Full Cavity Search
UR A Meatball Rating System

Everybody's Doing It

 

Lurk No Further

Entries in John Esther (45)

Tuesday
Sep012015

The Second Mother

The Second Mother
Directed by: Anna Muylaert
Released on: August 28th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

In one of the nice neighborhoods of São Paulo, an upper-middle class family lives a life of monotonous order where everyone knows her or his place.

The official matriarch of the family, Bárbara (Karine Teles), seems to be of some importance to the fashion world. It is never exactly disclosed what she does, but we know it keeps her away from home during the week. Her husband, Carlos (Lourenco Mutarelli), was once an artist, but now just hangs around the house all day. He inherited money from his hardworking father so why labor? Their son, Fabinho (Michel Joelsas), is a teenage kid with all the advantages and none of the discipline to carve much of an identity for himself. He likes to swim and smoke pot.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug242015

Digging for Fire

Digging for Fire
Director: Joe Swanberg
Released on: August 21st, 2015
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Lee (Rosemarie Dewitt), her husband, Tim (co-writer Jake Johnson), and their 3-year-old son, Jude (Jude Swanberg), have just arrived at a swank Hollywood Hills home, courtesy of one of Lee's clients.

While walking the grounds, Tim discovers a bone and a gun halfway buried in the dirt. He calls the cops, but the operator "with an attitude" says there is nothing they can do without more "evidence" (a suspicious response, but okay). Tim wants to excavate the grounds further to find proof of misdeeds. Lee thinks it is a bad idea. Tim concedes to Lee.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug242015

Top Spin

Top Spin
Director: Sara Newens, Mina T. Son
Released on: August 21st, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther 

For many Americans, playing table tennis, AKA ping pong, has been an enduring pastime over the years. The difference, however, between recreational fun and those striving for Olympic play is a lot longer than the length of a ping pong table and a lot harder than the speed of a smash hit.

Proving the sport can take on a greater level of skill and commitment than the typical American will see in her or his lifetime, Mina T. Son and Sara Newens' documentary, Top Spin, sheds lights on the great game of table tennis through its three highly likable and highly skilled subjects. These intelligent, well adjusted American kids are not just good, they are seeking a spot at the 2012 London Olympics.  

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug242015

Grandma

Grandma
Director: Paul Weitz
Released on: August 21st, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

One of the most audacious American films of the year is finally here. I am writing about writer-director Paul Weitz's Grandma. 

A considerable hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the 80-minute Grandma tells the story of Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), a woman navigating her life after her longtime lover has passed away. Afraid to ever get close to another lover again, Elle cruelly, somewhat abruptly, ends her four-month relationship with Olivia (Judy Greer). 

That same day, Elle's granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner) shows up at Elle's doorsteps unannounced. Sage is pregnant and needs the money to terminate the pregnancy and terminate it that day — no waiting periods in California. 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Aug102015

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Director: Marielle Heller
Released on: August 7th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

San Francisco, California, 1976. The kidnapping of heiress Patty Hearst is the news story du jour. It is a time of permissibility. The radical politics of the 1960s are gone. Noxious disco, swapping couples, and cocaine are in full swing.

In one particular home in The City by the Bay, 15-year-old Minnie Goetze (Bel Powley) is looking for love and loins in the wrong places. A budding artist, she draws a gigantic woman who rules the streets of San Francisco (brought to “life” by animator Sara Gunnarsdottir.) Minnie has dreams, desires, woes and whimsy, which she records in her diary. She also has the desire to sleep with “The handsomest man in the world,” Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård). Monroe, however, is a lot older than Minnie.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Jun182015

One Cut, One Life

One Cut, One Life
Directors: Ed Pincus, Lucia Small
Released: May 15th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 of of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

After the notable documentarian Ed Pincus was diagnosed with a terminal illness (compounded by other illnesses), he reunited with collaborator Lucia Small (The Axe in the Attic) to create a final first-person nonfiction film, One Cut, One Life.

Told by two different, but not too different, points of view, along with the sporadic disapproval of Ed's wife, Jane, One Cut, One Life offers a grand farewell to one of cinema's most important filmmakers and the wife, friend and filmmaker he left behind.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun092015

Spy

Spy
Director: Paul Feig
Released: June 5th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

In her best lead role yet, Melissa McCarthy is Agent Susan Cooper, a computer whiz who gives super support to the best of undercover agents, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), from behind her desk. Susan not only gives the super spy support, she romantically pines for him as well. Bradley loves Susan, too, but in a strictly professional and platonic way. Poor Susan.

As fate would have it, however, Bradley fails in his next mission and it is up to Susan to save the day. On the surface, Susan is not the obvious choice for the mission, but that is what makes her the best choice. Nobody in the criminal world will recognize her.

Starting off her European sojourn, Susan is sent to France, in an attempt to track down the mastermind criminal, Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), a vicious killer with a nuclear bomb who is not beyond putting people down permanently or with a direct insult to her or his face — mostly Susan's face (and fashion sense).

Click to read more ...

Monday
Apr272015

Gemma Bovery

Gemma Bovery
Director: Anne Fontaine
Screening: April 2015 at COLCOA Film Festival
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Rather than another adaptation of Madame Bovary, co-writer and director Anne Fontaine's Gemma Bovery is a light lit-crit cinematic reinterpretation of Gustave Flaubert's great novel. 

After years in the publishing business, Martin Joubert (Fabrice Lucchini) has returned to the Northern France town of Normandy (the name of which works better as a play on words in English than in French). Martin may still be a voracious reader, but he now runs his deceased father's bakery. Martin is a natural at baking and seems happiest at work. At home, he has a nice wife, Valérie (Isabelle Candelier), plus a teenage son, Julien (Kacey Mottet Klein) who does not share his father's love of reading.

Click to read more ...

Monday
Apr272015

True Story

True Story
Director: Rupert Gold
Released on: April 17th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Micheal Finkel (Jonah Hill) is in a bad way. He has just embellished and contrived a story for the New York Times and NYT has found out. Now a journalistic pariah (whose lack of integrity nowhere reaches the lows of Bill O'Reilly), Finkel has retreated to Montana with his girlfriend, Jill Barker (Felicity Jones), where he suffers rejection after rejection to write another piece. 
 
If things were not bad enough for Finkel — at his own fingers, mind you — an accused killer out an Oregon has been using his name as an alias. Who needs publicity like that? Well, Finkel might. 

Click to read more ...

Monday
Apr062015

An Honest Liar

An Honest Liar
Directors: Tyler Measom & Justin Weinstein
Released: March 6th, 2015 [LIMITED]/DVD TBA
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Last year writer-director Woody Allen released the feature film, Magic in the Moonlight. The film tells the story of Stanley (Colin Firth), a master illusionist who sets out to debunk the psychic powers of Sophie (Emma Stone), only to become duped himself in the process — yet fall in love with the considerably younger woman (typical), and presumably live happily ever after.

While the film has its moments, Magic in the Moonlight is ultimately predictable, reactionary and incredulous. And, like every single Allen film since his 1992 Husbands and Wives (one of his five masterpieces — along with Annie Hall, Manhattan, Zelig, and Crimes and Misdemeanors), does not merit a second viewing. (Some of the recent films by Allen — once one of America's greatest "auteurs" — do not even merit a first viewing.)

Considerably more liberating, engaging, entertaining and less predictable (unless you already know the film's subject well), yet similar in content, comes Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein's documentary, An Honest Liar.

Click to read more ...