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.  

Nope - 2 Stars - Opens July 22, 2022

When Jordan Peele makes a movie, fans pay attention thanks to his 2017 masterpiece Get Out, one of the most creative comic/horror films of recent years. Peele's new film Nope spins a UFO story with a few flourishes.  Daniel Kaluuya, star of Get Out, plays a horse and animal wrangler working in Hollywood, enduring disrespect.  His ability with animals will help him deal with a UO hovering above his ranch.  Nearby, child star "Jupe" Park played by Steven Yeun operates a western theme park.  Kaluuya discovers the UFO has a taste for devouring horses.  Jupe hatches a scheme to draw the UFO out in front of a live audience.  Of course, the scheme backfires with deadly results.  Kaluuya uses his animal wrangling skills to ultimately defeat the menace.  Nope feels slow and familiar.  I watched hoping for the creative skill and pay off of Get Out.  Did Nope deliver?  I'm afraid the answer is in the title.  

Thursday, August 11, 2022

2022 Movie Guide

Mark Rylance stars in The Phantom of the Open

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.

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.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Where The Crawdads Sing - THEATERS - 3 Stars - July 13, 2022

 Where the Crawdads Sing combines mystery, murder, romance, and the North Carolina swamp in a story that spans 75 years.  Daisy Edgar-Jones plays Kya, the youngest member of an abused family living deep in the woods off the edge of a swamp.  One by one her family, including her mother, escape an abusive husband and father.  His death leaves the ten-year-old Kya to fend for herself.  Daisy Edgar-Jones (Of Normal People among other films) fits the role.  As she grows into a budding teenage beauty, clean-cut Tate Walker, played by Taylor John Smith befriends the "Swamp Girl" teaching her to read and write.  Friendship turns into love.  When college time comes, Tate vanishes leaving Kya vulnerable to local rogue Chase Andrews played by Harris Dickinson. Tate returns after college.  The resulting love triangle results in murder and a sensational trial.  Where the Crawdads Sing fits the pattern of earlier romance stories.  It reminds me of Fried Green Tomatoes or The Notebook or several of the other films based on Nicholas Sparks novels.  The young attractive actors help divert viewers thoughts about the validity of all this.  Where the Crawdads Sings knows its audience. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Cha Cha Real Smiith - 3 1/2 Stars - June 17, 2022 - APPLE TV


Writer/Director/Actor Cooper Raiff creates a charming young adult story in Cha Cha Real Smooth.  New graduate Cooper returns with his degree to live at home with his mother and little brother and his mother's boyfriend.  Unable to find a proper job, he sells hot dogs by day.  One night his mother needing a break asks him to take his little brother to a Bar Mitzvah.  At the party, he discovers his talent as a "party starter"---that is a guy who encourages kids to dance and mingle.  He bonds with a young autistic girl named Lola played by Vanessa Burghardt.  Their connection wins the attention of her single mother played by Dakota Johnson. Their meeting turns into an intriguing "will they or won't they" romance. Dakota Johnson gives one of her most charismatic performances.  I will look forward to whatever Cooper Raiff does next.