Wednesday, January 2, 2019

If Beale Street Could Talk, Shoplifters, Roma, Mary Poppins Returns, Mary Queen of Scots, Aquaman

                   Welcome to 2019 with Commentary 
            on Some (Relatively) Recent 2018 Releases

                                               Reviews by Ken Burke
 Unlike my standard review format I’m trying to keep as much as I can to a minimum given how many films I’m addressing after taking a week off to recharge as well as catch up on some end-of-year-promoted-as-heavy-hitters (although I've also just re-watched Spotlight [Tom McCarthy, 2015; review in our November 19, 2015 posting], winner of Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay Oscars, one of the select few to which I've awarded a 4½- or 5-star rating with it still being better than any of what I'm exploring here; I offer my encouragement to seek it out in any format you can find whether you've seen it before or not), so I’m trying to be concise as I explore these 6 subjects, all based in some version of family dynamics, some more uplifting in that regard than others (I’ve arranged them in descending order of value to me, even though the star-ratings are almost the same across the board, proving a 6-level-system—even with ½-step-increments and 0—can’t fully measure the nuances of responses; in other words; some 3½-star-ratings are subjectively stronger than other 3½s, but that’s just the reality of aesthetic judgments, no matter how some might try to argue them as defensively-objective).  Even in this concise set of structures, though, there are still spoilers to be aware of if you haven’t seen any of these late-season-offerings; further, in that I’m not giving as much plot detail as usual I’ve also provided links where existent to more descriptive accounts of these narratives for your edification (as well as the “Anatomy of a Scene” feature from the New York Times where it’s available), so let’s get on with what I’ve encountered lately along with best wishes from me (andso farsilent-partner Pat Craig) for a most wonderful 2019 to all of you.

If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who’d like to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify such give-away sentences/sentence-clusters thusly: 
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.

        If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)   rated R
Here’s the trailer: (full screen button in the image’s lower right enlarges it; use that same button on the full screen’s lower right or “esc” keyboard key to return to normal size.)

 Graphics at the beginning of this film, seemingly a quote from the 1974 James Baldwin novel (of the same name), tell us the actual Beale St. is in New Orleans, LA, where both jazz and Louis Armstrong were born (although another source says the book’s title refers to W.C. Handy’s 1916 song, “Beale Street Blues,” about a location in Memphis, TN), elaborating that “Beale Street” is a symbolic birthplace for every African-American in any U.S. locality—a loud, active site where struggling-lives actively emerge.  In this narrative the location is Harlem, NYC, in the early 1970s where Alonzo “Fonny” Hunt (Stephan James), a short-order-cook/talented sculptor of wood has known Clementine “Tish” Rivers (KiKi Layne) since childhood, their very-young-adult-lives (she 19, he 21) now heading toward marriage after securing a living/workspace loft in lower Manhattan from a sympathetic Jewish landlord, Levy (Dave Franco), after being turned down for other options by White owners once they learned their potential renters are Black (the reality of blatant racism in this era is made clear throughout the story, a factor clearly responsible for upheaval in the lives of these passionate lovers—that passion effectively shown in a couple of slow, sensual love-making-scenes accompanied by soothing jazz from a record player, which finishes before they do [if you’re a fan of this kind of music, you should listen to the 23-item-soundtrack by Nicolas Britell]).  Suddenly, their dreams are shaken awake when Fonny’s falsely accused of rape by a Puerto Rican woman, Victoria Rogers (Emily Rios), encouraged to pick Fonny out of a lineup by a cruel White cop, Officer Bell (Ed Skrein), in retaliation for an earlier interrupted confrontation between the 2 men.  Fonny’s stuck in jail awaiting trail because Victoria’s disappeared with the added complication of Tish being pregnant which the young lovers are happy about, Tish’s family accepts after a brief hesitation, but Fonny’s family’s appalled by everything about Tish, leading to a particularly obscene interaction between the 2 sides, as Bible-thumping Mrs. Hunt (Aunjanue Ellis) condemns the child as “born of sin” followed by a harsh rebuke from Tish’s mother, Sharon Rivers (Regina King). Later, the fathers, Joe Rivers (Colman Domingo) and Frank Hunt (Michael Beach), sell stolen goods to finance Sharon’s trip to Puerto Rico where she finds, confronts Victoria but to no avail (likely because the woman needs her own closure but without Fonny being convicted she has no other recourse available).  Ultimately, Fonny accepts a plea bargain, the film ending with Kiki and their young son visiting him in prison.

 While If Beale Street … has scored embracing-critical-acclaim (94% positive reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, a quite-high-for-them 87% average score at Metacritic; more details on such results on all films in this posting much farther below in the Related Links section) along with Golden Globe nominations (winners announced on Sunday, January 6, 2019; broadcast starts at 8pm Eastern time on NBC) for Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture (Regina King—also see far below for the ongoing Metacritic tally of various wins and noms, with King far in the lead in her category); however, it’s making a slow march into domestic (U.S.-Canada) theaters, playing in only 65 so far after 3 weeks in release so it’s earned only about $2 million at the box office (which could change with some Globes wins, but it does face stiff competition in all those races).  For me, it’s the most consistently-effective-film of the several I’m reviewing here, likely one of the best of the year as well (my Top 10 list and category favorites still in flux until I’ve seen a few more of the possible contenders), so if you should choose only 1 from this posting to see for yourself please go with … Beale Street … if you can find it.  The acting is strong on all counts, the flow between present-day-trauma and flashbacks to past passions between the young lovers (along with Fonny’s undeserved-cop-problem) is smoothly-structured, and there are appropriate somber-poetic-touches at times with voiceover narration from Tish concerning how Black lives struggled to matter back then (easily implying how little has changed by now, especially for those in working-class-realities), illustrated with impactful black & white photos (by Gordon Parks and others; I’ve seen some commentary this film doesn’t fully capture the powerful nature of Baldwin’s prose [how often does that happen, anyway?]; never having read the book, I can speak only as to how effective I find the film to be on its own).  You can get a sense of what Jenkins is aiming for in this anatomy of a scene, to which I'll add a bit of my own response with the use of my usual-review-ending-tactic of a Musical Metaphor, in this case Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City” (from his 1973 Innervisions album) at, also illustrated with appropriate (disturbing at times) visuals.  Fonny’s already in NYC rather than the song’s protagonist who travels there from “hard time Mississippi” but the injustice is just the same with this young fish-out-of-water-guy, even worse off with no one like Tish to offer him any comfort.
                  Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-eda)   rated R

Here's the trailer:

 In contemporary Tokyo we find a “family” who aren’t truly related to each other but instead band together in a small, object-cluttered house where everyone calls Hatsue (Kirin Kiki) Grandma but she’s only marginally-related to her teenage “granddaughter” Aki (Mayu Matsuoka) who works in what’s generally called a “gentleman’s club” where a patron watches her through reflective glass as she stimulates herself beneath her school-girl-skirt (Hatsue was once married to the girl’s grandfather but he left her to marry someone else; Aki’s the daughter of the son of that later union, with her parents providing regular stipends to Hatsue for the girl they think’s in Australia; Aki doesn’t realize Grandma took her in for money rather than love [if there’s more to this situation it eluded me]).  The “father” of this group is Osamu Shibata (Lily Franky), not truly related to any of them, although he and wife Nobuyo (Sakura Andô)who steals from the laundry where she works—treat young Shota (Jyo Kairi) as their son, even though they kidnapped him from a parked car a few years earlier (they also killed Nobuyo’s abusive lover).  One day when coming home from their regular shoplifting trip, Osamu and Shota find a seemingly-abandoned little girl, Yuri (Miyu Sasaki), so they take her home, cut her hair, rename her Lin after they see a TV report about her distraught parents concerned about “Juri”'s disappearance (even though our constructed family’s aware of how the child’s suffered abuse), teach her shoplifting as well, although this begins to disturb Shota who senses Osamu’s “ethics” are being too-easily-modified (a good insight, in that when the younger ones are away one day Grandma dies, then Osamu and Nobuyo bury her under the house so they can continue collecting her “pension” [even though it was rarely enough to satisfy her]).  One day when he sees Lin about to lift some edibles Shota blatantly steals a bag of oranges so he’s chased and caught, breaking his leg in the process.  During recovery, suspicious actions lead the police to round up the rest of his family, with Lin/Yuri/Juri sent back to her less-than-loving parents, Shota put into an orphanage (Osamu feigns an intended breakup with the boy but then chases after his departing bus), Nobuyo jailed because she took all the blame for illegally-burying Grandma and contributing to the other crimes (to keep Osamu free, as his previous record would have given him more time behind bars than her 5-year-sentence); I’m not sure what becomes of Aki except for her shock at learning about the full backstory of her “family.”⇐  (If you’d like a bit more plot detail along with an extensive list of Shoplifters’ awards/nominations—including the top Palme d’Or at 2018's Cannes Film Festival, up for Golden Globes’ Best Foreign Language Film—go to this site.)

 Given all the praise and prizes already accumulated by Shoplifters (a fabulous haul of 99% positive reviews at RT, a stunning 93% average score at MC [one of the highest of 2018 films both they and I reviewed]) I was expecting to be knocked out by it, although I can’t say it grabbed me all that powerfully; specifically, I began to get a lot more interested toward the end as the various “family” secrets are revealed, whereas my (often more so than me) compassionate wife, Nina, said she preferred the earlier scenes of the various “family” members using their various survival tactics while demonstrating genuine caring for each other, especially their little “refugee” whose greater economic status provided little true love within her actual family (where the husband also seems abusive to his wife).  There’s a lot to admire here, with this critics’-darling likely to achieve a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nom along with a lot of votes (probably will lose to Roma, though, unless the Academy pushes that one for overall Best Picture), but it just didn’t hit me as being as emotionally-compelling as I’d been led to believe it would be (cold-hearted-bastard that I am).  If you’re interested you’ll likely have a hard time finding it because it’s not even among Box Office Mojo’s most recent weekend tally, although for the weekend of Dec. 21-23, 2018 it was in 54 domestic theaters after 5 weeks in release having raised only about $795,000, yet there are reports of it taking in the U.S. equivalent of $38 million in Japan, $15 million in China.  My choice of a Musical Metaphor may seem a bit odd, but what feels right to me is The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone” (originally on their 1972 All Directions album) at (the full 12 min. version with all the opening instrumentation; however, if you’d like to see the group in performance, here’s their 7-minute-single-record-version).  Osamu’s not the philanderer that “Papa” is in the song (“three outside children And another wife […] Dealing in dirt and stealing in the name of the Lord”), but he did basically just leave the rest of his makeshift-family “alone” when the events of the film conclude, while you could also argue his whole "family" are grifters of some sort, a bit like some of “Papa”'s traits, so I still offer this impactful song as a Metaphor for this generally-substantial-film.  (Although I admit it was the best I could think of or search for at this point, so if anyone has a better after-the-fact-suggested tune please let me know.)

                               Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)   rated R

Here's the trailer:

 Given how well-received Roma’s been by the critical establishment (RT 96% positive reviews, MC an astounding same 96% average score, the highest of any 2018 film both they and I reviewed; along with topping the latest Critical Consensus tally with a 9.3 score [out of 10—of the others included in this posting Shoplifters has 9.1, If Beale Street Could Talk has 8.7, but the rest fall off this chart], plus if you consult that Metacritic tally of wins and noms in my Related Links section far below you’ll find Roma way ahead for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Foreign Language Film) plus its Golden Globe nominations for Best Foreign Language Motion Picture, Best Motion Picture Director, Best Screenplay, I was really expecting something spectacular here too, just like with my hopes for Shoplifters (especially given my enthusiasm for Cuarón’s previous work, including Y Tu Mamá También [2001], Children of Men [2006], Gravity [2013, Oscars for directing and editing, nom for Best Picturewriting/editing noms for the other 2 alsoreview of Gravity in our October 9, 2013 posting]), but, while I was impressed overall with what I saw (especially the cinematography, which could easily be my Oscar front runner), Roma didn’t “Wow!” me the way I assumed it would (maybe because I watched it on my home TV screen via Netflix streaming rather than in a theater, but despite being in release since late November it’s never been on enough screens to even show on Box Office Mojo tallies, yet IndieWire says it’s in 145 theaters with total grosses of $1.85 million).  The story’s filled with humanistic empathy, based largely on the director’s own childhood including a lot of upbringing with a family maid presented here in his old neighborhood (Colonia Roma) of 1970 Mexico City with Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) a maid in an extensive-interiors-home (shown in constantly moving panning shots, although the garage is strangely narrow, leading to some car damage) of doctor Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), often away to Quebec on business (but usually still in town having an affair), wife Sofia (Marina de Tavira) who becomes aware of her husband’s infidelity, their 4 children, Sofia’s mother Teresa (Verónica García), and another maid (sympathetic to Cleo), Adela (Nancy García).  ⇒Cleo has her own problems, becoming pregnant by boyfriend Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero), who first skips out on her at a movie date, then denies it’s his child before joining a violent street gang shooting at protesters, those actions jamming the streets as Cleo’s being driven to a hospital, childbirth in progress.  Sadly, her baby’s stillborn, but Sofia has her own further troubles as she’s divorcing from Antonio so she takes the kids on a beach vacation where 2 of them almost drown until they've saved by brave non-swimmer Cleo, after which she emotionally confesses she never wanted her own child anyway.⇐

 This type of semi-documentary-presentation, especially given Aparicio had no previous acting experience, is very reminiscent to me of post-WW II Italian Neorealism (roughly mid 1940s-mid ‘50s; influence continues) by being shot on location in B&W, moving at an intentionally-slow-pace using some non-actors, addressing sociopolitical situations of the day, contrasting the lives of those who struggle financially with those who enjoy more material comforts.  Certainly, there’s no reason why this style of filmmaking can’t continue into present day, being lauded when successful (as it is, especially with Eastern European and African films I’ve seen), but in this particular case it just didn’t seem all that innovative nor filled with insights on humanity as I’ve found it constantly lauded to be.  It’s a gritty look at the difficult lives faced by the 2 primary women (Cleo, Sofia)—despite their socioeconomic-differences—it shows how much Cleo’s loved by this family despite her servant status (especially the scene where Teresa’s helping her shop for a crib prior to the calamitous events of the riot), it certainly does a great job of capturing the imagery, the sense of the era, but for me it just wasn’t all that much to brag about.  You might well feel differently about it, so feel free to check out this site for more extensive plot details, as well as this one for an anatomy of a scene with the director.  Honestly, I couldn’t come up with a Musical Metaphor so I’ll just borrow what’s used with the trailer noted above, Pink Floyd’s “The Great Gig in the Sky” (from their magnificent 1973 The Dark Side of the Moon album) at (a live performance; pathetic video but mesmerizing audio), which I can’t even rationalize to the content of this film but it’s still a fascinating vocal/instrumental experience, which I must admit moves me a bit more than Roma does; yet, given all the industry/critical buzz about this film I wouldn’t be surprised if it snags major awards, including Oscar’s Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film, possibly solidly in contention for Best Picture also (I encourage you to see it, as long as you don’t mind reading subtitles or speak Spanish, after which you can tell me where—or if—I’ve missed the boat).
          Mary Poppins Returns (Rob Marshall)   rated PG

Here's the trailer:

 While the critical response to this movie cools off considerably from the ones previously reviewed in this posting (RT 78% positive reviews, MC 65% average score) the box office results are considerably higher than anything discussed above ($174.5 million worldwide so far [$99.3 million of that domestically, now in over 4,000 theaters after only 2 weeks in release]) for this not-quite “practically perfect”—but certainly very enjoyable—entertaining sequel to the 1964 Disney classic which won Julie Andrews her only Best Actress Oscar.  … Returns is extremely energetic (filled with musical numbers, including one about riding balloons up into the sky sung by Angela Lansbury) with decent singing from Emily Blunt (Mary), even better song and dance from Lin-Manuel Miranda (Jack, the lamplighter), a very familiar story (Mary’s back to help the Banks family children, although this time previous son Michael’s [Ben Whitshaw] now an adult with energetic 3 kids of his own—but no wife, she died a year ago, so sister Jane [Emily Mortimer] helps out—plus distractions leading to being behind on loan payments with the bank—led by evil Mr. Wilkins [Colin Firth]—about to seize his house unless Michael can locate certificates of bank shares left to him by his father; Mary leads the children and Jack into an active, colorful 2-D animated adventure in an ornamental bowl [rather than a sidewalk drawing, but we get a reappearance by the penguins]; there’s a huge production number by the lamplighters [rather than Bert’sDick Van Dykeprevious chimneysweeps]; ⇒foreclosure’s imminent until Mary turns back Big Ben to give more time; Michael comes to better appreciate his children’s efforts on his behalf; all’s well that ends well as old Mr. Dawes Jr. [Van Dyke] pops up to fire Wilkins, do a dance, tell Michael the tuppence he invested 25 years ago has yielded enough interest to pay his debts; problems solved, Mary flies off again),⇐ resulting in an uplifting tale that's (almost fully) great fun to watch* (Golden Globe nominators certainly think so, choosing Blunt and Miranda respectively for Best Motion Picture Actress/Actor-Comedy or Musical, along with Best Original Score for the movie as a whole).  While I enjoyed … Returns quite a bit, I never could shake the feeling it falls between remake and sequel (it’s officially the latter), depending greatly on references to the original for much of its impact (even snippets of the previous score worked into the music), so I couldn’t really appreciate it enough on its own nor could I shake the indelible memory of the irreplaceable Julie Andrews, despite this excellent current cast (including Meryl Streep, who also sings).  Still, it’s just intended to bring a cherry uplift to our winter doldrums so I’ll bow out with a Musical Metaphor from its soundtrack album, “(Underneath the) Lovely London Sky” at (sung by Miranda, music by Marc Shaiman, lyrics by Shaiman, Scott Whittman), where all this magic "Poppins-up" once again.

*Here’s considerably more detail if you’d like better clarification about the various specifics of the plot; there’s also another anatomy of a scene, with director Marshall, for your further edification.
              Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke)   rated R

Here's the trailer:

 If, like in “Wonderful World” (on his 1960 album The Wonderful World of Sam Cooke), you “don’t know much about history,” you could learn some (bur not nearly enough) from this film about the woman who inherited Scotland’s throne as a newborn in 1542, abandoned it while raised in France to become Queen there at 16; widowed at 18, she returned to Scotland to reclaim that throne from illegitimate half-brother James Stewart, Earl of Moray (James McArdle), whereupon she fought with cousin Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie, quite effective in her imperial manner) over the more legitimate claim to England’s throne.  Mary … won’t clarify much of such history for you, so consider this extensive biography for much more detail (and a useful genealogy chart), as the main attraction you’ll get from this film is an outstanding performance by Saoirse Ronan as Mary: a Catholic during Protestant ascendency in tumultuous times, a Scot in these (pre-British [not until 1701]) isles unwelcomed by her English neighbors as the Stuart and Tudor lines from Henry VIII clashed (although Mary’s son, James, eventually ruled both countries, prior to formal linkage).  On screen, you’ll mostly find some daunting female hairstyles; similar (confusing) costumes and beards so most men look alike; Mary marrying Lord Darnley (Jack Lowden) against both her advisors’ and opponents’ intentions; growing tensions with cousin Liz as Mary demands to be her successor (scenes nicely intercut between the 2 courts throughout); Mary finding her own sovereignty compromised by marriage (after Darnley’s murder)—to imperious James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (Martin Compston), who disrespects her as both ruler and spouse—finally, a meeting with Elizabeth (never happened) where she seeks protection from her own disloyal court only to be executed years later in England for plotting against her kin (not clear she was guilty, just as none of this “spoiler” stuff wouldn’t easily be known with a tad of research, but I’ll be true to my policies).⇐   If you haven’t seen this yet or remain undecided (critics are somewhat-supportive: 62% positive RT reviews, surprisingly-almost-equal MC 61% average score; domestic audience response after a month in release is just over $9 million, the film playing in only 841 theaters) I can save you time and money by noting the 2nd listing under my Related Links for this film, a BBC doc offering a fuller context of these contentious times, just not with this version's impressive acting.  As for a Musical Metaphor, considering all this Scottish chest-pounding, I’ll turn to “Flower of Scotland” (there’s no official Scottish national anthem but this one—written in 1968, included on their 1974 Live from Scotland Volume 1 album by the Corries [lyrics here in various languages]—polls with high favor among the Scots), at celebrating King Robert the Bruce’s win over English King Edward II’s army at the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn (despite comments in that lyrics link giving the victory to Scot William Wallace).  If she could have channeled cognitive-time-travel, Mary might have been singing it herself as the ax fell across her neck in 1587.
                           Aquaman (James Wan)   rated PG-13

Here's the trailer:

 I’ve saved the massive Aquaman until the end, acknowledging it, like Mary Poppins Returns, is an entertainment-based-“movie”—rather than a higher-aspirational-“film” (Two Guys easily review both, despite the haughty title of our blog)—unlikely to be taken as seriously as some of the other topics explored in this round of reviews, especially because of its comic-book-heritage, but what it may lack in prestige (RT, 64% positive reviews; MC, 55% average score) it more than makes up for in box-office-grosses (profits necessary to help keep the higher-falutin-film-aspects of the cinematic industry afloat) which currently stand at about $751.8 million worldwide ($189.4 million of that domestically [making it #12 overall for calendar year 2018, more income still on the way] in 4,125 theaters) after only 2 weeks in release in the U.S., a bit earlier overseas.  This character’s been in a couple of previous DC movies (most notably Justice League [Zack Snyder, 2017; review in our November 23, 2017 posting]) so this serves as his backstory, then moves forward to events soon after that last appearance even though little’s mentioned about it.  However this current plot may relate to all that’s come before in print about Aquaman (for too much for me to keep up with), what we get here is how his mother, Atlanna (Nicole Kidman), escaping from an arranged marriage in the undersea kingdom of Atlantis, is rescued in 1985 by a Maine lighthouse keeper, Thomas Curry (Temuera Morrison), after which they fall in love, have their son, Arthur, prior to her being found, forced back into the depths,  Adult Arthur (Jason Momoa) knows his origins (having been trained for combat by Atlantian royal advisor Nuidis Vulko [Willem Dafoe]), assumes Mom was killed (she wasn’t) by his reigning half-brother, Orm Marius (Patrick Wilson), who’s decided to unite the 7 watery kingdoms in an assault on the surface world, angry at our pollution and destruction of the oceans (he’s got a point, especially knowing how trustworthy we humans are with negotiated treaties).  Through a lot of well-crafted, computer-created/enhanced-battle scenes (probably too much if you get tired of that sort of thing, but it is a comic-book-superhero movie, after all!) Arthur manages to secure the legendary, powerful Trident of Atlan, fall in love with Princess Mera (Amber Heard), defeat his half-brother to not only stop the war but claim the throne for himself (shades of Black Panther [Ryan Coogler; review in our February 22, 2018 posting]), then hopes to work for peace between different Earthly communities (shades of Black Panther again, along with Wonder Woman [Patty Jenkins, 2017; review in our June 8, 2017 posting])—there’s also a setup for a sequel/rematch with David Kane/Black Manta (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II), another antagonist whose homicidal-pirate-father was purposely left to drown by Arthur in this story’s earlier confrontation.⇐

 The whole thing’s a bit exhausting—but exciting—to watch, although some aspects don't make sense (In addition to what’s covered in this link, I'd also add: Which of the Atlantians can easily breathe on land, which ones can’t, why is there a difference? How is there sky in the hidden land/ocean at the center of the Earth? [Of course, that happens in various versions of Alice in Wonderland as well.] How do flares stay lit underwater to scare off the deep-dwelling-demons attacking Arthur and Mera?), yet I’d say just "flow" with it as intended by director Wan (explained in brief with this anatomy of a scene), check out these extensive plot notes if you like,* and sing along with my Musical Metaphor, Donovan’s “Atlantis” (from his 1968 Barabajagal album) at https: // (with added oceanic imagery; note you can use the tiny x in the upper-right-corner of the disclaimer box within the larger YouTube screen to turn it off).

*This link can help you find out some of the extensive backstory of this character in print—at least in his Arthur Curry identity, although you’d need to consult this additional one to explore the full context of Aquaman’s timeline, as these print superheroes constantly morph over the decades in an attempt to lure new generations of readers.  With that entire heritage somewhat in place (depending on how much of it you want to read), you might better appreciate the Easter Eggs explanations about this movie in the second listing for it in that Related Links section, now not so very far below.
 That’s all (more than enough, you say?) for now; I’ll be back soon with my more standard format.  Until then you might find something to keep you occupied at this site for 9 streaming services with free movies generously provided to us by Two Guys in the Dark’s original inspiration and patron, my friend Barry Caine.  Happy viewing!  (Or, to exert even less effort you could just groove to one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs, "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" [from his 1966 Blonde on Blonde album] which would probably take until about next week to finish listening to it anyway.)
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
We encourage you to visit the summary of Two Guys reviews for our past posts.*  Overall notations for this blog—including Internet formatting craziness beyond our control—may be found at our Two Guys in the Dark homepage If you’d like to Like us on Facebook please visit our Facebook page. We appreciate your support whenever and however you can offer it!

*A Google software glitch causes every Two Guys posting prior to August 26, 2016 to have an inaccurate (dead) link to this Summary page; from then forward, though, this link is accurate.

AND … at least until the Oscars for 2018’s releases have been awarded on Sunday, February 24, 2019 we’re also going to include reminders in each posting of very informative links where you can get updated tallies of which 2018 films have been nominated for and/or received various awards 
and which ones made various individual critic’s Top 10 lists.  You may find the diversity among the various awards competitions and the various critics hard to reconcile at times—not to mention the often-significant-gap between critics’ choices and competitive-award-winners (which pales when compared to the even-more-noticeable-gap between specific award winners and big box-office-grosses you might want to monitor here)—but as that less-than-enthusiastic-patron-of-the-arts, Plato, noted in The Symposium (385-380 BC)—roughly translated, depending on how accurate you wish the actual quote to be—“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder,” so your choices for success are as valid as any of these others, especially if you offer some rationale for your decisions (unlike many of the awards voters who simply fill out ballots, sometimes for films they’ve never seen).

To save you a little time scrolling through the “various awards” list above, here are the current Golden Globe nominees for films and TV. 

Here’s more information about If Beale Street Could Talk: (26:19 interview with director Barry Jenkins and actors Brian Tyree Henry, Colman Domingo, Regina King, Stephan James, Kiki Layne [along with producers Adele Romanski, Sara Murphy, Jeremy Kleiner, Dede Gardner, Megan Ellison at the start, just so you can see what they look like], but, unfortunately, as we get into the actual interviews the audio drops considerably at times so you often have to listen carefully to even try to catch it all) 

Here’s more information about Shoplifters: (click the 3 bars in the upper left corner to reveal more aspects of this site, including the press kit which will give you much more info on this film than I’ve allotted space to myself to post this time) (46:53 interview with director Hirokazu Kore-eda and actors Lily Franky, Sakura Andô, Mayu Matsuoka, Kirin Kiki, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki [this is quite a multi-lingual-experience in that almost all of it is spoken in French by the moderator to the many interviewees, translated to them, then their answers in Japanese back to French, plus, for those of us English-speakers, a voiceover translation, so listen carefully if any of these may be your native tongue—or the CC button on the YouTube screen will put it all into auto-generated French closed-captions if you prefer but that doesn’t help me so I tried in Settings to put it all into auto-translated English which became an utterly surreal—or maybe more Dada—linguistic experience that won’t help you much with the interviewees’ dialogue])   

Here’s more information about Roma: (24:28 interview with director Alfonso Cuarón and actors Yalitza Aparicio, Marina de Tavira)

Here’s more information about Mary Poppins Returns: (10:02 a supportive comparison [to counter my reserved one] of the new movie to the 1964 original) along with (10:36 look back at 10 things you might not know about that 1964 original [furthering my argument that this sequel relies too much on aspects of the first one])

Here’s more information about Mary Queen of Scots: (53:54 BBC partially-dramatized-documentary on the Queens, Mary and Elizabeth I based on their letters and historical research)

Here’s more information about Aquaman: (10:59 video on the extensive DC Easter Eggs in the movie [filled with spoilers of course]; narrator has a quite strong [Australian?] accent, so activate the CC button if you like)

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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)

By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken

P.S.  Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker.  But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
Finally, for the data-oriented among you, Google stats say over the past month (which they seem to measure from right now back 30 days) the total unique hits at this site were 14,752 (as always, we thank all of you for your support—especially our mysterious friends from Google's Unknown Regionwith our hopes you’ll continue to be regular readers); below is a snapshot of where and by what means those responses have come from within the previous week:

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