Search results for ‘People Like Us’

Far From The Tree

August 25th, 2018 — 12:28 am

***

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)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

The Rider

April 13th, 2018 — 07:59 am

Screened at the 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Opens in U.S. April 13, 2018

***

The Rider

 

This film almost looks like a documentary, but it is actually a hybrid as the movie focuses on life crisis of a rodeo competitor Brady Blackburn. We meet him as he is recovering from a life threatening head injury, which we realized happened during his brilliant but very daring and dangerous competitive riding, which occurred on top of wild untamed horses. We come to understand his love of horses and his uncanny connection to them. He knows he is supposed to stay away from the sport as his brain and body must heal. We are given insight into his character as we see his relationship with a very good friend, who is a like brother to him and is now in a hospital brain damaged after being thrown from a horse. We also see his caring tender relationship with his younger sister who appears to have a developmental disability as well as his interactions with his caring father who had been very rough on him. The movie is directed by Chloe Zhao who met the star of the movie on an Indian Reservation while filming a 2014 movie titled Songs My Brothers Taught Me. This director certainly achieved some very interesting footage particularly as the star interacts and trains his horses.

To many people rodeo competitive riding and the heroes who participate in it is as captivating as competitive football is to many other Americans. It occurred to one of us that the movie could have very well been highlighting the dilemma of those football stars who are faced with life threatening head injuries from the sport that they also love (2018).

2 comments » | 3 Stars, Drama, Sport

On Borrowed Time

March 1st, 2018 — 09:23 pm

****

On Borrowed Time

Four older men in an assisted living home in Dubai seemed to be losing interest in life when one of them gets a notice that he has inherited lots of money. This leaves them to begin a foray outside their living arrangement. The story ends up being an uplifting film which deserves to be seen not only by the Arab speaking world but also by others who will use subtitles (which could be slightly improved).

The movie gives an insight into contemporary life in an Arab country along with several seeming paradoxes, which intrigued us. The older folks wore traditional garb while the younger people were in modern western dress and went to nightclubs. The living facility was all men – not co-ed although the capable physician was a young attractive woman in western dress. We were surprised to see these vibrant men ending up in this facility when we know of the strong Arab tradition of families caring for their elderly. But perhaps that is what made the story so interesting and drove the plot. The theme of living life to its fullest at all ages is universal.

The acting was top-of-the-line and superb. Kudos should go to Saad Al Faraj, Mansour Al Feeli, Salloum Haddad, Marei Al Halliam, Fouad Ali and Layla Abdullah. The writer-director Yasir Al Yasiri did an excellent job. The film was based on a short story by Karim Al Iraqi. One of the producers, an American, Caleb Wilson was at our screening and shared with us that this film is one of many coming down the pike that was made in the Arab world but should have great appeal to Western audiences. This movie might not be available in your local theater but you should be able to find it on Netflix or the like. If you are a student of film, it wouldn’t surprise us if this one might end up being an important movie in reflecting the changing scene of international film making from the Arab world. (2018)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Loveless

February 8th, 2018 — 09:15 am

**

Loveless

When a filmmaker decides to make a two-hour and seven minute film in Russian (with the subtitles of course), he has to have a storyline that is going to grab and hold the audience. This movie is a Russian finalist and is nominated for the Best Foreign Film of the Year. It featured Maryana Spivak, Aleksey Rozin, Matvey Novikov and Marina Vasilyeva and was directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev who wrote the screenplay with Oleg Negin. It was a beautifully made movie which examined marriage and how it can fail. It remind us how a destructive marital relationship can devastate a child who may feel that he has no place to go especially when the parents don’t show the caring and love a child deserves.

Early in the movie we see the child become literally lost and the audience is taken on the long search for him. It seems that we experienced every rock that is lifted, every brush that is moved aside and every deserted building, which is explored. We are impressed that there is the mobilization of volunteers to search for the boy We are also led to believe that the parents are desperate to find the lost child, although we really don’t understand the dynamics behind why they should care when we saw how they didn’t really give a hoot about him before he became lost. Of course we understand how guilt can completely takeover in situations like this. But guilt is not love. The title and theme of this movie is “Loveless.” We are following people who had a limited capacity for love for each other and even for their next partners. We get a glimpse of the dynamics of where this might originate in one of the characters. (Would it surprise you to learn it has something to do with the mother?) In situations like this the audience usually will not like or identify with the main characters. So we’re going to need something more than beautiful photography, a skillful sound background and a little suspense. After all, 127 minutes is a good chunk of time. We felt in the end, the film didn’t deliver. (2017)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama, Foreign

Wonder Woman

January 16th, 2018 — 05:11 am

****

Wonder Woman – rm

You take a $149 million budget (which thus far has earned six times that amount), pull together a cast and crew with behind the screens technicians probably totaling at least a thousand people (based on the credits), put it together in at least four different countries (USA, Italy, Hungary and New Zealand) and build a story around a character who has been a heroine to at least three generations of girls and you get magnificent Wonder Woman! (Gal Gadot) She, of course, can leap buildings in a single bound (like Superman did), can stop bullets with her wristband or even catch them, has super strength and of course she has a magic lasso which will make anyone tell the truth.

We meet our heroine as a young girl as she is training to be an Amazon (all powerful women) on a secret island. It is during World War I and a British pilot (Chris Pine) on a spy mission is being chased by a flotilla of German boats with lots of German soldiers. He crashes into the water and is saved by our heroine who fights off the pursuing Germans until the other Amazon women come to help and wipe them all out. But our spy knows that the Germans have a new secret weapon that involves a deadly gas and he must, get the news back to the Allies. They’re in a tremendous battle, a confrontation with the evil of all evil men and many other things that you can imagine.

But the real heroes and heroines of this film have to be the behind the scenes technicians who produced the tremendous special effects that are throughout just about every scene with appropriate sound effects and music. This is all under the direction of Patty Jenkins with a screenplay and story by Zack Snyder and Allan Heinberg. There was an excellent supporting cast including Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, David Thewlis and many others.

We understand that most women viewers have been quite touched and even tearful at the end of this film and the female member of our duo was also moved. We don’t know if many guys felt that way and it could be a whole new discussion figuring out what this film is tapping into. But all should agree that we are seeing a classic and there will probably be a sequel (2017).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Roman J. Israel, Esq.

November 8th, 2017 — 01:52 am

***

Roman J. Israel, Esq. – sp

Denzel Washington has embraced a character from the pen (or should we say the keyboard) of screenwriter/director Dan Gilroy and turned in an outstanding, unforgettable performance. Roman J. Israel, Esq. is a somewhat socially isolated lawyer, perhaps a little on the autism spectrum side, who not only is extremely bright (can give you obscure citations from the Code of Justice) but is idealistically principled to take on cases of the poor and disadvantaged. He also has a dream and an inspiration that through case law he will ultimately make the criminal justice system fair and equal for all people. His actions and spirit inspire George Pierce (Colin Farrell), head attorney of a big firm previously only interested in making more money and Maya Alston (Carmen Ejogo) an idealistic young lawyer who is trying to find herself. Perhaps the two hours and two minutes makes the film somewhat drawn out. However, the takeaway message is that Roman J. Israel, Esq. is shown to be a human being with frailties like everyone else. We see that his spirit and idealism will live on not only in this story but in the viewer’s minds and hearts. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Uncategorized

Maudie

September 11th, 2017 — 02:40 am

***

Maudie-rm

Sally Hawkins turned in one of the best acting performances of the year and in our opinion deserves Oscar consideration. Ethan Hawke also was magnificent and deserves acclaim along with Director Eisling Walsh who put together this very touching movie written by Sherry White.

The setting is a rural community in Nova Scotia, which looks like it is the 1930s but was probably more likely the 1980s. Hawkins plays Maudie, a handicapped young woman who has physical disabilities and has lived a difficult life. We meet her as her brother tells her that he has sold their deceased mother’s house and Maudie has to continue living with her aunt with whom she doesn’t seem to get along very well. While in a general store of a small community, she then sees a fisherman (Ethan Hawke) put an advertisement on a bulletin board looking for a woman to help him with chores like cleaning and making meals in his one–room cabin. She applies for the job, gets it when no one else applies and moves into his cabin.

The remainder of the film is an examination of the relationship between these two people and the small community in which they live. Maudie is a natural artist and she begins to draw on the wall and windows of her cabin. She is discovered by a wealthy tourist from New York, who gives her work some visibility. She is ultimately the subject of a TV show, which popularizes her work and she becomes a somewhat known artist. She also ultimately wears her “employer” down and convinces him to marry her. There is no evidence that she achieves any kind of wealth from her work but she clearly derives great satisfaction from what she does and even grudging respect from her husband. In the film we only see the couple as poor people living in the small cabin.

Despite the captivating performances of these two actors, the plot doesn’t expand with any interesting stories nor do the characters develop in any depth. While we were drawn to these people who seemed as real as they were different from anyone we have known. However, we felt that the movie was too drawn out and ultimately fell short. We wanted more than we were given especially since we realized at the end of the film, that the story was based on real people as we were shown a brief video clip of them . (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

August 13th, 2017 — 12:30 am

*****

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power-rm

What makes a great documentary film? Does it show its subject matter clearly and in an interesting dramatic manner? (Check) Is it about an important subject that has worldwide significance? (Check) Is there a person in the film who is very knowledgeable, likeable, empathic and has great passion for the subject of the film? (Check) Are there some conflicting issues shown in the film that need to be overcome? (Check) Is there a sense of urgency about the subject? (Check) Finally, at the conclusion of the movie, do you find yourself talking about the film and even moved to action? (Check and double check)

Ever since Al Gore lost the presidential election by a Supreme Court vote (and even before that time), he has been a passionate spokesperson about the reality and the danger of climate change, as well as what can be done about it. Eleven years ago, the first version of this film won an Oscar for Best Documentary Film. Many people believed it was a major factor in the recognition of climate change throughout the world. This sequel documentary has become necessary, as it has clearly been shown that the battle for clean energy has not been won and in some areas, including some close to home, it is not only at a standstill but even going backwards. The unbelievable action of President Trump in withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord of 2015 has become a call to action for everyone concerned about climate change. Al Gore is an inspiration for Americans of all ages to become involved in this movement. His behind the scenes negotiations with far reaching parties to allow India to get financial backing to build sustainable energy in their country, namely by developing solar and wind energy and to scrap plans to keep their country dependent on fossil fuels, was well-documented in this movie.

One of the most important accomplishments for Mr. Gore has been his training programs for advocates from all over the world, who want to learn about fighting climate change. As a viewer of this film, we cannot help but leave the theater wanting to support these people and address this very clear inconvenient truth. (2017)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Documentary

The Circle

May 3rd, 2017 — 05:30 am

**

The Circle – sp

We see on news programs accusations that politicians sometimes are not very honest. There are reports that there are deals being done behind everyone’s back which are not in the best interest of the constituents who elected them. So imagine if it were possible for a politician to decide to “go transparent” where he or she would wear a special camera 24 hours a day that would record just about everything that went on in his or her life (with some very personal exceptions) which would be accessible to everyone on the Internet who wanted to view it. In fact, imagine where other people could decide to “go transparent” and have every part of their life available to anyone who wanted to see it. Imagine also a corporation which cared so much for its employees that it would offer them world class medical care, not only to all of its employees but to their entire families including their parents. What if everyone was interconnected on the Internet so that a wanted criminal could be quickly tracked down once the details of this person with a picture were put out on the Internet. In fact, any persons’ whereabouts could be tracked down within ten minutes because everyone was so interconnected.

These possibilities and all the implications of them were part of the storyline of the novel The Circle  by Dave Eggers which was brought to the screen by James Ponsoldt who co-wrote the screen play with Mr. Eggers. Mr. Ponsoldt also directed the film and was one of the major producers. He enticed Tom Hanks, two-time Oscar winner to play Eamon Bailey who was one of the founders and leaders of this company. As usual, Mr. Hanks is very believable and somewhat reminiscent of Steve Jobs. Patton Oswalt plays another co-founder Tom Stenton who appeared a little bit more sinister.

The story revolves around Mae Holland (Emma Watson), a young woman who was thrilled to get a job at the Circle (think Google and/or Apple squared in the mathematical sense). We see her evolve from being very excited about getting a great entry job (called a guppy, remember new born teeny tropical fish) to developing into a sophisticated perhaps brainwashed worker who herself wants to go transparent. There are also meaningful supportive roles by Glenne Headly and Bill Paxton who play her parents.

We previously had read the book and liked it very much. As is often the case in such a situation, it is difficult for the movie to live up to an outstanding bpok. We tended to feel that the film was quite disjointed and superficial. The characters were not very well-developed as compared to in the book. Subplots, probably by necessity, were left out. The film served the purpose of providing a cautionary tale as did acclaimed film and book “1984” and telling us what may be in store for us in the future.

If you read the book, the film probably is not worth seeing. If you haven’t read the book, we highly recommend that it be your first choice instead of the movie. (2017)

1 comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

Land of Mine

December 8th, 2016 — 05:14 am

****screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-11-35-30-pm

Land Of Mine

We just had the opportunity to see Denmark’s entry for the Academy Award for best foreign film this year and we met the writer/director, Martin Zandvliet and one of the producers, Mikael Rieks. This is a very well-done movie, but what stands out about the film is learning a previously little-known aspect concerning World War II and the unique ethical dilemma which the film spotlights.

Towards the end of World War II, the Germans anticipated an Allied invasion of their occupation of Europe and thought it would likely occur on the shores of Denmark which would give the Allies the shortest distance to Berlin. The Germans planted hundreds of thousands of explosive mines on the beaches of Denmark. Of course, instead, the Allies successfully invaded at Normandy. Once the war was over, the Danes were faced with a dilemma of how to go about the dangerous task of removing these deadly explosive mines. They chose to use thousands of German prisoners of war, many of whom were young teenage soldiers who had beenconscripted into the German army towards the end of the war in a desperate attempt to fight off the Allies.

So now the Danes were forcing these mostly young prisoners of war to learn how to do the dangerous task of defusing the enormous number of mines on the coastline. You also may want to consider if there is  a valid question whether such forced life-threatening labor is against the treaties signed at the Geneva Convention.

So if this movie accomplished nothing else but to highlight this fascinating ethical dilemma, it would deserve to be seen. However, the production did this in a very personal and dramatic fashion. Most of the movie focused on a group of about a dozen German prisoners of war, most of whom appear to be young teenagers, perhaps as young as 15 or 16 who are under the command of a Danish soldier Sergeant Rasmussen (Roland Moller). Most viewers who appreciate the inhumane treatment to millions of people by the Nazi invaders of course might understand the initial harsh treatment by the sergeant of his captors as he trained and forced them to undertake the mine-clearing task.

However, the added dimension of this drama being played out on the screen was the viewers’ empathy for these young prisoners of war who shared dreams and aspirations of returning home to their families. Not surprising, the Danish sergeant himself, begins to understand his young prisoners and even care about them.

So our emotions are stirred up as we appreciate a great conflict and we can identify with the characters on the screen. There is drama, tension, and excellent photography by Camilla Hjelm Knudsen who is the wife of the director/screenwriter. We come away with a little more insight into history and human nature which adds up to a very good film. (2016)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign, War

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