Category: 4 Stars


Love & Mercy

July 2nd, 2015 — 2:35am

****

Love and Mercy – rmScreen Shot 2015-07-01 at 11.37.10 AM

This is a biopic about Brian Wilson, the leader of the Beach Boys. We did not know the story of how he went through a serious mental breakdown with psychotic symptoms for several years. During this period he apparently came under the influence of Dr. Eugene Landry, shown to be the evil doctor (wonderfully depicted by Paul Giamatti). Dr. Landry was said to be a psychologist in the film but was shown to be “over medicating” Wilson. What is very clear is the brilliance of Wilson. It is interesting to speculate whether or not some of his amazing creativity was related to his genius brain, which also may have been the source of his tendency to lose touch with reality. This is also a great love story (apparently true to life) between Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter ( Elizabeth Banks). While it was not shown in the body of the film, she ultimately became his second wife and the mother of five of his children.

Great credit for this movie has to be given to Director Bill Pohlad. We also thought that Paul Dano was excellent as the younger Brian Wilson (he bulked up to add many pounds to his preexisting physical resemblance to the younger Wilson). We also felt that John Cusack was outstanding as the older, very troubled Brian Wilson. We can only repeat our phrase for Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamiatti in their roles. But as expected the other star of the movie is the music. The soundtrack is constantly playing the old and the newer music created by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys which includes the title song and it adds to the authenticity of the film.

We hope you see this movie and if you’re any kind of a Beach Boys fan, we also suggest that after you view it you read about the trivia connected to the making of this film by going to the following link: CLICK HERE   You will appreciate how the filmmakers worked so hard to present the story as true to life as possible

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Musical, Uncategorized

The Little Death

June 25th, 2015 — 5:56am

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The Little Death

This is an extremely well-done film about a subject that is usually not addressed in today’s cinematic arts. The title is the English translation for Petite Mort which is French for orgasm. The director, screenwriter and one of the actors (known for his acting in House of Lies) is Josh Lawson. He has put together a brilliant story and production which looks at various sexual fetishes.

The subjects are mostly loving couples where one of the partners has a sexual proclivity previously unknown to his or her partner. Take for example Paul (Josh Lawson) and Maeve (Damon Herriman). They could not be more devoted to each other even though they never got around to     getting married. At the beginning of the film (spoiler alert of a very funny joke), Josh mishears Maeve after a recent sexual encounter, thinks that she is asking him to “rate” her. He complies with a very high score. Actually, she said she would like to be “raped” not “rated”. She goes on to try to deal with Josh’s consternation by explaining she has always had the fantasy to be raped by a man (who she would not know was actually Josh) but of course she would never want to have sex with anyone but Josh.

We allowed the spoiler to illustrate the subtle comedic elements that pervade this film as well as to introduce one of the sexual fetishes that is examined in this movie. The sophisticated among you may know that some variation of rape fantasies, perhaps being treated rough or even at the other extreme, are not uncommon.

So it goes, as we are introduced to other couples’ secret fetishes. One woman is very attracted to men who are very sad and cry, She is driven to try to bring about the state in her loving husband. You can find out the result of this as well as being introduced to the other couples and some of their secret fantasies as the film unfolds.

The film also brings up the not so unusual sexual situation for people who are deaf. We are introduced to this aspect of fetishes as a young deaf man Skypes a service which acts as an intermediary for deaf people who need to communicate with people of normal hearing. In this situation, the deaf young man attempts to use this service (which actually does exist) in order to call another service that provides phone sex. The intermediary is a young woman who must “sign”(communicate with her hands) to the young man and verbally convey his sexual wishes to the normal hearing phone sex lady on the other line. We will leave it to your imagination to picture the result of this situation, but like the rest of the film, it is also poignant, insightful and opens up an important part of life to the movie audience.

This film deserves the awards that it has already won at various film festivals and if it can get good distribution, should achieve wide play and perhaps establish a new movie genre. (2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Uncategorized

14 Films To See Over the Summer

June 23rd, 2015 — 11:33pm

People often ask us for recommendations of films to see. Soon Oscar season will be upon us and we will want to see the newest films which will be contenders for the Academy Awards.

In the meantime, we have put together a list of 14 excellent movies which we have reviewed  between January and June and which we suggest that you consider viewing this summer. Most of them will be out by July and probably all can be found on Netflix.

The top four were 5 star movies in our opinion and others were excellent 4 star movies. You can click and see our reviews for each one. As always your comments at the end of each review are welcome.

 

Michael and Susan Blumenfield

 

Desert Dancer

Wild Tales

McFarland USA

Red Army

 

 

The Little Death

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

Girl on the Edge

The Road Within

Danny Colllins

Potiche

The Forger

5 to 7

Merchants of Doubt

Tangerines

Comment » | 4 Stars, 5 Stars, Uncategorized

Me, Earl and the Dying Girl

June 20th, 2015 — 10:57pm

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Me, Earl and the Dying Girl – rm

High school senior, Greg (Thomas Mann), is asked by his mom (Connie Britton) to be friendly with a girl, who is a classmate, and has just been diagnosed with leukemia. There are probably many ways that this opening gambit might be handled. The success of this film, directed by Alfonso Gomez-Rejon, with a screenplay and novel by Jesse Andrews which won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, is how the personality of this young man is developed for the audience. He is presented as a guy who didn’t get very involved with other students and their complicated relationships. He hangs mostly with his buddy, Earl (R.J. Cyler), and they made parodies of movies based on the titles of well-known films, which they don’t show to anyone. Despite some very interesting reassurances by the plot, the audience is drawn along into this heart-wrenching plot. This tender story provides a window into the minds of these teenagers, which include the girl with leukemia, Rachel (Olivia Cooke). This is a very thoughtful screenplay which not only touches the audiences’ emotions but through these young people it teaches us about life and death. The musical score by Brian Eno and Nico Muhly plays a very important role in achieving the effect of this excellent film. (2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

GIrl On the Edge

May 29th, 2015 — 6:04am

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Girl on the Edge-sp

This is an independent film based on Director Jay Silverman’s real life experience with his daughter. It is very well done with an excellent screen play by Joey Curtis with the help of Jay Silverman and writer Joe Gamache. There is an outstanding acting job by Taylor Spreitler. Although over 18 years old, she did get into the shoes of the 14-year-old main character that she played. Likewise, Gil Bellows was superb as the father ,who once he woke up to what was happening to his daughter, became appropriately angry and frustrated. Amy Price-Francis did a very believable job as the stepmother. Kudos are also given to the late Elizabeth Pena for her sensitive performance as one of the staff people at the rehabilitation center who understood the role that horses could play in therapy for young people. Peter Coyote could not have been better as the understanding empathic director of the rehabilitation program to which the young girl was sent.

This movie really presents us with two aspects of what this 14-year-old girl had to face. The first is that we could see what could happen to a young girl who begins to experiment with alcohol, perhaps with drugs and sex, and gets slipped a date rape drug where she doesn’t remember what happened to her. That is until she sees naked pictures of herself on the Internet and the terrible consequences in her life after such widespread exposure.

The other part of the story is about what a treatment program away from her loving family might be like. In this case, it was with a sensitive caring staff as well as interaction with other girls in the treatment program. It showed how horticulture therapy (teaching the young people to appreciate the value of growing plants and food) could be therapeutic as well as learning to interact with horses. The scenes of the equine therapy were quite moving. Watching the horse that the girl connected with, as it mirrored her actions, was quite amazing.

In a post-film discussion with the movie director, Jay Silverman, most of the audience acknowledged that they had a close relative or friend who had experienced similar issues and problems to that of the main character of the film. While most people might not be able to afford the kind of rehabilitation treatment that this girl did have, the emotions engendered are universal. This movie has been winning various awards at film festivals throughout the country and internationally. We believe it is a worthwhile experience to see this movie in theaters as well as at home with family . It also should be shown in middle schools and high schools to young people and should be a stimulus for discussion with teachers, counselors, and parents. It probably won’t be available until later in the year but keep it on your list of movies to see. (2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

The Road Within

April 17th, 2015 — 7:09pm

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The Road Within -sp

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

****

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 1.22.57 PMDanny Collins – rm

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

****

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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The Forger sp

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

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 11.43.51 PM****

5 to 7-sp

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

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