Film Review Podcast: “Happy Death Day”

Posted: October 21st, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I know what you’re saying: “The Culture Maven never reviews horror films, never goes to slasher flicks.”

And you would be absolutely correct.

But, “Happy Death Day,” I’m happy to be alive to report, is really a satire. The horror parts are, frankly, suitably benign.

This is sort of a rave up of the genre.

A comely coed wakes up in a guy’s dorm room, after an evening of obviously too much parttttaaaaay. She goes through her day, which happens to be her birthday. Then she gets killed.

At which point, she wakes up and relives the same day again, with a gnawing sense of deja vu.

Does the premise sound familiar?

If you want more on this moderately entertaining film which had the highest gross box office its opening weekend, listen up:

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“Battle of the Sexes”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: October 15th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

There are tropes usually found in films that depict real life events.

Rare is the true tale easily told in 90 to 120 minutes that can fully depict the entirety of a real life event. It’s not like fiction, where the only perspective is that of the storyteller.

There are always various perspectives to historical occurrences.

So there are shortcuts often employed. Representative scenes meant to depict something beyond the particular moment.

Characters who are a composite.

Such is the case with “Battle of the Sexes,” the story of the iconic tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in the Astrodome, and the concurrent transformation of King’s sexual and romantic orientation.

It’s handled reasonably deftly in this entertaining recounting.

For more details, listen up

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— c d kaplan


“Spielberg”: Reviewing the HBO Documentary

Posted: October 9th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

This is a take on the fascinating HBO documentary about the life and output of Steven Spielberg, a movie director heralded for his technique but oft criticized through the decades for various reasons, some legit, some not.

But I’m going to start with a basketball analogy.

Stick with me, we’ll get to the film about a filmmaking savant soon enough.

University of Louisville basketball’s biggest two stars in the early 2000s were Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean. Garcia was the more complete player, and moved on to the NBA before his Cardinal eligibility ran out.

During one of his games while still here, I was fortunate to be sitting next to New York Knicks scout Dick McGuire in town to evaluate Francisco. While chatting about other Cardinals besides Garcia, I kept praising Dean.

“He plays full out every second.”

“He’s made more big shots than any Cardinal ever.”

McGuire nodded, but didn’t really respond.

Garcia left early. The next campaign it was Dean’s team. Soon enough, the flaws in Taquan’s game became manifest. A guard, he wasn’t the best of ball handlers. Nor was he comfortable driving the ball to the hoop. Not really a leader, he was more comfortable as second banana.

He could make big shots, coming off a screen, when he didn’t have to create his own space off the dribble.

That was his forte. He was marvelous at that particular skill. Not so good at some of the other facets of the game.

 * * * * *

Steven Spielberg makes big films. That’s his forte. Read the rest of this entry »


“Blade Runner 2049”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: October 8th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

There has been a definite reverence afforded the original “Blade Runner” through the decades.

A belief that it was both innovative in cinematic terms. And that it dealt with issues of concern and importance at the dawn of the technological age.

Then there was the issue of how the film was edited for first release, then an allegedly more definitive Ridley Scott rejiggering. So the acolytes were left with even more contemplations about the basis of existence, what’s real life and what isn’t?

Yes and Deckard: Human or Replicant?

The burgeoning imposition of artificial intelligence makes this the right time for the Blade Runner update.

Who shall be in charge when the century hits the halfway mark?

Humans or Replicants?

This sequel pays its respects to the original, while also moving on.

The visuals are as scintillating even though the landscapes are different.

The film is long. The film is compelling. New issues are presented.

For more, listen to the podcast:

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— c d kaplan


“Columbus”: A Film Review & Podcast

Posted: October 6th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Every once in awhile there is a screen debut so stunning it becomes indelible.

Jennifer Lawrence’s mesmerizing take as Ree, a daughter on a mission in “Winter’s Bone,” rattled those who experienced the small, independent film.

Was that really less than a decade ago?

Charlize Theron’s femme fatale Helga Svelgen in “2 Days in the Valley” was a lesser character in a campy potboiler of a movie, but she still was resonant. Her screen presence, like that of Ms. Lawrence, flashed “Future Star” in neon.

“Columbus” is a quiet film, a contemplation of architectural space and its peripheral effect on the human psyche. Such is its deliberate, unassuming nature that it might easily slip through a viewer’s consciousness but for one revelatory aspect. Read the rest of this entry »


“mother!”: A Film Review & Podcast

Posted: September 23rd, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

There are grizzly and intentionally disturbing films that I have walked out of. I mean, you know, life’s too short, right?

Peter Greenaway’s “The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover” for one. I just went and watched the trailer. Nightmare memories ensued.

I booked on Ken Russell’s “The Devils” not once but twice. Saw it when it was first released in early 70s. Then, when it played a repertory house, I figured I needed to give it a second chance. It was still too much for me. Way, too much.

Which incidents I mention because “mother!” director Darren Aronofsky is like fellow auteur Lars Van Trier. They, and Greenaway and Russell sometimes, make/ made films meant to be disquieting. Shocking their audiences is the raison d’etre.

So it is with Aronofsky’s latest with its stellar cast of Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer and a bracing Kristen Wiig.  Read the rest of this entry »


Film Review & Podcast: “Menashe”

Posted: September 11th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

There are parts of real life that are universal.

Family stuff. Emotional situations. Cultural demands.

Whether living in Bed Sty, Mumbai or Steubenville, such are present in one way or another for most everybody.

Which is why a niche film such as “Menashe,” a slice of life observation of an ultra orthodox, widowed Jewish father, stuck in a dead end job at a grocery, trying to regain full custody of his son, has ubiquitous resonance.

Not a lot of films hitting the heartland, where the dictates of the Torah impose upon the daily existence of a simple man who is trying his best, against the realities of his own personality and the liturgical mandates of his faith.

This is a marvelous little film, shot in extreme close up and dark light, exposing the cloistered nature of Menashe’s life.

It examines a world of faith that few have been exposed to. Yet the story and truths told reverberate without bounds.

For more on the film “Menashe,” listen below:

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Film Review & Podcast: “Good Time”

Posted: September 4th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

We go to the cineplex to be enveloped. To allow the lights to go down and the world on the silver screen becomes the only immediacy.

Hopefully we are able to leave mundane at the popcorn stand. Hopefully the gang in the row in front of us turns off their phones and stops chatting. Hopefully we become immersed, for better or worse, in what unfolds on the screen.

Sometime, as with the Safdie Brothers’ “Good Time,” we get swallowed whole, find ourselves pulled along with a Styxian current, scrambling for safe harbor in the belly of the beast.

Here we have Robert Pattinson as a nasty, immoral guy. He loves his mentally challenged brother, yet pulls him some hairbrained bank robbery scheme. As they try to get away, brother is caught and jailed. Pattinson’s character Connie Nikas is left to skulk through the night in search of money to bail bro out.

It’s the mean streets of NY in its peculiar, unique middle of the night. Creatures are crawling, sane thoughts and rational conversations are elusive.

So that’s the immersion one gets with “Good Time.” An hour and a half of existence in places most have not experienced. Think Travis Bickle’s haunts in “Taxi Driver.”

The film if grimy and grizzly is compelling, a propulsive interlude.

Sound like a place you want to spend a couple hours?

Listen further and find out:

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“Ingrid Goes West” is a Wiser Film than You might Suppose: A Review

Posted: August 28th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

In the opening skit of the MTV VMAs, host Katy Perry rockets off into the galaxy in a designer space suit to die for.

She lands on the moon or some planet and starts taking lots of photos with her cell. Then realizes she has no service.

What’s the point, she laments, of taking photos if you can’t hashtag them and post on social media?

This is the # era, where unfortunately some people’s entire existence is essentially digital, where online “friendship” has become a contemporary phenomenon. Deplore it or not, it is a reality of now.

Certainly for Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza), a sad, lonely soul who seeks succor from Instagram. The film opens with her crashing the wedding of someone she’s followed, and developed a relationship with in her mind, but who didn’t invite her to the nuptials.

Soon enough, after reading an article in an actual magazine, Ingrid’s obsession switches to Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), who lives what appears to be an ab fab lifestyle in Venice Beach, chronicled tens of times a day online. Bankrolled with a $60,000 + inheritance from her mother, and stashing the loot in cash in a backpack, Aubrey heads to LA LA Land, intent on hooking up with the chi chi bon vivant she hopes to become her new bestie.

And so through guile and deception she does. Read the rest of this entry »


Film Review & Podcast: “Logan Lucky”

Posted: August 20th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Were Joe Bang (Daniel Craig) and his brothers, Fish (Jack Quaid) and Sam (Brian Gleeson), the centerpieces of Steven Soderbergh’s “Logan Lucky,” the good ol’ southern boy (and gal) caper comedy would be as raucous and full of guffaws as the movie’s ubiquitous trailer portends it to be.

The Bang boys remind us of the sort of stereotyped denizens of Appalachia we observed in “The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia” (an unbelievingly real life documentary) and such non-fictional fare as in “Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” You know, chaw chewing, dim lights, prone to say and do the funniest if stupidest things.

Like Fish’s declaration in this movie when he’s trying to convince he’s computer savvy, “I know all the Twitters.” Or Joe’s knowing but duh-oh admonition to the Logan brothers, Jimmy (Channing Tatum) and Clyde (Adam Driver), when they visit him in jail to recruit him for their heist. If you’ve seen that preview, you know the dialog.

“I am in car cer a ted.”

But the Bang’s aren’t the driving force here, those Logan bros. and sister Mellie (Riley Keogh) are. Thus we have a movie far more understated and, dare I suggest, subtler — a relative term — than promoted. At least, that’s this guy’s opinion. Read the rest of this entry »


“Lady Macbeth”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: August 10th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Fortunately it matters not if you haven’t an inkling about the Shakespeare play, in which there is a Lady Macbeth as a major character.

William Oldroyd’s spare, dour but compelling film, “Lady Macbeth,” is not based on the Bard’s play, but on a Russian novel.

Since I’m one of those with no real knowledge about the most heralded playwright in the history of the English language, it was with more than a little relief that I was able to savor this completely different tale.

Mostly thanks to a truly commanding performance by Florence Pugh, as a bought bride in a loveless, abusive marriage in rural England in the 1860s.

Out of the blue — I had never heard of her before — here’s an astute young actress who dominates the screen and portrays Katherine with eerie confidence and nuance. Like some young — Dare I say it? — Meryl Streep.

Though we remain curious as to how her character came to be whom she is as the plot unfolds. Read the rest of this entry »


Film Review Podcast: “Atomic Blonde”

Posted: July 29th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

What was once but a trickle has now become somewhat of a groundswell. Operative word: somewhat.

A number of loyal readers have offered how they appreciate written film reviews, as opposed to podcasted ones. The comments aren’t falling on deaf ears. It is my intention to start writing more of them in the future. And thank you all for your input.

Understand, I’m obligated to podcast a review per week for WFPL’s Facebook page. So that’s why I tend to simply record them. But shall endeavor to write some up when a film is worthy of the effort.

Which is to sort of explain why today’s review of “Atomic Blonde” is simply a podcast.

Not that I didn’t like it. Or that it’s a great movie.

If you listen, you’ll understand I simply haven’t the capability to be objective when it comes to Charlize Theron.

So, here it is:

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