February 19, 2019


“The Grinch”

Will Do In a Pinch

2 & ½ Popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

film critic

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“Bohemian Rhapsody”

Fate, Free-Will and Rock ‘n’ Roll

3 & ½ popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

film critic

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“The Old Man & the Gun”

The Antihero & the Movie Star

3 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

film critic [Read more…]

“First Man”

Beyond the Green Cheese

3 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

film critic


Director Damien Chazelle’s “First Man,” a biographical drama recounting the personal and public details leading up to Neil Armstrong’s historic walk on the Moon, is exhilarating and informative. You come away realizing how great and difficult an achievement it was…how we just barely had enough knowledge and the right equipment to undertake such a mission. Think Columbus and those three tiny ships, perilously bobbing all across the Atlantic. Doubtless, a good deal of luck also factors into the endeavor.

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Liberté, Égalité and Literature

3 popcorns [Read more…]

“A Star is Born”

Yet Again

2 & ½ popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

film critic


With four “A Star is Born” iterations in the books and probably many more to come…expect one every ensuing generation… the universality of the tale is a given. Until some bold director makes a woman the established star, and the up-and-comer a male, the formula remains the same. He’s a major star flirting with the decadency that comes of success, with booze and/or substance abuse the tell-tale sign of his looming, downward spiral. She’s the talented, innocent and grateful ingénue he discovers.


I remember how surprised I was in my youth when I found there was an earlier version of another, oft-remade movie of which I was particularly enamored. I was firmly dedicated to the 1940 permutation of “The Front Page,” titled “His Girl Friday” and starring Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant. But one night on TV’s “The Late Show,” when I should have been asleep so I’d be awake to perchance resurrect my failing grammar school career the next day, they showed the 1931 screen version of the Ben Hecht-Charles MacArthur play. I railed…“heresy, impostor!”


I’ve since calmed down, and while the 1940 version remains my favorite, the education that came of said rude awakening was a stepping stone to appreciating the process. Hence, whether perusing the ’31 Adolphe Menjou-Pat O’Brien version or the ’74 Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau offering, my assumedly educated palate can now pretentiously spout the comparative remake rap: “Hmm. See, here they did this, and there they did that.” Suffice it to note, I brought all this baggage to my screening of the latest “A Star is Born,” starring Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.


Point of disclosure: The 1937 version has not been displaced as my favorite. Starring the great Fredric March as Norman Maine, the movie star cruising for a bruising, and sweetly diminutive Janet Gaynor as Esther Victoria Blodgett aka Vicki Lester, presented in early Technicolor and populated with endearing character actors like Andy Devine, it is Old Hollywood at its sentimental best. However, putting my prejudicial pride of ownership in abeyance for the sake of fairness, there’s no discounting the superb job Miss Gaga and Mr. Cooper do in issue # 4.


Doing an American version of the Kenneth Branagh thing, Cooper produces, directs, co-writes and stars in the contemporary dramatization of the syndrome that Tinseltown feels compelled to update every 30 or so years. And for all intents and purposes the bittersweet story, an addendum to “An American Tragedy,” captures the mood and temper of the present day. It’s the human condition less some of the rules, with a stark warning about the unappeasable nature of the hungry heart.


The appurtenances, filigree and colloquialisms of the era in which the evolving love story takes place might interest Millennials and older Gen Z’s more than how the singing lovebirds navigate the challenging wiles of stardom. It’s strictly out of the supermarket tabs. Whereas the novitiate’s enchantment with the wealth, opulence and adoration that comes with breaking through the glass ceiling has a vicarious appeal. And for us idealists, the veteran troubadour’s glee in seeing his prodigy climb the ladder of success offers a hopeful note about the possibilities of redemption.


But here’s the problem. I enjoyed the getting-to-know-you exposition well enough, and watched with interest how Mr. Cooper inserted the necessary facets of the narrative. However, because I know this saga, as will most moviegoers over 35, I couldn’t dismiss what was in the offing if the screenplay stayed relatively faithful to the source material. So, once there were inklings of trouble in paradise, I became antsy and could only hope that the director, at the risk of committing cinema sacrilege, would change things up just to please my romantic optimism.


All the same, my appreciation of Miss Gaga and Mr. Cooper’s fine performances couldn’t be diminished by the plot fatalism that wrapped itself around my silver lining aspirations. Treated to what might be explained as a synergistic exchange of talent, we are surprised by how well Cooper, a thespian of the first order, alternately croons and belts them out as the crossover country star Jackson Maine, while Lady Gaga in turn convinces us she is Ally, the starry-eyed novitiate whose ship has arrived. Still, I wished I weren’t watching my figure, so I could visit the concession stand to buy some Whoppers® and therefore miss some of what I feared was coming.


In total, I was more absorbed by the mechanics than by the yarn itself, finding enjoyment not so much in the twists, turns and divulgences, but rather in how the filmmaker proficiently shaped the script to be viable in the current sociology. All of which reminded me that I was at work instead of being wafted away to that magical place where “A Star is Born.”

“A Star is Born,” rated R, is a Warner Bros. release directed by Bradley Cooper and stars Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga and Sam Elliott. Running time: 136 minutes













“The Wife”

Anatomy of a Marriage

3 popcorns

By Michael S. Goldberger

film critic




We all know one or more couples who confound us entirely…folks who appear to be tragically immersed in a marriage made in Hell, and yet, for none of the usual rationalizations, like kids money or religion, persevere in their obviously troubled plight. But don’t you dare voice your criticism and pretend to know something about their arrangement. For there is pride of ownership in marital dysfunction. And as my never-married Aunt Millie was always so readily fond of informing, odd glint in her eye, “No one knows what goes on behind closed doors.”


You will read all of this and more into the emotive-rich facial expressions of Glenn Close as Joan Castleman, the proverbial woman behind the great man. Hubby Joe Castleman, portrayed by Jonathan Pryce, is about to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. We accompany the pair to Stockholm for the ceremony, and along the way, with Close’s afflatus extraordinaire dropping crumbs of clues, a la Hansel and Gretel, about her relationship with the famed novelist, we ultimately experience a plot twist that puts the two character studies in stunning perspective.


Writing this review of “The Wife” to the backdrop of the #MeToo Movement and the recent Senate Judiciary hearing, it occurs that it would be less of a shame on us humans if the would-be Supreme Court justice were a Martian. Because if you drop all your prejudices just long enough to take a hard, objective look at the scandalous affair, you’ll see that for all intents and purposes we are warring within our own species. It’s a wrongheadedness that cruelly and stupidly keeps us from reaching our potential.


People shouldn’t be physically assaulting each other in an aberrant, pathetic misapplication of the mating process, let alone crow about it to their similarly inclined cohorts, savagely justifying it as boys just being boys. How is that different from saying muggers will be muggers if a thug jumps you from an alley? While I’m all for the perpetuation of La Difference, our failure to throw off the long-outdated constrictions and attitudes that our antecedents instituted in their primitive knowledge of how to divvy up the chores now stands as the world’s biggest challenge.


It’s simple math. You can’t send just five players out onto the baseball diamond and expect to prevail. Continuing the always convenient sports metaphor, it also wouldn’t serve us well in the pennant race if every so often half the team beat up and threatened the other half and, just to prove their machismo, kept them from using a bat when it was their time at the plate. Major League managers witnessing this atrocious, counterproductive approach to the national pastime would, before running them out of the game on a rail, call such perpetrators schmendricks.


The same is true of anyone who commits the unpardonable sin of impeding civilization’s progress. Time is a wasting. From curing cancer to making sure there isn’t a hungry mouth on this rich, fertile globe, to putting out the barn fire that is global warming, it’s all hands on deck. Of course that’s if you don’t have an alternate plan for us good folks to create that Garden of Eden we are capable of, were it not for those schmendricks. So, no sexual assaulting from now on. O.K.? Oh…the assault isn’t always physical. Mental persecution is rampant.


It can be deceivingly subtle, seemingly unintentional. Just ask Joan. Given, per Shakespeare, that all the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players, our title character, a never actualized casualty of the closeminded 1950s, has spent the better part of her marriage trying to find her role in life’s drama while maintaining a sense of dignity. Considering how we Homo sapiens have evolved and the numerous peace treaties agreed to and broken in the war between the sexes, it’s a testament to our survival instinct that both genders have thus far endured.


In this astute dissection of a marriage, we are treated to an eye-opening look behind those aforementioned closed doors. Taking place over just a few days, with the regal pomp and circumstance of the Nobel Prize ceremonies as the setting, the Castleman confederation is deconstructed for all its wit, deception, dedication, resentment, and, yes, love. Using flashbacks reminiscent of those seen in the similarly themed “Two for the Road” (1967), the bittersweet analysis offers both philosophical and concrete answers to the story’s urgently implied questions.


This is grownups’ stuff, a movie with a beginning, middle and end…the intelligent antidote to the special effects-inundated fantasy fare geared to get our minds off such serious matters in the first place. So while there isn’t the escapist thrill of adventure far from the realm of reality, “The Wife” does entertainingly remind us of the excitement that comes of exercising our gray matter.


“The Wife,” rated R, is a Sony Pictures Classics release directed by Björn Runge and stars Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce and Christian Slater. Running time: 100 minutes










Pursue your travel passions

Ask nearly any person about his or her dream trip and watch a smile appear as the perfect personal excursion is described. Now, ask why the trip has yet to happen, and time and money will be the likely culprits.

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How to manage restless leg syndrome

By Jim Miller

Dear Savvy Senior,

What can you tell me about restless leg syndrome? I’m 58 years old, and frequently have jerky, uncontrollable urges to move my legs, accompanied by a tingling sensation, and it keeps me awake at night.

Jumpy John

Dear John, [Read more…]