Archive for 2019


The Mustang

April 17th, 2019 — 1:00am

**

The Mustang-rm

There is a program in a western U.S. maximum-security prison where inmates can learn how to train a wild mustang horse. If they succeed the horse can be sold at auction. Horses that can’t be tamed are often euthanized.

We meet Roman Coleman (Matthias Schoenaerts) a somewhat taciturn violent prisoner who becomes involved in this program. There are interesting well-photographed scenes where we see the trials and tribulations of men working with their horses. There are short but well-done supporting roles by Connie Britton a prison psychologist and Bruce Dern who plays the old guy who tells the prisoners how to train their horses.

Unfortunately, we learn very little about the previous background of the main protagonist as we are just given fleeting glimpses of what happened to him and his relationship with his adult daughter (Gideon Adlon) who visits him periodically in the prison. We learn essentially nothing about the other prisoners who are participating in the program and must have stories to tell.

Seeing a wild horse show some recognition to the human trying to train him is a touching emotional experience but is not enough to carry this film and make it worthwhile. We feel that the storyline failed and therefore the movie failed, however, well directed by Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre. Even though there were some great scenes of horses running wild or even cozying up to their trainer, we just cannot recommend this movie. (2019)

Any comments are welcome in the section below 

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

William

April 10th, 2019 — 5:24pm

***

William-sp

Certainly, this story is one of the most creative and imaginative movie plots that we have seen in a long time. Two professors at a university who ultimately become a husband and wife (Maria Dizzia and Waleed Zuaiter) are interested in certain characteristics that they believe existed in the Neanderthals who inhabited the earth before the homo sapiens dominated them and led to their extinction. These scientists have found a method of extracting some of the DNA from artifacts still existing and injecting them into a biological specimen that can become a human embryo to be carried by the women professor. This leaves to the birth of William (Played by Will Brittain and Callum Airlie). However, William seems very bright but with some limitation in his ways of thinking. He ultimately develops into a high school student. William, however, does seem to be “different” which he himself acknowledges. This concept is one of the themes of the movie. We believe that the movie is trying to make a statement that the majority of people look in a negative way at those people who are different. There is also the the underlying question of how we might have been developed as a human race if the Neanderthals had dominated over our ancestors.

Tim Disney, whose grandfather gave us one type of a fantasy land has worked hard to put together a story with another type of an imagined premise. His direction was on the mark assisted by a very talented team with camera work by directors of photography Nelson and Graham Talbot and some very creative design work including some prostheses for William lead by Daren Luc Sasges . There is also appropriate, somewhat haunting music background by Craig Wedren which rounds out this very well-done production. However, we suspect that not everyone will be completely satisfied with this imaginative experience (2019).

 

Any comments are welcome below

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Best of Enemies

April 8th, 2019 — 7:44pm

****

Best of Enemies-rm

This is ultimately a feel good movie, but it is hard to believe whether this is a true story that went down as it is depicted in the film. Truth is stranger than fiction and the movie is based on a  story, which was confirmed at the end of the film by showing us some clips of the real people.

The setting is Durham, North Carolina in the 1970s. The Ku Klux Klan is active and we meet the local Klan leader, C. P. Ellis (Sam Rockwell). We also meet a local black activist, Ann Atwater (Taraji P. Henson). Both of them are about to clash after a fire makes the black grade school uninhabitable. There is great conflict as the local city council has to decide what to do since the white folks do not seem to want to share their grade school with the black children who have lost their school.

We never heard the term “charrette” before. It refers to a meeting in which the various sides of a conflict get together to resolve the conflict and work out a solution. The local city council brings in a “charrette expert”, Bill Riddick (Babou Ceesay) who sets up a committee to discuss and vote a solution. The “coaches” of the committee were appointed to be the clan chief and the black activist. We get a glimpse of the back story of some of the characters especially the clan leader who has a hospitalized developmentally disabled child. We also meet a local white pharmacist who is the member of the committee and he himself has hired a black Vietnam war buddy to be his assistant manager in his pharmacy. We see that the local clan group likes to practice shooting guns and are prone to intimidate white people who are sympathetic to blacks.

You might say that the story line is somewhat predictable, but it still created a strong emotional impact on us, which was made even more powerful as we learned more about the real people upon whom these characters were based as we saw them speak during the credits.

Director, Robin Bissell certainly knew how to pull our emotional strings and Mr. Rockwell and Ms. Henson may get some award nods for their performances (2019).

 

Your comments are welcome in the Comment Section below

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

The Chaperone

April 3rd, 2019 — 12:46am

*****

The Chaperone-sp

Elizabeth McGovern not only played the role of the chaperone in this movie but she actually chaperoned this film project to fruition after reading the book by Laura Moriarity showing it to Julian Fellowes and Michael Engler who were the writer and director of Downton Abbey and who then took on these roles with this movie.

The story opens in 1922 in Wichita, Kansas, where a talented teenage dancer (Haley Lu Richardson) from a well to do family has the opportunity to go to New York City and study with a prestigious dance school for a few months. Her family requires that a chaperone should accompany her and a neighbor, Mrs. Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern), is ready to take a break from her husband and volunteers for the job.

A cross country train trip sets the mood for their exciting time in New York City where well-dressed people parade in midtown Manhattan, the Prohibition laws are disregarded behind closed doors at various clubs and romance appears in unexpected places. In addition to being a delightful view of New York City about 100 years ago, the story reflects meaningful psychological issues that both the chaperone and her charge have to confront. Surprises, along with some in depth insight into the two main characters all add up to an excellent movie. (2019)

Your comments on this review or the movie are always welcome in the section below

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Storm Boy

March 27th, 2019 — 4:37am

*****

Storm Boy-sp

This is an Australian film directed by Shawn Seet based on a screenplay by Justin Monjo which is based on a novella by Colin Thiele. It is a well-known legendary Australian story about a young boy (Finn Little) and his connection to pelicans. His mother and sister had died and he lives with his father (Jai Courtney) in a house on the beach in a deserted area of his country. The boy rescues three baby pelicans after their mother was killed by bird hunters. The little birds grow into big pelicans and stay connected with the young boy, particularly one pelican named Mr. P.

The story is told by the grown boy, now a grandfather, (Geoffrey Rush), as he talks with his granddaughter (Morgana Davies) about his youth. There is also an indigenous man (Trevor Jamieson) who lives nearby and lends support to the father and son. The storyline has a sense of urgency, as there is a conflict over land use of a trust on whose Board the grandfather sits. There is also a dramatic rescue episode, which has significance in our young hero’s future life.

The story is magical, captivating, emotional and has all the elements which make it a very worthwhile cinematic experience. (2019)

As usual, your comments about this film are welcome below.

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids, Foreign

Gloria Bell

March 25th, 2019 — 6:49pm

Gloria Bell-rm

***

Julianne Moore is glorious, beautiful and fantastic to watch as a middle-aged divorcee who is looking for a second chance for love She goes to clubs and gets carried away with the music and dance as well as drinking martinis. She falls for a man (John Turturro) who is smitten by her but has his own baggage. As expected, this middle-age romance is also complicated by their own children’s situations and their attitudes about their parents.

Chilean, director and writer, Sebastian Lelio, is apparently recreating an earlier film entitled “Gloria” which was set in his home country and received a great deal of acclaim. No doubt the current film is an acting triumph for Ms. Moore who is on the screen just about all the time and will deserve recognition for this role.

Upon reflection, as likeable the main character is in the film, we must realize that she is deeply flawed and doomed to repeat her neurotic choices unless she can gain some insight into herself. We also realize how all the men shown in the film were quite flawed themselves and not very nice people. A boyfriend who led her on and could not commit, her ex-husband (Brad Garrett) who seemed quite unconnected, her son (Michael Sera) who came across as a nebbish and one who is never around, her son-in-law to be, a surfer who also seemed quite superficial, and then there was a second guy she met at a club in Las Vegas who stole her purse and her money.

So, in conclusion, the Gloria Bell character desperately needs psychotherapy so she can appreciate her own makeup and the pitfalls of the men around her. (2017)

 

Your comments are welcome below

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Diane

March 19th, 2019 — 8:11pm

**

Diane-sp

Veteran actress, Mary Kay Place takes on very nuanced role as Diane, a cousin to a dying woman, a niece to an elderly aunt, a meaningful friend and most significantly a mother to a son with drug addiction problems, who breaks his habit, finds Jesus and wants to convert her. All of this goes on while the son resents his mother for some complicated past deeds.

This film is the brainchild of writer/director, Kent Jones who appears to have written a script that must have been meaningful to him. Ms. Kay Place in a post-screening discussion revealed how she worked hard to understand her character and the back story. She elaborated how she filled in the blanks with her own imagination so the character who is on screen just about all the time, would be real and meaningful to the actress. The problem is, that despite her superb acting, and good directing by Mr. Jones (although perhaps a little too much car driving scenes on country roads), the story wasn’t meaningful to us. Even though, there was an excellent supporting cast which included Estelle Parsons, Andrea Martin, Deirdre O’Connell, Joyce Van Patten and Jake Lacy, there wasn’t much of a thread bringing the story together and in the end the storyline did not move us nor did it enlighten us or stimulate our thinking. The potential may have been there, but it didn’t work for these reviewers. (2019)

As always, your comments are welcome below

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

Leaving Neverland

March 16th, 2019 — 8:54pm

****

Leaving Neverland-nf

Four-hour two-part documentary film directed by Dan Reed

Ten years ago, Michael Jackson, “King of pop”, one of the greatest entertainers of all time died at the age of 50 of a combination drug reaction and a fatal heart attack. He had been married twice, once to the daughter of Elvis Presley and had four children. He himself as a child was the youngest member of a musical group known as, The Jackson 5. Michael Jackson endured two criminal trials with allegations that he had committed child abuse and was found not guilty.

This four-hour documentary (divided into two 2-hour segments) focuses on two men probably now in their 30s who described in great detail their relationship with Michael Jackson. As young children, they had won dance contests in the style of their idol. Michael Jackson then befriended them both and their families, at different times. He brought them to his palacial home in Los Angeles known as Neverland. The boys were ages 7 and 10, when they met Jackson.

This documentary film focuses mainly on these men with camera close-ups during most of their speaking. They recounted their childhood and their relationship with Jackson and how he befriended them despite their wide age disparity, along with their families. There were also interviews with family members including the boy’s mothers, siblings and the film also had various film clips. There was a haunting musical score in the background throughout the film.

Both men clearly and unequivocally described how Jackson became their close friend and their buddy, but also frequently would sleep in his bed with them in his Neverland estate. Jackson made them feel he loved them and they loved him. This continued with various intervals between the ages of seven until they were in their mid-teenagers and even then, they kept up a relationship. The young men also described how Jackson sexually molested them from their earliest relationship which included touching, kissing, masturbation, as well as oral and anal sex. These encounters occurred while the boy’s mothers and other family members who believe Jackson was a great family friend were often in a nearby room. These relationships continued for years and included talking on the phone and traveling to various cities staying in great hotels and frequent dinner together with their families. The story is amazing. It is also heart wrenching as we see as adults both men now married with their own young children now struggling with their awareness of what they have gone through. You can imagine how devastating it became not only for them and for their mothers who realized that they had unwittingly allowed their sons to be subject to the most severe deception and molestation.

Although the film was quite convincing, it should be mentioned that there are still Jackson supporters who dispute the veracity of the accounts of these two men. The story was quite riveting and conveyed so well the joys followed by the pain of the young men and the families of those involved.

The film was well done.Perhaps at times it dragged a little, or was too repetitious. However, the viewer cannot help, but be amazed how these two boys and obviously many others were deceived, seduced, and deprived of their childhood innocence by the actions of a man who himself must have been a very damaged person.(2019)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Documentary

Saint Judy

February 20th, 2019 — 4:03pm

*****

Saint Judy-sp

This is a great story. We meet Judy Wood (Michelle Monaghan), a young idealistic attorney who wants to specialize in immigration law. She is overwhelmed being assigned numerous cases by her new boss (Alfred Molina) but she still makes an all-out effort with each of her cases. At the same time, she is a single mom, recently divorced, trying to participate as much as possible in the raising of her young son (Gabriel Bateman). We see her getting fired for not bringing in the big bucks for her law firm. We follow her as she opens a storefront law office as the only attorney with a young intern as her assistant. The story then focuses on one young Afghan woman client, Asefa Ashwari (Leem Lubany) who is seeking asylum in the United States. She had rebelled against the poor treatment of young girls and women in her country by defiantly setting up a school for girls who were not allowed to have an education. She was arrested and received the most horrendous treatment imaginable in jail. She was able to escape to the United States where her plea for asylum is now being considered. If she is denied this request, she will be returned to her native country where she almost certainly will be murdered by her family for her defiant actions.

The realistic courtroom scenes, some of which are held in a small trailer in the prison where she is being detained are absolutely chilling and riveting. The logic of the U.S. law is very clear but heartbreaking.

Tremendous credit must be given to the screenwriter, Dmitry Portnoy, and director and producer, Sean Hanish, who worked hand in hand to get this film made. In fact, it was just about an impossible task to get the financial support for the film until President Trump was elected and this country became aware of the real meaning of the immigration crisis.

But the most amazing thing about this story is that it isn’t a story at all. Judy Wood is actually a real-life person whom the movie so realistically portrays. In fact, we met her at a preview screening along with the director and screenwriter.

This movie has drama, tension, emotion, surprise, great acting that may bring a tear to your eye, and perhaps inspire a young man or woman to decide to become a lawyer. The highest compliment that we can give to it, is to say that it reminded us a little bit of the classic film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” (2019)

Any thoughts or opinions are welcome in the comment section below.

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Crime, Drama

Can You Ever Forgive Me

February 17th, 2019 — 9:42pm

*****

Can You Ever Forgive Me?-sp

When Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a talented writer who profiled famous writers of her time was no longer able to sell her books, she turned to forgery, creating and selling letters in the style of Dorothy Parker, Fanny Brice, Noel Coward and others. She befriended an equally lonely gay man (Richard E. Grant) who for a while helped her with her con artist scheme.

This is a true story based on the memoirs of Ms. Israel with a screenplay by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty. The film was directed by Marielle Heller. Ms. McCarthy dominates the screen portraying the very sad life of Ms. Israel. Both her performance and that of Mr. Grant deserved the Oscar nominations which they received for their performances.

As the title implies, you will come away from this cinematic performance with a melancholy feeling, but you also will know you have seen an excellent movie. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Crime, Drama

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