“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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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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“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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“American Animals”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: July 13th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

“So, yo, dude, I was just in the library as part of orientation and they got these books — Audubon, Darwin — worth millions. Only one old lady guards them.”

“Yeah, bro. Hey, let’s just steal ’em. Easy pickins.”

That’s not exactly the conversation between the two prime movers of the planned heist in the early 2000s at the Transylvania University library. But it gives you an idea of how ill thought out this cockamamie scam was from the get go.

“American Animals” is a dramatization of the whole deal, from germination to botched heist attempt to post prison interviews. Which Q & As are with the real four guys while actors play out the scenario in the failed scam.

For more perspective, listen up:

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“First Reformed”: Film Review Podcast

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

I saw this film several weeks back when it first opened in my town. Having determined it would be of little interest, that it would not attract enough audience to stay long, I opted not to review it.

Well, there’s also the perspective that I found it terminally ascetic.

But I noticed earlier this week, when checking the listings, that it was still playing. Obviously I was wrong, there have been enough popcorn-munching filmgoers who are interested to keep it around.

So I decided to review it, even after realizing the morning of this post, that it was no longer playing in town. But, in these Times o’ Google, I’m sure it’s streaming somewhere.

Ethan Hawke is suitably troubled as the Reverend of the church. Amanda Seyfried is his congregant. Cedric the Entertainer — yes, THE Cedric the Entertainer — plays it straight as the leader of the megachurch that supports Hawke’s failing congregation.

For a more in depth take, listen below:

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— c d kaplan


“Body Heat”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: June 29th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Adjusting plans is not an easy thing for me. Especially when I’m accountable to my audience — such as it is — for a weekly film review.

But I’ve adapted for this moment, and just a few sessions of therapy should help me recalibrate my harmony with the universe.

I intended to see and review “Uncle Drew.” I mean really a silly hoops fable based on a Pepsi commercial, gotta see how it works, right? But the theater was sold out at the only showing that fit my schedule.

So, I shall spend these moments together with you, sharing why Lawrence Kasdan’s 1981 film noir “Body Heat” is my favorite film.

I actually streamed it last week, first watch in decades, and it held up.

So, if you haven’t seen it, or have but don’t remember much, listen below and learn why it’s worthy of your time.

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“Ocean’s 8”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: June 8th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Even though they tend to follow a well set plotline, I cherish the well done caper flick.

So, even though I’d seen the trailer for this female-centric reboot of the Ocean’s franchise so many times it felt this morning when it had actually arrived like I’d already seen the flick, I checked it out.

It met all the requirements of the genre, and did so in a glossy, summertime popcorn movie sort of way.

Which was just all right with me.

Of all the stars — Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Paulson, Rihanna and  Awkwafina — it was Ms. Hathaway as a too full of herself famous person who came with the most game. Though all were fine.

Spoiler alert: The ladies get away with the jewels.

Imagine our surprise.

The fun is in the getting there.

For more, listen up:

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“Deadpool 2”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: May 25th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Is there any need for one of my lengthy and verbose written contemplations of this comic book super hero “satire”?

Uh, no, not really.

Should I at least give you a clue, some evidence perhaps, whether it is as good as, less than or better than the original?

Uh, no, not really.

I’ll leave the parsing to the those who idled away too much of their misspent youth at the Great Escape.

I found this moderately entertaining, but would have preferred more satire and less boilerplate comic book violence cinema stuff.

(And, you might wonder if I noticed that the poster I downloaded for the visual here is in a foreign tongue? Yes, I did, but, uh, so what.)

Here’s more:

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“Disobedience”: Film Review & Podcast

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

At a turning point in the film, “Disobedience,” there is a long, telling tracking shot of Ronit (Rachel Weisz), who has returned to London from NYC for her father the rabbi’s funeral, and childhood friend Esti (Rachel McAdams) walking down the street, getting reconnected.

Ronit has escaped or been pushed away from the orthodox Jewish community in which she grew up, and she wears no wig, as social mores would dictate for the women there. She nonchalantly, at a key moment in the dialog, combs her fingers through her hair.

It is oh so subtly evocative.

There are many such touches in this elegiac, somber contemplation.

We have just learned that Ronit and Esti were lovers, and that Esti is married to the third member of their childhood trio, Dovid, (Alessandro Nivola).

This is mature cinema, the contemplation of passion and emotion in an insulated community.

It’s excellently played. And, as with all good films, all good art really, asks way more questions than it answers.

For more detail and discussion of “Disobedience,” listen below:

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