The female creators and cast crack open big surprises in ‘Blow the Man Down’

“Blow the Man Down” – “The simple truth is that you can understand a town.  You can know and love and hate it.  You can blame it, resent it, and nothing changes.  In the end, you’re just another part of it.” – Brenna Yovanoff The Connolly sisters, Priscilla (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor), reside in Easter Cove, Maine, a fictional coastal town that – actually – is not so picturesque.  Sure, it meets the ocean, but a wintertime chill smothers and covers the whole local-lot, as snow and…

‘First Cow’ grazes into a long-winded but mesmerizing underdog story

“First Cow” – “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”  – Albert Einstein Writer/director Kelly Reichardt grew up in Miami, Fla., but you wouldn’t know it from her films.  She set “Wendy and Lucy” (2008) and “Meeks Cutoff” (2010) in Oregon, a modern-day tale and a one from 1845, respectively.  2016’s “Certain Women” took place in Montana, and her new movie “First Cow” heads back to Oregon and the 19th century. Somewhere in the Oregon Territory wilderness, a quiet, reserved cook – appropriately nicknamed Cookie (John Magaro) – travels with…

Vin Diesel’s ‘Bloodshot’ feels like ‘Boreshot’

“Bloodshot” –  Don’t mess with a United States soldier.  Apparently, Dr. Emil Harting (Guy Pearce), a modern-day mad scientist of sorts, didn’t get the memo.  To make matters worse, his middle name might be Frankenstein, because in “Bloodshot”, he brings a soldier back from the dead and gives him some monster powers. Ray Garrison (Vin Diesel) prides himself on surviving countless dangerous missions and returning home to his wife Gina (Talulah Riley), but evidently, his commanders sent him on one too many assignments, because an unsuspecting adversary terminates him.  (Please…

‘Greed’ isn’t that great

“Greed” – “Greed is good.”  – Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), “Wall Street” (1987) Sir Richard McCreadie (Steve Coogan) – the head of Monda, an international apparel corporation – is filthy rich. How rich? Well, Monda just paid a 1.2 billion (British) pound dividend to its owner, McCreadie’s wife Samantha (Isla Fisher).  Samantha then purchased a yacht for 100 million that proudly scoots around Monaco with no apparent altruistic purpose, and hey, that leaves 1.1 billion to fund her favorite 2020 U.S. Presidential candidate!  Okay, don’t expect the latter, although one…

It doesn’t always connect, but ‘The Call of the Wild’ is a likable family adventure

“The Call of the Wild” – “He had been suddenly jerked from the heart of civilization and flung into the heart of things primordial.” – Jack London, “The Call of the Wild” “How much is that doggie in the window?  The one with the waggly tail.” – Patti Page, “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window” Buck is an aristocrat of sorts.  Perhaps an aristodog?  (Many apologies for going there. Couldn’t resist.) He’s a handsome, 140-pound St. Bernard-Scotch Collie, and the Miller Estate, located in Santa Clara, Calif., is…

Manville and Neeson are anything but ordinary in ‘Ordinary Love’

“Ordinary Love” – “If you have a friend or family member with breast cancer, try not to look at her with sad eyes.  Treat her like you always did; just show a little extra love.” – Hoda Kotb Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) have stable, healthy lives, but not ordinary ones.  In their 60s, they lounge around their spacious home – that sports a 40-year-old décor – in suburban Belfast.  This longtime husband and wife spend their days and nights with one another, as they relish brisk walks…

Romance is a bit fuzzy in ‘The Photograph’

“The Photograph” – Location, Location, Location. If you live in Mesa, AZ, would you take a job across town in Buckeye?  According to Google, the cities are 53 miles apart, and at 6:00pm on a Thursday, the one-way commute is 1 hour and 18 minutes.  Unless you have a How to Learn French in 500 hours app, a pile of gas money, a reliable, late model Honda or Toyota, and are born with oceans of patience, handing a tattoo pen to your 6 year-old son and asking him to draw…

‘Birds of Prey’ might have you praying for a better movie

“Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey” – Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) is a badass broad.  Don’t take this critic’s word for it.  She gave herself that moniker in “Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey”, and why not.  She earned a PhD.  She plays roller derby.  She swings a baseball bat when trouble is afoot.  She loves greasy egg sandwiches with a hearty slice of cheese, and she’s Joker’s girlfriend. Well, she was Joker’s girlfriend.  Sometime after Harley Quinn’s previous big screen performance in the dreadful “Suicide Squad” (2016) – where she and…

‘The Assistant’ clearly documents empathy without empowerment

“The Assistant” –  “Empowerment through empathy.” – Tarana Burke “Tumble out of bed, and I stumble to the kitchen.  Pour myself a cup of ambition and yawn and stretch and try to come to life.   Jump in the shower, and the blood starts pumping.  Out on the street, the traffic starts jumping with folks like me on the job from 9 to 5.” – “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton Jane (Julia Garner) works for a movie production company in New York City.  She’s an entry-level assistant to the top…

Celebrate Chocolate Cake Day with ‘Kings of Pastry’

Who doesn’t like chocolate cake?  Well, those with allergies, perhaps and those who don’t like chocolate.  Then again, who doesn’t like chocolate? Anyway, Jan. 27 is none other than Chocolate Cake Day, and Art House Film Wire recommends to hit up your local bakery, pick out a humongous slice of chocolate cake, bring it home, and dive into the sugary, buttery goodness while digesting the apropos documentary “Kings of Pastry” (2009). This terrific behind the scenes doc pits several world class bakers and their push to win the coveted Meilleur…