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Matt's Rating System:

Green  Go!  I think anybody would like this movie.
Yellow  Caution.  I liked it, but you might not.  
Blue   I didn't like the movie very much, but there is some merit there.  I'll tell you what I think it is.
Red   I really can't recommend this movie to you at all.
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PASSENGERS   Excuse me, but I think I liked this movie much more than most of the critics who've trashed it--apparently on the
basis of the movie's central plot point in which Jim (Chris Pratt), a passenger on a spaceship to another planet is mistakenly awakened
thirty years into his planned 120-year hibernation awakens another passenger, Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) to keep him company.  
Critics say that the movie doesn't give sufficiently serious consideration to Jim's decision which they--and Aurora--compare to
murder.  Frankly, I thought that all concerned gave the matter plenty of consideration and all agreed that it was a bad thing to do.  But
as a result of Jim's awakening and everything that happened out of it, something good happened.  Appparently, the critics didn't like
that.  If the movie proves anything, it's that good actors can make anything watchable.  You can't take your eyes off of Lawrence and
Pratt--and since they're pretty much alone in the movie, that's a good thing.  (12/25/2016)

JACKIE  is a genuinely puzzling movie.  If it's to be taken at face value, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was a cold, calculating ice
queen who carefully orchestrated the aftermath of her first husband's assassination to assure his place in history--and hers.  It's not a
terrible movie. The biggest problem with the movie is that you don't for a minute suspend belief sufficiently to believe that anyone in it
is who they're pretending to be.  Natalie Portman is a superior actress, but you don't believe for a minute that she's Jackie Kennedy.  
The actors playing Robert Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson are poor images of their counterparts, and whoever was playing JFK (6'0" in
real life) appeared to be about the same height as the 5'3" Portman.  To give the movie-makers credit, Jackie does understand the
importance of images in our modern world and tries the patience of everyone around her to assure that JFK's funeral would be the
national pageant that would be remembered for decades.  There's really nothing to be gained from watching this movie in a theater.  It
will be running on the Lifetime Channel forever.  (12/24/2016)

LA LA LAND  is a terrific movie, but not the great one that many would have you believe.  I used to say that Emma Stone could do
anything.  After
La La Land, I'll say that she can do anything but sing and dance.  Ditto and even more so for Ryan Gosling.  But
that's all right.  They don't need to sing and dance.  We just like to watch Stone and Gosling hang out together and offer a textbook
definition of movie chemistry.  A third character in the movie is almost as charming as Stone and Gosling, and that's the City of Los
Angeles itself.  No offence to Iowa, but the City of Angels has always been the place where dreams come true.  People from all over
have always gravitated to it to dream their dreams and try to live them.  Seeing the city portrayed on firm in all its glory and squalor is
almost as entertaining as watching the lead characters.  And it least it doesn't try to sing or dance.  (12/23/2016)

NOCTURNAL ANIMALS  Designer and director Tom Ford has recently said that will not make clothes for Melania Trump.  I don't
know that she's ever asked him to do so, nor do I much care.  There are lots of designers in the sea, and I'm sure that she has the
means to find someone who can put her into something.  But Mr. Ford has opened the door to allowing politics to abnegate art, so I'm
going to follow his lead and say that
Nocturnal Animals is trash because I don't like Ford's politics.  Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?  it
is, but no more so that Ford's original gratuitous announcement that showed what a pompous ass he is.  However, I don't need
anything as superfluous as politics to dislike this movie.  It's horrible all on its own.  Ford, whose knowledge of the State of Texas
goes no further than the doors of Neiman-Marcus, has crafted a movie about Texans that goes no farther than how they look when
he poses them naked for a scene.  Good actors like Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal (and even OK actors like Isla Fisher and Armie
Hammer) waste their valuable time and risk career suicide to appear in this mess.  I will give the movie credit by saying that it
maintains a certain level of suspense because you, the horrified audience member, doesn't know what grotesquery Ford will commit
next to humiliate the members of his cast.  (12/21/2016)

ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY   I really can't tell you much about this movie because I kept dozing off during its two
hours and seventeen minutes.  It's meant to inhabit that moment in time between
Star Wars Episodes Three and Four  (Look 'em up.)
when the Rebel Alliance is trying to track down the plans for the Death Star that Princess Leia gives to R2D2 at the beginning of the
very first
Star Wars movie.  A great deal of the movie was unintelligible to me because the theater where I saw the movie was
apparently using a 40-watt bulb to project the image.  (C'mon Canal Place, you're
better than that!)  In the event that the print I saw
was typical of what most people will see, it's really a dark, murky thing that makes you think that they skimped on lighting and set
design to save money.  That and a cast of thousands that you'll probably never see again make a for a movie-going experience that
might make you want to catch up on your rest.  (12/20/2016)

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA  is both a powerful movie and a gut-wrenching experience that's definitely not for everyone.  Casey
Affleck is excellent as Lee Chandler, a local Massachusetts ne'er-do-well who suddenly finds himself as father figure to his
16-year-old nephew when Affleck's brother dies. There's lots of angst--teenage and otherwise--as Lee returns to his hometown of
Manchester to act as the boy's guardian and open old wounds that definitely include his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) who--as
always--is excellent.  
Manchester by the Sea is probably too intense an experience for people who think they have their own
problems--and I get that.  But if you're willing to risk the journey, it's worth the trip.  (12/15/2016)

OFFICE CHRISTMAS PARTY  This movie should really be red-lined, but it's Christmas and I'm feeling charitable.  As likeable as
Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman are, they're unusually poisonous together.  (Remember
The Switch?)  The makers of this movie
seem to know this, so they keep the two apart most of the time.  As the title suggests, the movie is about a branch of a high-tech firm
in Chicago (do high-tech firms even HAVE branches?) that will be shut down by evil CEO Aniston if they can't sign a contract with a
big customer pronto.  The branch manager--and Aniston's brother--has the idea that an epic Christmas party will bring the client
around. Mayhem ensues.  As you might suspect, this is one of those movies you have to be in a particular mood to see.  Happily, I
was, and I laughed my butt off.  Unless you definitely are as well, you might want to give it wide berth.  (12/12/2016)

ALLIED  comes straight out of the Graveyard of Forgotten Movie Plots and has no problem with standing or falling with the
star-power of Brad Pitt and Marion Cotilliard--and that's fine with me.  Director Robert Zemekis knew that his movie was going to be
one of those "Somebody's got to die at the end, so who's it going to be" plots, so he let his talented actors play it out and let the chips
fall where they may.  I haven't seen all of Mr. Pitt's movies since
A River Runs Through It a hundred years ago, but I can't remember
the last time I saw him play a "real" person in a movie.  He usually plays some kind of gimmick role like
Benjamin Button,Troy, Mr.
and Mrs. Smith
and the Ocean's movies or in a parody of something like Inglorious Basterds.  It's nice to see him again as a "normal"
person.  Ms. Cotilliard has more experience in things like this, but I can't remember when she's really shined as she does here.  After
an extended stay with aliens, Disney princesses and Fantastic Beasts, it was nice to spend an evening in the theater with some adults.  

MOANA  Another singing Disney princess.  Meh. At one point in the movie, the princess's "sidekick", a demi-god named Maui, sighs
and says, "If she starts singing, I'm gonna throw up."  I think he spoke for all of us in the theater. I think even the Disney people are
starting to get tired of it all because in an effort to make her different, she's compelled to say, "I'm not a princess!  I'm the chief's
daughter." (I imagine some future police line-up where Mulan, Pocahontas and Moana are brought in, and no one can tell the
difference.)  But if you can get past the ordinary music (two days later, I can't recall one of the songs) and the all too familiar plot
points, this is an amazing movie just to look at. The animators have done an incredible job of creating images that are so intricate that
you can almost see how the light reflects differently on every strand of hair on Moana's head.  And while I was most impressed with
how they handled hair, the animators also did a great job with wind, water and light.  The young actress who voiced Moana hit all the
right notes, and Dwayne Johnson as Maui did what he could with a role that you kind of want to forget as fast as you can.  Despite
the ennui, there will be many more movies like this in our future.  After the mega-success of
Frozen, Disney will definitely not Let It
.  No surprise that the last Coming Attraction before the movie started was for Emma Watson in the live version of Beauty and the
, which will be here before you know it.

FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM   This morning, someone suggested to me that Fantastic Beasts is to the
Harry Potter
movies as Attack of the Clones is to the Star Wars movies and that Eddie Redmayne is the Jar Jar Binks of the franchise.
First, let me say that I liked Jar Jar; he was one of those quirky things about the Star Wars movies that kept them from having the
same production line feel of so many other movie franchises-looking at you,
Avengers et al.  But having said that, yeah, Fantastic
Beasts is a long long fall from Harry Potter, and I'm guessing Mr. Redmayne is going to have start reminding people that he once won
an Academy Award for portraying Stephen Hawking. Moving the Potter milieu to pre-war New York is interesting for a couple of
minutes, but the movie makers don't do much with it, so you lose interest in that aspect of the movie, and much time is spent
introducing a lot of characters portrayed by major U.S. movie stars that don't have much to do that you're painfully aware that they're
just there to be set up for the promised/threatened four sequels.  But they make such little impact that I had to be told when the movie
was over that Johnny Depp had been in it.  The beasts themselves--they're not bad, they're just misunderstood--are equally
forgettable.  An hour after the movie was over, I couldn't even describe one of them.  I lost interest in the
Harry Potter franchise after
the first three movies.  I lost interest in the
Fantastic Beasts series after one.

ARRIVAL  Critics love this movie and offer comparisons to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. As far as I'm concerned, people
can say any dumb old thing they want, but they should be comparing the movie to Jodie Foster's
Contact. I don't blame the folks who
made this movie for liking the
Close Encounters comparison better--Contact wasn't nearly as good as Close Encounters.  And neither,
for that matter, is
Arrival.  Amy Adams plays the Amy Adams character, and everyone else in the movie--including Jeremy Renner
and Forrest Whitaker--might as well be called Random Dude.  They're just there to give Amy somebody to talk to besides
herself--which she does a lot.  It's not giving away much of the plot to say that the aliens come in peace.  Twelve giant pods come to
Earth in various locations.  That they're not parked in places like directly over the White House and downtown Los Angeles as in
Independence Day suggests that they're not bent on world domination, but we really can't be sure until we get linguist specialist Amy
to the nearest pod, sitting silently on the Montana plains, where the only thing it could be menacing might be a nearby dinosaur dig
Jurassic Park.  All the government wants to know is where the pods are from and do they want to eat us, so patient Amy sets
out to develop a language that allows us to communicate.  Turns out that what they want to communicate is neither terribly interesting
nor particularly urgent.  Arrival is okay, but I'm sure that before the week is out, I will have forgotten most of it and still remember
that in Contact, heaven looked like Pensacola.  (11/12/2016)

DOCTOR STRANGE   A couple of months ago, I was addicted to Lip Sync Battle, which was all kinds of fun, but not remotely
educational.  In fact, other than learning that Anne Hathaway can do a hellacious Miley Cyrus imitation, the only thing I learned from
watching was that Emily Blunt warms up her voice by repeating over and over, "Benedict Cumberbatch.  Benedict Cumberbatch."  (It
really does work.  I now say it a couple of times to get the frogs out before I take my first phone call of the day.)  Although a fine
actor, I'm afraid that using his name as a throat-clearing device is more of an addition to the culture than anything he does in
 I'd pretty much sworn off comic-book movies this year, and only Mr. Cumberbatch's reputation could persuade me to see
this one.  Turns out, if there's any reason to see this movie at all, it's to see Tilda Swinton, who just can't help being interesting.  If
you have any interest in seeing this movie, you've already done so.  If not, there's no reason to check it out now.  (11/11/2016)

INFERNO  When I read the Dan Brown novel that this Ron Howard movie is based on, I had to admit that I was dazzled that he
could tell a story that played out in the course of one day in Florence, Venice and Istanbul.  The more I thought about it, the more I
came to suspect that the frenetic plot had more to do with Mr. Brown's lack of interest in developing characters than proving that
international travel is making the world smaller.  Not as good as
The DaVinci Code but lots better than Angels and Demons, Inferno
makes good use of Tom Hanks' personality as shorthand for character development.  It's gorgeously shot in several world heritage
sites, and it moves right along.  (11/10/2016)

THE ACCOUNTANT  is good old-fashioned fun at the movies.  Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick and a bunch of other good actors tell a
story that keeps you interested all the way to the end and leaves you wanting more.  Sure, Ben's a mass-murderer, but all the people
kills are bad and up to no good.  Check it out.  (11/09/2016)

TYLER PERRY'S BOO! A MADEA HALLOWEEN  If you want to go back and look, you'll see that on these pages, we love our
Madea. Even though I know every one of the movies will be on basic cable within a year, I go to the movies to check them out with
an audience.  Having said that, it makes me very sad to report that
Boo! might be the movie where Madea finally jumps the shark.  
Unlike Tyler Perry's earlier work which seemed very well thought out and rehearsed,
Boo! feels like it was written and shot in about a
week. The movie starts out in a fraternity house where every one of the members looks to be in his thirties.  It's jarring and
disconcerting to see grown men playing frat boys, and even Perry as Madea takes notice when one of them calls her Grandma, she
responds with, "Why are you 62-years-old and still in college?"  The Tyler Perry stock company has several fine actors who've
provided a wealth of empathy over the years, this movie is populated by the members of the troupe who've always been the least
life-like and most irritating.  As much as I want Mr. Perry to get his most famous character back on track in a quality production, I'm
sorry to say that
Boo! writes its own review.  (11/07/2016)

GIRL ON THE TRAIN  If you look at the top of the panel to the left, you'll see that my favorite movie of 2015 was directed by Tate
Taylor and starred Emily Blunt.  So naturally, I was looking forward to this movie which got the old team back together.  And while it
is a good movie that I can recommend to you, it's not nearly as good as
Sicario.  That was a great story that played itself in a
straightforward manner on the time and space continuum.  
Girl on the Train--necessarily--jumps around in time as its main character
remembers more and more of an encounter in which she was blind drunk and recalling nothing.  The device of repeated flashbacks
gets disorienting and makes the story more difficult to follow.  Also, a number of the women in the cast are almost identical, and old
people like me have to take a moment to think, "which one are you?"--which also distracts from the flow of the movie.  The cast is
excellent; Emily Blunt is very good, but not award-show good, Allison Janney, Justin Theroux and others also turn in very good
performances.  I guess I'd have to say that it's about as good as it can be for what it is.  That may sound condescending, but I mean
it as praise.  (11/06/2016)

SHIN GOJIRA  So this is the about the 800th time that Godzilla has attacked Tokyo.  (You'd think they'd recognize him by now.)  
Every time, bubbles arise out of the bay and 'zilla come ashore and starts stomping around the city.  One thing I've always wondered
has been, "Where's he going?" Is he looking for something?  Trying to kill the emperor?  Hungry and looking for a nosh?  Just seeing
the sights?  What? Godzilla movies were never much good at exposition, so it's been left to film goers to over-analyze and imagine
that he's angry about nuclear weapons, angry about ocean pollution, or in this case, disappointed in the response of the Japanese
government to the Fukishima nuclear disaster a couple of years ago. He's not talking, but we're making assumptions anyway.  I don't
know about Gojira, but the makers of this movie have had it up to here with the Japanese government and its poor overly-bureaucratic
response to emergencies.  They are skewered mercilessly throughout this movie, and the heroes are those "mavericks" who dare to
take the initiative to solve problems by working together outside the regular organizational chart.  Which is fine, but it's a pretty poor
foundation for a monster movie.  We want to Godzilla do what he does best--terrorize the city.  And he does. When he first comes
ashore, we see him for the first time and think, "What that ---? This is the WORST GODZILLA EVER!"  He (It?) looks like some
kind of Muppet eel with big stupid eyes.  But as you're sitting there thinking, "This stinks!", he starts mutating into the 300-foot
man-in-a-rubber-suit that we all know and love.  Is this the "best Godzilla ever," as some have said?   No.  But it'll do until that one
comes along--and tells us what he wants.  (10/22/2016)

FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS   Well, here's Meryl again, showing up in a movie seemingly designed as Oscar-Bait.  But I think
that perhaps she might have misjudged this time. I think that if anyone from this ensemble is going to get an Academy Award, it's
going to be Hugh Grant.  While Ms. Streep plays what is basically a gargoyle--a woman so delusional in her belief of her own musical
prowess, she books Carnegie Hall and gives a concert with predictably horrible results. Streep is actually not as off-putting this time
because she's not pretending she can sing (
Postcards from the Edge anybody? Paging A Prairie Home Companion...)  She's playing a
character who really can't sing, so we don't have to admire her bravery for trying.  But as I said, Hugh Grant--surprisingly--is the
story here as Florence's husband of twenty-five years who's come to an understanding with her about the way their lives are to be led
and cherishes her all the more for it.  It's really an astonishing performance.  Also, I knew that Simon Helberg (Wolowitz from
Big Bang Theory
was a good actor, but he's awkward and--well, sweet here.  For someone who's been burned in the past and has
learned to give Meryl Streep movies a wide berth, I was pleasantly surprised by
Florence Foster Jenkins.  (8/22/2016)

SAUSAGE PARTY  I'm giving Sausage Party a pass.  For me to say a movie is one of the worst I've seen ever, it has to be
completely incomprehensible.  And while this movie was certainly incomprehensible to me, there were people behind me who laughed
at every utterance that came from the mouths of the "characters" on the screen that included a love-sick frankfurter, a lesbian taco, a
sexually ambiguous bagel and stoners of all varieties.  The people behind me laughed especially hard at the millions of pot jokes, which
makes me suspect that they were probably stoned themselves.  However, I have no proof of that (and it was four o'clock in the
afternoon for cripes' sake), so I'm cutting them some slack.  Whoever you are, you'll find something to offend in
Sausage Party--it's
rated R for a reason, so no matter how much they beg, don't even think about taking a child to this movie.  (8/21/2016)

INDIGNATION   Who knew that Phillip Roth would still be relevant after all this time?  Mr. Roth is most famous for writing
Goodbye, Columbus, a book about Eastern Jewish teen-agers and their first encounters with Midwest Goyim on a college campus in
Ohio.  That is also basically the plot for Indignation.  Marcus (Logan Lerman), son of a kosher butcher in Newark lands a scholarship
to attend a small, overwhelmingly goy college in the Buckeye State. There, he encounters sex and love (in that order) with the
impossibly blonde and beautiful Olivia (Sarah Gadon), and he falls head over heals in love with her so fast that he doesn't even notice
the cuts on her wrists from her recent suicide attempt.  As his mother predicts, Olivia is trouble, but Marcus doesn't need her to start
the process of his self-unraveling; he can do that all by himself.  He's so sure of his own ethics and self-righteousness that he gets
into trouble with almost everyone.  It's not often that I find myself in a movie and wondering how it's going to end, but I have to
admit I was fascinated to see where this was going--and I think you will be, too.  As I was the only person in the theater for this
screening, I don't think your chances to see it on the big screen will last terribly long, but it's a good movie to see on your own
personal screen.  Check it out.  (8/20/2016)

BEN-HUR  I have to admit that I went into this movie wondering why it was necessary.  Prior to Avatar, the 1959 version with
Charlton Heston had won the most Academy Awards in history.  Did it really need to be "re-imagined"?  I still wonder that, but I am
glad I saw this new version.  What it loses by sacrificing the live shot grandeur of the older version for the CG graphics on display
here is more than made up for in it's fidelity to Lew Wallace's original novel,
Ben-Hur, A Tale of the Christ.  Gone are the stupid
set-ups of Charlton accidentally pushing a stone off the wall of his house and beaning Pontius Pilate and the Roman consul (or
whatever) who "adopts" Judah after he rescues the fat tub of goo after the sea battle scene.  Gone, thankfully, also are the blue-eyed
blond actors playing Judah, Massala and Jesus. At least they look like they're from the right part of the world.  I was a little afraid that
the spiritual component of this 21st century
Tale of the Christ would be knocked down a peg, so I was pleasantly surprised to see
that it was not only maintained but improved upon in this version.  For sheer sword-and-sandal spectacle, I think I'd still go with the
old version, but this one is also worthy of your attention.  (8/19/2016)

ANTHROPOID  A movie that overestimates the intelligence of its audience like this one does deserves to be the financial disaster that
it will likely be.  First off, let's assume you know what "anthropoid" is.  (Look it up.)  You'd think that a movie about animals that
resemble humans would be science fiction, but you'd be wrong.  Even if it does have Jamie Dornan (
Fifty Shades of Gray) and Cillian
Murphy (
The Dark Knight Rises) in it, you wouldn't recognize them from their earlier roles as masochists and supervillains. Even
when you find out that Anthropoid was the code name of the military mission to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich, you're wondering,
"Reinhard Who?"  Only when you drill down and discover that Heydrich was "The Butcher of Prague" and the highest-ranking Nazi
assassinated in WWII do you start to understand what the movie is about.  And it's quite good.  The suspense of how the operation
will turn out is maintained from the beginning when Dornan and Murphy parachute into Czechoslovakia to the brutal end.  The actors
are fine, and the atmosphere of 1942 Prague is captured perfectly.  Distressingly, the aftermath of the assassination resulted in about
three thousand Czechoslovakians being murdered by the Nazis in horrible ways. Not to be disrespectful, but Bugs Bunny once said, "I
belie that when you go to the movies, you should "loin" something." In
Anthropoid, you do.  (8/18/2016)

CAFE SOCIETY  I give up.  Café Society is Woody Allen's 52nd movie, and I'm sure I've seen at least forty of them and groped for
something compelling to say about them. I don't know if I'd say that I hated it from the first moment, but it's hard to love a movie
that has to tell you (in the same white on black font that was so impactful in 1977) that its cast is listed "in alphabetical order" when
you can make the observation for yourself when Steve Carell, Blake Lively and Kristen Stewart are all listed after Jeannie Berlin.  
There was a time when Woody Allen was the voice of his generation, but over the past four decades, he's become the voice of
Damon Runyon's generation. The dialog is so stilted--so unnatural--that it's difficult even to take the story seriously.  While Jesse
Eisenburg gets the dubious distinction of being the "Woody Allen" character in the piece, Carell and Lively are abused and misused,
and only Kristen Stewart escapes with her dignity intact.  As I was walking out of the theater, it occurred to me that about this time
next year, there will be another Woody Allen movie imposing itself on a resentful public, and I'm going to have to go through this
whole miserable process for the 53rd time.

BAD MOMS  Despite most of the stuff you read on this page, I really do like raunchy comedy when it's: a) actually funny; and b)
something a little bit different from the hundreds of reels of dreck one usually finds lying around the multiplex.  Bad Moms is the first
movie of the genre that I've seen since
The Hangover that I can recommend as something new in the world.  While everybody likes
Mila Kunis, they're more divided on Kristen Bell and Christina Applegate--which is too bad because they're all great here.  We've come
a long way from
That 70's Show,Veronica Mars and Married with Children.  At the beginning of the movie, it was a bit off-putting to
discover that a Chicago-area PTA was an all-female organization, but after a while, you get used to the concept and find yourself a
little bit relieved that no men are taking part in the shenanigans.  Bad Moms is that rarest combination--a genuinely funny comedy and
something that's not a retread of four other movies.  Check it out.  (7/29/2016)

ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS   isn't, but it's good enough to offer a welcome oasis of real comedy in a long, hot summer of cinematic
misery. Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley are relics of the last century who still don't realize that nobody is supposed to be having
fun in the 21st century.  The original television series was kind of a miss, and the movie only ups the ante on senselessness and
mayhem.  If Edina and Patsy were out of their element in the 1990's, they're even more so in the 2010's.  But they're so oblivious (and
mostly drunk) that you can't really hold their cluelessness against them--even when they knock off Kate Moss.  (7/23/2016)

FINDING DORY   I'm not sure that being the best of a bad lot is something to aspire to, but in a summer of wearisome sequels, I
suppose if you were in charge of a gaggle of kids for an afternoon, you could do more to harm them permanently than taking them to
Finding Dory.  I'm sure the younger set will disagree, but to these eyes anyway, Dory got old fast. My own explanation is that in
the very good
Finding Nemo, the main characters were Marlin and his son Nemo, and Dory was one of several interesting characters
who dropped into the movie to keep the action rolling along. Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) was a great straight man (fish) and the
jokes just bounced off of him.  Dory (Ellen Degeneres) isn't anybody's straight man (I suppose that phrase might need some
updating), and her shtick gets old fast.  Since it now rains EVERY DAY, you're probably looking for good indoor entertainment.  
Finding Dory isn't remotely memorable, but it's not a disagreeable way to kill a couple of hours.  6/28/2016)

FREE STATE OF JONES  I have to admit that I went into this movie fearing the worst.  Knowing that Hollywood thinks that 12
Years a Slave
is the penultimate Civil War movie, I was expecting that the makers of this movie would take a minor episode of
Mississippi history and turn into a freak show.  They didn't, but they did load up the story with all sorts of reflections of 21st century
concerns that do little to advance the story and plenty to pad it out to a walloping 139 minutes.  Matthew McConaghey reeled in his
performance level and was quite good as the Rebel rebel Newton Knight.  I don't think he'd deserve it, but I fully expect him to
receive an Academy Award nomination for his work. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who's been praised to the skies on this page, is equally fine
as the slave who captures his heart. Together, they are what's best about Free State of Jones.  What's not so great are the labored and
ham-handed nods to the Occupy movement and same-sex marriage. (I'm sure you're reading this and going, "Huh?"  Trust me.)  The
movie's message is bigger than any entertainment value it might have. Everything about it reeks of Academy-baiting.  We'll find out in
early 2017 if their gambit pays off.  (6/26/2016)

GHOSTBUSTERS  is practically critic-proof.  If you like it, you'll watch anything.  If you don't, you hate women.  What to do?  In
lieu of a better plan, I sat there and watched the movie.  Meh.  There were chuckles to be had, but no laugh-out-loud guffaws.  The
best parts of the movie were the nods to the original material.  While I'm not sure it's worth seeking out, you could do worse if you're
on a plane or in a hotel room with time on your hands.  (6/25/2016)

GENIUS   A. Scott Berg's Max Perkins: Editor of Genius has been sitting on my bookshelf since I read it some time shortly after it
came out and won the National Book Award in 1978.  Thirty-eight years later, we have a film treatment of the book that centers on
the genius editor's relationship with that most tumultuous of souls, Thomas Wolfe.  I can only imagine that the folks who were in
charge of the project (Mr. Berg among them) decided among themselves that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ring Lardner and Ernest
Hemingway had been done to death, so let's drag Wolfe through the ringer.  And boy, did they ever. I guess I'll have to go back and
read the book again to find out if Wolfe was truly as irritating and off-putting as Jude Law portrays him in the movie.  I'm not sure he
is--hell, I'm not sure
anybody is.  Law plays him completely over the top, and watching Jude Law portraying anything over the top is
never a good thing.  (I still have nightmares about watching him try to dance in
The Holiday.)  Whether true to life or not, Law as
Wolfe is so irritating that pretty soon you start to doubt that a person as reserved as Maxwell Perkins could possibly harbor any
feeling for such a pompous windbag.  Truth be told, Colin Firth underplays Perkins as much as Law overplays Wolfe. Despite having
five children, Firth as Perkins is so withdrawn as a character that he keeps his coat and hat on as he's having dinner with his family in
his own home.  This all adds up to a huge missed opportunity.  Which is too bad because most of the people portrayed in the movie
really were geniuses.  (6/18/2016)

THE LOBSTER   I'm not sure if Absurdium Gratia Absurdium is the correct Latin phrase for "Absurdity for the sake of being
absurd," but it might apply to
The Lobster.  At some point in an unspecified future, single people (including divorcees, widows and
widowers) of a certain age check into The Hotel, where they have forty-five days to find a new spouse, or else they're turned into the
animal of their choice.  (As someone in the movie says, everybody wants to be a dog,which is why you see so many dogs.  Nobody
ever wants to be a turtle.)  So enter David (Colin Farrell), who says he wants to become a lobster, if he doesn't find a mate.  The
set-up is absurd in all its particulars.  You can be severely punished for masturbating, but on the other hand, the hotel housekeeper
(the only attractive woman in the hotel) will happily service you after she's made up the bed.  Pickings are slim at The Hotel and David
realizes that if he wants to live, he must escape and join The Loners, those pathetic singles who live in the woods.  The Loners' rules
are equally absurd--plus their leader is truly sadistic. But the good news is that David finds someone he could love, "Short-Sighted
Woman", played by Rachel Weisz. (How hard can it be to fall in love with her?  Even as an Evil Witch in
The Great and Powerful Oz,
she was a catch. But I digress.)  At this point, the two make plans to sneak off and start a new life somewhere, which begs the
question, "if they're happily suited, why can't they just rejoin regular society?"  These are the questions one doesn't ask in
The Lobster.
It exists on its own plane of reality (or whatever) and must be enjoyed for its own sake.  I admit that I did for about an
hour-and-a-half.  Unfortunately, it's a two-hour movie, and things slow down considerably as it looks for a place to end--or at least
come to a stop.  
The Lobster isn't great, but in a summer where we're happy to get anything that's not a god-awful sequel, anything
new is good.  (6/7/2016)

A BIGGER SPLASH  Even though most of the people in this movie are Earthlings or claim to be, there's really nothing in the movie
that ties what's going on to the kind of behavior one expects from residents of this planet. Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Matthias
Schoenaerts and Dakota Johnson portray the creepiest foursome in the history of movies. For the record, Swinton is a world-famous
pop diva (think Annie Lennox without the talent), Fiennes is her former manager and lover, Schoenaerts is the younger man she leaves
Fiennes for, and Johnson is Fiennes's 17-year-old-daughter.  As the movie begins, Swinton and Schoenaerts are hiding out in a villa
on the Italian island of Pantelleria (look it up). They're having a great time doing nothing in particular when Fiennes and his daughter
turn up and guilts them into extending an invitation to stay at the villa. Nudity ensues (not a problem because they all--Fiennes
excused--look great), followed by hook-ups and eventually, something really bad. I can't really recommend this movie to you, but it
was only thing in the multiplex that wasn't Avengers, X-Men or Angry Birds.  (5/29/2016)

LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP  Turns out Jane Austen also wrote short stories. This movie is based on something called Lady Susan,
which I've not read. Frankly, I can't imagine that Miss Austen ever wrote anything this liberated, it's charming to think she did. The
eponymous Lady Susan is the disgraced widow of a gentleman who failed to provide for his 40-is wife after his death. She bounces
around, collecting married lovers and unmarried suitors and manipulates them almost effortlessly. Kate Beckinsale, perhaps
surprisingly, portrays the title role as a woman that any rich young nobleman would make a fool of himself for. On occasions when
she is outflanked by the families of the young men, the wives of her lovers or even her own teen-age daughter, she bounces back and
lands on her feet.  Love and Friendship isn't in the class with the best of the recent movies of her books, but it's miles ahead of almost
anything you'll find in the multiplex this summer.  (5/27/2016)

THE NICE GUYS  I think the original idea of Nice Guys was to rely on the star-power of Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling to lead us
through a breezy look at Los Angeles in 1977.  It's just a theory and probably not even a good one because Crowe and Gosling
operate at about 10 percent throughout the course of this movie, projecting not much star-power at all. Thirteen-year-old Angourie
Rice (as Gosling's daughter) acts rings around both of them, and the movie only really comes to life when she's in the picture.  The
evocation of Los Angeles from the disco years isn't entirely successful, and the writers and others have a great time evincing images
that will come back to haunt America in later years.
Nice Guys isn't terrible, but with The Rockford Files on basic cable every night of
the week, it's easy to see where it could have been much, much better.  (5/23/2016)

The LOUISIANA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL has just wrapped up in Baton Rouge, and before I share with you
some of the movies I saw, I just want to commend everyone involved for a terrific job.  I'll rank the ten movies I saw in the
order that I saw them.

MISS SHARON JONES   Someday, someone will curate the career of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and I'll be able
figure out when and where I saw them in the 1980's.  I want to say Baton Rouge sometime around 1982, but I could be
wrong.  Anyway, I'd almost forgotten about her when I saw this documentary on her tribulations as a stage two pancreatic
cancer patient a couple of years ago.  The movie makers did a wonderful job of tracking her around the New York
metropolitan area as she did her chemo and tried to maintain relations with the members of the band who have been with
her for more than thirty years.  Miss Sharon is an example to all of us, and I can't wait to see her in person at the New
Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival this weekend.

MISSING PEOPLE  I'm sure was brought to the festival to honor the local connection between the documentary's
protagonist, Martina, a New York City art (she calls herself a curator, so we'll go with that) and a New Orleans artist
named Roy Ferdinand, who died of cancer a few years ago.  It's clear that Martina's infatuation with Ferdinand is to some
degree compensatory for the loss of her brother who was murdered as a teenager. Throughout the first half, Martina
says that she's doing everything she can to curate Mr. Ferdinand's life and career as an artist.  (She even has some of
his old clothes), so I started to feel somewhat manipulated into thinking that the movie itself was a somewhat ham-handed
attempt to bring more awareness to Mr. Ferdinand, so the shocking development near the end of the movie that removes
Martina from the picture is truly shocking.  This was one of the movies where the director takes questions afterward, and I
asked him whose idea it was to make the movie.  He said that he was also a painter and sold one of his works to Martina.  
That started the relationship that eventually grew to include Mr. Ferdinand.

BREAKING THE BANK   I love Kelsey Grammer.  I do.  I stay up late to watch old re-runs of Frasier.  (Actually, I'm still up
anyway, but I do turn on the tv to watch them.)  But Breaking the Bank was just so frickin' awful that it became (I think)
only the third movie I ever walked out of.  (I remember the first one was
Taxi Driver, so maybe Mr. Grammer isn't in such
bad company.)  What made it worse was that I had to walk in front of him to get out of the theater.  It's horribly unfunny
and the world it wants you to inhabit for however long it runs is just so unbelievable, you start to wonder if this is a script
that Jerry Lewis rejected in 1962. What's it about?  Well, the first hour is about how Mr. Grammer's character is a sharp,
useless upper-crust British lout who married an otherwise sensible woman who owned a private bank.  I couldn't tell you
much more if I wanted to because I was busy fleeing the theater.

RAIDERS!  By now, I'm sure you're aware of the three Ocean Springs teenagers who spent seven summers of their 80's
childhood making a shot-by-shot "adaptation" of
Raiders of the Lost Ark.  It was resurfaced (or maybe it just surfaced) a
couple of years ago at the SXSW Festival when 35 minutes of it was shown to an unwitting crowd that had gathered to
see the second installment of the
Lord of the Rings trilogy. The crowd was so enchanted that the booed when they
stopped the
Raiders rip-off in the middle to start the main movie, and a legend was born.  Turns out the teen auteurs
filmed their take on
Raiders--with the exception of one scene, the scene in Egypt where Indy fights a Nazi to steal a plane
that eventually blows up.  This movie is about the three young movie makers getting together thirty years later to film the
last scene (which costs approximately a hundred times than the rest of the movie put together).  It's fascinating, and
along the way, we hear the stories about where the first idea for the movie came from and how it got made.  The best line
in the movie is from the nine-or-ten year-old child of one of the film makers who says she was stunned to learn that
Steven Spielberg spent $20 million on the original
Raiders, when her daddy did the same thing on his allowance.  Even
though it's a fairly masturbatory project (Why is there a high quality scene of adults in the middle of a movie full of
teenagers?), it's fun to see some adults find something like meaning in their lives through a rather arcane process.

LO AND BEHOLD. REVERIES OF THE CONNECTED WORLD  One of the themes of the festival was the impact of
technology and social media on our lives.  Werner Herzog is as perplexed about this as any of us, so he's made a
documentary that tries to offer some clues about how we got into this situation.  In the movie's first section, we go to
UCLA to see the lab in the Engineering School where the internet was allegedly born.  There's a little shrine, and the
now-obsolete first server to house it stands proudly in the corner of a lab.  Herzog goes from there to show the good side
of the net--how a community of volunteers playing an online game is actually researching how to build a gene that will
cure some types of cancer; and the bad side--how identity theft is overwhelming our economy.  It's a fairly pedestrian
work from a director who has always been anything but pedestrian.  I see this as something students would watch in high
school classes--presuming that such things still exist.

PRESENTING PRINCESS SHAW  Continuing in the social media vein, Samantha Shaw was a thirty-something woman
who lives alone in a bad neighborhood in New Orleans and dreams of a life in show business.  Every night, she sat on
her bed or her couch, making You Tube videos and posting them online, not knowing whether anyone was watching
them or not.  If anything, the videos were therapy because on them, she talked freely about her terrible abuse-filled
childhood.  She sang, she made jokes, she updated her public on what was going on with her life.  Unbeknownst to her,
someone was watching.  An Israeli musician living in a kibbutz outside Tel Aviv watched her postings regularly and
eventually enlisted musical friends to be the back-up orchestra for one of her songs.  The mash-up that was eventually
produced became one of the most popular tunes in Israel, and eventually millions would see the finished product online.
Princess, going through the paces of her profoundly pedestrian life, is unaware any of this is going on until she starts
getting emails from people who say they love her voice.  Princess eventually gets to go to Tel Aviv and meet the man
whose muse she has been. It's an interesting story, but I think that this is an instance where the movie maker has put in
too much emphasis on the banal back story of Princess's life instead of focusing on the magic that changed it.    I don't
know if they all lived happily ever after, but Princess herself was at the screening, and she looked pretty happy then. SE

SEARCH ENGINES  If the film festival people allowed me to choose "Best Picture" at the fest, this one would get my vote.
A Los Angeles woman hosts fifteen members of their friends and family for a "traditional" Thanksgiving dinner--something
she has never done and has no idea about how to get it done now.  (You know that dinner is never going to be served
when she decides to set the oven at 550 degrees for the bird.)  It's a typical Westside conglomeration.  In addition to the
hostess's two daughters, brother, mother and sister, the guest list includes random friends and friends of friends. The
only thing they have in common is their reliance on their cell phones.  Two of the guests are bloggers.  Two of the guests
had previously "found" one another on a gay dating website, and a couple of the guests are just irritated spouses who
are jealous of their mates' relationships with their devices.  (And I would be remiss if I didn't say that one of the guests is
the "dog groomer to the stars.") One of the bloggers is David, who records "random ceremonies and rituals" for his blog
and has decided to conduct an experiment--namely what happens when he turns on a phone jammer and fifteen people
are compelled to deal with one another for a day.  The set-up and the result is very Robert Altman-esque, which means I
loved it.  So much so that I'm taking a copy of it to Thanksgiving dinner this year and making people watch it.

EL CLAN is an Argentine movie, set in Buenos Aires in the 1980's, when Pinochet was in power and terror was the order
of the day.  The Puccios, a loving and otherwise loving family, dotes on the oldest son who is a star rugby player for the
Pumas. Dad is an officer in the government surveillance department--and he dabbles in kidnapping and murder on the
side.  Old Man Puccio is a ruthless son-of-a-bitch, and eventually the entire family pays the price in this grim movie
produced by Pedro Almadovar.

THE INNOCENTS  This is a French-Polish production about a convent in Poland which has seen the worst of the
depredations of the Nazis and Russians by the time a French Red Cross team arrives in the winter of 1945.  Seven of the
nuns have been raped and are now pregnant. If the neighbors in the town find out, the convent will be shamed and
closed down. Lou de Laage (a name you'll be hearing for the rest of your life) plays a young French doctor who has
been forbidden to provide assistance to the nuns, but sneaks out at night to help them anyway.  Faith is tested in all
quarters in a believable way, and that is what makes
The Innocents as good as it is.  See it whenever you get the chance.

BOGALUSA CHARM   It would be interesting to know what the crime rate in Bogalusa was yesterday when this movie
was showing because it seemed as if the entire town had come to Baton Rouge for the premiere.  And while I wouldn't
say they were necessarily rewarded for their effort, at least they weren't insulted by cheap shots.  It's clear that the
director who made this movie (who died a couple of weeks ago without ever seeing his finished product) had a real
affection for the people in "The Magic City" who were his subjects.  The movie gets its name from a week-long charm
school that is run by a doyenne of the city, some preachers, and other friends who take in twenty or so girls each year to
tell them how to set a table, carry herself like a lady and keep it in her pants.  Intercut with scenes of setting a buffet table
and professional women who explain that girls with tattoos will never get a good job, there are scenes of people in their
town who know acknowledge that although Bogalusa has seen better days, there is always hope for the future.  My
favorite Bogalusans were an Iraqi couple who just moved to town and opened a restaurant.  They are probably the most
optimistic people in town--although when asked what Bogalusa needs most, the wife answers "An ice cream store.  It's so
hot here!  
Bogalusa Charm isn't caustic enough to be anything like a camp classic, but it is a reasonable likeness in a
photograph of a place at a particular point in its history.  I can see a copy being put into the town's time capsule on the
Fourth of July.

L'ATTESA (THE WAIT)  Seems like a movie from another time.  A young woman from Paris (Lou de Laage again) arrives
at a villa in Sicily to meet her boyfriend so that they can share the Easter holidays with his mother, the ever-wonderful
Juliette Binoche. Clearly, someone has died. The house is full of silent people wearing black.  The mother says the
deceased was her brother.  We know it's the son, but for some reason, no one has the courage to break the news to the
girl friend, assuming that Binoche's character will do when she's good and ready.  But mom has her own issues--we can
only assume that she thinks she can keep her son alive a little longer if the girlfriend isn't grieving with her.  So they wait
for him to show up.  The movie calls itself an "intense psychological drama," but mostly, it's just creepy.  To its credit, the
highly-praised cinematography gives us Binoche, de Laage and Sicily in all their glory.  In the introduction to the movie,
the director of the festival that Binoche is such an amazing actress that even when she's sitting still and shifting her gaze
from left to right, you know that something important is happening.  The bad news is that shifting her gaze from left to
right is about the extent of the action in
L'Attesa.  The good news is that it's enough.

TICKLED  It's my own fault.  This New Zealand-made film promised an expose of the world of "competitive endurance
tickling" (CET), and everybody said it was wonderful.  So I was kind of expecting something like the last New Zealand
movie I saw, which was
What We Do in the Shadows.  A local television reporter on the light news beat found an ad for
"athletic young men" to show up somewhere in Auckland to compete for cash and an opportunity to go Los Angeles for
the next round of CET, so he shows up to see what's what.  When he gets there, he's forbidden to film and threatened
with expensive legal action if he pursues the story--which of course, only makes him more curious.  As almost anybody
could figure out pretty quickly, CET may not rise to the level of actual pornography (the athletic young men are indeed
wearing pants), but it definitely qualifies as a fetish, and those who are involved in the big-buck business of producing
the videos are fairly emphatic about maintaining their privacy.  As
Tickled goes along and more is learned, the story gets
more and more sad and depressing.  By the end of the movie, you're kind of wishing you could go back in time three
hours before you ever saw

HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS   For a long time, it's been easy to dismiss or undervalue her as an actress because of shows like
The Flying Nun, movies like Steel Magnolias, Forrest Gump or the Burt Reynolds movies or comments like "You really like me!"   But
the truth is that if she didn't exist, somebody would have to make her up, and I'm sure they wouldn't do nearly as good a job as the
original has done for herself.  Sure, the character of Doris is way over the top.  No self-respecting ad firm in New York would
tolerate such a
outre, 1950's-era schlump in their presence.  But we look past that, accept her for what she is and move on.  She falls
for a 20-something man, thinks her love is requited and digs a deep, deep emotional hole for herself that you know is going to be
painful for her to crawl out of.  The first two-thirds of the movie is so sweet that you find yourself dreading the eventual crash and
burn that you know is coming.  And then it does.  But it's not so bad.  People are surprised, learn something about themselves, pick
themselves up and move on.  It's almost perfect.  To say that they don't make movies like this anymore is a vast understatement.  And
it's too bad.  
Doris is terrific.  (3/31/2016)

ALLEGIANT   These young folks (and their movie franchise) are not aging well.  When we first met them Tris (Shailene Woodley)
and Four (some dude) were fresh young faces trying to make it in the fictional factional world of Chicago.  Now--however many
years later--they look like they've been rode hard and put up wet.  Too bad.  The
Divergent series started promisingly, but it's been
running out of gas since the first installment.  This should have been the last in the series, but the movie-makers thought they could
make a little more money by cutting the last book in half.  (Where have we heard that before.  Oh, yeah.  
Everywhere.)  The results
are predictably uninteresting.  The plot is increasingly unsatisfying, and the most interesting things in the movie are how they manage
to take stunning women like Ms. Woodley, Naomi Watts and Ashley Judd and make them look like hobos.  There's one more
coming.  I may see it; I may not.  (03/18/2016)

WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT   starts ominously.  The first half or so of the movie is the kind of extended sketch comedy that
we've come to expect from Tina Fey and the
Saturday Night Live mob.  Then, after a transformational experience in Afghanistan,
where she's taken a job as a reporter for an American cable news firm, Fey wakes up one morning and asks the man she may or may
not be involved with and asks, "Where is this going?"--exactly the question the audience is asking about the movie.  And
then--pleasantly--the movie goes somewhere.   It becomes about something, and the butts in the seats slowly begin to care about Fey
and her character.  
WTF isn't much of an addition to the rapidly expanding canon of movies about Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq,
but it isn't an embarrassment.  The ads say that this is Tina Fey's best work.  The good news is that it probably is; the bad news is
that it doesn't say much about the rest of her work.  (3/9/2016)

RISEN   Who knew they still made movies like this one?  For better or worse, the 50's Biblical epic is back--complete with blue-eyed
disciples and Romans, Hebrews and Arabs with perfect British accents.   Chief among the accents in question are Joseph Fiennes
(Shakespeare from
Shakespeare in Love) as a Roman tribune in Jerusalem at the time of the Crucifixion, and Tom Felton (Draco
Malfoy from the
Harry Potter movies) as his toady-in-training.  After the body of Christ goes missing from the tomb three days after
Good Friday, Pontius Pilate commands the tribune to find the body--or else. As he searches for the body of Christ, the tribune finds
more than he seeks.  For what it is, Risen is fine.  (3/6/2016)

DEADPOOL  The movie is all over the place, so here's a hundred words that describe it:   Abysmal. Terrible. Shameful. Hideous.
Revolting. Abhorrent. Loathsome. Appalling. Worthless. Despicable. Base. Unclean. Dingy. Grimy. Dirty. Uncouth. Vulgar. Tasteless.
Crude. Coarse. Smutty. Lewd. Grubby. Nasty. Seedy. Sleazy. Ignoble. Vile. Dreadful. Hateful. Odious. Horrible. Gross. Offensive.
Horrendous. Inexcusable. Contemptible. Ugly. Repellent. Obnoxious. Repugnant. Shameful. Miserable. Wretched. Sordid. Foul.
Mucky. Explicit. Boorish. Offensive. Obscene. Indecent. Rude. Bloody. Squalid. Fetid. Low. Disgusting. Degenerate. Pitiful.
Disgraceful. Detestable. Repulsive. Execrable. Terrible. Awful. Atrocious.  OK, that's only sixty-eight, but you get the point.  Here's
the last four: Worst. Superhero. Movie Ever.  (2/152016)

HAIL, CAESAR!   Here's how you know that this movie is not vintage Coen Brothers:  It came out in February.  Nobody's ever
going to link this movie to classics like
Blood Simple, O Brother, Where Art Thou? or Fargo, but it has its moments.  It's the story of
a "studio fixer" played by Josh Brolin who deals with the everyday problems of operating a movie studio in the 1950's.  For example,
the biggest star in Hollywood (George Clooney) is abducted and held for ransom by a woeful cabal of inept Communists.  An
unpleasant Esther Williams-like actress (Scarlett Johanssen) needs a husband in a hurry. A Gene Kelly-like singer/dancer (Channing
Tatum) has all sorts of problems related to masculinity and patriotism.  You can tell that everyone is having fun in the movie, and
while you're a little jealous that you're not having nearly as much watching them, it's still better than almost anything else roaming
at-large in the multiplex.  (2/08/2016)

13 HOURS   I don't know if it's fair to talk about this movie for what it is not, instead of what it is, but from the top, this movie
about the murder of four Americans in Bengazi on September 11, 2012, is NOT an indictment of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  
Obama's voice is heard in the first minute of the movie saying something inspirational and delusional about America's relationship with
the Arab world, and then over the course of the next two hours and two minutes, they are not heard from again--even though lives
might have been said if they had said or done something.  But putting politics aside, this is an action movie about what was going on
in the American legation and nearby CIA base at the time.  Considering that real names are used, and the only person who's been
complaining about the veracity of the story is Mrs. Clinton, I assume that is a fairly accurate description of the
cluster-you-know-what that went down that night.  The main character here is an ex-Navy Seal named Jack played by John Krasinski
The Office and Lip Sync Battle.  He's played soldiers before--most recently in last year's Aloha, but he's never been as effective
as he is here.  This is, after all, a Michael Bay movie, so he's not doing Shakespeare, but he does make us care about his character,
which is something for what is essentially a splatter flick.  It's violent, bloody and unfit for a child, but in the end, it is what war
movies look like in the 21st century.  (1/26/2016)

CAROL  So.  The brilliant movie maker directs Cate Blanchett in the story of a poor young New Yorker who's fatally attracted to the
thoughtlessly wealthy in an adaptation of a Patricia Highsmith novel.  The director is Anthony Minghella, and the movie is, of course,
The Talented Mr. Ripley.  Todd Haynes and Carol?  Not so much.  In fact, I was so bored watching the movie that I started thinking
about all the ways that
Carol is the Bizarro-World version of Ripley.  Where Ripley leaves New York for the sunny Riviera, Rome and
Carol flees to places like Canton, Ohio, and Waterloo, Iowa.  Ripley is all about the sunshine; Carol slushes through the
snow.  Where Matt Damon's attempted seduction of Jude Law is hilariously bad, Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara are just depressing
and sad.  Matt leaves a trail a dead bodies across Europe; Cate leaves a trail a cigarette butts across Park Avenue.  I could go on, but
you get the idea.  Every other shot in
Carol is observed through some piece of glass--mirrors, car windows, store windows, house
windows, motel windows, every kind of window.  I can only surmise that Mr. Haynes wants us all to feel as if we're prying on these
two women like the judgmental neighbors, co-workers and others in the movie.  I'd like to think he's making some kind of statement,
because if he's not, it means that he's hired a cinematographer who's a one-trick-pony.  Unless you--like your humble
correspondent--are someone who can think of ways to amuse yourself when you're not particularly stimulated by what's on the
screen in front of you, catch up on your sleep at home and let Carol be miserable without you.  (1/12/2016)

THE H8TEFUL EIGHT   (Warning:  These comments contain all kinds of spoiler alerts.)  The Academy Award nominees haven't
even been announced yet, but I can tell you already that this piece of dreck will win an Oscar.  The irreplaceable composer Ennio
Morricone has written an amazing score for this movie, and it's so good that I can't even imagine what else would be nominated to
challenge it.  But we'll see.  I put the spoiler alert at the top because I want to say something about the fact that every single person in
the movie dies a horrible, bloody death.  I'm not saying this to ruin your movie experience, but to answer the perplexing question of
why an unseen narrator starts talking about two-thirds of the way through the movie.  It seems incongruous, but since we're soon to
find out that everybody else is dead,
somebody's got to say something to hold the sloppy storytelling together.  In addition to the
music, there's an outside chance that the movie could be recognized for cinematography.  Considering that about 90 percent of the
movie takes place in the claustrophobic confines of a stagecoach or a coach stop/inn way out in the middle of Wyoming, it would be
interesting to know why Quentin Tarantino felt compelled to shoot a movie in Cinemascope for the first time in thirty years.  In the
movie's most memorable outdoor scene, Samuel L. Jackson forces a naked white man who's been crawling through the snow for
two miles to provide him with oral sex in return for a promise to give the guy a blanket.  (I've already mentioned that everybody in the
movie dies, so you can probably guess where this scene goes.)  Thanks to the magic of the movies, we get to see not only the pitiful
act itself, but must of the surrounding frozen and barren county.  I had a free ticket to see this movie, so the only thing it cost me
was three hours and seven minutes of my valuable time.  I can't imagine anybody actually paying to see it.  (1/8/2016)