And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

Review: Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon

Ana Lily Amirpour’s Mona Lisa and the Blood Moon is one of those little Indies that you hope people will see because it’s weird and quirky and a fun ride. It might not get a lot of coverage in mainstream press for those same reasons, since most of the Indies that get covered this time of year are the ones that might be in contention for the big year-end awards. And though it stars Kate Hudson (Glass Onion, Almost Famous), it’s a pretty low budget, niche genre flick. But if you can, go see it.

Review: Blonde

Director Andrew Dominik’s (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) Blonde takes the well-known and sad story of Marilyn Monroe, from her tragic childhood to her tabloid fodder death, and beats the drum of the her abuse for almost three hours. They would be excruciating hours if not for the stellar performance of Ana de Armas (Knives Out, Blade Runner 2049) in the title role. The film isn’t exactly a biopic since it’s based on a 750-page Joyce Carol Oates novel, and it is hard at times to tell where the line between fact and fiction lies. But I suspect those fictions are many of the scenes that felt off. After all, most of her Marilyn’s story has been covered over and over to feed the endless fascination with the screen icon. So this “new” information just doesn’t quite fit. 

Review: The Good Boss

Javier Bardem is one of my favorite actors. I would pay to watch him read a phone book. (Do they still make those?) He is definitely one of the most versatile actors around. From his complex villains in No Country for Old Men and Skyfall to his achingly sensitive performances in Biutiful and Before Night Falls, he’s always a joy to watch. In his latest, The Good Boss, a Spanish workplace satire, he plays the seemingly benevolent boss Julio Blanco, owner of an industrial scale factory who is trying to make everything look perfect in order to win a prestigious prize that could help his business. But a series of misfortunes befall him, and he scrambles to get everything back into balance before the committee makes their visit to decide his fate, revealing his true nature along the way.

Quickie Review: See How They Run

Loved Knives Out and can’t wait for the sequel? See How They Run may help fill the time. It’s sorta Knives Out light… a comical murder mystery featuring an A-list cast led by Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jojo Rabbit), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women, Lady Bird) and Adrien Brody (The Pianist) in a farcical blend of fact and fiction. A whodunit within a whodunit.

Review: Breaking

Watching this “based on a true story” drama, you can’t help but think back to several other films about decent men taking hostages because the system is horribly unfair to them — Dog Day Afternoon is the most obvious comparison. But Breaking had me thinking more of John Q with Denzel commandeering a hospital ER when his insurance company refuses coverage for his son’s heart transplant. Here John Bodega turns in a career topping performance as Brian Brown-Easley, a decorated Marine who brings a bomb to a bank because he wants the VA to give him the money they owe him so he can take care of his family. And it’s that performance and Michael K. Williams’s (“The Wire”) last turn before his death as the hostage negotiator that make this fairly predictable drama worth watching.

Review: Thirteen Lives

Thirteen Lives is one of those inspiring movies that you can’t really find much fault with (unless you’re claustrophobic). It’s based on a true story that screamed “miracle movie” from the instant the story played out on international television in 2018. Then, it got Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Rebuilding Paradise, We Feed People) onboard as director, so you could rest assured the vibe would be compelling, authentic and uplifting. If you like documentaries and dramas inspired by actual events, it’s worth diving into Thirteen Lives. The film runs nearly two and a half hours but as you become immersed in the story (and the watery cave), time pretty much stands still. Most people (who weren’t living under a rock in 2018) know how the story ends (yay!). What the movie hangs its dramatic hat on is all the little details we didn’t know about at the time or weren’t quite captured in last year’s excellent, Oscar-nominated documentary The Rescue (which you should see before or after the dramatized version).

Review: ELVIS

I’ve been a pretty big fan of Elvis Presley ever since I made a whirlwind pilgrimage to Graceland in the late 1980s, about a decade after he died at the age of 42. I gained a deeper appreciation for his raw talent and his unbridled passion for different styles of music–from rock to gospel to blues. And in the years since, I’ve programmed the Elvis Channel into my Sirius XM radio; I’ve sung the praises of Elvis’s 1968 comeback special (“If I Can Dream” is my favorite); and I’ve been known to stop channel-surfing whenever a cheesy Elvis movie appears, especially if it’s Viva Las Vegas with Ann-Margret. So, needless to say, I was quite eager to see director Baz Luhrmann’s take on Elvis. Especially when we all know how this story ends (spoiler alert: on the toilet).

Review: TOP GUN: MAVERICK

As sequels 30+ years in the making go… TOP GUN: MAVERICK delivers at mach speed. The high-adrenaline action drama is like a remake, homage and sequel all rolled into one. If you’re like me and can recite most every line of the 1986 classic, then you’ll feel very much at home with the pacing, characters, and latest shenanigans of fearless Naval aviator Capt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise).

“Son, your ego’s writing checks your body can’t cash.” “I feel the need; the need for speed.” “Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.” “You can be my wingman anytime.” I could go on… but I digress! The dialogue in TG: MAVERICK may not be quite as quotable as those particular gems, but it’s close enough to elicit a chuckle, lump in the throat, or a flash of memory–seemingly right on cue. “Talk to me Goose.”

Review: Happening

Talk about a film arriving at just the right moment! This gripping French drama about a young woman in the early 1960s who gets pregnant and has to go through hell for an abortion will hit you right in the gut. If I’d seen it a month ago, I’d have described it as a cautionary tale. Now it feels more like a glimpse into our dystopian future.

Review: Hit the Road

This wonderful road trip drama traverses the Iranian landscape with a family and their dog. Along for the ride are a mother (Pantea Panahiha) and father (Hasan Majuni) and their two sons, one grown (Amin Simiar) and the other a bouncing off the walls 6-year-old (Rayan Sarlak). The story comes together in small hints as the family deals with their circumstances, attempting to shield the younger son (and the audience) from what is actually happening. It is by turns tense and warm and funny.