Fall Movie Review: The Laureate

This weekend I watched “The Laureate”. It was a little dry at times because I don’t care for films in this setting but it was an interesting story. “The Laureate” is about an English writer named Robert Graves who suffered from PTSD after fighting in WWI. At the start of the film he was a married man with a young daughter. His career and family life was respectable but he wasn’t satisfied.

Robert and his wife Nancy allow an American poet named Laura to move into their home and act as a tutor for their daughter. Laura is manipulative and a user. She also has mental delusions. Laura says she likes to challenge societal conventions but she is really just a selfish social climber. Her ambitions are more important than morals or family.

Laura thought she could position herself near Robert in order to achieve greater success for herself. Robert was in the flop era of his career. Nancy use to be cool but now she was a mousy housewife with a young daughter.

Nancy is a sucker who wants to be edgy so she opened her home and slowly her marriage to Laura who wreaked havoc on her life and ultimately destroyed her family. However, Laura was an effective muse and Robert’s career took off after meeting Laura. He is a writer of influential works from the WWI era.

The draw back of ” The Laureate” is that I don’t care for stories that take place in England around the 1920’s. Shows and movies like “Downton Abbey” and “Atonement” are very boring dark, quiet and dry to me. “The King’s Speech” would be an exception.

There was a point in this film that remind me of “The Color Purple” due to the exotic and exciting woman that moves into a married couples house. Both films take place around the same time period but the parallels end there. “The Laureate” is a good film. It’s interesting and it could start some good conversations. I recommend it.

Fall Movie Review: “Umma”

I watched “Umma” starring Sandra Oh over the weekend. This is a great movie and I highly recommend it. “Umma” is a psychological thriller with many layers. This film touches on matters of family dynamics, particularly the mother/daughter relationship, ethnic identity, spirituality and paranormal activity. It would be a great film to watch with a friend or group because it could initiate interesting conversations.

SPOILER ALERT

Amanda and her daughter Chris live in isolation in what seems to be rural California. They raise bees for a living on a farm. Chris grows up believing her mother is allergic to electricity. This is a great setting and set of circumstance for an eerie film.

Chris grew up without modern conveniences and technology which makes her a social outcast among her peers. She is home schooled and her only companion is her mother. Chris later finds out with the help of a visitor to the town she befriends that her mother’s allergy is a lie. It’s unclear if the lie is deliberate or a figment of Amanda’s imagination.

Amanda had a tense relationship with her domineering Korean mother. In an effort to be different from her she distanced herself from her mother, extended family. In the process she rejects society as a whole. Amanda never married. She had her daughter with a White man who played little to no part in Amanda and Chris’ lives. She didn’t teach her daughter anything about her Korean heritage.

Amanda’s attempts to not be like her mother failed. She was similar to her mother in some ways and had a complicated and controlling relationship with Chris. She also had old world expectations of her daughter who was born and raised in California.

I hadn’t heard of this film at all before running across it at the library. This is a great film that I think you will enjoy. It is creepy and has scary moments so it’s suitable for this time of year. It’s also an interesting commentary about family relationships especially the ones we have with our mothers. I highly recommend it.

Naomi Raine and Maverick City Music

Maverick City Music is a popular Christian Contemporary band. Christian Contemporary music has fallen off sharply since the early 2000s. It all sounds the same and the singers are interchangeable. Maverick City fits the mold. Their music is typical Christian Contemporary and the singers are talented but their voices all have a similar quality.

I feel like most Christian Contemporary singers are male. They sound similar to a lot of Alternative Rock Bands from the 90s. A few sound like Joe Cocker. I enjoy Joe Cocker’s voice but there is a man who sounds just like that in the American Idol auditions every year.

This describes the men in Maverick City Music. The White men sound like they belong in alternative rock bands and the Black men sound like Joe Cocker and his sound alike American Idol hopefuls. There are a lot of people in Maverick City Music. It’s hard to tell exactly how many.

Maverick City Music ends up trending on occasion because the singers make questionable social media posts. They have made political statements that rile up so called conservatives, one of their wives twerked in a wedding photo, the same newlywed couple took a wedding photo that simulated a sexual position. Recently one of the singers posted photos on a party bus possibly in the nude. That’s not even to mention their affiliation with Kirk Franklin whose family matters have become public.

Then there is Naomi Raine who is the star of Maverick City Music. Her name never comes up in the mish mash and her voice is outstanding. She should leave Maverick City Music where it is and start a solo career. She carries the band on her back publicly and probably in private. I’m sure it’s exhausting.

Jesus carrying the cross on Good Friday

I really don’t follow MCM very close and that’s how I know who the star is. It’s Naomi. The other people who’s names get circulated on social media are done so in relation to some sort of unnecessary foolishness they posted. I know Naomi because of her performances.

Naomi Raine carries MCM like Christ carried his cross with her beautiful voice. The rest of MCM is a distraction. The latest internet gossip about her band mate’s nude party bus photos would be a great opportunity to launch a solo career.

I don’t really care what happens with MCM because they sound like clowns. All of their problems start because of things they post on social media. It’s hard to tell if the members of Maverick City Music are even Christian because they were put together by entertainment executives the way Menudo and other boy bands were. We’re not dealing with the Mississippi Mass or Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir here.

Naomi deserves better. First of all the paychecks are probably kind of light with so many people in the band. She’s very talented and acts like she has some sense. She’s made a name for herself with her work as opposed to social media attention seeking and subsequent pearl clutching. I think she deserves a chance at a solid career away from the circus her band mates create every few months.

Fall Review: The Northman

This will be short. This movie is terrible. I don’t have much to say because I can’t really tell you what happened in the movie. It was about Vikings doing Viking stuff but I don’t know why they were doing it.

I thought I would enjoy this film because I enjoyed the TV series “Vikings” but this isn’t that. The movie had an impressive cast with well known actors. They couldn’t help. It was terrible and a waste of time.

Review: A Year of Biblical Womanhood

I recently read and listened to on audio a book called “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” by Rachel Held Evans. Mrs. Held Evans is a young, married woman with no children who describes herself as an Evangelical Christian and modern woman. She lived for a year under Old Testament law. The book was interesting if you want to learn more about the subject matter. “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” is well researched and informative.

Rachel’s experiment was interesting. She discussed submitting to her husband, focusing on domestic duties, covering her head and not cutting her hair for the year among other thing. I don’t feel like she came to any profound conclusions at the end of the year. She didn’t reveal anything that I found to be particularly enlightening. Rachel seemed glad the year was over. The book is a fine way to pass time and I learned a bit but it wasn’t very meaningful and memorable to me.

Summer Movie Review: American Gospel

I watched the film “American Gospel” over the weekend. I would recommend the film but wouldn’t describe it as good or enjoyable. The film is sad and disappointing but it is informative and eye opening. “American Gospel” is worth the watch.

“American Gospel” does a good job of presenting the gospel. Then it goes into the way the gospel is shared by well known American pastors. There are sharp differences. America’s most well known pastors are sharing a false gospel and their message gets shared around the world.

This movie shows clips from celebrity preacher sermons. The sermons can be described as blasphemous. They can also be described as scams. There are testimonials from people that have followed the teachings of mega church pastors and their regrets. A nephew of so called faith healer, Benny Hinn, who worked in his uncle’s ministry also tells his story in hindsight.

I don’t follow the ministries of celebrity pastors but for the most part I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt and hope that some good comes from their ministry. The exception is Benny Hinn who is obviously a long time charlatan. The revelations by his nephew are worse than I imagined. They are heart breaking.

There were people in “American Gospel” who shared their experiences following mega church teachings. One woman ruined her career and financial standing. I don’t think she worked for the church but she followed the teachings of a popular preacher and quit her job believing she would be miraculously provided for. She wasn’t.

The bottom line of the film is that the popular American Gospel isn’t following scripture at all. They preach a message that is designed to sell books, get clicks and views and garnish donations, not teach the Bible and save souls.

The film also includes the testimony of a family where the wife is terminally ill and their faith and studies of the Bible. Their story isn’t miraculous and wouldn’t make anyone feel like a special snow flake. But they share what God’s word did for them and their family.

I would recommend watching “American Gospel”. It’s well researched and presented. I think it is fair. I think that viewers can learn a lot about the gospel and the difference between what the Bible says and the message being shared by popular preachers.

Summer Movie Review: Spencer

COURTESY SPOILER ALERT

One of my rules for spoiler are that if a book or film is based on a historical event there is no spoiler. This is a courtesy spoiler alert if you don’t want your expectations of “Spencer” influenced by my opinion.

“Spencer” is the 2021 film about Diana (Spencer), Princess of Wales. The film takes place during Christmas season 1991. The film illustrates the burden Diana carried as the wife and mother of the future kings of England. The movie takes some patience but I enjoyed it overall.

Spencer was a bit slow moving in parts. It used symbolism which I don’t enjoy in books and movies. The musical score was also very dramatic and kind of loud. It was a symphony and it was overbearing in some scenes. The director was very artsy fartsy and indulgent at times. It made the story move like molasses.

You will be rewarded if you stick with it. The story comes together and begins to make sense midway through. “Spencer” is filmed like it’s a psychological thriller. The look is similar to that of “The Shining”, “Get Out” or even the “Friday the 13th Series”. It’s dark and hazy.

The film makes the claim that Diana was on the verge of or perhaps already having a nervous breakdown in late 1991. She had been in her royal position for over a decade. She was lonely and isolated. Diana was constantly surveilled and controlled.

At thirty years old all of her choices were made for her including where she lived and her clothes. She had little control over parenting her boys. Diana was treated well and respectfully but it was a matter of protocol. Everyone around her was loyal to tradition, patriotism and The Crown. There wasn’t much interest in Diana as a person.

Her only genuine interactions were with her sons. The scenes with the young mother and her two boys were charming and gave the film warmth. Her older son William was also loyal to royal protocol and tried to keep his mother on the straight and narrow. The boys were protective and seemed to see their mom as mentally fragile.

Diana’s relationship with her husband Charles was a matter of royal business. In one scene Charles justified his affair with Camilla by saying he needed two women because there were two of him; one public and one private. Charles was basically Diana’s boss and she was his employee.

The people around her including the queen played subtle psychological tricks on her. The queen made decisions to quietly let Diana know she was in charge and Diana was a political prisoner of sorts. Diana was the focus of intense media attention and she was not protected or sympathized with by her husband or anyone else except her sons. They were the only people who saw her humanity. It’s easy to believe that someone would lose their mind in that situation.

Kristen Stewart did a nice job as the princess. The casting was great and all the actors performed well. The 80s and 90s costumes were great. Diana was known for her short hairdo so the wig Kristen wore could have been better. It didn’t look bad but I could tell it was a wig. The stylist probably should have tried a weave cut into a short style so the hair would have more movement.

Overall, I recommend the movie despite it moving slowly in some parts. I don’t know if the movies claims are verifiable but they are believable. I like that the film maker was on Diana’s side and told her story.

Summer Movie Review: House of Gucci

SPOILER ALERT!

“House of Gucci” is about the family behind the famous, high end fashion brand. It was released in November of 2021. It’s long and a bit slow in parts but overall I enjoyed it. The story spans the 70s to 90s. I enjoyed the wardrobe and soundtrack. I thought it was a story about fashion but it’s mostly a story about a tumultuous marriage and family dynamics.

The film features pop singer Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani and Maurizio Gucci. Patrizia met Maurizio at a party in the 70s and she took a liking to him. They must have lived in a small town because she was able to find him after the party and create a meeting that seemed to Maurizio to be by chance.

The two began a relationship and Maurizio fell in love with Patrizia. The two married despite Maurizio’s disapproval. Maurizio’s family had a clothing business. They were successful despite not having the best business instincts. Patrizia came from a more modest background and had very good business instincts.

Patrizia’s instincts and under handed dealings made Gucci a very successful company. She also created tension among the Gucci family. Once Gucci became a top fashion brand Maurizio fell out of love with Patrizia and began an affair with an old flame.

Maurizio divorced Patrizia. He was very matter of fact and cold towards her but it was hard to feel sorry for her because of the way she treated Maurizio’s relatives and business partners. Patrizia thought she would be able to woo Maurizio back but she couldn’t. She became bitter and vengeful. Patrizia put a hit out on her husband with the help of her psychic advisor and friend played by Selma Hayek and had him killed.

I didn’t expect all of that from that story. I would recommend it especially if you enjoy 70s and 80s fashion and music. You’ll also learn a bit about fashion history.

Summer Movie Review: The Batman

I recently watched “The Batman”. It’s the newest installment from the Batman movie series that was released earlier this year. I’ve seen all of the Batman movies including “The Joker”. I wanted to like the movie but I didn’t.

The movie is very long and had about four or five different undeveloped plots and an undeveloped. The director was indulgent and threw in action sequences that are unnecessary and and others that are unrealistic. I understand that it’s a super hero movie but within suspended reality things need to make sense. There were gun fights in pitch darkness and an entire police precinct shooting upward on a flight of steps at Batman but no officers got shot. The writers and director probably just thought it was cool so they just threw it in.

This film had about four different underdeveloped plots. The movie just kind of meandered along. There was a kidnapping and a hostage taken, there were shootings, there were explosions and at the end there was a flood. It didn’t tie together very well.

Zoe Kravitz played Catwoman. I’m not sure she was even referred to as Catwoman in “The Batman”. I think she went by Selina Kyle throughout the story. She wasn’t very cat like and her depiction of the character was kind of flat in comparison to other actresses who played that role. Catwoman is usually over the top.

There was also an underdeveloped love story between Batman and Selina. There was a point where she kissed him and it seemed to come out of the blue. Zoe Kravitz and Robert Pattinson didn’t have a lot of chemistry as a couple.

Paul Dano is a great actor but his talents went to waste in “The Batman”. That’s the most I can say about that. Paul played The Riddler but there really isn’t much to say about that role or Paul’s performance. His face was covered during a lot of his screen time and it was hard to understand what he was even saying.

I kind of liked Robert Pattinson as Batman. The best way to describe his performance is Emo and it works out of the bat costume. However, his vehicles and tools weren’t as cool in this movie and this version of Batman isn’t as macho as others. I think he needed more machismo in the Batman outfit. But then again I’m old and kids are different these days.

If you’re a fan of the movies or comics it may be worth it for you to watch “The Batman” but it’s not a very good movie.