Tag: 2017


The Only Living Boy in New York

August 2nd, 2017 — 5:19am

 ****

The Only Living Boy in New York-sp

This movie has some shades of a Woody Allen film in its character studies of people and in capturing the atmosphere of Manhattan. It examines family and sexual relationships between a husband and wife as well as extramarital love and sex. It looks at a young man’s struggle with his sexual and romantic feelings. This is a psychological drama that highlights guilt, jealousy and even an important aspect of the oedipal complex. It is complicated and heavy stuff and it all flows from the pen of screenwriter Allen Loeb, who had written several successful movies before this earlier script ultimately came to fruition. This didn’t happen until Marc Webb became attached to it as director and a terrific ensemble cast was put together which includes Jeff Bridges, Pierce Brosnan, Cynthia Nixon, Kiersey Clemons and Kate Beckinsale. However, the character who ties the plot together is relative newcomer, Callum Turner, who plays Thomas, the 25-year-old son who ultimately makes deep seated discoveries about himself and each of his parents before he can move on with his life.

This Coming of Age  movie that will capture your attention and make you ponder each character’s motivation. The story has depth, poignancy and surprises which will grab hold you and won’t let go throughout the film. It certainly kept us thinking and talking as we left the theater. (2017) – Scheduled for release August 11th

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

To The Bone

July 30th, 2017 — 9:52pm

***

To the Bone-nf

This is a movie about young people who have eating disorders. The story revolves mainly around Ellen (Lily Collins), a 20-year old woman whose parents broke up when she was a young girl. She went to live with her father and his new wife (Carrie Preston) and her half-sister. Her own mother (Valerie Palincar) moved in with her new lesbian partner. Ellen developed an eating disorder and became anorexic. We never see her father in the movie and we get the impression that he is mostly an absent parent. Most of the story takes place in a house/treatment program where Ellen lives with five other girls and one young man, all with eating disorders of one type or the other. There are some staff who live with them and enforce the rules of the house as well as running group sessions. There is also the “doctor” (Keanu Reeves) who holds an individual session with the “entire family” on initial intake and then comes to the house for individual sessions.

The viewer comes to appreciate how this terrible life-threatening condition is manifested, not only in Ellen, but in each of the people living in the house and participating in the treatment program. Great credit should go to Director/Screenwriter Marti Noxon who provides insight into this very challenging medical/psychiatric condition with which so many young people struggle. Ms. Collins, in her depiction of Ellen, was superb not only in her acting, but she also deserves credit for losing the weight required for this part.

This movie and story could only  touch the surface of the psychological issues usually involved in understanding and treating this condition. No one statement by a therapist, apology from a parent or insight into a dream can suddenly turn around this illness. The filmmaker had to face this reality but yet obviously wanted to give an optimistic hope to the viewers. Certainly many people with eating disorders are able to move on and live happy productive lives. Hopefully, this film will stimulate interest in understanding eating disorders and will encourage families and those struggling with the illness to seek help and ultimately overcome it. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Manashe

July 26th, 2017 — 5:33am

***

Menashe-sp

It is not very often that we see a film all about the Hassidic community and completely in Yiddish (with subtitles of course).

Documentary filmmaker Joshua Z. Weinstein jumped into this project with all four hats (or should we say Yamakas) as director/writer/producer and cinematographer. He was able to connect with Hassidic Jews who spoke Yiddish and were interested in acting in this movie. This is a story of Menashe (Menashe Lustig) who is a recent widower and wants to continue taking care of his 10 or 11-year-old son, Rieven (Ruben Niborski) despite the Rabbi’s (Meyer Schwartz) view that the brother-in-law (Yoel Weisshaus) and his wife would be better caretakers. Menashe is also resisting the pressure that he should make an arrangement with the matchmaker and get a new wife.

On one hand, this could be a universal theme that might be set in other cultures but it is a unique accomplishment to pull it off in the ultraorthodox Hassidic community. The real Menashe (the actor) was quite genuine as the on screen Menashe. The child actor was superb equaling his father with facial expressions, which conveyed the complicated feelings that they were portraying.

While this movie was ultimately picked up by A-24 for distribution, it was made with a low budget. However, the story came across as quite authentic and was able to use the streets of Brooklyn and a sufficient number of appropriate extras to convey a genuine realistic atmosphere. This was a special accomplishment since the director/writer was not fluent in Yiddish and this project required numerous translators to assist in all aspects of it.

When a project such as this one is so successful in bringing a unique cultural environment to the screen, it makes us want to see an even more complicated in-depth story than what was delivered. Also missing were depictions of the positive values with mutual support of this group of people especially at times of holidays and the Sabbath. Nevertheless, we believe that many viewers will find this a worthwhile cinematic experience. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Brave New Jersey

July 19th, 2017 — 5:35am

***

Brave New Jersey-sp

Most people have heard about of Orson Welles’ famous 1938 radio broadcast which simulated an invasion of the Earth by hostile aliens from Mars. The invaders were supposed to have landed in New Jersey. The broadcast was perceived by many people as real and there were stories of people fleeing their homes in panic.

This movie imagines how the people in a peaceful town appropriately named “Lullaby” might have responded. Local people were convinced that they were facing a deadly enemy, which they had to deal with themselves before any soldiers might come to their aid. Each person had to face this or her potential end of life. The local reverend, Ray (Dan Bakkedahl) had to examine his faith in God and his strength to lead his flock at such a time. Paul Davison (Sam Jaeger), the rich benefactor of the town had to deal with his own instincts to flee and leave his family at the time of a crisis. His wife Lorraine (Heather Burns) must consider if she will acknowledge what she has always known about her husband and where her true love really lies. Perhaps the person who most rises to the occasion that he never knew was inside himself was the town mayor, Clark Hill (Tony Hale from Veep fame) who among other things had to decide if he was ready declare his romantic feelings to a married woman.

As you can see there are many subthemes and while they all don’t quite flow together, director and co-writer Jody Lambert with Michael Dowling have come up with an original twist on a classical piece of radio history. They have chosen excellent actors, many of whom will be instantly recognized by their previous work. There also were wonderful performances by some of the child actors in the movie. The music background suggests a hint of a science fiction atmosphere which seems appropriate. This movie is quite unique and it may very well capture the imagination of the viewing public. (2017)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

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)

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)

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)

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/

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)

 

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)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama, History

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