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Every once in a while, a movie comes along that is an unexpected blend of various things that you like, a mélange of your specific combination of interests. Of course, these great tastes may or may not taste great together – that’s up to the talents involved.

Strangely enough, “How to Build a Girl” - currently available on VOD - is just such a blend, and while it isn’t a perfect combination, it is definitely a winning one.

The film – directed by Coky Giedroyc from a screenplay that author Caitlan Moran adapted from her own novel of the same name – checks a lot of boxes for me. Coming of age story? Check. Period piece set in the ‘90s? Check. Culture critic for a protagonist? Check. Hell, it even manages to check the box of “featuring music from the extremely brief period when I gave a crap about music.”

Like I said – a LOT of boxes.

It helps that it is incredibly earnest and packed with charm, driven by a lead performance from Beanie Feldstein that is yet another indicator of just how sincerely talented she is as an actor. It might get a little shaggy and ring overly familiar at times, but the quality of work put forth by everyone involved pushes it beyond mere formula. It is genuine and disarming and unabashed – a story of the difference between becoming the person you think you want to be and the person you’re actually meant to be.

Published in Movies

There are a multitude of content providers out there vying for our attention. So many services are producing original movies and TV series for our consumption that it can be easy to get lost in the shuffle. It’s a young man’s game in many respects, but don’t sleep on the OGs. There are some outlets whose histories far predate the current streaming boom and that are creating incredible content of their own.

Take HBO, for instance. While the cable giant’s most prominent original content trends toward episodic work, they are more than capable of putting forward feature efforts that are more than a match for the best of the streaming cinema.

Their latest original film is “Bad Education,” based on the real-life embezzlement scandal that rocked a Long Island school district in the early 2000s. Directed by Cory Finley from a screenplay by Mike Makowsky (adapted from a 2004 New York Magazine article titled “The Bad Superintendent”), it’s a well-crafted and exceptionally performed film, one that offers a look at one of the largest public school scandals in American history – a scandal that was first uncovered by a student journalist.

With an outstanding performance from Hugh Jackman at its heart and propelled by the so-incredible-it-must-be-true nature of its story, “Bad Education” is a wonderfully dark and absurd look at the depths to which even the most high-minded public servants can sink when faced with the temptations that can come from unreserved trust.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 05 September 2018 10:39

‘Operation Finale’ looks at real-life intrigue

We’ve talked before about the difficulties inherent to bringing stories from real life into the cinematic realm. There’s a delicate balance that needs to be struck; the raw truth isn’t always dramatically engaging, but you also want to do justice to events as they happened.

“Operation Finale,” directed by Chris Weitz from a screenplay by Matthew Orton, is particularly tricky, considering the heft of the story being told. It’s a recounting of the 1960 Israeli Mossad operation in Argentina to track down and capture the infamous Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution.

While it is compelling enough, offering solid intrigue and a handful of quality performances, the film never quite rises to the level of its true-life inspiration. There’s an inconsistent energy to the proceedings that ultimately undercuts the tension and prevents the stakes from being as high as the narrative would seem to warrant. It’s quite good, but just misses being great.

Published in Movies
Friday, 30 September 2016 09:24

Still waters run deep

'Deepwater Horizon' surprisingly effective

Dramatizing real-life events is a tricky business. Depending on the mindset, the degree with which these films ultimately reconcile with what really happened can vary wildly. Surprisingly, this is even true with the recent spate of films revisiting relatively recent events this even despite the recounted happenings being fairly fresh in the collective consciousness.

Published in Movies
Wednesday, 21 September 2016 11:52

An unauthorized autobiography

Norm Macdonald's 'Based on a True Story' weird, wildly entertaining

Be honest whenever you see the words 'based on a true story,' you immediately start wondering just how much of what you're about to read/watch/listen to can be considered truth. Truth is a funny thing, particularly in the realm of biography or memoir; our memories tend to recall actual events with a surprising amount of flexibility.

Published in Buzz

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