Category: 3 Stars


Truth and Justice

January 17th, 2020 — 9:21pm

***

Truth and Justice-sp

This film is Estonia’s entry for best foreign picture. It is based on a classic Estonian novel, apparently well known to everyone who grows up in Estonia. It takes place in the 1870s in the rural area as Andres (Priit Loog) and his wife Kroot (Maiken Schmidt) settle down on a rural farm, which they have gone into debt to purchase. Their goal is to be successful and bring up a family with a male heir who can carry on what they hope will be a successful endeavor. Things became complicated and difficult as the neighbor, Pearu (Priit Võigemast) is somewhat devious and there are personal and legal conflicts that soon develop. The young couple finds it not so easy to make everything the way you want to it. The story line allows the viewers to see the growth of children and how relationships and aspirations of the entire family young and old play out. While the setting beautifully captured by magnificent cinematography, and the time period may be unfamiliar to most of us, director and writer Tanel Toom has taken a classic Estonian novel by Anton Tammsaare and portrayed its humanity and universality, which will nevertheless touch some of the audience (2020).

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Bombshell

January 7th, 2020 — 7:55pm

***

BOMBSHELL-rm

You have heard about the situation where Roger Ailes, the long-time creator and boss of Fox News Network was ousted from this position by the Murdock family who owned the Fox Enterprise, after charges of sexual harassment were validated against Mr. Ailes. This film, with an all-star cast of actors and actresses who were made to resemble the real people they played, tells the story of the brave women who made this happen. The story centers around Megyn Kelly who is played by Charlize Theron. We see the pressure and sexual harassment she received by the powerful boss of Fox Network, Roger Ailes, played by John Lithgow, who is depicted as the obese and somewhat wobbly boss of the mammoth network. We also follow the experience of Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), a fading anchor at Fox who after some agonizing tells her story of being harassed and actually starts the ball rolling against Mr. Ailes. We also meet other players, men and women at Fox, some familiar and some who worked behind the scenes. They are played by excellent actors and actresses and their work is interspersed with actual film clips. While the story is quite dramatic and revealing and a very important one to document, we found it somewhat disjointed. In the end, however, it will be an important part of the epic story of American television journalism. (2019)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama

Queen and Slim

January 7th, 2020 — 7:39pm

***

QUEEN & SLIM-rm

This is a road trip movie but under tragic circumstances. It is directed by Melina Matsoukas with a screenplay by Lena Waithe based on a story by her and James Frey. It stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith. The film opens as we meet a black couple who are on their first Tinder arranged date. Things go wrong in what should have been an innocuous police stop. Within a few minutes, it turns into a horrendous situation where the young woman is shot in the leg and the police officer is killed. We follow the frightened couple as they flee and become labeled as wanted criminals. We get insight into the prejudiced environment that could allow such a situation to develop. We also come to see how family and friends as well as friends of friends try to help this couple survive against the unfair forces that are pitted against them.

If you were someone who grew up being taught that the police are fair and are your friends, you will be clearly reminded that certainly this has not been the case for many people in the United States, especially many people of color. The message of this film is important and terrifying but the film left something to be desired. (2020)

 

 

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama

The Irishman

December 26th, 2019 — 5:31am

***

The Irishman-nf

Despite the fact that this film is directed by Martin Scorsese, and stars Robert De Niro, as Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and features Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa along with other great actors such as, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, and others, we suggest that you think twice before committing yourself to this three and a half hour movie. The story is based on an excellent book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” by Charles Brandt, which MB reviewed more than seven years ago (click here to see the review).

At the beginning of the film we meet an older Frank Sheeran as he is reflecting how he turned into a gangster and a ruthless murderer. There is not any clear explanation how a seemingly sensitive man who cared about his family could emerge as this serial killer. There is a suggestion that his experience in World War II might have primed him for this way of life.

The screenplay, based on the book by Charles Brandt, is written by Steven Zaillian, who previously wrote the story for Schindler’s List, which may account for how he is able to suggest emotional turmoil, although it is often not fully explained. The movie features flashbacks where the actors are skillfully “de-aged” as we encounter earlier events in the lives of their characters. One of the central themes is an insight and explanation into the death of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, who was an important character in this movie and whose body in real life was never found after he was eliminated. Unfortunately, the inordinate length of this film only underscored its inability to help the viewer really understand any of the characters

If you are drawn to gangster movies and enjoy the work of this cast of actors and the renowned director, you might find this collection of unending “rub-outs” of interest but be sure you have lots of popcorn or your favorite snack to help you persevere (2019).

Your comments are welcome below:

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama

Song of Names

November 21st, 2019 — 5:52am

***

The Song of Names – sp

The title of this movie refers to an imaginary song that consists of the names of hundreds of thousands of Jews killed at the Treblinka Nazi Extermination Camp in Poland during World War II. The screenplay by Jeffrey Caine is based on a novel by Norman Lebrecht, introduces us to a young boy, Dovidl, who happens to be a violin prodigy and is being left at the home of a British family during the early days of the turmoil in Europe in the 1940s. The rest of the boy’s family is returning to Poland not realizing the fate that awaits them there. The story progresses through flashbacks of different phases in the life of Dovidl, who is played by Luke Doyle (ages 9 to 13), Jonah Hauer-King (ages 17 to 23), and Tim Roth as a middle aged man. Martin, the young boy who is in the British family becomes more or less Dovidl’s brother and interacts with him during the various stages of their lives. Martin is played by Misha Handley (ages 9-13), Gerran Howell (ages 17 through 21) and by Clive Owen as a middle aged man.

The flashbacks may at first be a little confusing as they occur but the emotional theme of the story will be quite clear. It is expressed not only in the cold facts of history, but through the beautiful emotional violin music, which reflects the storyline of everlasting grief and the mourning, which go with it.Francois Girard, 2019

The producers who put together this international production along with director, Francois Girard were apparently the first fictional movie team granted permission to film inside the Treblinka Memorial. Not only is the music haunting and unforgettable, but so is this creative story (2019).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

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:

 

 

1 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)

Please leave any comments below.

1 comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History

Pain and Glory

October 14th, 2019 — 1:10am

***

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)

Leave any comments below

 

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

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