5/22/2020

Movie Review: The Trip to Greece (2020)


Now Playing




First things first: Steve Coogan is okay. Last seen facing a cryptic and uncertain fate in North Africa at the end of the quixotic Trip to Spain, Coogan is alive and well and ready to impression battle another day with his offscreen friend/onscreen frenemy Rob Brydon in the fourth and final installment of director Michael Winterbottom's series, The Trip to Greece.

By design, of course, the structure remains the same. In each new eye-candy filled Trip, we watch in envy as the two actors indulge in six mouthwatering meals which take place in six out-of-this-world locations under the guise that they plan to write a book or article about their experience. However, as first evidenced saw in Winterbottom's brilliant sophomore entry The Trip to Italy and again in Spain and now Greece, the works are as singular as they are familiar.

Airing first in the UK as a miniseries before each venture is chopped down into the length of a film for distribution, the Trip titles, which pay tribute to the arts and culture synonymous with each setting, are much more than just picturesque travelogues for foodies.


Modeled on Homer's The Odyssey, just like its eponymous hero Odysseus took ten years to return home, The Trip to Greece finds precisely the right note upon which to end the series, especially given that — having started in 2010 — it's taken the screen exaggerated versions of Coogan and Brydon ten years to put away their suitcases and head home as well.

Cramming Odysseus' ten year journey into their six day trip from Troy to Ithaca, Greece layers in the dramatic themes of Homer's work — particularly with regard to mortality and a son's search for his father — into the film's otherwise, irresistibly funny trademark banter. Punctuated by many of the impressions we've seen in earlier entries as well as some wildly creative new material — Barry Gibb joins the party, Coogan and Brydon engage in dueling Dustin Hoffmans, and they fantasy cast Ray Winstone into Shakespeare — it's a great way to build on old gags while also giving us just enough surprises to ensure it isn't a straight up repeat.

Forever making me wonder just how on Earth anyone dining nearby doesn't immediately crack-up as they go from competitively trying to one-up the other man's impression to engaging in a friendly swim race since they are in the land that gave us the Olympics after all, Greece is as winning as it is thoughtful. And much like the other installments in the series, which has drawn worthwhile comparisons to Richard Linklater's Before trilogy starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, viewers hovering around middle age will unquestioningly relate to the topics and themes touched on throughout.


Gorgeously shot by veteran Trip lensman James Clarke, Greece is filled once again with the music of longtime Winterbottom collaborator Michael Nyman, whose introspective piano music from the original has become one of the series' richest motifs.

As a genuine fan, admittedly, I'm with Coogan and Brydon in hoping that one of my favorite film franchises will be revived in another decade or so (which kind of adheres to Before's schedule). However, if this is indeed the last hurrah, as series mastermind Michael Winterbottom believes it to be then — trapped halfway between comedy and tragedy, with both life and The Trip's Odyssey coming full circle — it's ending exactly the way it should. For whatever happens, this time you know that Coogan and Brydon will be okay and more than that, we're all the richer for having ventured along.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray Review: Blood on the Moon (1948)


Now Available




A stylized western that — with its shadowy cinematography from Out of the Past lensman Nicholas Musuaraca — has much more in common with Film Noir than the genre best epitomized by other 1948 releases Red River and Fort Apache, director Robert Wise's distaste for the western and determination to infuse his feature with gritty realism helps his unique Blood on the Moon straddle both worlds. A minor effort when compared to River and Apache by Howard Hawks and John Ford respectively, the largely forgotten Blood is given new life in this gorgeously crisp Blu-ray debut from Warner Archive, which arrives alongside another 1948 Robert Mitchum western, Rachel and the Stranger.

No stranger to Film Noir, including two shot by Musuaraca (Out of the Past and The Locket), the masculine complexity of the ego, id, and superego contained in the aura of Mitchum as soon as he enters the frame lends itself incredibly well to the existential side of the genre, which is pushed to the forefront of Moon. As Robert Wise recalls in the Robert Mitchum biography Baby, I Don't Care, this belief was also shared by Blood on the Moon star Walter Brennan, who Wise describes pointing a finger at the smoldering Mitchum on set and saying to friends, "that is the goddamndest realest cowboy I've ever seen."

Caught between two sides in a battle over land and cattle, after drifter turned hired gun Jim Garry (Mitchum) is enlisted to help his old trail driving partner Tate Riling (Robert Preston) in his war with rancher John Lufton (Tom Tully), he realizes he's been tricked into being a villain rather than a hero. Manipulating the ongoing battle between Lufton and local homesteaders, who foolishly believe that Riling is helping them in order to stand up for the underdog rather than just to position himself for power and glory, Blood on the Moon's warnings about the motives of aspiring leaders makes this film timelier than ever with its post-2016 release in an election year.


A house divided by loyalties in the form of Lufton's two daughters whom we discover have each pledged allegiance to a different side, after Mitchum gets involved with Barbara Bel Geddes — whom he first meets and flirts with by gunfire in a bananas sequence that uses a trick-shooting standoff as foreplay — he starts to reevaluate his position.

Adapted from the Luke Short novel Gunman's Chance by former script editor turned prolific Hollywood screenwriter Lillie Hayward, although there's nothing terribly original about the moral quandary laced narrative faced by Mitchum's Jim Garry on the page, Wise leans into the ambiguity heavily and turns this into a black, white, and shadowy tale of good and evil. Augmented by not only some bravura shootouts and stampedes but especially by its well-choreographed fight scenes, which foreshadow Wise's brilliant work directing West Side Story and The Sound of Music, although the former Orson Welles editor had helmed other pictures, you can tell how much the film he described as his "first big feature" meant to him when we watch Mitchum and Preston go ten rounds.

Not wanting "one of those extremely staged-looking fistfights used in all the movies where the stuntmen did this elaborate acrobatic fighting and you saw the real actors only in close-ups," he vowed to deliver a scene "with that awkward brutal look of a real fight," where "when it was done . . . the winner . . . [should] look as exhausted as the loser." Recalling Mitchum's excitement about the brawl, again in Baby, I Don't Care, Wise remarked that his leading man “probably knew more than I did about barroom fights like this one.” And while 1948 is a notorious year in Mitchum's life because incredibly, this film and Rachel and the Stranger did big business at the box office after his arrest and brief jail sentence for marijuana use, the films' success undoubtedly helped land him more roles in the genre he slipped into as naturally as a second skin.

A critical hit which scored well-earned raves from Variety and The New York Times, Blood on the Moon's unusually noirish approach to a western showed once again the amount of range exuded by its director. At the same time, of course, it also paints one fascinating portrait of Mitchum, reminding us that no matter what genre we see him in, he's always the most interesting thing onscreen, waging a battle over right and wrong that seems to flash in his eyes as one of "the goddamndest realest" complicated cinematic protagonists we've ever seen.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray Review: Tin Cup (1996)


Now Available




The way that driving range pro Roy McAvoy (Kevin Costner) sees it, all you need to win a game of golf is a trusty 7 iron — although a rake, a shovel, or a baseball bat will work in a pinch — and a dogged Don Quixote-like belief that when life hands you a defining moment, you define the moment or it defines you. And to Roy, there's no moment more loaded with existential questioning than when you're 230 yards away from the tee and the only thing standing in your way is a small body of water. Do you lay up or do you "grip it and rip it?"

Relying on instinct and adrenaline, most of the time he doesn't hesitate to grab his trusty 7 iron and "let the big dog eat," but after he meets and falls for beautiful "doctor lady" Molly Griswold (played by Rene Russo), he vows to prove to her that he isn't just a small time golf jock. Second-guessing his need to always put pride ahead of logic, especially when he discovers that her boyfriend is none other than his old college tour partner, the phony, smooth-as-silk professional golfer David Simms (Don Johnson), he sets off on a quest to win the U.S. Open, kick her boyfriend's ass, and of course, get the girl.


Reuniting with his magnetic Bull Durham star Kevin Costner at the height of the actor's fame as an internationally successful movie star in the 1990s following the The Bodyguard and Dances With Wolves, writer-director Ron Shelton's Tin Cup is much more than just the golf version of the now-contemporary classic comedy that launched his career.

Lighter and even more laid-back, while Bull Durham is perhaps the most intricate and sophisticated sports themed romcom in Shelton's filmography, this one gives us a chance to see Costner's goofy side as a man perhaps halfway between his in-control character in Durham and the one played by Tim Robbins, who was the exact opposite.

As articulate and highly verbal as ever, however, which gives Costner the chance to deliver some epic speeches penned by Shelton and his co-writer John Norville, what Roy McAvoy lacks in formal education, he makes up for with his honesty and earnestness in telling whomever is listening exactly what's on his mind at all times. Obviously unfamiliar with the concept of having a filter, whether he's telling Molly — who he first meets when she takes lessons at his driving range — to just give in and listen to that tuning fork that goes off in her loins or telling off David Simms when he caddies for him in a position that's short lived, Roy has no interest in playing anything safe.


Using sports as a metaphor for life, especially when it comes to dealing with the opposite sex or deciding what a certain golf shot says about him deep down, he and Molly make a tentative agreement to trade services, with him offering golf lessons in exchange for her help as a head doctor. Joining his best friend, trusty caddy, and swing doctor Romeo (a wonderful Cheech Marin) on the road as he wins one tournament after another to qualify for the Open, the two try to help Roy confront whatever it is about him that just refuses to play conservatively when there's an opportunity to assert his greatness.

Another fascinating look at gender and (especially) the competitiveness of straight men, both in terms of their athletic skill as well as when it comes to pursuing and possessing a member of the opposite sex, if you watch this film after Shelton's Bull Durham and White Men Can't Jump, these themes hit you as hard as a 7 iron to the head. Begging to be explored in greater detail, especially as part of an overall inventory that spans the rest of the sports-centric titles of Shelton's entire filmography, much like Sofia Coppola is drawn to the period in a girl's life when she comes into her own as a self-possessed woman, Shelton's dedication to the pride and pitfalls of athletic heterosexual American males is truly captivating.

And nobody brings these affably conflicted men to life quite like Kevin Costner, who trained with former professional golfer Gary McCord to play the game well enough that a majority of the swings and shots he makes onscreen are ones legitimately hit by Costner. The inspiration for the film's gut-wrenching — so painful it's funny — climactic golf sequence where Roy must decide once and for all just which shot to take and how that translates to the man he wants to be, Costner learned so much from McCord for his Golden Globe and New York Film Critics Circle nominated performance that he wrote the forward to McCord's book Golf For Dummies.


A true movie star turn in that it's filled with pathos and more going on just below the surface, even when the film's scenes threaten to be a little sitcomish, Costner leads by example and Tin Cup's terrific ensemble cast — well-balanced by Don Johnson as the anti-Roy — helps center Shelton's chaotic world overall.

Additionally known for writing some extraordinarily complex roles for his leading ladies, which — punctuated by the Preston Sturges like screwball rhythm of his dialogue — are often daffy but wise, Rene Russo's scene-stealing portrayal of Molly marks Ron Shelton's last great female character, and a worthy successor to Susan Sarandon in Bull Durham and Rosie Perez in White Men Can't Jump.

As much fun to watch on its own as it is back-to-back-to-back with a few other Shelton works, the 1996 romcom has recently been given a sharp, sunshine bright transfer to Blu-ray from Warner Archive at long last and for longtime fans, the difference in picture and sound is immediately apparent. From the witty country twang of the great singer-songwriter tunes on the soundtrack that play like a southwestern Greek chorus for our West Texas driving range pro to the discernible thwack of a club soaring through the wind on its way to connect with a ball that shoots out of one's back speakers, the impact of the sound easily matches the clarity of the Blu-ray image.

Don Quixote on the eighteenth hole of life in deciding what he wants to do as well as how to play the game, much like Roy McAvoy, Tin Cup digs in and doesn't let go until we're completely won over by its audacity, brashness, and charm.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Movie Review: The Painter and the Thief (2020)


Now Available




Trading an abusive ex who threatened to kill her in Berlin for a supportive husband in Norway, painter Barbora Kysilkova was eager to start fresh in a new country. Crafting two incredible pieces of art that were featured at the Gallery Nobel in Oslo in 2015, just as her career began to rise, the unthinkable happened as her two "most important" paintings were carefully removed from frames which had secured them with roughly two hundred nails and stolen in a brazen heist in broad daylight.

Both shocked and intrigued, after the two thieves were identified from the video footage and sentenced to seventy-five days in jail, Barbora went to the courthouse to meet the only robber who showed up for the trial in the form of an addict named Karl-Bertil Nordland, the so-called mastermind. Confessing that he'd been on a sleepless four day, amphetamine charged drug binge and had no idea what he'd done with the paintings after he made the impulsive decision to steal them, when Barbora asks him what it was about the two works that made him want to take them, an apologetic Karl-Bertil tells her simply, "they were beautiful."

Fascinated by one another, when she invites him to sit for a portrait she's suddenly inspired to paint, he cautiously agrees. Slightly suspicious of her motives, as the two begin to spend more time together, they form an unlikely bond that's as powerful as it is sudden, after Barbora breaks down the walls the private man — an intelligent, former special needs teacher with a traumatic past — has erected to protect himself when he breaks down in front of the portrait she's painted of him.


A contemplative, tender, and moving documentary that won the Special Jury Prize for Creative Storytelling at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, when Magnus documentarian Benjamin Ree set out to craft a film about art theft, he had no idea that it would evolve into an intimate, affecting study of friendship between two lonely souls who've been through so much.

Originally drawn to the topic because he felt that it could be a study of contrasts where “the socially elevated art industry with a lot of cultural capital meets 'lower-class' criminals with rough backgrounds,” once he read that Barbora had requested to paint her thief, he knew deep down that this was the right subject to pursue.

Initially capturing the two during what he estimates to be the fourth time they met, as he chronicled their relationship over the course of three years, Ree's thesis appears to have changed many times over. And to his credit, as captivated as the filmmaker is by the duo, we find that we are right there with him for each surprising twist in this study which proves yet again that fiction is no match for the unpredictability of facts.


From jaw-dropping pronouncements that catch up with our subjects later on, and are played back to us only after we find out what has happened to them, while sometimes we're slightly confused by the jumps forwards and backwards in time, we remain thoroughly engrossed from start to finish. Wanting to know more about key facts that were slid into the humanistic tapestry weaved by Ree, I found myself wishing that the film had been even longer, in order to better understand the two subjects.

Optimistic that the documentary will encourage people to take a good long look at their own stigmas and preconceptions and remind everyone that you can still be a good, kind person despite your troubles, Karl-Bertil's hope is well-executed in Ree's finished product, which makes you think long and hard about the duality of man and nature vs. nurture. And while I think that the dialogue would've been even more impactful if the film's subtitles were yellow since the small white type threatens to melt into the background of the scenes, the emotional work easily holds us in its thrall.

A soaring ode to the power of human connection, kindness, and empathy, as well as the ways in which art can heal us and bring us together by reaching inside to touch us on a level that can't be accessed with words alone, despite some of its narrative stumbles, this film is truly a balm. Making us wonder about the pasts of those whom we walk by on a daily basis, The Painter and the Thief is the type of movie we need right now to bring us together, making Ree's unpredictable documentary one of the most surprising, quietly arresting works I've seen so far in 2020.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Warner Archive Collection Blu-ray Review: Rachel and the Stranger (1948)


Now Available




Long before he looked at a woman's changing role in society after the advent of the sexual revolution and the Vietnam war found Jane Fonda's housewife in Coming Home questioning just which of two very different men she should be with, screenwriter Waldo Salt crafted another love triangle film that broke new ground in its no-nonsense depiction of a woman's role in society in the old west.

Adapted from the short story "Rachel" by Howard Fast, 1948's hit Rachel and the Stranger was one of the few westerns to take an honest look at the treatment of women who were bought and sold into indentured servitude.

A rough around the edges western with a sweet, slow burn love story at its center, the film from veteran RKO house director Norman Foster stars William Holden as Big Davey Harvey, a farmer in the market for a new wife and mother for his wild son (Gary Gray) after he loses his beloved bride to fever at age twenty-eight. Purchasing a new bride from the parson (played by Tom Tully), Big Davey is content to treat the "kinda thin but not bad lookin'" twenty-five year old Rachel (Loretta Young) like just a "bondwoman" but the parson tells him it wouldn't be proper for her to live with him unwed so Davey marries her out of Christian duty.


Uninterested in any kind of relationship because as far as he's concerned, he already had and lost the great love of his life, it's only when his friend Jim (Robert Mitchum) arrives, eyes the beautiful new woman, and offers to take her away that Davey gives her a second look and must figure out where he stands before it's too late.

Efficiently directed by Foster, whose background helming everything from Charlie Chan to Mr. Moto movies for RKO serves him well here as the love story moves into exciting western action territory in its final act, this fine character piece is elevated by the charisma of its leads, especially Young who imbues Rachel with an intelligence and mischief sorely needed by the otherwise straightforward plotline.

Given a few tongue-in-cheek lines which, for a majority of the film had been reserved for either Gray or Mitchum, Young has a terrific, still relatable moment when, after Mitchum asks her if she can play the spinet piano and Holden answers for her in the negative, she ignores it and admits she can. Startled by the discovery, Holden asks her why she never told him that before and she says simply, "you never asked," in a line read sure to hit home with women everywhere.


Lighting up in her eyes at Mitchum as he chides her with the inquiry, "is Big Dave the all-devastative and devoted husband he makes himself out to be?" Young's spark of interest lights a fire in the film, which, after struggling to absorb Holden's rudeness to his new wife, gets noticeably lighter whenever Mitchum enters the frame. And although he is a very supporting player in Rachel and the Stranger, his presence helps the work pick up the pace again after it threatened to go a little stagnant, thus ensuring Rachel never loses its way.

Working considerably well with the director, Loretta Young — who some believe started her famous swear jar for blasphemous curses on the set of this one for Holden and Mitchum — reteamed with Norman Foster a few years later on her TV series The Loretta Young Show, where he helmed twenty-nine episodes.

Rushed to theaters by RKO in order to capitalize on the publicity surrounding Robert Mitchum's marijuana drug bust and short jail sentence, much like 1948's other Mitchum starrer Blood on the Moon, Rachel and the Stranger turned a tidy profit for the studio.


A very welcome new take on the old west which dares not to sanitize the fact that women were bought and sold into slavery, although it's turned into a love story in Rachel, you have to give Salt, Fast, RKO, Foster, and Young credit for daring to explore this terrain in the first place. Given a marvelous transfer to Warner Archive Blu-ray, along with the unusually noirish western Blood on the Moon, which suggests that Mitchum was drawn to intriguing projects at the height of his fame, if you're looking for something that expands the western myth beyond riding and roping cowboys to include more of the female gender, this is one Stranger you'll be glad you brought home.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Movie Review: Military Wives (2019)


Now Playing on Hulu & VOD


Starting and disbanding a knitting club on the very first night it meets after it becomes extremely clear that they can't knit, in the new film from director Peter Cattaneo, the military wives of the fictional British military base of Flitcroft realize they must look for another way to pass the time while their husbands and partners are overseas in Afghanistan.

Taking the suggestion of a young, newly married arrivee on the base to start a singing club, much like the straight-laced company colonel's wife Kate (Kristin Scott Thomas) and Lisa (Sharon Horgan), the sergeant major's wife and laid-back new chair of the base's social committee disagree about everything else, they greatly differ in their approach to the new activity.

Threatening to make the choir as short-lived as the knitting club, whereas Kate wants to teach the women to sing by formal numbered scale, Lisa knows that the quickest way to improve morale and ease the women's minds is to get them lost in the words of a beloved pop song. Eventually putting egos aside and finding a happy medium between the two wildly different styles, as the voices of their diverse choir of women from all backgrounds begins to meld together in a lovely harmony, Kate and Lisa begin to discover that they are more alike than they are dissimilar.


A pleasant if predictable trifle written by Rachel Tunnard and Rosanne Flynn and now available on demand and for free on Hulu, the 2019 film is inspired by the formation of the very first military wives choir as well as the second one, which was chronicled in the popular British television series The Choir: Military Wives. Made with a clear market in mind, because that series struck such a chord with viewers that afterward, 75 choirs (serving 2,300 people) started to spring up on British military bases both in the U.K. and overseas, the film will undoubtedly appeal to members of the military and their families, regardless of the country for which they fight.

Constructed with the noblest of intentions, Wives benefits from its authentic surroundings and the research the screenwriters did in making sure they get the little details right when it comes to life on a military base. Yet as important as it is to pay tribute to the real sacrifices being made by the families of soldiers who don't receive nearly as much credit as they deserve for the vital role they play in serving their country, Military Wives is as bland as it is forgettable. Formulaic in terms of both its script development — which follows the three act structure to such an extent that you can almost set your watch by it — and when it comes to its prosaic characters, in the end, the reason Wives works as well as it does is thanks to its marvelous cast.

Giving the role of Kate more intriguing contradictions than can be found on the page, Kristin Scott Thomas is a master at thawing the edges of the specific brand of ice queen she frequently plays in order to shatter us in a wordless scene when she watches old home video footage of the son she'd lost on a previous military tour. Balancing out Kate and helping to give the film buoyancy when it needs it most, the lively, effortlessly funny Sharon Horgan spars very well with Scott Thomas and propels the movie forward towards the women's inevitable "big show" at the Royal Albert Hall.


Supremely skilled in the subgenre of dramedy, as evidenced throughout his filmography where his ensemble casts of characters frequently find themselves through the performing arts — from striptease in The Full Monty to theater in the underrated Lucky Break or music once again in his American crossover attempt The Rocker, director Peter Cattaneo's steady hand keeps everything afloat and makes the shallow work seem deeper than it actually is.

Still an altogether amiable picture, if you don't go in with the highest of expectations, a burning desire to really connect with the characters beyond the periphery, or the hope that you'll think about it much — if at all — when it's over, Military Wives plays very well as an adequate time waster made with assembly line efficiency.

Hitting all of the notes you'd expect it to, Wives follows the paradigm that's been practically sewn into our DNA thanks to generations of underdog stories made by the House of Mouse and others since their rise in the 1970s. And while it's great that military wives are being celebrated onscreen, in the end, Wives' narrative success is as short-lived as its filmic knitting club, which reaffirms my belief that the movie would've been better off as an original solo instead of a mere duet of everything else that came before it.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

5/07/2020

Movie Review: How to Build a Girl (2019)


Now Playing



Even before sixteen-year-old Johanna Morrigan (Beanie Feldstein) grabbed a box of red hair dye so bright it could be seen from space in order to reinvent herself as firebrand rock critic Dolly Wilde, she was the very definition of "extra" and proud of it. In fact, as we learn at the start of How to Build a Girl, the precociously bright Wolverhampton girl seemed to operate under the assumption that you should never do less when more is available.

Turning in thirty-three page essays in place of the five required by her assignment, Johanna not only didn't know when to say when but long before she started spending her time going to rock clubs, carousing, and writing all night before she woke up minutes later for school, she loved to burn the candle at both ends.


Indulging in rich fantastical conversations with figures like Sylvia Plath (Lucy Punch) and Sigmund Freud (Michael Sheen) who come to life on her "God Wall" partition that splits the room she shares with her loyal brother Krissi (Laurie Kynaston) right down the middle, when her piece on the Annie soundtrack gets her foot in the door at a local newspaper, Johanna breaks the damn thing down.

Invited there as part of a bet because nobody could believe that someone would write with such earnest passion about a children's musical, after an imaginary pep talk from Bjork, Johanna sets out to prove to her new colleagues, family, and classmates that instead of the nerdy girl with glasses who lives in her head, she is an iconoclastic early ‘90s woman of action.

Given additional courage, thanks to a nine pound makeover with hair dye, dark second hand clothes (including a top hat which will become her signature), and that new wild pseudonym Dolly Wilde, in How to Build a Girl, Johanna Morrigan makes good on her name and forgets who she truly is in the process.


Knowing that cynicism and snark sells and eager to provide for her cash-strapped family, she goes from writing sweet, sensitive pieces about music and the artists she loves (including Alfie Allen's dreamy John Kite) to take down hits that earn her the "Asshole of the Year Award" before reality and remorse catches up with her.

A shallow yet deeply cynical film masquerading as a tender coming-of-age story based on the semiautobiographical novel by Caitlin Moran and adapted by the author, though it has everything in the world going for it, How to Build a Girl is as authentic as a box of hair dye and as in flux as our leading lady when it comes to its sudden lurches in rhythm and tone.


Tenuous and inconsistent, although it takes a cue from Britcoms like the Bridget Jones series (which has producers in common with this one) in its initial set-up, the movie from acclaimed, award-winning small screen director Coky Giedroyc has as many walls up as Johanna has "gods" on that partition in Wolverhampton.

Unwilling to delve beyond the surface of our lead character's ever-changing facade, for a majority of the first act, we're asked to laugh at Johanna rather than with her. And though a top-notch Feldstein is the highlight of the picture, Girl only endears Johanna to us in a gorgeous sequence when she spends a romantic day in Dublin with Allen and lets down her guard to show both him and us who she really is. Unfortunately, the effect is short-lived, as just like Wilde, the movie seesaws so quickly and so improbably that — rather than a realistic portrait of Johanna's struggle to find herself during adolescence — it feels like a bad cliché at the expense of teenage girls as opposed to in celebration of them.


Never seeing the forest for the trees, How to Build a Girl focuses so intently on individual moments — and with its first rate cast and amazing soundtrack it does land some great ones — that it doesn't bother to question whether it flows organically from one scene to the next. And this problem is magnified tenfold by the film's end, which wraps everything up in a thoroughly unearned bow, mere minutes after the increasingly dark film finds Johanna hitting a dangerous rock bottom in a sequence that comes out of nowhere and is cheapened by a jolt of humor, which is sure to confuse young girls who might be watching.

An all-around misfire that should've been right up my alley as a precocious young nerd who tried to grow up too quickly in her '90s teen years and join the writing world as well, perhaps one of the reasons I was so utterly disappointed by Girl is because I went in assuming I'd see, if not me than others I could relate to, and left shaking my head at just how many opportunities were missed. From randy colleagues who proposition her with come-ons and casual sexual harassment — resulting in one very funny scene when Johanna sits on a man's lap and gives him the opposite of what he wanted — to becoming the morally torn breadwinner of her family, there were endless areas that the film could've planted a flag in and explored.


More like playing a rock critic for Halloween than shadowing a real one for a day, while it's one thing to barely touch on what life is like as a professional writer, the thing I can't forgive is that it does the same thing for the teenage girls it's purporting to salute. Going for more, more, more, just like Johanna even before she went Wilde, eventually we realize that the more Moran and Giedroyc throw onto the the pile, the less we care about the girl who should be so much more interesting than those fire engine red roots which ultimately serve as a placeholder for a personality and a character in search of a film.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

5/06/2020

Movie Review: A Good Woman is Hard to Find (2019)


Now Playing




As Sarah (Sarah Bolger) discovers in Abner Pastoll's razor edged new thriller A Good Woman is Hard to Find, sometimes when you grab a vibrator, you really need a knife and other times you find that an axe works so much better than a saw.

A recently widowed mother of two young children whose husband was murdered on the sidewalk outside of their North Ireland housing estate in a shocking crime that has rendered the only living witness — her six-year-old son — mute with fear and anxiety, Sarah tries to keep her head down and focus on what's directly in front of her at all times.


Faced with a series of dead-ends from grocery bills she can barely afford to authorities who try to convince her that her husband was a drug dealer instead of an innocent victim, her problems collide head-on when Tito (Andrew Simpson), a low level dealer, rips off a notorious local gangster and forces himself inside her apartment.

Using her bathroom to stash the dope he'd just stolen, he threatens the frightened young mother into compliance, saying he'll give her a cut of whatever he sells as long as he can keep the gear there. Not the type of woman to go to the police, especially when they're already suspicious about her husband and that could lead directly to social services, Sarah stays quiet, and enjoys one carefree day of grocery shopping before reality sets in at night when Tito returns and a shocking confrontation results in the foul play alluded to in the film's opening scene.


Using the building blocks of a "caught between a rock and a hard place" neo-noir, where screenwriter Ronan Blaney's economical storytelling reveals only what we must know to move from one scene to the next, A Good Woman is Hard to Find plays a lot like Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher trilogy . . . if the women in the series were given more to do than play strippers or whores.

Vibrating on a frequency that pitches out from the speakers and straight into your chest, Matthew Pusti's driving techno throb of a score takes the Refn homage even further as certain sequences — including the one where Tito stages his big snatch and grab by car — feel like they could've been scored by frequent Refn composer Cliff Martinez.


More than just a tribute, however, the soundtrack enhances the film's clever visual motif. Balancing its docudrama style lensing by day with the more lurid, glossily red and dark tone filled hues of cinematographer Richard C. Bell's camera at night, which gives the film its own brutal yet vulnerable glow, we watch Sarah try to navigate the increasingly hazardous situation she's in with her wits or whatever weapon she can get her hands on before it's too late. And though it is not for the faint of heart, Pastoll's searing thriller transcends the easy exploitative side of the genre, thanks to a courageously controlled turn by Bolger.

Believably underplaying her reactions like a mom trying not to alarm her children into thinking they need to try to solve a problem she's still trying to figure out, as she moves from vibrator to knife to axe to saw, it's easy to predict that when Andrew Simpson or Edward Hogg's pushers come to shove, this is one Good Woman who won't go gently into that good night.


Text ©2020, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reservedhttps://www.filmintuition.com  Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  Also, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made off my site through ad links. FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.