Category: Drama


A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

November 15th, 2019 — 6:33am

****

A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood

For a generation that grew up with Mr. Rogers as their friend, comforter, and beacon of honesty and truth, it must be very gratifying to see Tom Hanks embody their childhood hero. This movie has been 10 years in the making by screenwriters, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, who worked very closely with producer Youree Henley and his associates and ultimately involved Marielle Heller as the director of the movie. They approached the story by focusing on a reporter, in reality Tom Junod, who is named Lloyd Vogel in the film and played by Matthew Rhys, who wrote an article for Esquire Magazine built around his interviews with Mr. Rogers. The reporter brought to the table his own personal story of alienation from his father, which came up during his interactions with Mr. Rogers. They developed a personal relationship, which was very meaningful to the reporter and literally changed his life. In a sense, the story is a parable for a successful psychotherapy where insight and change ultimately happen. However, in this case, it was Rogers’ sensitivity and empathy for his interviewer over a period of time which made a big difference in the life of this reporter. This movie is very well done using the background and TV set where the actual Mr. Rogers’ show took place in Pittsburgh. However, the real success of the movie is Tom Hanks, who not only captured the style and mannerisms of Fred Rogers but also radiated his warmth and empathy. (2019).

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama

Last Christmas

November 15th, 2019 — 6:09am

***

Last Christmas-rm

This is one of the first Christmas films of this season. It takes place in London, which looks quite beautiful during holiday time. The story is the brainchild of Emma Thompson, who plays the mother of Katie (Emila Clarke) who would like to make it as a singer, but at the moment works dressed up as an elf salesgirl selling Christmas items. There is romance all around as the owner of the store where she works (Michelle Yeoh) is smitten with a handsome customer. Katie’s sister (Lydia Leonard) is in a relationship with a woman that her parents are not ready to accept. Katie appears to have found a wonderful guy (Henry Golding), but it turns out that there is something mystical about him.

Thompson’s story and screenplay, which are co-written by Greg Wise and Bryoni Kimmings, attempts to meld together the joy of Christmas which includes charity, forgiveness, and of course, romance all with a spiritual flavor. Credit should also be given to director Paul Feig who had to blend everything in the right proportions. There is also a strong music background, which not only sets the Christmas mood but highlights the other moving themes of this film. The predominant voice is the written music and performance of the late George Michaels. If you are looking for a Christmas movie, you cannot go wrong with this one (2019).

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Parasite

November 7th, 2019 — 8:40pm

*****

Parasite-rm

This was an elaborate production of an interesting and complicated story. The movie is set in South Korea and is in the Korean language with English subtitles. We meet a wealthy Korean family with two children who can hire a maid/cook, tutor for the kids, as well as a driver. Through some complicated manipulations, a poor family from the other side of town is able to work it out, so they are serving all of these positions although the rich family does not realize that they are actually members of one family. The disparity and yet the similarities between the rich and the poor become highlighted. There is a strange undercurrent of the film that not only takes place in the basement of the wealthy mansion but in the heart and souls of some of the characters. Credit must be given to Bong Joon-Ho, who wrote the screenplay and did a magnificent job directing the movie, which turned out to be 2 hours and 12 minutes but never feeling too long or drawn out.

The film which starts out comedically, albeit with strife and poignancy, moves into creative and surprising genres which keep the viewer engaged even after the final credits roll. While difficult to classify, it is definitely worth seeing. 

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Horror

The Two Popes

November 7th, 2019 — 6:28am

*****

The Two Popes-sp

At our preview screening of this movie, we had the pleasure of hearing the screenwriter Anthony McCarten describe how he created his vision of the relationship between these two Popes. Mr. McCarten who also wrote the screenplays for The Darkest Hour (Winston Churchill), “Theory Of Everything” (Steven Hawking) and “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Freddie Mercury and his band Queen) built the story based on little known facts about the interactions between the current liberal Pope Francis and the previous conservative Pope Benedict. The story imagines a meeting between the two of them prior to the resignation of Pope Benedict, which may have actually taken place. Through the use of flashbacks in time, we learn about Pope Francis as a young priest in Argentina and how he dealt with the influence of Peron in his native country. During the imagined meeting between the two Popes, prior to the time that Pope Benedict steps aside, there is a suggestion that both of them have regrets in their lives. Although it is not mentioned directly, the older Pope is said to have been a member of the Hitler Youth Group in his native Germany. Certainly, both men come across as very empathic servants of God who care greatly about people and are deeply religious.

Aside from the fascinating interaction between these two historic figures, the scenes inside the Vatican, which has been recreated (no actual filming is allowed inside) are magnificent. The acting by the two great actors Jonathan Pryce (Pope Francis) and Anthony Hopkins (Pope Benedict) are quite masterful. The direction of the movie and photography led by Fernando Meirelles is outstanding. This film definitely deserves your attention.

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

Harriet

November 5th, 2019 — 7:27am

*****

Harriet-rm

If you know anything about the story of Harriet Tubman, you will be expecting an exciting adventure about a woman slave who escapes to freedom and then goes on to rescue many others through the famed Underground Railroad. You will not be disappointed as British actress Cynthia Erivo does a remarkable job of inhabiting the famed heroine. The movie was directed by Kasi Lemmons, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Gregory Allen Howard.

The story begins as our heroine, who is then known as Minty, decides to escape from her owner’s son who is supposed to have freed her. She actually runs 100 miles, much of it being chased and hunted, until she reaches Philadelphia where slavery does not exist. She meets an abolitionist, (Leslie Odom, Jr.) and others. She takes on her freedom name of Harriet Tubman and returns to the South in order to rescue her family and many others. This becomes her life calling as she is active in the Underground Railroad. We experience her dangerous adventures and confrontations and see how she becomes one of the great American heroines for these actions as well as her exploits during the Civil War. The movie is highlighted by a moving musical score by Terence Blanchard.

Ms. Tubman lived to the age of 93 and we cannot help but be reminded that Harriet Tubman’s image was scheduled to replace that of Andrew Jackson on the United States $20 bill. However, it was recently announced by President Trump and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin, that this plan was being delayed for several years for “technical reasons.” We wonder why?

Despite this “delay” in establishing the well-deserved honor, the film is playing now and provides a strong and moving account of a true American heroine.(2019)

 

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Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, History

Yesterday

November 1st, 2019 — 1:39am

****

Yesterday

Cross-country air flight often allows us to come across a film that we may not usually choose to see in a local movie theater. Yesterday was such a film, which had a very unique premise and an excellent execution. It was directed by Daniel Boyle and written by Jack Barth and Richard Curtis.

A musician living in England (Himesh Patel) decides that he has had it with his music career and is ready to give up and quit trying to be a successful singer. He is driving away from his latest and what he believes will be his last gig when he is involved in a serious auto accident. He is knocked unconscious and loses two of his front teeth. As he recovers from his injury, new dental work and is ready to try to live a normal life, not as a musician, he comes to a very amazing realization. Everything in the world is as it was before his accident, except nobody has ever heard of the Beatles or any of their songs. If he makes a reference to “Let It Be”, nobody knows the musical reference to the great Beatles’ classic hit. In fact, nobody has ever heard of the Beatles. “Google” thinks that the Beatles are only insects

Our musician begins to write some “Beatles” songs which he remembers and reconstructs. We watch him gradually develop into an extremely popular performer who is writing new songs (classic Beatle hits) all the time and becomes known as the “Greatest Songwriter of All Time.” He performs in gigantic venues and receives great acclaim. There is a romantic subplot with his girlfriend (Lily James) and we also see a statement being made about the music industry through his new female agent who greedily seeks to reap the rewards of his tremendous popularity.

The storyline builds to an interesting climax and in the end, we have had an opportunity to enjoy the great music of the Beatles but also have seen a wonderful satire. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Musical

The Good Liar

October 23rd, 2019 — 12:56am

****

The Good Liar- sp

When you put together Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen with a really good story with twists and turns, big surprises and even some roots in Nazi Germany, you know you are going to have a riveting movie. These two iconic actors are at the top of their game. The screenplay by Jeffrey Hatcher based on the novel by Nicholas Searle requires you to pay close attention or you may miss some of the subtleties where the storyline is taking you. Special kudos to director Bill Condon who guided this complicated but yet fascinating movie. Do not be surprised if the talents of these great actors are once again recognized during award season. (2019)

 

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama

The Current War: Director’s Cut

October 17th, 2019 — 7:09am

***

The Current War: Director’s Cut- sp

No, this is not about the current fighting between Turkey, Syria, and the Kurds. It is actually a very American story where “current” means “electricity” and the main characters in the movie are Thomas Edison (Benedict Cumberbatch), George Westinghouse (Michael Shannon) and Nikola Tesla (Nicholas Hoult).

This 2016 film got lost in movieland politics involved with Harvey Weinstein. However, its director Alfonso Gomez-Rejon was able to hold on to the film and bring back some of the stars and redo parts of the movie. The result is a very interesting story that we assume most of us knew very little about and that is that there was a historical battle about which kind of electricity would win the right to light up the Chicago World’s Fair and ultimately, win the race to light up the United States. Would it be direct current (DC) favored by Thomas Edison or alternating current (AC) championed by George Westinghouse? We also get some insight into the private lives of these men and their wives played by Katherine Waterston and Tuppence Middleton.

This is not a documentary film and not exactly a docudrama. However, it is a fascinating story about very interesting people. The main characters are household names not only associated with electricity but in the case of Edison, he is known for bringing us recorded sound and he essentially invented motion pictures.

While this movie might not have provided the deep insight that the director was striving for, it certainly personified these men and told the fascinating tale of the historical contributions to the world that they made.(2019)

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1 comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History

Pain and Glory

October 14th, 2019 — 1:10am

***

Pain and Glory-rm

The main character of this movie is a film director Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas) who appears to be an aging man with various physical conditions but is still under the influence of his childhood memories and experiences. He has recently learned that an earlier very successful movie that he made is going to be restored and he is invited to present it with the lead actor, Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) whom he hasn’t spoken to for 32 years since the film was originally made. The director was angry at the actor because he didn’t play his role the way the director had envisioned it. This scenario becomes a vehicle for the main character to relive and examine his childhood and early years which included his relationship with his mother (Penelope Cruz) as well as his attraction to heroin. His earlier sexual experiences with a man is also highlighted.

The movie is supposed to be semi autobiographical of the filmmaker Pedro Almodovar (whatever that means). While the movie shows meaningful childhood early life experiences and how it impacted the course of the character’s life in later years, we didn’t feel the storyline captured and held our interest. The movie was well-acted and produced, with topnotch acting and production. You forget that you are watching a film in Spanish and reading English subtitles. However, we still can’t give it a strong recommendation. (2019)

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Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Judy

September 28th, 2019 — 7:43pm

****

Judy-rm

Do not expect this film to be filled with scenes of Judy Garland at the top of her game throughout her illustrious career. Rather, the movie focuses on the last year of her life where she went to England to try to rejuvenate her career, which was fading in the United States. There are some flashbacks to her childhood and early years, but it is mostly about the final curtain calls. The brightest part of this movie experience directed by Rupert Gooke, based on a play by Peter Quilter, is the outstanding performance of Renee Zellweger who plays Judy Garland. She has figured out the mannerisms and is pretty close to her voice as we remember it (maybe not quite the energy). Zellweger is superb and we would bet on her receiving some awards for this performance. We strongly recommend this movie to be seen and enjoyed. (2019)

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Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama, Musical

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