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Review: "Call Me By Your Name"

Luca Guadagnino has become the J.D. Salinger of Italian cinema. I mean this in that he tells stories about affluent high society people, with lots of money and resources at their disposal, who still suffer from a failure to establish meaningful connections in their lives. Holden Caulfield felt such a void in Salinger's "The Catcher in The Rye." Similarly, Guadagnino's previous films I Am Love and A Bigger Splash followed protagonists (both played by Oscar winner Tilda Swinton) who were in a purgatory of disenchantment, the former for physical affection and the latter for desired privacy. Guadagnino is not a novelist but fortunately as a filmmaker he knows how to fill the page of the screen, usually with drop dead gorgeous locations and an impeccable ear for using music (remember Ralph Fiennesdancingto "Emotional Rescue" by The Rolling Stones?).

In his latest feature Call Me By Your Name Guadagnino presents to us another illustrious group of high class indiv…
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Review: "Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi"

There was something electric in the air when that first teaser for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens premiered back in 2014. A sinister voice on the soundtrack asked, "There has been an awakening...have you felt it?" Then there was a barrage of clips teasing something familiar for Star Wars fans. That familiarity was the style and look of the original trilogy's western frontiers, with a kick of space cowboy bravado. It was void of the prequel trilogy's green screen approach and cutting edge technological risks (though I will defend those jubilant George Lucas entries til the end of time). Unfortunately, J.J. AbramsThe Force Awakens ended up being a pleasantly mild carbon copy of A New Hope, recycling tropes and story situations from that film as some gesture of assurance for a new generation of fans; if anything, it was setting up a dutiful cover song trilogy. So when it was revealed that writer/director Rian Johnson was going to helm Episode VIII, I …

Review: "The Post"

Much of what you'll read in the coming days about Steven Spielberg's supremely entertaining The Post will no doubt focus on how timely the film is in regards to the current administration in the White House, the freedom of the press (or lack thereof I should say), the ballooning of "fake news" and the dwindling presence of actual newspaper offices. All those parallelisms are valid, and were no doubt the primary themes screenwriters Liz Hannah and Josh Singer (Spotlight) set out to establish, but now that I've watched The Post twice I think there's something else being pulled into focus here. More on that later.

The year is 1971 and The Washington Post publisher Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) is on the eve of taking her newspaper company public. The paper has been in her family since the dawn of time, and following the passing of her husband (the paper's previous publisher) Kay's been tasked with securing the future of the business against the pressing rea…

Review: "The Shape of Water"

A big reason why Guillermo del Toro is so loved by cinephiles (myself included) is that his passion for cinema is evident in almost every frame of anything he makes. Whether it's the stunning cinematography that fills the screen canvas (usually in 1.85:1 aspect ratio, as opposed to 2.35:1) with a treasure trove of production design details and movie homages, the memorable music scores (e.g. you can literally hum the score for Pan's Labyrinth) or the parable-like quality some of his stories have (Crimson Peak, Cronos), you know within the first five seconds that you are watching a Guillermo del Toro film. His signature screen voice is memorable. Other popular filmmakers with signature voices include Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee and Kathryn Bigelow. You know each of their cinematic screen voices because they are distinct -- and because those voices are real. They come from a place of deep affection, curiosity, pain, wonder, fear and conviction. It's why they endure as artists…

La Gran Tristeza: How "Coco" Is Everyone's Latina Grandma

Coco opened over Thanksgiving weekend here in the United States and I'll confess: I didn't rush out and see it. That's because Coco had already set an unrealistic expectation in my head. Prior to its U.S. release this latest venture from Pixar became the highest-grossing film in Mexican box office history (and it's also the setting for the film). Matt Zoller Seitz at RogerEbert.com had given it a four-star review calling it a "classic." The buzz on social media was already awarding Coco the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar and at the same time, in the arena of film criticism on Twitter, there was uproar over the lack of Latino and Latina film critics writing about it (resulting in the hashtag #FilmCriticismSoWhite).

In short, for me, Coco ballooned into a larger than life movie that it couldn't possibly live up to. Then came the weekend after Thanksgiving and I finally went and saw it. It was a Sunday matinee, with a decent audience size. The film was pre…

Review: "Wonder Wheel"

These days with almost hourly revelations of high-profile men -- albeit in the media industry or politics -- getting called out for sexual misconduct allegations, it's hard to ignore director Woody Allen's own controversial past (he married his stepdaughter) when gauging his new film Wonder Wheel. Of course, the idea is that we critique the work and not the artist. That is fair. And yet, in a stroke of cosmic cynicism, it turns out that Allen doesn't need any shade from his personal past to hurt the intended success of Wonder Wheel because the film is just plain ol' bad.

Wonder Wheel stars Academy Award winner Kate Winslet as Ginny, our disillusioned and itching-for-another-crisis heroine. Ginny, her husband Humpty (Jim Belushi, bless him) and her son Richie (Jack Gore) live in an apartment looking over the boardwalk of Coney Island. It's the 1950s. Summer is winding down, resulting in less attendance and therefore less money for our boardwalk inhabitants. Someone …

Watch: Christopher Plummer side by side with Kevin Spacey in "All The Money In The World"

When Ridley Scott made the announcement that he would be replacing all of Kevin Spacey's scenes with actor Christopher Plummer in his upcoming film All The Money In The World, the idea was pretty unbelievable and shocking. It's been less than a month since that news broke and Scott has made good on his word.

A new video spot promoting the high-profile film was just released and it offered us the first glimpse of Plummer as J. Paul Getty. Of course, I couldn't resist putting clips of Spacey and Plummer side by side to see the before and after visuals.

It makes the trailer's voiceover that much more haunting: "To be a Getty is an extraordinary thing...we *look* like you...but we're NOT like you..."