Review: 80 FOR BRADY

There’s a cloud hanging over this mostly entertaining film, and it’s Tom Brady… the G.O.A.T., the seven-time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, the pride of the New England Patriots and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who, at the ripe old age of 45 keeps on kicking (or throwing) in the NFL. The Brady mystique would easily have carried this film over the goal line–if he hadn’t just failed to make the playoffs, and failed at his marriage. Timing is everything or at least, in the world of movies and marketing, something.

So let’s put our personal feelings about Tom Brady aside and focus on the movie’s real winning team: Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Rita Moreno and Sally Field. Four iconic women “of a certain age”–with 12 Oscar noms between them–who use their ageless wit, sex appeal and acting chops to elevate a raucous romp that is more about friendship than football.

Quickie Review: Plane

People often ask me what movies they should watch to kill time on a long plane ride. I wouldn’t recommend this particular film for that particular venue, unless you’re a glutton for punishment or tempting fate. That doesn’t mean Plane is a total crash and burn. It’s not. Plane is one of those perfectly fine, sometimes edge-of-your-seat, sometimes cover-your-eyes, high-octane action movies that should appeal to fans of the formulaic Liam Neeson or (in this case) Gerard Butler offerings. Imagine a collision between the Taken and Fallen franchises and you may land on the sub-par yet still engaging Plane.

Review: A Man Called Otto

If Tom Hanks’ oddball performance (and accent) as Col. Parker in Elvis threw you for a loop in 2022, then prepare to hop back on the Tom Hanks love train as we usher in 2023. Hanks is perfectly cast as Otto Anderson in the Americanized adaptation of the best-selling book “A Man Called Ove”—a book that was already made into an excellent, 2016 Oscar-nominated Swedish film, En man som heter Ove. I was skeptical that A Man Called Otto, filmed in Pittsburgh, could possibly measure up. Yet thanks to Hanks, it does—with a solid assist from his co-star Mariana Treviño, and a stray cat.

Review: Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody

Here’s what I wanna do after watching Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody: 1) surf YouTube for real clips from all the great moments showcased in the film, including Whitney’s 1983 TV debut on the Merv Griffin show; her unrivaled rendition of the Star Spangled Banner at Super Bowl XXV; her iconic medley at the 1994 AMAs; and her ‘comeback’ performance on Oprah in 2009; and 2) re-watch 1992’s The Bodyguard for perhaps the gazillionth time. One of my favorite scenes in the biopic is when Houston learns that Kevin Costner will be leading the romantic drama and wants her to co-star. Where do I sign!?

Review: Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery

I may be one of the few people who was not blown away by the original Knives Out. Which is not to say I didn’t like it. I just wasn’t all gaga about it. So imagine my delight when I watched this follow-up and enjoyed the hell out of it! Daniel Craig is back as the one-step-ahead-of-everyone, Deep South detective Benoit Blanc. He’s been invited to an exclusive murder mystery weekend on a Greek island that belongs to uber-wealthy biotech CEO Miles Bron (Edward Norton). All the rest of the guests have a history with Miles: his former business partner Andi (Janelle Monáe), his head scientist Lionel (Leslie Odom Jr.), Governor Claire (Kathryn Hahn), men’s-rights influencer Duke (Dave Bautista) with his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline), and former model Birdie (Kate Hudson) with her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick). What seems like a fun COVID-free escape will be anything but!

Review: Onoda: 10,000 Nights in the Jungle

A couple of weeks before I saw this film, I read filmmaker Werner Herzog’s first novel “The Twilight World,” which draws on his meeting 25 years ago with Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who, not realizing that WWII was over, kept fighting his guerrilla war on a small Philippine Island for another 29 years. His story has been endlessly caricatured over the years, but the man himself and what he endured, and why and how he kept fighting have not been explored. It is a fascinating book. And now there is a film about him and his life in the jungle. 

Reviews: She Said and Women Talking

I saw these two films just days apart and they seemed to speak to one another. Both take on sexual predation, but from very different viewpoints. She Said is a journalistic thriller based on the true story of the female journalists who exposed Harvey Weinstein’s long history of abuse that led to his much deserved comeuppance and ignited the #MeToo movement. Women Talking is also based on a true story, that of a group of women in an isolated religious community who come together to decide how to deal with a long and horrifying history of rape by the men in their enclave. The women who tell their stories in She Said are fearful of losing their careers, while the ones in Women Talking are afraid they will lose their place in heaven. And so they all have to think long and hard about how to take on the monstrous men who hold power over them.

Review: The Fabelmans

Steven Spielberg knows storytelling. So it’s really no surprise that The Spielbergs – er, I mean The Fabelmans – is a good yarn. It’s a semi-autobiographical drama that dives into Spielberg’s personal history, while pulling back the curtain on family secrets and the evolution of his obsession with filmmaking. Or, for the purposes of creative license, Sammy Fabelman’s obsession with filmmaking. Sammy – Steven. Steven – Sammy. Close enough.

(Spoiler-free) Review – Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

The spirit of the late Chadwick Boseman (T’Challa, Black Panther) looms large throughout Marvel Studios’ Wakanda Forever, even as the film—and the franchise—seeks to clear a path to a future without him. The film is both painful and cathartic.

Looking back at my 2018 review of Black Panther, I can’t help but note my anticipation for more T’Challa in the years ahead, which is why Boseman’s 2020 death from cancer (at age 43) still seems hard to fathom. Wakanda Forever isn’t the sequel initially intended, but it’s the sequel we’ve got—and it’s a good one. It does Chadwick (and T’Challa) proud.

Review: Decision to Leave

This Korean romantic thriller from Park Chan-wook (Handmaiden, Snowpiercer) begins with the classic set-up. Weary detective Hae-joon (Park Hae-il ) arrives at a crime scene. A man is dead. But was it an accident or could it be murder? The police want to close the case and call it an accident, but it begins to look like his young, beautiful widow Seo-rae (Wei Tang, Lust, Caution) could be a murder suspect after she comes to the station. She has an alibi and Hae-joon wants to believe her. Still something is off. And as the attraction grows between them while he continues his investigation, the question of whether she is a femme fatale seducing him to get away with murder or her feelings for him are real plagues him. It’s a slow twisty story. And though it is probably a bit longer that it needs to be, it’s a satisfying and engrossing murder mystery.