Category: 3 Stars


Almost Adults

February 15th, 2019 — 9:57am

***

Almost Adults – nf

This is a coming of age film but not exactly in the usual way that things play out. Here we have two girls Mackenzie (Elise Bauman) and Cassie (Natasha Negovanlis) who have been friends since childhood and now roommates in their senior year of college. The big issue is that Mackenzie has just come out and told her parents that she is gay although they were not surprised. However, she has difficulty in telling her childhood friend who is straight and just had a break-up with longtime boyfriend Matthew (Mark Matechuk).

We witnessed the inner and outer struggles as each girl has to try to move on with her life. Of course, this is the time of social media and instant communication as well as in the age of Tumblr where gay people can meet up, all of which are part of the backdrop of this movie. There is also an experienced gay guy Levi, (Justin Gerhard) who tries to guide Mackenzie into the gay world.

We are sure that the film director Sarah Rotella and screenwriter Adrianna DiLonardo were not suggesting that this story is necessarily typical of young people dealing with these issues. However, they did succeed in reminding us that coming out even in the 21st Century can be a difficult time but that young people often have the resiliency to negotiate this life experience. (2016)

Any comments are always welcome below

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Ash Is Purest White

February 12th, 2019 — 11:25pm

***

Ash Is Purest White -sp

This movie is in Chinese with English subtitles. The director and screenwriter is Jia Zhangke who is married to Zhao Tao, the accomplished star of this film.

The movie was extremely well done with beautiful photography in part because of the French director of photography, Eric Gautier, and an excellent riveting performance by Ms. Tao.

However, in our view, the storyline did not go anyplace. Perhaps the main value of the movie was to show a glimpse into the underworld life in modern day China. There appears to be a gang culture that exists with the usual expected loyalties. The story also depicts the classic situation of unrequited love. If a film is going to take us for 2 hours and 20 minutes, it should develop a pretty tight hold on us, which was not the case here. Maybe the language barrier hindered the ability of the movie to do it for us (2019).

Your comments are invited below

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Everybody Knows

February 6th, 2019 — 1:56am

 

***

Everybody Knows

Veteran Iranian writer-director Asghar Farhadi brings together Javier Bardem and Penélope Cruz (who happen to be married to each other) to this Spanish film made in Spain.

Laura (Cruz) and her husband (Ricardo Darín) come to Spain from Argentina with their two children to celebrate a family wedding. Things get complicated when their thirteen-year-old daughter is abducted and held for ransom. Why is Paco (Bardem) a close friend, wiling to sell his share of the vineyard to pay the ransom? Who are the kidnappers? The scenery, the acting and the characters are quite attractive and intriguing. In the end however, the storyline was not quite believable but it was an interesting ride. (2019

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama, Foreign, Romance

Vice

January 20th, 2019 — 9:59pm

***

VICE-rm

If you remember Dick Cheney, you will have to agree that Christian Bale is a dead ringer for President George W. Bush’s vice-president in appearance, speech and mannerisms despite the fact that in real life Bale looks nothing like him. This is a great tribute to the actor and the film makers.

Depending on your political point of view, you will probably decide if the depiction of Cheney is true to life. He certainly is shown to be a power-hungry, manipulative, opportunist. Sam Rockwell does an excellent impersonation of President GW Bush who is shown to be somewhat weak and under the spell of his vice-president. Steve Carell plays Donald Rumsfeld who was a person involved in Cheney’s career early on as well as in his later years but we could not forget that it was Carell and we were expecting him to breakout into some comedy lines.

The movie highlights the importance of the influence of Cheneys’s wife, Lynne (Amy Adams) in his life. Perhaps the most moving and sympathetic moment in the film in regard to Cheney, was how he was able to accept his daughter’s coming out as gay whereas his wife seemed not to be able to do so. Otherwise, there is not much sympathy for this character who was shown to have led the country into the Iraq War as well as many other questionable decisions including favoring Halliburton, the company for which he had previously worked.

As realistic as the depiction of the main character was in this film, there were some distractions with flashbacks and other cinematic effects. Although well-done, we thought they took away from the flow of the movie. Also, you may recall that there was an incident where Cheney accidentally shot someone with a rifle. This event was briefly shown but there was no explanation of how it came about or who was the victim.

The movie was directed by Adam McKay who is known for the Big Short, Anchorman I and II and more recently Holmes & Watson. The producer team included Brad Pitt as well as Will Ferrell and there was a whopping 40 million dollar budget for it. One more thing, don’t leave the theater whenever you begin to see the credits come on the screen. Each time there is more to come. (2019)

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

Sorry To Bother You

December 18th, 2018 — 8:27pm

***

Sorry to Bother You – nf

It is very difficult to describe or categorize this movie. Certainly, it was not a comedy although somewhere it was advertised as such. We suppose it was a satire. It also was science fiction of sorts but more likely of the horror genre. The movie certainly was taking on racial issues as well as worker exploitation and it also has elements of a love story. In the end it was a serious movie trying to make a statement.

The setting is Oakland, California. Cassius Green is a black, newly hired telemarketer who gets advice that he could be successful in this type of work if he uses a “white voice.” He quickly moves to the next level in his work where he has to deal with a future world of a trending corporation which has a labor policy which offers extra benefits to workers while secretly enslaving them. This is not exactly a typical plot especially when Mr. Green is introduced to a cocaine-like substance which when snorting it can turn you into a half horse, half human creature, but “only for five years” or so our character was told.

This is an unusual story and a weird film that might catch your attention. The director is Boots Riley. The producers include Forest Whitaker. A few of the featured casts are Lakeith Stanfield (as Mr. Green), Tessa Thompson, Jermaine Fowler, Omari Hardwick, Terry Crews, Michael X. Sommers and Danny Glover.

Be prepared for an offbeat different type of a film which will be thought-provoking. (2018)

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The Black Panther

December 11th, 2018 — 5:48am

***

Black Panther

This story is founded on the premise that hidden in deepest Africa is the Kingdom of Wakanda which due to the existence of a special magical powerful substance, the people secretly live there with very advanced technology that is hidden from the rest of the world. They are ruled by a king who is challenged by a cousin who wants to rule the kingdom in order to use the special powers to help other black people throughout the world. It is customary that when someone challenges the king, there is a mortal physical combat to determine who shall rule the kingdom.

The cast of many are all black except for one villain and one CIA agent moderately involved in the storyline. The stars of the movie are Chadwick Boseman who plays the Black Panther and Michael B. Jordan who challenges him, as well as Lupita Nyongo, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Angela Bassett, Daniel Kaluuya, Winston Duke, Forest Whitaker, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman. The real stars or at least the co-stars are the cast of what seems to be a thousand people listed in the credits at the end of the film. This is because this is a movie with some very special effects, animation that is intertwined with the human actors who are in elaborate costumes which seems to blend ancient African garb with fancy, shinny jewelry, face masks along with science fiction garb that emanates from Star Trek and beyond.

At times, the stories which appear to animate the human action into shooting with special guns and slicing with large knives and swords reminds one of the action videos that we see our grandson watching and playing on his iPhone.

The movie is directed by Ryan Coogler and is written by Coogler, Joe Cole, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee. Lee, of course is known for also creating Spiderman, the X-Men, Mighty Thor, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, Daredevil, the Ant-Man and many more characters. He died this past month at the age of 94.

It is interesting to see that in this modern-day movie, the women in the film are depicted often with shaved heads being good fighters and possessing great power but all subservient to the king. Still it is the women who create the possibility for change. The movie is also special because it is a kind of parable about the world today and the choices between isolation and helping others. The ending brings hope in the film and just possibly in the real world

It is not surprising to see that the budget for this movie was over $200 million and the box-office thus far has been $1.3 billion and that’s not counting the Blu-ray and DVDs which are approaching another billion dollars. This movie and the main character, the Black Panther for sure will live in the hearts and memories of this current generation of moviegoers especially in the minds of the kids. It is worth the ride. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Action, Drama

Roma

November 15th, 2018 — 8:28am

***

Roma

When this veteran filmmaker decided he would tell a very personal story, he made sure to take on major roles in the aspect of making this movie. Alfonso Cuaron was not only the director and screenwriter, but he also was the cinematographer and editor. Afterall, it was a story about Cleo who was his maid/servant had helped to raise him in his upper-class home which was probably in Mexico City in the 1980s.

After a slow start (be prepared for lots of water and a viewing of what seem to be every credit for this film at the beginning of the movie). The movie then drills down to an in-depth sensitive portrait of this obviously beloved woman who played a significant role in raising Mr. Cuaron. It is interesting and probably revealing that the director/screenwriter bypassed his choice of many experienced actresses and chose an unknown, non-actress school teacher from his hometown to ultimately play the starring role in this movie. Yalitza Aparicio, no doubt with the assistance of the director, did an excellent job of conveying the genuine, sensitive caring of her character. In contrast, the other co-star was a veteran actress, Marina De Tavira who also turned in an outstanding performance as the mother of the four children and the wife who is realizing the true state of her marriage.

In many ways this movie, although it is a man’s tale of his childhood, he really is providing insight into the feelings and emotions only of the women. Men are not portrayed as very nice people. Notably also, there is a small piece of gratuitous nudity that really isn’t necessary for the story and it is a scene of a naked man approaching his sexual partner in the bed. There also is a notable undercurrent of the human rights and civic action which occurred in the 1970s in Mexico City which is depicted very realistically in this movie.

This is a very well-done film that will resonate well with many moviegoers. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

A Private War

October 31st, 2018 — 5:08am

***

A Private War

The film opens in war torn Sri Lanka with rebel soldiers walking through an area infected with potential enemies everywhere. An IUD explodes killing and maiming soldiers. There is gunfire, which frequently erupts. Among the tattered troops walking through this dangerous war zone is a woman without a helmet holding only a pad and pen. This is Marie Colvin, a war correspondent from England. Another explosive device goes off causing this woman to be injured and to lose an eye. For the rest of the film, we see her with a patch over one eye.

This amazing story is a well-documented true account with a screenplay by Arash Amel who we met at the conclusion of the screening of this movie. This film, while an apparently true representation of this amazing woman, in our opinion, was somewhat disjointed. While we jump around from place to place, we did learn about her need to send back the story, the true story, behind the wars that she covered. This included a face-to-face interview with Muammar Gaddafi, as well as heart-wrenching interviews with the victims of war including refugees who were mostly women and children. We also see the impact on Marie Colvin herself, which included alcohol, affairs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress. In one dramatic moment in very arduous circumstances, we see this war correspondent switch from print reporting to making a live broadcast back to CNN in the U.S., during which we get a glimpse of her desire to make a difference in the tragic and dangerous events in which she embedded herself. Perhaps what was missing however, was that we never came to understand how she got to be the way she was and where her motivation came from.

The movie was mostly filmed in Jordan although it was representing the wars in Syria and Iraq. Rosamund Pike deserves kudos for her depiction of the real-life Marie Colvin. There were also good supporting performances by Jamie Dornan, Tom Hollander, and Stanley Tucci. Also, director Matthew Heineman deserves praise as does the behind the scenes staff, who created the terrible war environment and the depiction of many injured and frightened people struggling through it. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, War

Beautiful Boy

October 15th, 2018 — 7:54pm

***

Beautiful Boy-rm

This movie has the potential to help educate the public about the terrible opioid epidemic in this country and to particularly highlight the devastating impact that methamphetamine is causing on so many young people. The story is based on the true life experiences of a young man by the name of Nic Sheff and that of his father, David Sheff, both of whom wrote books upon which the screen play by Luke Davis and by the film director, Felix Van Groeningen was written

We have not read the above books and do not know if there were any significant psychological determinants described for the teenage boy’s drug behavior shown in the books as they did not seem to be present in the film. This young man was played by Timothée Chalamet who was nominated for an Oscar last year for his performance in “Call Me By Your Name.” The father, David Sheff was played by comedian and veteran actor, Steve Carrell who certainly depicted the pain that his character felt upon seeing his son relapse multiple times and realizing that his love and care for his son could not save him from drugs

Toward the end of the film, we are confronted with the bold statement to the effect that methamphetamine is perhaps the most addictive and deadly of all the drugs being abused today. As a psychiatrist, one of us has been told by many different patients who abused drugs, that they know on average 10 to 20 people who have died of overdoses. The deadly toll in this film was actually mild compared to the reality that users know exists.

If you have encountered the scourge and deadliness of this epidemic, you may be able to identify with the pain of the characters in this film. If this is new to you, we are not sure that the movie will affect you as it should. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Brampton’s Own

October 2nd, 2018 — 7:01pm

***

 Brampton’s Own – sp 

In this movie, baseball becomes a metaphor for a grandiose goal in life that may not be obtainable. Dustin (Alex Russell) is a catcher for a triple A minor league baseball team who is one step away from being elevated to a major league baseball team which would be the pinnacle of success for him. He has been hoping and trying to reach his goal in life for almost 10 years during the course of which, he has lost close touch with his friends, family and girlfriend (Rose McIver) who was the love of his life. If he is ready to abandon his dreams and come off the road should his friends, family and his old girlfriend who is about to be married come back into his life? There are perhaps two ways to view this main character. According to his mother (Jean Smart) he has to learn to enjoy and appreciate the journey, on the way to his life goal even if the goal is not obtainable. Or perhaps he is just a narcissistic, self-centered person that only cares about himself? Both may be true.

Writer-director Michael Doneger put together a skillful production team led by producer Mark DiCristofaro which filmed the story in an amazing 15 days. Kudos also goes to the young actor Carter Hastings who played Cody, a kid interested in baseball who is trying to learn about the “game.” This movie is not a “Field of Dreams” but it should stimulate some thoughts and discussion about life. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Sport

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