To recap, we kicked back a couple of times over the holidays and here’s what we saw.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation
Insurgent
His Girl Friday
Ex Machina
Babadook
Ant-Man
The Jane Austen Book Club
Love & Mercy

I covered His Girl Friday in the last review. Skip it unless you’re interested in 1940s screwball comedies.

Small budget films: I’ll start with Babadook. Someone on Facebook said, “Never see a movie with *bad* in the title.” This is a horror film written and directed by an Australian woman. Anthony Lane, the movie critic for The New Yorker, whose opinions I usually agree with for the most part, was much taken by this movie. So we sat down to watch. Sadly, the Facebook commentator was right. First off, when I’m relaxing to see a movie, I don’t want to see a character kill a beloved family pet to indicate how evil s/he has become. The rabbit in Fatal Attraction, which definitely showed evil, is my limit. I mean, some people eat rabbits, after all. But a dog, cat, or horse? No. Just no. Beyond that objection, I found too many scenes staged just like The Sixth Sense. “Homage” is one device; “rip off” is another. Skip it.

The Jane Austen Book Club is based on Karen Joy Fowler’s book. A fun and clever film to watch! My favorite part is when Grigg, the foxy male member of the book club, introduces a female member to science fiction. What a treat to hear Patrice Ann’s name spoken on the big screen! (That’s Pat Murphy, of course.) Grigg’s complaint—“I’ll read your books but you won’t read mine”—hits home. Will women only read romances about love and money, whereas men go for more intellectual fare like science fiction but will also try a romance or two? The publishing business still seems to be stuck in this rut. Anyway, recommended.

Love & Mercy is the story of Brian Wilson’s battle with mental illness. I’m hardly a Beach Boys fan, but I’m always interested in creative people’s lives and struggles. The film doesn’t successfully carry off Wilson’s transition from hearing music in his head (I’ve done that) and being obsessive-compulsive about composing pop tunes (who knew he was a musical genius?) to becoming a paranoid schizophrenic. But I liked the woman who saves him and marries him and their romantic story. Interesting.

Finally, Ex Machina was named by Time Magazine as one of the top ten films of 2015. Alicia Vikander is up for all kinds of awards for her portrayal of an “AI,” a truly self-thinking artificial intelligence housed in a beautiful woman’s synthetic body. The film, made for $15 million, earned $25 million worldwide, a success story if not a breakout hit. The film plays like an Omni story edited by Ellen Datlow—brilliant, intelligent, intellectual, sexy, and tactile with a shockingly dark ending. Recommended.

Next we move on to YA dystopia: Insurgent. As I wrote in a previous review of Divergent, I found the premise absurd and unbelievable. I only agreed to watch this second installment out of professional obligation. It doesn’t get better. The story is slow, the characters unbelievable, the premise still absurd, and nothing is invested in the outcome. I won’t see the final installment. Life is too short. Skip it.

Finally, international spy action thrillers and comic book movies. In spite of the fact that the film was a box office flop, we really wanted to love The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Turns out, the box office was right. The problems are many: the actors never come to life (showing a close-up of the clenched hand of a man who has barely suppressed rage doesn’t work the first time, let alone the next half-dozen times), they have no chemistry with each other or any other characters, and the attempts at humor, required of this genre, fall flat. An expensive disappointment.

In contrast, Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, with the ever dependable Tom Cruise, is a totally enjoyable international spy action thriller, which turns the Mission Impossible premise upside down, to good effect. Cruise is a master of the telling look that carries a touch of humor. I think Cruise is underrated for his mastery of comedy. He’s hilarious as the male empowerment sex guru in Magnolia and even more hilarious, and pitch perfect, as the balding, pudgy, self-absorbed movie studio executive in Tropic Thunder—a truly hilarious movie. At an awards ceremony a few years ago, Cruise walked out unannounced onstage costumed as the balding, pudgy, self-absorbed movie studio executive and launched into his iconic dance at the end of Tropic Thunder. People were rolling in the aisles. Highly recommended.

At last we come to Ant-Man. What can I say? This is a Marvel Comics movie, slyly tied in to the Iron Man and Avengers franchises. With a super-technology that’s truly original, an engaging flawed hero, the dependable Michael Douglas looking very foxy indeed as the aging genius inventor, his strong, brilliant, and physically powerful daughter (who is set up for a sequel; stick around after the end credits), and humor that is laugh-out-loud funny, this is a treat. We watched it twice. Highly recommended.

So there you have it, my friends. My opinions, only. Hope they help guide you! Time is precious!

Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website (newly updated for 2016) for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

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Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, and Kobo.
Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery)
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Visit me at Lisa Mason’s Official Website for books, ebooks, stories, and screenplays, reviews, interviews, and blogs, adorable pet pictures, forthcoming projects, fine art and bespoke jewelry by Tom Robinson, worldwide Amazon.com links for Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, and Spain, and more!

And on Lisa Mason’s Blog, on my Facebook Author Page, on my Facebook Profile Page, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on LinkedIn, on Twitter at @lisaSmason, at Smashwords, at Apple, at Kobo, at Sony, and at Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

If you enjoy a title, please “Like” it, add five stars, write a review on the site where you bought it, Tweet it, blog it, post it,, and share the word with your family and friends.

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