Martha K. Baker

I first taught film at Lakeland College in Wisconsin in 1969 and became a professional film reviewer in 1976 in St. Louis, Mo. Through the years, I have reviewed films for the St. Louis Business Journal, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Episcopal Life, and KWMU (NPR), among other outlets. I've reviewed at KDHX radio, my current outlet, for nearly 20 years.

 

Articles by Martha K. Baker

 

DESPICABLE ME 3 — Review by Martha K. Baker

‘Despicable Me 3′ delights with cleverness. A lot of animated films have a sinking spell right about the middle, when the plot has been set up, the characters intro- or re-introduced, and the decibel level established but before the boffo end. “Despicable Me 3″ never sinks, which means: forget about taking a little nappy-wappy about mid-way. Continue reading…

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THE HERO — Review by Martha K. Baker

Fans of Sam Elliott will line up to see him star in “The Hero.” For the Sam Elliott Fan Club, the film offers plenty of views of his push broom mustache, the envy of miners throughout Silesia, and of his lanky lenghth, plus the exhilarating sound of that bass voice. But, ‘The Hero’ rides small in the saddle. Continue reading…

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BAND AID — Review by Martha Baker

‘Band Aid’ trembles before troubles. They argue. They bicker. They fight and bare their claws. They are a young married couple with issues. Anna’s a writer who feels like a failure because lesser writers she knows have solid careers. Ben feels maligned by life, and he leaves dirty, filthy, crusty dishes overflowing in their sink. Continue reading…

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ROUGH NIGHT — Review by Martha Baker

From the Changed Mind Department: “Rough Night” is not just a female version of “Hangover.” Yes, there are vulgarities, but women talk dirty, too. Yes, there is bawdiness, but women are fully capable of being nasty. Most of all, “Rough Night” is about women’s true and evolving friendships. ‘Rough Night’ involves spinsters at play. Continue reading…

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I LOVE YOU BOTH — Review by Martha K. Baker

Everyone knows that twins are tight. They sometimes employ a private language, code words. They know each other better than they know others and often have trouble letting anyone else into their twin world. They know better than to exclude others, but they relate so well to one another. That is the case with Donnie and Krystal. Continue reading…

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MEGAN LEAVEY — Review by Martha K. Baker

“Megan Leavey” teaches about a dog’s life. The title is the name of a woman without direction. Leavey is treated poorly by her mother and step-father in a small New York town. She has no where to go. She’s going there fast, fueled by drugs and alcohol. She joins the Marines to get out of town. Once in the corps, even as she trains, Leavey continues making poor decisions. As punishment, she is sent to the kennels to clean dog poop. Continue reading…

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CHURCHILL — Review by Martha K. Baker

“Churchill” bombasts toward D-Day! What does an old soldier who remembers his infamous failure in an earlier war do when his country and its allies’ generals are ready to mount a major attack? That’s the question that the excellent film “Churchill” ponders regarding the Prime Minister of England in the run-up to D-Day. Continue reading…

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THE WEDDING PLAN — Review by Martha K Baker

weddibg plan poster‘The Wedding Plan’ toasts the bride-to-be. Watch Noa Koler. She plays the bride-to-be in Rama Burshtein’s “The Wedding Plan.” You’ll see why she won Israel’s Ophir Award for Best Actress. She has comic chords within her, but she plays the role of the bride with serious intention — really, the only way in this delightful film. Michal has been dis-engaged by her fiancé very soon after she insisted he tell her why he was blue. The break-off occurs within weeks of their up-coming nuptials, but being an Orthodox Jew and believing strongly that God has a plan for her, Michal, does not cancel the wedding, planned for the last night of Hanukkah. By God, Michal is going to be married. Continue reading…

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SNATCHED – Review by Martha K. Baker

‘Snatched’ fits the pattern for gross-out movies. Eight joke ops. Count ‘em: eight. Some produce outright laughter; others just acknowledge that a joke landed. But that’s it for laughlines in Amy Schumer’s latest film, “Snatched.” Add to that some pretty smarmy stereotyping, and even the feminist device of a mother/daughter plot barely balances the grossness. Continue reading…

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THE DINNER — Review by Martha K. Baker

Oren Moverman, the brilliant director of “The Messenger,” displays his talents as writer and director in “The Dinner.” Some viewers might see the plot, written by Moverman and based on Herman Koch’s novel, as far too complex. However, Moverman teases the complexities apart with striking effect. Continue reading…

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A QUIET PASSION — Review by Martha K. Baker

Anyone who knows anything about Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) knows she led a circumspect life. Her passions were banked, her circle small, and her relationships few. For years, she was often the only female in anthologies of American literature, and she still reigns supreme among her sisters and brothers in the canon. Continue reading…

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THEIR FINEST — Review by Martha K. Baker

Their Finest is a nicknamed title for this movie history. It whispers of Winston Churchill’s history, entitled Their Finest Hour, and cuts into the title of Lissa Evans’ novel on which Gaby Chiappe based, Their Finest Hour and a Half. That title suggests whimsy, but the movie exceeds persiflage. Continue reading…

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TRUMAN — Review by Martha K. Baker

Ordinarily, a visit from an old friend calls for drinks and dinner, trips to old haunts, and tête-a-tête, plus reminiscences. But when one of the friends has decided to cease chemotherapy for the cancer he’s fought for a year, the visit becomes something else. It undergirds this moving movie. Continue reading…

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THE PROMISE — Review by Martha K. Baker

The Armenian genocide is said to have started on April 24, 1915, so the April opening of “The Promise” honors that historical event. The Turks still refuse to term the mass killing of Armenians anything but “one Armenian dead for every dead Turk.” “The Promise” successfully presents Armenian history through romance. Continue reading…

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GIFTED — Review by Martha K. Baker

In ‘Gifted,’grand moments offset sentiment. “Gifted” could have arisen from the sentimental slough of Hollywood films. That it does not, that it has moments of sterling silver among the nods to craven consumerism are testaments to the reins of its writer, Tom Flynn, and director, Marc Webb, who also directed “500 Days of Summer.” “Gifted” is not just the glory story of a child lifted out of the ordinary. It is, instead, a debate over providing a real childhood to a math genius, who, at 7, has a mouth on her as well as a brain. Continue reading…

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THE BOSS BABY – Review by Martha K. Baker

‘The Boss Baby’ brings infancy to corporations. the voice-over intones, “LIfe was good. Life was perfect.” Life for this voice of a seven-year-old will change the minute the baby arrives. This baby shows up, not in a onesie, but in a suit and carrying a briefcase. Suddenly, life is not so good. Continue reading…

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THE ZOOKEEPER’S WIFE — Review by Martha K. Baker

zookeepers wife poster In case you think there are already too many films about the Holocaust, consider this: the managers of the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam have to add more history of the Holocaust so that the people who stood in line for two hours know what they’re looking at.
“The Zookeeper’s Wife” presents one of those personal stories within the context of history. The film, while not as smashing a piece of art as “Schindler’s List,” holds up nobly in the sub-genre that is the Holocaust film.
It opens in Poland in 1939 as the National Socialist German Workers’ Party storms in. The Zabinskis, who run the Warsaw Zoo, are caught in the blitz, but they soon figure out a way to bedevil the enemy. Jan and Antonina have Jewish friends. They are not going to let them suffer, so they offer them succor, albeit hunkering under garbage. Read on...

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GET OUT — Review by Martha K. Baker

Jordan Peele wrote and directed “Get Out” with a black man’s humor, understanding, blood, and brains. The result is a film unlike any other and yet quoting many others. Peele honors the horror film with parody and politics. It’s a scary, funny, bloody ballet on point. Anyone who watched Peele with Keegan-Michael Key on their sketch comedy show knows that Peele has talent. But could Peele stretch a sketch into a full-length feature film? Yes. Yes, he could. Peele transcends television. Read on…

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WILSON — Review by Martha K. Baker

One thing’s for certain: “Wilson” is unlike very many other films out there. Oh, yes, its titular character is a male without the social skills of a Bic — and we’re talking pen, not lighter. Wilson is a man without boundaries or understanding or couth, and, yet, there’s something about him. Maybe that’s because Woody Harrelson portrays Wilson. Harrelson owns him. Harrelson transcends all tendency toward writing off the man — at least, from the perspective of an audience staring at Wilson in two dimensions only. Anybody who lives with a Wilson — or a Sheldon Cooper — knows that life with these misfits falls far from funny often. Read on…

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BEAUTY AND THE BEAST – Review by Martha K Baker

beauty and the beast 2 smallThe Disney live-action adaptation of the Disney animation depends on computer-generated imagery. Most viewers do not know Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version or Gabrielle-Suzanne de Villeneuve’s original story, but they surely know Disney’s animated version or the recent stage play. For fans of sparkles and reveals, the other versions may not matter. Fans of Alan Menken’s music may not care about the source material either. In being its own version, this one tries very hard by adding a bit of new music and by casting stars recognizable by voice or bearing. Read on…

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KEDI — Review by Martha K. Baker

If all you know of cats is what you see on Facebook, you will be amazed by “Kedi.” If what you know about cats comes from your resident feline, you will be soothed and assured by “Kedi.” This documentary explores the world of cats in Istanbul, where they reign and roam. ‘Kedi’ offers feline philosophy in Istanbul Read on…

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THE OTTOMAN LIEUTENANT — Review by Martha K. Baker

It’s wrong to complain about a movie for not being what you want, but it’s hard to desist with “The Ottoman Lieutenant.” The film is set during a provocative time in history, 1914, in Turkey. Yet, The Ottoman Lieutenant offers little understanding of the time or the place nor of history. The Ottoman Lieutenant is busy being a romance. One spunky nurse, Lillie, her parents unhappy with her chosen profession, attends a lecture conducted by a medical missionary stationed in Anatolia, Turkey. Have Lillie offer her dead brother’s truck to Dr. Jude for medical supplies; have him say no, can’t get the truck to Turkey; have her say, pluckily, I’ll bring it. Read on…

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A UNITED KINGDOM — Review by Martha K. Baker

A United Kingdom makes the most of a titbit of history. Aspects of this true story connect to all sorts of history well known, yet little of its history is known. This is a connect-the-dots history. The time is 1947. The places are foggy London and dusty Africa in the country now known as Botswana. The crown prince, Seretse Khama, has been studying in London to be the next king of his country when he falls in love with a woman. He’s very African black, and she’s very British white. His family, headed by the uncle who raised him, does not want her; and her family does not want him. Nothing dissuades them, but a lot, including England and Winston Churchill, can stop them from assuming their crowns. Read on…

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OSCAR Nominated Live Action Shorts — Review by Martha K. Baker

There’s not a bad seed in this barrel of apples. All five, mostly a half-hour each, offer resounding stories, well told and acted and filmed. They come from France, Hungary, Switzerland, Denmark, and Spain. Two of them swirl around the predicament of refugees in Europe.

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OSCAR Nominated Animation Shorts — Review by Martha K. Baker

“Short” is right. Most of these films run fewer than 10 minutes with one longer than a half-hour. And “sweet” is right, too, in a way, if “sweet” stretches to mournful. The Oscar-nominated Short films advance the concept of brevity as good and worthy. Read on…

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