Posts Tagged ‘review’

My wife and I are probably the perfect demographic, a teacher and a librarian, for a movie such as The Bookshop. And note the protagonist’s surname. The story takes place in 1959 England, where a determined widow Florence Green (Emily Mortimer) decides to open a bookstore in a coastal town.

She does this with little help, save for a schoolgirl named Christine (Honor Kneafsey), and in spite of the keen opposition of Violet Gamart (Patricia Clarkson), wife of a general (Reg Wilson). But she has a fan in Edmund Brundish, a reclusive book-loving widower (Bill Nighy), to whom she introduces the works of Ray Bradbury and Vladimir Nabokov.

There is also a slick, morally unmoored character Mr. Keble (Hunter Tremayne), who slithers in and out of scenes.

The Bookshop is based on Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel and directed by Isabel Coixet (Learning to Drive). I think my wife enjoyed the film as “an elegant yet incisive rendering of personal resolve, tested in the battle for the soul of a community.”

Alas, I found it rather bland and often lugubrious. Some critics believe it hewed too closely to the source material, which we had not read.

Moreover, the business librarian in me couldn’t understand why Florence was so determined to have a bookstore at all. “Is there a place for a bookshop in a town that may not want one?” Know your market, any business adviser would recommend. Nor could I really discern why Violet was so gung-ho for a community center in the venue instead.

That said, the film was a moderately interesting study of power dynamics, and how the system can be manipulated. And speaking of power, I always loved it when Nighy’s Edmund was on screen; he had a presence.

I can’t really recommend The Bookshop, but my wife would. As usual, we saw it at the Spectrum 8 in Albany.

blackkklansmanAfter BlacKkKlansman, which the three of us saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, my daughter wanted to be held by her parents. I’m still not sure it was as a result of seeing the main story or it in combination with the coda. You may have already read about it, but I’m not sharing that.

The film starts off with a George Rockwell-like character (Alec Baldwin) setting the stage for the main, true story.

Ron Stallworth (John David Washington, Denzel’s son) becomes the first black police officer in the Colorado Springs Police Department. Initially, he’s stuck in the records room, where he’s harassed by his colleagues. He’s then assigned to check out a speech by Kwame Ture, ne Stokely Carmichael (Corey Hawkins). He seemingly befriends the head of the black student union, Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), who doesn’t know Ron’s real profession.

Ron then discovers the phone number of a local branch of the Ku Klux Klan, er, The Organization. For the face-to-face meetings, Stallworth recruits his Jewish coworker, Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), who meets Walter (Ryan Eggold) and the somewhat unhinged Felix Kendrickson (Jasper Pääkkönen). Stallworth calls Klan headquarters in Louisiana to expedite his membership and speaks with David Duke (Topher Grace), the Grand Wizard, with whom he begins regular conversations on the phone.

The story tracks along at a pace, but I start feeling nervous when the story bounces back and forth between a Klan initiation rite and Jerome Turner (Harry Belafonte) telling painful stories of American history.

Director Spike Lee responded to criticism of BlacKkKlansman by Sorry to Bother You director Boots Riley. Riley took issue with Lee’s film, co-written by Kevin Willmott, David Rabinowitz, and Charlie Wachtel, for making a cop a hero against racism. Lee noted, correctly, “Black people are not a monolithic group.” I also noted in the movie Ron’s ambivalence when he was undercover investigating the black student union’s activities.

The funniest thing surrounding BlacKkKlansman is real Ron Stallworth telling Lester Holt of NBC News that the real David Duke called him to find out if Spike Lee’s Cannes-winning film was going to be fair to Duke. Highly recommended.

eighth gradeThere was an easy way my wife and I knew the movie Eighth Grade was definitely on the right track; we brought our recent eighth grader with us to the Spectrum Theatre in Albany. She sat between her mother and me at the cinema, and alternated burying her face in into the arm of one parent or another in mortified recognition.

The film is an honest and poignant comedy about Kayla (newcomer Elsie Fisher) as she’s continually trying to figure out adolescence during the last week of middle school. Her father Mark (Josh Hamilton) tries to negotiate the terrain between showing that he cares and trying to give his daughter space, but just ends up leaving her exasperated. (Sometimes I know the feeling.)

I suppose what I like about the film is what it’s not. It largely avoids being a knock-off of Mean Girls or Clueless. Social media plays a large part in this endeavor – Kayla records a bunch of self-help videos – but she doesn’t become a YouTube star. It’s not an emo bummer.

Writer/director Bo Burnham, who says that he’s never been a 13-year old girl, talked on The Daily Show about how his stand-up comedy was really appealing to that middle school demographic.

Maybe it’s that there’s something universal about being person unprepared for the challenges of being on the cusp of adulthood, a period many look back upon with an odd mixture of nostalgia and horror.

The film is rated R for “language and some sexual material”, none of which was ribald enough to suggest you keep your teen home. In fact, some of the sex ed stuff is hysterically funny, and true.

Naomi Fry of The New Yorker says the movie has “queasy verisimilitude.” If you’ve ever been thirteen, you should watch Eighth Grade, and drag a teenager with you if you can.

Lego Batman movieWhile the wife and daughter were away in North Carolina, doing good deeds, I was home alone, except for the cats. I went into a movie-viewing frenzy, seeing four movies in four days, and The LEGO Batman Movie (2017) was the fourth.

A free movie on a Tuesday afternoon at the Palace Theater in Albany. What could be the downside? Well, there were well over 1000 kids and their parents, and they were LOUD, making the subtle dialogue in the beginning rather hard to hear, that “Black. All important movies start with a black screen… And music… Edgy, scary music that would make a parent or studio executive nervous… And logos…” bit. But as the movie ramped up, this became less of a problem.

I saw the first LEGO movie on my birthday in 2014, also for free. I enjoyed it. But Batman was there for comic relief, and it really didn’t delve into the character. Now the guy in the newer movie, HE was Batman.

David Sims, the reviewer for The Atlantic, nailed it: It “works precisely because it knows audiences are sick of its hero. It’s a reassessment, an intervention, an effort to try and remember what’s fun about him.” Because Batman can be a real drag, such as Ben Affleck in Justice League, and doesn’t always play well with others.

The film is filled with witty references from many phases of the character, from the Adam West TV/movie character (shark repellent) to “You want to get nuts? Let’s get nuts!” from Batman (1989 -Michael Keaton). My favorite line may have been from Alfred about Batman going through “similar phases” in 2016, 2012, 2008, 2005, 1997, 1995, 1992, 1989, and a “weird one” in 1966, a reference to every year in which a major Batman film was released.

Will Arnett was absolutely dead-on as the voice of Batman / Bruce Wayne, though that guttural snarl must have done damage to his vocal chords. Michael Cera was earnest as Robin / Dick Grayson. Rosario Dawson was great as Batgirl / Barbara Gordon. I learned Ralph Fiennes is the third Academy Award-nominated British actor to play Alfred Pennyworth, after Michael Caine and Jeremy Irons. Zach Galifianakis showed the various shadings of The Joker.

I was glad I went to The LEGO Batman Movie, though it got better as kids exited well before the end of the film.

ant_man_and_the_waspSo it’s come to this: I’m taking movie advice from the Daughter, because she’s viewing more of the mainstream films a lot sooner than I am. At her suggestion, I went to see Ant-Man and the Wasp at the Regal Theater in Colonie Center, getting there via a combination of bus and bike.

I guess it’s where I see Marvel Universe movies, having experienced Black Panther there three months earlier. But something new; when I buy a ticket, I’m told that I get to pick out my assigned seat. As the guy at the next window said, “Great, I guess.” I suspect it’s a way to try to keep folks from sneaking into another film.

As for Ant-Man and the Wasp, I liked it. It was funny and full of action and misdirection and full of big dollops of humor. The one thing I’d been wondering about, though, came true. There are references to Captain America calling the Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) to fight with him, something that took place in a movie I’ve not seen. (No, you don’t need to explain the Sokovia Accords to me, but I shan’t try to lay it out for any of you.) It undoubtedly explains Lang’s soon-to-be-over house arrest.

This lack of information didn’t particularly diminish my enjoyment, but it did remind me how difficult it was back in my comic book selling days for comic book fans to get into a story line because knowledge of a different book was preferable.

Bottom line, near the end of the movie, you have several parties chasing each other: Lang/Wasp- Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)/Scott’s business partner Luis (Michael Pena) versus Ava the quantumly unstable “ghost” (Hannah John-Kamen) looking for a cure vs. black market dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Groggins) and his associates versus James Woo (Randall Park) and the FBI. It was quite a hoot.

As is often the case, a bunch of people left as the first set of credits hit the screen, missing an important piece of foreshadowing for another MCU flick. The final post-credits scene wasn’t really worth the wait.

The movie also stars Judy Greer as Scott’s ex-wife Maggie, Bobby Cannavale as Maggie’s second husband Jim Paxton and the wonderful Abby Ryder Fortson as Scott and Maggie’s daughter Cassie. Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris and David Dastmalchian are Luis’ colleagues. Also starring Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, and Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym.

Is Ant-Man and the Wasp pleasant but non-essential, or is it what one Rotten Tomatoes audience critic a palate cleanser after Avengers: Infinity War, which naturally I have not seen? I enjoyed it for what it was, not what it did or did not represent.

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