Priscilla (2023)

Priscilla is a 2023 American biographical drama film written, directed and produced by Sofia Coppola, based on the 1985 memoir Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley (sho serves as executive producer). It follows the life of Priscilla (played by Cailee Spaeny) and her relationship with Elvis Presley (Jacob Elordi). 

In 1959, 14-year old Priscilla Beaulieu is residing with her family in Bad Naheim, Germany where her father stationed in the US Military. At a party on the base, Priscilla maeets 24-year old famous singer, Elvis Presely, who is also in the military. Elvis takes an instant interest in Priscilla, and the two begin a casual romantic relationship despite her parents’ concern over their age difference and Elvis’s fame. Elvis eventually returns to the U.S. after his service and loses contact with Priscilla, leaving her disheartened. 

In 1962, Elvis reconnects with Priscilla, proclaiming his love for her and asks that she come to U.S. to live with him at his estate in Memphis, Tennessee, Graceland. Elvis purchases her a ticket to come, where she is welcomed by Elvis, friends and business partners, and his grandmother. The couple take a trip to Las Vegas, where Priscilla takes drugs with Elvis. An unkempt Priscilla returns to Germany, and with Elvis’ help, convinces her hesitant parents to allow her to move to Graceland and complete high school in Memphis in 1963. 

While her time spent at Graceland is happy, Priscilla is treated as an object of intrigue and ridicule at her Catholic school due to her association with Elvis. Though she is welcomed by Elvis’s grandmother and his staff at Graceland, Priscilla finds herself controlled by Elvis’s strict father and stepmother, and isolated during Elvis’s long trips away to Los Angeles, where he is shooting a number of musical films. On one occasion, Elvis has Priscilla model dresses for him and his friends, and encourages her to makeover her appearance by dying her hair black and wearing more eye makeup. Distracted by her new lifestyle, Priscilla manages barely graduate high school. 

Priscilla’s isoloation and compartmentalization of her life begins to take a toll on her mental state, which is made worse by the highly publicized rumors of Elvis’s alleged infidelities, including with his co-star Ann Margaret. Priscilla makes an unexpected appearance in Los Angeles to confront Elvis about the affair, but is stopped when Elvis threatens her and insists that she must accept his behavior. 

Eventually, in 1967, Elvis proposes to Priscilla, and the two marry. Their happiness is fading, however, as Elvis’s career pressures and worsening substance abuse negatively affects the couple’s relationship. Priscilla quickly becomes pregant, and gives birth to their daughter Lisa Marie, in early 1968, as Elvis is preparing for his comeback special for NBC. Priscilla struggles to navigate the relationship as Elvis grows more violent, and the two begin leading separate lives, with Priscilla spending most of her time in California, and becoming romantically involved with Mike Stone, her karate instructor. While visiting Elvis’s hotel room after a performance in 1973, Priscilla finds him intoxicated, and he makes forceful sexual advances toward her. 

Sofia Coppola’s approach in telling the story of Elvis and Priscilla is done very well, although the film is very slow for the majority of its runtime. You see Elvis treat Priscilla like a girlfriend, a wife, sexual object, and just a friend. You also see him being like a second father to her when he enrolls in her in school in Memphis and makes sure she does her homework. You not only learn her side of the relationship, but you also see how both of them were crazy about each other, and in one scene it shows them staying in bed for days and in another scene Elvis is shown taking lots of pictures of Priscilla. So you see the crazy in love side of the couple, as well as them living different lives. 

Priscilla starts to see Elvis’s flirty and unfaithful side when he flirts with a fan at a Bible reading, and she instantly becomes jealous, upset, and angry. She confronts him multiple times throughout the film about his infidelities, after she spots him flirting with a girl, and finds love letters from other girls. His anger issues come and go throughout the movie as well, a side that wasn’t shown as much in last year’s Elvis film with Austin Butler. You see in this film that Elvis was really crazy about Priscilla, but he couldn’t keep his hands off other girls and couldn’t stop his drinking and drug abuse. 

Cailee Spaeny does great job as Priscilla, though she doesn’t look much like the real one did, even though Priscilla helped choose her for the role. Jacob Elordi does a really good job, as far as acting goes, but the voice was not a very Elvis sounding voice, fading from Mr. Presley, to a normal southern accent. Elordi only sings once and it’s not even his own song, it’s Jerry Lee Lewis. He also only dances a few times and it’s more like a good Elvis impersonator you see in Vegas, than an actor that has actually studied the musician. Elordi does look a bit like Elvis but not as much as Austin Butler. 

This film shows sides to both Priscilla and Elvis, most don’t know of. You see the good and the bad, the sweet, funny, and sad. This film is very slow most of the  runtime, and the couple spends a lot time kissing, making love, staying in bed, and fighting. Had there been more scenes of Priscilla and Elvis in California, Vegas, or other places, and had it had less kissing and less sex scenes and been less slow paced, it sould have been more enjoyable. There were even times when I couldn’t hear what the two main characters were saying when they were whispering and I was in a theater. 

 The costumes, makeup, and hair were great and the soundtrack, as well as the scenery. The acting was really good, apart from Elordi’s bad accent. Sofia Coppola might not have the looks down perfectly for the main characters, but she does know talent, but she also is known for slow and depressing films. At least this one had some fun and sweet moments. As far as as what was the better Elvis related film, last year’s Elvis was A LOT better, even though this is Priscilla’s story, I just think the portrayal of Elvis was better and the acting was better too. Also it is too soon to revisit Elvis, Priscilla, and Graceland. 

I loved seeing her side of their relationship and how her parents just let their young daughter date and then move in with an older man when she was just a teenager. (Thank goodness he waits to marry her.) You wonder  at first what he saw in her apart from being pretty, (which she was), because you think she’s really nothing special, and she was pretty ordinary, but then you learn about her charm, her sweetness, her intellegence, and sexuality. You learn about how mature she was and how she at times was more like an adult in a teenage girl’s body and your opinion is changed. 

Not the best Elvis and Priscilla film, but not the worst either. The acting is good, the actors didn’t look that much like the real people they were portraying, and the accents are off, but overall, this a rather lukewarm telling of a former wife’s relationship with one of the most famous men in history. I bet Elvis and his daughter are rolling over in their graves. 18+ 3.5/5

Classic of the Week: The Man With the Golden Arm (1955)

The Man With the Golden Arm is a 1955 American drama and film noir film directed by Otto Preminger, based on the novel of the same name by Nelson Algren. Starring Frank Sinatra, Eleanor Parker, Kim Novak, Arnold Stang and Darren McGavin, it tells the story of a drug addict who gets clean while in prison, but struggles to to stay clean outside of jail. Although the drug is never mentioned in the film, according to the American Film Institute “most contemporary and modern sources assume that it is heroin,” although in Algren’s book it is morphine. The film’s initial release was controversial for its treatment of the then taboo themes of drug addiction and infidelity

Frankie Machine is released from the Federal Narcotic Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, with a set of drums and a new outlook on life, and returns to his decrepit neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago. A drug addict, Frankie becomes clean in prison. On the outside, he greets friends and acquaintances. Sparrow, who runs a sting selling homeless dogs, clings to him like a younger brother, but Schwiefka, whom Frankie used to deal for in his illegal card games, has more menacing reasons for welcoming him back, as does Louie, Machine’s former drug dealer. 

Frankie returns home to his wife Zosh, who supposedly needs to use a wheelchair after a car accident some years before that was caused by Frankie driving drunk. Zosh secretly recovered, but pretends to be unable to walk to keep making Frankie feel guilty so he will stay with her. Frankie comments on the whistle she wears around her neck, a tool she used when Frankie was gone to call for a neighbor, Vi, when needed. With Frankie home, Zosh traps him in their small apartment and blocks his attempt to make something of himself. He thinks he has what it takes to play drums for a big band. While calling to make appointment, he bumps into an old flame, Molly, who works in a local strip joint as a hostess and lives in the apartment below Frankie’s. Unlike Zosh, Molly encourages him to follow his dream of being a drummer. 

Frankie soon gets himself an audition and asks Sparrow to get him a new suit, but the suit is a stolen one and he ends up back in jail. Schwiefka offers to pay the bail. Frankie refuses, but soon changes his mind when his sees a drug addict on the edge becomes too much for him.  Now, to repay the debt, he must deal cards for Schwiefka again. Louie is trying to hook him on drugs again, and with no job and Zosch to please, pressure is building from all directions.

Soon Frankie gives in and is back on drugs and dealing all-night card games for Schwiefka. Molly sees he is using drugs again and runs away from him. He gets an audition as a drummer but spends 24 hours straight dealing a poker game, during which he is found cheating and beaten up. Desperately needing a fix, Frankie follows Louie home, attacks him, and destroys his house, but cannot  find his drug stash. At the audition, with withdrawal coming on, Frankie can’t keep the beat and ruins his chance of getting the drummer job. When Louie goes to see to find Frankie, Louie finds out that Zosch has been faking her paralysis and can walk. Zosh, scared of being found out, pushes Louie over the railing of the stairs to his death, but things rebound when Frankie is pursued for Louie’s murder. 

Frank Sinatra is mostly known for his music, but people either don’t know or forget that his was also an equally talented actor. Though this film is from is the 50’s, it is just as relevent today as it was then. It shows the way drug additction can completely destroy a person and their relationships. In the film, Frankie Machine’s life is totally destroyed by his addiction, to what is most likely heroin or morphine. He is also addicted to gambling. He wants to be a drummer, but ruins every tryout. He also frequently leaves his wife Zosch alone in their tiny apartment, stays out all night drugging, drinking, or gambling, sometimes all three and he cheats on his wife with night club employee, Molly. 

Frankie eventually quits drugs and drinking cold turkey, after Molly convinces him if he wants to stand a chance with the police. Throughout the movie, you see him doped up and drunk, and in a few scenes you see him go through withdrawal from not having the substances his body is craving. Frank Sinatra is fantastic as Frankie Machine, making the character seem so so real, you forget that he isn’t. You really believe that Frank is wasting his life away on drugs, booze, gambling, and an affair. You forget this is the man that was also a popular crooner of songs such as “Come Fly With Me” and “Strangers in the Night,” that is how talented Frank was, or I should say he was multi-talented. Sinatra spent time in drug rehabilitation clinics observing addicts going cold turkey to prepare for his role. He also learned to play drums from drummer Shelley Manne. 

Eleanor Parker does a great job as Sophia “Zosch” Machine, Frankie’s wife. Kim Novack is also great as Molly Novotny the nightclub worker. Arnold Stang is does a fine job as Sparrow, Frankie’s friend  who sells strays dogs illegally. Darren McGavin does a good job as “Nitty Louie,” and Robert Strauss is equally good as Zero Schwiefka. 

Otto Preminger had a hard time getting a Code seal of approval, because of the films content dealing with drug usage, gambling, heavy drinking, and scenes dealing with an affair. Many theaters banned the film, but many still showed it, despite the lack of Code. The movie did receive the Production Code in 1961. Despite the all the controversy, even from the Catholic Church and other conservative religious groups, the film was a critical success. 

This film is very slow for the majority of its two hour runtime, but the stellar acting is what makes this film one of the greatest on the subject of addiction. This film could have had more action, to make it more exciting, for those that don’t like super slow and dramatic movies, and yes, I agree to a point, but I also think Sinatra’s acting skills in this picture, make up for that for the most part. Had the lead role gone to Marlon Brando as originally intended, it likely would have had more action, and he would’ve done a really good job, but I don’t think he could have gotten the musician part down. The role was made for Sinatra, though the author wanted Brando and they weren’t satisfied with the end production because of this. Like how Truman Capote who wrote “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” wanted Marilyn Monroe for the lead character in the film version and not Audrey Hepburn. 

This movie proved that some singers can do more than just sing. Sinatra proved he could be more than a Rat Pack member, he could sing, dance, and act. He could be romantic, funny, and dramatic. He could do serious and not so serious roles. There is not one happy moment in this entire film, it is depressing and deep, but in ways that make it terrific. You see addiction through the eyes and mind of the addicted, you can almost feel their pain, their sadness, their anger, all their emotions, as well as their highs and lows, great filmmaking does this. It took a really brave and first class director to produce such a film for the time period and he did it with such expertise, on such powerful and controversial subject matters. Not many other films today that deal with the same topic(s), conquer it quite as ingeniously as this one, as they usually go straight to the subject matter and there’s not much else to the plot. 

The Man With the Golden Arm goes deep, really deep, then climbs its way out, then digs, and climbs out again, taking you on a two hour ride through the mind and heart of a junkie and gambler. A truly superb and gripping motion picture. 18+ 4.5/5 

The Greatest Movies, Docuseries, and TV Shows About Cults

  1. Faults – 2014
  2. The Endless – 2017
  3. The Master 2012
  4. The House of the Devil – 2009
  5. The Wicker Man – 1973
  6. The Seventh Victim – 1943
  7. The Empty Man – 2020
  8. Rosemary’s Baby 1968
  9. Split Image – 1982
  10. The Invitation – 2022
  11. Apostle – 2018
  12. Martha Marcy May Marlene – 2011
  13. Sound of My Voice – 2011
  14. Son – 2021
  15. The Black Cat – 1934
  16. The Devil Rides Out – 1968
  17. Susperia – 1977
  18. Eyes Wide Shut – 1999
  19. The City of the Dead – 1960
  20. The Devils – 1971
  21. The Cabin in the Woods – 2011
  22. Kill List – 2011
  23. Starry Eyes – 2014
  24. Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples Temple – 2006
  25. Mandy – 2018
  26. Fresh – 2022
  27. The Perfection – 2018
  28. Jonestown: Paradise Lost – 2007
  29. V/H/S/2 – 2013
  30. V/H/S/94 – 2021
  31. Jesus Camp – 2006
  32. Waco: The Rules of Engagement 1997
  33. The Source Family – 2012
  34. The Other Lamb – 2019
  35. Wild Wild Country – 2018
  36. Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief – 2015
  37. Children of God: Lost and Found – 2007
  38. Manson – 1973
  39. El Topo – 1970
  40. Heaven’s Gate: The Cult of Cults – 2020
  41. The Lodge – 2019
  42. Prophet’s prey – 2015
  43. God Told Me To – 1976
  44. The Deep End – 2018
  45. The End of the World Cult – 2007
  46. Waco – 2018
  47. My Scientology Movie – 2015
  48. Sons of Perdition – 2010
  49. Seduced: Indside the NXIVM Cult – 2020
  50. The Cult of the Family – 2019
  51. Guerrilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst – 2004
  52. Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath – 2016-2019
  53. Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey – 2022
  54. Orgasm Inc.: The SStory of OneTaste – 2022
  55. The Way Down – 2021
  56. The Secrets of Hillsong – 2023
  57. Devil in Ohio – 2022
  58. Murder Among the Mormons – 2021
  59. Under the Banner of Heaven – 2022
  60. The Six Degrees of Helter Skelter – 2008
  61. Unorthodox – 2020
  62. Big Love 2006-2011
  63. Cults and Extreme Beliefs – 2018
  64. Lyle – 2014
  65. Waiting for John – 2015
  66. Yellowjackets – 2021-
  67. Help! – 1965
  68. Julieta – 2016
  69. The Siege at Ruby Ridge – 1996
  70. Welcome to Leith – 2015
  71. The Keepers – 2017
  72. Kumare – 2011
  73. A – 1998
  74. One of Us – 2017
  75. The Lost Key – 2014
  76. Elmer Gantry – 1960
  77. God Loves Uganda – 2013
  78. Gonzalez: Falsos Profetas – 2014
  79. Higher Ground – 2011
  80. Marjoe – 1972
  81. The Magdalene Sisters – 2002
  82. Boy Erased – 2018
  83. The Miseducation of Cameron Post – 2018
  84. Cross of Fire – 1989
  85. The Prophet Mimi – 1973
  86. The Wave – 2008
  87. Frailty – 2001
  88. The Unknown Saint – 2019
  89. Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator – 2019
  90. Women Talking – 2022
  91. Deprogrammed – 2015
  92. Waco: The American Apocalypse – 2023
  93. Orphan Black -2013-2017
  94. John of God: The Crimes of Spiritual Healer – 2021
  95. Unveiled: Surviving La Luz del Mundo – 2022
  96. Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence – 2023
  97. Sins Among the Amish – 2022
  98. In the Name of the Father – 2023
  99. Cult Killer: The Story of Rick Rodriguez – 2006
  100. Archive 81 – 29022

Oppenheimer (2023)

Oppenheimer is a 2023 epic American biographical thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan. Based on 2005 biography American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, the film follows the career of American theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. The story predominantly focuses on Oppenheimer’s early studies, his involvement in the Manhattan Project during World War II, and his fall from grace due to his 1954 security hearing. Cillian Murphy stars as the title character, Emily Blunt as his wife Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer, Matt Damon as Leslie Groves, the director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Robert Downey Jr. as Lewis Strauss, a senior member of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. The cast also includes Florence Pugh, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek and Kenneth Branagh.

In 1926, the 22-year-ols doctoral student J. Robert Oppenheimer suffers from homesickness and anxiety while studying under experimental physicist Patrick Blackett at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge. Upset with Blackett, Oppenheimer fights back by leaving him a poisoned apple, then barely stops visiting scientistNiels Bohr from eating it. Oppenheimer completes his physics PHD in Germany, and later meets theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg at a conference in Switzerland. He returns to the United States, hoping to expand quantum physics research there, and starts teaching at the University of California, Berkeley and California Institute of technology; not long after, World War II breaks out in Europe. He meets his future wife, Katherine Puening, a biologist and ex-communist, and also has an intermittent affair with Jean Tatlock, a member of the Communist Party USA, until her suicide a few years later.

In 1942, U.S. Army General Leslie Groves recruits Oppenheimer to lead the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb after Oppenheimer gives promise that he has communist ties or sympathies. Oppenheimer, who is Jewish, is particulary driven by the Nazis’ potentially completing their nuclear weapons program that Heisenberg heads. Oppenheimer assembles a scientific team including Edward Teller and Isidor Isaac Rabi in Los Alamos, New Mexico to secretly create the bomb. Oppenheimer works with scientists to Enrico Fermi and David L. Hill, and he and Albert Einstein discuss how an atomic bomb risks triggering an unstoppable chain reaction that could destroy the world.

After Germany surrenders, several project scientists question the bomb’s continued importance, but Oppenheimer emphasizes it will end the war in the Pacific. The Trenity test is successfully conducted just before the Postdam Conference. President Harry S. Truman orders Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be bombed, forcing Japan’s surrender. Oppenheimer is thrown into the public eye as the “father of the atomic bomb” but the immense destruction and massive fatalities haunts him. He urges Truman to restrict further nuclear weapon developmen, but he president rejects Oppenheimer’s advice, calling it weak.

At a hearing intended to eliminate his political influence, Oppenheimer is betrayed by Teller and other colleagues. Strauss exploits Oppenheimer’s associations with Communists such as Tatlock and Oppenheimer brother, Frank. Despite Rabi and several other allies testifying in Oppenheimer’s defense, his security clearance is prematurely revoked, damaging his public image and neutralizing his policy influence.

As an advisor to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Oppenheimer advocates against further nuclear research, especially the hydrogen bomb, started by Teller. His stance becomes a point of dispute amid the intense Cold War with the Soviet Union. AEC Chairman Lewis Strauss resents Oppenheimer for publicly dismissing his worries about the export of radiosotopes and recommending arms talks with the Soviet Union.

At a hearing intended to stop political influence, Oppenheinmer is betrayed by Teller and others. Strauss exploits Oppenheimer’s associations with communists such as Tatlock and Oppenheimer’s brother, Frank. Despite Rabi and several other partners testifying in Oppenheimer’s defense, his security clearance is revoked, ruining his public image and annulling his policy influence. At Strauss’s later Senate confirmation hearing for Secretary of Commerce, Hill testifies about Strauss’s personal motives in engineering Oppenheimer’s deposition. The senate votes against Strauss’s nomination.

In 1963, President Lyndon B. Johnson presents Oppenheimer with the Enrico Fermi Award as an act of political recovery.

This a really long film at over three hours in runtime. Towards the end, it does drag on, making you wonder if it will ever end, but the amazing story and outstanding acting and cinematography make up for that. There is a lot of talking, almost too much, but there is a lot action and drama as well, that make the movie entertaining. Nolan goes long and deep in the making of the bomb, an astonishing and horrifying process. He doesn’t restage the attacks though; there are no documentary shots of deaths or scenes of cities in ruin, choices that show his ethicality in directing. The horros of the bombings and the aftermath and the magnitude of the suffering they caused, permeate the film. Oppenheimer is a magnificent achievement in the art of filmmaking, absorbing the history of the story beautifully.

The story chronicles Oppenheimer, played with extreme intensity by Cillian Murphy, covering decades, starting in the 1920s with him as a young adult and it continues until his hair grays. The film involves the professional and personal achievements, including his work on the bomb, the controversies surrounding him, the anti-Communism and the attacks that almost destroyed him, as well as his romances and friendships that helped him grow, but also disturbed him.

This is a very deep story that is filled with event after event that Nolan tells with pure genius that not many other filmmakers today can do. He goes from color to black and white, zooms in and zooms out, uses intense sound effects and no sound at all, as well as intense effects to caputre the life of one of the most important, yet complicated men American history, a man who never won the Nobel Prize like he should have (yet 31 one other scientists on the Manhattan project did) for such an achievement.

Although the film doesn’t tell of his upbringing as a child, it does tell of his love for science at a very early age and how he got interested and started in quantum physics. Yes, it would have been very interesting to learn about Oppenheimer’s childhood, but it would have made the film probably close to five hours or more. There are books and documentaries that talk about his life as a child for those wanting to learn about it.

Yes, this is a really long movie. It does spend a lot of time on the hearings, but it also spends a lot of time as well on the concieving of the idea and the building of the bomb as well. Had the ending been shorter, you wouldn’t have learned much about Oppenheimer’s relationship with Albert Einstein, or how the hearings went down and their results.

Cillian Murphy is amazing as J. Robert Oppenheimer, a role only he could play. Emily Blunt is great as “Kitty” Oppenheimer. Matt Damon is excellent as General Leslie Groves. Robert Downey Jr. is outstanding as Lewis Strauss. Florence Pugh is really good in her role as Jean Tatlock, the psychiatrist and Communist Party USA member, whom J. Robert had a relationship and eventual affair with. Joshn Hartnett in his best role to date, is great in the role as nuclear phsicist and Nobel Prize winner Ernest Lawrence. Casey Affleck is really good as U.S. Army military intelligence officer Boris Pash. Rami Malek is good, not great as nuclear physicist David L. Hill. Kenneth Branagh does a fine job as Danish physicist Neils Bohr.

This film, though long and dragged out, still has Oscars written all over it. This is one of the greatest biopics of all time alongside others like Capote, 12 Years a Slave, and Schindler’s List. The way Christopher Nolan uses color, as well as black and white, and goes from past to present, to time periods in between, is pure genius. This movie, shot on Imax 70mm film, makes it as breathtaking as it is shocking, along with the fantanstic acting, costuming, effects, cinematography, and soundtrack. Nolan captures Oppenheimer and The Manhattan Project so spectacuraly, it sucks you in and takes you on a ride of romance, war, science, bombs, and legal trails. The director also uses no CGI to capture the effects, which very few directors today do, which make the film even more captivating and can lead it to more award nominations, and possible wins.

Overall, this is an extraordinary film, a must-see. If you only go to see one movie this year, make it this one. Sure, Barbie is cute and fun, but you’ll likely forget about it in a couple years or so. Oppenheimer you’ll probably never forget whether you’ve seen it once or over one-hundred times. Stunning, stunning, stunning, a masterpiece of cinematic art. 18+ 4.5/5

Elemental (2023)

Elemental is a 2023 American computer animated romantic comedy drama film produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios and directed by Peter Sohn. The film features the voices of Leah Lewis, Mamamoudou Athie, Ronnie del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-Covey, and Catherine O’Hara. Set in a world occupied by anthromorphic elements of nature, the story follows the element of fire, Ember Lumen (Lewis) and water element Wade Ripple (Athie), who meet and fall in love after Wade is summoned to by a plumbing accident at a convenience store owned by Ember’s father Bernie (Del Carmen).

Fire elements Bernie and Cinder Lumen relocate to Element City, where they face xenophobia from other elements and struggle to find a home. They have a daughter, Ember, and eventually set up a convenience store called The Fireplace, setting up a Blue Flame that represents their heritage and traditions and attracting many fire element customers over time. Bernie intends for the store to give the store to Ember to run the shop on her own, she becomes overwhelmed by the customers and runs to the basment. Her firey outburst breaks a water pipe, flooding the basement and ordering Wade Ripple, a water element and city inspector. Wade talks about the faulty pipe and unwillingly leaves for City Hall to send the violation report to his air element employer, Gale Cumulus, who will have The Fireplace shut down. Ember persues Wade but it’s too late.

Taking pity on Ember he takes her to Cyclone Stadium to convince Gale to be more forgiving and reconsider shutting down her father’s store. When Wade mentions he was investigating recocurring floods before ending up at The Fireplace, Gales gives the two of them a tight deadline to find the cause. If they are able to seal the leak, then the violations will be forgiven. While searching the canals for the cause of the leak, Wade remembers that Ember’s temper comes from her trying to tell herself something that she is not ready to accept, but Ember denies this. They then find a hole in a dam that allows wave runoff from ships to flood the city’s plumbling, so they close the hole with sandbags. Meanwhile, Bernie deals with water leaks all over The Fireplace.

Wade and Ember spend time together in the city and learn more about each other. Later, Wade tells Ember that the sandbags did not hold, so Ember uses her glassmaking ability to create a sturdier seal for the hole in the dam. Meanwhile, Cinder suspects Ember is seeing someone and follows her. Ember visits Wade’s family at a luxury apartment, where she uses her fire to fix a broken glass pitcher, impressing Brook, Wade’s mother, who recommends her for a glassmaking internship. Gale then calls Wade and give her approval of Ember’s glass seal, thus saving The Fireplace from closing down. Ember then realizes that she does not want to take over the store.

Bernies announces his plan to to retire and give The Fireplace to Ember. Wade takes Ember to Garden Central Station to see Vivisteria flowers, which she was denied seeing as a child. Gale gives her an air bubble for safety while Wade pushes her underwater through the station. Afterward, Wade and Ember discover they are able to touch without hurting each other and share a romantic dance, but Ember reminds herself of her duty to The Fireplace and her family’s prejudice against water elements and leaves, upsetting Wade.

As Ember is about to take over The Fireplace, Wade shows up and confesses his love for her, while spilling that she caused the broken pipes. Ember rejects Wade, but Cinder senses genuine affection. Disappointed, Bernie decides not to retire and denies Ember the store. When the new seal on the dam breaks, the fire district floods. After saving The Blue Flame, Ember and Wade become trapped in a room in The Fireplace, causing Wade to evaporate from the enclosed heat. When the flood subsides, grief-stricken Ember tells Bernie she does not want to run the store and expresses her love for Wade.

Pixar has had mostly great movies, but this one is only good, not great. It has a creative plot and relatable characters. It teaches about family, disasters, acceptance, and love, as well as following your heart. Conservatives may compare the fire and water elements being romantically involved to an interracial relationship and maybe that’s what Disney and Pixar were going for. Also, some may not like the rebellious nature of Ember and how she sneaks around to see Wade.

This is a film with such heart and emotion. It is a truly great story for the most part, but it does focus a bit too much on Bernie’s store and Wade and Ember’s relationship, than much of anything else. At times it does feel much like an animated teen rom-com with a bit of drama, so it’s definitely not Pixar’s best film, but no their worst either. It is a very sweet movie that tugs at the heartstrings and reminds you of the power of family, true love, and following your heart.

This is an entertaining film for most part, but older children will enjoy it more than younger ones. The plot is a pretty predictable, so not Pixar’s or the screenwriter’s or director’s best work. This movie comes off largely as overly sweet, which almost makes you miss the metaphor of racial acceptance within it’s storyline. Despite great messages within this film, it does not have the wow factor of other Pixar films. Some viewers will likely get bored, others may genuinely enjoy it and bawl their eyes out, children will likely get bored with it fast, as it is not as action packed as most animated films these days.

Overall, this film is filled with emotion, mostly romantically and family-wise. The metaphor of the elements of nature characters representing different races is is a smart idea, but that is about the only smart idea of the plot. Maybe the studio’s running out of ideas, who knows? Let’s hope not. This is a charming movie, but it it falls flat in entertainment factor, especially when up against others like the Toy Story films and Up. This one is not a complete win with the studios, but not a complete failure either. 3.5/5 8+

Classic of the Week: Psycho (1960)

Psycho is a 1960 American thrilleer film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, based on the 1959 novel of the same name by Robert Bloch. The film stars Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, Vera Miles, John Gavin and Martin Balsam. The story centers on an encounter between embezzler Marion Crane (Leigh) and shy motel worker Norman Bates (Perkins) and its aftereffects, in which a private investigator (Balsam), Marions lover Sam Loomis (Gavin), and her sister Lila (Miles) investigate her disappearance. 

During a Friday afternoon engagement in a Phoenix hotel, real estate secretary Marion Crine and her boyfriend Sam Loomis discuss their inability to get married because of Sam’s debs. Marion returns to work, steals a cash payment of $40,000 entrusted to her for deposit, and drives to Sam’s house in Fairvale, California. She pulls over and falls asleep and is woken up by a police officer the next morning. Her anxious behavior makes him question her reasons and asks to see her license but lets her go. Marion quickly trades her car with Arizona plates for a car with California plates. 

Marion stops for a night at the Bates Motel, located off the main highway, and hides the stolen money inside a newspaper. Owner Norman Bates walks out of a large house ovetrlooking the motel, registars Marion under an alias, and invites her to dinner. After Norman returns to his house, Marion overhears he and his mother arguing over Marion being there. Norman returns with the meal and apologizes for his mother’s anger. He tells her about his hobby as taxidermist, and his mother’s “illness.” Marion decides to drive back to Phoenix in the morning to return the stolen money. As Marion showers, a shadowy figure appears and stabs her. 

This film has its thrills, but at times comes off as a low-budget exploitation film. Many times throughout the film, there is no dialogue, just music, adding to the eerieness and intensity, which isn’t a bad thing, as we can still what’s going on. It is more disturbing than scary. At the time of its release, this movie was considered super scary, but it is very tame by today’s standards. 

Bates is very dark and very slow for its nearly two hour runtime. It has the thrill factor, the intensity, and the fine acting from all of its lead cast, but at times it comes off as cheaply made. It is only slightly entertaining, even though there have several remakes of the film and a TV series version.

This is definitely one of Hitchcock’s more gruesome films even though the gore is pretty mild, and even after learning that the blood in the shower scene was actually chocolate syrup, the scene is still disturbing enough and well done that it could still keep one up at night. Most of the movie takes place at the motel, so not much change of scenery, which may bore some viewers. Though this may not be Hitchcock’s best film in my opinion, it’s not his worst either. The plot may be simple, but the movie is well directed, well acted, and the effects are good too. 

Only Hitchcock could’ve taken such a basic storyline and turned it into what many consider a masterpiece. He knew how to shock and amaze then and his films still do to this day. 18+ 3.5/5 

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (2023)

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is a 2023 American coming-of-age period comedy drama film directed by Kelly Fremon Craig, based on the 1970 novel of the same name by Judy Blume. The film stars Abby Ryder Forston as the title character Margaret Simon, along with Rachel McAdams, Benny Safdie, and Kathy Bates.

Sixth grader Margaret Simon and her parents move from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey. Since one of her parents Christian with the other is Jewish, she tries to find her identity of religion. The film follows the eleven year old as she goes through puberty, experiencing the normal girl experiences like growing breasts, her first bra, boys, shaving, and getting her period, but also her exploring both of her parents’ religious upbringings. She becomes friends with several popular girls in her grade and they form a secret club called the Pre-Teen Sensations where they talk about boys, bras and menstruation. The girls axiously await their first period, preparing by buying pads. They also do exercises to increase their bust sizes: “We must, we must, must increase our bust!”

Gretchen gets her period first, which causes Margaret to worry that she is abnormal because she hasn’t started to menstruating. Margaret is jealous of her classmate Laura Danker, who started menstruating and wears a bra. She has a crush on the popular boy Philip Leroy. They kiss while playing “two minutes in the closet” during a party. Margaret’s parents plan to spend the spring vacation with Sylvia, her Jewish grandmother, in Florida. The day before the vacation, Margaret’s conservative Christian grandparents, Mary and Paul Hutchins visit. Because they disapprove of their daughter’s interfaith marriage, Mary and Paul have been estranged from Margaret’s mother for fourteen years. Margaret’s mother cancels the Florida trip. Margaret is upset but tries to be polite to her grandparents. When her grandparents mention religion, arguing starts. Margaret boils over with anger saying she doesn’t need religion or God. On the last day of school, Margaret gets her period.

This film differs a bit from the book it is based on. In the book, Margaret tells her friends why she has no religion, in the movie she is unsure and asks her mother. Barbara (Rachel McAdams) explains to her daughter that as “devout Christians.” her parents did not want a Jewish son in law, so if she married Herb, she’d no longer be their daughter. The book focuses mcuh more on Margaret’s experience, that her parents are almost empty pages. In the movie she and her parents equally focused on.

In the book Barbara is portrayed as stereotypical overworked mom, in the movie, she is warm throughtout the majority of the runtime, as she must be a safe haven and must conquer her rocky journey to realization. Barbara is a bigger presence in Margaret’s life in the film, than in the book, but that doesn’t make either version bad. McAdams is great in this role, bringing the overly-sweet and overly protective mother to life thoughout the film.

Abby Ryder Forston is a powerhouse of a star. She brings the awkward pre-teen girl to life in a way that is nostalgic and relatable, as well as funny at times. This girl is definitely going on to more big roles. Benny Safdie does a fine job as Herb Simon, a hardworking, yet awkward father, who also embarrasses Margarget. He is the typical New York City Jewish dad, without actually affiliating with the religion much. Kathy Bates is great Sylvia Simon, Marge’s Jewish grandmother. She also is a typical New York Jew, but she still follows the religion.

Overall, the film is equal parts awkward, funny, nostalgic, heart-warming, and cute. It is the perfect mother-daughter movie. It is a little too silly in some parts, much more than the book, which make the film a bit cheesy at times. Boys will probably not enjoy this one as much as girls, as it does deal with pre-teenage girl subjects throughout. Conservatives will likely object to the relgious theme, but those with an open mind will find this more engaging.

This is not the most entertaining coming-of-age movie, but it is also far from the worst. It has it’s laugh out loud moments, but some scenes are pretty slow, but that’s to expected if you ever read the book. There are uncomfortable themes throughout the movie like body-shaming, and talking about the sizes of private body parts, but that’s what makes this film relatable for any lady that was a pre-teen or teenager then as well as pre-teen and teenage girls today. Though this movie is PG-13, it is still a must see for any tween or teen. This film can also help girls and their parents discuss uncomfortable subjects. This is a cute and charming film, filled with heart and laughter. 11+ 4.5/5

A Man Called Otto (2022)

A Man Called Otto is a 2022 comedy-drama film directed by Marc Foster from a screenplay by David Magee. It is the second film adaptation of the 2012 novel A Called Ove by Fredrik Backman, and an American remake of the 2015 Swedish film of the same name written and directed by Hannes Holm. The film stars Tom Hanks, Marinana Trevino, Rachel Keller, and Manuel Garcia-Ruflo. 

Otto Anderson, a 63 year old widowe, lives in Suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After retiring from a steel company, he plans suicide, having lost his wife Sonya, a schoolteacher, six months before. 

During a suicide attempt by hanging, he is interrutedby his new neighbors: Marisol, Tommy, and their two daughters, Abby and Luna. Ottos has flashbacks to his past: years before, he tried to enlist in the army, but was unable to having hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. he meets Sonya on a train after giving her back a book she had dropped. 

Otto attempts suicide again, this time via carbon monoxide poisoning. He has another flashback of him having dinner with Sonya, telling her that he is not enlisted in the army due to his heart condition and doesn’t have a job, making Sonya kiss him. Marisol interrupts Otto’s suicide attempt, asking him to her and the kids to the hospital after Tommy falls off a ladder and breaks his leg. 

Otto has a flashback to his graduation with an engineering degree, when he asks Sonya to marry him. During a suicide attempt by train, an old man faints and falls on the railroad tracks. Otto saves the man and the good deed becomes a viral video. Otto then takes in a stray cat, which he had found to be a nuisance. Otto takes Marisol for a driving lesson and they go to Sonya’s favorite bakery, which the couple had gone to every weekend. There. he tells her about his friendship with a guy named Reuben, the two having worked together to set up rules, with Otto as chairman of the neighborhood association. The two grow apart after Reuben’s preference for Fords and Toyotas over Otto’s Chevrolets and the “coup” of replacing Otto as chairman. Reuben, who suffered a stroke, is now confined to a wheelchair and is cared for by his wife Anita and neighbor Jimmy. 

After dodging a social media Journalist named Shari Kenzie who is trying to interview Otto for his brave act in the viral video, he gets mad at both Marisol and a Dye & Merika real estate agent, not wanting to accept Sonya’s death. He tries to kill himself with a shotgun, but is interrupted by Malcolm, a local transgender teen Otto has befriended, who asks to spend the night after his father kicks him out. 

Ottos learns that Dye & Merika is planning to force Reuben into a nursing home and take their house, after illegally finding out that Anita has Parkinson’s disease. Otto agrees to help Anita and Reuben. After having a heating fight with Dye & Merika, Otto was voted out of chairmanship after the neighborhood is not accessible to Sonya after a tragic accident leaves her paralyzed and she has a miscarriage. Otto and other neighbors come together with Shari Kenzie to take down Dye & Merika to force them to not buy over the neighborhood. 

The character of Otto at times resembles Larry David’s character in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Otto starts out like Ebeneezer Scrooge, very grumpy, never happy. Eventually, his neighbors turn him back into the fun, funny, caring man he used to be when his Sonya was still alive. They show him how to live again. He starts out so bitter and cheap, he has his electric, phone, and cable turned off. He doesn’t own a cellphone or a fancy car. He is very unhappy, as he is lonely, retired, has no friends, or close family, and nothing excites him anymore without his wife. He tries several times to kill himself but he thankfully gets interrupted every time. His neighbors and new friends show him that suicide is not the answer.

This film is pretty slow for a good portion of its runtime. Parts are laugh out loud funny, there are also heartwarming and cute scenes. There are also some very tragic moments as well. Tom Hanks is great as Otto Anderson, but that doesn’t make this movie any better. It is good at best. The Swedish version, A Man Called Ove is better, but still not great either. Both are of a man who loses the love of his life and becomes big grump, a constant eye roll, middle finger to anything that bothers them or that is remotely positive. Both men learn there is more to life and they also learn how accept the death of a loved on and move on. 

This film will likely not be winning any awards, except maybe Hanks. Scrooge type characters have been done to death. The story of a once bitter person becoming kind hearted again, that too has been done too many times. Yes, the Swedish version is better and the book is good, but overall the entire story is far too similar to many others. The sad, sad, happy, sad pattern is not original either. Had this story had something more intense than a real estate company trying to take over a neighborhood, it maight have been more enjoyable. Overall, I found myself rather bored and depressed for most of this movie. There were times I found myself laughing and smiling and some parts really warmed my heart, but those parts are so few. 

I’m glad Otto became a better man again, but his Grinch-like attitude was dragged out for too long. I wanted to like this movie, but I found it rather boring and unoriginal. Another crankypants, get of my lawn character, though well acted, was just wasted talent. This film is just a stretched out waste of time with a pretty bow tied around it for the most part, until the tragedy comes. Sweet and sad story, but not an entertaining movie much at all. 3/5 13+ 

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022)

The Banshees of Inisherin is a 2022 dark tragicomedy film directed by Martin McDonagh. Set on a remote Island off the west coast of Ireland, it stars Colin Farrell and Brendand Gleeson as two lifelong friends who find themselves at a dead end when one quickle ends their relationship, with startling consequences for both of them. Kerry Condon and Barry Keoghan also star in the film. 

At the tail end of the Irish Civil War in 1923, on the fictional Irish Isle of Inisherin, folk musician Colm Doherty quickly starts ignoring his lifelong friend and drinking buddy Padraic Suilleabhain. Padraic, though friendly and well liked by the islanders, is too “dull” for Colm, who wishes to spend the remainder of his life compsing music and doing things that he will be remembered by.  Padraic’s life is disrupted by the loss of one of his few friend; as he grows more and more tramatic at the rejection, Colm becomes more hostile to his old friend’s attempts to to talk to him. Colm eventuallly gives Padraic an ultimatum: every time Padriac bothers him or tries to talk to him, Colm will cut off one of his own left fingers with a pair of sheep shears. 

Though Padriac’s caring sister Siobhan and troubled local boy Dominic attempt to stop the pair’s escalating brawl, their efforts prove ineffective. After a drunken Padriac confronts him in the pub and tries to apologise, Colm cuts off one of his fingers and throws it at Padriac’s door. After Padriac sees Colm meeting with a fiddler from the mainland, he tricks the fiddler into going back home by lying about their father’s death. 

Padriac visits Colm to scold him for behaving awfully. Colm reveals the he has finished composing his song, which he calls “The Banshees of Inisherin.” Padiac tells Colm about lying to fiddler to run him off the island, and maybe the three of them could have drinks . Colm cuts off the rest of his left fingers with the shears and throws them at Padriac’s door. 

This film is considered a comedy and there are some laugh out moments, but the rest of the movie is very slow, disturbing, and sad. The scenery is breathtaking, the music is beautiful, and the acting is superb. Brendon Gleeson is great as Colm and Colin Farrell is outstanding as Padriac. The film is really slow for the majority of it’s runtime of nearly two hours. It’s only a tad funny and mostly it’s just one sad thing happening after another. 

I guess I don’t really understand the whole tragicomedy thing, as I don’t find cutting off fingers as revenge and death of loved ones funny. Had this film been categorized not as a comedy of any type, I might have enjoyed it a little more. But we get is a semi-funny, slow, drunken and depressing story, mixed with a beautiful location and equally beautiful music. Kerry Condon does a fine job as Siobhan and Barry Keoghan is good, not great as Dominic. 

The two main charaters Padriac and Colm, are two self-loathing loners, that could really use a friend or a lover. The only friends the two have after they break up are animals, Padriac has his donkey and horse and Colm has his dog, but they need more human interactions, some physical touch. They are two of the most depressing characters I have ever seen in a movie. They are called nice by other islanders, but they aren’t always so jolly, they end up constantly seeking revenge on each other, instead of leaving each other alone, or maybe just saying “Hi,” and walking on. They seem to do a lot of beer drinking, to point of being drunk nearly every day, which makes them do stupid things, like pub fights. 

There is a little bit of humor in this film, but also this film is not heartwarming, uplifting, or romantic. It is basically two miserable men that hate each other and need desparetly to get off that island, meet people, and try to have a relatively “normal” life. Though this movie takes place in the 1920s, everyone on the island is living like amish people, only with alcohol and tobacco use. There are no cars, no electricity, and likely no plumbing either. It seems odd for the time period, but I guess that’s island life in Ireland back then. 

Overall, this is a very slow, a tad humorous, disstressing film. The scenery and the fine acting don’t make this one any better. Some things are left unaswered in the movie as well. Had there been more action, this film might have been more entertaining, but instead is quite boring and sad. I was hoping this one would have been fantastic judging by all the awards it has recieved, but I have to disagree, except that Farrell and Gleeson do deserve their awards, but definitely not Best Picture or Best Screenplay worthy. It is a drunken, dawdling somewhat mess of film. 18+ 3/5