Book Club

Posted on May 17, 2018 at 5:11 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sex-related material throughout and for language
Profanity: Some strong and explicit language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 18, 2018
Date Released to DVD: August 27, 2018
Copyright 2018 Paramount

Hey, people behind “Sex and the City,” you might want to call your lawyers. Maybe those of you behind “The Golden Girls,” too. “Book Club,” starring three Oscar winners and an Emmy winner from the last century, is pretty much an AARP version of SATC, with four women who endlessly confide everything in each other, mostly about sex and some about romance. How does a movie with these magnificent, strong, smart stars fail the Bechdel test?

In this mix, Jane Fonda plays Samantha, I mean Vivian, the luxury hotel owner who has a lot of sex but only with men she doesn’t care about. “I can’t sleep with people I like,” she says referring to the literal act of slumber. “I gave that up in the 90’s.” Mary Steenburgen plays Charlotte, I mean Carol, happily married to a man she loves (Craig T. Nelson), but not happy about their humdrum sex life. Candice Bergen is Miranda, I mean Sharon, a judge who is long-divorced and resolutely single, living only with a cat called Ginsburg. And Diane Keaton plays a character named Diane who is somewhere between Carrie and “Golden Girls'” Rose, a sweet-natured recent widow with two devoted and over-solicitous daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton), who want her to leave her home and move in with them in Arizona.

The women have had a book club together for decades, mostly an excuse for them to get together. When Vivian hands out copies of the naughty bondage and discipline Fifty Shades of Grey novel by E.L. James, it causes all four of them to rethink their own romantic and sexual options. Vivian reconnects with the guy she almost married four decades earlier (Don Johnson, whose daughter starred in the movie version of Fifty Shades). Diane meets a very handsome man on a plane (Andy Garcia) and has to decide if she is open to a new relationship. Sharon decides to try swiping right with a little online dating and ends up having dinner with a tax lawyer (Richard Dreyfuss, every bit as charming as he was in “The Goodbye Girl“). And Carol tries to spice it up with her recently retired husband, who seems to have no interest in sex.

This provides many opportunities for the foursome to get together to discuss each other’s situations in detail. And if you think that they might omit the makeover scene with everyone weighing in on what one of them should wear on a big date and a scene of triumph over the ex’s new young love, rest assured they did not.

It is good to see these brilliant stars give it their best, which is what it takes to overcome the drippy screenplay, co-written by director Bill Holderman (with Erin Simms), and pedestrian direction. It’s like taking a Hallmark Romance Channel movie script and instead of casting the farm team (1990’s television series stars), it sends in the All-Pro heavy hitters. Or a “Love Boat” episode from the days when one segment always featured some 80-something former movie star. This group is able to carry it pretty far, especially Fonda, clearly relishing her role, and Garcia, who is able to give some grounding to a thinly written Prince Charming character. But the silly premise, Bumble product placement, clunky double entendre, unimaginative soundtrack, and Viagra humor make us long for the more reliable middle-age female empowerment fluff of Nancy Meyers.

Parents should know that this film has extensive and explicit sexual references and situations, including the visible results of a double does of Viagra, played for comedy, as well as some strong language and alcohol.

Family discussion: Why were Diane’s daughters so worried about her? Why was it hard for her to tell them no? Why was Vivian reluctant to become close to Arthur? Did the books have an impact on their choices?

If you like this, try: “The Jane Austen Book Club” and some of the earlier films of these stars like “Barefoot in the Park,” “Starting Over,” “Melvin and Howard,” and “Annie Hall”

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Television Takes On Two of the Biggest Crime Stories of the Past 25 Years

Posted on February 3, 2016 at 11:02 am

Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss stars in the story of one of the biggest financial frauds of all time, Bernie Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme, with Blythe Danner as his wife.

People who want to know more should watch the documentary “Chasing Madoff.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=62L7VxMDg68

Robert De Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer will appear in another Madoff movie, “The Wizard of Lies,” directed by Barry Levinson.

And Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. stars as O.J. Simpson in the story of his criminal trial for the murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Ronald Goldman.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2-vm-L_dk4

The cast includes John Travolta as defense attorney Robert Shapiro, Courtney B. Vance as Johnny Cochran, David Schwimmer as Simpson friend Robert Kardashian, Selma Blair as Kris Kardashian, Connie Britton as Nicole Simpson’s friend, Faye Resnick, and Evan Handler as Alan Dershowitz.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UTXovOaVQqE
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Red

Posted on January 25, 2011 at 8:00 am

Give me Dame Helen Mirren with a semi-automatic weapon and Morgan Freeman smiling, “We’re getting the band back together,” and I will happily settle back and enjoy the popcorn.

“RED” stands for “Retired Extremely Dangerous,” and this is the designation applied to a group of former CIA and other operatives. They find it difficult to adjust to a peaceful life and are as relieved as they are energized when it turns out that they have been targeted by the same kinds of hit squads they used to run. Game on.

The graphic novel by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner is a bit more grim than this high-spirited adaptation with Oscar-winners Mirren and Freeman having a literal and metaphoric blast doing just what their characters are doing — showing the young folks how it’s done.

Bruce Willis plays Frank Moses, who lives in a house with all of the personality of an airport motel and whose only pleasure is in talking to Sarah (Mary-Louise Parker) the woman at the call center about why he isn’t receiving his retirement checks — which he is receiving and tearing up to give him an excuse to talk to her. Masked assassins try to take him down. Not hard to find — his is the only house on the block with no Christmas decorations. But apparently they don’t realize he is Bruce Willis so they are quickly dispatched. He grabs his go bag and is off to pick up Sarah, for her own protection of course, and, well, get the band back together to figure out who’s after them this time and what they need to do about it. That includes former MI-5 agent Victoria (Mirren), nursing home resident Joe (Freeman), and Marvin (John Malcovich), a survivor of the CIA’s LSD experiments who exemplifies the truism that just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you.

The sharp, witty script is expertly presented by top performers with great action scenes, a little romance, and surprise appearances by two more Oscar-winners, likely to mow down the competition at the cineplex with as much elan as they go after the bad guys.

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