Currently browsing the "politics" tag.

Review: Once Upon a Time in Venezuela

This immersive documentary was seven years in the making. It takes place in Congo Mirador, a small village bordering Lake Maracaibo in northern Venezuela. At one time it was a thriving little town, but sedimentation and pollution from the country’s oil drilling industry have killing the fishing industry and people are either starving or moving away. Against this backdrop two women are in a personal political fight. Mrs. Tamara is a die-hard Chávista, and so backs Chávez’s successor Maduro and sings the government’s praises, despite how clearly it is not working for Congo Mirador. She’s also the elected representative of the town. Natalie is a schoolteacher who is vocal about her opposition to the current government, risking her job, but defiant. One of them will not come out the winner. 

Review: Where’s My Roy Cohn?

There’s something inherently distressing and depressing – and more than a little scary – about the documentary Where’s My Roy Cohn? The title is taken from a 2018 quote attributed to none other than Donald Trump, lamenting the fact that his former lawyer/fixer Roy Cohn wasn’t still around to employ all the tactics that Cohn was known for: treachery; hypocrisy; media manipulation; offensiveness; ruthlessness; a sense of entitlement. Pick your poison. Cohn was a master, and Trump misses him dearly. Rudy Giuliani may be trying his best to channel Cohn, but as the documentary reveals, Cohn is a tough act to follow.

Review: Meeting Gorbachev

As a Werner Herzog über-fan, I’m always excited by the opportunity to watch anything he’s involved with, since he usually has a thoughtful and thought provoking view of the world. So when I heard about this film where he sits down with Mikhail Gorbachev, I wondered what kind of strange spin he might put on Cold War political history. Meeting Gorbachev is a series of three sit-down interviews Herzog had with Gorbachev over a period of six months. And those friendly chats between two fascinating people offer some decidedly pointed takes on the history of the fall of the USSR and a timely perspective on world leadership and the danger of what Gorbachev calls “reckless politicians.” It’s a simple and straight forward documentary, intercutting the interviews with archival footage from the time they’re discussing, but it has that Herzogian tone that’s just a little off kilter and keeps you glued to the screen.

Review: Long Shot

Seth Rogen comedies tend to be hit or miss for me. Long Shot straddles the line, eeking out on the side of okay, though somewhat disappointing given the tremendous buzz it received coming out of the uber-cool SXSW film festival. Maybe I’m just getting old. But I don’t find the idea of a Secretary of State defusing a crisis while high on ecstasy to be all that funny. It is, however, quintessential Rogen. So if you’re a fan of films like This Is The End, Superbad and Pineapple Express, then you know what you’re in for with Long Shot. The biggest difference is that Long Shot aims for romantic political comedy in addition to raunchy comedy, with an assist from Oscar-winning dramatic actress Charlize Theron (Monster, Tully, Atomic Blonde).

AFIDOCS Reviews Part One

Another Year at AFIDOCS. Four days of back to back documentary films in Washington, DC (and Silver Spring, MD, though we stayed downtown this year.) We’ve been going since 2014 and each year has a different feel. Mainstream Chick and I saw a few together, but quite a few films only one of us saw, so check back to see her takes, or head to the Cinema Clash Podcast for our post-fest discussion. This time the festival felt pared down, though there were some amazing films.  I was particularly interested in the films about women and girls and was not disappointed. There were a few happy surprises and I was left with a lot of questions and inspiration.

Mainstream Chick’s Quick Takes: Office Christmas Party; Miss Sloane; Jackie; Lion

Comedy. Drama. Suspense. History. Politics. Lots to choose from at the box office this weekend. And it’s all pretty good, even awards-worthy. Except for Office Christmas Party. That one’s just for fun!

Office Christmas Party is not destined to become a holiday classic. But it’s still plenty of fun in the moment, thanks to a Santastic bundle of comedic talent. Too many sub-plots clutter up the nativity scene a bit, but here’s the gist: The uptight CEO (Jennifer Aniston) of a tech company cancels all holiday parties and threatens to close the Chicago branch run by her dufus brother Clay (T.J. Miller) unless he can seal a lucrative deal with a potential client (Courtney B. Vance) by year’s end. With the help of his Chief Technical Officer (Jason Bateman) and a talented techie (Olivia Munn), Clay throws caution (and his sister’s orders) to the wind and throws an epic office party designed to impress the client, boost morale, and save everyone’s jobs. Let’s just say the party – which the head of HR (Kate McKinnon) insists on calling a “non-denominational holiday mixer” — goes off the rails big-time, devolving into a drug and alcohol-fueled physical comedy extravaganza.

Two-fer review: Burnt and Our Brand Is Crisis

Burnt is a foodie flick.Brand is a political flick.Burnt stars the eminently watchable Bradley Cooper as a brilliant but temperamental chef struggling to make a comeback after battling addictions to women, drugs, and booze.Brand stars the eminently watchable Sandra Bullock as a brilliant political strategist struggling to make a comeback after some sort of mental breakdown and crisis of conscience. Neither movie is Oscar-worthy, despite having star-studded casts and interesting premises. But both are decent. If I had to pick one over the other, I’d go with Burnt. It’s definitely the more engaging and entertaining of the two… and watching Cooper speak French over a hot stove in London is just way cooler than watching Bullock attempting to speak Spanish to volunteers and voters in Bolivia.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler

LD’s The Butler is one of those movies that shames you into thinking it’s better than it is because it features an all-star cast and tackles some poignant themes relating to politics, race relations and family. So please forgive me when I say (or write), it’s just okay. I liked the message way more than the movie, inspired by the story of a real former White House butler named Eugene Allen who was profiled in the Washington Post back in 2008.

The Iron Lady

Meryl. I think she deserves to be known by one name by now. What an actress! What an amazing variety of roles she has played in the past few years: It’s Complicated, Julie & Julia, Doubt, The Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia! and so many others. Now she brings us another of her memorable performances as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady. Unfortunately, it is not all that good a movie. Yes, Meryl is her usual great self, but Maggie just is not likable or layered. And the script does not help.

The Ides of March

The Ides of March is a decent adult drama, but it’s also a depressing commentary on the state of our political system. It doesn’t really matter if you’re a republican, democrat, independent or ‘other’ – the movie is likely to leave you with the impression that we’re all pawns in a political game that’s essentially run by a select group of strategists who will do whatever is necessary to achieve victory for their candidate du jour.