Quickie review: Don’t Come Back from the Moon

This quietly meditative indie sells itself on James Franco’s involvement, but truth be told, he’s only in it for a moment before he, like all the other fathers in town, disappears following the closing of the local factory. And that’s okay, since the kids who are left behind are the real story anyway. Based on a book by Dean Bakopoulos, the story centers on a group of young adults who are coming of age in a desert town on the edge of a dying lake. When their fathers abandon them, there is initially a sense of kids gone wild before they settle into the reality that they need to step up and take care of each other.

Review: Glass

What exactly is a “comic book thriller”? I’m not exactly sure, but apparently Glass falls into that category. So Comic-Con types rejoice! This one’s primarily for you. It’s also a gift of sorts for fans of Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016), two creepy yet engrossing movies written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. In Glass, Shyamalan merges the narrative of those two previous efforts to complete what turns out to be a trilogy nearly 20-years in the making, and possibly sets the origin story for a whole new series of comic-horror-thriller-superhero cinematic events.

Review: Cold War

In this passionate love story set in Soviet-era Poland, Zula, a young singer with a past, enters a state-run performing academy where she meets the love of her life, Wictor, the pianist-musical director of the program. The film follows their on-again and off-again relationship across decades as they escape the Iron Curtain and ultimately return. Music is a key element of the story. There is one folk song that is sung first as an audition piece, then as a chorus in concert, then as a Polish jazz song, then translated into French. And Joanna Kulig’s performance as Zula is particularly powerful. Not only does she sing beautifully, but her face lights up the screen.

Review: The Upside

The Upside is a good movie. But it’s an American remake of a better movie called The Intouchables. So I’m in a bit of a conundrum. My preference would be that everyone see the 2011 French indie, but I know that’s a big ask. So if you’re not inclined to see the superior version – or you’ve put it on the list of ‘movies to rent someday’ – then go ahead and check out The Upside, primarily to revel in the comedic and dramatic acting chops of Bryan Cranston. He plays a quadriplegic billionaire, Phillip Lacasse, who hires a recently-paroled ex-convict named Dell (Kevin Hart) to be his caretaker. Phillip figures Dell is the only candidate for the job who is irresponsible and reckless enough to let him die. 

Arty Chick’s Best of 2018 list

This was a hard year to choose my favorites. There were great movies in a lot of categories that deserved attention. It was a GREAT year for foreign films and documentaries, as well as some big and small features. I skew to the arty side, so I was not a big fan of most of the blockbusters, but there are a few. Here’s my oh-so-personal, definitely-not-an-Oscar-prediction list.

Mainstream Chick’s Top Picks of 2018

It’s insanely difficult to do a “Top 10 Movies of 2018” list when you’ve seen about 200 movies in 365 days – everything from blockbusters, to arthouse films, to documentaries, to films that simply defy classification. I reviewed some of them for Chickflix; others I just bantered about on the Cinema Clash podcast; still others I never got around to reviewing, ‘cuz sometimes, Life happens and the catch-up game aint worth playin’.

Movies are subjective – and so is my list. And no movie is a “bad movie” if somebody out there “gets” it and likes it. My list is different today than it was yesterday. And it will surely be different tomorrow. But at this particular moment in time – as we enter 2019 – this is where I stand with my top picks, and why.

Quickie Review: On the Basis of Sex

On the Basis of Sex is a solid, feel-good movie about a real-life superhero and pop culture icon, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It serves as a great companion piece to the recent RBG documentary, i.e. there’s no harm in seeing both. It may even help that both films hit theaters in close proximity, at a time when SCOTUS is top of mind in the political and social arena.

Quickie Reviews: Ben Is Back; Bumblebee; Vice

I know – these are three very different films. But I’m playing catch-up with my reviews! So I’ll start with my favorite of the three (though Bumblebee comes in a surprisingly close second!).

Quickie Review: Second Act

Second Act is a predictable, formulaic, contrived, fine but forgettable dramedy that pales in comparison to J-Lo gems like Maid in Manhattan and The Wedding Planner or even The Back-up Plan. If you go into Second Act expecting a fun, endearing ‘romantic comedy’ featuring Jennifer Lopez and Milo “Jack from This Is Us” Ventimiglia, you may be doubly disappointed. The romance is secondary to a larger story about life choices and female empowerment. That’s all well and good, but it puts poor Milo to waste.

Review: Mary Queen of Scots

2018 is the year filmmakers decided to school their audiences on the Queens of England. In the archly funny The Favourite, a couple of women battle to become Queen Anne’s confidante and proxy. On the flip side, Mary Queen of Scots, is an unfunny battle royale to be the sovereign of the whole of England and Scotland, with armies deployed and lots of palace intrigue. It stars two actresses at the top of their game. Saoirse Ronan plays Mary, and Margot Robbie is Elizabeth I. But sadly, while both of their performances are strong, it’s not enough to lift an otherwise poorly framed history lesson of a script.