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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The Imitation Game got top ratings from the two people I talked to in the lobby, but to me it seemed overburdened with subthemes and lacking a central spine.

Wild is the only movie I've reviewed that kept me so involved that I didn't finish my popcorn.

And all it's really about is Reese Witherspoon reenacting the true story of a woman who walked the 1000-mile Pacific Coast Trail from the Mojave Desert to Washington state to see if she could shake loose from the depression caused by a pretty shabby lifestyle and the death of the only worthwhile person in it-- her mother, played by Laura Dern.

Exodus: Gods and Kings is a rather peculiar version of the story of Moses.

It includes the 10 plagues, including the plague of crocodiles, and a really spectacular parting of the Red Sea, though Moses seems to have little to do with any of these things. But it doesn't totally dodge the supernatural-- it shows God Himself as a little boy who just sort of hangs around watching Moses write the Ten Commandments and never says much of anything.

Well, people kept asking about it, so I finally went and saw Interstellar and found it much better than I had expected.

Its science is pretty ridiculous, and the last hour does not fit too well with the first two, but if it is looked at as fantasy instead of science fiction, it holds up pretty well. And it certainly is never boring for its full three hours.

Much as I admire The Theory of Everything, the supposedly true movie of the life of scientific genius Stephen Hawking, I can't quite go along with the two women I talked with in the lobby, one of whom said she loved it and intended to see it again, and the other who said it was the best movie she'd ever seen and she wanted to see it several more times.

I'd certainly give it high marks for what it intends to be, but the material itself (especially when we learn in the closing credits that it is based on a memoir by the wife) properly precludes a complete story.

It is a hard thing to have to review Part Three of a four-part series without having seen Parts One and Two. There is bound to be a certain unclarity as to what has happened before and how the characters relate to each other, because the beginning setups are not there, and since the movie ends when it is only three-quarters done, there can be no satisfactory closure. Even those who thought The Empire Strikes Back was the best of the Star Wars trilogy had to admit that.

Whiplash is one of the strangest and most gripping movies about showbusiness I've ever seen, in its exclusive concentration on two psychological studies-- one of character actor J.K. Simmons as a drill-instructor-type jazz trainer, and the other Miles Teller as a 19-year-old who is maniacally obsessed with becoming the greatest jazz drummer in the world.

    

Birdman is a lot of things besides a story, with a variety of elements and genres-- comedy, drama, psychological study, internal action, external action, possible action, parody, maybe even touches of theatre history. The bit about the actor who goes through the wrong door and locks himself out of the performance teases my memory as something I read about many years ago, in real life.

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Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler is almost an example of an old-fashioned American ideal.

He is certainly starting at the bottom of his chosen field, as Horatio Alger heroes are supposed to do. And he has absorbed the accepted rules to the extent that he is almost comical in his performance as a job candidate and, later, as a potential employer. There is hardly a cliché of self-help manuals that he doesn’t recite, with no apparent effort at parody.

St. Vincent is a rather quiet little movie made remarkable mostly, but not exclusively, by Bill Murray's performance in a basically non-comic role, as a man scraping by on the fringes of society who is suddenly confronted with situations requiring him to do the right thing, whether he feels like it or not.

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