Harley Quinn Adventures You May Have Missed

Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn comes out on February 7.  I, for one, cannot wait to see Margo Robbie return as the clown princess of crime.  I’ve loved the character Harley Quinn since I first saw the episode “Mad Love” on Batman: The Animated Series.  If you’re a Harley fan too, you may want to check out some of her other cinematic adventures.

Note: The following are all animated feature films. Watch them anyway.

Where’s Waldo,er, Harley?

The Lego Batman Movie 

Harley (voiced by Jenny Slate) has a sizeable role in this spin-off from The Lego Movie.  She helps the Joker as he tries to exact revenge on Batman for hurting his feelings.  In this movie, Harley sports red and black pigtails, like she does in the early days of her solo comic book series.  This movie is rated PG for rude humor and some action.  It is appropriate for kids. We’ve reviewed it positively here. Good stuff.

 

Batman: Assault on Arkham

Harley (voiced by Hynden Walch) and Deadshot are recruited as part of The Suicide Squad to break into Arkham and retrieve a microchip from the Riddler’s cane that has all the past, present, and potential members of the squad on it.  Harley gets distracted from her mission by the Joker and they have something more than a lover’s quarrel.  This is a good appetizer before seeing Birds of Prey as it shows the bad blood between Harley and Joker.  Harley’s look alternates between her harlequin outfit with a bare midriff, to a plain clothes Harleen Quinzel with blonde pigtails-style.  This movie is rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, and language.

Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay

This R-rated, straight-to-video release has the rough and gritty feel of a ’70s revenge drama.  This one is not for the kiddos, with its violence and adult themes.  Harley (voiced by Tara Strong) makes for good comic relief amid the action sequences.  Like Assault on Arkham, this movie features a different set of Suicide Squad team members than the live action film, but it does reunite Harley with Deadshot.  Amanda Waller is dying and sends the team to retrieve a literal “Get out of Hell free” card.  Harley’s look in this film is more original, less inspired by the comics.  She has her classic harlequin outfit and white makeup, but no hood.  She has large blonde pigtails and her signature mallet.

Batman and Harley Quinn

For the true Harley Quinn fan, this one is pure frosting.  How much more Harley can you get?  To quote Spinal Tap, “None more.”

Bruce Timm wrote and produced this feature, so it has the look and feel of an old Batman: The Animated Series episode.  Except this one’s PG-13 for language, violence, and sexual content.  Batman and Nightwing are forced to team up with Harley (voiced by Melissa Rauch) to find Poison Ivy, and stop her from turning Earth’s population into plant people.  It’s a lot of fun to watch Batman stuck with one of his most annoying enemies, kind of like a Gotham version of Midnight Run.  Despite her second billing in the title, Harley pretty much drives the bus, er, Batmobile in this one.   She sports the classic look from the ’90s cartoon series.

If you love Harley Quinn, this is just the tip of the iceberg.  She appears in some other films as well.  But she also stars in graphic novels, video games, and TV shows.  She’s a very busy woman.  Her Wikipedia page and your local comic book store can point you in the right direction.

Is Harley Quinn in Birds of Prey a Sequel, Soft Reboot, or a Standalone Movie?

 

Newbie Movie Review – Suicide Squad (2016)

Movie Review – Suicide Squad

Movie Review – The LEGO Batman Movie – One of the BEST Batman films, ever

 

 

Golden Man’s Top 10 Films of 2019

2019 was an eclectic year for movies and one I’m kind of sad to leave behind.  This year, the studios threw everything they had at the screen, from biopics to horror films, from dark comedies to three hour epics.  I know I had a good time at the movies this year because it was really damn hard to cut my list off at ten.  And it was hard to rank the ten I chose.  So before I change my mind again, here are my top ten films of 2019.

10. Brittany Runs a Marathon

Jillian Bell has been a supporting player in comedies like 22 Jump Street for a long time.  This year, she starred in her own feature and she knocked it out of the park.  Every summer, I hope for an indie comedy that’s as good as Little Miss Sunshine.  This year, it was Brittany.  Bell makes you fall in love with her character.  It was hard choosing between this movie and The Peanut Butter Falcon as my number ten.  I ultimately had to go with the movie that made me tear up.  It’s funny, it’s inspiring, and it’s been on my mind since August.  Jillian Bell did not get an Oscar nomination for this movie, but I hope she does one day.

9. Joker

One of my all time favorite actors playing one of my all time favorite villains?  Yes, please!  Joaquin Phoenix brought a dark new interpretation to the Joker in this character study, casting him as a tragic figure.  Director Todd Phillips redefined what a comic book movie can be.

8. Rocketman

This Elton John biopic features a terrific cast.  It’s a shame Jamie Bell and Bryce Dallas Howard aren’t receiving more attention for their roles as John’s songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, and emotionally abusive mother, respectively.  Taron Egerton transforms into Elton John in a way I couldn’t have imagined any living actor capable of.  And he does his own singing.  Instead of running through the soundtrack like a greatest hits jukebox, the songs are used artfully and in unexpected ways throughout the film.  The music is used to service the story, rather than as fan service.  The script is excellent.  As my girlfriend pointed out, John’s costume comes apart as he becomes more vulnerable.  It’s always great to have some LGBTQ representation on-screen and this was probably the most positive and most visible example this year.

7. The Irishman

Dare I say it?  This might be my favorite Scorsese film.  It’s definitely a masterpiece.  Watching Pacino and DeNiro together is a treat, two of the greats finally starring together in a movie where they share more than one scene.  Somehow Joe Pesci walks away with the entire film.  The three hour plus running time passes quickly.  I’ve already read the synopsis for Scorsese’s next film and I’m excited for it.  But this, this was something special.

6. Ford v Ferrari

This was the sleeping dragon this year.  Before I could see it, I kept hearing couples gossiping about how good it was, while waiting for other movies to start.  When I finally took my girlfriend to see it, we were both surprised at how right they were.  This movie has a lot more humor and heart than I would have suspected.  I’m not a car guy at all, so I never thought this would end up in my top ten.  Matt Damon and Christian Bale have great chemistry.  The final race is a real nail biter.  I found myself a lot more emotionally invested in this story than I expected.  It’s a fun, thrilling, worthwhile ride.

5. Jojo Rabbit

The ending feels too sudden.  And Rebel Wilson feels wasted.  But everything else works nearly perfectly in this dark comedy.  I find myself rooting for it more and more as awards season goes on.  Director Taika Waititi tells the story of a Hitler youth whose mother is secretly protecting a Jewish girl, and he manages to make it funny.  Scarlett Johansson’s work in Marriage Story has overshadowed her role in this film, but she really shines as Jojo’s mother.  Sam Rockwell gives one of the funniest, most outrageous supporting performances of the year.  Young star Roman Griffin Davis nails a difficult role without being overly cute.  And Waititi is hilarious as a child’s ideal of Hitler.  This is a movie that, on paper, should not work at all.  But Waititi is a genius.  I shall never doubt him again.

4. Avengers: Endgame

I waited for this movie with bated breath and I was very pleased with what I got.  The Russo brothers managed to bring an eleven-year saga to a satisfying conclusion with suspense, action, laughter, and tears.  I wish Rise of Skywalker had felt as satisfying.

3. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Kindness and compassion are rarely the stars in a Hollywood movie.  So it was refreshing to see a film that speaks to our humanity and our basic human decency.  I love the way the movie is structured like an episode of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood for adults.  Tom Hanks embodies the gentle spirit of Fred Rogers beautifully, treating every character on screen with dignity.  This is one of those rare films that makes you want to be a better person.

 

2. Us

Every year, there’s a movie I become obsessed with.  I have to see it at least twice to make peace with it and fully understand it.  This year, it was Us.  Jordan Peele’s sophomore effort dazzles every bit as much as Get Out.  Lupita Nyong’o is stunning in a double role.  The film has layers of meaning and symbolism you can dissect for days.  I’m so bummed this got shut out at the Oscars.  It’s a work of genius.

 

1. Parasite 

My number one took me by surprise.  I was not a fan of Bong Joon-ho’s previous film, Snowpiercer.  However, Parasite is a masterpiece.  This story about two families separated by class affected me more than anything else I saw this year.  The ending stayed with me longer than any other film and still makes me feel emotional right now.  The humor, the suspense, the plot twists, the characters, it’s all masterfully done.  And the cast is excellent.  I see something of my own father in the film, so the story is cathartic for me.  If you still haven’t seen this one, seek it out.

Honorable mentions:  The Peanut Butter Falcon, Toy Story 4, Booksmart, Dolemite Is My Name, 1917.

RunPee Jilly’s Top Ten Movies of 2019

Dan’s top 10 favorite movies from 2019

2019 Peeple’s Poll Movies – Year in Review

Unfaithful Horror Movie Adaptations

Horror movie The Turning opens January 24.  Aware moviegoers may notice the connection to the Henry James novel The Turn of the Screw.  However, aside from a basic premise (a nanny is terrorized by her two charges), the film has little to do with the book it’s based on.  This often happens in Hollywood.  Here’s a look at some other horror movie adaptations that strayed from their source material.


“Watch Avengers: Endgame over and over?”

I Know What You Did Last Summer

In the 1973 novel, four teenagers accidentally run over and kill someone after a party.  They decide to keep it a secret.  This premise is the only similarity between the book and the movie  The young adult suspense novel is rather tame compared to the gorier film.  While everyone survives in the book, there’s a much higher body count in the movie.  The teens eventually confess at the end of the book.  However, in the movie they remain mum, setting up future sequels.  Kevin Williamson definitely did audiences a favor by spicing up Lois Duncan’s book.

Sleepy Hollow

In Tim Burton’s re-imagining of the classic Washington Irving short story, Ichabod Crane is no longer a school teacher but a police constable.  He’s been sent to investigate a series of murders.  Brom is still a bully but less of a threat than in the original story.  Ichabod has flashbacks of his strict Protestant father who tortured his mother.  The movie adds elements of witchcraft and satanism, with the Headless Horseman being controlled by another character.  And this time, Ichabod gets the girl in the end.  While the film is completely unfaithful to Irving’s ancient tale, I much prefer it.  I’ve had to sit through countless plays, puppet shows, and retellings of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”  It was time someone like Tim Burton injected new life (or should I say death?) into it.

Not to be confused with The Lady in Red.

The Woman in Black

In the novel, Kipps loses his wife and his child as a result of being haunted by the title spectre.  In the movie, Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is already a widower when he comes to Eeel Marsh House.  The movie keeps the premise that seeing The Woman in Black foretells the death of a child but pushes it into more horrifying territory.  The book is about Kipps uncovering the truth about the ghost.  The movie is about Kipps and the village being terrorized by the ghost and Kipps trying to break the curse to save his son.  The movie uses the book’s premise as a jumping off point to go to even scarier places.

The Island of Dr. Moreau

The H.G. Wells novel is about a shipwrecked man who winds up on the island of a mad scientist and his human-animal hybrids.  There’s a great 1932 adaptation called Island of Lost Souls starring Bela Lugosi and Charles Laughton.  Then there’s the cult classic from 1996 starring Marlon Brando as said mad scientist.  And man, is it strange!

For starters, Dr. Moreau has a mini-me that accompanies him everywhere.  He’s dressed all in white with his face painted white as well (or else completely slathered in sunscreen).  The creatures call him Father.  He uses a remote control to send pain signals to implants under the creatures’ skin.  The movie also invents a cat-like daughter for Moreau played by Fairuza Balk.  In both the movie and the book, the main character eventually escapes from the island.  In the movie, the creatures choose to regress back to their natural state rather than be “cured.”  I’m not sure that a dogged faithfulness to the original text would have saved this movie.  (It bombed at the box office.)  It may have resulted in an even less interesting film.  All I can say is that this is one of the craziest movies to come out of the ’90s.  For more about the troubled production, you can check out the documentary Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau.

Sometimes straying from the original is a good thing.  Sometimes not.  What horror adaptations do you think Hollywood got right or wrong?  I can think of at least one author I could write a whole other post about.  Can you guess who it is?

The Trouble With Doctor Dolittle

DoLittle

Dolittle is Robert Downey Jr.’s first movie to be released after his triumphant turn as Iron Man in Avengers: Endgame.  (C’mon, Academy.  Don’t let me down.  Nominate him!)  Unfortunately, the trailer looks less than stellar.  In fact, Hollywood doesn’t have the best record when it comes to adaptations of Hugh Lofting’s children’s book character who talks to animals.  So let’s take a deeper look at the trouble with Doctor Dolittle.

Doctor Dolittle (1967)

Rex Harrison starred in this musical movie adaptation.  The production suffered numerous setbacks and difficulties especially because of the large numbers of animals required for the film.  The movie went over budget.  It received mixed to negative reviews.  It bombed at the box office.  Yet due to intense lobbying by the studio, the movie received a Best Picture nomination.  One it does not deserve.  While I’ve never seen the movie, the general consensus from those who have is that it’s a long slog at two and a half hours.  It certainly doesn’t belong in a class with Best Picture winner In the Heat of the Night and fellow nominees Bonnie and Clyde, The Graduate, and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.

Dr. Dolittle (1998)

Eddie Murphy starred as Dolittle in this genuinely funny adaptation.  Along with The Nutty Professor and Mulan, this movie is part of his amazing ’90s comeback.  Critics gave the movie mixed reviews but it was a box office success.  Featuring celebrity voices such as Norm McDonald, Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, Jenna Elfman, and Gilbert Gottfried as the animals, the movie was a fun summer romp.

Dr. Dolittle 2 (2001)

This one’s un-bear-able.

Eddie Murphy returned for this less funny, less entertaining sequel.  Dolittle tries to help a bear (voiced by Steve Zahn) mate.  Again, the movie received mixed reviews but was a box office hit.

Dolittle Sequels

Kyla Pratt, who plays Murphy’s daughter in the first two films, took over the lead role in three direct-to-video sequels.  I honestly didn’t know they made any more after Dr. Dolittle 3.  With titles like Dr. Dolittle: Tail to the Chief and Million Dollar Mutts, you can probably guess at the quality and target audience of these movies.

Dolittle (2020)

There have been many rumors of a troubled production with the latest adaptation.  Reportedly, tensions became strained between director Stephen Gaghan and Robert Downey Jr. to the point that Downey would only respond to him with monkey noises.  According to a now deleted Reddit post by someone claiming to have worked on the set, the filmmakers began filming scenes before they had planned where the animals would be standing.  According to this same source, Gaghan also wanted to fire the pre-visual animation department and just sort of wing it on the day of shooting.   None of this bodes well for the new film.  Hollywood loves breathing new life into old properties but maybe it’s time to finally close the book on Doctor Dolittle.

From Eddie Murphy to Robert Downey Jr., don’t miss your favorite star’s best movie moments!

Movie review : Zookeeper

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A History of The Grudge – from Japan to America (and every remake in the franchise)

The Grudge hits theaters January 3.  It’s been fourteen years since the 2004 American remake, also titled The Grudge, starring Sarah Michelle Gellar.  This horror franchise has had a long history in Japan and America.  So here’s a deep dive into the story of The Grudge.

Origin of the Series

Director Takashi Shimizu said the inspiration for the film Ju-On came from Childhood Fears, a dance troupe that would paint their nude bodies white and perform, and an increase of domestic violence cases during production of his previous films.  The title roughly translates to “Curse Grudge.”

The movies in the series generally revolve around a curse created by a murder.  In the world of the films, when a person dies with a powerful rage, a curse is born.  The curse gathers where the person died or at the place they frequented, and it repeats itself there.  The dead haunt the location and may kill anyone who encounters the curse (say, by entering a cursed house or being in contact with someone who was already cursed).  The curse’s main manifestation is death.  The deaths may create more curses and spread them to other locations.

The first two films in the series (Ju-on: The Curse and Ju_On: The Curse 2) were direct-to-video releases that became surprise hits.  Both films were shot in just nine days.

Ju-On: The Curse

The first movie is a non-linear episodic film divided into six parts, which follows the tenants of a cursed house where a man murdered his wife and  child in a jealous rage.  Most of the films in the series follow this non-linear format of storytelling.

Ju-On: The Curse 2

Half of this film is a retelling of the first movie.  But it introduces some new information on the events of that film and a few new characters.  It also sets up some plot points that play into the later theatrical timeline.

Ju-On: The Grudge

Ju-On: The Grudge is probably the most famous of the original Japanese Ju-On horror films, because it’s the movie that the 2004 American remake The Grudge is based on.  (Even though it’s actually the third movie in the series.)  Ring screenwriter Hiroshi Takahashi helped Shimizu develop this sequel for theatrical release.  Whoever enters the murder house is consumed by the curse, which spreads to the place they die in, and in turn consumes anyone who comes in.  A social worker is sent to care for an ill old lady living in the house and faints at what she finds.  The police are called and soon they start investigating the history of the house, and consult a retired detective who is wary of revisiting the case.

Ju-On: The Grudge 2

The director of a popular TV horror show casts a scream queen as a special guest star in an episode set in the murder house.  The curse begins to affect everyone involved with filming, including the actress herself.

The Grudge (2004)

Shimizu got to remake Ju-On: The Grudge with an English-speaking cast.   It was a box office success.

In this version, Sarah Michelle Gellar (star of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer) plays a second care worker sent to the murder house when the old lady’s first care worker disappears.  She is then terrorized by the curse.

The Grudge 2 (2006)

Shimizu returned to direct the American sequel.  Instead of a remake, this time the movie used a new storyline continuing from the last film.  The three subplots include: Gellar’s younger sister coming to Japan after finding out about her boyfriend’s death, a schoolgirl being hunted by the ghosts after entering the house, and a boy whose apartment building is haunted by the ghosts.

The Grudge 3 (2009)

This was a DVD release, with Toby Wilkins directing and Shimizu executive producing.  The living sister of one of the ghosts tries to break the curse by holding an exorcism.

Ju-On: White Ghost

This 2009 movie is one of two films produced in honor of the tenth anniversary of the Ju-On series.  It was written and directed by Ryuta Miyake.  A boy is possessed by a spirit from a mirror and murders his family, and then himself, creating a new curse.

Ju-On: Black Ghost

This is the second film produced to honor Ju-On‘s tenth anniversary.  It was written and directed by Mari Asato.  A cyst found in a young girl’s body turns out to be the remnant of her unborn twin (who then tries to posses her).

Ju-on: The Beginning of the End

This is a reboot of the series that returns to the original family/murder house.    It was directed and co-written by Masayuki Ochiai.  Subplots include a group of high school students who visit the house for kicks, and a school teacher who comes to the house out of  concern when one of her students is absent for a week.

Ju-On: The Final Curse

This movie follows the continuity of the last film and was directed and co-written by Masayuki Ochiai.  A young boy who lost his parents moves in with his aunt and cousin where hauntings begin.  A woman named Mai, who sees visions of her dead sister, tries to end the curse once and for all.

Sadako vs. Kayako

This movie is a crossover of the Ring and Ju-On series.  It was originally teased as an April Fools joke.

When two college girls watch the cursed video tape (from the Ring) and only have two days to live, they pit evil spirit Sadako against the ghost Kayako (from the murder house) in a bid to save themselves.  If the two vengeful spirits destroy each other, the girls will be free.

The Grudge (2020)

The latest American entry in the series takes place at the same time as the 2004 version.  Fans familiar with the series will catch references to other films, but new viewers will be able to enjoy the movie without getting lost.  Director Nicolas Pesce said the movie is closer to the original Japanese films.  He made an effort to shoot it in a claustrophobic style.

5 Reasons Kylo Ren Is a Good Villain

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker opens soon.  The wait is finally over. The Skywalker family will wrap up with this end to the storyline (though not the series).  And audiences will get to take one last adventure with Rey, Leia, Lando, Chewie, Finn, Poe, C-3PO, and R2D2.

It also means another visit from the dark side’s Kylo Ren.  A lot of fans have issues with this newer character.  I, for one, though, am a fan.  So I present to you my defense with this list of reasons why Kylo Ren makes a good villain.  (Note:  This post contains SPOILERS for The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.)

1.  Adam Driver is a talented actor.

The filmmakers didn’t choose an unknown actor to portray Kylo Ren.  They hired one of the best  young character actors working in Hollywood.  He’s worked with everyone from Noah Baumbach to Spike Lee to Martin Scorsese.  You may not agree with all of his acting choices, but he knows what he’s doing.  The man is an Oscar-nominated actor.

2. Kylo is human.

Kylo’s vulnerability makes him an interesting villain.  His emotions and his anger make  him more relatable than an indestructible killing machine like Darth Maul or Boba Fett.  When he tells his father, Han Solo, that he’s torn apart, you can feel it.  Being a young, passionate villain who is still in training also makes Kylo a perfect foil for Rey.

3. Kylo is a tragic figure.

My high school English teacher defined a tragedy as a story about the fall of a good man.  Kylo starts out as one of Luke’s students and ends up killing his own father in cold blood.  It’s like something out of Shakespeare or an ancient Greek drama.  The person Kylo worships, Darth Vader, is also a tragic figure.  Vader was also a young boy who trained to be a Jedi only to turn to the dark side, unable to overcome his own fear and anger.  Kylo’s fall from grace makes him that much more evil and that much more compelling.

4. Kylo isn’t Darth Vader. 

J.J. Abrams could have just given audiences the second coming of Vader, but where would be the fun in that?  The whole point of Kylo is that he’s not Vader, that he idolizes Vader but falls short of becoming him.  Kylo’s lightsaber is a perfect symbol of that.  It’s a jury-rigged device, a home-made contraption that sometimes seems slightly on the fritz.  Like Kylo, it’s unstable and dangerous because of that.  (And, because, you know, it has three blades and stuff.)  Because he’s his own person, Kylo is able to make choices and even mistakes that surprise us.

5. Kylo is conflicted.

The main plot of Force Awakens is about finding Luke Skywalker.  However, the subplot is about the battle for Kylo Ren’s soul.  Despite the evil inside him (he has a whole village slaughtered at the start of the film), Kylo does not completely belong to the dark side.  Leia senses good in him.  Snoke warns him against being seduced by the light side.  Kylo himself feels the pull towards the light, praying to Darth Vader’s mask to show him the power of the dark side.  When Han tries to convince him to abandon the dark side, Kylo genuinely seems to consider it.

Kylo’s relationship with Rey is also complicated.  He doesn’t merely want to destroy her.  During their lightsaber battle at the end of Force Awakens, he tells her she needs a teacher and offers to show her the ways of the Force.  In The Last Jedi, he briefly joins forces with her to kill Snoke.  Then he offers her the chance to rule the universe with him.  A shot in the final trailer for Rise of Skywalker hints that they work together again at some point in the storyline, and there might even be some redemption for Kylo,like there was for Vader.  Kylo’s internal struggle is more interesting to watch than a bad guy like Jabba, whose nature never changes.

____

Movie analysis – Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

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Movie Review – The Irishman

Martin Scorsese worked on The Irishman for twelve years.  The budget for the film kept increasing until no studio would touch it except Netflix.  Scorsese’s last film, Silence, was critically acclaimed but a box office failure.  And it got snubbed at the Oscars.  So the question hanging over The Irishman is, “Is it any good?”

I was lucky enough to see the movie on the big screen during its limited theatrical release.  It is one of Scorsese’s most compelling and watchable films.  Even though the movie has a daunting running time at three and a half hours, it seems to pass quickly.  I watched it at seven PM on a Friday night after a long day at work, and had concerns about being able to stay awake, pay attention, and follow the plot.  But I had no problem.

The movie tells the story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran and his life of crime.  Crime boss Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) takes him under his wing early on and watches out for him.  Eventually, he assigns Sheeran to protect union leader Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

The characters and the story draw you in.  As Sheeran becomes pulled farther and farther into the criminal underground, so do we the audience become pulled into the story.  DeNiro and Pacino are both at the top of their game.  It’s great to see them working together for the first time in an A-list film since Heat.  However, it’s Pesci who walks away with the movie and possibly with the Oscar.  There’s a certain dignity to his portrayal of Bufalino.  He’s the quiet anchor of the film: a complete 180 from his role in Goodfellas.  And a perfect bookend to his career.

The movie has a few surprising moments of comedy.  Both of them are scenes involving Pacino and DeNiro, and are among my favorites of the year.  One comes late in the film during the third act, to relieve tension before the final battle.

The de-aging technology doesn’t look completely natural.  It occasionally makes the actors look like video game characters.  However, if you can get past that, there are some great performances in the film.

The movie is based on a non-fiction book titled I Heard You Paint Houses.  However, Sheerhan’s confessions have been contested.  We will never know the truth about most of the incidents depicted in the film.  However, it makes for an entertaining story and a cautionary tale.  This is among Scorsese’s best.

Grade: A 

The credits run for 9 minutes and there is nothing extra during or after the credits.

Top 5 Whodunnits in Film

After months of positive buzz, Rian Johnson’s mystery Knives Out is finally being released.  It features an all-star cast with Daniel Craig playing the detective, and Michael Shannon, Chris Evans, and Jamie Lee Curtis among the suspects.  In case this new release whets your appetite for a good mystery, here’s my list of top five whodunnits.

1. Murder on the Orient Express (1974) 

This list would not be complete without a good Agatha Christie adaptation.  I wanted to to include one of the versions of Ten Little Indians/And Then There Were None but I’ve

Poirot explains it all.

never seen any of them.  I can highly recommend the novel, however.  Back to The Orient Express:  Detective Hercule Poirot is one of Albert Finney’s best roles.  And this is one of Christie’s greatest puzzles.  When a murder is committed aboard a train, a famous detective has until the train reaches its destination to solve the impossible mystery.  It’s such an irresistible story; it’s been adapted countless times, including as an American TV movie, starring Alfred Molina.  Most recently, Kenneth Branagh directed a 2017 adaptation, starring himself as Poirot.  It’s a quality production with some great performances, and it spawned an upcoming sequel I’m looking forward to.  If you’ve managed to never have this mystery spoiled for you, please seek it out at once.

2. Gosford Park 

Stephen Fry on the case.

In Robert Altman’s 2001 film, a murder occurs after a dinner party at a wealthy British estate.  Like most of Altman’s films, there is a huge ensemble cast.  The investigation is shown from both the guests’ and the servants’ perspectives.  The delightful comedian Stephen Fry plays the detective.  Julian Fellowes wrote the script.  He later created the TV show Downton Abbey, which was inspired by the film, and at one point was meant to be a sequel to it.  The movie received seven Oscar nominations.

3. Brick

Rian Johnson’s own debut film is a neo-noir, set in a high school.  After receiving a frantic phone call begging for help from his ex-girlfriend, and then finding her dead body soon afterwards, a teenage loner vows to solve her murder.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays the detective this time, in one of my favorite performances of his.  This film has a twisty plot and hip dialogue full of invented slang.  The podcast Filmspotting named their annual Golden Brick award for Best Film by a new voice after this movie.

4. Clue

Was it Col. Mustard in the library with the lead pipe?

Yes, Clue is based on the board game.  I watched this movie endlessly throughout my childhood on Showtime.  Six strangers are invited to a mansion for dinner.  When the host is killed, they have to work together to solve the murder.  Tim Curry is brilliant as the butler.  There’s a lot of fun humor in this one.  How can you resist a comic mystery, with a cast that includes Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, Susan Sarandon, Michael McKean, and Martin Mull?  One of my favorite things about this movie is that it has three endings.  When the movie was released theatrically, what part of the country you lived in/watched it in determined which ending you saw.

5. The Thin Man

If you’ve never seen The Thin Man series, you’re in for a treat.  William Powell and Myrna Loy trade barbs and imbibe alcohol as retired detective Nick Charles and his wife Norah.  They are accompanied by their faithful pooch Asta.  These comic mysteries are a joy.  The chemistry between Powell and Loy is amazing.  They made several other pictures together.  The Thin Man movies always end with an old school round-up of the suspects, where they build up the suspense before finally revealing who the killer is.

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Frozen Adventures You May Have Missed

Disney has finally given in to the demands of countless children, and made a sequel to their hit film Frozen.  I already have my tickets and will be seeing it opening weekend with my girlfriend, the world’s biggest Olaf fan.  (No, seriously.  I can’t sleep at night anymore because of all the stuffed snowmen staring at me.)  In-between the two films, Anna, Elsa, and Olaf had a few adventures you may not know about.

So, in case you’re a completist like me, here’s three Frozen adventures you might want to see.

Frozen Fever

This seven minute short debuted in theaters in front of Disney’s live-action Cinderella in 2015.  Elsa tries to give Anna a surprise birthday party.  However, Elsa has caught a cold, and with every sneeze she produces a bunch of “Snowgies” — adorable snowball-like creatures — who begin dismantling the decorations.  The cartoon features a catchy new song: “Making Today a Perfect Day.”

Frozen Fever can be found here:

  • Available for purchase on most major streaming sites like Amazon and iTunes.
  • Available as an extra on the Cinderella Blu-ray and DVD.
  • Available as part of the Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection on DVD/Blu-ray combo pack or streaming.  (There’s also a funny Tangled short in that collection.)

Lego Frozen Northern Lights

Frozen gets the Lego treatment in this four-episode TV miniseries.  Elsa and Anna journey to find the Northern Lights, which are invisible from their home of Arendelle.

  • This appears to be available for free on YouTube, with each of the four episodes running about 6 minutes.

Olaf’s Frozen Adventure

This twenty-one minute cartoon debuted in theaters in front of Pixar’s Coco.

Unfortunately, many audience members didn’t come prepared to see Olaf, and didn’t like waiting nearly half an hour for their Coco feature to start.

The cartoon was eventually moved to play after the feature, and then removed completely and made available on streaming sites.

During the first Christmas since the gates reopened, Olaf tries to help Elsa and Anna start some new holiday traditions, by finding out how the residents of Arendelle celebrate.

  • This is available on Blu-ray, DVD, or from major streaming sites like Amazon and iTunes.  It comes with six classic Disney winter/holiday-themed shorts.

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Movie Review – Frozen 2

The 5 Best and Worst Films of Tom Hanks

A Beautiful Day in the NeighbourhoodThere’s something so satisfying about the idea of Tom Hanks playing children’s TV show host Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.  Who can resist one of America’s favorite actors playing one of America’s most beloved TV icons?  And I know Mr. Rogers was beloved because every time the preview for Won’t You Be My Neighbor played at the local art house theater last year, it got applause.  In honor of Hanks’ latest performance and a possible sixth Oscar nomination, here’s a look back at some of his best and worst films.

Tom Hanks 5 Best Movies

Tom Hanks has such a plethora of great films, it was hard to whittle it down to just five.  His IMDb page is an embarrassment of riches.  I encourage you to explore his filmography.

1. Philadelphia

PhiladelphiaTom Hanks won Best Actor for his role as a man with HIV suing his law firm for wrongful dismissal.  Antonio Banderas plays his partner.  Denzel Washington plays his attorney in a powerful performance.  Hanks gave a memorable acceptance speech, thanking his gay high school drama teacher.  The movie was groundbreaking at the time for not only having a gay main character but casting an A-list actor in the role.  It was also one of the first mainstream films to take on the topic of HIV.

2. Forrest Gump

One year later, Hanks won his second Oscar for playing the dim but big-hearted title character who was always at the right place at the right time throughout the twentieth century.  He is one of the few actors to win back-to-back Oscars.  (Others include: Luise Rainer, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Jason Robards.)  Forrest’s famous quote from this movie is, “Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re going to get.”  This is probably the movie Tom Hanks is most famous for.  The film spawned a popular soundtrack and even a chain of restaurants named Bubba Gump’s.

3. The Green  Mile

The Green  MileEveryone knows The Shawshank Redemption.  This is director Frank Darabont’s other Stephen King adapted prison movie.  Hanks plays a compassionate death row corrections officer in this Best Picture nominee.  He and the other guards face a moral dilemma when accused child murderer John Coffey (Michael Clarke Duncan) displays extraordinary supernatural gifts.  This is one of my favorite movies of the ’90s.  The entire cast is amazing.  It features one of Sam Rockwell’s great early performances.  I think about Tom Hanks and Graham Greene’s discussion about the afterlife all the time.

4. Big

Hanks got his first Oscar nomination for this performance.  His character is a boy who makes a wish to be big and wakes up in the body of a grown man.  (A little bit like Shazam.)  Hanks’s performance as a man-child is endearing, as he takes on the joys and burdens of adulthood.  The film features a famous scene where he and his boss play “Chopsticks” by dancing on a giant toy piano.  Hanks started out doing comedies in the ’80s.  This is a great place to start if you’ve never seen anything from his early career.

5. Cast Away

Cast AwayHanks got his fifth Oscar nomination for this Robert Zemeckis film.  When his plane crashes over the Pacific Ocean during a storm, Hanks is the only survivor.  He makes it ashore to a deserted island where he must learn how to survive on his own.  The description may not grab you, but I assure you the movie will.  I have watched people get sucked into this film while watching it on display televisions in stores.  Somehow Zemeckis manages to weave a spell over you.  And he does it with a movie that has hardly any dialogue.

Tom Hanks’ 5 Worst Movies

Every actor has their share of missteps and Hanks has some doozies.

1. The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Bonfire of the Vanities

What do you get when  you put Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, and Melanie Griffith in an adaptation of a Tom Wolfe novel?  Pure dreck.  This is generally considered one of the worst movies of the ’90s.  Hanks is miscast as an unlikable character.  The power of Wolfe’s writing is lost in its transition to the screen.

2. Punchline

PunchlineWho wants to watch a movie about stand-up comedians that isn’t funny?  Hanks plays a young comic who helps a housewife (Sally Fields) develop her stage act.  I tried to watch this movie several times in the ’80s and could never get through it.  I was used to seeing Tom Hanks kiss mermaids and solve crimes with dogs.  Nothing nearly as exciting happens in this movie.  The punchline is there are no jokes in this film.

3. The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci CodeOne of the best-selling novels of  all-time, one of the most protested movies ever is also…a total snooze fest.  Not even Hanks’ charm or a controversial plot twist can save this so-so thriller.  Things pick up a little when Ian McKellen finally shows up.

4. The Ladykillers

The LadykillersThis is one of the Coen Brothers’ worst films.  Hanks plays an eccentric Southern professor whose gang is posing as musicians in order to rob a casino.  They practice in the basement of his landlady’s home.  I’ve already forgotten most of this forgettable film.  But I’m still haunted by Hanks’ odd performance.

5. Cloud Atlas

Cloud AtlasWhat can I say about Cloud Atlas?  As a friend of mine likes to say, it’s a lot of what it is.  Nearly three hours to be exact.  It’s a movie I want to like.  But I’m not sure I want to put in the mental work and repeated viewings required to do so.  The Matrix, it’s not.  The movie deals with reincarnation and how our actions ripple through time to affect others.  Hanks, Halle Berry, and others play multiple characters across multiple storylines.  It requires a lot of concentration to keep up with everything.  And that’s before the post-apocalyptic people start talking like five-year-olds (“Tell me the true true.”)

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