Thursday, November 15, 2018

Green Book - 3 1/2 Stars - Opens November 16, 2018

In 1962 black jazz pianist Don Shirley hired a white Italian New York city bouncer named Tony the Lip to drive him on a concert tour of pre Civil Rights Southern cities.  As a result of their trip,  the men became life long friends.  "Green Book" tells their story with warmth, humor, and drama.  The title refers to the guide for Blacks traveling in the south to hotels and restaurants that would  accept them.  Shirley discovers Tony has his back during the expected Jim Crow insults.  Tony picks up an equal number of life lessons.  You might consider " Green Book" a combination of "Driving Miss Daisy" and "the Odd Couple." The surprise comes in the script, which never fails to entertain.  Linda Cardellini has some wonderful moments as Tony's worried life.  Mahershala Ali sets a regal tone as the musician.  Viggo Mortensen makes Tony a big lovable lug.  Peter Farrelly wrote and directs.  He gives Linda Cardellini the best curtain line of the year.  "Green Book" 3 1/2 Stars Rated PG-13.

Widows - 3 1/2 Stars - Opens November 16, 2018

"Widows" begins with a rock 'em sock 'em heist led by Liam Neeson and his crew of professionals.  Something goes wrong.  the getaway van explodes.  The men die.  As Neeson's widow, Viola Davis must sort things out.  She learns in short order she owes the mob millions, and must complete a final heist to pay her husband's debt.  What could have turned into another "Oceans Eight" becomes a multilayered story of crime, the mob, politics, and patriarchy.  Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell breathe life into the political plot.  Daniel Kaluuya follows his star turn in"Get Out" with his take on a young mobster.  As the widows, Michelle Rodriquez, Cynthia Erivo, and Elizabeth Debicki hit the right notes.  As for Viola Davis, I couldn't take my eyes off her. She's the soul of this stunning thriller.  "Widows" 3 Stars Rated "R".  Does it deliver what it promises?  Puts the thrill back in thriller.  Is it entertaining?  Fascinating.  Is it worth the price of admission?  A Winner.

The Front Runner - 2 Stars - Opens November 16, 2018

Director Jason Reitman hopes "The Front Runner" will join the ranks of "All the President's Men" and "The Candidate" as political thriller.  He misses by a mile.  Hugh Jackman plays Senator Gary Hart, the politician favored to win the Democratic nomination in 1988.  Reporters catch wind of an affair with a  saleswoman named Donna Rice.  Hart meets her  on a Florida cruise.  "The Front Runner" trots out all the cliches of a Presidential campaign---smoking, talking, barking orders etc.  I think it wants us to ponder life in American with Gary Hart as President.  The movie  bemoans the rise of tabloid news in mainstream media.  Jackman makes Hart huffy, unlikeable, and too dense to know the affair will sink his campaign.  "The Front Runner" 2 Stars Rated "R".  Does it deliver what it promises?  Two hours of cliches.  Is it entertaining?  Portrait of an unlikeable Senator.  Is it worth the price of admission?  Disappointed me. 

Instant Family - 3 Stars - Opens November 16, 2018

I didn't expect much from "Instant Family" a comedy about a childless couple (Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne) adopting a teenage girl and her younger brother and sister.  The movie presents a heartwarming comedy, genuinely funny, and touching.  Wahlberg and Byrne attend an adoption picnic.  They meet Isabela Moner, a 15 year old Latina, who gets their interest by calling them out.  Soon the couple takes in Isabela, as Lizzy, and her siblings.  All does not go well, but with the help of social workers played by Octavia Spencer and Tig Novaro, things ultimately come together.  "Instant Family" has the advantage of a stellar script.  The laughs and emotional heartstrings left me in a puddle.  "Instant Family" 3 Stars PG-13.  Does it deliver what it promises?  Family friendly holiday comedy.  Is it entertaining?  Very funny and touching.  Is it worth the price of admission?  A movie for everyone. 

Weekend Movie Guide

Rami Malek stars in Bohemian Rhapsody

First Man
- 4 Stars. Ryan Gosling blasts into space as strong, silent Neil Armstrong - the first man to walk on the Moon. The mix of biography and space gave me goosebumps.

Green Book - 3 1/2 Stars.  New York bouncer drives jazz pianist on a concert tour of 1962 pre-civil rights south.   Each man emerges better for the experience.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? - 3½ Stars. Melissa McCarthy nails the story of writer Lee Israel, who faked a series of celebrity letters, when her career sputters. Funny and charming.

Bohemian Rhapsody - 3½ Stars. Irresistible (but clichéd) celebration of Freddy Mercury and Queen.

Widows - 3 1/2 Stars.  Viola Davis must pay her dead husbands debt to the mob with one last heist.  A thrilling dense thriller.

Christopher Robin - 3½ Stars. Ewan McGregor as grown-up Christopher returns to the Hundred Acre Wood to learn a few life lessons from his childhood pals. Beautifully produced mix of live-action, animatronics, and animation.

Colette - 3½ Stars. Keira Knightly as the 20th century French writer.

A Star Is Born - 3 Stars. The third remake's a charm, thanks to Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga.

Instant Family - 3 Stars.  Surprisingly enjoyable comedy about a couple adopting a teen and her younger siblings.

Crazy Rich Asians - 3 Stars. Constance Wu meets the man of her dreams, not knowing he's Asia's catch of the century.

Free Solo - 3 Stars. Climbing without a rope. Hold on to your seat.

Halloween - 2½ Stars. Jamie Lee Curtis returns 40 years later to put an end to this Michael Meyers business once and for all. Fans will love.

The House with a Clock in Its Walls - 2½ Stars. Jack Black and Cate Blanchett fight evil with magic.

Boy Erased - 2 1/2.  Lucas Hedges goes to gay conversion therapy.  "Boy Erased" avoids the usual sledge hammer approach, with fine performances including Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe as Hedges parents.

The Front Runner - 2 Stars.  Hugh Jackman recreates the Gary Hart scandal of 1988.  The script makes it hard to feel sympathy for anyone in this story. 

A Private War - 2 Stars.   Rosamund Pike as fearless war correspondent Marie Colvin.  Cliche fulled script arely gets below the surface.     

Suspiria - 1 Star. Overlong, overstuffed horror flick. Dakota Johnson joins a German ballet company run by Tilda Swinton, who also heads a coven of witches.

Beautiful Boy - 1 Star. Steve Carell as writer David Sheff, trying to deal with the drug addiction of his almost perfect son (played by Timothée Chalamet.) These good actors can't quite take this beyond manipulative and hard to watch.

Mid90's - 1 Star. Jonah Hill's directing debut tells the story of a 13-year-old kid trying to find his place in a group of street kids. At 84 minutes, it feels like a student project.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Boy Erased - 2 1/2 Stars - Opens November 9, 2018

"Boy Erased" stars up and coming Lucas Hedges as a sexually unsure 19 year old sent to gay conversion therapy.  The movies gets a boost from an excellent cast, including Lucas Hedges as the kid, and Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe as his parents.  Based on the memoir of Gerrard Conley, the story boils down to a father son conflict.  As the father, Russell Crowe manages to convey love for his his son while unable to rise above his assumed alpha male status.  In real life Conley's fther is a car dealer and Baptist preacher.  Gay conversion camp feels like a concentration camp, with Joel Edgerton (who also directed) as the chief villain.  I doubt  "Boy Erased" will change any minds, but it avoids a sledgehammer approach.  "Boy Erased" 2 1/2 Stars Rated "R".  Does it deliver what it promises?  Family drama with nuance.  Is it entertaining?  Good performances.  Is it worth the price of admission?   this one's up to you.