And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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Review: Birds of Prey

There wasn’t much to like about Suicide Squad back in 2016, other than Margot Robbie’s scene-stealing performance as Joker’s crazy cartoonish girlfriend Harley Quinn. Three and a half years later, Harley is front and center, stealing the whole show as Joker’s crazy EX-girlfriend in Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). The movie takes characters from the DC Extended Universe to all sorts of wild and wacky extremes, fueled by #GirlPower – in front of the camera, and behind it. It’s an R-rated girl gang action movie that’s quirky and irreverent and violent and self-aware and for the most part, frenetically entertaining. Obviously, it’s not for everyone. Think Deadpool meets John Wick – if John were a Jane dressed as a clown princess. You either jump in and buckle up and enjoy the ride… or choose a more sedate alternative.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast represented near-perfection for an animated musical when it competed for Best Picture honors in 1991. So it’s hard to imagine that any reimagining of the “tale as old as time” could possibly hold a candle – or a lumiere – to that instant classic. But Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast does what it set out to do, and that’s bring a strong cast, a contemporary vibe, and a few new songs to audiences old and new. And while it’s not perfect, it is quite enchanting.

American Pastoral

American Pastoral starts off strong, then takes a turn down a very long, dark and twisted road that I was more than ready to exit by the end of the film’s 108 minute running time. It felt much longer. The film is based on a 1997 Philip Roth novel that tells the story – over several decades – of Seymour “Swede” Levov (Ewan McGregor), a man who seems to have it all: He excels in sports at his New Jersey high school, becomes a successful businessman, marries a beauty queen, Dawn (Jennifer Connelly), and builds a seemingly idyllic life for himself and his family in a small town outside Newark. But his daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning) is a nut job. She gets mixed up with a bunch of radicals in the turbulent 1960s and disappears after being accused of a murderous act. Dawn has a breakdown, then a facelift, and seems content to never see Merry again. But Swede refuses to give up on his beloved daughter and embarks on a years-long quest to find her. The journey takes a heavy toll on Swede – and the audience.

August: Osage County

In the battle of Meryl vs Julia, who will chew more scenery? August: Osage County pits them against each other as the drug addicted Mom versus the only person in her large extended family capable of taking her on. Based on a stage play of the same name, it is a star-studded dramedy about what must be the most dysfunctional family in the state of Oklahoma all coming together after a tragedy. None of them want to be there, and I started to feel the same way, but stuck with it because it’s one of those acting slugfests you just have to see through.

The Impossible

You’ll need the tissues for this one. Seriously. It’s nearly impossible not to cry watching The Impossible. The movie is gripping and intense, horrifying and uplifting- all at once. It’s based on the true story of a family literally torn apart by the Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than a quarter million people in 2004. The Impossible seeks to humanize the enormous catastrophe by focusing on this one family’s plight. It’s hard to watch. But it’s even harder to look away.

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen may sound like a boring documentary, but it’s actually a rather charming chick flick that will likely need strong word of mouth to expand its audience beyond the indie/art house crowd. So check it out and talk it up! Trust me, there’s a strong chance you’ll like it, even if you can’t find Yemen on a map or couldn’t care less about fly fishing or the migration patterns and ecological needs of salmon.

Emily Blunt (The Young Victoria, The Devil Wears Prada) plays Harriet, a British public relations executive who is given carte blanche to help a wealthy sheik realize his dream of bringing salmon fishing to the desert. She turns to the UK’s leading fisheries expert, Dr. Alfred Jones (Ewan McGregor) for help, but he finds the entire project completely absurd. So does the British government – until the Prime Minister’s press secretary (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) decides that the salmon project is just what the government needs to divert attention from another Middle East ‘project’ that isn’t going so well – the war in Afghanistan.


Mixed martial arts (MMA) superstar Gina Carano plays the lead and does all her own stunts in Steven Soderbergh’s latest action flick Haywire, which comes off feeling kind of Bourne-lite. In it she is surrounded by a pretty yummy collection of today’s high powered male stars: Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Ewan McGregor, Channing Tatum, even Michael Douglas. And that is the problem with the film. Carano is not an actress, and she really cannot hold her own with the big boys.

I Love You Phillip Morris

Offbeat is the best word I can think of to describe I Love You Phillip Morris.  Essentially it’s a gay prison love story based on the true life tale of a Texas con man named Steven Russell.  Jim Carrey plays Russell, and it’s hard to tell if we’re supposed to be taking him seriously or not. He can be a really good dramatic actor but his performance here is at times over the top – good for the screwball comedies he’s in, not necessarily good in this movie.

The Ghost Writer

First, the good news: Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams deliver solid performances in this political thriller directed by Roman Polanski. The bad news: The Ghost Writer is often hard to follow – geographically as well as dramatically.

The Men Who Stare at Goats

Watching George Clooney do nearly anything for an hour and a half is worth the price of admission in my opinion (though I do wish he’d give us another romantic comedy once every so often.) And even though Ewan McGregor is the central character in The Men Who Stare at Goats, and he’s no chore to watch, George, with his scruffy beard and 80s hair in places, demands your attention. But despite loving George and enjoying Ewan, The Men Who Stare At Goats is not all that satisfying. If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve pretty much seen the movie. There is not much substance to it.