Movies I’ve recently seen: The Asphalt Jungle ֍ Tahara ֍ Honk for Jesus ֍ Elvis

Here’s another four random films. This time, most of them are recent. But the best is the only oldie.

A- The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

There’s no one main character in this noir by John Huston. Instead, we get to know six very different criminals as they set out together to steal a fortune in diamonds. Sam Jaffe plays the German egghead who plans the heist. Louis Calhern performs the wealthy and respectable lawyer with plans to take all the loot for himself. Marc Lawrence is a husband and father. The cast also includes Sterling Hayden, James Whitmore, Jean Hagen, and a not-yet famous Marilyn Monroe. The movie gets a bit slow at the end, with a speech we didn’t near to hear.

B+ Tahara (2020)

This unique film puts teenage angst into a pressure cooker. A teenage girl has committed suicide, and everyone in the synagogue – teenagers and teachers – are trying to deal with what had happened. But Carrie (Madeline Grey DeFreece) has other problems. While other teenagers are mourning, she discovers that she’s gay. But how can she deal with this discovery when her best friend is homophobic and often cruel (Rachel Sennott of Shiva Baby). Director Olivia Peace shot most of the film in a claustrophobic, square aspect ratio. DeFreece is the only African American in the cast, and no one ever mentions that she’s a Jew of Color. I don’t know if Peace chose DeFreece because she gave the best audition (she’s excellent), or to separate her visually from her peers.

As far as I know, Tahara has yet to screen in Bay Area theaters. But it streamed in the 2020 Frameline Festival.

B Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. (2022)

I must admit that some of the jokes in this satire went over my head. Other people were laughing, but I didn’t get the joke. But then I’m a white Jew and the movie is clearly aimed at African American Christians…or ex-Christians. This mockumentary studies a very wealthy and good-looking couple who run a large Church that’s having some serious problems that could destroy their church. One problem with the film: The film doesn’t look like the “fly-on-the-wall” documentary it’s supposed to be.

I saw Honk for Jesus for only $3.00 at San Francisco’s AMC Metreon 16, taking advantage of National Cinema Day (Saturday, September 3), where pretty much all movie tickets cost that very low price. You can still Honk in many theaters at regular prices.

I also put down another $3:00 that to see Jaws in Imax. I’ve loved that film for years, but this experience was amazing.

C+ Elvis (2022)

Like so many films by Baz Luhrmann, this musical biopic is flashy but superficial. Austin Butler (as Elvis) and Tom Hanks (as Colonel Tom Parker) give fine performances, but you never really get to know these two people. What makes the film worth seeing (if anything) are the recreations of early concerts that helped bring rock music to white people. Hanks’ fat suit should get an Oscar.

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