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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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THE AMAZING CHARLEY BOWERS IS DISCOVERED—AGAIN

In the early 1980s I attended the Ottawa Animation Festival, where I saw a handful of silent shorts that blew me away. These ingenious films blended meticulous stop-motion work with live-action slapstick. The man who made and starred in them was Charley Bowers. I knew of him as the producer and director of Mutt and Jeff cartoons in the late teens and early 1920s, but I had no idea that he later appeared on-camera and masterminded such unique comedy films. I was so eager to spread the word about him that I obtained footage from the late Louise Beaudet at the Cinemathèque Quebecoise and ran highlights on Entertainment Tonight. He has been discovered and rediscovered several times in the intervening years, but he’s still not a…

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SCARFACE, CAPTAIN AHAB, AND KING KONG: GREAT READING

Normally I review only film-related books on this site, but I’ve just devoured two volumes written by friends that I can’t resist writing about. One is a work of fiction, the other non-fiction. When I finished reading them I picked up a movie-related biography I’d been meaning to get to for months. The result: three enthusiastic endorsements.   Scarface and the Untouchable (William Morrow) is the latest tome by Max Allan Collins and his new writing partner A. Brad Schwartz. Collins is one of my favorite authors, and I’ve long been a fan of his true-crime novels featuring private eye Nathan Heller. He has spent so much time rooting around the world of 20th century American crime that he is the ideal person to tackle this dual…

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