Tag: Octavia Spencer

A Kid Like Jake

April 13th, 2018 — 7:55am

Screened at 2018 San Francisco Film Festival

Opens in United States June 1, 2018


A Kid Like Jake

This film is not very much about Jake but is all about his parents, Alex (Claire Danes) and her husband Greg (Jim Parsons), as they begin to realize that their little boy may actually identify as being a little girl. This New York couple first came to this awareness as they were trying to make applications to a private school for their youngster. They met with the director of their son’s preschool (Octavia Spencer), who tried to suggest that their son showed “gender variant play.” Claire Danes is outstanding as she painfully resists the insight that her husband is more willing to discuss.

We saw this movie as the opening film at the San Francisco 2018 Film Festival. We met director Silas Howard who openly discussed how since he himself is transgender, it was important to him to try to show the impact on the parents since that will ultimately determine how such a child can adjust to his or her identity. The subtle implications to both parents are played out in their interactions with each other as well as with their friends, the grandmother (Alex’s mother), and the school director.

This movie did a masterful job in presenting a difficult and important subject. It has the potential to be a classic film in this area (2018).


Comment » | 5 Stars, Drama

Black or White

June 20th, 2015 — 10:46pm

*** Screen Shot 2015-06-19 at 9.48.51 AM

Black or White – nf

Kevin Costner has his pick of many interesting roles roles. In this case, he chose to play Elliot Anderson, a successful lawyer, affectionately known as papa by his eight-year-old black granddaughter (Jillian Estell). This movie was directed by Mike Binder, who also wrote the screenplay. We learn that the young girl is the child of Anderson’s deceased daughter who was made pregnant when she was 17 years old by the father, Reggie Jeffers (Anthony Mackie) a 23-year-old crack addict. The mother, died in childbirth due to a congenital heart condition, a death which we are led to believe could have been avoided if Anderson and his wife had known that she was in labor but they had not been told. The white grandparents took on the responsibility of raising their granddaughter with occasional unwelcome visits by the father’s family led by the grandmother on that side, Rowena Jeffers (Octavia Spencer). The movie opens as Anderson has just learned that now his wife has died in an auto accident. He realizes he must inform his granddaughter of the tragedy and he will take on the responsibility of raising his granddaughter by himself, brushing her hair and driving her to school, etc. This drives him to drink. He also finds himself in a legal battle with the black side of the family that has other ideas about custody. This at times becomes a black versus white, alcoholism versus crack addict, grandfather versus father, white grandfather versus black grandmother. There are some great courtroom scenes and there is a wonderful performance by Jillian Estell who plays the eight-year-old child. She is an actress that we are going to hear from in the future. There are no big surprises in this film. There is drama to hold your attention, emotion to pull your chain, and a great performance by Costner (we said no big surprises). Many people are going to enjoy this movie. (2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Get On Up

August 8th, 2014 — 10:31pm

***Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 11.51.59 PM

Get On Up –rm This is the story of a young boy from rural Georgia who was abandoned by his parents, raised by madam from a brothel, fascinated by the gospel music in the local church and ultimately became the godfather of soul music. It is about a young man who spent time in jail, who essentially only had himself to rely on and yet always had tremendous belief in himself to the point of being self-centered, egotistical or narcissistic if you will. But in this case, he had the goods. He became a music legend he of course is James Brown.

The film is the brain child of Brian Glazer who is a well known movie and television producer who combined his talent with the skills of another music legend Mick Jagger, who has acknowledged being a great fan and being influenced himself by Brown. Jagger brought his music skills to the film as producer and music director. There are at least two more essential ingredients to this biopic and that would be director Tate Taylor (The Help) and Chadwick Boseman who previously starred as Jackie Robinson in 42.and now becomes James Brown. He does this by his speaking voice, mannerisms and learning the distinctive choreography of Brown’s movements during song and everyday life. This includes his swagger as well as his splits and the special way he whipped a microphone around. There also was some very skillful lip-synching accomplished by Boseman and the actors who played his band and backup singers since the great singing in this movie was the original voice of James Brown.

In addition to Boseman there was some great acting that needs to be acknowledged. Lennie James play Brown’s tough and angry father while Viola Davis was the woman inside the mother of Brown who loved him. yet abandoned and rejected him but still tried to come back when he was a success. Octavia Spencer was the madam in the brothel who took him in and more or less had the heart of gold. Dan Aykroyd was Ben Bart the white Jewish agent who became very close to Brown throughout much of his career and was called papa by him. Neisan Ellis was Bobby Byrd one the most loyal members of the original Flames which was Brown’s first groupbefore Brown became a phenomenon by himself. Brown’s complicated relationship with Byrd reflects his self-image of seeing himself as something very special but yet having a lingering need for close friendship that he may never have found.

On one hand the film used flashbacks to effectively show the genesis of Brown’s unique character but yet they seemed to abruptly pull us away from the engrossing music and the story of how Brown was rising to the top, dealing with racial issues including the country’s response to the death of Martin Luther King as well as how Brown faltered in his personal life. There were many backup players moving in an out of Brown entourage as well as various women and children We could not always be sure who they were in his life which might be defect in the film. In addition, we and at least one other person agreed that the conversations of Brown and some others were not always understandable which could be the dialect, or an audio problem but would seem to be a flaw. The running time of the film was 2 hours and 18 minutes and while we can’t say what should have been cut, it probably could have been shorter. However,we have no complaints in re-experiencing the great music and moves of the incomparable James Brown.(2014)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Biography, Drama, Musical

The Help

August 20th, 2011 — 7:31pm


The Help-rm   The weekend that we saw this move,  the book on which it is based after 43 weeks reached #1 on the NY Times Best Seller List. Over the past two decades there have only been four books that spent 20 or more weeks on this list before reaching #1. This indicates that there are a good number of the people sitting in movie theatres seeing this picture have probably first read Kathryn Stockett’s 2009 novel. In our case one of us read it and one didn’t although we both easily agreed on the rating of the film. However, when you have read the book, the characters are more richly developed in your mind and you can more easily follow the storyline. This was especially true such as in this case when the movie, which was written and directed by Tate Taylor, does closely follow the book. Therefore at times important points were briefly made or alluded to, therefore a tad confusing or requiring the imagination of the viewer or the memory of the person who read the book. The story takes place in Jackson, Mississippi circa 1961 and shows that life for the black housekeeper-nanny-maid-cook employed by the gentry white families was certainly separate and definitely not equal in any way. Aibileen (magnificently played by Viola Davis) is one such person who raised a number of the white children in the families of the people that she worked for as did her mother and grandmother but yet is not allowed to use the same bathroom. Her best friend Minnie (Octavia Spencer) is treated like dirt by Hilly, the lady of her house ( played by Bryce Dallas Howard who must have done a great job because we detested her) . It is Skeeter (Emma Stone ) fresh out of college at Old Miss and a budding journalist who loved her own nanny/housekeeper  who raised her and is now mysteriously out of the house but seen in flashbacks (CicelyTyson). Skeeter ultimately has to convince a group of black housekeepers to tells their story so she can write “ The Help.” Her own mother (Allsion Janny) fills in the details for one of the most moving vignettes that reveals the fate of Skeeter’s black nanny. The movie is true to the book in providing insight into the underbelly of genteel living in the deep south of this past generation. It keeps it alive through the depiction of believable characters involved in complex relationships within the context of the times. It is a film well worth seeing. The acting could not be better and the story will be etched in your mind. (2011)

1 comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, History

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