Monday - June 1, 2020
Categories of Reviews
 

Critic & Son – Star Wars Edition

May 28th, 2020

You shouldn’t expect your kids to be into the same things you are. It certainly wasn’t the case with my father and me. Bill was a World War II veteran, a lover of big band music, and a guy with the kind of effortless charisma that made him likable to everyone he came across.* He was also a casual moviegoer. I remember him laughing himself into a mild asthma attack during The Naked Gun, and I remember us seeing both Goodfellas and The Silence of the Lambs theatrically. However, I should emphasize he was a casual moviegoer. Did he care about the works of Altman and Kurosawa? Nope. Not even a... Read More

Touchable

May 20th, 2020

Sometimes the meaning of a life is revealed at the end of it. We’ve seen that in film for decades, and perhaps the best example of this is Citizen Kane.* After a meteoric rise and a life spent in journalism and the halls of power, Charles Foster Kane is moments away from death. He whispers, “Rosebud,” and as the film commences, we learn that all the power and prestige in the world is meaningless without love. A real life tends to be messier. Sometimes that’s problematic, and reality is jettisoned in favor of a narrative. The end result might look a bit like Braveheart, a cracking good movie... Read More

The Worst of All Possible Parents

May 15th, 2020

The Willoughbys is streaming on Netflix Once upon a time, there lived a parent. This parent had the colossal misfortune to be a) alive during a pandemic and b) in charge of children. It was bad enough that the wicked virus forced people to stay inside.* Movie theaters closed. Baseball stadiums were empty. Jobs vanished. People scoffed at the idea of eating at buffets. As you can imagine, all that time spent inside was incredibly boring for the parent. There were only so many times they could make sourdough bread! But as dull as it was for the parent, it was a thousand times worse for their kids.... Read More

Return of the Sad Action Guy

May 10th, 2020

Extraction is streaming on Netflix now. Not all action movies are created equally. You know that, and you know there’s a wide world of difference between an honest-to-God classic like Die Hard and a disappointment sandwich like A Good Day to Die Hard. Like me, you’re likely stuck in coronavirus lockdown, and you’re likely looking for entertainment to take the edge off. The question is, what flavor of action movie are you after? If you break it down, there are really three kinds of action protagonists. The first is Happy Action Guy. Bruce Willis has played quite a few of them, and despite... Read More

The Expanse of Dreams

May 6th, 2020

The Room is currently streaming on Shudder. Some people love home renovation projects. Can’t get enough of them. I am not one of those people, due to a comical lack of handyman skills. An example? My involvement in a house painting project with my wife ended with an irritated lesson in proper brush techniques and the hissed admonition to “Go get pizza. Just go.” Needless to say, I got the pizza. Your experience might have been different. Many years ago, my friends Stacy and Dave bought a home located in a small town in New England. Having been built in the late 1700s, their house passed through... Read More

Language!

April 21st, 2020

Coffee & Kareem is streaming on Netflix. We can’t help what we find funny. Who knows where it comes from in the first place? We all have those particular peccadillos that crack us up and make little to no sense. That’s just it—our sense of humor is simply that, a sense. There’s no logic, no rhyme or reason to explain it. Years ago, I worked with a guy and got a very close look at his sense of humor. He was responsible, well-liked, and good at his job. Yet no matter what he was doing, if he saw someone fall, he would immediately die of laughter. You’d hear this loud, almost Joker-style... Read More

Mahk’s Pahking the Cah in Hahvahd Yahd

April 14th, 2020

Spenser Confidential is streaming on Netflix. Gather round, children, and let Graybeard Tim regale you with tales of the Long Ago Times! Back in the day, there were three tiers of screened entertainment. The first was theatrical films. This was where the Scorseses, Spielbergs, and Coppolas of the world lived, and actors like Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise strode the world like a colossus. In short, it was the big time. The second tier was television, and at the time it was looked at as a decidedly lesser art form.* You had formulaic cop shows with lawmen (and they were almost always men) who would... Read More

Ignition

April 6th, 2020

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is streaming on Hulu. Connections are everything. We all know that humans are social animals. We all know that there’s an inescapable aspect of us that yearns to be around others. That connection might be on a professional level, a familial level, a romantic level. Even introverts, who might feel like they have been in training for current events, need somebody else in their lives. Making the right connection is hard enough. You have to be in the right place at the right time with the right person. Even then, the bonds can be tenuous. Ghosting seems like a 21st-century... Read More

Up The Down Elevator

March 31st, 2020

The Platform is streaming on Netflix now. It’s hard enough for a quality film to break through to audiences under normal circumstances. The Motion Picture Association of America tells us that, despite the usual fluctuations, an average of 600 movies are released yearly. Of that number, some of them have advantages. Major studio backing and a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign can get a film a hell of a lot closer to the finish line of profitability, regardless of its actual quality. But, as you’ve probably noticed, we’re a country mile past “normal” these days. Going to the movies... Read More

The Grind

March 19th, 2020

We’re all scared. Can you blame us? There’s a pandemic cutting through every corner of the world. The guy who’s supposed to be in charge doesn’t appear to know what he’s doing. People are hoarding toilet paper, for God’s sake. As a species, as a country, and as individuals, we’re living in a time of great uncertainty, and it might feel like we’re going to hit bottom any minute. What are we supposed to do? You know who knows a little something about that? Ben Affleck. It wasn’t easy for him, growing up with a father who was an alcoholic and the eventual split that took place between... Read More

A Little Magic

March 9th, 2020

The internet has given us a great deal. From my laptop or phone, I have access to several lifetimes’ worth of information and culture. I can order a pizza, have it personalized precisely to my specifications, and it will be delivered to my overpriced hovel—all without having to speak to a human being. It’s a kind of magic. The internet has also taken away a great deal. It can feel like decency is in short supply sometimes, and it can also feel like blizzards of information hide the fact that much of the information can’t be trusted. One of the worst casualties of the information age is... Read More

A Disappearing Act

March 2nd, 2020

The good news is, we’re in a golden age of horror movies. Back in the old days, horror wasn’t taken seriously as a genre. If you liked a good scare, you’d run into a few problems; you’d need to sift through a Mount Everest of crummy movies to unearth the very occasional gems. When you did find something good, who were you going to talk to about it? Certainly not the people who would snobbishly decry the degeneracy of horror. Things changed, and for once, they changed for the better. I have friends online that I can talk movies with. There’s a streaming service, Shudder, dedicated exclusively... Read More

The Feel Bad Movie of The Year

February 24th, 2020

Not long ago on my birthday, I decided to do something for myself. To celebrate my inevitable march toward old age and the grave, a drive in the mountains was just the thing. I fired up the trusty Prius, put my iPhone music on shuffle,* and off I went into the majesty of Colorado’s iconic Front Range. I stopped at Flagstaff Lookout Point. The road to the top was closed due to snow, and I figured a little stroll would do me good. After a few minutes of picking my way through the recently fallen snow, I became acutely aware of two things. First, as far as I could tell, I was the only one up there.... Read More

Objects in Motion

February 17th, 2020

Who can say how we’ll react during a crisis? We all want to believe that, when the moment comes, we’ll step up. We’ll perform admirably and be a credit to our friends, family, and ourselves. Some people dream of a situation* where they’re the only one who knows what to do and saves the day. More often, things just happen. For example, back in January of 2014, Lauren Prezioso and her family took a day to relax at their local beach in Coffs Harbour, Australia. She heard screams. A mother was panicking and yelling for help as her two boys were being swept out by the tide. Lauren was among... Read More

Feathering the Nest

February 10th, 2020

I like it when something cool comes from something damaged and terrible. For example, the DC Extended Universe. Initially, they were not off to a great start. They had a Superman who was mopey, grumpy, and seemed to save people not because he was compelled to help, but because he was afraid of being written up by his manager. They had a Batman who was not so much obsessed with punishing crime as he was having a psychotic break.* They also had a Harley Quinn trapped in a movie that didn’t deserve her. Perhaps you recall 2016’s Suicide Squad. It was a damn good concept for a movie, with the idea... Read More

Drop the Beat

February 5th, 2020

A common belief is that movie critics love to trash movies. It’s thought that we critical types, after emerging from coffins buried in consecrated ground, stalk film festivals and multiplexes looking for weaker prey. We fire up our laptops to crush innocent filmmakers, see them driven before us, and hear the lamentations of their producers. I mean, that’s what we do, right? Not so much. See, every movie is an opportunity. The very best part of a film for me is the moment after the previews have finished and there’s a half-second or so where the screen is black. That moment is all about potential,... Read More

Almost, But Not Quite, The Abyss

January 23rd, 2020

If you’re a regular viewer of movies, you know you can track the seasons by the kinds of movies playing. Are the theaters jam-packed with big, loud blockbusters? You’re in summer. Do you have a wide variety of Oscar bait to choose from? Congratulations, you’ve arrived safely in the fall. The depths of winter are when studios give up. They already released the films built to either make an assload of money or attract awards. What’s left is the cinematic equivalent of the island of misfit toys, and production companies frequently throw these redheaded stepchildren into theaters with a hasty... Read More

The Endless Trench

January 14th, 2020

We never really reckoned with World War I, not in any meaningful sense. For a while there it was called The War to End All Wars, despite the fact that its aftermath both caused and led into World War II. Like all wars, its horror recedes in memory. A little over a century later, most of us barely understand why the war happened in the first place. That continues to be shocking, as the casualties of World War I were so high that battles frequently resembled a meat grinder in terms of the staggering numbers of men both sides threw at each other. When you put the numbers into context, it’s literally... Read More

Shifting The Lens

January 6th, 2020

There are two incontrovertible facts: the first is that Louisa May Alcott was a fascinating human being. Her parents were Transcendentalists. She took lessons from Henry David Thoreau. She wrote a play for the Boston Theater and subsequently burned it due to infighting between her actors. Alcott briefly served as a nurse during the Civil War, survived typhoid fever, was a feminist, and was active in the abolitionist movement. To put it plainly, she was a baller. Oh, also? She wrote Little Women. That brings us to the second incontrovertible fact, which is that up until very recently, I was almost... Read More

Pressure Drop

December 29th, 2019

As many of us do, the arrival of the year’s end is a time for me to look back. If I were to sum it up, 2019 was all about surprise. Putting aside the absolute insanity of our politics, the year in film has been wild as hell. We saw both the Star Wars and MCU franchises come to a temporary end. We saw films about cathartic cults, flicks involving doppelgangers, and a number of movies examining class warfare. Perhaps strangest of all, we saw one of the best performances of the year delivered by Adam Sandler. Maybe it’s not so strange, though! I’ll grant you that a cursory look through Sandler’s... Read More