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Recent Movie Reviews April 17, 2022

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.
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Downton Abbey: A New Era is exactly what you expect…a continuation of the same story you have been familiar with all these years. It looks great. Character stories are familiar and while it won’t win any Downton converts, its a nice two hour diversion for already existing fans. There are zero surprises here, but I found it lovely.

The Duke truly is ridiculously charming. It’s a bit like a BBC tv show, but this British film tells the outlandish tale of a Goya held hostage in exchange for free tv for pensioners and elderly in 1961 England. A great cast, a great script, and great directing (his last film) by Roger Michell. 5 star alternate adult programming to Dr Strange this weekend.

DOCTOR STRANGE IN THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS is a mess, in both a good and bad way, and you should see it. It hops from MCU world to world, some recognizable, some not. Having seen WandaVision helps, because you’ll be lost in some places if you have not (having seen Loki doesn’t hurt either). Raimi does solid work here, but the CGI team does better work. It’s hard to connect with any of these people — but there is no doubt this is a continuation of the Avengers films, not the diversions we’ve had in-between. The film does commit the ultimate movie crime though: several times it stops and feels like people are making a movie. You’ll see what I mean. Because, come on, admit it, you’re going to go see it. It deserves to be seen in iMax, EMax, Dolby, or whatever the biggest loudest screen is that you have near you. Small town folks — go see it on a big town. 4/5 stars for MCU fans – 3/5 stars for your partners you’re going to drag to go see it. There is a mid-credit and end-of-credit scene, so don’t go rushing out (they’re fun). And being Raimi there is a touch of horror in the movie — mostly toward the end — but nothing out of the realm of other Marvel movies. Still, maybe a bit too intense for the wee ones, who you should leave at home (they will be completely lost anyway unless they have seen every Marvel movie to date).

The Northman is a deeply moody, gorgeously visual, ultra-violent (seriously leave the kids and squeamish folks at home) Norse take on Hamlet – kind of – steeped in Northern European mythology and battles for land and just sheer dominance. The blood flows freely here – both literally and metaphorically. Highly Recommended for mature audiences. May not be your type of thing.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent – I had an immeasurably wonderful time at this film. Nick Cage gets to send-up every role he has ever played, but he’s fantastically upstaged at every turn by Pedro Pascal who has quickly turned into my favorite actor – his resume is as long as Nick’s at this point. Highly recommended. 5/5

Everything Everywhere All at Once – I waited awhile to post my thoughts on this film until people had the chance to see it and make up their own mind about it. I personally hated everything about this film – it was frenetic and unevenly paced; the storyline had an insignificant family drama payoff not worthy of the metaverse, and it gave me a migraine reading the subtitles with progressive glasses with the constant motion in the background. I thought all of the actors (whom I adore) were wasted in this bizarre film. I know I differ from 97% of the critics and 90% of the audiences on this one, and that’s rare for me – but I was very clearly not the target market for this unrealistic and agitating film.

Fantastic Beasts: The secrets of Dumbledore — I wanted so much to love this. I did not. I wanted so much to “return to the magic”. It has less magic than any of the previous world of Harry Potter films. And we already found out Dumbledore’s secret in part 2 so the title is a bit of a tease. Mads is no match for the now-cancelled Johnny. It’s a “meh” pre-summer could-have-been blockbuster. See it in IMAX or Dolby. It will disappear when the new Dr Strange arrives a few weeks hence. C at best. I suspect it will be on HBOmax within 6 weeks. This was meant to be a 5-picture prequel from the Harry Potter gang, but it is going to fail miserably at the box office, and I suspect this is the end of the Fantastic Beasts journey. I think the movie makers thought the same, because there is a three minute tacked-on ending that ties everything up in a neat bow. Well, almost everything. Anything you care about, anyway. 

Ambulance is solid Michael Bay fun, even if there is a bit too much of it at 2 hours 15 minutes. Mostly car chases, lots of guns ablazing, and fast action. The acting is solid. There are plenty of explosions to keep Michael Bay fans happy. You wont remember most of the film when you leave, but you wont leave disappointed either. My audience loved it and reacted to action sequences throughout. Recommended, just dont go in expecting art. It feels a bit like a shoot-em-up family drama crossed with Speed. 

Morbius is a bad movie. There, I’ve said it. I wanted to like it but dd not and it will please neither Marvel fans nor vampire fans. Its probably fine if you have nothing else to see and want to be reminded of how good the Venom movies are not. Is it just me or is Jared Leto just getting weirder and weirder? 2/5 stars. Not recommended.

Here’s my take on the Academy Awards by way of the Best Picture nominees:

“Belfast,” was my favorite movie of the year. It fires on every cylinder. It will probably win best original screenplay. I’m rooting for it as an upset winner, but I am pretty sure it won’t win.

“CODA,” once the underdog, is looking like Best Picture this year. I loved this movie and will be happy if it wins.

“Don’t Look Up,” the star-powered super liberal look at the end of the world by comet got drubbed by the critics even though it gets everything about stupid people right. I don’t think it will win anything tonight.

 “Drive My Car,” is a three hour Japanese movie that I could barely sit through. It doesn’t stand a chance, especially after the backlash about a foreign film winning last year’s Academy Award.

 “Dune,” is going to walk away with just about every technical award, but it is a misfit in the best picture category until part II is released two years from now, then we might be talking about a different story.

 “King Richard,” is another movie that isn’t going to go far tonight, but I do expect Will Smith to win best actor.

 “Licorice Pizza,” was a great movie, and it was lucky just to be nominated.

 “Nightmare Alley, ” was another great movie but it wouldn’t have been nominated if Guillermo del Toro wasn’t attached to the project.

 “The Power of the Dog” was a surprising front-runner for awhile (I hated this movie with a passion, but I often hate the Best Picture winners).

 “West Side Story.” is another big ticket nominee that isn’t going to win anything except an assured best featured actress award for Ariana DeBose.

I very much enjoyed The Lost City. Tatum and Bullock have chemistry to spare, Radcliffe is great as a bad guy. Pitt appears for a few minutes. It’s a direct rip-off of Romancing The Stone and several other movies but it is funny, the rom-com segments have heart, and while not everything lands, much of the film is spot on terrific. Go, get popcorn, have fun. Recommended. 4/5 stars. A minute into the credits there’s a short funny scene so don’t spring out of your seat and leave.

I’ve mentioned it before, but there’s nothing better for a lousy weather weekend than last year’s Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar, a ridiculous comedy I have probably watched 11 times now. The jokes are hit and miss but Wiig and Mumolo are fantastic, as is Jamie Dornan. And don’t blink or you’ll miss the Mouse Orchestra. The strings need work but the rest of you can have cheese.

The Batman is 3 hours long. It has an A-list outstanding cast. It will sell a gazillion tickets and as word of mouth gets out will sell a gazillion more. Get your advance tickets NOW if you want to see it opening weekend. I thought it was fantastic film-making and while not as good as The Dark Knight it is still the next best Batman movie made. It feels long and it feels over-edited so as not to offend anyone. It’s a darker vision to be sure, but it works even if it’s not much fun. It’s serious and gloomy. Art design is consistently excellent and sometimes exceptional. Pattinson is fantastic. Seriously. 5/5 stars.

I saw Cyrano so long ago last year that I almost forgot it opens wide today (still only playing primarily on art screens and specialty AMC screens)….first, Yes, its “that” Cyrano that opened at Goodspeed Opera House years ago, eventually played off-Broadway, and was shopped around forever before it was picked up as a movie. And no, it does not have Frank WIldhorn’s great score for his own Cyrano, but a bland pop rock score written specifically for this production by a rock band…and yes, Peter Dinklage is really good, but not right for the part (his wife wrote it and produced it)…and no, I didn’t really like anything else in this movie. The scenic design and costumes and cinematography all feel a bit flat (and in many instances evidently edited to cut out modern day buildings and things in backgrounds)…Its a decent waste of time, but that’s about it. Of course, this is a memory of a film I now saw 4 months ago. But it is what it is. 3/5 stars. Average at best.

Uncharted is a fun adventure film that falls in the National Treasure ilk…it has better toys, but half the intelligence. Actors fine. Story fine. Action fine. Ticks off all the standard action adventure checkboxes. Stars the massively over-rated but teenage girl friendly Tom Holland. 3/5 stars. Fine for a snowy afternoon. Generic maps! Tuxedoes! Auction house! Motor boats!

DOG (seen this morning in press preview) is a fun crowd-pleasing dog-lovers story of a roadtrip to try to get to a funeral. SO — for the first 95 percent it’s a roll-around and frolic with one of the screen’s most adorable and camera-ready dogs (actually 3 dogs). The last 5 percent is maudlin stuff. But 95% is still a big A from me. Recommended. Note: If you don’t like dogs you will HATE this movie. Seriously. There’s war and PTSD and scary “what will happen to the dog” stuff…but you know where it goes from the first scene. Light profanity. DO NOT buy one of these gorgeous dogs. They are dangerous, need incredible amounts of training and attention, and are absolutely inappropriate around children or other dogs.

Loved Death on the Nile…you probably already know whodoneit…but it’s a beautiful slow-paced leisurely scenic cruise to the ending. And most likely the last of the Branagh Peroit films. Beautifully dressed beautiful actors in beautifully designed sets committing beautiful Murder. Highly recommended.

Exceptional Gutenberg The musical at the Dio is the funniest show you’ve never seen before April 9, 2022

Posted by ronannarbor in Uncategorized.
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Richard Payton and David Moan, photo Dio Dining and Entertainment

The best 17 shows west of the Hudson are on display in the single “Gutenberg The Musical” at The Dio theater in Pinckney. Brilliantly executed by stars Richard Payton and David Moan, hilariously directed by Steve Debruyne, with musical direction by Brian Buckner, the show is a non-stop laugh-fest the likes of which has not been seen in a very long time.

I can not recommend this show more highly — it’s a slice of heavenly comedy pie that will have you relaxed and highly entertained, and you might leave the theater with your sides hurting a bit from having laughed so hard all night. Five stars. 

There are sequences so funny that you haven’t finished laughing before the next big laugh comes along right on top of it —such is Scott Brown and Anthony King’s (Beetlejuice the musical) outrageous book, music, and lyrics. 

There’s not much to the concept: two writers/musicans/actors present a “workshop” of their musical, Gutenberg, where they play the cast of thousands, each indicated by a lettered cap (for example Drunk 1 and Drunk 2 in the stunning photo of Payton and Moan above). Having found a dearth of information about Gutenberg on Google, they set out to create a work of “historical fiction” which includes a satan-worshiping monk and his gentle (but dumb) sidekick; a printing press; a beautiful (but dumb) wine-stomper with the subtle name of Helvetica, and all the denizens of the town of Schlimmer, Germany, who are funny, funnier, and funniest (and mostly dumb). There are take-offs of so many Broadway musicals you can’t count them all – and you’ll learn a bit about writing a musical too (like what a “want song” is, along with the most convoluted definition of “metaphor” you’ve ever heard.)

Moan and Payton make the most of these roles, including characters such as the anti-semitic flower-girl (it’s their “purpose” to lend weight to their show), market stall sellers, townsfolk, and even a dead baby (don’t ask – just go watch). Everyone lives in a run-down medieval German town where all the roofs are made of dirty thatch. The show soars above it all (one time literally) and it is an absolute hoot.  The actors put on an acting class in clowning, singing, instantly transforming from one character (and emotion) to another, at times interchangeably playing the characters as needed to accomodate other stage business (which is your favorite, Payton’s Helvetica, or Moan’s Helvetica?)

They are also experts at improvisation if things go wrong (a hat goes flying, a cat goes flying) or if an audience member blurts out a comment (Moan: “Its just such excellent writing.”)

Brian Buckner plays the third character, not only musically directing the show, but appearing onstage playing piano throughout. His character is dry, funny, and adds another layer to the entire evening.  

There is a reason that many of my New York friends consider “Gutenberg The Musical” their favorite off-broadway show. It is easy to see why. It’s two hour runtime is a bit long, but you will never feel time passing in this show — intermission comes all too soon, and the “serious finale” will even find you singing along as you digest nonsense about “eating your dreams”. 

The Dio serves your dinner now, rather than using a buffet line, and quite frankly I liked that a lot. Remember to tip your waiter! (Even the actors remind you!)

The production is assistant directed by Amy Schumacher, Choreographed (clever!) by Rachael Cupples. Matt Tomich designed the set, lighting, and sound and makes a very complicated set-up feel simple and clean. Costumes are by Norma Polk and the (many) props are by Eileen Obradovich. 

Gutenberg The Musical continues through May 8th at the Dio, 177 E Main St, Pinckney, MI 48169, (517) 672-6009, diotheatre.com – reservations (tables of 2 or 4) required. Masks are optional.