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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“Sharp Objects”: TV Review Podcast

Posted: July 27th, 2018 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, Ruminations | No Comments »

I don’t know about you, but through the years, more often than not I’ve taken to spending the last hours of the weekend with whatever usually splendid offering is on HBO.

Turns out this summer is no different.

On Sunday nights, it’s a multi-layered dark and murky tale that’s playing.

“Sharp Objects.”

Amy Adams, compelling as always, is Camille, a St. Louis reporter with issues. She’s sent by her editor back to the hometown of her unhappy youth in search of the story of a couple of teenaged girls gone missing.

Camille is forced to confront small town gossip, her troubled past, and the seriously strained relationship with her mother (Patricia Clarkson), while trying to track down stories to send back to her paper.

Lots of vodka. Lots of flashbacks. Lots of stuff left out for the viewer to figure out for him or herself.

For more, 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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Film Review Podcast: “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Posted: June 24th, 2018 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” is an adulatory documentary about Fred Rogers, a surprisingly controversial TV star.

His long running children’s show on public television, “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” was mostly revered, but also reviled by some.

He was obviously a decent man, well intentioned, worthy of high esteem.

He was generally well loved, though, I’m advised there are children now adults, who would have been his target audience in the 60s and 70s, who were put off by his manner.

Frankly, his career and show passed me by, given my age and that I had no children who would have been around during his heyday. So, I found this movie quite illuminating, and certainly touching at times.

I also consider it hagiography. The film touches on a couple of issues, Rogers’ beliefs, which might, if fully explored, have tempered somewhat his almost saint-like reputation.

The filmmakers instead decided to display almost abject adulation. Which may be deserved, but maybe not.

For more:

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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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“Killing Eve”: A Review & Podcast

Posted: June 1st, 2018 | Filed under: Film Reviews Podcast, TV | No Comments »

So I ran into my friend Jane last week, who advised her latest TV obsession was the BBC America series, “Killing Eve.”

Which struck me, because in the few days before I’d run across a number of reviews online, all of which were of one mind with praise.

Then, a few days later, I happened to run into some other pals, Mike and Wendy, film and TV buffs with good taste. When I asked if they’d watched “Killing Eve,” they immediately came with the compliments.

So I went home and streamed the first episode of the eight part series that has completed its first season cable run. Hooked, I watched another. Being somewhat compulsive, then another.

Consumed two more the following rainy afternoon. Then the final three episodes that night. Love when something like this lures me into the power binge.

Sandra Oh portrays a British MI5 agent obsessed with female serial killers. Jodie Comer plays a contract killer for a secret international cabal. Or, so we’re led to believe.

Hunter vs. the Hunted. And then the vice versa.

Obviously I was and remain fascinated — there will be a Season 2.

For more details, listen below:

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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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