Category: Drama


GIrl On the Edge

May 29th, 2015 — 6:04am

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Girl on the Edge-sp

This is an independent film based on Director Jay Silverman’s real life experience with his daughter. It is very well done with an excellent screen play by Joey Curtis with the help of Jay Silverman and writer Joe Gamache. There is an outstanding acting job by Taylor Spreitler. Although over 18 years old did get into the shoes of the 14-year-old main character that she played. Likewise, Gil Bellows was superb as the father ,who once he woke up to what was happening to his daughter, became appropriately angry and frustrated. Amy Price-Francis did a very believable job as the stepmother. Kudos are also given to the late Elizabeth Pena for her sensitive performance as one of the staff people at the rehabilitation center who understood the role that horses could play in therapy for young people. Peter Coyote could not have been better as the understanding empathic director of the rehabilitation program to which the young girl was sent.

This movie really presents us with two aspects of what this 14-year-old girl had to face. The first is that we could see what could happen to a young girl who begins to experiment with alcohol, perhaps with drugs and sex, and gets slipped a date rape drug where she doesn’t remember what happened to her. That is until she sees naked pictures of herself on the Internet and the terrible consequences in her life after such widespread exposure.

The other part of the story is about what a treatment program away from her loving family might be like. In this case, it was with a sensitive caring staff as well as interaction with other girls in the treatment program. It showed how horticulture therapy (teaching the young people to appreciate the value of growing plants and food) could be therapeutic as well as learning to interact with horses. The scenes of the equine therapy were quite moving. Watching the horse that the girl connected with, as it mirrored her actions, was quite amazing.

In a post-film discussion with the movie director, Jay Silverman, most of the audience acknowledged that they had a close relative or friend who had experienced similar issues and problems to that of the main character of the film. While most people might not be able to afford the kind of rehabilitation treatment that this girl did have, the emotions engendered are universal. This movie has been winning various awards at film festivals throughout the country and internationally. We believe it is a worthwhile experience to see this movie in theaters as well as at home with family . It also should be shown in middle schools and high schools to young people and should be a stimulus for discussion with teachers, counselors, and parents. It probably won’t be available until later in the year but keep it on your list of movies to see. (2015)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

The Master

May 24th, 2015 — 4:36am

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The Master

Despite having two great stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, in one of his last films before his untimely death, we could find very little to recommend this movie.

Freddie Quell (Phoenix) is a World War II veteran and an alcoholic. He wanders on to a boat going on a cruise where Lancaster Dodd (Hoffman) is leading his cult, which believes in past lives and a programming-kind of hypnosis with various nonsensical interactions. Freddie gets drawn into this group perhaps because of his need for family and a father figure. We get the impression that Dodd, the leader, is making up on the spot all his ministrations. He is, with some fanfare, coming out with his second book of his ideas, which do not make any discernable sense. This is satire here of cults, perhaps of Ron Hubbard and Scientology and maybe Paul Thomas Anderson, the director and screenwriter is also making fun of psychotherapy which to the uninformed may look like the “gobbledygook” being depicted in this movie. Yes, we see the poor mixed up soldier yearning for his young girlfriend who he knew before the war. We even see at the end the father figure cult leader expressing a yearning for his young follower. But nothing ties together which probably is the point they are making.

Even though there is great acting, beautiful scenery and very good cinematography, we advise a pass on this movie. (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

5 Flights Up

May 11th, 2015 — 6:53am

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5 Flights Up – rm

This movie played to a full theater on a Saturday evening at 5:40 PM, with a full crowd lined up to come in for the next showing. Most were senior citizens.. This is not surprising as Morgan Freeman and Diane Keaton play a senior couple.

He is an artist and works at home and she is a retired schoolteacher. They have no children but their dog has just been brought to the vet because she couldn’t walk and appeared to be in pain. By coincidence Morgan Freeman’s character is having trouble walking up the five flights of stairs of the couple’s apartment. They decide that it’s time to sell their Brooklyn apartment and find an apartment with an elevator in Manhattan. Going through this experience with their niece (Cynthia Nixon) who is the real estate agent , became an emotional one which allowed flashbacks to earlier courtship years and among other things the reaction of her mother when they decided to marry. We see the trials and tribulations as people view their apartment and they check out possibilities for a future apartment for themselves. There are repetitive bids and counter bids as their anxiety and ambivalence comes to a crescendo.

The storyline is quite contrived and not very realistic . There also is an extremely negative characterization of the real estate agent. But in the end, most of those moviegoers lining up to see this picture will not be disappointed. They will see a loving couple who are facing life’s challenges with continued affection for each other and will walk away having seen a “feel good movie.” (2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

I’ll See You in My Dreams

May 11th, 2015 — 6:11am

***
Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 10.56.17 PM

I’ll See You in My Dreams – sp

Brett Haley wrote this screenplay at age 29 with Marc Basch. They initially kick-started the funding of this independent film. Two years later, Mr. Haley brought this story to the screen as director and then film editor. This young man was able to empathize with senior citizens who realize that it isn’t over until it’s over. In this all star cast led by Blythe Danner, we experienced the universal human desire to have meaningful relationships at any age. Carol Peterson’s (Danner) interactions with an older man (Sam Elliott) and with a younger pool guy (Martin Starr) are touching and quite believable. When topnotch actors and actresses sign on to a low budget film, you know that they see something quite special in the material. That must have been the case as Malin Akerman, June Squibb, Rhea Perlman, and Mary Kay Place rounded out this outstanding cast. The storyline allowed one scene to take place in a karaoke bar where Ms. Danner was able to provide a special treat by singing “Cry Me a River.” It should also be said that the film will probably also allow you to shed a few tears.(2015)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

Nightcrawler

May 3rd, 2015 — 6:56pm

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Nightcrawler- nf

Jake Gyllenhaal in this film is the weird character, Lou Bloom who becomes a freelance news cameraman who roams the streets at night with a video camera and a police scanner in search of bloody accidents or horrible crimes to lead the TV news. He hires Rick, a young man (Riz Ahmed) desperate for work and meets Nina (Rene Russo), a TV news editor who is desperate for good ratings. The result is a creepy type of film noir with this version, showing a part of our society that has lost its moral compass.

Lou Bloom is presented as a mentally unbalanced person who sees things in a very concrete manner. He is without a conscience. But the story is more than one man who resembles a person with Asperger Syndrome but without the typical endearing qualities. The movie seems to be making a statement about television news, at least the local news. Not only is it “if it bleeds, it leads”, but we get the impression that local TV news has little or no integrity. This is not a rerun of the famous classical film Network. To the contrary, there was no one to stand up and say that “we are not going to take it anymore.” Instead, we are left with a view that the status quo is really quite disheartening.  This sad message is personal to us  because the setting is Los Angeles, our town. While we do not usually travel the streets shown in the dead of night, they are all so familiar.

Director and screen writer, Dan Gilroy, has reminded us that accidents, crime, and tragedy can impact anyone at anytime and we all have a morbid curiosity about these details which are exploited everyday by local TV news. This dark well done movie leaves us with a touch of sadness.(2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama

Felix and Meira

April 24th, 2015 — 7:29am

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Felix and Meira

You may have a negative impression of the Hassidic community, as a cloisted male-dominated sect where the woman’s role is to take care of the children and serve the men while they sing their songs, do their dancing and prayers. If that is the case, this movie will not change your mind and will confirm your thinking. Meira (Hadas Yaron) is such a wife living in a Hassidic community located in Montreal who has one child so far but uncharacteristically does not want anymore and does not like the role that is expected of her. She has a chance meeting with Felix (Martin Dubreuil) who is a single man who is not part of her community. We see that she is drawn to him and sees her way out of the life that has been fated for her. This is much to the consternation of her husband, Shulem (Luzer Twersky) who realizes what is happening but can only demand that she should do what he feels she is supposed to do and that is follow the rules of her community. If we were expected to develop an understanding and insight into all these characters, our opinion is that the film was unsuccessful. We know essentially nothing about them as individuals, perhaps with the exception of Felix who we know had a father who never showed any love to him although it seems irrelevant to the plot. Certainly, we do not know the back story of the other main characters. We find them all two-dimensional. The acting and the setting seemed quite genuine. This is a French film directed by Maxime Giroux who also wrote the screenplay, It seamlessly moves back and forth from English and Yiddish with subtitles as needed. However, what we needed here was a story with more depth to it. (2015)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Foreign

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 expletives  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 as they 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

****

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 1.22.57 PMDanny Collins – rm

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

****

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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Gone Girl – rm

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

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