Sunday, October 1, 2023

Flora and Son - 3 1/2 Stars - APPLE TV - THEATERS - September 29, 2023

 A single mother struggles with her 14-year-old son.  One afternoon she rescues a guitar from a trash heap in hopes the gift will bring them together.  The guitar achieves its purpose just not the way you expect.  Flora and Son arrives courtesy creative genius John Carney, the filmmaker behind the naturalistic musical Once.  Fans will take particular notice of lead actress Eve Hewson who happens to be  Bono's daughter.  Actor Joeph Gordon-Levett adds another layer of delight as an online guitar teacher who takes Flora as a client when her son shows no interest in guitar.  Gordon-Levett speaks to the love of music that drives Flora and Son's charm.  A few sessions with him, and Flora finds her own voice.  I especially love a scene in which Flora watches a video of Joni Mitchell singing her timeless Both Sides Now.  I love the way Flora and Son lets the music play allowing us to cheer for these characters, even if we know where the story's going.   Fans of the recent Academy Award winner CODA will warm to Flora and Son.  The two films resonate.  

2023 Movie Guide

Mark Rylance stars in The Phantom of the Open
Oppenheimer - 4 Stars - 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.   

The Quiet Girl - 4 Stars - THEATERS - March 10, 2023 - Extraordinary story of a young girl's summer with relatives who treat her with kindness and respect.  Quiet, languid, and compelling.

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

Past Lives - 3 1/2 Stars - THEATERS - 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 - THEATERS - 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 - THEATERS - 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.  

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 - THEATERS - 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 - THEATERS - 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. 

BlackBerry - 3 Stars - THEATERS - May 12, 2023 - The rise and fall of the mobile phone that never saw Apple coming.  Hilarious and a bummer. 

No Hard Feelings - 2 1/2 Stars - THEATERS -June 23, 2023 - Helicopter parents hire Jennifer Lawrence to bring their sheltered son into adulthood.  She's 35 and he's 19.  A little icky but often funny. 

Asteroid City - 1 Star - PEACOCK - August 11, 2023, THEATERS - May 23, 2023.  1950's New Mexico village hosts a UFO and assorted characters.  Looks great.  Boring story.    


Still:  A Machael J. Fox Movie - 3 1/2 Stars - May 12, 2023 - Still documentary of Michael J. Fox's life and his current struggle with Parkinson's disease.  
Weird:  The Al Yankovic Story - 3 1/2 Stars - ROKU - September 8, 2022 - 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 - PEACOCK - October 7, 2022 - 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 - NETFLIX - 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 - AMAZON PRIME - 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 --- AMAZON PRIME --- 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 - AMAZON PRIME - 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.  

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 - NETFLIX - 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 - AMAZON PRIME - Tom Cruise shows a new generation how it's done in a patriotic sequel to the 1980's original.

Sharper - 3 Stars --- APPLE TV - Con artists one up each other in a plot that manages to rise above the holes in it.  Great cast includes old pros Julianne Moore and John Lithgow - and new pros Sebastian Stan, Briana Middleton, and Justice Smith.  

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

Flamin' Hot --- 2 1/2 Stars - June 9, 2023 - HULU - Eva Longoria directs the story of the janitor who convinced the Frito company to make Cheetos spicy.  Jesse Garcia plays the dreamy janitor - Tony Shalhoub the big boss who gives him a break.  Fun and funny and not quite true but whatever.   

The Menu - 2 1/2 Stars - November 18, 2022 - HBO MAX - 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. PEACOCK - 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 - HBO MAX - Olivia Coleman as troubled woman working for a struggling cinema in the 1980's.  Morose story of film and community. 

You People - 2 Stars - January 27, 2023 - NETFLIX - Black/White family culture clash with nice ensemble cast including Eddie Murphy and Julia Louis-Dreyfus 

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

Marlowe - 1 Star - February 15, 2023 - THEATERS - ROKU - Lian Nesson as Private eye Philip Marlowe.  Captures the look of the hard boiled LA noir classics but lacks the spark. 

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 - January 20, 2023 - 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 - NETFLIX - Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig can't save this talky 1970s environmental dark comedy.  

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

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Theater Camp - 3 Stars - HULU - July 14, 2023

 Theater Camp opens with a crisis.  The founder of a longtime summer camp for drama nerds falls into a coma, turning her beloved institution over to her clueless son.  Also, the camp is on the verge of bankruptcy.  But faster than you can say "Let's put on a show!" Theater Camp puts on a show and roars to a delightful conclusion complete with a last-minute Peggy Sawyer type coming to the rescue.  That Peggy Sawyer reference is an in-joke which is to say theater buffs will gets plenty of in-house laughs, but even if you never took a drama course, you'll find much to like in this breezy mockumentary comedy.  Molly Gordon (I loved her in season 2 of The Bear) and Ben Platt hold the camp together with personal drama, hot tears of despair, and heart.  Jimmy Tatro makes a fine villain.  Noah Galvin saves the day, in more ways than one, including a laugh out loud come out of nowhere turn.  I confess, I spent my first year in college taking drama courses and acting as silly as the characters in Theater Camp.  Of course, I loved it.  One more thing, the young campers of this production are talented and delightful.  They help Theater Camp fill 94 minutes with good cheer.  

Monday, August 14, 2023

Asteroid City - 1 Star - Theaters May 23, 2023 PEACOCK - August 11, 2023

I love Wes Anderson's work.  The Grand Budapest Hotel remains one of my all time favorites.  In his career, Anderson perfected the art of making comedies that take place in beautiful portrait like settings.  He sets his camera wide and lets the action take place within the frame.  Somehow in the Barbie and Oppenheimer rush of the summer, I never made it to Asteroid City.  Once it opened, I began to hear disappointing feed back. As of August 11th, Peacock began streaming Asteroid City.  Thanks to my Peacock subscription, I can tell you it's as bad as everyone says.  As the film begins, Bryan Cranston introduces the story of playwright Edward Norton working out his scenes of a visit to a New Mexico village famous for rumors of a spaceship landing.  The playwright scenes come in black and white - much the same as the technique used successfully in Oppenheimer.  The play within a play comes in full color, set in an arid desert with dollhouse like settings in which the characters explain themselves.  The retro 1950's setting and look play tio Wes Anderson's strength.  Once the dialog gets going, the story turns boring, so boring that Anderson's usual settings can't pull this off.  I think I might download Grand Budapest again, or watch Anderson's masterful The Royal Tenenbaums.  Thanks to streaming, I can watch the classics.  And thanks to streaming, Peacock saved me a disappointing trip to a theater.   

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Barbie - 3 Stars - July 21, 2023 - THEATERS

Director/Actress Greta Gerwig seals her place as one of our time's cleverest filmmakers.  In Barbie, Gerwig fashions a story that manages to both lampoon and celebrate the iconic doll, raising consciousness while delivering laugh out loud lines and situations.  Margot Robbie makes a perfect Barbie, finding her way from Barbie land to the real world in a journey with echos of The Wizard of Oz and Pinocchio.  She's the doll who wants to be a real girl.  Ryan Gosling turns Barbie's boyfriend Ken into a punchline with a message.  Barbie gives movie fans both enjoyment and conversation long after the credits. I miss the days when movies made their way into almost every conversation almost every week.  Thanks, Barbie, for bringing that back. A shout out to America Ferrara, who plays a Mattel executive and cues up a stirring monologue.  I remembered America's wonderful turn in Real Women Have Curves and the echos of that story in Greta Gerwig's Ladybird.  Kharma is a wonderful thing.  

Friday, July 28, 2023

Oppenheimer - 4 Stars - THEATERS - July 21, 2023

Director Christopher Nolan creates an epic worthy of comparison to Citizen Kane.  Cillian Murphy never loses our attention as the genius scientist recruited despite his left-wing past to organize and build the world's first nuclear weapon.  Oppenheimer builds to a powerful high point leading to the atomic test in the New Mexico desert, followed by euphoria and equally deep depression. Cutting back and forth in time, and from color to black and white, Oppenheimer stiches the forces that will bring down the man credited with ending WWII.  Passion and ambition. genius and betrayal combine for a rare grown-up epic