Movie reviews are given in chronological order, beginning with most recent.


ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS:  Although director James Bobin pulls all the stops out in this sequel to Time Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" film and while it is visually superb, it is almost overwhelming at times with so much to take in.   That being said, it is a joy to behold most of the time but rather confusing in the plot department.  Mia Wasakowska returns as Alice along with Johnny Depp (The Mad Hatter) and Helena Bonham Carter (The Red Queen).and Anne Hathaway (The White Queen). Added to the mix this time around is Sacha Baron Cohen as Time.I also point out that the film is dedicated to the late Alan Rickman who does the voice of the caterpillar/blue butterfly. The film centers around the death of the Hatters family.  But Alice can go back in time (through the mirror) and save them.   And after what seemed like hours of CGI, she does.  What did you expect?  It's a Disney film.   All in all, I rather liked some of it but thought the whole thing was overblown, overdone and overseen by a committee determined to make a blockbuster.  So, sad to say, Mr. Bobin is no Tim Burton.


MONEY MONSTER: Jodie Foster directs this thriller starring George Clooney as an investment guru and Julie Roberts the director of his TV show named appropriately "Money Monster."  A young man whom we come to know as Kyle interrupts the broadcast and takes Clooney hostage, demanding to get some answers as to why he lost his life savings in a stock that Clooney had recommended.   Forcing the Clooney character to wear a bomb, he has his finger on the detonator throughout the film.  Needless to say, this is real "edge of your seat" film making.   And while you get a glimpse of how TV shows are made and how the stock market works, it the end it is just a wonderful thrill ride.  Jack O'Connell as the disgruntled Kyle turns in an indelible performance.   Mr. O'Connell is British but his New York accent is spot-on and he holds his own admirably against the veterans stars.  In summation, if you like this type of film, you can't go wrong with this one.  It's funny, suspenseful, and extremely entertaining.   Put your money on it.


A HOLOGRAM FOR THE KING: A pleasant enough comedy that stars Tom Hanks as a businessman trying to make a deal in Saudi Arabia. Needless to say the clash of cultures is part of the fun with supporting roles played admirably by Alexander Black as Tom's taxi driver on more than one occasion and Sarito Choudhury as a doctor he meets and (spoiler alert) falls in love with;  While the exotic locale is staggering in it's bleekness and at the same time eerily beautiful, it wears thin after a while.   I'm not sure what drew Mr. Hanks to this script but if it wasn't for him and his star power, I'm afraid the movie would fall flat.  One leaves the theater feeling strangely unfullfilled and somewhat cheated.   As I said, it's pleasant.   But that's about it.  I'd skip this one if I had it to do over.


THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR   This prequel to "Snow White and the Huntsman" is filled with wonderful special effects and costumes that dazzle and amaze.   But that's about it.  Starring Chris Hemsworth as the title character and Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt as a pair of sibling queens with heavy rivalry, the plot is about as convoluted as one can get.  We have a backstory wherein we learn how the huntsman came to be under the employ of Ms. Blunt's character who forbids him to fall in love with another of her warriors (Jessica Chastain) so, of course they do.  And as the plot thickens (or thins out, depending on your point of view) the prequel seems to turn into a sequel as the two sisters go to war.  Needless to say, all hell breaks loose with all manner of creatures joining the fray.  (Yes, there are some dwarfs, no doubt quite prevalent in Snow White's time).   We also are treated to what seemed an homage to Disney's "Frozen."   And while no one ever sings "Let it go,"  I'd recommend that you do.   It's pretty much a waste of time except for those special effects and Ms. Theron's beauty.   Alas, she is only in about a half hour or this nearly two hour film.  And I wanted more (script included.)


JUNGLE BOOK: A wonderous re-telling of the classic Rudyard Kipling tale with an all-star voice cast of animals, the film is anchored around the exploits of a young boy, Mowgli (a very talented Neel Setfi).  Raised by wolves (Lupita Nyong'o is the mother wolf) and threatened by the tiger, Shere Khan (Idris Elba), Mowgli decides to leave the jungle.  Guided by his panther friend, Baghere (Ben Kingsley) and eventually a lovable bear name Baloo (Bill Murray),who doesn't hibernate but "naps a lot," they set out on their adventures and meet up with some unusual characters in the form of a snake (Scarlett Johansson) a porcupine, (Gary Shandling) as well as the king of the apes (Christopher Walken, a real scene stealer). This film takes CGI (computer graphic imaging) to new heights and is quite thrilling at times.  It's hard to believe that the young actor was doing most of his work in front of a green screen with nothing to relate to.  He is superb. Borrowing form the animated version Disney did earlier, we even get a couple of songs thrown in for good measure.  And this film will be one that is hard to measure up to, suspenseful, funny and downright beautiful in its scope.  This is one for the entire family and not to be missed.  I could see it again tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.  It's that good.


THE BOSS:  This latest outing from Melissa McCarthy and her director husband Ben Falcone delivers some hard laughs but not nearly enough to keep this one afloat. Ms. McCarthy plays a "Suze Orman" type who gets sent to prison for "insider trading" and upon her release, discovers she has lost everything (except for one loyal friend played by Kristen Bell)  So the whole movie is basically about rebuilding her life (self-esteem included).  Ms. McCarthy and Mr. Falcone also wrote the screenplay along with Steve Mallory and therein lies the problem... They needed a boss to say, "That's not funny, just vulgar."  Along the way, Kathy Bates is totally wasted in a "cameo" performance and Gayle King shows up for one lame joke...."Nobody spells Gayle with a "y."  It's pretentious."  To my way of thinking, the whole movie was.


HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS: This is a rather bittersweet, endearing comedy with some dramatic moments, starring a wonderful Sally Fields as an "older" woman looking to kick-start her life again.  At the film's opening, we find Doris grieving for her mothers demise and faced with life alone.  At work, a new employee (a much younger Max Greenfield catches her eye) and the fantasies take over. Now Doris has some problems... she is a hoarder (a trait inherited from dear old mom) and some low self esteem....And that's about all you need to know.   The film is full of surprises, twists and turns, funny dialog and in the end is thoroughly enjoyable.  Part of that enjoyment comes from the performance of Tyne Daly as Doris's best friend, Roz, who tries to keep her rational as she pursues her "dream" man....Pursues may be the wrong word......She stalks the guy!   But is's all great fun to watch it unfold and Fields performance doesn't hit one wrong note.  Happy ending?  Not, for me to say.


EDDIE THE EAGLE:  While some are calling this, the "feel good film of the year," it isn't.   It's the "feel good film of the decade."  Based on the true story of Michael (Eddie) Edwards who became the first competitor to represent Great Britain in Olympic Ski Jumping, the film stars Taron Egerton as Eddie and Hugh Jackman as his reluctant coach. Small but meaningful roles are filled by Jim Broadbent and Christopher Walken.   Trust me, this is much more than a sports movie.  It is about perseverance and friendship and a zest for life.  From his childhood, wearing a leg brace to the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, Eddie just wouldn't give up on his dream even when the odds were all against him.  It is a truly inspiring movie and I left the theater with a smile on my face as big as Canada.


RACE: This film with the double-meaning title is the story of Jesse Owens who won four Gold Medals in the 1936 Olympics held in Hitler's Germany. And what a fascination film it is with some stellar performances by Stephan James as Owens and Jason Sudeikis as his coach, Larry Snyder.   In supporting roles we have the always wonderful Jeremy Irons as an Olympic official and Carice van Houten as Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler's documentary film maker. William Hurt is on board as well. Although this is primarily a story about the games, it goes much deeper into the prejudices of the day and what is took for Owens to achieve his iconic status,   Some may want more depth of character, but I found it totally fulfilling as good old fashioned movie-making.  And even though we know the outcome will be gold, the last scene on the way to a dinner in his honor will haunt you and give you pause.   It is well worth seeing.


THE LADY IN THE VAN:   In case you didn't know, Maggie Smith is not slowing down.  She just gets better and better.   This latest piece of brilliant acting has Ms. Smith portraying a homeless woman who live in her van.   Finding suitable parking space is a problem until a London playwright, Alan Bennett (wonderful acting by Alex Jennings) befriends her and allows her to park in his driveway.  From the opening credit...."This story is mostly true." know you are in for a treat.   Mr. Bennett has a propensity for talking to himself, literally, so at times there are two Alans on screen, arguing and discussing Ms. Smiths character.   And what a character!  Discovering her past is part of the fun of the film as well as the mystery.  Who is that stranger (Jim Broadbent) that drops by in the middle of the night? Others in the wonderful cast of supporting players are Frances de la Tour and James Corden doing little more than a cameo (but a great moment on screen).  Based on the memoir by Mr. Bennett and later turned into a stage play with Ms. Smith, this is one to see. Amusing, at times whimsical, it is a beautiful look at the homeless problem and the people who are touched by it, particularly the writer, who in the end must decide if this is all worth writting about.  It is.  Oh, indeed it is! And when the writer takes over, the ending simply soars!    Right up there with Ms. Smith!


HAIL, CAESAR:  If you are enamored of "Old Hollywood" and know some of its history, this film will delight you. With an all-star cast of Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Finnes, Tilda Swenton, Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and Frances McDormand, the story is widespread.   A star (Clooney) is kidnapped, A swimmer (Johansson) is pregnant out of wedlock (again) and a cowboy (Ehrenreich) is having touble with his director (Finnes) on his new film.   Confused?  Just you wait.  The studio "fixer" (Brolin) has to iron it all out and keep it out of the columns withTilda Swenton, playing two roles as bitchy columnists.   Add to this a wonderful musical number by Channing Tatum and a bevy of sailors, and you see where we are going. And did I mention McDormand as a film editor in one of the movies funniest moments?  So to sum it up, this is really an homage to Tinseltown and that era of McCarthy and scandal.  And boy, is it swell!  I admit, not everyone is going to "get it" but take a chance.  You're bound to have a chuckle or two or three or four.  Yeah, I loved it!


BROOKLYN:   A young Irish immigrant seeks a better life in 1950's New York.  She falls in love with a young Italian plumber but is terribly homesick and ultimately returns to her native land for a visit, only to meet another man to her liking. That is the plot in a nutshell... perhaps candy shell would be a better description.  This movie is so sweet that it may cause tooth decay.   The performers are virtually unknown although the lead girl, Saorise Ronan is up for an Oscar.  While lovely to look at and tugging at the heartstrings for most of the time, the film is strangely uninspiring and rather tepid, almost sleep inducing at times.   A Valentine, perhaps, to Brooklyn and a different era but, all in all, a rather dull film even though it has the ultimate happy ending.


ROOM:  This riveting film has two of the best performances you will ever see, Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay, both SAG award nominees. The film and Ms. Larson are also Oscar hopefuls and she may well win.   The movie centers around the relationship between a mother and her five-year old son, both held captive in a room by the mother's kidnapper since she was a teenager with the boy being a result of that kidnapping.  Although it sounds like a difficult story to take, it is strangely uplifting and the performance of young Mr. Tremblay will haunt you for days.  Watching him (after they escape) seeing the outside world for the first time is absolutely amazing.   Simple choices we all take for granted become new adventures.  Learning to climb stairs.   The magic of a leaf.  It is just pure wonderland for this boy.  But, of course there are downfalls too.  But you'll get not spoilers from me.
So if you relish brilliant young actors, this is a must see. A perfect movie in all departments.


THE REVENANT:  The title refers to "one who returns from the dear."  And that is exactly the theme of this hauntingly beautiful film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  Director Alejandro Inarritu, in his first outing since his Oscar winning "Birdman," pulls no punches in this gritty tale of a fur trapper in the early 1800's who is badly mauled by a bear.  While he is near death from his wounds, one of his fellow trappers (Tom Hardy, in a standout performance) agrees (for a fee) to stay behind and give him a proper burial when the times comes.  He soon becomes impatient and with DiCaprio's son standing in his way, he kills the boy and, taking matters into his own hands, drags DiCaprio to a shallow grave, burying him.   But this mountain man is tough and he survives, literally clawing his way across the wilderness to exact his revenge.  Shot in the Canadian Rockies in a very cold winter, the weather is palpable.  You can feel what agony the actors must have gone through to achieve this remarkable undertaking which has paid off in Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture and Best Actor.  Oscar nods will surely follow for those two slots as well as Cinematography.  While I highly recommend this film, be forewarned, there are scenes that will make you cringe and avert your eyes (the Indian raids and the final confrontation) but they are soon replaced by scenes of breathtaking beauty.  While the film is long at nearly two and one-half hours, it is worth every second.   This is movie making at its pinnacle.  An art form that is brilliant in all departments.


JOY:  This is an odd subject for a film... a biopic of the woman who invented the "Wonder Mop."   That being said, it is totally enjoyable (a little slow getting started) and also totally fascinating watching it unfold.  Jennifer Lawrence absolutely shines as the beaten-down heroine who finally attains her dream.  Robert DeNiro,  Bradley Cooper, Diane Lane and a knockout performance by Isabella Rossalini add to the wonderment of this Golden Globe nominee.  (Along the way. we get Melissa Rivers playing her mother Joan.... Yes the mop made it to QVC) The plot is not complicated and probably half-true but you still exit the theater feeling good, having observed this particular woman's journey  Yes, it is a joy!


STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS 3D:   Titled Episode VII, this film is more of a continuation of the early trilogy (Episodes IV, V, and VI...the originals with Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill.  Added note: I was not a big fan of the Prequels that came out after.... Are you still with me?)
This film was a welcome change and certainly worthy of all the praise it has been garnering.  I won't go into any plot here and a "spoiler" or two would be easy to include in any review.  Just know, that this is modern movie-making at it's best with fantastic CGI and all the rest one would expect.  The leads, Daisy Ridley and John Boyega turn in performances to match this epic adventure. And they will surely be in Episod VIII should there be such an offering.  I would  note that there are numerous unbilled cameos along the way but you would never know it because of  make-up and costuming. (Example: Daniel Craig plays a storm trooper who sets our heroine free once she discovers "The Force.")  In closing this opinion and knowing full well that I may be the last soul in the USA to have seen this flick,  I still recommend it for those masses in China who get it soon, I'm told.  Oh, I forgot, that original gang...Ford, Fisher and Hamill are back and they are a joy!  You'll love it!   P.S. 3D is the way to go on this one.


THE DANISH GIRL:  Last years Best Actor Oscar winner, Eddie Redmayne turns in another award worthy performance as the pioneering trandgender, Lili Elba in this fact based story of her journey. A  brilliant perfomance by Mr. Redmayne is matched by the equally stunning turn by Alicia Vikander as his loyal wife who helps him on the road to finding himself.  Shot brilliantly in Paris and Copenhagen, the film evokes the 20's and that eras morals as well as it's uncertain understanding of such issues.  He/she was called insane because of the feeling that he was really a woman inside.  But with the love of his wife and a few loyal friends he overcame his fear and was the first transgender to have sexual reorientation.  Not for everyone, this film is a stunning portrait of what it must be like to be in that position.  Nominated for Golden Globes, I trust the Mr. Redmayne and Ms, Vikander will also get Oscar nods.  It is worth your time


SECRET IN THEIR EYES: This American remake of an Oscar winning Argentinian film has great moments but, I'm told doesn't quite live up to the foreign version. Starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts and Nicole Kidman, this is the story of two up and coming investigators and their supervisor. The team is thrown into turmoil upon learning that one of their daughters has been murdered. The story begins thirteen years later and proceeds with a series of flashbacks. A bit slow in the beginning, the script soon grabs you, by continually taking twists and turns that are suprisingly easy to follow. Julie Roberts (sans make-up) gives a riveting performance like no other in her career. Kidman, always a treat to watch, is basically wasted here with not much to do except toward the end. And what an ending! You won't see it coming. The picture however, belongs to Ejiofor who is dynamic as the one obsessed with bringing the killer to justice. All in all, a thriller that is genuinely thrilling.


SPECTRE:  Daniel Craig is back as Bond, James Bond.   And you know what you're in for.  This franchise is as thrilling as ever and seems to be always new in some way. I won't go into the plot here but suffice it to say Mr. Bond is on the trail of a sinister organization known as Spectre.  Supporting players include Christop Waltz as Bond's evil nemisis and Ralph Fiennes playing M.  Moneypenny is back as well, portrayed by the stunning British actress Naomie Harris.   And let's not forget Q, humorously enacted by Ben Whitshaw.  Let me say that the great thing about this film lies in the fact that all of Bond's usual cronies come to his aid and get involved.  The climactic scene is just fun to watch and edited brilliantly.  Kudos to Lea Seydoux as the love interest and Monica Bellucci, (at 51) the oldest "Bond girl" to date.  So, if you love Bond (and who doesn't?) you can't miss this one.  Slick, gorgeously photographed (Rome, Mexico City, London and Austria) it is a feast for the senses.  And that last closing credit assuages any doubts we may have --- James Bond will return.

Movie Description


BRIDGE OF SPIES:  Director Steven Spielberg continues his winning streak of great films with this fictionalized story of true events.  Tom Hanks (his fourth pairing with Spielberg) gives another Oscar worthy performance as lawyer James Donovan who is chosen to defend Soviet spy Rudolph Abel in an effort to show “due process.”  After Abel’s sentencing, U-2 pilot Gary Powers is shot down during a secret mission and the CIA turns to Donovan to negotiate a prisoner exchange. He must do it on his own with both governments not wanting it to be known of their involvement.   While not what you would call a typical thriller, the film is nonetheless thrilling as the plot takes many twists and turns.  Mark Rylance gives a stunning, nuanced performance as Abel with other supporting roles filled by Alan Alda and Amy Ryan.  This may well be on the Oscar list next year in the Best Picture category as well as nods to Hanks and Rylance.  If you are a fan of good old fashioned movie making and especially the way Spielberg does them, this is one for your “must see” list.  It is a classic and deservedly so.


THE WALK 3D:  This dramatized account of Philippe Petit's walk between the twin World Trade Towers  is a real stunner.  Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a piece of brilliant casting, we learn of the beginnings of his fascination with wire walking under the mentorship of Ben Kingsley as an aging circus high wire artist.  Before long Petit becomes a street performer in Paris and one day reads of the towers that are under construction in New York.  Determined to “hang” his wire between them, his plan takes flight.  A bit slow in the beginning, it is still never dull with Gordon-Levitt providing narration from a perch atop the Statue of Liberty’ torch with the towers glimmering in the background as a reminder of what is to come.  And what a “Third Act” it is!  Humorous, suspenseful and breathtaking in scope, this is one that is worthy of the 3D process.  Frankly, you’ve never seen anything like it.  Directed by Robert Zemeckis, it becomes a tribute to the two buildings as well as Petit and one I recommend unless you are afraid of heights. It is simply astonishing!


EVEREST 3D: Knowing full well that my mountain climbing days are over, I opted to go there anyway by seeing Mt. Everest through this engrossing movie. Based on a real incident, (Aren't they all, these days?) this is the story of two different expeditions that combine forces and attempt to scale the lofty heights only to get hit by a ferocious storm unlike any ever seen. Needless to say, it is a story of survival. (Or will they?) An outstanding cast including Jason Clark, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley and Emily Watson bring this film to life and the 3D adds greatly to this atmospheric tale by never feeling gimmicky or forced. Believe me, by films end you feel you have scaled the mountain yourself. At times harrowing, always intriguing, this is thrilling movie-making. And what scenery to behold at the top of the world! A true adventure!


BLACK MASS:  Arguably one of the best actors of his generation, Johnny Depp adds yet another thrilling performance to his growing body of work.  In this, he plays the real life Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger and literally disappears into the role.  Bulger, who entered into an alliance with the FBI to help fight the Italian mob was a man of a certain charisma but nonetheless, one of the most infamous and violent Irish gangsters of his day.  A superb supporting cast includes Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch and Kevin Bacon. While this portrait of evil is fascinating, it is fascinating to a fault. I left the theater with an unsettling feeling of dread.  Was this what life offered in the South End of Boston in the 70’s? It is sadly reduced to a land of violence and hatred.  And while Depp’s performance is outstanding, it is not a pretty picture.  I may have to dig out “The Sound of Music” to get this one out of my head.


THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.:  Director Guy Ritchie treats this reboot of the TV classic with great affection and style.  Set in the early 60's at the height of the cold war, the film has all the trappings of that mod era and two suave stars, particularly Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo with Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin who has the bigger role and delivers it beautifully.  And while they start out as arch enemies (CIA vs. KG, they end up the best of comrades.  The plot has one of those mysterious organizations trying to upset the balance of power between the USA and the Soviet Union.   And that's about all you need to know.  The supporting cast includes Hugh Grant, Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki as a sophisticated villainous of the highest order.  Boy, is she fun to watch.  The well-written script has many chuckles up its sleeve and a wonderful moment with an “electric” chair.  And of course, the door is opened for a sequel, if enough people cry uncle.  Well, you can count me in.