Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Lucy in the Sky (2019)
'You go up there, you see the whole universe, and everything here looks so small'
Based on real life events - astronaut Lisa Nowak's criminal activities around her relationship with fellow astronaut William Oefelein in 2006 - 2007 - and altered into the present form by writers Brian C. Brown, Elliott DiGuiseppi and director Noah Hawley, LUCY IN THE SKY is a controversial film. While the messages are mixed, one interesting idea rises: does space travel transiently or even permanently change thought perceptions, thinking and behavior?
Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) is a strong woman whose determination and drive as an astronaut take her to space, where she's deeply moved by the transcendent experience of seeing her life from afar. Back home as Lucy's world suddenly feels too small, her connection with reality slowly unravels, as her marriage to Drew Cola (Dan Stevens) and her love affair with Mark Goodwin (John Hamm), and the death of her cocky mother (Ellen Burstyn) implode. Lucy communicates with space, gets lost in words, and isn't able to cope, leading to dire circumstances.
The highlight of this overly long film is the CGI effects in space. While Natalie Portman shines as the very strange Lucy her obtrusive artificial accent and communication diminish her credibility as a character about whom we can care. Some good ideas her, but the film simply dissolves - drifting off into space...
An escape from reality - or not...
Strange time for this Fast & Furious presentation, an action comedy with the 'enemy' being a virus meant to eradicate the world to prepare for evolution!!!! The theme may initially offend some viewers, but forget about the current pandemic for a couple of hours and ride this fast escape into wild entertainment.
There is not a whole lot of plot - just a 'bad guy' (Idris Elba) touting a virus meant to alter the populace of the globe to prepare for further manifestations of his 're-invented' mechanical and indestructible self. The 'good guys' of the title are lawman Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and outcast Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) along with Shaw's duplicitous sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) and jailed mother Queenie (Helen Mirren) - and Hobb's daughter Sam (Eliana Sua). Along the way we meet mad scientist Professor Andreiko (Eddie Marsan), Eteon Director (Ryan Reynolds - at his best with quips and tongue in cheek dialogue), Air Marshall Dinkley (Kevin Hart) and a mass of Hobb's Samoan family.
It's all a matter of fighting and explosions and derring-do, much of which seems in place to honor CGI artists, but it works - because it is at once silly, entertaining and - at this moment in time with COVID-19, poignant. This is a fine diversion while we are in that stay at home status.
A Million Little Pieces (2018)
One day at a time...
James Frey's novel A MILLION LITTLE PIECES has been adapted for the screen by Aaron and Sam Taylor-Johnson and the result is a sensitive and absorbing view of Frey's struggle form addiction to sobriety.
The film opens in 1993 with a wildly chaotic and loud nude dancing sequence as James Frey (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) looses control and falls into rehabilitation, courtesy of his brother Bob Jr. (Charlie Hunnam). The story reflects the intimidation of being placed under supervision while coping with withdrawal and discovering the interstices of a rehab program. Frey gradually bonds with the outspoken and wise Leonard (Billy Bob Thornton), the fragile Lily (Odessa Young), the strange John (Giovanni Ribisi), his roommate Miles (Charles Parnell), the supervisor Lincoln (Dash Mihok), the counselor Joanne (Juliette Lewis) and others. The plethora of rancid language grows a bit tiresome, as does the constant smoking of the inmates et al, but the story is well played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson under the direction of Sam Taylor-Johnson - Aaron's wife.
A bit heavy handed at times but in all, the film works. This a fine insight into the world of rehabilitation and the Twelve Step Program.
A thoughtful biography
Director Laurent Bouzereau compounds excellent film clips, interviews, and historical data and enhances Natalie Wood's daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner to present her memoires and significant life incidents in this fine documentary on the life and talent and controversies of Natalie Wood. By including the conversations with Robert (RJ) Wagner, Richard Gregson (Natasha's biological father), Courtney Wagner (Natalie's child with RJ), along with insights form Robert Redford, George Hamilton, Katie Wagner (RJ's daughter from another marriage), Mart Crowley, David Niven, Jr, Mia Farrow et al we are given the opportunity to see the inception of Natalie's career as an actress as a child, her development as a sophisticated actress (complete with film clips of most of her many movies), her loving family life, her emotional ordeals, her impact on Hollywood as a feminist activist for women's rights, and finally, her death by drowning at the young age of 43.
The documentary is polished, focusing on the contributions and attributes of N Natalie Wood, giving the audience an even greater appreciation of the woman and actress. Many subjects are addressed that make her story of her life even more significant - a fine tribute to a remarkable person.
'Everybody is awful these days. It's enough to make anyone crazy'
For those wondering how a film about a comic book character, especially the Joker from DC Comics, could ever win an Academy Award, then join the doubters and watch this film JOKER: Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant in a role that is anything but comic in a film written by Scott Silver and Director Todd Phillips. Yes, the story, at the end, introduces the young Bruce Wayne aka Batman, in a subtle manner, but the message of the film is not the stuff of which DC/Marvel comics are made. This is a serious film about mentally ill people and the disinvolvement with a society that seems to care little about their status.
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) lives with his mentally impaired mother Penny (Frances Conroy) who is obsessed with communication with the mayor elect of Gotham City - Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen). Arthur works in a clown studio and we meet him in clown costume and makeup as he is parading a sign about a store that is closing facing financial failure. A group of kids steal the sign from Arthur and upon chasing them, Arthur is felled and beaten. Arthur is stricken with Pseudobulbar Affect - spontaneous uncontrollable laughter - a condition that alters his responses to almost everything. On a subway, in his clown outfit, he is maligned by three 'Wall Street rich guys' and Arthur murders them - the beginning of his downfall. The bud of the schism between the haves and the have-nots (financial inequity) opens, and in the process Arthur discovers his father may be Thomas Wayne (the reason for his ex-housekeeper mother Jenny's constant letters) and Arthur goes to Wayne's mansion to meet - a major mistake and another mishap. Finally caught by the police after Arthur's clown face is posted on the news as the clown subway killer, and after guest appearing on the Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro) comedy show, Arthur breaks and is institutionalized while a city of clown-masked protestors against the wealthy booms. The ending is particularly dramatic: Thomas Wayne's son Bruce (!) - Dante Pereira-Olson) - ignites.
Tough story to watch, but an important statement on many levels, this film deserves the honors it has received. Joaquin Phoenix is most impressive, as is the entire cast.
The Jackal (1997)
'Tell Declan he can't protect his women'
Sifting through old movies to occupy the mind during this pandemic, up comes this twenty-three year old jewel and the film is even better the second time around! The crisp writing by Kenneth Ross and Chuck Pfarrer and the spot-on direction by Michael Caton-Jones supply just the right platform for classy performances by Bruce Willis, Richard Gere, Sidney Poitier, Diane Venora, JK Simmons, Jack Black, Mathilda May, and others.
Some may find flaws in Gere's necessary Irish accent (he is an imprisoned IRA fighter released to assist in tacking down the assassin) but his character is so well developed and empathetic that the at times awkward delivery soon becomes minor. Bruce Willis changes appearances so frequently and masterfully that his character is mesmerizing. Sidney Poitier adds dignity to the story and the performances by Diane Venora as a Russian FBI agent and Jack Black as a loony genius are well sculpted.
While there is a schism between those who prefer the original The Day Of The Jackal to the latter The Jackal, for pure entertainment and driving suspense, this old movie delivers. For this viewer it is one of the most satisfying of the vast arena of espionage films. This is a very welcome diversion for isolation blues...
Red Joan (2018)
'Nobody would suspect us. We are women'
Jennie Rooney's novel RED JOAN, based on the true story of British physicist Melita Norwood, unmasked as the KGB's longest serving British spy in 1999 at age 87, is transferred to the screen by Lindsay Shapero and under the direction of Trevor Nunn the story becomes a time lapse chronicle of the young Joan acting out her convictions and the elderly Joan facing trial for those acts.
Very briefly, Joan Stanley (Judi Dench as the elder Joan, Sophie Cookson as the young Joan), a physicist in the 1903s, becomes employed as a British government civil servant and works with Professor Max Davies (Stephen Campbell Moore) and together they work on the concept of physics that deals with creating the atomic bomb. She is 'courted ' by her friend Sonja (Tereza Srbova) and her brother Leo (Tom Hughes), supporters of the Soviet party, and is convinced to share the information about the making of the bomb with Stalin's Russia - partly because Joan hypothetically believes all powerful countries should have access to the A bomb in order to maintain equality and prevent abuse of the bomb in the manner the US used in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mixed with love affairs and fear Joan transfers the secret information to Soviet Russia, and her secrecy lasts until 1999 when MI5 agents arrest her. The film opens with contemporary time and then flashes back and forth to the 30s and 40s in a manner that makes the story credible.
An excellent cast, especially Dench and Cookson, brings this story to life and the impact, whether you agree with the premise or not, makes the film absorbing. G
Bad Education (2019)
The infamous school fraud
Written by Mike Makowsky and directed by Cory Finley, this excellent film is based on a true story - the 2002 Long Island Nassau County Schools scandal - and that fact makes the film all the more fascinating: fact is stranger than fiction any day!
Dr. Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman in a brilliant performance) is the District Superintendent of School - a man loved by his students, faculty, board members and community: Tassone's exemplary leadership has not only increased the number of students accepted into the finest colleges, but has planned a Skywalk to credit the beauty of Roslyn High and all of this has resulted in property values skyrocketing, much to the glee of all! But there is something afoot. Gradually we learn that the Assistant Superintendent Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) has been shifting taxpayer dollars that support the school into her own personal pocket (and those of her family). When Tassone discovers this he faces a board who insists she be terminated - and there begins the downfall. Rachel (Geraldine Viswanathan), a student reporter for the school paper, uncovers facts that become the core of a controversial article, a revelation of Gluckin's fraud, but also an entry into the similar life of Tassone and his same sex domestic partner. The film follows the downfall of Tassone, his new boyfriend, his partner, and the reaction of not only the board, but also the townspeople, faulty, and students. It is a mighty fall!
Beautifully written in a way that keeps the suspense viable to the end, acted with brilliance, and directed and filmed with great flair, BAD EDUCATION is a brilliant work!
A spectacular success!!!!!
Co-writers/directors Benjamin Turner and Gabe Turner have delivered the definitive documentary about the musical phenomenon of Motown from its quiet birth by Berry Gordy in 1958 Detroit through its growth in global importance to its relocation to Los Angeles in the 1970s.
But the film is so much more than an overview of some of the most important singers and performers whose careers blossomed under the aegis of Berry Gordy (who narrates the film with Smokey Robinson!): it is a tribute to the impact that 'record company' had on the rise of black performers on the global stage. The script is witty, insightful, sensitive, and eloquent. The film shares films clips of performances by such stars as Diana Ross and the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wilson, Martha Reeves, Little Richard, Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, the Temptations, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Marvin Gaye - and on and on.
The manner in which Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson open the survey of the history of civil rights is distinguished and is one of the most accessible demonstrations of that deeply needed transition in cultural equality that has been created. Very highly recommended on many levels.
The Gentlemen (2019)
'There's only one rule in the jungle: when the lion's hungry, he eats!'
Guy Ritchie both wrote the story (with Ivan Atkinson and Marn Davies) and the screenplay and directed this peppery caper and the result - another unique Guy Ritchie film that continues his style of entertainment.
The very brief plot summary only hints at the momentum of the film: 'Mickey Pearson, an American expat (Matthew McConaughey), tries to sell off his highly profitable marijuana empire in London, triggering plots, schemes, bribery and blackmail in an attempt to steal his domain out from under him.' Spin that idea over two hours of action in the Ritchie style and the story explodes like a July 4th evening of color and noise. The language is typically raw and predominantly profanity - and that fits the style of the story.
The cast is a collection of some excellent actors: Hugh Grant 'narrates' much of the story to Ray (Charlie Hunnam), Mickey's consiglieri, and intertwines the myriad groups of eager procurers of McConaughey's marijuana estate - Jeremy Strong, Colin Farrell, Henry Golding, Tom Wu, Eddie Marsan, Jason Wong et al. Michelle Dockery is Mickey's hardnosed wife, the reason Mickey performs so well.
At times the strained Cockney accents and other permutations of the English language seem forced (or simply undecipherable), but the action never stops, and the script contains some pungent ideas. Noisy and naughty, it is pure Guy Ritchie - and that means, successful.
It is often amazing to discover a film that leaves such a profound impression never made it to the attention of the public, not to mention its lack of consideration for awards. THE DEATH AND LIFE OF JOHN F. DONAVAN is such a film, as written by director Xavier Dolan and Jacob Tierney. The story is extraordinarily creative and the cast is of the highest order.
The title of the book that is the core of the film - Letters To A Young Actor - indicates the intimacy of the story: Rupert Turner is an 11-year-old lad who corresponds with John F Donovan, a heartthrob actor known best for his television series Hellsome High who died alone and unexpectedly from a drug overdose following scandals.
One plot summary hints at the course of the film: In 2017, Times journalist Audrey Newhouse (Thandie Newton) interviews actor Rupert Turner (Ben Schnetzer) about his recently published book Letters to a Young Actor. The book collects letters he received from John F. Donovan (Kit Harrington), an actor he corresponded with as a child and who died from a drug overdose. In a flashback to the mid-2000s, Turner is a child actor who is bullied by his homophobic schoolmates. He idolizes Donovan, who plays the lead character in the teen drama series Hellsome High. The tabloid press frequently speculates that Donovan is gay and closeted; when gossip regarding Donovan soliciting male prostitutes makes headlines, his correspondence with Turner is made public, sparking malicious speculation about the nature of Turner and Donovan's relationship. Donovan writes his final letter to Turner, and dies shortly after. In the present, Turner says he does not know whether or not Donovan's death was related to the scandal. Newhouse muses that she initially dismissed Turner's book as "mishaps from the First World," but has reconsidered based on their meeting.
The submersion into the lives of both Rupert as a child (Jacob Trembly) and as an adult (Schnetzer) and Donavan is often like a reflection in the mirror of conflicted lives. Moments of special note are the conversations between Donavan and his mother (Susan Sarandon), Donavan and an old man in a diner (Michael Gambon), Donavan and his agent (Kathy Bates), Rupert as a child with his mother (Natalie Portman) and Rupert as an adult with Audrey(Newton) are beautifully acted and directed. Other excellent roles are offered by Jared Keeso as Donovan's brother, Chris Zylka as Donovan's 'date', among others.
This is one of the most satisfying films of the past few years. Xavier Dolan and his mighty cast deserve our attention.
The Kitchen (2019)
'It's a man's world'...NOT
A comic book series is the core for this dreary little film as written by Ollie Masters, Ming Doyle and director Andrea Berloff. 'Comic book' is a misnomer as this is one of the most darkly violent, crude, and degrading films to be released.
The story - in poorly strung together blocks of editing - is as follows: Hell's Kitchen, circa 1978: three women are married to members of the Irish mob: Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy) and her husband, Jimmy (Brian d'Arcy James), have two kids. Jimmy is kind and wants to leave the mob. Ruby O'Carroll (Tiffany Haddish) is married to Kevin (James Badge Dale), who's the son of Helen (Margo Martindale) and heir to the mob empire. Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) is married to Rob (Jeremy Bobb), who is abusive towards her. One night while robbing a convenience store, FBI Agents Silvers (Common) and Martinez (EJ Bonilla), who have been trailing them, bust them, and the three men are sentenced to three years in prison. The wives continue to operate their husbands' rackets after they're locked up and Claire has a change of personality when she pairs with Gabriel O'Malley (Domhnall Gleason).
The language is foul, the situations of the various couples' interaction are very dark, and the transition of abused women to abusing female racketeers is gruesome. But then that seems to be the point of the film - painting Hell's Kitchen as a pit of crime. Some strong performances despite the poor script and choppy editing. Definitely not for youngsters!
The Good Liar (2019)
'It seems like you've had quite a past.'
Nicholas Searle's fine novel THE GOOD LIAR has been adapted for the screen by Jeffrey Hatcher (Mr. Holmes, episodes of Upstairs Downstairs, The Mentalist, etc) and with two of the most distinguished actors of the day, Bill Condon directs a memorable film.
It is a pleasure to see two senior actors take full control of an entire film and make it ring. Though the opening half hour or so tends to be a bit tedious, the movie picks up speed about half way through and thunders to a fine climax - a surprise set of twists and turns that are unexpected and completely credible.
Very briefly, 'Roy Courtnay' (Ian McKellen) is a con artist - and a good one! - who works with his confrere Vincent (Jim Carter) to barter fraudulent deals with wealthy men - and women, as we discover when he plays a physically needy gentleman caller to Betty McLeish (Helen Mirren), prepping her for yet another shady deal to win her fortune. Their chemistry is palpable until Betty's 'grandson' Stephen (Russell Tovey) becomes dubious about Ray's qualifications and sets out to barricade the incipient 'relationship.' But secrets arise that explain the reality of the characters of the story, secrets that explode Ray's world of lies. And to say more would be a major spoiler.
With a fine supporting cast the varying locations of the story seem real and the quality of acting is top notch. It is refreshing to spend an evening in awe of McKellen and Mirren - and a story that is guaranteed to surprise. Recommended.
Official Secrets (2019)
'Someone in this building has betrayed their country.'
Hats off to director Gavin Hood for placing Gregory and Sara Bernstein's adaptation of the Marcia and Thomas Mitchell novel "The Spy Who Tried To Stop A War: Katherine Gun and the Secret Plot to Sanction the Iraq Invasion' before the public in this excellent film - an act of bravery and commitment to truth.
Kudos to the excellent cast also - Keira Knightley, Jeremy Northam, Matt Smith, Matthew Goode, Rhys Ifans, Ralph Fiennes, Indira Varma and all the supportive roles. Information such as this may be known to some - the 2003 debacle of the sanctioning of the invasion of Iraq exposed by whistleblower Katherine Gun as an illegal NSA spy operation - but seeing realized in such a skillful manner make the impact of this historical moment even more significant. The pacing of the film is on target, speedy but still allowing enough development of the individual characters involved to make the story all the more credible and fascinating.
Films such as this are invaluable reminders of how governments can ill-function at times and how war is never an event to consider lightly. Recommended for all viewers.
'You're a miracle elephant, Dumbo'
The 1941 Disney classic DUMBO, based on the book by Helen Aberson and Harold Pearl, has been energized by Ehren Kruger's screenplay and Tim Burton's direction and the result is a live action plus photo-realistically computer-generated version that focuses a bit heavily on the evils of corporate greed...
Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) was once a circus star, but he went off to WW I and returned missing his left arm. His wife fell victim to the Spanish flu outbreak, but his two children (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins) greet him. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) hires Holt to take care of Dumbo, a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him the laughing stock of the struggling circus troupe. But when Holt's children discover that Dumbo can fly, silver-tongued entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), and aerial artist Colette Marchant (Eva Green) swoop in to make the little elephant a star. From that point on the celebrity status turns sour when corporate greed in the form of both Vandevere and J. Griffin Remington (Alan Alda) destroy the magic. But Dumbo escapes to find his mother, Colette embraces the Farrier family, and of course it all turns out well.
The performances by the actors are fine and the production itself is colorful if a tad overdone in the final stages of the Dreamland circus of Vandevere, but the tenderness between the children and Dumbo and Dumbo's mother Jumbo, and the pro-animals messages save the sentiment of the original.
'He's about as flirty as the grizzly from The Revenant'
It takes courage to place this true story before the public at this time of the political climate during debates by presidential candidates and retorts from the sitting president who is famous for his association with Fox News. Charles Randolph (The Big Short, and The Life of David Gale) has written a penetrating screenplay about the 2016 explosion when Fox News persona Roger Ailes was finally exposed for sexual harassment by some courageous women. Director Jay Roach (Trumbo, Blown Away, Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery, etc) makes this story come vividly to life, unafraid to insert film clips of Donald Trump's appearances as the case unfolds, as well as including the lesbian relationships that give the story a new grounding.
The story of this Fox News scandal is true, so everyone knows the outline. As one distillation states, 'When Gretchen Carlson (Nicole Kidman) slaps Fox News founder Roger Ailes (John Lithgow) with a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, not a soul could predict what would happen next. Her decision leads to Fox News correspondent Megyn Kelly (Charlize Theron) coming forward with her own story, as well as multiple other women, such as Kayla Pospisil (Margot Robbie), inciting a movement that reverberates around the world.'
The cast is outstanding: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, and Margot Robbie each excel, but the other women in the film - Allison Janney, Connie Britton, Liv Hewson, Kate McKinnon, and Brigette Lundy-Paine - also impress. John Lithgow is very appropriately repugnant as Roger Ailes, as is Malcolm McDowell as Rupert Murdoch, and the clips of Giuliani, Trump et al. The tension never lets up as this scandal is related in fine form. Not only is the film excellent (though some may prefer the Showtime series THE LOUDEST VOICE account of the scandal), but also it offers award winning quality performances that allow the actors to step into different territories.
Last Christmas (2019)
Just when we think the gush of Christmas commercials and specials are over, along comes LAST CHRISTMAS, and if ever there were a film that could enchant, this is one that does. Written by Emma Thompson (who also plays a significant role in the movie) and Greg Wise with screenplay adaptation aided by Bryony Kimmings, the film seems a bit of fluff, overly decorated, until the messages begin to sink in. And by the end the film is elevating, thanks to some fine acting and direction. George Michael's music plays a primary role, also.
Katrina/Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a young woman subscribed to bad decisions. Working as an elf in a year round Christmas store owned by 'Santa' (Michele Yeoh) is not good for the wannabe singer. However, there she meets Tom (Henry Golding), a kind-hearted man with a mysterious past who challenges her cynical worldview. Kate slowly comes to realize that Tom is 'significant' and her life takes a new turn. For Kate, it seems too good to be true. Completing the entourage is Kate's Yugoslavian immigrant family - mother Petra (Emma Thompson), father Ivan (Boris Isakovic) and sister Marta (Lydia Leonard) - each with conflicts and problems of their own. It all comes together with a discovery (one that should not be shared) and the grand finale at the homeless sanctuary is rich in honest goodwill - 'helping each other.'
This is a feel good movie, well acted, and one that can be uplifting - if you've a mind to be uplifted!
Ford v Ferrari (2019)
'We're lighter, we're faster, and if that don't work, we're nastier'
James Mangold directs this historic visit to the 1960s, using the script written by Jez and John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller, and the result is a heart-pounding series of fast car racing events that surface as an entertaining film due to the presence of some very fine actors. Not only is it a recreation of the 1966 Le Mans event: it is also a penetrating statement about corporate behavior attempting to drown individual personal achievement!
Briefly, American car designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) battle corporate interference and the laws of physics to build a revolutionary race car for Ford in order to defeat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1966. The 'Ford' tent includes Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts), Lee Iacocca (Jon Bernthal), and Leo Beebe (Josh Lucas), and the Ferrari group is lead by Enzo Ferrari (Remo Girone). Significant roles include Ken's wife Mollie (Caitriona Balfe) and their son Peter Miles (Noah Jupe), as well as Shelby's right hand man Phil Remington (Ray McKinnon).
But towering over the entire epic are the acting chops of Mat Damon and Christian Bale, both of whom create fully three-dimensional roles that make the story come vividly to life. The film is overly long and at times self indulgent, but for fans of fast cars - and racing history - this film will more than satisfy.
Linda Ronstadt - Insisting on challenges
Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman have created a fine biopic of the multitalented, phenomenally gifted singer Linda Ronstadt. The film is filled with her live performances in every aspect of her range - folk, pop, rock and roll, ballads, country western, operetta, Mexican, and more.
The film inserts interview commentaries from such a widespread contingency as Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Bonnie Raitt, Aaron Neville, Don Henley, Jackson Browne, David Geffen, Cameron Crowe to name a few, offering such plaudits as 'perfection,' an early feminist in a man's music world, uncompromising, incredible stage presence, and so on. By allowing moments with Linda speaking about her musical ideas and family and women's rights, the artist becomes even more impressive.
For those who have followed Linda's successful career, this film is a must. Even the dignity of the ending as she is enduring Parkinson's disease while still singing ("just connecting notes") with her family is a salute to a one of a kind artist. Highly recommended.
The Professor (2018)
'Well, maturity is really just another word for how much misery you'd swallow'
Writer/director Wayne Roberts tackles controversial subject matter and ably transforms it into contemporary philosophical conversations that are impressive and alert us to the fact that he is an artist of great promise. Couple his writing and directing gifts with an important actor of substance - Johnny Depp - and the result is a film of significant impact.
While many viewers are finding the topics covered in this film disturbing - same sex gender identification, adultery, drug abuse, public sexual encounters - these ripples serve to embellish the spectrum of staring at life through the eyes of one about to face death. Testy moments that shine a strong light on the propinquities of life choices as magnified by impeding finality. Or as the Professor states, ''In each and every moment we're composing stories of our lives, let's aim to make it a meaningful read... or at least an interesting one'
The story - After learning about his terminal diagnosis, Richard Brown (Johnny Depp), a college professor, decides to live his life to the fullest by drinking, smoking and expressing real thoughts for the people around him - his best friend Peter (Danny Huston), his adulterous wife Veronica (Rosemarie DeWitt), his daughter Olivia (Odessa Young), his boss - and wife's lover - Henry (Ron Livingston), and students Claire (Zoey Deutch and Danny (Devon Terrell). While going through the stages, he come to terms with the great truth of his life as he mends broken relationships, embraces the people in his life and learns to ignite his inner good spirit.
The subject matter - facing a terminal life that merits examination - is one that Wayne Roberts paints well. Excellent performances from a very strong cast make the messages carry a strong impact. Recommended.
Dolor y gloria (2019)
The lightness of being - an Almodóvar triumph!
Pedro Almodóvar delivers the finest film of his prodigious career in this autobiographical film, Dolor y Gloria, a cinematic treasure relating the life and gifts of a genius. Though all of his films are treasures, this production's writing, directing, acting, cinematography, musical scoring, settings, and message are the work of a master, and his confreres.
Briefly, the span of this two-hour film is as follows: 'The protagonist Salvador Molla is at the decline of his career. The man involuntarily looks back into the past, and a stream of vivid memories falls upon him. He recalls such moments from his youth as tender feelings for his mother, love and separation, the search for happiness and success. All this leads the master of cinema to important thoughts about life and art, because this is the most important thing for him.'
Antonio Banderas is brilliant as Salvador Molla, and the roles of his mother Jacinta - both young (Penélope Cruz) and old (Julieta Serrano), his coincidental inspiration in art as a child - Eduardo (César Vicente), his closest friend Mercedes (Nora Navas), his actor friend Alberto (Asier Etxeandia), his ex-lover Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia) - all offer performances of both credibility and distinction.
Almodóvar's wondrous sense of color and nuance is well captured by cinematographer José Luis Alcaine and the musical score by Alberto Iglesias. In all, this film is simply a wonder - a magnificent achievement by one of the most important cinematic artists of our time. In Spanish with English subtitles. Very Highly Recommended on every level.
On the Basis of Sex (2018)
Equal rights - a significant impact
Daniel Stiepleman wrote the screenplay for this fine film and Mimi Leder directs a strong cast, greatly contributing to the major impact this focus on the contributions of Ruth Bader Ginsburg has made and continues to make on society in America.
Setting a solid foundation for the eventual message of the film, the docudrama opens in 1956 when Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Felicity Jones) is one of six women in her class at Harvard Law School. Her husband Martin (Armie Hammer) helps her get ready for a dinner at the Dean's house welcoming the women to the class. When she arrives, Dean Griswold (Sam Waterston) callously makes each of the women stand up and explain why they're in law school. Ruth remains unfazed - she continues excelling in classes, and when men like Professor Brown (Stephen Root) won't call on her, she still manages to make her points. While playing charades at a social gathering with friends, Martin doubles over in pain. At the hospital, the doctor explains that he has testicular cancer and that the chances of survival are at six percent. Ruth assures Martin that he's going to live. She begins attending Martin's law school classes in addition to her own, typing both of their essays, and taking care of sick Martin and their young daughter Jane (Cailee Spaeny). And with that ground zero set, the remainder of the film is well known to all - but rarely has a social change been so well constructed as the final scene as Ruth makes her powerful case for equal rights before the judges.
In addition to the strong acting of Felicity Jones as Ruth, Armie Hammer as Martin, and Justin Theroux as Mel Wulf the supporting cast includes fine cameos by Sam Waterston, Chris Mulkey, Kathy Bates and others. The cast as lead by Director Mimi Leder brings this important moment and this important figure stunningly to life - and impact is very strong. This is a film that merits repeated viewings.
The Wedding Guest (2018)
'The best laid plans of mice and men...'
Highly respected writer/director Michael Winterbottom created this fast-paced, near inscrutable thriller that allows the viewer to follow the strange trail of a hired kidnapper whose assignment goes oddly off center.
The visually stunning and emotionally tense story is viewed through the actions of Jay (Dev Patel), a man with a secret who travels from Britain to Pakistan on an assignment from one Deepesh (Jim Sarbh) to attend a wedding - armed with duct tape, a shotgun, and a plan to kidnap the bride-to-be. Despite his cold efficiency, the assignment quickly spirals out of control, sending Jay and his hostage, the bride-to-be Samira (Radhika Apte), on the run across the border and through the railway stations, back alleys, and black markets of New Delhi - as all the while attractions simmer, loyalties shift, and explosive secrets bubble to the surface. Murder may appear to be the nidus of the reason the assignment fails, but the oddly complex interaction between Dev and Samira - and Deepesh - sets an entirely different tone to the adventure.
As much a diatribe about men's control over women (forced/arranged marriages by fathers, abandonment by lovers, secrecy and emotional aloofness by escorts) as it is a suspenseful unwinding of an assignment gone wrong, the unspoken aspects of this story make it at times problematic while at other times completely engrossing as a thriller. Fine acting on the parts of the three main characters as well as from the cameo roles complete the success of this unique film.
The Goldfinch (2019)
Life as Art
Donna Tartt's enormously successful novel THE GOLDFINCH has been successfully transformed for the screen by Peter Straughan and as directed by John Crowley (Brooklyn, Boy A, Closed Circuit) it becomes an engrossing, very long, richly detailed composite of art, classical music, antiques, and life - as travelled by a young lad into adulthood.
The time frame is from childhood to adulthood and the extremes of roles as played by the actors is noted here (child actor to adult actor). Theodore "Theo" Decker (Ansel Elgort) was 13 years old when his divorced mother (Hailey Wist) was killed in a bombing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. During the bombing Theo is cautioned by Welty (Robert Joy) to save his daughter Pippa (Aimee Laurence > Ashleigh Cummings) and an old painting, and Welty's partner in life and antiques - Hobie (Jeffrey Wright) - cares for Pippa after the bombing. The tragedy changes the course of his life, sending him on a stirring odyssey of grief and guilt, reinvention and redemption, and even love. Through it all, he holds on to one tangible piece of hope from that terrible day...a painting of a tiny bird chained to its perch. The Goldfinch. Theo is taken in by the wealthy Barbour family (Boyd Gains, Nicole Kidman, Carly Connors > Willa Fitzgerald, Jack DiFalco > Luke Kleintank, Collin Shea Schirrmacher > Austin Weyant) until displaced by his alcoholic father (Luke Fisher) and girlfriend (Sarah Paulson) and moved to Las Vegas where Theo is befriended by Boris (Canadian actor Finn Wolfhard > Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard) until Theo flees back to New York to join Hobie in his antiques restoration business - and the complex life that follows.
The tenor of the novel is very well captured by the fine cast, the exceptionally fine musical score, the stunning cinematography, and the sensitivity to all forms of art. The prolonged enactment of this near inextricable story allows the viewer to grow with the characters - and discover valuable insights as to art and life and their intersection or conjunction. Highly recommended on many levels.
'I think there's something you need to know about Greta'
Writer/director Neil Jordan (the Crying Game, The Borgias, Michael Collins, etc) co-wrote the screenplay of this dark thriller by Ray Wright and the result is a gripping study in post mortem need and anguish - and derangement.
Frances (Chloë Grace Moretz), a sweet, naïve young woman trying to make it on her own in New York City with her close friend Erica (Maika Monroe), doesn't think twice about returning the handbag she finds on the subway to its rightful owner. The owner is Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an eccentric French piano teacher with a love for classical music and an aching loneliness. Having recently lost her mother, Frances quickly grows closer to widowed Greta. The two become fast friends, find a fine pet dog, enjoy similar interests - but Greta's maternal charm begin to dissolve and grow increasingly disturbing as Frances discovers that nothing in Greta's life is what it seems. What begins as a promising relationship becomes a true nightmare - with a dark history.
Isabelle Huppert is brilliant as is Chloë Grace Moretz, and the two pull off this macabre tale with credibility. Seamus McGarvey is the notable cinematographer, able to capture the suspense well. This is film noir at its finest.