Category: 4 Stars


The Report

January 9th, 2020 — 8:17pm

****

The Report – nf

In this docudrama based on the true story of Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), a staffer for United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) is given the assignment to examine secret files and make a report on the purported enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) that the CIA was performing on suspected terrorists after 9/11. You need to remember that this was a time of great anxiety and concern in this country after the U.S. homeland was attacked by Al Queda. The CIA felt very responsible to determine if future attacks were being planned and exactly who was involved. They were able to bring into custody suspected terrorists and would determine to extract from them as much intelligence as possible to save the homeland. At one point two seemingly credible psychologists offered to help the CIA to develop these enhanced interrogation techniques which featured the torture of the people they were interrogating with waterboarding among other methods. They had the confidence that this would extract essential intelligence data. The United States government is one of critical checks and balances and while the CIA reports to the President, the U.S. Congress has the duty to examine ethical and moral behavior of all agencies of our government. This critical and pivotal moment in modern United States history all played out in the actions and reactions of this one younger staffer Daniel Jones, who had the task of examining the most highly classified information and reports. He ultimately found himself in direct conflict with the various leaders of the CIA which included John Brennan (Ted Levine), George Tenant (Dominic Fumusa)and Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm) who was chief of staff for the President’s office.

This historical drama was written and directed by Scott Z. Burns. The movie holds the attention of the viewer as we watch this unlikely hero struggle against the powerful forces as well as his own inner conflicts as to how he should act and should he reveal the top secret information that was being hidden from the American public and from the U.S. Congress.

This movie is quite relevant today as, the headlines tell of U.S. President Trump complaining about people who are questioning the United States Intelligence Office which provided information regarding his decision to have a major Iranian military leader killed. (2020)

 

 

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Politics

Dark Waters

January 7th, 2020 — 7:14pm

****

Dark Waters-rm

This is an important documentary film that we would hope that as many people as possible could see it and be informed of its contents. It is produced by Mark Ruffalo, who stars in the film as the lawyer who takes on the DuPont Chemical Company to expose the large scale damage to people and the environment done by their product related to Teflon. The movie is directed by Todd Haynes and has an all star supporting cast of actors including Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Bill Pullman, Anne Hathaway, and Marie Winningham. It is based on the New York Times magazine article “The lawyer who became DuPont’s worst nightmare” by Nathaniel Rich and was adopted for screen by Mario Correa and Matthew Carnahan. It is a painful movie that will more likely have you squirming in your seat rather than sitting on the edge of it as you realize the drawn-out painful process that had to be gone through over many years in order to gain recognition of the dangerous harmful effects on people by the chemical produced by DuPont. The process of recognizing this dangerous situation has been very slow but the staggering amount of compensation this mega corporation is beginning to pay out to the unwitting victims finally is achieving some small amount of justice. This movie deserves kudos for taking on the story and deserves to be seen by many moviegoers.( 2020 )

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama

Little Women

November 27th, 2019 — 1:41am

****

Little Women-sp

We have no memory of the story or the impact of reading the novel “Little Women” in our youth. We do know that there have been several film versions of this classic novel by Louisa May Alcott. We also know that Greta Gerwig (best known for her her acclaimed directorship of Lady Bird) was intent on having the opportunity to write the screenplay and direct this project. This film also attracted an all-star cast of Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, as well as several other excellent actors including Meryl Streep who had a small but significant role as the elderly aunt.

The setting of the film was during the Civil War and the focus is on a family of four sisters and their mother while the dad is away at war. Through some nonlinear flashback scenes, we see the girls come of age in a time which women’s value was usually determined by the success and wealth of their husbands. The main focus is on Jo (Ronan) who is a would-be writer trying to tell her story but the publisher to whom she is speaking only wants a novel where in the end the young woman gets married. Although it is a different time and a different place, the insightful writing, great acting and very truthful directing ultimately captures the modern-day audience who will surely relate to this film and once again this classic story will find meaning in a new generation. (2019)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

November 15th, 2019 — 6:33am

****

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood-sp

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)

Any comments are welcome below

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

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