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Charlie Plummer

“LEAN ON PETE” My rating: B+ (Opens April 20 at theTivoli, Glenwood Arts and Town Center)

121 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Lean on Pete” will leave audiences emotionally wrecked.

This despite the miscasting of a couple of key roles.

At first glance the latest from Brit writer/director Andrew Haig (“45 Years,” “Weekend”)  may look like a-boy-and-his-horse story.  But no.  The equine Pete of the title is less a character than a symbol of everything that the movie’s young human protagonist lacks.

When we meet Charley (Charlie Plummer, last seen as John Paul Getty II in “All the Money in the World”) he’s living in borderline poverty with his loving but generally hapless father Ray (Travis Fimmel). Early on they discuss Ray’s latest squeeze over a breakfast of Fruit Loops (which are kept in the fridge to frustrate the roaches).

Charley: “I like her better than Marlene.”

Ray: “Marlene was smart for a stripper.”

Virtually by accident Charley falls in with Del (Steve Buscemi), who might best be described as a used car salesman of the horse set.  Del has a small stable of nags he runs at nickel-and-dime tracks around the Pacific Northwest. He puts Charley to work grooming the exercising the animals, and the kid soon picks up that Del isn’t above scamming or cheating to make a buck, leading occasionally to quick dead-of-night getaways.

Still, the kid loves working with the  horses, especially the aging Lean On Pete, who becomes  his personal favorite.

“You can’t think of them as pets,” warns Bonnie (Chloe Savigny), the young woman who is Del’s in-house jockey. “They’re here to race and nothing else.”

Indeed, Del is no sentimentalist when it comes time to cull the herd.  Thus when Charley, already reeling from a tragedy at home, learns that Lean on Pete is “going to Mexico” — Delspeak for being sold to the glue factory — the kid puts the horse in a trailer, revs up Del’s junker pickup truck, and heads out for parts unknown. Continue Reading »

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Geoffrey Rush, Armie Hammer

“FINAL PORTRAIT” My rating: B (Opens April 20 at the Tivoli and Glenwood Arts)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Genius marches to its own drummer, expecting mere mortals to keep time. And if we can’t maintain the pace, genius will  blithely leave us behind.

Stanley Tucci’s droll “Final Portrait” depicts a real-life encounter between genius in the form of artist Alberto Giacometti and a young man whose idol worship will come back to bite him in the posterior.

Based on James Lord’s 1965 memoir A Giacometti Portrait, the terse film, punctuated by deadpan comedic moments, depicts a 1964  incident in which Lord, an American journalist who often wrote about the art scene, agreed to pose for Giacometti in his Paris studio.  At the time the artist — known worldwide for his elongated sculptures — was concentrating on painting.

Lord is played by Armie Hammer as a handsome but bland young man, probably gay, who jumps at the chance to spent time in the presence of greatness. Giacometti, portrayed with rumpled self-absorption by Geoffrey Rush, says the sittings will take only a couple of days.

Maybe he honestly believes that. In any case, the three-day sitting turns into a three-week slog, with Lord dutifully showing up every day to sit while Giacometti paints, chain smokes, curses, repeatedly starts over and finds numerous opportunities to lay down his brush for alcoholic and sexual diversions. What started out as an art fan’s thrill turns into an existential dilemma.

Time after time Lord must cancel the plane tickets for his return to New York. He detects a recurring pattern in the artist’s  reluctance — refusal even — to finish a work, and begins playing mind games to nudge Giacometti toward completing the portrait.

All this unfolds in the artist’s studio, a cellar-like dustbin right out of “La Boheme” filmed in desaturated hues that cloak everything save human flesh in a gray pall.

And there are other players here. Like Giacometti’s brother Diego (Tony Shalhoub, almost unrecognizable), an artist in his own right who spends most of his time puttering around the edges of his older sibling’s environment and vaguely commiserating with Lord.

There’s Mrs. Giocametti (Sylvie Testud), who is not thrilled that her husband has become so obsessed with a local prostitute (Clemence Poesy) that he buys her a spiffy sports car.

 

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Joaquin Phoenix

“YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE”  My rating: B- (Opens April 20 at the Town Center and Alamo Drafthouse)

89 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A brutal character study encased in an overripe — some might say rancid — melodrama, Lynne Ramsay’s “You Were Never Really There” offers Joaquin Phoenix at his moodiest.

Depending upon your point of view, that will be either a warning or an enticement.

When we first meet Joe (Phoenix) he’s cleaning up a hotel room where something very nasty has occurred.  He’s wrapping a bloody hammer in plastic and rinsing gory items in the bathroom sink.  There are also insert shots of someone — it’s hard to say just who — struggling to breathe with their head wrapped in a plastic dry cleaning bag.

Joe — who has the graying beard and long hair of a ’60s Jesus freak and seems to be about 50 pounds overweight — is not, as you might think, a serial killer.  Nor is he a hit man, exactly.

His specialty is retrieving lost children — kids who have been snatched or sold into sex slavery. It’s hard to say whether he’s in it for the money, for the sake of the kids, or because it gives him a good excuse to go Neanderthal on some really despicable people.

Job completed and fee collected, he shuffles off to the Bronx house he shares with his invalid mother (Judith Roberts), with whom he shares a love/hate relationship.  There are moments of genuine  tenderness here.  There are also flashbacks to Joe’s tormented childhood; apparently he spent lots of time locked in a closet while Mom entertained.

Other brief blips from Joe’s past reveal him to be a veteran who fought somewhere in the Mideast. Continue Reading »

Diane Krueger

“IN THE FADE”  My rating: B+ (Available in digital formats on April 17)

106 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“In the Fade” may get a bit fuzzy around the edges, but its center is as solid as an anvil.

German actress Diane Kruger is utterly compelling  in writer/director Fatih Akin’s  tale of a woman attempting to come to terms with the terrorist killing of her husband and son. Even when the film threatens to bog down in courtroom cliches, Krueger’s fierce/fragile performance holds us in its grasp.

Small wonder the role won her best actress honors at last spring’s Cannes Film Festival. (“In the Fade” also won a Golden Globe as best foreign language film, which raises the question of why it hasn’t gotten a theatrical run here in Kansas City…but that’s another story.)

The picture begins with cellphone footage of the German prison wedding of convicted drug dealer  Nuri (Numan Acar) to party-girl hottie Katja (Kruger).

It then cuts to the couple’s post-prison life.  Years later we find them blissfully wed,  parents to six-year-old son Rocco (Rafael Santana), and operating a thriving small business in Homburg. Nuri’s criminal past is a distant memory. They appear to be model citizens. Continue Reading »

Celia Imrie, Imelda Staunton

“FINDING YOUR FEET” My rating: C 

111 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

I won’t say I hated “Finding Your Feet,”  the most recent in a string of films (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” “The Hero”) depicting love amongst the geriatric set.

But I just barely tolerated it.

Despite a solid cast of veteran British thesps — Imelda Staunton, Timothy Spall, Celia Imrie, Joanna Lumley, David Hayman, John  Sessions — the latest film from director Richard Loncraine (“Brimstone & Treacle,” “Richard III,” “My House in Umbria”) shamelessly panders to its blue-haired target audience. In its own way it’s as derivative and contrived as a Frankie and Annette beach party movie — except you don’t want to see this cast in bikinis.

Sandra (Staunton) is stunned to discover that Mike, her titled husband of 40 years, has been having an affair for nearly that entire time. So it’s splitsville, not only from Mike but from Sandra’s privileged, cash-intensive (and politically conservative) lifestyle.

On the rebound she washes up at the door of her estranged sister, Bif (Imrie), a septuagenarian hippie whose life of adventure and close friendships are diametrically opposed to Sandra’s stunted outlook.

Continue Reading »

Bel Powley

“WILDING” My rating: C (Opens April 20 at the Screenland Tapcade)

92 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Before it bogs down in overcooked horror film cheese, Fritz Bohm’s “The Wildling” pulls a clever narrative con job on its audience.

It’s one of those cases where you’re pretty sure of what the movie’s about until you realize you have it all wrong.

In a prequel Daddy (Brad Dourif) tends to his precious little girl, Anna. Except that there’s something odd going on here…Anna is never allowed to leave  her room and Daddy fills her with tales of the evil Wildling that lives in the woods outside their home and would like nothing better than to snatch and eat such a delightful child.

So, yeah, the kid grows up weird.  When Anna hits puberty Daddy starts giving her daily injections apparently meant to retard menstruation and other signs of maturation.

And then one day Daddy puts a gun to his head and BLAM. It’s pretty clear that he snatched Anna as a young girl and raised her in secret. Now he’s overcome by regret.

Discovered by neighbors who heard the shot, young Anna — now a young woman played by Bel Powley — is rescued by the authorities. The local chief of police, Ellen Cooper (Liv Tyler), takes the mysterious and befuddled girl (she’s never been outside her bedroom) into her own home with the intention of filing for full custody.

The sheriff’s  younger brother, Lawrence (Mike Faist), lives with them and befriends Anna, attempting  to guide her through the minefield of high school.

So the screenplay by Bohm and Florian Elder is all about this innocent learning to cope with real-world conflicts after a sheltered childhood, right? Continue Reading »

Jon Hamm

“BEIRUT”  My rating: B-

109 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Beirut” is a decent LeCarresque thriller that doesn’t live up to its advance hype.

It’s O.K. Not great. It features  a solid central performance by Jon Hamm as a boozy former diplomat with a bad case of existential angst, and Moroccan locations that fill in nicely for the war-ravaged city of the title.

But too often this effort from writer Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton,” “The Bourne Legacy,” “Rogue One”) and veteran TV director Brad Anderson feels overly familiar. The plot, characters and situations offer a well-produced retread of material we’ve already seen many times before.

Gilroy’s screenplay begins in Beirut in 1972.  American diplomat Mason Skiles (Hamm) is presiding over a cocktail party in his residence overlooking the city known by many as the Paris of the Mideast.

Civil war is brewing, but Mason has dedicated his diplomatic skills to averting armed conflict among Lebanon’s native Muslims and Christians, not to mention the Palestinian refugees who are flooding the country and the Israeli military presence hovering at the  border.

It says much about Mason’s liberality that he is married to a Lebanese woman and the couple have taken in a teenaged Palestinian refugee named Karim.

In mere minutes, Mason’s world falls apart. CIA thugs show up to snatch Karim, having just discovered that the boy is the younger brother of a known terrorist. At the same time Karim’s sibling shows up to grab the kid. In the ensuing mayhem Mason’s wife is gunned down.

A decade later we find Mason back in the states using his negotiating skills to settle labor disputes. His heart really isn’t in his work, though. He’s a lush with nothing to live for.

 

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Emily Blunt

“A QUIET PLACE” My rating: B

90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

A big idea will take you farther than a big budget. That was the lesson of last year’s “Get Out” and, on a somewhat more modest scale, of the creepily claustrophobic “A Quiet Place.”

Co-written and directed by John Krasinski, who stars with real-life wife Emily Blunt, “Quiet…” is an intimate post-apocalyptic tale that examines the dynamic of a besieged family. It was made with limited resources; happily talent was not one of the rationed goods.

We first meet the clan — I don’t believe their names are ever mentioned — as they quietly pillage through the remains of an abandoned town.  Emphasize the “quietly” part.

Some sort of alien invasion or government experiment gone bad has unleashed nasty spider-like creatures (we don’t get a good look at them until late in the proceedings) who have an insatiable appetite for mammalian blood.  Only three months after these creatures made their appearance, the human race is teetering on the edge of extinction.

This particular family — Mom (Blunt), Dad (Krasinski), Big Sister (Millicent Simmonds) and Little Brother (Noah Jupe) —  have survived in large part because Big Sister is hearing impaired and the other family members are fluent in sign language. They are able to silently communicate with their hands (what conversation the film offers is rendered in subtitles) and this has allowed them to elude the marauding invaders, who are sightless but have  a finely developed sense of hearing.

After a jarring prologue we find the characters living on a farm, spending much of their time in a basement bunker. They don’t wear shoes (bare feet make less noise) and move with slow deliberation.  They have laid paths of sand around the farmstead…sand absorbs the sound of footsteps. Continue Reading »

John Cena, Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz

“BLOCKERS” My rating: C+

102 minutes | MPAA rating: R

A bit of Apatow lite with a heavy load of raunch, “Blockers” mixes parental paranoia and adolescent randiness.  Despite a few flat passages, it mostly works…which is to say it’ll make you laugh even if you’re ashamed to.

This feature directing debut from veteran comedy writer/producer Kay Cannon (the “Pitch Perfect” franchise, “30 Rock,” “New Girl”) centers on a trio of hovering parents who discover that their three adored daughters have signed a pact to lose their virginity on prom night.

The film’s title (the script is by Brian and Jim Kehoe) is short for “cock blockers,” and that bit of information says a good deal about the sort of lurid laughs audiences can expect.

Mitchell (John Cena), Lisa (Leslie Mann) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) meet while dropping their daughters off for the first day of  elementary school.  The little girls bond almost immediately.

More than a decade later the three young ladies are facing high school graduation as virgins…and decide to do something about it. When the parental units intercept texts and emails detailing the planned deflorations, the oldsters go into full anxious mode and set out to prevent any such sexual encounters.

Continue Reading »

“1945” My rating: B

91 minutes | No MPAA rating

The two men who get off the train outside a rural Hungarian town hardly seem threatening.

The older fellow has the white beard and black hat and coat of a pious Jew.  His younger companion (his son?) is also clad in black.

With the help of a porter they unload two crates — they look like small caskets — off the baggage car and onto a horse-drawn cart for the silent hour-long walk to town.

Nothing particularly threatening or suspicious about the pair, yet their presence sets off moral convulsions throughout the community.

Nobody is more wary than the town clerk, Istvan (Peter Rudolf), a mover and shaker preparing for the wedding that day of his not-particularly-impressive only son to a local peasant girl. His joy over the festivities is short-lived.

What gives? Continue Reading »

“ISLE OF DOGS” My rating: B

101 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

So much is going on in Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” that it’s hard to wrap one’s head around it.

Perhaps it’s best to let our eyes do all the work, for this is one astoundingly beautiful animated film.

Shot with the same stop-motion techniques as Anderson’s earlier effort, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” this new entry employs the filmmaker’s usual deadpan humor with gorgeous Japanense-inspired designs and a yarn about human/canine relations.

It’s part sci-fi, part “Old Yeller.”

In an introductory segment designed to look like Japanense screens and woodcuts and propelled by throbbing Japanese drumming, an unseen narrator (Courtney B.  Vance) relates how, after an outbreak of “dog flu” and “snout fever,” all canines in the city were banished by the cat-loving Mayor Kobayashi, head of the ruling Kobayashi clan.

The dogs were transported to an island of trash off the coast where they learned to dig through the refuse for sustenance.

But not all humans are anti-dog.  A few still long for the days of “man’s best friend”; a pro-pup scientist is even developing a cure for dog flu.

The plot proper (the screenplay is by Anderson, who developed the story with Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Kunichi Nomura) kicks in with the arrival of Atari, the ward of the Mayor who has stolen a plane and crash landed on the Isle of Dogs in search of Spots, his beloved guard dog, who was torn from him by the canine exodus.

The boy immediately teams up with a quartet of puzzled pooches (voiced by Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Bill Murray and Jeff Goldblum) and the suspicious Chief (Bryan Cranston), who understandably nurses a bad case of anti-human sentiment. Continue Reading »

“READY PLAYER ONE” My rating: B
140 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

That most films based on video games suck mightily should come as no surprise…video games are all about dishing visceral thrills, not building dramatic momentum or developing characters.

This is why Steven Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” is such a remarkable achievement. Instead of attempting to wrestle the video gaming experience into a standard dramatic format, this surprisingly entertaining entry is really just one long video game, albeit a game with so much pop-culture name dropping that geeks will spend countless hours documenting all the visual and aural references.

Think “Tron” to the nth degree.

Don’t go looking for the usual plot developments or relatable characters. The strength of  “Ready Player One” lies in its ability to create an totally plausible fantasy world that operates by its own rules.  At times the audience’s immersion in this universe is total and totally transporting.

The screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline (based on Cline’s novel) unfolds in the year 2045.  Economic and environmental disasters have left the working class chronically unemployed.  They live in “stacks,”  mini-high rises made of mobile homes resting on metal frameworks. In this world video games are the opiate of the masses — when they’re not eating, sleeping or taking bathroom breaks, the citizenry are experiencing virtual realities through 3-D goggles.

This is the world of Wade (Ty Sheridan of “Mud,” “Joe” and the X-Men franchise), a shy teen whose on-line avatar is the game-savvy Parzival.  Wade/Parzival is a devotee of The Oasis, a massive video game developed by the late programming guru Halliday (played by Mark Rylance in flashbacks) and so complex and challenging that in the years since its inception no player has come close to beating it. But millions log in daily in an attempt to find three hidden keys that will unlock Halliday’s fantasy world and grant the winner ownership of the unimaginably wealthy Oasis empire.

The challenge attracts not just individual gamers like Parzifal and on-line buddies like the hulking giant Aech or the samurai warrior Daito.  The IOI corporation and its Machiavellian director Sorrento (Ben Mendelssohn) has its own army of players who compete for the prize.   The person — or business — that solves the game’s many puzzles will in effect become one of Earth’s dominant forces.

Continue Reading »

Steve Buscemi as Nikita Khrushchev, Jason Isaacs as Zhukov

“THE DEATH OF STALIN” My rating: B+

 107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Cold War-bred baby boomers may be perplexed to discover that Nikita Khrushchev  — the Soviet bigwig who infamously pounded his shoe on a desk at the United Nations and proclaimed that “We will bury you” — is the hero of “The Death of Stalin.”

Just goes to show: History makes for strange bedfellows.

Make no mistake: Khrushchev, played here by a balding, pudgied-up Steve Buscemi, is presented as a hustling, scheming political climber.  But compared to the forces he’s battling, he’s one of the angels.

Unfolding over several days in 1953, “The Death of Stalin” is history retold as a black comedy.  It was written and directed by Armando Iannucci, the Scottish filmmaker who in 2009 gave us the brilliant sendup of Bush-era idiocy, “In the Loop.”

If anything, “…Stalin” surpasses that effort with its toxic/weirdly entertaining mix of terror, paranoia and manic broken-glass satire.

Iannucci and his co-writers (David Schneider, Ian Martin, Peter Fellows) waste no time in laying out the miseries of Stalin-era USSR.  In a brilliantly edited opening sequence, we hopscotch around Moscow on a chilly March  night.

At Radio Moscow an official (Paddy Considine) freaks out when he gets a phone call from Stalin asking for a recording of that night’s live Mozart concerto. Problem is, the program wasn’t recorded.  The doors are barred, the nervous audience members told to return to their seats (“Don’t worry, nobody’s going to get killed”) and a guest conductor is snatched from his apartment in his pajamas to replace the original maestro, who has knocked himself unconscious by taking a header into a fire extinguisher.

The Radio Moscow man knows that people have been shot for less than failing to produce a recording for the glorious leader.

Meanwhile in the Kremlin, Stalin (Adrian McLoughlin) is busy hobnobbing with his security chief Beria (Simon Russell Beale), whittling down a list of “enemies” to be arrested and disposed of that very night.

“Cracks me up, this one,” Stalin chortles, pointing to one of the names.

Nearby, Communist Party leaders like Khrushchev, Malenkov (Jeffrey Tambor) and Molotov (Michael Palin) trade vodka shots are behaving like boorish frat boys, recycling war stories and trying not to piss off Stalin. (After each meeting with the head honcho, Khrushchev goes over every comment so as to avoid in the future any topics that Stalin finds distasteful.)

The next day Stalin is found lying on the floor, barely alive, the victim of a stroke.

His cohorts are paralyzed by indecision. They can’t even agree on whether to call in medical assistance: “All the best doctors are in the gulag…or dead.” Continue Reading »

“BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY”  My rating: B 

88 minutes | No MPAA rating

The tragedy of Hollywood icon Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) is that of a brilliant intellect trapped in a gorgeous body.  “People never got past her face,” laments one of her children.

That’s the premise, anyway, of “Bombshell,” a documentary biography by first-time director Alexandra Dean that explores Lamarr’s dual careers:  She was a big star but a crappy actress who became the inspiration for Disney’s Snow White and D.C. Comics’ Cat Woman; behind the scenes she was an inventor whose pioneering work led to today’s cellular age.

Along the way she became an enigma, a woman of so many different aspects, according to her son, “that even I couldn’t understand her.”

Even as a child the former Hedy Kiesler went her own way.  Her  parents treated her to the intellectual and artistic riches of their native Vienna. But she was no young deb…at age 16 she was posing for nude photographs;  at 19 she starred in the film “Ecstasy,” shocking and titillating moviegoers with a naked swimming scene and what appeared to be an on-screen orgasm.  (Hitler banned the film, not for the sex but because the actress was Jewish).

Young Hedy quickly married one of Austria’s richest men, a fascist-friendly and extremely jealous munitions magnate, then fled in a maid’s uniform to London where she was discovered by Louis B. Mayer, the American movie producer who was signing up talent eager to escape the Nazis.

Renamed Hedy Lamarr, she proved fantastically popular with American moviegoers, not for her limited range but for her gob-smacking gorgeousness.

She appears to have been indifferent to the whole business of acting — it was just a way to earn a living — reserving her real passion for tinkering (as a child she dismantled and reassembled a wind-up music box).  With the advent of World War II she decided to do something for the Allied cause.

Teaming up with composer George Antheil, she developed a method for steering a torpedo via radio waves.  To avoid jamming by the Germans, she and Anthill came up with “frequency hopping,” a system in which the torpedo and its remote operators were synced to an ever-changing series of radio frequencies.

Lamarr received a patent for the system, which she urged the military to consider.  But the Navy wasn’t impressed…though there is considerable evidence that years later, after the patent had expired, the Pentagon exploited it. Eventually frequency shifting became an essential element in the creation of cellphones, GPS, wifi and military satellites.

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“BLACK PANTHER” My rating: B- 

134 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Some films are noteworthy for their artistry.

Others earn a niche in the history books for their cultural footprint, for staking out sociological territory at just the right moment, for tapping into the zeitgeist.

Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” leans heavily toward the second category.

Narratively this is a  typical Marvel release, a superhero origin story that, as all Marvel movies must, ends with an extended fx-heavy smackdown.

But  there’s far more to “Black Panther.”  The first Marvel movie starring a black superhero, featuring a predominantly black cast and backed by with a heavy presence of African Americans in key creative roles,  the picture arrives at a moment when America’s oppressed groups — galvanized by an onslaught of alt-right rhetoric and rampant assholism — are asserting themselves with renewed determination.

Last year  “Wonder Woman” introduced a whole slew of female issues into the superhero universe; in retrospect it feels like a calling card for the “Me Too” movement.

“Panther” does pretty much the same thing for African Americans.  Think of it as Black Pride on steroids.

Based on the character created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the yarn introduces us to Wakanda, an African nation that to all outward appearances is pretty much your Third World backwater.

Ha.

Thanks to the nation’s supply of vibranium — an element brought to Earth in a meteor — Wakandans live in a high-tech paradise.  The clothing, artwork and architecture may be right out of “The Lion King,”  but behind the scenes vibranium provides unlimited energy, healing power and weaponry. Invisible aircraft, even.

What’s more, in conjunction with tribal spirituality, vibranium imparts to the Wakandan king  superhuman abilities, transforming him into the all-but-invincible Black Panther.

All these wonders are hidden behind a shimmering energy wall which protects Wakanda from the outside world  (also the case with the Amazonian homeland in “Wonder Woman”). By keeping to themselves the prosperous and happy Wakandans ensure that  vibranium never falls into the hands of weapons-crazy Westerners who, it’s obvious, are their inferiors in just about every category worth measuring. Continue Reading »

Sonia Warshawski

“BIG SONIA” My rating: B+

93 minutes | No MPAA rating

At first glance there’s nothing particularly big about Sonia Warshawski.

If anything, Sonia is tiny…though she does make an impression way out of proportion to her diminutive size.  Maybe it has something to do with her penchant for animal print fabrics and bright red lipstick.

In any case, one need watch the new documentary “Big Sonia” for only a few minutes to realize we’re dealing here with a major-league personality. In part it’s because of how the Polish-born Sonia handles the English language (she describes a situation as “bog-mindling”); a big chunk of it is her energy, remarkable for a woman who in her 90s int still running the tailor shop founded by her late husband decades earlier.

But mostly it’s her back story, that of a Holocaust survivor who carved out a new life in Kansas City, raising a family, starting a business and, with the fullness of time, becomes a  conduit to the past by giving public talks about the horrors of her youth.

“Big Sonia” — made by her granddaughter Leah Warshawski and co-director Todd Soliday — covers a lot of territory.

It examines how Sonia’s tailor shop — the last surviving store in the now-razed Metcalf South Mall — became a dash of European chic amid all our Midwestern drabness. One longtime customer describes it as “a neighborhood bar &  grill without the booze.” It becomes clear that many of Sonia’s customers are as interested in hanging out with her as they are in having their hems adjusted.

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