Category: 3 Stars


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 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

The Wife

September 16th, 2018 — 9:19pm

***

The Wife-rm

This is an intriguing story, not quite believable, with great acting and is a well done movie directed by Bjorn Runge with a screenplay by Jane Anderson based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer.

It is hard to go wrong with Glenn Close who plays a devoted wife and clandestine writer for her husband (Jonathan Pryce) who has just been awarded a Nobel Prize for literature. The big secret is that the wife. who is the author’s second wife and originally was his student, in reality behind closed doors, essentially created his great literary works. The story and movie reflect how, perhaps up until recently, it was very difficult for even a talented woman writer to achieve recognition and certainly great literary acclaim, even if she deserved it.

Max Irons plays the son, who is also a writer, but is not very well supported by his dad and Christian Slater plays a probing potential biographer of the new Nobel Prize winner. The film is thought provoking, apparently not based on any real people, but reflects real issues of the time. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Crazy Rich Asians

September 14th, 2018 — 11:00pm

***

Crazy Rich Asians-rm

This is a fast moving romantic comedy with an all-Asian cast which satires “crazy rich Asians”.

A young man decides to take his girlfriend with him from United States to go to a friend’s wedding in Singapore and also visit with his family. Although the young woman is an Economics professor in the United States, she did not have any idea of the tremendous wealth belonging to his family. The magnificent skyline of the city as well as that of Shanghai, beautiful nearby islands, gigantic yachts, spacious mansions, parties with attractive well-dressed people, music, dancing, unlimited food and drink are the background and the foreground of this film.

The young man’s mother as well as his grandmother questioned the intentions of the new girlfriend who they feel is pulling him to stay in the United States and not follow his destiny by taking over the family business in his homeland.

The storyline plays with the viewer. Just as you think the climactic dilemma is being solved one way, it changes and it’s now being worked out another way and then still another. It is a tumultuous story, all about love and a group of very wealthy “crazy rich Asians.” (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

Far From The Tree

August 25th, 2018 — 12:28am

***

Far From The Tree-nf

What happens when a parent realizes that their child is quite “different”? How do they feel, and of course how does the developing child experience life when he or she realizes there is a major difference in themselves and most of the people in the world? Andrew Solomon, the author of a well-received book with the same title of this movie, opens this documentary film by reflecting on his struggle and that of his parents as he became aware that he was gay.

The focus of filmmaker Rachel Dretzin was to also examine the real life examples of families and children with Dwarfism, Autism or Down Syndrome, as well as a situation of a seemingly normal teenager who for no apparent reason murders an eight-year-old child and is sentenced to life in prison.

Needless to say, each of these situations present a different set of circumstances in regard to the physical attributes, speech, intellectual ability and other life circumstances. We also can’t ever generalize how everyone will respond in each category. But what we were shown in these real life examples, was that all the children were ultimately shown unconditional love and acceptance by their families.

One very interesting situation was that of a young couple, both of whom had Dwarfism and were happily married. The wife becomes pregnant. At this point, they were not sure if they wanted the child to be normal or to be a small person like them.

The filmmaker did a very good job showing the viewers the dilemma and the feelings of all the parents and children. The analogy between the developmental disability and being gay on one hand seem to be a stretch, but yet, when seen through the eyes of the parents, gave us some worthwhile insight. On the other hand, each category depicted could have been examined in much more depth, perhaps in a separate documentary film for each one. We also felt we needed more insight into why and how the murderer came to do his deed. However, we saw the unconditional and continued love of the parents for their son as they had periodic phone calls with him as he served his life sentence. In fact, the strength and endurance of parental-child love in each family depicted was the real theme of this movie. (2017)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

The Bookshop

August 15th, 2018 — 12:36am

***

The Bookshop-sp

This is a beautifully made film in which the idyllic setting is a small seaside town in England which looks even of an earlier time than the 1950s when it takes place. A widow who loves books buys an old warehouse and makes it into a bookstore. But there is resistance from particular people in the town who want the building to be an art center. The underlying theme is the admirable qualities of the woman who is dedicated and loves books and how she impacts an older man and a younger child. The movie is a little slow which perhaps allows the viewer to soak in the atmosphere and the depth of the characters.

Isabel Coixet is the director/writer and the story is based on a book by Penelope Fitzgerald, although the ending was unique to the film. The movie features a very sensitive performance by Emily Mortimer with excellent supporting roles by Patricia Clarkson, Bill Nighy and Honor Kneafsey.

It remains to be seen if the Millennials will appreciate why the filmmaker chose to linger on the love of books and the setting where they are actually displayed to see and to touch. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Eighth Grade

August 12th, 2018 — 7:24pm

***

Eighth Grade-rm

You can make an argument that the eighth grade may be the most difficult transitional period for a young girl. This film certainly makes this case. Certainly, the storyline shows that the main character is struggling with her own identity, friendships with others and her relationships with her single parent dad. (Although the other girls in her class seemed happier?) We hardly know anything about the details of her family. She has no siblings and only her dad is in the picture. It is also no surprise that the girl and most of her contemporaries are on their cell phone all the time. Social media also plays an important role as this young eighth grader is making a series of online videos which tells everyone how to “find and express themselves” which of course was her own main struggle.

It is a special accomplishment when a director can lead a young eighth grader or thereabouts to star in a major film. Director/writer, Bo Burnham and his actress, Elsie Fisher deserves credit and recognition for their accomplishment. We suspect that many young people will be able to identify with the young eighth grader and this film will be a big hit. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

The Captain

August 8th, 2018 — 7:10am

***

The Captain-sp

This film by veteran writer director, Robert Schwentke, which features a young German actor Max Hubacher, is a very powerful movie which shows the violence and cruelty of the German people during World War II through the depiction and actions of the German soldiers during the last two months of the war. However, it is somewhat unique in that the violence in this case is not directed towards the Jews or the allied enemy soldiers. Rather it is shown by the mass murder of German soldiers who may have been deserting at the end of the war and trying to survive by stealing food.

The story line is based on a true incident where a young German soldier isolated from his unit and being chased by other German soldiers as a deserter and a thief came upon the uniform of a German Captain and then took on the role of this officer. The story unfolds from there as this “Captain” becomes  cruel, sadistic and as murderous as anyone in the German army.

The film was shot in black and white, which according to the director, was to minimize the blood and gore of which there was plenty. The violence and murder shown in the film was strong enough to lead to a steady flow to the exit during this film from our preview audience. In the end, we are left with a very well done, all be it, uncomfortable movie which is quite provocative and no doubt will be unforgettable.

The film was in German with subtitles. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, War

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