Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom

December 29th, 2020 — 3:13am

Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
****
This film is Based on the play of the same name by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson. The setting is the 1920s and a Black Jazz Group is preparing for a recording session. The film takes a deep dive into a couple of the characters. The main focus is on Levee, a black trumpet player who wants to play things his way and dreams of forming his own band rather than playing back-up to a great black singer. He is played by Chadwick Boseman in his final performance as he passed away shortly after the filming this movie. His character embodied the frustration of black men, especially talented ones who were held back by prejudices of the time. The other star of this film was Viola Davis who lived within Ma Rainey, a black superstar singer who is going to take everything her talent deserved although she clearly had to stand up and make her righteous demands. The storyline, great acting by the entire cast, directed by George C. Wolfe, provided a wonderful insight into the oppression and prejudices which emerged in this time period. The senior producer for this excellent film was Denzel Washington.

Our biggest disappointment with the film was that it ended when it did. We so much wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel that we hoped could be there. Instead, we were shown the endless frustration and pain that has been the plight of so many black people. (2020).

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

The Prom

December 26th, 2020 — 8:37am

The Prom ( Netflix)
*****

The cast of a Broadway Musical has hopes and expectations for a great review on opening night. However, much to their disappointment and despair, the reviews are just the opposite, and their show is doomed to close.The cast tries to find something that will put them back in the limelight and come upon a story about a High School in Indiana that is trying to deny a young lesbain couple the right to attend their prom together. They decide that this is their opporutity for relevance and they travel to Indiana where they meet the couple as well as the high school principal and other important players in this drama and participate in shaking up stronlgy held beliefs and biases.

Enough with the outline of the plot. What makes this a sensational movie is that it stars Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Ariana Grande, Michael Key Keegan, Kerry Washington, Tracey Ullman, and many other great performers. It is directed by Ryan Murphy. We did not previously quite appreciate the musical talents of this great cast, but if anything, they are over the top. As the plot develops in the small town with all the complications of this gay couple challenging the set ways of the Midwesterners, the Broadway interlopers break into song and dance. You may not have known that these great actors can really belt out musical pieces. The choreography was also fantastic. The storyline will push all your buttons. The result is a movie worthy of the best on the Broadway stage and full of lofty ideals and great fun!

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

Madam Rosa

December 26th, 2020 — 8:18am

Madame Rosa (Hulu)
***

We recently reviewed the 1975 Italian film “The Life Ahead”, based on a French novel. There actually was a 1977 French movie based on the same book titled Madame Rosa. It stars Simone Signoret and has a similar plot. This version provides a more detailed story line about the young man who is taken under the wing of the aging woman who was once a prostitute and now cares for children of prostitutes. It costars Samy Ben-Youb as Momo who appears to be maybe 13 or 14 (a couple of years older than the boy in the Italian version.) The film is hampered by the subtitles at times being more difficult to read and the technical quality of the film projection was poor. While we favor the Italian version, it is quite interesting to compare two films and observe the outstanding acting of another great actress. The French version did win the Foreign Film Award in the 1978 Oscars.

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

The Life Ahead

December 23rd, 2020 — 6:52am

The Life Ahead (Netflix)
*****

This is an Italian movie, based on a novel by Romain Gary, starring the great actress Sophia Loren who is now in her mid 80s. She does a great job as an aging woman who is a Holocaust survivor and takes care of young children of prostitutes. There are two other outstanding stars in this film. One is the young black boy who plays Momo and appears to be between 12 and 14 and is taken in by Ms. Loren’s character. He is played magnificently by Ibrahima Gueye. The other outstanding star is the director of the film, Eduardo Ponti. Mr. Ponti, who is Sophia Loren’s son, did an absolutely fantastic job directing Mr. Gueye as Momo. Speech (although in Italian) appeared to have perfect intonation and the young boy’s expressions and emotional reactions were unbelievable. We see Momo come into a completely new living environment for him, but he adapts very well. On one hand, he becomes a drug messenger to make money. He relates well to the other children and is tender and caring for Ms. Loren’s character. It is this amazing emotional performance created by Mr. Ponti and his young actor that makes this film unforgettable.

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

The Undoing

December 20th, 2020 — 12:56am

The Undoing – Six Episode TV Series on HBO
****
This six-episode TV series stars Hugh Grant, Nicole Kidman, and Donald Sutherland with an excellent supporting cast, especially a young boy played by Noah Jupe. This mini-series is based on the novel “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz. It is created by veteran TV producer David E. Kelley and is directed by Susanne Bier. This “whodunnit” will hold your attention and if you have any tendency to binge, you will take this one in just a few gulps. A doctor who is a caring pediatric oncologist finds himself accused of a brutal murder of a woman with whom he was having an affair. There are hints that the killer might possibly be his wife, a successful psychotherapist or perhaps the husband of the murdered woman. A couple of other suspects flash through your mind as this story unfolds. As you might expect, there are some great courtroom scenes. This is well worth the six hours of running time of this series.(2020)

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

The Queen’s Gambit

December 20th, 2020 — 12:38am

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
****
The Queen’s Gambit-seven-episode television series on Netflix

All previous reviews in this blog have been movies that originally appeared in the theater. However, during this pandemic, we have been watching a great deal of television and were particularly impressed by this seven-episode series based on a 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis.

Beth Harmon is an 8-year-old orphan who has lost her mother in an auto accident and is living in an orphanage. She encounters a janitor in the basement who is preoccupied studying a chessboard. She convinces him to teach her the game and she turns out to have a terrific aptitude for visualizing the chessboard and becoming an outstanding chess player. She is invited to compete in a local high school chess tournament, which she wins and goes on to the Kentucky State Chess Championship. This leads her to the US Championship and ultimately competing for the World Championship in Russia.

As Ms. Harmon matures, there are boys and young men who become part of her life as do drugs and alcohol. The story seamlessly comes together and captivates the audience.

As well done is the story with the excellent acting, it is the realism that is created in every aspect of the series that is a major part of its success. Whether it is the basement of the orphanage or the grandeur of the world chess tournament in Russia, the audience is completely drawn into the story. The street scenes especially in Europe as well as the local scenes in Kentucky are all magnificently portrayed and reproduced. The well done music background adds to the various moods of the characters and the storyline. As much as this is a story of one amazing person, it also suggests that “it takes a village” as we see how many people come together in support of the main character.

Kudos to Isla Johnston (young Beth), Anya Taylor Joy (Beth as a young woman), and the wonderful cast, which includes Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Harry Melling, Marielle Heller, Bill Camp, and many others. The series was written and directed by Scott Frank who created the series with Allan Scott. They were executive producers along with William Horberg. You may also be interested to learn that various chess experts including former world champion and grandmaster Garry Kasparov were consultants for this wonderful series.

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

Frida

December 15th, 2020 — 4:47am

Frida- ( Netflix)
****

This is moving romantic biography about the Mexican artist, Frida Kahlo. It begins with a bus accident which severely injured her legs, in which she made a good functional recovery. She was able to pursue her artistic inclinations as a painter and then met one of Mexico’s most famous and revered artist, Diego Rivera. Much of the story is based on their tumultuous romantic relationship, which included a phase where they took in a Russian revolutionist by the name of Leon Trotsky who had fled to Mexico after Stalin was out to destroy him and his ideas.

This film, which was released in 2002, is based on a 1983 book by Hayden Herrera. The movie was directed by Julie Taymor and stars Selma Hayek who was nominated for an Academy Award for best actress in a leading role in this film. It also features Alfred Molina as Diego Rivera as well as costars Ashley Judd, Edward Norton, and Antonio Banderas. The film blended the passion of Mexican music with a sexual romantic storyline based on real well-known people. It is a worthwhile cinematic experience.

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

What Happened Miss Simone?

November 29th, 2020 — 12:52am

We also reviewed this film a few years ago when it came out. We suggest that you also look at that review ( What Happened, Miss Simone? )which also has a link to one her outstanding performances.

****
What Happened, Miss Simone? (Netflix)

This 2015 documentary film was directed by Liz Garbus and is nominated for best documentary film at the 88th Academy Awards. Nina Simone is a little girl who appeared to be destined to become a child prodigy classical pianist. Her natural talents as a pianist as well as a singer diverted her into performing as a jazz artist. Being a young black woman, she used her musical talent to be an important voice in the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1960s. She would often be singing in a musical manner what the black leaders were saying in so many ways, especially as she came forth and performed her classic song, Mississippi Goddamn! Ms. Simone’s personal life was complicated as the man whom she married and became her manager also physically abused her.

The editing of this film was magnificent as there were clips of her performing and talking as well as segments of observation by people who knew her including her husband and most important, her daughter. These were all blended together with wonderful clips of performances by this great artist.

Sadly, it turns out that Ms. Simone appeared to have had an underlying depression, which dominated her later years. She died at the age of 70, but her music will never be forgotten.

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

Loving

November 29th, 2020 — 12:15am

***

Loving ( Prime Video, VUDU,

This 2016 film is a re-creation of a story behind a very important Supreme Court case, which struck down a Virginia Law forbidding inter-racial marriage and conception of children between an inter-racial couple and by doing so established nationwide precedents. The historical significance of this event makes this movie a riveting cinematic experience. Jeff Nicolas who wrote the screenplay was also the director. Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton were the co-stars as Mildred and Richard Loving. The movie was nominated for various awards.

We both felt that weakness of the film was the passiveness of Mr. Loving. We can easily understand the tremendous fears that anyone in his situation would have as his loving marriage was threatened as was the potential damage to his three children if the parents had to go to jail, but we missed the inner turmoil and conflict that he must have had, which we could see to some degree in his wife. While we understand the immense historical significance of this case, we also believe that there was room for a dramatic exposition of its importance in our society, which could have been explained by historical film clips about this important historical event. Thus while the film should be seen for its historical and social value, it had much to be desired from a cinematic point of view. (2020)

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

Love, Guaranteed

October 15th, 2020 — 5:30am

***
Love, Guaranteed ( Netflix)

This Rom Com is a total cliché and “too cute by half.” However, during these dark Coronavirus times, there is something rejuvenating about watching good things happening to good people. Susan (Rachael Leigh Cook) is a caring workaholic attorney who takes on cases to actually help people. Nick (Damon Wayans, Jr.) comes into her life as he wants her to take on a dating company that guarantees findings love. Since he has gone out on thousand dates through the service and not found his special someone, he wants to sue the company and is ready and able to pay whatever it takes. It is true that you know from the first moment exactly what will happen in the end, yet the characters are endearing, the confection sweet, and you end up wanting to go along for the ride (2020).

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

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