The Beguiled

It's 1864. We are in an exclusive girls' school in Virginia. The Civil War is devastating our young country but the students are kept away from the blood and the ruin of that outside world. These sheltered girls, along with their constrained faculty, will soon declare their own private war.

Director Sofia Coppola ("Lost in Translation"), who specializes in understated tension, tweaks the late Albert Maitz 1971 script which was based on Thomas Cullinan's novel, to once again show us what happens when a wounded Union soldier (played by Clint Eastwood in the original) finds himself at their mercy...or are they at HIS mercy?

Part of Coppola's cast:
  • Colin Farrell ("True Detective") Corporal McBurney is wounded and most of these females (students and faculty) want to help. In no time at all he has charmed each one.
  • Nicole Kidman ("Big Little Lies") Miss Martha is in charge. She is a capable, controlled Christian, but she is also practical. The faint thumps of cannon are heard in the distance throughout our story.
  • Kirsten Dunst ("Hidden Figures") Edwina is convinced that she and our charming corporal are meant for each other, but what in the world is Alicia doing?
  • Elle Fanning ("Trumbo") Alicia is a precocious student, mature for her age and becoming more rebellious by the day.
As the unusual male presence is felt, sexual tensions instantly begin to mount. I resent watching stereotypical female behavior, each turning on the other in order to be chosen by the male. Surely Coppola has better sense. In fact, most of my criticism is leveled at her. The cinematography is lovely and the cast is uniformly excellent but the abrupt mood changes, the awkwardly stilted script and the failure to create an effective ensemble, I lay at the director's feet. The screening audience snickered at many of the lines and I never for a moment forgot that this was a movie.

This is rated "R" for the violent sex...nearly a rape...although it was pointed out that the woman was willing. Also, there is a nasty wound on our hero's leg; many in the audience gasped at the sight. Those of you with hearing problems should seek out a theater with closed caption devices or wait for the DVD; much of the dialogue is murmured.

YOYO (You're On Your Own)
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is a trailer:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


The Hero

Sam Elliott isn't just a pretty face. In fact, a few of the award-worthy scenes in this one prove he is truly an ACTOR. If you need someone to be convincing as an "ailing movie star" Sam Elliott can do the job, but HE certainly isn't ailing. In fact, Elliott seems to be just hitting his stride. He is still popular and still working in high-profile roles.

Writer/director Brett Haley ("I'll See You in My Dreams"), collaborating once again with screenwriter Marc Basch, brings us our favorite heartthrob for "people of a certain age." His ailing movie star has to confront his past, deal with his present, and prepare for his future.

Part of Haley's cast:
  • Sam Elliott ("The Ranch") Lee Hayden is our titular Hero. "The Hero" was the name of his most popular Western film and he has been an icon for over 40 years, so his trendy stubble makes him look grizzled, not stylish. He isn't comfortable with social media but he CAN text!
  • Katharine Ross ("Slip, Tumble & Slide") plays his ex-wife Valarie (Ross has been Elliott's real-life spouse for over 30 years). Valarie is an artist with an upcoming art show.
  • Laura Prepon ("Girl on the Train") Charlotte Dylan is an ambitious young woman who remains a cypher to me all the way through. She is clearly pleasing to Lee, but I was put off by her cruel stand-up routine and her smirk.
  • Nick Offerman ("The Founder") Hayden's buddy Jeremy Frost provides him with endless quantities of controlled substances. They have been buddies ever since they shot a short-lived TV series together years ago.
  • Krysten Ritter ("Jessica Jones") is the Haydens' semi-alienated daughter Lucy. She feels as though she has spent her entire life watching him leave.
  • Doug Fox (Lots of TV) is the doctor who gives Lee the bad news.
As you might expect with an R-rated script, there will be a LOT of profanity and some sex; a LOT of alcohol and some drugs; but no vehicular mayhem or gunshots. We see clips from Lee's film as he remembers them (his character has grey hair, unlike how it must have been 40 years ago), and his award ceremony is one for the books. He is usually taciturn to the point of being downright rude. Sometimes I just want to yell at a character, "Tell her!"

This one is a mixed bag. There were parts I really liked and some were downright icky. YOYO (You're On Your Own).
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is a trailer:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


Baby Driver

My favorite movie-going companion LOVES Action movies! This one is just the ticket; and not just computer generated action, but skillful driving by real live human beings! Okay, okay, I'll admit that I had a blast, too. Between the sound track, the direction, the editing, the unpredictability and the appealing cast, how could I not be impressed! From our hero's first happy jaunt down the street to bring back coffee for the gang, we realize we are in the hands of a pro.
Writer/director Edgar Wright (three Simon Pegg outings, e.g., "Hot Fuzz") has assembled a sure-fire cast and brings us non-stop action, witty dialogue, people to root for and an unexpected ending.

Part of Wright's cast:
  • Baby-faced Ansel Elgort ("The Fault in Our Stars") is our eponymous driver Baby, tasked with driving a getaway car for a bank heist. He has been paying off a debt to the crew's leader, so of course he has the clichèd, "One Last Heist" thing going on, too.
  • Lily James ("Cinderella") Debora is a sweetheart; a waitress in a diner who is intrigued by Baby because he's witty, though he rarely speaks. You would never guess this actress is English! 
  • Kevin Spacey ("Margin Call") Doc is the brains behind their capers. You will love the story of how Baby came to work for him. And wait until he sees Debora the first time! 
  • Jamie Foxx ("Annie") Bats is smart, cold and ambitious. He thinks the silent Baby isn't paying attention. 
  • Jon Hamm (Lots of TV) Buddy is in it for the money and the excitement it provides for his new bride. 
  • Elza Gonzalez (Lots of TV) Darling is Buddy's delight. 
  • CJ Jones ("Lincoln Heights") Uriah is Baby's elderly foster father, a loving and generous deaf man. Not much gets by him, despite being wheelchair bound. 
In a car crash in his childhood which killed his mother, Baby suffered hearing damage, so tinnitis is a problem, but not a deal breaker, he simply wears ear buds and has a huge library of music. Watch this talented actor dance to some of it!

This is an R-rated actioner, so expect some profanity, lots of gunfire, lots and lots (and LOTS) of vehicular mayhem (great, GREAT stunt drivers), no sex (except some smooching between Buddy and Darling), plus a soundtrack that is truly inspired! This was one that drew applause from our jaded screening audience...and we applauded right along with them.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Check out the preview:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


Cars 3

When John Lassiter and his wife took their five children for a leisurely auto trip on old Route 66, it was to be an opportunity to bond with his children before they grew up and left home (he had been VERY busy with "Toy Story"). He was immediately entranced by what they found on that old sample of American history and as soon as he returned home, he packed up his Pixar crew and retraced his steps.

This was the genesis of "Cars." As a person who has enjoyed bits of old Route 66, I was enraptured by the way those brilliant artists captured the mystique of the route, the scenery, the little towns along the way, and the quirky characters that made the locations real. (Most of "Cars 2" took place in other countries, so that mystique was lost.) Now our aging hero is offered the siren song of a VERY rich retirement but there is only one problem: HE wants to be the one to decide when to stop.

In "Cars 3" I'm happy to report that we are back amid the gorgeous landscapes of Route 66 part of the time, and later on, when we go to Thunder Hollow, the delicate artistry is astounding!

Let's talk about this:
  • The G rating is so misleading. People see the words "Pixar" or "Disney" and they drag their toddlers into the theater, only to carry them out, bored and unhappy halfway through the film. There is, of course, a LOT of vehicular mayhem, it is, after all, about car racing with a side trip to a demolition derby, but no profanity, no sex, no drugs and they only drink 30-weight motor oil.
  • The plot is about aging. Yes, Pixar is talking about growing older and losing one's edge; no wonder the little 'uns are bored stiff. Our hero Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) needs a tuneup, or maybe he just needs to be traded in, but either way, he isn't winning like he used to! There is this young whippersnapper named Jackson Storm (Armie Hammer) who has the technical edge. (He also has a lot of aggression buried in his make-believe hero worship.)
  • The late Paul Newman has not left the building! Evidently when he was doing his voice work for "Cars," they just let the recorder run the whole time. They had many statements they were able to use, to his children's delight, because Newman had been a fan of auto racing all his life. This means that our good old Hudson Hornet has a real presence and the lessons Lightning McQueen learned from Doc Hudson are still timely and important. (Can you see why children were bored?)
  • New faces and voices included the fitness instructor Cruz Ramirez (voiced by Cristela Alonzo), wise old Smokey (Chris Cooper), ambitious industrialist Sterling (Nathan Fillian), news commentator Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington), and scourge of the demolition derby, Louise Nash (Margo Martingale).
  • Our old friends are also there: Dentally challenged tow truck Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), Dusty (Ray Magliozzi), little Italian car Luigi (Tony Shalhoub), the military jeep Sarge (Paul Dooley), sweet old friend Sally (Bonnie Hunt), and the semi that carries our hero to the race tracks, Mack (John Ratzenberger).
The themes are too esoteric for children and a bit oversimplified for adults. The technical excellence of Pixar is evident in every scene, but please don't take little ones!
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Here is a sample:
* * * * * * * * * * * *


Wonder Woman

Like Switzerland, Israel has mandatory military service. This means that Gal Gagot, the Israeli star of "Wonder Woman" is certainly capable of doing all of her own stunts. She has served her country and is physically fit. (Plus she's gorgeous!)

Award-winning director Patty Jenkins ("The Killing") working from a screenplay by Allan Heinberg ("Grey's Anatomy") brings us the origin of our heroine and finally (over 70 years later) launches a franchise that features a super hero who happens to be female. We are in WWI, the war to end all wars, with 27 countries fighting and 27 million dead.

Part of Jenkins' cast:
  • Gal Gagot ("Fast and Furious") is Zeus's daughter Diana, crafted by her mother from clay, who soon sets out on a personal quest to find and destroy Ares, the God of War.
  • Chris Pine ("Star Trek") Steve Trevor is the pilot who blunders into her world, half dead and completely bewildered by this strange peaceful land...until the Germans find him! That first battle consists of bows and arrows against rifles. He tells Diana that he isn't exactly a typical man...he's "a bit above average."
  • Connie Nielsen ("The Good Wife") Hippolyte tells her daughter that a battle will never be fair and she must never expect it to be.
  • Robin Wright ("House of Cards") Antiope is Hippolyte's sister, a wise and powerful warrior. She says "A scorpion must sting."
  • Danny Huston ("American Horror Story") Every plot needs a villain, and Ludendorff is just the ticket!
  • Eugene Brave Rock in his first role is The Chief. He is part of Trevor's loyal cadre of friends.
  • Lucy Davis ("Shaun of the Dead") What would Steve and Diana do without indispensable Etta, the one person who can help Diana navigate wartime London.
Back in the day, when I read Wonder Woman comics (now called "Graphic Novels"), Steve Trevor was a handsome and appealing man. Chris Pine makes that first version look bland.

This is rated PG-13, so you can expect gunfire, fisticuffs, blowie uppie stuff and general mayhem (lots of CGI), but the sexual content is subtle and the humor based on Diana's naivetè is delicious. Seeing two very different worlds through a stranger's eyes is always fun!

The packed matinee at my local Cinerama convinced me that this one should do very, very well!
* * * * * * * * * * *
Take a look:
* * * * * * * * * * *


Small Town Killers

What if you and your best friend realize how unhappy the two of you have become and decide to get rid of your wives but a divorce is too expensive? You get in touch with a contract killer, that's what you do! What if your wives blunder into your scheme? Will they hire a contract killer, too? Have you underestimated them?

Now things get interesting!

Writer/director Ole Bornedal has presented "Dræberne fra Nibe" an award-winning (but DARK!) Danish production (English subtitles) to the 2017 Seattle International Film Festival. I'm not a member this year, recent cataract complications and lingering hearing problems have made it impossible to attend most of the films, but I'm still tempted by foreign films and comedies. Believe it or not, this one is a comedy; just beware, this (HARD) R-rated script contains rough, rough language, anatomical humor, a LOT of drunken behavior and some shocking scenes. (I admit though, that our SIFF audience laughed all the way through.)

Bornedal's cast:
  • Ulrich Thomson: Edward is the "brains (!)" behind the plot.
  • Mia Lyhne plays Gritt, Edward's wife. In the little town of Nibe, the only relief from terminal boredom is provided by her salsa dance lessons.
  • Nicolas Bro: Ib is willing to go along with his partner, but with HUGE reservations.
  • Lene Maria Christensen: Ingrid loves those salsa lessons but like her husband Ib, she is not a risk taker.
  • Marcin Dorocinski, Igor is fine so long as there is an endless supply of vodka. He doesn't like to see unhappy people in this "dull, dark Scandinavian town."
  • Gwen Taylor: Miss Nippleworthy is a nurse from England. She can help.
  • Søren Malling: Heinz is the epitome of officious small-town law enforcement.
  • Alexander Behrang Keshtkar is the taxi driver. This Afghani has not forgotten when Russia invaded Afghanistan! "Drunken infidels!"
  • Joel Spira: Malte is the appealing Swedish salsa instructor.
  • Jens Andersen: See what Bent can do with a push broom!
As you might expect, chaotic comedy ensues! After some absurd over-the-top behavior, we forgive our principals, but beware, do NOT leave after that colorful scene that looks like the finale. You MUST hear the line about the particle collider in Switzerland. Trust me...
* * * * * * * * * * * *
No English captions. The men are seeing a cut-rate lawyer about divorce costs:
* * * * * * * * * * * *