Category: 3 Stars


Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

September 1st, 2019 — 6:32pm

***

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood-rm

We think it is fair to say that Quentin Tarantino, the writer and director of this film, likes to do things his way and that he certainly does that in this film.

We meet the main characters, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a fading TV and movie star, and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who is Dalton’s stunt double, long-time friend and employee. Early in the story, Dalton’s agent (Al Pacino) suggests that his career is going downhill and he may have to resort in playing Italian movies. It happens that Rick has a lovely place in Hollywood Hills next door to movie star, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), and her husband Roman Polansky. Do those names sound familiar?

The setting, in addition to being in Hollywood, is taking place in1969. If you are an auto enthusiast, you will recognize many of the cars of that era. You will also get an inside glimpse of the movie sets of that time and how actors would rehearse their lines.

Tarantino, in addition through telling us a story his way, is showing us behind-the-scenes movie world where we can watch a classic Western movie being prepared. We even have a chance to meet Bruce Lee (Michael Moh) who has an interesting battle with the Brad Pitt character. There are other familiar supporting actors throughout the films such as Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Luke Perry, Lena Dunham, and Damian Lewis). In fact, the acting, writing and directing, as expected, is very imaginative. The main problem with the film is that it took three hours for Tarantino to show us his fantasy of the movie world nearly 50 years ago. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Before You Know It

August 20th, 2019 — 5:37pm

***

Before You Know It-sp

One of the most fascinating scenarios that we have seen in various films over the years is one where a previously unknown family relationship becomes known. That is the premise of this movie produced by a team of newcomer filmmakers. The co-stars, Hannah Pearl Utt and Jen Tullock in addition to co-starring in the film both co-wrote the story and Utt was the director.

The main subjects are a theatrical family where the two sisters and their dad (Mandy Patinkin – who is outstanding in this relatively short role) are trying to produce a play in a small theater in Greenwich Village in New York City where they live in an upstairs apartment. Tragic circumstances lead the girls to track down the woman who they unexpectedly came to understand is their actual biological mother. This woman (Judith Light) is herself a famous soap opera star who ultimately embraces her long-lost daughters. In this process, there was meaningful dialogue which deals with abandonment, adolescents, growing up as well as the complications of sharing credits in creative endeavors. There is also a sub-story about the oldest sisters’ pubescent daughter (Oona Yaffe) who discovers her womanhood and has to figure out how to deal with it. Along the way, there is a therapist (Alec Baldwin) who adds some passing humor to the story.

“Before you know it”, we have witnessed a meaningful slice of life for all the main characters who suffered but hopefully grew and matured. The audience shares the experience with them which include some good humor. This could have been a Woody Allen movie which actually is a backhanded compliment. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

August 20th, 2019 — 5:26pm

***

Where’d You Go, Bernadette -rm

At best, the main character is a quirky brilliant architect who is married and has a lovely daughter. They care deeply about each other and the connection between them is very touching. Circumstances and misunderstanding lead them on a wild adventure to the Antarctica and the South Pole.

The cast is top notch staring Cate Blanchett, Trojan Bellisario, Billy Crudup and Kristen Wiig, also featuring Judy Greer and Laurence Fishburne, all working under the guidance of veteran director, Richard Linklater.

The film obviously touched the funny bone of much of the audience as we heard frequent out loud laughter. However, we viewed the main character as a misunderstood, if relatable woman frustrated by the events in her life and seemingly suffering from a potentially serious depression which supported her husband’s attempt to arrange an “ intervention “ with a mental health therapist. Viewing this film about a troubled person made it hard to appreciate the humor that was obviously there and enjoyed by much of the audience. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Always Be My Maybe

August 17th, 2019 — 5:34am

***

Always Be My Maybe – nf

Two kids, a boy and a girl who happen to be Asian are best friends growing up in San Francisco. They ultimately have their first sexual experience together as teenagers in the backseat of his car. They then go their separate ways. Marcus (Randall Park) stays in their hometown working for his father’s contracting business and is part of a struggling upstart band. Sasha (Ali Wong) becomes a famous restaurant chef and designer mixing with the rich and famous and is about to marry a very wealthy somewhat older man who needs to go to India for a couple of months prior to the wedding date. Marcus and Sasha who have not seen each other for 15 years have a chance meeting when he and his father come to do a repair on her latest mansion.

Nahnatchka Khan does an excellent job directing and he has corralled some absolutely beautiful mansions and restaurants for the backdrop of this story, which was co-written by the two main stars and Michael Golamco. The problem with the storyline, as interesting and beautifully as it was presented, is that you can easily guess how the plot is going to unfold. Everything develops as you would expect it, well done and charming, evocative and engaging but not with much originality. Perhaps the “punch in the face” to Keanu Reeves was a surprise and subsequently became the theme on which the movie rides to its inevitable conclusion. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

After The Wedding

August 7th, 2019 — 8:49pm

***

After the Wedding-sp

This movie deals with hidden secrets and family relationships, a topic that has been dealt with from time to time in a variety of films. In this case, it is about a woman (Michelle Williams) who is confronted with her long-lost relative and her parents (Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup). Hidden secrets emerge including a fatal one. The setting of the film ranges from a poor orphanage in India to a posh office in New York City and a mega mansion in the suburbs. Julianne Moore (who in real life is married to the director of this film Bart Freundlich) is at the top of her game with a full range of emotions from the very subtle to the near hysteria. Michelle Williams, we thought was somewhat constrained but perhaps, that was hers or the director’s interpretation of her role. The film was well done on a delicate topic but we felt it fell short in believability and realism. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold

July 7th, 2019 — 5:01am

*** 

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold – nf

Joan Didion is an accomplished writer who for the past 50 years has written novels, essays and screenplays including many pieces for Vogue and Vanity Fair Magazine. She has lived and written about the literary scene in New York in the 1950s and ‘60s as well as about her home State of California in the 1980s and 1990s. She has partied with Janis Joplin and has hung out with Jim Morrison.

This documentary film is made by Ms Didion’s nephew, Griffin Dunne, who is a well-known actor, director and producer. It is co-produced by his wife Anna Dunne and Mary Recine. The film was narrated by a somewhat frail elderly Ms. Didion who seems as sharp as ever. It begins when she must have been a toddler and her mother gave her a book and a pencil and told her to record her thoughts and feelings. She still has that book and of course has filled that book and many others. There are wonderful film clips and photos from past decades which reflect the times as well as the personal remembrances of Ms. Didion. This includes images and the words of her husband, John Gregory Dunne who was also a writer. During their long marriage, which included one dearly beloved daughter whom they adopted shortly after her birth, they always would read and edit each other’s writings even if they didn’t fully agree about everything.

We were captured by this review of this woman’s life and also how it reflected her perspective through Ms. Didion’s words and thoughts along with images of the time. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Sea of Shadows

June 18th, 2019 — 8:18pm

***

Sea of Shadows-sp

This is an interesting documentary film which is at times quite exciting and dramatic although some of the fine points were difficult to understand. It appears that in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, the vaquita, a small whale-like mammal, is on the verge of extinction. The reason being that a Mexican cartel encourages rogue fishermen to set up fishing nets to capture another species, the totoaba, since the Chinese mafia will pay very large sums of money for the bladder of the totoaba because of supposed medicinal powers. The vaquita which die in these fishing nets are now near extinction with only 15 or 20 of them still alive. A group of environmental activists attempt to rescue the few remaining vaquita. Things get exciting as the Mexican navy gets involved, responding when the environmentalists identify the rogue fishermen. There are some very dramatic scenes shot by a drone as the criminal fishermen are confronted. But things become more complicated and quite scary as there is a sinister crime boss involved. The director and filmmaker, Richard Ladkani, risks his life along with the environmentalists as they, at times, arrange undercover meetings which are secretly recorded with the various participants and criminal elements.

This film project which was mostly supported by one of the executive producers, Leonardo DiCaprio, at times becomes an expose of the Mexican navy and the Mexican government itself. This film may make a difference in exposing corruption in Mexico as well as in saving a species on the verge of extinction. (2019)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

The Tomorrow Man

May 15th, 2019 — 5:56am

***

The Tomorrow Man

Noble Jones is an experienced cinematographer who wrote the screenplay for this movie and which he was given the opportunity to direct. He also chose to take the dual job as cinematographer of it. The movie was beautifully filmed and it was visually close to a work of art.

The storyline was quite original and the two star roles could not have been better chosen. John Lithgow and Blythe Danner played two now single folks “on the wrong side of 60.” He is self-identified as a “planner” who also might be called a “survivalist” as he accumulates all sorts of things in preparation for some future cataclysmic event. She is a “hoarder”, as she saves nearly everything because she cannot part with anything. In a post-film discussion, Jones, the writer/director, pointed out that the only difference between these personalities is “neatness” which he has and she doesn’t possess.

It is nice to see senior folks falling for each other, but we felt that there was no real development of the back story of the characters. We only learned a little bit about their past lives later in the film and there are no great insights or interesting complications in the plot. We are sorry to say that we felt that the story dragged on with a mildly interesting ending, but we didn’t feel it was worth the ride. (2019)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

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

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

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