Category: Drama


Confetti

August 20th, 2021 — 7:43pm

Confetti

****

We would not have expected this film to grab and hold our attention as it did throughout the entire cinematic experience. It is the story of a young school age Chinese girl who was diagnosed by a visiting American teacher as having dyslexia, which means difficulty in reading. Her mother is determined to get help for her child so she can learn to read. When there appears to be no place in China where she can get the assistance that she needs, she learns that there is a specialized school in the United States. The girl and her mother, both of whom only speak a few words of English, take the assistance of the American teacher to stay with his wheelchair-bound mother in New York while they seek a specialized school in order for her to learn how to read. This very cute little girl and her attractive mother capture the screen as they encounter various roadblocks and rejections along the way. This is the essence of this movie and there were no big surprises. As we recount the plot, it does not seem to be particularly intriguing, but yet it held us spellbound as one of the best films we have seen this season. The movie was filmed in both China and in United States (New York). The filmmaker put together a cross-cultural team that carried off this remarkable accomplishment.

One of us (MB) has worked with Tierra del Sol, which is an organization for developmentally disabled and helps youngsters and young adults with variations of this handicap succeed in school, work, and in artistic endeavors. We know that it requires a dedicated team of professionals, supportive family and persistent fund raising to help these handicapped people have meaningful lives. So perhaps the story of this film is misleading or oversimplified or maybe it is a metaphor for what can be done for youngsters who come to the world at a disadvantage, which they can overcome. Kudos to the director and screen writer, Ann Hu and the America/Chinese team that made this film and, of course, the outstanding actors Zhu Zhu, Yanan Li, and American veteran actress, Amy Irving as well as the entire outstanding Chinese and American cast and the film team that brought this to life.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Swan Song

August 8th, 2021 — 9:00pm

Swan Song

****

We initially meet Pat Pitsenbarger in a senior living facility where he appears to be in the final stages of his life. It appears that this is going to be a character study of this elderly man, but we soon realize that the journey we are about to undertake with the main character is going to be a much more complicated. It provides insight into the struggle of a gay man and the vibrant life of this man in the gay community that existed in the small mid-western town of Sandusky, Ohio. Pat Pitsenbarger was a real person who was a hairdresser in this town and he also performed at the gay night club that existed here. We soon begin to realize how his life touched so many others through his skill as a hairdresser as well as his sensitivity and caring for others. He did not realize it, but he was a role model for many other people.

In a discussion with the filmmaker, Todd Stephens, we are told that the story is based on a real person who lived in the town where the filmmaker grew up. This film is a moving, insightful examination of this character and his lifestyle. It is done extremely well. It will touch your emotions and provide an understanding of this man and his lifestyle, as well as being quite entertaining and enlightening. Many universal themes are on display and explored including love, loyalty, tolerance, understanding and forgiveness. It feels genuine and draws you in. This also adds up to an excellent cinematic experience and a highly recommended film.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama

Enemies of the State

August 8th, 2021 — 8:52pm

***

This is an unusual documentary film, which not only recounted the story from actual film clips but was interspersed with some reenactments based on actual events. The main character is a young man by the name of Matt DeHart who is a known hacker with ties to WikiLeaks, which is an international non-profit organization that publishes news leaks and classified documents provided by anonymous sources. The question that is raised is whether this young man is antagonizing the US government by publishing secret documents and is the US government spreading false information that Mr. DeHart is involved in child pornography? We meet this young man and his family who support him and believe he is being set up by the government. The viewer is torn between these two possibilities as we ponder what is the truth. Sonia Kennebeck is the director and producer and has masterfully weaved this story together. We have our own opinion who is telling the truth and as realistic as the film may have been, we did not think it was worth the hour and 45 minutes.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama

The Comeback Trail

July 23rd, 2021 — 7:37pm

The Comeback Trail
****

This is a comedy based on a film that was made in 1982 by the same name that was made by the late Harry Hurwitz. This remake is written and directed by George Gallo. One of the producers of this film is the wife of the late Harry Hurwitz. She and Mr. Gallo were at the preview we attended run by Steven Farber in his series titled Reel Films.

The storyline and this well executed film really gives the viewer a sense of involvement and role of the producers in making a movie come into being, albeit this one being quite exaggerated and comedic. In this case, it is a story about an old country movie star who is brought out retirement from a retirement home for people in the film industry, to star in an exciting Cowboy and Indian film. Mixed into the storyline is a subplot about possibly murdering the comeback movie star so the producers can collect on a large insurance policy on the aging star. we did not mention that this movie stars Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, Morgan Freeman, and Zach Braff. How can a film miss with such a cast?

Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Western

Hampstead

July 13th, 2021 — 7:31am

Hampstead

***

Diane Keaton plays a British widow who lost her husband a year before She is not interested in the well-meaning friends who want to introduce her to a well-heeled accountant. From an apartment window with a pair of binoculars she sees a guy (Brenden Gleeson) living in a shack in some large wooded area seemingly either part of the metropolitan city or just on the fringes of it. She sets out to meet him and see what is going on with him. There are well-meaning demonstrators, some of whom want the wooded area cleaned up and others who want to be on the side of the “hermit,” who claims he has single-handed deserved ownership of the house since he has built it on his own and lived in it for the past 17 years. There is courtship, romance, do-gooders, and actual dramatic court room scenes. However, it is Diane Keaton’s realistic and lovable character that carries the movie and ultimately touches our heart.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Politics, Romance

Red Joan

July 13th, 2021 — 7:06am

RED JOAN

***

Can you imagine if you are sitting with your elderly grandmother and there were a knock on the door and the FBI entered and arrested her for the high crime of being an international spy? That is exactly what happened to an old British woman who is arrested in front of her family and accused of being a World War II spy for the Russians who passed on secret information how to make the atomic bomb. This film was released in 2018 and stars Judi Dench. It is based on the true story, although there were some changes made in the actual circumstances. The story reminds us that during the time period that the film is depicting, the Russians were allies of the United States fighting against the Nazis. The deep dive of this film is intended not only to show how this woman was a successful spy, but why she did it. What was our thinking and what was the mindset of many people at this particular time in history. This film will keep your interest and will be particularly meaningful to history buffs who try to understand the thinking of this time in history.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, Politics

Nowhere In Africa

June 19th, 2021 — 4:00am

Nowhere in Africa
****

This is a 2001 German film which was written and directed by Caroline Link. It is based on an autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig.

We thought that we had seen every aspect of Holocaust books and films, yet this subtle, touching, thoughtful story tells a poignant tale that reflects the deep-seated impact as much as the classic well known literary and cinematic productions have done on this subject. It tells the story of a German Jewish family; father, mother, and young daughter, who fled Germany “to the middle of nowhere in Africa” which is actually in Kenya.

Perhaps this story is best reflected through the eyes of a young girl as she grows into early adolescence during what must have been a seven or eight year period. She is accepted into the native culture. Her parents have their struggles and conflicts. Their pain in missing their relatives and learning of their fate is a well-known part of history. The viewers must put themselves into the shoes of this threesome as they ultimately must decide whether to stay or leave and where to go once the war is over.

The skill of the filmmaker is reflected in the fact that we forget that we are seeing a foreign film with subtitles. The setting is quite real as are the characters and their in-depth portrayal.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History

The Father

May 5th, 2021 — 6:48am

The Father
****

It is easy to see why Anthony Hopkins was recently awarded this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor. He is magnificent as an old man with a fading memory in this film. The movie is presented in a manner that the viewers experiences the memory lapses and subsequent episodes of confusion as if it were happening to us. Hopkins’ facial expressions, voice, movements, and interactions with the other characters are near perfect. He moves easily between anger and fury to softness and sadness.

The film was written and directed by Florian Zeller who has adapted his prize-winning French play of the same name along with Christopher Hampton. Interestingly, the main character’s first name is “Anthony”. His daughter is played by Olivia Colman who also turned in an outstanding performance. To make things even more interesting, Anthony’s daughter is also played at a different age by Olivia Williams who physically resembles Ms. Coleman. There were several clever manipulations of the setting all adding up to a somewhat unique cinematic experience.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Pieces Of A Woman

March 21st, 2021 — 5:35am

PIECES OF A WOMAN
***

This film, directed by Kornel Mundruczo with screenplay by Kata Weber, is about a couple’s decision to have their first child delivered by a midwife at home. Things do not go as planned. We become immersed in the postpartum struggle, mainly of the woman (Vanessa Kirby) as she deals with the intricacies of relationships with her husband(Shia Saide LaBeouf), mother (Ellen Burstyn), and other people in her life. We have to consider how there can be intense grief for someone you have never known. There is even a dramatic court room scene interspersed in the storyline but who is the real victim and who is the perpetrator? You may also want to ask yourself if home deliveries should be legal? Vanessa Kirby was nominated for an Oscar this year 2021 for her performance in this film.

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The White Tiger

March 17th, 2021 — 6:09am

The White Tiger
****

Unfortunately, we do not clearly remember the book upon which this film was made, which we read about 12 years ago and one of us wrote up in his book blog. We also had to see it again for the story to clearly register with us although we first saw it several weeks ago. It is obviously a well-done film, which holds your interest as the story develops. We are watching a young man from a very poor lower class caste in India attempt to put himself up to a slightly higher level by manipulating things so he can become the main driver for a wealthy Indian family. As we view his journey, we come to appreciate the contrast between the very rich and the very poor and the near impossible odds against any upward mobility.

Baked into the plot at the beginning and at the end of the film is the contrast between India, a so-called democracy, and China, a so called socialist regime (obviously Communist). This is accomplished by hearing the letter that one of the Indian main characters is writing to the premier of China. There is also an apt analogy to a rooster coop where in this case people are borne into servitude and cannot usually even contemplate another way of living. There is always the possibility of someone being a “White Tiger,” an unusual form of the animal that appears possibly once in a generation. In the film this seem to be the metaphor for a person who is able to break out of his expected destiny.

In addition to the political messages that are being given, we are also experiencing a well-done drama with suspense and unexpected twists and turns and a deep dive into the various characters.

The film was released more than 10 years after the book came out. It stars Adarsh Gourav as Balram, the driver and also features excellent performances by Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra. It is directed by Ramin Bahrani who wrote the screenplay based on the book by Aravind Adiga. It was Oscar nominated as the best adapted screenplay.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Politics

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