Category: 3 Stars

Jimmy’s Hall

June 18th, 2015 — 6:22pm

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Jimmy’s Hall – sp

This is a touching film made by veteran director, Ken Loach who is mostly known for his acclaimed work in Europe, with a screenplay by Paul Laverty. It deals with an important part of Irish history with which most Americans are not very familar. It is based on a real character, Jimmy Gralton (Barry Ward) who was an idealistic Irish leader whose main claim to fame, was running Jimmy’s Hall in an obscure Irish  town, first in the 1920s and then 10 years later, in the 1930s. In this hall, (which was really a home or a cabin) men, women and children would gather to sing the popular music of the time and likewise do the popular dances, children would also sing and dance and learn history and some of the older boys would learn how to box. There would be lively discussions and a good time would be had by all. So what is wrong with this? Where is the conflict and where is the story? While we are not intimately familiar with Irish history and the film does not spell everything out to be crystal clear, we do know there was great turmoil in Ireland during this time period. In particular, the Catholic Church vividly depicted by Father Sheridan (Jim Norton) did not like the idea that people would dance and sing or even learn outside the auspices of the church. There was also a great economic and social upheaval notably between Ireland and Great Britain during this time as well as class warfare between the prosperous landowners and the workers. There was great dislike by many for socialism and of course for communism when that became an important issue. Jimmy was an idealist who spoke his mind which led to him being deported from Ireland without a trial or even any hearing. There is a sad love element as when Jimmy first returned, he is reunited with his old girlfriend, Oonagh (Simone Kirby) who is now happily married with children but still shares her simmering love for her old boyfriend. That is really the theme of the movie – so many unhappy people who are dealing with political and social issues which were much bigger than all of them. This is a well-done film but it never really breaks out. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History

The Young Kieslowskik

June 12th, 2015 — 10:36pm


Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 11.27.18 PMThe Young Kieslowski – sp

This is a very well done film by screenwriter and Director Kerem Sanga which examines a universal issue for young people. Brian (Ryan Malgarini) is a somewhat naïve, still a virgin college student. He meets Leslie (Haley Lu Richardson) at a party. She is drunk and a little flirtatious. They have consensual sex as she is sobering up and he is having a few drinks. Despite the fact that they used a condom, she becomes pregnant (apparently, that can happen 2% of the time)…with twins…and she decides that she wants to carry the pregnancy to term and keep the babies. We meet her father, Walter (James Le Gros) who is a tough as nails writer who has written bestsellers about war. We also meet Brian’s parents. His Dad is a warm, very supportive guy (Joshua Malina) who is very devoted to his wife (Melora Walters) who is dying of cancer although she still gets around quite well.

The story is seen through the eyes of Brian who is really lying most of the time when he says, he wants the babies and goes along with the plan of his girl friend We are also able to see that he is very conflicted because he wants to do the right thing. On the other hand, we never really understand why Leslie from the beginning wants to go forth with the pregnancy with all the implications that it has for her life. The insight into Brian is achieved by a voiceover of what he is thinking with some film scenes of his fantasies.The attraction of the film is the likeability of all the characters and the insight that we get into the struggle of both of these young people and their parents.

I suppose the Pro Life people might jump on this film as supporting their point of view although the story made it clear that Leslie was not driven by religious Christian views.

This is another one of these low budget independent films that has a great cast, superb writing, and directing which will hold your interest and attention, stimulate questions, and discussions as well as being an enjoyable experience. It should be in local theaters by July24th. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama


June 8th, 2015 — 6:16am

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Entourage – rm

You probably need to have been a fan of the HBO TV series by the same name to appreciate this movie which was directed by Doug Ellin who also wrote the screen play of the movie and the TV series. It is the story of five very likeable guys who are living the stereotypical Hollywood life style. There is Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) handsome movie star who is very generous and caring to his buddies, Johnny Drama Chase (Kevin Dale) Vincent’s brother who is a wannabe actor but never quite achieves star quality despite sounding like Sylvester Stallone in  Rocky, Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly) good looking member of the group who is Vincent’s manager, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) tag along buddy of the group,  who tends to be the driver when they go wheeling around town and last but certainly not the least Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) who is Vincent’s agent and in this movie has become the head of the movie studio but is still the main supporter of the movie that will star Vincent with a supporting role for his brother. The plot has some complications as the son of a big time Texas backer of the above film, for variety of reasons doesn’t think that the movie should get the extra money that it needs to finish production.

As likeable as this entourage may be, they are living an exaggerated kind of Hollywood style where they are having sex with multiple beautiful girls whether or not they are their girlfriend and at least one pregnancy does occur. The movie is also fun as we get fleeting small roles and cameos by the likes of Warren Buffet, Pharrell Williams, Billy Joel, Piers Morgan, Mark Cuban, David Arquette, David Busey, Bob Saget, Andrew Dice Clay, Mike Tyson, Liam Neeson, Kelsey Grammer, Alyssa Miller, Martin Landau, Matt Lauer, George Takei, and Mark Wahlberg, who is also one of the producers of the film. There are all these beautiful people, many of them driving hot cars all in the midst of the lovely Los Angeles scenery. Yet, there is something very sweet and touching as the entourage is very loyal to and caring about to each other. This somehow neutralized the negativity that we might feel about their decadent lifestyle and makes us feel very warm and fuzzy towards this pack of buddies. But otherwise it is just another episode, a little longer than than their usual tv series. (2015)


Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama


May 31st, 2015 — 11:38pm

Wild -nfScreen Shot 2015-05-31 at 1.42.04 PM


We did not choose to go to see this thousand mile trek when it was in the movie theatres but we thought we would give it a try at home via Netflix. What we saw was an admirable performance by Reese Witherspoon, who occupies the screen for just about the entire 1 hour and 55 minutes as her character walks a thousand miles over the entire Pacific Crest Trail by herself from Mexico to Canada. She does this with having little experience in hiking. We see her have some brief encounters with people she meets along the way but she mainly has short flashbacks of her past. She is taking this trip to clear her head of her mother’s death and her own addiction and depression as well as her breakup with her husband because of her promiscuity. It is heart wrenching as she recalls her closeness to her mother as a child and her mother’s dying days of cancer. There is great beauty as we see the magnificent scenery through which she travels. The cinematography of this film is outstanding. It is even more amazing that this is a true story actually lived by a woman by the name of Cheryl Strayed, who wrote about her journey in a very successful book that is the source of this movie. There is no complicated plot with a resolution. “It is what it is.” You can decide if this three month journey sounds like it is worth nearly two hours of your time. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

5 Flights Up

May 11th, 2015 — 6:53am

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5 Flights Up – rm

This movie played to a full theater on a Saturday evening at 5:40 PM, with a full crowd lined up to come in for the next showing. Most were senior citizens.. This is not surprising as Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton play a senior couple.

He is an artist and works at home and she is a retired schoolteacher. They have no children but their dog has just been brought to the vet because she couldn’t walk and appeared to be in pain. By coincidence Morgan Freeman’s character is having trouble walking up the five flights of stairs of the couple’s apartment. They decide that it’s time to sell their Brooklyn apartment and find an apartment with an elevator in Manhattan. Going through this experience with their niece (Cynthia Nixon) who is the real estate agent , became an emotional one which allowed flashbacks to earlier courtship years and among other things the reaction of her mother when they decided to marry. We see the trials and tribulations as people view their apartment and they check out possibilities for a future apartment for themselves. There are repetitive bids and counter bids as their anxiety and ambivalence comes to a crescendo.

The storyline is quite contrived and not very realistic . There also is an extremely negative characterization of the real estate agent. But in the end, most of those moviegoers lining up to see this picture will not be disappointed. They will see a loving couple who are facing life’s challenges with continued affection for each other and will walk away having seen a “feel good movie.” (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

I’ll See You in My Dreams

May 11th, 2015 — 6:11am

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I’ll See You in My Dreams – sp

Brett Haley wrote this screenplay at age 29 with Marc Basch. They initially kick-started the funding of this independent film. Two years later, Mr. Haley brought this story to the screen as director and then film editor. This young man was able to empathize with senior citizens who realize that it isn’t over until it’s over. In this all star cast led by Blythe Danner, we experienced the universal human desire to have meaningful relationships at any age. Carol Peterson’s (Danner) interactions with an older man (Sam Elliott) and with a younger pool guy (Martin Starr) are touching and quite believable. When topnotch actors and actresses sign on to a low budget film, you know that they see something quite special in the material. That must have been the case as Malin Akerman, June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place rounded out this outstanding cast. The storyline allowed one scene to take place in a karaoke bar where Ms. Danner was able to provide a special treat by singing “Cry Me a River.” It should also be said that the film will probably also allow you to shed a few tears.(2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance


May 3rd, 2015 — 6:56pm

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Nightcrawler- nf

Jake Gyllenhaal in this film is the weird character, Lou Bloom who becomes a freelance news cameraman who roams the streets at night with a video camera and a police scanner in search of bloody accidents or horrible crimes to lead the TV news. He hires Rick, a young man (Riz Ahmed) desperate for work and meets Nina (Rene Russo), a TV news editor who is desperate for good ratings. The result is a creepy type of film noir with this version, showing a part of our society that has lost its moral compass.

Lou Bloom is presented as a mentally unbalanced person who sees things in a very concrete manner. He is without a conscience. But the story is more than one man who resembles a person with Asperger Syndrome but without the typical endearing qualities. The movie seems to be making a statement about television news, at least the local news. Not only is it “if it bleeds, it leads”, but we get the impression that local TV news has little or no integrity. This is not a rerun of the famous classical film Network. To the contrary, there was no one to stand up and say that “we are not going to take it anymore.” Instead, we are left with a view that the status quo is really quite disheartening.  This sad message is personal to us  because the setting is Los Angeles, our town. While we do not usually travel the streets shown in the dead of night, they are all so familiar.

Director and screen writer, Dan Gilroy, has reminded us that accidents, crime, and tragedy can impact anyone at anytime and we all have a morbid curiosity about these details which are exploited everyday by local TV news. This dark well done movie leaves us with a touch of sadness.(2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama

Gone Girl

April 4th, 2015 — 2:55am

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Gone Girl – rm

I (MB) read this novel by Gillian Flynn upon which this movie was based (see review) which I enjoyed and held my interest. I knew someone would make a movie about it and I followed the hype about the plans to do so but it wasn’t high on my list to see with so many outstanding seemingly great films out during this season. However, on an international air flight, I finally caught up with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike and the mystery of the disappearing wife. Once you have read a book, the film really has to be outstanding to win you over. Even though the storyline is not exactly as the book, I got caught up with the details. There are some graphic scenes, including crime and lust. Neil Patrick Harris was okay as a lover/victim. Things are not always what they seemed to be, which is a prerequisite of a good mystery. But in the end I think the 1 hour and 49-minute film could have been boiled down to a 52-minute 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. TV crime show. I would suggest that you pass on this film unless you don’t have a better prospect on your next air flight. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Mystery

St. Vincent

March 15th, 2015 — 11:47pm

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St. Vincent nf

You might not picture Bill Murray who is St. Vincent in this film as a Saint. In fact he is depicted as a hard drinking, reckless gambler, tough old guy who lives in a small house in Brooklyn and hangs around with a pole dancer (Naomi Watts). Along comes a new neighbor, recently divorced (Melissa McCarthy) with her 10 or 11-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and the magic begins. We see the chemistry between this grizzled older guy and the polite sweet kid who has to learn to get by in his new Brooklyn neighborhood. The screenplay and the direction by Theodore Melfi is just the right touch to seal the deal. Not surprising, there is much more that meets the eye. The sainthood issue will push your buttons and drain your tear ducts. (No, he doesn’t pass away). This movie and the actors in it have been recognized by various critics, receiving nominations for awards around the country. We were fortunate that we caught it with our grandson on Netflix.(2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Inside Llewyn Davis

March 3rd, 2015 — 3:15am

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Inside Llewelyn Davis- nf  This is a story about a fictional folk singer in the 1960s played by Oscar Isaacs. The Coen brothers wrote the screenplay and also directed it. It also features Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund and Justin Timberlake. Think of a Bob Dylan who never became well known. He is obviously talented and believes in his music. We see him playing in clubs in Greenwich Village in Manhattan and struggling to be recognized and get work. He is intense and brooding. He is scarred by the trauma of the death of a former singing partner who jumped off the George Washington Bridge. He frequently crashes on the couches of people who like and believe in him. There is some very fine folk music in the film not only sung by the protagonist but also an outstanding background music track. This flows through most of the movie as we follow Llewelyn hitching long car rides across the country as he seeks gigs to establish himself. This is a very likable character and we believe the audience will be rooting for him as we were. Much of the film was shot in dark clubs or in the evening. We had to think twice to be sure the movie wasn’t in black and white. You might call it Film Noir without the mystery plot. We don’t see fame and fortune at the end, which might make some of us feel sad. But perhaps this movie is really for the young or those who identify with the generation still in their 20s and 30s when you are willing to hold on to your dream even when the “pot of gold” is not in sight.(2013)


Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

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