‘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…

Early Review: ‘Green Book’ is destined for golden nominations

“Green Book” – “When growing up, I saw segregation.  I saw racial discrimination.  I saw those signs that said white men, colored men, white women, colored women…and I didn’t like it.” – U.S. Congressman John Lewis – GA (D), during a Nov. 16, 2016 interview with NPR’s Terry Gross During the same interview, Lewis reflected on his childhood during the 40’s and 50’s, when segregation was everywhere, and he asked his parents, “Why?” Lewis said that they just responded, “That’s the way it is.” Set in 1962, Dr. Don Shirley…

‘Colette’ excels as a fresh tale of ‘He said, She wrote’

“Colette” – The phrase “He said, She said” has pushed to the front of the country’s consciousness during the last week of September, and millions of Americans have staggered to the month’s finish, looking forward to the weekend and October.  Anything to turn the page. Director Wash Westmoreland’s picture is a figurative page-turner about the world-famous writer Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette or Colette (Keira Knightley) in a film defined by a troubled and colorful story of “He said, She wrote.” Opportunities for women at the turn of the 20th century were limited,…

Thompson, Tucci lead ‘The Children Act’ but the script needs discipline

“The Children Act” – “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” – Nelson Mandela Judge Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) faces difficult decisions every day.  With stacks of high profile cases and judgments piled up in her well-documented history, the work refuses to slow down in her present.  On any given weekday, one can find Judge Maye quietly stewing in her chambers, pouring over documents, making phone calls, and wrestling with conflicting – and sometimes explosive – particulars. From…

Close honors “The Wife” with an Oscar-worthy performance

“The Wife” – Look back at any decade since 1979, and Meryl Streep could be called America’s Most Celebrated Actress.  Streep collected 21 Oscar nominations and nabbed three wins over her career, so it is difficult to make a case for another actress to topple this aforementioned, fictional acting title.  In the 1980’s alone, Streep collected seven Oscar nominations and two Best Actress wins for “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979) and “Sophie’s Choice” (1982), but if she is the most decorated actress from the 80’s, Glenn Close might be the runner-up.…

Cranston fights an implausible story in ‘Wakefield’

“Wakefield” – “I’m totally bewildered by the situation that I created for myself.” – Howard Wakefield “A short story is the shortest distance between two points.  A novel is the scenic route.” – Robert J. Sawyer Howard Wakefield (Bryan Cranston) is a married man who lives in a big, beautiful house nestled in an affluent suburb with his wife, Diana (Jennifer Garner), and their twin girls.  He is a law firm partner.  She is an assistant curator at the county museum.  Their lives appear in perfect order, one that the…

‘Paris Can Wait’ might cause impatience

“Paris Can Wait” – Cannes is a dream for anyone who loves movies. Well, this coastal city – located in the south of France and just down the road from Nice – is a dream for anyone, whether he or she enjoys movies or not. (Although, who could possibly fall into the latter category, really?) Of course, Cannes hosts the annual Festival de Cannes – a.k.a. The Cannes Film Festival – and Anne and Michael Lockwood (Diane Lane, Alec Baldwin) are completing their stay at the aforementioned event. They just…

Letts and Winger masterfully play a flawed couple in ‘The Lovers’

“The Lovers” – “Cheating and lying aren’t struggles.  They’re reasons to break up.” – Patti Callahan Henry Michael (Tracy Letts) and Mary (Debra Winger) have been married for eons.  Perhaps many of their years together have been happy, but not recently.  Residing in Santa Clarita, California, this 50-something couple share a comfortable suburban home and drive to white-collar jobs that one might find near Initech, the infamous company from “Office Space” (1999). Although Michael and Mary have zero passion for their day jobs, their work does not create emotional heartburn, per…

‘The Dinner’ serves up an intriguing, tense drama

“The Dinner” – Look up “dinner” in the dictionary, and it reads “the principal meal of the day” and “a formal feast or banquet”.  For most households, however, dinner has a larger meaning.  It is a time when families congregate to share their experiences and feelings while also – functionally – breaking bread.  Sometimes laugher fills these caucuses, but many times, family members toss issues on the table and either productively work through them or dive deeper into valleys of conflict. For decades, television shows have featured American experiences at…