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…

‘The Last Full Measure’ is full of emotional supporting performances

“The Last Full Measure” – “The Vietnam War was arguably the most traumatic experience for the United States in the 20th century.” – author Donald M. Goldstein “There was only one man on the ground that day that would have turned down a ride out of that hellhole – at that man was Pitsenbarger.” – F. David Peters, Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division The year is 1999.  The tech boom was in full bloom, and so were The Backstreet Boys.  Lance Armstrong won his first Tour…

Surprise! Oscar-nominated ‘Les Misérables’ is a gritty, non-musical crime drama

“Les Misérables” – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” – Charles Dickens, “A Tale of Two Cities” Quoting – or to be more precise, partially-quoting – Dickens to kick off a “Les Misérables” movie review might be brazen, foolish and a bit sacrilegious, but after watching director Ladj Ly’s gutsy, modern take on Victor Hugo’s celebrated novel, it also feels apropos. For Issa (Issa Perica), a young Parisian teen, life is the best of times and also the worst.  France just won the 2018…

Woodard commands the screen with steely and hazy gazes on capital punishment in ‘Clemency’

“Clemency” – For Anthony Woods (Aldis Hodge), his days in prison are lengthy and torturous.  Each drab minute feels exactly like the next, because sitting in a 10-by-10 foot cell day after day, week after week, and month after month does nothing to spur joy or optimism. Time has become his sworn enemy, packaged as a double-edged sword, because the seemingly endless moments are also brutally finite. Anthony is on death row, and he unenviably stands next in line. Warden Bernadine Williams (Alfre Woodard) is enduring troubling days of her…

‘1917’ is a must-see on the big screen

“1917” – “I wanted you to feel like you were there with the characters, breathing their every breath, walking in their footsteps. The best way to do that is not to cut away and give the audience a way out, as it were.” –  Sam Mendes, Variety, Dec. 5, 2019 One military order. Director Sam Mendes’ “1917” can be summed up as one military order carried out by two British lance corporals through No Man’s Land and beyond at the height of WWI.  On the surface, this seems like a…