Mamet Monday: ‘Deceptive Practice’ (2012) explores the history of magic, with Mamet friend and collaborator Ricky Jay at its center (Movie review)

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crolling through options under a “David Mamet” search on my Roku, “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay” (2012) comes up a lot. (It’s currently available for free with ads on Vudu.) It’s only tangential to Mamet, who is one of the interview subjects in the documentary. But Jay (1946-2018), like Mamet, is fascinating to listen to when he talks about his craft, so this will likely be of interest to both Mamet fans and magic fans.

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Mamet Monday: Mamet, Dreyfuss create a sympathetic portrait of a famous mob boss in ‘Lansky’ (1999) (Movie review)

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he Amazon Prime description for “Lansky” (1999) includes “notorious,” “gambling,” “bootlegging,” “racketeering” and “murder,” but the film – written by David Mamet and directed by John McNaughton for HBO – paints a warm picture of mob boss Meyer Lansky (1902-83). Along with a treasure of a performance by Richard Dreyfuss, “Lansky” is driven by the intrinsic fascination of someone who is a normal family man and skilled businessman, but who is targeted by the U.S. federal government and hated by a percentage of the populace.

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‘Fighting with My Family’ is a fairly lightweight biopic, but Florence Pugh is a champion in the main role (Movie review)

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ighting with My Family” doesn’t redefine the sports biopic genre, which in a way is too bad because professional wrestling is such an unusual thing, sitting on the border between athletics and entertainment. It might be fascinating to dig further into the mechanisms of how participants – and ultimately, champions — are chosen and how their narratives are written. As it stands, “Fighting” is a standard biopic in structure, but the story of Paige is so genuinely inspiring, and actress Florence Pugh (“The Little Drummer Girl”) is such a natural star, that the film is totally engaging.

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Mamet Monday: ‘The Winslow Boy’ (1999) is an engrossing, character-driven document of a small but crucial legal case (Movie review)

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ith “The Winslow Boy” (1999), writer-director David Mamet is as much using his name recognition as he is using his skill to bring an important story to the public’s attention. Based on a real legal case, the film is adapted from Terence Rattigan’s 1946 play, which was made into a film two years later, co-written by Rattigan. The 1948 film rates a few percentage points higher (7.7 to 7.4) on IMDB than Mamet’s version. Yet this adaptation is important because it brings a crucial story to a wider audience, and it’s also impeccably directed in Mamet’s no-moment-wasted 105-minute style without sacrificing any turn-of-the-20th-century British affectations.

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Peter Farrelly’s ‘Green Book’ a sweet story of friendship against backdrop of mid-century American racism (Movie review)

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riter-director Peter Farrelly smooths out the excesses of his filmmaking traits for the surprisingly mainstream and easy-to-like “Green Book” (2018), now back in theaters and also available for home viewing. It’s not as funny as his best films like “Dumb and Dumber” and not as high-concept as the likes of “Stuck on You” and “Shallow Hal.” It’s possibly a crass grab at mainstream and critical acceptance, but it’s hard to quibble with the finished product.

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‘First Man’ is one small step for space-program cinema, one giant leap for insight into Neil Armstrong (Movie review)

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fter his love letters to jazz — “Whiplash” (2014) and “La La Land” (2016) — a film fan wouldn’t be surprised if director Damien Chazelle’s next movie was about Louis Armstrong. But “First Man” (2018) instead chronicles Neil Armstrong, and while it might seem like the pantheon of historical space-program cinema doesn’t need another recounting of Apollo 11, it turns out this is a very welcome addition.

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First episode impressions: ‘I Am the Night’ (TV review)

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NT found a nice way to ride the success of a series without forcing it beyond the natural end of its storyline. “The Alienist” – my No. 4 show of 2018 — became a critical and popular success a year ago, but it told a complete serial-murder mystery. That series is over, but TNT is continuing its Suspense Collection with “I Am the Night” (9 p.m. Eastern Mondays).

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John’s top 10 movies of 2018

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he dominant genre of 2018 continued to be superheroes; even with the “X-Men” Universe and DC Extended Universe releasing only one film each, the three Marvel Cinematic Universe movies were impossible to overlook. Still, this was a less blockbustery year than 2017, and by year’s end I had seen at least one really good film in every genre. From a throwback thriller to an arthouse gem, here are my 10 favorite films of 2018.

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Lee achieves a nice mix of humor and harrowing history in ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (Movie review)

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lacKkKlansman” continues the trend of films based on true stories – along with the likes of “I, Tonya” and “The Disaster Artist” – that would be labeled as illogically plotted if they were fictional. This Spike Lee joint is the story of Ron Stallworth, not the Steelers player but rather a Colorado Springs detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan as an undercover detective in the 1970s, despite being black.

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‘Adrift’ floats between romance and survival, doesn’t do either one particularly well (Movie review)

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drift” is the true story of Tami Oldham (Shailene Woodley) and Richard Sharp (Sam Claflin), who accept an offer from a wealthy couple to sail their boat from Tahiti to California. Along the way they encounter one of the most catastrophic hurricanes in history, causing their boat to be wrecked and stranded at sea. As the film unfolds through a series of flashbacks, we live through the buildup of their relationship as well as the disaster itself.

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