Category Archives: Movie Comments 2017

Comments on some films watched in 2017

Lion (A Long Way Home)

“Lion” was seen, quite accidentally, on the 5-year anniversary of the main character concluding his real-life journey. The coincidence made me smile. I read some criticism of this film that it became too much about the technology. I didn’t see that. I did see strong acting, sometimes slow progressions that did not bother me, and a memorable tale.

I only somewhat grasped the monumental depth of the internal struggle for this character. I have to believe that some scenes fell on the cutting room floor that could have made the story epic. Those may have been lost to elements that played up relationships and feelings, which were also valuable insights. Something had to give, but there could be a terrific 3-hour version of this film that mines deeper into the mind.

If this is compelling for you, also see “Rabbit-Proof Fence” (2002) another Australian story of a journey toward home. The Aussies provide few but fabulous films.

Hidden Figures

My 2017 “best screenplay” leader is “Hidden Figures.” Take a tissue, because it’s sweet; plus you’ll laugh, cringe, and learn. To see this film is to see history in the making: by the women portrayed, by the space race, and by the lightly-touched overlapping civil rights scenes. This film makes history come alive. The acting is solid; the scene settings adequate; neither is outstanding.

Kudos to Schroeder and Melfi for masterfully bringing Margot Lee Shetterly’s book to the silver screen.  Psychologist Jerome Bruner said, “An act that produces effective surprise [is] the hallmark of the creative enterprise.” Such a surprise is delivered by the three writers, especially for those of us thinking we know the story of early space exploration.

Background on the book’s development can be enjoyed at this link to


I finally got “up” to watching “Everest” and it left me cold. The obvious pun-making review would begin as such. To further the fun of language, Everest itself is a mountain while the word is a portmanteau representing that point from which some never return. (2015 was the release year for this film, the same year the ‘p’ word “officially arrived” according to

Watching this story unfold, one feels just some of the drama but not the full experience of the mountain. Second, it portrays the characters as quite normal persons, yet I would imagine that the very short list of those scaling this peak would be exceptions to normality. Those are just two reasons I could not fully connected to this film.

It’s worth watching if you’re so inclined, as you will feel some of the isolation and desolation of this place along with the gist of the story on which it is based. Compared to other movies I’ve watched this year, it doesn’t finish “on top.”

Every Brilliant Thing

“Every Brilliant Thing” is lovingly brought to you by HBO Documentaries. It is poignant, captivating, and long on meaning despite being short on time (1 hour in length), shining with love, laughter, sweetness, and sorrow. It is hard to rave about a story that dwells on the topics of depression and suicide; it may not be for you, but I found entertaining as well as emotional connections.

This work was produced by filming a one-person stage play, though that person involves his audience in contagious ways that make you want to catch what they have in those moments.


“Genius” is brilliant! Was there no publicity for this movie? I recall not one mention of a terrific film. Of course one expects excellent portrayals by Colin Firth, Jude Law, and Nicole Kidman. They deliver beyond any reasonable expectations.

Each character is believable and every scene assembles the life story of author Thomas Wolfe. I should know this tale of a famous writer who called North Carolina home, and now I am so happy that I do.

“Genius” is strong competition for “Fences” as my best movie of 2017 – one month into the year. Even though I raved about the latter, I’ll now declare “Genius” to be the better,  Astounding historical portrayal gets my nod over pure fiction, even the gripping drama provided by Fences.  Whether they are 1 and 2, or 1A and 1B, it’s clear that I value dialog over non-stop action, and deeply human stories more than plot lines alone.

Straight Outta Compton

The film “Straight Outta Compton” is history and culture. It is also a mystery of the kind that makes you think, “Why did it take Hollywood decades to make  this movie?” (See “Fences”) and, “How is it that I wasn’t more aware of these events at the time?” Today we speak of living inside “information bubbles;” we have always lived in cultural bubbles.

The acting, storytelling, and filming are very good. I seemed to notice that scenes were often shot with very low lighting when featuring Jerry, the white manager of NWA and Ruthless Records. It made perfect sense to include the Rodney King episode as a sidebar to the action.  The language was raw, but I would have expected worse.


“Passengers” is a movie starring Jennifer Lawrence. I knew her when “Winter’s Bone” delivered a young and captivating actress. This Sci-Fi effort didn’t hold my attention like the stark realities depicted and superbly portrayed in that first sighting.

I’m told it was a love story set in outer space. I spaced out on the lack of realism. That’s not to say you wouldn’t enjoy it, because Science Fiction isn’t my bread-and-butter. Oh! It was a love story; I keep misplacing that thought.


“Fences” brings a story from the theater’s stage to the big screen, and it’s marvelous. I’m confident there will be Academy Award nominations for this film. Viola Davis tops that list for me, but from Denzel Washington through the entire cast the roles were superbly played. The show is heavy on dialog, light on action, but deep in meaning.

The August Wilson stage play by the same name from the 1980s was the genesis of this story. He sold the rights to Paramount in 1987 and it took nearly 30 years for Hollywood to deliver a film. Why? Because August included a provision that the Director be African American, and there wasn’t a “fit” until Mr. Washington stepped up. Then, to further delay the proceedings, Denzel insisted on performing the stage play before acting and directing the film. Enjoy the finished product in a theater near you. Good things come to those who wait.