Tag: Maria Bello

McFarland, U.S.A.

February 19th, 2015 — 7:05pm

Screen Shot 2015-02-19 at 11.31.19 AM*****

McFarland, U.S.A. – sp –

What could be more all American than a sports film staring Kevin Costner? (think Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Tip Cup, For the Love of the Game) Add to this, a New Zealand director who has established credentials in understanding cultures, not her own, by immersing herself within these places. That is Niki Caro who previously made the award winning film “Whale Rider” about an obscure Maori tribe. On top of that , Disney Studios is backing the film. McFarland, U.S.A. is certainly a United States story, but it is also an authentic depiction of first generation Mexican immigrants living in the Central California town of McFarland. The community lives by picking fruit and vegetables that will be on American tables. The kids attend school but are also employed in the fields doing the back-breaking “picking” work to add to the support of their families. Along comes a new teacher, Jim White, (Kevin Costner) who had had problems in his previous jobs and comes to McFarland as the only place which was so desperate for a teacher that he is hired. He arrives in this small, dusty, impoverished town with his wife and two daughters, none of whom is happy to be coming to this place so alien to them. He is to be the assistant football coach and teach life sciences courses. While his job as football coach soon ends, he realizes that while the kids have little going for them, some of them are incredibly fast, strong runners. The story takes off from there. On one hand you might think that you can guess the drift of the film, but this is much more than a “Chariots of Fire” lookalike. It is a moving story based on the lives of real people who you will hear about in the closing scenes and rolling credits. It will touch you, excite you and make you laugh. It will send a chill up your spine, bring a tear to your eye and you will walk out of the theater knowing you have experienced an outstanding film. (2015)

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama, Family / Kids, Sport

The Jane Austen Book Club

September 9th, 2010 — 5:10am

The Jane Austen Book Club* * *
The Jane Austen Book Club
– nf – The filmmakers obviously did not feel that you had to be Jane Austen fans or at least familiar with her books to appreciate this movie. However one of us who did not read her books, felt that a great deal was missed in understanding the discussion about her various novels and how they were woven into the story. The other one of us while not recalling the stories didn’t feel left out at all. The plot revolves around five women at different places in their lives who decide to form a book club devoted entirely to Jane Austen novels. A chance meeting by one of the characters ends up including one male in the club. Each of the women is having relationship problems. Sylvia (Amy Brenneman) has just been told by her husband (Jimmy Smitts) that he is leaving her for another women. Prudie (Emily Blunt), a French high school teacher, is disappointed in her husband and finds herself attracted to a student. Sylvia’s daughter (Maggie Grace) who is a lesbian is having trouble with relationships. Jocelyn (Maria Bello) is a single dog breeder who hopes that the lone man in the group Grigg (Hugh Dancy) will be good for her friend Sylvia who is down in the dumps about being abandoned by her husband leaving but finds herself attracted to Grigg who is somewhat younger than she. Then there was Bernadette (Kathy Baker) who is the slightly older woman who has been through five marriages and is still thinking about someday making it six. The warmth and caring among the members of the club is very appealing. As they discuss the various Austen novels and their characters, it appears that their own lives are going through parallel struggles. The cast is a well chosen ensemble. The story is based on a book by Karen Joy Fowler. The screenwriter and director is Robin Swicord who has also written, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Memoirs of a Geisha. The setting is Los Angeles and includes a scene in the Marmalade Café that is one of our favorite restaurants, which added to our enjoyment of the film. 2007

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

The Yellow Handkerchief

September 6th, 2010 — 8:15am

The Yellow Handkerchief * * * *
The Yellow Handkerchief
– sp – 83 year old Arthur Cohn who is a five time Oscar winner with films dating back to 1961 was the producer of this film and guest at our screening. He noted that for many of his great movies, including The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, it was often difficult to get a distributor and the films did not achieve box office success until they won the Oscar. In the case of this current film he told us that be thought that the reason he had trouble getting a distribution (finally picked up by Samuel Goldwyn Films) was because this movie does not have sex or any significant violence which many people believe are necessary for a movie to achieve box office success. This film is a road movie which follows Brett, played William Hurt, as he is released from prison after serving 6 years and hitches a ride with a 15 year old girl played by Kristen Stewart (of Vampire movie fame) and slightly older teenage guy played by Eddie Redmayne. Both young people have their own histories of feeling unloved and would like to get away from their unhappy lives. Brett’s history unfolds through a series of short flashbacks as they travel in the south towards New Orleans. He had a troubled youth and hadn’t made much of his life. He thought perhaps things were changing around when he met May played by Maria Bello, but his view of himself as a flawed person along with some particular circumstances caused him to destroy this relationship and end up in jail. As the three travelers who were seemingly going nowhere in their lives get to understand each other and grow, there is a sense of redemption. You see these three misfits and unlikely companions travel in a battered old convertible through Louisiana on their way to New Orleans which is beautifully photographed by award winning Director of Photography Chris Menges. The energy and eternal hope that producer Cohn put into this project (which comes to the to the screen three years after it was filmed) makes us want to root for the this movie to be successful just as we find ourselves also rooting for the characters to make it in their lives. You are left with the dream of the possibility of second chances, which is no small feat. (2008)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

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