August 19th, 2015 — 6:21am
Writer and director Juan Feldman and Oscar Winning Actress Marcia Gay Harden collaborate in a simple but poignant, heartwarming story. Harden plays Jane, a depressed lost soul who is a Los Angeles librarian who has been missing the joy of life and now has lost even her job. She chooses to go where she has never gone before on perhaps her last trip and that is to explore the beauty of exotic Central America. This leads her to meet Juan, a Costa Rican tourist guide who desperately needs money to send his adorable English speaking daughter (Jenna Ortega) to private school and he is willing to provide extra good service to his clients in order to get the funds he needs. You probably can guess the rest of the story.
What is quite remarkable about this movie is how well done every aspect of it is handled. Marcia Gay Harden is superb in projecting the despair that Jane has and the gradual metamorphosis that she undergoes. Oscar Jaenada, as Juan, comes across as a very believable and sincere man despite his initial presentation as a gigolo.
Juan Feldman, despite a meager budget which he had to scrape up in order to make this film, has well utilized his multiple skills as well as bringing in a very talented production team. In a most subtle manner we see the gradual emerging chemistry between the two main characters which was not only reflected by the outstanding acting but also came across through the dialogue, positioning of the actors, gradual changes in the lighting, color, sound and musical background. This should evoke in the audience a subtle evolving emotional experience, which is evidence of a very well done successful movie. (2015)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance
July 26th, 2015 — 8:01pm
We were prepared not to like this film as we assumed it was geared for a much younger demographic than ourselves which may very well have been the case. However, we enjoyed it immensely.
The opening scene showed a father teaching his two young girls a mantra that “monogamy is not realistic” as he tells them about his pending divorce to their mother. One of the girls is Amy, played as a grown up young woman by Amy Schumer who also wrote the screenplay.
From the beginning we had the idea that Amy’s psychology was not founded on traditional family values. She had lots of boyfriends and sex seemed to be mainly an end into itself. It was also mixed with lots of drinking and smoking pot. Interestingly this was in contrast to her sister Kim (Brie Larson) who having heard the same message from her father was now married with an adorable stepson and a new pregnancy.
Amy works as a successful writer albeit with a magazine that seems to view life and sex in a manner similar to hers. With Judd Apatow (Bridesmaids) at the director’s helm we would expect Schumer’s comedic writing and her persona to provide lots of good laughs, which was certainly the case if we were to judge our own reactions and that of our theatre audience. However, the film developed much more than an extended Saturday Nite Live routine (which is where co-star Bill Hader achieved his renowned success). He plays Dr. Aaron Connors, a successful sports doctor, who Amy is assigned to interview for her magazine. The chemistry between them goes beyond the sex and they fall in love. Amy and the good doctor struggled with their differences and their attraction to each other. There are some very poignant and dramatic scenes, which Ms. Schumer carries off extremely well while staying within her character. We read somewhere that she is a classically trained actress and she certainly handled the tearful moments, angry outbursts and the comedy to perfection. The story uses satire especially in the sex scenes but also with the cameo appearances by Matthew Broderick, Marv Albert, Chris Evert, Daniel Radcliffe and some well-known professional basketball players.
We are left with a tour de force about the impact of childhood, falling in love, and growing up, which are all presented to us with a wonderful sense of humor.(2015)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Romance
May 11th, 2015 — 6:53am
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
May 11th, 2015 — 6:11am
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
March 12th, 2015 — 7:13am
5 to 7-sp
If you are tuned in to the lingo of certain aspects of French culture, you might know that the title film refers to 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. This is the time in which it is permissible in some marriages for each partner to have an affair. Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin) is a 24-year-old single struggling writer in New York City who strikes up a conversation on a Manhattan Street with a beautiful French woman Arielle Tierpont (Bérénice Marlohe) who happens to be nine years his senior. She is married with two kids but is perfectly comfortable having an affair with him during these two magic hours of the day. Her husband Valéry Tierpont (Lambert Wilson) is a very handsome likeable guy and is glad to meet Brian who is quite bewildered by this chain of events. This all is not taking place in Paris but in New York City. The screen writer and director Victor Levin seems to know a lot about these things, as well as apparently being in love with New York. From the creative plaques on the benches of Central Park to the lovely Hotel Carlisle where much of the love making takes place, to the magnificent Guggenheim Museum, the mood of the film is clearly established. We come appreciate how this young man is absolutely smitten by the stunning, and very appealing French woman. He even introduces her to his Jewish parents. His mother (Glen Close) is charmed by this woman no matter what the circumstances, if she loves her son. His father (Frank Langella) is the comic relief to this film as he tries to digest the situation that his son is in. The dialogue of the film mostly New Yorkese with some occasional words of French thrown in with English subtitles The soundtrack also sets the mood about falling in love perhaps in a lifetime situation. The only flaw we couls find, is that as charming as young Mr. Bloom may seem to be and as much as we could appreciate his falling head over heels in love, we did not feel the film conveyed to us how this older beautiful woman was developing similar feelings to him. Perhaps Mr. Levin didn’t quite get into the French woman’s shoes. Nevertheless, the film is a moving, exciting, very creative, and a unique love story that is worth seeing (2015)
1 comment » | 4 Stars, Romance
August 12th, 2014 — 6:52am
Celeste and Jesse Forever nf– Young couples that start as a high school romance may have tremendous chemistry and compatibility but one or both may not be mature enough to stick it out and allow the couple to develop into a long term relationship. They may breakup early on or split after a couple of years of marriage. They may move on never to forget each other and what could have been. That is life . It also is the essence of this very thoughtful and touching film. Jesse is played by Adam Samberg (of SNL fame but comes across as a serious, sometimes silly but very likeable guy) and Celeste is the successful half of the couple but with still room to grow (played by Rashida Jones who had to have understood this character quite well as she co-wrote the screenplay with Will McCormick who also played a role as a friend). The movie is directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who is under 30, as would seem to be most of the characters in the film. The setting is current day Los Angeles where we see how young people party, drink and smoke weed. It is also where we are led to believe there is opportunity for success if you have talent and you hustle, or find the absence of it, if you don’t make the big effort. This would seem to be in job success as well as romance. This is a light modern romantic comedy that will touch a lot of people. No matter what your age, unless you were born a mature adult, you will probably find something in this movie that could have been you. (2012)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance
June 22nd, 2014 — 5:24am
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
January 30th, 2014 — 8:35am
At Middleton – sp– A middle-aged husband and wife (not married to each other) bring their own teenage child to a beautiful college for the perennial campus tour. He (Andy Garcia) in suit jacket and bow tie, a little awkward, is a cardiac surgeon, She (Vera Farmiga) attractive, good sense of humor, sells high-end children’s furniture. They begin to casually interact and become separated from the tour and take their own tour of the campus. Hence the premise of the film which is stated somewhere in the dialogue is revealed. What if you get your kid ready to go to college and you realize that you are not happy with the life you now have with your spouse? You come to this realization in the midst of a totally enjoyable interaction with this complete stranger with whom you are now spending a few delightful hours. The screenplay by Glenn German and Adam Rodgers (who also directed it) was co-produced by Garcia who discussed the movie in a post screening meeting. The script he said required hardly any additions or changes by the actors during the 21 days shooting. In fact, there literally were no rehearsals as most of the time they went straight to the camera with cinematography by the esteemed Emmanuel Kadosh. The music was by the famed Cuban musician Arturo Sandoval who was actually played by Andy Garcia in a 2000 HBO biographical drama. It captured the moods of the film quite well, which ranged from the pulsating excitement of new adventure to the sentimentality and sorrow of what could have been. The story was unpredictable and quite creative as it used the beautiful setting of this idyllic campus with magnificent overlook which rapidly changed to an amazing scene of the unlikely couple taking part in a college acting class where their inner most feelings were revealed. This low budget (2 ½ million dollars) independent film is worth seeing and we believe it will hold up well as new films of 2014 are released. (2014)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance
January 5th, 2014 — 11:59pm
Her – rm This movie certainly has to rank as one of the most daring and creative movies of the year. It is founded on a somewhat outrageous premise, which if the audience does not buy into, the film would be a ridiculous flop. The man who had to sell the concept and the execution of this movie is screenwriter/director Spike Jonze who is best known for Adaptation (2002) and Being John Malklovich (1999) both of which produced award winning performances, as well as a large number of short films and many music videos. The premise of Her is that technology has now produced a computer operating system, which can think, learn and even feel as a human being. Theodore ( Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely guy who has a job writing nice romantic letters for a website program. He is going through a divorce after 8 years of marriage with Catherine (Rooney Mara) who he thought had been the love of his life but they have grown apart. He readily connects with his new computer operating system who named herself Samantha (the voice of Scarlett Johansson). She understands him, is clever, funny, warm, sexy and they even have sex together which is a successfully done cinematic accomplishment although she doesn’t have a body. With a small earpiece in his ear, a little video camera sticking out of his front shirt pocket, they are always together. They chat, she does work for him, they discuss personal things, go out to dinner and even join another couple for a social evening out together. There is also Amy (played quite well by the talented Amy Adams) who is a friend and neighbor going through her own domestic issues and has a whirl with her own new operating system. The film is set in a beautiful future Los Angeles. However, what makes this movie a success is that it is much more than a story about a funny gimmick or an advanced Siri. It is a depiction of how lonely a person can be, despite having interactions with lots of people. It also is an examination of what love is and how it can slip away when you think you have it. This is tackling some big issues and you have to be willing to accept the daunting premise of the film, which is a difficult thing to do. But if you do, you will have quite an experience. (2014)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Romance
November 7th, 2013 — 7:57am
The Broken Circle Breakdown –sp (In Flemish with subtitles) This will be Belgium’s bid for the best foreign film of the year. Early on in the movie you learn about a married couple, very attracted to each other, have a 5 year old child who is dying of cancer. Elise is a tattoo artist (played by Veerle Bactens a very popular Belgium actress who can also sing quite well ) who joins her husband Didier (Johan Heldenberg) and his bluegrass musical group. Their grief over the loss of their adorable daughter Maybelle (Nell Cattrysse) tears them apart and they turn on each other. The anger and the hurt that they inflict on each other breaks up this wonderful relationship. This is one of the points of the film. Number two would seem to be the difference in how people deal with such a loss. Elise would like to believe that their daughter’s soul or spirit might reappear as a bird or is living on in some way whereas Didier believes that when you are gone you are gone! The third point we get from the film seems to come out of left field but is connected to the storyline. That is related to former President George W. Bush who vetoed stem cell research in the US and all the people who on religious grounds might have agreed with him. Didier in the film ridicules this point of view and goes on a tirade against it since he feels such research can save lives such as that of his daughter. The final point we believe that is made is that some people can never recover from such a tragedy, leaving one to believe that you should enjoy life while you can because you never know what terrible thing is around the corner . These are all worthy themes for a movie but we felt that they were dealt with in a relatively superficial manner thereby missing the opportunity to leave us with memorable film. Certainly the acting was outstanding. The movie was directed by Felix Van Groeningen who also wrote the screenplay with Carl Joos, after he saw the story written and directed on the stage by Johan Heldenberg who played Didier in this film. Van Groeningen showed the sexual chemistry of the couple quite well. He also used flashbacks, which is often the vogue in today’s movies but which we thought was somewhat overdone in this one. Whatever shortcomings the film may have had was made up by the effective intertwining of some terrific country bluegrass music throughout the film which included vocals by the two stars. This is particularly interesting because we learned that bluegrass music is not yet a popular genre in Belgium today. (2013)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign, Romance