Archive for 2017


The Post

December 29th, 2017 — 7:29pm

****

The Post

This movie tells a great classic American story with outstanding lead actors a strong supporting cast and of course it has Steven Spielberg as director. We approached this film with very high expectations. After its sluggish start, where we weren’t sure who were all the characters and what exactly was going on, we soon got with the flow and we were not disappointed. We trust the filmmakers, so we believe this is a true behind-the-scene story which those of us who can recall the time and the events, did not know all the details.

If you know anything about these historical events, a government worker by the name of Daniel Ellsworth (Matthew Rhys) leaked secret documents to the New York Times and Washington Post which reveal a government study showing that the United States could not expect to win the Vietnam War. This had tremendous implications since this would mean that subsequent United States military deaths and casualties would serve no purpose.

The drama centered around Katharine Graham (Meryl Streep) who inherited the ownership of the Washington Post and had to make the decision whether or not to publish these papers and Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) the heroic editor of The Post who advocated publishing the story despite possible risks to the newspaper and staff. There was an important back story as the viewer came to appreciate that Graham found herself in the unexpected role for a woman of her time and rose to the occasion. One of us was disappointed that part of the story, which involved Daniel Ellsworth’s psychiatrist, was not explored. Much of the drama in the movie involved phone calls often in the evening, which will have to be explained to any younger generation you might bring to the theater as they used “dial phones” “Princess phones” “payphones” which will be totally unknown to anyone under 40 who of course only has been familiar with cell phones (2017).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama

Battle of the Sexes

December 28th, 2017 — 4:12am

***

Battle of the Sexes-sp

Most of you may know about the story of the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1993. We have memories of the time and the famous event that took place. However this movie does capture more than a battle between a talented, skillful female tennis champion standing up to an older male, retired professional tennis player who was a male chauvinistic showman who thought he could laugh his way to making money and putting down women. This story and this well-done film shows us the beginning of the Women’s Movement and also the glimmer that eventually grew to a shining light where gay women could eventually be themselves. This goal still had a long way to go in the 1970s when this story took place.

Emma Stone was excellent as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell could not have been better as the clueless self-proclaimed, “Man” of the hour. Andrea Riseborough was very good as Billie Jean’s intimate confidant and hair dresser. The excellent supporting casts included Nathalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Elizabeth Shue, Alan Cumming and Eric Olsen. The movie was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris with the screen play by Simon Beaufoy. The dramatic tennis matches which were shown in the film may have used actual archived footage, which certainly added to the excitement of the movie. This story deserved to be told and we are sure that it will have an important place in cinematic history about the role of women in sports and in American culture as well as memorializing an exciting key moment in time. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Sport, Uncategorized

Film Stars Don’t DIe in Liverpool

December 20th, 2017 — 4:27am

**

Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

This film is an example of really great acting by the two leads who both captured the personality of their interesting characters, but in our opinion the movie experience fell flat and did not hold our interest.

The movie is based on a true story about a well-known movie actress, Gloria Grahame, who won an Oscar for best supporting actress in 1947. She had four marriages and four children from three of her husbands. She apparently was very “young at heart” as her husbands’ tended to be on the younger side and one of them was a stepson of an ex-husband.

This movie was about Grahame’s last relationship, which was with a young actor, Peter Turner, who wrote the book upon which the screenplay by Matt Greenhalgh was based. Turner was played by Jamie Bell and Gloria Grahame was played by Annette Bening. The story encompasses the time of their relationship with flashbacks to when they met and we follow her in failing health, which we are introduced to as the film opens. (You need not be concerned, as the heroine does not die in Liverpool.) Director Paul McGuigan used period music to establish various moods of the film. Bening showed the appeal, which made us understand why the younger man was drawn to her. A supporting cast of Julie Walters, Kenneth Cranham, Stephen Graham, Frances Barber, and even a brief stint by Vanessa Redgrave where as they were excellent as they should be.

The premise of the film held interesting promise. It provided some understanding of the feelings and chemistry of both characters. But in the end, we found the movie lacking and we were not sufficiently touched or moved to urge our readers to put it on your list of films to see. (2017)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

The Shape of Water

December 19th, 2017 — 7:35am

****

The Shape of Water

This is an unusual conglomeration of a movie set in the 60s, combining a science fiction and fantasy genre with a classical cinematic musical, mixed with a cold war spy thriller. Much of the story takes place in some kind of a government facility where Eliza (Sally Hawkins) a mute cleaning woman works. She happens in on a government research project where a gentle monster of an amphibian man (Doug Jones – not the politician) is being housed. They communicate with silent gestures as two kindred souls. Meanwhile in the background there is a tough government official (Michael Shannon) who seems to be against everyone who is not patriotic. There is the spy but really a good person (Michael Stuhlbarg), a sympathetic fellow cleaning lady (Octavia Spencer) and a lonely neighbor artist (David Hewlett). We get the feeling that perhaps this is a satire, which is confronting a political climate where people who are different are marginalized. (Sound Familiar?)

This unusual story is written by Guillermo del Toro, who directed the film and also co-wrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor. Sally Hawkins did a knockout job despite playing a mute woman (she did appear to sign quite proficiently and actually had a chance to do a spot of singing and dancing quite beautifully in a fantasy scene). The story will pull you in and touch your emotions with its content and with the period music. It goes to show you that despite the unlimited choice of entertainment on television, movies are still better than ever. (2017)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Wonder

December 6th, 2017 — 7:18am

****

Wonder-rm

 

It might not be too difficult to remember your feelings or your children’s anxiety at the time of the first day of school. In this case it is magnified exponentially as we see the situation through the eyes of a young boy who has facial deformities since birth. In addition he has been home schooled by his mother (Julia Roberts) until he is now starting fifth grade. This movie is based on a bestselling novel by R.J. Palacio, which has been extremely popular with both parents and children.( See Book review by Leo Blumenfield  Age 10 in 2014) In fact after Ms. Roberts read this story to her children and heard that the movie was being made, she wanted to play the mother.

The storyline follows the experience of this young boy Augie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), as he encounters his new classmates. We also appreciate the complicated reactions of other kids both boys and girls in this New York City Prep School. In addition, we gain insight into his oldest sister (Isabella Vidovic), who has been growing up with a brother she loves, but yet whose circumstances have indelibly shaped her relationship with her parents (Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson). We see how not only does Augie and his family have to deal with the challenges of the boy’s life circumstances but so do his teachers, the school principal (Mandy Potankin), classmates and some of their parents.

Accolades have to be given to Jacob Tremblay, the star of this movie who was ten years old when the film was made. In his young career he has been in several well-received movies including The Room for which he received critical acclaim. Director Stephen Chbowsky also deserves recognition not only because that should be the case whenever a young child actor stands out but also because he co-wrote the screenplay and directed a very complicated emotional story.

We both felt  that we were not only experiencing a very well done movie that was examining children and adults’ complex understanding in responses to one of the sad and unusual variations of the human condition but we also were deeply and visceral touched and brought to tears by how the story was played out on the screen. (2017)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

Just Getting Started

November 28th, 2017 — 11:54pm

**

Just Getting Started-sp

Director/Screenwriter, Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, Tin Cup, White Men Can’t Jump, Cobb, Blaze) in a post-screening discussion stated that he made this film for the over 50 crowd. He probably means even 10 years older but didn’t want to limit his audience. Even so, while we fit that demographic we couldn’t relate very well to the film. It is supposed to be a feel-good Christmas movie although Christmas is not the main theme.

It would seem that you are supposed to come away from the movie feeling that one should always be having a good time now and in the future. Duke, played by Morgan Freeman, who always is great in any role that he takes on, is the director of a wealthy retirement community in Palm Springs, California. He has lots of women who are certainly good for sex and you get the feeling that a good time is had by all. There is a new “sheriff” in town by the name of Leo, played by Tommy Lee Jones and we’re not quite sure exactly why he is in town but he is trouble for Duke. So is Suzie (Rene Russo) who is sent by the hotel owner with a job to do but of course gets caught up with the cast of characters.

There is a plot with some twists and turns and even a surprise or two but frankly we didn’t care much although it was mildly pleasant to watch. The supporting casts included familiar faces such as Glenne Headly(sadly in her last performance), Joe Pantoliano, Elizabeth Ashley, Sheryl Lee Ralph and singer Johnny Mathis, who is now in his 80s and plays himself and sings almost as well as ever.

With so many great movies out there today we can’t recommend this one, even for a holiday interlude. (2017

Comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Uncategorized

Loving Vincent

November 21st, 2017 — 7:43pm

*****

Loving Vincent-sp

This animated film is beautiful and original with a special approach that we have never before seen on the screen. The husband and wife team of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, director and screenwriters as well as co-producers have focused on the life (also particularly the death) and the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. They filmed their intriguing story using an excellent cast starring Douglas Booth, Robert Gulaczyk, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan and a very good supporting cast who acted out the entire story. Yet, none of the actual film of the actors were shown. Instead, a team of over 100 oil painting artists were recruited to paint over the film with the beautiful colors and the style of Van Gogh. That is 12 paintings for each second and thus for the 94 minute film they were well over 60,000 paintings made by this team of talented artists. Then using animation techniques, the movie was put together. The result is that we are watching a very interesting story about Van Gogh in an animated movie at the same time that we are seeing the familiar images of Van Gogh’s paintings move before us in a coherent story presented to us in living color. They were even some sequences done in black and white to show flashbacks in Van Gogh’s life.

While the artistic effect of this movie is mind blowing, the actual story is also quite fascinating. It is of course based on historical facts which included a possibility that the well-known reported suicide of Vincent Van Gogh at the age of 36 was actually a murder.

We have here an extremely well done story presented in a unique cinematic fashion which matches the content of the story. The result is not only ground-breaking but a beautiful experience which we highly recommend. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

November 20th, 2017 — 7:26am

****

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri – rm

“Hate begets hate” is one line in this film which summarized this very well-acted, quite intense drama. The production is the creative work of Martin McDonagh who wrote the screenplay and was a very skillful director.

Frances McDormand stars as a mother who challenges a local police chief to solve the murder of her daughter who she blatantly states was raped while she was dying. She does this by putting up the above-mentioned provocative three billboards just on the outside of town. This is the second film that we have seen in the past couple of weeks which featured Woody Harrelson. (see review of LBJ).    He does an excellent portrayal as the local police chief. Two other familiar faces who appear are veteran Sam Rockwell, and relatively new comer but excellent actor Lucas Hedges.

We believe that a high quality of a movie can be judged when there is development with growth and change of the various characters which is what we see in the people we meet in this small town. The storyline is different and not predictable. The acting is superb. This movie definitely rates your attention. (2017)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized

Call Me By Your Name

November 15th, 2017 — 7:53am

***

Call Me By Your Name- sp

This is a beautiful gay coming-of-age romantic film with a screenplay by James Ivory, who has dealt with this subject in the past as a filmmaker. The story is based on a novel by Andre Aciman and brought to the screen by a very skilled Italian director, Luca Guadagnino.

The movie is set in the magnificent countryside of Northern Italy. Elio (Timothée Chalamet) a 17-year-old young man living with his parents in their summer home meets Oliver (Armie Hammer) a young man in his late 20s who is a colleague of his professor father who is studying some sunken archeological discovery of ancient statues of young men that is being raised from the coastal waters. Also being raised is Elio’s attraction to Oliver and vice versa which the viewer experiences through both their eyes. This awakening of physical chemistry and love develops into somewhat overly drawn out two hours and eleven minutes of this film which incorporates the absolutely beautiful countryside with magnificent lush hills, valleys, coves, and waterfalls which sets the tone for the overwhelming feelings that both of these young man were feeling for each other.

There is one particular scene which may very well be remembered as a classic, in which Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) shares his understanding and insight into his son’s feelings in a very tender and moving moment

This production was a very well-done in all aspects including some original songs and music by Sufjan Stevens. However, the filmmaker became too enamored of the magnificent artistic depictions of the luscious countryside and created a film that was overly long. Nevertheless, this film well deserves to become an important part of the genre of movies about the gay romantic experience. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

November 8th, 2017 — 1:52am

***

Roman J. Israel, Esq. – sp

Denzel Washington has embraced a character from the pen (or should we say the keyboard) of screenwriter/director Dan Gilroy and turned in an outstanding, unforgettable performance. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a somewhat socially isolated lawyer, perhaps a little on the autism spectrum side, who not only is extremely bright (can give you obscure citations from the Code of Justice) but is idealistically principled to take on cases of the poor and disadvantaged. He also has a dream and an inspiration that through case law he will ultimately make the criminal justice system fair and equal for all people. His actions and spirit inspire George Pierce (Colin Farrell), head attorney of a big firm previously only interested in making more money and Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo) an idealistic young lawyer who is trying to find herself. Perhaps the two hours and two minutes makes the film somewhat drawn out. However, the takeaway message is that Roman J. Israel, Esq. is shown to be a human being with frailties like everyone else. We see that his spirit and idealism will live on not only in this story but in the viewer’s minds and hearts. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Uncategorized

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