Felix and Meira

April 24th, 2015 — 7:29am

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 12.27.17 AM**

Felix and Meira

You may have a negative impression of the Hassidic community, as a cloisted male-dominated sect where the woman’s role is to take care of the children and serve the men while they sing their songs, do their dancing and prayers. If that is the case, this movie will not change your mind and will confirm your thinking. Meira (Hadas Yaron) is such a wife living in a Hassidic community located in Montreal who has one child so far but uncharacteristically does not want anymore and does not like the role that is expected of her. She has a chance meeting with Felix (Martin Dubreuil) who is a single man who is not part of her community. We see that she is drawn to him and sees her way out of the life that has been fated for her. This is much to the consternation of her husband, Shulem (Luzer Twersky) who realizes what is happening but can only demand that she should do what he feels she is supposed to do and that is follow the rules of her community. If we were expected to develop an understanding and insight into all these characters, our opinion is that the film was unsuccessful. We know essentially nothing about them as individuals, perhaps with the exception of Felix who we know had a father who never showed any love to him although it seems irrelevant to the plot. Certainly, we do not know the back story of the other main characters. We find them all two-dimensional. The acting and the setting seemed quite genuine. This is a French film directed by Maxime Giroux who also wrote the screenplay, It seamlessly moves back and forth from English and Yiddish with subtitles as needed. However, what we needed here was a story with more depth to it. (2015)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Road Within

April 17th, 2015 — 7:09pm

****Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 12.01.41 PM

The Road Within

This is a road movie like you have never seen before. Each of the three characters on the trip has a mental condition and they have escaped from a treatment center run by Dr. Mia Rose (Kyra Sedgwick). Vincent (Robert Sheehan) is a young man with Tourette’s Syndrome who not only has uncontrollable disconcerting bizarre tics but has coprolalia, where he blurts out expletives  or other unseemly phrases. Alex (Dev Patel) has obsessive-compulsive disorder where he must wear gloves much of the time to avoid germs and dirt. He would also have to jam on the breaks of a car that he is driving after going over a pothole and then have to run outside to see that he hasn’t run somebody over. This isn’t the best characteristic to have if you are the designated driver much of the time on this road trip since the guy with the tics can’t always keep his eyes on the road. The third character on the road trip is Marie (Zoe Kravitz) who is a young woman with anorexia and bulimia. The main focus of the film is on Vincent. As we understand the details about his back story and his father Robert (Robert Patrick),  we learn that the father’s ex-wife, Vincent’s mom was an alcoholic, and recently died. In fact, we first meet Vincent at her funeral as he struggles with his uncontrollable tics. So you can see that while this wild road trip has elements for a comedic film, it never really goes very far  in that direction. This is a sensitive moving story about three people with painful mental symptoms who become friends as they go on this journey. We come to see their very human qualities and how empathic they are to each other.. There is even some touching romance in the story. While it is only Vincent about whom we get to understand his personal story in some depth, we do appreciate the struggle and the suffering that they are all enduring.

We had a chance to meet Gren Wells, the screenwriter and first time director of this film and learn a little about the making of it. Ms. Wells first came across a trailer of the German feature film upon which she eventually gained the rights to remake in English. She was touched by the unique depiction of these three people with these conditions. She could personally relate to the young girl having suffered anorexia in her own youth. The casting of these actors could not have been better. Ms. Wells knew there would be a fine line between showing these people as objects of ridicule and showing their painful real feelings to which an audience would relate. People who actually have these conditions were brought in to work very closely with the actors. We learned that Mr. Sheehan spent several months practicing and understanding people with Tourette’s syndrome which he would show in the movie. The result of his performance should appropriately be compared with the acting of Eddie Redmayne who won the Oscar last year for the playing Steven Hawkins in the Theory of Everything.

This is an outstanding movie that will be a gratifying and enjoyable cinematic experience for people of all ages. It is an enduring story film that should be shown to mental health professionals and in some settings, to patients who have similar conditions. It may not stay around in theaters as long as some of the blockbuster films, but it is worth seeing. It opens in Los Angeles next week but should be on DVD for a long time and hopefully will be seen by many people. (2015)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Danny Collins

April 12th, 2015 — 8:24pm

****

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 1.22.57 PMDanny Collins – rm

This movie has a great premise. Danny Collins (Al Pacino) is an older successful star musician who has been living the life of rock and roll, drugs, and women for over four decades. His life however is changed around when his manager (Christopher Plummer) finds a letter, originally written to Collins when he was a young rising star, by his idol, John Lennon who had seen a newspaper interview with young Collins and wrote to him telling him to be true to himself and his music. There also was an invitation to call Lennon so they could talk and he provided his personal phone number. The letter never reached Collins. This was over 40 years ago. Lennon is gone now and Collins gave up on his own music many years ago and had been successfully singing and touring with other people’s music which makes him feel sick but very rich.

How often has a word of encouragement from a role model, celebrity, or a revered teacher put someone on the path to realize their true aspirations? So imagine how someone might feel if these words of encouragement from a hero came 40 years too late. In this case, receiving the belated letter from Lennon had a profound impact on Collins which set him on a journey which is the essence of this movie. The words and music of John Lennon are most of the musical score of this film and his spirit is infused into the story. Pacino is outstanding as Danny Collins as he seems to be turned inside out trying to redo his own persona. He makes us believe that beneath his self-centered rock and roll life, he really was a sensitive caring person. He finds his long lost son (Bobby Cannavale) who is married to a loving wife (Jennifer Garner) and who have a very cute hyperactive child which becomes the rest of the story. There was also an encounter with a new woman (Annette Bening) who is the hotel manager in New Jersey where Danny ends up trying to win over his son and his family. In addition to being a story of an attempt to have redemption, this is also a crisp comedy. It is extremely well-written and the banter between the characters evoked out loud laughter from our movie audience. This film directed by Dan Fogelson, will resonate with many and will be totally enjoyed by most. (2015)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Uncategorized

Potiche

April 11th, 2015 — 8:44pm

****

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 1.37.28 PMPOTICHE – nf  (French with English subtitles)

Potiche is a French word which refers to a person, a man or a woman (although in this case, it is a woman) whose function is purely decorative and who has no power at all. This is obviously meant to refer to Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve), wife of Robert Pujol (Fabrice Luchini), manager of the family umbrella factory. He is kidnapped by union zealots who are demanding better pay and working conditions. They are led by a communist member of parliament (played by another French superstar Gerard Depardieu). Although this film was made in 2010, the setting is the late 1970s and the film is clearly about the changing role of women. Deneuve’s character is a beautiful mature woman with two grown children played by Jeremie Renier and Judith Godreche, is initially referred to as the “trophy wife” but when her husband after being freed from his captivity is incapacitated by a heart attack, she takes the role as manager of the factory and chief negotiator. Being a French film, we should be not surprised that her husband of course, has had many affairs including a current one with his secretary, Nadege (Karin Viard). Of course his wife (Deneuve) has had her share of trysts in her day and there is even some question about who is the father of her son. But the real intrigue and strength of this movie is the evolving of Deneuve’s character as we come to understand her and see her relate to her family, former lover, and to the new era for women. This film is punctuated by Deneuve, in character, singing a song at the end of the film which captures the uplifting theme of this movie which was directed by Francois Ozon.  Since you will most likely view this film on Netflix, we highly recommend that you watch the special feature which shows many in-depth clips about the making of the film. You will see the director and the well-known French actors and actresses professionally plying their trade but also informally interacting with each other and the crew. This is a worthwhile viewing experience in and of itself. (2010)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Gone Girl

April 4th, 2015 — 2:55am

***Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 7.10.00 PM

Gone Girl – rm

I (MB) read this novel by Gillian Flynn upon which this movie was based (see review) which I enjoyed and held my interest. I knew someone would make a movie about it and I followed the hype about the plans to do so but it wasn’t high on my list to see with so many outstanding seemingly great films out during this season. However, on an international air flight, I finally caught up with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike and the mystery of the disappearing wife. Once you have read a book, the film really has to be outstanding to win you over. Even though the storyline is not exactly as the book, I got caught up with the details. There are some graphic scenes, including crime and lust. Neil Patrick Harris was okay as a lover/victim. Things are not always what they seemed to be, which is a prerequisite of a good mystery. But in the end I think the 1 hour and 49-minute film could have been boiled down to a 52-minute 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. TV crime show. I would suggest that you pass on this film unless you don’t have a better prospect on your next air flight. (2014)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Mystery

The Forger

March 19th, 2015 — 7:33pm

****Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 12.30.39 PM

The Forger sp

This is not your father’s old fashion gangster heist movie. Nor is it your mom’s tearjerker movie about a family situation where a father connects with his son who is dying of cancer. Instead it is a brilliantly written screen play by Richard D’Ovidio that combines both of these elements into an outstanding film directed by Philip Martin. This relatively low budget movie ($11 million) attracted John Travolta, who plays Ray Cutter, the dad who might have been a great artist but now finds himself forging a classic painting. His dad is Joseph Cutter played by Christopher Plummer as the old, rough, wise, grandfather who, himself know something about the underworld of Boston. The teenager who turns to dad to help him fulfill his short life is extremely well played by Tye Sheridan. All of these stars could not be better in their roles. The fourth star is the actual Boston Museum of Fine Arts that allowed this movie to be made on its premises adding to the authenticity of the film. This movie will be released to theaters on April 24 but will be available to Direct TV subscribers On Demand at the end of March as an example of the latest marketing techniques to get the word out. We are sure there will be lots of good words about this movie. (2015)

 

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

St. Vincent

March 15th, 2015 — 11:47pm

***Screen Shot 2015-03-15 at 4.41.01 PM

St. Vincent nf

You might not picture Bill Murray who is St. Vincent in this film as a Saint. In fact he is depicted as a hard drinking, reckless gambler, tough old guy who lives in a small house in Brooklyn and hangs around with a pole dancer (Naomi Watts). Along comes a new neighbor, recently divorced (Melissa McCarthy) with her 10 or 11-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and the magic begins. We see the chemistry between this grizzled older guy and the polite sweet kid who has to learn to get by in his new Brooklyn neighborhood. The screenplay and the direction by Theodore Melfi is just the right touch to seal the deal. Not surprising, there is much more that meets the eye. The sainthood issue will push your buttons and drain your tear ducts. (No, he doesn’t pass away). This movie and the actors in it have been recognized by various critics, receiving nominations for awards around the country. We were fortunate that we caught it with our grandson on Netflix.(2014)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Desert Dancer

March 14th, 2015 — 5:32am

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 10.29.59 PMDesert Dancer sp

Although Iran is known to have a repressive government, it still has one of the highest percentage of educated people in the world as well as having 60% of its 73 million people under the age of 30. Therefore, it would still seem surprising that any kind of dancing in Iran is forbidden. This movie shows the true story of a student at the University of Tehran who five years ago with the few other students began to secretly learn how to dance in order to express their emotions. They gathered at a deserted basement and studied forbidden YouTube videos. They knew that they could be beaten and even killed if discovered as had happened to many other young people who flaunted the authority of the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his paid thugs.

First time British director, Richard Raymond, read a newspaper article about  Afshin Ghaffarian, who led this group of dancers as they practiced and put on a performance in the desert for a small gathering of students who were secretly brought to this hidden recital. Ghaffarian’s life was threatened and he eventually made it out of Iran to Europe where he told this story. He then received further dance training and ultimately formed his own dance company, performing throughout the world.

Thanks to this film, the true story of the suppression of art and dance in Iran is told. It is also a metaphor for what is being done to the human spirit that is being highlighted here. Mr. Raymond put together a multi national cast of actors who were then taught to dance by Okram Khan, the choreographer of the opening night of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Although their names are not known to American audiences, their dedication to this story deserves to be recognized. Afshin Ghaffarian was played by Reece Ritchie. The other actors were Nazanin Boniadi, Freida Pinto, Tom Cullen, Makram J. Khoury, Marama Corlett and Daniel Bass. You probably won’t remember their names but you will remember this film. It will touch you and remind you how sad it is when the creative expression inside of us is not allowed to come out and how glorious it can be when it becomes free. (2015)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

5 to 7

March 12th, 2015 — 7:13am

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 11.43.51 PM****

5 to 7-sp

If you are tuned in to the lingo of certain aspects of French culture, you might know that the title film refers to 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This is the time in which it is permissible in some marriages for each partner to have an affair. Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) is a 24-year-old single struggling writer in New York City who strikes up a conversation on a Manhattan Street with a beautiful French woman Arielle Tierpont (Bérénice Marlohe) who happens to be nine years his senior. She is married with two kids but is perfectly comfortable having an affair with him during these two magic hours of the day. Her husband Valéry Tierpont (Lambert Wilson) is a very handsome likeable guy and is glad to meet Brian who is quite bewildered by this chain of events. This all is not taking place in Paris but in New York City. The screen writer and director Victor Levin seems to know a lot about these things, as well as apparently being in love with New York. From the creative plaques on the benches of Central Park to the lovely Hotel Carlisle where much of the love making takes place, to the magnificent Guggenheim Museum, the mood of the film is clearly established. We come appreciate how this young man is absolutely smitten by the stunning,  and very appealing French woman. He even introduces her to his Jewish parents. His mother (Glen Close) is charmed by this woman no matter what the circumstances, if she loves her son. His father (Frank Langella) is the comic relief to this film as he tries to digest the situation that his son is in. The dialogue of the film mostly New Yorkese with some occasional words of French thrown in with English subtitles  The soundtrack also sets the mood about falling in love perhaps in a lifetime situation. The only flaw we couls find,  is that as charming as young Mr. Bloom may seem to be and as much as we could appreciate his falling head over heels in love, we did not feel the film conveyed to us how this older beautiful woman was developing similar feelings to him. Perhaps Mr. Levin didn’t quite get into the French woman’s shoes. Nevertheless, the film is a moving, exciting, very creative, and a unique love story that is worth seeing (2015)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Romance

Inside Llewyn Davis

March 3rd, 2015 — 3:15am

*** Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 7.10.18 PM

Inside Llewelyn Davis- nf  This is a story about a fictional folk singer in the 1960s played by Oscar Isaacs. The Coen brothers wrote the screenplay and also directed it. It also features Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund and Justin Timberlake. Think of a Bob Dylan who never became well known. He is obviously talented and believes in his music. We see him playing in clubs in Greenwich Village in Manhattan and struggling to be recognized and get work. He is intense and brooding. He is scarred by the trauma of the death of a former singing partner who jumped off the George Washington Bridge. He frequently crashes on the couches of people who like and believe in him. There is some very fine folk music in the film not only sung by the protagonist but also an outstanding background music track. This flows through most of the movie as we follow Llewelyn hitching long car rides across the country as he seeks gigs to establish himself. This is a very likable character and we believe the audience will be rooting for him as we were. Much of the film was shot in dark clubs or in the evening. We had to think twice to be sure the movie wasn’t in black and white. You might call it Film Noir without the mystery plot. We don’t see fame and fortune at the end, which might make some of us feel sad. But perhaps this movie is really for the young or those who identify with the generation still in their 20s and 30s when you are willing to hold on to your dream even when the “pot of gold” is not in sight.(2013)

 

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

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