Freeze Frame is a weekly show reviewing the latest movies from Hollywood's best films to independent and arthouse movies.
August 16, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
If your idea of cinematic hilarity is hearing three sixth grade boys cuss like sailors and chat on and on about sex and drugs, have I got the movie for you. “Good Boys” is like a pre-teen “Superbad,” a raunchy R-rated movie that’s stars are so young, they wouldn’t be allowed in to see it. Jacob Tremblay, Keith L. Williams and Brady Noon play close pals who make some bad decisions that set the farce into motion. The three lads are appealing, and the movie has some very funny moments. While much of the risqué elements seem forced, “Good Boys” has a good-natured vibe that almost redeems it. Almost.
While much of the comic drama “Blinded by the Light” feels a bit sentimental and warmed-over, the infectious goodwill of this true story may well break down your resistance. In 1987, the life of a teen Pakistani-Brit changes forever when he discovers the music of Bruce Springsteen. Listening to The Boss inspires him to become a writer and to face his considerable challenges head-on. You don’t have to be a Springsteen fan to enjoy “Blinded by the Light,” but it helps.
If you’re unfamiliar with “Angry Birds,” you’re probably still using a rotary dial phone. In the animated big screen sequel, “The Angry Birds Movie 2,” Kansas City’s Jason Sudeikis provides the voice of Red, a furious flightless bird who joins forces with the invasive pigs to take on a nefarious, destructive eagle. The loopy humor and frenetic action are clearly aimed at the younger movie-going demographic. It’s a harmless, well-animated farce that may not be inspired, but it’s no turkey.
Also opening this week, “Where’d You Go, Bernadette” is a new comedy from Richard Linklater starring Cate Blanchett. And “Alien Invasion” is a sci-fi offering whose title tells all.Listen
August 9, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “The Kitchen” (R), “Dora and the Lost City of Gold” (PG), “Brian Banks” (PG-13), “Maiden” (PG), “Them That Follow” (R)
The mob drama “The Kitchen” is a bit undercooked. Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish and Elizabeth Moss star in this ethically dubious thriller based on a comic book series. They play the wives of Irish mobsters who take over their husbands’ protection racket when the men are sent to prison. In spite of its fine cast, it never rings true. Last year’s drama “Widows” handled these gender-flipped themes much more effectively.
“Dora and the Lost City of Gold” is a live-action version of the popular cartoon, “Dora the Explorer.” Isabela Moner and her castmates are likeable and the adventure story is suitably wacky. It’s harmless, but if you can reach my elbow, you’re too tall for this movie.
“Brian Banks” is a true story about a gross miscarriage of justice. Aldis Hodge is fine as an innocent man and wannabe NFL player sent to prison on a false rape charge. The filmmaking is pedestrian, but “Brian Banks” inspiring just the same.
“Maiden” is a documentary about Tracy Edwards, a young British woman who skippered the first all-female crew on a dangerous round-the-world yacht race. It’s an involving feminist chronicle.
Terrific acting saves the laconic drama, “Them That Follow.” Alice Englert and Olivia Coleman star in the story of troubles that befall snake-handling Pentecostals in rural Appalachia. It’s earnest, but never quite catches fire.
Also opening this week, “The Art of Racing in the Rain” is a tearjerker about a racecar driver and his dog, voiced by Kevin Costner. “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” is a PG-13 rated horror film. “Light of My Life” is a post-apocalyptic drama starring Casey Affleck. “Rapid Eye Movement” is a thriller about a man who must stay awake for 11 days or be murdered. “Ecco” is drama about a retired assassin who tries to protect his family from his former employers.Listen
August 2, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “Fast & Furious Presents” Hobbs & Shaw” (PG-13), “The Farewell” (PG), “Sword of Trust” (R)
The 2001 movie “The Fast and the Furious” was based on a true story about LA street racers. Over the years, the films in the franchise have evolved into action fantasies so preposterous that they make James Bond flicks look like documentaries by comparison. Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham star in the ninth film in the franchise, “Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.” They play rival rogue lawmen who try to save the world from a cyborg-human hybrid, played by Idris Elba. It’s utterly absurd, but the Johnson/Statham team-up is amusing. The way to enjoy this movie is to forget the laws of physics, throw logic out the window and just go with the action flow.
“The Farewell” is a sweet-natured and sentimental comedy about an Asian-American woman, played by Awkwafina, who travels to China when she learns her beloved grandmother is terminally ill. Problem is, the family has decided to hide the truth from the elderly lady and to stage a sham marriage to make her feel better. Alternately funny and poignant, “The Farewell” is a wistful crowd-pleaser.
Comic Marc Maron leads the cast of “Sword of Trust,” a wacky comedy about two women who try to pawn off an antique sword as evidence that the South actually won the Civil War. The efforts to sell the item get them into hot water with the Old South underworld. The actors improvised their dialogue and the results are sometimes hilarious.
The late singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen and his one-time lover and muse Marianne Ihlen are the subjects of a touching documentary, “Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love.” The film is a melancholy overview of their troubled relationship and a cautionary tale about the toll of open marriages.
Also opening this week, “The Operative” is a spy thriller about an Israeli Mossad agent’s mysterious disappearance. Diane Kruger and Martin Freeman star.Listen
July 26, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
For his ninth feature film, writer/director Quentin Tarantino presents a very dark Valentine to the town and the art form he grew up loving and copying. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is about the movie business and the folks who attempt to survive the dramatic changes Tinseltown underwent in the late 1960s.
Leonardo DiCaprio hits all the right notes as Rick, loosely based on Steve McQueen, a TV actor who once starred in a popular Western. Overly sensitive and self-absorbed, Rick battles booze and insecurities. His best pal is his stunt double Cliff, played by Brad Pitt, a character inspired by Burt Reynolds’ buddy, Hal Needham. Tarantino’s story is purely fictional, imagining a relationship that these men might have had with actress Sharon Tate, played by Margot Robbie, and the notorious Manson family.
The who’s-who cast also includes Emile Hirsch, Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell. Bruce Dern and Al Pacino, who has a brief but impressive turn as DiCaprio’s agent.
As always, Tarantino’s dialogue is terrific and he certainly knows this era like the back of his hand. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” does a great job of capturing the feel of the time and place, a period after Hollywood’s golden age and before the blockbuster era. There are a lot of inside jokes for movie buffs and, as you might guess with a Tarantino movie, some bloody violence played mostly for laughs.
While there’s much to like in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” the movie is also overlong, episodic and self-indulgent. Still, perfectly captures the zeitgeist of the late 1960s.
Also opening this week, “Luz” is an unrated horror movie that experiments with film techniques and plot chronology. It’s a tale about a cab driver who flees a demonically possessed woman.Listen
July 19, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Disney’s stampede to create so-called ‘live-action’ remakes of its animated classics continues with “The Lion King.” The super-realistic computer-generated imagery that replaces the classic hand-drawn animation is nothing short of spectacular. But for some reason, the cinematic magic of the 1994 version doesn’t make the transition quite as smoothly. Much of the film is a shot-for-shot recreation, but many of the scenes are more drawn out, adding unnecessarily to the film’s length. While there’s still much to like in “The Lion King,” it won’t go down as the pride of the remakes.
The so-called comedy “Supervized” will be a bona fide contender for the worst film of 2019. A sad embarrassment to all involved, “Supervized” stars Tom Berenger, Beau Bridges and Louis Gossett, Jr. as foul-mouthed former superheroes living out their difficult elder years in an Irish retirement community. Nefarious foes try to sap the former caped crusaders of what’s left of their superpowers. “Supervized” represents the nadir of these actors’ storied careers.
Andrew Garfield stars in the wacky neo-noir mystery, “Under the Silver Lake.” Filmmaker David Robert Mitchell has a lot on his mind with this ambitious mind bender about a man whose beautiful neighbor goes missing. As the paranoid man attempts to solve the puzzle of her disappearance, things in LA keep getting weirder and weirder. Hitchcock and David Lynch are just two of the many Hollywood influences in this ambiguous project that has too many ideas for its own good.
Also opening this week, “She’s Just a Shadow” is an unrated English language Japanese action thriller featuring gangsters, a madam and a serial killer. We’re also offered two music documentaries. One is “Echo in the Canyon” about the pop music that came out of California’s Laurel Canyon in the 1960s. The other is called “Pick it Up: Ska in the 90s.”Listen
July 12, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
The violent action farce “Stuber” plays a bit like a comic reworking of the Tom Cruise/Jamie Foxx action flick, “Collateral.” Kumail Nanjiani plays an Uber driver named Stu, hence the jokey title. Dave Bautista is an LA cop who commandeers the ride, forcing Stu to take him on a series of trips to capture a homicidal drug lord. Nanjiani and Bautista are an appealingly odd couple and their repartee earns some laughs, but we’ve seen all of this before. The best rating that I can give this Stuber ride is three stars.
China’s premier filmmaker Zhang Yimou returns with another sumptuously filmed wuxia entry. “Shadow.” In ancient China, an ailing military commander finds his doppelganger and trains him to fight in his place in order to fulfill an intricate plan to bring down the king. The story is a bit confusing and the acting melodramatic, but “Shadow” is still an involving and stylish action epic.
The Canadian coming-of-age drama “Firecrackers” is rude, foul-mouthed and irreverent. It’s also beautifully acted, painfully realistic and heartbreaking. Michaela Kurimsky and Karena Evans play two teenage friends who long to escape their poverty-stricken small town lives but are seemingly thwarted at every turn. There’s not a moment of Hollywood gloss or phoniness in “Firecrackers,” only the pop of raw emotions.
Also opening this week, “Crawl” is a horror entry about alligators attacking folks after a hurricane. “The Fall of the American Empire” is a French-Canadian thriller about a delivery man who stumbles upon millions in mob cash after a robbery gone wrong. “Bethany Hamilton: Unstoppable” is a documentary about the famed surfer who lost an arm in a shark attack. Jesse Eisenberg stars in “The Art of Self-Defense,” a dark comedy about a timid bookkeeper who takes martial arts classes after being attacked by a motorcycle gang.Listen
July 5, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man just wants to enjoy a quiet European vacation with his high school pals. Is that too much to ask? Of course, it is. Tom Holland returns as the socially artless Peter Parker in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.” During his summer holiday on the continent, Peter is recruited by Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury to don an advanced Spider-Man suit and join forces with new superhero Mysterio, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. It seems that strange creatures have taken over the elemental forces of earth, water, air and fire and started destroying European cities. Whew.
The writing and directing team behind 2017’s “Spider-Man: Homecoming” reunite for a surprisingly successful action adventure laced with plenty of lighthearted and self-deprecating humor. Holland is appealingly awkward, and Gyllenhaal provides some needed gravitas. As usual, the special effects are spectacular even though the action scenes sometimes become a colorful blur.
The real appeal of “Spider-Man: Far From Home” comes from the comic coming-of-age elements. ‘Will Spider-Man get the girl?’ becomes more interesting than, ‘Will Spider-Man get the bad guy?’ Cheeky fun, “Spider-Man: Far From Home” is yet another winner in the Marvel Universe.
Last year’s startling horror entry “Hereditary” proved to be an impressive debut for writer/director Ari Aster. His follow-up, “Midsommar,” is equally impressive and equally horrifying. Florence Pugh plays a young woman who clings to her boyfriend, played by Jack Reynor, after her family endures a violent tragedy. They decide to join some friends on a trip to a remote Swedish village for a pagan festival. What at first seems like a bucolic retreat devolves into a sun-drenched nightmare.
This arty creepfest plays like “Wicker Man” as imagined by a demon-possessed Ingmar Bergman. While it has flashes of brilliance, “Midsommar” is overlong and overindulgent.
Still, there’s no denying its macabre power.
June 28, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “Yesterday” (PG-13), “Ophelia” (PG-13), “Annabelle Comes Home” (PG-13), “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” (R)
What if the Beatles never existed but you knew all of their songs? That’s the high-concept behind the comic romantic fantasy, “Yesterday.” Himesh Patel plays a wannabe singer who, mystically, is the only person who remembers the songs of the Fab Four and becomes an overnight sensation. An appealing cast, sharp direction and great music help overcome some of the story’s corny elements. As for me, I believe in “Yesterday.”
And speaking of high-concept, how about re-telling “Hamlet” from Ophelia’s point of view? That’s the feminist approach to the involving drama, “Ophelia.” Daisy Ridley plays the tragic heroine who is smarter and more resourceful than Shakespeare would ever have envisioned. Some elements of this revision are downright silly and will no doubt outrage Shakespearian purists. Still, “Ophelia” is an interesting experiment in fan-fiction conjecture.
“Annabelle Comes Home” is the eighth film in the “Conjuring” horror universe. This time out, an unsuspecting teen releases the demonically-possessed doll from her case and evil spirits begin to wreak havoc. It plays like a compendium of horror clichés. “Annabelle Comes Home” is a little too subdued for its own good, but “Conjuring” fans should like it.
“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” won a special jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. This critical darling focuses on class struggles and gentrification as a young man tries to save the Victorian house built by his grandfather. Jimmy Fails plays himself in an adaptation of his own story. This arty, slowly-paced film requires patient viewing, but has occasional flashes of brilliance.
Also opening this week, “The Last Whistle” is a drama about s controversial high school coach’s reaction to the death of one of his football players after an intense practice. “The Other Side of Heaven 2: Fire of Faith” is a faith-based Mormon sequel.Listen
June 21, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
It’s nothing less than a cinematic miracle. The folks at Pixar have gone back to an old mine and found more gold. “Toy Story 4” is a brilliantly conceived and executed animated story that works as a comedy, as an action adventure and as an emotionally satisfying conclusion to the series. As usual, Pixar’s animation is flawless, but they’ve focused their efforts on creating a meaningful screenplay that tackles some complex issues. Involving and entertaining, “Toy Story 4” is the best movie of 2019 so far. Expect the box office to go to infinity and beyond.
And speaking of toys, everyone’s favorite homicidal doll has returned. Chuckie is back in a reboot and reimagining of the modern horror classic, “Child’s Play.” Aubrey Plaza plays a single mom who gives her son a Buddi doll and all heck breaks loose. This time out, instead of being possessed by the spirit of a serial killer, Chucky is the product of artificial intelligence gone awry. Mark Hamill…yes, that Mark Hamill…provides the voice of the evil doll. With its emphasis on mordant humor, this version may not play well with some fan boys, but the movie builds enough steam in the wacky, apocalyptic final act to please undemanding fans.
Also opening this week, “Anna” is yet another action thriller about a female assassin from French director Luc Besson. “Pavarotti” is a documentary about the famed Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti from director Ron Howard. “5B” is a documentary about the caregivers who risked all to help AIDS patients in the early 1980s. “The Spy Behind Home Plate” is a documentary about Moe Berg, the professional baseball catcher who was also a spy during WWII. “Thjs One’s for the Ladies” is a documentary about male strippers and the women who love them. And, we’re being offered two different horror anthologies, “V/S/H 2” and “Nightmare Cinema.”Listen
June 14, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “Men in Black International” (PG-13), “Shaft” (R), “Late Night” (PG-13), “The Dead Don’t Die” (R)
Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson last co-starred in the hit “Thor: Ragnarok,” They re-team to reboot the “Men in Black” franchise with “Men in Black International.” While this wacky sci-fi action comedy lacks the freshness of the previous entries, it retains the goofy spirit of the series. That may not be enough to satisfy fan boys.
After a 19-year hiatus, Samuel L. Jackson returns as the bad ‘you-know-what’ in “Shaft.” The original Shaft, Richard Roundtree returns with newcomer Jessie T. Usher as three generations of tough guys battle a nasty drug lord. “Shaft” is rude and crude and almost plays like a cheap self-parody. I can’t dig it.
The comedy “Late Night” plays like a reworking of “The Devil Wears Prada” but set in the world of late-night TV. Emma Thompson plays an aging talk show host facing forced retirement. Mindy Kaling, who also wrote the screenplay, plays a wannabe comedy writer who invades the largely white, male bastion of the writers’ room, battling sexism, ageism and racism with her comic barbs. It’s a bit too conventional for its own good, but the stars make it work.
Art film icon Jim Jarmusch takes a low-key comic approach to zombie genre with “The Dead Don’t Die.” Bill Murray and Adam Driver lead the cast in the tale of a small town suffering from a living dead apocalypse. The cast and crew probably had a much better time making this self-referential movie than the audience will watching. It’s for indie insiders only.
Also opening this week, Gina Carano and Richard Dreyfuss star in “Daughter of the Wolf,” a thriller about a military vet who tracks down her kidnapped son. Sienna Miller stars in “American Woman” the story of a woman whose teen daughter goes missing. “Perfect” is a sci-fi thriller about troubles at a genetic engineering clinic.Listen