“Filmworker”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: September 11th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

As a long time, inveterate lover of the cinema, I not only cherish the finish products — when the silver screen can be magical — but also peeks behind the scenes.

Few are the auteurs who are as intriguing as Stanley Kubrick.

What we get in this informative documentary is not only a gander at the creation of his last three films. But also a look at the intriguing relationship he had with his Man Friday, Leon Vitale.

An English actor on the rise, he gave up his in front of the camera activities in the mid 70s, after appearing prominently in “Barry Lyndon.”

After which he became Kubrick’s loyal, frankly subservient, do-it-all Gofer.

This documentary lays the whole thing bare.

A must watch — Netflix, Amazon Prime — for film aficionados.

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“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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“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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“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


“Destroyer”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: June 4th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Don’t get me started on the strange ways of the Hollywoodland movie industry, and how & why some movies open on too many screens, and others with compelling story lines and award winning acting never find a distributor.

Which is my fairly obvious way of saying that what might very well be Nicole Kidman’s best career performance should have been available for more audience to savor on the screens of cineplexes in every town.

But “Destroyer” never made it to the silver screen in my town, and probably not yours. Which is why we’re lucky that it can viewed at Amazon Prime.

Kidman plays an obviously way down on her luck homicide detective out to solve a murder mystery and track down the bad guy responsible. We learn soon enough they have a history. And even more cleverly as the back and forth plot unwinds, the treacherous nature of their relationship.

Kidman’s character is not very likable, which makes it all the more fascinating how she is able to draw in the audience to want to learn what happened and what happens.

For further details, listen to the podcast below:

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— c d kaplan