Entries by Eleanor Ringel

‘The Souvenir’ – Tilda Swinton and her daughter play drab roles

“The Souvenir” is a portrait of the artist as a young doormat.Set in London in the ‘80s (i.e., no computers, cellphones, but the occasional IRA attack at Harrods), the movie features Tilda Swinton, looking as close to ordinary as you’ve ever seen her, and her real-life daughter, Honor Swinton Byrne, here cast as her movie daughter, Julie.

‘Rocketman' – a jukebox version of Elton John, who deserves more

Going in, you already know that last year’s unexpected hit, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” would be either the best thing or the worst thing to happen to “Rocketman,” the new Elton John movie.The parallels are so strong: similar time frames, similar problems (being gay in a pre-woke world), similar storylines (success is more likely to bring cocaine than happiness).

‘All is True’ – an older Shakespeare struggles in retirement

Imagine Shakespeare, not in love, but up to his ears in inducements from AARP.That’s the framework, more or less, for Kenneth Branagh’s “All Is True,” a look at the Bard in retirement.The year is 1613. His beloved Globe Theatre has burned to the ground and the playwright takes that as a sign it’s time to move back to the country and retire in the…um…loving?…bosom of his family.

‘Tolkien’ – a pretty, but dull, film about J.R.R. Tolkien

A much better title for the squishily disappointing new bio-flick, “Tolkien” would be “Bored of the Rings.”Oh, how I wish I’d made that up myself, but it’s stolen from a National Lampoon parody that came out around 1970 when the author’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy was at the height of its popularity on college campuses.

‘Red Joan’ – Judi Dench stars in disappointing espionage tale

“I don’t want a lawyer,” protests Judi Dench in the first scene of “Red Joan.” “I haven’t done anything wrong.”Oh, but she has. She’s done this movie.

A fictionalized account of the life of British spy, Melita Norwood – here called Joan Stanley – played in old age, by Dench and played in full bloom of her espionage career by Sophie Cookson.

‘The Chaperone’ – predictable tale of a prude who loosens up

“The Chaperone” is a rigged shell game. It lures you in with Louise Brooks, the charismatic silent-film legend best known for “Pandora’s Box,” and proceeds to tell you this tedious fictional tale about the woman who accompanied Brooks from Wichita to New York where the incipient Ultimate Jazz Baby found – what else? –fame and fortune.At least the movie can claim truth in advertising. It is, after all, called “The Chaperone.”

‘The Aftermath’ – a post-war love triangle that falls flat

“The Aftermath” is the sort of movie about which somebody will inevitably write, “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore.”“The Aftermath” is a good reason why.Tepid, obvious, uninvolving, “The Aftermath” proves that, yes, in the shadow of World War II, the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans unless, they’re named Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Heinreid and they’re hanging out in Casablanca.

‘Best of Enemies’ – a well-acted civil rights story worth telling

In a way “The Best of Enemies” could be likened to a made-for-TV version of “The Green Book.” But even if that’s meant as a compliment from a flat-out fan of the recent Oscar winner (which I am), it’s still a bit demeaning. Though the movies share a Civil Rights theme and a first-they-bicker-then-they bond plot, “The Best of Enemies” has its own distinct voice. That’s due, for the most part, to its pair of high-powered stars, Taraji P. Henson and Sam Rockwell.

‘Gloria Bell’ – Julianne Moore stars in thrilling character study

How good is Julianne Moore?So good that even when she’s sitting with her back to the camera, you can’t take your eyes off her.That’s how she’s introduced in Sebastian Lelio’s quietly moving and intelligent “Gloria Bell,” a remake of his 2013 Chilean film. We’re at a seemingly mythical singles bar catering to the middle-aged. Gloria, who’s been divorced for over a decade, goes there often. She likes the drinks, she likes the music and she likes – loves– to dance. If she meets a guy there, well, that’s okay, too.

‘Us’ – as Pogo said: ‘We have met the enemy and he is us’

“Us” has its problems, but it has its pluses, too, most notably, a helluva kicker and an astounding double-whammy of a performance by Lupita Nyong’o.

“Get Out” is an admittedly hard act to follow, but Jordan Peele’s “Us” feels less like a sophomore slump than “Didn’t something like this happen to M. Night Shyamalan?”

'Greta' – movie slides easily from shock to schlock

The customer, a petite European redhead, has just been poured a glass of Chablis by her nervous waitron. Taking a sip, she says appraisingly, “It’s like you. Promises a lot, then disappoints.”The same could be said about “Greta,” a stalker-cum-Bluebeard story with a twist. The customer happens to be the title character, Greta (Isabelle Huppert), a sixty-something widow living in Brooklyn.

‘Everybody Knows’ – Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are movie’s saving grace

The problem with “Everybody Knows” is that nobody cares.

Nobody in the audience, that is.

A surprising misfire by Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director behind the remarkable Oscar-winners, “A Separation” and “The Salesman,” “Everybody Knows” takes place in a small Spanish village dominated by a dusty old clock tower.

‘Never Look Away’ – a character-rich film set in Germany from 1937 to 1966

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s new movie, “Never Look Away,” has been nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar at this year’s Academy Awards. And no wonder. It has the epic incident-laden sweep of something by Tolstoy or Dickens.  

If von Donnersmarck’s name is in the least bit familiar, it’s probably for one of two reasons.

‘Cold War’ – a well-acted and ‘luminous’ black-and-white movie

The title – “Cold War”–  reflects the 15-year-long stalemate between its protagonists. That said, their romance blows both hot and cold.

This expertly done, bleakly ironic film, shot in luminous black-and-white by Pawel Pawlikowski, the director of the art-house hit, “Ida,” follows a love affair from its irreverent beginning to its eerie end.

‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ – a quietly poetic, yet courageous, movie

“If Beale Street Could Talk” is the sort of nice movie you’d like to take home and introduce to your parents.

That doesn’t mean it’s a movie about nice things. Racism, poverty, rape, teen pregnancy, bigoted cops – all are part of the mix. No wonder. The movie is based on a 1974 novel by James Baldwin.