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CinemaClash Podcast: 10 Cloverfield Lane, Knight of Cups, Embrace of the Serpent, and more!

I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but 10 Cloverfield Lane is more of a psychological drama filled with twists and turns and solid performances that keep you on the edge of your seat for a surprisingly entertaining – or at least, attention-holding – two hours. For more (spoiler-free) insight and debate on 10 Cloverfield Lane, Knight of Cups, Embrace of the Serpent, and more, check out the latest CinemaClash podcast with me and my cinema nemesis Charlie Juhl:

Grandma

Grandma is a bare-bones indie that will likely appeal to those in the artier crowd who like a simple, dialogue-driven movie and the acerbic wit of Lily Tomlin. The veteran actress and comedian plays a lesbian Grandma named Elle Reid whose granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) shows up on her doorstep requesting about $600 to have an abortion that is scheduled for later that day. Elle doesn’t have the cash — but she’s willing to help Sage get it. The two spend the next few hours cruising around town in Grandma’s vintage automobile in search of friends, and others, who may be willing to float them a loan or give them the money outright. Their unannounced visits rattle a few cages and stir up old memories, especially when they drop in on one of Grandma’s old male flames (Sam Elliott). Needless to say, there’s an interesting dynamic at play here – and it results in one of the more surprising moments the film has to offer.

Tomorrowland

Oh George, you’re killin’ me! I really wanted to love this movie, or at least like it a lot. Instead, I liked it a little. It’s certainly a fine choice for a family flick this long holiday weekend; It has a commendable message, and a decent shot of girl power. But the two-hour journey borders on bland and boring, despite the appearance of flying saucers, jet packs, magical pins, George Clooney, Hugh Laurie, and glimpses of a Disney-utopia-esque place known as “Tomorrowland” that exists somewhere in time and space.

The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came To Eden

This documentary recounts the strange but true tale of a group of Europeans in the 1930s who decided to leave the insanity of the modern world behind and move to one of the smallest of the Galapagos, the uninhabited Floreana Island. It began with just one couple, Berlin doctor Friedrich Ritter and his mistress and acolyte Dore Strauch. Friedrich was obsessed with Nietzsche and saw the world’s growing capitalism as a sign that society was doomed. But as soon as the press found out about the couple, they began publishing stories of the new Adam and Eve and attracted others to the island, much to Freidrich’s chagrin.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

In his latest fabulously outrageous film The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson introduces us to Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), the concierge to end all concierges who takes enterprising lobby boy Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori) under his wing. The movie is visually stunning and laugh out loud hilarious, and what totally sold me was its witty use of language and music to give another layer to its story set in a first class hotel in a fictional eastern European country in that elegant era between the wars. And the chemistry between the older, wiser hotelier and his young protégé is delicious! What begins as a mentoring relationship quickly turns to a zany buddy romp when one of the hotel’s wealthy guests (Tilda Swinton) is murdered and Gustave is thrown in jail. And only Zero can save him.

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir zamanlar Anadolu’da)

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon a Time in Anatolia begins with what seems to be an impossible task — finding a buried body in the vast expanse of Anatolia, miles and miles of empty landscape near a town called Keskin, in the dark of night. Several cars filled with police officers, a prosecutor, a doctor and the brothers who already confessed to the murder drive through the darkness, converging on a series of desolate sites. The brothers try to remember where they buried the body, one claiming to have been asleep when the deed was done, and the other saying he was drunk and only remembers a fountain (of which there are dozens) and a “round” tree.

The Back-up Plan

If you liked Jennifer Lopez in The Wedding Planner or Maid in Manhattan, then you’ll surely like The Back-up Plan. It follows a satisfying romantic comedy formula, even if it doesn’t offer up anything terribly exciting and new. It’s sweet, has moments that any single, married, or relationship-challenged adult should be able to identify with, cringe at, and laugh at. And it features a really cute leading man in Alex O’Loughlin.

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

Youth

Italian writer/director Paolo Sorrentino was responsible for one of my favorite foreign films of the last few years, The Great Beauty aka La grande bellezza. That film dealt with a Roman writer’s shifting view of his life following his 65th birthday bash. In Sorrentino’s newest film Youth, he again looks at men of a certain age, coming to terms with their place in the world. This one is in English and stars Michael Caine as Fred and Harvey Keitel as Mick, two long time friends who are vacationing in a luxurious alpine spa.

Review: The Magnificent Meyersons

This family drama is for those who like a good conversation. The film consists of a series of talks between various members of the Meyerson family and their friends and family over the course of one day in New York, frequently walking down the street or sitting on a park bench. They’re a normal enough family with the usual kinds of problems we all have. There are four grown siblings, a mother, and a grandmother, and the elephant in the room is the father who left and affected them all in different ways that still resonate.  It’s a smart script that lets you get to know, and mostly like, the characters as the deeper story of the family emerges.