Life Itself – “Two Thumbs Way Up”


SPANKY: This is a superbly balanced film. We see the young, over-confident Ebert, his relationships with Gene Siskel and famous movie directors and finally the love of his wife Chaz. The movie doesn’t drag out any of these stages, and is visually  stunning.

JOHN: You missed one aspect, Spanky, though I agree with what you  said. There was a time and a place when movie discussion was the star. Now, perhaps the costs are too high for anyone to be unclear or subtle. We are hit over the head with whatever is offered. But once upon a Felini, Bergman, Herzog time we could stay up all night and debate. It wasn’t that we believed the directors were wrong, just that it took our participation to figure out their message.

SPANKY: And Siskel and Ebert were our models.

JOHN: I enjoyed seeing the differences between the two and witnessing Ebert’s resultant courage in allowing the camera to follow him through to the end.

SPANKY: I can’t imagine a better tribute to a man, or a better conclusion to his life. Wow, I want to watch this over and over again.

Spanky gives this 4 Barks out of 4

John, 4 GOs out of 4

Boyhood – “Grow Up”

BoyhoodSPANKY: I have never seen a more realistic movie, and I don’t mean it was just the actors growing over 12 years of filming.

JOHN: Perhaps, but I thought it felt a little too much like real life, I mean not going anwhere.

SPANKY: But it was interesting to watch people growing older. They repeated mistakes (marriages) they (and we) had already gone through. Continue reading

Inside Llewyn Davis – “Out of Tune”

Devil's Lake 2013Inside Llewyn Davis 

JOHN: This is one of the worst movies I have seen in years.

SPANKY: And you’ve probably seen some bad ones, I know I have.

JOHN: It played at the Sundance in Madison for maybe a week. I wanted to go because, not only was it a Coen brother’s movie, but also it was about a folk singer in Greenwich Village at the start of the sixties. I went there in 1959 to be a folk singer myself. Continue reading

Dean Spanley – “After After-Life”

Peter O'TollDean Spanley 

Directed By: Toa Fraser, 2009

JOHN: This movie started out slow, incredibly slow, and then went places no one would expect to a Bravo climax. It is the kind of movie experience I haven’t had in years. And until it happened, I didn’t realize what I had been missing. Continue reading

Blue Jasmine – “Streetcar Not Named Desire”

Woody Allen_edited-1

Blue Jasmine 

Directed By: Woody Allen, 2013 

JOHN: I didn’t like Blue Jasmine, and I realize everyone else has. The acting is fine. Direction, excellent, even the flash back structure that contrasts past and present seems to work. 

Except there is a difference between a play and a movie—I am reacting to frequent comparisons of this to Streetcar Named Desire. With a play there are some out of town previews, revisions, attention to live audience response. A movie or novel is not known to the audience. That is until afterwards when the author or director finds out the work strikes a chord with them.

The emphasis on Streetcar may be Blanche, but it is her affect on Stanley and Stella that is the heart of the play. Jasmine focuses on the Cate Blanchett (Blanche like) character but that’s about it, and she is someone who just makes me feel uncomfortable. Continue reading

Now You See Me – “Movie Magic.”

Now You See Me 

Now You See Me

Directed by Louis Leterrier, 2013

John:  There are three types of movies. 1) Thought-provoking ones that often end in an unexpected way to throw the meaning and significance of the theme on the shoulders of the viewer. Think Ingmar Bergman…Felini.

Spanky: We wouldn’t waste our time on these, right John? Continue reading

Scoop – “Magic Trick”


SPANKY: Nice to watch a movie we just sat through a few months ago.

JOHN: But don’t really remember, because…

SPANKY: Because you were so taken with Scarlet Johansson you didn’t remember anything else.

JOHN: This is a Woodly Allen movie in which he was breaking away from Manhattan. He plays a two-bit magician and Scarlet’s would-be father. Continue reading




(director: Bille August; screenwriters: Ann Biderman /from the novel by Peter Hoeg; cinematographer: Jorgen Persson; editor: Janius Billeskov; cast: Julia Ormond (Smilla Jaspersen), Gabriel Byrne (the Mechanic), Richard Harris (Tork), Robert Loggia (Moritz Johnson), Vanessa Redgrave (Elsa Lubing), Jim Broadbent (Lagermann), Tom Wilkinson (Professor Loyen), Clipper Miano (Isaiah), Emma Croft (Benja), Bob Peck (Ravn)

JOHN: What sticks with you, long after the movies is over, is the face of Julia Ormond. Both haunting and torn, for a brief moment at the end of the film it transfigures into the young boy, her friend in the Denmark apartment, who jumped from the roof.

SPANKY: The plot of the movie is bad SF but it is moments such as these that explore real mystery. The context—unexplained death, a friend who might not be a friend, the wonder of Greenland, past and present—set the stage. But the real movie is her face.

JOHN: How many films, good films are self contained? How few stay with you as you drive home, or weeks later?

SPANKY: John and I believe the audience is an underappreciated partner in a story. Producers, studios, directors who have put millions into a movie don’t want to take a chance. Occasionally, for whatever reason, a novel or a movie does.

JOHN: Like footprints in the snow. It jumps off the roof. The face we see at the end is our own.

4 Barks out of 4, 4 GOs out of 4

Devil in a Blue Dress – “Real”


Writer/Director: Carl Franklin. Cast: Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Jennifer Beals. Music: Elmer Bernstein

JOHN: Seeing this now, years after the first time, it is a confused mess that works.

SPANKY: Certainly times have changed in terms of rampant racism that at first seems to be a backdrop then turns out to be the real subject.

JOHN: I guess we are on Easy Rawlins side because we appreciate that change and, as white people, feel embarrassed about an unfair world we were content to ignore. Continue reading

Enough Said – “A Real Movie About Real Situations”

Enough Said

Enough Said

JOHN: I was going to review another movie, a French mystery, that was good but confusing. Then I watched this film.

 SPANKY: In English, right?

JOHN: Yes, but it was so down to earth, so adult in theme (about second marriage, about children leaving home, adult friendship, about an attractive woman and a not so attractive man she is dating).

SPANKY: And these things are related?

JOHN: As they are in real life, not in any Hollywood kind of way, but as we experience them and then lose ourselves in romantic fantasies.

SPANKY: So, why not just experience it? Why go to a movie about it? Continue reading