The original Baywatch TV show was reportedly seen in 142 countries by over a billion people every week! In addition to the skimpy swimsuits, part of the show’s “charm” was the less-than-stellar acting by performers stuck in Scooby-Doo style plots. The reboot for the BIG SCREEN keeps alive the same campy stylings of the original, but with currently hip “BIG NAME STARS” wearing the latest cheeky swimsuit designs and making insider jokes about how what they do everyday would make a really great TV show. Then there’s the slapstick humor, and slo-mo running sequences, and jokes about how the character played by Zach Efron looks amazingly like Zach Efron. Lets admit it. Shakespeare it ain’t, but everyone seems to be having a good time.
In Ridley Scott's Alien: Covenant movie, the Covenant is a deep-space colony-ship whose passengers are all couples of childbearing age. They are headed for an Earth-type planet on the far side of the Galaxy where everything looks bucolic and friendly including the cultivated field of Terran wheat they discover. But there is something not quite right about this place. As one colonist asks “You hear that? Nothing. No birds, no animals. Nothing.” Well, she’s wrong, of course. There is something out there. Gigantic, slimy, ravenous creatures that will populate our nightmares for decades
Friendship is the center of this loving movie about death with dignity. Tomas boards a plane in Canada and travels to Spain to spend some quality time with his long-time actor friend Julian. The impetus is that Julian’s rapidly spreading cancer dictates he has only a few days left to live. Tomas is surprised to discover that much of their time together is spent making arrangements for how and where Julian’s elderly dog Truman will live out his life. Sparkling with insightful bits of humor, Cesc Gay’s Truman is astoundingly simple yet profoundly acted and well made.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 is the follow up to James Gunn’s 2014 antihero hit, and allows plenty of screen time for the two breakout stars Groot, the tree sapling and Rocket the racoon. The basic plot is revealed by the muscular saxaphonist, Drax the Destroyer, who explains: “There are two types in the universe—those who dance and those who do not.” This Yoda/Zenness allows for action scenes to blur into the background while the Guardians do their dances. Closely aligning itself to Joseph Campbell-style archetypes, the multi-species who guard the galaxy form a “family” for the now orphaned Quill—albeit a bickering, wise-cracking, decidedly alternative family. Interspersed with all the 70’s pop songs, and zinging one-liners, are encounters with a golden empress, a kidnapping pirate, and a couple new characters—a father-figure named Ego whose female sidekick, Mantis, is an empath.
In Cristian Mungui's film Graduation, a Romanian-born physician returns to his native country with his family, including his teenage daughter. On the eve of sitting for an exam to win a scholarship to a British university, the girl is attacked by a would-be rapist. With her arm in a cast, and her confidence eroded, the “certainty” of the exam’s outcome is in doubt. The daughter isn’t sure she wants to move to Britain and leave her friends, family and country behind. To the dad, however a rock through his apartment window, a smashed windshield, and his daughter’s assault are symptomatic of everything wrong in Romanian society. He is certain his daughter must get away from all this, and when he manipulates his hospital’s transplant list to “smooth things along,” he becomes part of the corruption he condemns.
In Nacho Vigalando's film, Colossal, when a failed writer is ousted from her boyfriend’s apartment for her non-stop drinking, she returns to her parent’s empty house in New Hampshire to continue her legacy of empty bottles. A former classmate warmly greets her arrival, but she can’t recall knowing him “back then.” No matter, she willingly accepts the guy’s used furniture, and a job in his tavern where the regulars who sit at the bar serve as the Greek chorus for the rom-com goings-on. Meanwhile, over in Korea, a gigantic monster is single-handedly destroying Seoul. Strangely, the monster has the same quirky mannerisms displayed by the girl who lives so far away. Can there be a connection? Is the monster a giant metaphor? Is this movie fresh and exciting and fun to watch? Yes, yes, and yes!
In Mission Control: Th Unsung Heroes of Apollo, British documentary filmmaker David Fairhead blends archival footage, talking head interviews and CGI reconstructions to tell the nail-biting reality of NASA’s quest to land on the moon. The real-life faces are different from those of actors with the same names in Ron Howard’s astounding 1995 film, Apollo 13, but just like actor Ed Harris did in that movie, space mission flight director Gene Krantz wears his signature tie and vest in the Control Room. Following close to last years Unsung Heroes film about female, African-American NASA mathematicians, Mission Control looks like a whites-only boy’s club, so Fairhead begins and ends his film with shots showing that some modern-day controllers are women.
In today’s high-tech world, spiritual mediums no longer have to consult a crystal globe in a dark room. Instead, they just tap an app icon to communicate with dead people by smart-phone. In this film, a spiritualist pays her bills by being a "Professional shopper" for a Scandinavian actress, while spending the rest of her time waiting for her dead brother to make contact. He died young from a heart attack, and, according to his sister, was also a medium. So when a series of invasive text messages appear, she thinks they are from her dead brother, while any other intelligent woman would think they are from a hacker/stalker. So the disbelief suspended for an audience to enjoy the grief and languid ennui Kristen Stewart presents under Olivier Assayas direction depends on how paranoid you are about using your smart phone.
Stand-up comic and former “Red Diaper Baby” Josh Kornbluth has grown up so much in Love and Taxes, that he’s actually going to pay his income taxes and become (horror of horrors), “part of the system!” I’ve appreciated Kornbluth’s wry whimsy ever since he played the “temp guy” secretary who is covertly writing a novel at work in Haiku Tunnel (2001). In fact, Kornbluth’s lifelong battle against the IRS began when he became a “perm” (permanent employee) at the same San Francisco law firm where he was as a “temp.” As a result, many of the supporting roles are played by the same actors from the original film. One new face is former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich, playing a former I.R.S. Commissioner. I admit that Kornbluth’s style of acting is as unkempt as his clothing, but I really like the guy (and hope you will too).
2017's Critics Award at the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival i s bookended by the universal theme of music as a catalyst for cultural revival, Tommie Dell Smith captures the irrepressible fiddler Alasdair Fraser’s global odyssey from his native Scotland to California and on to Spain, by honoring the transformational power of both music and film in her toe-tappingly beautiful, The Groove Is Not Trivial.