Admidttedly I am a Steven Spielberg fan. I have loved his work since I saw the Night Gallery episode starring Joan Crawford at the beginning of his career. There have been some of his films that weren’t the best, but when he is good, he’s very, very good. “The Fabelmans” is a semi-autobiographical look at his youth through his teens focusing on how he became obsessed with being a filmmaker. Like last year’s “Licorice Pizza” it is a coming of age story, but with more relatable characters and a more realistic plot. The cast is perfect starting with the young actor who plays Sammy Fabelman, Gabriel LaBelle. He is natural, realistic and totally believable. I think we are seeing the beginning of a new star. His mother, as played by Michelle Williams, is a free spirit, artistic, loving and somewhat flighty. I loved that she served all meals on paper plates and cleaned the table by picking up the table cloth and throwing everything away. Sammy’s father, Bert, is played by Paul Dano in his most controlled performance today. Dano’s character is a computer genius in the 1950’s; the opposite of his artsy wife. Seth Rogen plays Benny, the family’s best friend. This is Rogen’s most controlled performance to date and he is quite good. Finally, in a cameo performance, Judd Hirsch plays Uncle Boris, a former circus performer who works in movies. Hirsch is mesmerizing. I especially enjoyed the scenes where Sammy is directing movies with his friends. Some of his improvised techniques are very creative. We witness him growing as a filmmaker. The final portion of the film takes place in California and it takes on a darker tone that includes the break up of his parents’ marriage and anti-semitism bullying. It is no less compelling and adds to Sammy’s maturity. I really enjoyed this film and recommend it to everyone. Watch for lots of deserved awards. See it!
There have been many great newspaper movies. The genre is perfect for film. My favorites are “His Girl Friday”, “All the President’s Men”, “Spotlight” and “Five Star Final”. Add to that list “She Said” which is the story of how the scandalous, misogonystic behavior of Harvey Weinstein was investigated and uncovered. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star as the two New York Times reporters who were blocked at every turn by a system that protects and enables the offender. Even with threats against them and the Times they persisted. Consequently the Me Too movement was started. Great acting; great writing and very suspenseful. I’m not sure if I would rate it as high as “Spotlight”, but it’s right up there.
“The Banshees of Inisherin” is a quirky Irish movie that tells the story of two men whose friendship comes to an end because the older friend is tired of the younger. The younger friend does not understand his decision and tries to change the other’s mind. When I say quirky, I could also say a bit weird. The story takes place on a remote island where there does not seem to be much industry other than fishing and farming. The older friend’s method of trying to keep the other man away is strange. The dialogue is interesting and the two leads, Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson, are excellent. This is a character study of simple people. Made by the same people who made “In Burges” a few years ago. The critics have raved about this film, especially the actors. I liked it but the film is not for everyone’s tastes.
I was intrigued by the previews for “Armageddon Time”, a film that tells the story of an adolescent growing up in Queens in the early 1980’s. The boy is played by newcomer, Banks Repeat, who is quite good. Innocent, curious and always getting in trouble, he is part of a Jewish family consisting of an older brother, parents and grandparents who get together often. This boy befriends a Black boy who is treated badly by their teacher. Their friendship gets him in trouble. During all of this, he spends time with his grandfather, a holocaust survivor, who serves as his best friend and moral guide. The grandfather is played with quiet dignity by Anthony Hopkins. The boy and his friend rob his school, get caught and end up at the police station. He gets off because his father knows someone, but the Black boy does not. The acting is realistic and the plot moves, but I did not feel it went anywhere. I was left thinking, “Is that all there is?”. I’ve seen a couple of the director’s, James Gray, films and they are hit or miss. I believe he is a promising film maker, but has not hit his stride yet. An interesting film. I recommend that you see it when it is on T.V.
When I was a kid I preferred reading DC comics, especially Superman and Batman. When it comes to movies I prefer the Marvel super hero films, though lately they have depended on the violence a bit too much instead of the storylines. I did like the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, the first Wonder Woman and Aquaman. I have not liked the last few Superman movies for a few reasons. First, Lois Lane should not know Superman’s identity and the films are too dark. The latest DC superhero to come to the screen is “Black Adam”. I was not familiar with this character. His back story is very interesting. He is both hero and villain. The supposed villains who are sent to stop him are not who they seem. I liked that the plot twists were not predictable. There was violence, but it didn’t take over the plot as it does in other superhero films. Dwayne Johnson is Black Adam, though he doesn’t earn that name until the end of the film. He was good, but won’t win any awards for it. Aldis Hodge and Pierce Brosnan lead the group who come to put him down. Hodge is especially good. I look forward to seeing him in other films. With all of the twists in the plot I was kept guessing and I liked that. Better than I expected, I recommend this film to those who enjoy these types of movies.
I have been a fan of Kevin Smith for a long time. His films are quirky, filled with unusual characters and witty, well-written dialogue. His most recent film is “Clerks III”. Obviously this one is a sequel to “Clerks” and “Clerks II”, the story of Dante and his friend Randal. In the original they ran a video store. They have progressed to owning a convenience store. In this film Randal, an avid movie watcher, has a heart attack which inspires him to make a movie. He enlists the people around him and films scenes about things that happened to them. You don’t necessarily watch a Kevin Smith film for the plot or relevance. You watch them for the witty dialogue and amusing people. “Clerks III” is a worthy successor to the originals. It is like visiting old friends. If you like off beat comedies, you will enjoy this film.
I have seen a number of Tyler Perry’s movies and they are usually entertaining, but a little over the top, even the dramas. However, his newest release on Netflix, “A Jazzman’s Blues” is his best film to date. It tells the story of a black singer from Georgia and his unrequited love. Newcomer Joshua Boone plays the Jazzman and he is quite a find. The rest of the cast is also excellent. The story is about a young man who loves a girl who passes for white. There are a number of twists and turns and the ending packs a wallop. As usual Perry includes characters that are really bad and ones that are virtuous. The music and dancing are outstanding. I loved this movie and recommend that anyone who likes a good story with good acting see it.
“Marcel the Shell with Shoes On” was originally a short movie that has been expanded to feature length. It tells the bizarre story of a mollusk who lives a very full life. Most of his world is inside a house he shares with Dean and his dog, When Dean starts blogging about Marcel he becomes an internet sensation, eventually becoming the focus of a “60 Minutes” report, partially because Marcel is obsessed with Lesley Stahl. Before seeing this movie I was not sure what to expect nor how the makers could keep my interest for the entire time. It turned out to be clever, cute, original and sweet. A certain amount of reality has to be suspended, but it is worth it. If you are looking for heavy drama with important acting, this is not the film for you. However, if you want a unique and entertaining couple of hours, you will like Marcel and his friends.
Watching the new movie “Till” might be difficult, but everyone should see it. Not only is it a good film, but it is important historically. Emmett Till was a black teenager from Chicago, visiting relatives in Mississippi. He allegedly flirted with a white woman and was kidnapped, tortured and killed. His mother publicized his murder and the publicity was one of the defining events of the civil rights movement. The film focuses on his mother, Mamie, who went public with the event, showing pictures of his mutilated body to the press. She even went down to Mississippi to testify at his murderers’ trial. Danielle Deadwyler plays Mamie and it is a riveting performance that should be noticed during awards season. There are some slow parts and also graphic scenes. (They show Emmett’s battered body and it is difficult to watch.) This film shows how the Jim Crow south treated blacks and the injustices they suffered. At the end of the film there are some updates on what happened to Mamie and the Civil Rights movement. The thing that got me is that the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act was only passed in March, 2022! See this movie!
“Tar” is the fictional story of a female maestro, Lydia Tar. It is getting a lot of awards buzz. The only thing the main character truly cares about is her music and she is a brilliant conductor. However she has few other redeeming qualities and treats almost everyone around her like dirt. Cate Blanchett is Tar and she is brilliant in the role. Though the viewer has little or no empathy her and she is basically the whole movie. All other characters are under developed. The only person she seems to care about is her daughter and even then it is spotty. I do not say this often, but I hated this film! I kept thinking to myself “When will this thing end?”. It just went on and on and on showing what a horrible person Tar is. The music is excellent and I did learn a thing or two about classical music.