TAKEN 3

Just when you think the series is going to break with formula…it doesn’t. I try to avoid spoilers but that’s not a problem here: if you’ve seen 1 and 2, you’ve seen 3. The cracks are showing and the feeling of déjà vu is overwhelming. Time to call it quits with this series.

FF=3.5

GRACE OF MY HEART

An easygoing bio-fic from 1996 about a female singer-songwriter in the 60s. The character is an amalgam of Carole King, Cynthia Weil, and Ellie Greenwich. John Turturro does a hilarious turn as a bewigged Phil Spector type.  Bridget Fonda plays a not-yet-out-of-the-closet Lesley Gore character.  The songs are surprisingly good (I’m thinking of picking up the soundtrack) as you watch music change from the girl-group sound to psychedelia, but it’s not a film that requires much focus. Good to have on while you’re puttering around the room doing other stuff.

FF=2

BIG HERO 6

What a delightful movie. On the negative side, it’s formulaic, doesn’t break any new ground, and the plot twist is obvious. But I don’t go to animated features for any of that. I go for the visuals. And this is beautifully rendered with charming, engaging characters, especially Baymax, the marshmallowy robot who’s the moral center of the tale.  I couldn’t help being reminded of the much darker The Iron Giant. I checked the credits for Brad Bird’s name but didn’t see it.

FF=0

ST. VINCENT

The life of a misanthropic curmudgeon with a heart of gold is turned around by his relationship with a little boy.  Yeah, I know.  How many times has that been done?  This is pure Hollywood feel-good formula, but you know what? It works. Mostly because of the talent on the screen. Great cast, especially Jaeden Lieberher as the boy. Even the bit parts (I’m thinking Chris O’Dowd) are perfectly cast. I can think of worse ways to spend 100 minutes.

FF=1

BLOODLINE

(spoilers ahead) A 13-episode Netflix original series. On the plus side it’s got good acting and the Keys as a setting. On the down side, the story seems mighty thin for 13 hours. The endlessly repeated flashbacks and flashforwards, adding a wee bit more each time – we’ve all seen that before. (I can almost hear the showrunner saying, “How can we stretch this scene?”) Ben Mendelsohn does an excellent job as Danny, the prodigal lowlife creep, but in the end I was left very disappointed. I like noir fiction — might even say I’m a fan — but noir works best in compact, concentrated doses. When you’re given a 13-hour canvas, you’ve got to do more with it than leave us with characters who do not evolve one iota over all those hours. True, in real life most people don’t evolve during adulthood, but this is fiction, which has the potential to be better than real life. With all the crap that goes down in this 13-hour film, nobody learns a damn thing. And the worst part, we’ve known the ending all along due to the flashforwards. Redemption was too much to hope for, I know, but this left me feeling in need of a shower.

FF=3

THE WRECKING CREW

Saw this in a real theater in Asbury Park so I couldn’t have fast-forwarded if I’d wanted to. (I didn’t.)  A must-see documentary if you like 60s music. If you’re a boomer, it’s about the guys (and one gal — bassist Carol Kaye is a hoot) who played on the soundtrack of your life. Hell, if you simply like popular music, you need to see this. This was how it used to be, how the music was made, and the 20 or so musicians who made it.

FF=0