Tag: 2020


Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom

December 29th, 2020 — 3:13am

Ma Rainy’s Black Bottom (Netflix)
****
This film is Based on the play of the same name by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright August Wilson. The setting is the 1920s and a Black Jazz Group is preparing for a recording session. The film takes a deep dive into a couple of the characters. The main focus is on Levee, a black trumpet player who wants to play things his way and dreams of forming his own band rather than playing back-up to a great black singer. He is played by Chadwick Boseman in his final performance as he passed away shortly after the filming this movie. His character embodied the frustration of black men, especially talented ones who were held back by prejudices of the time. The other star of this film was Viola Davis who lived within Ma Rainey, a black superstar singer who is going to take everything her talent deserved although she clearly had to stand up and make her righteous demands. The storyline, great acting by the entire cast, directed by George C. Wolfe, provided a wonderful insight into the oppression and prejudices which emerged in this time period. The senior producer for this excellent film was Denzel Washington.

Our biggest disappointment with the film was that it ended when it did. We so much wanted to see a light at the end of the tunnel that we hoped could be there. Instead, we were shown the endless frustration and pain that has been the plight of so many black people. (2020).

Comment » | 4 Stars, History, Musical

The Undoing

December 20th, 2020 — 12:56am

The Undoing – Six Episode TV Series on HBO
****
This six-episode TV series stars Hugh Grant, Nicole Kidman, and Donald Sutherland with an excellent supporting cast, especially a young boy played by Noah Jupe. This mini-series is based on the novel “You Should Have Known” by Jean Hanff Korelitz. It is created by veteran TV producer David E. Kelley and is directed by Susanne Bier. This “whodunnit” will hold your attention and if you have any tendency to binge, you will take this one in just a few gulps. A doctor who is a caring pediatric oncologist finds himself accused of a brutal murder of a woman with whom he was having an affair. There are hints that the killer might possibly be his wife, a successful psychotherapist or perhaps the husband of the murdered woman. A couple of other suspects flash through your mind as this story unfolds. As you might expect, there are some great courtroom scenes. This is well worth the six hours of running time of this series.(2020)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Crime, Drama, Mystery

The Queen’s Gambit

December 20th, 2020 — 12:38am

The Queen’s Gambit (Netflix)
****
The Queen’s Gambit-seven-episode television series on Netflix

All previous reviews in this blog have been movies that originally appeared in the theater. However, during this pandemic, we have been watching a great deal of television and were particularly impressed by this seven-episode series based on a 1983 novel of the same name by Walter Tevis.

Beth Harmon is an 8-year-old orphan who has lost her mother in an auto accident and is living in an orphanage. She encounters a janitor in the basement who is preoccupied studying a chessboard. She convinces him to teach her the game and she turns out to have a terrific aptitude for visualizing the chessboard and becoming an outstanding chess player. She is invited to compete in a local high school chess tournament, which she wins and goes on to the Kentucky State Chess Championship. This leads her to the US Championship and ultimately competing for the World Championship in Russia.

As Ms. Harmon matures, there are boys and young men who become part of her life as do drugs and alcohol. The story seamlessly comes together and captivates the audience.

As well done is the story with the excellent acting, it is the realism that is created in every aspect of the series that is a major part of its success. Whether it is the basement of the orphanage or the grandeur of the world chess tournament in Russia, the audience is completely drawn into the story. The street scenes especially in Europe as well as the local scenes in Kentucky are all magnificently portrayed and reproduced. The well done music background adds to the various moods of the characters and the storyline. As much as this is a story of one amazing person, it also suggests that “it takes a village” as we see how many people come together in support of the main character.

Kudos to Isla Johnston (young Beth), Anya Taylor Joy (Beth as a young woman), and the wonderful cast, which includes Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Harry Melling, Marielle Heller, Bill Camp, and many others. The series was written and directed by Scott Frank who created the series with Allan Scott. They were executive producers along with William Horberg. You may also be interested to learn that various chess experts including former world champion and grandmaster Garry Kasparov were consultants for this wonderful series.

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Sport

Love, Guaranteed

October 15th, 2020 — 5:30am

***
Love, Guaranteed ( Netflix)

This Rom Com is a total cliché and “too cute by half.” However, during these dark Coronavirus times, there is something rejuvenating about watching good things happening to good people. Susan (Rachael Leigh Cook) is a caring workaholic attorney who takes on cases to actually help people. Nick (Damon Wayans, Jr.) comes into her life as he wants her to take on a dating company that guarantees findings love. Since he has gone out on thousand dates through the service and not found his special someone, he wants to sue the company and is ready and able to pay whatever it takes. It is true that you know from the first moment exactly what will happen in the end, yet the characters are endearing, the confection sweet, and you end up wanting to go along for the ride (2020).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama, Romance

My Octopus Teacher

October 15th, 2020 — 5:24am

My Octopus Teacher (Netflix)
***
My Octopus Teacher nf

This is a documentary film directed by Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed. It stars Craig Foster who also produced the film. He appears to be a marine biologist who spends close to a year following a single octopus for most of her life living under water in a South African kelp forest.

The film shows Foster mostly by himself swimming deep in the water without an oxygen tank following the life of this one octopus. We learned about the life cycle of this creature and how it hides from sharks, appears to feel comfortable with the film marker, and ultimately reproduces and dies. The impression that the film is trying to make is that Foster felt an emotional connection with the octopus and he felt that likewise it felt a connection with him. While we understand the two-way connection, we cannot help being aware that there always had to be another person nearby (the always present cameraman). The film also briefly shows Foster teaching his son the secrets of connecting with the creatures below. This is a unique and unusual movie.(2020)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Mucho Mucho Armor – The Legend of Walter Mercado

October 15th, 2020 — 4:51am

***
Mucho Mucho Amor – The Legend of Walter Mercado nf

This is a documentary film that takes place over several decades about someone who is apparently one of the most well-known Latin stars in the world. He was born in modest circumstances in Puerto Rico and from an early age had been seen as having “something special,” to which people gravitated. He was an actor who became interested in astrology and due to a various circumstances he appeared in various short television segments telling fortunes according to the astrological stars. At one point, he had 120 million viewers. People all over Latin America became enthralled with his pronouncement and his performance and he became loved and sought after celebrity. He dressed in extravagant costumes with magnificent capes that became an essential part of his shows. He spent a lifetime as someone who loved to look glamorous in his feminine/masculine attire and who only wanted to spread love and good feelings. The documentary allows the viewer to see into his rise as well as the betrayal by his manager, which almost destroyed him. Yet, he lived to see better days and to enjoy once again his status as a unique icon within the Spanish speaking community. Seeing the film, you are left with the feeling of having witnessed someone totally unique and full of love (2020).

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, History

The Great Hack

September 18th, 2020 — 10:56pm

The Great Hack (Netflix)
*****

As the internet and Facebook have become a part of our everyday life, most of us have no idea how much information about each of us is being saved and potentially available. It happens that a political consulting company based in England named Cambridge Analytica whose CEO is Alexander Nix has been accumulating such data. This information was used to influence BREXIT (the vote allowing Great Britain to leave the European Union).

It turns out that Cambridge Analytica was also providing data to influence the US elections. They apparently have 5000 points of data on every American voter. Initially, they were using this information to target voters and support the reelection of United States Senator Ted Cruz of Florida. Subsequently, this information was put to use to influence the 2016 election in favor of Donald Trump.

Various journalists discovered these activities and began to report on them. Special note was the work of Carole Cadwalladr who reported for The Guardian and The Observer. Some of the other heroes featured in this film include Professor David Carroll who tried to legally obtain the data that Cambridge Analytica had about him. There are also whistleblowers Christopher Wylie and Brittany Kaiser, a former director at Cambridge Analytica. These people and others cooperated with the filmmakers in this very well done documentary as they followed them around all over the world including their testimony before the US Congress. There is also a piece showing Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder) testifying in front of a special Congressional Committee.

This documentary film was put together by directors Karim Amer, Jehane Noujaim and they produced and wrote it along with Geralyn White Dreyfous, Judy Korin, and Pedro Kos. This movie was released in the United States in July 2019 and has been nominated for an Emmy to be announced next week (September 20).

This is a very engrossing documentary film, which deserves the attention of every American. As the documentary unfolds, you have the feeling that you are watching the reveal of a very important event.The Great Hack!(2020)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Documentary

Da Five Bloods

July 8th, 2020 — 6:27am

*****
Da Five Bloods Continue reading »

1 comment » | 5 Stars, Action, Drama, History, War

A Secret Love

June 9th, 2020 — 9:39pm

***
A Secret Love- (Netflix)

We came to this documentary film believing it was about a pioneering case that challenged the law about same-sex couples and helped to make ground breaking precedent. We were obviously mistaken in our expectation. Who we did meet were two amazing women, Pat Henschel and Terry Donahue, the latter of whom had been an established professional women’s baseball player in her younger years. They did find romance in a time when love between women was usually not openly expressed. The film was directed by Chris Bolan who is the great nephew of Ms. Donahue. The movie followed these women into their senior years and we see how their families came to accept them and how they transitioned into a senior living facility. This is a touching movie about a love affair between two women, which will inspire future generations of women who might now be more able to openly express such feelings.

1 comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary, Romance

A Fortunate Man

May 22nd, 2020 — 4:35am

A Fortunate Man ****

This is a very engrossing and complicated story about a man who was anything but fortunate. The main character, Sidenius (Jens Albinus), is brought up in a religious Christian family, in which his father was the church pastor. The son does not get the blessing of the father as they have a bitter departure, as Sidenius goes off to seek his own life and fortune, which to him would mean selling his dream of giving the world his idea of a new form of energy and power through windmills and canals which could remake turn of the century Denmark. He encounters a wealthy Jewish family and is drawn to the oldest beautiful daughter (Katrine Greis-Rosenthal) who would also connect him with great wealth and the potential to make his engineering dream come true. However, the story becomes more complicated as we come to appreciate Sidenius’ rebellion from his father as he unwittingly also identifies with him. The movie allows the viewer to understand how for most of this man’s life, his self-centered personality made him insensitive to the feelings of the women in his life and even to his own children except for a final moment of insight. The story is adopted from a novel by the Danish author, Henrik Pontoppidan.

Aside from showing us the insight into the psychodynamics of a man, as we see the impact of his childhood on his subsequent life, the film also highlights several other interesting issues:

It shows the impact on a person raised in one culture (in this case a poor religious Christian culture) who suddenly finds himself surrounded by a wealthy family (in this case a Jewish culture).

It also spotlights a well-known dilemma when a creative genius with a new idea is confronted with the established society that is not quite ready to embrace his revolutionary concepts.

There is also a familiar subplot of a woman who believes she is in a committed relationship and finds herself pregnant and realizes that her partner, who does not know she is pregnant, is actually ready to move on and break up the relationship.

Finally, there is also the well known story of an estranged grown child finding out that a parent has died and now is drawn back to be a loyal child when it is really too late.

So, you can see this very well done film directed by Bille August will hold your attention and stir your emotions. It is certainly worth seeing (2020).

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

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