“Juliet, Naked”: Film Review & Podcast

Posted: August 31st, 2018 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

I am a sucker for movies based on the work of Nick Hornby. He was responsible for “High Fidelity,” which you should be aware of.

His work is infused with his rock & roll soul.

In “Juliet, Naked,” we get a big dose of how music can affect and change peoples’ lives. All dressed up in a charming romantic comedy featuring the almost always lovable Chris O’Dowd, Rose Byrne and Ethan Hawke.

After learning of this movie just this morning, the day it arrived in my burg, I was immediately predisposed to love it.

Which I did.

Here’s why:

Audio MP3

“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.

Audio MP3

“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:

Audio MP3

Two Lady Shouters Extraordinaire: Rock & Roll RePast

Posted: August 9th, 2018 | Filed under: Music, Ruminations | 2 Comments »

One of the great uses of rock & roll in a movie soundtrack — my personal favorite — comes in Martin Scorcese’s portion of the otherwise forgettable three short films released as one feature in 1989, “New York Stories.”

I frankly have no recollection of what Woody Allen’s “Oedipus Wrecks” or Francis Ford Coppola’s “Life Without Zoe” portions of the film trio are about. And have but faint recollection of Scorcese’s contribution titled “Life Lessons.”

Except for this one scene.

Nick Nolte’s an artist who has taken comely Rosanna Arquette, twenty years his junior, under his wing to teach her, understand, “life lessons.” To be his, uh, muse, giving lip service to the development of a deep and meaningful relationship. Truth be told, as best as I recall, what he wants is for her to be available as a hot young thing on his arm at gallery openings and be around when he’s ready for the down and dirty.

I forget the details, but that’s the gist of it. Their relationship is tempestuous. To say the least.

Finally there’s a breach. Either he sends her packing. Or she stomps out after telling him she’s had enough.

He’s in his studio, where the showdown played out, pissed, full of sexual frustration, and intent on working out his roiling anger on canvas.

Before grabbing his brush and palette, he punches his paint splattered cassette boom box to Play.

Here’s what blasts from the speaker, the perfect song for the moment. Read the rest of this entry »


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”:

Audio MP3

My take on “The Spy Who Dumped Me”:

Audio MP3

“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:

Audio MP3

“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:

Audio MP3

“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.

Audio MP3

“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:

Audio MP3

“Sorry To Bother You”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: July 15th, 2018 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

Boots Riley’s first foray into film, starring Lakeith Stanfield and Tessa Thompson, is so provocative, so hilarious, so off the charts, it is difficult to describe.

Let’s just say you’ve never seen anything quite like it. I know I haven’t.

There are films that come to mind, but their only similarity is the extent to which their creativity comes to the fore. “Inside John Malkovich.” “Putney Swope.” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

But the mention of those may be a disservice, since “Sorry To Bother You” has its own intriguing pushing of the envelope.

On its face, it’s about a guy just trying to make it in the world, and finds a niche as a telemarketer. But that doesn’t come close to giving you any idea how many directions this thing goes in. Or how funny and thought provoking it is.

It’s my favorite film of the year, so you might actually listen to the podcast, in which I attempt to give more info.

Either way, it has my stamp of approval, such as that is.

Audio MP3

“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:

Audio MP3

“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:

Audio MP3

— c d kaplan