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Thumbnails Jul 17

by Tony Medley

Maudie (9/10): The amazing but true story of world-famous folk artist Maud Lewis (Sally Hawkins) and her relationship/romance with difficult-to-like Everett Lewis (Ethan Hawke), the first 10 to 15 minutes are so dark and depressing I was ready to bolt. That I didn’t exit, however, was a boon because this turned into one of the best pictures of the year highlighted by a bravura performance by Hawkins (who should win an Oscar®) and an almost equal performance from Hawke.

13 Minutes (8/10): This is near the top of the list of films I wish everyone could see this year. It’s tells the virtually unknown story of George Elser (Christian Friedel) who came within 13 minutes of assassinating Hitler in 1939. This movie captures the awfulness it must have been to live under the Nazis in the 1930s. But it also tells how an ordinary man of no particular background or training can perform heroically. In German. (N.B. originally reviewed in March, reprinted due to delayed opening of June 30).

Beatriz at Dinner (8/10): While the plot is a collision of values between Beatriz (Salma Hayek) and Doug (John Lithgow), what sets this film apart is the party dialogue of the exceptional script (Mike White) translated to the screen with unusually good pacing by director Miguel Arteta.  Most movies that try to display slice of life dialogue fail dismally because it is so stilted and phony. But the dialogue in this film is so good, so true to the respective characters, that it keenly captures the essence of such a group of people I call Chardonnays.

My Cousin Rachel (7/10): Reprising a movie starring superstars Richard Burton (B.E., Before Elizabeth) and Olivia de Havilland is no easy task, even though the movie was made more than 60 years ago. But this outing, directed and adapted from Daphne Du Maurier’s best-selling novel for the screen by Roger Mitchell, can stand on its own with Sam Claflin and Rachel Weisz replacing Burton and de Haviland. Set in the eighteen thirties this well-paced film is enhanced by fine cinematography (Mike Ely) and exceptional production design and costume design (Alice Normington and Dinah Collin, respectively.

Baby Driver (7/10): Although writer-director Edgar Wright claimed at my screening that he talked to several real getaway drivers, this opening car chase defied what I always thought was the primary purpose of a good getaway driver, one who could get away unobtrusively. Contrary to that idea, Baby lays rubber, drives down one-way streets, makes two wheeled turns and generally does everything he can to draw attention to himself and his gang. Despite this, and the other car chases that completely fail the smell test, this is actually a well-crafted movie with a good cast and an attractive love interest.

Wonder Woman (5/10):  If it were up to me there would be no superhero movies regardless of their sex. These films are intellectual and entertainment diarrhea, filled with absurd incidents and fights, and this one is no different. Instead of fictional characters, locations, and events (like “Batman” and “Superman” movies), this one shows Wonder Woman winning WWI and killing real people who in truth lived for decades after the end of the war (no, Virginia, there is no Wonder Woman). There is absolutely no tension or dramatic uncertainty, a total waste of 2 ½ hours.

Transformers: The Last Knight (1/10): I thought last month’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” was about as bad as a movie could get. But that was before I endured the ordeal of this senseless 2 ½ hour special effects-laden assault on sanity.