Category: Drama


The Road Within

April 17th, 2015 — 7:09pm

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The Road Within

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 expletive curse words 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 and 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

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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

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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

Gone Girl

April 4th, 2015 — 2:55am

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I (MB) read this novel by Gillian Flynn upon which this movie was based (see review) which I enjoyed and held my interest. I knew someone would make a movie about it and I followed the hype about the plans to do so but it wasn’t high on my list to see with so many outstanding seemingly great films out during this season. However, on an international air flight, I finally caught up with Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike and the mystery of the disappearing wife. Once you have read a book, the film really has to be outstanding to win you over. Even though the storyline is not exactly as the book, I got caught up with the details. There are some graphic scenes, including crime and lust. Neil Patrick Harris was okay as a lover/victim. Things are not always what they seemed to be, which is a prerequisite of a good mystery. But in the end I think the 1 hour and 49-minute film could have been boiled down to a 52-minute 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. TV crime show. I would suggest that you pass on this film unless you don’t have a better prospect on your next air flight. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Mystery

The Forger

March 19th, 2015 — 7:33pm

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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

St. Vincent

March 15th, 2015 — 11:47pm

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You might not picture Bill Murray who is St. Vincent in this film as a Saint. In fact he is depicted as a hard drinking, reckless gambler, tough old guy who lives in a small house in Brooklyn and hangs around with a pole dancer (Naomi Watts). Along comes a new neighbor, recently divorced (Melissa McCarthy) with her 10 or 11-year-old son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) and the magic begins. We see the chemistry between this grizzled older guy and the polite sweet kid who has to learn to get by in his new Brooklyn neighborhood. The screenplay and the direction by Theodore Melfi is just the right touch to seal the deal. Not surprising, there is much more that meets the eye. The sainthood issue will push your buttons and drain your tear ducts. (No, he doesn’t pass away). This movie and the actors in it have been recognized by various critics, receiving nominations for awards around the country. We were fortunate that we caught it with our grandson on Netflix.(2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Desert Dancer

March 14th, 2015 — 5:32am

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Although Iran is known to have a repressive government, it still has one of the highest percentage of educated people in the world as well as having 60% of its 73 million people under the age of 30. Therefore, it would still seem surprising that any kind of dancing in Iran is forbidden. This movie shows the true story of a student at the University of Tehran who five years ago with the few other students began to secretly learn how to dance in order to express their emotions. They gathered at a deserted basement and studied forbidden YouTube videos. They knew that they could be beaten and even killed if discovered as had happened to many other young people who flaunted the authority of the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his paid thugs.

First time British director, Richard Raymond, read a newspaper article about  Afshin Ghaffarian, who led this group of dancers as they practiced and put on a performance in the desert for a small gathering of students who were secretly brought to this hidden recital. Ghaffarian’s life was threatened and he eventually made it out of Iran to Europe where he told this story. He then received further dance training and ultimately formed his own dance company, performing throughout the world.

Thanks to this film, the true story of the suppression of art and dance in Iran is told. It is also a metaphor for what is being done to the human spirit that is being highlighted here. Mr. Raymond put together a multi national cast of actors who were then taught to dance by Okram Khan, the choreographer of the opening night of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Although their names are not known to American audiences, their dedication to this story deserves to be recognized. Afshin Ghaffarian was played by Reece Ritchie. The other actors were Nazanin Boniadi, Freida Pinto, Tom Cullen, Makram J. Khoury, Marama Corlett and Daniel Bass. You probably won’t remember their names but you will remember this film. It will touch you and remind you how sad it is when the creative expression inside of us is not allowed to come out and how glorious it can be when it becomes free. (2015)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

Inside Llewyn Davis

March 3rd, 2015 — 3:15am

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Inside Llewelyn Davis- nf  This is a story about a fictional folk singer in the 1960s played by Oscar Isaacs. The Coen brothers wrote the screenplay and also directed it. It also features Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund and Justin Timberlake. Think of a Bob Dylan who never became well known. He is obviously talented and believes in his music. We see him playing in clubs in Greenwich Village in Manhattan and struggling to be recognized and get work. He is intense and brooding. He is scarred by the trauma of the death of a former singing partner who jumped off the George Washington Bridge. He frequently crashes on the couches of people who like and believe in him. There is some very fine folk music in the film not only sung by the protagonist but also an outstanding background music track. This flows through most of the movie as we follow Llewelyn hitching long car rides across the country as he seeks gigs to establish himself. This is a very likable character and we believe the audience will be rooting for him as we were. Much of the film was shot in dark clubs or in the evening. We had to think twice to be sure the movie wasn’t in black and white. You might call it Film Noir without the mystery plot. We don’t see fame and fortune at the end, which might make some of us feel sad. But perhaps this movie is really for the young or those who identify with the generation still in their 20s and 30s when you are willing to hold on to your dream even when the “pot of gold” is not in sight.(2013)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

McFarland, U.S.A.

February 19th, 2015 — 7:05pm

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What could be more all American than a sports film staring Kevin Costner? (think Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Tip Cup, For the Love of the Game) Add to this, a New Zealand director who has established credentials in understanding cultures, not her own, by immersing herself within these places. That is Niki Caro who previously made the award winning film “Whale Rider” about an obscure Maori tribe. On top of that , Disney Studios is backing the film. McFarland, U.S.A. is certainly a United States story, but it is also an authentic depiction of first generation Mexican immigrants living in the Central California town of McFarland. The community lives by picking fruit and vegetables that will be on American tables. The kids attend school but are also employed in the fields doing the back-breaking “picking” work to add to the support of their families. Along comes a new teacher, Jim White, (Kevin Costner) who had had problems in his previous jobs and comes to McFarland as the only place which was so desperate for a teacher that he is hired. He arrives in this small, dusty, impoverished town with his wife and two daughters, none of whom is happy to be coming to this place so alien to them. He is to be the assistant football coach and teach life sciences courses. While his job as football coach soon ends, he realizes that while the kids have little going for them, some of them are incredibly fast, strong runners. The story takes off from there. On one hand you might think that you can guess the drift of the film, but this is much more than a “Chariots of Fire” lookalike. It is a moving story based on the lives of real people who you will hear about in the closing scenes and rolling credits. It will touch you, excite you and make you laugh. It will send a chill up your spine, bring a tear to your eye and you will walk out of the theater knowing you have experienced an outstanding film. (2015)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids, Sport

Tangerines

February 12th, 2015 — 4:59pm

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at 10.59.12 PMTangerines- sp Most Americans don’t know very much about the various regions of the former Soviet Union and regional wars that have occurred there over the years. For example in the 1990s there were intense battles between the Chechens and the Georgians who were fighting over land formerly lived in by people from Estonia most of whom fled back to Estonia. If these historical facts don’t mean much to you, it isn’t necessary to study maps of this area to appreciate this film. The plot is relatively simple. Ivo, an Estonian man has stayed behind to build wooden crates to help harvest a crop of tangerines, which are grown on his friend’s nearby farm. Some bloody encounters between the warring factions leave several soldiers dead and 2 injured at Ivo’s doorstep. What develops is a moving drama between these two soldiers on opposing sides and the two civilians who attempt to rescue them The story was written in two weeks by Zaza Urushadze who also eventually directed the movie after it was set up for a 30 day shoot by producer Ivo Felt. The film emerges as good of an anti-war movie that you will have ever seen. The acting is suburb with starring roles by very well known actors in their region of the world. They are: Lembit Ulfsak, Mikheil Meskhi, Giorgi Nakhashidze, Elmo Niiganen and Raivo Trass. The film was nominated for a Golden Globe and currently is one of the nominees for an Oscar as Best Foreign Film. It has English subtitles and deserves to be translated into many different languages and shown all over the world. It may be a little while until is passes through your local Art Movie theatre but it is worth tracking down and seeing it when it becomes available. (2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, War

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