Pick of the Litter – August 2017


Annabelle: Creation

(New Line) Miranda Otto, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephanie Sigman, Talitha Bateman. A dollmaker and his wife are struck by a horrible tragedy when their little girl dies in a car accident. Grieving for years, they eventually open their home to a nun and several girls from an orphanage who need a place to stay. However, the dollmaker and his wife are hiding a terrible secret; in a moment of weakness, they allowed what they thought was the spirit of their deceased daughter to inhabit a doll they call Annabelle. But what lives inside Annabelle is something far more evil. Quietly, the Conjuring universe has become a very lucrative horror franchise with spin-offs and sequels in the works. August 11




(Superlative) John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, Parker Posey, Rory Culkin. Some movies are visceral and gritty; others are almost like daydreams washing over you like an incoming tide on a tropical beach. Columbus is like that as a young Korean man goes to Columbus, Indiana where his estranged father – a famous architect – lies in a coma. There he meets a bright young woman with a promising future who has her whole life ahead of her but is choosing to stay in Columbus to care for her drug-addicted mother. This movie was one of the most talked-about films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. August 4


(Netflix) Bryan Fogel, Grigory Rodchenkov, Nikita Kamaev. A chance meeting with a Russian scientist led journalist Bryan Fogel into a netherworld of sports doping. As the story started to take the twists and turns of a Cold War-era spy thriller, people connected with the story began to turn up dead. One of the greatest scandals in the history of sports unravels before your eyes in this highly anticipated Netflix documentary. August 4

The Only Living Boy in New York

(Roadside Attractions) Callum Turner, Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Kate Beckinsale. A recent college graduate tries desperately to find himself at home in New York City. Despite the best efforts of his parents – or maybe because of them – he finds himself adrift. When he falls in love with a beautiful young girl whose only interest in him is platonic he feels doubly lost but then he discovers that his father is having an affair with a beautiful woman and when he stalks her and eventually begins to interact with her, his whole life changes. This is the latest from director Marc Webb who wowed me with his (500) Days of Summer. August 11

Dave Made a Maze

(Gravitas) Nick Thune, Stephanie Allynne, Kirsten Vangsness, Scott Krinsky. One of the most imaginative and enjoyable films to come out of this year’s Florida Film Festival gets its theatrical release. Dave, a kind of aimless drifter, constructs a cardboard maze in his living room one boring weekend while his girlfriend is out of town. When she comes home, she discovers that he has become lost in the maze which is much larger on the inside. Enlisting some of his hipster friends, she mounts a rescue expedition over his objections – you see, this labyrinth comes complete with a minotaur. You can read my review of the film here. August 18

Beach Rats

(Neon) Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein, Kate Hodge, Neal Huff. A young man living on the outskirts of Brooklyn struggles to find his own identity, desperate to escape a stagnant home life. Caught between his delinquent friends, a potential new girlfriend and older men he meets online, he is left with a choice to be who he is or to be who everyone else wants him to be. This was one of the unsung films to come out of Sundance but it could wind up having some Oscar implications later this year. August 25


Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

Some press conferences just don't go all that well.

(2010) Documentary (Magnolia) Eliot Spitzer, Joe Bruno, Roger Stone, Hank Greenberg, Ken Langone, Wrenn Schmidt, Elizabeth Monrad, Robert Graham, Zana Brezdek, Kristian Stiles, Jimmy Siegel, Fred Dicker, John Whitehead, Scott Horton, Darren Dopp, Mike Balboni. Directed by Alex Gibney


Eliot Spitzer may wind up being a cautionary tale for 21st century politicians. He was once one of the most dynamic leaders in the country, the Sheriff of Wall Street, a man who took on crooked CEOs and won. He had gone from New York’s Attorney General to New York’s Governor and some said he might have a shot at being the first Jewish President after Obama’s presidency came to an end.

Then it all came crashing down. A juicy sex scandal – apparently the Governor had been seeing some very high-priced call girls. There were receipts, accusations and an incriminating document that listed Spitzer as “Client 9.” The interesting thing is that clients one through eight received little investigation and almost no attention. It was only Client 9 who had the microscope turned on him.

It must be remembered that Spitzer made a lot of powerful enemies, including AIG chairman Hank Greenberg who blamed Spitzer for his company’s collapse, New York State Representative Joe Bruno, Republican public relations specialist (and character assassin) Roger Stone and former NYSE director Ken Langone, to name a few. That his spectacular downfall followed his rise to power so precipitously makes one wonder if it was engineered. Certainly there are some compelling arguments in that direction, although Spitzer himself tends to downplay that aspect.

In fact, Spitzer’s interview is the highlight of the movie. He comes off as remarkably self-knowing, understanding that it was his own hubris that brought him down, his own mistaken idea that he was untouchable. He seems to be completely accountable for his actions, or at least projects that image. It’s easy to see how the charismatic Spitzer became so popular in the Empire State.

That doesn’t mean his opponents are any less compelling interviews, particularly Bruno (who is an old-school politician and quite entertaining in his own way) and Langone who’s like a pit bull and seems to have a special dislike for Spitzer.

Other reviewers have compared this to a Greek tragedy and indeed it is; it is the story of Icarus (as Spitzer himself remarks) who created wings made out of feathers and wax; when he flew too close to the sun, the wax melted, the feathers fell out and Icarus tumble screaming from the skies.

WHY RENT THIS: Spitzer is a fascinating character and the story is compelling. Very balanced in presenting differing viewpoints. 

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: An awful lot of talking head footage, little of which measures up to Spitzer’s own interview.

FAMILY VALUES: The film covers some fairly sexy stuff and there is some brief nudity. There’s also a fair amount of bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Spitzer has since gone on to attempt a broadcasting career with CNN but both of his shows (“Parker Spitzer” and “In the Arena” were cancelled).


BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $192,870 on an unreported production budget; it might have broken even but only just and it’s more likely it lost a bunch of money.


TOMORROW: Contraband