movie review

  • Screen Savor: 'The Last Word’ Left Me Speechless In A Bad Way

    Harriet Lauler (Shirley MacLaine), the main character in “The Last Word” (Bleecker Street), likes to have, well, the last word. A successful and wealthy retired businesswoman in her early 80s, Harriet made a name for herself, running her own ad agency at a time when it wasn’t as common as it is now.

    Unfortunately, during her career and lifetime, she didn’t just burn bridges, she blew them up beyond repair. It’s been years since she talked to her daughter Elizabeth (Anne Heche). The same holds true for her ex-husband Edward (Philip Baker Hall), as well as her hairdresser, her priest and practically anyone else with whom she came in contact throughout her lifetime.

    Depressed and living alone in her large and beautifully appointed home, Harriet bides her time by harassing her gardener and her cook/housekeeper. After a failed “accidental” suicide attempt involving four Clonazepam and a bottle of red wine, Harriet reevaluates her life after sopping up another wine spill with the obituary page of the newspaper.

    She reaches out to newspaper publisher Ronald (Tom Everett Scott), who owes her a debt of gratitude, for an introduction to his obit writer Anne (Amanda Seyfried). Harriet then enlists Anne to write an obit befitting someone of her stature. However, not a single person has anything nice to say about her. It is then that Harriet, with Anne by her side, sets out to right as many wrongs as possible.

    Along the way, she attempts to patch things up with Elizabeth and Edward. She finds an “underprivileged” child, Brenda (AnnJewel Lee Dixon), and makes it her mission to improve her life. She gets a DJ slot at Anne’s favorite college radio station, thereby making an impact on the lives (and ears) of others. She also plays cupid with Anne and station manager Robin (Thomas Sadoski).

    Full of hokey life lessons and a series of manipulative moments that we can see coming for miles, “The Last Word” starts out promisingly enough, but soon stoops to Lifetime movie level. One can only hope that there are better roles out there for MacLaine, who makes the most of a mediocre situation, and that The Last Word won’t be her last movie. Rating: C

  • 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: “Before I Fall,” Not Falling for It

    SFGN’s critic rates “Before I Fall” a C+

  • Screen Savor: “Get Out” for Laughs and Shocks

    Don’t be put off by the “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” meets “The Stepford Wives/Rosemary’s Baby” vibe of “Get Out” (Universal), because Jordan Peele’s mind-blowing debut as writer AND director, is so much more. It’s a smart comedy, a reverent and referential horror flick, and it’s a meaningful statement about race in the age of Trump. It’s also the first step to forgiving Peele for 2016’s abysmal “Keanu.”

  • 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: #BlackLivesMatter

    It’s been said that timing is everything. Raoul Peck’s James Baldwin doc “I Am Not Your Negro,” opening in theaters in the wake of Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis’ public feud with President Trump, is proof positive of that. Owing as much to recent film such as “Selma” and “Birth of a Nation” as it does to “Hidden Figures” and “13th,” “I Am Not Your Negro” is required viewing.

  • Screen Savor: A “Free Fire” in the Belly

    Sam Peckinpah meets Quentin Tarantino with a splash of Martin Scorsese in Ben Wheatley’s bullet-riddled and chaotic (and thankfully brief) shoot `em up “Free Fire” (A24). Set in an abandoned Boston factory in the late 1970s, Free Fire is what happens when a black-market arms deal goes awry.

  • Screen Savor: A Monster Calls in ‘Colossal’

    Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis have "Colossal" problems. (Neon)

    “Colossal”(Neon) is a monster movie that has as much to do with inner demons as it does with the physical manifestations of those with the power and determination to level a city the size of Seoul, South Korea. A very adult take on “A Monster Calls,” writer/director Nacho Vigalondo’s “Colossal” has a lot to say about women, men and alcohol abuse.

  • Screen Savor: Say Oui to “Paris 05:59”

    “Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo” (Europa/Epicentre), co-written and co-directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau is a timely and sensitive reminder of the current state of things in the world of gay sex. The lengthy, erotically-charged and sexually graphic opening sequence takes place in a sex club where the red-lit lower level is swarming with writhing naked men engaging in various sex acts.

  • Screen Savor: Sense and Sensibility

    SFGN’s Gregg Shapiro rates the film adaptation of “The Sense of an Ending” a B-

  • Screen Savor: T2 Trainspotting Is Spot On

    It’s been 20 years since the last time we saw unrepentant junkie and thief Mark (Ewan McGregor) in the original Edinburgh-set “Trainspotting.” At that time, he was waffling between addiction and sobriety. Even in that condition he had enough clarity to screw his best friends Simon aka Sick (Jonny Lee Miller), gentle Spud (Ewen Bremner) and violent-tempered Franco (Robert Carlyle) out of a massive sum of money in a drug deal scam.

  • Screen Savor: Table 19 is a Wedding Crusher

    If you’ve ever wondered what became of the early 21st century cinematic genre known as mumblecore (and who among us hasn’t?), a hokey style that launched the career of Greta Gerwig (gee, thanks!), you need look no further than Table 19 (Fox Searchlight). Co-written by mumblecore progenitors and brothers Jay Duplass and Mark Duplass, "Table 19" is one of the most unappealing rom-coms in recent memory.

  • Screen Savor: The Zookeeper’s Wife is No Zootopia

    In the pantheon of holocaust cinema, “The Zookeeper’s Wife” (Focus) isn’t as powerful or epic as “Schindler’s List,” but neither is it as dreadful as “The Boy In The Striped Pajamas.” Landing somewhere in between, the film, based on the book by Diane Ackerman, tells the true story of the titular Antonina Żabińska (played by Jessica Chastain), and her husband Jan (Johan Heldenbergh), and their roles in the Polish underground resistance during World War II.

  • Screen Savor: What’s Not So Funny

    Remember that movie “Danny Collins”where Al Pacino played the washed-up rock star trying to make amends for his bad behavior? Don’t worry, neither does anyone else. Similarly, “The Comedian”(Sony Pictures Classics) may meet the same fate. In the tradition of unfunny movies about comedians (see the Tom Hanks/Sally Field flop “Punchline” and Adam Sandler’s “Funny People”), “The Comedian”is short on laughs and long on scenery chewing.