Archives August 2021


In a word:  Breathtaking

It’s all about the life and troubled times of the “Queen of Soul” ArethaFranklin, who died at age 76 in 2018 from pancreatic cancer. Without question she was a powerful influence on pop music throughout her life, starting at the tender age of eight. 

Born in Detroit in 1942, Aretha’s life was dominated as a child, and her early adulthood, by an overbearing preacher dad, adroitly played by journeyman actor, Forest Whitaker whose obsession to keep Aretha attached exclusively to the church did his child more harm than good.  

Nevertheless, her world of music blossomed while greedy promoters and agents tried to selfishly navigate her career. Two of them enjoyed short marriages with her until she had enough from the moochers.

Much like other detailed bios of people famous in entertainment, Aretha had her share of darkness behind the scenes, which eventually were stained with the abuse of alcohol. 

Of particular interest, being a mid-level musician (violin) who never accepted “soul” before, I became more fascinated with the sounds than ever before, finding myself involuntarily moving to the rhythms.  Boy, could that woman sing. 

I never knew that Respect was her greatest selling song title of all time, right behind 
Amazing Grace.

Trivia time: This movie was in the works for 4-5 years before it hit the silver screen. Aretha Franklin personally selected Jennifer Hudson to play the role of young Aretha. Miss Hundson, has already won one supporting Oscar for her part in Dreamgirls in 2006. Also, this was the third movie starring Jennifer Hudson and Forest Whitaker together as a father and daughter. By the way, Aretha was the first women elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. 

I found a few flaws in the settings, particularly with autos that didn’t match the period. 
I thought the youngster who played child version of Aretha was not convincing. Most of the acting was otherwise very good, particularly the primary actors. Aretha’s two
backup singers were seemingly as good as Aretha herself. As it turned out, they were her sisters.

I’m sure much was omitted about her array of personal struggles. But the basis for her incredible musical life was abundantly provided. It sure moved me. 

I give this movie a 9 out of 10.

I had to attach this link, which is the 1967 sound of Aretha and her back-ups singing Respect. It creates involuntary body motion. Believe Me

Aretha Franklin – Respect [1967] (Aretha’s Original Version) – YouTube 

Respect (2021) – IMDb  


In a word: Intense

This is a powerful story which intensifies as the movie captivates for 2 hours and 30 minutes. No doubt there will be Oscar nominees, most significantly earned by Matt Damon who won his first Oscar for “Good Will Hunting” in 1998. In this film, Damon plays a middle aged, “Bill,” a rugged down-and-out, blue-collar construction worker finally trying to get his life in order. In an effort to try and resolve old wounds, travels to Marseilles, France where he visits his adult daughter who is serving prison time for her role in the death of her girlfriend five years earlier. She begs his assistance in finding that she is truly innocent.

The goal becomes an obsession.

“Bill” meets a local French woman, the mother of a 10 year-old girl (Maya)who will help him with translating French to English as he goes about searching for clues and suspects, that the police hadn’t followed. Naturally, the young daughter pleads sorrowfully with her dad to help earn her freedom from the horrors of prison life. As could be imagined, “Bill” runs into a myriad of sordid people in the city, one of whom is a likely suspect. “Bill,” meanwhile, moves in with his single French translator where he establishes a warm and loving relationship, not only with the woman, but with her child daughter, Maya. A first-time movie role, the child actress is played wonderfully by French actress, Lilou Siauvaud, aged 10.

I’ll not reveal those segments which offer a unexpected ending. To be sure, this is a classic movie for viewers who love to be immersed in dramatic effect. The actors are superb across the board, and the director a first-class movie maker

I predict there may be likely Oscar nominees as follows:
Matt Damon, as “Bill.”
Comille Cottin, the woman translator and mother of Maya
Lilou Siavaud, the little girl Maya.
Director: Tom McCarthy (A former Oscar winner for “Spotlight”

I give this film a 9.5 out of 10. Very few flaws and they didn’t really matter.

Stillwater (2021) – IMDb


In a word:  Chaotic  To be fair, this reviewer is an old-timer who is generally critical of spectacular adventure movies that often entails over-the-top spectacular action scenes including feats that are humanly impossible, one scene after another, over and over and over again. Many of the critical scenes are undoubtedly shot, cut or enhanced, by back-room techies because real humans simply could not survive the “adventures.” Such movies, including “Jungle Cruise,” offer not one ounce of plausibility in the 2-plus hour storyline.

But, we must acknowledge the fantasy world out there in movie-land, where producers and actors are adept at making mega-millions of dollars, which is really what it’s all about. In that regard, “Jungle Cruise” will undoubtedly evolve into one of the great fantasy/adventure films of all time, costing at least $200 million for production, plus another $100 million in marketing costs.

The storyline is not complicated despite the whopping price-tag to produce. The primary characters, Doctor Lily Houghton, a British scientist (played beautifully by Emily Blunt) and wise-cracking, riverboat captain, Frank Wolff, played by former wrestling champion, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, (6’5”) likely the most in-demand star in the movie world of today.

Set around 1914 in Brazil and later, the Amazon River, a tramp steamer captain (Johnson) reluctantly agrees to take a pair of scientists (Blunt and her aide brother)    down the Amazon in search of the Tree of Life Flower, which supposedly has miraculous healing properties. (a weak motive indeed) In doing so, Johnson, Blunt and a small crew, encounter many harrowing obstacles, including hordes of dangerous wild animals, fish and insects, not to mention river rapids and waterfalls, plus human conquistadors still living in caves from 400 years past.

To be “blunt” – the storyline is absurd, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is the survival of Johnson and Blunt in the wild and the ability to carry on to the following scenes without a scratch. One would think the two premier actors, famous and adept as they are, would have had better chemistry, but that doesn’t matter either. What matters is the awe of fantasyland and the repeating survival of its inhabitants. One could not, for a second, endure the endless array of “dangerous” terrain, wild animals, perilous obstacles, flying creatures and more. The movie could conceivably see a nomination for best special effects and, perhaps, costume design, photography or even, background music.

To be fair, Dwayne Johnson does give us a decent performance. Emily Blunt, as always, is a first-class actress.

Interesting to note, (according to trivia) Tom Hanks and Tim Allen had been involved in talks to star in a different iteration of the same project back in 2011.

I give the movie a 7.5 out of 10. ​

Jungle Cruise (2021) – IMDb