Tag Archives: meryl streep

LITTLE WOMEN (2019) – My rating: 8/10

Little Women is a coming-of-age period drama written and directed by Greta Gerwig. It is the seventh film adaptation of the 1868 novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott.  This is a good version of Little Women but not the best version I’ve seen.

It’s 1868, Little Women introduces Josephine “Jo” March (Saoirse Ronan) who is a teacher and a writer living in New York. She meets with an editor, Mr. Dashwood (Tracy Letts) and gets her story published subject to considerable editing. Jo’s sister Amy (Florence Pugh), is in Paris with their Aunt March (Meryl Streep). While in transit Amy runs into her very good childhood friend, Theodore “Laurie” Laurence (Timothée Chalamet) and invites him to a party.  They catch-up right there in the street while Aunt March awaits in their horse-drawn carriage.  Later at the party, Amy grows angry at Laurie’s drunken behavior. Meanwhile back in New York, Jo meets with Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel), a professor who despite being infatuated with her, criticizes her work, which infuriates Jo. Shortly after, a letter arrives at the boarding house where Jo stays informing her that her younger sister Elizabeth “Beth”(Eliza Scanlen) has taken a turn for the worst, so Jo heads home to Massachusetts.

Flashing back to 1861 in Massachusetts, Jo and her older sister Meg (Emma Watson) go to a party where Jo first meets Laurie, the grandson of their neighbor Mr. Laurence (Chris Cooper). On Christmas morning, their mother Marmee (Laura Dern) persuades the girls to give their breakfast to their poverty-stricken neighbor, Mrs. Hummel (Sasha Frolova), who has five children, which includes an infant. Upon returning home, the girls see their table full of food, provided by Mr. Laurence. In addition, a letter from their father (Bob Odenkirk) who is fighting in the Civil War has been delivered.

So the above two paragraphs give you a window into the life of Little Women.  Remaking Little Woman has proven to be a smart move if you want to be represented for a movie award.  Little Woman has been remade more than any other film I can think of.  It is an excellent story of family, love adventure, drama and sadness about a near-perfect family.  Their ups and downs are pretty exciting yet pretty normal.  I didn’t love the flashing back and forward as it interrupted the flow of the story for me.  I actually liked the 1994 version of Little Women better, as it really made me feel like part of the family.  The acting was brilliant and the costume design was fabulous.  Despite some minor issues, I did like Little Women (2019) and highly recommend the film, it’s a nice change of pace.  In the meanwhile, Little Women has grossed $75,008,520 domestically and $108,522,277 worldwide.  It received critical acclaim and was chosen by both the American Film Institute and Time magazine as one of the top ten films of 2019. At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, it received two nominations, including Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama for Ronan, and it was also nominated for five British Academy Film Awards, including Best Actress (Ronan), Best Supporting Actress (Pugh), and Best Adapted Screenplay.

[LITTLE WOMEN is Oscar-nominated for BEST: Picture, Actress, Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Original Score, and Adapted Screenplay —  TOTALING 6 OSCAR NOMINATIONS]

 

MARY POPPINS RETURNS (2018) – My rating: 8.5/10

Mary Poppins Returns is a musical fantasy directed by Rob Marshall, screenplay written by David Magee and story by Magee Marshall, and John DeLuca. Mary Poppins Returns is based on the book series, Mary Poppins by P. L. Travers.  The film is a sequel to the 1964 original film, Mary Poppins and was released in the United States on December 19, 2018, making it one of the longest gaps between film sequels in cinematic history at 54 years.  While I always got Nanny McPhee mixed up with Mary Poppins, I now know the absolute difference, thanks to the sequel.  I didn’t particularly want to see MPR but I’m glad I did — it’s truly a fun, feel good movie.

Mary Poppins Returns, (MPR) is set in the 1930s London, twenty-five years after the original film. Mary Poppins (Emily Blunt), the former nanny of Jane and Michael Banks, returns to the Bank’s household after a family tragedy:  In 1935 London, Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw) lives in the home where he grew up and married Kate and now has three children, Annabel Banks (Pixie Davies), John Banks (Nathanael Saleh), and Georgie Banks (Joel Dawson). Tragady befell Michael and the children when his wife, Kate died a year ago. Ellen (Julie Walters), the house keeper  and Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer), Michael’s sister are helping him to raise the children. However, Michael has taken a loan from the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank where his father formerly was a partner before passing, to cover their living expenses.

William “Weatherall” Wilkins (Colin Firth) sends his associates to warn him that his house will be repossessed if the loan is not repaid in full by Friday. Michael and Jane remember their father left them shares in the bank that can cover the loan, so they searched the house for the certificate proving their ownership of the shares. During the search, Michael finds a kite for which he finds as worthless and puts it out in the trash.  While the children were off to purchase a few groceries for dinner, Annabel, John and Georgie, having taken the park route, separates from Georgie who finds the kite and tries flying it. He ends up being pulled into the sky, but then comes down with Mary Poppins, who decides to take care of the three children as their nanny and starts off by drawing them a bath, which magically leads them down to an oceanic world. Of course, Mary Poppins denied anything fantastical happened.

Michael goes to the bank to see if he can find proof of his father’s shares, but Wilkins denies there are any records of the shares. As Michael leaves the office, Wilkins tears the record of proof out of the official ledger and burns it in the fireplace. That evening, Annabel and John decide to sell their mother’s “priceless” bowl to pay off the debt. Georgie tries to stop them, and the bowl ends up damaged while the three were fighting over it. Jack (Lin-Manuel Miranda), an official Cockney Lamplighter, greets Mary Poppins and joins her and the kids on a trip inside the painting on the side of the bowl. The group meets the talking animals drawn on the bowl, and Mary Poppins creates the Royal Doulton Music Hall. However, Georgie is kidnapped by a gang consisting of a wolf, a weasel and a badger, causing Annabel and John to try and rescue him . They successfully do so, but end up going out of the painting and later wake up in their beds, thinking their experience was a dream.

The next day, Mary Poppins and the children go to see Mary’s cousin Topsy/Tatikana Antanasia Cositori Topotrepolovsky (Meryl Streep) to get the bowl fixed only to find out the bowl has little monetary value. They then go to the bank to give Michael his briefcase that he left home earlier that morning. When the children get to Wilkins’ office, hoping  to ask him for help, they overhear Wilkins planning to take away their house. Georgie started to see parallels between Wilkins and his associates and the animal gang who kidnapped him, so he interrupts the banker’s meeting. When Michael arrives, he does not believe the children and becomes angry with them for putting the house and his job at risk, as Michael worked part time at the bank. Mary Poppins takes the children home. They are guided by Jack and his fellow lamplighters. Without the shares and no hope for an extension on the loan, the Banks family make preparations to move out of their house.

How the Bank’s family and Mary Poppins resolve the loan issue is very exciting.  The family, Jack and all of Mary Poppins fantasy characters share in exposing the truth about Mr. Wilkins.  There are many more magical characters and adventures to come in this highly appraised sequel.  Right to the very end, there is magic in the air. Mary Poppins Returns received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its acting (particularly Blunt’s performance), direction, musical score, musical numbers, costume design, production values, visuals, and sense of nostalgia. It was chosen by both the National Board of Review and American Film Institute as one of the top ten films of 2018 and received numerous award nominations, including four at the 76th Golden Globe Awards. Children will love it and as an adult, I loved it too. The performances were outstanding, I particularly liked the character Jack, who was just simply marvelous.  You can’t go wrong with this one — Check It Out!

[Mary Poppins Returns is Oscar nominated for Best: Production Design, Costume Design, Original Score and Original Song]

 

MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN (2018) – My rating: 8.3/10

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!

 

THE POST (2017) – My rating: 9/10

The Post is a political thriller directed and produced by Steven Spielberg and written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. Set in the early 1970s, The Post depicts the true story of the journalists from The Washington Post and their attempts to publish and expose the Pentagon Papers, classified documents regarding undisclosed information about the involvement of the United States government in the Vietnam War. It was a very long war with no real theme which cost us a great many men. We the people have always wanted to know why. Still unsure of the logic behind this senseless war, only one thing is certain…

In 1965 , State Dept. military analyst Daniel Ellsberg (Matthew Rhys) accompanies U.S. troops in combat to document progress of U.S. military activities in the Vietnam region for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Bruce Greenwood). On the return flight, McNamara expresses to Ellsberg and President Lyndon Johnson his view that the war in Vietnam is hopeless. Years later, now working for a civilian military contractor, Ellsberg surreptitiously photocopies classified reports documenting the progress of the ongoing Vietnam War, dating back to the Truman administration. He leaks these documents, which detail more than 20 years of clandestine U.S. activities and frank admissions that the war has been going poorly, to reporters at The New York Times.

Heiress Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep), who succeeded her father as owner of the Washington Post, and whose husband committed suicide, is conflicted over preparations for the newspaper’s IPO, a move she recognizes as important to strengthening the paper, but fears losing family control. She lacks confidence in her ability as a woman to lead the organization, frequently “overruled” by more assertive men who advise or work for her, such as editor in chief Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) and board member Arthur Parsons (Bradley Whitford).

Bradlee notices Times’ investigative reporter Neil Sheehan’s lack of publication, as of late and concludes he’s on to something big. Bradlee tries to find out what it is but does not. Meanwhile, McNamara, who is Katherine’s long term friend, confides in her that he is about to be the subject of unflattering coverage by the New York Times that will include long term public deception. However, the series is halted by a count injunction.

Washington Post assistant editor Ben Bagdikian (Bob Odenkirk) tracks down Ellsberg as the source for the leak, who provides Bagdikian with copies of the same material given to the Times. A small team of Post reporters sort through the disorganized papers, trying to piece together parts of the larger story. The Post’s lawyers become aware of the project and advise against publishing the material, lest the Nixon administration bring criminal charges against them.

Graham fields the input and advice of the men around her, including McNamara, Bradlee, and trusted Post chairman Fritz Beebe (Tracy Letts), agonizing over the decision of whether to publish. If the legal fallout goes badly, she could destroy the newspaper she sees as a family legacy, but if they are successful, it could instead establish it as an important journalistic institution. She chooses to run the story.

The results of this story is well known but I decided not to post any more of the story for those who don’t know. At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, the film received six nominations: Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director, Best Actress – Drama for Streep, Best Actor – Drama for Hanks, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score. The Post is an intense film and is well acted.

[THE POST received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture and Best Actress (Meryl Streep)]

 

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS (2016) – My rating: 9/10

FlorenceFosterJenkinsThere seems to be a push in Hollywood for films based on true stories. Embellished as they may be to make the story more exciting, most are pretty good and add rather than take away from the events that made it worthy of a Hollywood film in the first place.  Florence Foster Jenkins (Meryl Streep) is no exception. Some of these films are about people a lot of us have never even heard of. I for one have never heard of Florence Foster Jenkins. I must say, it was my loss. It appears that Florence, an American socialite and flamboyant dresser, loved music more than life. She became a prominent musical cult figure in NYC from the 1920s through the 1940s. Madame or Lady Jenkins (as she liked to be called) loved to sing however, she was known for her poor singing abilities and allegedly had no idea how she actually sounded but sang anyway with the help of her beloved husband, St. Clair Bayfield (Hugh Grant), her voice coach, Carlo Edwards (David Haig) and her concert pianist, Cosmé McMoon (Simon Helberg). Florence was born to wealthy parents on July 19, 1868 in Pennsylvania. She was labeled “Little Miss Foster” because of her lifelong passion for public performance, which included a recital at the White House during the President Rutherford B. Hayes administration. At the age of 7, she was considered a child prodigy, as she was an accomplished pianist. An arm injury ended her aspirations as a pianist, so she turned to singing but not until her mother passed in 1930.

Florence had difficulty with basic vocal skills as pitch, rhythm and sustaining notes and phrases. Her intonation was inaccurate and she was consistently flat. She also deviated from the proper pitch and her diction was substandard, especially foreign language lyrics. A great many songs she tried to sing were technically challenging and beyond her ability and vocal range.

There may have been a reason she was so awful at a talent she loved so much. After high school, she wanted to study music in Europe. Her father refused to grant his permission or the funds for her to do so. At the age of 17, she eloped with Dr. Frank Thornton Jenkins. She learned that she contracted syphilis from him and terminated their marriage immediately never speaking to him again. Back then, the treatment for Syphilis was Mercury and Arsenic. Florence’s difficulties were possibly attributable to the effects of the disease, which in the era before antibiotics caused progressive deterioration of the central nervous system. Nerve damage may have been compounded by toxic side effects, such as hearing loss from mercury and arsenic.

FlorenceFosterJenkinsPIXAt the age of 41, Florence met St. Clair Bayfield, a 34 year old handsome actor who became her manager and unofficial 2nd husband until her death on November 26, 1944. Florence Foster Jenkins is quite the story — you may think you have gotten an earful already but there is so much more I haven’t even touched upon. This is a scenario I’ve often thought of but have never encountered. For instance, why didn’t she know how she sounded? You might wonder how she was married a second time to a handsome man that was so much younger than she (and the bigger question) when she has syphilis? How did she get coaches and pianist to accompany her when she sang so badly? She also owned a night club called The Verdi Club — she made it a practice to never sing in her own club so when and where did she perform? Her last performance was at Carnegie Hall? How was that possible? Who came to all of these performances? Also, Cole Porter rarely missed one of her recitals. She received fabulous reviews after each recital she gave, why? To get answers to these questions, you will need to see the movie.  You won’t be disappointed.  By now, you can tell that I really loved this movie. Both Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant deserve Oscar nods for their portrayal of Florence and St. Clair, respectively. Surprisingly, this movie fell way under the radar despite it’s great ratings. There’s a documentary by Donald Collup on YouTube and Amazon that tells the true story if you’re interested in a follow-up.  I highly recommend this movie, it’s entertaining, delightful and informative.  BTW:  Florence Foster Jenkins is considered “The world’s worst singer”.

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INTO THE WOODS (2014) – My rating: 7.5/10

IntoTheWoodsFor one, I love these new fairy tale fantasies. Into the Woods is well done. Into the Woods sort of reminds me of “Once Upon a Time”, which I watch on TV. There are a couple of similarities however, Into the Woods is big budget and brought to you by Disney.  Need I say more.  There’s not even too much more I can say about Meryl Streep except that she is a phenomenal actress.  Into the Woods is a delightful musical fantasy that takes Cinderella (Anna Kendrick), Rapunzel (MacKenzie Mauzy), Little Red Riding hood (Lilla Crawford) and Jack and the Beanstalk (Daniel Huttlestone),  and merges them together to make a new fairytale, with a twist.  It all starts with the Baker (James Corden) and his wife (Emily Blunt) that live in a house that was cursed many years ago.  The witch (Meryl Streep) will reverse the curse if the baker and his wife bring her 4 items that they must retrieve from the woods.  From this point, everyone is engaged with doing their part to get the job done.  Many lessons are learned and many penalties are paid.  If you see Into the Woods, you’ll love Meryl Streep as well as the rest of the cast.  Tracey Ullman played Jack’s mom and Johnny Depp played the wolf.  Christine Baronski played Cinderella’s step mom and was also great.  Everyone seems so much younger than I thought they should be — good make-up.  I found this movie to be entertaining with a good message.  The singing was fantastic.  Worth seeing!

[Into the Woods is nominated for Best Supporting Actress, Costume Design and Production Design]

 

THE GIVER (2014) – My rating: 8/10

TheGiverThis is a strange but enjoyable movie.  Meryl Streep as the head elder, certainly sparked things up a bit.  The Given is based on a book written by Lois Lowry.  This fantasy/sci-fi focuses on a concept that gives new meaning to life.  What if we could live in a complacent world where there are no wars, no killings, no deformed mines, no indecision?  A world where your life is decided for you, down to your occupation.  To achieve such a paradise, we would have to give up something.  If you think about it, you’ll know right away that we couldn’t really be our selves.  There would be no emotions or feelings and much more of our selves would have to be controlled somehow.  This movie delves into a colorless world without love and emotions.  Jeff bridges plays The Receiver of Memory and then the Giver.  The new Receiver is played by Brenton Thwaites, who is bound to change the world.   The concept is wonderful but the reality is more than man can stand.  Because of who we are and our curious nature, we must have reality.  The Giver is nicely done.  A little slow at times but very interesting.  However, you wouldn’t be missing anything if you wait to see it on DVD.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (2013) – My rating 9.5/10

AugustOsageCountyWhy oh why didn’t this movie get a nomination for Best Picture? There are 10 slots for Best Picture. August: Osage County, “AOC” or The Butler could have filled the last slot which remains blank. I can’t say enough about this extremely well acted and well told story. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and seeing. Before I saw “AOC” I had my sights set on a different actress for the Best Actress award. After seeing “AOC”, hands down, Meryl Streep deserves that Oscar. Over all, the movie almost resembled a play but was so well done, it just didn’t matter. I don’t think “AOC” has gotten it’s just desserts. Additionally, I don’t think it was well marketed. I was amazed at both the direction and the acting. A cast of veteran actors really makes this movie among the best for me. Contributing to the brilliant performances in “AOC” are Julia Roberts who plays Barbara Weston, Chris Cooper who plays Charlie Aiken, Juliette Lewis who plays Karen Weston and Margo Martindale who plays Mattie Fae Aiken. The film is about a highly dysfunctional family who got that way because of their highly dysfunctional parents, brilliantly played by Meryl Streep who plays Violet Weston) and Sam Shepard who plays Beverly Weston.

Drop everything and go see August: Osage County — it’s really worth your time and money. For me, this may be Meryl’s best performance, to date! Check it out.

[AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress]

 

ADAPTATION (2002) – My rating: 7/10

A Little Boring, Even for an Intellectual!
AdaptationAdaptation has the potential to be great but was a little too slow/boring and too confusing for my taste. Nicolas Cage did a superb acting job, playing twin brothers, Charlie and Donald Kaufman, with totally different personalities.

I thought too much emphasis was put on minor details. Long drawn out scenes about orchards and all the thoughts of Meryl Streep’s wish list for life, left me confused and somewhat bored. The movie moved back and forth through each character’s thought process leading up to the writing of a script that couldn’t get written because each character had a block of some kind. I hated the ending because lives were destroyed to get to the bottom line, a movie about flowers.

Because the acting was superb, I rated it 7 out of 10.  Adaptation took a long route to get to its destination. I couldn’t help but notice several people nodding off throughout the movie theater.  Adaptation is not for everyone.