Friday, July 27, 2018

Three Identical Strangers (2018)

Jack and I loved this documentary about identical triplets, separated at birth, who found each other in 1980 when they were 19 and became close, continuing to explore the mystery of their separation. I think there are too many spoilers in the wikipedia page so read it at your own risk.

With lots of vintage footage and stills of the boys growing up combined with interviews with them and others in the present, it's compelling and will keep you entertained for its 1:36 running time. Apparently Eddy Galland David Kellman, and Bobby Shafran were on a lot of TV shows and got famous in the early 1980s but I don't remember seeing or hearing about them, nor their cameo in Desperately Seeking Susan (1985).

Director Tim Wardle and the movie's producers won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance and are accruing more nominations and wins all the time for this Oscar bait.

I enjoyed Paul Saunderson's music but can't find any clips or tracks online to share.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics at 96% and its audiences at 87 duplicate our sentiments.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Jack, Greg, and I really enjoyed this sequel, chock-full of special effects, science fiction, and, especially, jokes. Returning from the original Ant-Man we have Paul Rudd as Ant-Man (and co-writer), Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp, Michael Douglas as her father, Michael Peña (last blogged for The Martian) as Luis, and director Peyton Reed (all but Peña most recently in these pages for the 2015 movie).

This time we have additional talents of many, including Lawrence Fishburne (last blogged for Passengers) and Michelle Pfeiffer (most recently in Murder on the Orient Express).

Reed directs from a script credited to four other co-writers: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers (last blogged for Spider-Man: Homecoming), Andrew Barrer (his second produced screenplay), and Gabriel Ferrari (his first), and it moves along nicely, with plenty of laughs, as noted above. We saw it the day after it opened about two weeks ago, so my memory isn't solid.

Jack wanted me to be sure to include the parallel with the TV series The Streets of San Francisco, starring Douglas in the 1970s, which often had chase scenes where cars zoomed off hills and smacked down below, and the same thing happens in this movie.

Composer Christophe Beck's (most recently in these pages for American Made) action-y score can be streamed from this playlist.

Many have pointed out that no one has appeared in as many MCU (marvel Cinematic Universe) movies as writer/producer/actor Stan Lee. We were worried about Lee (he's 95 years old!) when his Deadpool 2 cameo was just a wall painting--so inconsequential I forgot to write about it then but I went back and added to the original post. He's back in fine form for this one with a funny bit, about 3/4 of the way through, during yet another car chase.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics at 87% and its audiences at 79 agree, for the most part, with us. It's still playing pretty much everywhere.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Hearts Beat Loud (2018)

Jack and I loved this story of a Brooklyn single father making music with his daughter, just as he's coping with her imminent departure for UCLA. Film Music Reporter calls it a musical comedy drama, which solves Jack's and my difference of opinion--he called it a comedy, I called it a dramedy.

Nick Offerman (last blogged for Nostalgia) finally gets to star, as Frank, the owner of Red Hook Records--just as it sounds, a vinyl store in Red Hook, Brooklyn. He's a music aficionado and just a wee bit eccentric. Daughter Sam (Kiersey Clemons, in these pages for Dope) is taking summer classes to get a head start on her pre-med program in California, and has eyes for an artist named Rose (Sasha Lane, who made her acting debut in American Honey). Offerman and Clemons play and sing everything live on camera and the tunes are terrific.

Frank's mother, played by Blythe Danner (she's been in two of the director's three previous features, most recently The Hero), is losing her marbles and keeps getting blithely picked up by police. Frank's friend/landlady at the record store, Leslie, is Toni Collette (last blogged for Tammy) and his best friend/bartender is Dave, played by Ted Danson (his movie work--Body Heat (1981), A Fine Mess (1986), 3 Men and a Baby (1987), Made in America (1993)--doesn't stand out to me as much as his TV--270 episodes of Cheers, 24 of Bored to Death, 10 of Fargo, 19 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and 26 of The Good Place, just to name the ones I'm familiar with).

One funny bit of trivia we were glad we knew ahead of time is that Dave's bar features a framed Playbill with an old photo of Dave/Danson in a play called Status Quo Vadis. Danson actually appeared in that very play on Broadway (which ran only one performance in 1973), playing a bartender. And, though we didn't recognize him, we spotted in the credits that musician Jeff Tweedy appears as himself and it must have been the guy in the record store in the third act who causes Frank to be speechless.

Director/co-writer Brett Haley and co-writer Marc Basch's last project was The Hero, which we also loved. They worked with composer Keegan DeWitt on The Hero as well. I've found three sites for the excellent music in this movie. There are a few spoilers in the text of the first link, which begins with a DeWitt's instrumental and is a nice backdrop to my writing. The next link, from spotify, has thirteen songs, mostly vocals from the movie and mostly DeWitt compositions. The third link, also from spotify has 20 songs, some by DeWitt, some by others. Imdb's soundtrack listing is useless, with only three. I forgot to count how many when the credits were rolling last week but did notice DeWitt credited separately for four original songs.

Rated 90% (yes!) by critics and 70 (wrong) by audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, this left our metro area a few days ago but is scheduled for DVD and streaming release in September. We think most of you will like it as much as we did.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

Not the best work of any of the filmmakers involved, this prequel does have good special effects and a hilarious turn by Donald Glover. Jack and I are not Star Wars devotees, though.

Alden Ehrenreich (last blogged for Rules Don't Apply) plays Han Solo as a cocky maverick and Woody Harrelson (Oscar-nominated for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) his not-so-patient mentor Beckett. Emilia Clarke (I've seen only a few minutes of her 56 episodes of Game of Thrones and none of her other projects) is Solo's love interest Qi'ra (rhymes with near-a). As mentioned, Glover (most recently in Spider-Man: Homecoming) chews up the scenery as the arrogant Lando Calrissian. And we like Phoebe Waller-Bridge (she had small parts in Albert Nobbs and The Iron Lady and we've been meaning to watch her Amazon series Fleabag) as the R2D2-like robot named L3-37. Jon Favreau (small part in Spider-Man: Homecoming) voices Rio, the pilot with four arms.

Ron Howard (last blogged for the documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring  Years)  took over the directing reins about halfway through. He and the Kasdans (son Jonathan directed/wrote In the Land of Women (2007) and one other and father Lawrence last wrote Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens) would have been better served by trimming the 2 hour 15 minute running time, especially the fighting. At one point I whispered to Jack, "Who are they fighting?" and he shook his head, replying, "I don't know!" We had read in the trivia that Howard's wife Cheryl (they were already married and had baby Bryce when I met Cheryl in 1982) appears in all of his movies and that this time he had to insert Cheryl's picture digitally after the fact. We missed her appearance--I'm guessing it's in the bar scene. Please comment or write me (babetteflix at gmail) if you find her! I did spot Howard's brother Clint Howard, who, as usual, has a cameo with some hand to hand combat.

John Powell's (before I mentioned him in How to Train Your Dragon 2 he scored Fair Game) one hour 17 minute soundtrack can be streamed from this youtube link.

We picked this over Jurassic World for our yearly pre-fireworks movie because of Glover, Howard, the age of this release (it's been out longer so will leave sooner), and its Rotten Tomatoes' ratings--at 71% from critics' and 64 from audiences, mirroring our feelings--it's still higher than the dinosaur one.

American Animals (2018)

Jack and I really liked this caper/docu-drama about four students who stole rare books from their college library in 2003. Mixing interview footage of the real men with performances by actors close to the age they were when they did it, it's terribly clever and engaging.

Apparently director/writer Bart Layton (new to me) started out to make a pure documentary but decided he wanted to show the boys planning and committing the crime. The acting is good and the editing expert.

Barry Keoghan (I didn't mention him as one of the sons of Mark Rylance's sailor when I wrote about Dunkirk) plays Spencer Reinhard, Evan Peters (of his dozens of credits I've seen only Kick-Ass) plays his wild friend Warren Lipka, Jared Abrahamson (new to me) is Eric Borsuk, and Blake Jenner (covered in The Edge of Seventeen; he's still not related to Caitlyn/Bruce) is Chas Allen. In my opinion the real men, 15 years later, are even more attractive than the actors playing them as students at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky (most of the movie was shot in North Carolina, with Davidson College subbing in for Transylvania). Ann Dowd (after I covered her in Captain Fantastic she won an Emmy for season one of The Handmaid's Tale) plays the university librarian.

I'm streaming the soundtrack by Anne Nikitin on spotify as I write. I hadn't heard of her before, despite her dozens of projects.

Rotten Tomatoes' audiences at 92% agree with us even more than its critics at 86. The movie will be available at Amazon and probably iTunes in mid-August. It's really good.

The Seagull (2018)

Jack and I liked this ensemble picture about not a love triangle, but a love polygon, based on the 1895 play by Anton Chekhov. Gorgeous locations, costumes, and sets make it visually wonderful and a top notch cast manages to rise above what turns out to be a rather soapy story of unrequited love (nearly everyone is in love with someone who is in love with someone else) in Russia.

Annette Bening (last blogged for Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool) plays Irina, an established and eccentric actress (which could describe her character in her last movie, too), who travels to the country home of her brother Sorin (Brian Dennehy, won a Golden Globe and more for the lead in the 2001 TV movie of Death of a Salesman, and, among the credits I've seen, also good in Foul Play (1978), 10 (1979), Cocoon (1985), Silverado (1985),  Legal Eagles (1986), Presumed Innocent (1990), She Hate Me (2004), and The Big Year, just to name a few). She brings her current boyfriend Boris Trigorin, played by Corey Stoll (after Café Society he was in five episodes of Girls), and they interact with Irina's son Konstantin, played by Billy Howell (covered in The Sense of an Ending) and his girlfriend Nina, played by Saoirse Ronan (most recently in these pages for Loving Vincent).

Then we have Elisabeth Moss (last blogged for The Square, and season 2 of The Handmaid's Tale is ready for me to watch) as Masha and Michael Zegan (after Frances Ha he was the Mister in nine episodes of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) as Mikhail, just to name a few.

Director Michael Mayer (A Home at the End of the World (2004) and one other movie, won the 2006 Tony award for Spring Awakening, among his many stage works) keeps the balls in the air, pretty much, working from a screenplay by Stephen Karam (Tony Award-winning playwright of "The Humans," also wrote "Speech & Debate" and "Sons of the Prophet," which were Pulitzer Prize finalists). After we saw this two and a half weeks ago I read Act I of the Chekhov play on this site. I may read the rest sometime.

The beautiful photography is by Matthew J. Lloyd (most recently shot Robot & Frank) and the gorgeous wardrobe is designed by Ann Roth (Oscar winner for The English Patient (1996), Oscar nominated for Places in the Heart (1984), The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), and The Hours (2002); also costumed Midnight Cowboy (1969), Klute (1971), The Goodbye Girl (1977), Hair (1979), 9 to 5 (1980), The World According to Garp (1982), Heartburn (1986), The Unbearable Lightness of being (1988), Working Girl (1988), Bonfire of the Vanities (1990), The Birdcage (1996), Mamma Mia, The Reader, Julie & Julia, The Post, and so many more).

Nico Muhly (composed for How to Talk to Girls at Parties) and Anton Sanko (Rabbit Hole) wrote the music but it's not available as far as I can tell. The movie is not yet online, either, as it's still playing on various big screens. Here's the schedule. I just learned, though, that in 1968 Sidney Lumet directed a version of the Chekhov play (two words--Sea Gull--instead of one) starring James Mason as Boris Trigorin, Vanessa Redgrave as Nina, Simon Signoret as Irina, and David Warner as Konstantin, and the DVD is for sale at Amazon. Interesting.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics at 68% and its audiences averaging 60 aren't flying to see this. We thought it was pretty good, though not high on our list.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015)

I loved this documentary about the Michelsons, storyboard artist Harold and film researcher Lillian, who happen to have been friends of some of my friends when I lived in Hollywood and longer. I recorded it off the air on TCM several months ago and finally watched it two weeks ago. It's available to rent or buy on iTunes, Amazon, etc.

Watching it at home, you may be tempted to multi-task and look at another device while it's on. I recommend you not do that, because there are lots of visuals, including charming new storyboards (cartoon drawings) by animator Patrick Mate.

This is the second feature length documentary directed by Daniel Raim (Oscar-nominated for The Man on Lincoln's Nose, a documentary short that I didn't see about film production designers -- Harold is in it) and Raim has made several more documentary shorts and one documentary feature since then.

This review from Variety is thorough but doesn't have spoilers.

I don't remember the music by David Lebolt and I don't see it online, so...sorry.

At 100 and 91%, Rotten Tomatoes' critics and audiences are equally enthusiastic. This is a must-see for film buffs and romantics.