Movie review: I, Tonya

Some movies are more difficult to review than others, and I, Tonya is one of them. On one hand, it is a humorous film, making good use of the of the fourth wall to tell a story, or stories – it embraces its differing points of view – about what is referred to as The Incident, the injuring of skater Nancy Kerrigan by people around Tonya Harding.

On the other hand, it’s a lot about the the abuse Tonya (Oscar-nominee Margo Robbie) withstands, first at the hands of her never satisfied mother LaVona Fay Golden (probable Oscar winner Alison Janney), then by her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) in their odd love/hate relationship.

As someone who watched a LOT more figure skating in the day than he really cared about, I know it was also about how the girl from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks in Portland, OR never having the right “look”. Her skating was athletic – she was the first American woman to complete a triple axel in competition – but she lacked the grace, the elan that the skating community wanted to show.

I asked my local expert, my wife, what she thought of Robbie’s portrayal of Harding. She thought, and I concurred, that she captured the essence of Tonya, though she wasn’t as sinewy as the skater. We agreed, though, that the folks playing Tonya’s mom and husband, and especially Gilhooey’s lunkhead friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser), were spot on.

I continue to be bemused by the fact that some people get up from the theater as soon as the credits begin rolling, even when those credits are paired with clips of the real people – Tonya, Jeff, LaVona, Shawn. Shawn really DID think he was a world class international spy.

I liked the film because Tonya eventually overcame what was essentially a rigged system to become one of the best skaters in the world. She was turned into a national joke – the film Tonya points to a real David Letterman Top Ten – because of a ridiculous and ineptly executed plan not of her design. She was banned from participating in the only thing to do what she knew how to do, yet she survived.

I, Tonya speaks of the curse of celebrity, with the swarm of reporters amped outside her door for a time. A television infotainment reporter (Bobby Cannavale) admits how the medium sensationalized that narrative until the Next Big Thing came along.

And, as noted, I did love the story telling device of the film. Tonya talks about all the specific difficult things she went through to train for the 1994 Olympics, and her coach Diane Rawlinson (Julianne Nicholson) looks into the camera and says, “and she did!” I laughed through much of the dark comedy.

My wife, who wanted to see the film more than I, enjoyed it less, because of all that Tonya went through, starting at age of four. Of course, we saw this at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.


Book review: The Gospel According to the Beatles

gospel according to beatlesIn March 2015, the youth director of our church is putting on a musical review based on The Gospel According to the Beatles, which will feature The Daughter. This compelled me to buy and read the book. Author Steve Turner, as the book sleeve, informs me, has been writing about pop music for over three decades. This is, and I don’t want it to come off as a pejorative, a scholarly book, well-researched Continue reading

Movie Review: Boyhood

boyhood.ellarmasterSteven Rea, the Philadelphia Inquirer film critic wrote of the film Boyhood, “Is it dumb to say, ‘Wow?'” I don’t care. Wow.” I’ll buy that.

From IMDB: “Filmed over 12 years with the same cast, Richard Linklater’s BOYHOOD is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason (a breakthrough performance by Ellar Coltrane), who literally grows up on screen before our eyes. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason’s parents and newcomer Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha…” This project was somehow completed, more or less, secretly.

So it is a visionary CONCEPT of a movie, a brilliant stunt, filming a few days every year for a dozen years, in the life of a boy and his family. So many things could have gone wrong. Continue reading


MOVIE REVIEW: Magic in the Moonlight

magic+in+the+moonlight+posterWednesday night at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, the Wife and I went to see Magic in the Moonlight. There are still several films we want to see, but at 97 minutes, this was the shortest; when you hire a child watcher, time is definitely money.

I am a huge Woody Allen fan. Afterwards, I thought it was a better than OK movie, though my wife thought it lagged in the first half. Maybe it was that we’d see too much in the preview?
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Begin-Again-2I had heard that Begin Again was an Americanized version of the movie Once, which was not a particularly inviting prospect. I mean, I liked the 2006 movie about an Irish busker quite a bit, but didn’t need to see a variation. But Begin Again is largely a different thing, though it does share the fact that music is being performed outdoors, and has the same writer/director, John Carney.

Dan, a music-business executive (Mark Ruffalo) who drinks too much, sees the performance of Gretta, a shy young singer-songwriter (Keira Knightley) and visualizes what her music could sound like in the right hands. Unfortunately Continue reading


Movie reviews: Chef; and The Hundred-Foot Journey

chef-uoWARNING: do NOT got to the movie Chef if you’re hungry. The Wife and I saw this film Sunday at The Spectrum Theatre in Albany, and we were practically salivating by the end. We’ve seen a lot of foodie movies, notably the classic Big Night, and this was among the best. I mean, a grilled cheese sandwich looked “to die for.”

Moreover, the music was great. The Wife is chair dancing, in the theater, and she is not traditionally a chair dancer. (I am in my office, but I was too.)

Chef Carl Casper (the movie’s writer/director/co-producer Jon Favreau) is a high-powered chef at a chic Los Angeles restaurant, has a good crew (John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale), and an ambiguous thing with Molly (Scarlett Johansson), who runs the front. If he could only ignore the controlling owner (Dustin Hoffman), life would be great.

OK, not so great. Continue reading


MOVIE REVIEW: Words and Pictures

wordsandpicturesAt some point in July, the Wife and I saw Words and Pictures at the Spectrum 8 Theatre. I forgot to write a review straight on, partly because I was busy, but also because I don’t particularly enjoy scribing negative reviews. ESPECIALLY when I REALLY wanted to like the film.

The premise is that prep school English teacher Jack Marcus (Clive Owen), once an acclaimed writer himself, is a burned out, functional alcoholic. He tries to motivate his students to value the the written word.
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MOVIE REVIEW: The Grand Seduction

grand-seductionThe Wife and I went to the Spectrum Theatre on a recent Saturday night. I knew little about any of the movies, so we opted for the film down from four showings per day to two, The Grand Seduction.

From the IMDB description:
“The small harbor of Tickle Cove [probably Newfoundland, Canada] is in dire need of a doctor so that the town can land a contract to secure a factory which will save the town from financial ruin. Village resident Murray French (Brandon Gleeson) leads the search, and when he finds Dr. Paul Lewis (Taylor Kitsch) he employs – along with the whole town – tactics to seduce the doctor to stay permanently.”

This film is an English language remake Continue reading


MOVIE REVIEW: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Grand_Budapest_HotelIn the first scene of The Grand Budapest Hotel, a young woman or girl walks through a cemetery, and I realize “She looks like a Wes Anderson character.” Is it the sensible shoes, or the way she walked? Not sure. Strange, because I had only seen two earlier Anderson films, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), which I did not love, and Moonrise Kingdom (2012), which I enjoyed greatly.

This is “The adventures of Gustave H [Ralph Fiennes] , a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero [newcomer Tony Revolori], the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend” Continue reading


Movie Review: The LEGO Movie

lego_movieThe Wife recently purchased, as a fundraiser item for our school’s PTA, this coupon book called SaveAround; I had never heard of it.

One of the items in the Albany edition is an opportunity to go to one of the Regal Cinema locations, for free, on one’s birthday. Hmm, I had a birthday coming up, AND I had taken the day off from work, per usual.

Took the bus up to Colonie Center, and indeed got a free pass to see The Lego Movie. I was the first to arrive, and for a time thought that it might be a private showing. Continue reading