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Martha K. Baker

Imagine being a woman of words -- literally, a professor who makes her living studying words -- who loses those words. Not just a momentary stutter until the word returns, shining like new, but lost for words forever. That is the basis of Lisa Genova's novel of the same name and of this good film.

"Mr. Turner" is beautiful -- no doubt about it. Against that beauty, director Mike Leigh fashions a biography of the late years of the great 19th-century English painter, maybe the greatest. By contrast, the biography has its tawdriness: James Mallard Turner was bawdy and ill-mannered, blustery and aggressive.

Thursday, 25 December 2014 01:00

'The Imitation Game' imitates life only so far

To go by "The Imitation Game," England won World War II through the good offices of one man, Alan Turing. Though surrounded by other good men, and one good woman who slipped into the hut at Bletchley Park, Turing, according to this biopic that skirts his life, figured out Germany's Enigma code.

Thursday, 25 December 2014 01:00

"Into the Woods" supersedes Broadway version

What would happen if you took fairy tales and jostled them together as if they were the stories of a community? Each neighbor would have a tale, but each tale would segue or impinge or depend on the lives of others in the village. The result would be a melange of magic and mayhem.

Thursday, 25 December 2014 01:00

'Unbroken' chronicles a life of gristle

When Angelina Jolie appeared on "The Daily Show," Jon Stewart asked her to summarize the life of Louis Zamperini, the subject of "Unbroken," which she directed. Jolie rapidly ran through the highlights and then collapsed on the desk, exhausted from retelling Zamparini's biography.

Thursday, 25 December 2014 01:00

'Big Eyes' focuses on art: whose?

There are those who look at Margaret Keane's paintings of waifs with big eyes and gag. They are the ones wondering why anyone would care who actually painted those ghastly, stunningly manipulative paintings. And then there are those who take the pictures at face value as sentimental or kitsch.

Monday, 15 December 2014 01:00

'Top Five' talks jive and reaches for stars

The plot line before: aging star of comic movies wants to be taken seriously. That is the skeleton of "Stardust Memories" and, currently, of "Birdman" as a former superhero goes to Broadway. "Top Five" offers a variation on that theme as a former stand-up comic doffs his franchise bear suit.

Ideally, the filmmaker, James Marsh, would have named this film, "Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen," for "The Theory of Everything" is based on Jane Wilde Hawking's memoir. However, Marsh's movie tries to tell her domestic story as well as scientist Stephen Hawking's professional and personal history.

Matthew Vandyke had no friends. He was the only child of an only child and was doted on by his divorced mother and her parents, who lived with them and did his laundry. Matt has obsessive-compulsive disorder and fears harming another person. He did not feel manly.

Yes, "St. Vincent" is a formula, but oh! does it honor the guidelines. The formula is about the old gar and the young child. The geezer is usually a man, and the boy is usually a runt. The old guy is usually grumpy and grungy; the little man is polite and bullied.

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