Bring up actress Greta Gerwig, and
people likely are to say, "Who?" Face it, most mainstream
moviegoers have not heard of her because she tends to eschew
big-budget movies in favor of the arthouse genre. In fact she is
quite accomplished as an actress and has brought forth some
memorable and quirky, if little seen, screen performances.
Now we're seeing she also is an
effective writer-director as well.
"Lady Bird," written and directed by
Gerwig, has stirred positive critical buzz at a time when talk
is heating up anyway for the Academy Awards push.
Gerwig went back to her roots with "Lady
Bird," which chronicles several months in the life of Christine
McPherson, a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento,
where Gerwig was born. Yes, it's a coming-of-age, teen angst
story, but under Gerwig's guidance it is perceptive,
confrontational and moving, as well as funny in parts and very
Saoirse Ronan, already a two-time
Academy Award nominee ("Atonement" in 2007 and "Brooklyn" in
2015) at age 23, may be a third-time nominee for her role as
Christine, a teen who insists on being called Lady Bird. This
young woman struggles with all the issues that hit pre-adults at
that stage of their lives. There is school, fraught with the
challenges of classes, studying and tests, a social life that is
forever evolving, a home life that is precariously balanced
between parental expectations, sibling rivalries and the usual
tensions that stalk every family, usually centering around
finances and how much leeway/responsibility a teen is expected
or desires to take on. Oh, and add in the emotional and puzzling
aspects of sex.
Gerwig nails the tone of the movie with
the opening scene. Lady Bird is riding in a car driven by her
mother, Marion (Laurie Metcalf) and they both are teary-eyed
while listening to an audio book reading of a John
Steinbeck novel. But within a couple of minutes they are sniping
at each other. The major source of their antagonism is Lady
Bird's plans after graduating from high school. Lady Bird is a
restless spirit who is eager to get out of Sacramento, which she
calls the "Midwest of California." She wants to move east to New
York or somewhere to get an East Coast art-heavy education.
Marion, concerned almost to the point of obsessive about the
family's tenuous financial situation, is positive colleges out
that way are way beyond their means. Even though Lady Bird
brings up the possibility of financial aid, Marion is not
Metcalf may be in line for her first
Academy Award nomination as Marion. It is a role that is
reminiscent of the late Mary Tyler Moore's typecast-obliterating
turn as the self-absorbed and emotionally cautious Beth in
"Ordinary People." Marion's relationship with her daughter is
not quite so cold and awkward as that of Beth and her son Conrad
(Timothy Hutton). In fact, Marion is very much engaged in Lady
Bird, at least as much as she can be while working in a
psychiatric ward and trying to keep the family as secure as
possible. Herself a product of an abusive home, Marion can get
vicious when provoked. Yet despite the flareups, Marion and Lady
Bird do things like going shopping for clothes together. Per
usual the teen believes her mother is not loving enough. When
Marion insists she loves Lady Bird, the girl counters with "But
do you like me?"
Also spot on is Lady Bird's relationship
with her best female friend, Julie (Beanie Feldstein), the
nerdy, socially clumsy girl who harbors a crush on her
married-with-pregnant-wife math teacher. These two confide in
one another and lean solidly on each other for support. For a
while, Lady Bird and Julie drift apart as Lady Birds moves to
another social circle and starts hanging out with Jenna (Odeya
Rush). It is a mismatch that has Lady Bird trying to be what she
is not. She soon realizes the sturdy foundation of a BFF more
compatible with who she is.
Yep. The boyfriends. Lady Bird and Julie
join the school's drama department and in the course of
rehearsing for the group's upcoming stage production, Lady Bug
becomes the girlfriend of the lead actor, Danny (Lucas Hedges).
He is a gentleman, which seems too good to be true, as the girl
soon learns. Then she hooks up with Kyle (Timothee
Chalamet) a musician and something of a social outcast (at
parties he is usually off by himself, reading a book). The
romance she craves seems beyond his street-tough sensibilities.
A sweet aspect of this story is Lady
Bird's relationship with her father Larry (Tracy Letts).
Although his role as financial provider for the family has
diminished, he really is the glue that keeps the family from
splintering. He is willing to defy Marion's wishes and side with
his daughter regarding college aspirations, solidly assured it
will not affect her marriage to his wife.
Where does all this lead? Well, as with
stories of this nature, it ends at a certain point where Lady
Bird is where she thinks she should be and where she decides
it's time to resolve another issue that needs smoothing over,
but only time will tell if this will transpire. And that's where
Gerwig leaves Lady Bird. Like an effective movie that requires
emotional investment, it has us caring about this character and
hoping that she can endure the inevitable future bumps in the
BIRD" Official Trailer:
It would be no surprise if a survey
revealed that a lot of moviegoers admit that the proliferation
of superhero movies being grinded out by Marvel and DC has
become a big lump of too many brave characters, too many
villains and just too many fights to track. Marvel has flooded
the market with adventures of individual heroes and linked them
together with "Avengers" megahits in which all these super duper
characters combine forces. Now DC is following suit with
I don't know about other people,
but for me, the most interesting aspect of these superteam
movies is the interaction between the characters. They may be
united by a single goal, but that does not mean there is harmony
among the ranks.
This is the case with "Justice
League," in which a bulk of the movie covers Bruce Wayne, aka
Batman (Ben Affleck), as the driving force in putting together a
team of superheroes. He does hit it big by drafting the services
of Diana Prince aka Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot). Wonder Woman is
riding the wave her own spectacularly successful movie released
earlier this year.
There is a lot of give and take between
Wayne and Diana, and Bruce learns not to push one of Diana's
emotional buttons, lest he find himself doubled over in pain.
Clearly, Bruce and Diana are the
leaders. Their team consists of three other mutants. Barry Allen
(Ezra Miller) transforms into The Flash, literally blessed with
lightning speed. His persona is much like that of the current
Spider-Man as portrayed by Tom Holland, youthful exuberance of a
person truly jazzed by this superhero gig.
The other two on the team are not as
enthused. Victor Stone (Ray Fisher) is not shy about
expressing his misgiving that after what should have been a
fatal mishap, his father Silas Stone (Joe Morton) pulled a Six
Million Dollar Man number on him, replacing vital body parts
with technology, forcing him to assume the characteristics of
Cyborg. He has legitimate concerns about maintaining some
control over his vast powers.
Meanwhile, Arthur Curry, aka Aquaman
(Jason Momoa) is content to live a stress-free life rescuing the
occasional capsized fisherman. This saving-the-world crap just
isn't for him. Then an attack on his domain forces him to change
This team, though shaky, is potentially
formidable. But the consensus is that Superman would be a nice
addition. But as we know, Clark Kent, aka Superson (Henry
Cavill) is dead. Is there someway to bring him back?
And yes, there is the villain with
conquer-the-world, glorify-the-dark-side aspirations or some
such BS, the reason Bruce Wayne has gone into full recruitment
mode. In this case it is some nasty guy named Steppenwolf,
exiled for centuries and very embittered about it. Supplied with
an army of parademons that zip around like mosquitoes on
steroids, Steppenwolf is seeking three Mother Boxes he needs to
set in motion whatever hell on earth he wants to unleash.
Once the battles start, there is a lot
of action and these Justice League members take quite a beating.
But we know the bad guy will be vanquished and every member of
the team will play a vital role. So, enjoy the interaction
between the Justice League members, then dig into the popcorn
when the chaos ensues.
LEAGUE" Official Trailer:
"MURDER ON THE ORIENT
There is a generation out there that
think police detectives solve crimes by donning the rubber
gloves, picking around crime scenes and gathering the smallest
of evidence, sending it all in to the lab where the geeks peer
into microscopes and conduct tests, and computer whizzes tap
into the vast internet to unlock secrets that lead to capturing
Thus, "Murder on the Orient Express"
might be a revelation, a throwback to when ace detectives had no
technology, just a nose for details, intuition and keen
Kenneth Branagh has directed this remake
of the classic Agatha Christie whodunit. Branagh also has a
blast starring as the masterful murder solver Hercule Poirot.
Mustache and all.
Branagh surrounds himself with a superb
cast: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, Willem Dafoe
and Judi Dench, all suspects in the murder of one of them.
Those familiar with the story (and the
1974 version that featured an Academy Award-winning performance
by Ingrid Bergman and a nomination for Albert Finney's take as
Poirot) can sit back and enjoy the unfolding of the clues.
Others can join in the fun in figuring out who the guilty person
(people) is (are).
ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS" Official Trailer: