Tag: New York City


In The Heights

June 23rd, 2021 — 1:20am

In The Heights
****

This musical may very well live on for future generations and enter the category of great productions such as Westside Story and Hamilton. The latter also had the lyrics and music by Lin-Manuel Miranda as he did In The Heights. This is the movie version of the Broadway musical which opened in New York in 2008 and which we had enjoyed then.

The story takes place in Washington Heights in the Northern tip of Manhattan in New York City. We meet a young man who hopes to return to native country of Dominican Republic. There are interesting subplots, which include a beloved grandmother who reminisces about her childhood in Cuba, a young woman who comes back to the neighborhood after her first year of college at Stanford University and is torn apart by conflicts concerning how to fit in and, of course, there is passionate romance. We may have missed a couple of beats and some of the subplots; however, we do not think this matters very much because we are overwhelmed with the music, singing, and absolutely terrific choreography to the backdrop of this very realistic depiction of life in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. There is among many scenes of sensational movie magic, where two lovers are seen dancing on the side of the buildings, just to highlight the creativity of the production.

We originally planned to watch this movie in two to three parts since we knew it was 2 hours and 22 minutes; however, we could not resist watching the entire film in one sitting.

The cast, while mostly not known to us, were extremely talented in song and dance as well as in the development of their characters. We did recognize Jimmy Smits in one character role, and a small but interesting role which Miranda did cast himself.

This is certainly a movie to see for its sweet stories, pluck and exuberance, joyous musical style and fantastic production numbers. It is a happy opening up following the months of pandemic isolation. and if you have the chance to see it live, we are sure that the stage production is a knockout.

Comment » | 4 Stars, Musical

The Chaperone

April 3rd, 2019 — 12:46am

*****

The Chaperone-sp

Elizabeth McGovern not only played the role of the chaperone in this movie but she actually chaperoned this film project to fruition after reading the book by Laura Moriarity showing it to Julian Fellowes and Michael Engler who were the writer and director of Downton Abbey and who then took on these roles with this movie.

The story opens in 1922 in Wichita, Kansas, where a talented teenage dancer (Haley Lu Richardson) from a well to do family has the opportunity to go to New York City and study with a prestigious dance school for a few months. Her family requires that a chaperone should accompany her and a neighbor, Mrs. Norma Carlisle (Elizabeth McGovern), is ready to take a break from her husband and volunteers for the job.

A cross country train trip sets the mood for their exciting time in New York City where well-dressed people parade in midtown Manhattan, the Prohibition laws are disregarded behind closed doors at various clubs and romance appears in unexpected places. In addition to being a delightful view of New York City about 100 years ago, the story reflects meaningful psychological issues that both the chaperone and her charge have to confront. Surprises, along with some in depth insight into the two main characters all add up to an excellent movie. (2019)

Your comments on this review or the movie are always welcome in the section below

Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America

August 16th, 2014 — 5:20pm

***Screen Shot 2014-08-15 at 11.47.24 PM

Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing Americasp  If you were looking for an exciting documentary film to watch one evening, you probably would not come up with this film. You might choose one about whales, some aspect of war, the Holocaust, something related to sports or politics. Maybe you would choose Robert Reich’s Inequality for All but chances are you would not think of a film about the man who designed Central Park in New York City and a lot more. However, this very well done film by Emmy nominated husband and wife team documentary film makers Lawrence Hott and Diane Garey has the potential to give you an unforgettable perspective on the beauty and living spaces of your city as well as many other places throughout American and the world. As former New Yorkers, we have spent time over the years enjoying the beauty and comfortable space of Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. We assumed it was simply the original natural beauty that was preserved by our fore fathers. In actuality it was the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted who not only worked on and designed these parks with his colleague Albert Vaux but who fought to convert and build spaces into the magnificent parks with roadways, bridges, water, greenery and a backdrop of one of some of the most magnificent skylines in the world. Similarly Olmsted was also the driving force in setting up a series of parks and wonderfully designed open spaces in Buffalo, New York, which became a model for similar designs throughout the world. The setting, which encompasses Niagara Falls, was converted from a shoddy commercial exploitation to what is rightfully called one of the wonders of the world, thanks again to the work of this man. He became the planner of Boston’s “ Emerald Necklace” of green space and the creator of park systems in many other cities. He helped to make Yosemite the attractive place of beauty that millions of people have visited throughout the years. He played a major role in designing the now beautiful setting that surrounds the U. S. Capitol. He also was the site planner for the “Great White City” of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. This unusual story is told with fascinating old photos and breathtaking very well photographed stills and video clips. Being California people now, we especially appreciated the rich autumn colors in many of the locations that were shown. The personal history of this man and his family some of whom carried on his work is another part of the film. Showing this film in schools will not only inform young people about this subject but may also inspire some creative ones to study landscape design and perhaps carry on the tradition which is so well documented in this movie. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Documentary

Emoticon ;)

May 22nd, 2014 — 6:10am

****

Emoticon ;)- sp Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 10.27.30 PM– It is very exciting to see a small, low budget film successfully get it’s point across in an excellent movie. In this case Livia DePaolis a young actress, co-wrote the screenplay with then film student Sarah Nerbose. Ms. Depaolis also produced and directed as well as star in it. She was able to get veteran actor Michael Cristofer to co-star with her as well as bring in Carol Kane, Sonia Braga and excellent teenage actors, Miles Chandler, Allie Gallerani, Charlie Solis, Sydney Morton and Alesandra Socah. The film examines various aspects of family relationships in a contemporary upper class New York City. It also uses the prism of modern day social media to help the viewer see everyday happenings as the characters might very well been doing. Elena is a single 33 year old graduate student who has a relationship with Walter who is a 64 year old divorced man with two adopted teenage children to whom she becomes connected. The kid’s struggle with their own identity both sexual and racial, as well as Elena relationship with them and her own examination of her feelings about having her own children are all opened up for viewing. The filmmaker appeared to be using Elena’s graduate school thesis as metaphor for this movie. It is that the wide spread use of social media is so much a part of human relationships it actually changes them. From our point of view the movie didn’t need this approach. The characters all had depth and showed complexity, growth and change. The story stood on it’s own and we felt the use of social media was almost incidental. The characters could have just as well been talking on the telephone instead of on Facebook but it was a clever and original perspective none-the-less. We look towards a very bright career for the talented Ms. DePaolis. (2014)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama

Blue Jasmine

August 4th, 2013 — 5:24pm

Blue Jasmine  *** Blue Jasmine rm –  This is another Woody Allen movie which is a study of two sisters. It is an in depth character analysis but yet we never really understand the origins of their personality development. Jasmine (Kate Blanchett) who gave up her last year of college to marry the man of her dreams . He is quite wealthy , seemingly devoted to her, gives her everything she could ever desire from clothes, beautiful home, vacations and even a son from another marriage who eventually goes to Harvard. Hal is a smooth and slick  as Alec Baldwin who actually plays him but is not who he seems to be (think a younger Bernie Madoff). Her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins) is a San Francisco waitress, down to earth with two young children who is married to Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) when we meet her. They visit Hal and Jasmine in their luxurious New York City apartment and make the mistake of asking for advice from Hal on how to handle their $200,000 lottery bonanza. Circumstances that you can probably imagine reverse Jasmine’s good life and she now has to live with her sister in a cramped San Francisco apartment where we meet divorced Ginger’s now boyfriend Chili (Bobby Carnnavale). All these characters are very compelling and interesting including Al (Louis C.K.) who has a quick fling with Ginger The story shows the desperate, superficiality of Jasmine’s character and many of women who surrounded her and similarly although to a lesser degree presents her sister as eager, if not desperate  to latch on to a man. But if Allen is showing us a weak image of woman, there is not much to say for all the men in the story. They are lying, cheating, crying, groping or phony. However, Woody Allen who wrote and directed this movie gets your attention and holds it. The casting, as usual, is near perfect. The dialog draws you into the characters. He used flashbacks to effectively tell the story so you ultimately understand all the nuances. Allen as a writer gets away with using several coincidences to develop his story line such as characters just happen to witness some indiscretion in a busy city street or just happens to bump into somebody who says something that changes everything. Nevertheless, he gets great performances from the actors including what we think could be Oscar nods for Kate Blanchett and maybe Ginger Hawkins. Chalk this one up to ano   ther Woody Allen movie worth seeing. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Francis Ha

June 23rd, 2013 — 6:26am

Frances Ha***

Francis Ha – rm If you are a couple of generations  out of sync with Francis Ha you may find it difficult to  relate to this 27 year old woman (Greta Gerwig) who is trying to establish her life in New York City as a dancer, actually as an apprentice dancer who in fact doesn’t even have her own apartment. We  first meet her with her best buddy girl friend Sophie (Mickey Summer) who isn’t quite as immature as Francis (which isn’t saying much) and is able to move her life along. By the way, another one of her friends is played by Grace Gummer who is a dead ringer for Meryl Streep and happens to be her daughter. We found ourselves feeling sorry for the likeable Francis much as we felt when we caught some episodes of the popular television program Girls with Lena Dunhan as she stumbles through the singles scene in good old New York. It may still be true “that if you can make it there you can make it anywhere”. However, as these characters demonstrate, it may be much more difficult for young women to kick start their lives in today’s single scene in New York and elsewhere. In past generations we recall 20 and 30  something women  usually had jobs and were on their way to careers, especially if they were college graduates  and most had  serious relationships. This doesn’t seem to be the case today  in this story or in real life. Writer/ Director Noah Baumback (who wrote and directed  The Squid and the Whale and Greenberg) teamed up with lead actress Greta Gerwig who also starred in the latter film and are romantically linked. Their dialogue captures the essence of their characters, ie “ We are like a lesbian couple that doesn’t have sex anymore.”   The choice to make this film in black and white allows the audience to focus on the essence of these characters and perhaps also of New York City which doesn’t need color to show it’s stark reality. It should be no surprise that the movie suggests that everything is going to be all right although it doesn’t really show us why and how that should happen. Perhaps their next film will fill in the colors. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

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