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Capsule Reviews: The Escort

Quick-hit movie reviews for the masses.

The Escort (2016) is a thoroughly modern romantic comedy for the "selfie generation," as one character labels millennials in the film. It's a breezy and brisk jaunt through the minefields of modern romance. Our guides are an unemployed writer using sex to fill the emotional void at his empty core, and a Stanford-educated prostitute with great business sense and exquisite taste in evening wear.

Early on, the film notes its debt to other hooker with a heart of gold films like Pretty Woman, but departs slightly from the formula to explore current issues and preconceptions affecting milliennials. The film has at least a little to say about a lot of topics, including sex workers, sex addiction, cyberbullying, feeling washed up and cast aside in your twenties, and more. Full disclosure: I am not a millennial (Gen-Xer in the house), so while I can't vouch for the accuracy of the generational portrayal, it at least feels honest to me.

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Capsule Reviews: Night of the Juggler

Quick-hit movie reviews for the masses.

Qualities one might hold against certain movies, like total implausibility and chaotic cinematography, are actually what make Night of the Juggler (1980) such a weirdly memorable cult film. From the start, the film floors it into high gear and rarely ever slows down for a breather.

James Brolin, still rocking his 1970s wild man hair and beard, is an ex-cop who witnesses his young teenage daughter being abducted right in the middle of a crowded New York City park. The kidnapper, played with unsettling intensity by Cliff Gorman, is a bigoted, cackling lunatic who also happens to be an idiot—he thought he was kidnapping the daughter of a wealthy elite member of society; instead he's nabbed a middle class truck driver's kid.

Brolin immediately gives chase on foot, and we're off to the races. Brolin runs, and runs, and runs, and runs some more, seemingly cutting a path clear across Manhattan and into some neighboring boroughs for good mea…

New Musical Obsession: Girlschool

One of the great pleasures in life is discovering an old movie, book, or musical act that had previously escaped your eyes or ears and therefore was new to you. I had this experience recently with UK metal goddesses, Girlschool. I'd heard of Girlschool, but had no idea they've been recording and shredding in concert for over forty years now, or that they absolutely rocked. We're talking pedal to the metal, balls to the wall, hide small children, and turn it up to eleven rock.

Girlschool's Spotify station has been a wonderland of sonic pleasure so far. The girls of Girlschool--and while the roster has changed over the years, the classic lineup is Kim McAullife, Enid Williams, Denise Dufort, and the late, great Kelly Johnson--are kicking my arse and I love it. Thin Lizzy is the closest parallel I can think of to describe their sound. The pummeling yet absurdly melodic riffs are like crack for my cerebral cortex. Johnson's searing guitar solos are making me believe t…

Nicole Kidman: The Paperboy

Selections from Nicole Kidman's  filmography that demonstrate her extraordinary talent and risk-taking commitment as an actor.

I'm often asked if there are other actors I might be interested in giving the Michelle Pfeiffer treatment—a series of reviews offering a thorough career retrospective. 

The short answer? No. But, if I'm being honest, yes, there are a few performers whose careers I'd like to explore in a similar series of posts. Although I have no desire to do an entire run through anyone else's filmography—mostly because I'm only that obsessively interested in Pfeiffer's career, but also because I just don't have the time to do it for another actor—certain actors do leap to mind. Vera Farmiga. Al Pacino. Winona Ryder. Michael Keaton. Gina Gershon.

One legend stands out in my mind as particularly deserving of special attention, so much that I could imagine doing closer to a dozen or more reviews of her work: the inimitable Nicole Kidman.

Kidman is …

Capsule Reviews: Dead Presidents

Quick-hit movie reviews for the masses.

I watched the Hughes Brothers' Dead Presidents again recently, for the first time in a very long time, and I have so many feelings now. It made me sad, for several reasons. Sad, because it's one of the more important '90s movies that for almost twenty-five years now no one seems to talk about. How many movies have explored the African American experience in Vietnam quite like this one? Its Deer Hunter style three-act structure works well, with the early, innocent youth scenes in the Bronx segueing into the absolute horrors of war, culminating in coming home to find there's no real place in their old lives for these young men anymore. Then, poor decisions lead to even worse decisions, and it's all pretty devastating.

Reviews were middling at best, and reading some of them today it's clear just how much some critics missed the mark. It's also sad that, in all these years, I don't think I've ever had one meaningful…

Misspent Youth: Barbara Crampton

Looking back at the pop culture mainstays of this Gen-Xer's gloriously misspent youth.

The most notorious scene in Stuart Gordon's 1985 Lovecraftian science fiction horror comedy Re-Animator involves a talking severed head (!) going down on the young—and stark naked—ingenue, Barbara Crampton. It's as horrifying as it sounds. Ms. Crampton had already proven comfortable with onscreen nudity, baring all in her first film, Brian De Palma's erotic thriller Body Double. In this scene from Re-Animator, though—just her third feature film—Crampton's fearlessness with her body is downright remarkable.

The scene offers a quick, shocking few moments, but is also played partly for some extremely uncomfortable laughs. The film's black humor is unparalleled precisely because it's unafraid to be wildly inappropriate. And it doesn't get more inappropriate than that scene.

Crampton would go on to star in a slew of low-budget cult classics, from Chopping Mall to Puppet Ma…

The Nikita Watch: Bringing a Katana to a Gun Fight

Random thoughts while working my way through the entirety of the CW's 2010–2013 show starring Maggie Q.

This latest installment will be brief but enthusiastic and exists solely to rave about a single scene in one of the best episodes of season one (so far, and I'm just a few episodes from finishing the season). You see, sometimes while binging Nikita, there are moments so cool, so for-lack-of-a-better-word "badass," that they provide such spiritual nourishment to the nerd soul that one begins to understand the power of transcendence. The episode "Coup de Grace" provides one such moment. Let me explain.

Nikita (the marvelous Maggie Q) is undercover once again at a swanky gala. If this one thing this show loves more than swanky galas, it's swanky galas where Nikita or Alex (Lindsy Fonseca) wear the most inappropriate clothing imaginable for intense hand-to-hand combat. Long story short, Nikita is providing aid to Alex, who's on a mission for Division …