Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Wife [2018]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (K. Turan) review
RogerEbert.com (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review


The Wife [2018] (directed by Bj√∂rn Runge, screenplay by Jane Anderson based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Meg Wolitzer [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]) is a very well written, well executed drama about an older "power couple" (of the more traditional sense), Joe and Joan Castleman (played in the present by Jonathan Pryce and Glenn Close, and in their younger years by Harry Lloyd and Annie Starke). 

Near the beginning of the film, Joe is informed through a gushing early morning phone call from Stockholm by a representative of the Nobel Prize Committee that he is going to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature that year.  Of course both are ecstatic, initially, but ... all is not what it seems.

The story that ensues is on one hand somewhat predictable but certainly poignant in the current (and hopefully this time lasting) #Metoo movement.  Yet, the film is crisp / extremely well executed and leaves Viewers with some very interesting questions about the nature of marriage / a couple / a common project and even of "prizehood" itself.  While the story presented here gives actually an extreme (though still quite interesting) case, can ANYONE really declare about ANY SIGNIFICANT PROJECT that he/she did it all "My Way"?




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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fahrenheit 11/9 [2018]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB ()  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (B-)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB () review
Los Angeles Times (R. Abele) review
RogerEbert.com (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review


Fahrenheit 11/9 [2018] (written and directed by Michael Moore) is typically in the style of the writer-director's movies if perhaps one of his more uneven ones.  The film gives Moore opportunity to vent his anger at the Democrats because he did, indeed, "see it coming," Trump's election that is.  And it's clear that he's supporting (with reason) the new generation of Democrats who've had enough of the Republican-light Clinton (and even Obama) variety.

A particularly strong condemnation was of former President Obama, who Moore showed going to his hometown of Flint, Michigan in the midst of its literally (lead) poisoned water crisis, where OBAMA _feinted_ drinking a glass of the water there during a speech whose _sole purpose_ was to declare the water to be finally, at last, again safe.  Moore noted that _that single_ botched / fake / cynical gesture could have lost the Democrats Michigan in 2016 and hence the Presidential election.

And there was Moore's thesis: What good are the establishment Democrats if they don't stand for / "compromise" on traditional Democratic values -- most poignantly portrayed here, public health, but also defending people who need decent health care, decent wage jobs, freedom from having to fear that they're going to be gunned down by some idiot with a legally purchased AR-15, etc.

So Moore puts his hopes on the young, new Democrats who're not afraid of speaking on behalf of health care, unions, gun control, all issues that he maintains clear majorities of Americans support if only some politicians would support.

And here it ought to be noted that these values -- universal access to affordable health care, unions, gun control -- are all supported by over a century of Catholic Social Teaching.   Yes, the Catholic Church has never supported (and almost certainly never will support) abortion or gay marriage.  But precisely because it is pro-Life it has always been pro-universal access to affordable health care, pro-union (allowing workers to organize themselves) and always against unrestrained "gun rights."

Anyway, most viewers will come to the film with their own views and leave with them largely unchanged.  Yet, Moore's point that parties, here the Democrats, have to _stand for something_ (and hopefully stand for something that is _good_) is well taken.

I would add here, that we've a wasted a generation in which the only movement has seemed to be with regards to abortion and tax cuts, and I'd like to ask: WHAT GOOD IS THIS TO THE VAST MAJORITY OF AMERICANS who're far more concerned about their wages being stagnant and their medical bills going through the roof? 

The "marqui issues" of both the GOP and the Democrats don't effect _positively_ the concerns of the vast majority of the populace and haven't for a generation.

So yes, Michael Moore, who did, in fact, "see Trump coming" is angry.  So should most of us be as well.


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Friday, September 14, 2018

Peppermint [2018]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  RogerEbert.com (1 Star)  AVClub (C-)  Fr. Dennis (0 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Walsh) review
RogerEbert.com (S. Abrams) review
AVClub (G. Garner) review


Peppermint [2018] (directed by Pierre Morel, screenplay by Chad St. John) is a film that's very violent and that will offend a fair number of viewers notably Latinos who will identify, QUICKLY, the film's most obvious villains -- tattoo covered members of a MS13 style LATINO drug gang -- who kill the film's heroine's (Riley, played in the film by Jennifer Garner) husband and cute as a button 8 year old daughter on the eight year old's birthday.

'Course its a little more complicated than that.  There are also bought-off / corrupt cops, attorneys and judges, all of whom are white, who make the normal / legal / non-spray them all with bullets path toward justice _impossible_ for Riley.  Indeed, they wanted to put her away into a nut-house when she tried to testify against her family's murderers, but ... she ESCAPED, drops off the radar and COMES BACK five years later to the day of her family's murders AND ... you get the picture.

A clear problem with this picture TODAY is that it almost seems like the film that Quentin Tarantino had Goebbels make for Hitler in Inglourious Basterds [2009] only here for ... To call this film a dog whistle would diminish ... dog-whistles.

And yet, the film does express a frustration of many of those who did vote for Donald Trump -- honest, hardworking white people struggling to make ends meet who do feel frustrated at all levels by the system, dominated by rich folks (also generally white people, but who don't seem to care about them).  And then throw in TATTOO COVERED, UTTERLY INCOMPREHENSIBLE "ALIENS" well, it's enough to get one REALLY, REALLY SURVIVALIST WITH AN AR-15 / UNLIMITED SPRAY OF BULLETS MAD.

To those Readers who are still Reading here ;-), the film reminds me of a conversation I had with group of lovely Puerto Rican born parents when I was stationed at a heavily Puerto Rican parish, St. Catherine of Siena, in Kissimmee, FL.  I asked them why they didn't seem go to the movies much.  And they responded: "Fr. Dennis, we're church going people trying to raise our kids right.  Why should we go and support movies which almost always portray us as EXACTLY what we don't want our kids to become?"

And films like this make their point ... 0 Stars.


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A Simple Favor [2018]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (O)  RogerEbert.com (3 Stars)  AVClub (B)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
Los Angeles Times (K. Walsh) review
RogerEbert.com (S. O'Malley) review
AVClub (K. Rife) review


A Simple Favor [2018] (directed by Paul Feig, screenplay by Jessica Scharzer based on the novel [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Darcey Bell [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] [IMDb]), APPROPRIATELY R-Rated (there's an "intimate portrait" of Blake Lively's character hanging in the living room of her house that, let's just say, reveals WAY, WAY, WAY "too much" ;-), is a delightful, _extremely well-written_ (IMHO, it certainly deserves a "Best Adapted Screenplay" nomination though it probably won't get it) mash-up of "Gossip Girl" artsy French pop (one thinks of all that a stylish recent French film called The Lady in the Car with Sunglasses and a Gun [2015] could have been) and "Glee." 

Single (widowed) homemaking (and video-blogging about homemaking) ever smiling Connecticut suburban mom, Stephanie (played wonderfully in her trademark bouncy, effervescent, gosh, how can you not love her, style by Anna Kendrick) meets ice-cold dry/hard martini pounding cut-throat "director of public relations" at a Manhattan based fashion firm, business-woman Emily (played by Blake Lively) who's certainly decided to "take life by the ..." and ... the two become "best friends." 

HOW?  Well, mostly because their two 1st or 2nd grade sons want a "play date" ;-).  Well both become kinda fascinated by each other: Stephanie by Emily's attitude "all you really need to make a great ice cold gin martini is ... ice cold gin and a martini glass" ;-) and Emily by Stephanie's "if I really think about it (which I don't) my life's kinda sucked until now, but I'm going to make the absolute best of it" ever-positive sweetness.  And well, Emily finds Stephanie's "ever willing to help" sweetness... useful.

So ... one day, five weeks after they've met and become BFFs, Emily calls Stephanie for a favor ... to take 1st-2nd grade her son after school over to her (Stephanie's) house while she (Emily) stays late at work to "put out a fire at the office" and ... Emily NEVER COMES BACK.

WT ... happened?  Yea ... But then leave it to ever bouncy, ever positive (and quite resourceful, 'cause gosh darn it, EVERY PROBLEM HAS A SOLUTION) _video-blogging_ Stephanie to figure it out ;-). 

And so Stephanie's once simple / cute "home-making tips" video-blog becomes a different kind of "tips" vlog and we get to watch a cute amateur/videobloggin Martha Stewart [wikip] [IMDb] dare one dream wannabe morph into a "tough as nails" (even as she bakes cookies) "amateur" cold-case solving Nancy Grace [wikip] [IMDb] vlogger ;-).

Folks, this is a very fun film, with some really well drawn characters.  I've focused here on the ones played by Kendrick and Lively as they are the leads.  But others, including the other "moms" (and now requisite "house-dad") at the school, as well as Emily's husband (played by recent Crazy Rich Asians starring Henry Golding) and others are priceless.  There's even the nice touch of having the 1st or 2nd grade teacher in the story depicted as a cute / sweet _hijab wearing_ (hence Muslim) woman.

Overall the performances were fun.  But honestly, the whole scenario was spectacularly well crafted / imagined.  Hence, I'd really like to see the film get some attention in the screenplay and possibly direction category.


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