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VICE: HEIGHTENED REALITY FOR SATIRE’S SAKE

It isn’t difficult to recognize Vice as the work of the man who wrote and directed The Big Short, Adam McKay. This is McKay in dark-satire mode, a far cry from his collaborations with Will Ferrell. He presents us with an audacious look at the career of Dick Cheney, a carousing young man who drops out of Yale and only gets his act together when prodded by his sweetheart (and future wife), Lynne, well played by Amy Adams. We witness the evolution of his character and the hardening of his cynical outlook. This is a man who craves power; once he gets a taste of it, he wants more and more.  He makes important alliances with such high-profile players as Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) and…

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FIVE NEW DISNEY BOOKS—AND MORE

MICKEY MOUSE: THE ULTIMATE HISTORY by J.B. Kaufman and David Gerstein, edited by Daniel Kothenschulte. (Taschen) This gigantic tome is hard to lift but easy to love. The authors set out to document all facets of Mickey Mouse’s 90-year career, from 1928 to the age of video games and streaming services. Being perfectionists, they have done a masterful job. There is a film-by-film entry for every one of Mickey’s 122 theatrical shorts accompanied by startlingly rare illustrations: story scripts, thumbnails, layouts, concept art, advertising and publicity campaigns and much, much more. Separate chapters deal with Mickey as king of merchandising, his foray into comic strips and then comic books, all around the globe. The sheer size (11.4×15.6”) and reproduction quality, on heavy coated paper, puts…

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MARY POPPINS: GOOD BUT LESS THAN PRACTICALLY PERFECT

I wish the Disney company would stop remaking and rehashing the gems in its vast library. Do we really need a live-action version of The Lion King? Did anyone ask for a sequel to Mary Poppins, one of the best-loved movies of all time? The answer, in both cases, is no. That said, I must admit that Mary Poppins Returns is pretty good. A sequel, not a remake, it does no disservice to the 1964 classic; in fact, it does everything imaginable to copy it. Movie newcomer Lin-Manuel Miranda is utterly charming as a lamp-lighter who invites us into the film’s stylized environment by singing a charming song, “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky.” A great opening, bookended by an even better finale, “Nowhere to go but Up.” If the very…

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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

James Baldwin was eloquent and poetic; he was also a complex and frustrated man who expressed his feelings in both essays and works of fiction. Impassioned filmmaker Barry Jenkins, who won an Oscar for his breakthrough feature Moonlight, has translated Baldwin’s 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk for the screen with newcomers in the leading roles and scored a bull’s-eye. This is s a story of star-crossed lovers who began as childhood best friends but eventually realize they are soulmates. But fate, which seldom smiles on black characters in this period, deals them a terrible blow: Fonny is arrested for a crime he didn’t commit, and Tish discovers that she is carrying their baby. There are further complications, primarily from his judgmental family, but…

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THE MULE: CLINT EASTWOOD STILL RULES

Two nonagenarians steal the show in Mary Poppins Returns, but The Mule is a horse of a different color, if you’ll pardon the pun. This is a star vehicle for an 88-year-old actor-director who still commands the screen, Clint Eastwood. It’s a pleasure to watch him play a character his own age, a grumpy old man with a gift of gab and a well-hidden heart of gold.  Logic must be placed aside for the sake of drama. The movie plays like a fable but the fundamental story is true, based on a New York Times article about a 90-year-old man who successfully transported drugs for a Mexican cartel. In this telling Eastwood is a once-successful horticulturalist who has lost his property and with it, his identity and sense of purpose.…

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SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE IS BEYOND DESCRIPTION

For once, a movie lives up to its hype. Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse is the most spectacular animated feature I’ve ever seen. This takes nothing away from Disney, Pixar, or Studio Ghibli, but the core idea of creating a living comic book, and its bold, brash execution, blew me away. Even my wife, who has no interest in superhero movies, enjoyed it. The story moves at a breakneck pace and is so crammed with visual ideas and gags it’s hard to catch them all. In fact, it’s almost overwhelming. Sensing this, I chose to see it in 2-D; I get a feeling that if I watched it in 3-D my brain might explode. Start with this: there’s a new Spider-man in the neighborhood: a black/Puerto Rican teenager…

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GIFT IDEAS FOR FILM BUFF FRIENDS

DISNEY DECORATED ICE CREAM CARTONS     What’s better than great ice cream? Great ice cream in reusable Disney containers. Ample Hills Creamery founders Brian Smith and Jackie Cuscuna opened their first   “scoop shop” some time ago in Brooklyn and came to the attention of the Walt Disney company’s Big Kahuna, Bob Iger. He encouraged them to expand and arranged a Disney tie-in just in time for Mickey Mouse’s 90th birthday. The Disney Mickey Mouse Collection includes one pint of Triple Chocolate Surprise, one pint of Confetti Celebration and one pint of Peanut Butter Jamboree. As a chocaholic, I devoured the Triple Chocolate Surprise and it was scrumptious. You can find a store near you at www.amplehills.com  and learn how to have a Mickey selection…

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