April 26th, 2017 — 1:21am
We learn at the beginning of the story that a father and his grown son have just lost a wife and mother and are about to begin the grieving process. The father is played by two time Oscar winner Kevin Kline who turns in an outstanding performance. Likewise Dean, the son, is played by Demetri Martin in a excellent break through performance. So is the director, screenwriter and producer also in the person of Demetri Martin. An important part of the story are single panel cartoons which are interspersed throughout the film and focuses the mood and irony of various situations in the movie. These drawings are also by Demetri Martin. So who is Demetri Martin? He has been a stand up comic for many years, has worked with Conan O’Brien on TV and has published a book of his own cartoons. He is obviously very talented and was able to draw upon his own experience of having lost a parent at a young age and his understanding of the universal search for love combined with a finely honed sense of humor.
Despite the initial premise of the story, this is really not a sad or tearjerker of a story, except the few times that Dean listens to a saved message on his iPhone of his late mom giving him words of encouragement. This is more a story of exploring different ways of grieving, as well as budding love of both a young and older man. It also uses two great exciting American cities that traditionally have been a backdrop for cinematic romance, New York (Brooklyn) and Los Angeles. The two respective women who have stirred the potential of deep romantic feelings in father and son at a time that they were on opposite coasts were Nicky (Gillian Jacobs) and Carol (Mary Steenburgen). Many of Dean’s buddies in the movie, are played by actors and comics who have captured the beat of his generation.
The net result of this 87 minute film is a feel good experience which reminds us that the connection between loss and new love is natural and inevitable. We highly recommend this movie. It is funny and poignant with surprising depth. (2017)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama
February 16th, 2017 — 5:23am
Everybody Loves Somebody
This movie would probably belong in the romantic-comedy genre. However, it is much more, as it is a delightful and thoughtful look at relationships and love.
Clara (Karla Souza), a single Los Angeles obstetrician, is planning to attend her parent’s 40th anniversary of being together who are celebrating it, by getting married! At the wedding Clara reconnects with Daniel (Jose Maria Yazpik) a former boyfriend of years ago who drops by after being away with Doctors Without Borders. Their old chemistry seems ignited but so are memories of his inability to make a commitment. Then there is Asher (Ben O’Toole), an Australian born new friend of Clara’s who is a pediatrician and knows something about commitment as he was married nine years until he became a widower. The complex feelings between all these couples including Clara’s sister and her husband are quite intense, palpable and interesting.
Writer director Catalina Aguilar Mastretta has magnificently captured these universal conflicts, emotions and attractions. Therapists and non-therapists alike will appreciate these psychological and real-life issues depicted in this film.
However, there is another aspect of this movie which gives it important significance, especially in today’s political and social climate. The film is bilingual and bicultural! Clara’s parents are Mexican and live in Ensenada. Clara, her parents and her sister as well as Daniel speaks Spanish as their first language and Asher although from Australia is able to speak it also. They also all speak perfect English. The storyline moves seamlessly back and forth across the border between Ensenada and Los Angeles. All the characters comfortably speak Spanish and English at various times throughout the movie and subtitles are provided as needed. The appropriate set of titles will be furnished depending on which side of the border the film is being shown. We suspect that this movie has the potential to be a big hit in both English and Spanish speaking locations throughout the world. (2017)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Foreign, Romance
December 12th, 2016 — 6:41am
La La Land – rm
This movie makes the statement that Los Angeles is where dreams are made and are broken and yet it is the city where anything can happen. This is a movie in the tradition of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Cyd Charisse and reflects so many great musicals of the past that have come across the silver screen.
Emma Stone is Mia, a young woman who works in a coffee shop on a big movie lot and aspires to be an actress. So many times she seems to be just one audition callback away from starting on the road to her dreams. Ryan Gosling is Sebastian, a musician who masterfully plays piano and keyboard and could be a great modern musician but he really favors old-fashioned jazz. He would prefer the music that was played in small clubs in days gone bye where each session was a creative story onto itself.
This movie is filled with great music. The characters break into dance and song quite spontaneously and, believe it or not, there is nothing that seems unnatural as they glide or tap across the screen singing and swaying with each other. Despite some stereotypical dialogue, you will get drawn into the storyline quite easily. We can just about guarantee that while at times you may not be sure if you are watching a dream unfold, the story will touch you and probably bring tears to your eyes.
Stone and Gosling have certainly mastered the song and dance. Great credit for this movie goes to director/writer Damien Chazelle (known for his direction of the movie “Whiplash”). The photography was magnificent and very skillfully directed by cinematographer, Linus Sandgren. Credit for the songs and original score goes to Justin Hurwitz with lyrics by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. Don’t miss the opening sequence. It shows LA at its best and worst, and what seemed to be one of the longest, continuous, complicated takes in movie history (there probably was some editing here but it didn’t look like it to us). This movie deserves the Oscar hype that it is getting. Don’t miss it. (2016)
Comment » | 5 Stars, Musical
April 13th, 2016 — 7:28am
The Meddler -sp
Writer-director, Lorene Scafaria has put together a dramedy (drama plus comedy) with which both young and old will identify. In a post-screening discussion with Ms. Scafaria, we learned that the story is a very close, realistic depiction of the writer’s own mother, who moved out to Los Angeles from the east coast after her husband died. The mother, Marnie (Susan Sarandon) who is on the screen for almost the entire film meddles or tries meddle in just about every aspect of her single daughter’s life, as well as in the lives of just about everyone else who she meets. Lori, the daughter (Rose Byrne) not surprisingly is a budding film maker, who as much as she tries, can’t get away from her mother’s love and over-attention, which of course she really needs. On one hand, we keep thinking that this mother character is exaggerated and way over the top. However, why then did she captivate our attention? The answer is that the film has captured the universal need and wish of most mothers to do just about everything and anything for their children at any age.
The dialogue and Sarandon’s characterization is near perfect. The screenwriter, who of course is really the daughter telling the story of her mom, has also added a romantic twist, which she acknowledges is her fantasy wish for her mother. This brings in a potential boyfriend for her mother in the person of a dashing, handsome, senior guy who rides a Harley Davidson motorcycle and raises chickens as pets. Unbelievable you say – just wait until you see Oscar winner J.K. Simmons take on this role.
This independent low-budget film has a lot going for it with a great script, two outstanding stars, a fine supporting cast and great execution by this young woman director. It also should have special appeal here in Los Angeles, where most of the film takes place from the scenes at the Grove, to glimpses of the entertainment industry in action and the beautiful west coast shoreline, as well as many characters who will remind you of people that you know.
This movie opens later this month across the country. We highly recommend it. (2016)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Drama
March 13th, 2016 — 3:33am
The force behind this micro financed independent film is the young accomplished director, Sean Baker who co-wrote the screenplay with Chris Bergoch. They took on the task of providing a window on the difficult struggling lives of transgender prostitutes who live and work at night on the streets of Hollywood, centered on Santa Monica Boulevard and Highland Avenue in Los Angeles.
The transgender stars of this movie are two talented actresses who are working in their first big film. Kitana Kiki Rodriguez played Sin-Dee (Cinderella) a very fast talking hooker who has just been released from a 30-day stint in jail and Mya Taylor who is her friend Alexandra. In this lead role the later actress not only showed her acting talent but also performed quite well as a singer.
The story lines provides insight into the character’s lives, relationships and despair and also brings in the Armenian family of a taxi driver who is one of the customers. This sub plot introduces several talented actors and actresses, some of who are very well known in Armenian. (By coincidence there is another movie that came out early last year called Tangerines (with an s- click to see our review)completely unrelated to this story but is about nearby Estonia). Mr. Baker’s film is experienced as very authentic whether it is the two transgender friends, the other people of the street or the Armenian family that spoke their language with English subtitles on the screen.
A very interesting aspect of this movie is that it is filmed totally with iPhones, which had special adapters on them. This method was chosen because of the low budget available, but it also allowed the professional film crew led by cinematographer, Radium Cheung to work on the streets of Los Angeles without arousing too much commotion by bystanders. It also appears to give the film an appropriate realistic vibe. This movie adds up to be to be a well done engrossing story that we recommend that you see. (2015)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama
October 8th, 2015 — 9:58pm
Aram, Aram – sp
This is an independent film that deals with the universal problem of a new generation of immigrants having its young people gravitate towards gangs to protect and assert themselves. Director/writer/cinematographer, Christopher Chambers became interested in the Armenian culture in Los Angeles, a subject that he knew very little about when he began this project. This particular group came to the United States from the old Soviet Union and were hardworking, usually poor people. Chambers wanted the story to be very authentic so he decided to cast only Armenians as his lead actors and to have most of the film in their native language (with subtitles), which he did not speak. He was quite clear, however, about the story that he wanted to tell. John Roohinian was chosen in an open audition to play Aram, a 12-year-old boy who came to live in the United States in Los Angeles with his grandfather. Sevak Hakoyan, a young man who was studying acting was chosen to play Hakop, the Armanian gang leader. The casting of Arsen, the young boy’s grandfather who wanted to keep his grandson on the straight and narrow path, involved tracking down Levon Sharafyan, an experienced Armenian actor, who is well known in Armenian films and Armenian television. Much to his surprise, film maker, Christopher Chambers found him living in the Los Angeles area and the rest is history as he magnificently played the all important grandfather with sensitivity and, of course, with authenticity.
This is an artistic film with wonderful camera work and editing by Mr. Chambers. Although most of the dialogue, which is translated into subtitles is conveyed by excellent acting and direction, the final portion of the film, which was also filled with action, tension, emotion and sentimentality is essentially without dialogue. The essence of the story is simple but worth telling. This movie deserves to be seen, not only by the usual movie goers but also by students in our city schools where the film will resonate with many of the new generation of young people from immigrant families and should, strike a meaningful chord with them. (2015).
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Foreign
June 8th, 2015 — 6:16am
Entourage – rm
You probably need to have been a fan of the HBO TV series by the same name to appreciate this movie which was directed by Doug Ellin who also wrote the screen play of the movie and the TV series. It is the story of five very likeable guys who are living the stereotypical Hollywood life style. There is Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier) handsome movie star who is very generous and caring to his buddies, Johnny Drama Chase (Kevin Dale) Vincent’s brother who is a wannabe actor but never quite achieves star quality despite sounding like Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, Eric Murphy (Kevin Connolly) good looking member of the group who is Vincent’s manager, Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) tag along buddy of the group, who tends to be the driver when they go wheeling around town and last but certainly not the least Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) who is Vincent’s agent and in this movie has become the head of the movie studio but is still the main supporter of the movie that will star Vincent with a supporting role for his brother. The plot has some complications as the son of a big time Texas backer of the above film, for variety of reasons doesn’t think that the movie should get the extra money that it needs to finish production.
As likeable as this entourage may be, they are living an exaggerated kind of Hollywood style where they are having sex with multiple beautiful girls whether or not they are their girlfriend and at least one pregnancy does occur. The movie is also fun as we get fleeting small roles and cameos by the likes of Warren Buffet, Pharrell Williams, Billy Joel, Piers Morgan, Mark Cuban, David Arquette, David Busey, Bob Saget, Andrew Dice Clay, Mike Tyson, Liam Neeson, Kelsey Grammer, Alyssa Miller, Martin Landau, Matt Lauer, George Takei, and Mark Wahlberg, who is also one of the producers of the film. There are all these beautiful people, many of them driving hot cars all in the midst of the lovely Los Angeles scenery. Yet, there is something very sweet and touching as the entourage is very loyal to and caring about to each other. This somehow neutralized the negativity that we might feel about their decadent lifestyle and makes us feel very warm and fuzzy towards this pack of buddies. But otherwise it is just another episode, a little longer than than their usual tv series. (2015)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama
May 3rd, 2015 — 6:56pm
Jake Gyllenhaal in this film is the weird character, Lou Bloom who becomes a freelance news cameraman who roams the streets at night with a video camera and a police scanner in search of bloody accidents or horrible crimes to lead the TV news. He hires Rick, a young man (Riz Ahmed) desperate for work and meets Nina (Rene Russo), a TV news editor who is desperate for good ratings. The result is a creepy type of film noir with this version, showing a part of our society that has lost its moral compass.
Lou Bloom is presented as a mentally unbalanced person who sees things in a very concrete manner. He is without a conscience. But the story is more than one man who resembles a person with Asperger Syndrome but without the typical endearing qualities. The movie seems to be making a statement about television news, at least the local news. Not only is it “if it bleeds, it leads”, but we get the impression that local TV news has little or no integrity. This is not a rerun of the famous classical film Network. To the contrary, there was no one to stand up and say that “we are not going to take it anymore.” Instead, we are left with a view that the status quo is really quite disheartening. This sad message is personal to us because the setting is Los Angeles, our town. While we do not usually travel the streets shown in the dead of night, they are all so familiar.
Director and screen writer, Dan Gilroy, has reminded us that accidents, crime, and tragedy can impact anyone at anytime and we all have a morbid curiosity about these details which are exploited everyday by local TV news. This dark well done movie leaves us with a touch of sadness.(2014)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Crime, Drama
August 12th, 2014 — 6:52am
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
May 24th, 2014 — 9:40pm
Chef-rm This is an extremely well done movie about food and much more. Chef Carl Casper is played by Jon Favreau who write the screenplay, directed and coproduced the movie) is the famous chef of a well know restaurant in Los Angeles. He finds himself at odds with owner of the restaurant (Dustin Hoffman) who wants him to prepare and serve his standards rather then be newly creative on the day that famous food reviewer Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt) will be visiting the restaurant. The critic pans the Chef for being unimaginative and at an expected repeat visit, Casper quits rather be then be forced to stifle his creativity once again. This ultimately leads to foodie road trip in a food truck with Casper, Percy (Emjay Anthony) his 10-year-old son and Martin, a staff cook who formerly worked for him(John Leguizamo). We see the great passion that the deposed chef has for food and it’s preparation but also see the tender father son relationship which is played out by the son wanting to learn about food and the father who really puts him to work but teaches him his love and skill of this genre. Sofia Vergara has never looked better as the beautiful but very caring ex-wife. Scarlett Johansson likewise is very appealing as the empathic hostess at his previous restaurant. The road trip starts off in Miami where the food truck is put together and we can almost taste the Cuban food, which becomes an important part of the menu of the truck. The Cuban music beat becomes the pulse of this film and the face of it is Cuban musician Jose C. Hernandez who plays the father of Casper’s ex-wife and the grandfather of the boy. His playing is a recurrent strong part of the wonderful musical background of this story. We also experience the great music and atmosphere of New Orleans which is the next stop on this trip. The food truck becomes very popular here and we are shown the familiar views of this great city while the musical beat goes on. Perhaps characterizing the chef’s relationship with his son, as he buys him the famous product from the Café Du Mundo, he says to him, “ Eat it slowly, you are never going to taste your first beignet again.” Next stop was Austin, Texas where the food truck also achieved great popularity while the music of Gary Clark Jr. played on. Final stop was back home in Los Angeles where this food truck and it’s great crew held their own against other food trucks in downtown LA. Aside from the great screenplay and very fine acting by an outstanding cast, especially Mr. Fareau who is on screen most of the time, there are three non-human stars of this movie. We have already highlighted the music. Of course there is the food and Los Angeles chef Roy Choi should be included in the kudos since he was the food consultant and there were many mouthwatering scenes of very appealing food. The third star was modern technology, particularly social media and the cell phone with constant tweeting. It was tweets that spread the word about the food critic’s views, the counter arguments of the chef and the popularity of the gallivanting food truck. Also the movie was topped off with a few weeks of one second per day video clips posted on the Internet, put all together by Percy the Chef’s young son which summed up his affection for his dad and the journey on which this movie had taken us all. (2014)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama