actors, Are You Not Entertained?, authors, Berlin, books, culture, directors, Film Spotlight, history, love, movies

Are You Not Entertained?


Tom Hanks optioned the rights to Erik Larson’s nonfiction bestseller, In the Garden of Beasts six years ago with intentions of starring in the historical adaptation. Add to that rumors of securing Natalie Portman to the cast with Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) as the director. What’s it all about? Chicago historian William Dodd passes the interview with President Franklin D. Roosevelt and becomes the American ambassador in Berlin in 1932. Dodd thinks it will be a simple job that allows him the time to be with his family and complete his historical research regarding the Old South. Instead, he walks right into the wasp’s nest as Hitler gains momentum and the insipid Nazi agenda poisons Berlin. It’s his beautiful daughter Martha that makes the story fascinating as her sexual promiscuity with Nazi leaders becomes the source of malcontent and disenchantment. I loved Erik Larson‘s The Devil in the White City. This one is just as good, if not better because it focuses on the American family trapped and pawned by leaders on both sides of the Atlantic. Highly recommend. 4.5/5.


Other than a bunch of Gene Hackman films for which I’ll get to posting about soon, these recent films entertained me:

The Shape of Water (2017) It’s an adult fantasy film. Don’t take your kids. Who doesn’t like a love story? Even if it’s with an amphibian? If you love Pan’s Labyrinth, you will probably enjoy the latest contribution by Mexican director/writer Guillermo del Toro Gómez. Set in 1962, the mute Eliza works as a cleaning lady at a hush-hush government facility ruled over by the sinister Strickland played perfectly by Michael Shannon. Eliza comes in contact with “the asset” and their friendship grows into love. Octavia Spencer played her character Zelda with snappy one-liners we all love, but the best acting performance goes to character actor Richard Jenkins as Eliza’s neighbor and closet homosexual. The ending may be predictable, but there’s abundant charm that outweighs the incredible scenes that ask the audience to play along. Magical Realism is fun. With the right mindset, you will enjoy the fable. Best detail: Eliza trails water on a bus window and the water takes shape. The poem at the close of the story is beautiful. 4/5.

The Last Jedi (2017) I liked it because they smartly melted enough of IV into the VIII to feel the roots of the saga. For example, it was nice to see Yoda again. I remember having a crush on Luke Skywalker in 1977 when he stood on that rock and looked at the sunset and his face turned orange with his name song in the background. John Williams, you are still the supreme manipulator of emotions! To see Luke do it again, different rock, a sunset, and his song, well, the 13-year-old in me shed a tear. It took me half the film to decide if the character wearing the foxy brown suit with the purple hair played by Laura Dern was a good guy or a bad guy (lady). I usually like contrasts, but my biggest flaw with all the Star Wars movies is “they” include all the cool technology and high vernacular that only an engineer would understand and then follow up that dialogue with a corny one-liner. It never felt right to me. That, and the puppets now have turned CGI, but they were never convincing. Frog nuns. Hmmm. 4/5

 The Meyerowitz Stories (2017) American comedy-drama film directed and written by Noah Baumbach (Francis Ha and Wes Anderson collaborations). The film stars Adam Sandler, Ben Stiller, Dustin Hoffman, Elizabeth Marvel and Emma Thompson. It’s popular to hate Adam Sandler, but when the man isn’t doing stupid comedy and sticks to dark, he’s very good at it. There’s a lot to love about this movie from Emma Thompson‘s hippy-drunk wife to the perfectly annoying patriarch, Dustin Hoffman, giving a convincing performance and supported by everyone in the cast. Want smart and realistic dysfunctional? You’d like this dark comedy about siblings learning to overcome and tolerate their overbearing father. 4.5/5.

actors, Comedy, culture, movies

Stupid Comedy


Stupid comedy is just that, stupid.  I am embarrassed how easily I cry watching a drama but getting me to laugh at a comedy is difficult. What kind of comedy do you lean toward? Slap-stick, raunchy, witty, zany, sarcastic, dark, or stupid?

It has been said that comedy is more difficult to pull off than drama. I believe it.  There are few good comedies out there, and we need them, for laughing makes us forget how very serious our lives are.

Your state of mind and age plays a factor whether you roll your eyes, chuckle or laugh aloud at stupid comedies. All comedians I can think of from the last fifty years have made stupid comedies that had me laughing at some point and almost all of them have bored me, too. Others shine in a decade like Jim Carrey but peter out over time while some have evolved and aged well like Bill Murray. I’ve chosen to spotlight a few male contemporary comedians who have made millions acting stupid: Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, and Will Ferrell. Let’s start negative and go up from there.

This is stupid. Why are you laughing? 

Who is the king of stupid comedy? It has to be Jim Carrey. Ace Ventura and The Cable Guy were brilliant.

However, Carrey’s serious films I appreciate more:  The Truman Show, Majestic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. I wish he would stop acting stupid and stick to sardonic wit where he shines.

Are there any good Adam Sandler films? Not many. But there are a few that charmed me.

Will Farrell? This is hard. I am not a fan. He’s overrated to me and I just don’t get his stupid humor. EXCEPT for one of my favorite stupid films, Night at the Roxbury (1998). Probably the music. Probably because it parodies Disco. Who hasn’t danced with their head sideways after watching it? Good for you, Chris Kattan, for ending on a high note and letting the stupidity go gracefully. Your grandkids thank you.

Mike Myers was a very funny man. I’ve laughed with him more than many stupid comedians. The Austin Powers series cashed in on juvenile puns and parodied all things James Bond. It was funny and clever. I loved his cameo stars, like Burt Bacharach playing on top of a bus or  Steven Spielberg back-flipping across a set. Fat Bastard didn’t thrill me, but it gave him practice for Shrek, and that’s been his profitable endeavor; he should stop while he’s ahead. But then again, wasn’t he wonderful in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds? Satire or dark comedy, not stupid, works better for the aging comedian.

I thought Mike Myers was super cool in Wayne’s World and couldn’t believe he was almost forty when Wayne and Garth celebrated 80s rock in a grunge present (Really? 1994 was 20 years ago?) I love Queen and “Bohemian Rhapsody” but I associate Wayne and Garth in the glorious Pinto jamming to the song whenever I hear it. What a great opening to a comedic film…great stupid.


Can anyone deny how influential Saturday Night Live is? It’s a post worthy all its own. What I’d be curious to know is what you think of the aforementioned comedians?