Teen Beat (Movie Thoughts: November Criminals)

DNF6mEZWkAE5q8-Ansel Elgort stars in ‘November Criminals’ and I bet this film was shot before this year’s hit ‘Baby Driver’ because this is such a bland film that no one would ever think this would be a good follow up after that film. Here he stars as Addison, a teenager whose friend is killed. For no real valid reason, he becomes obsessed with finding out who his friend’s killer is, and doesn’t really map out to us why we should care either. As a murder mystery, it’s a bit of a dud. The resolution felt commonplace and perhaps that’s just the jaded side of me talking. But there’s more here. This film is also a quasi romantic story between him and Phoebe, played by Chloe Grace Moretz. Both actors seem to be bored by the film, and who can really blame them. I can’t think of anything about this film i could recommend.

Turn The Holiday Lights On (Music Thoughts: Lumieres D’Hiver, Emilie Claire Barlow)

6000197700178I have been listening to Emilie Claire Barlow for a while now, having discovered her on a trip to Montreal many years ago. She has just released her second Holiday album, ‘Lumieres D’Hiver’ (Winter Lights) and I think it is my favorite Holiday album so far this year.

Most of the songs are in French, and it really gives a different atmosphere when you are listening to ‘White Christmas’ and ‘The Christmas Waltz’ in French. One of my favorite recent Holiday songs is Wilson Phillips’ ‘Hey Santa’ and she does a great arrangement of that here, and yes, sings it in French. And she does a very minor arrangement of ‘I’ll be Home For Christmas’ that is weirdly sadder than normal. She includes some original compositions – ‘Le Darnier Noel,’  and the title track – and they are wonderful and evokes the same mood as the rest of her album. Her breathy jazzy vocals are the real highlight here, and provides just the right amount of warmth on a cold winter night.

Bossa Beat For The Holidays (Music Thoughts: Christmas In Bossa, Cecilia Dale)

cdaleCecilia Dale’s ‘Christmas In Bossa’ is a delightful, unique Christmas album. Well, it’s unique because of it’s the Brasilian/Portuguese sound, and why not, I am sure they celebrate Christmas in Brasil as well. I wish I knew more about Ms. Dale. Before writing this, I spent an amount of time trying to google her, but there seems to be not much information about her, except that I think this album was originally released in 2005, and has been re-released this Christmas season 2017. But as I said, it is wonderful, and only a fine singer like Dale can sing ‘Let It Snow’ with a bossa nova beat. (And she sings the rarely-heard verse of it, too!)  When she sings ‘White Christmas,’ you hear a different sense of honesty in her rendition. This really is a fun listen, and I have played it numerous times already.

The Back Bones (Film Thoughts: My Friend Dahmer)

DFMD0s5VYAAvupeEven when it was in the headlines, I never really followed the story of Jeffrey Dahmer. I know he was a serial killer, and killed and chopped his victims, but, that was it. Going into Marc Meyer’s ‘My Friend Dahmer,’ I thought I was going to get the full picture, but then I realize now this film covers only his teenage years, as it is based on the graphic comic/novel written by his high school friend John Beckderf. What we get here is kind of the root of what happens next, and literally so, as the film ends as Dahmer meets his very first victim.

What we do see is a humanized Dahmer, one that is presented without any judgement, and we as an audience are left to ponder what the man is to become. So it seems he is a sort-of outsider in High School, prone to attention seeking antics by mimicking someone having epileptic seizures for fun. He gets in the group with three other young men. And from then on we see signs of his eccentricities – his obsession with carcasses, bones, ‘things that are inside.’  He comes from a dysfunctional family – his mother, played by Anne Heche, is kind of on the crazy side – she also favored his younger brother.

The performances here are uniformally good. Ross Lynch is fine as Dahmer, and I did not know that he is one of those wholesome Disney actors, so people are saying this is a great ‘stretch.’  Heche and Dallas Roberts play the parents, and they bring their own kind of eerieness in their performances.

I wish the film did more. I wish it was scarier, or more dramatic. To be honest, I thought it was on the bland side because surely a colorful character like Dahmer would make a more bombastic film.

Still The Same Old Story (Movie Thoughts: The Meyerowitz Stories New and Selected)

The-Meyerowitz-Stories-posters-4-600x894There are movies that I call New York movies – stories about people who live in new York City. I think ‘The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) is the definition of the New York movie. These are characters that are quintessentially New York, and when I lived there, I encountered these characters daily, that in a sense I don’t need to try to understand them at all – I already do.

Baumbach assembles a splendid cast here of a family both torn and reunited – the patriarch, Harold, (Dustin Hoffman, terrific here) who is an artist who may have had his day, but he is still a little renowned. Harold is a true character – self indulgent, you keep talking to him, and every he answer he makes is connected to him and only himself. There’s his son Danny (Adam Sandler) who moves at their old house temporarily as he transitions his daughter to college. There’s Harold’s wife (Emma Thompson) and his daughter Jean (Elizabeth Marvel) who have varying degrees of celebrated weirdness here – we find out later what cause the latter’s trauma. And then there’s also the golden son, Matt (Ben Stiller) a successful businessman who lives in California.

Baumbach breaks the film into separate episodes, like a short story collection, and focuses first on the two sons. There are great comedy of errors here, and I found them all hilarious and heartbreaking, as he gets to flesh out the characters in these situations. We cringe, we take sides, and ultimately these are what endears the characters to us. The performances are perfect across the board, and Sandler proves there’s more to him than his usual comedic shenanigans. I thought Hoffman was best above all. I can’t help but think this is the kind of film I want Woody Allen to be making, as it reminded me of his Manhattan movies, like ‘Hannah and Her Sisters.’ Needless to say, i enjoyed these film immensely, as personally it offered me a glimpse of a life I used to have.

Wind Wilde (Movie Thoughts: The Wilde Wedding)

large_The-Wilde-Wedding-posterI had such high hopes for Damian Harris’ ‘The Wilde Wedding.’  I mean, just look at that cast: Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Patrick Stewart, Minnie Driver! I knew it may one of those ‘lighter’ films but, really, I did not think it was going to be bad, like stinky bad.

The main matriarch Eve Wilde (Close) is getting married, and of course her whole extended family is coming, from all her marriages and all the accouterments that come with all her tangled relationships. And they do all come, each manufactured personality after another, presents, exes, futures. And they all get their own entanglements. But it’s all so confusing  you cannot tell one relationship from another, and you stop caring not just about one or some of these characters but, really, all of them. By the time there’s some kind of big conflict towards the end, you roll your eyes, and when that conflict is given a ‘surprise’ twist, you continue to roll your eyes even as you have not unrolled them from your previous rolling. All I can think of is all the wasted talent in the space they are occupying. This was a total waste of my time.

All About Joan (Movie Thoughts: The Time Of Their Lives)

the-time-of-their-lives-2017Just like every other self-respecting gay boy of the 80s, I was a ‘Dynasty’ watcher. And of course, by transitivity, a Joan Collins fan – I, like everythng else, was awed and fascinated by Alexis Carrington Colby – her fabulousness, her glamour, her everything. My friends and I would reenact all of alexis and Krystle’s fight scenes from the show, adding even more dramatic effect. But was there ever a follow up project for her that matched Alexis? Maybe I wasn’t paying attention if there was.

Cue: ‘The Time Of Their Lives,’ where Collins plays Helen, a washed up actress from the 60s in a senior home. She finds out that the director of her biggest hit (we find out later he was her lover as well) has died and she wants to go to the funeral in Il de Re, France. However could she go from England to there, without having any money?

Well, there’s Priscilla (Pauline Collins) who accidentally gets trapped on her bus, and they go on a road trip together, getting into bumps along the way, of course, just like every other movie road trip out there. You can see the bumps a mile away, but you know what, both Collins have great rapport that you go along with it, even enjoy it.

Ultimately, this is all about Joan: there she is, larger than life, with her updo coif and Chanel jacket. There she is – self-deprecating, and down to earth. (The scene where she takes off her wig will break your heart) She is aspirational and relatable at the same time, and she is delicious every time she is on screen, with that boundless charisma. I lover her here, and I love this movie for existing.