Directed by: Craig Gillespie
Run Time: 2 hours
Rated: R — Definitely R for Ridiculous amounts of the F#$% word!
In honor of the Olympic Winter Games, I felt compelled to spend even more of my free time watching competitive figure skating. As I’ve probably mentioned on more than one occasion, I love the Olympics. I was lucky enough during a semester abroad to finagle tickets to the 1992 Men’s Figure Skating Finals in Albertville, France and it was an amazing experience. I watched Paul Wylie (now a Charlotte resident) win the silver medal with a phenomenal routine and have been fascinated with skating ever since. But who knew that two years later this beautiful competition would become a blood sport?
Full disclosure—I’m Team Nancy. It still ticks me off that people mocked the poor gal for sobbing “Why me?” over and over after the attack. Call me crazy, but if you’ve dedicated your entire life to being an Olympian and weeks before the competition some big nut job attacks you with a lead pipe and bashes your landing leg you might wail and moan too! Putting that aside, I was curious to hear Tonya’s perspective on the whole nightmare and I hoped to gain some insight into her frame of mind. Read More →
I’ll never forget the time I went to see the animated version of Beauty and the Beast. At the end of the film (hardly a spoiler!) Belle declares her love for the beast which breaks the spell and magically transforms him back into a man. He stands up and turns to his beloved with bright rays of sunlight surrounding him as his human face is revealed. At that moment, my friend (who shall remain nameless) then leaned over and whispered to me in all seriousness “he’s not as good looking as I would have thought” which sent me into howls of laughter. The moral of the story was about looking past someone’s outward appearance and seeing the beauty within. My dear friend completely missed the point in that moment.
The Shape of Water has been heaped with critical praise and has received thirteen Oscar nominations. However, this time it seems like I might be missing the point of the film as I just can’t seem to get past a few critical plot points in the story. The film is set in the early 1960’s where Elisa (Sally Hawkins) works as a cleaning woman in a top secret government laboratory. Elisa is mute, but able to communicate using sign language with her friend and co-worker Zelda (the always delightful Octavia Spencer). One night while cleaning they meet Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon) a cold bully of a man who has brought a new asset to the facility. The asset is a fish/swamp creature that the Colonel has caught in the Amazon. Although the creature bites off two of Strickland’s fingers in gory fashion, Elisa is intrigued by the creature and decides to befriend it (this being my first Huh? moment in the film). Unafraid of losing body parts, Elisa brings the creature hard boiled eggs, then music, and soon Elisa is teaching the creature some words in sign language.
Elisa soon overhears the Colonel explaining his plans for the asset to Dr. Hoffstetler, the head of research at the facility (Michael Stuhlbarg). To study the creature’s physiology, they will kill and dissect it and use the information in their research for space travel in order to beat the Russians in the space race. The doctor disagrees with the plan as he believes the creature can communicate and doesn’t want it killed. Desperate to save the creature, Elisa plots an escape for her scaly friend. Things really get crazy then as Elisa manages to get the creature safely to her apartment bathtub where she realizes that she is hopelessly in love with the fish (this would be my second Huh? moment).
Director Guillermo del Toro has a love of monsters and of being an outsider. He has spoken of his fondness of old horror movies like The Creature from the Black Lagoon and how he wondered what happened next after the creature met the beautiful woman. This is where Hollywood and Main Street might not not meet. It never really occurred to me to think about the creature and the woman falling into romantic love and what might come from that. But what seems rather creepy to me is creative and groundbreaking in Hollywood. Elisa turns on all the faucets, floods her bathroom and has quite a romp with her very male fish friend.
I understand the meaning behind the coupling of Elisa and the creature—love is love regardless of our differences and two lonely outsiders can find true love. But it’s just such a stretch to imagine why Elisa would feel attraction for this swamp thing with his flaring gills and spooky eyes. Affection I can see but lust? Not so much. With reflection I realize I’m just like my old friend who couldn’t see the beauty in the beast but I honestly just couldn’t buy it.
On the positive side, the acting in the film is fantastic. Sally Hawkins is amazingly talented at showing the speechless Elisa’s many emotions as she bares her soul (and more) on screen. Michael Shannon just makes you clench every time his evil Colonel appears he is just so terrifying. Octavia Spencer elevates every scene she’s in but in the future I’d love to see her take on a role other than the sassy sidekick. Richard Jenkins is wonderful as Elisa’s sad and lonely neighbor and has one truly heartbreaking scene that makes you wish his story could have a whole film of his own. The scenery is beautiful and all of the nods to old Hollywood really do give the film a beautiful and dreamy quality. Even with all of these terrific elements in place, it’s still a film about a girl sleeping with a fish.
So if your tastes run more towards Hollywood than small town USA, by all means take in the many delights of The Shape of Water. But if you like your romance to be between humans don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Directed by: Paul King
Run time: 1 hour 43 delightful minutes
If we’re kind and polite the world will be right…
Based on the famous book series by Michael Bond, the 2014 film Paddington was an adorable story about a young bear from Peru traveling to London to find a new home. After fighting off the villainous Millicent (Nicole Kidman) who wanted to stuff him and put him in a museum, Paddington eventually found happiness with the Brown family. Fast forward a few years and Paddington 2 finds our furry hero still happily living with the Browns in the picturesque neighborhood of Windsor Gardens. Paddington (voiced by Ben Whishaw) is eager to find the perfect birthday present for his dear Aunt Lucy who is turning 100. At Mr. Gruber’s antique shop, he comes across a beautiful pop-up book that depicts historic landmarks of London. Since she’s always wanted to visit, Paddington sets his heart on buying her the book and looks to find a job. When a stint at the local barber shop goes horribly awry, Paddington becomes a window washer and works hard to earn enough money for the book. Unfortunately, the book is stolen from the shop by washed up actor Phoenix Buchanan (a hilarious Hugh Grant) and when Paddington attempts to stop the robbery he is framed for the theft and sent to prison. Read More →
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Run time: 1 hour 59 minutes
Do you remember the wild 1995 Robin Williams movie about a magical board game? Well a lot can change in 20 years and this Jumanji film is speaking to a whole new generation of kids. This time around, Jumanji isn’t a creaky old board game—it’s an Atari style video game. The game is discovered by four teenagers who are serving detention after school. Before you can say The Breakfast Club, your characters are neatly labeled: Spencer the wimpy nerd, Fridge the big jock, Bethany the princess and Martha the shy outcast. Guess they forgot to include a Judd Nelson rebel type! Instead of doing their detention assignment, the four decide to play the game and each person chooses an avatar. Suddenly the foursome is sucked into the game and they wind up in the middle of the jungle. If this isn’t bizarre enough, the teens are now living in the bodies of their avatars. Nerdy Spencer is now hero archaeologist Dr. Smolder Bravestone (Dwayne Johnson), the jock Fridge is now short zoologist sidekick Moose Finbar (Kevin Hart) selfish beauty Bethany becomes rotund cartographer Professor Shelly Oberon (Jack Black) and meek Martha is now scantily clad Ruby Roundhouse, a killer of men (Karen Gillan). Read More →
I love the holidays and especially enjoy celebrating with friends and family. While presents are a wonderful treat, a lot of stuff accumulates in our house this time of year! We get a lot of questions from family about gift ideas for our kids and it gets much harder as the kids get older. I’ve found that gift certificates for lessons and activities are the perfect answer for the kid who has everything. So if you need a last minute gift suggestion, tennis lessons might be the perfect choice!
I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Meg who is a multi-talented mom. We met years ago in my beloved book club and she and her husband John own the Charlotte Indoor Tennis Club. So whether you need that perfect gift for your youngster or you want to get yourself fit and fabulous in 2018, Meg can help!
Name: Meg Hollingsworth
Married to: John
Mom of: Hannah and Jack
Alma Mater: UNC
Years in Charlotte: 45!
My husband played tennis competitively as a junior, going on to play in college. After college he played in local tournaments and leagues and at Charlotte Indoor. When the club was going to be sold in 2012, it seemed to be a good fit for us to become the next owners. Read More →
Directed by: Greta Gerwig
Run time: 1 hour 34 minutes
Going to the movies is often a means of escape. You leave your typical life behind and travel to another country or even another universe and nothing has to be realistic. Animals can talk or gravity doesn’t exist or magic is alive and people can fly. There is an inciting incident that sets the hero on a certain path with a story arc that builds to a climactic ending and it all falls into place. That’s a classic movie experience.
Sometimes though a movie comes along that just invites you to live in someone’s life for a little while. That’s what happens in Lady Bird, where first-time director Greta Gerwig presents you with a year in the life of Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan). In this fascinating semi-autobiographical story, we get to be voyeurs in the tumultuous senior year of Christine, who calls herself Lady Bird. It’s 2003 and Lady Bird lives in Sacramento on the wrong side of the tracks with her mom Marion (Laurie Metcalf), out of work father Larry (Tracy Letts), older brother Miguel (Jordan Rodrigues) and his girlfriend. Lady Bird attends a Catholic school to spare her from the less than stellar neighborhood school. While the artistic Lady Bird aspires to attend a fancy liberal east coast school, her finances and grades don’t quite match up to that lofty goal. This leads to a long simmering feud between mother and daughter.
Eager to make her mark in her senior year, Lady Bird and best friend Julie (the adorable Beanie Feldstein) successfully try out for the school play and embrace their theatrical sides. Lady Bird falls for fellow actor Danny (Lucas Hedges) and the pair begin a sweet all-encompassing romance that perfectly captures that feeling of first love. Of course the romance doesn’t last, and soon Lady Bird decides to win over the hipster outsider Kyle (Timothee Chalamet). To do this, she must befriend the popular girl, pretend she’s rich, and ditch her best friend. As you can imagine this plan also doesn’t go well for Lady Bird. Her trials and tribulations continue as she heads toward graduation and makes her big decision about where to attend college. Again, this story isn’t told in a traditional way, but we definitely see the development of Lady Bird’s character in her senior year. Read More →
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes
While volunteering at the school book fair a few years ago, one book consistently sold out and every day we would scramble to restock it. It was a bright blue book with a simple cartoon picture on the front called Wonder and it was all these kids could talk about! I was eager to find out what all the fuss was about, so my son and I both read and loved the book. I was completely astonished by how beautiful, honest and impactful the story was. When I learned that Hollywood had caught on to this gem of a story and planned to make a film, my first thought was complete dismay. If they butchered this perfect tale I would never forgive them. It was with great trepidation that my son and I headed to the theater—we were both feeling extremely protective of the story and I kept wishing to myself as the lights dimmed “please don’t screw this up” repeatedly. I am thrilled to say my wish came true.
If you haven’t yet read the book (and why haven’t you? Go get a copy right now!) Wonder tells the story of Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a ten year old born with severe facial differences. Auggie has endured dozens of surgeries over his short life and has been home-schooled by his loving mom Isabel (Julia Roberts) when not in the hospital. Now that he’s healthy and old enough, Isabel and her husband Nate (Owen Wilson) have decided it’s time for Auggie to attend real school. While Nate is hesitant—even comparing sending Auggie to sending a lamb to the slaughter—Isabel is determined. The first day of school is nerve wracking for everyone—including big sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) and they all give Auggie a pep talk before he walks into school for the first time. Mom Isabel quietly prays that the children will be nice to her son—a prayer familiar to so many moms as they throw their children into the unprotected wilderness of school. Read More →
Same Kind of Different as Me
Directed by: Michael Carney
Run Time: 1 hour 59 minutes
My journey to discovering Same Kind of Different as Me started not by reading the successful book that inspired the film, but by reading the true story of a woman who read the bestseller and was so moved by it that she went on to do great things herself. Tasked with selecting a book for my fantastic book club, a tennis teammate recommended The Hundred Story Home (thanks Kay!) a memoir by Charlotte resident Kathy Izard. Kathy was so inspired by the story of the wonderful friendship that developed between a Texas art dealer and a homeless man in Same Kind of Different as Me that she invited the pair to speak at a fundraiser for the Urban Ministry Center in Charlotte where she regularly volunteered. Her encounter with the formerly homeless Denver Moore sent her on a life-changing quest to help with homelessness in the Queen City. Kathy’s efforts culminated in the opening of Moore Place, which houses over one hundred formerly homeless Charlotte residents. Although reading about the homeless problem in my city isn’t normally what I would consider an engrossing read, I could not put this amazing book down until I’d finished every last page. Many can relate to Kathy’s story of being a busy yet happy mom who comes to a crossroads as she wonders if she is meant to do more with her life. I highly recommend this beautiful book to anyone who hopes to reach their full potential in life (which should be everybody!) Read More →
I’m thrilled to introduce you to my friend Julie Jackson. It has been such a treat getting to know Julie and her terrific family over the past year, and I’m so grateful for her friendship. Like many moms, after several years of full-time mom duty she’s decided to ease back into the working world with a part-time job at The Produce Box. If you haven’t heard of The Produce Box, it’s a fantastic service that delivers local, in-season produce to your door. It’s like having the farmer’s market come to you! Since so many moms grapple with the issue of returning to work once kids head off to school, I knew that Julie would be the perfect person to chat with!
My Little Pony: The Movie
Directed by: Jayson Thiessen
Rated: PG (I can’t even fathom why this was not rated G)
Run time: 1 hour and 39 sugary sweet minutes
Because I take my love of movies extremely seriously, I sometimes venture out to films that aren’t exactly in my wheelhouse in order to broaden my horizons. I didn’t really want to walk into the theater of My Little Pony all by myself, so I coerced my 12 year old daughter to join me by promising a nice lunch date afterwards. Besides, she loves horses and once upon a time watched the TV series about these sparkly high-pitched voiced magical creatures so why not? After all friendship is magic!
Ponyville is preparing for their first ever Friendship Festival hosted by Princess Twilight Sparkle. She is joined by her besties Rainbow Dash, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Fluttershy and Rarity. Together, these are the “Mane 6” (get it? horse humor!) that are featured in the TV series. The ponies work together to finalize the details for the big event, even booking the famous Songbird Serenade (voiced by singer Sia) for the evening. Unfortunately, things go horribly awry with the arrival of the villainous Tempest Shadow, a bitter unicorn who turned to the dark side when her horn was broken. Tempest Shadow (voiced by Emily Blunt) freezes Ponyville’s leaders Princess Celestia and Princess Luna and attempts to also freeze Twilight Sparkle, but Twilight manages to escape in the nick of time. She then begins a long (and I mean long!) journey with her fellow ponies to find help and save the day. Read More →