Welcome Back Goldie Hawn!

Posted on May 11, 2017 at 8:00 am

Goldie Hawn returns to the screen this week in “Snatched,” her first film in 15 years. It’s a mother/daughter comedy co-starring Amy Schumer. Hawn is best remembered as a comic performer. She was a breakthrough hit on the television in “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” and won an Oscar for her first movie role in “Cactus Flower,” and went on to star in films like “Private Benjamin,” “Death Becomes Her,” “Foul Play,” and “Overboard.” But she is also a superb dramatic actress, as shown in “The Sugarland Express” and “CrissCross.”

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Happy Mothers Day! FREE Copy of My Book About Movie Mothers

Posted on May 11, 2017 at 12:01 am

In honor of Mother’s Day, my ebook 50 Must-See Movies: Mothers will be free on Amazon through Monday, May 11-15, 2017.Image

No relationship is more primal, more fraught, more influential, more worried over, more nurturing when good and more devastating when bad than our connection to our mothers. The first eyes to look at us with love, the first arms to hold us, Mom is the one who first keeps us fed and warm, who applauds our initial steps, kisses our scrapes, and takes our temperature by kissing our forehead. She’s also the one who keeps people in endless years of psychoanalysis. Mothers inspire movies in every category, from comedy to romance to drama to crime to animation to horror, from the lowest-budget indie to the biggest-budget prestige film.

There are innumerable ways of mothering, and all of them show up in the movies. There are cookie-baking, apron-wearing mothers who always know just the right thing to say. There are stylish, sophisticated, wealthy mothers and mothers who do not have enough money to feed their children. There are mothers with PhDs and mothers who cannot read. There are mothers of every race and religion and many species on earth and in outer space (remember Alien).
There are terrifying mothers who abuse or abandon their children. There are mothers who give good advice and endless support and mothers who push their children to take the wrong jobs or marry the wrong people. There are super-strict mothers and super-lax mothers, mothers who want to know every detail of their children’s lives and mothers who barely remember that they have children at all. There are mothers of children with special needs who fight to make sure they have the fullest and most independent lives they can. There are children who love and support their mothers and children who break their mothers’ hearts.

And there are those very special souls who remind us that motherhood doesn’t require a biological connection. Stepmothers and adoptive mothers are as vitally important on screen as they are in the lives of those lucky enough to be raised by them.

“A boy’s best friend is his mother,” says a character whose mother is central to the story even though she never appears in the film. (Spoiler alert: The quote comes from Norman Bates in “Psycho.”) In “Stop or My Mom Will Shoot,” tough guy Sylvester Stallone plays a cop who mother comes along on his investigation whether he wants her to or not. In “Oedipus Wrecks,” one of three short films that make up the compilation New York Stories, Woody Allen plays a lawyer whose mother finds the ultimate way to embarrass him. And don’t get me started on Jason’s mother in the Friday the 13th movies.

I have selected 50 of my favorite movie mothers, from films as varied as The Sound of Music and Little Women along with forgotten or overlooked films like Stella Dallas, Claudia and David, and Dear Frankie. Actresses like Anne Revere and Spring Byington made careers out of wonderful performances as mothers, and I have included some of their best. I have a special affection for films and performances based on real-life mothers, especially those based on the mothers of the writers who told their stories, like Sally Field’s Oscar-winning performance in Places in the Heart. But each of the mothers in these movies is inspired by the unique joys and frustrations of the woman we love first.

A lot of women have been nominated for Oscars for playing mothers and just about every actress over age 20 has appeared as a mother in at least one movie. From beloved Marmee in “Little Women” and Mrs. Brown in “National Velvet” to mean moms in “Now Voyager” and “Mommie Dearest.”  Oscar-winnng classics and neglected gems, based on real-life like Sally Fields in “Places in the Heart” or fantasy like Dumbo’s lullabye-singing elephant mom, biological mothers like Irene Dunne in “I Remember Mama” or step-mothers like Maria in “The Sound of Music,” these are all must-see movies.

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King Arthur and the Round Table in the Movies

Posted on May 9, 2017 at 8:00 am

This week’s release, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” starring Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law and directed by Guy Ritchie, gives us a chance to look at some of the other movie depictions of one of Western literature’s most significant stories.

The Sword in the Stone

This animated Disney classic about Arthur’s early years features one of the all-time great movie battles, between Merlin and Madame Mim.

Knights of the Round Table

Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer, and Robert Taylor star in this 1952 version of the story.


The striking visuals are a highlight of this memorable version from director John Boorman, starring Nigel Terry, Helen Mirren, and Nicol Williamson as Merlin.


This musical with songs by Lerner and Lowe stars Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, and Franco Nero.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The Python’s affectionate tribute and send-up is a comedy classic — and inspired the Broadway hit “Spamalot.”

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Two “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol 2” Stars Were in Another Film Together

Posted on May 5, 2017 at 3:31 pm

They don’t share any scenes in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2,” but they shared an entire movie together in 1989: Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell were “Tango & Cash,” one of the quintessential buddy cop movies of the 80’s. Remember this?

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Fast and Furious and Movie Car Chases

Posted on April 17, 2017 at 3:35 pm

The release of the eighth “Fast and Furious” movie inspired Business Insider to come up with a list of the all-time greatest movie car chases. Some of my favorites are on the list, including the early Steven Spielberg movie, “Duel,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” “Drive,” “The French Connection,” “Bullitt,” and “Mad Max: Fury Road,” but I’d add “Children of Man.” And “Transporter” is still my favorite:

On the other hand, Matt Singer says that movie car chases have gone, well, downhill.

These days a really good car chase is almost as rare as a Talbot Lago Grand Sport. Even the films that routinely feature car action, like the Fast and Furious series, focus much more on outlandish CGI effects (like cars fighting with tanks or falling from the sky and jumping between skyscrapers) than one car pursuing another.

That’s the biggest reason the car chase has fallen from grace, particularly in Hollywood. The studio franchise economy in 2017 is predicated almost entirely on the supernatural, the superheroic, and the fantastic, all of which are created by computers. Great car chases, in contrast, are created by real people doing real things with real cars. Big Hollywood movies these days aren’t about real people; they’re about aliens and mutants and transforming robots and boss babies and super soldiers and Vin Diesel as an immortal warlock with earthquake powers.

He gives a bad example: “From Paris With Love.” (I agree — awful movie.) He says:

It’s nonstop cutaways to multiple close-ups, multiple angles of cars spinning, cameras spinning, and the shots are all fractions of a second. Modern taste for chaotic, hyperkinetic editing does not jive with car chases. Even if there was impressive driving going on here, you can’t tell. If you can’t tell what’s going on, it’s hard to care about what’s going on….The imperfections in The French Connection remind us that what Popeye Doyle’s doing in that chase is incredibly difficult. His car is bound by the rules of physics, which will only bend so far. Superhero and fantasy movies are about effortlessly breaking those same rules. And if you can break the rules effortlessly, why bother doing it the hard way?

For more on the cars in “Fate of the Furious,” including the Lamborghini with no snow tires being chased by a submarine over the ice, check out this article from the Florida Times-Union and IndieWire’s piece on the crazy self-driving car pile-up in New York City.

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