Entries by Eleanor Ringel

‘Wind River’ dazzles as it comes from nowhere, heads for fame on video-on-demand

Just as he exploded genre expectations of drug-bust movies with “Sicario” and New West we-rob-banks flicks with “Hell or High Water,” Taylor Sheridan has turned the thriller/social comment film inside out. “Wind River” is the sort of picture nobody expects – and that’s what makes it so good.

‘Atomic Blond’ – a spy thriller featuring Charlize Theron as a M16 agent

How do you top playing Imperator Furiosa in 2015’s jaw-dropping “Mad Max: Fury Road?”
 
The answer is, you don’t.  But if you’re Charlize Theron, you give it one heckuva try.
 
In “Atomic Blonde,” Theron plays Lorraine Broughton, a MI6 agent (same level as James Bond).  The year is 1989 and the Berlin Wall is about to tumble. But before it does, she must retrieve a list of names that could compromise an entire network of agents, double agents, triple agents…you get the idea.

‘Dunkirk’ – immerses viewers in epic World War II battle via ‘bravura filmmaking’

“Dunkirk” does World War II like nothing you’ve ever seen.

Sweeping yet intimate, heroic and horrific, the movie is a triumph of the sort of storytelling the movies do best. Yes, there is a plot (several, actually) and yes there is dialogue and yes, there are identifiable characters.

But what is so impressive about “Dunkirk” is how utterly immersive it is. We are on that besieged beach, our backs to the sea, the Nazis moving in.  We are on that brave little boat, one of several hundred civilian crafts, crossing the English Channel to help rescue the troops. We are in the cockpit with those RAF pilots, trying to shoot down the German planes that circle above like birds of prey.

‘Baby Driver’ – a ‘sweet ride of a movie’ filmed in Atlanta

Oh, baby, baby, baby, baby.

“Baby Driver” is one sweet ride.

Part of the fun is purely visceral: “Baby Driver” spins fantastical wheelies all over Atlanta. And unlike, say, the CGI mayhem in the  “Fast and Furious” franchise, these chases, crashes and exhilarating loop-the-loop thrills combine technical wizardry with the hands-on genius of a small flotilla of stunt drivers.

‘The Beguiled’ – movie suffocates from too much estrogen

Though based on the same book by Thomas Cullinan, Clint Eastwood’s “The Beguiled” (released in 1971) and Sofia Coppola’s current version couldn’t be more different.
 
Eastwood’s picture, directed by fellow macho-man Don Siegel (remember, this is the Eastwood of “Dirty Harry,” not “Million Dollar Baby”), had a kind of leering Gothic misogyny. Coppola’s film, which made her only the second woman ever to win best director at Cannes, offers a gauzier female gaze — rustling petticoats and repressed desire.

‘Band Aid’ – movie intelligently captures couple’s friction and chemistry – and harmony

HE: Why did you call me a liar?
 
SHE: Because you lied.
 
Welcome to “Band Aid,” a kind of millennial spin on the sort of death-match marriage laid out with such venom and heartbreak and cutting-edge humor in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
 
Anna (Zoe Lister-Jones) and Ben (Adam Pally) are one of those couples who make their friends nervous. When they’re good, they’re pretty spectacular.

‘Paris Can Wait’ – Eleanor Coppola’s feature debut loses its way

A movie has to be pretty bad to make Diane Lane look bad.

Alas, “Paris Can Wait” is that movie.

Lane plays Anne, a chicly dressed accessory (read, wife) to power-player filmmaker, Michael (Alec Baldwin). He’s not a monster (well, not by Hollywood standards). Sure, he plays around and generally treats her more like a personal assistant than a wife (Where are my socks? Where are my pills?)). But at least he’s semi-conscious of the inequity and, in his way, values her.

‘Megan Leavey’ – an endearing movie of a woman Marine and a bomb-sniffing dog

“Megan Leavey” had me at “Woof.”

Based on the true story of a Marine and her bomb-sniffing dog, the movie is a well-told weepie, especially if you’re a full-blown animal lover (Full confession…me).

Megan (Kate Mara) has a dead-end job and a deadbeat mom (Edie Falco) in a deader-than-dead town. There’s nothing keeping her in this Rust Belt corner of hell, but she doesn’t have any place she especially wants to go.

‘Wonder Woman’ – femme-centric action flick ‘a bit dull’

“Wonder Woman” isn’t wonderful.

Okay, there, I said.

While the entire future of women in Hollywood is apparently riding on this femme-centric action flick (Variety-speak) and while the critics have raved and audiences have rallied, I just can’t join the celebration.

“Wonder Woman” is sturdy. It’s expensive. Its star, Gal Gadot (a former Miss Israel; who knew Wonder Woman was a nice Jewish girl?), is winning and hard-working.

‘The Lovers’ – Debra Winger’s return to silver screen leaves one wanting

Years ago, there was a documentary called “Searching for Debra Winger.”

Well, she’s been found. You just wish she’d been found in a better movie.

“The Lovers” is a comedy of eros. And errors. Mary (Winger) and Michael (Tracy Letts) have been together for eons. The spark hasn’t just gone out of their marriage; there’s not even any kindling left.

So both, on the sly, have taken lovers. He’s with a well-toned but unstable ballet teacher (Melora Walters); she’s with a charming but lightweight writer (Aidan Gillen from “Game of Thrones”). The joke, kinda, is that the two cheat-ees are similar, both being what you might call B minus/C plus level artistes (but pretty).

‘Snatched’ – a Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer comedy that falls short

Before “Snatched” begins, its stars, Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn, appear together on-screen and thank us for coming to an actual theater to see their movie: “So many people worked on this and you chose the best way to see it!”

By the time “Snatched” is over, you may not feel like saying “Thanks” back. You may feel more like saying, “Why???”

‘The Circle’ – a social satire with a sinister subtext

Forget the old saying, “The Future is Now.” In “The Circle,” The Future is Yesterday.

A cautionary tale with a better set-up than pay-off, the movie makes merry fun of millennial Happy-Face careerism — but with a sinister subtext that becomes less of a laughing matter as the picture progresses. The problem is “The Circle” is never quite as ominous as it could be and the final scenes just sort of dribble away.

‘Tommy’s Honour’ perfect for scratch players, for duffers – not so much

In “Tommy’s Honour,” the greatest hazard facing Tommy Morris – the 19th-century golf prodigy who won the equivalent of the British Open four times before he turned 21 – wasn’t sand traps or rough weather. It was the wretchedly rigid class system which decreed, no matter how well he did on the course, off the course he wasn’t a gentleman and thereby ineligible for acceptance into the inner circle at Scotland’s august St. Andrews. The highest he could aspire to was being a caddy.

In ‘Going in Style,’ viewers’ patience is rewarded

If you’re going to insist on making a movie about cuddly old codgers, you can’t do much better than casting Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin, the stars of “Going in Style.”

This trio of Oscar winners (Caine has two, actually) know all about how to make a movie work as best as it possibly can. And they know how to rescue one when it gets in trouble.

‘Get Out’ melds humor, horror in a race-conscious screenplay

“Get Out” pulls off a pretty impressive balancing act. It is simultaneously funny as all get out and scary as all get out.

The brainchild of Jordan Peele (best known as the shorter half of the Peele and Key comedy duo), “Get Out” has been hanging on in theaters for weeks now. No wonder. It’s an eminently satisfying film, combining sharp social satire with a horror flick’s incremental sense of dread.