Fellow Movie Buffs

Monday, April 19, 2021

"Malcolm & Marie"

 2021 1h 46min Starring John David Washington and Zendaya

This film could easily have been titled "Night of the Livid Rant". A filmmaker and his girlfriend return home from the premier of his latest movie. Thus begins a whole night of alcohol-fueled  observations and diatribes. The topics cover everything from film critics and their erudite reviews, race relations, Hollywood, to selfishness and ultimately their own relationship. While Marie lets Malcolm do a majority of the venting, she's a master at responding with the perfect observations, barbs, and witticisms. It's quite a tour de force of acting on both their parts, and while it does get exhausting at times, it's ultimately a rewarding experience. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it was originally staged as a play--it has that vibe to it. 

4 out of 5 stars




Monday, April 12, 2021

"Danny Collins"

Confession: I’m not a huge Al Pacino fan. I think he’s a decent actor, but he seems to play the same role, over and over. So when this movie came out, it wasn’t on my radar. In fact, I didn’t even know it existed until I saw it was a recommendation for me on Kanopy.com. I’m glad I took a chance. In it, Pacino plays Danny Collins, an aging rock star that just won’t give up his drinking, drugs, and womanizing ways. Think Neil Diamond. Actually, he sings one of his huge hits, which shares the melody of “Sweet Caroline.” 

 He gets a letter from John Lennon as a birthday gift. It was in response to a letter he sent Lennon when he was first starting out in the biz, but he never received it. It has a huge effect on him and he decides to change his life. And that includes connecting with a son he’s never actually met. Well, things don’t go according to plan. His grown son (Bobby Cannavale) wants absolutely nothing to do with him. His daughter-in-law, (Jennifer Garner) is a bit more receptive and tries to help them reconnect. 

 

Christopher Plummer plays his agent, and as usual, does a wonderful job. Collins helped him when he was a bottoming out as a raging alcoholic, got him into rehab, and looked after him through the years. The two became life-long pals and business partners. And Annette Benning, playing a hotel manager who is relentlessly wooed by Pacino, is her usual superb self. 

 

The movie is based on a true story. I instinctively guessed it was about Neill Diamond, since they used the music to “Sweet Caroline” to represent his huge hit but I was mistaken. It’s actually the story of Steve Tilston, who I’ve never heard of. Not exactly a household name in the world of rock. But it made for a pretty entertaining movie. 

 

As an aside, I particularly enjoyed the beginning of the movie. A rock magazine writer is interviewing Danny Collins as a young star. I kept looking at the longhaired hippy and thinking his voice sure sounded familiar. It was Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson on Parks & Rec--just about the opposite of a bearded hippy! Too funny. 

4 out of 5 stars




 

Monday, April 5, 2021

"Concrete Cowboy"

When a Black teenager is expelled from school for fighting, his mother takes him to Philadelphia to spend the summer with his father. While there, the young boy, Cole, has some growing up to do. He falls in with a childhood friend who is a drug dealer. His father, who is truly an urban cowboy, wants him to work in the stable and attend to his horses. It's an interesting story, or stories I should say. I had no idea that there was a tradition of Black owned stables within the confines of a major city like Philadelphia. Of course, with urban renewal and gentrification, there's a battle brewing between the Black horse owners and the developers, itching to make a buck. Overall, I enjoyed the movie, however I thought the filmmaker couldn't make up his mimd what story he wanted to follow. I think it would have been a stronger film with one storyline instead of two. 

3 out of 5 stars



Sunday, March 28, 2021

"The Kindness of Strangers"


2020 1h 52 min  Streaming on Kanopy

Let me preface this review by saying I haven’t seen a movie this wonderful in ages. That said, how could a movie titled “The Kindness of Strangers” not be charming? It stars Zoe Kazan, Tahar Rahim, Bill Nighy and a few other lesser-known actors. It opens with a mom and her two children against the backdrop of a spectacular view of Manhattan. They’re there ostensibly on vacation. However, we quickly learn they’re escaping an abusive dad, who happens to be a cop. We then encounter several other characters that are dealing with various personal problems of their own. Serendipity is the underlying theme here, as their lives intersect in mutually beneficial ways. I enjoyed everything about this film. It’s rare when great writing, natural acting, and remarkable cinematography converge in a movie. I just wish there were more movies like this being made. It almost seems like something from the Golden Age of movies. The films of Frank Capra come to mind. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And if you happen to know of any other films like this one, please let me know!

5 out of 5 stars



 

 

 

Monday, March 22, 2021

"Peppermint"

 Every once in a while, I'm up for a good revenge movie. And this one was pretty satisfying. It stars Jennifer Garner, who usually stars in lighter romcoms, so I was surprised to see her take on a role like this. But she did a credible job playing a badass, I must say. When her husband and young daughter are brutally murdered by a drug cartel, she's out to get even. She goes off the grid for five years, to train for her mission. And she comes back with a vengeance, aiming to knock off anyone remotely related to the death of her family. She amasses an over-the-top arsenal, but when that's seized, she uses her physical strength and wits to carry out her revenge. As you'd expect, things get bloody. So if you're at all squeamish, you may want to take a pass. I found myself totally on her side, rooting for her every time she went after someone on her hit list. 

3.5 out of 5 stars 



Sunday, March 14, 2021

"Snowden"

I only knew peripherally about the case of Edward Snowden while it was occurring. I just knew that many folks were passionate about their opinion of him. While my wife thought he was a trailer, my father regarded him as a hero. In this film, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Shailene Woodley, Zachary Quinto and others, we witness all the events that led up to his whistle blowing. It's a tense drama that beautifully (I use this term loosely), unfolds. We witness a young man who truly loves his country become disillusioned with the overreaching surveillance our government is engaged in. The film jumps back and forth in time to great effect. I had mixed feelings before seeing "Snowden" but by the time it was over I wanted to tell everyone who had negative feelings about him to "just see the movie!" It sure made a believer out of me. 

4 out of 5 stars




Monday, March 8, 2021

"Captain Fantastic"

Based on its title, you'd think this was a movie from the Marvel Comic universe you'd never heard of. It's far from it. Viggo Mortensen plays a middle-age hippie who's raising his family off the grid. somewhere in the Pacific Northwest. He's training them survival techniques while giving them a home education that's light years ahead of anything they'd get in a conventional school system. When he learns that his institutionalized wife has committed suicide, he has to decide whether to attend her funeral in New Mexico or not. After he's warned by his father-in-law (Frank Langella), that he's not welcome, he opts to make the trek. This film is much more than a fun road trip adventure. It's about relationships, redemption, being true to one's self, and much more. As an aging hippie myself, I could totally relate to the lead character. And I enjoyed it so much, when it ended, I was tempted to start it over again. As a bonus, much of the soundtrack featured music from one of my favorite groups, Sigur Ros. My only beef is with the title. But after ruminating on it for a while I decided, what else could it be called?! 

5 out of 5 stars