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.  

Thursday, November 23, 2023

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.

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 - 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 - 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

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 - 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.  

Killers of the Flower Moon - 3 Stars - 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.  

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. 

Anatomy of a Fall - 1 Star - THEATERS - 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


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.  
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.   

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

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. 

The Holdovers - 3 1/2 Stars - November 10, 2023 - THEATERS

The Holdovers reunites actor Paul Giamatti with director Alexander Payne, the man who turned their last collaboration into the delightful film Sideways. Payne also charmed audiences with Nebraska and The Descendants, arguably one of George Clooney's greatest roles.  So, what I'm saying is, they had me at "Hello." Giamatti teaches ancient history at a prep school somewhere in the far northeast.  The guy isn't exactly Mr. Chips, in fact, the students hate him, making fun of him behind his back.  Even the administration doesn't like him, which explains the set up.  The professor is required to stay in school over the holidays babysitting several young students unable to go home for various reasons.  A twist of fate leaves Giamatti with the excellent young actor Dominic Sessa.  The school cook played by Da'Vine Joy Randolph rounds out the characters, who ultimately take off on a road trip where everyone learns a thing or two from each other.  Although the plot is fairly predictable, it's good predictable.  I liked where it took me.  You won't find The Holdovers on one of your screening services for a while.  That's ok. This one's worth trekking to the theater to watch.  

Nyad - 3 1/2 Stars - October 20, 2023, NETFLIX

Nyad turns a true life sports story into a compelling film.  Annette Benning plays competitive swimmer Diana Nyad, whose achievements included swimming around Manhattan and breaking the open ocean record tackling the swim from the Bahamas to Florida.  Decades pass, and on turning 60, Nyad decides to train for the one swim that eluded her---the swim from Cuba to Florida, a 103-mile marathon.  Benning does much of her own swimming.  Cheered on and coached by her friend Bonnie Stoll, Nyad endured several failed attempts.  As Stoll, Jodie Foster turbo charges the story, which moves at a clip from the opening frame.  I especially liked the manner in which the filmmakers explain Nyad to those who might not remember her achievements.  Foster and Benning make as great a team as the real Nyad and Stoll.  I found Nyad one of the year's best.  

Anatomy of a Fall - 1 Star - October 13, 2023 - THEATERS

The critics are buzzing over Anatomy of a Fall, (French subtitled some English) a mystery surrounding a disintegrating marriage.  As the story begins, a young woman arrives to interview a successful writer played by Sandra Huller.  During the meeting her husband, working a few flights above, plays music so loud the interview must stop.  The couple's son leaves the chalet to walk the family dog.  On returning, he discovers his father has fallen from his attic room to his death.  Who done it?  Did Ms. Huller push him, or simply drive him to suicide.  The French justice system will leave those of us unfamiliar with it scratching our heads.  Gradually clues drop, and pieces of the puzzle fall into place.  The conclusion, for me, falls as flat as the husband's descent from his attic room.  Anatomy of a Fall suffers from too high expectations.  Lower yours if you go.  I'm waiting to watch Huller in another highly touted film The Zone of Interest.  

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Burial - 3 1/2 Stars -AMAZON PRIME - October 13, 2023

The Burial teams Tommy Lee Jones and Jamie Foxx - a small businessman and charismatic lawyer taking on a giant corporation.  Jones owns a string of funeral homes.  A large corporation offers to buy part of the business, then delays completing the contract.  The adversaries go to court, and the drama heats.  Bill Camp provides an excellent villain - a one percenter who conducts business on his multi-million-dollar yacht.   The Burial addresses the issues of race and corporate greed with subtle aplomb.  The stakes increase as Camp hires one of the most powerful Black firms in the country to fight Foxx, whose firm specializes in personal injury cases.  Jurnee Smollett arrives with credentials and attitude.  The Burial tells its predictable story with great humor and heart.  The plot, most certainly enhanced for dramatic effect, comes complete with echos of Erin Brockovich.  Nothing wrong with that in my book.