Monday, March 23, 2020

Blow the Man Down (Amazon Prime) - 2 1/2 Stars - March 19, 2020

Amazon Prime streams a sly comedy about murder and matriarchy.  A date gone wrong turns into a problem of corpse disposal ultimately solved by the community matriarchs.  A lusty male chorus of "Blow the Man Down" and other sea shanties add flavor to this small indie released direct to Amazon Prime.  2 1/2 Stars PG-13. 
The story begins as Morgan Saylor and Sophie Lowe attend their mother's funeral.  During the wake, younger sister Saylor learns her mother left the daughters a shaky business and an over mortgaged house.  Saylor moves her anger to the town bar, has a few too many, and gets picked up by a shady character.  A handy harpoon saves her virtue and leaves a new problem of body disposal.  Floating in a fish cooler in the ocean, the body plays second fiddle to a dead hooker from the local whore house run by zesty Margo Martindale.  A nifty plot turn involves a bag of cash and Margo the Madam discovering the murder weapon.  "Blow the Man Down" has echos of early Cohen brothers indies.  It strikes me as the kind of movie perfect for late night at a struggling indie theater or art house.  Arriving for release at this unfortunate time, a run on Amazon Prime is the best this small gem can hope for.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Weekend Movie Guide

Will Ferrell & Julia Louis-Dreyfus (r) star in Downhill

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood - 4 Stars. STREAMING. Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers befriends cynical journalist Matthew Rhys in a touching "Can you believe this guy?" story.

Ford v Ferrari - 4 Stars. STREAMING.  Ford Motor's Carroll Shelby & driver Ken Miles pair up to win the Le Mans competition in the 1960s. Matt Damon & Christian Bale, plus great production and an old school script make magic.

Little Women - STREAMING.  4 Stars. Energetic, entertaining reboot of the classic, directed with a sure hand by Greta Gerwig.

Harley Quinn:  Birds of Prey - STREAMING.  3 1/2 Stars.  Outrageous feminist fun.  Margot Robbie and cast kick a**.

Parasite - STREAMING. - 3½ Stars. Korean comedy/horror thriller. Lower class family worms their way into a 1% family. Then fun begins, including a couple of off-the-rails twists.

Jojo Rabbit - 3½ Stars. STEAMING.  A young German boy conjures Hitler as his imaginary friend during World War II. Great acting. Threads the needle between comedy and tragedy.

Emma - STREAMING. 3 Stars.  Beautiful remake of the Jane Austen comedy of manners.

Just Mercy - STREAMING. 3 Stars. Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx performances make this inspirational story worth watching.

1917 - STREAMING. 3 Stars. Sure-handed World War I drama features technical achievement of appearing uncut.

Knives Out - 3 Stars. Gentle parody of classic who-done-it stories. Daniel Craig, Christopher Plummer and a cast of thousands.

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.

The Gentlemen - STREAMING. 2 1/2 Stars.  Matthew McConaughey and friends laugh their way through a British crime caper.

Bad Boys for Life - 2 1/2 Stars.  Better than expected sequel with Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, a new younger cast and a few grandpa jokes.

Downhill - 2 1/2 Stars. Julia Louis-Dreyfu and Will Ferrell comic remake of unnerving Swedish film about an unraveling marriage. 

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - STREAMING. 2 Stars. Finally! It's over.

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

Didn't See it, Don't Wanna See itIn honor of my increasing grumpiness toward the new world of movies...

Cats - Sorry, but I don't have the brain cells to waste.

Joker - Saw it, wish I hadn't.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Emma. - 3 stars - Opens February 28, 2020

Director Autumn de Wilde turns the new retelling of Jane Austen's "Emma." into a beautiful yet funny feast.  3 Stars Rated PG. 
Anya Taylor-Joy plays a young woman of privilege who believes she know best in arranging the affairs of those around her.  Of course she doesn't.  This production rates as one of the most beautiful of the year.  The director won her spurs as a fashion photographer and shows it.  The great Bill Nighy steals every scene as Emma's befuddled father.  An equally quirky cast add to the fun. I'm a fan of Taylor-Joy from her star turn in "Thoroughbreds" and "The Witch."  She turns "Emma." into an English major's delight.  Anybody up for a double feature of "Emma" and "Little Women?" 3 stars PG.

Jean Seberg - 1 Star - Opens February 28, 2020

Jean Seberg left Iowa for France in the 1950s where she grew into a French New Wave darling because of her role in "Breathless."  This film biography concentrates on Seberg's return to Hollywood and affair with a member of the Black Panther party, which draws the attention of the FBI.  1 Star Rated "R" 
Kristen Stewart never manages to submerge into the role of the former film star.  Vince Vaughn add cringeworthy scenes as a driven FBI agent as does Steven Root as Seberg's agent.  Anthony Mackie manages his role as Seberg's revolutionary lover.  The script doesn't help any of them. 

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Downhill - 2 1/2 Stars - Opens February 14, 2020

Remake of the biting Swedish unraveling marriage story  "Force Majeure" with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell threading the needle between laughs and disappointment.  The snappy 82 minute running time helps.  2 1 /2 Stars Rated "R" 
Ironically, the week after the international film "Parasite" won the Best Picture Oscar, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell star in an Americanized remake of a far better foreign film from Sweden.  In "Downhill," a wealthy American family spare no expense on a ski vacation in the Alps. Relaxing on a terrace preparing to order soup, a sudden planned avalanche gets out of control unexpectedly smothering the diners in white powder.  Julia emerges from the onslaught holding tight to her two sons, preparing to die. Will Ferrell has run for his life, leaving the other three to fend for themselves.  He returns, sits down, and orders soup.  For the remainder of the story, the couple and their sons deal with the  rather large elephant in the room, the cowardly reaction of their husband and father.  Julia-Louis-Dreyfus, and Will Ferrell thread the needle between comedy and her recognition of his weakness and desperate attempts to hide them.  "Downhill" plays out in an easy to take 82 minutes.  Those who saw the original Swedish version,  "Force Majeure," will find this toothless, sort of like what might happen if there's an American remake of "Parasite."

Friday, February 7, 2020

Birds of Prey (R) - 3 1/2 Stars - Opens February 7, 2020

Girl Power has rarely been as much fun as the antics Margot Robbie and cast deliver in "Birds of Prey."  This sequel far surpasses the original  "Suicide Squad" thanks to an energetic cast and fun to watch script filled with delightful revenge.  Ewan McGregor makes a fine villain who gets his but good.  What more do you want? 3 1/2 Stars and an "R" for violence with a capital "V".
I had no idea "Birds of Prey" would be so much fun, considering the darkness of the original "Suicide Squad." Now broken up from her boyfriend the Joker, Harley Quinn played by Margot Robbie goes on the run from most of Gotham, especially psycho criminal Black Mask, played by Ewan McGregor.  (Don't ask where he gets  his masks.) Harley takes on the bad guys with the help of Mary Elizabeth Winstead's hilariously droll "Huntress," Jurnee Smollett-Bell's songbird Black Canary, Rosie Perez's rogue detective Renee Montoya, and Ella Jay Basco, a precocious 13 year old as Cassandra, who swallows the item everyone wants. The fight scenes approach a perfect mix of comedy, violence, and dance. The dialog made me laugh out loud.  The mix turns out an unexpected pleasure.