Review: News of the World

Why does Tom Hanks make everything just a bit more comforting? In his latest, he plays Capt. Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a Civil War veteran who travels from town to town in 1870 Texas reading the news to crowds as a form of entertainment. But one day between towns he comes upon a stagecoach that has crashed and he finds the only survivor, 10-year-old Johanna (Helena Zengel), with a note about how she was taken from her parents six years ago by the Kiowa, but that the government has taken her back. Kidd escorts her to the nearest town to hand her over to the authorities, but they won’t take her. And it becomes his job to deliver her to a family 600 miles away who she doesn’t know. She speaks no English, she’s somewhat feral and she’s not sure she trusts him, but as they make their way across desolate Texas, they grow closer while fending off bad guys, dealing with life-threatening weather, and learning bits of each other’s languages. It’s a familiar feeling story, but with Tom Hanks at the rudder, it makes for a solid family-friendly ride.

Review: Promising Young Woman

I finally have a solid front-runner for my ‘best of’ list for film and lead actress for 2020. It’s Promising Young Woman starring Carey Mulligan (Wildlife, Mudbound, An Education). The movie defies the boundaries of any particular genre. It’s got dark comedy, drama, crime, vengeance, timely relevance, a great soundtrack, and a twist. Oh, what a twist.

Review: First Cow

Sometime in the early 19th century somewhere in the Pacific Northwest two men meet in the woods near a trappers’ encampment. One of them is naked. What follows is the story of their friendship and entrepreneurial malfeasance. It’s a tender tale in about a couple of kindred spirits in an inhospitable place helping each other get by with their wits and their hearts.

Review: Saint Frances

Written by and starring Kelly O’Sullivan Saint Frances is a small dark comedy that centers on the expectations women live with and one young woman’s choices. Bridget (O’Sullivan) is in her 30s and constantly reminded that everyone around her is having kids, succeeding in their careers, and generally being a better grown-up than she is. She’s a server in a restaurant, even though she was a rising star at Northwestern before she dropped out. But things start looking better when she lands a summer job as a nanny to Frances (aka Frannie), a six-year-old in the upper middle class Chicago suburbs whose Moms are expecting another baby.

Quickie Review: Fatale

When a Hilary Swank movie (Million Dollar Baby, Conviction, Boys Don’t Cry) rolls out this time of year, you’re inclined to think – Oscar bait? I know I did – without knowing anything about Fatale. Lesson learned. Timing isn’t everything – especially during a pandemic. The only award Fatale should be up for is a Razzie, for trying soooo hard to be Fatal Attraction. The performances are solid – elevated by Swank’s presence – but Fatale itself is purely middle of the road material. It’s a psychological thriller/murder mystery that relies heavily on its melodramatic score to intensify the convoluted stakes. It also attempts to pull racial injustice into the mix, though that message too gets lost in the muddled plot.

Review: The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

This HBO documentary wasn’t even on my radar until friends of my particular generation started raving about it on Facebook. So I felt inclined to check it out. And I’m glad I did. The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart explores the surprisingly interesting history of the group that basically invented a new form of Disco with their hit soundtrack for Saturday Night Fever – before the genre nearly killed them. Remember Disco Duck? Not their fault.

Review: Greenland

Greenland may not be the type of movie we need right now, but it may be the type of apocalyptic thriller some fans want. It won’t displace anything from any critic’s ‘top 10 list’ of 2020 movies. Or top 20. Or 30. Or maybe even 40. But hey, in a time when our lives are consumed by a killer virus circulating in the air, what’s the harm in taking two hours to watch a somewhat normal family fight for survival as a catastrophic comet comes racing towards Earth? (That’s a rhetorical question).

Arty Chick’s Seven Picks: Week 5

This week’s  picks include a healthy dose of Roman decadence, an obsessive and tragic snoop, a ghostly romance, a grieving mother on the warpath, violent union busting, food to die for, and a woman who’s brutally honest about sleeping her way to the top.  Something for everyone!  One is from Italy, another from Germany. There’s a Korean flick and a Danish one, too. And three of them are Oscar winners.

This week’s picks are:  La Grande Bellezza; The Lives of Others; Truly Madly DeeplyMother Matewan ; Babette’s Feast; Baby Face

Quickie Review: My Psychedelic Love Story

This latest documentary from Academy Award winning filmmaker Errol Morris (The Fog of War, The Thin Blue Line) centers on Joanna Harcourt-Smith and her relationship with the father of psychedelics, Timothy Leary. They met in 1972 after he’d escaped from prison in California and was hiding out in Switzerland. She was 27 and he was 52. And they had what they both described as a perfect love. They tripped their way around Europe, just ahead of Interpol, hanging with the rich and famous, until they were captured in Afghanistan and shipped back to the US. And once he was jailed again, she set herself to work to get him sprung. But when he finally did get out, and they were put into witness protection, he dumped her. While Leary is a fascinating character, My Psychedelic Love Story is really Harcourt-Smith’s movie. And she’s a hoot, though probably not the most reliable narrator.

Review: Minari

Minari had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January of 2020. It won both the U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize and the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award. In October, it won the audience award for Best Narrative Film at the Middleburg Film Festival, as well as the MFF’s Ensemble Cast Spotlight Award. Over the next few months, I fully expect it to make the cut in most every major awards category. And if the success of Parasite is any indication, Minari has a real shot at winning. It’s a foreign film, an American film, an arty film, and a mainstream film all rolled into one. In English and Korean, with subtitles.