Category Archives: Historical Drama

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

1 Comment

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

ROMEO & JULIET (2013) movie review

Romeo-and-Juliet-2013I teach Romeo & Juliet to freshmen. So, how thrilled am I when a film does justice to a story and offers yet another visual option to help students connect with literature, especially their first taste of Shakespeare.

This version is beautiful. Filmed in the actual city of Verona in Italy, you feel transported by the orange-hued sunrises, the castled landscape, and the constant flavors in renaissance artwork layered on each backdrop.
It’s visually perfect. Certainly Julien Fellowes, Downton Abbey writer, takes his literary liberties as screenwriter, allowing for a medieval tournament and fewer characters. He does, however, speed up the action and include scenes and characters rarely enjoyed in film versions. He is also somehow able to keep it clean (classroom appropriate) without losing the romantic heart of the play. I believe that Shakespeare himself would have approved of Fellowes’s translation.
_MG_6659.CR2Paul Giamatti, never before a favorite of mine, flawlessly endeared the Friar character and stole the show.
supportingcast-romeo-juliet-damian-natashaDamian Lewis (brilliant as Winters in Band of Brothers and currently starring  in tv’s Homeland) played Lord Capulet perfectly. His performance was unexpected and fresh. Hailee Steinfeld, the True Grit lovely, sweetened Juliet with youth and believability. The statuesque and stunning Douglas Booth played well the lovestruck son and heir Romeo.Romeo-and-Juliet

Any attempt at Romeo & Juliet begs a comparison.

Romeo-JulietThere is  no better teaching tool to offer freshmen boys than replacing swords with guns, an orchard below the balcony with a swimming pool, and awkward tights with khakis and Hawaiian shirts.  Baz Luhrmann‘s 1996 version with gorgeously brooding Fortune’s fool Leo and a pre-pubescent Claire Danes helps students relate and hear actual Shakespeare with modern connections. We scaffold to what we know, and suddenly learning is not a chore.Romeo-and-Juliet1

Most stage versions cast the couple too old, so it’s a hard sell in a classroom. Zeffirelli’s classic 1968 version, though prominent in schools and sporting a boastable Zac Efron look-alike as Romeo, is now nearly unrelatable to students who mock the forced lines, abundance of cleavage, and laughable characterizations.Fate-Shakespeare-Romeo-Juliet

The flaw in Fellowe’s version is that students will forget to treat it as an adaptation and No Fear Shakespeare will reign over actual script. Well, we shall all take a tip from Juliet in this and, “Look to like, if looking liking move, but no more deep endart my eye than your content gives strength to make it fly.”8643814882_c1e93bea0a_o


Filed under Classic, Drama, Historical Drama

42 (2013) movie review

gallery_15Stop what you are doing. Don’t waste another second. See this beautiful film.

Harrison Ford has always been a favorite, but now I’m in awe. He’s got gumption – that confidence that shines on-screen. And, he keeps secrets worth decoding, joy and sorrow resident in his eyes.

3a96c6df7d8602c6_42-trailer.xxxlarge_1Young Chadwick Boseman, Jackie Robinson‘s true doppelgänger, fulfilled his role with the honesty and swagger of the legend himself.

There is honor in this film. It speaks of doing right all alone, of standing still against oceanic pull.

Racism obviously disgusts on every level. This film chooses to go beyond the black versus white question to pierce the heart of hate being hateful and the soul of letting skill speak for skill alone. It reminds me that people are capable of great love or brutality, but that they can also change.42-movie

Who has your heart? What keeps your feet steady? Jackie Robinson was just a man playing the game that he was born to play, a game that so many love. People fight in many ways for what is right. Robinson allowed himself to become a symbol. He walked in silence allowing his skill to speak for him despite screaming threats on an angry current.

He played baseball and let God fight for him.42movie01

1 Comment

Filed under Classic, Drama, Historical Drama