cinema

Audrey Kupferberg: Zaza

Jun 16, 2017

Looking over the current crop of films available in theaters or on home screens, it is worth noting that a number of screen veterans are back in the spotlight, adding a strong late act to their respective careers.   Richard Gere is receiving very positive reviews as the complex and quirky title character in NORMAN.  Shirley MacLaine has scored points in WILD OATS and THE LAST WORD. Susan Sarandon,  Jessica Lange, and Christopher Plummer are among the veteran actors who also continue to have active careers. 

Rob Edelman: Hitchcock On A Lifeboat

Jun 12, 2017

For years, I’ve been keeping up with the newest films for reasons that are as much work-related as for the thrill of discovery. However, if I choose a film to see and savor just for pleasure, my choice likely would be one that is older than I am. Often, it will be much older... and this brings me to Alfred Hitchcock.

These days, the majority of theatrical films that come out of Hollywood are fashioned for children, teens, or twenty and perhaps thirty-somethings. The reason for this is obvious. They are the core consumers who abandon their TV sets and computers and willingly pay to watch a new movie at the local mall. But how do film producers lure the older viewer, the aging Baby Boomer, to the movie theater? Should this segment of the population simply be ignored? Will it be assumed that they are content merely to couch-potato it at home, gaze at the endless drug ads that overpopulate their TV screens, and spend all their savings on the latest medical miracles? Or are filmmakers willing to produce product that just may be of special interest to older viewers?

Rob Edelman: The Misuse Of Power

May 29, 2017

ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL is yet one more telling documentary that reflects on the misuse of power in contemporary America, and who specifically gets singled out for the alleged misuse of power. It has just been released theatrically, and it is well-worth seeing and contemplating.

Rob Edelman: Lost Cities On Screen

May 22, 2017

In recent years, so many filmmakers establish themselves by writing and directing eye-opening independently-funded films that are issue-oriented, or that feature challenging characters and top-notch storytelling. Inevitably, some-- but not all-- graduate to big-budget Hollywood product that are loaded with special effects. Why does this happen? Is it because these filmmakers are film artists who yearn to expand their creativity? Or is it all about money? These days, the high-profile special effects-laden films that sacrifice storytelling and character development are the ones that usually lasso in more viewers and bigger bucks during their theatrical play. A film in which storytelling is king, no matter how well-reviewed that film is, will at best draw in a fraction of viewers.

HOME FIRES is an ITV series about British villagers who fight World War II in Cheshire—with an emphasis on the woman’s role in fighting war on the home front.  Season two recently completed airing on American PBS stations.  The episodes of seasons one and two reportedly drew good ratings here and abroad.  And why not?  The scripts favor strong characters—particularly strong female characters—and there is plenty of action and emotional turmoil which escalates from episode to episode. 

Rob Edelman: Five Came Back

May 15, 2017

Once upon a time-- 1939, to be exact-- FIVE CAME BACK was the title of a now-long-forgotten melodrama about a bunch of plane crash survivors who are stranded in a jungle. One of its cast members was a very pre-I LOVE LUCY Lucille Ball.

Rob Edelman: The Penguin Counters

May 8, 2017

So far in 2017, the vast majority of new films I’ve seen have been disappointing and instantly forgettable, if not downright awful. I’ll skip citing the truly dreadful titles. However, even those that have some value are deeply flawed.

Audrey Kupferberg: World War I On Film

Apr 25, 2017

It has been exactly 100 years since the United States entered World War I.  To commemorate the event, PBS recently debuted THE GREAT WAR, a 6-hour documentary as part of its ongoing American Experience series.  It was called The Great War back then, because nobody had the farsightedness to predict that there would be a Second World War.  In addition to this nonfiction interpretation of the war, two feature films offering very different accounts of the Great War have been made available.

Rob Edelman: Hail YouTube

Apr 17, 2017

The recent passing of Mary Tyler Moore led me to watch-- and savor-- episodes on YouTube of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, her classic early-1960s TV sitcom. At this time, Mary Tyler Moore was one of the most beloved and respected women in America. She exuded a “Camelot”-style class and, in this regard, was second only in popularity to Jacqueline Kennedy.

Rob Edelman: Special Effects, 1930s-Style

Apr 10, 2017

These days, so many movies rely on special effects to draw in and dazzle audiences. But onscreen effects are not late-20th or early-21st-century phenomena. For indeed, they have evolved across the decades. You can go back to the 1930s, for example, and marvel at the effects employed in such classic films as SAN FRANCISCO, THE GOOD EARTH, and the original KING KONG. Respectively, they feature eye-opening images of Clark Gable and Jeanette MacDonald surviving the 1906 San Francisco earthquake; Paul Muni, Louise Rainer, and a locust plague in China; and, most famously, the title ape toying with Fay Wray while cavorting atop the Empire State Building.

Rob Edelman: The Brand New Testament

Apr 3, 2017

I see countless films at festivals and press screenings and during their theatrical runs. But I do not see every film. So when I discover and am enamored of a title that I somehow had missed, it is an extra-special treat. One such film is THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT, directed by Belgian filmmaker Jaco Van Dormael, which has just been released to home entertainment.

Rob Edelman: Stephen K. Bannon, Filmmaker

Mar 27, 2017

To many, Steve Bannon, who appears to be President Donald Trump’s confidante and right-hand-man, is a mystery man. Now sure, he has been endlessly cited in the media but, still, the question of the moment remains: Who exactly is Steve Bannon?

Audrey Kupferberg: London Road And Happy Street

Mar 17, 2017

The film version of the hit British stage musical London Road, written by Alecky Blythe, recently was made available to home markets.  Both the play and its screen version are performed in an unusual and rather surprising form of musical entertainment called verbatim theatre.  This approach to musical theater, and as it extends to film musicals, presents interpretations of true events in a documentary style.  The lyrics are constructed from words spoken by the real-life participants.  The music reflects the inflections of the voices which originally spoke the words.   Most likely, viewers will not go to sleep humming the tunes of LONDON ROAD.

Rob Edelman: Biography And Truth

Mar 13, 2017

This past year, as in just about every recent year, a spate of films have been released which purport to chart the lives of real people. A list of biopics from 2016 only begins with FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS and JACKIE, HACKSAW RIDGE and HANDS OF STONE and HIDDEN FIGURES, LOVING and LION, SOUTHSIDE WITH YOU and SULLY and SNOWDEN, DENIAL and GENIUS, RULES DON’T APPLY and THE BIRTH OF A NATION and so many others. Plus, the new year has started off with THE FOUNDER.

Rob Edelman: Tom Hanks, 2016

Mar 6, 2017

Among actors who are decades past their twentysomething years, Tom Hanks remains a popular and even iconic movie star. Last year, Hanks toplined three mainstream films, each directed by a name filmmaker. None were outstanding. None were Academy Award-worthy. Two were at best nicely done and one was hugely disappointing but, taken together, all three offer thoughtful reflections of our world and our culture in 2016 and the new year.

Rob Edelman: Robert De Niro, Comedian

Feb 27, 2017

I was initially intrigued by the idea of seeing and hopefully enjoying THE COMEDIAN, the latest Robert De Niro film, in which he plays an aging, foul-mouthed insult comic. Other bonuses surely would be its attractive supporting cast, from Danny De Vito to Cloris Leachman, Charles Grodin to Edie Falco to Patti LuPone. Not to mention Harvey Keitel, who appeared with De Niro an eternity ago in MEAN STREETS and TAXI DRIVER. And then there are the famous faces and names-- the most prominent is Billy Crystal-- who show up as themselves.

Rob Edelman: Oscars and Journalists

Feb 20, 2017

Momentarily, the latest Academy Award ceremony will be at center stage. Combine this with a new U.S. president who has declared war on the media, and it is well-worth recalling that the Best Picture Oscar winner from just a year ago celebrates the importance of journalism in a free society. That film is SPOTLIGHT, and it is the fact-based tale of reporters who doggedly knock on doors and ask questions, all in a search for truth. The bottom line in SPOTLIGHT is that, if not for the tenaciousness of the Boston Globe journalists presented in the film, would we ever have known about the long, distressing history of a massive scandal involving the sexual abuse of children and its cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese?

Audrey Kupferberg: Hidden Figures And 20th Century Women

Feb 17, 2017

In so many ways, we look at feature films as means of expressing our aspirations.  We want films to mirror the best in us.   People of various philosophies differ in which character traits they want defined in films.  As a woman with a feminist philosophy, I relish films that depict independent-thinking women who strive to lead full and meaningful lives.  

Rob Edelman: Withdrawn

Feb 13, 2017

Purely by chance, the first 2017 film I happened to view in the new year just may be a portrait of our world in 2017. And it is not a pretty picture. The film is titled WITHDRAWN. It is a low-budget independent production from Canada, and it was screened at the Slamdance Film Festival.

Rob Edelman: Speed Sisters

Feb 6, 2017

SPEED SISTERS, an eye-opening documentary that has just been released theatrically here in the U.S., opens with a familiar sight... if you are a racing fan. Drivers rev their engines, just before maneuvering their vehicles onto a racetrack. But there is something different here, something unusual and, to my mind, something extra-special. The drivers all are female, and they are Palestinian.

Several points can be gleaned from the recent deaths, one day apart, of the legendary Debbie Reynolds and her daughter, the equally celebrated Carrie Fisher. First, we may adore our celebrities. We may envy their wealth and fame and wish we could be as universally beloved as they are. But still, they are human beings with human needs and feelings-- and anyone who has ever lost a child will be able to comprehend the sheer horror that Debbie Reynolds must have felt upon learning that her daughter has passed. So all the money, all the fame, all the awards and honors and Red Carpet appearances will not separate you from the everyday ravages of life. 

Rob Edelman: Scorsese’s Silence

Jan 23, 2017

Other than documentaries and other odds and ends, Martin Scorsese’s films may be divided into two distinct categories. First, there are the big, flashy, splashy titles, from MEAN STREETS and TAXI DRIVER in the 1970s to THE WOLF OF WALL STREET four years ago. Then there are the quieter, more introspective films, including KUNDUN and THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, which examine various aspects of religion. And you can add to the second list SILENCE, Scorsese’s latest. The words that come to mind to describe SILENCE are: intense; serious; and sobering.

I fell in love with the movies many years ago.  Going to see a film – even a sad drama – somehow left me with a feeling of empathy or a shared moment of humanity.  But a number of the art-house films of late 2016 with their emphasis on sadness and disillusionment simply leave me emotionally wrung out.

Rob Edelman: Barry Jenkins

Jan 16, 2017

Of all the fine films that won theatrical releases this past year, one title for me stands at the very top of the pack. That is MOONLIGHT, directed and written by Barry Jenkins. 

Rob Edelman: Hot Docs

Jan 9, 2017

I’ve said it before and I certainly will say it again: These days, an endless number of new documentaries examine a rainbow of subjects. Here are a few just-released or about-to-be-released-to-home-entertainment documentaries that have especially intrigued me. 

Rob Edelman: Bring Out The Old, Bring In The Old

Jan 2, 2017

Welcome to the New Year! And given an event that is set to occur in a few weeks-- on January 20th, to be exact-- this is as good a time as any to cite a film that came to theaters near the end of what now is last year. This film is scripted and directed by Warren Beatty, who also stars. Beatty soon will be celebrating his 80th birthday, and it is his first film in 15 years. The title is RULES DON’T APPLY and, given its central character, RULES DON’T APPLY is a perfect description for this film and its central character.

Rob Edelman: American War Films

Dec 26, 2016

Times change and the world changes but, in certain cases, nothing really changes. And this just may relate to the content of a film that has come to theaters this fall, and which offers a heartfelt ode to the American soldier in World War II. The film in question is HACKSAW RIDGE, directed by Mel Gibson, the fact-based tale of Desmond Doss, played by Andrew Garfield: a U.S. Army medic and conscientious objector who earned the Medal of Honor for his derring-do during World War II’s Battle of Okinawa.

Rob Edelman: Cinerama Spectacular

Dec 19, 2016

These days, not all home entertainment is rented, downloaded, streamed... Some consumers and film lovers still purchase DVDs and Blu-rays and, if you are looking for an unusual holiday gift, might I suggest two new-to-DVD and Blu-ray titles from Flicker Alley.

Audrey Kupferberg: Children Of Divorce

Dec 16, 2016

Flicker Alley, in partnership with the Blackhawk Films Collection, has just released the Blu-ray/DVD world premiere of a 1927 Hollywood feature, CHILDREN OF DIVORCE.  Working with preservationists from the Library of Congress, which holds the original nitrate negative and protection material on this title, and having these materials scanned in 4K resolution, Flicker Alley has presented the film in its very best form.  Plus, there is a new musical score by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra.

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