With the long holiday (Labor Day) weekend, I allow myself utter frivolous time to just veg out and watch movies on Netflix. I love movies and Netflix allows me to indulge in them at home, in my pjs, and while I fold laundry, sort email, etc. I admit I sometimes binge watch Doctor Who instead, but long weekends have long been the time my family and I set aside for movie viewing.
Below are some movies I watched (or tried to watch) this past holiday weekend. One of these I had seen in theater before; most I have just discovered because either Netflix recommended based on my previous viewing or the description caught my eye. Always, this is MY opinion only. I do not endorse anything except my own personal preferences and opinions. And I welcome comments, good, bad, indifferent, or the contrary.
1. TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD: 1962, NR, Black and White version, 2hr. 9 mins, starring Gregory Peck as Atticus, Mary Badham as Scout, Robert Duvall, William Windom & Alice Ghostley
First off, I adore black and white movies. The old age Hollywood glam time of 1930-1960 when movies were made for entertainment, fun, history and loads of other reasons is a magical time for me. Special effects weren't needed and character development was key to a movie success or failure.
Few movies actually do justice to the book. This is an exception and well earned the awards it received. Told entirely from the children's points of view, it shows 1930's life in a small southern town (which could be any southern town in the US). The children call their widowed father by his first name, something unique since everyone else is 'Mr.' or 'Mrs.", again exactly like small town southern life in the US even to this day. Atticus is a lawyer and receives a case to defend a black man against a charge of raping a white woman. (No I didn't use the political correct terms. This is how the movie description is, how it was advertized, and is called in the book. It IS true life and I refuse to bow to some misbegotten version of 'better terms'. Sorry.) Atticus is an upright man hiding some secrets but proves (at least to me) his case in court only to meet with small town southern prejudice. It could be said justice wins in the end; I certainly thought it did. He also deeply loves his children.
This is a hard movie to watch with its unapologetic use of the 'n' word (which was entirely approp to the time period and setting), how disabled people are called 'lunatics', and the large division between the races. The actors are some of the best in the business, especially the children. The way the movie is shot, showing things from a child's eye view, or shadows only adds to the dramatic effect.
Not rated, there's no violence shown, or curse words, or nudity, but the subject matter, even from a child's POV, is definitely for mature audiences. I'd rate it PG-13, and it could be a good way to discuss justice and diversity with older kids.
My rating: 5 stars for the excellent actors, scenes and descriptions
2. Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day: 2008, PG-13, 1 hr. 32 mins, starring Amy Adams, Frances McDormand, Lee Pace, Tom Payne, Mark Strong
Another movie based on a book, this was supposed to be my 'total fluff' movie. It's largely fun and a little ridiculous, but I got caught up in the story and characters and rooted for the true love to win over all. It also shows a world innocent before another 'great war' sets in.
Set in London just before WW2, Miss Pettigrew is a straight laced woman who accidently falls into the job as 'social secretary' to flighty, wild partying, singer/actress Delysia. Told in the space of one day, some scenes are absolutely hysterical (Delysia's insistence on being seen as a 'dumb blonde' when she obviously is anything but) and Miss P's shock at some wild living. There's shopping, fashion shows, make over and a love triangle, um, square, as Delysia tries to decide on a romance between three men.
Much like the old black and white 1930's Hollywood glam screwball comedies, the pace is fast, furious, and a bit like trying to catch your breath after downing an entire glass of wine in a single gulp. There's even a secondary romance for Miss P. While I can't give spoilers to the end, I will say it's logical and follows the plot and character development to perfection.
This movie didn't win awards, but it's a cute romp for a rainy day when you want a few laughs and to watch true love win over all. And to see screwball romantic comedy.
My rating: 4 stars for pure throw away fun and laughs
3. The Patriot: 2000, R, 2 hrs. 44 mins, starring Mel Gibson, Heath Ledger, Jason Issacs, Joely Richardson, Chris Cooper, Rene Auberjonois
Filmed entirely in Charlestown, SC and told mainly from the American point of view during the Revolutionary War, this movie was critizised for its 'inaccurate' scenes and use of historic characters. I consider it 'fiction based on fact' and take it as such. Some scenes and characters are based on real life persons: there WAS a 'swamp fox' who terrorized the Brit soldiers and made their lives utter chaos and hell; the war is well documented with cruelty on BOTH sides, and no true historical fact (such as the great losses on both sides, the outcomes of battles, the methods of fighting, costumes, etc.) were changed. This is 'it could have happened this way'. I absolutely love the harbor and the way the huge ships are anchored right at the sidewalks. It's gorgeous.
Ben Martin is a widowed father of 7 who refuses to join the fight for independence, citing "I'm a parent; I don't have the luxury of principals". Yet after his son is unjustly killed, Ben leads a rag tag group of fighters who make it their job to drive the Brits out not through open fighting but misery. They largely succeed at extreme great personal cost. It's stressed the Brit 'made their own plague' in the way the swamp fox (although Ben is never called that in the film) is made.
There are vivid scenes of war and can be hard to watch, especially the injustices (again, on both sides). While not as descriptive as the opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, it's still not for the faint hearted. One particular scene in the village church…well, that was especially difficult. I love the development of the characters, especially Ben and his eldest son. Their actions are entirely appropriately and not contrived, even the way-over-the-top sociopath Brit Colonel. The French Major is wonderfully portrayed, and even grudging admiration is given to General Cornwallis, the Brit leader.
The best line and one I wish the world could learn: "This war will not be fought in faraway lands or seas. It will be fought in our fields, in our homes, in our towns. Our children will learn of it first hand with their own eyes and will not be innocent any longer. There are none who will escape the ravages."
My rating: 4 stars for character development, scenes, costumes, and emotion
4. Anywhere but Here: 1999, PG 13, 1 hr. 53 mins., starring Natalie Portman, Susan Sarandon, Shawn Hatosy, Bonnie Bedelia
If you are the mother of a teenage daughter, this film will make you say, "OMG! YES! That's just how I feel!" If you are a teenager, you will say, "OMG! YES! This mother is impossible!" A mother-daughter movie, it's at times funny, touching, and a bit slow paced.
Adele is a free spirit smothered in her small southern hometown and packs up unwilling teen age daughter Ann to drive to Beverly Hills. Adele is irresponsible, a bit nuts, and always seeks the best for her daughter with good intensions if not quite 'traditional' practices. The everyday struggle to pay bills and wish for 'better' is one every parent shares. The daughter's wishes her mom was actually 'normal' is also very true to life. The dynamics of family are also well played and while not 'hit you over the head' scenes, lesbian issues, love, sex, drugs and romance are all portrayed. POV is often through Ann's voice over observations.
There's no nudity or violence in this film, so it's 'safe' for 10 and up. It's not so much the plot that grabs your interest; it’s the characters, who are well acted and touch a note in you, whether you are mom or daughter. Watch it with your daughter, regardless how old she is.
My Rating: 3 stars for well acted, mom-dau relationships
5. Muffin Top: A Love Story: 2014, 1 hr. 36 mins, R, starring Cathryn Michon, David Arquette, Melissa Peterman
This is my 'fluff movie'. It drags in places with old jokes and slow pacing, but overall is good. I won't watch it again, because it's not something I want to watch over and over, but good for a rainy afternoon if nothing else is on.
Suzanne is a professor of women's studies whose class I'd love to take. Her personal life is a wreck: after a series of hormone shots designed to help the 40-something conceive and encouraged by her husband, on her 40th birthday he serves her with divorce papers and the fact his 20-something secretary is expecting his child. Suzanne sets out to lose her 'muffin top' of weight, although to be honest, she looks darn good to me, so I fear the stereotypical 'you can never be too thin'. There had to be some special effects to show her 3 rolls of waist fat because it's sure not visible anywhere else.
The 'diet guru' she consults is, unfortunately a true real representative of what fad diets are like, as are his recommendations and serves to show how 'body' obsessed our culture truly is. Her efforts to 'get rid of this awful fat' are funny except by those actually trying to lose actual weight. While poking fun at 'muffin tops', this does little to help the self esteem of women actually having to fight the 'battle of the fat' and does seem to point out only thin people are 'beautiful'.
My rating: 2 stars for some funny scenes and a happy ending
6. Survivor: 2015, 96 mins, R, starring Milla Jovovich, Pierce Bronsnan, Dylan McDermott, Angela Bassett
Need an action thriller? This is it. There's loads of twists and turns and the story seems largely without huge plot holes. Based on 'fact', including the 9/11 New York City attacks and subsequent 'terrorist' foiled attempts since, this movie is vivid in descriptions of violence, greed and the over whelming need to 'do the right thing' as according to personal beliefs.
There's no 'bashing' here of any religion or person, at least I didn't think so. The characters are shown to be acting according to their own conscious (or lack of one) and their own motives without dragging religion or country into it (one character does state a need to 'make the Americans pay', but there's dozens of other things he reveals as the reason for his actions). Seeing my 'Remington Steele' crush as an ultra bad guy was hard to swallow, but wow, he rocks that role. I truly couldn't keep up with all the plot angles, which make this movie one you have to sit, watch, and do nothing else. Miss even a second and you are behind the plot.
The London shot scenes are breathtaking, the bombing scenes heartbreaking, and the deaths of characters while furthering the plot and not for 'show' make your breath catch. It's supposed to be the security and threats of a post 9/11 world. It's not that clear cut, but anymore would be too unbelievable. This film provokes the thought: Who can we truly trust?
My rating: 3 stars for action and plot twists, would have liked to see a bit more character development
Now three I couldn't finish:
1. Area 51: Filmed like someone took out their smart phone and started the video, it's full of foul language and predictable characters. I lasted 15 mins and counted over 100 uses of the 'f' word before I hit 'browse' and turn it off.
2. Time Lapse: I fast forward through the middle of this and didn't lose a bit of the plot. Great premise, but the plot is slow, contrived and filled with predictable, one dimensional characters. Even the surprise twist at the end can't save it.
3. Red Lights: More fast forwarding, very slow plot and predictable characters. I wanted to like it, but I just couldn't get past the predictability.