Joan Ellis

JAMIE LEE CURTIS, Don Johnson, Toni Collette, Michael Shannon, Riki Lindhome, Jaeden Martell and Katherine Langford star in “Knives Out” (2019).
Knives Out — Running Time: 2:11 — Rating: PG-13 See “Knives Out” when you’re in that blissful movie mood of wanting to sit in the dark waiting to be transported to a different time and place. Actors, writers, and director Rian Johnson all moved together on this one to create a place we have never been before and it is magical. Let the mood roll over you slowly. Mystery writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) has been found dead in his home of a head wound at 85. As police stand on the scene, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) investigates Thrombey’s dysfunctional family and devoted...

TOM HANKS STARS as Mr. Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” (2019).
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood — Running Time: 1:48 — Rating: PG If you are one of millions who plan to see “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” you may be in for a surprise. Isn’t this the story of Fred Rogers’ TV relationship with the children who idolized him when they were small? Not quite. Parents of that time were grateful for the certainty that their smallest children were in a positive, secure space when they tuned into the program. Mr. Rogers was soft and wise in his performances. He listened. Tom Hanks paints a portrait of Fred Rogers’ quiet way of reaching his very young...

“Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer” directed by Mark Landsman
Scandalous — Running Time: 1:37 — Rating: R Consider the studio’s promotion sentence about “Scandalous: The True Story of the National Enquirer:” “Scandalous is the true story of the National Enquirer, the infamous tabloid with a prescient grasp of its readers’ darkest curiosities.”  If that sentence repels you, go no farther, but for me it was an interesting look at a newspaper I never read because I thought gossip was ugly.  This documentary tells us about the newspaper and the many subjects of their published scandals. At 16 years old, Gene Pope wanted to take over his father’s paper that...

SCARLETT JOHANSSON, AZHY Robertson and Adam Driver star in “Marriage Story” (2019).
Marriage Story — Running Time: 2:16 — Rating: R “Marriage Story” opens beautifully as a husband and wife describe each other and the path of their marriage from day one to now. As each finishes the personal tale, we have become happy captives in their problems. The rest of the story expands our knowledge of this marriage based on that fine beginning. We have been warned there will be a divorce but have no idea where that will lead. It’s common knowledge now that the conventional long marriage between two individuals — each different from the other — can be a big problem confirmed by divorce...

NICHOLAS HOULT PLAYS Nikola Tesla in “The Current War” (2017/2019)
The Current War: Director’s Cut — Running Time: 1:47 — Rating: PG-13 Here’s how the studio describes “The Current War: Director’s Cut:” “The dramatic story of the cutthroat race between electricity titans Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse to determine whose electrical system would power the modern world.” So off I went with pleasure to see the history of what changed the world as nothing else ever has. What I saw was no such thing, but let’s start at the beginning. Actor Benedict Cumberbatch has created Thomas Edison a man whose mind is rooted full time in his creative/competitive mode....

MELVIL POUPAUD IN “By the Grace of God” (2018).
By the Grace of God — Running Time: 2:17 — Rating: R “By the Grace of God” scorches the screen. It is very rare to see a powerful film explore its subject at the height of its disturbing influence. See it for quality and for the willingness of its makers to take on the Catholic Church at this moment of deep conflict. Few people are brave enough to tackle a contemporary problem this strongly, while all sides are mired in disagreement. Hats off to everyone connected to making this French film. Alexandre Guérin (Melvil Poupaud) goes public with his anger 40 years after he was sexually assaulted...

ROY M. COHN AND Joseph McCarthy pictured in actual footage from “Where's My Roy Cohn?” (2019).
Where’s My Roy Cohn? — Running Time: 1:37 — Rating: PG-13 Ask young people if they plan to see “Where’s My Roy Cohn?” and you’ll receive silence and a blank stare. Who? The young should see it because of its deep contemporary relevance. If you are over 70, this strong documentary will fill in the gaps of a story you probably knew well years ago. All age groups should be interested in Cohn’s connection with the current occupant of the White House. In the ’50s, Cohn was known as a smart, ruthless young lawyer. His quote: “I don’t care what the law is; I care who the judge is.” At the peak of...

JOAQUIN PHOENIX STARS in “Joker” (2019).
Joker — Running Time: 2:02 — Rating: R If “Joker” had been made by ordinary people, it would have been dismissed as an overdone dive into violence. Instead, a team headed by actor Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips has created a wicked nightmare on film. The arguments generated by its violence spring from fear of spreading violence in young people. Whatever your theories, the combination of acting, music and filming will glue you to your seat. Just try to look away. We meet Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) who carries a card explaining that he is infected with a disease of frequent,...

Marisa Tomei and Isabelle Huppert in “Frankie” (2019).
Frankie — Running Time: 1:46 — Rating: PG-13 Please don’t skip “Frankie,” and be sure to go when you feel peaceful enough to see a quiet and lovely movie. If you let it in, it’s likely to stay with you for a long while. Don’t look for a plot that unfolds in detail, and don’t think it’s dull because it unfolds gradually without driving you toward specific characters. So why is it so good? The story was filmed in Sintra, Portugal where movie star Frankie (Isabelle Huppert) has gathered three generations of her family for a reunion. She has reasons of her own for doing it and keeps those closely...

RENEE ZELLWEGER AS Judy Garland in "Judy."
Judy — Running Time: 1:38 — Rating:  PG-13 “There’s only one of her.”  So says a friend of Judy Garland in the new film “Judy.” That comment summons the complications in the grand new wave of biographical fictions that are flooding our theaters.  Many of them are finely made, as this one is.  What’s more fun than looking under the surface of someone who has charmed much of the world?  For those who are seeing her as a past performer, Judy Garland is just a famous singer.  For those of us who were alive during her time, she is something else.     This movie digs into the culture of her family...


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