Category: Books, Movies, TV & Web

Calibre

 

Two buddies go on a hunting expedition in the Scottish Highlands and experience the worst nightmare since Ned Beatty was forced to squeal like a pig in Deliverance.

Calibre isn’t in the same league as Deliverance, but it does deliver a palpable sense of pending disaster and, if you’re a city kid, it will lend credibility to your worst (albeit stereotypical) fears about backward country folk. Release: 2018 Grade: B+

 

**

 

It

 

I wanted to like this movie, really I did. I enjoyed Stephen King’s novel years ago, and lord knows It was popular at the box office. But oh, man, where to begin? What we have here is 135 minutes of horror-movie rehash, with every predictable trope and cliché imaginable, about a group of pre-teens battling evil in small-town Derry, Maine. The kids’ parents are themselves either evil or missing in action, and the film’s so-called “horror” is simply a series of jump-scares, loud noises, and shopworn special effects.

You might ask if there was anything I did like about It. Sure: It has a nice look, and Bill Skarsgard’s creepy clown in the opening scene was pretty cool. Release: 2017 Grade: C-

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share

The Grand Budapest Hotel

 

I’m not a fan of director Wes Anderson’s breakout film, The Royal Tenenbaums. The movie’s tone is quirky to a fault, and its oddball characters left me cold. The characters in Grand Budapest are also an eccentric bunch, but this time Anderson hits a comic sweet spot.

Ralph Fiennes is especially good as a harried concierge who is falsely accused of murder and on the lam with his loyal “lobby boy.” Anderson’s visuals are endlessly inventive, and he delivers something rare: inspired slapstick for intellectuals. Release: 2014 Grade: A-

 

**

 

The Dinner

 

Richard Gere, Steve Coogan, Laura Linney and Rebecca Hall have more than food on their minds when they convene at a ritzy restaurant to discuss the consequences of a horrific crime involving their kids. The Dinner took me by surprise more than once, because none of its characters are what they first appear to be. The smooth-talking politician might not be so bad, his charming wife might harbor dark impulses, and the “woke” narrator might have major issues.

The movie crams an awful lot of unpleasant subject matter into two hours, including mental illness, privilege, and racism, but it’s also a smart story with unpredictable performances from its quartet of stars.  Release: 2017 Grade: B+

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share

Cargo

 

The last scene of Cargo is either a moving example of creative inspiration – or the most embarrassing thing an actor’s done since Nicolas Cage wore a bear suit in The Wicker Man. You be the judge.

Cargo, in which dad Martin Freeman strives to save his infant daughter in a zombie-infested world, starts well, and then there’s that wild ending, but everything in between is just standard zombie-movie fare. Release: 2017 Grade: C

 

**

 

Norman

 

Norman is a fun, gentle, entertaining movie that bucks the superhero/comic book/special effects trend – and that might explain why you probably haven’t heard of it. Richard Gere is amusing as an elderly Jewish con man who somehow becomes “friends” with the prime minister of Israel, leading to global scandal for them and fond memories of similar fare like Being There for viewers. Release: 2016 Grade: B

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share

 

Cold War is a new romantic comedy with Madeline Walter about a young couple whose relationship is tested — to put it mildly — when a crippling flu bug confines them to close quarters for days on end. We talked to Walter about the movie. We also let Rip van Dinkle ask her a question. Just one question.

 

**

 

GE:  Your movie reminded me of Hollywood “bickering couple” classics like War of the Roses, His Girl Friday, etc. Were you familiar with those movies, and was Cold War a conscious attempt to carry on that tradition?

 

MW:  I believe it was! I have a woefully limited knowledge of classic films, but [co-directors] Stirling and Wilder are both film buffs, and I know they were inspired by many of the classics. When I was preparing for the shoot, Wilder referred me to some movies that had inspired him, and the one that I actually drew from the most was the original Odd Couple with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau. I think that movie is brilliant, and just really beautifully captures the dynamic of two people with intensely different lifestyles and hangups trying to live together (and making it work because they ultimately deeply care about each other). Also, fun fact — in the scene in the movie where Jon notices that Maggie’s labeled their duplicate DVDs, the DVD that he pulls out is His Girl Friday.

 

**

 

GE:  Which comic actresses inspire you?

 

MW:  A bunch! Kathryn Hahn, Issa Rae, Sharon Horgan come to mind — they all make such funny choices that really come out of such grounded, surprising emotional places. I’m also an improviser, and I learned pretty much everything I know about performing at the UCB theatre, so a lot of the women I perform with are really inspiring to me. So much of the time I’m just stealing what they do and trying to make it my own.

 

**

 

GE:  The movie was basically a two-person show (I can see it as a stage play), and you and Michael Blaiklock are in most scenes together. Is that a good working situation for you, or do you prefer a larger cast?

 

MW:  This was my first feature film, so I really loved working with such a small cast. It really allowed me to focus on my character’s relationship to one person, and gave me the time to explore and examine that relationship and make clear choices about its evolution. Also, I have to say, doing a two-person movie with Michael specifically was awesome- everything he did was so present and surprising, and he made it really fun. I highly recommend doing a two-person movie with him if the opportunity comes up!

 

**

 

GE:  I’d say one lesson of Cold War is that yes, you can spend too much time with a significant other. Assuming you were/are in a relationship with another person, what would you say is the ideal amount of time to spend together?

 

MW:  I think it’s nice to spend enough time apart so you both have interesting answers to “how was your day?”

 

**

 

GE:  Between you and Michael, there was quite a bit of puking in the movie. Was that method acting, perhaps residual memories from college days?

 

MW:  I wish … but unfortunately my wildest college experience was a time I stayed up all night organizing a filing cabinet. I am very proud of our puking sounds though — the most fun was doing ADR. Something feels so wrong (yet so right) about standing in a super polished recording studio and gagging into a state-of-the-art microphone.

 

**

 

Editor’s note: Rip van Dinkle was impressed by a scene in Cold War in which nurse Madeline shares screen time with a nude actor and his noodle. We let him ask Madeline one question.

 

 

Rip:  The scene in which you examine the naked patient was hilarious. I was in “The Smallest Penis in Brooklyn” pageant and I know that it can be like pulling teeth trying to find men who are willing to do something like that. Was that an awkward scene for you to film? Did the actor have any qualms about revealing his shortcomings to the world?

 

MW:  You know, it wasn’t as awkward as I thought it would be, because Kenneth [Yoder], who played the patient, is a total pro. And I really just super appreciated that Wilder and Stirling showed full frontal male nudity in the type of movie where female nudity is usually much more common. They really made an effort to flip rom-com tropes in a lot of ways, and that’s what made this movie so exciting to me.

 

.                       

 

 **

 

Editor’s note: In the interests of equal time — lest anyone think that the patient with the flaccid penis represents the only skin on display in Cold War — here are some revealing screen shots of Madeline in the film:

 

grouchyeditor.com Madeline Walter

grouchyeditor.com Madeline Walter

grouchyeditor.com Madeline Walter

grouchyeditor.com Madeline Walter

(Click on pictures for a larger, better view.)

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share

Cold War

 

Imagine odd couple Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar (Felicia Ungar?) as a cohabitating male and female. Now give them a debilitating flu bug and confine them to their small house for several days. Will either of them come out of that situation in one piece?

That’s the premise of Cold War, a romantic comedy in which lovers Maggie (Madeline Walter) and Jon (Michael Blaiklock) find out the hard way if there is such a thing as too much togetherness.

A movie like this can go sour if your two leads aren’t engaging enough to hold the audience’s attention for 90 minutes, but I never got sick of Maggie and Jon.  Release: 2017 Grade: B+

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share

by Agatha Christie

 

If you do an Internet search of “best Agatha Christie books,” you’ll find this novel in many top-five lists, along with Christie classics like And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I’m a bit surprised by that.

Pigs is a typical Hercule Poirot investigation, with the Belgian detective interviewing a series of murder suspects and then amazing everyone when he unmasks the killer. But unlike the classic mysteries listed above, Pigs doesn’t feature anything particularly clever or groundbreaking in the genre. It’s entertaining, but routine Christie.

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share

Wind River

 

A grieving father (Jeremy Renner) teams up with an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) to find the killer of a Native American girl in Taylor Sheridan’s latest thriller.

Sheridan films are often scenic and boast dynamic action scenes. Yet there is something about his characters that leaves me unmoved. People we are clearly supposed to care about will have tragic back stories. Or they die violently. But I’m just not that invested in them. That’s how I felt about Hell or High Water, and that’s how I feel about Wind River.

Great Utah scenery, though. Release: 2017 Grade: B

 

**

 

Bullet Head

 

I’m a sucker for a good animal-on-the-rampage thriller. The shark in Jaws, the St. Bernard in Cujo, and the tiger in Burning Bright – they are much more terrifying, to me, than a special-effects creature from outer space, or a demon in the closet, which are often more silly than pee-your-pants scary. I nearly wet myself several times during Bullet Head, in which a trio of thieves (John Malkovich, Adrien Brody, Rory Culkin) are stalked in an abandoned warehouse by a crazed mastiff. And, believe it or not, the movie is actually pro-dog. Release: 2017 Grade: B+

 

**

 

Bad Match

 

Bad Match doesn’t have the budget or the big stars of Fatal Attraction, but it does share its famous predecessor’s thriller DNA and it delivers a neat twist ending. Harris (Jack Cutmore-Scott)  is a self-centered Millennial who spends his leisure time playing video games and banging girls he finds on a dating site – until he swipes right on the wrong target (Lili Simmons). Nothing particularly new in this karmic morality tale, but bad boy Harris’s descent into ruin is a thing to behold. Release: 2017 Grade: B

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share

by Steve Rushin

 

I loved this book – but I’m hesitant to recommend it. I pause because although I’m clearly in the author’s target audience, you might not be. If I say “Mel’s Matinee Movie,” do you smile, or do you scratch your head?

Rushin grew up in a middle-class family in Minnesota in the 1970s. I’m a bit older than him, but I also grew up in a middle-class family in Minnesota in the 1970s. Rushin’s love letter to all kid-related things from that time and place naturally resonates with me. I can’t help but smile at references to Metropolitan Stadium, Southdale shopping mall, Fran Tarkenton and, yes, Mel’s Matinee Movie. But again, do you give a rip?

On the other hand, Rushin’s main theme is family life, and his anecdotes about the suburban Rushin clan will likely appeal to a wider audience. One of the blurbs on the book’s jacket compares Sting-Ray to Jean Shepherd’s depiction of family life in the 1930s. I think that’s probably apt. Even if you did not grow up, as Rushin and I did, in the frozen tundra 50 years ago, much of his warm and humorous book is universal.

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share

Voice from the Stone

 

My main complaint with modern horror is that so much of it substitutes sound and fury for genuine suspense. Rather than build tension, these movies assault the senses with loud noise, frenzied camerawork, and gore. But there is an opposite extreme, exemplified by Voice from the Stone, in which the burn is so slow that it induces boredom.

Emilia Clarke looks lovely as a nurse employed by a grieving widower to look after his disturbed young son at their Italian estate, which, like Clarke, is lovingly photographed. But the first hour is so understated and muted that by the time things finally start to happen in the third act, I was nearly comatose. Release: 2017 Grade: C-

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share

Aval

 

It’s tempting to write off Aval (English title: The House Next Door), India’s homage to Hollywood horror classics like The Exorcist. Much of the dialogue (a peculiar mix of Indian languages and English) and relationships evoke corny melodramas from the 1950s. At some point the story, in which a doctor and his wife learn that someone in their Himalayan neighborhood is possessed, stops making a lot of sense, and a few scenes are unintentionally funny.

However … there’s no question that several of director Milind Rau’s set pieces are chilling, with clever camerawork and stunning visuals. Also in its favor: the movie is consistently entertaining. Release: 2017  Grade: B+

 

**

 

The Babysitter

grouchyeditor.com Babysitter

 

A 12-year-old boy discovers that his oh-so-hot babysitter is actually a psychotic devil worshipper in this Netflix horror-comedy that starts out silly and grows progressively more ridiculous. But no worries: It’s meant to be silly, it’s well-produced, and it’s often amusing. Oh, and Samara Weaving gives a killer performance as the blonde from hell. Release: 2017  Grade: B+

 

© 2010-2018 grouchyeditor.com (text only)

Share