Archive for 2018


Three Identical Strangers

July 15th, 2018 — 6:58pm

***

Three Identical Strangers

This is the true story of three identical triplets (Eddie Gallland, David Gellman, Robert Shafran ) who were separated at birth and raised by different families. How they discovered each other and how well they related is a fascinating story which also has a tragic component. This documentary film also reveals how their early lives were part of a secret experiment run by a prominent child psychiatrist with the cooperation of  The Louise Wise Adoption Agency, one of the leading adoption agencies in the country. Just knowing any of the above information would have drawn us to want to learn more about the story and view this movie.

In our opinion this movie raised several stimulating questions, which were not answered or only superficially addressed. These were as follows. 1. What was the exact nature of Dr. Peter Neubauer’s experiment and was it within the ethical guidelines of the time? 2. If this experiment were to determine which is more important in a person’s development, nature or nurture, what was a reasonable conclusion from what was learned about these three triplets? 3. What was the nature of each of these young men’s psychiatric issues as they were all were mentioned to have had psychological treatments in the past. 4. Is it true that if they were not separated at birth, it would have been difficult to adopt the three triplets by one family together? We believe that a very good magazine article with good photographs probably would have dealt with this topic perhaps even in more depth than did the movie. However, director Tim Wardle deserves credit for delving into this story and capturing on film many of the people including family members and other’s firsthand accounts, as well as using film and video archives, in order to tell this fascinating story.

In the past MB has written about this overall subject in his psychiatry blog particularly in an article titled “Discussion of the Phenomena of Unknown Family Members.” It turned out to be the most widely read of the many articles on the blog and received over 3,000 hits and over 20 people made comments on the blog about it. There was another article that he wrote titled “The Search for a Personal Biological Identity” which also dealt with this subject. It is also of note that various aspects of this topic were covered in at least seven films which we have reviewed on our movie blog. They were, Philomena, The Kids are All Right, People Like Us, Bad words, Admission, Mother and Chil” and Stories We Tell. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

July 15th, 2018 — 6:01pm

****

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

The United States is in the midst of a horrendous addiction crisis. This movie gets to the heart of one man’s battle with alcoholism and the devastating effect that his illness had upon him. In a post-film discussion with Jack Gibson, one of the writers who wrote the book upon which this film was based, we learned that this movie has been 20 years in the making. It is based on a true story of the main character, John Callahan, who was originally going to be played by the late Robin Williams. As great a job as Williams might have done with this role, Joaquin Phoenix turned in a performance that we strongly believe deserves Oscar consideration. Thanks to his ability to inhabit his character, and what could also be an award-winning accomplishment by the director, Gus Van Sant, John Callahan vividly comes to the screen in various phases of his addiction, including being permanently paralyzed in an electric wheelchair with limited movement of his arms due to an alcohol-related accident. We gained some insight into his childhood experiences which undoubtedly led him to his addiction. We painfully shared his struggle in the AA program where he meets several people, including a young man who has inherited wealth but ends up as an addict, ultimately becoming Callahan’s AA sponsor. This role was very well played by Jonah Hill. There are also other excellent performances by Rooney Mara and Jack Black.

There are so many facets to Mr. Callahan’s battle with his disease which include his finding a way to make love, becoming a successful cartoonist, searching for his birth mother, going through the 12 steps of AA, including making amends, that we are torn between concluding that the film was too long (almost two hours) and yet at times, too superficial and that there were some very important area of his life that we wanted to see in more depth.

We believe that this film is destined for success, not only because of the bold depiction of one man’s struggle with alcoholism, but also because it should be seen and we feel will be viewed by so many people who are impacted by addiction. (2018)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama

Hearts Beat Loud

June 26th, 2018 — 10:54pm

****

Hearts Beat Loud

There is something very special about a relationship between a father (Nick Offerman) and daughter (Kiersey Clemons) especially when it is a single dad who is raising his kid after the mother died at an early age. We meet such a duo just as the girl is getting ready to go away to college. There is another element which makes this relationship even more special and that is that the father and daughter make music together. They write, play, sing and edit their own songs. It is even more poignant since the deceased mom and dad were once a music duo themselves hoping to make it big. If you have ever seen the passion and joy that budding musicians have for their band even when they are just playing and it is “not a band”, you will appreciate and be moved by this film Director Brett Haley handled his cast quite well and especially brought out the musical talents of teenager Kiersey Clemons. The supporting cast was topnotch and included Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane, and Blythe Danner. This musical trip should appeal to teenagers as well as those of us who can remember how we felt about the music that moved us when we were young. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Uncategorized

Detroit

June 26th, 2018 — 10:47pm

****

Detroit

One of our all time favorite films is The Hurt Locker, which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow for which she became the first woman director to win an Oscar. She certainly has not lost her touch. This film grabs the viewer and transports us into Detroit in 1967. Racial tensions were high and the National Guard and state police were called into the city as the riots exploded. There was an incident at a small hotel in the inner city where a several black men and two white women were held at gun point by four or five white Detroit Police Officers who believed that there was a sniper who shot at the policemen from the hotel. The prejudice and hate from the white police and how it was transformed into violence was quite dramatic and palpable. It did seem strange that there were no ranking police officers (Sergeants, Lieutenant or Captain), who were called to the scene. But this aspect he did not diminish the realistic and almost documentary feeling, which this movie conveyed. This slice of American history is very well presented with the raw emotion, which was part of it. While we hope that we have come a long way from this event, which occurred a half century ago, we obviously still are not free from prejudice that shows up in various manifestations in our society today. This is why such a film deserves our attention and should hold an important place in our memory.

This film also played homage to the Detroit Motown sound in the storyline as well as in the soundtrack. The actors were outstanding as was the setting, special effects, and editing which included film footage from Detroit in 1967. (2017)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

Summer 1993

May 17th, 2018 — 4:53pm

***

Summer 1993

This is a personal story of the writer/director Carla Simon. The movie tells a story of when she was a little girl and her parents died of AIDS at the height of the HIV epidemic which in Spain was in 1993 (a little later than in the United States). She was sent to live with her uncle, aunt, and a younger cousin and had to deal with her inner turmoil at this very tender age. It was quite an accomplishment that the director/writer was able to find a seven-year-old girl, Laia Artigas to play her at this young age as well as a four-year-old, Paula Robles to play her younger cousin Anna. These child actors joined Bruna Cusi, David Verdaguer and Fermi Reixach, who play some of the other members of her family. The story line shows the everyday interactions of these two younger girls mostly with each other but also with Frida’s aunt, uncle and also with the grandparents who come to visit.

It is rare that the personal emotions of a young child are captured so well on the screen. Perhaps it is even more of a feat that the movie was made in Spain, in Catalan with English subtitles. As much as we admired the unusual cinematic accomplishments of bringing the inner feelings of young girls to the screen, we felt that the 96-minute running time to watch them play and cry may not have been worth the time spent watching it. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

RBG

May 16th, 2018 — 3:48am

*****

RBG

When you view an outstanding documentary film such as this one, you might wonder whether it was excellent because of the subject or was it mostly due to the work of the filmmakers. In this case it was clearly both. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a remarkable woman who came from Brooklyn with the support of family and a brilliant mind. She attended Cornell University a few years before one of us was there(SB) and was one of the increasing number of her generation who was not just going to accept the traditional role of women. She was one of the few women to be accepted to Harvard Law School. She married a great guy who encouraged her career early on and throughout their lives. They were able to jointly raise their children in a very successful marriage. She even transferred from Harvard to Columbia Law School so her husband could accept the job at a New York firm. She soon found her issue which was close to her heart and which deeply resonated within her. That was the equal rights for everyone, including women. She ultimately  became the second woman appointed to the Supreme Court. 

The filmmakers, Julie Cohen and Betsy West, didn’t just tell us about her brilliance but made it come to life with film footage, of her and others discussing court decisions in addition to painting a wonderful picture of her personal life. The movie was interspersed with familiar faces such as Gloria Steinem and Nina Totenberg who were able to reflect and put her ongoing life in perspective. The viewer could experience her life and the development of her thinking almost as if we were living with her. Great job. Great film. Great person. (2018)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Documentary

Book Club

May 8th, 2018 — 7:56pm

****

Book Club

It is a rare phenomena that we will see four outstanding veteran actresses star in a film with each of them having roles portraying an in-depth character who has an arc of development and change.

Screen writer and first time director Bill Holderman teamed up with Erin Simms to co-write and co-produce this movie. They won over Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen to come together in this movie about relationships, love and sex in women of a certain age. The well-known male actors who joined this romantic film were Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Richard Dreyfuss, Ed Begley Jr. and Wallace Shawn. In case you are curious about the name of the book the “Book Club” was reading, it was “Fifty Shades of Grey” although the film was not R rated.

We predict that in addition to being a big hit with the older demographics, word will get around that this film will have great appeal to romantics of all generations and it will be a great success. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

The Seagull

May 4th, 2018 — 6:07am

*****

The Seagull

This classic Chekhov story became fascinating movie with an excellent screenplay by Stephen Karam, very skillful directing by Michael Mayer, superb musical background Nico Muhly and Anton Sanko and of course an outstanding cast. This group of mostly veteran actors and actresses were top notch. They include Annette Bening, Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howle (his first film), Corey Stoll, Elisabeth Moss, Mare Winningham, Jon Tenney, and Brian Dennehy.

Chekhov and his team, which adapted his work, examine human interaction and emotion in what could be a class for students of human behavior. In particular, Ms. Bening’s character, Irina, is a textbook example of narcissistic character where her self-love ultimately destroys herself and her son. Also, there is a fascinating and penetrating study with multiple examples of unrequited love and the pain which this almost universal experience can bring. If you like this type of a psychological study, you will find this cinematic experience to be quite captivating. (2018).

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Romance

Little Pink House

May 4th, 2018 — 6:02am

****

Little Pink House

Whether you are an on-the-ground activist, a student of law, or an activist at heart, you will be drawn to this movie. It is a docudrama that tells the true story of Susette Kelo (Catherine Keener), a woman who worked as a dedicated EMT, had just been through a second divorce and found a quaint fix-up house in New London, Connecticut on the water where she decided to settle and build her life. Needless to say, the finishing touch on her hard work of fixing up the house was to paint the exterior pink (hence the film title).

And now the plot thickness. Pfizer pharmaceutical company begins to work out a plan with the town fathers to build a new large plant in New London. This has the potential to bring new revenue and jobs to this town which could well use the infusion. The viewer then becomes introduced to the term from the United States Constitution called Eminent Domain. A group of home owners, mainly elderly, are now threatened with either being forced to sell their home or be evicted.

Ms. Keener plays her character quite well as she becomes the symbol of the embattled home owners with the support of her boyfriend, Tim (Keith Rennie) and her lawyer Scott Bullock (Giacomo Baessato) against the Director of Corporate Development (Jeanne Tripplehorn), the city attorney (Jerry Wasserman), and the governor (Aaron Douglas).

Director and writer, Courtney Moorehead Balaker, leads this band of actors to the Supreme Court of The United States where the case is settled (at least for the time being). This adventure is a worthwhile cinematic experience (2018).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, History

The Rider

April 13th, 2018 — 7:59am

Screened at the 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Opens in U.S. April 13, 2018

***

The Rider

 

This film almost looks like a documentary, but it is actually a hybrid as the movie focuses on life crisis of a rodeo competitor Brady Blackburn. We meet him as he is recovering from a life threatening head injury, which we realized happened during his brilliant but very daring and dangerous competitive riding, which occurred on top of wild untamed horses. We come to understand his love of horses and his uncanny connection to them. He knows he is supposed to stay away from the sport as his brain and body must heal. We are given insight into his character as we see his relationship with a very good friend, who is a like brother to him and is now in a hospital brain damaged after being thrown from a horse. We also see his caring tender relationship with his younger sister who appears to have a developmental disability as well as his interactions with his caring father who had been very rough on him. The movie is directed by Chloe Zhao who met the star of the movie on an Indian Reservation while filming a 2014 movie titled Songs My Brothers Taught Me. This director certainly achieved some very interesting footage particularly as the star interacts and trains his horses.

To many people rodeo competitive riding and the heroes who participate in it is as captivating as competitive football is to many other Americans. It occurred to one of us that the movie could have very well been highlighting the dilemma of those football stars who are faced with life threatening head injuries from the sport that they also love (2018).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Sport

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