Archive for 2018


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

Three Identical Strangers

July 15th, 2018 — 6:58pm

***

Three Identical Strangers-rm

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.”( click to see) 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” ( click to see)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: ( click title to see reviews) Philomena, The Kids are All Right, People Like Us, Bad words, Admission, Mother and Child” 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-sp

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-rm

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-rm

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

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