Movie Mondays ~ Monday, August 5, 2019

Movie Mondays ~ Monday, August 5, 2019

 

Holy moly…five movies? That’s a hefty dose of flick for me to consume in one week lately, but I guess I’m up to the challenge of reviewing them. For some, I’ll definitely have more to say than others. Given the quantity, these will be a little shorter than usual. Alright, let’s do this! And as always, thanks for reading. ~ Chris K.

 

 

FILMS VIEWED WEEK OF 07/29/2019 – 08/04/2019

(click on images to enlarge on the screen!)

 

 

 

84. The Children’s Hour

Drama (1961)
Stars Audrey Hepburn, Shirley MacLaine, James Garner

 

The night I watched this, I picked two films back to back that I had seen before. I wanted to see if I had the same reaction. I may have enjoyed this a little bit less than the first time because I have learned more about the making of this film since my first viewing, and I know that there were many involved in the picture who were disappointed that there were more daring scenes for its time left on the cutting room floor. But for those unfamiliar with it, it’s based on the wonderful play by the talented, razor sharp writer Lillian Hellman. (She made every word count, adore her work!) Great cast – can’t beat that trio listed, and there are plenty of supporting stars who are scene stealers themselves like Fay Bainter, Miriam Hopkins and the sneaky, snarly and downright mean little Mary Tilford, played far too believably by Karen Balkin. The basic premise: hey, teachers, be careful which child in your class you discipline harshly for if they’re a little liar, they may just drive away business to your private school in your quiet, close-knit and gossipy community. The Little Snothead – er, I mean little Mary decides to spread a rumor about two female teachers being unusually “close” or the horrifyingly archaic word choice they use “unnaturally” close. The play captures before, during and after the whirlwind to descend upon the private school.

 

The underlying story is captivating and the acting, top-notch. This was director William Wyler’s second attempt, and the first one was completely a wash-out as the storyline got converted into a love triangle between a man with two different women. Um, yeah, a completely different story, folks. Wyler took another crack at it several decades later but the censors and Wyler’s own trepidation watered it down still from the original source material. For this reason, the film has gotten some criticism from both advocates in the LBGTQ community and film critics (even some of it’s cast, including MacClaine) who wanted Wyler to take greater risks and get closer to the play in subject matter. But despite the artistic choices made, it is still a well-acted and intriguing study of human character and fear of the unknown.

 

 

Score: 83

 

TheChildrensHour

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

85. Untamed Heart

Drama, Comedy, Romance (1993)
Stars Marisa Tomei, Christian Slater, Rosie Perez

 

THIS was the second of those two movies I’d seen previously and yep, I had the same reaction. I looooove this film. It is a guilty pleasure. I say this because while it has garnered some critical acclaim including high marks for Marisa Tomei in the lead role and some acclaim for the always amusing and scene stealing Rosie Perez (and a big Thumbs Up from legendary movie critic Roger Ebert), it isn’t exactly scoring a hat trick with reviewers on other sites like IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes. Oh well. Maybe it’s a guilty pleasure of mine, but I never tire of the Minnesota accent (which I clearly carried over to my FARGO film fervor…gosh, how I love that one, too, you betcha!)

 

And I get extra points for the hockey reference in there, too, which you’ll figure out once you see this movie, part comedy, part drama.

 

Tomei is a young woman who can’t catch a break. Boyfriends leave her, her dreams of being a hairdresser keep eluding her and bad luck does strike one too many times over and over. But maybe her luck might be changing when the quiet busboy played sweetly by Christian Slater shows up at just the right moment. You can’t help rooting for these lost souls who seem to be a little less loss now that they’ve tumbled into each other’s lives. Hmm. Favorite line: “I don’t make sense, he doesn’t make sense, together we make sense.”

 

This is one for the romantics out there — if you love to swoon and sigh and aww and cry, yeah, you’ll probably adore this one, too. Think ICE CASTLES. With less ice skating. Oh, and no blindness. Or roses. Okay, there’s no Robby Benson in there either, so I’m realizing this is probably not sounding like a good parallel but trust me, if you love ICE CASTLES, you’re probably going to love this one, too. They do both take place where this lots and lots of ice, so there is that similarity. Yep.

 

Score: 87

 

UntamedHeart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

86. Long Shot

Comedy, Romance (2019)
Stars Charlize Theron, Seth Rogen, Bob Odenkirk

 

This will be a much shorter review. Positives of the movie – Charlize Theron and Seth Rogen. I love this. In just about anything. And I disagree with the reviewer who said they have no chemistry. I think they do have chemistry onscreen. There’s just one big missing piece — they don’t have much of a script. It’s a comedy without um… laughs. I can usually find humor in most Rogen films just because I find him amusing as hell. I love his personality, his voice, his laugh, his antics — I could watch SAUSAGE PARTY and THIS IS THE END on a loop for the whole weekend and be thoroughly amused much of the time. This one? Not a chance.

 

Theron and Rogen play characters who once knew each other in their pasts and now as one seeks major political office and the other finds himself unemployed, their flashback meet-up moments seems like kismet and the two decide to team up for the presidential hopeful’s publicity campaign. It’s an unlikely scenario since from the beginning we see absolutely no reason why anyone would hire him for this role given he is regularly making an ass out of himself publicly on a regular basis, so of course he would be the perfect person to work with your campaign manager. No bonehead moves present here, right? Riiiiiight.

 

I wanted so badly to enjoy this film, but it was missing the fun in funny movies. It squeezes out a high 70s rating merely because I adore those two stars too much to rate it lower. See 50/50 and TULLY — both are far more interesting and meaningful movies. Not perfect either, but worth your time and each demonstrates these two offer so much more than a trademark doped-up grin or goofy laugh or stunning looks. They are much more talented than this vehicle allows them to be.

 

 

 

Score: 79

 

LongShot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

87. ReMastered: The Two Killings of Sam Cooke

Music, Documentary (2019)
Features Sam Cooke, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson

 

This was an unexpected viewing but I always try to sneak in a documentary when I can and this has been one at the top of my ‘I Wanna See You’ list for the year. Finally, I did. And as a fan of Sam Cooke’s music and only familiar with what can only be described as sordid details of his murder at a dirty old motel, shot by a scared manager clerk who said she found a half-naked man beating on her door and had no choice but to shoot him three times. Hmm. That always sounded a little fishy to me. But it wasn’t until this thought-provoking and intimate look at the early life of Cooke that a picture starts to form — one of a loyal son and popular local gospel singer who moves up the ranks in the church music community, quite large in a city like Chicago. As he branches out and decides to leave the music of the lord for the ‘devil’s music’ as his family has always told him, he does an amazing balancing act between not only two kinds of music — one deemed angelic and the other nasty, but also between two worlds and very different audiences. One that he can relate to and even preach to as he sings his own brand of gospel and R&B combined with a bit of a pop sound, and the other, an audience that invites him and his music but will not let him stop in their restaurants or stay in their motels, or even drink from the same water fountain. The documentary does a wonderful job at painting the time in which Cooke was often breaking new ground both as a singer and the first African-American musician to start his own record label, but also as a performer and using his own popularity and pull to try to tour in areas that were often hostile and dangerous for him and his fellow singers and musicians.

 

I love a good documentary when I leave it feeling so much more knowledgeable about the subject than when I started. This is a short film and my only complaint, is that they didn’t give me even more about him during his time of finding some fame and success on the charts. They spent a great span of time on his early life and building his career but I felt like perhaps I would have liked to see more during his success before they reached the subject of his still controversial murder’s finding: that it was deemed “justifiable” homicide by the hotel manager. If you are a music lover or especially a fan of this era of music, see it, you’ll appreciate all of its nuances and words from talented peers like Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson and Dionne Warwick. But even if you are a casual music fan, if you appreciate learning more about history from a close-up perspective, especially if it’s an ere you weren’t around to experience yourself (as with me, a 1970 baby), I think you too will gain a greater understanding of a time that might otherwise be really difficult to imagine without the words, images and music to help tell the story.

 

 

 

Score: 84

TheTwoKillingsOfSamCooke

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

88. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Drama, Comedy (2019)
Leonardo DeCaprio, Brad Pitt, Margot Robbie, Al Pacino

 

Aah, yes. Quentin Tarentino’s latest film. You must know from the onset two things — this has been my most anticipated film all year barring one exception, the conclusion to THE AVENGERS film series. And two, I am determined to not say TOO much because this is a film that can be thoroughly ruined by sharing one too many plot points, so you know what I’m going to do? I’m going to give you one line about the plot and then I’m going to talk about what I liked and didn’t like about the film and not ruin a damn thing. Sound like a plan?

 

The plot — take an almost or maybe already there ‘has been’ actor once well-known for being the lead on a successful TV western, becoming even iconic enough to be featured on some of the most beloved magazine covers of the day, and now take him and his trusty sidekick and stunt double and toss them into the groovy late 60s as the culture is changing everywhere, not just on the TV screen but on the radio, on the movie screens and simply walking down the street. How does that ‘has been’ square peg fit into this new round hole known as 1969?

 

The film attempts to answer that question, and I’m sure not going to tell you whether he does or doesn’t but much of it follows his efforts to do exactly that.

 

Okay, there’s your plot. So what did I like? When it looked like a Tarentino, sounded like a Tarentino or felt like a Tarentino picture, it REALLY felt like a Tarentino, and that is what I have missed so much from his last couple of cinematic efforts. A certain charm and quirky, offbeat vibe that threaded so naturally through films like RESERVOIR DOGS, PULP FICTION and JACKIE BROWN have been missing from later efforts. And this film does have that in certain scenes and I welcomed it with open arms.

 

I sincerely loved the attention to detail in recreating Hollywood from that era, from the use of actual locales that people frequented to the cars, the clothes, the famous people hanging out at The Playboy Mansion (all very well cast, I might add).

 

The cast is terrific. And though I am by far a much bigger Leonardo DiCaprio fan than I am a Brad Pitt fan, I must say that I think when the two were onscreen together, Pitt often stole the scene from DiCaprio. Robbie is effervescent as nearby neighbor Sharon Tate (I don’t think I’m giving anything away here since even the promotional tour has mentioned who she plays) Supporting cast players and some familiar faces pop up throughout and they too were always greeted with a smile from my theater seat.

 

So what could I possibly not like? Hmm. This is the hardest to articulate without giving anything away but I will remain committed to not being a spoiler. Sometimes the pacing felt a little sluggish and we spent far too long in a particular scene than the Tarentino of the past would have done, and I think in that regard, he was better at knowing when to cut and leave back then. Other times, a scene felt like all of the time was invested in the details captured in the shot and less on the purpose of the scene, so I found myself during those moments losing interest which I must confess I never did in any of those three earlier Tarantino pictures.

 

Ultimately, when everything reaches the closing credits, I also found myself a little underwhelmed. Again, that doesn’t read disappointed or unhappy with the choices that Tarantino made as a director. I am still overall giving the film a pretty hefty rating in the high 80s. But, its conclusion didn’t knock my socks off the way a film like say THE SHAPE OF WATER. (Yep, I’m raving about that one…STILL!)

 

Anyway, this is a Tarentino film that sometimes I really love, other times I like, and yet other times I might yawn once in a while, but overall, it’s still a wild ride and I’m sure I’ll be giving this one another viewing once I have easy at-home access. I expect I missed a lot of great pop cultural references and art direction details I’ll appreciate more when I can study the film more.

 

 

 

Score: 88

 

OnceUponATimeInHollywood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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