• Screen Savor: Isn’t it pedantic?

    If Rebel Wilson, Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer aren’t getting hazard pay for the ridiculous number of pratfalls they take in their respective movies, then something is really wrong in Hollywood. In “Isn’t It Romantic” (WB), a self-conscious, meta-rom-com parody with big song and dance numbers, one of the spills taken by Natalie (Wilson) results in a serious head injury.
  • Screen Savor: McQueen of the Universe

    One of the many things for which the year 2018 will be remembered is the number of (mostly) good documentaries playing in theaters. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “RBG” are sure to be remembered as “best of” lists are compiled at year’s end. Both films are also shoo-ins for Oscar nominations. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the flawed “Whitney”.

  • Screen Savor: On-time Arrival

    As modern, non-traditional sci-fi flicks go, Arrival (Paramount), directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario and Enemy) and starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forrest Whitaker, touches down somewhere between Under the Skin and The Martian. Playing with the perception of time and memory, Arrival introduces the concept of quid pro quo as a means of negotiating with alien visitors in what is destined to become a zero sum game.

  • Screen Savor: Out of Hiding

    Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) offers some help to NASA mission specialist Karl Zielinski (Olek Krupa).

    Based on true events, “Hidden Figures” (Fox 2000), co-written/directed by Thomas Melfi (“St. Vincent”) is the kind of uplifting movie we so desperately need during this particular holiday season. Despite its unfortunate title (based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name), most of “Hidden Figures”may take place more than 50 years ago, but it remains as timely as ever. The film’s hot-button issues, including discrimination based on race and gender as well as strained relations with Russia, are sadly just as relevant today.

  • Screen Savor: Phantom Threads W/Trailer

    Just when you thought you’d seen everything the horror genre had to offer (thank you, Ari Aster!), along comes this little off-the-rack number, “In Fabric” (A24).

  • Screen Savor: Playing Favourites

    If you’ve seen any of award-winning Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos brilliantly twisted cinematic output, including 2015’s “The Lobster” and 2017’s “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”, then you know that he has been working his way towards his Golden Globe-nominated masterpiece “The Favourite” (Fox Searchlight) for a while.
  • Screen Savor: Seaside Sorrow

    Casey Affleck and Lucas Hedges in "Manchester by the Sea."

    Writer/director (and occasional actor) Kenneth Lonergan has an ear for dialogue and the proven ability to transfer the way in which people speak and interact with each other from the page to the screen. It was vividly on display in his 2000 film You Can Count On Me, for which he received an Oscar nomination.

  • Screen Savor: Sing Out!

    Theater owner Buster Moon (McConaughey) hosts a talent competition to save his theater in "Sing" by Illumination Entertainment

    There is nothing new about the 3D animated feature “Sing” (Illumination Entertainment).

    It’s a familiar and formulaic story lifted from any number of Hollywood or Broadway musicals. There’s a crumbling theater. There’s the theater’s owner, Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey), whose lifelong love of the stage and a mission to do well by a deceased parent is the driving force behind his drive to save said crumbling theater.

    Naturally, he has a bumbling assistant, the lizard Miss Crawly (voiced by co-director and writer Garth Jennings), whose carelessness leads to a potentially problematic financial situation.

    Additionally, you will find a rag-tag assortment of characters who share a dream to make it big as a performer, in this case as singers auditioning for a talent competition. Among those characters is Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly), an elephant with a deadly case of stage-fright. Another is Rosita (voiced by Reese Witherspoon), a sow whose sizable brood and neglectful husband, deprived her of the chance to fulfill her dream. There is also a prickly (literally) teenage music snob, punk porcupine Ash (voiced by Scarlett Johansen), and a lifelong troublemaker and Rat Pack-style crooning mouse Mike (Seth McFarlane). Johnny (voiced by Taron Egerton), the sensitive gorilla son of a criminal father, and Gunther (voiced by Nick Kroll), a pig for whom singing, dancing and hamming it up makes him squeal (literally) with joy.

    And yet, in spite of not being especially engaging, and coming off as a series of separate stories that didn’t completely coalesce, “Sing” is unquestionably entertaining. It feels like a direct descendant of other colorful 2016 animated films, including “Zootopia” and “The Secret Life of Pets” (the anthropomorphized animals) and “Trolls” (the use of mostly recognizable music). It’s the kind of movie where audience members break into spontaneous applause, as if the characters on screen could actually hear them.

    As you might have guessed from the title, “Sing,” there is singing, and also dancing, interwoven with the tears and trauma. Equally as essential as the music to “Sing” is the comedy. Buster’s best friend, a sheep named Eddie (voiced by John C. Reilly) often provides some of the best comic relief to be found. The scenes with Buster and Eddie’s rich and retired actress grandmother Nana (voiced by Jennifer Saunders) and the gut-busting car wash sequence, alone, are reason enough to see “Sing.”

  • Screen Savor: Skating Away

    Do two movies about teenage skateboarders released within months of the other in the same year qualify as a trend? What if both movies feature single mothers trying to keep their respective offspring out of harm’s way? If so, we have a trend.

  • Screen Savor: Take Five

    There are many things for which the year 2016 will be remembered, including one of the most divisive Presidential elections in the history of the United States. On the positive side, movies, long a reliable source of escapist entertainment didn’t disappoint. Considering that we will need plenty of this kind of pursuit in 2017 and beyond, here are my choices of the five best movies of 2016.

  • Screen Savor: This Woman’s Work

    “The Wife” (Sony Pictures Classics), Björn Runge’s movie adaptation of the novel by Meg Wolitzer (“The Interestings”), with a screenplay by award-winning lesbian screenwriter/director Jane Anderson, is a portrait of a partnership in decline.

  • Screen Savor: Unwelcome Wagon

    Gay writer and doc filmmaker David France has a knack for uncovering and bringing attention to subjects that deserve it. His 2004 book “Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal” shone a bright light on the priesthood sex scandal (including Boston) more than 10 years before the Oscar-winning movie “Spotlight.” France’s 2012 doc and subsequent 2016 book “How to Survive a Plague” took a unique approach to the subject of the AIDS crisis. His timely, and somewhat controversial doc, “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson,” from 2017 focused on the important role of the transgender community in the LGBT movement.

  • Screen Savor: What (Gay) Men Want

    Head injuries are no laughing matter. Just ask Eric Trump. Be that as it may, two movies opening in theaters a week apart – “What Men Want” (Paramount Players) and “Isn’t It Romantic” (to be reviewed in SFGN on Feb. 22), make light of the results of a painful blow to the crown.
  • Screen Savor: What price vice?

    Adam McKay is a filmmaker who likes gimmicks. They worked well for him in silly popular comedies such as 2004’s “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” and 2006’s “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby”.
  • Trek Sequel Boldly Goes 'Beyond,' Sparks Social Media Controversy

    As diehard “Trekkies” eagerly await the opening this weekend of “Star Trek Beyond,” the 13th film in the 50-year-old science fiction franchise, controversy over one of the characters is just simmering down.