Review: Instant Family

Instant Family is an instant charmer. It’s a message movie that balances the funny with the feels and could very well raise critical awareness and interest in foster care and adoption. The film was written and directed by Sean Anders (Daddy’s Home) who drew on his own family story for inspiration. Just like the main characters in Instant Family, Anders and his wife took in three siblings born to a drug addict mom. Their journey was fraught with challenges – and laughter. So they decided to put that experience into the cinematic universe to help demystify the foster care and adoption process and celebrate the true meaning of family.

Quickie Review: The Girl in the Spider’s Web

To call this an adaptation is an insult to all other adaptations. I was wary when I read that another author was continuing “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” series following Stieg Larsson’s death, but once I read it, I was looking forward to more. So when I heard about the The Girl in the Spider’s Web film, I was cautiously optimistic. (I was a lot more taken with the Swedish versions of the originals than the American one.) But what this film does to the book is ignore it entirely and replace a gripping story and complex characters with a lame cookie cutter action pic. Shame on them!

Review: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

This anthology film from the Coen Brothers will only be in a few big city theaters for a week before it begins streaming on Netflix. It’s made up of six separate stories all set in the Wild West held together by beautiful cinematography and a great cast. A couple of the stories are a lot of fun. A few, meh! All together it clocks in at 132 minutes, and there were certainly places where a little snip or two would have made it better. But if you’re a fan of the Coens, you’ll probably overlook the length and have a fine time.

Review: El Ángel

Set in Buenos Aires in 1971, El Ángel is a true crime drama about a baby-faced teenage sociopath named Carlitos (Lorenzo Ferro) whose love for thievery blossomed into a passion for cold-blooded murder when he met fellow student Ramon (Chino Darin). It’s a truly disturbing portrait of a kid totally devoid of a moral compass. And you’re on the edge of your seat the whole way because you just know he and his accomplices will (and should) be caught.

Review: The Great Buster

The full title of this documentary is The Great Buster: A Celebration and it certainly is that. From Dick Van Dyke to Mel Brooks to Werner Herzog, silent film star Buster Keaton aka The Great Stone Face is lauded for his enduring influence on film and comedy. This comprehensive bio-pic is from director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon) who loves telling the stories of the great men of cinema. And Keaton surely was one of the greats. The film is a fairly straightforward chronological telling of his life and career featuring lots of talking heads and film clips from his movies. For those who are unfamiliar with his work, the film will no doubt make them want to see his work. And for those who already knew him, it’s a loving reminder of a man way ahead of his time.

Review: A Private War

You simply can’t paint all journalists and all of journalism with the same broad brush. A Private War reminds us of that. The film follows the last ten years in the risk-fueled life of the Sunday Times of London foreign affairs correspondent Marie Colvin. The American-born journalist dedicated most of her adult life to exposing the human atrocities of war across the globe, up to the very moment of her untimely death in the besieged city of Homs, Syria on February 12, 2012. She was 56. A Private War pays homage to Colvin’s bravery, tenacity and bravado, while also exposing the physical and psychological trauma that resulted from the choices she made. Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, Beirut, Hostiles) plays Colvin with admirable precision, nailing her unique voice and mannerisms; and Jamie Dornan (Fifty Shades, Anthropoid) delivers a strong supporting performance as Colvin’s frequent partner in the conflict zones, British-soldier-turned-photojournalist Paul Conroy.

Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

As biopics go, Bohemian Rhapsody is not a great movie. But it does feature plenty of strong performances and a final act that more than makes up for its shortcomings – particularly if you’re a fan of Queen and/or grew up in the ‘Live Aid’ generation. Bohemian Rhapsody chronicles the men and music that made up the iconic British rock band fronted by Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek, TV’s Mr. Robot) from 1970 until his AIDS-related death in 1991. To this day, the band plays on – in various incarnations – with Mercury’s influence still vital to its core, though his energetic presence is sorely missed. He was a unique dude.

Arty Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download 2018

Another year at a fabulous festival! I wonder how long this little Virginia horse country festival can keep it up. It’s sure to burst its seams soon. This year’s slate was amazing, as usual. I was only able to fit in 10 of the 29 films offered in my three days of the festival and missed quite a few I really wanted to see. But what I saw was impressive. The big winner for me (it won the audience award, too) was Peter Farrelly’s Green Book, which will certainly be vying for the Oscar. But there really were quite a few standout films. Here’s my list with trailers and my preliminary impressions. Full reviews of select films will come later, so check back.

Mainstream Chick’s Middleburg Film Festival Download (2018)

Despite a few (hotel reservation and RSVP) potholes on the road to this year’s Middleburg Film Festival, all’s well that ends well! And what an ending it was. The closing film was my favorite film – by far – securing my only four-star ballot after four days of movie madness in the Virginia countryside.

So, without further ado, here’s what I saw, and how I ranked ‘em:

Review: Studio 54

I was never a fan of disco, and you’d have had to drag me kicking and screaming to any club in New York when I lived there, so I was surprised by how much I liked this documentary about the club that defined the era. Studio 54 had closed just a couple of years before I moved to New York, but it was still held up as the club to which all others aspired. This documentary takes you from its inception to its demise, which was surprisingly less than 3 years. But it was a hell of a ride!