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Martha K. Baker

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.

The time: 1961; the setting: smoky, folky bar in New York City. The player: Llewyn Davis, a folk singer with a penchant toward being irresponsible, arrogant and needy. Think of the recent title character of "Francis Ha," and you have Llewyn Davis only 50 years ago and with a guitar.

The second films of three are often the weak links, but not "The Desolation of Smaug." Sure, exposition is chunked into the first 20 minutes just to fill in the plot and references to "The Lord of the Rings" are forced. The second of this series is uneven but exciting.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary, the National Theatre of Great Britain has prepared a film nummy smorgasbord. On the screen of the Tivoli Theatre, playing only on Sunday December 8 at noon, you can join in the celebration.

"Kill Your Darlings" tries very hard to reveal a barely known fact in the lives and death of the Beat poets -- as if their lives have not been done to death already. It's hard to fathom why anyone would care about these undergrown boys. But for the chapter their lives tell of America's fairly recent gay history, their journeys are so ego-centric as to be, at least, exclusionary and, at most, dull.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013 01:00

'How I Live Now' is dysfuntional dystopia

The first thing to know about "How I Live Now" is that it is set in a dystopia, not a utopia. What starts out as a teen-ager's cry against the world, manifested in Goth style, ends up in a state of totalitarian and environmental and personal degradation.

German fairy tales present cozy, cottage stories that veil torture and fear. "The Book Thief" presents World War II as a cozy time with but hints of fear and torture, and that falseness results in a film that goes on and on, never offering reality.

First the title: the fifth estate refers to a class of society beyond the clergy, the nobility, the commoners and the press. In this relatively stodgy film, the fifth estate is personified by Julian Assange accompanied by Wikileaks.

The violence in "12 Years a Slave" is hard to take. It cannot be dismissed as cartoonish or video game-ish, for it is too close to the bone, the baddest bone of American history. For the South to thrive with rice or cotton as king, the region needed hands to work the land.

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