Category Archives: drama

Jackie: Official Trailer

Directed by Pablo Larraín, Jackie is another look at the Kennedy tragedy. How many times can Hollywood tell this story? Which angle of the lens are we seeing the Kennedy lineage this time? Fortunately, Natalie Portman is playing the role of Jackie Onassis Kennedy. It appears in this trailer that we will, once again, relive one of the most important and tragic moments in American history.

The movie follows First Lady, then Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy and places us in her world during the days immediately following her husband’s assassination. Known for her extraordinary dignity and poise, here we see a spiritual portrait of the First Lady as she struggles to maintain her husband’s legacy and the world of “Camelot” that they created and loved so well.

Jackie nabbed several Independent Spirit Awards nominations for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Female Lead (Portman).

The Last King

the-last-king_rgb-3d-blurayThe Last King, directed by Oscar-nominated director Nils Gaup, follows an arduous and awe-inspiring journey through the snow-covered Norwegian mountains. Starring Jakob Oftebro and Kristofer Hivju (Game of Thrones), surprisingly, the movie turned out to be a great adventure story. With some awesome downhill, to die for, skiing stunts, so exhilarating. I totally enjoyed it.  The story has everything from action and drama to love and revenge.

The fact that this movie is based on true events intrigued me even more. It takes place in 1204 when the Norway had been in the middle of a civil war for decades because of a battle for the throne between the Norwegian King Håkon, son of legendary King Sverre of Norway, and the Church’s Bishop henchmen.

The King, on his deathbed after falling ill from a failed coup, soon welcomes a son, born in secrecy, with a woman named Inga of Varteig and that he is the heir to the throne. Yet, half the Kingdom wants the baby dead.

To shield their newborn King from those looking to end the family bloodline, two Birch Leg warriors, Torstein, played by Hivju, and Skjervald, played by Oftebro, make the arduous journey across the snow-covered terrain to return him and his mother safely to the kingdom.

For the life of me, I didn’t know what a “Birch Leg” was until I saw this movie. The birkebeinerne or “Birch Legs” (basically are the King’s men) who fought to protect him from the Baglers, an opposing party, supporting the Bishop of course, that wanted him dead and his bloodline ended.

The movie is not English and has subtitles, but after ten minutes into the movie. I didn’t notice the subtitles. The story captured my attention with the time period and the culture. The realistic battles and beautiful scenery of snow-covered trees and mountains and the Northern Lights filmed by Peter Mokrosinski stimulated my interest in finding out if the baby King will make it back and save the country.

With that, the history of this story is amazing because of what this baby represented for Norway. The movie is about the fierce fight that saved the life of the young child who was heir to the throne. He eventually ascended at the age of 13 and reigned for 46 years. It was a peaceful reign that united the country.

Games of Thrones fans will be happy to view this movie because both Oftebro and Hivju are believable warriors. They have a strong bond and also hold a strong sense of honor in protecting the baby. The rest of the cast complemented the story and made it richer in content. It’s a gem of a movie and worth watching.

Sunset Song

sunsetsongSunset Song, directed by Terence Davies, follows Chris Guthrie, played steadily by Agyness Deyn, beginning with her in school, where she and her classmates are struggling in a French language class. Soon she meanders along as we get know her family, clearly, a struggle with her beloved mom, played heart-wrenchingly by Daniela Nardini, and her grumpy dad, played solidly by Peter Mullan.

Patently, her mother is not in a nurturing relationship, and her father is abusive with her and his eldest son, Will, played to the hilt by Jack Greenlees. Will longs to leave home because he is fed up with being abused and bossed around by his dad.  The movie meanders more with beautiful scenes of the Scottish land while Chris suffers through hardships. But, she is strong and gets through each poignant moment because the land she lives on never oppressions her and is always there supporting her no matter what tragedy she goes through.

Having Scottish decedents, I wanted to see this movie set in Scotland during the turn of the century and in the shadow of World War I. Sunset Song is the coming of age story of Chris as we follow her through personal hardships. Eventually, Chris is left alone to tend to the family farm and fend for herself against their abusive father, who eventually dies. Believing she finally found happiness, Chris marries Ewan, played intuitively by Kevin Guthrie, who enlists in the army to fight in The Great War, leaving Chris to tend to the family farm by herself. Ewan returns on leave and the brief reunion is not romantic but coarse and hard to bear. Yet, Chris stays strong and tends the farm after Ewan goes back to the front lines in France.

A tale of steadfast resilience in the face of overwhelming adversity. Yet, the meandering feel of the movie is the irony to the story. Such tranquility in the land but harsh injustice in society. Davies direction pulls it off well.

With cinematography by Michael McDonough, the movie looks more than just visually appealing from start to finish. McDonough captures the tone and era along with the heartache and loss of The Great War.

The movie is based on one of Scotland’s most cherished and notable novels in the last century.  A look at six years in the life of a peasant farm family before and just after the bloodshed of World War I. Life was severe, markedly for the women, who had no control over their destiny. The movie is worth seeing if you want an honest Scottish story that wanders incrementally from hardship to hardship.  The dialogue is totally Scottish, so switch on the English subtitles if it bothers you or just set back and enjoy the movie.

High-Rise

high-riseHigh-Rise, from genre-bending director Ben Wheatley, is an attempt to adapt the classic J.G. Ballard novel of the same name with a brilliant and talented cast including Tom Hiddleston, Oscar winner Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans and Golden Globe winner Elisabeth Moss. If you watch the movie knowing it is dark satire, then you might not have a problem watching this movie. It is boring at times because the pacing is off, but the acting is what saves the movie.

But the message is clear and just as poignant today as it follows the inevitable result of a breakdown of social strata and public decorum, known as class warfare. The classic book is a dystopia with a very strong message, but the movie doesn’t even come near to the heart of the book.

Dr. Robert Laing, played pretty solid by Hiddleston, recently moved into a luxury, high-rise apartment building designed by the enigmatic Mr. Royal, played by Irons. With a literal divide of the classes, the wealthiest residents live on the upper floors with the best amenities while residents on the lower floors experience routine blackouts and other disruptions of basic services. As additional flaws in the building begin to emerge, both physically and socially, the lower floor residents revolt, turning the building into a battlefield for an all-out class warfare.

I wanted the movie to be good and worth seeing because the Ballard’s book tells a great story and the actors are really good. Yet, the script and editing could be tighter. It just dragged on and on with no reason.

The Blu-ray comes with some bonus features that includes a commentary from Tom Hiddleston, Ben Wheatley and Producer Jeremy Thomas, an in-depth look at adapting the beloved novel from the page to the screen, a look at the acclaimed film’s 70s set design, special effects, and more.

My Golden Days

MGD Train Kiss SceneDirected by Arnaud Desplechin, My Golden Days is a French film that is a masterpiece.  The movie follows Paul Dedalus played by Mathieu Amalric, who is brilliant in The Grand Budapest Hotel and is best known for playing the villain in James Bond’s Quantum of Solace.

In My Golden Days, Amalric reprises the role from Desplechin’s My Sex Life…Or How I Got into an Argument to which he experiences a series of flashbacks – most notably on his first heart-wrenching love affair.

Desplechin next installment is a series of flashbacks as well as the story follows Paul’s flashbacks as a younger Paul, play innocently by Quentin Dolmaire, and Esther, played compellingly by Lou Roy-LeCollinet, who received a Cesar nomination. Both deliver stunning performances in their first film debut.

My Golden Days reflects on the seemingly unforgettable romance shared between the two young lovers as they attempt to salvage their relationship despite the distance that keeps them apart as Paul attends University with their shifting circles of friends and betrayal. Although an unlikely pair, both Esther and Paul compensate for one another. It is endearing to watch Esther deliver as the brutally honest, sometimes haughty counterpart, while Paul remains the understanding and forgiving sense of security she’s always sought after. As Paul reflects on his formative years, his emotions run rampant and prove that Esther has left a deep impression on his heart that not even time can erase.

The story is about the older Paul Dédalus, an anthropologist preparing to leave Tajikistan. Reflecting on his life, he has a series of flashbacks starting from his childhood in Roubaix—his mother’s attacks of madness, his father’s alienating depression. He remembers a student trip to the USSR, where a clandestine mission led him to offer up his own identity for a young Russian, whom he considered a phantom twin for the remainder of his life. He remembers University life and returning to his hometown to party with his sister and her best friend, his shifting circle of friends and their casual betrayals. And most of all he remembers Esther, the beautiful, rude, haughty soul, and love of his life.

The special features are worth mentioning and include a discussion with director Arnaud Desplechin, a behind-the-scenes look at the casting session for Paul and Esther, and a sit down with the cast.

International Kissing Day is every July 6th, and My Golden Days may prove to be the best movie to watch on this celebrated day.

Joseph & Mary

JosephandMaryDirected Oscar winner for Best Art Direction-Set Direction (Star Wars) Roger Christian, Joseph & Mary is a compassionate, preponderate and riveting story of the all familiar Bible story. The story follows Elijah, played by Stephen McCarthy, a devout Rabbi, during a time of discontent when King Herod the Great slaughter of innocents claims the lives of two boys Elijah had sworn to protect.  Elijah makes it his life mission to avenge their deaths, but he meets Joseph, played by Kevin Sorbo, Mary, played Lara Jean Chorostecki, and Jesus, played as a young boy by Lucius Hoyos and as a young man by Joseph Mesiano.

Elijah strong desire to revenge the two boys killed by King Herod are put into question. When the time comes for him to face his true enemy, Elijah finds himself wondering if to kill or forgive. Hence, this is a Christian Faith movie that has received the “Faith-Based Seal” by The Dove Foundation.

Elijah is one of the several stories in the movie about meeting Jesus but is the main story line. The acting is very well done and artfully depicts the biblical parents of Jesus as their newborn son helps them inspire faith in unlikely places. The scenes and direction are captivating with mesmerizing scenery, the miraculous journey delivers a powerful message of mercy and forgiveness.

Obvious a low-budget production that is meant to educate and enlighten, the movie is not for everyone because it is written to be shown at all Sunday School classes. The message is strong, offering the idea love your fellow man despite all efforts to do otherwise.

A War

3D_CMYK_AWarBDWrpDirected by Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm, A War begins with company commander Claus M. Pedersen, played by Pilou Asbæk, and his men are stationed in an Afghan province. Meanwhile back in Denmark, Claus’ wife Maria, played by Tuva Novotny is trying to hold everyday life together with a husband at war and three children missing their father. During a routine mission, the soldiers are caught in a heavy crossfire and in order to save his men, Claus makes a decision that has grave consequences for him and his family back home.

Asbæk as Claus is believable and visceral. The commander is an experienced, knowledgeable and admired Danish army officer in charge of a company stationed in a rocky, distant wasteland in Afghanistan. Claus’ orders are to keep the village safe from Taliban attack. The mundane and tedious patrols are edged with the potential for dangerous combats, which places Claus’ company in harm’s way.

Several firefights ensue. Lindholm films them as a vortex with spinning in combat. Such harrowing intensity, I found it worse than the usual blood and guts of other war movies.

One of his men is killed. That is a major turning point in the movie where Claus resolves to forsake his safe commander’s tent and lead the patrols himself.

I rather not go into full details on what happens next in the movie because I don’t want to spoil it for you. I want you to enjoy the movie and see how it all plays out to the end. I will say, what happens to Claus and his family is heart wrenching. War is a terrible commodity that we should never have to endure.  You would think the powers that be would have figured that out by now. Today, there is no need for war.

With that, the movie is great, and rightly so. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Movie, Son of Saul won, but the movie is so good. I am surprised it didn’t win.

Lindholm reaches the audience with realism. He once again employs those who have been closest to the conflict. In A War, he uses Danish soldiers and Taliban warriors, relatives, and refugees, as he strives towards realism.

A Hijacking is another film by Lindholm, also starring Asbæk,  that won quite a few awards, winning a Critics’ Award (Bodil) for Best Danish Film as well as five Danish Academy Awards. He is definitely a filmmaker to watch. I recommend A War.

Standoff

STANDOFF_bdskewWritten and directed by Adam Alleca, Standoff is a pretty good movie and stars Laurence Fishburne and Thomas Jane along with newcomer Ella Ballentine. The movie is an intense action-thriller that grabbed my attention because it bursts with energy and action while it pulses under my skin with twists and turns.

Alleca is the writer of Cell and Delirium, which are pretty good movies, too.  As a director, he delivers the punches about a story of redemption and the need to bond with someone.

Carter, played by Jane, is a troubled veteran, and he achieves his chance at redemption by protecting a 12-year-old girl named Bird from a deadly assassin, played by Fishburne after she witnesses a murder. Holding a shotgun with only a single shell, Jane engages in physical and psychological warfare in a desperate fight for the girl’s life.

Carter and Bird bond really nice as the story arcs, and the ending is worth watching because you might have to watch it three times to really see what happens because it is so strong.

The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music

a life of musicDirected by Ben Verbong, who is both a writer and director of Netherland movies, takes to the hills as they come alive when The von Trapp Family: A Life of Music reveals the incredible real life journey of Agathe von Trapp, played beautifully by Eliza Bennett. The story follows her as she develops her own voice and pursues her musical dreams despite tremendous hardship.

The movie is based on the autobiography “Memories Before and After The Sound of Music.” I did notice some similarities in the famous Rogers and Hammerstein’s The Sound of Music, particularly Agatha’s love interest, music in the family, and the Nazi occupation to the escape from Austria.

I found the movie enjoyable and entertaining following von Trapp family’s incredible journey from the perspective of Agathe, the eldest daughter. As war encroached upon her family and friends, Agathe embarked on an adventure filled with remarkable twists and turns, joys and disappointments. Like The Sound of Music, the struggles and dark times were saved by the grace of music.

For those of you who have seen the movie The Sound of Music, you probably know it is based on the Von Trapp family and their flight from Austria when the Nazis were invading Europe. This particular story is told by Agathe von Trapp, the oldest child, in the Von Trapp family. The movie shows the family with Agathe as a young child and her mother is gravely ill. The mother eventually dies and the captain and his children move to Salzburg, Austria.

The story covers more than a decade from the time Maria enters as the new nanny and marries the captain, the children’s father. Even though, you may think it is like The Sound of Music, not so true because you will witness the story from Agathe’s point of view, where deep feelings and such are expressed. She had real conflicts with her step-mother throughout the movie. Still, love of the family conquers all and we witness their escape from Austria.

The Choice

BD_skew.OCARDNicholas Sparks stories are gentle, slow, and predictable. The Notebook is my eternal favorite because the acting and directing of the movie are brilliant. Starring legends James Garner and Gena Rowland with upstarts Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams, the movie is, also, my daughter’s favorite Sparks movie. With that, I am not a super fan of Sparks, but I am interested in his stories because they are spiritual. Current society at large can sure use some good old fashion spiritual revival.

Directed by Ross Katz, who won awards for producing Lost in Translation and directing and writing Taking Chance, begins The Choice with Travis, played by Benjamin Walker. He meets his match and neighbor, Gabby, played by Teresa Palmer.  She is focused on her medical degree while he likes to charm the ladies.

To say the least, Gabby and Travis ignite on less than friendly terms, but the story languorous around until a spark brings them seriously and hopelessly in love. Knowing Sparks stories, something tragic needs to happen. So tragic and so sad that only the spiritual connection can be its saving grace. It’s a long third act, but well worth the time if you are a devote Sparks fan.

I didn’t read the book, so I am not sure how closely the movie follows the book. I wonder if the book tells us more about Gabby’s family. In the movie, we only get to know Travis’ family, which left an empty spot in the storyline, making it a little too lopsided for a believable and caring movie. I would have liked to have gotten to know Gabby’s family better. Katz easily could have added a few scenes here and there with Gabby’s parents while cutting out some repetitive scenes between Travis and his family.

Tom Wilkinson plays Travis’ father, and he is a joy to watch. He is in the movie quite a bit, which put a smile on my face. Wilkinson can deliver lines like no other, just wonderful.