Category: 5 Stars


Just Mercy

December 17th, 2019 — 6:55am

*****

Just Mercy

This is an amazing true story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a black attorney who is fresh out of Harvard Law School and travels to Alabama with the purpose of trying to save the lives of falsely incarcerated prisoners who are on death-row awaiting execution. He teams up with Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), a woman with a similar dedication who becomes the operations director of their newly formed Law Center For Equal Justice. Stevenson begins visiting Alabama’s death-row and meeting prisoners scheduled for execution. The main focus of the film was on his interaction with Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was sentenced to die for a crime, it became clear he did not commit. His case was based on the testimony of a man who was providing false information in order to avoid charges for another crime of which he was accused. In addition, the testimony of many friends and family of Stevenson who were at a party with the accused at the time of the murder were not considered worthy evidence to exonerate the condemned man. While the main focus is on one case, we also meet other prisoners on death-row and witness a very painful scene of an execution. It became clear that the unfair cruel treatment of prisoners was a residual of slavery and continued prejudice in this country.

The movie is based on a memoir of the same title by Bryan Stevenson, which was an outstanding book (click here for book review). This book was transformed into this excellent movie by Andrew Lanham and Destin Daniel Cretton, who also directed the film. It is a riveting heartbreaking cinematic experience, which we highly recommend (2019).

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Crime, Drama

Marriage story

November 18th, 2019 — 9:46pm

*****

Marriage Story

This film is the brainchild of the very talented screenwriter Noah Baumbach who has previously written about family, divorce, and it did frequently seem as some of his greatest pieces have been semiautobiographical. He was director and writer of this movie as he was for the Squid And The Whale, The Meyerowitz Stories, and many other great films. Not surprisingly, his main characters in this movie are a theatre director and playwright Charlie (Adam Driver) and his wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) who is an actress currently featured in her husband’s latest Off-Broadway play.

The story opens as this couple are each reading a piece about the great qualities of their spouse. We quickly learned that despite all this acclaim and wonderful characteristics that they each described, the purpose of this exercise is part of the mediation process for a pending divorce. Despite a seemingly perfect marriage, which included a young son Henry (Azhy Robertson), the tensions of trying to lead a bicoastal life contributed to Nicole’s desire to institute what turns out to be very contentious divorce proceedings. This aspect of the story also allowed for a short exposition of the contrasts between living in New York and living in Los Angeles.

The Baumbach’s script highlighted Driver and Johansson’s talent in some very intense and dramatic monologues as well as interactive dialogues. Included was an opportunity for Driver to show his talent as a singer in one particular scene. There is definitely Oscar material in the performance of these two stars.

While the movie is a clear vehicle for the great talents of Johansson and Driver, there are also some excellent supporting roles by very familiar people. Laura Dern plays a hard-nosed Los Angeles divorce lawyer. Other divorce attorneys are played by Alan Alda and Ray Liotta. Also in supporting roles are Merritt Wever, Wallace Shawn, and Julie Hagerty, but the main focus is on Driver and Johansson who along with Baumbach have a good shot at being on the awards stage in the near future (2019).

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Parasite

November 7th, 2019 — 8:40pm

*****

Parasite-rm

This was an elaborate production of an interesting and complicated story. The movie is set in South Korea and is in the Korean language with English subtitles. We meet a wealthy Korean family with two children who can hire a maid/cook, tutor for the kids, as well as a driver. Through some complicated manipulations, a poor family from the other side of town is able to work it out, so they are serving all of these positions although the rich family does not realize that they are actually members of one family. The disparity and yet the similarities between the rich and the poor become highlighted. There is a strange undercurrent of the film that not only takes place in the basement of the wealthy mansion but in the heart and souls of some of the characters. Credit must be given to Bong Joon-Ho, who wrote the screenplay and did a magnificent job directing the movie, which turned out to be 2 hours and 12 minutes but never feeling too long or drawn out.

The film which starts out comedically, albeit with strife and poignancy, moves into creative and surprising genres which keep the viewer engaged even after the final credits roll. While difficult to classify, it is definitely worth seeing. 

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Horror

The Two Popes

November 7th, 2019 — 6:28am

*****

The Two Popes-sp

At our preview screening of this movie, we had the pleasure of hearing the screenwriter Anthony McCarten describe how he created his vision of the relationship between these two Popes. Mr. McCarten who also wrote the screenplays for The Darkest Hour (Winston Churchill), “Theory Of Everything” (Steven Hawking) and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Freddie Mercury and his band Queen) built the story based on little known facts about the interactions between the current liberal Pope Francis and the previous conservative Pope Benedict. The story imagines a meeting between the two of them prior to the resignation of Pope Benedict, which may have actually taken place. Through the use of flashbacks in time, we learn about Pope Francis as a young priest in Argentina and how he dealt with the influence of Peron in his native country. During the imagined meeting between the two Popes, prior to the time that Pope Benedict steps aside, there is a suggestion that both of them have regrets in their lives. Although it is not mentioned directly, the older Pope is said to have been a member of the Hitler Youth Group in his native Germany. Certainly, both men come across as very empathic servants of God who care greatly about people and are deeply religious.

Aside from the fascinating interaction between these two historic figures, the scenes inside the Vatican, which has been recreated (no actual filming is allowed inside) are magnificent. The acting by the two great actors Jonathan Pryce (Pope Francis) and Anthony Hopkins (Pope Benedict) are quite masterful. The direction of the movie and photography led by Fernando Meirelles is outstanding. This film definitely deserves your attention.

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

Harriet

November 5th, 2019 — 7:27am

*****

Harriet-rm

If you know anything about the story of Harriet Tubman, you will be expecting an exciting adventure about a woman slave who escapes to freedom and then goes on to rescue many others through the famed Underground Railroad. You will not be disappointed as British actress Cynthia Erivo does a remarkable job of inhabiting the famed heroine. The movie was directed by Kasi Lemmons, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard.

The story begins as our heroine, who is then known as Minty, decides to escape from her owner’s son who is supposed to have freed her. She actually runs 100 miles, much of it being chased and hunted, until she reaches Philadelphia where slavery does not exist. She meets an abolitionist, (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and others. She takes on her freedom name of Harriet Tubman and returns to the South in order to rescue her family and many others. This becomes her life calling as she is active in the Underground Railroad. We experience her dangerous adventures and confrontations and see how she becomes one of the great American heroines for these actions as well as her exploits during the Civil War. The movie is highlighted by a moving musical score by Terence Blanchard.

Ms. Tubman lived to the age of 93 and we cannot help but be reminded that Harriet Tubman’s image was scheduled to replace that of Andrew Jackson on the United States $20 bill. However, it was recently announced by President Trump and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, that this plan was being delayed for several years for “technical reasons.” We wonder why?

Despite this “delay” in establishing the well-deserved honor, the film is playing now and provides a strong and moving account of a true American heroine.(2019)

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

The Kitchen

August 7th, 2019 — 8:58pm

*****

The Kitchen-sp

Three wives of gangsters take over their husbands’ racketeering business after the men go off to prison for a couple of years. The women show that they can kick ass and clearly establish a new genre of women tough gals. There is nothing comedic about these characters but two of them are played by established comediennes, Melissa McCarthy and Tiffany Haddish. The other character is inhabited by veteran actress Elisabeth Moss.

The setting of this film is Hell’s Kitchen in New York City in the late 1970s. The story is written by Ollie Masters and is based on a comic book series by her and illustrated by Becky Cloonan and Ming Doyle. First time director Andrea Berloff who has credentials as a writer and actress definitely establishes herself as a big league director. Not only does she capture the vibes of New York City in the 70s with wonderful photography but   she infuses this movie with great action scenes of numerous murders and other violence as well as various confrontations intermixed with tension, humor and great timing with many surprises.

We believe that this movie stands a chance to become a classic gangster film with its own distinctive flavor. It certainly would be the definitive woman gangster film even surpassing Bonnie and Clyde and may very well be in the top tier of this genre. (2019)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Crime, Drama

Hacksaw Ridge

July 26th, 2019 — 6:58pm

*****

Hacksaw Ridge-rm

I always thought that my favorite World War II action films were Sands of Iwo Jima with John Wayne and Battleground with Van Johnson, both of which I must have seen as a youngster; however, today many years later on an international plane flight, I chose to watch Hacksaw Ridge. This movie certainly had as realistic and action packed World War II battle scenes that I have ever seen. The director was an action movie star himself, Mel Gibson. Interestingly, however, is the fact that the hero of this film is not a combat soldier but a conscientious objector who enlisted to fight in World War II, not with the gun, but as a medic, which he was finally allowed to be after almost being court-martialed for refusing to train with the weapon. The film also included a romantic element as the young man fell in love with his first girlfriend. The most amazing part of this movie is that it is a true story. The hero, Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), the medic solider, was a real person who ultimately was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery. He and some of the soldiers portrayed in this film were shown at the conclusion of the film adding to the outstanding cinematic experience (2016).

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama, History, War

Blinded By The Light

July 26th, 2019 — 6:43pm

*****

Blinded By The Light-sp

If you have ever been moved and inspired by the music of Bruce Springsteen, this film will touch and perhaps hit in your gut. It is based on the life experience of co-screenwriter, Sarfraz Manzoor, who grew up in a Pakistani family in a small city in Great Britain. He was inspired by the words and music of Springsteen, which made him rebel from the traditional cultural expectations of his Pakistani family. The story also highlights the painful discrimination that can exist against minority groups not only in Great Britain but in other parts of the world including, obviously, the United States.

The director, Gurinder Chadha, in her previous work, which includes Bend It Like Beckham, has highlighted the convergence of traditional and modern culture. The music and of course the words of Springsteen can very powerful and inspiring. In this film, we not only hear the lyrics, but at times they graphically explode onto the screen.

The young man who plays Javed (Viveik Kalra) is captivating on the screen and the supporting actors are excellent, but it is the music and words of Springsteen which continue to inspire young people and emotionally touch the older generation, who will be reminded of their earlier turning points in life, that will make this movie a success. It is highly recommended to both the young and old who will understand the universal feeling to run free (2019).

To purchase the music of Bruce Springsteen and other items related to him on Amazon, please click here

 

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Musical

The Reports on Sarah and Saleem

June 13th, 2019 — 1:12am

*****

The Reports On Sarah And Saleem

This film is an exciting drama with romance and intrigue. It is set in Israel. It is built around an affair between Palestinian man (Adeeb Safadi) and a Jewish Israeli woman (Sivane Kretchner) who happens to be married to a high up member of the Israeli security force. The movie is produced by two Palestinian filmmakers who are brothers, Muayad Alayan, the director and Rami Alayan, the screen writer.

The plot is layered and unpredictable. The acting is excellent. You soon forget that you are reading subtitle. We met the filmmakers via Skype in a post-screening discussion. They related how it was somewhat tricky to film this picture on location in Jerusalem and on the West Bank as they had to work in small groups to remain inconspicuous. The net result is a top notch film, well worth seeing (2019).

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Romance, Thriller

Rocketman

June 5th, 2019 — 4:23am

*****

Rocketman

The recent movie, Bohemian Rhapsody, is turning out to be one of the most popular films of last year and we expect that this film will achieve equal acclaim. Although the current movie is a different kind of musical, the director, Dexter Fletcher, also worked on last year’s great hit. In Rocketman, the story of Elton John is told in a fashion of great film musicals with a wonderful ensemble dancing and singing. Elton John is inhabited by Taron Egerton who does all of Elton John’s singing in great voice, which captures the energy and beauty of Rocketman himself.

The story of course is true to life as it traces the great singer’s life from his talent appearing in early childhood, his painful interaction with his parents and his emergence on the musical scene. The story pulls back the curtain and helps the viewer understand how John struggled with his sexuality and with alcohol and drugs, which nearly destroyed him. Particularly poignant is the meaningful relationship he had with his friend and lyricist, Bernie Taupin, magnificently played by Jaimie Bell. Through it all, the main character emerges and can say and gloriously sing, “I’m still standing.” The movie and story feels real and authentic. It is not surprising that the real Elton John is the film’s executive producer. This movie has to be added to your Do Not Miss List. (2019)

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Biography, Musical

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