Friday, February 26, 2021

The Father - (THEATERS) - 3 1/2 February 26, 2021

 Anthony Hopkins breaks our hearts in the Father, as a once vital man descending into dementia.  Olivia Colman plays Hopkins' daughter, a woman moving on with her life who must soon find some one or some place to care for him.  The production takes us into Hopkins mind, as it begins to play tricks.  Although not an easy story to watch, those who do will remember Hopkins for yet another award worthy performance.  

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Nomadland - (HULU) 4 stars

 Nomadland captures contemporary life on the road.  Newly widowed Frances McDormand sells most of her possessions.  She packs her essentials into a van, and takes off for the open road.  Working from temporary job to temporary job, she joins the American nomad community.  Scenes in a potato warehouse or Amazon packing floor show the unglamorous truth.  However, has capitalism and the social network failed her and others like her, or does the call of the open road satisfy something deep.  That's what I like about Nomadland.  It leaves you plenty to ponder.  David Strathairn delights as a friend and possible love interest, whose fate comes with shades of gray.  Much of the story has a documentary feel, including actual members of the Nomad movement.  Now streaming on HULU, and favored to win the Oscar for best picture, best director, and best actress. Nomadland is something you need to watch.  

Minari - (THEATERS/STREAMING FEBRUARY 26TH) - 3 1/2 STARS

A Korean family moves from California to Arkansas in the 1980s to pursue the American dream in Minari.  Family head Steven Yeun hopes to grow Korean vegetables and sell to the emerging Korean food and spice vendors in nearby cities.  Writer-director Lee Isaac Chung bases the story on his own rural Arkansas childhood, an immigrant Korean in the rural south of the 1980s.  With their marriage floundering, the mother played by Yeri Han brings her mother to live with the family.  Viewers have focused on the performance of Yuh-Jung Youn as an eccentric Korean grandmother who almost dooms and ultimately saves the family.  Minari has the ring of truth especially in encounters with the locals, many of whom befriend and help the newcomers.  Will Patton comes through as a fundamentalist farmhand turned friend and supporter.  Mostly in Korean with some English, Minari tells a universal story worth your attention.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Movie Guide

Nomadland - 4 Stars - HULU - Frances McDormand packs her possessions in a van and goes on the road, moving from one temporary job to another. You can decide if she's left behind by American Capitalism or living and loving the open road?  

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom - 4 Stars - NETFLIX - During a tense recording session in 1920's Chicago, jazz artist Viola Davis crosses swords with ambitious horn player Chadwick Bosman, who produces several spine tingling moments.  

Soul - 4 Stars - DISNEY PLUS - Another Pixar delight, with Jamie Foxx as a would be jazz musician who lands in the great beyond with the assignment to mentor a troubled would be soul played by Tina Fey.  Wonderful animation and a touching story.  
   
Hamilton - 4 Stars - DISNEY PLUS - The film of Lin-Manuel Miranda improves on his ground breaking musical biography of Alexander Hamilton.  The camera directs the viewer's eye to a more understandable experience.  One medium improves on another. 

Kajillionaire - 4 Stars - AMAZON - Evan Rachel Wood tries to break free of a family of grifters in a delightful always surprising comedy. 

Miniri - 3 1/2 Stars - THEATERS - Korean family pursues the American dream in 1980's Arkansas with dramatic and unexpected results.  

Judas and the Black Messiah - 3 1/2 Stars - HBO MAX - Daniel Kaluuya as Fred Hampton, Black Panther Chairman, betrayed by William O'Neal, portrayed by Lakeith Stanfield, who infiltrates for the FBI.  

News of the World - 3 1/2 Stars - Tom Hanks returns a young girl to civilization in a perilous journey through post Civil War Texas.  

Promising Young Woman - 3 1/2 Stars - STREAMING JANUARY 15TH(?) ---Carrie Mulligan revenges her best friend's gang rape one hypocrite at a time.  

MLK/FBI - 3 1/2 Stars - AMAZON PRIME - Fascinating documentary history of Martin Luther King and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover's obsession with him.    

Mank - 3 1/2 Stars - NETFLIX - Gary Oldman breathes life into the story of the man who created the script of CITIZEN KANE while railing at the Hollywood system that rewards the mediocre. 

Boys State - 3 1/2 Stars - APPLE - 1000 outstanding Texas teens build an imagined government from scratch, engaging in some of the worst excesses of our time. 
 
The Personal History of David Copperfield - 3 1/2 Stars - PRIME - Beautiful reimaging of the Dickens classic with Dev Patel and a diverse and memorable cast.  
  
The Trial of the Chicago 7 - 31/2 Stars - NETFLIX - Aaron Sorkin's script recreates the infamous 1969 trial of the leaders of the demonstrations at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention.  Sasha Baron Cohen, Jeremy Strong and Frank Langella help recreate the circus like atmosphere of this hard to believe event.  

First Cow - 3 1/2 Stars - HULU/PRIME - Two woodsmen make their way in the far northwest of two hundred years ago.  A scheme to sell biscuits made with stone milk goes terrible wrong.  This one leaves you pondering.  

The Assistant - 3 1/2 Stars - HULU - Julia Garner will have your stomach tied in knots as a young woman in her first job as a low level go-fer to an abusive entertainment executive.  We never see the men she works for, we only feel her stress in a plot that delivers a gut punch.  

Sound of Metal - 3 1/2 Stars -  AMAZON PRIME - Punk rock drummer loses his heading and finds himself. 

White Tiger - 3 Stars - NETFLIX - Impoverished servant rises to the top in India - a story right out of Dickens with a touch of Hitchcock.  

I'm Thinking of Ending Things - 3 Stars - NETFLIX - Creative genius Charlie Kaufman dreams up a shaggy dog story that beings with a couple driving to visit his parents and morphs into a metaphor and then a ballet.  With Jesse Plemons and Jessie Buckley.  Tired of the usual?  Try this. 
 
Emma - 3 Stars - PRIME/HULU - Playful remake of the Jane Austen comedy of manners.  Anya Taylor-Joy is a delight.  

Bad Education - 3 Stars - HBO MAX - Hugh Jackman plays against type as a talented school superintendent with a taste for the high life brought down by a high school journalism student. And the whole thing is TRUE. 

One Night in Miami - 2 1/2 Stars---Based on the play.  Recreates the 1964 meeting between Malcolm X, Cassius Clay, Sam Cooke, and Jim Brown to discuss their role in the Civil Rights struggle.  Wanders from preachy to exhilarating.  

The Mauritanian - 2 1/2 Stars - IN THEATERS - Powerful indictment of torture at Guantanamo based on Guantanamo Diary - w/Jody Foster, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tahar Rahim.  

Blow the Man Down - 2 1/2 Stars -  AMAZON PRIME.  Sisters cover up murder in a fish village full of characters, including whorehouse madam Margo Martindale.

Paris Exit - 2 Stars - Trophy Wife/Widow  Michelle Pheiffer pulls her son Lucas Hedges out of school and runs through her money in Paris.  Auntie Mame did this a lot better.  

The Little Things - 2 Stars - HBO MAX - Denzel Washington and Rami Malek hunt serial killer Jared Leto in 1990's LA.  

Pieces of a Woman - 2 Stars - NETFLIX.  Vanessa Kirby gives a strong performance in a hard to watch family drama.   

WW84-Wonder Woman 1984 - 2 Stars - HBO MAX - Gal Gadot continues to dazzle, but the script's the same old same old, including a cheesy Donald Trump impersonator and Kristin Wiig as a newly impowered super woman. Two hours and twenty minutes you'll never get back.       

The Midnight Sky - 2 Stars - NETFLIX - Scientist George Clooney stays behind as Earth disintegrates.  Bummer. 

I'm Your Woman - 2 Stars -  AMAZON PRIME - Rachel Brosnahan as mob wife on the run.  A slow murderous downer showing a different side of the "Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" actress.   

On The Rocks - 2 Stars - Light comedy with Bill Murray as Rashida Jones's playboy father. 

Hubie Halloween - 2 Stars - NETFLIX - Adam Sandler in his usual story of loveable loser turned winner.  Somehow the usual plot is a little easier to take this time.  

Jean Seberg - 1 Star - PRIME - Dull biography of American born French new wave actress hounded by FBI for her civil rights activism.  Not Kristen Stewart's best.


The Mauritanian (THEATERS) - 2 1/2 Stars - February 12, 2021

 A "issue" film based on the shocking 2015 memoir Guantanamo Diary, The Mauritanian reminds viewers of America's torture of suspected terrorists.  Jody Foster plays driven ACLU attorney Nancy Hollander, who takes pro bono the case of Mohamedon Ould Slashi, whom authorities held fourteen years without formally charging.  Benedict Cumberbatch plays the government attorney, shocked by his discovery of the government's lengths of enhanced interrogation.  Tahar Rahim brings wit, anger and nuance to the lead.   Recent events have brought other issues to the forefront.  The Muraritanian provides a reminder of another wearisome subject that does not belong in our rear view mirror. .  

Friday, February 12, 2021

Judas and the Black Messiah - 3 1/2 Stars - HBO MAX - February 12, 2021

Judas and the Black Messiah shines a light on the story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Black Panther Party in late 1960's Chicago.  An unrecognizable Martin Sheen as FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, plants a mole in Hampton's organization, intent on undermining the natural born leader.  The FBI forces small time criminal William O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) to betray Hampton.  Daniel Kaluuya makes a convincing Fred Hampton in scenes displaying his ability to sway a crowd.  The portrait of Hampton completes with a touching portrait of his life partner Debra Johnson (Dominique Fishback.)  Judas and the Black Messiah  plays as a noir thriller, with O'Neill betraying  Hampton even as he comes to embrace Hampton's work,  addressing hunger, education, and police harassment.  The conclusion roars to a shocking gut punch.