Archive for 2018


My Life with James Dean

April 13th, 2018 — 7:52am

Screened at the 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Unknown Opening date in USA

***

My Life With James Dean

This French movie with subtitles follows Geraud( Johnny Reese), a young film maker who is making the rounds of small coastal towns in France with his new film titled “My Life With James Dean.” A 15-year-old boy(Mikael Pelissler). who looks older than his stated age. is the projectionist who is smitten with Geraud who seems ambivalent about the attraction shown to him by the young man, although they end up in bed together. There also were a bunch of temporary pairings, which include a female hotel clerk with a driver and a lesbian film promoter with her girlfriend. After a while, the movie felt like a French farce or a slapstick comedy.

We met Dominique Choisy, the French film director of the movie and mentioned to him that in the United States, an adult having sex with a 15-year-old would usually be of great concern. He did not seem bothered by this and noted that in France the age of majority is 15 (2018).

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Romance

Scarey Mother

April 13th, 2018 — 7:49am

 

 Screened at 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Unknown opening date in USA

***

Scary Mother

This foreign film made in Estonia with subtitles of course, follows Manana(Nato Murvanidze), a married mother with three children who has just written a novel. The book, while purported to be fiction, examines her unflattering feelings about her husband(Dimitri Tatishvili) and children as well as her extreme sexual fantasies. She goes on to develop a dependent relationship with a local stationery store owner who essentially tries to be her book agent and major supporter of her writing. The story becomes more bizarre as we meet her father who has taken on the role of a translator for the book. The book she is writing and her own life become more complicated and entwined as does the film. First time director Anna Urushadze has taken on a very difficult and complicated story, which draws in the viewer but may be too much to digest (2018).

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

I Hate Kids

April 13th, 2018 — 7:39am

Screened at the 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Unknown opening date in USA

***

I Hate Kids

This is a very fanciful comedy that verges on the ridiculous. Its premise made little sense to us. Mason (Julian Feder), a teenage boy raised by his foster mother, contacts a so called radio psychic (Tituss Burgess) who eventually is exposed to be a fraud. In response to the young man trying to find his biological mother, he is told by the psychic that he only knows that his biological father(Todd Everett Scott) is an author of a bestselling book I Hate Kids and he states that the author would know who is his biological mother. It becomes more convoluted as the boy is able to buy a sample of the author’s hair from a barber who saves celebrity hair. He then is able to compare it to his own via DNA identification. This confirms that the author is his father. The boy then confronts the author who agrees to try to find the boy’s mother by visiting his old girlfriends. This is all occurring a few days before the “kid hating” author is supposed to marry a woman (Rhea Selhorn) who equally does not like kids. This leads to a wild and crazy road trip visiting the author’s old girlfriends.

Director John Asher and screen writers Frank Dietz and Todd Trainer are responsible for what we thought was silly but occasionally funny interaction. Yet despite the implausible plot, there was a charm and upbeat quality that might make some of you feel that it was worth the ride (2018).

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Tre Maison Dasan

April 13th, 2018 — 7:36am

Screened at 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Unknown opening date for USA

***

Tre Maison Dasan

Tre, Maison, and Dasan are three boys each of whom has a parent who is in prison. First time documentary filmmaker Denali Tiller has taken on this project to follow these three youngsters and show the often tender visitations that they have with their parent while in a Rhode Island prison. These take place in a large child friendly area where many children are having visits with a parent. She also follows these three youngsters at home with their families. Some of the footage is quite an accomplishment as she follows her subjects for almost three years and captures tender personal interactions between child and parent.

In a post film discussion, we become aware that one important goal of the filmmaker was to advocate for such visitation programs in a suitable environment in prisons throughout the country as well as education for parents on the importance of such interaction for children who have a parent in prison. Unfortunately, this message was not made clear in the film and we believe this was a lost opportunity (2018).

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Documentary

The Rescue List

April 13th, 2018 — 7:27am

Screened at 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Unknown opening date in USA

****

The Rescue List

This documentary film takes place in a rural area in Ghana where Lake Volta, the largest manmade lake in the world, is located. There is a terrible situation where young children are abducted or even bought from their parents in order to be used as slave labor working on fishing boats in this lake. Film makers Zachary Fink and Alysous Fedele made this heart wrenching but yet beautifully done documentary film. It followed a group led by a man by the name of Kwame who was once one of these children and now is a college educated leader of the group. Their mission is to rescue these children and provide education, rehabilitation, and in many cases return them to their families. The filmmakers obtain very good cinematic portraits of individual children and capture the story of what they have been through at the same time showing their childhood innocence. Hopefully before this film is released to the public, the filmmaker will put an “ask” and a place for viewers who will be moved to make donations to this very worthy group (2018).

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary

Salyut-7

April 13th, 2018 — 2:31am

Screened at 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Unknown opening date in USA

***

Salyut-7

We know this movie is based on some real events that happened in the Russian Space Program in the 1980s, but we believe it is mostly from the Russian creative team led by director, Kilim Spenko. It is in Russian with subtitles 

His story shows two Russian cosmonauts( (Lyubov Aksyonova, Ilya Andryukov) who get into dangerous trouble when they go up in space to rescue an unmanned Salyut-7 satellite that is having mechanical problems. There is an explosion, ice, oxygen problems and it is not clear whether even one of them might survive. This is a dramatic space thriller that reminds us of the dangers involved in working at the frontiers of space (2018).

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Chappaquiddick

April 4th, 2018 — 12:28am

*****

Chappaquiddick

If you were around in July 1969 when Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon, you may or may not remember another big news story that took place at the same time. Senator Edward Kennedy, youngest brother of John and Robert Kennedy accidentally drove his car off a small bridge in Chappaquiddick, which resulted in the death of a young woman by the name of Mary Jo Kopechne. Up until that moment, many people felt that the younger Kennedy was destined to become President of the United States. The actions of Edward Kennedy on that evening and in the subsequent week are a fascinating study of a man at the crossroads of his life where his honesty and integrity were truly tested and his human frailties were exposed.

This was a very well done script, which was written by Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan who were too young to have remembered or experienced this event as it unfolded in this country. They apparently reconstructed the story mainly from the voluminous record of the inquest of the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

Jason Clarke was outstanding as Edward Kennedy and the supporting cast was excellent including Kate Mara as Mary Jo Kopechne and a superb performance by Ed Helms who played Kennedy’s cousin who was a key player in the aftermath of this tragedy. Credit must also go to director Joe Curran for recreating a very realistic depiction of the events of this tragedy as well as an in depth character study. The story also shows an insight into the dominant role that the patriarch Joe Kennedy (Bruce Dern) had on his family even in the later years ,of his life.

We had the pleasure of meeting two of the producers of this film, Mark Ciardi and Campbell McInnes who tried very hard to bring to the screen this even-handed view of the events of this major news story and historic event. It appears that they may have gotten very close to the truth, but we probably will never know for sure.

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

Beirut

March 27th, 2018 — 11:23pm

****

Beriut

Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm), a mid-east expert who is called back to Beirut where he hasn’t been for ten or so years to negotiate a high profile kidnapping case which he has some personal connections and past relationships. Rosamund Pike is an American agent who fearlessly assist Skiles with his mission.

The other stars of the film in addition to the Director Brad Anderson and writer Tony Gilroy are the producers, director of photography and production designers etc. who recreated Beirut of 1982, as a city in shambles with bombed out houses and realistic and scary-warring factions all over the place. We understand that they used Tangiers and Morocco as the locations to recreate Beirut. But, however they did it, the viewer could not help feeling that we were in a dangerous place with an exciting story unfolding before us. Occasionally we lost the beat and we weren’t sure who was who and what side they may be on. No matter, because the main focus was on Hamm’s character, who held our attention, and should hold yours, if you get a chance to see this film. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Drama

I, Tonya

March 2nd, 2018 — 9:40pm

*****

I, Tonya

This is a fascinating well-done but very sad movie. If you were on the planet in 1994 and vaguely aware of current events, you would have some idea of who Tonya Harding is and how she is linked to another ice skater by the name of Nancy Kerrigan. The story, which unfolds in this movie, presents an in-depth understanding of the character and the development of Ms. Harding from childhood to the present. Tonya is played by Margot Robbie. There are some younger versions of Ms. Harding also shown as well as some footage of what must have been the real Ms. Harding doing her jumps and twists. A key player in this movie is the “mother from hell” magnificently portrayed by Allison Janney who is up for an Oscar for her performance. While it is possible to generate a touch of sympathy for this horrific mother, we wouldn’t wish her on anyone. But we have to grant that her unflinching determination with no sympathy for her daughter’s feelings is what made Tonya a magnificent skater who was the first to land a triple axle jump in American Figure Skating competition.

There is also Jeff Gillooly (Stan Sebastian) who is Tonya’s boyfriend, then husband and then ex-husband. He is depicted as a violent lover of Tonya who ultimately wanted to scare Tonya’s Olympic opponent but supposedly didn’t really want to hurt her. There is also Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) the “brains” behind the plan to do damage to Ms. Kerrigan” but really is depicted as not very bright. This film also raises the underlying question of what was the role of Tonya in the terrible deed. Perhaps as it was shown, she didn’t know about the plan but alas she didn’t say anything about it when she found out after it had occurred. In any case, Tonya was the big loser in court and essentially in life. She lost her skating career.

While we can’t say if the script got it exactly right, but in this movie we certainly come to understand Tonya and what made her Tonya. We also have insight to how the “big incident” may have gone down and would say a pretty good feeling for the struggle that people go through when they try to become the best in a sport from no matter where they may start.

Director Craig Gillespie and writer Steven Rogers and screenwriter Steven Rogers deserve the credit of putting together a complicated and intriguing story that still is as fascinating as it was when the real event took place more than 20 years ago. (2018)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History, Sport

On Borrowed Time

March 1st, 2018 — 9:23pm

****

On Borrowed Time

Four older men in an assisted living home in Dubai seemed to be losing interest in life when one of them gets a notice that he has inherited lots of money. This leaves them to begin a foray outside their living arrangement. The story ends up being an uplifting film which deserves to be seen not only by the Arab speaking world but also by others who will use subtitles (which could be slightly improved).

The movie gives an insight into contemporary life in an Arab country along with several seeming paradoxes, which intrigued us. The older folks wore traditional garb while the younger people were in modern western dress and went to nightclubs. The living facility was all men – not co-ed although the capable physician was a young attractive woman in western dress. We were surprised to see these vibrant men ending up in this facility when we know of the strong Arab tradition of families caring for their elderly. But perhaps that is what made the story so interesting and drove the plot. The theme of living life to its fullest at all ages is universal.

The acting was top-of-the-line and superb. Kudos should go to Saad Al Faraj, Mansour Al Feeli, Salloum Haddad, Marei Al Halliam, Fouad Ali and Layla Abdullah. The writer-director Yasir Al Yasiri did an excellent job. The film was based on a short story by Karim Al Iraqi. One of the producers, an American, Caleb Wilson was at our screening and shared with us that this film is one of many coming down the pike that was made in the Arab world but should have great appeal to Western audiences. This movie might not be available in your local theater but you should be able to find it on Netflix or the like. If you are a student of film, it wouldn’t surprise us if this one might end up being an important movie in reflecting the changing scene of international film making from the Arab world. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Back to top