Archive for 2018


The Wife

September 16th, 2018 — 9:19pm

***

The Wife-rm

This is an intriguing story, not quite believable, with great acting and is a well done movie directed by Bjorn Runge with a screenplay by Jane Anderson based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer.

It is hard to go wrong with Glenn Close who plays a devoted wife and clandestine writer for her husband (Jonathan Pryce) who has just been awarded a Nobel Prize for literature. The big secret is that the wife. who is the author’s second wife and originally was his student, in reality behind closed doors, essentially created his great literary works. The story and movie reflect how, perhaps up until recently, it was very difficult for even a talented woman writer to achieve recognition and certainly great literary acclaim, even if she deserved it.

Max Irons plays the son, who is also a writer, but is not very well supported by his dad and Christian Slater plays a probing potential biographer of the new Nobel Prize winner. The film is thought provoking, apparently not based on any real people, but reflects real issues of the time. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Crazy Rich Asians

September 14th, 2018 — 11:00pm

***

Crazy Rich Asians-rm

This is a fast moving romantic comedy with an all-Asian cast which satires “crazy rich Asians”.

A young man decides to take his girlfriend with him from United States to go to a friend’s wedding in Singapore and also visit with his family. Although the young woman is an Economics professor in the United States, she did not have any idea of the tremendous wealth belonging to his family. The magnificent skyline of the city as well as that of Shanghai, beautiful nearby islands, gigantic yachts, spacious mansions, parties with attractive well-dressed people, music, dancing, unlimited food and drink are the background and the foreground of this film.

The young man’s mother as well as his grandmother questioned the intentions of the new girlfriend who they feel is pulling him to stay in the United States and not follow his destiny by taking over the family business in his homeland.

The storyline plays with the viewer. Just as you think the climactic dilemma is being solved one way, it changes and it’s now being worked out another way and then still another. It is a tumultuous story, all about love and a group of very wealthy “crazy rich Asians.” (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

The Children Act

August 29th, 2018 — 4:26am

****

The Children Act-sp

This is one of those films in which everything seems so well done from the story line, the mood background music and the outstanding acting. It is based on a novel by Ian McEwan, who also wrote the screenplay, with direction by veteran director Richard Eyre.

The setting is in London and the main character Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is a judge in the British Judicial System. When she is working, she wears the traditional judicial garb and she is referred to as “My Lady.” She is very dedicated to her work and appears to frequently handle sensitive ethical issues. Her childless marriage to her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci) is not going well as he tells her that he is planning an affair.

The film then focuses on one very delicate legal case that Judge Maye must opine upon which deals with a 17-year-old boy with leukemia who needs a blood transfusion to save his life. He and his parents are devoted Jehovah’s Witnesses where blood transfusions are forbidden and the patient and the parents are refusing that he should have one. “My Lady”, the Honorable Judge becomes ultra involved with his case as she feels she must visit him in the hospital and try to understand him.

The success of the film is not only the interesting storyline, but it is the very sensitive and well done performance by Thompson who emanates her pain and turmoil as she changes the life of the boy (who is played by newcomer Fionn Whitehead). There may not be any ultimate satisfaction at the end but you come away feeling you have been through the painful experience that the characters on the screen have been going through, and the questions raised will stay with you long after the film ends. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Far From The Tree

August 25th, 2018 — 12:28am

***

Far From The Tree-nf

What happens when a parent realizes that their child is quite “different”? How do they feel, and of course how does the developing child experience life when he or she realizes there is a major difference in themselves and most of the people in the world? Andrew Solomon, the author of a well-received book with the same title of this movie, opens this documentary film by reflecting on his struggle and that of his parents as he became aware that he was gay.

The focus of filmmaker Rachel Dretzin was to also examine the real life examples of families and children with Dwarfism, Autism or Down Syndrome, as well as a situation of a seemingly normal teenager who for no apparent reason murders an eight-year-old child and is sentenced to life in prison.

Needless to say, each of these situations present a different set of circumstances in regard to the physical attributes, speech, intellectual ability and other life circumstances. We also can’t ever generalize how everyone will respond in each category. But what we were shown in these real life examples, was that all the children were ultimately shown unconditional love and acceptance by their families.

One very interesting situation was that of a young couple, both of whom had Dwarfism and were happily married. The wife becomes pregnant. At this point, they were not sure if they wanted the child to be normal or to be a small person like them.

The filmmaker did a very good job showing the viewers the dilemma and the feelings of all the parents and children. The analogy between the developmental disability and being gay on one hand seem to be a stretch, but yet, when seen through the eyes of the parents, gave us some worthwhile insight. On the other hand, each category depicted could have been examined in much more depth, perhaps in a separate documentary film for each one. We also felt we needed more insight into why and how the murderer came to do his deed. However, we saw the unconditional and continued love of the parents for their son as they had periodic phone calls with him as he served his life sentence. In fact, the strength and endurance of parental-child love in each family depicted was the real theme of this movie. (2017)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Bel Canto

August 21st, 2018 — 8:22pm

*****

Bel Canto-sp

Veteran director and co-writer Paul Weitz (recently known for the award winning TV series Mozart in the Jungle) took the well-received novel by Ann Patchett which we read four years ago (see bookrap.net) and brought together an international cast to make this magnificent film. The story is based on an actual hostage situation which occurred in Peru in the 1990s. It centers around a planned dinner party featuring a performance by a well-known opera star (played by Julianne Moore with the voice over by Renee Fleming).

The setting is a beautiful private residence where the president of a South American country was supposed to be one of the guests. Also present was a Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe) and other international guests. The private party was invaded by some rebels, who had planned to take the president of the country hostage, in order to attempt to free some jailed political prisoners. Because the president was not there and had sent the vice-president in his place, the rebels took all of the guests hostage. The dinner party guests are now hostages being guarded by their captors. What then develops is a beautiful depiction of what psychiatrists call, the “Stockholm Syndrome” where hostages develop meaningful relationships with their captors and in this case vice versa. The situation goes on for several weeks as negotiations take place. The mood is set by the beautiful voice and music of the opera singer. The very human stories and interactions of the cast of characters is enchanting as attention builds towards the climax.

While some of the points of emphasis may be slightly different than was depicted in the book, Mr. Weitz is true to the theme and is able to match the magnificent setting and the beautiful singing to the interesting and rich characters with whom he worked. The excellent international cast includes Sebastian Koch, Christopher Lambert, Ryo Kase, Tenoch Huerta, Noe Hernandez, Maria Coroy, Elsa Zylberstein and Olek Krupa. The entire film is skillfully woven together and should not be missed. (2018)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

The Bookshop

August 15th, 2018 — 12:36am

***

The Bookshop-sp

This is a beautifully made film in which the idyllic setting is a small seaside town in England which looks even of an earlier time than the 1950s when it takes place. A widow who loves books buys an old warehouse and makes it into a bookstore. But there is resistance from particular people in the town who want the building to be an art center. The underlying theme is the admirable qualities of the woman who is dedicated and loves books and how she impacts an older man and a younger child. The movie is a little slow which perhaps allows the viewer to soak in the atmosphere and the depth of the characters.

Isabel Coixet is the director/writer and the story is based on a book by Penelope Fitzgerald, although the ending was unique to the film. The movie features a very sensitive performance by Emily Mortimer with excellent supporting roles by Patricia Clarkson, Bill Nighy and Honor Kneafsey.

It remains to be seen if the Millennials will appreciate why the filmmaker chose to linger on the love of books and the setting where they are actually displayed to see and to touch. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The BlackKKlansman

August 13th, 2018 — 1:58am

****

The BlackkKlansman-rm

Director Spike Lee takes on a very interesting and true story of a Colorado Springs black police officer who successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan Chapter and become the president of it.

He also has an encounter with David Duke. The movie stars John David Washington (an accomplished actor who is also Denzel Washington’s son) as the black police officer. Adam Driver plays his alter ego who makes the in-person appearances at the clan meetings while Washington’s character sets things up by phone and also establishes a relationship with the president of the local College Black Students Organization (Laura Harrier).

While these actual events took place in the 1970’s, Spike Lee concludes the film by making a connection to modern times as he shows clips of recent white supremacist action in Charlottesville and other places and includes a video clip of President Trump. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized

Eighth Grade

August 12th, 2018 — 7:24pm

***

Eighth Grade-rm

You can make an argument that the eighth grade may be the most difficult transitional period for a young girl. This film certainly makes this case. Certainly, the storyline shows that the main character is struggling with her own identity, friendships with others and her relationships with her single parent dad. (Although the other girls in her class seemed happier?) We hardly know anything about the details of her family. She has no siblings and only her dad is in the picture. It is also no surprise that the girl and most of her contemporaries are on their cell phone all the time. Social media also plays an important role as this young eighth grader is making a series of online videos which tells everyone how to “find and express themselves” which of course was her own main struggle.

It is a special accomplishment when a director can lead a young eighth grader or thereabouts to star in a major film. Director/writer, Bo Burnham and his actress, Elsie Fisher deserves credit and recognition for their accomplishment. We suspect that many young people will be able to identify with the young eighth grader and this film will be a big hit. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

The Captain

August 8th, 2018 — 7:10am

***

The Captain-sp

This film by veteran writer director, Robert Schwentke, which features a young German actor Max Hubacher, is a very powerful movie which shows the violence and cruelty of the German people during World War II through the depiction and actions of the German soldiers during the last two months of the war. However, it is somewhat unique in that the violence in this case is not directed towards the Jews or the allied enemy soldiers. Rather it is shown by the mass murder of German soldiers who may have been deserting at the end of the war and trying to survive by stealing food.

The story line is based on a true incident where a young German soldier isolated from his unit and being chased by other German soldiers as a deserter and a thief came upon the uniform of a German Captain and then took on the role of this officer. The story unfolds from there as this “Captain” becomes  cruel, sadistic and as murderous as anyone in the German army.

The film was shot in black and white, which according to the director, was to minimize the blood and gore of which there was plenty. The violence and murder shown in the film was strong enough to lead to a steady flow to the exit during this film from our preview audience. In the end, we are left with a very well done, all be it, uncomfortable movie which is quite provocative and no doubt will be unforgettable.

The film was in German with subtitles. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, War

Love, Cecil

July 18th, 2018 — 5:49pm

***

Love, Cecil-sp

Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) is the subject of this documentary film by Lisa Immordini Vreeland. Beaton was a legendary fashion photographer, renowned portrait photographer as well as a war photographer. On top of that, he was an Oscar-winning stage and costume designer for film and theater. He was a painter and a diarist who wrote several books about his own life. He was apparently gay or at least bisexual and he also called Greta Garbo one of the true loves of his life. Filmmaker, Ms. Vreeland was clearly all in with her attention to detail as she certainly creatively brought Beaton’s artistry to the screen with a full array of pictures, photographs and a narrative (much of it taken directly from Beaton’s diaries). Whether it was photographing the Queen of England or legendary movie stars, this man seemed to always have the full confidence of his subjects. One cannot wonder if he felt unfulfilled himself as he always seemed to be searching for some elusive satisfaction. Certainly, this is a very well done, somewhat unusual, documentary film that many people will enjoy and appreciate the many accomplishments of this artist made to the creative world of the 20th Century (2018).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

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