Category: 4 Stars


A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

November 15th, 2019 — 6:33am

****

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

For a generation that grew up with Mr. Rogers as their friend, comforter, and beacon of honesty and truth, it must be very gratifying to see Tom Hanks embody their childhood hero. This movie has been 10 years in the making by screenwriters, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, who worked very closely with producer Youree Henley and his associates and ultimately involved Marielle Heller as the director of the movie. They approached the story by focusing on a reporter, in reality Tom Junod, who is named Lloyd Vogel in the film and played by Matthew Rhys, who wrote an article for Esquire Magazine built around his interviews with Mr. Rogers. The reporter brought to the table his own personal story of alienation from his father, which came up during his interactions with Mr. Rogers. They developed a personal relationship, which was very meaningful to the reporter and literally changed his life. In a sense, the story is a parable for a successful psychotherapy where insight and change ultimately happen. However, in this case, it was Rogers’ sensitivity and empathy for his interviewer over a period of time which made a big difference in the life of this reporter. This movie is very well done using the background and TV set where the actual Mr. Rogers’ show took place in Pittsburgh. However, the real success of the movie is Tom Hanks, who not only captured the style and mannerisms of Fred Rogers but also radiated his warmth and empathy. (2019).

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama

The Warrior Tradition

November 14th, 2019 — 8:03am

****

The Warrior Tradition (PBS)

The Warrior Tradition is a one-hour documentary film about the proud connection and tradition of native Americans and the United States Military. It is produced by Florentine Films, Lawrence Hott, producer. Early in the film, the question is asked by someone as to why would the people who were almost wiped out defending their homeland would want to join the very military that they had fought against? The question was eloquently answered by an American veteran, who stated they join the military “so our land cannot be taken away again.” The words of so many warriors both in native dress and in the United States Military uniform tell the story of the proud service to our country that has been done in the highest percentage of any other group. We see through pictures and clips from the earliest wars fought by the United States, the contribution made by native Americans. Of particular note was the role of Code Talkers during the World War II, when native Americans took over radio communications for a time when their language was the only “code” that the Japanese could not break. This documentary film captures the numerous contributions as well as the emotional connections of both the young and the old native Americans to their warrior tradition and to the United States Military. (2019)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary

Yesterday

November 1st, 2019 — 1:39am

****

Yesterday

Cross-country air flight often allows us to come across a film that we may not usually choose to see in a local movie theater. Yesterday was such a film, which had a very unique premise and an excellent execution. It was directed by Daniel Boyle and written by Jack Barth and Richard Curtis.

A musician living in England (Himesh Patel) decides that he has had it with his music career and is ready to give up and quit trying to be a successful singer. He is driving away from his latest and what he believes will be his last gig when he is involved in a serious auto accident. He is knocked unconscious and loses two of his front teeth. As he recovers from his injury, new dental work and is ready to try to live a normal life, not as a musician, he comes to a very amazing realization. Everything in the world is as it was before his accident, except nobody has ever heard of the Beatles or any of their songs. If he makes a reference to “Let It Be”, nobody knows the musical reference to the great Beatles’ classic hit. In fact, nobody has ever heard of the Beatles. “Google” thinks that the Beatles are only insects

Our musician begins to write some “Beatles” songs which he remembers and reconstructs. We watch him gradually develop into an extremely popular performer who is writing new songs (classic Beatle hits) all the time and becomes known as the “Greatest Songwriter of All Time.” He performs in gigantic venues and receives great acclaim. There is a romantic subplot with his girlfriend (Lily James) and we also see a statement being made about the music industry through his new female agent who greedily seeks to reap the rewards of his tremendous popularity.

The storyline builds to an interesting climax and in the end, we have had an opportunity to enjoy the great music of the Beatles but also have seen a wonderful satire. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Musical

The Good Liar

October 23rd, 2019 — 12:56am

****

The Good Liar- sp

When you put together Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen with a really good story with twists and turns, big surprises and even some roots in Nazi Germany, you know you are going to have a riveting movie. These two iconic actors are at the top of their game. The screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher based on the novel by Nicholas Searle requires you to pay close attention or you may miss some of the subtleties where the storyline is taking you. Special kudos to director Bill Condon who guided this complicated but yet fascinating movie. Do not be surprised if the talents of these great actors are once again recognized during award season. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama

American Factory

October 20th, 2019 — 8:31pm

****

American Factory-nf

This a documentary, which allows the viewer to be a “fly on the wall” as real life unfolds in factory in Dayton, Ohio.

A wealthy Chinese businessman opens up a new factory, which makes glass for automobiles, in a closed General Motors Auto Factory in Dayton, Ohio. He brings in from China the people who will be the supervisors of the workers, who come from the local community and are thrilled at being able to get back to work, although their minimum wages are below the wages they made from the now closed auto factory.

Everybody is optimistic that this gigantic plant will rejuvenate the local community. The workers try to get used to the Chinese work culture and the Chinese try to understand the American way of thinking. A delegation of American workers is sent to China where they are wined and dined and participate in the celebration of Chinese culture. The film production team led by producers/directors Steve Bognar and Julia Reichert  have obtained very good access to both the Americans and Chinese working in the factory and they are able to film the workers and their supervisors as they discussed their personal feelings. Things come to a head when there is a movement to unionize the workers, which is opposed by the management. The tension between the two sides builds to an ultimate vote whether this unionization should take place.

This movie highlights important political and social differences between contemporary American and Chinese cultures. It is of note that one of the backers of this film is Barack and Michelle Obama’s new production company, Higher Ground (2019).

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Politics

Judy

September 28th, 2019 — 7:43pm

****

Judy-rm

Do not expect this film to be filled with scenes of Judy Garland at the top of her game throughout her illustrious career. Rather, the movie focuses on the last year of her life where she went to England to try to rejuvenate her career, which was fading in the United States. There are some flashbacks to her childhood and early years, but it is mostly about the final curtain calls. The brightest part of this movie experience directed by Rupert Gooke, based on a play by Peter Quilter, is the outstanding performance of Renee Zellweger who plays Judy Garland. She has figured out the mannerisms and is pretty close to her voice as we remember it (maybe not quite the energy). Zellweger is superb and we would bet on her receiving some awards for this performance. We strongly recommend this movie to be seen and enjoyed. (2019)

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Musical

Hustlers

September 26th, 2019 — 6:55am

****

Hustlers-rm

It is an interesting phenomenon to see beautiful half-naked women doing suggestive sexy dances and yet, the net result is clearly a non-sexual experience. (Agreed upon by both reviewers). The reason being that the main focus of the film is to show how women so often have been objectified and used by men. Here, we see women who are not going to take it anymore and are going to stand up for themselves. If anybody is going to be “used” in the film, it is the rich men who are all too willing to throw hundreds of dollars around to see these girls dance and pretend to be sexually interested in them.

The story is based on a New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler played by Julia Stiles who teams up with writer/director, Lorene Scafaria to make this film which starred Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu. In this movie, we see a group of strippers and pole dancers who were tired of being used not only by their clients but by the club owners. They figured out a way that they can redirect to themselves a large part of the money being spent for their activities. The movie has a great deal of energy with powerful music from Janet Jackson to Chopin. The net result is a unique view of the world of exotic dancers and a meaningful relationship which develops between two of the “stars” as they try to take their destiny into their own hands. (2019)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

The Game Changers

August 28th, 2019 — 6:34am

****

The Game Changers-sp

A while back, a doctor suggested to one of us that he look into a “plant-based diet” and gave him a book which he put on his reading list. Well, after this film, he moved it up and now will definitely read it with great interest.

James Wilks, an athlete and someone who has done physical training for the U.S. Marines took up this film project and was the onscreen host of the movie. He enlisted among others as executive producers James Cameron, Jackie Chan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Needless to say they all advocate for the thesis of this film. Under the direction of Louie Psihoyos, they have put together a documentary film that will blow you away and may very well add greatly to your health and longevity.

The game changer is that there is scientific and empirical evidence that a plant-based diet with fruits and vegetables and no meat or even fish will allow you to be a strong, muscular, athletic person and have good health and live longer. A good documentary movie needs to demonstrate things with real people and not just boring scientific facts. In this movie, we meet a host of healthy athletes who lift the heaviest weights, show the most physical endurance running races and all sorts of fighting and other physical competition. We meet football players and other athletes and are also shown scientific research facts which confirms the main point of this movie.

If you care about your health and the health of your family, you have to take this movie seriously. You will want to share it with people that you care about. In a post film discussion with Mr. Wilks, he made the point that this need not be an all or nothing project but the facts and empirical evidence are there and this is a “game changer” of a film which can change your life. (2019)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary

Brittany Runs A Marathon

August 14th, 2019 — 10:09pm

****

Brittany Runs A Marathon-sp

There is a tinge of “Rocky” in this story in that you are rooting for the protagonist to win her battle and achieve her goal and finish the glorious New York City marathon.

We meet Brittany (Jillian Bell) as a somewhat overweight young woman who drinks and eats a lot and isn’t the most pleasant person to others. We gain insight into her and begin to appreciate her struggles. Starting with the kindness of others, she becomes more reflective and develops some good friends. To one of us, it was almost as if she had entered into a psychotherapy and was working through her conflicts and hang-ups. Her old acquaintances and new friends are very meaningful to her and they are well played by Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Micah Stock, Lil Rel Howery, Alice Lee and Jennifer Dundas. The real co-star of this film is the writer and first-time director, Paul Downs Colaizzo. He drew upon his work in the theater to capture the main character’s insight and pathway for ultimate change. He was also fortunate enough to team up with Tobey Maguire who provided the major support in getting this film made. The final message of the movie is that everything doesn’t always work out exactly how you plan it but it is so often the journey that really counts. (2019)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

The Peanut Butter Falcon

July 31st, 2019 — 5:41am

****

The Peanut Butter Falcon – sp

Just as interesting as this film, is the story how it came to be made. Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz are two young filmmakers who have previously only made short films and certainly had never made a full-length feature. They met and befriended Zack Gottsagen, a young man with Down Syndrome who had a burning ambition to someday become an actor. The filmmakers decided to write a full-length movie script which would feature such a person and recruited Mr. Gottsagen to be the star. The script was intriguing enough to entice a team of producers who had the connections to bring in Dakota Johnson, Shia LaBeouf, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal, and some other very fine actors. The setting was the banks of North Carolina but it was filmed in the marshlands of Georgia.

Zack and Tyler connect after Zack escapes from a nursing home where he was being cared for since he did not have a family. He meets Tyler who has his own back story, Eleanor who was sent by the nursing home to find Zack connects with the two of them and there is certain chemistry between her and Tyler. Circumstances lead the three of them to go on what is usually called a road trip except that this adventure occurs on some makeshift boats. The three of them make quite an interesting trio and the story allows the viewer to have empathy for these unlikely characters. The people they meet along the way are quite unique and will capture your attention. The result is a very enjoyable, interesting, and touching movie that is well worth seeing. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

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