Category: 4 Stars


Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

July 15th, 2018 — 6:01pm

****

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

The United States is in the midst of a horrendous addiction crisis. This movie gets to the heart of one man’s battle with alcoholism and the devastating effect that his illness had upon him. In a post-film discussion with Jack Gibson, one of the writers who wrote the book upon which this film was based, we learned that this movie has been 20 years in the making. It is based on a true story of the main character, John Callahan, who was originally going to be played by the late Robin Williams. As great a job as Williams might have done with this role, Joaquin Phoenix turned in a performance that we strongly believe deserves Oscar consideration. Thanks to his ability to inhabit his character, and what could also be an award-winning accomplishment by the director, Gus Van Sant, John Callahan vividly comes to the screen in various phases of his addiction, including being permanently paralyzed in an electric wheelchair with limited movement of his arms due to an alcohol-related accident. We gained some insight into his childhood experiences which undoubtedly led him to his addiction. We painfully shared his struggle in the AA program where he meets several people, including a young man who has inherited wealth but ends up as an addict, ultimately becoming Callahan’s AA sponsor. This role was very well played by Jonah Hill. There are also other excellent performances by Rooney Mara and Jack Black.

There are so many facets to Mr. Callahan’s battle with his disease which include his finding a way to make love, becoming a successful cartoonist, searching for his birth mother, going through the 12 steps of AA, including making amends, that we are torn between concluding that the film was too long (almost two hours) and yet at times, too superficial and that there were some very important area of his life that we wanted to see in more depth.

We believe that this film is destined for success, not only because of the bold depiction of one man’s struggle with alcoholism, but also because it should be seen and we feel will be viewed by so many people who are impacted by addiction. (2018)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama

Hearts Beat Loud

June 26th, 2018 — 10:54pm

****

Hearts Beat Loud

There is something very special about a relationship between a father (Nick Offerman) and daughter (Kiersey Clemons) especially when it is a single dad who is raising his kid after the mother died at an early age. We meet such a duo just as the girl is getting ready to go away to college. There is another element which makes this relationship even more special and that is that the father and daughter make music together. They write, play, sing and edit their own songs. It is even more poignant since the deceased mom and dad were once a music duo themselves hoping to make it big. If you have ever seen the passion and joy that budding musicians have for their band even when they are just playing and it is “not a band”, you will appreciate and be moved by this film Director Brett Haley handled his cast quite well and especially brought out the musical talents of teenager Kiersey Clemons. The supporting cast was topnotch and included Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane, and Blythe Danner. This musical trip should appeal to teenagers as well as those of us who can remember how we felt about the music that moved us when we were young. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Uncategorized

Detroit

June 26th, 2018 — 10:47pm

****

Detroit

One of our all time favorite films is The Hurt Locker, which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow for which she became the first woman director to win an Oscar. She certainly has not lost her touch. This film grabs the viewer and transports us into Detroit in 1967. Racial tensions were high and the National Guard and state police were called into the city as the riots exploded. There was an incident at a small hotel in the inner city where a several black men and two white women were held at gun point by four or five white Detroit Police Officers who believed that there was a sniper who shot at the policemen from the hotel. The prejudice and hate from the white police and how it was transformed into violence was quite dramatic and palpable. It did seem strange that there were no ranking police officers (Sergeants, Lieutenant or Captain), who were called to the scene. But this aspect he did not diminish the realistic and almost documentary feeling, which this movie conveyed. This slice of American history is very well presented with the raw emotion, which was part of it. While we hope that we have come a long way from this event, which occurred a half century ago, we obviously still are not free from prejudice that shows up in various manifestations in our society today. This is why such a film deserves our attention and should hold an important place in our memory.

This film also played homage to the Detroit Motown sound in the storyline as well as in the soundtrack. The actors were outstanding as was the setting, special effects, and editing which included film footage from Detroit in 1967. (2017)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

Book Club

May 8th, 2018 — 7:56pm

****

Book Club

It is a rare phenomena that we will see four outstanding veteran actresses star in a film with each of them having roles portraying an in-depth character who has an arc of development and change.

Screen writer and first time director Bill Holderman teamed up with Erin Simms to co-write and co-produce this movie. They won over Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen and Mary Steenburgen to come together in this movie about relationships, love and sex in women of a certain age. The well-known male actors who joined this romantic film were Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Richard Dreyfuss, Ed Begley Jr. and Wallace Shawn. In case you are curious about the name of the book the “Book Club” was reading, it was “Fifty Shades of Grey” although the film was not R rated.

We predict that in addition to being a big hit with the older demographics, word will get around that this film will have great appeal to romantics of all generations and it will be a great success. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

Little Pink House

May 4th, 2018 — 6:02am

****

Little Pink House

Whether you are an on-the-ground activist, a student of law, or an activist at heart, you will be drawn to this movie. It is a docudrama that tells the true story of Susette Kelo (Catherine Keener), a woman who worked as a dedicated EMT, had just been through a second divorce and found a quaint fix-up house in New London, Connecticut on the water where she decided to settle and build her life. Needless to say, the finishing touch on her hard work of fixing up the house was to paint the exterior pink (hence the film title).

And now the plot thickness. Pfizer pharmaceutical company begins to work out a plan with the town fathers to build a new large plant in New London. This has the potential to bring new revenue and jobs to this town which could well use the infusion. The viewer then becomes introduced to the term from the United States Constitution called Eminent Domain. A group of home owners, mainly elderly, are now threatened with either being forced to sell their home or be evicted.

Ms. Keener plays her character quite well as she becomes the symbol of the embattled home owners with the support of her boyfriend, Tim (Keith Rennie) and her lawyer Scott Bullock (Giacomo Baessato) against the Director of Corporate Development (Jeanne Tripplehorn), the city attorney (Jerry Wasserman), and the governor (Aaron Douglas).

Director and writer, Courtney Moorehead Balaker, leads this band of actors to the Supreme Court of The United States where the case is settled (at least for the time being). This adventure is a worthwhile cinematic experience (2018).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, History

Kodachrome

April 13th, 2018 — 7:58am

Screened at 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Opens April 20, 2018 in the United States

****

Kodachrome

When a movie tries to examine an estranged relationship between the parent and a grown child, it usually has the potential to be an emotionally laden interesting film. This movie was no exception.

A famous and now dying photographer (Ed Harris) and his loyal and beautiful nurse (Elizabeth Olsen) contact his son(Jason Sudeikis) who is a music businessman and has not spoken to his father in many years for good reasons . They ask him to go with them on a car trip to Kansas to develop some old roles of Kodachrome film. (The father can’t fly because health reasons.) The last existing processing company is going out of business and there is some urgency to this task. The details and reasons for the estrangement unfold as does the expected deep seated underlying feeling that each has for each other. Just about every key point in the plot was easily predicted but yet the movie, directed by Mark Raso, held our attention and we recommend it for a meaningful emotional ride (2018).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

The Rescue List

April 13th, 2018 — 7:27am

Screened at 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Unknown opening date in USA

****

The Rescue List

This documentary film takes place in a rural area in Ghana where Lake Volta, the largest manmade lake in the world, is located. There is a terrible situation where young children are abducted or even bought from their parents in order to be used as slave labor working on fishing boats in this lake. Film makers Zachary Fink and Alysous Fedele made this heart wrenching but yet beautifully done documentary film. It followed a group led by a man by the name of Kwame who was once one of these children and now is a college educated leader of the group. Their mission is to rescue these children and provide education, rehabilitation, and in many cases return them to their families. The filmmakers obtain very good cinematic portraits of individual children and capture the story of what they have been through at the same time showing their childhood innocence. Hopefully before this film is released to the public, the filmmaker will put an “ask” and a place for viewers who will be moved to make donations to this very worthy group (2018).

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary

Beirut

March 27th, 2018 — 11:23pm

****

Beriut

Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm), a mid-east expert who is called back to Beirut where he hasn’t been for ten or so years to negotiate a high profile kidnapping case which he has some personal connections and past relationships. Rosamund Pike is an American agent who fearlessly assist Skiles with his mission.

The other stars of the film in addition to the Director Brad Anderson and writer Tony Gilroy are the producers, director of photography and production designers etc. who recreated Beirut of 1982, as a city in shambles with bombed out houses and realistic and scary-warring factions all over the place. We understand that they used Tangiers and Morocco as the locations to recreate Beirut. But, however they did it, the viewer could not help feeling that we were in a dangerous place with an exciting story unfolding before us. Occasionally we lost the beat and we weren’t sure who was who and what side they may be on. No matter, because the main focus was on Hamm’s character, who held our attention, and should hold yours, if you get a chance to see this film. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Action, Drama

On Borrowed Time

March 1st, 2018 — 9:23pm

****

On Borrowed Time

Four older men in an assisted living home in Dubai seemed to be losing interest in life when one of them gets a notice that he has inherited lots of money. This leaves them to begin a foray outside their living arrangement. The story ends up being an uplifting film which deserves to be seen not only by the Arab speaking world but also by others who will use subtitles (which could be slightly improved).

The movie gives an insight into contemporary life in an Arab country along with several seeming paradoxes, which intrigued us. The older folks wore traditional garb while the younger people were in modern western dress and went to nightclubs. The living facility was all men – not co-ed although the capable physician was a young attractive woman in western dress. We were surprised to see these vibrant men ending up in this facility when we know of the strong Arab tradition of families caring for their elderly. But perhaps that is what made the story so interesting and drove the plot. The theme of living life to its fullest at all ages is universal.

The acting was top-of-the-line and superb. Kudos should go to Saad Al Faraj, Mansour Al Feeli, Salloum Haddad, Marei Al Halliam, Fouad Ali and Layla Abdullah. The writer-director Yasir Al Yasiri did an excellent job. The film was based on a short story by Karim Al Iraqi. One of the producers, an American, Caleb Wilson was at our screening and shared with us that this film is one of many coming down the pike that was made in the Arab world but should have great appeal to Western audiences. This movie might not be available in your local theater but you should be able to find it on Netflix or the like. If you are a student of film, it wouldn’t surprise us if this one might end up being an important movie in reflecting the changing scene of international film making from the Arab world. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Basmati Blues

February 1st, 2018 — 5:21am

****

Basmati Blues

Even before La La Land, which won five Oscars last season was released, the team behind Basmati Blues was planning this old fashioned musical. It was co-written and eventually directed by Danny Baron who worked with producers Monique Caufield, Jeffrey Soros and Ruedi Gerber, all experienced movie makers. Their idea was not just to make a Hollywood musical, but to come up with one that had a storyline which would take place in India and would meld that country’s culture, dance and music along with the traditional American musical. They put together a very talented casts starring Brie Larson, who won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2015 for Room. Miss Larson proves herself not only to be a talented actress but to be one who can sing and dance. She is paired with Utkarsh Ambudkar who is an All-American actor with an Indian heritage. The cast also includes Scott Bakula and Tyne Daly who are quite capable of singing and dancing along with Donald Sutherland who plays his villain type.

The storyline shows an American, very large seed manufacturing company that wants to sell its new product to the farmers of India. They send the young, brilliant, beautiful scientist (Larson) to India to convince the farmers to use this product (which did have a serious flaw). There is an Indian science guy (Ambudkar) who thought that he had a better idea. There is drama, intrigue, a little romance and of course, music, dance and song. It was a little disturbing that the people of India were being conned and weren’t as smart as they should have been. But you know (no spoiler alert here) that in the end there is a crescendo with happy, enjoyable music, dance and song in a beautiful setting. Everyone seemed to be leaving the theater with a big smile on his and her face which is the way it should be (2017).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Musical

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