Search results for ‘People Like Us’

People Like Us

June 30th, 2012 — 07:44 pm

****
People Like Us – sp We know of several instances, from personal life as well as from our professional work, of friends and relatives encountering siblings who they never knew previously existed. Each story is different but the impact on the people involved is usually quite powerful. No matter what age this revelation occurs it has the potential to shatter one’s concept of your parents, rework your ideas of honesty and truth and lead to a reexamination of your own identity. The writing team of Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert each had some personal experience or first hand knowledge of such events which they were able to draw upon to put together this remarkable story. They weaved the details of the story line of each character together with the emotional reveal in a manner which riveted the attention of the viewer throughout the whole process. Although most of the characters were quite likeable and the story was sprinkled with some heart warming comedy, we were still witnessing a tragic story which appeared to be doubling down on the bad luck that each character was experiencing. Sam (Chris Pine) and Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) are the family members who once they confront each other have to relive and deal with the meaning of their unhappy childhood. Michelle Pfeiffer has the role of Lilian, Sam’s mother who is hardened, bitter and looks it which in itself is a great accomplishment for this very fine and beautiful actress. Michael Hall D’Addanio is Josh, Frankie’s 11 year son in a performance which may very well be remembered after he establishes himself as an adult star. Josh’s recently deceased grandfather Gerald Harper was a music and record producer who has created all the misery on the screen as he has fathered both Sam and Frankie while neither knew of each other’s existence. Throughout most of the 115 minutes of this movie , it seemed almost impossible to imagine how any type of satisfying ending was remotely possible. Much of the success for the resolution of the story and execution of the movie should go to Alex Kurtzman who not only co-wrote the story but also directed it. In the end not only are the characters all in a better place with a new prospective on life, but the audience has the chance to reconsider our own relationships with parents and children because the movie we have just seen in one way or another is about “ people like us.” (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Hunt For The Wilderpeople

June 24th, 2016 — 11:20 pm

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 9.03.11 PM****

Hunt for The Wilderpeople-sp

The chances are that if you did not read this review, you might not consider seeing this movie. This is the product of the work of director/writer, Taika Waititi, a young man from New Zealand who is of Maori-European Jewish descent and he has been involved in not very well-known, but well-received films such as Boy, Eagle vs Shark, Two Cars One Night and Tama Tu. This current film takes place mostly in the New Zealand bush country and stars Sam Neill, a well-known international actor who has starred in Jurassic Park, The Piano, Bicentennial Man, Sleeping Dogs, My Brilliant Career and many other successful film and TV projects. His co-star is Julian Dennison, a 12-year-old, somewhat chubby young boy from New Zealand who looks his age or younger. He plays Ricky Baker, a foster child who no one wants and for whom the New Zealand authorities are trying to find a home. They find Aunty Bella (Rima Te Wiata) and Hec Faulkner (Sam Neill), who lives in an isolated setting on the edge of the deep bush countryside. This would seem to be the last chance for Ricky to be placed with a family or he goes to “juvy.”

Due to circumstances, Hec and Ricky, who basically are two misfits, make their way into the bush country together. You might say this is a road movie, except these two strange bedfellows are trekking, hiding and interacting in a setting that is unlike any place that you have seen before. It includes bounty hunters looking for them, a giant killer pig and what seems to be half the police force of New Zealand. This film is scary at times, funny, but mainly heartwarming and poignant. All we can say is do not take a pass on this movie. We think you will like it and be touched by it and besides, it is a big hit in New Zealand.. (2016)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Like Father, Like Son

January 24th, 2014 — 06:03 am

***images

Like Father, Like Son- sp  This Japanese film with subtitles was an extremely successful in Japan earning so far more than 30 million dollars and is about to be released in the United States. It won a major award at the Cannes Film Festival where Steven Spielberg was the Chair of the committee that gave the award. Spielberg then optioned the rights to it and plans to make an English version. What is it about this movie that seems so captivating? In Japan it helps that the male lead is played by one of most popular singers and actors currently in Japan and that is Fukuyama Masahuro. Just as important is the screenplay written by the director Kore-Eda Hirokazu which presents a fascinating human dilemma which rarely happens in modern times but one to which just about everyone can relate. Early in the film, a young married couple with a six year old son, who is a bright, very delightful boy, learn that their son was switched at birth with another child born in the same hospital on the same day. They meet the other family and the differences between them, especially the fathers become very apparent. They must decide what will they do (in addition to suing the hospital). Will they switch children and how will they come to this decision? As we try to relate to the dilemma and see how the parents and children react to this situation, we get the impression that some of the responses seem to be culture bound. Of particular note was the depiction of the passivity of the women and the obedience of the 6 year-olds. In a post film discussion, we learned that in the 1970s when hospital practices in Japan in labeling newborn children were not as exacting as they are today, there were incidences such as the one depicted in the movie. Interestingly, we were told that 100% of the children were returned to the biological parent even in cases of 6 year olds! Director Hirokazu did a sensitive job of showing us the evolution in the thinking of one of the fathers as he leads us to the ultimate outcome of this dilemma. He also brought to the screen two delightful children who played the kids who were switched at birth.

The theme of this movie is a variation of the successful 2013 film Philomenaas well as other movies which we have reviewed and discussed this interesting psychological variable . These include The Kids Are All Right, People Like Us Stories We TellAdmissions, and Mother and Child. One of us (MB)has also discussed this elsewhere with real life case examples (Psychiatrytalk.com). Each of these movie reviews and the psychiatry blog can be reached directly by clicking the words in this paragraph. (2013)

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

American Hustle

December 22nd, 2013 — 11:29 pm

 ***images-14

American Hustle- rm   The opening words on the screen states something like “Some of this actually happened”.  This refers to what is known as the Abscam Scandal, which occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s when the FBI ran a sting operation where several members of the House of Representatives and a US Senator were offered bribes from a fake Arab sheikh. Most of the story in this movie probably didn’t actually happen but it is somewhat entertaining, has very good acting, but is arguably overdone. The wide span that the title suggests is quite fitting because just about all the characters are hustling each other in some manner. We initially meet Irving Rosenfeld (played by a slightly overweight balding Christian Bale with a glued on comb over) who is a con man who owns a bunch of dry cleaning stores and runs a scheme where he extracts a non refundable fee of about  $5000 from people looking for a deal by promising to put them in touch with a way to make several times that amount of money but the deals never materialize. He also sells phony art to people eager to own what they think are originals. He meets his match in a young woman with a moniker of Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who assumes the persona of a sexy British aristocrat. Although she was a down and out American girl, she wins him over and they become a team. They were “busted” by an eager FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), who then enlisted them in running scams to catch bigger fish, in order to save their own skins. The plot thickens and the other characters complicate the situation including Rosenfeld’s unhappy sexy wife (Jennifer Lawrence), Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Remmer), a really good honest caring person who truly wants rebuild Atlantic City but gets ensnarled in the sting and there is Victor Tellegio (Robert di Niro) the most feared gangster who when he kills, he never hides the body in order to intimidate everyone else. Everybody is conning everyone else. The FBI is carrying on like a bunch of keystone cops fighting among each other. The maestro here was the director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) who co-wrote the script with Eric Singer. Yes, there were unexpected twists and turns. However, the characters and situations didn’t seem very real to us and we didn’t really care about most of them. The comedy and action may have held our attention most of the time but in the end we felt that we were hustled. (2013)    

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime

Trust

April 4th, 2011 — 10:56 pm

*****

Trust- rm –  This is an important movie. It addresses a serious problem that every family with budding teenagers will have to face. We want our children to master the Internet and the unlimited horizons which it offers them in their education and future ability to navigate in this global world. We also don’t have any choice because this wonderful technology provides us instant communication with cell phones and the ability to stay in touch with family and friends. It also gives young people the ability and opportunity to meet and communicate with anyone and everyone. There are teen chats where teenagers can meet other teenagers anyplace in the world or in the next town. Of course teenagers, especially girls tend to develop crushes and infatuations and it is only natural that they might want to meet their computer/phone pal. What if it turns out that he isn’t really a teenager but a little or a lot older but still seems like a nice guy? This is the situation that a 14 year old from a very solid home with successful loving parents, a brother going away to college and a younger kid sister, found herself in. Teenage life being what it is, includes up pressures in one’s school and social life and a natural desire to be accepted, loved and to explore their new sexuality. This very relevant story written by Andy Billin and Robert Festing , produced and directed by David Schwimmer considers  the devastating consequences which befall this girl and  her parents. Liana Liberato captures the spirit of an enthusiastic teenager who just made the volleyball team but yet has the   uncertainty and vulnerability of so many girls who are trying to get hang of the complexities of socializing in their new school environment. Catherine Keener plays her impacted mom and  Clive Owen  is her dad originally from Great Britain and a successful  advertising  executive which is helping to create the tween market which he at one point ironically and sickenly realizes may be creating sexual interest in youngsters  the age of his daughter. He struggles with his own feelings of inadequacies as a father and rage at anyone who might threaten or hurt his daughter. You might expect this subject to best dealt with by a documentary which could provide statistics, interviews with therapists, police and FBI agents as well as some parents or victims. This movie had all of the above in the form of a fast moving drama which conveyed the emotional pain of everyone involved. Schwimmer, who actually is  on the board of directors of the Rape Foundation for the Rape Treatment Center of Santa Monica, with this film  may have ended up  protecting untold numbers of young girls  from being hurt because of knowledge and awareness gained by viewing this film.  In fact this is the ideal movie to be viewed by parents and teenagers together followed by a nice dinner or snack to provide the vehicle and a good discussion. (2011)

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

An Unlikely Weapon

September 7th, 2010 — 01:27 am

An Unlikely Weapon* * * *
An Unlikely Weapon
– sp – This is a an outstanding documentary about Eddie Adams the photographer who in 1968 photographed a Saigon police chief shooting a Vietcong guerilla point black Some say that photo ended the Vietnam War by it’s influence on the US public.This film shows how Adams, who won a Pulitzer Prize for the picture, never really understood why it was so great and but was profoundly effected by the incident for much of his life. He strove for perfection throughout his career and never believed he came close, despite continually trying He was a complex but an immensely likeable person. He felt his greatest accomplishments were when he returned to Viet Nam and joined the rejected boat people on what seemed to be a hopeless journey. He took pictures of them which probably influenced President Carter and the US Congress to let a couple hundred thousands of these Vietnamese refugees into the US and become part of the next generation of immigrants. When he moved on to subjects beyond the war he related well to them whether they be Fidel Castro, the Pope, or movie stars, which is why they allowed him to capture such unique photos of these well known subjects . You may have to search out this film or wait until it comes on DVD since it is going to have an uphill battle to get good distribution. If you are inclined to see this picture you will not be disappointed. We had the opportunity to hear a discussion of this film not only with Susan Morgan Cooper the Director/Producer but also with Pulitzer winning photographers David Hume Kennerly and Nick Ut (who took the also unforgettable photo of the Vietnamese girl running down the street after a Napalm bombing) Both were in Viet Nam with Adams and confirmed the authenticity of the film and of the subject himself. (2009)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, War

A Serious Man

January 16th, 2010 — 02:15 am

A Serious Man* * * *
A Serious Man
– rm – This Coen Brothers film is a painful comedy, which takes place in a Minnesota Jewish community in 1967. Larry Gropnik, played by Michael Stuhlberg is a midwestern physics professor who is trying to be a good guy and a devout Jew. He feels all is as it should be with his children and his wife as well as his with his quirky brother who lives with them. He is preparing for his son’s bar mitzvah, believes he properly handles a student who doesn’t like a final grade and deals with the everyday problems of neighbors and TV reception. But then his life begins to unravel. Everything seems to be going wrong and although he seeks the wisdom of three rabbis, none are in a position to explain how Hashem – the word for God – could let this happen. Joel and Ethan Coen who have written, produced and directed this movie have captured the period with the houses, cars, synagogue and dress as well as the essence of the characters. If non-Jews created the film, they might even be called anti-Semitic. The Coens have satirized these Jews and their values to the point of a mockery. The opening of the movie shows us a brief scene in an 1800s European Jewish shtetl where the beliefs and values of the people living there would have been viewed as ridiculous to the Jews of the 1960s, as many now will view those of the people portrayed in this movie. Each generation can look back at their parents and grandparents and question how they lived their lives. In the end, whether the Coens meant it this way or not, we realize that this movie is about all cultures and about every serious man and woman’s search for the meaning of life when things begin to go wrong. This film will give you a lot of laughs but it is not a fun movie to watch. (2009)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Bad Words

March 13th, 2014 — 06:37 pm

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Bad Words-sp  This is  Jason Bateman’s directorial debut starring Jason Bateman. It can be described as a mean or subversive comedy. The main character says and does cruel things to other people including a bunch of preteen kids which although they are “funny” they are not very nice.We meet Guy Trilby (Bateman) as a 40 year old guy who is entering the national spelling bee contest which he is determined to win and claims the right to be in it since he meets the criteria of never completing the 8th grade.He is accompanied by a reporter (Kathryn Hahn)  doing a story about his endeavor for a web site. He overcomes the objections of Dr. Bernice Deagan  (Allison Janney), one of the administrators, and confronts the founder of the contest, Dr. Bowman(Phillip Baker Hall), who are both furious at him, as are all the parents of the young other contestants. Trilby plays distracting mean tricks on some of the kids to get them eliminated from the competition. He does befriend one of the kids, 10 year old Indian boy Chaitanya Chopra with whom there is a hint that he identifies with him. We see terrific chemistry between the two and a great acting job by a young boy by the name of Rohan Chand. And now for an announcement SPOILER ALERT which is necessary although we probably knew the secret for 1/5 of the film and still enjoyed it. The question, of course, is why would a 40 year old man undertake this mission? The answer has something to do with the fact that we learn that the founder of the contest, Dr. Bowman, actually once as a traveling salesman met Philby’s  mother and became his biological father but never stayed around and of course does not know this fact. Philby had found this out recently just before  his mother died and now is on the mission to screw up the good doctor’s prestigious spelling contest. In the end this makes for an interesting, funny and ultimately a feel good movie that many people will enjoy seeing.  But his film fascinated once of us (MB)  because we have observed some variation of this theme is numerous movies played out in different ways, as well as having seen it in several real life situations. But in each case the motivation and the actions of the person searching for his or her biological parent or child is different. It certainly is not always vindictive as in this story and sometimes it is to establish a meaningful connection. Here are some films and our reviews where this was the main theme:

Philomena -Elderly British woman who had child out of wedlock in convent goes to US to find out what happened to him. Stars Oscar nominated Judy Dench

The Kids Are All Right– Two lesbian parents are raising two teenage kids who decide to search out their sperm donor biological dad. Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo

People Like Us – A man and woman never realized they were from the same parent Elizabeth Banks , Chris Pine and Michelle Pfeiffer

Stories We Tell – Documentary by a woman  who uncovers secrets of her family and that she was not her father’s child. Sarah Polley

Admission– Assistant Dean of Admissions realizes an applicant is her child given up at birth- Tina Fey, Lily Tomlin and Pail Rudd

Mother and Child   Mother child relationships . Children given up for adoption and fantasies of children who want  to reunite with their mother. Annette Bening and Noemi Watts

I have also written about three cases from real life in my PsychiatryTalk.com blog  (http://www.psychiatrytalk.com/2012/07/discussion-of-the-phenomena-of-unknown-family-members/)       (2014)

 

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy

Philomena

December 1st, 2013 — 10:03 pm

****

Philomena – -3AFK1iDRtELTlxSYYgUheuoNmlRg11SirBnxw1spPp4NPNAq9VpIo4q-zHQScGPUxtwElY=s85 Early in the film we learn that Martin Sixsmith  (Steven Coogan), a former journalist, has lost his job as a Labor government (British) advisor and decided to meet Philomena ( Judy Dench) an elderly woman who as a teenager had an out of wedlock child at a convent and saw that child taken away for adoption. In her later years she unsuccessfully tried to find out what happened to him and never stopped thinking about him even after she became a mother and grandmother. She agrees to let Sixsmith help her try to find her, long lost but never forgotten, son and write a human interest story about this situation.  

The film is based on a non-fiction book The Lost Child of Philomena Lee by the real Sixsmith which documents the journey of this unlikely pair. This movie about this human trauma was directed by Stephen Frears with a screenplay by lead actor Coogan and Jeff Pope. It takes a hard look at the attitude of the Catholic Church towards unwed mothers (at least in Ireland 50 years ago but which may not have completely changed today.) It pulls no punches in showing the cruel treatment of the unwed mothers who had to work in oppressive conditions  for a few years in return for having had their  child delivered and cared for by the nuns in the convent, only to see their little one sold to rich Americans who were looking to adopt a child. The details of the destiny of the children were hidden from the mothers and attempts to later trace them were covered up with lies and deception. There is an attempt at some balance by showing the contrasting lack of religious faith by the journalist compared to the almost all forgiving faith of Philomena but in the end the Church does not look very good.

The movie also reminds us of the painful discrimination towards people with HIV disease which existed in the United States, especially in the 1980s. Both Coogan and Dench are excellent as they convey their subtle emotions and the grand lady of theatre and film may be up for another of her many awards. The storyline of this film also deals with a psychological topic that one of us (MB) has been interested in from a clinical point of view as well as how it has been depicted in various movies. Lost or hidden family members is the subject and the incessant drive to find that person where the emotional connection is intensely built on the biological connection even  when the life experience together has been very little or even absent. Some of the recent movies which we have reviewed on this subject have been The Kids Are All RightPeople Like Us, Stories We Tell, Admissions   and Mother and Child. MB has also written about this with case examples in a blog titled PsychiatryTalk.com  which you can click here to view. This very fine film is not only another example of this phenomena but also stands on it’s own as a compelling dramatic production, (2013)

 

1 comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

November 8th, 2017 — 01:52 am

***

Roman J. Israel, Esq. – sp

Denzel Washington has embraced a character from the pen (or should we say the keyboard) of screenwriter/director Dan Gilroy and turned in an outstanding, unforgettable performance. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a somewhat socially isolated lawyer, perhaps a little on the autism spectrum side, who not only is extremely bright (can give you obscure citations from the Code of Justice) but is idealistically principled to take on cases of the poor and disadvantaged. He also has a dream and an inspiration that through case law he will ultimately make the criminal justice system fair and equal for all people. His actions and spirit inspire George Pierce (Colin Farrell), head attorney of a big firm previously only interested in making more money and Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo) an idealistic young lawyer who is trying to find herself. Perhaps the two hours and two minutes makes the film somewhat drawn out. However, the takeaway message is that Roman J. Israel, Esq. is shown to be a human being with frailties like everyone else. We see that his spirit and idealism will live on not only in this story but in the viewer’s minds and hearts. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Uncategorized

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