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“Summer of 85”–movie theatre review   Leave a comment

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(In French with subtitles)Just being a teenager is complex enough but to be the  new boy, Alex, in town, 16 and from a working class family, to fall in love with 18 year old David, a Jewish boy whose father recently died and left a thriving business to his wife and son, could drive him crazy.As Alex states he is in love with death and it is not a spoiler to say we find out why the picture opens with him handcuffed and being taken by a police officer through the hall of a police station.

“Summer of 85” touches on a lot of subjects and the two actors, Alex played by Felix LeFeb with Benjamin Voisin as David, deliver with both being completely different characters, from the point of their meeting ‘cute’ and their relationship from that point.

Most gay teenage movies bore me as I can’t/don’t identify with the leads because as a teenager coming out my life is completely different from theirs as shown in film. (I believe being raised in New York city and Miami Beach had a lot to do with that!) I identified with Alex as a boy who falls in love with everyone and anyone he meets/goes to bed with and David who enjoys flings but loses interest very quickly.)

The one hour and forty minute film held my interest but at the end I felt it should have been more moving  but then I didn’t write and/or direct the movie.

Posted July 20, 2021 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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This is not the sparkling Julia Roberts of “Pretty Woman” or the sexed up one in “Erin Brockovich” but a completely bare of make-up, stripped of all emotions except of love for her daughter, that when someone says she “..looks a million years old” you can believe it. Aside from her looks Roberts is at the top of her acting game being effective in quick scenes consisting of just a glance or longer scenes that require her eyes tell the secrets they are holding.

As it is “Secret In Their Eyes” stands up as a solid crime genre but has a twist that I didn’t see coming until after an hour and thirty minutes into the hour and 50 minutes of the film! It is worth seeing this movie to test your ability on guessing what is going to come.

Co-starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, as an FBI agent who is working a counterterrorism case with Roberts’ DA investigator, shares the burden of carrying the moral tone of the film. He, also, has a love affair that isn’t–go see the movie–with Nicole Kidman who will become a district attorney. We meet the three a few months after 9/11 when Robert’s daughter is found murdered and the films goes back and forth between then and 13 years later which is handled smoothly as you can tell the difference in the faces of Ejiofor and Roberts and the aftermath of the daughter’s death plus look for the gray in the former’s hair!

Alfred Molina who is in charge of the terrorism task force does not allow evidence to convict Joe Cole who is the murderer but, in politics, is more important as an informant of a mosque close to where Zoe Graham, the daughter, has been raped and killed. Thirteen years later Kidman presented with a new reason to open the case also passes for political reasons. Through the years, Michael Kelly, as a surely co-worker and Dean Norris as another investigator and friend of Ejiofor and Roberts, both give strong support.

The director and screenwriter, Billy Ray, has to be held responsible for the non-romance between Kidman and Ejiofer, giving her a one note performance that has nothing to do with the film. Ray does a journeyman job and handles the mandatory foot chase and action scenes pacing the lower key scenes enough to hold the audience’s interest. 

Daniel Moder, the cinematographer, and husband of Julia Roberts, doesn’t hold back on filming the ‘million year old’ woman!

“Secret In Their Eyes” is a good mystery with a twist very few people will see coming unless they are familiar with the Oscar winning Argentine film “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” which it is based on.


Posted November 25, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT, Uncategorized

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Have you ever sat through a movie asking yourself, “Why am I watching this?” Has an 86 minute movie seemed like 6 hours without any of the embellishments of being an epic film? I know the answer to the first question as I always hope the movie will redeem itself before it is over. “Mistress America” doesn’t do that!

With a screenplay by Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig that seems to use every word they know and saying nothing plus being directed by Baumback and starring Gerwig this seems to be a hate letter to New York. It shows New Yorkers as aimless, not knowing anything, being full of hot air, ideas that don’t go anywhere unless stolen and even the crazies aren’t individuals.

The story is simple, with a ridiculous setup, of 18 year old Tracy (Lola Kirke) seeking out her 30 year old sister-to-be Brooke (Greta Gerwig)–the former’s mother is going to marry the latter’s father–having come to New York to attend college to become a writer after finding out it wasn’t the way she thought it would be and is lonely. (If you think that is a long sentence you will go bonkers hearing some of the talk in the movie!)

Brooke is the do it all girl from running a spin class to being an interior decorator  and many jobs in-between. Her latest project is to open “Mom’s” a combination restaurant, hair salon, convenience store, cooking classes, exercise center and more, basically being a community center, and a home away from home.

Naïve Tracy is  taken over by city-wise Brooke who never really finishes a project and is jealous of those who do like all those around her.  Tracy wants to be a writer so you should know where this is going, if it ever gets there. 

The only one who made an impression on me from this (too large) cast was Lola Kirke who comes across more grounded than the others, seems more natural and is the only one with an arc that shows growth. Considering that Gerwig is a co-writer of the film it is surprising how negative, destructive and lethal the women are towards each other. Though she is a beautiful woman most of the lines either she or Baumbach put in Brooke’s mouth make her an ugly person.

“Mistress America” is all over the place, neither here nor there, and really doesn’t say anything with all its rapid, spit it out, get it said helter-skelter lines.

“Mistress America” Movie Trailer

Posted September 9, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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“PHOENIX”–A MOVIE REVIEW   Leave a comment

“They don’t make them like the did in the old days, “ is the cry of many senior  film buffs, including me.  In “Phoenix” the director, and co-writer with Harun Farocki, Christian Petzold certainly tries. With bits of Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” here, Kander and Ebb’s, with Fosse’s, “Cabaret” there, this movie, as film noir, cries out for a Barbara Stanwyck or Lana Turner and to have been filmed in black and white.

The story of a woman, Nelly, who had her face damaged by a gunshot wound in a German concentration camp has her face reconstructed after the war and goes looking for her husband Johnny. Upon finding him he doesn’t recognize her and tries to get her involved with a get rich scheme by having her impersonate his late wife so he can get her inheritance that was left by her relatives who died in the war.

“As Time Goes By” is an important part of “Casablanca” as are “Again” in “Road House” and “Que Sera, Sera” in “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and this movie too has a song that becomes an important part of the story, by Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash, called “Speak Low” which is heard throughout the film and impacts the ending.

Nina Hoss, as Nelly, may not have the sexuality of a Lana Turner, and is a beauty in her own right, but she is the equal of Barbara Stanwyck in the acting department. She can and does say a lot with a look, her eyes through bad or good and the way she holds herself. You watch her progression from a scared, downtrodden woman to the beautiful, confident woman she was before the war. Ronald Zehrfeld, as her husband Johnny, who thinks that she can pass for his wife that could help him put his scam over has doubts about who she really may be but not enough to stop him. Zehrfeld has a romantic innocence that makes him seem less the villain than he is.

Another major, but undeveloped, role is Nina Kunzendorf as Lene, who does a lot for Nelly but their relationship isn’t quite defined and is unceremoniously out of the film before the halfway mark.

I was told by Allen that the film was an analogy of Germany after the war but I will admit it went right over my head! It might account for why I didn’t like the film as much as I expected to but it did introduce me to Hoss, Zehrfeld and Petzold enough for me to want to see the previous films they have made together.

“Phoenix” is a German film with (some poor such as ‘sit up‘ instead of ‘sit down‘) subtitles running 98 minutes.


Posted August 11, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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In the Orthodox Jewish religion a woman can’t get a divorce without the husband’s permission and is given a gett in her hand from him that basically says “You are hereby permitted to all men.” This in effect says she is no longer a married woman and returns to the wife all the legal rights  that a husband is responsible for in their marriage. The divorce decree is only obtainable in Israel from a rabbinical court.  In a so called ‘modern’ democratic country it may surprise many that in a marriage a woman has no equality.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem”, the Israel nominated Oscar contender for Best Foreign Film, is the third, and a stand alone, in a trilogy of this couple. This is a trial with  Vivianne as the only woman, her lawyer, her husband and his lawyer who happens to be his brother and the three rabbi judges.  Over a period of 5 years we follow her fight for that important piece of paper for her to get on with her life.

As the trial progresses, or doesn’t, we learn about the wife Viviane and husband Elisha, their 4 children, their marriage and why she wants a divorce and he won’t give her one. It isn’t until the middle of the movie that her sister and sister-in-law are presented bringing some fireworks to the screen which takes place mainly in a square windowless room with two tables, 4 chairs and the rabbis raised up on a dais, with another table brought in for the witnesses.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” was written and directed by the sister and brother team Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz with Ronit playing Viviane and Shlomi, her husband Elisha. With the exception of 2 impressive outbursts Ronit holds the screen with her very expressive face while Shlomi has a quiet power as he tries to explain himself. Both Menashe Noy, as her lawyer, and Sasson Gabay, as his, support the two impressively.

“Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” tackles an intriguing subject that not many people know about but moves too slowly to be as effective as it could and should be.

Posted March 26, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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This afternoon, I went to see Uruguay’s contender for the best foreign film Oscar, called “Mr. Kaplan“. Jacob Kaplan is a 76 year old man who feels he hasn’t made his mark in the world. He has been married for 50 years and has two adult sons but he doesn’t feel that is enough. His parents got him out of Poland before they were wiped out and he remembers his father telling him to accomplish something remarkable. Jacob has just lost his driver’s license due to failing eyesight and his family feel he might be losing his mind so they hire Wilson Contreas, an ex-cop who has lost his job and his wife and 5 children, due to his brother-in-law, to be his driver.

At one point Jacob hears his granddaughter talking about an old guy who owns a café on the beach and is referred to as ‘the Nazi’. A light goes off in Jacob’s head after he hears a news report about an old war criminal found in Argentina and is being expedited to Israel  and he feels he has found that remarkable deed he could do to make his life worthwhile. Jacob enlists Wilson to help him kidnap the ‘Nazi’ and smuggle him to Israel.

In a way it is like watching Don Quixote and his inept Sancho Panza making many mistakes in their quest for one to bring his life to a close and the other to regain his family. The film is a comedy with an underlying Holocaust theme that leads to an unexpected ending.

Hector Noguera, as Jacob Kaplan, walks a fine line between possibly entering dementia and yet having a mission he believes in and wants to accomplish.  Nestor Guzzini as Wilson, a slovenly fat, possible alcoholic and a romantic comes through for Jacob and the actors play against each other with élan. Rolf Becker as the possible Nazi  doesn’t have much to say but when he is called upon near the end of the movie he comes through completely.

Nidia Telles as Jacob’s wife, Gustavo Saffores and Hugo Piccinini as his sons along with Nuria Flo as the granddaughter  provide the feeling of Jewish families all over the world.

Directed and written by Alvaro Brechner “Mr. Kaplan” is a short–98 minutes– interesting film with Spanish and Yiddish dialogue with English subtitles. Everything is first class technically and not being familiar with the beaches of Uruguay it was part of the flavor of the film seeing them.


Posted March 10, 2015 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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I went to see “Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks” mainly to see Gena Rowlands and not expecting much of a movie. I figured it would be a second rate situation comedy with plenty of old people jokes and as it started it was just that. Rowlands, at 85, still has that luminous look she had 50 years ago, easily passing for 68, and delivers a first rate performance. Her co-star, 40 year old Cheyenne Jackson, proves he is more than just eye candy and the stereotype gay man as he appears in his role as a dance instructor.

You know from the animosity and wisecracks shared between the two stars as the film starts that there will be a happy ending but somewhere along the way something strange happens as they become real people and problems such as being old and alone or gay and living a lie are talked about. Yes most are one liners to get laughs but both actors bring the underlining hurt they are feeling to the forefront and tears flow.

Aside from the leads most of the supporting company are either wasted such as Rita Moreno–how do you have a movie about dancing and not have her dance?–or Jacki Weaver as a course cougar want to be with roaming hands. Julian Sands, as the dance studio owner, seems to be in the wrong movie. The only ones who come through unscathed are Kathleen Perkins as the dance studio’s receptionist and Simon Miller as Moreno’s son.

“Six Dance Lessons In Six Weeks” was originally a two character play and except for Rowlands and Jackson the rest of the cast seem to be added just to open the play. The two stars not only hold the film together but–and I might regret saying this–make the movie A MUST SEE! I’ll sort of hedge that by saying Gena Rowlands is a film treasure and those who admire her, as I do, will love seeing her back on the screen and those who aren’t familiar with her are in for a treat.

Sadly the film is not being pushed by the independent company that financed it nor is it playing in many theatres. The Gateway Theatre has it only booked for a week so in spite of my firm belief that a movie should be seen on a theatre screen– and in this case the sunset which is a major part of the film’s ending should be seen that way–all I can suggest is be sure to get it on DVD or, like me, look forward to when it is shown on cable or network TV.

What a delightful surprise on a March afternoon.


Posted March 3, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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“CAKE”–A MOVIE REVIEW   2 comments

Jennifer Aniston gives an excellent performance as a woman suffering both physical and mental pain. The hair is stringy, the face scarred, the body constantly in pain as she seeks relief with Percocet and alcohol. Her husband, Chris Messina, has left to fight his own demons, she has been thrown out of a support group and aside from a loveless interlude now and then with her gardener, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, her main companionship is with her housekeeper Adriana Barraza, who equals Aniston’s performance. The two women represent the imbalance white women and their Mexican help have, particularly in Southern California, though it is only followed through in one quick scene.

“Cake” contains not only fine performances by Aniston and Bazzaza but also from Felicity Huffman, as a support group leader, along with a cameo by William H. Macy that is too short to have the impact it should plus Sam Worthington as a husband who recently lost a wife, Anna Kendrick, to suicide as she couldn’t deal with the constant pain, with a young boy to raise.

The sad thing about “Cake” is that the screenplay by Patrick Tobin, and the director Daniel Barnz, doesn’t even come close to what the actors give them to work with. They play it safe and go with the story of why Aniston is in such pain with a bunch of clichés that are telegraphed way before it has any impact.

“Cake” is, what was called in the 1940s, a 4 hankie picture and would have been a star vehicle with say Bette Davis and though Jennifer Aniston equals a performance of that stature unfortunately the screenplay  and direction lets them down and we get a 1 hankie picture instead.

Posted January 23, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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“American Sniper” separates itself in three ways from the typical Hollywood war epic combined with ’based on  a true story’. The performance by Brad Cooper is exceptional, the story, written by Jason Hall, revolving a man who became a ‘legend’ in his own time offers a strong focus and the direction by Clint Eastwood is clear cut.

Navy Seal Chris Kyle does 4 tours of duty in Iraq and as a sniper records a minimum of 161 enemy deaths, though many think the figure was a lot higher, and earns the nickname “Legend“. He is a man who believes in Country, Texas, God and Family, not necessarily in that order. While he is serving his country his wife is raising their 2 children alone. When he is home as his wife, played by  Sienna Miller, tells him, “Even when you are here, you aren’t here”.

The screenplay is based on the book written by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice which may account for not showing how much of what Kyle goes through affects his wife and cries out for a film on how a wife of a warrior deals with post-traumatic stress disorder. Both do their best with being a parent with one across the world and when the father comes home his mind and heart are still behind enemy lines.

Maybe because it is a war film there are the clichés of who will be wounded and/or killed and if you have seen 2 or 3 films you will know who fits the script . The violence and brutality are also expected and not gratuitous.

Clint Eastwood’s direction is clean and clear cut staying out of the way of the actors including a tense opening scene where Kyle, the sniper, has to decide whether to kill a young boy and his mother because they could be aiming to blow up a group of American soldiers. Sienna Miller is stronger at the beginning of the film and seems to be slighted the second half while all the supporting players do more than the director could have asked for.

Bradley Cooper has just been nominated for his third Oscar in a row and if there is any question of his ability as an actor his role of Chris Kyle will wipe that out. He is a Texan and a U.S. Navy SEAL and not only with his bulked up physical transformation but with his movements, feelings and face. There is no trace of ‘The Hangover’ actor here. When he is being mischievous it is in character as a soldier who relieves pressure with corny jokes and bawdy exchanges with his fellow soldiers.

I went reluctantly to see “American Sniper” but I can recommend it without hesitation even if you aren’t into the ‘war genre’.

Posted January 16, 2015 by greatmartin in ENTERTAINMENT

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“SELMA”–A MOVIE REVIEW   1 comment

In the film “Selma” David Oylowo jumps ahead of the pack of actors definitely in the race for a Best Actor Oscar nomination. Though this is not a biography of Martin Luther King, the role he plays, it does show the man with all his strengths and many of his weaknesses. King did not plan or organize the marches the film centers on but took the lead when they happened.

The film centers around 3 marches that took place in Alabama to protest the discriminatory practices that took place to stop black people from going to the polls though they did have the right to vote. The 54 mile march was to go from the town of Selma to Montgomery, the capitol of Alabama, to confront the Governor, George Wallace, played by Tim Roth.

The facts of the marches were recorded and though they are the center of the film  the screenplay by Paul Webb concentrates of real human beings, famous or not, who were involved. Those who lived through those violent and history making days will have their memories refreshed of what did happen and along the way learn things that took place unbeknown to them.

There are some concerns about how the film portrays President Lyndon B. Johnson, played by Tom Wilkinson, showing him in private talks with Dr. King and between the President and Governor Wallace. This is a Hollywood story and there are no witnesses to the discussions that took place so depending on your thoughts you may feel one way or the other but by turning the light on individuals this becomes many personal stories.

The 3 protest marches took place in March, 1967. The first ended when the State troopers and county policeman attacked the 500 marchers with billy clubs and using tear gas. A picture of Amelia Boynton, played by Lorraine Toussaint, beaten unconscious and laying on the ground, was shown all over the world with other pictures of violence, which had also been televised, with that day becoming known as ‘bloody Sunday’. You may not know or remember what took place at the other 2 marches but you will see that in the film.

By its nature “Selma” is a violent film, though none of the scenes are gratuitous, and shows just enough to make a point without turning the audience off. One of the minor faults of the film is that except for the violence that took place there is very little heft in the drama that took place away from the marches which may have been what the director wanted.

The acting, minor and major roles, is of the first order whether it be Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Andre Holland as Andrew Young, Dylan Baker as J. Edgar Hoover, Stephen Root as Al Lingo along with Trai Byers, Stephan James, Cuban Gooding, Jr., just to mention a few. Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper blends in as one of the crowd and, like them, is her character and not star.

Though this film belongs to David Oyelowo, the director Ava DuVernay owns every shot, showing what needs to be shown without overdoing it. The scenes of the dyed in the wool racism shown by Wallace, local police, white citizens of Alabama are true to life and not ‘stacked’ in anyone’s favor. There is talk that she may become the first black female director nominated for an Oscar and it is certainly worth that recognition.

“Selma” can be seen as a ‘history lesson’ but it is more of a reminder of America’s past and also can be related to America’s present.

Posted January 10, 2015 by greatmartin in Uncategorized

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