Saturday, January 7, 2023

2023 Movie Guide

Mark Rylance stars in The Phantom of the Open

Weird:  The Al Yankovic Story - 3 1/2 Stars - Hit song parody comic Al Yankovic creates a completely made up story of his life, with Daniel Radcliff as Weird Al.  One of the year's most hilarious delights celebrating Weird Al's music and current music biographies.  A delight.  

Tar - 3 1/2 Stars - THEATERS - Cate Blanchett mesmerizes as a talented arrogant genius conductor.  Her rise and fall exhausts the viewer, but in a good way.  

Emily the Criminal --- 3 1/2 Stars - STREAMING - August 12, 2022. - Edgy Aubrey Plaza dares you to look away in this thriller crime drama.  An art school dropout with student loan debt, she learns the art of credit card theft launching a breath-taking adventure.    

All Quiet on the Western Front - 3 1/2 Stars - NETFLIX - October 20, 2022 - German boys learn war is not a game - the hard way.  A powerful remake of a classic film and novel.     

Vengeance - 3 1/2 Star - STREAMING - July 29, 2022 - East coast podcaster B.J. Novak undertakes adventure and a murder investigation in West Texas.  Ashton Kutcher delights with some really weird dialog.  A blue state fish out of water tale in red state Texas with sharp comedy and nice twists.  

The Outfit --- PRIME VIDEO --- 3 1/2 Stars --- March 22, 2022 - Mark Rylance poses as a quiet British tailor in 1950's Chicago all the while keeping an eye on the mob using his store as a front.  The set up turns into a twisty gob smacking thriller.

Cha Cha Real Smooth --- APPLE --- 3 1/ 2 Stars --- June 17, 2022 - Writer/Director/Actor Cooper Raiff creates a charming story of a just graduated college kid who finds his voice as a Bar Mitzva party "Starter" and grows up thanks to a connection with single mom Dakota Johnston and her autistic daughter. 

The Fabelmans - 3 Stars - Theaters - November 23, 2022 - Steven Spielberg reimagines his childhood through the eyes of his parent's marriage problems and his discovery of moviemaking.   A little long and a little slick, but moving nevertheless.  

A Christmas Story Christmas --- HBO Max - 3 Stars - November 17, 2022 - Peter Billingsley updates the Christmas classic as Ralphie, bringing his family to celebrate the holidays in his boyhood home.  Surprisingly hits some of the same chords of the original.  Better than expected. .  

The Banshees of Inisherin - THEATERS - 3 Stars --- November 4, 2022.  Rural Irish comedy with Colin Ferrell and Brendan Gleeson.  

The Good Nurse - 3 Stars ---NETFLIX --- September 11, 2022 - Tense medical thriller based on the true story of serial killer nurse Charlie Cullen.  Great cast includes award winners Jessica Chastain, and Eddie Redmayne plus Noah Emmerich, and Kim dickens.  

Elvis - 3 Stars - HBO Max September 2, 2022 - the rise and fall of Elvis told grand opera style by over-the-top director Baz Luhrmann.  

Where the Crawdads Sing - 3 Stars - STREAMING - July 13, 2022 - Romance, murder, and mystery in the North Carolina swamp over a 75-year span.  

Top Gun: Maverick - 3 Stars - May 27, 2022 - THEATERS - STREAMING - Tom Cruise shows a new generation how it's done in a patriotic familiar sequel to the 1980's original.

Babylon - 2 1/2 Stars - December 23, 2020 - Overstuffed 1920's Hollywood epic at least an hour two long, the boring parts offset by exhilarating moments.   

The Menu - 2 1/2 Stars - November 18, 2022 - THEATERS - Ralph Fiennes dominates this horror comedy as an angry chef intent on getting even with his best customers.  

She Said - 2 1/2 Stars ---November 18, 2022. THEATERS - By the numbers story of the New York Times reporting on the Harvey Weinstein scandal.  Uplifting but lacks the tension of All the President's Men or Spotlight.  

Empire of Light - 2 1/2 Stars - December 16, 2022 - Olivia Coleman as troubled woman working for a struggling cinema in the 1980's.  Morose story of film and community.   

Nope - 2 Stars - STREAMING - July 22, 2022 - Jordan Peele's UFO sci fi drama feels ordinary compared to his masterpiece Get Out.

Blonde - 1 Star - September 23, 2022 - NETFLIX - Hard to watch story of 1950's icon Marilyn Monroe's life. Beautifully produced but explicit, long, and painful. Hint:  She had Daddy issues.  

The Son - 1 Star - November 25, 2022 - NETFLIX - Hard to watch family drama starring badly miscast Hugh Jackman as the clueless father of a depressed son. 

White Noise - 1 Star - December 30, 2022 - Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig can't save this talky 1970s environmental dark comedy.  

The Whale - Zero - December 14, 2022 - THEATERS - morbidly obese man tries to square thigns with his family.  Mean spirited and hard to watch. 

Friday, November 25, 2022

The Fabelmans - 3 Stars - THEATERS - November 23, 2022

Steven Spielberg - certainly the most successful filmmaker of our time - revisits his childhood in a thinly veiled coming of age story.   The Spielberg family becomes The Fabelmans - a frustrated concert artist mother, a brilliant engineer father, an anxious oldest son who becomes a film director, and three daughters.  The family moves from New Jersey to Arizona to California, each move increasingly stressful.  We see young Sammy Fabelman, played by Mateo Zoryan Francis-De-Ford discover movies at a screening of The Greatest Show on Earth.  His mother hands him the family movie camera and sparks fly.  Soon Sammy is filming his Lionel train crashing in a scenario similar to Cecil B. DeMille'.  Joining the Boy Scouts and studying for his photography merit badge, young Sammy directs his fellow scouts in mock war films.  He wraps his sisters in toilet paper for fake zombie movies.  A visit from Judd Hirsch as Uncle Boris brings the conflict between art and life into focus and gives us a better take on Sammy's eccentric mother, played by Michelle Williams.  The mother claims the center of the family chaos.  Unhappy and frustrated and a major influence on her budding artist son.  Their relationship turns rocky when he realizes the family friend played by Seth Rogen might be more than that to his mother.  The Fabelmans runs two and a half hours and feels long.  A high school thread with bullying and a girlfriend sometimes falls flat.  A scene of Michelle Williams driving her children toward a tornado pays off in such a typical Spielberg manner that it doesn't feel real.  A personal foul for me comes early in the movie, when the family in 1952 drive to the movies in a 1955 Plymouth - three years before they were made.  That's my own childhood interfering, my 9-year-old love of cars when they were new in the 1950s.  The Fabelmans gave me much to ponder and took me back to my own childhood and chaotic family. The Campbell chaos created a movie loving smarty pants, not a film genius.  

She Said - 2 1/2 Stars - November 18, 2022 - THEATERS

New York Times reporters Megan Twohey and Jodi Kantor's investigation of producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual abuse and misconduct brought the film mogul to justice, and also supercharged the "Me Too" movement against sexual harassment.  She Said presents a by the number's newsroom story, with Carey Mulligan as Twohey and Zoe Kazan as Kantor.  The two actresses represent the journalism profession quite believably.  Patricia Clarkson and Andre Baugher add credibility as their editors.  Juggling marriage and motherhood, the two women follow leads and encourage witnesses to come forward.  She Said falls in the league of All the President's Men and Spotlight but lacks the tension of those somewhat better movies.  We know the outcome.  Harvey Weinstein's now resides in prison and faces more trials.  She Said deserves viewing as it gives victims a voice. One of those victims, Ashley Judd, plays herself in the film.  She Said also reminds us of the importance of investigative journalism.  The result is worthy and satisfying, even if not as exciting as the best of the investigative journalism films of our times.    

A Christmas Story Christmas - 3 Stars - HBO MAX - November 17, 2022

Christmas almost wouldn't be Christmas without the 24-hour back-to-back cable marathon of the original A Christmas Story, starring a young Peter Billingsley as Ralphie, the kid who desperately wants a Daisy Air Rifle from Santa.  Cable TV has made us familiar with almost every scene of the 1983 film.  Frankly the idea of a sequel made me a little squeamish.  In spite of my resistance, I'm happy to report I fell for this follow up, produced and starring Peter Billingsley from the original, now grown up with a family of his own.  A family tragedy - the death of his father - calls the family back to Ralphie's boyhood home for the holidays, where Ralphie's friends have stayed and where new versions of the old neighborhood bullies live to torture Ralphie's kids.  Julie Hagerty --- always good for a comic turn - doesn't disappoint as Ralphie's mom.  The story echos many of the favorite points and feelings of the original, including imaginary sequences and a visit to Higbee's Department Store - still operating as this takes place in the early 1970s.  The holiday trip comes to a delightful conclusion.  I'll still watch the original, but I enjoyed this follow up and might watch it again as well.  

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Menu - 2 1/2 Stars - November 18, 2022 - THEATERS

Brilliant chef Julien Stowki, played by Ralph Fiennes - has had it with his "A" list customers, who must travel by boat to his exclusive island restaurant and pay $1250 each for whatever he's cooking that night. In The Menu He arranges an invitation only evening inviting a noted food critic, an over the hill movie star, a wealthy couple in a failing marriage and a pack of money men for a night in which they learn they will never survive.  Anya Taylor-Joy catches his eye as Margot - a last minute date brought by Nicholas Hoult, a foodie wannabe.  The chef recognizes her as not of the one percent, which gives her a fighting chance to live.  I love the idea of comedy-horror, best represented by Get Out. This is no Get Out.  However, The Menu has its moments and breezes by in about an hour and forty minutes.  Real foodies will probably recognize the food.  I enjoyed watching the chef cook a mouthwatering cheeseburger.  

Thursday, November 17, 2022

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story - 3 1/2 Stars - Roku Channel Free - September 8, 2022

You remember Weird Al - the guy who took pop hits from the 80s and turned them into comic parodies.  Michael Jackson's Beat It became Eat It, Madonna's Like a Virgin - Like a Surgeon and on and on.  Now Al Yankovic makes up an outrageous movie biography - in essence a parody of movie biographies.  Good sport Daniel Radcliff, in his life after Harry Potter, seems the perfect actor to inhabit Weird Al.  The comedy starts strong, and roars to a high point when Weird Al attends a party of his idols, including cheesy imitators of Pee Wee Herman, Salvador Dali and Wolfman Jack (channeled by Jack Black.).  Other stand outs include Rainn Wilson as Dr. Demento, Evan Rachel Wood as the most rapacious version of Madonna you've ever seen and Quinta Brunson as a smiling exuberant Oprah Winfrey. It's all in good fun and delivers good fun, one of the best fun times of the year.