Category: 5 Stars


Loving Vincent

November 21st, 2017 — 7:43pm

*****

Loving Vincent

This animated film is beautiful and original with a special approach that we have never before seen on the screen. The husband and wife team of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, director and screenwriters as well as co-producers have focused on the life (also particularly the death) and the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. They filmed their intriguing story using an excellent cast starring Douglas Booth, Robert Gulaczyk, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan and a very good supporting cast who acted out the entire story. Yet, none of the actual film of the actors were shown. Instead, a team of over 100 oil painting artists were recruited to paint over the film with the beautiful colors and the style of Van Gogh. That is 12 paintings for each second and thus for the 94 minute film they were well over 60,000 paintings made by this team of talented artists. Then using animation techniques, the movie was put together. The result is that we are watching a very interesting story about Van Gogh in an animated movie at the same time that we are seeing the familiar images of Van Gogh’s paintings move before us in a coherent story presented to us in living color. They were even some sequences done in black and white to show flashbacks in Van Gogh’s life.

While the artistic effect of this movie is mind blowing, the actual story is also quite fascinating. It is of course based on historical facts which included a possibility that the well-known reported suicide of Vincent Van Gogh at the age of 36 was actually a murder.

We have here an extremely well done story presented in a unique cinematic fashion which matches the content of the story. The result is not only ground-breaking but a beautiful experience which we highly recommend. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars

LBJ

October 26th, 2017 — 3:30am

*****

LBJ

If you are of a certain age or a student of history and can remember Lyndon Johnson’s presidency. this movie should grab you, fascinate you and hold your attention. Johnson (magnificently played by Woody Harrelson) was a seven term United States senator from Texas who was for many years, majority leader of the U.S. Senate and was chosen by JFK to be his vice presidential candidate. He rode to victory with Kennedy in 1960. Rob Reiner, who directed this movie with the use of very realistic flashbacks, builds up the tension leading to those fateful days in Dallas in 1963 when Johnson assumed the presidency.

Much to the surprise of his former southern Democratic colleagues in the Senate, Johnson did not support their views on segregation and discrimination. This movie written by Joey Hartstone deals mainly with how LBJ pushed through JFK’s cutting-edge Civil Rights Legislation.

Harrelson is fantastic in capturing the essence of LBJ, his mannerisms, facial expressions, and speech inflections. Along with the script by Joey Hartstone and direction by Rob Reiner, in our opinion, this is one of the best pictures of the year. There also are some very fine performances by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lady Bird, Richard Jenkins as Senator Richard Russell and Michael Stahl-David who plays Bobby Kennedy.

Much of Johnson’s presidential legacy is often tainted by his failure to end the Vietnam War which this movie did not focus on. However, the realistic depiction of Johnson’s domestic accomplishments which not only included civil rights legislation but also welfare reform and Medicare and Medicaid is often forgotten. This movie gives him the well deserved recognition and appreciation for his contribution to our country. Likewise we believe this film should receive great accolades for being a very well done and engrossing cinematic accomplishment. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Politics

The Meyerowitz Stories

October 23rd, 2017 — 7:05am

*****

The Meyerowitz Stories

As we eased ourselves into this movie and we meet Harold (Dustin Hoffman), the not quite successful New York sculptor in his senior years, we could not help but remind ourselves how we and this wonderful actor have come a long way since he played the young man who was so enamored by the older Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate. This time, Hoffman is playing a very self-centered man who has had four marriages and three wives (he married one of them twice), as well as three children.

Screenwriter and director, Noah Baumbach provides a magnificent insight into the feelings of these three grown children and how their inner emotional life has been impacted by their father who clearly shows how he cares more about his narcissistic needs than the feelings of his children. Adam Sandler turns in what we believe could be an award winning performance as Danny, newly divorced, who despite how he suffered growing up by the lack of love and recognition by his father, appears to have raised an accomplished daughter (Grace Van Patten) who is entering into a film study program at Bard College (although her film work is interestingly bizarre). An almost equally fine performance was given by Ben Stiller who plays the successful son Matthew who lives on the other coast in Los Angeles as a financial manager to the stars but appears to be also damaged by his early relationship with his father. We see that he also hasn’t achieved a good marriage but is trying to be a good father to his five-year-old son. The interaction between the two grown sons is riveting and range from fierce physical fighting to showing insight into each other’s feelings.

The supporting cast of this movie is quite strong with several well-known and recognized actors. This includes Emma Thompson as Harold’s alcoholic current wife, Elizabeth Marvel as Harold’s third grown child, Candice Bergen as Matthew’s mother and one of Harold’s ex-wives, and Judd Hirsch, a friend and a more successful artist.

If this movie achieves the recognition we believe it deserves, it will not only be because of this great ensemble of actors, but it will be due to the talent of director/writer Noah Baumbach who also was involved in writing some of the very appropriate music heard in the background of this film. We certainly put this movie on the do-not-miss list. (2017)

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

August 13th, 2017 — 12:30am

*****

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power-rm

What makes a great documentary film? Does it show its subject matter clearly and in an interesting dramatic manner? (Check) Is it about an important subject that has worldwide significance? (Check) Is there a person in the film who is very knowledgeable, likeable, empathic and has great passion for the subject of the film? (Check) Are there some conflicting issues shown in the film that need to be overcome? (Check) Is there a sense of urgency about the subject? (Check) Finally, at the conclusion of the movie, do you find yourself talking about the film and even moved to action? (Check and double check)

Ever since Al Gore lost the presidential election by a Supreme Court vote (and even before that time), he has been a passionate spokesperson about the reality and the danger of climate change, as well as what can be done about it. Eleven years ago, the first version of this film won an Oscar for Best Documentary Film. Many people believed it was a major factor in the recognition of climate change throughout the world. This sequel documentary has become necessary, as it has clearly been shown that the battle for clean energy has not been won and in some areas, including some close to home, it is not only at a standstill but even going backwards. The unbelievable action of President Trump in withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord of 2015 has become a call to action for everyone concerned about climate change. Al Gore is an inspiration for Americans of all ages to become involved in this movement. His behind the scenes negotiations with far reaching parties to allow India to get financial backing to build sustainable energy in their country, namely by developing solar and wind energy and to scrap plans to keep their country dependent on fossil fuels, was well-documented in this movie.

One of the most important accomplishments for Mr. Gore has been his training programs for advocates from all over the world, who want to learn about fighting climate change. As a viewer of this film, we cannot help but leave the theater wanting to support these people and address this very clear inconvenient truth. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Documentary

Strange Weather

July 12th, 2017 — 4:07am

*****

Strange Weather- sp

Holly Hunter gives a knockout performance as Darcy a grieving mom, who has kept her sorrow pretty much to herself for five or six years until she learns some new information about the death of her son. She then embarks upon a road trip in an old Ford Pickup Truck with her friend Byrd (Carrie Coon) through the deep rural south in order to track down Mark Wright (Shane Jacobsen) her son’s friend who was the last person with him before he died.

The deep twang of the guitar plus the haunting soundtrack put together by Sharon Van Etten adds an emotional beat to this movie. As Darcy penetrates deeper into the south and visits her old now mute ex-husband, there is a buildup of the gut-wrenching emotion that Hunter brings to her role and which reaches the climax when she confronts the now very successful Mr. Wright.

Director-screenwriter Katherine Dieckmann uses her written dialogue and her camera to closely examine the raw and at times beautiful feminine nature of these characters. Underlying the painful theme of this story is an uplifting message which makes the emotional rollercoaster ride that it provides to be quite worthwhile.

We expect to see many awards bestowed upon this film and especially Ms. Hunter. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

To Kill a Mockingbird

April 24th, 2017 — 5:17am

*****

To Kill a Mockingbird – nf

Sometimes when you think about great classic movies which you may have seen years ago, you might wonder if they were really as good as they were supposed to have been. Every once in a while we take such a stroll down memory lane and view one of them. Certainly in this case, we were not disappointed.

The setting of this movie was during the Great Depression in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s. This was a time when there was overt prejudice towards black Americans. In fact lynchings were occurring in the Deep South. Remember, also when this film was released in 1962, Martin Luther King was yet to make his “I Have a Dream Speech” and didn’t tragically lose his life through assassination until six years later in 1968.

Gregory Peck, in a terrific Oscar-winning performance, plays Atticus Finch, as small town lawyer who is widower and lives with his eight and six-year-old children. He is asked by the local judge to defend Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man who is unjustly accused of raping and beating a white woman. The courtroom scenes are riveting.

Of course, great credit goes to the original author, Harper Lee, who wrote the book and Horton Foote, who wrote the screenplay. We also appreciate the accomplishment of the director, Robert Mulligan, especially because the audience sees much of the meaning of this film through the eyes of Finch’s two children, six-year-old Scout (Mary Badham) and 8-year-old Jem (Phillip Alford). Their identification with the morality and sense of justice of their father is what we hope and believe comes through to succeeding generations. The supporting cast is excellent and includes Robert Duvall who plays a young man with developmental problems who reflects an additional theme of the movie. It shows how people react to someone who is “different,” with fear and the need to distance themselves. This subplot in the story is another indication of the need to put ourselves in “someone else’s shoes,” in to order to try to understand that person.

The film which is 129 minutes, is in black and white and will hold your attention as well as being an unforgettable piece of cinematic history. It is also a reminder of how people are capable of prejudice and hateful discrimination. (1962)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

A United Kingdom

February 1st, 2017 — 5:15am

*****

A United Kingdom-sp

When David Oyelowo, leading actor in this film, producer and the force behind the movie, spoke to our audience after screening this movie, he acknowledged that until he read the book by Susan Williams, he knew very little about the history of the small African nation now known as Botswana. But fortunately, the star of the recent hit Selma and many other excellent movies was personally moved enough to put six years of sweat and tears in order to bring one of the great love stories of the 20th century and the most inspiring story of the birth of this small African democracy, to the 21st century movie screen.

It was 1947 when Seretse Khama (David Oyelowo) born of royal blood and destined to be king of a small African country, was studying in England when he fell in love with a young British white woman, Ruth Williams (Rosamund Pike). Their exuberant love for each other is exciting and quite palpable. Perhaps most of us today would say and feel “Why not?” But, there is great resistance from Seretse’s uncle, the reigning ruler, the neighboring apartheid South Africa and the British Colonial government. In fact, any respect that you might have for the late Winston Churchill may go down the drain after seeing this movie.

Your heartstrings will be plucked, your sense of justice will be stirred up and an important piece of history will be indelibly etched into your mind. Need we be reminded that those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it. The man who recently who brought to the screen an insight into Martin Luther King has done it again with another excellent portrayal of an heroic figure Credit also goes to director Amma Asante who did an outstanding job by keeping the focus equally on the chemistry between these lovers as well as the historic importance of the fight for ultimate fairness and democracy. The countryside was beautiful. The local native men and women were wonderful. Don’t miss this movie. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Romance

Manchester by the Sea

January 13th, 2017 — 7:53am

*****

Manchester by the Sea-rmScreen Shot 2017-01-12 at 9.42.35 PM

As mental health professionals, we have seen our share of tragedies and human misery, but usually perhaps because the patients are at the point of seeing us, there is usually a ray of hope for reaching to the future for a better life. There was very little optimism in this very well-done portrait of a man who is deeply and continually in psychological pain.

Kenneth Lonergan, playwright, now turned director in his previous writings (You Can Count On Me and Margaret) has mastered the writing of tragedies that may befall anyone of us.

In this film, Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler who lives a life overwhelmed with guilt for what happened to his family. He then is faced with the responsibility of caring for his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) whose father recently died and whose mother has not been sober or on the scene for many years. The details of the story unfold with a series of well-done flashbacks which not only framed the story but also introduced bleak but atmospheric life in a New England fishing village. The classical musical score in the background defined the sad somber mood of the story. There were some somewhat lighter moments as we glimpsed at interactions of the teenage boy and his multi-girlfriends.

Casey Affleck deserves the accolades that he is getting for his performance in this movie. His facial expressions, voice and mannerism convey what his character has gone through and also the empathy that he has for his nephew. Michelle Williams as his ex-wife has a relatively small role but she is superb in her one important scene.

Perhaps we have conveyed that there is little positive hope in this film and it will be a depressing experience (which it will be) but we could not help noting there was a symbol of hope in a tangible object that is important in this village . That would be the family’s small fishing boat. We gleam a shred of optimism as we see how this small boat is resurrected as we hope will be the characters in this film. (2016)

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Fences

December 15th, 2016 — 9:45pm

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-11-09-35-pm*****

Fences-sp

August Wilson is a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright who died in 2005 at the age of 60. He originally wrote Fences for the stage. Wilson had an unusual propensity for capturing accent and dialogue in all his plays. In 1987, James Earl Jones starred in Fences on the Broadway stage where it won a Tony Award. It was more recently recreated on Broadway and received critical acclaim starring Denzel Washington, Viola Davis and much of the same cast that now appears in this movie. August Wilson wrote the screenplay for this movie, but died before it could be brought to fruition as a movie. It was Denzel Washington who persisted and connected with Scott Rudin to produce this movie which he directed and co-starred with Viola Davis, and were joined by some of the other actors who played their parts on the stage.

As is characteristic of Wilson, the dialogue in this film is breathtaking. It wonderfully captures the life circumstances, the dilemmas and the character of so many people living in this setting. In this situation, it is a struggling, mostly black people in a poor but proud Pittsburg neighborhood in the 1950s. It is no easy task to not only capture the dialogue and nuances of the written word, but to also project the character of these individuals. There is no doubt in our minds that Denzel Washington and Viola Davis should be nominated for Oscars for their work in this movie. The cast of veteran stage and movie actors who played a close family friend (Jovan Adepo) as well as  family members  were Mykelti Williamson, Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby and Saniyya Sidney. They were all superb. The movie is 135 minutes long, but the story and setting will envelope you and you will be caught up in this wonderful intense and poignant production. (2016)

 

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

La La Land

December 12th, 2016 — 6:41am

screen-shot-2016-12-11-at-7-02-19-pm*****

La La Land – rm

This movie makes the statement that Los Angeles is where dreams are made and are broken and yet it is the city where anything can happen. This is a movie in the tradition of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse and reflects so many great musicals of the past that have come across the silver screen.

Emma Stone is Mia, a young woman who works in a coffee shop on a big movie lot and aspires to be an actress. So many times she seems to be just one audition callback away from starting on the road to her dreams. Ryan Gosling is Sebastian, a musician who masterfully plays piano and keyboard and could be a great modern musician but he really favors old-fashioned jazz. He would prefer the music that was played in small clubs in days gone bye where each session was a creative story onto itself.

This movie is filled with  great music. The characters break into dance and song quite spontaneously and, believe it or not, there is nothing that seems unnatural as they glide or tap across the screen singing and swaying with each other. Despite some stereotypical dialogue, you will get drawn into the storyline quite easily. We can just about guarantee that while at times you may not be sure if you are watching a dream unfold, the story will touch you and probably bring tears to your eyes.

Stone and Gosling have certainly mastered the song and dance. Great credit for this movie goes to director/writer Damien Chazelle (known for his direction of the movie “Whiplash”). The photography was magnificent and very skillfully directed by cinematographer, Linus Sandgren. Credit for the songs and original score goes to Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Don’t miss the opening sequence. It shows LA at its best and worst, and what seemed to be one of the longest, continuous, complicated takes in movie history (there probably was some editing here but it didn’t look like it to us). This movie deserves the Oscar hype that it is getting. Don’t miss it. (2016)

 

Comment » | 5 Stars, Musical

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