Norma Jeane Baker did not live a happy life, even though she grew up to become 1950's sex icon Marilyn Monroe. Blonde presents a difficult watch, beginning with her unhappy childhood. The excellent Julianne Nichols portrays Marilyn's disturbed mother, leading us through a series of harrowing scenes and abuse. In her teenage years, she discovers acting, leading Norma Jean to her new identity as Marilyn Monroe. We see her career build, even as she is used on the acting couch. Actress Ana de Armas creates a believable Marilyn Monroe. She has the voice, the moves, the look. Her brilliant performance can't quite support an overlong difficult story: failed marriages to Joe DiMaggio and Arthur Miller. am abortion and a miscarriage shown in horrifying detail. When Marilyn meets President John Kennedy, Blonde has gone so off the rails some will want to leave the theater or turn off the TV. It's interesting that Marilyn Monroe's life and Elvis' life both arrive as movies this year. As with Elvis, Blonde feels like a psychedelic haze. In this case, a haze I can do without.
Wednesday, September 28, 2022
Tuesday, September 27, 2022
Sidney Poitier addresses the camera and us as Sidney begins. Looking straight ahead, he tells the amazing story of his life---a history that begins with an early birth, an expectation of death ---a childhood on an island without running water or electricity --- and his discovery of modern life ---cars, electricity, the existence of something called a mirror. Director Reginald Hudlin sticks with Poitier. When he speaks, we listen. As his story of film success gets underway, Hudlin cuts away to celebrities such as Robert Redford, Barbara Streisand, and Oprah. The film sags, but wow, when it goes back to Poitier, it soars. Sidney reminds us of an important chapter or two in film history and the civil rights movement. Poitier can really tell a story, especially when that story is his.
Tuesday, September 6, 2022
In Elvis, over the top director Baz Luhrmann turns the life of Elvis Presley into a rise and fall grand opera. Austin Butler's performance as the iconic singer completely satisfies. Butler looks good, does his own singing, and convinces us. The story boils down to a struggle between Elvis, his family, and Elvis's equally iconic manager "Colonel" Tom Parker. Tom Hanks turns Parker into the self-serving, self-dealing villain of this opera. Hanks looks ridiculous in his make up as "Colonel" Parker, giving the old man a Nazi accent, which makes things worse. Essentially a carnival promoter and con man, Parker recognizes Elvis' mix of Black rhythm, White country boy good looks, and gyrating movements spell success. Elvis runs too long. It bogs down in the middle. The opening third, (Elvis' rise to fame) establishes a hard to sustain excitement. Fortunately, the finale regains some of the early energy. Now streaming on HBO, the new format has the advantage of allowing the viewer to stop and take a rest. That's a good thing. I won't call it a great movie, but I can't deny I loved watching this thing, in pieces. Anybody interested in a candy-colored guilty pleasure?
Wednesday, August 17, 2022
Emily the Criminal casts Aubrey Plaza as a young woman with several strikes against her. Those strikes include student loan debt and a felony conviction involving an abusive boyfriend. She tries to make ends meet as a food delivery worker. Her pay's so low she can't even keep up with the interest on her student loans. A friend introduces Emily to the world of credit card fraud. Handsome Theo Rossi as Youcef, a Lebanese immigrant, notices her hunger, and welcomes her into his world of black-market TV's, computers, and luxury cars. Their romance and her fearlessness build to a gripping finale. Aubrey Plaza dares you to look away as this thriller turns up the heat. 90 minutes of Emily the Criminal left me breathless.
Friday, August 12, 2022
Ok, maybe you need to grow up in Texas to love Vengeance, but I did, and I do. B.J. Novak plays an East Coast podcaster enjoying the single life. One night he receives a mysterious phone call informing him his "girlfriend" has died in West Texas. Novak can't remember her, but the caller insists he attend the funeral. So, a blue state podcaster lands in red state Texas setting up a "fish out of water" adventure. (I think we are supposed to assume this takes place in Alpine or Marfa although it was shot in New Mexico.) The family of the dead girl takes him into their home and pleads with him to investigates her death. They refuse to believe it as a drug overdose and claim the death resulted from a foul deed or even premeditated murder. Novak, in full media mode, elects to turn his investigation into a true crime podcast. The trail leads him to a very compelling Ashton Kutcher, who plays a record producer in the middle of nowhere. Kutcher's moments delight, as he spins his philosophy of performing creative work in a desolate environment. He also gives the story a nice twist. Vengeance is full of inside jokes and local references including a long riff on the Texas fast food favorite Whataburger. The movie feels like one of the great Woody Allen comedies of the 1970's with a touch of the remake of Raymond Candler's The Long Goodbye. B.J. Novak is a delight as an average guy surrounded by eccentrics. Vengeance made me laugh out loud more times than I expected. I watched in a theater with five other viewers, one of whom was a friend who came with me. If you miss it, catch it on demand. Vengeance is just the kind of independent creative fun the movies need.