“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”: Review Podcast

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

It’s true what they say about awards shows. They’ll get you to watch something you’ve been putting off.

Months ago, when the pilot for the Amazon Prime series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” first came out, I watched the episode. But, it was late. I was weary and should have been in bed already. Couldn’t lock in. So I turned it off midway.

And never returned, despite recommendations from some folks whose taste I acknowledge, until . . . I saw the cast standing on stage, a winner at the Golden Globes. And figured it was time to reconsider.

So I paid a return visit last weekend, ending up power watching the 8 part series over two nights.

It is mostly comedy. A bit of drama. And, most important, eminently entertaining.

For more details, listen below:

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“I, Tonya”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: January 10th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

So, Allison Janney won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of figure skater Tonya Harding’s abusive mother in “I, Tonya.”

Thus, many moviegoers unfamiliar with the peculiar curiosity that was Harding’s flirtation with Olympic glory and rivalry with Nancy Kerrigan, are now saying to themselves, “Uh, well, I guess maybe I should see this film.”

The movie does have its charms, other than Janney’s charismatic and admittedly spot on portrayal.

The film is mostly, for me anyway, a case study of Harding’s difficult upbringing, her talent and quest to feel good about herself and be accepted in the world figure skating community. It’s a sad tale really. So I had some issues with the scenes in the film played for condescending laughs.

But, all in all, so odd is the whole affair and how Harding has dealt with it in the aftermath, that they are worthy of consideration despite the filmmaker’s arguable choices in rendering them.

Margot Robbie energetically portrays Harding.

For more, listen up:

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“The Shape of Water”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: January 4th, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

Guillermo del Toro’s phantasmagoric “The Shape of Water” aspires to so much, in a manner that pulls its audience into its beguiling dreamscape, that it overcomes whatever minor flaws one might find.

It is romantic. Oh so very very romantic.

It is psychedelic.

There is nostalgia within nostalgia.

Despite a framework that is an obvious reference to 1950s phantom from the depths drive in movie scenarios, a wooden genre full with stereotypes, the human interaction delves deep, commenting on social mores of the times, then and now.

Elisa (Sally Hawkins, magnificent as usual) and Zelda (Octavia Spencer) are cleaning ladies in one of those top secret government facilities in which these movies are always set. It is of course the 1950s. Scientists flit about, experimenting. There are lots of military.  Read the rest of this entry »


“All the Money in the World”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: December 27th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

“All the Money in the World” is, on its face, the generally true tale of the kidnapping and rescue of J Paul Getty III, the grandson of the then richest man extant.

It is also about greed, how the addiction to accumulation of wealth skews family dynamics, and, from a process standpoint, how to reedit and shoot a movie weeks before it is to be released.

Getty the family patriarch was originally played by now disgraced Kevin Spacey. When he became persona non grata in Hollywoodland, he was replaced in the movie by Christopher Plummer.

That director Ridley Scott and his editors intertwined the original scenes and newly shot ones is the essence of cinematic craft.

So too the performances of the leads. Christopher Plummer is a marvelous cranky Getty the elder. Michelle Williams as the kidnapped’s mother is her usual exemplary self in her first truly adult role.

For more, listen up:

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“The Florida Project”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: December 22nd, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

When it really works, cinema can immerse viewers into the sights and sounds and existences of worlds they would not otherwise be privy to.

“The Florida Project” is just such a film, set on the outskirts of Orlando, near Disney World, at a motel called Magic Kingdom, full with folks trying to overcome their hardscrabble lives.

Neophyte Brooklynn Prince is Moonie, the adolescent who lives in a room there with her mother Jancey, played by first time actor Brie Vinaite. Moonie runs the streets with her pals, while her mom tries to make do.

Director Sean Baker has crafted a deft examination of this world that is astute, generous and devoid of judgement.

The screen is filled with sun-splashed pastel visual splendor.

As well as stirring performances, including that of Willem Dafoe as Bobby, the motel manager.

It’s my favorite movie of the year so far.

For more, listen up:

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Film Review & Podcast: “The Disaster Artist”

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

The first question here is whether an interesting, enjoyable, entertaining, worthy film can be made about the creation of what has been dubbed, “the worst movie ever?”

The answer is yes.

For your consideration: “The Disaster Artist.”

James Franco is truly one of Hollywoodland’s leading lights. Here he directs, and portrays with spot on precision the enigma who is Tommy Wiseau.

Wiseau wrote, directed and underwrote “The Room,” which has had an extended life on the Midnight Movie circuit, despite, or perhaps because of its overwhelming awfulness and dumbfounding ineptitude.

Franco’s brother Dave plays Wiseau’s pal Greg, who wrote the book upon which this movie about a movie is based.

For more details, listen up:

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Film Review & Podcast: “Murder on the Orient Express”

Posted: December 5th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I’m going to be short and not so sweet with the written portion of my review of this latest cinematic incarnation of the Agatha Christie classic.

One, because my momma always said, if you can’t write something nice, then don’t etc, etc, etc.

Two, because as much as I really found this film to be a major disappointment, as much as I realized it was among my least enjoyable experiences all year in the cineplex, my recorded verbal review is ab fab boffo and I want you to listen up.

So, no surprise as to the lack of number of stars given to this. No surprise that both thumbs and both big toes are pointed down for this film.

This version of “Murder on the Orient Express” is a serious waste of time.

My podcasted review, on the other hand, is a dynamic, scintillating, erudite work of artistic craftsmanship.

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Film Review & Podcast: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri”

Posted: November 30th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

The anger and frustration seething within Frances McDormand’s character Mildred is palpable from her appearance in the movie’s opening shot.

Yet, all we see are her eyes through a rear view mirror as she drives by the then empty billboards on a lonely road outside town.

It was at that instant I realized how well founded all the buzz about her performance is. She’s the leader in the clubhouse for the Oscar.

Ms. McDormand is recognized as one of the most accomplished film actors of the day. That status will only be enhanced, such is the quality of her performance here as a mother at wit’s end over the fact her daughter was raped and killed, and there have been no leads as to whom the perp might be.

Step aside Marge Gunderson, as iconic a character as you have been, McDorman’s Mildred in this current release is an even more impressive tour de force. Read the rest of this entry »


Film Review & Podcast: “Lady Bird”

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

One of the more fascinating of the new young actor/ actresses is Greta Gerwig.

There’s a transparency to her performances. She’s never quite exactly who she might appear to be.

And now we learn she can direct and write a screenplay.

“Lady Bird” features Saoirse Ronan as a senior at a catholic girls high school in Sacramento, California. She’s obsessed with the usual stuff, college, boys, hanging with the cool crowd and her mother, who simply doesn’t understand.

Yes, that’s all territory covered previously in hundreds and hundreds of teen coming of age films.

But none before with the precise emotions and resonating acuity of “Lady Bird.”

Ronan and Laurie Metcalf, who portrays her mother, are marvelous.

For more insight, listen up:

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“Thor Ragnarok”: Film Review & Podcast

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

If only for those deliciously stylin’ antlers that Cate Blanchett’s wicked character Hela sprouts when she’s ready to crank her evil to 11, to wreck havoc and spread destruction in the name of conquest, if only for those, I would love “Thor Ragnarok.”

But, much to the surprise of this moviegoer who is disinclined to like these superhero affairs, I was suitably entertained by this whole deal, and, such is the disarming humor, remained bemused with a smile on my face throughout.

Chris Hemsworth may lose his hammer, but not his ability to trade bon mots with Ms. Blanchett and Mark Ruffalo and Jeff Goldblum and others. Especially the relatively unknown Tessa Thompson who almost steals the whole affair with her take on Valkyrie.

So, anyway, “Thor Ragnarok” will fool you. It did me.

Beyond all the CGI superhero clashes, it’s a funny film.

For more, do listen up, my podcast review is pretty danged humorous, if I do say so myself:

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— c d kaplan


“Loving Vincent”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: November 3rd, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

Oh that writers/ directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman had spent a quarter as much time on the plot and screenplay of “Loving Vincent” as they did in the incredible visuals.

Seven years in the making. One hundred and twenty five or so artists, each undergoing 150 hours of training to paint on film cells in the exact manner of the master Vincent Van Gogh himself. Those animated cells, twelve for each second of screen time, totaled just short of 68,000 individual paintings to complete this visually sumptuous film.

The visuals are off the charts, not like anything you or I have seen before. For much of the movie, my mouth was agape at the scintillating look, the colors and motion popping off the screen.

At every moment I was aware of the processes it took to get this movie made. Such a constant preoccupation while experiencing the finished product, frankly, is not a good thing.

The best films are the ones that allow you to immerse in the whole, unaware of individual aspects. But so thin and laborious is the plot of “Loving Vincent” it becomes imperative to ignore what’s happening plotwise and simply take it all in with your eyes.

If you’re not familiar, there is some difference of opinion as to how Van Gogh died. Most believe that it was by his own hand. Yet there are others who adamantly believe he was killed.

The plot spins on this conjecture, as a minor character in the town where Van Gogh lived tries to unspool the mystery, sort of “Citizen Kane” style. He interviews those who were a part of Van Gogh’s life. It is not very illuminating, and less compelling. The dialog is stiff, the revelations tepid.

Which, under normal circumstances, would unhinge any possibility of a positive response to the movie.

But, as I’ve said several times already, the visuals and the manner of their creation make “Loving Vincent” a worthy hour and a half of any film lover’s or art lover’s time.

For more, listen below:

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“Suburbicon”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: October 31st, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

There is a romance that lingers still about the 1950s.

Lovers reunited and families started after the boys and (as we called ’em back then) a few gals returned from WWII and Korea. We hit the road on the interstate, savoring Howard Johnson’s clam rolls and 28 flavors. Transistor radios and rock & roll unleashed a teen culture. TV dinners and mom in the kitchen.

It’s part true, part mythos, part false.

In “Suburbicon,” George Clooney seeks to debunk all of the mom and pop and white picket fence facade. With terrible swift sword.

The film is somewhat humorous. Often grisly. A shade arch. And, mostly, unfulfilling. (Though lovely to look at.)

The nagging sense is that it’s a Coen Brothers movie gone awry. Which, to be frank, it is. Freres Joel and Ethan crafted this screenplay a bit ago. Realizing it didn’t quite all fit together, they set it aside.

Which is where it should have stayed. Clooney has attempted to give it some life. Didn’t do it.

Matt Damon’s wife Julianne Moore is killed in a break in. Her sister, also Julianne Moore, comes to live and nurture him and son Noah Jupe. All is not as it seems at first.

Meanwhile there a parallel story of a black family that moved into this allegedly bucolic subdivision next door. They are harassed mercilessly. But that story fades into the backdrop.

The Coens realized something was amiss in their tale. Too diffuse. Too disjointed. Clooney unfortunately did not.

This is not a sweet film. To say the least.

But if you are interested in the culture of the 50s and would like a more benign remembrance that also mocks the romantic nostalgia of the era, check out “Pleasantville,” a much friendlier ’98 film about a couple of kids who all of a sudden are living inside a “Father Knows Best” kind of TV show.

For more on “Suburbicon,” listen up:

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— c d kaplan