Posts Tagged ‘review’

In my busyness, I neglected to write a review of the movie Victoria and Abdul, which my wife and I saw at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany in October 2017. It’s a mostly true story of a couple guys from India sent to England to present Her Royal Highness, Empress of India, Queen Victoria with a coin for her golden jubilee.

Victoria (Judy Dench) is, by her own description, old and fat and very much a curmudgeon, bored with the pomp of the affairs of state. It’s worse because her beloved husband Albert died, and her good friend John Brown is gone as well. (I saw the movie Mrs Brown, also starring Dame Judi, back in February 1998; V&A is is a sequel of sorts.)

As Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) and Adeel Akhtar (Mohammed) make their brief presentation, the former violates protocol by actually making eye contact with the queen. The handsome Abdul finds favor with the monarch and they develop a most unexpected friendship.

Her household and inner circle, notably Sir Henry Ponsonby (Tim Pigott-Smith) and her increasingly impatient heir apparent Bertie, Prince of Wales (Eddie Izzard) are NOT pleased with the queen’s fascination with the Indian interloper.

Victoria and Abdul, in a mostly humorously cheeky way, shows that someone can indeed show an old queen new tricks. It addresses Britain’s colonial past, making it clear that Victoria could actually learn from even her far-away subjects. And while her Mr. Brown was not well-regarded by those around the queen, the elevation of this brown-skinned man made them apoplectic.

I will admit that I liked Victoria and Abdul it more than some of the critics (only 66% positive on Rotten Tomatoes). One complained that “the film’s attempt to portray the Queen as more politically enlightened than her courtiers is kindly but unconvincing.” Well, my wife and I were convinced.

The leads plus Eddie Izzard were especially good. I may have now seen Judi Dench in more movies than any other actor, save perhaps Meryl Streep, and she always makes the trip to the cinema worthwhile.


The Landmark Theatres have some sort of electronic movie that I belong to. I was selected as a winner of an “admit-two” ticket for the Monday, October 23rd, 7:30 p.m. screening of THE FLORIDA PROJECT at Landmark’s Spectrum 8 Theatres.

Unfortunately, Monday night is the Daughter’s play rehearsal night, so it was impossible for both my wife and I to go. So I went with my friend Mary.

I had seen the trailer previously, which fortunately does not reveal too much. The film was directed by Sean Baker in a sort of a cinema verite. It was though the story, from a screenplay by Baker and Chris Bergoch, were a documentary.

It follows around Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), a five-year-old leader of a group of kids – Valeria Cotto as Jancey, Christopher Rivera as Scooty – running relatively freely in these of extended-stay motels, probably once decent venues not far geographically, but miles away economically from Walt Disney World, which was originally dubbed The Florida Project.

Willem Dafoe is Bobby Hicks, the manager of The Magic Castle Motel – definitely not to be confused with The Magic Kingdom – just trying to do his job, collecting the rent, which is usually late, from Halley (Bria Vinaite), Moonee’s mom. But occasionally, he gets involved in his tenants’ lives, in spite of himself.

For a time, I wasn’t sure where the film was going, with its various vignettes. It only later occurred to me that the pastels of the housing units belie the difficult situation these folks find themselves in. By the end, the viewer will recognize the part of the population not often shown in film, as it “raises sobering questions about modern America.”

Dafoe, of course, is the name performer, and he is quite fine. But Brooklynn Prince is incredible in the lead. Check out the very positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes (96%), though less so from the public (75%), who might be impatient that the narrative doesn’t “spell it out” more quickly.

Sometimes, there are movies that I really wanted to see at the time they came out but, for some reason, I don’t. This was certainly true of The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009). It was well reviewed and had name stars (George Clooney voicing the title character, Meryl Streep as his wife).

Finally, this summer, it showed up at the nearby Madison Theatre, and the Wife and I attended one weekend afternoon. The premise is interesting: “An urbane fox cannot resist returning to his farm raiding ways and then must help his community survive the farmers’ retaliation.” The idea of fighting against one’s nature and take responsibility for his family versus the lure of one more series of thefts.

I liked the early part of the film well enough. When the farmers threaten the entire animal ecosystem, the film was more engaging. I enjoyed the stop-motion animation throughout, but the Daughter opted not to see the film because, just on the previews, the movie looked “creepy” to her.

Bill Murray has a very distinctive voice as Badger, even in animation (Jungle Book). Also solid: Jason Schwartzman as the mopey Ash Fox, Eric Chase Anderson as Ash’s cousin Kristofferson, Willem Dafoe as Rat (naturally) and Owen Wilson as Coach Skip.

Wes Anderson is a writer/director I either enjoy (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom) or not (The Royal Tenenbaums). I liked the film.

This was annoying, though: some rube sitting behind us, but on the other side of the aisle was periodically flashing a red pointer at the screen. I thought the guys sitting immediately in front of them were going to punch out the culprit.

And I Was more sad than angry because he was just encouraging people to stay home to watch on DVD or some streaming service rather than enjoying film in a more communal way. Given the fact the movie only cost us 35 cents apiece to watch – the first showing of the “family” film on Saturday is always a bargain, so you can spend more on the concessions – this joy sucker helps diminish the art form.

Here’s the trailer for The Fantastic Mr. Fox.


The irony of our family seeing An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is that we drove about 40 miles to see it on Labor Day weekend. The movie came and went in the local theaters too quickly, so we trekked to Williamstown, Massachusetts, where my wife and I had been just the week before, and we noticed it would start playing there.

Image Cinema is a nonprofit entity in the town where Williams College is located. My daughter, on a school field trip, had visited there in the last year.

Matt Souza of Salon wrote: “Would I still recommend ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’? Sure, although I doubt there is much one could glean from this movie that couldn’t be obtained by rewatching ‘An Inconvenient Truth.'” I think that was my problem is that it was Al Gore forming groups of people to take on the fight, or occasionally reminiscing, and that it wasn’t quite enough…

Until the footage of the 2015 devastation from Typhoon Koppu, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Lando, that struck Luzon in October 2015. Somehow, the sheer enormity of the storm made me sit up. And soon thereafter, the movie showed recent (2015) storms in east Texas and Louisiana. Obviously they were not the storms from 2017, and THAT was the point.

Maybe it’s because I’m a poli sci geek, but my favorite part of the film, near the end, involves getting India to agree to more solar power in some sausage-making horse trading for the Paris climate accord. And then, just before the end credits, the news that the US was pulling OUT of said accord, which I knew, of course, but it still ticked me off. (If I thought it would do any good, I would recommend a certain party watch at least the Paris section.)

It’s sometimes difficult to connect the dots, and we treat each rain event, massive fire, and drought as unconnected from each other. In the Weekly Sift piece Houston, New Orleans, and the Long Descent, the author noted that while “President Obama had at least managed to include climate change in the federal government’s own building plans,” his successor has – foolishly, to my mind – reversed that policy.

I found An Inconvenient Truth compelling movie making, and the sequel not so much, although I happen to like it when Al Gore gets angry occasionally. Still, the Daughter had not seen the original movie, so An Inconvenient Sequel was an instructive enough use of our time.

Three or four years ago, someone recommended to my wife that she read The Glass Castle, a memoir by Jeanette Walls about her unconventional growing up with her two sister and a brother. So she was anxious to see the movie in which “a young girl comes of age in a dysfunctional family of nonconformist nomads with a mother who’s an eccentric artist and an alcoholic father who would stir the children’s imagination with hope as a distraction to their poverty.”

The good news is that, in all the story jumping back and forth in time, I always knew when we were in the narrative, even with three sets of children. Movie magic at its best. For instance, Jeanette was played by Chandler Head as the youngest iteration, the one who suffers a defining accident in the movie. My wife says that in the book, the child was even younger, three or four.

Then the growing up Jeanette, who ends up in the deep end of the pool, was played by Ella Anderson, who, heaven help me, I recognize from the Daughter watching the annoying show Henry Danger. Both the younger iterations were quite good.

Jeanette as an adult was played by Brie Larson, who was so good in the movie Room that she won an Oscar. Here she plays one note for a long time, a fairly blank facial expression. I suppose she’s supposed to be showing how closed off she’s become by her upbringing. But it isn’t until an arm wrestling match between her fiance David (Max Greenfield) and her father (Woody Harrelson) that she shows much emotion at all.

Harrelson as Rex, who is forever promising to design and build the titular structure, is very good as an maddeningly intelligent dreamer, whose views on the economic system are not entirely wrong. (You see the REAL Rex at the end of the film.) Naomi Watts as the mom, Rose Mary, has less to do, but is fine.

I guess the problem is the disjointed storytelling made me feel that 127 minutes. Perhaps if with a different linear flow, and some judicious editing, it worked better for me and the critics.

But The Wife and The Daughter evidently enjoyed The Glass Castle more than I.

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