Category: Drama


Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

September 1st, 2019 — 6:32pm

***

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood-rm

We think it is fair to say that Quentin Tarantino, the writer and director of this film, likes to do things his way and that he certainly does that in this film.

We meet the main characters, Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), a fading TV and movie star, and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), who is Dalton’s stunt double, long-time friend and employee. Early in the story, Dalton’s agent (Al Pacino) suggests that his career is going downhill and he may have to resort in playing Italian movies. It happens that Rick has a lovely place in Hollywood Hills next door to movie star, Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie), and her husband Roman Polansky. Do those names sound familiar?

The setting, in addition to being in Hollywood, is taking place in1969. If you are an auto enthusiast, you will recognize many of the cars of that era. You will also get an inside glimpse of the movie sets of that time and how actors would rehearse their lines.

Tarantino, in addition through telling us a story his way, is showing us behind-the-scenes movie world where we can watch a classic Western movie being prepared. We even have a chance to meet Bruce Lee (Michael Moh) who has an interesting battle with the Brad Pitt character. There are other familiar supporting actors throughout the films such as Timothy Olyphant, Dakota Fanning, Bruce Dern, Luke Perry, Lena Dunham, and Damian Lewis). In fact, the acting, writing and directing, as expected, is very imaginative. The main problem with the film is that it took three hours for Tarantino to show us his fantasy of the movie world nearly 50 years ago. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Before You Know It

August 20th, 2019 — 5:37pm

***

Before You Know It-sp

One of the most fascinating scenarios that we have seen in various films over the years is one where a previously unknown family relationship becomes known. That is the premise of this movie produced by a team of newcomer filmmakers. The co-stars, Hannah Pearl Utt and Jen Tullock in addition to co-starring in the film both co-wrote the story and Utt was the director.

The main subjects are a theatrical family where the two sisters and their dad (Mandy Patinkin – who is outstanding in this relatively short role) are trying to produce a play in a small theater in Greenwich Village in New York City where they live in an upstairs apartment. Tragic circumstances lead the girls to track down the woman who they unexpectedly came to understand is their actual biological mother. This woman (Judith Light) is herself a famous soap opera star who ultimately embraces her long-lost daughters. In this process, there was meaningful dialogue which deals with abandonment, adolescents, growing up as well as the complications of sharing credits in creative endeavors. There is also a sub-story about the oldest sisters’ pubescent daughter (Oona Yaffe) who discovers her womanhood and has to figure out how to deal with it. Along the way, there is a therapist (Alec Baldwin) who adds some passing humor to the story.

“Before you know it”, we have witnessed a meaningful slice of life for all the main characters who suffered but hopefully grew and matured. The audience shares the experience with them which include some good humor. This could have been a Woody Allen movie which actually is a backhanded compliment. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Where’d You Go, Bernadette

August 20th, 2019 — 5:26pm

***

Where’d You Go, Bernadette -rm

At best, the main character is a quirky brilliant architect who is married and has a lovely daughter. They care deeply about each other and the connection between them is very touching. Circumstances and misunderstanding lead them on a wild adventure to the Antarctica and the South Pole.

The cast is top notch staring Cate Blanchett, Trojan Bellisario, Billy Crudup and Kristen Wiig, also featuring Judy Greer and Laurence Fishburne, all working under the guidance of veteran director, Richard Linklater.

The film obviously touched the funny bone of much of the audience as we heard frequent out loud laughter. However, we viewed the main character as a misunderstood, if relatable woman frustrated by the events in her life and seemingly suffering from a potentially serious depression which supported her husband’s attempt to arrange an “ intervention “ with a mental health therapist. Viewing this film about a troubled person made it hard to appreciate the humor that was obviously there and enjoyed by much of the audience. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Always Be My Maybe

August 17th, 2019 — 5:34am

***

Always Be My Maybe – nf

Two kids, a boy and a girl who happen to be Asian are best friends growing up in San Francisco. They ultimately have their first sexual experience together as teenagers in the backseat of his car. They then go their separate ways. Marcus (Randall Park) stays in their hometown working for his father’s contracting business and is part of a struggling upstart band. Sasha (Ali Wong) becomes a famous restaurant chef and designer mixing with the rich and famous and is about to marry a very wealthy somewhat older man who needs to go to India for a couple of months prior to the wedding date. Marcus and Sasha who have not seen each other for 15 years have a chance meeting when he and his father come to do a repair on her latest mansion.

Nahnatchka Khan does an excellent job directing and he has corralled some absolutely beautiful mansions and restaurants for the backdrop of this story, which was co-written by the two main stars and Michael Golamco. The problem with the storyline, as interesting and beautifully as it was presented, is that you can easily guess how the plot is going to unfold. Everything develops as you would expect it, well done and charming, evocative and engaging but not with much originality. Perhaps the “punch in the face” to Keanu Reeves was a surprise and subsequently became the theme on which the movie rides to its inevitable conclusion. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Brittany Runs A Marathon

August 14th, 2019 — 10:09pm

****

Brittany Runs A Marathon-sp

There is a tinge of “Rocky” in this story in that you are rooting for the protagonist to win her battle and achieve her goal and finish the glorious New York City marathon.

We meet Brittany (Jillian Bell) as a somewhat overweight young woman who drinks and eats a lot and isn’t the most pleasant person to others. We gain insight into her and begin to appreciate her struggles. Starting with the kindness of others, she becomes more reflective and develops some good friends. To one of us, it was almost as if she had entered into a psychotherapy and was working through her conflicts and hang-ups. Her old acquaintances and new friends are very meaningful to her and they are well played by Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Micah Stock, Lil Rel Howery, Alice Lee and Jennifer Dundas. The real co-star of this film is the writer and first-time director, Paul Downs Colaizzo. He drew upon his work in the theater to capture the main character’s insight and pathway for ultimate change. He was also fortunate enough to team up with Tobey Maguire who provided the major support in getting this film made. The final message of the movie is that everything doesn’t always work out exactly how you plan it but it is so often the journey that really counts. (2019)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

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

After The Wedding

August 7th, 2019 — 8:49pm

***

After the Wedding-sp

This movie deals with hidden secrets and family relationships, a topic that has been dealt with from time to time in a variety of films. In this case, it is about a woman (Michelle Williams) who is confronted with her long-lost relative and her parents (Julianne Moore and Billy Crudup). Hidden secrets emerge including a fatal one. The setting of the film ranges from a poor orphanage in India to a posh office in New York City and a mega mansion in the suburbs. Julianne Moore (who in real life is married to the director of this film Bart Freundlich) is at the top of her game with a full range of emotions from the very subtle to the near hysteria. Michelle Williams, we thought was somewhat constrained but perhaps, that was hers or the director’s interpretation of her role. The film was well done on a delicate topic but we felt it fell short in believability and realism. (2019)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The Peanut Butter Falcon

July 31st, 2019 — 5:41am

****

The Peanut Butter Falcon – sp

Just as interesting as this film, is the story how it came to be made. Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz are two young filmmakers who have previously only made short films and certainly had never made a full-length feature. They met and befriended Zack Gottsagen, a young man with Down Syndrome who had a burning ambition to someday become an actor. The filmmakers decided to write a full-length movie script which would feature such a person and recruited Mr. Gottsagen to be the star. The script was intriguing enough to entice a team of producers who had the connections to bring in Dakota Johnson, Shia LaBeouf, Bruce Dern, Jon Bernthal, and some other very fine actors. The setting was the banks of North Carolina but it was filmed in the marshlands of Georgia.

Zack and Tyler connect after Zack escapes from a nursing home where he was being cared for since he did not have a family. He meets Tyler who has his own back story, Eleanor who was sent by the nursing home to find Zack connects with the two of them and there is certain chemistry between her and Tyler. Circumstances lead the three of them to go on what is usually called a road trip except that this adventure occurs on some makeshift boats. The three of them make quite an interesting trio and the story allows the viewer to have empathy for these unlikely characters. The people they meet along the way are quite unique and will capture your attention. The result is a very enjoyable, interesting, and touching movie that is well worth seeing. (2019)

 

Your comments are welcome below

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Farewell

July 31st, 2019 — 5:21am

****

Farewell-rm

This film written and directed by Lulu Wang is mostly in Chinese with English subtitles. A young woman (played by Awkwafina known for her performances in Crazy Rich Asians and other films) joins her American family as they descend upon nai-nai (grandmother) who lives in China and whom they believe has a fatal diagnosis of cancer). However, the family is set on keeping the information about the deadly prognosis from grandmother because they believe it is the fear that would facilitate her demise. The American relatives join the Chinese relatives in China in what the grandmother thinks is a wedding celebration for her grandson who is supposedly getting married. But really the American family has flown over to China in order to see grandma who they understand has a fatal prognosis. The love and tenderness for grandmother is quite touching as is the extent the family will go to, to keep the fatal prognosis from her.

There is singing, as well as speeches by many family members mostly in Chinese but some in English (but all are translated into English on the screen). There is a rich depiction of Chinese culture. The respect and love for elders permeates the film and is quite touching. Time goes by quite quickly as it does in real life when we believe our time with a loved one is limited. Also, to the backdrop of this family crisis, other family issues emerged. We appreciate the underlying feelings when some family members leave their homeland to immigrate to another country while other members stay behind. Also, family issues seem more intense when we believe we are about to lose a loved family member.

The movie has a certain universality, which will appeal to many viewers and make us contemplate the importance of family and what a potential loss of a loved one would mean to each of us. It is also an opportunity to reflect how when a young person immigrates to the United States for opportunity, there is a cost of being a stranger in a strange land and not having the support of your loved ones who are left in your homeland. All and all, this film will touch your heart as well as telling you an interesting story. (2019)

 

Your comments are welcome below

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

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

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