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Mon garçon (2017)
Not Your Typical Vigilante Movie
Not your typical vigilante revenge film with its deliberate pacing. But the tension does grow as the movie progresses and I certainly wanted to know how this was all going to turn out. Unfortunately, not all of the plot elements are thoroughly explained either adding to the film's detriment.
Guillaume Canet stars as Julien, who gets a call from his ex-wife (Melanie Laurent) that their 7-year-old son has mysteriously disappeared from a 4 day long nature camp. The impulsive and emotional Julien will try and use home videos to get clues as to what actually happened. Eventually, he will go full vigilante and do whatever he deems necessary to locate his son.
Certainly not the best revenge thriller I've ever seen, but there was enough here in this French drama to keep me engaged.
It took me awhile to put together what was going on here with what came across to me as a convoluted film opening. But as this South Korean movie, written and directed by Hong Sang-soo, progressed it came more and more into focus.
Other reviewers have described the plot elements, so I'll say the film, on the whole, was a mixed bag for me. Dialogue driven with only a few characters throughout and beautifully shot in black and white, the movie could be amusing and quite engaging at times, but then could lapse into overwrought melodrama and philosophical babble as well.
All in all, as mentioned, mixed feelings for me here but I did find its poignant final minutes enhanced the film and brought it all together well.
Father the Flame (2018)
The Dedicated Artisans of Pipe Making
I'm not a pipe smoker and the only two pipe smokers that come to mind are Sherlock Holmes and General Douglas MacArthur. Yet, I found this quiet documentary, directed by Chad Terpstra, to be quite informative and interesting.
It mostly centers on the world renowned pipe maker Lee von Erck, an artisan whose dedication and devotion to pipe making comes through loud and clear during the film. Von Erck, whose personality is quite engaging, works alone in his shop in Northern Michigan and reflects on the influence his father had on him, and as this doc goes on it will be a recurrent theme of other master pipe makers whose father's greatly influenced them in their craft.
We'll meet "Mimmo", based out of Taggia, Italy, who is not only a pipe maker but has become a specialist in cutting briar wood, from the white heath tree there, and is the main supplier to von Erck. He also has become a friend to him. Additionally, Mimmo's wife Karin and their children add a congenial atmosphere when they're on screen.
As mentioned, they'll be visits with other noted pipe makers around the globe, and it's easy to pick up how important it is for them to maintain the traditions of excellent craftsmanship handed down from their fathers. Also, there's a segment re the Native American tribes in North America, considered to be the originators of the pipe, and who have used it for centuries for ceremonial purposes.
There is no mention of the dangers to one's health by smoking a pipe in the film. Also, English subtitles are only available in certain segments in the doc and they have very small lettering. I was able to obtain additional subtitles through my closed caption option.
Overall, knowing nothing about pipe making when I began this film, I was able to get a good sense of how it's done, and how important a craft it is for these global artisans.
Chasing the Blues (2017)
Has Its Moments
As I see it, this dark comedy has its moments but never really gels into a substantial watch. Grant Rosenmeyer portrays Alan, a teacher and record collector. who is just emerging from a long prison stretch. When he's informed by an attorney (Jon Lovitz-who has only a minor role here) that there's a storage locker of old records available for his perusal, Alan will soon board a bus and head down that way.
On the bus, he'll meet a young lady (Chelsea Tavares) and Alan will recount to her an amazing tale of a extremely valuable record that may be in the collection he's heading for. But he'll also relay the info that the record may be cursed as to anyone that associates with it and why.
Also, Alan will have to contend with a rival collector (Ronald L. Conner) who also is just out of prison and is aiming for the same prize. Twenty years before, they tried to steal or manipulate an elderly woman (Anna Maria Horsford) out of possession of the record I might note Horsford is a hoot here in here portrayal of Mrs. Walker.
Overall, I thought some things worked better than others here, so a mixed bag in my opinion. But the movie, in my opinion, could have used some sharper comedic moments.
To note: there were no subtitles available on my DVD copy.
Great Great Great (2017)
Couldn't Really Care About the Characters Here
You're asking a lot of your audience to have any empathy for or connect with characters that are terribly deceitful. Such is the case here with 2 of the 3 main characters, Lauren (Sarah Kolasky) and David (Richard Clarkin).
Lauren is seemingly in a rather amiable 5 year relationship with Tom (Daniel Bierne). You can see a few bumps in the road there, such as Lauren's frustration with Tom being unable to find employment as a urban planner, and some differences in their sexual appetites
However, when David is appointed as Lauren's new boss, it will rekindle a brief but passionate affair they had years ago. David is an egotistical and manipulative jerk, but that doesn't stop Lauren from encouraging their new steamy affair, with nary a thought about the consequences. Of course, they'll be a price to pay for all concerned.
Look for a number of erotic and explicit scenes, as well as nudity and coarse language. To note also, English subtitles are quite small.
Overall, the acting is strong enough to make the characters believable here but, as mentioned, I couldn't really care about them and that doesn't make for a very enjoyable viewing.
You Can Choose Your Family (2018)
Quite Clever & Funny
I thought this movie was quite clever and funny. Logan Miller portrays Philip, a teenager who decides on spring break to deceive his parents and head up to the lakeside Starling Festival with his best friend.
However, upon arrival, he will get the shock pf his life when he discovers his father (Jim Gaffigan) has a complete second family. Of course, from there things will get very, very complicated.
All in all, this type of movie is not easy to get all the pieces to fit together. But I thought director Amanda Bailey and writer Glen Lakin did well here to get the elements to gel nicely. Although the movie can be sad and cutting at times, I did find myself laughing a lot and I really enjoyed the film.
Meeting Gorbachev (2018)
Behind-the Scenes Look at an Important Time and World Leader
Mikhail Gorbachev was one of the most important world leaders of the 20th century. In this film, the acclaimed documentarian and co-director Werner Herzog interviews Gorbachev and we get a good inside look literally behind what was known as the Iron Curtain of the Soviet Union.
When Gorbachev became the youngest leader in Soviet history, he saw that their system had virtually broken down. Through implementation of his programs of Perestroika and Glasnost, Gorbachev tried to modernize the commerce of his nation as well as implement some democratic principles there.
Although, his tenure as President was cut short, in 1991, by a coup led by Boris Yeltsin, Gorbachev's reforms were influential in beginning nuclear arms reduction working with Pres. Ronald Reagan, the reunification of Germany, and more freedoms to the Soviet bloc nations of that time.
Aside from the interview with the then 87-year-old Gorbachev, which not only gave the viewer a good behind-the-scenes look at those times and highlighted his intelligence and sense of humor, the doc is also filled with vintage film clips many of which I had never seen before.
Overall, not for those looking for an action flick, but geared for those viewers who like history. To note, English subtitles were only available using my closed caption option, and when Russian was spoken the subtitles were quite small.
Calling All Earthlings (2018)
Layered & Oddball Documentary
This layered and oddball documentary mainly centers on George Van Tassel. He was a former aeronautical engineer, who devoted himself to building, in the California desert, what is known as the Integratron, a machine 18 years in the making. Van Tassel believed he could extend the lives of humans by some 20 to 50 years in the Integratron by alternating their DNA molecules by utilizing an electrostatic generator.
But that's just a part of this story. Just as he was ready to try out the Integratron , Van Tassel died in a motel of a heart attack, under what some consider suspicious circumstances, with his notes and plans disappearing. The film, directed by Jonathan Berman, will go in many different directions. There's Van Tassel's public declarations of contact and conversations with aliens, who were the ones he claimed that gave him the formula for his time machine.
This was post WW 2 and there was plenty of paranoia about Communists, or even Fascists, trying to take over the U.S. government, and with suspicions raised by Van Tassel's neighbors the FBI opened a file on him and his operations. There was also a rather secretive and large military base in the vicinity near the Integratron.
They'll also be plenty of quirky interviewees in the doc some of who recount first hand those times, while others want to continue his work. Even Eric Burdon (Yes, The Animals musical group) has something to say here.
Overall, this film may be quite scattered in trying to coalesce all these themes, but I found it rather engaging and weird on the whole.
Ferrante Fever (2017)
I'll be honest and admit I had never heard of Italian author Elena Ferrante (a pseudonym) nor read any of her novels. This brief documentary, only 1 hr. and 14 min. focuses on her 4 books known as the Neapolitan Novels, which have become a global sensation, with sales of over 10 million copies in more than 50 countries.
Of course, it is highly intriguing that Ferrante has kept complete anonymity over many years and no one has been able to conclusively prove who she is. She has refused to promote her novels in any way, nor has she given interviews to the media. Ferrante has published La Frantumaglia, which is a work of essays, letters, and written interviews that give some insight into her thinking and perspectives.
Despite not having read her works, I still found the film to be quite interesting, even fascinating at times. I love movies but, as a rule, I'm not a fiction reader, but this doc sure sparked my interest enough to perhaps, at least, try the first novel and see how I like it.
I think the criticisms of reviewers that the movie is too one-sided in praise of Ferrante and offers virtually no counters to all the enthusiasm of the interviewees is valid. However, I still found the doc quite engrossing and I like learning about things that I was not aware of beforehand.
The World Before Your Feet (2018)
I really like documentaries like this, as I find them quite fascinating. In this case, the camera follows Matt Green, with clips from his 8,000 mile trek walking the streets of the 5 boroughs of NYC, over a 6 year period.
Green is a former civil engineer who disliked what he was doing and made a decision in his life to pursue what he really loved to do. Following a walk across America, he embarked on the NYC walk, filmed and directed by Jeremy Workman, whose doc "Magical Universe" I also found to be very fascinating.
Green is an engaging guy and his interactions with the New Yorkers he meets along the way brings forth their support for him and their curiosity, with only a few being suspicious or even hostile. His visits to NYC cemeteries, parks, wall murals (many commemorating the heroes and victims of 9/11), even vacant land left barren for years after projects never got off the ground, and so much more just showed me how much I missed having lived in NYC for over thirty years.
Green takes the information he garners very seriously and does research to learn even more about what he's come across during the day. He meticulously posts his daily walks on his blog each night, as well.
Overall, just a most interesting and engaging film, but realizing that it may not appeal to everyone,
Cold Blood Legacy (2019)
Save Your Time & Money
One of these so-called thrillers that just turned out to be a convoluted and dreary mess of a movie. I did watch it to the end to see how the heck it would play out. But then when it did finally end all I could say was huh? I would say save your time and money and avoid.
Moscow Never Sleeps (2017)
Melancholic Russian Soap Opera
To me, this film played like a Russian soap opera. The lives of multiple characters are followed and interconnect on Moscow City Day.
However, the themes are so melancholic and many of the characters are so unlikable, that I didn't care much what happened to any of them by the time the movie was over.
Remarkable Man & Architect
A quiet documentary directed by Mark Noonan, on the career of Irish-American architect Kevin Roche, considered one of the most prominent and influential architects in the second half of the 20th century, in America.
In the film, Roche talks about his philosophy of melding his projects with the environment where they're built, trying to bring nature into the city, and keeping in mind the community of people who will work and visit them. Indeed, the doc points out that he designed the first of the atrium office buildings with the Ford Foundation complex.
There's a brief history of Roche's upbringing in Ireland, where his father raised thousands of pigs on a farm in Ireland, and even then Roche as a youngster designed certain improvements for the piggery. Roche would later go on to the only architectural school in Ireland, and then attend post-graduate courses in Illinois.
He landed a job with the renowned architect Eero Saarinen and eventually rose to chief designer for the firm. So after Saarinen suddenly died at the age of 51, Roche formed a partnership with John Dinkeloo to finish the myriad of projects that Saarinen still had pending upon his death.
Roche's sense of humor as well as his love and devotion to architecture comes through loud and clear in his interviews in the movie. Also, there are well edited clips of interviews with his contemporaries in the field. We also get a tour of some of Roche's most acclaimed buildings, including the United Nations Plaza, Oakland Museum, 60 Wall Street, renovations at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Convention Center in Dublin, and the aforementioned Ford Foundation building.
All in all, to be honest I had never heard of Kevin Roche prior to viewing this doc. So it was a learning experience for me to see his importance in the architectural field as an innovator and problem solver, as well as to view some of his remarkable works. To note, Roche passed away in March of this year at the age of 96.
The White Crow (2018)
Deliberately Paced Biopic With a Tension Packed Finale
First-time actor Oleg Ivenko gives a strong performance here in the lead role of renowned ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev. The biopic also has a most solid supporting cast and is directed by the fine actor Ralph Fiennes (who also has a supporting role in the film), and is written by the most talented David Hare, based on the book by Julie Kavanagh.
The biopic covers the early years of Nureyev from his most difficult early life in the Soviet Union, his incredible innate talent for ballet dancing, his complicated and flamboyant personality, love of the arts, and a most fervent desire for freedom.
I felt the heart of the movie was the tension filled final 20 minutes or so of Nureyev's defection to the West at a Paris airport, in 1961.He would be the first Soviet notable to do so during the Cold War.
All in all, although this biopic is deliberately paced and a little too long at over 2 hours in length I felt it was a solid effort all around. To note, Rudolph Nureyev would pass away in 1993 from AIDS, at the age of 54.
Unfortunately, I just found this B-movie type film to be filled with banal dialogue and a highly predictable storyline. That is until what I would describe as a most absurd ending.
The acting here, with leads Hoyt Richards and Anabella Casanova. is solid enough to impart believable characters, but the script is just too weak, in my opinion.
Lost & Found (2017)
Never Quite Comes Together
Normally, this type of film with quirky characters and subtle humor set in a small Irish town would be right up my alley. However, this dramedy never really came together, as I had hoped it would, into a really engaging movie, although it did have its amusing and poignant moments.
Liam O Mochain wrote and directed the film, and also stars as Daniel who has just been employed in the Lost & Found, at the local train station. Thus, the movie will have various interconnected stories of those people he knows or meets at the station, plus the people and places in the small Irish town which surrounds it.
Overall, although it had its moments a good part of this movie just fell flat, as I see it.
The Lady Killers (2017)
Very Dark With a Big Twist
As I see it, this movie is only for those that like very dark movies.
Seven men gather to play a game where they will put up $5,000 apiece and be judged in several categories as to their "success" and methods in seducing a particular woman of their choosing. Of course as you might expect, the misogyny and treatment of women as objects will be sky high.
However, when the game is over the dark consequences of their actions will be felt in various forms, including mayhem and even murder. The big twist at the end was quite clever and I didn't see it coming at all.
Overall, the film written and directed by Phil Leirness, has an air of sensuality throughout, as the women of the cast are exceptionally gorgeous and seductive. But the subject matter was very uncomfortable for me to watch, with the men being so despicable. The way it all played out in the end, though, I imagine you could say was poetic justice.
What Children Do (2017)
I picked up this DVD at my local library, but unfortunately this dramedy came across to me as quite awkward. With their grandmother in a coma in an upstairs bedroom being attended to by home health professionals, two sisters will reunite after several years, in a rural upstate New York town.
They're polar opposites in personality, with Amy ( Nicole Rodenburg) being an aspiring actress flying in from Los Angeles. She's highly impulsive and manipulative, while the other sister Shannon (Grace Rex), who's been living in the home and helping to take care of her grandmother, being a librarian and quite introverted and responsible.
They'll be quite a lot of friction in their interactions, while various other quirky local characters will appear during the movie. For me, the humor here just never really worked, yielding only an occasional chuckle. I would not be surprised if at least some of the film was improvised by the actors. So the question will be whether the sisters time together will allow some bonding and impart the meaning of family in their lives.
Overall, I'm sorry to say this movie never seemed to gel into an engaging presentation. Look for explicit language and some suggestive scenes throughout.
Poignant Kenyan Drama
Set in Kenya, Samantha Mugatsia and Sheila Munyiva star here as Kena and Ziki respectively. The two young women fall in love and begin a lesbian relationship. Ironically, their fathers are each candidates in an upcoming local election.
However, in Kenya, gay relationships are not only forbidden but illegal as well. If Kena and Ziki naively thought that their families or the people in their small town would just let them be, they were sorely mistaken. When their relationship becomes public, things will take a very dark turn for all involved.
I thought this was a most poignant drama filled with rich and real characters. It also has extremely colorful cinematography. I'd be most interested in seeing the next film of co-writer and director Wanuri Kahiu.
Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy (2018)
Never Seems to Gel Into a Powerful Drama
I watched this film not knowing anything about the books of Laura Albert or the true hoax that she partnered with Savannah Knoop to create. This movie is based on Knoop's memoirs and I thought it was a layered and complex film that never seemed to work the way the filmmakers intended it to.
Laura Dern is, as usual, terrific in her role as Albert. I really like the understated acting of Kristen Stewart, as a rule, but she's just too low-key here and against the overbearing and manipulative character of Dern's it just gets annoying to watch after a while. Kelvin Harrison Jr. shines in a supporting role and Diane Kruger is excellent here as well.
As I read, there's at least 1 doc on this whole affair so I may very well check that out and compare it to the movie. Overall, I can't say exactly why but I felt there was much more to this true story than what was given to us on screen.
Nasty Little Horror Tale
One of these horror films that if one looks too closely at some of the preposterous plot elements it could be a turn off. Instead, I recommend just going with the flow and getting caught up in the most bizarre , bloody, and outrageous happenings on screen.
To me, it had some similar elements to the classic horror tale "The Shining". Director Michael Peterson and writer Kevin Cockle do not shy away from many grim and dark twists and turns
Certainly kept me guessing how this would all turn out, and on the whole the movie proved to be a nasty little horror tale.
Better Than I Anticipated
As a Hallmark TV movie, I thought this one had a decent edge to it, and the chemistry between the two leads Lacy Chabert, as Tess, and Brennan Elliott, as Lt. Logan O'Connor, worked quite well. I'm a big crossword puzzle fan, so the inclusion of them into a murder mystery heightened my interest.
Yes, some of the dialogue was trite and the ending was a little lame, but it's always fun trying to decide who the killer is. Overall, the film was somewhat better than I anticipated.
Trial by Fire (2018)
Dern & O'Connell Carry This Slow Paced But Intense Drama
Laura Dern and Jack O'Connell give excellent performances here in this deliberately paced intense drama based on a true story. The movie has its agenda, but, overall, I felt the positives outweighed the negatives.
Dern portrays Elizabeth Gilbert, a playwright who gets personally involved in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham (O'Connell) who was convicted and sentenced to death for setting fire to his home, in Texas, which killed his 3 young daughters. Dern begins to uncover evidence that the whole trial may have been a set-up. Look for a real shocker right near the end of the movie.
Looking for Lennon (2018)
Detailed & Concise Look at Lennon's Early Years
I've seen a number of documentaries and movies on the Beatles and in particular John Lennon, but I would say this doc was the most detailed and concise exploration of Lennon's early years, from childhood to the beginning of the Beatles.
The film covers Lennon's early years, in Liverpool, during WWll, to his extremely unsettled family life in his formative years, to his personality in school, and eventually his venturing into writing, poetry, illustration, and, of course music. All of this would lead to the shaping of Lennon's uniqueness and unquestioned charisma.
I found it fascinating how we got a vivid account of the first time Lennon met Paul McCartney, through a mutual friend, and how McCartney, and later George Harrison were incorporated into Lennon's first band The Quarrymen.
For me, my enjoyment of the movie was marred somewhat by the lack of subtitles and with the thick British accents it was difficult for me to make everything out. Overall though, this doc, directed by Roger Appleton, is a most interesting look at the early years of John Lennon, whose genius and talent I've respected since I was a teenager.
Fast Color (2018)
Offers a Fresh & Original Take on the Superpowers Theme
This slowly unfolding dystopian film offers a fresh and original take on the superpowers theme. But you'll need patience, as this is more of a quiet and cerebral film than the usual action laced type movie in this genre.
Fine performances here from Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Lorraine Toussaint as two women who have been gifted with the supernatural abilities, as part of a generational line of women in their family. But in a world which has had no rainfall for 8 years and is dying out, and where Federal Agents fear what these abilities can do, there may be no safe place for them.
Although I thought some of the elements here were nonsensical, once it all started coming together I found it quite engaging and interesting, and, as mentioned, offered a different slant on this type of movie.