Capsule Reviews of Five New Movies




Comprised mostly of old television news and interview clips, scenes from movies and  their promotional materials, “Listen To Me Marlon” falls short of its claim to be the first unveiling  of hundreds of hours of  Marlon Brando’s personal audio tapes.  It is not an entirely fraudulent claim, as much of the film’s narration is taken from these tapes, but it does not, as did “Kurt Cobain: About a Son,”  use the subject’s voice as the primary audio source.  Nonetheless, there are so many fascinating sound bites here that the film is a must-see-and-hear for fans of the legendary actor.  One of his more thought provoking statements is the admission that, yes, he is a great actor, but only because he allows the audience to do the acting for him.  Even though much of the footage has been seen before, it is a pleasure to see it again, all collected into one place, and given a form based in part on Brando’s own musings.





Yet another fictionalized version of an existent documentary, this tale of US manipulation of a Bolivian presidential election is recommended for those who still resist the idea that America’s own elections are rigged.  Sandra Bullock in even more of a space cadet here than in “Gravity,” giving a performance that belongs in a better movie, and comes off  here as an off-the-wall case of disassociation.  Billy Bob Thornton is lazy as usual, one of so many contemporary character  actors who get by on  nothing but an ugly face.  The movie was  interesting despite its being a mess, and a cause for wondering why gringos are  unable to make gripping political dramas set in Central and South America, such as “Missing” and  “Salvador,”  anymore.


Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are very funny in “Sisters,” a rare case of a vulgar, immature comedy dominated by a feminine sensibility, which means there is more vomiting than masturbating.  It’s not bad until the party-that-never-ends scene  that kills the themes hinted at during the early exposition.  So we don’t get much insight into the party girl / smarty girl role reversal experiment.  Instead, a lot of drunk adults play at being drunk teenagers. Surprisingly, when the parents come home to find their house and property destroyed, they don’t seem angry at all.  I guess sometimes destruction is a  motivation toward reconciliation.

The Peanuts Movie

This comic strip was an American institution fifty years ago. I am surprised that it still connects with people today. It is a testament to the power of universal themes.  I don’t like the replacement of stick drawings with rubbery flesh inflated with helium, but that is the way of the modern cartoon (if we are still allowed to call them cartoons).  The pretty red-head girl to whom Charlie Brown is fatally attracted is always shown from the behind.  What is it that makes all of us crave so desperately to see her face?


A major disappointment from director Todd Haynes, this rudimentary and uninteresting lesbian soap opera has none of the charge of the Douglas Sirk melodramas Haynes claims to have inspired him. Both Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara turn in dull performances that make one long for Shirley MacLaine and Audrey Hepburn, who were so much more sympathetic in the unfairly maligned “The Children’s Hour.”  Although set in the 1950’s, much of the art direction suggests the previous decade, which might have been a better choice to give a historical  dimension to its thin story.  An early scene, in which Mara feels  a  perplexed reaction to her first stirrings of same sex attraction, suggests what the film might have been had it focused  more on the inner lives of characters who are  trying to understand desires for which there is no book of social manners upon which to organize one’s actions.



7 thoughts on “Capsule Reviews of Five New Movies

  1. I like this format you’re using, Bill. I’ve been thinking of doing something in the same way. I’ve been watching a lot of films but no time to review all of them. This mini-approach seems like a winner. Looking forward to watching “Listen to me Marlon” from your set. I’ve been curious about the performances in “Carol” but can wait to rent it later.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I was sad to read your review of ‘Carol’, which I was hoping would be a new ‘Sirk’ for the 21st century. I might still watch it though, as the clips look sumptuous. The Brando documentary looks good, but I could care less about ‘Peanuts, which I never liked as a cartoon strip anyway. ‘Sisters’ is unlikely to be something that I would watch, unless it was on TV late one night, and I had nothing else to do.
    Thanks, Bill, these posts save me a lot of ‘future time’!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had high hopes for Carol as well, Pete, as Far From Heaven was a pretty decent imitation of Sirk. Ihope you find more to like in Carol than I did. If you do, let me know, and Ill give it another look.


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