Category: 3 Stars


One Child Nation

November 17th, 2019 — 10:57pm

 

***

One Child Nation-  amazon

In 1979, the Chinese government came to the conclusion that if they did not make some radical changes, the next generation’s population would grow enormously. 

They believed that the population would be in the billions and would lead to widespread starvation and be very difficult to manage. Therefore the Chinese government instituted a mandatory one child policy, which was widely publicized and became the “patriotic approach” expected from every Chinese family. Those who disobeyed this dictum and had a second child would be severely punished sometimes by having their home destroyed. Midwives not only performed numerous sterilization procedures and abortions but also at times had to kill newborns who were second children. This policy continued for 25 years before it was finally changed allowing a second child.

Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang directed this documentary film. Much of it was in Chinese with subtitles. It captures and personalizes the impact of this all encompassing social policy. Through interviews with various Chinese people, the viewer can appreciate the very personal meaning of being deprived of the ability to have a second child if one wanted one. Family dynamics are examined especially in some settings where there might be a desire to have a boy and the first child was a girl. The newborn and the very young were abandoned in the streets. There was human trafficking where children were sold to adoption agencies. Many of these children were internationally adopted and ended up in American homes where the adopted parents were not told the true story of their newly adopted child. There also is the story of the search by adopted Chinese children growing up in America who might be interested in finding their birth families.

This film deals with these complicated issues, which have political, social, as well as emotional implications. You come away from this documentary film educated and also moved by the human implications of what you have seen and experienced. (2019)

 

As always your comments are welcome below:

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Foreign, Politics

Last Christmas

November 15th, 2019 — 6:09am

***

Last Christmas-rm

This is one of the first Christmas films of this season. It takes place in London, which looks quite beautiful during holiday time. The story is the brainchild of Emma Thompson, who plays the mother of Katie (Emila Clarke) who would like to make it as a singer, but at the moment works dressed up as an elf salesgirl selling Christmas items. There is romance all around as the owner of the store where she works (Michelle Yeoh) is smitten with a handsome customer. Katie’s sister (Lydia Leonard) is in a relationship with a woman that her parents are not ready to accept. Katie appears to have found a wonderful guy (Henry Golding), but it turns out that there is something mystical about him.

Thompson’s story and screenplay, which are co-written by Greg Wise and Bryoni Kimmings, attempts to meld together the joy of Christmas which includes charity, forgiveness, and of course, romance all with a spiritual flavor. Credit should also be given to director Paul Feig who had to blend everything in the right proportions. There is also a strong music background, which not only sets the Christmas mood but highlights the other moving themes of this film. The predominant voice is the written music and performance of the late George Michaels. If you are looking for a Christmas movie, you cannot go wrong with this one (2019).

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

The Current War: Director’s Cut

October 17th, 2019 — 7:09am

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The Current War: Director’s Cut- sp

No, this is not about the current fighting between Turkey, Syria, and the Kurds. It is actually a very American story where “current” means “electricity” and the main characters in the movie are Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch), George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) and Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult).

This 2016 film got lost in movieland politics involved with Harvey Weinstein. However, its director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was able to hold on to the film and bring back some of the stars and redo parts of the movie. The result is a very interesting story that we assume most of us knew very little about and that is that there was a historical battle about which kind of electricity would win the right to light up the Chicago World’s Fair and ultimately, win the race to light up the United States. Would it be direct current (DC) favored by Thomas Edison or alternating current (AC) championed by George Westinghouse? We also get some insight into the private lives of these men and their wives played by Katherine Waterston and Tuppence Middleton.

This is not a documentary film and not exactly a docudrama. However, it is a fascinating story about very interesting people. The main characters are household names not only associated with electricity but in the case of Edison, he is known for bringing us recorded sound and he essentially invented motion pictures.

While this movie might not have provided the deep insight that the director was striving for, it certainly personified these men and told the fascinating tale of the historical contributions to the world that they made.(2019)

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1 comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History

Pain and Glory

October 14th, 2019 — 1:10am

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Pain and Glory-rm

The main character of this movie is a film director Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) who appears to be an aging man with various physical conditions but is still under the influence of his childhood memories and experiences. He has recently learned that an earlier very successful movie that he made is going to be restored and he is invited to present it with the lead actor, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) whom he hasn’t spoken to for 32 years since the film was originally made. The director was angry at the actor because he didn’t play his role the way the director had envisioned it. This scenario becomes a vehicle for the main character to relive and examine his childhood and early years which included his relationship with his mother (Penelope Cruz) as well as his attraction to heroin. His earlier sexual experiences with a man is also highlighted.

The movie is supposed to be semi autobiographical of the filmmaker Pedro Almodovar (whatever that means). While the movie shows meaningful childhood early life experiences and how it impacted the course of the character’s life in later years, we didn’t feel the storyline captured and held our interest. The movie was well-acted and produced, with topnotch acting and production. You forget that you are watching a film in Spanish and reading English subtitles. However, we still can’t give it a strong recommendation. (2019)

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Where’s My Roy Cohn?

September 28th, 2019 — 7:32pm

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Where’s My Roy Cohn?-rm

Roy Cohn was an attorney who died more than 30 years ago and yet his memory is kept alive not only by this documentary  film but by the title of it which was recently uttered by President Donald Trump who was one of Cohn’s many famous clients. Cohn was one of two of Trump’s personal attorneys to be disbarred for misconduct as a lawyer. The other one was Michael Cohen who is currently in prison.

Roy Cohn first came to public attention as the chief attorney for Senator Joseph McCarthy during the famous McCarthy hearings which occurred in the 1950s as McCarthy was trying to root out communists in government. Cohn was also in that position as McCarthy’s committee was investigating supposed communists infiltrating the Army Signal Corps. Subsequently, the army accused McCarthy and his staff for seeking special treatment for Private David Schine who was the close friend of Cohn’s and who had been drafted into the army. This film suggests that Cohn was secretly a homosexual and may have had a relationship with Schine. Cohn never admitted he was gay and he vehemently denied that he had AIDS although it was documented that he had been hospitalized in an AIDS treatment center and eventually died of this disease.

We found this film which was directed by Matt Tyrnauer to be somewhat repetitious. It became clear that Cohn  was a brilliant although a vengeful and dishonest man. It is hard to believe that the President of the United States would wish that he had an attorney like him. On second thought, maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. (2019)

 

Your comments are welcome below

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography

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

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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

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