The Man Who Invented Christmas


“People will believe anything if you are properly dressed.”
Having the characters of the story appear on screen and interact with the writer is a terrific way to explain how the creative mind works.
Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast and Downton Abby) plays the timeless writer Charles Dickens. He conveys very well the different moods that Dickens went through at a time when he was experiencing financial difficulty, relationship problems, and the renovation of his home. It should surprise no one that Christopher Plummer steals each of his scenes as Ebenezer Scrooge. What a delight to behold the talented octogenarian as he leaves us wishing for even more of the grumpy and miserly old former partner of Jacob Marley. Jonathan Pryce also excels as Charles’ father John, a charming man who has never quite figured out the economics of life … and whose long-ago debt sent young Charles to a work house mixing shoe black. Even as an adult, Charles had recurring nightmares of his time in child labor, and fortunately he was able to use those memories to create many long-lasting stories, each oblivious to generational change.
In 1843 London, the renowned Dickens is coming off three straight flops and experiencing financial woes that are exacerbated by his insistence on the finest materials for the large home he and wife Kate (Morfydd Clark, LOVE & FRIENDSHIP) are renovating. Dickens is in the midst of severe writer’s block, and only the quiet strength of his wife and never-wavering loyalty of friend/agent John Forster (Justin Edwards) are able to keep him from sinking to even lower emotional depths. Screen veteran Miriam Margolyes plays the housekeeper, and Anna Murphy is Tara, the Irish nanny who serves as a muse for Dickens.
All ages will get a merry kick out of Mr. Plummer’s Scrooge!
Best Christmas movie ever.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Must Go
The acting is incomparable. When Woody Harrelson talks about the culture of racism, there’s truth in his voice, sadness in his tone: “If you got rid of all the cops with vaguely racist leanings, you’d have only have three cops left. And all of them would hate fags.”
Not many films dare tackle the list of topics and issues that are touched on here: church arrogance, police violence, racism, cancer, domestic violence, questioning the existence of God, parental grief with a desire for revenge, the weight of a guilty conscience, and the influence of parents in a rural setting. Sometimes we need a reminder that fairness in the world should not be expected, and likely does not exist. If that’s true, what do we do with our anger? There are no easy answers, because there are none but carefully consider your responses.

Lady Bird

Maybe Go
This is a film about a girl coming of age. I don’t get it. However, watching Saoirse Ronan is a rare pleasure. She is on par with Judy Dench and Meryl Streep.
For me the relationship with her father was touching,
“Knock knock, come in Dad”
“How did you know it was me?”
“Mom doesn’t knock”
As in most films where a young girl is taught in a Catholic high school, the nuns are the looming moral force for restraint embodied in the principal, Sister Sarah Joan (Lois Smith), a realist who knows Lady Bird is a creative and independent spirit. So, too, in a different way is Lady Bird’s mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf), whose tough love is constant, but whose love is there if only Lady Bird would see it. Mom’s agony at the airport when Bird goes to college is as anguished a mom/daughter parting as you will ever see in a comedy.

Murder on the Orient Express

GO minus
“My name is Hercule Poirot and I am probably the greatest detective in the world.”
This has the right amount of drama, intrigue and comedy, and it is beautifully filmed. Poirot’s mustaches are extraordinary – really! it is worth going just to see them
Since you know the story how do you keep your audience? Fill the cast with exceptional actors.
The cast is strong and deep, and in addition to Mr. Branagh, it features: Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Dame Judi Dench, Daisy Ridley, Leslie Odom Jr, Josh Gad, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Lucy Boynton, Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Coleman, Sergei Polunin, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo. All are suspects – well, except the victim.
It doesn’t replace the 1974 “Murder on the Orient Express” maybe you should just rent that DVD; but then you will miss out on the mustaches.

Thor: Ragnarok

Must Go
Excellent script, excellent storyline, excellent casting, excellent score.
Thor: Ragnarok plunges headfirst into unbridled comedy. Hemsworth and Blanchett, are rarely seen having so much fun. Tom Hiddleston, Jeff Goldblum, Karl Urban, and Ruffalo also shine, and Tessa Thompson steals scenes as Valkyrie, a hard-drinking Asgardian bounty hunter and former member of Odin’s elite guard.
The performances of the main cast are impressive and exceptional. This movie also showed us the real “God of Thunder”. For the first time he was extremely powerful without his hammer, Mjölnir. That lighting streaming all over his body was pure awesomeness. But please, please bring back Mjölnir. What is Thor without his hammer?
Mjölnir is depicted in Norse mythology as one of the most fearsome and powerful weapons in existence, capable of leveling mountains. In his account of Norse mythology, Snorri Sturluson relates how the hammer was made by the dwarven brothers Eitri and Brokkr, and how its characteristically short handle was due to a mishap caused by Loki during its manufacture.

The Florida Project

I have to say this film is a joyous good time
The Magic Castle Motel is a lavender monstrosity that belies the daily struggles of those who live behind its purple doors. It’s actually a seedy extended-stay that caters to ultra-budget guests. Included among those are 6-year-old Moonee (Brooklyn Kimberly Prince) and her friend Scooty (Christopher Rivera). We quickly judge these as kids with a bit too much free time and a shortage of parental guidance.
As the summer days roll on, we tag along as Moonee leads Scooty and their new friend Jancey (Valeria Cotto) in some boundary-pushing adventures. The brilliance here is that through the child’s eye, we see joy and excitement and fun. We hear the purity of giggles and giddy screeches as the kids bound between tourist traps, ice cream parlors, and rooms forbidden as off-limits. All of this miscreant activity occurs amidst the adults who trudge on simply trying to survive another day.
The artificial dreams that are prevalent in so many films have no place at the Magic Castle Motel. It’s about the next meal and keeping a roof above. Don’t go searching for plot here. Instead, at times it feels like a documentary on Moonee or the spirited need for fun and laughter that is in the DNA of kids. We are just following a real kid around, and that’s a tribute to the marvel that is Brooklyn Kimberly Prince. She steals every scene and most of the movie … and that’s in spite of the terrific performances from Moonee’s mother Halley (Bria Vinaite) and screen vet Willem Dafoe. It’s a rare “normal” role for Mr. Dafoe, and he makes the most of it as Bobby, the motel’s manager. He is also a father figure, mediator of disputes, bill collector, and protector of damaged souls. Bobby is unable to detach emotionally from those who live at the hotel, not because he is soft, but rather because he is human.