The latest version of Jane Austen’s comedy of manors, “Emma” is more faithful to its author’s style. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfect as the title character who meddles in everyone’s business. She dominates the women and intrigues the men with her outspoken manner and confidence. This version is different from the 1996 film starring Gwyneth Paltrow; not so much better but different. For those of you who enjoy period films and Jane Austen this is not to be missed. A warning for the guys: There is very little action. A lot of talk and beautiful scenery and costumes. Well done.
“Spies in Disguise” is a computer animated film voiced by Will Smith and Tom Holland of Spiderman fame. Smith’s character is the world’s greatest spy and Holland is a young inventor, working on gadgets. He turns the super spy into a pigeon and he must solve a case like that. This film is strictly for the kids, but it is cute and has a few funny moments. Both Smith and Holland have done better.
I am here to tell you that “Cats” is not as bad as everyone says. If you are looking for a movie with a linear plot that is coherent and dialogue, stay away from this one. It is surreal, but then the play was the same way. I never understood why it ran as long as it did. The music is quite good; not Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best score, but it has a few memorable songs. Based on T.S. Elliot’s poems, “Cats” is more about the individual characters than what they are doing. It’s almost like a vaudeville or talent show. Each number shows off that particular cat’s story. Some of the performances are worth noting. Judi Detch, dressed up in a Cowardly Lion costume, is regal and intimidating. Ian McKellen’s one number as Gus the Theater Cat practically steals the show. Jennifer Hudson once again stops the show singing “Memories”. (Personally I like Betty Buckley’s version in the Broadway version.) Taylor Swift’s song is a hoot. The newcomers are all spot on. Again, it’s the missing plot that people can’t come to terms with. If you like musicals, fantasy and bizarre costumes, you’ll like “Cats”. Otherwise stay away.
It isn’t a surprise that such a huge hit as “Frozen” would spawn a sequel. This time Elsa and Anna must save their kingdom by finding the origins of the former’s powers. They discover how their parents met and how their ancestors didn’t always play fairly. While I believe “Frozen II” will be another success, this sequel seemed predictable and suspends reality to advance the plot. You can feel the musical numbers coming on and Josh Graf’s Olaf the snowman was annoying. The music is O.K., trying for another hit like “Let It Go”, but none of the songs comes close. The kids will love it and probably want to see it a few times. I wasn’t overly impressed.
Martin Scorsese’s latest film, “The Irishman” is a great 2 1/2 hour movie. It’s too bad that it runs for 3 1/2 hours. Like a number of writer/producer/directors no one edited out unnecessary scenes. The story is fascinating, telling the background of Jimmy Hoffa’s body guard and his connections to the mob. Robert DeNiro gives another compelling performance as the title character. The technology that makes him look younger is seamless. It’s good to see Joe Pesci back on the screen as DeNiro’s mentor from the mob. He gives a steady, sometimes understated performance. But the real standout is Al Pacino, who for the first time in a long while, doesn’t totally over act in the roll of Jimmy Hoffa. As is usual for a Scorcese film, it is beautifully filmed and well acted. It’s just way too long. If the production wasn’t so professional this would make a good two or three part miniseries.
“The Current War” tells the story of how electric lights came to the United States. Thomas Edison, played by Benjamin Cumberbatch, was the premier inventor of his time. He was also the premier ego. George Westinghouse, played by Michael Shannon, was an industrialist and businessman. Edison wouldn’t team with Westinghouse, because he wanted all of the fame. Money did not matter to him. So Westinghouse beat him at his own game. Thrown into the mix was Nicolai Tesla, who was brilliant but scattered. This movie was a bit slow, but a good history lesson. The acting is good, but the pace is not. It’s the kind of film to watch at home. An interesting side note: “The Current War” was supposed to come out in 2017, but it was distributed by the Weinstein Company at the time that all of the allegations about Harvey Weinstein came out. So it was shelved until now. Not a bad movie, but not a great one,.
“The Addams Family” is a new computer animated film based on Charles Addams’ comic characters. I always loved the macabre humor and play on words. This version is more geared to the younger set. The live action versions from the early 1990’s were a little more adult in their humor (aka: darker), but this one still has some funny moments. Especially funny were the children, Wednesday and Pugsley. And of course Fester was a riot. Die hard fans may think this film is too tame, but it is not bad.
“Good Boys” is a middle schooler’s version of “Super Bad”. It’s about three 12 year olds who are kind of nerdy. They get invited to a boy/girl party and make it their business to learn how to kiss a girl. Jacob Tremblay, who was so wonderful in “Room” and “Wonder”, plays his first normal role. The film is cute, the kids are believable and there are plenty of plot twist. Mildly entertaining. If you are looking for a comedy, this one is decent.
“All is True” is the story of William Shakespeare’s retirement years. Kenneth Branagh and Judi Dench are Mr. & Mrs. Shakespeare and are almost strangers since Mr. S has lived in London for the past twenty years. Neither of their daughters are happy and Will still has not gotten over the death of his son, Hamnet. Branagh is unrecognizable in the role. However, the story is depressing and a bit slow. His films usually have a certain humor and are seldom slow moving. This film is an exception. Interesting but not exceptional.
“If Beale Street Could Talk” is the follow-up film from Barry Jenkins who made “Moonlight”. This film is more mainstream than the one from a few years ago. Based on a novel by James Baldwin, It tells the story of an African American family and their struggles. The two leads are wonderful, but Regina King, as one of the mothers, is very good. She is winning most of the supporting actress awards. My problem with this film is that it was too long. Once again, a talented film maker should have had someone else edit it down. It could have done with twenty minutes less.