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Reviews

02 Jan 2020
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There have been a lot of Little Women film adaptations. Most of you who go to the movies or watch them on TV are probably most familiar with the 1994 adaptation that starred Winona Ryder; the little vampire from Interview With the Vampire; and Batman. I recall liking that one. I mean, it had Batman and Vampire Girl in it, for God’s sake. And the girl from Beetlejuice! Now comes the umpteenth adaptation of the classic Louisa May Alcott novel—and it’s safe to say this one is the best adaptation of the story. Ever. Directed by rising directorial juggernaut Greta Gerwig (the magnificent, ultra-fantastic Lady Bird), who has a vision with her films that declares, “Hey, we aren’t screwing around here!” her third feature effort is a stunner across the board. It’s a beautiful thing to look at due to some of the year’s best art direction and camerawork. It’s…
29 Dec 2019
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So, as Cats started, I was actually liking it a bit. It looked weird as hell, and I could tell the cast was singing live on set—which I admire. But, after about five minutes, a malaise started to sink in that never lifted. That malaise is due mainly to the fact that this musical sucks to begin with. No amount of CGI wizardry (which, sadly, this film doesn’t have) can save this blight on humanity. The music is god awful, except for a brief interlude during which a beautiful melody sticks out like a sore thumb—that would be “Beautiful Ghosts,” a song co-written by Taylor Swift that is actually good. They should’ve let Taylor rewrite the whole damn thing. She actually shows up for a brief stretch toward the end of the movie, a life preserver in a sea of shit that, unfortunately, is snatched away before you can really…
26 Dec 2019
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Star Wars: Episode IX—The Rise of Skywalker is a disastrous, soulless squandering of the good will built up by The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Director J.J. Abrams and producer Kathleen Kennedy should’ve stepped back after producing this rancid film and realized that this franchise deserved a better sendoff. They should’ve eaten the dollars and started over. True fans would’ve waited for a real movie. But sadly, here it is, the last chapter in the Skywalker saga—a chapter that had me longing for The Star Wars Holiday Special in favor of it. Let me give you some thoughts as the anger flows through me like the Dark Side of the Force. The first hour is virtually unwatchable—fast and furious, but with no editing flow and no sense of purpose other than to get you to the next scene. Fans looking for answers or meaningful storytelling will not only be…
19 Dec 2019
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Adam Sandler is having a pretty good 2019. He made a triumphant return to Saturday Night Live; he re-teamed with Jennifer Aniston for the fairly watchable Murder Mystery on Netflix; and, oh yeah, he has just made what is, by far, the greatest film of his beautifully erratic career. With Uncut Gems, Sandler joins forces with directors Benny and Josh Safdie (makers of the excellent Robert Pattinson vehicle Good Time) and delivers the kind of dramatic performance—fully committed and thoroughly proficient—he’s hinted at in the past with strong efforts in Punch-Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories. As Howard Ratner, a New York City jewelry-store owner and gambling addict, Sandler catapults himself into the upper echelon of today’s fine actors. Not bad for the creative force behind Grown Ups 2. It’s 2012, and Howard has gambling debts with a bunch of criminals, including Arno (Eric Bogosian), a relative who doesn’t give…
19 Dec 2019
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Charlize Theron is uncanny as Megyn Kelly in Bombshell, a hit-and-miss take on the sexual-harassment scandals that plagued Fox News thanks to the deplorable Roger Ailes, played here by John Lithgow under a lot of makeup. The movie is propped up by terrific work from Theron, Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, and Margot Robbie as a composite character representing the many women who were assaulted or harassed by the likes of Ailes and Bill O’Reilly. Director Jay Roach is all over the place with his tone, with the film veering back and forth between dark comedy and serious drama. It never finds a balance, but the film has some good moments, especially thanks to Theron, who is amazing in every second she spends onscreen (and the makeup work is Oscar-worthy as well). Roach blows it with his portrayals of Bill O’Reilly (Kevin Dorff) and Rudy Giuliani (Richard Kind); they come…
12 Dec 2019
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The real-life horrors the DuPont company inflicted upon Parkersburg, W.Va., get a strong cinematic treatment from director Todd Haynes with Dark Waters, an earnest legal drama that skips lengthy courtroom sequences in favor of in-depth looks at those affected—on all sides of the case. Mark Ruffalo headlines the movie as Rob Bilott, a corporate attorney visited at his posh office one day by Wilbur (Bill Camp), a friend of his family. Wilbur, a lifelong farmer, shows up grumbling like a crazy person, screaming about dead cows and chemicals. Rob dismisses this agricultural Quint from Jaws, gets back to his meeting, and goes about his mostly comfortable day. However, the encounter with Wilbur eats at Rob; he decides to investigate further and eventually winds up on Wilbur’s farm—where close to 200 cows have perished due to ailments like enlarged organs and tumors. Wilbur thinks this is happening because of something in…
05 Dec 2019
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After a lot of publicity surrounding the digital de-aging of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman has arrived on Netflix (it remains on some local movie screens, too), and it’s a very good offering from the auteur. It has a few problems, but the opportunity to see De Niro, Pacino and Joe Pesci in a movie together under the Great One’s tutelage more than overrides the shortfalls. The film is based on a book about Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (De Niro) called I Heard You Paint Houses, which is actually the name of the film in the opening credits. Sheeran was a labor-union official and occasional hitman who had ties to Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). The film, like the book, claims that he was the actual triggerman in the assassination of Hoffa. The film covers a lengthy time span: We see Sheeran from his 30s up until…
05 Dec 2019
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Queen and Slim depicts the worst Tinder date … pretty much ever. Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith star as the title characters, two young people who meet in a diner for a mediocre online date. On their way home, they are pulled over by a cop who racially profiles them—and bad things happen. Queen and Slim go on the run, become social-media celebrities, and yes, start liking each other a whole lot more. Director Melina Matsoukas’ movie isn’t very original, but the atmospherics are solid, and the performances truly drive the film. Turner-Smith is terrific as a lawyer who finds herself on the wrong side of the law, while Kaluuya brings a sweet sadness to the teetotaling Slim. The film deals bluntly with its subject of police brutality, with both good and bad cops present. There’s no question why this film is being called the “black Bonnie and Clyde,” in…
04 Dec 2019
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Director Rian Johnson, maker of the divisive Star Wars: Episode VII—The Last Jedi, and also the brilliant Looper, takes a crack at the whodunnit genre—and comes up aces. Daniel Craig stars as private-investigator Benoit Blanc, mysteriously hired by somebody in a rich family after the strange “suicide” death of their patriarch, mystery-author Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer, still going strong). There’s something fishy about his death, and his personal nurse, Marta (the awesome Ana de Armas), knows something the rest of the family doesn’t. What transpires is a solid mystery with a fun set of characters featuring a stellar cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, LaKeith Stanfield and Chris Evans. Everybody has a blast, as does the audience, as Johnson takes the genre and twists it into an entertaining pretzel. Craig is especially good in a role that allows him to show his comic side, with…
28 Nov 2019
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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, based on the real-life friendship between Fred Rogers and journalist Tom Junod, is a beautiful film. It’s whimsical, sweet, complicated and full of warmth—just like that polite guy who used to put on his cardigan for children for many years on PBS. Who plays Fred “Mister Rogers” Rogers in this movie? Why, Tom Hanks, of course. You don’t get more perfect casting than the world’s most likable actor playing one of history’s most likable guys. The recent reveal that Hanks is an actual sixth cousin of Rogers is no surprise. Hanks plays Rogers in an honorable way. He doesn’t impersonate the man so much as adapt some of his mannerisms, his winning smile and that slow, concerned cadence in his voice. The performance stands as a terrific homage to a wonderful person. Actually, Fred Rogers is a supporting player (albeit a mighty important and…
21 Nov 2019
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For those of you who love cars, but are getting tired of the Fast and Furious franchise’s “vroom-vroom” formula, Ford v Ferrari will be a welcome ode to automobiles going very fast. It’s the 1960s, and Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) has had it up to here with Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone) and his fast, flashy cars. He and cronies such as Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal) and Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas) are cranky, and they want to send a message to the world that Ford isn’t just about family cars. They also want to win races and appeal to the younger, Baby Boomer demographic with Mustangs and the like. Enter Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), a race car driver who, after a heart condition benches him, becomes a designer and salesman. Ford hires Shelby to design a car that can beat Ferrari in races—primarily the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance…
14 Nov 2019
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Stephen King fans know he hated Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining for trivializing Jack Torrance’s alcoholism, and improvising on the evil powers of The Overlook Hotel. Doctor Sleep, King’s sequel to The Shining, seems to exist, in part, to right some of the wrongs King saw in Kubrick’s movie. Unfortunately, director Mike Flanagan, the man behind the excellent and creepy Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House, made the decision to incorporate Kubrick’s film into his own cinematic adaptation of Doctor Sleep. The results are a mixed bag of genuinely scary moments and passages that make the film too dependent on the glory of Kubrick. Simply put: It’s not a good idea to try to re-create a Kubrick moment without Kubrick’s involvement. The film starts in 1980, with Danny Torrance riding around the Kubrickian Overlook on a big wheel—and making that dreaded stop at Room 237, where that old lady stayed…