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
November 16th, 2015 — 7:44am
Laggies – nf
The term Laggies, according to Director Lynn Shelton comes from an informal term used by Orange County teenagers when referring to themselves as a group such as “Come on Laggies, let’s all go to the mall.” The screenplay by Andrea Seigel was originally written to take place in Orange County, California, but the setting was moved to Seattle, Washington. However, Shelton liked the way the term Laggies sounded and kept it as the title.
The meaning of the film to us is similarly vague and hard to figure out. Granted it is about a generation far from our own, but we thought that we usually get teens and 20’s even if we are quite removed from their time to bloom.
Megan (Keira Knightley) is a 28-year-old college graduate who has a Masters in Family Counseling but hasn’t really found herself. Her best friend, Allison (Elle Kemper) is getting married and all her good friends are attending the event. Megan’s long-term boyfriend (Mark Webber) is ready to propose to her and they plan to go for a quick small wedding ceremony in Las Vegas. However, Megan meets Annika, a 15-year-old teenager (Chloe Moretz), who she encounters when she’s asked by her to buy beer and alcohol for her and her teenage buddies. Megan can relate to Annika and is comfortable hanging around with her and her friends. She tells her boyfriend that she’s going to go to a conference for a week and then they will get married. In the meantime, Megan stays in Annika’s house where she meets Craig, Annika’s single dad (Sam Rockwell) who is an attorney. Anika and Sam seem to really like each other and have a one-night sexual encounter. Incidentally, we also have learned a little earlier that Megan’s father (Jeff Garlin) was discovered by Megan to be fooling around with the mother of the bride at the wedding of Megan’s best friend, which bummed out Megan. Megan is about to fly to Las Vegas to marry her long-term boyfriend or will she?
So we conclude that the movie is about growing up and deciding which relationships are really important. However, there is no real depth to the storyline. We don’t really understand why the characters do what they do, although they do seem to be the wiser for going through these experiences. The director, Ms. Shelton knows her way around Seattle having directed her previous movies in the city. The acting was very good. Ms. Knightly was very appealing as Megan, the young woman who has to find herself. In the DVD features accompanying the film, we see her talking in her native language (British English) and we appreciate how well she has mastered the American dialect in the film. This movie was a little fun to watch but we didn’t get much out of it. We conclude that we can’t recommend it, even to the teens and 20’s looking for a good movie to kick back on. (2014)
Comment » | 2 Stars, Drama
August 13th, 2015 — 2:03am
Paul Weitz, whose credits include American Pie, About a Boy, In Good Company, and Admission, has written and directed this movie which he put together with Lily Tomlin in mind. It is an independent low budget film but is high in quality with an edgy story and great acting. It all takes place in a 24-hour period and the film runs a crisp 80 minutes. It is about relationships, difficult decisions, love, and regrets, all set with a somewhat unusual cast of characters. Lily Tomlin is Elle, grandmother and a literature professor, who we meet just as she has broken up with her younger girlfriend Olivia (Judy Greer). She is then visited by her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner), who tells her that she is pregnant and needs money for an abortion which neither she nor grandma have the money.
The story unfolds as the two of them visit old friends of grandma in an attempt to get funds for the abortion. During the course of these visits, the viewer gets the life history of grandma and the trial of broken relationships that she has had which includes a long-term relationship with a now deceased Violet, a relationship that ended abruptly 40 years ago with Karl (Sam Elliott), and a more recent friendship with Deathy (Laverne Cox), a sweet tattoo artist. We also get some insights in to the contentious relationship with her nearly estranged daughter Judy (Marcia Gay Harden), mother of the granddaughter and a successful business executive who must have developed her tough exterior from her own mother, grandma. The storyline also takes us into the women’s health center or should we say abortion clinic, where we feel the subtle ambivalence that exist for women in this situation.
In certain respects, this movie is cutting edge as grandma’s sexual orientation is clearly gay from the beginning of the film. However, that has very little to do with the drama, personal conflicts, tragedies, and ambivalent relationships which the viewer experiences in this fascinating story. This is an unusual refreshing movie that should not be missed. (2015)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, 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
August 20th, 2013 — 5:25pm
You Will Be My Son-sp -(French with subtitles) This is an intense drama involving family relationships, specifically fathers and sons. The characters and their personalities are clearly defined through the story line and the great acting. There is Paul de Marseul(Niels Arestrup) owner of a magnificent French winery who is self centered, arrogant and insensitive to the desire of his son to please him and follow in his footsteps. Martin de Marseul (Lorant Deutsch) is the owner’s son, college trained in the science of wines, married to Alice and living on the grounds of the winery. He is emotionally tortured by his father’s neglect. Alice (Anne Marivin) is Paul’s beautiful and supportive wife. Francois Amelot (Patrick Chesnais) is the Estate Manager of the winery, the man who has been the brilliant wine expert who knows when and how to harvest . He has been vital to the success of the business. He also lives on the grounds with his wife and is slowly dying of pancreatic cancer. Phillip Amerlot (Nicolas Bridet) is Francois’ son, an up and coming wine expert himself who has just left his last job and visits his ill father. Paul de Marseul the owner and honcho clearly likes Phillip and favors him over his son to take over the fading Francois’ position and ultimately the winery. The movie is filmed and framed in the lush French countryside. The winery itself is a character in the movie played by a vineyard estate with endless fields of growing grapes, modern harvesting equipment including shaking machines which remove the picked grapes from the vines, large temperature controlled vats where the wine ferments deep in the vast cellars where there are also thousands of stored bottles of valuable wine. There are close ups of the interesting attractive faces of all the characters as well as of the swirling glasses of wine which they are frequently analyzing and drinking during the dialogue. Wine aficionados will particularly appreciate the banter about wine and how the two sons seem to be measured by Paul de Marseul based on their knowledge in this regard. However even deeper insight into his feelings about his own son due to some unresolved grief comes out in a brief cemetery scene. Sometimes we complain that characters are too underdeveloped. In this case who they are is very clearly put forward, perhaps a tad too much. A little more subtlety in the writing and direction by first time director Gilles Legrand might have made this film even better than it turned out. Overall it was thought provoking, unpredictable, out of the ordinary and worth seeing. One more thought which is not very important for the enjoyment of this movie but worth contemplating when the film is over. That is the question of whether cell phones would work in a wine cellar? (2013)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Foreign
August 19th, 2013 — 6:08am
The Quartet-nf The setting is a home for retired musicians in Great Britain which apparently does exist in some form there. Many of the retirees are well known opera singers as well as other types of musicians. Three of the main protagonists played by Billy Connolly, Tom Courtenay, and Pauline Collins are joined by the fourth (Maggie Smith) who makes a grand entrance befitting the diva that she must have been. It turns out that many years ago she had been married to one of the men (Courtenay’s character),for nine hours, but he has never gotten over their romance and being jilted. He thus is quite unhappy about her arrival. Life in the home seems meaningful to the residents who interact with each other, reminisce about times gone by and sometimes play their instruments and also do some singing. Director Dustin Hoffman in an extra clip on Netflix declares that this is a film about life and (older people) enjoying it and living to their fullest. There was no dialog in the film which indicated that any of these residents had meaningful relationships with their families (although some small children were seen visiting and even being given music lessons). It may be that many very successful professional musicians have traveled a great deal and never have time to develop such connections and that such a retirement home serves this very special purpose. It is also of note that aside from the 4 main stars many of the other musicians seen doing small bits of performing from opera to comedy were actual retired professional musicians. This was demonstrated also in the closing credits where they were identified with a picture of them in his or her prime. It becomes clear early on in the film that the issue, which must be resolved, is whether the four main characters will perform the Quartet from Rigaletto in a benefit show to keep the home open. It will not spoil this movie experience to learn in the end they do it and we hear what have to be recordings of the rich voices of the real opera stars in their prime. Dustin Hoffman’s goal is achieved as we have a feel good experience about the ability to find meaning and satisfaction late in life. (2012)
Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama
June 23rd, 2013 — 6:26am
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
June 17th, 2013 — 3:59am
Before Midnight– We didn’t see the two prequels of this movie, Before Sunrise (1995) and After Sunrise (2004) and don’t believe it is necessary in order to appreciate this superb examination of the relationship of the couple Celine (Julie Delpy) and Jesse (Ethan Hawke) now in their early 40’s. Director Richard Linklater reunites with his two stars and they collaborated in writing this sequel which they filmed on the Greek Peloponnesian peninsula. The movie opens with Jesse saying good-bye at the airport in Greece to his 14 year old son who is returning to Chicago after a summer visit with his Dad. The parents divorced many years ago . Jesse now lives with Celine and their twin 9 year old daughters. He is a successful novelist clearly very happy with French born Celine and their family, but obviously feels guilty that he will not be able to regularly see his son during his high school years. In the subsequent car ride back to where they are staying as invited guests for the summer at the home of a Greek author, as well as at a dinner with two other couples, we learn more about their back story. This dinner conversation unfolds and reveals the values and attitudes of three different generations. The main focus now spotlights Celine and Jesse as they walk through the magnificent Greek location to a quaint hotel and then spend a special planned evening together without their children. They become engaged in what turns out to be a no holds barred examination of their overt and hidden feelings. While the interesting specifics of their circumstances were unique to this couple, we recognized the conflicts, dilemmas and angst were universal and we could extrapolate them to familiar issues in many couples of different ages and generations. The unsolved and continued exploration of how a couple will raise children in this post feminist era is laid out in the back and forth recriminations of this couple. How do couples make decisions about where to live and which careers to support when both have career opportunities and there are children involved? How do you distinguish between being true to yourself and your love for your partner ? Does love and loyalty trump all and overcome an extramarital attraction or a fling? What will a couple say in the heat of an argument and can they forgive each other for what they might say? There were many long uninterrupted scenes which underscored the chemistry between this trio (We have to include the unseen director). The subtle facial expressions which included anger and tenderness added to our identification with Celine and Jesse. In the end we are left with a very stimulating movie to discuss. It becomes our challenge to also ponder how the next sequel will turn out. (2013)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance
April 13th, 2013 — 7:53pm
The Perks of Being a Wallflower-nf. Stephen Chobosky wrote the book in 1999 and it became #1 New York Times Best Seller for Children’s Paperback Books. 3 years later in September 2012 this PG- 13 movie was released with Chobsky as Director and Screenwriter with ensemble of young actors including Logan Lerman, Emma Watson (fresh out of Harry Potter ), Mae Whitman (from the TV hit Parenthood), Ezra Miller, Johnny Simmons along with some veteran grownups such as Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott and Joan Cussick. They all seem to hit it out of the ballpark and come through with a very successful movie. It certainly is a film that appeals to teens and beyond. In fact, anyone who can remember his or her high school life or even more important appreciates the serious struggles, and at times traumas that young people may go through, will relate to this film on many levels. It would be over simplifying to describe this as a coming of age film which of course it is . However, it captures the ability of young people to connect with each other, understand, empathize and help each other through the normal traumas of life as well as the some real bad ones that nobody should have to experience. The storyline on one hand is not typical. Charlie (Logan Lerman), a high school freshman with more baggage than most, is dreading the four years in front of him. He befriends two high school seniors Pat and Sam ( Ezra Miller and Emma Watson, who completely loses her British accent for this movie) and hangs around mostly with them and their friends. The setting is a high school in Pittsburgh (the author, screenwriter and Director’s town) and the time would seem to be early or mid 1980s as judged by the music, type of telephone and cars and even the typewriter on which the main character writes his story. There is the requisite lonely time in the lunch room, going to your first party, getting high on a marijuana brownie, truth or dare game, first kiss, the struggle of a gay friend, a lunchroom fight, applications to college etc,. But at the same time these milestones of high school are shown, there is a painful plot and character development with meaningful relationships, which you know, are never forgotten no matter how and where we grow up. Chobosky is writing and directing a film about the 1980s and the music will help bring those of that generation back to their high school days. However, the themes are universal enough to attract today’s youth ( as indicated by the success of the book and movie today) Even us old timers give it a “thumbs up” (with a nod to the movie critic Roger Ebert who died last week.) It would not surprise us if the movie moves towards a cult status and as these young actors make names for themselves, it will be especially interesting to look back at these youthful performances. Any such retrospective should include the Netflix commentary special feature where the actors comment on how it felt making this film about typical teenagers when they admit their teenage life was far from typical. (2012)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance
July 28th, 2011 — 7:18pm
Crazy, Stupid, Love, sp Dan Fogelman, who wrote Cars and other successful animated movies wrote this well thought out comedy about all too human relationships. He wrote it having Steve Carell in mind as Cal , the middle age guy around whom all the actions swirls as his marriage suddenly falls apart. Carell loves the project and decides to produce it with Warner Brothers coming on board to make it a big studio film. The team of Glen Ficarra and John Requa are brought in to direct it. They have been working together since their college days at Pratt in New York City. They have written Bad Santa and Bad News Bears as well as recently directing I Love You Phillip Morris with Jim Carrey. After meeting these three talented people at our screening we can see how their chemistry worked for this character driven comedy with a wonderful cast. Ryan Gosling played Jacob, the cool single but obviously complex guy who takes the recently jilted Cal under his wing. Julianne Moore is Emily, Cal’s wife who is going through what she describes as a mid-life crisis. Emma Stone, Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon round out this all star cast with each putting just the right touch on their characters. Special mention should be made about young Jonah Bobo who plays Robbie, the 13 year old son of Cal and Emily whose emotional experience helps all the characters and the audience understand the essence of the movie. The result is not only a funny comedy but a touching story which examines love that can start as teenagers and sometimes be destined to last a life time with trials and tribulations. It also looks at teenage “love” that may only just feel like love. The story line is close to being brilliant as the characters evolving relationships are charming, touching, surprising and fun to watch as well as being easy to identify with. (2011)
Comment » | 4 Stars, Comedy, Romance