KUSP Film Review

Film Review: ‘Grandma’

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and read it below.

Just in case you’re late for an appointment, or you’re about to exit your car, let me suggest that you not miss Grandma, which stars the inimitable Lily Tomlin. It’s a fabulous flick.

Now then, if you have a few minutes, let me suggest why Grandma is such a very fine film. In the first place: the script. Paul Weitz not only directs Grandma, but he wrote the script. Weitz is a straight white guy who has written a movie about a broken-hearted, ageing lesbian, and her granddaughter. Men are practically absent from the film. With the exception of a nine or ten minute scene in which Sam Elliot’s character recounts an ancient and brief relationship with Tomlin’s character, males are few and far between in Grandma. The women Weitz has created easily carry the film. The few men, who show up sporadically, are mostly guys who help keep a very old car on the road.

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Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine

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Listen to the review by David H. Anthony above, and read it below.

 

At the beginning of his documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, filmmaker and narrator Alex Gibney asks why so many were moved by the October 5, 2011 death of the former Apple CEO at the age of 56. It is a timely, vital question that moves this incisive and poignant reflection along.

Alex Gibney’s 128 minute film is one of several posthumous attempts to unravel the complex odyssey of the innovative entrepreneur who perhaps more than anyone else has been credited with helping bring the world into an intimate relationship with digital communication via personal computing. For Apple aficionados, Steve Jobs looked larger than life; Gibney’s layered juxtaposition of vintage footage and cogent interviews suggests that this was precisely how he wished to be seen. His world was creative and controlled.

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Film Review: ‘The End Of The Tour’

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and read it below.

 

‘The End Of The Tour’ is a film about a writer, about two writers, actually. And, it’s a rather difficult film to write about. That’s because almost the entire film consists of one long conversation between the novelist David Foster Wallace and the Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky.
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Film Review: ‘The Prophet’

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton above, and read it below.

 

Khalil Gibran is one of the most famous poets in history. His book, ‘The Prophet’, has been translated into dozens of languages and reportedly has sold over 100 million copies. To put that in perspective, consider that the typical first printing of a book of poems in The United States, even books written by relatively well known poets, ranges from 500 to 1,500 copies. And while it’s true that poetry is not America’s favorite literary genre, to say the least, the numbers do give you a sense of Gibran’s enormous popularity.

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‘Straight Outta Compton’

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Listen to the review by David H. Anthony above, and read it below.

Since its mid-August release the group biopic Straight Outta Compton, depicting the rise and demise of controversial and influential hard core rap unit NWA has been a box office bombshell. Taking its name from NWAs blistering debut album, like its subject Straight Outta Compton is as raw, gritty, violent and unforgiving as the South Central Los Angeles of legend and fact. It seeks triumph within a tapestry of tragedy.

Straight Outta Compton, directed by Felix Gary Gray, whose previous works include The Italian Job, Law Abiding Citizen and Friday seeks to recreate the social, economic and cultural conditions that gave rise to three of the granddaddies of gangsta rap. Andre Young, known as Dr. Dre, O’Shea Jackson, better recalled as Ice Cube and Eric Wright, Easy-E, came together in a joint venture blending beats with searing street sagas of brutal police beatings and black lives assaulted by rapid fire weapons, gang banging and hard knocks. In doing so they helped set a standard for West Coast rap.

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Mero

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Listen to the review by David H. Anthony above, and read transcript below.

African-American novelist Charles R. Johnson, author of Middle Passage, takes great pains to distinguish between “story” and “plot.” Story may be defined as a narrative housed in a temporal frame, bounded by time, i.e., what historians do. Plot differs.

Plot pivots around probing causality. The gripping film Meru succeeds in balancing story via chronology with plot, how things happen. Balance is apt to use in this context as Meru isabout climbers and climbing, gravity, the elements, mentorship, trust, life, love and death.

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Tangerine

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton, above.

Mr. Holmes

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Listen to the review by David H. Anthony, above.

Trainwreck

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Listen to the review by Dennis Morton, and read transcript below.

 

I gave my television away over twenty years ago, so I’m a few decades behind  when it comes to knowing who today’s TV stars are. Which is why I’d never heard of Amy Schumer, until I saw Trainwreck. I’m so glad I did.

Schumer not only stars in Trainwreck – she also wrote the script. The first time I watched it, the theatre was packed and the laughter was so loud and so frequent that I missed many of the lines. So of course, I had to go back – again, and again.

According to the production notes for the film, much of Trainwreck is based on  Schumer’s actual experiences. She even names the lead character Amy. Amy, the character, has been leading a life of sexual abandon. She’s followed her impulses and scrupulously avoided lasting commitments. By day she’s a writer for a sleazy men’s magazine. By night, she’s a bed-hopping libertine.

She seems to be following the advice of her father, who, as the film opens, delivers a homily on the virtue of promiscuity to his two small daughters. It’s outrageously funny. The gist of it, theoretically a rationale for his impending divorce  from their mother is: monogamy isn’t realistic. It becomes gospel for Amy. But not so for Amy’s sister, who evolves into an angry apostate.

Immediately after their dad concludes his address, the film shoots 23 years into the future – which is present day New York City. Director Judd Apatow introduces us to a few samples of Amy’s legion of sexual partners. One of them is a muscle bound gym hound with thinly repressed homosexual urges. Amy seems not to notice. She abandons ship when Mr. Muscles tells her that his dream is to marry her and have five sons.

Some of the best moments in the film occur at the offices of the magazine. The editor is played by the great Tilda Swinton, so ‘made up’ she’s hardly recognizable. She has an ice cube for a heart and she’s all business. At one of the pitch sessions, where staff writers toss story ideas at the editor, Amy ends up with an assignment to interview a sports doctor, a fellow who’s developed a way to repair broken knees. Among his clients are more than a few big names in the sporting world. The biggest name is LeBron James, who portrays himself in the film.

We quickly realize that the doc and LeBron have become close friends. LeBron has taken an almost paternal interest in the doc’s social life, or more accurately, his absence of one. So, when something begins to sizzle between Amy and the doc, who is played wonderfully by Bill Hader, LeBron is not shy about encouraging the incipient I have the suspicion that it might be difficult to play yourself in a movie. How do you get out of your skin and back into it simultaneously? At any rate, LeBron James does a great job of it. He’s clearly very funny.

Trainwreck is not so much about a wreck as it is about retraining oneself. The ride can get rocky, but the journey is worth the risk. Trainwreck is often hilarious, sometimes sad, and always engaging.

Love and Mercy

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Listen above to the review by David H. Anthony. (Transcript posted below.)

 
Bill Pohlad’s Love and Mercy: The Life, Love and Genius of Brian Wilson probes links binding creative impulses and emotional trauma the Beach Boys’ gifted leader faced.

By now, many will have heard the film’s outlines. It innovatively uses actors Jeff Holman as Brian Wilson present and Paul Dano and John Cusack to depict Wilson at strikingly separate stages of adult life, past (60s) and future (80s), respectively. This may bring to mind far more complex multifold portrayals of Bob Dylan in He’s Not There.

Love and Mercy is distinct from other biopics seeking to reconstruct vivid scenarios illustrating poignant parts of the life of a tortured artist, first, because Wilson, still quite alive, called the film “very factual.” Thus it is his story in more than one way.

This may seem simple but it actually matters a great deal. Tragic tropes like neglect and abuse must be factored into the tale but so too should the protagonist’s survival.

That detail alone lends this work a rare degree of contemporaneity with its subject. However horrific the treatment meted out to the main character, he clearly endured.

Love and Mercy also addresses questions of what forms artistic inspiration might assume and the high cost of imaginative and innovative gifts. Wilson evinces agony in the act of composing. It might be as excruciating an ordeal to experience mentally while creating as can it be exhilarating in its outcome, that is, if success is achieved. Indeed often more emphasis is placed upon the price of the process than its result. Consequently, lovers of Wilson’s work may feel shortchanged in the amount heard.

At the same time, learning what it took out of him to construct it increases its value.

Also noteworthy are Elizabeth Banks as Melinda Ledbetter, Paul Giamatti as über manipulative Dr. Eugene Landy and Bill Camp as Murry Wilson, Brian’s callous dad.

Adding up the pain he felt within his brain and beyond, in the fetters with which he was shackled, it is remarkable Wilson was able to manifest anything he heard inside.

What are we to make of such an excursion into the darkest corners of consciousness and worse, the systematic denial of light by those who elected to deprive Brian of it?

There are no facile replies to those queries. To these eyes, Love and Mercy demonstrated the tenacity of a human spirit to not only withstand the evil excesses of uncaring and cruel captivity, literally and figuratively, but to prevail, passionately and persistently producing art in a manner dictated by the irrepressible imagination of the artist.

That would make Love and Mercy worth donating two hours of a viewer’s existence.