Tuesday, January 2, 2024

2023 Movie Guide

Mark Rylance stars in The Phantom of the Open

Maestro - 4 Stars - NETFLIX - December 1, 2023 - Bradley Cooper recreates 20th century icon Leonard Bernstein, with music, dance, and exuberance.  Seen through the eyes of Carey Mulligan as long-suffering wife and muse.  A dazzling tour de force.  

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. 

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.  

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 - 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 - 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.  

Air - 3 1/2 Stars - AMAZON PRIME - April 7, 2023 - Matt Damon and Ben Affleck recreate Nike's decision to create the Air Jordan sneaker for Michael Jordan.  Viola Davis steals the movie s Michael's mother. 

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 - 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.  

The Lost King - 3 Stars - AMC+ - STREAMING - March 31, 2023.  Sally Hawkins delights as the quiet shy determined woman whose research leads to the bones of King Richard the third - under a parking lot.  Based on a true story. 

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.  

Poor Things - 2 Stars - THEATERS - Update of Bride of Frankenstein, except this time she discovers sex.   

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


Thursday, December 28, 2023

Some Great Movies from 2023

 Best Movies of 2023 

1.  Oppenheimer - History as epic 

2.  Maestro - the Price of Genius 

3.  Killers of the Flower Moon - Criminal epic 

4.  Past Lives - Delicate Romance

5.  Zone of Interest - Corporate Evil 

6.  The Holdovers - Teacher/Student Break Through 

7.  Nyad - Exuberant Sports Triumph 

8.  American Fiction - Biting Satire 

9.  Barbie - Biggest of the Year 

10. Still - Michael J. Fox inspires 


Honorable Mention: 

Air, The Burial, Theater Camp, No Hard Feelings, The Lost King, Dream Senario 



Thursday, December 7, 2023

Saltburn - 2 1/2 STARS - THEATERS - November 7, 2023

Saltburn creates yet another riff on Scott Fitzgerald's great line "The rich are different from you and me."  Boy, are they ever in this comic thriller.  Young Oliver Quick, played by Barry Keoghan, arrives at Cambridge on scholarship, out classed, out dressed, out socialized. An encounter with golden boy Felix Catton changes things.  Soon poor waif Oliver runs with the in crowd, earning a trip to the Catton's family estate Saltburn for the summer.  The parents played by Rosamund Pike and Richard Grant, happily ignore life's annoyances.  Saltburn takes it's time like a slow burn, until the concluding few minutes when it catches fire and blazes.    

Monday, December 4, 2023

May/December - 3 1/2 Stars - November 17, 2023 - NETFLIX

Director Todd Haynes specializes in slightly disturbing off kilter female centric tales. He's produced a doozie in May/December.  Based on the tabloid story of a woman in her thirties who falls for and has sex with a 13-year-old boy, May/December poses this what if:  what if the couple gets married when the older woman gets out of jail, has more children, and settles down to a placid suburban life.  Twenty years pass, and their children prepare to leave the nest.  Julianne Moore plays Gracie, married to Joe played by Charles Melton.  As the couple prepare for the empty nest, actress Elizabeth Berry arrives to shadow the family an upcoming movie.  The triangle heats with anxiety and tension, as Elizabeth channels Gracie, and Joe begins to question the relationship.  May/December feels like a car crash. It dares you to look away.  The conclusion feels eerie, weird, and creepy---in the best sense of the word.   

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Maestro --- 4 Stars --- December 1, 2023 --- THEATERS --- Netflix

Maestro sweeps us into the whirlwind of composer/conductor/celebrity Leonard Bernstein, one of the most creative minds of the 20th Century.  Bradley Cooper's screenplay views Bernstein through the eyes of his wife Felicia, played by Carey Mulligan.  Her view steers us away from hero worship or greatest hits into the exasperation of a straight woman married to a bi-sexual genius. The Bernstein we see overflows with talent and ideas almost to the point of exhaustion.  The first third, in black and white, showing their courtship, celebrates American culture of the 40's and 50's.  They mingle with names casually dropped: Aaron Copeland, Bruno Walter, and Lorenz Hart.  A party scene with Betty Comden and Adolph Green delights.  Early on, director and star Bradley Cooper whisks Bernstein from his bed into the balcony of Carnegie Hall and onto the stage as a substitute conductor in a performance that makes him famous.  The lovers gallop from one setting to another, landing in the middle of Bernstein's "On the Town" ballet.  This creative genius comes with narcissism and a toll on those in the orbit.  Maestro's balance tilts toward Felicia, the grounding influence making Bernstein's success possible.  Bradley Cooper soars as Bernstein, however Carey Mulligan wins our attention.  I listen to classical music every day.  I have fond memories of a high school band teacher taking us through the brilliant score of West Side Story. I never admired Bernstein's conducting style---arms flying like a windmill.  I thought he distracted from the music.  I'm dropping my grudge after watching Maestro.  

Friday, November 24, 2023

Killers of the Flower Moon - 3 Stars - THEATERS - October 20, 2023

 Killers of the Flower Moon shines a light on history that needs repeating.  Set in 1920's Oklahoma, fate changes the plight of the Osage Indians, starving on their reservation land as the story begins.  Oil bursts from the ground, making members of the once impoverished tribe wealthy.  Wiley rancher William Hale, played by Robert De Niro, notices the number of white men marrying Osage women and sharing in their oil rights.  Taking his young nephew, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, under his wing, De Niro suggests the young man find a wealthy Osage woman.   He finds Mollie, a gentle spirit played by Lily Gladstone.  Soon, the couple forms a family.  DiNiro makes a great villain, whispering orders to DiCaprio much as Don Corleone whispered to Michael in the Godfather.  Killers of the flower Moon recreates 1920's Oklahoma beautifully, providing epic landscapes to an epic story.  The much discussed three and a half hour running time feels fine until the last hour.  Director Martin Scorsese has produced an epic with moments of brilliance.  He wraps with a head scratcher of an ending, breaking the spell so carefully created.