Entries by Eleanor Ringel

‘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.

‘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.”

‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ – an ode-to-England piece that gets it right

Well, you may not “fwoe up” as Dorothy Parker so famously wrote in her book review of “The House at Pooh Corner.”

But you might come close.

Well-intentioned as it is, “Goodbye Christopher Robin” could put a Pooh Lover off Winnie-the-Pooh permanently.

A.A. Milne’s much-loved children’s books have been required bedtime reading for generations of children (and, let’s face it, many adults).  Written in the aftermath of World War I, the adventures of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and, of course, Christopher Robin have as firm a place in classic literature as “Alice in Wonderland” or “Peter Pan.”

‘Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’ – good performances in ‘mish-mash’ movie

The mish-mash that is “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women” isn’t likely to take the wind out of the sales of this summer’s grrrl-power blockbuster 

In fact, it isn’t likely to do much of anything.

It’s an origin story. A true one, apparently. Sometime in the late ‘30s-early’40s, a Harvard psychologist named William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) dreamed up the super-heroine best known for her star-spangled costume, her golden lasso and – most importantly for this picture’s purposes – her handcuffs.

‘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.