First of all, I never thought I would be writing a review on a Wes Anderson movie. Or even an Owen Wilson film. So, it’s fair to say that The Darjeeling Limited is another film I didn’t think I would like…at all. But, unlike Wes Anderson’s other films, this one relies more on its plot and characters rather than on its inane quirkiness. A story about three brothers, all of whom have been estranged from each other for a time, who buried their father and are now on a quest to find their long-lost mother. Their quest takes them on a train trip through India, where their mother is believed to be in hiding. Yes, it’s quirky, but it’s a good, easy-going sort of quirky that I don’t mind. The Royal Tenenbaums and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou were seeping with quirkiness, and not an innocent, harmless kind either. The quirks here are not part of the plot — they are just little blips in the characters’ personas. It is a colorful, fun movie…a great road-trip film!

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A fabulously vivid and enticing film from Mexico that combines food and sensuality. The story, based on the acclaimed novel by Laura Esquivel, revolves around a family who has three daughters…the oldest one is a rebel, the middle one is the “good” girl, and the youngest is doomed to a live of misery and loneliness since she will be the one to take care of her aging mother and can never marry. The youngest falls in love with a man, but the middle daughter is the one the mother assigns him to marry instead. Filled with rage and hatred for her mother and her situation, the youngest takes her anger out in her cooking. Beautifully filmed, this is a wonderfully colorful and lush film that will make you both hungry and excited. What more can you ask for than that?

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Berg’s latest is a great, strong piece on not only loss, but on coming to terms with oneself. We meet the main character, Helen, months after she has lost her husband of many years from a sudden heart attack. Her daughter Tessa is on her own and Helen has to find a way to come to terms with being alone. I found the way Berg constructed Helen to be very believable of what a recent widow might go through. I didn’t think Helen’s reactions were too over the top or corny. This is a good summer beach read…it’s short, well-written and uncomplicated.
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Incendiary examines how a London terrorist attack forever destroys the life of a working-class mom. Michelle Williams, who was nominated for an Oscar for her supporting role in 2005’s Brokeback Mountain, plays a London mother and wife…the opening scenes capture her closeness with her 4-year-old son and the distance with her husband. She meets Jasper Black, played by Ewan McGregor and sees her chance to escape some of the dullness of her marriage. When her son and husband head to a local soccer match, she sees her chance to get together with Black. While she’s with him, a terrorist bomb explodes at the soccer stadium and her son and husband are among the dead. She runs through the gambit of emotions…sadness, of course…relief, that her mundane marriage is over?…guilt, that she was betraying her husband at the very moment of his death?…hatred, for the terrorists responsible for the loss of her beloved son? She tries to find some understanding by befriending the suspected bomber’s son, but this just leaves her more disillusioned. Yes, Incendiary sounds like a bleak movie with little hope, and though at times it is, some optimism does manage to sneak in. Williams does a superb job of conveying all sorts of emotions. Her performance raises this movie from just another post-911 tale to a deeper, more powerful film on loss and redemption.

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If you read my annotation on The Birds, you know Tippi Hedren is not my favorite actress. But, compared to her lackluster performance in The Birds, she shines here. It’s the script in Marnie that I have trouble with. When this one came out in 1964, it didn’t do as well as expected and was not raved by the critics. As with Vertigo, both the public opinion but mostly the critical opinion, time has been kind with Marnie. Some critics now hail it as one (with Vertigo) of Hitchcock’s masterpieces. I would not go that far. Yes, Hedren is better, but she’s still not good enough to carry a film. The plus here is that unlike The Birds’ Rod Taylor (who is just so-so), Sean Connery provides a stronger counterpart for Hedren’s weak-ish acting. But, a masterpiece? Have these critics seen Notorious or Shadow of a Doubt? As I said, Marnie’s biggest issue, in my humble opinion, is the script. The screenplay here is lagging considerably, especially in the middle. The film starts off well and moves along at a good pace. Then, somewhere around the time Connery begins helping Hedren with her many problems, the story almost comes to a halt. Hitchcock saves it with a tense ending, but I admit I do expect more from The Master than just a good beginning and ending. So, you might be asking, why do I keep writing reviews for films that I’m not in love with? Well, first of all, I like them. They are great movies. They are just not up to Hitchcock’s usual HIGH standards.

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Next time you’re in the shower, make sure Norman Bates or his mother are nowhere to be found. Ranked number one by the American Film Institute’s 100 Years, 100 Thrills, this Alfred Hitchcock movie still stands, even after 40 years, as one of the most scary, if not scariest films of all time. Psycho is not a horror film—it is just a fast-paced thriller that thrills a little more than most Hitchcock films. Also contributing to the “horror” quality are a very memorable ending and one of the most copied, talked-about, and studied film scenes ever…the shower scene. Hitchcock took quite a few chances when making Psycho. First, his leading lady Janet Leigh is out-of-the-picture about a third into the film. Then, the director chose to shoot the film in black and white, something that was not done that often in 1960. Hitchcock also cast lesser-known actors to play other key role, especially then-unknown Anthony Perkins as Norman Bates. Those risks paid off and placed Psycho at the top of Hitchcock’s best films.

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