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The Gentle Movie Critic Archive

ray posterRay: Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, Regina King, Sharon Warren, C.J. Sanders Directed by: Taylor Hackford-

The dramatized story of the legendary Ray Charles. This movie covers roughly the first 30 years of his life and while the Mr. Foxx is a singer in his own right those in the know wisely used the music tracks of the real Ray Charles in the movie. I had put off seeing this film partly because I'm not a big fan of his. But the real reason I think was because my father was a big fan of Ray Charles and at his funeral we had them play "America the Beautiful" which was one of my father's favorite songs of his. Now to the movie itself. Mr. Foxx looked and acted amazingly like the famed singer and I understand why he has been nominated for so many awards. It was a difficult role to play because of the often sad and rocky life of the real Ray Charles. His mother Areatha (Sharon Warren) was hard as granite when she fought for what she believed in and soft as velvet when it came to loving her children. Dirt poor she did the best she could in preparing her son who became blinded at an early age for the outside world. A world which she knew would be doubly hard for a black man and even more so because of his disability. The movie opens when he's leaving a school for the blind for Seattle to start a gig with a friend of his. It progresses showing the pitfalls of life on the road with the temptation of easy women and easy drugs. Woven throughout the movie are flashbacks of his early childhood and the shocking death of his younger brother which haunted him for most of his life. The movie only touches on the turbulent 60's when he could only play to segregated audiences in the south and the state of Georgia banned him when he refused to do so anymore. It's a rich character driven movie with the music the real star of the show. The cast is both attractive and skillful and the direction tight which make for an enjoyable movie experience whether you are a fan of Ray Charles  or not. Drug use, sexual references, some harsh language might not make this the ideal movie for children but older teens it would be okay. I give it 3 roses

ConstantineConstantine: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Djimon Hounsou Francis Lawrence, Director:

Based on the a dark comic book 'hero' this is the story of a seemingly normal man who is blessed or cursed depending on how you look at it, with an amazing gift. With this gift that allows him to see the half breeds (demons or angels that walk the earth) he works to save mankind from evil in this fantasy that  runs at break  neck speed and is packed with action. It seems that the earth is teeming with spirits both good and evil who walk around unbeknown to the average person. One man who can see  these  spirits  John Constantine (Keanu Reeves). In a scene early in the movie we learn that he is very ill and in the past the heavy burden of his gift and the acts he has done were more than he could stand and he tried to kill himself. In fact he did kill himself for a few minutes but was saved and sent back to earth to help its people. With no hope of reaching heaven because of his act of suicide he is lead to believe that an act of unselfish sacrifice is the one way to reach his goal of getting to heaven. Meanwhile he must pay for his actions by being on guard in the middle of Paradise and Hell. After a young woman commits suicide Constantine meets her sister Angela Dodson, (Rachel Weisz)a police detective and is drawn into her desperate search for proof that her sister was murdered and did not kill herself. This is so important to her because sister was a devout Catholic and cannot be buried in consecrated ground if she committed the sin of suicide. During their investigation they find that the Angel Gabriel and the son of the devil have made a pact to bring Hell to earth and so they must work together to save humanity.  Mr. Reeves and Ms Weisz have an onscreen chemistry that make their characters believable and so you find yourself  cheering them on in their quest. Some great one-liners in the movie and a really funny scene that includes a well known gesture to the devil takes place near the end. I don't want to give too much away here but you'll know what I mean when you see the film. Krystal really liked the movie and I so did I. The movie has great special effects and moves along at a brisk pace. Some lighter moments are furnished by  Chaz (LaBeouf) who  plays his apprentice/driver. Rated R because of the violence the movie would be fine for older teens who know that this is just indeed a movie and do not take it too seriously. I give it 2 1/2 roses 


finding neverland posterFinding Neverland: Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet, Julie Christie Freddie Highmore, Dustin Hoffman, Directed by Marc Forster

In this very touching and heartwarming drama, we are told the story of how *James M. Barrie ( Johnny Depp) got the idea for the screenplay of  Peter Pan. The movie opens with the opening of Barrie's latest play which sadly is a resounding flop. Smarting from this blow and from what we quickly find out is a loveless marriage Barrie begins spending time in the park with his dog Porthos who looks suspiciously like Nana.  During his time there he meets four small boys and a widowed mother (Winselt), who are in desperate need of some attention and love. Although nothing unseemly happens as the result of this friendship there is of course the rumor mill at work that casts doubts as to his motives for befriending the family. The gossips figure he is either seducing the widow or has some unwholesome feelings for the boys. Nothing could be further from the truth and Depp  gives a very low key performance as the winsome Barrie who teaches the boys to play and be children and gives hope to their mother who (spoiler here) is becoming very ill and dies.  Peter (the next to youngest son) played by Freddie Highmore is phenomenal and his journey to understand why his world is crumbling around him and his struggle to retain his childhood throughout it all will tug at your heart so bring a hanky with you. Julie Christie puts in a turn as the stern  grandmother who'll see what character she is patterned after her in Peter Pan. No car crashes, no nudity, no foul language, no sexual scenes, just good writing, directing, and acting along with  lovely costumes and splendid sets make this a fine film for the whole family to see. I give it 4 Roses.                     

*Sir James Matthew Barrie, more commonly known as J. M. Barrie, was a Scottish novelist and dramatist. He is best known for creating the character Peter Pan, who he based on his friendship with the Llewellyn-Davies family. The first two novels were set in Kirriemuir, disguised as "Thrums" (his father was a weaver). He then wrote for the theater, including Quality Street, What Every Woman Knows and The Admirable Crichton.

POTO posterPhantom of the Opera: Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson, Minnie Driver, Directed by Joel Schumacher

If you want a very special start to your movie going in 2005 than start with "The Phantom of the Opera". It is  based on the story written by Gaston Leroux about a dark terror that lives in the catacombs beneath the Paris Opera House in the 1800's. The 'ghost' wreaks havoc with the cast and crew of the establishment if his wishes are not met and since he is a genius he knows how to get things done. Made into a sumptuous musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber for the stage that has been enjoyed by millions, the rest of the world can now enjoy the story of  the Phantom (played by the fabulous Gerard Butler) and his unrequited love for the young ingénue Christine (the newcomer Emmy Rossum) he turns into a great soprano. But wouldn't you know it ..after all he has done for her the girl falls for the handsome benefactor Raoul (Patrick Wilson) of the opera which makes the Phantom angry, then insane with jealousy, then finally resigned to the fate that he will never have the love of the one he desires. The movie tells the meat of the story in flashbacks that are both spectacular and sumptuous in costumes, set designs and of course the fantastic musical score. The Phantom has a plan to drive the lead soprano (a campy first rate performance by Minnie Driver) Carlotta crazy so she will leave the show...thus enabling his protégé and secret love to play the lead. Things go amiss after Christine makes her debut and Carlotta is lured back by the new owners of the opera house. This angers the Phantom and he demands they keep giving his protégé lead roles which they  refuse to do and this decision results in dire consequences. Meanwhile Christine falls in love with the Vicomte de Chagny (Wilson), but the Phantom as we all know loves Christine, so therein the drama lies. Gerard is able to bring passion, romance, and good deal of sensuality to the role of the Phantom and you find yourself feeling for him and wanting to reach out and help him as he falls into agony while watching Christine and Raoul pledge their love to each other. You also feel  great pathos for the Phantom  when you learn of his background as an oddity in a circus during his youth.. True the Phantom is outraged by their love and kidnaps Christine to be his bride and commits some acts of violence but you understand him and feel for him. I don't know if any one of the performances will rate an Oscar since the academy sometimes ignores musicals but I remember it did honor the King and I, Chicago and a few others that I can't remember now so perhaps this movie has a chance. At the very least the costumes and set designs should win a prize. There are some intense moments and some violent scenes of murder so I think very young children may not enjoy this. There should be enough for the ages of 10 on up though...lots of action for the boys (sword fighting), and lovely  good looking actors and singers wearing  luscious costumes for the girls. I highly recommend it and give it 5 roses. For more on the phenomenal Mr. Butler check out his website at

The Forgotten: Julianne Moore, Christopher Kovaleski, Gary Sinise, Dominic West; Director Joseph Ruben


Outline: A grieving mother, Telly Parada, is struggling to cope with the loss of her 9-year-old son. She is stunned when her psychiatrist and her husband tell her that she has created eight years of memories of a son she never had. But when she meets the father of one of her son's friend who is having the same experience, Telly embarks on a mission to prove her son's existence and her sanity. (from IMDB)  The following is about all I can reveal about the film without major spoilers. Telly (Moore) is coping with the loss of her son Sam who we learn during her sessions with her therapist (Sinise) died in a plane crash. Unable or unwilling to let his memory go Telly becomes enraged when she thinks her husband (Anthony Edwards) is destroying photos and video tapes of their son to force her to accept his death. The wild ride that follows is a mystery with sci-fi thrown in. If you're willing to not expect the usual suspects in this story with a twist, then you can sit back and enjoy the mystery that unfolds as Telly finds a kindred spirit in Ash Correl (West) who also lost a daughter in the same crash. Together they search for their children and a cover up of epic proportions unfolds as they peel away each layer of  deception forced upon them. This movie is not for children under 13 because of the scary images and a violent car crash and some other special effects that might disturb young viewers. It's well acted and well worth the trip if you keep an open mind about the story line.

village posterThe Village (aka M. Night Shyamalan's The Village): Joaquin Phoenix, Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt, Adrien Brody, Bryce Dallas Howard:

I liked the film even though it was not of the same caliber of his other films such as The Sixth Sense and Signs. It was however more coherent than the oft confusing Unbreakable. Paying close attention to the dialogue the viewer can figure out what is going on inside and outside this seemingly idyllic 1800's village. The people themselves are gentle and kind but have a strange symbiotic relationship with some horrific beings that inhabit the dense forest that borders their small town. The acting is credible and Bryce Dallas Howard (daughter of Ron Howard) is the best part of this film. She's feisty and daring as the blind  Ivy Walker, daughter of the towns leader Edward Walker (William Hurt). She falls in love with the quiet and brooding Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) and her journey to 'the towns' to get him the medicine he needs after he is (spoiler coming) attacked by the town crazy Noah Percy (Adrien Brody) is a satisfying climax of the film. Shyamalan has a cameo bit in the film as a game warden and keep a keen eye on his hat that lies on his desk in front of him to figure out who owns the village. It's a quirky off beat film but fun to watch even though it moves slowly. I don't think kids under 13 would enjoy it because of it's slow pace. Mild violence, scary images.

collateral posterCollateral: Tom Cruise, Jamie Foxx, Jada Pinkett-Smith

An interesting and introspective thriller despite the sometimes shocking violence. Vincent (Tom Cruise) hires a cabby to take him on his rounds of his 'to do list' like any normal businessman. The catch here is that Vincent is no ordinary businessman but a hit man that has been hired by a cartel to do in 4 government witnesses plus one extra hit that ties Mac (Jamie Foxx) and Vincent together in a weird 'buddy' way. Vincent can kill suddenly and coldly and then turn around and be touching and try to help the cab driver (spoilers coming) he's hired to ferry him around. Mac is a dreamer who says he's only driving his cab for a short time so he can get his limousine business off the ground but Vincent finds out he's been driving a cab for 12 years! Both characters are interesting and very likable and as the night unfolds we find ourselves figuring out what is going to happen along with a detective played by the underused Mark Ruffalo.Jada Pinkett gets a soft turn as the prosecuting attorney  attracted to Mac and she fits well into the story and is not just an after thought in the plot of the film. There are a lots of twists and turns in the film so I can't give too much away. The audience loves the scene where Vincent takes care of two would be muggers and some actually clap and cheer for him! I know you think that's strange but when you see the film I'm sure you'll understand that reaction. If you like Michael Mann  (The Manhunter) films you will like this one. Tom Cruise does well as the complex assassin and Jamie Foxx holds his own and turns in a low key performance that shows promise that he's turning into a fine dramatic actor. The film is rated R for violence and rough language and is not for the kiddies so hire a sitter and have good time watching this fine film.

spiderman2 posterSpider-Man 2: Tobey Maguire, Kristen Dunst:

My grand daughter Krystal and I  saw the first Spiderman (which we loved) and went to see the sequel with great expectations. We were not disappointed.  This film is far more mature than the original, with much more action and a compelling storyline that involves everyday crises that every person can identify with. Spider Man is us!  There are no real surprises because it's fairly as to where the story line is going, but the trip is well worth it. The acting was excellent throughout and there was a great care and loving attention to every detail in the film that once again shows just what a great Director Sam Raimi is. The great cast and crew that work with him on this project doesn't hurt either.

We both recommend it and in my opinion this film is better paced and has more appeal for the adults. Having said this I will add that it is still  good clean fun for all to enjoy. Kudos Alfred Molina as  'Doc Ock' who seems a far more realistic and believable villain then the previous adversary (Green Goblin). When you watch it, you'll know exactly what I mean, but it stands on its own as a genuine crowd-pleaser and certainly deserves the praise and business it received. So buy a large tub of popcorn and a couple of drinks and enjoy the ride!

POA posterHarry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban: Daniel Radclife, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Gary Oldman, and Emma Thompson. Directed by Alfonso (Y tu Mama Tambien) Curon:

I'm not a big Harry Potter fan and have never read any of the books but I have gone with my grand children to see the all the movies. I did enjoy the first two but I must say that this one was mildly disappointing because of some major changes, mostly in the set designs and  filming locations. The school and all the places we became familiar with are gone.  It's as though you are going to the same school all your life, and suddenly everything changes and you are lost.  Hagrid's cottage is in a new location and even the Whomping Willow has been moved and given a much darker and grumpier role. Dumbledore has been replaced of course due to the passing of the talented Richard Harris whose Dumbledore was endearing and loveable. This new incarnation of the Headmaster of Hogwarts is more hippy than wizard but he does his best to bring his own talents to the role. I got tired of the growling poster of Sirius Black and hoped to see more of Gary Oldman and the deliciously grumpy Alan Rickman who are both woefully underused, as is the eccentric Emma Thompson. The children (teenagers now) continue to give good performances and they deal well with all the perils that are thrown at them in this story of Harry's fight to regain his self-esteem and face his most powerful hidden fear. It's not a violent move but it is darker psychologically than the first two and may be too intense for younger views. The special effects are good as is the cast and on the whole it is an enjoyable escape for the whole family.

Troy posterTroy: Brad Pitt, Eric Bana, Orlando Bloom.

The gorgeous guys go to war in this jumbled piece  of classic  literature and you may not recognize it if you are a fan of Homer's epic poem, The Iliad. The main figures are still there, Achilles (Brad Pitt) looking buff and moody when he's not slicing and dicing anyone. Hector (Eric Bana) of Hulk fame is just as buff but a little more real as Prince Hector.  And then there is Prince Paris (Orlando Bloom) of LOTR fame still looking hot but not near as heroic as his previous alter ego Legolas. The women of the poem such as the prophetess and sister of Hector and Paris, Cassandra are missing and a new priestess stuck in as a love interest for Achilles (who was gay in the original work) dilute the power of the original.

Less well known and not quite as pretty as the men in the story, the actresses spend most of the movie with their mouths agape watching their men fight to the death. As "the face that launched a thousand ships," Diane Kruger plays Helen of Sparta. (The war is fought over a wandering wife after Queen Helen leaves Sparta to run off with Paris and live in Troy, hence her more well-known title of Helen of Troy. If you saw her husband, you might be tempted too. Saffron Burrows plays Andromache, Hector's loyal wife. In a tiny part  the lovely Julie Christie plays Thetis, Achilles's mother.

The long battle thankfully cut down into a couple of weeks instead of the 10 years of the epic poem, boils down to those fighting from behind Troy's walls and those fighting to get in. The movie, which could easily and more powerfully have been told in less than two hours, goes on for almost three, making for one long day at the movies but if it's hot outside and you have nothing else to do then sit back and enjoy it for what it action picture full of attractive half dressed people.  As the story slowly unfolds, Achilles, the "greatest fighter in the world," appears to have learned some of his tricks by watching THE MATRIX and we are strangely unmoved when he is finally struck down by Paris who uses his skills learned in LOTR. The special effects are not very well done and my 15 year old grandson got bored with the whole thing and walked out half way through the film. On the other hand my 20 year old grand daughter enjoyed it and bought the sound track (which is lovely) to the film.

If you really want to see epic battles and well adapted  story line then rent or buy the Lord of the Rings Trilogy...all the films are out now and have a much more satisfying experience by watching them then you would watching this rambling and almost incoherent retelling of a fine piece of literature.

It is rated R for "graphic violence and some sexuality/nudity" and would be acceptable for teenagers. 

Stepford posterThe Stepford Wives:   Nicole Kidman, Mathew Broderick, Bette Midler

Nicole Kidman plays a studio executive that created a reality show that caused one of the contestants to go nuts, she gets fired, has a nervous breakdown and moves to Stepford with her husband and kids to start anew and save their marriage.  From the start Kidman thinks that all the wives in Stepford who are gorgeous and obedient to their  mediocre and obnoxious husbands are being abused or drugged in some way. She is welcomed by a sometimes funny but often shrill and over the top Glenn Close who is married to Christopher Walken the ring leader of the Stepford men's club. Matthew Broderick plays Kidman's husband and Bette Midler plays Bobbie, Kidman's first real friend in the community of seemingly perfect women. The movie was entertaining and elicits belly laughs at times for Kidman, Midler and a gay neighbor who band together  to find out what the heck is going on in this perfect town of Stepford.
Major Spoilers: The movie was a bit confusing in some respects like are they robots or not? If the wives were robots, then how come they go back to normal as soon as their 'brain chips' were removed and how was that done anyway? If they're humans with chips in their brains then what's with the sparking ears, growing breasts and the ATM machine wife (how is the cash box kept dry and refilled) anyway? Just because they've made it into a  comedy doesn't mean they can abandon all sense of  logic. It's not the perfect movie but if it's hot outside and you're up for a few laughs and want to keep cool then spend a little time in Stepford and have a a laugh or two. May not be interesting for those under 12. Sexual references, no nudity.

The Grudge:Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jason Behr, William Mopather, Bill Pullman; Director-T.Shimizu

Outline: An American nurse living and working in Tokyo is exposed to a mysterious supernatural curse, one that locks a person in a powerful rage before claiming their life and spreading to another victim. Taken from IMDB) 
         A very campy remake of the Japanese film Ju-on: The Grudge is light fair for Halloween. Every cliche that has been seen in other horror films has been used here. You know the rules, never open a locked door and never follow strange noises in the dark, etc. Every character is alone when they are attacked and this seems quite peculiar in crowded Tokyo, the setting for this film. The special effects are okay and the specter themselves are quite creepy but not very scary. The audience (including my and my 20 year old grand-daughter) were laughing at scenes designed to scare us. The upside of this was that we were entertained. Sarah Michelle Gellar does a fine job with the script she was given but she's much better as the strong and fearless female and not the helpless victim she portrays here. Perhaps too many of us remember her as Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame and truth be known Buffy and her troop of fearless demon fighters could have been used here to lighten up the mood of this dark film. Jason Behr is almost not there in his role of Gellar's boyfriend and the underused Bill Pullman makes the most of his time on screen as a professor who is the target of unrequited love and the catalyst for the violence that follows his visit to 'the house' that is filled with the rage of those who died there. The rest of the cast sort of sleep walks through their roles. So if you are bored on a rainy Saturday or Sunday afternoon and need a few laughs and a few tiny gross out scary moments go see this film. Due to violent scenes this movie is not suitable for children under 13.

vanity posterVanity Fair: Reese Witherspoon, Eileen Atkins, Jim Broadbent, Gabriel Byrne, Romola Garai, Bob Hoskins, Rhys Ifans, Geraldine McEwan, James Purefoy, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Directed by Mira Nair

Born in poverty to an artist and a French chorus girl, Rebecca 'Becky' Sharp  uses her feminine wiles to climb the social ladder of 19th century England by whatever means necessary.

The novel written long ago spins a tale of a stone hearted anti-heroine but this movie makes her seem like a good hearted girl who just fell on hard times and has to do things she doesn't want to do to keep herself and her family afloat.
Reese Witherspoon, the lone American in the cast, is dazzling as Becky and we find ourselves forgiving her sometimes questionable behavior and cheer her 'in your face' attitude towards the stuffy society matrons of the period. James Purefoy is quite likable as her solider/gambling husband who loves her but doesn't quite know what to make of her desire to be one of the social elite.  Romola Garai, as Becky's naive friend Amelia (think Melanie Gone With the Wind),  is at first likeable and then a little tiresome as she clings stubbornly (spoiler here) to a husband George (Rhys-Meyers) who doesn't love her and who is in my opinion thoroughly unlikable and sometimes down right hateful to her and everyone else. His domineering father (Broadbent) is responsible for most of his son's shortcomings and he gets no better as the film moves on because he passes on these unlikable traits to Georges son in the latter part of the film. The  men (James Purefoy as Rawdon Crawley; Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as George Osborne) are all fine actors but I was a bit put off by their  contemporary look, mainly the disheveled bed-head hair.

My grand-daughter who loves period costumes adored the color and opulent richness of the film and since she has not yet read the book she was not bothered by the things that were changed and left out of the film. This movie is for those who like English period pieces and since it is adequately acted and sumptuously produced those so inclined will enjoy themselves. Younger patrons might find the film and it's subtle nuisances a bit dull so you might want to leave the little ones at home for this one.  For 13 and up. Mild sexual innuendos.

Helsing posterVan Helsing:  Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham, Shuler Hensley.

I enjoyed this movie for what it was, a non stop action picture with a new take on the character that Bram Stoker created.  Not the best edited movie I have ever seen with some twists and turns  that are a bit difficult to put together but then it's hard to put these horror legends together in one film.  The monsters are vividly portrayed, especially Frankenstein (Shuler Hensley). He stays as close to the Shelly persona as it was written in that the 'monster' wasn't really evil, he just wanted to live. Swathed in heavy make up Mr. Hensley had to act a lot with his eyes and he pulls it off beautifully because people were cheering for him in the later part of the film. Kate Beckinsale did an admirable job of looking beautiful and fighting off shrieking, flying, harpies that were the brides of Dracula. She did this type of action role (although it was of a darker tone and she was a vampire) in Underworld. David Wendham (last seen as the heroic Farimer in LOTR) plays a much different character in this film...the comic relief with a brain...sort of like Q in the James Bond films with a little slap-stick thrown in. Some spoilers are coming so you may not want to read on. Richard Roxburgh was charmingly evil as Count Dracula who wants to use the Frankenstein monsters energy as a sort of power conduit to release his offspring into the world. A person of a more physical stature may have been a little better (think Christopher Lee) to be more intimidating to Van Helsing, but there may not be any tall actors in films that fit this bill as well as Mr. Lee did. Hugh Jackman, well he's  Hugh Jackman! And he's a buffed up sensitive Wolverine who looks hot and properly angst ridden as the hero striding around in a smashing long black leather coat and Indian Jones type hat. When the movie opens Van Helsing dispatches his first villain in just minutes and then escapes the police to get his next assignment from Cardinal Jinette played by Alun Armstrong who knows more about our hero than he lets on .  It seems Van Helsing is considered a murderer by some and a hero by others because he dispatches not only the evil but sometimes the not so evil. Short conversations between Van Helsing and Anna (Beckinsale) hint that he may be regaining his memories. Tidbits about his past are offered throughout the film about his 'real persona' and when Dracula calls him by his first name 'Gabriel' a bell might go off in your head if you remember your angels.  My best advice to you is that if you over 13 and enjoyed the Mummy movies then you will enjoy this one too because they are very similar in the use of action and computer generated effects. This said, the action may be too intense for younger viewer so you might want to leave the little ones at home. So just go and enjoy the action and attractive people, don't look for any deep meanings and have a good time.

Window posterSecret Window:Starring Johnny Depp, John Turturro (see IMDB for complete cast list.)

The Secret Window is adapted from a novella written by Stephen King. Some movies do well by his stories, some do not. The liberties taken in this adaptation do not make the movie as good as the written word, just different. The ending of the story is the most changed, so if you have read the story expect a surprise ending. Well,  perhaps a surprise ending, but anyone paying attention to the clues left throughout the unfolding story of a writer, Mort Rainey (Depp) suffering not only from writer's block but also is experiencing an emotional meltdown because of his impending divorce from the woman he still loves.  Mort  not only has to deal with his estranged wife but also with her lover played by Timothy Hutton. To get away from it all he moves to a remote cabin with the hopes of getting back to work. One morning he is visited by a strange man named John Shooter (Turturro) dressed in someone's night mare version of a Quaker gone bad, who accuses him of plagiarism and wants him to 'make it right'. A naturally upset and scared Mort reports the threats to the local sheriff,  and calls in a body guard for protection.  Strange and harrowing happenings ensue with more than a little gore and the viewer begins to doubt (along with Mort) that what he is seeing is true. Johnny Depp fans will love watching him chew up the scenery but Stephen King fans may bemoan the fact that another of the great writers stories has been screwed up. Still, the picture is worth the price of admission and delivers a bundle of  thrills and chills. If you like the mystery/horror genre you will like this movie.

Hidalgo posterHIDALGO: Starring Viggo Mortensen, Omar Shariff (see IMDB for complete cast list.)

My husband, mother, grand-daughter, and myself all went to see Hidalgo and thoroughly enjoyed it. If you plan to see this likable film you might not want to read on as some plot spoilers appear in the next paragraphs. It's the story of a man accepting who he is and the help he gets from his new human friends and from his loyal feisty mustang named Hidalgo. Mr. Mortensen does a fantastic job in his first 'starring' role as the emotionally damaged Frank Hopkins, a dispatch long distance rider for the government. Frank has to fight his way out of the depressed and alcoholic existence he fell into after delivering a dispatch from the government to the soldiers at the Fort that resulted in the massacre at Wounded Knee. He can't come to grips with his feelings that somehow he is responsible for the slaughter and his depression deepens and  sends him into a tailspin. He winds up working for a Wild West show that gives him the money to live on but not the will. During one of the shows he is challenged by an Arab man to enter the Ocean of Fire endurance race and prove his claim as the best endurance racer in the world. Encouraged to take up the challenge to enter the mother of all long distance endurance races he is financed by his friends and goes on a journey that for him is life changing as he comes to grips with the pain of denying his Indian heritage throughout his adult life. Mr. Mortensen has an expressive face and uses it to his advantage in conveying his journey into a world that is alien to him and to his horse. His charisma that makes him likable even as a villain in some of his previous movies comes through in this role in spades. He equestrian talents are awesome and who needs special effects when you witness his thrilling ride in the sand storm scene that to me (having actually been in some sand storms) looks very real, plus the thunderous finale ride, bareback I might add, at breathtaking speeds to win the race. The locations are beautiful and the editing is well done. The supporting cast is effective and round out the new world that Frank Hopkins and Hidalgo enter into. The special effects are really quite good and I think people today are too nit-picky about each and every effect and are just looking for mistakes instead of just sitting back and enjoying a good tale. I can tell you this; there is no nudity, no sex (some innuendos), some rip roaring fight scenes with non-gory violence, and only a mild curse word or two. I guess for some people that makes a movie boring but to us it was great and we would recommend it to anyone who wants to take the whole family and enjoy an evening at the movies. 8 out of 10 stars

Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King:A magnificent epic that can be enjoyed by all ages. Sir Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortensen, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, (see IMDB for complete cast list)

I find it difficult to separate the three films even though each one is a wondrous tale of its own. The following are the main points of The Return of the King that are my favorites and if you haven't yet seen it or read the book (which you should-on both counts) please do not read any further because these details may spoil the film for you. 1. Viggo Mortensen is spectacular as Strider/Aragorn/Elessar. Every country should have a leader as compassionate, brave, loyal, true, and determined as the heir of Isildur proved to be. And every woman should have the man they love look at them the way that King Elessar looked at Arwyn when he saw her lovely face again after the crowning ceremony. BTW the chant in Elvish that Viggo does after he is crowned is enchanting and moving and is on the soundtrack CD. 2.Gandalf kicks some serious butt and is the wisest of consulars and in his talk to Pippen at Minas Tirith when the whole town is on the brink of annihilation he makes death sound like a continuing journey that should not be feared. 3.Legolas is loyal and true to Aragorn and Gimli as well as being the most fearsome of warriors and his taking down of the 'Oliphant' is simply...well awesome! His quiet dignity even on the brink of war is most calming and his wise words to Gimli are heart warming. If only we did have Elves in this world, how cool would that be? 4.Ghost Soldiers: Aragorn demanding that the Ghost Soldiers follow him and thus be freed from their oath is very intense and the GS taking out the bad guys...again awesome! 5.The Hobbits: Frodo, courageous and determined, Elijah Wood gives him a sweet gentleness by the very power of those amazing  blue eyes and charming smile. Samwise: Could anyone ask for a better friend than Sam who rose to the occasion and saved his master from Shelob and the Orcs and carried him on his back to the entrance of the chasm of Mt.Doom. Sean Astin was perfect and should have garnered an Oscar nomination as a supporting actor. Merry and Pippin, perfect foils that lend a comic relief without being buffoons. 6.Gollum: Andy Sirkus is phenomenal as Smeagol/Gollum and no other CGI creation has ever appeared to be such a flesh and blood creature with so much pathos and  emotional depth. He gives us a good lesson in greed and what the love of possessions to the exclusion of all else can do to a person, because even as he fell to his death his mind was on 'his precious' and not the fact that he was losing his life. 7.The whole cast under the direction of Mr. Jackson and his 'wizards' is superb and this movie along with the first two will be the Gone With The Wind of our time. I highly urge one and all to see the entire trilogy if they have not done so. Oh, I'm 59, my husband is 62, my Mom is 76, our son is 42, and our grand-daughter is 20. We saw all of the together and we all loved them. It's a movie for that can be enjoyed by one and all and besides the grandeur of movie magic it has some lessons on life, love, greed, and sacrifice that hold true to every day life. 10 out of 10 stars

Pirates of The Caribbean: Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush (See IMDB for complete cast and crew list.)

Pirates of the Caribbean is a  rollicking tale set in an time when villainous pirates were the scourge of the high seas.  Please read no further as spoilers are included here. A young man Will Turner (Orlando Bloom),  must team up with a most  unlikely ally in the person of the dreaded  pirate Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp). Together, they battle a band of the world's most treacherous pirates, led by the cursed Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), in order to save Elizabeth, the love of  young Will's life, as well as recover the lost treasure (which of course has a curse on it) that Jack seeks. Against all odds, the team overcomes all manner of ill fortune before they reach the thrilling, climactic confrontation on the mysterious Isla de Muerta.  With the help of the British Navy they clash in  mortal combat with the cut throat pirates of the Black Pearl and  Will and Jack recapture the ship and the girl  and relinquish a fortune in forbidden treasure to lift the curse of the stolen gold. It's a fun movie with cartoon like violence and no nudity or cursing. The whole family should enjoy this one.

I highly recommend this rollicking tale of pirates on the high seas. Johnny Depp truly deserved the many nominations he received (he did win the SAG award for best performance) for his portrayal of Captain Jack Sparrow. His swaggering, pseudo feminine take on a pirate captain is hilarious and well worth the time and money spent. 8 out of 10 stars

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