Category: 4 Stars


King Richard

January 8th, 2022 — 8:00am

King Richard
****

Will Smith not only produced this film but played Richard Williams, the ambitious father of tennis greats Serena and Venus Williams. We follow this family of five girls from their early days in Compton, California to the world stage where they became the number 1 and number 2 world tennis stars. It is hard to believe this was the plan of Richard, the father, who not only dreamed of their great career from their early ages but trained them and then made decisions and arrangements for their coaching that led to their amazing success.

Aunjanue Ellis plays the mother, Demi Singleton is Serena, and Saniyya Sidney is Venus. The film is very skillfully directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green. There are wonderful tennis action scenes intergrated into the interpersonal dialogue. This cinematic magic is seen throughout the film from their early days of learning to play tennis to the dramatic world championship action. The skillful editing of tennis action involved throughout the film certainly will be considered for film awards as well the entire movie.

This is a heartwarming drama which provides insight into the marriage as well as the upbringing of five girls two of whom achieved worldwide acclaim.

It is interesting to learn that the two real tennis greats did not see the film until it was completed and previewed for them. They approved wholeheartedly of the final result. We think you will also provide thumbs up for the movie and the 2 hours and 18 minutes will zip by as a lightning fast tennis match.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Family / Kids, Sport, Uncategorized

Pad Man

January 4th, 2022 — 5:32am

Pad Man. nf
****

This is a quite remarkable story, and as usual truth can be stranger than fiction. Here we have a young man living in India who is concerned that his wife uses a dirty cloth during per periods who goes to the store and picked up a napkin for his wife for her to use during her menstruation and is amazed to find out how expensive it is and how rejected it is by the women of the town. This leads him to see if he can make a similar product by hand that might even be better, safer and cheaper! He goes through all sorts of trials and tribulations to do this. Of course, even discussing the menstrual period is usually taboo. His wife and family and friends and neighbors as well as other people cannot deal with his obsession to make a safer, less expensive and more effective product. His concerns about using a pad instead of the dirty rags that women generally use makes him a particularly aberrant and shunned indidividual

This film came out four years ago in 2018. It is in Indian Hindi language. It is a dramatic film with English subtitles, which recreates a true story about Arunachalam Muruganantham. It is written and directed by R. Balki and features Akshay Kumar, Sonam Kapoor, and Radhika Apte. The persistence and dedication of the main protagonist and his product and his belief that this would be revolutionary for women, (which it was) comes up against the cultural belief that this natural biological occurrence should never be openly discussed, especially by men.

There is a very engaging storyline as “Pad Man” tries to get various women to “test” his product. Ultimately not only does he produce a revolutionary pad, which is a safer and more sanitary product and probably save untold lives (who might have come down with infections and died), but he also has created a new industry for the production of his product, in which thousands of women are able to participate. It is amazing to contemplate that prior to the effective, safe and inexpensive production of this product about five days a month for women were eliminated from their lives as they would isolate themselves and certainly would not interact with men. The film deserves the recognition, which it appears to be getting and it is of note as was shown in the film, the Pad Man ultimately received worldwide acclaim and recognition for his accomplishment.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Arunchalam Murugaanantham, Drama, Foreign, Indian Hini language, Politics, Radhila Apte

The Power of the Dog

January 4th, 2022 — 4:49am

The Power Of The Dog–nf
****

This is an American Western that takes place in the mid-1920s. We see ranchers, cowboys, and lots of horses, but there is an occasional 1920s automobile. We meet two brothers who have a large ranch with lots of cowboys working there. One of the brothers, more of the city refined type, marries a widow who has a son in his late teens or early 20s. The other brother is a rough-and-tumble cowboy who does not easily accept these interlopers into his family and the family business.

The film is written and directed by Jane Campion and is based on the 1967 novel by the same name by Thomas Savage. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Jesse Plemons, and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

The film is a spellbinding example of magnificent character development. To brothers own the ranch where the action takes place. They are seen as quite different and yet quite complex. George marries a woman who hides her own personal problems. She has a son who appears to be somewhat effeminate and is actually a medical student studying to be a surgeon. The other brother Phil is as rough and tough as a cowboy can get. We learn about his hero “Bronco Henry,” who we never meet but is depicted as even more tough, if that were possible. These characters are not always who they seem to be as the story slowly reveals, and that is the magic of this movie.

This film was named as one of the best movies of 2021 by the American Film Institute and received seven nominations at the 70th Golden Globe Awards including best drama as well as many other nominations. After you have seen the film, if you want to try to understand the title, go to:

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance, Western

Being The Ricardos

December 25th, 2021 — 12:19am

Being the Ricardos
****

If you grew up in 1950s as did we and were fortunate enough to have a TV set, you certainly watched “I Love Lucy” every week. Lucille Ball played a flakey red haired woman who was married to Ricky Ricardo, a Cuban bandleader. Their neighbors were Fred and Ethel Mertz, and in every episode there was something interesting happening in their lives and with their relationships. It was probably one of the all-time most popular television programs and certainly at the time there was very little competition.

Aaron Sorkin, best known for creating West Wing, wrote and directed this biopic and cast Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball and Javier Bardem as Ricky, with J. K. Simmons taking on William Frawley who played Fred Mertz in the TV series while Nina Arianda covered Vivian Vance who was the actress playing Ethel Mertz.

The filmmakers condense their story into a one-week period during which time, some seminal events actually occurred and had great meaning in Lucille Ball’s life. She was falsely accused by Walter Winchell, the famed newspaper columnist, of being a communist (which was a big deal in the 1950s). Also, Lucille Ball became pregnant and wanted this worked into the storyline whereas pregnant women were never shown on TV at that time. Also, there were rumors of infidelity on the part of Ricardo. There was also an attempt to explore the relationship between Ricky and Lucy. This was all done supposedly showing one week in the life of this couple.

If you have any memory of being captivated by the most famous couple on TV, you will most likely be completely engaged in this film. You will also be blown away by the concluding words on the screen about what happened to the relationship of this couple one week after the TV series completed its final show.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Uncategorized

Rita Moreno-Just a Girl who Decided to Go For it

December 14th, 2021 — 2:48am

Rita Moreno – Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It
****

The title of this movie is the iconic actress’ self-proclaimed model. This film traces the famed actress from her humble beginnings to the gigantic success that she was on Broadway and Hollywood. She initially accepted the stereotypic roles as a Puerto Rican woman who could dance and sing and when she wanted to do so, could have a Spanish accent or not. This documentary film records her life going back to when she was a co-star with Marlon Brando and they were also lovers. It traces other relationships including her long marriage to a Jewish man who was not in show business and her raising of her one daughter. There are comments by people who knew her and worked with her such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Eva Longoria, Norman Lear, Gloria Estefan, and many other well-known names. The movie was directed by Mariem Pérez Riera. The release of this documentary coincides with Steven Spielberg’s new film, which is a remake of the 1957 famed musical West Side Story in which Ms. Moreno had a major role. She has a strong part in the new West Side Story as well. This documentary is a loving and carefully curated depiction of Rita Moreno’s life story.
Certainly, her warmth and her talent burst forth in this most enjoyable film. We especially appreciate the vibrant personality that she has now as an octogenarian and it is clear that she is one of great talents of our time.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Musical

Passing

November 22nd, 2021 — 10:09pm

Passing – nf
****

This is a complicated subtle film which deals with a very sensitive subject.

We meet two women who are apparently old friends but have not seen each other in a long time and come upon each other in a chance meeting. They are both light-skinned black women who have gone on different paths since they were friends in the past. Irene (Tessa Thompson) identifies as being black and is married to a black physician(Andre Holland). They have two sons and live in an upper-class lifestyle in Harlem in Manhattan. Clare (Ruth Negga) on the other hand, while similarly light skinned has identified as white and is married to a white man (John Skarsgard) who not only does not know about her true black identity but is openly bigoted against anyone black. By the appearance of the cars shown, the time period is the 1930s.

Unbeknownst to her husband, Clare attends some social gatherings with Irene and her husband, where she can identify as being black. There is a suggestion of an attraction or perhaps an affair between Clare and Irene’s husband as well as a hint of a sexual attraction between the two women. Things culminate where both couples attend another social gathering and things come to a fatal ending.

The film, based on a novel of the same name operates on multiple levels of the theme of “passing”. The main depiction is shown in the term used for a black person who is “passing” as a white one. It is also noted in the possibility of a gay man “passing” as straight. We see, also, a fraught relationship “passing” as a strong one. As one of the characters, thoughtfully states, “things are not always what they seem.”

It is interesting that Director Rebecca Hall is a white woman with a Black Grandfather who passed as white or Native American and this may have been part of her motivation to deal with this sensitive, contemporary and important subject.

The film is well worth seeing.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Confetti

August 20th, 2021 — 7:43pm

Confetti

****

We would not have expected this film to grab and hold our attention as it did throughout the entire cinematic experience. It is the story of a young school age Chinese girl who was diagnosed by a visiting American teacher as having dyslexia, which means difficulty in reading. Her mother is determined to get help for her child so she can learn to read. When there appears to be no place in China where she can get the assistance that she needs, she learns that there is a specialized school in the United States. The girl and her mother, both of whom only speak a few words of English, take the assistance of the American teacher to stay with his wheelchair-bound mother in New York while they seek a specialized school in order for her to learn how to read. This very cute little girl and her attractive mother capture the screen as they encounter various roadblocks and rejections along the way. This is the essence of this movie and there were no big surprises. As we recount the plot, it does not seem to be particularly intriguing, but yet it held us spellbound as one of the best films we have seen this season. The movie was filmed in both China and in United States (New York). The filmmaker put together a cross-cultural team that carried off this remarkable accomplishment.

One of us (MB) has worked with Tierra del Sol, which is an organization for developmentally disabled and helps youngsters and young adults with variations of this handicap succeed in school, work, and in artistic endeavors. We know that it requires a dedicated team of professionals, supportive family and persistent fund raising to help these handicapped people have meaningful lives. So perhaps the story of this film is misleading or oversimplified or maybe it is a metaphor for what can be done for youngsters who come to the world at a disadvantage, which they can overcome. Kudos to the director and screen writer, Ann Hu and the America/Chinese team that made this film and, of course, the outstanding actors Zhu Zhu, Yanan Li, and American veteran actress, Amy Irving as well as the entire outstanding Chinese and American cast and the film team that brought this to life.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Swan Song

August 8th, 2021 — 9:00pm

Swan Song

****

We initially meet Pat Pitsenbarger in a senior living facility where he appears to be in the final stages of his life. It appears that this is going to be a character study of this elderly man, but we soon realize that the journey we are about to undertake with the main character is going to be a much more complicated. It provides insight into the struggle of a gay man and the vibrant life of this man in the gay community that existed in the small mid-western town of Sandusky, Ohio. Pat Pitsenbarger was a real person who was a hairdresser in this town and he also performed at the gay night club that existed here. We soon begin to realize how his life touched so many others through his skill as a hairdresser as well as his sensitivity and caring for others. He did not realize it, but he was a role model for many other people.

In a discussion with the filmmaker, Todd Stephens, we are told that the story is based on a real person who lived in the town where the filmmaker grew up. This film is a moving, insightful examination of this character and his lifestyle. It is done extremely well. It will touch your emotions and provide an understanding of this man and his lifestyle, as well as being quite entertaining and enlightening. Many universal themes are on display and explored including love, loyalty, tolerance, understanding and forgiveness. It feels genuine and draws you in. This also adds up to an excellent cinematic experience and a highly recommended film.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama

The Comeback Trail

July 23rd, 2021 — 7:37pm

The Comeback Trail
****

This is a comedy based on a film that was made in 1982 by the same name that was made by the late Harry Hurwitz. This remake is written and directed by George Gallo. One of the producers of this film is the wife of the late Harry Hurwitz. She and Mr. Gallo were at the preview we attended run by Steven Farber in his series titled Reel Films.

The storyline and this well executed film really gives the viewer a sense of involvement and role of the producers in making a movie come into being, albeit this one being quite exaggerated and comedic. In this case, it is a story about an old country movie star who is brought out retirement from a retirement home for people in the film industry, to star in an exciting Cowboy and Indian film. Mixed into the storyline is a subplot about possibly murdering the comeback movie star so the producers can collect on a large insurance policy on the aging star. we did not mention that this movie stars Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Zach Braff. How can a film miss with such a cast?

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Western

In The Heights

June 23rd, 2021 — 1:20am

In The Heights
****

This musical may very well live on for future generations and enter the category of great productions such as Westside Story and Hamilton. The latter also had the lyrics and music by Lin-Manuel Miranda as he did In The Heights. This is the movie version of the Broadway musical which opened in New York in 2008 and which we had enjoyed then.

The story takes place in Washington Heights in the Northern tip of Manhattan in New York City. We meet a young man who hopes to return to native country of Dominican Republic. There are interesting subplots, which include a beloved grandmother who reminisces about her childhood in Cuba, a young woman who comes back to the neighborhood after her first year of college at Stanford University and is torn apart by conflicts concerning how to fit in and, of course, there is passionate romance. We may have missed a couple of beats and some of the subplots; however, we do not think this matters very much because we are overwhelmed with the music, singing, and absolutely terrific choreography to the backdrop of this very realistic depiction of life in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. There is among many scenes of sensational movie magic, where two lovers are seen dancing on the side of the buildings, just to highlight the creativity of the production.

We originally planned to watch this movie in two to three parts since we knew it was 2 hours and 22 minutes; however, we could not resist watching the entire film in one sitting.

The cast, while mostly not known to us, were extremely talented in song and dance as well as in the development of their characters. We did recognize Jimmy Smits in one character role, and a small but interesting role which Miranda did cast himself.

This is certainly a movie to see for its sweet stories, pluck and exuberance, joyous musical style and fantastic production numbers. It is a happy opening up following the months of pandemic isolation. and if you have the chance to see it live, we are sure that the stage production is a knockout.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Musical

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