Review: Meeting Gorbachev

As a Werner Herzog über-fan, I’m always excited by the opportunity to watch anything he’s involved with, since he usually has a thoughtful and thought provoking view of the world. So when I heard about this film where he sits down with Mikhail Gorbachev, I wondered what kind of strange spin he might put on Cold War political history. Meeting Gorbachev is a series of three sit-down interviews Herzog had with Gorbachev over a period of six months. And those friendly chats between two fascinating people offer some decidedly pointed takes on the history of the fall of the USSR and a timely perspective on world leadership and the danger of what Gorbachev calls “reckless politicians.” It’s a simple and straight forward documentary, intercutting the interviews with archival footage from the time they’re discussing, but it has that Herzogian tone that’s just a little off kilter and keeps you glued to the screen.

Quickie Review: Working Woman

This Israeli #MeToo drama centers on Orna (Liron Ben-Shlush) whose husband’s new Tel Aviv restaurant is struggling to get off the ground, so she takes a job with real estate developer Benny (Menashe Noy) who she knew from her time in the army. At first everything is great. She’s given a lot of responsibility and finds she’s really good at what she’s doing, but then come the unwanted and inappropriate advances and she’s not sure how to react, but hopes they’ll stop once she says no. They don’t. Working Woman is a story that will be familiar to many women. Orna wants the job. She’s given well-deserved promotions and people treat her with respect for the great job she’s doing. But the boss thinks he has the right to treat her however he wants. He knows she’s happily married and has kids at home. He’s married too, and she’s met his wife, but still.

Review: Wild Nights with Emily

The Emily of the title is the 19th century American poet Emily Dickinson, long thought to be a delicate recluse who was afraid to publish her work. But that, the film tells us, is an entirely false narrative devised for profit after her death. In fact, Dickinson was a strong and passionate woman who carried on a life-long affair with a woman who was her childhood friend and later her sister-in-law who lived conveniently next door. Played by SNL alum Molly Shannon, Emily is certainly an unconventional poet, but also an early women’s rights adherent pushing for women to have the same opportunities as men and to be taken just as seriously. While it is a potentially heavy subject, the film has a light tone, which works most of the time. It’s an odd little romcom that plays off the juxtaposition of Emily’s real life with the sanitized version told by Mabel Loomis Todd (Amy Seimetz), Emily’s brother’s sly mistress, who as her de facto biographer took great liberties with Dickinson’s legacy, despite having never actually met her.

Review: John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum is insanely violent yet wildly entertaining – if you can withstand a barrage of fight scenes rife with bullets, swords, fists, head-butts, horses, motorcycles, crackling bones, shards of glass, big guns, small guns, and lots and lots of knives. The prolonged violence was a bit over the top for my taste, but I can’t help but appreciate the totality of what the franchise has been able to deliver since Wick first came on the scene in 2014. Chapter after chapter, the heart of the story remains the same: Formerly retired super-assassin John Wick (Keanu Reeves) just wants to live in peace with his dog and wallow in the memory of his late wife Helen. Good luck with that, John.

Quickie Review: The Sun Is Also a Star

The Sun Is Also a Star is a fine though forgettable romantic drama for the YA crowd and possibly others who’ve read the best-selling novel of the same name by Nicola Yoon, the author of “Everything, Everything,” which was turned into a movie that included such a dreadful twist that I declined to post a review back in 2017. The Sun Is Also a Star has the same general vibe and target audience as Everything, Everything but is significantly better, better. It’s a meet-cute movie that delves into themes of love, chemistry, destiny, fate, immigration, deportation and assimilation. All in the span of a (rather slow) day.

Review: Poms

Three cheers for braving new things as we age! One cheer for the movie Poms, which should have been so much better given its veteran ensemble of Hollywood golden girls. The movie has moments that are relatable and funny and poignant, but it doesn’t break any new ground and will escape your memory faster than you can say Bring It On. It’s a bittersweet comedy about death and dying. And living. And friendship.

Quickie Review: Pokémon Detective Pikachu

Who am I kidding? I don’t know a Pikachu from a Wigglytuff from a Psyduck. If you do, then Pokémon Detective Pikachu is probably a safe bet for 100 minutes of harmless entertainment suitable for family viewing. Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool) lends his voice to what is apparently the iconic face of the Pokémon phenomenon, Pikachu, in the first-ever live action Pokémon adventure. It features human and Pokémon characters working together to solve the mysterious disappearance of ace detective Harry Goodman and foil an evil plot to destroy the peaceful co-existence of humans and Pokémon (Pokémons?) in the sprawling metropolis known as Ryme City.

Review: The White Crow

“White crow,” as the film informs us early on, is a term used to describe a person who is unusual, extraordinary, not like others, an outsider.

A Rudolph Nureyev.

For those unfamiliar with political and dance history, Nureyev was a promising young talent in Leningrad’s famed Kirov ballet company when he shocked the Soviets and the world by defecting to the West at the conclusion of a Parisian tour in 1961. The White Crow is Nureyev’s story, as told through the lens of actor/director Ralph Fiennes who pulls double-duty as Nureyev’s Russian dance instructor Alexander Pushkin. Fiennes chose a dancer over an actor to portray Nureyev – a leap of faith that ends up sacrificing story in the service of art.

Review: Long Shot

Seth Rogen comedies tend to be hit or miss for me. Long Shot straddles the line, eeking out on the side of okay, though somewhat disappointing given the tremendous buzz it received coming out of the uber-cool SXSW film festival. Maybe I’m just getting old. But I don’t find the idea of a Secretary of State defusing a crisis while high on ecstasy to be all that funny. It is, however, quintessential Rogen. So if you’re a fan of films like This Is The End, Superbad and Pineapple Express, then you know what you’re in for with Long Shot. The biggest difference is that Long Shot aims for romantic political comedy in addition to raunchy comedy, with an assist from Oscar-winning dramatic actress Charlize Theron (Monster, Tully, Atomic Blonde).

Quickie Review: Red Joan

There’s no denying Judi Dench’s watchability factor. The Grand Dame of cinema commands the screen whenever she’s on it – which isn’t all that much in the not-so-thrilling spy thriller Red Joan. Don’t let the poster, trailer and top billing fool you. Dench is merely a high-profile vehicle for bookending a story told primarily through flashbacks, with Sophie Cookson (Kingsman: The Secret Service) playing young Joan Stanley, an impressionable and idealistic Brit turned longtime spy for the KGB.