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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: 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: TÁR

I am quite late with this review (the film is out in theaters) because I’m still trying to figure out how best to give it a fair shake. I was totally on board for the first half-hour (not counting insanely long opening credits that are usually reserved for closing credits). But somewhere over the next two-plus hours, I lost interest in all but Blanchett’s general command of the screen, and the music. TÁR kicked off like a classical-music spin on “Inside the Actor’s Studio.” We meet Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett), a brilliant American conductor at the height of her career. She’s leading a major German orchestra, preparing for a book launch and a much-anticipated live performance of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (apparently a big deal if you’re into that sort of thing), and she’s even got an EGOT! That little tidbit was my first clue that Lydia Tár is a fictional character. At first, I wasn’t sure.

Review: Ticket to Paradise

Ticket to Paradise is the cinematic equivalent of a mindlessly entertaining ‘beach read’; a PG-13-friendly big screen adaptation of almost any ‘second chance at love’ romance novel; a Netflix or Hallmark romcom pleasantly suitable for on demand viewing or streaming… except…

It has Julia Roberts and George Clooney. George Clooney and Julia Roberts. Two Academy Award winners and longtime friends and collaborators (Oceans 11&12, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) teaming up for their first romantic comedy together. And it’s only available in theaters (initially).

Review: The Banshees of Inisherin

The Banshees of Inisherin is an excellent film, though it does takes some processing– the kind of thoughtful processing that might be lost if you wait to see it streaming or On Demand rather than in a theater. It’s a dark comedy that goes pitch black as it provokes rolling waves of emotion that run the gamut from humorous quirk, to sadness, grief, despair and maybe a bit of hope. The film is beautifully shot–on the west coast of Ireland–and features awards-consideration-worthy performances from the leads as well as the supporting cast. So if you want to get a jump start on films that could make the short list for the Oscar pool, The Banshees of Inisherin needs to be on your radar.

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: 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).