They say the best way to conquer an enemy is to make them a friend. This engaging slice of historical life in 1970’s South, when equal respect for all races and socio-economic strata were taking baby steps, explores that theory. The story is based on a real event wherein a 10 day mediation was orchestrated to resolve a dispute on integration in Durham, NC after the black school in town burns down.


Mid teens and up. There is no overt sexuality but there is a smattering of profanity with a few blasphemes. In addition there is some violence and a couple of very tense, even frightening scenes, but no bloodshed. However, the topics of historic racism, as well as the profound strides we made to defeat it, should be discussed in advance with your children should you decide to screen it for them.


Sam Rockwell is a fine actor, even a bit of a chameleon, and never better than when he is portraying a character who rises above the cards he has been dealt. In Galaxy Quest, Rockwell was a sci fi convention huckster, who tags along what he thinks is an employment opportunity, winds up in space,  overcomes his stark terror, bravely stands with the crew of the Protector, and ends up stealing scenes as the “plucky comic relief” .

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri features him as an abusive, racist, boob of a deputy, forced to confront a desperately evil crime and in way over his head, who becomes a repentant, self-sacrificing, erztaz hero.

Rockwell’s C.P. Ellis, in The Best of Enemies, is another shining example of unlikely paladin. Based upon the book The Best of Enemies: Race and Redemption in the New South by Osha Gray Davidson, the screenplay is written by Robin Bissell who also directed this, his first feature film. Best of Enemies is the real life story of a charrette (a mediation between two irreconcilable social factions) held in Durham, North Carolina, in 1971 over the issue of school integration.

Ellis is the President of the KKK. Ann Atwater (Taraji Henson – Hidden Figures, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) is a Civil Rights activist who worked for Operation Breakthrough. They come to loggerheads when the black school burns down and the children are left with no school. Both of these actors fearlessly launched into portraying people who, on their surface, are very unpleasant and abrasive.

I greatly admire actors who do not mind looking unattractive for the authenticity or betterment of a role. Henson is a beautiful woman and brings great force and dignity to her portrayal of Ms. Atwater, a poor, divorced single parent, known as “Roughhouse Annie” for a reason.

Rockwell can convincingly portray anything from an urbane playboy to a burnt out choreographer, but here he is Ellis, a poor good ole boy from the wrong side of the tracks barely hanging onto his gas station by the skin of his teeth.

Anne Heche (Wag the Dog, Six Days Seven Nights) plays Ellis’ no nonsense and supportive wife, Mary. John Gallagher, Jr. plays Lee Trombley, a Vietnam vet and friend of C.P.’s who finds not all the battles were left behind him in Southeast Asia

Babou Ceesay (Rogue One) is Bill Riddick, who is hired to keep this civil rights conflict…civil. Paraphrasing what Dorothy said of the Scarecrow, I think I liked him the best. This man had the toughest job of all – repressing his own point of view and keeping an upbeat, optimistic atmosphere while bringing two volatile individuals together, AND keeping them from killing each other or igniting a city wide riot. The emotional cost he must have paid and discipline Riddick mustered was inspiring, as he digs deeply to find the nuggets of reason and commonality in these two diametrically opposed representatives of the Durham community.

Riddick, both in real life and in this “reel” life, required that each side hear each others’ opinions calmly and created for these two diametrically opposed sides exercises in compromise. An example: he negotiated an agreement during the charrette in which the white members agreed to end each meeting with Gospel music, which was seen by the white community as distinctly representative of the black community, and in return the black members accepted a display of Ku Klux Klan recruiting paraphernalia in the hallway of the meeting building. No issue was off limits and all arguments were accepted as long as they were presented…civilly. Eyes were opened on both sides and through the experience, many were led, on both sides of the aisle, to recognize their own, often unfair, socio-economic and racial biases.

Music by Marcelo Zarvos is haunting and historically eccumenical. By that I mean it did not evoke any particular place or time, and did not lean on what could easily have been the crutch of a Southern or Gospel base. I thought it a wise choice. As a result of this cosmopolitan style, the music provides an emotional link to any audience of any time, avoiding the distancing which can sometimes happen when music becomes too era specific.

This is a beautifully written odd couple story of two people who think they have absolutely NOTHING in common, but who find their commonality in order to bring sense to a difficulty situation with Christian charity. It is a warmly told moment in history of two brave people who put their differences aside long enough to discover they have become the “Best of Enemies”.



A rare example of a wildly successful, female-lead, action adventure about MOTHERHOOD — for adults only.


Any adult who enjoys James Bond or one of the reboot Mission Impossibles.


With the quality-questionable Uncle Drew being the most promising of the new movie releases this week, I thought I might do a review of one of my favorite movies you've probably never heard of: The Long Kiss Goodnight.

In 1996, far before Charlize Theron became  Atomic Blonde, and back when Scarlett Johanssen was still a child, starring in low budgets like Manny and Lo, well before she grew up to be Black Widow, a unique cinematic excursion was released called The Long Kiss Goodnight. Geena Davis, from Stuart Little, A League of Their Own, The Fly, and Beetlejuice costarred with the truly ubiquitous and eternally youngSamuel L Jackson (who looks no different now than he did 22 years ago – see my comment about this in my review of The Incredibles 2) in a movie about a woman named Samantha Caine. Samantha washes up, two months pregnant, on the shores of Honesdale, PA, a sleepy New England town, with nothing but clothes on her back she doesn't remember buying, a few fighting scars and complete "focal retrograde amnesia". She remembers nothing about herself: not her identity, where she came from, her age, who the father of her child is, nothing, except her name and even that is a guess.

Honestly, the background pictures during the opening credits reveal WAAAAY more than they should or is necessary. So – if you rent or buy this movie, on first viewing, you should START AT THE THREE MINUTE MARK. You can go back and watch the opening credit images after you have finished the movie.

Eight years later, as the movie begins, Samantha is now a teacher in the local elementary school and a devoted mother to Caitlin. While riding in her adopted home town's Christmas parade, in what seems to be a complete non-sequitor, an inmate in a nearby prison, watching the event on a caged TV, suddenly goes into a fury. About the same time, Mitch, (Samuel L Jackson) the low rent detective Samantha hired then forgot about, unexpectedly comes up with a lead, and Nathan (Brian "Stryker" Cox), an old friend from Samantha's past, sets out to find her.

With the exceptions of Ms. Theron, Ms. Johanssen, and Gal Gadot, I generally find that action adventures featuring women protagonists fall pathetically flat. The Long Kiss Goodnight is the Gold Standard of exceptions and the predecessor to all the blockbusters in which the aforementioned ladies have starred.

Clever, rough, violent, funny, startling and profane, it is one of the most unusual, fascinating and memorable films about motherhood I know. It ranks right up there with Hotel Artemis (click to check out my previous blog) and Aliens. While the language, ironically, has even Mr. Jackson's character, Mitch, complaining, there is no blasphemy, and the sexuality is very low key for this genre. If you want to check the details of profanity and sexuality out for yourself click Screenit, if you are a member, before watching.


Geena Davis' slow transition from the sweet and charming, happily domestic Samantha to the fierce and indomitable Charley is a tour de force. Ms. Davis and Mr. Jackson make superb platonic team mates in the kind of movie relationship usually reserved for bromances. The plot is part James Bond, part North by Northwest, part Mission Impossible, with a little bit of Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde thrown in for good measure.

One of the things I find most commendably endearing and notably rare about this movie in general, and Samantha in particular, is that there is not even a hint she ever considered killing her unborn child, despite the desolateness of her situation as Samantha. Even while Charley, the most unlikely of mother candidates,  lurks in her subconscious, she has and embraces her natural and powerful maternal instincts. And after re-embracing her distinctly ungentle previous life Samantha/Charley remains a profoundly dedicated mother.  The idea that motherhood would trump everything else, even for the fully re-realized Charley, is a truly inspiring thought.


To the point about motherhood, one of my favorite all time movie scenes is the way Samantha/Charley protects Caitlin and handles the "One Eyed Jack" when he invades her home. That's a heck of a mom. I can picture Weaver's Ripley giving Samantha a standing "O".

So if you're in the mood for something different than your usual film fare, be sure the kids are in bed and no where near close enough to hear Mr. Jackson as he chides Charley for HER language, and cue up The Long Kiss Goodnight.



Based loosely on the real life camaraderie amongst 10 friends who have been playing the same game of Tag one month a year for 30 years, the movie Tag focuses on a representative five, plus one wife, a fiancee, and a reporter from the Wall Street Journal who breaks the story to the world.


Not for kids. Young adults and up only. The language and topics discussed are often raw and juvenilely crude and graphic. And the stunts these men are shown to pull are dangerous even under the supervision of stunt men, as Jeremy Renner found out. You would not want young impressionable kids trying to imitate them. UNLESS you want to show them clips and this photo to make the point – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME!!!


“You do not stop playing games because you grow old, you grow old because you stop playing games.” This rather wise saying by George Bernard Shaw is the avowed, often repeated, theme of the movie Tag.

I have often advised my girls and teased my husband and sons that I do not believe men ever really get beyond the age of 13. Be they the Pope, your husband, your 80 year old grandfather, your investment broker, or your doctor, they hit puberty and that’s — that. The only difference amongst them is their ability to hide it. It’s one of the things that is most charming about them and used properly is a superpower.

And for anyone who does not believe me, you should see Tag, the movie, based on a real group of ten men, written up in a 2013 Wall Street Journal  article by Russell Adams.. Back row, from left to right: Mike Konesky, Bill Akers, Patrick Shultheis, Mark Mengert, Chris Ammann and Brian Dennehy. Front row, from left to right: Father Sean Raftis, Joey Tambari, Joe Caferro and Rick Bruya. (Courtesy of Father Sean Raftis ) These men, from all walks of life, one a priest, met at a Catholic school and  have been playing the same game of Tag, on and off, for THIRTY years. The Tag Brothers as they call themselves, particpate in this childlike joyous event for one month every year as a way to keep in touch —- literally — with each other. They have played despite and sometimes because of: births, deaths, weddings, illness and distances. They have tagged each other, in real life, by their own admission: in disguise, after flying hundreds of miles, appearing at family events, and even breaking into each others’ HOMES! It’s a wonder none of them have shot the other yet. One got tagged during his father’s funeral – the taggee acknowledging it was a form of comfort and condolence and that his father, a big supporter of their game, would have thought funny. The group collected to support one of them when his wife was undergoing chemo and tagged him there. They have tagged each other when wives were in labor, and even when those children were being conceived!! (I do NOT even want to IMAGINE that one!) It is the way these men have chosen to stay friends.

As funny as this premise is you’d think it would be a one trick pony, perhaps documentary worthy but not enough to carry a movie. But you’d be wrong. The screenwriters, Rob McKittrich and Mark Steilen, have rather cleverly condensed the reality and formed it into an analogy for what keeps people together.


Obviously an ensemble cast, to introduce them in rough order of appearance: Ed Helms as Hoagie, a successful veterinarian married to Isla Fisher’s extremely competitive Anna. Jon Hamm plays Bob, a wealthy CEO of a drug manufacturing company. Annabelle Willis is Rebecca, the reporter who embeds herself into the group. Jake Johnson is “Chili,” the loser friend, stuck in his hippie, weed smoking, teenaged days.  Hannibal Buress is Sable, an air-heady sweet guy who sees life existentially. And then there is Jerry – Jeremy “Hawkeye” and “Bourne” Renner  – waxing and waning with the group as they pursue him during his wedding preparations. He is the main target this year because, in thirty years of playing tag with these same four friends, he has NEVER —- BEEN —– TAGGED, and rumor has it he will retire at the end of the month. And there is almost no lengths to which these men will not go – physically, legally or in mental gamesmanship – in order to avoid being the last “it” – or to end the game without Jerry being tagged at least once.

The personalities in the story are composites. There are no comparable individuals who are directly represented in the movie, but the premise and inspiration which ignited this crazy story did and does continue. The game, as it were, is STILL a foot!

WSJ also published the Tag Agreement drafted and signed as young adults by the Tag Brothers, based upon the rules they followed as children.

I normally consider profanity in movies largely a lack of creativity. But I have to admit on some level it is appropriate in Tag. Once the game is on, the men revert to the crude one-upsman language of adolescent teenagers – comparing and hitting genitalia, awkwardly throwing out “cuss” words, and using profanity as though they are trying to win a secondary competition for the most vulgarity. But this is what little boys do. They play rough and crash headlong in and through windows, businesses, private homes, yards and garbage cans during the chases. So energetic were the scenes, that, during one failed stunt involving a stack of chairs, Jeremy Renner broke bones in both arms. The rest of the movie was filmed having to CGI around the “green screen” casts he had to wear.

But what was most charming about Tag was the moral to the story. Jerry, the all time champion who had never been tagged, knew everything about his friends. He knew how they thought, acted, what they did for a living, the strengthes and weaknesses of their personalities and could thereby anticipate any schemes to trap him. This, and his almost superhuman running speed, has kept him the reigning champion for 30 years. Ironically, but in hindsight predictably, his friends knew very little about him. They didn’t know he was getting married or to whom. They didn’t know he had a drinking problem or that he was in AA – until they bribed one of Jerry’s own employees to rat out Jerry’s location. Jerry may have been the Olympic Tag gold medalist, but the cost was not spending any time with his friends during the one month the rest were together scheming to get him. Tag deals with the 30 years’ resolution to this conundrum.

It is the heart to this goofy movie which helps ratchet Tag above its threadbare premise.

Another clever and memorable aspect to Tag are the homages to other movie genres. A number of schemes are attempted to tag Jerry. One plays out like a classic monster movie as the group moves through a foggy forest. Another scenario includes Jerry’s internal POV voice-over describing his analysis of their attacks and how he plans to countermand them – much like Downey, Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes. Other scenes give nods to Renner’s stint as the Bourne Legacy character Aaron Cross as he uses everything from tablecloths to donuts and a walker to thwart his friends and leap chairs, through windows and around staircases with an agility that his own Avenger‘s Hawkeye would have admired.

As ridiculous as this movie is, I could not help but smile at the irresistable charm of grown men letting loose in a spirit of genuine fun with their friends. If the quote by Shaw is right, the Tag Brothers will remain eternally young as they keep their bonds of friendship alive. And that is a game worth playing.



(I apologize for a small audio break in the middle of the review – please just stick with me, it only lasts about 5 seconds.)


The second act of a two part story which began as The Incredibles in 2004. No more, no less as delightful, fulfilling, family friendly, exciting and fun as the first half.


Absolutely everyone! ESPECIALLY if you are a fan of the first installment. (Though I can not say the same about the short in the beginning, Bao, which has nothing to do with the main movie and which you might want to give a miss. I explain why in a spoiler-filled overview of Bao at the end of this The Incredibles 2 review.) Incredibles 2 VERY child friendly, (Bao not so much).


“And now you know the rest of the story.”

Paul Harvey was a radio personality who used to tell stories on air about little known facts or anecdotes, leaving some key element out until the end – like one about a war hero who turned out to be Lee Marvin, why the passengers on the Titanic didn’t have to die, what really happened to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – that kind of thing. So as I watched the beginning of The Incredibles 2 pick up IMMEDIATELY as Incredibles (1) had ended, that tag line came to mind.

If you have not seen Incredibles 2 yet please do not read any further. I don’t want anything I have to say influence your fresh impression of the movie. It’s bad enough trailers give away too much nowadays. I do not want to compound that affront for anyone who has not yet enjoyed the sequel to the original Incredibles. For those of you who HAVE seen I2, READ ON!


Okay for those of you who have already seen the movie I have a confession to make. I was just a little bit disappointed, but really it was my own fault. Please do not get me wrong – I LOVED The Incredibles 2. It’s a terrific movie. But let me give you some examples – for those of us living in the south do you remember the first time you ever saw snow? The experience of seeing it again can never match up to the anticipation you have built up from your original encounter with the frozen fluffy stuff.

OR – When you’re a kid, no matter how amazing Christmas is, there is always a little teensy part of you that is just a little bit disappointed that it’s not as amazing as you expected it to be. Build up and eager high hopes can do that to you. FOURTEEN YEARS worth of anticipation cannot help but handicap the real item when it finally comes along. And, yes folks, it has been 14 years since writer/director Brad Bird hatched the first Incredibles and introduced us to the Parr family of superheroes.

All our favorite characters are back!! And despite the time passage, all the voices are the same: Holly Hunter with her growly, lispish, Texas-twanged Helen, Craig T. Nelson, the occasionally bombastic Bob, Samuel L Jackson, the smooth crooning voice of Lucius, Sarah Vowell returns as Violet whose vocal mannerisms echo an individual variation on her mom. Jonathan Banks returns as Rick Dickers, the exhausted, put-upon government agent assigned to help hide the existence and whereabouts of the Supers. And Brad Bird, the director, writer and father figure to the entire Incredibles Universe returns to voice my all time favorite character – Edna Mode, the adorably abrasive, diminutive costume designer to the Supers, whose own super powers are: mega-confidence, an almost mystical calm, extraordinary talent, and a forcefully maternal, protective, preternatural insightfulness into the Supers themselves. She was conceived by Bird as the solution to the eternal question: since when do super powers automatically make you a gifted tailor? Where DO those awesome suits COME from?! AND contrary to popular opinion, according to Bird, himself, he did not create the inimitable “E” from any one or combination of real life designers – at least not consciously. She is simply a mismash of the cultures of Japan and Germany – two, he thought, countries who were very small in relation to their cultural impact – much like Edna herself. Therefore, her house decor is a combo of Japanese and German, as is the clothes she herself wears, her odd accent, and even her personality – swinging wildly from imperturbability to wildly forceful and persuasive as the occasion demands.

Unfortunately, Spencer Fox’ Dash’ boisterous reflection of his Dad’s commanding vocals had to be replaced with the younger Huck Milner, but you will not notice the difference. Fox is the only one to be replaced. According to interviews and articles the decision seems to have been arrived at from a combination of Fox’ puberty, (like in the lyrics of “Puff the Magic Dragon” warns: “A dragon lives forever, but not so little boys”),  Fox’ committments with his punk band Charley Bliss, and a certain nostalgic ennui Fox had for the entire project – that it was something great he did in his childhood to which he didn’t really want to revisit.


First off, calling it a sequel really isn’t accurate. Incredibles 2 is actually a continuation of the first movie. Literally. We pick up in the first moment of Incredibles 2 after the last second of The Incredibles (1). The Underminer has arrived and the family Parr (the word “par” meaning average) becomes the family of Incredibles. (Anyone notice the name significance before this? Very clever underscoring by Bird, I thought.) They go into action as a group and avert a massive casualty list of people but rack up a lot of collateral property damage in stopping the mammoth runaway drill.

Once again they are unjustly blamed and sent off in disgrace, reinforcing to the public, through the willing accomplices in the media, why Supers were banned to begin with.

Helen is summoned by a Super-Hero-loving industrial magnate, Winston Deavor, (Bob Odenkirk) and his sister, Evelyn Deavor “Evil Endeavor” – geddit? (Catherine Keener) to be the face the Supers need to become accepted again. For any of you who have seen the trailer, the movie plot largely revolves around Bob adjusting to a Mr. Mom status while Helen goes off to be the poster child for Super Heroes. And the fish-out-of-water aspect to the movie is wonderful – fun, touching and eminently relatable to any parent ever. Bob trades fighting collassus killing machines, saving people from building fires, and wrestling with super villains for math homework, meals and a metapowered baby – oh yeah and exhaustion:

It is the genius of Brad Bird that he creates a reflection of a modern family and places it into a Super Hero framework.  The Parrs/Incredibles is a fairly young family – mom, dad, children. The kids cover the spectrum too – early teen, adolescent and infant. One of the things, I believe, which made The Incredibles such a universally loved movie was that people intuited the metaphor. In an interview with Bird prior to the release of the sequel, Bird makes this clear. Bob, the father, is given incredible strength, as a father must have in one way or another: physically, mentally, and morally, to the best of his ability, he must stand strong in the eyes of those he has sworn to protect. Helen, the mom, stretches in impossible ways, much like your average mother who must be psychologist, chauffeur, chef, teacher, and judge, all while carrying a baby on her hip and breast feeding. Dash, the adolescent, has just GOTTA MOVE, so is super fast! Violet suffers the normal angst teens go through – is standoffish and sometimes wants to disappear, so has the powers of invisibility and force fields. Jack Jack is an unknown but delightful baby – which pretty much fits the description of every infant.

Everyone who has ever been in a family, which is, of course, everyone, can relate to one or more of each of these characters. And every family has challenges and threats which come at them, against which they are best advised to confront together.

In what is really only the first half of a 3 hour movie, in the 2004 installment of The Incredibles, Bob comes to understand he has allowed his desire for the limelight to overpower the real center stage he should be occupying – that of Super Hero in his own home. The kids learn their parents really are the heroes in their lives and step up to the plate to emulate and obey their parents. Together they learn this lesson in spades and the family is triumphant.

The second half of the movie – aka Incredibles 2 – puts this newfound unity, affection and understanding immediately to the test. A familiar tune, as there is not a day goes by that the family in general is not under attack.

It is (if you’ll excuse the pun) INCREDIBLY refreshing to have a movie where the Dad is and wants to be the man of the house, but is still confident enough as the leader to step aside, when that is the right thing to do. That he will do the right and manful thing for his family, EVEN IF, as in this unusual situation, he must temporarily suppress his own natural, and very powerful, normal desires and instincts to protect and provide for his family, to allow someone else to take point. The wife is a considerate partner, without either being submissive or dominating – conferring with her husband on important issues, but being wise enough to leave the final decision up to her husband, knowing and trusting his judgement. The husband is wise enough to put his own needs, wants and desires aside for the good of the Supers in general, sure, but primarily for his own family and his own children. The parents’ first thoughts are for their children – even if it means leaving their own comfort zones, or putting aside their own goals and wants.

In other words, the Incredibles  have their priorities straight!! And their nom de plume – Parr, the average – points out that this is and should be the structure of every successful family. That every family should aim for this healthy functional dynamic. And that is a wonderful thing to see.

I do have a few quibbles with the plot. This is not meant to be a negative but a hope that the next movie will be even better. They may be smnall quibbles, but they did have 14 LOOOONG years to think of a script and it seems some of these things could have and should have been worked out:

1. The first one dates back to the first installment – Jack Jack got away from Syndrome because he expressed some heavy duty powers: turned into a monster, caught fire, became metal – but at the end of the first movie no one knows he has powers. And in the beginning of the second movie Bob is shocked that Jack Jack has powers when he starts to display them and Helen later makes it clear she didn’t know either. NONE of them saw any of what Jack Jack did to Syndrome? Granted it was a traumatic moment and they were pretty high up in the sky but the Parr family is used to crises and they have super powers!

2. Their living arrangements. Their house is destroyed by Syndrome’s crashing plane. At the end of the first movie some time seems to have gone by. Violet makes headway with Tony – gets noticeed, he asks her out on a date; Dash has accepted he must restrain his abilities and the family has developed a certain code with him about holding back at events like track meets; there seems to have been some time to adjust, become comfortable with their new found unity and must be living somewhere. But when we see them in the beginning of the second movie they are still living in a second rate government sponsored hotel.

3. The Parrs, at the beginning of Incredibles 2 are broke and unemployed. Bob can’t get a job as a security guard? Bank teller? Dock Worker? Secret service??!! They’ve already run through the insurance money for their house? And don’t tell me Bob wouldn’t have had insurance to cover the unlikely eventuality of a plane falling on his house. He WORKED for an insurance company.

4. The no-show Supers were never addressed. Why did Gazorbeam and Dynaguy not answer the Deavors’ phone when they were under attack? Were they already dead at Syndrome’s hands? The parent Deavors were elderly and the siblings only barely seem to have had time to adjust to running the company, so maybe a year or two? So the timing would be about right. If so, why did no one explain that to Evelyn? The Supers who did not come to their parents aid were likely DEAD, and ironically, at the hands of Syndrome, someone who, like Evelyn, wanted to de-power the Supers for their own selfish, shortsighted reasons.

5. I find it odd that none of the Super Heroes questioned the motives of yet another mega-rich entity interested in hiring them. Wasn’t the last movie about exactly that? Granted it turned out Winston was the real deal, but aside from Lucius assuring them  Winston was on the up and up after a single interview, no doubts are shared or intentions dissected by any of a group who should have been extremely sensitive to this scenario, coming so close on the heels of a very similar one from which they just finished extracting themselves.

More of an observation than a critique, this is also kind of a dark movie – more so than the first. Whether you like it or not, and I did like it, there is an element of reality infused into this “kids’” movie. People do die. Ethical and legal debates are had around the Parr dinner table. And there are complex cultural issues to wrestle with, along with physically fighting bad guys. Much like the Sokovia Accords in The Avengers Universe, the ban on Supers smacks of an unjust legalese stemming from an urge to place blame on the easy marks of Super Heroes instead of the real villains. It is easier to rein in people who willingly abide by and enforce the law than it is the criminals who break them.The issue of breaking a law in civil disobedience and leaving her family to save it, are ironies which are discussed and will be of interest to the adults in the audience, but will go over the heads of most of the youngsters. Bird, himself, said in an interview that he eschews the term “kid” movie but simply makes animated films he would enjoy seeing. His is obviously a winning prescription, but it makes for a movie which might lose the attention of younger viewers in places.

Which talk of Sokovia Accords and the ban of Supers brings me to the REAL villain of the Incredibles. It’s not really Screenslayer or even Evelyn. It’s the media.

In the aftermath of the Underminer escapade, which bridges the two movies, the visual presence of the Parr family as Incredibles in the mountain of rubble is not portrayed as heroes mitigating and managing a catastrophe for minimal damage, but as the cause of the mess. Sadly, these talking heads, the REAL villains of BOTH movies, are the same media who defined Mr. Incredible in the 2004 movie not as a rescuer, but as someone who ruined a disturbed man’s attempted suicide. This is a typical example of how news bias and “fake news” reports are fashioned – a classic example of what happens in the real world – to give their audience, not news, but their own prejudiced view. These real evildoers are never showcased as such. That might have been an interesting aspect to pursue, especially as it ties in with the bad rap the heroes in The Avengers got in Captain America: Civil War from the misguided and grossly civil-rights-violating Sokovia Accords. But while we see the “news” people at work, either blankly vapid or ginning up anger towards the Supers (without the excuse of being hypnotised), no serious criticism is ever laid at their feet where that blame belongs.

In an interesting note, the actors who voice the main characters – Holly Hunter, Craig T Nelson, and Samuel L Jackson, are given a small intro at the beginning of the movie, mentioning how grateful they are for the patience of the audience over the past 14 years and how glad they are to be working together again as this family of Supers. Fourteen years is not a small span of time and both Ms. Hunter and Mr. Nelson are not exceptions to reflect this span of a half – generation of years between movies. I only mention this because, strangely, Samuel L. Jackson does not look a DAY older than when he did in the year the first Incredibles came out.  He’s in many super hero universes as well: The Avengers and Agents of Shield as Nick Fury, Mr. Glass in Shymalon’s alternate super universe, and here as Frozone, as well as super, almost indestructible characters in movies like The Hitman’s Bodyguard. And the actor, much like most super heroes — never…. seems… age. Hmmmm. Is there something you’re not telling us avid super hero fans Mr Jackson? LOL

In conclusion on The Incredibles 2 – I just want to say PLEASE DO NOT WAIT ANOTHER 14 YEARS TO DO A FOLLOW UP FILM!!! We want to know more of — the rest of the story.


Finally, just as a side note, there is a strange little short at the beginning of The Incredibles 2 called Bao (meat or vegetable filled dumpling) about a dumpling which comes to life for a lonely woman, so is spared from being eaten, until it grows to an age where he wants to leave home and marry, at which point the mom EATS the dumpling! The movie has nothing to do with The Incredibles 2 plot, except perhaps as a counterpoint DYSFUNCTIONAL family dynamic, making the strong family of Incredibles look even better. This is some fairly disturbing imagery, softened very little by the revelation that the “dumpling” is merely a reflection of her real life son, an only child, who left his parents to marry. While there is reconciliation with said son in the end, brought about by his understanding father, and acceptance of the non-Asian wife as she learns dumpling making from her mother-in-law, I could not get the unsettling imagery out of my head of the mother willingly eating her child rather than allow him to mature and leave home. This is a short you may want to either get in late enough to avoid or prepare to discuss with your kids later.



The Empresses have no clothes. Not literally. But the only reason I can think it is receiving all its applause is because the cast is a bunch of women and it would be "politically incorrect" to do a fair review. Well, the poor male reviewers who are fearful of being labeled sexist may not want to say it, but I will. Ocean's 8 is a bad movie.


You know, I was all set to like Ocean's 8. Never mind, as a rule, I don’t much care for the gender switching gimmick. I respect most of the work of the main actresses, really like a lot of the supporting cast, and enjoy this kind of complex Mission Impossible-type plot.

In the lead is Sandra Bullock (Debbie): as at home in comedy and drama as action adventure – Blind Side, Miss Congeniality, Speed, Gravity, While You Were Sleeping; even kid movies like Prince of Egypt and Minions.

Cate Blanchett (Lou) whose versatility allowed her to become immersed in the roles of Galadriel from The Lord of the Ring series, the German art curator from Monuments Men, an almost sympathetic stepmother in Branagh's Cinderella, Button's wife in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, appearances in off-oddities like Hot Fuzz and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Kevin Spacey’s insane wife in Shipping News, and Lady Gertrude Chilerton in The Ideal Husband.

Then there’s Helen Bonham Carter (Rose): from Ophelia in Gibson’s Hamlet to Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series to Mrs. Thenardier in the musical Les Mis and the homicidal assistant in Sweeney Todd, a chimp in Burton’s Planet of the Apes, the fairy godmother in the same Branagh Cinderella mentioned above, the gentle Queen Elizabeth in The King’s Speech and the manic Red Queen in Burton’s Alice in Wonderland – her repertorie is breathtaking.

Anne Hathaway (Daphne), another incredibly versatile actress who was also in Les Mis, and Alice Through the Looking Glass, as well as Interstellar, Dark Knight Rises and Princess Diaries.

I’m starting to see a pattern. If I were to scatter the names of the main cast on a table and then draw a line between those who have worked together it would look like a spiderweb.

Then there’s the supporting cast including James Corden (John) (Dr. Who repeat guest appearance and voice of Peter Rabbit) who plays the adorably inquisitive and very smart insurance inspector, and Richard Armitage (Claude) (from Captain America villain to the heroic and noble King Under the Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield from The Hobbit) who plays Debbie's ex-boyfriend, and cameos from the likes of film veteran Elliott Gould reprising his previous role as Reuben from the male Ocean's versions, as well as Marlo Thomas, Dakota Fanning and Elizaberth Ashley.

I mean – what’s not to like?

Well, unfortunately, a lot.

Ocean's 8 women ………….

are unrelatably immoral, violate the rules of the thief protagonist movie to the detriment of the genre and…… hate men.

The premise is that Debbie (Sandra Bullock) is the sister of Danny Ocean (founding lead of the Ocean's franchise, played by George Clooney who only appears as a photo). She has followed in his footsteps, but five years previously she placed her trust and love with a man, Claude (Richard Armitage) who betrayed and sent her to jail. For the money, the challenge and revenge she sets up a heist of jewels on loan and display at the Met Gala, a real annual $30,000 per ticket event. She plans to steal MILLIONS worth of sparklies from the ample busom of Daphne (Anne Hathaway), which display had been intended to help fund the museum for the year. Amongst the thieves there are no orphanages to fund, no granny operations to pay for, no nuns to receive charity. These con-women want to pay for pointlessly bad movies, start fashion businesses with terrible designs, buy overpriced studio apartments or just speed off into the sunset on their motorcycle presumably to live the rest of their lives carefree. In other words – they will steal from a legitimate charity donated to by generous and well intentioned hard working people in order to engage in a lifetime of exhorbitant self indulgence.

Well, nice for them but what about the museum who will now have to account for the missing jewels in higher insurance premiums or perhaps the inability to get insurance at all? What about the taxpayers who no longer have the access to jewels they have paid to view, or the people whose jobs will likely now be forfeit or who will come under suspicion as a result of the disappearance and dismantling of the priceless historic finery. What's planned for the inevitable sequel? Cut up a Rembrandt into stamps in order to fund their respective future cocaine habits? And we are to applaud and sympathize with them as clever and daring just because they are………… women?????

Except for the ex-boyfriend, Claude, there was no indication that any of the collaterally damaged people deserved what happened or will happen to them in any way. And as Debbie is no better than Claude she has no real grounds to set him up either.

These women take advantage of others' virtues at every opportunity. Debbie manipulates the mercy of the parole board into letting her out even though she has been running cons while in prison. Tammy takes advantage of her poor unseen husband – lying to him and dumping the responsibilities of their home, children and family on to this unseen shlemiel so she can run off at a moment's notice to possibly end up in jail. All of them take advantage of the charity work of the museum, the generosity of the donors, the good will of Cartier, even the courtesy of the security guards assigned to the necklace. In return these people will get betrayal, retribution for their well intentioned mistakes, probably the loss of their careers, certainly the loss of reputation, loss of funds for the museum, the loss of irreplaceable works of art, AND the good will of us, the audience who are supposed to applaud the blatant vices of the characters in Ocean's 8.

In most movies that feature thieves as the protagonists, there are usually one of three outcomes or a combination: they die, they get caught, they are "innocent" because they do it for a believable and good reason/it's a trick and they are not guilty:



Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – die in a hail of bullets courtesy of the Bolivian military

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World – they all get physically pummeled by their own escape attempts, are caught, hospitalized, jailed and presumably will go to prison

Hell and High Water – they rob the banking insitution which robbed their widowed mother to get enough to rescue the family farm AND one of the brothers dies

The Italian Job – they are left, literally, hanging over a precipice with their fates uncertain – to this day, even unknown to the makers of the movie (they were going to make a sequel but it never happened)

  Dillinger – he dies

Bonnie and Clyde – they die

The Sting – they steal from an evil thug who murdered their friend

The original Ocean's movie – they steal from a shady casino owner, so they are taking money from a crook who got his money from idiots who voluntarily handed it over to him

White Heat – Jimmy Cagney's character goes out in a spectacular explosion

Gambit – Michael Caine's character reforms and gives up his ill gotten gain for the love of Shirley MacLaine's honest woman

The Usual Suspects – they all die

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels – they trade adventure and romance to already corrupted, venal, wealthy, and indulged women for money and jewels, Jamison will not take money from Christine when he finds out she is not rich, AND they are themselves tricked and humiliated

Godfather trilogy – Michael Corleone survives and is financially successful but lives long enough to see his family destroyed and his daughter murdered

Charade – Cary Grant really isn’t a thief

The Producers – Leo and Max are sent to prison EVEN though the victims are old rich ladies to whom Max gave adventure and even appear in court on his behalf

Psycho – well pretty much everybody in the solar system knows what happened to Janet Leigh's embezzling secretary in the shower

The point is that most movies respect the unspoken but usually acted upon moral code: Criminals who prey on those undeserving of being made impoverished should endure some kind of equivalent punishment.

Oceans 8 flagrantly violates this rule making the "protagonists" unappealing, unrelatable, and repugnant. Ocean's 8 not only allows the thieves to win but get to whisk away with property stolen from a charity – priceless historic jewelry art pieces which they dismantle to sell in pieces – and catastrophically destroy the lives of perfectly innocent men and women merely doing their jobs: museum curators, security guards, tax payers, not to mention the chilling effect such a robbery would have, not only on the attendance of guests for the next fund raiser, but for the participation of sponsors who would not want their items stolen.

These women, in short, do truly evil acts for trivial and completely selfish reasons……………… and we are supposed to root for them???

When the bad guys get "away" with a scheme it is supposed to be because they are stealing from other bad guys – like in Hell and High Water, OR because the marks are willing participants – as in The Producers. But not in Ocean's 8 where they not only steal from a CHARITY event but get away with it AND only to fund personal trite fantasies of their own.  Not even a token amount to a homeless shelter or hospital. Not even a "bone" to the S.P.C.A. (Geddit?..never mind.)

THEN – if this is not bad enough, Sandra Bullock's Debbie's worldview in this movie is very anti-male.

For example, in one scene Lou asks Debbie why she doesn't want to hire any men. Debbie says it's because men are noticed and women are not and for once she wants to be invisible. If this preposterous and thinly veiled misandristic excuse to even be slightly plausible in the real world, then this very movie wouldn't have been made. Women are very noticeable, occasionally for the wrong reasons, but they're certainly not invisible.

In the movie, if this were true, a key plot point would not have been possible. The entire heist heavily depends upon two highly trained very scary security guards being successfully stopped by a blond wigged German-speaking Debbie blocking their entrance to a woman's bathroom. In the real world there would have at least been one security WOMAN! Even without the part of the scheme where they poison Daphne she would have had to go to the bathroom at SOME point, right? I can't believe a capable security firm guarding a $150 million EXTREMELY portable necklace would have not thought of that. That's just stupid. But even assuming that oversight was made, these two men would have picked Debbie/faux German socialite up and shoved her through the door if necessary, and caught Constance in the act of lifting the necklace. After all, as the movie is written, the switch is not made until later and Daphne walks out of the bathroom without it on and the only other person in there had been Constance. It would have been kind of a no-brainer. Frisking Constance would have then been a simple matter for any trainnie cop much less a trained assassin and a member of the Russian security Force. Had the two security guards not – stopped at the behest of Debbie, and honored the sanctity of the women's bathroom, the Ocean's 8 would have been the Ocean's in prison.

On the one hand Debbie claims women are dismissible and in the next moment assumes she will be able to ward off burly and highly motivated security guards with the wave of her hand. Which is it?

Tammy is married in a nice house with two small children. Her husband is never seen but she is observed abandoning her children, literally driving away from her small child who asked if he could go with her. Engaging in fencing stolen goods out of her garage she claims her husband believes her flimsy excuse that she bought all of the items on e-bay. He must be either complicit or dumb as a bag of hammers.

Debbie is betrayed by the man she loved, Claude, so thinks she is justified in p***ing on a lot of people who had nothing to do with her troubles.

Lou is butch and given a vaguely lesbian personality but, ironically, is the ONLY one of the group who tries to include a qualified man in their group. Her advice is dismissed.

NONE of them, other than the abandoning mother Tammy, have a husband or home or children or any other family of note.

The manager of Cartier is easily swayed into making the unbelievably poor judgement call of lending out a necklace worth $150 million dollars to the moving target of Daphne at an event attended by hundreds of people, all because Rose tells him it will be good for Cartier's image among the young. Forget Debbie's crew. This kind of publicity and $150 million as bait would have attracted Alan Rickman's Hans' crew from Die Hard who, with a couple of stun grenades and some hostage taking could have easily taken control.

Every single one of the men in Ocean's 8 are: stupid, disloyal, greedy, easily manipulated, unreliable or – in a turn of breathtaking hypocrisy on the part of the screenwriter – made invisible.

The ONLY capable man in the movie is James Corden's John, an insurance investigator who is on to them immediately. His is the most believable thing in the movie – that a good insurance investigator would have been up their —- assets immediately. Especially since he has a history of catching members of this family. But then he meets with Debbie and agrees to get back ten WHOLE percent of what is left of the necklace in exchange for allowing Debbie to frame Claude, who John knows is innocent (at least of this crime). So the only honorable and decent man in the movie is corrupted.

Is the plot well written? Even for the preposterous Mission Impossible-type scheme that makes up this kind of movie – pretty so-so. There are major plot holes and parts of the plan which depended far too much on luck. There is the warding off the security guys with good looks and an attitude. There is also the point where they "find" the missing necklace in a fountain. This would have been an impossibility to even the casual observer. Daphne did not fall into the fountain or even stop to throw up in it. She raced striaght to the bathroom. The necklace is secured by a magnetic lock which would have had to have failed to come off her neck or it would have had to go over her head and the necklace circumference was far too small for that to be possible. But it is intact when found and security cameras would have shown she was at no time that near the fountain. So how did it get off of Daphne?

Is the acting good – given the talent involved – of course.

Is it a lot of fun to watch – yes, if you don’t think long or hard about it while you're watching.

So is it a good movie: No. Absolutely not.

Ocean's 8 is insulting to men in general, to our intelligence and to any sense of morality. While many of these women have, in the past, been in child- and family-friendly movies (Blind Side, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings), this is not one of them.

You'd be FAR better off spending your time pulling out an old classic like Mad Mad Mad Mad World or Charade or any one of the ones I listed above. Click on the pictures to go straight to Amazon to watch one of them instead of the insulting travesty that is Ocean's 8.



Violent but subtly humorous, action filled but occasionally thoughtful, and creative look at a near future ultra secret hotel-hospital for wealthy criminals run by an aging, no-nonsense, rough but surprisingly compassionate and maternal Nurse and her massive orderly, during a perfect storm of chaos.


This is an adult only movie to be sure. Though there is almost no sexuality of any kind, there is a LOT of violence and a large dose of bad language. NOT for kids.


There may be no honor among thieves but at the Hotel Artemis there is at least some loyalty. The Hotel Artemis is a 22 year old run-down member-only hospital for criminals. On the 12th floor of a building in the wrong part of Los Angeles, it is exclusive, hidden and generally thought to be a myth. Hotel Artemis is an indie movie, written and directed by Drew Pierce whose credits as writer include Iron Man 3, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and 2020's future new Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes. This is his first outing directing a feature length film.  

Set in the near future of 2028 Los Angeles, Artemis features microwave scalpels, 3D printers which can manufacture new livers, and the highly skilled Nurse, played by Jodie Foster, who is more worn down than the Artemis' elevators. Agoraphobic, alcoholic, pill popping and jaded, Nurse shuffles about the hotel and her charges, administering treatments with a confident medical hand and a tough love bedside manner.  (As an odd piece of trivia it is the second time Foster has played an agoraphobic, the first time as Alexandra Rover, the neurotic writer in the filmed version of the comedy children's story Nim's Island.)

Her only staff – part orderly part bouncer – is Dave Bautista's character, Everest, whose name is a mystery only to people who have never seen a picture of this man mountain. His strong arm but restrained hand is somehow both scary and adorable. Early on, for example, he is jumped from behind by a customer who has been turned away. Shrugging him off as a bear might an overzealous cub he cautions him with the zen calm of an experienced camp counselor not to do it again or he just might have to really [mess] him up. 

Everyone goes by a nickname gleaned from either their job description or the hotel room name and Foster's lead character, The Nurse, is no exception. The movie is about the night of the Nurse's Perfect Storm. A city wide riot, like a slow-moving wildfire, is heading their way at the same time the Artemis' owner and founder, a mob kingpin named The Wolf King/Niagra, in yet another flamboyant bad guy role played by Jeff Goldblum, enters late in the evening for ministrations, accompanied by his overeager to please son, (Star Trek's Zachery Quinto), and his gang of thugs. Caught in the crossfire are a pair of brothers freshly injured from a bank robbery Waikiki and Honolulu, (Sterling Brown and Brian Henry), a munitions dealer, Acapulco (Charlie Day)  who came off the worse for wear in an altercation with a mistress, and a mysterious hit woman, Nice, played by Sophia Boutella, whose true allegiances and hidden agenda slowly unfold as the evening wears on. I have not cared much for the one note characters Boutella played in Kingsmen and Atomic Blonde, but her Nice in Hotel Artemis has her growing on me.  The ensuing tornado of violence will expose formerly unknown histories and secrets central to the souls of these eminently interesting characters.

There are many rules for the Hotel Artemis. Among them are: no weapons allowed, no one but members through the gates, do not insult or threaten the staff, and …….. do not kill the other patients. For one reason or another all the rules will be broken this night …. for better or for worse.

The violence is considerable and the language is fairly raw but there is no sexuality. Who has time with the amount of fighting and blood shed that will go on?

Foster is the genuine article. An actor, like Dustin Hoffman, who does not shy away from looking truly ugly. But from Foster's Nurse, underneath her worn exterior, shines a beauty of genuine but rough and no-nonsense affection for her patients. She exercises an unsentimental, tough-love maternal protective fiduciary duty towards them all and it makes her character both endearing and relatable in ways that more glamorous but despicable women in movies like Ocean's 8, can not even begin to evoke. If honesty and genuine concern were coinage she would be the richest woman in this movie about a medical retreat for the super wealthy criminal. I haven't seen this kind of unique perspective on the maternal instinct since Ripley's square off with the mother creature in Aliens.

This is an unusual and creative movie. I believe it has been vastly underrated by the traditional reviewing community, more particularly Rex Reed who labeled it as a shoddy freak show. This is grossly unfair and I suspect he did not understand its themes of filial duty and responsible altruism, which the writer is asserting is a potential which lies at the core of every human soul, even the apparently mosty fallen ones among us. The characters are three dimensional and behave in often unexpected but very credible ways. They are somewhat larger than life (especially Bautista) but there are genuine and unique personalities which come out clearly in small ways and clever dialogue. No exceptions or excuses are made for their criminal behavior but there is a humanity to them which make them very accessible. And, Hallelujah, Hotel Artemis does not always take itself completely seriously. Goldblum's character is aware that he is a very bad guy and likely to come to a very bad end. Baustista's character knows he is massive and almost unstoppable but has a gentle and fiercely protective spot for this tiny fragile elderly and essentially kind maternal Nurse. Right after Waikiki warns an especially obnoxious fellow patient, Acapulco, that Nice could kill him with a coffee cup she immediately demonstrates, then warns Acapulco that it is a good thing the Hotel Artemis has its rules. Nice advises someone on how to die well: "They paid for your death, don't give them your dignity for free." And if you're the kind of movie attendee who likes to stay for the credits, the last line is: "The staff of the Hotel Artemis hopes you enjoyed your stay and that you will come again." One has to smile.

Certainly not a family friendly film, but for those of appropriate age and disposition, Hotel Artemis is more than worth your time.





Absolutelty fabulous, fun and funny rendition of the musical version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.


Older teens and up – nothing seen aside from one scantily dressed dance number but Freddy and some of the lyrics are crude and the main characters are essentially highly paid gigolos.


The Odd Couple meets the musical version of The Producers with a touch of The Sting thrown in for good measure and you have Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the musical showing June 2, 2018 through June 17, 2018 at the Lake Charles ACTS Theatre. (One Reid Street, 433-2287, for tickets click HERE.)

The premise is the same as for the 1988 non-musical movie. Two con men with dipolar opposite styles compete for the same territory, Beaumont-sur-Mer on the French Riviera.


Lawrence Jamison (played in our local production by Louis Barrilleaux) is a posh, refined British swindler of silly women – but truly a con — artist. Hustler he might be, but also a man of elegant taste, an appreciation for the arts and a soft heart for the local charities. His motto is that he only gives the excessively wealthy and bored women what they want – a little excitement, and a bit of flair – and his to offer at a price. His is a con so well established in Beaumont-sur-Mer that a certain ennui has begun to set in and he longs for the early days of challenge.

In happens Freddie (Robert Goodson) a crude, American shyster pick pocket who thinks it an accomplishment to bilk a sympathetic fellow train passenger out of the price of a meal. Hungry for Jamison’s upper class perks, his motto is – I want it all and BIG!

Without giving away too many of the deliciously funny details, the two men become friendly enemies in a bet to win $50,000 out of the newly arrived ingenue Christine (Markie Hebert who also served as producer). The first to accomplish this goal wins the exclusive and permanent run of Beaumont-sur-Mer.

Supporting these loveable flim flammers are Andre Lawrence’s corrupt and accommodating police chief (Zac Hammons), Muriel the heiress tired of wandering world (Aimee Mayeux), and Jolene (Taylor Novak) one of Jamison’s marks who becomes unexpectedly, inconveniently and amusingly possessive. Rounding out the cast is the ensemble of: Heather Foreman, Jace Gibbons, Brahnsen Lopez and Ashley Mayeux who sing and dance through a multiplicity of parts.

Kris Perez Webster does a masterful job at directing this troupe. Just the casting of this play had to be ingeniously thought out as DRS calls for a cast of 30 but they accomplish it with only 9.

Even Markie and Zac, who have major supporting roles, perform double and triple duties where needed.The timing, blocking and personalities were artfully coordinated. The multipurpose stage is cleverly designed to function as everything from an outdoor rendevous to a bedroom with but the wind quick change of props artfully moved by cast and coordinated by Katherine Cole the Stage Manager. Sound and lighting are expertly managed by Markie’s husband Clay Hebert.

The three leads aided by Hammons’ often frustrated and put upon French gendarme have wonderful chemistry and timing, and their singing of even the quick paced and complex lyrics is strong and clear – performing as though they have been together for years, playing off each other with apparent effortlessness and a natural ease that belies the countless hours that went into this smooth and hilarious production. In most musicals, the plot is a thinly veiled excuse for the performance of catchy tunes, weakening the story and leaving the characters a bit vapid. But in this rendition of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels the opposite happens. While the first incarnation – A Bedtime Story with Marlon Brando and David Niven was charming and I LOVE the 1988 remake with Steve Martin and Michael Caine, the 2004 musical, written by Jeffrey Lane with music and (occasionally naughty but always character revealing and clever) lyrics by David Yazbek, ENHANCES the characters, fleshing them out and giving them fresh depth, even providing a new subplot for the police chief.

Fourth walls are broken, witty and occasionally bawdy songs are sung with clarity and professionalism, and the cast moves themselves and the props like a winning baseball team, as a single internally familiar mechanism.

While really for the older teens and up because of subject matter and some witty but ribald lyrics and gestures, nothing is seen on stage and there is a certain moral compass which is followed.

So for one of the best productions ACTS Theatre has ever put on, go see Dirty Rotten Scoundrels the musical, playing now through June 17, 2018. Take Dad for Father’s Day as laughter, after love, is the best gift you can give.       



Wooden cookie cutter rendition of the harrowing real life experiences of Tami Oldham and Richard Sharp lost at sea for 41 days after being caught in Hurricane Raymond, missing every opportunity to reveal any eternal truths.


Any older teen and up who enjoys a disaster/endurance movie. Some language and a non-sexual full nudity female scene. No point in scaring younger kids with the genuinely frightening hurricane scenes in this vapid soap opera disaster movie.


The famous classic – Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe – a man marooned on an island – is ultimately about his spiritual conversion from a materialist and slaver, disobedient to both his Earthly father and his Heavenly one, to a devout Christian. His external trials make him suceptible when faced with internal struggles as well, to turn to God and the Bible. Only in his newly redisovered faith does he find the peace and contentment he had sought and becomes a better man as he comes to appreciate God's love and know he is under his Creator's watchful eye even when apparently desolate and alone on an island. The island represents Crusoe's spiritual aloneness and, much like in Groundhog Day, (which comparison would make a great blog for another day), he is not rescued until he learns true altruism and his place in God's plans.  He accepts his massive and repeated tribulations as a reading on the Bible tells us in Hebrews that: "the Lord disciplines the one He loves".

Adrift is an open set up for a re-creation of this scenario. A troubled young woman, who drifted through life long before she was set "adrift" by Hurricane Raymond, has a difficult childhood, irresponsible parents and an anchorless way of life – leaving home at 18 to hop her way via odd jobs to Tahiti. There she meets Richard and the two leave for a "jaunt" to San Diego on a job to transport a friend’s yacht. On the way they encounter a CAT 5 hurricane, which I personally know is terrifying on land. Even seeing the movie, I can not truly imagine the trauma they must have endured on the open ocean. I frankly, having survived Hurricane Rita on land, had trouble watching some of their ordeal in the boat.

The film does a horrifically good job reenacting their desperate struggle to stay alive in the belly of this mountain sized monster with waves moaning and rising above them like the "angry giant" of many prayers entreating God’s protection against these very phenomena. Miraculously the boat survives with Tami still on it. She finds Richard severely injured and seeks to nurse both him and the boat in a 1500 mile trek through the Pacific Ocean.

While I understand this is based on a true story, there was every opportunity for the scriptwriters to use her ordeal and miraculous arrival in Hawaii to tell more than just an action adventure story of survival. A documentary or reality episode or a newspaper clipping could have done that. If we are to endure, with Tami, her terrible struggles, it behooves a good writer to do so with a purpose. Instead we are treated to a fact sheet: She meets Richard – check. They fall in love – check. They go on the boat – check. They endure a Hurricane – check. She manages to acquire enough food and water to survive through luck and ingenuity – check. She gets to Hawaii – check. And……?

After spending 96 minutes with this young woman in a recounting of the most traumatic experience of her life (and more traumatic than I hope most of us ever have to endure) we are left knowing no more about her than we started at the credits. A few odds and ends of trivia about the way she grew up, but no more.

I can not imagine anyone not changed by such a deeply churning experience. Sadly, we do not know, based upon this movie, what those meaningful and core maturations might be.

What we are left with is a two person version of Tom Hanks’ Castaway – which suffered from the same flaw. All "event" with no substance. Much like having spaghetti with no sauce – filling but not satisfying.

As I said, the special effects of the hurricane were very well done – a bit too good frankly. The acting of Shailene Woodley (Divergent series) kind of amounted to a lot of vapid shallow smiles and giggles during the courtship and sunburnt glowering/angry/determined to survive faces during the tribulations part. Sam Claflin (Hunger Games veteran) wasn’t given a lot to do other than be "in love" or stoically be in pain.

And while I understand this is based on a true story, the portions where the movie shows their meeting and relationship, shown in flashback, are pedantically slow. The audience frequently was reduced to the third wheel watching the slow pace of an actual dinner.

During one such date Richard explains how unpleasant sailing can be – "You’re usually sleep deprived and delusional, wet, hungry or all three." She asks why he sails and, perking up, I expected some important philosophical epiphany which might guide us, like her sextant through the rest of the movie. Instead he sort of mumbles about how infinite the horizon looks. And? I thought. And? But nothing. So his whole raison d'etre, the entire reason he is out there with this young woman, the reason they end up risking their lives in a painfully unrelenting endurance marathon was because —– the ocean is so very pretty.

There is so much more that could have been done with this movie – just with that moment. But they let it flit by like Tami’s early years – objectless and purposeless.

Captain Dan in Forrest Gump (click the picture to watch the clip) gives us more philosophical musings and a better insight into the meaning of life during his one rant to God on board Gump's ship during a hurricane as he screams "Come on! You call this a storm?" than the entire script of Adrift. Bogie and Hepburn simmered with more chemistry in one glance on The African Queen during their struggles as they make it up a river to confront a German gunboat during World War I and a storm, than Claflin and Woodley managed in the entire movie. This is because we were introduced to Captain Dan and Rose and Charlie, respectively, in substantive ways and so we come to care about them. But Tami and Richard, as portrayed in the movie, are two dimensional lovers in a cookie-cutter romance. This is a shame because I'm sure there was more to the real people involved in that.

Aside from – don't cross the ocean in hurricane season – the audience did not learn much, either about the main characters or from their experiences.

I feel badly for the ordeal that Tami and Richard went through but that is not enough to carry a movie. A movie has between 80 and 120 minutes to tell you a story. It behooves the writer to make it worth your while to sit through whatever they are going to tell you. Movies are supposed to be a condensed version of real life and the best of them will make you a better person for having seen it. It is inadequate for a movie to be a moment-by-moment blow-by-blow exposition without direction or purpose.

In short and unfortunately Adrift is most aptly and appropriately named.

Mild warnings: There's no reason NOT to see this film if you are an older teen and up. There is a bit of language, no gratuitous sexuality although there is one non-sexual gratuitously naked scene where Woodley bares absolutely all in order to happily writhe about on deck in the fresh water of rain. The hurricane scenes alone are horrifying and way too scary for younger kids, much less are the views of eggregious injuries endured by Richard and exposed to the audience.



Well written, well acted espionage movie which is unwatchable for most audience members because of the extreme nudity and violence.


Were this movie edited to remove some of the most graphic moments I might have a cautionary recommendation for young adults and up. As it is, I would advise only mature married couples who have a strong stomach and fairly tough sensibilities.


Back in the day when movies would come on TV after a thorough scrubbing of content inappropriate for family viewing I might have been able to recommend you wait to see Red Sparrow when it comes on your local viewing station. Now that that is no longer a viable option I am hard pressed to advise what demographic this movie might be suitable for. It’s a shame too because it is well done. A fast paced, cohesive spy thriller with a flaw-free plot, worthy of a Mission Impossible scenario with excellent acting, good believable character and relationship developments and a pacing and editing that keep you guessing to the very end.

The problem is they show too much. I don’t mean that pedantically they talk down to the audience. I mean they SHOW — TOO — MUCH!!

The premise is that a young Russian woman, Dominika, (Jennifer Lawrence – Hunger Games and Passengers), just at the end of the Cold War is extorted, by her highly placed uncle, (Matthias Schoenaerts) into selling herself to a wealthy Russian businessman in exchange for medical assistance for her desperately ill mother (Joely Richardson – Return to Me and Liam Neeson's sister-in-law). But the job is far more than she was led to believe and at its conclusion is told she can either be considered a loose thread to cut or "volunteer" to be a "Sparrow" – a spy who learns how to elicit, through seduction, any target – as Dominika, herself, later describes it "whore school". This is where the movie begins its elevator-like descent into scenes which made me glad my husband and I went to this movie without friends or family.

Upon her "graduation" she is sent on assignment by her superiors (Jeremy Irons – Scar from Lion King, the new Batman Alfred, and Ciarán Hinds – Aberforth Dumbledore from Harry Potter and Claudius in Benedict Cumberbatch' Hamlet) to become "acquainted" with an American agent (Joel Edgerton – Bright, The Great Gatsby and The Thing). Given the nature of espionage movies one can guess that the motives of each of the many characters involved is not always what you expect and the plot will take some precipitous twists and turns – which this movie artfully does.

Red Sparrow is Kingsman without the humor or any comicbook filter, Black Widow's origin story without the PG rating, Mission Impossible with the violence ratcheted up several notches, James Bond without the gentility or leaving anything to the imagination.

There are scenes of complete frontal nudity of men and women. There is sexual, emotional, psychological and physical torture, shocking and bloody graphic violence. Not that any of it is, really, gratuitous. This, I suspect, is the nature of espionage at its basest level, especially the brutality, dehumanization and and the stripping away of individuality that defines Communist Russia. It is even likely that what the filmmakers here have shown IS filtered compared to what really goes on in the liberals' dangerously ill-informed idea of Utopia. But we, the audience, don't really need to see every — single — detail. The viewing audience does have an imagination, which, arguably could have been put to better use.

Sharks eat people. We know that. But Spielberg didn't even SHOW Bruce the shark in Jaws until way late in the movie knowing that what you do not see is often far worse than what you do. (That and the fact the mechanical shark didn't work but hey – chicken feathers into chicken salad…) The audience in Jaws did not need to see ever single bite, chew, and serrated incision the shark made on every one of its victims – though the scene with Robert Shaw was pretty grotesque and possibly the least effective because of it.

The story itself is intriguing but the episodes of violence, nudity and sexuality are enough to disturb the suspension of disbelief — and I've seen A Clockwork Orange and am a Monty Python fan!!! the review website which provides a detailed analysis of movies allowing parents to determine whether this movie is appropriate for their children REDLINED on every category that counts.

It doesn't happen often but this is a good movie which I just can not recommend.




Wonder is a moving, funny, charming, honest and brilliantly constructed examination of the axiom: You can’t (accurately) judge a book by its cover.



My husband and I have a shorthand way to refer to a cinematic experience. A good movie is a diverting entertainment. A good film is a piece of literature which makes you a better person for having seen it. Wonder falls into the latter category.

Wonder is based upon a book, also called Wonder, which was inspired by an unfortunate experience of the author, Raquel Jaramillo, writing under the pen name of R. J. Palacio. At an ice cream store with her own young child, they met a child with a severe facial deformity. Her toddler began to cry. Instead of engaging with the child with the facial disfigurement, as she later wished she had done, and show her own child there was nothing to be frightened of, emabarrassed, she instead removed her child from the store, only to realize later that she had effectively ostracized the other child. She "wondered" how she might have handled the situation better.

Wonder is the story which emerged – made up of an amalgam of experiences from real life – of a little boy named August "Auggie" Pullman (played brilliantly by Jacob Tremblay) born with severe facial deformities. He suffers from the genetic mutation known as mandibulofacial dystosis, also known as Treacher Collins Syndrome. Very rare, it results in underdeveloped facial bone structures – the symptoms range from almost undetectable to a face that is unrecognizable. Thankfully, it usually effects almost no other systems – intelligence, internal organs are usually fine. But the trauma for both child and parents in overcoming the challenges this disorder imposes is unimaginable in the more severe cases.

Homeschooled for most of his 11 years, as he and his family endured 27 surgeries just to allow him to hear and see normally, Nate and Isabelle Pullman, played respectaively by Julia (Pretty Woman) Roberts and Owen (the voice of Lightning McQueen from the Cars animated franchise and partner with Jackie Chan in the Shanghai movies) Wilson, Auggie's parents, decide to send him to a "regular" school to facilitate his adjustment to the broader outside world.

It is enormously refreshing to evaluate a movie where the parents are good, caring and kind people who love their kids and are still in love with each other. Julia Roberts plays Isabelle as a Mama Bear, protecting her cub and providing him with the security of her fierce unvarnished love. Owen Wilson’s Nate is funny, honest, affectionate and the heart of the family, whose unconditional acceptance and child like laid back approach to even the toughest of dilemmas gives Auggie a way to perceive the world with some of the sharper edges softened.

The teachers represented by Mr. Browne (Daveed Diggs) are unaffectedly quirky and portrayed as sincerely engaged with their students and genuinely interested in their students’ welfare and education. And the principal, Mr. Tushman, is a decent, reasonable, prudent man who moderates discipline and justice with understanding and kindness and is charmingly personified by by Mandy Patinkin ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." – Princess Bride).

Adults behave responsibly as they should and  the kids in this story act like kids – shocked they stare and ignore Auggie at first and some are even unkind, but eventually Auggie’s courage and endurance and intelligence win many of them over and he learns what it is to earn and bestow friendship.

Their surname is most telling. These are people who PULL others towards them with their open and obvious genuine familial bond, their concern for others, and their strength.

As described the movie would have been delightful, but the writers have added a layer which raises a good movie to genuine cinematographic literature .

Just when you, the audence, believe you are familiar with the characters of the movie, there is an unsignalled change of focus. Right at the point when Auggie is confronting and learning to deal with his challenges we see many of the previous events from the point of view of Olivia "Via" Pullman, (Izabela Vidovic),  Auggie’s older sister. Kind, affectionate, and ever-supportive of her hurting little brother, she understands and accepts intellectually that Auggie needs more but she feels neglected in what seems to be a secondary "also ran" position. She hides these feelings as well as her own social problems and even joys, believing her parents can not handle any more challenges or distractions.

Then we switch to Will, Auggie’s new best friend, who is seen from several points of view as he tries to peel himself from the "in" crowd which at first rejects Auggie and painfully grows to be a loyal genuine friend.

Then to Miranda, (Danielle Rose Russell), Via’s former best friend, who appears to have pulled away from her "adoptive" family over the previous vacation, but who is nursing pains of her own.

Meanwhile we get glimpses into the lives of others –

Nate Pullman, the Dad, (Owen Wilson) who seems to be the most chill member of the family – always with a gentle joke or turn of phrase to defuse a situation – but who absorbs the pain of the family because he sees the most.

Isabelle Pullman (Julia Roberts) whose fierce support and unabashed loved for her physically challenged son obscures her vision of her daughter who feels like an understudy in life.

Even the bully, Julian (Bryce Gheisar) who torments Auggie the entire movie, is eventually seen from an explanatory perspective.

And at some point, we as audience members, realize that we too, have been guilty of pigeon-holing and stereotyping the characters we have watched. No one in this movie is two dimensional or should be seen from a single angle. And we are the better for learning that lesson as we can apply that to those we come into contact.

Even Auggie, at last, must learn that despite the fact he APPEARS to have the most obvious challenges, does not make the obstacles others have to face less painful or daunting to them.

God gives us all obstacles to overcome and the strength with which to, appropriately, face them. Everyone misjudges, everyone misunderstands, even Auggie – which is OK if you learn from your mistakes. This is the lesson which Auggie, his friends and family learn from each other and teach us during the experience of this cinematic literature.

Isaiah 25:1 O LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked WONDERS, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.

Jeremiah 1:5 Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.