Review: The Hand of God

This coming of age drama from Academy Award-winning writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) tells the story of Fabietto (Filippo Scotti). Set in Naples in the 1980s, it’s clearly a nostalgic look back for the director to a time that was filled with adolescent awakening, family joys and tragedies, and the beginnings of his love affair with cinema. It’s bursting with big characters seen through a many-years-removed lens. Told in a series of vignettes,  it’s by turns hilarious and warm and sad and violent, and serves as a love letter to the Naples of a certain time.

Review: King Richard

If you’re at all into tennis, this is a must see. Even if you’re not, you can’t help but be aware of the amazing Williams sisters, Venus and Serena. King Richard is their origin story, and at the center is their father Richard played by Will Smith in what is sure to be an awards contender performance. I remember when they exploded onto the scene in the 90s. The media made a lot of their dad and his presence and his style. A lot of it was not positive. This film serves as a corrective to that depiction, showing a devoted and driven father with an audacious plan, a family who bought into his dream for them, and two extremely talented young Black girls who broke the mold when it came to the polite white tennis world. It’s a totally uplifting flick!

Review: Tick, Tick…Boom!

Tick, Tick…Boom! Andrew Garfield is dynamite and so is this film–especially if you’re a musical theater geek. Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights, Hamilton) makes his feature directorial debut with Tick, Tick…Boom!, an adaptation of the autobiographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the creator of the hit musical Rent. Larson died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm in 1996, just as previews for Rent were about to begin off-Broadway. The film is essentially a love letter to and by Larson.

Quickie review: The Harder They Fall

The Western has always been a pretty white genre. The Harder They Fall turns that on its head. With a superb cast (Idris Elba, Regina King, Jonathan Majors, Zazie Beetz, Edi Gathgi, Delroy Lindo, Jeymes Samuel, and many others) and the best soundtrack out there, it’s an uber-stylish revenge story pitting two men and their gun-toting crews against one another in a to the death battle. And it’s a ton o’ fun!

Review: The Power of the Dog

Set in the gorgeous wide open expanses of 1925 Wyoming, The Power of the Dog from Oscar-winning director Jane Campion (The Piano, Angel at My Table) is downright suffocating a lot of the time. This sure to be in the Oscar pool psychological thriller/western tells the story of a pair of rich ranching brothers, Phil and George Burbank, who are as different as night and day. Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch, TV’s “Sherlock”, The Courier) is the walking embodiment of toxic masculinity, violent and mean to everyone in his path. George (Jesse Plemons) is more gentle and less rugged. But when he marries the local widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst, Spiderman, Melancholia) and brings her and her teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road, X-Men franchise) home, Phil is anything but the welcoming brother-in-law, leaving no opportunity behind to ridicule them all.

Quickie Review: Mayor Pete (documentary)

Mayor Pete is a fairly conventional behind-the-scenes documentary that provides some insight into what makes Pete Buttigieg tick– but not much. The biggest mystery to me is why it is rated R. Yes, his senior communications advisor has the mouth of a sailor, but her F-bombs shouldn’t preclude political junkies (of any age) from learning just a bit more about the first openly gay presidential candidate and his foray into the very deep pool of democrats who sought to unseat Donald Trump in 2020. He didn’t make the final cut (spoiler alert!), but he did succeed in gaining substantial name recognition – even if that name is a challenge to pronounce.

Quickie review: Julia (documentary)

It’s impossible to watch a clip of legendary cook and teacher Julia Child doing her thing without recalling the brilliantly gross SNL skit (in 1978) that cemented her status as pop culture icon. What I love about the documentary Julia is that it provides context for that skit, confirms that Julia herself got a kick out of it, and imparts additional information and insight about Julia Child’s life, her passions, and her 12-year odyssey to get “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” published in 1961. The revolutionary tome has sold more that 2.5 million copies, and it launched Child onto the public television stage, where she cooked up delectable dishes, paved the way for many of today’s “tv chefs”, and espoused the virtues of butter, butter and more butter! She inspired millions of Americans to conquer their fears around cooking, try new things, and embrace failure as a learning tool. If you love food, you’ll most definitely eat up everything about this documentary. Bon Appetit!

Review: Spencer

If ever there were an anti-Hallmark movie, a fairy tale in reverse, this might be it! From the very first frame, Spencer self-identifies as “a fable from a true tragedy,” and word of warning: you’ve got to have some knowledge of the royal marriage of “Charles and Diana” and its disastrous end to truly grasp what the film is trying to convey—a very depressed, lonely, free-spirited and bulimic Princess (Kristen Stewart) teetering on the brink. If not for her love and devotion to sons William and Harry, her royal highness Diana Princess of Wales (as she was known pre-divorce) would surely spiral out of control. It’s a royal shame.

Review: Speer Goes to Hollywood

This documentary which won the Israeli equivalent of the Oscar is one of those unknown but true stories that was begging to be told.  Following the publication of his bestselling memoir “Inside the Third Reich” in 1969, Nazi architect Albert Speer was courted by Hollywood who wanted to make his book into a feature. Paramount won the bidding war and Speer sat down with writer Andrew Birkin (Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) for a month in Los Angeles to come up with a screenplay. It never made it to the screen, but the process of its writing is a window into the mindset that allowed the Nazis to rise and flourish for a time, and a maddening portrait of a seductive sociopath.

Review: Finch

If you make it to the one-hour mark of Finch, you’ll probably make it through to the end none the worse for wear. But getting through the first half of this post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama requires a lot of patience, and caffeine. Tom Hanks plays an ailing robotics engineer named Finch Weinberg who managed to survive a cataclysmic solar event that left most of the world a wasteland. For ten years, he’s lived in a bunker in St. Louis with his dog Goodyear. Finch knows that radiation poisoning is eventually going to kill him, so he builds a robot to protect and care for Goodyear when he’s gone. The robot, an entirely computer-generated character played effectively and affectively by Caleb Landry Jones (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; X-Men: First Class) names itself “Jeff.” When a deadly superstorm approaches the region, Finch, Goodyear and Jeff pile into an RV for a cross-country roadtrip into the unknown. Final destination: San Francisco, where the environs may be friendlier.