Arizona Hot Shots, Harry Dean Stanton, NY Pubic Library and Ranchera singer Chavela provide real choices

Locals brave enough to watch this bio-pic of the Arizona “Hot Shots” firefighting crew can learn a great deal about how puny little humans fight a monstrous firestorm. One thing that stands out, is the contrast between those who fight rural wildland fires and those who confront urban structural fires. The tactics, skills, techniques and equipment are quite different. Which is part of the reason the response to our local “once in 150 years catastrophe” as so unique. In this film, the Prescott, Arizona fire crew are the underdogs striving to become “Hot Shots.” The crew is capable, but are assigned “mop-up” jobs and therefore don’t get the frontline experience they need to go up a grade. The underdog story is predictable, but the actors involved elevate stock characters into individuals you feel for. Kudos to cinematographer Claudio Miranda. Only the Brave should add another Oscar to his wall of trophies.

By | October 20th, 2017|0 Comments

Professor Marston & the Wonder Woman is fascinating

Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast New Releases For the Week of 10/13/17 Professor Marston & the Wonder Women (R) Starring: Luke Evans, Rebecca Hall, Bella Heathcote Directed by: Angela Robinson Angela Robinson’s Professor Marston & the Wonder Women would make an excellent double-bill with Patty Jenkins Wonder Woman. I’ve written before [...]

By | October 13th, 2017|0 Comments

Blade Runner 2049 scores 100% on the Voight-Kampff test

In 1983, Ridley Scott’s astoundingly lyrical sci-fi-noir film Blade Runner took audiences to a place they had never been before. Set 30 years late, Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 is set 30 has an even greater “cool factor” than the original. In dystopian Los Angeles, elite teams of “Blade Runners” are assigned to “retire” (kill) any rebellious replicant (bioengineered slave laborers) who get a little too “uppity.” There are two types of replicants (called by their uber-industrialist manufacturer “bad angels” and “good angels”). I have sworn to the powers that be not to give away too many plot secrets, but it is helpful to know that two of the new replicants are named Joi and Luv. One other thing, Harrison Ford returns as Deckard.

By | October 6th, 2017|0 Comments

Battle of the Sexes gets it right

In 1973, an over-the-hill tennis champ and serial self-promoter Bobby Riggs (astoundingly personified by Steve Carrell) is certain that no female can ever beat him. So after stunts like playing tennis dressed as Little Bo Peep (complete with her sheep), he challenges the World’s #1 women’s tennis champ, Billie Jean King to a Battle of the Sexes, $100,000 prize tennis match televised from the Huston Astrodome. Coincidentally, King has just come out of the closet. What could possibly go wrong?

By | September 29th, 2017|0 Comments

Be sure to see Two Trains Runnin’ and Stronger

Unknown to each other, a couple of musicologists from Berkley and Cambridge head South in June, 1964 on a search to find two elusive blues singers named Skip James and Son House. At the same time, throngs of other college students travel to Mississippi as part of a Civil Rights/voter registration event labelled “Freedom Summer.” Three of these activists, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney are murdered by the KKK. Documentarian Samuel D. Pollard masterfully weaves these stories together with a voice-over narration read by Common, and punctuated by the blues of Skip James and Son House. Here is how documentaries should be made!

By | September 22nd, 2017|0 Comments

Delores and Viceroy’s House are great

Viceroy’s House takes place in and around the official domicile of England’s last British Viceroy just before India’s borders were shifted to create the Muslim country of Pakistan. Opening as comfortably as an Upstairs/Downstairs reset in India by Merchant/Ivory, it is, instead, a very personal tale of historic (and violent) sea-change written, directed, and produced by Gurinder Chada with input from Prince Charles. (This is because the Viceroy was Lord Louis Mountbatten, AKA Prince Charles’ Great-Uncle, and the Prince wanted things “portrayed completely”). Chada also drew on the stories told to her by her own family about living through this tumultuous time-period. Wisely, she chooses to focus on the lives of individuals to present her movie on an easily assimilated “human scale.”

By | September 15th, 2017|0 Comments

Movie version of Stephen King’s IT is repetitious

The “Killer Clown” returns to haunt the nightmares of a new generation. Stephen King’s 1986 novel was made into a 1989 cult-classic miniseries (starring Tim Curry as the sewer-dwelling, shape-shifting, clown). Andre Muschietti's new movie draws heavily on the miniseries—but only the parts featuring the protagonists as kids (their grown-up counterparts will appear in IT Part Two). The director treats the film as a one-trick-pony by setting up and repeating the same child at risk in a dark, creepy place over and over again. He does include the important bits like a boy dying from having his arm torn off, a marauding squad of physically abused at home bullies, a group of victims (aka The Losers Club) and the girl repeatedly raped by her father. In the interest of avoiding an NC-17 rating, despite a sanitized version in the original movie script, the book’s pre-adolescent group sex scene (initiated by the girl) was never filmed.

By | September 8th, 2017|0 Comments

Three Bombs for Labor Day Weekend

I am only recommending Lake Bell's "I Do... Until I Don't" for documentary film makers (or wannabe documentary film makers). This is because the unfunny rom-com about the obsolescence of marriage will be quickly forgotten by everyone else. The set up is that a filmmaker wants to record interactions between married couples who validate her theory that monogamy is not a viable situation. The manner in which the woman manipulates the couples from behind the camera is an eye opener for those intrigued by how some docs are made

By | September 1st, 2017|0 Comments

Diverse Genres to Choose From This Week

Set in Paris in the 1870’s, Leap truly begins when Victor and Felice break out of their orphanage with dreams to fulfill. He wants to be an inventor and ends up working for a Monsieur Eiffel during the construction of the famous tower. She wants to be a ballet star and adopts a snobbish accent to wheedle her way into the prestigious Opera Ballet School. Cue the rip-offs from Hugo and Flashdance. Then imagine, just for a moment, if the girl wanted to be an inventor and the boy a dancer. Would we have something new and fresh, or just rip offs from Billy Elliot and Mulan?

By | August 25th, 2017|0 Comments

Wild River is violent but well done

Hell or High Water screenwriter Taylor Sheridan’s new film, Wind River has a lot in common with the Longmire TV series. Both are set in Wyoming, both feature a lawman (Federal Wildlife Officer and Sheriff) mourning the violent death of a loved one (daughter and wife) in a jurisdiction that is partly an indian reservation. This geographical overlap dictates interaction with the tribal police chiefs and interloping FBI agents. In the movie, the FBI sends a woman—which because she is called in to investigate a violent murder/rape makes both logical and story telling sense. It also sets up the dynamic tension between the “I’m a hunter” male and the “I need to get these Indians to talk to me” female. Both are focused on their job—they just utilize different skill sets to uncover the answers.

By | August 18th, 2017|0 Comments