Film Review

A Colourful Noir

Three Billboards Outside Of Ebbing Missouri

Bleak, haunting, yet profoundly moving Three Billboards Outside Of Ebbing Missouri begins with a premise that seems to promise the viewer precious little. It is a symphony of damaged souls. An elegy to small-town dysfunction, yet there is an elegance and an honesty afoot. The script is so pared down it could have been chiseled by the pen of Samuel Beckett, it certainly is possessed in part by his economy of style, leaving space for the characters to say very little, but to reveal a tremendous amount about themselves, and their tragedy laden scenarios. Read more »

Lady Bird, Don't Fly Away!

For those of you who've navigated the slippery slope of micro-managing, or trying to micro-manage a teenage girl's life, Lady Bird will thoroughly resonate with you. If you haven't, maybe not so much, even if you've raised teenagers in your household, especially for any mother who wanted more for her daughter than her own life. For me, it resonated on many levels -- from my memories of Catholic school to awkward hormonal expressions to trying to fit in when you don't feel like you fit in with anyone. Or the pressure of applying for college -- the cost, the admittance to top tier schools, the distance... oh, the humanity of it all. This film deals with all of that existential angst when your brain is trying to make sense of your adulthood looming in the near horizon. Read more »

Re-Animate Me, Part 2!

January 9, 2018

The history of my personal love for animation (and the history of the Annual Animation Show of Shows) is laid out in my review for the 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows.

The newest collection of animated shorts had its initial premiere screening in Fall 2017. It was then shown at the Quad Cinema in January 2018. Unlike last year -- when there was only a single showing of the collection, at the Leonard Nimoy Thalia on the Upper West Side -- this year the show ran for two weeks, with two to four screenings per day.

Read more »

Don't Bogart Those Billboards

If I could, I would rent three billboards and they would read:

Billboard One: This movie is frustrating

Billboard Two: Because its story is badly flawed

Billboard Three: But the performances are great

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri goes rogue after the first act/first third of the movie. Read more »

The Shape of Water

The Shape of Water (Fox Searchlight)

After the credits rolled, I wrote in my notes: "an epic and magical adult fairytale drama for the ages." This beauty and the beast fable is set in Maryland in 1963 during the height of the Cold War as well as culture wars against civil, homosexual and women's rights, and reinforces what we already know about that time period. Director/co-writer Guillermo del Toro is not afraid to let us peer backwards to see the world today, to see the world through his lens and view the real monsters that roam our planet. He paints his world in a by-gone era patina that is both warm and familiar -- the spot-on period sets with the cars, and clothes and shabby apartments, the films and TV shows -- as well as the dark and paranoid. It was a time in America's history just before the barriers of the man vs "monster" ethos would to be confronted, whether it was the threat of the Soviet Union's communism and global domination, or the fear of African-Americans, the handicap, gays or women wielding a voice in our society; sadly these issues exist today. Even the creature's design is reminiscent of the original Creature From the Black Lagoon (Universal, 1954). But, having said all of that, it is more than just an homage to a bygone era. Read more »

Haze or Frat-Ricide

Who doesn’t enjoy a little Euripides with their breakfast cereal or, in this case, with their unrelenting celluloid exploration of sadistic, on-campus initiations? Of course, hazing has been ceaselessly explored in the news each time there’s a new frat and in previous efforts such as Todd Phillips and Andrew Gurland’s documentary Frat House (1998) and John Landis’ comedy Animal House (1978). Even the Lifetime channel (The Haunting of Sorority Row (2007)) and one of this year’s best movies (Prof. Marston and the Wonder Women) have taken out their paddles, exploring the female side of these rituals. However, seldom has Dionysus and the Bacchae been incorporated into the subject matter. Read more »

Blade Runner 2049

To be completely transparent, I purposely didn't read any reviews of Blade Runner 2049. I didn't want to be influenced by another critic's opinion.

Smart movies don't always catch fire; may not be box office blockbusters nor receive the universal critical acclaim they so deserve. Ridley Scott's Blade Runner sequel may not have caught the collective raves or boffo box office receipts that others movies can boast, but that doesn't diminish the fact that it is an incredible sequel and in some ways better than the original. In today's 90 minute "super hero" hyper-edited, 3D cinematic experience a movie like Blade Runner 2049 crawls along at a snail's pace, allowing the dystopian landscape to infect the movie audience's collective consciousness and to create a visual backdrop that affords the narrative its forward thrust. Read more »

Battle of the Tepid!

There should be a disclaimer at the beginning of Battle of the Sexes: "This story is based -- loosely -- on real people and events."

Rather than telling the actual story of Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, and depicting their characters with something approaching authenticity and depth, the film is as two-dimensional as if it were Battle of the Sexes: The LEGGO Movie. It is like watching a top tennis player get an easy overhead smash and dump it in the net -- or swing wildly and miss it entirely. Read more »

A Mighty Wind

Wind River is the best movie this year that you likely haven't seen and possibly haven't heard of.  

That's the problem with Hollywood these days.  While the film won accolades at Cannes (and has done well internationally), it's $11 million budget is it's (or Hollywood's) problem. Hollywood allocates marketing and advertising dollars based primarily on the size of a film's budget. The bigger the budget, the bigger the ad campaign.  And then there are the tiny Indie films with budgets of $1 million - $5 million. They are worth the risk of ad dollars because the profit reward can be so enormous. But, in the $10 million - $25 million range, movies get stuck in a no-man's-land. Read more »

Oh, What A Lucky Man...

When the New York Times gushes that a movie is "ridiculously entertaining" the expectations for that movie go through the roof. Few if any films can live up to that kind of over-the-top hype. Read more »

Rally Round The War Film, Lads

Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan's first act -- at 20 minutes -- depicts some of the most realistic and harrowing war footage in all of movie making. Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk takes that feat and turns it into two hours of equally harrowing, white-knuckle horror. Read more »

The Big Sick

Some romantic comedies transcend the mundane and crawl into your heart and stay lodged in there forever. The Big Sick is one such movie. Hard to imagine how a "coma comedy" could work, but in the able hands of veteran comedy filmmakers Judd Apatow (Trainwreck, This Is 40) and Barry Mendel (Trainwreck, The Royal Tenebaums), director Michael Showalter (Hello My Name Is Doris), and actor/writer Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley), the outcome is unforgettable, especially given that it's based on Nanjiani and his wife's near-fatal relationship. Read more »

Baby Driver or Oedipus Wrecks

Vroom! Vroom! Ansel Elgort, the cute-as-cute-can-be lead of the cancer romance, The Fault in Our Stars, bops around Baby Driver like Saturday Night Fever’s Tony Manero, with his ear buds semi-glued in. You keep expecting a few disco balls to pop into view while the Bee Gees let loose on the soundtrack.

Sadly, no balls. No white suit. And not much of a credible plot in this frenetic crime/coming-of-age hybrid. Read more »

The Incomparable Rose Hartman: I Shot Andy Warhol... David Bowie... and Bianca Jagger on a Horse

If Andy were still strutting about nowadays, he might just tweak his "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes" to "in the future, everyone will be starring in her own documentary or reality TV series."

The latest beneficiary of such a crowd-funded, ego-boosting journey into her past travails is the prickly “Tasmanian Devil of Photography,” octogenarian Rose Hartman. You who are of a certain age, especially those of you with fashionista leanings, will recall this salty soul's snapshots or at least those who were apprehended by her lens: Kate Moss, Steve Rubell, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Truman Capote, Lenny Kravitz, and Linda Evangelista. Her candid images were mostly taken at society functions, discos, and fashion shows. Read more »

Re-Animate Me!

The 18th Annual Animation Show of Shows
SVA Theater, NYC

I became an animation fan -- a true aficionado -- early in life. It had little or nothing to do with children's shows on television (Hanna-Barbera, Speed Racer, Gigantor, et al), though I watched and liked most of them. Rather, it was probably when I first saw Fantasia (likely mid-1960s), and then The Jungle Book (1967) and (of course!) The Beatles' Yellow Submarine (1968). By that time, I was actively looking for good (or great) animation. I was not a fan of Disney (though I have a sentimental fondness for The Aristocats (1970)), and anime feature films did not become widely known in the U.S. until the 1980s.

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