February 2020 archive

Fantasy Island

While cinematic thoughts regarding Valentine’s Day naturally drift towards straightforward love stories and romantic comedies, the holiday has long proven to be a fertile period for releasing horror movies as well. When the 1931 version of “Dracula” came out, for example, it debuted on Valentine’s Day and was initially promoted as a bizarre romance. Decades …

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Jane Fonda and Three IndieCollect Restorations to Appear This Weekend at the 2020 HFPA Restoration Summit

Jane Fonda, Mario Van Peebles and I will join Sandra Schulberg of IndieCollect when she presents three new 4K film restorations for their world premiere this weekend at the HFPA Restoration Summit held at the historic Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., in Los Angeles. Presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and the American Cinematheque, these cinematic …

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Zoe Kravitz Stars in Brilliant Reboot of High Fidelity on Hulu

All-time, top-five, desert-island stories in which the protagonist directly addresses the audience, adding a level of intimacy and immediacy to the telling it might not otherwise achieve. One: “Hamlet.” Obvious, maybe, but a classic’s a classic for a reason. Go ahead and fold “Macbeth,” “Richard III,” and some of the comedies in there too if …

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A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon

To this longtime fan of the cheese-loving bachelor and his trusty dog, they will always be known as the company that gave the world the genius of Wallace & Gromit. But the legacy of Aardman has become more and more tied to another great character in the last decade, the wonderful Shaun the Sheep. A …

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Buffaloed

Peg Dahl (Zoey Deutch), the frenetically ambitious and amoral lead of Tanya Wexler’s “Buffaloed,” is a natural-born hustler, the Tracy Flick of financial ambition, whose only goal in life is to make a buck, and make it any way possible. Hailing from blue-collar Buffalo, New York, she doesn’t come from wealth or privilege. Even a …

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The Photograph

“I wish I was as good at love as I am at working. I wish I didn’t leave people behind so often.” A young woman speaks those words of regret from the past. The camcorder information on the bottom left corner lets the audience know she’s speaking to us from 1989. As to why she …

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The Kindness of Strangers

Just when we thought movies that assert we are all circumstantially connected via cosmic powers went out of fashion for good, comes along yet another story of intertwined destinies. Outdated from the offset—think Fernando Meirelles’ “360,” Garry Marshall’s “New Year’s Eve” and a certain brand of early Alejandro González Iñárritu films without the miserablism—the frustratingly …

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Ordinary Love

In a poem called Home Burial, Robert Frost wrote, “from the time when one is sick to death/One is alone.” Those who are critically ill pass through the stages unforgettably defined by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. And they do it alone. Those around them, no matter how loving and how devoted, pass through their …

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I Was at Home, But…

The title of Angela Schanelec’s tenth feature calls to mind Yasujirō Ozu’s 1932 film “I was Born But …” (1932), but it’s not just a tip of the hat to the Japanese master. The title, cutting off a sentence half-way through, speaks to how the film operates—the gaps in the narrative, gaps between scenes, timelines …

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Olympic Dreams

The story of how “Olympic Dreams” got made is more compelling than the movie itself. Director Jeremy Teicher, Olympic runner Alexi Pappas and comedian Nick Kroll ran around the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. They’d gotten intimate, behind-the-scenes access through the Olympic Artist-in-Residence program, and their film is a blend of fiction and …

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Sonic the Hedgehog

“Sonic the Hedgehog” is the worst kind of bad movie: it’s too inoffensive to be hated and too wretched to be enjoyable. You might think that this movie’s sad limbo state has something to do with the extensive and well-publicized last-minute animation redesign that made titular woodland creature Sonic (voiced by Ben Schwartz) look more like …

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Love Dialogue: Céline Sciamma on Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Incandescent filmmaking of the highest order, the kind that burns into your mind upon first viewing it only to later reveal it has permanently branded you with its soul-reaching flame, Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lay on Fire,” an 18th century lesbian romance between a bright painter and her strong-willed subject, unquestionably turns the French …

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To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You

The end of “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” was downright John Hughes-ian, including a big kiss between Lara Jean Song-Covey and Peter Kavinsky on a football field meant to echo Judd Nelson’s pumped fist at the end of “The Breakfast Club.” Depending on the viewer, this was either a major victory or a …

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Five Spike Lee Films Released on Blu-ray

Kino Lorber released five of Spike Lee’s films from the 1990s last week, some of them landing on Blu-ray for the very first time. The releases allow a look back at an incredible run, a series of films that only now feels like it’s really getting the attention it deserves. Of course, 1989’s “Do the …

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Hulu’s Ambitious Utopia Falls Mixes Sci-Fi, Hip-Hop and Cheesy Teen Drama

“Utopia Falls” is a new sci-fi series about how the discovery of hip-hop can inspire individual liberation, and seeing even a supposedly perfect world in a whole new way. It’s dressed up like dystopian YA series of past (“The Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” for example), but instead of a revolution that starts with violence, it’s the …

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We Are All Connected: Backstage at the 2020 Academy Awards

The collective groan that accompanied “Green Book”’s Best Picture win in last year’s Oscar press room was replaced with thunderous applause when Bong Joon-ho’s universally acclaimed South Korean masterwork “Parasite” became the first foreign film to earn the top honor during last night’s telecast of the 92nd Academy Awards. Upon arriving backstage with his wonderful …

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The Lodge

In movies, stepmothers always seem to have a rough go at joining a new family. They tend to be the villains of a story, arbiters of cruelty and unwanted change, a character perhaps best personified by Disney’s “Cinderella.” Should the poor soul actually want to connect with her new family, she has the impossible task …

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Home Entertainment Guide: February 6, 2020

10 NEW TO NETFLIX “Ali””Batman Begins””Blade Runner””The Dark Knight””Dirty Harry””A Little Princess””The Notebook””The Other Guys””The Pianist””Purple Rain” 8 NEW TO BLU-RAY/DVD “All About My Mother” (Criterion) As Pedro Almodovar goes through something of a critical renaiassance with the success of his wildly-acclaimed and Oscar-nominated “Pain and Glory,” there have been a number of people talking …

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Come to Daddy

His father left when he was five years old. 30 years later, Norval Greenwood (Elijah Wood) receives a letter from his old man, hoping that the son will visit the father. That’s the setup for “Come to Daddy,” a film that keeps changing direction so often that it’s almost a miracle the filmmakers don’t give …

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Into the Dark: My Valentine

“Into the Dark: My Valentine” starts with some of the most interesting themes in the history of this monthly Hulu/Blumhouse series of original horror movies. It’s a film about true toxic masculinity, the kind that sees women not only as possessions but interchangeable ones at that. You know the kind of guy whose girlfriends all …

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