Category: Uncategorized


Trial By Fire

November 6th, 2018 — 9:12pm

****

Trial by Fire 

We see the theme of this movie played out on television all the time on shows such as Dateline or 20/20 and others. A person is accused or convicted of a murder but in many cases he or she did not do it. We recall at least two outstanding books which dealt with this subject, Just Mercy and The Ghost of the Innocent Man. We also recall an excellent film we saw several years ago on this subject titled Conviction. We know about the innocence project and the work of Barry Scheck in many states throughout the country and how scientific advances such as DNA testing have made an important impact on criminal prosecution. So, when director Edward Zwick and screenwriter Jeffrey Fletcher decided to take a prize-winning article in New Yorker Magazine by David Grann to the screen, they were not the first to put a searchlight on this important defect in our criminal justice system. Despite the fact also that we usually find any film over two hours a tad too long, they did an outstanding job which riveted us to our seats and allowed us to explore the characters involved and the message of the movie.

Jack O’Connell deserves Oscar consideration for his depiction of the nasty husband who frequently abused his wife and was home alone with his three children when a fire broke out and the kids were all killed. He claims he did not start the fire but the police, neighbors, fire inspector, a snitch who was briefly his cellmate, the district attorney, eventually his wife and the jury all say that he did it.

What follows is his nine years in jail and an insight into life in prison with much of it being in solitary confinement and then his time on death row. We also get an insight into this man’s character and how his understanding of life evolved. Another very important character is a woman played magnificently by Laura Dern who was recruited to write a letter to a prisoner in jail but ultimately meets him and becomes an advocate for him. We also get an eye-opening view of the criminal justice system in this particular state. In fact, we see that the checks and balances that are supposed to be in place are quite questionable all the way up to the office of the Governor. Did we mention that this took place in Texas? However, the injustices here are found throughout the country

When we saw this film and met the director, Edward Zwick, the film makers were having some difficulty in setting up distribution and a release date. You may have to catch this movie on TV. However, it should be seen and the message and the illumination it provides are incredibly important. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, Uncategorized

Boy Erased

October 19th, 2018 — 5:21am

*****

Boy Erased – sp

Conversion Therapy is a pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexuality or bisexuality to heterosexuality using psychological or spiritual interventions. There are 14 states and the district of Columbia that have banned Conversion Therapy for minors. There are also scattered counties and communities throughout the country where there is no state ban which have made laws against this practice (see map). This essentially means that in most of the United States, parents can mandate their children to stay in such a program. Since the medical and psychiatric communities have clearly established that sexual identity and orientation (straight, gay or bisexual) is determined at birth, any attempts at re-orientation are doomed to fail and have the potential to create more conflict and emotional turmoil.

This movie is based on a memoir by Garrard Conley which told his story of being the son of a Baptist pastor who is outed by his parents and then forced to attend a church conversion program with the purpose of “curing his homosexuality”. The experience that he goes through in this program is quite gripping and heart wrenching. The audience not only suffers through seeing things through his eyes but also sees the torment that some of the other attendees are going through which includes one young woman.

The three lead actors are outstanding. Lucas Hedges plays the young man. Nicole Kidman is his mother and Russell Crowe (who appears to have put on considerable weight for this role) does an excellent job as the minister who is the boy’s father. The film is directed by Joel Edgerton, who was also the screenwriter and played the role of Victor Sykes, the harsh and heavy-handed leader of the oppressive conversion program. The conflicts, psychological pain, turmoil and anger of the young man were very clear. At the same time, we saw the loving feelings, misguided but good intentions, that the father had for his son. The father-son love for each other despite their major life conflicts was depicted quite well as was the mother’s love and ultimate insight into the situation.

At the conclusion of the film, we had the opportunity to meet with Kerry Roberts, one of the producers of the film who brought the book to her production company and who told us about how the real-life family followed the story of it being brought to life. It should be very interesting to see how this film plays in most of the Unites States and the reaction and places where such so called “treatment” is allowed and can impact the lives of many young people. (2018)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized

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

Hearts Beat Loud

June 26th, 2018 — 10:54pm

****

Hearts Beat Loud-rm

There is something very special about a relationship between a father (Nick Offerman) and daughter (Kiersey Clemons) especially when it is a single dad who is raising his kid after the mother died at an early age. We meet such a duo just as the girl is getting ready to go away to college. There is another element which makes this relationship even more special and that is that the father and daughter make music together. They write, play, sing and edit their own songs. It is even more poignant since the deceased mom and dad were once a music duo themselves hoping to make it big. If you have ever seen the passion and joy that budding musicians have for their band even when they are just playing and it is “not a band”, you will appreciate and be moved by this film Director Brett Haley handled his cast quite well and especially brought out the musical talents of teenager Kiersey Clemons. The supporting cast was topnotch and included Ted Danson, Toni Collette, Sasha Lane, and Blythe Danner. This musical trip should appeal to teenagers as well as those of us who can remember how we felt about the music that moved us when we were young. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Uncategorized

Battle of the Sexes

December 28th, 2017 — 4:12am

***

Battle of the Sexes-sp

Most of you may know about the story of the tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1993. We have memories of the time and the famous event that took place. However this movie does capture more than a battle between a talented, skillful female tennis champion standing up to an older male, retired professional tennis player who was a male chauvinistic showman who thought he could laugh his way to making money and putting down women. This story and this well-done film shows us the beginning of the Women’s Movement and also the glimmer that eventually grew to a shining light where gay women could eventually be themselves. This goal still had a long way to go in the 1970s when this story took place.

Emma Stone was excellent as Billie Jean King and Steve Carell could not have been better as the clueless self-proclaimed, “Man” of the hour. Andrea Riseborough was very good as Billie Jean’s intimate confidant and hair dresser. The excellent supporting casts included Nathalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Elizabeth Shue, Alan Cumming and Eric Olsen. The movie was directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris with the screen play by Simon Beaufoy. The dramatic tennis matches which were shown in the film may have used actual archived footage, which certainly added to the excitement of the movie. This story deserved to be told and we are sure that it will have an important place in cinematic history about the role of women in sports and in American culture as well as memorializing an exciting key moment in time. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Sport, Uncategorized

Just Getting Started

November 28th, 2017 — 11:54pm

**

Just Getting Started-sp

Director/Screenwriter, Ron Shelton (Bull Durham, Tin Cup, White Men Can’t Jump, Cobb, Blaze) in a post-screening discussion stated that he made this film for the over 50 crowd. He probably means even 10 years older but didn’t want to limit his audience. Even so, while we fit that demographic we couldn’t relate very well to the film. It is supposed to be a feel-good Christmas movie although Christmas is not the main theme.

It would seem that you are supposed to come away from the movie feeling that one should always be having a good time now and in the future. Duke, played by Morgan Freeman, who always is great in any role that he takes on, is the director of a wealthy retirement community in Palm Springs, California. He has lots of women who are certainly good for sex and you get the feeling that a good time is had by all. There is a new “sheriff” in town by the name of Leo, played by Tommy Lee Jones and we’re not quite sure exactly why he is in town but he is trouble for Duke. So is Suzie (Rene Russo) who is sent by the hotel owner with a job to do but of course gets caught up with the cast of characters.

There is a plot with some twists and turns and even a surprise or two but frankly we didn’t care much although it was mildly pleasant to watch. The supporting casts included familiar faces such as Glenne Headly(sadly in her last performance), Joe Pantoliano, Elizabeth Ashley, Sheryl Lee Ralph and singer Johnny Mathis, who is now in his 80s and plays himself and sings almost as well as ever.

With so many great movies out there today we can’t recommend this one, even for a holiday interlude. (2017

Comment » | 2 Stars, Comedy, Uncategorized

Loving Vincent

November 21st, 2017 — 7:43pm

*****

Loving Vincent-sp

This animated film is beautiful and original with a special approach that we have never before seen on the screen. The husband and wife team of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, director and screenwriters as well as co-producers have focused on the life (also particularly the death) and the paintings of Vincent Van Gogh. They filmed their intriguing story using an excellent cast starring Douglas Booth, Robert Gulaczyk, Eleanor Tomlinson, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan and a very good supporting cast who acted out the entire story. Yet, none of the actual film of the actors were shown. Instead, a team of over 100 oil painting artists were recruited to paint over the film with the beautiful colors and the style of Van Gogh. That is 12 paintings for each second and thus for the 94 minute film they were well over 60,000 paintings made by this team of talented artists. Then using animation techniques, the movie was put together. The result is that we are watching a very interesting story about Van Gogh in an animated movie at the same time that we are seeing the familiar images of Van Gogh’s paintings move before us in a coherent story presented to us in living color. They were even some sequences done in black and white to show flashbacks in Van Gogh’s life.

While the artistic effect of this movie is mind blowing, the actual story is also quite fascinating. It is of course based on historical facts which included a possibility that the well-known reported suicide of Vincent Van Gogh at the age of 36 was actually a murder.

We have here an extremely well done story presented in a unique cinematic fashion which matches the content of the story. The result is not only ground-breaking but a beautiful experience which we highly recommend. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

November 8th, 2017 — 1:52am

***

Roman J. Israel, Esq. – sp

Denzel Washington has embraced a character from the pen (or should we say the keyboard) of screenwriter/director Dan Gilroy and turned in an outstanding, unforgettable performance. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a somewhat socially isolated lawyer, perhaps a little on the autism spectrum side, who not only is extremely bright (can give you obscure citations from the Code of Justice) but is idealistically principled to take on cases of the poor and disadvantaged. He also has a dream and an inspiration that through case law he will ultimately make the criminal justice system fair and equal for all people. His actions and spirit inspire George Pierce (Colin Farrell), head attorney of a big firm previously only interested in making more money and Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo) an idealistic young lawyer who is trying to find herself. Perhaps the two hours and two minutes makes the film somewhat drawn out. However, the takeaway message is that Roman J. Israel, Esq. is shown to be a human being with frailties like everyone else. We see that his spirit and idealism will live on not only in this story but in the viewer’s minds and hearts. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Uncategorized

Anomalisa

December 18th, 2015 — 7:48am

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 6.49.18 PM**

Anomalisa-sp

This is a movie like no other movie that you have seen. The technique used is stop-action puppets. This means that realistic puppets of human beings were utilized which were about one foot in length with movable parts to simulate walking and talking. Sets made to scale were built in which these figures would exist and interact with other puppet/people. The puppets in the environment in which they were interacting would be slightly changed for each frame (24 frames per second). it would take an animation team one day to film two and a half seconds of the film. There were about 15 animation teams working at one time with many identical puppets and several identical sets. It took many months to build the puppets and plan for each scene. The entire endeavor took about two years.

If you think this setup was unusual , the voice over approach was also quite unique. There were two separate voices for the two main characters. David Thewlis was the voice of Michael Stone, a middle-aged businessman who comes to stay at a hotel in Cincinnati in order to deliver a speech the next day. He meets a young woman by the name of Lisa, voice-over by Jennifer Jason Leigh, with whom he has an affair. All the other numerous characters which include a wife and child, an old girlfriend, numerous hotel personnel and a few other characters all have voice-over by one person, Tom Noonan!

The creative nature of this film continues as you try to figure out what exactly was the meaning of the story. You will have to wade through a dream sequence, a serious hotel love making scene, most of the voices sounding the same, and a mixed up main character who seems to be having a lot of trouble figuring out who he really loves and does he really love it all.

This is all the brain child of Charlie Kaufman who wrote the screenplay and directed and produced it with Duke Johnson. They kick-started it all by raising $400,000 (with the initial contributors getting puppets and parts of the miniature sets) and then put together a relatively low budget of a couple of million dollars more which Paramount and some others provided.

We can’t recommend this as a worthwhile cinematic experience, considering all the excellent films out there today, unless this stuff is right up your alley. However, we do admire the unusual creative effort. (2015)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized

Skeleton Twins

November 20th, 2015 — 7:29pm

Screen Shot 2015-11-20 at 9.09.24 AM**

Skeleton Twins – nf

It is rare that the two authors of this blog can’t come to an agreement or a good compromise on the value of the film, which we are reviewing. This was a movie, which one of us couldn’t recommend and the other thought some people would really enjoy it.

We do agree that Kristen Wiig, who played Maggie, and Bill Hader, who played Milo, are great actors with a wonderful comedic touch. They play two grownup twins now living in different parts of the country who haven’t seen each other in 10 years and are about to kill themselves at the same moment in time (opening Scene). We see that they had pretty bad parenting. Their mother didn’t seem to be able to express any love to them and their father committed suicide when they were young kids.

They obviously don’t succeed in their attempt to kill themselves and they are now spending some time together. He is gay and was molested by Rich(Ty Burrell), his high school teacher/mentor when he was 15 years old. Now that he is back in town, he visits his old hero teacher who has his own 16-year-old son. Milo and the teacher have a sexual encounter and we are somehow led to believe that the teacher/child molester isn’t really that bad? Meanwhile, Maggie has the nicest husband that you can imagine, Lance (Luke Wilson) and they are trying to have a baby, at least that’s what he thinks. Maggie is hiding the birth control pills while she is having an affair with her scuba-diving instructor, which follows two other affairs with other instructors that she has had. As you can imagine, the only authentic relationship is that between Maggie and Milo who have shared their horrible childhood. They have at least learned to lip-sync to some songs together, which they can now do since they have reunited.

Certainly, everybody will agree that this brother and sister need therapy, although there are no signs of that in the story. We do agree there is something poignant about seeing them reunite. At least they have each other and maybe they will get help someday. (2014)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized

Back to top