Category Archives: Movies

Movies of 2018: A Review

I enjoy movies, I always have. I see more of them these days in retirement;  probably bacause I have a nice movie theater nearby, and senior citizens can get in for $5.  I’ve seen sixteen movies this year, more than usual, but 2018 was an unusually good year for movies.

That’s not to say they were all good. I saw some mediocre movies, notably Winchester,  The 15:17 to Paris, and most of all Vice, which was flat out terrible.

My observation has been that movie quality seems to run in patterns. Every other year, it seems to me, is a good year.  2018 was a good one, so I’m not expecting much next year.

Anyway, here are a few I liked:

Honorable Mention:

Starring Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi, Hostiles is the story of a Army Captain Joseph Blocker (Bale) charged with taking Cheyenne war chief Yellow Hawk (Studi) and his family from New Mexico back to their tribal home in Montana.

Blocker takes the assignment only under threat of court martial, as he an Yellow Hawk have a history as enemies.

Along the way the group crosses paths with settler Rosalee Quaid (Pike), whose family was massacred by Comanches. She was the only survivor.

There are solid performances here. Christian Bale is restrained and understated but delivers a solid performance.  Rosamund Pike ably demonstrates why she is receiving more and more accolades. Wes Studi delivers his best performance since The Last of the Mohicans.

A Quiet Place

I’m not usually into science fiction or horror films,  but this one definitely has a twist.  Directed by and starring John Krasinski (The Office), and co-starring Emily Blount, this movie is almost totally without dialogue.  Kransinski pulls off the seemingly impossible, holding the viewer’s attention, and keeping the audience on edge for ninety minutes straight.

In a nutshell, it’s about an alien invasion.  The aliens cannot see, but have such an acute sense of hearing, that the slightest sound brings them flying in for the kill. It’s tense, it’s scary, and it’s fun.

7 Days in Entebbe

I enjoy movies based on real events, and I am old enough to remember this 1976 event.  The film stars Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruel, and follows the events after terrorists highjacked an Air France airplane filled with Israeli’s and landed it in Uganda.

The terrorists demanded ransom and the release of Palestinian militants. The Israeli government instead took the audacious risk to rescue their citizens from over 3000 miles away.

Special Category 

Before I get to the finalists, there was one exceptional film, a documentary which truly stands out

They Shall Not Grow Old

Director Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy),  produced an extraordinary documentary to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Using archived footage from the British government; Jackson and his team spent three years converting silent black and white film to a full-color sound movie that is absolutely stunning.

The film is both a wonder of the application modern technology, and an emotional story that honors those who fought in that war. This is history coming alive like never before. It is well worth seeing.

The Winners

5. The Mule

This is not Clint Eastwood’s best movie. However, it proves that at 88 years old he can still act and direct with the best of them.

4. A Private War

I’m falling in love with Rosamund Pike. I’ve seen her in four films this year, and her best performance is in this biopic.

Marie Colvin was an American correspondent who worked for the British newspaper The Sunday Times. For twenty-seven years she was the Time’s foreign correspondent, covering wars and conflicts around the world, but most often in the Middle East. She lost an eye during fighting in Sri Lanka, but continued to put herself anywhere there was fighting and a story to report. To say that she was a brave and amazing woman is an understatement.

Rosamund Pike rises to the occasion, and portrays Colvin in a way that does service to one of the best war-time reporters of the modern era.

3. A Star is Born

Oh yeah, I liked this movie, I really did. I was never much of a Bradley Cooper fan until I saw him in American Sniper;  that changed my mind. As far a Lady Gaga — damn, that woman can sing!

Of course this movie is a remake of a remake. People argued over which version was best, but I say who cares? This version has plenty going for it and was a most enjoyable two hours in the theater.

2.Bohemian Rhapsody

I mean really, was 2018 a great year for musical films or what?

You either loved Queen (I do) or you did not. If you were a fan, this is not a movie to be missed.

Rami Melek (Mr. Robot) delivers an uncanny, wonderful performance as Freddie Mercury, the genius behind Queen. Mercury and Queen were outrageous and extraordinary, and this film delivers  by telling their story and by being filled with the music of Queen.

1.The Green Book

Viggo Mortensen is a really good actor.  In this role, based on a true story, he takes on the role of driver for jazz pianist Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali) on a road tour through the deep South in the early 1960’s.

The interaction of the two actors is supurb. It’s a gritty look back at a time of turbulance, though the eyes of two men from different worlds with nothing in common, and the bond that forms between them. Excellent film.

In a year of good films, this one was the winner for me.

Of course, most of these films are gone from theaters now, although some may come back at Oscar time. All should be available on DVD soon.  If you’re looking for a movie some night, you can’t go wrong with most of these.




Well Hello Mary Lee!


shark 01

Okay, I’ll admit it, sharks fascinate me. Of course the thought of being in the water with one scares the hell out of me, but as long as they’re in the water and I’m not, we’re just fine.

I’m also a major fan of the movie Jaws. I saw it in the theater when it came out in 1975 and at least once a year since. Yeah, that’s 42 times, but really it’s more than that. We watch it aleast once every summer, and inevitably watch it again sometime later in the year. I’m guessing with no exageration, I’ve seen Jaws seventy-five times. I guess I’m sort of a Jaws Junkie:

“It’s a Carcharodon carcharias, it’s a Great White…” 

And like the movie, we have a Great White shark hanging around New Jersey these days, and her name is Mary Lee.

Ocearch is a scientific organization that tracks sharks. They have been in business since 2011. Mary Lee is a mature female Great White they caught and tagged off Cape Cod on September 17, 2012. At that time she was sixteen feet long and weighed  3456 pounds. She is named by the way, after the mother of the Ocearch expedition leader.

Ocearch captures live sharks and attaches a tag to their dorsal fin, which “pings” a satellite whenever the shark comes close to the surface, allowing the shark to be tracked in real time.

In the almost five years Mary Lee has been wearing a tag, she has been tracked for almost 40,000 miles. She has traveled up and down the East Coast, from Cape Cod to Florida. She has gone east as far as Bermuda, and quite recently been as close as one mile off the Ocean City, NJ beaches.

The thing that’s interesting about Mary Lee, is that while she is tracked almost daily, she has not actually been seen in years, giving rise to speculation that she may be considerably larger these days.  Tracking provides  location data, but there are still gaps.

Why, for instance, does Mary Lee go up and down the coast, back and forth on a regular basis? There have been suggestions that she has a boyfriend who hangs out in Cape Cod, and she goes to visit, gets pregnant, then heads out to sea to deliver her pups. No one really knows.

We do know she’s become very popular. She even has a Twitter account, @MaryLeeShark, with over 115, 000 followers, and a Facebook page with 70,000 likes. Local newscasts up and down the coast follow her progress, and report it an on-going basis.

As with many things, Jaws has a basis in reality. In 1916, five people were killed by a shark in New Jersey; in Beach Haven, Spring Lake, and sixteen miles up the Matawan Creek. Author Peter Benchley denied that this was inspriration for his novel, but read the link at the bottom of the page and see what you think.

There are more than 480 species of sharks, but the Great White is the best know (possibly because of the movie), one of the largest, and certainly the most feared. A full grown Great White can easily exceed twenty feet in length, and weight 4300 pounds.  Between 1958 – 2014, there were 2899 reported shark attacks on humans,  548 fatal, around the world.  About seventy attacks are reported every year.

The Great White shark is ancient, and fossils going back sixteen million years have been found. They are found around the world, but prefer water temperatures between 54-75 degrees (F), which is why they are so prominant off the US East Coast. Click the links below for all the information about the Great White you might ever want.

Me — I just checked on Mary Lee. As I finish writing this, she’s cruising back and forth between Ocean City and Sea Isle City New Jersey. She’s just a few miles off shore, swimming back and forth, and back and forth.

So if you’re down the Jersey shore this summer, take a look out toward the horizon — not that far out, actually. She’s out there, all two tons of her, and I’m sure she’d love to meet you.  :-)

Live Link to Mary Lee

Mary Lee Facebook Page

The Shark Attacks that were the Inspiration for Jaws –Smithsonian Magazine

Shark Attacks

Great White Shark — Wikipedia

Sports Movies



Let me start off my saying I am not much of a sports fan. When I was a kid I followed baseball and collected baseball cards. In the mid 70’s, I followed hockey and the Philadelphia Flyers through their first Stanley Cup win. But that’s about it. I have my opinions about professional sports today, but I’ll keep them to myself.

What I do enjoy are sports movies. Football, baseball, hockey; I enjoy them all. I enjoy them because to me they are about what sports can really be, a metaphor about life.

My idea for writing this came after I sat down the other night and re-watched the movie Invincible:

I liked Invincible for a few obvious reasons: It was about my local team, the Philadelphia Eagles, and it was a true story; the story of the most unlikely player to ever make the NFL.

The movie is uplifting and fun, but most of all it’s about the underdog having his day in the sun.

Thinking about this, I realized that almost every sports movie made follows this same theme – overcoming all odds. Virtually every sport has had movies like this, and I’ve enjoyed almost every one. There are football movies:

The Replacements

Remember the Titans

Honorable mention: Rudy,  Brian’s Song,  Any Given Sunday , The Blind Side.

Then there’s baseball:

Field of Dreams

Major League

Honorable mention: The Natural, The Babe, Eight Men Out,  Cobb

and there is Hockey:


Slap Shot

Basketball Movies:


I started making a list of sports movie and discovered there are far more than I realized, covering every imaginable sport. I’ve seen most of them, often more than once. Besides the clips here, there are any number of heart warming and inspiring movies: Chariots of Fire, Seabiscuit, A League of Their Own, Friday Night Lights, Bull Durham, The Bad News Bears.

I think one thing sports movies do is remind us what we can find inside ourselves, if we dig deep. The characters in these movies, often based on real-life people, aren’t super heros. They are regular people who overcame obstacles, sometimes great ones, to achieve a goal. Their purpose is to inspire, to pull us to our feet, to believe that even what seems impossible might be possible afterall. Underdogs can be heros.

And finally, the quintessential underdog movie:


Movies of the 1960’s (Part One)

A confession: There are all kinds of things going on in the world today which are extremely bothersome. Almost any reading of the news of the day or the plethora of blogs online can bring even the most upbeat person to despair. Were I to write about any or many of these things, I could be bloviating forever. But I choose not to.

Perhaps because I am old, I am not happy with the world today. I see so many things that disturb me that I’ve learned I must my limit exposure to them, if only for my own peace of mind.  The earlier decades of my life were much simpler, and I believe, better. Because of this, I think I tend to want to write about those times rather than current events.

Writing about things in the past makes me happy. The happiness is bittersweet, to be sure, but remembering the good things from back then seems more pleasing than grappling with the unpleasant realities of today.

I look backward because I cannot look forward, and choose not to look at the present. Moving on, let’s talk about old movies:

Movies shaped our lives back in the day. They were fewer and far more significant than movies today. They were produced by the major Hollywood studios, and often were big-budget productions.

I say they shaped our lives because they were the major entertainment medium. Television was still primitive; black and white small screens and limited programming. Nothing on TV could remotely compare to the big screen.

Going to the movies then was a big event. Adults actually got dressed up to go; men in coats and ties, and women in dresses.

When a new movie was coming out, everyone knew about it. Since people were going to movie theaters regularly, previews, or trailers as they are known today, were very important.

There was no movie rating system back then. All movies were “G” rated, subject to one’s parents permission. Profanity in the movie was almost non-existent. Aside from Clark Gable’s “Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn”, in Gone with the Wind from the 1930’s, movies were squeeky clean.

Here are some of the movies I remember well from back then:

The Magnificent Seven (1960)

The Magnificent Seven came out in 1960. I was fifteen years old. I remember seeing it in the movie theater, the only place it was possible to see a movie back then. Brenner, McQueen, Bronson,Coburn, all the movie heros of the day. Good guys versus bad guys. Action, adventure, shooting, riding, saving the town — all the elements of a great movie.

Simpler times, and to me, better times. Men were men, women were women, and best of all, there were cowboys. The movie covered all of the stereotypes of the day: Rugged “gunslingers”, men who made a living selling their skills; ruthless bandits, taking from the weak and helpless, robbing and killing at will; and the defenseless villagers, unable to fight the bad guys without the help of the seven heros riding to their rescue.

By today’s standards, the movie was predictable: You knew the good guys were going to win. Back then, the good guys (almost) always won, but if they lost, they did so as heros.

And man oh man, what heros!

Yul Brenner: I mean, what was he anyway? Chinese? Very exotic looking guy. Turns out he was actually Russian, and his mother was part Mongolian, hence his looks. Most of us only knew him from his role as the King of Siam in The King and I. Now here he was a cowboy! And he was bald! And what a cowboy! Gunslinger personified. Cool, quick on the draw, an obvious leader of good guys.

Steve McQueen: Coolest of the cool. The quintessential rebel. A rebel in real life too. He joined the Marine Corps in 1947, and was demoted to Private seven times. Even during his younger years, McQueen ran away from home at the age of fourteen to join the circus, was a member of a gang, and served time in reform school. In The Magnificent Seven, he was Brenner’s number two guy; covering his back and always ready for the fight.

James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn… This ensemble cast was extremely well created. More than half a century later, I can remember my friends and I jumping up and down cheering for this bunch of good guys.

And the music: The Magnificent Seven had one of the most memorable theme songs in movie history. Play the song to anyone from my generation, and they will immediately know it: bomp, bomp bom bomp, bom bom bom bomp bom bomp….


 West Side Story (1961)

My first musical. I hated it when I saw it in the theater for the first time, especially all the faggy singing and dancing. But…the girls all loved it, so it was smart to say you loved it too. One thing I remember from them was the influence on clothing: the Sharks all wore colorful shirts and tight black pants. Soon we too were wearing similar outfits. I had a purple/red shirt that I thought was supremely cool.

As suburban kids, we didn’t quite grasp the whole gang thing in the movie, but I doubt that even back then the gangs danced as much as these guys. I certainly didn’t know anyone who could dance like that.

But West Side Story wasn’t about gangs anyway; it was a romance movie, which is why all the girls loved it. It was  Romeo and Juliet in the Big Apple.

The movie did have some pretty good music, and that’s about all I have to say about it.

  Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

My favorite movie of all time. Lawrence of Arabia was massive, filmed against panoramic vistas with a cast of thousands (literally). This was an era decades before CGI, so producing a scene with a thousand warriors required a thousand extras, no small feat.

Perhaps as much as anything, this film was based on a real person. It may have been the first history-based movie I ever saw. T.E. Lawrence was a most unusual man. There’s no doubt he was brilliant. He was eccentric, and he may have been a little insane, but he was a military genius. Many of his actions during World War I played a major factor in shaping the Middle East of today.

The movie had a huge cast of international stars, led by Peter O’Toole as Lawrence. The movie took over seventeen months to film in Jordan and Morocco. One scene, recreating the attack on Aqaba, required the construction of over 300 buildings to recreate the town as it was during WWI. The film was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture. Peter O’Toole was nominated for Best Actor, but lost out that year to Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird.

The film, and it’s musical score are on many different lists as one of the best movies of all time.

 The Great Escape (1963)

War movies were very popular in the 60’s, war in this case meaning The Big One, World War II. War movies were not terribly realistic then, and were always good guys versus bad guys themed.

This film depicted the lives of Allied prisoners in a German prisoner of war camp, and their attempt to escape. Typically, the American and allied prisoners were the good guys, heroic, caring, and of fine moral character. The Nazis of course, were cruel and treacherous.

The cast included several who also appeared in The Magnificent Seven: Steve Mcqueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, as well as other famous stars of the day including James Garner.

Like many of the others, The Great Escape was very predictable, but we didn’t care. Back then, we believed the Americans were always the good guys, and the good guys always won. Simpler times, better times.

Dr. Strangelove (1964)

No one would deny that Stanley Kubrick created unusual films. His film Dr. Strangelove was no exception, turning the entire cold war mentality into a satiric punchline. Dr. Strangelove was a cosmic leap of change in movies. Nothing was sacred any longer, and anything could be laughed at.

I grew up during the Cold War. We truly believed that nuclear war with the “Ruskies” was a real possibility. In grade school, we had “duck and cover” drills, when we would hide under our desks in the event of a nuclear attack. Especially after the Cuban Missle Crisis of 1962, we thought World War III was just around the corner. And no one would make fun of that — except Stanley Kubrick.

The movie starred Peter Sellers (playing three different roles), George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Keenan Wynn, and Slim Pickens.

It’s difficult to describe the shock value of this satire today, but back then this film had a significant impact. It was certainly groundbreaking, and probably played a role in changing movies that came later.

Coming (eventually): Movies of the 1960’s (Part Two).