Beautiful Boy

October 15th, 2018 — 7:54pm

***

Beautiful Boy-rm

This movie has the potential to help educate the public about the terrible opioid epidemic in this country and to particularly highlight the devastating impact that methamphetamine is causing on so many young people. The story is based on the true life experiences of a young man by the name of Nic Sheff and that of his father, David Sheff, both of whom wrote books upon which the screen play by Luke Davis and by the film director, Felix Van Groeningen was written

We have not read the above books and do not know if there were any significant psychological determinants described for the teenage boy’s drug behavior shown in the books as they did not seem to be present in the film. This young man was played by Timothée Chalamet who was nominated for an Oscar last year for his performance in “Call Me By Your Name.” The father, David Sheff was played by comedian and veteran actor, Steve Carrell who certainly depicted the pain that his character felt upon seeing his son relapse multiple times and realizing that his love and care for his son could not save him from drugs

Toward the end of the film, we are confronted with the bold statement to the effect that methamphetamine is perhaps the most addictive and deadly of all the drugs being abused today. As a psychiatrist, one of us has been told by many different patients who abused drugs, that they know on average 10 to 20 people who have died of overdoses. The deadly toll in this film was actually mild compared to the reality that users know exists.

If you have encountered the scourge and deadliness of this epidemic, you may be able to identify with the pain of the characters in this film. If this is new to you, we are not sure that the movie will affect you as it should. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The Hate U Give

October 10th, 2018 — 6:15am

*****

The Hate U Give

We both read the outstanding book by Angie Thomas upon which this movie was based, and did not expect a film to make a strong impact on us especially since we were anticipating all the dramatic moments. Much to our surprise, we were totally engrossed in the film and had a meaningful emotional experience as the two hours and twelve minutes running time flew by.

The story opens with a father giving his children “the talk” which is well known to most black families. We then see their worst nightmare unfold as Starr (Amandla Stenberg) and Khalil (Algee Smith), two black teenagers who have known each other since childhood, are driving in a car when they are pulled over by a white policeman. The teenage boy who was driving was asked to get out of the car and wants to know why he is being pulled over and is quite irritated. A minute later there were gunshots. The boy is dead and the girl is about to go through a life changing experience. The audience steps into her shoes, or should we say sneakers, and identifies with her through the wonderful screenplay adaptation of Angie Thomas’ novel by Audrey Wells who unfortunately passed away shortly before the release of this movie.

The movie was directed by George Tillman Jr., an African-American film producer, screenwriter, and director, who previously directed Soul Food and Man of Honor. Stenberg is stunning as the beautiful young woman who displays a wide range of emotion and an ability to relate to the people around her as well as to the tumultuous experience that she was going through. Russell Hornsby (who we understand is an accomplished Shakespearian actor) was excellent as her father. The supporting cast, which included two siblings played by Lamar Johnson and T.J.Wright were on target as was Issa Rae who plays an activist attorney. The rest of the cast was superb as was the realistic setting that was created. We were moved to anxiety and tears. This certainly was one of the best films that we have seen this year. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Brampton’s Own

October 2nd, 2018 — 7:01pm

***

 Brampton’s Own – sp 

In this movie, baseball becomes a metaphor for a grandiose goal in life that may not be obtainable. Dustin (Alex Russell) is a catcher for a triple A minor league baseball team who is one step away from being elevated to a major league baseball team which would be the pinnacle of success for him. He has been hoping and trying to reach his goal in life for almost 10 years during the course of which, he has lost close touch with his friends, family and girlfriend (Rose McIver) who was the love of his life. If he is ready to abandon his dreams and come off the road should his friends, family and his old girlfriend who is about to be married come back into his life? There are perhaps two ways to view this main character. According to his mother (Jean Smart) he has to learn to enjoy and appreciate the journey, on the way to his life goal even if the goal is not obtainable. Or perhaps he is just a narcissistic, self-centered person that only cares about himself? Both may be true.

Writer-director Michael Doneger put together a skillful production team led by producer Mark DiCristofaro which filmed the story in an amazing 15 days. Kudos also goes to the young actor Carter Hastings who played Cody, a kid interested in baseball who is trying to learn about the “game.” This movie is not a “Field of Dreams” but it should stimulate some thoughts and discussion about life. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Sport

The Godfather

September 30th, 2018 — 6:02pm

*****

The Godfather

Recently my son, grandson and I got together for an evening of pizza and watching the original Godfather movie, which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1973. It also won the Oscar for Marlon Brando as Best Actor in a Leading Role and Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Coppola (who was a high school classmate of mine) was nominated for the Oscar for Best Director as were James Caan, Robert Duvall, Al Pacino for Best Supporting Actor. Also in the film were Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Ali MacGraw, Robert De Niro, Jill Clayburgh, the singer Al Martino and many other excellent actors and actresses. The movie also won the “75 years of Golden Globes Best Picture”.

The storyline, if you don’t know, is about an organized crime family in the 1950s led by Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) referred to as the “Godfather” and how they confronted the appearance of narcotics on the New York City crime scene. It is also about how the Godfather is transferring his power to his youngest son, Michael Corleone, a decorated United States Marine just returning from the war (Al Pacino). The movie depicts the lifestyle of this crime family with grandiose lovely wedding celebrations, as well as brutal murder scenes.

The fact that our viewing team of three did not notice nor mind the about three hours of running time of the film attest to the well-deserved success of the movie. In fact, it was my impression that the classic depiction of the Godfather by Marlon Brando appeared to be a much shorter role than I remembered it (although no one questioned his well-deserved acclaim). It was also interesting that his mumbled speech and the Italian accent of some of the characters led to the youngest member of our viewing team to turn on the English subtitle feature, which I didn’t even know was possible. Another feature of this movie was the recurring, haunting and memorable music theme, which was voted Best Grammy Score of a Motion Picture for that year.

If you are interested in re-experiencing a “blast from the past,” taking another pass at this great movie is highly recommended. Keep in mind  that there are two sequels also available. (1972)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 5 Stars, Crime, Drama

Fahrenheit 11/9

September 24th, 2018 — 12:41am

****

Fahrenheit 11/9- rm

This is a documentary movie by filmmaker, Michael Moore. So, if you know anything about him, you can expect a strong political statement reflecting his views. However, we found that he took us some places we did not anticipate and we were emotionally moved by several points that were being made.

While the title (One Day After Trump’s Election) and introduction zoomed in immediately on the election of Donald Trump, which surprised most everyone, probably including Trump and his supporters. Moore did not let us forget that there was a clear majority of voters supporting Clinton and of course, the Electoral College, which allowed Trump to be elected president, is a remnant of a compromise made to appease the slave states.

As we settled in to see a further dissection of Trumpism in this country, the movie took us on a somewhat different journey than we expected. We ended up in Moore’s homeland of Flint, Michigan where we were told the story of one of the most horrendous acts of deception ever played upon American citizens. The water supply of the city was changed and then came from a new river source, which was polluted with lead and other substances that were an irreversible poison to the residents of that city, especially impacting children. The governor of Michigan, Jim Snyder, even when he knew about the facts, hid the truth from the people in order to protect corporate interests who were benefiting by the status quo. He did make some changes, so a General Motors plant would have clean water so as not to damage the cars that were being made. Apparently, even President Obama did not understand the true gravity of the situation as we see him speaking in Flint, Michigan minimizing the seriousness of this issue.

This movie also took us to West Virginia, where we met poorly-paid teachers who defied their own union and were going on strike for a 5% raise in salary for themselves, school bus drivers and kitchen workers in the schools. We saw how their brave acts of defiance were then copied by teachers in other states, giving a picture of how people can rise up for their rights.

Seen through the eyes of this documentary filmmaker, the human elements of such events can be very well conveyed. However, nothing was more moving than the depiction of the well-known story of the children of Parkland, Florida who rose up to capture the hearts of the entire country as they exposed the self-centered actions of the gun lobby in this country who have resisted changes in gun control despite the massacre of the Parkland children by a crazed killer with an assault rifle.

The ending of this film brought us back to Trump with Michael Moore’s eye-opening clear comparison of the rise of Donald Trump and the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazism as seen in Germany. This documentary film pulls no punches and it will hit you in the gut, bring tears to your eyes and give you a great deal to think about. (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Politics

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)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Crazy Rich Asians

September 14th, 2018 — 11:00pm

***

Crazy Rich Asians-rm

This is a fast moving romantic comedy with an all-Asian cast which satires “crazy rich Asians”.

A young man decides to take his girlfriend with him from United States to go to a friend’s wedding in Singapore and also visit with his family. Although the young woman is an Economics professor in the United States, she did not have any idea of the tremendous wealth belonging to his family. The magnificent skyline of the city as well as that of Shanghai, beautiful nearby islands, gigantic yachts, spacious mansions, parties with attractive well-dressed people, music, dancing, unlimited food and drink are the background and the foreground of this film.

The young man’s mother as well as his grandmother questioned the intentions of the new girlfriend who they feel is pulling him to stay in the United States and not follow his destiny by taking over the family business in his homeland.

The storyline plays with the viewer. Just as you think the climactic dilemma is being solved one way, it changes and it’s now being worked out another way and then still another. It is a tumultuous story, all about love and a group of very wealthy “crazy rich Asians.” (2018)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

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)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Far From The Tree

August 25th, 2018 — 12:28am

***

Far From The Tree-nf

What happens when a parent realizes that their child is quite “different”? How do they feel, and of course how does the developing child experience life when he or she realizes there is a major difference in themselves and most of the people in the world? Andrew Solomon, the author of a well-received book with the same title of this movie, opens this documentary film by reflecting on his struggle and that of his parents as he became aware that he was gay.

The focus of filmmaker Rachel Dretzin was to also examine the real life examples of families and children with Dwarfism, Autism or Down Syndrome, as well as a situation of a seemingly normal teenager who for no apparent reason murders an eight-year-old child and is sentenced to life in prison.

Needless to say, each of these situations present a different set of circumstances in regard to the physical attributes, speech, intellectual ability and other life circumstances. We also can’t ever generalize how everyone will respond in each category. But what we were shown in these real life examples, was that all the children were ultimately shown unconditional love and acceptance by their families.

One very interesting situation was that of a young couple, both of whom had Dwarfism and were happily married. The wife becomes pregnant. At this point, they were not sure if they wanted the child to be normal or to be a small person like them.

The filmmaker did a very good job showing the viewers the dilemma and the feelings of all the parents and children. The analogy between the developmental disability and being gay on one hand seem to be a stretch, but yet, when seen through the eyes of the parents, gave us some worthwhile insight. On the other hand, each category depicted could have been examined in much more depth, perhaps in a separate documentary film for each one. We also felt we needed more insight into why and how the murderer came to do his deed. However, we saw the unconditional and continued love of the parents for their son as they had periodic phone calls with him as he served his life sentence. In fact, the strength and endurance of parental-child love in each family depicted was the real theme of this movie. (2017)

 

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

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)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

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