November 6th, 2016 — 4:38am
Infinitely Polar Bear-nf
The title of this film apparently is meant to capture the theme in which the main character has a “bipolar condition”. Cameron (Mark Ruffalo), despite at times being mentally out of control, is really a loving husband to his wife, Maggie (Zoe Saladana) and their two adorable girls.
While we didn’t think that the clinical picture of bipolar was typical but of course bipolar or manic depression can be overlaid on many different types of personalities and can occur in various family configurations. We are also told that the movie is based on a true story. The setting was the mid 1970s. “Bipolar” wasn’t actually a term that was used until the 1980s as the condition was known as manic depression at that time. Lithium was the main medication used to treat it and we see in the film Cam taking this medication or not taking it and having an exacerbation of his symptoms. The new mood stabilizers that are used today were not yet developed during the time period of the film.
The story line of the film deals with other significant topics in addition to mental illness. Cam and Maggie are an interracial couple and we see that one of their children questions whether she is “black” because she resembles her white dad as compared to her sister who is more like her mother’s appearance. The simple but clear manner in which Maggie handles this child’s question was done very well. Maggie goes to New York to pursue graduate school with the plan to visit Cam and the kids in Massachusetts every weekend for a year and a half. When she completes her education and attempts to get a job with a prestigious Boston firm, it appears that they don’t offer her the job because she is a working mom who is leaving dad at home. There is also a story line which shows how unsophisticated so called established wealthy families can be, illustrated by Cam’s family not approving of the non-traditional roles that Cam and Maggie have taken on and also demonstrated how they show very little understanding of their son’s mental illness (at least in the setting in time period of this movie).
We are left with a touching movie which gives us a taste of the struggles of the family that we come to care about. Maya Forbes the writer director did a wonderful job in developing the setting and the personalities of all the characters. We had feelings for them and we’re rooting for them. This is a sign of a good movie. It was sweet although not very complex but we suggest that you consider seeing it. (2015)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama
December 12th, 2015 — 7:29pm
Ricki and the Flash-nf
If you are a “streeper” (nickname Meryl Streep’s fans often called themselves) you are going to enjoy her in this performance. As usual Ms. Streep who is known as a perfectionist in preparing for her roles, appears to have mastered her character down to the last note.
In this case, it is as an aging rock musician who has only made one album and now spends the daytime being a grocery checkout lady and the evenings being a grooving rock musician leading her band “The Flash” playing in a local club in Tarzana, California. Her fellow guitarist Greg is played by Rick Springfield, known to be quite a successful musician in real life. Ricki left her husband and children when her kids were quite small to follow her dream as a rock musician and had very limited contact with them over the years. One of them Julie (played by Mamie Gummer , a rising actress who in real life is Ms. Streep’s real daughter) has just had a traumatic marital breakup and Ricki returns to Indianapolis to support her. Her daughter and two grown sons one of whom is about to get married are not very thrilled to see her at first. Her former husband (Kevin Kline) has married a very lovely woman (Audra McDonald) who confronts the rock musician with her failure as a mother. There is a lot of sadness in this film and also a lot of rocking music led by Ricki (alias Ms. Streep) and Greg (alias Mr. Springfield) and some very fine backup musicians.
The story by Diablo Cody and the direction by Jonathan Demme lead us on a fanciful trip but in the end it is feel good stuff. We don’t think it will lead to Ms. Streep’s 20th Oscar nomination but you never know. (2015)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Musical
July 26th, 2014 — 5:48pm
Wish I Was Here —rm It isn’t too difficult for a halfway decent movie to pull our chain and bring tears to our eyes. All you need is a likeable character who is dying and his family all around him especially if there are children and grandchildren in it. This movie did all that but took it to the next level. All the characters including the children have a depth which allows you to empathize with them even though they may not be telling your story. Aiden Bloom (Zack Braff ), Director and co writer of the screen play with his real brother Adam J. Braff and known for among other things as the star of TV show Scrubs) is a struggling actor who is trying to reach his career dream although not yet very successful . Sarah, his loving and very supportive wife (Kate Hudson), is frustrated over her husband being more interested in trying to follow his dream than support their family, leaving her to work in a data inputting job and suffer some weird harassment by a cubical partner. They have two adorable kids. Tucker (Pierce Gagnon) is the younger kid who values a wireless drill for reasons we don’t quite understand. The slightly older sister (Joey King) is beginning to try to find out what values are really important. Aiden has a brother (Josh Gad) who lives in a trailer who is also struggling with his off beat career and his alienation from their dad. Now the dad, the patriarch of the family is Gabe, a widower played by Mandy Patankin in what could be an award winning performance. He has been a tough dad who hasn’t seemed to be sympathetic to the trials and tribulations of his two sons. He now is faced with a fatal illness, which brings him and the whole family to contemplate the meaning of life and how they feel about death and dying The deep feelings of both father and sons for each other are examined in a very sensitive and real manner. It may very well make you begin to reflect on your own family relationships. The movie is a serious drama dealing with relationships and philosophical issues. But it also is a touching satiric comedy. One subject of some satire, believe it or not, is orthodox Judaism. The Bloom family is shown to be of this persuasion and one of the subplots was that Gabe was paying for his grandchildren’s private (Jewish) school until he required the money for his cancer care. There is even an old rabbi who rides on a Segway (we assume not on Shabbat) (2014)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama
June 12th, 2014 — 6:39am
As High As The Sky-sp This excellent independent low budget film will probably not have theatrical release but it is available by DVD on Amazon, Vimeo etc. and is definitely worth seeing. It is the brainchild of Nikki Braendlin who wrote the screenplay and directed the film. It stars Caroline Fogarty, a young actress and sometimes comedienne who takes on the non-comedic role of a young woman with a clear case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder whose boyfriend has recently left her and she is living alone in a beautiful contemporary California home. She is unexpectedly visited by her sister (Bonnie McNeil) who is 14 years older than she along with her 11 or 12-year-old daughter (Laurel Porter). Early in the story we learn that the younger sister was 4 years old when their parents were killed in an auto accident. Two aunts took over the childrearing. We only hear their voices on the phone (Dee Wallace and Jenny O’Hare) The older sister moved out at age 17. There is much more to the story and it beautifully unfolds revealing the family dynamics and the relationships. Ms. Braendim does a magnificent job in her directorial debut extracting from this all female cast a very sensitive performance to match her original script. (2014)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama
June 11th, 2014 — 6:18am
Lullaby-sp– We gave this film our highest rating but we suggest that you think twice before you go to see it. It is about Robert Lowenstein (Richard Jenkins), a very successful wealthy man with lung cancer who has been battling his disease for 12 years and decides he is ready to die. Rachel (Ann Archer) his loving wife is at his side. Jonathan, his cigarette smoking son (Garrett Hedlund), the not so successful musician who hasn’t been around for many years finally comes to town (New York) and his bedside. As does his daughter (Jessica Brown Findlay), the Ivy League law student who soon will try to make a legal brief to convince her father why he should not agree to physician assisted suicide, which she contends is against the constitution. But early on, as soon as they all assembled at his bedside, the father announces that he has given away all his money so they won’t all become dependent on his wealth and not live out their own lives by their own abilities (including his wife). This becomes a story of a sometimes-dysfunctional family who underneath it all had great love for each other. It isn’t difficult to find some issues to identify with as the family conflicts unfold and it will be impossible not feel the emotion as you put your self in the shoes of all the characters as they appreciate the father’s pain and his need to say goodbye. If this were not enough to make this a tissue pack or damp handkerchief movie, there is another element that will tear you apart. Through a chance hospital stairwell meeting, Jonathan meets a 17-year-old girl (Jessica Barden in a perfect wonderful performance) who is dying of bone cancer baldhead and all. She confronts him with his underlying ambivalence about his father. He is drawn to visit her on the children’s ward where he sees many kids who are dying as his father, the difference being that most of then will never experience even adolescence. We don’t think this film despite our top rating is perfect. There are moments, which are played out to an almost gratuitous level to achieve every extra bit of emotion. The introduction of Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend (Amy Adams), while used to show the son’s personal growth, seems unnecessary. Despite this movie being almost 2 hours, it is sure to rivet your attention and take control of your feelings. This must be the reason why this outstanding cast, which also included Jennifer Hudson and Terrance Howard, as the nurse and doctor, as well as the stars previously mentioned, all signed on to this independent production. This film could not have had the budget, which they all usually command. Credit has to be given to Andrew Levitas, who is an established painter and sculptor, as well as a film producer. He directed and wrote this screenplay, stimulated by his experience of his father’s dying and his return home. He creatively broadened his story to encompass the potentially painful and beautiful life defining moments of the end of life. (2014)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama
June 30th, 2012 — 7:44pm
People Like Us – sp We know of several instances, from personal life as well as from our professional work, of friends and relatives encountering siblings who they never knew previously existed. Each story is different but the impact on the people involved is usually quite powerful. No matter what age this revelation occurs it has the potential to shatter one’s concept of your parents, rework your ideas of honesty and truth and lead to a reexamination of your own identity. The writing team of Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Jody Lambert each had some personal experience or first hand knowledge of such events which they were able to draw upon to put together this remarkable story. They weaved the details of the story line of each character together with the emotional reveal in a manner which riveted the attention of the viewer throughout the whole process. Although most of the characters were quite likeable and the story was sprinkled with some heart warming comedy, we were still witnessing a tragic story which appeared to be doubling down on the bad luck that each character was experiencing. Sam (Chris Pine) and Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) are the family members who once they confront each other have to relive and deal with the meaning of their unhappy childhood. Michelle Pfeiffer has the role of Lilian, Sam’s mother who is hardened, bitter and looks it which in itself is a great accomplishment for this very fine and beautiful actress. Michael Hall D’Addanio is Josh, Frankie’s 11 year son in a performance which may very well be remembered after he establishes himself as an adult star. Josh’s recently deceased grandfather Gerald Harper was a music and record producer who has created all the misery on the screen as he has fathered both Sam and Frankie while neither knew of each other’s existence. Throughout most of the 115 minutes of this movie , it seemed almost impossible to imagine how any type of satisfying ending was remotely possible. Much of the success for the resolution of the story and execution of the movie should go to Alex Kurtzman who not only co-wrote the story but also directed it. In the end not only are the characters all in a better place with a new prospective on life, but the audience has the chance to reconsider our own relationships with parents and children because the movie we have just seen in one way or another is about “ people like us.” (2012)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama
December 15th, 2011 — 6:36pm
A Separation –sp (with subtitles ) One of the remarkable things about this movie is that Iran chose it be it’s Oscar nominee for the best international film. It shows the conflicting values in Iran today. The focus of the film is on two families who find themselves in a major disagreement. The story addresses Iranian life in regard to divorce, child custody, carrying for an Alzheimer parent, fundamentalism, oppression of women as well as the economic problems and the legal system of this country. It also raises the question of whether given a choice might a family there choose to emigrate to another country. The movie obviously generated a great deal of interest in Iran as it is on it’s way to being one of the most successful homegrown movies ever made there. The film is written, produced and directed by experienced filmmaker Ashgar Farhadi. American filmgoers can identify with particularly the dilemma Termeh, the daughter of one of the couples, who agonizes over what is the truth of the disagreements between these families and most importantly with which one of her divorcing parents she would choice to live. This key role is played by Sarina Farhadi , daughter of the filmmaker, who was a preteen when the movie was produced. The acting all around was quite good. It is a dialogue driven movie so you must become immersed in the subtitles. You certainly get a feel of what everyday life might be like in an urban city in Iran. You also get an insight into what may be similarities and differences of this family crisis in a country about which most of us know very little .
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign
September 17th, 2011 — 7:28pm
I Don’t Know How She Does It- rm– Remember the main character of the Sex and The City TV series and subsequent films? Well, imagine that instead of being Carrie the writer, she was Kate Reddy a financial analyst and try to picture what her life might be like 10 or 15 years after she was running around Manhattan trying to find Mr. Big. Imagine that she is now married with two children living in Boston struggling to be the perfect working mother, trying to meet the needs of her kids as every morning she says hello to her nanny while saying goodbye to her husband before rushing off to her high powered job. We hear the narration voice of Kate (Sarah Jessica Parker of course) reflecting her thoughts as she ponders and explains her problems. We meet Richard, her husband (Greg Kinnear) who is a lovely guy just beginning to get his big break at his job but is beginning to feel frustrated and deserted as Kate is taking trips out of town. She is on the verge of closing a great deal working with Mr Big (Pierce Brosnan) of the stock portfolios. Her home life is best summed up by her late talking 2 year old finally saying his first words , “Bye Bye mommy” and her mother-in-law suggesting that the kid may have talked earlier if she had been around more. This movie will give at least two generations of working women a great deal to identify with. Maybe if Kate closes her deal she will have enough clout at her job so she can stay home when she wants to be with her kids, make a snowman with them when it snows and take her kids for landmark haircuts etc. But this is certainly not your middle class working family and what about the situation where such couple is forced to work long hours to make ends meet.? Writers Arline McKenna (screenplay) and Allison Peason (novel) and director Douglas McGrath seem to have mixed feelings on their view of the role women and family today. On one hand despite her loving her career, Kate does strive towards ultimately putting family first. But the stay at home moms seen in this film (Busy Phillipps, Sarh Shahl and others ) are depicted in a self indulgent very unflattering manner which some are bound to find offensive.
If you are inclined to see this film because you are looking for some kind of validation of what your family has been through or is going through now, most probably you will find it fun to watch. Kelsey Grammer will add to the fun as one of her bosses as will Seth Myers as Kate’s nemesis at work. But be advised there is nothing ground breaking or really stimulating that is going to be found in this very light comedy. (2011)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama