The Grand Hotel *** (Netflix)

This is a three-season show from Spain (yes, subtitles) and has a few of the same actors from Cable Girls.  It takes place in a huge hotel, and there's this conflict between the maid/waiter staff and the elite/owners/managers/family of the hotel itself.  I didn't see Downton Abbey, but I think this might be akin to that kind of story.  There's a brother that shows up at the hotel to find his sister, who was a maid there, but now she's missing.  He poses as a waiter.  Immediately, he and the hotel owner's daughter connect - a big no-no in that world.  The hotel owner is an imposing woman that cannot be approached nor her plans thwarted, so every episode she reigns and rules over everyone, ruthlessly.  The head of the waitstaff is another woman that cannot be crossed.  However, Julio and Alicia are constantly on a missing to uncover facts about missing people, along with a detective and his inept partner.  There are a few moments of humor, others of abuse and deceit, and lots of intrigue and scenery and yes, romance - tho forbidden.  Lots of other storylines among the staff, as well, including a pregnant maid - and the birth of the hidden twins.  We like the series, a lot.  We are almost finished.  Unbelievable story lines, but each one keeps you wanting more...

The Informer ** (theaters)

The draw to see this movie was Rosamund Pike - she's one of my favorite actors.  The story is about an ex-military man that also did time in prison - but who's now an informant for the FBI - his "boss" being Rosamund Pike's character.  This man has a wife and daughter, but he has to do what the FBI needs him to do - and this time it's stop a huge drug deal.  The whole plan goes awry, the police get involved, the young dad is in peril, and the FBI - well they want to erase him.  The film is suspenseful, we of course want the dad and his family reunited safely, and we hope Rosamund Pike's character will do the "right thing."  Clive Owen plays the other FBI boss that's willing to move on without the informant.  It's an entertaining film, not the best of these kinds of stories, but a good popcorn-watching movie for a thriller, of sorts...

The War with Grandpa **(theaters)

I'm not usually a fan of "grandpa" movies because so many have been just dirty and gross, or just sad.  However, this one is entertaining and lighthearted.  De Niro plays the grandpa that is invited to move in with his daughter and her family, to take the son's room - while the son moves up to the attic.  However, the son is NOT pleased and feels invaded - so he goes to "war" with his grandpa.  Pranks and tricks and antics are slung back and forth between grandpa and grandson.  It's a rated PG movie, so actually that was a refreshing find as an escape from all the drama in the world.  So, this film is forgettable and nothing to ponder over after the credits roll, but as movies go - family ones - it's not so bad.  Most reviews were pitiful about it, but then it probably didn't have enough violence or sex for the critics.  War with Grandpa is a nice diversion, a rainy night see, and not a must-see but definitely something to consider.

Let Him Go ** (theaters)

Kevin Costner and Diane Lane star in this family drama film, and I really like both of them as actors.  So no disappointment there.  And if you've seen the previews of this film, you know it involves family abuse.  But be forewarned, the abuse is horrific.  That being said, the story of is of grandparents who are determined to "rescue" their grandson from an abusive situation involving the in-laws.  Lane and Costner are the best part of the movie, and it certainly is suspenseful.  Lane is especially endearing (and yet a bit foreboding) as a fierce grandmother that will stop at nothing to see her grandson safely home, with her.  When she and her husband meet up with the other grandmother (a monster of a woman) and her grown gnarly sons, the movie takes a turn toward - extreme violence.  I don't know what else to say.  Just go in aware of what you're going to see. I didn't cry, it wasn't that kind of movie.  I did wince, though.

2 Hearts ** (theater)

This film got horrible reviews, but the story line was interesting enough to prompt us to buy tickets and go. There are two couples in the story, neither knows the other, and both of the men have something wrong...gravely wrong.  One knows about his issue, the other does not. We follow both couples, back and forth, until we're invested in hopes with them for a wonderful life together with their spouses...until...well it's predictable once you figure out what's happening.  Critics don't like predictable stories.  However, this is a true story and what resulted in one of the men's lives after his experience is still changing lives now.  That's worth seeing, in my opinion.  You may recognize some of the faces of the actors.  There are sad moments, but warming ones as well.  Nothing spectacular, but yet something amazing. And this poster image to the left?  It's sappy looking, but the movie is not.

Yellow Rose *** (theater)

This movie was filmed in Austin, so it got an extra star just for that! :) She and her mother are "illegals" and her mom gets deported, but this teenage girl is left in the U.S. to make it on her own.  She has a gift - songwriting and singing - and pretty soon others see it.  She ends up at the Broken Spoke (honky tonk in Austin!) and Dale Watson (country singer) helps her out, along with a young man from school that likes her a lot.  There are some tense moments as the separation from her mom, and the scare that she too might be sent away, happen.  And there are some great sounds from this actress - a tune about a square peg in a round hole that is still reverberating in my mind.  It's a good film, another one that's entertaining - with a story of hope and music.  How can that be bad?

Never Again *** (Theater)

This is a Fathom Event documentary so if you missed it, I hope you can find it somewhere.  It tells the story of two men - one a Jew that survived the Holocaust - one an Isalm extremist that had a change of heart.  Each goes through their life experiences and the first survived and now thrives, and how the second made a decision that daily costs him his life.  This is part of CUFI - Christians United for Israel.  It's a film to bring awareness about anti-semitism.  It's growing on college campuses and across the world.  This is an interesting documentary and quite inspiring, and thought-provoking.  Miracles do happen  and these two men are living examples.  Anti Semitism is real, and we can all unite together to stop its tracks.

The Secret *** (Netflix)

I've liked Katie Holmes ever since she started in the film Pieces of April - and she hasn't been in many films lately.  So I wanted to watch this one.  She's a single mom with three kids, barely making ends meet, when this stranger arrives with an envelope for her...and then a huge storm hits.  Besides that, there's a man she works for that she's been dating for years, but then...this stranger appears.  There's something in that envelope that gets blown away by the storm and then reappears near the end of the movie.  That's the secret.  And it almost causes a storm of a different kind.  This is a nice, clean, and enjoyable movie - not sappy at all - but a great story.  We both liked it, as a diversion from murder mysteries, intrigue and was nice for a change!

High Seas *** (Netflix)

It's a whodunit on a cruise ship in the 1940's with the two main characters being sisters, one married to the owner of the ship, and the other a writer.  We were intrigued in the first season, as there are murders that take place, and each episode left us wanting more...and shaking our heads!  The costumes, the ship itself, all lend to a great watch (as well as the music).  We are on season 3 and we have really enjoyed it . The writer sister is a bit of a sleuth and she ends up solving or being a part of solving each murder.  Be forewarned that this show has a lot of gore and more (we fast-forwarded some scenes).  But if you like Agatha Christie type mysteries with an inspector, lots of suspects, and trying to figure out the killer on your own - you'll like the series.  Just read up on the content, so you won't be caught unaware...

Kajillioinaire * (theater)

Let me start by saying that this movie topped my list of worst movies ever.  There's this older couple and their grown daughter who are grifters (the mom is Debra Winger!)  They don't fit in to society AT ALL, and they live in a bubble plant in a room where bubbles seep down the wall, and they have to gather them nightly.  But they can't pay their rent.  So...along comes this other young woman who joins them (why, I never did understand) in their capers to make money (which are ludicrous).  The daughter of the couple knows her family is odd, and she seems to just want to be loved...but honestly...once we were there to that point - the movie when haywire.  We discussed it for a bit afterwards, and there was no sense to the movie at all, and it was a story line that seemed like it was developed while someone was sleeping and dreaming about nonsense.  I don't like those kinds of movies, and there was really no definable plot or connection between scenes or characters.  If you like crazy, off the wall, stupid - then go see it . Otherwise, skip it.  

The Call to Spy ***(theater)

I didn't know about this woman - Virginia Hall - or the others like her, who were called up as spies during WWII in France, when the Nazis invaded.  Women were thought to be good candidates for the job because they would be unsuspecting.  This story follows two particular women - one with a wooden leg - who is fierce and unstoppable (played by Sarah Meghan Thomas) and the other an Indian woman who will not give in, at all costs.  The story unfolds as these women are called up, placed, and required to journal and communicate without getting found out...  I love historical drama like this, and this film did not disappoint.

Infidel *** (theaters)

Jim Caviezel (from The Passion) stars in this story based on true events.  He's a famous Christian blogger, with a wife that's bitter (because they lost a child) so her faith is wrecked. They have a dear family friend from Iran, and it seems life is going well...until Caviezel's character is invited to the Middle East to be on a talk show and "share his faith" so he thinks.  The friend is not who they think he is, and the visit is not what the blogger hopes it to be, and all hell breaks loose.  He is captured...and his wife travels to Iran to make sure he gets set free. There are a couple of (really? seriously?) moments -  but Caviezel (as usual) is compelling in this tale of religious oppression, tension, and fear that plagues those who take religious faith too far.  Or do they?  

The Trial of the Chicago 7 *** (theaters)

I was only 11 when these events took place, but there were seven guys that were arrested for inciting riots and violence over the atrocities of the Vietnam War.  They were brought to trial, and this is their story.  It's a stellar cast of actors in this film, which makes it totally a film not to miss.  But the courtroom drama and the story of how each man landed there is dramatic and riveting.  Lots of great dialogue, the judge is appalling (great acting), and we are drawn in to see what unfolds...if justice will reign, if government is corrupt, and just what do we ourselves think should have taken place?  We both really loved the history, were disturbed by the reality, and drawn in to the response of the courtroom at the end of the film.  Go see it.

The Nest *** (saw in theater)

There's a dark sinister mood and music throughout this film, but the movie isn't spooky or haunted.  However, the family dynamics are dark and forboding...  Jude Law plays a father that's obsessed with appearing to be well off.  He's smart, but he spends what he makes, and his wife has had enough.  She's a horse lover, and they have two children, a weary teen girl, and a timid pre-teen boy.  The dad moves them once again, this time to a huge old home with character...but it's dark and old and creepy and large inside, and they have no funds to fix it up.  The dad buys his mom a horse, hoping to bring her joy, but tragedy strikes and that horse becomes symbolic of all that is wrong in this story.  My husband didn't care for the film, but I did.  It's very multi-layered, thought provoking, and the actress that played the mom was awesome...especially when she revealed all at the dinner table...

The Last Shift *** (in theaters)

If you know the actor Richard Jenkins, that will draw you to this film.  He plays an older white guy that has been working as night manager at a fast food restaurant for 38 years and it's his  last few nights...when he is called upon to train a younger black man to take his place.  This young man is a teen father, is on probation for vandalism, but is super smart.  These two are as different as night and day, and their conversations at night bring to light deeper issues within.  There are issues of racism, white privilege, prejudice and more.  But there's a sadness to both characters, so much that we are drawn in to their story, hoping for a happy ending.  What we get, instead, is an ending that left us talking about the layers of relationship made...and destroyed...all by words and attitudes.  And wounds and life...  I really liked it - Jenkins was amazing.

Enola Holmes *** (Netflix)

To be honest, I was tired when we sat down to watch this movie, recommended to us by a friend.  However, right away, the premise and the intro was intriguing - it's about Sherlock Holmes' sister!  She lives with just her mom, as her brother (and another brother) left long ago.  And they have a most unconventional life!  Right away, she finds herself alone and has to use the knowledge she learned from her quirky mom (it has to do with scrabble tiles and word games!) to make it in the world and come into her own...even after she does meet her older, disinterested brothers.  The actress who plays Enola (her name is Alone spelled backwards!) is from the show Stranger Things, and she shines in this film - she really does!  It's a different kind of story, and in a very great way!

Eleanor Oliphant (book) ****

I absolutely LOVED this book, but perhaps you have to be a bit quirky to love it, I don't know.  Eleanor is definitely different in the way she thinks, dresses, lives, and speaks.  And she's 30 years old, formed her own habits, and isn't really looking to change, until she sees this stranger and thinks he's "the one." As she tries to transform herself to fit into his world, she also befriends a nerdy fellow worker at her job, and they become connected over their happenstance of helping a dying man.  The best part of the book is Oliphant's narrative and the way she views the world, all because of a tragedy that happened to she can barely talk about.  And she doesn't, until near the end...and then it all makes sense.  I read that this book might become a movie, and I can't wait to see it...because I loved Eleanor.  After all, I'm a bit quirky myself.

Tenet **

This could have been a good film, if we could have understood it.  Lots of different accents that made it difficult to follow the story were a huge hindrance, so be sure to read the synopsis of the movie - a good one - before you go!  I'm not really a sci-fi fan, but this film and its premise is different and interesting.  There's lots of action, it's a LONG movie, and Denzel Washington's son plays the main character (remember him in BlackkKlanzman?)  There was a lot of hype about this movie before covid, so when it finally appeared in theaters, we wanted to see it.  But we left with more questions than answers, about the bullets that travel backwards...  Go see it.  But read about it before you go.  But you'll read about the horrible sound mix, and that just might make you skip it altogether.

Words on Bathroom Walls ***(in theaters)

If you haven't seen Charlie Plummer in a movie, do so.  He's a good actor.  And he is so good in this portrayal of a young man suffering from schizophrenia, while dealing with a new stepfather, and trying to "fit in" at school...where he meets a brilliant young lady with a secret.  Well, it seems they both have a secret.  He quickly finds out her secret, and it takes a while longer before Charlie's illness surfaces and everyone knows.  This film is emotional, especially if you know teens that suffer to figure out who they are amid their own limitations.  There's good acting, there's lots of pain, and there's so much acceptance and love.  And who doesn't need a story about that, right about now?

Made in Italy ***

Liam Neesom plays a father estranged from his grown son, due to great sorrow that befell them both.  The father is a once famous artist, and the son runs an art gallery for his wife's family - only she's divorcing him.  Then...there's this beautiful family home father and son left after the tragedy long ago, that's begging for a restart...and the son wants his half of the sale.  Father and son come together to face their past and rebuild the home and their relationship...but is it too late?  We both loved the film.  It's quite a departure for Neesom, as this is NOT an action thriller!  And the best part is the son is played by Neesom's real life son!  It's a great heartwarming story, the scenery is breathtaking, and watching father/son act together was wonderful.  Made in Italy is worth seeing...and you'll want to read about the son's experience while he made the Google after the credits roll...

The Vanishing Half **

This was my recent book of the month choice.  Its about identical twin sisters that grew up in a southern Black community but then left in their teen years, eventually separating into two completely different lives.  One eventually returns to her hometown and her mom, with a black daughter in tow.  The other has passed herself off as being white and is a married to a husband who knows nothing of her past, and also has a daughter. Years and stories and experiences pass, and the daughters' lives intersect...coincidentally?  The one sister wants never to return to her roots, and the other one longs to connect.  I suppose the book is mostly about dealing with your origins and family and self-esteem...and how tangled all of that can be.  I enjoyed the read, but it wasn't wonderful...and I was dissatisfied with the ending.  But I'm pretty sure that ending was meant to leave the reader frustrated...and pensive...and it did!

Black Water: Abyss (IPIC)**

I like movies about nature and storms and animals gone if you do, then you'll probably like this film.  It's just the good old-fashioned scary popcorn-eating movie for the end of summer watching!  Five friends descend into a remote cave opening, only to be flooded and stuck...with a crocodile in the pool's lake.  The friends have issues, and those come out, and the crocodile is hungry, and he finds a tasty dinner...or two.  This movie won't win any awards, but it's just suspenseful all the way through, and we quite enjoyed it.  It's an Australian film, so subtitles would have been nice, but oh well.  Just listen closely and enjoy their accents.  If you're looking for an escape and a thrill, watch it.  The crocodile is relentless, but so are the speelunkers...

Cable Girls *** (Netflix)

Yes, it's a foreign show, but the sound is in English, so the words don't match the lips!  However, we are intrigued by the premise of this far.  It's' the early 1900's, there's all these girls that are hired by the telephone company to work the boards, and all these men that have secrets and schemes...  The focus is mainly on a small group of girls, namely one - Alba (or Lydia, as she says...) with a past that's now in her face.  The characters and the story are constantly changing and there's really a tangled web after a few episodes! That's the good part.  There is sex - and scenes we fast forward past - just FYI.  That's the good part of having a remote in your hand.  We just finished Season One...and OH MY.  I especially love the outfits the girls wear!

Selena *** (at the IPIC)

We had not seen this movie back when it was in the theaters, 20 years ago or so. We did know the story of this young Latino singer that ended tragically.  When we saw it was showing, we decided to go, and then learned that this movie was Jennifer Lopez's first exposure and big break. She plays Selena, and honestly I thought she did a great job.  Selena's life to stardom, her over ambitious father, and her love story with one of the musicians in the band fills out this (long) film to the max, with the sad ending that is truly heartbreaking.  There's a lot of Selena's music in the film, and lots of insight into the Latino family culture.  We enjoyed it, but thought it didn't need to be over 2 hours in length.  It's worth seeing if you missed it like we did...

The High Note *** (at the IPIC)

She's a personal assistant (Dakota Johnson) to a famous singer(Tracie Lee Ross - Diana Ross' daughter!) but she's got a keen ear for music producing.  She meets a young man that she's certain has talent, and convinces him that she's a producer and can further his career.  However, the singer she works for is quite condescending and demanding, and producing the young man's career is quite time consuming and daunting...especially since she's not being truthful with either party.  And then, there's the ending - never saw it coming - and it was fantastic.  The music is GREAT in this film, and the story is different and very worth seeing.  Look up Ross after the movie....  We really enjoyed this movie, in so many ways...

Sweet Magnolias *** (NETFLIX)

Three best in the south...with pasts, kids, careers and an old stately home to run a business together. The southern charm is definitely thick in this story - a little too many colloquial sayings for sure.  BUT...the casting is great, the story line is I suppose "real to life." One was married to the local doctor but is divorced now, with three kids - all affected - and there's a new coach in town.  One runs a restaurant and has a teenage daughter that struggles with her mom/boys/etc. And the third is a lawyer, full of sass and hope for the isn't easy in this charming town, at all.  Too many tongues wagging and people bragging...while they drink sweet tea.  It's an entertaining show, and you'll like the three women.  

Land Girls *** (NETFLIX)

I had not heard about this...but in WWII girls/women were hired to work at local farms because the men were off to war.  This series is about the "land girls" that arrive to work on a farm, their personal stories and backgrounds, as well as their interaction on a daily basis with Lady Hoxley and the employees on her estate.  Each girl has a "story" with one being married to a soldier that is away, one that came to get away from abusive home life, a "city" girl with an attitude, and so on.  There is danger, intrigue, and all sorts of tangled webs that occur on the farm, and not the kinds with spiders!  We've enjoyed the series so far, I think there are three seasons.

Longmire *** (NETFLIX)

We are about five episodes into this six season series, at the recommendation of a friend.  Walt is a sheriff (an amazing detective) but he's recently lost his wife and lost his joy...  In his office he has a few deputies (one running against him for sheriff, one a feisty young woman, and one a barney-type guy), and a friend down at the saloon (an Indian played by Lou Diamond Phillips).  They work the Wyoming woodsy area, and deal with a murder in each episode.  Oh, and Walt has a grown daughter, Cady.  LOTS of drama, action, complicated plots, and real relationship and life woes - but put together well - and a good watch.  We are liking it so far!

The Stand at Paxton County **

It's been hard for us to find good we thought the story of this one sounded interesting.  A daughter that's a medic in Afghanistan is called home because her father needs her on the ranch where she grew up.  He's being threatened and about to lose his livestock and farm.  In fact, he's being harassed by the local sheriff.  The daughter and her dad were estranged for years, but this common quest to figure out what's really going on behind the threats brings them together, as the mystery and the drama unfolds.  The movie starts out slow...then picks up to become an okay film.  Supposedly, the story is based on true that's always cool.  It's a movie worth seeing if you need to see a movie and there's nothing else :). 

Worthy of Love ***

The author of this book is one of our writers, Kaelin Scott.  This is her second book, and I've not yet read the first one.  Worthy of Love is a Christian romance story of a ranch family that hires a new cook, a girl with a story and a past.  The main characters are Austin and Kacey, the ranch guy and the new hire.  One thing I loved about the story was that it was a refreshing read and a nice escape during this pandemic time.  It's a story of hope, forgiveness, salvation, and love.  All things that we know and believe, but we often become cynical about and take for granted.  I think most of us can find ourselves among these characters, either religious, loving, lost, wounded, searching for love, feeling unworthy of love...and more.  It's a feel good story in the end, and who doesn't need more of those right about now?

Happy & You Know It **

She's a musician recently kicked out of a band, and is hired by a group of wealthy moms with babies - to sing and bring musical "culture" to the children.  As she gets to know each one, she also discovers their HUGE secret in particular.  Will she tell all, and what will happen if she does?  I personally found the story itself very intriguing and wanted to keep reading.  However, this book is full of graphic  sexual encounters - that are not necessary - much like some movies.  Way too many..  And while the bulk of the book is a great read, the ending was a bit "eh" for me.  

Father Brown ***(PBS)

He's a priest in the 1960's in an English town, and he has an older lady and her niece that work with him.  He shows up at murder scenes to offer comfort, but it seems he's quite the sleuth himself - ever calm and wise and full of hope and faith.  However, the police detective doesn't like Father Brown, as he just wants to nab the first suspect and be done with it.  Each episode is a mysterious killing, and each episode is full of intrigue and suspense - against the beauty of the English countryside.  You'll enjoy, I'm sure...  And Father Brown always solves the case, while riding his bicycle and noting details.

Anne with an E****(NETFLIX)

We couldn't quit watching these episodes, the casting and the stories were so good!  This story is Anne of Green Gables revisited, with new actors and stories.  There's drama, adult themes (this isn't really for little kids), an amazing young lady's tenacity for plowing through life's struggles, and then there's Anne passion for learning and...her vocabulary!  Her guardians, Matt and Marilla, are equally as interesting as we find out what makes them act the way they do.  This is a must-see series for all.

The English Game ****(NETFLIX)

It's the late 1800's and the game of soccer is growing, but the players are divided between the Aristocrats and the Working Class.  There's friction and great competition.  There are also the personal lives of the main players, as they navigate loss, marital struggles, family matters and work issues.  The costumes are great, the story is intriguing and suspenseful, and we were so sad that it was only six episodes.  Wonderful stories told against an incredible backdrop, and it's all based on real life players! You'll definitely want to see this!

You are Not Alone ***

Shay Miller is looking for love, a fulfilling job, a place to belong...things we all want.  But she's isolated.  And then...she meets the Moore sisters with this life of glamour and perfection.  Besides that, there's nothing they want that they don't get.  Miller wants their life, she thinks.  But perhaps they want hers! This book kept me guessing and interested, it was hard to put down.  And the ending...what a twist and turn.  It's a great summer read, if you're looking for one!

Nothing to See Here ***

Not everyone will appreciate this book.  It's the tale of two children that catch on fire when they're aggravated.  That will turn some folks off. But I loved this story.  Two friends are now grown, the one is rich and has these two "firey" kids, and the other doesn't really live a life at all...partly because of the first friend.  The one is asked to come nanny these kids, and that's when the drama starts.  It's a story of friendship and parenting and emotions and heart wounds.  And I thought it was a great one, and told so smartly and well...

Doolittle ***

I thought this film was delightful, and that's saying a lot coming from a person that doesn't like talking animals. :) Robert Downey Jr plays Dr. Doolittle, hibernated away in his house, too sad to face the world. Until...a young boy and girl show up at his house and insist on his help for a wounded squirrel and a dying queen.  The animals are hilarious, and the story is heartwarming and fun to watch.  I wasn't expecting much when we watched, but was pleasantly surprised when the credits rolled..  Sit down with the family.  Enjoy...

Virgin River ***(NETFLIX)

This is a series that will return this fall, I'm told.  So we watched the first season and really liked it.  She's a medical doctor that needed to get away from her old life, so she takes a job in a rural California town - quaint - and full of people that apparently have past lives as well.  It's not at all what she expects, and she isn't even wanted there at first.  However, she settles in and meets him, and the others in the town, and the drama begins.  It's full of multi-layered individuals with stories to tell and experience, as we observe them all in this amazingly beautifully set town on a river...just outside of civilization.

Current Sightings
by Marcy Lytle

This column is full of TV show and book reviews, as well as movies!  It pays to be informed before we spend time watching or reading!

We will try to give a short synopsis, as well as our own opinion, along with a nod or a no, regarding suggestive content.


While movie theaters are slow to open, we're all at home wondering what to watch, read or enjoy...hope this helps!  If you have one to add, email us!

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