Review: Year by the Sea

I know there are not enough great roles for women of a certain age, but could someone please write something good for Karen Allen (Indiana Jones, Starman) to act in. Year by the Sea isn’t it. She is so much better than this. In it, she plays a cliched wife/mother whose son just got married and whose husband sells the house without telling her he’s been relocated, just expecting she’ll go along. And so she feels very unmoored and decides to “find herself” by moving to a cabin on an island somewhere up on Cape Cod. Based on a book of the same name, the film is a jumble of tired tropes on menopausal women and empowerment, set against a soundtrack of the songs you were happy to have forgotten from your youth. I cannot imagine why it was made.

Review: mother!

This is without doubt the most divisive movie to come out in a long time. People either hate it or love it, with very few people on the fence about it. I make it a point not to read reviews before I go to see a film I’m planning to cover, but the headlines screaming about mother! (not to be confused with one of my favorite Korean films call Mother sans exclamation point) couldn’t be ignored. It got an F from viewer-polled Cinemascore, but earned raves from some well-known critics. The New York Times even posted an article titled, “Hating ‘Mother!’: Readers Speak Out.” And after finally seeing it for myself, I understand both sides of the argument, but come down on the WTF#?! side.

Review: Brad’s Status

I lie in bed and overthink everything in my life on a regular basis, but I don’t think everyone needs to hear about it. Writer/director Mike White (School of Rock, Beatriz at Dinner), however, thought that that kind of obsessive inner life monologue would make for a great film. Perhaps, though not this film. In Brad’s Status, Brad (Ben Stiller) is a dad about to take his only son (Austin Abrams ) on a college tour, and it throws him into a self-absorbed walk down memory lane where he compares his life with those of his classmates (Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, and Luke Wilson) and comes up totally lacking. Though there is dialogue in the film, Brad’s voice-over dominates. And boy is he annoying.

Review: Battle of the Sexes

Battle of the Sexes is okay, but far from the grand slam I was rooting for. I love the story, especially because it’s true: tennis great Billie Jean King agrees to play ex-champ and self-professed male chauvinist pig Bobby Riggs in a high-profile televised event and kicks his butt, scoring a huge victory for the women’s rights movement in the 1970s. That’s not a spoiler. It’s a well-known fact in sports history. Unfortunately, without the dramatic climax that typically drives a sports drama, Battle of the Sexes is forced to look for bonus points off the court. They include: an exploration of Billie Jean’s sexual awakening as a lesbian and the strain that puts on her marriage; Bobby’s marital woes, childish antics and addiction to gambling; and, my favorite part of the film, Billie Jean’s willingness to take a stand for equal rights and social justice by, in part, organizing other players to break from the establishment and form the Women’s Tennis Association.

Review: Stronger

Stronger starts off strong, falters a bit in the middle, and regains its footing towards the end, making for an inconsistent though still compelling drama. The movie tells the true story of 27-year-old Jeff Bauman (Jake Gyllenhaal), a regular guy who became a symbol of hope and inspiration following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Bauman was waiting at the finish line in a bid to cheer on – and win back – his ex-girlfriend Erin (Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black) when the blast occurred. He lost both legs. Bauman is the guy being helped by a stranger in a cowboy hat in one of the most iconic photos from that day. Boston Strong personified. Stronger isn’t so much about the terrorist bombing or the manhunt that followed (Patriots Day covered that territory). It’s about Bauman’s struggle to recover, physically and emotionally, often in the uncomfortable glare of the public spotlight.

Review: The Villainess (AK-NYEO)

If you’re looking for some bloody violence, this is the movie for you! The opening sequence alone has a higher body count than even Tarantino’s most epic movie. A woman (Sook-hee- unseen until the end of the fighting) goes into a building and hall by hall, room by room, kills every single man in the place. They’re shooting and knifing and martial arting at her, too, but she’s just a better bad-ass than any of them. And at the end she walks out covered in blood ready to be arrested by the waiting police. The next thing she knows, she wakes up in some shady off-book South Korean Intelligence agency’s secret facility, and she’s told they’re going to train her, use her for various nefarious undercover ops, and after ten years she’ll have her freedom back. Or they can kill her. She goes for option one.

Review: Rebel in the Rye

I vaguely recall reading “The Catcher in the Rye” in High School. But I must not have been overly impressed with teen-angst icon Holden Caulfield because unlike characters in, say, “To Kill a Mockingbird” or “Lord of the Flies,” Holden and his story failed to stick with me into my adult years. Perhaps that’s because the 1951 novel (that’s sold more than 65 million copies) was never adapted for film! At least now I understand why, thanks to the mildly intriguing biographical drama, Rebel in the Rye, about famously reclusive author J.D. Salinger who steadfastly refused to sell theatrical rights to his most famous work.

Review: Home Again

No harm, no foul. Sweet Home Alabama – um, I mean, Home Again, is light and fluffy, formulaic, predictable, enjoyable and forgettable. And it serves as a pleasant alternative at the box office for those who might prefer a mindless modern romantic comedy to a horror story about a creepy clown that terrorizes and kills kids (IT).

Review: Columbus

This one is indie all the way. Set in Columbus, Indiana, it’s the story of Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a local girl in love with the architecture of her small town but at the same time dying to get out. Enter Jin (John Cho) who’s come all the way from South Korea because his famous father fell ill here while on a speaking tour. She’s a fan of his architectural scholar dad. He’s estranged from him. As Jin gets to know Casey, he sees that she’s smart and ambitious, but her recovering addict mom is holding her back. And while these two broken adults share their bad parenting stories, Casey gives Jin a tour of her favorite architectural spots around Columbus. Not a lot happens, but it is interesting to watch.

Review: IT

I get it now. The creepy clowns. The red balloons. The yellow slicker. The references to “You’ll float too.” All things I’d be privy to had I read “IT” (the Stephen King novel) or seen IT as a television mini-series in 1990. Alas, the big-screen adaptation of IT served as my introduction to IT, and I can honestly say — as a reluctant horror-moviegoer — IT is scary good, and probably scary great for ITs die-hard fans.