PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE INTENSE: Movie reviews of Good Kill and Tomorrowland by Howard Casner

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good killI have recently seen a movie that, for my money, is more intense, suspenseful and edge of your seat than Mad Max: Fury Road, Furious 7, The Avengers: Age of Ultron and Tomorrowland put together.

But it’s also a much smaller film than any of those; smaller in budget, in size, in CGI.

It’s more than all of those adverbs, I suspect, because it is about a real person put into a real situation, a situation of profound psychological and moral conflict. In the above movies, all the characters had to worry about was the end of their existence.

In the movie I am referring to, Good Kill, our central character has something far greater at stake: the end of his soul.

The basic story line revolves around one Major Thomas Egan, just about the best drone pilot there is. And his job, day in, day out, is to locate the bad guys in the Middle East and blow them up from thousands of miles away. His bliss is basically the same as Chris Kyle in American Sniper, but he gets to do it from the comfort of a chair in an air conditioned unit on a base in Nevada, not far from the R&R resort of Las Vegas. Read the rest of this entry »


The Oranges, the new film written by Ian Helfer and Jay Reiss and directed by Julian Farino, feels as if it’s about a group of suburbanites who would like to be in a John Updyke book, but can’t seem to get up the energy for it. It’s a character study of three marriages, two straight ones as well as the Boston or faux homosexual one of the two husbands. And if you don’t know which one is of most concern to the writers, then you obviously have never heard the term bros before hos. The movie is all about what happens when one husband starts an affair with the other husband’s daughter. At least I assume it’s an affair. No sex is shown and it all ends up being a bit cute and cuddly, as if they were afraid the Lifetime channel might not want to air it. The whole thing is narrated by Alia Shawkat, who plays the daughter who doesn’t have an affair. Exactly why this character was chosen for this somewhat thankless task is a bit unclear. The movie is filled with scenes she doesn’t see first hand and she never seems to learn anything of any significance. The movie might have been interesting if it had been about her realization that nobody likes or cares about her because she’s too plain and dull to be of any importance (so unimportant that even her father prefers the daughter across the street). But alas, twas not to be. The leads are played by Allison Janney, Oliver Platt, Catherine Keener and Hugh Laurie. All are very good, but apparently all are here because no one has come up with the idea of using them for a movie version of Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance yet. Maybe next year.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (the new documentary directed by Lisa Immordine Vreeland, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt and Frederic Tcheng) is about the ground breaking American fashionista that revolutionized the way we thought about what we wear though the pages of Harper’s Bazarre, Vogue and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the movie, Vreeland is portrayed as Auntie Mame meets Anna Wintour: someone who cries out Live!, Live!, Live!, but still makes her assistants cry. It’s based on an as told to biography written by George Plimpton and is narrated by two people pretending to be Plimpton and Vreeland reading excerpts of the book and the interviews. The actor playing Plimpton is fine, but Annette Miller, as Vreeland, is a bit much at times. She has the voice of Lauren Bacall coupled with the vocal inflections of Bette Davis. I’m not convinced the film rises about what is, a fairly standard bio doc, but it is highly entertaining and at times fascinating (though one does get a chill here and there when Vreeland seems to see her sons as utterly unimportant to her life).