Are You Not Entertained?

Here continues a monthly series featuring the music, the books, and the movies that occupied my time.  


For anyone who likes 60s Rock and Roll music and music history in general, check out the 2008 documentary, The Wrecking Crew.  On Netflix,  it is easy to be absorbed with a unique story about the Los Angeles entourage of approximately fifteen session musicians who made groups and singers like The Mama and the Papas, Elvis, and The Beach Boys sound great. Their names didn’t make it on the album, but for fifteen-odd years, they played on hundreds of albums and created the iconic sounds we take for granted today. 4.5/5.



Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride

What does Margaret do best? She creates a cast of characters, rich with dimension, and stages each with a different perspective about the world around them. First published in 1993, Atwood adapts the Brothers Grimm story, “The Robber Bridegroom.” Three friends are connected by Zenia, who rises to monstrous proportions and wreaks havoc on their lives. My favorite character is Tony, a professor of military history who sees the world via tactical advances and retreats. Tony plays word games by spelling them backward and noticing the how the spin transforms the word into a new connotation thus expanding her vocabulary in an atypical way. This is a clever example of how Atwood drapes details around her characters to breathe originality into her creations. If you appreciate character-driven stories, you’d like this one. 4/5.



After watching director David Mackenzie’s efforts in Hell or High Water (2016), I want to see his British prison film, Starred Up (2013)Taylor Sheridan has an authentic, dialogue-rich script on his hands. As regionalist American writer William Faulkner was famous for revealing the death and disillusionment of the deep south in the early twentieth century, Sheridan and Mackenzie paint a gloomy, desperate rural Texas. Add the outstanding acting by Ben Foster and Chris Pine, brothers who are a believable team, and Jeff Bridges who reprises his guttural mutterings from True Grit to play the smart, irascible Texas Ranger, Marcus. His friendship with his Mestizo partner, Alberto (Gil Birmingham) is endearing. 4.5/5


Hunt for the Wilderpeople(2016). The first third of the film was great. However, as the plot devolved into the ridiculous, I wondered what I was watching. Was it made for a young adult audience? The over-the-top she-cop (Rima Te Wiatta) made sense then. Was it a dark comedy for adults along the lines of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom? The violence of the animal hacking and skinning and the themes of death and hopelessness made sense then. Sam Neill performed well as the hairy, grieving misanthrope and Ricky (Julian Dennison) was at times annoying to watch with alternating moments of flatness and sincerity. The lush New Zealand landscape was a plus. 3.5/5. 


Dr. Strange (2016). I’ve read a lot of varying reviews regarding this new addition to the Marvel galaxy. Benedict Cumberbatch, who did his best to sound just like Harrison Ford, becomes the protegee under the marvelous sorceress, Tilda Swinton. I enjoyed the relationship between Stephen and Christine (Rachel McAdams), and appreciated the new spin on Inception/The Matrix borrowings of dimensional shifting and appearance vs. reality. The time-moving-backward scene was brilliant. I was less enamored with the talk and the trap of the golem. I loved the red cape that functioned as a cool suit of armor. Overall, it worked for me. 4/5.


Congratulations, Viggo Mortensen, on another great performance. Wouldn’t it be cool if your brilliant parents hid you out in the middle of the woods, gave you lots of siblings, and you all grew up in harmony as a cult of the Übermensch? Captain Fantastic is a heartwarming tale that satirizes everything wrong with modern society. In the end, the individual vs. society argument ends with a compromise. The freak must conform to find happiness. The conformist must break free of materialism and live pro-actively. Far-leftists and homeschooling parents will love Captain Fantastic. Survivalists and naturalists will love Captain Fantastic. There is a lot to think about with this dark comedy. Let’s all turn off the television and pick up a book. I’ll start with Chomsky. 4.5/5  

mv5bmtyxmjk0ndg4ml5bml5banbnxkftztgwodcynja5ote-_v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_ Manchester by the Sea (2016)Yes, I agree with everyone that Casey Affleck gave an outstanding performance as the passive-aggressive janitor Lee Chandler. He wasn’t the only one. His ex-wife Randi played by Michelle Williams was outstanding.  Lucas Hedges played the tossed around nephew, Patrick, yet he annoyed the heck out of me. Many people know Matt Damon produced the film and indeed, writer and director Kenneth Lonergan, created a realistic, Bostonian culture with all the profanity that you’d expect. When the reason for Lee Chandler’s despair was exposed, I wept all over my buttered-popcorn stained napkin. I am not suggesting there should have been a happy ending, but I hoped for some type of resolution or redemption. Instead, this is a tale of a man who is lost and finds no solution to his guilt. It’s one of the more depressing films I’ve seen in ages. 4/5.  

The Wrong Man(1956) This American docudrama film directed by Alfred Hitchcock starred Henry Fonda as Manny, a poor musician from New York, who is in love with his wife Rose and his two sons. He is a sincere man, who cooperates with detectives who claim he has held up various stores and an insurance company. His wife, Rose (Vera Miles), cannot handle the scandal and upheaval of her life. Bernard Herrmann‘s score is a chisel to the brain. Hitchcock includes ingenious camera angles like the simulation of Manny’s panic in his cell by shaking the camera in a circle or the appearance of the real thief transposed over Fonda’s face. I expected something more from Fonda who felt wooden to me. Did you think it was suspenseful? 3.5/5.


36 thoughts on “Are You Not Entertained?

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  1. Cindy, I agree with you on “Manchester”….it ended so abruptly, with – no spoilers I promise – it ended so abruptly with no emotional resolution, it was surprising….it’s a nice slice of life that’s been over-praised…as for all of your other selections here, great choices – thanks for sharing so much great work!


    1. I forgot, knowing your love for Rock and Roll music, did you see the doc on “The Wrecking Crew”? I found it on Netflix. I think you would love it if you haven’t already seen it.


  2. Great list of recommendations! I really liked Wrecking Crew too. No one is talking about it. Thanks for letting a documentary shine in the spotlight. I really loved Hell or High Water but need to see some of the heavyweights you’ve seen like Manchester in the Sea and Doctor Strange. Thanks for pointing out Starred Up too. Sounds really intriguing. I gotta find that now 🙂 Awesome retro pick to with the Hitchcock flick too. Awesome article!


    1. Hi Dan, thanks! I try to throw in an eclectic mix so hopefully anyone would have something to respond to and we can chat. 🙂 ‘Starred Up’ is recommended by those who have seen it. I’m hoping next month I can feature it here. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lloyd! Yes, the claims that Hell or High Water is a modern Western classic is true. It’s just as good as ‘No Country for Old Men’. The score here is cool, too. Of all the fine performances, the character Tanner played by Ben Foster stays with you long after the film is over. Really complex and captivating. Manchester by the Sea–it’s a downer, but the acting is superb.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Nice collection of films here Cindy! I really need to see Hell or High Water soon, been hearing so much great things about that one. As for Doctor Strange, well I think you like it far more than I did and I felt the relationship between him & Christine is very weak. But hey, to each their own right? Glad you love Captain Fantastic as much as I did, now THAT is a terrific film I wish more people would go see. Viggo rocks!


      1. I think Chris is a better actor than most people give him credit for. He certainly has more range than say, Henry Cavill. Btw, hope you’ll take part in FFTF today Cindy, Jordan is the special guest 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved Dr. Strange much better than Fantastic Beasts. (Just in case someone wanted to figure out which one makes some sense as well as doesn’t annoy you, while considering the Redbox or the Oscars.)
    I love Jeff Bridges and so glad you mention the camaraderie but need to mention (since my 31 year old daughter was upset about it) that the slight racist “digs” are all in fun and love but notice the other guy, Gil Birmingham’s character doesn’t do any “white” jokes back. My family discussed this for quite some time since Bridges isn’t as old as my Mom who never was a bigot like some people our age are or their parents were. . . I would warn people. So, there you go, folks. Not cool but I love the movie.
    The others were great reviews, Cindy!!
    The endings for both Fences and Manchester by the Sea were depressing, as was Girl on the Train.
    I haven’t seen La La Land yet but I have heard it is also a bummer but realistic. I realize bad male-female relationships are normal, in some respect, but making a musical should at least have a somewhat happy ending, oh well! Thanks for suggesting Captain Fantastic. I will try this one! 🙂


    1. You have a lot to say, today, Robyn, and I’m super-grateful! It thought the racist jokes do an accurate job of a macho male-male comraderie. I saw them as “bad cop, good cop” and downright almost a marriage where Bridges was the male and Birmingham the female. The expressions alone on Birmingham reminded me of many a wife who has to put up with an alpha dog who thinks he’s funny, but is not.
      I have been trying for a couple weeks to see La La Land –I’m promised THIS weekend I will be accompanied. I’m about ready to drive over to Sedona by myself and watch it alone. Capt. Fantastic is fantastic. I watched it twice and was enamored by everyone.


      1. Responding to a film and giving an opinion is welcome here. Over the years, I find there are a few bloggers who align with my reaction to a film and that’s comforting since I respect their writing and intellectualism. But I enjoy hearing why it didn’t work with someone else, too. It is very hard to be objective. The age I watched it, my mood, the time of day, my ignorance with a topic, my prejudices with a genre all influence whether I approve/like a film or not.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Your post on films brings to mind an observation that I make all too often. There seems to be a correlation between over-hyped marketing and lacklustre films, and conversely, modest marketing and outstanding films. I have grown weary of movie advertising that scream words like masterpiece, amazing, or boldly ‘the best film of the year’. Logic suggests that half page adverts are the last throw of the dice for a marketing team that know a film’s shelf-life is close. Forgive me for including this extract from my review but it may be interesting for some:

    “Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) has all the ingredients of a good film, including star drawcard Sam Neill, an extraordinary setting in one of the most beautiful places on earth (New Zealand) and a respected tradition of filmmaking that includes The Piano, Lord of the Rings and An Angel at My Table. But labelling Wilderpeople as “comic dynamite” and “pure genius” did not help produce as much as a single laugh in my cinema, although it would have been hard to find an honest label that gives the film any sense of purpose. But New Zealanders love it.”

    On the other hand, Captain Fantastic and Hell or High Water were under-marketed but are over-achievers. PS: promise not to take up so much space again.


    1. Welcome back, Cinemuse. Your comments, whatever length, are appreciated. I’m glad you feel the same way about the films I mentioned. You bring up a great point regarding the hype and labeling of films–rarely do films live up to their suggested virtues. The best film of the year, the decade? Add all the superlative adjectives all you want, I try to ignore it all. For me, a disadvantage of living outside a metropolis is the limited choices I have for going to the movies. I won’t pay for a ticket unless the film is special. I can wait to watch it later on Netflix, rent on Amazon, etc.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post! You’re the first person I’ve seen to mention The Wrecking Crew. The hubby badly wants us to get around to watching that. Does sound great! Need to stop putting if off before it disappears from Netflix. I’ve actually seen none of the movies you mention. Feel bad for missing Hell Or High Water. Manchester By The Sea just came out in the UK but is showing nowhere near me. I hate that. Everyone keeps going on about The Hunt For The Wilderpeople but I’m afraid I won’t love it like others. Suppose I should find out. So much to watch, so little time! : )


    1. Hi! I feel your pain. I live in a somewhat rural area that only show mainstream. I’m really picky about which film I’ll pay a ticket for. It doesn’t bother me to wait until I can view it at home. The Wrecking Crew is interesting. I got a huge kick out of the female bassist. She was a woman in a man’s world and held her own. There is a lot to appreciate and I learned a lot.


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