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Green Book is an Early Contender for the Oscars



There are some movies, like people, that seem determined to please. Peter Farrelly’s Green Book is such a film. Though most people-pleasing fare is light and buoyant, Green Book’s subject matter is not, though its style is.

It’s based on a true musical tour in the 1960s of the Midwest and Jim Crow deep south by the Jamaican born pianist and composer, Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali). At the time, Shirley, a classical oriented musician and composer, was playing a style of music, accompanied by a cellist and bassist, that fell in-between most traditional categories. It was too classical for jazz, too jazzy for classical, too pop for either. Popular primarily with white audiences, or so the movie would have you believe, it was both virtuosic and people pleasing. Shirley’s actual body of work is wildly diverse and singular, as intelligent as its creator.

But this movie is not overly interested in the music, and only passingly interested in Dr. Shirley. The music and the man is a means to an end. And the end is always to please.

The film is focused on the relationship between Don Shirley and his driver/security, Tony Vallelonga aka Tony Lip. A former bouncer, Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) is an easygoing but quick to throw a punch (and follow it up with a few more) Italian-American from New York, who takes on any number of odd jobs, even ones that require him to be away for an eight week tour just before Christmas, and some which require mixing with mob figures but never committing, all to put food on the table for a much loved wife and a pair of young boys.

Tony begins the film about as racist as one would expect from a man of his time and sub-culture, which is a vague description but just about as vague as it’s played out in the film. In a scene early on where he’s confronted with two glasses out of which two black handymen have drank, he pauses long enough before throwing them away to tell us his racism is not to the bone. And that practically is the end of the examination of Tony. He’s put off by the Jim Crow inequalities; put off by the hypocrisy of the genteel white folk who applaud Shirley but won’t dine with him, etc. All reactions that make him suitably likable.

But as for a thoughtful look at Tony’s character, after accepting the job — the money is more important than any social issue — Tony’s attitudes towards race are nearly taken off the table. He’s a loyal employee with a growing appreciation and affection for his talented boss. More than anything, he’s a nice guy.

Viggo Mortensen plays Tony right on the edge of stereotype. He’s too good an actor, and Farrelly is clearly aiming higher than Dumb and Dumber in this prestige-hungry film, to push him over the edge, but he’s unmistakably a type. One gets the impression that Mortensen was aching to go deeper, but the script, written tellingly by Tony’s son, along with Farrelly and Brian Hayes Currie, is more interested in moving the story along than getting into the heart of it. And it wants to make Tony a lovable hero. What son would want to do anything different?

As a result, the film aims directly at scenes that put a glow both on the characters and in the audience’s heart. To do this though, the villains have to be easily recognizable and at times, like the bar scene with the racists, shallowly acted, and most crisis solved with a combination of loyalty and humor. This is, at its core, a buddy film.

Which brings us back to Dr. Don Shirley. He was in truth a remarkable man. He held three doctorates, studied at the Leningrad Conservatory of Music at the age of nine, spoke 8 languages, wrote symphonies: A real prodigy. We learn all of this exposition from the character himself, but we rarely get beneath the credentials and accomplishments.

Who is Don Shirley? The film teases us. Mahershala’s restrained and dignified performance, like Mortensen’s flamboyant performance, aches to go further and deeper. The film skips along the surface of his conflicted relationships with whites and blacks, with his sexual orientation, with his isolation, but there is other chicken to fry. Yes, there is a scene, two scenes actually, about fried chicken. Kentucky Fried Chicken even. The scenes play off each other well; they make their point.

But the complexity of Dr. Shirley, to say nothing of the complexity of race in America, is not on this film’s itinerary. Rather, it’s a quick swing through the South, which it’s surface antagonisms (the Green Book of the title is a guide to safe tourism for African-Americans, which hotels will house them, which restaurants will serve them), and a warm return to a cozy, celebratory dinner around the New York family table. Nearly all the stops are predictable and designed to please and satisfy: Two wildly different men become friends; And all the feel-good touches are along for the ride. The filmmakers clearly hope and aim for the next stop being the Oscars.

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Justice League: Warworld Official Trailer



Until now, the Justice League has been a loose association of superpowered individuals. But when they are swept away to War World, a place of unending brutal gladiatorial combat, Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and the others must somehow unite to form an unbeatable resistance able to lead an entire planet to freedom.

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AMC presents Anne Rice’s ‘Interview with the Vampire’:  Bloody beautiful, dear heart 



Set as a sequel series of sorts to the original film, the vampire Louis du Pointe du Lac approaches reporter Daniel Molloy decades later to do an actual, honest exclusive of his life as a vampire. 

As we all know, Rice’s original movie Interview with the Vampire is a classic and features some of the most gorgeous male performances around. Brad Pitt as Louis, Tom Cruise as a flippant blonde-haired Lestat, Antonio Banderas as the ravishing Armand, Christian Slater as the reporter, and even a quite young Kirsten Dunst as the tiny terror Claudia. Rice has a whole world of her making about vampires, witches, mummies, and other world-ending supernatural creatures, and they are all achingly beautiful, and usually quite melancholy about their beleaguered existence. 

Before her passing, Anne Rice was directly involved with the new show, wrote the updated scripts herself, and was often on hand for consulting during filming. A whole bunch of revamps (sorry) were made to the original story, including but not limited to – Louis du Pointe du Lac (Jacob Anderson) is now a black man in early 20th century New Orleans, no longer a slave plantation man but now the proud owner of several brothels on a certain street, with a very much still-alive family who presents Louis with lots of troubles, and oh yeah, he’s in the closet too. 

At this point, I want to note something important about the gay elements of the show. Rice originally published her novel Interview way back in 1976, and every single last gay tendency, male or non-binary or whatever, got her a good deal of flack. Rice has long been known for characters, vampire or other, who transcend the notion of physical sexuality into more of a divine lust of the spirit. Sure, there are plenty of physical love scenes still, but homosexuality was never something Rice just threw in to be provocative, she made no defining lines on the way her supernatural creatures could love each other, and personally I think that’s stellar. 

So all of Louis’ own issues aside, things are about to get remarkably more troubling, with the advent of a blonde-haired Adonis with ice-blue eyes and a razor-sharp jawline, and an even sharper set of fangs, Lestat de Lioncourt (Sam Reid). Initially, Lestat professes to admire Louis and his capability in running his various enterprises, seemingly satisfied with going along on brothel adventures (Lestat has long been known to bang anything that’ll hold still long enough) and verbally poking Louis to see where his “do not cross” lines are. 

Not a single person who knows Anne Rice and her original novel, or even the first film, can deny the insane connection Louis and Lestat happen to have. Love and lust and envy and hatred are all tangled up in the relationship of these two vampires, made more complicated by the fact that Lestat is Louis’ Sire, or Maker if you prefer. This particular portrayal of the love story between two compelling characters, one inherently kind and desirous to do good (or at least not be bad) in an unfeeling world, the other an arrogant prince of the immortal kind with seemingly little regard for the pain he causes others (other than in an amusement capacity), how they push and pull at each other and cause each-other so much damage but simply find themselves both unable to give up the other entirely, can be an allegory for all the bad-for-you relationships, regardless of sexual orientation. And things are made so much more wretched when a third vampire is introduced to their little damned family. 

The portrayal of Claudia (Bailey Bass) in this version of the story, a teenage black female with a sickeningly sweet Southern accent, has some rather different origin scenes too. Most of Claudia’s arc, while moving the story right along at a healthy clip, is full of complaints at the odd restraints of her existence – Louis cautions for temperance, while Lestat gives that wicked grin and encourages Claudia to revel in her bloody existence as a vampire. Jealousy rears its inevitable head, whether its Lestat’s envy of the brother-sister father-daughter relationship Louis has with Claudia, or Claudia’s own jealousy of the rather obvious romantic relationship between Louis and Lestat, or even the jealousy of seasoned vampires watching a fledgling getting to experience many supernatural firsts – vampires are immortal and unchanging, after all, so anything new and surprising is zealously sought after and treasured almost as much as blood. So when Claudia inevitably starts acting out, things are made so much worse with the realization that she’s actually far more terrible than Lestat when it comes to restraint, as in, she has none

Then there’s what’s happening with the present – a ridiculously expensive high-rise and high-res environmentally-controlled apartment in Dubai, an accent-less and increasingly begrudging Louis, insistent on following a proper timeline to his stories but still attempting to conceal things from Molloy, even after he swore he wouldn’t, his assistant Rashid (Assad Zaman) is also getting more and more protective of his Master, and Molloy himself, who never had a bullsh*t tolerance in the first place, getting more strident as the interview rages on in his search for the raw, honest truth. Because redemption can come from honesty in this interview, even for the reporter conducting it, if only Molloy would allow it. 

Full of gorgeous scenery, familial ties that bind and gag, revelations about the nature of love and how it can twist when used as a weapon, and absolutely stellar performances from every single actor involved, Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire can be devoured on AMC now! 

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Shrinking Review



Created by Brett Goldstein, Bill Lawrence, Jason Segel

Season 1

Number of Episodes 10

Runtime: 33 minutes

Starring Jason Segel, Jessica Williams, Harrison Ford

Streaming on Apple TV

Jason Segel plays Jimmy, (How I Met Your Mother) a grieving therapist who lost his wife due to a terminal illness. He is coping with her death but gives little care to their teenage daughter, Grace played by Lukita Maxwell.

He works at a practice with his mentor Paul, played by Harrison Ford, and Gaby played by Jessica Williams. Jimmy’s work is less than inspiring because he has seen several patients over the years with no real breakthroughs. Finally, he is assigned a new patient who his co-worker couldn’t take on. This particular patient was court-ordered to see a therapist to avoid certain jail time. Sean, played by Luke Tennie, is an honored war vet with severe anger issues and has been arrested several times for starting fights in bars. Jimmy also has some frustrations at home as his next-door neighbor Liz, played by Christa Miller, has taken over as Alice’s parent. Without his wife and daughter, Jimmy is a mess and just drinks himself into a deep depression. His friends have become estranged and worst of all, his daughter has no respect for him.

During one session, Sean is reluctant to give Jimmy a chance as he was just pathetic in his eyes. Jimmy forgoes traditional therapy practices and goes for something a little extra. He takes Sean to a boxing club and has him work out his frustrations with a sparring partner. Sean and Jimmy have a breakthrough and then things start turning around for Jimmy/ The only problem is that Paul doesn’t approve of these new practices and warns him that this will lead to trouble.

Jimmy tries these new practices with his other patients and slowly makes breakthroughs but still seeks the constant praise and mentorship of Paul. Jimmy starts to try new things at home to reclaim parenthood over his daughter. Unknowingly Paul has been secretly counseling Jimmy’s daughter to help her with her issues with her father as well as being a father figure that he never was.

Things start going upside down when one of his patients tries to kiss him, another patient is lying about leaving her husband, and even worse, Sean sees Jimmy as a friend and not a therapist.  The final straw is when Liz and Gaby find out that their daughter has fallen in love with Sean.

The show starts off slow at first, establishing the characters and giving the audience an inside view of the main protagonist’s world not unlike Lawrences’ other shows like Ted Lasso and Scrubs. This really allows the audience to get attached to their favorite characters and builds a world that we would all love to live in.  The real problems addressed in this show are not sugar-coated and always highlight human qualities we would soon forget sometimes. It’s a real gem after Ted Lasso and you’ll just need to be a little patient in the beginning, but the payoff is well worth it in the end.

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