SHORT TAKE: Not even the presence of Sir Anthony Hopkins and the adorable Mark Wahlberg can save this awful outing of numbingly repetitive action scenes, plotholes and unfollowable script.
I would watch Anthony Hopkins read the phone book. I’ve been a fan of his since I saw him as Corky Withers, the eccentric troubled ventriloquist in the 1978 suspense thriller Magic. He has played a priest, a psychic, a serial killer, Odin, Richard the Lionheart, a veterinarian, a cad, a butler, Charlie Chaplin’s biographer, a truly terrible Zorro and C.S. Lewis. I have LOVED everything I have seen him in. Even if he is bad he is wonderful. There is something captivating about every performance he gives. And it’s a good thing he has a lot of scenes in Transformers because it is the only thing that kept me sitting through Transformers – The Last Knight.
You know – it was bad enough that Disney created an entire string of movies based upon a single image in a Disney ride. Now we are treated to a series of movies based upon a combination of a Japanese toy bought out by Hasbro and Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots marketed by Mattel.
I’ve never been a big Transformers fan anyway, but had great hopes for what I thought a genuinely clever idea: that the magic of the Arthurian legends was, what has been described by Arthur C Clarke as “sufficiently advanced technology”.
The premise is that Merlin was a drunken charlatan who comes upon a crashed Transformer, from whom Merlin prevails by way of the Transformer’s better nature to aid King Arthur in his quest to unite the world to a civilized society against the barbarian hordes  – to gift him with an ancient staff and to fight as a metal dragon to defeat the barbarians. Why this Transformer trusts Merlin, how Merlin found him and how this self-proclaimed alcoholic incompetent manages to control such advanced weaponry so that it fights against the right group and doesn’t just massacre everyone is never explained. Same goes with most of the rest of the movie. Terms are thrown around like: TRF, the “talsiman”, infernocons, Steelbane, Decepticons, Megatron, Knights of Cybertron, Unicron, etc – which, I suppose if you are an initiate into the Transformer franchise the lexicon will make sense. But every movie should stand on its own. It should not rely so heavily on previous movies that it leaves you head scratching through most of the movie.
The plot never covers why Cade (Mark Wahlberg) is hanging out in a devastated and abandoned Chicago (or why Chicago is abandoned – it's not radioactive or anything) tending to critters the rest of the world is out to kill…..or fight with, depending on where you are in the story. It is never convincingly explained why our military is ordered to change allegiances mid-way through the movie. The characters are never seriously injured…or DIE…from impacts, falls, crashes, shock waves, or other events which would break the bones, crush the skulls, concuss, or rupture organs in us mere mortals. Aside from abrogating ALL tension or concern about the characters it is so blatant that it impairs the already tenuous suspension of disbelief necessary for all good stories. And the constant action is never done in such a way as to give you a clear clue as to who you are supposed to be rooting for. The Decepticons look so much like the Autobots which look like the Knights – and they all fight against or with each other depending upon the minute marker in the movie but without much regard to any explanation or convincing motivation by the characters.
Thinking I must have missed something in a previous movie, I went back and read the plot lines of all the other Transformer movies: Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen, Dark of the Moon, and Age of Extinction. The stories all read like an excited little boys’ fantasy play fresh from opening his birthday toys with his older brother who throws in a few scantily clad girls right from his own fantasies to keep things interesting for himself.
Why would advanced technological metal alien life forms take on the attitude and appearance of: samurai, sleazy traveling salesmen, caricature cigar chewing (why would a metal alien chew a cigar???) Sergeant from stock World War II movies. Why would an advanced metal alien which can blend together to make a larger robot then separate again, fly across the galaxy, and utilize technology that can bring metal appliances to life —- not be able to fix the voice box of one of its own? That is just a dumb affectation.
Stan Tucci is amusing in the beginning as the discount Lord of the Rings Dwarf-like reprobate Merlin. And I love Mark Wahlberg. I think he did a stupendous job in Lone Survivor. I am proud to call him a fellow Catholic. I think he is a wonderful comic actor. And he did a good job trying to slog through this movie with character intact. But if even Sir Anthony Hopkins couldn’t save this Transformium turkey then it was a cinch he couldn’t either.
It is obvious that the makers of these movies really love their subject. They come to it with an enormous amount of zeal and enthusiasm. But I was sorely disappointed in their handling of what could have been a creative approach to this worn out and poorly conceived franchise. Like a child on a sugar high who can’t get three coherent sentences out in describing their new toys,  Michael Bay, his scriptwriters and team mates just throw incomprehensible fight scene after fight scene at us until we are too fatigued to pay attention any more.
If you ever get this as part of your Netflix or Amazon prime – for free or next to free, you might want to fast forward to the scenes with Sir Anthony as Sir Edmund Burton – where he narrates the Arthurian legend behind the Transformers attachment to Earth in general and mankind in particular. The imagery of the classic Knights of the Round table flanked by the Transformer Knights is pretty cool. But, unfortunately, that was the highlight of the movie.
On top of that there is unnecessary profanity, some of it coming out of the mouth of a 14 year old girl who is crow-barred into the story to give Wahlberg’s character, Cade, a pseudo-daughter to protect.
Sad to say – Transformers – Last Knight is about as clunky as the Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots upon which they are partly based. So if you want something with a bit more dignity, creativity and majesty about knights and magic and alien environments then go watch Thor instead…. or Excalibur…or Bugs Bunny in King Arthur's Court.


You might have noticed – or not – but I changed my banner from “Movie reviews by a homeschool mom” to "NO ONE TRIES TO MAKE A BAD MOVIE". Well, for one thing, now that all six of our kids are graduated from high school I’m more an emeritus homeschooler. Granted, like the Marines, once a homeschooler, always a homeschooler – as in, it’s a philosophy, not a curriculum. BUT with the advent of this minor tidal change in our family I thought I might share one of the underlying perspectives I have always had when writing reviews.
A long time ago – BC (as in before children) – I worked outside the house. The business I worked for had reason to employ a little known and independent film director/writer named Bill Kirksey to, basically, provide a seminar on film making.
To briefly digress:  Every now and again someone tells me something that shifts my perception of the world just a little. One of those times was “told” to me in a book by Dorothy and Raymond Moore titled Better Late Than Early.
The first part of the book was cautionary advice on NOT rushing your child to “excellence”. NOT trying to create a super child – which we, as two Type A behavior parents were trying to do to our first child. Embracing this sage advice I continued reading the rest of the book which went on to expound the virtues of homeschooling. As soon as I read that that was a possibility it seemed so obvious: Why did I not see it before?! Why would I pay to send my child off to be taught by total strangers when I can simply continue to teach my child myself!!??

Sort of like the paper clip. You might never have thought of it yourself, but when someone explains it to you it seems so EASY!

So it was with something said by Mr. Kirksey. We were discussing the dearth of really good current movies. One explanation, of course, is that every age has bad entertainment. It is only the really good stuff that survives for later generations to partake. But, I commented, there had been recently (this was the 1980's) so MANY VERY bad movies that it seemed as though Hollywood was actually TRYING to make bad movies.

“Oh no!” he countered. “NO one TRIES to make a bad movie. Everyone is trying to make a masterpiece. It’s just that some people are not very good at it.”
And yes, all of the above pictured turkeys came out in the '80's. Though, for the record, I actually liked Ice Pirates and for reasons I will explain a bit further down I am personally fond of the truly terrible Cat People. One of the movies featured above, Heaven's Gate, was SO bad it actually tolled the demise of United Artists in 1981, a studio that had been in existence since 1919, by costing $44 million and bringing in a rousing …. $3 million.
And it hit me, as the homeschool moment would almost a decade later, that everyone is doing their dead level best to produce a work in their genre that others will want to see. And OK, maybe this was patently obvious to everyone else in the solar system except me, but this simple statement acted upon me like a light in the dark for someone trying to find a missing penny.
It made sense: every film maker – no matter how talented or crass or literate or unintelligible is attempting to contribute something profound…… or at least interesting…..or at least profitable.
That doesn’t mean the motives are necessarily lofty. It is a business – I can respect that (as long as it is not disreputable or advocating criminal or despicable acts). Most filmmakers are trying to make money. To that end they want people to watch it and if it isn’t compelling no one will bother. Even people making propaganda hit pieces, like the ridiculous mumbo jumbo from the left, are attempting to make the BEST propaganda they can, to convince as many people as they can to their opinion. And, I would say, even at the darkest end of the spectrum – those who create the most shady and disreputable films, they are trying to make the best ones they can, because they, too, seek to entice an audience into a theater.
This is why when I review even films which I do not like, or which I think poorly done – like Assassin’s Creed – I try to find some merit in them – because there is usually SOMETHING in there worthy of praise. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic and sometimes you have to look REALLY REALLY hard —- but it’s usually there.
Maybe it’s because I write screenplays too and have not yet been produced so understand the frustration and obstacles which wanna be film makers face. Maybe it’s because I have read about the making of movies, lots of biographies and autobiographies. Two of my favorites are Michael Caine’s What’s it All About and William Shatner’s Up Til Now. And there are other tomes on film analysis –
on both successful movies, like Carl Gottlieb’s The Jaws Log, about the eccentric creation of Spielberg's career maker — and on disasters, like Heaven’s Gate, about which you can read in Steven Bach’s observations of a financial and creative train wreck, titled Final Cut. These books track the tortuous and detailed epic campaigns required to make a movie. There is an old saying – never seek to see how laws or sausage are made. The same could be said about film making. It’s an amazing business, but it’s a business. Much of it, like my Dad used to say about his experiences in the military, involves a lot of hurry up and WAIT!
I once was a crew assistant on Cat People. My job was the complex and intricately skilled responsibility of standing outside the perimeter of an area of a zoo where filming was taking place and asking passersby not to go any further…… That was it….. All day. I DID get to see Natsha Kinski as she walked by though. I wanted to say something memorable. So I wisely emoted: “You look very nice.” She seemed pleased. She was very sweet.
The POINT I’m making is that film MAKING isn’t always as exciting as WATCHING the final product. And whether the final outcome will be a blockbuster, a cult favorite, a respectable resume enhancer for the next celebrity, an art house head scratcher, a forgettable turkey, or a straight to DVD moderate success, it is a difficult, arduous process, often with all the glamor of mixing concrete. The people on the set are working hard, sometimes at sheer drudgery, in a professional capacity to do the best job they can – if for no OTHER reason than so they will get hired on the next set so they can pay their mortgage or for their kids’ orthodontic bills, just like the rest of us.
Michael Caine once was asked how on EARTH he could have been in the Oscar winning Hannah and Her Sisters in the SAME year he starred in the excruciatingly AWFUL Jaws 3. His answer (I paraphrase): “Because I had a mortgage to pay.”
No one ever looks at an ugly building and says – they must have WANTED to make an ugly building. No – they wanted it to be a safe and usable building. If that was accomplished then fine. No one ever had a meal at a restaurant and thought the chef WANTED to make it taste bad. Even if you were angry or disappointed you would understand it was an accident and know the chef was likely trying to do a good job but had a bad day or burnt something or was understaffed – whatever. But most people would never assume they WANTED to make a bad building or a bad meal. Even if you, as a consumer, did not like what was produced you would assume the creative mind behind it was trying to do their best – even if you, as a consumer did not think their best was good enough for you.
By the same token people who make movies really are trying to make the best movie they can. Even if I do not like the movie or the theme or the concepts which drove the idea behind it I understand the creative forces behind them were doing their best. So the movies I choose to review I want to respect from that point of view.
I may be harsh or even derisive but I do try to find that little bit of gold I always hope is somewhere in the mud. Maybe I’m like the kid who digs in a pile of manure sure there must be a pony if I only dig deeply enough. But knowing how difficult getting ANYTHING onto the screen is, I find myself compelled to seek out at least a seed of virtue.
To that end you ADULTS might want to put on your movie bucket list Ed Wood. It stars Johnny Depp as the man “credited” with making some of the worst movies of all time, including Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda. Wood, according to the story, was really trying to make the best movie he could. He just wasn’t very good AT it. But he was NOT TRYING to make a bad movie.
So next time you see a movie that just did not ring many bells for you, remember, be kind and see if you can think of anything good about it, because  the movies themselves were not bad – to paraphrase Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit – "They were just filmed that way."


Back in April, 2017 I was pleased to post my interview with Garry Nation, star of Polycarp.  I am now delighted to announce that our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception here in Lake Charles will be hosting a showing of Polycarp on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 6 pm at the Ave Maria Hall at 935  Kirby Street in Lake Charles, LA, across from the Cathedral. I would encourage everyone and anyone interested in independent film making in general or this wonderful adaptation of the last months of this saint, bishop and martyr’s life in particular to come to this FREE showing. Our Youth group will be selling treats as part of a fund raiser during the show, so bring your appetite for snacks as well as your hunger for good wholesome entertainment.

And now meet Polycarp‘s extraordinary and talented young screenplay writer – Jerica Henline – whose patience and generosity of spirit allowed me to film this interview.


Jerica Henline introduces herself and describes what inspired her to write Polycarp.

Jerica Henline explains what, to her, is the most important theme in Polycarp.

Jerica Henline describes her favorite scene in her screenplay Polycarp.

Jerica Henline, screenwriter of Polycarp, explains how she and brother Joe became involved in film making.

Jerica Henline describes how to contact Henline Productions or purchase their products, including their 2015 production, Polycarp.





SHORT TAKE: Cars 3 is a massive improvement over Cars 2 and just as much fun but with an arguably better story than even the original Cars. Get the kids to take Dad for Father's Day.
Cars was a clever remake of an old Michael J Fox movie called Doc Hollywood, about a hot shot doctor with dreams of getting rich out in California as a plastic surgeon to the stars. He crashes in a small rural burb and the judge sentences him to assisting around town where he learns that flashier and faster isn’t always better. It’s a very funny and charmingly whimsical movie, well worth your time. And Cars pretty much told the same story.
Toy Story made animated cinematic history by managing to create sequels arguably equal to or even better than the first. The secret to Toy Story's success: the plot. The writers didn't stagnate the characters or rehash the same conflicts, like some poorly written sitcom. Instead, the Toy Story franchise creators smartly chose to foster the development and maturation of the characters, extolling virtues like humility and self sacrifice along the way.
I am delighted to say that Cars 3 follows in Toy Story’s footsteps and not its own. Cars was a cute but forgettable knock off of a light rom com MJ Fox vehicle. Cars 2 was disappointing and somewhat inane. Cars 3 brings back everything that made the original Cars movie fun for the kids and satisfying for the adults and MORE, contributing an intelligent script which is silly enough for the kiddies but thoughtful enough to keep the parents interested.
Much like how Mary Poppins was really an advisory tale for fathers who were lured into watching by bringing the kids, Cars 3 is a wonderful story about the importance of fatherly role models as well as a cautionary tale for anyone who can appreciate that old Bruce Springsteen song “Glory Days” which will “pass you by…in the wink of a young girl’s eye”. As a matter of fact this song is featured as a remix during the movie. What happens when you’ve reached and passed your peak in whatever you do and you see young hot rods in your rearview mirror closing in on your tailpipe? If you live long enough you can’t control aging (that may sound dumb but it’s even dumber watching the botox shot and plastic surgery set try), but you CAN control your response to that inevitable event and your character will determine what that response will be.
I was charmed by the writers’ thoughtful development of Lightning McQueen, as well as the virtues of honest self-assessment, altruism, and courage included in the story.
I highly recommend the kids go and take the parents, especially the dads, this Father’s Day weekend.
Meanwhile meet some of the actors who artfully and respectfully bring life to a bunch of anthropomorphized transport vehicles:
Owen (Marley & Me, and the Night at the Museum franchise) Wilson is Lightning McQueen whose laid back snarkiness from Cars has been polished to a down home self-confidence in Cars 3.
]Larry the Cable Guy is Mater….who I love. (And who provides the only truly funny line in Cars 2 “Do not try the free pistachio ice cream! It done turn!!!!” Oh no! Now you’ll have to see the goofy Cars 2 to find out what that line means.) Mater is Mater, the adorably clueless and staunchly loyal best friend of McQueen.
Nathan (Firefly and Castle) Fillion is Sterling, McQueen’s new opportunistic sponsor.
Armie (Lone Ranger) Hammer is Storm, McQueen’s new main rival and representative of the up and coming generation of gizmo heavy competitors.
Bonnie (Jumanji) Hunt is Sally, McQueen’s faithful love interest. 
Cristela Alonzo is Cruz, McQueen’s trainer.
The duo of Ray and (the late) Tom Magliozzi – the stars of Car Talk aka Click and Clack aka The Tappett Brothers – do the voices of Dusty and Rusty – old friends and previous sponsors of McQueen’s, who do a cute and funny rendition of themselves.
Then there is the ubiquitous John Ratzenberger as Mack – the Mack truck and driver for McQueen.
Chris (from The Patriot and two Bourne movies) Cooper is Smokey – old Doc Hudson’s mentor.
And the late Paul Newman reprises the voice of Doc Hudson in “flashback”.
There are also two bits of lagniappe: a charming little short called LOU to warm up the audience about a playground bully who gets his cumupance in a lovely way, and a throw away Easter Egg at the tip end of Cars 3's credits featuring Mater with which I wish they had done more. This last is about my only big complaint about Cars 3.
All in all it was a great show and about 100 laps’ length better than its immediate predecessor. Bring the Dads to go see Cars 3 for Father’s Day. The kids will enjoy it too.


SHORT TAKE: The Mummy is a live action comic book – the trial run for Universal’s new Dark World franchise. It ain’t Shakespeare – or Wonder Woman – but it’s a lot of ridiculous fun.
When I was a 5 year old there was no such thing as iPods, DVDs, Nintendo, Gameboys or even cell phones. So when our family traveled in my dad’s Oldsmobile from New Orleans, LA to Disneyland in 1964, in order to keep his youngest child (me) occupied, whenever he stopped for gas he’d go into the station and buy a copy of every age appropriate comic book he could find. I must have read a hundred Superman, Superboy, Supergirl, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, and Wendy the Good Little Witch magazines. So I’ve always had a  soft spot for comic books.
Jump forward 53 years. My husband and I went to go see The Mummy – a movie 118 years in the making. No kidding. 1899 was the birth year of possibly the very first movie about a mummy – a silent short called Cleopatra’s Tomb directed by George Melies – the same auteur who directed 526 silent shorts, including the famous A Trip to the Moon
So how does our trip to see The Mouse in 1964 connect with 2017’s  The Mummy? Well…I was puzzled by my own reaction to The Mummy. While I love a well done scare fest, I usually spend a good deal of time watching it through my fingers and feeling creeped out and looking underneath my car before I get in it in the parking lot. But despite The Mummy being full of staggering mummies, zombified victims, living sandstorms, and other monsters (I will not now name for the sake of spoiler prevention), I came out of the movie feeling like a bouncy kid. I suddenly realized The Mummy is not actually a horror movie – it is really an extremely well done, well plotted, well performed live action comic book!
Wisecracking, never to be taken completely seriously leading man with flawed motives, vivid images, wildly outrageous developments:  massive flock of birds taking down a military plane, a mysterious cavern found by chance by two mercenaries, the dead being brought back to life as the mummy’s slave, a pit hiding a terrible secret under a pool of mercury, an underground secret science lab full of enough sparking and exploding electric tubes to swell the heart of Kenneth (1931 Frankenstein prop master) Strickfaden, evil incarnate in the form of a beautiful scantily clad tatooed woman. The Mummy throws in homages or outright supporting spots to a number of other monster stories.
I can picture the comic book panels to almost every scene in the movie.
It has all the tongue in “shriek” of Hugh Jackman’s Van Helsing, John Landis’ American Werewolf in London, the troll in the bathroom scene from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and  Goosebumps – the movie about RL Stine’s fictions coming to life. No matter how much they amp up the scare factor you just can’t take it seriously enough to be disturbed.
And how CAN you take a movie seriously when the lead, Nick Morton (Tom Cruise) has a quippy argument in a woman’s bathroom with his recently deceased best friend Chris Vail (Jake Johnson) on whether Nick was justified in shooting Chris just because Chris was trying to stab everyone around him after he had been zombified by the Mummy Princess Ahmanet???
And somehow the terror value is (intentionally) lost when Ahmanet has Nick held down by her zombie minions and is preparing to stab him with a ritual knife. See –  as she pulls his shirt up and rakes her fingers down his torso …. Nick starts laughing because he’s ticklish!!
The above mentioned scenes come within an inch of opera buffa or even outtake qualities but fit nicely with the tone of the rest of the movie.
And it makes sense because apparently Universal is starting its own franchise of “Dark Universe” films of which this is the golden nail in the railroad track. I can foresee it entirely possible to put all these worlds: DC, Marvel, Dark Universe within each others’ reach. And OH what mash ups are possible.
And why not! Within the last 118 years there have been mummy link ups with everything from Laurel and Hardy to Sherlock Holmes. AND, while we’re at it – why not the Hulk with Frankenstein or Dracula with Batman or Creature from the Black Lagoon with Aquaman? There really is no reason not to – if you can write a good enough plot and theme to go with it. If the scriptwriters can create the masterpiece that is Wonder Woman, then I suspect not even the sky’s the limit.
From Cleopatra’s Tomb to this year’s The Mummy, there have been over 402 films with a mummy theme – entries ranging from Laurel and Hardy, Charlie Chan, Scooby Do and the Three Stoogesto the iconic Boris Karloff 1932 classic entry The Mummy, to the Brandon Fraser semi-parody Mummy franchise. There have been mummy movies with Sherlock Holmes, Abbot and Costello, and even Tom Baker’s Dr. Who! There have been mummy movies which have been frightening, suspenseful, and comic – sometimes a combination and sometimes unintentionally one or the other. And there is one my husband and I have determined we MUST see sometime soon called Bubba HoTep about an Elvis impersonator in a nursing home who thinks he’s the original and a black man convinced he is JFK dyed black by LBJ as part of a failed assassination attempt.The two team up to save their fellow residents from a shambling resurrected mummy – which makes some kind of sense because a mummy has a fighting chance against elderly which it would not have against more fleet of foot younger potential victims……I am SO not kidding. This is a real movie. Though I suspect NOT for the kiddies or the easily offended – so be advised.
Obviously, this is not a topic to be taken very seriously. But I digress.
BOTTOM LINE: There are a HUGE variety of mummy movie options. Many even with the name The Mummy. THIS The Mummy with Tom Cruise is fun and entertaining, though not for younger kids who might not be as amused as the more jaded of us by cliched over-the-top monster scenarios. Those who are panning this Mummy I think just don’t get it. The Mummy is not intended for introspective thoughful watching. It’s simply a comic book hoot. And that’s a wrap. Mums the word. Go home now – your mummy’s calling you.


In 1976 Disney came out with a really dumb movie called Freaky Friday starring Barbara Harris and a VERY young Jodie Foster about a mother and daughter who get their wish to be each other for a day. It’s the old – careful what you wish for. The daughter thinks her mom has it easy because she has all the control. The mom thinks the daughter’s position is a toddle because all she has to do all day is go to school, come home and snack. Both are, of course, wrong. But the story, as presented, is silly and superficial, trite and leans heavily on all the cliched generation gap misunderstandings. They didn’t do any better with the Shelley Long version in 1995 or the Jamie Lee Curtis version in 2003.
So when my husband bought tickets to go see the new musical version I had to laugh. Why not? On vacation, let’s be brainless. By intermission my husband and I turned to each other almost simultaneously and said “Our kids have GOT to see this!!!” The music is catchy with clever lyrics, the script is funny and fast paced. The acting in the one we saw with Heidi Blickenstaff as mother Katherine and Emma Hunton as daughter Ellie were absolutely brilliant and totally believable. The singing was stunning and powerful but nuanced with “attitude” and comic timing. And most importantly it has a really good PLOT! I guarantee you will see yourself somewhere in this play – as the parent, as the child, as the sibling – older or younger – or as all at some point in your life. To see yourself as others see you. Prepare to laugh – a LOT – but bring some kleenex too.
Instead of a throw away one-note gimmick, the tale here is of a widowed mom, Katherine, on the eve of remarriage trying to hold together her fledgling catering company and her fragile family – still traumatized and battered by the untimely death of the father 6 years before. (AGAIN underlining the importance of the DAD!!!) The father leaves his wife and daughter each a “magic” hourglass, as though knowing this day would come. And at the apex of the stresses from the wedding preparation, a journalist about to do a story on the mom’s business, the daughter’s crush on Adam, the popular guy in class, and a simple conflict in scheduling – well, they get their respective wishes. Fleshing out the cast is: an adorable 10 year old little brother, Fletcher, who is looking forward to having a Dad again; Mike, the deeply patient and understanding fiance; Katherine’s underappreciated assistant; Katherine’s oblivious parents; a timely parent-teacher meeting; some teenaged angst; a class cutting up frogs in biology class and….a treasure hunt. And yes all these elements work together like gears in a clock to make a funny, warm, insightful, catchy, brilliant little musical. I think this the best thing Disney has done in years.
While focusing mostly on the mother and daughter, the supporting cast is not forgotten. Each gets a moment to shine. And the ensemble group is utilized to the full as well. There are some moments in the play which would have done Mozart proud – as at times there are upwards of 6 people singing in the same song about their different agendas or perspectives – and it all makes sense (think the ensemble song “Tonight” in West Side Story or the Act II and IV octet finales in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro).
The songs each have a personality of their own as well – from the cocky “I Got This” where Katherine and Ellie assume pretending to be each other will be a breeze, to the lyrical heartbreaking “After All of This and Everything” which Ellie, in Katherine’s body sings to a sleeping Fletcher, to the bitterly funny “Parents Lie”, and the just plain old cute “Women and Sandwiches” which Adam sings to Fletcher in an attempt to explain the fascination women have for him and will one day have for Fletcher.
If you want to get a preview of Freaky Friday you can hear the songs on Youtube.
The play opened October 4, 2016 in Arlington, VA and we were blessed with being able to see the original cast leads in Houston. This play will, no doubt, make the rounds around the country – or be filmed at some point. But don’t let the previous original versions put you off. This is a truly “magical” play.
FIND and go see this play SOMEWHERE!!!!!!



Wonder Woman is a true corker of an action adventure hero story as well as a genuine class act of good military mission story combined with a super hero origin story and some honest to goodness Christian virtue and humility – ALL – astonishingly and surprisingly, with a woman in the lead.

MY TAKE – SPOILERS!!! Though I will try to keep them to the minimum necessary to make my points.

As much as I like Scarlett Johanssen as an actress and Black Widow as a character, there is a reason I think Marvel has never planned an origin story for her. I just do not think – or DID not think – a woman could carry off a lead action adventure super hero story. In addition, I grew up with Linda Carter’s red, white and blue over flowing D cup and lasso in one of the cheesiest TV shows ever filmed. So when I heard they had proposed a Wonder Woman movie I thought they had designed a ship made with a hole already in the hull. But I was wrong.

First off – and I say this as a card carrying heterosexual – Gal Gadot is one of the most stunningly beautiful women I have ever seen. And the Amazons she is a member of do not try to fight like men. The writers wisely make sensible use of women’s lithe agility and maneuverability, concentrating on their ability with bows rather than strength. In addition, Ms. Gadot is an honest to goodness hero, herself, having spent two years as the sports trainer with the Israeli Defense Corps. In addition, she had swordsmanship, Kung Fu kickboxing, Capoeira and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training in preparation to play Diana. So when she appears to be kicking some genuine a** – well boys, I wouldn’t cross her.

Second – there is a really good plot. And I don’t just mean a compelling well held together story about a group on a mission to stop the production of a super killer gas at the crucial point of armistice during World War I – though this part of the story was well thought out. I mean that there is a timely theme of Christian mercy, forgiveness, honor, noble purpose, compassion and acceptance of mankind’s sinful but redeemable nature, which foundationally supports the excellent Desperate Journey like mission on which the group embarks.

Third – there is humor. The story never takes itself completely seriously. It is fully aware there is a comic book flavor to it. The story unfolds almost as though – ala Princess Bride – a grandpa is relaying a story of which he was proudly a part to an adoring grandchild. But it never makes fun of nor disrespects the genre or the conceptual impetus which is the genius behind the basics of the story.

Fourth: Attention is given to detail. Things that happen later in the movie are naturally set up earlier in the plot. There aren’t any cheats. In addition, there are moments of revelation for each of the characters which give just enough back story to help understand their motives without throwing it in your face. The writers and director have confidence in the audience’s ability to understand the characters but allow the characters some privacy. For example, Ewen Bremner’s Charlie is supposed to be a marksmen, but at a crucial moment can’t shoot. He later has a terrible nightmare which is never explained. But Sameer tells Diana that everyone struggles with their own demons.

Fifth: There's a wonderful supporting cast, including, among others I mention, Chris (Captain Kirk) Pine as Steve Trevor – Diana's companion-in-arms.

Sixth: There are some terrific small moments. For example: Diana and Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) have a "language – off". He says he can speak a number of languages and quips to her in a foreign language, to which she replies, then she says something else in another language, to which he responds, and back and forth. Finally she throws him some "ancient Greek" to which he concedes defeat. Then Steve comments: "Are you two done now?"


Foretellingly the Chief (Eugene Brave Rock), Sameer and Steve run through what feels like a ritual script:

Chief: Let's get what we want.

Sameer: Get what we need.


Steve Trevor: And never get what we deserve.

It will make perfect sense when the time comes.

Near the beginning Diana rescues Steve from a crashed plane as he is drowning. The only thing he manages to save from the plane is the pocket watch his father had given him. When he later gives it to Diana it occurred to me the film makers beautifully were making the point that Steve, from the moment Diana pulled him from the water, was living off of borrowed time – time Diana had given him and which Steve then symbolically passes, baton-like, in gratitude, back to her.

In an incredible scene Diana insists on interrupting their primary mission to help a beleaguered village being abused by German soldiers. When the others in the mission group, including Steve, refuse, saying they don’t have time, Diana decides to go alone through "no man’s land" – a front line demarcating the two enemy lines for which no one has seen a change in months. Diana sheds her disguise and walks into battle singlehandedly taking on the bullets of an entire front line – thereby spurring Steve and his companions to follow her and give her support which in turn inspires the rest of the soldiers to follow, which breaks the enemy line. At no point does she say "but I am not a man". The scene is so well done that she really kind of earned the right to say it but in a moment of tremendous restraint and class the writers do not succumb to the temptation.

And there are a myriad other comments and moments which make this film rise head and shoulders above, not just most of the infamously bad DC movies like Batman V Superman or the trite Suicide Squad but also the in-your-face bad taste that was Deadpool or the ho hum of the later Toby McGuire attempts at Spiderman.

I really can’t praise or recommend this movie highly enough. I would even venture to elevate this from "movie" to the status of "film" in that there is literacy and literature within.

This is not at all to say it doesn’t ALSO fit the rock ‘em sock ‘em action adventure mold. There’s plenty of amazing heroics, superhero gymnastics, bad guy pulverizing, magic swords and super hero feats of daring do. But these fit neatly and seamlessly into a well crafted movie against a backdrop of humans trying to do their moral best in a time of great evil. Were the language heightened to iambic pentameter I think Shakespeare would have given it his nod.


DC should be very very proud of this latest installment. If you liked Christopher Reeves Superman, The Avengers, both Captain Americas, and Iron Man then you are going to LOVE Wonder Woman.

Mighty DC has FINALLY NOT struck out. Well done DC.