Category: Drama


Boyhood

July 21st, 2014 — 5:57pm

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Boyhood-rm- If you are any kind of a movie fan you will not want to miss this film. Buy a large bag of popcorn and settle in for a 2 hour and 40 minutes historic experience. You are going to see perhaps the birth of a new genre in filmmaking. This is the story of a young boy from the age of 6 through 18. The name of the character is Mason and he is played by one actor (Ellar Coltrane) who ages before you along with his divorced parents (Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawkes and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater, the director’s own daughter). This film is the brilliant brain child of veteran film director Richard Linklater who convinced IFC Films to pony up $200,000 in 2002 which is probably the equivalent of over 2 million dollars today for a film project which would shoot Linklater’s screenplay for one week each year for 12 years. It follows the young boy and his family through his high school graduation. The mother, Oliva (Arquettte) is divorced from her first husband, a well meaning but immature Mason Senior (Hawkes). She struggles and puts herself through college while she is going through two more marriages to alcoholic husbands while trying to raise her two children. Hawkes portrays the biological father trying during his periodic visits to be a good dad and wants especially to teach his son the things he believes it is his job to pass on. It is quite dramatic to see both parents (and both actors) age and mature during the time of the film. Both Hawkes and Arquette turned in outstanding acting performances. However, the main focus of the movie is on young Mason. You have to give Linklater full credit for choosing this particular 6 year old child (Coltrane) and taking the chance that not only would he pull off the movie but that this growing child would stay with the project. It worked and we watch Mason grow to be a sensitive and in many ways a typical teenage kid growing up in Texas. We see the pain he experiences from his broken home but also the teenage angst that many in the audience of all ages will understand. The movie flows extremely well as the participants seamlessly age before our eyes. This required outstanding editing by the director and editor Sandra Adair. It would not surprise us if Linklater and this film receive several Academy Award nominations. However, we suggest that you don’t wait for Oscar season to see this outstanding film. (2014)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Happy Christmas

July 18th, 2014 — 7:43am

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**

Happy Christmas –sp This is a Joe Swanberg independent low budget production, for which he also wrote the screenplay, directed it , played a leading role and had his under two year old son play his son in the film. The story opens as we meet Jeff (Joe Swanberg) and his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) who seem happy enough with their young son (Jade Swanberg- who actually gives a great performance)). Kelly is a stay at home mom who is a novelist and has had a book published. Their happy abode is interrupted by a visit for a undetermined duration by Jenny, Jeff’s sister (Anna Kendrick) who just broke up with her boyfriend. She is “a piece of work” as she develops a quick sexual relationship with young neighborhood guy (Mark Webber) who sells her pot. She smokes and drinks her self repeatedly to near oblivion and almost burns down the house. In between there is lots of interesting women’s talk with her good friend Carson (Lena Dunham of Girls fame) and Kelly. In fact Kelly is convinced by Jenny in a sober moment that she should try to become financially well off by putting aside her serious attempt to write another novel and instead write a popular novel ,best seller type, based on life style information that Jenny will provide. The point would seem to be that there could be a pathway for a bright woman other than by “just being a full time housewife.” The fact is that the movie doesn’t really go anyplace and never intends to go anyplace. It is a study of these characters with a minimal story and much dialogue that we learned from a post film interview with two of the actors was improvised for much of the time and was achieved on film in one or two takes for each scene. It seems to be part of the new “Mumblecore” genre which attempts to achieve naturalistic performances, without a clear narrative structure often using a great deal of improvisation. We tried to consider if it was successful by one of us acknowledging that the action did hold one’s attention but we both agreed that we really couldn’t recommend the film to anyone to spend 78 minutes with it. Maybe the film could be used in a teaching setting to demonstrate the devastating trajectory of a young woman with a Borderline Personality although we really didn’t have very much backstory on her to fully understand her. We did get the feeling that the story did not convey the potential grave prognosis for a character such as Jenny unless she were to get some serious therapy. But that is another story. (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

Obvious Child

July 11th, 2014 — 5:00am

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Obvious Child-rm- If you can relate to women in their late 20s, especially New Yorkers and a situation where they might end up needing an abortion, this film will probably resonate with you. Donna Stern (Jenny Slate) is a 28-year-old single woman living in Manhattan and has a one-night stand and finds herself pregnant. By day she works in a bookstore and by night she is a standup comedian. Gillian Robespierre who directed the film and wrote the screen play based on a story by Elisabeth Holm, Anna Bean, Karen Maine and himself, skillfully used this latter occupation to share with the audience the inner thoughts of this character as her comedy shtick was truthfully talking about her life and whatever she was experiencing. In this case it was a break up with her boyfriend who had an affair with her previously good friend. She then meets Max (Jake Lacy), which leads to a wild night and the “slip up” leading to the pregnancy. The movie is really a comic drama. On one hand we see the empathic feelings of Jenny’s close friend (Gabby Hoffman), her new boy friend and her divorced parents (Polly Draper and Richard Kind). The interaction with her mother did bring out the greatest comedic moment of the film as when Jenny tells mom she has to discuss something very serious with her and then reveals her pregnancy. Mom then responds, “Oh, I was concerned you were going to tell me that you were moving to LA.” Mom however did go on to tell her about her own abortion before her marriage and before it was legal. So this movie is also a political statement that is being released as the controversy about a women’s right for health insurance to cover contraception as well as her right to an unencumbered abortion is back in the headlines. It is therefore also noteworthy that in the credits of this movie there are numerous names of individual people who financially supported this movie as part a “kickstarter” program to get it made.This might be an added incentive to support this film at the box office or on Netflix.. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Oranges and Sunshine

July 7th, 2014 — 12:08am

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Oranges and Sunshine-nf This film is a good example of how we might rate a film 3/5 and yet highly recommend it as one that should be seen by anyone who cares about social injustice. There are many better examples of dramatic films with unforgettable performances by talented actors and directors, which will win Academy Award nominations. But this Australian film directed by Jim Loach with a screenplay by Rona Munro plods along but rivets our attention because it tells the true story of a historical event that we and we are sure many other people had no idea had occurred. It is about a British social worker by the name of Margaret Humphreys who in the 1980s stumbles upon the situation that in the 1940s and 50s the British government deported to Australia young children born to troubled poor mothers who couldn’t care for their kids. The mothers were often told that the children were being adopted in England by various couples although if they did make efforts they would not be able to track them down. The truth was that they lived in various orphanages in Australia in very dire circumstances, were treated very badly and many were abused. During this blight on British history there were 130,000 children who went through this pipeline to Australia. They never had a chance to find out who their mothers were and whether they were still alive. Margaret Humphreys (played by Emily Watson) at first took on the task of trying to help some of these now adults find their mothers. She then devoted herself to exposing this great injustice in addition to reuniting these adults with their mothers when possible. We see how she set up a program in Australia where most of these orphans lived and held some reunions with each other. We also see a scene in a monastery, which may have been the site of some of the stories of abuse. There was a scary episode where an intruder who seems to be warning her to cease her efforts, threatens Ms. Humphreys at night. It is a weakness of the film that we never learn more about the nature of these threats. Ms. Humphrey made efforts to publicize the story of these mass deportations in the media and to get the government to help in her endeavors. She spent an increasing amount of time in Australia, away from her own family. Some of the horrors that the children went through are related in excellent performances by Hugo Weaving and David Wenham. We learn during the credits at the end of the film that it was not until 2010 that the British government acknowledged its mistake and the Prime Minister apologized. It was at that point that we learned of the tremendous number of children that had gone through this disruption of their lives with all its repercussions. As a sidebar we are reminded of the large number of films that we have seen as well as some true life stories that we have heard, which  in some way recount the desire to reunite with one’s biological parents. Of course in the situations recounted in this film, these people did not have parents who adopted them. Some discussion of this topic can be found in MB’s blog http://www.psychiatrytalk.com/2014/04/the-search-for-a-persons-biological-identity/  (2011)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Foreign, History

Belle

June 22nd, 2014 — 5:24am

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Belle-rm- This is a complicated film which deals with slavery, race relations in England in the latter part of the 18th century, women’s dependency on men, love, relationships, a tragic event at sea and an historic legal case. Yet in the end you come away with a sense of satisfaction, that things are working out for the best. The film is based on a true story written by Misa Sagay and Amma Asante who also directed this film and showed her sensitivity to the many issues covered in this story. The story revolves around Dido (Gugu Mbaatha-Raw), an illegitimate mixed race child of a Royal Navy admiral who brings his young daughter to be raised by his aristocratic uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkerson) and his wife Lady Mansfield (Emily Watson) while he goes off to sea. The Mansfields are also raising another child Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon) born to another member of the family who is not around. The two girls become very close as they grow to marriageable age. Great Uncle Mansfield also happens to be the Chief Justice of England who is about to rule on an important case concerned with the Zong Massacre. This involved a ship at sea that was transporting slaves from Africa and threw a number of them overboard to drown claiming they were out of drinking water and had to do this in order to survive and subsequently made a claim to their insurance company for their “lost cargo.” The story also shows the somewhat formal courtship of these now young women, the importance of the presence or absence of a dowry, and the view and treatment of women at this time and place. Of course the racial factor is also high lighted as there is this unique situation of a black girl being raised in the aristocratic home and now receiving a proposal of marriage from the men who come courting these women. There are tense moving interactions between the various characters as well a dramatic courtroom scene by Tom Wilkerson who we feel deserves special recognition among an outstanding cast. At the conclusion of the film we see a large completed oil painting of the two young women who are the centerpiece of the film and which was being painted earlier in the story. Then during the rolling of the credits we see another large painting of the actual women who are depicted in the story and are told where the real canvas is hanging. This reminder of the historical truth of all the themes shown in this film, makes it quite a memorable accomplishment.(2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History, Romance

Strawberry and Chocolate

June 13th, 2014 — 7:45pm

****Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 11.01.33 PM Strawberry and Chocolate-nf  (Spanish with subtitles) Prior to our first trip to Cuba several friends told us that we have to see this award winning movie. (It won the Goya Award for the best Spanish language film in 1994 and was nominated for an Academy Award for the best foreign language film that year. There was a long waiting list for it on Netflix so we couldn’t catch it before we left. While being shown around Cuba by a young Cuban guide, we were taken to dinner up a beautiful staircase in Havana, which we were told was part of the main location for this movie. He also highly recommended this film. When we finally caught up with the film, we not only appreciated the specific location in Havana, which we had visited but some of the conflicts, which the film portrayed so well. David (Vladimir Cruz) is a college student very appreciative of this communist revolutionary government, which has allowed him, from a poor family to go to college and choose to study political science. David subsequently is having chocolate ice cream in a public square and he meets Diego (Jorge Perugorria) who is symbolically having strawberry ice cream since it turns out that he is clearly gay and very attracted to David who we learn early in the movie is clearly attracted to women although rejected by one (Marilyn Solaya) who married someone else while he remains a “virgin “. Diego is not only gay but he is someone who is a free thinker in regard to art music, literature and invariably in regard to politics. He loves Cuba but can’t love the revolutionary Cuban government, which rejects all types of creativity from the non-communist world and of course completely rejects homosexuality. David’s college roommate Miguel (Francisco Gattomo) is a rigid pro government ideologue who encourages David to befriend Diego in order to spy on him and turn him in. Nancy (Mirta Ibarra) is a neighbor and friend of Diego who may be a prostitute, with a “heart of gold.” The inflexibility of some people in their views on homosexuality are used as a metaphor for rigidity of the supporters of the Cuban government to consider the contributions of other non-communist cultures and vice versa. There also is depiction of the ability of human beings to love and connect with each other that goes beyond sexual and political orientation. These are special ideas and Directors Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio made this story with a very sensitive touch. This included many scenes of the characteristic grandiose but now decaying Spanish architecture as well as the lovely settings by the water of this historic island. (1994)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign

As High As The Sky

June 12th, 2014 — 6:39am

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As High As The Sky-sp This excellent independent low budget film will probably not have theatrical release but it is available by DVD on Amazon, Vimeo etc. and is definitely worth seeing. It is the brainchild of Nikki Braendlin who wrote the screenplay and directed the film. It stars Caroline Fogarty, a young actress and sometimes comedienne who takes on the non-comedic role of a young woman with a clear case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder whose boyfriend has recently left her and she is living alone in a beautiful contemporary California home. She is unexpectedly visited by her sister (Bonnie McNeil) who is 14 years older than she along with her 11 or 12-year-old daughter (Laurel Porter). Early in the story we learn that the younger sister was 4 years old when their parents were killed in an auto accident. Two aunts took over the childrearing. We only hear their voices on the phone (Dee Wallace and Jenny O’Hare) The older sister moved out at age 17. There is much more to the story and it beautifully unfolds revealing the family dynamics and the relationships. Ms. Braendim does a magnificent job in her directorial debut extracting from this all female cast a very sensitive performance to match her original script. (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Lullaby

June 11th, 2014 — 6:18am

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Lullaby-sp- We gave this film our highest rating but we suggest that you think twice before you go to see it. It is about Robert Lowenstein (Richard Jenkins), a very successful wealthy man with lung cancer who has been battling his disease for 12 years and decides he is ready to die. Rachel (Ann Archer) his loving wife is at his side. Jonathan, his cigarette smoking son (Garrett Hedlund), the not so successful musician who hasn’t been around for many years finally comes to town (New York) and his bedside. As does his daughter (Jessica Brown Findlay), the Ivy League law student who soon will try to make a legal brief to convince her father why he should not agree to physician assisted suicide, which she contends is against the constitution. But early on, as soon as they all assembled at his bedside, the father announces that he has given away all his money so they won’t all become dependent on his wealth and not live out their own lives by their own abilities (including his wife). This becomes a story of a sometimes-dysfunctional family who underneath it all had great love for each other. It isn’t difficult to find some issues to identify with as the family conflicts unfold and it will be impossible not feel the emotion as you put your self in the shoes of all the characters as they appreciate the father’s pain and his need to say goodbye. If this were not enough to make this a tissue pack or damp handkerchief movie, there is another element that will tear you apart. Through a chance hospital stairwell meeting, Jonathan meets a 17-year-old girl (Jessica Barden in a perfect wonderful performance) who is dying of bone cancer baldhead and all. She confronts him with his underlying ambivalence about his father. He is drawn to visit her on the children’s ward where he sees many kids who are dying as his father, the difference being that most of then will never experience even adolescence. We don’t think this film despite our top rating is perfect. There are moments, which are played out to an almost gratuitous level to achieve every extra bit of emotion. The introduction of Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend (Amy Adams), while used to show the son’s personal growth, seems unnecessary. Despite this movie being almost 2 hours, it is sure to rivet your attention and take control of your feelings. This must be the reason why this outstanding cast, which also included Jennifer Hudson and Terrance Howard, as the nurse and doctor, as well as the stars previously mentioned, all signed on to this independent production. This film could not have had the budget, which they all usually command. Credit has to be given to Andrew Levitas, who is an established painter and sculptor, as well as a film producer. He directed and wrote this screenplay, stimulated by his experience of his father’s dying and his return home. He creatively broadened his story to encompass the potentially painful and beautiful life defining moments of the end of life. (2014)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Chef

May 24th, 2014 — 9:40pm

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Chef-rm This is an extremely well done movie about food and much more. Chef Carl Casper is played by Jon Favreau who write the screenplay, directed and coproduced the movie) is the famous chef of a well know restaurant in Los Angeles. He finds himself at odds with owner of the restaurant (Dustin Hoffman) who wants him to prepare and serve his standards rather then be newly creative on the day that famous food reviewer Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) will be visiting the restaurant. The critic pans the Chef for being unimaginative and at an expected repeat visit, Casper quits rather be then be forced to stifle his creativity once again. This ultimately leads to foodie road trip in a food truck with Casper, Percy (Emjay Anthony) his 10-year-old son and Martin, a staff cook who formerly worked for him(John Leguizamo). We see the great passion that the deposed chef has for food and it’s preparation but also see the tender father son relationship which is played out by the son wanting to learn about food and the father who really puts him to work but teaches him his love and skill of this genre. Sofia Vergara has never looked better as the beautiful but very caring ex-wife. Scarlett Johansson likewise is very appealing as the empathic hostess at his previous restaurant. The road trip starts off in Miami where the food truck is put together and we can almost taste the Cuban food, which becomes an important part of the menu of the truck. The Cuban music beat becomes the pulse of this film and the face of it is Cuban musician Jose C. Hernandez who plays the father of Casper’s ex-wife and the grandfather of the boy. His playing is a recurrent strong part of the wonderful musical background of this story. We also experience the great music and atmosphere of New Orleans which is the next stop on this trip. The food truck becomes very popular here and we are shown the familiar views of this great city while the musical beat goes on. Perhaps characterizing the chef’s relationship with his son, as he buys him the famous product from the Café Du Mundo, he says to him, “ Eat it slowly, you are never going to taste your first beignet again.” Next stop was Austin, Texas where the food truck also achieved great popularity while the music of Gary Clark Jr. played on. Final stop was back home in Los Angeles where this food truck and it’s great crew held their own against other food trucks in downtown LA. Aside from the great screenplay and very fine acting by an outstanding cast, especially Mr. Fareau who is on screen most of the time, there are three non-human stars of this movie. We have already highlighted the music. Of course there is the food and Los Angeles chef Roy Choi should be included in the kudos since he was the food consultant and there were many mouthwatering scenes of very appealing food. The third star was modern technology, particularly social media and the cell phone with constant tweeting. It was tweets that spread the word about the food critic’s views, the counter arguments of the chef and the popularity of the gallivanting food truck. Also the movie was topped off with a few weeks of one second per day video clips posted on the Internet, put all together by Percy the Chef’s young son which summed up his affection for his dad and the journey on which this movie had taken us all. (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Emoticon ;)

May 22nd, 2014 — 6:10am

****

Emoticon ;)- sp Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 10.27.30 PM- It is very exciting to see a small, low budget film successfully get it’s point across in an excellent movie. In this case Livia DePaolis a young actress, co-wrote the screenplay with then film student Sarah Nerbose. Ms. Depaolis also produced and directed as well as star in it. She was able to get veteran actor Michael Cristofer to co-star with her as well as bring in Carol Kane, Sonia Braga and excellent teenage actors, Miles Chandler, Allie Gallerani, Charlie Solis, Sydney Morton and Alesandra Socah. The film examines various aspects of family relationships in a contemporary upper class New York City. It also uses the prism of modern day social media to help the viewer see everyday happenings as the characters might very well been doing. Elena is a single 33 year old graduate student who has a relationship with Walter who is a 64 year old divorced man with two adopted teenage children to whom she becomes connected. The kid’s struggle with their own identity both sexual and racial, as well as Elena relationship with them and her own examination of her feelings about having her own children are all opened up for viewing. The filmmaker appeared to be using Elena’s graduate school thesis as metaphor for this movie. It is that the wide spread use of social media is so much a part of human relationships it actually changes them. From our point of view the movie didn’t need this approach. The characters all had depth and showed complexity, growth and change. The story stood on it’s own and we felt the use of social media was almost incidental. The characters could have just as well been talking on the telephone instead of on Facebook but it was a clever and original perspective none-the-less. We look towards a very bright career for the talented Ms. DePaolis. (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

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