6/28/19

Yesterday

First I must emphasize that this is Entertainment, not Art. This means you have a responsibility: You MUST suspend disbelief. After you've done your part, sit back, relax and enjoy this lovely fantasy, this song-book musical, this diverting journey, as you watch a nice young man who must cope with undeserved fame.

Award-winning director Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire") knows how to please an audience, so with this story by Jack Barth and Richard Curtis, he brings us a PG-13 screenplay by Richard Curtis ("Love Actually") about a street busker and part time stock clerk at a big-box store who suffers an accident during a world-wide, 12-second blackout. His good friend and sorta manager is at his hospital bedside when he regains consciousness. Problem is, some of the things he has always taken for granted seem to have never existed, including the Beatles, their music, and Coca Cola!

Part of Boyle's wonderful cast:
  • Himesh Patel (Lots of TV) is Jack Malek, suddenly credited with classic Beatles creations because there were no Beatles in this altered universe, even though HE remembers their music. His first attempt to play a Beatles song for his parents (Meera Syal and Sanjeev Bhaskar) is an exercise in frustration.
  • Lily James ("The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society") is Ellie, the neighbor, classmate and manager on whom Jack depends. She is stunned by the beauty and simplicity of the song "Yesterday" and thinks Jack has entered a whole new creative phase.
  • Alexander Arnold ("Poldark") Gavin is the first person who can sense the potential of the music. He records some of Jack's songs and puts them on the Internet.
  • Ed Sheehan playing himself, offers Jack an opportunity to tour with him. He also suggests an improvement to one of the Beatles' songs. You'll smile when he compares his and Jack's song-writing skills to Salieri's and Mozart's.
  • Kate McKinnon ("The Spy Who Dumped Me") Debra is the record company agent who advises Jack that she can make a LOT of money for him, then take most of it back.
  • James Corden as himself, hosts a TV talk show where Jack is a guest.
We have people to root for, attractive stars, a silly premise, no gunshots or blowie uppie stuff, and almost two hours of Beatles music, capably performed by the talented Mr. Patel himself. We found laugh-out-loud moments, so we left the theater with big smiles on our faces.
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See what I mean:
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6/24/19

Always Be My Maybe

As a general rule, romantic comedies offer two things: 1) Predictability 2) An interesting path from Points A to Z. This one is no different. Point A is the childhood of two neighbors. These children play together, get into mischief together and as young adults, have "A Moment."

Director Nahnatchka Khan ("Fresh off the Boat"), working with a script from a trio of writers, has fashioned a pleasant little comedy with an unexpected twist or two. I think I'll leave it to you to discover those for yourself; how do you spell "BIG spoiler!"

Some of her cast:
  • Ali Wong ("American Housewife") Sasha had to do her own cooking since she was tall enough to reach the kitchen counter; her creation with Spam told me she had a future (the little umbrella tipped me off). Her parents are preoccupied with chasing the American Dream.
  • Randall Park ("Long Shot") Marcus lives next door. His parents are the closest thing to a mother and father Sasha has ever had; she learned to cook from his mom. He works for his dad during the week and has a garage band that plays local gigs on the weekend. He hates chi chi restaurants with teeny portions and pretentious menus.
  • James Saito (Lots of TV) Harry is Marcus's father. He is hard-working, decent, and always thought those two kids would end up together.
  • Daniel Dae Kim ("Hawaii Five-O") Brandon is engaged to Sasha. That's handy because he is a successful restaurant developer and she is quickly becoming a name brand. Now he thinks maybe he needs a few months off.
  • Vivian Bang ("White Rabbit") Jenny dates Marcus. She is the catalyst for the big spoiler!
  • Casey Wilson (Lots of TV) Chloe is the best personal assistant anyone could hope for.  Sasha is a lucky gal. . . sorta. . .
This is rated PG-13, so expect a bit of profanity, a bit of sex, and a bit of drug use (they smoke pot), but no vehicular mayhem, gunshots or blowie uppie stuff. Harmless diversion...
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Here's how it looks:
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6/23/19

Lost and Found

I would like to think all Irish people are as kind as the ones portrayed in this charming series of vignettes that take place in or near a Lost and Found office at an Irish train station.

Writer/director Liam O. Mochain created these delightful interconnected sketches inspired by true stories. All of Mochain's characters are seen off and on throughout this movie, as it is a small town and they interact.

I'm going to do a terrible thing and not name the actors. I can't pronounce their names and most of their credits are for their work in Ireland. Here are the most visible characters:
  • Joe heads the cast as the proprietor of the lost and found office. He is a busy man, courting the local ticketing agent at the station, so he hires her son.
  • Daniel is given only rudimentary training before he is on his own. Items turned in include an engagement ring, a baby in a pram, and an artificial leg.
  • Outside we see Eddie, who is trying to get money for a ticket to Dublin, as his wife is in the hospital there.
  • Gabriel is an earnest young man trying to pull off the surprise proposal of the century. You won't believe how many things can go wrong!
  • Paudge needs a Mongolian Throat Singer for the grand opening of his Asian-themed pub. He is always hopeful (but cranky) as he invests time, money and labor on each new scheme.
  • From her deathbed, Daniel's grandmother asks him to retrieve a bracelet left behind when her family fled the Nazis.
  • Maya goes into the funeral parlor to use the restroom, then discovers she knew the man in that casket, so she signs the guest book.
  • Sile is a lovely bride, even though she shows a strong Bridezilla streak. Will the groom show up?
The stories are charming and involving. It's fun to see familiar faces in the train station, on the train itself, in the funeral home, the lost and found office and numerous other places.

I've ordered the DVD but despite the Amazon catalog not showing closed captions, my DVD has them. This is a real plus! ...smile...
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Here is a preview:
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6/22/19

Late Night

Emma Thompson is a treasure! From Nanny McPhee to Elinor Dashwood, from Hillary Clinton to Agent O, she never misses a beat. This time she is an Anna Wintour-type talk-show hostess who is becoming irrelevant. Her ego doesn't want to accept the news, thus our story begins...

Director Nisha Ganatra (LOTS of TV), working with writer/actress Mindy Kaling ("The Mindy Project"), brings us an involving story that highlights the trials and tribulations of talk-show writers, along with the challenges of hosting a long-running talk show (and keeping one's name out of the tabloids).

Part of Ganatra's capable cast:
  • Emma Thompson ("King Lear") Katherine Newbury admits to the accusation that she hates women (except Gilda Radner) but cannot accept any threat of cancellation for her long-running show.
  • Mindy Kaling ("A Wrinkle in Time") Molly grew up watching the show and adores Katherine. Through a fluke, she is suddenly hired as a writer, a job she has no background or training for; her co-writers are NOT pleased.
  • John Lithgow ("The Crown") Walter is her loyal husband. Health issues are looming and stress is growing.
  • Hugh Dancy ("Robot Chicken") Charlie is the only friendly face at the writers' table. He warns Molly about pitfalls and helps her find her way.
  • Reid Scott ("Veep") Tom is Katherine's opening monologue writer. He has no intention of sharing that spot!
  • Amy Ryan ("Bridge of Spies") Caroline is the network executive who has the responsibility to deliver the bad news.
We immediately see that the writers are an unmotivated bunch and we can see why the ratings have been slowing sinking for ten years. A "Gotcha!" from the tabloids is a shock but Katherine's producer advises her to ignore it and it will soon be forgotten. Molly doesn't see it that way. Katherine has told Molly to "stop giving advice and write something!"

Newbury's rapier wit and Molly's well-meaning advice make for an interesting screenplay, which I enjoyed. There are a few unexpected twists and turns, but no guns, vehicular mayhem or blowie uppie stuff, and no noticeable profanity. The R rating is more for adult perspective than sexual content or violence.

I will probably buy the DVD because the theater where I viewed this doesn't offer closed caption devices and I know I missed some of Katherine's zingers.
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Here is a preview:
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6/21/19

Toy Story 4

Was it only 2010 when we watched, with big lumps in our throats, as Woody bid farewell to Andy and moved on to a new home and a new kid? Woody is just as earnest as ever, taking his job seriously as he cares for the well-being of little Bonnie, who is fearful about starting school. She makes her own toy, a spork that has eyes and a mouth, with pipe-cleaner arms and tongue compressor feet.

Director Josh Cooley, not new to the Pixar world but directing his first Toy Story, has been given a script written by a massive collection of writers. The result is, like "Toy Story 3," fairly adult even though it is a Disney movie. By that I mean the issues resonate more for adults than children, although I suspect, at a gut level, even children recognize the importance of loyalty and friendship.

Brand name actors who provide voices include:
  • Tom Hanks - Woody, always loyal to his fellow toys, is determined to make sure their kid has the toy of her choice (even though it may not be Woody), and masterminds the mind-boggling challenges that confront a toy-sized cowboy, trying to save a confused spork.
  • Tim Allen - Buzz Lightyear wants to help, so he tries to manage our familiar toys as they set out to rescue Woody.
  • Tony Hale - Forky insists that he is trash. Woody keeps rescuing him from garbage cans, trash baskets and dumpsters, all the while trying to convince him how important he is to Bonnie.
  • Annie Potts - Bo Peep has been spotted in an antique store, but this is no longer the sweet little shepherdess Woody remembers. Now Bo is liberated, strong and assertive, while her sheep seem to be inclined to bite (?).
  • Joan Cusack - Jessie may be the next sheriff. This cowgirl really knows how to rally the troops.
  • Keanu Reeves - Duke Caboom is a new toy from Canada, a motorcycle riding stuntman: The Canuck with all the Luck.
  • Christine Hendricks - Gabby Gabby needs a voice box if she can hope for a little girl of her own. Hers was a manufacturers flaw and she wants to have a kid like Woody had Andy.
All of our friends are there, this is a reunion with a few new faces thrown in. The settings are spectacular, the carnival, the antique store, the school, a roadside at night, and the artwork is breathtaking. Watch Bonnie's face as she has to go to school the first time.

The action sequences are exhausting, as sinister ventriloquists dummies provide the villainy, along with that cat! I saw this at Cinerama, just a block from my home, and it was an early matinee, so I had just a handful of people to watch as we exited the theater. All in all, people seemed satisfied. I know I was.
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Take a look:
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6/1/19

Rocketman

Let's get this clear right away: I was never a fan of Elton John. I could take him or leave him although I was aware of his fame and certainly recognize some of his music. The framing devise is a 12-step meeting where our fantastically clad rock star admits to all of his addictions. The story unfolds through flashbacks.

This songbook musical makes absolutely no pretense to realism: The songs aren't chronological; people dance in the street; whole crowds levitate! But let me hasten to add, this musical has it all! Costumes, production design, wonderful sets and most of all, it boasts one of the best performances by an actor I have seen all year. I am crediting director Dexter Fletcher ("Eddie the Eagle") and anyone involved in the production. (Reputed to be in the $40M range.) The screenplay, not so much, but I admit they had a lot of ground to cover.

Part of Fletcher's stellar cast:
  • Taron Egerton (the "Kingsman" franchise) is Reggie, soon to be Elton. I've seen him in several movies but never suspected the extent of his talent (he sings Elton John's music; I love "Pinball Wizard.") and does a great job showing us the ups and downs of super stardom.
  • Matthew Illesley and Kit Conner play young Reggie (before he became Elton). You will love his audition at the Royal Academy of Music.
  • Bryce Dallas Howard ("Jurassic World") is his mother Sheila, a woman who wants love on her own terms.
  • Gemma Jones (the "Bridget Jones" franchise) Ivy is the grandmother we all should have. She loves Reggie unconditionally and is his first, best fan.
  • Jamie Bell ("Donnybrook") Bernie Taupin was the collaborator who helped put Elton John on the map. The two of them collaborated successfully for years. Bernie loves American wide-open spaces and beautiful girls. He sings "Yellow Brick Road."
This R-rated musical has absolutely NO blowie uppie stuff, but plenty of sexual situations, alcohol, drugs (Hey! It's Elton John! Although he has been sober for over 30 years now.), profanity and outrageous costumes. We also get to watch the evolution of our hero's hairline, eyewear, footwear, jewelry, costumes, and stagecraft. This is Entertainment, NOT Art!

Any caveat? The dialogue. The sound is just fine, but without captions, most Americans won't be able to decipher what the characters are saying. Their British accents are unabashedly authentic and FAST! I intend to have the DVD anyway, so there will be no problem for me, but be advised...
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Take a peek:
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