December 18th, 2015 — 7:48am
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
November 20th, 2015 — 7:29pm
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
September 23rd, 2015 — 5:31am
LABYRINTH OF LIES -sp
To us, one of the most important and memorable aspects of this outstanding film is that the current generation of German filmmakers and the people related to this industry, have decided to make this movie the 2015 entry from Germany to the Oscars for best foreign film. Doing this also reflects the monumental theme of this movie, which is the responsibility of the German people for Auschwitz and the Holocaust.
The story is based on actual events and follows a young German prosecutor (Alexander Fehling) in Frankfurt, Germany in the early 1960s as he becomes aware that identifiable people now living in Germany were responsible for murder in the Auschwitz Camp during World War II. Although the Nuremberg trials, which occurred shortly after World War II nearly 20 years previously, were monumental in the prosecution of members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany who participated in the Holocaust and other war crimes, those trials were carried out by the victorious allies. In the film, which depicts a true story, we see, probably for the first time ever, a government trying to prosecute its own former soldiers. The question of who was guilty and was there any family spared having a war criminal among them is raised. As one of the characters states, the only innocent people were those who weren’t born yet or who were small children when all these events happened.
It matters very little that the main focus is on Johann Radmann who is the prosecutor played magnificently by Alexander Fehling, who was in reality a composite of three prosecutors in real life. All the characters in the movie are true to life and very believable. One of them, Fritz Bauer, played by the famous German actor, Gert Voss, has a famous legal institute now named in his honor. One of the buildings where the archival records were being searched in the film is the actual location of where the well kept records of the Nazi regime are now stored for historical examination.
Director/writer Giulio Ricciarelli has been very thoughtful in his choices, so as not to make the movie a recapitulation or a reenactment of the horrors of the Holocaust. Rather, he puts the focus on the impact on the people living in post-war Germany. One interesting point that was made very clear was that most of the German people at the time, depicted in the film, did not know about Auschwitz nor did they want to know about it.
We were reminded that our recent personal observations have shown that most contemporary Germans no longer deny their history. This was very clear to us in our recent visit to Berlin, where we saw the names of displaced Jews embedded in plaques on the sidewalks in front of their former houses. We also visited the very complete and well-done Holocaust museum as well as many other points of remembrance. This film clearly created an honest reflection of German history, which was not known to most of us. It was a powerful and beautifully done work of fact, emotion and importance. (2015)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Foreign, History, Uncategorized
July 2nd, 2015 — 2:35am
Love and Mercy – rm
This is a biopic about Brian Wilson, the leader of the Beach Boys. We did not know the story of how he went through a serious mental breakdown with psychotic symptoms for several years. During this period he apparently came under the influence of Dr. Eugene Landry, shown to be the evil doctor (wonderfully depicted by Paul Giamatti). Dr. Landry was said to be a psychologist in the film but was shown to be “over medicating” Wilson. What is very clear is the brilliance of Wilson. It is interesting to speculate whether or not some of his amazing creativity was related to his genius brain, which also may have been the source of his tendency to lose touch with reality. This is also a great love story (apparently true to life) between Brian Wilson and Melinda Ledbetter ( Elizabeth Banks). While it was not shown in the body of the film, she ultimately became his second wife and the mother of five of his children.
Great credit for this movie has to be given to Director Bill Pohlad. We also thought that Paul Dano was excellent as the younger Brian Wilson (he bulked up to add many pounds to his preexisting physical resemblance to the younger Wilson). We also felt that John Cusack was outstanding as the older, very troubled Brian Wilson. We can only repeat our phrase for Elizabeth Banks and Paul Giamiatti in their roles. But as expected the other star of the movie is the music. The soundtrack is constantly playing the old and the newer music created by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys which includes the title song and it adds to the authenticity of the film.
We hope you see this movie and if you’re any kind of a Beach Boys fan, we also suggest that after you view it you read about the trivia connected to the making of this film by going to the following link: CLICK HERE You will appreciate how the filmmakers worked so hard to present the story as true to life as possible
Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Drama, Musical, Uncategorized
June 25th, 2015 — 5:56am
The Little Death
This is an extremely well-done film about a subject that is usually not addressed in today’s cinematic arts. The title is the English translation for Petite Mort which is French for orgasm. The director, screenwriter and one of the actors (known for his acting in House of Lies) is Josh Lawson. He has put together a brilliant story and production which looks at various sexual fetishes.
The subjects are mostly loving couples where one of the partners has a sexual proclivity previously unknown to his or her partner. Take for example Paul (Josh Lawson) and Maeve (Damon Herriman). They could not be more devoted to each other even though they never got around to getting married. At the beginning of the film (spoiler alert of a very funny joke), Josh mishears Maeve after a recent sexual encounter, thinks that she is asking him to “rate” her. He complies with a very high score. Actually, she said she would like to be “raped” not “rated”. She goes on to try to deal with Josh’s consternation by explaining she has always had the fantasy to be raped by a man (who she would not know was actually Josh) but of course she would never want to have sex with anyone but Josh.
We allowed the spoiler to illustrate the subtle comedic elements that pervade this film as well as to introduce one of the sexual fetishes that is examined in this movie. The sophisticated among you may know that some variation of rape fantasies, perhaps being treated rough or even at the other extreme, are not uncommon.
So it goes, as we are introduced to other couples’ secret fetishes. One woman is very attracted to men who are very sad and cry, She is driven to try to bring about the state in her loving husband. You can find out the result of this as well as being introduced to the other couples and some of their secret fantasies as the film unfolds.
The film also brings up the not so unusual sexual situation for people who are deaf. We are introduced to this aspect of fetishes as a young deaf man Skypes a service which acts as an intermediary for deaf people who need to communicate with people of normal hearing. In this situation, the deaf young man attempts to use this service (which actually does exist) in order to call another service that provides phone sex. The intermediary is a young woman who must “sign”(communicate with her hands) to the young man and verbally convey his sexual wishes to the normal hearing phone sex lady on the other line. We will leave it to your imagination to picture the result of this situation, but like the rest of the film, it is also poignant, insightful and opens up an important part of life to the movie audience.
This film deserves the awards that it has already won at various film festivals and if it can get good distribution, should achieve wide play and perhaps establish a new movie genre. (2015)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Uncategorized
June 23rd, 2015 — 11:33pm
People often ask us for recommendations of films to see. Soon Oscar season will be upon us and we will want to see the newest films which will be contenders for the Academy Awards.
In the meantime, we have put together a list of 14 excellent movies which we have reviewed between January and June and which we suggest that you consider viewing this summer. Most of them will be out by July and probably all can be found on Netflix.
The top four were 5 star movies in our opinion and others were excellent 4 star movies. You can click and see our reviews for each one. As always your comments at the end of each review are welcome.
Michael and Susan Blumenfield
The Little Death
Me, Earl and the Dying Girl
Girl on the Edge
The Road Within
5 to 7
Merchants of Doubt
Comment » | 4 Stars, 5 Stars, Uncategorized
April 12th, 2015 — 8:24pm
Danny 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
October 10th, 2014 — 12:31am
Whiplash –sp As we move into the last quarter of the year, we are more likely to see movies and acting that will be Oscar contenders. This film, especially the performance of J.K.Simmons (You may know him from the Farmers Insurance ads on TV) may fit that category. Simmons plays Fletcher, a fanatical high school jazz bandleader, who is determined to win the prestigious band competitions. He will curse, belittle and do almost anything to his student musicians to seemingly get the best performance out of them. Andrew (Miles Teller) is one of those talented students who responds to his teacher and tries to drive himself to his furthest limit to be a great drummer. Many people in life have been inspired and challenged by a teacher. The movie suggest that there may be a moral question whether you can push a student too far to excel even if that student becomes the next Miles Davis or Charlie Parker. In the process of examining this question the viewer gets lots of jazz and what appears to be fantastic drumming. This film is the brainchild of Damien Chazelle who wrote the screenplay and also directed it. He himself was a musician in high school and was a pretty fair drummer who admits that some of his teachers may have prodded him a little too much and thus inspired this story. He worked closely with Miles Teller who was a rock drummer in his earlier youth but was coached to convert to do jazz drumming for the film. There was a weak romance theme as Andrew briefly befriends Nicole (Melissa Benoist). Andrew also has a very loving and supportive father played by Paul Reiser. These two latter characters added little to the story. Perhaps if they had been strongly interweaved into the main plot, the film itself might have reached a more sophisticated level. Certainly as it is, there is tension, drama and “all that jazz” including a great drum solo. You will come away thinking about this film and the questions raised by it. (2014)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Musical, Uncategorized
August 14th, 2014 — 11:48pm
May in the Summer- sp Cherien Dabis is an award winning Palestinian American director, producer and screenwriter who does all three roles in this film in addition to taking the starring role which she handles in outstanding authentic manner. May (Dabis) is coming home from the U.S. to see her mother in modern day Jordan to prepare for her upcoming wedding. Her mother (Hiaam Abbass) and her family are Christian and May’s fiancée is Muslim so we are introduced to one of the several themes of this film. May’s two sisters Dalia (Alia Shawkat) and Yasmine (Nadine Malouf) have also come to Jordon for the event and the conflicts and bickering among the sisters is part of the evolving story further highlighted by one sister acknowledging that she lesbian although she doesn’t like that label. The sister’s father (Bill Pullman) had left the girls’ mother and married a much younger woman (Rita Singh Pande). He tries to apologize for the neglect of his children and establish a relationship with them when May and her sisters visit their Dad and his new wife as May’s wedding plans are being made. Through the discussions with May’s mom we also become aware of the limited options for a divorced woman in this society, although she clearly hasn’t given up. On top of everything May has doubts about her decision to get married. Each one of these conflicted issues is evolving as the characters interact in a very believable environment. The film does not attempt to delve into any one of these themes in depth. Each of them could have been a separate story but it is the universality of all of them allows the audience to recognize the people in this human drama and find meaningful identifications with them. That is the strength and the success of this excellent film. (2014)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Uncategorized
May 26th, 2014 — 8:51pm
HOW MANY MOVIE THEATERS ARE WITHIN 30 MINUTES OF YOUR HOME??
We just read an article in the New York Times which noted that in the Bronx (which is a section of New York City), there are 1.4 million inhabitants but only two movie theaters We were quite surprised. We live in Los Angeles and there is a much larger concentration of movie theaters which would be expected since there are many film production companies in this area. However, we wondered how many movie theaters are within ½ hour drive of the readers of this blog. We would like to try a survey, which we hope the readers of this blog will consider answering.
Please answer the following questions
1- What city and country do you live?
2- How many movie theaters do you know that are within ½ drive hour from where you live?
3- What % of movies that you watch do you see in movie theaters?
4- What % of movies that you watch do you see on Netflix, other services or DVDs on your television or computer?
5- If you put any comments below, can we reprint them in our blog ? We will not print email addresses which will be confidential and will only use any name that is put in the comment)
Put any comments below:
Please copy and paste this page and send it in an email or as an attachment to Mblumenfield@gmail.com
There will be a random drawing from among the people who reply and a free great movie DVD will be sent to 2 winners (we will ask winners for their mailing address)
Comment » | Uncategorized