Category: 3 Stars


Marie Curie:The Courage of Knowledge

June 20th, 2017 — 7:04pm

***

Marie Curie: The Courage Of Knowledge – sp

Wonder Woman may be the box-office bombshell that has women and young girls flocking to the movies (along with the guys) because she is an unequivocal super hero who happens to be a woman. Well, there is another woman on the block and in a few weeks Marie Curie is going to be released in Los Angeles and then in the rest of the country. While this film may not quite have the excitement and actions seen in WW, but certainly, she should be as big hero and role model.

Director and screenwriter of this film, Marie Noelle, shared her thoughts from Germany via a Skype hookup projected on the big screen after our preview viewing of this movie. Marie Curie had been her hero as a child because of her scientific accomplishments. However, it was what she learned about her personal life that fueled the filmmaker’s desire to work on this project.

Marie Curie was born in Poland and studied in Paris where she conducted the pioneer research in radioactivity. She discovered radium and how this could be used to treat cancer. She won two Nobel prizes and was the first woman accepted into the French Academy of Science despite great resistance because she was a woman.

A major focus of this film however was not only the resistance to her being recognized because she was a woman, but also because it became public knowledge that she was having an affair (after her husband died) with a married scientific collaborator and actually, had been threatened by the knife-wielding slighted spouse. This obviously would have been a non-issue had she been a man.

Karolina Gruszka was superb in her portrayal of Curie. Curie’s devotion to her work and her personal and professional passion to family and to equality were crystal clear. The film was in French with subtitles and at times we felt that something was missed in the translation as they flashed by. There were many bearded men in the movie and we weren’t sure at times who was who. Albert Einstein even made an appearance, but we didn’t exactly appreciate his role in the scheme of things. The photography, scenery and the characters sweeping across the screen sometimes made us lose track of the storyline. Both men and women will benefit by seeing this film and appreciate the trials and tribulations of this extraordinary scientist. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama, History

Beatriz at Dinner

June 20th, 2017 — 7:27am

***

Beatiz At Dinner-rm

A very plain but beautiful, young Mexican woman (Salma Hayek) who is a spiritual masseuse who believes in the holistic approach to healing, is finishing up with her last client who is a wealthy woman (Connie Britton) living on a fancy estate in Southern California, when she finds that her car would not start to go home. She is invited to join the woman and her husband (David Warshofsky), along with two couples (Chloe Sevigny, John Lithgow, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass) who have come to visit for an evening dinner party.

In this movie, there is no mention of American politics whatsoever. However, this film becomes a clear metaphor for the current political scene in the United States. One of the men (Lithrow) is a very wealthy real estate mogul. The contrast between Beatriz and this guy is crystal clear. He feels that his destiny is to live his life to the fullest with no real regard if he tramples other people’s lives and for sport he chooses to hunt and kill a large powerful animal. She would protect people if their land was being taken away for business ventures and could even bring a goat into her house if doing this would save its life from the elements. There are clear allusions as to how some people question other people’s citizenship and would also put the outdoor environment in jeopardy just for their own pleasure. There are references to how some people collude for their own benefit and do not really care about the less affluent. In a metaphoric way, the question is raised as to how angry will the oppressed really get? So angry that they might fantasize killing the oppressor, but in the end might sadly drown into self-annihilation.

Director Miguel Arteta did a magnificent job with the story written by Mike White. You will not see this movie on the list of current thrillers, but it is a chilling contemporary satire of the modern political debate in America. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Love Actually

June 17th, 2017 — 6:01am

***

Love Actually-nf

Through the magical power of Netflix, we are able to go back in time, 14 years and view an ensemble film that we recall was well received at the time and was nominated for a Golden Globe award. You will see a number of familiar faces in this movie who turned in great performances. This includes Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Laura Linney, Allen Rickman, Billy Bob Thornton and others who we didn’t recognize but who were quite good.

The movie is the brainchild of writer-director, Richard Curtis. This setting is on the other side of the pond in London, England. The film is about couples being attracted to each other and falling in love. There are about 10 separate couples involved but the stories do interconnect. There is a British prime minister who falls for his assistant, a screenwriter who is drawn to a young Portuguese woman although they can’t speak each other’s language. There is a married CEO who is smitten by his secretary. There is even an approximately 10 to 12-year-old boy who is certain that he is in love with a girl in his class and is getting advice how to declare his love by his recently widowed dad. Contrast that scenario with two porn stars who aren’t moved by their coupling on the set but find themselves in a budding romance off screen. The movie takes place around Christmas time which adds to the joyous feel good mood which emanates from the screen. There is a great soundtrack which facilities the exciting emotions sprouting forth before us.

The title suggests that this movie is a celebration of love. We would beg to differ on this point. Just about all the characters have a relatively superficial relationship and very little knowledge of each other at the point where they believe they are falling in love. Certainly, we understand this could be a very exciting time for people experiencing this great attraction to each other. If this were real life, many of the relationships would soon cool off and unfortunately, it might even taken several years of marriage before they would go their separate ways. So while the title is Love Actually, we think it might better be called Actually Attraction. Nevertheless, it was a great film to watch. The DVD also has an interesting narration of the movie while it is playing by the director-screenwriter, Richard Curtis who discusses the film with some of the well-known actors who appear in it (2003)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Romance

People, Places, Things

June 11th, 2017 — 6:05am

***

People , Places, Things -nf

A man walks in on his wife’s infidelity. The marriage is over and we follow Will Henry (Jemaine Clement), a graphic artist as he tries to get on with his life at the same time that he stays involved with his grade school aged twin daughters (Audrea and Gia Gadsby). Yes, he meets another woman (Regina Hall) and also his wife (Stephanie Allynne) does have second thoughts.

The fact that the film makers could not come up with a more meaningful title may reflect the rather superficial nature of this story. We did feel the pain of the protagonist and we can’t helping thinking that the director/screenwriter Jim Strouse was telling a story of someone he knew quite well. It also was an interesting attempt to show how comic illustrations often can help tell a story in more depth. Unfortunately we did not feel that the film achieved this to any significant degree. ( 2015)

 

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Unexpected

June 3rd, 2017 — 9:30pm

***

Unexpected-nf

This movie zeroes in on one aspect of human life that most people will eventually confront. In this case, it is the wonderful life changing experience of realizing that you (or your partner) has become pregnant.

Samantha (Cobie Smulders) is a 31-year old inner city high school teacher who has a loving, caring boyfriend (Anders Holm) who realizes that she is pregnant. Jasmine (Gail Bean) is a Black teenage girl who is one of her students who lives with her grandmother and sister in a poor neighborhood having an unstable relationship with her boyfriend but hoping to go to college next year. She also has become pregnant.

These two people bond and become very close. As we watch each of them contemplate how this seminal life event will change their lives, we are reminded how pregnancy impacts women quite differently than men and also affects single, more often minorities, and those with less financial means quite differently. Perhaps these observations should be quite obvious facts of our society, but yet our very bright young school teacher needed the nine-month gestation period to fully understand that. Similarly, this film directed by Chris Swanberg who co-wrote the screenplay with Megan Mercier allowed the viewers to fully appreciate these facts of life in about ninety minutes. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Beyond The Lights

May 13th, 2017 — 5:13pm

***

Beyond the Lights – nf

We all know the story of a celebrity going from rags to riches. A child from a poor family blossoms forth with his or her inherent talent and becomes a superstar. Every generation has witnessed this phenomenon. In the days of radio, there was the Amateur Hour. Television brought us America’s Got Talent and many other programs. Some people become worldwide internet and YouTube stars. There are record contracts, world concert tours, etc. Sometimes this trip leads to drugs, overdoses, unhappiness and occasionally even suicide. If that person gets lost in their meteoric rise to the top, can the essence of that person ever reemerge?

This movie shows us a fictional story of a young woman (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who, thanks to her talent and a ferocious super mom (Minnie Driver) who only sees stardom for her daughter, is quickly achieving fame and fortune. However, this rising star soon finds herself feeling that life is not worthwhile and is about to jump off a hotel balcony while staring into the eyes of young police officer (Nate Parker) who is trying to save her.

The subsequent journey that these two people take is a classical love story, but also a reminder that everyone has to find themselves. We are all not superstars, but there may be a pathway for most people to discover their own passion. It obviously helps and is a nice touch if you fall in love while you are on this journey.

The poignancy and passion of the story is enhanced by the fact that there is some excellent music and singing built into the movie with words and sounds which will stir the emotional undercurrent of this theme. Gina Prince-Bythewood, director and screen writer, deserves kudos for a job well done that will ring a bell in many viewers and touch your heartstrings. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars

Paris Can Wait

May 10th, 2017 — 5:20am

***

Paris Can Wait – sp

If you are a Francophile, a connoisseur of French wine, appreciate tasty French food, love the beautiful French country side with small historic towns and are touched by French romanticism then this may be the movie for you.

Eleanor Coppola, wife of famed director Francis Ford Coppola, a woman who recently turned 80 and is an accomplished documentary filmmaker herself, undertook her first feature film in the role of producer, writer and director. She based this story on a circuitous trip that she once took from Southern France to Paris with her husband’s male colleague when a combination business and vacation trip in Europe was interrupted by her husband’s business needs.

Mrs. Coppola morphs into Anne Lockwood who was intriguingly played by Diane Lane. Her character is the wife of Director Michael Lockwood who was played perfectly by Alec Baldwin who has to fly away on a business trip with plans to meet up with his wife in Paris. Coincidently, his colleague, a Frenchman by the name of Jacques Clement (played by a relatively unknown French actor, Arnaud Viard) offers to drive the director’s wife from Southern France to Paris since she has a minor ear infection and really should not fly.

What follows is a most subtle blend of scrumptious food, velvety deep red wine, magnificent scenery of lakes and mountains, attractive middle-aged people who the more you know about them, the more you are drawn to them as you see them drawn to each other. This is not a hot R-rated movie. Perhaps the sexuality, which is in the mind of the beholder, or in this case, in the viewer, is therefore all the more powerful.

Although only a little bit more than one and a half hours, some might find this film a little drawn out, probably depending on how much you appreciate the previously stated elements of the movie. The best part of this movie treat is that what you bring to the table will determine how well you will digest and remember this cinematic experience. (2017)

2 comments » | 3 Stars, Drama

Welcome To Me

April 10th, 2017 — 10:23pm

***

Welcome To Me -nf

This movie should be on target for one of us who is a movie critic and happens to be a psychiatrist. The “Me” in the title is presented to the audience as a woman with a bipolar condition and a borderline personality. She is Alice Klieg, played by Kristen Wiig, who is an accomplished comedic actress and well known for her work on Saturday Night Live as well as many films. Although there were some laughable moments in this film, it certainly was not a comedy- quite the opposite.

We meet this very troubled young woman as she is watching TV as the winning ticket in the California lottery is being drawn. Lo and behold, she wins the $83 million jackpot. She decides that she will use her fortune to live in a luxurious Las Vegas hotel and have her own TV show, somewhat resembling Oprah’s Show, except every show will be all about herself. She will enter the set at the beginning of the program on a swan and will reenact important events in her life, such as how she was treated badly in junior high school. Her elderly parents attend each show, but we learn very little about them and their relationship with Alice. We see Alice having intense sexual encounters with various guys such as the show’s producers, a fan who visits the set, et cetera. We can clearly check off the criteria for borderline personality as we see a person with a perversive pattern of unstability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, affect, and marked impulsivity. We don’t quite see all the criteria for bipolar condition, but we would not be surprised if Alice has the turmoil of this condition. Her narcissistic needs usually make her oblivious to the feelings and concerns of others. She even thinks she is doing a good deed when she herself on TV performs graphically and sickening surgery of the neutering of dogs in close-up television views.

The film was directed by Shira Piven. The supporting cast was quite strong and included James Marsden, Linda Cardellini, Joan Cusack, Tim Robbins (who played her shrink who couldn’t handle her) and others. The  screenwriter who dreamed up this tale was Elliot Laurence.

While this movie certainly presents a troubled woman who is in a great deal of psychological pain, we don’t think we will be using this film to demonstrate to students the specific problems she has purported to have. However, the movie we believe was successful in conveying the psychological pain that she was feeling . The $83 million couldn’t help her and so far therapy hadn’t made a big difference. But she was trying to overcome her bad feelings and we, watching her, did feel for her and were touched and moved by her suffering . We believe we will remember this movie and Alice Klieg. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

In Jackson Heights

March 28th, 2017 — 7:09pm

***

In Jackson Heights-nf

Frederick Wiseman is a well-known documentary filmmaker. Jackson Heights is a well-known community in Queens, New York, which as former New Yorkers we have driven through or have been on the elevated train in that area. It is known as a multiracial/national community where 167 languages are purported to be spoken. This would seem to add up to a potentially interesting “doc.” Before viewing it, we didn’t check the duration of the film which actually was three hours and nine minutes! Although we learned a great deal and were fascinated by some parts of the film, we can’t say the time flew by very fast.

There was no narration and seemingly no particular order of the various sequences. The focus of course was on the people. There were views of the streets, the rumbling elevated train and the numerous storefronts, but mostly it zoomed in on the people.

There wasn’t any introduction to any of the scenes. Usually, you would see people speaking at various meetings often in Spanish (with English subtitles). There were discussions about holding a meeting of the Lesbian, Gay, Transgender Association or planning an LGBT Pride Parade, or a meeting about how landlords were taking advantage of storeowners and how big businesses were going to drive everyone out of the area, or a meeting about how New York City ID cards would be issued to immigrants to protect them from police action, or a discussion in the Jewish Temple about the Holocaust.

Since the filmmaker was comfortable with a three-hour plus project, there didn’t seem to be any effort to do very much editing. In one situation however, we were glad that they held off on it as we heard a woman describing in great detail her daughter’s harrowing journey to cross the border from Mexico into the United States to join her small children and family. The devil here was in the details.

It is notable that the film seemed to emphasize senior citizens a great deal, and as noted while mostly Hispanic, there were sequences involving Muslims, Jews, Catholics and others. Perhaps the overall impression of the film was how Jackson Heights in many ways is the story of the journey that so many Americans have made to coalesce into this great country, which it is today. (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Jackie

March 17th, 2017 — 6:19am

Jackie – nf

Jackie of course is Jacqueline Kennedy. This movie tells the story through her eyes, how she reacted to the horrific assassination of JFK who died with his head in her lap after his skull and brain was shattered by Lee Harvey Oswald’s bullet. Natalie Portman seems to have captured the former First Lady’s breathless voice and her struggle with her grief. If you were alive and conscious of your surroundings in November 1963, you must remember following every detail of this historic event including the tv and radio coverage of the assassination, the President lying in state, the procession to the church service and the burial at Arlington Cemetery. This movie certainly succeeds in awakening these memories that many of us never bury beyond instant recall with any association to the event. Aside from Jackie, the other major character who was depicted is JFK’s brother, Robert Kennedy who is played by Peter Sarsgaard. Of course Lyndon Johnson and his wife and other familiar names and faces are there also. The movie was directed by Pablo Larraín and is interspersed with some documentary footage and an appropriate musical background by Mica Levi. The film really doesn’t go beyond this brief time period. We both did feel that something specific was left out of the movie. When we recalled the President lying in state, the image that would bring about tears to both of us was Little John John, the President’s , at most 4 year old son  saluting a flag-covered coffin. We missed that event in this film but we still hold on to it whenever we remember that sad day in November. (2016)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama

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