Tag: 2012


Celeste & Jesse Forever

August 12th, 2014 — 6:52am

***Screen Shot 2014-08-11 at 11.47.20 PM

Celeste and Jesse Forever nf-   Young couples that start as a high school romance may have tremendous chemistry and compatibility but one or both may not be mature enough to stick it out and allow the couple to develop into a long term relationship. They may breakup early on or split after a couple of years of marriage. They may move on never to forget each other and what could have been. That is life . It also is the essence of this very thoughtful and touching film. Jesse is played by Adam Samberg (of SNL fame but comes across as a serious, sometimes silly but very likeable guy) and Celeste is the successful half of the couple but with still room to grow (played by Rashida Jones who had to have understood this character quite well as she co-wrote the screenplay with Will McCormick who also played a role as a friend). The movie is directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who is under 30, as would seem to be most of the characters in the film. The setting is current day Los Angeles where we see how young people party, drink and smoke weed. It is also where we are led to believe there is opportunity for success if you have talent and you hustle, or find the absence of it, if you don’t make the big effort. This would seem to be in job success as well as romance. This is a light modern romantic comedy that will touch a lot of people. No matter what your age, unless you were born a mature adult, you will probably find something in this movie that could have been you. (2012)

 

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

Searching For Sugarman

July 10th, 2014 — 5:27pm

****Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 11.42.17 PM

Searching For Sugarman nf -In the 1970s there was a rock singer by the name “Rodriquez” much in the style of Bob Dylan who by many accounts was as good if not better than Dylan. His lyrics were right on for the times and his voice as clear (not like BD) as a bell. He was out of Detroit and a few of the music impresarios who produced many stars of Mo-town thought he was fantastic. His story is the subject of this movie directed by Malik Bendjelloul which won the 2013 Academy Award Oscar for the best Documentary Film. Rodriquez’s music which is played throughout the film will catch your attention Take a quick listen here. For some reason he didn’t catch on and his records didn’t sell. He had played in some dives in Detroit for a while and there were rumors of his death or attempted suicide on stage. (Spoiler Alert!) He didn’t die and in fact he just faded away and for the next 25 years or so, Rodriquez lived in a modest house and worked in construction and demolition. He was a quiet hard working man who had three wonderful daughters. He still enjoyed playing on the guitar now and then but he basically melted into the woodwork as a working guy living in a depressed difficult city. However on the other side of the world in South Africa unbeknownst to him and the record producers who dumped him when he didn’t sell, his records were picked up by other labels and for many years he was “Bigger than Elvis.” His words and music became the voice of the young generation of mostly whites who felt apartheid was wrong but were suppressed by the oppressive government of South Africa. 100.000s, if not perhaps millions, of his records were sold. He received no royalties and hadn’t the slightest idea that his name was a household name there. Every young person including many of the popular musicians who became of age in the 80s and early 90s in South Africa knew his music and so many felt they were greatly influenced by it. There were a handful of people in South Africa, writers and music people, who wondered why they didn’t know more about him. Two guys tried to find out what happened and how did he die – was it really on stage? Somebody set up a website reflecting the curiosity of whatever happened to him. Lo and behold one of his daughters living in the U.S. saw the website. The story of how the people in South Africa found him and how he found South Africa will be a touching moment that you will not forget. The reunion concert with thousands of fans in ecstasy singing along with him was an amazing piece of cinema. This was a great subject for a documentary film as it allowed the viewers to share this unforgettable moment and this amazing story. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Documentary, Musical

Promised Land

May 16th, 2014 — 8:48pm

***Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 11.32.13 PM

Promised Land-nf This was a Matt Damon film that was not a blockbuster movie but it certainly makes an important statement about a controversial socio-economic issue of our time and that is fracking. We suspect that is why Damon chose to produce and star in this film. It is directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting , Milk). Two sales pros Steve Butler (Matt Damon) and Sue Thompson (Frances McDormand) from a gigantic corporation named Global come to a small farming town to buy the drilling rights from the residents who have been hard hit by bad economic times. Can you imagine such a farming family turning down what seems like a lot of money which might go a long way to helping their kids get a good education or for some other very desired endeavor? Everyone knows that home grown natural gas is cleaner and less expensive than imported oil so wouldn’t this be a good thing all around? But is the process that is necessary to bring it out of the ground 100% safe? Could this process, fracking, be an ultimate horror? Might it harm or even destroy their livestock and be dangerous to people’s health? Would a billion dollar corporation manipulate the facts and convince the local folks to buy into their plan ? Is the risk really infinitesimal? To what extent would big business go to in order to buy these rights? Can a local science teacher (Hal Holbrook) who happens to know a little more than he was expected to know, make a difference in this debate? It is clear that Damon and company were out to raise serious questions about fracking. After you see this film, what will you think? (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars

Hitchcock

January 14th, 2014 — 7:02am

***Hitchcock

Hitchcock- nf   As we anticipate this year’s Academy Awards nite, we were in the mood for a movie about making movies. We chose to view this   biopic about the great Alfred Hitchcock. We can’t imagine two better choices for the stars than fellow Brits Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock and Helen Mirin as his wife, Alma. While Hopkins seems to channel Hitchcock in appearance and mannerism, director Sacha Gervasi added to the impersonation by showing the iconic director’s profile numerous times. This is the story of a crisis in the life of the “Master of Suspense” as he is wondering if he is past his prime and won’t ever be able to match his last success North by Northwest. Perhaps driven by some demons in his own head he decides that he wants to make a movie of a book he has just read titled, Psycho. Lew Wasserman (Michael Stuhlbarg) head of Paramount Studios, where Hitchcock has a contract doesn’t think it will go over with the public and won’t provide the funding. Hitch makes a deal with them to do it if he provides the finances, which he does by mortgaging his own house. The screenplay by John J McLaughlin based on a book by Stephen Rebello shows us a man who realizes that he is at a crucial point in his life and with his marriage. He seems to have the confidence to make a great movie but he has to reach much deeper to try to save his marriage. As a movie fan it is fun to see a depiction of the making of Psycho. In this case it is Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh, James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles who we see might have been the “other woman” in the grand master’s life. While there is some attempt   to remind us of the magic of a Hitchcock film, in the end it is just a snapshot of a one of film-lovers great heroes. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama

The Quartet

August 19th, 2013 — 6:08am

The Quartet***
The Quartet-nf The setting is a home for retired musicians in Great Britain which apparently does exist in some form there. Many of the retirees are well known opera singers as well as other types of musicians. Three of the main protagonists played by Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, and Pauline Collins are joined by the fourth (Maggie Smith) who makes a grand entrance befitting the diva that she must have been. It turns out that many years ago she had been married to one of the men (Courtenay’s character),for nine hours, but he has never gotten over their romance and being jilted. He thus is quite unhappy about her arrival. Life in the home seems meaningful to the residents who interact with each other, reminisce about times gone by and sometimes play their instruments and also do some singing. Director Dustin Hoffman in an extra clip on Netflix declares that this is a film about life and (older people) enjoying it and living to their fullest. There was no dialog in the film which indicated that any of these residents had meaningful relationships with their families (although some small children were seen visiting and even being given music lessons). It may be that many very successful professional musicians have traveled a great deal and never have time to develop such connections and that such a retirement home serves this very special purpose. It is also of note that aside from the 4 main stars many of the other musicians seen doing small bits of performing from opera to comedy were actual retired professional musicians. This was demonstrated also in the closing credits where they were identified with a picture of them in his or her prime. It becomes clear early on in the film that the issue, which must be resolved, is whether the four main characters will perform the Quartet from Rigaletto in a benefit show to keep the home open. It will not spoil this movie experience to learn in the end they do it and we hear what have to be recordings of the rich voices of the real opera stars in their prime. Dustin Hoffman’s goal is achieved as we have a feel good experience about the ability to find meaning and satisfaction late in life. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Celeste and Jesse Forever

June 3rd, 2013 — 6:06pm

Celeste and Jesse Forever***

Celeste and Jesse Forever-nf  Two best friends Celeste (Rashida Jones) and Jesse (Andy Samberg)  get married and although they are still good buddies, after a little while decide to get divorced. Maybe it is because he can’t get his art career going and she is a successful trend forecaster. He lives in the garage studio behind the house and eventually moves out but they still feel very close as they evolve to the singles scene. Even when one of them finds someone that seem right for him, the old feelings are still there.  In many ways this theme reflects what sometimes happens when first loves feel they need to move on  (hopefully even before they have tied the knot). Sometimes the separation is easier for one than the other and sometimes it goes back and forth. Maybe they will always love each other. Andy Samberg conveys the exuberance and youthfulness of the character he plays and only in subtle manner does he draw upon his comedic skills. Rashida Jones seems very comfortable in her role (perhaps because she co-wrote the script with Will McCormack who has a secondary role as one of her friends in the film). She seems a tad older and more mature than the Jesse character  but she struggles as she realizes what  is ultimately happening to her relationship with her soon to be divorced husband and best friend.  This film directed by Lee Toland Krieger is filled with an almost continuous musical wallpaper of  the contemporary setting which it portrays. It successfully highlights the theme of lovers forever even if they may have to move on. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Romance

The East

May 30th, 2013 — 7:17am

 

The East****

The East- sp – This is a dark espionage thriller with an attractive secret agent going under cover to find and infiltrate the terrorists. This has vibes similar to the hit TV series Homeland. Instead of Claire Danes we have Brit Marling. Instead of a government agency we have our heroine working for a private security agency that does work for the some of major corporations. (We, in fact, did learn that in reality there are these very sophisticated FBI/CIA like operations that do this type of cloak and dagger work) Instead of terrorists striking the homeland being from Al Queda, the terrorists in this movie are all home grown American eco-terrorists who are bent on giving the corporations which poison the environment a piece of their own medicine. As for example a pharmaceutical company that might produce a drug with known serious side effects, which they down play or another company that knowingly, pollutes waters that give people cancer. So we have an exciting, suspenseful movie with social issues, ethical conflicts and a few surprising twists and turns. There was surgical operation on a kitchen table that didn’t ring true to us and a quick reveal that we would like to have had more of a set up but overall this was a very skillfully written film  by the female lead Brit Marling along with the Director Zal Batmanglij who previously collaborated together  on the screenplay of the well received film Sound of My Voice . The movie was very exciting and entertaining as well as stimulating in getting us to think about some important issues that maybe are being put out of sight. We recommend that you do see this one. (2013)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Thriller

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

April 13th, 2013 — 7:53pm

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - review****

The Perks of Being a Wallflower-nf.  Stephen  Chobosky wrote  the book in 1999 and it became #1 New York Times Best Seller for Children’s Paperback Books. 3 years later in September 2012 this PG- 13 movie was released with Chobsky as Director and Screenwriter with ensemble of young actors including Logan Lerman, Emma Watson (fresh out of Harry Potter ), Mae Whitman (from the TV hit Parenthood), Ezra Miller, Johnny Simmons along with some veteran grownups such as Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott and Joan Cussick. They all seem to hit it out of the ballpark and come through with a very successful movie. It certainly is a film that appeals to teens and beyond. In fact, anyone who can remember his or her high school life or even more important appreciates the serious struggles, and at times traumas that young people may go through, will relate to this film on many levels. It would  be over simplifying to describe this as a coming of age film which of course it is . However, it captures the ability of young people to connect with each other, understand, empathize and help each other through the  normal traumas of life as well as the some real bad ones that nobody should have to experience. The storyline on one hand is not typical. Charlie (Logan Lerman), a high school freshman with more baggage than most, is dreading the four years in front of him. He befriends  two high school seniors  Pat and Sam ( Ezra Miller and Emma Watson, who completely loses her British accent for this movie) and hangs around mostly with them and their friends. The setting is a high school in Pittsburgh (the author, screenwriter and Director’s town) and the time would seem to be early or mid 1980s as judged by the music, type of telephone and cars and even the typewriter on which the main character writes his story. There is the requisite lonely time in the lunch room, going to your first party, getting high on a marijuana brownie, truth or dare game, first kiss, the struggle of a gay friend, a lunchroom fight, applications to college etc,. But at the same time these milestones of high school are shown, there is a painful plot and character development with meaningful relationships, which you know, are never forgotten no matter how and where we grow up. Chobosky is writing and directing a film about the 1980s and the music will help bring those of that generation back to their high school days. However, the themes are universal enough to attract today’s youth ( as indicated by the success of the book and movie today) Even us old timers give it a “thumbs up” (with a nod to the movie critic Roger Ebert who died last week.) It would not surprise us if the movie moves towards a cult status and as these young actors make names for themselves, it will be especially interesting to look back at these youthful performances. Any such retrospective should include the Netflix commentary special feature where the actors comment on how it felt making this film about typical teenagers when they admit their teenage life was far from typical. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

War Witch

February 22nd, 2013 — 1:41am

itunes_warwitch***

War Witch sp – We saw this  Oscar nominated movie for best foreign film a few days before the Academy Award ceremony. It is the Canadian entry since that is the home country of Director Kim Nguyen who also wrote the screenplay which he told our screening audience in a post film interview that he has been writing on and off for 10 years. It is set somewhere in the African Congo where a rebel army abducts children and makes them soldiers. The movie, which was primarily filmed in the  Democratic Republic of the Congo, appears to be quite authentic. It  follows Komono, a  12 year old girl, for two years, starting with the point where she is captured, made to shoot her parents and become a soldier. Circumstances lead her captors to believe that she has special powers, can see things that are going to happen and therefore protect them. She is played by a first time local actress Rachel Mwanza, who actually grew up in the streets without a family and was chosen by Kim Nguyen after auditioning over 2000 young girls.  She is on the screen just about all the time and expresses clearly her inner pain and emotions  well as her  own thoughts and images with a little help from the visual effects of the film and the voiceover  in French by another actress (with English subtitles of course). It also has a great soundtrack of  what appeared to be African folk music which captured the atmosphere and mood  of the film. Mwanza for her first film has already won the the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this month and also won the award for the Best Actress in the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival. In the film she is accompanied most of the time by another child soldier who is an Albino known as the Magician, also very well  played by a local actor Serge Kanyinda. This movie presents us with a glimpse at a lesser known atrocity  which has occurred in modern times. It is also a simple and beautiful, if not,  sad love story . It well deserves the recognition which it is receiving. (2012)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Foreign, History, Romance, War

Flight

February 5th, 2013 — 9:16pm

images-11**

Flight- nf  When an actor who is on the screen all the time, holds your attention and clearly shows the problem which his character is suffering, that actor deserves kudos for that performance. In this case it is Denzel Washington who plays Whit Whitaker, an airline pilot who is an alcoholic and cocaine user who on a routine flight finds himself on plane with a mechanical failure. He does an unbelievably tricky maneuver where he flies the  plane upside down to slow it down and make an emergency landing on a open field saving all “souls onboard” except 2  crew and a few passengers. You probably know all this from the coming attractions. Will he be found out to have been drinking or will  he ever admit his alcohol and drug problem which we all know is necessary to get over it?  That is just about the essence of this movie. There is a lot of drinking and some drugs with small supporting roles by John Goodman as your happy, friendly cocaine dealer, Don Cheadle as the lawyer who is supposed to defend Whit and Melissa Leo as the opposing lawyer. There really aren’t any dramatic unpredictable courtroom scenes. There is no fascinating back-story or a plot that got pulled together in a fantastic ending. If anything, the conclusion is one of a few that you would have predicted. It isn’t very believable but I am sure that the star’s name and all the hype that the movie has received will probably make it a box office success. (2012)

Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama

Back to top