Category: 3 Stars


Don’t Look UP

December 28th, 2021 — 4:49am

Don’t Look Up – nf
***

Great story, fantastic plot, unbelievable cast, and fair to good movie.

An astronomy graduate student (Jennifer Lawrence) shows her professor (Leonardo DiCaprio) that she has discovered a large comet heading towards the Earth on a path which would be expected to completely destroy our planet. They ultimately have a meeting with the President of the United States (Meryl Streep) and her advisors. The usual politics overshadow the threat to the world. There is a possibility of diverting the deadly threat. There are also romances and affairs. In a sense, we are reminded of the current world situation where our planet and civilization are threatened with the destruction of the world as we know it, due to the deadly pandemic or climate change. The squabbles and politics seem to cloud full appreciation of this threat and how we can act together and save our planet.

This movie is directed by Adam McKay who co-wrote the story with David Sirota. Rounding out the cast are Timothée Chalamet, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Perry, Tyler Perry and many other familiar faces. The music by Nicholas Britell is appropriately grandiose and the special effects are done well obviously utilizing the film’s $75 million budget.

Perhaps this cinematic experience is a little over the top- or is it?

Comment » | 3 Stars, Action, Drama

Death in Venice

November 18th, 2021 — 8:39am

Death in Venice nf
***

This 1971 movie, which is more than two hours long, is based on a 1930 novella by Thomas Mann and is filled with classical music by Mahler, Beethoven, Mussorgsky, and Gill. The director and co-screenwriter was Luchino Visconti.

The main character is a composer Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde), who travels to Venice by himself for a vacation and rest due to health concerns. It is interesting to note that the city was then experiencing a pandemic due to cholera. Aschenbach becomes obsessed and attracted to an adolescent boy named Tadzio who is staying with his family at the same hotel. Most if not the entire film shows the struggle of this older man with his feelings of attraction towards Tadzio, although they never interact. The facial expressions of the main character and the strong musical background define this film leading to the ultimate fatal ending.

While the scenes are beautifully shot and it feels as though you are watching paintings on the screen, the film doesn’t really engage the viewer. The dearth of dialogue and the overall ambiguity is off putting and somewhat unsatisfying. While a unique film, it doesn’t seem worth the time for most people.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Belfast

November 18th, 2021 — 8:27am

Belfast. sp
***

This film has received much publicity before its opening and the opportunity we had to see it in preview. One of the major underlying themes is the conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants, and Catholic factions. We do not fully appreciate the fine points of the deep-seated antagonism between these two groups nor the many variations of thought within them. However, we could identify with the 9-year-old boy Buddy (Jude Hill) who is part of an Irish family living in Northern Ireland. His dad (Jamie Dornan) would go to London for work for periods of time while the family was feeling increasing tension in Belfast in Northern Ireland where they lived. This is obviously the story of writer-director Kenneth Branagh who grew up in Northern Ireland. We do not get much insight into the political underpinnings of this conflict, but we do see how it totally preoccupied this family. We see deadly violence all around them and are touched by the loving care in this family, which includes Judi Dench as the grandmother. The appropriate musical background was provided by Van Morrison. This is a well done movie, which brings the overwhelming tragic political situation down to its impact upon the members of one family living through it.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Politics

Speer Goes to Hollywood

November 6th, 2021 — 6:04am

SPEER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD-sp
***

The title of this film suggests that somehow the story of this major nasty figure has been jazzed up or perhaps has been fabricated to make it a Hollywood production. However, the director and producer, Vanessa Lapa and Tomer Eliav, producer and sound designer whom we met after seeing the film at Stephen Farber’s “Reel Talk” film series, claim the story is factual and true to life. They report how they had meticulously have gone through the archives of film about World War II including recordings of the Nuremberg Trials in which Albert Speer was one of the defendants. Interestingly, they did not use the voice of Speer but rather they hired a voice actor to speak the words of the real-life players mostly German with subtitles. The rationale was that the audio quality of these old tapes was too poor to use.

We mostly follow Speer during World War II as a designer and builder of prison camps as well as confidante to Hitler and his inner circle. The prisoners (obviously mostly Jews) are seen and there was indication of forced labor and exhausted emaciated prisoners. The actual crematoriums were not shown in much detail as they deserved to be shown. The fact that we were seeing actual pictures of the inhuman treatment of the Jews makes the film riveting even if we don’t fully appreciate Speer’s role in carrying out Hitler’s extermination plan.

Speer was apparently the only major figure not to be sentenced to execution at the Nuremberg Trials, but rather served 20 years in prison. He even subsequently wrote a successful book once he was released. The film does not clearly address why he was spared execution. There was some mention how he provided some valuable information for the allies and not to the Russians.

It is also interesting that in response to a question to the film makers they stated that the initial funding for the film was provided by the Israeli Government. Any new insight into the Holocaust even years later is still riveting. Although the film did not go as deeply as it might have done and did leave many unanswered questions, it still is a major contribution, so we will “never forget.”

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, History

Audrey

August 25th, 2021 — 5:25am

Audrey
***

A good biographical film provides an insight into the character of the main subject, shows their life trajectory and highlights their accomplishments. Certainly, this film about Audrey Hepburn does these tasks in spades. We see her childhood brush with World War Two, her early years of dance and then her unsurpassed career in film. We get a great insight into how she approached her acting career by some of her co-stars, directors and producers. We briefly meet her various husbands and get glimpses of her children and one of her sons does provide some of the background narration of her later years. It is in the twilight of her life that we see her character emerge as an empathic humanitarian as she tirelessly traveled and raised funds as a spokesperson for UNICEF

However, what was missing in our opinion, was an insight into her childhood and meaningful relationships. We see how in her later years she sought out the father who had abandoned her when she was a child which was a big disappointment. We learn about her marriage to film icon Mel Ferrer which lasted. 14 years and produced one child, a son. She was then married to an Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti for 13 years and she had a second son. She was quoted as saying something to the effect that doctors pay more attention to their patients than their families. She never met her grandchildren who were born after she died in 1993 at the age of 63.

Watching this documentary one can’t help but be reminded of the luminous presence that she was. In the end, her outstanding memorable acting career as an icon during the Golden Years of Hollywood and her dedicated humanitarian work will leave an unforgettable, enduring legacy.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

August 15th, 2021 — 8:18pm

Breakfast at Tiffany’s
***

First of all, the title has very little to do with the theme of the movie. The film is clearly a story about the 1950s. One of the old fashioned themes is that when it comes down to it, the woman is “owned” by the man, although the woman may very well negotiate the sale. Premarital sex is for sale especially among the wealthy as we see through the main characters and it is the woman once again who actually arranges the deal.

The setting is New York City, specifically Manhattan, during the 1950s. The glimpses of the automobiles and the streets and the people seem quite real to those of us who lived in New York during this time period. Most of the action takes place in and out of these Manhattan apartments but this is not what you think of when you think of an apartment house but rather what is called a Brownstone. (Buildings which were once large homes, now divided into several apartments on each of 3 or 4 floors.)

The main character, Holly Golightly, is a “free spirit”, hard to pin down, always a step ahead of the “sugar daddies” she aims to attract. She ultimately falls in love with another tenant in her apartment house played by George Pepard. Audrey Hepburn who is 31 years old at the time of the film is sweet, charming, and very complicated as well as being quite beautiful.

We came away from this cinematic experience with an appreciation of a great actress of her time and an enjoyable look at delightful classic movie

Comment » | 3 Stars, Romance

Enemies of the State

August 8th, 2021 — 8:52pm

***

This is an unusual documentary film, which not only recounted the story from actual film clips but was interspersed with some reenactments based on actual events. The main character is a young man by the name of Matt DeHart who is a known hacker with ties to WikiLeaks, which is an international non-profit organization that publishes news leaks and classified documents provided by anonymous sources. The question that is raised is whether this young man is antagonizing the US government by publishing secret documents and is the US government spreading false information that Mr. DeHart is involved in child pornography? We meet this young man and his family who support him and believe he is being set up by the government. The viewer is torn between these two possibilities as we ponder what is the truth. Sonia Kennebeck is the director and producer and has masterfully weaved this story together. We have our own opinion who is telling the truth and as realistic as the film may have been, we did not think it was worth the hour and 45 minutes.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama

Road Runner- Documentary Film About Anthony Bourdain

July 15th, 2021 — 5:52am

ROADRUNNER-Documentary Film About Anthony Bourdain
***

Morgan Neville, veteran documentary filmmaker, has just come out with a new documentary about author, TV host, food expert, and documentary filmmaker Anthony Bourdain who has been featured on CNN with his very popular series about food around the world. He has interviewed and interacted with people from all four corners of the earth. We had the opportunity to preview this film and see an interview with the filmmaker by Steve Farber as part of his series Reel Talk. Bourdain had a way with connecting with people from numerous countries and cultures, albeit frequently around food. He had two marriages and one daughter, but we are told that he was away from home 270 days of the year, which says a lot about his family relationships. The film also suggests that a troubled relationship with a girlfriend actress, may have contributed to his final spiral out of control which led to his suicide at age 61. Although the film leaves many unanswered questions about this brilliant and enigmatic man, it is interesting and worth seeing.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Hampstead

July 13th, 2021 — 7:31am

Hampstead

***

Diane Keaton plays a British widow who lost her husband a year before She is not interested in the well-meaning friends who want to introduce her to a well-heeled accountant. From an apartment window with a pair of binoculars she sees a guy (Brenden Gleeson) living in a shack in some large wooded area seemingly either part of the metropolitan city or just on the fringes of it. She sets out to meet him and see what is going on with him. There are well-meaning demonstrators, some of whom want the wooded area cleaned up and others who want to be on the side of the “hermit,” who claims he has single-handed deserved ownership of the house since he has built it on his own and lived in it for the past 17 years. There is courtship, romance, do-gooders, and actual dramatic court room scenes. However, it is Diane Keaton’s realistic and lovable character that carries the movie and ultimately touches our heart.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Politics, Romance

Red Joan

July 13th, 2021 — 7:06am

RED JOAN

***

Can you imagine if you are sitting with your elderly grandmother and there were a knock on the door and the FBI entered and arrested her for the high crime of being an international spy? That is exactly what happened to an old British woman who is arrested in front of her family and accused of being a World War II spy for the Russians who passed on secret information how to make the atomic bomb. This film was released in 2018 and stars Judi Dench. It is based on the true story, although there were some changes made in the actual circumstances. The story reminds us that during the time period that the film is depicting, the Russians were allies of the United States fighting against the Nazis. The deep dive of this film is intended not only to show how this woman was a successful spy, but why she did it. What was our thinking and what was the mindset of many people at this particular time in history. This film will keep your interest and will be particularly meaningful to history buffs who try to understand the thinking of this time in history.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

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