, and I don't care if I ever see the rest of this loser. 2002

An oddly heart-warming documentary on Lance Mackey, the only-ever four-times-in-a-row winner of the thousand-mile Iditerad dogsled race, his wives, family, his father who also won it, and best of all, his dogs. The Great Alone****

I assume it had to be a series. One of those long, scientific series like PBS or somebody intellectual does. I thought Mysteries of the Unseen World***, with all its microscopic and many times more magnified visions was a 38-minute one-off. Then without notice, episode two began, and I watched it awhile, and knew it was there, if I ever wanted to return. There's a reason episodic TV is so popular. And while I love watching a short (better) or long (uh-oh) mystery or adventure unfold before my eyes, it takes too long sometimes to think through — or, as here, skips over too many intermediary steps. I liked one. Now it's a many, I'm losing interest. What I really need is a longish, involved movie that eventually ends.

Not like we didn't know what would happen from the first time it showed the guy who wrote the book. And he did use her name in that book, after all. Her parents are obviously clueless. Almost everybody in this movie is. Her boyfriend was right to dump her, and even though we knew he would eventually take her back, he shouldn't have. This movie is just stupid and near pointless. The Girl in the Book*/

At first it seemed pretentious and silly while being loads of visual and verbal fun. Then, about half-way, it all began making sense, and I thought better of what I had considered its pseudo-intellectualizing. Los Angeles Plays Itself*** portrays that celluloid city in hundreds of movies with narration that defies chronology and sometimes logic. But it's amazing fun and a joy to see just-enough of all those flicks — many of them, again.

I only discovered it recently but it was near the top of my video rental queue when I noticed it had become a streamer, with a PLAY button next to it, so I did, and I am so very happy. I understand the title; and they could have done better; but I loved the movie. I've been a fan of The Carter Family music for decades, and since music turned digital I've always had a bunch. This is their story, and it's deeply hokey, but so were they, and it all just fits. When its makers didn't have film of actual performances, they partially animated stills, and though distracting, it seems a decent solution. I have no quarrels with anything but the ending, which is Will This Circle Be Unbroken sung by anyone who came along after a flash mob somewhere that did not anywhere near match the quality of the original Carter Family nor any other performance in the movie. Otherwise it was near perfect. I learned more about them, and I dearly hope I can DL the soundtrack (Nope.) The Winding Stream****

I keep renting the same movies with different names. Old married couples hoping to find themselves again in romance by going places they've already gone to and found romance many years ago (Elegy and Le Week End). Or dark elegaic poetry (General Orders No. 9) with no real purpose but somebody's notion of experimentation that neither excites nor pleases my senses of what movies should do. I want and hope for strange and funny nonsense in the guise and reality of reality (The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet), a good spy movie or high (not necessarily space) adventure. I need a break from my own preferences. But how when I'm still me?

Then somehow with the Grace of The Universe, I stumbled upon What Happened, Miss Simone***** and sat mesmerized in her joy and sadness and madness and survival. I loved it and her music. I'd already downloaded somebody else covering Mississippi God Damn, but when I heard her original version and realized she'd written it, I DLed it instead and paid for it and keep playing it and remembering a movie that pulled me up and made joy of her life.

It had a bunch of NFLX stars, so I tried it (three and a half or better, and I'll probably like it.) Strange 14-yr-old girl's been molested by her uncle while her Mom's supposedly in Treatment, then Mom escapes (and we assume goes back to drugging), meanwhile the kid — McKenzie, accidentally joins with a nice guy, camping in Alaska as he and his late wife did in years before, faces down a bear with him, but it's more emotion (and no sex, unlike the previous guy she latched onto) than excitement. Odd duck of a movie, but remarkable of people being people. It works and it keeps working. Kinda a road pic. Kinda just wrong, but she's got little choice, then does well considering (but it's a movie, of course, so she would). I liked the kite lady and her friends the best. Oddly ending. No tellin'. Gorgeous Alaskan scenery, often up close and personal like the bear. Wildlike***

Unlike Miyazaki's movies, there's not much to pull us into this documentary of him working in his studio and dealing with all the people that need dealing with daily in the creation of magical movies. If The Kingdom of Dreams & Madness***/ doesn't get something going besides the camera, it will fail. I keep hoping for animation samples or different colored hats. Slow, anything but magical or gentle and kind like the Studio Ghibli movies I love. Then, at one poignant point a little more than halfway through this otherwise often boring documentary, Miya-san says, "It's taken on so much and gotten so big. But well, that's it." The interviewer asks, "Aren't you worried about the studio's future?" He says, "The future is clear. It's going to fall apart. What's the use worrying? It's inevitable. Ghibli is just a random name I got from an airplane. It's only a name." Then he lights yet another cigarette and walks into the garden. But there's 53:24 left, so after that, I was so much more interested in what he said and did. His spirits climbed and fell, and he finished the movie he told a screening audience was the only film he ever made that made him cry. I feel that way about his movies. Now I need to see more of them — especially the ones I haven't already, several of which were listed in The Movies of Studio Ghibli, Ranked from Worst to Best and wikia's List of Studio Ghibli Flms.

I've been watching Manhattan about the creation of the first atomic bomb in the hills of New Mexico during the Second World War. It's very well done, but I wonder about its truths. Did these things really happen, or is it fictionalized. I don't know. Yet. So I checked Netflix' reviews, and sure enough, as the first reviewer cites, "If you are looking for reality about the Manhattan project this is not for you. Entertaining yes, Stupid at times, good to watch, but not historically accurate." I assumed as much, but I am still enjoying it, and will watch more till the stupids take over. Manhattan***/. I can't bold or count it yet, because I haven't seen the whole seaon, but from what I've seen, I might.

I started watching this streaming on Netflix. Liked it so much, I wanted to stretch it out the next day and the one after that. By the first tomorrow, NFLX had changed it from streaming to DVD-only, and I had to get the DVD a couple days later and watched it in one sitting. Our anti-hero is William H. Macy, who is always amazing. With some other actors, of course, but nobody that good. He carries this movie that's all about him. He's married with a small child named Sammy, but has an unexplained passion for a woman (Neve Campbell) he meets in the waiting room at his shrink's office, although he never quite figures out why he's there. He's a hit man who wants to stop murdering people, but his father (Donald Sutherland) won't let him and mayhem ensues. It is a little funny, distinctly odd, but it's not a comedy. It is the tragedy it should be, dark and brooding and as serious and a bullet in the gut. Panic****

This is the worst Will Smith acting I've ever seen. Kinda a stupid movie in too many important ways. He's the Dad, and his kid (in real life, too) needs to travel long and difficult to get the beacon, turn it on so outer space can get the message and rescue them, which, of course, takes the whole movie. Sometimes it's outstanding with well thought-through concepts and monsters and reasons, and sometimes it's just not. Kid's better than the Dad acting here, which adds another layer of disbelief. It being a film by M. Night Shyamalan doesn't help. After Earth**/, which maybe an asterisk too far.

Netflix' envelope says, "Returning to Paris long after their honeymoon there, a British couple hopes to rediscover the magical feelings of their early years together. There, they meet an old friend whose perspectives on love and marriage help them recover what was lost." I quote that, because it is not anything like my understanding of this movie, which just went on and on. Old couple falling rapidly in and out and in then out again in love, kinda stuck in Paris worrying whether the other one loves them back. But the end of them dancing in a bistro seemed to make a little sense. Le Week-End**/

It has its exciting moments, but it's often tedious. Plot guarantees we don't know if she's a good guy or bad. After the first flip-flop, I lost a lot of interest. Now it's easy to put it down. I want to finish the fool thing, but I'm not eager. Complex plot — if that's what all that talking is. I liked Mr. Milquetoast as the old friend field operative, though he's not fully credible. But then, it is a movie. Long, drawn-out complex plot obfuscates everything like they got paid by the minute. Still, Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation***/ Has its moments.

Thought surely this one was going to be another stupid TV show, but it was a fairly intelligent move. Halleluja! It's about a guy who never dies. Claims he started out as Cain. You know, the one in the Bible. He's been trying to be good for awhile, just get by. Had a deal with somebody worked in a hospital, so he had a blood source. Then his blood source borrowed money from a loan shark, and the shark got wind of our hero. There's something of a love interest, and a human daughter, so I thought could see more episodes, but it didn't happen. Good story. Decent acting. The exposition goes on. Lotta blood. Netflix warns: "This movie is: Violent." and it is, but I laughed often, so I classify it as a dark, dark comedy. Then toward the end, I kinda wanted to see the next couple more episodes. Maybe he could have gone after some politicians. Richly rewarding. He Never Died***/ is unique. 2015  1h 37m

Not sure how I selected this one. It's about Tower Records, which I did not recognize. I thought it was a Black Music label. What it was was a mass-market record store with heart and soul and guys at the top who didn't mind going into debt to keep it going. Then the bank stepped in and restructured and fired everybody. Kinda an old story. When everything is going great, it's hard to believe you have to live within your means. When it's not, it's too late. Nice dream. Hippie dippie culture really. All Things Must Pass***/

I keep being surprised how well this movie was made, put together, paced, filmed later and kept real. How much of an emotional punch it has. It's a documentary about an astronaut, but it's got heart and a lot of soul, too. Way beyond the usual techno-wonders of our glorious and lately often almost entirely missing space program from way back to the beginning. More than a glimpse into everything of any real importance about the early years and late. Oh, it's got some of the same footage we've seen a lot over the last couple centuries, but it brings more to the table. And at times, many times really, it's honestly endearing. I'm impressed. The Last Man on the Moon***/

What an amazing surprise. The Sugar Industry has determined that sugar is not detrimental to humans. Just like the Tobacco Industry decided that tobacco had no detrimental effect on humans. So we know it's absolutely true and irrefutable. This movie, called Sugar Coated**/ gives their side and the other side. Guess who is winning? And who's losing? About the sugar industry: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.?

I don't remember anything else but the title, but that other title keeps going through my mind as I watch this movie, that's still got a ways to go. That title was Me & Earl and the Dying Girl, and I don't remember much else about it. But there, in this lovely, really, movie, we have a dying girl. She's cute and young and hasn't done a whole list full of things yet, but she's got a boyfriend who loves her — it is a movie, right? And a father who's gonna miss her terribly, and a mother, too, ditto, except she's semi-estranged. And we've seen a lot of blood, mostly from her nose, so we think we know about this dying thing. The doc has just told her she's going to die way before she thought she was (Doesn't everybody?) But she does have a boyfriend who is quite literally the boy next door. And so far, except for the ten ounces or so of blood, it's been pretty clean. It's only got 12:54 to go, but we've already had most of the credits, so at least that's out of the way. So annoying to have them up front, but I guess none of us would ever look at the fool things otherwise. So they're in love, and they have a special place with a view of the ocean, and they're up there now. Now what? He's carrying her in silhouette down the big hill, and on the way there's running horses across the fence from her on his motorcycle, lotta dramatic music. All the story lines are coming together. The dιnouement musta been awhile ago. The nurse, who was talking about morphine just a minute or two ago, is talking about days left, "and eventually, Tess, you'll just drift away," nurse promises. So it'll continue movie clean. Now, she's getting philosophical. Moments. "Our life is a series of moments. … Let them go." I don't know if she's dead already or what. We're seeing the meaningful ones now. She's letting go. Tears are dripping. "All gathering for this one." The screen goes black. Now Is Good***/

Wow! Thatsa some crazy kinda movie. No way I can explain T.S. Spivet or his wild adventure riding the rails, then an 18-(maybe more) wheeler into Washington D.C. from his family's ranch in Montana to accept an award for creating an perpetual-motion device (although it really will only work for 400 years) at the Smithsonian Museum. Exquisite and nearly divine silliness ensues at every step. It's eloquent and absurd and I loved every minute, except at first I worried a bit till I realized it's one of those movies where nothing really bad happens to our hero — except maybe getting a couple ribs bent or broke (I know that feeling, so even more empathy) because of a schizoid cops who tried to stop our little 10-year-old hero before he got to D.C., and when the creepy lady at the Smithsonion hugs him for the camera, he screams in pain. Yee-haw! The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet**** is fun and funny and amazing nearly every second all the way through.

I'm watching Close Encounters of the Third Kind 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition: Disk 3, but I can't stand watching it very long. The mail man did not pick up today's outgoing red envelopes, so I have to park them in the PO bin tomorrow. All out of flix again, except all those fifty or so on My List, the couple dozen in my Queue with Play buttons; and whatever Amazon has they'll throw at me next time I reopen my Fire. Life sucks then you watch another movie.

Remarkably good story. Great characters. Probably pretty realistic for two kids on the lam from their drug-addicted moms and the world. High and low adventures finding enough food to survive on without the basics of cooking and keeping ahead of the law. We like these kids, and pretty much we believe in them. But hijinks sometimes turn into lowjinks and the jig's about to be up. Startlingly good story all the way. Good kid dealing with life as he knows it, learning every step of the way. The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Peter****

Jafar Panahi's Taxi**** only got three stars from the Netflix computer I've been relying on for so long. Three. For a marvel of a movie that mixes real life, politics and people who know and don't know what Panahi's up to. A cinematic joy. The Netflix people call it "Understated, Irreverant," and it certainly is. It's also a lot of fun, as the famous director drives a cab around Tehran picking up people at mostly random, so we get to glimpse the lives of Iranians who take taxis, with a few of Panahi's friends and family thrown in for good measure and more humanity.

I tried to watch A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, but I just could not. Then I saw that Netflix' omnipotent computer only gave it three stars, and I understood.

Then I watched A Girl Like Her**** and was surprised I liked it. The POV camera, even when her friend Brian wasn't shooting her life, gave it another couple asterisks of reality. It's not just about bullying in high school, it shows someone so lost in bullying her former best friend every time she saw her, that even the bullyer could not accept that she had done it. Rather emotional. We see what it's like being bullied, because Brian rigged a tiny video cam in a pin the girl who lies in a hospital bed after downing 50 hydrocodones, because she couldn't face the bullying any more. It is moralistic, but it's not stupid about it. I kept being surprised how realistic it seemed. I didn't know what it was about before I watched it. It surprised me.

It's either about justice or revenge. Probably revenge, although there's some justice in it. At two hours and thirty-six minutes, it's hardly a quickie. On and on, back and forth. A bunch of trappers abandon our hero after he was maulted by a bear, so our hero has to kill the worst s.o.b. of the bunch. That about sums it, but that sum leaves out a lot of character, determinism, and yes even kindness. I had to look up the title. A revenant is a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead. The Revenant****

I had no idea that was Mickey Rourke. Never even considered the possibility. Soon as I saw the line-up of stars after the title, I knew I'd like this one. Not like Amazon that strings them out just for pretend. Netflix at least doesn't lie about that. It's a movie about forgiveness with a little retribution thrown in. Then there's honesty and real friendship and a lot of silly stuff about football that doesn't really make much sense but it's not completely outrageous, and it sorta fits in, even if it is all together stupid. The rest of the movie — the parts about honesty and friendship are sterling — and almost real. Ashby***/

One of the climbers talks about "the rich history of climbing in Yosemite," and that's what this movie is all about. Lotsa guys — mostly guys; one amazing woman among the tribes — go up one way or another. It's getting quicker, and it's getting more free, but climbing those famous walls keeps changing, and the people who do it do, too. Fascinating history. Sure wish I'd seen this before I did my one and only visit to Yosemite. Not that I need to climb stone walls, but just so I'd have some notion of what the places I visited there were about. A little bit of their history past John Muir. Amazing movie. Chills and thrills every time a new generation gives their all to go up those stone faces. Fun. Scary. Amazing. Valley Uprising****

The one director who has made more of my all-time favorite movies than any other is Terry Gilliam. Twelve Monkeys, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Baron Von Munchausen, Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, the Monty Pythons are all certified masterpieces. Lost in La Mancha and The Brothers Grimm less so perhaps — I gave each two stars. Four to Life of Brian, thought I never cottoned all that much to the Pythons. But so many amazing movies. So I just had to see The Directors: Terry Gilliam*** to be reminded of all those greats. I didn't think I'd had the pleasure of Tideland. Nice to have something to look forward to. Put it in the queue. Oh, it's already got five gold stars. Funny, I don't remember that one. Oh, well. I have to see 12 Monkeys and Time Bandits and Baron Von every few years.

Netflix tells me they have received DCI Banks, and I look at the picture, and he looks farily familiar, so I must have seen it, and recently, but I'm drawing a blank. I remember Jack Irish from a couple days ago, and both languages of Wallendar (Swedish, then English) from years ago. But DCI Banks? I found another one, no doubt, from months ago, but I'm pretty sure I saw one this week. I musta liked it, huh? Luther, I remember. He's still vivid. I should probably review Luther.

Jack Irish***/ is a bill-collector of sorts, who plays the horses and has a lot of ragtag friends in low places, and I'm so glad there's only one of this crime detective story, because I really enjoyed in once, but don't want to fool with it on and on. (Oops! Turns out it's Disk One, but I promise not to follow it down.) Couple of pretty women and a lot of graft, bad cops and pols on the take here, with some fast action, not much in the way of a car chase, but there's a nasty bit of shoot-em-up from a motorcycle and Jack has a nice Studebaker in good condition.

My Beautiful Broken Brain***/ is a different sort of story about someone who's had a stroke, of her recovery, re-recovery and each step along the way, shown not only in her reporting about her own understandings, and her doctors', but also in what seem like, watching the movie, as her actually experiencing the brain damage and regrowth in animated, visual drawings and video diary-ing. So it's a very visual telling and showing that helps out understanding. It has its ups and downs, but throughout it all it is very colorful and extremely visual. In addition to her visual diary and daily (I think) video recordings. The movie has a direct and easy to follow visual trajectory, aided and abetted by all that additional visual. Fascinating, overall. Quite well edited and shot, without ever being slick or overly commercial.

I've loved Les Blank's movies about Southern Musics and other sound catchers who go around finding the best home-made music. Chris Strachwitz, who started Arhoolie Records more than fifty years ago, has spent his life catching those tunes and the people who made them, many of whom have since achieved a little or big sort of stardom because Strachwitz put their music on Arhoolie, which has its business side, but without the fun side shown over and over in this movie, nearly nobody would have have known them. If you like Cajun, Cojunto, Bluegrass or other American musics, you'll like this movie. This Ain't No Mouse Music***/

It's yet another Brit police detective and one based on a series of novels, which are oddly rewritten or redirected to be about women, though it stars young male who's not nearly as smart as he seems to think he is This is an elderly DVD disk I apparently lost in the miasmas of my office, and now I hope I'm sending it back within the grace period, so I will get my money back on it. It's certainly not worth keeping, and it's absurd to call it any kind of masterpiece. Masterpiece Mysteries: The Inspector Lynley Mysteries: A Cry for Justice*/ was so bad I closed the fool thing up and sent it back to Netflix. Really stupid plot.

I've been procrastinating getting this concert video for years. Turns out, I already have many of the tunes from either this or the concert of the McGarrigle Sisters when they learned one of them was dying in 2010. This barely one-hour concert features many of the songs the McGarrigle wrote or made famous sung by some pretty famous and much less than famous people, including one sister's ex, Loudin Wainright III, their children Rufus and Martha, of both of whom I am a big, if not constant, fan, and two really famous singers, Linda Rondstat and Emmylou Harris (Rondstat is actually at this concert; Harris was videoed looks like at somebody's home, so not exactly at this concert, more like added in later. Kate M's ex, Loudin Wainright and Children Martha and Rufus, from both of whom I have have many tunes and some regard for, are also featured in this mostly mediocre video. The McGarrigle Hour**/

Another Star Wars, and another couple of hours of nostalgia mixed with the same old gimmicks and battles and fights and heartstrings when we see yet another old friend role show up. I'm ready for something entirely new and different and higher tech. Meanwhile, Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens *** will do me for awhile. Some adventure. Some new characters. I like the girl and the Black guy, and they're bound to get hitched sooner or later. Ho-hum. I guess we're stuck in and endless rinse cycle. Somebody pull the plug!

What do we do when the hero looks to all the world like a government-certified villain? Even if he's reporting on bad actions by the government who is accusing him of espionage or worse, we probably believe the gummint, despite their long history of lying to us. That's what Underground: The Julian Assange Story***/ is about. It's an interesting but not great movie. Mostly good actors — some recognizable; almost a compelling story, unfortunately kinda simplistic, though I enjoyed it. In this story, The U.S. Government is lying about bombing a known civilian bomb shelter in Iraq, early in our first war with them, and honorable hacker Assange can't get the word out through the media and gummint agents are tracking him down. When he argues that the U.S. purposely targeted a civilian shelter, the boss agent who is about to snap handcuffs on him assures him, "They wouldn't do that," but of course they did, and probably much worse, because there was no easy way to report such atrocities. And until right about then, there was no Internet. After Assange paid a fine, he founded WikiLeaks which is fascinating and, among many other things, includes the Hilary Clinton Email Archive, which is completely searchable. I searched "top secret," and netted 198 results in groups of 50.

This one's not a movie but it is a movie. They are three remarkably superior detective stories. Scary. Fierce. Complex. Involving. Good characters. Excellently complex yet compelling plot. Solid resolution through detective work despite that it was a police cover-up. Nice interplay of human beings. I assume it will go downhill now, after the first hurray. But European movies of this pedigree often go up instead. The Brits can terribly disappoint or startle and amaze. I'll happily watch more, although I'll probably keep the English captions turned on, so I will ken what they're saying. Dark Work****

By now, you'd think anything Maggie Smith was in would be amazing and wonderful, but this one ain't. I know she could do it better, so I'll just blame the director for being awestruck and not insisting she do her best.

I expected to and really wanted to watch the Public TV movie about Janis Joplin earlier this week, but since I so seldom watch TV on a TV, I couldn't figure out how to make it work, so I missed it. Then came the one from NFLX I'd already ordered, and it was so disappointing in so many technical ways, and its interface, probably from the last century, truly sucked, but it captured her soul in all its rawness and told her story amazing well, so I have to give Janis: Little Girl Blue**** four asterisks, because it told the story all the way right up to her death and what might have happened right after. Raw but uncensored.

Fingers, hands or sticks, drums can be magic. I've had little ones and I've had big ones, but I can't make them do what I'm thinking, although lessons might help. One of my nieces has a drum set I like to hit when her house to myself. I like getting a rhythm going and staying then straying. So. I'm fascinated when someone who really knows what they are doing "plays" and it just sounds so. Perfect. These guys are teaching, but they are also playing and working and being real and themselves. N i c e  drumming. A Drummer's Dream****

Excellent choice, J R. This one's about confidence and getting our shit together. To do what needs doing. The teacher teaches. The student doesn't think she can but the teaches her that she can and she does. A comedy. Not a laugh out loud funny comedy, but neither is it a tragedy. We learn, we adjust, and that is often part of the human comedy. Sweet little film starring actors we wouldn't normally think would be in a film together, yet they fit together so perfectly in this one. Learning to Drive***/

I finally finished Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine***/. Took me awhile, because early on it wasn't all that exciting. Probably because I'd seen that other Steve Jobs movie so soon before. This one is different. During Apple's Evil Giant period, which may well continue, I wanted to find someone else who makes computers as well. But far as I know, there isn't any such thing. I got onboard with the Mac the second year of its existence, and still use them almost every day of my life in most of my endeavors. But when this movie showed us Jobs' and Apple's evil side, I wanted to get away from it, which, like so many other major corporations, had lost its soul. I suspect it lost that when Woz quit. Jobs was a genius, but a flawed one, seems to be the story here. Not a surprising revelation, but a sobering one. I still wish someone honest out there would make a decent computer, but the movie was revealing and more than decent, often interesting unto fascination. I think I needed to watch it. Like a lesson that not all that is good is good for me.

Bosch***/ is a hard-boiled detective in L.A. He usually gets his man, but he doesn't always get the bad girls. I watched the first two series end-on-end, and I'd happily watch more if they're coming. Good stories, fine characters. amd the Art Dorector and/or the Cinematographer gots great sense of design, composition and taste. Free with Amazon Prime.

High adventure with a little boy who's only 14 after running from the Nazis for about three years. He gets caught but he always escapes or gets away. It's not easy on him, and he learns many jobs to earn enough to eat and loses an arm, and then, near the end of this charming but often tragic story he has to make a major decision. I had to stop it a couple times, I was so scared for him. Very well done story, solid acting, excellent camera work, chilling and thrilling. Run Boy Run***/

This is a sweet little movie. I'm well more than half way into it, and I keep being surprised how gentle and kind it is. So sweet it lilts. But never saccharine. There's a bit of bitter moving in from Ireland, where Ellis (That s is pronouced sh) came to Brooklyn**** from, where her dear sister has just died, and she feels it pulling at her, becuase there's no one left to take care of her mother, but she's in love here, and we think it'll be a forever, but first she has to go back to Ireland and make some mistakes. Lovely film. Good story. Believable.

I read about a movie about Fort Worth Native Ornette Coleman: Made In America* to be shown at the South Dallas Culture Center and for awhile I thought about going. Then I wondered if I could find it online, and I could, and am watching the Italian portion now. Buncha people waiting for something to happen. Then Ornette and his band is. These are the best moments of the film. Them playing. Very nearly the only worthwhile ones. I'm liking his drummer. Fast. I doubt non-jazz fans would find much to understand or appreciate, but [Oh, we've just switched to NYC, and the band still playing live. Interspersed with I assume African art, but not the best. Decent music. Film quality just got oodles better, then switches to mediocre concert audience coverage. The clean film is him telling how he came to do the music he did. Which was interspersed with William Burroughs reading at the Caravan of Dreams (in Fort Worth — yet another non sequitur. We get to see baffled audience. Then back to the clean film somewhere, people interviewing, Now we're getting flashing symbols while Ornette is talking about Buckminster Fuller. Oh, gosh, what a terrible terrible movie. I think the editor or camera-person thinks he's playing his axe like Coleman plays his. But not. Now some woman playing a fiddle sweetly under an uncovered geodesic dome. Oh, I'm so afraid they'll segue back in to the Forp Woof Sympathy Orchestra. At least the flick doesn't get terribler. It's just the same terrible, except when Ornette and band play. Oh, damn. It is the FW Simp Orch playing a la Coleman. I'll let it bleed out. I still like his music sometimes … I keep being about to give up on this miserable movie, then it gets slightly better. I like the kid who plays Ornette as a kid, especially toward the end when he finally emotes. Ornette, the child, playing sax duet with a train makes sense. Now the Holy Ghost as a white splatter is taking him away. Then back. I'm betting this was made in the Psychedelic age. Psycha relic, man. Or mayhaps just stoned. Still like that fast drummer. Now white people telling us who Coleman is. Yeah, right. Back to the symp orch playing Ornette's composition. He was probably pleased but I just don't know. Now white ladies are kissing on him and telling us how improtant they are, but thank the gods and goddesses, the movie is almost over.

The Secret World of Modern Algorithms***/ was fun to watch and educational. For one instance, I think I learned that heuristics, which word I've heard many times, have never had any understanding. Now I think I may have a glimpse into its use. It's a situation wherein the exact best solution has not been found, but what has been found is plenty good enough. Not that I could use it in a sentence or anything, but … And there were many of the situations that got my mind to working while watching the 58:19 minutes & seconds of this probably made for a TV series, but I'm accepting it as a movie, because, well, it works. And I was really pulling for the face-detector to detect the bee's face, but it did not.

There's something deeply wrong with this script. Got good actors, a couple of our better. But the story skips around and plays it for sentiment, when it could have played it for that science our heroes here kept talking about, instead of going for emotions. Too many holes in the story. Acting is good enough, I suppose, but there's just something deeply wrong. Concussion*** with Will Smith and Alec Baldwin.

Now I'm watching Ron Howard's In The Heart of the Sea*** that is too much like Moby Dick and not enough like the great movie this story should be, but when they finally get to the killer whale parts, the movie really is killer. Except, of course, I was pulling for the whale. Overall, I liked it. It's got adventure, morality, courage and most of those vaulted emotions, bad and good. There are, however, painfully slow moments, angers and depredation. Must be difficult to mount a movie against the whale in these quasi-sensitive times. This movie keeps taunting us about the famous American novel without just sitting down and telling us the story. Disappointing.

Oh, wow. That was a mistake. What makes a decent movie sure has changed in the last sixty years. Compared to Gregory Peck's Moby Dick, Ron Howard's In The Heart of the Sea is a masterpiece. I've seen some flicks that old that continue to stand up. This 1956 Moby Dick does not. How disappointing. Think I'll pass on the opportunity to review that one, because then I'd have to watch the whole thing. Queequeg's a White Guy. How lame.

Didn't know what to expect. Had not heard of this one. I only saw it, because Michael Caine was in it, and boy, was he. Sometimes this movie was wonderful. Other parts just not at all, but the wonderful parts were surreal and odd and nonlinear and amazing. And the others — well, some of them, were kinda dreadful, but most of it was way better than I could have known to expect. The movie-making is very very interesting, but at least one sub-plot that runs through it, especially toward the end, mostly sucks. Maybe it needed something to bring it back to earth while so much was stellar. Most of the soundtrack was classical. The one piece that was in the movie — I played that sequence of about a minute and a half — over and over, I so enjoyed that music — was not on the soundtrack album. But that syncopated tune was preceded by what I think was a woman's voice saying, "They were just getting ready to swing; coulda knocked me out with a baseball bat." So I googled those words and found LP4 playing Neckbrace, all 4 minutes and six seconds of a oddly rhythmic minor masterpiece of an electronic tune by Ratatat, that I liked immensely and still do. There was another scene, when Caine, who had been a famous musical conductor was on a hillside where were cows and other animals, and he just started conducting them. That tune was called Wood Symphony (Bonus Track) and it was on the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, all 1 minute and 24 seconds of it. Now I've sent the movie back, I'd like to see it again. But mostly it's about two old guys and their various lusts, which are shown in superreal color and texture. Lush. Youth**** despite the stupid parts toward the end.

What an outstanding travel movie. She takes four camels and a black dog from somewhere in Australia to the ocean, 17 hundred (I think) miles away. No fake joys or fake bad guys. Just good solid people and stupid people and her and her animal traveling companions, that this intelligent movie doesn't make mascots of. Beautiful movie. Thankfully not a documentary, so it had a better chance at soul and poetry. An ordeal for her, but she kept keeping on, helped along the way by those who helped along the way. A true story but probably less than dramatized story. One of the best movies I've seen in too long a time. It was called Tracks*****

The title is pretty mediocre, and for someone who valued the video of a jump almost more than the jump itself, his camera work was kinda mediocre, but he invented BASE Jumping and was very very good at it, until it killed him. We knew that from early on when his wife was talking about him in the past tense. So all through the movie, we already knew how it would end. Toward the end, however, the videos of him jumping into the sky got better and better. Probably a lot of people think or thought that the jump that finally killed him was ill-advised at best, and his wife was too tired to get up and go with him, and he'd arleady jumped an amazing jump that day, but he wanted more, and he got it, then he crashed into the wall. The story of Carl Boenish, inventor of BASE Jumping. I guess the worst thing about it was the stupid title, Sunshine Superman***

Sanje's Super Team**** was amazing on so many levels. Beautiful imagery, of course. Many amazing cloud textures, and so good of Pixar to do such an ecumenical story. I'm shocked and amazed. Wow. It was the color cartoon with The Good Dinosaur ****, which also surprised me how good it was — sometimes Disney confuses Pixar flicks, but this was a lovely full-length cartoon that fit superbly with Sanje. Nice to experience a movie-maker with universal soul, and really shocking that it's Disney.

I didn't expect to like this one this much, although I've loved her novels and almost everything directors have made of them. The saddest part was her mother burning her letters we'd heard her writing all the way through. I flinched with shock. What a trove of feelings lost to the world! I didn't and don't understand, but this story is, according to the Netflix blurb-velope, which I always ignore till I've seen the movie, was "based on her life and her actual correspondence with friends, family and would-be suitors," so the real-life Jane Austin's letters were not destroyed. Well, good. Masterpiece Classics: Miss Austen Regrets****

Until Nam, I was a Catholic. Not always in Nun schools, thank God, but enough to traumatize me for life. Then at the U of Dallas, they tried to teach me Catholic Logic. It didn't take, and it didn't make any more sense than Military Intelligence, which I also skip-jumped through. But I kept going to church till a priest in Nam told me to kill a Commie for Christ, and I quit. I didn't kill anybody, although I got shot at enough, and two of the bases I was at got hit bad. I guess I already knew The Church was corrupt, and I'm glad I didn't know about all those priests diddling little boys and girls, and the cardinals and bishops moving those monsters around every time they got caught, so they could do it to more kids. These are the reporters were who finally started stopping them. But there's lots more Church issues to be reported, and movies seem to be the right medium to tell all those stories. Spotlight***/ was the reporters who got the goods on the Catholic officials who traumatized millions of kids all over the world. Assuring they were doing God's work while delivering evil. Good-enough flick, but not amazing — except for the story — a little slow, and only a little personal besides the reporters. But it built suspense like the best espionage bringing down the Mob.

I love seeing Tom Selleck as Paradise Cove Police Chief Jesse Stone the detective with a heart. I keep thinking I've seen all the 90-minute episodes, then another one shifts into view, and I get to see another. If I remember right, most of these little movies include Paradise in the titles. Wouldn't it be nice if real small town cops could be this nice. I've seen enough of these that I automatically give Jesse all the trust I have. I'm pretty sure it's the best series he's ever been in, although I used to like him in Hawaii, too. There's always interesting characters, and the plot is usually not transparent, and I dearly hope there's a couple more out there I haven't yet seen. Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise***/

I was about to give up on this one after a few of its stories. Oh, I liked the little kid one, but not many of the others, although it was earlier this week, so I'm not sure which they were. Then came the guitarist, and I liked the enigma of it, though not the cruelty. Then was the one that started in the graveyard where Oscar Wilde was buried. I liked that more. I wondered if my new luck would hold. The blind man and the actress is going great. Then a couple more winners, and I began to wonder when some of the characters from previous sequences would come back. And they did! How very lovely. Paris, Je T'aime***/ in mostly French but English, too.

It was difficult there for awhile, but I had to finish Trumbo, which troubled me, because I was blacklisted after I'd been the editor and publisher of an underground newspaper in Dallas, and it was difficult to find any job, let alone follow the trajectory I'd had going before Dallas NOTES from the Underground and Hooka, which were and maybe still are the happiest jobs I've ever had, even if they never paid anything at all. Maybe that's why the cops and others in power back then called me "a Communist."       But I finished watching the movie, and I was glad I did. In the end, the hero wins. I think I did, too. But it was rough there for awhile. Trumbo***/

Oh, this is so beautifully filmed. Especially in the eloquent moments of change and not-quite understanding. So much more natural than that hetero sex scene. Her alone was better, but then … I tried this movie before, but I had no appreciation or understanding. Different mood now. Luscious when the camera settles on her. So we want more. Hardly matters who she's with. She's beginning to understand who she is, and the camera loves her. All that just passed me over last time. This time, I can't take my eyes off the screen. Serene. Luscious movie. A coming of age story. Figuring out first-person singular. Hardly matters what ism she's after or whether she gets it, but we hope she will. Then after awhile I got so tired of all the lesbien sex that still held back a couple parts. The spaghetti scene was amazing, too. And then. Blue is The Warmest Color***/

I still wonder how I got this DVD. It's not the sort of movie I like. It's inspirational, and it's sad and it's strange, because Lizzie Velasquez is physically distorted and scarily thin, so she was the butt of much bullying and insults when she was very young. She is inspiring, but it's not a great movie. A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story***

I knew about "the digital visionary who changed the world," as my Netflix envelope tells me. I bought my first, underpowered Macintosh in 1985 back when I still watched TV, so I saw the Super Bowl ad, had known about it for awhile already. I was a fan. Am a fan. But it's hard to believe this movie is as wicked good as it is. It's fast and dense — not as in stupid, but as in fully packed and complex. I figured Jobs must have been all those things, even emotionally dense and slightly stupid, as well as utterly brilliant. This pic shows all that. I may need to watch it again soon, but I got four more today, and I'll need to go through those, too. Scintillating — as in brilliantly and excitingly clever and skillful. Remarkable movie. Steve Jobs****/ I'm impressed.

I was desperate for a movie, and all Amazon or Netflix would give is TV show episodes, and I wasn't having it. So after three or four obvious not-gonna-happen flicks, I happened upon a lilting, very close to reality, quasi romance about two people in New York City with no money and credit cards that don't work and dreams that get bashed during the night, but each has something they need to work out on the morrow. We think they belong together, but they're not listening to the audience, but by the end, they're wiling to try what they think they need to do. Nice. Mellow. Almost all pleasant. Lovely, lilting music, too. No stupid torrid sex, no naked, no all that Hollywood hogwash. Just a man, a woman and a little adventure, and at the denouement they visit a actor Holling Vincoeur, the tavern owner from Northern Exposure who plays a psychic imparting wisdom they're not quite ready to accept, but truly brightens this little almost romance. Before We Go****

I'm watching Room, but it seems so ominous now, I don't want to watch it for very long. It's one of those I have to come back to. Right now she's trying to teach the kid how to get out and get free, but the kid's not getting it — no motivation for his act. Mom's got the motivation, but the kid's too young to have a clue, and I can't stand watching it for very long, and I might be happier never finishing it. Kinda ditto with 12 Years A Slave. Everybody says both of these are good, but … They rend, and I'm not up to rending at the moment. Pretty much the same with Suffragette. Men are evil. Life is mean enough, I don't have to watch more of it. I sent them back.

I got this one, because Hugh Laurie (House) was in it. It was my only reason for picking it, and when it wasn't strange it was weird and set in a South Sea Island where truly stupid rebel forces landed every once in a while just to stir up the native and kill some people and feed them to the pigs. Now I guess I gotta watch Great Expectations again to know who he was here and why, but I  very likely haven't seen it this century again, so at least I can count it — wonder how far to go back to get a good one. Very strange but ultimately, though not concurrently, satisfying. Laurie keeps getting involved in less-than-wonderful film choices. Pip***/

I just kept getting angrier with this movie about a boy in a Nazi-occupied town during World War II, who finds an British aviator after his airplane crashes nearby. And then he doesn't tell any adults, and does almost everything wrong — including the kid driving his bike on then falling through ice, but even though a German soldier risks his own life to save him, he doesn't ever say thanks (danka) to anyone, sets up a crossing with a ferry to somewhere where the pilot will be free, but it's a double-cross and everything he does is just wrong. But the pilot eventually gets away regardless of this kid's ignorance and/or stupidity is highly uncredible. I'm sure he was supposed to be a hero, but he wasn't. Winter In Wartime**

It's a lilting, often touching, but mostly a real buddy flick. Except the young woman who's passed herself off as a nanny really becomes a caring one. They live in a mansion, and his parents are gone most of the time, and I suspect they'd rather be gone all the time. The nanny does the close-in family stuff. The kid's extraordinarily smart and talented — words, math and music, so far. Intelligent about other stuff, too. Runs his own life as much as he can get away with. She has problems, not really issues, but her ex is whining to get back together after he got her fired pitching a tantrum where she worked, or she wouldn't have fallen into this cush job. Now her father is dying after Afghanistan and alcoholism. The ending — that we didn't want anyway — starts suddenly, then drags on while we still don't want it to. Really nice though that the title, that's also the title of the composition he wrote and plays with other kids early on, and in snippets all the way through, catches back up with us near the end, and carries us away. The tune and the movie is called Like Sunday, Like Rain****. Often after the motion, I click a movie off, but this time, I just let it play. Visually, too, it's almost exquisite.

We only get to see him dowsing for a few minutes those several times he obviously pursued his lost children the same way he dowsed for water early in the movie, but he's dowsing all without a stick through the movie. Seeking but not necessarily finding. It's high and low adventure, travel and a lot of his history thrown in. He is a gentle man, which helps us identify, and he meets other gentle — and not-so-gentle men in his pursuit of his boys, all of whom were believed to have been killed in a war. Beautiful scenery, diverse characters, fast and slow action. I was delighted. The Water Diviner***/ starring Russell Crowe as the seeker, Ukrainian Olga Kurylenko, his Turkish love interest, and her son Australian Dylan Georgiades as the Turkish boy who beguiles us all.

I love this movie. Already seen it all the way through. Now I'm about a quarter into my second run. Then I watched it again. I might finally be happy with four run-throughs. Not sure I'm learning much or understanding more, I just like watching. And listening. Lots of plates spinning and other stuff going on, including the ocassional asside. Things most movies just don't do. Loud music. People actually explaining things in terms I can understand. A Crocodile too close in somebody's pool just to keep the excitement rising. And it's not a short movie. Well, 2 hurs and ten minutes. Goes fast. Great acting. Thick plot. Fast thinking and fast talking. It's a movie game changer. The Big Short*****

I'm told I liked Rio. Which is possible. I frankly don't remember all the movies I've seen. Rio2** would have been more amusing if I hadn't been writng and piecing together story elements all day. Getting the text to run true and quick. But I could easily have fallen asleep toward the end of this, and I do want a movie that will wake me up and make me laugh. This wasn't it. Worse, I watched it on a TV across the room at a friend's house. Here, where I type and where I watch countless movies, I'm only a couple feet from the screen, where even subtle details catch my attention. The story was simplistic. The ending hackneyed like sequels tend. I'd rather watch the original again. Netflix' amazing computer suggests I'd give it a mere two and a half stars, and, as usual, it's almost right.

I think I didn't like The Invisible Woman***, and at first I wanted to go back and see what really happened there and there and there, but then I tired of that, too. I didn't like him. I wanted more from him, to know him better, learn more about who he really was. But I didn't much like her, either, and she's the deal here. If I don't like either of them, how could I possibly enjoy their life together, strained and difficult as it was. But it's hard to see how she could have liked that life, although it's easy to see how he might. I liked the ending more than anything but the first moments of the train wreck, where he still could not bring himself to honor her presence. I got nothing against her acting. It seemed right on track, rather good. His lacked somewhat, however. Not always a great idea to have the director act, too. Who's to tell him how bad he is.

I remember when Gary Powers was shot down in his U2 while photodocumenting Russia from 70,000 feet. I don't remember the complicated, three-way exhange of prisoners, but governments — ours and theirs — tend to do business that way, and I liked the way the CIA, the KGB and the East Germans were all shown to be fools they most certainly where. I like the films Tom Hanks chooses to be in. This time he looked like a harried lawyer, and I believed that he was one — the one who negotiated the trade of spies and a hapless American student who crossed over to the wrong side of the iron curtain at the worst possible time. Spielberg knows how to spin a yarn. Did not like the title early or late. Iit makes some sense, though not enough. Bridge of Spies***/

It's a happy ending, to be sure. The dots were all in a row. The disparate parts were connected with logic and emotion. But it wasn't right. Aspergers don't suddenly see the point in everything bad and good, and everybody lives happily ever after. I don't believe it, even though I was happy for them to be happy at the end. And I never liked the title, either. I loved the explanations, and I wanted more of those. Near the end those came faster than they had before, but I liked the solutions to the problems pitched in the international brainiac competitions, too. Especially. But I guess then that would have been another movie, and this one suffers for the illogic and happily ever after absurdity. A Brilliant Young Mind***/ has its moments, though few, and those are fine.

Remember in The Sixth Sense, where we learned that scary or strange movies — even when their stories get pretty far out — if they keep true to the rules established in and by that movie, they make sense? When that sort of intra-film honesty adheres, those movies are intelligible, and they let its viewers know they're not being fooled or having their minds and expectations unduly messed with. Well, I sure get the idea that this one was messing with my mind just before the denouement. But then, it's a movie, and that's what movies do. Eventually, Passengers***/ works. Plus, it's got Andre Braugher in a serious and important role and David Morse in a not altogether evil one.

I hadn't seen this one since some time late in that last big century, so it's not listed on these pages already. But I remember being amazed by its complexity and the joy of the gimp being the devil himsefl. — and getting away with it. It didn't hurt that Kevin Spacey starred. Or all those other guys who either were or would become stars. Complex, exciting, intriguing, with plenty of intricate action and a bunch of average-intelligence cops who never quite caught up with Kyser Sozι. The Usual Suspects****

If you have acrophobia, this might be pretty scary. I haven't often let it get the best of me, but I have a little of that fear, and this movie scared me often enough I had to turn it off, and come back to it later, but I was too fascinated to not watch. It's about a close-knit team of mountain-climbers who go for one of the big ones — the Shark's Fin on India's Mount Meru. And it's amazing to see how they do it, inch by inch, through storms, frostbite, trench foot and other dangers, including being dragged thousands of feet down inside the major avalanches, turning back, going all the way up, defeat and accomplishment, teamwork and deep, trusting friendships. First-person cinematography's amazing good, and often it's just gorgeous. Meru****

For a long time, I was just angry with this movie. I kept watching for a few minutes, then tuning into something else, almost anything else. I remember I once loved a woman who worked at the crazy kids ward at a children's hospital center, and she told me the hardest thing was to not be angry with the kids for being the way they were, and I was angry at this movie and especieally Lily Tomlin's character for being the curmudgeon she was. But it's a movie about transitions, and of course Lily and a couple others, had to transit. Lily was Grandma***.

I thought it was just going to be one movie, so I got worried when it jumped into two more hours of Episode Two, but it was worth it. Just getting to see snippets from all those movies, was worth the trip. Getting into Woody Allen's head — as far as any of us are likely to get — is fabulous. Lots of talking heads, of course. But not a dullard in the bunch. Worst thing about it, is now I have to go back and watch the ones I missed and go back to some that I loved and see them again. And again. Woody is Woody, and his movies are amazing or dull or some kind of wonderful. Nice to have seen something from nearly every one of them, and learning how they all fit together. Woody Allen, A Documentary****

I've seen only a short spectrum of anime, but I have my favorites, and this is of that ilk. Asian in sensitive feeling — and probably the brats are part of that, too. But intelligent in its humaness and character. A Letter to Momo***/ met my needs for some wild spirituality and kindness. Probably directed at teens, but I liked it.

This one has more glitz than sense. Seems very smart, but it's stupid. It is intricate, like bank robbery flicks of yore. Overall disappointing. Good actors, though. Fun to watch. Seemed involving and complex. And though it never quite accomplished simplicity, we got burned watching it. Denzel was too flashy, not nearly as smart as it seemed he was going to be. Not entirely a waste of time. Just not nearly as intelligent as it wanted us to think it was. Disappointing. Inside Man*** Myeh.

I don't know how many episodes in the three seasons I watched this week all of. I don't know how long each episode is. I did a few things between watching and watching more, but most of this week I have been watching more. Devouring this TV show, like I have devoured only a very spare few other shows, end on end, as fast as they'd run through my Fire HD and my elderly Mac. Episode after episode. I didn't tire of it. Or find the later episodes a little stupider or the already too many characters to keep up with too many to keep up with. I only wanted more. For the week, I've been an addict, constantly shooting up Newsroom*****, because I loved it — the snappy dialog, the credible and lovable characters, the complexity of it all, the truths and pain and love and everything else that goes into doing journalism. Of course, I identified. Bigtime. And yeah, I wanted it to go on and on and on. But even if it doesn't I'm thrilled to have got to see all that intelligence rolled out onto devices that look and/or feel a lot like a television. Best thing I've seen in far too long.

Months later I started watching it again, and got caught up in that fever again.

I knew how this one was going to end, and I avoided watching it (too). I have no doubt that Shrubbya got in the Texas Guard because of his father's connections, and that honest journalism has less and less a chance in contemporary America, and it hurt to watch Truth***/ because the truth hurts — most of all the people who tell it.

Most the time I was watching it, I didn't want to keep watching it, so I kept putting it back in its little black and red and white envelope till I was a lot more bored than I already was. Then I'd watch more of it, but it took several sittings before I finished it, and now I think I might know better than to watch an early Coen Brothers movie, except they got better at it later. The Man Who Wasn't There**/ only really wanted to not be there.

First time I saw Wall-E**** I went with someone who was not used to watching symbols act like humans, and we spent most of our time explaining what was going on, so we missed a lot of the subtleties until they fell asleep, and we let them. This time I was amazed again. This time I got to just let it flow in front of me, and that was very satisfying.

This one's a sweet, old-fashioned 21st Century weeper. Gentle, a little bittersweet when it needs to, about a woman taking a business through its early growth phases fast, and a retired guy who signs on as The Intern****. It helps that he's Robert De Niro with all the classic, Middle 20th Century movie charm and everything down to those amazing colors everywhere — the Art Director must have made it look that way on purpose, because several times I thought I was watching Cary Grant, and it wouldn't have been a surprise if Doris Day came dancing into the frame singing. Beautiful cinematography. Careful script. Great story of friendship nearly thwarted. Elegant, kind and memorable.

I'd already seen a half dozen or more rock 'n roll history group movies, and I was not eager to see another. So I put off watching this too long. These were the guys (and one woman) who made the music that defined the late 50s, 60s and some even beyond that. Not just backup. These guys made the music we probably still think the original bands made. The music that made those decades. A buncha guys sitting around talking and playing licks we remember. If you lived through those years, you'll recognize the music. You'll probably be able to sing along. Unequivocally, this is the music that made Rock 'n Roll, no matter whose names were on the record — including The Beach Boys, Cher, Nancy Sinatra and Glen Campbell, who was one of them. Presented in pleasant informality, with lots and lots and lots of great music, some good stories and some that touch the heart. The Wrecking Crew****

I remember watching some, maybe all, of the Gore - Buckley debates on TV when I was in my 20s. They were exciting but filled over the top with snobbery. This movie shows the best of them and their show, right down to the penultimate battle between those radicals Left and Right. Uproarious fun, certainly. But sad in many ways, too. Unfortunately, their penultimate show's hitting-below-the-belt verbal fisticuffs stopped intelligent debate in its tracks on TV, and where else might we have seen it then. Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal**** wasn't quite the best of either of them, but it was mighty and entertaining.

The Martian**** was everything I expected. Then a whole lot more. Hard sci-fi with soul and a long cast of characters. Lots of intelligence, lots of thinking outside all the boxes.

From the Netflix promo I was half expecting the crippled lady to get into a lesbian relationship, but it wasn't that and it was a lot more interesting. You're Not You**** is about how a friendship can be a work relationship and how a working friendship can change someone's life. It's a little weepy toward the end, because it involved real, non-sexual intimacy, and it was human as well as humane. Nice flick, I had to look at some scenes again, when I realized Hillary Swank was the lady with Lou Gehrig's Disease/ALS. She often does that to me, but you'd think by now I'd catch on a little earlier. Outstanding story, acting, setup, execution.

I didn't catch on to Nirvana till the early 90s, and I still couldn't figure out who they were. I turned the music way up when they were on The Edge (local radio station I still listen to sometimes) but I didn't know anything about them or any of the other bands I was beginning to figure out were called Grunge. Took me even longer to figure out who Kurt Cobain was, but I was already excited about their music and had got a bunch of unidentified MP3s from the teenage son of a former girlfriend. By then I was in love with Nirvanna music, just kinda out of it. I worked all day every day in the 80s — paying off the house and making something of DallasArtsRevue.com, so I don't know much of that decade's music at all, and that's a running joke with Anna and me. I saw some other Kobain bio-flick awhile back, but it must not have made much an impression. This one did. This one told me who they and he were and was from the beginning of them becoming who they were, and I still play their music loud in the car sometimes, and i still love it. Montage of Heck**** does the job visually with plenty of verbal explaining who somebody who was amazing and suicided in an amazing montage of visuals and audios better than any other movie I can remember, and it does have some talking heads and early interviews but it's mostly all him and her and the kid. Just him being him and the people close to him being who they were and are.

I used to seek out and watch every movie about photographers I could find. There's always some truth or something in those for me. I guess I could have become a war photographer. I probably would have had a chance at that but I chose to photograph and write about my own community instead. I'd already seen war up close and personal in Viet Nam. I'd seen huge explosions and people shooting, at me among others. It was more exciting than fear-inducing, even when I was being shot at, but not something I'd want to dedicate my life to. But by then I'd been blacklisted and called a Communist by the local idiot constabulary, so I settled into my own community, and that's worked out well. I've also been shot at in my own neighborhood, many years ago, too. But I wasn't taking pictures in either of those situations. This film is about a woman war photographer, who comes alive when she is in situations of life and death for others. It scares her husband, who doesn't realize that's who he married, and she's very very good at it. It also scares her two little girls, but one of them comes to understand that she takes conflict photos, because, as she tells her, it makes her angry, and her pictures help. We get to see that, a little. This movie is rending. There is sadness on both the level of other people in other places, and within her family. A lot of strife, but some of them learn from it, and some don't. 1,000 Times Good Night**** with Julia Binoche. Deep and frightening, a thought-provoker.

I saw the original, Oscar-winning movie, Man On Wire (2008) with the original footage of the actual event years ago and loved it. It's definitively better than The Walk***, which is overlong and Hollywoodian, and I never liked the star's accent or demeanor, which may really not have been all that much like the real Philippe Petit, but what can you expect? See the original. Netflix has it.

How I Live Now**** is a richly entrancing movie. Great story, solid acting, enchanting notions built in. Pretty, too. It's about a young woman who's sent away to her distant relative in the woods to get her shit together, then World War III breaks out right there. It's a love story, a story about family, with intriguing bits of magical realism. It's arduous; there's lots of death (It is a war, after all.) I was carried away by it. Remarkably good flick.

I have been watching Mr. Robot Season 1: Disk One but at this point I'm tiring of it. At first it seemed really intricate and interesting about hacking. Oddly enough, I already have enough of hacking, since DallasArtsRevue has been hacked again lately, so that contributes to my desire not to watch it, although I kept hoping it would go back to the intelligence it began with, but they rarely do.

1**/ began as a truly mediocre movie about Formula One auto racing, a gobbed-together mix of too-short, too-fast snippets from old news footage, and except for the notable exception of one full lap from the on-board camera of the Monaco Grand Prix by its six-time Winner Ayrton Senna on May 6, 1989, it wasn't very exciting — although he was to become the last Formula One driver to die in a crash, although it doesn't explain much about what he is doing and why they think he was doing such a masterful job, and the real-life screams of his car are mixed with cornball Rock music, instead of just letting it be. This is not a How-To movie or even What These Guys Are Doing that makes them champions flick. It does not comprise an intelligent history of F1, although it does include a lot of information about the friends and friends of friends who made up the F1 racing community during the last century, concentrating on the miraculous wrecks and fatal crashes.

Antarctica**** was a 91-minute visit to that strange, cold place at the bottom of our world, where the sun doesn't shine for six months of the year. Beautiful, intriguing, strange, fascinating, with great music.

I was hoping for a great movie, but this is not. It's okay, I guess, and it's a feuding Buddy Movie, some of it's on the road, but most of it's walking the Appalachian Trail and it's two of my all-time favorite actors — Nick Nolte and Robert Redford, and we just saw Mary Steenburgin as a motel owner they just stiffed by jumping out the back window. There's more, but it's just not good enough. The story's not good enough but so's the acting and directing and, oh, I guess it's in focus, but … A Walk in the Woods**/ is a disappointment.

I wasn't paying a lot of attention. I thought I was watching a movie. It didn't dawn on me till near the end that this was a TV Show. I don't watch many TV shows, usually avoid them like the plague, except online, and even then mostly. But this seemed interesting — was interesting. About relationships, really, and marriage. Primarily marriage. This very opinionated, strong woman seems to be telling her own truths, but it's filmed too perfectly to not be scripted and edited. Nearly every scene ends with a laugh, all the way through. Life doesn't work that way. She may write her own dialog, but this didn't just happen. Usually, the scenes that don't end with a laugh, end with a moment of pathos. I'd call it canned pathos, except it seemed real, until I thought about it. I liked laughing and didn't mind it jerking a tear or two, but as real as it attempts to be, it wasn't. … Now, oh, wrong page, here it is. Chelsea Does***. I could get interested in it, but I'd rather watch a movie movie. In this case it was marriage or relationships or weddings, you know, that stuff we can't stop talking and thinking about if we're not in one, or if we are, and … well, Chelsea can't stop talking about it. I liked some of what she said; I liked her viewpoints; I liked all the other people in the episode who had opinions and expressed them — in perfect lighting and perfect focus and, oh, you know. It's fixed. But it's still interesting. I'm counting it as a movie, because I spent a movie's worth of time on it, and I've even peeked at the next one, but I forget what it's about.

The stupid kid in Slow West and the girlfriend of the philosophy prof in this one have too much in common. I need to find something different in a movie from existential and moral right and wrong. I keep trying for action and adventure but keep coming upon moral choices that kill everybody, and now this stupid, inept girl is about to get our philosophy prof put away just because he experienced a psychological breakthrough. Heh, heh. Then, who'd'a thunk it, it turned into a comedy. Irrational Man***

Took a long time to figure out why this movie was called what it was, but in the end I knew. The west part was easy enough. That was where it all took place. Sometime in the mid-to-late 19th Century. Slow was eventually easy. He wasn't the hero. He was too stupid — or slow — to learn the valuable lessons at hand. Near the end, our real hero, tied him to a tree to keep him from getting himself killed, but he got loose and did it anyway. The real hero was … Well, you'll have to see this stupid movie to find that out. Slow West**/

Lot of faked sex in this movie that more or less mirrors her diary. She sells her body on the street for five bucks a blow; has a lot of sex with her mother's boyfriend; does all kind of drugs (though we don't see her shoot anything up), and she generally has a tumultuous time being a teenager. Lot of emotions here, not a lot of sense. Some sensual, but not much and not nearly enough to watch the fool thing.. The Diary of a Teenage Girl**.

I've been plodding through two contemporary Western movies I don't really care if I ever finish, and I was having difficulty finding a movie worth settling into when I found Beltrachhi: The Art of Forgery***/ about a pretty good painter who, instead of creating his own art, re-recreated other's or made logical works that famous historic painters might have painted — their style, but going a little farther, somewhere between what they did early and what they did later, after gaps in their painting lives. I liked the forger and his wife, both of whom went to prison. We're told they got caught, and went to prison, but the forgers seem neither sad nor repentant, though they spent six years inside and and had to pay $27 million in fines. Fascinating.

This is one odd duck of a movie. Unlike some here, you've heard of this one. About a claim jumper hoodwinked into leading three really crazy women and one just mostly crazy woman from Nebraska back to Iowa, so they can be returned to their homes. Who hoodwinked him is as Godly a woman as you've ever experienced, and he's not. These are their adventures. Tommy Lee Jones, Hilary Swank are the heroes, and Meryl Streep, John Lithgow and James Spader play minor roles. Netflix calls it "Understated, Dark," as usual misunderstanding its raison d'etre. What it is is a new take on the Wild West with a heavy emphasis on good and evil, in which the lead characters personify both. Swank's character is hard to take, but we're used to Jones'. It woulda been a fine enough movie without all those other big-name stars, who are there, I suppose, just to drag us into this adventure, though they had me at the two leads. Glad I saw it, and that I stayed through the boring parts. The Homesman****

The night after I saw Robin Williams' slick, made-for-TV Remembering Robin Williams, I and more than a hundred friends saw Mark Birnbaum's Remembering Tracy Hicks, and I knew when they asked for instant critiques, I shouldn't. I had to think about it, because it was about an artist I knew and liked and respected and worked with. And I'm used to finding flaws in flicks. I already knew some of what was wrong: the music got louder every time we were supposed to feel sad, and it never showed Tracy alive, except in Tracy's own documentation..

Then I realized this movie had lopped off nearly his whole life before he got married again and moved away. When I first met Tracy, he was a photographer. Except for documentation of his own, late work, there aren't any of his photographs here. Later, he was a painter. No paintings, either, although there was a lot of and about his mixed-media frogs projects. He was the cofounder of Dallas Artists Research & Exhibition (DARE), whose nonprofit status became The MAC. Years went into that project. Nothing about DARE here, though.

It's as if the filmmaker learned everything about Tracy from his second wife, Victoria, then didn't ask anybody who knew him before. His family is shown and some interviewed at the wake, but we didn't learn enough about him, his childhood, him growing up or his early or late artistic influences. We didn't even see any others of his exhibitions, and we know he would have documented those. In many ways, there's more info in his Dallas Morning News obituary, his gallery's art vitae and his own 13 Art Stories on DallasArtsRevue, than in this movie.

It was in focus; the colors were rich, and it moved elegantly. Technically proficient, it included much of his late work, and we saw Tracy's own documentation of the amazing performance art he created in the woods near his new home and documented on his low-res video camera. We heard what Tracy did, and the calibre of people he collaborated with late in life. And we watched Victoria defining him and pulling the movie together. But there's more to the story than we got in this short, 35-minute attempt. Tracy deserves better.

Here's the trailer.

The best thing about Robin Williams Remembered*** was seeing him in all those roles again. But 55 minutes is hardly enough time to honor that amazing a guy, and it was really schmaltzy at times, but it was nice to see smidgins of his movies and stand-up routines and him just being him, even if we didn't get to see much of his post Mork & Mindy manic moments.

I didn't know Bobby Fisher was that crazy. I thought he was probably just on the razor's edge. This movie is solid. Remarkable, actually. I don't know from chess, but I liked watching it, wouldn't mind terribly, watching it again. I think it's probably deeper than I gave it credit for. Pawn Sacrifice****

I guess John Cusack has been and will be in enough high-paying movies, he can do anything he wants, and I'll see anything he's in, so I saw this, and it was nervous uncool stupid and I didn't want to keep watching it, except Cusack kept being in it from time to time, and I thought about fast forwarding, except that's a chore with streaming, so I grimmed and bore it till his next scene, and eventually there was more than that one inept woman, girl or whoever the lead character is without nearly enough character who wants so desperately to be a poet, but she's not even herself yet, as the Cusak character — named Rat — keeps telling her she hasn't lived yet, so she doesn't know who she is, but eventually she starts to becomes herself, and everybody lives happily ever after, except Rat. Oh, and she works in a dirty book store called Adult World***/.

Like so many things are, this movie is about appearances. It's a movie, so we see what happens, even how the people in it think. We will be surprised at the end, but I won't give that away. The differences and sames about being human comprise one of my all-time favorite genres, and this is one of those. Rather a good one. Had me till the reveal very near the end. I was surprised, and I liked that surprise. It involves making a human-like 'person.' How good a job its creator does is in the pudding; and this movie is it. I found it Uncanny****

Two runaway kids find a Cop Car***/ in a field and take a joyride, and mayhem ensues. Lotta blood. A lot of blood.

I've been wanting to see On The Road*** ever since I first heard about it before they even made it. First it was gonna be great. Then everywhere I looked, those who'd seen it said it was awful, but I never cared. I knew I'd like it, and I do and did. It's not a great movie. That's true enough. But it's a movie that reminds me of that novel I read in in the 1960s pretty much straight through. Almost all in one breath, like it reads like Kerouac wrote it. The visuals I've liked best so far, besides the lively bars and pertty women have all been point-the-camera-straight-out-the-side-of-the-car and drive through somewhere in good light along the side, series after series, of what it looks like to look out while somebody else is driving. It tells a familiar story, and it's been fifty or so years since I read the book, so I have no idea if the episodes relayed relate in any manner to this movie, but I'm digging watching it. Not sure why they changed the character's names unless to to protect the guilty or to avoid copyright. But this story is colorful, sexy (though most of that is breathy hollerin' off-camera) and just short of facinating.

The title escapes me, but a lot else in it makes a lot of sense. It's about relationships, and I should be an expert, but it'd be become pretty obvious I haven't a clue. In that, I identify with our hero. He's a graphic novelist. His two girl children might be cellists some day. For now, they just play at whichever home every day for a couple hours, but toward the end, they play at a parent's wedding. They're not very good at it yet, but they give it their best. Kinda that's what the romantic characters are up to here, too. Everybody's pretty much confused about what they're doing, and what's going to happen.                And most of them would like it to just happen without them mucking it up too much. But that's probably asking too much. It is funny. Funny in that way we humans are when we are at our best, most confused selves. Everybody makes mistakes, and the romatinic ones can seem awfully important when we're caught up in them. Then later, either they were big mistakes or just silly. I think this movie's trying to tell us it helps to be honest about it, but when you don't have a clue, it's painfully difficult sometimes to figure out if we're making mistakes or just high-tailing it. But it may be best to still be honest, or at least try. Oh, yeah, the title. People, Places & Things***/ I might watch it again. I might even need to. Stupid title.

This one's pretty hoaky in a lot of places. It tells a story about a singing group who entertained the troops and others in Viet Nam during our stupid war there, which I saw first-hand. Four mostly aboriginal girls from Australia, with a little bit of Martin Luther King thrown in upon his death to make everybody more aware that these girls are Black — except that one who really looks white. At the end, we learn that The Saphires**/ were two sets of sisters, so two of them were sorta White, if anybody was. But the movie is more about them having fun and falling in love and fighting among themselves and with their manager, who's more stupid and a drunk than anything else till then and after then. Very confusing. It's like they changed the script for every scene. Music's decent. Singing's alright. But there's a lot of emotion in this movie that's not quite real.

I was hoping for a thriller or action flick, but this was a dark thriller with a little action. Not what I wanted at all. I wanted visual exctitement, but visual as this was, I wouldn't call it excitement. I'm not recommending it, but it's not a really bad movie. Not my taste to watch the U.S. Government running amok in a foreign country and wreaking evil upon its citizens, even if those same Mexican citizens terrorize us with drugs. I was disappointed, but sometimes I like dark, gloomy, crime flix. Well acted. Scary as hell. Sicario***

It started as a lot of drudge. Nobody happy. A lot of lying going on. I didn't think I'd ever make it to the end, but the kids got better once they got out on their own with Grandpa Gordie, so when he died, they knew what to do. Just what he'd told them he wanted. So they did that, and somehow that put everything back together again. Charmer of a flick. Nice people gone bad after not being themselves for many years, and not having all that much fun. I guess they will now. What We Did on Our Holiday***/

I've just finisehd what I assume is the first season of Netflix' The Fall****, with Gillian Anderson. It's been a compelling and sometimes haunting crime story, and I've watched it end on end with as much time and attention as I could soak into it every day. Now I have to wait till the ratings either catch up or finish it off. Solid good story, excellent characters and characterizations. Set in and around Dublin, so language is usually not a problem. The story is a guy who truly enjoys torturing and killing women, we don't yet know exactly why, but he also seems a loving father, though serially unfaithful a husband — and he holds a 16-year-old girl, who knows what he is and what he does, in utter thrall. Lots of fascinating characters and intense acting. I can't wait till the next installment.

Meanwhile, I've started and have been into and out of, then back into Slow Learners, which though hardly compelling delivers delicious little human idiocies — Dumb and Dumber on asprin (though nothing mor dangerous), I guess. I tried Black Mirror, but its promised female frontal nudity while she sings very beautifully is offputting, although those in the movie who enjoy that are presented as idiots, so that may be the theme. If so, I don't really care. Even though I haven't seen any yet, and don't really want to. If I finish the season on any of those, I'll count them here and recount them further. I am certain that I'll clue back into Broadchurch, which can go on without me for awhile.

Borrowed Identity*** tells a story about an Arab boy who becomes a Jew in order to make more money and less hassle. We don't learn whether his Jewish girlfiend gets back with him, but she says she loves him, so it might work out, too. He's rather unprincipled, and the ease of his triumph seems unlikely, but it happens, and I almost quit watching it several times, because unlikelihood.

The latest series of Foyle's War***, which I have always liked enough to sit through every one in every series — some seasons twice or more, seems more evil this time, but is still good.

The best thing about The Reluctant Fundamentalist** is the music. I listened to Amazon's 20-second snippets of everything on the soundtrack, chose soem and was happy with the music, which set me off to track down more Sufi, African, Tuva and other musics. It was only two days ago that I saw the flick, but I couldn't finish it. The two asterisks are for the music.



Less than five minutes into this film, it had me. I was just testing to see if it could be my 172nd movie this year, in a belated attempt to beat 2010's 174, but not getting anywhere near 2012's 213. But early in the morning of December 31, 2015, I knew I had to watch this one, because it was already about so many things that I am, too. So I did. I usually sit at my elderly computer and watch movies late at night, but tomorrow I'll be partying, not at all sad to see this one go. What's weird about it is that it's presented in sudden jumps that remind me of time travel. These two in love presented as discontinous jumps, and not all forward as in the time we usually cop to knowing and understanding. Jump cuts. They love each other, but they say or feel the wrong words or feelings, and so they split between jumps, so it's both a little jarring and we start expecting it to be jarring; so really, it flows. Comet****

This is one of those movies that I kept leaving, then missing something mysterious about it and coming back. Six or seven times. It's a documentary about twin sisters, who meet each other on the street far from where they were born, then can't believe they look and act so much alike. Getting to know each other, so they have the chance to map their sames and differences, eventually learning that they are, indeed, identical twins, getting to know each other's adoptive families and hoping all through the film to get to meet their birth mother. Remarkably well filmed in so many different settings all over the world. Not an exciting movie. Basically, one theme. They hadn't known for all their young livest ill they met that they were somebody's twin. Touching without being maudlin. Pleasant, sometimes silly. Interesting without being entirely fascinating. Twinsters***/

Today, in a movie theater with probably well fewer than a hundred other people, I saw the latest Star Wars Episode Seven***/ and I liked it so much more and better than the last several Starwarses, but I'm not sure I welcome heaps more down the line. Everyone — all the previous stars — came back for this one. Another world-destroying tale was told, with little Force jokes and lotta people blown up, and close family trying to kill each other, and all like that. And they've already taken in many more than a hundred million dollars on the thing, and I'm wondering if the people who made this movie should be introduced to the stars of the next one down. There's more sameness than new and differentness. There's even another beepy little droid carrying a deep dark secret. When what these movies need more than anything is new plots, new actions, new stars, new ideas, but I guess that ain't gonna happen.

God Bless America*** is about two people who get sick of all the stupidity in America and American culture, on TV and everywhere else. All the little and bigger girls whose parents bought them "the wrong car" or "the wrong cell phone." Their solution is a little extreme — they shoot everybody who's an idiot, but then, sometimes final solutions are called for. It's a mercifully short flick, with lots of people murdered in front of our eyes. But we understand. It could have been better, but they get their point across, and they themselves get their just rewards.

Wasn't easy to find. I went through a lot of less-than series on Netflix and Amazon. But there's more and more of less and less. I finished off the second season, by my reckoning, of Broadchurch**** that finally seemed to be stopping one murder mystery only to open it back up again, but I wasn't having any of it. So I started looking for something else worth getting involved with. Attempted Grace & Frankie**/ with Jane Fonda and Lilly Tomlin, but that was stupid. The Detectorists*** might be worth dipping back into someday when I'm bored out of my skull and can't photograph birds and still can't write about art. Thought maybe A Very Murray Christmas***[so far] would do it, and I really liked his singing voice, so perhaps sometime when it's not Christmas…  Netflix was claiming a new series of Doc Martin, but so's KERA-TV, and all they're showing so far is old ones, and I'm kinda tired of all that old crap.

First off, the name of this movie is of limited interest or pertinence. It doesn't say anything about what it is or what goes on in it. Dull. The movie is fairly interesting, and for old time-travel buffs like me, we know soon as we see the first scene we'll probably see it again later with more knowledge of what's going on, but really nothing in that latter scene resolves anything. It takes its own sweet time getting into anything related to time travel, except one guy's cockamamie explanation that doesn't explain anything. There's really no explanation of how their machine works, it just does. And that's probably just as well. We get brief bits of almost romance, jealousy, confrontation, violence and anger and a couple fights, but really so what? Time Travel movies need stuff to happen to later put in chron order or not and some anomalies to explain near the end. The end really has to explain a lot, or the movie does all along. This movie doesn't really. And the end, besides being a reprise of the opening sequence really doesn't go anywhere or make the whole thing make much sense. In his real time, our ersatz hero has romance on offer with a grown-up, but he moons all the way through for a person he knew when he was a little boy and she was a little girl. Which is kinda stupid and hardly worth the effort, but nobody asked me. There's a lot of time travel movies I've loved and several I've hated, but this one? I just don't much care. A whole day later, it's difficult to remember what happened or — especially — why. Dimensional**

It's been a long time since I've had to stop in the big middle and had to turn over a DVD to finish the movie, but Pelican Brief****1993 was worth it, all 141 minutes of it, starring Julia Roberts and Denzel Washington, Sam Shepard, John Heard, James Sikking, Robert Culp, Stanley Tucci, John Lithgow and Hume Croynyn. Directed by Alan J. Pakula. It held my attention and fully lived up to its classification as a thriller. The basic story was two justices of the Supreme Court are killed to protect a millionaire oil man who owns a President. Denzel is a reporter and Julie is a law student who writes a brief about possible motives for the two justices' murders that turns out to be true, and worth killing a bunch of other people to protect the guilty. Besides Thriller, Netflix' listed genres as Dramas Based on Best-sellers, Mystery and Blockbusters," and they say "this movie is … Suspenseful, and they're right. I must have seen this one before, probably soon after it was released, since that was before I started time-shifting my movies via Netflix.

In 1971***/, the liner notes states, "eight antiwar activists broke into a Pennsylvania FBI Office and made off with a treasure trove of documents revealing a massive illegal surveillance program. More than 40 years later, they're finally talking about the burglary." In 1972 I was the editor of an underground newspaper, and I am as fascinated now as I would have been then to see how and why and who did that, so this 80-minute film is fascinating. Remarkably well done and visually explicatory. Not utterly spectacular, but it gets the job done and held my attention every second of the journey.

True Story**** is a con. For months, probably years, the perpetrator of the grisly murder of his wife and children, led the reporter and anybody else who'd listen, on and on and on, about what happened that insane night when he tried to annihilate his family. Then he inveigled the namesake he'd taken on til he was caught. Of a disgraced New York Times writer who couldn't always tell the truth from fiction. Who became his friend, then his enemy after he was found guilty on all counts. Superbly characterized, amazing good story, and it had us going. Remarkable lining up of credibilities and guilts.

I thought Ant Man*/ was going to be amazing, as in good. But it's awfully Incredible Shrinking Man (which, according to all the reviews I found on the internet, was a better movie — or at least more true to its times. This one's got way too much talk and not nearly enough action or intelligence — but an overabundance of cheap melodrama. The action in Ant Man is limited by filmmaker intelligence, but the silliness in it is not limited at all. Really bad Sci Fi, with no real sci and near zero fi.

I just saw a movie on TV. Channel 114 AUD HD after Waking Life. I didn't see the title. A woman was relating a story about a woman and a man. In the background people in a place were walking and standing and talking in silhouette, so it seemed like a real place, and quite far back, so there was the semblance of depth. She was sitting in the back, alone, looking a little lascivious, but telling this story that went round and round and on and on. And I didn't want to not look at the screen, so I stayed glued till she'd told her whole story. Enigmatic and circling back onto its own narrative. It was fascinating. And short. No more than six minutes, I'd guess. I thought it might be a casting try. Good story, though. Involving. I paid strict attention. I wanted to follow her story, but I've lost track. It's a move. It counts. Whatever it might be called.

Meanwhile, Waking Life is on TV, which I never thought could happen, and maybe some portions of it are cropped, but for a change on my truly elderly TV, nothing seems to be happening beyond the edges of the screen, and there's no black border around it. It looks good, and lots of these parts I don't remember. But it was always difficult to shuffle all that into one streaming answer. Nice thing about Waking Life — even a few scenes of it — is that it always sets my mind to wandering into thinking beyond my usual modes. I used to think I'd always be able to remember all the movies I'd seen. Not all of all of them, just the pivotal moments. I'd be sitting thee watching a movie, and something would happen on screen, or someone would say something, and I'd snap to it. I'd know that I'd seen that movie before. Now, sometimes I'll have that moment, but at the same time know that I could not have seen this movie years ago, because it was only made this year. So is that movie a copy of something in my memory, or am I?

This was difficult to watch. Essentially, it's a prison movie, and she is one of the guards who go around the room that leads to the cells with the prisoners. They look in the cell's windows to check on them. There's no privacy in prisons, and this may be the most famous prison of all. A little place called Guantanamo. She's a guard, and he's a prisoner. He throws his shit all over her when she's new, but they slowly begin to relate to each other through that little window. She learns to understand a little about him, and he learns to understand a little about her. It's not love; it's certainly not romance; but it's a small amount of understanding. She hates what she does, and he hates where he will always be, because no country will take him, because he's been there. They exchange a very few kindnesses, and she leaves. Camp X-Ray**** is about human communication. Maybe it can be called love, but more likely just respect. Which is more than either could expect from the other. It's about understanding fellow humans. It takes an hour and fifty-seven minutes, and I often did not want to go back to it. But I finished it, and now I don't like thinking about it anymore, but it moved me. 2014

This woman, his best friend without privileges, gives this guy the key to her family's cabin up a high hill and out of town. He goes there, then a stranger shows up at the door and lets herself in. And they eventually figure out who each other are, in terms of her sister and his best friend. Then they get drunk and sleep with each other but they use a condom, but the woman made holes in it. Then the sister who is his best friend comes to visit, and the sleepers togethers try to not tell the other sister who really loves Jack. Jack's his name. And Jack thinks it's a bad idea to tell, but she is told, and it gets even more complicated after that, making it several kinds of fascinating, because of the gentler ways everybody loves each other but may or may not want to. Good flick. Emotional in several touching moments with each of the each others, sad, then angry, then they split, then… Well, for that, you have to watch Your Sister's Sister***/

Usually after a dozen years, movies dull over, and I can feel the industry and societal changes more than I can feel the story, which too often just seem out of whack. Not this one. Starring John Cusack, Dustin Hoffman, Rachel Weisz and Gene Hackman, it's a thriller about a gun manufacturer's trial and all the monkey-businesss going on in criminal courts cases behind Our collective backs. Still. Scary stuff. Very good movie with serious plot switchbacks and lots of emotion. Runaway Jury**** 2003

Apparently I ordered a movie called Sound City, which sounds boring (Started it later, and it was.) but I really don't know who those guys were. But the movie Netflix sent in the wrapper that said it was Sound City was something I tuned into quickly, stayed with and watched in one sitting, and didn't get up for anything during. I identified and liked it and let it wash over me. Near as I can tell it's about love and life and growing up and getting older. It's got one of those actors who keep romping through my movie-watching, but this time she turned out to be really human. The star, meanwhile, gets to be himself nearlly all through this cinematic romp. Amusing in the way life, if we're lucky, sometimes lets us be, and intelligent and only rarely stupid, but that's there for reasons. Oh, and friendship. Liberal Arts***/

Of course, there's a populr Hollywood movie of the same name, but Memphis Belle**/ (1944) is an old-style documentary, emceed by the same White Anglo American guy all the way through its hour and forty-four minutes, all in inglorious black & white with non-synchronized sounds and old, scratchy film. Interesting, sometimes even fascinating, and though it may have excited 1944 audiences, seems tediously routine by the 21st Century. I especially liked seeing the B-17s, because my late father frlew one into Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

There's a lot of flashing back and/or oddly sequitured flow and characters and sex and sex partners and upper frontal female and lower backal male nudity and everything else that should confuse us, but it's not confusing. Sometimes it's laugh out loud funny — always a joyful surprise. Sometimes it seethes with anger, but more often it flickers with joy. Visually, it's fascinating. That car roll-over scene just keeps on rolling. It's about a chef with an anger issue, and a wife who's dying of cancer and a precocious child, who is very much himself. But the run-on blather is smart and quick, and the women are beautiful (even though it's from Australia not Hollywood), and it makes a lot more sense that it seems. Nice trick. Nice flick. Burning Man***** is eloquent and poignant and beautiful, filled with wit and consternation and is a thorough visual treat.

Oooof! Now that's an enigmatic end to a strange, beautiful and deep movie so forboding toward the end that I didn't want to keep watching only slightly less than I needed to. Woman — beautiful, of course, even if this was not a Hollywood movie — living in the beautiful hills after the rest of the world went away, leaving only her. Then a Black guy I really wanted to like, then a White guy I didn't want to respect in any way. And they all didn't live happily ever after, but we knew that all along. Z for Zachariah***/

This is a journalist's story. How he followed a simple story. Several women and one man who were murdered by American special forces for no reason. Those who killed them eventually admitted it and apologized, but the journalist kept following their tracks and learned how the U.S. tracked down and murdered an American citizen, then his 16-year-old son. For being angry with America for fighting undeclared wars. This documentary is well filmed and logical, but it is also chilling and made me deeply afraid. It clearly shows how our so-called Anti-War President has been targeting enemy noncombatants. And screwing it up badly. Not a surprise to me. I was in Viet Nam, and I saw up close and personal how America can screw up a war. By now, we all realize what a snafu that was. Well, so are all our other wars, including those we have yet to publicly declare. Dirty Wars***/

Like the man it bios, this film has serious flaws and amazing greatnesses. All rolled together as if it all made perfect sense, and in its own flawed way, it does. The rough parts don't hold it down and the up parts don't entirely bring it on up. But it's a man's life. A Great Man's Life, flaws and all. Got a good beat. I danced to it. We all did. Get On Up***

I bet when this was new, and nobody'd followed in Richard Pryor's footsteps at least a dozen times already, it was amazing, shocking and hilariously funny. But that was 1979, before a lot of other things happened. As is, it's funny, just not as uproariously as it would have been before we were set back on our heels like this pretty regularly. Trouble with amazing funny is it always has to be much more amazing funny to get us to laugh like that again. Funny gets less funny over the years. Richard Pryor: Live In Concert***/ was 36 years ago. I'd wanted to see what he was like when he was on fire — but before he set himself on fire. Now, flaming, just isn't enough. I guess I gotta try the great new comic of this age, but comic movies usually bore me. This wasn't half bad. But Pryor is dead and gone now.

It's a quest movie, a one great love movie, a road trip movie, a … . What it really is is an almost movie. It coulda been any of those, but it chose instead to not quite be any of those. It's a movie with a plan that just doesn't work out. And that was a big disappointment, especially after watching it for an hour and 49 minutes. Dunno about you, but I want movies to stand for something and be about something, but, cute as the title is and means, this movie isn't. And it's a cop out to go through all the clues and bring the whole gang, to find out in the end, that it really was all for nought. Paper Towns**/

Nobody in this movie is sane or particularly intelligent about what's going on. The neighbors are evil, manipulating kids with a father who only wants to kill people who do things to his precious girls, whom he loves way too much. They're as psycho as he is, beating other children up at school, just like Dad. Our hero is "Skunk," an 11-year-old girl. She seems almost sane. Her father is going quietly bonkers, and his girlfriend after his wife left them can't admit to anything. The police and interrogators at school are psychopaths (That, at least, is pretty normal.) and we can't for the longest time, see anything appreciably human or humane about almost anyone in this nuthouse neighborhood. But despite all that craziness all around all around, I still care about what happens to these people. Rufus Norris directed it from a novel by Daniel Clay starring Tim Roth and Eloise Laurence. Wow, he said quietly. Visually intriguing. Broken*****2012

Slingshot*** is Dean Kamen back at something really important for the whole world. His Segway people-movers were interesting, and many of us have seen them, a few have even tried one. But it's expensive, large and much more complex than a bicycle. The Slingshot is a machine that cleans water from anywhere and produces potable water right there and then. His big trouble was distributing it till he got CocaCola to do that for him. Now he's gotta make smaller machines that are easier to move, make and use — and teach people to keep the water clean once it pours out. Interesting concepts. One guy against the world, helping the other people of that world.

I've known the music since somewhat after it came out. We used to dance outside Mark & Polly's studio on Deepest Elm in the middle of the night even when it was cold. It kept us warm. And later I latched onto Heart of Glass, because it was so perfect, and I even had an instrumental version by Chet Atkins, whom I thought was some sorta crazy for calling it a Punk Rock song, so little did I know. This is a go back twenty or so years late to talk about themselves and the tyrannical producer who put them and the music together — taking a punk band and making it into a pop band with millions and millions of sales. Blondie's New York***

McFarland, USA***/ is about a team of Hispanic pickers — of fruit and vegetables — in California, and their Anglo coach whose name is White. The movie's a little too smarmy but celebrates a real triumph of a track team who learned how to win. The coach was slower to learn about the important things, but he, too, was victorious. Unfortunately, he was played by Kevin Costner, and the director took every possible opportunity to twist sentimentality to the sticky point. Still, it's got heart and just enough soul.

This was unexpected. Starring some guy and the cute blonde ditz in early Grey's Anatomy and too many truly mediocre films & TV since. Here she plays a former singer who almost doesn't anymore — till near the end of the credits. Story: Wayfaring stranger shows up, meets pretty woman in sudden sadness, and romance ensues. It's better than that, but I'm still thinking about the music, which plays an integral part, and — as often — sounded so much better in the movie. As an actor, she's usually just pretty, but here she's very nearly real. The story's kind, and the acting not forced. But the music holds it together. Jackie & Ryan*** 2015

I may have seen all the Bond movies now. I recently read somewhere that this one was the best contemporary Bond, but I wonder. Not bad, really; more story than sex. But Bardeem is a superb bad guy, and although the story slips here and there, Skyfall*** is halfway decent.

Of the more than 100,000 paintings looted by the Nazis, Gustave Klimt's oil and gold Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I and four others had a contentious history well after the war that Hitler and Hirohito lost. The paintings were left to Adele's niece, Maria Altman, who narrowly escaped Germany with her husband, then settled in America. This is her and her young lawyer's compelling story. The movie shows us the painting — and a little of its creation, but not in as much detail as I would have liked, though I enjoyed the Hollywoodian ride through its history. Starring Helen Mirren as Maria Altmann, Woman In Gold***/ lushly dramatizes that history by taking us back to the early Twentieth Century, the rise of Hitler and the international controversy of who really owned the painting, Maria Altman or Austria. That years-long controversy is the heart of this compelling movie.

His last great mystery needs solution after avoiding for so long. Meanwhile there's this boy, and his mother who takes care of him in his elder age. The movie is endearing, bittersweet, with layers upon layers of clues and deductions. I guess we've all collected the Sherlock Holmes stories about that fictional character we explore a little more deeply here. He's alone, in his dotage, and for a long time in this story, he can't remember his last case. Superb acting, landscapes, characters, story. Mr. Holmes***/2015

I put off seeing this one, because I didn't understand what I was avoiding. When, finally, I couldn't procrastinate any longer, I fell in love with it. It is exquisite and sometimes silly, often absurd, almost always wonderful. Laugh out loud funny in a spare few places, while often being deep down subtle, but the laugh out louds and mirthful chuckles when this movie pops another visual zinger at us that win, and with many subtle surprises and little perfections. Oh, and lots of skin, all hers. It's an affair of love, of passion, of family roots, politics and loving each other in spite of and/or because they are so opposite. This movie's a joy. A triumph. But the English subtitles are sometimes too quick. The Names of Love**** in French. 2010

I've been wanting to, but I didn't find out till I did it why I needed to see Good Will Hunting***** again. It'd been playing back in my eye's mind awhile. Saw it, learned why I needed it, glad I did it. When I saw it last century before I started reviewing movies this century here, it connected. Might have me some of those same issues, hid down deep, but my brilliance comes out now and again, for awhile, then hides back down in. Might have to see some more Robin Williams shrink flicks, too. Story is solid, deep, real. Acting superb, set off a couple amazing careers I may have to wander back through. Pictures were pretty. Way they were spliced together seemed right about perfect.

I didn't like the horror flick, The Tall Man** enough to finish it, although there really wasn't much left. Too much senseless violence, and I couldn't keep the characters straight, and I didn't really care who got the kid. I usually truck on to the end, but myeh. I counted it, so I wouldn't ever have to see it again. If I don't rate them, Netflix sometimes gets the stupid notion I'd want to see it again. Nope.

Life Itself***/ is the Roger Ebert story. Solid documentary. Well done, at times touching, others — like him and his best enemy Siskel fighting — a little annoying. You know, like real life. Up close and personal.

This one's more the usual end of the world Science Fiction, but far deeper. It's about humans and thinking machines and profit-mongering corporations. And life as we know it and as we don't understand it yet. Slow, dark and bleak, except that it becomes extrapolatory of Asimov's Rules of Robotics, so there's a future on Earth despite the nuclear summer. Well and deeply thought-out, well acted and created. Automata****

Had no idea what to expect from a Disney flick called Tomorrowland***/, but I liked it because it's fun, inventive and fully implements the combined notions of Science Fiction and Fantasy. With an odd collection of special effects and some ponder-worthy notions. George Clooney and House are decent in it, but it's the kids who do by far the best. Bravo!

I've been watching Terminator movies about 44% of my life, and I still don't think I've seen them all. Takes some time in between to be willing to willfully suspend my disbelief. Best things about this one was the scenes overlooking The Golden Gate. I spent the night in a tent somewhere around there after getting let off a car Larry & I were hitchhiking in. We had no idea where we were, and when we woke up, looked out and saw all of SF — and could see all of SF could see us, I thought it was amazing, but Larry freaked F-ing out and we scrambled the tent and got out of there. I've always wanted to go back. It's changed since then, but The Terminator has not. Terminator Genisys***

The title is the distance from the top of a popular building in town for suiciders to jump from. When our hero shows up, so do three others, then they stick together for a long time then fall apart. Quirky, goofy, kinda fun, goes on. Only name I recognize is Pierce Brosnan, but the others are at least as good as he is. Less than a serious flick, it's a goof. After awhile it begins to grate, but then it's over. A Long Way Down**/

Lot of not talking in this one. Strong, silent type is our hero. Quiet town, too. But riddled with drugs and druggies and pushers all the way up the chains of command. Our hero's an abo(rigone) who's honest and good with a rifle, but there's more of them. Dark riddle needs figuring out then there's the shootout. Enigmatic, brooding, dark Aussie flick. Mystery Road***/

Aha! This one's a flirt. Plays with our conceptions about Flaubert's famed Madame Bovary, whom the eponimous lady of this movie shares both title and last name, among other traits. As usual, a willful suspension of disbelief is important, but so is a reliance on the dictum that life imitates art, in this case, Literature. It's got romance, sex and many misdirections, and of course a less-than-objective observer. Grand fun until the end, when it gets downright jovial. Much of it in French, all of it in France. Light, pleasant fare. Gemma Bovery**** 2015

I started it and decided I didn't want to watch it, so I left it in the CD player and just forgot it for awhile, wishing I had something good to watch instead. But I left it there. Then I played it awhile a couple times, and I went off and did something else. Then I thought I got three new movies but I thought I lost them between the mail box and my office and I wated too much time looking for them, then today they came in the mail, so I sat down and watched this, and it was some kind of subdid wonderful. I hope what they both said and did in this movie was close to what they both really said and did. And that was pretty fascinating in a kinda droll, ordinary way, except it was David Foster Wallace. Then just before watching the rest of it and the ending, I ordered Infimote Jest for my Kindle years after I read some other books by him — something about lobsters, then I finished it and really really liked the whole thing, even as the chore it was to make me keep going back and watching it. The End of the Tour***/

I can't believe anybody wouldn't like this one, but I liked it from the very beginning, all the way to past the end. I still like it. It's more than a little goofy, and a lot kinda amazing all the way through. The ending is a little too unhappy maybe, but it's all together so good, who cares. All aces for me. Poignant, odd, weird and gentle. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl****

Odd chunk of movie-making. We meet Sandy, who's not happy. She's been stuck with driving the rich Japanese guy who's visiting Australia to check up on their Aussie company, and he just wants to see all the space they have. He's spoiled; she's put-upon. Then they get to know each other. Then they make love and have fun, and then. The incident happens and Sandy's left to deal with it alone. And she does. Not odd as in quirck. Odd as in an Aussie film with a Japanese aesthetic. Thinking of it now, even more so. A movie rich in culture and place, but when they dealt with it early, it was a nuissance. And when they dealt with it late, it was exquisite or awful. Many contraditions. Japanese Story***/

I saw this on a list showing how many stars Netflix' computer thought I would give it if I saw it, and I wondered. But I saw it, and damned if it wasn't right on. Again. This documentary defines the role of casting director (Essentially who chooses or nominates whom to choose for roles.) by showing the actors she suggested, recommended, insisted upon, lobbied, etc. Marian Dougherty stars in it, and it's about her , but many other casting directors are included. But this film has soul, humor, swelling pride, fear, joy — all those things that make a regular movie are in this documentary. Amazing, really. Casting By***/

Knew from the git go, this grumpy kid needed some coming of age, and with the help of some adults and a couple of kids, he was gonna. Then he did. Pleasant trip, man. Some fun and understanding and education and fun. Did I mention fun. The Way Way Back***

Testament of Youth*** is a rending, stirring paen against war and for women's education and against men's idiocy and need for war.

Somewhere past the middle of this one, his Dad has a heart attack, and his Mom tells him that he's having trouble with his heart, which, in a nutshell, is the issue in this movie. Dad loves kid, but thinks Kid should be re-Dad, and it takes him more than 20 years to figure out that the new generation has to be different, yet learn from the old. I guess a lot of us are too familiar with that family relationship. But that's too pat a summing for this movie that goes off track as often as it's honed in on it. I like the actors, but not all the characters, and mostly not the Dad for the first half, although he's trying harder most of the time now. In the end, it's highly unlikely the kid (and his fakey-looking beard) will live happily every after, because he cannot form new memories, although he now talks like a human being when the music's playing. The Music Never Stopped**/

I was blown away by how good this documentary was. First of all, it shows hundreds of this photographer's prints, although she did not make them; they were made after she died, and as the movie points out she wasn't a great printer. Who she is is carefully laid out, over time. Vivian Maier was a strange bird with an enormous ability to make human photographs. Pictures we immediately identify with. I was inspired by her work, and I couldn't help but to identify with her various other issues, too. Great story. Superb photographer with a lot of issues. Well-crafted story told by a variety of human beings. Finding Vivian Maier****

This is almost funny. But never quite. Laughable, but not out loud. I've stopped it a dozen times, and I don't know why, but I want to finish it. Maybe because it was Phillip Seymour Hoffman's last movie. Maybe because I've seen most of it, I might as well finish it, so I can add one more count to this year and this century's total. Maybe because I'm invested in these lowlifes that inhabit this part of I assume New York City. Amazing bunch of low lifes. I expect to see Steve Buscemi in it, except it's too late to start him into it with just 20 minutes left. What a bunch of idiots. Smart-ass, AH kid get's his head broke in after hassling an old Black guy, just because the old guy was Black. Kept calling him a Nigger and being mean. So much else here, but every stinkin' one of them's another low life one way or another, usually several. Then near the end I caught myself laughing out loud. Then again. And by the credit roll, I knew. God's Pocket***/

Every time I see Michael Keaton in BirdMan it's different. This time I loved it. Think I understood every bit of it. Not that I could explain it to you. See the movie, and you'll know your version. This latest time was, I think, the fourth I've seen it, and it was better than ever. I'll have to keep watching it, savoring some parts, still a little flummoxed by others, for a long time. Nice movie. Well, not exactly nice. But true. To something.

Our hero's teen daughter's in this to make it more difficult, so she can move around when he tells her to "stay here" and get captured when he needs somebody to rescue. I went with Amazon Prime's star system, but it's based on everybody's reviews unlike Netflix who knows my patterns after I'd rated 3,300 movies. But this is suspenseful, mostly interesting, fast-paced without car chases so far, fairly intelligent and not altogether predictable. Near the end there's another meaningless sidetrack involving the red herring, er... daughter. But over all, not bad and no steamy love affairs or other really stupid clichιs. Erased***/

I have loved Bluegrass music for at least fifty years, maybe more. I like Bluegrass Gospel and Blue Grass and Bluegrass whatever, so it's nice to see a documentary shaped like an old TV in this documentary about what's there now, what's in this one festival, and what the music is all about. Nice that. Focus is a problem, and that old-TV shape is a problem, but it's all Bluegrass all the time, has enough variety of that, so I'm cutting it some slack. Loved hearing it as I love listening to it. Bluegrass Journey: A Documentary***/

At first it seemed like yet another stupid farce about marriage and lawyers, then it was a stupid farce about lawyers and marriage, then it was kinda smarmy with a hint of nice, then it was almost nice. Eventually, it was all those and a little less. Laws of Attraction*** with Pierce Brosnan and Julianne Moore is almost okay. It was a start for her, but he was already who he was.

This one's about a guy who aims a drone from 7,000 miles away, who misses real flying — like almost everybody who's flown. He's doing remote control war crimes working for the CIA, killing people who somebody says need killing. With an airplane, he remembers, there's risk, on both sides. Flying bombs into 'bad guys' that far away, there's only risk for them. His life is sinking — psych, quality of, he's less and less there, and it looks like there'll always be more Alkaida. He's safe at home every night, drinking till he's nearly unconscious, so he doesn't have to think it. Meanwhile, the the cinematography lets us look down from the sky at his adobe-looking house, so we're getting hinted at that he's not all that different from the bad guys over there. His marriage is falling apart. He's drunk a lot. It's classic warrior getting too involved, and working for the CIA is a destructive act to a conscience, what little there is left. Good Kill***/ is what he says every time he blows up a bunch of bad guys. It's ironic.

The master may be gone, but I still love Studio Ghible films, and When Marnie Was There**** certainly fits the pattern. Spirits are the key — with childhood memories remembered and forgotten. Lovely story about a teen girl who can't believe anything she does is of any value, then she meets and learns to love a friend from another era, and when she leaves after a summer in a place with clean air, she suddenly has many friends, who all fit in the story.

I thought the new Mad Max movie, Mad Max: Fury Road***/ was one of those lousy flicks I'd fallen for. Then I settled into it and liked the pure adventure of it. Certainly one of the loungest car chases ever known to cinematography.

Love & Mercy***/ is the Brian Wilson story — and the Beach Boys. I knew he'd been crazy, had a domineering father who beat him, and a crazy shrink, but it was fun trying to figure out whether he was some chubby kid or John Cusak and fascinating to delve into his real and feared demons in black & white and color.

Explaining The South in too many nearly monotone songs and grainy movies down half-trod roads seems about right. I grabbed this one soon as I saw its title, found it revelatory somewhere between God and the Devil. They believe, and we don't understand, and neither do they, but they believe, and He lightens their load. Terrible fabulous music by a buncha White guys. Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus*** 2003

Sounded like a hoot. Atari: Game Over*** chronicled the demise of the first great power in computer games, and the subsequent burial of their surplus of the game based on the movie, E.T. in the Alamogordo city dump, which became the stuff of dreams, imagined history and other sillinesses. And yeah, it really was funny.

I'm caught up in a sci-fi TV show about some people who come awake in a space ship not knowing who they are are what they are good for, then they learn. Not bad for TV. I'm hooked, and I've only seen three, maybe four episodes. Nice tech. Very nice that we don't have all the clichι characters but there's plenty of Star Trek in it. Distinctive characters with essential good (I think all of them, so far) characters creating a team. Exciting. Odd-tech weapons, some cornball sets and settings, but interestingly new. Until about the third episode, by which time the stupids are taking over. Dark Matter***?

If I Stay***/ is a bittersweet little teen first-love story wrapped around a car wreck and a sometimes wreck of a first relationship, a guy in a very popular band and a girl who plays the cello. It's about family and love and being whoever you are, and it's juxtaposed with death and choosing whether to say alive or go on.

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic***/ is the story that tells his life and who was important when it was still happening, and it's funny when it needs to be, and sad at some other times, and mostly it makes me want to watch several hours of his routines. It tells a lot I didn't know.

A sweet little movie. Older woman. Husband died 20 years ago. Hadn't dated since then. Suddenly, she's seeing two guys she enjoys. Old guy, rich, has a big boat. Young guy's a pool cleaner, been cleaning her pool. He's into Karaoke, so she tries it and remembers she used to be good at singing. He's not so, but he writes a song. Maybe for her. It's a lilting little movie. You'd probably recognize some of her women friends. Maybe the story is, Life's for Living. Not a whole lot more than that, but a really nice little movie with Blythe Danner. I'll See You in My Dreams***/. 2015

A bunch of guys who are really good at what they do — skiing and snowboarding, mostly — go down some outrageous hills all over the globe, and it looks like fabulous fun and often downright scary, and between downhill racings, they play skateboard games on skis on stairways and buildings. After awhile, it all seems boring, because there's really not all that much different from run to run, but they do it in different places around the world, and only at the very end is there a woman in the group. Altogether, kinda ho-hum except the long, deep snow, downhill runs which are amazing. Supervention***

I thought I was playing a movie DVD, but instead I was streaming something else entirely, and I'm not sure how that happened, but I'm sure glad it did. What I saw was very strange but a little too real, and probably more realistic than I'd want it to be. It's about a lot of crazy people in the life of a teenaged girl with Type 1 Diabetes. I got Type 2, and I can identify only some of her issues, which come to fore near the end. The characters in this rush of a movie are what makes it. Well them and the visual portion of our story. Movie as onslaught. Great story, too. Kudos for everybody who had a hand in this. Broken***** — been awhile since I awarded five asterisks, but this is a mind-blow.

I assumed Scott & Bailey**** was going to be an American detective series, but it's Brit. It gives female detectives' viewpoints all the way through in so many remarkably intelligent ways, I watched the first four episodes, end on end, and I'm about to reorder subsequent disks. 2011

A strange and foolish movie about a profoundly stupid woman, who thinks she knows her mind, but never gets it right, and runs off all the men in her life but the wrongest one and the rightest one — and he holds back. Unfortunately, we never doubted through all the preceding tripe that, in the end, they would live happily ever after, even if she hadn't a brain in her head, and he does. A profoundly stupid movie. Far from the Madding Crowd*/ wildly romantic and deeply insipid. 2015

Guess I've always been a fan of his guitar-playing and music writing, though I never kept track. Lately I've been playing the hell out of his guitar solos on Sister Morphine on my Guitar Riffs playlist, where he's pure genius, but I'm sure he stars on all my fave Stones tunes, and jeez there's so many. And I knew they're all my age or better, but I wasn't ready for that old man having so much fun in Keith Richards: Under the Influence***/. It's not the greatest documentary ever made, but it's interesting to see that most of the guys he's been invited to play with over the decades have been my rock heroes for the last half century.

Obviously, it's not a movie about Cake****, but one is featured prominently at the end, where it's appropriate, and seems like there might have been one earlier. I was attracted by previews on Netflix, so I looked it up to put it into my queue, but it was already available for streaming, so I streamed it and settled in. I liked her attitude of full-force directness. Major anger. And honesty no-matter-what. I figured I could get into it, and after we rolled around in it for awhile, I was about as fed up as she was, just in time for her to go back to being human, which was the whole purpose. Made sense. Don't know 'bout no happily ever after, but it ended well, and it was entertaining all the way through, and Jennifer Aniston wasn't her usual pretty ditz. That accounted for most of the rest. Well, that and the facts that she can still act.

Time travel in a different dimension, this movie is about a woman who, somewhere early in her life, stopped aging. It's a little moony, not quite as romantic as I would liked till its late middle. Then it got a little more true to movie life, and in the end it earned its self back into movie reality but never quite all the way to human love, romance etc, even if it was still overly ideal in almost every aspect. Didn't know the stars, but I recognized Hans Solo and Kathy Baker, except I called her by some other name. The Age of Adeline***/

Wonder if they could do that to say, Firefly? There's lots of abandoned TV shows that could use a Netflix update. Plenty worth watching.

As a movie title, Boy Meets Girl***/ seems hackneyed, but this movie is about a transgender woman and a lot of boys and girls and men and women, who are mostly straight. More than just a family, they are a community, and not everybody is altogether for it, at first. But things happen, and not — for a major twist in the way movies usually go — what we'd expect. But there's good and bad and things we each have to make up our minds about. It does get a little soft and gooey-goofy at the end, when the movie gets too mainstream for what it is, but the people in the movie who were not already, don't. It's a message movie, but it's still a lot intelligent, but like in real life, the characters in it are not always. In the middle, which are the parts I liked best, there's people on both sides, but the people who really count, don't switch sides. It's a little weepy at times, and stridently mean at others, so there's a range. streamed

I doubt it would have hurt much, were it in color, but I did not notice it was monochrome sepia till some minutes in. It is an allegoric journey through America the first time by Welsh Poet Dylan Thomas, a profligate drunk and story-teller who pulls words from others, also. And his faithful sidekick the Poetry Professor. The best scenes are fictional, but there are no worsts. Intellectual and deeply emotional, reminded me in ways and dimensions of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe. Set Fire to the Stars***/ indeed.

The title is wrong. This movie is big chaos in service to a romance. Oh, there's a minor garden — but not the sort that has flowers or much in the way of plants beyond some terraced grass. The romance is between the gardener, possibly the only, maybe one of few women gardeners in service to King Louis XIV. There's a lot of court B.S., and some old personal fears — only Madame's. And a little backstory that's only revealed at the end, by which time I just didn't care. It's an excuse for a movie. A Little Chaos**/

First of all, it's important to note that this Edward Snowden guy is intelligent and well-organized. He's no dunce. He knows and understands deeply about how devices communicate and how communication devices — phones, computers, everything — work and where their signals go, and who can receive and/or intercept them. He also deeply understands who should know about what is really happening with all that. Thanks to Edward Snowden who speaks with amassed confidential and secret proof — as well as those who went before him who spoke without it, many American citizens who used to swell with pride when our government was mentioned, now cower in fear. And we should. Oh, God, what are those paranoids doing to us now? This is the scariest political thriller — spy flick — of all time. CITIZENFOUR*****  Not just a chilling and thrilling document, but one that is important to our supposed Democracy.

Didn't really plan it. Just sorta started watching a flick on Netflix. Nick Cage, and the reason I kept watching, Julianne Moore. Didn't recognize anybody else, but I generally like Nick's sci-fi adventure flicks, and I liked this one that involves this guy who often knows what's gonna happen next, but just for the next few minutes, until, of course, near the end of the movie, when he can do it for longer, and then it stops tiring him out, just all his rules bend. So it's not a great movie, but it's fun. And Ms. Moore is in it. Next*** streamed  Nice that, for my 2,000th movie this century, it's sci fi-ish.

I got this one because Julianne Moore's in it, even if that was 20 years ago. Her character is seriously affected by environmental toxins so she goes off to live in a place for people who are similarly affected in the mountains near Albuquerque. Odd bit of drama, pleasant but I'm sure there are people who are affected by the everyday chemicals in our lives. Safe: Special Edition*** 1995

Its' not sappy, but it is a weeper. I used to have a Big Bird costume. Didn't look all that much like him, but when I wore it, people knew right away whom I was. I wore it to parties, and there's a poignant self-portrait of me wearing it on my porch on a long-ago apartment. So I have a special connection to Big Bird, and I liked the movie, and tears fell all the way through it. Nice people. Wonderful TV show. Great character. I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story***/

The 100-Year_Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared***/ was a old-time farce. The old guy did go out the window, and this whole farcical adventure followed that action, but it was fun, sometimes funny, often stupid, but not in a mean way. It was thoroughly enjoyable, and life is like that sometimes. Most of the dialog was revealed in subtitles, but there was some English, too.

Harry Dean Stanton: Party Fiction**** is outstanding. Simple. Straight-forward. It's not just about him, it is him. Often in scraggly black and white. No make-up, no airs. Just him. Couple different people ask him questions, and he sings. Lotsa scenes from his movies. He's been one of my all-time favorite actors — the outsider — and now I need to track down more movies too see him in — there's gobs. I know more about him, got the sound track and will be listening to it again. Good traveling music. 2012 NS (Netflix streamed)

I thought I needed a semi-sappy Adam Sandler movie, and I guess I did, although it was a little too sappy in not-all-that-important places. I think our hero coulda made some better decisions, but he eventually caught on. The guy who ran the shop after his father left eventually realized many of his many customers' shoes he wore turned him into a living likeness of them. Looks like, sounds like, just doesn't think like them. It's kinda a super power, although it takes our shoe-man awhile to figure out what it's really good for, and then he nearly messes it up, of course. Yup, otherwise, it's Sandler at his usual sappy movie self, but the plot, though at first complex and goofy stupid, mellows, goes places it really shounta, then where it should, and those whom that does not confuse, will be happier for it. The Cobbler***/ 2014 streamed on Netflix

All I needed was that John Cusak was in it. As usual I'd never heard of the movie. He was in it, I watched. Solid good. He's a protector for a station that broadcasts coded numbers to spies in the field who have a code book. A pretty woman… That's almost redundant. Darned few unpretty women get to be co-stars in movies. Even independent flicks, like I understand Cusak is only in now. She deciphers and broadcasts the numbers. He's got a history of not following government orders to kill assets. She's an asset. Does he kill her after he gets rid of all the bad guys? That's what this rather exciting flick is all about. A good flick. A thriller, they call it, and it was. The Numbers Station**** 2013 streamed on Netrlix

World War II From Space**** is an amazing, visual explanation of our most recent world war. But it's maps and animations, not anybody looking down from space. Still, it was a remarkably effective  learning experience. Some of the animations were goofy and a few even absurd, but the vast majority told the war's stories in uniquely informative ways, often with meaningful animations that detail how each succeeding offensive fit into the whole, as well as how the politics, economics and spying contributed. If you want to understand World War II, this is the simplest — though it is vastly complex — and most directly understandable method I've yet seen. This presentation, obviously made for TV, teaches us how The Great War worked, and how we won it. 2012

Found another TV show I've gone demon on. Great characters. Solid story so far. I believe, and not just a willful suspension of disbelief. I know I'm watching a DVD, and I can't wait for the next episode. Got this one on approval, see if I liked it. I like it. It'll start dissolving by the end of the second season, but for now it's hot, makes me a little electric every episode, but I gotta start the line of more disks now I know I like. If I explained the plot, you'd say I'm daft, and maybe I am. I don't watch more than a half hour every couple weeks on the TV that hovers over my right shoulder — the one I keep promising I'll get a new one of when things calm down, but things don't calm down, unless there's a storm. Season 1: Disk 1 is a driving force. Guess who's going to the top of the queue. With Bareback Mountain, The House of Sand and Tangerine still in their red & black on white envelopes yet waiting for me to watch them. Or send them back, so I can get the next bunch of episodes of Orphan Black**** 2013-15     Well, the first one was great. I'm into disk two now and it's down hill and going downer. When Max Headroom shows up, you know the trolley ends up in The Bay. We got slapstick, a little broad comedy, much more complicated plotting, probably a whole set of new writers; this bunch's prose doesn't always make sense. Unless it's English or European, I should probably only watch Disk Ones. *** and dropping. I don't need to watch any more.

In this one, Michael Caine is an old codger who's fed up after his best friend is murdered by a neighborhood street gang, so he takes it upon himself to get rid of them. The police do their usual stupid malarkey, but our hero takes the punks out and nearly does himself in taking down the capo. A deeply violent film not altogether unlike Charles Bronson's many revenge-athons, except Harry Brown***/ is a more cunning advisory. 2009

I've been doing old Michael Caine movies lately, and this is one I'd never seen before, but there's probably a hundred or more of those. The sound track's good, and Caine was only in it for a little while at the beginning, but Christopher Walken carries it. It's a road movie with a bittersweet over current and it's about family. Around the Bend***/ 2004

At long last, a really good movie, and I'm at a loss to explain it more than it's about friendship more than anything, but monsters, like Frankenstein figure in, too — and movies about monsters. Is Jimmy Whale a monster for needing a friend, and is Clay, the Yard Man, also? A Serious movie with strong substrata of homosexuality and those monsters, superb acting and camera work. I think I might have seen it before, but I'd be glad in another twenty years, to see it again. Gods and Monsters**** 1998

I procrastinated seeing this one for sixteen years, maybe a little less, because that long ago there may not have been DVDs or streaming. I figured it'd be tedious, and it was, though there were many moments of musical brilliance, that documentary style is pretty old hat by now. Ry Cooder has long been one of my guitar heroes, but I thought his off-topic zings were usually just wrong to put into Cuban music, but that's what guys who go to other countries to rediscover their own or somebody else's musical roots too often intrude. Sometimes this movie steamed scintillating hot but more than a few times it thudded into disruptive noise. The real star is Cuba, and seeing it was a joy, but I was much less whelmed by NY NY. At the end Ry noted that this performance was the last time those old guys would ever perform together, and that seemed almost fair, but I hope that drummer and the piano-player are still at it — Buena Vista Social Club*** 1999

I sometimes, when I see a movie like this one, wonder how it came to come to me, get into my queue and make it to the top? Not that it matters particularly, it did, and I was taken in by it. I liked it as I liked its players. Even Pacino as a rock star still seems absurdly over the beyond, but he mostly pulled it off. Seeing Annette Benning is always a treat, and the rest? Impressive. Heartening. Mostly positive. Danny Collins***/ 2015

Hugh Grant as a washed-up Hollywood scriptwriter seemed close to the truth, and I of course remembered his famous mug-shot, so it was easy to hate him during the first quarter. Then everything but his chances to keep his new teaching job seemed a lot better. It ended up a smarmy little winner that I enjoyed. I've been a teacher and I miss it, just not the part about dealing with the administration, which was colossally uncredible here. The Rewrite*** 2015

At an hour and thirty minutes, it's a move, even if there were more of them after, and I don't know about that, but I liked this one. For one, the cop (our hero) looks like a cop. Not handsome, not never no movie star. I also like that he's morally confused and willing to keep at it till all the truths are out. DCI Banks: Aftermath***/ Ritual murder, psycho-sexual deviants, et al.

I saw this same movie when it was new, maybe even in a theatre, I don't remember, but I do recall that I really liked it. This time, everything seemed forced, and full of hooey. My late father flew a B17 into Pearl Harbor on December 7 1941, and while watching this plane in this movie this time, I kept wondering whether he'd approve of the airplane's appearance in this ultimately silly movie. I bet a lot of what we saw was "anatomically" incorrect, and probably most other ways, too, truth and reality be damned. Memphis Belle*** is hokey. 2010

Crafted***/ is a short, 25-minute document of several people who craft food, knives and other things and what that means and how deep it goes and how it feels. On Amazon Prime, it is beautiful and it sounds good and makes sense.

This is one of those film genres I could do without. I got it, because Minnie Driver and Tom Wilkinson are in it, but I hadn't expected Tom to be so young. I guess I didn't notice that Driver was, because I hadn't seen her in anything in a long time. This is one of those it could have been romance movies that just never quite caught hold of my attentions. I liked the photography parts, but otherwise, myeh. Governess*** 1998

I love time-travel movies, so even though the cast was all teenagers or actors who look like teenagers, I rented this one, and except for about two-thirds into it, when they were crisscrossing each other going back into time thus eventually causing all kinds of time-warp havoc they then had to go back into to time to fix, it made sense in a universe where time-travel was possible. I don't really think it is, except in a philosophical way that has almost nothing to do with these kids and their mostly selfish travels, but it was not bad, if not all the way to intriguing, and pleasant, even if most of what we see as their travels was shot on a video camera in their own Blair Witch kind of way. Netflix, even though by now they ought to know and understand my deep need for more time-travel flicks, only gave it less than three stars per what they think I would think of it, I'm giving Project Almanac***/.

Wow! What a surprise. I loved this movie. Not that I had expectations that were dashed. I had no expectations. There were times when it was just about to spin out of control or wind down the road of "oh no, not that old trope again," only to turn back into something new every step. I remember in Saigon every step brought a new smell. Not all of them pleasant, but all of them amazing. This movie almost does that for me. I hadn't heard of it or read about it or. Anything, really. The Hundred-Foot Journey****

Guess I was remembering the sequel. This one was adequate. Good for cheap. The beginning of a movie franchise or two. Jaws***/

Netflix calls this one an "artfully crafted documentary," so I was already worried about it. I've seen his work at art fairs and in books and magazines, and they always thrill me, as did the work here, but at first I thought the movie dull, but I gave it time and watched in unfold into a gentle joy. In color and black and white. I should have trusted it when I learned it was co-written and directed by Wim Winders and Sebastiao Salgado's son. The Salt of the Earth***/

Amid a stack of previews so loud, obnoxious and abysmal, I didn't even want to see the movies among them that I already really wanted to see, so I figured the movie they contained must be dreadful. But I watched it anyway. It's strange, but oddly wonderful in several ways, each step choosing the dark side, the venal, the rude over human kindness and that which we have come to trust in movies. Much about techno superlatives without quite granting those, and many odd ways of claiming and naming it, without making it so. A fun game of following along, yet no chance for leading through the malarkey. Old, hard, Sci Fi mixed with intelligence of the evil kind. I never once knew what was really going on. The plot, if any, always escaped me. But it was so fun watching, who cares. Neat gizmos, stupid villains. Nice. Jupiter Ascending***/

It gets a little simplistic at the end, but the long build-up is superb. The question is — as it so often is in such movies, when does a machine become human? And it's a complicated question. This is one of my favorite genres. It is well-acted, beautifully photographed, and the plot is plenty complex-enough. But, as often in movies this complex, the filmmakers aren't always honest with us viewers, and that's just a plot dodge, but this is mostly better than that. I kept being reminded about one of my favorite Saturday morning radio shows when I was very young. It was about someone / something who wanted, like Pinocchio, to grow up to be a real boy. His catch line was, "I dooddily doodilly do." The AI here is female, and she wants to be loved, but mostly she wants to escape her creator, a very rich man who's kept her fortressed miles from civilization. Is she she human? And does she succeed? This is a good, though hardly perfect, exploration of those themes. Ex Machina***/

I had no idea what to expect, but it was better than any notion I had. I got it, because John Cusak was in it. I didn't even look to see who else. Robert Deniro and Rebecca Decosta. Never heard of her, but she was good in a bad sort of way. All these guys and a couple others were evil. But our hero had a heart of gold. I'd never heard of the flick, but though it's over brimming with mayhem — massive explosions, lotta bullets and blood, it was, I'm pretty sure, a comedy, but without the laugh out louds. And a mystery somewhat beyond what's in the bag. But more than anything else, it was a hoot and a holler. Bag Man****

This was a difficult film to witness. I stopped a half dozen times. For hours, for days, but I came back and the last stint I watched through the end, only stopping then to see who was who in the cast. Brave film. Good history lesson we may still forget. Very well acted. Stirring and scary. And not over yet by any means. Selma **** 2014

Sweet, heart-warming tear-jerker, and there wasn't a moment I didn't thoroughly enjoy it. A sweet old couple — played by Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton — tries to sell their fifth floor walk-up in Brooklyn overlooking a bridge, to buy some place in Manhattan with an elevator. Confusion, nervousness and panic ensues, and … Well, it doesn't really matter how it all works out, because this is such a classically fine movie. Great, realist acting, beautifully filmed right there, and entirely believable. Good people dealing with other nervous people, with a few personality gems in the betweens — I especially liked the girl child whose mother always had to test the bed in every new home they visited. 5 Flights Up**** 2015

Another flick I'd been moving down my queue every time it got near the top again, and now I know why. This is not as great as it would like us to believe. Bill Hicks was funny sometimes. I bet he had some audiences on the edge so they didn't know whether to laugh or cry. But for me, there were fewer than a half dozen laugh out loud laughs in the whole film about this guy who was supposedly the American Anti-American funny guy of the future. Maybe it was the filmmaker's choices of what he could show us, much of which was just bad video. Probably it was more than that. The guy had his heart in the right place once he got off drugs and drink, and finally cigarettes, and then back on cigarettes when he got terminal cancer. So was he funny as cancer? Well, probably sometimes, but so many other comics of the past and probably in the future still are. I think of George Carlin and Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, who also told it like it is/was. But there are a lot of those comedians, and a lot of us know who they are/were. I'd never heard of Bill Hicks, but now I'm tracking down other great stand-ups, my understandings and my list of really funny heroes is expanding. Nope, he wasn't The Greatest. But this movie is interesting almost all the way through. Except for the repeatedly bad video moments, this flick is visually astute. It's more fun to watch than it was to listen to the anti-hero star. American: The Bill Hicks Story***. It coulda — it shoulda — been better.

This has been in my queue for years. If I'd known about it or how good it was I would have seen it long ago, but I've stupidly saved that pleasure till now. A sweeping story of a French-speaking woman who loves Frances going behind enemy lines in World War II as a spy. After that it's complex and complexer, to do with Nazis, sure, but also the French collaborators, who may have been the lowest form of human there then or since. And two little Jewish boys and the people who hid them, who may have been Jewish, and the sneak-thief collaborators who tried to send them off to the camps. Superbly drawn characters. Excellent acting. Lush landscapes and filming. Charlotte Gray***/

I had greater hopes for this one than it delivered, and I've seen the plot done better before — like Stand and Deliver, which Netflix describes as "mostly true." This is, too, but it has personality and heart, even if the writers needed to tone down the hoke and tighten up the story. Four undocumented Mexican-American high school kids compete with college teams from MIT, Cornell, etc. in a national underwater robot competition. Too much schmaltz, and predictable from the start, but kinda fun. Spare Parts*** 2015

Within the first couple minutes I knew this one had more than heart and soul, it had intelligence and a kind of communications damned few of us ever get to, and it never once dipped into rank stupidity. Oh, some of the characters did, of course, we're all humans, and we all go through it, but this was Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe real without the meanness. I smiled almost all the way through. Here we got real people with real issues, family and all. When I saw James Spader I thought he was a very young Peter Fonda, such a beautiful man, and an amazing actor way back then (1990), so sorry he got lost along the way. But this movie also has Susan Sarandon, and she and Spader are the love interests from different sides of the tracks. She's real, and he's caught somewhere in between. Both have lost great loves. He his wife, and she her son. There's few false notes here, but a little wobbling around trying to figure out who they really are now. Conversations thick and meaty like Bull Durham with wild and woolly, crowd-pleasing sex and frank talk when everybody needs it. White Palace****

I kept wondering why I'd got this movie, but I couldn't prove it till the credit roll at the end. Bill Nighy was in it, looking so much older than I thought he was, though he was hardly the star or a lead. Just a supporting role in a move about one group supporting another during a coal strike. Gays and lesbians Support the Miners in Thatcher's England still seems a strange set of bedfellows, but it was an up and down flick. Fun then seriously sad and back again, usually but not always making sense, like a roller coaster or a runaway mine car. Usually in control of itself but just not always. I started to call it another heart-warmer, and it was, but not a terrible one. It included several actors I'd like to see again in yet another movie I'll later wonder later why I got. I'd give it 3, maybe 3.5 asterisks. Its solidarity is solid and its story, though a tad glib and predictable, warmed the heart. Pride***/

The heart-warming story of a man who goes crazy when his whole family dies in one of those airplanes that flew into the World Trade Center on 9-11. Very well acted, and the story makes its own sense. Don Cheadle's the confused friend, and Charlie is Adam Sandler playing sad-crazy superbly. The story rings true except for the woman who wants to … , which seems a little over the top, but that part's memorable. Cameo by Donald Sutherland is short but nice to him in something where he's not stupid or mean for a change. It really is heart-warming, but it takes its own sweet two hours and four minutes to get there. Reign Over Me***/

This one is an oddly frenetic bit of gangsta warfare with the overblown extension of a kid-like Robo Cop and paranoia gone mad with Sigorney Weaver in what could be her worst role yet. All that's true enough, but we get to see Asimov's Laws — essentially, robots can do no harm — stomped into the ground and our goofy hero learns new tricks amid all-out cop and gangsters warfare. Deeply dopey at times, deep-down there's almost a soul; and watching it all unfold is fun. I'd either barely or warily give Chappie***/

Last Days of Vietnam*** is a documentary of what happened during the end of our anti-Communist presence in Nam. Incomplete in any number of ways — they kept showing a red and getting redder map of Viet Nam showing the Bad Old Commies coming to get the U.S. and all the friends we abandoned because the Ambassador couldn't bring himself to believe what was obvious all around. And we all already know they were already everywhere. Nice to see many of the Vietnamese we left there after assuring them we never would, do okay in the end. But sad and really really stupid. But it was a really, really stupid war. The only one I've ever seen up close and in person.

Just watched the first episode of Mr. Robot**** after it got promoed on NPR. They too often promote garbage, but this one is alive, intriguing, feeds right into anybody intelligent's worst fears about the world and this country and who's really in charge. Must be true if that many people fear it down in their soul. It wouldn't pause or do any of the other actions I expected, because so many people were watching it at the same time on an early Sunday afternoon. So I didn't stop it. Helps feed the insecurity we all feel about everybody having access to all our info all the time. It's a paranoid schizophrenic's worst nightmare, but so obvious we all already believe. We know they gotta cop out later in the season, but it's a fascinating start. I don't have whatever network it's on, because I only have ATT Basic, which is a lot like not having cable, but then I prefer my TV online, where everything will end up, and even then the controllers will have their way with us. Will probably have to wait at least a year, till I get get it on Netflix, but I'm used to that sort of time-shifting.

First movie in a long time I've seen Clint Eastwood directed that sucks. The battle scenes may be right on. I don't know. Never seen one like these. All my Nam battles, we were us running, not shooting back or doing our dada duty with ack-ack in the far trees. But these ring true. And maybe Kyle did find his wife getting drunker at a bar. Hardly seems original — too Top Gun — bad pun that it is. The romance just seemed off, as did begging off his murder. I guess I can understand, but I still don't know how that happened, and I wanted to. This story's from his memoirs, so he probably didn't screen write it. I've seen shell-shock and stupid. Otherwise, decent-enough story. Maybe someday someone will do it justice. I can't believe this is. I was prepared to like it. Big disappointment. American Sniper*** Not terrible. Just not good enough.

It is certainly not the best-ever movie about Barcelona's amazing Catholic Cathedral, La Sacrada Familia. No, that title still belongs to Hiroshi Teshigahara's 1984 masterpiece of cinema, Antonio Gaudi, my review of which was:

Presented without distractions, director Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudi**** is exquisite. A documentary of works of architectural art by the Catalonian master whose span bridged the beginnings of the 20th Century, this remarkably direct film tells Gaudi's story visually, without insulting us with facts or comparisons, historical or critical contexts. We see, and we understand. No one tells us what to think. Far from the usual documentarian's parade of talking heads, this motion picture shows only the barest essential people talking at all. Instead, it concentrates on what's left of Gaudi's visions, his buildings, models and drawings. Showing us what they look like in their own contexts in motions and use. Fascinating and beautiful.

I wrote that early this century. It stands. This new documentary of some of El Familia Sagrada's more recent additions and future hopes in somewhat more glorious, 21st Century color, is informative and almost inspiring. But despite the lofty choral voices, it is nowhere as near actual inspiration as Teshigahara's  earlier film. Sagrada, The Mystery of Creation*** ain't bad, just the earlier film was spectacularly better by being superbly simpler. And this latest doc on Barcelona's most famous and still-unfinished through three centuries, and counting, church just is not up to scratch.

I gave up on The Politician's Wife** after sitting through the majority of its 3 hours and 15 minutes, because I just got bored. I wanted to like it, and for the first two episodes, I usually almost did. But that last one (I assume and hope it's the last one) just did me in with the idiocies of story telling way back the end of that last century. It's about a bumbling politician who has an affair and his wife, who publicly forgives him but never does really. As she should never have. She did a deal with darkness when she did. But she was busy doing him in in the most opaque and stupid ways when I quit watching.

Then I saw Masterpiece: Worriker: Turks & Caicos***/, which was a lot of more of the same, but with a tad more wit — as in intelligence, and not just the spy kind. Some rekindled romance and one of the impossible sort that would never have worked out anyway. Now I've seen this movie, I realize the Salting the Battlefield came first, even though the DVD serial number is higher for this, but the characters fit together, though the story may not, completely. Good flick, slightly under whelming and understated, ideal for the Bill Nighy character, but a couple other good actors, also.

Masterpiece: Worricker: Salting the Battlefield***/ stars Bill Nighy, whom is why I got this and the next episode that I have yet to see. That I'm looking forward to watching. Nighy is amazing, but the story is subtle and rich, and the actors several sorts quality, but it's the story that, despite being Brit to the bone, scintillates. His business in this episode is to bring down a Prime Minister, and he's very good at what he does. Lots of hints scattered through the story that we can either believe or not understand. I hope/wish there were other episodes in this series. I've already seen Page Eight, the other of this series, and loved it (****). I'm still not sure which of these was first, but it hardly matters.

I'm giving this movie a five-asterisk rating, even though it's mostly just a four-asterisk movie, because it does things I haven't seen any other computer or internet-related movie do anywhere near well past half-assed. I'd call it a game-changer, except it's set in good old USA suburbia about people having mostly the same old problems. Mostly. But it's also how we insignificant humans way down here on the little blue dot of a planet somewhere lost in space and intelligence are navigating cyberspace on the primitive analog digital devices we've got so far, and how they tend to screw up our lives. All of which is superbly and credibly rendered. This movie makes it seem to make sense that I don't waste tons of time intercommunicating with all the Facebook friends I'll never figure out who are. An overblown cautionary tale with enough real human kindness to make deeply intelligent sense. Nice flick. Good acting. It's got sex and love and romance and all those indeterminables that we may never catch up with, and that's probably for the best. Visually stunning and lovely. Audio-wise, I don't remember a peep, which means superb. I got emotionally annoyed by some of the characters and happily taken away by others, even if the end is kinda goofy and overblown for the already confused emotional payoffs. And watched Men, Women & Children***** one more time before I sent it back.

Nice sometimes to get to identify with a kindred spirit. A curmudgeon. Woman one, but I started identifying soon as she was on screen. It's about the things we gain when we lose. The things we already had that we forgot we had. And what we make of the mix. We only get hints about what happened that caused the lady curmudgeon's pain and change, but we get enough. Then we watch her progress so slowly it seems like no progress at all. Which is the way these things work. Nice movie. Nice people except the lady most of the time till near the end, when we find out she's like everybody. It takes a little time to transition. Cake***/

The title is nearly as long as the 104 point-something mile trek to get the big rock to the museum in L.A., where people can see it till some other governmental idiocy decides that we can't anymore. Major works of art are like that and like this, but gee it's nice to think the thoughts that made this piece, even if they had to drag it to where the people can see if from where they wouldn't even want to. Sorta meditative. Easy on the mind while thinking the thoughts that are not. Levitated Mass: The Story of Michael Heizer's Monolithic Sculpture***/

I've just watched the first three episodes of Parade's End, and I liked it well enough to put part two at the top of my queue. Netflix describes the scene as "a backdrop of profound change in England, this World war I-era miniseries follows the love triangle that forms between an aristocrat, his unfaithful wife and a dedicated young suffragette," which of course is partly truth but mostly fiction. The bitch wife is evil; and the mutual young love interest still seems perfect after all 5 episodes, and so terribly sorry the bitch wife didn't get shot or maimed, but  Parade's End**** ends finally and well. Oh yeah, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch in the best drama I've seen him in yet.

Aaron Swartz didn't sell the information he gathered, but the U.S. Government of and by the corporations indicted him as if he were. Aaron Swartz believed information is power, and that information and power belongs to the people. So the government shut him down. This movie begins as an amazing and rapid-fire interplay of intelligent ideas, then moved ponderously through the The United States of America's case against a guy who wanted publicly-paid-for and gathered information to be every citizen's right. So the government put him down, and sensitive soul that he was, Aaron Swartz killed himself. The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz***/

Another time-travel flick  in which 'they' try to change a mucked up previous time-travel muck up, my least favorite subgenre of time-travel flicks. This one ends all hunky-dory. The screw ups are in the getting in the middle, and I don't trust this one at all. Worse, it stars a grown-up, bearded and mean-spirited Haley Joel Osment. Not a pleasant character at all. He's only in it for his self. Follow Me Down**/

I just finished the third and latest season of Longmire**/, the first two seasons of which I loved, but this latest season — maybe the last? — seemed ripe for being called a jump-the-shark season, which a big, long, stupid murder mystery that took up most of the episodes and kept the Sheriff and his Indian pal mostly apart and everybody else on edge in a long, stupid series of idiocy. I would have given the first two seasons 3.5 asterisks, but his one sucked. If there is one, I'll watch another season, but… It's the first TV series I've counted by the season.

I was never really a Dead Head, but I liked the band, had a few records and more meaningful tunes hummed in my brain for years. I once rode from an early, pre-Willie (but he performed there) festival in the dope-soaked hills west of Austin (called Dripping Springs) to catch a live show of The Grateful Dead in Dallas, then back to Dripping Springs the next day, making love in the back of a van all the way up, so I was in the groove, yeah. But a lot of the history in The Other One: The Long Strange Trip of Bob Wier***/ was new to me, and I liked understanding it anew, and just when I was beginning to miss hearing the music, it came through the speakers, so I liked this movie, even if it was a documentary. And I knew most of the references from Ken Kesey through Jack Kerouack and Neil Cassady, et al. And its themes linked into mine while I was watching it, so it just fit.

Didn't know what to expect from this one, but I loved it in the end, especially the singing of the theme song and explanation of who all the people behind them were, then the post ending bit was good, but there's more than a tad of tedium in the middle, in the media res. Odd bit of animation, time-worn story, it got soul but not nearly enough. I'd give it three and a half asterisks. The Boxtrolls***/

This is a topsy-turvy time-travels movie full of enigmas that I soured on early, then the enigmas fed back on themselves and I loved it more and more even if I did not fully understand. Makes it more confusing that all the major characters look either like each other or like one of the two main sets of characters. Interesting. Enigmatic. The intelligent time-traveler's movie. And I just had to watch it again the next day. Predestination****

Then I watched it again, and I liked it even more. Then I learned it was based on a Robert Heinline (who, thanks to my best friend in college Jim D'Avignon, brought me into my continuing appreciation for Science Fiction) short story called All You Zombies (PDF of original short story; wikipedia page; a really bad UTube movie of Heinline's original dialog; part of an audible version of Heinline's original story on Amazon (and not always there); the differences between the story and this movie, on Quora; and a trailer).

Netflix tells me, "After her Nazi parents are imprisoned, Lore leads her younger siblings across a war-torn Germany in 1945." It goes on, but as often, the blurb on the envelope is wrong, and Lore didn't really lead them. This is a movie about cruelties, the worst of which are perpetrated by the escaping children. So it's deep and telling in enigma after enigma. Strange, beautiful and more strange. Lore***/

If I'd known what it was about, I might not have got it. But I always like Julianne Moore, so I got it without even wondering about its subject. It's about forgetting and because of Alzheimer's, which is a touchy subject. My father had it, and my mother may get it, and if one parent has it, I've read and heard, you get it. My parents outlasted their parents by 40 years. If I keep building me up and losing weight, I might be able to face this next 40-60 years. And I might not. My father went fast after a fall. I still talk with my mother two or three times a week in the mornings. The movie was very well done, delicate and, of course, sad. They covered the suicide angle I often think of, and mine would probably turn out about as botched as hers did. More sad. Still Alice****

I'd have to agree with the New York Times art critic in this aggravating yet ultimately silly movie about the Walter and Margaret Keane. Regardless who made them, the big-eyed paintings are not great art, but they were certainly worth a lot of money. Walter and Margaret Keane were near polar opposites who agreed to let Walter take all the credit for all those trifling works of, uh art. Mrgaret's scenes were sad, and Walter's aggravating, and I'm still amazed I watched the whole flick. Big Eyes***

Good title. Lots of acting, most decent. Travels to far-flung places for good and bad reasons. All supposedly in the pursuit of the understanding of happiness, which eventually comes to our hero by being, not knowing, although understanding, really understanding and putting this happiness stuff into practice, helps. Nice movie overall and in the particulars, I'd give it 3.5 asterisks. Hector and the Search for Happiness***/

The Giver*** was too reminiscent of too many other black-&-white-back-to-color movies. M. Night Shyamalan's The Village had the same remote village aspect; Pleasantville slowly turns its world from black & white to color; and The Prisoner on Brit TV abducted people with wider experience and imprisoned them in a moral black & white village. Hokey as heck, this flick has famous actors who act, but I never believed anyone but The Giver. Even the kid was goofily uncredible. I like the thinking and feeling and emotionalizing aspects, but I sure wish they'd been a little more original.

I did so want to love this movie, but that did not happen. It's long, slow in colors that wilt not glow, which can also be said of the acting, dialog, story and action. Hardly a great movie, but it does offer a few small insights into whom was the English Romantic landscape painter, watercolorist and printmaker William Turner, his life and his loves Mr. Turner***

Jimi: All is by My Side** is pretty lame for a Hendrix movie. It's about all the people who thought they owned him before Monterey made him a huge star, and we all did. The music in this un-biopic wasn't good enough to even have been Jimi before he made it. It's mostly about a terrible girlfriend he might have used to have had. Essentially pointless movie, although I did like the actor's characterization of Jimi. Somebody ought to put him in a better movie.

This one's scarier than The Babadook. Much. But reined-in scary. You know something bad's going to happen, but I was never sure what or when. There were a couple of opportunities. The one that happened surprised me. I wasn't altogether amazed, but it was a little shock among some much bigger ones. I kept thinking the word, creepy. Dark, more than a little dank. Deep-down fear creeps all through this one, called The Drop**** after the novel called Animal Rescue. I didn't care for either name. But the movie was solid good.

I really thought I wanted to see it, but when I did, I wasn't all that glad. We want to see scary movies to prove to ourselves we're not scared by it, but I was. Several times, and in differing dimensions. But it didn't hold together well enough to award it more than three asterisks. It wasn't organized as well as I wanted it to be, and several times that which we were led to believe just wasn't that ____, oh, fill in the blank. Scary, organized, true to itself. You know, all those scary movie rules that this one also did not follow. But it's still scary. The Babadook***

Never much liked the title, but Whiplash** has a beat, but you would probably go crazy trying to dance to it. Crazier than the 'teacher' who browbeats his students, even crazier than the kid who takes his crap and gives it back in a crescendoing finale that really wasn't that good. And I don't like letting some filmmaker give people the idea that emotional bashing is a good thing in a teacher, and though this movie might make us think, I think I don't ever want to see it or think about it again.

There was a moment in this movie when it stopped being exciting and interesting, and I knew the rest of it was going downhill, eventually culminating in a postscript telling us the hero suicided. I stopped watching a few minutes later, but I came back and finished it. Writing true stories about the CIA is dangerous in this country. Our hero suddenly became the enemy, and then, a victim. Scary for awhile. Then pained, and finally dismay. Kill the Messenger***/ indeed.

The Imitation Game***/ is a little too busy for my taste. Too much going interspersed. I hated that cop, then I began to appreciate his sense of justice, but justice did not prevail. Most of the movie was fine unto outstanding. Acceptable homosexual vs. beautiful woman interplay. Superb detective work as a team with the guys. I never figured out why they wouldn't let him work with that woman. I knew about the law idiocy tragedy already but dreaded it. A good but not great movie. Only three and a half stars. It's hardly a mold-breaker, but awfully good acting.

Interstellar***/ seemed fragmented and never came all together for me the first viewing. I may have to see it again, but what a grueling task that is for two hours and forty-nine minutes. It would help to see it all together in one sitting — or standing as I've been lately. Cameos are right-on lovely. The whole story massive. Strong sci and pretty fair dinkum in the fi. Matt Damon was, as usual, remarkable as a really bad guy.

Good, solid flick. Great actors. Complexified story about family, love (of course, that's always there), duty, honor. Dad is a judge. Two brothers are less than. One's a full of himself criminal lawyer, just who Dad needs when he runs somebody over. Much more malicious than it sounds. Amazing dense story that's deep and intelligent. The Judge****

Big Hero6**/ was not terrible. Not terribly good and not terribly bad. Mostly it just was. On and on, then it stopped. I liked best when it stopped, and I don't want to have to watch this Disney smarm again, but it was never awful. It might even have Disney soul, which is a soulless kind of soul that's manufactured in their best. It's the day after now, and I don't remember much about it. I liked it, and I didn't like it. I don't know if there were five before it, and I don't care.

I saw Birdman*** awhile ago. I remember some parts of it indelibly. It was strange. Interesting, super-heavy dense and mostly smart, even into the end which flies off a deep end. Michael Keaton is still amazing; Ed Norton, too. I couldn't understand all the dialog, but it wasn't hard to figure out what was going on. It was about old actors on the Broadway stage and persistent role identification. I should probably see it again. Maybe.

I don't expect every movie Bill Murray is in to be great, and they're not, and there have been some real losers, but when I hear about one that is good, I rent if gleefully, and St. Vincent***/ is funky and fine.

The Fault is In Our Stars***/ is total manipulation start to finish. We're led to believe this and then that happens. We think it's about her, but it's about him, too. She's dying. He's dying. In the end, only one of them does. It's not a particularly good movie, and it's certainly not a great movie, but there are some truths involved. One of them is that writers can't always wrap their characters up at the end of a novel. Some writers can't even finish the sentence. This may be a true story, but there's enough truth in it to almost make sense, and that's probably enough. It's upbeat till the one dies, but it's still an up, even if we're manipulated every step of the way, but that's what movies do.

At the beginning, I reminded myself that, "so far, the Hawking flick is endearing. Then it was endearing all the way through. But it really didn't get far past endearing, and inuendoed through his marriage and their affairs and children are, the film never really got into his mind, only smarmed about a lot. Pleasant, mostly interesting. Hardly the best movie of last or any year, but like I keep saying, endearing, and sometimes that's enough. Just not this time. Give me some mind-boggling intelligence instead. I know he's got it. I want to see it. The Theory of Everything***

I had no idea what to expect from Lucy****, but I love person-who-is-the-smartest flicks, and she is, among many fine special effects and a marvelous Flowers way beyond Algernon story seriously updated. Nice. Fast-paced, fantasmagorical, violent and high fidelity Science Fiction.

Beautiful animation throughout, but the running scene is superb. I'd hoped for something different finally, and this lovely movie was superb in story and especially animation. Like someone who could draw exquisitely drawing fast and the lines tumbling across the page as the Princess flees. Amazing, but short an escape scene. A huge sigh of relief, then the story continues another hour. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya***/

I kept thinking the main hero in this one looked familiar, but I negated every name that came to me, and it was him after all. Remarkable movie. Solid scripting. Believable acting all the way through. Outstanding story. Pacing's about perfect. Movie's named for the tank these guys drove through Nazi hell, then it stopped, but the Fury***/ continued. Only a couple scenes dragged. Been a little nicer if we knew what was going on more, but that's part of it. 2014

I fell into it here, but there's a full(er?) version at the The Brain Hack***** site. Solid good flick. Intriguing, high tech, visually amazing, story decent but paranoid as dealing with religion often is. Essentially, it's about seeing God. And it's free.

I guess it had to happen. Nothing this wicked as well as delicious through most of it, could ever be perfect enough all the way through to the end. Movie endings are always more difficult — or impossible — than anything else. And it was delicious and wicked through the dιnouement, which is about where it began to devolve, unravel and leave us hanging, wanting more wicked and getting tripe, then that added up and up. Oh, well, it was fun while it lasted. Gone Girl***/

It Happened One Night***/ with the waifish Claudette Colbert and the tour de force Clark Gable is a charmer about a newspaper writer and a socialite. The newspaper guy seems flim-flam but he's got a heart of gold and scruples, to boot. The socialite is pretty and ignorant of the world, they don't like each other for most of the movie, then they realize they're in love, then she guesses wrong about stuff, and goes back to her good old used to be, then her father who's sent detectives out for her and offered a big reward likes our guy, too. Pretty silly overall, and of course, most of it is based on them not telling each other anything important the way these stupid old movies do. But it was fun, and I'm sure I've seen it a dozen times, but all I remembered was the Wall of Jericho.

It took a long time to figure out which movie to watch tonight, already late in the night. When I finally chose this one, and it looked and sounded interesting, it became more and more alluring every time somebody new's name flashed on the screen. Wow, if I'd know all those actors I always like were in it, I'd have just started watching it the minute I rescued it from my mailbox. I was ready, and I was already delighted. Show me something good. I so wanted to see it, then I saw it, and it grated on me, and now. Now I can't remember the title or much of anything else about it. One of the problems with seeing too many movies, I guess. Oh, Buscemi's in it, so I found Big Fish*** in the list of his movies, though as I remember, it wasn't one of his better flicks...

Despite whatever blurb you read about this movie, it's something wholly different. Yeah, those famous-then people are in it, or actors playing them, of course. But it starts in Albert Einstein's hotel room, and his character is probably the best, although the Marilyn gives him a good run for the money. Joseph McCarthy is, of course, a creep; and DiMaggio a palooka. They're not gathered in a room discussing Communism, sports, fame and the Theory of Relativity, they come in several different rooms, and they're never in one room at one time. The McCarthy's probably the closest to real life; he never has any idea what's going on, and the palooka never even wants to. Einstein's got a conscience and Marilyn … Well, it's a much more complex and interesting slice of some life in the mid 1950s, as imagined by Nocolas Roeg, and the Theory of Relativity rules. Insignificance***

The name Svengali kept coming to mind. An aging photographer (You see any connections?) keeps finding beautiful young women, whom he "trains" to become human beings. Except the training often doesn't take, but he keeps them for two or three years, sleeps with them, then either he leaves them, or they him. Looked like it might have been wildly romantic, except he's also an aging alcoholic, and since they're hopeless, they don't learn much, because he's not all that great a teacher, mostly just a user. He calls them all Guinevere**, but he's no Lancelot, except in the most perverted way. Bad enough I didn't want to finish the stupid movie, but at the end all his old Guineveres almost get their revenge. Weak. Kinda stupid.

Wow. I've just watched a most gentle and pleasant movie. Not sure where I came upon it, but it were lovely. I do know why I accepted the offer when the Universe suggested it. It's called Bird People**** for one obvious reason that shall come clear when you watch it, but it'd be a complete spoiler to say much about it. A girl is a maid in a airport hotel, and a guy is there when he changes his life. It is, of course, much more complicated than that, but enchanting, also.

I must have heard about this one, just wasn't paying attention. I do that. Got plenty to keep me busy, keeping up with Fb or what's the latest movie just doesn't rank high. But from the first notes in this musical composition, I knew this one was special. And it never let me down. By now you probably know the story, but for those who don't, I won't give it away. Here, for a big change, it matters that we don't know the deal here, until it is revealed, then wham. I've been working at liking the latest Terry Gilliam flick, trying. But this was easy. Smooth despite the rough patches. It flows. I want to watch it again, and I want to download every one of the tunes to get it to keep flowing. It's not perfect, but I don't remember any of the parts where it isn't. I guess if I keep watching, I'll learn those. But I am blowed way. This is good. Rudderless*****

'Sides his own amazing career Clark Terry (CT) was both Quincy Jones' and Miles Davis' first and main teacher. Here he's teaching a young pianist who's pretty amazing himself. We get lots of jazz and no end of good talkin' and scattin' and playing around with jazz. Very friendly flick. CT and his wife are nice loving souls and this is some quality music and real-people living. I like watching ideas spread like good teachers make happen, sometimes almost effortlessly, fun. Happy people being happy with other happy people. Nice. Keep on Keepin' On***/

What if Elvis had an identical twin, separated at birth. That's the set-up for The Identical***/, which is a little smarmy, sometimes predictable, but affecting and danceable. Good, new music of the era by people who wrote it in the 50s and 60s. I'm sure I got it because Ashley Judd's in it. I doubt I'd got it for Ray Liotta, and I've never heard of the guy who plays both the Elvis and the twin, though nobody ever says the E word. It's slick and smooth, but it's many shake steps ahead of how bad it could have been.

Not really sure what I had in mind seeing a movie about a film director, many of whose movies I liked, some even I raved about, but the movie itself wasn't altogether terrific, held together, if it is held together at all, by actors defining the word, Altmanesque, which really should have been edited out. Was nice to see snippets of all those movies like I said I loved, and I have a list of more I need to see now, but it was okay enough, I suppose. Altman***

Utterly charming from the first explosive bear sneeze to the gentle French song (Couldn't they have got some American to sing it in English?) at the end, Ernest & Celestine**** is marvelous. I'm about 52 years past childhood, and I was touched and pleased and charmed by this lovely movie that in no way reminded me of Disney or Pixar, except the characters are lovable.

I've just watched Monsieur Lazhar**** again. I thought I'd sent it back to Netflix long ago. I've probably bought for it, but when they get it, they'll reimburse. But I'm so glad to have again had the pleasure of watching this Algerian refugee in Montreal teaching elementary kids how to deal with their lives after his wife and children were murdered by somebody in Algeria setting fire to their home. He is such a gentle and kind man, obviously he could not be allowed to remain a public school teacher. The story was sad, of course, but most beneficial to his students while they still let him teach. I'd still award the movie four asterisks and the school administration less than one, but what they did was probably just what schools almost anywhere do. Monsieur Lazhar is a marvelous, caring teacher, and we can't have those teaching our children.

I was moved. Teared up and cried several times during Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present****, which is a remarkable video documentary of her, her work and her amazing exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I wasn't expecting that strong a reaction. My still images convey something of what performance art is about, but it needs video to get it across, and this movie does.

I'd rather have seen Morgan Freeman or better yet, Bruce Willis as Management than Matt Damon, who is so much better when he moves. Talk about miscasting, but his is just a brief cameo here. Not the worst thing about this movie that I was prepared to adore. I love the antique tech here like I loved it in Brazil and 12 Monkeys, etc. But this shtick just isn't as amazing anymore. I loved Baron von Munchausen; I've seen Time Bandits at least a half dozen times and look forward to seeing it more over the years, and The Fisher King was superb the first time, and I can easily see why Lost in La Mancha was not. I had high hopes, but I guess Gilliam is getting old and stale, too. The Zero Theorem*** has its moments. A bunch of them. But …

Blue Ruin***/ is all about retribution. We never go get all the details, but it was probably lurid. And led to some killing, and this is the killing after that. Long after. For all that, it's one good flick. Serious as an arrow in your leg. Scary to the point of craziness. Our hero's already a goner, so he keeps at it after a serious change of character. He's got one friend and a sister. But he does this alone. No Charles Bronson or know-it-all hero who knows his weapons. No one-step ahead of the bad guys' every move. This is more human, if not altogether more humane. Vicious, evil, retribution.

It's a Lord of the Flies rerun. Kids running the world. Or their little part of it. Lots of danger as the smart ones try to escape and the stupid ones live by the rules their small, violent minds come up with, even if they don't accomplish much. Then comes "one of them" to figure a way out, and they … well, they set it up for Part Two, Lumpy Gravy, the inevitable sequel and the one after that, and somewhere the last one of those meets with the last of the LotR, and they duke it out and the winner is — doo daa. If you're smart about these things, you figure it out early. If you're not, you can enjoy the ride. If you find it altogether familiar, you're in the right boat. The Maze Runner*** and maybe half a /.

Tim Roth's creepy directorial debut is about familial evil via the son's character. Dad's molesting his sister, but they're both deep in denial. He gets photos, but throws the camera into the gloomy sea. The War Zone***/ stays dark, insular, hopeless.

Classic. Superb. Ingenius. Dare I say, timeless. An older man with style, taste and need falls for a younger woman with agoraphobia, or so it seems. The Best Offer*** ends confusingly, turning the table — scamming the scammer. Much less interesting after so fine a everything before it.

Probably should have watched this one all the way through. Instead of in skips and runs with several long naps in between while I did other things. It seems a spiritual movie at first, and that magical part works well. Then it's less so for a long time, then ends enigmatically. I don't understand. I Origins***

The Assets***/ is about how one, dedicated CIA counterintelligence expert tracked down and brought charges against the traitor Aldrich Ames, who is still in prison. It's a good story "based on facts," but we don't know how closely till I watch The Spycatchers: The True Story Behind The Assets***, which is the ninth of ten 42-minute episodes. Good everything, acting, cinematography, script. Tense, evil, several opportunities for weeping, and some joy. Good series. So glad it didn't go past one season, but I still wonder how much was true.

Seemed a good idea to watch Ridley Scott's first short film, Boy and Bicycle***. Like a glorified student film. All Black & White, with daft monologue I could have done without. Kid on a bike exploring his beach front neighborhood. Very nicely filmed, edited, soundtracked, otherwise, though. Very nicely. Starring Tony Scott, I assume his brother.

For a long time there, I didn't think I'd like this one. And it took forever — like lifetimes. But it grew on me. The realities and the recognizable experiences, all overlaid with realities we all know but forget sometimes in times of trouble. Now I want to see it again, and I don't mean in a couple months or years or something. I mean tomorrow, and I might let it play out like it did all day today. While I was doing a bunch of other stuff. A little at a time, fast forward some sections. Repeat others. I still watch Waking Life that way couple times a year. This is that made real. Boyhood****

I love movies that play with the medium, and no, the medium is not film, or video, or pixels, it's everything we see and feel in movies, physically, metaphysically, emotionally, intellectually — everything. This movie is messing with our minds, and it's doing a very good job of it. It's — both pertinent to this film itself and its play on that medium, coherent, which term is within a couple letters of the title, so I don't have to type that yet, because when I type that I have to assign a multi-asterisk ranking of it, and I'm not ready to do that yet. But it's eerie. The players talked about Schroedinger's Cat [See also Schhroedinger's Cat] early in the film, and that's also apt. Remarkable film this Coherence****

It's cheap sci fi in an over-grande presentation, but it's lo fi sci and goofy besides. A team of scientists — have you heard this one before? Goes back in time to right a wrong by a great showman who cut some corners. The title doesn't make any sense, and except for some nice personal touches scattered through it, the story doesn't either, but several of the characters are pleasant, and the future they avert is just plain goofy with dreadful monsters and … Well, I enjoyed the movie, and the stupids it portrays mixed in with the intelligents, but really, it never had a chance. A Sound of Thunder*** was a pleasant enough way to start a new year.


Got a lot more than I expected from this delightful little slice of life movie. I got it, because it had John Cusac, though his role was minimal. If I'd known Julianne Moore was in it, I'd have got it for that. If I'd known John C. Riley was in it, I might have passed it up. Didn't even tally it up for Gillian Anderson. But the cab driver, Paul Dillon was more than worth the ride. Just a series of personalities and this cab driver. Movie's got a stupid name, but you can't have everything. Hellcab***, and I'm tempted to add another half asterisk, because it was so pleasant, odd and goofy without being altogether funny.

Denzel's The Equalizer*** reminds me too much of Charles Bronson vigilante movies. Lot of violence, but we feel good about it, because he's killing bad guys. Right?

Tonight, I finally finished one of those movies I've had on temporary hold for months and months. I watched about the first quarter to third happily with some joy. Then somewhere along the track, I just got a whole lot less interested. I don't think it had much to do with the music or the musicians or singers. Just I'd had enough. I'd go back to it, littler and littler at a time, after weeks or months, pick it up and try it again. Then put it down again. I'm really amazed I finally finished it. Of course all continuity was shot by then. I didn't know the story any more. I didn't know who that woman was or care. I let the last few minutes play out, then I finally put it away, hoping I'd never have to look at it again. Another one like that, only a whole different kind of movie is Cutie & The Boxer about two old artists who still live together and struggle against the art gods. I didn't think I'd ever finish that one, and eventually, after watching three- or four-minute snippets at a time for way too many months, I put it away, so I'd never have to think about it again. This one I finished, and because I never caught myself up in the spirit and motion of the thing, I can only give it two stars. Not even three. 20 Feet from Stardom**. I'm so glad that's finished.

This is a new TV series from Netflix via BBC. Very good. About a policewoman who gets involved. Boy, howdy! It's called Happy Valley**** and Netflix describes it, "Yorkshire police sergeant Catherine Cawood pursues the man who assaulted her late daughter, unaware he is now part of a secret kidnapping plot," and I clicked to learn more, and started watching, and really never stopped till it's first season was over. Now I'm looking forward to the second season. It's good. It's deep, intelligent, human, realistic, involving, all those things that makes a good TV show worth watching, and thank goodness not every week on one day, but as fast as I can get through it.

I didn't count every TV show I ripped through this year, but from 2014 on, each full season counts as a movie, and I've already watched more "TV" than I have in years. And I will continue. Might as well toss my television on a rubbish heap, though. Because it's only connected to AT&T's lowest grade, and Times Warner was far better than that, and I don't think I have any other choices. Netflix has more and better, and I don't have to shift time.

I got this one, because Julianne Moore's in it, not because of our heroic star Liam Neeson, who'll be in just about anything anymore, but Julianne's part, though perhaps pivotal, is not that important. It's about a  complexly-plotted hijacking. I always assumed the title was about the action, only much later realizing it's on just such a flight from America somewhere to England. It's intense, complex as hell, he- and she-roic, involves a guy we knew right away was an alcoholic, and other issue we learn along the way, so it's kinda human, too. Interesting, a little overboard on some of the intelligence, and Non-Stop***.

I wish the story had been more intelligent. As a movie, this violent mess fails rather miserably, but the creators, director, script-writers, pretty much everybody settled for less. It's a lot too obviously based on long-decrepit notions of the Military Industrial whatever, more mired in B-movie clichιs. Important aspects are glossed over, it's really stupid in so many ways, but it's got spunk, a little soul, and there's an idea buried in all that obnoxious crap, so the movie has its moments. For that too-far-buried soul, I'll give it three asterisks, but all the stupidity brings it down. The Machine*** is about artificial intelligence, but a spunky big movie called AI did it spectacularly better and deeper and more intelligently in every aspect in 2001. Still, there's some concepts here worth considering. I bet the original screenplay or book or short story or treatment this one came from was better. It pretty much had to be.

Alan Turing is all the rage. There's a major motion picture — The Imitation Game — just out that likely treats him as a human being we can almost identify with, a first-person experience. But what I've just watched — Codebreaker***/ is a more dispassioned, 81-minute documentary that's mostly third-person talking heads, although we watch an actor express some of his feelings. Turing broke the Nazi's supposedly unbreakable Enigma code, and Winston Churchill said that he made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the war against Nazi Germany. Turing also invented computer science and was one of the first mathematical biologists, but rather than hail him as a genius hero, the British Government prosecuted him for homosexual acts, and he accepted chemical castration as an alternative to prison for gross indecency, and although he was told that the therapy was reversible, it destroyed him, and he committed suicide.

I've been through several movies just today. But not all the way to the end or even past the middle of any of them. I keep trying The Bothersome Man, but I'd rather watch anything but. All The Pretty Horses intrigued me, because I'd read it when it was nearly new, but as usual with books and movies, I don't remember much about it, except that it won prestigious prizes, and after maybe 20 minutes, I didn't care to keep going, although I might yet circle back and finish it. While I wait to go back to this one, however, Netflix is reminding me it is "in an alternate reality where "frequencies" determine one's level of success in life, low-frequency Zak falls for Marie, who's much farther up the scale." I'd classify this as Science Fiction and it's already rather high on my usual scale of that genre. Essentially, it is an experiment I have 53 minutes and 24 seconds of a total of "1h 44min" to go, and I am more than willing, a little excited even, but I have a cold, and I need sleep tonight. So I am in the delicious state of looking forward to finishing a movie I've already started and am thoroughly piqued by and attracted to. I can wait. I will wait. But I dearly hope it lives up to my expectations, even if I can't imagine that working out, because my expectations are so high.  And, sure enough, the government complicates all the issues without being entirely logical or understanding what the issues really are. Eventually the movie ends happily, although by then I didn't much care. Bringing the gummint into it spoiled it for me. We had an intellectual exercise. Then emotions got in the way, and a movie I would have given four asterisks to, got instead three, maybe three and a half. Frequencies*** even if, for a while there, it showed such great promise.

I haven't seen A Bothersome Man yet, but the short short that came with it is called True Story***, and I've seen that. It's about equality, especially of the tailless cat variety, and it was short enough duration I wouldn't mind seeing it again, but I really wouldn't want to, because there's not much to it, just as there wasn't much to the tail of the cat after our heroine chopped off the cat whose brother was born without one at tail, but everybody only wanted that one instead of the cat without a tail. The best thing about this movie is that it is very short. The worst thing was the image of the little girl chopping off the tail of non-tailless cat so it, too, would be wanted, but at least we didn't have to see that. She just tells about it in some sort of convoluted equality moral.

It's not his best work, and not as eloquent or truly charming most of the time, though there are moments of both. It plays more like a documentary, largely sticking to facts rather than making it up as he went along, which constrains the story. And there's only a spare few moments of magical thinking [How did that become a negative phrase?], but I'm a big fan of Hayao Miyazaki movies — Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Nausicaδ of the Valley of the Wind, Castle in the Sky, Porco Rosso, Howl's Moving Castle, Puss in Boots, Spirited Away, Castle in the Sky, and he co-wrote Up on Poppy Hill, and he was a tween artist for Gulliver's Travels Beyond the Moon, all but a couple of which I have seen and loved. But it was difficult for me to praise this last feature-length film, because The Wind Rises*** biographs the designer of the Japanese Zero, dozens of which fired on and hit the B-17 my father was co-piloting into Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 on his way to delivering planes to Australia and places around there, and killed thousands of other Americans in World War II, but it can't be a mere coincidence that the revered Japanese director and the Zero's designer have the same last name.

They never call it Time Travel all the way through the movie, but that's what it is. Starring Haley Joel Osment, more or less grown up, as the kid. Adult anyway. Whose Dad travels back in time, then doesn't return, so his wife and the kid have a less-than life till she suicides and he becomes a genius brat, and when he learns where Dad went, he follows and makes it so Dad has no choice but to go back to his family, so it ends more or less happily, except the kid who was a snot, instead … well, we don't know, because the family's life re-begins right there and then. Supposedly, but I'd bet the Dad, who invented the wormhole-jumper and the kid, who made it new again, cross paths in the subsequent versions of I'll Follow You Down***: The Return of I'll Follow You Down, I'll Follow You Downer and the coups de grβce, The Return of The I'll Follow You Downer Part III. None of which are as bad nor stupid as this first one, but then you'd never know that, because they kept changing the world so completely that all trace of all that hole-jumpting has all but erased history as we don't know it anymore. 

Dragons: Dawn of the Dragon Racers** is a short short about a series I loved from the first, then thought less and leas of each time a new iteration came out. Till after there were three or four or however many there are now of what once was well considered, How to Train Your Dragon, now mostly sucks. Thor, protect us from more.

At last, a title that makes sense. Two kids, a girl and a boy, experience the fear of a sled ride down a hill and into a tree. Knocked them both out. But one of them's in New Mexico and the other's back east somewhere. Later, one of them gets hit, and the other feels it bad enough to stay knocked out awhile. After that, and they're in their 20s, they begin to know they are experiencing the other. They learn each other from the inside out, talk and watch through the other's eyes. Well acted, beautifully filmed with a sharp, on-target story that makes it real and connects them. Zoe Kazan and Michael Stahl-David are near perfect in this. This movie is called In Your Eyes****, but you gotta believe it could happen. Once you accept that little ripple in the continuum, it works. Nice flick.

Not surprisingly, How To Train Your Dragon 2*** is not as good as the original at least partially because it is no longer original, although there are a few transcendental moments scattered through this often brutish mess. It has socially redeeming passages, and those come in surprising places. But there's a lot of stupidity, too — a whole lot of idiocy. And battles between our good guys and the other bad guys — and the bad guys almost win. Yada yada. It's not terrible. There's gobs of dragons, and one minute they're the good guys, and the next they're the bad guys, and there's not a lot of logic in the transitions.

Words and Pictures*** is an essentially stupid movie about a word guy and a pictures woman, who fall for each other when he is sober, and pretty much hate each other when he's not. Then in less time than it takes to do anything else in the movie he stops drinking. Just like that. We see him at an AA meeting. He doesn't do any of the steps. He doesn't have a sponsor. But miraculously, he stays sober. Yeah right. That's one of the essentially stupid parts. The fun and intelligent parts involve pictures and words. She's a painter, whom we watch as she learns to paint despite her recent physical handicaps, and he's a poet who hasn't written a new poem for some years. And we get to watch him get drunk and destroy things. Her painting, his life and family and teaching job.

Guardians of the Galaxy**** was so much fun. Not perfect a movie. Some of the backgrounds were a tad cheap, but the personalities were plenty real enough, the story goes on and on, and the bad guy never dies, or almost never. Lotta whiz-bang goofiness, and just a whole lot like watching a comic, only the vision nearly surrounds us. Very nicely done, but mostly fun.

Still, after an hour and 46 minutes, I have no idea where the title came from, it it was a lovely movie, about love and not-love and deciding the differences. And all the way through it we knew what would happen at the end, and it did, but not in any of the ways we thought it would. Just slightly and ever so much better. This movie lilts nearly all the way through except for some of the arguments and pleas. There's an old folks home and an orderly there and a charming old man and a charming woman and. And. It's about romance, and it does end happily for most everybody really. A little bit of serendipity but mostly charm and by the end everything and every body was back right where they belonged, and it didn't look like that could possibly happen. The Waiting Room***/

Pelican Dreams***/ was advertised with a picture of a American White Pelican like the ones I see almost every day at White Rock Lake here inside Dallas, Texas, but it's about Brown Pelicans, who are coastal, while the white ones are inlanders. Still, it's an informative and often beautiful movie by the same woman who did The Parrots of Telegraph Hill, which was better. This one goes someplace but the where it goes doesn't always make logical sense, so it settles sometimes for emotional sense, but it's still very informative and quite lovely.

A goofy little story or two via the humors of John Tutoro and Woody Allen. A delightful if thrice-removed risque, existential flow of fun and sex and love. Fading Gigolo****

So little makes any sense in this movie, even within the context of the movie. It's goofy and a little evil, but the story just doesn't run true. Still I was drawn into it, and we still get the gist, and that's probably enough. Maleficent***

The first Thorne***/ I saw was slick. Beautiful, really, but with Sandra Oh? Soon as I saw her doing coke, I didn't mind her getting offed, and eventually she did. If it's a series, I wanted better people. You can probably tell I'm not a fan. Then I view through that whole episode and except for her and the slickness and, well, bits of smarm, and a plot reminiscent of too many good movies. Iit's just too slick, but I liked it and wanted to see more, then stumbled on something else called Thorne, and this time it's before that time, and the pathologist and the detective are friends. In the first one, they were on the outs most of the way through, then got back, well not really together, but it's the same thing. Here, they're buddies who help each other think through the plot. And the smarmy little turd of a fellow detective is still smarmy. So it's a nice little bunch of cops solving murders in England, where I thought they hardly ever have any. And that first episode was way hi-res slick, and this is about half-res... I liked the slick version's characterizations better, but the darkness runs through both. Musta got better writers as well as cinematographers.

I just watched the last episode of the first season of Dicte***/ (pronounced deek tay). She's a journalist who helps a cop — the cop, apparently — solve crimes that she's usually up to her neck in all the 40-something people and most of the action of. She's mostly good, and her buddies, all beautiful — in one way or another — women, who comprise a tightly-knit bunch of friends. It's well acted, intricately plotted, full of fascinating characters — and all a little too pat, like TV shows everywhere, even Denmark. It's all in Danish with fairly quick, easy-read English subtitles and a little English without. There's too many subplots that run through all the episodes — with new crimes or misbehaviors in each new episode, and the characters who always become her friends and family, accumulate. Soap opera meets crime-fighting reporter. Beautiful cinematography and exquisite Danish landscape, that remind me — except for the fleeting, nearly surreal opening seaport images — of Indiana. The drawback is that everybody she seems to know is involved in every new plot. I like that they are a bunch of usually strong, intelligent, powerful (not talking Hulk Hogan, here) women, mostly hetero, who drive the story in important ways and populate it. Compared to American TV, which I'd have to fess up, I don't watch much anymore, but what I do is hopelessly male-dominated. Dicte — the person as well as the show — is not, though there are good and lousy males about. And everybod seems to come in and go out of being idiots. It all feels both dangerously inbred and wonderfully free from the hold-backs of dufus-dominated American TV. I just watched the whole first season in two long nights, and I'll be happy to watch more when they're available. This one's less slick but more tortured.

It's been a few years since I last experienced this movie, and it might be another or more till I see it again, but it's always a profound experience. I interact. My toes tap, my hands fidget. I'm there with the sounds and the visuals of the sounds. I am part of it, and I long to download the sounds but might feel lost without the exquisite visuals that portray the sounds in ways our eyes and minds understand as sound, as rhythm, as flow. I may have to buy the soundtrack and add it to the tunes I play at home, in the car, in my own fifth dimension. I've reviewed the movie here before. Will again. Touch the Sound - A Sound Journey with Evelyn Glennie*****

Sometimes when it starts to get way too cute, this flick does a quick 180, soothes in a little, and goes back to tolerably cute in a meaningful way without getting absurd, although absurdity is, essentially, the name of the game. Not many pratfalls exactly, but plenty worderiffic pratty falls and conversational hijinks. It's funny and human and just a little bit more than that, but we're left with the feeling that of all the humans on the planet, these two belong together, and I guess the movie is an attempt to screw that, so they can be. And for all that, there's a shitload of truth-telling here, just nobody believes it, so it's kinda like everybody's lying, because if nobody believes the truth, there isn't any. Then what? Well, it's a love story, and the two main characters have been lying to themselves and each other so long it almost got to be their normal. But it's a love story. What If?***/

I could not stand The Noah, so I watched X-Men: Days of Future Past***/ instead. It wasn't insipid, but it was fun to watch, and besides all that, it was a time-travel — or at least a change-the-past so-the-future-would-be-better flick. Some interesting concepts, but mostly not. Lot of semi-inspired physical destruction. Netflix's computer thought I'd think it was a three-star movie, and that was pretty close, but it's not a terrible one. Loved that the mutants got sent back to Nixon-as-President time, although they sure should have had more fun with that. I might watch another X-man movie, but I sure hope they can find a more intelligent director sometime in the future. Or one with a better sense of humor.

The Noah*

That's a pretty goofy title for another movie about a love story with its own difficulties. But again, these difficulties are different, and this movie is quirky with a capital KW. But it is a love story, and we will, all the way through, want him to tell her the truth, but he waits until the end, and then the tears fall. Remarkably good movie for all that. Superb acting. Unique, interesting sets. Did I say quirky? But good quirk, goofy even, quirk, but a lovely match-up and a difficult one. The High Cost of Living**** is a really stupid movie title for a move this good.

And to make it a clean sweep of all my movies finally going back to Netflix, I'm sending back Masters of Sex: Season 1: Disk 4***/, because I just don't want to watch that again. It's a decent series, but I'm afraid it'll just go on and on and on, when it really needs desperately to stop. Good characterizations, solid story, very quirky in its own way. But it can't all be true, and I wouldn't want it to be, even if it were. I'm just up to here with it, and I don't want to have to go on an on and on and on with it.

This one's a sweet, then bittersweet, then, well, watch the movie. It's got poignancy all over it. Escaped convict gently hijacks a kid and his mother, is better to them than anybody else ever was, builds their spirit, and their souls. I kept wanting them to be together forever, but. It's a good movie. Several strong characters, awfully darned positive, where negative could have been. About a loving family. Sweet. Labor Day****

John le Carrι writes double, triple, quadruple-switch plot novels about spies, and this one fits, except we understand what's going on till the end, then we understand all too well. The plan was to make the world a better place, but some spies cannot handle that. They need control. Guess who? Riveting. Superbly filmed and plotted. We all have hope, and all our hopes are dashed. A Most Wanted Man**** indeed.

For No Good Reason***/ is a particularly visual movie about Ralph Steadman — yeah, the Fear & Loathing artist whom you'd think — at least I thought — would be at least as bizarre as Hunter S. Thompson, but who, in the reality in this movie, is a nice guy, who apparently — in nearly every frame — is an old softy, who lets his art out often and brutally, but is a genuinely nice guy, and I never expected that. Not just is his art shown here, we are shown him making his art all the way through. Amazing. Fierce.

The Artist and the Model**** is a lyrical movie in black & white of an artist and his model. There's more, of course, but what's important here are those two. Lovely. I watched it slowly over nearly a month, never minded seeing parts I'd already seen, again. The end is a bit of a cop-out, but it's obviously what the director wanted. Cantankerous old sculptor near the end of World War II in Europe. He mentions Matisse and Derain, but all we see is his work, and it doesn't seem nearly as beautiful as his model, who, here, is given life.

We've seen step-and-repeat time-travel movies before. That one with Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code) for example. I keep seeing that one, which seems appropriate. This is more complex. More battle action. A little faster. Deeper thought into it, although I thought when I saw Tom Cruise, it couldn't possibly be this good, but it is. Not just time travel traveling him back to where he starts every time, but the enemy is smarter and tuned in. It may all be a dream, but it learns, while most humans cannot. But our hero might. Edge of Tomorrow***/

Suggested by a one act play of Tennessee Williams. Screenplay by Francis Coppola, Fred Coe and Edith Sommer, produced by John Houseman, directed by Sydney Pollack and starring Natalie Wood and a very young Robert Redford, and even younger Charles Bronson, Sal Mineo and Robert Blake, is this 1966 movie. Netflix says, "When railroad official Owen Legate visits a small Depression-era town to shut down its rail yard, he begins a passionate affair with a local girl, but Netflix misses most of the convolution Tennessee Williams has to offer. It's a long, involved story of madness and badness — good and evil, all mixed into one little old tiny relationship with the whole damned town. This Property Is Condemned****. Now I can't remember why I was where I was on the internet to stumble over this gem.

Stellan Skarsgard is a character actor whose work I've thoroughly enjoyed in many Norwegian, European and American films, including The Hunt for Red October, Breaking the Waves, Good Will Hunting, Lars von Trier's Nymphmaniac I and II and Dogville, Melancholia, The Railway Man, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Dancer in the Dark, The King of Devil's Island, Metro pia, Insomnia, Am is tad, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Ronin, Goya's Ghosts and Boogie Woogie and many others I have enjoyed him in other big hits. Here he's a hit man out of jail after 12 years and about to go back to his old ways when he becomes entangled with a strange series of odd persons, including his long lost son and daughter-in-law who hates him till he does something really nice for her and a lover and some other people you'll have to see the movie to understand. Does he go back to his murdering ways or live his odd little life? That's the question answered in A Somewhat Gentle Man***/ that I thought was terrific.

I stumbled from Friending an old friend to the scary kinetic amazing xxxx to xxx (I forget now) and somehow to Market Hours***/ a hip tempo mind-reader of a police chase love interest quickie flick. More Walking and Talking Dead is a fast-paced nonsecretor linguistic hoot with a beat. And the eponymous portion of Skateboard Crash is okay, but the widescreen speed down hairpin mountain roads is amazing and its swift grace and charging elegance superbly captured. And if Goldenboy is the Tony Hawk of wheelbarrows, and I don't understand why it can't be another Olympic sport, winter or summer

I am, very slowly, watching The Artist's Model in sensual, slow and meaningful yet lush black & white. An elder sculptor who had stopped work too long ago is delivered a young model, and he has that spark of an idea again…

I thought it was going to be another of those interminable Brit detective series, but it was a movie, and it's over just when I thought they were getting it going. Murder on the Home Front***/. Might still be the start of something. Interesting characters and character actors. Truly uncredible models standing in for London during The Blitz, but solid where it needs be.

Impressive. Amazing. Startling. Very very violent. I have to wonder what the graphic novel that brought us this movie was like, but it was in French. This isn't. Snowpiercer**** is Science Fiction in a new world order. Life, on a train traveling high-speed around the frozen world forever until

Radio Free Albemuth was the worst Philip K. Dick novel I ever read, so when I heard that this movie was the best adaptation of one of his movies ever made I wasn't expecting very much, and sure enough it was even worse than the novel, which was almost worth reading until the last fifty or seventy pages. This movie stopped making sense long before that. I had hoped some enterprising director would make it into something, like so many other PKD stories have been. But nope, Radio Free Albemuth* mostly just sucks.

It's unlike most documentaries, but then New York's The Chelsea Hotel is unlike most hotels, because it caters or catered to artists and it was run by artists of a different sort and it was made famous by artists of even another level of more different, many of whom can be seen in this film. Chelsea on the Rocks***

Transcendence*** is a big, silly movie. Interesting ideas, which is what science fiction is all about, but its implementation is absurd. I'd still see any movie Morgan Freeman or Johnny Depp is in, but this presses the issue.

I don't remember choosing these last few movies, but I nonetheless chose well. This one is about an old man (funny now how that might appeal to me) married for many years to an old woman whose memory comes and goes, though his never wavers, and he's building a smaller, easier-to-heat and all-on-one-floor house for her, as his father taught him, but the county building idiots keep stopping him and charging him more money for permits, and they don't like his methods, even though those probably predate them. So it's kind of a race to build this finely-crafted home while he still can, for the woman he loves, who needs it now, and the gummint keeps insinuating itself into their way. Still Mine***/ is lovely, it's from Canada, which I never expected, and it's only a little sentimental sometimes, but mostly it's a great story told with soul.

It began as a lilting love story between a man and a woman, and then we learned what happened to the man when he had to surrender to the Japanese in World War Two, and in the end, it was another kind of love story. But first there were horrors and memories of them. The Railway Man**** was about trains and people on trains and people who built the railroad on the River Kwaii, and the woman who loved him, and the movie contains graphic displays of torture.

The Lunchbox***/ is quirky and Indian (the country), about a guy near retirement who works in an office and doesn't much care about anything else, and there, they have a system of individual cooks who prepare meals that are transported across town in an iffy sort of way supposedly always gets to its correct recipient, is delivered to his desk, except there's a permanent glitch in the system, and he's getting great meals instead of some idiot restaurant's, and I forget how now, finishing this sentence just left past the word restaurant earlier in this sentence, but there's a bit of romance in this lovely Japanese movie.

Two really smart boys in college. One's got a pretty (What else? It's a movie.) girlfriend. And they all three have each other. For awhile there. They get a signal that wipes out their server, and they follow it to a run-down house, and pursue the signaler, and then our hero wakes up in a facility with Lawrence Fishburn asking him questions, and his lower half doesn't work right, and he escapes and drives a truck through some really weird landscape (New Mexico-sh) and the three kids get away, are caught, get away, are caught, and then, the end, with not much explanation, but it was fun, and strange, and I'd be willing to watch it again, just for the fun of it. The Signal***/

Good title for a song, decent title for a movie. It's about a death in the family, and how everybody's broke up about it, and Joe, who had been the drying woman's husband to be, came to town and put everybody back together again by being his own sweet, cowardish self. Lotta good actors, many of whose characters were barking up the wrong trees. This lilting movie is melancholic, sad, but sweet and more than a little ironic, and it has one great sound track. Moonlight Mile***/

The Battered Bastards of Baseball***/ is about a truly independent team in Portland, Oregon that broke records and made baseball its business instead of business, and until the Big Leagues who owned all the other teams in their league 'bought' back their territory, the Mavericks sold more tickets than any other minor league team. Fun, funny and so fine to see a team win big in a small town that loved them. I couldn't help myself. I smiled all the way through it.

(Untitled)***/ was a hoot. It's about a New York gallery and the strange menagerie who occupies it — artists, musician and the gallerist. Too many in-group jokes to keep up with, but wonderful fun.

Red 2*** was pretty stupid, but fun.

A deeply touching movie about a poet, a woman, whom I could not tell was either mad or spoiled or a free, free spirit, totally self-destructive, capable of love, but only briefly, loved too many men and herself too little, was rejected by her father, who embodied true evil, wanted her poetry books banned, after her mother died in the same place, got herself committed, wrote wild, rhyming poetry that inspired a Black Nation, of whom Nelson Mandella spoke of at his first inauguration. South Africa's Ingrid Jonker. Enigmatic, very probably insane. Black Butterflies***/.

There's some amazing snowboarding in this movie, and a lot of crashes, too. So the title rings true and truer as it progresses, and progress, for a change, is the right word. It is the story of Snowboard Legends Shaun White and Kevin Pearce. I knew that first name but not the second, and there's a reason. Kevin experienced major traumatic brain injury in a crash that looked so much like his worst one before that that I thought they were rerunning it, Face slams into the ice, wrecking his brain, blinding him for a long time. Screwed with his sense of confidence and self. Yah, baby, The Crash Reel***/

Finally finished The Bridge.**** I don't know how many episodes, but four DVDs worth. Grittiy. Very well acted. Strange land- and mind- scapes in El Paso, Texas, USA and Juarez, Mexico. Amazing story adapted from the Danish-Swedish series Broen/Bron, which manifests a similar dichotomy between countries, although it's hard to imagine a more dichotomous strangeness than us and the Mexicans. Serious. Tense. Truly a thriller, but laugh out loud hilarious sometimes even in some tense-most moments. Lots of societal issues between the Estados Unidos and Mexico. Fiercely good TV, although I still think of it more as a major, long movie than a series of episodic TV. Good stuff.

I just now realized I saw a whole movie in one sitting, and I didn't know its title until it was over. Jimmy P., Psychotherapy of a Plains Indian**** was superb, gentle. A cure, if you must, but more likely an improving of the mind of someone in a different culture by a man who worked for the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas just after World War II, which our hero (unless the psychiatrist was the hero) had just come back from. I lived in Topeka and sometimes photographed the buildings at the foundation, and later, just before I was sent off to Viet Nam, I was very proud to have a Menninger psychiatrist while I was in the Air Force, and every one in my squadron was going crazy, because we could not do anything, because we had no film, then no processing chemicals, then no paper to print them on, all while having to stand around looking busy. That's when I read the Encyclopedia of Photography from A to zed, although unlike one of my better friends there, I didn't kill several people. Charming characters, in the movie, fascinating seeing how minds work, then, with a little direction, fix themselves.

I've been a huge fan of architecture since I discovered Frank Lloyd Wright in college, so I assumed I'd like How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr. Foster***. I still like architecture, but I can only give this movie a few asterisks, because it's far more laudatory than inspiring. Yeah, the guy has been a visionary architect with many fine buildings in his past and a bunch more in his future, but I want to know the gritty details not just the glossed-over parts. I want to see their process from start to finish of a job, not hear about it later. I want visual details, not more slick new buildings. Tough cookies, J R. This is a puff piece with a lot of pretty pictures, and not a learning tool, and I'm sure that sort of flick sells better than what I want, but I want what I want, and I'm not sure where to get it. This one glosses over way too much information.

The Grand Budapest Hotel**** is a grand and multi-faceted farce of remarkable scale and depth. More famous, named actors than you could shake a really bad but expensive painting at. Wonderful fun and delicious.

Not at all sure how I got started with Blackfish***/ about the killer Killer Whales at Sea World, but once I got into it, it was fascinating and viciously morbid. Their Orcas kept getting pissed off and murdering their trainers, and new trainers would never be told anything about those attacks, except that the trainers made errors. Their biggest error was working for Sea World, who kept captive so-called Killer Whales, without giving the whales a life they could deal with, and a frustrated, angry whale can easily kill people. Tilikum was a happy whale when he lived in the ocean. After his capture and incarceration at Sea World, however, he got depressed and angry when he had not nearly the space and freedom he needed, so he killed a few trainers, and Sea World blamed their deaths on those trainers, not their famous, money-making "trained" whale.

I have no idea what's going on on American TV. Mine hasn't worked for about six months, and I rarely miss it. I watch the world's TV via Netflix, and time-shifting that way is fabulous, because I don't have to be at home at the right time in the right mood or even awake then. The TV I watch is world TV, and I have an amazing selection, what with Netflix and Amazon Prime. I have to write down what I'm watching, because Amazon Prime forgets where I am and in what movie or TV Show, but I keep a list. Netflix just knows. It's a lot easier, and they have more movies, though I'm not certain which is better.

The King of Devil's Island***/ was a mighty king, but his reign didn't last more than a few hours till the Norwegian government sent the soldiers armed with rifles after him and his crew of fellow inmates of the Bastoy Boys Home correctional facility on a Norwegian island. Hardly an original story. Even still in this century there are still places where some people find it important to put other people "in their place." Here it's juveniles who have run afoul of "decent people," so they're stuck on some godforsaken island under the command of (I dare not even call them humans.). When people have dominion over others, they tend to go to extremes, and there was starvation, torture and [implied] buggering on this correctional island, done to boys who, once the King got there, in the guise of a boy who'd already had enough, things turned around till the army got there to put them down. Sounds too much like The South in the 1950s and Ferguson, Missouri this week. More evil done in the name of God.

I am fascinated by birds. I photograph them several times a week, and I hear about or stumble over and track down various online resources of them as often as possible. This very early ayem I have been watching video from the 2012 Cornell Labs Birds of Paradise Project****, including the official introduction and various snippets of those strange and beautiful bird varieties from New Guinea. I hope this is the right link to that amazing story. But though they know birds and show them in amazing videos that sometimes take months or years to find the birds and catch them at their behaviors, the lab is not nearly as adept with the ways of the internet. When I see an icon, I know to click it, but many times, I have learned, it's the words I should be linking on, and the silly icons may roll and tumble and look like they're taking me someplace, then just stop and wait for me to do something else to accomplish what needs doing. And when I find the right link format, I expect my browser to take me there forthwith, but usually I have to click something else or lose the train of thought. I think I can. I think I can. Choo-choo, ma' birdie. Gorgeous videos and still photographs of amazing birds. With a graphical user interface that often baffles. In case you get lost, here's the official link to the Introduction to the project, which may well lead you where I want you to go. Down the right side of that page are linked eleven sections, most of which link you to YouTube — and it may be that you can use the YouTube search box to find it all anyway, but the Labs will continually blot the frame (full frame is available in spectacular, full-color HD) with suggestions that you subscribe or go where there's more info, then take you there anyway. Their GUI may need a little polishing, but everything else is fabulous. Oh, here's another link that claims to take us to the full, 28 minute and five-second show, except now it's a National Geographic special. They never even mentioned Nat'l Geo before. How weird. I haven't watched the whole Nat'l Geo video, but I notice it may include more info, but I loved the more informal presentation of the Cornell Labs version much better, despite its linkluster interface.

One of my main bugaboos with birding is that I'm lousy at identifications. I strongly suspect there are birders who don't see all the birds they count, but they probably hear all of them. I don't easily remember sounds. At least I was telling myself that when Cornell Lab of Ornithology reminded me of some of the many sounds I almost automatically respond to. Their examples included a telephone, an emergency vehicle's siren/horn and, oh... I've forgot already. Maybe it was a door bell or something similarly obvious. Hmmm. Though I, maybe I can learn some bird sounds, too. Jury's still out on that, but I'm am beginning to learn match some bird sounds with their graphical interpretation, which is what the game, Bird Song Hero actually teaches us instead of teaching us what I wanted it to and what they claim. I'd rather it taught me to identify birds by their sounds, but maybe this kind of education is similar. I am getting better at Bird Song Hero**/, which is a lovely implementation of a concept similar to learning bird calls, but I'm still pretty lousy at identifying birds by their calls. Maybe I just need more practice. I've only been doing this for 11 years now.

Told in the lives of two Belgians, an Atheist banjo player and a Christian tattoo artist, The Broken Circle Breakdown***/ is about love and love lost celebrated in soaring, down home Bluegrass music, and both the stars are in the angel band. It's a sad story, but the music makes it sing. A superb movie with fine acting, a great story, and best of all, wonderful Bluegrass music. A bit of an odd mix, but it works perfectly. In Dutch - 2012

It's French, and really inane. About two people with near-terminal anxiety disorder, who either fall in love or convince themselves they have, because they've never got anywhere close before. She's a superb chocolatier, and he's an inept businessman in the candy business. She could probably figure out that about him, but he's too stupid to figure that out about her. The movie is cute, and sophmorically emotional. A little joy of misdirection and absurdity. Amusing but incredibly stupid. Romantics Anonymou***. I almost fast-forwarded through the rest of it, but I liked it enough to slow it down. Charmingly goofy, but I'd sure not want to see it again, because it hurts to watch.

Of course I love the idea of divurgent thinking and action, but the movie is slow, stupid and it sucks. Maybe as a romance,it's almost okay, but as a world view, myeh. I could not watch it all in one viewing, and I never wanted to start it again, and it was always more of the same drivel. Maybe good enough for teen kids. But only maybe. The sci was entirely missing and the fi was extremely low. And I know it's part one of another never-ending series. Boo. Divurgent** is tedious and unoriginal.

Apparently, according to Netflix, I've seen Enemy** twice now, and I don't remember anything about it. It's another one of those flicks I actively wanted to like. But I forgot it soon as I saw it. Twice. So I looked up and review & film summary on Roger Ebert dot com. Then I remembered. A guy finds out there's an actor out there with his same face. And it turns out, same physique and chest car and, we assume, every thing else. So naturally our hero hates the actor guy and when they get together, mayhem results. I could pile on more pseudo-superlatives, but why bother?

I found the Netflix envelope with the movie still unopened cleaning my office, which I'd been procrastinating for a half decade, so no telling when I got it, or whether I eventually had to pay for it. I didn't like my other movies here, so I watched this fortuitous gift soon as I could. It's lovely, but it violates one of those cardinal movie rules. Tell the truth. If our hero had told the truth up front, told the leading lady who he was and what he was up to, there wouldn't have been a movie. Who he was was his father's son, and who she was was his father's daughter. Neither knew about the other, and both spent their lives wishing they were the other., assuming the father paid more attention to that one. But it seems he spent his life ignoring them both. So this guy arrives after his own father, whom he thought he had no use for, died and left him a bag of money to deliver to his long-lost sister. And there, ensues a lilting movie othat cures ills, but it has that one major flaw. It doesn't let its characters tell each other the truth. Usually, that in an otherwise good flick is fatal. This time, it's not. There's a lot of life in the story and a nearly solid romance. People Like Us****.

If Bride Flight***/ had been in English I might have known who was who and kept better track of them all, but then it would not have been as good a movie. It's Dutch, about women on a plane of mail-order bride, and how those long hours on that airplane trying to set a record half way across the world set their ways and friendships for life. It's got sweep and power and life and love — and fathomless stupidity and evil. But because of  having to speed read what English I could wrench from it, I missed too much.

Particle Fever***/ is about the Higgs. I only wish I could it explain it farther than that, but although I clearly understand these physicist's excitement about discovering the until recently theoretical cores of our understanding of physics, now they've found the Higggs Boson particle, they have to go onto something else. Or something like or unlike that. Interesting as far as I can understand. Fascinating in detail and emotions pulled into one movie. But mostly just a step in the right direction to understand how all this — gestures to the universe — or universes — around us happened and maybe even will keep happening. Other than that, it's all well above my paygrade and fathoms beyond my understanding. And then some.

Hitler's been in power awhile when this couple and their girl child are able to emigrate to Africa. He, a lawyer, knows what's happening. His wife has no idea. The child is a fast learner and friend-maker. They set up in Africa and make it their home till he is called into service once the Africans realize he's a Jew and has no love for Hitler. This is the story of how they acclimate to their new country. It was a much richer life than I imagined from the premise, and a better movie. They have their issues. At first, she's spoiled rotten, yells at the help. He feels lost, unable to contribute. The girl always thrives. Intricate story, amazing people, and a beautiful movie. Nowhere In Africa***/

The Sticky Fingers of Time**/ was and was obviously a student project and very confusing, because it adheres to no chronological order, although it starts at the beginning and ends where it ends. I accidentally stumbled into the everybody explanation while seeking English captions, since either the miking or the actors' voices were sometimes indistinguishable, and they were as confused or more so, as I was. It's about time travel of the think-it-thus-create-it-variety,and that is always the least credible. I'm a major fan of time travel flicks, and I've seen a lot of them and am usually willing to sit through a lot of nonsense in its pursuit, and I can see what they were aiming at, but I'm not willing to go through the whole movie again to see what the makers say about the whys and wherefores, even if I might understand a lot more of it through the commentary than through the movie.

Though it was made in 1992, I never saw Chaplin: The Movie**** till tonight. Remarkably good acting almost throughout. Great story. Fascinating life. Now I need to see some early Chaplin films to wrap it up. As often funny as poignant, this is a long story that ends well enough, considering J. Edgar Hoover (the Devil) got Charlie thrown out of America for being what he called a Communist, of course that was in the bad old days when that A.H. ran the FBI and most of our elected officials. Evil man. Not that Charlie was perfect. But he was one of the greatest early innovator of the movie biz, and his life story is fascinating.

On a lark, I watched Weekend of a Champion***/, with, of all people, Roman Polanski and three-times World Champion Formula 1 driver Jackie Stewart at Monte Carlo. When I was a young teen I used to devour Car & Driver and Road & Track magazines with stories about Formula 1 and sports car racing. I didn't always know what they were talking about, but I loved the excitement and the concepts. Watching this race that Jackie Stewart won handily in 1971, despite not having enough sleep, being very nervous, and about six other things wrong, including worrying about rain, was fascinating, informative and sometimes funny. This re-release version of the movie includes a 40-years-later conversation with Polanski and Stewart about a lot of history, safety — 57 of Jackie's friends died in racing accidents, each of which, if described, was shown on the video), stories about those days.

Sometimes we can tell from the beginning that some things important are wrong with a movie. It started with really overdramatic music. Was made in 1998, when they made My Favorite Martian and Lost in Space. But it's got really big stars. An old White guy (Dustin Hoffman). A middle-aged Black guy (Samuel L. Jackson), a pretty White woman (Sharon Stone), and a young White guy (Liev Schreiber), all genius or better in various specialties, like the teams many bad movies gather to fight the monster or whatever. A lot of little stupidities add up. Inconsistencies. Errors in screenplay or editing, or they just cheaped out. Not maintaining a direct connection with the sub more than a thousand feet underwater allows all sorts more stupidities. Right now, I'm watching a jellyfish mob attack Queen Latifah who's backing up the station's videos by walking them all the way to the sub. This is really stupid, but by now I like the members of the team, although Peter Coyote as the station's commander is past stupid and — that word again — overdramatic. So much is wrong with this movie, it's really hard to imagine how they attracted such actors. Probably something to do with Michael Crichton. It's not the story. Blame the director. Barry Levinson botched it. But through all that, Crichton's story picks it up and carries it along. [If you don't mind knowing, Wikipedia has a full summary of the plot. It may be better than the movie. I'm sure the book is.] But I like the movie some despite its idiocies. The issue here is the differences between a movie and a book, which makes it all the director's fault, and he made a mess of it. Sphere***

Watching The Politician's Husband led to another twosome movie with Emily Watson and another guy playing a psychopath, Dominic West, both again superb actors acting in a superb story. In this one, the lead is a woman just out of Appropriate Adult**** school, where one learns to fulfil the obligations of a person performing that role in the interviews leading to trial. Explained early the movie, the Appropriate Adult helps the accused. In this movie, she helped Fred West tell the truths about the many people he and his wife murdered. Shy at first, our AA gains confidence; as the accused gains his own confidence crisscrossing their destinies through to his wife's trial for multiple murders. From the beginning we are told this story is true, though no doubt the producers have taken liberties. The story of the murders and the interviews and the trial are all grisly and chilling.

The Politician's Husband**** turned out to be a three-episode movie about back-stabbing politics in England, not that we don't have that here, too. I watched, because it starred Emily Watson, who was more than up to the role. Kinda wish it would have gone on for her part. Glad it stopped when it did for David Tennant's part. He was also superb, just he was the evil of the partnership. I like her having been the non-back-stabbing politician, not the two-faced liar or rug puller-outer. Until the end, at least. She did then have that smile that might have been taken by us viewers as evil. But then she was a long way up in those three episodes from having been elected merely a minister at the table at #10 Downing Street. Quite the couple, called politic's Golden Couple. God Save the Queen. Lots of dirty politics in those three episodes. God knows what will happen now, but now is of no concern. The show is over, and how superb it was. No back-street murders like our version of The House of Cards, just politics as usual. What fun to watch him lie, cheat and steal and her not. Such a perfect, quick ending. I hope it means she'll be in more movies than ever now. 2013

Five Broken Cameras*** is the not so gentle story of a resistance. We can't call it a non-violent resistance, because the Israelis have been violent all the way through. They've murdered people who owned the land they want to build more and more settlements on. They've destroyed lives and hopes and. Of all the peoples on this earth, you'd think they would realize that a People without a homeland is a deeply dangerous thing to have. It may take years or centuries, but like the Jews, the Palestinians will have their own homeland. Israel stole somebody else's, and they think those somebody else's resistance will never grow large and powerful enough, even though theirs did. Five cameras were destroyed, several times by bullets, by the Israelis in creation of this documentary of a one-sided, nonviolent resistance.

Grisly. Evil. Mean. And dark. Two little girls go missing at Thanksgiving. Just gone. One of those kid's father hears the only real clues, but nobody believes he did, and the adult who told him is mentally a child. That dad goes vigilante crazy and involves the other child's parents but not his wife, who's crazy with grief. The detective is off on another track that doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Prisoners***/ is about just that and evil … I saw it for Jake Gyllenhaal (the detective), but Hugh Jackman (the vigilante dad) is scary good being scary bad. A slow burn thriller, deep-down evil scary, and too much of the devil's work.

I wasn't at all sure I'd like The Secret Life of Walter Mitty***/, and it was slow to start. I'd stop it and wander off, then come back. After awhile, I still had reservations but I was hooked. Beautiful film, especially the Iceland, Greenland, Himalaya and ocean adventure portions. Lilting but gradually gained momentum, then it took off.

My TV hasn't worked since I deconfigured it a month ago, and I don't get Turner anyway, so I was surprised to be sitting in front of Anna's TV watching this movie, because I used to like a sitcom Bob Cummings was in. The first scene showed clothes from the year before I was born, and not sure how I knew, but I said that year's numbers, and by some kinda minor movie miracle, I was right. Women in it were almost all wearing funny hats. Clothes were odd, too. Made during World War II mixing stories of a poor-little-rich-girl who's a real princess and an airline pilot who wanted to go off to war. So of course they fall in love one night but don't do anything about it but kiss and make promises. She chickens out, because she knows her gatekeepers won't let her marry a commoner, but he's still hot for her. There wasn't much about the movie that made much sense, but we were fascinated with all old ways of doing things many of which didn't need doing, but before the happily ever ever, her handlers changed their minds entirely and decided to let the romance happen when they learned that the couples in his family had lots of sons, and they wanted him to be a poster boy for the war, but he wanted to go off to fight it, and. Well, it didn't make much sense, but it was fun to watch because movies then were way different. Overall, a really goofy flick. Princess O'Rourke**/ was Olivia de Haviland and Cummings, who, though he tried and tried, was never funny.

Tim Jenison painted a Vermeer in a warehouse in San Antonio using live models and furniture and trappings reconstructed from the original painting, and the best part about it was that we get to watch. Took him hundreds of days, but in doing the whole thing, what we learn is that yes, indeed, Vermeer used a device very much like Tim reinvented. I'm convinced, and I bet you will be, also. Tim's Vermeer***/ almost sent chills up my spine. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of the ordeal was that Tim was not a painter, although he may be now. The artist in me thrilled at Tim's discoveries and his incredible patience, and the critic in me remembered sitting for Dallas Painters Carol Wilder and Dwayne Carter and Georgia Stafford so many years ago, and as good painters as they were, and as long as it took to transfer my likenesses, none came close to photographic verisimilitude anything like what Tim did with his little mirror. I'm impressed.

Lars von Trier is an acquired taste. I was astonished by his first big movie, Element of Crime and many others since. His more recent Antichrist was amazing, deeply, disturbingly horrific. Stellar movie directing. I didn't know what to expect with Nymphomania I and II***/. It is erotic, but it is not porn. The actors say they did not perform sex, but it sure looks like they did. Because it is so strange, this movie gets at those parts of sex that eludes most movie-makers and humans of our time. It is funny in the oddest of places. And of course it is sometimes demented, but there's several logics to it, despite its peculiarities. But it is a movie, so it has a story, and sometimes the story lets itself go to become what it needs to be, both despite and because of von Trier's proclivities and predestinations. Which is to say, it may need an alternate ending. If you've seen others of his work, you may find familiar themes and ways watching become real. But there's no holding back here, and there's both male and female frontal nudity as well as plenty of sex and violence.

There are movies I just watch. Usually not beginning to end each time. Just watch. I know the stories, the plans, the plots, the reasons they exist. I don't care. I just watch. Lately two of them are Pina, [below on this page] of and about dance and movement. And The Hunt for Red October. I do start them, but I never watch them to their end in one sitting. A little is enough. I don't alternate. My selection process seems to be random. Order doesn't matter for those movies. They are movies I like to watch. For awhile. Because they're readily available. I have Red October here somewhere. Maybe pre-DVD. I don't buy DVDs very often, because when I want to watch a movie, as opposed to seeing it all the way through, beginning to end, I want it immediately available. Like only Netflix lets me. Netflix being the only one I susbscribe to, and I keep my subscription busy, five discs at a time, and I stream profusely and often. But both those movies and more are immediately available. I watch for awhile. Get ideas or am entertained or just feel with their motions or emotions. Then after awhile, I stop them. Start there again later, when I feel like watching again. I used to pay to get into movies, then when I got bored, wander into another theatre in a multiplex, learn whether I'd want to pay for that one later. This isn't that. This is pure movie enjoyment. Or a need to think in motion. Or something. Something easy. I don't watch TV anymore. Except on my computer, which is where I watch Red October and Pina.

Just Like Being There*** is about gig posters and their artists and fans and the people who buy them and the bands that inspire them. Good. Colorful. Huge variety of styles and forms. Interesting. Interspersed with the music the posters promote. Nice. I kept flashing back to all the Armadillo World Headquarters poster artists I used to know and enjoy. Not all that dissimilar, actually. Posters are the detritus of historical movements, and rock moves us.

Oh, darn. I thought I was watching a movie, then I look up and it's only got 14 minutes to go. Slowly it dawns that Rectify is a TV series, and I so needed a couple hours of immersion, then come up for air and try something else temporary. I don't know if it ever ends or ends suddenly before I'm ready for it, or if I have to wait a couple semesters till it starts up again. And it's so good so far. Guess I'm destined for it…

Poignant. Mostly gentle. Serious. Real. Michael Caine must have hundreds, maybe more than a thousand movies I still need to see. He and Clιmence Poιsy make this movie a little masterpiece about love and facing life and death. May still have the wrong title. Last Love***/ Sweet and kind.

I've seen a lot of docu- and rocku-mentaries on the life and times and music of Jimi Hendrix, but none has been so personal or electrifying — sometimes the hair on my arms and legs were standing up — as Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train A Comin'***/. I just say wow. Netflix tells me I'm watching "Previously unseen performance footage, as well as photographs, drawings and letters..." which "provide new insight into the life a music legend Jimi Hendrix," and I know that is true. Nice flick. I didn't destroy my hearing, but I played it loud. I think I know this guy better now.

From the time-honored tradition and long history of Hollywood Schmaltz comes a movie that's largely uncredible. But that's okay. There is a second-hand lion, but only one, and he dies with his boots on, so the title is at least half right. Michael Caine and Robert Duvall are the eccentric uncles. Haley Joel Osment is the green kid, and Kyra Sedgwick is his halfwitted mother, but there is no love interest for the uncles, unless you count Jasmin, after whom the old lion was named. But you'd have to believe an awful lot to go down that road. Coming of age, not really drama, but heart-warming, and I had it pegged for much longer ago than 2003. Secondhand Lions***

The most fascinating aspect of Sign Painters***, was watching them wield their brushes. Their sureness of line and elegance of application is continuously amazing to watch and appreciate, and listening to them discuss their craft was informative and intriguing. Several of the painters interviewed mentioned that they were not fine artists, which is true. Most are not, and won't ever be, although some of their signs could become fine art or almost, if they last decades or centuries. Old craft sometimes morphs into art. A few likened their work to fine art, and while there are many similarities in techniques, the medium is the message, and they'd have to extrapolate more than was evident. One talked about how his current project, going up in time-lapse motion on a trestle behind him as he spoke, was so much like graffiti, which it in few ways was. It was big, but carefully not stylized or particularly colorful, and its message minimal. But some sign-painters with a wider view could probably make very solid fine art if they had something to say, and I'd love to watch them do it. Available on iTunes.

I remember seeing the trailer for Vantage Point*** a half dozen times, so that must have been about when I gave up on seeing movies in theatres. Slowly, amid car chases and foot races, we learn what happened after the President is murdered at a conference to end terrorism ; ) by watching the post assassination action over and over again from differing vantages along a ticking time bomb till the end. Better than i expected, exciting, confusing till you figure who's killing PODUS, amid a mix of other subplots. Forest Whittaker is, as usual, superb.

Stories We Tell**** is the story of an infidelity that resulted in the birth of someone famous enough that you may have heard of her, told by the members of her family in her movie. She makes movies, and she made this one that twists the lines and edges. I like switchback plots, and this is. Rashamon has nothing on these people. It earns that last half asterisk, because this is so different. Nice job, Sarah Polley.

I've been watching two TV shows end on end on my elderly iMac. One episode finishes, I start on the next — or switch to the other show. It's quicker and more bearable without ads. My TV doesn't work, and I've only been procrastinating getting another for four or five years. The Dresden Files***/ is on Amazon and Longmire***/ is on Netflix. Dresden is a wizard in Chicago, as in magic spells, potions and the supernatural, bad and good. Longmire is a contemporary sheriff in Wyoming (except it's filmed in New Mexico). I just watched the last episode of the wizard's first and only season. Sorry to see it go, but it ended on an upbeat, which portends happiness for the two leads, our wizard and Murphy, a cop whom he helps solving extra-ordinary crimes. Longmire is a good guy, and I thought I had at least another season to watch him solve crimes with his faithful Indian friend (Dresden's guy friend is a ghost.), who's been his friend since they were kids. Both shows have rich characters with good, bad and mixed motives, and both are almost always interesting and good TV. I'd love to see a second season of Dresden, but it's pretty wonderful when a good, long, episodic movie ends with the promise of happily ever after. Longmire just stopped without a word from Netflix that they don't have the third season, which is on cable now. I'd assumed it was an oldie, and I'm surprised it's that new.

I liked Robot & Frank, and I usually like movies that blur the differences and sames between humans and not-quites. And though I initially found Her to really be unctuous, I stuck with it long enough to really like it. I thought she was way too familiar and unreal. I wasn't sure I would continue watching. But then I did. It got too good not to, too quality a film. It's as if the humans caught up with the Operating Systems briefly, then the OSs took off into the stratosphere. Or some place humans can never go. Almost a balance of all the physical aspects OSs couldn't live in. Odd balancing. Like any relationship, I guess. It got pretty emotional while the OSs could still emote, then the humans had to punt. But we always have to go it on our own eventually. Her****

I thought I was paying attention, but I have no idea what that movie was about. It had lots of famous actors, only a few of whom I have names for, but you'd recognize them. It feels good to have seen it. I got a feeling of kinship and, like somebody in the movie said, belonging. There's a flow, but it's not one continuous event, and different and sometimes entirely different people play in its many acts. It wasn't all positive, but I'm left with a good feeling. Nine Lives*** and I want to add another half asterisk ( / ), but it'd help if I knew what it was about. I suspect that will come to me when I'm thinking about something else. 2005

I guess I thought if I could see Donnie Darko*** again, this time it would make sense. There's so many movies in that category — The Man Who Fell to Earth bounces to mind, and every time I see one of them, I have the same feeling after I see it as before. Eventually, I might learn not to. What I particularly remember is that song, Mad World. I have it on mp3, and I listen to it often, even now.

I love Jesse Stone mysteries. I'd probably like to read Robert B. Parker's novels, too, but I love the movies, which I assume started out as a TV show. That's TV I would have watched. Now they're scattered. Not yet, I think, available as a set. But I watch every one I can find. Jessie is a gentle man who is sometimes the Chief of the Paradise Police. A town in California, maybe even on the coast. He likes almost everyone, even gets along with the town thug who's as organized a criminal as Paradise has. Jesse watches out for the downtrodden, he's kind and smart. I like criminal investigators and spies who know more than anybody else, and I like Jesse because he's kind and smart. This one was called No Remorse***/, and Jesse Stone Mysteries gets that last half asterisk, because this is such a well-done and kindly kind of whodunit.

It's kinda sappy, although most of the time they avoid it. Toward the end it takes over with swells of sapola music. But through the story it's one girl and one boy, who get left on an island without any clothes by the rest of the kids at camp. Then they go on an adventure that pretty much culminates with being in the ersatz custody of a stinking, drunk deputy sheriff played by Val Kilmer. At the beginning, the two kids were meek and bound to be the butt of jokes. By the end, they have advanced, so it's a travel flick with character development. Standing Up***

Finally! A thrilling thriller that makes enough sense, doesn't play sentiment or schlock cards too broadly, keeps the action going, entwines a love interest with relationship issues and hardly any add-on sex. I've liked all the Jack Ryans so far, and this one's right up there. Think-fast action or die and contemporary ideas, cyber sleuthing, etc. Great fun. Good chase scenes. Exciting and intelligent. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit***/

Good idea, and some of our better actors, but the plot leaves us lurching from one sentimental payoff to another in what might have been a much longer story that got badly chopped up, and it's difficult to imagine what really happened. "Based on a true story". Like, yes, there really were The Monuments Men***, but the rest is smarmy fiction. It has its moments, but they are few and don't quite match. Noble music sometimes but not so righteous screenplay or presentation. For what it was, it should have been amazing, but it's a highbrow notion aimed at just anybody — making more sentimentality than sense.

It's not really a thriller, because we all know what's going to happen. The story is full of roundabouts, and it doesn't really make any sense, but it seems to at the time. It's full of idiocies, but it's got Robert Duvall as a good guy and Werner Herzog as another bad guy, so there's something to appreciate along the way. Mostly, Jack Reacher*** is just stupid, but it's kind of a fun stupid.

'S been more'n a week since I saw it so I'm watching it again to remember, but Night Train to Lisbon**** is an accidental journey into somebody else's past by a graying Milquetoast academic played by Jeremy Irons, which is good enough a reason to see a movie, anytime. Plus, it's beautiful and wildly Romantic. Can't wait to watch it again.

Blood Evidence*** is a decent legal thriller about an author who eventually remembers key information about a cover-up from the past. Thrilling enough but maddening, too, because we're not dealing with the whole truth till the end.

A little time travel, but just to solve the issues at hand. Much more seeing of ghosts and the friendships of family. It's an English charmer about a Grandmother and her Grandson at the end of WWII and the family and faithful and unfaithful servants who served them through time. With Maggie Smith and other character actors we recognize, even if we don't know their names. Nice. Mellow. From Time to Time***/

I wonder if Jay Silverheels would have thought this was as funny as I do. It's a fairly stupid Cowboy Movie about White People who never learn their lessons, and Indians who … Well, hard to tell, really. I guess the winners have to be the woman and the child. Both White People, of course. They always win. But Johnny Depp is perfect deadpan throughout, and he's always right to boot, crazy as his character so credibly is. But the crazy ones win. I'm lucky I have to see every Johnny Depp movie, and this is the best I've seen in years. The mix of Depp's acting and the movie's absurdity runs deep and is mostly not destroyed by all the cliches we've come to expect in these silly movies. The Lone Ranger***/

The sad and scary story of a guy, bravely played by John Cusak, who's why I saw this grisly, supposedly true story of a man who raped, hunted and gun-murdered at least 17 women. We follow one who got away, then he came back to get her. Niccolas Cage, I can understand starring as the brave cop who tracked him down. He's good at roles like this. Hardly a stretch. Cusac, however … not sure why he'd play the bastard who did this, except he experiments with roles. He's the best but needs to do more than quirky good guys with cute kids or whatever big-money job we all know he's done lately. This is dark, grisly and mean. Frozen Ground*** is a mediocre title, a stirring movie, but except for having John Cusac playing the bad guy, it's all an ordinary cop vs. serial-killer murder flick. We know who did it from the start. And there's no overblown close-ups or goofy bad-guy over-acting, although Cusak mostly phoned in this performance.

I've always been attracted to movies where somehow mentally or technologically or magically someone enters someone else's mind. This is the best one of those I've seen in a while. It's about memories, and there's good guys and bad guys, and it's never easy to figure which is which, and the individuals keep changing as we think we know them better, but this is a thriller that thrills. Complex, intricate, lots of layers. Good story. Real and unreal mixing and contradicting, always interesting. The sci is good; I know some of those actions and reactions; exciting to see them played out convincingly, but I want to believe; I've already willingly suspended my disbelief. The bad guy, whom we gradually learn is not that bad, remembers and doesn't remember but doesn't believe he's that bad. The guy who enters the bad guy's memories learns and gets lost in there, and he needs to be Extracted****

I've had this one in my queue for months, if not years. I've always expected it to be very good, and it was. We follow one piano through the full year of its creation, step by step, listening to each worker who plays their part in its production. Meanwhile, we see and hear famous and other serious pianists choose instruments and tell what they like and why. Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L 1037****

Masquerading as logic, Elijah Wood and John Hurt drag us through a long series of de- and re-ductions in pursuit of a serial murderer who doesn't exist. Fun watching them elucidate, but largely inconsequential, even silly. The movie lies to us and to itself, and we just can't trust that sort of story. Since that cute little boy saw dead people, we know that movies have to tell the truth and adhere to their own rules, but this one — and too many others — don't. It was going along very well for awhile, then the stupids took over. They often do. The Oxford Murders**/

Trance*** is a stylish bit of trickery on us as well as on the leading men. But it is stylish and we are led on a merry prank that's fun to watch, if silly. It's about the theft of a famous and very expensive painting that probably never existed. Lotta sound and furry signifying almost nothing at all. But racy with full frontal (female-only, of course) nudity and lots of blood, real and imagined.

I fear to deeply mistrust a movie that calls itself worthy because a Black man finally got to be another President who ignores the evil he causes and continues, but Lee Daniels' The Butler***/ is a needful reminder of the evil "our" politicians will always create with their policies of money over righteousness, and wars that do not protect America but instead murder millions of our and their citizens. Cecil Gaines served as a butler at the White House for thirty years and eight presidents, few of whom gave even him even his basic rights. It's a strange world we inhabit, and I like that this movie tried, but I doubt anyone who feels so good at the end of it, will right our wrongs along our crooked course. And Oprah Winfrey is a terrible actress; I never once believed Robin Williams as Eisenhower; John Cusak makes an almost-credible Nixon; and Forest Whitarker is astounding.

I knew I'd like Bless Me Ultima***/ despite its mediocre promo and the terrible trailers that came with it. A simple story in which a learned one, his grandmother, whom others called a witch, because they didn't know the difference between that and teacher / healer. Only two people in the film were not Latino, the evil villain and the good teacher in the school. Ultima was the boy's grandmother. She taught, and he learned, and the adventure that every movie needs wins the fight between good and evil. A simple premise but not often an easy one.

Womb**/ is a strange and drear sci-fi story about a woman who loved a man since they were children. They stop on a highway so she can pee in the bushes, and the man opens his passenger side door on a busy highway and is killed instantly. So she clones him, gestates and raises him on the beach, which is one of the hauntingly beautiful, forlorn yet meaningful landscapes, far from everybody else, so she can keep loving him. But she doesn't tell him the story so he knows who he is. Until the first Tommy dies, it's a love story. After he's cloned, it's just weird and selfish and mostly stupid.

I haven't been a fan of anime particularly, having seen all I could by Studio Ghibli [and looking forward to the one about the man wo created the Japanese Zero, despite its history against us], but I hadn't fared much beyond the pretty and the cute and mellow. This movie is set in a crowded, rough and beautiful city, which two children who can almost fly protect from organized criminals both of this world and not. Intriguing concepts and spatial story lines comprise a remarkable context that requirse a determined suspension of disbelief, which I happily abandoned almost immediately, and I was rewarded. Tekkon Kinkreet****

I tried to watch The Dixie Chicks' Shut Up & Sing, which I would have awarded two stars if I had finished it, but it was so stupid, I did not, even though I used to like their singing — though not nearly as much as real, old-time religion and love-lost and everything else Bluegrass.

I also didn't finish Despicable Me 2, for pretty much the same reasons.

Not sure what possessed me to order Scooby-Doo! Ruh-Roh Robbot, but that was also terrible, and I had realized it and removed the from my queue a couple days before I sent in my latest pile of failed Netflix flicks, but they sent it to me anyway, and I sent it right back. Sometimes I wonder about my choices.

That little adventure inspired me to clear all the dead wood out of my DVD queue and pare it down to only 100 items (though it's grown since.), the lowest it's been for at least five years. I'm still a major fan of Netflix, but I sometimes have serious doubts about their intelligence, too.

Thought I was watching a one-film-history of film, then near what I thought would be the end, the narrator spoke of much more to it, and I realized it would go on and on. That the narrator swallows many of his words was my biggest complaint, but the story is a well-crafted one, showing us the movies that comprise the innovation by using them to show us the tech. Outstanding bit of filmery of and by and about itself. I thought I couldn't wait to jump into the other chapters, then I learned there'd be 15 in all. Arghhh! I'll report back if the quality dwindles or the story falters. The Story of Film – An Odyssey ****/ so far.

I bet my friend Norman Kary would love this one, although he's probably seen it a couple times. Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay***/ is a quite good documentary on an illusionist who has illusionist and slight-of-hand magic, and many other friends who do things you might not believe, even if you watch them very carefully. Well done down to ending with a marvelous narrative poem. Visually fascinating, although no slow-mo or stop action and darn little let-us-in-on-the-secrets peeks. Nice flick.

An odd bit of cinematic history, like much cinema history that didn't happen and certainly not that way. That's the point of the tape at the end, right? But a lovely bit of Disney, although I would have preferred someone who either looked or acted more like Dick Van Dyke to a guy that didn't resemble him on any level. Oh, well. And the over-dramatic Mrs. Travers. Yet despite the sap and hoke and all, a decent flick. Saving Mr. Banks***

A Brief History of Time***/ sure reminds me of A Thin Blue Line, that director's other famous movie, and I seriously doubt I'll remember much (understand even less), but I sure enjoyed looking at all the images and graphs and etc. Nice to finally meet the guy I've been hearing about for the last thirty-fourty years. It held my attention.

A surreal movie about a singer in a Bluegrass band who falls in love with a tattooed woman, who sings Bluegrass better than Emy Lu, Alison Krauss or anybody. They have a child and the little girl dies of cancer when she's seven. Sad, but glorious for their ongoing Bluegrass, and of course the couple breaks up, and the mom commits suicide a couple times. Sounds like a plot made in either hell or Bluegrass. I love Bluegrass music, and I see the subtle surreality of this amazing movie. It's a cosmic joke, a joyous prank on the world. It's perfect and maddening, just like real life. I had to get the sound track, because, like the movie, it is moved along by Bluegrass sounds. And it is perfect. The Broken Circle Breakdown**** yee-haw!

Muscle Shoals***/ is a pretty good rockumentary. Honest, nearly direct. Tells the story with plenty of famous musicians carefully placed along the story line. Sounds good. Stays interesting till nearly the end, then catches back up with the truth again just before sign-off. Fair dinkum. I'm still rocking.

The Book Thief**** is one of the most eloquent movies I've ever seen. Set in Nazi German, it flows with a few horrors and lots of joys, and by the end, a character made up on the spot in an air raid basement to calm those waiting for the bombs to stop, carries up its soul and ours. Lovely.

That was a surprise. The Croods***/ is a whole lot better than I could have thought anything named that could ever be. It's touching, and adventuresome. Intelligent and stupid, real and unreal. Nick Cage's voice was just wrong for the cave Daddy, but most the other voices fit just fine. And it's not stupid. Touching, even, sometimes. Fun, often funny, and scattered with frights.

From the novel, Our Father, Who Art A Tree, The Tree***/ is a gentle story about a father who dies of a heart attack coasting down a hill and crashing into a tree. A tree that has become a part of their home. They, the kids and his wife, slowly come to terms with the tree, which the young girl believes — and gradually others of the family, including the mother, accepts as the father in enough ways to spend time there. There's grief, then a short romance, but the primary relationship here is his kids and his wife and him, the tree, which never really comes right out as anything more than a tree. Then they leave it after it eats their home.

From whatever I saw or read, it looked to be a high-quality Brit mystery. So I started with the first disk, got hooked almost immediately — high production values, superb actors and a compelling story in a compelling community that's as big a part of it as anyone. I stuck it out through eight episodes. Meticulous detective work brought it down to the wire, and by then I was deeply invested. 8 hours worth. Then in the last one, it says it will return. I like that, because I liked the two lead detectives whose lives in some ways parallel, but I think it was just talking about the last episode. Broadchurch****

Judy Dench plays a woman who's not very smart but is very intelligent, and she asks a man who used to be a reporter till he got sacked to help her find her long-lost son, whom the sisters at the home for unwed mothers sold to a couple in America. And in due course, they find him. Not exactly happily ever after, but a sort of that. It's a lovely movie with a lot about the evil Catholic Church. Funny how that keeps happening. ***

Not at first, but by the end of the movie, I was pretty sure I'd seen Salinger*** before. I know I did not, half way through my previous viewing, order Catcher In The Rye from Amazon for $2.76, and flushed with that success, I tried to track down an audio version, only to learn I could only do that if I were blind. Not quite worth it, I thought. But the movie was pretty good without being utterly wonderful. It certainly blazed no amazing new trails in moviedom. But it was nice to catch up on the author, who died in 2010, and whose work he'd been writing all those years, would be published beginning next year (2015). I wonder whether that will be exciting or a big letdown.

It's a bit of a weeper, but there's a lot more joy in it, too. About a couple who works at a foster care facility full of kids with issues, and of course, the adults have issues, and sometimes they parallel, and sometimes they get better, but slowly, so the joy comes out. And that feels very good. Short Term 12***/

Pussy Riot***/ is fun and depressing. Fun, because what they did, and depressing, because where they are is in Russia, where we aret old, there is not freedom of expression [but we tell ourselves the other side of that same lie] — as if we had a whole lot of that here. But the movie is a hoot, because what they did is amazing, and we get to watch a lot of it.

Love a good, interesting, sexy, strange, switchback plot that keeps on giving and switching back till nobody but the con of cons knows what's happening, and I don't even mind I don't. American Hustle***/ surprised me. Good fun. Fun watching. My attentions only waned once, then I got right back on the tour.

This one is a mind-fuck. A story about people who want to be paralyzed, reported by a guy who is, who meets a woman who wants to be,and then, well, you gotta see the movie. A visual treat, but a literal trick. So many things wrong with what's going on. The woman so wrong I half expected her to reveal herself as a guy, but it's wronger than that. Really twisted. With a strange but true title, Quid Pro Quo***/ — something for something. I kept thinking I wasn't going to watch any more of this, then I did, because it's so truly weird. If it'd been done any better, it would only have been worse.

The Woodmans***/ is more about making art than any movie I can remember. It's also about Francesca, who made amazing beautiful and telling photographs, and her family. Mom was a ceramist. Dad a painter. And her big brother. How they remember her, of course, but also who they were and why and how they all made pretty good art. This one will stick with me awhile. But I kept thinking I remembered the mother's work from another movie, and Francesca's, too.

I wondered why I'd ordered it. The Netflix jacket blurb made it seem rather ordinary, but it was anything but. It was the first movie I've watched all the way through in one setting in awhile. I loved it. It is about an old man pondering the choices he made, but it's a lot more interesting than that and in an extremely visual and beautiful way. It does involve going back and forth and doing loop-de-loops with time, and we're talking about a very old man (My father is 100+; this guy is about twenty years older.) This movie surprised me at almost every turn. Unlike Captain Phillips and too many others before it, I never knew what was going to happen next. Mr. Nobody***** plays wonderful games with the usual ways of making movies that tell stories.

I expected to like it, because Bruce Dern was the star, and I've enjoyed a lot of lilting, not-quite great movies with him in it over the decades, but I wasn't expecting it to be black & white. But after not very long, it seemed right and natural. The music's marvelous and the story superb. It's about hope and disillusion and family and, well, love. But it's not really about Nebraska****.

Gravity**** was exciting and a little cosmic.

Everything You Need to Know About Birding*** was presented to about 50 hastily gathered Audubon members and friends at the Angelika. I assumed it was be a smarmy little weeper and it was, but also in several ways, it was about birding, even if the supposed extinct duck our hero — and everybody else was chasing and hoping to see — changed bodies from the first sighting to the last, when it was actually a female Mallard, just about the most common duck species known to Texans. We learned that the movie-makers had wanted to do a story about aquariums but changed to birders along the way, then wrote or rewrote the story for that. It's a good enough story, and it brings out a few salient facts, if not anything near everything about birding, but too much of what was supposedly about birding wasn't quite right.

I got fed up with this one early and often. Only on the fifth time I tried it did I finish it. I didn't think he did a particularly wonderful job on this, and I don't believe it was worth an Academy Award, but I usually don't think that about who gets them. I like the story, and the idea of going up against the FDA, which like most gummint agencies is obviously there to create more havoc in our lives, not less. Dallas Buyers' Club***/

At first I really thought they were overdoing it, going back in time to change every little mistake. That seemed absurdly too much. Then they settled into a middle ground that made more sense. and by the end, it all made sense, and it was worth all the silly time sifting. I liked it enough I might watch it again before I have to send it back. Bill Nighy seemed way underused at first, then that, too, got balanced out, and he's important here, and it makes me wonder who he really is, and what's he like. And for all this flick's goofiness, it's really a gentle cosmic comedy, although at first I was opposed to calling it that. It's About Time***/

Not nearly enough racing footage. I spent my teen years reading European writers writing about auto races, and most of those stories were full of details and were exciting. This one is full of Hollywood emotions, and sometimes exciting. But it is more a battle of styles than two guys all out on the track. So it's not a great adrenaline racing movie, just a good-enough emotion flick. Rush***

Three men loved her, but she loved only two and shared those till just before they died. Was the song, Gloomy Sunday***/ truly cursed? Or does it matter? Nice flick. One of the guys who loved her was a Nazi, two were Jews. Odd bit of filmery. Wildly romantic, but just a side-story in what was going on just then in the restaurant business and Hitler's world domination. German 1999

Here's another art movie, this time about a staged photograph creator, who turns whole city blocks or neighborhoods into large-format (8 x 10) film photos, which are very precisely planned and executed with major-movie-like precision and crews. Nice stuff, elegant, eloquent, with multiple poignant details visible through windows, doors and other apertures. Probably makes editions and sells them for big bucks. He doesn't just tell us how they're done, we see it, from him arriving on the scene, to the massive, cooperative work his set-up photos are. Very interesting work and process. In the end, the artist tries for wisdom, and I was busy typing every word, when I realized it didn't make much sense, and I don't think I can make much use of what he said (but it's below just past the next sentence.). Whereas the whole movie, by showing technique, was crawling with ideas and concepts. "There are moments in an artist's career when you have to challenge every expectation of what you think you know. I feel very strongly that every artist has one central story to tell The struggle was to tell and retell that story over an over again in visual form and try to challenge that story. But at the core, that story remains the same. It's like the defining story of who you are." Gregory Crewdson — Brief Encounters***

Hannah Arendt***/ was a political theorist, who may be most famous for writing Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (and for coining that phrase) originally published in The New Yorker, about Adolf Eichmann and the Jewish leadership during the Nazi reign. She was Jewish and she knew of which she wrote. It is a thankless task to write about evil and to suggest, even if it is true, that others were involved with perpetuating it, and that their friends and protectors will hate you for it. People who write such things have to grow thick skin, and this movie is about Arendt and her friends and those who assumed they were her enemies, because they did not understand — if they had even read her words — what they were really about. The crux of the controversy as is the crux of this movie, is an intellectual misunderstanding.

Best thing I can say about this movie is that I either smiled big all the way through it, or I was laughing out loud. But it's also true that my mind was engaged through it, too. It's about an artist who is funny, and he's funny in his art, and his art is funny, and so's his whole art career, but it still sells for the big bucks. He's done a lot of things, probably most noteworthy he helped design Pee Wee's Playhouse, still makes puppets, has done animation till he went crazy, has a family and still he makes art. The movie of it is very well done, edited, oh, all those movie things. Remarkably well-made movie. Beauty Is Embarrassing — The Wayne White Story****

It always seems strange to show an animated movie and list the "stars" as the people who supply the voices but not the people who drew the pictures or designed the characters. I had a lot of time to get philosophical about movies while watching this one. It's clearly dated. There was a time when Hollywood — or whoever — did movies just like this, and I can clearly see why they don't do that anymore. It tends toward the soul-less, and the charm it has isn't always evident, which means it may not be there. Technically skilled, yes, but the story is inexcusably drawn out for no apparent reason, but it still goes on and on and on. It's as if whoever foisted this one on us loved the story but didn't care that much about the characters. Robots*** I liked who I saw it with way more than the movie, and that's the sort of thing that should just drop away when I'm engaging my fantasy in a movie.

Before watching it, I played the preview, then forgot it was the preview for that movie, and the longer it played — not long at all, the more I wanted to see it. So I did. Then I hated it. But I might still go back to High Art and see the rest of that dreadful flick just to figure it out. Or not.

In the 70s I knew several dedicated and truly honorable women like Sarah, whom I deeply appreciated and wished I were as true and honest and helpful, but I was always just me. I don't think I've ever wanted to hold public office. That sounds horrible to be selling yourself all the time and selling out on any real beliefs, like Fielding does in this movie that struck home. Sarah is a Leftist Idealist who practices what she believes. Helps people who need help. He wants to be a politician. Is a politician. A soulless idiot with no real beliefs. Sarah had soul, had belief, and she acted upon them. So the soul and the soulless fell in love — opposites attracting again, and after purported death, she haunted him, and he was truly haunted. Now, the movie's got eleven minutes and forty seconds to go, and I don't think there's time for him to be any kind of decent politician, even though he's just won his election by 623 votes. I don't think I would have voted for him. I don't even think he would have. The one thing I have faith in his character in this movie is that he loves her. But if he doesn't follow through and either grow some balls or a conscience, he's lost. I saw Waking The Dead***/, because it has Billy Crudup in it, but Sarah was Jennifer Connelly, and for a big change, I see a lot of reality in a movie about a good person — and him. 1999

The children's teacher hung herself in the classroom. Her last act was to kick away the chair, and we — and that child — believe she did it there, so he would find her. Like the young students, the teacher's replacement is also quietly fleeing death. Who, why, what … we don't know, then we learn, but we know the children are experiencing trauma, and the administrators are inflicting their own. The replacement is prohibited from raising the subject. What ensues is kind and gentle. He teaches. They learn, and not just their lessons. Lovely movie, in French. Monsieur Lazhar***/ is the temp.

Ahhhh. Thrilling thrillers are really the best. This one's Brit, and apparently their legal and justice system is as corrupt as ours. This is a legal attempt to circumnavigate the near inevitability that the spooks will get their way and anything approaching justice will be dashed. And there's a nice little romance along the way, to boot. Quite good. Thrilling, too. Closed Circuit***/ 2013

I know why they changed a lot of the things they did, and it's not because it makes more sense. It almost always makes less. But it saves time if the plot/characters/dialog goes stupider. If I could find my copy of the original short story I'd know how long it would take to read it aloud, but reading a story is nothing like making a movie of it. Everything has to be dumbed down to shorten it to 1 hr. 54 min. Have to dumb it down when you need to take out that which the author originally thought essential, even if the author did the rewriting. This movie is no exception. It's several grade levels dumber than the original short story and a lot stupider than the subsequent novel. It's also substantially less human, which is exactly what I most appreciate about the best Orson Scott Card stories. Nice thing about movies is they are visual. So many aspects of this movie are shortened up and dumbed down, but Ender's Game is still about as good a movie as I at first thought, though it misses being anywhere near as solid, intelligent or humane as the original short story or novel I still cherish.

Another Old Man and the Sea but not so many words. Tense movie. Oceans scare me. Always have. Probably good reasons, although I've only seen a couple oceans. The big one from two sides. Robert Redford is amazing, as is the filming, the story and the movie, though I wouldn't want to have to watch it again. All Is Lost***/

I've had it in my queue for more than a year, maybe two. Wanted to see it, because Emily Watson's in it, and I've liked watching her since Breaking The Waves, which I bought and loved having seen in a movie theatre, but never watched again. What cinched it was Tom Wilkinson, and they're both perfect. It's an odd little conundrum of a movie. Watching it work itself out was emotionally twisting but ultimately comforting, though it ignores the usual rules. Lovely movie, superb acting and I'd see it again. Separate Lies***/ 2005

So I saw this one all the way through in one swell foop. And one by one, I learned to dislike everybody as we worked through the whole cast. I can dig calling it a comedy, and I could see Woody thinking it was funny. In retrospect it was funny. Almost hilarious. But watching it, it was a big drag. Now I'm even humming the theme song, and I don't know the words, either. Blue Jasmine***/

Eventually, I saw this whole movie, but in such distinct segments I never managed to put it all together again. Like Humpty, the pieces didn't seem to fit. I got the gist of it. Wealthy English family tried to collaborate with the Nazis to forestall war before World War II, and adopted gypsy daughter Glorious learns some of their secrets and tries to keep them from it. We pretty much know that World War Two was not forestalled, but I'm not sure this family ever learned that. Glorious 39** I saw it because Bill Nighy was in it, not because Stephen Poliakoff directed, which I think means I entirely missed the point. And I'd probably do it again.

Mostly lately I'm just waiting for the latest installment of The Newsroom Season I to arrive, but Netflix keeps sending me other stuff on the list I might not have so carefully screened. But I don't think I ever quite reviewed The Newsroom****, although I loved it. I'd give this TV series  four asterisks.

It's well named. Not lovely exactly, more like Delovely***. The Cole Porter Story only had to wait fifty years till they could suggest he was gay. I wonder how many more till we can learn the rest — I learned more about him from WikiPedia. I didn't like this movie, although I'm glad I saw Ashley Judd in it, and Kevin Kline wasn't completely horrible. I just didn't enjoy it. Maybe if I liked musicals ... but finishing it was a chore, and to see how it ended, and how that connected to anything, I had to keep at it. I wanted to play just the contemporary recording artists doing his songs throughout the flick — that was the best part.

Renoir***/ is a lovely movie, rich with the color and form of the Elder's painting, and we see a lot of that painter, being waited on hand and foot, but it is almost the younger whom this movie is about. He and the model who sat for Pierre-August but sparked Jean's life passion, too. I assume much of what we see is historically accurate and what we feel, perhaps less so. That seems they way these things go, but it's a new Renoir coming slowly into his own we watch this time, as the old man, crippled and barely alive, continues but only for now. 2012

Consider this one a road trip, romance, adventure, more than a little goofy, but lovely, wrong girl, right woman, a little peevish, strange, everybody's in on it or they're alone together and not quite matched yet, and the movie goes on till they've got it right with a momentish tear at the end, and they all live ... well, you know. Great characters along the way. Nice. Richly gregarious movie. In July***/ in German I think. 2001

This one was excruciating to watch. A beautiful movie. Beautifully filmed and acted and told, but it's about a accusation by a little girl who had just been rebuked by whom she thought was her friend, an adult. So she told on him, and it changed his life, her life, and everybody's life around them. And I kept not wanting to find out what happened next, but needing to. Until the end, but I didn't need that. I guess they just added that horrific ending to make it arty and enigmatic, because it doesn't make enough sense any other way. The Hunt***/

The Wall**** is not the Pink Floyd movie of the same name but a healthy meal of German Existentialism, superbly wrought and starring one woman, cut off from the world by an invisible, low humming wall, fights loneliness, eventually wins at that but looses her friends and creatures along the way. Nothing is explained really, and not that much needs exposition. Long, slow, often beautiful.

Not long ago I wished there was a movie of it, so I could understand what all was going on, and at the same time I thought long about reading it again, though lately I sought to have it read to me. That way it'd be all Bill Faulkner's amazing words and phrases, and maybe then I would understand. Then I saw this movie because I wanted it to explain the book, but I listed it and then I watched it. All in one setting. That's unusual. I usually stop and start and stop and. Well, you know. Fifty years ago I read As I Lay Dying****, which was an important book and a memorable one. Watching this movie of it brought me back to little details of it that lilt still in memory. Little twists of the plot and rhythms of the words and feelings. I'm sure they wrapped William's words around their necessary motions, and changed little things. But this is that story best I could imagine it. Real, and close to the way Faulkner told. Cannot say much higher praise than that. It's simple and it's good and it's real.

I thought I didn't like this one, then when I restarted it, I discovered a masterpiece of a movie about friendship and conversation and art, that's both subtle and overt about two people not descending into romance — and a city and its museum. And light and movement and color and sound. Beautifully filmed, dense with irony and humanity, humor and grace. And space — I remember one scene when I suddenly was remembering Roger Winter's urban cityscapes. I had thought of sending it back without finishing it, because so little seemed to be going on at first. Then that so little became so important I couldn't stop watching, absorbing information, understanding things about people and art and space and place. No flash, no bang, just a movie called Museum Hours****, quiet conversations and docent Ela Piplits' scintillating lecture taught me more about Bruegel than ever. Lovely, lilting superb.      If you'd rather, check the Menu for the English without subtitles version, so you can concentrate on seeing the art in the movie and of the movie. 2012

Then, largely accidentally I discovered the "extras" that were interesting also, and in Amber City*** (1999, 49 minutes), I saw genesis of Museum Hours, although it's 49 minutes long. Set in that beautiful lyrical dark mood with but little hope showing through, we get only inklings of what Filmmaker Jem Cohen was thinking before Museum Hours.

ANNE TRUITT, working***/ is 13 minutes of an artist talking about colors in her sculpture. Eloquent. First we see in Black & White, then it becomes color. Each scene ends with the camera closing down, so the colors go dense, then dark. That's the only annoying part, although the interview is a little repetitive. The interview is one-sided. Anne only, and we don't see what she is working on, but she talks about it, and we see what she has done as we see her making. Like Ela Piplits' Bruegel talk in Museum Hours, we learn what an artist is thinking, see some and parts of her work, so we have some understanding of it. 2010.


Elysium*** 's pretty good. Very exciting, though tediously unrelenting. Bad bad guys and good bad guys and not altogether great megalomania a la Jodie Foster, but tons of bad acting (I'm guessing the director didn't notice, he was spending so much money so fast.) and several very noticeable leaps of logic — or truly bad edits. Credibility, well, not so much. Serious rip offs of Larry Niven's 43-year-old novel, Ring World and the original, 1994 Star Gate, so it's not all that original either. Sad low tech like District 9, and by that same director, but with way too much glitz and no deep charm. It's semi-heart-warming in places but mostly mediocre sci with barely adequate fi, and not as good, nor original, logical, compelling, nor viciously satiric as District 9, Matt Damon notwithstanding.

A very little like Rear Window in that it embodies voyeurism, but much deeper than Hitchcock, this is strange to the core. In French, I didn't mind reading subtitles. About love, too, but not the sort most people dream of. There's a lot of evil in this movie, and it comes from whom we least expect it. That moment of denouement catches us up and we stare in wonder as the plot unfolds, quite differently than we could likely have expected. Very strange, but haunting. Monsieur Hire****

Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron*** was fun watching in the middle of the night then mute the sound while idiot ads played and I finished my latest art story in a rush of them the last couple weeks. It's a love story of the land and the stallion's wildness and wilderness and fillies along the way, beautiful and stirring and emotional and mean and playful humans, too. It kept me awake, and I was really surprised to see it on middle of the night TV.

Sometimes we can tell immediately that a movie is going to be amazing. Other times it has to sneak up on us. Map of the Sounds of Tokyo***/ is not a map of the sounds of Tokyo, but it does play some of those sounds, especially at the beginning and near the end. It is a love story, though an odd one. And any description of who these people really are will not only make little sense, it will lead you astray, so I won't go into that. It's about trust or a lack thereof, responsibility and change, or the lack of that. But what it's about is of little consequence really, when the fun is in watching and listening with ears and mind.

Pontypool**** is a wonderfully inventive story about language as a virus and understanding carries it along. Stop making sense, and it goes away. A DJ, a director and a girl friday in an obscure radio station somewhere in Ontario are attacked like War of The Worlds, and they think it's a hoax, but the hoax is that understanding is good, when we all learn un understanding is the answer.

The Berlin Wall***/ is very short but rich and dense like an amazing dessert. An old man, whose wife has just died, begins to rebuild the Berlin Wall. Kids help him, a few adults. Most think he's crazy, but he keeps at it till. Well, you'll have to watch the movie. Very interesting and poignant and really almost perfect little movie from filmmovement.com that came with Welcome

Pacific Rim*** is mostly goofy. Lotta action. Not so many thrills. Some of the characters are wonderful, most are a waste.

I think Cookie's Fortune*** was supposed to be un-laugh-out-loud funny, and I'd agree with everything about that except the funny. I'd give it good solid peculiar and a fair to middlin' insipid, though it made some sense, and I liked the Charles Dunbar character immensely, and was that Eddie Murphy? Maybe the best thing about it is all the famous actors or famous faces whom we might not be able to put names to. Whole mess of those. If it'd been done thirty years before the 90s — or thirty years before that, it might have been terrific, but I don't think it managed that, either. Nor did it have originality going for it. Maybe the kindest thing I could say about it would be Screwball Comedy, with an emphasis on the screwball. I saw it, because Juliane Moore was in it, and I've got to stop doing that, because here, she's just stupid. She's good at it, but kinda sad to see her play that dumb. It wasn't as bad as most TV sitcoms; it had some charm; but too much of the rest was over the top inane.

A Highjacking***/ was grim, serious as a heart attack and Danish. It's about responsibility and humanity and experts who just don't know but seem to be in charge. The cook was great; so was the corporate boss. Chillingly so.

I put off watching it for many months. Finally, I rented the DVD and watched that, even though I could have streamed it any time. Guess it made it more real. This is an enchanting movie about transitions. Mostly from life to death. And regrets realized and made good. It involves an old man whose wife died before she could do the things she always wanted to; Japan, where his wife always wanted to go. A park full of Cherry trees that blossom only a few days every year, where he befriends a young, Butoh dancer, which his wife also was, and and together they visit the very shy Mount Fuji, which she loved. This German movie seems Japanese and is simultaneously real and symbolic, filled with life and the other. Charming, gentle, vivid and truly heartening. Cherry Blossoms****

The last time I enjoyed a zombie movie this much was when I laughed (out loud) all the way through my third viewing of Night of the Living Dead from the front of the balcony. Everybody kept shushing me, but I wasn't listening. Of course, I was on LSD at the time, and almost everything seemed funny that trip, but I was straight for this, and it is the best Zombie movie I've ever seen. Plenty to be scared about, lots of life/death situations. Intense action. All those things movie ratings warn us about. Ten stories high of zombies trying and succeeding getting in wherever they want to go. Undead hordes and hordes of hordes. Excellent special effects. Good acting. Solid. It's a classic small-team-infiltrating-the-bad-guy-world-and-coming-out, well, ya gotta see the movie. World War Z***/ I'd give it that last extra half asterisk if it were something altogether new and different, but it's a zombie movie, guys.

I'm not sure about counting this one, because though I saw every frame, they sometimes went by way too fast. North Face***/ was the scariest movie I've seen in a while. Scared me so much I kept stopping it for days. Then I'd go back, watch a few minutes, and be scared again. The ice and snow and frozen climbers and avalanches put fear deep down in me, and I only wanted this otherwise lovely — good to great everything: story, characters, adventure, scenics — movie to stop. Climbing the North Face***/ of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps was so scary I could barely watch a movie of it. If I wasn't so scared, it would surely have upped that last half asterisk. Shudder.

Saw but can't count since it's the same TV show I've been watching most of this century, and I already — long ago — counted it. But now, I've finally seen to its inevitable end (though I'll probably watch it again, I loved it so). Wow. I was entranced by almost everything about this long-running detective story. Foyle's War, Set 7 down, and I'd love to see more, but it doesn't look like it will happen. But it's not looked like that could happen a couple times before...

I've been watching Henning Mankell's Wallander***/ although I avoided it for years, because it's in Swedish without English dubbing, which I think I'd prefer if it were done well, but that's far from guaranteed, although the production values are superb here. But there's not so much visually that I can't keep up with even while slavishly reading the English subtitles, so I'll know what's going on. I liked Kenneth Brannagh's portrayal better in the later Brit version, even if he was darker and more depresso than this guy, whom I am warming to. This Wallander isn't dark and only a little depresso, but he always figures it out with standard police work despite flaring emotions all around him.

The Avengers***/ is colossally stupid, but so much fun, who cares? Lots of thrilling action, sci-fi SFX, massive destruction and a master race of goofy super heroes. Who could ask for more?

Remember Tron? As if we would believe those nidjits were actual gamesters. This is deeper, unrealer, way more game. Mean-spirited, ultra-violent, fast filmic video action beyond the Nth. This one looks like violent, first-person shoot-em-ups of this century, fast-forward fast with lots of visual gimmickry. A dark White hero against a lot of players, the badest of the bad guys are all Black. I may still be twitching from the sensory overload I didn't not believe, even though I knew it was only a movie. New, different usually means it's neither. This is. Scary, tense, fast, almost lost in the video semi-reality. Gamer****/

Maybe they weren't trying hard enough, although the problem could have been that they were trying too hard, but Monsters University**/ just isn't up to Monsters, Inc. or very many of the other Pixar/Disney collaborations. I used to believe the tech was Pixar and the heart was Disney, but I wonder. Maybe the real heart was the pre-Disney Pixar and both entities' mutual collaboration, kinda like what this movie was trying to teach little and big kids everywhere, is just not good enough. …
     And the special added attraction, called The Blue Umbrella***/ was different, and still a little forward reaching without quite grasping, new, gentle and nice.

I first read — and was wowed by this when it was a short story in the August 1977 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact, which I then subscribed to. I have that magazine somewhere. When its writer, Orson Scott Card later novelized it, I read that, too. Then its sequels including the much more complicated and psycho- mostly logical, Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, Ender in Exile, Ender's Shadow and the several offshoots involving other characters, most of whom get short shrift in this overblown movie. It's a big movie with extravagant, but very distinctive-looking special effects, and I hope Card got lots of money for it, and though I was off his work for awhile when he let his very Conservative personal politics infest characters in other books, I'm back reading him and wish him a long life of writing deeply human books. I'm not sure sure I want more movies made of them, however. Movies necessarily skip a lot of details, and its those details that separate Orson Scott Card stories from much else of science fiction. Those are the details that make a novel worth reading but that don't help movies all that much. I sat too close for this one, in an actual movie theatre, and I can't wait to see it in-focus in the smaller, higher resolution scale of my iMac. Ender's Game***/ Wikipedia's story on the book and movie, etc. seems remarkably accurate.

In World War II, many intelligent women got jobs in secret government facilities where they used their minds to decode messages and learn what the enemy was doing, so they could be stopped. After the war, most of those women went back to much more humdrum lives, where their intelligence was not prized. The Blechley Circle**** was a small group of women who worked in Intelligence cracking codes and changing the course of war, but now they can't even talk about, and they have let themselves become dominated again by men. That's when a mysterious, serial murderer of women came to some, then all of their attentions. It's British, so it's not stupid like American TV. It's a three-episode series, where most of the men in their lives and in the police repeatedly put them down, but they solve the dark, deep mystery, and I'm not the only one who hopes they make more, but even if they don't, this one is superb, especially in our stupidly male chauvinist pig world.

I did not believe a documentary about a sushi chef could be that good, but Hiro Dreams of Sushi**** is exquisite, and I longed to taste his wares, but the documentary was delicious.

Remember Robby Redford's Sneakers? This one is much more sophisticated and smarter, and until the end, more serious. Fiercely so. Netflix calls them "an anarchist group whose attacks threaten ... corporate clients," but they're eco terrorists up to good, though doing it in ways harmful to the people who are poisoning our water and our selves. I'm an old Lefty, and loved Sneakers, but it was goofy, too comedic, and this one is not. It's a thriller, till just before the end, so, mostly Impressive with a dumb but sweet finale. The East***/

I had serious misgivings the first time I saw the last half of this movie on somebody else's TV, but I liked the quotes I'd never heard from famous writers and argued with myself whether I'd bother to see it whole. The need grew, and now I don't have to anymore. It's the story of a song and a long and literary tale. The words to the songs that, like the acting, kept getting better as the movie went on and on, and the music and the story got more real. Still not sure I appreciate John Travolta, but Scarlett Johansson was alright and the music and New Orleans just kept getting better. A Love Song for Bobby Long***/.

I probably should check my already-seen movies list before I rent another one that sounds this good but is a few years old. But then I'd miss seeing some golden oldies like the John Sayles movie I just loved watching. Again. I didn't recognize it till well after halfway through, but suddenly I knew what would happen next, and when it did, I just kept watching, because it was so good. I won't count it again. I looked for my previous review by doing a site search for "Limbo [and] John Sayles." I'd probably watch it again again. A movie this good is never a waste of time, even if I've seen it a couple times before.

As big a sci-fi fan as I am, I never did warm to this movie, which seemed fairly cheap. Cheap thrills, not world-shaking acting, the ship — they sent a ship for an exploratory visit to Europa, moon of Jupiter, and it's huge. Nothing stealth or sleek or space or weight-saving about it. It's a giant hulk with acres of space inside. I just don't believe that. I just did not believe most of what this movie purports to tell us. Not credible. A little exciting there toward the end, because they had established a certain level of tension. I wanted those idiots to live and return to Earth. I guess. We're led to believe the mission was a success, because all the video transmissions eventually got back to Earth, even if … Well, I don't want to spoil your view, if you, like me see it despite not-all-that-wonderful reviews. But I wouldn't want to watch Europa Report**/ (What an awful title.) again.

I've got myself involved with another intelligent and intriguing detective spy sort of television series. I don't know any of the actors or any of that stuff, but I'm into episode 7 of the first season, and I'm addicted. Can hardly wait to see the next one. So far, I like everything about it, but I know that can't last. It may have made it to the second season. I can see so many possibilities for screwing it up. Certainly soon, something will be going terribly wrong, so this is while it's still white hot sizzling. Watching — waiting — for the first few stupid errors, but so caught up into it, I won't care, for awhile. Rubicon**** from 2010, and so far, it's still amazing. But they only ever got that first season. Sad.

Comparing Prime Time Amazon and Netflix:
It's on Prime Time Amazon**/, so I've been watching for the distinctions between it and Netflix***/. Like when I turn off captions, they don't keep flickering, like Netflix, which doesn't even have this series yet. I have to restart to stop it. I am trial & error learning how to navigate Prime, and it doesn't keep track of how far I've got in the series or into one episode, so I have to remember, and of course I don't. Netflix does.

Prime also stops short, and that gold ring spins and spins way more than Netflix. I'm writing this as I watch, and every time I click between programs, Prime goes back to tiny mode. That's annoying.

The interface has not been thought-through. It's not Netflix sophisticated. Not much about it is, except the picture on my iMac is exquisite. And trying to track down movies I'd want to see without knowing what they are yet?. I've searched Amazon for a tutorial but they just try to sell me something.

I've just discovered that the Pop-Up button starts the full-screen window, but it does not have the list of episodes.

It was told in three parts, each through the mind of a different character. Unfortunately I saw it in three sittings that did not coincide with those splits, because I was already bored with it. I never once coincided with what it was doing or why. The film itself — the color and the film stock — seemed dull — too amateurish — but just a little. I got it because Bill Nighy was in it, and right now I'll watch anything he is in. Even though I see its poignancy and lostness — now, looking back, it was never once endearing till past the end. I just kept wanting it to be over, so my opinion is probably considerably less than anybody with a heart who watched it all the way through. Lawless Heart***.

Netflix didn't mention this was a Studio Ghibli production, or I might have watched it sooner, but though it was very sentimental and almost smarmy, I loved this little weeper. Especially the amazing details in the impressionist backgrounds. Minus half a star for that, but really lovely ocean-port setting for an impossible young romance. From Up on Poppy Hill***/ by the master.

I like to say that I never watch TV, but it's not strictly true. I pick and choose and do watch a lot of TV, often end on end, whole seasons at a time. Not on my TV, which was elderly when my parents gave it to me three years ago. For actual cast TV, it's fine, except I lost its remote, so I can never see all of widescreen, just the middle, which renders it useless for movies for me. I see only old-fashioned TV-shaped screens on it. The TV I watch I watch on my Mac, which is much higher res than my TV.

5 Ways You Don't Realize Movies Are Controlling Your Brain by David Wong.


Endeavour***/ held together superbly until nearly the end when the plot unraveled, revealing that the movie had lied to us all along. Did not adhere to its own rules. What it was was an elaborate prequel to the Inspector Morse series, featuring a just-out-of-college — if even that, detective whom I'd like to see go on, and let this be its pilot or don't let the writers be screw the other endings. Now I want to see all the Morse mysteries again. That Lewis series is tripe.

For a long time, it seemed just too tense. The big race. The great escape. An untenable situation. A plan. The escape race. Tense all the way through. I kept taking it out and watching something else calmer for awhile. Then put it back in. Eventually, I saw the last hour all the way through. A little stupidity at the end, and then. Well, you know. The Next Three Days***/

It had Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Stockard Channing, Susan Sarandon, Reese Witherspoon and even middle-aged James Garner. Netflix calls it a thriller, but there's nothing thrilling about it, although crime is the right genre mixed a little mystery. I got it for Paul Newman. The plot, assuming that's what it was, was kinda dull, as was the story. Pleasant company for a couple hours, but not anything stunning. The finale wasn't worth waiting for, but I still like watching Paul Newman. Twilight***

Azorian: The Raising of the K-129**/ is a documentary with mostly historical video and film and plenty of talking heads of the old guys who created a ship and a Capture Vehicle to grab the remnants of a Soviet Submarine downed in 1968 when they were much younger. The Soviets didn't know where it was, but we did, and the U.S. got parts of it back. Maybe in 20 or 30 years, there'll be an animated version so real that we'll know visually, perhaps with narration what happened and how and why, etc. to our attempt to bring the Russian sub back up, and what we learned from it, but this is a very dated documentary not even up to 2010 standards.

Boogie Woogie**/ is supposedly about high-level art collectors and dealers vying for great or famous art. I don't know much about those guys, but this flick just feels wrong on every level. Worse, I never once believe the stories or the characters, although there were a very few nuances that almost rang true.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikilLeaks***/ lives up to its title, tells a lot on several sides, is generally pro WikiLeaks, if not pro Assange. Makes me think about our way of life, our government and secrecy. Fascinating and almost even-handed. Incredibly informative.

Altogether too Twentieth Century TV, not quite up to the 21st Century, Star Trek: Into Darkness*** is exciting and sometimes even thrilling but rarely much more intelligent than that.

What Maisie Knew***/ was — unlike her mother and her father — who she is. And that's enough. The story and its lead characters goes like we want it to go, and that's enough, too. It's a gentle story when we get away from Maisie's parents. The best thing about it, is that Maisie knows.

I love the title for a movie, but everything else about this movie makes little sense. It's about the IRA before they made peace with the British, whom I still consider The Bad Guys, and one of those is the star here. I've said I'd watch anything with Clive Owen in it, but I think I'm nearly over that. Everybody in this one is the Shadow Dancer**/, and the Brits here prove they're no better than the IRA. Big surprise. Gillian Anderson has barely more than a cameo appearance here, and she's still the bad guy.

Sometimes I don't know what I can possibly do to raise my spirits, and sometimes I'm lucky enough to have a streaming movie that brings the best dance in the world right to me. It may be a clumsy challenge to back up the vidstream or find just the right spot to re-see what I've just seen and want so much to see again and again, and within a couple re-views my body moves and my spirit flies — and I'm less than seven minutes into the movie. I'm where I need to be; watching unorthodox dance. These timings are approximate but Take Four at 6:06 (inchage markers); Lombard's Way at 7:02 (big smile); Bumble Bee at 7:23 (big laugh, every time); Italian Concerto at 10:27... Oh, I can't keep stop and starting these things while it streams. Literally every couple minutes there's something visually astounding with people moving and, just wow. All that and talking heads, too — but those are always broken up with more motion. Never Stand Still: Dancing at Jacob's Pillow***/ slows a little toward the end when innovation bows to classical, and only rarely sustains a sensation like Pina, which I have to see again [below], and again but in all, a joy.

I had the high privilege of seeing Spaulding Gray live at Undermain Theatre a decade or more ago, and I've seen most of his movies (and even lived parts of the one of him running to a plane at Tan Son Nhut during an attack) and started out loving seeing him again here, but I couldn't stay with it more than a few minutes, and then I'd be off to do something else. But I kept coming back. Just knowing that he suicided puts the kabosh on it when he keeps talking about death, but in the end, I watched all of it, mostly just bothered by his left-most front tooth. And Everything Is Going Fine*** didn't really improve on my depression, but it didn't make it any worse, and there for awhile, I felt right at home in somebody else's stories.

Though I watch TED Talks often enough for my own enjoyment, it hadn't occurred that they are actually movies, so from now on, I'll list some of the better ones here, if I remember again. Many are utterly fascinating. I'd told a friend who had presented someone who was uncannily like David Blaine in her gallery this year as something like performance art, about this video. Blaine's presentation — titled How I held my breath for 17 minutes***/, seems almost bland, but what he does and shows and says is anything but. If you're not aware of TED Talks, it might be a treat just to wander around on the site. I always find vids there that stimulate my mind — often extraordinarily, and I'll tag them onto this page, if I like or hate them enough to write about them, though they're not all this good, and some are significantly better.

Well, I don't see it — certainly did not follow all of it, anyway, but it was fun watching. So much fun, I thought I wanted to watch it again, but when I finally did, I didn't want to watch it anymore. All codified glitz and not nearly enough heart, because that's not what Now You See It***/ is about. It's razzle-dazzle in hyper action and a twist-back B.S. plot. And we know it's a movie, because it's got all those stars.

It's more like The Making Of than the beautiful full-length time-lapse event I was expecting, but it has its moral, which is that the most visible proof that the climate is changing, and the globe is warming, is the glaciers, which we repeatedly watch disappearing into sloshing water. Chasing Ice*** is the story of a photographer and his assistants who time-lapse photo- and video-graphed glaciers across the top of the world, dying.

I've seen the pilot for Gary Trudeau's new full-time sitcom job, Alpha House***, and I think he should go back to the comic strip. The show is amusing, not funny; good, not great; over-the-top; not pure or subtle — and I sit over on the Left with GT. I actually don't wish Amazon a lot of success in this me-tooing of Netflix, original movies — I wish they'd spend the time organizing their free, Prime movies, so I can find what's in those vaults without going alphabetically through every one. I adore Doonesbury, and read every day's, but AH ain't gonna make it, despite John Goodman and whoever else those other guys are. Mostly lame characterizations; not deep. I'll get my asterisks in now, because it's unlikely this turkey will go much further, and will never fly. But if it does, I'll watch it.

WWII in Norway. Two airplanes shoot each other down over a snowstorm, and their crews end up in the same house during white-out that lasted days. They kept each other prisoners, hated each other, then they settled into meaningful friendships. Charming story, well acted, wonderful characterizations. Simple story, really. Well done. Into The White***/

42***/ is a set-piece. We knew exactly what was going to happen, and we were all proud when it happened in the movie. Real life was a little dirtier, meaner; ruder by far. But Americans let that evil continue, even though this movie lets us believe we're over that by now. Yeah, right. Well done enough, but it never breaks out of its solid gold Hollywood mold. This movie will be remade in ten or twenty more years, and again after that, and it will be a little more real each time, but until everybody who's a little or a lot different from the superior human beings we all think we are, is treated equally, we'll need movies like this to remind us of the lies we tell ourselves.

Low-Fi Sci. Plenty interesting ideas, just not put together with the finesse and intelligence of hi-fi Sci. In the mix is way too much hokum and instant love goofiness. I must say I didn't expect even this good from him after so many Mission Implausibles. It's got grandeur and action, just not a lot of sense. Oblivion***. The second time I watched it, I figured it makes a certain kind of Movie Hero sense but not human or reality sense, and I'd still give it three asterisks. That second time I saw it, I liked it better, but there's still something deeply hinky about it, although the special effects were fun.

I started it up, because NetFlix thought I'd like it more than four stars worth. So I tried it, and I liked it. Was about a guy who started taking care of a Downs Syndrome child after its junkie mom got dragged to jail again. She abandoned him then and again later. They guy who unofficially adopted the kid is gay, and he falls for a coming-out lawyer, and together they try to legally adopt the kid, but various shits, some of them in black robes, do everything they can to prevent it, even though nobody else wants the kid. Well acted, solid story, which involves singing and lawyering and lots of the kid and his potentially adopting parents. I only hope that the latest Supreme Court deal lets Gay people do the things hetero people can do Any Day Now***/

It was created by Jane Campion, so I thought it might be interesting, but it was much more than that. IMDb calls it crime, drama and mystery, but it's also very strange in a beautiful, New Zealand landscape with fascinating characters. Some came right out of the bad guy book. Many with startling depth and depravity. Plenty important characters, amid a complexity of interactions and interconnections. Dark, often enough gloomy, then by turns bizarre and back to just plain strange. The miniseries comprises seven episodes to a total of just under six hours, so it's a long, enigmatic, riddle-full thriller. Top of the Lake****

I've realized I don't watch American TV anymore. I have a big, old one my parents used to own, although I've lost the remote, so I don't get full wide-screen, etc. Instead, I watch international TV on my elderly iMac via Netflix. My latest find is a superb British series called Luther****, and I've already raged through the first season. I look for movies called thrillers, but a lot of those don't. This one does, is, keeps my heart thunping, and has rendered a long succession of outstanding characterizations, smart stories, and vivid camera work into shockingly good TV.

Great Lodges of the National Parks: The West / Pacific Rim** was long, fairly boring and only covered a couple of the great lodges, so I'd have to glue my eyes to a screen forever and ever to collect them all. I wanted to see what they said about the ones I've stayed in — Yellowstone and Many Glacier are the recent ones, but I don't want to know all that about those. I'd rather just go and see and photograph.

Sometimes I forget and think I'm some kind of aficionado of weird movies, and brother, this is one. I watched, because it had John Cusack in it, good or bad, I didn't care. And I'm still not sure which of those this is. But it's got him and Nicole Kidman, Scott Glen, Matthew McConaughey, among others. I recognized all those but Kidman, and it still shocks me who she was. Story is Cusak is in prison to be executed for something our heroes think he didn't do, and Kidman, McConaughey and crew set out to write a story that will free him. There's a lot right about this story, but there's standout things wrong, too, not least of which is the cinematography early on, but it must have been intentional, because it's substantially better later on. The movie is deep and dark and perhaps seriously flawed, but not in a way that takes away from the weirdness — The Paperboy***/. 2012

Starts prosaic. A visual tone poem to a beautiful bridge my father walked all the way across the day it opened. Anna loves that bridge from when she lived there. I lived there with my parents in the late 40s, so I probably rode over it, but I've only visited it again lately to watch the fog take it and bring it back. Hitchhiking through in the early 70s, I got let out on the far side of it, and set up camp in the dark, pitched a tent, then woke up with all of San Francisco right there, across the bay. Wow. I always look for that bump of land when I see it. I feel linked, too. But this is not a life-affirming documentary. It's about the people who jump off it, their friends and families. After a while of too many of those too well-dressed people in perfect lighting talking about their kith and kin the filmmakers had footage of procrastinating then finally leaping, I fast-forwarded those not on the bridge. The treasure of it for me are all those elegiac views from around the city, wherever the bridge can be seen from. I wanted to edit out all the sad people talking and talking to the camera till I landed on a guy who jumped and lived through it telling his story. I've had nine good friends suicide, and I only wanted to see The Bridge***/, but he was worth listening to till the special features. I really liked the 'making of' extra and the trailer. 2004

Good Science Fiction movies are difficult to come by. This one is good, but it suffers many disparities and inadequacies. Plus it's a teener movie, with teen lust and goofy teen action, but there's deeper realities here, too. The best thing about science fiction is that it makes you think. When it doesn't, it's because it didn't make it all the way to science fiction. Some of these aliens are trapped in human bodies, and some like it in there. All by itself, that's worth considering and reconsidering. Among all those teener personalities, it was comforting to find William Hurt, kinda like a human among aliens. This flick has a lot of silly things against it, a lot of stumbles and sci-fi unlikelihoods, but it's also got heart and soul. The Host***/.

It wasn't altogether great, but Unfinished Sky***/ was better than decent, if somewhat violent. Aussie flick about a woman who barely escapes a gang of male chauv pigs and meets our hero, and they are good for each other. A lilting love story where she learns English way too fast but most else is credible, and in its best moments it says what needs saying, visually.

I'm sure I've seen it before, but certainly not in this century. The Great Waldo Pepper*** was aerobatic fun, especially in those old WWI and 30s planes. Odd to see a very young — early 20s — Susan Sarandan and Robert Redford, but the story suffers as much from Hollywoodism as the quasi- air combat movie later in the story. But fun.

Timothy Green*** is smarmily silly, abjectly stupid, but with some Disney heart and a couple likable kids and truly dufus parents. I'm guessing the message is, they all are.

The Other Son**** might have been called Switched At Birth, but the child of a Palestinian and the child of a Jew are accidentally switched when the hospital was attacked with mortars. Each child, now 18, has family extended family, but we only deal with close family here. That's plenty. It's directed by a woman, so the emotions run true, not all that stupid stuff guys introduce into an already difficult mix, but the fathers are guys, so it's more difficult for them. The mothers, well, are mothers. Great idea for a film. Excellent execution, superb everything. I still want to know what happens next.

Flame & Citron**** is a dark movie about Danish Resistance fighters during the Nazi Invasion, especially two brazen heroes code-named Flame & Citron, who killed hundreds of Nazi collaborators and German officers. The story is about trust, who trusts whom and why. Unlike American movies about such things, this film is deep and dark and nearly gloomy. It is superbly acted and feels deeply realistic. The characterizations, especially of the two men who did most of the killing and the woman who may be their betrayer, are bleakly credible.

The Good Heart***/ was almost about a simple homeless guy whom a true curmudgeon who owns a bar forcibly removes from the streets to train to replace him at the bar when his heart finally gives out. The creep is hard to take often, although I felt at home with his personality, such as it was. Eventually the boss gets a fake heart and turns soft while the homeless kit marries then gets rid of his new wife, so they've switched roles in a plot that was never easy to guess what's next. Then … Well unexpected changes keep happening and some of them live happily ever, well you know.

It sounds like it's going to be an adventure, and it is for the first half hour or so, but after the tsunami hits, and the family is separated, the story is about them getting back together, which may be more of a challenge than living through flood and damage and destruction. Most of the rest is an often and sometimes sappy story of a white family visiting there getting back together so they can go home, while the rest of the island isn't and can't. I kept thinking the kid would want to go back, because he was really useful there for awhile, but, well, I'd say you'd have to see the movie, but you don't. The Impossible***

Tomboy**** is about a girl who tries to pass as a boy. He gets away with it, till cometh the denouement, when his mother makes him wear a dress and tell the boy he beat up when the kid pushed and inured his little sister truth, and the girl who "likes" him. It's not a long movie, but it's carefully paced, very real until the very end, when we're led to believe everybody's happy and they will be ever after.

The Sound of My Voice*** is almost a time-travel movie. It's about a woman who says she comes from 2054 and seems to be starting a cult. We follow a couple intent upon documenting her as a fraud, so the movie is about trust and belief. But it contains only one strong hint about whether she really comes from the future, and a lot of doubt. I'd call it anticlimactic, but after it was finished, I kept thinking about it for quite awhile.

Now I'm off on another television adventure, this one's from 2006 and it's about the British Ambassador in an even more Right-wing crazed America than usual. So far — two episodes — it's gripping high action, excellent acting and high production values. I can't wait till the next episode, and it's Brit, so it's mostly recognizable English, although the closed captioner can't tell the difference between rights and rags. I may go back, but right now I'm kinda bored with it. It's just not nearly as good as the European TV series I've been watching.

It wasn't till I recognized Werner Herzog as the really bad guy, that Jack Reacher***/ came alive for me. Till then it was an almost adequate thriller, suffering from occasionally silly dialogue and flashes of truly mediocre acting. But Herzog's got it. Love the voice. Love his movies, mostly directing. This is the first time I've seen him act since he was in Julien Donkey Boy, but I don't remember that. Tossing in Robert Duvall was a nice touch. I gave it another asterisk just for that. It's got a little too many switchback plot lines; too many too-pretty starlets and seriously suffers from serious bad guy overload. But it was fun, even funny sometimes, but that only might have been intentional. But it only got thrilly maybe twice.

After 20 one-hour episodes, it got just a little silly when The Protectors**** ended, but it was superb television, except I'm streaming it on Netflix and speed-reading English subtitles, so I am missing some of the visuals keeping up with the text. Everything about it is well done, often superbly. The Danes know how to make good video, great video sometimes. This is not my first foray into Danish-language TV, and I hope it won't be the last. I do wish I could understand the talking directly, but I usually don't mind speed-reading reading TV. Outstanding acting, solid stories, good plots, great characters with depth. As a thriller, it was often thrilling and a couple times I had to stop it, because I didn't want to see what happened next. Then it did, and I got on with it.

It's not exactly a deep story. A hair-trigger drifter with serious misapprehensions about love, kills somebody with a mean family who come to kill him. The real heroes are two fourteen-year-old boys he befriends in the woods on an island. Telling truth from fiction is one of the pastimes here, and there's a lot of misinformation about love. It may well be, as is often promoted, Matthew McConaughey's best performance, but that doesn't mean much, although I've managed to miss most of his others. It's the kids whose stars shine here. Mud***

Now this one is truly deep-down evil scary. Very unlike The Others [below], 6 Souls**** doesn't just have the trappings of a scary movie. It's got it all — more than enough to scare me. I'll maybe have more words later. Right now I'm going for the light, while I try to get Julianne Moore out of my mind, so I can sleep safe.

Shuffle**/ was a truly mediocre, time-travel movie. Every time our hero wakes up — he's got narcolepsy or something like it, so he sleeps a lot. He holds grudges and doesn't seem to learn, till of course, the end, then everything's hunky-dory. He lives in non-sequential time, slowly learning what he needs to have already learned. It's a big lesson, and a slow one. The story, cinematography, plot, everything is mediocre.

Well, surprise, surprise. It was an adventure. Guess we all knew it would be. What once was startlingly original is now old hat, even if it's a tall and pointy one. There's that ring, and mountains of gold, under which a dragon may be waking. I had no faith in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey***/ but I watched it anyway, and rather enjoyed it, although the SFX seem cheaper every new flick in the franchise, and the uh... adventure more adventuresome, but by the end of this one, I was won over, and eventually I'll watch another two hours and fifty minutes of the next one. Wait a few years, then hit it again.

I thought I was getting involved in another TV show, the way Netflix proffered this one. I was just going to watch the first episode to see if I liked it. Then pursue the others later maybe and get a night's sleep. But it was a movie, as I realized about three-quarters through when there was nothing to hang more episodes on. An good man finds someone who looks exactly like himself in a pub, then his evil doppelganger gets the good guy drunk, and when he wakes his wallet and clothes are gone, and he haltingly becomes the head of what seems to be a very rich house, where he goes about righting the wrongs of time and tide and the other guy. We warm to him considerably, as does the extended family, then the bad one comes back. After that it's all too predictable, but still a startlingly good flick with all the elements of a good story well filmed with a great set of characters but a silly title. The Scapegoat**** 2012

Some movies I want to go on forever I'm having so much fun watching them. This one was so stupid, inane, imbecilic with all the famous actors playing people I wouldn't want to know, people who smoke and snort and probably shoot up, too, though we didn't see any of that, all the way through the movie, while delivering lines that go on and on forever. Trying to impress each other with an intelligence that's usually entirely lacking. No empathy, no understanding, no use. Hurlyburly**.

I didn't like anybody in this one, and after awhile, I didn't trust a single solitary one of them. It's all about switchback plotlines and stringing us along, and people getting away with murder. For a change, the pharmaceutical companies were blameless, which is pretty uncredible, too, don't ya' think? A crazy movie about crazy people doing fairly sane things, that everybody else thinks are crazy, and sometimes getting away with them. No thanks, no way, forget it. Side Effects***, full of sound and furry thoughts.

La Dιlicatesse**** (Delicacy, in English) is beautiful, gentle, kind, superbly paced, human, humane and delicate, truly delicate, and the resulting film is a delicacy. It's about love and romance and how it really works. 2011

I've been watching Longmire***/, a TV Series about a more or less contemporary sheriff in Wyoming (except it's not shot there) who gets one dastardly crime an episode, and I'm at episode 6. It's mostly been smart so far, but we've got glimmers of TV script-writing stupidity lately, then they mostly disappeared, and I'm hoping it doesn't get worse — and it didn't. I look forward to the second year of it. It has been renewed.

It uses chess, but we never get involved in how chess works. It just works, and we watch it work, and feel the emotion, and get caught up in the play, but there's nothing mechanical about it. I could say it goes straight to the heart, but it's more than that. It's about confidence, and of course, love and all those things, but it does those things so superbly it's hard to believe they were done in a movie. Sandrina Bonnaire and Kevin Kline, although she has a husband and a daughter, and they are all very much in this movie, but she and he dominate it without pushing anyone else out. It's inclusive and generous, a movie we can feel and laugh or just smile when those little things happen or touch or zing. Sweet a movie, redolent of human kindness and joy. Queen to Play****. In French. 2009

The Others*** with Nicole Kidman, is a rather grandiose ghost story with a few thrills, a couple of chills, and a mostly inevitable reveal at the end that we all saw coming, and overall, who cares? Nice production values, slick, kinda pretty, but now that it's finished, myeh.

I thought what I really needed in a movie was a thriller or another detective novel or something, anything that I could just watch and let flow over me, get movied. So I tried this one, supposedly a comedy, and there were laughs and a bit of tears, because it was a love story that's true. I didn't much care for the ending, but everything else except the depresso beginning, was going in the right direct, freeing, fun, funny, gentle, kind and real. If I could get those same feelings in that just-right order from watching it again, I'd watch it and watch it again. I don't know who these guys were, but the star was the woman who was always showing up when Charlie Sheen needed it the least in Two and A Half Men, and she was perfect. Perfect. Hello I Must Be Going***/

Ah! No wonder. In the credits at the end I learned the charming little anime story I've just watched is a Studio Ghibli production, makers of the best humane anime movies ever. That explains the gentle beauty of what's marketed here as The Secret World of Arrietty***/, about The Borrowers, who are little people — I'm guessing about 1/20th the size of us human (called "beans" in the story) — who borrow things the humans living in the house upstairs don't need and often don't notice are gone. Visiting the humans is a gentle boy bean, who befriends the much-smaller girl Borrower, whose name is Arrietty. A kind and compassionate movie with some adventure and an impossible friendship, perhaps aimed at children, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite the goofy American pap song pasted on near the end, and subtitles that say things the characters never did, adding an extra dimension of meaning too kind for American audiences, I guess.

Now I'm speedreading subtitles for Annika Bengtzon: Crime Reporter, as Netflix keeps reminding me, from "the producers of the Millennium Trilogy [The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, etc.] and Wallander comes a series of new Scandinavian crime films based on Liza Marklund's worldwide best-selling novels..." It's smart, maybe a little over the top violent sometimes, maybe a little simplistic with the cops-are-stupid sub theme, but I've only seen the first episode, and I was impressed. It helps that she's a big-time journalist. I always like intelligent journalist stories. And there's only six episodes, each based on a novel, so the plots will be, like the first one, considerably condensed.

Awake was superb. This TV show, Continuum*** is considerably more lame. It's sci-fi, but that's mostly pasted on, except for the premise, which brings a menacing gang of revolutionaries back 65 years to the more or less present, although there's a bunch of adequate tech that mostly ties the woman cop [star] from the future and the tech genius from the present who'll be immensely rich and famous, if she ever gets back where she started [2077]. So I'm watching more end-on-end TV [as I write this they're emptying ammo clips left and right, just like old time TV gangstas. Stupid enough I can type this as I watch. Lot of fighting, another bad guy just died, but no amount of intense violence ever seems to faze our heroes. Extended plot stupidity, but sometimes the visuals are nice. And there's a few real ideas rattling around. Still, I'd like to find out how it ends — preferably without watching all of it. Eventually I learned that I cannot continue watching Continuum, which drops about thirty IQ points with each new episode. Oh, well.

I really wouldn't call it great cinema, but it has its points. It's Matt Damon, so we know up front the bad guy's not going to win, so that part's a wash. There is some decent acting here, and there's a point to it that's fairly heavy-handed, but sometimes it needs to be to get through. Like wind farms there are promises that aren't kept, but some of those promises have some depth to them, although that's not explored here. Maybe because that'd be too subtle. The movie is utterly predictable. We know all along he's gonna get the girl. That other question does, however, have a little energy behind it. We have to think about it, and what's it's really about, and just doing that makes the endeavor worthwhile. Promised Land***/

I loved the titles, and I've almost always liked watching Jeremy Irons, but I'd have to admit that I never quite understood this plot. I was slower to pick up on the actual gender of his paramour than he was, and there were parts when he was being cruel, that I just stopped watching. But I came back and eventually I finished it, and was glad. The end was tragic but much more expected. M. Butterfly***

The best TV doesn't make me wait till a certain time, so the rest of my life can progress apace. Much is made of us fanatics who watched House of Cards as fast as we could manage, but that's how I prefer to see good TV. Like Awake,***** which was still replete with contradictions and impossibilities that work to our hero's favor. I worry that the producers will eventually default to a simple crazy person diagnosis, but it was us who figured that one out, but the ride was amazing television without having to wait a week or weeks or months for more. I am plunging through the Netflix streaming. A detective crashes and kills, either his son or his wife. In the wife dead scenario the son lives and the opposite in the other. Each story line has a partner and a shrink, both of whom insist the other is a dream. All that, and playing off each other, the diverging scenarios still provide emotional payoffs. Wow. Kinda sends off shivers when TV can be that intelligent.

Finally. Almost seem to be on track. Another strange but also wonderful movie. Nonlinear but spatial — space-ial. Last guy to go into space is still there when the world stops. Everything's still there, but not the people, so all communications cease. Beautiful. Intelligently progressed. Did I mention beautiful? The less description, the better. non sequitur title almost makes sense. Love****

Thought I'd seen a movie named this before, but I couldn't place it, so I watched it, and almost immediately, I liked it. Wasn't sure what was going on. Animated, but not like anything I'd ever seen before. Pacing un-human. Bodies and faces a lot like real humans, but there was always something off. Very strange yet not quite surreal characters, action, plot involving mind control, which all the characters seemed to be being controlled. Dark. Not much color. Some violence. A little love. A few breasts. Off-camera sex, if any. I always give very new ideas executed near perfectly four asterisks. Metropia****

I put off seeing Jesus Henry Christ**** way too long. Finally I had enough of stupid movies about people in insane asylums and going back to live with their parents. I just snapped, and desperately needed to see something inane. Funny and true. Not to life as we usually know it, and hardly at all credible, but those silly notions are not what make this movie move and move us. The funny it is is almost enough, but there's plenty of story and great characters and whatever else floats your movie boat.

I started another movie, stopped in the middle when I just couldn't take it any more, and started this one, which held my attention and spirit all though it. Hollywood's always telling us about couples who lose children. Child dies. Everybody goes to pieces. I believe it, but I don't always believe those movies. This one I believe, except sure seems like they could have come up with a better title than Welcome to the Rileys****. The story is human and fallible all over the place. Only a few sometimes uncredible, and I got over those quickly enough. A thinker. Perfect dialog. Acting subtle and superb.

I've just seen every Foyle's War**** episode, including the ones I did not see some years back when it was new. I loved it all again, and only remembered some few small instances of plot and characters, so there's chance I might see more movies from that last confusing century again, without worrying whether I'd seen them already. Like some special few Brit detective TV shows, this one was sterling. The only drawback were the idiot subtitles. I often need those when Brits talk the way they do, and these captions were often written by someone who obviously wasn't paying attention. Many are laughable, some pure stupid. I hope someday we Americans either learn how to understand them when they talk, or they rewrite the entire series' captions. The ones they got are bloody awful, but everything else was glorious.

Incredible movie. The deepest, darkest, most ironic, most bitter, sweetest story, movie I've ever heard, read, listened to, thought about in the most tragic moments. Kurt Vonnegut wrote it and briefly appeared in this movie about truth and hatred and secrets and love and ... Well you'd have to see it, read it, understand it. I have done all those things, and I'm still baffled by it. And still I aver Mother Night***** is one of the most incredible movies I've ever experienced.

I guess I was expecting Robert Redford's The Company You Keep*** to be as intelligent or funny as Sneakers. That is, a good movie. But it's just not. Instead, it's long and involved, full of loud fury and signifying nearly nothing. What a waste.

I read a lot of John Steinbeck novels when I was in — oh, it must have been high school. I loved them, read as many as I could find. When I happened across this one in Netflux recently, I started getting excited. But it's an essentially stupid movie. Might have been a stupid book, I don't remember much about that, but nothing of what I remember except the Doc character, played by a young Nick Nolte, rings through the years. This one's played as a farce, and that might have been in the book — and I was too young and naive to recognize it then, but this is a truly stupid movie. Cannery Row** Note, I've since read that this flick was based on Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, not Cannery Row, although that was a sequel of CR. Boo! But I guess I can't blame Steinbeck for a dumb-ass flick made from one of his stories.

Stanley's Dragon*** is a goof, but a goof with heart. Unfortunately their special effects budget — the dragon itself — was pretty cheap; I was hoping for animation; this was less-so full-motion, more or less reality. Guy finds an egg while spelunking. Egg hatches to be a little dragon that grows into a big dragon. Politicians want to bring in tourist money. The Zoo keeper wants the most amazing animal ever. Nobody wants Stanley to be with his dragon. Often, the drama seems almost real, then we see the stupid dragon puppet again. This kick is for kids.

Dragon***** is astonishing. Makes Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon seem like petite ballet. Its twisting plot unfurls in blood, guts and gore. It's about family and destiny and reformation. Love, honor, and all the other stuff gets wrapped up in it also. Wu Xia!

Not a great film but certainly a great feat, skateboard jumping over the Great Wall of China. This movie documents the build up, of Danny Way to become who he is and the build-up to him jumping the wall three times, which in itself is totally anticlimactic. Typical daring little kid becomes the greatest whatever in the world kind of hokum we see too much of during the Olympics. Decent movie, but not much above or beyond the usual. This one that doesn't even show that last jump in its entirety. The fi was better in the flick, but YouTube finally gave me blurry, far-away shots of the first and the a little more glorious — with a 360 twist in the middle — final Great Wall jump. I guess him falling after getting all that air at the end of that second jump was too anticlimactic for the producers. Lame name, too. Waiting for Lightning*** was mostly fun.

Oh, man. I wondered if I'd ever get through the whole thing. Last time I saw Terry Gilliam's Fisher King***, I thought it was fabulous, and that sense of fabulously lasted me forever till now. Now that I've seen it again lo these many years (22) later I had to seriously reconsider my state of mind back then. Like any TG flick, there's room for serious doubts about its credibility, intelligence, sanity, poetic justice, etc. I'll admit, I fast-forwarded (the picture stayed on the screen, just I didn't have to listen to it or excruciate through every word), and if I still have my wits about me, I won't want to do this again. And I'd give it a couple fewer asterisks. But I finished it, and I can still see the mad wisdom in it.

Life of Pi**** is at least as good as and probably even better than everybody who saw it already months ago says it is. Wild adventure set in so long a series of visually stunning moving images I may have to watch the whole thing again but fast-forward through the talking. Did I mention the startlingly stunning series of visual wonderments? Wow.

I'm sure I've seen this one before, but it's been at least fifty years, so I haven't counted it on this 21st Century list. The Hunt for Red October is still my all-time favorite submarine movie, but this 1957 subber, The Enemy Below***, ain't half bad. Another Robert Mitchum flick. It's the old tic and tac. Submarine pilot does this. The sub chaser does tac. Back and forth till. Well, this is the first sub flick I can remember wherein they both lose. Fun, mildly exciting. More than adequate.

Once upon a time I read all the John Steinbeck I could find. Even the odd ones like Pippin IV, which I've been misquoting from for more than forty years, and I don't know if I ever read The Red Pony, but this movie came out when I was five, so I doubt I ever saw it. Maybe on TV a long time ago. I could see Steinbeck even in the movie. His characters, his ideas of family and responsibility and what people are supposed to do. The Red Pony*** was okay, not great, and certainly of its time, and much less so of today. But I enjoyed seeing it and Robert Mitchum, and the kid was Beau Bridges.

I've been watching Dexter again. Got sick and tired of it awhile ago, Didn't want to see it again till now. But sometimes when things are grim, it's nice to know there's grimmer.

Took time to warm to this movie. First. I. Did. Not. Like. It. Had to put it away for a couple days. When I brought it out again, I quickly grew to like and respect it. As a movie. As history. As a story. Lincoln***/ is good. Stirring, as in stirring the pot of political disarray at first, became stirring as in causing strong emotion, as every Hollywood movie must.

It's not the old Bond. The old Bond was various stages of young. The new Bond is old. That's about half of this one. Aches, pains, etc. Not, for a change, hundreds of people in some scenes doing silly grande spectacle stuff. Max about a dozen at any one time. Lots of flames and shooting and booming, so there's plenty of the old Bond, too. He may be smart, but he doesn't really act smart, so I'd say, like the movie, it's mostly dumb. Exciting but stupid. Which makes it very old Bond. Skyfall***

I've been watching Touched, the TV series with Keifer Sutherland, which is more than reminiscent of many sci-fi stories of the late last and early this century, though they've cobbled together so many of those they've probably got away with their obvious plagiarism. Maybe because I've got a touch of autism myself, I am fascinated by the themes and that slight story line mixed with coincidences and numbers, and all that keeps me tuning back in, besides it's glorious not to be forced to watch commercials... Unfortunately, with each new episode, the whole thing gets stupider.

In high school I read Anna Karenina***/ over the last weekend before it was due, so I had the gist in my mind, but I couldn't have put it into many words. First time I tried this movie, I disliked it intensely, could not get into the stylization. The second time, a couple days later, I loved its stylized grandiosity and intense colors. Its theatric sweep and interchanging interconnections thrilled me. I grew bored over the length of it just as when I read it that many years ago, but still an odd quirk of a film — that I hope I will not again have to endure.

The Words***/ are about the words an aspiring writer finds hidden in a valise, where they'd been for years, maybe decades. Words the writer presents as his own and becomes famous for it. But it's not just about word-stealing, it's about love and loss and deeper things. I got this one, because Jeremy Irons is at the heart of it, because he wrote the words that tell the story and because it was his story.

It's not Clint's worst — there's no monkeys, but it doesn't get anywhere close to his best, either. It's an amusing little baseball flick. Goofy story, fun roles, silly romance, ignorant parenting, eminently predictable but almost pleasant. Trouble with the Curve***

I've just seen two rousing citizenship movies. Political thrillers. Whatever. Both toy with the truth. They are movies. Both were good but not really outstanding. They told their stories. I believed them there for awhile. I believed Zero Dark Thirty***/ much longer than Argo***/. Argo threw in lots of homey little touches sure to set off — oh, a tear, a stirring sensation, a building rush of movie adrenaline. Zero did that largely without dipping to smarm. I'd see Zero again.

A Late Quartet***/ sifts us through the good and the bad parts of dealing with three other human beings they live with on the road, play with, perform with, form their taste with, make their life. People who have been in their lives for the last quarter of a century. Then the cellist is diagnosed with Parkinson's, and they dis-integrate into individuals and all that entails. What will become of them? We worry, and they worry. Great exploration of inter-related human beings who sometimes perform like machines, and sometimes like gods. Great acting, great roles, a lot of perfection, and plenty imperfection. About two-thirds through it, I decided it was a human comedy, funny in layers deeper then the music, which never leaves us alone.

Obviously, somebody thought we needed another movie called The Awakening***/ Though this was not an awakening, it had its moments of fear. Was scary well enough. The denouement got stupid, but the end was decent, and I liked the acting. The middle was \ confusing, and I never quite knew if they were there or not — and who — but it's a haunting alright. … I really like this director, and the anatomy of a scene and deleted scenes special features, though they do go on, are intelligently informative, although the lighting in those scenes is strictly amateur and, in fact, distracting. But I wanted to hear what said. I guess I liked the film better than I've let on.

I've been watching the Brit version of the Wallander***/ series, from beginning to end, and I'm liked it as much as years ago when I glimpsed a few episodes on Public TV, though it gets gruesome. I finished off the Brit series, so I can chalk it up now I've seen it all, and I do want more, but there aren't any. I tried to watch some of the original Swedish version too, but the language got in the way.

I got kinda fed up with the original, Brit version of House of Cards, but I'll go back. Turns out the Kevin Spacey American v. is more subtle.

The Netflix blurb on the CD envelope (I should have known; they're always wrong.) sounded like this might be the French original of The Sessions [below], but thankfully not. The Intoucables***/ is all original, heartfelt, sincere, but human funny and deep. An irresponsible lout gets hired for the job he didn't want any part of, and being caregiver to a rich quadriplegic changes his life. Changes both their lives. Then for no apparent reason, the rich guy fires him, then he misses the guy and the job, finds the egg without ever looking for it, and a bunch of postscripts tell us they're still living happily ever after, only the caregiver isn't Black.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower*** seems better than average but it's deep-down soulless. Plenty of heart here, it's about a friendship that never blossoms into the romance it always should have been. We watch our hero's heart-rending lack of progress, engaged as he is in living life about as well as he can, but something's holding him back, and what that is, is a deep, dark secret, the movie waits till the end to tell, then tells it in him going to a shrink and she magically and mostly off-camera cures him nearly overnight, and then he's happily ever after, and that's just too stupidly un-credible. It's a trick, a really old trick, and it should not be in a 21st Century movie with this much heart, although it is some kind of weird wonderful to turn Joan Cusak's usual smiley smarm into the ultimate evil.

Disney's Brave* is stupid.

Been wondering a long while why Netflix doesn't just show me movies I'd like, since it's used judgments on more than 2,500 of the ones I've seen to know by now, and lately it has, so I clicked on one that had nearly four stars, and I didn't know the name of it till very near the end, and that's just as well, because it's a lame name for a solid movie. Not much pat about it. I never knew what to expect next. Not that it's a fast-moving adventure. It's slow, with meaning that reaches deep, but doesn't need to and does not go very far. A man escapes from job and city, to fix up an old boat that's in the water off a small town we don't see much of, and that feels good. It's a transition. He needs to feel worthy, so he gets worthy, and the movie ends. Some friendship, shallow and deep, some love but not much romance. Mellow. Hide Away***/.

I love watching dance, especially not ballet, although I can watch a few hours of that sometimes. But it is what I can only call new dance that holds my attentions, and I never really know when that's what I am going to get, I just have to keep trying various media. TV is a wash for that penetrating amazing wonderful dance that I so love. But movies make it sing sometimes when there's not a chance I'd ever get to see the best of new dance anywhere. Like in Pina*****'s stunningly visual and not-at-all all serious, but always all visual and sound and movement. Best of all, it kept surprising and amazing me.

I put off seeing Louis Malle's Au Revoir Les Enfants***/ for years, maybe decades. Worried it'd be some too-subtle French New Wave nothingness I couldn't understand or enjoy. But I did and I did. The story is a bunch of kids at a Catholic boarding school, and the movie is about tentative young friendship among boys. What could go wrong? Well, it was in France during the Nazi Occupation, and the Gestapo were tracking down Jews, some of whom were hiding at the school.

The Cabin in the Woods**/ is, on several levels utterly absurd. The plot, if you can call it that, doesn't make any sense, although the concept does, a little. There's a lot of horror in this horror flick, but there's an odd sort of humor, too. If you don't want to know this movie's secrets, I wouldn't read any further into this review, but the situation is a set-up. Give whomever they (We get to meet enough of them that they are not the usual amorphous they, and most of the star-power is in the they.) can round up to send to the eponymous setup in the woods, a long series of moral choices, then when each five visitors choose the immoral choices often enough, because they are egged on by pheromone releases and other implausible machinations, the evil-doers of the month of the they who are pushing the buttons and setting up the setup, tear their limbs off and splatter blood everywhere. All to appease "the ancient ones," which I should probably capitalize, but their presence in this movie is so inconsequential it barely rises above the level of, "oh, yeah, they're in it, too." It's a puzzle that doesn't make any sense, contains lots of gore and blood, and it goes on and on, and nobody learns any lessons from it, but it's often fun to watch, nonetheless. The Night of the Living Dead was a better movie, with a better and more credible plot, but both are what we call cult hits.

I haven't watched all of the original British series House of Cards*** after so thoroughly enjoying what we've got, so far, of the American version, which is usually nastier and more deeply evil — and a slightly better movie, except, of course, it isn't really a movie, it's a series. And it may go on forever. I'm listing the Brit version, but I'm not counting it, because those are my rules, and I'm not going for any record this year, so it doesn't matter.

I tried to watch My Man Godfrey (1936), about a society dame who finds "a forgotten man" in the shantytown by the city dump, said pursuit part of a high-society scavenger hunt. They guy she nets is a better human being than any of the society nitwits smarming around, and I liked him, if only because I could understand every word he spoke, but also because he's the most intelligent of the bunch. Unfortunately, I could not understand much of what the society dame said, she spoke very fast and not coherently, and the rest of her family was likewise indecipherable. I suspect Godfrey eventually reveals that he'll inherit a million bucks, and he'll probably knit the idiot rich family back together again, but at this point I don't care, and I'm not counting it, because I didn't finish it.

I have a fierce unease with drunk movies. Movies about drunks. If I'd known that, I might have passed on Flight***, although it's got Denzel and some really hairy flying in it. Watching him revert to normal, i.e., flat out drunk after the incident and during the subsequent trial was difficult. I'd rather not have to watch drunks; it's bad enough having so many of them on this planet. Despite its preambles, his last-minute conversion does not ring true, though strangely, what follows does. Just that one flight and crash is oddly the high point of the movie. Most of the rest of the movie's descent seems separated from the logic of the first half. I wanted to like this more than I did.

I thought I was going to watch To Have and To Have Not, just to pay attention to the dialog partially written by William Faulkner, but almost immediately realized I'd seen it too soon ago, and could not face that insipid story again.

Rob Reiner's The Magic of Belle Isle*** is a sweet, gentle, human weeper about a writer who's pissed off at the world and stays drunk as long as he can into his summer visit to Belle Isle, where his new muse in the form of a mother and three girl children, an old big white dog and a boy who hops kinda like a bunny — turns his life around. It's all a lot too pat, but it's Morgan Freeman at his good, so mostly who cares?

The end is baffling, but the rest gold. It's about memory, whom we have those with, and what makes us alive, and how doing that makes us worthwhile to ourselves. Retired cat burglar Frank Langella is losing his memory, so his son gets him a robot, who is programmed to help keep him healthy. That works pretty well once Frank collaborates with the robot to pull off a big heist. Endearing, gentle besides the idiot cops running around accusing Frank of doing what he's done all his life, and the robot grows on all of us, except Frank's daughter and son and wife. He remembers the kids, but not ... Well, that would be giving too much away. I liked Robot & Frank***/. I might even watch it again with the commentary. Pretty, intelligent, human, nice.

I only remembered the cheesy bits, but Key Largo**** had Humphrey Bogart so I watched it again. And in another few years I'll watch it again again. Then again. Its dialog is amazing; the story compact and simplified. It'd make a fine play. Very theatrical, and not really much to get in its way. Remarkable acting, except the Indians, who were stuck in White American movie-making what must have been hell.

I kept stopping Side by Side*** to look up movies I'd missed. Produced and narrated by Keanu Reeves, it's the history and philosophy of film vs. digital movie making. Interesting mostly because we get to hear a lot of people who make movies talk about it. Well edited. Makes lots of points. Best of all, in shows snippets of many many movies.

After I rented it, I wondered whether I really wanted to see Men In Black 3***, but after, I mostly enjoyed it — it starts a little lame, but keeps getting better and smarter — I wondered whether I should see it again. So I did, and it was another hoot and a half, gaining speed and humor.

I've been manically watching Netflix first series, House of Cards**** with Kevin Spacey as a wheeler-dealer Congressman who is pretty much pure evil, and it's rubbing off on his wife. Everyone else is either caught up in the Congressman's games or actively attempting to subvert him. Lots of true-to-life political intrigue ripped from the headlines. I think I'm 13 episodes in, and I'm more than willing to watch more when they put them together. Impressive. The original, British version is also on my queue.

A Ninja Pays Half My Rent***/ was a complete surprise. I rented something else, and this very short (five minutes and 24 seconds) movie came on the same CD. Good production values. Decent story, but I can't really say there was a plot. More info than that would blow the whole story, so I won't.

The Ninja short came with Buddy, about three guys who share an apartment, one of who shoots video of some of what they do, then while escaping after one of them does a stunt he likes to do, the videographer accidentally drops some tapes in a TV studio. The TV guys like it and start showing their antics, likening it to Jackass, although these guy's video is truer and gentler. Fame changes them enough, but not much. Buddy***/ is a sweet with a little bitter story, well acted and beautifully shot.

Ruby Sparks***/ didn't exist, really, until she appeared in one of Calvin's dreams, and he began writing about her. Calvin didn't believe he created her, but neither did Ruby know he had, but she showed up soon as if he had, and however he described her, she was. They were happy together till she had independent notions, then he'd write her back to his idea of whom she should be, despising himself for his power over her. Except for the part where she acted out his fantasies, the setup was not altogether unlike how we all try to control each other. Unlike in so-called "real" life however, movies have to end. And I'm afraid to watch how this one does. It's already scary. Then. Then it wasn't half bad. A few tears. And then… Well it just might be happily ever after.

The Secret Life of Bees***/ is charming when it sticks to simplified adults and children, and children being children. Occasionally, however, it strays and forces grown-up notions out of the mouths of sub-teens, and that always sounds wrong. Otherwise, predictable in that we always know this will end up being a happily-ever-after movie, and it does a mostly honest job of reminding us of the Times of Segregation, although it hints that was all over now, and of course, it's not. Not counting those overly optimistic portions of our program, it's a tear-jerking charmer with wonderful characters, some of whom are even believable.

At its best when everyone is harmonizing or counterpuncting, this movie soars when the song is king, but the story always brings us down. It's limp, silly, empty and always always always predictable. Except when the a cappella sounds advance the plot, maybe a couple times here, this movie is only worth seeing for the songs. Perfect Pitch***.

Combining classic genres of a road trip; not finding the right boy/girl by finding somebody not well suited until the end; and that little thing about it being the end of the world, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World***/ is upbeat, off the wall, charming and goofy. I'd never cared about Steve Carell, because I didn't like that stupid TV show, but this. This is lilting, smart, stupid and loving.

Not early Stephen King, but Early David Cronenberg. He hasn't figured out how to do deep-down chilling. This was a learner. Some parts of this story chill. Most don't. Was also early Christopher Waken. Nice combination. They're both learning their craft. The love story here seems barely glued on. Our anti-hero lacks depth, and it doesn't all hold together very well. And I wonder if his role here is what netted Martin Sheen The West Wing, which I still love but don't want to see again yet. And the title's seen bad times since The Dead Zone***, but now I gotta see more Cronenberg. 1983

Very disconcerting to have my main character change body and face in the middle of a series of movies, but the new director does chase scenes with different mannerisms and pacing and feel on a little different kind of film with odd colors. The change is okay. I really liked that other Jason Bourne, but this one's not terrible, so I can go along. The Bourne Legacy**** 2012

Only two other films in the last few years still on this page net my elusive five-asterisk rating that goes only to something amazing different in as many ways possible. Beasts of the Southern Wild***** is like that. I hate it when people tell me, even in print or on TV, to go see a movie. I never know their motives. But if I were the sort who would do that, this is the one I'd do it for. So very different a bunch of people for it to be about; the way the story winds in and out of reality as we all think we've got it pegged; and how it shows what's really important; and how anybody knows when that happens. One glory-odski movie. Five aces superb and so different and mysteriously strange. 2012

It's appropriate I looped back through Looper***/, which I loved the second time on my monitor and nearly hated the first in a movie theatre. I like time travel stories probably too much, and this is one of the better. But I remember disliking almost every moment of it on the big screen. Set and setting is what LSD trips were all about. Get those right, and the flight would be smooth. Maybe I got it right this time. Now that I've got the DVD, I'll watch it again. No hurry, this year, to beat any records. Eventually, I'll even start seeing movies I haven't already, but sure glad I rejoined this one. Nothing dirty about it except when it was big enough I could see the grain, clean all the way through small. Violent as hell, but clean cinematography, story, plot, acting.  2012

It's an evil thing when people who put money into a movie get to call the shots, and one of the more egregious shots was the off-camera narration by Harrison Ford in Blade Runner that some people really liked. I loved that narration. It gave hope, and now I have to see the other version of this already long, long movie. But it wasn't in The Final Cut***/ version of that earth-bound yet stellar movie, and I missed it. Otherwise, it was a a letdown after all the factoids and memories in the making of documentary, and I shoulda just seen the movie.

You'd think a computer smart enough to know how well I'd like any movie in Netflix' extended catalog would know better than to show me great long lists of suggested titles, which usually don't even rank 3 stars (supposedly rated especially for little old me). Worse, I cannot seem to get that point across to the big N. Surely that same uber-computer knows exactly which movies I've already seen, because it insists I review them with stars (I save my words about such things for this page.), yet they keep pushing me to see movies on my Already Seen list, like the left side of their red-blinking brain is keeping secrets from right side. I love Netflix, but what a bunch of idiots.

And since I rarely rent anything their computer doesn't suggest with at least three stars, why does their computer even show me two- and one-star flicks?

Although I have been watching Blade Runner - The Final Cut, I'm pretty sure I'd reviewed that already, so I won't count it here, but it is a pleasure to see again. These days I'm spending a lot of time with people, and although they are a great deal more challenging to figure out, I'm enjoying.


Dangerous Days - The Making of Blade Runner***/ goes on for three and a half hours. So many talking heads of people associated with the movie telling us nearly everything we'd ever want to know not just about the making of and all its myriad challenges and impossibilities, but what the film is all about. Remarkable depth. Interspersed with scenes in and that never quite made it into the film. I am a huge fan. I was astonished by it when I first saw it, and again every time I see it or a new version. I loved all the detail in this, but sometimes it nearly put me to sleep. Often during the long slog, I wished I could see the movie instead. But I ordered both, so that's next. Thirty years later it's still in the top three of my all-time favorite movies, so I watched and listened and learned, but I doubt I'll retain most of it.

I read Raymond Chandler's Farewell, My Lovely a couple weeks ago, and had hoped to see Bogie in the movie to figure out the plot, but a movie of it with Humphrey Bogart doesn't exist, so I latched onto a newer (1978) version of The Big Sleep*** with an aging Robert Mitchum, James Stewart, Richard Boone (Have Gun Will…) and younger Joan Collins and Sarah Miles. Mitchum and Miles instead of Bogart and Bacall, as in the 1946 classic. I like Mitchum in war movies and Thunder Road, which I adored more than 50 years ago, and the 1991 remake of a bone-chilling Cape Fear. But Bogart is a better Phillip Marlowe, and why they moved this one to England escapes me. Even there, Marlowe would not have driven a Mercedes-Benz, among many odd choices throughout, although this version does explain the title, which the Bogie version ignored. About three-quarters through this version I needed to see the Bogie one again, even if I'd just seen it a couple weeks ago. Then I went back to this one and liked it more than I thought, but not enough to watch the whole thing again.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry*** is a stirring documentary of who this most powerful artist in the world is and what he does in China against the government and elsewhere. That he continues to exist in one of the most repressive societies in the world is miraculous. That what he does so often surpasses art is thrilling. I'm glad to finally know what this name I've heard so much over the last few years, really stands for. Freedom sounds so hollow here, where we have a modicum of that precious stuff. But in China? Wow.

Take This Waltz***/ is a superb post-modernist romance between a single man who pulls a rickshaw and a married woman who is afraid of being afraid. Visually stunning though not overtly, but still gorgeous. An elegant internal dialog that eventually leads to joy, and we get to watch and worry all the way.

A Cat in Paris***/ is a delightful animation about a cat burglar, a cat, a little girl who won't speak, her distracted mother, her nanny and a bunch of crooks and a few cops. The animation is stylized but much more believable than Chico & Rita. This is a family story with a smart and involved plot, enjoyable characters and characterizations worth learning from and a happily ever after ending. Originally French, the version I saw was dubbed in English by famous English-speaking actors.

Though not altogether original and pretty goofy overall, ParaNorman*** was fun and had a decent story.

It's all in Spanish, except when somebody's singing there's no translation, and for a movie about romance between a jazz singer and a pianist, fifty percent of what's being said doesn't reach anybody's eyes. I'll never understand why lyrics, especially when they're at the heart of a movie, are only rarely translated. Aside from that, though, this is a lovely, affecting story of two fiercely independent souls who love each other so much they won't give each other the chances they desperately need till the happily ever after ending. Did I mention the music is wonderful? The animation doesn't fill in all the visual details and faces are, in generally, rendered ugly, but for this plot — love found, love lost, etc. — we hardly need to see much more than what's here. But still … Chico & Rita***/

The Dali Dimension*** is a sometimes stumbling, often eloquent exposition of Salvador — whom a man with a camera late in the documentary called, "a man like his paintings, most unusual, very interesting" — Dali's fascination and artistic response to then-new discoveries in psychoanalysis, physics and biology, often commingled with religion. I've always responded positively if viscerally to Dali's art while believing he was an egocentric windbag. But this film informed my appreciation and reversed much of my disapproval. No doubt the guy was a genius. Now I begin to understand some of his thinking that went into that strange work. Too bad the visual quality of the film itself suffers so.

Watching Gerhart Richter Paining**** has been a revelation. I kept quitting it to go off to work on my own art ideas. Think deeply of my own progress as an artist. Nice that some movies can do that. I wouldn't want to have to watch it again. This time I saw it in smidgens and splats, like him putting his paintings together. That was fascinating. Any time I get to watch a painter paint is. This guy is and a lot of other people think he is, very interesting. I don't much care, but still thought it was a fine movie, because it kept inspiring me.

Seriously watching painters painting has taught me much about painting. Like that it's not so much a problem to get what they want onto the surface — although that's always a challenge, but it is so much more important to know when what they are doing is good, or good enough, and when to stop, at least for awhile.

Except in movies, none of the painters I've watched were famous or particularly successful. Always when I watch painters, they keep at it long after I would have stopped, and they keep changing what we both see, though we see it differently. I don't know what they want, even if they explain, and I try to never tell them what I think, because that's not important. Even later, when I do say or write about the finished piece, it shouldn't matter to them, although I've had some say my words helped.

I suppose deep into the reasoning to see so many artist-centric movies is that they give me ideas. Not obvious aspects I can copy or use directly or visually, but possibilities I might be able to employ in my photography. Maybe a little something new and more interesting than just pictures of. Still, watching someone in control of their work paint is fascinating, even if I cannot know what they are up to.


Safety Not Guaranteed*** is a 'round-about plot that gradually centers on a guy who takes out a classified ad for a companion versed in weapons and straight-thinking in times of stress for his upcoming time machine trip back to right some wrongs. On his track are government agents who know he's stolen some of their fancy lasers, and a team of dumwad journalists, who think it's a lot of hooey, and the government guys are clueless but getting closer; the woman who answers the ad wants to go back to turn her life around. It's mostly subtle how it toys with the usual time-travel enigmas, but it's a fairly believable set of romances. Not great, but not bad.

Not lame exactly, but stupid is so many small and large ways, Total Recall2*** is exciting, yet still stupid enough I expected Arnold S. to come barreling in at some point. Loved the cameo by Bill Nighy, hated that the bad woman and the good woman looked so much alike, even if near the end, that had some purpose, but it was stupid, too.

I am listing and counting experimental films by William S. Burroughs, Brion Gysin and Anthony Balch that are officially collected as William S. Burroughs: Three Films 1950 - 1960**, which, then perhaps but probably never, were either interesting or exciting. By my 2012 take they mostly are tedious and trite, but maybe I saw too many too similar films at Dallas' Festival Theatre past midnights in the 70s. A nice visual conceit/trick from time to time, but I mostly experienced oh-gosh-not another-one-of-those dread. The only color were spotted pools on clear celluloid or B&W film tinted in colors. Please make it stop. Then there's his "Yes, Hello," which has rhythmic continuity, and, all the way in and through the maddening repetition till it's just texture, we have something, but not anything I'd want to see again or contemplate further.

I wonder whether the first time I saw it on the big screen — or that other time early in the 90s — whether I thought I understood the back third of Lawrence of Arabia***/ at all. Now, at least, I'm certain that I do not. Was his sudden turn toward the far side of its nearly three hours, something some stupid script-writer came up to explain everything, or was it just bum filmmaking. I remember being wowed both those times. I rarely concede it, but some films need a big screen, but I don't think that would help the story.

I'd hoped to finish Lawrence of Arabia for a grand finish for my 200th movie this year, but that's got hours to go yet, and I watched this one in a mere 103 minutes that was scary movie-ing. Called Alexandra's Project*** it reminded me of some of the scarier women-in-charge anti MCP (male chauvinist pig) movies of the Politically Correct decade. In this one a guy comes home for his surprise birthday party, which delivers him a shocker. It involves both male and female full frontal nudity, several varieties of sex and massive recrim for all his oafish MCP ways. Massive.

Froze our butts off again at the Angelika for a preview of Hyde Park on the Hudson*** with Bill Murray of Ghost Busters, Groundhog Day, Broken Flowers and Lost In Translation, all of which we thought outstanding. This one is not. It's pretty, but the story's not plottish enough. I didn't care about Bill's FDR — whom he did not resemble; in fact he looked more like Harry Truman, and most like Bill Murray. Nor did I care for Mrs. Roosevelt, although the real Eleanor was a class act. And I only slightly cared for this latest mistress — about whom this story was mostly about, if it was about anything. We did like the King and Queen of England, who were the most human of the bunch. This movie played like fiction, and it mostly was.

I saw this one, because Netflix said in stars that I would like it, and because it's Danish. Like Canada's Film Board, they make good movies, especially the ones Netflix rates 3+ for me. This is a grisly (both blood and other bodily excretions) thriller about a high-class sleaze who is a corporate Headhunter***/ who talks his clients up, finds out if they have art worth stealing, then steals it. Soon after the beginning, I knew I didn't care what happened to our ... uh (He's no hero.) protagonist, so I just enjoyed the ride. Once that got going, it got complicated and grisly, then the movie engages us in a series of plot switchbacks that turn him into The Good Guy, which is still difficult to accept, and despite murders he and his archenemy pursuer perpetrate, it ends more than happily. A preposterous plot I was willing to go along with. I guess.

It's a high school boy-girl romance flick with hints at profundity and several attempts, and it's good but not amazing. Our little hero is a slacker with artistic tendencies who wows his art teacher with a final project piece they carefully didn't show us for a few scenes, and that was better, more honest, then they showed it to us in the ultimate moment, and it basically sucked. A friend who used to teach at a community college called that sort of thing girlfriend art, and it really didn't reach much beyond that, but the art teacher and by extension, us, went gaga over it. So it wasn't real, and when a few things in a movie are that bad, I have to start distrusting the whole thing, and I do. The Art of Getting By*** may be adequate.

Detachment**** is about a substitute teacher who is anything but. It's a quiet, brooding, ultimately depressing and sad movie with hope and death. It's got a great cast, a solid though ephemeral, maybe even spiritual story, with moments of joy. The filming and how the story unfolds is unusual, so it leads edges, and bleeds.

The mood and tenor was hardly a surprise. It was, after all, Jeremy Irons. I chose Waterland***/ because he was in it. I don't mind weeding through his really bad ones, but I'll see anything with him, though I wonder if casting agents choose him, or does he select scripts with that haunting, ultimately sad feel? Here, he's a History teacher taking his class on a field trip back through his own memories, unsettling and strange as they are. And, of course, we go along. There's hope in the end, but not much in the middle. Haunting, eerie and dark. Netflix didn't think I'd like it as much as I did, perhaps because I so identify with madness and wanting to go back and change what I did and said.

I'm still on my Bogie kick, picking through the Humphrey Bogart movies, concentrating on his detective portrayals, starting with what are considered the best. Here, we are introduced to whom will become Bogie's wife in real life, Lauren Bacall. The story is an especially complex whodunit with Philip Marlowe, in Bogie's first portrayal of crime novelist Raymond Chandler's quick-witted and deeply moral detective. The Big Sleep****

I remember thinking Shrink***/ was too depressing the first time I reviewed it. Now I dig. Much funnier and deeper and more cohesive than I at first thought. I might have to watch it again next year or the year after.√

Well, I've seen a couple of Roger Corman's cheap movies over the years — I loved Death Race 2000, The Trip with Peter Fonda and there's probably a couple others. Here, many serious actors and directors talk about his exploitation movies — movies done cheap and often sleazy, and it's fun to see the people talk about the movies, although many of the movies are less-than, we've all loved them. Still I'd rate Cormon's Movies: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel*** as really nothing new or different or great. But it's fun.

Originally called You Instead, Tonight You're Mine***/ was an oddly romantic and mostly realistic pop festival — almost seemed like a rockumentary — roller coaster ride of music, pop fest behaviors and thousands of young fans at Scotland's T in the Park. Good acting, exemplary story-telling in the middle of festival and an affecting romance. Fun, funny sometimes, human, not a lot quirky except the drunk scenes and love.

Before this one I thought I liked movies where, by some obscure mechanism, someone stops time. Suspends animation for everybody but whoever's unrunning it. This one begins with an auto accident with our hero driving and not paying enough attention, killing his wife and teenaged son and and a guy driving a truck, who's married to a woman, whom the codapendent guy who finds the mechanism haunts for the rest of the movie by stopping everything repeatedly, at first with an eye to making it easy on her. Later, when he thinks he know owns her, because he's spent so much time with her without her knowledge, he gets more and more evil. Suspension** Cute name. Worse and worse movie full of dread for what the guy will do next.

I watched the first disk of George Harrison: Living in the Material World*** and I just don't know if I'll go through the trouble to watch the other disc. It's the Beatles again. This one's a smidge better than most of the Beatle documentaries I've seen so far. Some scenes are even better than that. I just don't know if I care anymore.

My Life Without Me***/ is a lovely, sad, lilting movie with several joyous moments, about a woman who is dying but doesn't tell anybody. She has two little girls and a husband then — because she's only ever been with that one guy — acquires a boyfriend who is in love with her, and we can see why. Before she goes, she sets her husband up with a likely girlfriend and makes audio tapes for the close people in her life. Affecting, gentle, not bitter but sweet. Sarah Polley, Deborah Harry, Mark Ruffalo, Amanda Plummer.

London River***/ tells the story of two parents who go to London to find their grown children after terrorists blew up busses there. She's White and uptight. He's Black and laid back. When their paths first coincide, she calls the police. But he has important evidence linking the two, so she steals it. He hasn't seen his child since he was six. She last knew her daughter two years ago. The son and daughter have been living together, and after searching the streets, the hospitals and their mosque, they are still missing. Superb pacing, outstanding characterizations and actors. Sad but true-to-life.

The Ledge***/ is a complicated movie that involves a lot of religion, cast in both good and bad lights, but then it's about adultery, which might even have been true love, and by the end, it is. And by that end, even the nonbelievers will probably not be indifferent to it. Remarkably intense concepts going on here, well acted, well filmed, well done. I usually stop movies often. I watched this one all the way through.

Prometheus*** is both intriguing and stupid. It's beautiful to watch, visually well done. The story falls apart toward the end and in places all along. It got made anyway. It's almost a good story, though hackneyed, borrows from many much better science fiction movies. I watched it three times, and I would like to see it again. I kept hoping it would get better, and though it kept disappointing me, it was close.

Some movies are memorable and stay in my mind for days or years. I saw Detention** less than a week ago, and I had to look it up on Netflix to remember what it was about. Netflix calls it a "gender-bending slasher flick, or I probably wouldn't have been interested. When I did, finally, remember bits of it, I recall thinking, why bother?

Stunning characterizations. Very entertaining. Fascinating story full of holes, gradually being filled. Funny and serious by turns. Funny in the serious parts and serious in the funny parts. Human, and wise, in a riveting story winding slowly out. I don't know where it's going, but I know I'll enjoy it, and for once, I can enjoy a series instead of thrashing through it in a big hurry to get to the next movie. It helps that the BBC's Almost Strangers**** series is only 3 sessions long, and that it's about family, a reunion and love. (There's two photographs that make this story, one at the end, so it hardly matters, but the other is key, and we are shown it being taken, with a flash, but the resulting photo(s) were sans flash, and it seems such a mean stupidity in an otherwise intelligent film, I can only wonder why.)

The Paper Chase*** is an old movie that's been on my queue blah, blah, blah. It's a stupid movie about a male chauvinist jackass who likes his favorite teacher's daughter. But he's not in love with her, since he could only ever love himself. We never see evidence of it, except that everything he does or doesn't do is her fault. He's studying to be a lawyer, but seems largely soulless, which may be good for that profession. But then, so is the movie, though it has moments.

We saw Cloud Atlas*** in a nearly empty and freezing cold theatre (The Angelika). I like to have few or no other people at a movie, but I dislike being flash-frozen, although none of that discomfort mattered much against the confusion of making any linear or spatial sense of these stories. Seeing is far better than attempting to understand. Maybe with decent captions, I will at least understand what they are saying, if not why. That might be a leg up. Themes are easily enough discerned, if they are not in the movie. Often fun to watch, sometimes interesting to try to understand, mostly I was happy several hours later to get out of there and thaw. In sum, extravagant, goofily complex, often insipid. Like one of the characters actually did somewhere midway through this hash, I wanted to scream that "Soylent Green was People."

I liked Brick thoroughly, so I looked up that actor and found Manic*** with Zooey Deschanel and Don Cheadle. A well-enough crafted thriller(?) about getting beyond anger in a mental hospital.

I saw The Barefoot Contessa*** because Bogie's in it, but it's a sordid little movie, with a tired and aging Bogart. It is confusing, without really needing to be, maybe without wanting to. About friendship and elusive love, and in many ways it's rife with stupidity, but there's a smidgeon of wisdom there, too. As if one scriptwriter after another concocted this serial, without communicating with the others, and they just filmed it, but the story is there, and it's not awful, just tortured long. I wouldn't recommend it, but I liked Bogie in it, even if he is only playing himself from dozens of years before.

There's being dogged and there's being dog-ed. This guy is both in Brick**** a complex story told straight through with clipped hip dialog that defines itself on the way. Like a detective novel, in dark color, but now. Fascinating complexity of characters, all of whom are in high school, usually over their heads in life. Twitchy tale told fast. Not paying enough attention, you'll miss the important bits. They're fast and furious, like the fists. Interlock and play out only at the end. Taut, smart but bloody. Our hero gets crumpled again and again.

Got to see a preview of a then yet-unreleased new movie. Kept thinking it might be a hard sell for the PR dept. It's about sex, shows female frontal nudity of someone many of us remember. That she — Helen Hunt was in it was all I needed to know. And William H. Macy as a cool but kind priest whose inexperience is commensurate, with John Hawks, whom I didn't know, but I liked seeing Adam Arkin and Rhea Pearlman, though neither are listed, and Arkin's more than a cameo. The sex is between Hunt's character, who's a professional sex surrogate, and the 40-year-old virgin polio sufferer, not paralyzed, just can't use his muscles and needs an iron lung to breathe every day and sleep, and he's naive about sex, which he's never had any of, but it is often discussed forthrightly. It's called The Sessions*** after the time he spends with Hunt's character, often with both of them naked (though we only see her parts), while he learns how to do that with a woman who has to do most of the work. Based on a true story, but it's hard to say how much of the movie is real. By its nature it's humanly and sexually funny, but also bittersweet. I didn't believe all the acting, but I never doubted the people. Sad sometimes but some joy, too. Perhaps it just tries too hard, but there are great swaths of this story I just don't trust.

Another remarkable black & white movie. One I've had in my queue for years. I worried it'd be cheap sci-fi, but there's nothing cheap about it. Great story, excellent characters, though the characterizations are not that great. But it was made in 1951. Very good acting, decent enough special effects, remarkably subtle and apt details in the spaceship. I've known about this movie most of my life, but I've never seen it. Pity. The Day The Earth Stood Still****, though a powerful title, is barely pertinent to the fact that the world's electricity stopped flowing there for awhile.

Wildly romantic without sex. No thrashing in bed, just kissing and worrying and wondering. Directed by David Lean and written and produced by Noel Coward in 1945 in scrumptious, restored and full tonal range glorious Black & White. Not quite an affair, well the love part, in proper old Britain. I found no fault with it. Was willing, and taken away with it. Remarkable how simple a story can affect. Brief Encounter****

Obscene***/ is about Barney Rosset and his Grove Press publishing house and Evergreen Review magazine, which both published then-controversial, often banned authors and books. Talking heads, yes, of course, it is a documentary, but because Rosset was an aspiring filmmaker and also because he gathered fine graphic artists for his publishing, there are excellent visuals illustrating the various court and other battles with the police, the government and its courts. Exciting for an Old Lefty, of interest to anyone who reads four-letter words or concepts in print, when before Rosset, that was illegal. Rosset first published Lady Chatterly's Lover, Tropic of Cancer, Naked Lunch, Howl and the list continues. It was rarely easy, but now we can say almost anything in print. BR (before Rosset), we could not.

Watching Looper*** I realized it was a prime example of a "dirty" time-travel movie. Especially grimed up by grainy film reproductions of post-apocalyptic crime. I like my time travel movies cleaner. I like high-resolution, and I like time-travelers not caught up in doing their fellow citizens in, or at least not having that be the most creative future these dolts can dream up. Probably too much of this movie is too obviously in service to the conundra of going forward or backward in time, spending too little of it making a great story that's easy to follow. By the end, I was tired of it, and when — well — what happened at the end happened, I barely cared, except to note that, even in the potential world of time travel, it seems unlikely. Just too pat an answer to a difficult question the movie put so much effort into asking and getting us to believe in. I was willing to suspend my disbelief earlier, but then I just gave up on it, although I want to see it again on my little screen at home maybe a couple more times.

The Mill & The Cross*** is a plodding, almost painful, often viciously violent, slow and deeply surreal reenactment of Pieter Bruegel's 1564 painting, The Procession to Calvary as a vivid, minutely detailed and overly didactic tale of the painting in its time and place and the people who inhabit it. Very strange.

It's a dysfunctional road trip. Her mother, once his wife, is dying and wants to see him and her, who may be their daughter, but as he points out later in jail, he's the only father she's ever had. From the mother's invitation, to them arriving at the hospital is a long, drawn out deal. There's drunkenness, a murder, nasty fights with her and another guy they hook up with on the way. The father is a drunk, and she's not without her addictions, either. So we know they're father and daughter even after a paternity tests proves — well, watch the movie. The trip nearly takes too long but a lot's involved, and it's a wrencher. But it's a good wrench. Not good as in saintly or pleasant, but as in a good movie, in which only a few things very nice happen. But those make the movie, give Aberdeen***/ the up-turn it needs.

A guy who desperately wants to be somebody. Wants to be a superhero. Is given pills that will do that for him. So we see him do some amazing things, and he sees himself do those things, then after awhile only he sees himself doing those things. But he believes. — The makings of a cult classic. Not altogether polished, and except for Michael Rapaport the acting is mediocre at best. Feels kinda like a film school project. Though the ideas are deep, if not altogether important. Special***/

A love affair. An art heist mystery. An enigmatic riddle of identity and what really happened. Opaque, but beautiful and dreamlike, then transparent at the end. A movie that tells its story gently and visually, though there is dialog. Great plot, superb pacing. Wildly romantic. Delicious mind games. Excellent title. Luscious. The Double Hour**** Italian with subtitles

Contagion***/ is one in a very long list of movies about infectious disease. One of the better ones, showing, perhaps, a more contemporary view of the little buggers that start somewhere and spread all over the world. Lot of stars in this, the story is outstanding, and probably awfully true to life. A thriller with human elements.

A long time ago, I read a lot of John Steinbeck, so the story is familiar. I'm sure I saw this movie at least once in that last century, but this is the first time for this version, and though it's dated in many dimensions — the sets are absurdly simple, the music is too dramatic, and even the acting is simplistic, the story shines through. It's about people with dreams in a bad situation. Everybody knows it's a bad situation, but nobody does anything about it, and eventually, the situation takes over and breaks all the really important people's dreams. Of Mice and Men*** was probably a blockbuster in 1939, as was the book before that.

Twice Upon a Yesterday***/ is a bit of turnabout on the already too old go-back-to-where-it-all-started-and-right-it-via-time-travel routine, only this is not science fiction but magic, simple and pure. When he gets back, he does what he woulda done the first time if he'd been conscious then instead of full of himself, but he's not himself, he's who he thinks he oughtta be, then he does it again and is the he he's supposed to be and he knows that, because he can feel it, and then the woman he loved the first time... Well, you know how these time travel mixups go, around in circles and off on tangents, and it would have been more credible if they hadn't been speaking Brit-glish without captions, but it is a pleasant romp through all those gathering enigmas and ineluctables and manages to do it pleasantly.

Even if they've updated it nearly out of the stratosphere, I love Dr. Seuss, and until recently I'd not heard of The Lorax***, but it's a sing-along, song-filled story about saving trees, so bears and fishies and everybody else can grow where once weren't trees.

I've long been a fan of Jeremy Irons, but I thought I still hadn't seen Reversal of Fortune, so I watched it (not knowing, again) and loved it. But since I can't count it against my all-time yearly record of movies seen, I wonder why bother. Another couple of hours wasted. Alas.

Lunopolis***/ feels amateurish, and looks it. Blair-Witchy amateur vid to suck us in a less-than credible plot. Some guys track and find a machine down there, try it, and what happens? Later, we get more complex, higher-tech CSI vid exposition, so we know we're in a movie with too much explanation. Then the cheapness comes back. Not Hollywood, more like the government or Junior College, with bad lighting and low-tech PowerPoint detailing lame and lamer plots backs down to amateur vidage again. Dumb title. But intertwining, loop-de-looping notions are right on. I love time-travel plots, and I'm still smiling about this one.. 2011

I like down-on-their-luck superheroes and angels and other up-from-the-skids magical creatures, especially with gnarly wings. If you're going to be magical, might as well be human, too — so we can all identify. Movies are scattered with those, and this one's particularly lovable in the end after being much less so through most of it. Helps he's played by Tim Roth. Earnest plot that works well enough. We like the kids, parents too, but especially Skellig: The Owl Man***/

Took a long while to warm to The Painted Veil*** as Edward Norton movies often do. About a self-centered English woman in Singapore with the self-uncentered doctor husband she never loved, and he only thought he loved her. Lush landscape and cholera isolate them to learn who they are. What took effort was caring about them, but once we and they learn their fallibility and follies, it was easier.

Army of Shadows** is all in French, except the critical commentary, which I chose as my soundtrack — although calling it that is ironic, because though it tells me critical history of this intriguing movie, I hear no music, although the commentator occasionally mentions it. I understand I am not hearing the original movie, but I am seeing it, and perhaps I am seeing it more intelligently, though I would have far preferred seeing and hearing it in a language I understand. Then, after awhile, I just got bored.

Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff*** held my attention most of its hour and 26 minutes. Better than that, he led me to a number of other films, many classics, that Cardiff either shot or directed. Most of its interest is as a short, Cardiff-related history of English and American movies.

It's been years since I last watched Gιrard Depardieu, back when we were both younger and I was willing to read subtitles even for plodders. Here he's been raised by an apparently unloving mother and those who call him friend think him a dolt. Along comes 95-year-old Margueritte who reads to him every day in the park while they feed pigeons he knows well enough to have names for each of them. Of course, there's more to both their lives, but he is learning to read and reading teaches him, as it often does — to become a better, more loving person. My Afternoons with Magueritte***/ is a charming delight.  French with subtitles 2010

This documentary is about women and girls (as young as 14) who are getting labial reduction surgery, so they feel normal — even if almost no one ever sees the parts they consider abnormal, and most who do, don't care. The documentary is narrated by a woman who takes great pains to call those parts something different every time they're mentioned, and she is openly against the procedure. The Perfect Vagina*** may seem shocking, but since 50% of the population has one, and increasing numbers in England feel need to "normalize" it, it's more odd to not talk about it. This scatter-shot documentary explores issues about radical personal alteration. At one point our perky narrator says, completely oblivious to the part she Freudianly slips in, "There is a part of me that really wants to go with this. And there's a part of me that just goes, it's really just trippy-hippie." Then she asks the guys painting her flat what they think, and they are more forthright than she was till the end when she bares her own, though not to the camera. She thanks them for their honesty, then calls them "hideously sexist." The next episode is about medical hymen restoration so women who aren't or who have had theirs injured can prove their virginity. This version on Documentary Heaven has long sequences of black screen silence — or auto insertion advertising, as if parts of it have been left blank for a commercial, but it is otherwise intact, and the time clock continues to count down.] Another unobjective online streamer from Documentary Heaven is The Trouble with Atheism, a low-resolution TV presentation

From the first frame, the soundtrack for Windfall***/ was a little twitchy, and the visuals appropriately intense — beautiful upstate New York farm country. Gradually, the music got less happy and more contentious — just like the people in the town letting and fighting the wind turbine company taking over their town. Before this flick I got a bright joy every time I saw wind turbines populating the hills. Now I get a little queasy, and I don't even have to live near them.

I picked Oranges and Sunshine***/ because Emily Watson is in it, and I fell in love with her acting in Breaking The Waves in the late 1990s, so I either saw that because Lars von Trier did it or I've seen every von Trier movie I could find since, because of Breaking the Waves. Hard to remember which. But I was blown away by her in that, and not in much else since. So here I am trying again. Where Waves was strangely enigmatic and abstract, as von Trier tends, this is hard history and weep-worthy drama, so I'll abandon comparisons. By the middle of the 20th Century more than 130,000 children of the poor and other less-thans in England were deported to Australia with about as much appreciation as the prisoners were in the centuries before them. Slave labor and unappreciated. Children who grew into adults who knew not their families nor whom they were. Lost children, many of whom Margaret Humphreys found families and identities for.

Loving Lampposts***/ began with a little kid who loves lampposts. Then more kids, then adults, more adults, some with autism. There were many quotes I found worth typing: "Everything a child with autism does, they're doing it for a reason. We may not be smart enough to figure it out. But we should at least try. It's not random." "Thinking about autism as both a disability and a difference tends to change how you treat it. You begin to think less about changing behaviors, and more about developing relationships." "We need to think about changing ourselves." "But acceptance is not about giving up and not working with your child. It's just about understanding where they are at that moment. Understanding this is how my child sees the world." "In recent years, this idea of acceptance has gotten a name. … The idea is simple. Non-autistic people are neuro-typical. Autistic people are those whose brains are different — neuro-diverse." "This narrative of dread and calamity is something that we are together — all of us — working against." "Autism is a gift disguised as a dilemma." typed into a speaking computer by a Autistic woman who does not speak. Many ideas worth considering.

Street Thief*** documents a fast-talking hairy guy who burgles money from businesses small and large. The film crew follows him sometimes, in and out of places he's casing and places he's stealing from. Interesting and exciting, maybe even true. Guess he's gotta be an ego maniac or he couldn't pull off what he does for a living. I keep hoping he and the film crew all get caught, so the movie has a moral. It's interesting, seems to have a plot, a story, an antihero main character. Everything but a sexy-starlet love interest.

Small Town Murder Songs**/ has the truly obnoxious soundtrack of a loud chorus singing loud church music in mercilessly short then lengthening bursts at opportune transitions, and holy-roller chapter heads with heavy-handed messages. Almost annoying enough to shut the stupid movie off. Then the audio got out of synch for a few scenes, all with several (a total of four, I think) sudden high-pitched electronic screeches. Not nearly enough happens, our hero eventually turns his cheek, the murderer is offered up, then nearly nothing more happens, all with the flavor of Fargo sanctified.

From it's odd beginning to its even odder end, this movie is a visual delight. Strange, some might say weird, but almost always smile-worthy, The Fairy**** is vividly colorful visual, but absurdist fun. It has to be one of those movies Netflix calls visually arresting, so varied and wonderful those can sometimes be, this is more so. And just when it begins to veer off too much, it comes back to silly surreality. Very peculiar. Mostly funny, sometimes hilarious. A little strained momentarily maybe, but it always comes back to joy.

Even at a mere 46 minutes, Marilyn in Manhattan*** is repetitive enough to be improbably padded. It's not a great documentary, but it is of her, so who cares? It reveals some of her truths and glosses over others, so it's not probing, either. Just a short made for TV romp.

You have seen his photographs. That one, at least. Probably others, too. You know the one. A Vietnamese guy has a pistol to the head of another Vietnamese man and he's just pulled the trigger — the bullet was still in the guy's head, hadn't burst out the other side yet. He grimaces, his head thrown away from the gun. Click. On film. That was Eddie Adams, and he doesn't like that photograph, doesn't think it's a good shot; has had his life ruined — shredded by that shot. But he has shot other photos he was more proud of, that also changed history. Those conflicting feelings and needs are what this movie, An Unlikely Weapon: The Eddie Adams Story**** is about. No war rah-rah here, this is gritty stuff, reality, history — Fidel Castro hunting ducks or women for Penthouse — way past journalism.

Paper Man**** is eminently peculiar, but believable in a quasi-post-Juno-esque flow that turns goofy, floppy broad comedy to serious — poignant even — friendship. The deep-voiced imaginary friend in his buff superhero costume with red, flowing cape attempts reality, but can't hold it. Even in the gentle dιnouement moments, this quirky movie remains deep down ponder-worthy hilarious with a human need for imperfection.

Here's a spooky one. Jack Nicholson's a just-retired cop, whose last coply dutiies is telling parents of a little girl raped and murdered that he pledges on his "own salvation" to track down her murderer, so he finds a mother with a little girl fitting the guy's M.O. and baits a trap that's about to to spring. We're watching her all innocent, and the giant coming down the road. And then, and then, it all comes unraveled. The Pledge***/ is a little maddening, but taut.

The Wavy Gravy Movie: Saint Misbehaving***/ is think-worthy documentation of the era of peace, love and civil disobedience. Much of it is wonderful funny; but it's all serious; and mind-rearranging, if you give it a chance. Here, I'm quoting Wavy's long-time friend, Doctor Larry Brilliant from the film: "Sitting in front of a clown who has thought more deeply than you have; who knows more that he's read in books than you have; you have to go into a period of suspended disbelief .... He's adopted this ruse, this disguise or persona of being a clown, and it fits him, but he's really a deeply spiritual being." Touching to this aging hippie.

This is very much like being taken into a new realm in which I have no expertise. Clueless about Classical composers, I never know whose music that is, but here's a piano tuner solving sonic specific quandaries from pianists. I haven't the faintest what he's talking about but the sound tells me. It's as if he were speaking in a foreign language, and of course, he actually is. Most of the words are from captions, although they speak English sometimes. No dubbing. So instead of listening as close as I could to a movie about sound, I am firing on more than the cylinders I have, to keep up with what they are saying. And it's invigorating. Lots of high-level piano technology interspersed with marvelous visual traffic and later, architectural, transitions, Pianomania***/ fills my head with notes and music and understanding.

Then comes The Lincoln Lawyer***, and I don't even want to know why it's called that. About a sleazy, fast-talking lawyer, very low on the human scale, who rises a little during the movie, then sleazes on back to the slime layer later. I liked the William H. Macy role best, but they killed him off early, and he wasn't all that personable. The rest of it's mostly double-talk and double-switchback-plot B.S. Amusing, with a back of almost-Justice, but smarmy.

A riveting story about justice in America when most Americans wanted revenge. Sounds familiar, huh? The Conspirator**** brings us the story of Confederate sympathizer Mary Surratt, convicted of conspiring in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln with no proof but anger.

Wim Wenders' — I seem to be on a kick of his flix lately — film, A Trick of Light*** is an odd combination of historic re-presentation and documentary about the Skladanowky Brothers who presented motion pictures before the Lumiere Brothers but the Lumieres did it better, and are credited with "inventing" cinema, when a lof it inventors were working on it with various degrees of success. Endearing characters, interesting history, just not utterly fascinating, and there's a clownishness deep in this film that, though it rings true enough, seem anachronistic.

I remember another Starman long ago about a kid who gets good at video games so an interplanetary talent scout takes him up to the planet where that game is real, and he becomes a hero. But this Starman***/ is not that one. This is a lilting romance with Jeff Bridges as an alien who assumes the cloned form of Karen Allen's recently deceased boyfriend so he doesn't make her nervous. Then it's a road trip to the giant crater near Winslow, Arizona to meet up with the mother ship to rescue him and take him back to his own planet. And if it weren't for the idiot military (ours) and the power-crazed police that take over and want desperately to kill and/or destroy the man from outer space, it would have been an even better movie. He's kind, brings a hunter-killed deer back to life, etc. Kinda poignant. A little too much of its time, 1984, but still a gentle movie about a being learning to adapt.

Ah! Finally, a movie I haven't already seen. Can't count those last two green ones, because I already did, and I'd already given this one four stars on Netflix, but I've never seen it before. This time I checked before I watched the whole thing. On Amazon for free, which is fine by me. Took a long time to find a good flick via Amazon's idiot interface, but once started it worked without a glitch.

Oh, I see, this must be the reason Patricia Arquette got that TV Show where she saw dead people or whatever. Medium. I liked it at first, then grew to mistrust it deeply. Kinda like my relationship with the Catholic church. This one's called Stigmata**/, and she's got that and devil infestation and the deep down truth about the Catholic church that church officials don't want her telling all God's chilluns that the church is in its people, not in buildings of wood and stone or thie biggest, richest corporantion on the face of the Earth that doesn't pay taxes anywhere. Lots of exorcism and pyrotechnic special effects. Reminds almost none at all of Jane Fonda's Agnes of God.

Well, I did it again. Quite without realizing it, I saw an older movie I'd already seen. As I watched it this time, I kept thinking I bet I would have liked this flick if I'd seen it up to a few years ago, but now I thought it contained every clichι the genre of magic — witches, sorcerers, etc. — had to offer. Then I found my old review when I had seen it. Argh, I loved it last time. Only could barely stand it now. Stardust**/.

Sidewalls***/ is a romance between two people who live close but never quite get together, though they pass within inches remarkably often. With lovely transitional passages of architectural beauty and not. I saw it in segments, because Netflix kept crashing (probably Times Warner's fault), so I'm not sure of the chronology anymore, and if I saw it again, it'd have to be dubbed in English. But I'd love to see it again when it made more sense.

I'm not sure watching instantly makes sense with my current Internet Disservice Provider. I'm eligible for Amazon's supposedly similar service, except I haven't figured out how to find anything I'd want there, and their star system wildly overrates.

I've begun another TV series starring Damien Lewis. Homeland**** starts off like a house afire. A thriller about a POW returning from Iraq or some such, but he might be — I've seen three episodes already, and I'm not convinced — a terrorist. It'll probably take years to find out, and the show will drag some toward the end, but it's excellent right now. The second season may be better than the first, but I wouldn't bet on the third, but I'll watch it avidly.

I knew there was something called Hunger Games***/ out there — I'd seen the signs and posters but never paid enough attention to care if it were a game, TV or vampires. I kept not caring till I snapped it was a movie. I must be the last person in America to know. Not slobbering crass like I suspected from the promos. Impressive sci-fi, except the let-down at the end, but knowing the killing game's been a sci-fi standard over all the 50+ years I've been devouring it.

It started fun. I'd just seen the 2005 Gideon's Daughter with Bill Nighy and Emily Blunt as his distant daughter, now the same pairing in 2010's Wild Target** that began much more active, visually adventurous and musically upbeat — though hardly deep. Then, with scant warning — maybe the offputting rock track with loud lyrics, it turned inept and stupid. Then stupider. Eventually moronic.

In talking-heads documentaries, my eyes wander while I listen when nothing much is visual, and Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fileds*** insisted on flashing identifications of whoever's head is talking. When I tune suddenly back, Merritt is talking movies and says, "That's how I feel about other people's records: I think they're emphasizing convention over beauty and interest, and I'm usually emphasizing interest and beauty over convention." The joy of this movie is watching them make their music, step by step and in leaps of faith.

All the way through, I am mystified. How did this movie know I needed that just now in my life, in these moments of transition? That I needed to see this actor in that pain, in that wonder, lost but seeking. Not at all bending the world to his will, as well his character might, the power he wields. He is learning his answers, and I'm watching this movie because Bill Nighy is starring in it. And maybe I'm learning something, too. Something important. Lessons about grieving and letting go. And can that possibly be why I chose this film, now? I had to stop Gideon's Daughter**** to write this, and I'm joyed to get to watch more, learn more into the end.

And then I learn in the special features that this is Film Two, and I need to see Film One (They didn't have names when they were shot.) — even though Mr Nighy's not in these others — to fit first the one, then the others directed by Stephen Poliakoff into this one I liked so much. Odd timing and fitting time together again like Mr. Dumpty vs. Billy Pilgrim. The others include Almost Strangers and The Lost Prince. Is it any wonder my disk and streaming queues are up to 402 movies? I read this week that most viewers keep up to 25 movies on that changeable list. Ha!

Usually I just trust Netflix' star system. They're pretty often right. If they think I'd give it more than three stars, I'll dig the flick. I wondered most of the way through this teen sob story with a mildy upbeat ending,"why this one." But when they say anything it's something inane like "because you liked Lord of the Flies, The Hunt for Red October and William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet. Or something similarly stupid. As if there were any connections a human could parse. So I kept at this one, and eventually there was a payoff, but it really wasn't big enough to balance for this sobbish teen drivel. Keith***

Until late tonight I'd never heard of Paul Goodman. Seeing this elegant, intellectual documentary about his life surprised me. Took me from my usual day and night and made me think and wonder about this guy. An honest man. Bi-sexual, anti-war, writer, amazing poet, thinker, one-man think tank, author of nearly 60 books of literature, poetry, fiction and nonfiction, explainer and understander, happy and sometimes sad man. Spokesman for The New Left. Tonight, Paul Goldman Changed My Life***, too.

Steve Jobs: One Last Thing*** is another of those tribute pieces that tell the story of. Better than average, decent talking heads (including Ross Perot and The Woz). Vaguely inspiring. I've seen every one I could and will probably continue. Neat guy. Terrible guy. Interesting man. Mediocre movie.

A Murder of Crows***/ is a really really stupid name for an informative and entertaining documentary about birds, some of whom are smarter than some of us. It is cute that a flock of crows are sometimes called a murder, but this story has nothing to do with murdering crows, so it's not even a bad pun. It's just an insipid title for a documentary on how smart crows are, and they are. The narrator says ravens are even smarter, then doesn't tell us anything about ravens. I'm a big fan of birds, and I've often photographed and wondered about crows. I've even repeated that they are very smart, but this movie proves it in remarkable visual ways.

The Last Word***/ offers up the deep-down stuff we don't want to mess with. Most movies toy with personality and personalities. Some have the stuff in rich supply. So off-beat it's almost off-putting, this takes quirkiness to new depths, then bounces around down there. There is a special, almost mirthless joy in getting into this one about a guy who writes literary suicide notes. It's deeper than it makes out to be, and Ray Romano is fabulous, off character yet in it, so's Winona Rider. Our hero doesn't seem to have it, so he lets everybody else escape. Till the end.

A bit of hokum, a lot of hope and a Yemeni sheikh who fishes for faith, two men, two women and a farm's worth of fish. (Well, there's more women and more men, but they obviously don't matter any. And one guy is very special, a dreamer, with Faith and a river and all those fish. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen***'s not earth-shatteringly bad or good, but gentle Brittish fun.

Oddly reminiscent of deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie's Touch the Sound, this deft, surreal movie about percussive terrorists who employ large-scale industrial effects and the intermittantly deaf but almost always tone-deaf policeman obsessed with stopping them and exacting his own sonic revenge, Sound of Noise**** is a strange and superb comedy that rarely stoops to laugh out loud humor.

There's no doubt that women get a raw deal in this life, but this stupidly glitzy flick about it is not a good way to tell the story. Miss Representation**

Elderly Brit superstars' retirement in India starts slowly, continues predictably, then ends heartwarming, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel***/ with Judi Dench, Tom Wilknson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Slumdog Dev Patel.

Here's another World's Record Attempt movie about The Flying Scotsman*** who competed with bicycle racing teams who spent a millions of dollars on their bikes. Our hero made his own out of washing-machine parts and grit. He also suffered from Depression. It's about friendship and love and keeping at it, despite the odds. Well-filmed, edited and scripted, but … so what?

One Week*** is one of those movies that pays attention and makes fun of itself. That's worth something. A guy is diagnosed with Cancer, so he buys a Norton motorcycle and drives west, no real plan. And has adventures while he tries to decide what to do next. Will he marry the woman he thinks he might be in love with? Will he fight the disease? Etc. Not a perfect movie, but nice scenery, and great large-scale objects he finds along the way.

Hammett*** was in my queue a long time. Sounded like a good idea. Wim Wenders does detective novelist Dashier Hammett as a detective in seamy 30s San Francisco. It's got all the characters and pretty noir scenes. It captures the surface qualities, but the story's too busy and just off.

I haven't seen a personality-transfer movie in a long time, but this is a good one. Makes sense. Follows its own rules, like I learned from The Sixth Sense, which shares some thematic elements. Who dies is Mom. Daughter lives but more than channels Mom for an extended period. Interesting psychodrama, intriguing notions, pretty to look at, not a starltling new plot, but many of the twists are. I danced to it, The Secret***/ 2007

Lotte Verbeek and Steven Rea in a lovely, almost as slow as real life, relationship that has nothing to do with Hollywood in speed or absurdity. It grows and they learn each other. In Ireland by Polish director Ursuszula Antoniak. Delicious movie for the time it taks to say simple things. Touching. Quiet. Bittersweet. Nothing Personal****

I saw Puss in Boots*** with my girlfriend and her 6-year-old granddaughter on a TV, a different setup than here on my Mac at home, which is significantly closer and higher res. It was good enough, sometimes funny, though predictable, visually of limited interest, ocassionally intelligent and amusing. The six-year-old almost had it memorized already, although many of its quips escaped her, and a passing acquaintance with Spanish might have been helpful. I was willing to suspend disbelief, but the story was goofy and unoriginal.

It's difficult not to get emotionally involved when I talk about Project Nim***/. It's about a chimpanzee who was raised almost as a human, treated for years as a human, then was almost forgotten, because nobody thought what to do with him after he was a world-famous signing chimp. When he was unceremoniously returned to a plain cage, alone — after he'd lived in a house and slept in a bed and had human companionship all that time. Can't help but think humans are not only stupid, we're cruel. The Making Of special feature is not particularly worthwhile, but Bob's Journey should have been in the movie.

Maybe this was a good movie, but it was about a bad war, evil through and through. I'm not sure that it helped that Angelina Jolie wrote and produced it. I knew what was going on, yet it always confused me. I've seen the stupidity of war up close and personal. This one was closer and more personal, with hatred so thick it slithered. In the Land of Blood and Honey***/

I've been watching a Jump Tomorrow*** that's only an hour and thirty-seven minutes long, but it's gone on forever. I watch awhile, then put it down for almost anything I'd like or not like to do. It's about a straight-laced Black guy traveling somewhere in, I think, Europe, with a goofy French guy who keeps egging George, our essentially lame protagonist, toward amor. I've only got 37 more minutes, and I've put it off and put it off, and if I start it again, I'll probably put it off again, even if Geogre is finally almost happy, even if he's scheduled to marry a woman of his parents' choosing the day after tomorrow. And I still don't care what happens next. Till the end, and I did care, and suddenly I liked those people on screen, and then when it started raining at Niagra Falls, it started raining and thundering in real life, here, and I thought that was just perfect.

Justified***, which I enjoyed almost enough to watch all the other episodes, has a lot of killing, but there's an elusive hero wearing a cowboy hat in contemporary Kentucky who seems to know more than anybody else, and I love my heroes too-smart like that. I wondered about it, watched it, and now think that's enough. The plot's pretty much the same every time.

The Answer Man***/ is a lilting little charmer about life's questions and who's got the answers. Starts sardonic and funny, ends up in quirky romance with a son who still believes his dad is coming back in two weeks.

It's one of those painful movies where the lead character has a dark secret about something awful but won't tell anybody even when just thinking about telling almost sets her spirit free. We know she will, but not till the end. So that's the psych of it, but movies like this end happily ever after, so we know she will, and all this is character development. Right? Speak***

So much style, there's hardly room for content in Robert Downey Jr.'s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows***/, yet it's thoroughly enjoyable.

There are times when all I really need is to see some dance. When whatever else I'm up to fails me, I have to see the motions, watch the abstract rhythms, see the beat. Usually I have no idea that's what will save me. It just happens. Happened couple months ago at the performance series at Central Trak. Don't ever get my fill, sustenance till next time. Tonight, of all things, it was a dose of William Shatner's Gonzo Ballet**** streaming. All those dance exclusives tossed salad together with not always inane lyrics and that voice. Yes it was funny, but art, too. Whenever the talking heads 'd gone on too long, dance took over. A little gloriodsky with the special effects one time, but still perfect. No tutus, thank good, but Traditional throughout. Nothing we haven't seen, but oh the juxtapositions.

Incendiary**** might have been the movie I was waiting for. Fanciful and real, about love and evil, light and dark, the ugly and beautiful. One of those rare movies that pits the impossibles together. Lilting and amazing transcendant.

I'm somewhere in the middle of three movies I may never finish but for some perverse reasons keep trying. Franklyn** purports to be science fiction, but in all the times I've watched succeeding parts of it, I've never once given a damn about any of its characters, who all seem unlikely, stilted and stupid. I was watching it again a little while ago, but since I still had more than an hour to go, I was not motivated. I tell myself if I can get within 40 minutes of the end (the worse the flick, the more often I check) I can stick with almost any movie. But add 20 minutes and myeh.

Better Than Sex**/ started out funny about a one-night stand that seemed to be going somewhere and was laugh out loud funny, but then it stopped going anywhere and wasn't funny anymore, so it's on hold, too.

Friends and Crocodiles** seemed almost interesting. A rich guy with lots of plans and big ideas and flagrant lovers hires a prim and proper woman to organize him, then he does everything he can to thwart her (and we assume his) plans, and I just don't care what happens next.

The conundrum is whether to count these idiocies I've already spent too much time on. Enough to know I just don't care. Yep. I'm counting them, and abandoning them, too.

The Hunter**** was beautiful, superbly acted (mostly Willem Dafoe with some Sam Neill and a lovely family) mixing out-back adventure and scenery, thriller story with deep tree-hugger themes. Had me all the way through.

Bobcat Goldwaith's God Bless America***/ is dark and riotously funny and bloody murdurous. Can't get much darker without going over to the other side, and this one doesn't condescend or cheat us, though Its pacing is painful slow sometimes (meaning, as a director, Goldwaith's not always on target), and the acting is almost never top-rate, and the filming suffers, but the story is deep down American, fiercely funny, and it puts the thumb down on many of our worst traits. Blood luscious theme, not all that great movieing, but righteous story and dialog. Maybe I cannot explain it well enough but ! I've been movied. And maybe Goldwaith's next attempt will be better.

It's just possible that John Carter*** missed a few sword & sci-fi clichιs, but darned few. Everything we've ever seen in Sword & Scorcery and alien almost anything is here, and it's grand fun to watch, all 2 hours and 12 minutes. I laughed and laughed and laughted, usually with but often at.

I needed a good spy thriller, and Denzel Washington's Safe House***/ delivers. Fast-action, deep-thought and corrupt agencies. Just like real.

It's about the ineffable senses, those not betrayed in movies. Smell and taste, almost the same, then sensations, like trust and love, attention and being with. Accomplishment, progress. It makes Perfect Sense****. Hearing, rage.  I love the warning, "Stay away from anyone showing signs of aggression." Essentially, this is a romance in wild sci-fi circumstances. The world is going crazier than usual, making fascinating cinematic texture. Sound made effable by its absence. More profound than that daft Artist.

Rio*** was animated fun, based on the humor of stealing endangered wildlife. I laughed most of the way through it. Three days later, I don't remember anything, but then and there, I liked it.

The rise and precipitous fall of rock star and singer Harry Nilsson — Who Is Harry Nilsson (and Why Is Everybody Talking About Him)***/ is a lot of talking heads and historical footage and a lot of people I've idolized (John Lennon, Ringo was his best man, Van Dyke Parks, Terry Gilliam) tied into n amalgam of that wonderful voice and everything that flowed from it and after.

It was a cute idea adequately fleshed, but my oh my, this was one tedious movie. I was soooo glad when it was over. No way this was one of the best movies of any month, let alone year. Myeh. The Artist**/.

I'm sure an English Prof could cram this into the list of seven basic plots, but it's new to me. Wildly Romantic. Lovely. Intelligent. 19th Century. Superbly acted and plotted, Sophie Marceau is superb. Firelight**** 1997.

Hadn't seen Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs*** this century or since a big chunk of the last. It's still a classic, but its age shows. Ms. White has nearly no facial tonality, and her singing is archaic. A lot is. She's hopelessly naive moments after being warned about the witch and stupidly succumbs to obvious evil.Any kid in the audience would have known better. The depth contemporary movies have taught us to expect isn't there yet, and the witch's first ploy fells her target almost irrevocably. I'd like to have enjoyed more wit battle, but it was a hoot to see it again after so long. As three-dimensional as it must have seened when new in 1937, it's pale imitation now, but not without its Disney animal charms

I can see why filmophiles went gaga over this documentary. It tells a story of a son's journey to discover who his father was. His father who had three families. One with the woman he stayed married to. And two other secret families, each with a child. Strange guy. One of the gods of architecture, Louis I. Kahn. I wasn't that thrilled with the whole thing, but toward the end, My Architect: A Son's Journey*** got more emotional and more spiritual. His last building, completed well after his death, is amazing.

Ayn Rand & The Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged***/ sounded like another deadly documentary of talking heads gabbing about ideas. But I saw this strident film as a lively story of an independent soul, and I look around now, as she looked around in the late 40s and early and middle 50s and see exactly what she predicted all around us. It's not all that different a flick in any other respect. It took me a while to get into this movie, but wow. Its liveliness comes from ideas. If it was, except for those ideas, presented in any new way, I might have given it that last full asterisk. Unfortunately, this movie manifests more hope than exists. We are, all of us — business, government, religion and philosophy — going to hell, as she predicted in her 1200-page novel. But I'm mightily impressed by what this movie says. Maybe because I think I'm living the independent life she prescribed in that wildly controversial book that was so thoroughly despised by all the Big-Time Idiots of both The Left and The Right, all of whom have since been proved Wrong.

The Woodmans*** is about a family, but almost exclusively in relation to the daughter who made photographs at least thirty years ahead of her time. Without Francesca, this movie would not have been made. That said, it is an intriguing character study, of everybody, but mostly her.

I don't even know the guy's name, but Lila, I remember. She's porcelain and blonde, and he's brown with dark, curly hair. They're both beautiful, and neither know what they are doing — falling in love. She seems overtly sexual, and he's careful, and it's a much better movie than all that. Only subtitles, because it's French, which is appropriate. It's beautiful, intelligent and emotional, without going overboard. They're both growing up, and it's a nice one of those. Lila Says***/

After Felicia's Journey***, I'm much less sure I want to explore Atom Egoyan's early films. More darkly evil than ambiguous, though set in a bright setting. The deft Egoyan touch I like so much is not yet in evidence. But I'll try a couple more.

I saw Moonrise Kingdom***/ in a real theatre, and it surprised me how intelligent and entertaining it was, since all the others of their movies have done little or nothing for me. Meh. This one was strange and fascinating. I can't wait to see it again on DVD.

I got this one so I could hear the man and the woman singing harmonies. I don't care when he's singing alone, and I don't care when she's singing alone. Those do nothing for me. When they're together harmonizing, I like hearing it. And I know there's all this deep stuff about their lives and especially their lives on the road, and it comes out in their songs, but I don't care. I'm still a fan of them harmonizing, and the rest can go hang. The Swell Season***.

Don't even know where to begin on this one. It's science fiction. Teen-aged mutant science fiction that holds together all the way through, although it grows more amazing, sticking with the important things despite it all. High school friends discover an alien place under the woods where close contact gives them amazing powers. That they use for good and evil. But it's about friendship and their odd powers and the mostly mayhem to do with them. I figured it for a goofy B movie, but it's deeper and better than that. Teen but that's just a setting. This is good, and Chronicle***/ tapes the extravagant saga of fear and hubris.

Often, Netflix' computer's evaluations are so dead-on correct to my peculiar movie tastes that it's difficult to accept it as computer "thought." Other times it's painfully obvious that humans have again interceded. Baraka** (and growing) has been bouncing around my queue for years. When it got too close to the top, I'd flush it down somewhere nearer the bottom again. I never quite trusted that it'd be one of those rare, few winners. And I sure thought I was right. What the DVD jacket calls a "mesmerizing visual study" looked to be tedious enough that I couldn't wait to get it out of my computer.    Then I gave it one last chance, and it's gorgeously detailed cinematography and deliberate pacing won me over. Koyanasquatsi with a positive message. It might even do me some calming good to watch all 96 minutes. I doubt much will happen 'out there,' but even a smidgen 'in here' will be welcomed. Then I got tired of it all again, and went on to a real movie.

Atom Egoyan makes movies that are peculiarly specific to the several years in which they are created. Their exquisitely subtle plots twist in the joys and anguish of that now in deeply intelligent and emotional stories, and I've just loaded up with several of his earlier movies to try again to get that amazing Egoyan thrill. Adoration****

In which the English writer of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and other fantasies and fictions and truths, learns to love a woman. And when she dies, he weathers the doubts with her two young boys. A charmer, swirling with religious questions and wonderments. And humanity. C.S. Lewis: Through the Shadowlands***.

Taking Shelter***/ is surreal. Clean, sharp, amazing, beautiful, deeply human psychological and scary. I knew those random-compressing bird flock videos that cropped onto Utube about a year ago were in some movie. This one.

Darkening Sky*** almost works. It's spooky enough. The acting is just shy of what it needed. Good story with a gathering plot. I wanted to believe, but something held me back. Besides the obvious, of course. It's scary science fiction just a few hairs less-than. I might go back and add that last half an asterisk, if the story continues to haunt me. Not bad, just not quite enough. Not sure enough what. Credibility.

I've ensnared myself in another series. Luckily a Brit one, so it's far shorter. Only six episodes, so far. Fascinating all that's going on. I don't pretend to understand all the subcurrents any more than I can understand their version of English, but it's all quite well done, and pertinent to so much else, though it's about a startling 1950s news program that does not tow the government line. I loved the first disk, zapped the second to the top of my queue and will watch that soon as I get it. The Hour***/

Exquisitely paced, visually stunning, fiercely gripping, dark. Demon seed. We Need to Talk About Kevin**** about raising a Columbine-like killer.

Engaging the dialectic of Nihilism. A good talk between two old guys. The White guy has just attempted to do himself in via The Sunset Limited***/. Like an old preacher, the Black guy asks leading questions and tells his own tales. Fascinating conversation at the end of something. That might be The Beginning? My conversation with Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson via Cormac McCarthy. Smart, human, deep — Kafka on wheels.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close***** is a well-told tale. Subtle and gentle and quiet when Hollywood would go loud and garish. Harsh when most movie makers would go sweet. Tells the story in many media, and I'm so happy nobody ever broke out in song, and if the orchestra did, I was never aware of it. Almost I want it to have been foreign it was so perfect paced, visually.

I was avoiding seeing it, but once it got started I let it run. One fine movie, even if it is so obviously a play on film, not so much a movie. Amazing acting and actors. Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman and Burl Ives, wow. Smart, deep down human and fierce. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof****

Mr. Nobbs***/ is an odd bit of story-telling about a woman who has passed for a man for thirty years, working as a butler at an English hotel, her naive life, loves — if you can even call them that — and their secrets. I didn't realize till the credits rolled that the title character was played by Glenn Close, although I readily recognized Mia Wasikowska, who the movie was much less about. It hints at women loving women, but touches upon it ever so gently.

Most times in a movie theatre we don't get up and walk out on it. Turn it off. Come back later, try it again. But I really didn't think I'd like this one, but 'cause who's in it, and the topic. I did. Five or six times I came back. Eventually, I settled it and liked it. Teared up at the appropriate times. Appreciated it. We Bought A Zoo***

You call a movie Shame***/, and you don't expect fun and joy, and you don't get it here. About a man addicted to sex. Whose longest relationship ever was four months. Who goes from prostitute to women he meets in bars, to whomever he can find or finds him. Spiraling ever downward. There's lots of sex in this movie, plenty of female and male frontal nudity. But it's not sexy. It's depressing sad. The only real relationship he has is his sister, and he blows that, too. Good movie, but dark and emptier and emptier. Very little sweetness, and no light.

I thought maybe, someday, in some odd set of circumstances, I'd see that Ally Sheedy movie she made a few years ago. Why not? Then it appeared near the top of my queue, and I had it here at home, and I watched it, with only a few, brief trips to other parts of the house. I liked its ongoing quirk. It was funny in that deep, human and humane way I like in movies. And gradually, that quirk got funnier. It's about a guy whose wife left him via a telephone call and he's all broke up about it. Etc. I'll Take You There***/

Creation**/, a Public TV Weeper charts Charles Darwin's various struggles with insanity, abject loss and The Church. I never once believed that actor was Charlie Darwin and had equal trouble with other actors, never much liked his wife here, either, but I can see some of the points. And it was mercifully short.

I finally finished a whole movie. I've been going through them without ever finishing any for about a week now. Whatever movie I chose, was so terrible, just then, I couldn't even finish the stupid thing. I deleted forty flicks from my queue I knew my choices were so bad. I rented and returned at least a half dozen movies. Finally, now, I finished one.

Not that it was a great movie. I'll give it two and a half stars. It's wildly romantic. So much that it blows right past any sense of intelligence. Cute but essentially stupid, but I liked it enough to finish it. And now maybe I can finish others. Not that I now think my life is back on track or anything. I've met a couple deadlines; I'll blow some others. Life ain't perfect, but I finished a movie. And the reason I started that movie was because it was a time-stopper movie, and even the stupidest of those (and this wasn't the worst yet) have been worth watching. It's called Cashback***, and I may well have seen it before, but I don't care.

Masters of Photography — Gertrude Kδsebier*** was short, but since I count 20-hour TV series as just one flick, why not this essential slide show of the founding mother of modern American photography. I found it via Image Resource, but there's more material on Kδsebier at Collections Search, Shorpy, Wiki on Photo Secession and Camera Work etc.

The plot sounded familiar. I thought I'd probably seen that movie already. So I tried streaming it, and I liked it. Not because it was a bundle of joy or anything. Kinda depressing in fact. But real. I even liked where, in filming, reflections 'ruined' a shot of walking in Central London. There's lots of just walking and talking. Haltingly, like in real life and conversations with people who don't know each other, just are caught in the same moments, even if those last into the morning, walking and talking and being. Lilting movie, sad with overlays of reality and bits of joy. A love story, of course, but one with real heart and soul. Forget Me Not***/

I just watched nine hours and forty-five minutes worth of a TV series that, the first half of which, was an outstanding movie. But by then, it began fraying a little at the edges, like the writers needed to pad the story out to the end of the series. Then's when more counter-character actions started not-fitting in. But most of The Killing***/ was beautiful, expensive, a good yarn, had plenty of twists and turns and relevant social issues and deep, dark abysses of the human — and inhuman — soul.

Except for one egregiously bad clichιd camera movement shot, The Young Victoria*** was not bad, just wildly romanticized and manipulated beyond comprehension. Still, in the movie at least, she was a likable character, and he was almost human.

Senna*** is the life and death story of the Brazilian Ayrton Senna who was the World Champion Formula One racer three times and one of the greatest F1 drivers ever, who loved the rain. He was fast and furious and when he crashed and died, we can see it coming.

It's almost sacrilege to call another movie that, but what this Sleeping Beauty*** is about, is a sleeping beauty — a woman willing to test ideas, concepts, experiences, allows herself to be drugged out and used by a series of old rich men who pay a pretty penny to have her limp, drugged-out body for a night. What this movie is is soft porn with pretensions, excellent production values and a sense of importance that's not entirely off base.

The Mia Wasikowska Jane Eyre*** 2011 is adequate to the task, with a few almost fresh twists in the usual plot — I've seen this book in movies maybe four or five times already, and this time was more pleasant because of the actor playing Jane, but otherwise hardly distinguished.

When I put it in my queue, I thought The Desert of Forbidden Art*** was about art stolen back from the Nazis, but it's about Nukus Museum Director Igor Savitsky who saved 40,000 banned Soviet paintings from the KGB by buying them from the painters' families on credit, then getting money from the Uzbekistan government (a major feat), then "hiding" them 1,700 miles away from Moscow, in the poorer country north of Afghanistan. Lots of images of amazing art from the early years of the 20th Century and interviews with painters and other artists' families, and letters read by famous American actors. A treat.

I fully expected not to like this one. I hated that stupid fox movie he did, although I've liked almost every other one all the way back to ER, although I don't remember him in Kotter. But The Descendants***/ is one fine movie. A family dealing with a major issue. Mom's dying. With remarkable aplomb and major restraint. Lotta complicating factors. Serious movie with lots of humanness. Beautiful, soundtrack too. Probably deserves any awards it got, if it got any.

I guess they thought the end was hokey enough they could pull the usual give away the secrets with the swelling of the music as one hero rides off into the sunset, but otherwise Tracker***/ was pretty fair dinkum. I was thinking at the beginning I'd seen it before, but that was a different tracker and a different Maori in a different movie. Now I want to see that one again. Till the end it was five aces. But alas, they couldn't help themselves. Reminded me of that other, Enemy Mine and other track down classics. I didn't know what was next till that idiot end. I like it better when I don't know, but these fools broadcast it.

Thought I'd seen all the Jane Fonda movies, but I somehow missed this one. It's about a smoker. Well, actually, it's an espionage plot, but Jane smokes throughout. She smuggles money to the resistance in Germany during the early high Nazi days. She's told very specific things, and though she forgets every one of them, she still makes it through, but — oh, what a mess. Tense but goofy around the edges. So much smoke. Train smoke. Dinge smoke. And Fonda smoking through it all. Guess I'll have to wait till the smoke settles to figure out this mess. Jane's character seems too simple-minded to have been a spy. Jason Robards, Vanessa Redgrave costar. Julia***

Netflix touted Proof** as a dramedy, but it was bleaker than that. Hardly our hero, the lead is blind and surly. He takes photographs wherever he is, then gets his proof when someone he trusts describes it to him. Trusting someone is an issue, however. His housekeeper, who supposedly is madly in love with him, moves his furniture around to thwart him and perpetrates other meannesses like stealing his dog when it and he are in the park. Of minor interest, this Aussie flick has one of Russell Crowe's early roles, though it's hardly a breakout one in this dyspeptic flick. I struggled to finish it, stopping and starting often, then wondered why I bothered.

There's hardly a second goes by I wasn't fully aware this movie was made by master movie manipulators. It wasn't something I could watch all the way through, I'd get so pissed at its many manipulations. Hokey. Sappy. Sometimes stupid and so often just there to make us hope or dash our hopes that one more time. But it's a horse movie, and with them, anything goes. War Horse*** is good enough, I guess.

Dumbo**** is utterly wonderful. Cornball and ever so slightly saccharine at times, most often it is amazing. Racist from all the big Black men who pound the circus into reality and the crows who bring jive music to it, but still amazing after all these years.

My Week with Marilyn*** is a lilting charmer, sweet and bitter of course about Marilyn Monroe, but the woman who played her never really looked like her, and I never forgot she wasn't, so I was left wishing she were more, too busy to let myself be taken away. I had the willingness to suspend disbelief, not the opportunity. She most approximates Marilyn when we can't quite see her.

I think I still like newspaper movies, although I've given up on most newspapers. Rum Diaries** may be a newspaper movie, so I guess I like it. Somebody quotes "Nothing you can change. Sometimes you have to spew over the side and keep rowing." This one, if it's about anything, is about being disheartened and then losing. The story almost works, sometimes. The actors may be good, but not in this movie. Johnny Depp has made better choices. It's alright, but it could have been better.

The Memory of a Killer***/ is pretty good. Looks great. Thinks deep. Our killer for hire as one issue. He's coming down with Alzheimer's. Belgian with subtitles. Crafty old bastard — the assassin with a heart of ... well, not quite gold, but at least he has a soul. All but our hero cops here are dirty. I guess that's true the world over. Dirty, too, are the prosecutor, the Baron. All up and down the line. The bad guys are the nastiest of all. Grim. The movie is tightly wound. Smart and dark with glimmers of black humor.

On this Bogie trip last couple months. The movie historians say his break-out performance was as Duke Mantee in The Petrified Forest***, which is a remarkable mix of absurd realism in the American West, disguised as a play-acting stage with cardboard mountains and real dust blowing past a Bar-B-Q somewhere in Arizona near the Mexican border. There's a lot of romancifying, philosophizing and preaching Americanism, but very little action till the going-out-in-a-blaze-of-bullets ending. Shot through with cornpone and Apple pie and ... well, it does go on. Funny, in ways the movie-makers never intended 80 years later, but serious in some of the ways they did. I'm impressed, but not at all in Bogie's performance. He's as faked as the cardboard mountains.

I got this movie, because David Cronenberg directed it, more than it being the feud between Freud and Jung, although that was interesting enough. Two of the greatest minds of the 20th Century battling wits. And the woman who came between them. Of sorts. I may have to watch it again for the words. The emotions, though muted in so many stiff-collar ways, was also magnificent. A Dangerous Method***/ indeed.

I assumed I'd like Anonymous**, because I liked Shakespeare In Love and some other big movie period pieces about that time and some of those same people. The trailer for it looked kinda like all that stuff, too. It and the flick got good glitz, great movie visuals. Even sex — handsome (I guess...) guy in bed with a demented Queen Elizabeth — and some bruhaha that matters not a whit (and almost entirely sans wit). It might have been better if it had afforded that Shakespeare guy even a modicum of intelligence, but it doesn't. In fact, that stuff is in short supply here. Amid all that grandeur, many of these dolts can't even act. Or the director can't direct, which amounts to the same thing.

City of Ember*** with, of all people, Bill Murray as the bad politician, Martin Landau as the good worker, Mary Kay Place as somebody, and Tim Robbins as somebody else and a couple of teenagers and a small child. It's an odd movie that's part Terry Gilliam, Rube Goldberg, Indiana Jones and several parts something the cat drug in. Low tech back to the earth after we screwed it up, had to go hide for awhile till it cures itself of us, then this quirky adventure finding our way back.

Being Elmo — A Puppeteer's Journey*** is not the greatest documentary, and it frays around some of its edges, kinda like letting the seams show in a puppet. But it's got heart and miles of that. It's affecting and entertaining and tells a story that I liked. It's not really about Elmo. It's about being Elmo.

I like Daniel Craig, but I liked the other Mikael Blomkvist so much better. I read all the books, have seen the Swedish trilogy twice, and will see it again when comes the English dubbed version, so I can pay attention to the movie not the subtitles — I just hope the dubbing is as first-class as the original movies, and the Extended Version with two more hours from the original Swedish TV version. This English version is even less true to the book, adding little bits, plus they change the character of Lisbeth Salander, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo***, making her vulnerable, which she never thinks of herself as — making the English-come-lately version a travesty, because she is what it's all about; Mikael is just along for the ride. This is not a bad movie (the first of five parts) — oh, Lard — just not as powerful as the original or the book written by Stieg Larsson, who died, and his stupid heirs turned the text over to idiots who changed it when it didn't need changing.

Lars Von Trier makes movies that are outside almost everybody's expectations. Way outside. His The AntiChrist was subtly yet deeply terrifying. This one's not so much scary as, well, melancholic. Deep, superbly acted, often beautiful — the first time the two sisters at the center of this movie rode horses through the mists was exquisite — and it's one of the most subtle science fiction stories ever. Melancholia is strange, maddening, seemingly bizarre, then a lot of it makes sense, but by then it's too late. Melancholia***/ When worlds collide.

He's a self-absorbed narcissist who is either having sex with every attractive woman he meets or is enticing them to think that he will, so they'll buy his products. He's a super salesman who can sell anything, but he ends up selling drugs for Pfizer, and now has the Viagra account. She's shell-shocked with Stage One Parkinson's so bad she sometimes can't open the child-proof cap on her medicine, and another even worse disease that won't let her be intimate (not the sexual part of a relationship) but loves having sex when she can move at all. Of course, they fall in love. Her old boyfriend beats him up in a parking lot (multiple potential witnesses), even kicks him a couple times while he's down, but he doesn't report it, and of course, is all better the next day. So the viewer may have the usual Hollywood expectations of romance. She meets a bunch of other people with Parkinson's whose lives it does not entirely control, and one of them tells him how totally he will have to care for her, later. So he's feeling like he won't be able to handle it, first sets about curing her, so she'll love him, which she already does. But he can't accept her for who she is (have we ever heard that one before?), and she doesn't want to burden him for the rest of her life (which seems inevitable, though he won't admit it). So does he revert to his usual old bullshit behaviors or does he really really really love her and risk living unhappily ever after taking care of her and her disease? Does anyone really care? Love and Other Drugs*** also has a cute but not unexpected ending. I got it, because it's got Jake Gyllenhaal and some woman who keeps showing off her breasts, I'm not sure why.

I remember Poo and Flopsie, Mopsie and Cottontail, but my childhood did without The Adventures of Tintin*** well enough. I got it, because it looked like it might be interesting. As animation it is fairly, but as a story I was not impressed. I barely got through the techy-weckie titles. Started again later. Stopped and started several times during the inanity that followed. Liked the big noses on way too many characters for it to much matter, and ... well, not much more, but it goes on and on.

Watching Hey, Boo: Harper Lee & To Kill a Mockingbird***/ was a little like watching that iconic movie again, which I have every decade or so since it came out in 1960. Most of the talking heads were either Harper's friends or fellow writers, and what they had to say was important and instructive, as was the movie itself. This documentary is only an hour and 22 minutes, but it was a treat, and I learned a few things about her and the book and her friends, and I know I would have liked her.

I just finished watching 32 43-minute episodes (23 hours worth) of Life**** from one of the stupider TV networks. It doesn't say which one, but they cut short this amazingly intelligent, often laugh-out-loud funny, and vastly entertaining series at two seasons, which is fine with me (because 23 hours was about enough) but it was not (because it was so good I wouldn't mind still watching it this many years later — though probably by now the idiot network would have watered it down to death), although I loved its quirky humor, Zen philosophy, exciting action and reactions, and extended cast of characters, including Damian Lewis as Charlie Crews (who gets "life" for being set up for the murder of a friend's family, then released 12 years later with a $50 million settlement; his faithful friend and financial assistant Adam Arkin and partner (they're cops) Sarah Shahi and a whole raft of really bad bad guys. Wow!

I've been seeing a lot of Danish movies lately, and I am over and over surprised how good they are. Lilting, gentle, sweet with some bitter. Kinamand**** (China Man) is like that. It's about love first and foremost, but about family and communications, also. Beautiful and heart-warming then rending.

I agree with Leonard Maltin in the Special Features. This is a good movie, not a great one, but it was Bogey, and even though I've probably seen it before a couple times before this century, it's good enough. Dark Passage***

Every Picture Tells A Story*** begins with four famous painting, which art critic Waldemar Januszczak carefully enunciates the story and stories behind. Fascinating bits of history and mythology, but next time I'll select the paintings he dissects more carefully.

Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune*** documents the life, rise and fall of a protest singer who was pretty good, but not amazing. A friend of Dylan, but Bobby put him down, too. He had a good voice and was a remarkable songwriter and intellect, but he also had depression in his DNA, and it got him. Long, sad story pocked with lots of famous people, singers mostly, but some politicians, too. Tells the real story not just about Phil but about the wars and idiocies he fought with his words and his voice.

I had a lot of trouble watching Crazy Love***. I kept stopping, then when I started again, nothing made sense. Essentially, I saw each of the major segments, then got lost when everybody changed, then waited about a week and saw the final segment. Not that it tied everything together. Nope. But as an ending, it made sense, and that sense helped the whole movie make more sense. It's a great ending. The young-kid segment is the best acted and the most interesting and endearing. But the ending made watching the whole silly thing almost bearable.

It's a storybook movie, and in storybook movies, characters change personalities based on one little thing. Good guys get better and bad guys suddenly turn good, usually toward the end. Other than that rather major idiocy, Hugo***/ is pretty good. Good-enough movie story, outstanding cinematography with a few, momentary, wonderful visual tricks, good enough acting, and a lot of clocks. The clocks helped more than having Ghandi in it.

To Have and To Have Not*** is a good-enough yarn whose plot nearly parallels Casablanca, only thinner, but it's got Lauren Bacall, so what little plot there is, sizzles. For that, it's become a great movie, and every several decades I have to see it again. Might need me a couple more Bogie flicks before long. Some 1940s movies avoid being stuck in another century. Others don't. This one succeeds. Plus it's got Hoagy Carmichael singing his own songs, and that part, at least, is aces.

The First Grader***/ is the brave and independent story of Kimani N'gan"ga Maruge a Mau Mau freedom fighter who fought the British for Kenya's Independence and was imprisoned and tortured by them, and they killed his wife and children, whipped him savagely and drove a pencil into his ear partially deafening him (I couldn't help think about our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan), who at the age of 84 attempts to go to school to learn to read. Not an easy task. Beautiful filming, very visual. Heartwarming and bureaucracy-induced maddening.

I've just spent the last 9 hours thoroughly enjoying watching the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy: Extended Edition that came to me today as a bolt from the blue, although it's been around for a couple months now (Netflix is lousy about announcing new movies). After the first couple minutes I began to recognize and relish scenes cut from the original Swedish movie that knocked my socks off for enough reasons not to go into here. I loved the movie. I will see the bastardized (It's only a couple hours long, for one instance) English version starring big stars and big budget that the family of the dead writer insisted upon. But first, I want to see all the rest of the episodes of the extended version, with segments, here and there, added. Those were probably cut for time and violence reasons, I like them back. What a treat. There additions were, like the rest of the original film, superb movie making. It's not like seeing a whole new movie. It's more like seeing an amazing movie I already love in much more detail. This one was in Swedish with English subtitles, but I understand there's one dubbed in English out there, and all of some other Sunday I'll have to see that, too.

Kitchen Stories** is about a Norwegian bachelor farmer who volunteers for a kitchen manufacturer' survey about how their products are used. The surveyor, who promises not to get involved personally with the person being studied, watches objectively and takes notes and draws diagrams indicating how their products are used. Luckily, we are saved from all that stupid objectivity, and a tale of friendship ensues. It's not nearly as cute as it thinks it is, and it proceeds at a pace any snail could easily outdistance. Gentle and kind, but awfully slow.

Ken Burns' America: Thomas Hart Benton**** is a lively story jammed with art that's almost hyperactive, with plenty of bright, joyful music of the time — and stupid art critics like Hilton Kramer being their usual idiot selves. Amazing heart for a public documentary about art — well before Burns' intra-image zooming got mindlessly monotonous. Here the camera moves around, goes where it needs to go to illustrate what somebody is talking about, and it is never hideous slow. Hot dog! This is one fine documentary! I smiled and laughed out loud with the human comedy of it all the way through. Hooray!

Darkly intriguing, deeply cynical, and — like real Presidential politics, truly evil. The Ides of March***

He wasn't terrible at it, but Public Enemies**/ was not Johnny Depp's best performance, though it was almost interesting, among all that rat-a-tat-tat of machine and other guns. Lot of senseless and sensible violence. J. Edgar Hoover as a stick-up-his-ass prig was par for the course, and the girlfriend seemed pretty stupid, and it all did go on pretty long.   2009

Visually, Jar City**** is amazing beautiful, serene and surreal. The story, too. Winding and as strange as the Icelandic landscape. Our hero policeman has his own family issues in this turning and twisting murder mystery about families and death and digging up graves and. I only wish the English subtitles stayed on screen a few seconds longer. Otherwise, one superb flick.   2006

Edge of Dreaming**** is about a woman, a filmmaker, who dreams she will die in her 48th year. She dreams that soon after she dreamt her horse died, and he died the night she had the dream, so she takes the death dream to heart and lungs, which clog till sometimes she cannot breathe. In life Amy Hardie makes movies about science, and in this dream movie she animates many important parts of dreaming and thinking, and in beauty- and meaning- full trip sequences she continues to advance the plot till. Well, to know that, you have to watch the movie, but it's beautiful and intelligent and a little magical and visually exquisite.   2009

Copenhagen***/ is a videoplay involving possible conversations between German physicist Werner Heisenberg and Jewish Danish physicist and former teacher Niels Bohr during World War II, before either side knew the other was working on an atomic bomb. The conversations and the dense personal history of the two physicist's father (Bohr) / son (Heisenberg) relationship and close friendship make for fascinating conjecture, most of which is presented in comparatively plain language. It is deep, intelligent, and keenly affecting.   2002

Every other movie I've tried today has been wrong. I'll probably go back to Bogie in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, but the rest were all losers. I chose this one from my online queue at Netflix, so I had little hope for it, either, but it surprised and delighted me. Caos Calmo***/ (Quiet Chaos) is about greif and community. It involves quirk, brotherhood, business and of course love. A man's wife dies while he and his brother are playing ping pong on the beach, then two women cry help, and they jump in and save them, but nobody even thanks them. Our hero has a daughter, and this is mostly about them, so he waits outside her school all day meeting people who inhabit the little park. A gentle little movie whose chaos is smart and pretty and calm, at least on the outside.   2008

You know that great feeling we get when we see something new and uniquely different or expressed uniquely? Well, that's promised here, but there's not a single moment of it in the whole Anxious Animation* collection. Everything here has been done nearly to death already — and a long time ago. Although it is anxiety provoking, but in an inanely boring way.   2006

Giulia Doesn't Date at Night***/ because she's in prison for killing her lover, and her husband feels betrayed, and her daughter is frightened of her, and her new boyfriend who met her at the pool where she works days, loves her but part of his attraction is that she is so sad. It's the story of responsibility and loneliness and only brief and, she believes, undeserved joy and romance, so the story is dark.   2009

I always wonder how I miss the really sappy love stories like Definitely, Maybe***/ that I love — about a guy choosing among three women, but never quite choosing. Flitting and bugging out when he should have stayed and discovered. But I thoroughly identified with this pretty smart for a sappy romance movie, that's still heart-warming, sweetly funny and manages to be too true-to-life.  2008

Restless***/ seems an odd title for a tale of young love about to be interrupted by her death by cancer, just after his parents died, but this is an odd duck of a movie. Lilting romance taking the usual Hollywood arc, they meet; they fall in love; they fight; one leaves; then that one comes back; they live happily ever after … well, actually, not. Serious, somber quirk in a gentle story about dying and living. Sweet and bitter. Lovely. 2011

Philip K. Dick is a strange but wonderful writer and pretty much nuts as a human being. So probably even more movies should be made about him and his work. I'd list the more famous of those, but if you don't know, it might be too late. All these talking heads of people who knew him may be fascinating for us fans, and we can probably overlook — or underhear — them without the really, incredibly stupid music that plays on and on throughout this film. Somebody kll the electronics. Please. So here's a guy talking about a tape recording of Dick, and we are shown the cassette and liner notes, oh, gosh, another terrible movie about the master. Oh, I get it, PKD cartoons, rudely interrupted by a bunch of people talking about him. Essentially dumb movie. The Gospel According to Philip K. Dick**. I need to rewartch for the fortieth time, Blade Runner or one of those awful Schwartzenegger flicks...

I remember Jim Jarmusch's Night On Earth 20 years ago. How life was affecting people all over the world, if I remember correctly, and I often do not. This one is Last Night***/, which proved remarkable in its own quirkish ways. The world is ending, everybody knows it's ending, and they're all planning for it in their own very peculiar ways. We, of course, S O P in these sorts of things, follow a smaller group of people through to the end. People being people in so many different ways. Often very funny ways, or are we just identifying and laughing along as people deal with it, don't deal with it, go crazy, fall in love, or have sex with one of every kind (including his favorite high school teacher) and color (We only see the Black woman.) of woman in every place and under interesting conditions, as one character does, and that seems so empty. At first. Then, oh, hell, why not?

This movie seems to think it's so damned cool it can get away with senseless violence, frontal female nudity, and the music telling what's going on in case we hadn't figured it out yet. It is cool in a warm and oozy sort of way, and stylish as hell, and it's even about love, and so much less than it should have been about fast cars, but it's really   really   slow.   Driver*** 2011

Elvis is the mortician's son and Anabelle is the beauty queen. When she seems to die after winning the pageant, he's about to replace her blood with mortician's fluid, he kisses her. And she comes back to life. After that they have their differences and their sames and they get along, and they escaps her beauty pageant life together, and they like each other, and they fight, and … Well it gets more complicated, but except for one stupid jail scene when they won't tell each other stuff they need to tell (typical Hollywood tripe, even though this one was made at the University of Texas), it's a lilting love story with many of the same ups and downs and some different ones, too. Elvis & Anabelle***/ is a charmer.

The best part of The Source***/ were the performances of Beat Poetry by lots of different people famous and not, poets and others. And the editing into an order that seemed right, at every moment through talking heads who said something important and I'm glad to know it, and the pictures, moving pictures, pictures of Allen Ginsberg taking pictures of notions that got into his mind. Solid documentary about the Beats who started a lot of things rolling that are still rolling. Out there, in here. And everywhere.

Troubled Water**** is a deeply rending film about loss and guilt and retribution, good and evil and even forgiveness. Dark and oddly edited to get at the truth the characters don't want to admit, but finally have to. Creepy in moments that need it, a few joys scattered in, and then an end I didn't see coming, but for a change I wanted to have been happy … Brilliantly acted and deeply felt. I'm still shaken. In Swedish with subtitles.

I don't like this movie, and I don't trust it. It feels like the director or the producers found an interesting book and screwed it royally to make this too-Hollywood movie about an angry man, the long lost son of the author of a children's fable. Too much anger for the sake of anger, too much reaction and not near enough character. Or something stupidly concocted like that. I'm sure it'll end happily ever after, but I'm still upset with it, because it's so stupidly Hollywoodianly overwrought. This guy's acting is overwrought, and this movie is, too. Neverwas*** It's just too bad, so sad, that Aaron  Eckhart can't act. But we're lucky beyond reason that Ian McKellen still can.

Happy Happy*** is anything but some of the time and utterly joyous in its enriching infidelities and dark human humor. It moved me in many ways, good, bad and ugly, and it's all tied together with down-home glory a cappella gospel. Amazing mix of cultures.

Now here's a spy hero with depth and truthfulness, something we don't get much of anymore. A cool character who is wiser and older than all the studmuffins usually inhabiting such roles. Masterpiece Contemporary & PBS' Page Eight***/ is deeply intelligent, truly of this century, and willing to have actual emotions, and we get them, too. I like the elder hero and — in the well-tread way of one-off productions — want to see more of him, and that wont is all the more delicious knowing it probably won't happen.

I didn't think I was going to like it. Way too much senseless violence, but on the far side of it, the violence started making sense in this Kaiser Sφze kind of roundabout logic and overwhelmingly violent movie that, oddly enough, is about love and honor and wallpaper. With Bruce Willis, Lucy Liu, Morgan Freeman, Ben Kinsley, Stanley Tucci and Josh Hartnett, it's called Lucky # Slevin***/

The Unknown Woman***/ is the soul-shredding story of a woman who escapes from the sex trade, but it keeps coming back to get her — actually as well as figuratively. Heart-rending, a thriller in many dark ways, while in everything visual, it is beautiful. Gorgeous. Careful delicate editing that shimmers and sparks; amazing dark when that needs showing; bright with luscious colors when that needs to show; sparkkling clean and filth — so many opposites compressed into this movie. Joy, viciousness, misery, evil and love — sliding in and out of reality and memory and horror, and transcendance; guilt and forgiveness. Superb. Deeply intelligent.

I'm out of movies, except the ones I bought in the last century, and since I never watched any of those — except Waking Life twice — this century it seems stupid to buy any more, so when I watched my last Netflix flick late last night, I watched The Truth About Cats & Dogs*** online because Janeane Garofalo was in it. Turned out the whole goofy Hollywood plot turned on, not just mistaken identity, but purposely obfuscating Garofalo and Uma Thurman's identities, inevitably setting up the dichotomy of pretty vs. smart, although I always thought Garofalo was cute or I wouldn't have seen this mostly silly flick. A little heart-warming at the end, but I expected that from one of these misdirection romantic comedies, and really nothing ever happened that I didn't already know was gonna happen, but I watched it anyway.

The characters are all black & white, and I don't mean grayscale. The extreme stylization only involves a few areas of gray well into this movie. Towards the end there's even one scene in color, but everything else is bright & dark. It's a seeming kidnapping by a world corporation intent on selling a protocol that give eternal life. There's a big brave detective, some beautiful women and a buncha cops. Once I got used to the extreme white-black, getting into the characters and plot was easier, but never easy, because it's so different. Renaissance***/ 2006

I wasn't expecting a great movie, but it'd been atop my movie queue for so long, I would not have cared, but it turns out, this story, and the movie of it is quite strange, somewhat different and often enough shocking that it's grand fun when it's not horribly tragic. The Libertine**** with Johnny Depp for all you lovers of period pieces. 2004

A lot of Hanna*** is superb, but certain incredulities intercept the "meaning" of this film at inopportune moments. Yeah, yeah, the United States Government as ultimate Satan is real enough, but in this too-often over-the-top film even that becomes unbelievable. A more deft screenplay might have rendered it outstanding, lots of action, hero is a growing little girl who is beautiful and very talented. The filming is very nice, and many of the characters are superb. Even Cate Blanchett is pretty good as the Wicked Witch of the West (CIA boss), but she's too evil seeming for this usually kinder, gentler movie that could have been a contender.

Life in a Day***/ is some of what got videoed on July 24 2010 all over the world superbly edited with world music and taste and joy and all humanity's other emotions, personal and universal. It might have been better with other videos, but this is what they had to choose from, and they did pretty well.

I've seen all the episodes now, and I enjoyed them thoroughly (So thoroughly I'm reading one of the novels it was adapted from, but they are very different beasts. The TV show is better), because they're unique and funny in a very dark way as well as mysterious, and our hero bumbles through it all as if he were the master detective, and we're never quite sure he's not — and it's all set in Italy about Italian cops, so it's as corrupt as anything could possibly be (except maybe Mexico), and all that just adds to the mystery.

My rules for this page are that I count TV shows for only one movie, no matter how many episodes I watch. At the moment, that doesn't seem fair, but they're my rules, and with no one else to follow them, I guess I'm stuck. It's called Zen****; it's from the BBC; and it's about a rough and tumble Italian detective with a reputation for being honest, which probably makes him remarkable, and he seems so.

What I'm not watching is the second two-thirds of Pandorum**, which is long, stupid, tedious and keeps introducing little ghouls that scrap about and attempt to kill our hero who is more or less lost inside a giant space ship full of zombies, while his boss (Dennis Quaid) gives him orders from somewhere inside the spaceship. Or something unpleasant like that. Maybe to balance out not being able to count all of Zen's episodes, I'm counting this insipidly unthrilling sci-fi thriller, even though I already dislike it so intensely I likely will never finish. I thought because it is sci-fi, that would outweigh its low score. Wrong again.

All drama, including movies, TV, stage plays, fiction and even comic books, requires the audience to submit to a willful suspension of disbelief. This movie takes the notion to the next dimension. It's dark and bloody funny, in great part, because it makes fun of itself and many of the idioms of movie-making, but it's more than s a little mean-spirited. About a tire that learns to be a destroyer, so it destroys, usually blowing the heads off people. Rubber***

Whip It*** is about a teenager who joins an all-girl roller derby team in Austin and her trials and tribulations. It's mostly upbeat, amusing, sometimes even rises to fun, then is all but dashed with a straight-out-of-the-Hollywood-book ending that kinda wrecks the quirkiness developed through the movie. Almost touches actual smarm. Still is fun and even funny but well short of a great flick.

I tried to watch The Seven Year Itch**/ with Marilyn Monroe, hoping to see her as she was, instead of what stupid, sexist Hollywood made of her, and I was vastly disappointed in this dated and inept movie, but now I see what she meant by demeaning. With those guys, she never had a chance.

Then I watched the sci-fi-inept and similarly elderly Forbidden Planet** and saw that same old Hollywood, tell-not-show sexist, species-ist idiocy.

I saw this movie because An Education was so good, and during the Special Features, they kept mentioning this one as if it was a real charmer, and it is. Italian for Beginners***

After all those really good movies, I thought I'd dip down into the B movie section, but instead I came up with another decent flick. Not a great movie, but fun and funny with a little serious thrown in when all that fun got a little much. It's called Easy A*** and it's about virtue and promotion and, well, see the movie, because it's about too many things to list here, and if I did, you wouldn't believe it anyway. Might actually be better if you're a teenager or in your twenties, but since I'm not I can't be sure. The presentation is somewhat unorthadox, but a lot of it is pure teen-flick story.

I never quite got baseball. I played it as a little kid but was never very good at it. Maybe because I was afraid of the ball and had serious depth of field issues. If I shut my eyes after the ball was hit or released, I could catch it, but coaches insisted I keep my eye on the ball, which always did not work. I don't really understand baseball or baseball movies, but this one makes some sense. A lot more than I expected. Not sure what I expected from something called Moneyball***, but I was impressed, very nearly enchanted and certainly entertained.

Mix a really good story by people who actually know how to write a screenplay, with some outstanding actors, throw in every clichι about cowboys, Indians, law persons, bad guys and good so we feel comfortable about what we are seeing, and shake a little with some interesting make-it-up-as-you-go-along warfare, and you might be lucky enough to pull Cowboys & Aliens***/ out of a wet ten-gallon hat. Fun, exciting, fairly intelligent after the first half hour or so, and well crafted.

The Burning Plain***/ is an odd name for this bittersweet little topsy-turvy tale that takes about half the movie to figure out who the players are and how they all fit together in this purposely disjointed and edge-frayed story of love and self-hatred. But then it makes all the sense in the world. Charize Theron and Kim Basinger and probably one guy you'll recognize and several that we should, but mostly it's the women who carry this superb, deeply affecting, smart story of dense characterizations. Nice.

Another Earth**** is only very subtly science fiction. Much more it is close-up personal between two people with a terrible moment shared in their histories. We can call it love, but it is also awful, and he cannot let her back into his life once she tells him their story — until she wins a ticket to go to the second Earth that we see ever coming closer to the otherwise ordinary scenes of life around them. A simple story told in close-ups of faces and impeccable never quite abstract but seeming-so cinematography that's as elusive and remote as our characters sometimes are. Unlike anything else I have seen, and I've rated more than two thousand movies on Netflix and sixteen hundred here, although the name Adam Egoyan comes to mind. . Beautiful. Ethereal. Of guilt and setting themselves free.

I get this eerie feeling around schizophrenics, and I've known too many this life. I kept that feeling through the strange and disturbing Peacock***/ — The heebies and the jeebies. Startlingly good cast. Scary acting. Shakes my mind and memories to think on it. I couldn't stop watching, but always with a certain dread. There are scary movies. Lars Von Trier's Antichrist comes to mind there, but so dos this one.

Incendies***/ tells the long and violent and beautifully and horrible and twisting and winding and hateful and loving and evil and kind story of a family in search of itself through the history and internecine warfare of the Lebanese civil war.

Nothing exceeds like excess, and no film director is ever as excessive as Terry Gilliam, who ought by now, to be used to stars dying in the big middle of his major extravaganzas, and I thought that was, for awhile there at least, Heath Ledger, with his other fasces — of Jude Law and Collin Farrell and Johnny Depp (wow, that's a movie-full). [Wasn't all this inter-charactal gimmickry in another, earlier, wild extravaganza of Gilliam's movies?], and then there's Christopher Plummer and Tom Waits. Oof, wonderfully, well, they're all in there in Dr. Parnasus' wildly imaginative imagination. Running amok as only Gilliam can push them. Wild and wooly, and holy fantabulous. I'll have to admit I'm a huge Gilliam fan. The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus**** is amazing.

An Education***/ is just that. Cute young, otherwise intelligent high-school girl falls for fast, loose, charming older man and nearly gives up her dreams. Smart, odd in just the right places, quirkish, never smarmy, a little unreal at the end of course probably too pat an ending, but it had to stop somewhere, and the end seems about right for that.

First movie of the new year, which means I'll have to start thinking about alphabetizing all those below, but what the hey, it never takes as long to do it as I have spent worrying about it, so I won't.

Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris**** is enchanting. Time-travel and thick with nostalgia and real people from time gone by, a young man in Paris falls in love with the city and out of love with his fiancι, all the while traveling back and back to the golden years, which always receed further into the past, till he accepts the present. Former Dallasite Owen Wilson is marvelous, instead of his usual stupid, and the movie is a marvelous step into this current future.


Audrey Tautou is amazing. I learn that again every time I see her in a movie. This one has scope and grandeur. It's wildly romantic, yet deeply feminist. A heart-breaker and deeply affecting portrayal of a unique individual, an independent woman at a time when there weren't such things. Smart, superb and enchanting. Coco Before Channel****

Heaven**** is a simple love story, intricate escape plot and moral dilemma set in beautiful, corrupt Italy and starring Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi. Gorgeous, intelligent, and wildly romantic yet the passion is held tautly serene. And the Special Features add to the depth without scuttling the film.

The sad, sick, sordid story of Ivy (Drew Barrymore as a unloved slut), Sylvie (Sara Gilbert), Tom Skerritt and Cheryl Ladd and even some Guy called Leonardo Di Caprio) as near total disaster of a dysfunctional family. Full of unresolved almosts and truly idiotic lusts. Poison Ivy**

The Rape of Europa***/ documents compellingly and with many contemporary photographs the colossal robery of European art and culture by the Nazis, the Russians and the Americans during World War II. It's a fascinating story with many heroes and villans, including a truly mediocre painter named Adolf Hitler.

Exam*** purports to be a thriller. What it is instead, is a psycho-drama. A big corporation needs a director. The exam looks like a blank piece of paper. The six candidates have 80 minutes to answer. It reminds me a lot of The Cube. Essentially, not enough to hang a movie on, certainly not that important a plot.

First, we see Sarah with her family, taken by the French — not the Nazis, but the French collaborators, from whose camp she escapes. The rest of Sarah's Key*** is a long, sad story, told incrementally through the people who knew her at different times of her life. Interesting and intricate, explaining much, but never all, the movie explores a life of sadness with but little joy.

I love me some time-travel movies. Next*** was much better than I expected until I saw that Julianne Moore and Peter Falk were in there with Nicholas Cage being his usual save-the-world action adventure hero. Remarkably well done. High production V. Good enough acting. Smart story all the way to the end. Action, adventure, premonition and romance. Fun flick.

One of these two movies was based on yet another Philip K. Dick novel.

The Fourth Kind**/ purports to be a documentary about alien abduction, but from very near the beginning, we know it ain't true. The premise fails. Then it hammers and hammers away repeating stuff till we either believe, or chuck the stupid thing. Some good (Milla Jovovitch), some really bad (Will Patton, but what do you expect?) acting. Some fear induced. A lot of anger perpetrated against the stupid cop (Now there's a new concept …) Not dreary dreck, often intense, but not a great enough movie that we believe, although we may want to. Lotta tricks being played here. From the Blair Witch Project School of cinema verite. Not saying alien abduction is not real, just that this movie isn't, despite its high production values.

For distraction while I worked up some photographs — birds and bears — tonight, I switched on the TV for a movie for awhile. Then I stuck through it. Funny several times, laugh out loud so. Snickers, too. Cute movie, and just absorbing enough to watch through the end. The Wedding Date*** with a cute guy and a cute girl, and her family.

Either it makes not nearly enough sense or it makes way too much sense, The Tree of Life**** is stunningly visual, often relying on amazing earth, nature, industrial and everything else visuals to represent human emotions, and it pulls off that film abstraction pretty well, but it's not in service to a happy story. Mom lets Dad do what he wants, and he's deep-down wicked, obscured by evil, and his kids suffer for it.

If The Help***/ had come out sooner than 55 years after the events portrayed, we could more honestly pat ourselves on the back and tell ourselves that we are not utterly racist to the core, just like most of the White ladies in this movie. It reads like a feel-good fairy tale. Very well acted, and probably close to dead-on accurate for 1955 in Jackson, Mississippi, which we want to have been long ago and far away, but of course it is still very much with us.

We may think we know all about The Science of Sex Appeal***/, but prepare to be proved wrong in this educational and entertaining movie that matches and mismatches such traits as: adornment, age, attachment, body shape, breasts, cars, chemistry, children, children, copulence, craving, desire, dopamine, elation, elation, estrogen, euphoria, evolution, excitement, face, hormones, infidelity, kissing, love, lust, marriage, mental chemistry, monogamy, ovulation, oxytocin, pair bonding, passion, physical attraction, physique, preferences, resources, scent, scent, sexiness, skin exposure, social class, social cues, status, status, straying, symetry, taste, testosterone, cars and voice.

Burma VJ**** is riveting. The repressive government of Burma versus the Democratic Voice of Burma (VJ), a small cadre of dedicated journalists who videotaped the 2007 popular protests against the government, led by the Bhudist monks and joined by the public till the army started shooting, arresting, torturing and murdering the monks, the people and especially the VJ. Amazing video from the forefront of a democratic uprising, once again smashed.

I'm sure I saw The Trouble with Harry*** decades ago, but it didn't feel at all familiar. Billed as Alfred Hitchcock's second American comdey, it's a classic farce. Amusing, rather than outright funny. More like goofy with outstanding characterizations — every one is a true individual. Harry's issue was that he couldn't stay buried, though when we first see him, he's dead, and he stays dead throughout. The one other hallmark of this silly trifle is that it was Shirley MaclLain's film debut, and she's as goofy as the rest of them.

Beginners***/ trying to fall in love, unlike his parents — his dad was gay, and his mother wanted more, but never got it, so they never taught him that love was even possible, so he kept running off girlfriends. Then his dad came out and spent the rest of his life finding love, died, and son had to do something. Sad little tale of love of the family kind and of the boy/girl kind. Very well done, beautiful, deep in a slow and sad yet hopeful way. A hack with soul.

Bitter and sweet, but Water for Elephants*** has the most to do with cruelty, mostly human cruelty, but there's animal cruelty, too. So be warned. An evil man runs a circus, and our hero hops a train, joins the circus and falls in love with the cruel man's wife. Guess what?

Yeah, it's exciting, and the kids are done very well indeed. But all the subplots are stupid, and we've seen them too many times already, and Steven Spielberg, who invented a lot of them, is the producer. Our hero's father is mean and stupid. His young girlfrien's father is mean and stupid. The Air Force is … well, you know, mean and stupid. I understand that we should never believe the army or the air force or any of the services. That's a given, but dramatizing it makes everybody — well, you guessed it — mean and stupid. They're rampaging (Air Force?) tanks through the town, and all their weapons are misfiring, bombs going the wrong way, but they just keep shooting. Not unlike, Afghanastan and Iraq, I bet. This is still exciting, but almost too stupid to be a movie. Super 8***

Once I learned, in the Special Features, that the movie I'd just seen came from Performance Art, the little sense it so slowly made, made much more sense. Performance, when done particularly well, does that. It pulls everything in and makes a visual sense out of it, if not an everything else sense. This movie is unique in that. After the end, I began to like it more and more. Before it finally stopped, I got up and did other things. But I always came back. I saw every second of it. In order. Early on, however, I began not expecting a lot of the usual movie sense in it. An ocean of it, may be there, ebbing and flowing. Like tides. Creating a certain rhythm that mocks a story. Maybe not. The Future****

Netflix tried to warn me, giving it only 2.5 stars, instead of my minimal 3, but I got it anyway, because I mean how bad could a movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Kenneth Branagh possibly be? Then I watched some. Then some more, and finally, I had to take it out of the slot and stick it back in its red envelope and send it back. I couldn't watch it anymore. Branagh's character was stupid prim politician who wants to stamp out Britain's Pirate Radio*, even if it's not illegal. And mostly everything else is over all the good tops, and I just couldn't watch any more of it.

Three couples, or not couples, depending on who's having the moments when they're either terrified or not of having a relationship. And the guy in one of them find a little Black kid who's been abandoned on the subway. So it's about finding love and being friends, even if it's scary or the cops put you in jail for being good. Bittersweet, humanely funny, lots of little sad tugs as we watch grownups being incredibly afraid and so not doing what we all know they should be doing, and lots of other moments when joy is abundant enough to keep at it. HappyThankYouMorePlease***?

He might as well be on the moon, this castaway's chances of getting off the island in the first half of this sweet and bittersweet and nearly direct-dialog-free movie, is slim. The island this Korean finds himself on is in the middle of the Han river in the middle of his city, but otherwise inescapable. It's about being alone, trusting self, learning self-sufficiency and communication. A reclusive young woman with a super super telephoto lens sees and photographs him, beginning something that is bigger than the movie. One of those rare few one-of-a-kind movies that will be remembered. Castaway on the Moon****. All that and it's still pretty goofy.

This vision amazed me. Truly visually arresting, it presents us with the odd amalgam of a realistic and animated comix universe. French, so it does not devolve utterly into stupidity as our own often do, yet foreign enough in creation and characterizations that we stay tuned. Graphically weird, somewhere beyond the setting of The Fifth Element, out into manifestations of Philip K. Dick's dystopia. If there's much wrong, it's the bad-guy plots that stutter the story, although the red hammerhead-seeker and Horus Himself, are superbly accomplished. Fierce movie. Immortal***/

For a movie that calls itself Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself***/, this is a gentle, bittersweet, kind and beautiful movie. Poignant, intelligent, deeply humanly funny with several, sometimes contrasting and intelligent themes that play and play back upon themselves, and us.

I've begun 5ive Days till Midnight**/, and am loving it. Disk Two now tops my Netflix queue, and I'm sorry I didn't trust it enough to have already got it here, so I can devour it. I am ever fond of sci-fi movies that even hint at time travel, and to that, fold in a thoroughly thriller plot. Delicious, remarkably well acted and exciting. Can't wait. I even like the typo shenanigan with the spelling.         Then, the second/last disc started well enough, but the final episode just got stupid. And stupider. Too bad.

Van Gogh: Brush with Genius***/ has him speaking English with a thick French accent and using contemporary idioms, but this movie is mostly about the paintings, and they are gorgeous.

John James Audubon: Drawn from Nature*** is one of the better public TV biographies. Plenty of infomation, chronologically follows his life through ups and downs to his dying words, "Billy, let's get our guns and go down to Long Pond and shoot some ducks."

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death***/ is as good as they get, and short. But Wallace didn't mention a single cheese, and I rely on his recommendations.

Dean Spanley***/, with of all people, a very elderly yet still superb actor Peter O'Toole with Jeremy Northam and Sam Neill was an unexpected delight. A faciful tale of the reincarnation of a much-loved dog, once the joyed pet of who is begins our story as a crotchedy old man who is in dire need character development — and gets it when his long-lost and much-loved dog, who has since reincarnated as a human lover of a particular Hungarian wine joins the Thursday evening festivities. Bitter and sweet, comedic in the human condition and lofty as the transmigration of souls.

Cars 2***/ was almost as great as Cars 1. Like the first one, the characters are depthy, the action fast and the plot thick. Best of all, Pixar + Disney (even if it an all-out commercial entity) = soul.

At first I thought Green Lantern*** was going to be just another super-gallactic hero, then he was. No puny earth-bound bad guys (well, maybe a couple), he's got galactic scope. It was better than I expected, but then I didn't expect much. All the cosmic stuff was a big (not just a little) goofy. For awhile I thought it was just an elaborate setup for a dozen or so sequels, but I don't know where they'd go from here. I'd give it a lot of so-what?

With nary a nod to full dimensionality and soft fur of contemporary cartooning, Winnie The Poo***/ was a delight. A little old school mixed with a lot of new school annimation, it felt like a righteous re-introduction to the characters I first fell in love with in my childhood. I still have my first, black ink on browning acidish paper, lPooh book, marred by errant crayoning though it may be. And I've always been a major Pooh Bear fan, and I loved this new version.

We saw Margin Call***/ in a real theater without much talking, one of those minor miracles, even at the Angelika. Lotta really good, big-name actors and mucho tension, partially because we almost wanted them to get away with it, but the other part because we knew they had. It's about Bear Stearns or someplace like that just before the meltdown when they were dumping all those dubious assets, nearly destroying our economy. Executive-level crimes that would never be persecuted.

The Speed of Thought**/ is a less-than flick about people working for the government who can read others' minds, but they all die by age thirty, or so they believe. The government uses them as secret powers agents, though we only see a few card games. Thieatric mind-read "special effects" and cheap film tricks marr the production and the plot, but I love a good mind-read movie, so so-what?

The Yellow Handkerchief*** is a sweet little movie that's a remake of the Japanese movie of the same name. It's a road trip after the William Hurt character gets out of jail and meets a young woman and a young man. For the last two it's a coming of age flick, for Hurt it's character development. We get to see what he did and why he left the love of his life when he want off to prison for doing, well, you gotta see the movie. It'll be worth your while.

I saw a movie in a theater recently, and I don't remember a thing about it. It was outside of my usual, watch it, write about it routine, and now I've forgot everything about it, except it was in a movie theater, and we got there just as the opening credits were over. What was that flick?

They talk about the French, as if the movies they made were the greatest ever, and yeah, they are, sometimes, superb, but I'm watching Five Days**** the Brits did that's amazing good, and I've only done the first disc of two of. A swirl of characters, grand scale in a minor key, novelistic. All about when a woman disappears after buying flowers at a roadside, then some of the children she left in the car on the other side of the road, then her family, and then. Well, ripples spread as the story contracts, and we have no more idea than everybody else what happened, but everybody on both sides (cops and humans) think they may know or are busy wrongly identifying others of those caught up in this deed's motives and guilts. A five-hour-long movie about five days in all this rush to judgement, fear and all those other human motives so well packaged in this made-for-TV movie I can't wait to see the rest of.

I like Jesse Stone movies. They're all pretty much the same. Same issues, lot of the same characters. Part of why I like them, I guess. And I'll watch every one I can. This one was Innocents Lost***. He's a small-town police chief, or was just fired from being one, or becomes one after being fired in LA for being a drunk. The issues don't change much. Hell, even the bad-guy issues don't change all that much. It's dependable.

Inside Out***/ is a character-driven story. Arlo is just getting out of jail for 13 years, and he just wants to make pickles. His buddy meets him at the bus. They used to be criminals together, and it's more involved than that. Deep friends. Trouble is the friend is an idiot. There are several really stupid people in this film, but every one is a true individual. Most of the way through this I didn't think I was going to like it, but I watched it all the way through, and I'm charmed by it. Maybe should call it a study in responsibility, but it's character-driven, and most the flicks that are that don't qualify. This does. It's got loads of character and loads of characters.

Been a long time since I saw a new (to me) Walter Matthau movie. I doubt I've seen many Matthau movies this century but in the last one I saw as many as I could find. Made in 1980 with a remarkable cast — Glenda Jackson, Ned Beaty, Sam Waterston and some other faces I recognize without (as usual) knowing the names. It's fun and funny about Walter getting fired from the CIA, so he writes a book, send early chapters to all the world's intelligence agencies to perk up a little interest, then he goes a hoscotching around that world with all those guys on his tail, and then … well, you know, adventure and amusement ensues. I loved Hopsctoch***/.

Whether it's on the street in New York or on the runway in Paris, watching Bill Cunningham work is a joy, and lucky for us, that's what Bill Cunningham New York***/ is all about. The joy of working the work he wants to. What his life is all about. Photographing clothes.

Strand: Under Dark Cloth*** is your typical documentary about a famous photographer, Paul Strand, who, among other things, started the 20th Century trend to photograph abstract images. There's some annoying noises like a woman crying behind black & white photographs we know had no soundtracks and way too many talking heads, but some of them were important. Best of all a chance to hear Paul Strand, major photographer of the early 20th Century talk talk about his work, but never long enough, although we get to watch, briefly, him make photographs with a camera that does not use a dark cloth.

I love Science Fiction even if they make fun of it, so Paul***/, though goofy and crude, was good fun, funny and did I say goofy? Goofy fun. If I knew who Steven Spielburgh looked like I'd watch it again to track him down, but luckily I don't. Lotta good actors in there, though, and the story actually makes sense, and I probably only caught half the references.

Limitless***/ was fun. I love plays, books and movies about somebody who's way smarter than the rest of us. I identify in some peculiar and envious way. This time Algernon's flowers are a drug, and everybody wants it. Our hero has it and gets more, so lots of criminals are after it and wouldn't mind killing him for it. It's a race and unfolding and even character development, so it's got a lot going for it. The zoom-and-move-and-zoom again trip scenes manage an eye-delighting visual arrest. It stays pretty smart, mostly logical and somewhat credible throughout. Even Robert Dinero doesn't seem as stupid as he has been in most of his movies as of late.

I loved Carrie Fisher's first tell-all from 1990, Postcards from the Edge, though I don't remember it much. It was a movie. This, Wishful Drinking*** 2011 starts off funny, then is not quite as funny, then slowy gets less and less funny, even though it's still about her life, so there a deeper humor there.

I usually screen my flicks pretty well, so no telling what the movies I just yesterday sent back were like, but I hadn't watched them — or this — in a couple weeks, I figured it was time to do a redraw. Not sure why I kept this one, but it could easily be one of those Netflix (yeah, them, still. A.k.a. nitwits.) calls "visually arresting." This one's got some spiritual going on, too. Beautiful. The trip scenes are amazing — time passing, or space. Obviously the director (some guy named Wim Wenders) and the cinnematographer were having great fun. In several important parts, it's even semi-mystical. A couple even all the way. A wowzer. I don't feel really movied very often, but this one did it. Don't Come Knocking.****

I'm a huge Wenders fan, and just searched through Netflix site to find and order more. He pronounces the Ws as Vs.

Silly to have named this very well-told tale I've just seen, Flirting***/, but that's the name it's got, and there's a playfullnes about calling that, I suppose. A very different sort of growing up movie from 1991, with a very young Nicole Kidman, but not in a major role. Boarding schools, guys on one side, girls on the other side of a rowable river. All very Brit proper, plenty corporial punnishment. Stupid rules and the lot, and two kids, really, on the verge of learning something important. Unlike most that sound like that, though, this one's intelligent and very close to real.

I could have seen Win Win*** for free in a theater, which means seeing it at home was far better. Far far better. I could back it up when I missed a line. This one's fairly simple, and everything turns on being honest, which nearly nobody is at first, then some of them are, and that's what they call character development. It's a smarmy little flick with, I suppose, some good, but I'd rather everything turned on character, which of course, it did.

The Debt*** was confuing all the way through, at least partly because they change actors from their strident youth to their anxious age. Everything changes, personalities, looks, character. I was mostly confused, though by the end I figured out who everybody was supposed to be, even though I knew they weren't. An intricate retrieval of a Nazi war chriminal by Mossad, after which Mirren marries the wrong guy and that's compounded and complexified by numerous other idiocies. From unlikely to just plain dumb. Lotta drama, and that part's okay, but the characterizations and characters are most of the way to stupid. Not all the way to tedius, but lame enough to be close.

Picasso and Braque goe to the Movies*** is yet another talking heads production trying to explain something somewhat beyond them. Movie guys talkking about Cubism. Ho the hum. Interesting but hardly earth-shaking.

I didn't like her all that much at the beginning. Too full of herself, despite those huge blue eyes and chemical stains on her fingers, I slowly came to appreciate her, her oeuvre. I liked her family from the get go, but it took some learning and some understanding and a lot of seeing her photographs to begin to accept her as an art star. What Remains: The Life and Work of Sally Mann is exquisite in the details and moments. There's the briefest of rain scene that is perfect. Many poignant and meaningful moments in this film. Her cutting her husband's hair outside on their farm. Animals acting and reacting with her. Lovely.

Blood Ties***, also about photographs by Sally Mann was one of the special features that came with the other film. It's good enough to stand on its own, and like every member of the family photographed for that intimate family series, they do. If all I'd seen was this short one, I'd probably given it a higher score. But compared to the feature length one above. What Remains is substantially better.

Wow! I've been movied again. And I loved it. International**** intrigue. Clive Owen. Intelligent and intricate plot. Spy-like but it's cops doing the right thing in the face of the, yeah, international banking conspiracy. They're all in cahoots in reality and fiction. Beautiful but I hardly noticed, the story was so engaging. Even the Special Features were.

It was mildly amusing at first, but then it just got stupider and stupider. I thought I could deal with it for the Kato scenes, even if The Green Hornet was an idiot, and maybe later on in the movie they deal with all that in some insipid way, but it's so dumb, I just cannot deal with it. The Green Hornet.** What a load a.

All my life, so far, I've loved healing stories and movies, sci-fi or straight, and Resurrection***/ with Ellen Burstyn is a joyous one of those. It's got its bad guys (aplenty) and good folks and nay-sayers and evil-doers, but it doesn't dip down into Holly Rollers, it just is. And it's good, and very close to real. 1980

Away from Her***/ is an exquisitely filmed sad and poignant story about Alzheimers, love and change.

Inside Job**** tells the story of the international financial meltdown compellingly and concisely. It names names and counts up figures. It's the best indictment yet of Wall Street and the Banking Industry and, of course, the U.S. Government. And most likely nothing will ever be done about all the criminals who are running all three. Narrated by Matt Damon, it is a beautiful film, apparently honest, but in the face of so incredibly much criminality, just kinda TS.

I never expected this one to be that good. Wasn't sure I wanted to deal with subtitles from Spanish all the way through, but once Cell 211**** started, I was hooked. It's a prison riot movie in which most of the good guys are corrupt and evil. Some of the bad guys are deep-down good and some rotten to the core. Never quite sure who was which till the end. One of the best character development flicks I've ever seen, but you never know how the plot will twist. Superb. Tense, engaging, exciting, amazing.

I suppose it's possible I could stand a 24-minute discussion of the design of dissent that is the bonus material for Milton Glaser: To Inform and Deilight***, which itself is informative and Glasser's graphic arts and illustrations reproduced are delightful, but I just don't think I could stand that much more talking heads. He's famous, amazing, extraordinarily talented in several art directions, and his heart is obviously in the right places, but though I was inspired by his history of images, I was dismayed at the pacing and over-reliance on gabbing faces.

I watched 23 episodes in a row of Sports Night**** — I started to just give it 3.5 asterisks, because it's just a TV show, but watching this many hours of it nearly makes it a movie, and it's wonderful — although not altogether different from subsequent Sorkin Sitcoms. I saw a few episodes when they were just a few months old on late night (like the fictional show of the series) on local Dallas TV. Seeing the computers from way back then reminds me it was before W was President. That old. It was funny then. It is funny now. With a little serious thrown in, the usual Sorkin human kindness with a liberal dose of Liberal politics, copious advice to the lovelorn and that elusive sense of community so much of TV and the world lacks. When I finish this whole thing (23.5 minutes each), I'll look for another by him. I love the fast-talking, quick-thinking and intelligent humor and situational ethics of Sorkin's characters and stories.     Addendum: I'm almost all the way through with all the episodes, and while I am eager for the next one and wish there would be one after that in an unending line, I think I understand now why it didn't get renewed, why there will never be another Sports Night. It dwindled. It was ahead of its time, and its time was never allowed to catch up. And there was way too much about everybody's love lives.

The Beaver**** is wonderful. Dark. Very dark. But deeply and humanly funny. About fathers and sons and how sons are like their fathers, even if their fathers are suicidally depressed. Like I said, dark. Very noir. But human. And so hilarious you'd laugh out loud if you weren't afraid somebody'd think you were nuts, too. But you are nuts, so you laugh along. Because reality is too funny to ignore.

Namesake*** is about a Bengali family living in the U.S and raising, mostly a son whose is the namesake that I never understood the connection, and a host of others. It is about a family growing up and learning who they are. It is strange and exotic and real and personal. Not fabulous, really, but mostly nice and a lot human.

Alfred Stiglitz - The Eloquent Eye*** is informative, illustrative and almost inspiring. It's a slightly better than average documentary about a famous and seminal character in the history of art photography. Yet not quite fascinating and not quite amazing.

Public TV's ongoing series of American Experience documentaries are several cuts above the ordinary, and Ansel Adams - American Experience***/ is, too. It quickly and eloquently crosses the lines from about art to inspiring. I've heard and read about this guy all my life since I turned onto photography at the University of Dallas in the early 1960s, but this video turned me around an inspired me to pay attention. I learned who he was, what he was up to and what he was like. More than that, I learned about his struggles, his personal life, and best of all what it took to make him who he was. Gently told, but hardly a gentle story. Marred by chronological wandering and rarely just showing a bunch of his best images, I'd still rent it again. It's probably worth its while just to see the wild parts of Yosemite.

When The Levees Broke*** is a disturbing reminder of how bickering politicians and an uncaring government ignored Hurricane Katrina as long as they possibly could. Long and lurid.

Rock Prophesies*** is the overblown title of a slightly overblown documentary about an old guy photographer who's going around, still taking rock pix, but also looking for the next big things in rock and roll, including a band called The Sick Puppies from Australia and 16-year-old guitar wizard Tyler Dow Bryant, oh, from somewhere small town in the sticks. What's the guy's secret? He asks other stars he's photographed, then he and his film crew follow through. Interesting enough. Made me want to check them out, but the movie's pretty cornball. And the next big thing never quite is.

This one's title is The Photographer***/, and I keep trying to watch it, but I just can't. It's so stupid. Ignores every reality to tell this semi-mystical story. Our hero (or anti-hero, who knows, it's early in the movie.) is a photographer who has a show in New York, and sells everything, then he's got another show coming up, but he doesn't have any shots worth showing, and he's in anguish. But doesn't go out and shoot the same old stuff, for no apparent reason. Then 8x10 black and whites keep showing up, images of his life that he lives into. Image shows up. Later he happens upon the place they were shot at and is in the pictures. And he obviously knows he didn't shoot them, but he's gonna show them anyway.

Somehow the black & white 8x10s are going to transmogrify into big exhibition prints without the negatives or digital original images. Yeah, right. Maybe somebody who didn't know how this stuff really happens, might believe some of this crap, but mostly, nobody could be that dumb. So now, maybe I gotta finish the stupid movie. But I don't want to. But I keep at it. It occurs that our crew. It keeps growing. Is like Dorothy, off to see the wizard. There's a photographer — he keeps saying he takes photographs, but we haven't seen him do that even once, although he held a camera (no film) in one seen. And his acquired first pal, whom he saved from muggers. The new pal is a writer who doesn't write. They went to a fortune teller, who's not quite sure she sees anything, but she emcees into a feather duster like a microphone and explains what's going on as we watch it happen. OK, so this is going somewhere. But the photographer is still schmuck.

Then while the team (that now includes a drunk warrior 'celebrating' his bachelor night on a Monday) looks for the photographs that the photographer in the title didn't take but wants and probably needs, Romeo finds a typewriter ribbon, the photographer finds another 8x10, the warrior (who isn't) gets snagged on some barbed wire trying to drain the main vein. They have a fun little party, and eventually Max (the photographer) attains enlightenment and learns the big lesson, and they do not all live happily ever after, but the important ones do.

And after watching the whole thing, and putting all the pieces together (well, most of them) I went back and changed my original two asterisks to 4.

Then I posted it online, thought about it once more, pulled it back up and left the asterisks at 3.5.

Rango*** is funny and almost deep, but mostly goofy.

A Passage to India*** seemed promising, beautiful cinematography, India during the British colonization, David Lean of Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia fame, big scale but goofy in the details. We follow an independent woman and her daughter, also independent there for awhile, visiting India. The mother is great but gets older and feebler. The daughter seems good (Hope Davis, why I saw the movie), but after instigating a trip to the hills, accuses the guy who organized their extravagant trip, of rape. He did no such thing, is tried, yada yada. Like she just blanked out and did that rude thing, then she takes it back, and the film goes on and on in too typical 50s stupidities. Lame flick had promise, lost it.

The Adjustment Bureau*** runs everything but stays in the background until our enterprising young man catches them at it, wants what they don't want to let him have, gets it, drops it in the face of their further opposition, remembers eventually, fights them awhile, then drops the matter again. Like there's an AB running the movie, too. Goofy, somewhat adventuresome, awfully tiresome. Happily ever after ending for no particularly good reason.

Source Code**** does time travel one better, neatly sidestepping the usual movie and novel limitations. Good drama, solid story, deep thought till the copout ending Hollywood must have insisted upon. The science is flawed, of course, so why not the fiction, too?

Never quite knew how Rabbit Hole***/ would work out. Sad, of course, most of the way through, but enobling, not enabling. Niccole Kidman's usually worth it, but barely here. Kid dies, mom and dad are devastated, of course. Eventually, well, watch the movie.

From almost the very beginning, I knew what was going to happen in Clint Eastwood's True Crime***. Happily ever after, after a lot of trouble. May have been worth most of the trouble, but sure wish I didn't know all the way through it. Thought that's what great directors knew how to do best. TS.

I got it because Steve Buscemi's in it. And some actress. Sienna Miller. It is an Interview***/ and that's what it's called. But off the wall. It is a Buscemi, and he directed. He looks awful in it. Pale with what looks like lipstick. Maybe he got beat up, too. Hard to say. He's a on-the-skids journalist interviewing a famous soap actress. They're playing games with each other, as well as being honest. Or is it the other way around. Odd dance, quirks and twists. More interesting than great, but the story pulls us through.

After the inept and tedious Masters of and Wizards of Photography, comes the superb American Photography: A Century of Images,**** made in 1999. Although I'd love to see the last dozen years protrusion into digital, this is a beautiful and intelligent history of American photography chunked into themes that add breadth and depth. Remarkably well done and beautiful to watch. And vastly informative.

The pre-movie and hideously audioed click click progression of famous photographs would have been far more effective if they'd been in focus, but here we have another dull grayscale — plenty of white, but never a definitive black throughout — documentary whose greatest lift is getting to see lots of excellent photographs, even if they are all out of focus here. Not often I long for the mind numbing lingering zooms of Ken Burns, but here it might have helped. I wanted hard details but got none. Fifties hokum, apparently before color film was invented. Masters of Photography: Edward Steichen**/. Way over-explained. 30 minutes.

Calling George Eastman The Wizard of Photography*** is piling it on deep. He was the businessman who popularized it and commodified it, but he wasn't that creative, except for making money at it. He was a micro manager and clearly uncomfortable with his eventual massive success. When I saw the unexplained title, I thought it would be about Jerry Ulesmann or one of the other true wizards of the form. The straightforward chronological documentary is interesting enough, but I expect more from something calling itself wizard.

Buck***/ is about the Horse Whisperer in the Robert Redford movie many years ago. About his job traveling around and helping horse-owners train their horses with kindness not control. And about the man and what made him so compassionate. Mellow, sometimes tear-jerking film, a craftfully and carefully-told story

I'm watching a really really really bad and stupid monster movie called Carny**. I guess I'll finish it, if there's not too many more commercial breaks offering us an opportunity to save some more wounded dogs — there's one in the movie, too. Not quite every stereotype in the book, but a lot of them. And nearly everybody in it, even the hero, is really really stupid — especially the director and writers.

If I subscribed to two-year-old movie magazines, maybe I'd know what the ones I get in the mail would be about before I choose or decline them. Had no idea what The Lovely Bones**** was up to. Almost dropped it again to the bottom of my queue, then on a lark let it rise to the top and watched it. Once that started, I couldn't let it stop. It's about a murder, and I knew that, but I could not have imagined the magical and mysterious and ethereal and deep down mystical truths of this — well, it was never a mystery really, but it feels like one. Will he get caught? Was the question, not who done it. And will she take the next step? Remarkably beautiful film about death. With marvelous special effects. Deep. Intelligent. Beautiful. In the end uplifting, but scary along the way. A treasure of a cinematic experience. Superb. Music by Brian Eno. Wow.

I have finally caught up with Rooster Cogburn, Tom Chaney, the Texas Ranger and 14-year-old Mattie Ross, and I have seen all their True Grit***/. Interesting how people talked, back in cowboy days, and how they carried through with their grit. And I am impressed by all of it.

Always wondered about Julia (I can hear him singing it in in my head.) and John Lennon's beginnings. This tells the tale. Possibly fact-based. Based on a true story. Not sure how true, but it gives a flavor, and that's plenty. Nowhere Boy***

I'd just read a longform essay about Buster Keaton and especially The General*** when I stumbled on the opportunity to watch it on Netflix online. A little dated, it was made in 1925, before sound, although the soundtrack added in 2003 was terrific. A comedy about the Civil War must have been daring at the time, but it was beautifully shot in glorious black & white and superbly edited. Good story, broadly acted of course and often funny.

Absolute Wilson*** caught me up on avant garde dance and theatric production through sometime late in the last half of the last century. Interesting to intriguing, combining personal elements from teaching brain-damaged hyperactive children; to wild, open collaboration; incarceration; and autism by this guy from Waco.

The Work of Director Chris Cunningham***/ varies from exquisite surrealism to loud, stupid repition, but through these too few visual tracks for songs is a outrι attitude and psycho babble heart. Fascinating, unbearable, and lots between.

Exquisitely visual, clipped, clean, approaching surreal throughout. Serene, as is the pacing. Remarkable. Befitting the story of a Marine officer escorting the body of a fellow marine killed in action. But more than meets the eye here. Taking Chance***/

I've finally got my Neflitx queue down under 140 (it'd got past 250 for awhile) movies, so moving them around, up and down is a lot easier (the software works up to about 200). But it still takes awhile for one to rise to the top, and by then I often have no idea why I chose it.

So went Ghost Town***, which I actually thought might be some updated Western, but it's about New York City, or the people who died there recently and, as the old-time movie gimmick (that this movie fully subscribes to), they have not finished their job on earth, so they haven't sparkled into a gleam of light and disappeared yet. This might be the second movie by Ricky Gervais I've seen. I have not seen anything he's been on TV. Until earlier this week, I hadn't had TV for about three months. Now I got cable, and it is cheaper than paying the lying and thieving AT&T (who is by no means the only phone company in town but they still act like it), just for the phone that didn't work at least two weeks out of every three months. But that's about six other stories. GT is good enough. It's entertaining. It breaks almost zero new ground, so it's not even eligible for four or five asterisks. It is amusing and persistent, and I liked it well enough for a standby of Hollywood movie. (and now I get phone and internet as well as TV for less than I used to pay various other institutions of lower learning for not getting TV).

Cloverleaf**** is a scary monster flick. And really is scary, and there's several monsters involved. It's all shot from the Point of View (POV) of a video camera in the hands of one of the actors as they try to escape from the monsters attacking Manhattan. I got a little tired of the characters, who acted like real human beings. Instead of a brave, smart team working against the scary monsters, like most monster movies, we have a bunch of 20-somethings running scared, discovering the story as they attempt to get away from it.

Nice music, some sensitive singer-songwriter, gives the whole thing a, well, sensitive tone that's … well, needs emphasizing. At one point, early on, they ask each other if they are "fuck ups." They are, but they don't think so. She's pregnant. He seems to be employed, but with all his kid-like attributes it's hard to scope out who's really in there rattling around. They're touring the U.S. trolling for people they'd want to move near. All been real duds so far, but we're barely into the movie. O-okay, so maybe it's darkly and humanly funny. Or just stupid. Away We Go***. You know how all those foreign movies translate every word of dialog in the subtitles? Well, here someone in the next room is singing "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man," and we can barely hear it, but the subtitles get every word. How weird is that? Oh, here it is, that poignant moment when one of them tells a childhood story that brings them together. Of course it ends happily. [Sometimes it's nice to write a review while the movie's still going. Nice to have this already done by the time it finishes.]

The Burmese Harp***/ tells the story of Japanese soldiers in Burma at the end of World War II, their last battle wherein one of their number has the opportunity to give other soldiers the chance to surrender without killing or dying, they choose killing and ended up dying, and the soldier who risked his life to give them the opportunity becomes a monk. This sounds so cut and dry, but it is an affecting and spiritual movie that is difficult to put into words, although the soldiers put it into choral song, accompanied by the monk and his harp.

A Small Act*** is a beautifully videoed documentary about scholarships for outstanding students in Kenyan primary schools.

I thought it was going to be yet another documentary on her life and work. But Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen as Georgia O'Keefe and Alfred Stiegletz. Wow. An idea fraught, like their marriage and relationship, with difficulties and pain. Amazing to get so much understanding in just those few word. And beautiful. Amazing. Georgia O'Keefe***/

I was just beginning to write about this movie I just saw, formulating the words: odd but affecting movie about, well, I was going to say about a paranoid schizophrenic who follows random Middle eastern men around the city, with paranoid notions about what they are up to, and his long lost niece, who has come back to America after 9/11, when I saw that it was directed by Wim Wenders, and a lot more of it tumbled into sensibility. What it is about is acceptance and sanity, although it uses extremes and opposites to load up the irony. Remarkable motion picture. Affecting and deeply think-worthy. Land of Plenty***/

Youth Without Youth***/ is a stupid name for this great little movie about time and life times and aging, forward and backwards. Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. It is wildly romantic, nominally scientific, and fiction, hence science fiction. A good story, beautiful, haunting and ultimately, about life. As we don't really know it. The special effects are ultimate simple, but effective.

TV teen sci-fi, with every goofy adolescent stereotype known to Hollywood. Part horror, part teen angst and young love, all intermixed with sentimental tripe and alternating moments of evil stupidity. Like a battle of directors. The good one has a story and a little soul. The bad one needs to throw in all the crap, to get attention. Plus there's a few shreds of intelligence hid behind, that comes out briefly, but never long enough to save this poor movie. I Am Number Four**/. Good thing they all read the script. Otherwise it wouldn't make any sense. Oh, that's right, it doesn't. And the pacing: Exciting, sentimental, exciting, stupid, exciting… Hokum poke 'em. Oh, lard, and it looks like a sequel comin'.

Brothers***/ is about two brothers, a bad boy just out of jail and the perfect soldier just off to war. They exchange modes. The soldier goes haywire, as they often do in wars, and the bad boy goes good. Smart movie, mostly.

I watched Chops***/ so I could listen to the jazz, what it's all about. Free my mind, put it into other orbits. Worked, too. Wrote some stuff I'd not tried before. Movies about high school jazz competitions. I remember my high school band. Not much compared to these geniuses. Flick's got soul and charm. Human and amazing.

She's smart, wants to be a doctor. He didn't graduate from high school, is an alcoholic, goes by momentary feelings. But he's an unrepentant alcoholic who's always going to be a drunk, and he's never going to learn anything different. So it's hopeless. And we're supposed to feel for him? Yeah, right. Blue Valentine***/

A dark future. Is there a chance of any other? Full of secretly controlling influences. Advertising. Voices in his head. TV reality shows. All in distinctively odd animation. Very strange. Bleak landscape. We know what's going on, but the details are vague. Like real life as we think we know it. Realistic faces. Odd walking. Dark. Strong, superb science fiction. Makes ya think. Unique. Metropia****. 2009

The Illusionist*** had charming animation, lilting story that was so simple I almost missed it, then it was over and I thought I must have missed it.

Another dark future in The Road, which I did not finish. Tried multiple times. Couldn't beat to watch it. Had listened to the complete novel, which was much more — oh, more everything, credible, human, possible. The kid was younger, and the father more frail. Like it was originally written. Movies change even fiction, making it more fictional, less credible, human, likely.

I am watching Masterpiece Mystery: Sherlock the new, British update to Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. Here, better acting, beautiful cinematography, we get to see the clues, or rather they are labeled on the screen, almost like clicking on them. Fast thinking, fast action. Quick-witted, too. Also witty. A delight. I'll count the whole kaboodle as one movie, although it goes on and on. Then, nearing the end of one, I recognized another I'd seen some time ago, not nearly as good as the pilot, though.

Farewell***/ is a spy story the way probably most real spy stories are. No car chases. Plenty of intrigue at the expense of loved ones. Not so much something everybody involved wants to be involved in. More personal than political. Remarkably good film about those inner issues of espionage so major it actually changes the world. Not Bourne but real. President Reagan portrayed as the idiot he probably was. In French. 2009

Pixar*** is a tried and true historic look at a very successful enterprise, with lots of samples of Pixar magic. Near total clone of a the film about the history of Disney animation. Hard to remember them apart.

I had two other Netflix flicks I'd tried to start and will finish eventually, but soon as I started The Butterfly***/, a French movie in French-only, I knew I had my evening's winner. It's about a nine year-old daughter whose mother has not found time to be with her, so she befriends an old man who collects butterflies and enters his world of hiking in the mountains and collecting, without telling anyone where she was off to. A bit of adventure in that, then something almost dire. An enchanting movie with a simple story, beautiful cinematography, all gentle and mostly sweet. 2003

Incendiary****, on the other hand, is a real movie. Not predictable. Strong characters and characterizations. Fierce story, again involving a journalist, but also love or what passes for it, and guilt — it's got guilt in spades. A couple faked scenes — well, a lot actually, but two egregiously faked. It is about bombs and bombers, after all, and who is murdered by them and whose lives are destroyed, and it actually gets at what that's all about, but mostly this movie is a dream, not the fakey kind where somebody wakes up and … but one in which we are all still asleep.

Secretariat*** is Hollywood through and through. I wonder how much of it is true so much of it is hacked through with Hollywood movie tricks. Tricks to make us smile — goofy caricatures of characters, including a Black guy who's almost Steppin' Fetchet but mostly ignored, one assumes, because he's Black. Stupid, invasive music. A plot/story-line that absolutely dead-on predictable every step of the way. Cute to watch, but essentially stupid.

Runaway Train … oops, that's Unstoppable*** was exactly as expected, all the way along the long track. At speed. Heroics. Stupid management, etc. etc. Fun. Just what I wanted. Denzel.

Netflix has all this data on computers that tell me I'm going to like this film instead of that film, because I liked some other film not remotely related to either film, but they won't warn me when I'm about to rent a film I've already seen. But this one I like. I like a lot, and once I realized I'd seen it before, I didn't stop it. I watched it all the way through again, even though I knew how it ended. State of Play****. Of course, it helped it was about newspaper reporting and newspapers and spies and murder and a bunch of other adventure stuff, and it was beautiful and intelligent. Etc. etc.    I'm not counting it again, but it counts.

Mostly Martha***/ is mostly Martha, and she's enough odd her boss sends her to a shrink once a week, where Martha talks about her one obsession, cooking. So this is a foodie movie, and an outstanding one of those. I wish there were smellavision, this would be great in it. Along the way, Martha lets some other people into her life, grudgingly, with great difficult, and it's worth it, but she still goes to the shrink, because she's still obsessed. The movie is a delight, with fascinating characters, little and big ones.

So often, movies that everybody likes turn out to be dreadful, but The King's Speech***/ is quite wonderful. About an odd friendship and history. Something about a king with a speech impediment.

It's not about A Man on A Train****. That's just how he gets there. When the hotel's closed, he is befriended by a man who lives well. It's about their unlikely friendship. There's character development, of course. With quirk and seriousness. The man is there to rob a bank. His unlikely friend is about to experience a Triple Bypass. Both on a Saturday. Both lives change in the friendship, then on the Saturday, something mystical happens. English subtitles.

House of Games***/ is a con that cons us all, or tries to. Nice to see a name low on the list of actors who later makes it. I love looking down those lists, always hoping to see someone I recognize. This one was W.H. — later William H. — Macy, in just a bit part. Joe Montegna's our anti-hero and the anti-heroine is somebody time has not honored, and her name was near the top. It's a game. Con and be conned. Crazed dialog and direction by David Mamet. Interesting puzzle of a movie, that in the end, doesn't really make sense, and loses track of dollars, but seeing whose hands it's in is the name of the game.

One of those separate stories you know will combine in the end. Exquisite unfolding. Beautiful film. Engaging stories, memorable characters. I will have to see it again, later. Clint Eastwood. Steven Spielburg, even though it is somewhat schlocky. Matt Damon. Only originals get four asterisks from these reviews. It's about the Hereafter****

I had just been rewriting an old story comparing autusm and artism and wondering not for the first time if I had serious aspects of asperger's myself. I needed a movie, so I pushed the DVD into the computer and was charmed, and chagrined, pleased, a little sadened. A very pleasant little coming of age story that kept reminding me of who I was, too. Nice of movies to sometimes do that. Adam***.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father*** is almost amateurily put together, while retaining verve and deep human humor that turns darker and darker. But it's about the good people who survive several turns of horrible luck and a government (not ours, for a change) that's both ignorant and stupid about letting a premeditated murderer free to kill again. Strange, often goofy, laugh out loud funny and poignant and real.

Freakonomics*** seemed right on at first. Then it lagged a little with each segment. By the end I didn't believe they knew what they were talking about.

Although I was a fan of The Beat Poets a decade after their rise, I never understood Howl, the poem and book, before this movie. Nor did I understand the prominence nor eminence of Allen Ginsberg. Till now. Pitty as that is, this movie is remarkable, and not just because every word in it was actually said by the persons portrayed as having said them. It is an amalgam of annimation and fictional-appearing reenactment cinema and pseudo documentary. It tells a story, an important story while elucidating the poem, the book, the writer and his times, and that's a good thing. Howl!****

I didn't watch all of it, but I got through it okay — better than our hero. I remember suggesting it to watch with some friends in a theater, where I could not have escaped or fast forwarded through much of it. That would have been a mistake. Luckily, nobody else wanted to see this one. So I got to wait till now to see some of it, and that was enough. No real surprises, since they advertise it as a guy gets his arm trapped under a big rock as he descends a crevice in the Utah canyon desert, so I knew all along he'd cut off his art to escape, and I watched that much of it. 127 hours***

Fair Game***/ is about the unfair game the President, the Vice President and others in the U.S. Government played against Valerie Plume and Joe Wilson when they learned and told the truth about Saddam's supposedly secret program to create weapons of mass destruction, so the American People would feel that going to war against Iraq would be okay. It's strong as a spy movie and superior about the XXX of power in what is supposedly our government, but of course it doesn't belong to us anymore.

The Real Dirt on Farmer John***/ is about the ups and downs of family farming from John's childhood through several failures and several periods of relative joy and the land under him has dwindled and grown out again. It's a documentary with spunk and originality, and towards the end, real joy. I put off seeing it for a long time, because I didn't know what to expect. Now, I expect it will stay with me awhile.

It's got Robert Redford as a cranky old man mad at everybody because his son died before he did, and Morgan Freeman as his best friend and cowboy on his ranch who got mauled by a bear and Jennifer Lopez as the woman who was driving his son when she crashed and killed the son, and a kid who's his grand daughter. And the bear, and the ex-boyfriend who beat her up and some other folk up in Wyoming. Bit of a smarmer, but a nice one. Mostly mellow and getting mellower. About forgiveness and being who you are without being a total AH. An Unfinished Life***/.

Intimate Strangers***/ is a French movie in French-only with English subtitles about a married woman who attempts an appointment with a psychiatrist but goes the wrong office and tells her secrets to a tax attorney instead. And he listens. What evolves is sensuous and intimate without becoming sex. It's about trust and having someone to talk to. It's subtle, interior and intellectual and mostly gentle, beautifully acted.

I waited a long time for Sita Sings the Blues***/, and it was worth it. Its' the animated epic of the Indian classic Ramayana updated with the singing of 1920s singer Annette Hanshaw and some remarkable and colorful and often goofy animation styles. Still have issues accepting that I liked it this much, but I do.

The Battle for Terra*** is, to a limited extent, quite good. But the limitations include that the plot is hardly original. Or if it is original, it's been copied and copied and copied. Little thing called Avatar was nearly identical. Star Wars had a huge influence, shall we say, on this one, too. Many scenes copied almost directly from it. Earthians try to take over another planet after destroying their own. Beautiful annimation, gentler people and renderings than those other scifi movies I mentioned. Lilting greatness, except, oh, standing on the shoulders of giants. Etc.

Science Fiction, definitely. The title is Monsters***/, and there are those. Lots of them. Giant octopus-like ones. Eventually we get to watch our … well, they're not exactly heroes (and that's a relief), though it's a man and a woman, and basically they're trying to escape from the area infested by the creatures. We see several. When the local humans go nuts and try the good old American (don't have to be north of the Rio Grande to be Americanos) kill-everything-in-sight ethos, the monsters get 'em all and leave their stinking corpses all over the landscape. A lot of that is off-camera, though we hear strange noises. There's character development, growing rapport between the woman and man, lots of back story for both, and a creepy (but not really crawlly) feeling of impending doom from time to time. It's well-crafted sci-fi, with enough chill to make it interesting, and interesting enough characters to chill. I'm impressed.

What glorious, goofy, Bond-like fun with spies and the CIA. Bruce Willis and Mary Louise Parker is all it took for me to put this in my queue. Then there's Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Ernest Borgnine and Richard Dreyfuss all obviously having great fun, and we got a secret agent kill-kill hootenany. Smart (in too many historically accurate ways to bother counting), wild, action, adventure, deeply hilarious, righteous, exciting, fun and funny. Red***/ (Retired, Extremely Dangerous) !

Jack Goes Boating***/ is scintillating like only Phillip Seymore Hoffman can. Three sets of couples. Twice a man and a woman, and the friendship of two men drive this halting, timid, ultimately gentle romance between one man and one woman compared harshly against the other man and woman. Ultimately positive at both ends, but not all the way through the middle.

It's been at least a century since I last saw 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould, but I got the same kick out of the experience as I did upon first seeing this oddly accurate and sometimes surrealistic collection most often audio-backed by great music and all produced by The Film Board of Canada. In another thousand years I want to see and enjoy this one again

Never Let Me Go***** sounds like a romance and it very much is, but it is also deep Science Fiction in a mind-blowing and startling dimension. One that is never seen except vaguely in operating rooms and briefly in scars. A whole class of people are raised for their organs, which will be donated to the people they are clones of when those unseen need replacements. Sometimes after the first donation, but almost always by the third one, the replicants die. So they have that to face all their lives, which are remarkably normal otherwise. This haunting and superbly told story — the cinnematography, pacing, story, dialog and chilling notions — nearly every aspect is delicious. But always with that invisible fright and fear hovering in the darkness.

Get Low***/ is the story of a hermit who'd locked himself away from humanity for forty years then decides to attend his own funeral to hear folks tell their stories about him. Instead he ends up telling his story, one that needed telling, so he could get forgiveness. It's a pleasnat story, human funny often enough, Sissy Spacek and Bill Murray, and of course, the old curmudgeon Robert Duvall. A tale of forgiveness with lots of quick and little bits of joy.

Even that stupid fox movie was better than average. I'll see any movie with George Clooney. This one, called in the bonus features that weren't on my Netflix disk, Journey to Redemption was how too many black ops guys retire. Beautiful scenery. Beautifully filmed. Well acted. Tense but with some love interest, too. The American***

It's been on the local PBS station for the last couple weeks, but I never saw it end to end till I rented it, then finally, I began to think I vaguely understood William S. Burroughs. This movie William S. Burroughs: A Man Within***/ was good, if not entirely great a documentary of much of his outter life. Now I have to see Naked Lunch again.

The Five Senses*** is slow, sensual and mostly melancholy. A movie in which almost no one changes very much. Then it stops

After the first movie, I read all three books in a mad, page-turning several weeks. But I always wanted to see Mikael and Lisbeth again, so I watched the third one, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest**** soon after it came out in video, remembering the distinct differences between the movies and the books. I may have to hear all three books again sometime in the next few years, but I've had it with the Swedish movies. I know the dorkwater who inhereted Stieg Larsson's fortune has set Hollywood on making one movie out of all three books, and I'm sure it will be stupidity squared, but I'll probably eventually see that one, too. Wish there were more Stieg Larson books to swallow whole, but he died before all this worldwide popularity and major big bucks.

So it wasn't really that big a jump to see this one, which until I heard Sorkin wrote it, I had avoided, pretty much like I avoid Facebook and most other really popular things. All I knew about it before I saw it was that, and that several people said it wasn't true. Maybe true to life, but not true. I think I can live with that, although I far prefer honest biographies. I loved the Zuckerberg characterization as a high functioning austist and/or AH, and I way too strongly identified with him. As usual with Sorkin screenplays, what was said was important and fast-paced and often very intelligent. I'd give The Social Network**** four stars, even if I don't visit my own fb page more than every three, four or more days, and I never know what to do with all the people who say they want to be fb friends.

I knew Aaron Sorkin was writing for something else, but that something else was on cable, and I don't want cable, because if I had it, I'd watch TV all the time, instead of the several other slightly more important things I do. I figured I'd catch up eventually. He's perhaps the best TV writer ever. That he did West Wing proves it, whatever political side you might be on. Luckily, he's still on the leading left edge, and Studio 60**** is already amazing, and I'm in the middle of watching the pilot.    I'm sorry I only get to count this one once, because I'm going to be floating all of it over the internet these next few, probably, weeks, and I'm really looking forward to it. Great. Just what I needed, another addiction.   Then I watched eight shows straight, got some sleep, did a couple other things, watched eight more, and by Weddy saw number 22 and final, but if I could see more new ones, I would.

Truly a Rube Goldberg movie of visual hijinks, the French Micmacs**** is a fun run-down of International arms trading pulled assunder by a gang of misfits, contortionists and goofballs. Deeply and visually intelligent and quirky to the max. Even the special features are a joy to see, although the shooting-of does go on.

The Vanishing***/ is a dark little tale. As dark as I can imagine. About a woman who disappears at a rest stop on the highway, and whose boyfriend become obsessed with finding out what happened to her. And in the end, he does. Oddly told. The humor, what little of it there is, is dark, too. A mystery revealed but not until the end. Spooky and creepy and mean-spirited.

Salt***/ with Angelina Jolie is exciting all the way to the finish, smart, plot twisting, fun, lots of action. Less than a week later, I can't remember anything about it.

A Touch of Frost: If Dogs Run Free*** - Jack Frost Season 15, Episodes 1 and 2. I'm counting them as one movie. Another long-running Brit detective. Smart guy who thinks it through and discovers. Older guy, not really an action hero. But wise. Season 15. Now I'll watch more on Netflix Instant View or whatever they call it. 88 minutes each.

I'd forgot I'd seen Manhunter**** (but didn't review it till now), probably before I saw Silence of the Lambs. Even before the first CSI. I keep seeing William Petersen in 80s movies. He's so much better in this one, which is in most ways, better than Silence. Except this one's Dr. Lektor isn't as sinister as Anthony Hopkins. But the detective, Petersen here, is amazing good, dark, brooding, more than a little psycho. Don't understand why he wasn't a bigger star then, but I always liked him on CSI, then when he retired, they replaced him with Lawrence Fishburn, which is high praise indeed. This one's dark, deeply evil. With Joan Allen, always a treat.

The Andromeda Strain***, the 2008 movie version was good solid science fiction up till near the end, when it reverted to stupid mechanical processes then tagged on a rip-off story device from an old Indiana Jones movie. I was glad for the opportunity to see Andre Braugher again. He's always worth watching, but the movie veered from a super-smart-think-team-figures-it-out to cornball bad endings. The journalist character was fun. The President seemed presidential often and sneaky bastard some of the time, probably like most of the real ones. I could dance to it, liked that it went on for two segments, maybe three-plus hours.

Legend of the Guadians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole**** was remarkable. Of course, we're birders, so there's a special bond already, but we were amazed at the annimation and the details. Some of the battle scenes are a little confusing, and like any good saga, there's too many characters, so we didn't always (usually) know who way saying what, but it was inspiring. English subtitles helpd get through the Aussie accent on second viewing. First time I saw it it was on a screen halfway across the room, but the details held up up close on my Mac hi-def. Plenty of detail, action, adventure, marvelous flying scenes, fascinating feather work. Perhaps a tad too Star Warsian. Although I thought this first one was plenty, I guess they're already planning more. But I'd probably watch them, too.

Jan Svankmajer: Disk 2 (The Collected Shorts)**/. I'd never heard of Svanmajer, and it's just as well. The short shorts were funny and inspired stop annimation. The longer shorts were tedious, supposed to be scary — I'm guessing, and just weren't.

I must have seen movie art from Fantastic Planet*** hundreds of times over the deaces since 1973, but I don't remember anything of the annimated movie of the subjugation of the tiny, human-like Oms by the giant Traags. Now I have. Primitive annimation, but interesting ideas, especially for that long-ago era.

Another one I think I saw before but am not quire certain is Enigma***/, a World War II mystery that may be "based on history," but probably not on facts, since it has some of the geniuses who built the Allies' copy of the Enigma Machine that unencrypted all the secret codes used by German, and helped win it for the good guys. It's a couple of romances, a period piece, more than a little mystery, even has one rather tame car chase. Pleasant in a laid-back way, smart.

I wasn't going to count it, because I saw it when it was new in 1974 and again many years later, but it's not in my alphabetical movie pages linked above, so I am counting it here. I remembered Harry and Tonto**** as a charmer with some quirk, and it is. Much more than that though. Art Carney and an orange cat's adventure out West from New York City. It's about independence and family and friendship.

That one got me up to one-thousand-and-five-hundred movies so far this century. I'm amazed, and only 90 years to go (of the century).

War Photographer***/ is a documentary of someone who may well be the best war photographer. I don't follow war photographers after David Douglas Duncan and Danny Lyons (different kind of war) any more. He is good. But deeper than being a good composer, exposer, etc., he is a good person, willing to go to wars and other dangerous places around the world, to elicit our help for the poeple James Nachtway photographs. Interesting, compelling, gentle.

I have a lurid painting by Ann Huey titled He Was Quiet and Kept to Himself. This movie, with a very different looking Christian Slater and, among others, William H. Macy, is about the guys thus described who climb out of their shells long enough to murder a bunch of people in a corporate worklplace. Most of whom — in this movie, at least — richly deserve it. Some of the sudden plot left turns make a certain sense, and the acting is peculiar but more realistic than we'd like to admit. Cinnematography as quirky as the story and plot. It is deeply and darkly funny, even moving. Not perhaps a great movie, He Was a Quiet Man***/ is, nonetheless, memorable. Did I mention dark?

Entering other's dreams is not new. There's a long tradition of the notion in movies: Peter Ibbetson, Dreamscape, The Lathe of Heaven, The Cell, Open Your Eyes/Vanilla Sky and Waking Life. Now Inception***/, which promises greatness but delivers too much of the usual gangster pap of violence, car chases, and rain of bullets. It veers between wretched, violent excess and intelligence, ultimately crashing through stupidity.

In some ways xxy*** is a mess. Another of those movies when no one will talk about the elephant in the room. That Alex has both male and female organs and has not decided which to choose, although everybody seems to have made up their minds. Resulting in too many issues for everybody including Alex. In the end, Alex does what's right for Alex, a point it seems like everybody else — compassion or not — should have got to by the time this movie started. So it's a movie that is a movie because somebody needed a movie, not so much for the reality of it, but for the story of it. I'm glad they felt the need. It raises interesting and important concepts, but it does seem they waited an awfully long time to come to their conclusions.

Vaguely I remember seeing the first Ghost in the Shell, but it was nothing like Ghost in the Shell 2****, which was superb anime, delving into areas usually not dealt with, deep stuff like existence and souls, on beyond Artificial Intelligence. Mostly very cartoon like hero annimation but with beautiful transitions of startling depth and pseudo-reality. Nice.


Only a few ones left from 2010. Soon as I get my strength back up, they'll all be among the alpha pages on top of this page.

Temple Grandin**** is almost a new kind of movie. One that treats autism from the autist's viewpoint. At its best, it is a strongly visual movie that lets us see the world the way Grandin and some other autists do. At its worst — and there's a lot of that — it is as manipulative as Hollywood has learned over the last century. We are prodded like Grandin's cattle through chutes and into pits. We feel joy or panic or triumph, all on cue. But it's still a showstopper of a movie blending all that hokum with visual understanding, much like early CSI sequences, when they actually made sense. And the story is mostly true, although TG is hardly that pretty.

The Merry Gentleman***/ was an unexpected gem. Bitter and sweet, a little scary sometimes, starring Kelly MacDonald with Michael Keaton, who directed. Lilting dark but affecting story about friendship and starting over and telling the truth. Almost a romance. A lot about trust. Protection. And a downward swirl of other topics rendered noir but beautiful, real and human.

Took me several sittings to get all the way through Yellowstone: Battle for Life Episode 1*** — winter, but it's not like there's just one story to follow, and not counting the people behind the cameras and support crews, whom we never see, there's not much humanity in it. Good thing it concentrates on animal life. Superbly filmed, and I recognized several places I've been in the distancing past, even covered with snow. Amazing place. I won't count each as a separate movie, but I will enjoy many more seasons at Yellowstone.

Any time-travel flick anytime. The mechanism (deus ex) for transporting back this time was a rainstorm, an old chimney and a dog named Tess. Set in World War II and contemporary England, it's an interesting bit of history, but more a bit of friendship than romance. Pleasant, wiggly-walls were all the special effects, darned few anomalies, but time travel nonetheless. An Angel for May***.

There must also be dysfunctional family movies set at Christmas and New Years and the Fourth of July, but Thanksgiving takes the prize in so many movies. Pieces of April***/ is only an hour and twenty minutes, but as much as happens, it seems longer, fuller. Lovely really, a little weepy near the end, though nearly nothing of the evil havoc that precedes makes it inevitable. About family and strangers, community and love, even if.

Citizen Architect: Samuel Mockbee and the Spirit of the Rural Studio*** is the long name for a one-hour-short documentary about a school of architecture that designed and built (important) a series of homes and public building for the people of Hale County, Alabama. It is both charming and educational — and inspiring. The houses the students made are beautiful and comparatively inexpensive. Maybe a little too much talking head scenes and never enough images of the buildings and the people who use them.

Before the betrayal, I Am Love***/ is about everything and nothing, family, then slowly we perceive sensuality, subtly at first, like all else that gathers through this movie, till it takes over. Food, flowers, then sex comprise a visual complication of themes building through the first hour. Going nowhere until it is everything, a culmination, a gathering of concepts into the tyrannical complication. Beautiful throughout, often mysterious — did that really happen? we ask ourselves. And deep.

Winter's Bone***/ is a savage little movie about a strong woman — who may only be 17, but she's got grit — and her father, whom we never see, and their extended families, many of whom are in the illegal drug business in the Missouri hills. It's told slow, but deep, and with a lot of emotion, and none of it syrupy or fake. Very real, very gripping. Serious movie that never once got tedious. Fierce.

Startlingly and amazingly intelligent dialog, considering half the leading men (twins played by Edward Norton) generally acts like a hick, and the other is even slower on the uptake till towards the end. Deep and darkly funny in that deadly serious way that makes a shockingly good movie. I am in awe, and I want to watch the whole thing over again before I send it back. Wow! Leaves of Grass**** is a true original, and only has a very little to do with Walt Whitman.

Bela Fleck goes to Africa. Well, it's not called that, but sometimes it's too much like the famous American banjo star goes to Africa to play with their best banjo-like musicians, because that's where banjos came from. Sometimes a banjo can't help playing louder than everybody, but in the best of this trip, Bela blends in. It's a music movie intersected by travel and people and musics. Had me chair dancing often. Only rarely got bored. Set me off buying many of the Africans he played with, with and without Bela. Bela Fleck: Throw Down Your Heart***. I wish some of the best jams and tunes in the film were available online, and it seems wrong that Bela to take solo artist credit for all the creativity on the soundtrack. Should at least list the African musicians for each tune. They are wonderful.

Okay, I finally saw High Plains Drifter***, but I still don't know what all the fuss was about. Stupid story, stupid killing of everybody in sight. A gunslinger saves a town, but why? They're just a bunch of cowards. Style, I guess, if you can call it that.

Made for TV, Something the Lord Made*** has honor, tears and the triumph of human spirit going for it, but it still overlooks most of the difficulties of being Black in mid-20th Century America.

Selkies are mythical creatures who are seals in the water and human on land. A lot of purposeful confusion between the woman Circus nets on a fishing run and the mythical creatures gets swirled and mixed in this dark fantasy Ondine***/ — mixed with spookiness and fear and joy and quirk and love and magic. Possibly the best of all that is the underlying darkness of fear and unease.

The Secret of Kells**** has real soul. Animation so lively and beautiful and visually exquisitely innovative, with hardly a nod to technology. This is an eloquently told tale of youth and age, creation and fear, perceived fact and vivid fantasy, hope and courage. A remarkable film that gets joy and doom and can actually tell them apart. Unlike Dreamworks. And a wicked subtext of Catholicism that's important to the very real plot.

I don't usually review movies I saw on TV, but The Parking Lot Movie***/ about The Corner Parking Lot somewhere in Virginia was so outrageously anarchic, intellectual and anti-intellectual and cleverly funny, I can't help myself. There's this pay parking lot owner who hires over-educated attendants, who live through the taunts and tribulations and mete out parking lot justice and talk about the people who park there and chase them down the street when they refuse to pay. And develop attitudes and ... Well, once again, you gotta see the movie. Maybe KERA-TV will show it again when we least expect it. Meanwhile, Netflix has it, too.

Anna was amazed I'd never seen Badlands****, but I've probably missed a lot of good movies along the way. This one's surreal in several senses. Wonderful, amazing transition scenes including a fabulous fire sequence. Senseless violence. Confounding music. A story unlike any other, except Mickey and Mallory's much later Natural Born Killers, but here the love interest is a very young and confused Sissy Spacek, and our anti-hero is a slightly older but still youthful and searing evil Martin Sheen. Great acting. Strange story. Love. Or something like it. And a lot of death.

Dreamworks got something akin to soul, and in How to Train Your Dragon***/ it shows in higher tech and more human humans and other characters and characteristics. The fur still is not perfectly rendered — Hiccup's Dad's beard is a mess of grime and fluff not hair, but much else is. They've got body language down close to pat, and it plays important though hardly pivotal roles in this high adventure for the sake of high adventure, where subplots get lost in the action. Fun, very pretty, exciting, peace-loving, violent, funny ha-ha and funny human. Basically a Father and a Son flick, but on beyond that. A thoroughly watered down unmessage of peace underlaid with grisly war in this manufactured plot. Very little blood, but lots of violence and occasional nuances of human spirit. Nice. I've watched it twice already and need to one more time again.

Not many movies about artists go this deep. Into the art and into the soul. About a Philadelphian artist who covers the walls of whole neighborhoods with his large, sometimes flat, journals in tile, mosaic, etchings, ink on paper. Odd characters but always true, if not to each other then to life. Married 42 years by the end of this movie. Which has marvelous filmic sequences and searing truths and a lot of the artist talking about himself. And his wife and family. Sometimes fascinating and visually elegant, sometimes not at all. In A Dream***/

It's crawling with early 20th Century chronisms, and I know I've read the novel. I read all of Steinbeck, but I don't remember a lick of this book. The Grapes of Wrath, some. Of Mice and Men, a lot. Both probably helped by big movies of their time and mine. And the Cannery Row series now I want to revisit. But East of Eden***/ still escapes memory. Guess I don't identify with all that brooding James Dean sloshes into this story of father love. Overdramatic from the overlong title sequence all the way through. Almost laughable now.

Believable, if not entirely credible. Not like the book I remember reading in college. I mostly missed it growing through a Pooh-laced past. I saw this movie in 3-D. I was there. What actually I saw, since my eyes don't work together, was slogs of mush that more or less coalesced into great ugly too-many-colored everything-nothings in the same space and mostly identical circumstance, glop. I hated it, because I couldn't see individuals, just slop. This DVD version, in all its un tri-dimensioned glory, was clarity after those fleeting sludgeoid impressions. Good enough story, a little Tim Burton over all the tops, more than a tad quirky Depp depth and plenty Character-Generated animation stripped into live action. Exciting, funny, bad, good, all those and more. Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland***/

It's fiction, or fictionalized faction, but it often carries the look, feel and heft of documentary. Not all, but a lot of what happens, is real, not Hollywood. Hardly ever Hollywood except, well, the acting parts, I suppose. When they kill and butcher a pig, that's real. When they brand cows, that's searingly real. Some other parts, like when they supposedly have their arms up a cow's uterus to pull a breech birth, that's cheap-out obviously faked, until they pull it out, then that looks real. They are a couple living in Montana in the early years of the 20th Century, against the odds of nature, low cattle prices and each other. Rip Torn and Conchata Ferrerel. Much more interesting and engaging than I expected. Heartland***.

The Barbarian Invasions**** is a wonderful movie about life and death, love, men and women and everything in between. It caught me off guard. I wasn't expecting such lovely visuals and deep-felt emotions. It's about an old man who is dying and this son, whom he seems to hate. Then the son, who happens to be a millionaire, comes to say good-bye, gatherers the old man's friends about him, keeps him oddly pain-free and friends-rich till the end. Many telling moments of human realism, a few quirks, a lot of marvelous people and good actors.

Glenn Gould: Hereafter*** is of and pertaining to perfection and what follows. Him talking often, with others, to himself, but more often or at least the best of which is him playing the piano, and almost always subvocalizing along. Informs what he was thinking about. Shows him as the mad genius of the piano.

Some reviews write themselves all during the movie: Title sequence is several kinds of exquisite. Superb. Begins as a proper, almost Japanese anime fantasy. Wondrous characters. Certainly an odd world view. I'd rather they weren't, but here dragons are definitely the bad guys. Ill-manered and mean, in all shapes, colors and compositions, most unlike classical dragons, but all very creative, if not altogether fanciful. Towards the middle, it gets a little full of itself. Although the landscape is always lively, our heroes and heroine do get a little tiresome. There's a few largish laughs and a lot of little ones, usually rooted in visual. Then it picks up again, gets exciting, then stops. Etc. There's a remarkable rhythm going here among all the absurd fantasy, fear and fierceness. Then the big dragon and a big fight, quite colossal and horrific. Then, when then it's all over. Or almost, comes the goofy ending and more exquisite titles. The Dragon Hunters***/

Took long enough for me to get around to putting this one in my Queue, then longer to let it up to the top. Just never really wanted to watch it, but eventually I did. Basically, it's a character development plot. Our main character trudges around in some deep shit a long time, then with some help, figures out who she is, and what she can do about it. Not a really great movie, but a good enough one to win some awards. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire***/, which ungainly title appears to be somebody's way of thanking the writer for these characters and this story. I'd thank them, too, but I'm on my way to see the next flick.

Just a couple minutes into Ken Burns' America: Thomas Hart Benton**, I had to stop it. At the time, all that panning and zooming into Benton's paintings must have seemed the height of filmic expression, but it drives me nuts. I wanted to see his paintings and would settle for the low res TV version of his colors, but all that camera and frame movement was too much for my stomach, and however that connects to my brain. Unmittigated visual crap.

Without a Netflix, I would never have discovered The Secret in Their Eyes***/, an exquisite Argentinean story of a crime and punishment, governmental stupidity, love (of course) and justice. It's an exquisitely filmed movie. Acting, story, script, all superb. I wish it'd been dubbed in English, so I could have watched the movie more. That's the star here. The transitional scenes are lush and beautiful. Argentinean by Director Juan Jose Campanella.

Much is made of the fact that this filmmaker, Lucy Jarvis, was allowed into the Louvre with television cameras, but not much was revealed of its inner life. Its art and history are of great interest, and the paintings are always fascinating, but in this low resolution videotaping, we see these works in even lower resolution than we saw them in books and reproduction — vague phantasms of the real art, nor is much of the building and its operation or expansion or care mentioned, let alone shown to this TV show's intended mass audience. The Louvre*** was good enough for 1978. Is there an update?

Orson Welles & Me*** Is a way to tell the story of Orson Welles without getting lost in Orson Welles, whose part is important, maybe even pivotal, but he's not the star here, and that alone makes it worthwhile. Odd little romance that doesn't work out, interesting characters on stage and back. Good enough without being boffo.

Let the Right One In***/ is slow, spooky and gruesome. About a little girl who is a vampire and her friend, a boy who is not. It is about torment, and standing up for oneself and decency among the unlawless. Bullies play an important part in this quiet thriller. All these things different from however you've seen them in other movies. Deep, dark and frightening.

No Life


I've been watching TV shows on and via Netflix and being alternately fascinated by their intelligence and appalled by their stupidity. The Brit crime series, Wire in the Blood***, about a psychiatrist working with the police to solve heinous crimes, is fascinating, though dark. Burn Notice**, exciting at first, has become tedious — there's story and interesting characters aplenty, but it's painfully bereft of plot or character development. And I've caught up with the last season of Dexter***/ and still find his story delicious, intelligent and wicked funny.

I been diggin' Instant Viewing flicks on Netflix. Never tried it before, because I thought I had to have some expensive Blu-Ray player, but it works on my elderly Mac just fine. Not everything's available, but plenty.

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