Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


It can easily be said that Widows is first rate on many levels. Director Steve McQueen and actor Viola Davis create a strong core for the movie as they and their cohorts break new ground for women in many ways. The movie has become a hot topic in long, favorable press articles that credit it with exploding the usual Hollywood guidelines regarding race, gender, sex, and murder. All true with one major reservation: is this an acceptable moment to have women celebrate their new freedom with guns and killing?

The movie opens with a prolonged love scene between Harry (Liam Neeson) and Veronica (Viola Davis) that establishes their passion. Shortly after that, Harry is killed during one of his criminal projects leaving his wife Veronica vulnerable to other crooks owed money by her newly dead husband. When she learns that Harry had hidden $5,000,000 in a now unknown place, she assembles several needy widows of fellow criminals to help find that bundle for splitting among themselves. All this will unfold in Chicago, the big city with its own deeply dark side. And so we have men, women, and a backdrop all involved in theft and killing.

Add to that one more first: the unpleasant fact that the moviemakers decided that in addition to breaking new ground for women they would show all crimes and murders in prolonged and full view of the carnage as it unfolds. We are treated to lingering shots of faces and bodies carved up and awash in blood.

The genuine misfire here is the choice of proving the equality of women to men in the one grim way that has usually been the prerogative of men: violence. Women have chosen alternative paths in the past and those ways are now gaining public acceptance. Let’s hope writers will begin to focus on some of the extraordinary ways they are now making themselves felt by solving problems in ways other than traditional male violence.

All that aside, performances by Michele Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Ervio are fine and those by Viola Davis and Liam Neeson are so strong that they literally become the impact of the movie. I am not asking for old-fashioned feel good movies, but let’s hope someone will film the amazing breakout stories of the past couple of years – the MeToo movement in response to the school shootings, the rise of teenagers in fighting the violence their elders continue to ignore.

The glorification of violence as women’s path to equal strength with men is unpleasant and childish. Now that they are no longer housebound as they have been for centuries, let’s write and film stories that celebrate their new freedom to explore their skills. The relationship between Viola Davis and Liam Neeson is a good start in destroying old rules, but imagine the great story that could have followed if each of the featured women had bold ideas in their heads instead of guns in their hands.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Widows
Word Count : 500
Running Time : 2:09
Rating : R
Date : November 25, 2018


Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Mission: Impossible - Fallout

Tom Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie have nailed us to our seats with suspense – again. As the credits roll for Mission: Impossible – Fallout, you are likely to sit immobile in in your seat in wonderful fear. If that sounds crazy, it is.

The tale unfolds in Belfast, Berlin, Paris, and London and we follow as the action moves through all the monuments we recognize and love. The secret, as always, is to forgive ourselves for not understanding the plot or the characters. Just listen to the music and watch Tom race through the explosions. The predictably violent sound track is a constant warning of what lies ahead.

Here’s the gut of it: Terrorist John Lark has designed a plan for the destruction of the world with three nuclear spheres that will do the job when one person has all three plus the key to ignite one. Lark’s plans are being carried out by his supporters, The Apostles. Where is the missing plutonium ball? That’s the gut of the film. Can Tom Cruise find it and save the world? Don’t worry about the world or the details or the confusing identities. Just watch the inventive tricks as they unfold.

Watch for a Paris bathroom scene of confined bloody violence, a nightclub scene of the same, and enjoy the sight of each horrifying switch unfolding under amazing light. We’re never sure who is good, who is evil. Watch Vanessa Kirby as “the white widow,” Henry Cavill as CIA operative Walker, villain Solomon Lane (Sean Harris) and enjoy a fine turn by Alec Baldwin as Tom Cruise’s boss. Baldwin drops a strong note of wisdom into the otherwise ridiculous happenings.

Whether Tom Cruise is riding a bike against traffic in a Paris tunnel or dodging bullets everywhere, the tension spirals up. Why are we caught when we know the whole thing is ridiculous? It’s simple. Cruise doing the impossible, especially in the melodramatic, ludicrous finale that absorbs a whole theater.

Why, I asked myself, am I sitting here tied in knots about whether he will fall off a cliff, be hit by a truck, or shot by a traitor when I know perfectly well none of that will happen? The reality of that is the music, the extraordinary filming, and the colors, all of which create tension very successfully. Don’t even wonder who is who; it doesn’t matter a whit.

One appealing thing in all the violence: Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt, for all his tough guy stuff, cares far more about one man or woman in danger than he does about the end of the whole world, and as he protects each one, we begin to like him. The plot? Forget it. Just look for the hints of good and bad in the characters. And feel yourself sinking into your chair hoping you can just disappear. And I ask this favor: During the last twenty minutes, see how much you can watch before slamming your eyes shut in fear.

Film Critic: Joan Ellis
Film Title: Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Word Count: 499
Running Time: 2:27
Rating: PG-13
Date: August 5, 2018