Category: 3 Stars


C’mon C’mon

April 30th, 2022 — 5:40am

C’mon C’mon ( Amazon)
***

Joaquin Phoenix plays Johnny, a radio journalist who travels around the country asking kids about their views of the world and future. The kids interviewed were not actors and it is interesting to hear the variety of children’s views about life.

Things happen, and Johnny ends up taking care of his nephew Jesse who is played by 11-year-old British child actor Woody Norman. Johnny’s mother (Gabby Hoffmann) had to travel to another city to care for her husband who has some emotional problems, so now Johnny has a partner as he travels around the country interviewing kids. They travel from Los Angeles to New York to New Orleans. The story is the brainchild of Mike Mills who wrote the screenplay and apparently worked closely with the uncle-nephew duo directing the filming as they travel around. The movie was made in black and white, which perhaps makes it seem like a newsreel of real life. We got two take-aways from the film. On one hand, it is an optimistic view of the world through the eyes of young people. It is also an examination of meaningful family relationships even when there are conflicts and difficult circumstances in early life. The brother and sister show a caring and a trust between them even if it might not have always been that way. Also, we see the uncle and nephew develop a deep-rooted caring for each other although it takes a while for it to happen on this very unique road trip.

The film is sweet and charming, even as it depicts the difficult challenges of everyday life. It is clear how hard it is to be a parent, as well as how many obstacles there are for kids to overcome. The characters, while unique, draw you in to the universality of the need for understanding and connection and the rewards of experiencing transformation.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

House of Gucci

April 12th, 2022 — 3:23am

House of Gucci
***

Lady Gaga demonstrated that in addition to her well-known singing talent, she had great acting chops. She played the girlfriend, then wife, and a lot more of one of the Gucci heirs magnificently portrayed by Adam Driver. This is a biographical crime drama. The film is directed by Ridley Scott and is based on the 2001 book by Sara Gay Forden titled “House of Gucci: A Sensational Story Of Murder, Madness, Glamor, And Greed,” which tells it all. At times, you may lose a beat of the story line or the role of a specific character, but the overall cinematic experience is quite engrossing. The supporting cast is great and features Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek, and Al Pacino.

We found it interesting to learn that Lady Gaga took into account how her longtime friend Tony Bennett felt about Italians being represented in films in terms of crime and that she aspired to “make a real person out of her character and not a caricature.” To achieve this she studied the voice and vocal cadence as well as the attitude of the real person she was portraying and tried to be “authentic from the perspective of a woman, not an Italian American woman.” She studied for 18 months speaking in accent for nine months of this period. She also ad libbed many of her lines including the film’s iconic quote “father, son, and House of Gucci”, which went viral after the release of the film. (The above information is from Wikipedia).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Crime, Drama

The Hand of God

January 11th, 2022 — 2:29am

The Hand of God-nf

***

This is an Italian film with subtitles. It focuses initially on a boy who appears to be in his late teens and is very engrossed in following his favorite football (soccer) team. We meet his various extended family members, all who seem to be quite distinctive characters although we really do not get to know anyone of them in great depth. His life is forever impacted by a tragic event. He seems as if he is now exploring the world on a mission, but we do not quite know what it is. His first sexual experience is clearly going to be unforgettable and meaningful as was the intention of the older woman who seduces him.

The film is written and directed and co-produced by Paolo Sorrentino. It appears to be autobiographical and in retrospect, we realize it is showing us the beginning of a journey where the filmmaker will ultimately bring his intense complicated life experiences to the movie screen. It stars Filippo Scotti, who already has received the Marcello Mastroianni Award for his acting. It is also not surprising that the film has been selected as the Italian entry for best international feature film for the upcoming 94th Academy Awards.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Uncategorized

Don’t Look UP

December 28th, 2021 — 4:49am

Don’t Look Up – nf
***

Great story, fantastic plot, unbelievable cast, and fair to good movie.

An astronomy graduate student (Jennifer Lawrence) shows her professor (Leonardo DiCaprio) that she has discovered a large comet heading towards the Earth on a path which would be expected to completely destroy our planet. They ultimately have a meeting with the President of the United States (Meryl Streep) and her advisors. The usual politics overshadow the threat to the world. There is a possibility of diverting the deadly threat. There are also romances and affairs. In a sense, we are reminded of the current world situation where our planet and civilization are threatened with the destruction of the world as we know it, due to the deadly pandemic or climate change. The squabbles and politics seem to cloud full appreciation of this threat and how we can act together and save our planet.

This movie is directed by Adam McKay who co-wrote the story with David Sirota. Rounding out the cast are Timothée Chalamet, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Matthew Perry, Tyler Perry and many other familiar faces. The music by Nicholas Britell is appropriately grandiose and the special effects are done well obviously utilizing the film’s $75 million budget.

Perhaps this cinematic experience is a little over the top- or is it?

Comment » | 3 Stars, Action, Drama

Death in Venice

November 18th, 2021 — 8:39am

Death in Venice nf
***

This 1971 movie, which is more than two hours long, is based on a 1930 novella by Thomas Mann and is filled with classical music by Mahler, Beethoven, Mussorgsky, and Gill. The director and co-screenwriter was Luchino Visconti.

The main character is a composer Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde), who travels to Venice by himself for a vacation and rest due to health concerns. It is interesting to note that the city was then experiencing a pandemic due to cholera. Aschenbach becomes obsessed and attracted to an adolescent boy named Tadzio who is staying with his family at the same hotel. Most if not the entire film shows the struggle of this older man with his feelings of attraction towards Tadzio, although they never interact. The facial expressions of the main character and the strong musical background define this film leading to the ultimate fatal ending.

While the scenes are beautifully shot and it feels as though you are watching paintings on the screen, the film doesn’t really engage the viewer. The dearth of dialogue and the overall ambiguity is off putting and somewhat unsatisfying. While a unique film, it doesn’t seem worth the time for most people.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Belfast

November 18th, 2021 — 8:27am

Belfast. sp
***

This film has received much publicity before its opening and the opportunity we had to see it in preview. One of the major underlying themes is the conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestants, and Catholic factions. We do not fully appreciate the fine points of the deep-seated antagonism between these two groups nor the many variations of thought within them. However, we could identify with the 9-year-old boy Buddy (Jude Hill) who is part of an Irish family living in Northern Ireland. His dad (Jamie Dornan) would go to London for work for periods of time while the family was feeling increasing tension in Belfast in Northern Ireland where they lived. This is obviously the story of writer-director Kenneth Branagh who grew up in Northern Ireland. We do not get much insight into the political underpinnings of this conflict, but we do see how it totally preoccupied this family. We see deadly violence all around them and are touched by the loving care in this family, which includes Judi Dench as the grandmother. The appropriate musical background was provided by Van Morrison. This is a well done movie, which brings the overwhelming tragic political situation down to its impact upon the members of one family living through it.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Politics

Speer Goes to Hollywood

November 6th, 2021 — 6:04am

SPEER GOES TO HOLLYWOOD-sp
***

The title of this film suggests that somehow the story of this major nasty figure has been jazzed up or perhaps has been fabricated to make it a Hollywood production. However, the director and producer, Vanessa Lapa and Tomer Eliav, producer and sound designer whom we met after seeing the film at Stephen Farber’s “Reel Talk” film series, claim the story is factual and true to life. They report how they had meticulously have gone through the archives of film about World War II including recordings of the Nuremberg Trials in which Albert Speer was one of the defendants. Interestingly, they did not use the voice of Speer but rather they hired a voice actor to speak the words of the real-life players mostly German with subtitles. The rationale was that the audio quality of these old tapes was too poor to use.

We mostly follow Speer during World War II as a designer and builder of prison camps as well as confidante to Hitler and his inner circle. The prisoners (obviously mostly Jews) are seen and there was indication of forced labor and exhausted emaciated prisoners. The actual crematoriums were not shown in much detail as they deserved to be shown. The fact that we were seeing actual pictures of the inhuman treatment of the Jews makes the film riveting even if we don’t fully appreciate Speer’s role in carrying out Hitler’s extermination plan.

Speer was apparently the only major figure not to be sentenced to execution at the Nuremberg Trials, but rather served 20 years in prison. He even subsequently wrote a successful book once he was released. The film does not clearly address why he was spared execution. There was some mention how he provided some valuable information for the allies and not to the Russians.

It is also interesting that in response to a question to the film makers they stated that the initial funding for the film was provided by the Israeli Government. Any new insight into the Holocaust even years later is still riveting. Although the film did not go as deeply as it might have done and did leave many unanswered questions, it still is a major contribution, so we will “never forget.”

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, History

Audrey

August 25th, 2021 — 5:25am

Audrey
***

A good biographical film provides an insight into the character of the main subject, shows their life trajectory and highlights their accomplishments. Certainly, this film about Audrey Hepburn does these tasks in spades. We see her childhood brush with World War Two, her early years of dance and then her unsurpassed career in film. We get a great insight into how she approached her acting career by some of her co-stars, directors and producers. We briefly meet her various husbands and get glimpses of her children and one of her sons does provide some of the background narration of her later years. It is in the twilight of her life that we see her character emerge as an empathic humanitarian as she tirelessly traveled and raised funds as a spokesperson for UNICEF

However, what was missing in our opinion, was an insight into her childhood and meaningful relationships. We see how in her later years she sought out the father who had abandoned her when she was a child which was a big disappointment. We learn about her marriage to film icon Mel Ferrer which lasted. 14 years and produced one child, a son. She was then married to an Italian psychiatrist Andrea Dotti for 13 years and she had a second son. She was quoted as saying something to the effect that doctors pay more attention to their patients than their families. She never met her grandchildren who were born after she died in 1993 at the age of 63.

Watching this documentary one can’t help but be reminded of the luminous presence that she was. In the end, her outstanding memorable acting career as an icon during the Golden Years of Hollywood and her dedicated humanitarian work will leave an unforgettable, enduring legacy.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

August 15th, 2021 — 8:18pm

Breakfast at Tiffanys
***

First of all, the title has very little to do with the theme of the movie. The film is clearly a story about the 1950s. One of the old fashioned themes is that when it comes down to it, the woman is owned by the man, although the woman may very well negotiate the sale. Premarital sex is for sale especially among the wealthy as we see through the main characters and it is the woman once again who actually arranges the deal.

The setting is New York City, specifically Manhattan, during the 1950s. The glimpses of the automobiles and the streets and the people seem quite real to those of us who lived in New York during this time period. Most of the action takes place in and out of these Manhattan apartments but this is not what you think of when you think of an apartment house but rather what is called a Brownstone. (Buildings which were once large homes, now divided into several apartments on each of 3 or 4 floors.)

The main character, Holly Golightly, is a care free spirit, hard to pin down, always a step ahead of the sugar daddy she aims to attract. She ultimately falls in love with another tenant in her apartment house played by George Pepard. Audrey Hepburn who is 31 years old at the time of the film is sweet, charming, and very complicated as well as being quite beautiful.

We came away from this cinematic experience with an appreciation of a great actress of her time and an enjoyable look at delightful classic movie

Comment » | 3 Stars, Romance

Enemies of the State

August 8th, 2021 — 8:52pm

***

This is an unusual documentary film, which not only recounted the story from actual film clips but was interspersed with some reenactments based on actual events. The main character is a young man by the name of Matt DeHart who is a known hacker with ties to WikiLeaks, which is an international non-profit organization that publishes news leaks and classified documents provided by anonymous sources. The question that is raised is whether this young man is antagonizing the US government by publishing secret documents and is the US government spreading false information that Mr. DeHart is involved in child pornography? We meet this young man and his family who support him and believe he is being set up by the government. The viewer is torn between these two possibilities as we ponder what is the truth. Sonia Kennebeck is the director and producer and has masterfully weaved this story together. We have our own opinion who is telling the truth and as realistic as the film may have been, we did not think it was worth the hour and 45 minutes.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama

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