By Lynn Venhaus
In a world where so much is about timing, perhaps this isn’t an ideal time to watch “Compartment Number 6,” a rather bleak, dreary, and chilly film that lurches its way through a dour Russia.

As a train weaves its way up to the arctic port of Murmansk, two disparate strangers share a journey. An adventurous but shy, rather blank student Laura (Seidi Haarla) from Finland shares the long ride with a coarse but somewhat friendly and helpful Russian miner Ljoha (Yuriy Borisov).

These two lonely people are in a cramped second-class sleeping car – he’s a crude laborer on his way to a job and she’s a fish-out-of-water, an archeology student (she says) from Finland who wants to see petroglyphs, which are ancient carvings on rocks. The pair look at each other warily, skeptically, disinterested.

Each with their own issues, the bottled-up pair engage in minimal conversation as they take smoke breaks. The people in this movie smoke a lot and drink a lot. In these drab quarters, she sketches and films the falling snow with a clunky video camera. He peels tangerines and drinks to excess. His boorish behavior is unsettling to her, but even reporting it doesn’t seem to matter.

Neither are who they appear to be, showing a public side different from their private life. Eventually, Ljoha tries to reach out, but his social skills are clumsy and awkward. However, he will help her and show out-of-his-way kindness that’s unexpected. She’s more reserved, guarded.

Writer-director Juho Kuosmanen wrote a screenplay “inspired” by Rosa Liksom’s 2021 novel, along with writer-actor Andris Feldmanis and Livia Ullman, setting it in the 1990s instead of the ‘80s, in a post-Soviet Union dismantling.

Finland’s short-listed entry for the Oscar Best International Film – but was not nominated, “Compartment No. 6” won the Grand Prix at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award.

It received much acclaim for its meditation on human connection – and it is aiming to be profound, deep, and enlightening. But ultimately is disappointing, with its ambiguous ending and lack of clearly defined characters. They oh-so-slowly reveal things about each other, but at this point, does it matter, as it certainly isn’t enough to engage.

The director appears to emulate Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise,” but this neither has the charm nor the sparkling conversation between Jesse and Celine – and there is zero chemistry, unlike Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy.

Charitably, this 1 hour, 47-minute film unfolds at a glacial pace.  Besides being incredibly slow, it did not have much to say. We are tasked with reading between the lines. The characters are thinly drawn and hard to warm up to – and the weather is brutal and demoralizing.

We’ve just been through a tough winter ourselves – and know the isolated feeling. As miserable as the train appears, the outside seems even gloomier. This isn’t exactly the Orient Express – although there is some mystery to different characters, particularly a fellow Finlandia guy who plays guitar and seems more sensitive than Ljoha.

Laura had been staying in a room in Moscow with an older Russian woman, Irina, a literature professor whose home is a gathering spot for artists and intellectuals every evening. That Irina (Dinara Drukarova) is charismatic. She’s a fun one, dancing, turning up the music, drinking and engaging in stimulating conversation – and the young one is drawn to her, practically idolizes her. Laura, here to study Russian, yearns to be a Bohemian, but also a sophisticate – and she’s pliable, ready to please. They are lovers but one senses the mercurial older woman isn’t going to commit.

But any move towards a romance here between the solo travelers wouldn’t be authentic – for now, anyway. There would have to be more developments.

Kousmanen is a fan of the Steadicam and its use becomes an aggravation, particularly after an evening of shots as they maneuver through the modest home of Ljoha’s foster mom. Lidia Kostina is terrific in dispensing hard-knocks wisdom.

The movie is assembled in fragments, with fits and starts that are frustrating, and the tone jumps throughout. The cinematography by C-P Passi is interesting, and a nostalgiac synth-pop score adds a nice touch.

“Compartment No. 6” needed more to be compelling. Somewhere inside, these characters are interesting – we just needed those inner selves to be outwardly displayed for better understanding of the point the filmmaker is trying to make.

“Compartment No. 6” is a 2021 international film drama from Finland, directed by Juho Kousmanen and starring Seidi Haarla, Yuriy Borisov, Dinara Drukarova and Lidia Kostina. Rated R for language and some sexual references, its run time is 1 hour, 47 minutes. It opened in local theaters on March 18. Lynn’s Grade: C.

Seidi Haarla, Yuriy Borisov

The Critics Choice Association (CCA) announced today the winners of the 2nd annual Critics Choice Super Awards, honoring the most popular, fan-obsessed genres across both movies and television, including Superhero, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Horror, and Action.

“Spider-Man: No Way Home” led the film winners this year, garnering three awards overall. The film was awarded Best Superhero Movie, while Andrew Garfield took the prize for Best Actor in a Superhero Movie, and Willem Dafoe won Best Villain in a Movie.

“Squid Game” and “WandaVision” tied for most series wins, earning three awards each. “Squid Game” swept the Action Series categories, with Lee Jung-jae winning Best Actor in an Action Series, HoYeon Jung winning Best Actress in an Action Series, and the show taking home the Best Action Series award. “WandaVision” was named Best Superhero Series, and Elizabeth Olsen was awarded Best Actress in a Superhero Series, while her co-star Kathryn Hahn won Best Villain in a Series.

“This year’s slate of Critics Choice Super Awards nominees and winners represents the absolute best in genre storytelling,” said Sean O’Connell, Critics Choice Super Awards Branch President. “It’s an honor to showcase these incredible accomplishments in Horror, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Comic Book films and television. The Super Awards will proudly continue to shine a brighter light on the talented people telling stories in these fields.”

Note: PopLifeSTL.com’s Lynn Venhaus votes for these awards as a CCA member.

FILM WINNERS FOR THE 2ND ANNUAL CRITICS CHOICE SUPER AWARDS

BEST ACTION MOVIE

No Time to Die (United Artists)

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION MOVIE

Daniel Craig – No Time to Die (United Artists)

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION MOVIE

Jodie Comer – The Last Duel (Disney)

BEST SUPERHERO MOVIE

Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPERHERO MOVIE

Andrew Garfield – Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPERHERO MOVIE

Florence Pugh – Black Widow (Disney)

BEST HORROR MOVIE

A Quiet Place Part II (Paramount)

BEST ACTOR IN A HORROR MOVIE

Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Candyman (Universal)

BEST ACTRESS IN A HORROR MOVIE

Agathe Rousselle – Titane (NEON)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY MOVIE

Dune (Warner Bros.)

BEST ACTOR IN A SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY MOVIE

Dev Patel – The Green Knight (A24)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY MOVIE

Rebecca Ferguson – Dune (Warner Bros.)

BEST VILLAIN IN A MOVIE

Willem Dafoe – Spider-Man: No Way Home (Sony)

SERIES WINNERS FOR THE 2ND ANNUAL CRITICS CHOICE SUPER AWARDS

BEST ACTION SERIES

Squid Game (Netflix)

BEST ACTOR IN AN ACTION SERIES

Lee Jung-jae – Squid Game (Netflix)

BEST ACTRESS IN AN ACTION SERIES

HoYeon Jung – Squid Game (Netflix)

BEST SUPERHERO SERIES

WandaVision (Disney+)

BEST ACTOR IN A SUPERHERO SERIES

Tom Hiddleston – Loki (Disney+)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPERHERO SERIES

Elizabeth Olsen – WandaVision (Disney+)

BEST HORROR SERIES

Yellowjackets (Showtime)

BEST ACTOR IN A HORROR SERIES

Hamish Linklater – Midnight Mass (Netflix)

BEST ACTRESS IN A HORROR SERIES

Melanie Lynskey – Yellowjackets (Showtime)

BEST SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY SERIES

Station Eleven (HBO Max)

BEST ACTOR IN A SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY SERIES

Daveed Diggs – Snowpiercer (TNT)

BEST ACTRESS IN A SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY SERIES

Mackenzie Davis – Station Eleven (HBO Max)

BEST VILLAIN IN A SERIES

Kathryn Hahn – WandaVision (Disney+)

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/8ez5iodnwqwen7n/AADvvgNu3KVSdLS1DKmChE-6a?dl=0

Access TV Series Winner Graphics Here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/xxcj9un7gmfox4v/AAClnWUKtmSGW7_3_IIx0-KCa?dl=0

Watch Acceptance Speeches Here:

Best Superhero Movie – Spider-Man: No Way Home:

Best Horror Movie – A Quiet Place Part II:

Best Actor in a Horror Movie – Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Candyman:

Best Action Series – Squid Game:

Best Actor in an Action Series – Lee Jung-jae – Squid Game:

Best Actress in an Action Series – HoYeon Jung – Squid Game:

Best Horror Series – Yellowjackets:

Best Actor in a Horror Series – Hamish Linklater – Midnight Mass:

Best Actress in a Horror Series – Melanie Lynskey – Yellowjackets:

Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Station Eleven:

Best Actor in a Science Fiction/Fantasy Series – Daveed Diggs – Snowpiercer:

Best Villain in a Series – Kathryn Hahn – WandaVision:

Follow the Critics Choice Super Awards on Twitter and Instagram @CriticsChoice and on Facebook/CriticsChoiceAwards.

About the Critics Choice Association (CCA)

The Critics Choice Association is the largest critics organization in the United States and Canada, representing more than 525 media critics and entertainment journalists. It was established in 2019 with the formal merger of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, recognizing the intersection between film, television, and streaming content. For more information, visit: CriticsChoice.com.

Arts For Life will return to live and in-person awards ceremonies this spring, and tickets are now available for both the Theater Mask Awards on April 9 and Best Performance Awards on June 12.

Through the nonprofit organization AFL, the TMAs have honored drama and comedy plays since 2015 while the BPAs have honored musical theater in community and youth productions since AFL’s founding in 1999.

Because of the public health crisis, AFL held its BPAs and TMAs ceremonies virtually in 2020, while BPAs were not held in 2021, but TMAs were virtually, and in a smaller capacity. This year’s BPAs include nominees from the shortened 2020 and 2021 theater seasons.

This year’s eighth annual Theatre Mask Awards will take place starting at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 9, at The Christy of St. Louis, 5856 Christy Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63116.

Cocktail attire is suggested. Seating will be eight per table, and seating assignments will be available at the entrance.

A brunch buffet featuring eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, hash browns, fruit salad and pasta con broccoli will be served. A cash bar will be available.

“Live and in person!” AFL President Mary McCreight exclaimed. “So happy to see the enthusiasm among theater groups for recognizing excellence among their peers and cheering each other on. It was a tough year to get out there, rehearse, and be among crowds. But through their diligence and willpower, the magic happened. Let’s celebrate!”

This year’s master of ceremonies for the TMAs will be Mark Lull, a nine-time AFL nominee, who won Best Performance by a Comedic Actor as Uncle Fester in Alfresco Productions’ “The Addams Family” in 2015.

“I am thrilled and honored to be hosting the TMAs this year – in person!” he said.

Lull, currently the principal at Maryville Elementary School in Granite City, has performed at Worlds of Fun in Kansas City, The Muny, and with other theater companies in the St. Louis metropolitan area. He serves as secretary on the Arts For Life board of directors.

The 22nd Best Performance Awards will be at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 12, at the Frontenac Hilton, Clayton Ballroom, 1335 S Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis 63131.

Formal attire is requested, and the event will be general admission theater-style seating. A cash bar will be available.

Ticket Information

TMA tickets are $28 and must be purchased by March 28.

BPA tickets are either $20 as an early bird pricing before May 12, or $25 after that until June 12.

Both TMA and BPA tickets are available online with a service fee of $2 added: https://arts-for-life-2.square.site/.

Reservations can be arranged through the mail and tickets can be picked up at the venues on event day. Please make check payable to ARTS FOR LIFE and mail to PO Box 16426, St. Louis, MO 63125.

All BPA ticket orders will be held at the box office unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with ticket order. If ordering for a group, please attach a list of individual names for box office pick-up.

Please contact us at [email protected] if you have any special seating needs or COVID-19 related concerns. Handicapped seating is available

Award Nominations

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at Goshen Theatre Project

Nominations were announced Jan. 22 at AFL’s annual Trivia Night, which was a virtual event during heightened COVID-19 cases earlier this winter. They are listed on the website, www.artsforlife.org.

Starting in mid-March 2020, productions were postponed and canceled during the coronavirus pandemic, and safety precautions have been a priority for performers and performances because of the coronavirus public health crisis. Now that vaccines and COVID-19 tests are available, stage work has returned, and theaters are no longer dark.

“While we did about half the usual number of shows in 2021, it did not diminish Arts for Life’s vision for a community recognition program,” McCreight said

“These events recognize the incredible talent we have in St. Louis community theater and honor the passion and dedication of those who build this amazing and unique theatrical community,” she said.

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild in Kirkwood, Mo., led all St. Louis area – metro-east Illinois community theater groups, with 25 nominations – 13 for the George S. Kaufman-Moss Hart comedy classic “The Man Who Came to Dinner” and 12 for the musical “Shrek,” while the Gateway Center for the Performing Arts’ youth musicals “Annie” and “Cabaret” earned 25 nominations – 14 and 11 respectively.

Goshen Theatre Project in Collinsville, Ill., and Monroe Actors Stage Company in Waterloo, Ill., each earned 16 nominations – Goshen, with 11 for “Disney’s The Beauty and the Beast” and five for “Nunsense” and MASC, with nine for Lillian Helman’s drama “Watch on the Rhine” and seven for the Mel Brooks’ musical adaptation “Young Frankenstein.”

Act Two Theater in St. Peters, Mo., received 11 nominations for the Noel Coward comedy classic “Blithe Spirit” and Take Two Productions earned 10 for their regional premiere of the Tony Award-winning musical “Fun Home.”

The Kirkwood Theatre Guild also tied the record for most acting nominations in a single show, with eight for “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” For 2019, the Clayton Community Theatre broke the record for most acting nominations in a single show, with eight for Neil Simon’s ‘Biloxi Blues.”

Prior to the pandemic, 15 theater groups and 10 youth-only groups participated in the BPAs while 11 were involved in the TMAs. As the region’s mitigations efforts were ongoing the past two years, only four youth-only groups and nine community theater organizations produced BPA-eligible musicals while seven participated in TMAs in 2021.

Shrek at KTG. Photo by Dan Donovan

Other groups participating include Christ Memorial Productions, Clayton Community Theatre, Dayspring Arts and Education, KTK Productions, Hawthorne Players, Looking Glass Playhouse, O’Fallon Theatre Works, Over Due Theatre, Spotlight Productions, and Theatre Guild of Webster Groves.

Arts For Life is a local not-for-profit arts organization dedicated to the healing power of the arts through its work with youth, the underserved, and the community, with its goal of “Making a Dramatic Difference.”

AFL is dedicated to promoting public awareness of local community theatre, encouraging excellence in the arts, and acknowledging the incredible people who are a part of it.

TMA Event Sponsorships are available at either $100 or $50 if you also purchase an ad. Sponsorship includes group/company name and logo displayed at the event, website and on our social media platforms.

For advertising rates, BPA event sponsorship or more information, email [email protected] or visit the website, www.artsforlife.org

By Alex McPherson

Patient, meditative, and pulsing with feeling beneath its calming atmosphere, the latest effort by video-essayist-turned-film-director Kogonada, “After Yang,” poses profound questions in quietly gripping fashion.

The film, based on the short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang” by Alexander Weinstein, is set in an unnamed futuristic city — presumably after a war or natural catastrophe — where slightly heightened technology has permeated daily life, and East Asian stylistic influences abound, cleanly melding the ecological with the manmade.

Everyone speaks in muted, passionless tones. We follow a family encountering a shattering loss. Jake (Colin Farrell) owns a tea shop lacking customers, going about his days with isolated remove. Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) is constantly busy as a corporate executive. Neither are as present as they should be with their young adopted Chinese daughter, Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja), who spends much more time with Yang (Justin H. Min), a “technosapien” they purchased to help educate Mika about her cultural heritage. Over time, though, shown in flashbacks, Yang becomes less of a “Chinese Fun Fact” distributor for Mika and more of a brother figure, rendering his untimely malfunction all the more traumatic. 

Trying to console a distraught Mika, Jake tries to get Yang repaired. Before long, a paranoid mechanic (Ritchie Coster) finds a box within Yang that contains memory clips of what Yang found meaningful while he was online. As Jake views the recordings — thanks to a museum curator (Sarita Choudhury), who provides him the ability to view them in exchange for permission to create an exhibit about Yang’s life — he begins to value Yang on a whole new level while neglecting to tell his wife and child the full truth.

Yang’s memories are visualized as stars comprising a galaxy, within which lie resonant snippets of time Yang chose to preserve. Jake also learns about his own flaws, imperfections, and potential to develop as an aimless entity in search of meaning in our chaotic universe. He eventually encounters a strange woman in Yang’s memories (Haley Lu Richardson), who unearths more of Yang’s secrets.

Although some viewers might find “After Yang” too subtle and ponderous for its own good, part of what makes Kogonada’s film so moving is how gentle it is — letting plot developments unfold with a dreamlike rhythm that percolates into a rich, textured whole upon later reflection. 

The opening, however, where the central family competes in an intensive dance competition from their living room, is bursting with infectious energy. The rest of the film’s melancholic tone underscores the void left behind by losing Yang, and a family dynamic that Jake and Kyra have difficulty recapturing. Despite their relative privilege and open, spacious house — with a large tree growing in their central courtyard — they’re missing something crucial and comforting, stuck in a sort of limbo not unlike the confusion Yang feels about his own being.

Indeed, although Yang himself possesses a warmth and compassion that’s instantly endearing, it’s much harder to connect with either Jake or Kyra — especially Jake, who isn’t by any means a bad person, but someone drifting through life not fully appreciating those around him. Farrell gives an incredible, understated performance, where viewers observe — through small, yet meaningful shifts in attitude and behavior — a man reckoning with his own memories, by viewing Yang’s, and recognizing the messy, conflicted entity bubbling beneath his programming.

We don’t spend as much time with Kyra, who wants to tell Mika the truth about Yang’s death and move on, but as the story unfolds, she too recognizes a trapped soul searching for more. “After Yang” also paints an emotionally affecting contrast between Mika’s current despondence and her happiness alongside Yang, who gave her attention lacking from her adoptive parents. Yang himself, basically forced to take on a particular Asian identity sans much free will, is performed expertly by Min, who movingly conveys the android’s heartache and yearning through simple, powerful line delivery and facial expressions.

In terms of visuals, Kogonada infuses “After Yang” with depth that perfectly complements the subject matter. The cinematography by Benjamin Loeb features wide, static shots of this plausible world, conveying the ennui faced by Jake and Kyra with effective chilliness. When watching Yang’s memories play out, “After Yang” takes a more documentary-esque, arty approach reminiscent of Terrence Malick’s films, where we get colorful snippets of the natural world and human connection that gradually form a grander portrait. Additionally, when Jake and Kyra look back on specific conversations with Yang, Kogonada repeats lines of dialogue with different tones and camera angles, illustrating how the simple act of remembering has unmoored them to an extent, adding dimension previously overlooked.

The score, by Aksa Matsumiya and Ryuichi Sakamoto, is at once relaxing and raw, elegiac while also accentuating the eeriness of not truly “understanding” technology, or even our loved ones, or ourselves. Within a world over-reliant on technology, “After Yang” depicts the ways that it can benefit our lives if used properly, and how confronting grief can ultimately prove liberating. 

Kogonada’s film isn’t perfect — expository dialogue and simplistic characterizations of certain side characters stand out — but it’s one of 2022’s most thought-provoking films thus far, and one that rewards viewers eager for the unexpected.

“After Yang” is a 2021 American sci-fi drama directed by Kogonada and starring Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Haley Lu Richardson, Ritchie Coster, and Sarita Choudhury. It is rated PG for some thematic elements and language, and the run time is 1 hour, 36 minutes. It started streaming on Showtime and its channels, and DirecTV on March 4. Alex’s Grade:: A- 

By Lynn Venhaus

With nods to “Back to the Future,” “The Terminator” and “Field of Dreams,” not to mention a 1949 hit song “Enjoy Yourself (It’s Later Than You Think)” by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadiens, “The Adam Project” has a familiar but fun retro vibe that relies on its gifted cast to save the day.

This personality-driven science-fiction drama is a combo plate of movie themes set in a sci-fi time-travel world. The action is more video game than epic but has a sincere emotional center, working in a grieving family’s healing.

Pre-teen Adam Reed is small for his age but is quick with quips, and trying to cope with the death of his science professor dad Louis (Mark Ruffalo), who may have accidentally created time travel, as is his exasperated mom Ellie (Jennifer Garner). While home alone, a spacecraft lands in his backyard, piloted by his now-40-year-old buff self (Ryan Reynolds). “Big Adam” has come back from 2050 to find his endangered wife Laura (Zoe Saldana) but was aiming for 2018. They must work together to save the world, each other and strengthen their family ties.

Reuniting cheeky monkey Ryan Reynolds with his “Free Guy” director Shawn Levy, who has a knack for crowd pleasers (“A Night at the Museum,” “Stranger Things” TV series), this film capitalizes on the star’s strengths.

Reynolds, who looks like the Homecoming King but acts like the class clown who’s on the honor roll, rapidly delivers sarcasm and wisecracks in a jaunty way. He easily slips into renegade roles. Both Reynolds and Levy are producers here, and they demonstrate a collaborative spark (just announced that they will work on “Deadpool 3” together).

As Adam Reed, once a scrawny, nerdy kid with nimble verbal skills who grows up to be a buff fighter pilot, Reynolds quips and cajoles with the skills he’s shown in “Deadpool,” “Red Notice” and last summer’s surprise hit “Free Guy.”

He meets his match when he comes face-to-face with smart young Adam, his 12-year-old self in 2022 — Walker Scobell making his film debut, who is truly Reynolds’ mini-me. Together, they are very entertaining and use their powers for good.

It gets a little head-trippy when they go back to 2018, “Big” Adam’s intended target, and their dad is still alive. They have reason to believe his tech project financier Maya Sorian (Catherine Keener) is an unethical megalomaniac with only dollar signs in mind. Despite a brief appearance, Mark Ruffalo’s scruffy workaholic professor lends both gravitas and heart to the story.

Relatable Jennifer Garner plays Ellie Reed, Adam’s overwhelmed widowed mom, while Zoe Saldana, who knows a thing or two about sci-fi, having been in “Avatar” and the “Guardians of the Galaxy” series, effortlessly appears as Adam’s fierce warrior wife Laura, who has been missing and presumed dead.

That’s the thing about time travel – logic goes out the window, and the more you think about connecting the dots, the more your head hurts. Your brain needn’t work that hard about wormholes, quantum leaps, electro-magnetic particles, and time streams.

Four screenwriters are credited, starting with Jonathan Tropper, who adapted his novel for the 2014 film “This Is Where I Leave You,” starring Jason Bateman, Adam Driver, Corey Stoll and Tina Fey as siblings sitting shiva after their father’s death, which was directed by Levy.

T.S. Nowlin, who wrote “The Maze Runner” series, and Jennifer Flackett and Mark Levin, who were Emmy-nominated for the “Big Mouth” animated series, were brought on board.

The dialogue is zippy and the action has genuine peril, although Sorian’s henchmen look more like Daft Punk than Stormtroopers.

As is the digital-age custom – and following James Gunn’s lead in the “Guardians” movies, all action scenes are accompanied by radio-friendly classic rock hits. There’s Boston’s “Long Time,” Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times” and Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” – sense a time theme? That clever touch carries over to a scene when you can discern Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” as the instrumental music heard in the drug store.

The past meets the future – or is it the future meets the past? — in this amiable film, but the sci-fi takes a back seat to the family story that matters more, illustrated by a dad playing catch with his sons. As “Field of Dreams” still shows to this day, when grown men blubber about a baseball field surrounded by cornfields, something so elemental from childhood can be so profound.

“Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink
The years go by, as quickly as a wink”

“The Adam Project” is a 2022 sci-fi action-adventure comedy directed by Shawn Levy and starring Ryan Reynolds, Walker Scobell, Jennifer Garner, Zoe Saldana, Mark Ruffalo and Catherine Keener. It is rated PG-13 for violence/action, language and suggestive references and it runs 1 hour, 46 minutes. Streaming on Netflix beginning March 11. Lynn’s Grade: B.

Create TV is launching a national video contest designed to seek hosts for a digital lifestyle series. Nine PBS Create airs 24/7 over the air on channel 9.4 and on Spectrum 184. 

This year, the Create Cooking Challenge: My Family’s Recipe is focused on the rich, diverse heritage of Americans and the foods families pass down through generations. The winners will be awarded cash prizes and production equipment to host a 10-episode web series on CreateTV.com.   

Sponsored by American Public Television, the Create Cooking Challenge: My Family’s Recipe runs from March 8 to April 5, 2022. The contest will be judged by Create staff and some of Nine PBS’s most recognized hosts: Kevin Belton (Kevin Belton’s Cookin’ Louisiana), Pati Jinich (Pati’s Mexican Table), Diane Kochilas (My Greek Table), Nick Stellino (Storytellers in the Kitchen), and Martin Yan (Yan Can Cook!).  

The panel will judge submissions based on an entrant’s demonstrated knowledge, ability to present ideas succinctly, overall telegenic appeal, uniqueness, and production values. The grand prize includes $4,000 cash and production equipment valued at $1,000 to complete a 10-episode web series for CreateTV.com. The second prize winner will receive $1,000 cash and the same production equipment valued at $1,000 to complete a 3-episode digital series for CreateTV.com.  

The cooking show genre has its roots in public television. Julia Child’s The French Chef had a 10-year run, beginning in 1963, followed Jeff Smith’s the Frugal Gourmet in 1973. Nine PBS has celebrated St. Louis’s robust food and beverage scene since 1999, originating cooking series like Breaking Bread with Father Dominic (1999–2001), Feast TV (2013–2018), tasteMAKERS (2018–2020); Food Is Love is currently airing its second season. Nine PBS covers the local food scene and PBS cooking content on its website Chew in the Lou, a companion podcast, and social media platforms: FacebookTwitterInstagram, and TikTok.  

A complete list of judging criteria, official rules, and a preview copy of the submission form are available starting today at CreateTV.com/challenge.  

About Nine PBS  

As an essential community institution, Nine PBS exists to enable access to information, knowledge, and learning opportunities for all. We tell stories that move us. We meet people where they are the most comfortable consuming content. Nine PBS’s platforms include four distinct broadcast channels (Nine PBS, Nine PBS KIDS®, Nine PBS World, and Nine PBS Create), ninepbs.org, social media, the free PBS Video App, streaming services, live and virtual events, and the Public Media Commons. Since 1954, Nine PBS has accepted the community’s invitation into their homes, schools, and businesses. Follow Nine PBS on TwitterFacebookInstagramLinkedIn, and TikTok. 

About Create TV 

Now in its 17th year, Create® is the premier lifestyle channel featuring public television’s most popular how-to series, focused on food, travel, home and garden, arts and crafts, fitness, and lifestyle. Create is produced and distributed by American Public Television (APT), The WNET Group (New York), and GBH Boston, in association with National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA) and PBS. Create TV is carried by 241 local public television stations nationwide and reaches 40 million viewers annually. Nine PBS Create can be watched in St. Louis, over the air on channel 9.4 and on Spectrum 184. 

y Lynn Venhaus

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, Focus Features and Cinema St. Louis are presenting an encore screening of BELFAST, the St. Louis International Film Festival’s 2021 winner of the TV5MONDE Award for Best International Feature, at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 16..

The screening will kick off St. Patrick’s Day festivities at the Hi-Pointe Theatre, near Dogtown. All attendees will receive a voucher for a complimentary small soda and popcorn (no substitutions allowed). The screening will be free for Cinema St. Louis members and is also open to the general public, with complimentary passes available at the following link, while supplies last: http://focusfeaturesscreenings.com/DAjlf49051

Please note: The screening will be overbooked to ensure capacity and seating is not guaranteed.

Written and directed by Academy Award® nominee Kenneth Branagh, BELFAST is a poignant story of love, laughter, and loss in one boy’s childhood, amid the music and social tumult of the late 1960s. BELFAST is now nominated for seven Academy Awards®, including Best Picture of the Year.

About Cinema St. Louis: The nonprofit Cinema St. Louis produces the St. Louis International Film Festival, one of the largest and highest-profile international film festivals in the Midwest. The fest has been lauded in USA Today’s 10Best list. CSL also produces the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase, QFest St. Louis, the Classic French Film Festival, and Golden Anniversaries (a series of films celebrating their 50th anniversary).

By Lynn Venhaus
The grittiest, gloomiest, and most pitch-black of the entire Caped Crusader canon, “The Batman” expands the compelling mythology with a neo-noir approach and very gothic Gotham look.

Now in his second year as masked crime-fighter Batman, reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne (Robert Pattinson) wades deeper into Gotham City’s underworld after The Riddler (Paul Dano) leaves a trail of cryptic clues, cyber messages and greeting cards addressed to The Batman. Wayne uncovers rampant corruption and abuse of power that has long plagued the metropolis while he seeks to apprehend a deranged killer.

Director Matt Reeves has set the iconic DC comic book character into year two of his “Batman Project,” where the scion of Wayne Enterprises, Bruce Wayne, calls himself “Vengeance” and roams at night, throwing punches with the “drophead” drug addicts and hoodlums overtaking his town.

His nocturnal alter-ego somberly narrates the film from his journals. “They think I’m hiding in the shadows, but I am the shadows,” he says in an intense, hushed tone.

This Batman works as a vigilante, delving into the detective work with Police Commissioner Gordon, played with his customary gravitas by Jeffrey Wright. After all, DC stands for Detective Comics, which Batman has been a part of since 1943.

Reeves, who helmed the found-footage thriller “Cloverfield” and two of the three “Apes” prequels “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” in 2014 and “War for the Planet of the Apes” in 2017, taps into modern-day fears here, much like a horror film. It’s not science that’s created an aberration, but human nature at its bleakest, because evil has seeped into the everyday fabric of big-city life.

Reeves and co-screenwriter Peter Craig, who specializes in gutsy action (Oscar nominee for “The Town,” the upcoming “Top Gun: Maverick”) take a page from Todd Phillips’ 2019 bold and menacing “Joker,” which depicted Gotham City’s slide into lawlessness as greed and sadistic forces rose.

No one out-broods actor Robert Pattinson, and he inhabits the Batsuit with an imposing physique – although a human one, battle-scars on his back. This superhero’s physical prowess is on full display in fierce fight sequences.  

The Bat and The Cat

He has the Bat “toys” at his disposal – a very cool Batmobile makes a splashy entrance and he uses a turbo-charged Batcycle in hot pursuit of justice.

Pattinson, who broke out as sensitive heartthrob and tortured vampire Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” Saga (2008-2012), took a few years to find his way in post-blockbuster projects but has been memorable in interesting but odd indies – “The Lost City of Z,” “High Life,” “The Devil All the Time,” and his acclaimed “Good Time” and “The Lighthouse” (Independent Spirit Awards nominations).  He projects vulnerability and an inner strength along with the physicality.

His re-imagined Bruce is even more emotionally bruised and psychologically battered than any previous characterization, although Christian Bale came the closest in the masterful Christopher Nolan trilogy (“Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises”).

For 80 years, the dynamic hero has grown a passionate fanbase and many spin-offs – including TV shows, animated series, and video games. Since Tim Burton’s “Batman” in 1989, there have been many incarnations of the Caped Crusader, each with their own take.

Bale perfectly embodied both the conflicted hero and suave bachelor, while glib charmers Michael Keaton and Ben Affleck played to their strengths as seasoned veterans. The OG, Endearing Adam West, of the landmark TV series and first movie in 1966, had fun with the kitschy camp and the bombastic cartoonish Joel Schumacher ones in the 1990s, with Val Kilmer and George Clooney, though charismatic, took a wrong turn.

With less to say and more to emote, Pattison is convincing as driven to restore order while wrestling with his demons. The poor little orphaned rich boy, traumatized by watching his parents murdered at age 10, has found a solitary life of purpose. He remains a lone wolf who doesn’t let people in easily – even his loyal butler Alfred.

After Michael Caine’s emotional turn in Nolan’s three, as a surrogate father and protector, to see a gruff Bruce keep Alfred at a distance is jarring. Andy Serkis, who was Caesar in Reeves’ “Ape” movies, is every bit the archetypal British gentleman and dutiful servant.

Nolan’s work remains the gold standard, but Reeves’ deeper dive into the crevices is interesting – and unrelentingly grim. The skies are either a gloomy gray or a foreboding hard downpour, reminiscent of “Blade Runner.”

Cinematographer Greig Fraser, Oscar-nominated for “Dune,” sets a moody atmosphere to emphasize the scummy cesspool, and uses very little daylight. Blood red punctuates the darkness.

Reeves has cast the ensemble well, with Zoe Kravitz intriguing as both Catwoman and Selina Kyle, who develops a complicated alliance with Batman.

While nothing will ever approach Heath Ledger’s fearsome Joker in “The Dark Knight,” the familiar villains here are fresh takes — Paul Dano plays The Riddler as a dangerous mastermind, revealing hard truths about the powerful and elite of Gotham, and exposing himself as an unhinged psychopath. He may not have the maniacal laugh of Frank Gorshin and Jim Carrey, but he will send shivers down your spine, nonetheless. You want more of his Edward Nashton.

The Riddler’s killing spree, brutally murdering political figures and lawmen as he baits Batman, ramps up the tension.

John Turturro excels as mob boss Carmine Falcone, a smooth operator who is as lethal with his words as his deeds.

Colin Farrell as The Penguin

Less successful is Colin Farrell, unrecognizable as the thuggish Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot). His sleazy character is not as developed as the other bad guys.

The tech work is solid, and production designer James Chinlund went farther with a crumbling Wayne Manor, a once-grand mansion that serves as a forlorn reminder of what all has been lost.

Reeves tapped his frequent collaborator Michael Giacchino to compose the score. Giacchino, who won an Oscar for “Up,” an Emmy for “Lost” and Grammy Awards for “Up” and “Ratatouille,” has created haunting character themes.

“The Batman” is one of the more complex reinventions in the DC-verse and signals a promising new story thread, but at 176 minutes, the pace is a detriment, for it seems unnecessarily slow. But it is rare that you get this much depth in a tentpole genre film.

“The Batman” is a 2022 action-adventure crime drama directed by Matt Reeves and stars Robert Pattinson, Zoe Kravitz, Paul Dano, John Turturro, Colin Farrell, Jeffrey Wright, Andy Serkis and Peter Sarsgaard. It is rated PG-13 for strong violent and disturbing content,
drug content, strong language, and some suggestive material and runs 2 hours, 56 minutes. It is only in theaters starting March 4. Lynn’s Grade: B.

By Lynn Venhaus
During the month of March, PopLifeSTL.com will recognize significant female contributions in filmmaking.
Below, you will find a link to the Alliance of Women Film Journalists’ list of Real Reel Women, which we published in 2019, after whittling down a nominated list of 150 to 50 deserving candidates whose remarkable life was adapted into a film. All worth checking out this month.

I was privileged to write about Billie Jean King and Annie Sullivan.

On this day, March 3, in 1887, Helen Keller met Annie Sullivan, her “Miracle Worker.”

The following excerpt is what I wrote about Sullivan’s impact on Keller and the film for the AWFJ website.

Annie Sullivan (April 14, 1866 – Oct. 20, 1936)

Without the creative communication skills of Annie Sullivan, neither she nor her star pupil, blind and deaf Helen Keller, would be significant.

But their painful and uplifting struggles, as shown in “The Miracle Worker,” helped advance education.

William Gibson wrote it for TV’s “Playhouse 90” in 1957, then a stage adaptation in 1959, winning Tony Awards for Best Play and Anne Bancroft as Best Actress. For the 1962 film, director Arthur Penn was adamant, despite the studio wanting a bigger “name” than Bancroft and someone younger than 15-year-old Patty Duke to play Keller at age 7, the Broadway duo would recreate their physically demanding roles.

The pairing was dynamic on screen too, both winning Oscars for their honest, heart-wrenching performances.

Born Johanna Mansfield Sullivan, Annie overcame many obstacles and graduated valedictorian from the life-changing Perkins School for the Blind in Boston. Hired by Helen’s parents to avoid institutionalizing her, that ultimately successful journey in Alabama illuminated understanding.

The women became lifelong friends, living together even when Sullivan was married to John Macy for nine years.

They improved the quality of life for so many, it’s fitting they are together in eternity, interred at the Washington National Cathedral. Sullivan was the first woman so honored, in 1936.

Inga Swenson, Victor Jory, Andrew Prine, Patty Duke, Anne Bancroft

“The Miracle Worker”
Released on July 28, 1962, the film was a critical success and modest box office hit. The film was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Director for Arthur Penn, who had also directed the Broadway play, Best Screenplay Adapted from another medium for playwright William Gibson, Best Actress for Anne Bancroft and Best Supporting Actress for Patty Duke. The women won, and Duke, at age 16, became the youngest competitive Oscar winner at that time.

The film ranked 15 on AFI’s 100 Years…100 Cheers: America’s Most Inspiring Movies in 2006. Currently, the film has a 96% score on Rotten Tomatoes, the movie critics site (Note: this writer is on the Tomatometer).

The film focuses on young Helen as a wild, stubborn child, prone to violent outbursts, and her frustrated, exasperated parents — Victor Jory as Captain Arthur Keller, a former Confederate office, and Inga Swenson as his wife Kate — hire a young teacher to help. A battle of wills ensues, but she gets through Helen’s wall of silence and darkness.

The 1962 movie was remade for television in 1979 with Patty Duke as Anne and Melissa Gilbert as Helen as well as in 2000 with Alison Elliott and Hallie Kate Eisenberg in the lead roles.

More on Helen and Annie


Anne Sullivan was hired to teach Helen Keller, then 6, who had lost her sight and hearing after a severe illness — they think it was either a bacterial meningitis or scarlet fever– when she was 1 year and seven months old. She could not hear, speak or see. Her parents contacted the Perkins Institution for the Blind, and they recommended Sullivan as a teacher. They lived on an estate, Ivy Green, in Tuscumbia, Alabama.

Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan

Sullivan pioneered a “touch teaching” technique, and because of her help, Keller had a breakthrough when she felt water from a pump and Sullivan spelled w-a-t-e-r in her palm. Keller learned how to read, write and speak. She attended Radcliffe College and graduated with honors in 1904.She became an activist, public speaker and published her first book, “The Story of My Life” in 1902.

Sullivan was born in 1866 in Massachusetts and had suffered loss of vision as a child because of an infection. She attended the Perkins Institution for the Blind, where she learned the manual alphabet. She eventually had several operations on her eyes, improving her sight.

Until her death in 1936, she was a companion and interpreter for Helen. At age 87, Helen Keller died on June 1, 1968, at her home in Connecticut.

Where to Find:
The 1962 film “The Miracle Worker” is available on the subscription streaming service Amazon Prime and for rental on multiple digital/video on demand platforms.


9 Mile Garden, a Missouri food truck garden, is officially announcing the opening of its new season on Tuesday, March 1 with a Fat Tuesday extravaganza. The garden will resume operating seven days a week for lunch, dinner and special events. 9 Mile Garden is excited to be welcoming back the city’s most beloved food trucks for the season and an all-day Fat Tuesday celebration. The day will feature a special cocktail menu of Mardi Gras essentials, local music by Hosteen and the Aztechs from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., and of course, beads galore!

“We are so ready to invite guests and trucks back to the Garden for another incredible season,” said Brian Hardesty, managing partner of 9 Mile Garden. “Mardi Gras is a St. Louis tradition and we can’t think of a better way to kick off the season than with a huge Fat Tuesday party celebrating our local food trucks and business owners!”

Although subject to change, the following trucks will be ready to serve food for 9 Mile Garden’s opening day and Fat Tuesday party:

  • Mothers on Wheels
  • Picture Perfect Panini
  • Quesa Don’s
  • Super Smokers
  • Taste-D-Burger
  • Truckeria Del Valle
  • Zacchi

Entry to the Fat Tuesday party and opening day at 9 Mile Garden is free, with food and drinks available for purchase from the visiting food trucks and hurricanes, sazeracs, and more available for purchase in the Canteen.

New food trucks to 9 Mile Garden, as well as returning favorites, will serve tasty lunches from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and delicious dinners from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. daily, along with Sunday brunch from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. weekly. The 9 Mile Garden grounds themselves, along with The Canteen, its draft house and cocktail bar, will feature games, big screen televisions, and spacious event space and will be open daily from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. each day.

About 9 Mile Garden

9 Mile Garden is a family-focused entertainment district and home to Missouri’s first food truck garden, featuring local food trucks, outdoor movies, live performances and community events. The park can be rented for private events such as weddings, corporate events, fundraisers, reunions and more. For more information, visit www.9milegarden.com and follow us on social media @9milegarden.