Monday, September 3, 2018


Catching up on summer openings--and now I've switched to the AMC A-List program--it's more expensive ($21 a month) but allows you to see up to three films per week FOR ANY SHOW IN ANY AMC THEATRE IN ANY SCREEN SIZE AT ANY TIME.  Movie Pass has changed their policy to exclude opening week or weeks, certain times of the day restrictions, dropped theaters, and only allows 3 films PER MONTH, still for $10.  Those restrictions are prohibitive for me.

It may be the sixth film in the series, but MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: FALLOUT is the spy action thriller of the summer, with incredibly spectacular organized stunts, a plot that zips throughout the exotic world at record speed, memorable characters (good and bad) and a solid directorial action style that makes it easy to follow and enjoy.  All technical credits are first rate, and this places MI:FALLOUT as the best action thriller of the summer.  Even those who do not like Tom Cruise soon become caught up in the spy story--soon you realize that like the James Bond character, the MI series will continue (probably sooner than later) with a new main actor (or actress!) in the lead.                       GRADE-----A-

So far the most intriguing and effective documentary of the summer is THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS--the true story of triplets separated at birth, and adopted out to three different families--lower class, middle class, and upper class.  As the film progresses from happy reunion to shocking revelations, a sense of anger, dread and mystery envelopes the viewer.  THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS fulfills the drama and fascination  of the best type of story telling.

One of the delights of the summer for those who love ABBA music from the 1970's is the sequel (and, in flashback, prequel) to the original MAMMA MIA film from 2008, called, naturally, MAMMA MIA:  HERE WE GO AGAIN.  Despite plumbing the most popular ABBA songs for the first outing, the producers have come up with some great turns from some lesser known tunes, and again used the music and lyrics to progress this new story--after Donna's (Meryl Streep) death, her daughter remodels the old hotel into a wonderful vacation spot, and while preparing for the opening day celebration with returning old friends and family, the flashback explains how the young Donna first came to the island and met her three boyfriends--all possible suitors and possible father for her baby out of wedlock.  (Of course, a simple DNA test would destroy the need for the original and the sequel---but no one wants to know the truth.....)  The young Donna and daughter are well played (and sung) by great look a like actresses Lily James and Amanda Seyfried,  the adult friends/family are all returning actors, and highlights include grandmother Cher singing FERNANDO to an old flame and a brief appearance by Meryl Streep breaking down our tear ducts at a baptism.  And just in case you couldn't get enough in the first film, the MAMMA MIA and DANCING QUEEN songs are repeated in all their singing and dancing glory by the newer cast.   In many ways this film is a superior musical to the original, and for those who liked the first one, this one exceeds expectations.                           GRADE----------------------A-

The glitzy and glamorous soap opera drama CRAZY RICH ASIANS hits all the right notes--a young New Yorker who was raised as a baby in America, travels with her Chinese boyfriend to meet his family in Singapore, and they don't take well to American Chinese who have no concept of tradition and culture.  She does her best to be likeable, but she has to worry about Mother and other relatives who don't want her marrying into the rich family.  The cast is attractive and appropriately good or evil, and the film has a slick, colorful look to it.  It might cover vapid situations, but the entertainment value is high, and I wouldn't mind seeing these characters again--which I will when they make the sequel to CRAZY RICH ASIANS--already announced--for next year.         GRADE------------B+

I've always liked most of Spike Lee's films--well made and engrossing, but my main (minor) complaint always seems to be the same --a couple of times he becomes wincingly preachy in each film.  Now, he has every right to do so, but I have to say that as a film goer, his preachy moments stop the film for me for a few minutes until he gets back on track with his visuals, drama and story telling.  Here's the good news/bad news for me.  In his new film, BLACK k KLANSMAN, he gets preachy right at the beginning  with a racist monologue by Alex Baldwin, and then followed up with two short film clips.  One from GONE WITH THE WIND where Scarlett wonders through a large area of wounded or dying soldiers after a major Civil War battle and the camera pulls back, way back, and she's shouting the name of her lover--what the hell is Lee trying to say. anyway?  The next scene is much more obvious--perhaps too much so--an extended clip of (KKK) bigots watching and vocally enjoying the murder and violence of black people by white soldiers and police from the early film BIRTH OF A NATION, which I have never seen or wanted to see.  Lee seems to be auditioning for the role of Captain Obvious, here.  Finally, after nearly five minutes, the film starts--based on a true story of a black undercover cop who with the help of his white Jewish partner infiltrates the KKK resulting in some murder convictions.  That story is compelling, well acted, intense and probably the best work Lee has done in his long career.  He manages to lace humor into the dramatic proceedings, and the film become a likeable, proud achievement in the struggle for justice for all people.  Too bad about the first five minutes!                                                     GRADE--------------B+

Here's a sweet, thoughtful, low budget film about a  girl just finishing EIGHTH GRADE who is shy and uncertain about her life in general, but starts to come out of her shell by making a daily blog of how to survive junior high.  She seems to know more about that than her real life.  Her concerned single father gives her encouragement, and by the time she makes some older friends (from 9th grade) you know she will be all right in the coming new year.  It's a gentle film, without any major surprises--enough to know that a lot of truths are being revealed.   I'm not sure why, but the film won best film and best actress at the Golden Space Needle awards at SIFF (playing at the final weekend) earlier this summer.                                  GRADE----------B

It's Denzel Washington again (his son David stars in the BLACK k KLANSMAN, above) repeating his role as a mild mannered, self made, one man avenger who tries to right wrongs  with guns and violence in THE EQUALIZER II, and I will be the first to admit that I enjoy him very much in the role, even if some of the action seems rehashed from other films of the same ilk. This time he loses his close friend to violence in what seems like a conspiracy, natch, and after some legwork figures out who done it and seeks retribution.  Simple but effective.                     GRADE----------B

Kelly MacDonald stars as a put upon mousy house wife.  The first scene has her hosting a big party in her home---cooking, baking, cleaning up--and we suddenly find out that this is her own birthday party.  One of her gifts is a 1000 piece PUZZLE, which she finds out she is very good at, and this propels her to discover new people and adventures which change her life.  It's a gentle story with some modestly profound moments.                                                GRADE---------B

The comedy/drama spy thriller  called THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME is better than it has any right to be, and that's because it has some wonderful comic turns from Mila Kunis, and especially, specifically Kate McKinnon, from Saturday Night Live.  They play an odd couple of best friends who become involved with Kunis' boy friend who has dumped her via e-mail because he is a spy in danger for his life.  This sets them on a dangerous course of trying to hide and deliver a crypted file, and their ineptitude puts their lives in danger.  They also have a way with a smart comeback and a wisecrack  so the humor keeps the film from becoming a spy cliche.    I had a good time with this one.                                GRADE----------B

It's been 14 years since the original animated film THE INCREDIBLES became a big big hit, and the new film THE INCREDIBLE II is not as funny and witty, but it has many great gags, especially with the new baby Jack-Jack who is just discovering his talents.  In this one the mother is on the mission with the father staying home with the family, and much humor is gleamed from the fish out of water situation of the father trying to control the baby and the baby's new powers.  Still, just a few weeks after seeing it I feel the film has slipped from my memory in any unique way.          GRADE-----B-

Nearly 45 years ago, JAWS changed the way we watched and reacted to horror films, with skillful scenes of tension and terror.  Since then, more than a dozen knock offs have been bombarding us.  Now comes the biggest of them all--THE MEG which features the biggest shark of all--nearly 12 times the size of the original JAWS.  The plotting is pretty predictable but fortunately the film has a lot of humor, and in spite of the cliches, the film is mostly fun to watch.              GRADE--------B-

We've seen all the plot points before, rehashed in various other JURASSIC films, but I always  enjoy dinosaurs eating stupid humans, and that keeps me watching.  I mostly laughed at the new JURASSIC WORLD:  FALLEN KINGDOM.                             GRADE----------B-

This low budget film is well intentioned, but THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST suffers from the tentative handling of a controversial subject.  At a camp to reassign teens from gay to straight, three friends try to adapt to the cruelness of their surroundings, but the film backs off from showing too much, instead having it both ways.  Feels like a messed opportunity.    

In this sequel, the nasty, profane humor is still nasty and profane, still making me feel like I need a shower after watching this violent, creepy DEAD POOL 2.  At least the jokes, dirty as they are, are sometimes funny, and I wasn't bored--but I vow--no more DEAD POOL movies for me.

It is pretty to look at, and has steady, beautiful cinematography, but this simple film about a lost teen who bonds with an injured wolf called ALPHA is pretty simple and very predictable.

For a while, this docu-drama about girl skaters called SKATE KITCHEN is fascinating--the camera  gets in close as we watch teen girls skate, skate skate, but even though they bond nicely with the runaway, there is not much plot here, and the camera movements are mostly hand held and giggly, and I got really bored after an hour.                                           GRADE--------------C+

This Japanese courtroom drama about the "why" of a brutal murder is drawn out in slow motion, with long takes of talking or silence, and I was really bored by half way through this film called THE THIRD MURDER.   The oblique ending doesn't help--it made the audience groan with dissatisfaction.                   GRADE---------C- 


Thursday, July 19, 2018


I've been traveling (on a bike and barge tour) to Belgium and France--gone for over three weeks, so I'm a bit behind on many new summer movies, but here's what I've been seeing.  Some I saw at SIFF just before leaving, several I saw on board the planes, and some I've been catching up with on my MOVIE PASS--highly recommended for movie buffs seeing four or more films per month.  (Although MOVIE PASS allows you to see only one movie per day--you could see up to 30 a month, but there aren't that many movies worth seeing in a month!)

A big sentimental and dramatic favorite at SIFF, the Argentinian film THE LAST SUIT hits the tear ducts in a major way.  The main character, a cranky, elderly man that his adult children want to move into a senior home, grabs a suitcase and a garment bag and heads to Spain to visit one of his daughters, on his way to Poland.   He's hard to like, but as the film progresses we find out that he has very good reason to be cantankerous, and his back story becomes very moving.    One of the top ten for the Fool Serious pass holders, as well as the audience awards.               GRADE---------A

Released back in January but viewed on the plane, HOSTILES is an engrossing account of an angry, bigoted Army officer who is assigned the task of returning a dying Indian chief and his family through hostile territory back to his newly formed reservation in Montana.  Along the way he picks up a white widow whose family has been slaughter by hostile Indians, and this small group learns to trust each other in order to survive.  Tear ducts opened for me on this one also.      Christian Bale and Rosamond Pike are the leads here.            GRADE----------A-

Released in February but viewed on the plane, this short (a brief 71 minutes) but devilishly stylish dark comedy THE PARTY directed by Sally Potter, features a treasure trove of skillful performances by Kristin Scott Thomas,  Timothy Spall, Patricia Clarkson, Cherry Jones, Bruno Ganz, Emily Mortimor and others.  When Thomas wins a prestigious post in British government (Ministry of Health), she throws herself THE PARTY for her long time friends, but this cracks open some festering wounds that her long time husband releases when he announces some startling news.  Old friend Clarkson has some of the wittiest lines, but everyone seems to be having a good, good time.          GRADE--------A-

A small, but intimate drama filmed in the Pacific Northwest, this new film LEAVE NO TRACE from the director of WINTER'S BONE (Debra Granik) focuses on a father/daughter relationship.  The father has been traumatized by war and wants to live off the grid in the woods, but the teen daughter has other ideas, and this causes some tension and conflicting  ideals.  Actors Ben Foster and new comer Thomasin Harcourt are wonderful together.  The film reminded me of the Viggo Mortensen film from two years ago called CAPTAIN FANTASTIC.  Both films concentrate on relationships between families and nature.               GRADE------------A-

This musical comedy/drama features a widower and his daughter--he wants to start a band with her before she leaves to college--a way to keep her close to him even when she's far away.  HEARTS BEAT LOUD has some great music and a wonderful cast, including Nick Offerman, Kiersey Clemons, Ted Danson, Blythe Danner and Toni Collette, and it reminded me of the serious ONCE from a few years back---where a man and woman meet, fall in love, make a lot of music, but HEARTS BEAT LOUD has the drama and comedy to go with the music.                      GRADE------------B+

The new Marvel comics movie has ANT MAN and the WASP together again, and I think that this film has got to be the funniest of the superheroes films in years. It helps that Paul Rudd has a winning and amusing delivery, and the plot has to do with quantum physics and trying to rescue the WASPS mother (and Micheal Douglas' wife) and not some mad man conquering the world.  The supporting cast is also amusing, with Randall Park and especially Michael Pina  in fine form.    GRADE------B+

Here's Toni Collette again, under a lot of pressure as her mother has just died, and now her young daughter is acting very strange indeed.  A horrifying accident fractures the family, building to a bizarre, frightening finale.  This film HEREDITARY will appeal to movies goers who like suspense and occult and seances and evil spirits, and people walking on ceilings,  etc.                GRADE--------B

Sandra Bullock plays the sister of the deceased George Clooney character from OCEANS 11,12,13 and whatever.  So now we have an excuse for having eight smart, stylish women come together for a major crime--OCEANS EIGHT.  It seems pretty routine, with each woman a specialist in their field (computer/hacker expert, diamond artist, fashion designer, etc) and these wonderful actors really won me over, including Cate Blanchet, Mindy Kaling, Anne Hathaway, Rihanna, Sarah Paulson, Helena Bonham Carter and others.  We may have seen this type of caper many times before, but this was fun to watch by the end.                    GRADE--------B-

An odd documentary mixing Elvis Presley and Route 66 and fancy cars and Nashville and American politics, this film is a curious thing--not exactly dull, but I was never sure just what the purpose was.  Apparently, the film was originally about Donald Trump, but when he won the election, the film maker went back, re shot and re-edited the entire film, and called it THE KING.                  GRADE-------------B-

Sometimes outrageous, sometimes hilarious, sometimes I winced, some of the jokes fall flat, the film making is weirdly rough around the edges---bottom line is I wanted to like this film more than I did.  This independent low budget film called SORRY TO BOTHER YOU has a lot of creativity and ideas, (perhaps too many) but it doesn't all work for me,  and it can't decide whether it's a comedy, satire, fantasy, science fiction thriller, or social drama, and it leaves a LOT of loose ends.  It has all those factors in it, but they don't all jell together.  One thing for sure--I can't wait for director Boots Riley's NEXT film--it could be the masterpiece that this one wants to be.                GRADE--------C+

Here's a fine actress literally holding this film together:  Julliette Binoche plays a gallery worker and artist who floats from man to man (many of them are married--and she wonders why her relationships aren't working out!).  In LET THE SUNSHINE IN she has an elegance and maturity about her, but the writer/director Claire Denis does her no favors with the story and dialogue.  Her final scene with Gerard Depardieu merely cements in our minds what a total flake she is.                GRADE---------C+

We've seen this movie before---a high rise (always the tallest in the world!) is on fire and only one heroic stud can rescue the family caught on a  SKYSCRAPER higher floor (his, naturally!).....This is a tired concept, and although Dwayne Johnson gives his athletic best to the role, I forgot about this film two days after seeing it.  Twenty years ago, Neve Campbell was a rising teen age star.  I haven't seen her in a while, but she is the best thing is this dull film--a smart powerful wife who knows as much as her husband, and literally saves the day!  You go girl!                        GRADE---------C

VIEWED ON TV/DVD------------------------------------

BABY DRIVER 2017--Fast cars, zippy music, evil characters (Kevin Spacey), wild car chases, and a lovely romance between Ansol Elgort and Lilly James, this is an entertaining popcorn movie --fun to watch and not too serious.           GRADE-------B+

IN BRUGE--2008---Two assassins hole up in picaresque Bruge when a hit job goes wrong.  Witty, profane dialogue and great visuals keep nice balance between humor and suspense.  We saw this just before going to Bruge--the start of our bike and barge tour.  Director Martin McDonagh went on to write and direct THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING MISSOURI this past year.                GRADE-----B+

BRIGHTON ROCK 2011--Remake of Graham Greene's noir novel about young man's rapid rise in crime--he woos a young woman who has incriminating evidence against him.  John Hurt, Helen Mirren, Sam Riley, and Andrea Risebourge star in this cynical drama.        GRADE-----------B    

I'M ALRIGHT JACK-- 1959--Satire about union restriction on workers and the conflict between rich and working classes, with Peter Sellers, Terry-Thomas, Richard Attenborough, Ian Carmichael.       GRADE-----------B 

CONVOY--1978--Sam Peckinpah film about a convoy of truckers trying to escape the clutches of an evil sheriff who is chasing them from state to state.  More entertaining than it should be, in a low brow manner. Kris Kristofferson and Ali McGraw play the leads and Ernest Borgnine is the evil cop.       GRADE----B

SMALLEST SHOW ON EARTH--1957--Young British couple (Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, who later starred in the epic hit BORN FREE) inherit a run down theatre and decide to reopen it with the hopes of selling it for a profit.  With Peter Sellers, Margaret Rutherford and Bernard Miles.                          GRADE------------B-

TABLE 19--2017--Strangers all stuck at a wayward wedding table bond over their conflicts with the wedding party.  Lowkey film doesn't always work, but the cast is charming--Anna Kendrick,  Lisa Kudrow,  June Squabb, Craig Robinson, Tony Revolore and others, and there are some sweet and funny scenes of wedding action.               GRADE-------B-

CARLTON-BROWNE OF F.O.(Foreign Office)--1959--(aka MAN IN COCKED HAT--US title)--British film that needed subtitles about a small island being divided by Great Britain and Russia over minerals,  which causes problems with the locals, who are having their own political issues.  Some scenes were amusing, but I didn't really know or care about what all was happening.  With Terry-Thomas, Peter Sellers, Luciana Paoluzzi, Ian Bannen.               GRADE--------C




Monday, June 18, 2018

Final SIFF Screenings Sat 6/9 and Sun 6/10 and BEST OF SIFF 2018

PRAYER BEFORE DAWN--Thailand/Great Britain--A last minute addition to the Festival, this TBA offering is a hard hitting film with no subtitles about a drug user who is confined in a Thai prison, and uses his boxing skills to get into a better position.  Based on a true story, this is tough to watch sometimes due to prison violence and fighting, but it was not boring.           GRADE-----B+

CHAMPIONS--Spain--It is a comedy that plays by the numbers----arrested assistant coach with a major attitude problem is assigned to work with mentally disabled athletes, and makes them a winning team.  I will admit there were some funny scenes in the early going, and the ending was the most surprising and funny and moving fifteen minute scene I've witnessed.  Saved by the ending.         GRADE------------B

EIGHT GRADE------A modest low budget comedy about a shy middle schooler trying to broaden her horizons and learning about life.  The lead is sweet and funny and the film goes more for truth than laughs.  Winner of best actress and best film for the Golden Space Needle awards, although I can name a dozen or more better actors and films than EIGHT GRADE.            GRADE-----B

SOUFRA---In a refugee camp near Beirut, women with no jobs or future try to make a new beginning with selling food--something they know about, first at a local food market, and then by using a food truck, which requires a lot of double talk with an unsympathetic government.  Fairly smooth and competent, but it lack some needed punch.            GRADE-----------B

RETURN TO MOUNT KENNEDY---USA---Some of Robert Kennedy's family and friends attempt a summit climb 50 years after Sen Kennedy climbed to the top with Jim Whitaker.  Well filmed but less than amazing.            GRADE--------B-

WRATH OF SILENCE--China----Lots of running around, sometimes carrying a child in a bag, lots of shady characters and corruptions, but not much style.  The chatting elderly Chinese speakers behind me, and then the cell phones that kept ringing, finally drove me home to an early night.

HERE ARE MY FAVORITE FILMS FROM SIFF 2018--all rated A or A- with a couple B+

Antonio Lopez 1970: Sex, Fashion, Disco--documentary
Ballet Now--documentary
Belle de Jour--revival
C'est la vie!
The Children Act
First Reformed
The Guilty
Hearts Beat Loud
The Last Suit
Leave No Trace
Mademoiselle Paradis
My Name is Myeisha
Naila and the Uprising--documentary
Naples in Veils
On Chesil Beach
Sancho the Bailiff--revival
See You Up There
Three Identical Strangers--documentary
Thunder Road

I'll write more about them as they open---but quick, FIRST REFORMED is a stunner by long time director Paul Schrader, with a fantastic Ethan Hawke losing his religion, and ON CHESIL BEACH packs a subtle punch---both are Now Playing.   Hurry to see them.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


MY NAME IS MYEISHA--USA--Based on a stage play, but this stunner is about the life and death of Myeisha, a 19 year old black woman who was shot by police 12 times while sleeping upright in her  stranded car, and it is all preformed in rap and dance sequences.  A profound and disturbing experience.        GRADE--------A

NAILA and the UPRISING---Palestine/USA--Clear headed and well chronicled account of woman who heads the Woman's resistance against the occupation of Palestine by Israelis.        GRADE--------A

THE HEIRESSES---Paraguay and others---When her long time lesbian companion goes to jail for fraud,  the quiet one regains self confidence as she transports older women around town, and becomes attracted to a younger bisexual who proclaims at one point "That was the first time I had a three-way!" in this well acted, moody drama.                    GRADE---------A-

BALLET NOW--USA--Lead dancer Tiler Peck from New York City Ballet curates and directs and dances in a group of new dances representing all different sorts of dance, including hip-hop, tap, classical, modern and classic.  The first half of the film shows her hectic schedule as she tries to coordinate the 22 different dancers, and second half shows parts of the finished product.  Well shot and directed, and an inspiration to watch.                   GRADE----A-

THUNDER ROAD---USA--A cop who has just lost his mother seems to be suffering from a nervous break down as he muffles, dances, cries and nearly collapses during her funeral, then must deal with his wife who is suing for divorce and sole custody of their child.  His life is  a mess, and we see that and sympathize with him, while laughing at his misery and insanity. Writer, director, and actor Jim Cummings gives a bravado performance.                   GRADE----------B+

PUZZLE-------USA--  A simple housewife, dedicated to her family and church, discovers her unique talent at putting together jigsaw puzzles, and this changes her attitude of life and family when she discoverers the competitive side of this activity.      GRADE------------B

RETABLO---PERU and others--Beautifully filmed story of master artist who is training his teen aged son to become an artist like him, but the last 30 minutes turns cruel, violent and homophobic, ending badly for the characters and the audience.              GRADE----------B

THE CHANGELING--USA---A restored, better than average horror film with a restrained George C. Scott in the lead, about his efforts to find out about the haunted house he is renting.  Filmed in Vancouver B.C. but set in  Seattle, with many splendid shots and chilling scenes.      GRADE------B

CHEDENG AND APPLE--Philippines--Charming but leisurely comedy of two best friends on the run after one murders her husband and keeps his head in a designer bag.      GRADE--------B

ANCHOR AND HOPE--United Kingdom and Spain--Two lesbians seek the sperm of a Spanish friend to start their family, but it is not clear what part each character will play in this "family to be" comedy/drama.  The moody and bitter sweet feelings dampen the comedy, but is is pleasant enough to engage.                 GRADE-----B

THE SILK AND THE FLAME--USA/China----A single, middle aged man travels to visit his family in rural China, with the film documentarian friend.  He cannot tell his family he is gay, just saying he is seeing a woman (who may become his beard and he hers).  The black and white film  emphasizes the cold brutal living quarters and poverty the family experiences, in spite of the fact that the gay son financially takes care of them all (nearly a dozen family members!)----Yet, no one seems very happy about the situation.           GRADE----------B

The following films are rated B-   WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY (USA),  and TASTE OF BETEL NUT (HONG KONG)--both are nice tries with small budgets.

Rated C+------MY BIG GAY ITALIAN WEDDING (ITALY)--it nearly has a fun redeeming finale just not enough fun up to that point.

Rated C----SUSU and ONE FOR THE LADIES---both have some surprising visuals but the results are muddled.

Rated C-    RUSH HOUR (boring and pointless) and EMPTY HANDS (dull and empty headed)

Rated D+    TYREL (way too much wild hand held camera work and obnoxious drunken shouting) and LITTLE TITO and the ALIENS--I could not engage with this juvenile family film and slept for a good hour during it--yeah.

Monday, June 4, 2018

SIFF Screenings Wed 30 MAY through Sun 4 JUN Highlights----------CHILDREN ACT, HAL, NAPLES IN VEILS, JINN, C'est'la vie!, and QUEERAMA

THE CHILDREN ACT--United Kingdom--based on a novel by Ian McEwan and featuring a wonderful turn by Emma Thompson--this is a regal courtroom drama what left me very moved.    GRADE----------A

HAL---USA--Excellent documentary about classic director/editor/writer Hal Ashby,  who was responsible for such great films as BOUND FOR GLORY, SHAMPOO,  THE LANDLORD, THE LAST DETAIL,  HAROLD AND MAUDE, and COMING HOME, among others.           GRADE---------A

NAPLES IN VEILS---Italy--Directed with his usual elegance, this mystery thriller by Ferzan Ozpetek suffers only by a strange and ambiguous ending, but it's a pleasure to watch.            GRADE------A-

JINN--USA--Mom becomes a Muslim and her teen daughter rebels, but this is an excellent family drama about relationships, religion, love and respect.        GRADE----------A-

QUEERAMA---Great Britain---Extended British film clip compilation crossed with unique music and dialogue showing the change and growth of gay lifestyles in Europe.  The most unique experience of SIFF, and a must for any cinema lover.                       GRADE---------A-

C'EST'LA VIE!---Elevated French fluff comedy that features some great characterizations and very funny scenes, as a group of caterers try to service a fancy wedding.           GRADE----------B+

NUMBER ONE--France--Woman is groomed to take over top CEO of top company, but faces many obstacles. It's dramatic but plays at times like a thriller.                GRADE----------B+

WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY----Norway and others----Pakistani teen living in Norway has conflicts with her demanding, conservative parents, which greatly change her life.           GRADE-------B+

Following fine films all rated B-------CATWALK: TALES FROM THE CAT SHOW CIRCUIT,  DOUBTFUL,  POET and the BOY,  VIRUS TROPICAL,  1985,  LEMONADE,  and with a B- score are MOST DANGEROUS YEAR and THE KING.

Following films are C+-------CONSTRUCTION ALBERT and ELLEN


Tuesday, May 29, 2018


BELLE DE JOUR---Splendid reissue of classic Luis Bunel film about a cold but beautiful Catherine Deneuve who can't have sex with her husband, so she becomes a prostitute, but her actions create problems for her and her husband.  Restored in 4k with lovely color, sound and print.              GRADE--------A

REPORTS ON SARAH AND SALEEM--Palestine and others--A married Israeli shop owner woman who is married to  a military officer begins an sexual affair with a married Palestinian delivery man who has a pregnant wife, and things go badly for everyone concerned.  An engrossing blend of sex, politics,  and relationships.               GRADE------------A-

THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS--Triplets are seperated at birth. finally meeting each other at age 19,  then discover the diabolical reasons for their separation.  This true story is fascinating and heartbreaking and funny.         GRADE---------A-

ANGELES WEAR WHITE--China/France---Three young women with similar hair styles made it difficult for me for 20 minutes to keep straight the three characters (I know--my problem) but this story of corruption and sexual abuse in power is stylish and heartbreaking.        GRADE---------B+

AFGHAN CYCLES--USA, France, Afghanistan-- Young woman must fight prejudice and
cultural norms to ride a bike in repressive Afghanistan. When the small team gets a chance to ride in a French competition, she decides to defect to France, and her story morphs into the struggles of immigrants not having job, money or home.           GRADE-----------------B+

THE CAPTAIN--Germany, Poland, France--Near the end of WWII, a German soldier running AWOL, discovers a Nazi Captain's uniform, and becomes a cruel participant in Nazi atrocities
-----against fellow Germans!  The film is in black and white, shocking and grim, but unrelentlessly riveting.           GRADE---------- B+

LOVE GILDA--Interesting documentary about life and death of Saturday Night Live comedienne Gilda Radner--a popular personality on the show and on movies and because of her death of cancer, her husband Gene Wilder created a cancer awareness clinic that has world wide recognition.     GRADE----B

VILLAGE ROCKSTARS---Not much happens in this gentle slice of life of a small Indian village, but looking back, life happens big time here---rice paddies, monsoons, flooding, fake music,  kid friendships,  picking betel nuts, puberty.......a lovely little experience.             GRADE-------B

LONG DUMB ROAD---Young man heading for art school picks up a wild, vulgar man child in this amusing, at times outrageously funny road movie that finally stops rather than ends.          GRADE------------B

A MOMENT IN THE REEDS--Finland---A nervous, continuously hand held camera works against the gentle story of  young man who finds  love in the arms of a male casual worker his father has hired to work on a lake cabin.   It didn't help that the voice soundtrack was out of sync for the entire film at my screening.  Also, there was a loud gun like clap every 4-5 minutes throughout the leisurely running time.  Still, some nice, erotic scenes and tension as their relationship builds.        GRADE----------B-

ON HER SHOULDERS--Documentary about woman who became the human face of genocidal tragedy, suffering through illness, abuse and near death by Isis--she goes around the world trying to education governments, raising consciences to help her people.          GRADE------B-

THE PLACE----Italy---Several characters drift into and out of a restaurant, visiting a character who seems to be playing (god? an angel? a prophet? a devil?) a mystery man who tells them what to do, in exchange for giving them something in return.  It felt  static and tiresome, and it felt like it should be a weekly TV show.  I found out later it was based on a TV series.           GRADE-------C+

LUK'LUK'l---Canada----Filmed in Vancouver and based on some true stories about down and outers living poorly on the streets and low income housing, this film uses some of those people who act as them selves--the acting is very mixed, and the issues include drugs usage, alcoholism, poverty, joblessness, mental illness---and in most cases, loneliness  The film is not boring, but it is not edifying.           GRADE-----------C+

FUTURE WAVE SHORTS---Program of short films from kids and teens were all a good idea, but the execution was mostly mediocre except for 3:  an interview with a short man in Vietnam, an animated rumination rant about the problem with electronic devices in our life, and the last film, about an elderly man visited throughout the years by his (also aging) niece, until he doesn't remember her name.               TOTAL AVERAGE--------------C+

THE BOLD, THE CORRUPT, AND THE BEAUTIFUL--Taiwan---The film looks good, if a bit slick with some hand held work, but I could not become engaged in the plot--a family of women seem to be involved in corruption, money laundering, scandal, and possibly mass murder.  It was hard to follow who was doing what to whom, and I soon didn't care.         GRADE-------C

BUTTERFLIES---Turkey---Possibly the most unfunny "comedy" I've ever seen----only one early laugh, then I sat stony faced until I finally left this boring--seemingly improvised film after the silly exploding chicken episode.  To be honest, I was in the minority on this one, but I didn't notice many people laughing either.              GRADE---------C-

Saturday, May 26, 2018


ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970 SEX FASHION DISCO--Dynamic, creative documentary about fashion illustrator who danced and sexed and drew and worked with such luminaries as Bill Cunningham, Jessica Lange, Jerry Hall, Grace Jones, Karl Lagerfeld and many others, with some lengthy, insightful interviews--creating a vivid impressive image of the wild late 1960's through the 1970's.                   GRADE--------------A

FIRST REFORMED---Excellent comeback film for Paul Schrader combining drama, politics,  religion, this thriller features a fine performance by Ethan Hawkes, and it packs a metaphysical punch.                  GRADE---------A

SANCHO THE BAILIFF--Superior direction, a vividly grim story and spectacular black and white camera work highlight this classic Japanese film from 1954.                     GRADE---------A

SEE YOU UP THERE---From France, a unique story mix of war, comedy, fantasy, and horror set during and after WWI. The lead who has lost his lower face in the war, wears a series of  surprising masks but he has very expressive eyes.                        GRADE-----------A-

LEAVE NO TRACE--Local production about broken veteran trying to live in the wild with his teen daughter.  She longs for some consistency and social structures.  Beautifully rendered.           GRADE-----------A-

MCQUEEN---Fascinating documentary about British genius clothing designer Lee Alexander McQueen and his short but celebrated life as one of the world's great and controversial creative minds.               GRADE--------A-

SADIE----Excellent local drama set in a trailer park, but performed with heartbreaking universality featuring excellent work by Sophia Mitri Scloss as a teen missing her military father and conflicted by her lonely "single" mother Melanie Lynskey.              GRADE-------B+

RAZZIA--Intriguing film from France and Morocco features five different characters demonstrating the challenges of a modernizing Morocco and how it affects their lives.  I particularly loved the epic feel given the film from the musical score.                    GRADE-----B+

MAN OF INTEGRITY--Iranian film about small town corruption used against honest man to force him from his land.  A slow burner with a sad but honest ending.            GRADE-------B+

THE BEAST---British film about relationship between troubled female older teen and a young man who may be the leading suspect to a series of murders in small community. The enigmatic events lead to a creepy ending.                  GRADE-----------B+

MADEMOISELLE PARADIS---Austria----Superior well- mounted bio-pic about a blind pianist who submits herself to a doctor trying to cure her, amid her skeptical family and society bureaucrats.       GRADE-----------B+

SULEIMAN MOUNTAIN---Older wife will do anything to keep her husband from leaving her and preferring new younger wife--all the while traveling the countryside. From Kyrgyzstan.               GRADE----------------B+


BEE NATION---Spelling bee movie documentary set in First Nations of Canada made me smile throughout.          GRADE-----B

RACER AND JAILBIRD--Germany.  Slick crime thriller with good girl/bad guy.

LUNA--France---Bad girl falls for good guy she helped abuse several weeks earlier.    GRADE----B

STREAKER--Switzerland--Pleasing, naughty comedy drama, set during soccer matches.   GRADE--B

ETERNAL ROAD--Finland--Man forced to live in Russia between World Wars finds horrors.   GRADE-----B

MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS--Indonesia--Interesting story of revenge is nicely
filmed. but moves a beat too slowly for me.                GRADE--------B-

MARILYN---Argentina---Gay teen struggles to express himself in repressive environment after losing his father.  A modest film leads to shocking ending.               GRADE--------B-

THE MOST UNKNOWN--Belgium, Italy--Lots of talk about unknown scientific facts, but hardly any visuals.  I was disappointed and a bit bored, but scientists and tech people seemed to like it more than me.               GRADE----------C+

DARK RIVER--British film that desperately needed subtitles--most of the dialogue is unintelligible, and this moody, depressing film which deals with an abused woman returning to her home farm is heavy handed and pointless.             GRADE----------D