Wrapping up the Fifty Shades trilogy, Fifty Shades Freed gives viewers the happily ever after they were hoping for. Anastasia (Dakota Johnson) and Christian (Jamie Dornan) get married and head off on a country-hopping honeymoon, enjoying idyllic days in Paris and on a Mediterranean beach. Glamor galore as they spend almost as much time in bed as they do exploring the cities. All is happy in their world until sabotage at Grey Enterprises interrupts their honeymoon.
Ana’s former boss, Jack has returned and is determined to get what he believes is his. With bodyguards in tow, life has changed for Ana as she finds herself juggling being wealthy and a new wife. Jealousy and insecurity among her co-workers create a strained workplace. As well, Ana chafes at the new “rules” of being wealthy and in the limelight.
Christian continues his domineering ways, creating rules and expecting Ana to follow them. He hides information from his wife in order to “protect” her but she feels left out and trapped, which creates a wedge between them that they must fix.
Fifty Shades Freed plays like a movie on Cinemax After Dark with plenty of nudity and sex to make many viewers blush. The sex feels thrown in and not necessary. Everyone knows couples have sex, it’s not needed to see this aspect of their relationship in order to understand their love. However, in this movie we get as much eye candy of Jamie Dornan as of Dakota Johnson. The BDSM elements are fluff. They aren’t the reality of the BDSM lifestyle so be warned before joining any munches.
Filled with many moments of relationship angst, this was my favorite of the three movies because we finally get to see the characters on equal footing. Ana has come into her own and stands up to her husband, rather than doing everything he wants. Christian still acts like a spoiled child, setting rules and keeping secrets. When things don’t go his way, he “punishes” Ana. At times, I wonder if he wasn’t good looking and rich, if she’d stay with him.
I’m glad that the movie gives us a happily ever after with a mid-credits scene. It goes to show hope for the couple and their future. Unless you are a fan of the books and movies, this is one better to watch at home.
Snubbed for all the awards, Hostiles is a movie reminiscent of the westerns of the past.
In 1892, the Civil War has been over for years and the fighting with the Native Americans is coming to a close. Most have been captured and moved to reservations. A decorated Army captain, Joe Blocker (played by Christian Bale), who earned his reputation as an Indian fighter, is forced to escort a dying Cheyenne Chief and his family from New Mexico to Montana so that Yellow Hawk (played by Wes Studi) may die and be buried among his ancestors.
With his handpicked team, Joe must face his toughest assignment- protecting a man he’d rather kill than save. He faces death at every turn. Joe must also come to grips with his anger toward the Chief and his part in the destruction of the Native people.
With sweeping vistas, the cinematography is beautiful. Director Scott Cooper filmed on location across the West and only filmed at the same place twice so as to showcase the beauty of the Wild West. Using real native people in the roles of the Native Americans also gives a realistic feel to the fictionalized story.
Based on an unfinished manuscript by Donald E. Stewart (Hunt for Red October), Scott Cooper wrote a story which feels relevant today at a time when many different sides are fighting, each thinking they are correct. Hostiles shows that both sides of the Native conflict were at fault and only through acceptance and friendship can we repair the damage done by the fighting.
Hostiles has an amazing cast with Rosamund Pike as Rosalie Quaid, a woman who overcomes harsh obstacles which would send many people into a sobbing fetal position. Rory Cochrane plays Master Sgt. Thomas Metz, one of Joe’s soldiers and closest friend. He’s killed for so long he’s lost his ability to be happy and longs for death. His character serves as a barometer for what happens to humanity when you end so many lives.
Come prepared though with some extra tissues. This movie pulls on the heartstrings and will have you thinking about battles and forgiveness.
Gritty crime drama, Den of Thieves focuses on the battle between an elite group of police officers in LA and the sophisticated robbery gang they set out to bring in.
Nick Flanagan (played by Gerard Butler) is the bad boy of the force. He’s the leader of a group of the Major Crimes division in Los Angeles. These guys don’t play by the rules. Force is always applied when they need information, so forget any body cams! When an armored car robbery goes south, cops are killed bringing the crime to the attention of Nick and his gang. As they begin to put two and two together, they realize that they are dealing with a major group who has big plans.
Merrimen (played by Pablo Schreiber) has plans to rob the Federal Reserve office in LA where money is counted and taken out of circulation. As a former military man, he commands his troops with precision as they stand together as a family brought together for a common purpose. (Think Fast and Furious meets Ocean 11)
Donnie (played by O’Shea Jackson, Jr.) is a man caught in the middle. He’s been brought in by Nick to snitch on Merrimen but is also being used by Merrimen to feed Nick information. Filled with strippers, drinking and swearing, Den of Thieves isn’t a movie for those who are easily offended. The big shootout scene is over the top with machine guns and dodging through stalled traffic.
The diversity of the cast is interesting with a variety of Hawaiian and Māori actors. But it’s the name power in the movie which is fun with 50 Cent (who has an amazing scene as a protective father) and the brother of Liev Schreiber and Ice Cube’s son. Gerard does double duty on this movie, putting up his own money as producer, so you know he really wanted this movie made.
In today’s world of body cams and cell phone video, a police group like Nick’s would never be able to do the many things they do in this movie, but this is Hollywood and it makes a good movie. The surprising twist at the end will leave you shocked and eager to see it again so you can catch the clues given along the way.
While the action is wonderful on the big screen, this is easily a movie you can see at home and save some money…especially since you will want to watch it a second time for all the clues.
Taking place in 1962, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is set against the backdrop of the Cold War and tells the tale of misfits finding love. Winner of two Golden Globes for best director and best score, The Shape of Water is a movie filled with beautiful imagery and scenes set to shock.
Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is a mute cleaning lady. She was found as an infant by the water with scratches on her neck which damaged her voice box. Her life consists of a regimentation but she dreams of shoes. Her best friend is a gay, older painter named Giles (Richard Jenkins) who’d been let go from his job as an ad designer and now laments his losses. Giles is rebuffed both with work, even when he does his best and when he reaches out toward love. Together, Giles and Elisa, share a love of old movies and dance numbers.
Working with Elisa in a secret government facility is Zelda Fuller, an outspoken and caring African American woman (Octavia Spencer) who works to support her lazy husband. The two women stumble upon a mysterious asset--a merman who can breathe both in water and on land--which the scientists are studying. Making a connection with the merman, Elisa finds someone who sees her as whole, not a misfit. When the scientists decide to open up the merman and see how he works, Elisa and her friends with the help of a Soviet spy set out to free him.
Richard Strickland (Michael Shannon) captured the merman in South America and has brought him to the center in order to find a way to replicate the breathing system for astronauts, allowing them to breathe in space. Using violence to control the creature, Strickland must get the answers he needs or face his own demise. But the merman isn’t complacent nor friendly to anyone other than Elisa. Michael Shannon’s character is angry, brutal and often does things for the shock value. His fascination with both the merman and Elisa borders on obsession.
Guillermo del Toro co-wrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor but the idea was based on the Creature from the Black Lagoon movie which he saw as a child. The Shape of Water resonates with audiences because of the lush visuals as well as the undertones of inequality. The beauty of the love story between Elisa and the merman is touching and leaves us with a good feeling.
With a lot of nudity and swearing, The Shape of Water is not for the younger audience or the faint of heart. But it will leave you believing in the impossible.
Both movies are based on real people but tell the stories in very different ways. Both were nominated for Golden Globes and are compelling movies to see, but for different reasons.
The Greatest Showman tells the story of PT Barnum (Hugh Jackman) who sets out to bring his dreams to fruition through sharing spectacles with the general public. The Greatest Showman is a musical written by the same duo who did the award winning LaLa Land from last year. The music is catchy and the story is a wonderful tale of underdogs who set out to set New York on its ears.
While based on a real person, The Greatest Showman is mostly fiction. The story blends the truth with amazing song and dance numbers. Many of the characters were based on real people but two characters were completely fiction (Phillip Carlyle, played by Zac Efron and Anne Wheeler, played by Zendaya). The screenwriter also played with the timeline and gave the audience a simple image of a man who is still quoted today. PT Barnum went on to serve in government and as a lecturer.
The Greatest Showman will have you feeling good and tapping your feet along to the music. You will leave the theater feeling good as the message of inclusion and overcoming adversity is a message we all can hear again and again.
The Darkest Hour is about Winston Churchill’s (played by Gary Oldman) rise to power in the British Government during the time when Hitler was conquering Europe during World War Two. Not the ruling party’s first choice, Winston Churchill came into a tough situation and stood firm in the face of horrible adversity as the German’s advanced through France.
Also based on a real person, The Darkest Hour tells a more honest look at the man who commanded a country in the face of war. His decision to not enter into peace talks with Hitler, almost lost him the support of the party. Churchill’s way with words garnered him the support of the people which in turn provided him the support in the Parliament.
The Darkest Hour is a war movie without any real fighting. Emotionally draining at times, it provides an interesting look at a period of history and a man who stayed true to himself in the face of adversity. While also a movie where one man faces adversity, The Darkest Hour will have you feeling pensive as you leave, but it provides an important look at a period of history which as Americans, we know very little about.
Both movies are entertaining in their own ways and serve as an interesting look at real people.
The eighth story in the Star Wars series catches viewers up with what’s happened with all the characters after the last movie. Rey has sought out Luke Skywalker at Leia’s urging because he is the one person who can inspire hope in the resistance as they face their toughest challenge, Snoke and the First Order.
Ben Solo (Kylo Ren) is battling his own demons and connects with Rey as they explore the strength of their connection and the force within each of them. Sometimes it’s nice to know you are not alone.
The Last Jedi harkens back to the original trilogy with characters from the past showing up and landscapes which seem familiar but two things stand out. The Last Jedi has a strong female empowerment vibe with many of the main characters in leadership positions being women, especially in the resistance. From General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) to new leadership like Vice Admiral Holdo (played by Laura Dern) to new characters like Rose Tico and Lieutenant Connix (played by Carrie Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd).
Second, the animals steal the show. From cute little bird like creatures who make Chewy rethink being a meat-eater to the frost foxes, the animals are adorable and will be big sellers on the plush market!
A little slow off the start, the movie quickly picks up the pace as we get into the characters and their choices. The story is one of hope. Love overcoming hate and family-both those you are given and the ones you make. With sweeping landscapes and on the edge of your seat battles, the storyline keeps the series fresh while giving many nods to the past and by that I mean the first three movies which launched it all. Small pieces of humor allow The Last Jedi lighter moments than The Force Awakens. At times you won’t be sure whether to laugh or cry.
Especially touching are those moments on screen with Carrie Fisher and the closing credits which acknowledge our loss. Maybe not the best of the whole series but The Last Jedi hits the right notes with fans and new viewers.
Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman battle each other to find out who is top dog at a retirement village. What could go wrong?
Duke Diver (Morgan Freeman) juggles three women, has an amazing short game and manages the trendiest retirement village in California, but he’s about to be taken off his pedestal when a former military man, Leo (Tommy Lee Jones) arrives. As the women announce, there is new meat on the buffet.
Everyone has a secret… Duke is in witness protection after squealing on the mob, Renee Russo’s character, Suzie, is sent by corporate to fire Duke for inappropriate use of funds and Leo wants to buy the property and turn it into a mall. When the mob sets its sights on Duke, Leo and Suzie are caught in the middle of the mess.
The one-up-manship between Duke and Leo goes from the golf course to the limbo line. Each man trying to prove that they are the big dog and that the other should step aside. Duke is more interested in keeping his lady’s man lifestyle while Leo is more interested in winning Suzie’s heart. Along the way, the two men forge a friendship in order to keep the community safe from the mob.
Meant to be a partner comedy movie along the veins of Men in Black and Lethal Weapon, Just Getting Started falls flat. Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman lack the chemistry to make this a bromance. They seem more tired than funny. And Renee Russo appears as whiny and weak…so unlike what a corporate “fixer” would be. All the potential is there, but the whole movie falls flat. This is a movie I would wait to see on television rather than spending the money and time to see it this holiday season.
A dark and disturbing comedy, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri keeps you guessing as the story twists on a dime. When Mildred Hayes (Academy Award winner Frances McDormand) becomes frustrated with the local police (led by Woody Harrelson as the Chief of Police, William Willoughby) over their lack of progress on the rape and murder of her daughter, she takes matters into her own hands and pays to have three billboards put up keeping the crime in the town’s eyes.
The town of Ebbing is a small town still caught in the throes of racism and violence. The three billboards effect not only Mrs. Hayes and the Chief of Police but everyone in town, as sides are taken in a showdown between the lovable and dying Willoughby and the angry, bitter Mrs. Hayes.
It’s filled with characters such as the man in charge at the billboard office (Red Welby played by Caleb Landry Jones) who is trying to win the heart of his secretary. A dwarf (played by Peter Dinklage) who is willing to lie to the police in order to win the love of Mrs. Hayes, as well as the second-in-command Officer Dixon (played by Sam Rockwell) is a violent and immature mama's boy, who ends up becoming a better man in the end.
No one in the town is a typical character. Not only is Mildred dealing with the death of her daughter, she’s divorced from her abusive husband and feels guilty for her daughter’s death, all the while trying to maintain the day to day life of a working single mom. It’s her guilt which pushes her to find the real killer so she can finally be free of the guilt. Chief Willoughby is a wonderful father and police officer who is dealing with pancreatic cancer and the pain and suffering that he will face as well as the loss of his own life. He’s determined to find the killer but his time is running out. Officer Dixon’s violence appears to be a result of the death of his father and living with his angry mother who prompts him to violence in order to help the South rise again. But when he learns the sharp sting of violence, he puts his life on the line to gather evidence in an effort to find the killer.
Written and directed by Academy Award winner, Martin McDonagh, Three Billboards sends you down a twisted trail. Just when you think you know what will happen, slam, the story changes. Filled with enough swear words to fill a swear jar, Three Billboards also leaves many questions unanswered at the end of the movie. No you won’t have everything tied up in a holiday bow but that’s okay. Life is messy and sometimes doesn’t go the way you want it to. It’s not a holiday movie, nor is it one you necessarily have to see in the theater but I urge you to see it. The acting is brilliant and the story keeps you hoping for that happy ending.
Justice League brings together a variety of Metahumans in order to save the world from an otherworldly threat.
After the death of Superman (Henry Cavill), Bruce Wayne/Batman (Ben Affleck) sees the rise of crime and violence. Knowing that something big and bad is coming, he sets out to enlist the help of other super-humans, such as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince (Gal Gardot), The Flash/Barry Allen (Ezra Miller), Aquaman/Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) and Cyborg/Victor Stone (Ray Fisher). However, without Superman, they may not stand a chance against Steppenwolf and his drive to reunite the “mother” boxes, especially since it took the entire universe including the old gods to come together to imprison Steppenwolf and separate the boxes.
Following the flop of Batman vs Superman and the smash of Wonder Woman, Justice League brings together, critics were hoping for a movie more like Wonder Woman and were excited about Joss Whedon’s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) role, taking over for Zach Snyder after his recent loss. Yet, the movie remains Zach’s vision, although viewers can see the influence of Joss in the snarky humor and “buddy” moments.
Sadly, while the movie has many great moments, it falls short of the Marvel superhero movie standard. The women’s outfits are skimpier and Wonder Woman’s assets are shown off in almost every scene. I couldn’t understand how she kept the long cascading curls out of her face. But there is also eye candy for the ladies—Jason Momoa is almost always shirtless with tight pants. (Look for his own movie coming in the future)
However, The Flash steals the movie with his humor and blunt honesty. Whether it’s his excitement about meeting and working with Batman or his short attention span comments, each time he’s on the screen, people take notice. His exuberance reminds me of the recent Spiderman: Homecoming movie.
Cyborg was very interesting and has a lot to explore, the character of Batman seems so tired. Is it Ben Affleck or the fact that he’s just a rich man with a grudge (unlike Tony Stark who is rich and sassy)? Maybe in the next movie, they can explore Batman being invisible, so that we can see more of the characters who thrill.
DC is getting wise with two after credit extra scenes, one funny and one hint for the future. They are also using more Easter Eggs in the movie such as a cameo by Marc McClure who played Jimmy in the original Superman movies.
All in all, fans of the series will enjoy the movie. At least it gives me hope that DC might get it right, someday.
The holidays are all about family but blended families face their own dynamics around the holidays. Daddy’s Home Two is a silly, laugh out loud comedy where family is key to all the laughs. This movie is a fun one to see during the holidays but only time will tell if it becomes a classic like Home Alone or Christmas Vacation.
In the sequel to Daddy’s Home, Brad (played by Will Farrell) and Dusty (played by Marc Wahlberg) are co-parenting after a divorce and remarriage. But like in many blended families, the dynamics between the two men (and their wives) are stressed by the holidays. After their daughter tells the whole school that she hates Christmas because of going back and forth between the two houses, the men decide to have one big family Christmas. Throw in two grandpas (John Lithgow and Mel Gibson) and you have a holiday to remember.
Daddy’s Home Two hits upon every type of family conflict. We have divorce, step-parenting, raising children, abandonment, bad influences, anxiety, doubt… the list goes on and on. There’s something which will connect with every viewer. A few times it hits a little too close to home for me as a blended family. I once likened the holidays to planning a military campaign and Daddy’s Home Two shows just how challenging it is, especially since each person in the dynamic has different views on raising children.
Will Farrell has become a slapstick actor along the line of Jerry Lewis. His over the top antics are only a few of the laugh out loud moments. Mel Gibson does a wonderful job as macho, ladies’ man and astronaut Kurt Mayron. He’s here for Christmas to stir up trouble since he has a chip the size of California on his shoulder due to his own lack of parenting skills. Mel is funny and buff. It’s nice to see him get back to his comedic roots. Mark Wahlberg does a nice job as Dusty. He’s more often than not the straight man to Farrell’s antics. John Lithgow plays Farrell’s father who is hiding a secret. Lithgow’s character is whiny and sad.
The children share in the laugh out loud moments as they search for the way to kiss a girl for the first time and get drunk. And while the wives don’t have as much of a role in this movie, Dusty’s wife is an author who writes in a little notebook all day. She’s knockout gorgeous and intimidates Dusty’s ex-wife who thinks she is writing about her.
The entire movie takes place in the two weeks before Christmas and leads up to the climax of being stuck together in a snowstorm at a movie theater. Coincidental, you bet but still a perfect place for the final confrontation.
All in all, an enjoyable movie for the family (just not young children). A little over the top with the challenges of parenting and blended families. But a nice holiday movie to maybe catch together over the long holiday vacation. If you wait for it to be on DVD, you will still enjoy it.
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