Monthly Archives: June 2014


Chinatown     This past Tuesday, we lost an actor whose cinematic work spanned sixty years- Eli Wallach. Throughout his career, primarily in supporting roles, Mr. Wallach left an indelible impression. While his roles in two landmark westerns- “The Magnificent Seven” and “The Good, the Bad and The Ugly”- secured his place in movie history, I remember particularly enjoying his work in two movies from the ‘80’s: the Burt Lancaster-Kirk Douglas comedy “Tough Guys” and the Barbra Streisand courtroom-drama “Nuts”. In 1990, he appeared in two movies that were sequels to movies I love- Wallach portrayed the not-so-nice Don Altobello in “The Godfather III” and appeared as Cotton Weinberger in “The Two Jakes”. His roles in these films not only made me instantly remember these movies’ predecessors, but also the year in which these films’ predecessors were released- a year I feel was the best in American cinema. Continue reading

Jersey Boys is distinctly likeable

Jersey Boys Poster“Jersey Boys” made me feel like a kid again! This was probably because, at the age of forty-five, I was the youngest person in the theater (rimshot).

But seriously, folks- I liked “Jersey Boys”. While I’ve certainly seen better musical/biopics, this is just plain likeable. It’s a movie that won’t bowl you over- there’s nothing intrinsically fascinating about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. However, for a movie that clocks in at two hours and fourteen minutes, I wasn’t bored. The reason for this wasn’t the music (which I like well enough, although I didn’t buy any of the Four Seasons’ records- oddly enough, the music comprises only about 25% of the film). I liked “Jersey Boys” for two reasons: the subtlety of Clint Eastwood’s direction and the likeability of its cast. Continue reading

Father’s Day

Gladiator     June seems to be a month devoted to families. Between weddings and graduations, it is also a time when you’ll see families assemble to watch the onslaught of the summer movie season. As I sat watching the sold-out crowd at a recent blockbuster’s opening, I noted the number of fathers who had brought their families to the theater and smiled. Not only did I remind myself that this Sunday is Father’s Day, I also noted the irony in comparison to my memories of accompanying my Dad, Frank Menaquale, to the movies.

When I was growing up, my father rarely took us to the movies. If he went, it was at my mother’s insistence and, once inside the theater, he would fall asleep. And snore. Loudly. Continue reading

Edge of Tomorrow – Been there, done that.

Edge of Tomorrow PosterNot only is that the theme of Tom Cruise’s latest film, “Edge of Tomorrow”, in which he plays William Cage, a man doomed to repeat his death during the biggest military battle on record in a futuristic war with an invading alien horde, it perfectly sums up my feeling of being completely underwhelmed by this movie. In a title that suggests something more than having to be subjected to everything I’ve ever seen in a sci-fi movie, it blatantly copies elements of sci-fi films I’ve loved and throws them all together into one big hodgepodge. The makers of “Edge of Tomorrow” should have called it “Edge of the Kitchen Sink”. Continue reading

A long Time Ago…

Empire Strikes Back     A long time ago (in a galaxy not far away), an eleven-year-old walked into the Moorestown Mall to join the over one-hundred-plus people in line to see that summer’s uber-blockbuster. This was an “event”; these people were lined up and waiting, like general admission for a Who concert, because they knew they were going to witness a true spectacle (it also helped that it was the sequel to the highest-grossing film at that time).

After joining the gathering throng, whose growing number now snaked past Woolworth’s and into the center of the Mall, the line slowly began moving. The time was nigh. He and his brothers, having spent what must have been about nine dollars total for their three tickets, now entered the huge theatre (with one giant screen) to witness the cinematic opera of the eternal battle between good and evil. The excitement was palpable as the lights dimmed. The year was 1980; the movie was “The Empire Strikes Back”, and everyone learned it’s nice to know who your father is.

Flash-forward thirty-four years. This eleven-year old is now forty-five (more learned, less curious- think Of Mice and Men’s George with a better haircut and a couple of bucks in his pocket). Continue reading

In search of love, from the vantage points of ‘Sideways’ and ‘Closer’

Sideways_poster     As we find ourselves midway through the holiday season, after “giving thanks” and gorging ourselves at dinners in celebration of family and friends, we now turn to trying to find that perfect gift for our loved ones – gifts that truly express what their love and friendship has meant to us.

But is there a ‘perfect’ gift? Can something material ever define something as complicated an emotion as love? In seeking the perfect gift, we become reflective. We try to purchase that one or several items that will comprise, in some way, how we feel about that special someone. But when we reflect, trying to define our love or feeling, we find ourselves internally moving toward where our love or feeling for that person lies. Ironically, two recent movies have tried to point us in those directions.

For Rex Pickett, the emotions and love that feed our friendships and intimate relationships can be found by just moving ‘sideways.’ Sideways, the Alexander Payne film based on Pickett’s novel, is the story of Miles and Jack, former college roommates who go for one last road trip before Jack’s impending nuptials. Miles (Paul Giamatti) decides to drive Jack (Thomas Haden Church) to Napa Valley, where Miles can show Jack the vineyards and drink the wines that Miles has grown to love through his hobby of wine tasting. While Miles wants to share his love of wines with Jack, the trip is, in essence, an escape for both men. Continue reading

A ‘Chocolate Factory’ by another name is just not as sweet

Charlie_and_the_chocolate_factory_poster2     My reaction to Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is a lot like seeing an open box of chocolates, picking what you believe to be a caramel, and winding up with a butter cream – while it’s a good butter cream, it’s not what you expected and, ultimately, not what you wanted.

In the weeks before “Charlie’s” release, people asked if I would see the movie and, when I told them I would, there was a disappointed look on their faces, as though I had betrayed a planned boycott of the film from the collective fan base of 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” who had grown up watching “Willy” on TV as I had.

In a recent interview, “Willy’s” star Gene Wilder noted the film’s initial lackluster theatrical release and credited television’s periodic airings of the film with turning “Willy” into the beloved family film it is today.

Yet, as much as I count myself among “Willy’s” legion of fans, I was hopeful upon hearing plans for a remake when I learned who had signed on as director. If anyone was going to put a new spin on this story and accentuate the dark nuances inherent in Roald Dahl’s 1964 book, it would certainly be Tim Burton, whose hallmark visual flair is ever evident in the films he has directed, such as “Beetlejuice,” “Batman,” and most recently, “Big Fish.” Continue reading