09 August 2017

Lady Macbeth

The movie LADY MACBETH is adapted by Alice Birch from the novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov, which was inspired by the William Shakespeare play Macbeth.  LADY MACBETH is a gothic romance steeped in drama and suspense.  One may even believe the female protagonist Katherine Lester (played by Florence Pugh) is the young Lady Macbeth from the Shakespeare play, if he had written a prequel.

Katherine stops at nothing to get what she wants. This is contrary to how the character is first introduced. Initially, the audience sympathizes with her for having to marry a much older man she does not love. And apparently, he does not love her either. They also share a hatred for his father.

LADY MACBETH is director William Oldroyd's feature film debut. It is an impressive effort, and the decision to not have a film score is brilliant, because the audience is engaged without one.

The movie's official Web site is http://www.ladymacbethfilm.com/.  LADY MACBETH is currently playing in theatres.

19 July 2017


Sally Hawkins gives an outstanding performance as Maud in the movie MAUDIE. From the beginning of the film, the audience knows to root for her. The character is a well written multi-dimensional one adapted by screenwriter Sherry White.

MAUDIE is based on the real life story of Nova Scotia artist Maud Lewis. Maud lives with her aunt Ida, played by Gabrielle Rose. Her brother Charles, played by Zachary Bennett, sells their mother's house without telling her. After feeling disrespected, Maud cleverly goes after the job of a housemaid for a local fish peddler named Everett Lewis, played by Ethan Hawke.  Hawke's performance is captivating, as the role is much different than others he has played.

Maud and Everett's relationship starts out rocky, moves along, and then enters an arena neither one of them expects. Other than coming into contact with a few townspeople, they only communicate with each other; therefore, their romance is inevitable. In addition, he sells fish and she sells her paintings--the first customer is Sandra, played exceptionally well by Kari Matchett--acquiring international acclaim. Furthermore, there is a storyline involving Maud's child and Sandra becomes an honest confidant.

MAUDIE is a delightful film directed by Aisling Walsh and currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://sonyclassics.com/maudie/.

13 July 2017

Beatriz at Dinner

Salma Hayek courageously takes on the role of Beatriz in the film BEATRIZ AT DINNER. Beatriz is a humble immigrant massage therapist whose car will not start when it is time to leave a client's home. Her affluent client Kathy, played by Connie Britton, graciously invites Beatriz to stay for dinner since she is waiting for a friend to finish work before he can fix her car. Kathy's husband Grant, played by David Warshofsky, initially disagrees because he is entertaining important business contacts at this particular dinner.

The central dinner guest is Doug Strutt, played by John Lithgow. Doug is a wealthy man who owns hotels and other businesses. As soon as he sees Beatriz, he assumes she is the hired help and asks for a refill of his drink. His second blunder is when he speculates that Beatriz illegally moved to the United States from Mexico. Furthermore, he arrogantly discusses his many investments, including a resort in Mexico. Beatriz presumes it is the resort that promised so many people she knew work, but never opened and left everyone destitute.

BEATRIZ AT DINNER is relevant because it shows social class perceptions. Depending on one's financial status, the business mogul's decisions are viewed either as good business that benefits people or bad business that exploits people. The movie sparks discussion and presents an ambiguous ending.

BEATRIZ AT DINNER is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://roadsideattractions.com/filmography/beatriz-at-dinner/.

05 July 2017

The Hero

In THE HERO Sam Elliott plays Lee Hayden, an aging actor of western films.  Many of us remember Sam Elliott as the star of western films, which is why this role is just right for him. As movie stars get older, they fade away or work less and are missed. THE HERO shows a possible scenario of what those actors may be doing now.

Lee hangs out with his former co-star Jeremy, played by Nick Offerman, which is how he meets Charlotte, played by Laura Prepon. Lee becomes romantically involved with Charlotte, who is much younger. Meanwhile, he visits his estranged ex-wife Valarie played by Elliott's real life wife, Katharine Ross, to update her on his medical condition. In addition, Lee's relationship with his daughter Lucy, played by Krysten Ritter, is strained from his being away so much when he was a successful working actor. Because of his plight, it is important to Lee that he makes everything right in his relationships and clinches a role that puts him back into the spotlight, leaving a positive impression on the public. He sees that as going out with dignity.

Sam Elliott is an exceptional actor. It seems he is underrated when deserving of much praise. It would be nice seeing him starring in even more feature films. Fortunately, screenwriters Marc Basch and Brett Haley wrote a fitting role for him.

THE HERO is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://thehero.film/.

17 June 2017

Creative Writing: The Mystery, Suspense, Crime Story

I am teaching Creative Writing: The Mystery, Suspense, Crime Story on the Udemy Web site. The course is intended for beginning mystery-suspense-crime writers, literature students, and writers interested in writing thrillers.  In the class I show the creative writing process (plot structure) and how to maintain awareness of the genres of mystery, suspense, and/or crime.

I teach students how to get started by planning the story with an outline and a treatment. During the course, students will write either a novel, teleplay, or screenplay. Since I have written all three, I include instruction for the different formats: novel, teleplay, and screenplay.

When writing a story, research is important and I share the research process I utilized for my crime-drama screenplay, THE TWO SISTERS, which is an independent film I also produced and directed, receiving Best Screenplay award nominations from film festivals.  Overall, the course is for people who enjoy mystery, suspense and crime, and individuals who want to learn the story writing process. For more information and to enroll visit https://www.udemy.com/creative-writing-the-mystery-suspense-crime-story/.

14 June 2017

My Cousin Rachel

MY COUSIN RACHEL is a romance, suspense/drama movie based on the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same title.  When Philip (played by Sam Claflin) finishes school and returns to his home in England he learns his guardian is not there, but in Italy with his wife Rachel (played by Rachel Weisz). Philip is instantly suspicious of the woman, because he and his guardian share a tight bond. Philip travels to Italy and is disheartened to discover his guardian has passed away. He believes Rachel is fully responsible, so finding out she intends to visit him in England makes him unpleasant, even though Philip lives a charmed life in a country estate and since his guardian has died, he inherited a fortune.

Over time, he begins liking Rachel and feels sympathetic toward her. Emotional manipulation is how the mystery of MY COUSIN RACHEL is woven. A naive young fellow and an older woman match wits, but really they are unequal. One ultimately out smarts the other, and then the other slowly realizes what is happening. It is engaging watching the story play with much suspense of how the circumstances will end.

MY COUSIN RACHEL is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://www.foxsearchlight.com/mycousinrachel/.

07 June 2017

Paris Can Wait

Many people are familiar with the expression, "Take time to stop and smell the roses."  This is what the character Jacques (played by Arnaud Viard) does in the movie PARIS CAN WAIT. Unfortunately, his traveling companion Anne (played by Diane Lane) does not appreciate all the detours.

Jacques, Anne, and her husband Michael (played by Alec Baldwin) are in Cannes, France for a movie Michael is producing. When the film shoot moves to Budapest, Michael boards a jet for take off, but Anne has an ear infection and chooses to drive to Paris with Jacques.

Be sure to eat before watching PARIS CAN WAIT. Jacques' alternate route to Paris includes stopping to dine and drink wine several times. And the meals are large. However, some of the jaunts include stopping at museums and other points of interest.

Director Eleanor Coppola provides a fun tour of France with PARIS CAN WAIT. After watching, one feels she or he has visited the country. The film is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://sonyclassics.com/pariscanwait/.

22 May 2017

All Saints

I had the privilege of attending a preview screening for the upcoming film ALL SAINTS starring John Corbett (as Michael Spurlock).

ALL SAINTS is based on the true story of salesman-turned-pastor, Michael Spurlock--http://archive.episcopalchurch.org/81803_103917_ENG_HTM.htm. Spurlock is ordered by the Episcopal Diocese to shut down a tiny church in rural Smyrna, Tennessee. Unexpectedly, a group of refugees change the direction of All Saints Church. The movie is inspirational as Spurlock and his small congregation slowly embrace the refugees from Southeast Asia. Not only does the church multiply in number, but Spurlock discovers the Karen group knows how to farm and fulfills a vision of growing the church even more instead of shutting it down.

ALL SAINTS focuses on the challenges the church faces implementing the farm on its property. Barry Corbin plays Forrest, an older gentleman who attends All Saints Church and a farmer. Spurlock initially has a difficult time communicating with Forrest, as Forrest resents Spurlock for coming to shut down the church. Corbin's performance is entertaining; he provides the humorous moments of the story.

ALL SAINTS is a compelling story, as it also incorporates the relationships that are formed between the English speakers and the Karen speakers. Viewers want to see the two cultures intersect positively and cheer for the church to become a viable resource in the community.

ALL SAINTS will be in theatres August 25th. The official Web site is http://www.allsaintsmovie.com/.

20 May 2017

A Quiet Passion

Emily Dickinson was an American poet. Unfortunately, Dickinson's poems were published with significant altering during her lifetime. In 1955 Thomas H. Johnson published The Poems of Emily Dickinson, and the literature was unaltered.

A QUIET PASSION eloquently showcases the life of Emily Dickinson with an outstanding performance by Cynthia Nixon as Dickinson. The movie is quiet and quaint just like Dickinson herself. Writer and director Terence Davies shows compassion for his subject. The audience learns about the life of the reclusive poet, details that many would have never known about her.

A QUIET PASSION is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://www.musicboxfilms.com/a-quiet-passion-movies-153.php.

06 May 2017

The Circle

THE CIRCLE, based on the book of the same title, is a different type of film. It shows the consequences of Mae Holland (played by Emma Watson) sharing every activity of her life on social media. Transparency is a reality for many people in today's world, so the story is very relevant.

Tom Hanks gives a fine performance as Eamon Bailey, the co-founder and leader of The Circle. Eamon encourages transparency because it provides opportunity for him and his team to see their innovations in action. The theme here is technology makes us better and everything benefits from it.

The fun scenes in the story display the excitement of working at a large technology company. Everyone loves the job so much they live in an on-site dormitory. The experience is what most people think working at Google is like.

THE CIRCLE is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://thecircle.movie/.

27 April 2017

Their Finest

The British movie THEIR FINEST, based on the book Their Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans is set in London during World War II, and opens with Catrin Cole (played by Gemma Arterton) being hired to write scripts for the Ministry of Information.  Her husband, Ellis (played by Jack Huston), is unable to sell his art, so Catrin becomes the only wage earner. She is a very talented scriptwriter, sharing her unique perspective with the staff. Unfortunately, her skills are underestimated by writing partner Tom (played by Sam Claflin) and the pair do not get along. Eventually, Catrin and Tom begin respecting each other and even develop a friendship while being on location doing rewrites for a film.

Bill Nighy is brilliant in THEIR FINEST and offers genteel humor. His character, Ambrose Hilliard, is an actor with pomp. Catrin is able to remain honest with him when others are not, and is ultimately appreciated for it. Other unexpected circumstances cause Catrin and Tom to develop an affinity for one another and it is satisfying for the audience; however, the story takes a startling twist.

THEIR FINEST is a unique film that distinctly shows believable situations while accurately illustrating life during the 1940's. The movie is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbcfilms/film/their_finest.

22 April 2017

Going In Style

GOING IN STYLE stars Alan Arkin ("Albert"), Michael Caine ("Joe"), and Morgan Freeman ("Willie"). The movie is a humorous tale that shows how wisdom is an asset. In the story, these gentlemen approach their scheme differently than young people would, and it is beneficial for them.

Overall, the performances are excellent, and it is great seeing Ann-Margret in such a vibrant role. She plays Annie, Albert's lady friend. This is significant, considering she is one of few female characters in the film.

GOING IN STYLE is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://goinginstylemovie.com/.

13 April 2017

The Case for Christ

THE CASE FOR CHRIST shows the journey Lee Strobel (played by Mike Vogel) takes to disprove his wife's Christian faith. Outside of the movie, Strobel is a best-selling Christian author and former award-winning investigative journalist for The Chicago Tribune who was an atheist. After completing a thorough investigation that lasted for two years, Strobel embraces a new faith in Christ. The experience led him to write the book The Case for Christ, upon which the movie is based.

THE CASE FOR CHRIST gives its audience a true sense of what a spectacular investigator Strobel is. He attends a debate on matters of faith, meets with a priest, speaks with a medical doctor regarding crucifixion, and even consults a skeptical psychologist, played by Faye Dunaway. A captivating scene is when Strobel has an honest conversation with The Chicago Tribune's Religion Editor, played by Mike Pniewski.

Erika Christensen plays Strobel's wife, Leslie, who befriends a nurse named Alfie (played by L. Scott Caldwell) who saves her child's life. Leslie is impressed with Alfie's unwavering faith, and that is what leads her to examine her own beliefs. THE CASE FOR CHRIST exhibits how Leslie becomes a Christian and the conflict it causes in her marriage. The situation is probably familiar to many viewers, and is handled delicately by screenwriter Brian Bird and director Jon Gunn.

THE CASE FOR CHRIST is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://caseforchristmovie.pureflix.com/.

11 April 2017

The Zookeeper's Wife

It is intriguing learning about the brave deeds of people during the Jewish Holocaust. THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE is based on the non-fiction book of the same title by Diane Ackerman and the diaries of Antonia Zabinska named People and Animals. The story depicts the rescue of Jews from the Warsaw, Poland Ghetto.

Antonia Zabinska (played by Jessica Chastain) and her husband Jan Zabinska (played by Johan Heldenbergh) manage The Warsaw Zoo and allow Jews to hide in the basement of their home on the premises. Their hospitality is courageous. It is commendable that they are so willing to risk their lives and their son's (played by Timothy Radford and later Val Maloku) life, along with the people who worked with them. All know it is wrong to seize Jews from their homes and find it unbearable to watch humanity being mistreated.

Daniel Bruhl plays Dr. Lutz Heck, the story's antagonist. Dr. Heck manages the Berlin Zoo. However, he is primarily "Hitler's zoologist."

THE ZOOKEEPER'S WIFE is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://www.focusfeatures.com/thezookeeperswife/.

29 March 2017

The Last Word

THE LAST WORD is an honest movie that may even be therapeutic for some viewers. Shirley MacLaine is exquisite as a single, retired businesswoman named Harriet Lauler. She is wise, independent, and fearless. Many dislike her for her candor so she spends time alone; however, she is consistent in maintaining control, and develops the notion of writing her obituary while she is still alive. As a result, a writer at the local newspaper named Anne Sherman (played by Amanda Seyfried) is elected by her supervisor Ronald Odom, played by Tom Everett Scott, to write Harriet's obituary. Obviously, Anne does not immediately like Harriet.

THE LAST WORD is a fascinating comedy-drama that places differing individuals in the same arena. Naturally, when this happens the women are able to learn a great deal about each another, after looking beyond exterior structures. Harriet and Anne ultimately serve as surrogates for one another, filling the gap for a family member. One is without her daughter in her life and the other does not have a mother in her life, so they unexpectedly need each other.

In addition, a dynamic aspect is AnnJewel Lee Dixon who plays Brenda, the at-risk youth Harriet mentors. The three females bond. Each is honest and the characters are genuine.

THE LAST WORD is currently playing in theatres. The official Web site is http://www.bleeckerstreetmedia.com/thelastword.

Lady Macbeth

The movie LADY MACBETH is adapted by Alice Birch from the novella Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District by Nikolai Leskov, which was inspire...