The Magic of Martin Zellar


“Music has healing power.
It has the ability to take people out of themselves for a little while.”
– Elton John


This year, like the past several, was supposed to be filled with an abundance of live music. My concert calendar was already starting to fill up as 2020 got underway.

A friend and I had tickets to see Martin Zellar’s NEIL! Tribute on Valentine’s Day and were all set to rock out to Hall & Oates from the nosebleed section at Xcel Energy Center in July. I bought A TICKET – singular – to go solo to another Zellar show in March. My husband and I had seats for Barenaked Ladies, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Gin Blossoms in June. I was looking forward to another Gear Daddies show at First Avenue in early May… .

But at that February 14 show at the Parkway Theater, I remember hearing people starting to talk about a virus that was wreaking havoc halfway around the globe.

And then the entire world turned on its head.

In the blink of an eye, everything changed. Those concert plans were gone, taking with them all hope for any musical enjoyment this year.

But by far the biggest and most significant question mark on my live music schedule was the Martin Zellar house concert we had booked earlier in the year. The date was three days after the now-canceled Hall & Oates show, and I was absolutely crushed by the thought that this event, too, would suffer the same fate.


Why was this house concert such a big deal? If you know me, you already know.

I’ve been a fan since college and have made a habit of catching at least half a dozen Zellar and Gear Daddies shows every year.

Excessive? No way. Necessary?

You know it.

As a songwriter, Zellar is altogether honest. And purposeful. And brilliant. His expressive lyrics craft each tune into its own melodic powerhouse that can bring out a smile or deliver the most intense gut punch.

And his gentle-calm, low-growl voice provides the most profound delivery of this harmonic poetry. Listening to Zellar’s music is medicinal; it’s therapeutic. His tunes help right the ship when things seem painfully off course.

Y’know, like this dumpster fire year.

He’s also one of the most gracious and likable people I’ve ever met.

So, yeah. For me? This was a big deal. This was a big damn deal.


We needed to adjust the date for the show – and again later, because Mother Nature is a big ’ol bitch sometimes – and attendance would have to be extremely limited (thanks a lot, COVID), but I received confirmation that the house concert was a go.


Holy shit!

I was overjoyed to FINALLY have something to be excited about, since excitement wasn’t really a thing anymore.

I prepared and planned, and I mapped out the performance area and spots for guests, allowing plenty of space for social distance seating. We set up tents and stocked the coolers and purchased way too many snacks. We bought extra masks and hand sanitizer and caution tape – because who even knows what’s real anymore?

And I vacuumed the patio.


And when the day came and Martin pulled into the driveway, I was stoked. So. Unbelievably. Stoked.

He met the dogs almost immediately, because dogs. I mean, they had no idea who he was but were just thrilled to see and sniff another person.

We showed Martin where he’d be setting up and gave him a tour of the house. He met the cats, talked trains with my husband, and commented on my collection of Daniel Craig-era 007 posters lining the basement hallway.

Which led to an awesome back and forth about Daniel Craig being the best James Bond. Ever.

Side note: My dad likes Martin “even more now” after learning of his Double-O preference.

With his sound system ready to go – thanks to a little help from our pooch, Chet the Roadie – and the undersized but enthusiastic crowd trickling in, we were set to safely get this Martin Zellar: Social Distance Tour 2020 House Concert Series™ show started.

I almost wrote up a set list – as a joke, only because I know he never uses them.


Martin opened this 2-set, backyard show with Gear Daddies staple “Statue of Jesus” and then kicked up the tempo with “Goodbye Marie.” After encouraging requests he cranked out “Ten Year Coin,” which I would have asked for anyway, because I love that tune.

And then he belted out my favorite, “Blown Kisses.”

He sang “Everything We Had” and the ultra-heavy “Took the Poison,” both of which I dig like crazy but hadn’t heard performed live in far too long. And we were even treated to some of his newer tunes: “Rose of Jericho” and, by request, “A Thousand Little Things.”

To his credit, Martin honored our other requests, too, as we shouted them out throughout the evening.

He tenderly delivered “So Far Away” and “Brown-Eyed Boy” back-to-back, and I’ll never grow tired of hearing about the influence behind their lyrics. He strummed and hummed a little Neil Diamond “Kentucky Woman.” And though he said he couldn’t remember all the words he nevertheless crooned that achingly beautiful Yazoo tune “Only You.”

And it was perfect.

He paused mid-song only twice and just long enough to swat a mosquito from his arm (I swear we sprayed for those bastards!), or visually do a quick key check before putting his harmonica to work.

As the evening rolled on and the patio lights took over when the sun’s glow surrendered, we sang along to the timeless classics “She’s Happy” and “Wear Your Crown.” We felt that “Low Road” crescendo and joined Martin in hitting those elevated pitches in “Cut Me Off.”

And “Don’t Forget Me” is a wistful song anyway. But on this night, especially, its lyrics hit me like a semi.

“Cause on certain nights when the crowd’s just right/The magic can return/I took so much for granted then; I took so much for granted…”


Those words practically reached into my chest and squeezed from it every possible emotion.

(Deep breath)

Maybe it was because I hadn’t been to a show in forever. Or because this was such a big deal to me. Or because, despite everything else this year had taken away, my favorite musician was on our patio, singing some of my favorite songs – and, on this night, nothing else had to matter.

Or it was ALL of that.



Between songs Martin made us smile and laugh, the way he does, with those whip-smart observations and his endearing, self-deprecating humor. And with those narratives he weaves with such detail that you both envision AND feel each experience.

We heard about his family, about his home, and about Randy. Hooray!

Martin shared some insight on how “Stupid Boy” wasn’t supposed to be the quick-paced toe-tapper we all know and love, and… wait, WHAT?!?!

And while we neither heard nor requested “Zamboni,” we did listen as he recalled the most amazing story involving that song, an opportunity, an ultimatum – and the process by which one measures the value of his soul.

If ever there was a high-five moment, THIS was it.

But there were no high fives. There were no handshakes, and there were no hugs. We couldn’t do any of that. Not right now. Not tonight.

This night was about refueling our spirits with solid, soul-stirring tunes. About being respectful and keeping everyone safe.

About being grateful to this talented guy for sharing with us his music, his energy, and his heart – which, for one mid-August night, inspired the return of that magic we so desperately needed to feel.

And it was about, for the first time in a long, LONG time, being excited for something that allowed us to feel happy.

And hopeful.

And… normal.

Photo courtesy of Traci Toomey

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema and music dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page Also, see more images from this Martin Zellar: Social Distance Tour 2020 House Concert Series™ show on her Melissa King Photography Facebook page.

Oscars 2020: The Battle for Best Picture

This year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has selected nine titles to duke it out for its Best Picture prize. I once again saw all of them and have some ideas on which title(s) should take home Oscar gold.

Let’s just get to it, shall we? The nominees, in the order in which I saw them, are:


What’s the big deal? This haunting tale of Arthur Fleck’s downward spiral into madness is highlighted by that captivating performance from Joaquin Phoenix. Director Todd Phillips’ masterful camerawork helps define this character’s mindset, and the artistic look of “Joker” breaths life into his desolation.

Will it win? No. Superhero – and supervillain – movies have only recently gained recognition as legitimate contenders. But at this point AMPAS would sooner shit a solid gold statuette than award Best Picture to a “comic book movie.”


What’s the big deal? American automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale, SNUB) work to build a machine for the Ford Motor Co. that’s capable of taking on Ferrari in the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance event. “Ford v Ferrari” goes beyond the sport to explore the relationships of its characters and the science behind the designs.

Will it win? Probably not. But Bale should have been recognized for his endearing, playful, and entertaining performance.


What’s the big deal? A 1950s TV Western star (Leonardo DiCaprio, up for Best Actor) and his stunt double (Supporting Actor nominee Brad Pitt) struggle to find big screen success in the late-1960s Hollywood. This fable sprinkles touches of Tinseltown lore among its otherwise outrageous, amusing, and moderately violent narrative. But this is quintessential Quentin, so what do you expect?

Will it win? Maybe. Hollywood LOVES movies about itself, so the title alone gives “Once Upon a Time…” a leg up. Pitt is fantastic and almost surely will take home the Supporting Actor award.


What’s the big deal? Director Sam Mendes tells this stunning and engaging story the only way that makes sense – as one continuous take. Breathtaking and brilliant and told essentially in real time, this one-shot wonder literally follows two young British soldiers on a dangerous mission to deliver a message to the front lines during World War I. And, oh by the way, it’s fucking amazing.

Will it win? Yes. If you’ve seen the film, you know it, too. I don’t need to explain anything.


What’s the big deal? This intuitive, honest, and uncomfortable examination of a crumbling marriage will hit you in the feels. Can we just for a second pause and reflect on that visceral shouting match that takes place in Charlie’s living room? My god! Scarlett Johansson, who finally seems comfortable onscreen, and Adam Driver more than deserve their acting nominations.

Will it win? While “Marriage Story” has a strong emotional resonance, I don’t think that’s enough to secure this year’s title. I would, though, love to see Driver steal that Best Actor win from Phoenix.


What’s the big deal? Absurd humor and whimsical visuals balance weighty issues in this World War II tale that’s saturated with subtle and obvious satire. Jojo (Roman Griffin Davis, who is outstanding and should have been nominated for Best Actor; I don’t care if he’s only 12) discovers a young Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) hiding in his home, causing Jojo to evaluate his loyalty to Hitler’s army. Take notice of the astute correlation between the film’s cheeky vibe and Jojo’s journey.

Will it win? Doubtful. But this is my second favorite film of the nine, so if a dark horse hopeful exists….


What’s the big deal? (Another) Martin Scorsese mobster flick, starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino. I know. Oh, and it’s five days long. I’m exaggerating, but barely.

Will it win? You know, I kind of hope not. I thought “The Irishman” was fine, but I wasn’t blown away (heh). I feel like this nomination stems mainly from the marquee names pinned to the film’s credits.


What’s the big deal? Written and thoughtfully directed by Greta Gerwig (SNUB), this stunning adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel chronicles the lives of four sisters, each very different and uniquely determined.

Will it win? I don’t think so, but wouldn’t that be a satisfying “up your ass” for Gerwig? And how about the inspired and powerful performances from Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh? Ronan could give Renée Zellweger a run for her Best Actress money. Fingers crossed!


What’s the big deal? What a bizarre mix of genres. Bong Joon Ho intentionally and sensibly intertwines these classifications, and the result is altogether fascinating. I dare you to look away. Filled with layers of symbolism, this flick will occupy your mind long after the credits roll (read this again). Yeah, we’re talking next-level symbolism here.

Will it win? It might, but I think this could be the “Roma” saga revisited. “Parasite” is also nominated for International Feature Film and most likely will take home that prize, leaving the night’s overall Best Picture title up for grabs – and awarded to “1917.” Wink.

And there you have it. But let us not forget: The Academy doesn’t care what I think.

Watch the 92nd Academy Awards on February 9 to see if your top picks take home a top prize.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page



The new Sam Mendes epic war drama “1917” is a Best Picture contender for one simple reason: It’s fucking amazing.

Which, once I picked up my jaw from the floor, is exactly what I said to my husband after we saw the movie last week. He agreed.

Nominated for 10 Academy Awards, “1917” follows two young British soldiers on a seemingly impossible mission during World War I. The pair must venture through no man’s land and deliver orders calling off an impending attack to prevent 1,600 troops, including one soldier’s brother, from walking into certain death.

And when I say “follows,” I mean it literally.

Best Director nominee Mendes presents this story in one long, fluid shot (he gave us a taste of this in the opening scene of 2015’s “Spectre”). From the moment we meet Lance Corporals Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman) and Schofield (George MacKay) in an open meadow, we’re buckled in for the journey – every uninterrupted step of the way.

This one-shot technique (one of my favorites, when its use is this purposeful) allows Mendes to tell us this story essentially in real time. And his vision is nothing less than brilliant; his camera placement puts us squarely in the middle of the action.

The audience sees, learns, and experiences everything alongside and in sync with these characters, which creates a level of anxiety that must be felt to be understood. We know nothing beyond the frame of the camera, and that uncertainty heightens both curiosity and concentration.

And all the while this continuous scene refuses to blink, keeping us on edge and hanging on every. Single. Movement.

The occasional pivot or rotation or close-up gives a slightly different perspective and some additional detail, but our attention by way of the lens never deviates from its focus. And that slow zoom – the camera barely inching closer – on General Erinmore (Colin Firth) as he doles out this mission at the film’s start gives every indication of its importance.

If your heart isn’t already pounding out of your chest, those background drum beats add to the film’s intensity and fully express the significance of this race against time.

The tension is real.

In addition to calling shots behind the camera, Sam Mendes also gets his first writing credit here. Those efforts earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.

I don’t see many war movies, but “1917” is beyond impressive. I was completely mesmerized and have been raving about this flick since I left the theater. As if the story itself isn’t fascinating enough, the seemingly seamless visuals will blow your mind.

“Stories are nothing unless you’re emotionally engaged,” Mendes said in an IMDb On the Scene interview.

His statement is a hundred percent accurate, and presenting “1917” as one long take was the only way to effectively tell this story.

I held my breath. I jumped. I winced, and I gasped.

And I loved every minute of it.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page

Knives Out

Well, that was fun.

“Knives Out” is the (fairly) new dramatic crime thriller from writer-director Rian Johnson (“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”). The movie also incorporates bits of dark and twisted humor – which is exactly how I like my comedy – and an ongoing element of mystery that keeps its audience fully engaged.

On the night of his 85th birthday, esteemed crime writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) dies. Enter Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig, meow!), with his analytical mind, a judging gaze, and that “Kentucky-fried Foghorn Leghorn drawl.”

Without question, Detective Blanc thinks something is fishy about Harlan’s death.

“I suspect foul play,” he says.

And, with the help of Lieutenant Elliott (LaKeith Stanfield) and Trooper Wagner (Noah Segan), Detective Blanc proceeds to question the estate’s staff and, one-by-one, the members of Harlan’s unstable, self-absorbed family.

Blanc’s hope? To see through the smoke screens and beyond the distractions to find out what really happened to Harlan Thrombey.

If you’re paying attention, you know something is up from the moment each family member – including daughter Linda (Jamie Lee Curtis); son-in-law Richard (Don Johnson); son Walt (Michael Shannon); and grandchildren Ransom (Chris Evans), Meg (Katherine Langford), and Jacob (Jaeden Martell) – is seated for the inquisition.

Those close-up shots almost scream deception. And the slow zooms and pull backs as each character recalls the events of the evening in question hint that what we’re hearing and seeing may not entirely be the truth.

Director Johnson shuffles in helpful flashbacks that crisscross the storyline and help fill in the events we didn’t see that led up to the outcome serving as the film’s crux.  

Either nothing or everything is exactly what it seems. And as Detective Blanc attempts to uncover the mystery, the audience is right there with him.

“Knives Out” is an unpredictable yet delightful shell game.

The storyline is a magician’s pursuit that keeps its audience disoriented and speculating and hanging on every word, sound, movement, or glance. Everything could be a clue – or a diversion.

If you haven’t yet seen this flick, I highly recommend giving it a look. If you have seen it, I’d suggest watching this fun, shrewd puzzle again – to take notice of all the pieces that are hiding in plain sight.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page


The trailer for “Yesterday” first caught my ear – and then it caught my attention.

Incorporating tunes from the Beatles into pretty much anything deserves an automatic high five. But I was super intrigued, because the premise of this flick sounded like one of the freshest ideas to come along in decades.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one (and you won’t, because you haven’t): A talented but unknown musician struggles to make a name for himself when a freak incident symbolically aligns the stars and presents Jack Malik (Himesh Patel) with a career-making opportunity.

After waking up in a hospital bed, Jack learns from his manager friend Ellie (Lily James) that “the electricity flicked off for 12 seconds” worldwide the night before. This was just enough time for Jack to get hit by a bus – and to alter the course of music history.

Gifted with a new guitar by his saucy but loyal friends, Jack is encouraged by them to “play something.” And since “a great guitar requires a great song,” Jack proceeds to perform a snippet of “Yesterday.”

A delicate camera spin captures the awakened reactions from Jack’s friends while creating a soothing vibe that’s enhanced by Jack’s vocals and harmonious strumming.


He has just played them “one of the greatest songs ever written.” Only problem is, no one’s ever heard it before.

The Beatles? Shrug.

Mention of the band’s name elicits only confusion – and a valid question from Jack’s friend Rocky (Joel Fry): “Like, insect beetles or the car Beetles?”

Despite his research, Jack finds nothing to prove this English rock band from Liverpool ever existed. But he remembers the band, and he knows the songs. So, he’s got an idea…

“Yesterday” is so much fun. The absurdity of the plot line mixed with the camera’s funky angles and quick edits gives the movie an enjoyable and upbeat feel that will keep you smiling from start to finish.

And if for some reason that doesn’t do the trick, the whip-smart banter between Jack and his friends will keep you engaged with its snap and snark.

Patel is outstanding. OUTSTANDING! His dumbfounded responses to the aftermath of the blackout are surpassed only by his vocal talents. Don’t worry for a second that this guy doesn’t do justice to legendary songs such as “Hey Jude,” “Let It Be” and “In My Life.” I was so impressed to the deepest depths by every aspect of what Patel delivered.

Also, a shout out and bonus points to whomever slipped The Fratellis shirt into the wardrobe selection.

Lily James is a delight, and her eleventh-hour statement to Jack will hit you right in the feels. Joel Fry plays Rocky with a charm so ridiculous that he’ll win you over with his first blank stare.

Big names have small parts in “Yesterday” as well. Ed Sheeran plays himself, and he’s actually really funny.

James Corden also makes an appearance, which made me wonder if this movie was in any way inspired by the Late Late Show host’s incredibly moving Carpool Karaoke with Sir Paul McCartney. I could find nothing online to confirm this, but it’s nevertheless worth a mention. That installment is still one of the single best pieces of entertainment that has ever been produced.

“Yesterday” is highly entertaining as well. The performances are amazing. The laughs are genuine. The songs are classic, profound, timeless.

And the idea certainly is new, but let’s be glad we don’t have to imagine a world without the Beatles.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page

Avengers: Endgame

What you are about to read contains NO SPOILERS.


So, please continue without fear…

Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been waiting with bated breath for about a year for the arrival of “Avengers: Endgame” and no doubt have seen the film’s ambiguous trailer at least once – or, more likely, two dozen times.

The plot has been so shrouded in secrecy that one of the movie’s stars filmed a scene without any knowledge of what was happening with his or her character.

And I’m not an asshole. So out of respect for those who haven’t yet purchased tickets, everything here also is intentionally vague.

You’re welcome.

“Endgame” is the 22nd film in the MCU and has the enormous task of wrapping up the all-encompassing narrative with which we’ve been engrossed since 2008’s “Iron Man.”

And with so much to cover it’s no wonder this flick’s run time exceeds three hours; however, its pace keeps the action rolling such that you won’t even notice the time investment. But I wouldn’t recommend getting the extra-large beverage, because your bladder might be less forgiving than your brain.

Seeing the previous titles obviously is helpful, just to be sure that you’re neither missing nor confused by a face or a name or a reference – or a joke. And because this is Marvel, you know there will be humor.

My husband and I saw “Endgame” on back-to-back, opening-weekend nights, and reactions from the sold-out crowds at each showing made for an enthusiastically interactive experience, which was so much fun.

Viewers cheered and gasped and sniffled and laughed, all of which is typical – some more than others – when watching a Marvel flick.

But I think folks were more affected this time – because the investment is so extensive, and the stakes are higher than ever before: “Whatever it takes.”

This one signifies the end of an era, so it means a little bit more.

And audiences get that.

The only thing I will tell you for sure is that “Endgame” is worth it. Go see it. It’s a doozy, and it’s one final chance to see the “Avengers… assemble.”

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page


It has been a long, long time since I last saw the 1941 original “Dumbo,” so there’s very little about it that I remember – y’know, aside from the obvious “cute baby elephant with piercing blue eyes and ears big enough to pick up free HBO.”

But what’s not to love about the idea of a live-action version, directed by Tim Burton and co-starring a villainous Michael Keaton, right?

This new “Dumbo” drops us into Sarasota, Florida, circa 1919 and the financially strapped Medici Brothers’ Circus (psst… keep an eye on that sign).

Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell), the lead of former stand-out act The Stallion Stars, returns from war, no longer able to do the thing that sells the tickets.

It’s obvious that the show is struggling: “We’re all wearing multiple hats.” But Master of Ceremonies Max Medici (Danny DeVito) has his hopes and livelihood invested in an Asian female elephant, and “… she’s havin’ a baby!”

But when that baby’s freakishly large ears appear to be a hiccup Holt’s children – science whiz Milly (Nico Parker) and the always curious Joe (Finley Hobbins) – accidentally discover otherwise.

If you thought the title character from the animated original was adorable (and who didn’t?!), wait’ll you see the star of this show.

Heart. Melt.

There’s a lot to like about the new “Dumbo,” but it wasn’t the emotional force I really was hoping for.

Don’t get me wrong; Dumbo is precious, and his cuteness is what saves this film. His big, eager eyes and affinity for plumage is worth the price of admission for sure.

The story is fine, though my husband was upset at the omission of some memorable events from the original.

The acting is engaging, and Keaton’s bad guy is both comical (“Is that a monkey in your desk?”) and dastardly, safe enough to not scare the young ‘uns but smarmy to the point that you understand his intentions. And if you don’t, the shadows in which his likeness is cast will no doubt spell it out.

There are plenty of harrowing moments as well as scenes that will give a little tug at your heartstrings, make you chuckle and keep you invested; there’s the occasional (trippy) nod to the original, and a tip of the hat to Busby Berkeley musicals; those shots from Dumbo’s perspective take us for a ride and offer a lovely flying elephant’s eye view.

So, if you have any interest in this little pachyderm’s live-action adventure with its seamless and often dazzling effects, it’s worth investing your time.

It’s cute, it’s very pretty, and it’s enjoyable. And in this case, that’s enough.

“Dumbo” likely won’t leave you bawling your eyes out, but maybe that’s a good thing.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page

Summer Movies 2019

(Sniff, sniff) What’s that smell?

Hopefully it’s summer. And with the scents, sounds and sun of the season also (usually) comes sizable cinematic celebrations.

While there aren’t as many titles this summer that have me super jazzed there are a handful that have piqued my curiosity. So, slather on the sunscreen, grab a glass of lemonade and enjoy some insight (and quips) on the summer flicks about which I’m most excited.

When it’s out:April 26
What it’s about: With the universe in peril and its fate in question the Avengers once again assemble to try to repair the damage done in the franchise’s previous installment.
Why I’m pumped: Take a peek at the cast list; in some form or another everyone is here – everyone! If this follow-up to last year’s “Infinity War” truly is the end, it looks to be one immense and intense final bow.

When it’s out:
May 24
What it’s about: Two smarty pants seniors, regretting the academic paths they took throughout high school, attempt to stuff four years of bad decisions and missed opportunities into the night before graduation.
Why I’m pumped: I think Kaitlyn Dever is hilarious, and after seeing the red band trailer for this movie, I’m sold. “Booksmart” looks to be comparable to “Superbad,” and any movie with a tag line like “getting straight As; giving zero Fs” – I mean, just take my ticket money already!

When it’s out:
June 7
What it’s about: It’s another look at what Max (voiced by Patton Oswalt), Chloe (Lake Bell) and their animal pals do when their owners are away.
Why I’m pumped: Its predecessor purr-fectly honored the species-and breed-specific quirks, and I want to see more. And as a mom to four fur kids, I always wonder what my pets do when I’m not home (probably nap; that’s what I would do).

When it’s out:
June 14
What it’s about: Alien attacks are a global issue, of course, so this fourth flick in the franchise follows London-based Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent M (Tessa Thompson) as they travel the globe to internationally battle intergalactic baddies.
Why I’m pumped: Loved the first “Men in Black” (who didn’t?!?), so I want to see if No. 4 is as enjoyable at No. 1 – or as forgettable as… the ones I don’t remember. Maybe it was the flashy thing?

When it’s out:
June 21
What it’s about: A new face joins Buzz (voiced by Tim Allen), Woody (Tom Hanks) and the rest of the toy crew for new adventures and shenanigans.
Why I’m pumped: Because Pixar.

When it’s out:
June 28
What it’s about: Imagine (heh) that no one except you has heard of the Beatles. That’s exactly what happens when Jack (Himesh Patel) awakens after a bizarre power outage. Playing the band’s never-before-heard songs could be his ticket to ride – err, I mean success.
Why I’m pumped: Forget that this idea is crazy fresh; this flick is directed by Danny Boyle and no doubt will be chock full of Beatles tunes – and that’s a world in which I want to immerse myself for two hours.

When it’s out:
July 5
What it’s about: Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland) summer Euro trip is anything but relaxing, as he must don the Spidey suit to face a foe across the pond.
Why I’m pumped: It’s another big-action Marvel adventure, which means it’s sure to entertain, amuse and wow audiences into seeing it again (at least twice). And Holland is an amazing Spider-Man (see what I did there??)

When it’s out:
July 19
What it’s about: Hakuna Matata! This live-action journey tells the Simba-centric tale with which we all fell in love in 1994.
Why I’m pumped: Looking forward to seeing how director Jon Favreau delivers this beloved Disney story, since I was really impressed with his 2016 live-action adaptation of “The Jungle Book.” Plus, how adorable is that lion cub? Get outta here!

Hopefully these movies just scratch the surface of an exciting season at the cinema. Let me know which flicks are on your summer must-see list – and I wish you happy viewing!

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page


Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame

MAY 3:
The Intruder
Long Shot

MAY 10:
The Hustle
Pokémon Detective Pikachu

MAY 17:
A Dog’s Journey
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum
The Sun Is Also a Star

MAY 24:
Ad Astra

MAY 31:
Godzilla: King of Monsters

The Secret Life of Pets 2
X-Men: Dark Phoenix

JUNE 14:
Men in Black: International

JUNE 21:
Child’s Play
Pixar’s Toy Story 4

JUNE 28:
Annabelle Comes Home

Spider-Man: Far From Home

JULY 12:
17 Bridges

JULY 19:
The Lion King

JULY 26:
The Boy 2
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Dora the Explorer
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
The New Mutants

Artemis Fowl
Brian Banks
The Kitchen
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
Where’d You Go, Bernadette

Blinded By the Light

47 Meters Down: Uncaged
The Angry Birds Movie 2
Good Boys
The Informer
Playmobil: The Movie

Angel Has Fallen

Courtesy of
Release dates may be subject to change

Best Picture: Oscars 2019

Courtesy of Getty Images

With Oscar Sunday less than a week away, I figured it was about that time – to take a peek at each of the eight nominees for this year’s Best Picture and cast my vote (not that The Academy cares what I think) for which title (likely) will take home the evening’s top prize.

And the nominees – in the order in which I saw them – are:


What’s it about? In this marvel from Marvel, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns to Wakanda to take his rightful place as King following the death of his father. But when a new and unexpected threat surfaces, it puts T’Challa’s reign, the future of Wakanda and the fate of the world at risk.

What makes it a contender? Everything. Seriously, everything. “Black Panther” takes superhero movies to a new level with its strong story and stronger characters, including some of the strongest females ever assembled. Its themes, performances and direction, colors and effects, and cultural homage easily prove “Black Panther” to be an all-encompassing powerhouse that gets so many things right

Will it win? It might. Wakanda Forever! The film reined in the Screen Actors Guild award for Cast in a Motion Picture. If that’s any indicator… .


What’s it about? Bradley Cooper stars in and directs this romantic drama in which a hard-core addict musician discovers and falls for a woman (Best Actress nominee Lady Gaga) with untapped yet undeniable musical talents.

What makes it a contender? In addition to captivating performances from Cooper, Gaga and Supporting Actor nominee Sam Elliott, “A Star is Born” yields achingly beautiful vision from its director; its thoughtfulness and tone adds a sense of heartache to this triumphant yet woeful story; the original songs are delivered with such tenderness and energy that  you feel them in your soul.

Will it win? Probably not, but look for Gaga to nab a statue for Original Song. And I’m actually surprised Cooper (who garnered recognition as a Best Actor hopeful) didn’t get a nod for his rhythmic work behind the camera. Anyone else?


What’s it about? This biographical flick follows the four gents that wowed with their music and showmanship as Queen, the storyline focusing mainly on the band’s iconic lead singer. “Bohemian Rhapsody” brings to life the times and the tunes as well as the turbulence of success.

What makes it a contender? This one definitely is a toe-tappin’ crowd pleaser. Rami Malek channels his inner rock star, embracing the nuances that defined the legend and almost literally transforms into Freddie Mercury.

Will it win? Probably not, but Malek very likely will take home that Best Actor award.


What’s it about? A good blend of comedy and drama, “Vice” tells the “… as true as it can be…” account of Dick Cheney’s (Best Actor nominee Christian Bale) dominant and powerful track to becoming Vice President of the United States.

What makes it a contender? Best Director nominee Adam McKay, the same writer-director who gave me a big headache with the troublingly truthful peek at the housing market crash in 2015’s “The Big Short,” once again delivers wry humor, innovative narration techniques, fourth-wall breaks and stinging realism. This one is full of amazing performances – with spot-on personal ticks – from Bale and Supporting Actor nominee Sam Rockwell (as George W. Bush), as well as the commanding Amy Adams (up for Supporting Actress as Lynne Cheney), who kicks ass and steals scenes like it’s her job.

Will it win? Just like “The Big Short,” no.


What’s it about? Set in 1708, “The Favourite” is part comedy, part drama – and total diabolical malevolence, in which cousins Sarah Churchill (Supporting Actress nominee Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Hill (Supporting Actress nominee Emma Stone) try to best one another to be the court favourite of Queen Anne (Best Actress hopeful Olivia Colman).

What makes it a contender? It’s visually stunning. Stun-ning! From the sets to the costumes to the camera angles and techniques, it’s a cinematic masterpiece. The use of the fish eye lens offers a unique perspective, allowing us to see so much while it symbolically speaks volumes of inescapable loneliness.

Will it win? I don’t think so, but keep an eye on “The Favourite” to be a favorite for Costuming, Production Design and Cinematography (though it’s up against a tough competitor there).


What’s it about? Inspired by a true story, pianist Don Shirley (Supporting Actor nominee Mahershala Ali) hires Copa Cabana bouncer Tony “Lip” Vallelonga (Best Actor nominee Viggo Mortenson) – based on his “innate ability to handle trouble” – as his driver for a musical tour in the 1960’s deep South.

What makes it a contender? Knockout performances from both Mortenson and Ali will resonate long after you’ve left the theater; personal and definitive discussions of one’s heritage and its place in 1962 society; arguably the best (and most unlikely) onscreen bromance since Buzz and Woody – amiright?!?!

Will it win? I absolutely loved “Green Book,” so I wouldn’t be upset if it won (though I doubt it will). Its cerebral story runs the gamut of emotions, and its message still is relevant – perhaps even more so – today.


What’s it about? Based on the 2014 memoir “Black Klansman,” this flick follows Colorado Springs Police Department’s first African-American detective, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), as he attempts to not only infiltrate but expose the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s.

What makes it a contender? “Dis joint is based on some fo’ real, fo’ real sh*t.” The story alone is insanely bold, and director Spike Lee makes an even bolder statement the only way he knows how. The use of those split screens gives “BlacKkKlansman” that fo’ real 70s vibe, and the recent footage at the film’s close is a head-shaking eye opener.

Will it win? Oh, man. It really should. It’s intense and so well done. “BlacKkKlansman” is brilliant and significant. It’s also entertaining AF because of the engaging work from Washington, Supporting Actor nominee Adam Driver, Laura Harrier and Robert Burke; and Ryan Eggold, Michael Buscemi, Topher Grace and Jasper Pääkkönen. And there’s that heavy, heavy scene with Harry Belafonte. Right? Damn!


What’s it about? Best Director nominee Alfonso Cuaròn wore many hats to bring to the screen this semi-autobiographical look at his upbringing in Mexico City; the narrative depicts the life of live-in housekeeper Cleo (Best Actress nominee Yalitza Aparicio) in the early 1970s in the Colonia Roma neighborhood.

What makes it a contender? It’s the nuances: the imagery; the focus; those hypnotic long takes; the way the camera moves – or doesn’t – to capture the action; the care given to simultaneously show activity on multiple planes. Simply put, “Roma” is visual poetry. It’s a very personal story that deftly balances anguish with artfulness.

Will it win? Probably. A no-brainer for Cinematography, “Roma” already nabbed a Best Film BAFTA and a Best Picture Golden Globe, so don’t be shocked if (when) it takes home Oscar gold.

Find out for sure which film wins this, that or the other thing at 7 p.m. CST Sunday, Feb. 24.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page


If you’ve seen writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s “Unbreakable” and “Split,” I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did, and I invite you to proceed.

If not (gasp!), please go watch them now – in that order – and come back. I’ll wait.

Just kidding; I’m gonna keep writing, but please proceed with caution… and an understanding that while I won’t give away anything, you’ll likely be confused AF. Also note that whatever is seen in the trailers is fair game.

Here we go…

It was in 2000’s “Unbreakable” (easily my favorite M. Night flick) that Shyamalan first introduced us to David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a soft-spoken and keeps-to-himself security guard trying to salvage his marriage and connect with his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), after walking away from a horrific train crash in which every other person onboard perished.

We also met Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), whose difficult and pain-filled childhood led to a fascination with comic books that in adulthood became somewhat of an obsession.

And David unknowingly was exactly the one for whom Elijah had been searching.

Sixteen years later, Shyamalan freaked the “Split” out of audiences with his tale of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy, like you’ve never before seen him) – and his slew of alternate personalities, resulting from Kevin’s dissociative identity disorder.

Shyamalan actually wrote “Split” based on a character that was initially intended to appear in but later scrapped from “Unbreakable,” which makes sense looking back.

So while these storylines always seemed destined to intersect, they finally do exactly that in “Glass”

And this time, Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) attempts to debunk the theory believed by each of these characters to be the basis for his – or in Kevin’s case, his and his and hers and his, “etcetera” (wink) – existence.

“If superheroes exist,” Dr. Staple asks, “why are there only three of you?”

But again, all of this is from the complex mind of one of the most inventive and creative cinematic storytellers, so the digestive process takes some thought and dissection because Shyamalan’s movies are notorious for possessing deeper meanings that extend well beyond what’s on the surface.

Love it!

The use of color is again important, and it’s everywhere: the costuming; the backgrounds; the obvious indications, such as the neon signs glowing above Joseph’s head in the back of the comic book store or the stripes painted on the floor of Kevin’s room.

The greens and purples and yellows and even the reds all have meaning, and Shyamalan chose each color specifically based on the qualities possessed by the character or situation being represented.  

Pay attention to the chromatic expression and what’s happening in this narrative when the saturation becomes more or less intense.

And, of course, there are those subtle clues that are inescapable from this wily filmmaker, who again makes a small cameo.

That twitch in Elijah’s eyes that seems to be his only movement in the presence of hospital personnel didn’t make much sense to me at the time, but….

And to David’s dismay there’s early mention of the “Tip-Toe Man.” An understated comment of that slinking action by another character later on will have your mind scrambling to make a connection, if you catch it at all.

A lot of the visuals again bring about a deliberate comic book feel; there’s a stylized look to “Glass” that’s both unique and so very Shyamalan.

He capitalizes on those slow, revealing zooms that all but beg for your attention. The stop-flash sequences that are used when David passes through a crowd put us directly under his rain poncho and allow us to get a first-hand feel of how he does what he does.

The use of shadows feels surreal; the reaction shots we see instead of the action create tension and insane curiosity; the around-the-corner and over-the-shoulder techniques drop us smack into those scenes and conversations and effectively pull us closer into this narrative.

And those tilted angles from Elijah’s point of view hearken back to a quote from “Unbreakable” involving a “skewed perception” of how the world is seen.

Oh. My. God.

“Glass” combines the visual brilliance of “Unbreakable” with the disturbing nature of “Split” to create one walloping, gut-punch finish to this masterful trilogy.

My husband had some issues with the storyline, so he’d like to have some words with Mr. Shyamalan.

On the other hand, I’m looking forward to seeing “Glass” again (and again?) to pick out other nuances I missed during the first go-round.

I was excited to see all of these characters onscreen together, further exploring ideas from the previous films and wrapping up this saga the only way that it could.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a cinema dork and conversational writer. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page