Sarah Woods Mystery Series (Vol 4) – “Engaging”

 Sarah Woods Mystery Series (Vol 4)  by Jenifer Jennings

JOHN: I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a series more. Perhaps, it was read after several books I didn’t care for. But finding this series of four novels just satisfied me right.

SPANKY: There is a rather intriguing subplot. Sarah Woods falls in love with her expoliceman, detective.

JOHN:The surface plots are suspenseful and fast moving.

SPANKY: And all deal with sex.

JOHN: A missing fiancé, under disguise taking care of a comatose father. A pregnant woman murdered by a family member. Men interested in pre-teen females.

SPANKY: But we wonder what is going to happen on all levels. Usually a series is successful then follows the winning formula too closely. Not this one

JOHN: Good reading that will have you thinking about the characters days later.


Mr. Holmes – “Not Elementary”

Sherlock Holmes

Mr. Holmes 

Mr. Holmes – “Not Elementary”

JOHN: I have spent my whole life reading and re-reading Sherlock Holmes.

SPANKY: Too bad you didn’t have other things to do. Like feeding your dog.

JOHN: So what else Holmesian could still be said? This movie takes the next step.

SPANKY: A film featuring an old man and a young boy can’t draw audience (unless it’s UP directed at parents). Maybe that’s why it was available from the library.

JOHN: It is a post retirement Sherlock Holmes who has issues with the way the dead Doctor Watson popularized him. In rethinking his final adventure, he realizes his lack of emotion and its consequences.

SPANKY: As do readers watching the film who should have known this all along.

JOHN: But it takes a story for us to experience, rather than understand, it. See this movie.


Sunset Boulevard – “Silents Speak”

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Sunset Boulevard

SPANKY: The Netflix rejuvenated version is great. And the plot holds up well.

JOHN: I first saw this as a kid with an audience in a small town theater who lived through the silent film days. I was struck by the exaggerated poses and facial gestures of Gloria Swanson. Now (though I still remembered some of the lines) I paid more attention to the story and how it fits movies and writing today.

SPANKY: Before we get that wisdom, didn’t you think the ending stunning. She is before the cameras—granted it is the news-media cameras—but she has come full circle.

JOHN: Haven’t we also come full circle. Longing for movies like this instead of pre-teen chase epics. Here is substance. But each generation has its needs and mine, like Gloria Swanson’ before me, has passed.

SPANKY: Television supposedly replaced movies, then cable replaced networks and now… Now we get movies for all ages and appeals over the internet. I don’t know that this forces one generation to understand the next (it is more, indulgingyourself in the familiar). But you want substance, John, and I want dog food. And those, Gloria, are words that don’t make any more sense than talkies.

SPANKY: 4 Barks out of 4

JOHN:  4 GOs out of 4

Laura-“A Film Classic”


Laura, with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb and Vincent Price. Directed by Sandra Lindo and Otto Preminger

JOHN: I saw this movie first when I was a kid and still remember parts of it.

SPANKY: It is haunting, especially when the police detective falls asleep in Laura’s apartment (she has supposedly been murdered) and wakes up to her alive, standing in front of him.

JOHN: The plot is twisted but makes sense. And the black and white, at least in the Netflix revival, gives the whole thing dream-like mystery and old-fashioned movie glamour. We just don’t experience these anymore.

SPANKY: Vincent price is effective and somewhat subdued and the rest of the cast is just right for the story.

JOHN: The ending also leaves you thinking. The murder of the actual girl is done out of love for Laura. And we, the audience, and the smitten detective, have that same protective feeling, don’t we?

SPANKY: Makes you think about it…for sixty years.

SPANKY: 4 Barks out of 4    JOHN:  4 GOs out of 4


Blue Velvet – “Disturbed”

Blue Velvet


JOHN: This is what movies could be but choose not to—like a nightmare you wake up from and wonder if it were real.

SPANKY: There are three things that stay with you years after leaving it: 1) the protagonist walking along after his father’s stroke and finding a cut-off ear in the grass, 2) the songs “Blue Velvet” and “In Dreams“ performed with their weird context instead of blaring off of a portable radio, 3) Isabella Rosellini telling her young savior to hit her making love.

JOHN: And he does hit her. At the end, though the plot is resolved, the troubling subtext is free to go on and on and on.

SPANKY: Who would go to such a film? I’m sure that is why others never followed David Lynch. More than a romantic entertainment for date night, more than an action flick for pre-teens. A film that changes who you are and how you see life.

JOHN: Creepy, beyond what we want, beyond what we need. But we can’t look away.

SPANKY: 4 Barks out of 4

JOHN:  4 GOs out of 4


Apocalypse Now – “Still Unsettling”


SPANKY: I know you like to go back over movies you saw at a certain time in your life, but most seem labored, dated.

JOHN: Not this one. It parallels a confusion about Vietnam we still suffer from. When I first saw the movie I wanted it to stick closer to Heart of Darkness which I had read. To see Brando at the end. Be moved by his words.

SPARKY: But now we see many more references to Kurtz throughout the film. The visuals are spectacular and at the end we do need someone of Brando’s stature.

JOHN:  The fact that he doesn’t make any sense seems even more appropriate now than it did then.

SPARKY: We were looking for easy answers then.

JOHN: This is a masterpiece that goes beyond its time. The message: There is more to “the horror” than war. “The horror” is humanity.

SPARKY: Not something entertaining, but a film so important you have to watch it again. And again.

Spanky 2

See it, see it, see it!

Life Itself – “Two Thumbs Way Up”


SPANKY: This is a superbly balanced film. We see the young, over-confident Ebert, his relationships with Gene Siskel and famous movie directors and finally the love of his wife Chaz. The movie doesn’t drag out any of these stages, and is visually  stunning.

JOHN: You missed one aspect, Spanky, though I agree with what you  said. There was a time and a place when movie discussion was the star. Now, perhaps the costs are too high for anyone to be unclear or subtle. We are hit over the head with whatever is offered. But once upon a Felini, Bergman, Herzog time we could stay up all night and debate. It wasn’t that we believed the directors were wrong, just that it took our participation to figure out their message.

SPANKY: And Siskel and Ebert were our models.

JOHN: I enjoyed seeing the differences between the two and witnessing Ebert’s resultant courage in allowing the camera to follow him through to the end.

SPANKY: I can’t imagine a better tribute to a man, or a better conclusion to his life. Wow, I want to watch this over and over again.

Spanky gives this 4 Barks out of 4

John, 4 GOs out of 4