Saturday, June 9, 2018

SIFF Screenings Mon 4 Jun----Fri 8 Jun---Highlights: MY NAME IS MYEISHA, NAILA and the UPRISING, THE HEIRESSES, BALLET NOW, THUNDER ROAD, PUZZLE

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

Following films are C-----NONA, CRIME OF MONSIEUR LANGE , WEBFEST AT SHORELINE and LOT'S OF KIDS A MONKEY and a CASTLE.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

SIFF Screenings Sat. 26 MAY through Tue. 29 May----Highlights BELLE DE JOUR, REPORTS ON SARAH AND SALEEM, ANGELS WEAR WHITE, THE CAPTAIN, AFGHAN CYCLES......

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

SIFF Screenings Sun 20 May through Friday 25 May-------Top films---ANTONIA LOPEZ 1970, FIRST REFORMED, LEAVE NO TRACE, SEE YOU UP THERE, SANCHO THE BAILIFF, SADIE, THE BEAST etc

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+

ANGELES WEAR WHITE---China
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.
GRADE-------B

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








Thursday, May 17, 2018

SIFF Screenings May 14--May 17

ON CHESIL BEACH--Some audience members didn't care for this version of  the Ian McEwan novella, but the actors are fabulous (another earth shattering performance by Saoirse Ronan among others) and the plotting had many people talking and disagreeing.  British newly weds have troubles on their wedding night, some funny, some tragic, and this is the early 1960's.          GRADE--------------A-

HEARTS BEAT LOUD--Likeable, musical drama of father and daughter  starting up a musical group in the weeks before daughter goes off to college.  It reminded me of the film ONCE (but made in the U.S. )where music takes a big part in the drama, and the characters are dominate over the drama.  With Nick Offerman, Ted Danson, Toni Collette and Kiersey Clemons.               GRADE------------------------B+

FAKE TATTOOS--I wasn't sure I was going to like this Canadian (Quebec) film with its wild camera work and heavy metal music in the first 7-8 minutes, but things calm down when these young millennials meet and start a tentative relationship.  I ended up loving the characters--they were like an onion slowly peeling off their armour to reveal some young souls worth learning and caring about.         GRADE-------------B+

PICK OF THE LITTER--Who wouldn't love a documentary about adorable dogs being trained to be guide dogs for the blind. It becomes a cheerful, moving journey for the dogs and the audience.     GRADE--------------B

A KID LIKE JAKE---There's a bit of a TV movie feel, since the cast is all from TV, but this is an otherwise intelligent drama that concentrates on the feelings of ADULTS (teachers and parents) who have a hard time realizing that there beloved child may be transgender.   With Claire Danes, Jim Parsons, Octavia Spencer, Ann Dowd and others.                         GRADE-------B

THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST--Well meaning drama (not an inch of "camp" here) about  teens stuck at a conversion therapy camp to cure their gay inclinations in the 1990's.  The film tries to give equal time and sympathy to both the protagonists and the counselors, but feels at times watered down from stories I've heard and read about.  The actors are all good, including Brit Jennifer Elhe and Chloe Grace Moretz and Sasha Lane (she's also in HEARTS BEAT LOUD)  but this film won the Grand Jury award at Sundance Film Festival, and it makes me think it must have been a slow year for them.       GRADE---------------B

LET THE SUNSHINE IN ----Romantic French drama with lovely Juliette Binoche making some poor choices of men--most of them already married, and she comes across as insecure and needy.  Ironically,  and amusingly, she ends up listening to the mumbo jumbo of a charlatan fortune teller, which explains a lot of her problems.  Mostly for fans of Juliette Binoche.                  GRADE-----------C+

WARRIOR WOMEN--Well meaning documentary of women and Indian rights activist Madonna Thunder Hawk and her daughter Marcella.  The film touches on Alcatraz, Wounded Knee and the Dakota Pipe line protest, but the film feels underwhelming where it should be triumphant and it felt wanting.            GRADE--------------C+

SKATE KITCHEN---Nearly all HAND HELD camera work here feels chaotic and head ache inducing.  This is all about girl skate boarders, who spend time smoking pot, talking trash and skating, skating, skating--doing tricks and surviving accidents.  There's not much story or drama here (except trite stuff like running away from home, breaking a bone, or "you slut you stole my boy friend"), and I have very little interest in watching all that skating.  Some women audience members thought it was novel to watch--saying they would not have been interested if it were boy skaters----unfortunately, I'd agree with that also.                   GRADE-----------C-

THE SONG OF SCORPIONS--Indian film set in Thar Desert, but it moves at a snail's pace, and after one hour I slipped into unconsciousness and snored softly for a few minutes, but didn't seem to miss a thing.  Tove didn't think it necessary to wake me.  What was happening?  Why?  Where did grandma go, and why?  Do scorpion stings kill everyone or just occasionally?  Nothing seems to be resolved, but main woman is angry, and she sings, sings, sings.   Why?  Even after murder attempt, husband still loves his wife.  Why?  What the hell is this movie about?  In general, most men I  talked to were befuddled and hated this film.  Some women seemed to find the film fulfilling.  Yikes.                 GRADE-------D

  

Sunday, May 13, 2018

TULLY, SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963) plus SIFF Screenings begin.......

This new comedy drama TULLY from director Jason Reitman and written by Diablo Cody--it's their fourth film together, deals with the frustration and difficulties of child birth and infant rearing, and for the first 3/4th of running time it works beautifully,  with Charlize Theron giving a heartfelt, passionate, physical performance (she gained 50 pounds for the role) as a mother near the end of her tether as her children and new infant demand more attention than she has left.   TULLY is the name of a night nurse who comes to her rescue, taking care of the child at night so she can get some much needed rest.  I will concede that the final 20 minutes felt like a cheat for me, although many (especially women) may find the film very satisfying, and many will find the ending a clever enough explanation for that feeling.    With Ron Livingston as her loving husband, Mark Duplass as her concerned brother and Mackensie Davis as the mysterious nanny.               GRADE-------B  



Viewed on TV

SUNDAY IN NEW YORK 1963---Back in the day this film was released, this modest sex comedy may have seemed rather risque, although today it seems quite tame.  It is saved by some charming performances by Jane Fonda who has just broken up with her fiance because he wanted sex before marriage, and Cliff Robertson as her pilot brother, who assures her he has never had sex with a woman----saving himself for marriage.  She soon finds out he is a liar, and decides to throw herself at a strange man (Rod Taylor) she meets on a bus.  Things get funnier during the final 45 minutes when mistaken identities and sexual innuendos start to fly--there is a bit of slapstick that also enlivens  the finale.         GRADE-----------B-



SIFF Screening roundup........
 THE GUILTY --Denmark---Superior and economical thriller with one setting and just a few characters, yet it held the audience in a grip from the beginning.  A man working in an emergency call center realizes a woman on the phone has been abducted by a violent, desperate man, possibly someone who knows the woman, and he is desperate to help this woman before it is too late for her.  This was a big crowd pleaser at the screening.             GRADE----------A

THE LAST SUIT--Argentina---Excellent drama about a cranky old man who wants to return a suit to  an old friend so he travels from Argentina to Poland with the help of a number of people along the way.  Flashbacks fill in his tragic story, changing our perception of him.    A tearful audience cheered the film's ending.          GRADE-----------A 

MAKING THE GRADE--A happy documentary from Ireland, about piano students who work through different grades as they progress in their proficiency   Students and teachers from each grade level are interviewed, and the film made me smile a lot, and want to take piano lessons again.         GRADE--------B+

UNDER THE TREE---From Iceland comes a black comedy about neighbor relationships that are in steady decline due to lies and misunderstandings---it becomes very dark indeed                          GRADE---------B

AFTER THE WAR---French drama about a Italian revolutionist who finds the past coming back to haunt him 20 years after he shot a judge during a protest.  Now he has to move to another country with his teenage daughter in tow.                        GRADE-------B

THE RUSSIAN FIVE---I'm not a hockey fan, but the story of five Russian players that were recruited to play on a Detroit team in an effort to win the Stanley Cup was interesting and well made.          GRADE-----------B

AMERICAN ANIMALS----Four USA college students plot to steal some rare historical books from the library, but they are rather dim witted, in this leisurely, fascinating film based on a true story.         GRADE-----------B 

DISOBEDIENCE---Great Britain film set in Jewish neighborhood has a woman returning home for the death of her orthodox father, and reheating up an affair with a woman who has recently married their mutual male friend.   Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams star.                           GRADE---------B

BREATH--Beautiful looking Australian film about two young teen boys who fall under the spell of an older surfer who teaches them how to surf and "live the life."  It's a slow burn, subtle surf movie, but it plays like a novel, upon which it is based.                    GRADE------------B 

SWEET COUNTRY--Effective Australian western--when an Aboriginal man rightly kills a white man, he finds himself and his wife on the run from a posse.  Serious themes of righteousness, bigotry, lawlessness, prejudice and survival keep this film intense.                GRADE----------B-

Following films are NOT recommended-------

GOLD SEEKERS --There are some nice scenes of urban Paraguay that are ethnocentrically interesting, but the chaotic nature of the story and all over the map acting styles leave the whole endeavor tiresome.                          GRADE-----------C+

THE RETURN--There are a couple powerful scenes here, but this documentary/faux fiction film about Korean adoptees who return to find their biological parents can't decided if it wants to be fiction or documentary, and many scenes feel staged and dishonest.  It's too bad because it is a serious problem, where records have been lost or destroyed.                  GRADE---------C+

LOOKING FOR OUM KULTHUM--This German film about a film within a film about an female filmmaker trying to film the story of the legendary Egyptian diva certainly looks very smooth and pleasing (especially the art and set directions, costumes and sumptuous cinematography). but the film becomes a bit pretentious, and the final feeling is---SO WHAT?         GRADE---------C+

THREE PEAKS--German film that looks lovely with scenery in the mountains, but not much happens, and it happens at a snail's pace.  But the scenery was nice.   Yawn.         GRADE-------C

WE THE ANIMALS--Independent USA film with low budget about poor family headed by a violent father and featuring three wild, active boys, all very close in age.  Unfortunately, the film is all hand held with the giggliest camera work of any film I've seen this year which makes it hard to watch.  The youngest boy (age 10!?) seems to have gay tendencies, but this film is relentlessly grim, and while it shared some themes with MOONLIGHT (like growing up sensitive in a tough environment, etc)--MOONLIGHT comes across as an even greater masterwork by comparison.          GRADE------C

THAT SUMMER---Home movies with poor visuals and sound tells part of the story of the Grey Gardens situation that found Big Edie and Little Edie living in squalor in a Nantucket mansion.  The characters talk and talk but the result is boring, and nothing is resolved (in this film) although it was modestly interesting  seeing home movie glimpses of Lee Radzwill, Jackie O, Truman Capote, Andy Warhol and several other celebrities from that early 1970's.  Still, the film is a mess.                GRADE--------D+

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

RBG, A QUIET PLACE, AVENGERS : INFINITY WAR, BLOCKERS, plus THE APARTMENT (1960), UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE 1967 and James Bond films 1995--2002

Opening Friday is a terrific new documentary about the notorious Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called RBG, a leading legal mind who has advanced the politics of women rights and legal rights in this country for nearly 40 years, and who remains an important anchor for those left leaner's on the Supreme court, as the court has been pulled to the conservative right in the past decade.  We learn about her upbringing, her efforts to educate the old white men on the court about the problems of being a woman in a man's world, her personal family life, and the great achievements she has achieved over the course of her long career.  The film is handled with great humor and intelligence, and whatever your political leaning, this film may be an eye opener to many viewers.  At age 84 she continues to work tirelessly on the court, and also spends nearly an hour a day doing exercises, including push ups and using resistant cords to keep up her physical strength.  Long live the notorious RBG!                 GRADE--------------------------A

Without special effects or bloody violence,  this creepy science fiction film has a family living a quiet, simple life because making any type of noise will bring some horrifying blind monsters to their location to attack and eat them.  It's a simple premise, but the film A QUIET PLACE is well made and acted and completely engrossing as the family struggles to survive this plague from outer space.  TV comedian John Krasinski from TV'S The Office wrote and directed and stars in, along with his real life wife Emily Blunt (who stars in the upcoming film MARY POPPINS RETURNS) this splendid little film.       GRADE------------------------B+

Excessively action packed, overstuffed with Avenger characters, lots of violence, and the most nihilistic ending I've ever seen in a Marvel Avenger movie, that describes the new film  AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.  The line up of superheroes is too much of a good thing:  Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Iron Man, Spider Man, Captain America, Loki, Dr. Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and half the city of Rowanda and the bad guy Thanos, plus many others.  I had to keep concentrating to keep them all straight, and such a large cast limits the screen time each personality gets.  It was almost too tiring to process all the action.  There were the usual awesome scenes and most of the fighting segments were entertaining, but the film felt rather bloated to me, and so many major characters are "killed" off that I suspect the opening scene of the next Marvel film will start off by saying that AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR was all just a bad dream.......                 GRADE------B

Here's another gross out teen comedy with a heart of gold.  In BLOCKERS, three best girl friends are determined to lose their virginity to their dates on senior prom night, and the parents find out and behave badly, going to extreme measures to stop themMost of the jokes fall rather flat, or are just plain grotesque--it is hard to have much sympathy for the adults, which include John Cena, Leslie Mann and Ike Barinholtz, as they behave more irresponsibly than the kids.           GRADE------------C+



WATCHED ON TV or DVD! 

THE APARTMENT (1960)  One of the endearing classics of the master film making team of director Billy Wilder and scrip writer I.A.L. Diamond, this charming comedy drama has a dark bent of cynicism--Jack Lemmon plays a spineless up and coming executive who loans out his apartment to several higher placed executives to accommodate their extra-marital affairs, but things get complicated when his married boss uses the apartment for his affair with an elevator girl that Lemmon is attracted to.  When near tragedy strikes, he must face facts and change his life.  Fred MacMurray plays a rare "bad guy" role, and this was one of Shirley MacLaine's early roles.  The film won five Oscars including Best picture, director and writer.                         GRADE-----------A

UP THE DOWN STAIRCASE (1967)--This comedy drama of a 60's best seller stars the charmingly eccentric actress Sandy Dennis, who won her supporting Oscar for WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF  1966 (holding her own against Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and George Segal) and several Tony awards for theatre.  Her acting was so eccentric that people either loved or hated her.  Critic Pauline Kael once said "She has made an acting style of post nasal drip."  This film reminds me a lot of TO SIR WITH LOVE, only set in a tough New York City neighborhood, as this first year teacher tries to understand and love a bunch of wild high school students.            GRADE-------A-


A DOG OF FLANDERS (1999)--The production and acting were ho hum, but the story remains effective, as a poor motherless boy is raised by his grandfather and becomes encouraged to become a painter.  The ending was changed from the book (from tragically sad to happier now) but it moved me none the less.  I can understand why there are over six movie versions of this book.  Featured actors included Jack Warden, Jon Voight and Cheryl Ladd.             GRADE------------B-

JAMES BOND 007 films

GOLDENEYE 1995--Here's the first one with Pierce Brosnan, and he's quite dashingly different.  This is also the first for Judi Dench as M, who warns Bond that he's becoming a sexist pig, and Samantha Bond as Miss Moneypenny, and the lively cast includes Sean Bean, Famke Janssen, Joe Don Baker, Robbie Coltrane and  a young Alan Cumming.  There's a spectacular plunge over the edge of a very tall dam, and an amusing chase using a very large tank through the streets of St. Petersburg which rips up the bricks, sidewalks and statues and archways.            GRADE--------------B+

TOMORROW NEVER DIES 1997--Brosnan teams up with the smart and tough Michelle Yeoh and the highlight is a high speed motorcycle race while they are handcuffed together as they try to escape from a killer helicopter through the streets of Bangkok--a last minute substitution for Ho Chi Minh City, because Vietnam officials balked at the back lit  semi-naked women that always appear in the title sequence of most Bond films--in this one they are smashing sickles and hammers, clearly a symbolism of Communism.  Jonathan Pryce plays a deadly, megalomaniac media magnate.        GRADE------------B+

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH 1999---Director Michael Apted discussed a large array of actresses for this new Bond film including Vera Farmiga, and Sharon Stone but ended up with the French actress Sophie Marceau, who had to be seductive and very evil too.  They choose Denise Richards to play a scientist! (who runs around in short shorts!)--she was effective mainly as an opposite to Marceau.  Robert Carlyle is an effective bad guy, and John Cleese takes over for Desmond Llewelyn who had played Q for 17 Bond films.  And finally, Judi Dench has a major part in this film, although she is made to look rather stupid a couple of times with her poor judgment.           GRADE-----B

DIE ANOTHER DAY  2002--Producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson were pleased with the harder edge given Bond by Brosnan, so they signed him up again for this latest one, and were excited with signing up Halle Berry, who would win her Best Actress Oscar  for MONSTER'S BALL a few months into shooting DIE ANOTHER DAY.  The entertaining film has a number of memorable scenes, including Berry who rises from the ocean in a stunning orange and white bikini, a la Andress in DR NO.  Bond is captured and tortured during the sexy opening titles, he has serious issues with his boss Judi Dench as M, and Rosamond Pike and Toby Stephen play the nasty bad guys.  (He is the son of Maggie Smith and Robert Stephens .)  Madonna wrote and sings the theme song, and has a brief cameo.  The finale takes place at an ice palace with an invisible car.  Nice and fun to watch.   In a surprising twist, this is Brosnan's last Bond, and the producers decide to take 007 into new territory---which results in the best Bond film yet.  To be continued.         GRADE------------B


James Bond returns all new and vibrant, in CASINO ROYALE --next blog.

ALSO COMING UP NEXT WEEK, the SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL (SIFF) starts screening films for Press and Full Series holders this week, so I will begin brief postings on the newest films. 

Also, just a heads up for a five season TV melodrama from Australia that  I binged upon this month and enjoyed immensely called A PLACE TO CALL HOME.  The first two hours did not impress me, but suddenly about episode 3 I really started to like it.  It plays like a fast paced DOWNTON ABBEY but more modern, set in the late 1950's, and covers lots of themes like evil matriarchs, holocaust survivors, WWII survivors, homosexuality, mental illness, racial prejudices, evil politicians, cancer issues, infidelity, murder, adoption, blackmail, the list goes on and on, and every single episode ends with an amazingly shocking cliffhanger.