Jim Erickson

Movie reviewer

Jim Erickson has been KMUW's film reviewer since 1974. He came to Wichita State University in 1964 from the University of Texas in Austin. He taught narrative in literature and film from 1966 until his retirement in 1997. His favorite film is Citizen Kane.

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I'm a little embarrassed to be giving such a rave review to a movie about which I have so little to say.

But The Book of Life fascinated me so much with its style that I took almost no notes on it and can't say much about its themes or even its plot. Its style is beyond my powers of description and I can think of only one movie I can compare it to-- and I'm not sure that one ever went into wide release, though it is available on DVD.

Kill the Messenger is a pretty good political movie about what happened to a reporter who revealed illicit dealings of the CIA in Los Angeles, especially the bitter revenged imposed on him with--at the very minimum--the full acquiescence of the U.S. government. Its biggest flaw is that it's so utterly one-sided, but the facts it is based on are apparently undeniable now.

Ben Affleck's new movie, Gone Girl, is two-and-a-half hours long, but has plot enough for two-and-a-half miniseries. And wonder of Hollywood wonders, it all hangs together, albeit in a rather incredible series of stories. It relies on coincidences and does not obsess about believability, but it's certainly not boring or predictable. The two people I discussed it with and I all rated it three-and-a-half stars or a maximum four, and I shared with one of them a desire to read the book.

The Skeleton Twins resembles The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby in being about a pair of people who simply cannot adjust to problems a lot of people face. Except that the Skeleton twins (I'm not going to explain that title), Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, are positively, literally suicidal from the very start, and there is a clear, though unsatisfactory, suggestion as to how their problems could be faced.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, in the version currently circulating, is a cut down two-hour combination of a three-hour double feature that will go into limited release next year, and which I hope we get to see, because the present version left me rather unsatisfied.

rottentomatoes.com

The Drop is a thoroughly enjoyable excursion into the lower regions of criminal life, if you don’t mind the fact that the characters are such that writer Dennis Lehane and director Michael R. Roskam have seen fit to introduce a puppy dog to provide a touch of humane behavior into the seamy lives of James Gandolfini, Noomi Rapace, Tom Hardy and the even grislier supporting cast.

Land Ho! is a very gentle, enjoyable escape from the boredom of the old routine, as we accompany a couple of retirees on a vacation trip across (of all places) Iceland and encounter a series of mild adventures that are as satisfying to us as to them-- in spite of a lack of real excitement, and a lot of smiles and chuckles instead of laughs and guffaws.

The movie title Cantinflas was the professional name of Mexican comic Mario Moreno, whom Charlie Chaplin called "the best and most beloved comedian in the world," and who surely deserves a better tribute than the movie Cantinflas, which will probably leave you wondering what all the fuss could have been about.

Calvary is of a type with Heaven Is For Real, a movie about a religious subject but not really a religious movie. It isn't trying to sell you anything, except maybe that people are complex and troubled and worthy of sympathy almost whatever they do.

Writer-director Richard Linklater took 12 years to make Boyhood, because he wanted to show the physical changes in Ellar Coltrane from his first day at school to his graduation from high school 12 years later. And the physical developments of Coltrane and his sister in the movie are fascinating to watch.

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