In The Heights

June 23rd, 2021 — 1:20am

In The Heights
****

This musical may very well live on for future generations and enter the category of great productions such as Westside Story and Hamilton. The latter also had the lyrics and music by Lin-Manuel Miranda as he did In The Heights. This is the movie version of the Broadway musical which opened in New York in 2008 and which we had enjoyed then.

The story takes place in Washington Heights in the Northern tip of Manhattan in New York City. We meet a young man who hopes to return to native country of Dominican Republic. There are interesting subplots, which include a beloved grandmother who reminisces about her childhood in Cuba, a young woman who comes back to the neighborhood after her first year of college at Stanford University and is torn apart by conflicts concerning how to fit in and, of course, there is passionate romance. We may have missed a couple of beats and some of the subplots; however, we do not think this matters very much because we are overwhelmed with the music, singing, and absolutely terrific choreography to the backdrop of this very realistic depiction of life in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. There is among many scenes of sensational movie magic, where two lovers are seen dancing on the side of the buildings, just to highlight the creativity of the production.

We originally planned to watch this movie in two to three parts since we knew it was 2 hours and 22 minutes; however, we could not resist watching the entire film in one sitting.

The cast, while mostly not known to us, were extremely talented in song and dance as well as in the development of their characters. We did recognize Jimmy Smits in one character role, and a small but interesting role which Miranda did cast himself.

This is certainly a movie to see for its sweet stories, pluck and exuberance, joyous musical style and fantastic production numbers. It is a happy opening up following the months of pandemic isolation. and if you have the chance to see it live, we are sure that the stage production is a knockout.

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

Nowhere In Africa

June 19th, 2021 — 4:00am

Nowhere in Africa
****

This is a 2001 German film which was written and directed by Caroline Link. It is based on an autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig.

We thought that we had seen every aspect of Holocaust books and films, yet this subtle, touching, thoughtful story tells a poignant tale that reflects the deep-seated impact as much as the classic well known literary and cinematic productions have done on this subject. It tells the story of a German Jewish family; father, mother, and young daughter, who fled Germany “to the middle of nowhere in Africa” which is actually in Kenya.

Perhaps this story is best reflected through the eyes of a young girl as she grows into early adolescence during what must have been a seven or eight year period. She is accepted into the native culture. Her parents have their struggles and conflicts. Their pain in missing their relatives and learning of their fate is a well-known part of history. The viewers must put themselves into the shoes of this threesome as they ultimately must decide whether to stay or leave and where to go once the war is over.

The skill of the filmmaker is reflected in the fact that we forget that we are seeing a foreign film with subtitles. The setting is quite real as are the characters and their in-depth portrayal.

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

Steal A Pencil For Me

May 22nd, 2021 — 1:00am

Steal A Pencil For Me-nf
****

As have so many stories about the holocaust, this film produced by Michel Ohayon has touched our hearts. It tells a true story about a man Jac Polak and woman Ina Soepwho met in Holland shortly before the Nazis took over. He was infatuated with her although he was married to someone else. When their time came and they were deported to a concentration camp, they kept in touch with each other through clandestine letters and notes (hence the movie title). Through this continued relationship (along with film clips of various cattle cars whisking the Jews away and pictures and clips of the horrors that went on during those terrible years), we ultimately learned that this unusual couple never lost hope that they might reunite. Sure enough after liberation, they found each other and have had more than 60 years of marriage. It is no surprise that this is a moving story that not only tells about enduring love, but reminds us about history that we must never forget.

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

The Center Will Not Hold

May 18th, 2021 — 1:58am

May 16, 2021
The Center Will Not Hold
***

This is a 2017 biographical film about the story of the iconic writer, Joan Didion. It is directed by her nephew actor, Griffin Dunne, and was produced by her cousin, Annabella Dunne. This probably explains why the filmmakers appeared to have such easy access to the main subject as well as so many personal videos and footage of her life. While we are contemporaries of the main subject and we are familiar with the various cities where she has lived on both coasts, our lives have been quite different. We were in San Francisco at the same time as she was. While one of us was a newly married intern at San Francisco General Hospital and the other was a newly minted social worker, Ms. Didion was at parties with Janis Joplin, Harrison Ford, Brian De Palma, Martin Sarkozy, and Steven Spielberg. The film gives us a very intimate portrait of this amazing talented writer who is married to John Dunne, a very talented writer himself. Whereas some well-matched couples can finish each other sentences, this dyad were able to edit and finish each others manuscripts.

It is clear that Ms. Didion was an extremely talented sought after writer from top magazines such as Vogue and has written some very well received novels. Her personal experiences and her emotional life is clearly captured and reflected in this film and includes the very meaningful relationship that she had with her husband and her adopted daughter who died at the age of 39 shortly after the death of her father and Ms. Didion’s beloved husband.

What makes this movie a meaningful cinematic experience is not only the words and life story of the main subject, but how well personal film and video footage is weaved into the storyline along with contemporary clips reflecting the times and life of this amazing woman.

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

The Father

May 5th, 2021 — 6:48am

The Father
****

It is easy to see why Anthony Hopkins was recently awarded this year’s Academy Award for Best Actor. He is magnificent as an old man with a fading memory in this film. The movie is presented in a manner that the viewers experiences the memory lapses and subsequent episodes of confusion as if it were happening to us. Hopkins’ facial expressions, voice, movements, and interactions with the other characters are near perfect. He moves easily between anger and fury to softness and sadness.

The film was written and directed by Florian Zeller who has adapted his prize-winning French play of the same name along with Christopher Hampton. Interestingly, the main character’s first name is “Anthony”. His daughter is played by Olivia Colman who also turned in an outstanding performance. To make things even more interesting, Anthony’s daughter is also played at a different age by Olivia Williams who physically resembles Ms. Coleman. There were several clever manipulations of the setting all adding up to a somewhat unique cinematic experience.

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

Pieces Of A Woman

March 21st, 2021 — 5:35am

PIECES OF A WOMAN
***

This film, directed by Kornel Mundruczo with screenplay by Kata Weber, is about a couple’s decision to have their first child delivered by a midwife at home. Things do not go as planned. We become immersed in the postpartum struggle, mainly of the woman (Vanessa Kirby) as she deals with the intricacies of relationships with her husband(Shia Saide LaBeouf), mother (Ellen Burstyn), and other people in her life. We have to consider how there can be intense grief for someone you have never known. There is even a dramatic court room scene interspersed in the storyline but who is the real victim and who is the perpetrator? You may also want to ask yourself if home deliveries should be legal? Vanessa Kirby was nominated for an Oscar this year 2021 for her performance in this film.

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

The White Tiger

March 17th, 2021 — 6:09am

The White Tiger
****

Unfortunately, we do not clearly remember the book upon which this film was made, which we read about 12 years ago and one of us wrote up in his book blog. We also had to see it again for the story to clearly register with us although we first saw it several weeks ago. It is obviously a well-done film, which holds your interest as the story develops. We are watching a young man from a very poor lower class caste in India attempt to put himself up to a slightly higher level by manipulating things so he can become the main driver for a wealthy Indian family. As we view his journey, we come to appreciate the contrast between the very rich and the very poor and the near impossible odds against any upward mobility.

Baked into the plot at the beginning and at the end of the film is the contrast between India, a so-called democracy, and China, a so called socialist regime (obviously Communist). This is accomplished by hearing the letter that one of the Indian main characters is writing to the premier of China. There is also an apt analogy to a rooster coop where in this case people are borne into servitude and cannot usually even contemplate another way of living. There is always the possibility of someone being a “White Tiger,” an unusual form of the animal that appears possibly once in a generation. In the film this seem to be the metaphor for a person who is able to break out of his expected destiny.

In addition to the political messages that are being given, we are also experiencing a well-done drama with suspense and unexpected twists and turns and a deep dive into the various characters.

The film was released more than 10 years after the book came out. It stars Adarsh Gourav as Balram, the driver and also features excellent performances by Rajkummar Rao and Priyanka Chopra. It is directed by Ramin Bahrani who wrote the screenplay based on the book by Aravind Adiga. It was Oscar nominated as the best adapted screenplay.

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

Mank

March 11th, 2021 — 6:26am

Mank
***

To fully appreciate this film, you probably need to be a Hollywood insider and know the history of the real characters. It is the story of Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) who apparently had been a successful playwright and is now working on a script for the movie Citizen Kane, which is the story of William Randolph Hearst. Mankiewicz who had been recognized as a terrific writer is now an alcoholic and recently broke his leg in an accident. He is working with a younger Orson Welles who would be the director of the Citizen Kane movie. Mank is directed by David Fincher, which is based on a screenplay by his late father Joseph Fincher. Although it was interesting and certainly well acted, we did not feel that we appreciated the subtleties of this movie by apparently not really knowing the story behind many of the characters.

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

Nomadland

March 11th, 2021 — 6:01am

Nomadland
***

After the economic collapse of a company town in the west during the Recession, we meet Fern (Frances McDormand), a widow who now lives in an old van that she has customized. She travels around the western part of United States, stopping at RV Parks where she gets to know various people and develops friendships. Apparently, some of the actors in the film were actual nomads who were immersed in this lifestyle. The film was directed by Chloé Zhao who is receiving acclaim for capturing the persona of the main character. We could feel the emotional tone of this woman and what the lifestyle meant to her, but it really was not our cup of tea.

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

I Care A Lot

March 11th, 2021 — 3:17am

I Care A Lot
**

While we both agree this film was quite engaging and held our interest, we find it very difficult to accept the premise of the film and ultimately cannot really recommend it.

A seemingly competent caring woman (Rosamund Pike) along with her business partner and lover (Eliza Gonzalez), run a con game where she arranges to have an older unattached elderly individual declared incompetent and a ward of the state and then she becomes their legal guardian. She is therefore able to arrange for these persons to be isolated in a fancy nursing home while she gains all their assets. However, she runs into a difficult situation when her latest prey, Jennifer Peterson (Dianne Wiest) appears to have a son who is a dwarf (Peter Dinklage) and is part of the Russian mafia. There is a great deal of intrigue with murders and unbelievable almost murders. In the end, it was quite an adventure, but we do not recommend the ride (2020).

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

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