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Currently browsing the "Drama" category.

Review: Crazy Rich Asians

Cue up the sequel. I suspect Hollywood will see enough green from Crazy Rich Asians to justify a speedy greenlight for a second (and third) film based on the popular trilogy by Kevin Kwan. I haven’t read the book(s) but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment of the movie, which is basically a conventional romantic dramedy that happens to feature a majority Asian cast playing a variety of well-drawn characters, several of whom are crazy rich. It’s all very Dynasty-esque, tackling love, romance, pettiness, sabotage, scorn, humor, fashion, palatial digs and a lot of fantastic-looking food. The story revolves around Rachel Chu (Constance Wu, TV’s Fresh Off the Boat), a bright, attractive and very down-to-earth Asian-American Economics Professor who agrees to accompany her bright and charming boyfriend Nick Young (newcomer Henry Golding) to his best friend’s wedding in Singapore. En route she discovers that her longtime beau comes from money – lots and lots of money.

Review: Leave No Trace

Eight years ago writer/director Debra Granik introduced us all to Jennifer Lawrence in the amazing Winter’s Bone. She’s finally made another movie after way too long, introducing us to the next young actress we should probably keep an eye on, Thomasin McKenzie, who plays 13-year-old Tom in this gem of a film. Like Winter’s Bone, Leave No Trace is not about people living conventional lives with ordinary choices to make. Tom and her dad Will (Ben Foster, Hell or High Water) have chosen to live out in the woods in an Oregon park, taking care of themselves, and living a fairly isolated but full life together. But when they’re discovered by rangers and social services gets involved, the question of what is home and what is normal is pushed to the fore.

Review: BlackkKlansman

Spike Lee’s latest joint is about as far fetched as you could imagine. Set in the early 70s, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) becomes Colorado Springs, Colorado’s first African-American cop. While still a rookie, he infiltrates the KKK and fools Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace) into welcoming him into the fold. But it’s a true story and one that resonates all the more loudly in our current political world with David Duke and his minions then as now proclaiming “America First.” It’s a deadly serious, yet at times hilarious story, and it’s scary how much has not changed in the intervening years.

Review: Custody (Jusqu’à la garde)

Custody begins as a separated couple, Antoine (Denis Ménochet) and Miriam (Léa Drucker), sit before a magistrate who will decide the fate of their children. Their daughter Joséphine (Mathilde Auneveux) is nearly grown, so their 11-year-old son Julien (Thomas Gioria) is really the bone of contention. And he doesn’t want to see his abusive father. But the court grants the father weekend visits anyway. And it is immediately apparent that the court made a huge mistake. What follows is like watching the fuse on a bomb slowing burning down. You’re wait for the explosion, but hoping that someone comes along to defuse it, even though you know that is unlikely. It’s harrowing!

Review: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Director Gus Van Sant has brought us some very powerful films in the past — Milk, Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, to name just a few — and he frequently pushed the envelope in the way he tells a tale — To Die For, My Own Private Idaho — but his latest is a pretty straight forward bio of alcoholic cartoonist John Callahan. Played by chameleon Joaquin Phoenix, the arc of the tale is Callahan’s coming to terms with himself after a life-changing accident while getting sober at the same time. There are some funny moments for sure, and an odd romance, and also some insightful AA bits. And it is a pleasant entertainment, though not terribly memorable.

Review: The Captain (Der Hauptmann)

The Captain is not for the faint of heart. It’s the true story (or some version of it) of a German deserter in World War II, who finds a suitcase containing a Luftwaffe captain’s uniform and assumes the role, building his own band of brothers from deserters he finds along the way, and committing truly horrifying acts in the name of the Führer in the waning days of the war. Pvt. Willi Herold (Max Hubacher) simply by virtue of a uniform becomes a sadistic leader. Inventing a mission straight from Hitler himself, he quickly loses his fear of being caught and tests the limits of his own brutality. And there are no limits.

Review: Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to check your plausibility meter at the door and enjoy watching Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise, 56) run, jump, fly, shoot and crawl his way across the globe in this sixth installment of the popular spy-movie franchise. Berlin! Paris! London! New Zealand! It’s a veritable action-adventure-travelogue. There is a plot – something to do with missing plutonium, bombs, a manifesto, double-crosses galore, and millions of people at risk. But it’s the stunts, breathtaking locales and core character interactions that make for a fast-paced and engaging flick.

Review: Shock and Awe

The most shocking thing about Shock and Awe is how shockingly flat it turned out to be, given the star-power behind it as well as the timeliness of its core message about the role of the free press in a democracy. With a cast list that includes Woody Harrelson, James Marsden, Tommy Lee Jones and actor/director Rob Reiner, the biggest question you’re left with after the film is the same question raised in the film itself: How the hell did this happen? It should have been so much better – so more people might actually see it.

Review: Blindspotting

Every year, a few of those ‘smaller’ movies come along that you feel compelled to champion, in a concerted effort to make sure they don’t get lost in the barrage of major studio releases. Blindspotting is one of those films. And not just because I got to meet its co-writer/stars Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal (photos below) and once worked with the film’s editor, Gabe Fleming (on America’s Next Top Model). It’s simply a darned good movie that’s provocative, entertaining and timely.

Review: Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

Thank you for the music, the songs I’m singing. Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing.

The story may be lame as heck, but who cares? Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again delivers exactly what I expected: a groovy movie musical with a simple plot built around lyrics to ABBA songs — just like the first Mamma Mia! nearly a decade ago. In some ways, the sequel is even better, thanks to the singing, dancing and acting chops of Lily James (Baby Driver, Cinderella) as a younger version of free-spirited Donna Sheridan, the role inhabited by Meryl Streep in 2008. Streep is back for the sequel, but only for a brief yet poignant scene in the final minutes of the film (no spoilers). And oh yeah, Cher pops in too – as Donna’s showstopper (and scene-stealer) of a Mom.