Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My 2000 review of Spike Lee’s “Bamboozled” – Thursday at Oriental Theater

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(Update: “Bamboozled,”2000 film by “BlackkKlansman” director Spike Lee, shows Thursday at 5:50 p.m. at the Oriental Theater.)

November 5, 2000


Journal Sentinel film critic

Sunday, November 5, 2000

The title character in “The Legend of Bagger Vance,” a golf caddy played by Will Smith, is either a smiling stereotype or a morally superior metaphor. Whether his deferential mannerisms are a benign period affectation or some negative archetype is in the eye of the beholder.

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Eye Candy, Ear Worm filled “Ready Player One”

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Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” was made for the holiday season.

It’s about an Easter egg by a director known for gilding the lily.

Its classic Spielberg overkill. But it also in his sci-fi wheelhouse.

The teenage hero played Ty Sheridan lives in a post apocalyptic housing project called The Stacks whose residents escape into The Oasis a video game universe inspired by 1980s pop culture.

The introverted nerd who created it is played by Mark Rylance who people forget is a former Milwaukee resident.

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“Death of Stalin” A Comically Arsenic Satire

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In the closing credits of “The Death of Stalin,” his successor Malenkov, played by Jeffrey Tambor fades from the screen, another casualty in the battle for power after Stalin’s death.

Stalin henchman Beria was a brutal schemer and Malenkov his useful idiot. Beria, played by blustering and blistering British stage veteran Simon Russell Peale, ends up executed in “Murder on the Orient Express” fashion and a cunning Kruschev, played by a perpetually exasperated Steve Buscemi, emerged to become leader of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964.

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“The Post” Is Prologue

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Like the joke about the sunburned zebra “The Post” – opening Friday – revisits the days when newspapers were read all over.

It’s been called newspaper porn for its scenes of rolling presses, the rat-a-tat-tat of typewriters, pressmen in paper hats, men throwing the latest edition from moving trucks to curbside vendors.

One observer gushed about a scene where a copy chief editing a groundbreaking story on deadline scratches out the very first sentence.

That’s authenticity. The premise is less so.The Washington Post was a supporting player in reporting the Pentagon Papers, chronicling US involvement in Vietnam.

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“Downsizing” Bigger Than Its High Concept Premise

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What sounds ludicrous about “Downsizing” is ludicrous.

But something bigger looms behind its high concept premise.

Its set in a near future where a scientific advancement allows people to be shrunk in size and live in a miniature ecosystem that resembles the larger world at a smaller scale, in order to save the dying planet. It is also potentially lucrative: if you are a thousand-aire in the regular world, you are a millionaire in the smaller one.

But people are not equal there either.

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“Last Jedi” Adds New Stories To Familiar Mythology

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“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” begins with a joke that could have come from “Spaceballs.”

In it hot headed resistance fighter pilot Poe Dameron, a Han Solo type, trolls Domnhall Gleeson’s Colonel Hux, the imperious stooge in charge of the First Order fleet, in “can you hear me now” fashion that buys time to allow for something big to occur.

The Resistance achieves a Pyrrhic victory at great cost, that is part of a series of battle that they are losing. Carrie Fisher’s Leia is in charge of military maneuvers, and the late actress has a central role and a complete through line.

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“Lady Bird” A Bittersweet Mother-Daughter Tale

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Saoirise Ronan and Beanie Feldstein

“Lady Bird” is a mother-daughter story in the tough-love tradition of “Juno” and the bittersweet coming-of age story “Gregory’s Girl” by Scottish director (and romcom pioneer) Bill Forsyth.

The thing about kids is that when they learn to walk they begin walking away. Saoirise Ronan plays the title character, a senior at a Catholic high school taking her first defiantly wobbly steps toward becoming who she will be.

Spoiler alert: in real life she became Greta Gerwig, the actress-writer-director whose film is semi-autobiographical and has the sharply drawn details to prove it.

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Manufacturing Catholic Guilt In “Novitiate”

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It’s Roman Catholic week at the Oriental Theatre this week!

Say five Hail Marys.

Tomorrow I’ll discuss Greta Gerwig’s acclaimed “Lady Bird,” about a 17-year old girl at a Catholic high school.

But today’s topic is “Novitiate” an intimate and terrifying look at a cloistered community of nuns in 1964 and the young girls who want to become them. Its writer-director Maggie Betts, described as a “one time New York socialite and daughter of a Manhattan developer,” was named breakthrough director at the Sundance Film Festival, for this her first fictional narrative.

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Waititi Freshens “Thor: Ragnarok” With Quirky Humor

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“Thor: Ragnarok” is a buddy comedy brimming with one liners and offbeat characters and relationships whose mechanical narrative and generic visual design leaves something to be desired.

But the relationships between newly-shorn Thor, played Chris Hemsworth; Hulk and his alter-ego Bruce Banner, played by Mark Ruffalo; his trickster brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston; and a Valkyrie, played Tessa Thompson – are given appealing  top spin by director Taika Waititi.

Waititi, a New Zealander of Maori descent, is the first indigenous person to helm a superhero  film.

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Boseman Leaps Off The Screen. “Marshall” Doesn’t.

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In 1967 Thurgood Marshall became the first African-American Supreme Court Justice.

But for 25-years before that he was the chief litigator for the NAACP, arguing civil rights cases in courtrooms around the country. His most famous case was Brown v. Board of Education in which the high court agreed with his arguments that separate but equal arrangements in education were not equal at all. It was one of 29 out of 32 Supreme Court cases he argued and won.

But “Marshall” is about a more sensational,  lesser and little known 1940 case – albeit with life and death consequences – about a black chauffeur, played by Sterling K. Brown, accused of raping a white socialite in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

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