Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mary, Queen of Scots

Josie Rourke’s Mary, Queen of Scots has a scenarist’s eye for intrigue and an art director’s eye for tableaux but the two women around whom all of these scheming courtiers swirl, Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) and Mary Stuart (Saoirse Ronan), feel more like emblems than characters.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018


Christian Bale’s lumbering, monomaniacal Dick Cheney lends essential gravitas to Adam McKay’s self-satisfied Vice as it traces the future V.P. and change-maker through his early days as a congressional aide, rise as a GOP wrangler and his eventual commanding of the war on Iraq.


Travis Knight's irresistibly clever, never robotic, fine-tuned Bumblebee weaves stories of intraspecies revolution, alien invasion and teenage rebellion with a modicum of sci-fi hokum and cheese but an abundance of visual wit -- just what one expects from Spielberg productions.

The Mule

Clint Eastwood's The Mule calls us to reflect on our national family as we ride shotgun with an unfiltered nonagenarian drug mule (Eastwood) who was a miserable husband and father but a masterful grower of daylilies and as amiable and annoying an old codger as ever drew breath.T


Jason Momoa's salty swagger and lovable dudeness keeps James Wan's Aquaman afloat even when maddeningly complex and unending surf and turf battle scenes -- both the small and the epic -- and villanous speechifying threaten to sink the proceedings in soggy bombast and monotony.

Mary Poppins Returns

Rob Marshall's Mary Poppins Returns has two ace troupers in Emily Blunt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, but the narrative is cloying, often dull, the musical numbers flat and unengaging despite hawking the message our troubles disappear when we take a risk and unharness our imaginations.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

La Negrada

Jorge Pérez Solano's La Negrada (Black Mexicans) trains a dispassionate but thoroughly captivating lens on the lugubrious lives of a dozen dispossessed Afro-Mexicans in Oaxaca coastal villages, where isolation and insulation are heirlooms, like votive candles and fishing boats.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Nancy Wilson

Nancy Wilson's passing reminds me of the days when albums by "colored singers" were in the collections of much of Middle America above the Mason-Dixon, alongside Perry Como and Peggy Lee. Ms. Wilson, whom I loved, had regal bearing, seemingly perfect pitch and impeccable diction. She was cabaret fabulous and sang American standards without too much jazz (leave that to Ella and Sarah). She transitioned into the modern era along with Dionne but was never embraced by the young-uns. Dunno why. Still, hearing her deliver smooth and smoky, inoffensive two-minute sides evokes images of that time when some black entertainers had to scrub the race out of their shows to make a living. Green Book 'Merica. RIP.

Monday, December 10, 2018

At Eternity's Gate

The visual intensity of Julian Schnabel's At Eternity's Gate might be off-putting to those who will find his use of extreme close ups claustrophobic and long passages of frantic, handheld tracking nauseating. But, to me, they are wholly indicative of Van Gogh's obsession and compulsion.

It will NOT be a blockbuster but I feel it is an important film in its difficulty and unease -- both in its subject and its composition. It feels determined to test the viewer's patience and endurance, defiantly uncompromising, like Van Gogh.

Queen & Slim

In the soon to be iconic photograph from Melina Matsoukas's distressing Queen & Slim, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith...