Category: 4 Stars


The Road Within

April 17th, 2015 — 7:09pm

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The Road Within

This is a road movie like you have never seen before. Each of the three characters on the trip has a mental condition and they have escaped from a treatment center run by Dr. Mia Rose (Kyra Sedgwick). Vincent (Robert Sheehan) is a young man with Tourette’s Syndrome who not only has uncontrollable disconcerting bizarre tics but has coprolalia, where he blurts out expletives  or other unseemly phrases. Alex (Dev Patel) has obsessive-compulsive disorder where he must wear gloves much of the time to avoid germs and dirt. He would also have to jam on the breaks of a car that he is driving after going over a pothole and then have to run outside to see that he hasn’t run somebody over. This isn’t the best characteristic to have if you are the designated driver much of the time on this road trip since the guy with the tics can’t always keep his eyes on the road. The third character on the road trip is Marie (Zoe Kravitz) who is a young woman with anorexia and bulimia. The main focus of the film is on Vincent. As we understand the details about his back story and his father Robert (Robert Patrick),  we learn that the father’s ex-wife, Vincent’s mom was an alcoholic, and recently died. In fact, we first meet Vincent at her funeral as he struggles with his uncontrollable tics. So you can see that while this wild road trip has elements for a comedic film, it never really goes very far  in that direction. This is a sensitive moving story about three people with painful mental symptoms who become friends as they go on this journey. We come to see their very human qualities and how empathic they are to each other.. There is even some touching romance in the story. While it is only Vincent about whom we get to understand his personal story in some depth, we do appreciate the struggle and the suffering that they are all enduring.

We had a chance to meet Gren Wells, the screenwriter and first time director of this film and learn a little about the making of it. Ms. Wells first came across a trailer of the German feature film upon which she eventually gained the rights to remake in English. She was touched by the unique depiction of these three people with these conditions. She could personally relate to the young girl having suffered anorexia in her own youth. The casting of these actors could not have been better. Ms. Wells knew there would be a fine line between showing these people as objects of ridicule and showing their painful real feelings to which an audience would relate. People who actually have these conditions were brought in to work very closely with the actors. We learned that Mr. Sheehan spent several months practicing and understanding people with Tourette’s syndrome which he would show in the movie. The result of his performance should appropriately be compared with the acting of Eddie Redmayne who won the Oscar last year for the playing Steven Hawkins in the Theory of Everything.

This is an outstanding movie that will be a gratifying and enjoyable cinematic experience for people of all ages. It is an enduring story film that should be shown to mental health professionals and in some settings, to patients who have similar conditions. It may not stay around in theaters as long as some of the blockbuster films, but it is worth seeing. It opens in Los Angeles next week but should be on DVD for a long time and hopefully will be seen by many people. (2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Danny Collins

April 12th, 2015 — 8:24pm

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This movie has a great premise. Danny Collins (Al Pacino) is an older successful star musician who has been living the life of rock and roll, drugs, and women for over four decades. His life however is changed around when his manager (Christopher Plummer) finds a letter, originally written to Collins when he was a young rising star, by his idol, John Lennon who had seen a newspaper interview with young Collins and wrote to him telling him to be true to himself and his music. There also was an invitation to call Lennon so they could talk and he provided his personal phone number. The letter never reached Collins. This was over 40 years ago. Lennon is gone now and Collins gave up on his own music many years ago and had been successfully singing and touring with other people’s music which makes him feel sick but very rich.

How often has a word of encouragement from a role model, celebrity, or a revered teacher put someone on the path to realize their true aspirations? So imagine how someone might feel if these words of encouragement from a hero came 40 years too late. In this case, receiving the belated letter from Lennon had a profound impact on Collins which set him on a journey which is the essence of this movie. The words and music of John Lennon are most of the musical score of this film and his spirit is infused into the story. Pacino is outstanding as Danny Collins as he seems to be turned inside out trying to redo his own persona. He makes us believe that beneath his self-centered rock and roll life, he really was a sensitive caring person. He finds his long lost son (Bobby Cannavale) who is married to a loving wife (Jennifer Garner) and who have a very cute hyperactive child which becomes the rest of the story. There was also an encounter with a new woman (Annette Bening) who is the hotel manager in New Jersey where Danny ends up trying to win over his son and his family. In addition to being a story of an attempt to have redemption, this is also a crisp comedy. It is extremely well-written and the banter between the characters evoked out loud laughter from our movie audience. This film directed by Dan Fogelson, will resonate with many and will be totally enjoyed by most. (2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Uncategorized

Potiche

April 11th, 2015 — 8:44pm

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Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 1.37.28 PMPOTICHE – nf  (French with English subtitles)

Potiche is a French word which refers to a person, a man or a woman (although in this case, it is a woman) whose function is purely decorative and who has no power at all. This is obviously meant to refer to Suzanne Pujol (Catherine Deneuve), wife of Robert Pujol (Fabrice Luchini), manager of the family umbrella factory. He is kidnapped by union zealots who are demanding better pay and working conditions. They are led by a communist member of parliament (played by another French superstar Gerard Depardieu). Although this film was made in 2010, the setting is the late 1970s and the film is clearly about the changing role of women. Deneuve’s character is a beautiful mature woman with two grown children played by Jeremie Renier and Judith Godreche, is initially referred to as the “trophy wife” but when her husband after being freed from his captivity is incapacitated by a heart attack, she takes the role as manager of the factory and chief negotiator. Being a French film, we should be not surprised that her husband of course, has had many affairs including a current one with his secretary, Nadege (Karin Viard). Of course his wife (Deneuve) has had her share of trysts in her day and there is even some question about who is the father of her son. But the real intrigue and strength of this movie is the evolving of Deneuve’s character as we come to understand her and see her relate to her family, former lover, and to the new era for women. This film is punctuated by Deneuve, in character, singing a song at the end of the film which captures the uplifting theme of this movie which was directed by Francois Ozon.  Since you will most likely view this film on Netflix, we highly recommend that you watch the special feature which shows many in-depth clips about the making of the film. You will see the director and the well-known French actors and actresses professionally plying their trade but also informally interacting with each other and the crew. This is a worthwhile viewing experience in and of itself. (2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Forger

March 19th, 2015 — 7:33pm

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This is not your father’s old fashion gangster heist movie. Nor is it your mom’s tearjerker movie about a family situation where a father connects with his son who is dying of cancer. Instead it is a brilliantly written screen play by Richard D’Ovidio that combines both of these elements into an outstanding film directed by Philip Martin. This relatively low budget movie ($11 million) attracted John Travolta, who plays Ray Cutter, the dad who might have been a great artist but now finds himself forging a classic painting. His dad is Joseph Cutter played by Christopher Plummer as the old, rough, wise, grandfather who, himself know something about the underworld of Boston. The teenager who turns to dad to help him fulfill his short life is extremely well played by Tye Sheridan. All of these stars could not be better in their roles. The fourth star is the actual Boston Museum of Fine Arts that allowed this movie to be made on its premises adding to the authenticity of the film. This movie will be released to theaters on April 24 but will be available to Direct TV subscribers On Demand at the end of March as an example of the latest marketing techniques to get the word out. We are sure there will be lots of good words about this movie. (2015)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

5 to 7

March 12th, 2015 — 7:13am

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If you are tuned in to the lingo of certain aspects of French culture, you might know that the title film refers to 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This is the time in which it is permissible in some marriages for each partner to have an affair. Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) is a 24-year-old single struggling writer in New York City who strikes up a conversation on a Manhattan Street with a beautiful French woman Arielle Tierpont (Bérénice Marlohe) who happens to be nine years his senior. She is married with two kids but is perfectly comfortable having an affair with him during these two magic hours of the day. Her husband Valéry Tierpont (Lambert Wilson) is a very handsome likeable guy and is glad to meet Brian who is quite bewildered by this chain of events. This all is not taking place in Paris but in New York City. The screen writer and director Victor Levin seems to know a lot about these things, as well as apparently being in love with New York. From the creative plaques on the benches of Central Park to the lovely Hotel Carlisle where much of the love making takes place, to the magnificent Guggenheim Museum, the mood of the film is clearly established. We come appreciate how this young man is absolutely smitten by the stunning,  and very appealing French woman. He even introduces her to his Jewish parents. His mother (Glen Close) is charmed by this woman no matter what the circumstances, if she loves her son. His father (Frank Langella) is the comic relief to this film as he tries to digest the situation that his son is in. The dialogue of the film mostly New Yorkese with some occasional words of French thrown in with English subtitles  The soundtrack also sets the mood about falling in love perhaps in a lifetime situation. The only flaw we couls find,  is that as charming as young Mr. Bloom may seem to be and as much as we could appreciate his falling head over heels in love, we did not feel the film conveyed to us how this older beautiful woman was developing similar feelings to him. Perhaps Mr. Levin didn’t quite get into the French woman’s shoes. Nevertheless, the film is a moving, exciting, very creative, and a unique love story that is worth seeing (2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Romance

Merchants of Doubt

March 3rd, 2015 — 12:43am

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At the beginning of the film, we meet a magician who is performing at the Los Angeles’ venue called the Magic Castle. He relates how magicians deceive and misdirect as they perform. This, of course, is the metaphor for the work of the people we meet in this film. They work for various industries such as the Food, Tobacco and Oil Corporations. Although most of the time this fact is concealed from the public, they do deceive and misdirect in how they do it. And the fact that they do it is the amazing story of this documentary film. It is directed and produced by Robert Kenner, who also made the film Food Inc, the behind-the-scene story of the food industry. This time, Mr. Kenner mostly focuses his attention on global warming. It has become clear that the scientific community almost unanimously believes that the products of carbon dioxide create a blanket over the Earth’s environment that is causing global warming. The consequences are quite dire for the world in the next 50 years. Already, we are seeing a melting of the Arctic icecap with potential flooding of our coastal cities, colder winters and warmer summers. Before the civilized world can come together and address these serious problems, there is a group of seemingly knowledgeable spokespersons who appear to respectfully offer another viewpoint and explanation for the presence of global warming. However, these people are secretly paid by the oil industry to create uncertainty. Now is the time for action but these people are “merchants of doubt” and are highly effective in delaying, diverting and obscuring that fact and the need for action. They employ the same tactics that the cigarette industry had used to delay the recognition of the fact that nicotine is addictive and that cigarettes cause cancer. This is an amazing story, and interestingly enough, it comes from “the horse’s mouth” as much of it is directly told by the slick, well-spoken people who are operating at the bidding of the corporations who have paid them in defiance of the truth established by the scientific community. In the past when the companies in the tobacco industry were finally discovered to be deceiving the public, they were ordered by the court to inform the public of the truth about cigarettes and also to reveal that they were knowingly deceiving the public. The truth about cigarettes is now on every cigarette box and in advertisements, but we have yet to see statements from climate change deniers admitting that they have lied to the public. We can only hope that the necessity for these confessions of deceit will be forced upon those responsible for misleading the public about global warming. We also hope that a large number of people will see this film so that the truth will prevail.(2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary

Tangerines

February 12th, 2015 — 4:59pm

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.59.12 PMTangerines- sp Most Americans don’t know very much about the various regions of the former Soviet Union and regional wars that have occurred there over the years. For example in the 1990s there were intense battles between the Chechens and the Georgians who were fighting over land formerly lived in by people from Estonia most of whom fled back to Estonia. If these historical facts don’t mean much to you, it isn’t necessary to study maps of this area to appreciate this film. The plot is relatively simple. Ivo, an Estonian man has stayed behind to build wooden crates to help harvest a crop of tangerines, which are grown on his friend’s nearby farm. Some bloody encounters between the warring factions leave several soldiers dead and 2 injured at Ivo’s doorstep. What develops is a moving drama between these two soldiers on opposing sides and the two civilians who attempt to rescue them The story was written in two weeks by Zaza Urushadze who also eventually directed the movie after it was set up for a 30 day shoot by producer Ivo Felt. The film emerges as good of an anti-war movie that you will have ever seen. The acting is suburb with starring roles by very well known actors in their region of the world. They are: Lembit Ulfsak, Mikheil Meskhi, Giorgi Nakhashidze, Elmo Niiganen and Raivo Trass. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe and currently is one of the nominees for an Oscar as Best Foreign Film. It has English subtitles and deserves to be translated into many different languages and shown all over the world. It may be a little while until is passes through your local Art Movie theatre but it is worth tracking down and seeing it when it becomes available. (2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, War

Rosewater

November 16th, 2014 — 7:46pm

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Rosewater-rm Before we discuss this movie, we should try to answer the question of why would Jon Stewart, the host of the Daily Show, on the Comedy Central Network, want to make his debut as a feature film director in a movie about the 2009 Presidential election in Iran. That was the election where incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad defeated Houssein Mousavi. This election sparked mass demonstrations in the street, which were harshly put down by the government. The defeated candidate was put on house arrest which we believe is still current and he was among many people imprisoned including a a journalist working for Newsweek magazine by the name of Maziar Behari. Behari had appeared in a clearly satirical piece for the Stewart show where it was jokingly mentioned that he could have been been a spy. Thus the connection that must have sparked Stewarts interest which ultimately led him to be a first time director of this movie for which he also wrote the screenplay. It is all about Maziar Behari who was ripped away from his mother’s house with whom he was staying while covering the election, while his pregnant wife was in London. Gael Garcia Bernal, an accomplished Mexican actor, does a great job playing Behari. The film provides an insight into the valiant but futile protests that were made of this election after the hopes of the opposition were dashed. Behari appeared to become a symbol of the masses who try to rise up when they feel they are treated unfairly especially when they are offered an election that they came to feel was fraudulent. He also reminds us of generations of young people who develop values that lead them to fight for what they believe even though it appears that they will be defeated. In this case we learn that Behari’s father and sister both were imprisoned at various times by the reigning Iranian governments and both died in jail at different times. Behari is tortured with the goal of making him confess to being a spy for the West so he can be televised making a confession. The interaction between him and his interrogator who was well played by Kim Badnia is one of the higlights of the movie. In this regard Stewart was able to work in a subtle satirical element, which mocked the prison officials who worked on Behari while still taking seriously the oppressive threat of the tyrannical government. One of us felt that the movie dragged at times but in the end we were well informed and its message was quite clear. (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, History

Force Majeure

November 8th, 2014 — 8:05am

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Force Majeure- rm- This is Swedish film with English subtitles and some English dialogue. Since it is quite clever and subtle, much of the credit should go to the Director and writer Ruben Ostlund. A couple and their two children go for a ski holiday at a French resort. They are suddenly faced with what seems to be a terrifying avalanche and how they act in a split second occupies much of this film. The film stars included Johannes Kchnke, Clara Wettegren and Kristofer Hivju. What emerges from this seven day holiday is an examination of relationships as well as the question of how comfortable are we with our self image especially when it is reflected back to us by someone we care about. The frank portrayal between the husband and the wife, another forty something man and his 20 year old girl friend as well as still another married women at the resort with a boyfriend all are viewed through a lens that is perhaps more Swedish then contemporary USA, if one can generalize. When the characters are in conflict they tell us or show us what they are feeling as well as the horns of their dilemmas. Several of the scenes, especially those with tension, seem to be drawn several beats longer that we thought were necessary. This seemed to lead us to be intellectualizing the action rather than feeling it. In any case we felt we were in the hands of a skilled filmmaker who kept us thinking about the characters and empathizing with their pain. There also was much to talk about after the credits rolled which is always the sign of a stimulating film (2014).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

The Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

October 16th, 2014 — 9:28pm

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The Birdman (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) -sp

This movie has the ingredients to be a very well received production. Much of it is a powerful Broadway play within a movie . Specifically it is about an aging movie star Riggan who has made blockbuster movies titled The Birdman who doubts his acclaimed accomplishments and feels he has to prove himself by directing and acting in a serious dramatic play on the Broadway stage. Probably, it is not a coincidence that the star of the movie is 63 year old mega movie star Michael Keaton of Batman and Batman Returns fame among many other hits. His costar is Ed Norton who plays Mike a younger accomplished actor who is totally into the moment with his very dramatic acting in the play. There are excellent supporting roles by Emma Stone, Naomi Watts, Andrea Riseborough, Amy Ryan and Zach Galifianakis. The creation of the film comes from screenwriter and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu who is best known for Babel and Biutiful. Thanks to a collaboration between Fox Searchlight Pictures and New Regency he had a 16 ½ million dollar budget. Most of the film takes place inside a Broadway theatre or within the surrounding two or three blocks in the theatre district in New York City. The scenes each last several minutes. These long takes characterize the film and the viewer is given the impression that one camera is following the actors as they move through the winding corridors, dressing rooms, balconies and the stage itself, which would appear to be the well known St James Theatre. Riggan’s inner voice is quite loud and appears external. To further keep things rolling along, the music background score is almost entirely drums. The audience at times is asked to suspend reality but the intense drama keeps us grounded. Despite the high flying antics of Mr. Keaton the most revealing moment in the film would appear to be when the NY Times theatre critic who can make or break any show seems determined to break this one because she doesn’t believe Superhero movies stars have a right to claim the Broadway stage as true actors. While the movie had a dramatic flair and an intensity, which held our attention, we felt we were watching characters tell about their stories and situations rather than identifying with them and fully experiencing their plight. We suspect this will be one of those movies that people will either love or walk away without being moved but it is worth being seen. (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

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