Great, adult humor, Halloween appropriate movie, about the mayhem which results from a magic youth potion and homicidal rivals for the same man.


Language, sexual conversational references, a quick shot of full back female nudity, and comically grotesque violence makes this mature fare only. However,  the excellent performances, sly jabs at the modern shallow pursuit of youth, and its strong moral life lesson makes this worth your time. Not to mention the fact it is just plain old fun to watch.


Having been through 2 major hurricanes this year which, when added up together total a CAT 7, there’s just not a lot that would frighten me right now. So with Halloween approaching I thought I’d take a more comic shift and recommend one of my favorite, deep dark-humor comedies – 1992’s Death Becomes Her.

This movie has amazing star power. And all three leads play against type. Streep is more known for sweet vulnerable characters in serious dramas or touching musicals, such as her parts in Sophie’s Choice, The Deer Hunter and Mama Mia.

Goldie, starting with Laugh-In in her youth, is better known for breathy brainless characters in light frothy comedies like Overboard, Cactus Flower and The Out of Towners.

And, of course, Willis is usually synonymous with John McClaine’s Yippie-ky-yo-kay-yay smart aleck action heroes in heart pounders like Die Hard or Red or The Expendables or The Whole Nine Yards.

In Death Becomes Her, these performers are delightfully unrecognizable from their established trade mark personas. Bruce Willis is meek, gullible and easily manipulated plastic surgeon, Ernest Menville. Meryl Streep is Madeleine Ashton, a character which would have appalled even her steely Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wore Prada. Goldie Hawn is Madeleine’s opponent, Helen Sharp, who goes through two major transformations to appease her vengeful bitter personality.

The movie also features the stunningly beautiful Isabella Rossellini, who looks more like her mother, the cinema icon Ingrid Bergman, with each passing year.

The story revolves around the aptly nicknamed “Mad” and “Hel” as they spend 20 odd years tussling over Willis’ character the way two dogs might play tug-o-war with a toy. Not because either really wants it but because they don’t want the other dog to have it. And the result is not all that good for the tug-o-war toy. A sorceress’ magic potion, a castle full of dead celebrities (watch for cameos), and a few scenes of comically gory violence all make this appropriate for the Halloween season.

The topics, language and violence make it appropriate for a mature audience only.

The very dark humor which chides the shallow pursuit of youth at any cost, the excellent straight faced performances despite the bizarre goings on, and the surprisingly philosophical and moral message structuring the backbone of Willis’ character arc makes this a movie well worth your time.

The clever script was written by Martin Donovan, whose resume is cluttered with 1970’s TV shows, and David Koepp, whose pedigree includes both Jurassic Park and the movie version of Mission: Impossible. Directed by Robert Zemekis whose genius guided Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Back to the Future and Forrest Gump, this is one of those rare movies which will make you laugh and think at the same time, pondering the nature of what makes life worth living.

The soundtrack is by Alan Silvestri, who artfully penned the musical accompaniment of a wide variety of movies from: Infinity War, Avengers, Back to the Future, and Van Helsing to Parent Trap and Stuart Little. Silvestri’s composition here brings to mind the tension under laced with comic flair that Bernard Hermann brought to Alfred Hitchcock’s treasure trove of suspenseful movies flavored with a dash of dark whimsy.

So for this year’s All Hallows’ Eve film, instead of the mindless cotton candy of a slasher movie, I recommend Death Becomes Her for a multi-course cinematic meal, which will supply the table with: a healthy portion of thrills, a fairly large helping of gore, a generous splash of magic, some well tossed laughs, and finally a satisfying aperitif of well served justice.

Bon appetite.



Christopher Nolan’s most recent mind bender. Bond meets Back to the Future.


Really for adults only for violence, some profanity, and a poisonous bad guy who indulges in everything from torture and pursuing world domination to domestic abuse.


It is a cliche to say that something started off ”with a bang” but in the case of Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, that’s a pretty accurate description.

Without credits or explanation you are abruptly thrown into a high risk hostage situation with all the preparation of a Shanghai sailor enlisted into an open sea battle. Guns blazing we follow the main character as he negotiates a field of terrorists and SWAT team members in a sea of innocent victims. You can’t even be sure for whom one should be rooting – except … that the guy you are following is called The Protagonist (John David Washington from The Book of Eli) and works for a super secret organization endeavoring to prevent the end of the world. But even this you do not find out for some time. To make it all the more challenging, in these opening scenes, which time is usually spent introducing you to the home team, everyone is in full helmeted armor and the only hints we get about the participants in this war zone is their actions. Some have no problem shooting at unconscious captives, others try to spare them.

Tenet is best enjoyed as a full emersion experience. I hesitate mightily to even hint at the plot as it would be as rudely revealing as blurting out the name of the killer in the middle of an Agatha Christie movie.

So I will content myself in providing as much advisory information as I can based upon the features of the film.

To begin with the special effects are pretty spectacular. Not in an Independence Day way but in the cleverness with which Nolan exposits his time travel McGuffins. I anticipate a much deserved Best Special Effects, and Best Editing awards going Tenet’s way.

The soundtrack by Ludwig Goransson (Black Panther and Mandalorian) is fitting and channels Hans Zimmer. If you did not know this was a Nolan film, you would recognize the heavy hand of deep resonant sound which underlies, creates and builds on the tension, much like the so-familiar-it-is-now-parodied brass blare from Inception.

Nolan, the masterful auteur writer and/or director of Interstellar, Inception, Dunkirk, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Memento, LOVES to play mind games with his audience. Even Washington has admitted that he is STILL not entirely sure what happened. This is NOT meant as a criticism. Far from it. I admire and appreciate the fact Nolan respects his audience enough to give them room (and rope enough) to find their way on their own, contemplate meanings, and ponder the reasons certain things happen the way they do. In other hands this could be seen as a cop-out but Nolan provides plenty of evidence, bread crumbs and titillating detail. It’s just that there are a number of ways these particulars can be interpreted.

Nolan’s films are a LOT of fun to watch.

However, while, again, I will not reveal the plot, I will warn you that the plot does not always and completely hold together. Unlike the tightly written Back to the Future trilogy or the Infinity War stories, or even Groundhog Day, explanations in Tenet are muddied and subscribe to the philosophy that if you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffled them with …LOTS of action. Nolan even speaks to the audience through one of the minor characters who, while trying to explain certain … events … to The Protagonist, ultimately tells him not to try to understand it but, instead, “feel” it. This, I think, is more advice for the ticket buyer than our investigating spy.

In addition, despite the Draconian Wuhan Virus related regulations causing the shut down of theaters around the country, and despite the money foregone in not simply releasing Tenet to streaming services, Nolan stuck to his guns and INSISTED on a theatrical release. He was quite open about the reason. He did not want the audience to have the opportunity to stop the movie, take a break from the 150 minute bladder burster, or be interrupted by a phone call. He wanted Tenet to be embraced in one swell foop – a single experience which, like a roller coaster will take you on a wild ride, leaving you little chance to catch your breath, figure out or, Heaven forfend, try to ANTICIPATE the next move. I suspect Nolan knew full well that some of his exposition would not completely hold water and that there are plot holes and contrivance contradictions.

The acting is really excellent. Washington is as compelling, cool, and convincing as any Bond hero.

Michael Caine has a small but delightful expositional part. Mr. Caine’s appearance was one of many highlights even though Mr. Caine was almost completely in the dark as to exactly what machine he was a cog in. Nolan kept the story so under wraps that Sir Michael was only given his part of the script to read. This, in fact, actually helps. Caine’s character would NOT have known even a fraction of what was going on within the Universe of the story. But Sir Michael is so gifted a storyteller that he could be given a grocery list to read and I’d still pay money to listen.

Robert Pattinson has come a LONG way since his Twilight phase. While I am likely one of the few grown ups who have advocated in favor of that film series due to its promotion of chastity and pro-life, I never said they were particularly skilled cinematic efforts. SEE REVIEW HERE But Pattison does himself proud as the suave but slightly slovenly, mischievous but mysterious ally to Washington’s main character.

Elizabeth Debicki is sympathetic as Kat, the damsel in distress who has a surprise or two up her sleeve. Debicki might look familiar to sci fi fans, but many will have trouble placing her without her Gold Finger paint job from Guardians of the Galaxy Part 2’s Ayesha.

But the trump card belongs to Kenneth Branagh as the malevolent criminal mastermind. I HATE when Branagh plays villains. For one thing, he is just so likeable in general it is almost painful to accept him as the one to beat. Even Branagh’s evil characters are hard not to side with — at least a little. His Iago in Othello, for instance, was often amusing and so openly willing to confide to the audience that you couldn’t help but understand his frustrations, even as you could be dismayed by his betrayals of those who trusted him.

For another, he’s just too darned GOOD at being bad. In Tenet, Branagh’s Sator (Saytr? Satan? Combo?) is a truly ruthless and malignant person. And yet – there was a compulsion in watching Branagh as he unveiled this persona. I knew it couldn’t be sympathy and then realized it was Branagh’s powerful portrayal of Sator as a man so convinced of his own rightness and entitlement to the outcome of every plan he makes that you are compelled to see through his eyes, even as you are horrified by what he does.

The language was a bit rough in spots but often during action scenes where the music and sound effects were so loud it was hard to make out.

Tenet is not a perfect movie. It does not even bear harsh scrutiny in the afterglow without revealing some major flaws and inconsistencies. In places, the plot is so threadbare you could read – a script through it.

But who cares? The acting is great, the action sequences fascinating, the special effects creative and the story moves along at such a pace that the lines blur enough to give the IMPRESSION of a tightly woven story. If you’re looking for Agatha Christie – wait for Branagh’s turn as the hero in Death on the Nile. But, if you are looking for a great Theme Park-like roller coaster of a movie this is your ride.


Mature George

At the conclusion of Back to the Future George's new found self-respect in 1955 cascades down to his family, instilling in them a respect for themselves, their family, their own lives, and for George all the way into 1985.

Before Marty's intervention, George was a punching bag – literally and figuratively – for Biff. And that malevolent dynamic followed him into adulthood, destroying his confidence and self-respect – until Marty gave him the chance and incentive to fight back. But self respect does not have to be beaten out of a man. It can be leached out, bit by bit, (paraphrasing Shakespeare) through a thousand unnatural cuts by the very people who are supposed to love and support him. In short – if you want a good leader, you must be prepared to be a good follower. This doesn't mean if your trailblazer does something wrong or stupid one shouldn't address it. But it must, even then, be done with a sense towards building up, not tearing down. But the media today revels in every opportunity to tear down or trivialize the institution of fatherhood.

If you want to undermine someone or something you can use the simple expediency of laughing at it – or him. Gone are the days of Father Knows Best Make Room for Daddy My Three Sons

Father Knows Best, Make Room for Daddy, and My Three Sons – all comedies, none took life too seriously and even Dad was occasionally the source of some humor. But it was gentle and respectful, showing that Dad is human and prone to mistakes like the rest of us, but generally demonstrating the importance of Dad in the family. Today the best you might get are shows like Tim Allen's Home Improvement, where Dad is there and involved but pretty much looked at more as one of the kids, but certainly not an especially strong authority figure. And when something goes wrong – who do they blame? Good old Dad. More the kids' pal than their father, he is seen, in today's society, as having all the responsibility but none of the ability to back it up. Kind of like an ill-treated babysitter who is given unruly kids to watch and rules to observe but none of the allowance to discipline which might make establishing some order possible.

Two of the more grotesque and iconic examples of media anti-family propaganda in the guise of entertainment are Married With Children and The Simpsons. Even though the fathers in those shows (Al Bundy in the former and Homer Simpson in the latter) are: married to the mom, faithful, employed, not abusive to their families, not alcoholics or drug addicts, they are shown to be completely idiotic and to fault for the poor upbringing of their children, financial insecurity and lack of social mobility. BUT does it not occur to anyone watching that the woman is not blamed for not stepping up to the plate, for redefining what is arguably a bad family dynamic and socio-economic situation? And, no, I'm not reading too much into these kinds of comedies.

How do you demean, or minimize a person or situation – you laugh at it. When the Dad is regularly the unkind butt of the joke then that diminishes the office of fatherhood. That's not to say that there isn't a LOT of room for humor in any family structure. And a perfectly legitimate sense of fun can be infused into the concept of fatherhood. There have been quite delightful comedies about Dads: the now classic Steve Martin version of

Father of the Bride,Father of the Bride the recent

Mom's Night Out,Mom's Night Out the very charming indie

Chef, Chef just to name a few, all treat fathers and fatherhood in a comic fashion but do so with a sense of respect and appreciation.

BUT, if a strong leader, good father, trailblazing partner is not your cup of tea — if you WANT to create a weenie George in your life – just laugh at him enough. That’ll do it.Dweeb George

Next Up – The Judge – Duvall and Downey, Jr Exchange Heroically Tough Love

Credits for photos in order:,,,,,,,


Continuing our background on BTTF, Marty is friends with one Emmett Brown, (Christopher Lloyd) local brilliant eccentric inventor. Doc has no family and Marty has no father to speak of. Their friendship is quite touching as Doc is Marty's substitute father figure, but it is ultimately not enough.

(Quick quiz: Did Lloyd and Fox, who had such amazing chemistry together in this trilogy, ever reunite to act together again?)

Fast forward to the end of the movie. Marty has changed everything by getting George to punch Biff while defending Lorraine. George's show of courage by standing up to whom he was most afraid – Biff – has informed the next 20 years of his life, making him a financial success, an inspiration to his children, and even a published author in his spare time. Their two oldest children are confident professionals. And Lorraine has blossomed into a lovely vivacious athletic woman, truly in love with her husband and her life.

The Father Makes or Breaks the Family

(Answer: Yes: Spin City in 1999 and The Michael J Fox Show in 2014. Full disclosure, I have never seen either show but found this info on Wikipedia.)


As Lorraine (Lea Thompson) recounts when she fell in love with George, there is a moment of surprisingly deep pathos.

(Quick quiz: This is possibly the best work Ms Thompson ever did. Can you name how many distinct but necessarily similar parts she plays in the course of the trilogy?)

Biff has just brought back their family car in a wreck, intimidated George into doing his office work for him, leers at Lorraine, then departs. George takes his mind off everything by watching an old rerun of Jackie Gleason at the rickety kitchen foldout that serves as the family dining room table. She gazes at her husband and recounts, for the umpteenth time to her three ignoring children the story of how she fell in love with George when they were teenagers. George laughs mindlessly at a TV show. She winds up the overly familiar story with, "…and that was when I realized I was going to spend the rest of my life with him." The loss of their wasted life together etched into the pathetic expression on her face is heartbreaking.

(Answer: In order of appearance: SIX – Middle-aged pathetic Lorraine, young vivacious Lorraine, middle-aged blossoming Lorraine, Elderly Lorraine, Middle-aged BUXOM pathetic Lorraine, Western Lorraine/Maggie. Each has their own individual personalities. Each of the Lorraines, while the same character, are different in the way they move, react, use body language, speak. Middle aged buxom pathetic Lorraine has a raspy alcoholic voice and moves in the halting way you might expect of someone used to dodging blows. Western Lorraine/Maggie is Irish and moves with confidence and dignity but a healthy sniffy suspicion to the young intruder, Marty. You get the drift. Thompson does a truly magnificent job making all the Lorraines alike but different. And yes, there is no real reason that Marty's mother should look like his great great … great? grandmother Maggie unless we are to believe that her family and the McFlys have been intermarrying for generations, which would make Lorraine not only Marty's mother but a distant cousin … but we'll let that one go.)

The Father and the Father Figure in Back to the Future



I don't like to give spoilers, but in a review of this kind for teachable moments it is often necessary. Most movie goers have seen the first BTTF, if not the entire trilogy of this rather brilliantly conceived and virtually flawlessly executed time travel/coming of age comedy. The consistency and seamlessness with which Zemeckis has interwoven the characters, story and time travel itself can be the subject of another article.

(Quick quiz: What other Zemeckis film dealt with a fatherless boy who becomes a hero, bringing everyone around him UP against very steep obstacles? Hint: not exactly time travel but the actor character was inserted, by movie magic, into seminal historical film footage.)

But, just for those who need a refresher: In the original time line, George is a cowardly geeky doormat. George is taken advantage of by the school bully, Biff, as a teen, and then still abused by Biff when both are adults and co-workers. Biff gets George to do his homework then office reports, advances over George's footprint tattooed self-esteem, wrecks George's car, and lusts after his wife, Lorraine. Lorraine, a former prom queen type, is now a chubby lush who drinks whisky from an 8 ounce tumbler like it was iced tea. We learn more about the details of how they met and the sparking for her infatuation later in the movie but suffice it to say that Lorraine married George because she felt sorry for him and had futile hopes that he would grow into a knight in shining armor.


Answer: Forrest Gump


Hang onto your knickers girls. I'm not into political correctness. As a matter of fact, for any of you who have any respect for the N.O.W. gang – you should probably sit down.

(Quick quiz: What year did the first BTTF come out?)

I'm also not into brevity but I AM into being entertaining as well as informative. So I hope you enjoy this tribute to Back to the Future……..

Not all educational moments are for children. This one is for the moms, more particularly wives — or even just women in general. Do you remember Back to the Future – the story of the fairly cool Marty – played by Michael J Fox – who comes from a very dysfunctional family, accidentally goes back in time, inadvertently keeps his parents from falling love and getting married, and puts his own existence in jeopardy? The rest of the movie is about Marty trying to fix this. But have you ever considered that, while Marty is the titular hero, and I suppose he is in a way, that everything really pivots, not on Marty, but on his dad – George?

(Answer: It's the 30th anniversary this year. I remember seeing it with my Dad at the movie theater. Boy do I feel old.)

Up next:  Refreshers


Screenit BEFORE you Screen It

I have seen the movies I review – kind of obvious. But what if you HAVEN’T seen it and you plan to go with your: grandmother, kids, first date, or priest? Or what if there are elements YOU just find offensive or unpleasant? If certain things ruin your suspension of disbelief: graphic violence, specific profanities, whatever is your personal family definition of explicit sex, or even smoking or scary “jump” music, what do you do? Call every friend you know who might have seen the movie to scour their memory for anything that you might not like? Go see it and hope for the best? Skip it?

There is a FABULOUS website called Screenit ( They document ever profanity – how it’s used, the number, whether it is complete or whether it is partially used or done with humor – as in Shitaki mushrooms instead of s*** (InstaQuiz: what movie is this from? Answer below).

Screenit describes in detail every salacious scene. Is the shirt on, shirt off, position of camera, proximity of characters to each other, context of naked (are they showering or — engaged in another activity?), who are they with?……………..OK, yes, that IS kind of a funny, almost oxymoron if you’re trying to AVOID that kind of thing. But forewarned is forearmed – better to read about it than be surprised with a 22 by 52 foot wide visual AND if you read one that is a “deal breaker” there’s no law that says you have to read the rest. The morality of how you USE the information: alert or titillation is entirely up to you. LOL

Screenit documents if there is smoking and context. Movies set in World War II, for example, would be incomplete without it given the culture of the day. Violence: is it cartoonish? graphic? show beginning of a violent act but cut away for the “final blow” or is it “in your face” gory. They discuss “tense family issues”. Does the movie involve divorce, death of a close family member, alcoholism, animal abuse, loud arguments, job loss, terminal illness, etc? Is there gun use or “imitative behavior”. Will the movie feature kids jumping off the roof of a house for fun or swaggering around a school yard in a way and by a character they might want to imitate? If there is “scary” music or “jump”
scenes where creatures leap out or camera cuts happen with the intent to startle or frighten, this site warns you.

Anything that might put you off from a particular film or make you decide to be more discrete about who you would show it to is in this site. Of course, DO keep in mind, that means this site is almost nothing BUT spoilers — just so’s you’ll know.

I use it for almost everything I see. The only downside is that it does not cover many classic old movies, many of which have a lot of the above. Even a child’s film, like Bambi has: fire engulfing the protagonist’s home, the violent sudden death of the protagonist’s mother, mild derision of a handicapped creature – Thumper laughs at Bambi as he is trying to walk. Dumbo has the famous “pink elephants  on parade” scene – intoxication of a child, violent arrest of his mother, abuse by neighbors – the other elephant moms make fun of his ears and shun Dumbo. I mean, I saw all these films as a child. I’ve shown them to my kids as I find value in them. But everyone has their own hot buttons and it is best you avoid those things that bother you. This is where Screenit comes in handy.

They even list the topics that, should you choose to see the movie, you might want to discuss either before or after the film with your companions or, especially, your children: was the FBI agent justified in crashing through a large display glass window in pursuit of an escaping convict? should the kids have gone to their parents before trying to help the alien? would you have come back to fight if someone called you “chicken”? these are the kinds of issues Screenit  flags. (And, for the record, I wrote each “issue topic” based upon a specific movie. Can you identify them? See below for answers.)

It’s not just a cookie cutter one-size-fits-all broadband rating. They provide you with the tools to make your own personal decision for you and your family. Screenit DOES have an “Our Take” spot where they review the movie and tell you how well or badly it is presented, no matter whether the content is banal or egregious, but for the most part their raison d’être is to give you a heads up based upon your own personal, detailed family and religious codes of ethics. Even within a religion two families can have different sensitive spots depending on their history, family make up and interpretation of appropriate.

Screenit used to be free but they now charge a modest $7.95/month membership fee. I find the price WELL worth it. You can hardly buy a movie ticket, much less popcorn and drink for that. So before you queue up for popcorn, check out to be sure the money you’ve spent on your ticket won’t be wasted by disappointment or shock or embarrassment.

So, the moral to THIS story is: BEFORE you screen it.

Answer: Spy Kids

The Rock, ET, Back to the Future.