The Leisure Seeker

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The Leisure Seeker

Watching Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland create a movie called The Leisure Seeker was a positive prospect. Advance word promised they would travel from their home in Wellesley, MA to Key West on her promise to bring her husband at last to see the home of his hero, Ernest Hemingway.

Mirren and Sutherland. Each is known for making roles jump alive and they try hard here. Why then, does it fall flat? That’s not an easy question because it’s wholesome fun watching them drive south in their old-fashioned Winnebago motor home that bears the name Leisure Seeker. This American road trip is done well – campgrounds, casual conversations with strangers, small bonfires, and finally the stretch across the magnificent highway that soars over the water from Florida to Key West. That suspended road carries drivers not just across the multiple miles of water but through another emotional world that belongs only to the driver at the wheel. With no distractions, we have left the earth and travel mile after mile as if suspended from any world we know.

So, what’s the problem? Think of how ignorant we Americans often look when we root our stories in a foreign culture. The Italian director has done that here. Just before the couple heads south, we watch a Trump rally in Wellesley, one of the most liberal towns in America and one of the least likely to celebrate Trumpian beliefs. Later on, we watch Ella storm into an old age home armed with a shot gun as she demands to see an old boyfriend from years ago. Those scenes aren’t just out of place; they’re just plain silly.

But then we return to watching two fine actors chat with both affection and annoyance as they travel the country one last time. We watch Ella (Hellen Mirren) and John (Donald Sutherland) interact with love and loyalty sprinkled with bouts of impatience on Ella’s part. She’s not well either, but tells no one, and husband John is thoroughly absorbed with his literary heroes. Best of all, when things are going well we watch their appreciation of being free on the road together on a beautiful adventure.

They do this while refusing to tell their two adult children where they are, knowing those grown kids would have refused to let them board the Winnebago. One more negative is the casting of these two. Their son (Christian McKay) is a gay man who comes across as an incompetent nutcase without our ever understanding why. Although their daughter (Janel Moloney) seems slightly more sane, we are happy they don’t have bigger parts. Another minor reservation: can anyone identify for me the roots of Helen Mirren’s accent?

It’s a shame the final road trip given us by two of today’s finest actors isn’t better. If you go, just enjoy their efforts and plant yourself emotionally in the Winnebago as it makes its way to that superb highway to Key West.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : The Leisure Seeker
Word Count : 501
Running Time : 1:52
Rating : R
Date : 15 April 2018


Black Panther

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Black Panther

Black Panther is technically superb. It is also uninterruptedly violent. With apologies to the gifted team that made this movie, I’m troubled by the degree of physical violence that will be seen by millions of people. Here’s to the first person who makes a movie as good as this one where enemies outwit each other with their brains instead of their weapons.

Consider the strengths. Wakanda is a small nation of rock canyons, water, fields, and trees. Beneath that natural cover the small nation conceals a culture unknown to the world. How did this happen? Long ago, a meteorite made of Vibranium crashed into Wakanda and left rich ore that would allow it to develop the extraordinary vehicles and weaponry the citizenry has kept secret from the world.

The movie opens with the notification to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) that his father has been killed and he, the son, will become King of Wakanda. This is complicated by the appearance of Erik Killmonger (Michael Jordan), a villain who challenges T’Challa for the throne. Their rivalry becomes the battle line for the violence that follows as the story works its way toward crowning T’Challa.
Killmonger intends to win the throne with the high tech weapons in the hands of his revolutionaries.

That’s the background for a nearly uninterrupted explosion of violence in the air and on the ground by all the weaponry the Wakandans have invented that the world has yet to see. What saves things – at least almost – are the threads of talk that represent honest disagreement and genuine searching for a better world on the part of some of the Wakandans who don’t want to use their wonderful inventions for killing. Imagine a world where new technologies are used for fun instead of war.

Throughout, we hear sparks of the debates of today as they sizzle among the players. They ask, “Do advanced nations have a duty to share their discoveries to build bridges rather than erecting barriers?”

There is a wonderful scene here of the Black Panther riding atop a spiraling vehicle controlled remotely by Shuri (Letitia Wright) in her lab in Wakanda. Nokia (Lupita Nyong’o) wants to help the less fortunate. The narrow misses, the colorful battles – all are delivered in extraordinary technology. The women have the good ideas here and they begin to lead their new king in the right direction.

Murderous violence is born in the minds of men who then manufacture it and use it, but what if the country who had the tools refused to use them for killing? What if brains instead of brutality won the war? That twist could have been set against the glorious costumes, visual joy, and extreme action delivered in five languages by the genuinely fine actors in this movie. Imagine using these superb special effects to celebrate a country built on that kind of leadership at a time when the world is threatened – as it is now – by men like Killmonger.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Black Panther
Word Count: 496
Running Time: 2:14
Rating: PG-13
Date: 2 March 2018