Friday, March 17, 2023

Commanding women stir dark 'Strangler' and lighter 'Moving On'

Except for the infamous string of murders and the botched investigation into them, "Boston Strangler" has little connection to the 1968 film "The Boston Strangler."

In fact, the two movies take on the grisly deaths of 13 women in the early '60s from entirely different perspectives, with the new one exploring how the case was so thoroughly covered by a pair of female newspaper reporters, themselves dealing with incessant sexism from bosses and cops while possibly putting their own lives at risk.

Writer/director Matt Ruskin ("Crown Heights") firmly details how their work way back then helped up the ante of attention to the murder probe, beginning with the similar killings of "just four nobodies" and turning the "Strangler" killer into one of the nation's most notorious criminals ever.

It also becomes some very scary stuff when Loretta McLaughlin (a smartly offbeat role for Keira Knightley) and Jean Cole (Copley, Ohio's own Carrie Coon) connect the dots on a couple of potential copycat murders along the way.

By the end, let's just call it another well-done showcase for the kind of tough, investigative journalism that rarely exists today, even if the entire film is not quite on par with last year's "She Said."

That one, of course, told how a more modern group of women reporters helped nail the monstrous Harvey Weinstein and, sadly, failed miserably at the box office. Perhaps that is why "Boston Strangler" lives only exclusively on Hulu today and not in theaters.

Rated "R" by MPAA: some violent content and language; 1:56; $ $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Ironically, two more strong gals, Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, try to turn the tables on another Weinstein type in "Moving On," a revenge comedy with certainly a little less than a heart of gold.

The bad man (treacherously portrayed by always alarming Malcolm McDowell) is a new widower, whose late wife was a college roommate of alienated friends (Tomlin and Fonda) now reuniting at the funeral.

I'd love to report that madcap chaos ensues, but such is not the case. There are a few laughs, some melodrama, a twist ending, very nice supporting work from Richard Roundtree, and an odd subplot resolution you can even see coming from Ohio (where Fonda's character resides).

Truthfully, if you want to watch more sparkling use of its two enduring stars, simply find the classic "9 to 5" somewhere, or just about any episode of their seven-year hitch on "Grace and Frankie."

("Moving On," which world-premiered at last fall's 47th annual Toronto International Film Festival, is now playing in theaters.)

Rated "R" by MPAA: for language; 1:25; $ $ and 1/2 out of $5

Also opening today only in theaters: "Inside," "Shazam! Fury of the Gods," which was not previewed for critics in northeast Ohio, and "A Snowy Day in Oakland."

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