Once upon a time, a new movie from Spike Lee was anxiously awaited. Very few filmmakers had a run right out of the gate like he did. She’s Gotta Have It. School Daze. Do the Right Thing. Mo Better Blues. Jungle Fever. Malcolm X. Even Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop: We Cut Heads, his master’s degree thesis film from his NYU days, showcased an exciting new talent who was going to set the film world ablaze. But then, by chasing mainstream studio success, Lee went on to make some project choices that, while still often technically dazzling, left much to be desired. The poor choices of projects like Clockers, Summer of Sam and 25th Hour were, in some degrees, saved by the interesting choices he was making with projects like Get on the Bus and Bamboozled, and the devastating 4 Little Girls and When the Levee Breaks. But whatever choices he made, you had to know that Spike Lee was going to make at least one more film that could match his 1989 masterpiece in tone and style and fury and compassion. BlacKKKlansman, after 21 feature films and 11 documentaries, is the film that shows what he’s learned after thirty plus years behind the camera. BlacKKKlansman is the film Spike Lee was destined to make.
One’s enjoyment of the new documentary “RBG” will probably be gauged by how well you know the titular subject. If you are like my wife, a professed devotee of the pioneering social justice warrior turned Supreme Court goddess, you might find this presentation a bit on the “been there, knew that” side of things. If you are like me, who actively encouraged his wife’s fangirl-ness for the Notorious RBG by book after book about her but never actually bothered reading any of them, you will likely find this woman’s story to be incredibly inspirational as you sit there and think to yourself that you’re kind of an asshole for not knowing more about this real life Wonder Woman sooner.
When you’ve got it, you’ve probably got it forever. What you’ve got might go out of style, and you might be relegated to projects that are beneath your talents, but every once in a while, you might get offered something that will remind everyone that you still got it. For Burt Reynolds, that time is now, and that project is Adam Rifkin’s wonderfully subversive “The Last Movie Star.”
Whitney Cummings is funny as hell.
Granted, most of the vehicles she has either starred in, written and/or produced have been hit and miss as overall endeavors, but Ms. Cummings can regularly be counted on to be a bright spot whenever she’s on screen. So it comes as a disappointing surprise that “The Female Brain,” her first feature as a writer or director, is so devoid of any hilarity that should have ensued from this supposed romantic comedy.
Going in to Scott Eastwood’s new movie, “Overdrive,” I wasn’t expecting much. I had seen the trailer for the movie in front of “Atomic Blonde” while on vacation in France two months ago, and immediately dismissed it out of hand as a wannabe “Fast and Furious” type. I just tuned it out the way you tune out a commercial while watching last week’s episode of “The Good Place” on Hulu. If I had been paying attention, I might have noticed it was primarily in Marseilles, where I had been not two days earlier. So when I read about this tidbit two months later, I decided to check it out. And what I ended up getting was something that, while not a great movie, was quite a bit of fun, and better than any of the “Fast and Furious” movies they’ve been making for the past decade.
Why do we watch movies? For newer works, we go to see the newest effort from a favorite actor, writer, director or cinematographer, or we feel the story is something we can relate to, or because it comes recommended from friends or critics or has received a lot of awards buzz. Maybe we’ve not heard of the filmmaker, but a distributor who has acquired a reputation for giving chances to edgy and interesting work is releasing it. So while Screen Media isn’t quite at the level of a 1990’s Miramax, a 2000’s THINKfilm or a 2010’s A24 in terms of prestige, they have slowly been moving away from their former bread and butter of Z-level dreck like “Croczilla” and “Paranormal Whacktivity” and giving theatrical life to curious works from directors like Tobe Hooper and Paul Bettany. And while I have never heard of writer/director Ryan Eggold, he was able to nab an embarrassment of riches when it came to casting his feature debut, including Cobie Smulders, John Cho, Peter Gallagher, Ryan Hansen, Charlyne Yi, Briga Heelan, Luis Guzman, Dana Delany and Lea Thompson. Which is why I was interested in checking out “Literally, Right Before Aaron.” That’s one hell of an eclectic cast.