Monday, July 24, 2017

A Tale of Love and Darkness 2015

     This film is based on an autobiographical novel by Amos Oz published in 2002.  It’s the story told in flashbacks of his youth in the late 1940’s and the setting is the last years of Mandatory Palestine and the first years of independent Israel.  United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 partitioned Mandatory Palestine into an independent Arab and Jewish state.  A civil war begins in Palestine and Amos’ father fights in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.  Amos looks back on his relationship with his parents and his beginnings as a writer.  He believes the stories we tell become the stories we live.
     The first book written by Amos’ father Arieh had five printed copies in the bookstore.  They stayed on the shelf for a long time until all copies were bought at the same time.  Amos’ mother is Fania and she becomes deeply depressed causing her to be unable to sleep or eat.  Amos and his father try to hide her illness from their friends and family.  Amos tries to remove himself from his past by living on a Kibbutz.  I didn’t like this film.  It’s deep and dark but it’s not really saying anything.  It’s not about their feelings about what is happening or why but just the events.  Since there are subtitles, I needed to pay attention but it was a struggle!!  I can see that Portman would have a passion for this subject but I didn’t feel drawn into this film? 1 ½* (I really didn’t like this movie)

95 min, Bio directed by Natalie Portman with Gilad Kahana, Amir Tessler, Natalie Portman, Moni Moshonov, Ohad Knoller, Makram Khoury, Alexander Peleg, Neta Riskin, Rotem Keinan, Tomer Kapon, Yonaton Shiray, Shira Haas, Asia Naifeld.

Note:  Imdb 6.1 out of 10, 65% critic 50% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 2 ½*, Amazon 4.1* out of 5* with 30 reviews, Rolling Stone 3* out of 4*.
Special Note:  Filmed in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Jordan River, Kibbutz Beit Nir, Kibbutz Hulda, Israel.  This is the first film directed by Natalie Portman.  The producers wanted the film to be in English but she fought to have it remain in Hebrew.  Portman optioned the rights to the book in 2007.  It took nearly 8 years to acquire funding and produce this film.

Friday, July 21, 2017

A Monster Calls 2016

     This film is based on an unfinished novel by Siobbhan Dowd and completed by Patrick Ness.  Conor lives in Britain and he has a lot of trouble with the same nightmare.  He lives with his mother and their home looks out onto a church and a graveyard guarded by a giant yew tree.  His parents are divorced and his father lives in Los Angeles.  His mother is struggling with treatments for cancer and he’s very worried about her.  He’s afraid he might have to move in with his Grandma.  Conor is shy, a daydreamer and artist.  He also has a lot of problems with bullying at school.
     The scenery is very beautiful and Conor’s mother was also an artist when was younger.  No wonder Conor has nightmares, a lot is going on in his life and he doesn’t have the maturity for processing these events.  He wishes he didn’t receive a lot of pity looks from others.  Can Conor find out what his nightmare really means?  Geraldine Chaplin as the Head Teacher was 72 at the time of filming.   
108 min, Drama directed by J.Z. Bayona with Lewis MacDougall, Sigourney Weaver, Felicity Jones, Toby Kebbell, Ben Moor, James Melville, Oliver Steer, Dominic Boyle, Jennifer Lim, Max Gabbay.

Note:  Imdb 7.5 out of 10, 87% critic 82% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*, Amazon 4.3* out of 5* with 243 reviews.

Special Note:  Filmed in Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Yorkshire, Huddersfield, Derbyshire, England, UK; Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.  Sigourney Weaver had an easy time with her English accent because her mother was British.  The church by Conor's house is St. Thomas’ at Heights, Delph, Oldham and it closed in 1963.  In Conor's house, one framed picture in a series of pictures of young Grandma is actually a publicity photo of Weaver from Ghostbusters of 1984.  A theme park in scenes with Conor and his dad is Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Blackpool, Lancashire, England.  The school scenes were shot at Colne Valley High School in Linthwaite, Huddersfield, England.

Nocturnal Animals 2016

     Susan Morrow is married to Ray Marcus and they are having trouble with communication in their relationship.  Susan was previously married to Edward Sheffield.   She wanted to leave the marriage because she thought they weren’t compatible.  Edward sends Susan a copy of his new manuscript.  She was surprised to read that the novel is dedicated to her.  Susan is very drawn into the novel and she wants to meet with Edward to talk about his latest work. 
     I didn’t care for the slow motion art presented in the opening scenes!!  Susan is reading the novel and scenes from the novel are portrayed as one story.  Susan and her relationship with her current husband and also Edward are in other scenes.  Basically, this film is two stories that overlap.  The novel is very powerful and also violent.  Michael Shannon has a role as one of the characters in the novel and what type does he usually play?  The ending leaves you with a question to think about??  Also, is it intended or a coincidence to cast Amy Adams and Isla Fisher since they are similar in appearance?  3 ½* (I liked this movie)

116 min, Drama directed by Tom Ford with Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Ellie Bamber, Armie Hammer, Karl Glusman, Robert Aramayo, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen.

Note:  Imdb 7.5 out of 10, 74% critic 73% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3 ½*, Metacritic 67 out of 100 with 45 critics 7.8 out of 10 with 330 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Lancaster, Mojave Desert, Los Angeles and Malibu, California.  There was heavy bidding and a battle for the right to distribute this film in Cannes.  Focus Features paid $20 million for global distribution.  Tom Ford is well known as a fashion designer but he left the wardrobe to the costume designer.  He felt to have his designs in the film would be like a commercial.  Laura Linney plays Amy Adams’ mother but she is only 10 years older than Amy.  Isla Fisher said that the night shoot in the Mojave lasted 10 days.  It was grueling and emotionally draining.

American Pastoral 2016

     This film is based on a novel by Philip Roth that won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  Seymour Levov had the nickname Swede in the Jewish community of Newark, New Jersey.  He was a star high school athlete and he married Dawn.  She was a beauty pageant winner and they have a daughter Merry.  Swede took over managing the glove factory his father founded.  Merry had problems with stuttering and the psychiatrist they consulted said she was doing this to make a place for herself  in the family.  Merry felt she couldn’t compete with her beautiful and talented parents.  Merry is a beautiful and smart daughter but she becomes involved in protesting the Vietnam War in 1968.  The war ran from 1 November 1955 to 30 April 1975.  There were riots in their area near the factory with people killed and property destroyed.  Swede and Dawn become very concerned about Merry, especially her language and rebelliousness.
     While watching this film, I thought about children and how their parents raise them?  How much difference does the style of parenting make in their lives and what elements should be stressed in children?  How much blame can be placed on parents for a child moving forward in the wrong direction?  How much is due to the free will of the child as they mature?  These are difficult questions with different answers and possibilities depending on the expert or the individual.  I really felt for Seymour and Dawn in this film.  I felt for the lives and families touched by Merry.  This time period was a very difficult one for the United States both politically and for people living in this country.  You can see there are many sides to the information presented in this film!!  3 ½* (I liked this movie)

108 min, Crime directed by Ewan McGregor with Jennifer Connelly, Dakoa Fanning, Ewan McGregor, Peter Riegert, Rupert Evans, Uzo Aduba, Molly Parker, Valorie Curry, Hannah Nordberg, Julia Silverman, Mark Hildreth.

Note:  Imdb 6.1 out of 10, 22% critic 29% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 1 ½*, Amazon 3.2* out of 5* with 165 reviews, ReelViews 2 ½* out of 4*.
Special Note:  Filmed in Pittsburgh, Harmony, Wilkinsburg, Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania.  Originally development began in 2004 with Phillip Noyce as director, Paul Bettany as Swede, Jennifer Connelly as Dawn and Evan Rachel Wood as Merry.  After ten years, all the actors moved on except Connelly.  McGregor didn’t have very much input into the script or the casting plus many of the preproduction details.  He stepped in at the last minute as director.

Fences 2016

     This film is based on a Broadway play by August Wilson that opened in 1987.  The setting of is Pittsburgh of the 1950’s.  Troy Maxson is a sanitation worker and he is able to advance to being a driver.  He’s married to Rose and they’ve been together for 18 years.  Cory is their teenage son and he’s interested in football.  Troy dreamed of becoming a professional baseball player.  He was thought to be too old when the leagues began accepting African-American athletes.  He’s bitter over what happened to him and he believes the same thing will happen to Cory.  He arranges for a football recruiter to skip a meeting with his Cory.
     I didn’t like the way Troy treated his son.  Cory asks Troy why he doesn’t like him and it seems this is the truth.  He removes Cory’s chance before it ever starts even though Troy has experienced how deeply painful this feels.  Later on, I didn’t like how Troy treated Rose.  I felt sympathy for Troy until he mistreated Cory and Rose.  I thought he did way too much talking too.  After a few minutes, I couldn’t pay attention to what he was saying because of the continuous talking!!  Some of his talking comes from a gin bottle, especially Friday after work!!  3* (This movie was OK)

139 min, Drama directed by Denzel Washington with Viola Davis, Stephen Henderson, Denzel Washington, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, Mykelti Williamson, Saniyya Sidney, Christopher Mele, Lesley Boone, Jason Silvis.

Note:  Imdb 7.3 out of 10, 93% critic 76% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 4*, Metacritic 79 out of 100 with 48 critics 7.3 out of 10 user reviews, Amazon 4.3* out of 5* with 469 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Denzel Washington performed this play 114 times at the Cort Theatre in New York City in 2010.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Morgan 2016

     Lee Weathers is sent from the genetic-engineering company SynSect to evaluate the human hybrid Morgan.  She is smarter than humans, has advanced growth rate and seems to be 19 but she is really 5 years old.  There was an incident between Morgan and scientist Dr. Kathy Grieff.  Psychologist Dr. Alan Sharpio also arrives to evaluate Morgan.  There is another incident with Dr. Sharpio and Lee determines that Morgan needs to be terminated.  This comes as a shock and surprise to all the scientists who have been on this program since before Morgan was born.
     Morgan would’ve been a success if she had been able to tame her emotions but she is really only 5 years old.  It seems that Morgan has reverted to the weapon part of her system without any restraints.  I could see that all the scientists would be very committed to having Morgan be a success.  It was devastating for them to even think about the termination of Morgan.  Supposedly, this was filmed in New York but that is not the setting.  3* (This movie was OK)

92 min, Horror directed by Luke Scott with Kate Mara, Anya Taylor-Joy, Rose Leslie, Michael Yare, Toby Jones, Chris Sullivan, Boyd Holbrook, Vinette Robinson, Michelle Yeoh, Brian Cox, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Giamatti, Crispian Belfrage, Amybeth McNulty, Jonathan Aris.

Note:  Imdb 5.8 out of 10, 40% critic 30% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 2*, Amazon 4.2* out of 5* with 69 reviews, Metacritic 48 out of 100 with 33 critics 5.6* out of 10* with 53 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in County Antrim, County Down, Northern Ireland, UK; North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  This film did not place in the weekend top ten and it was pulled after 2 ½ weeks in theaters.  It had one of the worst openings of the summer for a film shown in over 2,000 theaters.  Both Morgan and Lee have names that can be either male or female. 

The Whales of August 1987

     This film is based on a play by David Berry.  Libby Strong and Sarah Webber are sisters and they live in Philadelphia.  They are staying at the family’s summer cottage on an island off the coast of Maine.  The cottage belongs to Sarah and it’s been in their family most of their lives.  There are a few people who have been half-century friends or acquaintances on the island.  There is Tisha Doughty and she is like a bossy third sister.  Joshua Brackett has done a lot of the handyman work on the cottage.  Mr. Maranov, is a new person and he is a former Russian aristocrat.  Chivalry is a way of life for him and he was previously wealthy.  Unfortunately, his landlady has recently passed away and he will need to look for a new place to live.
     I thought it was interesting to see all the actors in their later years.  The scenery in this area is very beautiful.  Libby and Sarah are opposites in their personalities.  Libby is very formal and she believes they don’t need a new picture window in the cottage.  It's because they are too old to have something new?  Sarah says she doesn’t feel that old!!  Bette Davis is very recognizable by her manner of speech  3 ½* (I liked this movie)              

90 min, Drama directed by Lindsay Anderson with Bette Davis, Lillian, Gish, Vincent Price, Ann Sothern, Harry, Carey Jr., Frank Grimes, Margaret Ladd, Tisha Sterling, Mary Steenburgen, frank Pitkin, Mike Bush.

Note:  Imdb 7.6 out of 10, 63% critic 66% audience on Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert 3*, Amazon 4.3* out of 5* with 130 reviews, TCM average 4.98 user review, Letterboxd 3.2* out of 5* with 376 reviews.
Special Note:  Filmed in Portland, Cliff Island, Cosco Bay, Cumberland County and Gulf of Maine, Maine.  This movie was filmed in the autumn of 1986, Lillian Gish was 93 during filming and Ann Sothern was 92.  Bette Davis was the youngest of the women at 78 but her character is blind and Vincent Price was 75.