The Beguiled

July 17th, 2017 — 4:56am

**

The Beguiled-rm

Three years into the Civil War, a pre-teenage Southern girl picking mushrooms in the woods stumbles upon a wounded Yankee soldier (Colin Farrell) after a battle has moved on. She brings the injured soldier to a woman’s school where she lives with eight females ranging from a teacher to two or three preteens in a large beautiful old southern mansion which housed the school.

Here is where the title of the movie becomes important. Before we looked it up, we thought the word “beguiled” has a meaning somewhere between “attracted to” and “seduced by”. The actual dictionary definition that we found in Merriam-Webster’s (online of course): is “to lead by deception… hoodwinked… to deceive by wiles…” So this movie appears to be about what this soldier living with these girls and women did to them… and what they did to him. The movie which was directed Sophia Coppolla, daughter of Francis Ford and Eleanor Coppolla is a remake of an older movie of the same name from 1973 starring Clint Eastwood with an apparent slight change in emphasis. We haven’t seen the earlier film but we believe this new version is more from a female perspective.

We were on the edge of our seats for the first half of the film but then found that it didn’t hold up. We both felt that the plot turned unbelievable. The women were played by strong actresses that included Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning, but we really didn’t come to understand any of the the character’s backstory and we felt we were left high and dry at the conclusion. (2017)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

Wendy and Lucy

July 16th, 2017 — 7:17am

**

Wendy and Lucy-nf

We saw this 2008 film recently listed on somebody’s list in the New York Times as one of the the best 25 movies, so we gave it a try on Netflix. Michelle Williams plays Wendy, a young girl with short hair who was driving in her old car with her trusty dog, Lucy, from Indiana to Alaska when her car breaks down in a small town in Oregon. She then loses her dog who was tied up outside a grocery store when she was picked up there for shoplifting. We will leave you in suspense whether she finds her dog for that is the essence of this film.

Director Kelly Reichardt who co-wrote the screenplay with Jon Raymond keeps the focus on Michelle Williams throughout the film. She is magnetic. We feel for her and we care for her. Whether we are dog lovers or not, we know what Lucy means to her. However, we essentially do not know anything about Wendy’s background or what makes her tick. She could be an abused child, a high school dropout, an autistic genius or even a serial killer or anything else. Perhaps the film is a Rorschach ink blot test for the audience since we are barely given a clue.

This is one of those movies that doesn’t go anyplace. The question is whether the ride was worth it. We thought not. (2008)

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

Strange Weather

July 12th, 2017 — 4:07am

*****

Strange Weather- sp

Holly Hunter gives a knockout performance as Darcy a grieving mom, who has kept her sorrow pretty much to herself for five or six years until she learns some new information about the death of her son. She then embarks upon a road trip in an old Ford Pickup Truck with her friend Byrd (Carrie Coon) through the deep rural south in order to track down Mark Wright (Shane Jacobsen) her son’s friend who was the last person with him before he died.

The deep twang of the guitar plus the haunting soundtrack put together by Sharon Van Etten adds an emotional beat to this movie. As Darcy penetrates deeper into the south and visits her old now mute ex-husband, there is a buildup of the gut-wrenching emotion that Hunter brings to her role and which reaches the climax when she confronts the now very successful Mr. Wright.

Director-screenwriter Katherine Dieckmann uses her written dialogue and her camera to closely examine the raw and at times beautiful feminine nature of these characters. Underlying the painful theme of this story is an uplifting message which makes the emotional rollercoaster ride that it provides to be quite worthwhile.

We expect to see many awards bestowed upon this film and especially Ms. Hunter. (2017)

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

The Big Sick

July 7th, 2017 — 5:27am

****

The Big Sick-rm

Kumail Nanjiani is a comic actor who is one of the stars of the TV series Silicon Valley. This movie is based on Nanjiani’s real life. It is co-produced by Judd Apatow who is known for two great comedy classics Bridesmaid and Trainwreck. Nanjiani comes from a traditional Pakistan family who emigrated from Pakistan to Los Angeles. They expected their son to marry a Pakistani girl which they would be glad to arrange for this to happen. They also would prefer that he become a lawyer rather than work in the world of comedy which he was doing as a struggling standup comedian. Emily (Zoe Kazan) meets Nanjiani when she makes some comments during his standup act at a comedy club. She is from Chicago but is living in Los Angeles. There is obviously a chemistry between these two as the story develops.

Stop here and read no further if you don’t like spoilers! Since there has been a great deal of press about this movie, you may know what develops in the film. One of us (SB) knew the story but still loved the movie. One of us (MB) also loved the movie but preferred not to know any spoiler events and viewed the film without knowledge of the background of the characters until he saw the movie.

So now, welcome to those who are just continuing with this review or perhaps are returning after you have seen the film. This movie was actually co-written by Kumail Nanjiani and his real life wife Emily V. Gordon. They recount how despite that they were very compatible sexually and otherwise, Kumail needed to please his parents and therefore broke off their budding romance.

The big event that changed everything was “The Big Sick” and that was a life threatening infection, which led Emily to be hospitalized and then put into a medical coma. This event brought her parents Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano) to Los Angeles where they meet and ultimately connected with Kumail. Hunter is terrific as the energetic and emotional mom. It is hard to forget Romano as anyone but “Raymond” of his classic TV series but he is still a likable character and could very well be the caring dad that he portrays. However, it is Nanjiani’s facial expressions that convey his emotional caring while his words express sincerity, irony, and comedy. These words, as well as the words added by all the actors were co-written by Nanjiani and his real life wife Emily V. Gordon. The comedic lines throughout this movie drew out loud laughter from our movie audience, which is something we often don’t see. Obviously, the continued existence of the co-writers of this film reveals a recovery and a happy ending of this movie and for this talented couple. The film is worth seeing whether you know the story or not. It is smart, funny, poignant and full of life, despite the “near death” experiences of the characters and their relationship! (2017)

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

Get Me Roger Stone

June 29th, 2017 — 6:52pm

The following is a guest review  by Larry Hott,  a prominent film maker and movie critic with whom we are very close. (see his bio and link to radio interviews about this film at the end of this review)

****

Get Me Roger Stone -nf

Review by Larry Hott

Have you heard stories about a political operative who has a picture of Richard Nixon’s face tattooed on his back? Roger Stone is that guy. He’s the protagonist of the new Netlfix documentary that’s out in theaters right now and online on Netlfix.

Some reviewers say you’ll feel the need to take a long hot cleansing shower after watching this snake and I couldn’t agree more. The filmmakers, (three are named directors – Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme) let you know that they think Stone is responsible for the rise of Trump and virtually every evil that’s happened in American politics since the age of Goldwater.

Stone, who is this weird looking guy who kind of reminds me of Julian Assange (in fact there’s a Julian Assange connection) gets his start by befriending the infamous Roy Cohn, the chief counsel to Joe McCarthy and also, by no coincidence, an advisor to Trump.   Stone helped run the Reagan campaign, was instrumental in defeating Gore in Florida during the 2000 recount, and has been involved deeply and malevolently in the Trump campaign from the start. “The New Republic” called him “The State of the Art Washington Sleazeball.”

This movie has amazing interviews, including a sit down with Trump that almost makes him, Trump, seem like a reasonable person. Maybe it’s by comparison to Stone, who keeps spouting his personal rules, which include “The Past is F-ing Prologue,” and “Hate is a more powerful motivator than love.” Trump loves this guy and owes him a lot. It’s not clear if Stone really believes in anything but himself and winning and making a ton of money. This is a guy who got caught advertising sex parties with his wife and him online and then denied it, then admitted it, and thinks now that it serves his brand. He’s in deep with Alex Jones, the delusional Info Wars conspiracy theorist and that’s all you really need to know about his mentality.

It’s fun to watch this film if you’re both a political junky and a masochist. It’s weird to see Trump talk about someone other than himself, to see Paul Manafort spill the beans on their strategy and then have every move picked apart by the extremely articulate writers Jane Mayer and Jeffrey Toobin, who should be given the documentary award of merit for demonstrating some sense of decency and honesty around these cynical and hateful political manipulators.

If you need a primer on the last election, the film will do nicely, but it’s also very up-to-date, with a mention of Stone connection to Julian Assange and the possible Russian collusion with both of them to release documents about Hillary Clinton’s emails. (WikiLeaks published emails related to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign that intelligence agencies say were hacked by Russian intelligence.)

As a documentary it’s not perfection by a long shot. You have to know the characters and there’s no scorecard. It’s a bit like switching channels from Fox News to MSNBC to CNN and PBS News Hour back and forth for 90 minutes. Like Laura Poitra’s Julian Assange documentary “Risk,” however, you do get to know the personalities and you’ll be a better informed political junky if you watch it through the painful recap of the 2016 election. As a filmmaker there is fun recurring bit – Roger Stone, who seems to enjoy being on camera more than screwing his enemies, introduces the film crew to everyone they meet as a bunch of liberal, commie pinko filmmakers. It’s nice to be in such good company.

One more thing, there is a piece of music the filmmakers use that is eerily similar to Errol Morris’s soundtrack in the classic film “Fog of War,” the portrait of Robert McNamara. McNamara comes off as a saint compared to Stone, who is Machiavelli’s love child, no doubt.(2017)

Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey began work­ing together in 1978, as members of the Florentine Films consortium.  They formed Florentine Films/Hott Productions in 1981. Since then they have produced two dozen films for national PBS broadcast as well as several productions for web and educational distribution. Their awards include an Emmy, two Academy Award nominations, a duPont -Columbia Journalism Award, the Erik Barnouw History Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, five American Film Festival Blue Ribbons, and 14 CINE Golden Eagles.  Their films have been broadcast internationally and Hott and Garey have presented their documentaries in special programs in Canada, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Algeria, Great Britain and Vietnam.

You can hear two Larry Hott interviews about this film on WHMP Radio at http://whmp.com/podcasts/vaya-con-munoz-6-17-17/ and http://whmp.com/podcasts/who-framed-roger-stone/

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

Midnight Return

June 28th, 2017 — 3:44am

***

Midnight Return-sp

Billy Hayes was a 23 year old student when he was caught trying smuggle four pounds of hashish , strapped to his body out of Turkey in 1970. He was originally sentenced to four years in a Turkish prison but then the sentence was change to a life sentence. During the course of his imprisonment he was transferred for a while to psychiatric hospital and then to another Turkish prison. In 1975 after 5 years in prison he miraculously escaped to freedom via a row boat to a nearby town and then found his way to the Greece border with money his father had clandestinely given him during a prison visit and he ultimately made it back home to the United States.

Once back in the U.S. he wrote a book on his experience, titled Midnight Express which in 1978 was made into a wildly successful movie starring Brad Davis, directed by Alan Parker, with an award winning screenplay by Oliver Stone which essentially launched the now famous movie director’s career. The unanticipated impact of this movie was to portray all Turks as bad and to basically to paint a world wide negative image of Turkey which impacted its reputation and hurt it economically especially in regards to tourism.

Sally Sussman, a successful writer who was Head Writer of the daytime television programs, Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless, became interested in the story behind the movie and found a way to meet with the various moviemakers of this film and Billy Hayes himself. She put together the team that raised the capital to make this documentary film Midnight Return and interviewed Hayes, his family, Stone, Parker as well as others who were crucial in making the film. She examined the impact of the film, how certain issues were exaggerated, gives an insight into how Turkish Americans reacted to it and most interestingly through old footage and many interviews traces the life of Billy Hayes for about the 40 years since he escaped from Turkey.

We can imagine that those who have seen the original 1978 Midnight Express and were impacted by it when it came out, will find this follow up to be especially fascinating. We did feel that this 99 minute documentary felt somewhat drawn out. It did not give us the in depth look at Mr. Hayes that we would have liked. While he did develop somewhat of an acting career later in his life and actually recently visited Turkey, it does appear that he remained single and this early trauma of his youth still dominates his life. (2017)

 

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

Marie Curie:The Courage of Knowledge

June 20th, 2017 — 7:04pm

***

Marie Curie: The Courage Of Knowledge – sp

Wonder Woman may be the box-office bombshell that has women and young girls flocking to the movies (along with the guys) because she is an unequivocal super hero who happens to be a woman. Well, there is another woman on the block and in a few weeks Marie Curie is going to be released in Los Angeles and then in the rest of the country. While this film may not quite have the excitement and actions seen in WW, but certainly, she should be as big hero and role model.

Director and screenwriter of this film, Marie Noelle, shared her thoughts from Germany via a Skype hookup projected on the big screen after our preview viewing of this movie. Marie Curie had been her hero as a child because of her scientific accomplishments. However, it was what she learned about her personal life that fueled the filmmaker’s desire to work on this project.

Marie Curie was born in Poland and studied in Paris where she conducted the pioneer research in radioactivity. She discovered radium and how this could be used to treat cancer. She won two Nobel prizes and was the first woman accepted into the French Academy of Science despite great resistance because she was a woman.

A major focus of this film however was not only the resistance to her being recognized because she was a woman, but also because it became public knowledge that she was having an affair (after her husband died) with a married scientific collaborator and actually, had been threatened by the knife-wielding slighted spouse. This obviously would have been a non-issue had she been a man.

Karolina Gruszka was superb in her portrayal of Curie. Curie’s devotion to her work and her personal and professional passion to family and to equality were crystal clear. The film was in French with subtitles and at times we felt that something was missed in the translation as they flashed by. There were many bearded men in the movie and we weren’t sure at times who was who. Albert Einstein even made an appearance, but we didn’t exactly appreciate his role in the scheme of things. The photography, scenery and the characters sweeping across the screen sometimes made us lose track of the storyline. Both men and women will benefit by seeing this film and appreciate the trials and tribulations of this extraordinary scientist. (2017)

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

Beatriz at Dinner

June 20th, 2017 — 7:27am

***

Beatiz At Dinner-rm

A very plain but beautiful, young Mexican woman (Salma Hayek) who is a spiritual masseuse who believes in the holistic approach to healing, is finishing up with her last client who is a wealthy woman (Connie Britton) living on a fancy estate in Southern California, when she finds that her car would not start to go home. She is invited to join the woman and her husband (David Warshofsky), along with two couples (Chloe Sevigny, John Lithgow, Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass) who have come to visit for an evening dinner party.

In this movie, there is no mention of American politics whatsoever. However, this film becomes a clear metaphor for the current political scene in the United States. One of the men (Lithrow) is a very wealthy real estate mogul. The contrast between Beatriz and this guy is crystal clear. He feels that his destiny is to live his life to the fullest with no real regard if he tramples other people’s lives and for sport he chooses to hunt and kill a large powerful animal. She would protect people if their land was being taken away for business ventures and could even bring a goat into her house if doing this would save its life from the elements. There are clear allusions as to how some people question other people’s citizenship and would also put the outdoor environment in jeopardy just for their own pleasure. There are references to how some people collude for their own benefit and do not really care about the less affluent. In a metaphoric way, the question is raised as to how angry will the oppressed really get? So angry that they might fantasize killing the oppressor, but in the end might sadly drown into self-annihilation.

Director Miguel Arteta did a magnificent job with the story written by Mike White. You will not see this movie on the list of current thrillers, but it is a chilling contemporary satire of the modern political debate in America. (2017)

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

Love Actually

June 17th, 2017 — 6:01am

***

Love Actually-nf

Through the magical power of Netflix, we are able to go back in time, 14 years and view an ensemble film that we recall was well received at the time and was nominated for a Golden Globe award. You will see a number of familiar faces in this movie who turned in great performances. This includes Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Keira Knightley, Laura Linney, Allen Rickman, Billy Bob Thornton and others who we didn’t recognize but who were quite good.

The movie is the brainchild of writer-director, Richard Curtis. This setting is on the other side of the pond in London, England. The film is about couples being attracted to each other and falling in love. There are about 10 separate couples involved but the stories do interconnect. There is a British prime minister who falls for his assistant, a screenwriter who is drawn to a young Portuguese woman although they can’t speak each other’s language. There is a married CEO who is smitten by his secretary. There is even an approximately 10 to 12-year-old boy who is certain that he is in love with a girl in his class and is getting advice how to declare his love by his recently widowed dad. Contrast that scenario with two porn stars who aren’t moved by their coupling on the set but find themselves in a budding romance off screen. The movie takes place around Christmas time which adds to the joyous feel good mood which emanates from the screen. There is a great soundtrack which facilities the exciting emotions sprouting forth before us.

The title suggests that this movie is a celebration of love. We would beg to differ on this point. Just about all the characters have a relatively superficial relationship and very little knowledge of each other at the point where they believe they are falling in love. Certainly, we understand this could be a very exciting time for people experiencing this great attraction to each other. If this were real life, many of the relationships would soon cool off and unfortunately, it might even taken several years of marriage before they would go their separate ways. So while the title is Love Actually, we think it might better be called Actually Attraction. Nevertheless, it was a great film to watch. The DVD also has an interesting narration of the movie while it is playing by the director-screenwriter, Richard Curtis who discusses the film with some of the well-known actors who appear in it (2003)

 

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

People, Places, Things

June 11th, 2017 — 6:05am

***

People , Places, Things -nf

A man walks in on his wife’s infidelity. The marriage is over and we follow Will Henry (Jemaine Clement), a graphic artist as he tries to get on with his life at the same time that he stays involved with his grade school aged twin daughters (Audrea and Gia Gadsby). Yes, he meets another woman (Regina Hall) and also his wife (Stephanie Allynne) does have second thoughts.

The fact that the film makers could not come up with a more meaningful title may reflect the rather superficial nature of this story. We did feel the pain of the protagonist and we can’t helping thinking that the director/screenwriter Jim Strouse was telling a story of someone he knew quite well. It also was an interesting attempt to show how comic illustrations often can help tell a story in more depth. Unfortunately we did not feel that the film achieved this to any significant degree. ( 2015)

 

 

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

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