Breaking news: EW Reveal on Cover

I grabbed my mail, looked through it and gasped. ON THE COVER of Entertainment Weekly is a HUGE reveal about Game of Thrones.

Coincidentally, I had just started to binge watch the wildly popular TV series and just finished the first season.


This is a new low. I am withdrawing my subscription.

Julia Roberts’ Wig…is back!

first but not last appearance
Notting Hill, movie within a movie

Nearly twenty years after mysterious disappearance, Julia Roberts’ wig resurfaces

After 17 years, a mystery that could only happen in Hollywood has resurfaced, and we are closer than ever to the truth.
jIn the movie Mother’s Day, which opened last week, Julia Roberts wears the same wig that she wore in the 1999 hit, Notting Hill. After the filming of Notting Hill wrapped up, the wig vanished. At the time, our investigative reporter wrote an exclusive about the ensuing search for the wig: grips, costume designers, makeup artists, and eventually the L.A. Police searched for almost for a year. No clues were found.

Notting Hill was hugely popular. In one of a series of roles in the 1990’s that were stretches for Julia Roberts, she plays a famous movie star who is filming on location in London. Her love interest is played by Hugh Grant, who reprises his role as the cute, clever and amusing romantic lead. (Grant’s roles were alongside a revolving door of co-stars in rom coms throughout the 90’s.)

In Notting Hill, the wig is in a seminal, albeit short, scene. It functions as a character-development vehicle–Julia Roberts’ character wears it while she is filming a space movie.

Oy (Mother’s Day)

Seventeen years later, the conglomerate of production companies behind Mother’s Day has been using the reappearance of the wig in their marketing campaign. In interviews, Roberts claims that she took the wig out of her closet.

But speculation about the wig’s disappearance persists. We found out that police are following two leads:

Artistic Bribery

“The wig was handmade–it’s one of a kind,” Alexa Baggs, costume designer, tells us. “Wigs have been machine made since then. The details on the wig that Julia wore in both movies require an artistry you just don’t see today.”

Baggs adds that bangs require an especially challenging, intricate process:”Bangs were hand-shaped into a horizontal plane with uniform length.”

Baggs tells us in a hushed voice, “the true measure of the quality of this particular wig is its effect on the famous Julia Roberts smile. It can not, in any way, overshadow that smile, worth its weight in gold.”

Here’s that Roberts smile we all fell in love with

Mark Mincer, one of the costume designers for 2012’s Wrath of the Titans, talked to our investigators about the wig’s monetary value.

“Wigs like this are rare. This particular wig must be worth a small fortune, at least one million.”

Mincer adds what could be the missing clue in this case. “Artists took a bizarre pride in their work,” he says. “They would not give up their handmade wigs easily.”

The police conjecture that the wig was stolen by its creator, who waited for a chance to sell it back to a production company. That chance never came–until now.

A Hoax

That’s more  like it

L.A. Police are also looking into the authenticity of the wig in Mother’s Day. They are performing tests in their forensic labs to determine whether it was handmade, like the original wig. 

Mother’s Day was bound to be a dud,” says one of the producers of the film on the condition of anonymity.” We needed a marketing campaign that could overcome that.”

And so the story about Julia Roberts’ wig was born.

Our analysts look into how Mother’s Day became a flop, and whether the wig contributed to the universal panning by critics. They found that movies with big-named actors who are in separate vignettes, either are great, like Love Actually, or awful.

“Each vignette needs to be compelling,” our film critic Al tells us. “That is far from the case in Mother’s Day.”

Mother’s Day AKA Julia Roberts’ Bad Hair Day

Fashionistas claim that the wig story is a fabrication because it is completely unrealistic. “It’s crazy that they actually matched the second wig to look like the first one. That one was bad enough,” fashion editor Edith Stanton says as she bristles.

In Mother’s Day, Roberts plays a TV host who interviews Jennifer Aniston’s character. Experts uniformly agree that a TV personality with as bad a hairstyle as that of Julia Roberts in Mother’s Day would be fired.

Warner Brothers, Julia Roberts and the L.A. Police declined to be be interviewed for this article.

Story compiled by Richard LaCroix, his cousin Sally and her sister Monica.


Bad to the Bone

Just binged on Wentworth, an Australian TV show that not many Americans know about. It came out in 2013 and has had three seasons. The fourth one starts next month. Here’s my review of a review of the show from–

Rumble in the jungle



Plot: The premise of this Australian TV show is similar to that of Orange is the New Black: Accused of trying to murder her husband, Bea gets locked up in Wentworth Prison amidst women who have committed violent crimes. The plot includes a storyline about the prison guards and staff.

It’s also about power struggles among the prisoners, among the staff, and between the staff and the prisoners.

she bad
The ladies of season 1: Bea on the right; two rivals beside her: Franky and Jacs, the den mother from hell.


Review by Margaret Lyons

Spoilers skimmable? Yes! There aren’t many at all AND it’s a long review! A feat!

Bottom Line: An excellent show, although very violent. Normally Lyons would not like a show with so much violence, but here the characters are compelling. Each of its three seasons poses a mystery that “pays off” in the end.

why hello
He plays one of the guards. Who wouldn’t put him in a plot line?

Can’t put it better than this: People exert power by what they know about each other. Here’s what she says about it:

“There’s no shiv as powerful as ‘having’ something on someone, nothing so potent as a carefully deployed ‘I know something you wish I didn’t.'”

I love how Lyons describes this as an “information economy.”

The powerhouse “guv’nor,” (prison warden) of seasons 2 & 3.  You don’t have to be a prisoner to know she’s a bit of a sociopath.

In short: “This is a corrupt ecosystem that prizes information and permits violence, and that infects every interaction, even between alleged allies.”

The women work in the laundry room with a gigantic, stand-alone iron controlled by the big kahunas. 

Eyes, Disclosures & Public Service

Full disclosure #1: this is the second post in a row where I review reviews about a movie I saw and liked–a lot. So last time it was 10 Cloverfield Lane. Now?-Eye in the Sky.

eyeThis week, let’s be political and go to the state that had its primaries last Tuesday: Wisconsin, specifically, The Cap Times (the formal name being The Capital Times)–coming at you from Madison, Wisconsin.

Eye in the Sky

Review by Rob Thomas

Plot: Two Q’s:

  1. i7Is firing a drone like playing a video game? Aaron Paul (yo bitches, from Breaking Bad), plays a pilot who is responsible for pushing the button that will drop a drone on a single point in Nairobi–yet he is sitting in a trailer in Las Vegas!
  2. How do we balance the impact on the innocents against the value of taking out the terrorists? This must be decided by British politicians and military officers, as well as American military officers, all spread across the world.

The answer: We see the deliberations in real time.

Spoilers skimmable? LOL. Not at all.

Rob aptly states that “Eye in the Sky finds suspense on every link of the chain.” Unfortunately he proceeds to define every link–one by one–in one short paragraph.

IThanks man. We plebians in the audience couldn’t have figured that out on our own. We’d be lost without your spoilers.

(Good ‘ol NY sarcasm.)

Bottom line: 3/5 stars. “What’s so impressive about Gavin Hood’s film is that it deals with those issues in a complex and even-handed way while being an absolute nail-biter of a thriller that plays out in real time.”

The acting is terrific, says Rob; he gives shout outs to:

Typical Alan Rickman expression (we’ll miss him.)

Helen Mirren as a colonel who has been following the British and American extremists for years.

Alan Rickman, in his last role, as a general in the military meeting with members of Britain’s cabinet.

Barkhad Abdi (from Captain Phillips) , who plays a Nairobi spy on the ground, closest to the action.

Interesting:  Helen Mirren is in a role originally written for a man.

NY Timesi3

Review by Stephen Holden

Somebody stop me! I’m not kidding. Somebody stop me from trashing one of my favorite targets, The New York Times.

Full disclosure #2: I subscribe to The New York Times online. I read it for its well-written, informative news stories and editorials. (Hmm, where have we heard that before?)

But I certainly do NOT read it for its reviews. Oy.

Let’s analyze this review in reverse, shall we?

i6Bottom Line: Right off the bat, in the first sentence, Stephen Holden calls Eye in the Sky a farce! Is there any reason to go on? So he thinks it’s unrealistic. OK, fine. The guy is entitled to his opinions.

Spoilers skimmable? HA!

Thanks Man: Far be it for us to understand what Holden means by plot points being absurd. He spells it out for us. And so those spoilers keep tumbling down–after all, everything in the movie is a fallacy.

Thanks Steve! He knows just how we all hate to make our own judgements.



You know those ads at the bottom of some webpages that have titles of lists? Click on one and you might get to a website that almost made my dreams come true:

10 Cloverfield Lane–the article:

‘10 Cloverfield Lane’: A Potential Game-Changer for Hollywood, by Robert Yaniz Jr
According to this glorious article, the marketing campaign for 10 Cloverfield Lane could change our universe.  It could restore the movie-going experience to its very core, nay, its very nature in all of its full glory.
That marketing campaign? Nothing. That’s right, nothing, like Jerry and Georges’ plot for their show within a show on Seinfeld. No big buildup–no interviews, no previews for weeks on end, no gossip about the doings on set.
johngoodman John Goodman
in other words, the Anti-Zoolander 2.
The movie slipped onto our radars only two weeks before its opening, when the spoiler-free preview came out.
The article concludes on this note:
[I]t could mark the beginnings of a counter-response to the spoiler-filled marketing campaigns perpetuated by studios…and lead to something of a revolution with regards to preserving the awe of seeing a story’s twists play out upon first viewing. After all, that’s what the magic of the movies is all about.
Be still my heart: can this really lead to a revolution? Oh please, let it be.
But doesn’t that article sound well-written, interesting and intelligent? Surprising for a website with inane lists. I went on over to Cheat Sheet’s movie review.
I spoke too soon–

10 Cloverfield Lane–the Review:  

’10 Cloverfield Lane’: A Gloriously Stressful Non-Sequel, by Nick Cannata-Bowman

Great title, right? But it’s unsafe to continue reading–

lead actress with hand to mouth in shock
An ode to “Home Alone”

Plot: the movie is a suspenseful sci-fi about a girl who is kidnapped by John Goodman.

Spoilers skimmable? LOL. As if! This is a spoiler-laden review of a suspenseful movie.

Bottom line: it’s good fun. John Goodman is fantastic.


Ten movies ruined by bad endings. 

This is the name of a list advertized on the SAME PAGE as the article about a world without spoilers. I kid you not. Once again you have to click on the ad to get to another link on the same site.

Don’t read this list unless you have seen the movies! Of course how can you tell if you’ve seen them if you don’t read the list? I can’t help you. I naively thought that they were just going to list the movies with some photos, like the usual lists, but they do not. They dive right in. After each movie title, you get a complete rundown of the movie’s end.
I give up.
I shall stay away from lists that ooze oil forever more.
Unless I see lists that I really care about, such as:
  •  17 movies with dogs played by cats
  • 28 stars whose hunched backs were straightened by Special Effects.
  • 12 movies that changed the way that we look at Stonehenge.


Spinal Tap in a scene with tiny Stonhenge
This be Spinal Tap


Medals ceremony at 1936 Olympics. All heil Hitlers except Jesse Owens, who gives an American salute, and bronze medalist Jajima of Japan, who stands at attention directly in front of Owens.

I was resolved to keep this post short. But then I became interested in the subject. And I researched and researched and researched.

Here’s a podcast coming at you, straight outa Hollywood:


This podcast is from KPCC, Southern California’s Public Radio Station.Here is the description of the podcast, from KPCC’s website:

Reviews of the week’s new movies, interviews with filmmakers, and discussion. Hosted by Larry Mantle.


In the episode I listened to, Larry Mantle talks to KPCC film critics Wade Major and Lael Loewenstein. This is the link to the podcast. (I could tell who was speaking because Lael Loewenstein is a woman and Wade Major is not.)

Plot: A biopic about Jesse Owens, who was able to compete in the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany despite being black. At the Berlin Olympics, Owens won four trophies in the track division of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin: in one race he met the world’s record at the time; in the other three races, he set new world records.

Spoilers skimmable? No. They tell you so much it really is impossible to tease out the spoilers from the discussion.

jo winsBottom Line: It’s just OK. Very formulaic. The director missed a chance to tell an inspiring story, laments Loewenstein, who blames the script. Major agrees and points out that the director’s last movie was 2000’s Lost in Space, so he had to catch up with the times because he is still filming like it was the 1990s.

Snob alert! They had to chuckle to that last bit.Ugh. Was that really necessary?

Jason Sudeikis: Major and Lowenstein agree that he is excellent.  But Major observes that “comics like Sudeikis and Will Ferrell have to overcome their’funny faces'” in dramatic roles. Sudeikis plays Owens’ coach.

jo runI don’t know if he meant all comics have to overcome what we have come to expect from them. Probably.

History Lesson? The beginning of the movie dwells too much on Owens’ feelings about competing in the Olympics; both critics agree on that. Major noted that the film did not show the tragic way that Owens was treated when he returned from the US and that he also was penniless, and ended up pumping gas for a living.

Oh man, I felt so sorry for Jesse Owens. Did he really end up penniless?

I headed over to the my go-to website to find out:

History vs. Hollywood (

Why I like this website: it’s clear, concise and user friendly. For each movie, there are two parts:

First are two columns of photos–a headshot of an actor next to that of the person who he/she portrays. Like this:

Stephan James as Jesse Owens
Stephan James
Born: December 16, 1993
Toronto, Canada
James Cleveland 'Jesse' Owens
Jesse Owens
Born: September 12, 1913
Birthplace: Oakville, Alabama, USA
Death: March 31, 1980, Tucson, Arizona, USA (lung cancer)
Jason Sudeikis as Larry Snyder
Jason Sudeikis
Born: September 18, 1975
Fairfax, Virginia, USA
Lawrence 'Larry' Snyder
Larry Snyder
Born: August 9, 1896
Birthplace: Canton, Ohio, USA
Death: September

The second section is the meat of the comparison, done in Q & A format. The answers are short and sweet, and they usually end with a cite to the source of the info. The Q’s ask whether a specific incident took place or issues that the movie raises like this:

“What happened after the 1936 Olympics?”

My corollary: Did Owens “end up pumping gas,” as Wade Major asserts? I guess it depends on the meaning of “ends up.” It certainly would seem to indicate that he dies penniless. But maybe it refers to just after he returns, for a couple of years.

lucy outside
Comic Relief!

History vs. Film gives a summary of Owens’ life after the Olympics, and his life definitely did NOT end up “tragically.”

I had to dive more deeply into what happened to him after the Olympics because I think it’s interesting.

My research:

Major was was right that in 1936, Jesse Owens returned to America that was too racist to recognize his feats. Franklin Delano Roosevelt didn’t bother to see Owens in person and shake his hand in congratulations, as he had with the other athletes. Owens was not offered endorsement deals like his fellow athletes.

And he was penniless, as Major asserts, and did take a few jobs, including pumping gas, as Major also claims. To make ends meet, he would race against non-humans–horses, cars and trains. To beat the horses, he told the guy who announced the start of the race to stand up next to one of the horse’s ears.  Then the guy shot a gun in the air to start the race and the horses got spooked!

It is a little confusing, but I think he went penniless again in the 1950’s or 60’s and pumped gas, once again. But then he got back on his feet. Owens was outgoing and comfortable in front of the camera. Ford Motor Co. and the US Olympics Committee (I kid you not) hired him to give speaking engagements across the country about the virtues of hard work, loyalty and religion.

Owens opened up his own PR firm in 1949 and went all over the US with speaking engagements for his own company; his speeches included the importance of establishing an amatuer sports league, a passion of his since he returned from the Olympics.

He worked with nonprofits through most of his post-Olympics life, especially with kids, he wrote his memoir, with questionable politics, but then recanted….

FDR may have shunned  him, but three presidents did not: 

jo and ike

1955: President Dwight D. Eisenhower appoints Owens as Sports Ambassador for the US and sends him to the Olympics in Australia.


1976: Gerald Ford gives him a Medal of Honor, the highest medal awarded to a civilian.

Image: U.S. President Gerald Ford and challenger Gov. Jimmy Carter debate, 1976.
Carter and Ford at an election debate. (Couldn’t find a pic of Carter and Owens together)

1979: Jimmy Carter invites Owens to the White House when he was awarded a  Living Legends Award by the National Caucus on the Black Aged.

Amatuer Athlete Leagues: upon his return from the Olympics Jesse began to advocate establishing an amatuer sports league. A few years before he died, he received the International Trophy for amateur athletes.

In sum: No, Jesse Owens does not “end up” penniless and pumping gas.

PS. Back to Filmweek:

Remember the start of this post, when I reviewed Filmweek’s review of Race?

I continued to listen to the podcast after they reviewed Race. They went on to review Witch.


Plot: A father of a family of three is haunted by the woods that surround their isolated house. It takes place in 17th Century New England and the father is a devout Puritan.

Spoilers: They let out a torrent of spoilers in the first three minutes. I promptly turned the podcast off and took it off my favorites list–right after I had placed it there.


I listen to podcasts on my walks with Lucy.


Non Academy Awards

Breaking News: The NY Times isn’t always pretentious! On NPR, A.O. Scott, critic extraordinaire of The NY Times, talks about three movies –WITH NO SPOILERS!!!!

There he is, with his new book about how critics are necessary


Come to think of it, it also LACKED PRETENSION, endemic in his reviews, which are akin to in-depth scholarly analyses supported by examples–ie, SPOILERS.


A.O. Scott shames the Academy for not recognizing comedies as well as smaller, “quiet” indie films. He gives provocative advice as to how the Academy could improve its nomination process, which I include verbatim after the list, below.

Well done A.O. Scott, well done.

The radio show on NPR is called Dinner Party. This is its first annual non-Academy Awards edition. With Lucy on my lap (she’s a dog) looking out the window, I caught the full input by A.O. Scott on the 5-minute drive home from the Park. This is the link to the story.

Here is A.O. Scott’s list of nominations  that the Academy missed–(and some of the winners he would have chosen):

  1. mmcBest Actress: Melissa McCarthy, Spy. A.O. says that the Academy rarely recognizes comedies, yet actors in comedies can be as skilled as those in dramas. McCarthy has the “level of inventiveness, physical and verbal”that is so challenging to actors in comedies. She plays an administrative assistant turned spy, who goes to Europe to save her kidnapped boss.
  2. Bests Movie Nomination: Spy.  This movie should replace The Martian in the nominations.
  3. Best Actress Nomination: Lily Tomlin, Grandma. Tomlin plays a woman who helps her teenage granddaughter get enough money for an abortion. She asks her ex-boyfriends for the money. This is another type of movie that the Academy rarely better gmarecognizes. It is a “low-key” (also called “quiet”) independent movie.
  4. Best Foreign Film nomination: The Kindergarten Teacher, a poignant Israeli drama about a teacher who becomes obsessed with a gifted five-year-old student who writes beautiful poetry. She desperately tries to get him and his poetry recognized. This might be considered part of Scott’s usual pretension, but I appreciate this analysis: he states that the movie is a condemnation of Israel’s forsaking its art and culture for more superficial, materialistic art. This kindermovie did not get nominated because there is a “one-film-per-country-rule.” (Apparently another Israeli movie was nominated.)

A.O. Scott’s advice to the Academy:

If I were to give the Oscars advice, first thing I would say is: just lighten up. You know, there’s a lot of really great movies that are funny. And I don’t even wanna get started on the Foreign Language Film category, which is such a mess. The one-film-per-country-rule… Just find the movies from all over the world that are most exciting and most original and find a way to give those some prizes.




A horror, a music documentary, and a little ol’ paper called The  Seattle Times. Check it out and learn a thing or two–

The Witch

Review by Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times

Plot: Puritan New England, 1630. In a lone house on a field surrounded by evil, dark woods, lives a family with a couple of kids. The father makes sure that his family lives by strict Puritan doctrine: we enter life the-witch-1148x765as sinners, and if we live a righteous life, we will enter heaven when we die. So there will be no sinning in the father’s house–and whatever you do, he says, you are not to go in the woods because evil lurks there. (You know what’s coming!) One fine day, the woods snatches up the infant. The family goes into the woods to find the baby. That’s when all hell breaks loose. Yadayadayada, the oldest girl is accused of being a witch.

Spoilers skimmable? Yes. I don’t know the connection between the dark woods’ abduction of the baby and the girl’s being declared a witch, but I don’t need to know–and neither do you.

Bottom line: 3.5/4 stars. Andersen thinks this movie is damn good:

Eggers’ depiction of the family’s psychological decay and his relentless piling up of deeply disturbing imagery make “The Witch” an unnerving and fresh-feeling horror masterwork. (Robert Eggers is the director.)

Furthermore, the actor who plays the father has a perfect voice and timbre–deep and stern.

Authentic cinematography: There is virtually no sign of obvious studio artifice in the picture, other than in a limited number of very effectively frightful CG images.

EEK: It sounds really cool, but I need  the comfort of my home if I see this one.

“We Are Twisted F***ing Sister”

Review by Jeff Albertson, The Seattle Times

Plot: Directed by Andrew Horn, this film is a documentary about Twisted  Sister (TS), a glam rock band from Long Island (where all good things come from). It tells the story of the Tsis2band’s beginning, in 1972, up until its rise to fame, in the early 1980s.

Spoilers’s skimmable? Yes! He does a great job of holding them back.

Bottom Line: 3.5/4 stars. Albertson claims that the anecdotes are super “juicy” and fascinating.

Of note: Horn’s use of raw early footage proves that Twisted Sister was able to draw thousands of die-hard fans to its raucous and over-the-top shows in the Long Island and New Jersey area. The highlight of this period was a sold-out gig at New York’s 3,000-capacity Palladium — all without a recording contract or radio airplay.

tsisFor rock fans everywhere? Albertson is surprised that the movie does not include TS’ videos for their hit songs, which received high play on MTV. “That may be a drawback for casual fans, but the juicy details about the band’s early days make up for it.”

Here’s an official TS video. There are full two-minutes of acting before the music starts, so you may want to skip the intro.

But what about the non-fans, or the  anti-fans, as it were? Would I be interested in it?

Warning: not enough spoilers! I need to know why the tidbits are so interesting before spending my time on this movie. I can’t tell from the review.

Glam rock? Albertson describes TS’ music as “’80s glam metal with outrageous videos and fist-pumping anthems.”

OCD begets website begets website begets website begets knowledge: I had to look up what exactly glam rock was. I found a definition plus more than a modicum amount of pretension on this British site:

It is my great honor to disentangle Allmusic’s pretense for you. The following is what I learned.

Definition: Glam rock is about showmanship. Musicians are usually in drag, androgynous attire or just plain meshugena costumes.

Not in America? It was mostly popular in the first half of the the 1970s in England. Not in America until the 80s because Americans were homophobic.

Two schools of Glam rock (yes, the term “school” is used):

  1. “Intentionally disposable trashiness”: what you see is what you get–just a couple of good ol’ musicians playing so-so music in weird costumes that don’t necessarily have anything to do with the lyrics. This is the more prevalent school. Twisted Sister falls in here.
  2. The “Arty School”: ahh, the opposite. Music and fashion combine to form “the overall artistic statement” Musicians can transform their identities, and explore “the darkness lurking under the music’s stylish, glitzy surface.”


which school are they in:



What about this guy–

.bowsieglam db

David Bowie, in the 70s was the epitome of the arty school–In his Ziggy Stardust, Diamond Dogs etc era. He wove together theater and rock by making concept albums–where the songs surround a persona he inhabited, starting with Ziggy Stardust.


Click on here to see one of his performances on SNL in 1979 when he wore a stewardess suit. Then again, this next video is super interesting–

Click here to see another performance in the same SNL episode. He was forbidden from saying a line–about boys wanting boys from –and then he did them one better: he walked out in a green suit with a male puppet and at the end of the song he whips out the puppet’s wiener.  The proportions are out of whack.–it def didn’t come with the puppet.



Rebel Rebel, your teeth are a mess

This is the special David Bowie edition. I review a review of his first movie, The Man Who Fell to Earth, regale you with a story about when I made a special connection with him (I kid you not), and delight you with two videos on youtube: 1. an exposé of the changing of Bowie’s teeth 2. a scene from Extras, which he appeared in. Extras was a British TV sitcom developed by and starring Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.

But I digress. Let’s begin with a film review by an icon:


The Man Who Fell to Earth

Review by Roger Ebert. This review was written in 2011, when the movie, made in 1976, was re-released.

Plot: David Bowie is an alien whose planet has run out of water. He jumps into his spaceship in search of water on other planets, which he plans to bring back. He ends up on earth. His character’s name is Newton. (Get it–gravity and falling down to earth?)

Spoilers skimmable? Not really, but I saw the movie two weeks ago and it is my pleasure to skim it for you.

Bottom line:  He originally gave it a 2.5 in 1976, but in 2011, he bumped it up to 3 stars, because films aren’t made like this anymore–it is a science fiction film without the sci-fi effects. Instead it relies on Bowie’s acting to establish that he’s an alien, especially with his body language. “It’s a role that he was born to play.”

Ebert then says that Bowie would have been a great actor had he gone into film instead of music–as proven by all of the movies he was in.

I beg to disagree: The film is “unique,” Ebert opines, because we learn the story through character development and implication. He doesn’t think that a movie like this can be made today–it is quintessential 1970’s, when “idiosyncratic directors deliberately tried to make great films.” He deems audiences in the 21st Century unsophisticated simpletons. They can’t handle a film like this, he states, because “it requires too much thinking.”

Well, excuuuuse me.

Unexpected delight: Ebert talks about meeting Bowie: “Bowie has an enviable urbane charm. I met him once, and rarely have been so impressed by someone’s poise.”

My Brush with David Bowie

It was fall of my junior year abroad in London. On a Saturday morning, I had a hangover from Friday night debauchery, but still went to the library to study. Inside the building, I had to climb the stairs to the library because the elevator was out-of-order. There was a gigantic light shining into it and I thought it was being repaired.

I went upstairs, but was too woozy to study. So I go back down and, as I am about to exit, I see people standing in a semi-circle around the elevator. It wasn’t a huge crowd. None of the students might have bothered to ask what was going on because they were mostly British and reserved. But I was an American in London–so I asked someone what was happening. Imagine my ineffable joy upon hearing the answer:

“They’re filming a scene from a movie. David Bowie’s in the elevator.”


The movie was The Hunger, about vampires. The stairs were next to the exit from the building, by one corner of the semi-circle of people. I shuffled over to where I could take a good look inside the elevator: in the middle of the semi-circle, behind the director and other people working on the film. Inside the elevator was a man covered in grotesque makeup that made him look dead-ish. But there was no mistaking the shape of the visage underneath: it was David Bowie. Before I knew it, someone must have yelled “Cut!” because he was leaving the elevator and coming towards the camera and me behind it. He turned his head to the left, and slowly scanned the crowd; as he turned towards where I was standing, our eyes locked. So help me God, I was locking eyes with DAVID BOWIE. And in that instant, in less than a split second, I had one thought–

He looked something like this.

“I look horrible!” I had rolled out of bed that morning and went directly to the Tube to the library–no shower. Horrified, I ran out the door, not stopping until I was showering in a nearby health club that I had joined. I hopped out of the shower, blow-dried my hair, ran back, and…

…The lobby was empty; the elevator was working.

What was I thinking? As if I’d have a date with him if I had showered that morning? Not to mention what HE looked like!

Vanity. Extra Deluxe.

It doesn’t matter really. Because I had locked eyes with David Bowie. It was 1981 and that is where our love affair in my head had begun.

And Now for something completely different:

Don’t ask me how I found it, but this is on youtube. It is an exposé about David Bowie’s dental-correction surgery. A dental surgeon shows us photos of Bowie’s smiling teeth pre-and post-surgery. Using a red marker, he circles the changed areas in Bowie’s bite. We learn that he had more than one operation. Go over and watch this six-minute video and get ready to learn technical terms like “recessed gums.”


Bowie in Ricky Gervais’ Extras

This was posted on Facebook. It is a hilarious scene of an episode of Extras, in which David Bowie guest starred. Extras is a British a sitcom developed by Ricky Gervais, post Office, written with his pal Stephen Merchant, starring both of them. This nine-minute video is  worth watching.


Pretension guaranteed

Esoteric films beget extra pretentious film reviews. Or do they?


Below  are two reviews of reviews from the online component of Film Comment magazine. The magazine is pretentious, but with a name like Film Comment, how could it be otherwise? Whatsmore, Film Comment is a publication of the “Film Society of Lincoln Center,” which could only mean: sophisticated culture….or pretension…or both. Take your pick! (Lincoln Center is a powerhouse for the performing arts in New York.)

I found their reviews interesting but spoiler-laden.

And now, without further ado:


Review by ???? (no byline)

guggenheim2Plot: This is a documentary about Peggy Guggenheim, wealthy ex-patriot who traveled throughout the world, amassing one hell of an art collection.

Spoilers skimmable? Yes. I’m giving it some leeway since not everyone is familiar with fine art, so that a few spoilers aren’t going to hurt.

Bottom line: It’s great!–so says the reviewer. Very well done. A “vibrant” movie that mixes together “generous archival footage, interviews with some of the world’s finest art curators, and recently rediscovered audiotapes…”

Interesting observation: Film shows how Guggenheim’s affinity for the masters is “entwined with her passion for contemporary art. ”


I found a review of a movie whose name I loved. Here’s my review of Film Comment’s review of:


Review by Nick Pinkerton

She gets no credit

Plot: This is a French movie, directed by Philippe Garrel, about a childless couple who are making a documentary about a man in the French resistance during WWII. The resistance fighter’s perfect, supplicant wife appears in some of what they are filming. As  for the couple making the movie, both spouses handle all aspects of the filming, but the husband alone takes the credit. The wife does not object to this arrangement. Tension happens upon the happy couple when the husband begins an affair with their production assistent. Sex ensues.

Spoilers skimmable? NO, not at all.

Bottom line: It’s fine, opines Pinkerton. There isn’t a lot of conflict, but the movie still is able to explore such issues as infidelity and identity.

oo lala
Splaying post-coitus?

Neither too much nor too little–just right: Garrel has a minimalist, functionality approach–“Austere functionality is the guiding principal of this film.” Every component of this movie, especially dialog and “setups” (plot points?), is just enough for Garrel to explore its themes. It is only 73 minutes long, including credits.

A lesson about filming: In the Shadow of Women was created with 35mm film, which allows for WIDE screen shots. Garrel takes advantage of this by filming the following on wide-angle shots:

  1. “Splayed-out post-ciotal scenes” (oh Mama!)
  2. Wide angle shot of the couple in a room; the husband wandering in and out of the scene to signify their growing apart
  3. The wife’s loneliness, as shown through her presence alone in an expansive scene framed by a doorway
Cool poster, n’est-ce pas?

More wideness: Only a few conflicts  in the movie, “but they have wide-reaching implications.” Last I heard implications were “far-reaching,”but upon a quick google search, I stand corrected.

Impress your audience: It’s shorter than 70 mins. If you ever encounter this film, what harm can it do to watch it? Especially since you can wax poetic about 35 mm wide-shots and functionality within filmmaking.


Spike Lee’s Chi-raq is based on the COMEDY Lysistrata, a play written by Aristophanes somewhere between 427 and 387 BCE.


As an English major, I am ashamed that I had never even heard of this ancient play. But now I know why: the plot.

As I say above, Lystrata is a comedy. There is a war going on between the city states of Athens and Sparta. Lysistrata, a vixen with a husband, gathers all the wives of husbands on both sides of the war, and they hatch a plan to stop the war: until their husbands end the war, they will refuse to have sex with them. Then the men run around with erections sticking out of their cloaks.

That’s right. Spark Notes uses that very word. Check it out:

A Spartan Herald approaches the Akropolis and he, like Kinesias, suffers an erection. The Spartan describes the desperate situation of his countrymen and pleads for a treaty. Delegations from both states then meet at the Akropolis to discuss peace. At this point, all of the men have full erections.

Describing the very same scene, Wikipedia terms it as a “large burden.”Don’t worry, it still uses that other word:

A Spartan herald then appears with a large burden (an erection) scarcely hidden inside his tunic and he requests to see the ruling council to arrange peace talks. The magistrate, now also sporting a prodigious burden, laughs at the herald’s

Wait, Kanye’s in this?

embarrassing situation but agrees that peace talks should begin.

And then there’s the venerable NY Times’ version. If there’s a poetic but nebulous way to say something, The New York Times is on it. Here  is how they describe that same scene:

…Some of the men end up delivering their lines erect, which the ancient Athenian players expressed by wearing artificial phalluses…

Another English-major confession: I didn’t know that you could use the term “erect” that way. I thought that the men were delivering their lines standing up. Good that their phalluses were artificial.

Skip forward two millennia or so and take a look at Spike Lee’s modern take:


Plot: The girlfriends of the members of two warring gangs tell their boyfriends that they will not have sex with them until they end the gang wars. It takes place in Chicago, where the number of murders per year has skyrocketed. The term “Chi-raq” was coined by young people who live in the ghettos in Chicago to indicate that they feel like they are living in a war zone, like Iraq used to be. Some of the dialog is in verse and some is in song–just like in Lysistrata. There is no mention of erection in connection with Chi-raq. Maybe the men just get hot and bothered, and frustrated, terribly frustrated.

Time for a peek at the reviews and one article of note. Starting with the article:


Article by K.M. McFarland

This is a two-paragraph feature about the ire that Chance the rapper feels towards Spike Lee. Chance lives in Chicago. Lee has never lived there. Chance said that Spike has no business setting the film in Chicago because he has no first-hand knowledge of neither Chicago nor the gangs.  This is true. Chance does not like the way that Chicago is portrayed in the movie.


That said, Chicago’s murder stats are frightening, and it has the most gangs of any US City. But Chance is not the only Chicagoan who is pissed off. It is noted in most reviews across the web.

Luckily we have The New York Times to settle the controversy.



Review by Manohla Dargis

Spoilers skimmable? The NY Times thrives on  spoilers. I could only read the first and last paragraph and the first sentence of some of the paragraphs in between. But they give fair warning and it is easy to skip over the spoilers.

Bottom line: best Spike Lee joint in years.  It has a bit of everything: song, verse, “woman’s parts.” Perhaps the latter replaces the artificial phalluses of yesteryear.

Ever so eloquent,  here are the first two sentences of Dargis’ review. I have to go into English major mode, because per usual, we can learn so much about writing from The Times:

The laughs in Spike Lee’s corrosive “Chi-Raq” burn like acid.

(Boom! It’s a decree like no other. It stops us dead in our tracks, giving us just the slightest of moments to allow those words to wash over us, like a wave in the Pacific Ocean does over the rock formations that make it treacherous to swim.)

Moving on, here’s the next sentence:

Urgent, surreal, furious, funny and wildly messy, the movie sounds like an invitation to defeat, but it’s an improbable triumph that finds Mr. Lee doing his best work in years.

Spike looking divine in purple

Remember this, because the critic below ends his review in the same way Dargos starts hers—with descriptors indicating that the movie is awful, but then coming up for air to tell readers to see it.

Finally, The NYT recognizes that people may object to the setting in Chicago.  Dargos deems this to be the “most daring” part of Chi-Raq. But she says that the Chicago in the film is obviously fiction, and it is a metaphor for…..drum roll please…..AMERICA!

This movie stirs up many conflicting opinions in Dargis and many other film critics—you’ll see that in my next review too. I submit that the film critics en  masse are a metaphor for the common man and woman; for we all have conflicts within.

The AV Club

Review by  Ignatiy Vishnevetsky

Spoilers skimmable? Yes, but you have to be on the alert for them. You can’t get too comfortable.

Bottom line: It is an hour too long, it isn’t funny at all, it lacks “sociological credibility,” there are some scenes that comprise Lee’s typical heavy-handed proselytizing, BUT go see it!

It’s a “patience-testing fumble, but it’s one worth making.”

Ok then.


tomatoes gone WILD


Rotten  Tomatoes isn’t the only numbers racket in town.


In “This Rotten Week,” on, Doug Norrie predicts a movie’s tomatometer five days before it opens. (That’s right, he’s predicting the percent the movie earns on Rotten Tomatoes.) Sunday is that day that he posts his predictions for a movie that will open the following Fri.  (The column is sporadic.) He bases the percentage on ratings of similar movies in the past, based on common factors such as genre, opening date, director, actors and trailers.

His most recent prediction is for Krampus, which opened Friday. It’s about a Santa Claus who terrorizes an extended family on Christmas Eve. Adam Scott and Toni Collette play the parents of two kids.

Looks like Santa has been eating too many candy canes


Last Sunday, November 29th, Norrie predicted Krampus would get 39%.

The largest factor was the nebulous genre. Originally he thought it would be a horror comedy with a holiday touch; after watching the preview, he felt differently. It looked “too scary for kids” and “too corny for adults,” with no middle ground.

Then he analyzed the tomatometers of past movies with the same director:

Dougherty’s helmed Trick ‘r Treat (86%) and helped pen Superman Returns(76%) and X2: X-Men United (86%) so he has some wins under his belt. But I don’t think this one follows suit.

Finally, his gut reaction:

I have a feeling it rubs many folks the wrong way, and isn’t funny enough to fully distinguish itself as a horror comedy.

Immediately after the prediction, there is a three-question poll in which readers agrees, disagree, or remain neutral.

Drumroll please…yesterday (December 4th) the verdict came in: Krupus’ tomatometer is 63%

Whoops! He thought it would be a dud, but it’s actually a meh!

What’s with them?

Here are two recent films that Norrie was a little closer on:

Creed (Rocky sequel): Predicted: 83% Actual: 93%

Victor Frankenstein (James MacAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe): Predicted: 37% Actual: 23%

Here’s a Q: do you think that these predictions are valuable? entertaining? A clever way to tell us about a movie opening in the coming week?cinemablend

There’s a separate review of Krampus on Cinemablend by Brent McKnight, which is chock full of spoilers. I wouldn’t see this movie, nor care about the review–but it’s the principle that counts.


Harry Potter Prequel to the Future

Turn the clock forward a year, folks!

Thanks to the November 13th issue of Entertainment Weekly, we know of a guaranteed blockbuster, opening in exactly one year (November 2016). Starring Eddie Redmayne as Newt Scamander, American professor in none other than the HARRY POTTER PREQUEL, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the title of a dictionary written by by Professor Scamander. And guess who wrote the screenplay? Here’s a hint–this time it isn’t an adaptation of a novel. It’s penned

Katherine Waterston as Porpentina "Tina" Goldstein An ambitious worker at the Magical Congress of the United States of America (aka MACUSA, the U.S. version of the Ministry of Magic) who meets Newt. Tina is relegated to an office well below her abilities after she stood up for the wrong person. She longs to fight for what's right.
Katherine Waterston as Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein
An ambitious worker at the Magical Congress of the United States of America (aka MACUSA, the U.S. version of the Ministry of Magic) who meets Newt. Tina is relegated to an office well below her abilities after she stood up for the wrong person. She longs to fight for what’s right.

straight to the screen–by the master herself: JK Rowling!

Get the crystal ball out, everyone! Then paste the article inside of it. You’ll see photos of what looks like the same day on the set! (Redmayne is wearing the same clothes throughout.)

Close your open mouths, all of you! EW goes above and beyond: It has the beginning of the dictionary entries that we will see in…….yes–in one year!!

And more and more–secret details of the movie set that Eddie Redmayne stands in front of on the cover.

For you doubters: in a sidebar like no other, EW lists the main characters, describes them and adds photos of the actors who play them!

Save this blog entry, cherish it, for I have given you a gift. The gift of the future.



Yes, EW does it again! And in the same issue!

Here’s the scoop: come January 2017, CBS will present a new 6-episode Star Trek series on its all-access streaming.

You got that right!!


OK, now you can breathe.

As a postscript: know that the magazine sticks to its usual pedestrian predictions: in an article called “Best Actress Bounty,” the magazine lists 11 women who might just be contenders for Best Actress at the Oscars this February. In fact, they pasted tiny heads of the actresses into a graph divided into three groups: “Sure Things”, “Serious Threats,” and “Potential Spoilers.”

Entertainment Weekly has got the predictions down! WIth these three columns, I can safely predict that they will be right no matter who is nominated!

Now that’s miraculous reporting–and you can ‘thank me for bringing it to you!


Independent Days

We’ve got some great indies to look for. Here’s a site to help:

As do most movie sites, it has reviews, articles, lists, and interviews.

The reviews on this site are good. They are different because their critics go just a little deeper down beneath the surface and mention a movie’s themes. If you play it right, you can easily skim the spoilers–there are telling intros to sentences and paragraphs that herald the coming of spoilers. See for yourself in my three reviews of movie reviews below:

1. Mistress America

Review by Bernard Boo (Think it’s a pseudonym?)

Mistress America is the critics’ new cause celebre—a critic’s darling, as it were.

Plot: Tracey is a college student who becomes infatuated, nay obsessed, with her future step-sister Brooke, ten years her banner-mistress-america-film_2senior. “Mistress America is a tale of two women out of sync with the real world, stumbling through life until they bump into each other and tumble downhill.”

Spoilers skimmable? Yes. Especially with sentence intros like this: “The movie lifts off in its third act….”

Bottom line: 8/10 (critic darling alert). The acting is superb. “The dynamic between the two characters is rich and layered and hilarious.”

Theme: intelligence vs. “jubilance and self-worth”

Interesting tidbit: this is the second movie that director (Noah Baumbach) co-wrote with his star, Greta Gerwig; they worked together in 2012’s Francis Ha.

2. Digging for Fire

Review by C.J. Prince

Plot: directed by Joe Swanberg, this movie is about a married couple, played by Rosemarie DeWitt and Jake Johnson who are housesitting for one of her clients (She’s a masseuse.) They bicker so much that they spend a weekend apart. Each hangs out with their friends and are put into similar, tempting situations. This is a setup for a lot of talk among the characters.

Spoiilers Skimmable? Yes, it’s a short and sweet review. You do have to be careful though.

Bottom Line: 7.5/10. I love this sentence:

“What makes Digging for Fire such an enjoyable yet fleeting experience is how Swanberg lets these ideas flow organically into the film through his terrific cast….” I did the bolding–isn’t that a great phrase?!

Theme: individuality vs. partnership. Can two spouses in a long-term marriage retain their independence and growth?

diggingInteresting tidbit 1: what maketh an indie? Without posing the question, Prince poses this very question. There are known actors in the movie (Rosmarie DeWitt, Brie Larson, Sam Rockwell, Orlando Bloom, for example), Prince points out, so how could it be an indie? But, Prince answers, Swanberg’s style of movie-making qualifies it as one: Swanberg’s low-key character-based storytelling, only with known actors “thrown into the mix.”

Tidbit 2: Director Swanberg is so prolific that in 2011, he made six films.

3. Memories of the Sword

Review by Michael Nazarewycz

Plot: This Korean film takes place in medieval South Korea, where a teenage girl’s parents are killed. Her “surrogate mother,” has been blinded; previously she was a “sword master.” She is, however, able to train the girl to become a sword master, with the intent that she will kill the murderers of her parents when she turns 20. Yet the surrogate herself is one of the murderers.

Spoilers skimmable? Yes, you just have to watch for those intros. For example, two spoiler-laden paragraphs are introduced with:

“In what is probably the best scene of the movie….”

Bottom line: 9/10. This movie is nothing short of “remarkable.” Every part of the story has layers, including characterizations. It is a genre bender–“a period drama….that includes action, romance, and pathos.”

sword2Themes: “history and destiny”

Interesting tidbit: Did you know that there is a sub-genre of “Korean period dramas”? My gut tells me the answer is no. You ethnocentric, ignorant so-and-so (no offense)! I had no idea either. Nazarewycz loves these types of films and declares Memories of the Swords one of his favorites.

Tidbit no. 2: Byun-Hun Lee plays one of the assassins. He’s a South Korean superstar who has had parts in US movies (GI Joe franchise and one of the Terminators). Sounds like Hollywood doesn’t know how to use his talents.

Nazarewycz’s gushing has worked on me. I am SO ready to see this movie!

Twitch this Suckas

This is a great website that offers spoiler-free reviews of movies, and, ironically, spoiler-free reviews of trailers (which are always spoiler-laden). There are fun, interesting articles, indie news and video reviews; I could stay on this site for at least five weeknights. So please, rejoice with me, and check out my reviews of’s reviews of three movies and a trailer:

Looks like every other movie Tom Cruise is in.

Plot: Ethan Hunt was on assignment hunting down “the syndicate” when the CIA called him in and fired him because he’d broken one too many rules. Ethan, never one to quit the good fight, goes rogue and continues (with the help of the gang) to go after the syndicate; meanwhile the CIA is going after him.

Bottom Line: It’s great, and that’s without the CGI high-tech action in most adventure movies today: Following right on cue from Mad Max: Fury Road, Rogue Nation breathes a modern tempo and some technical pizzazz into old school, tangible thrills, setting itself apart from this summer’s wearisome CG-heavy tentpoles.

More info: Conran says that the movie does what other action movies dare not do–start the movie off with a monumental action scene (involving a plane that some of you might have seen in every trailer or ad), which sets the bar for the rest of the movie. He did not see that as a problem whatsoever. The rest of the movie lived up to the first moments.

SOUTHPAW Review by Peter Martin
Need I say more?

Plot: Boxer’s wife (Rachel McAdams) is concerned that Boxer (Jake Gyllenhal) is “losing his marbles” due to taking too many blows in the head.  “He’s an active volcano inside the ring, erupting regularly with rage. Outside the ring, however, Billy is a dim sad-sack, completely reliant upon Maureen, and capable of little more than juvenile expressions of emotion.” They have a young daughter whom Billy is emotionally distant from Boxer.

Spoilers skimmable? yes!

Bottom line: definite, solid MEH: “neither sufficiently rousing nor markedly distinctive….(it) runs away from nagging narrative issues in search of an easier, more crowd-pleasing resolution.” Furthermore, he says it’s formulaic.

Twitch extra: reviewer Peter Martin does not focus solely on the director and actors. He notes the good work of many of the artists behind the scenes:

Southpaw is never less than a watchable enterprise. Mauro Fiore’s cinematography is a joy to wallow in, lit appropriately for the occasion….John Refua’s editing is spot-on, keeping the action scenes propulsive and the dramatic sequences lively, and the production design by Derek R. Hill makes every setting look and feel exactly as needed. James Horner contributes one of his last musical scores, enhancing the drama without calling attention to itself.

Interesting TidbitSouthpaw was “originally conceived as a star vehicle for pop star Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem) by writer Kurt Sutter.”

(Can rappers be lumped together as “pop stars,” along with the likes of Taylor Swift and Rihanna?)

LISTEN TO ME MARLON Review by Jason Gorber
Marlon Brando and daughter

Plot: documentary about Marlon Brando that uses his own “personal recordings, interviews, self-made hypnosis tapes and even answering machine recorders….”

Spoilers skimmable? Yes! FINALLY, a review of a documentary that does NOT tell the whole story; this one holds back, making us actually want to go and learn for ourselves. Hallelujah!

Bottom line: it’s fabulous! “Hypnotic, energizing, and astonishing, Listen To Me Marlon speaks in eloquent ways to the complex talent that was Brando, a bundle of impulses, contradictions and accomplishments….

Twitch eloquence: this is like an archaeological excavation of a hoarder, one whose compulsion is to self document. Rather than Facebook postings or the haikus of a thousand tweets, Marlon had his tapes, and that voice, that mumbling mid-western drawl that’s both soothing and unsettling.

(opens in limited release on August 26th) 

Movie Plot: “Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston are two old friends who find respite at a secluded lake house.”

Peggy Olson no more.
Peggy Olson no more.

Spoilers skimmable? Yes. There are no spoilers in the review–in direct contrast with the trailer itself.

Bottom line: the trailer is great fun: The “deep-throated voice-over” gives it “an old school psychological thriller vibe,” which is “some kind of wonderful.”

Warning! Spoiler-reel: Do not fall into the trap that I did! The review is so good I decided to check out the trailer, which is under the article, but I had to turn it off almost immediately.