“A Good Woman Is Hard to Find”

In the film, “A Good Woman Is Hard to Find,” Sarah, portrayed by Sarah Bolger (In America), is a single mother. Her husband, prior to the start of the story in the film, was killed during a drug deal gone wrong. Sarah lives in Ireland and strives to do her best for her son Ben (Rudy Doherty) and daughter Lucy (Marcie McCauley). Sarah’s financial situation is less than ideal. For example, while shopping with her children for groceries, she has to ask the cashier to take back some items because she doesn’t have enough money. The sad fact is, she wasn’t purchasing all that much to begin with. Alice (Jane Brennan), Sarah’s mother, is not in a position where she can help her daughter or grandchildren. At wit’s end, Sarah doesn’t know what to do next, but unbeknownst to her, the decision will be made for her.

Terry (Caolan Byrne) and Mackers (Packy Lee) are drug dealers. Their boss, Leo Miller (Edward Hogg), has tasked them with selling a new shipment of drugs. The two men are dealing in Sarah’s neighborhood. Tito (Andrew Simpson), a small time drug dealer takes a calculated risk. He crashes a stolen car into the vehicle that Terry and Mackers are driving. While the two men are momentarily incapacitated, Tito takes the drugs.

In an attempt to escape, Tito runs into Sarah’s house. She is forced, from that moment forward, into a situation in which she has no say. Tito states to her that he will go out and sell the drugs in the neighborhood and use her house to store the drugs and hide out when he’s not selling. In exchange, he will give Sarah a percentage of everything he makes. In fear for her children’s lives she cooperates. At first she is distraught over the arrangement, but when the money starts coming in and she’s able to afford everything she and her children want at the supermarket, she starts to not mind, what at first, was an unwelcome presence in her life. What seems to be a straightforward film, will take some unexpected twists and turns before the conclusion.

“A Good Woman Is Hard to Find” premiered on July 29, 2019 at the Fantasia Festival in Canada. The film was directed by Abner Pastoll (Road Games). The screenplay was written by BAFTA winner Ronan Blaney (Boogaloo and Graham). The movie has a runtime of 97 minutes. The genres included in the film are crime, drama and thriller.

I thought that Bolger’s performance embodied her character, and the rest of the cast gave credible performances with their respective roles. The film had some good twists and turns to keep viewers guessing, until toward the end, as to exactly what the outcome will be for Sarah and her children. For those of you, who might be interested in seeing the movie, I watched it on Amazon Prime.

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“Gwendy’s Magic Feather”

“Gwendy’s Magic Feather” is the follow up to “Gwendy’s Button Box” written by Richard Chizmar and Stephen King. For the second book, detailing the exploits of the main antagonist Gwendy Peterson, King opted not to contribute to the story, but he did write the foreword to the book.

Gwendy Peterson is no longer a twelve year old girl, who has in her possession a magical box. The box was not a product of a child’s overactive imagination. Instead, it was entrusted to her by a mysterious man, she met in her youth, named Richard Farris. Chizmar picks up with Gwendy’s life twenty five years into the future. She’s married to her husband Ryan, a foreign correspondent. She is a successful author, and when the story begins, is representing the people of Castle Rock, Maine as a member of Congress.

Congress is about to go on a holiday hiatus. Christmas is less than a week away and Gwendy is getting ready to return home to spend the holidays with her parents. Her mother, not too long ago, had been in ill health. A few days before her vacation begins, the button box from her childhood, which both enthralled and frightened her has inexplicably returned. This time, however, Richard Farris did not hand her the box, with the explanation of why he wanted her to have it.

The box calls to Gwendy, and its pull on her is inexorable. She remembers the power she was able to wield when she ate one of the chocolate, animal-shaped treats it would dispense when she pulled a lever on the side of the box. She seemingly became smarter, stronger, and faster. She became richer as well, because the box would also dispense Morgan Silver dollars whenever Gwedy wanted one. The box, however, had a down side to it. If she pushed the wrong button because she got monetarily angry, a catastrophe could take place. The positive attributes of the box, however, have often left Gwendy wondering about her life. How much of her success in life was due to her own accomplishments? How much of what she had achieved was directly related to the the power of the box.

Making matters worse, when Gwendy arrives back in Castle Rock, not everything is wonderful, far from it. Leaving aside her personal life, which has issues, a report she gets from Sheriff Noris Ridgewick, only heightens her sense of foreboding. Two local girls have gone missing. The only physical evidence of the girls that has been recovered are teeth, which causes the media to dub the abductor ‘The Tooth Fairy.’

Will Gwendy give in to the power of the box? Does she do so in order to fix the problems in her personal life? Can she save the lives of the missing girls by using the box? Can she prevent other girls from meeting the same fate by identifying the ‘The Tooth Fairy?’ The answers to those questions and more will be revealed by the book’s conclusion.

“Gwendy”s Magic Feather” was published by Cemetery Dance Publications on November 19,2019. The illustrations for the book cover were done by Ben Baldwin. The interior drawings were handled by Keith Minnion. The book, which is divided into two parts, is 330 pages in length.

Those who haven’t read the first book, will be doing themselves a disservice. There are numerous references to things that took place, as well as characters who won’t be known to readers if they begin with the second book. Overall, it was an enjoyable read. I found it interesting that Chizmar decided to explore Gwendy’s life as an adult, as well as, write, to some extent, what had taken place during the intervening years from her childhood to the present.

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“Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer”

Richard Ramirez, A.K.A. “The Night Stalker,” committed abhorrent crimes. The notorious rapist, murderer and avowed Satanist used Southern California as his hunting grounds. Although earlier crimes are suspected, from April 10, 1984 until his capture on August 31, 1985, Ramirez kept residents in San Francisco and the greater Los Angeles area in a perpetual state of fear. During the time period he was committing his crimes sales of guns, alarm systems and dogs, increased exponentially.

The total known destruction of Ramirez’s unrepentant reign of terror resulted in 13 murders, 5 counts of attempted murder, and 11 counts of sexual assault, as well as 14 counts of burglary.

At the conclusion of his trial, he was found guilty. During the penalty phase, he was sentenced to death and sent to San Quentin Prison. His numerous legal appeals kept him alive on death row for years, In the end, instead of being put to death by the state of California, he died of B-cell lymphoma on June 7, 2013.

I provided the aforementioned background information, because “Night Stalker; The Hunt for a Serial Killer,’ currently streaming on Netflix, is not a comprehensive documentary about Ramirez. Instead, the four episodes of the limited series, is an all encompassing look at those whose lives Ramirez personally affected, sometimes even in the most fleeting of ways. For example, Los Angeles Public Library reference desk librarian, Glen Creason, described meeting Ramirez. He had no idea that he was face to face with the Night Stalker. Creason said that Ramirez dressed in all black clothes that were dirty, had awful teeth and he smelled terribly. When Creason asked Ramirez what he could help him with, Ramirez replied that he was looking for books on horoscopes and torture. Creason was thankful those books were located in another section of the library, so he didn’t have to assist Ramirez further.

Interviews throughout the series are conducted with members of law enforcement, as well as reporters such as Tony Valdez of KTTV News and Laurel Erickson of KNBC News, both of whom reported, on a nightly basis, the deadly exploits of the Night Stalker. Furthermore, members of the victims’ families were also interviewed. In addition, Anastasia Hronas, a survivor of her encounter with Ramirez, was a child when he abducted and sexually assaulted her. She described her ordeal with him, but states that she hasn’t allowed the devious exploits of Ramirez to shape her life. Hronas refuses to give him another second of power over her.

The episodes, however, primarily concern themselves with two homicide detectives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s office, who were instrumental in bringing Ramirez to justice. Gil Carrillo and Frank Salerno doggedly pursued Ramirez and were so invested in his capture, that it became a detriment, to the point where it affected every other aspect of the two men’s lives. Gil Carrillo’s wife Pearl, who speaks a number of times during the episodes, relays that she didn’t feel safe being alone all the time with her children in the house. She eventually moved the family out and informed Carrillo that she wouldn’t come back until after the Night Stalker was behind bars. In addition, Inspector Frank Falzon of the San Francisco Police Department worked tirelessly in his pursuit of Ramirez.

“Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer” was directed by James Carroll and Tiller Russell. The series premiered on Netflix on January 13, 2021. Parts documentary, crime and mystery, it has a runtime of 189 minutes.

For those who are interested in true crime, and want to watch something that focuses primarily on the pursuit of the criminal as opposed to the life of the criminal, this should be of interest to you.

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“Sound of Metal”

The compelling film “Sound of Metal” centers on Ruben portrayed by Emmy winner Riz Ahmed (The Night Of). He is a drummer who plays in the band “Backgammon” with his girlfriend Lou. The part of Lou is played by Olivia Cooke (Ready Player One). The two live in an RV and are currently touring across the country to promote their music. Toward the beginning of the film Riz begins to have a great deal of trouble hearing, which is not surprising considering the heavy style of music he and Lou play.

Taking a trip to the pharmacy, hoping to alleviate the problem with something he can purchase over the counter, Riz learns he has a serious problem. The pharmacist (Michael Tow) makes a phone call to a doctor’s office, and sets up an immediate appointment for him. While there Riz is informed by Dr. Paysinger (Tom Kemp) that he has lost the majority of his hearing. He only, according to the doctor, has about 20% left and it is going to get progressively worse.

Ignoring the doctor’s warning, Riz wants to continue with the tour. Lou won’t hear of it. She makes arrangements for Lou to go to a place that helps deaf people. The place is a self contained country commune, where cell phones are not allowed and Riz has to turn over his car keys. The overseer of the community is Joe (Paul Raci). He is a former Vietnam veteran and he embraces his deafness. Joe has set up the community to allow people to live in a place where being deaf is not viewed as a disability, but just another way to live. (As an aside: A large portion of the cast came from the deaf community).

Riz makes the most of his time with the deaf community. Even though the people he comes in contact with there have a positive impact on him, and vice versa, he yearns to get back to Lou. Furthermore, he is doing everything he can to get enough money together to be able to pay for an expensive operation. The procedure Riz wants to have is to get cochlear implants, an option he first learned about from Dr. Paysinger. The operation, however, costs in excess of $40,000 and is not covered by insurance. Will getting the operation and returning to Lou turn out to be everything Riz hoped for?

Sound of Metal” was directed by Darius Marder (Loot). Additionally, Marder co-wrote the screenplay for the film with his brother Abraham (The Dress). The movie is based on a story Darius Marder co-wrote with Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond The Pines). Parts drama and music it has a runtime of 120 minutes. The film has been garnering positive reviews since its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 6, 2019

The cast was uniformly excellent, especially Riz Ahmed. He completely embodies his role and had to learn two skills for his performance. He learned American Sign Language and also spent six months learning how to play drums. I was invested in the movie from beginning to end. The film is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

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“The Wolf of Wall Street”

The character of the powerful and money obsessed Jordan Belfort in the film “The Wolf of Wall Street” is portrayed by Oscar and BAFTA winner Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant). Belfort didn’t start out on top. He originally went to work on Wall Street as one of numerous cold callers, who had not yet passed his series 7 exam, which would give him a license to sell stock. Mark Hanna, played by Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), takes a shine to Jordan. Hanna drinks during lunch and snorts cocaine, things that Belfort will come to emulate as his success grows. Their relationship doesn’t last long, because a stock market crash closes the doors on Hanna’s brokerage firm and forces Belfort back to square one. (As an aside: The film is based on the memoir of the same name written by Jordan Belfort, which was published by Batnam Books on September 25, 2007).

Working for a mom and pop brokerage firm on Long Island, Belfort learns the allure of easy money, by selling what amounts to, for the most part, worthless penny stocks. He becomes so successful at what he does, that he is able to leave Long Island and open up his own brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, on Wall Street.

His second in command at the firm is Donnie Azoff played by two time Oscar nominee Jonah Hill (Moneyball). His other loyal employees and friends, are comprised of: Brad (John Bernthal); Nicky ‘Rugrat’ Koskoff (P.J. Byrne); Chester Ming (Kenneth Choi); and Toby Welch (Ethan Suplee). With the exception of Brad, the other men were with Belfort at the previous brokerage firm. They are all willing to learn from Belfort and replicate his behavior in the pursuit of making an inordinate amount of money. Their tactics and the celebration of extreme excess will be taught, and encouraged, to other brokers who come to work for the firm.

Everything about Belfort’s life gets an upgrade, from his home, and his car, and even his marriage. Previously married to the pretty Teresa (Cristin Milioti), Belfort takes a new wife, the gorgeous Naomi. She comes from Brooklyn and is known as the Duchess of Bay Ridge. In the role of Naomi is two time Oscar nominee Margot Robbie (I, Tonya).

The brokerage firm runs up thousands of dollars in credit card debt, by unfettered spending on everything from lavish parties to entertaining clients with expensive escorts. This is much to the chagrin of Belfort’s father Max, who oversees expenses. The role is played by two time Emmy winner Rob Reiner (All in the Family). As the real life Belfort has stated in interviews, plenty of work took place at the firm. The movie, however, tends to focus primarily on the extracurricular activities of its principal characters.

Belfort believes that with his money, power, and high priced attorney Manny Riskin played by two time Emmy winner Jon Favrrau (The Mandolorian), that he is above the law. In pursuit, however, of Belfort for various criminal violations is FBI Agent Patrick Denham, portrayed by Emmy winner Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights). How long will Belfort and the firm be able to outmaneuver the law, before the law catches up?

Trivia buffs take note: During the film, when the characters were supposedly snorting cocaine, in actuality they were snorting crushed B vitamins. Leonardo DiCaprio consulted Jordan Belfort on his real life escapades, in order to bring more authenticity to the role. DiCaprio had wanted to make the film, ever since reading Belfort’s book. Tommy Chong, of “Cheech & Chong” fame, actually encouraged Belfort to write the book. The two shared a California prison cell together. Belfort was serving a little under two years for stock fraud and Chong was incarcerated for selling drug paraphernalia over the internet. Belfort told Chong stories about many of the incidents that are shown in the film.

“The Wolf of Wall Street” was directed by Oscar winner Martin Scorsese (The Departed). The screenplay was written by three time Emmy winner Terence Winter (The Sopranos). Parts biography, crime, and drama, the film has a runtime of 180 minutes. The original cut of the film was approximately four hours. The film premiered in Paris, France on December 9, 2013. As of the writing of this post, the film marks the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and DiCaprio. The movie has grossed approximately 392 million dollars worldwide, making it, at the moment, the highest grossing film of Scorsese’s career.

Having been a Scorsese fan since I first started taking film seriously, in my opinion, in a career filled with spectacular cinema, “The Wolf of Wall Street” is no exception. There is no filler that I can pinpoint in the movie; every scene serves a purpose in advancing the narrative and showcasing the life of Belfort and his cronies. The cast are all excellent in their respective roles, which, among others, who I have not mentioned in this post, includes Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA winner Jean Dujardin (The Artist). The editing, by long time Scorsese crew member, the exceptionally talented three time Oscar winner Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull), is flawless. The soundtrack also serves to bolster what is transpiring on screen. I recommend this to film fans the world over.

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The Golden Child (1986)

Chandler Jarrell portrayed by Golden Globe winner Eddie Murphy (Beverly Hills Cop) is a private investigator. His specialty is finding lost children. At the start of the film, something transpires, which will require Jarrell’s services.

In a temple located in Tibet, a group of Buddhist mystics are observing the supernatural abilities of a small boy known as The Golden Child (J.L. Reate). After he mesmerizes those gathered, by bringing a dead bird back to life, the temple is attacked. Sardo Numspa, played by three time Emmy nominee Charles Dance (Game of Thrones), has the boy kidnapped. He warns his men, as they are transporting him, not to let the Golden Child touch them, because a touch from the boy makes bad men do good things. Numspa’s ultimate goal is to use the child’s power to serve extreme evil.

While watching a local Los Angeles television show, Jarrell’s services are brought to the attention of Kee Nang (Charlotte Lewis). She has been sent in pursuit of the men who took the Golden Child. When Nang approaches Jarrell, she holds nothing back. She is insistent that Jarrell is the chosen one who needs to retrieve the Golden Child from the forces of darkness, in order to save mankind. Murphy’s character, is naturally dismissive upon first hearing such a fantastical story. He feels Nang’s story is full of fabrications and he dismisses it as such, but for reasons I won’t list, in consideration of those of you who might want to see the film, he will soon change his mind.

The movie from that moment forward shifts back and forth between Tibet and Los Angeles. Jarrell is faced with numerous obstacles on the way to attempting to get the boy back for his people. There are plenty of bad guys for him to do battle with. He is also tasked with finding a magic dagger, the importance of which is vital if he wants to thwart those trying to exploit the child. Can Jarrell retrieve the dagger, and rescue the boy from his captivity, therefore making sure good will triumph?

Trivia buffs take note: The film was originally intended to be an adventure film. When Eddie Murphy signed on to star in the movie, parts of the script were rewritten to include a number of comedic moments. Murphy wanted Oscar and BAFTA winner George Miller (Happy Feet) to direct, but the director turned the film down after Murphy kept him waiting at an initial meeting for approximately four hours. Eddie Murphy is a big Star Trek fan, and although, it hurt him to do so, he turned down a part in “Star Trek VI: The Voyage Home” in order to star in “The Golden Child.” Director John Carpenter (Halloween) turned down an opportunity to direct the film. Wrestling fans might recognize Tiger Chung Lee, who had a minor role in the movie. 

“The Golden Child” was directed by Emmy nominee Michael Ritchie (Fletch). The screenplay was written by Dennis Feldman (Species). The film was released on December 12, 1986. Parts action, adventure, comedy, fantasy and mystery, the movie has a runtime of 94 minutes.

“The Golden Child” was the only Eddie Murphy film from back when he was considered to be in his prime, that I hadn’t yet seen. I have heard both good and bad things about the movie; some people really liked it, while others loathed it. For my own take, I felt the special effects look too dated and in certain scenes they did more to detract from what was overall a good story. The other problem I had with the film was that it tried to inject too many genres into it. I think had the movie been kept as an adventure film, with Eddie Murphy playing against type at the time, the film would have performed just as well or better at the box office. The filmmakers and the producers took the safe route with the money invested in the film, and that is certainly understandable, but it would’ve been interesting to see what the film could have been had a creative chance been taken. Murphy is a good actor and very talented in general. I am sure he could have pulled it off playing against type.

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“Wonder Woman 1984”

The film opens on the island of Themyscira, the secret home of the Amazon warriors. Young Diana (Lilly Aspell) is competing in a series of athletic competitions. Given her age and inexperience, she is doing surprisingly well against her older and more skilled competition, at least at the start. Approximately half way through the competition, Diana loses her horse, and to compensate for the loss, she uses a shortcut, to beat her fellow competitors. Dianna is on the cusp of winning, before her Aunt Antiope played by Golden Globe winner Robin Wright (House of Cards), stops her, much to the dismay of a disconcerted Dianna. Antiope, and Diana’s mother Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen), tell her that if she won by cheating she would have achieved nothing. They both let Diana know that her time will come in the future. (As an aside: Actress Lilly Aspell, who plays young Diana, performed all of her own stunts).

Many years into the future, Diana Prince, portrayed by Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman), works as an anthropologist for the Smithsonian Institute. No one who works there, or with her, knows that she is also secretly Wonder Woman. One day, Diana, while performing an act of kindness, meets Barbara Minerva. The part of Barbara is played by Oscar nominee Kristen Wiig (Bridesmaids). The two become friends, and are brought even close together when Barbara is assigned to work on antiques that were stolen, and that the FBI would like more information on. (As an aside: Gal Godot won the Saturn Award for Best Actress from the Academy of Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror Films, USA, for her role in “Wonder Woman” (2017). The Saturn Awards have been given since 1973.)

Entering the picture is the seemingly successful Maxwell Lord portrayed by Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian). Everything about him is a front or is fake with the exception of the love he has for his son Alistair (Lucian Perez). Lord, at the beginning, is not a bad man. He is someone who has simply run out of time with his investors who want to see his oil rigs begin to make a profit. Despite the upfront flash, Lord is broke and there is only one thing that might save him.

Among the antiques that Barbara is studying is a stone known as the ‘Dreamstone.’ According to legend, whoever possesses the Stone can look deep into its jewels and have their greatest wish come true. Diana and Barbara both wish for things: Diana for her long lost love Steve Trevor, played by Emmy nominee Chris Pine (Star Trek), to come back to her form the great beyond. Barbara, meanwhile, wishes to be exactly like Diana, not even knowing that she is secretly Wonder Woman. Barbara gets more than she bargains for. Oh, she gets Wonder Woman’s strength, speed, and fighting skills, but the problem is, that over time, she begins to turn into a human Cheetah.

As it turns out, Maxwell Lord has made a sizable donation to the Smithsonian and has personally asked for Barbara to show him around. He knows that she is the one working on the ‘Dreamstone.’ While she is otherwise engaged, he takes the Stone from her office and makes his ultimate wish, to actually become the Dreamstone. The power he now has coursing through his body comes with a steep price. Can his wish granting, which in part escalates the nuclear weapons tensions between Russia and the Untied States be stopped? And if Lord can be stopped, what price did the world have to pay prior to it happening?

“Wonder Woman 1984” was directed by Emmy nominee Patty Jenkins (The Killing). In addition to directing, Jenkins co-wrote the screenplay for the film with Emmy nominee Geoff Johns (Stargirl); and Dave Callaham (Zombieland: Double Tap). The screenplay was based off of a story co-written by Jenkins and Johns, which was further based off of characters originally created by William Moulton Marston. The film was released to theaters and for streaming on HBO Max on December 25, 2020. Parts action, adventure and fantasy, the movie has a runtime of 151 minutes.

Trivia buffs take note: The first appearance of Wonder Woman was in the December 1941 issue of All Star Comics # 8. The role of Cheetah was first offered to Oscar winner Emma Stone (La La Land), but she passed on the role. After Stone declined to take the part, Jenkins offered the role to Wiig, who had always been her first choice to play the part. Furthermore, this is the first live action appearance of Cheetah. Prior to that, she had only appeared in animated television shows and films. Jenkins and Johns wrote the character of Max Lord with two fictional characters in mind: Gordon Gekko, who was portrayed by two time Oscar winner Michael Douglas in the 1987 film “Wall Street” was one of the two; the second one that inspired the Max Lord character was the villain, Lex Luthor, played by two time Oscar winner Gene Hackman in the 1978 film “Superman.” This is the second time that Pedro Pascal has been involved in a Wonder Woman project. The first time, however, unlike the current film, it wasn’t a success. In 2011, a pilot episode was produced for NBC television, in the hopes of starting a new Wonder Woman television series. The show, if it had come to fruition, would have starred Adrianne Palicki (The Orville) as Wonder Woman / Diana Prince. Pascal would’ve played the part of a main character named Ed Indelicato. The show was never broadcast. 

This was a fun, popcorn film. I was glad, thanks to HBO Max, that I was able to enjoy it at home. In another few months, if the vaccines are making a dent in the reported cases and life begins to get back to normal, I would love to go see a movie in the theater again. Leaving aside Gadot, who I knew was coming back. I thought Wiig and Pascal did excellent work with their respective roles. The film, given its length was well paced. Furthermore, the film’s music, both that which was composed and the songs from the soundtrack, was spot on when it came to helping to move the film forward. The film was slated to be a summer blockbuster, but, due to Covid, was released on Christmas Day. Given the kind of year 2020 was, I would’ve welcomed it not matter when it was released.

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“Oscar winners Caine and Kingsley shine as Holmes & Watson in Without a Clue.” (1988)

Sherlock Holmes, portrayed by two time Oscar and BAFTA winner Michael Caine (Educating Rita), has just closed another case. He, along with help from his esteemed colleague Dr. Watson, played by Oscar winner Ben Kingsley (Gandhi), have just stopped two thieves from stealing a valuable museum artifact. The duo of Holmes and Watson doesn’t sit well with Inspector Lestrade, a role acted by Grammy winner Jeffrey Jones (Amadeus), who believes police work should be handled by the experts. The real reason he doesn’t want Holmes and Watson involved is because he’s jealous; they solve cases that Lestrade and his men can’t. (As an aside: Golden Globe and Emmy winner Danny DeVito (Taxi), and Oscar winner Sean Connery (The Untouchables) were in contention to play the role of Dr. Watson, before Ben Kingsley was cast).

Early on in the film, it is revealed that Holmes doesn’t solve any of the cases, but rather he relays on Dr. Watson’s intellect. Holmes, as it turns out, was a former actor named Reginald Kincaid whose career was floundering. Watson took him in, trained him, and allowed Kincaid to be the physical embodiment of Sherlock Holmes. He needed someone the public could see and interact with, not just the character of a detective he wrote about in The Strand Magazine, in which Watson’s stories about Holmes are published.

After one too many arguments, however, Watson kicks Holmes out of their shared residence. This pleases Mrs. Hudson (Pat Keen), the landlady, who has a dislike for Holmes. When Greenhough (Peter Cook), Watson’s publisher at The Strand finds out what happened, he insists that Watson get Holmes back. Even though Watson is hesitant to do so, complicating matters is that the British government, represented by Lord Smithwick (Nigel Davenport), has an urgent mission for Holmes. If Holmes doesn’t accept and solve the case quickly, the whole of England’s economy could be ruined. (As an aside: Actress Pat Keen, in addition to this film, appeared in the role of Mrs. Hudson in four episodes of the television series “Baker Street Boys”).

While Watson and Holmes reconcile for the case, they are faced with a deadly enemy from their past, Professor James Moriarty. The role of Moriarty is played by Paul Freeman, who is known the world over for having portrayed the character of Belloq in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” The Key to stopping Moriarty and saving the economy is finding kidnapped banker Peter Giles (John Werner). While Holmes and Watson are protecting Gile’s daughter Leslie (Lysette Anthony), time is running out to save her father. Once Moriarty had achieved his end, he would most likely kill Giles. Can Holmes and Watson formulate a plan in time to save Leslie’s father, as well as the whole of England’s financial welfare?

“Without a Clue” was directed by Emmy winner Thom Eberhardt (Ratz). The screenplay was written by three time Emmy nominee Gary Murphy (Malcolm in the Middle) and Larry Strawther (Night Court). The film, which is parts comedy, crime, and mystery, has a runtime of 107 minutes. The music for the movie was composed by four time Oscar winner Henry Mancini (Victor Victoria). The film premiered on October 20, 1988 in Hollywood, California. The proceeds from the premier event went to the Kira Foundation, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness and money to find a cure for pediatric brain tumors. Furthermore, the foundation’s other goal is to bring some happiness into the lives of children who are fighting cancer.

I had never seen this film before. For that matter, until I read someone’s post, in which they were writing about their favorite Sherlock Holmes films, to my recollection, I had never even heard about the movie. I enjoyed watching it from start to finish. The comedy was well timed. The pacing didn’t allow for anything to drag. On the whole, the cast was uniformly excellent in their roles. Caine and Kingsley had great on screen chemistry. My only disappointment was that the two lead actors didn’t make a few sequels portraying the Holmes and Watson characters. If you’re are a fan of the lead actors, or the characters of Holmes and Watson, and don’t mind seeing those characters in a comedic setting, this is a film you will most likely enjoy.

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“Saturday the 14th” (1981)

John Hyatt, portrayed by Golden Globe winner Richard Benjamin (The Sunshine Boys), has just inherited a house from his late uncle’s estate. The reading of the will by John’s uncle’s attorney (Stacey Keach Sr) doesn’t sit well with those assembled. Aunt Lucille, played by Emmy nominee Rosemary DeCamp (The Bob Cummings Show), is especially taken aback by the house not having been left to her. Perhaps she shouldn’t be upset, because as the attorney reads further into the will, he states that there is a curse on the house, and immediately drops dead.

Forgoing any belief in curses, John moves his family into their new house. The other members of the Hyatt family consist of: Mary, his wife, a role acted by Emmy nominee Paula Prentiss (He & She); the Hyatt’s teenage daughter, Debbie played by Kari Michaelsen (Gimmie a Break); and their young son Billy (Kevin Brando). After moving into the house, odd things begin to occur, especially when Billy, being inquisitive, opens a book called “The Book of Evil.” With each page of the book that Billy turns, he releases a monster from its confinement. The book serves as a prison for the monsters. (As an aside: In addition to playing a married couple in the film, Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss have been married in real life since October 26, 1961). 

The book, is being sought after by other interested parties. Waldemar, portrayed by Golden Globe and two time Emmy winner Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent), is a vampire who is several hundred years old. He and his wife Yolanda (Nancy Lee Andrews), also a vampire, are desperate to get their hands on the book. Attempting to thwart the vampires, in his own desire to retrieve the book first, is the vampire’s greatest rival Van Helsing (Severn Darden). The vampires and Van Helsing are both insistent that the fate of the world rests in the hands of whoever controls the book. The delineation between the good guys and the bad, might not be as cut and dry as a viewer thinks.

“Saturday the 14th” was directed by Howard R. Cohen (Time Trackers). Additionally, Cohen wrote the screenplay based off of a story written by Jeff Begun (The Double). The film was released in the United States on October 30, 1981. While comedy is the dominant genre the filmmakers utilized throughout the 75 minute movie, it is also officially considered parts fantasy, horror, and Sci-Fi. The film was followed by an utterly abysmal sequel “Saturday the 14th Strikes Back,” which was released on August 5, 1988. (As an aside: “Saturday the 14th” was hurriedly produced because around the same time United Artists were about to release a film called “Thursday the 12th,” which was also a horror comedy; it’s name was later changed to Pandemonium (1982).

“Saturday the 14th” is not meant to be taken seriously in any way. The humor and sight gags are silly, but fit with the overall tone of the film. The acting really can’t be judged because the plot is preposterous. There is no explanation as to how the world’s greatest assemblage of monsters got contained inside of a book that holds them prisoner; quite frankly it doesn’t need to be explained, to do so, would change the type of film that it is. For those of you who like horror film parody, vintage camp, or are fans of actor Jeffrey Tambor, and who’d like to see him in one of his earliest film roles, then this is a movie that you should enjoy. For the rest of you that might want to give this film a shot, it is currently available to be streamed on Amazon Prime.

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“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

The Griswold family consists of: the father, Clark, portrayed by two time Emmy winner Chevy Chase (Spies Like Us); the mother, Ellen, played by Golden Globe nominee Beverly D’ Angelo (Coal Miner’s Daughter); the daughter, Audrey, a role acted by Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear); and the son, Rusty, who is played by Golden Globe nominee Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory). At the start of the film the Griswolds are driving to pick up a Christmas tree. They are not headed to a lot to purchase the tree. Clark Griswold is the type of man, who believes in tradition. He’s taking his family into the woods, where they will find a tree to chop down. The only problem they encounter, after walking though the snow in freezing cold weather, is that Clark forgot to bring an axe. This is only the start of the problems the hapless, albeit well meaning, Clark encounters throughout the film.

The Griswolds arrive back home and set up the tree, just in time for the first of their guests to arrive. The Griswold’s house is going to be a crowded one: Clark’s parents, Clark, Sr. (John Randolph), and his mother Nora played by BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Diane Ladd (Alice Doesn’t Love Here Anymore) are staying for the holidays. Furthermore, Ellen’s parents, her father, Art, portrayed by two time Emmy winner E.G. Marshall (The Defenders), and mother, Francis, a role acted by five time Emmy winner Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond) are also visiting. If that were not enough, Cousin Eddie, played by Golden Globe winner Randy Quaid (LBJ: The Early Years), his wife Catherine (Miriam Flynn), and their two children Rocky (Cody Burger) and Ruby Sue (Ellen Latzen), show up uninvited. In the spirit of the holiday season they are not turned away.

Clark, for the most part, is happy to have the family with him. Even though his mind is on other things, he’s still attempting to play a gracious host, who attempts to give everyone a nice Christmas. The thing Clark’s mind is on, is the Christmas bonus check he is waiting to receive from his boss, Mr. Shirley, portrayed by three time Emmy nominee, prolific character actor, Brian Doyle-Murray. Clark has, unbeknownst to his family, put a down payment on a new swimming pool. Getting the money, will be easier said than done, and in typical Clark Griswold fashion, there are a lot of zany moments that take place before the film reaches its conclusion.

Trivia buffs take note: The film marked the final appearance of Mae Questel, who played the role of Bethany in the film. Questel’s career began in 1930, when she voiced the character of Betty Boop. During the film Clark and Eddie drink from Wally World mugs, a clear reference to the first film in the franchise. This is the only one of the ‘Vacation’ movies not to feature the song “Holiday Road” by Lindsey Buckingham, who is best known as one of the vocalists and lead guitarist for the Grammy award winning band “Fleetwood Mac.” In addition to Chevy Chase, three other “Saturday Night Live” alumni have roles in the film: Golden Globe winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld); Randy Quaid; and Brian Doyle-Murray. BAFTA winner Chris Columbus (The Help) was originally going to direct the film, but he and Chevy Chase didn’t get along, so he dropped out before filming began.

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” was directed by Jeremiah S. Chechik (Benny & Joon). The screenplay was written by John Hughes (Planes, Trains & Automobiles). The screenplay was based on a short story Hughes wrote called “Christmas 59” which was published in the December 1980 issue of National Lampoon magazine. The film premiered in Australia on November 30, 1989. The comedy has a runtime of 97 minutes. The third in the series, “Christmas Vacation” was preceded by “Vacation” in 1983 and “European Vacation” in 1985, and was then followed by “Vegas Vacation” in 1997.

I hadn’t seen “Christmas Vacation” in a number of years. I decided to rewatch it, because I was looking for something that was both funny and Christmas themed. If you’ve seen one of or all of the various iterations of  the Grinch, and have had your fill of the romantic themed comedies that take place during Christmas, this should make for a fun rewatch or first time viewing.

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