Entries by Eleanor Ringel

‘Victoria & Abdul’ – Judi Dench ‘a wonder’ as Queen Victoria in UK-India cultural tale

The last time Judi Dench made this movie, it was with Billy Connolly and a Shetland pony.

This time, it’s with a limpid-eyed Indian.

Connolly and the pony worked better.

Taking place some years after “Mrs. Brown,” (Dench’s first foray as Queen Victoria), “Victoria & Abdul” cheekily claims to be “based on real events…mostly.”

Blade Runner 2049 – a visually stunning sequel of the 1982 classic

“Blade Runner 2049” is admirable and occasionally astonishing. But there is nothing in its entire 163 minutes that matches the gut-wrenching power of Rutger Hauer’s final speech in the original movie.

Ridley Scott’s sci-fi cult classic, “Blade Runner” was originally released in 1982 (since then, there have been one or two revised versions). It was set in the future (2019) in a rain-drenched world of neon and noise.  And human-like androids called replicants.

‘Brad’s Status’ – Ben Stiller movie is ‘worth a look’

Sometimes, you just have to see a Ben Stiller movie.

Mostly, because he just won’t stop making them.

But “Brad’s Status” is something of a surprise. And while it may not change your mind about Stiller, it could entice you into giving him another look. His movie is certainly worth a look.

The Brad of “Brad’s Status” runs a reasonably successful non-profit in Sacramento. Actually, given that he drives a BMW, “reasonably” is likely a low-ball estimate.

‘The Battle of Sexes’ explores Billie Jean King’s challenges – on and off the court

The so-called “battle of the sexes” tennis match, between women’s champ, Billie Jean King, and aging former men’s champ, Bobby Riggs, was an insulting stunt when it happened in 1973.

The movie “Battle of the Sexes.” starring Emma Stone as King and Steve Carell as Riggs, isn’t a stunt and it’s only mildly insulting. But it’s certainly a missed opportunity.

‘Mother!’ – strong female cast in a long, chaotic movie

Darren Aronofsky certainly needed to get something out of his system… and here it is.

What it is, exactly, I’m not sure.

“Mother!” (yes, the exclamation point is part of the title, like, say, “Oliver!”) takes place in a remote Victorian fixer-upper where Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) does most of the fixer-upping and her husband, Him (Javier Bardem), a world-famous poet, struggles with writer’s block.

‘Letters from Baghdad’ – how Gertrude Bell helped shape today’s Middle East

Gertrude Bell was the nasty woman of her era.

Her contemporaries  — among them, T.E. Lawrence and Winston Churchill — admired her. However, they also deemed her arrogant, rude and “not very likable.”

It’s likely you’ve never heard of Gertrude Bell  — something the absorbing documentary, “Letters From Baghdad” hopes to change. Born in England in 1868, she spent the last decade of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th criss-crossing the Middle East, getting to know the tribal factions and their power plays.

‘Ingrid Goes West’ – a trip to the selfie world via social media

“Ingrid Goes West” is “All About Eve” for the Instagram era.
 
That’s not exactly a compliment. Or necessarily a put-down.  It’s merely an observation, with a soupcon of social sting.
 
In the Oscar-winning “All About Eve,” a young actress named Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) insinuates herself into the life of an established Broadway star, Margo Channing (Bette Davis). Eve’s intentions are not honorable.

‘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).