The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Posted on September 16, 2021 at 5:51 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sexual content and drug abuse
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol and prescription drugs
Violence/ Scariness: Corruption, abuse, angry confrontations
Diversity Issues: A theme of the movie
Date Released to Theaters: September 17, 2021

Copyright 2021 Searchlight
Near the beginning of “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” an off-camera make-up artist gently suggests that singer/puppeteer/televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker (Jessica Chastain) remove her iconic, one might even say garish, cosmetics. She wipes off her lipstick but the dark lip-liner remains. She explains that it is permanent. Like her eye-liner and eyebrows, it is tattooed on. Underneath the glitz and fakery is more glitz and fakery and it never comes off.

Bakker and her husband Jim (played by Andrew Garfield) were huge in the 80s, first as hosts of the wildly successful PTL (Praise the Lord) channel, with Christian-themed children’s shows, talk shows, and variety shows. In today’s terms, they were influencers. They had millions of fans. And they had millions of people who made fun of them for being grotesque. Especially after they were in disgrace for financial fraud and sexual abuse. Jim Bakker was accused of having non-consensual sex and using $200,000 of PTL’s money to pay her off to stay silent. This led to an investigation which found him guilty of using the viewer’s charitable contributions for his lavish home and other personal expenses. He was found guilty of 24 counts of fraud and served eight years in prison.

2021 seems to be a moment for re-considering the lives of women reduced to national punchlines during scandals in the 80s-00s. “American Crime Story” is co-produced by Monica Lewinsky. Both she and Linda Tripp, the woman who betrayed Lewinsky’s confidences by recording their calls, are given a sympathetic treatment. Britney Spears’ efforts to end the conservatorship that gives her father control over her financial, medical, and professional life has led to a re-evaluation of the derisive jokes about her erratic behavior. A few years ago, we had “I, Tonya,” with a more layered look at skater Tonya Harding. And now Tammy Faye Bakker, portrayed in the media as a silly, helium-voiced nitwit with clownish make-up, is at the center of a story that portrays her as a vulnerable, sometimes struggling soul but a true believer who wanted to bring joy and spread the message of God’s eternal love.

In one key scene, despite the strong anti-gay beliefs of the other televangelists and the frantic fear of the early AIDS era, Tammy Faye insist on interviewing a gay preacher who is HIV-positive. Their conversation is heart-felt and warm. She interviews him remotely because he cannot travel, but she says she wishes she could put her arms around him.

Tammy Faye died in 2007. In her lifetime, she was dismissed as foolish at best, corrupt and hypocritical at worst. She was caricatured on “Saturday Night Live” and thought of as a real-life caricature. But millions of people loved her because she was utterly sincere and genuinely uplifted by her faith and the music it inspired. Chastain makes that side of Tammy Faye clear, as well as the growing disconnect between what she wanted the world to be and what it was. As we see at the beginning, she was shunned from her mother’s ultra-strict church as a child because her parents were divorced. She never lost the sense of looking through the window from the outside, wanting to be accepted. She found that with God, not so much with people. But as we see here, she always tried to be that for everyone else. Chastain and Garfield show us all of the excesses and follies of the Bakkers, but never let us see them as anything less than human, vulnerable, and yes, worthy of love.

Parents should know that this film includes substance abuse, sexual references and situations, anti-gay comments, and corruption, with strong language and some mild violence.

Family discussion: How do the characters’ ideas about the meaning of their faith differ? What mattered most to Tammy Faye Bakker?

If you like this, try: the documentary of the same name

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Based on a true story Drama Movies -- format

Copshop

Posted on September 16, 2021 at 3:27 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong bloody violence and pervasive language
Profanity: Constant very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Apparent drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Constant, extended, and very. bloody peril and violence with extremely graphic and disturbing images
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: September 17, 2021

Copyright 2021 Open Road
I’m going to take a controversial position here. I think writer/director Joe Carnahan is like Tarantino without the burdensome pretension. No fetishization of popular culture, no obsessive fixation on period detail, no pulpy re-imagining of historical facts, no pretense of deeper meaning. No, Carnahan says to us, “If you are a fan of dark humor, a twisty plot, and intense, bloody action, I am here to give it to you in a visually stylish, enjoyably nasty fashion.” That was the case with “Boss Level,” a very entertaining “Groundhog Day”-themed action picture starring Frank Grillo. And it is the case with the almost-as-good “Copshop,” also with Grillo, a contemporary action drama with a 70s vibe.

It has a great premise. Two men are separately arrested for being drunk and disorderly, put in opposite holding cells. It turns out that Teddy (Frank Grillo) wanted to be arrested because someone was trying to kill him and he thought the police station would be the safest place he could be. And it turns out that the man in the opposite cell is Bob (Gerard Butler) who is (a) not drunk and (b) the professional assassin who is trying to kill Teddy, and he got himself arrested with that end in mind. Bob is not the only one who wants to kill Teddy. It is an open contract, so another paid assassin will show up as well. That would be Tony (don’t call him Anthony), a star-making performance by Toby Huss.

Like the 1976 “Assault on Precinct 13” and its 2005 remake, the tension is heightened because almost everything happens in just one location, inside the police station and because there are shifting loyalties. Alexis Louder plays Valerie Young, the only woman police officer in the precinct and with endless competence and integrity. At times both Bob and Teddy do their best to persuade her to trust them — and not the other one. And there is one person on the police force who is less trustworthy than he seems.

Carnahan expertly balances tension, action, and thrills with understated humor and the character of Valerie is immensely appealing, thanks in part to Louder’s charismatic performance. Fortunately, some open questions at the end suggest the possibility of a sequel.

Parents should know that this movie has extended and very graphic and bloody violence including guns, knives, fire, and explosions with many characters injured and killed and disturbing images. Characters are paid assassins and there are references to the off-screen murders of innocent people, including a child. Characters use constant very strong language.

Family discussion: What did Valerie notice that none of the other police officers did? Do you agree with her that “it’s not the brush; it’s the artist?”

If you like this, try: “Boss Level” and “Assault on Precinct 13”

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Action/Adventure Crime movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews Thriller

The Card Counter

Posted on September 12, 2021 at 12:41 pm

A-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for for some disturbing violence, graphic nudity, language and brief sexuality
Profanity: Very strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, smoking
Violence/ Scariness: Intense and disturbing torture violence and some other peril and violence with graphic images, murder
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: September 10, 2021

Copyright 2021 Focus
“We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children,” said Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir. “There’s a weight a man can accrue,” William (Oscar Isaac) tells us in “The Card Counter.” “The weight created by his past actions. It is a weight which can never be removed.”

And yet, William may think for a moment that the weight can be lifted. We hope so, even as we learn about the unforgiving weight he bears in the latest from the master of the stories of tortured, lonely men, writer/director Paul Schrader, going back to his screenplay for “Taxi Driver.”

He says his name is William Tell, as in the old story about the archer ordered to shoot an apple balanced on the head of his son. As in the overture to “The Lone Ranger.” And as in the word “tell,” which can mean the narration of a story or, in the poker world William lives in, it can mean the inadvertent gesture that reveals more about the opponent’s hand than he or she wants you to know. We later learn that it is not the name on his birth certificate and prison record. So the choice of the name is significant, though it may be more related to the second meaning of the word than the first.

William says he was surprised to find that being confined to prison was more comfortable for him than he expected. He liked the routine. He liked the simplicity. And it was in prison that he learned the kind of concentration and focus that enabled his life after prison, as a highly skilled card player, blackjack and poker. Card counting is a difficult skill that can be learned and those who do it well can compensate for the odds that favor the house in blackjack. William goes from casino to casino, moving all the time and quitting each game early enough that his winnings do not attract anyone’s attention.

He does nothing else. He has so completely blocked out the normal distractions of life that he will not stay in the casinos. They are too filled with distractions and sensory overload. He stays in nondescript motel rooms. But he makes them even more generic, covering every lamp, every piece of furniture with white sheets, tied with twine. There is nothing in his life but the cards.

And then he meets two people. The first is La Linda (Tiffany Haddish in a beautifully understated but confident and layered performance). She is an intermediary between investors who stake top-level poker players as an investment, and she wants to add William to her “stable.” He is not interested.

That is, until he meets Cirk, pronounced Kirk (Tye Sheridan), a troubled young man who has a connection to the events that led to William’s prison sentence. William wants to help him, and that means playing poker in the high-end games La Linda can get him into.

Along the way, we learn about the disgraceful atrocities that Cirk’s father and William inflicted and the disgraceful injustice that had them bearing the responsibility while the instigators flourished. Schrader takes on an ambitious set of issues and understands the way to make it work is to give us believable, flawed but intriguing characters, with magnificent performances and stunning visuals. A scene where La Linda and Willam walk through an illuminated display is one of the most stunning of the year.

And can we just admit at last that Oscar Isaac is one of the finest actors in the world? He is mesmerizing here, the coiled control and the flashes of feeling, of longing, a simply gorgeous performance, one of the best of the year. This is a powerful film that fully earns its power.

Parents should know that this film includes some intense, disturbing and graphic violence, with torture of prisoners by US military, a prison fight, and murder, as well as very strong language, smoking, drinking, and sexual references and situations.

Family discussion: Why did William wrap the furniture? Why was it so important to him to help Cirk?

If you like this, try: “First Reformed” by the same writer/director

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Drama movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews

No True Scotsman Blogathon

Posted on September 10, 2021 at 9:23 am

A real Scottish accent is a joy to listen to and very difficult to imitate. Hollywood has not always managed an accurate Scottish accent (of course there are many different accents in Scotland, just like in every other country). So, why not have a blogathon paying tribute to the good, the bad, and the ugly of Scottish accents attempted by non-Scottish actors? The film critic known as Realweegiemidget Reviews put out the call, and film bloggers responded.

Copyright 2021 Weegiemidget

The invitation:

The world of film and TV, is as we know full of the variety of international life as we know it. This meaning that actors and actresses, sometimes have to go out of their comfort zone and try a new accent. This is usually like the nursery rhyme says, ie it can be “good, very good” or when “it’s bad it’s horrid”.

So this blogathon topic is one close to my Scottish heart. It’s loosely based on the No True Scotsman fallacy as described HERE… For your mission (should you choose to accept it), is to review a film, TV Movie, TV episode or TV series with a Scottish character in it and with a Scottish accent… BUT before you send me your Sean Connery / Gerard Butler / Sam Heughan / James McAvoy themed request, there is a catch…

This wee proviso is found here, in Darlin Husband’s full definition of the blogathon…

“An actor or actress playing a Scot even though they themselves are not Scottish”

These characters’ “accents” can be from anywhere in Scotland, good or bad and from any year or genre. BUT Please check IMDb first to make sure your character is not actually played by a Scot first. (I will not be accepting James Bond films as only Sean Connery gave him a Scottish accent and as we all know he was as Scottish as Billy Connolly).

I got a kick out of the post about “McMillan and Wife,” the Rock Hudson and Susan Saint James show I loved in the 70s.

Dell wrote about something called “Loch Ness Horror.”

“When Nessie showed up I was besides myself with giddiness. This thing is American B-movie ingenuity at it’s finest. It takes the movie from being run of the mill, forgettable trash, to so bad it’s awesome!”

Of course “Highlander” had to be included, and it was good to get the take of a real Scot.

“Highlander is a great-looking, funny and often dazzling fusion of The Terminator with sword and sorcery; if it seemed indigestible to critics in 1986, perhaps the time has come to embrace the story of Connor Macleod.”

More on “Highlander” from Stabford Deathrage.

“I’m not sure where this film actually takes place, but it’s the most amazing location, because everywhere you go during the present day, you hear Queen, and everywhere you go in the past, it looks like the Safety Dance.”

A deep cut from Caftan Woman! An episode of the classic early TV show “Wagon Train.”

“Accent-wise, Jeannie gives her Scottish characters a lovely soft lilt most pleasant to hear. Her inflection has that slightly foreign feel yet at the same time is comforting. You can understand producers wanting to utilize that aspect of Jeannie’s ability.”

The Taking Up Room site looks at “Christy.”

“One of the most popular characters on the Christy TV show was, by far, Doctor Neil MacNeill, and one of the most popular show arcs was the triangle between Christy (Kellie Martin), Neil and preacher David Grantland (Randall Batinkoff). Neil was wonderfully played by Stuart Finlay-McLennan, who seemed to burr with the best of ’em.

Only one thing: Finlay-McLennan is an Australian from New South Wales. His burr was about as Highland as Scotch tape.”

“Brigadoon,” of course, from The Classic Movie Muse:

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Geek Girl Riot Interview with Chaz Ebert

Posted on September 9, 2021 at 8:28 pm

It was such a treat to join my dear friend Sherin Nicole on her show Geek Girl Riot to talk to my friend and colleague the wonderful Chaz Ebert (see my tribute to her here).

Storytelling & Uplifting Young Voices
Chaz kicks off the show with a story about the Cannes Film Festival, which leads to a conversation about storytelling. Then she talks about No Malice AKA the film competition she set up to encourage and uplift a new generation of young filmmakers and activists. Chaz also gets into the legacy of RogerEbert.com and how she and her husband Roger launched it together.

Ebertfest & Gene and Roger (Roger and Gene)
Chaz tells the story of connecting with Roger and changing careers to become VP of RogerEbert.com—and how that changed her life for the better. She also teases what’s happening at Ebertfest and the importance of bringing joy and happiness in times like this. Since the date of this recording, the film festival has been postponed until April 20–23, 2022 to ensure everyone can enjoy it safely. Stay tuned for more details!

Chaz also chats about the new podcast Gene and Roger, hosted by Brian Raftery, which discusses the impact famed critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel had, not only on film criticism and coverage but also on filmmaking itself.

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Interview
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