Screen Savor

  • Screen Savor: “20th Century Women” is a Wasted Opportunity

    “20th Century Women”(A24) is such a major disappointment; it’s almost difficult to put it into words. In fact, it’s hard to believe that this chaotic mess is the work of writer/director Mike Mills, the man behind the Oscar-winning 2010 gay movie “Beginners.” Where that movie was effortlessly balanced and emotionally on the level, “20th Century Women”is sloppy, forced and unpleasant. It’s a complete waste of the talents of Annette Bening, on par with Ryan Murphy’s abysmal “Running With Scissors.”

  • Screen Savor: “Monster,” Inc.

    When Oscar (Connor Jessup) was a little boy, instead of telling him a bedtime story, his father Peter (Aaron Abrams) would give him a “dream.” As he made up the dream for Oscar’s sleep, Peter would also blow up a balloon, hold the opening to Oscar’s forehead and let the air escape. This is a wonderful image and not the most surreal one in “Closet Monster” (Strand Releasing) by a long shot.

  • Screen Savor: (Un)planned parenthood

    There are some movies that, if possible, need to be seen within the first week of opening. Often, they are movies with unexpected twists and surprises that are difficult to keep secret. “The Crying Game”, from 1992, was one of the best examples of that. “Tully” (Focus), which reunites “Juno”’s director Jason Reitman and Oscar-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody with their “Young Adult” star Charlize Theron, is another such movie.

  • Screen Savor: A rupture in time

    Just a few years before Jake Gyllenhaal broke our hearts as Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain, he was seriously messing with our minds in 2001’s “Donnie Darko” (Arrow), newly reissued in a 4K Blu-ray special edition theatrical cut. Gyllenhaal, no stranger to taking on bizarre content (see 2013’s Enemy), not only set the bar higher for himself with this Richard Kelly movie, but also for all other films of this ilk.

  • Screen Savor: Being neighborly

    Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville has a talent for making riveting documentaries about unexpected subjects. He took home an Oscar for 2013’s “Twenty Feet from Stardom”, about the lives of backing vocalists, and 2015’s critically acclaimed “Best of Enemies” was an intimate portrait of the contentious relationship between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley. Neville’s Mr. Rogers doc,”Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” (Focus), joins Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s “RBG” and Jeffrey Schwarz’s “The Fabulous Allan Carr” among the best documentaries of the year so far.

  • Screen Savor: Bird on a wire

    Greta Gerwig may lack range as an actress, but it’s possible that her real talent lies behind the camera instead of in front of it. With “Lady Bird” (A24), her second full-length feature film as writer/director (and first since she co-wrote and co-directed the 2008 mumblecore movie Nights and Weekends), Gerwig joins the ranks of acclaimed female filmmakers such as Jill Soloway, Nicole Holofcener, Dee Rees, Lisa Cholodenko, Gillian Robespierre and Sofia Coppola.

  • Screen Savor: Black and blue

    At the risk of offending every comic book geek across the globe, the truth is, Black Panther (Marvel Studios) is a self-indulgent, formulaic, overly long origin story that is a declawed disappointment. Borrowing liberally from “Wonder Woman”, “The Lion King” and the James Bond series, “Black Panther” is surprisingly unoriginal and toothless.

  • Screen Savor: Brad's Status

    It looks like 2017 could be the year that queer screenwriter and director Mike White (“Year of the Dog”) might just get his first Academy Award nomination and may even take home an Oscar. White, who also has the smudge of “The Emoji Movie” on his screenplay resume, along with outstanding films such as “School of Rock” and “The Good Girl,” wrote director Miguel Arteta’s 2017 film “Beatriz at Dinner,” which has received raves from critics and audiences alike.

  • Screen Savor: Breathing lessons

    It’s probably not fair to compare actor Andy Serkis’ directorial debut “Breathe” (Bleecker Street) with the Oscar-winning “The Theory of Everything,” but people will. Both films are based on true stories. Both films deal with young British men who develop significant disabilities in the prime of life. Both films are about the power of love and the strength of the human spirit to overcome the odds. Unfortunately, when comparing both films, it’s “Breathe” that will come up short (of breath).

  • Screen Savor: Bred in the bone

    Beginning with 2014’s terror double-whammy of “The Babadook” and “It Follows", the big-screen horror genre has been undergoing a thrilling transformation. The trend continued with 2015’s “The Witch” and 2018’s “Annihilation”. With the arrival of “Hereditary” (A24), it would appear that this new breed of horror is here to stay. Sure, there will always be more traditional scary movies such as 2017’s “It”, but this exciting new take on a classic variety of cinema is a welcome addition to the oeuvre.

  • Screen Savor: Brokeback farm

    With “God’s Own Country” (Samuel Goldwyn Films/Orion), out actor turned writer/director Francis Lee has crafted one of the most impressive, if somewhat unsettling, debut features of 2017. As the sun rises over the main house of a farm in Yorkshire, England, we hear and then see Johnny (Josh O’Connor) vomiting into a toilet. He’s sick from binge-drinking the night before and his mother Deidre (Gemma Jones) lets Johnny know that he kept her and his father Martin (Ian Hart) up half the night with his being sick.

  • Screen Savor: Call me maybe

    “Call Me by Your Name” (Sony Pictures Classics), gay director Luca Guadagnino’s movie adaptation of Andre Aciman’s 2007 novel of the same name, with a screenplay by gay filmmaker James Ivory, couldn’t have come at a more complicated time. There’s no way to avoid the fact that the film’s central story – a sexual and romantic relationship between two young men, ages 17 and 24, is the kind of thing that keeps evangelicals up at night.

  • Screen Savor: Count to three

    In writer/director Martin McDonagh’s Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-nominated “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (Fox Searchlight), grieving, coveralls-wearing mother Mildred (Francis McDormand) will do almost anything to find the person who abducted, raped and murdered her daughter Angela (Kathryn Newton) seven months earlier. Renting three weathered billboards, on a foggy stretch of road, that haven’t been updated since1986 becomes her latest attention-grabbing plan.

  • Screen Savor: Crazy about it

    Intentional or not, Steven Soderbergh’s psychological horror film “Unsane” (Bleecker Street), shot on an iPhone 7, comes across as an homage to Brian DePalma, complete with the casting of Amy Irving (who starred in DePalma’s “Carrie” and “The Fury”). Think about “Dressed to Kill”’s commentary on psychiatry. The way “Blow Out” manipulated perceptions and versions of the truth. The obsessive behavior in, you guessed it, “Obsession.”

  • Screen Savor: Creature feature

    A near seamless melding of classic sci-fi/fantasy and contemporary cinematic effects, presented from a modern perspective, Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water” (Fox Searchlight) is a story of “love, loss and the monster who tried to destroy it all,” set during the 1960’s Cold War era. Mute Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a “princess without voice,” lives upstairs of a movie theater in Baltimore. An orphan whose voice box was cut when she was a baby, Elisa has a special friendship with gay next-door neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins in a performance worthy of a Best Supporting Actor nod), a freelance commercial illustrator who is the “proverbial starving artist.”

  • Screen Savor: Dog is love

    Wes Anderson takes the stop-motion animation light and magic of the Oscar-nominated “Fantastic Mr. Fox” to a whole new level with his visually captivating new movie “Isle of Dogs” (Fox Searchlight/Indian Paintbrush). Set 20 years in the future in the Japanese archipelago of Megasaki City, where corrupt, wealthy, domineering and cat-loving mayor Kobayashi (voiced by Kunichi Nomura) – think Putin + Trump – plans to entirely eliminate the canine population.

  • Screen Savor: Fade to black

    First things first. Fatih Akin’s “In The Fade” (WB/Magnolia) is not the best foreign language film of 2017. “BPM (Beats Per Minute)”, about the birth of ACT UP in Paris in the late 1980s, deserves that honor. Nevertheless, “In The Fade,” which is racking up awards, including a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice, award, among others, certainly qualifies as one of the best foreign films of the year.

  • Screen Savor: Fathers’ days

    In case you missed it, there appears to be a new movie trend in the works this spring. Single dads raising teenagers. First there was gay filmmaker Andrew Haigh’s “Lean On Pete”. The forthcoming “Eighth Grade” features a single dad and his daughter. Presently, we have Brett Haley’s “Hearts Beat Loud” (Gunpowder & Sky).

  • Screen Savor: Feat of Strength

    Stronger (Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions) is the second big-screen Hollywood dramatization of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, following 2016’s Patriots Day. Like that film, Stronger doesn’t shy away from the gruesome details, while also providing a relatable portrait of what it means to be Boston Strong.

  • Screen Savor: Florida rules

    It’s not an exaggeration (or an insult) to say that filmmaker Sean Baker has been obsessed with sex in his last few films. “Starlet,” from 2012, focused on the unlikely friendship between two women, one of whom was a young porn actress, while 2015’s “Tangerine,” shot entirely on an iPhone, centers on a transgender hooker.