Sunday, April 28, 2024

Movie Guide

Mark Rylance stars in The Phantom of the Open

Steve Martin:  A Documentary in Two Pieces - 4 Stars - APPLE - March 29, 2024.  Steve Martin receives the documentary he deserves, divided into his rock star days, film career, and current third act.  Delightful.  

Oppenheimer - 4 Stars - STREAMING - THEATERS - July 21, 2023 - The rise and fall of a great man.  In this case, J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb ending WWII.  Ambition, guilt and genius build him up and tear him down.  A brilliant true life epic. 

Perfect Days - 4 Stars - December 1, 2023 - THEATERS - STREAMING - A beautifully simple story of a Tokyo public toiler cleaner and why he chooses the life he leads.  Will stay with you long after watching. 

The Zone of Interest - 4 Stars - THEATERS - STREAMING - February 2, 2024.  The Commandant of Auschwitz and his wife live a beautiful life while millions die on the other side of their garden wall.  Powerful and un-nerving.  

Maestro - 4 Stars - NETFLIX - December 1, 2023 - Bradley Cooper recreates 20th Century icon Leonard Bernstein, with music, dance, and exuberance.  The great man is seen through the eyes of Cary Mulligan as long-suffering wife and muse.  Portrait of a not very nice genius.  

May/December - 3 1/2 Stars - NETFLIX - November 10, 2022 - Natalie Portman as actress visiting notorious couple Julianne Moore and Charles Melton to prepare for a film on them.  Moore had sex and a child by Melton when he was 13.  The new triangle upsets this apple cart.  

American Fiction - 3 1/2 Stars - STREAMING - THEATERS - December 22, 2023 - Jeffrey Wright stars as a frustrated writer who challenges outdated stereotypes of the Black community in ways both thoughtful and funny.  

Nyad - 3 1/2 Stars - NETFLIX - October 20, 2023 - Thriller chapter of swimmer Diana Nyad's quest to swim from Cuba to Key West after turning 60. 

The Holdovers - 3 1/2 Stars - STREAMING - November 10, 2023 - Paul Giamatti plays prep school professor assigned to watch over students left behind for the holidays.  Teen Dominic Sessa proves his match. 

Flora and Son - 3 1/2 Stars - APPLE TV - September 29, 2023 - Irish single mother struggles with her 14-year-old son.  They bond over music including online guitar lessons from a surprising Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The Burial - 3 1/2 Stars - AMAZON PRIME - September 11, 1023 - small businessman Tommy Lee Jones hires charismatic lawyer Jamie Foxx to take on the giant corporation trying to buy him out.  Delightful David and Goliath tale.  

Past Lives - 3 1/2 Stars - STREAMING - June 7, 2023.  Childhood sweethearts break apart when her family immigrates to America.  He stays, reconnects, they stop, and then they meet.  Wistful and thought provoking.  

You Hurt My Feelings - 3 1/2 Stars - STREAMING - May 26, 2023 - Julia Louie Dreyfus delights in a post Woody Allen Manhattan centric comedy of marriage and manners.  The plot revolves around an unexpected word of truth.  

Killers of the Flower Moon - 3 Stars - NETFLIX - October 20, 2023 - APPLE - Moments of brilliance recreate story of 1920s murder of Osage Indians for their oil wealth.  Martin Scorsese takes too long and tacks on a jarring ending. 

Dream Scenario - 3 Stars - STREAMING - November 10, 2023 - Nicolas Cage can't figure out why he shows up in everyone's dreams.  A fun, bizarre, trip through fame and ill fortune.     

Theater Camp - 3 Stars - HULU - July 14, 2023 - Spinal Tap style mockumentary of theater summer camp on the brink of bankruptcy until an unknown saves the big show.  

Barbie - 3 Stars - MAX - July 21, 2023.  Greta Gerwig lampoons and celebrates the iconic doll with barbed and insightful humor.  As Barbie, Margot Robbie delights.  

Saltburn - 2 1/2 Stars - THEATERS - November 17, 2023 --- Oxford student makes friends with rich kid who brings him home for the summer.  A slow build to a scorching ending.   

Boys in the Boat - 2 1/2 Stars - THEATERS - December 25, 2023 - depression era rowing team goes to the Olympics.  By the numbers inspiring sports story.  

Wicked Little Letters - 2 Stars - THEATERS - March 29, 2024.  Olivia coleman and Jesse Buckley do their breath to breathe life into the slight story of a proper English woman who receives vile expletive filled letters and blames her neighbor.  Slight stuff for two great actresses.  

Poor Things - 2 Stars - THEATERS - December 8, 2023 - Update of Bride of Frankenstein, this time she discovers sex.  Big Oscar winner, but not for me.   

Anatomy of a Fall - 1 Star - STREAMING - October 13, 2023 - Mentioned as Oscar contender but not in my book.  Dull mystery of unhappy wife accused of killing her husband.  In Franch/English. R

Friday, April 26, 2024

Wicked Little Letters - 2 Stars - THEATERS - March 29, 2024

Wicked Little Letters takes us to 1920's seaside England, as proper Olivia Coleman receives a series of vile, expletive filled letters.  She blames Jesse Buckley, her free-spirited new neighbor.  Soon the entire town receives poison pen notes.  The neighbor, whom we know is innocent, goes on trial.  It's funny hearing Olivia read the foul-mouthed missives to her oh so shocked parents.  The mystery isn't much, leading to an expletive filled over the top conclusion.  Don't expecting much beyond two talented actresses trying their best to breathe life into a sight, even if true, story.  

Sunday, March 31, 2024

Steve Martin: A Documentary in Two Pieces - 4 Stars - APPLE - March 29, 2024

I thoroughly enjoyed the new Steve Martin documentary - Steve Martin:  A Documentary in Two Pieces.  The Pieces begin with Steve's rock star days making stadiums full of fans laugh in the 1970s. The filmmakers allow Martin to explain the struggle behind his success, especially waiting for the world to catch up with his humor.  I fondly remember the days when my friends would whisper "We're staying home Saturday Night, Steve martin's gonna be on Saturday Night Live."  Part two examines Martin's film career, and a sly look at his third act, as a writer, star of Only Murders in the Building, and pal of Martin Short with whom he delights audiences in their two man shows. Along the way, we learn of Martin's love of art and the way he uses it in his films.  Father issues, yearning, success and failure, contentment---they're all here.  He's a really interesting man and this is the documentary Steve Martin deserves.  

Road House - 1 Star - March 8, 2024 - PRIME VIDEO

Jake Gyllenhaal recreates the 1989 dogfight, Road House, this time with the fights on steroids.  Jake takes a job as bouncer at a bucket of blood bar in the Florida Keys not knowing bad guys want the place to close so they can take it over for their own means.  The fights go on and on in Road House pretty much at the expense of much of anything else. Gee, I didn't know Jake Gyllenhaal had it in him.  Also, I pass.  

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Zone of Interest - 4 Stars - February 2, 2024 - STREAMING - MAX

The Zone of Interest goes well beyond the usual horror of the Holocaust.  This film centers on the family of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Hoss.  Within the walls of their Villa, Hoss' wife Hedwig oversees a beautiful home and garden.  Beyond the walls, hundreds go to their death.  The contrast between the two worlds makes a powerful statement on war, ambition, and inhumanity.  I found The Zone of Interest one of the most unforgettable films in years.   

Friday, March 29, 2024

American fiction - 3 1/2 Stars - STREAMING - December 22, 2023

Jeffrey Wright balances family problems with his frustrations as a writer in American Fiction. Unable to gain attention for his writing, he creates a stereotypical "Black" character, and manages to fool the mostly white establishment.  American Fiction spins a sly story with deep meaning.  Which ending will you choose?