Category: 3 Stars

The Florida Project

January 8th, 2018 — 12:23am



The amazing aspect of this movie is the great accomplishment of director Sean Baker, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Bergoch, in assisting six or seven-year-old Brooklyn Prince to play Moonie, the perky daughter of an immature but loving tattooed mother (Bria Vinaite). They live in a motel named Magic Castle Motel, a stone’s throw from Disney Land. You may remember Mr. Baker’s previously well-received low budget movie titled Tangerine which was about transgender prostitutes and was shot with cell phones. The budget for the current film has obviously been upped and brings aboard William Dafoe who does a great job as the kind, compassionate motel manager. There are a bunch of cohort children living in the motel and they are partners in crime with lovable Moonie. Mr. Baker has once again shown us the underbelly of society which is before our very eyes but most of us never see it. We wanted the film to end in a happy romp in Disney World but imagined some terrible accidental or purposeful tragedy would occur. We didn’t leave the theater with any satisfaction but imagine some of you might find it in the spotlight that the movie puts on our societal shortcomings. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, History

Battle of the Sexes

December 28th, 2017 — 4:12am


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Most of you may know about the story of the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1993. We have memories of the time and the famous event that took place. However this movie does capture more than a battle between a talented, skillful female tennis champion standing up to an older male, retired professional tennis player who was a male chauvinistic showman who thought he could laugh his way to making money and putting down women. This story and this well-done film shows us the beginning of the Women’s Movement and also the glimmer that eventually grew to a shining light where gay women could eventually be themselves. This goal still had a long way to go in the 1970s when this story took place.

Emma Stone was excellent as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell could not have been better as the clueless self-proclaimed, “Man” of the hour. Andrea Riseborough was very good as Billie Jean’s intimate confidant and hair dresser. The excellent supporting casts included Nathalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Elizabeth Shue, Alan Cumming and Eric Olsen. The movie was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris with the screen play by Simon Beaufoy. The dramatic tennis matches which were shown in the film may have used actual archived footage, which certainly added to the excitement of the movie. This story deserved to be told and we are sure that it will have an important place in cinematic history about the role of women in sports and in American culture as well as memorializing an exciting key moment in time. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Sport, Uncategorized

Call Me By Your Name

November 15th, 2017 — 7:53am


Call Me By Your Name- sp

This is a beautiful gay coming-of-age romantic film with a screenplay by James Ivory, who has dealt with this subject in the past as a filmmaker. The story is based on a novel by Andre Aciman and brought to the screen by a very skilled Italian director, Luca Guadagnino.

The movie is set in the magnificent countryside of Northern Italy. Elio (Timothée Chalamet) a 17-year-old young man living with his parents in their summer home meets Oliver (Armie Hammer) a young man in his late 20s who is a colleague of his professor father who is studying some sunken archeological discovery of ancient statues of young men that is being raised from the coastal waters. Also being raised is Elio’s attraction to Oliver and vice versa which the viewer experiences through both their eyes. This awakening of physical chemistry and love develops into somewhat overly drawn out two hours and eleven minutes of this film which incorporates the absolutely beautiful countryside with magnificent lush hills, valleys, coves, and waterfalls which sets the tone for the overwhelming feelings that both of these young man were feeling for each other.

There is one particular scene which may very well be remembered as a classic, in which Elio’s father (Michael Stuhlbarg) shares his understanding and insight into his son’s feelings in a very tender and moving moment

This production was a very well-done in all aspects including some original songs and music by Sufjan Stevens. However, the filmmaker became too enamored of the magnificent artistic depictions of the luscious countryside and created a film that was overly long. Nevertheless, this film well deserves to become an important part of the genre of movies about the gay romantic experience. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

November 8th, 2017 — 1:52am


Roman J. Israel, Esq. – sp

Denzel Washington has embraced a character from the pen (or should we say the keyboard) of screenwriter/director Dan Gilroy and turned in an outstanding, unforgettable performance. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a somewhat socially isolated lawyer, perhaps a little on the autism spectrum side, who not only is extremely bright (can give you obscure citations from the Code of Justice) but is idealistically principled to take on cases of the poor and disadvantaged. He also has a dream and an inspiration that through case law he will ultimately make the criminal justice system fair and equal for all people. His actions and spirit inspire George Pierce (Colin Farrell), head attorney of a big firm previously only interested in making more money and Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo) an idealistic young lawyer who is trying to find herself. Perhaps the two hours and two minutes makes the film somewhat drawn out. However, the takeaway message is that Roman J. Israel, Esq. is shown to be a human being with frailties like everyone else. We see that his spirit and idealism will live on not only in this story but in the viewer’s minds and hearts. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Uncategorized


September 11th, 2017 — 2:40am



Sally Hawkins turned in one of the best acting performances of the year and in our opinion deserves Oscar consideration. Ethan Hawke also was magnificent and deserves acclaim along with Director Eisling Walsh who put together this very touching movie written by Sherry White.

The setting is a rural community in Nova Scotia, which looks like it is the 1930s but was probably more likely the 1980s. Hawkins plays Maudie, a handicapped young woman who has physical disabilities and has lived a difficult life. We meet her as her brother tells her that he has sold their deceased mother’s house and Maudie has to continue living with her aunt with whom she doesn’t seem to get along very well. While in a general store of a small community, she then sees a fisherman (Ethan Hawke) put an advertisement on a bulletin board looking for a woman to help him with chores like cleaning and making meals in his one–room cabin. She applies for the job, gets it when no one else applies and moves into his cabin.

The remainder of the film is an examination of the relationship between these two people and the small community in which they live. Maudie is a natural artist and she begins to draw on the wall and windows of her cabin. She is discovered by a wealthy tourist from New York, who gives her work some visibility. She is ultimately the subject of a TV show, which popularizes her work and she becomes a somewhat known artist. She also ultimately wears her “employer” down and convinces him to marry her. There is no evidence that she achieves any kind of wealth from her work but she clearly derives great satisfaction from what she does and even grudging respect from her husband. In the film we only see the couple as poor people living in the small cabin.

Despite the captivating performances of these two actors, the plot doesn’t expand with any interesting stories nor do the characters develop in any depth. While we were drawn to these people who seemed as real as they were different from anyone we have known. However, we felt that the movie was too drawn out and ultimately fell short. We wanted more than we were given especially since we realized at the end of the film, that the story was based on real people as we were shown a brief video clip of them . (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

California Typewriter

August 23rd, 2017 — 3:57am


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If you get sentimental when you think about your old typewriter, this documented film may be for you. Director/Cinematographer/Editor/Co-producer Doug Nichol obviously felt this way as he examined the significance of the old fashion typewriter from a historical point of view as well as its emotional meaning. This movie shows how some people still believe this is the best way to create and communicate with others. These people include author David McCullough, playwright Sam Shepard, singer/songwriter John Mayer and a very enthusiastic, and thoughtful Tom Hanks.

In this movie you will learn about different typewriters throughout the ages and what they have meant and mean to their owners. One of the most articulate explanations of how people love and treasure this writing machine is one of the disappearing breed of typewriter repairman who is still holding his own in San Francisco and that is Mr. Ken Alexander. In addition, there is a good amount of time spent following Mr. Jeremy Mayer who actually destroys typewriters. Mr. Mayer is a very skilled artist who exclusively uses mostly metal parts of various sizes from typewriters to create often very large, unique, and magnificent and beautiful artistic creations resembling animals and birds as well as various designs. His work receives commissions from all over the world.

In a post film discussion about whether the typewriter will survive, Mr. Mayer, Nichol and Alexander seem to be an agreement that despite the fact that the typewriters are not being manufactured anymore, they will live on for the foreseeable future. They discussed how this machine is treasured by a certain segment of the population and that parts will be available from those typewriters that are discarded by other people and also will be available made by current and future 3D printers. They also will live on by Mr. Mayer’s unique creations.

You would think that it might be a portion of the older population which grew up with the original “QWERTY” (first line of letters) keyboard that would hang on to this remnant from the past, but we have personally seen how a very bright high school student we know treasures having this retro machine as part of her life alongside her trusty iPhone and the latest computer. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Summer Hours

August 11th, 2017 — 10:10pm


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This almost 10-year-old French film (with subtitles) captures some of the beauty of the French countryside, family tradition, love of artistic paintings, beautiful furniture and even old and modern vases. It is also a sensitive depiction of three siblings who have to decide how to handle their mother’s estate of the family countryside house and its possessions. Director/writer Olivier Assayas with four great performance by Juliette Binoche, Charles Berling, Jeremie Renier and Edith Scob does an excellent job in getting us to relate to the various family members and their mother. As we were enjoying this very realistic development of each of the characters, we kept imagining where the storyline might lead us. There were hints of a secret love affair, art objects with an unsuspected history, possible miscalculation of the value of the art and teenage children of the next generation who might undermine their whole legacy. But the film did not take us on any interesting journey. All of life doesn’t have to have an intriguing storyline. However, there are unlimited choices for a Netflix movie for our viewing pleasure so we had expected more than we felt was delivered. (2008)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

To The Bone

July 30th, 2017 — 9:52pm


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This is a movie about young people who have eating disorders. The story revolves mainly around Ellen (Lily Collins), a 20-year old woman whose parents broke up when she was a young girl. She went to live with her father and his new wife (Carrie Preston) and her half-sister. Her own mother (Valerie Palincar) moved in with her new lesbian partner. Ellen developed an eating disorder and became anorexic. We never see her father in the movie and we get the impression that he is mostly an absent parent. Most of the story takes place in a house/treatment program where Ellen lives with five other girls and one young man, all with eating disorders of one type or the other. There are some staff who live with them and enforce the rules of the house as well as running group sessions. There is also the “doctor” (Keanu Reeves) who holds an individual session with the “entire family” on initial intake and then comes to the house for individual sessions.

The viewer comes to appreciate how this terrible life-threatening condition is manifested, not only in Ellen, but in each of the people living in the house and participating in the treatment program. Great credit should go to Director/Screenwriter Marti Noxon who provides insight into this very challenging medical/psychiatric condition with which so many young people struggle. Ms. Collins, in her depiction of Ellen, was superb not only in her acting, but she also deserves credit for losing the weight required for this part.

This movie and story could only  touch the surface of the psychological issues usually involved in understanding and treating this condition. No one statement by a therapist, apology from a parent or insight into a dream can suddenly turn around this illness. The filmmaker had to face this reality but yet obviously wanted to give an optimistic hope to the viewers. Certainly many people with eating disorders are able to move on and live happy productive lives. Hopefully, this film will stimulate interest in understanding eating disorders and will encourage families and those struggling with the illness to seek help and ultimately overcome it. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Fill The Void

July 29th, 2017 — 4:44am


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By sheer coincidence, after we had just previewed Menashe on this blog, the next film in our Netflix queue is the 2013 Israeli film about Orthodox Hasidic Jews (in Hebrew with subtitles).

Fill the Void examines the orthodox tradition of arranged marriages. The movie centers around 18-year-old Shira (Hadas Yaron) after Esther (Renana Raz) her older sister tragically dies in childbirth. Esther is survived by her newborn son and her grieving husband Yochay (Yiftach Klein) as well as her parents and sister. Shira is now of marriageable age and is considering possible candidates provided by the matchmaker and of course is being considered by eligible men. Yochay is being “offered” a woman who might move to Belgium if he were to marry her. The idea of losing touch with their newborn grandson is horrifying to the grieving grandparents which makes them want Shira to consider Yochay.

This film is a sensitive and penetrating view of the orthodox community steeped in this tradition of prayer and customs. It also suggests the complicated perhaps guilt-ridden feelings that Shira might have as she considers becoming a substitute wife for her handsome brother-in-law to whom she is ambivalently drawn to as he is to her.

Director/writer Rama Burshtein knows well the community about which this film revolves. This allows the storyline to be developed in some depth. The setting, costuming, covered heads, flowing beards, attractive head coverings, chanting, rocking and singing prayers and the conflicted theme of this storyline are all very genuine and realistic. The photography and lighting are done particularly well. This movie does fill a void in depicting the subject matter in this setting that most people are unfamiliar. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Romance


July 26th, 2017 — 5:33am



It is not very often that we see a film all about the Hassidic community and completely in Yiddish (with subtitles of course).

Documentary filmmaker Joshua Z. Weinstein jumped into this project with all four hats (or should we say Yamakas) as director/writer/producer and cinematographer. He was able to connect with Hassidic Jews who spoke Yiddish and were interested in acting in this movie. This is a story of Menashe (Menashe Lustig) who is a recent widower and wants to continue taking care of his 10 or 11-year-old son, Rieven (Ruben Niborski) despite the Rabbi’s (Meyer Schwartz) view that the brother-in-law (Yoel Weisshaus) and his wife would be better caretakers. Menashe is also resisting the pressure that he should make an arrangement with the matchmaker and get a new wife.

On one hand, this could be a universal theme that might be set in other cultures but it is a unique accomplishment to pull it off in the ultraorthodox Hassidic community. The real Menashe (the actor) was quite genuine as the on screen Menashe. The child actor was superb equaling his father with facial expressions, which conveyed the complicated feelings that they were portraying.

While this movie was ultimately picked up by A-24 for distribution, it was made with a low budget. However, the story came across as quite authentic and was able to use the streets of Brooklyn and a sufficient number of appropriate extras to convey a genuine realistic atmosphere. This was a special accomplishment since the director/writer was not fluent in Yiddish and this project required numerous translators to assist in all aspects of it.

When a project such as this one is so successful in bringing a unique cultural environment to the screen, it makes us want to see an even more complicated in-depth story than what was delivered. Also missing were depictions of the positive values with mutual support of this group of people especially at times of holidays and the Sabbath. Nevertheless, we believe that many viewers will find this a worthwhile cinematic experience. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

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