Entries by Eleanor Ringel

Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One” title should be ‘Ready Player STOP’

Steve Murray, my former colleague at the Atlanta Newspapers, is one of the best movie critics, anywhere, ever. Together, we had to suffer through some pretty vile stuff over the decades. Sometimes, when something got jaw-droppingly repulsive, he would lean over and whisper plaintively, “Make it stop….”

Oh, how I thought of him during “Ready Player One.”

Make it stoooopppp. 

‘A Quiet Place’ – a silence-filled movie for people to lean in and listen

Imagine the whole world has been transformed into Anne Frank’s attic where the slightest sound could bring rampaging Nazis. Only, in the crafty and effective  “A Quiet Place,” sound doesn’t summon jackboots; it brings nasty spindly-legged killer aliens (think “Alien” meets “Starship Troopers.”).

That’s the world we’re plunged into by director/star John Krasinski who inverts “Silence is Golden” into “Silence is Salvation.”

‘The Death of Stalin’ – an excellent farce by Armando Iannucci set in 1953 Russia

As fans of  “Veep” already know  (and we are legion), nobody does mordant political vaudeville like Armando Iannucci. His touch is swift, sure and utterly poisonous. 

No wonder the frenetic power coup chronicled in his excellent new film, “The Death of Stalin,” is as much Monty Python and Marx Brothers as it is social commentary.

‘Isle of Dogs’ – amazing looking movie that gets bogged down

If you’re the sort of dog lover who choked up when Lassie came home, “Isle of Dogs” may not be for you.

If, however, you are an ardent fan of all things Wes Anderson, well, this movie is about as Wes Anderson as it gets.

Best known for such live-action features as “The Royal Tannenbaums,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” “Moonrise Kingdom” and “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” Anderson also made a rather fabulous stop-motion animation called “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.” 

‘Red Sparrow’ – Jennifer Lawrence is too good an actress for this Russian spy movie

By Eleanor Ringel Cater You spend maybe the first ten minutes of “Red Sparrow” trying to decide if you like Jennifer Lawrence in bangs. You spend the last hour and a half trying to figure out, who picks her projects? If it’s her agent, she needs to change. If she chooses them herself, she needs […]

‘A Wrinkle in Time’ – a super-sized Oprah in disappointing touchy-feely movie

Let’s blame Oprah. She gets blamed for so much else, so why not?

The beloved icon arrives in “A Wrinkle in Time” bigger than life and twice as unnatural.  She’s got gold-beaded eyebrows and is dressed in what might be called The-Jetsons-Meets-Game-of-Thrones chic. And she is big — tall as a house, with an imperious (yet down-to-earth and kind-hearted) manner that suggests, well, Super-Sized Oprah.

‘The Party’ – an eccentric, stage-bound movie in black-and-white

Noel Coward, who famously enjoyed parties where a guest “got blind on Dubonet and Gin and scratched her veneer with a Cartier pin,” would find “The Party” right up his alley. 

For the rest of us, well, it’s hardly difficult to find something to enjoy about a movie that offers Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Bruno Ganz, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy, Cherry Jones and Timothy Spall.

‘The 15:17 to Paris’ – Clint Eastwood turns great story into mediocre movie

Like its protagonists, “The 15:17 to Paris” is amiable, low-key and kind of aimless.

You may not remember Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos by name, but you probably remember their real-life 15 minutes of well-earned fame.

One hot August day in 2015, the three friends were traveling by train from Amsterdam to Paris. So was Ayoub El Khazzani, armed with an AK-47, a pistol, a box cutter and 300 rounds of ammunition.

‘I, Tonya’ – a white-trash winter wonderland of a movie

“I was loved. I was hated. Then I was a punchline.”

And then she was a movie, in which she is, well, a punchline.

“She” is Tonya Harding, a hard-luck Olympic ice skater who, for about 16 seconds in 1994, became world famous as the white-trash underdog who tried to take out America’s ice-princess sweetheart, Nancy Kerrigan.

‘Phantom Thread’ – Daniel Day Lewis in his last ‘fussy and mysterious’ role

With “Phantom Thread,” Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson have made precisely the movie they wanted to make.

This is not as easy as it may sound. The variables, in a performance or an entire film, are immense and notably intractable.  The sort of icy control evinced in “Phantom Thread” calls to mind that other master of sub-zero cinema, Stanley Kubrick.

‘Molly’s Game’ – in poker talk – movie is a royal straight flush

When everyone talks about movies with good roles for women, “Molly’s Game” is precisely the sort of movie they’re talking about. Brash, clever and bristling with sexy insider jargon, the film offers Jessica Chastain the kind of showcase most actors would kill for.

And she’s killer in the part.

Chastain plays Molly Bloom — no, not the Molly Bloom from James Joyce’s “Ulysses”  — but a real-life person. In fact, this Molly isn’t even Irish. She’s Russian Jewish, which comes in handy when she decides to poach some players from the highest-stakes poker game in New York, a legendary Brooklyn-based operation run by the Russian Mob.

‘The Post’ -Steven Spielberg wants us to believe in newspapers

The man who made us believe in man-eating Great Whites, homesick extraterrestrials and re-booted dinosaurs now wants us to take a real leap of faith.

Steven Spielberg wants us to believe in newspapers.

“The Post,” as in the Washington Post, is in many ways the sort of rousing old-fashioned newspaper movie they used to make in the ‘40s and’50s.  Tough-talking editors with rolled-up sleeves. Deadlines stretched to the breaking point. Hard-boiled reporters for whom dirty tricks are just business as usual when it comes to getting the story.

‘Wonder Wheel’ – an underwhelming Woody Allen movie

Time was, when Woody Allen delivered a clunker, you wondered, in what back drawer the screenplay had been sitting — and for how long.

With his deeply disappointing new film, “Wonder Wheel,” you wonder how long the script might have been sitting in Clifford Odets’ back drawer. Or Arthur Miller’s.

Yes, it’s that stale.

‘The Shape of Water’ – flows with Guillermo del Toro’s ‘poetic’ style

It would be easy to joke around and say “The Shape of Water” is like “Mad Men” meets “The Creature From the Black Lagoon” with a “Dr. Strangelove” gloss.

But Guillermo del Toro’s sublime fairy tale romance/Cold War commentary is so much more than that. It’s an utter original and not really what we would expect from the director of such memorable fantasy-tinged horror films like “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Devil’s Backbone.”

‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri’ – movie written for Frances McDormand

There are still those of us old enough to remember the sequential side-of-the-road billboards for Burma Shave or South of the Border. They were pseudo-cheeky, pretty stupid and, well, impossible to ignore. Even if you were going 80 mph.

In “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) takes something of the same approach. She rents three peeling billboards on a deserted road and plasters her own very personal message across them. In order, they read: Raped While Dying; And Still No Arrests; How Come, Chief Willoughby?

‘Lady Bird’ – a smart coming-of-age movie well worth seeing

Not surprisingly, a movie written and directed by Greta Gerwig, based on her own experiences as a high school senior, is a lot like a Greta Gerwig performance. It sneaks up on you. It’s sly, a little sideways, grudgingly poignant in places, and uproariously funny when you least expect it, 

Granted, Gerwig’s not exactly a household name (like, say, a judge on “Dancing With the Stars.”) But you’ve seen her — mostly in well-received indie movies like “France Ha,” “Maggie’s Plan” and “Mistress America.” You may not like any or all of her films (I don’t), but her work is always interesting. And I mean interesting in a good way, not in that uncomfortable I-know-I-should –like-this-but-I-just-don’t way.

‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ – a crowd-pleasing tale of Charles Dickens

Genial and inviting, “The Man Who Invented Christmas” has the same sort of old-fashioned appeal as Coca Cola’s iconic Santa Claus.

But this isn’t a story about Santa or the historical Saint Nicholas or even Clement Clark Moore, whose ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” filled our heads with sugar plums and eight tiny reindeer.

According to director Bharat Nalluri and writer Susan Coyne, the man who transformed Christmas from a minor holiday to a major phenomenon was none other than Charles Dickens.  And he did it by writing his immortal tale, “A Christmas Carol.”