The Little Death

June 25th, 2015 — 5:56am

Screen Shot 2015-06-24 at 10.49.58 PM****

The Little Death

This is an extremely well-done film about a subject that is usually not addressed in today’s cinematic arts. The title is the English translation for Petite Mort which is French for orgasm. The director, screenwriter and one of the actors (known for his acting in House of Lies) is Josh Lawson. He has put together a brilliant story and production which looks at various sexual fetishes.

The subjects are mostly loving couples where one of the partners has a sexual proclivity previously unknown to his or her partner. Take for example Paul (Josh Lawson) and Maeve (Damon Herriman). They could not be more devoted to each other even though they never got around to     getting married. At the beginning of the film (spoiler alert of a very funny joke), Josh mishears Maeve after a recent sexual encounter, thinks that she is asking him to “rate” her. He complies with a very high score. Actually, she said she would like to be “raped” not “rated”. She goes on to try to deal with Josh’s consternation by explaining she has always had the fantasy to be raped by a man (who she would not know was actually Josh) but of course she would never want to have sex with anyone but Josh.

We allowed the spoiler to illustrate the subtle comedic elements that pervade this film as well as to introduce one of the sexual fetishes that is examined in this movie. The sophisticated among you may know that some variation of rape fantasies, perhaps being treated rough or even at the other extreme, are not uncommon.

So it goes, as we are introduced to other couples’ secret fetishes. One woman is very attracted to men who are very sad and cry, She is driven to try to bring about the state in her loving husband. You can find out the result of this as well as being introduced to the other couples and some of their secret fantasies as the film unfolds.

The film also brings up the not so unusual sexual situation for people who are deaf. We are introduced to this aspect of fetishes as a young deaf man Skypes a service which acts as an intermediary for deaf people who need to communicate with people of normal hearing. In this situation, the deaf young man attempts to use this service (which actually does exist) in order to call another service that provides phone sex. The intermediary is a young woman who must “sign”(communicate with her hands) to the young man and verbally convey his sexual wishes to the normal hearing phone sex lady on the other line. We will leave it to your imagination to picture the result of this situation, but like the rest of the film, it is also poignant, insightful and opens up an important part of life to the movie audience.

This film deserves the awards that it has already won at various film festivals and if it can get good distribution, should achieve wide play and perhaps establish a new movie genre. (2015)

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

14 Films To See Over the Summer

June 23rd, 2015 — 11:33pm

People often ask us for recommendations of films to see. Soon Oscar season will be upon us and we will want to see the newest films which will be contenders for the Academy Awards.

In the meantime, we have put together a list of 14 excellent movies which we have reviewed  between January and June and which we suggest that you consider viewing this summer. Most of them will be out by July and probably all can be found on Netflix.

The top four were 5 star movies in our opinion and others were excellent 4 star movies. You can click and see our reviews for each one. As always your comments at the end of each review are welcome.

 

Michael and Susan Blumenfield

 

Desert Dancer

Wild Tales

McFarland USA

Red Army

 

 

The Little Death

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

Girl on the Edge

The Road Within

Danny Colllins

Potiche

The Forger

5 to 7

Merchants of Doubt

Tangerines

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, 5 Stars, Uncategorized

Inside Out

June 23rd, 2015 — 9:46pm

***Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 2.54.18 PM

Inside Out

We were  tag alongs as our children took our nine and six-year-old grandchildren to see the 3D Pixar animated film released by Walt Disney Studios titled Inside Out. Things appeared to get off a good start as the coming attractions were shown of several different animated features most in 3D. They each had interesting appealing characters, music and special effects. They showed us all the highlights and the audience was obviously delighted.

Things then settled in for the feature film. One of us used to make up a story that he told our kids when they were very young how inside of us there were numerous teeny people who looked exactly like each of us and they would run all our bodily systems. Some run our digestive system, others run our hearing and seeing senses, or heart system. There was a central control headquarters that controlled our locomotion and there was a brain central where our thinking was run. We had lots of fun with these stories. Well, more or less this is the premise of this movie. The main character is a little girl who moves with her family from Minnesota, where they had a large house and played hockey in the winter, to San Francisco where she has to go to a new school and make new friends. We see the inside workings of this little girl’s mind through various “people” who control her emotions. In this case they don’t look exactly like her but they are representations of her in a joyful state, depression, anger, fear, disgust, etc. Each of these characters is very interesting, likeable, and a really great cartoon. The inner workings of her brain are depicted including long-term memories whether they be happy or sad.  The animated graphics filled the screen as we saw memories in the form of thousands of balls rolling down various chutes. There is a dream department that creates dreams which is all very creative.

While the on-screen images and voices might hold the attention of the children some of the time, we doubt that anyone under 12 would follow the actual plot and all its nuances. It is also hard for us to believe how anyone over 20 would care about 102 minutes of this story which actually seemed much longer to us. However, in this case it seems that we are clearly in the minority here as this movie is receiving outstanding reviews and appears to be one of the top rated Pixar films that has come out in a long time. (2015)

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

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

June 20th, 2015 — 10:57pm

****Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 11.34.03 AM

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl – rm

High school senior, Greg (Thomas Mann), is asked by his mom (Connie Britton) to be friendly with a girl, who is a classmate, and has just been diagnosed with leukemia. There are probably many ways that this opening gambit might be handled. The success of this film, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, with a screenplay and novel by Jesse Andrews which won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, is how the personality of this young man is developed for the audience. He is presented as a guy who didn’t get very involved with other students and their complicated relationships. He hangs mostly with his buddy, Earl (R.J. Cyler), and they made parodies of movies based on the titles of well-known films, which they don’t show to anyone. Despite some very interesting reassurances by the plot, the audience is drawn along into this heart-wrenching plot. This tender story provides a window into the minds of these teenagers, which include the girl with leukemia, Rachel (Olivia Cooke). This is a very thoughtful screenplay which not only touches the audiences’ emotions but through these young people it teaches us about life and death. The musical score by Brian Eno and Nico Muhly plays a very important role in achieving the effect of this excellent film. (2015)

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

Black or White

June 20th, 2015 — 10:46pm

*** Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 9.48.51 AM

Black or White – nf

Kevin Costner has his pick of many interesting roles roles. In this case, he chose to play Elliot Anderson, a successful lawyer, affectionately known as papa by his eight-year-old black granddaughter (Jillian Estell). This movie was directed by Mike Binder, who also wrote the screenplay. We learn that the young girl is the child of Anderson’s deceased daughter who was made pregnant when she was 17 years old by the father, Reggie Jeffers (Anthony Mackie) a 23-year-old crack addict. The mother, died in childbirth due to a congenital heart condition, a death which we are led to believe could have been avoided if Anderson and his wife had known that she was in labor but they had not been told. The white grandparents took on the responsibility of raising their granddaughter with occasional unwelcome visits by the father’s family led by the grandmother on that side, Rowena Jeffers (Octavia Spencer). The movie opens as Anderson has just learned that now his wife has died in an auto accident. He realizes he must inform his granddaughter of the tragedy and he will take on the responsibility of raising his granddaughter by himself, brushing her hair and driving her to school, etc. This drives him to drink. He also finds himself in a legal battle with the black side of the family that has other ideas about custody. This at times becomes a black versus white, alcoholism versus crack addict, grandfather versus father, white grandfather versus black grandmother. There are some great courtroom scenes and there is a wonderful performance by Jillian Estell who plays the eight-year-old child. She is an actress that we are going to hear from in the future. There are no big surprises in this film. There is drama to hold your attention, emotion to pull your chain, and a great performance by Costner (we said no big surprises). Many people are going to enjoy this movie. (2014)

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

Jimmy’s Hall

June 18th, 2015 — 6:22pm

***Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 9.34.06 AM

Jimmy’s Hall – sp

This is a touching film made by veteran director, Ken Loach who is mostly known for his acclaimed work in Europe, with a screenplay by Paul Laverty. It deals with an important part of Irish history with which most Americans are not very familar. It is based on a real character, Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) who was an idealistic Irish leader whose main claim to fame, was running Jimmy’s Hall in an obscure Irish  town, first in the 1920s and then 10 years later, in the 1930s. In this hall, (which was really a home or a cabin) men, women and children would gather to sing the popular music of the time and likewise do the popular dances, children would also sing and dance and learn history and some of the older boys would learn how to box. There would be lively discussions and a good time would be had by all. So what is wrong with this? Where is the conflict and where is the story? While we are not intimately familiar with Irish history and the film does not spell everything out to be crystal clear, we do know there was great turmoil in Ireland during this time period. In particular, the Catholic Church vividly depicted by Father Sheridan (Jim Norton) did not like the idea that people would dance and sing or even learn outside the auspices of the church. There was also a great economic and social upheaval notably between Ireland and Great Britain during this time as well as class warfare between the prosperous landowners and the workers. There was great dislike by many for socialism and of course for communism when that became an important issue. Jimmy was an idealist who spoke his mind which led to him being deported from Ireland without a trial or even any hearing. There is a sad love element as when Jimmy first returned, he is reunited with his old girlfriend, Oonagh (Simone Kirby) who is now happily married with children but still shares her simmering love for her old boyfriend. That is really the theme of the movie – so many unhappy people who are dealing with political and social issues which were much bigger than all of them. This is a well-done film but it never really breaks out. (2015)

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

The Young Kieslowskik

June 12th, 2015 — 10:36pm

***

Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 11.27.18 PMThe Young Kieslowski – sp

This is a very well done film by screenwriter and Director Kerem Sanga which examines a universal issue for young people. Brian (Ryan Malgarini) is a somewhat naïve, still a virgin college student. He meets Leslie (Haley Lu Richardson) at a party. She is drunk and a little flirtatious. They have consensual sex as she is sobering up and he is having a few drinks. Despite the fact that they used a condom, she becomes pregnant (apparently, that can happen 2% of the time)…with twins…and she decides that she wants to carry the pregnancy to term and keep the babies. We meet her father, Walter (James Le Gros) who is a tough as nails writer who has written bestsellers about war. We also meet Brian’s parents. His Dad is a warm, very supportive guy (Joshua Malina) who is very devoted to his wife (Melora Walters) who is dying of cancer although she still gets around quite well.

The story is seen through the eyes of Brian who is really lying most of the time when he says, he wants the babies and goes along with the plan of his girl friend We are also able to see that he is very conflicted because he wants to do the right thing. On the other hand, we never really understand why Leslie from the beginning wants to go forth with the pregnancy with all the implications that it has for her life. The insight into Brian is achieved by a voiceover of what he is thinking with some film scenes of his fantasies.The attraction of the film is the likeability of all the characters and the insight that we get into the struggle of both of these young people and their parents.

I suppose the Pro Life people might jump on this film as supporting their point of view although the story made it clear that Leslie was not driven by religious Christian views.

This is another one of these low budget independent films that has a great cast, superb writing, and directing which will hold your interest and attention, stimulate questions, and discussions as well as being an enjoyable experience. It should be in local theaters by July24th. (2015)

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

Entourage

June 8th, 2015 — 6:16am

***Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 9.45.43 PM

Entourage – rm

You probably need to have been a fan of the HBO TV series by the same name to appreciate this movie which was directed by Doug Ellin who also wrote the screen play of the movie and the TV series. It is the story of five very likeable guys who are living the stereotypical Hollywood life style. There is Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) handsome movie star who is very generous and caring to his buddies, Johnny Drama Chase (Kevin Dale) Vincent’s brother who is a wannabe actor but never quite achieves star quality despite sounding like Sylvester Stallone in  Rocky, Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly) good looking member of the group who is Vincent’s manager, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) tag along buddy of the group,  who tends to be the driver when they go wheeling around town and last but certainly not the least Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) who is Vincent’s agent and in this movie has become the head of the movie studio but is still the main supporter of the movie that will star Vincent with a supporting role for his brother. The plot has some complications as the son of a big time Texas backer of the above film, for variety of reasons doesn’t think that the movie should get the extra money that it needs to finish production.

As likeable as this entourage may be, they are living an exaggerated kind of Hollywood style where they are having sex with multiple beautiful girls whether or not they are their girlfriend and at least one pregnancy does occur. The movie is also fun as we get fleeting small roles and cameos by the likes of Warren Buffet, Pharrell Williams, Billy Joel, Piers Morgan, Mark Cuban, David Arquette, David Busey, Bob Saget, Andrew Dice Clay, Mike Tyson, Liam Neeson, Kelsey Grammer, Alyssa Miller, Martin Landau, Matt Lauer, George Takei, and Mark Wahlberg, who is also one of the producers of the film. There are all these beautiful people, many of them driving hot cars all in the midst of the lovely Los Angeles scenery. Yet, there is something very sweet and touching as the entourage is very loyal to and caring about to each other. This somehow neutralized the negativity that we might feel about their decadent lifestyle and makes us feel very warm and fuzzy towards this pack of buddies. But otherwise it is just another episode, a little longer than than their usual tv series. (2015)

 

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

Wild

May 31st, 2015 — 11:38pm

Wild -nfScreen Shot 2015-05-31 at 1.42.04 PM

***

We did not choose to go to see this thousand mile trek when it was in the movie theatres but we thought we would give it a try at home via Netflix. What we saw was an admirable performance by Reese Witherspoon, who occupies the screen for just about the entire 1 hour and 55 minutes as her character walks a thousand miles over the entire Pacific Crest Trail by herself from Mexico to Canada. She does this with having little experience in hiking. We see her have some brief encounters with people she meets along the way but she mainly has short flashbacks of her past. She is taking this trip to clear her head of her mother’s death and her own addiction and depression as well as her breakup with her husband because of her promiscuity. It is heart wrenching as she recalls her closeness to her mother as a child and her mother’s dying days of cancer. There is great beauty as we see the magnificent scenery through which she travels. The cinematography of this film is outstanding. It is even more amazing that this is a true story actually lived by a woman by the name of Cheryl Strayed, who wrote about her journey in a very successful book that is the source of this movie. There is no complicated plot with a resolution. “It is what it is.” You can decide if this three month journey sounds like it is worth nearly two hours of your time. (2015)

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

GIrl On the Edge

May 29th, 2015 — 6:04am

****Screen Shot 2015-05-28 at 10.51.41 PM

Girl on the Edge-sp

This is an independent film based on Director Jay Silverman’s real life experience with his daughter. It is very well done with an excellent screen play by Joey Curtis with the help of Jay Silverman and writer Joe Gamache. There is an outstanding acting job by Taylor Spreitler. Although over 18 years old, she did get into the shoes of the 14-year-old main character that she played. Likewise, Gil Bellows was superb as the father ,who once he woke up to what was happening to his daughter, became appropriately angry and frustrated. Amy Price-Francis did a very believable job as the stepmother. Kudos are also given to the late Elizabeth Pena for her sensitive performance as one of the staff people at the rehabilitation center who understood the role that horses could play in therapy for young people. Peter Coyote could not have been better as the understanding empathic director of the rehabilitation program to which the young girl was sent.

This movie really presents us with two aspects of what this 14-year-old girl had to face. The first is that we could see what could happen to a young girl who begins to experiment with alcohol, perhaps with drugs and sex, and gets slipped a date rape drug where she doesn’t remember what happened to her. That is until she sees naked pictures of herself on the Internet and the terrible consequences in her life after such widespread exposure.

The other part of the story is about what a treatment program away from her loving family might be like. In this case, it was with a sensitive caring staff as well as interaction with other girls in the treatment program. It showed how horticulture therapy (teaching the young people to appreciate the value of growing plants and food) could be therapeutic as well as learning to interact with horses. The scenes of the equine therapy were quite moving. Watching the horse that the girl connected with, as it mirrored her actions, was quite amazing.

In a post-film discussion with the movie director, Jay Silverman, most of the audience acknowledged that they had a close relative or friend who had experienced similar issues and problems to that of the main character of the film. While most people might not be able to afford the kind of rehabilitation treatment that this girl did have, the emotions engendered are universal. This movie has been winning various awards at film festivals throughout the country and internationally. We believe it is a worthwhile experience to see this movie in theaters as well as at home with family . It also should be shown in middle schools and high schools to young people and should be a stimulus for discussion with teachers, counselors, and parents. It probably won’t be available until later in the year but keep it on your list of movies to see. (2015)

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

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