Entries by Eleanor Ringel

‘What They Had’ – a family comes to terms with Alzheimer’s

It’s Christmas and the family has gathered in Chicago. During an otherwise normal holiday dinner, the hostess, Ruth (Blythe Danner), with a sweet smile asks her guests, “And how do you two know each other?”

Given that Nick (Michael Shannon) and Bridget (Hilary Swank) are brother and sister and Ruth is their mom, it’s a bit awkward.  It is also a bittersweet reminder that her Alzheimer’s isn’t getting any better.

‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’ – true story about Lee Israel’s fake letters

“I’m a better Dorothy Parker than Dorothy Parker!”

So proclaims Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), the sad-sack, sourly funny anti-heroine of “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

Set in the early 1990s, the movie is based on the true story of a writer who, having had some success with biographies (including a New York Times best-seller), found herself at an unfortunate impasse. 

‘The Old Man and the Gun’ – actor Robert Redford still robbing banks – now as Forrest Tucker

One measure of the affection (and, yes, lust) that has accrued to Robert Redford over his decades in movies is, when he walks into a bank in “The Old Man and the Gun,” we reflexively wonder, is he “walking” like an old man or does he, at 82, now walk like an old man?

Actually, in keeping with the delicacy of the acting ego, Redford is playing younger than his age.

‘A Star is Born’ – Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga carry the movie

A star isn’t exactly born in the newest iteration of the well-worn classic. After all, most of us have heard of Lady Gaga somehow, somewhere.

Besides, this isn’t even – technically – her feature film debut. According to IMDB, she’s already appeared on the big screen in “Machete Kills” “Muppets Most Wanted” (as herself) and “Men in Black 3” as “alien on TV monitors.”

‘Colette’ – a wobbly #MeToo movie of la Belle Époque stars Keira Knightley

Those of us with a particular fondness for the old “Seinfeld” series might recall the episode in which Jerry and the gang consider going to a movie called “Rochelle, Rochelle: A Young Girl’s Strange Erotic Journey from Milan to Minsk.”

Keira Knightley’s utterly silly new movie isn’t called “Colette, Colette,” but it might as well have been.

‘The House with a Clock in Its Walls’ – amazing-looking movie with quirkiness

Taken on purely architectural terms, the titular structure in “The House with a Clock in Its Walls” is a cunning cross between the “Addams Family” manse and Mother Bates’ place in “Psycho.”

Cinematically, however, it’s on far trickier turf. Eli Roth, who took torture-porn to new…heights?…in “Cabin Fever” (which I saw and admired) and the “Hostel” movies (I took a pass), makes a bid for Tim Burton territory.  In many ways, he’s successful.

‘Kusama: Infinity’ – an extraordinary documentary about Yayoi Kusama

To echo the old saying, I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like. However, I know even less about artists, so I had no inkling that I would fall so hard for “Kusama: Infinity,” an extraordinary documentary about Yayoi Kusama, whom I’d never heard of.

Shame on me. She’s the world’s top-selling living female artist. And deservedly so. As Heather Lenz’s movie makes abundantly clear, Kusama is an astonishing original.

“Operation Finale’ – a true story of Adolf Eichmann’s capture to face trial in Israel

Forget that, um, stuff someone once said about there being “very good people on both sides.” In “Operation Finale,” there are some very good people on one side and some very, very bad people on the other.

Which, frankly, is as it should be since “Operation Finale” is the true story of how, in 1960, some Israeli secret agents tracked down one of Hitler’s top henchman, Adolf Eichmann, and brought him back to Israel for a public trial (the first globally televised trial in history, we’re told).

‘Crazy Rich Asians’ – a movie with an all-Asian cast that’s filled with clichés

By Eleanor Ringel Cater What makes “Crazy Rich Asians” special? Why, the all-Asian cast, which hasn’t happened since 1993’s “The Joy Luck Club.” (By the way, a far better movie) What makes “Crazy Rich Asians” not special? Everything else. The plot, the characters, the dialogue…. With its putrid petri dish of obnoxious gender stereotypes, this thing could’ve […]

“BlacKkKlansman” – Spike Lee’s entertaining and provocative film

Spike Lee is at his best when he’ s mad as hell.

But he’s even better when he combines his rage with his caustic sense of humor, as he does in his brilliant new movie, “BlacKkKlansman.”

Lee can be so angry, so passionate, so…well… occasionally preachy that we forget he’s also very funny. His new movie, a prizewinner at Cannes last spring, is based on the sort of true story you couldn’t make up.

“Eighth Grade” – a ‘small, smart gem’ of a movie

You know how sometimes you feel like a movie is being jammed down your throat, and you just don’t want to go see it out of sheer spite?

That’s how I felt about “Eighth Grade.” For at least the last month, every time there was some sort of talk show or morning show or whatever else that passes for televised entertainment these days, someone would be enthusiastically chatting up Bo Burnham’s debut film.

“Christopher Robin” – a movie that seeks to find our inner child

Filmmaker Marc Forster spends much of “Christopher Robin” trying to find that “Finding Neverland” sweet spot he worked so successfully in the 2004 Johnny Depp movie about James M. Barrie, the author of “Peter Pan.”

Not that the two are really very similar, but both pose the singular challenge of creating a film that appeals to both child-like adults and bonafide children. Peter Pan and Winnie the Pooh share that peculiar territory (for better and worse) and both require careful handling when it comes to circling said territory.