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Monday
Oct162017

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (2017)

Adam Sandler’s Netflix curse has ended, at least for now. A few years ago, the actor signed a huge original-content development deal, and the resulting “comedies” turned his association with the streaming service into a punch line. Sandler roars back to life in Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories, a kind of grounded Royal Tenenbaums in which an aging also-ran artist (Dustin Hoffman) gathers his three dysfunctional children (Sandler, Ben Stiller, and Elizabeth Marvel) to attend a gallery show and (they learn) oversee the dismantling of his legacy. As he did with While We’re Young, Baumbach stares into the abyss of youth-and-fame-obsessed modernity and reports back with a sharply-written, powerfully acted cautionary tale about narrowing one’s scope in the quest for meaning to the self and to the family. Sandler establishes and maintains the film’s delicate, tragicomic tone. Also, I'm happy to report there's not an ounce of donkey-diarrhea in sight.

Monday
Oct162017

Swing Away (2017)

It’s a rotten thing when personal prejudice gets in the way of a fine movie-watching experience. But here I am, confessing to mild disappointment in Michael A. Nickles’ Swing Away. The film stars Shannon Elizabeth as Zoe, a professional golfer who retreats to her grandparents’ idyllic home in Greece, following an on-camera meltdown that led to her suspension from a big tour. She mentors a local girl in the ways of the green, and rallies the town to wrest control of a dilapidated golf course from a heartless developer (played with downright Presidential oafishness by John O’Hurley). Swing Away is a picturesque, unabashed love letter to Greece; to women in sports; and to bread-making (Zoe’s grandfather kneads out a tactile, touching life lesson). Unfortunately, it’s also about golf, and I found the climactic twenty-five minute tournament devoid of the first hour’s lightness, romance, and purpose. Your mileage may vary.

Saturday
Oct142017

Moscow Never Sleeps (2017)

If I had to guess, America's mind's-eye conception of Russia looks like a grey building under greyer skies, atop which sits Vladimir Putin, ever stoking Sauron's flaming eye. For those caught up in the twenty-four-second news cycle, it's easy to confuse "The Russians" with "Russians", which is why Johnny O'Reilly's Moscow Never Sleeps is not only refreshing, but important. Imagine a less sappy Love Actually, pulsing with Victoria's heightened emotional undercurrent, and you'll understand why this story of strangers' lives intersecting on Moscow City Day is so effective. From the dying comic legend trying to make peace with his wife and mistress; to the architect juggling a crumbling relationship and a government takeover of his greatest project; to the bickering teen step sisters working out their own messy definition of "family", these characters are as relatable in their disappointments, drudgeries, and dreams as any ensemble in a mainstream American drama.

Wednesday
Oct042017

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Sequelizing Blade Runner is as pointless as sequelizing Office Space. Ridley Scott said everything that needed saying when adapting Philip K. Dick’s tech-dystopia novel into seven different cuts. But great brands never die, so here comes Denis Villeneuve’s vapid and over-long Blade Runner 2049. In fairness, the film is only 52 percent vapid (the back half) and 100 percent gorgeous, thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins, who tells a visual story that’s far more satisfying than the plodding screenplay. Ryan Gosling plays K, an L.A. cop caught up in (surprise!) a corporate conspiracy while hunting down and “retiring” humanoid robots. Eventually (and I mean really eventually), Harrison Ford shows up to reprise his role as O.G blade runner Rick Deckard. I could summarize and spoil all two-and-three-quarters hours in fifteen seconds, but then someone would retire me. Suffice it to say, this movie is worth looking at, but hardly worth seeing.

Monday
Oct022017

Emerald City (2017)

Like Colly, the construction worker and aspiring playwright played by writer/director Colin Broderick, Emerald City is the kind of unassuming movie that simply gets the job done—until its secret poetry and wisdom hit you with an indelible wallop. Rooted firmly in New York’s blue-collar Irish community, this touching and often funny drama follows four spiritually stagnant carpenters and their squirrelly boss who, unbeknownst to them, is behind in payments to the mob. Broderick deluges his characters with booze and bad relationships while, for the most part, avoiding clichéd or melancholic ends for them. His dialogue and his cast’s natural chemistry suggest a rich history that we aren’t privy to, but which feels no less real than if this were a sequel to some decades-old indie darling. A beautiful third-act development turns the construction metaphor on its head, cementing Emerald City as one of the year’s most thoughtful and soulful films.