Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


Have you gone to the movies lately? Looking for a good new one to review is tough. So off I went to Booksmart because it had some positive reactions. For me, it was a perfectly awful movie. Okay, remind me that it’s for teenagers, but do teenagers really like it?

The premise is good. A party is coming up on the night before the high school graduation. Two smart, successful students who are heading for Yale agree they have been overly studious and want to cut loose for once. As they roam this evening with the supportive chemistry of their friendship, we watch through their eyes the unfolding of alcohol fueled idiocy.

The cast is capable. Kaitlyn Deever and Beanie Feldstein try their hardest as the two girls; Lisa Kudrow and Will Forte have the only sane scene in the movie. Jason Sedeikis is forced to play a fool. They become caricatures. To be fair, I must add that the movie has received good to excellent ratings from reputable sources. Maybe you should talk to others before you listen to me.

One other problem surfaced on that grim evening. A stultifying series of previews of coming attractions announced this summer’s menu for young people. Without exception, every one of these was violent in a way that just a few years ago would have been impossible to produce. The availability of the new world of sound and filming techniques has handed moviemakers the tools for terrifying audiences of all ages. “Violent” is far too mild a word for the previews I saw. Let’s try “terrifying.”

Though it is too soon to gauge the effect of this violence on young audiences, one thing is certain. Hollywood has made terror acceptable and is delivering it in sight and sound that rocks any movie theater. It felt like a series of announcements to viewers that violence is the world’s moving force, that every day occasions are cinematic sets for brutal physical acts. Is it okay to chop people’s heads and limbs off? To torture with frightening instruments? To suggest nightmarish probabilities? All this unfolds to horrendous noise. While not a graphic encouragement to audiences to commit violence, there is a strong factor there that is conditioning us not to be shocked by it.

What this new flood of fierce imagery does is to condition young minds to see brutality as adventure, and isn’t that already a problem in our country? We have guards in schools and police on the streets because of the new surge of shooting rampages and crashes. It’s happening.

These previews that I saw were followed immediately by that feature movie made for teenagers. Get a grip, Hollywood. Violence isn’t the only use for your new movie tools. Think about the fun of using them to flood our imaginations with some positive imagery that those tools have enabled. Imagine the fun of creating the excitement of stories about rescue and mystery and adventure. Please.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Booksmart
Word Count : 501
Running Time : 1:42
Rating : R
Date : Jun 2, 2019

This review was posted on June 2, 2019, in Comedy.

Magic in the Movies – Is it Over?

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Magic in the Movies – Is it Over?

This week is a movie critic’s nightmare. After reviewing the few excellent ones playing now, finding another for this week’s deadline proved impossible. It’s easy to pick a loser and trash it, but what’s the point? Being able to recommend a movie for quality in acting, writing, and directing is the fun of it. And then there’s the magic of a movie that has all of that plus an original premise. That’s what we love, isn’t it?

A few years ago, I vented my frustration, and I will reprint several paragraphs of it now because things have become even worse. Here goes: Much of the magic of movies touches us as we watch in the quiet, dark theater among strangers, and there lies the new threat. While storytellers will continue to write marvelous scripts, the magic of the theater is threatened by escalating prices that have caused a decline in attendance. A ticket plus popcorn and a drink has triggered their departure.

As this new century ticks away, technology is sending movies into homes via Netflix, On Demand, and proliferating streaming techniques. But what teenager wants to invite a date over to watch under the watchful eyes of parents? And what parents want to watch films in the familiar surroundings of their homes with predictable distractions?

Try hunkering down on the comfortable couch. Lights stay on because someone wants to read. The phone rings. The dog asks to go outside at least twice. The fire needs another log. Each distraction breaks the mood. Think about being in a theater. The lights dim and we slip away from the day we just had. The experience of laughing or tensing or crying quietly with a hundred or more people is the essence of movie magic.

As the multiplexes fold, we will adjust our living rooms for a better watching experience by dimming the lights, turning off the phone, putting the dog to bed – creating an environment as close as possible to the one we love. But laughing and crying and being scared alone isn’t much fun so we will improve the experience by inviting a few friends to join us. As we restore the fun of company, we’ll want a communal gathering place and the small movie house will be reborn, and then, because not everyone wants to see the same movie, the multiplex will return. Until then, we’re stuck with the family couch and the small screen. True then, true now.

When I linger in theater lobbies to talk with families, they all say “I can’t afford tickets and popcorn for my whole family.” A movie night in town can cost fifty dollars or more for just four people. For me? I am often alone or with a friend in an empty theater. It still beats sitting on my couch. Save up and see the sailing documentary “Maiden” in June. Great for all ages, it’s one of the best movies I have seen in years.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Title : Magic in the Movies – Is it Over?
Word Count : 495
Date : May 24, 2019

This review was posted on May 26, 2019, in Documentary.