Archive for the ‘FILM REVIEWS’ Category

“BPM”–a MUST SEE 2018 Oscar contender movie review   Leave a comment

“BPM” (Beats Per Minute) has a very moving love story surrounded with a dramatic and (don’t let this word scare you!) educational film about the very effective organization ACT UP, that was founded by Larry Kramer in New York in 1987. Two years later the French version of the ACT UP organization opened in 1989.

The main purpose of ACT UP was to take direct action to end the AIDS crisis and demonstrating for greater, faster access to experimental drugs.

The film opens with a demonstration at a drug company and leads into a local ACT UP meeting where the rules are explained to four newcomers such as snapping fingers instead of clapping or saving all debating for the meeting room, not in the hall where they go to have a cigarette. The meetings are attended by males, females, some being HIV+ and others negative, straights, gays, drug users, who have full blown AIDS.

The horror of what the government didn’t do for many years and the horror of watching vibrant people being decimated by a disease that is still killing people over 35 years later is shown with fingers being pointed at all, even with their infighting at meetings.

Intermingled with facts, figures, marches, condom and needle distributions, walls splattered with fake blood, a mother’s horror finding that she has been injecting her son, a hemophiliac, with infected bold provided by a hospital is a love story.

At that first meeting, where we observe the ACT UP group, one of the newcomers, Nathan, played by Arnaud Valois, HIV- negative, zeros in on Sean (Nahuel Perez Biscayart) a firebrand, militant leader who has AIDS.  (An aside: as Nathan tells Sean about his first love the lover’s name is Arnaud!) We follow them as they at first fall in love and then dealing with Sean’s illness.

Most of the actors are new faces, such as Biscayart and Valois, which adds a little confusion at the beginning and it may take some time to realize that Marco, the hemophiliac, played by Theophile Ray, is the son of Helene, Catherine Vinatier. We meet Jeremie, Ariel Borenstein, ACT UP president Thibault, Antoine Reinartz, and other ACT UP members, plus a drug company CEO Samuel Churin, Sean’s mother Saadia Ben Taieb among a strong supporting cast.

The film, directed by Robin Campillo, who also co-wrote it with Philippe Mangeot, based up the former’s experiences as an ACT UP participant, is the French Oscar contender for the 2018 Best Foreign Language  film.

“BPM” is one the best films ever made about AIDS but has a few minor faults and one major fault. The latter is the 2 hours and 44 minutes running time along with faulty editing and slow pace.

Being a French film the two sex scenes are vivid while the last twenty minutes are very moving. The problem is that there are too many unnecessary scenes such as 3 disco scenes when one would have sufficed, one too many marches, a beach scene that adds nothing to the love story and so on, taking away from getting to know some of the characters better.

“BMP” is a must see movie even though it may be hard to watch at times and the love story is completely believable!

 Movie trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UVAw7JfTqBU

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“Lady Bird”–a movie review   Leave a comment

I base whether I like a movie or not on: 1) if I would like to see it again 2) the acting 3) if the story gets me involved with the characters and 4) if I get emotionally involved to the point of tears and/or laughter.

“Lady Bird” is not a movie I would want to see again yet the acting was topnotch. On the other hand there were only moments of the 1 hour and 33 minutes of the movie that I was emotionally involved except for being bored through most of it.

I didn’t identify with what all the teenagers went through because I lived a completely different teenage life than they do. I don’t remember if I went to a prom or when/how I lost my virginity, having special friends at school, etc., so I sort of kept thinking, “Come on—let’s get on with the story!” A lot of what the self named Lady Bird was foreign to me or I just don’t remember feeling a lot of what she or the rest of the kids felt.

I became aware of Saorise Ronan, who at 23 plays the 17, 18 year old Lady Bird, when 2 years ago she was in “Brooklyn” getting the best actress nomination. She had made some ‘noise’ in a couple of other movies but I don’t remember her or them. This movie makes a bona fide A listactress of her. 

Laurie Metcalf was primarily known for her work as Roseanne’s sister on the television show of the same name receiving 10 Emmy nominations winning 3 for that role and currently as Sheldon’s mother on “The Big Ban” and also winning 2 Tony awards for her theatre work. There is no doubt that she will get an Oscar nomination for this mother as the mother you want to hate but won’t.

Tracy Letts, as the father, is mainly known for winning the 2008 Pulitzer prize and a Tony award for writing “August: Osage County” and for his performance on “Homeland”. He won a Tony award for acting and has recently done more acting in television and movies. The relationship between him and Lady Bird is the sweetest part of the film and his fight against depression is affecting.

The rest of the supporting cast from Lucas Hedges and Timothee Chalamet as boyfriends, Beanie Feldstein and Odeya Rush as girl friendsalong with Lois Smith as a nun at the Catholic school Christine, Lady Bird’s given name, and Jordon Rodrigues as Lady Bird’s older, adopted brother plus others give solid support.

The movie was written and directed by Greta Gerwig who does a better job directing than the writing.

“Lady Bird” is not a movie I want to see again and though I got involved now and then with the characters, at times shedding a tear or two, there is no faulting the acting and will probably see their names nominated for awards.

Movie trailer

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DbhdyOKcYC0

“Murder on the Orient Express”–movie review   Leave a comment

When was the last time you saw a remake that was better than the original? Long time, if ever, right?  “Murder on the Orient Express”, which opened last week, is a remake of the same film, based on Agatha Christie’s book, that was made in 1974 and directed by Sidney Lumet. This new rendition is directed by Kenneth Branagh who also stars in the film along with his elaborate mustache.

Both versions have an all star cast and which is more famous will be in the eyes of the viewer. Ingrid Bergman won a best supporting Oscar for her role which she thought, and expressed, as a mistake. With the exception of Branagh, and that mustache, the only one who has a chance to show off is Michelle Pfeiffer and, by the way, stay for the end credits to hear her sing. Judi Dench is wasted in what is more of a cameo than a supporting role. Also in the film are Penelope Cruz, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, William Dafoe along with newer names such as Daisy Ridley, Olivia Colman and Leslie Odom Jr., none really shining but none embarrassing themselves.

The main difference, to me, is that the scenery in the latest version is plusher, visually breathtaking whether shot on location or in a studio.

The ‘hook’ of “Murder on the Orient Express” is the solution to the crime that takes place which, at points, can be confusing but the major point of who did it, and why, is obvious enough.

There is nothing wrong with this 2017 version with the hour and fifty-four going by at a relaxing time and the sets, costumes, lighting and all of the production aspects are firstrate. The question is whether this was really worth a remake and if you should pay to see it or watch the 1974 version for free on youtube.

 

Movie trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq4m3yAoW8E

“Wonderstruck”–a movie review   Leave a comment


“Wonderstruck” is a movie for thinking people. Though it isn’t necessary to take notes during the first ninety minutes it would help when the puzzle is put together in the last twenty-five minutes.

We are following the story of 2 children opening when 10-11-year-old Ben is struck deaf by lightning and the loss of his mother, never having known his father. His story takes place in the late 1970s and is told in full color. 

The other child, Rose, has been deaf since birth and, all her scenes are in black and white presented as a silent movie, has an absentee mother. Both leave home, she from Hoboken, New Jersey and he from Gunflint Lake, Minnesota, to go to New York for her to connect with her mother and him to find his father.

Their stories are kept separate, each getting equal time and easy to follow until they intertwine in a very believable fashion but unless you watch and listen closely you could get lost in how Rose and Ben are related.

It would be difficult to continue the review without giving spoilers regarding the story, with the screenplay written by Brian Selznick who wrote the original best-selling children’s book here turned into a story for people of all ages.

Ben is played by Oakes Fegley and Rose by deaf actress Millicent Simmonds with the latter making a stunning debut. Joining Ben in his search is Jamie, played by Jaden Michael, when the two boys meet on the streets of New York. The three kids have the leading roles and are stand-outs.

Julianne Moore plays two different roles, each important to the figuring out the puzzle within the film while Michele Williams, as Ben’s mother, basically has a cameo in the film as most of the adults do.

There is no doubt the ‘star’ of this film is the director Todd Haynes who ties the story, the actors, the very effective music for both eras along with the costumes, sets and photography. The beginning calls for a lot of patience from the movie-goer but they are pulled first into the separate stories and then watching it all come together.

Full disclosure: Though I followed all the pieces of the puzzle fitting together when I got home I had to look up certain relationships to make sure I had followed it correctly.

Movie trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o1vV0oorclg

“Tom of Finland”–movie review   Leave a comment

 

Touko Laaksonen—more famously and widely known as Tom of Finland—was an important influence on Gay art from the 1950s on. He was the creator of changing the imagine of the homosexual from an effeminate moving and acting to a highly masculine Gay man emphasized in the outfits of police, uniforms of bikers, soldiers, leatherman, leaders, strong muscular men with exaggerated physical endowments.

While based on his life, “Tom of Finland”, how much is true and how much has been added to Laaksonen’s life, is hard to know unless you know him. The first hour is a good depiction of how Gay men ‘hid’ whether serving his country in WW2 or living with his sister and being in the closet. It is in the second hour of the film that comes alive when he goes to California and becomes known as the artist he was and in the 1970s and 1980s influenced the world.

With topics as hot as whether Tom of Finland’s work was porno or art, whether he contributed to the spread of AIDS or was an outlet for men with AIDS, the 3 couples that the film follows, what brought them together, how differently each couple made a life, why so many Gay men were drawn to his work plus many other issues that are skipped over including so many of the political issues that were prevalent among gay people in the latter half of the twentieth century.

The first half of the film that takes place mainly in Finland’s parks, bars and alleyways is dark while the second half which to California is mainly in bright colors.

The screenplay by Aleksi Bardy introduces a lot of interesting subjects but skirts too many of them. The director Dome Karukoski follows many of the events of Laaksonen’s life and while he highlights most of them he also turns the camera away when it should have stayed on some scenes longer.

“Tom of Finland” should be seen by all Gay men to learn some of their history, will probably be seen by older Gay men who know who he was and was probably a part of their life It should also be seen by non-Gays to learn what their family members and friends who were/are Gay though they might not have even known about them and find out how they survived all those years.

“Tom of Finland” is an educational film for both Gay and non-Gay people it really isn’t a film that emotionally involves the audience though it should and could hasve.

Movie trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ujJ_fFkFz0w

“Suburbicon”–a movie review   Leave a comment

“Suburbicon” is one of the funniest unintended comedies in a long time but not in a laughing way, more of an ‘OMG!’ Way! I have never seen Julianne Moore give a bad performance but here as a combination Stepford wife, throw in a little of Kim Novak from “Vertigo”  and Barbara Stanwyck in “Double Indemnity” and you feel this is a new actress who won’t be heard from again.

The four screenwriters: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen, George Clooney and Grant Heslov each seem to have another genre from the other plus different movie homage’s, if they could be called that. In addition Clooney directed and among fight, murder and mayhem he throws in a physical joke that at least gets a laugh as wanted.

The reason I went to see the movie was because of Matt Damon and Julianne Moore and having already talked about Moore I have to say that I hope his next film, “Downsizing” is a hit because after “The Great Wall” and this film Damon needs one. Matt Damon is Matt Damon here, Fred McMurray there, a little Jason Bourne and, why not?, some of good Will hunting.

With a cast of strong supporting players “Suburbicon” doesn’t make a strong film considering the best storyline about a Black family being the first to move into a 1950s ‘lily white’ area is sort of neglected, especially the friendship between the young boys of the two families played by Noah Jupe and Tony Espinosa.

Not bad enough to be on a ‘worst list of 2017’ it certainly isn’t good enough to be recommended.

 

 

Movie trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYga2m0V2O0

“Only the Brave”–a movie review   Leave a comment

“Only the Brave” is not the sort of movie I would go to see but I did and I will tell all others who wouldn’t go see a picture like this go for it and those who are into films like this you got a winner!

Aside from being pure entertainment, along with suspense and based on a true story, this is also educational in many ways regarding fires and fighting them. It certainly was for me and far from being boring.

Though Josh Brolin almost always gets excellent reviews he doesn’t seem to be able to get to the highest level of stardom and he deserves to as his role as the real Eric Marsh shows that he does.

“Only the Brave” is the true story of the ‘Granite Mountain Hotshots’ who fought a fire in Arizona in 2013 that killed more firefighters at one time except for 9/11.

With a team of 20 men plus spouses, kids, in-laws, friends, it is pretty hard to get to know everyone in this 2 hours plus film but we met enough of the men and their interactions plus a few of the ‘civilians’ that draw you into every moment of the film and the people involved.

Yes there is a Hollywood cliché here and there but even they ring true. The fire scenes and how quickly a fire can overtake acres of land and the many ways firefighters end, or at least delay, the destruction fire can do are totally.

Just watching this film as the California fires rage on taking everything in its way makes this a must see film to understand what is happening there.

I knew very little about the real story this is based on but the screenplay by Ken Nolan and Eric Warren Singer, along with the directing by Joseph Kosinski and the production values, especially the fire scenes, along with the excellent cast, makes it all real.

“Only the Brave” is such a good movie that not a person left the auditorium during the end credits even after they showed the real firefighters and who played them.

Be sure to see this film on a movie screen to get the full effect of the firefighters, the fires and what made these men so brave!

Cast: Josh Brolin, Jennifer Connelly, Jeff Bridges, Mills Tyler, James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Screenwriters: Ken Nolan, Eric Warren Singer

PG-13 2 hours 13 minutes

 

Movie Trailer

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQj4BkYf-HM

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