Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Home Again

Blu-Ray Review by Kam Williams

Reese Witherspoon Romantic Romp Released on Home Video

After separating from her husband, Austen (Michael Sheen), Alice Kinney (Reese Witherspoon) decides to move from Manhattan to L.A. with her two young daughters, Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) and Isabel (Lola Flanery). Although her dad has passed away, the return to the house she grew in is a no-brainer, since the girls will have a chance to live in the lap of luxury while being pampered by their doting grandma, Lillian (Candice Bergen). 
Alice's late father was apparently a far better film director than spouse, considering how his embittered widow still complains about his philandering and smugly delights in his demise, saying, "He's gone now, so I won!" Nevertheless, the sprawling mansion the legendary icon provided does have a storeroom stuffed with Oscars, movie posters and other memorabilia from his enviable Hollywood career. 
Soon after arriving, Rosie and Isabel become terribly homesick. That's not the case with their suddenly-single mom, who heads to a pick up bar to celebrate her 40th birthday with a couple of long-lost BFFs. Next thing you know, the hot-to-trot cougars find themselves sharing drinks with a trio of fledgling filmmakers in their twenties, one of whom, Harry (Pico Alexander), is instantly smitten with Alice. 
Selfishly, she not only takes all three home with her, but enjoys an ill-advised, one-night stand with her ardent admirer. This only serves to confuse curious Rosie, who asks some tough questions the next morning ("How did you meet?" "Did you have a sleepover?) when she discovers her mother in bed with a stranger. 
The farfetched premise plot further tests credulity when Granny Lillian, instead of objecting to the young men's presence, invites them to move into the guest house upon learning that they're almost broke and struggling to make it in showbiz. Not long thereafter, wouldn't you know that Austen might arrive from New York unannounced, hoping to reconcile with his estranged ex?

Thus unfolds Home Again a zany romantic romp written and directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer. She makes an impressive debut, here, with a tasteful love triangle storyline reminiscent of Something's Gotta Give (2003) and It's Complicated (2009). Hallie didn't have to look far for inspiration, as both of those hit pictures were written and directed by her Oscar-nominated mom, Nancy Meyers (for Private Benjamin). 
Finally, a relatively-sophisticated, female-centric comedy revolving around romance rather than raunch. What a refreshing treat!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality and mature themes
Running time: 97 minutes
Production Studio: Black Bicycle Entertainment
Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Extras: Feature commentary with writer/director Hallie Meyers-Shyer and producer Nancy Meyers.

To see a trailer for Home Again, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfHZ-B374iA

To order a copy of the Home Again Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack, visit:  

This Week’s DVD Releases
by Kam Williams

Top Ten DVD List for December 12, 2017

Game of Thrones: The Complete Seventh Season [Winter Is Here]

All Saints [Based on a Powerful True Story]

Architects of Denial [Genocide Denied Is Genocide Continued]

Home Again [Starting Over Is Not for Beginners]

Stefan Zweig: Farewell to Europe [Escape from Nazi Germany Drama]

Bad Lucky Goat [Plus Bonus Short Film "Miss World"]

Chicago: The Terry Kath Experience [Special Edition]

Wolf Warrior 2 [Bigger and Badder Action-Packed Sequel]

Victoria & Abdul [An Extraordinary Story of a Queen and Her New BFF]

Nova: Secrets of the Shining Knight [How Armor Was Manufactured]

Honorable Mention

Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles [The Final Chapters]

The Pulitzer at 100 [Documentary Celebrating the Award's Centenary]

Monday, December 11, 2017

Philadelphia Film Critics Circle Announces First-Ever Year-End Awards Winners

 PFCC Logo 200x117 dark

The Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, to which I belong and which was established earlier this year as the first film critics association in the Philadelphia region, yesterday voted on and selected the winners of its first-ever year-end awards.
Jordan Peele’s Get Out was the big winner at the awards, winning four, including Best Picture, as well as Best Director, Best Script and Best Directorial Debut, all for Peele himself.
Coco also won two awards, for Best Animated Film and Best Soundtrack/Score.
Several other films won major awards. Daniel Day-Lewis won Best Actor for Phantom Thread, while Sally Hawkins was named Best Actress for The Shape of Water. The Supporting acting awards went to Woody Harrelson for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Allison Janney for I, Tonya.
Other winners included Brooklynn Prince of The Florida Project for Best Breakthrough Performance, Blade Runner 2049’s Roger Deakins for Best Cinematography, Brett Morgen’s Jane for Best Documentary Film and Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation (Romania) for Best Foreign Language Film.
In addition, the inaugural Steve Friedman Award, meant to honor “a person or film that drives major public discourse on a topic or issue,” has been presented to Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, while the Elaine May Award, for a deserving person or film that brings awareness to women's issues, was presented to Lady Bird.

The full list of winners:
Best Picture: Get Out
Best Director: Jordan Peele, Get Out
Best Actor: Daniel Day-Lewis, for Phantom Thread
Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, for The Shape of Water
Best Supporting Actor: Woody Harrelson, for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney, for I, Tonya
Best Script: Jordan Peele, for Get Out
Best Soundtrack/Score: Coco
Best Directorial Debut: Jordan Peele, for Get Out
Best Breakthrough Performance: Brooklynn Prince, The Florida Project
Best Cinematography: Roger Deakins, for Blade Runner 2049
Best Documentary Film: Jane
Best Foreign Language Film: Graduation
Best Animated Film: Coco

New York Film Critics Online 2017 Winners

New York Film Critics Online (to which I belong) held its 18th annual awards meeting in Walter Reade Theatre's Furman Gallery in Lincoln Center on December 10, 2017, and voted these winners:

The Florida Project (A24) (tie)
Mudbound (Netflix) (tie)

Dee Rees for Mudbound (Netflix)

Gary Oldman for Darkest Hour (Focus)

Margot Robbie for I, Tonya (Neon)

Willem Dafoe for The Florida Project (A24)

Allison Janney for I, Tonya (Neon)

Jordan Peele for Get Out (Universal)

Timothée Chalamet for Call Me By Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)

Jordan Peele for Get Out (Universal)

Mudbound (Netflix)

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (Zeitgeist)

In the Fade (Magnolia)

Coco (Disney/Pixar)

Dan Laustsen for The Shape of Water (Focus)

Steven Price (music by) and Kristen Lane (music supervisor) for Baby Driver (TriStar)

TOP TEN FILMS (Alphabetical)
Call Me by Your Name (Sony Pictures Classics)
Dunkirk  (Warner Bros.)
The Florida Project (A24)
Get Out (Universal Pictures)
I, Tonya  (Neon)
Lady Bird  (A24)
Mudbound  (Netflix)
Phantom Thread  (Focus)
The Post  (20th Century Fox)
The Shape of Water   (Fox Searchlight)

Friday, December 8, 2017

Kam's Kapsules for movies opening December 15, 2017

Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun 
by Kam Williams



Ferdinand (PG for action, rude humor and mature themes) John Cena plays the title character in this animated adventure about a peace-loving bull who'd rather stop to smell the roses than chase a matador's red cape around an arena. Voice cast includes Kate McKinnon, Anthony Anderson, Gabriel Iglesias, Boris Kodjoe and Davud Tennant.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence) Second episode in the sequel trilogy directed by Rian Johnson (Looper) finds Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) embarking on an epic, intergalactic adventure with the legendary Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to unlock the mystery of "The Force." Featuring Adam Driver. Lupita Nyong'o and the late Carrie Fisher.


The Ballad of Lefty Brown (R for profanity and violence) Bill Pullman assumes the title role in this Western, set on the plains of Montana, about an aging cowboy who enlists the assistance of a young gunslinger (Diego Josef) and a lawman (Tommy Flanagan) to track down the outlaws responsible for the gruesome murder of his friend, a newly-elected U.S. Senator (Peter Fonda). Cast includes Jim Caviezel, Kathy Baker and Joseph Lee Anderson.

Beyond Skyline (R for graphic violence and pervasive profanity) Sci-fi sequel about a veteran LAPD detective (Frank Grillo) who mounts a daring attempted rescue of his son from an alien spaceship that vacuumed the entire population of Los Angeles off the face of the Earth. With Bojana Novakovic, Johnny Weston, Kevin O'Donnell and Iko Uwais. (In English and Indonesian with subtitles)

Killing for Love (Unrated) Tabloid news documentary revisiting the events surrounding the high-profile murder trial of University of Virginia student Elizabeth Haysom and her German boyfriend for the decapitation of both of her parents.

The Leisure Seeker (R for sexuality) Romantic romp revolving around an elderly couple (Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren) who embark on a road trip from Boston to Key West to recapture their passion for life and love. Support cast includes Joshua Mikel, Kirsty Mitchell and Janel Moloney.

Permanent (PG-13 for profanity, crude humor, sexual references and mature themes) Coming-of-age comedy, set in the South in 1982, revolving around a white 'tweener (Kira McLean), new to a town, who ends up ostracized at school after her hairdresser accidentally leaves her with an afro instead of curls like her idol, Farah Fawcett. With Patricia Arquette, Rainn Wilson and Devin Albert.

Sundowners (Unrated) Buddy comedy about a couple of jaded wedding photographers (Phil Hanley and Luke Lalonde) who get a break from the monotony when they land a gig in Mexico. Featuring Tim Heidecker, Cara Gee and Nick Flanagan.

Youth (Unrated) Coming-of-age adventure, set in the Seventies, revolving around the trials and tribulations of members of a military cultural troupe. Ensemble cast includes Xuan Huang, Miao Miao and Caiyu Yang. (In Mandarin with subtitles)

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Lady Bird

Film Review by Kam Williams

Saoirse Shines as Rebellious Teen in Touching, Coming-of-Age Adventure

Saoirse Ronan is only 23, but she's already been nominated for an Academy Award twice, for Brooklyn (2015) and Atonement (2005). Now, she's a shoo-in to land another nomination for her memorable turn as the title character in Lady Bird.

It's hard to say whether three times will prove to be the charm for the Irish ingenue, since this has been a banner year for actresses, with powerful performances turned in by worthy competitors like Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand and perennial-nominee Meryl Streep. Win or lose, Ronan deserves all the accolades she's getting for exhibiting an enviable range in a very demanding role as a tormented teen constantly in crisis. 
Life is an emotional roller coaster for this college-bound senior. And as the film unfolds, it's easy to see why. Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson is an iconoclast who refuses to conform, whether she's rebelling from her overbearing mother (Laurie Metcalf) or breaking the rules at her Catholic high school. She dyes her hair a bizarre blend of red and pink, and insists on being addressed as Lady Bird by everyone.

Despite being an academic underachiever, she's banking on college as her ticket out of town. She hates boring Sacramento, and won't settle for a school anywhere but in New York City. But instead of studying to pick up her grades, she indulges her impulses by running for class president and trying out for a role in The Tempest. Plus, her hormones are raging, and she's a little boy crazy, too. So, excuse her for not being able to keep her eyes on the university prize.

The plot thickens in a variety of surprising ways it would be almost evil to spoil here. Suffice to say that Lady Bird is a fantastic, female-centric, instant classic reminiscent of both Juno (2007) and Bridesmaids (2011). Written and directed by Mumblecore movement maven Greta Gerwig, the picture is also ostensibly semi-autobiographical, since the Sacramento native attended an all-girls Catholic school before moving to Manhattan to attend Barnard College. 
A delightful crowd pleaser well deserving of Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay!

Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality, teen partying and brief graphic nudity
Running time: 93 minutes
Production Company: Scott Rudin Productions/ IAC Films / Management 360
Distributor: A24

To see a trailer for Lady Bird, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNi_HC839Wo

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wonder Wheel

Film Review by Kam Williams

New Woody Allen Pic Proves Terribly Disappointing

I suppose Woody Allen was due for a dud. After being distracted during the Nineties by a bitter divorce and custody battle, the four-time Oscar-winner had enjoyed quite a resurgence since the turn of the century with a string of critically-acclaimed offerings that included Small Time Crooks (2000), The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), Match Point (2005), Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), Midnight in Paris (2011) and Blue Jasmine (2013).

While Wonder Wheel might not be Woody's best film, it's certainly his worst of this millennium. The film is set in the Fifties on Coney Island, where the first thing you notice is that everybody's white, whether on the beaches or in the amusement park.

Yes, movies made back then were often lily-white productions which gave no hint that African-Americans even existed. But it's a bit of a head-scratcher to witness a director taking his cues from a less-enlightened era, as if there's still a reason, today, to hide the fact that there were plenty of black Coney Island patrons.

Besides constantly asking myself "Where the black people at?" the picture had this native New Yorker cringing at many of the characters' inauthentic Brooklyn accents. The most distracting was Jim Belushi's vaguely-familiar staccato. It took me half the movie to figure out that he was imitating the classic Chicago accent appropriately adopted by Dan Aykroyd to play opposite John Belushi in The Blues Brothers (1980).

Equally-unconvincing, if not as annoying, were the manners of speaking of co-stars Justin Timberlake, Kate Winslet and Juno Temple. Bensonhurst-born Steve Schirripa was the only lead actor to have the local cadence correct. Perhaps Woody shoulda also let Steve serve as the cast's voice coach. 
Besides all of the above, the unengaging script left a lot to be desired. At the point of departure, we learn that a middle-aged waitress (Winslet) is cheating on her carousel operator husband (Belushi) with a young lifeguard (Timberlake). The plot thickens when her miserably-married stepdaughter (Temple) moves back home unexpectedly, and proceeds to fall head-over-heels for her hunky lover, too. 
This critic couldn't figure out why Timberlake was intermittently breaking the fourth wall to address the audience directly. Worse is the absence of any trademark Woody Allen humor, unless unintentionally funny moments count. Overall, a cinematic disaster that makes The Room (2003) look like Citizen Kane (1941). 

Fair (1 star)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, profanity, smoking and mature themes
Running time: 101 minutes
Production Studios: Amazon / Gravier Productions
Distributor: Amazon Studios

To see a trailer for Wonder Wheel, visit: