Thursday, December 31, 2015

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

The opening crawl with iconic music brought me to tears at the beginning of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This 7th installment picks up 30 years after the 6th ends. New characters carry the legacy of the past nicely. The story moves at a nice clip with plenty of action and humor. The nostalgia is sprinkled in nicely. This film was a very fun ride.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bone Tomahawk

The bearded face of Kurt Russell drew me to rent Bone Tomahwak, an indie film that looked like an old fashioned western. The story begins as a rescue mission and ends in a horrific confrontation. Crazy story, beautifully shot with amazing performances and a shocking ending.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Beasts of No Nation

Critical acclaim had me glad that Beasts of No Nation was available on Netflix Instant. The life of child soldiers in third world countries is a dramatic, disturbing story. Here, it is told slowly, thoughtfully and in detail. The emotions of the children are transmitted well in their faces and actions. The adult soldiers are formidable. After many intense battle scenes, the ending offers satisfying relief. Beautifully filmed, this is one worth watching.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Before We Go

Movies set in New York City have a romantic advantage. The film Before We Go uses this background to great effect. A busker runs into a young girl late at night and attempts to protect and rescue her. The dialogue and acting made this for me. A decent rental.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Deli Man

The deli is an institution with a colorful history and a present day pride. In the documentary Deli Man we are lead through the history of deli culture in a well structured film. From New York to Houston to Toronto to Chicago all kinds of delis are highlighted. This film made me hungry and happy.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Slow West

A quiet, tense drama takes us on a western journey in Slow West. A young man is guided through the old west to find his love. Though slow in the beginning, this film has a wild ending that I rather liked. A decent rental.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Tangerine

In Hollywood, the night culture has a gritty side. Hookers, pimps, drug dealers. In the film Tangerine this is the backdrop for the homecoming of a sex worker after 28 days in prison. Looking for her boyfriend (pimp) and reconnecting with friends and clients, parallels the story of a cab driver on Christmas Eve. The story takes interesting dramatic turns and comic relief is used well. This film is very well edited. This is one of the best films I've seen this year. Well done.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Trumbo

Another story of suppression is told in the film Trumbo. It was not against the law to be a communist in the 40s and 50s, yet people were jailed and blacklisted for not thinking like the men in power. For all his talent and articulation Dalton Trumbo went to prison for doing nothing wrong. When he got out the steps he took to make a living were aggressive and impressive. The performances in this film are great. Well worth a look.

Krampus

I am a huge fan of the Halloween film Trick 'r Treat. Now the creator takes a shot at Christmas with Krampus. Taken from Norwegian folk lore, Krampus brings his wrath on a town after a boy writes a letter to Santa asking him to change the people in his family. The beginning of the film as a lot of darkly funny moments. Dave Koechner is especially funny as the redneck brother-in-law. When the Krampus appears things get dark, cold and creepy. People start to disappear, and they don't spare the gore. Another film with a good ending. I was surprised that this film put me in the holiday spirit. 

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Mockingjay Part 2

The final book of the Hunger Games series is split into 2 films. After seeing The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 I don't think this was necessary. The film is quiet and pensive. Conflicts come to a head and are resolved, but it often felt dragged out to me. As always, the acting and effects were good. This was a solid series.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Backdraft

Listening to an interview with director Ron Howard, he mentioned Backdraft and I realized that I've never seen it.The story of firefighter brothers has an amazing cast. The story is one of a struggling family, but there is an arson at bay which lends an air of mystery and adventure. The fire effects and explosions are dramatic and powerful. I'm glad I finally watched this one.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Creed

I like a sequel title that does not have numbers in it. The simple title of Creed tells all Rocky fans everything they need to know. Apollo Creed's son is a young man, and thinks that a boxing career is his destiny. He goes to Rocky Balboa, who is quietly running a restaurant in Philly, for training and guidance. The chemistry between Sylvester Stallone and Michael B. Jordan is excellent. The two swap barbs, work hard and support each other in interesting ways. There is also a romantic story line that is realistic and satisfying. The references to the original Rocky movie are good and not overdone. This film will be on my favorites list this year.

Digging for Fire

A man obsessed and a woman set adrift are the focal points in Digging for Fire. This quiet indie goes back and forth between a wife looking for time to herself and a husband looking for answers to a mystery. Both get in over their heads. I liked the ending.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Winning: Ther Racing Life of Paul Newman

For seven years I was in a relationship with a man who loved cars and car racing. I learned a lot and enjoyed being around someone who was so knowledgeable and passionate about something. The documentary Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman was a reminder of our trips to Limerock Park in CT and trips to northern CA for vintage car race events. Newman was an excellent driver and had such a love for the sport. This documentary is a nice chronology of his racing life.

Shaun the Sheep Movie

Stop motion is a fascinating form of animation. In Shaun the Sheep Movie it is used to great effect. The way the sheep are built, and the city-scape are the most impressive. The story is very funny. I was highly entertained as the sheep go to the city for adventure and find a little more than they bargain for. Humor and heart are in rich supply, despite the fact that there is no dialog. Master storytelling. Well done.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Good Dinosaur

For his 5th birthday, my grandson chose The Good Dinosaur as his movie of choice. We packed up 20 adults and kids and invaded the local AMC the day after Thanksgiving. We were treated to a visually delightful film with a "get me home" story that was predictable but sweet. A lot of the characters were fun. I wish we had seen more of Beast who carried his neurosis and Deborah close. In the end I liked the characters and the message. Well done.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Suffragette

That women have to fight for rights is beyond me. In Suffragette we see a story of oppression, violence and rape that is horrendous. The women are brave and tenacious, the men are monsters. This is another time in history we should be ashamed of. Thank goodness for the fighters. The statistics at the end of the film are a bit startling.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Spotlight

In the film Spotlight an elite group of reporters have an important assignment. They investigate a rash of sexual assaults on children by priests in Boston that the church covered up. The crime disgusts me to such a level, that I could not enjoy this movie for the wonderful film it is. Well written, well acted and really gets to the meat of investigative journalism. My problem? The alleged crime and cover-up is so abhorrent, it actually makes me feel sick to my stomach. I had a tough time with this one.

Furious 7

The expectations of Furious 7 were low for me. I have found the Fast and Furious movies silly and poorly written. After listening to an appearance with song writer Charlie Puth at our local radio station, I decided it was time to give a little attention to the latest in the franchise. Puth wrote the final song in the film over the Paul Walker tribute, and the story behind the song was rather poignant. Watching the film I enjoyed good action sequences (though some a bit too long), impressive stunts and the emotional payoff I wanted at the end. The dialogue was cheesy, but I kind of like that in a movie like this. When the movie finished I said, out loud to no one, "Well done."

Friday, November 20, 2015

Jurassic World

I waited to see Jurassic World until it came out in DVD because the movie Jurassic Park scared the heck out of me in the theater many years ago. I like a tongue in cheek monster movie, not a realistic one. The latest trip to the artificial land of the dinosaurs is a bit clunky, a bit cheesy and a lot violent. I would not take a child under 12 to see this. Freaked me out.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Brooklyn

The story of a young Irish girl finding her way in life as a young adult in the 50s is not a new story. Adding immigration to the US and defining home, adds interesting elements to her journey in the film Brooklyn.There is a maturity and style to this film that I really liked. Sweet, charming and at times funny, this one is worth a look. Thanks to Fox Searchlight and RI International Film Festival for the advanced screening.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Do I Sound Gay?

The title and premise of the documentary Do I Sound Gay? makes me uncomfortable. I feel like the question connotes that sounding gay is negative. The question is dealt with both clinically and emotionally, and the analysis is very interesting. The subjects are very grounded in their lifestyles and I found the conclusion to be very positive and uplifting. It's also very nice to see David Sedaris and Dan Savage speak on this subject. So grounded, so happy, so smart. Solid documentary.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Mr. Holmes

The charm of Ian McKellan drew me to Mr. Holmes, a film depicting Sherlock Holmes as an older man. Wondering if I wanted to see an elderly Holmes I was treated to a solid drama. Holmes passes his gift of deductive reasoning to a young lad and the relationship is totally charming. Solid acting and beautiful settings made this worth watching.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Room

One part of the story in the film Room takes place in a small room. It's claustrophobic. It's scary. The goal is to get out of the room. Turns out that getting out of the room is just as difficult as being in the room. Just in different ways. This is a story of survival, family and love. This film is well written and edited. The performances are outstanding and make for a compelling story. Great film.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Hotel Transylvania 2

Staying with my grandsons recently, we wanted to see a movie. The boys had really enjoyed Hotel Transylvania so we decided on seeing Hotel Transylvania 2. What an entertaining film! The monsters are endearing, there were many laugh out loud moments and the theme of family is strong. Everyone in the theater seemed to enjoy this film. When I got home I rented Hotel Transylvania and was just as charmed, though I think the sequel was a little better. As Eli said, "the characters had more to do." Seven years old and solid film analyst. Nice job. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Magic Mike XXL

I really enjoyed the first Magic Mike movie, so I was looking forward to Magic Mike XXL. The sequel was disappointing. Where Magic Mike was light and had a heart, the second film is heavy and burdened with taking itself too seriously. When the men dance, those sequences are fine, but they devolve to bump and grind, for way too long, it becomes tedious. Channing Tatum and Elizabeth Banks are the saving graces of this movie, but I still found it a chore to watch.

The Gift

Psychological thrillers are a favorite of mine. In The Gift we get a good one. A troubled couple move back to the husband's home town. When they run into an old high school acquaintance a string of gifts make the couple uncomfortable. As the past is slowly revealed, the thriller gains momentum. Great performances and a powerful ending make this a solid film.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

She's Funny That Way

When an actor is mesmerizing to watch when they are just talking, it is a gift. In She's Funny That Way Imogene Poots gives dialog in closeups that is that kind of mesmerizing. Her story is a crazy ride and the themes of secrets and mistaken identity are done well. Saying too much would take away from the entertaining surprises. Peter Bogdonavich still weaves story magic. The cast is pretty fantastic too. I enjoyed this film quite a bit.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Steve Jobs

I've never been that interested in Steve Jobs. I have enjoyed my fair amount of Apple products, but the man never held a lot if intrigue for me. I always thought his product launch extravaganzas were pretentious and unnecessary. The film Steve Jobs takes an interesting angle on the man's life and rise. This is not a biopic. It portrays specific aspects of Jobs' personal and professional life in the settings of three product launches. The performances are outstanding. This is an interesting film.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Southpaw

There is a drama and formula to sports films, especially boxing. Southpaw is no different, but there are a few creative licenses exercised. Camera angles and plot points give this story a little edge and a lot of heart. The comeback story is an old one, but one I enjoy quite a bit.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Spy

Watching the cliche opening action sequences in Spy brought a smile to my face. This film is very self-aware and does a great job spoofing spy-culture. The writing is sharp and Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne are hilarious in this. Great rental.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Little Death

At the start of the film The Little Death, I thought the film would simply be about sexual kinks, but it is so much more. The stories of five couples exploring their kinks is clever and rather funny. The running gag cracked me up and I ended up liking this film much more than expected.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Freeheld

Real life drama is plentiful when people fight for their rights. The quest for equality between races and gender are age-old. In Freeheld we see the story of a woman with a terminal illness who tries to have her pension benefits transferred to her domestic partner, as they would be for a heterosexual couple. The fight is well fought and the relationship between the two women and their community is honest and loving. This is a film I wish more people would see and take to heart.

Bridge of Spies

Listening to people talk about the film Bridge of Spies, I feel like you may have had to live through the Cold War to get the depth of the drama in this story.The true story of the trade of a Russian spy for American soldier and a student is well done. It is amazing to me how much is done in secret in the world. The cinematography is great and the tone of the time is captured well. Some are calling this film old fashioned, I'd say that authentic is more accurate.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cinderella (2015)

I grew up with the Disney animated and Rogers and Hammerstein versions of Cinderella. Sweet, musical and happily ever after. In the latest live-action version of Cinderella we get a darker version of the tale.The more I think about it, the more I like it. Definitely more to the relationships and motivations of the characters. Not sure the little ones would like this, but I could see older kids appreciating more thought in this story.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Call Me Lucky

Call Me Lucky starts like a documentary about comedy. We meet Barry Crimmins as a young comic and follow the path of his career. Then the film takes a turn and tells a completely different story about Barry's childhood that is horrifying. He explains how he copes and advocates. This is a very brave film.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Black Mass

Mobsters are basically human monsters. No regard for life or the law. In Black Mass the life of Whitey Bulger is the centerpiece. Violence and street justice abound. The film and performances are fine, but hearing a Boston accent coming out of Benedict Cumberbatch was a lot to digest. This is a decent film.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

He Named Me Malala

I think I have never heard of anyone as brave as Malala Yousafzai.In the documentary He Named Me Malala we meet a teenager who was shot by the Taliban and survived, left the country under threat of death and lives a life as a champion of education for girls. She has won the Nobel Peace Prize and travles the world spreading her message. She is 18. The film tells her story with interviews and animation. I really liked this inspiring, creative film.

Sicario

Drug trafficking is a harsh reality on the Mexican border. In Sicario we are taken into that world and everything that is unpleasant about it. Even those trying to stop the activity must resort to thug-like behavior in this undeclared war. This film is dark and intense. Stays with you.

The Martian

I have always loved the idea of space travel. The romantic thought of adventure in the galaxy is appealing to me. But when you think of how hostile the environment of space is, the bloom is off the rose. I have never understood why anyone wants to go to the moon or other planets when it is cold, no gravity, no food, no air, in short, you can die there. I have especially thought this of Mars because it takes so long to get there, and for what? While watching The Martian all I could think is, this is why humans should not go there. The story of an astronaut accidentally abandoned on Mars has thrills, science and humor. Well written and well acted with a harrowing ending. Cool film.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Walk

I have had cocktails on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. I have met Phillippe Petit. I think of the man outside the building at dizzying heights and I shudder. This is the reason I could not watch the documentary Man On Wire at the film festival where I met this charming man. He convinced me that I could handle the movie and encouraged me to watch. Years later, when I saw the first trailers for The Walk, Robert Zemeckis' version of this lunatic feat, all I could do is smile. The bonus? It would be in IMAX 3D. They were going to put the audience on the wire as well. I was thrilled! I am fascinated with this story for the obvious reason of the magnitude of the accomplishment of a man walking a high wire strung between the two towers of the World Trade Centers. The other is the time capsule of watching how easy it was to move around the world back in the mid-70s. Though the narration from the top of the Statue of Liberty was a but cheesy, it grounded you back to lower Manhattan in the midst of the caper. I had heard that there was a touching ending, but was not quite prepared for my reaction. I had to sit in the theater for a while after the film to pull myself together. I loved this film. I loved the effects. I loved the spirit. Merci Monsieur Petit, Monsieur Gordan-Levitt et Monsieur Zemeckis. Well done.

The Intern

In the continuing theme of older characters in film I saw The Intern. Nancy Meyers applies her light touch to the interesting prospect of a Senior Intern program at a booming company. Anyone over 50 today has experienced an mazing amount of technical change in our lifetime. Some find it overwhelming, some embrace it. In the end people are still people and all the technology in the world won't change that. Good performances and a satisfying ending made this a good film for me.

Lila & Eve

Losing a child is devastating. Losing a child to a drive by shooting is incomprehensible. When the police don't seem to give a shit Lila & Eve take matters into their own hands. They do their own investigating and retaliation. I liked the twist in this film.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Manglehorn

As we age, we have to deal with the balance of limitations and independence. In Manglehorn a man still runs his own business, takes care of his cat and even tries to date. He is faced with challenges, but pushes forward and deals with situations when he stumbles. Another mature performance from Al Pacino. I thought this was a good rental.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Iron Giant on the Big Screen

When I attended a panel with Brad Bird at Tribeca Film Festival in April, he announced that a special edition of The Iron Giant would be released in theaters in the fall. All I could think was that I wanted to take my grandsons who love the film as much as I do. 200 miles and busy schedules had me thinking that would never happen. Then Eli's birthday party got scheduled for the 3rd and The Iron Giant was playing on the 4th. Tickets were bought, I was one happy grandma. Seeing this for the first time on the big screen was pretty awesome and the kids were wide-eyed. It had been a while since we had seen the film, maybe a year or so. Even though it was familiar, it felt fresh as well. There was trivia before the film, extra scenes and a peek at a new documentary after the credits. As we walked out of the theater Miles delivered the ultimate compliment, "I want to watch that again, right now!" It was a great time at the movies with my favorite cinephiles.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Cop Car

The thriller Cop Car starts out as a harmless joy ride for two young boys. The situation disintegrates quickly when the cop comes back for the car and the chase is on. There are plenty of bad guys and violence. The boys are rather charming. This is a decent crime film.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

I'll See You in My Dreams

Lately, I seem to be seeing films with older casts and characters. I like that there are plenty of films that portray 60 somethings as people of interest. I'll See You in My Dreams tells the story of a widow who is content with her life, but learns that her appeal and chances for romance are not over. There are many funny moments and many poignant ones as well. The relationships are interesting, especially how they play out. Well done.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My Old Lady

When a middle aged American's father dies and he inherits an apartment in Paris, he learns that it comes with a tenant. The tenant comes with several strings attached. The film My Old Lady is an intriguing story with enough twists and turns to keep things interesting. Kevin Kline is a joy to watch and Maggie Smith is truly a gem. This is a delightful film with a lot of layers. I really liked it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Results

When a romantic drama takes place inside a fitness center, it is a little tough to feel the romance. In Results, a valiant effort is made to address things like job boredom, sales techniques, personal goals, waste of resources, fitness, friendship and love. As a rental, I liked it. There were a few quirky stretches, but I think that's why I liked it. Really sends you down the fantasy road of what would you do if you had more money than you could spend. The ending was a bit far-fetched, but it was OK.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Learning To Drive

When I first heard of the film Learning to Drive it was presented as a "nice" film. I adore the performances of Patricia Clarkson and Ben Kingsley so I went to see it. What I got was a good relationship drama that did not sugar coat issues and went down several interesting roads. The bonus? Grace Gummer played Clarkson's daughter. Glad I saw this one.

Friday, September 11, 2015

61*

I did not know the story of Roger Maris and Mickey Mantle until seeing the film 61*. Billy Crystal's love of the Yankees shines through this story of rival teammates. Excellent performances are given all around. Nice sports history movie. If you rent the DVD, it is well worth watching the "making of" extras.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Ricki and the Flash

Why did I love Ricki and the Flash? Because Mothers aren't perfect just because they are Mothers. Because music is portrayed as the beautiful seductress it is. Because actors of an advanced age can give an excellent, and sometimes sexy performance. Because I met Meryl Streep and Maime Gummer years ago and I love their performances in this. This was a film I really enjoyed.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Mistress America

Strong women in film are appealing. In Mistress America we see several versions of strong women, each in their own way. Some of the women are in survival mode, some are in learning mode, some are in control mode. All of them are interesting. I liked how the relationships played out especially when things got out of hand. Well done.

Dope

Smart, urban high school kid gets tangled up in a world he does not belong in.  Dope is not the formula film I expected. The fish-out-of-water scenario plays out in unusual ways. The performances are great, the writing is clever and I liked the music too. Solid film. I'd watch this one again.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Phoenix

Slow, subtle dramas are appealing to me. The film Phoenix is a slow burn. When a woman's identity is taken away, she learns things about her husband that are life changing. As the husband became more and more loathsome, the ending packed a satisfying punch.

Almost Mercy

I have a soft spot for films made in RI. A local horror film showed up on Netflix Instant. Almost Mercy is a revenge story set in a high school. The female lead gets stronger as the story develops. Very violent and a little cheesy, I'm glad I watched this one.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Far from the Madding Crowd

Strong performances. Strong story. Far from the Madding Crowd is a pleasure to watch. A woman has three men vying for her attention. and the choices she makes are interesting. Carey Mulligan gives a dynamic performance and this film is beautifully shot. I really liked this film.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

The End of the Tour

Another film that I was drawn to because of Jessie Eisenberg, but it turned out that Jason Segal was the star of The End of the Tour in my book. I know litle about David Foster Wallace, but Segal plays him as a smart, sensitive, self aware man. Eisenberg plays writer David Lipski who is looking for sensation for a Rolling Stone article. As Lipski looks for sensation, Wallace keeps his feet on the ground. Interesting look at journalistic process and literary fame.

The Diary of a Teenage Girl

The explicit nature of The Diary of a Teenage Girl was a little off-putting at first. Appropriate for the story of a girl who has an affair with her Mother's boyfriend. Mini explores her sexuality and takes us along for the ride. This is a creative film that uses artistic flairs to tell this coming of age story. Excellent film.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Iris

Self assuredness and moxie are very attractive qualities to me. Fashion icon Iris is depicted in an insightful documentary showing off both. Iris Apfel is a style icon who has enjoyed a long life of creativity. Her life and career are captured beautifully by Albert Maysles in this documentary. What a woman! What a film!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

American Ultra

I'll admit that Jessie Eisenberg's performances fascinate me, so American Ultra was high on my summer must-see list. The story did not disappoint, though it was a little complex. There was violence, humor, violence, wit, violence, romance...and did I mention violence? Quite a ride!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Touchy Feely

A podcast appearance By Lynne Shelton put the film Touchy Feely on my list. I liked the story of people, seemingly disconnected, learning their places in their relationships. A thoughtful film. I liked it.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bringing Up Baby

A serious scientist runs into a wacky woman who has a leopard named Baby. The scientist's well ordered life gets caught up in the mayhem of the young woman's pursuits. The film Bringing Up Baby is full of wonderful banter, crazy caper scenes and the gigantic talent of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant. Though it is black and white, the film is vibrant.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Match

In the film Match we meet a woman who appears to be a journalist interviewing an accomplished ballet dance professor. The questioning takes an unusual turn, and so does the plot. A bit of a mystery, a drama, a thriller. A very mature, satisfying film.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Winning a hotel stay in New York City, I invited my daughter to join me. As we put together our wish lists of things to do, a Broadway show was high on the list. After mulling over our choices we landed on Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Musical, drag, drama, fun. The Belasco Theater was on the next block from The Iroquois, it felt like fate. Oh, and did I mention that Taye Diggs is playing Hedwig? Yeah baby. The story of love, betrayal, dreams and redemption played out on the Broadway stage. The staging was cool and Diggs rocked every number. When I got home I rented the film and got more of the story and a more subdued Hedwig in John Cameron Mitchell's performance. Both performances good and I really love this soundtrack.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation

The Mission Impossible franchise is a soft spot for me. Each installation is intriguing, action packed and high quality. With each new director we get a new slant on the missions of Ethan Hunt. The tone of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is very different from Ghost Protocol. It is thoughtful, subtle, smart and intense. Not the thrill ride of the previous films, but enough intrigue, humor and chase scenes to satisfy me.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Black Stallion

The first hour of The Black Stallion has very little dialog and is some of the most riveting cinema I have ever seen. When it enters a predictable plot I lost interest a little, but this is one worth seeing. A true classic.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Goonies

In 1985 I had 2 small children and rarely got to the movies. I have always been aware of the movie The Goonies, but never saw it. Watching it 30 years later, I was treated to a journey into adolescence, fantasy, friendship and family. Great script, performances and action sequences. I can understand the affection for this film. Lovable.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Miracle on 34th Street

Though it runs on TV all the time, Miracle on 34th Street is another holiday classic I've never seen. The story of a man who claims to be Santa Claus in the modern world is an excellent exercise in tolerance, faith and kindness. Well acted and written, this is more than a Christmas movie. I really liked it.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

What Happened, Miss Simone?

Singer, activist, pianist, mother, wife, Nina Simone wore a lot of hats. In the documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? we get a look into all of these aspects of her tumultuous life with the soundtrack of her enormous talent running through. An exquisite pianist whose voice matched, she found a career in music and struggled with her art and those around her. Her contributions to the civil rights movement are explored as well. An interesting artist and woman. Cool film.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Yellow Submarine

If I ever saw it all, I don't remember, yet so many images in Yellow Submarine are familiar to me. This is a psychedelic ride in animation. Colorful, creative and trippy. So much fun to watch. The Beatles join Captain Fred to free Pepperland from the Blue Meanies and restore music there. A fun ride, and you'll be singing along to the music.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Kid

When The Kid was recommended as essential viewing for kids under 13, I would recommend it for the 11-13 range. This silent film is a bit bleak and would benefit from discussion of poverty in the 20s and child abandonment. The brilliance of Charlie Chaplin's acting is the heart of this tale, and the complex story told with very few words is genius. The technical aspects of a dream scene are to be admired as well. A classic that I'm glad I finally watched.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Inifintely Polar Bear

Families can have a lot of challenges to overcome. In the film Infinitely Polar Bear the focus is money and manic depression. The family is separated by the Mom's drive for a better life and the Dad's illness. The kids end up being cared for by the manic Dad who won't take his meds and struggles to keep order in their day to day lives. He does not always succeed, but there is always the undercurrent of love. The kids are wonderful and Mark Ruffalo plays manic well. Production note: this one was filmed in RI!

Duck Soup

I really enjoyed A Night at the Opera, so when Duck Soup showed up on the EW 55 list I immediately rented it. Masters of slapstick and geniuses of the running gag, the Marx Brothers are such a delight to watch. A very funny story pokes fun at politics and privilege with some awesome production numbers. You can see the inspiration of a lot of modern comedy in this work. Very funny film.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Trip to the Moon

An important part of film history is the hand colored film A Trip to the Moon. A brilliant early film that is mesmerizing and technically ahead of its time. With a futuristic story and satyric tone, this is a cinematic jem. Happy to see it on Netflix Instant.

Trainwreck

I've never been wowed by Amy Schumer, but the writing in Trainwreck impressed me. The story of a young lady with a give-a-fuck attitude about adult life is both compelling and entertaining. The dialogue and performances outshine the story, especially the weak third act. There's a lot of heart though and I liked his film a lot more than I expected to. Neither the poster nor the trailer do this film justice. I'd like to see this one again. Well done.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Babe

Another movie recommended by EW for kids under 13, Babe is an interesting one. OK, I thought it was weird. The special effects are impressive, the story is simple and the ending is very satisfying. Once I got used to the talking animals, I enjoyed this film. A cute one to watch with the kids.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Amy

Musicians can have inner struggles that their fans don't always see. Amy Winehouse had to deal with her demons in front of the world. In the documentary Amy, we are taken back to her roots and watch her rapid rise and fall. Her talent was enormous, but so was her addiction. The performance clips capture the brilliance of her voice and her lyrics become a character on the screen showing her pain and depth. An appropriate tribute to a young talent gone too soon.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

It's a Wonderful Life

For all of the film I have seen, I have never watched all of It's a Wonderful Life. I always run into it on TV at the holidays, but it never held my interest for more than a few scenes. When Entertainment Weekly put out a list of 55 Essential Movies Kids Should See Before they Turn 13, my daughter was appalled that I had not seen this film. Handing me her copy she said, "give it a chance." That weekend I enjoyed a film based on a family living though an interesting part of history in America. Their ups and downs. Their anguish and joy. I feel like the Christmas ending of this film dilutes the fact that the film is so much more than a Christmas movie. I think it is 3 or 4 movies in one. A surprisingly enjoyable experience.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

5 Flights Up

As a woman approaching 60 with 80-something parents, the themes in 5 Flights Up are very familiar. A couple who has been in their 5th floor walk-up Brooklyn apartment for 40 years get the notion that they should sell and live somewhere more appropriate. Th realities of the NYC real estate market is jarring to them. Realizing that selling means buying, they go on a whirlwind of apartment hunting and evaluating all of their life decision. It is a warm, interesting look at later life and being comfortable with that life. I really liked this film.

Friday, July 03, 2015

Inside Out

Pixar is a powerhouse when it comes to animated film. Not only is the animation amazing, but the stories are well told and heartfelt. The latest offering, Inside Out, follows that tradition with a high-concept adventure for the emotions of an 11 year old girl. The representation of the girls emotions by 5 characters in her head show us a little psychology and a little science. As always, Pixar finds a way to tug at our heartstrings and does a nice job letting us know that sadness can be as important as joy.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

McFarlane, USA

After watching a string of OK movies McFarland, USA was a breath of fresh air. The storyof the McFarlane TX cross country team is a nice rags to riches story. Well written, well acted and enough edge to keep it from being too cheesy. A good sport film.

Focus

I enjoy a good heist film. Focus is not a good heist film. Will Smith plays a con man who meets a young woman who wants in on the action. Smith does not even sound like himself, the voice is way too low which I found very distracting. Even when there are interesting cons they either go on too long or end in a bad place. This film was a big disappointment. Margo Rabe does a nice job, but it's not enough to save this one.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

While We're Young

When I watch talented, successful people long for more in a film my eyes roll. In the film While We're Young we're introduced to a couple discontented personally and professionally, yet they don't seem to have much to complain about. When they meet a younger couple and are captivated by their youth, little do they know they are being taken for a ride. Their vulnerability takesthem on a journey that does see growth. I liked the ending, but the journey was a bit painful.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

F for Fake

After listening to a podcast about art forgeries I heard about the film F for Fake. Part documentary, part show off, this film is a creative look at forgery and trickery. A fancy documentary I enjoyed.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Spring

After watching several mediocre films Spring was just what I needed. Imaginative, well written, interesting characters and an interesting story. The sci-fi aspect works, the romance works and I loved the setting. Very cool film with a great ending. I really liked this one.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Welcome to Me

Much is made of Kristen Wiig when she does drama. In Welcome to Me she plays a woman who loves TV talk shows. When she wins millions in the lottery she buys the ability to make her own talk show. She holds the crew and network hostage with her checkbook. The approach to the treatment of mental illness is awkward and not always respectful. This film left me flat.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Lost River

Lost River is a weird ride. Desperate for money, a single mother travels to a secret city and works in a freak show of bizarre proportions. The production value is high and performances are great, but this is such a strange film.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Crash (1996)

I know that David Cronenberg's films tend to be a bit perverse, but the film Crash was a bit much for me. The characters are constantly having sex or on their way to have sex or talking about sex. Some of the sex did not even look physically possible. I realized that watching others have sex is boring and the characters in this film were sad and deranged to me. Not a fan.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Animated Voices - Vulture Festival 2015

I learned of the Vulture Festival through a comment Tig Notaro made on the Professor Blastoff Podcast. The date caught my ear because I was going to be in NYC that weekend. I looked at the schedule and bought a ticket for a panel called Animated Voices on the Saturday afternoon. The Milk Studios are a beautiful venue and I chose a seat second row center. When the talented voice actors took the stage and read scripts as their characters, I was in heaven. They performed Who's On First, and scenes from Shawshank Redemption, Fresh Prince, The Breakfast Club and Mad Men. The funniest scene was the contract scene from Fifty Shades of Grey read by Teddy and Linda Belcher of Bob's Burgers. I think everyone in the room was crying because they were laughing so hard. Absolutely brilliant. This was a very well run event, and I'm going to plan to go next year and bring a friend!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pitch Perfect 2

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Pitch Perfect, so I felt pretty good going into Pitch Perfect 2. Structurally this movie is a mess. All over the place and choppy, with so much uncomfortable, inappropriate, lazy humor. There are a lot of crazy cameos, some work some don't. The singing is still strong and the production numbers do not disappoint. I especially liked an underground battle scene. This movie lacks structure, but is still enjoyable. I thought the end credit scene was hilarious!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Continuing the superhero saga Avengers: Age of Ultron catches up with The Avengers as they move on and deal with life, politics and threats to the world. Mad-crazy fight scenes and a little more delving into the personal thoughts and feelings of the characters, gave this movie more dimension than I expected. I found the ending very satisfying and I'm ready for the next chapter.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Tomorrowland

After seeing Brad Bird at Tribeca Film Festival I was looking forward to seeing Tomorrowland. This film starts strong with visions to the future, AI, gadgets and strong characters seeking a better world. In the third act it is reduced to robot battles and sermons about saving mankind from itself. In all, well done, but a bit preachy at the end. Loved the visuals.

Fay Grim

My next step down the Hal Hartley path is the film Fay Grim. As Fay tries to pick herself up from the shit-storm that was Henry Fool, she finds herself in the middle of an espionage drama of international proportions. I love this story, I love the film structure, I love the absurdity, I love the performances. Another masterpiece from Mr. Hartley.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Henry Fool

In a late night show interview I learned of Hal Hartly. Renting Henry Fool was my first step in learning about the man's work. Henry Fool is a charismatic guy who is nothing but trouble, but oh the people he effects! Leaving chaos in his wake, he moves into the lives and hearts of the Grim family. People who are flawed in their own ways, struggling to find themselves. Henry encourages the brother down a creative road, and seduces the sister. Both relationships take crazy, violent turns and wait till you meet Ned. Loved this film and look forward to spending more time with these characters.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cake

There was a lot of buzz around Cake during award season. Specifically, the performance from Jennifer Aniston. Against type, she takes on scars both physical and emotional, as a woman who has suffered a tragedy and is bitter as hell. The events of the incident unfold slowly through conversations and hallucinations of a woman who took her own life. Interesting story structure and good performances make this film a decent rental.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road

The visual feast that is Mad Max: Fury Road impressed the shit out of me. A chase out of the Capital is eye-popping and action packed. We get to know the characters while traveling with them at break-neck speeds. There is gunfire, explosions and blaring music as the good guys flee the bad guys. This film immerses the viewer in a world of struggle, survival, hope and comaraderie. I could watch this one again.

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Cobbler

I like Adam Sandler in dramas. In The Cobbler he gets to work a drama that has light moments and a bit of fantasy. When a cobbler takes on the form of the person whose shoes he puts on he goes down a criminal road. Can he help? Can he make a difference? I thought this film was clever and I liked the ending. Decent rental.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Against the Sun

Survival stories make for high drama. In Against the Sun we see another WWII drama that astounds, as three men survive for 34 on a life raft. What is done with this small setting and small cast is impressive. I thought this was a strong rental.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Red Balloon (1956)

I first saw The Red Balloon when I was in elementary school. I think it was for a French class. I was probably 9, yet I remembered it well. Recently, my Dad told me that he had seen a wonderful, simple film on TCM. It was The Red Balloon. This led me to rent the film and re-watch it 50 years later. What a pleasure. The themes of devotion, friendship and resilience are well done in a sweet, simple film. Gorgeous.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Ex Machina

Reading the buzz on Ex Machina everything I read said "see it." I'm not always in on sci-fi, but I had to check it out. What I found was an intricate story that leads us one way then goes another. The technology combined with human emotions and reactions manipulates the audience beautifully. Loved this film, can't wait to see it again.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Middle of Nowhere

The director Ava DuVernay burst on the scene with Selma last year, but in 2012 she directed a film called Middle of Nowhere. A strong, quiet drama that depicts relationships, strength and endurance. Can a relationship survive separation and temptation? Well acted and shot. This was a good rental.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Tribeca Film Festival 2015 Day Six

My last morning in Tribeca was cold. Still, I had a mission to find, HB Studios where I'm attending a workshop next month. The 1.3 mile walk suited my step goal for the day. On a quiet side street of the West Village I found the studio, took pictures of stencils on the sidewalk and headed for the river. Walking south in Hudson River Park I was surrounded by joggers and walkers as I made my way back to Tribeca. A shower and coffee set me right for a walk through Roosevelt Park and The World Financial Center before I hit the theater. My last film of the week was Live From New York! a documentary about Saturday Night Live. The director and producers were present for the Q&A with a lot of stories. I liked that the opening night film of the festival was my last film of the festival. Walking through The Family Street Fair, I find a seat at the Tribeca Tavern for lunch before I hit the road.  As I collect my car and luggage I feel so good about my week in this wonderful neighborhood. After 13 years, I would say that TFF's mission to invigorate the neighborhood and encourage growth and restoration is working. Happy to be a part of it, thanks for the great vacation!!

Live From New York!

I was in college when Saturday Night Live came on the air. It was edgy, it was revolutionary, it was funny. It was a show my friends and I looked forward to every week. Over the last 40 years it has evolved and grown, but still strives for that edgy, late night laugh. The documentary Live From New York! opened Tribeca Film Festival and they scheduled extra screenings. This made it much easier for this average Joe to get a ticket and walk down memory lane with the wonderful late-night show. Making my way to the theater through the World Financial Center, I arrive an hour early for the film and am still 50 people back in line. Ahhh film festival. When the film began, I was treated to over an hour of clips, stories and history surrounding this iconic television show. The director and producers conducted an interesting Q&A with lots of stories and personal memories. I felt very satisfied by my last film at Tribeca Film Festival.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tribeca Film Festival 2015 Day Five

My late night with Liza had me moving slowly this morning, but I would not be averted from my plan to see Adult Beginners at the Angelika this morning. A quick subway ride to Houston Street and I was seated with a coffee for a light, pleasant film. With a plan for lunch, I took the subway to Rockefeller Center and worked my way west for a bite at Rosie O'Grady's. Fortified by sliders and fries I walked over to Broadway and 53rd Street to take one last look at the Late Show marquee outside the Ed Sullivan Theater. David Letterman's face rode a large banner on the side of the building and I just stood on the sidewalk thinking about how much pleasure this show has brought me over the years. Walking by the Hello Deli I spotted Rupert inside in an intense conversation with an employee. Cool star sighting for this Letterman Show fan. The day was cool and breezy so my next stop was Emmit O'Lunny's for a creamy onion soup that hit the spot. With time to kill, I realize that I have not visited the Tribeca Grand yet. Positioned at the end of the bar, with a Cosmo in front of me, I see an official looking paper on the bar next to me in front of the young man with his back to me. Noticing that he and the 3 people with him are dressed very fancy for the middle of the afternoon, I sneak a closer look at the paper and see the words "Marriage License". A look down the bar to the array of cocktails and a bouquet of roses I realize these kids just got married! Their conversation was happy and lively, I'll admit to a little eavesdropping. Next stop? SVA Theater for Tribeca Talks with Brad Bird and Janeanne Garafalo. I sat about 5th row center, had a very pleasant conversation with the young man next to me during our wait and enjoyed every second of the lively banter between Garafalo and Bird. There were stories, there were clips, there was joy. What a wonderful filmmaker! On my walk back to the subway I stopped at the Chealsea Hotel to read the plaques describing all the famous artists that have inhabited the famous building. The stories are all right there on the wall. Very cool. Exhausted, I return to Edward's for a salad, bowl of potato leek soup and a glass of wine. Back at the hotel, I put my feet up and feel pretty happy about my last night in Tribeca. What a day!

Tribeca Talks: Brad Bird with Janeane Garofalo

Going through the names of the Directors Series of Tribeca Talks, I was immediately drawn to the pairing of Brad Bird with Janeane Garofalo. Happily, the timing fit my schedule and I was in! Sitting in a center seat of the fifth row in the SVA Theater I passed the time before the talk chatting film and theater with a friendly young man sitting next to me. When Bird and Garofalo took the stage the fun began. There were clips, there were jokes, there were stories, there was banter. The two were very at ease until the Q&A began. Garofalo claimed stress at choosing from the many hands raised and she passed the responsibility to Bird near the end. From the Incredibles to Iron Giant to Ratatouille to Ghost Protocol to Tomorrowland, Bird discussed his projects and process. Such an interesting talk.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tribeca Film Festival Day Four

Staying up late has not kept me from waking up early, so I took advantage of the early hour to visit 9/11 Memorial Park. It was open to the public and at this time of day, quiet and respectful. It was just what I was hoping for. One World Trade sits to the north and the museum to the east. I don't think I'll ever be able to go in the museum. Most of the construction is finished, so the fences and noise is minimal. Glad I visited the park early. Walking north, Square Diner was my choice for a hearty breakfast. My first film is at noon so the meal strategy is important. I started walking north on West Broadway looking fro Tribeca Park. When I got there I realized that I was almost to Canal. Since I was headed to East Houston and had plenty of time I decided to walk. Arriving at Landmark Sunshine in time to see Wild Tales, I was the only one in the theater. Private screening it is, what a crazy film! I had calculated my subway transfers just right so that I would be at the Regal in time to get a good seat for the film Anesthesia. A very interesting man sat next to me and our conversation made the half hour wait fly. The film was outstanding and Tim Blake Nelson gave a heartfelt Q&A. I met Liza back at the hotel and we went to Edward's for an early dinner. The restaurant was quiet and we shared a bottle of wine, a lovely meal and great conversation. Once seated in the theater for A Faster Horse we realize that the theater sells beer. I was amused by the rules surrounding the sale of the beverage, especially the lime green wristband I had to wear. Too funny. The film was great and we discussed it over a stop in to Atrio Wine Bar in the lobby of the Conrad Hotel. Walking back to my hotel through the 9/11 Memorial Park, we decide that a snack was in order so we go to Sazon for wings and a beverage. Very nice finish on the night. As Liza heads home to Brooklyn, I check my Fitbit. 10 miles walked today. What a great day!

A Faster Horse

I learned how to drive in a 1967 Ford Mustang. Such a cool car to drive! When I heard about A Faster Horse I was all in. This documentary chronicles the history of the Ford Mustang and the drama surrounding the launch of the 2015 model. Both stories are fascinating to me. This is a documentary well worth seeing.

Anesthesia

The cast of Anesthesia is what drew me to the film. What I got was a well written, well acted, philosophical look at the meaning of life. Tim Blake Nelson,, Sam Waterson and Glenn Close give sincere performances in this poignant family story. There are triumphs, there are struggles and above all, there is love. Tim Blake Nelson conducted a heart-felt Q&A after the film.

Wild Tales

The films in Wild Tales are exactly that....wild! From anger to revenge, this collection of stories with unexpected turns make for a wild ride. So much fun!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Tribeca Film Festival 2015 Day Three

Waking up to a warmer day I head for the Brooklyn Bridge to walk to DUMBO to visit Liza, Fiona and Mason. They are ready to roll when I get there and we head to the sandbox playground. The kids play in the sand and Fiona gets me to climb into spaces that are a bit too small for my adult size, but I can't turn down the requests of a 2 year old. We work our way back to the apartment through more playgrounds and enjoy the warmth of the morning sun. After lunch I make my way back across the bridge as the skies fill with ominous clouds. An afternoon subway ride takes me to Chelsea in time to meet Randi for dinner at East of Eighth. After tasty food, a nice bottle of wine and wonderful conversation we cross the street to the SVA Theater for a special screening of Misery Loves Comedy. When Kevin Pollak, Jim Norton and Lewis Black take the stage after the film, Randi looks at Black and says "hey, I've met that guy, he's hilarious!" As we leave the theater I run into Jim Norton and have a chance to gush a little about his work and comedy. The subway returns me to Tribeca and another wonderful day of vacation goes in the books.

Misery Loves Comedy

For years I have been listening to Kevin Pollak's Chat Show Podcast. When he started talking about a documentary he was making called Misery Loves Comedy I figured it would be a while before I could see it. But when the film was accepted to Sundance this year, and Tribeca Productions bought the film, it landed in the spotlight seat at Tribeca Film Festival. Not only was I going to see the film, but they were adding a director's talk after the film. Take my money and give me a ticket!! In fact I'll take two and invite a friend. The film was a collection of comedians talking about their art, what's funny and what makes them funny. After the film, Kevin Pollak, Jim Norton and Lewis Black took the stage and spoke of comedy, the film, their careers and general joking around. Such a pleasure.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tribeca Film Festival 2015 Day Two

In the interest of exploring as much of NYC as I can this week, I get up, grab a coffee from the cart across the street, shower and dress. A subway ride puts me in Washington Square Park, where I am approached twice for directions, watch a street crew perform ballet, get an offer to play chess from an elderly gentleman and get asked by a perky production assistant if I want to be on TV with Stacy London. Whew!! I declined the chess game and TV invitation in the interest of time and my fear of cameras. I was not going to appear on the air with the lovely Ms. London in a purple hoodie. With a smile on my face, I head over to the IFC Center for a screening of Clouds of Sils Maria. Wonderful, thought provoking film. A quick walk to MacDougal Street has me on a stool at the bar at The Olive Tree Cafe for lunch and lovely conversation. A slow walk back through SOHO gave me just enough time to change before meeting my friend Lucy for Dinner at Max on Duane Street. After a delicious meal we walked to the Regal Theater where we were seated for Grandma, a film we really enjoyed. We were also treated to a Q&A with the director, Paul Weitz, and both lead actresses, Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner. It was quite a thrill. After the film we stopped in the the bar at The Smyth Hotel to discuss the movie and finish our visit. As I walked back to the Cosmopolitan from the City Hall subway stop I was feeling pretty good about my first full day of vacation. Thanks NYC!











Grandma

There's a comradery we feel booking a film titled Grandma. My friend Lucy, who joins me for the film, and I are both Grandmothers. Unlike our sweet little toddlers, in this film a 16 year old granddaughter comes to her grandmother looking for money for a very difficult life decision. Grandma doesn't have the money, so they set off to visit people who might. With each person we meet, we learn more about their lives and personalities. This is a film about relationships and it plays out in a warm, realistic way. The director, Paul Weitz had introduced the film, and when he came back for the Q&A, he announced that Lily Tomlin and Julia Garner were joining him. It was a thrill to see the leads and they spoke about the film at length. What a treat!

Clouds of Sils Maria

When an actress is asked to revisit the work that made her a star, as the older character in the story, she suffers a crisis of identity, age and artistry. Her assistant tries to help, but does she? The film Clouds of Sils Maria is an interesting study of this journey. The performances are riveting and confident. They show the heart and angst of the actress and those around her. There is enough ambiguity to make you think and prompt interesting interpretation. Well done.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Tribeca Film Festival 2015 Day One

Making my way into Manhattan on the West Side Highway I am struck by the sights of the Pier Parks, The Intrepid, glass buildings and The Freedom Tower. I arrive in Tribeca and drop my bags at The Cosmopolitan, deliver the car to a neighborhood parking garage and check in for my 13th year at Tribeca Film Festival. The night is cool and drizzly, so after checking in, I scoot across the street for soup and wine at Ecco! Once warmed, I take the walk to Battery Park City. Most of my films are screening at the Regal Theater. The renovations are complete, and the lobby of the Conrad Hotel adjoins the theater. It is very pretty. High ceilings, sculptures and fancy lighting give a classy yet warm atmosphere. I make my way up to the theater and arrive as they are seating the film Dirty Weekend. The film is intriguing and Neil LaBute gives an interesting Q&A. Walking back to the hotel, I watch a little Letterman while I unpack. Ready to tackle NYC, I go to sleep a happy girl.

Dirty Weekend

My first film of Tribeca Film Festival 2015, Dirty Weekend, had an unusual plot. Two co-workers get waylaid in Albuquerque on a business trip. The events that transpire are best left a surprise for the best effect. Neil LaBute conducted an interesting Q&A about the film, his process and motivations. A great way to start the film festival.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Danny Collins

The charisma and talent in the cast of Danny Collins gives the film a texture and depth I really enjoyed. The themes of age, money, show-business and family are intertwined. The story of a successful pop star figuring out his life, his art and his family is very charming. I really enjoyed this film.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Maps to the Stars

There is a desperation in Maps to the Stars as we enter the shallow world that is Hollywood. A desperation to be accepted, to be younger, to be more attractive, to succeed. A drama with a sad undertone. An OK rental.

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Few Good Men

Revisiting A Few Good Men after 20 years was such a pleasure. Adapted from a stage play, this movie is well written, well acted, well shot and well paced. It is really fun to see all of these actors doing some of their best work in their early days. If you rent the DVD, watch the extras. I thought that the making-of features were very interesting. This film holds up.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Internship

When the economy bottoms out and two watch salesmen find themselves unemployed, they enter the job market. Learning about Google, they become the oldest interns. In The Internship we see competition, undermining and all-round nonsense. An OK watch on cable.

Friday, April 10, 2015

A Most Violent Year

With a few tweaks A Most Violent Year could have been an Oscar contender. The performances were there, the story was there. It needed a little more style and nuance. The whole tone was a bit too hamfisted. I will never look at an oil truck the same way again....especially in NY. Solid film.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

The Voices

Twisted, disturbing and dark The Voices is a film I really liked.The combination of whimsey and horrific serial killings takes a little getting used to, but oh what a sordid tale. I really liked this black comedy thriller. Pretty darn dark...in a cute way. So many conflicting thoughts on this one. Well done.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

The Last Play at Shea

In my day, The Beatles concert at Shea Stadium was the most I knew of the venue. In The Last Play At Shea the history of the stadium through sports, music and people is chronicled. Alongside the history of the stadium, Billy Joel's career is portrayed through songs and archive footage. The ending is especially poignant, Wonderful documentary.

Nas: Time Is Illmatic

I enjoy learning about music history in documentaries. Nas: Time Is Illmatic is an interesting story of the rapper Nas. The art is explained and the influences of his life experiences on that art are explored. I'm not a huge rap fan, but I find I always like the beats. This is a well made, interesting documentary.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

She's Beautiful When She's Angry

The roots of feminism are portrayed in the documentary She's Beautiful When She's Angry. Footage from the late 60s to early 70s alongside interviews with the women in present day are effective and fascinating. As I have always tried to wrap my brain around why women have ever been discriminated against, I appreciate this look at an important time in history.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

It Follows

Classic horror is given a modern twist in It Follows. Sex is the conduit for a creepy entity that is passed from one sexual partner to another. A group of friends tries to help a young girl who is being followed by that entity. They are very entertaining and earnest. The music in this film adds to the tone and tension. More than your average horror film.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Humbling

Al Pacino is aging gracefully. In The Humbling he portrays an actor who is not. The character is dealing with the challenges of his golden years,  giving in to delusions, pursuing situations that are not age appropriate. He's a mess. Interesting to watch and a bit heartbreaking, I thought this was a good drama. Pacino's still got it.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Wrecking Crew

The music of my youth has roots in recordings made with a group of session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew. The documentary affectionately traces their origins and careers. So much talent! The audience I saw this with applauded at the end and sat through all of the credits. We just didn't want the music to end. Denny Tedesco waited to release this film until he could afford to put all the music he wanted in this film. It was well worth the wait. Thanks Kickstarter.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Top Five

Sometimes a movie is worth seeing for the story, sometimes for the performances. In Top Five it is the performances that got me. Chris Rock assembles a lot of talent to tell an average story. This was an OK rental.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Homesman

A bit slow, but true to the period, The Homesman portrays the strength of a woman and the brutality of pioneer days. The cinematography makes up for the pace. There are many beautiful shots in this film. The story is brutally honest about the circumstances of the times and deals with 3 women who have lost their minds in response to the difficult situations. Many disturbing scenes make this one tough to watch at times. An OK rental.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Rudderless

Coping takes a lot of forms. When the parent of an adult child must deal with the horrific actions of that child, that coping is escape through one of the child's more positive attributes. Music. In Rudderless we watch the father struggle with what his son has done, and then tries to understand his son through music and young people that remind him of his son. This story is complex and intense. I really liked this film and the music. Performances are outstanding. Solid rental.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Two Night Stand

Over the years, I have become enamored of the work of Miles Teller. In Two Night Stand he continues to earn my admiration. The story of a one night stand that turns to two when a blizzard traps the couple for a day longer than intended, has some sweet and awkward moments. Analeigh Tipton gets just as much credit for the success of this story. These two young actors have great chemistry without banging you over the head. Glad I saw this one.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

What We Do in the Shadows

I find parody to be highly entertaining. In What We Do In The Shadows the form is alive and well. Or should I say undead...yes the film parodies vampires. Four vampires share a house and the lifestyles and situations are pretty hilarious. For a low-budget film, this also has pretty sophisticated stunts and special effects. This is probably the best film I've seen so far this year. Very funny!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby

A couple struggles to find their way after a major life tragedy. The story is told from both the husband's (Him) perspective and the wife (Her). The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby is the combination of both (Them). The structure is interesting, the performances superb and the story is heartbreaking. I really liked this film.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Tale of The Princess Kaguya

The Oscar nominated animated film The Tale of The Princess Kaguya is the last of the nominated feature films available for me to see this Oscar season. Studio Ghilbi brings us a beautifully drawn, sweet story. well done.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Still Alice

Two thoughts ran through my head during the film Still Alice. 1. This is terrifying. 2. This is very respectful. Not only do we see the decline of Alice, trapped in the grip of Alzheimer's Disease, but we also see how family and colleagues react to her. Julianne Moore gives an outstanding performance as Alice and a speech she gives in the middle of the film turned me into a weeping mess. Bring your tissues to this one. I liked it.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Laggies

One of the most poorly named movies is actually a good movie. The term Laggies refers to something being slow. In this case it would be the character's emotional development. She runs away from her life for a week and learns about herself and others feelings. I really liked the cast and the script is sharp. A good rental.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Song of the Sea

I thought I had been pretty diligent in keeping up with animated features, but when the Oscar nominees were announced I was two short. Thankfully, the nominated Irish film Song of the Sea showed up on the Providence Children's Film Festival's schedule. A packed house of families, and folks like me. enjoyed this tale of family, adventure and fantasy. The animation is gorgeous and lent an air of whimsy to this delightful film.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Leviathan

Corrupt politicians and a man desperate to hold on to his home are the opposing forces Leviathan. In a Russian fishing town the law comes down hard on a man trying to keep his house and his family together. When the man does not relent, drastic, diabolical measures are taken. The results are dramatic and heartbreaking. A strong drama with a tragic ending. Worthy of the foreign film Oscar nomination.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

White Bird in a Blizzard

When a film starts out looking like a teen angst film, the moment it turns to a thriller there is joy. In White Bird in a Blizzard a seemingly formulaic film takes a very satisfying twist. My favorite style of storytelling. Solid rental.

Mr. Turner

In many shots of Mr. Turner, I found myself thinking "show off". Dazzling cinematography and set design are the strong suit of this film. I'm glad I saw this in the theater for the shear beauty. The story plods and the editing is all over the place. The acting is OK. The visual experience is the reason to see this film.

John Wick

I had heard that John Wick was an entertaining action movie. Upon renting it, all I can say is this is violence punctuated by violence. Well done, but and hour and forty minutes is more than you need in a revenge story of an assassin who loses his wife, dog and car. Nuff said.

Timbuktu

Jihadist militants rule over parts of Africa with a terrorist-like hand. In the film Timbuktu we see a story set in this land where people just want to live peacefully, but are oppressed by this violent regime. This disturbing story is beautifully shot and worthy of the Oscar nomination. I was fortunate enough to see this film in NYC where the director conducted a very interesting Q & A after the film.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Last Days in Vietnam

Watching Last Days in Vietnam, I remembered how desperate people were to get the heck out of there. The refugee stories show a population that would do anything to get away. This well structured documentary is a view of the end of a war I saw unfold on TV. Interesting to see all of these events in one sitting. Excellent documentary.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Fury

The drama of World War II is popular for subjects in film. Fury not only takes on the logistics of tank warfare, but the relationships that evolve from close quarters, trust and desperate situations. It does not shy away from the violence or awful way people can behave. A bit rough to watch, but another interesting take on this piece of history.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

Intense situations can be too much for some. They can be the smartest people in the room. Aaron Swartz was that smart guy. Programmer and activist, he fought for the internet and civil liberties, as we see in the documentary The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz. A brave young man.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Coherence

There have been some good movies that take place over an evening dinner party. The film Coherence takes that setting and adds a sci-fi wrinkle that is intriguing and a bit mind-bending. I don't want to say much about the plot because the mysteries are good as surprises. I struggled with this one, but it was a good film. Good to rent so that you can re-watch confusing scenes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Interview

There was a hack and a huge controversy surrounding the release of The Interview around the holidays. Violent threats were credited to North Korea and the wide release was canceled. After a few weeks the film found a home on small art-house screens and online. After all of the furor it landed on Netflix this weekend. The film is a silly, sophomoric comedy. Butt and poop jokes abound. I feel like this story may have benefited from making the target a fictional country. There are glimmers of good comedic structure, but the film would then devolve to silly. I can see how some will find this film hilarious, I did not. Amusing at best.

The Judge

The film critics I usually trust gave The Judge such tepid reviews that I did not see it in the theater. With Robert Duvall's Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, I rented the film from iTunes to while away the morning after the Blizzard of 2015. What a pleasant surprise. A story of a family with their issues. A court case with secrets. An old love is rekindled. Though a bit formulaic, I enjoyed the story and the performances. A good rental.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Two Days, One Night

To most people, thier job is their lifeline. We have bills, commitments, homes, families. In the film Two Days, One Night a woman tries to approach all of her coworkers to influence a vote allowing her to keep her job. Her pleas are gutsy and heartfelt as she spends the weekend laying her future at the feet of these people. The reactions are varied and a few are surprising. This is a quietly intense French film. Well done.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Nightcrawler

It's one thing to record the news, it's another to create it. In Nightcrawler a deranged young man sees an opportunity in filming night-time crime and disasters. He goes into the business of selling the footage to a local news station. He makes demands, offers ultimatums, withholds evidence and becomes rather despicable in the interest of getting the most dramatic footage that he can sell for the highest dollar. He becomes devious and manipulative. The final chase scene is a wild ride. This was quite a film. I really liked it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Zero Theorem

Terry Gilliam is a master of unusual storytelling and amazing visual effects. His latest film, The Zero Theorem is worthy of his reputation. Qohen is in search of the meaning of life and desperate for his "call". Management is unsympathetic, but a teenager lends his knowledge and energy where he can. A sumptuous film that challenges the imagination.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

White Bird in a Blizzard

In what seems to be a story of teen angst, White Bird in a Blizzard, becomes a mystery and a thriller. A teenager copes with her mother's abandonment of the family and lives with her father. She sees a therapist, embarks on an inappropriate relationship and goes to college. The final reveal is pretty grisly. Decent rental.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Favorite Films 2014

I have finally put together my Favorite Films of 2014 list. This was a good year for film, and I enjoyed the small, thoughtful films that were in abundance. There were a lot of wonderful performances and creative ways to tell these stories. These are the films that tickled my fancy this year. It's an even dozen. Click on the title to see what I thought.

Boyhood
Birdman
Whiplash
Snowpiercer
Begin Again
Guardians of the Galaxy
Locke
Gone Girl
St. Vincent
The Bobadook
Cheap Thrills
The Lego Movie

P.S. End credits were very creative this year: 22 Jump Street, The Boxtrolls, American Sniper and The Hobbit to name a few. Sometimes it's worth sitting through "the words" as my grandson calls them.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies

Peter Jackson successfully made three films out of a little book called The Hobbit. As a film fan I dutifully saw all three. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies expands the characters and their struggles, first with a dragon, then with Orcs. The battle scenes are chaotic and creative. The final battle runs about 45 minutes and is intricate and surprisingly immersive. I'm sorry that the journeys to Middle Earth have ended, but Mr. Jackson and all involved should be proud of the work.

Torn Curtain

In a recent interview with Julie Andrews, I learned that she had been in a Hitchcock film in the 60s. Her co-star was Paul Newman and the film was Torn Curtain.Renting the film I was reminded of Hitchcock's talent for frame after frame of beautiful, meticulous shots. The story is a political thriller and the Curtain is The Iron Curtain. Newman and Andrews are excellent in this, I'm glad I saw it.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

American Sniper

In the film American Sniper we see the story of Chris Kyle's service life based on his book. Kyle was a Navy Seal and specifically an accomplished sniper. The shooters who protect ground forces. The film delves into his enlistment, deployments and the effect they had on his personal life and psyche. The war scenes are intense. The ending was a bit of a shock, as I did not know anything about the man. The emotional level of this movie is high. The credits are silent and the theater emptied in silence as well. Dramatic story well told.

Ida

Knowing that you are an orphan is one thing. Looking for your family as a young adult is another. In Ida a polish nun goes to her aunt to find her parents. The two set off to find the person who can tell them the story. The aunt is less than virtuous and the two make interesting travel companions. This is a good story and is beautifully shot in black and white. Excellent film.

The Two Faces of January

When a couple runs into trouble in Greece, they turn to a young expat for help. Murder, jealousy and lies are the path in The Two Faces of January. Excellent performances and old fashioned intrigue make this a film worth seeing.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Men, Women & Children

In watching Men, Women & Children you could think that technology is to blame for the actions of the characters. Texts, e-mail, video games and websites are the vehicles to their bad behavior. Under the surface, the reality is that these are just horrible people doing terrible things no matter what the method. You could have set this story in the 50s and they would have done the same things, just with different methods of communications. Technology is not the demon here, human nature is. Whew.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Inherent Vice

About an hour and a half into Inherent Vice you feel like you should be high from the second-hand smoke of all the weed being smoked. The story is set in the 70s in LA, and a private detective is trying to track down the kidnapper of an ex-girlfriend. Joaquin Phoenix gives an amazing performance as the PI, with intensity and humor. Constantly high, constantly smoking, he works his way through clues and bad guys to find his lady love. Crazy story, crazy film with a great cast. Well done.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Selma

Racial issues in the US are an ugly piece of the fabric of American history. We needed laws to make us treat each other, regardless of race, like human beings. In the film Selma we relive the march from Selma to Montgomery, AL to protest unjust voter registration harassment toward African-Americans in 1965. We see the relationship, negotiations and politics between LBJ and Martin Luthor King, Jr. We see King working non-violent protest strategies with SCLC and SNCC in Selma, which was strained as well. The violence in the first attempt is appalling and disturbing. It took three tries but they made it to Montgomery...to demand rights they already legally had. This is a deeply moving film and as important today as it was in 1964. Powerful film.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

The Guest

In The Guest the arrival of a young man on the doorstep of a bereved family kicks off a series of events that are bloody and violent. And who the heck is he anyway? A solid thriller with the added mystery of mistaken identity.This was a decent rental.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

Who is Shep Gordon? Only one of the most influential people in entertainment history. Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon takes us on the ride of his life. There are so many incredible stories and the editing and use of old film footage is creative and interesting. What a life, what a story!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Life Itself

Roger Ebert was an icon. The documentary Life Itself shows us why. Though arrogant and sometimes pompous, he taught us how to look at movies and discern why we did or did not like a film. We get a look inside his personal life as well. Interesting documentary.

Sunday, January 04, 2015

The Story of Luke

Autism is a struggle. In The Story of Luke we see a young adult with autism deal with the real world, employment, relationships and resposibility. There is struggle and compassion along the way. I liked Luke and I liked this film.

Unbroken

Prisoner of war stories can be very compelling. In Unbroken the story of Louis Zamperini is told. From the plane crash, to the prisoner of war camp, to freedom, to forgiveness. The prison scenes are especially brutal, but the ending brings emotional relief. Quite a guy, quite a story. It's nice to know that he saw a rough cut of the film just before he passed away.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

The Trip to Italy

One of my dream trips is to the Mediterranean coast. In The Trip to Italy I get a little taste of what that trip would be like. Food, culture and the side effects of being away from home are all explored. And oh the food! As much a character as the actors. A lovely trip.

Big Eyes

Ever wonder who painted those spooky large-eyed children you see on cards and posters? Big Eyes tells the story of the artist Margaret Keane and her oppressive, abusive husband who took credit for much of her work. An interesting look at this piece of art history.

Into the Woods

There is nothing quite like a Sondheim musical. Into the Woods is brought to the big screen, blending familiar fairy tales to create a whole new tale. A bit dark, but sometimes very funny. Familiar stars show off their singing talents, some pleasantly surprising.The special effects make this one to see on the big screen. Very entertaining.

Friday, January 02, 2015

The Imitation Game

Technology has not always been around. People used to noodle problems with paper and pencil until the industrial revolution. In The Imitation Game we see the birth of the computer in WWII as intelligence officers try to decode Nazi messages. The performances in this film are top notch. In my opinion, this is one of the best films of the year. It is amazing to me that this operation has been kept secret for over 50 years. What a story. What a film!

Foxcatcher

With wealth can come eccentricities masked by good intentions. In Foxcatcher we see this with John duPont and his training camp for Olympic level wrestlers in the 80s. Money meets creepy. That bully mentality of "look at everything I'm doing for you" while asking athletes to turn their backs on their families and lives is unnerving. The acting in this film is outstanding and I was a bit shocked by the ending. Excellent drama.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Wild

Cheryl Strayed took off on an adventure and wrote a book about it. It was optioned for a movie and we get to go with her in the film Wild. I heard Strayed talk about her memoir on Live Wire! Radio a few years ago and found her to be very interesting and engaging. No matter why, to choose to walk a thousand miles is daunting. She faced her demons and found a little peace. This film was uplifting and inspiring.

Big Hero 6

When technology meets family meets superheroes we get Big Hero 6. Boy genius works his tech savvy in a effort to connect with family in surprising ways. A wonderful robot, Baymax, provides the heart and humor that is the strength of this film. Great family film!