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 »

“Landline”: A Written Review of a Flick You Probably Don’t Know

Posted: August 6th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Ruminations | No Comments »

There are certainly stressful life situation as painful and taxing as those arising from the nuclear family dynamic, but . . .

. . . there are a whole lot of folks who would argue those are the worst.

The blood connection that’s supposed to mean bonding and acceptance. The closeness of living proximity that magnifies every quirk and irritation. How the most insignificant of moments, a perceived slight, a habit that irritates, can fester into tension and discord.

Ah, who didn’t suffer those family dinners, where nary a word was uttered, not even praise for mom’s fried chicken and chocolate cake?

So, such scenarios have long been a staple of small films, indies that deal with the personal instead of flaming cars parachuting out of jets, or Vegas jaunts gone wacky.

A lot of times, these cinematic attempts simply gnaw. Most trek to to the cineplex to be “entertained,” not to have their lives and family imbroglios pass before them on the silver screen. A refillable bucket of popcorn is not therapy replacement.

But, if the plot is legit, and incidents of family disarray are portrayed in a manner that rings true, in a way that resonates but also provides perspective, where the humor of those situations can peek through, well, those films work. Sometimes.vacuous

At least they do for me.

Which “Landline” did. Read the rest of this entry »

QWERTY morphs QWERKY; Old School meets New Fangled

Posted: July 31st, 2017 | Filed under: History Warp, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

This exposition on what’s new today, anecdotal history lesson and nostalgic look back is being composed on my new toy, a Qwerkywriter.

That’s a photo of the device there to the left.

It’s not a 1940s typewriter, though it’s meant to look like one. With it’s round metal capped keys with their clickety click, and a return bar that moves your text to the next line. No, it’s a full function bluetooth keypad that synched instantly to my iMac.

How and why I went for this sumptuous and funky I-got-one-and-you-don’t computer accouterment is the very raison d’etre of this rumination.

Stick around for the ride.

Which journey starts back in the 50s with the best advice my brother Michael ever gave me.

“Take Typing class.”

So there I was soon enough, one of the few male of the species, in Mr. Cline’s 9th grade Beginner’s Typing at Highland Junior High, laboring to learn the home row keys.

At some point, despite chubby digits and a gimpy catcher’s thumb I’d suffered since Little League, I was able to knock out the lessons of pangrams at a reasonably healthy clip.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

Jaded zombies acted quaintly but kept driving their oxen forward.

Plus other such punchy sentences of little meaning, much bemusement, and containing every single one of the 26 letters of the ABCs.   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:

Audio MP3

“Dunkirk” — Epic Yet Intimate: A Written Film Review

Posted: July 23rd, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema | No Comments »

War movies are not easy.

To watch.

To make in a way that is innovative, illuminating. And entertaining.

Christopher Nolan, one of the most difficult contemporary directors to figure out, has done something extraordinary in his telling of the now nigh mythic tale of British resolve, when her troops were pinned against the ocean on the beaches of Dunkirk in WWII.

Nolan’s film, told in three overlapping stories — by air, by land, by sea — is panoramic. Shots of dogfights against the Luftwaffe. Shots of thousands of soldiers lined on the broad swaths of sand, nervously awaiting rescue.

It is also intimate. Pilots fighting to protect those below. Civilians, part of the incomprehensible armada coming to save the day, and soldiers, young and scared, doing what they can to try to survive.

Those factors in and of themselves would have been enough for audiences to savor and marvel at.

Yet Nolan took it a step further. The film not only personalizes the experience while exposing the rigors all faced in those dire moments, but it is, by most accounts, historically accurate.

Plus, a mighty plus indeed, the chronicle unfolds without hyperbole, and with little emotional manipulation. Read the rest of this entry »

Who are The Beguiled?: A Film Review

Posted: July 12th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema | No Comments »

The definitions of the verb “beguile” infer that some sort of trickery is involved when the beguiler is attempting to charm or enchant the intended beguilee, whether that target becomes beguiled or not.

So, one of the questions presented in Sofia Coppola’s eminently atmospheric film, “The Beguiled,” is this: What are Union Corporal John McBurney’s (Colin Farrell) intentions with the headmistresses and students of the Old South boarding school, where he has been taken in and is convalescing from a war wound?

Ever the charmer, and playing one against the other, is he looking for a way to escape when he’s healed? Or to develop such relationships that he’ll be asked to stay and tend to the grounds as the only man in the house?

Or, is he simply looking to get laid? Read the rest of this entry »

Film Review Podcast: “The Big Sick”

Posted: July 9th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | 2 Comments »

Just the other day I reviewed a new comedy — it shall remain nameless — and lamented the dearth of funny films in contemporary times.

Now who is the fool after savoring every bit of “The Big Sick?”

Correct answer: Me.

This romantic comedy written by and about the relationship of Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon is spot on. Funny. Romantic. Intelligent. Real.

The humor isn’t forced, but is generated by daily life, regardless of the exigencies.

As you can tell, I was quite taken by the film.

For more precise reasons why I suggest you see this, listen below:

Audio MP3

Film Review Podcast: “The House”

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

In considering this latest comedy featuring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler as parents who must find enough money to send their daughter off to college, I work from the premise that there are way fewer truly funny comedies these days than in times past.

I provide some reasons for my supposition. They may be valid or simply pooh pooh kah kah. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

But it does lead to my perspective on why comedies are generally ripped by critics these days.

And why I believe “The House,” which is far from special, still deserves more credit than it’s getting.

For further explanation, please listen up:

Audio MP3

Can A Movie Alter My Daily Routine? Apparently So.

Posted: July 3rd, 2017 | Filed under: Ruminations | 1 Comment »

My father’s son, I am a mammalian of habit.

For the better part of his adult life, Art Kaplan ate the same meal for lunch every day.

A carton of cottage cheese. Saltines.

Odd as it was, at some juncture, my mother stopped nagging/ teasing him about it and let it be.

For the last score of years, I’ve savored the same breakfast daily.

Peanut butter on apple.

More specifically, Smuckers All Natural Crunchy slathered on sliced Honeycrisp, Ambrosia, or, in a pinch during certain seasons of the year, Pacific Rose or Pink Lady.

With coffee. Thee dollops of cream. Two packs of yellow sweetener. (How we have come to identifying artificial sweeteners by the color of packaging is a fascinating curiosity but another consideration for another time.)

Since at some point about a decade or so ago, my local daily newspaper turned into a thin compendium of typos (since, pity the real journalists still left on staff, there are apparently no copy editors). So, frustrated, I replaced the morning ritual of my lifetime. I’d read the paper edition of the paper first thing in the morning since the 5th grade.

Since I no longer subscribe to that fallen publication, I now read through several sports, news and general info sites on my laptop in a fairly rigid order.

One of which is the New York Times, to which I have an online subscription. Read the rest of this entry »

Film Review Podcast: “BANG Bert Berns Story”

Posted: July 2nd, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Film Reviews Podcast | No Comments »

As much as I know about the early days of rock & roll, there’s always somebody of import who escaped my attention.

So it was, until I viewed this documentary, with Bert Berns, a songwriter and producer. Among the diverse songs he’s responsible for are “Twist & Shout,” “A Little Piece of My Heart,” and “Hang on Sloopy.”

He was super talented.

He was a little wacked.

And he was connected to the mob.

It’s a fascinating tale.

“BANG The Bert Berns Story” is showing this weekend at the Speed Museum. But only twice. Saturday 7/08 at 7:00, and Sunday 7/09 at 3:00.

To learn why you music lovers should make plans to see it, listen up:

Audio MP3

Film Review Podcast: “Baby Driver”

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

I was certainly anxious to see this flick.

Because, frankly, I’m not aware of a car chase shoot ’em up that’s gotten such an over the top positive response from a vast majority of the nation’s leading film critics. (I know I shouldn’t read those things ahead of time, but I simply can’t help myself.)

So, the question before us today is: Does Edgar Wright’s musical about a sweet kid with bad hearing, great driving chops and good musical taste who drives getaway cars for some truly heinous dudes stand up to the essentially universal praise?

Does the Culture Maven fall in line, join the lock stepping critical cognoscenti?

Rebel as I would like to think I am, I pretty much do so.

Despite a few flaws, this is damn enjoyable summer entertainment.

For more insight, please do listen up.

(But beware, because of some seriously bad editing of my own script, mea culpa maxima, I utter a few sentences in the middle of this thing, which are, frankly, incomprehensible. But a boffo and seriously entertaining review it remains.)

Audio MP3