“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:

Audio MP3

“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:

Audio MP3

“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:

Audio MP3

“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.

Audio MP3

“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:

Audio MP3

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:

Audio MP3

— 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:

Audio MP3

— c d kaplan


“Booksmart”: Film Review and Podcast

Posted: May 28th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 1 Comment »

Not all teen movies are the same.

Certainly not “Booksmart,” the engaging directorial debut of Olivia Wilde.

It’s the last day of high school for BFFs Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever (Amy and Molly in the flick, though their real first names should have been used.)

Much is revealed to them as they let loose for the first time in their teen years. Especially how they’ve misjudged many of their peers.

Which is to say that this flick is not only funny and entertaining, but also full of insight.

For more detail, listen to my podcast review:

Audio MP3

Film Review Podcast: “Under the Silver Lake”

Posted: May 20th, 2019 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

That I am able to review “Under the Silver Lake” is a testament to the new dynamic in the world of cinema.

The trailers for this film showed a year ago or so at the eight screen cineplex in my town that used to show indie films and small films and what used to be known as “art films.” Operative phrase: “used to show.” Now it’s all Avengers all the time, along with other lowest common denominator popcorn flicks. And the film itself never showed.

Sigh. Such is the nature of the biz.

So, if it weren’t for Netflix and Jeff Bezos Prime and their ilk, we’d never have an opportunity to see such as “Under the Silver Lake” and other oddities of interest, but not enough interest to make it to the Heartland on a big screen.

It’s the yin and yang of life.

So, I’m grateful, if somewhat exasperated.

As for the film, more details about which you can learn from listening to the podcast below, well, it intrigues, if not providing total satiation.

Andrew Garfield is an underachiever in LA, who meets Riley Keough one evening, when she’s swimming in his apartment complex pool. They flirt, cuddle and make plans to hook up the next day. But she’s gone, and her apartment is empty.

Garfield commences an odyssey to find her, and discover the meaning of other mysteries abounding in his neighborhood. Along the way, he is bombarded with decades of pop culture references.

For more insight, listen up:

Audio MP3

“Amazing Grace”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: May 10th, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast, Music | 1 Comment »

Concert footage of the iconic 1972 Gospel Concert by Lady Soul Aretha Franklin has finally been released, under the title, “Amazing Grace.”

It languished in the vaults for decades, essentially because director Sydney Pollack didn’t know how to film a concert. Only when digital editing allowed the visuals and sound to be synchronized was the raw concert footage able to be turned into a film.

And, then, for reasons which remain somewhat mysterious — though I offer a possible explanation in my podcast — Ms. Franklin herself forbade its release before her passing.

It is a blessing that it is finally in release, and will be showing dozens of times in my town at the Speed Museum Cinema between now and the end of May.

Though the film is to be seen and savored by anyone who cares about music, in my podcast below, I discuss some oddities about the filming of this concert that temper my enthusiasm somewhat.

Please listen:

Audio MP3

“Long Shot”: Film Review Podcast

Posted: May 7th, 2019 | Filed under: Ruminations | No Comments »

Yes I was seriously predisposed to like this film.

It is after all a romantic comedy, in which a nerdy writer — Seth Rogen — ends up connecting romantically with the woman who babysat for him in his youth, who happens to be Secretary of State, and who happens to be running for President, and . . . most pertinently . . . who happens to be Charlize Theron.

I mean, a guy can hope, right?

That’s what movies are about most of the time, entertainment, fantasy.

The two connect as actors, making this whole rom com work, even if the plotline is familiar.

They are aided by a brilliant supporting turn by Bob Odenkirk, who plays the sitting president.

For more details, listen up:

Audio MP3

“The Sopranos”: A Look Back

Posted: May 3rd, 2019 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast, TV | No Comments »

Well, truth be told, for me, it’s not a look back.

The mea culpa: I never watched an episode of the iconic HBO TV series when it first aired for six seasons. (Which I realize is yet another diminishment of my adopted moniker, the Culture Maven. Fake sobriquet? Arguably.)

Anyway, since there’s been some buzz on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the series about the Family Soprano, and the Jersey mob, run by patriarch Tony, and/ or Uncle Jr., I decided it was time after this score of years to check it out.

So, I’ve been streaming it season by season on Amazon Prime for the last couple months.

What you will hear below are my observations, colored by hindsight.

Let’s be clear though, as much as I’ve been taken in by “The Sopranos,” especially the universally marvelous characterizations and acting, I still consider “The Wire” a cut way above anything else that’s ever aired.

You should still listen to my observations.

Audio MP3