The Report

January 9th, 2020 — 8:17pm

****

The Report – nf

In this docudrama based on the true story of Daniel Jones (Adam Driver), a staffer for United States Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) is given the assignment to examine secret files and make a report on the purported enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT) that the CIA was performing on suspected terrorists after 9/11. You need to remember that this was a time of great anxiety and concern in this country after the U.S. homeland was attacked by Al Queda. The CIA felt very responsible to determine if future attacks were being planned and exactly who was involved. They were able to bring into custody suspected terrorists and would determine to extract from them as much intelligence as possible to save the homeland. At one point two seemingly credible psychologists offered to help the CIA to develop these enhanced interrogation techniques which featured the torture of the people they were interrogating with waterboarding among other methods. They had the confidence that this would extract essential intelligence data. The United States government is one of critical checks and balances and while the CIA reports to the President, the U.S. Congress has the duty to examine ethical and moral behavior of all agencies of our government. This critical and pivotal moment in modern United States history all played out in the actions and reactions of this one younger staffer Daniel Jones, who had the task of examining the most highly classified information and reports. He ultimately found himself in direct conflict with the various leaders of the CIA which included John Brennan (Ted Levine), George Tenant (Dominic Fumusa)and Denis McDonough (Jon Hamm) who was chief of staff for the President’s office.

This historical drama was written and directed by Scott Z. Burns. The movie holds the attention of the viewer as we watch this unlikely hero struggle against the powerful forces as well as his own inner conflicts as to how he should act and should he reveal the top secret information that was being hidden from the American public and from the U.S. Congress.

This movie is quite relevant today as, the headlines tell of U.S. President Trump complaining about people who are questioning the United States Intelligence Office which provided information regarding his decision to have a major Iranian military leader killed. (2020)

 

 

 

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

Bombshell

January 7th, 2020 — 7:55pm

***

BOMBSHELL-rm

You have heard about the situation where Roger Ailes, the long-time creator and boss of Fox News Network was ousted from this position by the Murdock family who owned the Fox Enterprise, after charges of sexual harassment were validated against Mr. Ailes. This film, with an all-star cast of actors and actresses who were made to resemble the real people they played, tells the story of the brave women who made this happen. The story centers around Megyn Kelly who is played by Charlize Theron. We see the pressure and sexual harassment she received by the powerful boss of Fox Network, Roger Ailes, played by John Lithgow, who is depicted as the obese and somewhat wobbly boss of the mammoth network. We also follow the experience of Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman), a fading anchor at Fox who after some agonizing tells her story of being harassed and actually starts the ball rolling against Mr. Ailes. We also meet other players, men and women at Fox, some familiar and some who worked behind the scenes. They are played by excellent actors and actresses and their work is interspersed with actual film clips. While the story is quite dramatic and revealing and a very important one to document, we found it somewhat disjointed. In the end, however, it will be an important part of the epic story of American television journalism. (2019)

 

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

Queen and Slim

January 7th, 2020 — 7:39pm

***

QUEEN & SLIM-rm

This is a road trip movie but under tragic circumstances. It is directed by Melina Matsoukas with a screenplay by Lena Waithe based on a story by her and James Frey. It stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith. The film opens as we meet a black couple who are on their first Tinder arranged date. Things go wrong in what should have been an innocuous police stop. Within a few minutes, it turns into a horrendous situation where the young woman is shot in the leg and the police officer is killed. We follow the frightened couple as they flee and become labeled as wanted criminals. We get insight into the prejudiced environment that could allow such a situation to develop. We also come to see how family and friends as well as friends of friends try to help this couple survive against the unfair forces that are pitted against them.

If you were someone who grew up being taught that the police are fair and are your friends, you will be clearly reminded that certainly this has not been the case for many people in the United States, especially many people of color. The message of this film is important and terrifying but the film left something to be desired. (2020)

 

 

 

 

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

Dark Waters

January 7th, 2020 — 7:14pm

****

Dark Waters-rm

This is an important documentary film that we would hope that as many people as possible could see it and be informed of its contents. It is produced by Mark Ruffalo, who stars in the film as the lawyer who takes on the DuPont Chemical Company to expose the large scale damage to people and the environment done by their product related to Teflon. The movie is directed by Todd Haynes and has an all star supporting cast of actors including Tim Robbins, Bill Camp, Victor Garber, Bill Pullman, Anne Hathaway, and Marie Winningham. It is based on the New York Times magazine article “The lawyer who became DuPont’s worst nightmare” by Nathaniel Rich and was adopted for screen by Mario Correa and Matthew Carnahan. It is a painful movie that will more likely have you squirming in your seat rather than sitting on the edge of it as you realize the drawn-out painful process that had to be gone through over many years in order to gain recognition of the dangerous harmful effects on people by the chemical produced by DuPont. The process of recognizing this dangerous situation has been very slow but the staggering amount of compensation this mega corporation is beginning to pay out to the unwitting victims finally is achieving some small amount of justice. This movie deserves kudos for taking on the story and deserves to be seen by many moviegoers.( 2020 )

 

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

The Irishman

December 26th, 2019 — 5:31am

***

The Irishman-nf

Despite the fact that this film is directed by Martin Scorsese, and stars Robert De Niro, as Frank ‘The Irishman’ Sheeran and features Al Pacino as Jimmy Hoffa along with other great actors such as, Joe Pesci, Harvey Keitel, Bobby Cannavale, Ray Romano, Anna Paquin, and others, we suggest that you think twice before committing yourself to this three and a half hour movie. The story is based on an excellent book, “I Heard You Paint Houses,” by Charles Brandt, which MB reviewed more than seven years ago (click here to see the review).

At the beginning of the film we meet an older Frank Sheeran as he is reflecting how he turned into a gangster and a ruthless murderer. There is not any clear explanation how a seemingly sensitive man who cared about his family could emerge as this serial killer. There is a suggestion that his experience in World War II might have primed him for this way of life.

The screenplay, based on the book by Charles Brandt, is written by Steven Zaillian, who previously wrote the story for Schindler’s List, which may account for how he is able to suggest emotional turmoil, although it is often not fully explained. The movie features flashbacks where the actors are skillfully “de-aged” as we encounter earlier events in the lives of their characters. One of the central themes is an insight and explanation into the death of Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa, who was an important character in this movie and whose body in real life was never found after he was eliminated. Unfortunately, the inordinate length of this film only underscored its inability to help the viewer really understand any of the characters

If you are drawn to gangster movies and enjoy the work of this cast of actors and the renowned director, you might find this collection of unending “rub-outs” of interest but be sure you have lots of popcorn or your favorite snack to help you persevere (2019).

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

Just Mercy

December 17th, 2019 — 6:55am

*****

Just Mercy- rm

This is an amazing true story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a black attorney who is fresh out of Harvard Law School and travels to Alabama with the purpose of trying to save the lives of falsely incarcerated prisoners who are on death-row awaiting execution. He teams up with Eva Ansley (Brie Larson), a woman with a similar dedication who becomes the operations director of their newly formed Law Center For Equal Justice. Stevenson begins visiting Alabama’s death-row and meeting prisoners scheduled for execution. The main focus of the film was on his interaction with Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx), who was sentenced to die for a crime, it became clear he did not commit. His case was based on the testimony of a man who was providing false information in order to avoid charges for another crime of which he was accused. In addition, the testimony of many friends and family of Stevenson who were at a party with the accused at the time of the murder were not considered worthy evidence to exonerate the condemned man. While the main focus is on one case, we also meet other prisoners on death-row and witness a very painful scene of an execution. It became clear that the unfair cruel treatment of prisoners was a residual of slavery and continued prejudice in this country.

The movie is based on a memoir of the same title by Bryan Stevenson, which was an outstanding book (click here for book review). This book was transformed into this excellent movie by Andrew Lanham and Destin Daniel Cretton, who also directed the film. It is a riveting heartbreaking cinematic experience, which we highly recommend (2019).

 

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

Little Women

November 27th, 2019 — 1:41am

****

Little Women-sp

We have no memory of the story or the impact of reading the novel “Little Women” in our youth. We do know that there have been several film versions of this classic novel by Louisa May Alcott. We also know that Greta Gerwig (best known for her her acclaimed directorship of Lady Bird) was intent on having the opportunity to write the screenplay and direct this project. This film also attracted an all-star cast of Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Timothee Chalamet, as well as several other excellent actors including Meryl Streep who had a small but significant role as the elderly aunt.

The setting of the film was during the Civil War and the focus is on a family of four sisters and their mother while the dad is away at war. Through some nonlinear flashback scenes, we see the girls come of age in a time which women’s value was usually determined by the success and wealth of their husbands. The main focus is on Jo (Ronan) who is a would-be writer trying to tell her story but the publisher to whom she is speaking only wants a novel where in the end the young woman gets married. Although it is a different time and a different place, the insightful writing, great acting and very truthful directing ultimately captures the modern-day audience who will surely relate to this film and once again this classic story will find meaning in a new generation. (2019)

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

Song of Names

November 21st, 2019 — 5:52am

***

The Song of Names – sp

The title of this movie refers to an imaginary song that consists of the names of hundreds of thousands of Jews killed at the Treblinka Nazi Extermination Camp in Poland during World War II. The screenplay by Jeffrey Caine is based on a novel by Norman Lebrecht, introduces us to a young boy, Dovidl, who happens to be a violin prodigy and is being left at the home of a British family during the early days of the turmoil in Europe in the 1940s. The rest of the boy’s family is returning to Poland not realizing the fate that awaits them there. The story progresses through flashbacks of different phases in the life of Dovidl, who is played by Luke Doyle (ages 9 to 13), Jonah Hauer-King (ages 17 to 23), and Tim Roth as a middle aged man. Martin, the young boy who is in the British family becomes more or less Dovidl’s brother and interacts with him during the various stages of their lives. Martin is played by Misha Handley (ages 9-13), Gerran Howell (ages 17 through 21) and by Clive Owen as a middle aged man.

The flashbacks may at first be a little confusing as they occur but the emotional theme of the story will be quite clear. It is expressed not only in the cold facts of history, but through the beautiful emotional violin music, which reflects the storyline of everlasting grief and the mourning, which go with it.Francois Girard, 2019

The producers who put together this international production along with director, Francois Girard were apparently the first fictional movie team granted permission to film inside the Treblinka Memorial. Not only is the music haunting and unforgettable, but so is this creative story (2019).

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

Marriage story

November 18th, 2019 — 9:46pm

*****

Marriage Story

This film is the brainchild of the very talented screenwriter Noah Baumbach who has previously written about family, divorce, and it did frequently seem as some of his greatest pieces have been semiautobiographical. He was director and writer of this movie as he was for the Squid And The Whale, The Meyerowitz Stories, and many other great films. Not surprisingly, his main characters in this movie are a theatre director and playwright Charlie (Adam Driver) and his wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) who is an actress currently featured in her husband’s latest Off-Broadway play.

The story opens as this couple are each reading a piece about the great qualities of their spouse. We quickly learned that despite all this acclaim and wonderful characteristics that they each described, the purpose of this exercise is part of the mediation process for a pending divorce. Despite a seemingly perfect marriage, which included a young son Henry (Azhy Robertson), the tensions of trying to lead a bicoastal life contributed to Nicole’s desire to institute what turns out to be very contentious divorce proceedings. This aspect of the story also allowed for a short exposition of the contrasts between living in New York and living in Los Angeles.

The Baumbach’s script highlighted Driver and Johansson’s talent in some very intense and dramatic monologues as well as interactive dialogues. Included was an opportunity for Driver to show his talent as a singer in one particular scene. There is definitely Oscar material in the performance of these two stars.

While the movie is a clear vehicle for the great talents of Johansson and Driver, there are also some excellent supporting roles by very familiar people. Laura Dern plays a hard-nosed Los Angeles divorce lawyer. Other divorce attorneys are played by Alan Alda and Ray Liotta. Also in supporting roles are Merritt Wever, Wallace Shawn, and Julie Hagerty, but the main focus is on Driver and Johansson who along with Baumbach have a good shot at being on the awards stage in the near future (2019).

 

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

One Child Nation

November 17th, 2019 — 10:57pm

 

***

One Child Nation-  amazon

In 1979, the Chinese government came to the conclusion that if they did not make some radical changes, the next generation’s population would grow enormously. 

They believed that the population would be in the billions and would lead to widespread starvation and be very difficult to manage. Therefore the Chinese government instituted a mandatory one child policy, which was widely publicized and became the “patriotic approach” expected from every Chinese family. Those who disobeyed this dictum and had a second child would be severely punished sometimes by having their home destroyed. Midwives not only performed numerous sterilization procedures and abortions but also at times had to kill newborns who were second children. This policy continued for 25 years before it was finally changed allowing a second child.

Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang directed this documentary film. Much of it was in Chinese with subtitles. It captures and personalizes the impact of this all encompassing social policy. Through interviews with various Chinese people, the viewer can appreciate the very personal meaning of being deprived of the ability to have a second child if one wanted one. Family dynamics are examined especially in some settings where there might be a desire to have a boy and the first child was a girl. The newborn and the very young were abandoned in the streets. There was human trafficking where children were sold to adoption agencies. Many of these children were internationally adopted and ended up in American homes where the adopted parents were not told the true story of their newly adopted child. There also is the story of the search by adopted Chinese children growing up in America who might be interested in finding their birth families.

This film deals with these complicated issues, which have political, social, as well as emotional implications. You come away from this documentary film educated and also moved by the human implications of what you have seen and experienced. (2019)

 

As always your comments are welcome below:

 

 

Readers are encouraged to put any opinions or comments about the film and this review. - 1 comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Foreign, Politics

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