Category: 3 Stars


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

Love, Cecil

July 18th, 2018 — 5:49pm

***

Love, Cecil-sp

Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) is the subject of this documentary film by Lisa Immordini Vreeland. Beaton was a legendary fashion photographer, renowned portrait photographer as well as a war photographer. On top of that, he was an Oscar-winning stage and costume designer for film and theater. He was a painter and a diarist who wrote several books about his own life. He was apparently gay or at least bisexual and he also called Greta Garbo one of the true loves of his life. Filmmaker, Ms. Vreeland was clearly all in with her attention to detail as she certainly creatively brought Beaton’s artistry to the screen with a full array of pictures, photographs and a narrative (much of it taken directly from Beaton’s diaries). Whether it was photographing the Queen of England or legendary movie stars, this man seemed to always have the full confidence of his subjects. One cannot wonder if he felt unfulfilled himself as he always seemed to be searching for some elusive satisfaction. Certainly, this is a very well done, somewhat unusual, documentary film that many people will enjoy and appreciate the many accomplishments of this artist made to the creative world of the 20th Century (2018).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Three Identical Strangers

July 15th, 2018 — 6:58pm

***

Three Identical Strangers-rm

This is the true story of three identical triplets (Eddie Gallland, David Gellman, Robert Shafran ) who were separated at birth and raised by different families. How they discovered each other and how well they related is a fascinating story which also has a tragic component. This documentary film also reveals how their early lives were part of a secret experiment run by a prominent child psychiatrist with the cooperation of  The Louise Wise Adoption Agency, one of the leading adoption agencies in the country. Just knowing any of the above information would have drawn us to want to learn more about the story and view this movie.

In our opinion this movie raised several stimulating questions, which were not answered or only superficially addressed. These were as follows. 1. What was the exact nature of Dr. Peter Neubauer’s experiment and was it within the ethical guidelines of the time? 2. If this experiment were to determine which is more important in a person’s development, nature or nurture, what was a reasonable conclusion from what was learned about these three triplets? 3. What was the nature of each of these young men’s psychiatric issues as they were all were mentioned to have had psychological treatments in the past. 4. Is it true that if they were not separated at birth, it would have been difficult to adopt the three triplets by one family together? We believe that a very good magazine article with good photographs probably would have dealt with this topic perhaps even in more depth than did the movie. However, director Tim Wardle deserves credit for delving into this story and capturing on film many of the people including family members and other’s firsthand accounts, as well as using film and video archives, in order to tell this fascinating story.

In the past MB has written about this overall subject in his psychiatry blog particularly in an article titled “Discussion of the Phenomena of Unknown Family Members.”( click to see) It turned out to be the most widely read of the many articles on the blog and received over 3,000 hits and over 20 people made comments on the blog about it. There was another article that he wrote titled “The Search for a Personal Biological Identity” ( click to see)which also dealt with this subject. It is also of note that various aspects of this topic were covered in at least seven films which we have reviewed on our movie blog. They were: ( click title to see reviews) Philomena, The Kids are All Right, People Like Us, Bad words, Admission, Mother and Child” and Stories We Tell. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Summer 1993

May 17th, 2018 — 4:53pm

***

Summer 1993-sp

This is a personal story of the writer/director Carla Simon. The movie tells a story of when she was a little girl and her parents died of AIDS at the height of the HIV epidemic which in Spain was in 1993 (a little later than in the United States). She was sent to live with her uncle, aunt, and a younger cousin and had to deal with her inner turmoil at this very tender age. It was quite an accomplishment that the director/writer was able to find a seven-year-old girl, Laia Artigas to play her at this young age as well as a four-year-old, Paula Robles to play her younger cousin Anna. These child actors joined Bruna Cusi, David Verdaguer and Fermi Reixach, who play some of the other members of her family. The story line shows the everyday interactions of these two younger girls mostly with each other but also with Frida’s aunt, uncle and also with the grandparents who come to visit.

It is rare that the personal emotions of a young child are captured so well on the screen. Perhaps it is even more of a feat that the movie was made in Spain, in Catalan with English subtitles. As much as we admired the unusual cinematic accomplishments of bringing the inner feelings of young girls to the screen, we felt that the 96-minute running time to watch them play and cry may not have been worth the time spent watching it. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Rider

April 13th, 2018 — 7:59am

Screened at the 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Opens in U.S. April 13, 2018

***

The Rider

 

This film almost looks like a documentary, but it is actually a hybrid as the movie focuses on life crisis of a rodeo competitor Brady Blackburn. We meet him as he is recovering from a life threatening head injury, which we realized happened during his brilliant but very daring and dangerous competitive riding, which occurred on top of wild untamed horses. We come to understand his love of horses and his uncanny connection to them. He knows he is supposed to stay away from the sport as his brain and body must heal. We are given insight into his character as we see his relationship with a very good friend, who is a like brother to him and is now in a hospital brain damaged after being thrown from a horse. We also see his caring tender relationship with his younger sister who appears to have a developmental disability as well as his interactions with his caring father who had been very rough on him. The movie is directed by Chloe Zhao who met the star of the movie on an Indian Reservation while filming a 2014 movie titled Songs My Brothers Taught Me. This director certainly achieved some very interesting footage particularly as the star interacts and trains his horses.

To many people rodeo competitive riding and the heroes who participate in it is as captivating as competitive football is to many other Americans. It occurred to one of us that the movie could have very well been highlighting the dilemma of those football stars who are faced with life threatening head injuries from the sport that they also love (2018).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Sport

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