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PATREON: THIS TIME IT’S PERSONAL

Last week we sat at our kitchen table and did something I haven’t done in years: stuffed envelopes and licked stamps. Goodness knows I did all that and more in the nine years I published Film Fan Monthly, beginning at the age of 15. This time around it’s part of our new Patreon initiative. If you’re unfamiliar with the service, click HERE and you’ll see how it works.  It’s a way of connecting me and you, my audience, on a personal basis. Depending on the level you choose, you might get a postcard from my family and me, or at the Executive Producer level we actually send you a piece of movie memorabilia from my collection via old-fashioned snail mail. What a concept! Mind you,…

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CHARLEY CHASE, THELMA TODD, AND A SMITH NAMED PETE

When it comes to Hal Roach comedy shorts it’s impossible for me to be objective. It’s not that I think every one of them is great; what I feel is an overall affection for the people in them and the world they inhabit. Kit Parker’s Sprocket Vault has recently released Charley Chase at Hal Roach: The Talkies Volume Two 1932-33 and Thelma Todd & ZaSu Pitts: The Hal Roach Collection 1931-33. The print quality overall is superb—better than I’ve ever seen these films look before—but even I have to admit that the laugh quotient is spotty at best.     Charley Chase did his finest work in the silent era, especially when he was working with director Leo McCarey. He got off to a good start in talkies…

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THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON: ANOTHER SUMMER SLEEPER

The Peanut Butter Falcon has already proven to be a crowd-pleaser, winning a key Audience Award at this year’s South by Southwest Film Festival. It’s easy to see why. First-time writer-directors Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz met a charismatic young man named Zach Gottsagen, who has Down syndrome, at a camp for actors with disabilities and were inspired to build a screenplay around him. In time, their passion project attracted experienced producers and an impressive cast. Gottsagen is an absolute natural on-camera, acing a role tailor-made for him. Zak has been abandoned by his family and taken in by a retirement home, where he’s looked after by a sympathetic caregiver (Dakota Johnson). In spite of his comfortable surroundings he is determined to escape, egged on by…

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WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE

If ever a movie had a recipe for success, it’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Based on Maria Semple’s best-selling novel, it stars the great Cate Blanchett with Richard Linklater directing. So why did I leave the theater feeling dissatisfied, as if something was missing? When we meet Bernadette (Blanchett) she is manic and out of control: openly hostile to almost everyone she encounters. She’s growing apart from her husband (Billy Crudup) and railing against life in Seattle, where she moved to escape Los Angeles. The only person she can relate to is her teenage daughter (nicely played by newcomer Emma Nelson). Over the course of the film we learn that she was a brilliant architect who won a MacArthur “genius grant” and was embarking on a…

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GOOD BOYS: JUST WHAT YOU EXPECT

When the first words out of young Jacob Tremblay’s mouth are “F—, yeah!” as he’s about to ogle pictures on his laptop, you know what you’re in for with Good Boys. The MPAA’s rating carries this impressively specific warning: “Rated R for strong crude sexual content, drug and alcohol material, and language throughout—all involving tweens.” All of which adds up to forbidden fruit for tweens who will undoubtedly try to find ways of seeing this comedy without their parents. They could do a lot worse. Like the far superior Superbad, which this superficially resembles, the raunchy gags are counterbalanced by the sincere depiction of youthful friendship and innocence. Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon play a close-knit trio of sixth graders who are in a hurry to…

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MIKE WALLACE IS HERE

As energetic as its subject, Avi Belkin’s propulsive new documentary profiles the veteran broadcaster who became infamous for his hard-hitting interviews and “gotcha” segments on 60 Minutes. Because Wallace came of age with the birth of television and remained active for decades to follow, the movie also serves as a time capsule that spans more than half a century. I lived through all of this, but even I had to pause for a moment to remember names that once were newsworthy and now have faded with time, from Thomas Eagleton and John Ehrlichman to Leona Helmsley. Belkin’s decision not to identify Wallace’s interview subjects until the end of the film may mute its impact for viewers who weren’t around in the 1960s, 70s, or 80s.…

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ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD

If it’s true that the devil is in the details, Quentin Tarantino has done his devilish best to transport us back in time fifty years for Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, his latest mélange of fact and fiction. From the vintage Columbia Pictures logo to a bogus promo for the TV series Bounty Law, everything looks and feels authentic. (See Steve McQueen’s Wanted: Dead or Alive for comparison.) With an able assist from visual effects maestro John Dykstra, Tarantino has replicated vintage Los Angeles to the letter. Theater marquees are playing the appropriate movies and the audio from AM station KHJ is broadcasting the songs, commercials, headlines and chatter one would have heard in 1969. The lives of his three main characters fit neatly into this landscape. Leonardo DiCaprio…

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