• Us

    Us

    ★★★½

    In this limited British TV series, a middle-age couple whose marriage was on the rocks, and their troubled 17-year old son commence a grand tour of Europe to try to salvage what remains of their family. Using flashbacks to scenes from the early days of the troubled marriage and a dramatic separation mid-trip, the story is both a travelogue (Amsterdam, Venice, Sienna, Barcelona etc.) and an involving family drama that both rang true and somehow resonated with my very different personal life experiences. Admirable acting all around, assured direction; but a rather languid pacing kept me from becoming totally involved with the story.

  • Bo Burnham: Inside

    Bo Burnham: Inside

    ★★★★

    What happens when an immensely talented, obsessively creative 29-year old is locked up alone in a room for a pandemic year gradually going crazy? An almost 2 hour, solipsistic TikTok video that is mostly fun, occasionally self-indulgent, often genius. Bo Burnham is multi-talented...singer-songwriter, director, actor, cameraman, innovator. I happen to love the inside of his head since I'm also inside there with him (even if I'm 50 years older). Your mileage may vary.

  • Four

    Four

    ★★★

    A mood piece based on a play about a closeted white kid, a middle age black man whose wife is agoraphobic, and his teenage daughter who is dating a Latino basketball wannabe. In one 4th of July night they pair off, sex happens and...what? Certainly no resolution to any of their problems. But the 2012 film does raise the question: why didn't Emory Cohen become the big star that his talent deserved?

  • Mare of Easttown

    Mare of Easttown

    ★★★★★

    Maybe the least disappointing whodunit TV mini-series ever made. All the i's dotted and the t's crossed, and not one seemed less than inevitable, yet totally surprising. I even forgive them for killing off my favorite character prematurely...causing me to feel true grief for a fictitious person that only existed as dots on a TV screen. Great acting (Kate Winslet should be odds on for an Emmy.) Fine direction (Craig Zobel directed all 7 episodes and his consistent sympathetic touch and care for his actors truly shined through.) By the end I was moved to tears (not surprising for me) but also moved to applause.

  • First Cow

    First Cow

    ★★★½

    Frontier life in Oregon in the 1820s. Two men bond in a commercial enterprise providing baked goods to the local trappers and explorers using an illicit supply chain. As with other Kelly Reichardt films (and I love her films, don't get me wrong), we're treated to a subtle and slowly developing examination of the human condition under the various stresses of their contemporary lives with none of the extravagances of a large Hollywood film production. This film was particularly dark...both…

  • Onward

    Onward

    ★★★½

    Pixar's "other" animated feature in 2020 was an old fashioned coming-of-age quest film. It's not nearly as woke as "Soul;" but it is a better movie. Missing is the misguided, human centered after-life world of the latter film, replaced by a more relatable fairy-tale world of magic practicing elves. Admittedly, there's nothing here as intellectually transporting as the jazz performing in "Soul". But nothing in that film affected me emotionally the way that a kid's growing respect for his older brother and miraculous contact with his dead father did.

  • Tenet

    Tenet

    ★★★½

    I can't review this film since I'm stuck in reverse in the future and haven't actually watched it yet in the present. And [SPOILER ALERT] I haven't a f***ing clue what will not have happened in the past.

  • The One and Only Ivan

    The One and Only Ivan

    ★★★½

    This film was based on a children's novel and somewhat true story about an animal circus running in a suburban mall, from the point of view of the animals...especially a silverback gorilla named Ivan. The script by Mike White (who had a clever cameo) was both sentimental and emotionally satisfying. Bryan Cranston played the kindly circus owner-emcee, in a role about as far removed from his signature portrayal of Walter White as one can go. But the film belonged to…

  • The Midnight Sky

    The Midnight Sky

    ★★★½

    An exploratory spacecraft and crew are returning to an Earth decimated by an apocalyptic event. Only one old man (played by director George Clooney) seems to have survived, inhabiting an isolated observatory in the Arctic. That is the set-up for sci-fi film that has an eerie resemblance in tone to a 2002 film that Clooney starred in, "Solaris." The film features some remarkable special effects, both in the depiction of flawlessly realistic space travel and the dangerous, wind-blown Arctic tundra.…

  • Love and Monsters

    Love and Monsters

    ★★★

    In yet another in a long series of post-apocalypse sci-fi films, groups of survivors are living underground to protect themselves from nature run amok: dangerous, rampaging amphibians grown to huge size through some sort of chemical plague. Joel, a 20-something young man, had been trapped for seven years in one group, while his girlfriend Aimee was stuck in another group, 85 miles away. Reuniting would involve Joel leaving his refuge and starting a trek on the dangerous surface, a perilous…

  • Mulan

    Mulan

    ★★

    The IMDb says that this unnecessary live upgrade from a pretty fair animated 1998 film cost $200,000,000 to make. I'm not sure where the money went, except to pay salaries for the 6 minutes or so of end credit employees. The battle scenes actually looked more convincing in the previous film...and that's where most of the money went. But at least Disney has come out four-square for female empowerment; and that's a good thing.

  • Pinocchio

    Pinocchio

    ★★½

    An authentic Italian live action production of the "Pinocchio" story. It followed most of the familiar plot developments of the classic Disney animated film; and somehow made the fairy tale elements seem real enough through makeup and special effects. However, the subtitles did make one major gaffe: the whale that swallowed the characters in the climax was called a "shark" which was an odd mistake. The script and direction (by Matteo Garrone) may have stayed true in look and sentiment…