Category Archives: drama

Cannes Festival Winner: The Square an Elegant Satire

Directed by Ruben Ostlund, The Square is 2017 Cannes Film Festival – Winner: Palme d’Or. The movie follows Christian, played dynamically and heartfelt by Claes Bang, who is the esteemed curator of a contemporary art museum. He is a divorced but devoted father of two girls and drives an electric car. He also supports good causes but there is an edge to him. His actions at times contradict his devotion. For example, he turns away homeless people or refuses to help a boy who is falsely in trouble with his parent’s cause by Christian’s attempt to recover his stolen wallet and cellphone. In all, the movie is a satire and a drama pointing out flaws of society’s inability to help and trust each other.

Christian’s next show at the museum is “The Square”, an installation which invites passersby to altruism, reminding them of their role as responsible fellow human beings. But sometimes, it is difficult to live up to your own ideals. Ostlund points out in a recent media statement, “…The Square is a drama/satire. I wanted to make an elegant movie, with visual and rhetorical devices to provoke and entertain viewers. Thematically the film moves between topics such as responsibility and trust, rich and poor, power and powerlessness. The growing beliefs in the individual and the declining beliefs in the community. The distrust of the state, in media and in art.”

Christian’s foolish response to the theft of his phone drags him into shameful situations that are a bit drawn out for my tastes, but I understand the director’s point. Bang takes this role and owns it. He conveys the push and pulls off what he wants to do and what he should do.

Meanwhile, the museum’s PR agency has created an unexpected campaign for “The Square”. The response is overblown and sends Christian, as well as the museum, into an existential crisis. I question the crisis in the story because the PR agency generates enough free publicity and social media trends that the art piece and museum will flourish.

Elisabeth Moss of The Handmaid’s Tale has a supporting role in the movie where she and Bang play off each other brilliantly and it is fun to watch. Her comedic timing cinches the point it is a satire. It is obvious why Moss’ career is taking off like a rocket in the stars. She is just too fun to watch.

So much happens in this movie and there are moments where my shadow of disbelief lifts because of the crazy situations like a man being an ape as an art piece. Silly.  I am sure some will find it funny, which make this movie so good.

The DVD comes with some bonus features like the trailer and casting clips, disappointingly Moss’ casting clip is not in the bunch.

The movie’s title comes from the name of a project that was first exhibited in the fall of 2014 at the Vandalorum Museum in the South of Sweden. The exhibition representing the ideal of consensus that should govern society as a whole for the greater good. The project became a permanent installation on the city of Värnamo’s central square. If someone is standing in Värnamo’s led-light version of a square, it is one’s duty to act and react if one needs help.

The movie is in Swedish with English and Spanish subtitles, though English is sometimes spoken in certain scenes. Hopefully, viewers leave the movie with a more understanding of how help is important and one should trust others more so there will be peace on Earth.

 

James Patterson’s Zoo: Third & Last Season

Zoo: Third Season from CBS is the last season for the drama series based on the novel written by James Patterson and Michael Ledwige.  The story takes a jump forward and is set 10 years after the animals were cured and humanity was left sterile.

The season follows Abraham, played by Nonso Anozie, who is now a doctor and is helping Clementine, played by Gracie Dzienny, find her father Mitch, played by Billy Burke. The huge plot point is Mitch is being held in suspended animation in a secretive location.

The year is now 2027 and the world has reached a tipping point. The human population continues to dwindle due to a sterility problem and devastating threat rises in the form of the hybrids. These hybrids are an army of unstoppable lab-made creatures who are hell-bent on destroying mankind. Although the team has become estranged over the past decade, they are forced to overcome their differences and reunite when they learn that Mitch is alive. As the planet’s future hangs in the balance, the team must race to stop the hybrids and their creator – a shadowy figure with a startling connection to the team’s past.

Another change of events is Jamie, played by Kristen Connolly, is now a successful author trying to find “The Falco” and what is left of the Shepherds. Still, there is Jackson, played by James Wolk, and Logan, played by Josh Salatin. Both are trying to hold the hybrids at bay. As I went through the DVS I discovered that all the characters work super hard to overpower and wipe out the hybrids. At the same time, they are an urgency to find a cure for sterility.

The third season DVD arrives with deleted scenes and a gag reel that complements the whole package as the final season of a series that started off like a rocket ride and slowly fizzled as the storyline became scattered.

Person to Person

Directed by Dustin Guy Defa, Person to Person follows several New Yorkers while we are haphazardly introduced to them with strings of delicious scenes any acting student would cherish as a scene study project.

I offer accolades to the actors in this movie because they drive the well-scripted movie. Whether the audience will get the overall storyline is iffy. The eclectic scenes bespoke a record collector who hustles for a big score while his heartbroken roommate tries to erase a terrible mistake, a teenager, played by Tavi Gevinson, bears witness to her best friend’s, played by Olivia Luccardi, new relationship, and a rookie reporter, played by Abbi Jacobson, alongside her ultra-demanding supervisor, played by Michael Cera, chases the clues of a murder case involving a life-weary clock shop owner.

The movie was shot entirely in 16mm, which adds a nostalgic look to New York City, but I am sure it was bumped up for presentation purposes but haven’t verified it yet.

Seeing Cera as a metal-head boss working the beat is unique because I have only seen him in more passive roles. Check out this clip and you will see what I mean.

The soundtrack is just as much a part of the movie as the characters and city. I heard some indistinct R&B and familiar songs with Shirley Ann Lee’s “Time,” Greenflow’s “I Got’cha,” and the Volumes’ “I’m Gonna Miss You.”

Another way to describe this film is that it reminds me of Woody Allen’s work because of the defined scenes that naturally edifies its characters, summoning a heartfelt truth in each performance.

The Beguiled

Directed by Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), The Beguiled is billed as a seductive thriller. Winner of the Best Director award for Coppola at the 2017 Cannes International Film Festival, the movie is based on the novel and 1971 movie of the same title starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page.

The dark lighting, intense undercurrents, authentic costumes, and scenery set the story as a historical thriller. The exceptional performances include Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning.

The story progresses slowly during the Civil War at a Southern girls’ boarding school. One of the 12-year old girls out picking mushrooms discovers an injured enemy soldier, played by Farrell. While he is nursed back to health, the boarding school provides refuge as well. Kirsten Dunst the teacher, Nicole Kidman the headmistress, and Elle Fanning one of the girls, portray southern women who struggle with decorum and visceral desires with the soldier. The soldier slowly becomes intimate with each of the three women, and a sexual tension escalates bringing about an overwhelming rivalry that becomes very dangerous for the soldier.

As mentioned, the story is slow, and some viewers may walk away wondering how a group of women can lose their senses with only one man in their circle.

The soldier’s outcome is not surprising and seems fitting for the circumstances.

Coppola created an authentic setting with costumes, art design, production sets, and music.

The Blu-ray comes with exclusive featurettes taking viewers behind the scenes and exploring Sofia Coppola’s unique vision.

Some of the Features:

A Shift in Perspective -Filmmakers and cast discuss how this version of The Beguiled is a departure from the novel of the same name and its earlier film adaptation. Screenwriter/director Sofia Coppola describes how the talented cast helped bring her vision to life.

A Southern Style – Discover how costumes, hair, and many other elements came together to create an immersive experience not only for the audience but also for the actors.

2:22

Directed by Paul Currie and starring Michiel Huisman, Teresa Palmer, and Sam Reid, the movie follows air traffic controller Dylan Branson, played by Huisman, where two planes almost collide after a blinding flash of light paralyzes him for a few seconds.

As a result, Branson is suspended from his job, and he becomes cognitive of repetition of sounds and events in his life at exactly the same time every day. Guess what time that is? The title of the movie, 2:22.

The underlying pattern soon builds and draws him New York’s Grand Central Station daily at 2:22 p.m. He meets up with a woman who works in an art gallery, Sarah, played by Palmer, disturbingly complicated by her ex-boyfriend Jonas, played by Reid. Still, Dylan must break the power of the past, and take control of time itself.

Every day, on the main concourse of Grand Central Terminal, Branson sees a businessman at the ticket counter reading a newspaper, a couple kissing, six school children, and a pregnant woman standing under the famous clock. It’s not always the same businessman, but it’s always the same pattern.

Earlier in the day – other patterns play out and haunt Dylan – a plane flies overhead, glass shatters, car screeches. It becomes clear to Dylan, and to Dylan alone, that these supposed random series of events, in this busy, noisy city, are not so random.

This is the enigma of 2:22.

How this movie plays out is crucial to whether or not the movie will be enjoyed, and Currie describes it best, “2:22 is about the fear of love. It’s also about the past that can secretly haunt us all. It’s a story about a guy who is trying to protect his girl at all costs, against time itself. Time is both Dylan’s ally and his enemy.”

The movie isn’t perfect and some may find it hard to enjoy, but it is a good attempt at a complex topic about taking control of time both the past and the future.

A Kind of Murder

Directed by Andy Goddard, who spent quality time directing Downton Abby episodes, A Kind of Murder follows an obsessed crime novelist, played by Patrick Wilson, who is married to a suicidal wife, played by Jessica Biel. The movie is suspenseful, fascinating along with a captivating storyline that includes twists and turns like an old-fashion movie.

With such a talented cast, I was surprised that the movie’s tempo was slow and not as engaging as it could have been like the novel the movie is based. The novel by Patricia Highsmith, who also wrote other popular psychological thrillers such as Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley.

The movie follows a crime novelist obsessed with an unsolved murder case begins to fantasize about committing a crime of his own. His marriage is an unhappy one, and his desire to be free from his beautiful but damaged wife becomes an obsession. But when his wife is found dead the lines blur between innocence and intent, forcing the question who, in fact, is the real killer?

The movie is a thriller and has a story that should be engaging, but somehow it fell flat in the third act.

In Order of Disappearance

Directed by Hans Petter Moland and The New York Times critics’ pick, In Order of Disappearance stars Stellan Skarsgard, Pal Sverre Hagen and Bruno Ganz. The movie is filled with action and is constantly moving as a diehard thriller. The movie follows an honorable citizen, Nils, played by Skarsgard. He uncovers evidence that his son was murdered and a victim in a turf war between the local crime boss and his Serbian rivals. Following his discovery, Nils embarks on a quest for revenge.

The movie is very good because Nil is a fish out of the water. Introverted and hard-working snowplow driver Nils has just been named “Citizen of the Year.” When he receives news that his son has died of a heroin overdose, nothing seems to make sense.

Disbelieving the official report, Nils quickly uncovers evidence of the young man’s murder – a victim in a turf war between the local crime boss, known as “The Count”, and his Serbian rivals.

Armed with heavy machinery and a good amount of beginner’s godsend, Nils embarks upon a quest for revenge that soon escalates into a full-blown underworld gang war, with the body count spiraling ever higher and higher.

The movie is a rocket ride and hilarious in a very dark way. Skarsgard makes the movie great, and I have a fun time watching it.

The Great Gilly Hopkins

Directed by Stephen Herek, The Great Gilly Hopkins, is an inspiring film the whole family can enjoy. A true classic story that will capture anyone’s heart. The cast alone is worth renting or buying the movie including Kathy Bates, Octavia Spencer, Glenn Close. These talented women bring so much life to the classic young-adult novel by Katherine Paterson, who also wrote Bridge to Terabithia.

This great tale won the Truly Moving Picture award at the 2016 Heartland Film Festival. The story is about real, emotional, funny and captivating scenes featuring Sophie Nélisse, who was unforgettable in The Book Thief.  She brings her same talent to this adorable movie, which also stars Julia Stiles, who plays Gilly’s mother.

The story follows Gilly as a coming-of-age story about one girl discovering what a family really can be. We met the feisty and headstrong Gilly Hopkins where she has made a name for herself in the foster system. She outwits family after family in hopes of being reunited with her birth mother.

In a comical effort to escape her newest home and overly affectionate foster mother, Mamie Trotter, played by Bates, the young girl devises a scheme she believes will send her mother running to the rescue. When her grand plan backfires, Gilly realizes she may have been wrong about everything in her search to find where she belongs.

The movie brings up questions like “What is a family?” “What is family love?”

I was touch by this film because it holds life lessons with an impressive cast from a charmingly written novel. It all comes to life with a perfect mix of characters. I laughed, cried, and loved it.

Little Men

Directed by Ira Sachs, Little Men stars Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Ehle, Paulina García, and Alfred Molina. The movie is an in-depth look at the innocence of young relationships and the inevitable evolution of human connections.

The riveting drama delivers a heartfelt narrative through Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri as Jake Jardine and Tony Calvelli in their unforgettable performances, truly make the movie worthwhile to watch.

When a 13-year-old, played by Taplitz, grandfather dies, Jake’s family moves from Manhattan back into his father’s Brooklyn home. There, Jake befriends the charismatic Tony, played by Barbieri, whose single, Chilean mother Leonor, played by Garcia, runs the dress shop downstairs.

Jake’s parents Brian, played by Kinnear, and Kathy, played by Ehle, ask Leonor to pay a higher rent and a feud ignites between the adults. The boys take an oath of silence against their parents in protest. From there the story is endearing. Sachs coats the movie with humanism and insight, as the story is about life-defining friendship amid family turmoil.

An interesting aspect of the story is Jake’s father, Brian, when he learns that his late father’s a small business was not profitable. He can’t continue the same business practice. As a result, there is deep-rooted tension with him and the owner of the business that is renting from him. The fact that his son is best friends with the owner’s son is even more intense.

This story is true and could happen to anyone. Thus, it will make viewers think about morality or what is right or wrong when it comes to making a living and surviving. A smart business person would raise the rent because why suffer.

Still, the whole story of the adult’s and the kid’s relationships are real and honestly looked at as the characters come to terms with the situation.

The movie needs more upbeat moments to appreciate the low points in the movie. Too much angst and not enough smiles and joy.  The abrupt ending could have played out a bit more with the whole story coming to a happy ending.

The two young boys are amazing on screen and worth watching if you want to see some fine talent.

Manchester by the Sea Featurette

Directed by Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea follows the life of a solitary Boston janitor, played by Casey Affleck. He is transformed when he returns to his hometown to take care of his teenage nephew. The story of the Chandlers, a working-class family living in a Massachusetts fishing village for generations, is winning awards and with much anticipation for an Oscar nod.  The movie is a deeply poignant, unexpectedly funny exploration of the power of familial love, community, sacrifice and hope.

manchester-by-the-sea-postAfter the death of his older brother Joe, played by Kyle Chandler, Chandler is shocked to learn that Joe has made him sole guardian of his nephew Patrick, played by Lucas Hedges. Taking leave of his job, Lee reluctantly returns to Manchester-by-the-Sea to care for Patrick, a spirited 15-year-old and is forced to deal with the past that separated him from his wife Randi, played by Michelle Williams, and the community where he was born and raised. Bonded by the man who held their family together, Lee and Patrick struggle to adjust to the world without him.

In his first film since 2011’s acclaimed Margaret, Lonergan once again proves himself a powerful and visionary storyteller as he seamlessly weaves past and present together, crafting a tension-filled tale that deftly eschews sentimentality in favor of penetrating emotional insight and deeply affecting human relationships.