Freeze Frame is a weekly show reviewing the latest movies from Hollywood's best films to independent and arthouse movies.
October 11, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Gary Oldman has always been a busy actor, but since picking up his Oscar as Winston Churchill in 2017’s “Darkest Hour,” he’s made ten more movies. If the horror entry “Mary” is any indicator, perhaps Oldman should seriously consider slowing down the pace a bit. In what is essentially a haunted house movie set at sea, Oldman plays David, a struggling sailboat captain trying to keep his head above water financially. Against the better judgement of his longsuffering wife, played by Emily Mortimer, David buys a ramshackle sailboat that was discovered after years of apparent abandonment. After some paint and plenty of elbow grease, David, his wife, two daughters and a two-man crew hop on the boat named Mary and set sail for (where else?) the Bermuda Triangle.
The actors are too good for this material and they do their best to add some spark to an overly familiar script. “Mary” isn’t terrible, it just drifts.
Also opening this week, Will Smith stars in “Gemini Man” a sci-fi effort about an assassin who goes to battle with a much younger clone of himself. Oscar-winner Ang Lee directs. “Addams Family” is a computer animated reboot of the popular horror comedy clan. “First Love” is the latest unrated crime flick from Japanese auteur Takashi Miike. “High Strung Free Dance” is a backstage drama about a love triangle among dancers in a Broadway show. “Jexi” is a high concept comedy starring Adam Devine. He plays a pop culture writer whose artificial intelligence phone assistant interferes in his love life in a jealous rage. And, finally, “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie” gets a brief big screen run before its appearance on Netflix. Aaron Paul returns as drug dealer Jesse Pinkman who’s on the run as the story picks up where the series left off.Listen
October 4, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Joaquin Phoenix gives a riveting performance in “Joker,” undoubtedly one of the more controversial and provocative movies of the year. Can the hard knocks of life rob a person of the gift of empathy? On one hand, that seems to be the story’s underlying theme, but, intentional or not, “Joker” is sending mixed messages.
This character study attempts to explain why a seemingly nice guy turned to the dark side long before he became Batman’s evil nemesis. Phoenix plays Arthur Fleck, a party clown and wannabe standup comic just barely surviving in bleak 1970s Gotham City. Things never go his way. A mix of mental illness, societal apathy and social class strife are enough to push him over the edge. The ensuing violence and unrelenting darkness make “Joker” excruciating to sit through.
Writer/director Todd Phillips is best known for his broad comedies like “Old School” and the “Hangover” trilogy. His turn to the dark side is skillful enough to be taken seriously even though the movie is sometimes repetitious and its point of view, muddled. That leaves us with Phoenix’s immersive performance to carry the day…and carry it, he does. Phoenix may well become the second actor to win an Oscar for playing the Clown Prince of Crime.
Also opening this week, “Memory: The Origins of Alien” is a documentary about the making of Ridley Scott’s 1971 sci-fi horror classic, “Alien.” “Desolation Center” is a documentary about guerrilla desert happenings of the 1980s that served as the inspiration for later events like Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and Coachella. Gallows humor is the order of the day with “Harpoon,” a dark horror comedy about a group of bickering friends aboard a boat that becomes stranded in remote waters…and attempt to refrain from killing one another.Listen
September 27, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
If ever there were a role designed to attract gold statuettes, this is it. The last tragic months in the life of Hollywood legend Judy Garland provide Renée Zellweger the role of a lifetime in “Judy.” After 30 years of drugs, insomnia and loveless marriages, Garland attempts a comeback on the London stage. Zellweger captures the physical and emotional fragility of the offstage Judy even though she’s not quite able to nail Garland’s on-stage magnetism. The movie’s execution is pedestrian, but Zellweger’s empathetic performance boosts “Judy” a notch above the standard biopic.
Following “Smallfoot” and “Missing Link,” the animated family flick “Abominable” is the third animated movie about a yeti in the past year…and it’s probably the best of the three. A young abominable snowman escapes from an evil corporation. A teen girl and two friends help the magical creature return to his home on Mount Everest. Although the story feels like they were making it up as they went along, “Abominable” is a likable and beautifully animated fantasy.
From the “What on Earth were they thinking?” file comes the redneck comedy, “The Death of Dick Long.” Two bumbling hicks in a small Southern town dump a bleeding friend at the hospital and take off in fear. After their inept coverup attempts, we ultimately learn that the trio were involved in bestiality. It’s well acted but otherwise completely misguided.
Also opening this week, “Bliss” is an ultraviolent horror film about an artist who partakes of a potent drug to spark her creativity. “Love, Antosha” is a documentary about the late actor Anton Yelchin. “The Day Shall Come” is a comedy about the feds attempts to frame and entrap would-be terrorists. “Before You Know It” is a backstage drama about a small New York theater. “The Sound of Silence” is a drama about an acoustics expert and his sensitive clients. And “Aquarela” is a documentary about man’s relationship with water.Listen
September 20, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Brad Pitt takes an impassioned space odyssey in the earnest sci-fi epic, “Ad Astra.” Pitt plays an astronaut who is sent to the far reaches of our solar system to see if he can locate his long-lost scientist father, played by Tommy Lee Jones, who is believed to still be living on a remote research facility orbiting Neptune. Problem is, dear old dad’s pesky experiments appear to be bombarding Earth with deadly rays.
Written and directed by James Gray, this ambitious film attempts nothing less than to probe the emotional gravity of the father-son relationship. Pitt gives an extremely subtle but utterly effective performance which carries the movie to the stars. Plus, the visuals in this big screen spectacle are truly sensational. Problem is, “Ad Astra” lacks a satisfying conclusion. It takes us on an intriguing and involving journey, but the destination is empty space.
Also opening this week, Sylvester Stallone returns to the role of “Rambo” for the fifth time in the action thriller, “Rambo: Last Blood.” This time out, the former Green Beret veteran goes to Mexico to save his niece kidnapped by a cartel. And, yes, Stallone is already planning a sixth entry in the franchise.
Most of the original cast returns in the big screen version of the hit BBC TV series, “Downton Abbey.” In 1927, the King and Queen visit the Crawley estate and the family and staff members contend with an attempted assassination.
“Tokyo Ghoul S” is a Japanese sci-fi action fantasy sequel based on the manga comics. “Trauma is a Time Machine” is a drama about the aftermath of a rape.
“One Cut of the Dead” is a low budget Japanese zombie comedy that has made box office history by grossing over a thousand times its budget in worldwide release.
September 13, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “Hustlers” (R), “Official Secrets” (R), “Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken” (PG-13), “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” (PG-13)
Jennifer Lopez gives an assured and charismatic performance in “Hustlers,” the true story of some Manhattan strippers who, during the financial crisis of 2008, began drugging and ripping off their Wall Street clients. Constance Wu plays a stripping newbie J-Lo takes under her wing. The ethics of this female empowerment story are dubious, but “Hustlers” takes an appropriately cynical stab at our money mad culture.
“Official Secrets” is a taut true-life thriller about an incident that occurred in Britain during the leadup to the 2003 Gulf War. Keira Knightly plays an intelligence specialist who leaks a classified document which could have proven that the invasion of Iraq in was illegal. Ralph Fiennes plays her lawyer. The actors are fine and ethical questions are intriguing even though the movie’s pacing falls short.
Documentary filmmaking firebrand Morgan Spurlock is back skewering the fast food industry in “Supersize Me 2: Holy Chicken!” This time, he sets out to open his own fried chicken franchise and raise his own poultry, exposing some of the more outrageous and unsettling aspects of the industry’s farming and marketing methods. It serves up a spicy combo of information, humor and outrage.
“Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice” is a very entertaining documentary that allows the pop music icon to tell her own story as well as providing insight from a number of people who were an integral part of her remarkable career. While it doesn’t delve too deeply, it’s still involving overview packed with terrific music.
Also opening this week, “Freaks” is a sci-fi thriller with Emile Hirsch. “The Goldfinch” is a thriller based on the bestselling novel. Teen gangs battle one another after all adults have perished in the thriller, “Riot Girls.” “Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles” is a documentary about the classic Broadway musical, “Fiddler on the Roof.”Listen
September 6, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Freeze Frame: “Brittany Runs a Marathon” (R), “Tigers Are Not Afraid” (Not Rated), “Rapid Response” (PG-13), “David Crosby: Remember My Name” (R), “Satanic Panic” (R)
Jillian Bell gives a star-making performance in the comic drama, “Brittany Runs a Marathon,” the story of an overweight Manhattan party girl who tries to break out of her personal rut through running. It’s smart and often funny. The only problem is that this story about a marathon is its pace. Still, "Brittany" finishes strong.
“Tigers Are Not Afraid” is a Mexican horror fantasy for the arthouse crowd. The drug wars and childhood homelessness cross paths with magic realism in this beautifully filmed but disturbing and gritty adult fairytale. It doesn’t all work, but it’s impressive just the same.
Wanna see lots of spectacular car wrecks? Then the Indy car film “Rapid Response” fills the bill. It’s about the rise of emergency medical teams on race sites and the safety protocols that have significantly reduced injuries and fatalities over the years. It’s a surprisingly engaging documentary.
“David Crosby: Remember My Name” is a documentary about the notoriously contemptuous rock icon who managed to alienate virtually everyone he worked with while simultaneously making some great pop music. While involving, the movie is as enigmatic as its subject.
Rebecca Romijn stars as the head of a witches’ coven searching for a virgin sacrifice in the grisly horror comedy, “Satanic Panic.” It ain’t subtle, but it may provide a few depraved laughs for the midnight movie crowd.
Also opening this week, the evil clown Pennywise is back in the Stephen King horror sequel, "It: Chapter 2" Twenty-seven years after defeating the killer clown, the "Losers' Club must reunited to face their enemy once again. Bill Hader, Jessica Chastain join the adult cast for this three hour epic. "Hex" is a horror thriller about a malevolent force that fouls up a couple's romantic holiday.Listen
August 30, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
Two of America’s finest actresses attempt a gender flip remake of the acclaimed 2006 Danish drama, “After the Wedding.” Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams both do terrific wrok here, but their performances aren’t enough to help this soapy reboot make an effective emotional connection. Moore plays a zillionaire corporate executive who manipulates the charity-minded Williams into attending her daughter’s wedding. Things get increasingly implausible as we discover her ulterior motives. “After the Wedding” is watchable, but only for the chance to see two formidable talents share the screen. “After the Wedding” is no honeymoon.
If tales of sex, drugs and eighties rock give you pangs of nostalgia, then the unrated Mexican drama “This is Not Berlin” may have some appeal for you. The bohemian nightlife scene of 80s Mexico City provides the backdrop for this coming-of-age story about a couple of teen boys who get in over their heads when they explore their town’s equivalent of Andy Warhol’s Factory. While the movie effectively establishes a gritty atmosphere and captures a sense of time and place, the story is very self-indulgent and off-putting and the various plot points are tied up a bit too neatly. Intentional or not, “This is Not Berlin” comes off as a cautionary tale about avoiding the avant-garde art scene.
Also opening this week, “Killerman” is a Liam Hemsworth thriller about a money launderer who wakes up one morning with millions in cash and amnesia. “Bennett’s War” is a drama about an Army motorcyclist recovering from injuries who must get back on the bike to help his family. “Don’t Let Go” is a time travel thriller starring David Oyelowo. “Greener Grass” is a bizarre surrealist comedy that takes place in an otherworldly suburbia. “Depraved’” is a 21st century update of the Frankenstein story.Listen
August 23, 2019 Arts & Culture, Podcast, Short Segment
“Ready or Not” (R), “The Peanut Butter Falcon” (PG-13), “Nightingale” (R), “One Child Nation” (R), “Hot Air” (Not rated)
“Ready or Not” is a shamelessly violent and deranged horror comedy. Samara Weaving is sharp as a woman who marries into an eccentric, spectacularly wealthy family only to be forced to participate in a deadly game of hide and seek. It’s ugly gore played for laughs. If you’ve got the properly twisted sense of humor, you’re ready for “Ready or Not.”
In the sweet-natured drama “The Peanut Butter Falcon,” Shia LaBeouf plays a fugitive who befriends a runaway with Downs Syndrome and the duo embark on a river raft adventure. While some elements don’t ring true, it’s a funny and disarming crowd-pleaser.
“Nightingale” is a beautifully filmed and acted historical revenge drama set in the Australian bush in 1825. A young Irish convict teams with an Aboriginal Australian tracker to seek bloody justice on the British military personnel who murdered her husband and baby. The story is compelling, but the savage violence depicted is almost sadistic in its brutality, making “Nightingale” a very difficult watch.
“Once Child Nation” is an intriguing and heartbreaking documentary about China’s oppressive population control policy which lasted 30 years. Told from a personal perspective, it’s both a stark history lesson and a bleak cautionary tale.
Steve Coogan plays an ultra-conservative radio talk show host in “Hot Air,” an attempted comedic takedown of the right. The actors are fine, especially Taylor Russell as Coogan’s 16-year-old niece who pops his pomposity, but “Hot Air” is an overwritten exercise that plays like a leftwing lecture.
Also opening this week, “Angel Has Fallen” is a Gerard Butler thriller about a secret service agent on the run. Michael Ealy stars in “Jacob’s Ladder” about a Vietnam vet’s struggles with hallucinations. “Overcomer” is a faith-based drama about high school cross country. “Tone-Deaf” is a home invasion horror flick. “Luce” is a suspense drama with racial themes starring Octavia Spencer.Listen
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