Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Blonde - 2 Stars - Netflix - September 28, 2022

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.   

2022 Movie Guide

Mark Rylance stars in The Phantom of the Open

Sidney - 4 Stars - Apple TV - September 23, 2022.  Sidney Poitier tells the story of his life---a journey as amazing as any of his films.   

The Phantom of the Open - 4 Stars - THEATERS - STREAMING? June 9, 2022 - Mark Rylance plays real life prankster Maurice Flitcroft with a twinkle in his eye as he talks his way into the British Open and tweaks the golf establishment. A delightful comedy based on truth with a surprising uplifting message.

Coda - 4 Stars - APPLE TV - 17-year-old discovers her passion for singing which mystifies her parents and brother, none of whom can hear. Emilia Jones is delightful in this heart warmer about the tension between ambition and family. Winner Best Film 2022 Oscars. 

The Worst Person in the World - 4 Stars - PRIME VIDEO - February 11, 2022 - Nominated for Best Foreign film and best screenplay, a delicious coming of age story about a young woman who can't quite find her path until she does.  Lead actress Renate Reinsve wins your heart. 

Lucy and Desi - 4 Stars - AMAZON TV - March, 2022 - Comic Any Poehler stiches together a definitive tribute to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, who created television's most brilliant sitcom in spite of the stormy problems of their marriage.

Emily the Criminal --- 3 1/2 Stars - THEATERS 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.     

Vengeance - 3 1/2 Star - 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 parter "Starter" and grows up thanks to a connection with single mom Dakota Johnston and her autistic daughter.  

The Tender Bar - 3 1/2 Stars---AMAZON - December 17, 2021 - Satisfying coming of age story.  Long island bar owner Ben Affleck mentors Tye Sheridan on his road to becoming a scholar and writer.

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 - THEATERS - July 13, 2022 - Romance, murder, and mystery in the North Carolina swamp over a 75-year span.  

Downton Abbey - 3 Stars - Delightfully entertaining episode advancing the story of the British upper crust family portrayed in the PBS series.

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

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

Deep Water - 2 Stars - HULU - March 18, 2022 - Ben Affleck deals with wife Ana De Armas' serial infidelities in various murderous ways.

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.  

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Sidney --- 4 Stars --- Apple TV --- September 23, 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

Elvis - HBO Max September 2, 2022 - 3 Stars

 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 (R) - 3 1/2 Stars - THEATERS - August 12, 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

Vengeance - 3 1/2 stars - Opens August 5, 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.