Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

July 7th, 2019 — 5:01am

*** 

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold – nf

Joan Didion is an accomplished writer who for the past 50 years has written novels, essays and screenplays including many pieces for Vogue and Vanity Fair Magazine. She has lived and written about the literary scene in New York in the 1950s and ‘60s as well as about her home State of California in the 1980s and 1990s. She has partied with Janis Joplin and has hung out with Jim Morrison.

This documentary film is made by Ms Didion’s nephew, Griffin Dunne, who is a well-known actor, director and producer. It is co-produced by his wife Anna Dunne and Mary Recine. The film was narrated by a somewhat frail elderly Ms. Didion who seems as sharp as ever. It begins when she must have been a toddler and her mother gave her a book and a pencil and told her to record her thoughts and feelings. She still has that book and of course has filled that book and many others. There are wonderful film clips and photos from past decades which reflect the times as well as the personal remembrances of Ms. Didion. This includes images and the words of her husband, John Gregory Dunne who was also a writer. During their long marriage, which included one dearly beloved daughter whom they adopted shortly after her birth, they always would read and edit each other’s writings even if they didn’t fully agree about everything.

We were captured by this review of this woman’s life and also how it reflected her perspective through Ms. Didion’s words and thoughts along with images of the time. (2019)

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

Sea of Shadows

June 18th, 2019 — 8:18pm

***

Sea of Shadows-sp

This is an interesting documentary film which is at times quite exciting and dramatic although some of the fine points were difficult to understand. It appears that in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the vaquita, a small whale-like mammal, is on the verge of extinction. The reason being that a Mexican cartel encourages rogue fishermen to set up fishing nets to capture another species, the totoaba, since the Chinese mafia will pay very large sums of money for the bladder of the totoaba because of supposed medicinal powers. The vaquita which die in these fishing nets are now near extinction with only 15 or 20 of them still alive. A group of environmental activists attempt to rescue the few remaining vaquita. Things get exciting as the Mexican navy gets involved, responding when the environmentalists identify the rogue fishermen. There are some very dramatic scenes shot by a drone as the criminal fishermen are confronted. But things become more complicated and quite scary as there is a sinister crime boss involved. The director and filmmaker, Richard Ladkani, risks his life along with the environmentalists as they, at times, arrange undercover meetings which are secretly recorded with the various participants and criminal elements.

This film project which was mostly supported by one of the executive producers, Leonardo DiCaprio, at times becomes an expose of the Mexican navy and the Mexican government itself. This film may make a difference in exposing corruption in Mexico as well as in saving a species on the verge of extinction. (2019)

 

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

Late Night

June 17th, 2019 — 7:11pm

****

Late Night-sp

The premise here is that there was no Johnny Carson but rather the star of late-night television has been Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson). She is the first female host of a major late-night television show which she has hosted for 10 years. Her ratings however are now falling and the network is planning to replace her with a male comedian. Ms. Newbury has an all-white male writing staff, some of whom she has never met in person. She gets it into her head that she needs another point of view and hires Molly (Mindy Kaling) who works in a chemical planat, is a stand-up comedian and a self-proclaimed writer. She also happens to be an Indian woman of color. Although not having much experience, she speaks her mind and is able to confront, not only her new boss, but her nine male white co-writers, many of whom are played by very familiar faces and include Hugh Dancy, Reed Scott, Denis O’Hare, Max Casella, and Paul Hauser.

In this fast-moving comedic drama, many issues are confronted such as gender discrimination, ageism, and of course elitism. The co-star and screenwriter, Mindy Kaling may be drawing upon her own observations and experiences as she had been an actor in the hit tv show, “The Office” for many years, as well as producing and starring in her own show, “The Mindy Project.”

It is easy to get caught up with the story line. You are rooting for all to end well. The jokes are clever and the acting is excellent and we should add that Ms. Newbury’s husband is played a well-known actor who brings sensitivity to all his roles and that is John Lithgow.

We judged this film to be a clever, timely, funny, very well acted and directed . It was done on a low budget with only 25 days of shooting. Obviously, the movie was made for the love of the story and not for love of money but it is well worth seeing. (2019)

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

The Reports on Sarah and Saleem

June 13th, 2019 — 1:12am

*****

The Reports On Sarah And Saleem

This film is an exciting drama with romance and intrigue. It is set in Israel. It is built around an affair between Palestinian man (Adeeb Safadi) and a Jewish Israeli woman (Sivane Kretchner) who happens to be married to a high up member of the Israeli security force. The movie is produced by two Palestinian filmmakers who are brothers, Muayad Alayan, the director and Rami Alayan, the screen writer.

The plot is layered and unpredictable. The acting is excellent. You soon forget that you are reading subtitle. We met the filmmakers via Skype in a post-screening discussion. They related how it was somewhat tricky to film this picture on location in Jerusalem and on the West Bank as they had to work in small groups to remain inconspicuous. The net result is a top notch film, well worth seeing (2019).

 

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

Rocketman

June 5th, 2019 — 4:23am

*****

Rocketman

The recent movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, is turning out to be one of the most popular films of last year and we expect that this film will achieve equal acclaim. Although the current movie is a different kind of musical, the director, Dexter Fletcher, also worked on last year’s great hit. In Rocketman, the story of Elton John is told in a fashion of great film musicals with a wonderful ensemble dancing and singing. Elton John is inhabited by Taron Egerton who does all of Elton John’s singing in great voice, which captures the energy and beauty of Rocketman himself.

The story of course is true to life as it traces the great singer’s life from his talent appearing in early childhood, his painful interaction with his parents and his emergence on the musical scene. The story pulls back the curtain and helps the viewer understand how John struggled with his sexuality and with alcohol and drugs, which nearly destroyed him. Particularly poignant is the meaningful relationship he had with his friend and lyricist, Bernie Taupin, magnificently played by Jaimie Bell. Through it all, the main character emerges and can say and gloriously sing, “I’m still standing.” The movie and story feels real and authentic. It is not surprising that the real Elton John is the film’s executive producer. This movie has to be added to your Do Not Miss List. (2019)

 

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

The Souvenir

June 5th, 2019 — 1:43am

**

The Souvenir-sp

This movie is about a young woman filmmaker (Honor Swinton Byrne) who establishes a relationship with a somewhat older man. She appears to fall in love with him and he turns out to be a liar, drug addict, and to be promiscuous in the age of HIV/AIDS.

The storyline keeps returning to the main character’s attempt to make her film. Perhaps the writer/director, Joanne Hogg, is drawing upon her own experiences or observations. The film certainly conveys a negative view of men especially in the treatment and demeaning of women.

It is interesting that the mother of the main character is actually played by the actress’s real-life mother, the esteemed actress, Tilda Swinton, but there are no real dramatic interactions between them. The main male lead is well done by Tom Burke.

Despite the beautiful photography (by David Raedeker) and excellent acting, we felt that the story line was drawn out and pretentious. We understood the characters and we were looking for a storyline with more depth, more surprises, and even more emotion in our two-hour visit with them, but alas, we didn’t find it. (2019).

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

The Tomorrow Man

May 15th, 2019 — 5:56am

***

The Tomorrow Man

Noble Jones is an experienced cinematographer who wrote the screenplay for this movie and which he was given the opportunity to direct. He also chose to take the dual job as cinematographer of it. The movie was beautifully filmed and it was visually close to a work of art.

The storyline was quite original and the two star roles could not have been better chosen. John Lithgow and Blythe Danner played two now single folks “on the wrong side of 60.” He is self-identified as a “planner” who also might be called a “survivalist” as he accumulates all sorts of things in preparation for some future cataclysmic event. She is a “hoarder”, as she saves nearly everything because she cannot part with anything. In a post-film discussion, Jones, the writer/director, pointed out that the only difference between these personalities is “neatness” which he has and she doesn’t possess.

It is nice to see senior folks falling for each other, but we felt that there was no real development of the back story of the characters. We only learned a little bit about their past lives later in the film and there are no great insights or interesting complications in the plot. We are sorry to say that we felt that the story dragged on with a mildly interesting ending, but we didn’t feel it was worth the ride. (2019)

 

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

The Mustang

April 17th, 2019 — 1:00am

**

The Mustang-rm

There is a program in a western U.S. maximum-security prison where inmates can learn how to train a wild mustang horse. If they succeed the horse can be sold at auction. Horses that can’t be tamed are often euthanized.

We meet Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) a somewhat taciturn violent prisoner who becomes involved in this program. There are interesting well-photographed scenes where we see the trials and tribulations of men working with their horses. There are short but well-done supporting roles by Connie Britton a prison psychologist and Bruce Dern who plays the old guy who tells the prisoners how to train their horses.

Unfortunately, we learn very little about the previous background of the main protagonist as we are just given fleeting glimpses of what happened to him and his relationship with his adult daughter (Gideon Adlon) who visits him periodically in the prison. We learn essentially nothing about the other prisoners who are participating in the program and must have stories to tell.

Seeing a wild horse show some recognition to the human trying to train him is a touching emotional experience but is not enough to carry this film and make it worthwhile. We feel that the storyline failed and therefore the movie failed, however, well directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. Even though there were some great scenes of horses running wild or even cozying up to their trainer, we just cannot recommend this movie. (2019)

Any comments are welcome in the section below 

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

William

April 10th, 2019 — 5:24pm

***

William-sp

Certainly, this story is one of the most creative and imaginative movie plots that we have seen in a long time. Two professors at a university who ultimately become a husband and wife (Maria Dizzia and Waleed Zuaiter) are interested in certain characteristics that they believe existed in the Neanderthals who inhabited the earth before the homo sapiens dominated them and led to their extinction. These scientists have found a method of extracting some of the DNA from artifacts still existing and injecting them into a biological specimen that can become a human embryo to be carried by the women professor. This leaves to the birth of William (Played by Will Brittain and Callum Airlie). However, William seems very bright but with some limitation in his ways of thinking. He ultimately develops into a high school student. William, however, does seem to be “different” which he himself acknowledges. This concept is one of the themes of the movie. We believe that the movie is trying to make a statement that the majority of people look in a negative way at those people who are different. There is also the the underlying question of how we might have been developed as a human race if the Neanderthals had dominated over our ancestors.

Tim Disney, whose grandfather gave us one type of a fantasy land has worked hard to put together a story with another type of an imagined premise. His direction was on the mark assisted by a very talented team with camera work by directors of photography Nelson and Graham Talbot and some very creative design work including some prostheses for William lead by Daren Luc Sasges . There is also appropriate, somewhat haunting music background by Craig Wedren which rounds out this very well-done production. However, we suspect that not everyone will be completely satisfied with this imaginative experience (2019).

 

Any comments are welcome below

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

Best of Enemies

April 8th, 2019 — 7:44pm

****

Best of Enemies-rm

This is ultimately a feel good movie, but it is hard to believe whether this is a true story that went down as it is depicted in the film. Truth is stranger than fiction and the movie is based on a  story, which was confirmed at the end of the film by showing us some clips of the real people.

The setting is Durham, North Carolina in the 1970s. The Ku Klux Klan is active and we meet the local Klan leader, C. P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell). We also meet a local black activist, Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson). Both of them are about to clash after a fire makes the black grade school uninhabitable. There is great conflict as the local city council has to decide what to do since the white folks do not seem to want to share their grade school with the black children who have lost their school.

We never heard the term “charrette” before. It refers to a meeting in which the various sides of a conflict get together to resolve the conflict and work out a solution. The local city council brings in a “charrette expert”, Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) who sets up a committee to discuss and vote a solution. The “coaches” of the committee were appointed to be the clan chief and the black activist. We get a glimpse of the back story of some of the characters especially the clan leader who has a hospitalized developmentally disabled child. We also meet a local white pharmacist who is the member of the committee and he himself has hired a black Vietnam war buddy to be his assistant manager in his pharmacy. We see that the local clan group likes to practice shooting guns and are prone to intimidate white people who are sympathetic to blacks.

You might say that the story line is somewhat predictable, but it still created a strong emotional impact on us, which was made even more powerful as we learned more about the real people upon whom these characters were based as we saw them speak during the credits.

Director, Robin Bissell certainly knew how to pull our emotional strings and Mr. Rockwell and Ms. Henson may get some award nods for their performances (2019).

 

Your comments are welcome in the Comment Section below

 

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

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