Category Archives: drama

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.

Remember

Remember_3D_BD_OcardThis is a gem of a movie directed by Oscar nominee Aton Egoyan and written for the screen by Benjamin August, stars two very talented, Oscar-winning actors Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau.

I must digress and tell you I saw Plummer perform his one-man play about the late John Barrymore. I was fortunate to meet the playwright of Barrymore as well. I am compelled to praise Plummer’s performance and the play.

Remember is a story about very dark truths, lying just under the skin is the truth that comes to light when you least expect it. The movie is an intense thriller, and I was fortunate to see it on Blu-ray. We follow Zev, played brilliantly by Plummer, who has dementia and is recently widowed. He is a Holocaust survivor and will stop at nothing to get justice for his family. Being an Auschwitz survivor and with the aid of a friend, played by Landau, they discover that the Nazi guard who murdered both their families some seventy years ago is living in America under an assumed identity. Zev sets out on a gripping journey that tests both his will and his fading memory as it brings him closer to the retribution he seeks.

The movie has several memorable scenes. One is with the State Troop, son of a Nazi, with a German Shepard that Zev visits looking for the Nazi guard. Dean Norris plays the State Troop with such a gripping edge. I was so afraid for Zev. I was literally on the edge of my couch telling my husband, “This is such a good movie…”

The supporting cast is priceless including two talented child actors, Peter DaCunha, and Sofia Wells, offering the innocence of people unsuspecting the horrors of Holocaust.

The ending is so good and meaningful, which makes me wonder. For some perhaps, dementia or forgetting is just a way to protect those from transgressions who care not to reveal to themselves and others.

I applaud Egoyan, Plummer and Landau, great story and great performances.

The Blu-ray features an Audio Commentary with Director Atom Egoyan, Producer Robert Lantos & Writer Benjamin August. It also includes “Performances to Remember” Featurette and “A Tapestry of Evil: Remembering the Past” Featurette.

Sniper: Special Ops

sniperDirected by Fred Olen Ray, who is known for directing awful T and A movies, takes on Sniper: Special Ops with Steven Seagal.  The combination speaks cheesy to the third degree unless you are a devote Seagal fan.

The story is about a Special Ops Military Force, led by Sergeant Vic Mosby, played by Tim Abell, with a proficient sniper Sergeant Jake Chandler, played by Seagal, who watches over as the sniper. They go on a special mission to an isolated Afghan village. Once at the village, they extract an American Congressman being held by the Taliban. The rescue mission is a success, but Jake gets caught up in a firefight with the enemy and is separated from the mission and decides to stay back in order to help an injured soldier.

Sergeant Mosby distraughtly fails to convince Lieutenant Colonel Jackson, played by Dale Dye, to allow him and his team to go back and save the soldiers. Instead, he is commanded to take on a new mission that will retrieve a truckload of munitions. The munitions are vital for the military base, but Mosby doesn’t follow orders. He and his Special Ops Team head back to the village and rescue the abandoned soldiers. Outnumbered and outgunned, Vic and his men engage in a massive shootout against the enemy while Jake uses his proficient skills to help save them all from undeniable death.

Clearly, Abell has the bigger role compared to Seagal. With that, the movie authenticity is nowhere to be found with an army not wearing helmets in a war zone, including utter disrespect for military dress code. The story is predictable with cliché after cliché, and Pro Wrestler Rob Van Dam has a minor role.

The other problem with the movie is the director or lack of directing, depending on how you want to view it.  But, like I said if you are a devote Seagal fan you will want to see this movie because he is in it. That is about as good as it gets.