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‘POOR THINGS’ IS WILD AND CRAZY

On the face of it, I wouldn’t have bet that I would take to Yorgos Lanthimos’s latest film, but I am crazy about Poor Things. This high-flying feminist variation on the Frankenstein tale is as wacky and unpredictable as a Tex Avery cartoon. No other film in recent memory can match it for sheer ingenuity, both in terms of storytelling and visual execution. Lanthimos has gotten the best out of his many collaborators on both sides of the camera. Emma Stone delivers a fearless performance, much of it unclothed, and her bravado is matched by costars Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe, and a straight-faced Ramy Youssef. As the story hops around the globe we encounter other well-cast actors, many in tiny roles, whose unique faces recall Fellini in…

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‘ORIGIN’ IS A KNOCKOUT

Ava DuVernay has taken a big swing and hit a home run. Origin tells the story of how Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson pursued an idea that tied the notorious murder of Trayvon Martin to the existence of slavery in America, the Nazi attempt to exterminate Jews in Germany, and the treatment of Dilats in India. The key was determining that it was the caste system, not racism, that fueled these phenomena. The beauty of the film is how DuVernay puts us in Wilkerson’s shoes and allows us to learn and discover this connection, step by painful step. The casting of the gifted and deeply empathetic Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor makes this possible. DuVernay’s screenplay, adapted from Wilkerson’s best-selling book, is sprawling but compelling at every stage. Some episodes may…

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THE PATH TO PARADISE: A FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA STORY

THE PATH TO PARADISE: A FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA STORY by Sam Wasson (Harper) Having taken a “big picture” approach to the making of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Chinatown, Wasson focuses here on an individual rather than a film. This is not a conventional biography, but the saga of a man with the soul of an artist. He doesn’t play by the rules and is never satisfied because perfection is always just out of reach. He’s a dreamer, an idealist, a gifted filmmaker who has made masterpieces but rarely derives pleasure from the experience. He is one of a kind: Francis Ford Coppola. Wasson enables us to vicariously experience the highs and lows of Coppola’s life, from a desperately unhappy childhood—berated by both parents, coming in second to his older brother, confined…

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THE BEST NEW HOLIDAY DVDS, BLU-RAYS AND 4KS

The following article was written by my friend and colleague Alonso Duralde. You can learn more about him HERE. Whether you’re stuffing the stocking of a physical-media fan or just building up your own holiday home-video library, there’s an eclectic selection of media guaranteed to spice up your Christmas. Holiday Horrors and Thrillers The 4K release of 2022’s sleeper hit Violent Night (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) – starring David Harbour as an exhausted Santa who has to face off with a team of criminals headed by John Leguizamo – is one of several new releases that color way outside the lines of what has traditionally been considered holiday entertainment. Also getting 4K reissues are two classics set at the holidays but not always considered “Christmas…

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NAPOLEON MEETS HIS WATERLOO

It’s a shame that this ambitious movie is a muddle, for director Ridley Scott has staged some of the most astonishing battle scenes ever put on film. Gigantic in scale and scope, they make the viewer feel like a participant, taking that overused word “immersive” to another level of meaning cinematically. However, some of the dialogue is ludicrous and prompted (presumably) unintended laughter at the showing I attended and others I have heard about. Most of this has to do with his wooing of Josephine and dogged determination that she produce a male heir. We never understand the mutual attraction between Bonaparte and the alluring woman who is destined to become his wife. That is just one of this vast movie’s failings. Any schoolchild could…

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MAESTRO IS MAGNIFICENT 

I don’t know where or how Bradley Cooper got the ambition to make this powerfully challenging film, or the fortitude to both direct and co-script it while playing the leading character, but it is clearly a labor of love. Many passion projects lose something on the way to the screen, but Maestro is an exception: a deeply felt, magisterial film that provides its leading man with a formidable showcase and a captivating role for his costar, Carey Mulligan.  Like many other baby boomers, I grew up watching Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts on television and retain a vivid memory of the charismatic conductor. My admiration for him grew as I became aware of his many accomplishments outside the world of conducting: writing the score for On the Town, Wonderful Town, Candide, and West Side Story, not to mention On the Waterfront. Watching this account of his life and times, I…

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MAY DECEMBER

Todd Haynes would seem an ideal choice to direct a story inspired by the real-life case of schoolteacher Mary Kay LeTourneau, who made headlines in the 1990s when she raped a 12-year-old student, then married him and raised a family. It’s still an eye-opener after all this time, and certainly ripe for adaptation as a movie.  A sharp observer of women’s roles in society and suburban life, as evidenced in such films as Safe, Carol, the Douglas Sirk-inspired Far From Heaven and the miniseries Mildred Pierce, Haynes is right at home in this fictionalized narrative written by Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik. Natalie Portman plays a television star who arrives on the scene to spend time with Julianne Moore, whom she is about to portray in a movie. Most of…

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