Category Archives: Historical Drama

WOMAN IN GOLD (2015) movie review


Who is the woman in gold? She is an emblem. She was a woman who loved. She bears a powerful curse and a blessing. Untouchable and coveted.

Gustav Klimt, known as a symbolist painter, studied in Vienna and employed gold leaf in many of his famous paintings and two of my favorites: The Kiss and The Woman in Gold.cn_image_3.size.gustav-kimlt-helen-mirren-woman-in-gold-movie-02

Gustav Klimt’s 1907 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Rights reserved: Neue Galerie New York.

This film, however, is not about the painter Klimt at all. The story moves effortlessly into the dramatic story of the niece of the woman who posed for Klimt’s painting. Her wealthy Austrian family fell prey with the millions of Jews who were stripped of all possessions and forced to flee or fall during the Nazi overthrow in World War II.

This true story allowed the voice of the spunky niece Maria, played perfectly by Helen Mirren, to reluctantly revisit her homeland. The haunts of her lush childhood interlaced with the memories leading up to her wedding and eventually her escape. Her one connection to the aunt who helped to raise her was the painting that once hung in her childhood home.


This film, however, is not necessarily about Maria. Nor is it truly about the painting. Ryan Reynolds plays a young lawyer who took a risk on a start-up and lost. We meet him, downtrodden, looking for work. Maria hires him to help retrieve the beloved painting of her aunt. We, in the audience, need to know that he was willing to take a risk. Despite his growing family, despite impossible odds, he must do this. The film is so much about him. It’s about his personal journey, connecting with his own past, mourning lost loved ones, mourning the holocaust. He fights as so few would, without real financial backing, against an entire country that wants to leave the past behind, forgiven, forgotten. Randol, the lawyer, seeks to prove Maria’s ownership of the painting, and for most of the film, he seems to fight for the wrong reasons. Then he changes. All that Midas touched turned to gold until he lost the only one he loved. Every hero has a tragic flaw, usually hubris. But when they sacrifice themselves for the greater good, they rise up and become what they never could have: a hero.

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Filed under Drama, Historical Drama

EXODUS (2015) movie review

exodus-gods-and-kings-movie-poster-1Exodus has moments of beauty and potential greatness, thoughtful on so many levels. But Bale is no Charlton Heston. Exodus: Gods and Kings lacks the pizzaz and joy of the original Ten Commandments. Prince of Egypt may not have had a doe-eyed Aaron Paul but at least it never diminished the miracles by making Moses the God-whisperer and attempting to explain the plagues scientifically: alligators, so blood, so frogs, so flies, etc.

False beliefs prevail in Biblical films of late. The heroes must be A-listers, never mind the fluctuating accents, as long as they can wield a blade and train the peasants to retaliate. Why would God bother to intervene when Christian Bale or Russell Crowe can lead an army?exodus-gods-and-kings-3

I shouldn’t be surprised that so many renowned directors, like the brilliant, detail-driven Ridley Scott would look to the Greatest Stories Ever Told in the Bible for great screen fodder. To grasp the immortal seems the quest for most Hollywood greats. The gods of myth thought that eternal life is for those who live on in legend. Stories live on, so they must work as conduits…flux capacitors for a new age of inventors who visualize and create widescreen and digital IMAX.

Some also sadly believe that special effects will cover any sub-par plot points or dialogue, or anything that the filmmaker thought too potentially religious. Visual accuracy over biblical. The Pharaoh can look like he grew up in Texas as long as he cuddles with Cobras and paints a mean eyeline.

Egypt is sepia toned, to color the Caucasian cast. And the wilderness a Prometheus blue. The burning bush burst into a less than stunning blue flame.D0ObgKhviA

I’m sorry to say, it’s not the biblical inaccuracies that tanked the multi-million dollar project. It was…boring. Slow and unsteadily paced. It lags so desperately that in the end you almost hope the Red Sea will take them all. But they cross…waist-deep, then the armies drown in a tidal wave.

Many Christians cry and run from theaters over these kinds of oversights. If only the same crowd of movie goers would cry over poorly made films in the B-genre known as Christian films and seek to correct the problem with excellent filmmaking. The Bible will continue to provide a wellspring of stories. The era of Bible-based movies will continue.

So many filmmakers and viewers alike continue the search in a bottomless grave looking for a frozen Savior who they hoped would come to save the world. They have yet to find that He is risen. He is risen indeed.Exodus1

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THE IMITATION GAME (2014) movie review

the-imitation-game-benedict-cumberbatch1-600x399I’ve been impressed lately with films that exercise power over time. Jumping time zones, they show scenes during the war and jump seamlessly into post-war scenarios; scrub the screen black and pop right into the past. We follow without a hitch. Perhaps we can thank shows like Lost for allowing our minds the freedom to flash back or flash forward.

This Interstellar loop in a film’s string theory feels effortlessly achieved in Imitation Game.The-imitation-game-film-movie-desktop-wallpaper-benedict-cumberbatch-keira-knightley-matthew-goode-morten-tyldum-uk-alan-turing-british-films-best-picture-academy-awards-predictions-best-director-best-actor-726x400This effect was the film’s greatest achievement…aside from casting half of Downton, reconciling women’s rights issues, causing universal disgust over Britain’s punishment of homosexual behaviors, positing the potential effects of education on children within the autism spectrum, creating the first computer, decrypting Hitler’s Enigma machine, and winning the 2nd World War with math.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira KnightleyNeedless to say, it forced a few too many plot lines. Benedict Cumberbatch could have simply saved the world with his math skills. That plot would have sufficed.



Filed under Drama, Historical Drama

MONUMENTS MEN (2014) movie review

Learn your  A B C’s:the-monuments-men-uk-quad-posterA lways trust George Clooney.

B elieve in Bill Murray.

C ast Matt Damon in anything.

D on’t forget Cate Blanchett.

E njoy Bob Balaban as much in this as in Guffman or Moonrise Kingdom.

F eel the weight of loss when you realize that Hitler stole everything from people when he took their lives.

G reet Goodman, as ever, a force and a friend, like a grandfather you fear but can’t wait to see.

H ugh Bonneville, Downton’s Lord Grantham, stayed true to form in his stately address and attire.

I nnocuous as art may seem, when paired with the destruction of so much of Europe, its loss must have felt like insult to the injuries caused by war.

J oin ever sweet Jean Dujardin and the team in rescuing stolen art with their suave personalities and winning smiles.the-monuments-men_wide-5c74020332c43e14e25bfc06079da41ee6d50dc5-s6-c30

K eep
L ooking though you
M ay
N ever clear the
O bstacles
P ervading your
Q uest.
R emember that your
S oul is
T he art of the
U niverse’s Creator who
V alues you, knowing you are
W orth treasuring, as
eX tingushable as
Y ou may feel.

NaZ i soldiers obeyed orders, feeling they were right, but Clooney’s troop of Monuments Men sought to remind all why we fight.2013-mostanticipated-monumentsmen-full

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Filed under Classic, Comfort Film, Drama, DramCom, Historical Drama

THE BOOK THIEF (2014) movie review

At least with Titanic, you knew the boat would sink.


This film showed such perseverance of the soul, such hope in desperation, such light in darkness, such freedom breaking out with boldness, bursting through despite fear. It was gorgeous until…


_MG_6517April 02, 2013.cr2



the-book-thief-1…until the end.
The end, if you can call it an ending, attempted to jump 80 years or so into the future and relay the deaths of ALL OF THE CHARACTERS!
Never before have I seen a script invest in and develop characters and relationships so delicately, so painstakingly right up until the instant death of almost all.
Sure, there are gruesome war films. But this? Everyone dies horribly, too soon, only to be found by the one girl who loves them all. We have to watch the main character grieve again and again over each one. It was too much.

They all live through wars, but die in a moment? They fight to love then lose their lives? What is this, Downton? My apologies. I give Fellowes far too much credit for killing his characters when their lives are sweetest to them. War is never sweet. But life can be. I confess I’m on the constant watch for the sweetness of life. I hunt for beauty like treasure. I value words as the character Max did.

This film is not what I imagined it would be at all.
Skip the narration, choose the alternate ending and turn it off before the end of the war.

The Book Thief


Filed under Drama, Historical Drama, Skip It

AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) movie review

American Hustle Film SetChristian Bale will break your heart. His soft-spoken badger-like hunched persona seeks redemption, grace, requited love.

american-hustle-am_2769649aAmy Adams will make you question a million motives. She’s snake-like, a survivor. The tin-man shell coating, like clear polish, only glosses over her wounded, exposed red-beating soul.

American-Hustle-Bradley-CooperBradley Cooper will finally allow you past his pretty boy image and let you almost dislike him. He pitches back and forth, buoyed by power potential, by recognition, by attention-deficient, by hunger, by ideas unexamined and unrealized.

jennifer-lawrence-first-american-hustleJennifer Lawrence will make you laugh a hearty Napoleon Dynamite type laugh that you feel guilty for exhaling once it’s out. She’s the available one, the ironic truth teller, the unwanted wife.

AMERICAN-HUSTLE-13Jeremy Renner will win your vote. He’s cool, collected, the honest family man politician from a time when most thought  that men like him told the truth.

mc-american-hustle-01This film is a foul glimpse at underbelly life in the attempted pursuit at middle class. It’s untaught good intentions misguided and nearly mobbed out of existence. It’s life in the 70’s. It’s ABSCAM and FBI half-truths. It’s the birth of the “science oven.” It’s a masters class in acting. It’s David O. Russell on his A-game.


Every character actively pursues love, to know and be known, the internal meditative dialogue of need and desire. All seek redemption. All hunger for normalcy and fight to find it.


Filed under Drama, Historical Drama

SAVING MR. BANKS (2013) movie review



Saving Mr. Banks is a beautiful film reawakening Mary Poppins as an eternal classic. Etched into the psyches of most adults who watched it as children, we all know, for instance, that a spoon full of sugar actually does make the medicine go down. For every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.  Children should play games, all sorts.  Height can be measured by one’s character and be “practically perfect in every way.” Birds are meant to be sung to and fed, tuppence-a-bag. Sister suffragettes have earned a glee-filled “well done!” Neighbors have their quirks and canons. Street art is best. Carousels are magical. Uncles often get lost in their own jokes and must be brought back down to earth. Chimney sweeps were the first dirty dancers. Mothers should all be allowed to hire governesses, cooks, and cleaners. Fathers must be forgiven for working hard and then we must teach them to fly kites.

Saving-Mr-Banks-TrailerEmma Thompson plays P L Travers, British author of the Mary Poppins books. Her character appears to be the quintessential British matron with grand expectations and low tolerance for superfluous nonsense. What a pairing with the original imaginarian, Tom Hanks as Walt Disney himself. This film peaks through the office doorway into the early glory years of Disney. mary-poppins3-560x457As an adult, I still believe that Disneyland is the best place, “happiest on earth” as it claims to be. I love it so much. It remains quaint but moves forward, new and inventive while reviving vaulted delights at will. Creativity personifies within those gates, often showing up as the Mouse.


Tom Hanks in Saving Mr Banks

The brilliantly cast Colin Farrell is Mr. Banks, the one who must be saved. And Paul Giamatti delights with his quiet affirmations. He won me over as well.  Jason Schwartzman and B.J. Novak march in as the brilliant unsung jolly song writing duo who turned so many children’s books into a show giving characters musical life.


What we don’t realize while watching Mary Poppins that it battles heart wrenching issues, offering hope to children when real life gets them down. Though slower-paced than Poppins, edgier and more emotional, Banks is all heart as it endears and renders fathers forgivable at long last.



Filed under Classic, Comfort Film, Drama, DramCom, Historical Drama