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Martha K. Baker

Friday, 21 February 2014 09:49

'In Secret' reveals weight of wanting

It's no secret that Emile Zola knew how to tell a story, especially the pitiful story of orphan Therese Raquin. From that novel, a play was written by Neal Bell, and from that play, a film script was produced into a film called "In Secret" and directed by newcomer Charlie Stratton.

George Clooney made a noble effort to tell the story of soldier/scholars sent by President Franklin Roosevelt to save the culture of Europe near the end of World War II. A noble effort, however, does not immediately translate to a fine film. 

The topics range from up-dated cartoons to feral creatures to a family late for a wedding. They come from, among many places, France and Finland and Disneyland, and they run from 6 minutes to a half-hour, in faded black and white to bubbling color.

Friday, 07 February 2014 01:00

'The Past' is passé in more ways than one

Too bad the title "It's Complicated" went to 2009 film starring Meryl Streep and Steve Martin, for the title could be a generic. It certainly applies to "The Past," which depends on revelations, each one more complicating than the last. "The Past" is a mystery wrapped in a soap opera.

Friday, 31 January 2014 01:00

'Labor Day' ladles rich cream in deep bowl

Joyce Maynard may be best known for selling her love letters as a teen from J.D. Salinger as an older man. After the film "Labor Day," Maynard may come into her own as a story-teller, for the story is pretty solid; however, the cast raises it above itself.

A film entitled "The Great Beauty" should be one, and this one certainly is. It is also dark, both in terms of light and insight. Its beauty is not sweeping vistas or aerial shots of quilt-like fields or close-ups on tiaras in vitrines; the film's beauty is a metaphor.
 

How stupid do they think we are? The number of disconnections, the appeal to tears, the non-development of characters, the 4-month-old infant pretending to be a newborn -- they all total to a film that misses the mark by a mile of mush.

Friday, 03 January 2014 01:00

'Her' asks a lot of Artificial Intelligence

Always a little on the outside of things, Spike Jonze has written and directed a film that takes place about an L.A. minute beyond next year. "Her" is set in the near future when companies will write heartfelt letters for strangers and when men might fall in love with a bought woman.

First, the confessions: I never read Mary Poppins. I giggled over those penguins when the movie first came out in 1964. I admit I was delighted at the thought that a nanny could save the day; in fact, I would have given anything to have had a nanny save my day as a child.

The best news about the film adaptation of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer-Prize-winning drama, "August: Osage County," occurs very early. The opening monologue has been trimmed to a mere sliver. Indeed, 40 minutes have been sliced out of the play; the cuts are hardly detectable -- and that's good.

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