First Reformed is a drama written and directed by Paul Schrader. It follows a Protestant minister faced with questions of faith and morality while serving as pastor of a dwindling historical church. While screened in August of 2017 at the 74th Venice International Film Festival it was theatrically released in the United States in May of 2018, which enabled the film to be considered for an Oscar in 2019. I liked First Reformed and was glad I decided to see it, as it is a decent story.
**** SOME SPOILERS ****
Reverend Ernst Toller (Ethan Hawke) of the First Reformed Church in Snowbridge, New York has been writing his thoughts in a journal for a year, that he intends to destroy. First Reformed is a 250-year-old Dutch Reformed Church that is facing dwindling attendance under Reverend Toller’s leadership. His teachings has taken the church in a new direction and away from its historical focus on Reformed theology. Toller used to be a military chaplain and struggles in the aftermath of his son’s passing. His grief is further compounded by the fact that he encouraged his son to enlist in the first place. Toller meets Mary Mensana (Amanda Seyfried), who is a pregnant member of his congregation seeking counseling for her radical-environmentalist husband Michael Mensana (Philip Ettinger), which further challenges his beliefs. Mary turns to Reverend Toller for support. This and trying to seek a deeper experience through reading Roman Catholic (Thomas Merton and G.K. Chesterton) plus a mystical book (The Cloud of Unknowing) also adds to his crisis of faith. This new spiritual direction leads him to seek support from a nearby charismatic megachurch, Abundant Life, which owns the historical landmark the (First Reformed Church that was once a stop on the Underground Railroad). In the meanwhile, Toller meets with Michael who explains that he wants Mary to get an abortion because he does not want to bring a child into a world that will be rendered almost uninhabitable by climate change. Toller listens intently and starts to agree with Michael’s beliefs. I am stopping here as not to tell the whole story.
First Reformed is a dark and mysterious story that takes a lot of concentration and understanding from the viewer. The story has potential and certainly interesting. Toller’s depression seems to transfer to the audience — we are saved by our curiosity, the excellent cast and their brilliant acting, all the suspense, plus the relationship between Reverend Toller and pregnant Mary. Also, Cedric Kyles “Cedric the Entertainer” stars as Pastor Joel Jeffers and gives quite the performance. This film gets very interesting but has an ending that leaves you wanting a little more explanation. All in all, First Reformed was acclaimed by critics, with specific praise for Hawke’s performance and Schrader’s screenplay and direction, and was chosen by both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute as one of the Top 10 Films of 2018. At the Independent Spirit Awards, the film received nominations for Best Film, Best Male Lead (Hawke), Best Director and Best Screenplay. I would wait for the DVD but do Check It Out!
[First Reform is Oscar nominated for Best Original Screenplay]
Posted in DVD MOVIE REVIEWS
Tagged amanda seyfried, Bill Hoag, Cedric Kyles, Edward Balq, Esther, ethan hawke, first reformed, John Elder, Mary Mensana, Michael Gaston, Michael Mensana, Pastor Ernst Toller, Pastor Joel Jeffers, Philip Ettinger, Victoria Hill
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a musical romantic comedy written and directed by Ol Parker, from a story by Parker, Catherine Johnson, and Richard Curtis. It is a follow-up to the 2008 film Mamma Mia!, which in turn is based on the musical of the same name using the music of ABBA. Both a prequel and a sequel, the plot is set after the events of the first film, and also features flashbacks to 1979, telling the story of Donna Sheridan’s arrival on the island of Kalokairi and her first meetings with her daughter Sophie’s three possible fathers. I really wasn’t interested in seeing this movie, however I’m glad I did. Mamma Mia! Here we go again was a pretty descent sequel with loads of good music. This is a feel good movie.
Sophie Sheridan (Amanda Seyfried) is preparing for the grand reopening of her mother’s Donna (Meryl Streep) hotel, following her death a year earlier. She is upset because two of her fathers, Harry Bright (Colin Firth) and Bill Anderson (Stellan Skarsgård), are unable to make it to the reopening. Additionally, she is fighting with Sky (Dominic Cooper), her husband, who is in New York. He thinks Sophie should forget about memorializing her mother’s life and come back to New York to be with him.
In 1979, a young Donna (Lily James) has just graduated from university with young Rosie (Alexa Davies) and young Tanya (Jessica Keenan Wynn), and is getting ready to travel the world. While in Paris, she meets and parties with young Harry (Hugh Skinner). They spend the night together, but Donna leaves soon after. She later misses her boat to Kalokairi but is offered a ride by young Bill (Josh Dylan), and along the way, they are able to help a stranded fisherman, Alexio (Gerard Monaco). Eventually, Donna arrives on an island and discovers a farmhouse. A sudden storm causes her to encounter a spooked horse in the basement. She goes in search of help only to find a young Sam (Jeremy Irvine) riding his motorcycle who helps her to save the horse. She and Sam enjoy a whirlwind romance.
In the present, Tanya Chesham-Leigh (Christine Baranski) and Rosie Mulligan (Julie Walters) of Donna and the Dynamos, arrive to support Sophie with the reopening and to cheer up Sam Carmichael (Pierce Brosnan), who is still grieving over the death of Donna and the only one of the three fathers who is able to attend the reopening. Also helping with the reopening is Fernando Cienfuegos (Andy Garcia), the manager of the Hotel Bella.
Mamma Mia! Here we go again turned out to be a good film full of song and dance, plus romance and happy times of an adventurous young lady who has sex with three guys around the same time and becomes pregnant. While the story is believable, it’s also sad because these three gentlemen were all willing to spend their lives with Donna. I liked the way the director combined the past and present, thereby allowing this sequel to be understood, even if you didn’t see the original. I thoroughly enjoyed Mamma Mia! Here we go again, which has so many fabulous songs, sung by Amanda Seyfried, Christine Baranski and Jessica Keenan Wynn, as well as Meryl Streep, who I didn’t realize could sing so well, to name a few. There is a surprise visit from Sophie’s grandmother who steals the show. Mamma Mia! Here we go again was well received by critics and enjoyed better than average reviews. I recommend this musical to everyone. Check it out!
Posted in DVD MOVIE REVIEWS
Tagged alexa davies, alexio, amanda seyfried, andy garcia, bill anderson, cher, christine baranski, colin firth, dominic cooper, donna and the dynamos, donna sheridan, fernando cienfuegos, gerard mlonaco, harry bright, hotel bella, hugh skinner, jeremy irvine, jessica keenan wynn, josh dylan, julie walters, lily james, mamma mia! here we go again, maria vacratsis, meryl streep, pierce brosnan, rosie mulligan, ruby, ruby sheridan, sam carmichael, sky, sofia, sophie sheridan, stellan skarsgård, tanya chesham-leigh, young bill, young donna, young harry, young rosie, young sam, young tanya
A Million Ways to Die in the West is one of the funniest movie to hit the theaters since “The Wedding Crashers”. I genuinely laughed my head off. I grant you, the entire movie wasn’t rip roaring funny but the many scenes that were funny, were really funny. A dorky sheep farmer/cowboy (Albert played by Seth MacFarlane) who is cowardly and afraid to defend himself in any gunfight, is in love with a society seeker who eventually breaks up with him. She (Louise played by Amanda Seyfried) moves on immediately to a semi-quasi wealthy owner of a local store (Foy played by Neil Patrick Harris). In the meanwhile, Albert meets the wife (Anna played by Charlez Theron) of the fastest gun in the west (Clinch played by Liam Neeson) and they fall in love. Of course I can’t reveal what happens but you’re in for some good entertainment. Since this is a comedy, anything I say will give away what makes this movie so great so I will just say “check this one out” it’s worth the time and money.
Posted in DVD MOVIE REVIEWS
Tagged a million ways to die in the west, albert, amanda seyfried, anna, charlez theron, clinch, cowboy, dorky, fastest gun, foy, funny, liam neeson, louise, love, neil patrick harris, seth macfarlane, sheep farmer