Leisure Seeker

Let's trot out the old war horses and enjoy another Movie For Grownups. (I'm becoming quite fond of this category.)

Based on the novel by Michael Zadoorian, Italian writer/director Paolo Virzì ("Like Crazy") brings us an R-rated entertaining, involving and ultimately satisfying story about a retired husband and wife who go on the lam and take their RV out on the road for one last trip.

Virzì's cast is led by the war horses:
  • Donald Sutherland ("The Hunger Games") It's clear that John Spencer is suffering from some memory problems. I kept wondering if he was fit to drive! His English literature background comes back in fits and starts.
  • Helen Mirren ("Trumbo") His wife Ella shows all of the fatigue, impatience and frustration that we can expect from a primary caretaker. Plus she has problems of her own. But watch her when their vehicle breaks down! She resents the many females who clearly have admired her husband over the years.
  • Dana Ivey ("Madam Secretary") Lillian has been friends with the Spencers for a LONG time! Now she lives next door.
  • Christian McKay ("Florence Foster Jenkins") Their son Will goes ballistic when he realizes what they have done.
  • Janel Moloney ("The Leftovers") Jane tries to soothe her brother but it's an uphill battle.
  • Dick Gregory ("Steppin: The Movie") In his last movie role before his death in August, 2017,  here he is John's long-standing rival, Dan Coleman.
As our intrepid couple sets out in their elderly Winnebago, all we can do is worry. We worry about John's ability to drive, Ella's ability to contain her frustration and the Winnebago's ability to last for the whole trip. On the other hand, we enjoy the scenery, the RV parks and even that political rally they blunder into.

Although Mirren's southern accent comes and goes (her character is from South Carolina), she perfectly inhabits the character's long-married mannerisms; the fussing, the kvetching and the occasional rage. But their ups and downs have an authentic feel. We left the screening in a quiet glow.
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Take a look:
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A Wrinkle in Time

When Madeleine L'Engle wrote her best-selling children's novel in 1962 (by then I was no longer a little bookworm), I doubt if she had any concept of the magnitude of her success. "A Wrinkle in Time" is considered a modern classic: a Hero's (or Heroine's) Journey that takes a girl and two boys to other worlds. Far be it for me to dispute L'Engle's success, although when I DID read it, I wasn't moved and when I saw it on stage in Ashland, Oregon a few years ago, I actively disliked it; my problem is with the plot, so there isn't much I can do about it.

Director Ava DuVerney ("Selma") has stumbled into a social movement (this was filmed before the "Me Too" movement) which makes it timely, relevant and a big-budget PG-rated audience pleaser. Her screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Jeff Stockwell have stayed fairly true to the original and the reviews have been consistently good. Despite the abundant talent and skills on display, I'm sorry to say that I still don't like the plot.

Part of DuVerney's cast:
  • Storm Reid ("12 Years a Slave") Meg Murry has lost her father and is determined to get him back, no matter what! (Spoiler Alert: A Tesseract is involved.)
  • Deric McCabe ("Stephanie") Henry Wallace Murry is a child prodigy, although it doesn't keep him out of trouble at school. He always seems a couple of steps ahead of the other two children.
  • Levi Miller ("Pan") Calvin is a classmate who likes Meg's hair (and Meg). She is bullied at school and he befriends her. Everybody likes Calvin.
  • Mindy Kaling ("The Mindy Project") Mrs. Who speaks in aphorisms. Not only that, she cites the author!
  • Oprah Winfrey ("The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks") Mrs. Which seems to be the Mrs. who is in charge. She is wise, patient, and very observant.
  • Reese Witherspoon ("Big Little Lies") Mrs. Whatsit seems to be still in training, but that doesn't keep her from being a bit opinionated. To her, humans are very limited. She is the comic relief.
  • Gugu Mbatha-Raw ("Concussion") Mrs. Murry is a scientist who is interested in the small. Particle physics is a good starting point.
  • Chris Pine ("Wonder Woman") Mr. Murry is interested in the enormous, like galaxies! He seems to love science more than he loves his family.
As our trio of guides and the trio of children reach their destination (great CGI), they quickly realize that their search has become a rescue.

This is PG, so there is no profanity, no gunshots, no sweaty bodies, and no vehicular mayhem, but the children will love the ride on that green flying carpet! In my opinion, the most chilling thing is their brief visit to the perfect subdivision, with all of the Stepford-type children bouncing their balls in unison!
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Here is trailer:
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Death Wish

Vengeance movies are always satisfying, but brutal. Here we have a happy family man who has the fruits of his hard-earned success stripped away.

This remake of the 1974 original (starring Charles Bronson), is directed by Eli Roth ("Knock Knock") from a screenplay by Joe Carnahan ("State of Affairs"). This in turn is based on the 1974 novel by Brian Garfield, which has been milked to death. Movies, games, sequels, etc., etc., etc.

Part of Roth's cast:
  • Bruce Willis ("Red") Paul Kersey is a hard-working E.R. surgeon who can't always save lives.
  • Vincent D'Onofrio ("Ghost Wars") Frank Kersey tells his niece, "Your dad was a scrapper back in the day!" 
  • Elisabeth Shue ("Battle of the Sexes") Lucy is everything Paul always wanted. Their North Shore home in Chicago is warm and happy.
  • Camila Morrone ("Never Goin' Back") Jordan is the lovely sort of daughter who makes it all worth while.
  • Dean Norris ("The Big Bang Theory") and Kimberly Elise ("Almost Christmas") are the frustrated Chicago detectives who have far too many unsolved cases posted on their office wall. "People rely on the police to keep them safe."
This R-rated, super-violent actioner has all the stuff Bruce Willis fans want: gunfire, torture, suspense and creative ways to kill people. The DJs in the city form a Greek chorus about the anonymous grim reaper who only shoots criminals. Opinions divide the city: "Are YOU on Team Reaper?"

Well, I'll tell you one thing. We in the audience saw what those brutes did, so like it or not, we KNOW what WE want to see!
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Here is a sample:
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Red Sparrow

Thumper's father said, "If ya can't say sumpthin' nice, don't say nuthin' at all." Obviously, a movie review can't be totally blank, so I'm struggling to find "sumpthin' nice" to say.

We watch as a Bolshoi ballerina suffers a horrific injury and wonder, was it an accident or was it deliberate?

My first thought was that those 15-year-old boys must have had a good time, thinking up one scurrilous, sexually suggestive situation after another. Then I looked him up and director Francis Lawrence ("Hunger Games") isn't 15. Maybe a juvenile screenwriter? Hmmm... Justin Haythe ("The Lone Ranger") seems to be old enough to know better. The purient scenes didn't titillate though, because of the awkwardly conveyed "ick" factor.

Some of Mr. Lawrence's cast:
  • Jennifer Lawrence ("Silver Linings Playbook") Dominika (get it? Nudge, nudge) must find some other way to support her frail mother, as her medical coverage with the Bolshoi has been cancelled.
  • Joel Edgerton ("It Comes at Night") American Intelligence officer Nate is working with a mole in the Soviet government. The Soviets want that name!
  • Matthias Schoenaerts ("The Danish Girl") Vanya can provide Dominika with an option. After all, an uncle should try to help his niece. (This actor looks so much like Putin it's spooky!)
  • Charlotte Rampling ("The Sense of an Ending") The Matron provides specific training in her unique school. (I agree with Dominika's blunt name for it.)
  • Jeremy Irons ("Justice League") General Korchnoi says, "There are no accidents."
  • Mary-Louise Parker ("Mr. Mercedes") almost steals the show as the drunken (and inept!) Stephanie, who has something to sell.
This is rated a hard R, so expect profanity, nudity, fisticuffs, many many sexual situations, torture, knives, guns and a lot of alcohol.  Anyone who knows me will agree that I am NOT a prude, but I yawned through one outrageous groaner after another and our less-than impressed screening audience was silent as we shuffled out of the theater.
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See what I mean:
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