The Comeback Trail

July 23rd, 2021 — 7:37pm

The Comeback Trail
****

This is a comedy based on a film that was made in 1982 by the same name that was made by the late Harry Hurwitz. This remake is written and directed by George Gallo. One of the producers of this film is the wife of the late Harry Hurwitz. She and Mr. Gallo were at the preview we attended run by Steven Farber in his series titled Reel Films.

The storyline and this well executed film really gives the viewer a sense of involvement and role of the producers in making a movie come into being, albeit this one being quite exaggerated and comedic. In this case, it is a story about an old country movie star who is brought out retirement from a retirement home for people in the film industry, to star in an exciting Cowboy and Indian film. Mixed into the storyline is a subplot about possibly murdering the comeback movie star so the producers can collect on a large insurance policy on the aging star. we did not mention that this movie stars Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Zach Braff. How can a film miss with such a cast?

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

Road Runner- Documentary Film About Anthony Bourdain

July 15th, 2021 — 5:52am

ROADRUNNER-Documentary Film About Anthony Bourdain
***

Morgan Neville, veteran documentary filmmaker, has just come out with a new documentary about author, TV host, food expert, and documentary filmmaker Anthony Bourdain who has been featured on CNN with his very popular series about food around the world. He has interviewed and interacted with people from all four corners of the earth. We had the opportunity to preview this film and see an interview with the filmmaker by Steve Farber as part of his series Reel Talk. Bourdain had a way with connecting with people from numerous countries and cultures, albeit frequently around food. He had two marriages and one daughter, but we are told that he was away from home 270 days of the year, which says a lot about his family relationships. The film also suggests that a troubled relationship with a girlfriend actress, may have contributed to his final spiral out of control which led to his suicide at age 61. Although the film leaves many unanswered questions about this brilliant and enigmatic man, it is interesting and worth seeing.

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

Hampstead

July 13th, 2021 — 7:31am

Hampstead

***

Diane Keaton plays a British widow who lost her husband a year before She is not interested in the well-meaning friends who want to introduce her to a well-heeled accountant. From an apartment window with a pair of binoculars she sees a guy (Brenden Gleeson) living in a shack in some large wooded area seemingly either part of the metropolitan city or just on the fringes of it. She sets out to meet him and see what is going on with him. There are well-meaning demonstrators, some of whom want the wooded area cleaned up and others who want to be on the side of the “hermit,” who claims he has single-handed deserved ownership of the house since he has built it on his own and lived in it for the past 17 years. There is courtship, romance, do-gooders, and actual dramatic court room scenes. However, it is Diane Keaton’s realistic and lovable character that carries the movie and ultimately touches our heart.

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

Red Joan

July 13th, 2021 — 7:06am

RED JOAN

***

Can you imagine if you are sitting with your elderly grandmother and there were a knock on the door and the FBI entered and arrested her for the high crime of being an international spy? That is exactly what happened to an old British woman who is arrested in front of her family and accused of being a World War II spy for the Russians who passed on secret information how to make the atomic bomb. This film was released in 2018 and stars Judi Dench. It is based on the true story, although there were some changes made in the actual circumstances. The story reminds us that during the time period that the film is depicting, the Russians were allies of the United States fighting against the Nazis. The deep dive of this film is intended not only to show how this woman was a successful spy, but why she did it. What was our thinking and what was the mindset of many people at this particular time in history. This film will keep your interest and will be particularly meaningful to history buffs who try to understand the thinking of this time in history.

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

In The Heights

June 23rd, 2021 — 1:20am

In The Heights
****

This musical may very well live on for future generations and enter the category of great productions such as Westside Story and Hamilton. The latter also had the lyrics and music by Lin-Manuel Miranda as he did In The Heights. This is the movie version of the Broadway musical which opened in New York in 2008 and which we had enjoyed then.

The story takes place in Washington Heights in the Northern tip of Manhattan in New York City. We meet a young man who hopes to return to native country of Dominican Republic. There are interesting subplots, which include a beloved grandmother who reminisces about her childhood in Cuba, a young woman who comes back to the neighborhood after her first year of college at Stanford University and is torn apart by conflicts concerning how to fit in and, of course, there is passionate romance. We may have missed a couple of beats and some of the subplots; however, we do not think this matters very much because we are overwhelmed with the music, singing, and absolutely terrific choreography to the backdrop of this very realistic depiction of life in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. There is among many scenes of sensational movie magic, where two lovers are seen dancing on the side of the buildings, just to highlight the creativity of the production.

We originally planned to watch this movie in two to three parts since we knew it was 2 hours and 22 minutes; however, we could not resist watching the entire film in one sitting.

The cast, while mostly not known to us, were extremely talented in song and dance as well as in the development of their characters. We did recognize Jimmy Smits in one character role, and a small but interesting role which Miranda did cast himself.

This is certainly a movie to see for its sweet stories, pluck and exuberance, joyous musical style and fantastic production numbers. It is a happy opening up following the months of pandemic isolation. and if you have the chance to see it live, we are sure that the stage production is a knockout.

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

Nowhere In Africa

June 19th, 2021 — 4:00am

Nowhere in Africa
****

This is a 2001 German film which was written and directed by Caroline Link. It is based on an autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig.

We thought that we had seen every aspect of Holocaust books and films, yet this subtle, touching, thoughtful story tells a poignant tale that reflects the deep-seated impact as much as the classic well known literary and cinematic productions have done on this subject. It tells the story of a German Jewish family; father, mother, and young daughter, who fled Germany “to the middle of nowhere in Africa” which is actually in Kenya.

Perhaps this story is best reflected through the eyes of a young girl as she grows into early adolescence during what must have been a seven or eight year period. She is accepted into the native culture. Her parents have their struggles and conflicts. Their pain in missing their relatives and learning of their fate is a well-known part of history. The viewers must put themselves into the shoes of this threesome as they ultimately must decide whether to stay or leave and where to go once the war is over.

The skill of the filmmaker is reflected in the fact that we forget that we are seeing a foreign film with subtitles. The setting is quite real as are the characters and their in-depth portrayal.

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

Steal A Pencil For Me

May 22nd, 2021 — 1:00am

Steal A Pencil For Me-nf
****

As have so many stories about the holocaust, this film produced by Michel Ohayon has touched our hearts. It tells a true story about a man Jac Polak and woman Ina Soepwho met in Holland shortly before the Nazis took over. He was infatuated with her although he was married to someone else. When their time came and they were deported to a concentration camp, they kept in touch with each other through clandestine letters and notes (hence the movie title). Through this continued relationship (along with film clips of various cattle cars whisking the Jews away and pictures and clips of the horrors that went on during those terrible years), we ultimately learned that this unusual couple never lost hope that they might reunite. Sure enough after liberation, they found each other and have had more than 60 years of marriage. It is no surprise that this is a moving story that not only tells about enduring love, but reminds us about history that we must never forget.

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

The Center Will Not Hold

May 18th, 2021 — 1:58am

May 16, 2021
The Center Will Not Hold
***

This is a 2017 biographical film about the story of the iconic writer, Joan Didion. It is directed by her nephew actor, Griffin Dunne, and was produced by her cousin, Annabella Dunne. This probably explains why the filmmakers appeared to have such easy access to the main subject as well as so many personal videos and footage of her life. While we are contemporaries of the main subject and we are familiar with the various cities where she has lived on both coasts, our lives have been quite different. We were in San Francisco at the same time as she was. While one of us was a newly married intern at San Francisco General Hospital and the other was a newly minted social worker, Ms. Didion was at parties with Janis Joplin, Harrison Ford, Brian De Palma, Martin Sarkozy, and Steven Spielberg. The film gives us a very intimate portrait of this amazing talented writer who is married to John Dunne, a very talented writer himself. Whereas some well-matched couples can finish each other sentences, this dyad were able to edit and finish each others manuscripts.

It is clear that Ms. Didion was an extremely talented sought after writer from top magazines such as Vogue and has written some very well received novels. Her personal experiences and her emotional life is clearly captured and reflected in this film and includes the very meaningful relationship that she had with her husband and her adopted daughter who died at the age of 39 shortly after the death of her father and Ms. Didion’s beloved husband.

What makes this movie a meaningful cinematic experience is not only the words and life story of the main subject, but how well personal film and video footage is weaved into the storyline along with contemporary clips reflecting the times and life of this amazing woman.

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

The Father

May 5th, 2021 — 6:48am

The Father
****

It is easy to see why Anthony Hopkins was recently awarded this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor. He is magnificent as an old man with a fading memory in this film. The movie is presented in a manner that the viewers experiences the memory lapses and subsequent episodes of confusion as if it were happening to us. Hopkins’ facial expressions, voice, movements, and interactions with the other characters are near perfect. He moves easily between anger and fury to softness and sadness.

The film was written and directed by Florian Zeller who has adapted his prize-winning French play of the same name along with Christopher Hampton. Interestingly, the main character’s first name is “Anthony”. His daughter is played by Olivia Colman who also turned in an outstanding performance. To make things even more interesting, Anthony’s daughter is also played at a different age by Olivia Williams who physically resembles Ms. Coleman. There were several clever manipulations of the setting all adding up to a somewhat unique cinematic experience.

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

Pieces Of A Woman

March 21st, 2021 — 5:35am

PIECES OF A WOMAN
***

This film, directed by Kornel Mundruczo with screenplay by Kata Weber, is about a couple’s decision to have their first child delivered by a midwife at home. Things do not go as planned. We become immersed in the postpartum struggle, mainly of the woman (Vanessa Kirby) as she deals with the intricacies of relationships with her husband(Shia Saide LaBeouf), mother (Ellen Burstyn), and other people in her life. We have to consider how there can be intense grief for someone you have never known. There is even a dramatic court room scene interspersed in the storyline but who is the real victim and who is the perpetrator? You may also want to ask yourself if home deliveries should be legal? Vanessa Kirby was nominated for an Oscar this year 2021 for her performance in this film.

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

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