All posts by Robert Newton

About Robert Newton

I run Cape Ann Community Cinema ( on Main Street in Gloucester (above Mystery Train) and am also a professional writer and editor. I make films and novelty records, as well.

Review – Satanic Panic

FILM REVIEWSATANIC PANIC. With Rebecca Romijn, Jerry O’Connell, Jordan Ladd, Ruby Modine, and Arden Myrin. Written by Ted Geoghegan and Grady Hendrix. Directed by Chelsea Stardust. No MPAA rating (but loaded with all the sordid things that make a movie appealing to anyone under 18). 85 minutes.

satanic_panicSome of horrordom’s most auspicious offerings have one foot planted firmly and stealthily in political commentary. The original “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956) confronted head-on Cold War paranoia with its haunting pod people parable. At the conclusion of the Civil Rights Movement, George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” (1968) tackled race relations without tiptoeing. Joe Dante’s wickedly clever werewolf tale “The Howling” (1981) took on cults in the wake of the mass murder-suicides at Rev. Jim Jones’s compound in Guyana in 1978. In a similar punctured vein, the comedy-infused shockfest SATANIC PANIC aims for the fences, but, to quote a certain memorable ad campaign of days past, “Sorry, Charlie – only the best-tasting tuna gets to be Star-Kist.”

Sam (Hayley Griffith) sees her new job delivering pizza in the Dallas suburbs as her way out of poverty, but has a rude awakening when she is clotheslined by a humiliating hierarchy and customers who tip with expired Applebee’s coupons and sweaters formerly worn by the recently deceased. She thinks her streak is about to end when she brings a large order to an exclusive subdivision. The reality is basically the orgy scene out of “Eyes Wide Shut,” with Sam unwillingly serving as a virgin sacrifice to the demon Baphomet (the horned goat figure worshipped by Satanists). Hijinks ensue.

Just because it’s not great doesn’t mean it’s not fun. A hyperkinetic cross between Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby,” Brian Yuzna’s “Society,” and Jason Reitman’s “Juno,” this clever and creatively bloody cry to eat the rich builds to a manic pitch and doesn’t stop drilling until its satisfying end. It feels like it could have been conceived in the afterglow of a viewing of “Get Out,” substituting class division for racial divide.

The performances certainly elevate the material. TV actor Griffith is strong, rising to the verbal and physical rigors of the script by Ted Geoghegan (“We Are Still Here”) and Grady Hendrix (“Mohawk”). Her richie counterpart, Judi (Ruby Modine of “Shameless” and daughter of Matthew) is solid as her foil-turned-friend. “MAD TV” veteran and “Insatiable” star Arden Myrin plays a power-mad suburban mom with a side of whiny relish. But it is Rebecca Romjin (who passed her “X-Men” role of Mystique on to Jennifer Lawrence) makes the movie work, taking the role of ruthless coven leader Danica Ross to villainous heights. (Husband Jerry O’Connell has a considerably smaller yet hilarious role as her literally kept husband). She revels in Danica’s wickedness, taking what could have been a jokey vamp role and turning into one of memorable menace.

“Satanic Panic” surely makes a political statement, and while it is not one that is super timely, and while the movie may not show up on many annual “must-see” lists, it has a bloody good time playing it out, and with a sharp sense of what horror fans of a certain breed want to experience for their 90 minutes in the dark.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Robert Newton is a veteran film critic, novelty recording artist, and Creative Director of the Cape Ann Community Cinema.



Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood, Lincoln) mesmerizes in his role as the obsessed but elegant couture designer and is joined by Academy Award® nominee Lesley Manville (Maleficent, Another Year) and Vicky Krieps (Hanna, The Colony) in this “ravishingly beautiful” (NY Times) film.
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights), Phantom Thread is set in the glamour of 1950’s post-war London. Renowned couturier Reynolds Woodcock (Day-Lewis) and his sister Cyril (Manville) are at the center of British fashion, dressing royalty, movie stars, heiresses, socialites, and debutants with the distinct style of The House of Woodcock. Women come and go through Woodcock’s life, providing the confirmed bachelor with inspiration and comfort, until he comes across a young, strong-willed woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who soon becomes a fixture in his life as his muse and lover.


You can win a DVD/Blu-ray of Phantom Thread one of two ways:

1) Sign up for North Shore Movies’ email list (new subscribers only).

2) Email us at with the subject “PHANTOM CONTEST” (current subscribers only).

Winners will be picked at random from all valid entries. One entry per person. Duplicate entries will be disqualified. The contest ends @ 11:59pm Thursday, May 3, 2018.

Review – Amy

AMY. With Amy Winehouse, Yasiin Bey, Mark Ronson, Tony Bennett, and Mitch Winehouse; Directed by Asif Kapadia; Rated R for language and drug material; 128 minutes.

There is a scene about two-thirds of the way through Asif Kapadia’s staggering documentary AMY that is simultaneously beautiful and tragic. It was during the Grammys in 2008, for which the then-24-year-old jazz phenom won five awards for her album “Back to Black.” Tony Bennett and Natalie Cole were presenting the award for Record of the Year, with Winehouse beamed in by satellite from London, where she had just gotten clean-and-sober in a nearby rehab center. Kapadia, who expertly told the fascinating story of F-1 racing legend Ayrton Senna in 2010’s “Senna,” presents the moment by intercutting the awards broadcast from Los Angeles with the live feed from the club in London from which Winehouse would perform two songs. When Bennett announced Winehouse as the winner, the look on the young, overwhelmed singer’s face is inspiring and rewarding, albeit ultimately heartbreaking. Even though we know where her story will end–with her death from alcohol poisoning in July of 2011–we wish against all reality that it could continue on with her conquering adversity and letting her amazing talent shine on and renew into her golden years. Sadly, moments later, a friend relates that Winehouse viewed this pinnacle of success as “boring without drugs.” And so it goes.

In the film, Bennett, who recorded the standard “Body and Soul” with Winehouse for his hit 2011 album “Duets II,” holds Winehouse in the same esteem as jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday. Hearing the singer belt out song after song–most of which she wrote herself–this assertion is very easy to accept. At the beginning of the film, Kapadia introduces us to Winehouse with a recording of her singing “Happy Birthday” from a friend’s 14th birthday party, and from that instant, we are captivated. Initially, this is because the confident and nuanced voice of a performer four times her age comes out of her, but gradually, Kapadia gives us plenty of other reasons to love her.

Thanks to Kapadia’s access to hundreds of hours of interviews and the ever-present home video cameras, Winehouse’s take-no-shit attitude, passion for her craft, and wonderful sense of humor shine through, as does her inability to keep it together when her star reaches its zenith. While no writer is credited, Kapadia is also responsible for telling Amy’s story in all its exquisite irony. By making us so fully invest in a character we know is doomed from frame-one, he proves not only his sensitivity and intelligence, but his incredible skill as a storyteller.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4.5 out of 5.Robert Newton is a veteran film critic, novelty recording artist, and Creative Director of the Cape Ann Cinema & Stage in historic Gloucester, Mass.

Review – The Diary Of A Teenage Girl

Starring Bel Powley, Domino the Cat, Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgård, and Christopher Meloni; Written by Phoebe Gloeckner (graphic novel) and Marielle Heller (screenplay); Directed by Marielle Heller; Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity, drug use, language, and drinking: all involving teens. 102 minutes.

Confrontational” is a label we too often give the art–and the feelings and topics such art brings to light–that we would like to pretend does not exist. We too often treat this kind of confrontation as if it were something that we should avoid at all costs, like a sacred symbol in a jar of tinkle. By doing this, though, we miss out on opportunities to advance our thinking and realign our perception to better reflect reality. Writer-director Marielle Heller’s debut feature THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL is confrontational art in the the best sense.

British TV actress Bel Powley makes her Stateside debut in high style as Minnie Goetze, a 15-year-old girl in San Francisco in 1976 who is trying to balance her aspirations as an artist with her emerging sexuality. Minnie lives with her younger sister Gretel (Abby Wait) and her former hippie mother Charlotte (Kristen Wiig), and after a casual encounter with her mother’s boyfriend Monroe (Alexander Skarsgård), an affair ensues. Naturally, the discreteness and control that Minnie and Monroe thought they had going in evaporates, and they must confront the reality of what they have chosen.

Heller spares no detail while chronicling Minnie’s odyssey, even if it makes us feel uncomfortable while we are watching it unfold. From the crimson “X” she paints on Monroe’s leg after her first time to the frank, no-boys-around discussions about sex she has with her friend Kimmie (Madeleine Walters) to the tryst she has with high school friend Ricky (Austin Lyon) in which he admits that Minnie’s unabashed pursuit of pleasure scares him, Heller and Powley let us know who Minnie is, through her desires, naivete, and ill-informed decisions.

While Heller’s gender doesn’t make her uniquely qualified to tell Minnie’s tale, the fact that she wrote and played Minnie in the 2010 stage version of Phoebe Gloeckner’s graphic novel does. Both Heller and Powley are fearless in their presentation of Minnie, and it pays off in large ways. Powley’s slight stature (standing at 5’2”) helps us visualize Minnie as a child on the cusp, while her actual age (23 this year) gives them both license to present Minnie in ways that they could not with a minor in the role.

Just as “Saturday Night Live” veteran Kristen Wiig showed she is not afraid to take on the topic of mental illness in in films like “Welcome To Me,” “The Skeleton Twins,” and the misunderstood populist pic “Bridesmaids,” she takes on another gutsy role here. While Charlotte is not solely to blame for Minnie’s wanton ways (as if a teen’s desires are worthy of such blame) we can see how Charlotte’s own objectification of Minnie paired with her permissiveness swayed Minnie toward making the decisions she did. Wiig plays Charlotte with a sympathetic and effective matter-of-factness, without stealing Powley’s considerable thunder. Also likable–despite the fact that California law would brand his character a felon–is Skarsgård (“True Blood”) as Monroe. He manages to make Monroe’s ’70s porn ‘stache creepier than his lack of common sense and constant rationalization. This is no Solondz-style “Welcome To The Dollhouse” knockoff.

As Heller did on stage, she judiciously incorporates colorful visual cutaways here. Minnie’s animated proxy is a buxom giantess, rendered in the style of underground cartoonist R. Crumb (and a depiction of an acid trip is particularly inspired). Minnie’s artistic idol is Crumb’s paramour and wife Aline Kaminsky, whom she imagines seeing from time to time and takes advice from. It all feels very much like a first-person confessional like “Catcher in the Rye” by way of the schizophrenic magical realism of “Birdman” and the gender-bending fantasy of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” a confrontational pedigree that all involved manage to elevate, like Minnie, to beyond just a slapdash label that we would have otherwise written off due to our own predispositions.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4 out of 5.Robert Newton is a veteran film critic, novelty recording artist, and Creative Director of the Cape Ann Cinema & Stage in historic Gloucester, Mass.

The Beatles’ Last Public Performance Was 46 Years Ago Today

On January 30, 1969, The Beatles–John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr–performed publicly for the last time together. After considering high-profile locations like the Egyptian pyramids and the deck of the QE II, they settled on the humble rooftop of their label, Apple Records, at 3 Savile Row in London.

The album they were in the midst of recording was then known as “Get Back,” and was originally intended for release in 1969. The troubled production was shelved, and, after a reboot by Wall Of Sound pioneer Phil Spector, would come to be known “Let It Be.” It was to be The Beatles’ last, and was released in May 1970 (a de-Spectorized version called “Let It Be… Naked” was released in 2003).

The film “Let It Be” was released in the UK and the US in May 1970, accurately portraying a band in crisis, a warts-and-all look that has been held back from wide release ever since, due to it being such an accurate portrayal of a band in crisis. While the film had a brief home video release in the early 1980s, industry insiders suggest that it will not see a modern-day home video release while surviving Beatles Paul and Ringo are still alive.

Still, parts of the film exist in cyberspace, including the title track, which you can view below.

What’s your favorite Beatles album? Beatles movie?

Eddie Murphy… Back On SNL, Over 30 Years Later?

It’s not a “Saturday Night Live” hosting gig for funnyman Eddie Murphy (which would signal that he had a movie to promote, and based on his track record of the last decade or so, that would not be cause to celebrate). But he is making some peace with the friction that caused a 30+ year absence from NBC’s Studio 8H. Whether it was David Spade’s nasty swipe at Murphy on-air or bad timing or whatever, Murphy will return to the stage that helped make him famous on February 15 for an SNL 40th anniversary special.

What’s your favorite Eddie Murphy sketch? Your favorite Eddie Murphy movie?

Happy Birthday, Gene Hackman! (Who Is Totally Not Dead)

Two-time Oscar winner Gene Hackman as Popeye Doyle in a scene from “The French Connection” (see below for his Oscar acceptance speech).

Two-time Oscar winner Gene Hackman turns 85 today, contrary to recent internet rumors that he had passed away (that were due to a poorly-worded headline, since amended, but check the URL). The retired actor, who won Oscars for his performance in “The French Connection” (1971) and “Unforgiven” (1992), has become a novelist.

What’s your favorite Gene Hackman movie (and if you say “Superman IV: The Quest For Peace,” you will likely be put on a government list)? Tell us in the Comments section, below.

Also, if you want to check out a wicked Oscar party, the Cape Ann Cinema & Stage has a great one, at which you can totally win a private movie party for you and up to 99 friends!