Archive for the Special Interest Category


Posted in Documentary, Special Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 07/01/2018 by joycereview

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

Fred Rogers was one of my first influences growing up. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood was a major part of me and my sister’s childhood (besides Sesame Street and our favorite, Reading Rainbow). As good as some of these other children’s programs were, none delivered more of a caring message as Mr. Rogers did – as he would always end his show with…

“You’ve made this day a special day just by being you. There’s no one in the world quite like you, and I like you just the way you are.”

My wife and I had the opportunity to see the first showing at the Aperture Cinema in downtown Winston-Salem Friday night. We managed to find good seating towards the middle of Studio 2, and although the space was fairly cramped and the screen a bit higher than it needs to be, we were able to physically “hold up” for the 94 minute running time. My wife Jennifer was adequately prepared to brave the movie with her new neck stabilizer.


It was hard for me to rate this one. If anyone was to rate the documentary based on who the man was, and how important he was, it would obviously be a 10! It currently has a 99% score on Rotten Tomatoes with only one critic holding out with a negative review.  Did this one critic want to merely stand out from the crowd or does he have some legitimate points?


My take on this documentary is as such – It was an extremely moving film about the Fred Rogers, his television show and the impact that it had on society. It was also a refreshing film that reinforces all the positivity, love and kindness that seems so rare in our nation currently. There was a lot that you learned about Mr. Rogers, from his distaste for programs that encouraged violence and consumerism, to the insecurities that he had later in his career. The viewer was reminded just how amazing he was with children, how honest and sincere he was and how gently and simply he’d lead you along the path of understanding – whether the topic was divorce or even the tragic events of September 11th. After watching this great film, and you realize that the world will not likely see another quite like him… it leaves you wondering what Fred Rogers would think about the state of the world today – even though they try to tackle that tough question in the film. 


Won’t You Be My Neighbor gets an 8-out-of-10 bear claws for a couple of reasons. First, is the documentary crafted in the best possible way with respect to the subject? My answer – Somewhat. Director Morgan Neville does a good job at weaving the various clips, behind-the-scenes and interviews from the early days of the show to today, but it felt that once we were getting to a deeper understanding Mr. Rogers, the direction moved elsewhere. And while the documentary styling was soft and simple – just as Mr. Rogers would have like it, it would also have been interesting to have known more about where and how Fred Rogers grew up, who his influences were and (even) how he handled the diagnosis of cancer that took his life at the age of 73. There is still a lot that Joanne Rogers (his widow) knows, that fans of his would love to know – and as much as we loved the show, we all loved and would have loved to know the man even deeper.


In all of my reviews I try to give my readers my honest thoughts and certainly why I rate the movie the way I do – not just a quick thumbs-up or thumbs-down and certainly not a lengthy description of the plot. That is far too dull and something you can easily pick up by watching the trailer.  However, I do hope you are enjoying my reviews, and they are inspiring you to check out a film or even re-watch one! Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a wonderful film that should be interested for all… but please give me your personal thoughts when you get a chance. I’d love to hear them!


Don’t forget to bring some tissues. When we watched it, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house/theater… certainly including me (I’m such a softie!)









Posted in Classic, Comedy, Special Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/17/2018 by joycereview

Life of Brian (1979)

“He’s not the Messiah, he’s a very naughty boy!”

In a recent look-through of my film library, a comedy masterpiece sits, staring back at me, Monty Python’s Life of Brian. John Cleese himself heralds this piece as “our masterpiece.” Released when I was a mere infant, it would be approximately 14 years before I would see it with my best friend and henceforth, quote it’s many memorable lines – especially the lisping Pontius Pilate.

Invariably on every top list of comedy classics (i.e. Airplane, The Jerk, etc.) you’ll see The Life of Brian, often ranked within the Top Ten. That’s how universally applauded it is. And even with the controversial nature of the film… it actually didn’t get quite as much flack as you might have thought. Though it was banned and protested in areas, I believe it was due to the fact that it focused on Brian (not Jesus Christ) as a false prophet, it was done with great research and comedic brilliance and was handled well as a media campaign. It was marketed in Sweden as “a movie so funny it was banned in Norway.” It obviously helped that Monty Python was hugely popular and that fans of the show, especially after their previous success, The Holy Grail, was bond to see what the fuss was about.

The biggest hurdle they had to go through was, believe it our not, funding. EMI backed out of the contract only weeks before production, so musician and Beatle George Harrison put up the $4 million dollars and saved the film. When asked why he did it, Harrison calmly replied, “because I want to go see it.” As financier of the film and both friend and fan of the Pythons, he was given a cameo. Did you spot him? Famed actor Spike Milligan was on vacation in Tunisia at the time of filming and was also given a cameo. If you spot either….put it in the comments.

The Life of Brian is the story of a man who is mistaken as a messiah during the time and location as Jesus. Originally it was to be called “Brian of Nazareth.” Though Jesus is shown (played by none other than Imperial Admiral Piett from Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi, Kenneth Colley) giving his sermon on the mount, the story focuses hysterically on the people of the time; prophet followers, religious groups and of course, the Romans.

Since there is are not enough words to describe how great this film is, I’ll let you in on why I don’t think it’s a “perfect 10.” Keep in mind this is solely an opinion, and because of different tastes in comedy, many of you will undoubtedly say, “that’s a bit nit-picky.” However, and I don’t understand this, but in each feature film of the Python’s there seems to be a clip that either thrown in for complete lunacy, or for some other reason I can’t fathom. For example,… in their first feature film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail there is a scene of monks beating their head with a prayer board, turning into animation, and falling of the script like a bunch of lemmings. In the Life of Brian, Brian is running away from the Romans and falls into an alien spacecraft.  Perhaps the reason was to feature some type of signature, Monty Python animation, or quite simply take ownership of what can easily be called the most random event in cinematic history.

If you haven’t seen this film, it should definitely be on your list of films to watch! Especially nowadays, when it seems that everyone gets offended over the simplest of things – sit back, relax and laugh as the Python boys poke fun and manage to piss off nearly every world religion.

“See… not so bad once you’re up!”





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Everest (2015) :: DRAMA :: 047

Posted in Drama, Special Interest, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 03/27/2018 by joycereview

Everest (2015)

Everest is definitely one to buy on bluray. Trust me… it’ll enhance the experience as the views of Chomolungma “Goddess Mother of the World” is breathtaking. Both this film (2015) and Into Thin Air (1997) attempted to recreate the story of mountain climbing leaders Rob Hall and Scott Fischer but this one was based on primarily the audiotapes and Beck’s book “Left For Dead.” Into Thin Air was based on Jon Krakauer’s book of the same name.

I must say of Baltasar Kormákur’s Everest – nearly everything was better! Though Nathaniel Parker did a tremendous job playing Rob Hall… Jason Clarke (in Everest) was equally impressive. Both movies were very emotionally-driven (how could it not be) but again, Everest had me balling harder. Along with the on-location filming, star-studded cast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Emily Watson, John Hawkes and Josh Brolin), and more cohesive storyline, Everest proved to be the best mountaineering movie I’ve seen to date.

The only thing that I wished were better was capitalizing on what Into Thin Air did right. Into Thin Air brought more of the story onto the lives and importance of the sherpas, the locals that aided the climbers to the top and back (Everest is 29,029 feet high). That movie also spent more time explaining to the audience just how demanding the Everest climb is and its effect on the body. Everest (2015), as pulse-pounding and entertaining as it was could easily have included this and increases its duration another half-hour. I don’t think people would have griped!

Most people who see this movie already know what the story is about and what the outcome was as well. All I will say is, “Have some Kleenex ready!”





THIS IS IT :: DOC :: 041

Posted in Documentary, Special Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , on 03/11/2010 by joycereview

The world loves Michael Jackson.   I love Michael Jackson. 

 I wish I could have loved this movie. 

A month ago, I watched clips of people’s reactions after watching this film and most of them came out teary-eyed and praising of the picture. 

Here’s what I saw:

I saw a very thin and pale version of the King of Pop, singing and dancing at 50% of his capacity in the rehearsals for his sold-out London concert.  His crew, Kenny Ortega and a slew of awe-struck dancers working tirelessly to make the show fast, bold and worthy of  “The final curtain call.”

This Is It, was a draw-out (111 min), behind-the-scenes of a concert that never happened.  Viewers are briefly entertained by new segments of “Smooth Criminal” and a redone, 3d version of “Thriller,” but besides this… all you see is a master of music working and perfecting the final presentation of his craft.

In an entire room of people that love Michael Jackson’s music, we all enjoyed it as background music as we played Bejeweled, uploaded pictures to facebook, and downloaded iTunes to their new netbook. 

I believe that Michael Jackson was our “Ambassador of Love” to the world.  There are very few people on this planet who have not heard his name.  His influence is felt in the lives of virtually everyone who has (heard his name), but this film didn’t show Michael the way that I want to remember him.  In his videos, in other documentaries, I’ve seen him much more happy – displaying his voice, dance and passion with more freedom and exuberance . 

I’ll simply watch (any of) the other videos/documentaries if I want to remember him.  Either that, or listen to my Jackson playlist that I’ve had since music could be put on computers.

What did you guys think?  Did it make you think it was any better than what we’ve seen from Michael Jackson in the past?  It feels bad to say, but to me, it seemed the simple and logical way to make millions on his name and legacy.

THE COVE :: DOC :: 037

Posted in Documentary, Drama, Special Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 02/13/2010 by joycereview

The Cove, winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, is a film that everyone should view (at least once… and soon).

World renown dolphin expert, trainer and activist Ric O’Barry (Flipper, television series; 1960s), along with a crack squad of specialists, attempts to expose the horrific animal abuse and potential health threat in Taiji, Japan.

Not for the faint-of-heart, The Cove shows us brutal reality, in hopes that we may become more aware, emotionally invested and sympathetic to the plight of the dolphins (and other whales).  I’ll never look at a captive dolphin the same way, nor will I return to the person I was before I saw this film.

Nature’s cruelest joke is that a dolphin’s smile makes him/her appear to always be happy.  …Captive dolphins are constantly stressed and must be given medicines with their food to prevent ulcers.

After watching, The Cove, something else that O’Barry said struck me to my very core.  He said, “If you aren’t an activist, you’re an inactivist.”

From day-to-day, there is much that we can do.  Living in the “information age” should not only be the mighty catalyst for the exchange of information but for the creation of real change.  If there is one thing that this film shows you, (besides the abuse of animals and the destructive nature of man) is that one person can make a difference, and a group of people can change the world.

Watch this for yourself.  The Cove is just as good as any espionage film, will (very likely) move you to tears …and it is, every bit, real.

For more information on the film, visit: TakePart.Com

[While your there, Sign the petition, and spread the word!]

* * *


CHE :: FOREIGN :: 032

Posted in Action, Documentary, Drama, Foreign, Special Interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 01/05/2010 by joycereview

After seeing the film, The Motorcycle Dairies, I knew I had to learn more about the man, the humanitarian, the revolutionary, Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

Steven Soderbergh’s Che (initially split into Che: The Argentine and Che: Guerrilla) is a beautiful, yet somewhat laboring look (pt 1= 134 minutes; pt. 2= 135 minutes) at the asthmatic doctor who fought so hard for the “miserable and alienated” and who becomes not only Latin America’s most legendary revolutionary leader but also one of the most iconic faces for freedom and liberty the world over.

Che is played by Benicio Del Toro with a searing elegance and believability that won him the Best Actor Award at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.  Fidel Castro, played by Demian Bichir, was a revelation to watch, and (I felt) the Chilean sensation, Santiago Cabrera fit the role of loyal Comandante Camilo Cienfuegos most perfecto!

The entire movie was filmed like a window into the past.  The action was gritty, emotional and in-your-face.  The dialogue throughout the entire will was approximately 98% Spanish and besides a few notables (Franka Potente and Matt Damion), nearly the entire cast of the film was hispanic.


At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.  It is impossible to think of a genuine revolutionary lacking this quality.

If I am to be as honest as my nature compels me to be, I’d have to say that Che is on my list as one of the Top 5 films of 2008-2009.  The only noticeable flaw (if you know history) is that Che was of average height 5’9 (quite perfect for a guerilla soldier) and no where near the 6 foot 3 inch-sasquatch-ness of Del Toro.  So although Benicio could channel the spirit and essence of the ‘Che’, somehow, and quite disappointingly, he couldn’t make himself smaller.

The next blunder comes when Soderbergh gives us over 4 hours of action, history, and brilliant acting.  I mean, who wants to attach their phat fannies to the sofas for that length of time?  Well… I did.  And I’m sure there are lots of history buffs and Leftists out there that would too.  Not-to-mention the godless communist scum* that I’m sure still need someone to look up to (even though all of this took place half a century ago).

Okay, if I had to pick one truly sour point in the film… which was no big deal really… it was that each part (remember, the movie was split into Che’s time in Cuba [part uno] and in Bolivia [part dos]) began with a map of the country – slowly highlighting the different regions and names of the cities and towns.  If they had used a more photographic and stylish image, perhaps overlaying it with old photos each city/town/village/region, your attention might not go towards how heavy your eyelids are (especially at the very onset of such a terrific film).  I was surprised to see there were no opening credits during this time!  I don’t know why that was… but even a flash or brief flicker of an actor’s name might have woken me from the dreary and drab geography lesson.

Had Benicio not taken the role, Che might have been handed to Val Kilmer.  And had we a gringo playing such a legendary figure, we might just have had… I don’t know… Ben Affleck playing Camilo and even though he kinda looks like him if he grew a big, mangy beard, I would have had half a mind to start a revolution of my very own.

Hasta la victoria siempre!

*eventhough ‘Che’ was Marxist-Communist and was in fact ‘godless’ (when asked, Do you believe in God? Che answered, “I believe in mankind”) I don’t mean all godless communists in a bad way.  The whole “scum” at the end was meant to imply “the frothy goodness.”  Wait a minute, that’s “skim.”  Whatever.

FOOD, INC. :: DOC :: 011

Posted in Documentary, Special Interest with tags , , , , , , on 11/05/2009 by joycereview

8bearfoodincSometimes, I can be not-so-intelligent. Such is the time that I sit down to watch this documentary on the Food Industry whilst eating Sloppy Joes.  I can honestly say that the sandwich had never tasted so bad in all my life.

Most of this could be in my head, but I figure it has much to-do with the images of cows, pigs, and chickens trodding knee deep in their own excrement.  Or maybe it was the mechanized churning of hundreds of cows into a (previously delectable) meaty paste.  Fact of the matter, I need to eat better.  We all need to eat better.  And this is one all-too-important documentary films that each and every one of us should take it upon ourselves to see.

Food, Inc., is a documentary film by Robert Kenner and based on An Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.  It’s a glimpse into lives of the modern day farmer and the big businesses that own them and of everyday consumers, some financially strained enough to be forced to eat “fast-food”-style and another that lost her young son to E. Coli poisoning.  For once we have a movie, to-the-point and with a showing time of only 93 minutes!  Education for the whole family.  Watch this movie!

We need to (forgive my tactlessness) get our head out of our arses! The good-looking cowboy looking over his cattle isn’t carving up your beef and the sweet old geezers with the pitchfork and a smile aren’t churning your butter.  You’ve been had.  Our best hope for discovering real food grown by real farmers is to go to your local farmer’s market.  Or for convenience sake, do your shopping at Whole Foods.  But remember, it’s not necessarily about shopping “organic” or not (although it is best), it’s also about food grown within your area and not those shipped from far away lands (oozing chemicals that keep them “fresh”).

We as a “fast food society” have a backwards way at looking at health.  We look at a carton of organic, free-range eggs and scoff at the price… $3…$4, whatever.  Meanwhile, we’re filling our belly with a 75 cent soda or munching from a $3 bag of chips.  Our stomachs should not become the repository of salts, fats, and sugars but a furnace that we feed real foods, real energy.  Years of this thinking, and more importantly, ACTION, will produce less digestive complications, less illness and better overall wellness.  Compare the cost of eating right and exercising to a hospital bill sometime.  I triple dog dare ya.

Just remember that we as consumers hold the cards.  We supply these businesses with money.  Each item you run through the register is a vote.  Organic… not organic.  Imported… locally grown.  I, for one, am going to be more conscious of my food choices and if that means spending a little more… so be it.  Power to us [raises fist to the sky]!