Dr Ed's Movie Reviews

Latest Movie Review

“A Gentleman in Moscow” (+++) is a fictional tale about Count Alexander Rostov, who is stripped of his title and wealth and placed under house arrest for life in a grand Moscow hotel. This all occurs in Russia following the revolution of 1917 during which the monarchy was abolished and the government imposed socialism on its citizens. Most of the miniseries occurs during the rule of Stalin. It’s a good civics lesson, illustrating how socialism can quickly turn into tyranny. Ewan McGregor provides an outstanding performance as the Count.

2024

“A Gentleman in Moscow” (+++) is a fictional tale about Count Alexander Rostov, who is stripped of his title and wealth and placed under house arrest for life in a grand Moscow hotel. This all occurs in Russia following the revolution of 1917 during which the monarchy was abolished and the government imposed socialism on its citizens. Most of the miniseries occurs during the rule of Stalin. It’s a good civics lesson, illustrating how socialism can quickly turn into tyranny. Ewan McGregor provides an outstanding performance as the Count.

“American Fiction” (+++) is one of the movies nominated for the Oscar for Best Picture. It should win, beating the other nominees, including “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie.” That’s not my prediction; it’s my opinion. It’s a movie starring Jeffrey Wright playing Monk, a frustrated African American novelist who uses a pen name to write the autobiography of a fictitious black fugitive hiding from the FBI. The book becomes an instant hit, much to the consternation of Monk, who wrote the novel as a goof on similar books pandering to stereotypes promoted by the culture warriors who practice identity politics. In their world, all of us are first and foremost members of an identity group based on nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and social class. Individual identities are not relevant. As a result, they violate the age-old adage “Never judge a book by its cover.”

“Bob Marley: One Love” (++) is an interesting biopic about the life and music of Bob Marley. Kingsley Ben-Adir plays the lead role and does a great job of portraying the reggae star. The film itself is a rather predictable version of the genre, depicting the rise of a great talent from obscurity, poverty, and adversity to fame, fortune, and adversity. Nevertheless, it is entertaining, especially the music.

“Boys in the Boat “ (++) is based on a 2013 nonfiction novel about the quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by nine members of the JV crew team at the University of Washington in Seattle. They were the underdogs competing against the best teams from the Ivy League and then from around the world at the Olympics. The film is a classic come-from-behind tale. It’s predictable, though the races are exciting. The romantic subplot is also predictable but a refreshing throwback to sock hops and gender-segregated dorms.

“Feud: Capote vs the Swans” (+++) is an eight-episode limited series based on the bestselling book “Capote’s Women: A True Story of Love, Betrayal, and a Swan Song for an Era” by Laurence Leamer. It’s all about high society in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s. Truman Capote, the famous American novelist, was attracted to the ladies who dominated that society. They were attracted to him for his wit and wisdom, and he became their confidante. He destroyed his relationship with his “swans” when he published an article about them in Esquire that was a thinly veiled fictionalization of their lives and exposed their most intimate secrets. The script and the performances of all the actors are really exceptional.

“Griselda” (+++) is an intense docudrama series on Netflix. Sofia Vergara provides an amazing performance as Griselda Blanco. She is a single mom struggling to raise her three children after she murdered her husband. She escaped from Colombia with her three boys to Miami, where she became the main distributor of cocaine in that city during the 1970s and 1980s. She was ruthless. Pablo Escobar said, “The only man I was ever afraid of was a woman named ‘Griselda Blanco.’”

“Killers of the Flower Moon” (+) is another very long movie directed by Martin Scorsese. It would have been better if it were shorter. The movie is based on a series of murders of Osage Indians in Oklahoma during the 1920s after their tribe discovered oil on their land. Leading the bad guys are characters played by Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio. Neither performance was exceptional.

“Leave the World Behind” (-) is a good movie for pessimists who hate people, like the person played by Julia Roberts in this quirky movie. The world is collapsing for some unknown reason. There are blackouts, so TVs and cellphones don’t work. The crabby lady played by Roberts along with her clueless husband (played by Ethan Hawke) and their two teenagers rent a vacation house, presumably in the Hamptons, just as the crisis begins. The landlord and his daughter show up and stay over in the guest room. The family tries to escape. But the entrance to the Long Island Expressway is full of empty white Teslas that have crashed into each other, blocking the way out. It’s all pointless, but we now know that white Teslas are an existential threat to our civilization.

“Manhunt” (++) is a television miniseries about the hunt for John Wilkes Booth after he assassinated President Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln’s Secretary of War and friend, Edwin Stanton leads the investigation. Tobias Menzies plays Edwin Stanton, and Anthony Boyle plays John Wilkes Booth. They both do an admirable job of recreating the protagonist and antagonist in this historical drama about the important events that followed the assassination.

“Masters of the Air” (+++) is an excellent World War II drama, which recounts the story of the 100th Bomb Group. The miniseries is a companion to “Band of Brothers” (2001) and “The Pacific” (2010). All three are extremely well made homages to the young men and women who sacrificed so much for their country to win World War II. The latest miniseries follows the crews who flew their B-17 Flying Fortresses on extremely dangerous missions to destroy targets inside Germany. It’s good to be reminded of a time when Americans were united in our determination to win a war against fascists, and succeeded.

“Masters of the Air” (+++) is an excellent World War II drama, which recounts the story of the 100th Bomb Group. The miniseries is a companion to “Band of Brothers” (2001) and “The Pacific” (2010). All three are extremely well made homages to the young men and women who sacrificed so much for their country to win World War II. The latest miniseries follows the crews who flew their B-17 Flying Fortresses on extremely dangerous missions to destroy targets inside Germany. It’s good to be reminded of a time when Americans were united in our determination to win a war against fascists, and succeeded.

“Napoleon” (- -) is an epic historical drama based on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. It is directed by Ridley Scott and stars Joaquin Phoenix, who seems to be totally bored with the part, which makes the film totally boring. If you are looking for the crib notes on this important historical figure and don’t mind some inaccuracies, then watch the movie. I did learn something I didn’t know about the self-crowned French emperor. When he invaded Russia, Alexander I, the Russian emperor, burned down Moscow just before the French army arrived. There was simply no one and nothing to conquer. Between the invasion and the retreat to home, the French suffered 500,000 casualties, including 300,000 killed, mostly by the weather and disease.

“One Life” (+++) is an incredible true story about the life of Sir Nicholas Winton, who organized a remarkable evacuation of 669 Jewish children by train from Prague through Nazi-occupied territory. He arranged to have them all placed with foster parents in Great Britain. He was just an “ordinary man” who saved many lives, earning Winton a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. His mother and a few close friends helped him organize the dangerous rescue effort. The movie features an excellent cast, with Johnny Flynn playing Winton as a young stockbroker who felt compelled to save the young refugees and Anthony Hopkins playing him later in life, well after the war.

“Perfect Days” (+) is a perfect vignette about the life of a public toilet caretaker in Tokyo named “Hirayama.” The film is a bit repetitive like “Groundhog Day.” However, unlike that movie, the main character, played to perfection by Koji Yakusho, enjoys the routine of his daily choirs, meals, and bedtime as well as reading books and listening to music. He likes to inhale the fresh air when he steps outdoors to go to work and have his coffee from a vending machine. He enjoys a sandwich in the park for lunch and the company of the trees around him. At home, he has several tree saplings that he waters every morning. His routine is occasionally interrupted, but he returns to it quickly. The movie is a reminder that we all have our routines that give us a sense of stability and comfort. So try to have a perfect day every day.

“Priscilla” (+) is a biopic about Elvis Presley’s wife. He met her in 1959 when he was stationed in Germany. He was 24 years old. She was 14. They were married in 1967 after she spent several years living with the legendary rock star at Graceland, his home in Memphis, Tennessee. Elvis doesn’t spend much time with Priscilla because he is on the road most of the time and doesn’t bring her along. When they are together, they spend days in their bedroom having their meals in bed and wallowing in substance abuse. A more interesting Elvis-related movie is “Elvis & Nixon” (2016).

“Ripley” (+) is the second remake in English of the original French 1960 movie starring Alain Delon. This version is a crime thriller series that details a story of obsession, murder, and identity theft. It is filled with lots of plot twists that make no sense. My wife was bored with it. I enjoyed it and kept telling her that it’s just a movie. We both agreed that it is the most beautifully filmed black-and-white film that either of us had ever seen. Each scene is a masterpiece of cinematographic lighting.

“Rogue Heroes” (++) is a British television series based on a book by Ben Macintrye about the creation of Britain’s famed Special Air Service Brigade during World War II. In 1941, British forces were retreating in North Africa as the tanks of German General Erwin Rommel were heading toward Egypt. Three British lieutenants assembled a force of commandos to attack key installations behind enemy lines. The commandos are a wild bunch, reminiscent of the Dirty Dozen. Their exploits are the stuff of legends and this movie, which is fast paced and action packed. 

“Scoop” (+) is an interesting movie about how the BBC coaxed Prince Andrew to agree to appear in an infamous 2019 interview on the television network’s Newsnight to talk about his sordid friendship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. According to the movie, Andrew also has a strange fascination for stuffed toys. In 2022, Queen Elizabeth (“Mummy”) stripped Prince Andrew of his military titles and patronages. Incidentally, it’s very odd that Epstein managed to hang himself in jail even though he was under watch. Also odd is that none of Epstein’s other celebrity pals have been implicated in participating in his criminal activities.

“The Crown” (+++) is a six-season TV docudrama about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. The final season is the best of the lot, which all are top-notch. Her royal highness almost always rose to the occasion even in the face of numerous challenges and scandals. She worked with 15 prime ministers and usually offered them sound advice on dealing with various issues. She sacrificed a great deal in her personal life for the good of her country. May she rest in peace. The script for the final season was particularly well written with splendid performances by all the major actors.

“We Were The Lucky Ones” (+++) is a historical miniseries about a Jewish family residing in Poland as World War II begins and the Germans invade their country. Some escape to other countries, while others struggle to survive by hiding themselves or trying to stay alive in concentration camps. They have no idea whether their relatives have perished or not. As they reunite after the war, they are amazed by how many of them did survive. The movie is based on a 2017 book by Georgia Hunter that was inspired by what happened to her own family during the war. 

“Wicked Little Letters” (++) is a hilarious detective story based on true events. In 1920, Edith Swan (played by Olivia Colman), a devout Christian spinster who lives with her elderly parents in the southern English seaside town of Littlehampton is the victim. She suddenly starts receiving anonymous letters that curse her with a full assortment of expletives. She complains to the police, who immediately suspect Rose Gooding (played by Jessie Buckley), the Swans’ next-door neighbor. She is a fouled-mouthed young single mother. The case against her becomes a national sensation and goes to trial. It’s all great fun.

“Zone of Interest” (+++) is a remarkable film about the banality of evil. The film focuses on SS soldier Rudolf Hoss, the commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and his family. They live in a very nice house surrounded by a high wall that doesn’t completely hide the adjoining death camp nor the fire and smoke spewed by its chimneys. Beyond the wall, the air is also filled with the sounds of gunshots, barking dogs, and prisoners screaming in terror and pain. Meanwhile, Mrs. Hoss happily tends to her large garden, while the kids enjoy their swimming pool. Mr. Hoss works hard to impress his superiors with the efficiency of his horrible crematory furnaces. Steven Spielberg praised the movie as the best Holocaust movie since his own (“Schindler’s List,” 1993), highlighting its impact on raising awareness. Unfortunately, raising awareness of this historical horror is needed more than ever today.

2023

“Archie” (++) is a British television drama series about actor Cary Grant. He was born into poverty in Bristol in 1904 as Archibald Leach before becoming a star in Hollywood with the new stage name. He was very successful as an actor, playing lead roles in several hit movies. However, his personal life was a mess, as evidenced by his five marriages and four divorces. He suffered greatly from the emotional pain of his childhood. He recognized that he was trapped in the past but couldn’t escape it. However, near the end of his life, he had a baby girl with his fourth wife, Dyan Cannon; it was then that he finally found peace and great satisfaction in the role of good dad.

“Maestro” (++) is another movie about high-powered men who are very successful in their careers but very challenged in their personal relationships. I previously reviewed “Archie,” which is about actor Cary Grant. “Maestro” is about conductor Leonard Bernstein, played to perfection by Bradley Cooper. The movie is as much about his long-suffering wife, Felicia, played to perfection by Carey Mulligan. Both men had abusive fathers. In recent years, many of our recent presidents also had troubled relationships with their fathers and took it out on the rest of us. We are thinking about JFK, LBJ, RMN, WJC, GWB, and DJT. Not much is known about JRB’s relationship with his father. Congressional Republicans are investigating his remarkably close relationship with his son Hunter.

“NYAD” (+) is a Netflix biopic about 64-year-old marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, who became the first person ever to swim from Cuba to Florida without the aid of a shark cage. After several tries during her career, she finally succeeds in 2013, completing the 110-mile swim in 53 hours. The only problem is that her feat wasn’t independently verified. So her controversial achievement was not ratified by the World Open Water Swimming Association or the Guinness World Book of Records. The movie stars Annette Bening as the eponymous American swimmer, while Jodie Foster plays her coach.

“Reptile” (+) stars Benicio Monserrate Rafael del Toro Sánchez in this crime drama, which is almost as long as his name. The plot is interesting but is a bit too slow paced. Then again, Del Toro is always fun to watch. His understated intensity is ever-present in the roles he plays. This movie is about a murder, real estate agents, drugs, and cops. Alicia Silverstone and Justin Timberlake have parts, but they don’t add much to the movie.

“The Holdovers” (+) is about a curmudgeonly instructor of ancient history at a New England all-boys prep school. Much to his chagrin, he is picked by the school’s headmaster to watch over a few of the students who have nowhere to go during the Christmas break. The teacher, played to perfection by Paul Giamatti, and one of the students get to know and understand one another and themselves better. The message is that some people aren’t as bad as they seem once you are forced to spend some time with them.