Summer movie watching list

Avoiding the summer blockbuster movies, here are few movies worth the watch from the convenience of your own home. You may have seen a couple of these movies, but they may be worth the watch again. In no particular order:

“Sarah’s Key” starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Aiden Quinn, Melusine Mayance as the young Sarah, Charlotte Poutrel as the older Sarah and Niels Aretsrup is based on the novel by the same name. Scott Thomas plays a journalist whose husband’s family lived in a Paris apartment vacated when the Vichy (Nazi) government rounded up the Jews during August, 1942. Sarah is the youngest daughter of the Jewish family. The movie is outstanding as it flips back and forth to different periods to show what happened and Scott Thomas’ investigation of such.

“First do no harm” stars Meryl Streep, Fred Ward, Alison Janney and Seth Adkins as the young boy. It is based on a true story of a mother’s fight to get better care for her epileptic son. The movie is excellent and an ideal role for Streep as the mother. Ward does a good job as her husband who is a road weary truck driver whose insurance was temporarily canceled during a change in insurance carriers. But, this issue is less about insurance and more about the kind of treatment he needs.

“Spotlight” which I had seen is based on a true story of a special reports division of the Boston Globe that goes by that name. Spotlight investigated and broke open the story in 2002 of a covered-up decades old pedophile priest problem in Boston. It stars Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and a host of other good actors. With the recent reports on the sexual misconduct of Southern Baptist ministers, this story remains critical.

“Road to your heart” is a South African movie about a son who is asked by his father’s will to do a series of visits to people who touched him as he journeys to his funeral in Cape Town. He is accompanied by an eclectic young woman who gives him a ride when he must lose his car per the will. The movie stars Ivan Botha and Donnalee Roberts as the travelers. While in subtitles, the movie is actually quite good, especially with the obvious chemistry of the two stars, who later get married in real life. Marius Weyers plays the father.

“Ladies in black” is an Australian movie based in the late 1950s. It is about the social and work lives of four women who work together in a department store in Sydney, who are required to wear black dresses to work. The focus is most on the college bound, well-read young intern played by Angourie Rice (who was in “Mare of Eastown with Kate Winslet). But, the other three women’s stories of acceptance in society by a Hungarian refugee played by Julia Ormond, a former dancer who learned her opinion mattered played by Rachel Taylor and a woman whose husband is shy and not very affectionate played by Alison McGirr are covered. The movie is surprisingly good and gives glimpse of culture and mores in the late 1950s.

“War flowers” stars Christina Ricci as southern woman with a daughter played by Gabrielle Popa) whose husband is fighting in the Civil War. She mends a wounded Union soldier (played by Jason Gedrick) who crawled into her basement to get away from the action. Tom Berenger plays a small part as a Union general. The movie is good, but does get a little cheesy on occasion. Ricci, who usually plays bizarre characters, does an admirable job in the lonely wife.

“Sweet land” is a surprisingly good movie about an immigrant woman from Germany traveling to Minnesota to marry a US citizen, a transplanted Norwegian man. The movie is set before WWI and stars Elizabeth Reaser as the young Inge, with Lois Smith the older version. Tim Guinee plays the young Olaf who is painfully shy. Alan Cumming and Alex Kingston liven up the movie as friends of Olaf who welcome Inge. This is critical as the town is not very accepting of a German immigrant.

“Heartland” stars Conchata Ferrell, Rip Torn and Megan Folsom. It is set in Wyoming and involves a mother (Ferrell) and daughter (Folsom) moving west to work as a cook and gardener for a rancher played by Torn. Based on a true story, the woman applies for a homestead and is supported by Torn whose interests in Ferrell are mutually shared. It is a good movie and takes advantage of Ferrell’s feistiness for the role.

Others include “Jindabyne” starring Laura Linney and Gabriel Byrne in an Australian movie about a discovered murdered girl, “Columbus” starring John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson and Parker Posey about an young woman coming of age and falling for the son of a famous architect visiting Columbus, Indiana and “Then she found me” starring Helen Hunt, Colin Firth and Bette Midler about a separated woman finding love with the father of one of her students and being found by her birth mother.

If you were short on time, the first three are outstanding movies.

More movies to take a peek at

Here are a few more movies that I have enjoyed watching to varying degrees. Most of these were found on the free-service Tubi, but a few came from HBO and Showtime.

“Once upon a river” starring Kenadi DelaCerna, John Ashton, Tataka Means, Ajuawak Kapashasit, Coburn Gross, Lindsey Pulsipher and Kenn Head is about a half Native American teen whose father is killed. She travels up river to find her mother who left several years before. She befriends an elderly man who gives her shelter on her journey. The movie is compelling in the uphill struggle for this disenfranchised young woman as she seeks help.

“Nothing special” starring Julia Garcia Combs, Karen Black, Barbara Bain and David Hardie is about a woman (Garcia Combs) who is having difficulty taking care of her bipolar mother (Black) while trying to serve a demanding, but supportive boss (Bains) and find time for some kind of love life. The three lead women are each excellent in their roles. You feel for this young woman as she comes close to her wits end.

“Small town crimes” underlines what an imperfect hero looks like. John Hawkes is excellent as a suspended, alcohol and drug addicted cop trying to solve a murder case as an unregistered private investigator. Anthony Anderson and Octavia Spencer are his only support, with Spencer playing his foster sister. Michael Voltan, Clifton Collins, and Robert Frasler play key roles.

“Peaks and valleys” starring Kitty Mahoney, Kevin T. Bennett and Ted Carney is also excellent as it shows Bennett taking care of a woman in a mountain cabin after he witnesses her body being cast out of a small plane into a lake. This cantankerous man nurses her back to health and teaches her how to hunt and fish. She will return the favor as his own issues become apparent. Given the verbal volleying back and forth, the movie remains interesting.

“Road to Perth” starring Tommy O’Brien, Hannah Lehman, Ellen Grimshaw and Kat Kaevich is an Australian movie about an American who travels alone after his girlfriend declines his marriage proposal. He is intent on taking pictures and interviewing Australians along his journey. He befriends and gives a ride from Adelaide to Perth to a woman who is the sister of an internet friend as she scatters her Dad’s ashes in places he held dear. Along the way, he speaks by phone with his own sister who offers milepost check-ins as the travelers become mutually infatuated.

“The Honeymooners” (not that one) starring Jonathan Byrne, Alex Reid, Justine Mitchell and Conner Mullen is an Irish film about a man who gets stood up at his wedding (at least she tells him) and after drinking too much of his wedding champagne pays a waitress who just got fired (and whose married boyfriend can’t be with her) to drive him to a cottage on the coast. They butt heads often and the say hurtful things,but do have enough fun and good conversation as their hard feelings soften. Like the “Road to Perth,” the movies are more about the journey and travails, where two people in angst can lift each other up.

“Wanderland” starring Tate Ellington, Tara Summers, Victoria Clark, Harris Yulin and a host of others is about a relatively rational man who accepts an invitation to house sit over a weekend in a Long Island coastal village. He befriends a charming woman on the beach and she invites him to a party later, which he surprisingly declines, but we learn later he too often says no. So, he goes from party to party meeting a wide assortment of characters as he tries to track down this woman . The name of the movie connotes wandering, but the similarities to a male Alice in Wonderland are not unfounded. His journey and the bohemian characters make you want to watch.

“Jackie and Ryan” starring Katherine Heigl, Ben Barnes and Emily Alyn Lind is about a hobo traveling musician trying to put a band back together. He winds up in a beautiful mountain town and befriends a woman who has had success as a musician, but has moved back home with her daughter to live with her mother as she is finalizing her divorce. The movie is a little trite, but the music is good and we learn Heigl can sing, especially with a lovely duet with her daughter played by Lind. Barnes also sings a poignant song that he is encouraged to finish by Heigl.

“Bonneville” starring Jessica Lange, Kathy Bates, Joan Allen, Christine Baranski and Tom Skerrit offers an interesting road trip plot as Lange takes her husband’s ashes to a funeral arranged by her step-daughter. “Surviving love” stars actual life married couple Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen as they get stranded in the Maine mountains and is worth the watch. “Christmas Eve” with Loretta Young, Arthur Hill and Trevor Howard offers a cheesy, but feel good movie about a dying woman wanting to see her grandchildren who escaped from her controlling son’s grip. Finally, we just watched “Being Rose” with Cybil Shepherd and James Brolin who play late in life lovers as Shepherd is dying.

Each of these movies is worth the watch and I don’t think any have things that are too risque for younger eyes, even the two jilted lover stories, although the adult themes and language on some may need to be factored in. The ones in the final paragraph are neat as they give a glimpse of actors who are later in their careers. Let me know if you have seen any of these.

Compliance – a movie that will disturb you

The other day, my wife and I were reading summaries of movies as we selected one to watch. We passed on a thriller where one critic said it was the most disturbing movie he ever watched. Ironically, we selected a Sundance award winning movie that was powerful, but may have been the most disturbing movie we ever watched. It is called “Compliance.”

NOTE: A small spoiler alert is needed, but I only touched on it a little more than the summary does for the movie.

The movie is based on a true story that happened in a Kentucky fast food restaurant in 2004. Sadly, it has happened in quite a few other places. In essence, a young female cashier was picked out to be accused on the phone by a man pretending to be a police officer. I am not giving too much away, as you learn shortly therein what you already have figured out.

The man uses the name of a regional manager who he says is on the other line to enlist the help of the female store manager. He says a female customer has accused the cashier of stealing from her purse and they have surveillance footage. Since the police is too busy, he enlists the manager to do a strip search to save the accused the trouble of coming down and being booked. The ruse gets much uglier for this gullible young woman and her naive boss. I will spare the details, but their compliance with the requests of this beyond-creepy man is very disturbing.

The red flags are many throughout the call, but they are missed by the accused, the manager, and the manager’s fiancé who she enlists to help as the store is busy. If you watch this movie, you will be talking at the TV pleading with someone to think about what is happening. And, sadly it is based on a true story which happened over seventy times elsewhere.

The movie is meant to be disturbing. The director is Craig Zobel and it stars Dreama Walker as the young woman, Ann Dowd as the store manager, Pat Healy as the pretend cop, Bill Camp as Dowd’s boyfriend, Ashlie Atkinson and Philip Ettinger as co-workers and Stephen Payne as the maintenance worker who plays a pivotal role. The lessons in the movie are many, which is its intent, so if you do watch it, be forewarned that you will be perturbed.

More and more movies

Since the weekend is upon us, I thought I would share a few more movies for your consideration. We have seen a few excellent ones and a few that are worth a look. I won’t mention a couple I exited before the end.

“Solomon and Gaenor” is a British award-winning movie set in Wales in 1911. It stars Ioan Gruffudd and Nia Roberts in the title roles about a young Jewish man and young Christian woman who fall in love. Due to the times and tensions, they cannot be together, nor can they stay apart. This is Roberts’ first picture when released in 1999 and she is charming. Paul Morrison wrote and directed the movie and did a marvelous job of making the audience pull for these two lovers.

“C’mon, c’mon” is a more recent movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffman, and Woody Norman. Phoenix plays a free-lance reporter who is traveling the country to interview kids about the future. His sister, played by Hoffman asks him to look after her son, as she helps her separated husband with a bad bipolar meltdown. The movie is how the boy Jesse played by Norman teaches and learns from Phoenix and his colleagues. Jesse has anxiety and other issues but has learned coping skills. The other key is how Phoenix and Hoffman rebuild a sibling relationship that was tested when their mother died.

“Short Term 12” starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr, Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever, LaKeith Stanfied and Kevin Hernandez takes you through the up and downs and challenges of helping at-risk youth in a non-lock down facility. Larson and Gallagher are in a relationship, but both have obvious experience in talking down kids who are in need of help. Dever plays a pivotal role as she arrives with a host of problems and attitude, which reminds Larson of herself when she got help. It is a powerful movie, but tough to watch at times.

“Jack Goes Boating” is the only movie directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, where he stars as Jack. Jack is a limo driver and is smitten with a shy woman named Connie played by Amy Ryan. It also stars Daphne Ruben-Vega and John Ortiz. The two were set-up by their friends, whose own marriage has some challenges that reveal themselves later as Hoffman and Ryan hit it off. To be more interesting to Connie, Jack learns how to cook, swim and boat, as Connie has this fantasy date of being on the water in the summer. The movie is charming in its own right but knowing this is one of Hoffman’s final films makes it even more endearing. You pull for the two of them, especially Connie who Ryan plays so well.

A few other movies worth a look include “Mona Lisa Smile” with Julia Roberts, Dominic West, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and a host of other young stars, “Eavesdropping” which is filmed without break in a restaurant as we listen in on various conversations, “The Squid and the Whale” with Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Anna Paquin and Jesse Eisenberg which has a cool title that has symbolic meaning about who was really there for you and “A conversation with other women” with Helen Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart about two people who hook up at a wedding as we learn there is more to their past.

“Mona Lisa Smile” is likely the only one of the movies that people may have heard of. It was for me. But, the four I highlighted surprised me at how good they were. Phoenix has done some excellent movies, especially playing Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line,” but “C’mon, c’mon” may be one of his best. Let me know some of yours that struck a chord of late.

Who is Margaret Nixon McEathron? And, why should she matter to many?

Who is this Margaret Nixon McEathron? Would it help if I told you she was better known as Marni Nixon? I was watching the new (and excellent) version of “West Side Story” earlier this week and I thought of Ms. Nixon. While Rachel Zegler, the actress playing Maria in the new version, is singing her songs, the beautiful Natalie Wood who starred as Maria in the first version did not. In fact, her not singing was kept a secret. Who sang her songs? – Marni Nixon.

Per Wikipedia:

Margaret Nixon McEathron (February 22, 1930 – July 24, 2016), known professionally as Marni Nixon, was an American soprano and ghost singer for featured actresses in musical films. She is now recognized as the singing voice of leading actresses on the soundtracks of several musicals, including Deborah Kerr in The King and INatalie Wood in West Side Story, and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady, although her roles were concealed from audiences when the films were released.[1] Several of the songs she dubbed appeared on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Songs list.[2]

Think about that. Nixon’s greatest recorded performances were concealed from audiences. The studios did not want audiences to know these three women did not sing their parts. It took Deborah Kerr to break the silence and let people know who the true talent behind the singing was – Marni Nixon. Apparently, the studios were not too happy with their subterfuge being outed. Yet, when you look at the top 100 AFI movie songs, you will find Nixon’s name for “Shall we dance,” “I could have danced all night,” “Tonight,” and “Somewhere” from “The King and I,” “My Fair Lady and “West Side Story,” in succession.

To be frank, these three actresses are icons in Hollywood, with Kerr being quite memorable in “From Here to Eternity” and “An Affair to Remember” and Hepburn and Wood starring in several terrific movies on top of the three mentioned above. Hepburn even got kudos for her melancholy rendition of “Moon River” in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” but that also revealed she could not have sung the songs in “My Fair Lady.” These three icons each deserve their place in Hollywood Walks of Fame. Yet, Nixon deserves credit far beyond what she got over the years. We did get to see her sing as one of the nuns in “The Sound of Music,” but that was a small role for her terrific voice.

It is annoying the studios would take advantage of this talented woman Some would say they were in the business of taking advantage of people. But, they usually gave people credit where it was due. It also disturbs me that a non-Latina American did not play the first Maria in “West Side Story.” Rita Moreno played her friend Anita (and brother’s girlfriend) and won an Oscar for her acting, dancing and singing. And, I am delighted, Moreno played a role in the new version and sang “Somewhere” as a sad reprise at the end.

So, let’s raise a toast to Marni Nixon. Or, should we say Margaret Nixon McEathron. Well done. Even if you did not get the credit you deserved.

Different, not less (an important story to repeat)

As we near the end of Women’s History Month, I want to repeat a post from just last year about a woman named Dr. Temple Grandin. It bears repeating as genius can be found in all kinds of people, if we just give them a chance to shine.

I spoke recently of a movie that caught my eye the other day which is well worth the watch – “Temple Grandin” starring Claire Danes as the title character with Julia Ormand, David Strathairn and Catherine O’Hara in key roles. It is a true story of Grandin who overcame her autism to get a Ph.D and become one of the foremost designers of cattle management systems. It is well worth the watch, but please pull out the Kleenex, especially when she first speaks up for autistic kids with her mother beside her.

A key moment in the movie is when her mother, played by Ormond is trying to find a high school that will help her daughter navigate a world with autism. To her credit, her mother defied those who said she needed to institutionalize her daughter back in the 1960s. A science teacher at the prospective school, played by Strathairn, hurried out to convince Ormond to stay as she was leaving with her daughter. He said, Temple is “different, not less.” Grandin had a brilliant mind, but understood better through visualization. She could see things we could not.

“Different, not less.” The line is so powerful, Grandin uses it later as she speaks to searching-for-answers parents of autistic kids. It reminds me of a similar line in a movie about a fictitious band from the 1960s, “Eddie and the Cruisers.” Michael Pare plays Eddie, the lead singer and driving force behind the band. He looks like a “cruiser,” but is well-read and intelligent. He drafts into the band an English major played by Tom Berenger, whom they call “Wordman” because of his profound lyrics.

During the movie as they are playing a college campus, Eddie tells Wordman these people are not like them. They are different. Wordman innocently replies, “they are no better than we are.” Eddie corrected him saying “I said different, not better.” Given the reference, this comment is the same as the above title and equally powerful.

We are different. It would be rather boring if we all thought, learned and said the same things. While we may be different, we are no better or worse than the next person. Grandin designed a system that is now used in over 50% of the cattle business, but she was laughed at because she was a woman and autistic. Her simple questions were pertinent, yet ignored. Her autism allowed her to see what the cattle sees and she factored that in her designs.

As for Eddie, we should always be careful with our first impressions. People dress differently, look differently, and act differently. Yet, Eddie was a deep thinker and knew literature. We are all different, but we have the same rights, responsibilities and need to be heard. My rights are no more important than yours and vice versa.

Both of these movies are worth the watch. They each will help us appreciate what others go through. Different, not less. And, not better either.

And, more movies still

Here are a list and brief summary of a few more movies that caught my eye the past few weeks. A few have big stars in them, but others the cast is rather unknown. Note, we have turned off a few movies on occasion, but we usually give them a chance and are pleasantly surprised. With William Hurt just passing away, the first one is worth the watch.

“The Yellow Handkerchief starring William Hurt, Kristen Stewart, Eddie Redmayne and Maria Bello is a fascinating movie that unfolds through flashbacks as he released convict (Hurt) is offered a ride and travels to see his wife (Bello) who he has not seen in six years. Redmayne and Stewart have their own issues, so they offer a balance to the story and sympathetic ears and support. Hurt and Bello are good together in their tempestuous relationship.

“Before and After” starring Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, Edward Furlong, Julie Weldon and Alfred Molina is about the parents of a young teen who is accused of murder of a young woman. The film focuses on the family disagreements in how to defend their son, who may be found guilty. This movie received lesser ratings than it deserved, I think because the expectations for the two stars was higher than normal given the only movie they were in. We did find it enjoyable, though.

“Tumbledown” starring Jason Sudeikis and Rebecca Hall was an unexpectedly good movie. Hall lives in a cabin in the mountains near where she grew up still mourning the loss of her folk singing husband who has a cult-like following. Sudeikis is a professor and huge fan of her husband’s work who wishes to write a non-fiction inspired novel about the deceased singer. Hall will have nothing to do with that, but eventually she sanctions a biography which she will co-write with Sudeikis. The movie is more about discovery and renewal between the two characters and the past.

“The Wake of Light” starring Rome Brooks and Matt Bush is a slow moving, but charming movie about taking a risk. Mary (Brooks), a quiet, reserved woman is grappling between the responsibility in caring for her stroke impacted father and her developing feelings for Cole (Bush), a talkative young man passing through town who falls for her and asks her to join him on his journey. We learn both need to take a risk as the movie unfolds. William Lige Morton plays the father who becomes more endearing as the movie goes on.

“The East” is one of those movies with only a few recognizable actors and a terrific plot. It stars Brit Marling, Andrew Skarsgard, Elliott Page and Patricia Clarkson as a private-firm plants a spy in an eco-terrorist group called The East. The group tends to use the heretofore denied poisonous product of companies to make a statement to embarrass the company and publicize the company’s deception. This is one of the best movies I have seen of late.

“Lawless” starring Tom Hardy, Jessica Chastain, Shia Labeouf, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska, Gary Oldman and Jason Clarke is a true story about four brothers who ran a moonshine business in Virginia during the prohibition with a wink and a nod from the local law enforcement. That is until a new group of law enforcement came in and wanted a larger cut. Anything Hardy is in will be worth the watch, but he is not alone in this well done, but a tad violent movie.

“The House on Carroll Street is an interesting movie starring Kelly McGllis, Jeff Daniels, Mandy Patinkin, Jessica Tandy and Kenneth Welsh. Based in the 1950s, a blacklisted news photographer (McGillis) stumbles onto a Senator helping former Nazis relocate to America. Daniels plays a sympathetic FBI agent with Patinkin playing the Senator. And, it was a treat to see Tandy in a movie before she passed away a few years later.

“100 Streets” starring Idris Elba, Gemma Arterton, Charlie Creed Miles, Franz Drameh, Kiersten Wareing and Ken Stott about three stories in London which are within a small radius ranging from the marital and personal troubles of a retired rugby star (Elba), a couple trying to adopt a child, but a terrible accident gets in the way (Creed Miles and Wareing) and a young man trying to change his life of crime to pursue his passion for the theater and the man who helps him (Drameh and Stott). Arterton plays Elba’s wife and people may know her from the movie “Summerland.”

A few other movies worth a look include “Hideous Kinky” which is nothing like the name which comes from Kate Winslet’s daughters’ imagination as she takes them to Morocco, “The Wilde Wedding” which is an over-the-top romantic comedy with an amazing cast of Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Minnie Driver, Patrick Stewart, Noah Davenport and a host of others in the Wilde family wedding (her fourth), and “Before we go” with Chris Evans and Alice Eve as she is stuck overnight in New York city needing to get home to Connecticut after her purse was stolen and Evans tries to help her with his limited funds.

Happy watching. Have you seen any others you would recommend.

And, even more movies (March edition)

I hope you are not getting tired of these movie posts. It is amazing the number of movies that are available to be seen. I prefer short movies with good actors. I will be inclined to select one which is less than two hours and will give known actors a chance. But, as noted below, known actors are not always required for a good movie.

Here are a few more, in no particular order.

“Nothing but the truth” starring Kate Beckinsale, Matt Dillon, Angela Bassett, Vera Farmiga and Alan Alda is about a reporter (played Beckinsale) who condemns the president for ignoring a CIA report and goes to jail rather than reveal her source. Dillon plays the special counsel who has her jailed.

“Playing for keeps” starring Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Noah Lomax, Judy Greer, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is about a retired professional soccer player (played by Butler) who is coming to grips with being a better father after his divorce. He ends up coaching his son’s team and has a series of ups and downs as he is own worst enemy, especially with the mothers of the other soccer players on his son’s team.

“Before I fall” starring Zoey Deutch is about a popular teen girl who relives her final day of her fatal accident over and over again. She learns what matters most as she reaches out to others, including a girl who was ostracized, and she could not save as they both died. It also stars Halston Sage (who was in the series “Prodigal Son”), Logan Miller, Elena Kampouris and Jennifer Beals. The “Groundhog Day” concept is interesting to see it play out with teen angst as the backdrop.

“Heat and Dust” starring Greta Scacchi, Shashi Kapoor, Julie Christie, Zakir Hussain and Christopher Casenove was a very pleasant surprise as it focused on two time frames. Christie’s character is researching what happened to her mother’s sister in India played by Greta Scacchi (who starrred in “Presumed Innocent”) in the 1920s. The title conveys the two worst challenges of living in India without any A/C, but the heat may also imply passion, with dust being we should live our lives as we will all be dust at some point.

“Edge of Love” starring Keira Knightley, Sienna Miller, Matthew Rhys, and Cillian Murphy is a fictional story about poet Dylan Thomas (played by Rhys) who is in love with two women – his wife Caitlin (Miller) and an old girlfriend Vera (Knightly). The love for both continues even when the women become best friends and Vera marries Murphy before he goes off to the war. While Murphy is away in WWII, the other three move to a town in Wales to escape the bombing.

“At Middleton” will not sound too complex, but two lonely married parents meet when taking their two children to visit a fictitious school called Middleton. Vera Farmiga plays the mother of a determined and organized young girl (played by her sister Taissa) who truly wants to attend there. Andy Garcia plays the father of a young boy (played by Spencer Lofranco) who is not sure what he wants to do and where he wants to go. Peter Reigert and Tom Skerritt play important cameos for the two young prospective students. Farmiga and Garcia are intriguing as they joust and have fun together, but the two teens are also a part of the story.

“Only You” starring Josh O’Connor and Laia Costa is about their become a couple (Jake and Elena) overcoming an age gap with Elena at 35 and Jake at 26, which bothers Elena more. Nonetheless, they are obviously smitten with each other as they move in together and try to start a family. But, their passion does not translate into pregnancy and they fight through the challenges, especially with her friends getting pregnant. There is a good ensemble cast of friends, but the role that stands out is Jake’s father, played by Peter Wight, who offers the needed counsel. We had just seen Costa, who is a Spanish actress, in movie called “Maine,” so we may be seeing more of her in English speaking movies.

“My Blueberry Nights” starring singer Norah Jones in her acting debut follows her from New York to Tennessee to Las Vegas as she meets interesting characters along the way. The story starts and ends with her flirtatious new relationship with Jude Law’s character as a bakery shop owner who also serves alcohol and meals at night and shares his uneaten blueberry pie with her as he closes. In the interim we meet three people who have their own sets of challenges. David Strathairn plays an alcoholic cop whose young wife (Rachiel Weisz) has left him. We also learn Weisz’ story as well. Natalie Portman plays a card player who is not too truthful, but befriends Jones’ character. The song track is excellent .

A couple of other movies worth watch are “Tears of Rain” with Sharon Stone and Christopher Casenove, a movie about learning of one’s past. “Safe Haven” with Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel and Cobie Smulders, and although a little cheesy is good. I mention “Maine” above which is alright, but my daughter gave up on it when she was visiting. Since it is about hiking the Appalachian Trail, I thought she might like it more.

If you have seen any good ones of late, please let me know.

And even more movies

Those who follow my blog know I like watching movies. Between HBO, Showtime and Tubi, binge watching two or three movies is not unusual. For those who do not know Tubi, it is a free service since it offers commercials. At my bladder’s age, commercials are not a bad thing.

Here are a few more that we watched recently that I would recommend. I also note a few that I could have turned away from, but I kept pulling for them to get better.

“The Woman in Gold” with Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds, Katie Holmes, and Daniel Bruehl is one of the best movies I have seen. It is based on a true story about an Austrian Jew who, as a girl, flees the Nazis taking over her country. In the process, her family’s art work is stolen, one of which is a portrait of her aunt called “The Woman in Gold.” It became a national treasure of Austria, so the story is about Mirren, playing the now aged daughter trying to reclaim the art, but mainly looking for a public acknowledgement how the museum got the painting.

“The Perks of being a Wallflower” with Logan Lehman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Mae Whitman and a host of recognizable adult actors playing teachers, parents and doctors. This surprisingly excellent movie is about three “misfit toys” as Watson’s character tells Lehman when he joins them, as they navigate a more social world as high schoolers as introverted, observational people who each have other challenges that emerge later. Watson and Miller are brother and sister who shepherd Lehman into a friendship he needs so badly.

“Ondine” with Colin Ferrell, Alicja Bachleda, Allison, Barry, Dervla Kirwan and Stephen Rea. This unusually titled movie masks an interesting story about a fisherman (Ferrell), who finds a partially clothed, nearly dead woman in his net as he trawls. His inventive daughter (played by Barry) feels she is a mythical sea creature called an Ondine (played by Bachleda). This implausible story, though, is more about Ferrell needing someone to help him find his way, after his divorce from his wife, and allow him to connect more with his daughter.

“Gone Baby Gone” with Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Amy Madigan and Ed Harris is a crime story about a missing daughter of a drug dependent mother. Affleck and Monaghan are detectives brought in after the police have seemingly given up an intensive search after seventy-two hours, knowing the result is not promising. The movie is produced and directed by big brother Ben Affleck and is well done. Casey seems to appear in a lot of good movies, as much as his brother does.

“American Friends” is a surprisingly good movie written and produced by Michael Pallin of Monty Python fame, but it is not a comedy. It is based on a touching story about his great-grandfather who taught at Oxford and was forbidden from marrying as a result. Pallin stars in the role as the professor who befriends two Americans, an aunt and her niece, while hiking in Switzerland. The women are played by Connie Booth (who happens to be John Cleese’s first wife) and Trini Alvarado, while Alfred Molina plays a rival professor vying for the role as president of the college when the incumbent passes away.

“Marty” is a movie made in 1956 for which Ernest Borgnine won an Oscar playing the title role of the lonely butcher who is ready to give up looking for companionship. Betsy Blair plays a possible love interest, but everyone tells Marty he can do better as she is a plain, but pleasant woman. Marty has a sense of self when he tells them and his mother that he is just not a good catch and is lonely. Borgnine deserves the Oscar for the role as you invest in him and pull for him to find a companion

“Third Person” with Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis, Olivia Wilde, Adrien Brody, Moran Atias, James Franco, Maria Bello and Kim Basinger in a confusing plot is good, but you may need to rewind on occasion as there are multiple stories being told by the author played by Neeson. “Iris” is well done, but hard to watch if you have parents with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Judi Dench plays the older version of acclaimed avant garde author Iris Murdoch, with Kate Winslet playing the younger version. Jim Broadbent plays her devoted husband so well, he won an Oscar, with Hugh Bonneville playing the younger version.

A few other movies we watched worth catching are: “Memories of me” with Billy Crystal, Alan King and JoBeth Willians and directed by Henry Winkler, “The last time I saw Paris” with Elizabeth Taylor, Van Johnson, Donna Reed and Walter Pidgeon, “Above Suspicion,” with Jack Huston, Emilia Clarke and Sophie Lowe and “My old lady” starring Kevin Kline, Kristen Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith.

A few movies I would be wary about are “The Humans” starring Richard Jenkins, Jayne Houdyshell and Amy Schumer which to me is family version of Jean Paul Sarte’s existentialism that hell is other people. It is painful to watch, but that may be its intent. The other is “The Paper Boy” with an amazing cast directed by Lee Daniels – Mathew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, Zac Efron, John Cusack, David Oyelowo, et al, but is very violent and vulgar at times. Each of these movies we were tempted to turn away, but lasted until the end.

Now, let’s go get some popcorn and see what we can watch today.

And, a few more movies

Here are a few more movies that caught our eye the past few weeks. Most of these are on Tubi, but some were on HBO and Showtime. We did see “House of Gucci” in the theatre.

“House of Gucci” starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons and Jared Leto, Salma Hayek and Jack Huston about the intriguing story beneath the Gucci name. It is based on a true story which took place from the 1970s to the mid-1990s. It is a good movie with Driver and Lady Gaga in the leads as the son and wife of one of the 50% Gucci owners played by Irons. Pacino plays the other 50% owner, whose son, played by Leto is not the most capable of people to take over the business. Pacino and Irons are excellent, but Leto is hidden underneath a lot of prosthetics and his performance is a little over the top, which is unusual for such an acclaimed performer.

Body of Evidence” starring Willem Dafoe, Madonna, Julianne Moore, Joe Montegna, and Frank Langella is a steamy criminal trial story about a woman accused of killing her rich lover to gain a large portion of his inheritance. The challenge for Dafoe, who plays the defense attorney, is his client played Madonna, prefers a risque style of sex. Caution, do not watch this in front of younger pairs of eyes.

“The Company Men” starring Ben Afleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, Maria Bello, Rosemarie Dewitt, Eamonn Walker, Craig T. Nelson and Kevin Costner is about people getting let go from a shipbuilding company after years of service. The focus is on the first three cast members above, but the other supporting cast play key roles. I feel Rosemarie Dewitt plays the supportive, but realistic wife of Afleck’s character perfectly. This may be the best of the movies noted here.

“Misconduct” starring Josh Duhamel, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Mailin Akerman, Alicia Eve and Julia Stiles is one of the lowest rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes that I ever liked. It has a great cast, with a somewhat predictable plot, but is entertaining. Hopkins perfectly plays a wealthy guy who is used to getting his way. The story is about an ambitious attorney played by Duhamel who brings a case against Hopkin’s pharmaceutical company and he gets involved with corruption and cover-up.

“A Perfect Murder” starring Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortenson is about a husband hiring his wife’s lover to kill her. There is more to it than that, but it is an intriguing movie about the reasons why the husband is so keen and why Mortenson is so agreeable.

“Solitary Man” starring Michael Douglas, Mary Louis Parker, Jenna Fischer, Jesse Eisenberg, Susan Sarandon, Danny DeVito and Imogene Poots is about a womanizing divorced man who ruined his business doing something corrupt and has now learned his health is poor. His answer is to go after every woman he comes across. For some reason, Douglas plays a cad better than many, as his role reminds me of the lecherous character he played in “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” with Jennifer Garner and Mathew McConnaughey.

“The Good Shepherd” starring Christian Slater, Molly Parker, Stephen Rea, and Von Flores is about a priest who has second thoughts about his calling, so he volunteers to find out who killed a priest, the police have ruled a suicide. He continues the investigation against the wishes of the Bishop as he feels the church owes it to the priest to find out what happened. Parker plays a reporter who works with Slater to get to the truth, primarily because they had a previous relationship before he became a priest. This movie should not be confused with the Matt Damon story by the same title. I think in Canada, it was released under the name “The Confessor.”

“Charade” starring Audrey Hepburn, Cary Grant, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy and James Coburn is about a woman who loses her husband only to find out he sold all their possessions and owes $250,000 to the US government which is missing. At least three other men think the money belongs to them, so she is in danger. Hepburn remains one of the most beautiful and elegant actresses ever, so it is always a treat to watch her.

“The Choice” starring Teresa Palmer, Benjamin Walker, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Grace, and Tom Welling is based on the Nicholas Sparks novel about a couple played by Walker and Palmer who have an attraction, but “bother” each other from the outset. She has a fiance, but no one affects her like Walker’s character Travis does. The story is more intriguing to us as it is set in Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach and my wife and I recognized the scenery and even ate at one of the restaurants featured.

As I review the above, a good cast can overcome a weak plot and poor dialogue to a certain extent. “Misconduct” is a little predictable which is why it is rated so poorly, but is still good. “Solitary Man” is well-played, but Douglas is not a very endearing character in this, which is the intent. “Body of Evidence” is good, but be prepared for some pretty racy scenes for a movie with such name actors. “House of Gucci” is good, but it is on the longer side of most movies and can run on at times. “The Choice” is a little cheesy at times, but the banter between the couple is different than most romantic movies and Palmer, who played in “Hacksaw Ridge,” is intriguing to watch.