Category: Drama


The Wife

September 16th, 2018 — 9:19pm

***

The Wife-rm

This is an intriguing story, not quite believable, with great acting and is a well done movie directed by Bjorn Runge with a screenplay by Jane Anderson based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer.

It is hard to go wrong with Glenn Close who plays a devoted wife and clandestine writer for her husband (Jonathan Pryce) who has just been awarded a Nobel Prize for literature. The big secret is that the wife. who is the author’s second wife and originally was his student, in reality behind closed doors, essentially created his great literary works. The story and movie reflect how, perhaps up until recently, it was very difficult for even a talented woman writer to achieve recognition and certainly great literary acclaim, even if she deserved it.

Max Irons plays the son, who is also a writer, but is not very well supported by his dad and Christian Slater plays a probing potential biographer of the new Nobel Prize winner. The film is thought provoking, apparently not based on any real people, but reflects real issues of the time. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The Children Act

August 29th, 2018 — 4:26am

****

The Children Act-sp

This is one of those films in which everything seems so well done from the story line, the mood background music and the outstanding acting. It is based on a novel by Ian McEwan, who also wrote the screenplay, with direction by veteran director Richard Eyre.

The setting is in London and the main character Fiona Maye (Emma Thompson) is a judge in the British Judicial System. When she is working, she wears the traditional judicial garb and she is referred to as “My Lady.” She is very dedicated to her work and appears to frequently handle sensitive ethical issues. Her childless marriage to her husband Jack (Stanley Tucci) is not going well as he tells her that he is planning an affair.

The film then focuses on one very delicate legal case that Judge Maye must opine upon which deals with a 17-year-old boy with leukemia who needs a blood transfusion to save his life. He and his parents are devoted Jehovah’s Witnesses where blood transfusions are forbidden and the patient and the parents are refusing that he should have one. “My Lady”, the Honorable Judge becomes ultra involved with his case as she feels she must visit him in the hospital and try to understand him.

The success of the film is not only the interesting storyline, but it is the very sensitive and well done performance by Thompson who emanates her pain and turmoil as she changes the life of the boy (who is played by newcomer Fionn Whitehead). There may not be any ultimate satisfaction at the end but you come away feeling you have been through the painful experience that the characters on the screen have been going through, and the questions raised will stay with you long after the film ends. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Bel Canto

August 21st, 2018 — 8:22pm

*****

Bel Canto-sp

Veteran director and co-writer Paul Weitz (recently known for the award winning TV series Mozart in the Jungle) took the well-received novel by Ann Patchett which we read four years ago (see bookrap.net) and brought together an international cast to make this magnificent film. The story is based on an actual hostage situation which occurred in Peru in the 1990s. It centers around a planned dinner party featuring a performance by a well-known opera star (played by Julianne Moore with the voice over by Renee Fleming).

The setting is a beautiful private residence where the president of a South American country was supposed to be one of the guests. Also present was a Japanese industrialist (Ken Watanabe) and other international guests. The private party was invaded by some rebels, who had planned to take the president of the country hostage, in order to attempt to free some jailed political prisoners. Because the president was not there and had sent the vice-president in his place, the rebels took all of the guests hostage. The dinner party guests are now hostages being guarded by their captors. What then develops is a beautiful depiction of what psychiatrists call, the “Stockholm Syndrome” where hostages develop meaningful relationships with their captors and in this case vice versa. The situation goes on for several weeks as negotiations take place. The mood is set by the beautiful voice and music of the opera singer. The very human stories and interactions of the cast of characters is enchanting as attention builds towards the climax.

While some of the points of emphasis may be slightly different than was depicted in the book, Mr. Weitz is true to the theme and is able to match the magnificent setting and the beautiful singing to the interesting and rich characters with whom he worked. The excellent international cast includes Sebastian Koch, Christopher Lambert, Ryo Kase, Tenoch Huerta, Noe Hernandez, Maria Coroy, Elsa Zylberstein and Olek Krupa. The entire film is skillfully woven together and should not be missed. (2018)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

The Bookshop

August 15th, 2018 — 12:36am

***

The Bookshop-sp

This is a beautifully made film in which the idyllic setting is a small seaside town in England which looks even of an earlier time than the 1950s when it takes place. A widow who loves books buys an old warehouse and makes it into a bookstore. But there is resistance from particular people in the town who want the building to be an art center. The underlying theme is the admirable qualities of the woman who is dedicated and loves books and how she impacts an older man and a younger child. The movie is a little slow which perhaps allows the viewer to soak in the atmosphere and the depth of the characters.

Isabel Coixet is the director/writer and the story is based on a book by Penelope Fitzgerald, although the ending was unique to the film. The movie features a very sensitive performance by Emily Mortimer with excellent supporting roles by Patricia Clarkson, Bill Nighy and Honor Kneafsey.

It remains to be seen if the Millennials will appreciate why the filmmaker chose to linger on the love of books and the setting where they are actually displayed to see and to touch. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The BlackKKlansman

August 13th, 2018 — 1:58am

****

The BlackkKlansman-rm

Director Spike Lee takes on a very interesting and true story of a Colorado Springs black police officer who successfully manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan Chapter and become the president of it.

He also has an encounter with David Duke. The movie stars John David Washington (an accomplished actor who is also Denzel Washington’s son) as the black police officer. Adam Driver plays his alter ego who makes the in-person appearances at the clan meetings while Washington’s character sets things up by phone and also establishes a relationship with the president of the local College Black Students Organization (Laura Harrier).

While these actual events took place in the 1970’s, Spike Lee concludes the film by making a connection to modern times as he shows clips of recent white supremacist action in Charlottesville and other places and includes a video clip of President Trump. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized

Eighth Grade

August 12th, 2018 — 7:24pm

***

Eighth Grade-rm

You can make an argument that the eighth grade may be the most difficult transitional period for a young girl. This film certainly makes this case. Certainly, the storyline shows that the main character is struggling with her own identity, friendships with others and her relationships with her single parent dad. (Although the other girls in her class seemed happier?) We hardly know anything about the details of her family. She has no siblings and only her dad is in the picture. It is also no surprise that the girl and most of her contemporaries are on their cell phone all the time. Social media also plays an important role as this young eighth grader is making a series of online videos which tells everyone how to “find and express themselves” which of course was her own main struggle.

It is a special accomplishment when a director can lead a young eighth grader or thereabouts to star in a major film. Director/writer, Bo Burnham and his actress, Elsie Fisher deserves credit and recognition for their accomplishment. We suspect that many young people will be able to identify with the young eighth grader and this film will be a big hit. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids

The Captain

August 8th, 2018 — 7:10am

***

The Captain-sp

This film by veteran writer director, Robert Schwentke, which features a young German actor Max Hubacher, is a very powerful movie which shows the violence and cruelty of the German people during World War II through the depiction and actions of the German soldiers during the last two months of the war. However, it is somewhat unique in that the violence in this case is not directed towards the Jews or the allied enemy soldiers. Rather it is shown by the mass murder of German soldiers who may have been deserting at the end of the war and trying to survive by stealing food.

The story line is based on a true incident where a young German soldier isolated from his unit and being chased by other German soldiers as a deserter and a thief came upon the uniform of a German Captain and then took on the role of this officer. The story unfolds from there as this “Captain” becomes  cruel, sadistic and as murderous as anyone in the German army.

The film was shot in black and white, which according to the director, was to minimize the blood and gore of which there was plenty. The violence and murder shown in the film was strong enough to lead to a steady flow to the exit during this film from our preview audience. In the end, we are left with a very well done, all be it, uncomfortable movie which is quite provocative and no doubt will be unforgettable.

The film was in German with subtitles. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, History, War

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot

July 15th, 2018 — 6:01pm

****

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot-sp

The United States is in the midst of a horrendous addiction crisis. This movie gets to the heart of one man’s battle with alcoholism and the devastating effect that his illness had upon him. In a post-film discussion with Jack Gibson, one of the writers who wrote the book upon which this film was based, we learned that this movie has been 20 years in the making. It is based on a true story of the main character, John Callahan, who was originally going to be played by the late Robin Williams. As great a job as Williams might have done with this role, Joaquin Phoenix turned in a performance that we strongly believe deserves Oscar consideration. Thanks to his ability to inhabit his character, and what could also be an award-winning accomplishment by the director, Gus Van Sant, John Callahan vividly comes to the screen in various phases of his addiction, including being permanently paralyzed in an electric wheelchair with limited movement of his arms due to an alcohol-related accident. We gained some insight into his childhood experiences which undoubtedly led him to his addiction. We painfully shared his struggle in the AA program where he meets several people, including a young man who has inherited wealth but ends up as an addict, ultimately becoming Callahan’s AA sponsor. This role was very well played by Jonah Hill. There are also other excellent performances by Rooney Mara and Jack Black.

There are so many facets to Mr. Callahan’s battle with his disease which include his finding a way to make love, becoming a successful cartoonist, searching for his birth mother, going through the 12 steps of AA, including making amends, that we are torn between concluding that the film was too long (almost two hours) and yet at times, too superficial and that there were some very important area of his life that we wanted to see in more depth.

We believe that this film is destined for success, not only because of the bold depiction of one man’s struggle with alcoholism, but also because it should be seen and we feel will be viewed by so many people who are impacted by addiction. (2018)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Biography, Drama

Detroit

June 26th, 2018 — 10:47pm

****

Detroit-rm

One of our all time favorite films is The Hurt Locker, which was directed by Kathryn Bigelow for which she became the first woman director to win an Oscar. She certainly has not lost her touch. This film grabs the viewer and transports us into Detroit in 1967. Racial tensions were high and the National Guard and state police were called into the city as the riots exploded. There was an incident at a small hotel in the inner city where a several black men and two white women were held at gun point by four or five white Detroit Police Officers who believed that there was a sniper who shot at the policemen from the hotel. The prejudice and hate from the white police and how it was transformed into violence was quite dramatic and palpable. It did seem strange that there were no ranking police officers (Sergeants, Lieutenant or Captain), who were called to the scene. But this aspect he did not diminish the realistic and almost documentary feeling, which this movie conveyed. This slice of American history is very well presented with the raw emotion, which was part of it. While we hope that we have come a long way from this event, which occurred a half century ago, we obviously still are not free from prejudice that shows up in various manifestations in our society today. This is why such a film deserves our attention and should hold an important place in our memory.

This film also played homage to the Detroit Motown sound in the storyline as well as in the soundtrack. The actors were outstanding as was the setting, special effects, and editing which included film footage from Detroit in 1967. (2017)

 

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

Summer 1993

May 17th, 2018 — 4:53pm

***

Summer 1993-sp

This is a personal story of the writer/director Carla Simon. The movie tells a story of when she was a little girl and her parents died of AIDS at the height of the HIV epidemic which in Spain was in 1993 (a little later than in the United States). She was sent to live with her uncle, aunt, and a younger cousin and had to deal with her inner turmoil at this very tender age. It was quite an accomplishment that the director/writer was able to find a seven-year-old girl, Laia Artigas to play her at this young age as well as a four-year-old, Paula Robles to play her younger cousin Anna. These child actors joined Bruna Cusi, David Verdaguer and Fermi Reixach, who play some of the other members of her family. The story line shows the everyday interactions of these two younger girls mostly with each other but also with Frida’s aunt, uncle and also with the grandparents who come to visit.

It is rare that the personal emotions of a young child are captured so well on the screen. Perhaps it is even more of a feat that the movie was made in Spain, in Catalan with English subtitles. As much as we admired the unusual cinematic accomplishments of bringing the inner feelings of young girls to the screen, we felt that the 96-minute running time to watch them play and cry may not have been worth the time spent watching it. (2018)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign

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