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     In a word:  Struggles

This is an entertaining, well-done movie about personal struggles within two sports stars who lived under the public eye. Folks who’ve been around a while, will remember the much ballyhooed tennis match between the dominant, 29-year-old female star of 1973, and the over-the-hill once-great Bobby Riggs, 55 year-old, who challenged Billie Jean King to a one-on-one match to prove a great man would always beat a great woman on the court.

     There was much more playing out in this docudrama than a mere tennis match, although the fact remains that the event topped the charts as the most watched sports even (then) in history.

     At play was the rise of women’s plight for equality in a time when male professionals earned ten times the dollars than did women, and it appeared their demands were falling on deaf ears until Billie Jean King came along to stand up to the establishment. 

     Once a major tennis star of the 1950’s, Bobby Riggs struggled with being a notorious gambling addict, not to mention an egomaniac who, knowing of the friction between women and men in tennis, concocted an idea to prove women’s tennis

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     In a word: gripping

     Before describing the movie, we should take into account a few tidbits about the actor Tom Cruise, probably the most recognized star in Hollywood, though he never won an Oscar for any of the 41 major movies he has made. Now age 55, looking more like 35, his dynamic persona and physical conditioning is nothing less than amazing, as he performs almost all his own stunts. In terms of money, he is the 8th highest grossing actor of all time in America. His films have grossed over $9 billion worldwide.

     For Tom Cruise, American Made is just another high-powered action film based on the true-life story of Barry Seal, a one-time pilot for TWA who – in the early 1980s — was lured into the world of drug smuggling, commiserating with the top figures of the international cartels, including the notorious Pablo Escobar. He is also acquainted with Manuel Noriega, famed dictator of Panama. Intoxicated by the flow of money, Seal becomes careless in some of his contacts as the film depicts him as collaborating with DEA or CIA until the web of crime and law enforcement catches up

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“ STRONGER” – 8 ½

In a word:  Heartbreaking

     The movie is a docudrama about love, compassion, outrage, sacrifice and most of all, struggle in coping with extreme personal tragedy.

     The story begins with the Boston Marathon bombing four years ago, which took the lives of  three innocent people and seriously injured hundreds more including 16 people who lost limbs. Jeff Bauman was one of these, a regular blue collar fellow who happened to be in attendance near the finish line to cheer on his girlfriend when the bombs went off.

     I remember seeing the first news photos of this young man in 2013, lying in shock amid the chaos, with his shin bone protruding through the skin of his lower leg.

     Surprisingly, the movie is not so much about the bombing or terrorism, or the investigation. It’s about one man, and the people who love him, and his life-changing catastrophe becoming a double-amputee. While Bauman’s life is turned inside out, so are the lives of his family members plus the girl he loves.

    The movie portrays Bauman’s long time relationship with Erin Hurley as having been rocky, in and out, breaking up, making up. At the time of the

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“The Glass Castle” –  8 out of 10

In a word:  Heartrending

     If you’ve been a parent or child of a loved one who’s suffered from addiction, or are close to others who were similarly victimized, this movie will bring it home.

     Based on a true story and a Best Selling memoir written by Jeanette Walls, The Glass Castle introduces us into the nomadic family life of two dirt poor parents and their four dirt poor offspring, told mainly from the viewpoint of Jeanette, the second youngest of the four who eventually pulled herself up from the bottom rung of society into a successful author, writer and gossip columnist.

     The nomadic family is shuttled from shanty to shanty in California, Arizona and West Virginia by the father, Rex Walls, a hopeless but gregarious alcoholic with big dreams and innate smarts, but unable to follow through on anything, forcing his kids, and his wife (Naomi Watts), to live in squalor.

     While the movie portrays Rex Walls (Woody Harrelson) as a basic loving man out of control, the fallout from his actions and inactions create chaos and turmoil – and hunger – among the kids while the mother has little power

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“KIDNAP”  – 8 ½

In a word:  Intense.

     This is a good movie, because it entertains, raises heart rates, captures dire emotions between mother and child, while the 1 hour and 34 minutes fly by like it was half that time. It is packed with “intensity” from beginning to end.

     Halle Berry’s character, a restaurant waitress, is a single mom of a six-year-old boy, in the throes of a custody battle with an ex-husband.  She brings her boy to a local carnival when she takes a brief phone call about the impending court battle and tells her boy to “wait right here.” Moments later, she realizes the child is gone which triggers maternal panic, especially when she spots, at a distance, the child being loaded into a vehicle by a strange bedraggled woman. Berry goes ballistic, racing after the car on foot, to no avail. From there she boards her own vehicle which begins the hour-long, plus, nerve-wracking chase through highways and by-ways, causing too many crashes along the way. But…this is a movie.

     It exudes the same emotions as the movie “Taken” only in this film all the events take place during a single afternoon of a harrowing

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“DUNKIRK”   –  6 1/2 

In a word:  Nerve-wracking

     This is an unusual movie as it has no stand-out male actors and no females at all. Neither did we see any minorities, nor did we hear any significant foul language. But we did hear guns, bombs, screams and crashes to the highest of decibels which caused me, my wife and our two friends to constantly cover our ears. Add to that, the loudness of haunting deep music strains to accent the horror, played throughout the film to a point of virtual annoyance.    

     The entire movie from beginning to end is set in the 1940 beaches of Dunkirk, France (near the Belgium border) and the English Channel, where British, Belgian, French and Dutch were trapped, at the will of Nazi air raids where it was like picking off ducks in a barrel. The horrific assaults on land and sea caused over 350,000 casualties among allied forces. That does not include the 40,000 that were taken captive nor does it include the German casualty numbers.

     The assault followed the invasion of German forces into France, just weeks before they would march through Paris. The allies were desperate to evacuate, but that would not

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“THE BIG SICK”   =  8 ½

In a word:  Deep

     What happens when two people fall in love and their cultures collide, specifically American Christianity and Pakistani Islam? Watch this movie, it answers the question.    

     The story follows the plight of a young couple from two different worlds. Based in Chicago, Emily is a pert, bubbly graduate student who meets a handsome young Pakistani in a comedy club where he is testing his skills at stand-up. They work hard at avoiding a serious relationship but, alas their efforts fail and love blooms.

     The two eventually face two major crises.  Kumail, the young Pakistani, is very close to his family, who constantly pressure him to marry within the faith, often introducing him to marriage “prospects.” When his mother and father learn that he has fallen in love with an American, non-Muslim girl, Kumail is crushed between his love of her and the love/obligation to his demanding family.

     Meanwhile, as all this erupts, Emily is suddenly struck with a life-threatening illness that requires her to be induced into a coma. This is when Kumail is pitted against her parents, traditional American folks who come to Chicago from another state.  The challenges faced

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