“The Wife”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: September 19th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

It’s that time of year when serious films with serious award aspirations start arriving at movie houses across the land.

Such is the case with “The Wife,” which features a statuette quality performance by Glenn Close as the spouse of a novelist, who finds out early in the film that he has won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

What evolves is the story behind the story.

That is, the real contributions of the apparently stand by your man wife.

It’s a shade melodramatic, and the ending is a bit heavy handed, but “The Wife” is a needed contemplation of a cultural imperative that needs to be fully disposed of.

For more, listen up:

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“A Simple Favor”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: September 16th, 2018 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

It is generally a good thing when mystery/ mysterious disappearance/ murder mystery films makes some sense. When some hint of plausibility exists as the plots unfolds. A hole here and there in the scheme of things is OK, unless it’s totally out of sync with the evolution of the events portrayed.

Films of that genre without a sense of cogency rarely work.

But, as the Anna Kendrick/ Blake Lively-starring “A Simple Favor” proves, a preposterous scenario can still be entertaining . . . somewhat.

Which, I guess I’m admitting, is that I stayed with this movie to the end, despite plot developments best described as farfetched.

The ladies become besties because their sons are school pals. One’s a nerd. One’s enigmatic. The latter disappears.

Developments both absurd and inconsistent come forth.

The scenery remains marvelous. The players, the above ladies and Henry Golding, are pretty and charismatic.

I’ve spent worse two hours at the cineplex.

For more, listen up:

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“Operation Finale”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: September 6th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

It takes a deft hand to craft a dramatic portrayal of international political intrigue with which we know the outcome from history.

“Operation Finale” is an old school, linear drama about the capture by Israeli intelligence of Nazi mastermind Adolph Eichmann, and how he was spirited away from Argentina to Israel for trial on his heinous war crimes.

Always reliable Ben Kingsley plays Eichmann with the actor’s attendant attention to detail and nuance. Eichmann is far from a caricature here. Nor is Oscar Isaac’s performance as Peter Malkin, the Mossad operative who in a way gains the trust of the Nazi mastermind of the Final Solution and closes the deal to get Eichmann out of Argentina.

The film isn’t painted in black and white. The confusion of both the captured and capturers are presented, their thoughts, confusion and contradictions.

For more, listen below:

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“Juliet, Naked”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: August 31st, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I am a sucker for movies based on the work of Nick Hornby. He was responsible for “High Fidelity,” which you should be aware of.

His work is infused with his rock & roll soul.

In “Juliet, Naked,” we get a big dose of how music can affect and change peoples’ lives. All dressed up in a charming romantic comedy featuring the almost always lovable Chris O’Dowd, Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke.

After learning of this movie just this morning, the day it arrived in my burg, I was immediately predisposed to love it.

Which I did.

Here’s why:

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“Yellow Submarine”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: August 17th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

It was fifty years ago this year that Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band jumped on the big screen to save their land from the Blue Meanies.

For this signature anniversary, the classic Beatles animated romp has been restored.

It can be viewed at the Speed Museum Theater next weekend, August 24, 25 and 26. It’s also available right now to be streamed at home from Amazon, and possibly elsewhere. (That’s where I watched it.)

The imagery is as groundbreaking as ever. The colors. The characters.

The punditry remains cute and clever. “Funny, you don’t look Blueish.”

But, to be honest, I was not enthralled again as I intended to be. There was a time back in the day when I was of the firm opinion that the film should be viewed at least once a year in order to maintain some personal equilibrium. Now . . .?

Ah, but that’s the hook. To hear specifics of my minor reservations about the classic full length cartoon, you will need to take a few minutes and listen below.

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“BlacKkKlansman”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: August 12th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

It is a sign of our ever contentious contemporary national dialog that Spike Lee’s in your face manner is now just part of the norm.

The Brooklynite auteur’s style has always been provocative. To legitimate effect I would opine.

These days, his latest film — among his best ever — as intense as it is at times, as full of polemics as it is at times, seems rather even handed. Of course, there’s the continuing unveiling of the racism he sees in our culture, but it’s a relatively even handed reveal.

As if to show that such enmity hurts everyone, not just people of color.

OK, that politics out of the way, do not misunderstand.

“BlacKkKlansman” is very funny at times, alway engaging, very clever cinematically, well played, full with some adroitly crafted tension, and based on a true story.

Seems there was a cop in Colorado Springs in the late 60s, who along with a white cohort infiltrates the local chapter of the Klan in Colorado. He even has phone conversations with David Duke, and is his security when the Grand Kleagle, or whatever he’s called, visited the area.

Lee’s intransigent viewpoint can be hard to swallow at times, even if one’s views are aligned.

But this latest of Spike Lee’s joints is eminently palatable. And entertaining.

For more, listen up:

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Two Lady Shouters Extraordinaire: Rock & Roll RePast

Posted: August 9th, 2018 | Filed under: Music, Ruminations | 2 Comments »

One of the great uses of rock & roll in a movie soundtrack — my personal favorite — comes in Martin Scorcese’s portion of the otherwise forgettable three short films released as one feature in 1989, “New York Stories.”

I frankly have no recollection of what Woody Allen’s “Oedipus Wrecks” or Francis Ford Coppola’s “Life Without Zoe” portions of the film trio are about. And have but faint recollection of Scorcese’s contribution titled “Life Lessons.”

Except for this one scene.

Nick Nolte’s an artist who has taken comely Rosanna Arquette, twenty years his junior, under his wing to teach her, understand, “life lessons.” To be his, uh, muse, giving lip service to the development of a deep and meaningful relationship. Truth be told, as best as I recall, what he wants is for her to be available as a hot young thing on his arm at gallery openings and be around when he’s ready for the down and dirty.

I forget the details, but that’s the gist of it. Their relationship is tempestuous. To say the least.

Finally there’s a breach. Either he sends her packing. Or she stomps out after telling him she’s had enough.

He’s in his studio, where the showdown played out, pissed, full of sexual frustration, and intent on working out his roiling anger on canvas.

Before grabbing his brush and palette, he punches his paint splattered cassette boom box to Play.

Here’s what blasts from the speaker, the perfect song for the moment. Read the rest of this entry »


Film Review Podcast Twofer: “Tag” & “Spy Who Dumped Me”

Posted: August 7th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

This may be a Culture Maven on Film first.

Two reviews for the price of one. The best twofer in town since Syb and Trish were the Doublemint Twins.

But it makes sense. Both of these flicks are classic mindless big popcorn double butter summertime fare. It was time for me to move beyond my seriosity. I went for the laughs, and was rewarded.

“Tag,” based on the real life tale of a group of friends since youth who still play a nationwide game of tag brings a little lesson along with the mirth. Which is, life’s too short, have some silly outrageous immature fun now and again.

“The Spy Who Dumped Me” features one of the great comedic actors of our age, Kate McKinnon. Her sidekick here, Mila Kunis, also displays some funny gal chops.

Neither are great films. Both will be long forgotten come award time.

But both work if all you desire is a couple of hours away from it all in a dark air conditioned theater with some Milk Duds.

My take on “Tag”:

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My take on “The Spy Who Dumped Me”:

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“Eighth Grade”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: August 3rd, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Is there a time in our lives more fraught with emotional peril than early pubescence?

I don’t think so.

And that period of life is what is examined in such a finely detailed and emotionally fraught way in Bo Burnham’s excellent “Eighth Grade.”

Kayla, a marvelous Elsie Fisher, is on the screen every moment, as we feel every nuance of the anxieties and awkwardness attendant to her 14 year old existence.

There isn’t a single artificial moment in this film, which simply follows Kayla. At school. At a party. At dinner with her single dad. Alone in her room with her phone and computer as “entranceways” to the outside world.

As modest as its intentions may be, “Eighth Grade,” it says here, is one of 2018’s best movies.

For more details, listen up:

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“Sharp Objects”: TV Review Podcast

Posted: July 27th, 2018 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, Ruminations | No Comments »

I don’t know about you, but through the years, more often than not I’ve taken to spending the last hours of the weekend with whatever usually splendid offering is on HBO.

Turns out this summer is no different.

On Sunday nights, it’s a multi-layered dark and murky tale that’s playing.

“Sharp Objects.”

Amy Adams, compelling as always, is Camille, a St. Louis reporter with issues. She’s sent by her editor back to the hometown of her unhappy youth in search of the story of a couple of teenaged girls gone missing.

Camille is forced to confront small town gossip, her troubled past, and the seriously strained relationship with her mother (Patricia Clarkson), while trying to track down stories to send back to her paper.

Lots of vodka. Lots of flashbacks. Lots of stuff left out for the viewer to figure out for him or herself.

For more, listen up:

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“Three Identical Strangers”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: July 22nd, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

You may have heard the story in the early 80s of the college aged triplets who didn’t know of each other’s existence and meet for the first time. It was all over the news.

How they became best of friends, and the darlings of the New York party scene, and later owners of their own restaurant.

Well, this is the story behind the story.

It is a fascinating documentary.

Certainly one of my favorite films of the year.

And a movie which adds gravitas to the old saying: Truth is stranger than fiction.

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“Leave No Trace”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: July 18th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Ben Foster quietly and intensely plays a veteran father, whose military experience was apparently so psychologically wrenching that he is compelled to live in the woods with his early teen daughter, portrayed by Thomasin McKenzie.

There are some issues not explained that might have filled out the scenario, given the viewer a fuller perspective. Where is mom? What was it that turned Foster’s character Will so anti-social?

It is to writer/ director Debra Granik’s credit that the movie remains fulfilling and resonant without addressing those seemingly critical issues.

They get caught. People with good intentions try to get them to feel comfortable in society. Tom — McKenzie’s character — attempts to acclimate. Will is not able to. They move on.

How the father/ daughter dynamic plays out is lovely to watch, so beautifully is it rendered.

For more, listen up:

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