For Bill…

I never met Bill Paxton.

But he was one of my all-time favorite actors. (Also, yes – that is his signature tattooed on the outside of my wrist.)

And after years – decades, really – of watching his films, seeing him charm the hosts and audiences of late night TV talk shows, and soaking up every bit of information offered in this entertainment publication or that I felt like I had a pretty good handle on the attributes that made him who he was.

And who he was… was a movie star, a family man, a story teller, a goof ball – and a simple guy with genuine soul.

All of the things I thought I knew were more than validated on Father’s Day 2017. I was invited to attend a tribute for Bill in Manhattan, at which the people who really knew him shared their memories of going to school with Bill, or rooming with Bill, or performing with Bill.

And the words from those people who knew him in his “early years” shined a light on another aspect of who Bill was – a friend.

They read poems and delivered prayers. They recited Shakespeare. They quoted Bill and a character or two from his movies.

There was mention of “the third rail” and Bill’s fixation on that story and the specifics of way it was told.

His friend Rachel recalled walking across town with Bill one winter day; she was wearing a favorite dress, she said. A group of workmen noticed her, and her recollection of how Bill described them checking her out was no doubt heard in his unmistakable voice: “Those guys looked at you like you were a ham sandwich.”

And for a brief moment, Bill was there. And there was laughter.

We heard about Bill’s ability to make a “spectacular omelette.” The secret apparently lies in whipping the Dijon mustard just right.

They told of the risks Bill took to produce forbidden performances in obscure places – on subway platforms or the rooftop tennis courts above the library (that’s a thing??) at New York University.

We learned of a production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and the invention of the “Shoeshine” character.

I listened as these friends and former roommates recalled meeting Bill and talked about their first impressions of him. Some were fascinated with him, some not-so-much – at first.

There were descriptive tales of Bill’s unwavering confidence, and his Texas drawl, and his interest in the intricacies of people and things – and their history or what made them specifically unique. His friends talked at length about Bill’s passion for aesthetics and his enthusiasm for art.

Bill’s son James talked about his dad’s boundless energy and how he’d go into drill-sergeant mode to get James up and moving in the morning: “Get your ass outta bed,” James jokingly grumbled, mimicking his dad’s articulation. “You’re burnin’ daylight.”

Again, it was Bill’s voice uttering those words. And again there was laughter.

I didn’t just listen to these stories; I watched how they were told – with enthusiasm and fond remembrances.

I observed their body language as each friend or family member spoke; there were grand gestures and tremendous smiles and looks off into the distance as details and emotions came flooding back.

I saw the smiles on their faces and the tears in their eyes. I heard them laugh and sniffle and pause, their words and movements and gazes of reflection altogether revealing the adoration in their hearts.

To them he wasn’t Bill Paxton, the actor; he was Bill Paxton, their friend.

And then there was that video.

Bill’s longtime friend and collaborator, Tom, put together a heartwarming collection of documentary footage of Bill with his dad, John. As it played out, the video morphed into a sort of memorial for Bill.

Our laughter turned to tears.

The movie clips and video snippets and personal photos and wistful piano all were beautifully combined in this visual poem detailing Bill’s “extraordinary life,” and the emptiness felt by everyone in that room was overwhelmingly realized.

Later at Toad Hall, we all raised a glass to Bill.

And it was there that I asked Bill’s friend Donal to tell me a “happy story about Bill.” Then I sat in wide-eyed delight as he walked me through the comprehensive and animated account of how Bill met the woman who later would become his wife.

It. Was. Amazing.

Donal is an insanely gifted storyteller. And I watched as the nostalgia of that tale brought a smile to his face, which in turn brought a smile to mine.

I was beyond grateful to have spent time with these people who were so welcoming and willing to share their memories, so that I could better know the man whose movies were and are such a huge part of my life.

And everyone who had anything to say that day gave this fan from Minnesota something to remember about this incredible man who clearly meant so much to so many.

There’s no question that Bill Paxton was one of my absolute favorites. Learning more about him through his family and friends made me sense his absence on an even grander scale. But I also felt a connection that I hadn’t before, like I was no longer just a fan.

I had learned more about Bill from those closest to him. Their memories of him had us laughing together and crying together. To think about all the lives touched by him and to understand the ways in which he touched them truly is its own reward. And that’s such a Bill thing.

No, I never knew Bill Paxton.

But I feel like I have a better and more personal idea of who he was – the story teller, the practical joker, the art enthusiast, the Hollywood actor who never forgot his roots, the dedicated family man, the lifelong friend. He will be remembered always.

This was my first time in New York; I took the trip solely for this event.

And being in that place on this day with these people was exactly where and when and with whom I needed to be.

You have just enjoyed the insights of Movie Addict Mel, a Bill Paxton fan who wrote this post to recognize what would have been the actor’s 63rd birthday. Follow her on Twitter @movieaddictmel, and “like” her Facebook page www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Tully

The team – writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman – that brought is 2007’s “Juno” and 2011’s “Young Adult” has now delivered “Tully.”

Haven’t seen “Young Adult” but have heard great things, and I understand it’s funny. I dig funny.

I saw “Juno” a handful of times in the theater and “fo-shizz” loved the movie’s impressive cast, its killer soundtrack, and that sharp-tongued sarcasm that guides my twisted existence.

So naturally, I was stoked for “Tully.”

But because it offers less laugh-out-loud humor and way more inherent reality “Tully” has a different vibe.

It’s clear at the film’s start that Marlo (Charlize Theron, also the star of “Young Adult”) and husband Drew (Ron Livingston) already have their hands full raising daughter Sarah (Lia Frankland) – and especially son Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica).

So the arrival of kiddo No. 3 completely drains their energies – especially Marlo’s.

I mean, check out that quick-edit montage of Marlo caring for the new addition: the crying, the diaper changes, the crying, the rocking, the napping, the crying, the diapers, the breast feeding, the napping, the crying, the diapers….

And the faster those images flash onscreen the more exhausting and endless the cycle becomes. The struggle for Marlo to remain a functioning human being is all too real. Did I mention the crying?

Her brother Craig (Mark Duplass) just wants his sister back, so he offers to pay for a night nanny.

“They’re like ninjas!” he emphatically states.

Then we meet Tully(Mackenzie Davis). And Tully is a life changer – but not in the way you might think.

This flick was at first tough to watch. Then about halfway through, it clicked. I got it. And it instantly made me look at these characters and their situations in a whole new way. The crafting and execution of this tale is altogether brilliant, and once it’s over you almost need to watch it again.

“Tully” is difficult. It’s a relief. It’s layered with complexity. And it’s so achingly real that it will slap you in the face. And then it will give you a much-needed hug.

As Marlo, Theron is discreetly superb. Her interactions with her husband, the kids, her brother, and Tully all feel respectively personal – and sweet, and repressed, and honest.

It’s like we’re reading her diary, and it’s one hell of a stirring investment.

“Tully” takes a long, hard look at real life. While it offers a few moments of amusement the film never tries to bullshit its viewers, which is refreshing.

You’ll feel a familiarity with these characters, because they represent people you actually know – and that kind of association is what makes “Tully” a significant revelation.

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 www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Avengers: Infinity War

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

**WHAT YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ CONTAINS NO SPOILERS, BECAUSE SPOILERS SUCK**

 

Some eternal-deviant hybrids just want to watch the galaxy burn.

And in Marvel’s latest – and arguably most ambitious flick in the franchise to date – that villain is a gigantic and menacing force whose name alone elicits stares of dread and can pucker the asshole of even the toughest superhero.

“Tell me his name again,” a poker-faced Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) insists.

His name… is Thanos.

(Gasp. Pucker.)

You’ve probably already seen this dude or heard his name bandied about, in “Avengers,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron” or “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

And as we quickly learn in the new “Avengers: Infinity War,” Thanos (Josh Brolin) is pretty much a big, purple, intergalactic bully: “He’s a plague!” Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) emphatically states. “He invades planets; he takes what he wants!”

And what he wants are the half a dozen elemental crystals known to Marvel fans as Infinity Stones. Each representing an aspect of existence, these stones are pretty and colorful – and individually they pack a wallop like a donkey kick, so imagine the power all of them collectively would yield.

In the wrong hands, however, that power could mean disaster; anyone remember Ronin (Lee Pace) from “GOTG”?

And if there is any monster into whose hands these stones should never fall, it’s Thanos: “He could destroy life on a scale hitherto undreamt of.”

Yeah, that.

Doesn’t stop this brute from Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum-ing his way across the stars, looking to gather the stones and their omnipotent potential.

It’ll take one expansive team of superheroes to challenge this universal baddie and help save the world, the galaxy, the universe.

Who you gonna call? Wait, that’s wrong. You know what I mean.

Just about every character Marvel has put onscreen over the last 10 years makes an appearance (or gets a mention), and it’s possibly the greatest assembly of costumed characters in one of the most well thought-out and deftly handled stories – ever.

If you’ve seen all the stand-alone flicks, you’ll know exactly what’s going on – and you’ll probably be a little giddy over some of your favorites sharing screen time with more of your favorites. Squee!

If you haven’t – and I’m mostly stating this for my dad, who hasn’t seen “GOTG” (I KNOW!) and has refused to do so because there’s a talking raccoon (I’m sorry, Rocket; he doesn’t mean it) – but if you haven’t seen the distinct solo flicks there’s still enough offered here for you to follow the story, but you’ll be missing a lot of what makes these movies so much fun: the connections some of these players have with one another and the resulting conflict or sentiment; the intricacies of the narrative, with plot points from some of the other films better fleshed out and more nuanced here; the subtle digs and inside jokes that intricately define this character or that.

As you’d expect, the personality quirks possessed by these heroes are on display once again: Tony’s playboy arrogance; Captain America’s (Chris Evans) steadfast righteousness; Spider-Man’s (Tom Holland) youthful enthusiasm; Dr. Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) serenity; Rocket’s (Bradley Cooper) maniacal obsessions – snicker; Peter Quill’s (Chris Pratt, meow) over-confidence; Drax’s (Dave Bautista) detachment from the figurative; and on, and on, and on.

“Infinity War” brings together all the characters we love to do all the things for which we love them.

Some of these characters get what they want; some of them don’t. It’s a balance.

I’m not going to even hint at who’s on which side of that equation, because that would be taking away from what you want – a full-on, kick-ass, enjoyable movie experience.

And that’s exactly what “Avengers: Infinity War” delivers.

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 www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Summer Movies 2018

You’d certainly never guess it by looking out the window (thanks, Mother Nature). But a quick glance at the calendar indicates that summer is just around the corner.

No, for real.

And with the tank tops and flip flops also come some big time movies. This summer looks to once again offer a handful or two of sequels and continued stories of flicks we already know and love, as well as some new ideas in a variety of genres.

Whichever flicks are on your summer must-see list, I hope you enjoy and talk to your friends about them.

These are some of the titles I’m most looking forward to seeing. Here we go:

Avengers: Infinity War – April 27
Marvel’s super hero concept goes all out in the first big summer flick and brings together just about every costumed do-gooder in the franchise.

Infinity War” looks to be the mother of all comic book movies. I anticipate a ton of action; subtle humor with some inside jokes; tension between, of course, Tony Stark and Steve Rogers; that trademark Stan Lee Cameo – and a surprise or two.

Is it April 27 yet??

Deadpool 2 – May 18
A second helping of Ryan Reynolds slinging insults and serving up wise cracks while battling baddies in a fashion most charming? YES, please!

I mean, who isn’t excited for “Deadpool 2”? It’s gonna be all sorts of amazing.

Solo: A Star Wars Story – May 25
As a branched-off chapter of the Star Wars saga, “Solo” already has a built-in audience. Probably.

The origin of everyone’s favorite smuggler, scoundrel and hero piques curiosities, no doubt – but it’s a slippery slope when toying with such a classic and beloved character. Alden Ehrenreich (who?) has some mighty big boots to fill – and a fairly significant ego to distinguish. We’ll find out in May how he fares.

Oceans 8 – June 8
Move over, fellas; it’s time for the ladies to shine in this spin-off movie from the franchise rebooted by Steven Soderbergh in 2007’s “Oceans 11.”

Oceans 8” is neither a remake nor a sequel but rather another story spawned from the connection to a familiar character, and it’s chock full of female talent. Giggity!

Tag – June 15
I recently saw a trailer for this comedy about a group of friend continuing a decades-long playground game that’s apparently based on a true story.

Tag” looks kind of hilarious. And it’s got Jon Hamm. Meow.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – June 22
Is it any surprise that life once again “finds a way”?

Mixing Chris Pratt’s charm (and hotness, let’s be honest) with Jeff Goldblum’s kookiness, then adding dinosaurs and setting it all to that iconic anthem is the cinematic combination for which summers were made. Am I right?

Mission: Impossible – Fallout – July 27
Not sure if it’s the in-depth storylines, or the addition of Simon Pegg’s random humor, or that Tom Cruise is crazy enough to perform some of the most dangerous and gnarly stunts ever, but these “M:I” flicks have really upped the ante for big action blockbusters.

Fallout” looks like it’ll continue on that in-freakin’-credible path.

Christopher Robin – August 3
I absolutely lovedPaddington” and its sequel (which is even better, if you can bear-lieve that), and I’m hoping this Winnie-the-Pooh tale is equally as enjoyable with just as much heart.

The teaser trailer for “Christopher Robin” is altogether magical, so my hopes are high.

Let me know which movies you’re most looking forward to this summer. To help you out, here’s a list of the flicks coming soon to a theater near you:

APRIL 27
Avengers: Infinity War

MAY 4
Bad Samaritan
Overboard
Tully

MAY 11
Breaking In
Life of the Party

MAY 18
Book Club
Deadpool 2
Show Dogs

MAY 25
Solo: A Star Wars Story

JUNE 1
Action Point
Adrift

JUNE 8
Hereditary
Oceans 8

JUNE 15
The Incredibles 2
Superfly
Tag

JUNE 22
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

JUNE 29
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Uncle Drew
Valley Girl

JULY 4
The First Purge

JULY 6
Ant-Man and the Wasp

JULY 13
Hotel Transylvania 3
Skyscraper

JULY 20
The Equalizer 2
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

JULY 27
Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Sorry to Bother You
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

AUGUST 3
Christopher Robin
The Darkest Minds
Mile 22
The Spy Who Dumped Me

AUGUST 10
Dog Days
The Meg

AUGUST 17
Alpha
Captive State
Crazy Rich Asians
The Happytime Murders
Three Seconds

AUGUST 24
Replicas
Slender Man

AUGUST 31
Kin

* Information courtesy of www.firstshowing.net. Release dates are subject to change.

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 www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

A Quiet Place

There is but one rule in John Krasinski’s brilliant and startling new horror-ish flick “A Quiet Place.”

It’s symbolized by a stoic look that’s accompanied by an index finger, extended vertically and pressed softly and to one’s lips.

Don’t. Make. A sound.

It’s a simple rule, really. And in this unsettling setting it absolutely is the difference between life and death, because – as the film’s tagline warns – “if they hear you, they hunt you.”

The “they” being referenced are relentless creatures about which little is known. But what the Abbott family does know – and what we discover upon scanning several newspaper headlines – is that these creatures are aggressively drawn toward sound.

Their attacks are swift and scary and non-discriminatory; the only relief is in knowing that death is immediate, which clearly is established in alarming fashion on “Day 89,” even before the film’s title appears onscreen.

Holy shhhhhhhhhh(it)!

This unexpected sequence is a jaw-dropper for sure, and it sensibly sets the tone for the level of importance with which silence is necessary.

For the most part the Abbotts – including dad, Lee (Krasinski); mom, Evelyn (Emily Blunt, Krasinski’s real-life wife); daughter, Regan (the spectacular Millicent Simmonds); and son, Marcus (Noah Jupe; loved this kid in last year’s “Wonder”) – carry on about their lives in a manner so quiet a church mouse would be proud.

They communicate via sign language. They walk barefoot, outdoors across a path of soft, white sand; and indoors by carefully stepping on pre-determined, marked areas to avoid creaky floor boards. The kids play Monopoly, mindful of the need to roll the dice on an area rug and move their cloth game pieces along the board so as not to make a peep.

But you know things cannot and will not be this quiet forever. I mean, otherwise there’d be no movie. Right?

Krasinski, probably best known as the smart-aleck, poker-faced practical joker Jim Halpert from NBC’s “The Office,” cranks up the serious meter here and does so much with so little.

The cast list? In the single digits.

The dialogue? Damn near non-existent, and the few lines that are spoken wouldn’t even fill a page of script.

Because of that, everything hinges on the visuals. It’s so important that the camera work and performances not only tell this story but carry the action and express the emotion necessary to tell it well.

And that’s where “A Quiet Place” really makes a statement – loud and clear.

Krasinski’s lens poetically mimics the flow and intensity of the action. Those slow tracking and panning shots mirror the careful movements of the characters and make it seem like the camera is tip-toeing, too – cautiously capturing the images without disruption or sound.

But then that panicked music kicks in, lending a pulsating heartbeat to select scenes as those subsequent quick edits effectively increase the pace of the action to match the film’s ferocity.

And ohhhh boy is it intense!

Is that the movie – or my heart about to beat right out of my chest??

I was impressed at how peripheral sounds differed depending on from which character’s perspective we were listening. It’s very subtle, but it’s such a smart way to further pull us into this narrative and connect us with the individual players.

This story is riveting and unique, and those tight shots make every scene unnerving as hell. Humans inherently want to survive, and “A Quiet Place” pushes that instinct to the brink – time and time again.

Because we’re aware of the consequences, even just the anticipation of noise in any fashion will leave you holding your breath, or paralyzed with dread, or wincing in wait.

I was pretty much a ball of anxiety throughout this entire movie – afraid to make a single damn sound. Anyone else?

That a movie can have this kind of effect on viewers is a triumph for the art of the cinema.

This is why we go to the movies: for the experience. We go to participate with the characters on screen – to hold our collective breath, to be afraid, to feel the tension, to hope for survival.

And trust me, “A Quiet Place” will have you doing all of that.

Bravo, Mr. Krasinski. And thank you for the ride.

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 www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Ready Player One

Even if you can’t play the notes (me!), you no doubt know the tune: (insert killer keyboard intro to Van Halen’s “Jump” here).

And with that, director Steven Spielberg introduces us to his latest flick – an ambitious, sci-fi adventure that is futuristic in nature but is bursting with nostalgia at its heart. Giggity!

Based on the debut novel (haven’t read it; I don’t do that) from Ernest Cline, “Ready Player One” mostly takes place in the OASIS, a virtual world in which most of humanity spends its time, because… well, because real life circa 2045 is depressing AF.

The OASIS is a “place where the limits of reality are your imagination,” as explained by young Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan).

Under the guise of avatars and aliases, “people come to the OASIS for all the things they can do,” Wade continues, “but they stay because of all the things they can be.”

It’s sorta like the Big Market from “Valerian” – only not stupid.

After his death, OASIS creator James Halladay (Mark Rylance) announces – via pre-recorded video, of course – that within the OASIS is a game, and the first to find Halladay’s “Easter Eggs” hidden in that game will inherit his fortune – and full control of the OASIS.

Double giggity, right??

Wade, known in the OASIS as Parzival, is among the eager “Gunters,” or egg hunters, engaged in this search – that’s been ongoing for years.

In real life, Wade exists in his “own tiny corner of nowhere, protecting my tiny slice of nothing”; he lives with his aunt Alice (Susan Lynch) and her dippy boyfriend in an area known as “The Stacks,” which is a hundred times more deplorable than its name implies.

Halladay’s posthumous announcement could be Wade’s ticket to a better life, so this kid is all in. But he’s not the only one… .

And so begins this virtual pursuit that looks insanely cool, incorporates the most kick-ass music, and is so much fun you’ll forget about reality for 140 minutes.

Though “Ready Player One” spends most of its time in a fictitious realm, Spielberg continually jumps back and forth between it and its nonfiction counterpart to remind us that there is a difference. But we also see and understand that events in the OASIS can and do affect reality; we get that this isn’t just an “insert coin, start over” scenario – and that’s sobering discovery.

The story is a trip, and the eye-popping graphics and immersive visuals really help this flick level up; it’s like actually being inside a video game.

And there’s additional fun with the seemingly endless supply of pop culture references.

You’ll notice winks toward, among many others, John Cusack’s patented pose from “Say Anything”; the technology and light cycles from “Tron”; Hot Wheels track sets, with their crazy twists and turns; “Iron Giant,” with an appearance from the title character.

And because I’ve seen “Back to the Future” a million times, I probably noticed more nods to that classic flick above most others – including everyone’s favorite Delorean, with an added touch of K.I.T.T. from “Knight Rider”; the Zemeckis Cube and the genius capabilities it holds; the Goldie Wilson poster in a quick background scan of one scene.

Whether intentional or not, I also found the look and mannerisms of some of these characters to be eerily reminiscent of well-known 80s and 90s players; “dickweed” Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) reminded me of Mr. Vernon from “The Breakfast Club”; Halladay struck me as a combination of Garth Algar from “Wayne’s World” and James Langly, one of the Lone Gunmen, from “X-Files”; Aunt Alice and the loser boyfriend are almost clones of John Connor’s pukey foster parents in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day.”

Then when you factor in the amazing selection of songs – including tunes from Prince, Hall & Oates, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, Tears for Fears, the Bee Gees, Twisted Sister and a whole mess of others – it’s easy to understand why “Ready Player One strikes a chord with movie buffs and music fans alike.

The outcome probably won’t be a shock, but I promise you there’s plenty of action and nail-biting tension to keep you engrossed and entertained throughout.

“Ready Player One” scores big in presenting this grand, futuristic adventure while wisely blanketing viewers in all the things with which they’re comfortable and familiar. It’s one hell of an enjoyable ride.

Are you ready?

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 www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Love, Simon

It was last year – late summer or early fall, probably – when I first saw a trailer for “Love, Simon,” and I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait for this movie to come out (heh).

Why?

Because it looked like – and very much is – one of those stories in which a young protagonist has to wrestle with and ultimately confront a very personal issue; it’s big drama, complemented by playful humor – and it all feels very sincere.

And those are the kinds of movies that resonate with me – the ones with relatable and likable characters that have real struggles and for whom the audience roots, because he or she deserves as much.

And “Love, Simon” is all of that… and so much more.

“I’m just like you. For the most part, my life is totally normal…” high school senior Simon (Nick Robinson) narrates, to introduce himself.

We learn about his high school sweetheart parents (Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel); his chef wanna-be little sister Nora (Talitha Eliana Bateman); his friends, two of whom he’s “known since pretty much the beginning of time.”

And he continues, “… I have a totally perfectly normal life, except I have one huge-ass secret…”.

Simon is gay. And he hasn’t told anyone; he’s barely told himself.

Simon’s friend Leah (Katherine Langford, whom you may recognize from “13 Reasons Why”) FaceTimes with him to ask if he’s seen the latest post on the school’s social media page, about “the closeted gay kid.”

Panic! But that eventually fades when Simon realizes someone else has the same secret, and he sees an opportunity express himself to this other student – without either of them knowing the other’s identity.

And as Simon – disguising himself as Jacques – and “Blue” cathartically message each other, it’s clear that Simon is starting to understand and gain confidence in who he is.

But if you’re familiar with stories like this, you know that Simon’s secret not only will be found out but also will be in danger of being exposed before he’s ready to tell it. As if this internal conflict couldn’t get any more complicated, right?

“Love, Simon” is so good and satisfying on so many levels.

The montage of Simon’s friends announcing to their parents that they’re heterosexual is hilarious and effectively drives home just how silly it is that being straight is the established “default.”

These characters all are amazing: Simon is the good, friendly kid who not only gets along with but is able to joke with his parents; pals Leah, Abby (Alexandra Shipp) and Nick (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) are the easy-going and understanding comrades that any high school kid would lucky to call friends; Vice Principal Mr. Worth (Tony Hale) tries so hard to be hip that he actually sort of succeeds while eliciting tremendous laughs; drama teacher Ms. Albright (Natasha Rothwell) offers up some humor of her own and delivers one of the biggest mic-drop speeches ever. Eh-ver!

There’s a little bit of mystery here, as Blue’s email responses to Simon are continually read in a different voice each time Simon thinks he’s figured out who it is on the other side of these messages. It keeps us guessing, and the anonymity nevertheless allows Simon to really get to know this person – and himself.

And it’s no secret that Simon’s secret will come out, but it’s the reactions here that are important.

They run the gamut – from the typically ignorant and cruel, which was Simon’s fear and understandably why he felt the need to keep his identity under wraps for so long; to the tear-inducing (guilty!) and empathetic.

It’s not easy for this kid, but that’s what makes his story so endearing. You get it, and you feel every ounce of his anxiety and apprehension.

There is so much to appreciate about “Love, Simon.” It’s full of real emotion and uncertainly and isolation – and acceptance.

I was in a packed theater, and the audience at one point exploded with resounding applause, which is a testament to this flick and its ability to affect viewers. And that’s really the whole point.

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 www.facebook.com/movieaddictmel. You also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

A Wrinkle in Time

Never been a huge fan of reading, so admittedly I have not read any of the books in Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in Time” series.

Shocking, I know. I’m sure they’re fabulous reads.

However, having not read the books there was no temptation to make the page-to-screen comparisons while watching Disney’s “A Wrinkle in Time,” the latest flick from director Ava DuVernay (“Selma”).

Four years after her NASA scientist father Mr. Murry (Chris Pine) inexplicably vanished, young Meg (Storm Reid) gets a note on her locker from what I can only assume is the typical flock of little B-words (every school has one) to wish her a “Happy anniversary – if only you’d disappear, too.”

Yeahhhh, kids are swell.

Mr. Murry was “sure he could travel with his mind” by “wrinkling time” to explore the “connections to and between other dimensions.”

Everyone knows about Mr. Murry’s disappearance, but no one has any answers – that is, until Meg’s little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) introduces Meg to Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon); Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling); and the grandest and most magnificent of all, Mrs. Which (Oprah Winfrey).

They heard a call in the universe. Mrs Which tells Meg that Mr. Murry has “traveled farther … than any human has” but that “he may be in trouble.”

So, what’s a girl to do?

Grab her brother and her friend Calvin (Levi Miller) and “tesser” throughout the universe to find and bring back her father.

DUH!

And we experience the surrealism and beauty and quirks as Meg, Charles Wallace and Calvin traverse dimensions – visiting lands such as Uriel, Orien and Camazotz; meeting gossipy flowers and the Happy Medium (Zach Galifianakis) and The Man with Red Eyes (Michael Pena).

The premise here is a fun one for sure. The process, on the other hand, is a little… meh. There are some cute memories of Meg and her father, but I never got any true sense of tug-at-your-heart emotion, which is essential to us caring about the success or failure of this mission.

Some of the pieces to this story seemed either to not fit or just felt completely irrelevant, essentially muddying the overall narrative.

I mean, it was fine; I’m sure a lot of this is carryover from the books – again, didn’t read ‘em, so I can’t be certain – but I feel like some things weren’t explained and as such had no purpose in moving this story forward.

BUT… there are two things that I thought really helped (and actually saved?) this flick: the stunning visuals, and those kids!

The effects that create the frequencies and fantasy worlds are believable enough and highly impressive. And that emaciated scene during which Meg climbs a flight of stairs that no one can see? THAT is crazy cool and a definite treat for the eyes.

Even more delightful are the performances from Reid, McCabe and Miller.

Reid’s maturity commands attention, and she’s so expressive – though effectively not-so-much when appropriate – that you can’t help but be captivated. Also, she has the most amazing hair, whether she realizes it or not.

As Calvin, Miller (who also was amazing in 2015’s “Pan”) is earnest and encouraging; his quiet enthusiasm is endearing and refreshing. And he’s very possibly the sweetest kid in the universe.

McCabe is a strong presence and delivers Charles Wallace’s freakish intelligence and vision with a steadfast confidence that makes you wonder if he’s even real.

These kids collectively steal the show while being the biggest reason for its success.

“Wrinkle” feels very Disney-esque, with its not-too-terrifying moments of peril and its universal lessons on family, friendship and self: “Find the right frequency, and have faith in who you are.”

Meg’s quest obviously is more than simply a search for her father – and though a few elements of this story are a bit lackluster and the emotional investment was seriously lacking other aspects stepped up to at least give moviegoers a mostly engaging and visually “luminous” experience.

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 www.facebook.com/movieaddictmelYou also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Oscars 2018: Which flick will win Best Pic?

Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter

Curious to know which movie will win this year’s top prize at the 90th Academy Awards?

Me, too! Here’s a quick rundown of each nominee and my thoughts on what each has to offer in its quest to take Oscar gold.

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

Dunkirk

What’s it about? During World War II allied soldiers are surrounded by the German Army when an unconventional rescue mission is set in motion.

What makes it a contender? Umm, its director is a freakin’ genius. I’m not big on war movies, but Christopher Nolan is the reason I wanted to see this. Nolan easily is one of the most cerebral filmmakers in recent memory, and he once again amazes with gritty and visceral battle sequences, and that disjointed timeline of air, land, and sea events that is so trademark Nolan and the only way this story could be told. There’s very little dialogue here, but that’s fine; the action says everything.

Will it win? It probably won’t win Best Picture, but I expect “Dunkirk” to clean up the technical awards.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

What’s it about? An understandably pissed off mother rents three billboards on the edge of town to keep attention on solving her daughter’s brutal murder after local law enforcement seems to have dropped the ball.

What makes it a contender? Its sharp-tongued, unfiltered dialogue; the heavy and emotional subject matter; and stand-out performances from Frances McDormand (who will, oh by the way, win for Best Actress), Woody Harrelson as the town’s beloved Chief Willoughby, and Sam Rockwell (a lock to win his first Oscar, for Supporting Actor) as the dopey deputy with “slightly racist leanings” whose transformation is something to behold.

Will it win? Probably, and I sure hope so. This is my favorite of the nominees, and I would love to see “Three Billboards” take home the win.

Lady Bird

What’s it about? Wacky coming-of-age tale that follows Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson as she navigates high school ridiculousness with best bud Julie “Jules” Steffans, examines relationships with boys, expresses herself in artistic ways, and desperately tries to distance herself from both Sacramento and her overbearing mother.

What makes it a contender? It takes a realistic and relatable look at the mother-daughter dynamic. Director Greta Gerwig expertly balances the curiosities and naivete of youth against the jaded wisdom and unfulfilled ambition of adulthood. Saoirse (pronounced “Seer-sha” – you’re welcome) Ronan and Laurie Metcalf are a joy to watch, even when (read: especially when) they’re bickering. Metcalf would be nabbing the Supporting Actress Oscar for this role if not for Allison Janney (“I, Tonya”), but Metcalf’s role still is worthy of gold.

Will it win? I doubt it, but that’s not to say that it isn’t deserving of the nomination or the win.

The Shape of Water

What’s it about? A wonderfully weird Cold War-era fantasy about a mute maintenance worker in a government laboratory and the unconditional bond she forms with a top-secret aquatic being.

What makes it a contender? It’s quirky and freakishly gorgeous, and the story of forbidden longing goes far deeper than what’s on its surface. It’s acceptance – and feeling accepted. And the performances from Sally Hawkins (a Best Actress nominee) and Richard Jenkins (up for Supporting Actor) are so achingly bold you’ll be completely immersed in the narrative. Also, is it just me or does Michael Shannon get creepier with each role?

Will it win? This is a tough one; Best Picture and Best Director used to go hand-in-hand, but lately that hasn’t seem to be the case. I don’t think “The Shape of Water” will win Best Picture, but I do think Guillermo del Toro will win Best Director. His vision here is extraordinary!

The Post

What’s it about? The First Amendment… aaaand gender competencies with regard to leadership roles takes center stage as a determined newspaper publisher – a woman, gasp! – risks her business and its reputation in an attempt to expose a decades-long government cover-up because divulging the information is in the best interest of the people.

What makes it a contender? Three words: Streep, Hanks, Spielberg. They’re historically the best at what they do, and “The Post” masterfully depicts the importance of journalism at a time when – ironically, but that’s no accident – its very relevance is habitually being questioned.

Will it win? No, but I think its message is head loud and clear, and that’s the real victory here.

Darkest Hour

What’s it about? Newly appointed Prime Minister Winston Churchill takes office at a most inopportune time: when the fate of World War II-era Western Europe is dependent on his decision to continue fighting or negotiate peace talks with Adolf Hitler.

What makes it a contender? An undeniably incredible performance from an unrecognizable – except for those tell-tale eyes – Gary Oldman; it’s the major source of promise in this seemingly hopeless scenario. As Churchill, Oldman is loud and intense and a little bit frightening: “YOU CANNOT REASON WITH A TIGER WHEN YOUR HEAD IS IN ITS MOUTH!” (This is in all caps because that’s how I heard it).

Will it win? I don’t think so. But Oldman almost surely will win his first Oscar (shocking, considering his talent and extensive filmography) for Best Actor; all eyes are on the man with those patented peepers.

Phantom Thread

What’s it about? The odd and sometimes unsettling story of a 1950s eccentric dressmaker and the young woman who inspires him and affects his routine life.

What makes it a contender? Daniel Day-Lewis’s method acting is downright magnetic and is matched here by knockout performances by Vicki Krieps and Lesley Manville – the lighting effectively expressing the respective softness and harshness of each of their personalities. The imagery is stunning, and this story will have you reassessing everything even after the credits roll.

Will it win? No, but look for “Phantom Thread” to likely score costuming and visual awards.

Get Out

What’s it about? Despite half-joking warning from his best friend Rod (Lil Rey Howery), Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) and girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) spend the weekend with her parents, whom Chris is meeting for the first time – “Do they know I’m black?” he wonders.

What makes it a contender? It’s amazing! The story in this psychological thriller – with a touch of horror – is MESSED. UP. But that’s a compliment. It’s well thought-out and hypnotically (heh) executed by writer/director Jordan Peele. The racial issues are both obvious and subtle, and the little hints along the way culminate in the most shocking “holy sh*t” moment. “Get Out” is wickedly innovative and so disturbing, and Kaluuya is outstanding.

Will it win? I don’t think it will win, but I wouldn’t be surprised. This one totally blew my mind.

Call Me by Your Name

What’s it about? Seventeen year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) develops a relationship with his father’s visiting research assistant Oliver (Armie Hammer) in 1980s Italy.

What makes it a contender? The backdrop is clearly breathtaking, but two other aspects of “Call Me by Your Name” stand out even more so than the Italian countryside. The deep, raw feelings that are discovered and displayed bring a tangible quality to what it’s like to experience love. There’s an unmatched realness to these emotions that are wholly exhilarating and agonizing. And Chalamet? Get outta here; he’s INCREDIBLE – like, shake-your-head, jaw-dropping, mind-blowing incredible. This film ends with one of the most profound speeches I’ve ever heard as well as one of the most intense gazes I’ve ever seen. And if I wasn’t already a puddle at that point, there’s a dedication to Bill Paxton on the end credits. My heart!

Will it win? Based on the sensitivity and emotional weight, “Call Me by Your Name” very well might win. It was one of my favorites, so I wouldn’t be upset. Chalamet is nominated for Best Actor, and he absolutely deserves to win; if you’ve seen this flick, I don’t even have to explain why. But we’ll see if he can best Gary Oldman for the statue.

There you have it. Watch the 90th Academy Awards on March 4 to see if your favorites take home Oscar gold.

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 www.facebook.com/movieaddictmelYou also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.

Black Panther

If you’ve already seen “Black Panther,” you know how awesome it is.

This latest Marvel Cinematic Universe installment takes the standard good versus evil archetype to a whole new level.

Part of its brilliance lies in its ability to introduce moral complexities that elevate “Black Panther” beyond choosing between right and wrong; this story explores the depth of that dichotomy while making a case for either side.

And it’s freakin’ gorgeous! Contrary to the implication based on its title, “Black Panther” offers a kaleidoscope of color that will steal your breath away.

Another reason it’s is so hypnotic is because Marvel opted to narrow its concentration to this character and his homeland – broadening that aim on occasion to explore and flesh out the incident during which we first met T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War,” but otherwise sticking close to home.

And that home is Wakanda, a (fictional) East African nation. Strategically hidden from the rest of the world this industrialized land thrives in secret because of the mountain of (fictional) Vibranium on which it sits.

And because of that powerful element these characters are immersed in a world of James Bond-like gadgets and technological advancement while still honoring the culture.

I applaud the ways in which director Ryan Coogler (“Creed”) interweaves the obvious progressiveness yet maintains customary connections through tribal markings, ceremonies and rituals, the colorful attire, and an all-encompassing dedication to the land by the people of Wakanda.

“Black Panther” is chock full of insanely talented folk, and every character makes this movie bolder and better, ammiright?!

Boseman is incredible as the hero trying to fulfill his destiny while attempting to dissect, analyze and understand the pledge of this role into which he has stepped.

Michael B. Jordan captivates as Erik Killmonger, with his drop-of-a-hat transformation from mild temperament to blind rage. And that hint of vulnerability he expresses gives so much depth to this complex character. Love him and/or hate him, you totally get where he’s coming from.

As T’Challa’s sister Shuri, Letitia Wright is sassy and sarcastic and smart and spirited. “Black Panther” the movie and Black Panther the hero would be nothing without her; you’ll see why.

And how ‘bout the rest of ladies?

I mean, have you ever seen a stronger, more physical, and more assured bunch of women?

The answer is no. These warriors clearly will throw down to protect their bubble, their livelihood, their legacy; and their dedication is anything but self-serving.

And watching the whole lot of them – including T’Challa’s ex Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), General Okoye (Danai Gurira), and Queen Mother Ramonda (Angela Bassett) – is pure delight.

There is one character that seems to jump the allegiance fence each time the wind shifts; it’s clearly for the sake of convenience… but whatever. Don’t worry about it.

Like with other franchise flicks, “Black Panther” incorporates wry humor, much of it courtesy of Shuri – bless her; a legitimate villain, though here the threat is based on a personal and truly substantial vendetta; dazzling battle scenes; and – no surprise – that patented Stan Lee sighting.

Its characters are powerful; its scenery is majestic; its duels are well thought out and beautifully executed; its multi-layered narrative is beyond engrossing.

Miniscule glitches aside, “Black Panther” is everything a modern-day superhero story aspires to be, and it’s exactly what a Marvel flick should be – a nuanced look at this MCU extension and an almost perfect vehicle by which to continue to build and expand upon the franchise.

“Wakanda forever!”

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 www.facebook.com/movieaddictmelYou also can email her at movieaddictmel@outlook.com.