BOOK CLUB (2018) – Boasts Considerable Star Power with Fonda, Keaton, Bergen, and Steenburgen

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Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen in BOOK CLUB (2018)

First of all, even if this movie had been bad, I still would have been impressed with its star power.

I mean, you have Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen sharing equal time as the four lead characters in BOOK CLUB (2018), a charming tale of four lifelong friends who still get together once a month for their book club meetings and who decide to spice up their lives by reading Fifty Shades of Grey.

But I’ll cut to the chase and get to the good news, which is BOOK CLUB is not a bad movie. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.  It’s a really good movie.

Diane (Diane Keaton), Vivian (Jane Fonda), Sharon (Candice Bergen) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen) are all feeling old. They decide to shake things up a bit by reading the novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James for their monthly book read, and soon their conversations turn to sex. It’s a subject that’s on all their minds, but at their age, they simply don’t feel comfortable talking about it or even thinking about it. Reading the novel changes all that for them.

Carol tries to spice up her love life with her husband Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) who has only just recently retired and just doesn’t seem himself lately. The sequence where Carol secretly slips some Viagra into his drink and their subsequent argument in their car which leads to them being pulled over by the police is one of the funnier bits in the film.

Vivian becomes reacquainted with an old boyfriend Arthur (Don Johnson), while Diane, whose husband had recently passed away, meets a pilot Mitchell (Andy Garcia) who’s very much interested in her. And Sharon, a federal judge who believes she’s way past the age of dating, is egged on by her friends to get back into the game, especially when she learns her ex-husband is marrying a young woman who’s the same age as their son. Sharon enters the world of online dating, which leads her to meet a friendly accountant George (Richard Dreyfuss).

All of these stories work well, which is no surprise when you consider the quality of the actors involved here.  But BOOK CLUB is more than just fine acting.  It also has a very good screenplay by Bill Holderman, who directed, and Erin Simms.  It’s witty and honest, and the comedy here isn’t ridiculous or silly, but sincere and heartfelt.  And you definitely will laugh while watching this one.

But having four amazing actresses in the movie certainly doesn’t hurt, and all four are well worth the price of admission.

First of all, Jane Fonda looks absolutely amazing. She’s 81 years old, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at her. She looks twenty years younger.

I’ve had a crush on Diane Keaton ever since ANNIE HALL (1976) and after seeing BOOK CLUB I think I still have a crush on her. She exudes intellectual sexiness. Her story in BOOK CLUB is probably the one that is most developed of the four.  The sequence where she first meets Mitchell on a plane is laugh out loud funny,

Once they start dating, they have strong feelings for each other, but Diane feels like she needs to be committed to her two adult daughters, and she feels if she were involved in a relationship so soon after their father’s death it would hurt them, but Mitchell makes the case that it’s okay for her to be happy.  Keaton and Andy Garcia share some of the movie’s best scenes together, and they enjoy a strong onscreen chemistry.

One part of Diane’s story that didn’t work for me was her relationship with her two adult daughters.  They treat Diane like she’s 90 years old, as they worry about her living alone and want her to move to Arizona to live with them.  This seemed unrealistic to me since Diane seemed quite capable of living on her own.

Mary Steenburgen and Craig T. Nelson succeed as the long married couple Carol and Bruce who in spite of their recent difficulties really do still love each other, and this comes out beautifully in their performances.

Candice Bergen’s scenes are also very funny as she tries to navigate the world of online dating, like when she inadvertently takes a photo of herself with her computer camera while she’s wearing a facial mask. Her scenes with Richard Dreyfuss are also quite good.

In addition to Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen there’s also a very strong supporting cast.

Andy Garcia is excellent as Mitchell, the pilot who falls easily in love with Diane.  It’s probably the best Garcia performance I’ve seen in years.

Craig T. Nelson is equally as good as Carol’s husband Bruce. One of his best scenes is when he explains his recent moods to Carol, saying that his retirement left him very scared about what there was left to do in his life, and it shook him badly, which is another good example of the sincerity of the screenplay.

Don Johnson enjoys quality screen time as Arthur, and Richard Dreyfuss makes the most of his very brief screen time as accountant George.

I really enjoyed BOOK CLUB, from the acting of all involved, to the funny and sincere script, to the cinematography, as there are some very picturesque shots of the skyline around Mitchell’s home in Arizona.

The film also does well with its theme, that we are not meant to be alone.  It’s Jane Fonda’s Vivian, probably the most successful of the four, who continually tries to make the argument to the contrary, citing that she knows how all relationships end, and so she is perfectly happy to ignore them and live her life without them. But when she meets Arthur again, she realizes that in spite of all her success as an independent woman, she’s missing something in her life.

For Diane, it’s the validation that it’s okay to be happy, that she doesn’t have to stay in mourning over the death of her husband in order to respect her daughters’ feelings.

Sharon learns that it’s never too late to start dating, and Carol discovers that being married to the same man for years upon years doesn’t have to take away from their sex life.  It just takes communication.

I laughed a lot during BOOK CLUB, as did the decent sized audience I saw it with.

BOOK CLUB is a witty look at four successful senior women who start off having some fun talking about sex for the first time in a while and then find themselves using these conversations as a springboard to re-connect with members of the opposite sex, something they didn’t think was still possible for women their age.

It tells an uplifting and very funny story that will have you laughing throughout in this very amiable comedy by Bill Holderman featuring four powerhouse actresses, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen.

That’s some impressive star power.

—END—

 

 

 

 

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THE HORROR JAR: JAWS movies

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Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) fights off the shark in JAWS (1975).

“No, I will not be your dinner!”—  Brody (Roy Scheider) fends off the shark in JAWS (1975).

THE HORROR JAR:  JAWS movies

By Michael Arruda

 

Welcome to another edition of THE HORROR JAR, that column where we feature lists of odds and ends about horror movies.  Today, since we’re smack dab in the middle of summer, we look at the JAWS series.

Now, I love JAWS just as much as the next guy.  In fact, JAWS (1975) is one of my all-time favorite movies.  But I think it’s sufficient to say that in spite of the film’s success, it’s a film that should have been a stand-alone movie.  All of its sequels are unnecessary.

Seriously, if you really wanted to continue the story of JAWS, you would have followed the surviving characters from the first movie, Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) and Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), and any believable story worth its salt wouldn’t have featured a giant shark since what are the odds of that ever happening again?  And I don’t think people would have paid money to see Brody take on another island issue, or Hooper battling a giant eel for example.  JAWS was about a killer shark, and unless Brody and Hooper were going into business as “Shark-Busters” writers would be hard pressed to write a believable second story about these two tangling with a monster shark.

Now, I actually like JAWS 2 (1978) because it does feature Roy Scheider again as Chief Brody who does cross paths again with a monster shark, and JAWS 2 is a fun movie, but it’s certainly not very believable.  A second killer shark returns to the same beach a few years later?  And if you read between the lines it’s come back because it’s seeking vengeance for the first shark’s death?  Seriously?

The next two films in the series JAWS 3 (1983) and JAWS: THE REVENGE (1987) are flat out awful, and the idea that sharks have it in for the Brody family just never really works.

So, here they are, the JAWS movies:

 

JAWS (1975)

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gotlieb, based on Benchley’s novel, Jaws.

Music by John Williams

Brody:  Roy Scheider

Quint:  Robert Shaw

Hooper:  Richard Dreyfuss

Ellen Brody:  Lorraine Gary

Mayor Vaughn:  Murray Hamilton

Running Time:  124 minutes

 

The perfect summer horror movie, JAWS has become one of the most iconic movies ever made, chock full of memorable characters and memorable lines.  You’re going to need a bigger boat.  It also has one very hungry shark.  Directed by a 25 year-old Steven Spielberg, this intense frightening film is that rare example of a movie being better than the book on which it is based.  I saw this at the movies when I was just 11 years old and it scared the stuffing out of me!  Excellent movie, one of the best sea adventure/horror movies ever made, and it remains just as powerful today as it first did in 1975.  Iconic music score by John Williams, probably his best ever.

 

 

JAWS 2 (1978)

Directed by Jeannot Szwarc

Screenplay by Carl Gotlieb and Howard Sackler

Music by John Williams

Brody:  Roy Scheider

Ellen Brody:  Lorraine Gary

Mayor Vaughn:  Murray Hamilton

Running Time:  116 minutes

 

Sequel has Chief Brody once again tangling with a killer shark on Amity Island, this time without help from Richard Dreyfuss’ Hooper and Robert Shaw’s Quint, and so this one is about  one third of the fun.  Shark scenes are still rather effective, but gone is Spielberg’s “less is more” style from the first movie.  We see an awful lot of the shark in this one, and that’s not always a good thing.  And the story about a monster shark returning to Amity a few years after the events of the first film, and to have the mayor still argue to keep the beaches open, is simply not very believable.

 

 

JAWS 3-D (1983)

Directed by Joe Alves

Screenplay by Richard Matheson and Carl Gotlieb

Music by Alan Parker

Mike Brody:  Dennis Quaid

Kay Morgan:  Bess Armstrong

Calvin Bouchard:  Louis Gossett, Jr.

Running Time: 99 minutes

 

The grown-up sons of Chief Brody take on a killer shark at a Sea World type theme park in Florida.  Skip this nonsense and watch REVENGE OF THE CREATURE (1955) instead.  The Creature film did a much better job with a similar plot.  This one features a ridiculous story— I still can’t believe that Richard Matheson co-wrote this!— awful characters, and some of the worst 3D effects ever seen in a movie.

 

 

JAWS:  THE REVENGE (1987)

Directed by Joseph Sargent

Screenplay by Michael De Guzman

Music by Michael Small

Ellen Brody:  Lorraine Gary

Hoagie:  Michael Caine

Michael Brody:  Lance Guest

Jake:  Mario Van Peebles

Running Time:  89 minutes

 

The worst of the series.  It’s hard to believe there could be a movie worse than JAWS 3-D, but this film is proof that there is.  Lorraine Gary returns as Ellen Brody and teams with Michael Caine playing a man named Hoagie— is he to become a shark sandwich?— as they try to save her sons from a— you guessed it, a monster shark— who has it in for the Brody family.  The sharks have taken note, I guess, that Chief Brody killed two of their own.  This one features the absolute worst ending of the series, one of the most abrupt and silly endings of any horror movie period.  The most memorable part of JAWS:  THE REVENGE is the true story that Michael Caine skipped the Oscars on the night he won Best Supporting Actor for Woody Allen’s HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986) because he was filming JAWS:  THE REVENGE.  Life is cruel.

 

JAWS is one of the best movies ever made, so good you can watch it year after year and it still holds up.  It’s a four star movie.

But its sequels are not.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Movie Meals to Cure the Thanksgiving Blues

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"Maybe I should just serve myself?"  ---the Monster (Peter Boyle) tries unsuccessfully to have some soup served to him by the Blind Hermit (Gene Hackman) in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).

“Maybe I should just serve myself?” —the Monster (Peter Boyle) tries unsuccessfully to have some soup served to him by the Blind Hermit (Gene Hackman) in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974).

THANKSGIVING – Movie Meals for the Birds

By

Michael Arruda

 

 

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the United States, that holiday where we get together with our families and pause to reflect on what we’re thankful for this year, remembering as we do so the Pilgrims from 1620 who began the tradition so many centuries ago.  Okay, most of us don’t remember that far back, but that’s the idea. 

 

What this really means for most of us today is a day off, a day to spend with family, eat lots of food, especially the traditional roast turkey, and watch NFL football games.  Not a bad day all around.

 

Of course, if you’re like me, no matter how happy the holidays are supposed to be, for some reason or other, melancholy seeps in.  It could be something specific and immediate, like an argument with a family member, or it could be something more long term, like mourning the loss of a loved one, or looking back at a year— or years— that really have been a struggle.

 

Believe me, I’ve been there, and sometimes it’s difficult to shake off that feeling of melancholy, even when surrounded by family. 

 

So, with that in mind, on this Thanksgiving week, if you find yourself down and out for whatever reason, remember, when these things happen, you’re not alone.  No one is immune from the blues.  In fact, some folks have it a lot worse, especially if they’re in a horror movie.

 

Here are some folks whose meals didn’t turn out so well, guaranteed to make you thankful that you’re not sitting in the room with them.

 

Take a look:

 

DR JEKYLL & MR. HYDE (1941) – Dr. Jekyll (Spencer Tracy) tries to explain his theory of good and evil to his dinner companions but ends up getting chastised and laughed at, not to mention it happens in front of his fiancé.  Pass the humble pie!  No thanks, I’ll just drink my Mr. Hyde potion for a nightcap, thank you very much!

 

DRACULA (1931) – Dracula (Bela Lugosi) prepares dinner for his guest Renfield (Dwight Frye) and offers him some very old wine.  Dude, Renfield, ask for the check and run.

 

KING KONG (1933) – Kong munches on some natives as he rampages through the village searching for his dinner date, Ann Darrow (Fay Wray).  Yummy!

 

JAWS (1975) – Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) gets drunk, Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) asks to eat a plate of leftovers, and Ellen Brody (Lorraine Gary) embarrasses herself by saying to Hooper, “Martin tells me you’re into sharks.”

 

PSYCHO (1960) – Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) invites Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) to a small dinner in his back room and discusses his mother and his taxidermy hobby.  All in all, it’s a pretty successful dinner, so much so that Marion feels pretty good about herself, so good in fact that she returns to her room to relax and take a shower—-.

 

DRACULA- PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1966) – Dracula (Christopher Lee) has been dead for ten years, but his servant has kept his castle open for guests— gee, what a nice guy!  When four guests do arrive, they are impressed by the dead Count’s hospitality, and they offer him a toast over dinner.  Before the night is over, one said guest will have his throat slit, and his blood will be used to resurrect the Count.  No one ever said a Hammer Film was subtle. 

 

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN (1935) – The Frankenstein monster (Boris Karloff) is served bread and wine by his new friend, the kind blind man, but the moment is short-lived when two hunters happen upon them and spoil the party.  For my money, this is still one of the saddest moments in horror cinema history.  Leave the friggin monster alone, already!

 

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974) – In Mel Brook’s hilarious parody of the Universal Frankenstein series, the Frankenstein Monster (Peter Boyle) attempts to enjoy dinner, but his blind man friend (Gene Hackman) pours the soup onto his lap, breaks his mug of wine, and lights his thumb on fire instead of his cigar.  With friends like this—.

 

ALIEN  (1979) – The crew of the Nostromo is having a dandy old time over dinner, that is, until a baby alien decides to burst from Kane’s (John Hurt) chest.  Rolaid, anyone?

 

Have a monstrously fun Thanksgiving!

 

—Michael

 

 

 

 

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES: JAWS (1975)

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Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss in need of a bigger boat in JAWS (1975)

Robert Shaw, Roy Scheider, and Richard Dreyfuss in need of a bigger boat in JAWS (1975)

MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES:  JAWS (1975)

By

Michael Arruda

 

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of summer, the perfect time to check out some memorable lines from the ultimate summer movie, JAWS (1975).

There are an incredible amount of memorable lines in JAWS, some now regarded as the most famous in film history.

The biggie, the most famous, occurs when Brody (Roy Scheider) sees the shark up close while on the Orca, and he tells Quint (Robert Shaw), “You’re going to need a bigger boat.”

That line, improvised by Scheider, has become one of the most recognizable lines in film history.

But Roy Scheider also has plenty of other notable lines in the film, as do fellow actors Robert Shaw as Quint and Richard Dreyfuss as  Hooper.  Here are just a few of them, from JAWS, screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, based on Benchley’s novel.

Moments before Brody utters his celebrated line about the bigger boat, he’s ordered by Quint to toss fish guts into the water in order to attract the shark, a job he’s none too happy about, especially since Hooper has been given what in Brody’s eyes is the easier task, driving the boat.

Quint tells Hooper to take the boat slow ahead, to which Brody comments:

BRODY:  Slow ahead.  I can go slow ahead.  Why don’t you come down here and chum some of this shit.”

At which point the shark erupts from the water, giving Brody an up front and personal view, causing him to back up and utter his now famous line to Quint about needing a bigger boat.

Brody also has the now classic line at the end, as he’s firing his rifle at the shark.

BRODY:  Smile, you son of a bitch!

Quint (Robert Shaw) gets some of the best lines in the movie.  Who can forget these classics:

QUINT:  Y’all know me. Know how I earn a livin’. I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish. Not like going down the pond chasin’ bluegills and tommycods. This shark, swallow you whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, an’ down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back your tourists, put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant. I value my neck a lot more than three thousand bucks, chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s just too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.

And then there are these ditties:

QUINT:  Here’s to swimmin’ with bowlegged women!

and

QUINT:  Here lies the body of Mary Lee; died at the age of a hundred and three.  For fifteen years she kept her virginity.  Not a bad record for this vicinity.

But his most memorable lines come from his best scene when he recounts to Brody and Hooper the story of his experience on the U.S.S Indianapolis during World War II.  It’s one of the highlights of the movie, and is one of Shaw’s best moments on film, period!  It’s an amazing soliloquy.  Here it is:

QUINT:  Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte… just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half an hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by looking from the dorsal to the tail fin. What we didn’t know, was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. You know, it was kinda like old squares in the battle like you see in the calendar named “The Battle of Waterloo” and the idea was: shark comes to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and screamin’ and sometimes the shark will go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark he looks right into ya. Right into your eyes. And, you know, the thing about a shark… he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, doesn’t seem to be living… until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and they… rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I know how many men, they averaged six an hour. On Thursday morning, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water just like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist. Noon, the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us… he was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later a big fat PBY comes down and starts to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened… waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

Richard Dreyfuss as Hooper also has his share of classic lines in this one, like when he’s examining the dead remains of the first shark attack victim, young Chrissie, who shouldn’t have gone for that moonlight swim:

HOOPER: The height and weight of the victim can only be estimated from the partial remains. The torso has been severed in mid-thorax; there are no major organs remaining.  The right arm has been severed above the elbow with massive tissue loss in the upper musculature… partially denuded bone remaining…this was no boat accident.  Did you notify the Coast Guard about this?

BRODY: No. It was only local jurisdiction.

HOOPER: The left arm, head, shoulders, sternum and portions of the rib cage are intact—do not smoke in here, thank you very much.  (Lifts up the severed arm) This is what happens. It indicates the non-frenzied feeding of a large squalus – possibly Longimanus or Isurus glauca. Now… the enormous amount of tissue loss prevents any detailed analysis; however the attacking squalus must be considerably larger than any normal squalus found in these waters. Didn’t you get on a boat and check out these waters?

BRODY: No.

HOOPER: Well, this was not a boat accident! And it wasn’t any propeller; and it wasn’t any coral reef; and it wasn’t Jack the Ripper! It was a shark.

Or this exchange with Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton):

MAYOR VAUGHN: I don’t think either of one you are familiar with our problems.

HOOPER: I think that I am familiar with the fact that you are going to ignore this particular problem until it swims up and bites you in the ass!

And who can forget the moment when he spots the shark swimming towards their boat, and he has to interrupt the argument between Brody and Quint:

HOOPER:  Boys, oh boys… I think he’s come back for his noon feeding.

There are so many more unforgettable lines from JAWS, enough to fill several more columns.

My personal favorite is one brief two word utterance by Brody, and this goes back to the first time I saw JAWS, at the movies, when I was just 11 years old.  Yikes!

I remember sitting there in the theater, nodding my head, agreeing with Brody, thinking, “Yes, thank you!  Thank you!  Go back to the land.  Get me out of this misery!”  You see, it’s the point in the film where after essentially getting their butts kicked by the shark, Quint tells Brody and Hooper that he’s taking the boat, the Orca, back in to shore.  Brody reacts with this emotional two word exclamation that gave me so much relief at the time.  The line?

BRODY:  Thank, Christ!

 

But of course the shark had something to say about this, and the Orca never did make it back to shore.

Well, that’s it for now.  Thanks for joining me today on MEMORABLE MOVIE QUOTES.  I’ll be back again next time with notable lines from another great movie.

Thanks for reading!

—Michael

Books by Michael Arruda:

TIME FRAME,  science fiction novel by Michael Arruda.  

Ebook version:  $2.99. Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

IN THE SPOOKLIGHT, movie review collection by Michael Arruda.

InTheSpooklight_NewText

 Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com.  Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.

FOR THE LOVE OF HORROR, short story collection by Michael Arruda.  

For The Love Of Horror cover

Ebook version:  $4.99.  Available at http://www.neconebooks.com. Print version:  $18.00.  Email your order request to mjarruda33@gmail.com. Also available at Amazon.com.