If you want the gravy…

…You've got to get the biscuits!

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FIRST REFORMED Review – ****


The special brilliance of First Reformed is that, for as much as it confronts us with the ugliness of life, both in an eternal sense and in a sense of the issues we face at this very moment, it repeatedly counters its own arguments by reminding us of the persistence of life, of its simple joys and pleasures. It’s a film which brings us to the brink of despair time and again, and each time, in its own way, pulls us back. It’s a measure of its greatness as a film that its doing so never feels like a cop-out, but like the essential truth.

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Harvey Middleman Fireman

Taking off from my recently published list of my 50 most wanted films, this is the start of a new series which I’m calling Most Wanted Films Found (MWFF). As some of the films on that list are easier to track down than others, I decided that, once the list was up, I would try to start crossing films off of it. And I decided to start with a film which I had already missed one window of opportunity to see and wasn’t going to waste another: Ernest Pintoff’s 1965 comedy, Harvey Middleman, Fireman.

First, a quick rundown of the story:

Harvey Middleman (Eugene Troobnick) is a New York City fireman, living a cheerfully average life in the New Jersey suburbs with his wife Harriet (Arlene Golonka) and two young children. One day, responding to an apartment fire, he rescues pretty young Lois (Patricia Harty), and they impulsively kiss. Harvey grows infatuated with her, and the feeling seems to be mutual; meanwhile, he begins to lose his temper at Harriet and his co-workers more frequently.

While trying to decide just what to do about his feelings for Lois, Harvey decides he needs professional help, and consults Mrs. Koogleman (Hermione Gingold), a psychiatrist working for the city health department, who seems more than a bit preoccupied with her own affairs.

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BLACK PANTHER Review – ****


Five weeks into its release, with over $600 million in the till in North America alone and reviews good enough to spur talk of Oscar glory, is there much left to be said about Black Panther? Is there much I can add to the chorus of acclaim, especially since, as my rating gives away, I am in tune with it? Perhaps not. What I can talk about is how my appreciation for the film grew from my first viewing to my second, and how the film, sitting as it now does atop a mountain of praise, earned its position.

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A WRINKLE IN TIME Review – ***


A Wrinkle in Time is the kind of movie that breaks my heart a bit. As an example of representation and empowerment, both in front of and behind the camera, it earns top marks. As a fantasy adventure and spectacle, it has some really delightful moments which show just what a skilled director can do with the resources of a major studio. And as an emotional journey, it is, in its strongest moments, a poignant reflection on self-image and the lengths to which we’ll go for our families.

But as a piece of storytelling, as a narrative film, it’s wildly uneven, and frankly often confounding, especially for those who’ve never read the source novel. And as skillfully as it embodies its themes when it opts to show and not tell, it far too often falls back on ham-fisted dialogue and vague symbolism, making for an experience that’s ultimately rather frustrating.

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The Films of 2017 in 150 Words or Less: Part II


Like hell you did. Or if you did, the editing did a great job of hiding it.

Since I published the first batch of 2017 reviews, I’ve only seen an additional 14 films for the year, partially because of the limitations on my time and money, and partially because there have been fewer films I felt I truly had to see. I hope to catch up over the next four months (I will be pushing my film awards back to allow myself more time), but I will likely not come too near the 118 films I saw for last year – still a personal record.

Still, films I have seen, and films I will discuss.

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The Films of 2017 in 150 Words or Less: Part I


“$7.50 an hour!” “But he has a million dollar heart!”

I’ve seen far fewer films this year than in previous years; tight finances are partially to blame, and a comparative lack of “must-see” films hasn’t helped. But for the most part, I’ve been pretty lucky with the films I have seen, and so I offer my thoughts on the 22 films I haven’t already reviewed…

I have already made my feelings about The Book of Henry very clear indeed.

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If this isn’t the most misleading poster I’ve ever seen, it’s because the film itself is just as misleading.

The Book of Henry is certainly not a good film, but calling it a bad one doesn’t seem to fit; it falls short of the mark, but not in the way a truly bad film does. Rather, it fails to answer two vital questions—who is it for, and what is it about?—and it’s hard to imagine anyone being satisfied with the end result.

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