Saturday, April 15, 2017

Girlfriend's Day

A man with excellent greeting card writing skills is challenged to save his job and relationships in Girlfriend's Day. An endearing sad-sack struggles with relationships. Sometimes he succeeds, sometimes he fails. Bob Odenkirk is excellent. I liked this film.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bad Santa 2

I remember thinking Bad Santa was funny. Bad Santa 2...not so much. This is a poorly written, raunchy, vulgar and pointless heist film that was not funny and had no redeeming qualities at all. A talented cast was wasted on this awful film. Such a disappointment.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Collateral Beauty

Grief and coping are the focus in Collateral Beauty. When a man loses his young child to cancer he writes letters of desperation to Death, Time and Love. In an effort to get the man back to reality his friends employ actors to confront him as the receivers of the letters. Or so we think....who was helping who in this tale? This film challenges the heart and the mind. I liked it a lot. "Nothing's ever really dead if you look at it right."
"Be sure you notice the collateral beauty."

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The Discovery

Filmed in RI, The Discovery is an interesting exploration of death and the afterlife. A mixture of drama and sci-fi, a scientist has scientific proof of the afterlife. There are a lot of philosophical questions. The structure of the film is intriguing and the cast does a good job. I liked this film a lot.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Paterson

A man with a simple life and deep thoughts comes to us in Paterson. His dreams are internal, while his wife's dreams are external. The art design in the scenes with her are stunning.The scenes when his dreams emerge are also stunning, but it is more cerebral than visual. This movie has a lot to say with nice touches of subtle humor. Worth a look.

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The Book of Love

I like a well written, well cast film. The Book of Love is exactly that. There is loss, and each character copes with their loss in different ways. They ultimately help each other. There is a rich underlying thread that I won't spoil here, but it ties everyone together nicely. I really liked this film.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Rules Don't Apply

When an idealistic young actress goes to Hollywood to make it as an actress in the empire of Howard Hughes, we get the story of struggle dealing with the most eccentric, powerful man. In Rules Don't Apply the story plays out to show her strengths. Very sweet. I liked this film a lot.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Silence

Catholic priests in 17th century Japan have a difficult time spreading the word of God is depicted in the film Silence. In some cases they are embraced, in others brutalized. There are brutal torture scenes that are so cruel they are hard to watch. This is an intense, thoughtful film.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Life

Movies about space aren't new. Alien interpretations aren't new. In the movie Life both are thrown into a contained space and it becomes a creepy, fresh thriller. This film moves at a good pace, it is suspenseful, it has a very menacing alien and an unnerving ending. I liked this film.

Best Wort Thing That Ever Could Have Happened...

The documentary Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened... was recommended by Glen Weldon on Pop Culture Happy Hour. It chronicles the short lived Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway in the 80s. The final half hour catches up with the actors. It is touching and reflective. I got teary when they told their stories. A touching look at acting, youth, Broadway and life choices. Good doc.

Sunset Boulevard

Watching the classic film Sunset Boulveardfor the first time was such a pleasure. The story is engaging, the performances are outstanding and this film is beautifully shot. Well done.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Wilson

In the film Wilson a man is desperately looking for human connection. He's rough around the edges, impulsive, foul-mouthed and lovable. When he tracks down his ex-wife, she reveals a life event he did not know about and the adventure commences. Woody Harrelson plays Wilson in a performance I found very engaging. I'm glad that I saw this in the theater, but this would be a strong rental.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tower

A documentary like Tower shows us what ordinary people can do in extraordinary situations. Presented in rotoscope animation, archive footage and present day interviews, the events of a sniper shooting on the campus of The University of Texas in 1966 from a tower are reenacted and remembered. This is an excellent documentary with a unique style and a lot of heart.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Masterminds

The movie Masterminds is another unbelievable true story brought to the screen. The film takes us inside one of the largest cash robberies in US history. This A-list cast truly delivers a crazy story in a heartfelt fashion. The performances are endearing and entertaining. The story is nuts. This was a fun rental.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Beauty and the Beast (2017)

I liked that the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast veers from the animated version. It is darker, it has new songs, it has a Beast I connected to better and there are good one-liners. They left out a song I really like, but there is more emphasis on the spoken scenes, which I did like. Technically, I have a lot of quibbles with the filming, but I think that's because it is designed for 3D and it's hard to recreate those magical sequences in live-action. I think some of the scenes are too intense for kids under 6. The little girl in front of me had her head buried in her Mom's shoulder for much of the movie. I'm guessing she was about 4. " I also heard a small voice during the end credits exclaim, "that was scary!" There will be an audience that will love this. The more I think about this movie, the more I like it. I cried at the end which really surprised me. I'd definitely see it again. Well done.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Edge of Seventeen

The teen angst movie genre generally does not appeal to me, but The Edge of Seventeen is a refreshing exception. The script and performances made this very watchable. This is a strong teen cast that delivers. Well done and worth a look.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Passengers

This year's hot sci-fi film Passengers has drama, humor and romance. The plot is a bit dry and klunky, but the visuals are stunning. This was an OK rental that kept me company during a snow storm.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story

On Netflix Instant I discovered a lovely short film Dancing in the Light: The Janet Collins Story. From the classroom to the stage, the story of Janet Collins, the first African American ballerina to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House, is told in a charming animated form with narration in the style of a poem. Her hard work and talent are front and center as she persevered against racism in an art she loved. An inspirational film.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Killing Regan

Like Killing Kennedy, the drama of the attempted assassination of Ronald Regan is played out from both the victim and shooter's points of view in Killing Regan. The acting is OK, I much prefer the structure and editing of this film. The inadequacies of the Regan administration are touched on. The relationship between Ron and Nancy is front and center. An interesting film. I liked the extras on the DVD that gave more background and context.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Trolls

My granddaughter taught me all of the characters in the movie Trolls, so when I finally saw it I was up to speed. When the Trolls are threatened by the Bergens there is a rescue, several chases, a couple of love stories and a lot of music...and color! Themes of friendship, self-esteem and teamwork are explored. This is an animated feature with a few more dark scenes than I like in my kid-friendly entertainment, but the music lifts those scenes and and the target audience doesn't seem to mind. Cute stuff.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore

With the awkward title of I Don't Feel at Home in This World Anymore I was treated to a cool revenge thriller fresh out of Sundance Film Festival. When a woman's house is broken into she gets little help from the police, so she takes matters into her own hands. Her investigation goes off the rails and the ride is a crazy one. Melanie Lynskey and Elija Wood are very good in this. The R rating is earned with language and violence. I was happy to see this on Netflix Instant. Quite a film.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie

I loved The Lego Movie, so seeing Lego Batman was a no-brainer. Lego Batman is a caricature of all versions of Batman. He is up against the villains of all time and it's pretty fun seeing the Lego versions of them all. There's plenty of action and laughs. This was a fun movie.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Allied

A boring story of spies in WWII unfolds in Allied. There is a potential for intrigue and action, but the performances are so wooden and the script so bland I had trouble staying interested. Even the love story was boring. It got a little better at the end, but not good enough to save the film. This one was disappointing.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Queen of Katwe

More of a survival story than a chess story, Queen of Katwe tells the story of Phiona, a girl whose family is struggling and she takes to the game of chess. In winning competitions she finds a way out of poverty. It is also the story of her family and how her success helps them as well. As in many films based on true events, shots of the real people with the actors who play them at the end is very sweet. I liked this film.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Get Out

Classic Horror tropes are the foundation for the creative film Get Out. When a woman brings her boyfriend to meet her parents, strange things begin to happen and we take a ride down a crazy rabbit-hole. The less you know going ito this one, the better. I'll just say see it and enjoy! I did.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

I am Not Your Negro

The words of James Baldwin come to the screen in I Am Not Your Negro. A beautiful, intelligent journey through racism, art and politics that makes you think. Using movie clips, interviews and narration, Baldwin's words come to life. There is a lot to digest. I think I'll see this a few more times. Excellent documentary.

The Light Between Oceans

Losing a child is devestating. In The Light Between Oceans a couple endures this burden more than once. The difficult dynamics of isolation, loss, conflict and doing the right thing are played out in this strong drama. The ending was sad, but satisfying.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Dressmaker

In The Dressmaker wardrobe is a tool of revenge. When a young woman returns to her small home town as a successful designer, the truth behind a nagging event is revealed and avenged. Dark, funny, poignant. I really liked how events unfold in this quirky drama. Good rental.

Oscar Picks 2017

If I were asked to vote for the Academy Awards, this is what my ballot would look like. Tune in Sunday night to see if the Academy agrees with me....

Picture - Moonlight
Actress: Natalie Portman - Jackie
Actor: Denzel Washington - Fences
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis - Fences
Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali - Moonlight
Director: Damien Chazelle - La La Land
Animated Feature: Kubo and the Two Strings
Documentary: I Am Not Your Negro
Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea
Adapted Screenplay: Fences
Original Song: How Far I'll Go
Musical Score: La La Land
Visual effects: Doctor Strange
Editing: Moonlight
Production Design: La La Land
Makeup and Hair-styling: Star Trek Beyond
Costumes: Jackie
Foreign: The Salesman
Sound Mixing: La La Land
Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge
Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America
Documentary Short: Joe's Violin
Animated Short: Piper
Live Action Short: Ennemis Interieurs

Hacksaw Ridge

I avoided seeing Hacksaw Ridge in the theater because I heard that the war scenes were pretty gruesome. Since it was nominated for several Oscars I was happy to see it released to DVD before the awards ceremony. It is the only nominee for Best Picture that I hadn't seen. The first half of the movie was all background and story. The second half was mostly battle scenes. It was kind of like 2 movies. I liked the set-up and story of the plucky young solider who was a conscientious objector, but if this had not been a true story, I would not have believed half of what went on in the battle scenes. The dramatization was gory, but then again, so is war. I liked this movie more than I expected to. A decent rental.

Friday, February 10, 2017

American Pastoral

A dysfunctional family is front and center in American Pastoral in a sad, desperate story. A disgruntled daughter runs away and crisis is achieved. Strange behavior on the home-front and pursuit of activism make for high drama. A decent rental.

The Accountant

A thriller with the title The Accountant doesn't sound quite right. How can an accountant have an edge? Make him a killer. Cooking the books and stronger tactics ensue in this film. OK rental.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Frank & Lola

The pressure and struggle in romantic relationships makes for good cinema. In Frank & Lola such struggles are presented with wonderful performances and a dark tone. The baggage that each character brings to the relationship is interesting and dramatic. A thoughtful film with an edge. Good rental.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Denial

Theories that the Holocaust did not happen blow my ind. In the film Denial an author is sued for libel when she challenges such an author in print. The case is tried in the UK which brings it's own eccentricities and drama to this legal battle. The emotion and examples are real. Based on a true story, I liked this film.

Thursday, February 02, 2017

13 Hours

The reality of struggle and violence in the Middle East is portrayed in 13 Hours. Libya is a volatile place and the courage of CIA agents to try to bring it under control is portrayed in this film. We see their personal lives alongside their professional lives. This provides a stark contrast. An intense film I liked a lot.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Bad Moms

When you are a Mom, the satisfaction and love outweighs the struggle and frustration of being a parent. In the movie Bad Moms both sides of motherhood are explored with humor and honesty. I was surprised by how much I liked this move that balanced silly with serious. Not just slapstick, there is a heart with the humor. I liked this movie.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

The Book of Mormon

My daughter Liza very generously gifted me with tickets to The Book of Mormon on Broadway for Christmas this year. On this Saturday afternoon we left behind the worries and struggle of our everyday lives and laughed and laughed and laughed. The irreverence and blasphemy in the story of Mormon missionaries taking their message to a village in Uganda tickled my funny-bone. My face hurt from laughing for 3 hours. After the show, we went to dinner and as we were leaving our waiter confided in us that he was auditioning for Book of Mormon on Monday. I hope he got it. Great show and a great time with my kids.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Star Trek Beyond

In my quest to see all of the Oscar nominated films this year, I caught up with Star Trek Beyond because it is nominated for makeup and hair-styling. For all of the action and battles it still has its sense of humor and nostalgia. Well written, well done. Good rental.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Can We Take a Joke?

For a long time I have been preaching tolerance, so the documentary Can We Take a Joke? was right up my alley. The history of being offensive in public, and more specifically, in comedy is explored. The talent and insight in this film is astounding. An important film about social consciousness, what is and isn't offensive and how we deal with it. I really liked this film.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Inferno

Another quest to save the world is the plot of Inferno. I did not feel the urgency that the characters did, but the production value is high and the acting is sincere. An OK rental.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Handmaiden

For me, the central theme of The Handmaiden is control. Beautifully shot, this story is a struggle for dominence and a desperate longing for true love. Erotic, explicit and witty. Quite a film.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Jackie

After watching Killing Kennedy, following up with the film Jackie was a bit intense. The sadness of the assassination of John F. Kennedy Jr. is amplified through the eyes of his wife Jackie. Natalie Portman's performance is great. A very moving film.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

20th Century Women

Set in the late 70s, this story of a woman, her son and the people in her life is the journey we take in 20th Century Women. A practical, earthy, single mother enlists the help of her friends and boarders to guide her teenage son's life lessons. It is a story of relationships and decision-making. Performances are outstanding and the coming of age story gets a fresh look. I really liked this film.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Killing Kennedy

Bill O'Reilly's series of "Killing" books are being made into movies. Killing Lincoln was very good and Killing Regan is on the way. The film version of Killing Kennedy is a good recreation of the days before and of the Kennedy assassination. Interesting to see events from the shooters perspective. Sad to relive it as well. Good film.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Moonwalkers

A crew of misfits take on the challenge of faking a moon landing in Moonwalkers to stay alive and keep the cash. Funny film with a crime twist and a great cast. Good recommendation from Movie BS with Bayer and Snider. Fun rental.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Film Favorites 2016

As always, choosing a Top 10 list of films I've seen at the end of the year is a struggle for me. This year I've narrowed it down to 24 from the dozens of new releases I've seen this year. I'm sure I will add to this as the limited releases reach our small state, but this is where the list stands right now. Click on the title to see what I thought when I saw the film. Again, these are my "favorites", I'm not a fan of the descriptor "best", as appreciating all art is subjective. The list is in no particular order. Enjoy.

Don't Think Twice
Swiss Army Man
10 Cloverfield Lane
Midnight Special
The Meddler
Elvis & Nixon
Green Room
The Family Fang
Nice Guys
Maggie's Plan

Florence Foster Jenkins
Sully
Doctor Strange
Bleed for This
Moonlight
Moana
Captain Fantastic
Mr. Church
The Beatles: Eight Days a Week
Manchester by the Sea

La La Land
Fences
Hidden Figures
A Monster Calls

Miss Sharon Jones

There are a lot of dynamic performers in the history of music. In the documentary Miss Sharon Jones! we meet singer Sharon Jones during her battle with cancer. She's up, she's down and the last 10 minutes of the film are rather triumphant. Her approach to music is pure joy. A wonderful piece of music history available on Netflix Instant.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

A Monster Calls

The book A Monster Calls is interpreted in the film of the same name. This film deals with a boy's coping with grief in his dreams and waking life. He is visited by a monster who tells him three stories, and the fourth must be his. The monster's stories force him to face his feelings and grief as his Mother is dying of cancer. The story deals with many emotions in an honest way, using fantasy as a vehicle. I loved this film, Well done.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Deepwater Horizon

The explosion of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon is dramatized in a feature film. The disaster is huge and the lives lost are tragic. This film is tough to watch.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Gleason

Steve Gleason was a talented NFL player. In the film Gleason we see his decline into ALS through his video journals. A quickly debilitating disease, we see his support system form and grow to meet his needs. The amount of medical equipment and expertise is astounding. A story of family, legacy and the power of positive thinking. Excellent documentary.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Heart of a Dog

The documentary Heart of a Dog is a true painting on film. Pieces of archival footage a pieced together like a quilt with a loving narration. I found that I just needed to sit back and let the film wash over me. A beautiful, touching film.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Hidden Figures

The story told in Hidden Figures should be taught in all classrooms. To learn of the individuals who worked so diligently at NASA to get a man in space is inspiring. Did I mention that most of them were women...of color? The essential portrayal of human rights at the time, reminds of us how far we've come and what still needs to be done. Equality in regards to race and gender is something we must always work on and be aware of. This film puts this in front of us in the historical context of the space race. I grew up in this era, and the emotion I experienced when that rocket blasts off took me by surprise. The road traveled to get there was emotional and intense. This film tells an important story well. See it.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Blue Jay

The black & white film Blue Jay is a sweet reunion between high school sweethearts. The strength of this film are the performances, especially Sarah Paulson. Near the end there is a dramatic reveal that is tender and sad. Mark Duplass should be proud of this film. Well done.

By Sidney Lumet

I first learned of the documentary By Sidney Lumet at Tribeca Film Festival last year. His work sits on the top of my all-time favorites list. He also has been generous with his process in books and interviews. In this documentary, Lumet talks about his life and time with his family and film. He has led a fascinating life. I had the pleasure of meeting he and his wife years ago at Tribeca Film Festival. They were friendly and low key. This documentary is worth a look.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Fences

There is a power in words. In the film Fences those words are delivered with strength and passion. Denzel Washington directs this film version of August Wilson's work with a steady hand and powerful performances from the entire cast. The words are sharp and the story takes dramatic turns. This drama is full of style and depth. I liked this one.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Lion

A lot of films based on true stories are unbelievable. In Lion the story of a 5 year old separated from his family in India is heart-wrenching. He spends the next 25 years living in Australia with his adoptive family. He has success and struggles. As the internet becomes more sophisticated he has tools that ultimately help him find his mother. Beautifully shot with strong performances, this is a touching film.

Rogue One

Air battles with X wings are thrilling in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story . In the air and on the ground, the death toll is a bit devastating. Prequels give us a base and motivations for events and beloved characters. This film gives us these and then takes them away...understandably. I loved the action and the cameos of familiar characters. As others have said, this is a good stand-alone Star Wars film. Lots of action and I learn about U wing fighters. Aside from the high body count, I really enjoyed this chapter in the Star Wars universe.

Yoga Hosers

In a light film like Yoga Hosers I did not expect performance, but the young leads did a good job with some weird material. The fact that their fathers are involved definitely showed a level of confidence. I'd like to see in their future work. A fun, silly film.