Fall (2022)- Thrill-seeking Millenial besties climb to the very top of a TV tower halfway to Asgard. When the stairs behind them break, hilarity ensues. Whether it’s vertigo-inducing falls, fighting off attacking vultures, or using their Magyver-like skills at multiple attempted escapes, there’s always something going on in this wacky popcorn flick. And depending on the moment, it’s harrowing, involving, silly, utterly far-fetched, overly drawn out, or soap-operaish. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Walking Dead’s Negan) has his immense talents squandered in a cameo as a worried dad; the viewers would have been far better served with him beating off the vultures with his trusty baseball bat, Lucille. Now you may wonder- while facing your mortality, what doth the two young heroines discuss at the tippy top of the massive tower? Why WWE, of course. Really. I couldn’t make this up. Even 2,000 feet above land, you can’t escape the now Disney-like omnipresent evil empire. Ultimately I enjoyed Fall, but you’d best walk in with a awful lot of suspension of disbelief. Checkitout.
One Night in Bangkok (2020)- Think Death Wish in a taxi cab in Bangkok as a revenge-driven father makes multiple stops killing all in his path. Martial artist turned actor, Mark Dacascos has an interesting look and charisma and while the dialogue and acting of some of the other players cover the spectrum from convincing to wooden, you can’t help but get caught up in his quest. I’ve seen far better and far worse action films, but ultimately I enjoyed it and Dacascos is special. Give it a try.
Little Women (2019)- When I was a kid, my Mom, engrossed in a film on TV, would sometimes say to Dad and me, “Oh, this is a woman’s movie- you wouldn’t like it.”
And sure, we were James Bond, Planet of the Apes, Charles Bronson, and Clint Eastwood guys who loved our action flicks, so we’d rarely sit down to watch a female-driven character film.
Well, a half-century or so later, I’ve hopefully evolved a bit and can attest to the fact that I loved the 2019 version of Little Women with all my heart.
From the stellar cast that REALLY feels like a family, to the warm, wonderful script, to a multitude of heart-wrenching, inspiring and tender moments, this is so superior to 90% of the silliness at the multiplex that you just sit there with the deepest appreciation of what you’re watching. It’s a film about young people that rings true and shoots ever so high.
In short, Little Women just wowed me.
It’s the best film I’ve seen in a long, long time.
Golden Door (2006)-
A hundred or so years ago, my grandparents got on boats from Russia and Poland and came to Ellis Island to start a new life.
Anybody who had relatives who took that voyage will be hit hard by this tale of Italian immigrants circa 1904 which feels almost documentary-like. You witness just what they had to endure, coming here with nothing, not speaking the language, and faced with various indignities along the way, all for an unsure future. Hauntingly beautiful, Golden Door is harrowing, moving, inspiring, and just gorgeously shot. You feel like you’re right there on that perilous journey with them.
There are also several wild dream sequences, including one where money rains down on the lead (Vincenzo Amato), and Nina Simone music is featured (which wasn’t recorded until more than a half-century later), so the director Emanuele Crialese was not afraid to take chances.
Martin Scorcese does a little intro, saying how moved he was by Golden Door. He emphasized that it so reminded him of his own grandparents when they came to this country and the culture shock they experienced here in “the new world.”
Golden Door comes with my highest recommendation.
Greyhound (2020) Based on true WW II events. An inexperienced U.S. Navy Captain tries to get a convoy past a German submarine wolfpack. While the action all rings true, there’s little characterization whatsoever. You get about five minutes of background on Hanks’ character and you don’t know a thing about his men beyond their names and rank. The attention to detail is impressive, but the military jargon is befuddling; all I could make out is that the German submarines were close by and stalking them. Ultimately I’ve seen far better and far worse war movies, although this certainly doesn’t touch Das Boot, the ultimate submarine film. But there’s plenty of action, and Hanks is stoic and excellent in the lead. If you like war stories, you could do far worse. Give it a try.
Cha Cha Real Smooth (2022)- Lovely little indie film where a 22-year-old still finding himself (Cooper Raiff) falls for an older woman (Dakota Johnson) while also growing attached to her Autistic daughter. It’s all from the heart, and the film wears its heart on its sleeve. I found it very involving and moving; you care and want the characters to end up happy. Particularly nice to see a male lead who forsakes macho for tender. It’s a movie about kind people making adult choices and compromises. Bravo.
The Badlanders (1958)- Rousing Western. In a tawt 83 minutes, they squeeze in prison brutality, fist fights, not one but two romances, multiple scams and double-crosses, mine cave-ins, a shootout, and a Mexican celebration where the villagers turn on the villains. The great Borgnine steals the show, and while I’ve seen far better and worse Westerns, I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Detachment (2011)- You’ve seen ALL the teacher movies. Tough students in urban settings with seemingly insurmountable problems are won over by that new conscientious and caring teacher. He or she has boundless energy and they become like one big family. Inevitably they form some kind of ragtag team and win that big game or spelling bee or some variation on that theme, and you walk away feeling good and hopeful and better than when you walked in.
Sometimes you’re even humming the theme song like To Sir With Love.
Well, Detachment tosses all of that out. From the ruthless and hapless admins to the overwhelmed and shell-shocked teachers to the deeply troubled students, they’re virtually all tortured souls, and by the end of this film, few end well.
Adrian Brody and a stellar cast are amazing and convincing and heart-wrenching, and there are some deeply moving scenes, but man, this one’s ever, ever so dark.
That it’s also set in New York makes it hit even closer to home. There’s even a grim scene on the Q60 bus, which rolls through my own neighborhood.
Director Tony Kaye’s American History X is a laugh riot in comparison.
Any teacher who’s ever stood in front of a disinterested class that’s acting out will relate to this. I have. And since 3 out of 4 teachers leave within 4 years, those classroom casualties will also, unfortunately, see the many brutal truths in Detachment.
A fun watch this most certainly isn’t.
While I’d certainly recommend Detachment, it is not for everyone. You’ll walk away feeling like you’ve been through hell and back.
Watch it if you dare.
Especially you teachers.
Rabbit Hole (2010)- Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart in a devastating film as their 4-year-old is killed in an accident and they slowly- VERY slowly- try to recover. Kidman was nominated for the Oscar in this role and is more than worthy. It’s a powerful, riveting film and the stellar supporting cast includes Dianne Wiest, Miles Teller, Sandra Oh, Giancarlo Esposito and other luminaries. Don’t miss it; it’ll tear your heart out.
Biutiful (2010)- Javier Bardem is an amazing actor, pain etched in his face from the very first frame. Inarritu is one of our greatest living filmmakers but leans dark to the point of grim, and while this will move you, it can be punishing to watch. Personally, I preferred his Amores Perros, but regardless, this sure packs a wallop and you’d be hard-pressed to EVER see a greater performance than Bardem’s here. The film is powerful and heart-wrenching, but brace yourself. It’ll take you time to recover.
Vengeance (2022)- Compelling dark comedy as an unlikeable Brooklynite writer discovers a hook-up whose name he barely remembered was seemingly murdered. He “finds a story” in it and goes to Texas for some culture shock. Once you get past the fact that the character is a self-absorbed douchebag, as he evolves during the film and actually starts to like his late lover’s family, you become more involved in this fish-out-of-water/murder mystery. An interesting and unique film it makes some really compelling points about America today, plus there’s a bit of a noir feel to the proceedings, B.J. Novak (The Office) is a triple threat as writer, director, and lead. Ultimately it’s an introspective, intelligent film worth a watch.
Eternals (2021)- Opening with great gravitas, Star Wars-like graphics appear, telling us some mumbo jumbo about Eternals fighting to protect and save pitiful Earthlings since the dawn of time.
The Eternals suddenly wake up, looking one and all like Vogue models, refreshed after a centuries long power nap.
Two of ’em make goo-goo eyes at each other. This foreshadows a great romance that we soon learn tragically broke up at the 5,000-year mark because, you know, Eternals get that 5,000-year itch.
We’re then transported to 5,000 B.C. Mesopotamia, where fishermen are attacked by giant sea monsters/demons, and one kid watches his dad’s head get eaten, although he’s clearly unphased by his loss because the Eternals are mad cool and easily dispense of the beasts without much of a sweat or one iota of suspense.
When Ray Harryhausen made monsters a half-century plus ago, you’d sit there in awe and wonder. Now you just go, “Those monsters don’t stand a chance.”
Most importantly, after said deadly battle, not a single Eternal has a hair out of place, and they look marvelous.
Their matching ensembles reminded me of some ‘70s R&B bands. Earth, Wind and Fire would have been envious.
Shoot ahead to 2021 London, where there’s another demon who doesn’t stand a chance in Hell (pardon the pun) of beating the Eternals in a street fight, and Sersei’s human boyfriend meets her Eternal boyfriend, Icarus.
And without a superpower to his name no less, Just think about the human’s fragile male ego. How do you compete with a guy named Icarus who can shoot laser beams out of his eyeballs? Plus the other guy had sex with your girlfriend for 5,000 years.
That would send a beau to therapy right quick.
It’s all utter nonsense, of course, with most of the cast doing their best William Shatner level hambone acting- each line spoken with great gravitas.
And when one of the Eternals dies at the 7,000-year mark (a good run by most standards, Methuselah included), they’re all trying to outdo each other in the grief department.
A catfight between Salma Hayek and Angelina Jolie is the most disappointing match-up since CM Punk and Jon Moxley on AEW TV last week.
The two hour and thirty seven minute running time started to feel like 7,000 years about halfway into the film.
While there are some cute one-liners, and some warm moments, and the characters for the most part are likeable and sympathetic, some of the convoluted plot was utterly incomprehensible to me.
I recently sat watching a film festival panel where a critic said she loved this film so much she watched it every day for three weeks. Why, pray tell? Because it had a female director, a gay kiss, and a diverse cast. All admirable in my book but if I ever become an Eternal and live thousands of years, I wouldn’t be able to slog through this overwrought baby again.
Ultimately, director’s Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland done on a zillionth of the budget for Eternals is just a far, far better film than this endurance contest.
Next time, Ms. Zhao, take the money that went into this and make a dozen great indie films instead. Really.
Speaking of movies, enjoy the critically acclaimed #350Days pro wrestling documentary on Amazon Prime and innumerable other platforms.
Evan Ginzburg is an Associate Producer on the Oscar-nominated movie “The Wrestler” and the acclaimed wrestling documentary “350 Days.” He is the Senior Editor for Pro Wrestling Stories and a contributing writer since 2017. In addition, he’s a published author and a 30-plus-year film, radio, and TV veteran, and a voice-over actor on the radio drama Kings of the Ring. He can be reached on Twitter @evan_ginzburg or by e-mail at [email protected].