“Blinded by the Light”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: August 22nd, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I am a prisoner of rock & roll.

Many have been the moments in my life that music has kept me calm, from first hearing the Volumes “I Love You” in the mid 50s to this very day when listening to the Tedeschi Trucks Band while doing stuff around the condo.

Too often the savage beast inside has roared.

But the Allman Brothers Band or Marvin Gaye or Carlos Santana or Van Morrison or Arlene Smith have been there to quell the angst.

So, it figures I’d be a sucker for a flick based on a true story about a Pakistani youth in England in the 80s, whose life is turned around for the better when he’s turned on to Bruce Springsteen.

The movie “Blinded by the Light” is cloying, full with treacle and trite sentimentality.

But it works, because it tells a true tale: A song, an album, a symphony, or simply resonant lyrics to a catching melody line can change one’s life. For the better.

For more details on the film, listen below:

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“The Farewell”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: August 19th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

One of the great possibilities of filmmaking and movie viewing is the opportunity to present and to observe cultures different from our own.

Which is one of the main positives of the engaging family dramedy, “The Farewell.”

The family matriarch, Nai Nai, still living in China, is diagnosed with cancer, with but months to live.

That country’s culture is such that that news is kept from her. Yet her family gathers for final moments with her. Some, living in America including Awkwafina’s Billie, travel to be with Nai Nai. Billie wishes to tell her the truth.

What we have here is a sweet, gently told tale of how a culture definitely different from our own deals with such situations.

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“Fleabag”: Review & Podcast

Posted: August 9th, 2019 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, TV | No Comments »

I stopped watching the first season of this most quirky and darkly comic British TV series after a couple of episodes.

To be honest, it just wasn’t working for me.

Creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s main character whom she also portrays — no real name given, just Fleabag — struck me as too disagreeable and not a very nice person. Thus someone I didn’t feel like spending much time with.

But, so positive were the reviews for Season 2, I decided to give it another chance. It’s on Amazon Prime.

The first episode of the second go round is a perfect comedic depiction of every uncomfortable family dinner you’ve been to that blew apart because of underlying dysfunction, sibling rivalry, problems with in laws, mommy or daddy issues, parental discord or any and all of the above.

Loved it. It was too good. And the season just got better from there. Some of her redeeming social values come forth.

Waller-Bridge’s character pulls the audience in by breaking the fourth wall. She’s constantly turning her head to the camera and sharing intimacies just with us.

Often such affectations As talking to the audience can be off-putting. Here it only enhances what I will now admit is an idiosyncratic comedic gem to be savored.

Did I mention she has a tryst with a priest in a confessional?

For more perspective and detail, listen to the podcast below:

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“Plus One”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: August 3rd, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I have never been shy about jumping on the bandwagon now and again, decrying the deplorable state these days of one of cinema’s most beloved genres, the romantic comedy.

Or so we “critics” would opine.

You know, where are Bogey and Bacall now that we really need them?

So, it is a distinct pleasure to share thoughts about a Rom Com well worth your time, available for streaming and viewing at Amazon Prime.

“Plus One” features a most likable couple, Maya Erskine and Jack Quaid, who actually, unlike many such films, have a real chemistry on screen.

They are BFFs, who eventually get together romantically, have a falling out, and get back together. Not that to reveal the generality of this formulaic plotline is a spoiler.

They are funny. Their interactions are rooted in real life scenarios. And it was a pleasant couple of hours hanging out with them.

For more specifics on the film, listen below:

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“Once Upon A Time . . . in Hollywood”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: July 29th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I’m a sucker for movies about movies.

I’m a sucker for movies about Hollywood and L A.

My life personally was changing in 1969, along with the shifting changes in culture itself. So I’m a sucker for films set at that time.

All of which is to say that I was predisposed to like Quentin Tarantino’s homage to that era and culture and place, “Once Upon A Time . . . in Hollywood.”

And truth is I love the movie even more than I felt I would.

It is a buddy movie, but more than that. It is the story of a budding Hollywood career cut short by the Manson horror, but more than that. It is a movie about the making of movies and the personalities involved, but more than that. It is a movie about the soundtrack of the time, but more than that.

It is a pop culturist’s dreamscape.

For significantly more details that underscore my unbridled appreciation of this truly entertaining movie, listen to the podcast below (Where I start out with a mistake of fact, saying Tarantino was in 9 year old in ’69. He was six, truth be told. Sorry):

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Sliders by the Light of Day

Posted: July 21st, 2019 | Filed under: Culture, Dining, Food | 2 Comments »

For many, no actually for most, supping at White Castle with the sun high in the sky is an alien concept.

And that’s among those who would deign to darken the doors of the Porcelain Palace at all. For much of the populace, the eatery and its sublime offerings are an anathema to be scorned prior to investigation.

Silly them, Castles are actually tasty, not just fast. There’s something about how the bun and burger and cheese, all steamed, meld together that’s unique. And how just being in the place brings back memories of simpler, more carefree times.

Anyway, I found myself savoring a couple of cheese sliders and some rings mid afternoon, and realized there are some similarities to the normal middle of the night had a few too many and are on the way home but aren’t quite ready to hit the pillow yet experience shared by many. Read the rest of this entry »


“Last Black Man in San Francisco” & “American Honey”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: July 19th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

There is an essential thread binding all who live and breathe: the need for connection.

Whether it be to place. Or community.

Whether it is to a neighborhood, an edifice, or a group of people to feel comfortable with.

These two affecting films contemplate that quest.

In “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” Jimmie is drawn to, obsessed really, with the former home of his grandfather decades ago. Jimmie longs to reside there.

In “American Honey,” Star desires escape from her dreary existence, and wants connection with other humans. Which she seeks with a traveling group of contemporaries, selling magazines.

These two worthy films, as different as they may be, are lovely observations of likable people in need of a sense of connection.

For more, listen to the podcast below:

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“Rocketman”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: July 8th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

It’s been a rock & roll summer at the cineplex.

That’s a good thing.

There’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the tale of Queen, “Yesterday,” the story about a guy who rises to the top singing the songs of the Beatles which the world has through glitch forgotten, and an upcoming flick about a Springsteen obsessive.

The best so far is “Rocketman,” the tale with many of the gory details, as well as a good number of the incredible now iconic songs, of the rise and perseverance of Elton John.

Who, by the by, executive produced this biopic. To his and the filmmakers’ credit, there are few punches pulled.

The self destruction is there.

So too the talent and grand successes of John the entertainer, and John the songwriter who crafted so many indelible tunes with lyricist Bernie Taupin.

For more insight, listen to the podcast below:

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“Yesterday”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: July 1st, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Music | No Comments »

Of course, the premise of the movie “Yesterday” is absurd.

There’s a momentary global electrical blackout, the main after effect of which appears to be that the entire history of The Beatles is erased.

Including the presence of their albums in the collection of Himesh Patel, a run of the mill singer/ songwriter, whose career has gone nowhere singing his own songs. He’s apparently the only person left on the planet who remembers the Fab Four.

So, he starts singing there tunes.

Odd? Why, yes, it is a unique premise.

But, by golly, despite a couple of moments I could have done without, I fell prey to the movie’s inherent charm. Patel is an endearing character. So too that of his long time bestie and manage, Lily James.

There are a couple of scenes that play with the underlying mythos of the Beatles and this situation that pulled me in.

For more insight on this most entertaining film listen to the podcast below:

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“Always Be My Maybe”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: June 26th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

So, what we have with “Always Be My Maybe,” a romantic comedy written by and starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, is another take on the ol’ “When Harry Met Sally” thing.

Lifelong good friends who eventually become romantically entwined — as we knew they would, otherwise there’d be no plotline — who break up, then realize they really want each other and get back together when one one scurries to find the other.

And live happily ever after.

Or, at least until the end of the credits.

All done up in an Asian sort of way. Which may be a new thing in the bobbing wake of the incredible mainstream success of “Crazy Rich Asians.”

So, does this version of the tale work?

Listen to the podcast and find out.

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“Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorcese”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: June 14th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

The other evening I attended a panel discussion on Hunter Thompson, which included much discussion about his propensity to make things up, and mix in that fantasy with “facts” about whatever he was covering.

The consensus take away was that Thompson’s indulgent inventions added legitimate perspective and an element of “truth” to his reportage.

Which I thought of as I fully considered this incredible film about one of rock & roll’s most iconic tours.

The Netflix movie includes all the great concert footage and glimpses backstage of the traveling medicine show that the audience has anxiously been looking forward to.

Plus there are current interviews with Dylan and Joan Baez, looking back at the mid 70s tour.

As well as other interviews, which are — spoiler alert — trickeration.

Dylan remains ever mysterious and vague and crafty. Scorcese, realizing it’s part of the deal, plays along, presenting some perspectives while faux that still add to the “truth” of how things went down.

This film, one guy’s opinion, is nothing less than one of the best ever made about rock & roll.

For more insight, listen below:

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Film Review Podcast: “Big Little Lies S2”

Posted: June 13th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I get the pushback.

For some viewers enough is enough. After a season long tease, we learned in the final episode of the first go round of “Big Little Lies,” who died at the school fund raiser and how.

Yet, the aftermath could prove to be just as delicious.

If only for more of the superbly crafted characterizations by Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz.

And how the insulated community of the Monterey Peninsula deals with them. How they each deal personally with emotions after the incident. As well as how their relationships with each other play out.

For more on what to expect in S2 of “Big Little Lies,” listen up:

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— c d kaplan