Saturday, January 30, 2016

45 Years

In 45 Years there is a miscommunication between a couple that has been married for 45 years and we watch the emotional fallout. The word that kept popping into my head as I watched was dour.The husband knows that his wife is upset, but doesn't really validate her feelings. The wife is more upset than she probably should be, but keeps it all in. This leads to scenes of talking around the issue and many sad, pensive looks. Excellent performances, but all in all, to me this was a sad story.

Friday, January 29, 2016


There is an amazing amount of stress in a professional kitchen. In Burnt we are thrown into it head first. As a chef struggles to redeem his career and reputation we learn of his relationships old and new. Some help him, some don't. I liked this film a lot more than I expected to.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


In the midst of all of the race controversy in Hollywood, I decided to see Spike Lee's latest film Chi-Raq.This film re-tells the story of Lysistrata and sets it in modern day, violent Chicago with a predominantly African-American cast.The women in the city decide to try withholding sex until the men can live in peace. A tall order. The dialog is in verse which reminds us of what a fantasy this story is. This film is a visual wild ride, the performances are strong and the story is a bit crazy. Glad I saw it.

Sunday, January 24, 2016


A man's mental issues are played out in stop-motion animation in the film Anomalisa. Though the story is told with puppets, the story is so human you soon do not see the seams. The main character Michael is like a lot of men I've known. He is selfish, winy and manipulative. An impressive film, though the characters were unlikable for me. Interesting animation.

Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

The overwhelming violence of the Ukrainian revolution is brought to the screen in Winter of Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom. This documentary chronicles the student uprising against the Ukrainian government that started in 2013.Their passion on issues are brought to light well. What a film.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Straight Outta Compton

The origins of NWA are laid out in Straight Outta Compton. From the birth of the raps to the unfair business deals and deceptions, this is another dramatization of art and business that leaves the artists fighting for their rights. The struggles were not only with the studios but among themselves as well. This is a good film, but a bit too long. They could have easily edited 20-30 minutes. Though I find the language a little off-putting, I liked the performance scenes. An interesting part of music history.

Cartel Land

The violence surrounding meth production in Mexico is depicted in Cartel Land in graphic detail. How the footage in this documentary exists astounds me.When the people who live there get fed up they take matters into their own hands. The war between the police, the drug cartels and the citizens is violent and jarring. For all of this violence the film has a hopeful ending. Excellent documentary.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Mississippi Grind

Though it is a standard road trip movie, Mississippi Grind is worth watching for the performances. Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds are a pair of gamblers who are just awful for each other. It is only surprising when they win, which is not often. I liked this film, it's an OK rental.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Screen Scenes: Ziegfeld Theater, New York, NY

Upon hearing about the Ziegfeld Theater closing in NYC, I reflected back to the day I last visited there. I was on vacation in NYC and was on a mission to visit this iconic theater. The day I decided to go, the film Ocean's was playing. I was thrilled. Underwater footage on a big screen sounded great to me. The entrance to the theater is unremarkable from the street, but as soon as I walked through the doors it was magical. I climbed the carpeted stairs to a lobby where an usher welcomed me with, "Hello miss, you are the celebrity here today!" It was a quiet, matinee day and there were not many people around so I was definitely being schmoozed and I loved it.Walking into the theater, I tried to drink in everything. Velvet ropes, lush carpets, fancy sconces, an enormous screen and rows and rows of plush seats. The movie was beautiful and looked great on that big screen. I had just come from a small screening room at the IFC Center, so the contrast made this experience even more dramatic. Glad that I got to visit this iconic theater.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Danish Girl

Walking out of The Danish Girl, I was struck by how well the inner torment of a trans-gendered man was communicated. Through actions, looks, gentle words and persistence, we see the conflict and struggle of Einer Wegener's desire to physically become the woman he feels inside. From gestures, to clothing, to makeup, to his art, Einer gradually lets Lili develop and evolve. In the 20s this was unheard of and he was supposedly the first to attempt sex reassignment surgery. On top of this, his wife Gerda is supportive and loving. Her roll is a bit heartbreaking. The story in the film is based on the Wegener's time together, but poetic license is taken with a lot of the characters and events. This is an astounding story that champions identity and love. Such a powerful film. Loved it.

When Marnie Was There

Nominated for an Oscar in the animated feature category, When Marnie Was There is certainly worthy of the nod. This film from Ghibli Studios is a heartfelt story of adolescence, family, belonging and heritage. The drawings are beautiful and the dubbing in the rental I watched was very well cast. A lovely film.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappaeared

When I see a title like The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out a Window and Disappeared I think, "good for him." Watching my parents struggle through old-age I have become a cheerleader for the beleaguered senior citizen. In this Swedish film, when Allan steps out the window of the retirement home he unwittingly gets involved in a road-trip adventure I really enjoyed. The characters are colorful, the bad guys are bumblers and, yes folks, there's an elephant. A charming film I watched because it is nominated for an Oscar for excellence in makeup. I really liked it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Look of Silence

I found The Act of Killing to be one of the most disturbing films I've seen, and its companion film The Look of Silence is a close second.A man pursues the details of his brother's murder in the Indonesian genocide of 1965. He hears these details directly from the killers. The graphic description of the killers' activities are incredibly disturbing because they seem quite proud of their accomplishments. The man searches for closure. This is not an easy documentary to watch.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ted 2

I really enjoyed the movie Ted so renting Ted 2 was a no-brainer. In this second round, Ted and his wife want to adopt a baby, but they are deemed ineligible because Ted is not human. They hire a lawyer, and the adventure begins. There are all kinds of mishaps along the way and this next chapter is as outrageous and raunchy as the first. This was a fun rental.

Favorite Films 2015

I think that 2015 was an excellent year in film. I saw lots of strong films at Tribeca Film Festival in April, and I'm a little surprised that I saw my favorite of the year as early in the year as May. It is hard for me to keep this list to the popular 10 so here are the 17 films I enjoyed the most this year. They are diverse, and I think that film makers are working hard to entertain and enlighten the audience. These are in no particular order, though I think the first half of the list are the best of the group.

Click on the titles to see what I thought when I saw them.

Mad Max: Fury Road
Ex Machina
The Walk
The Revenant
The Martian
He Named Me Malala
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Call Me Lucky
The Hateful Eight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Irrational Man

Woody Allen caused quite a stir when he came to RI last year to film Irrational Man. Star sightings in our little corner of the country are always fun. The film is a quirky caper-slash-romance-slash-comedy with great performances. The story is ridiculous, but I liked it. Always fun to see RI as a co-star as well. Decent rental

Sunday, January 10, 2016


No film surprised me more this year than The Revenant. The definition of the word is: one that returns after death or a long absence. Through a perilous set of circumstances, we watch a man descend into a situation that seems impossible to survive. With almost no dialogue, we follow him to the end of his journey and justice for all that has happened to him and those dear to him. The cinematography is brilliant and the story is harrowing. There are scenes that take us inside his head that are a good break from some very intense action. Brilliant film.

Saturday, January 09, 2016


Fidelity drives the plot in the film Carol. Set in the early 50s, Carol meets a young woman, and we watch the quiet progress of an affair that blossom to even more. Though she is separated from her husband, he uses her infidelities against her in negotiating custody of their daughter. Beautifully shot, Carol slowly becomes realistic about the relationship she wants. Gentle, poignant and heartfelt I liked the way the story handled the situation and felt good about the ending. A lovely film.

Thursday, January 07, 2016


The film Ashby was such a pleasure to watch. A coming of age story of a young man in a prep school, finding his way. The age-old story of fitting in is depicted with charming characters with relate-able woes. The young man befriends a character named Ashby, a retired assassin with a few loose ends to tie up.The acting and writing are great. I especially enjoyed Micky Rourke's performance. Good rental.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


The project depicted in the film Experimenter is tough to watch. The Milgram Experiment is a look at obedience through clinical eyes. Initially, it looks like the experiment exposes a heartless side of human nature, but there are so many extenuating circumstances, I find the experiment to be one of intimidation. There are some great actors in this film, but the story itself is a bit slight and I thought the film dragged. Interesting enough, but just an OK rental.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


Ever since their debut in Despicable Me I have been a fan of Minions. This year they got their own Movie and I couldn't be more pleased.Going back to the time of the dinosaurs, the little yellow guys are in search of a villain to serve. As time goes on Kevin, Bob and Stuart end up in quite the adventure. These little guys crack me up and it's an entertaining ride. I liked this as a rental.

Sunday, January 03, 2016


When I saw elderly characters in a film titled Youth I was intrigued. The story takes place at a fancy resort in the Alps. We meet a retired conductor, an actor and a director preparing a new film. We learn their stories quickly and watch their interactions as they deal with the past and their current situations. The performances are outstanding and the setting is lovely. I really enjoyed this film.

Saturday, January 02, 2016

People Places Things

The film People Places Things was recommended on a movie podcast. The story of a dad separated from his children is not new, but this film makes it feel fresh and human. I credit the witing and performances, especially Jemaine Clement as the Dad. Nice film.

The Big Short

Understanding nothing about finance I was a little lost watching The Big Short. This is the story of the housing bubble that collapsed in 2008. There was a small number of men who saw what was going on and took advantage of the situation to the tune of millions of dollars. The performances in this film are outstanding and make another disturbing story more easy to take. Good film, tough subject.

Friday, January 01, 2016

The Hateful Eight

Learning that Providence was one of the 100 cities to show The Hateful Eight in 70mm was a wonderful Christmas gift. I always try to see something special on New Year's Day and this fit the bill perfectly. Upon buying my ticket I was handed a program describing the characters. By the time the film rolled I was ready. The story of bounty hunters waylayed bringing their bounty in was entertaining, dynamic and bloody. Every performance was rich, all dialog demanded your attention. This was such a satisfying cinematic experience. With over a 3 hour run-time, there was a welcome intermission that gave a nice breather to absorb the finale of the film. Thanks guys, I had a great time!


Needing a lightweight film this afternoon, Joy fit the bill perfectly. The story of a woman looking to better her life by being an entrepreneur had the feel-good message I was looking for. It was especially satisfying to be sitting behind a whole row of teenage girls who watched the story of a strong woman who learned stick to your guns, read your contracts and don't back down. It was nice to see Diane Ladd in a strong supporting role as Joy's grandmother. A decent film with good performances.