Category Archives: Drama

Phoenix

Bill I’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Really well done “thriller”, with no screen violence, but an atmosphere of distrust, guilt, remembrance, in Berlin in the immediate aftermath of WWII. You see the ruins of buildings everywhere as folks make their way in their daily life, with American troops controlling key check points on the roads. We follow Nelly, a survivor of a German “camp” as she get her horrific facial injuries healed, and emerges with a new face, and a frightened, hesitant personality.  Her close friend is there to help re-integrate her into society, and pushes her to move to the new Jewish enclave in Palestine, where they can live without the fear of being targeted. Nelly is not interested in that, in fact says she’s not Jewish, but is obsessed at finding her husband. She does find him, but he doesn’t recognize her, and there the plot gets complicated and interesting. How she interacts with him, even after her friend says he set her up (and who amongst her friends betrayed her) to be arrested by the Nazis, is the mystery and how she unveils her true self is the thrilling part. My mother was puzzled by the ending but I thought it was pretty clear. See this movie and I’d be interested in hearing your perspective.

Bill C’s Rating – 3 out of 5

I liked this film as well.  The atmosphere of post WWII Berlin is well done.  The plot has some good twists (although I wasn’t sure what happened with Nelly’s friend was needed) and the acting is first rate.  As for the ending, I thought it was perfectly clear from Nelly’s perspective but Johnny’s emotions  at the end were ambiguous (to me anyway).

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The Gift

Bill I’s Rating – 4 out of 5

Prepare to be tense this whole movie, waiting to see what Gordy, the creepy old high school classmate of Simon, has in mind with his escalating, and weird, kindness and yes, gifts, to Simon and his wife, Robyn. The attractive and upwardly mobile couple has just moved into a cool house near Simon’s hometown and run into Gordy, who seems real nice, until the creepiness signals start to emerge. Joel Edgerton is superb as Gordy, and Jason Bateman does a wonderful job portraying the multi-layered Simon. I have always enjoyed watching Bateman, usually in comedies and playing some variance of the same personality, sardonic, quick witted, and besieged by events out of his control. Quite a different character here though. And Rebecca Hall is perfect as the quiet, nice, sensitive wife with some secrets of her own. I won’t write any more of the plot. See this movie if you like well done building up of suspense. Negative spoiler alert: no blood and guts in evidence, so you can enjoy the mind games without worrying about being grossed out.

Bill C’s Rating – 4 out of 5

As Bill says, The Gift is a smart thriller with lots of twists and turns that continue until the very end and leave  you on the edge of your seats.

Not only is Joel Edgerton fine as Gordy, but he also wrote the screenplay and makes his feature directorial debut with this film.  This is the first time I’ve really taken notice of him as an actor, but he has a ton of credits.  In this role, the creepiness just oozes out of him.

If you like Hitchcockian-type films, definitely try to see this one.

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Mr. Holmes

Bill I’s Rating – 4 out of 5

Wonderful film, beautiful cinematography, incredible acting job by all, especially Ian McKellen as the 93 year old Sherlock, who’s been retired in self-exile in his country house, with just a sullen housekeeper (Laura Linney) and her inquisitive son, Roger. The story unfolds slowly, like a puzzle the pieces are uncovered via flashbacks. There’s fun in seeing the “real life” Holmes deal with his celebrity, and fans expectations of the pipe, the hat, etc. I won’t give away any of the plot, but I highly recommend it.

Bill C’s Rating – 3.5 out of 5

Bill’s review is spot on.  I think I rated it a little lower due to the slowness Bill mentions, especially in the middle.  I liked the way multiple subplots unfolded – the main case, Holmes friendship with the boy and relationship with the housekeeper,  a trip he had just returned from to Japan and his dealing with aging and some of his imperfections.

If you’re in the mood for an arthouse film amid all the action films this is a good choice.

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Southpaw

Bill I’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

Jake Gyllenhaal is tremendous as the boxer who becomes champion, (spoiler alert) loses his title, then (not much of a spoiler) tries to regain it. His body and fighting are super realistic, in fact, he’s probably in better shape than most professional fighters. The story is nothing groundbreaking, but it’s executed very well. I enjoyed seeing 50 cent as a dapper fight promoter; pay attention to his fake smile. Wonder who he is channeling, maybe every boxing promoter ever? Rachel McAdams is terrific as well as the girl playing their daughter.  And Forest Whitaker, while playing a cliche, is excellent. I can’t help but compare this to The Fighter, where Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg and Amy Adams hit it out of the park (or should I say hit a knockout punch), and this film clearly falls short in every aspect. But enjoyable and I recommend it. Just a little warning: this is not a fun film, it’s intense, touching, and quite a downer in places.

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Yikes—what a transformation for Jake Gyllenhaal from Night Crawler to Southpaw.  It makes me want to hit the weight room (but I think I’d need to give up M&Ms and more, and even then, let’s face it, there’s no hope for a six pack for me).  But, in both films he gives great performances as do the rest of the supporting cast.

The fight sequences are great, too, if you like that sort of thing.   Although whenever I watch these (think Rocky films), I always think that in real life they would have stopped the fight about 10 times.  For another great boxing scene, see the youtube clip with Charlie Chaplin from City Lights below, even if you don’t like boxing.

While I liked the film overall, as Bill points out, they do squeeze about every boxing film cliche into this film as possible. (I’ve also included a link to a list of over 200 boxing films below, so there are quite a few that have developed over the years). Per the required boxing cliche,  Gyllenhaal has to hit rock bottom before his quest for redemption can begin. Just when you think he’s as low as he can go,  the film reaches new heights of lowness (is that possible?), hence Bill’s downer statement.

But if you like boxing films or want to see Jake Gyllenhaal’s six pack, see this movie.  And, then in the fall, we get to see an appearance by Rocky again (as a trainer) in Creed .

Charlie Chaplin Boxing Scene From City Lights

List of Boxing Films In Wikipedia

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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

If you’re tired of action films this summer, Me and Earl and The Dying Girl is the film to see.  Greg (Thomas Mann) is a shy/awkward high school senior who spends his time making films with his ‘co-worker’ Earl (RJ Cyler) and trying to stay invisible at school.  When Rachel (Olivia Cooke) is diagnosed with leukemia, Greg’s mom makes him spend time with her even though they are not friends.

This movie is at times very funny and at other times very sad.  This is a coming-of-age story for Greg as his and Rachel’s friendship develops and she helps him come out of  his shell, and he realizes that, while relationships have their risks, they are worth taking.

In addition to the excellent acting by the three young co stars, there is an excellent supporting cast including Nick Offerman and Connie Britton as Greg’s parents and Molly Shannon as Rachel’s mom.

This is also a funny homage to movies. The films that Greg and Earl make are their versions of films that Greg’s father has introduced them to. They are quirky/funny.

This is my favorite movie of the summer so far.

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Dope

Bill C’s Review – 4 out of 5

Dope tells the story of Malcolm and his two nerdy friends (Jib and Diggy) as they navigate their senior year of high school.  They live in the ‘Bottoms’ in Englewood, California.  Both are good students (Malcolm is hoping to get into Harvard), are behind the times as they  love the ‘golden age ‘ of hip-hop (1988-2001), and have their own hip-hop band called Awreeoh (sound it out).  Generally they do not fit in and are bullied.

This is sort of a coming-of-age movie for Malcolm.  He and his  friends attend a party and get involved in things they usually avoid.  They then spend most of the movie trying to extricate themselves from the problems they’ve gotten into.  This is a pretty funny movie (although not all of the bits are successful).

This film isn’t for everyone due to the inner city setting, but I liked it.  If you go, stay through the credits for Malcolm’s dance routine.

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Love & Mercy

Bill C’s Review – 3.5 out of 5

If you’re a fan of The Beach Boys, this is the movie for you!  It’s also good for those just looking for a good drama.  Love & Mercy tells the story of Brian Wilson, the musical genius at two critical junctures of his life.

Paul Dano plays Wilson at his creative peak and the beginning of his emotional issues in the early to mid-60s.  John Cusack plays him in the mid-80s at a low point in his life under the control of a manipulative doctor (played by Paul Giamatti) and separated from his family.

The two eras are cleverly  interwoven and the film does a good job of showing his creative process and the debilitating effects of his mental illness.

Both Dano and Cusack are excellent, as are Giamatti and also  Elizabeth Banks as the woman who tries to rescue him in the 80s.

Of course, the film has great music and packs an emotional wallop.  Today Brian Wilson is on tour (and he and his band put on a great show in Austin this week).

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Mood Indigo

Bill C’s Review – 1 out of 5

Mood Indigo is the latest directorial effort by Michel Gondry, the director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. This is a VERY quirky, special-effect-loaded with romance.  Usually I’m into quirky stuff, but this did not do it for me.

The quirkiness and special effects were interesting at the beginning, but as the movie wore on they became tiresome and distracted from the plot.  Towards the middle, I lost interest and was wishing I had chosen another movie.  The end should have carried an emotional wallop, but due to all the diversions, it came off flat for me.

My guess is there will be lots of folks that love this movie, but I was not one of them. This film is in French with subtitles.

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Boyhood

Boyhood – 4.5 out of 5

I originally reviewed this at SXSW in March.  It is now being released.  So far this is my favorite movie of 2014.

This is a great movie that everyone should see when it comes out in July.  It’s a narrative that took over 12 years to make.  Richard Linklater shot for 3 days every year with the same actors telling the journey of a boy and his family as he grows from 1st grade to his first few days of college.  While Linklater had the basic arc he wanted to follow it’s interesting to watch as he weaves in the cultural events of the time into the story.  And it’s just fascinating to watch as he and his family go through change (including physical changes during those 12 years).  While nothing incredibly exciting is going on plot wise it’s just fascinating to watch.    This also had an excellent cast led by Ethan Hawke (also great in Predestination), Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane (as the boy) and Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) as his sister.

This  movie packs an emotional wallop.

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Locke

Bill C’s Review – 3 out of 5

Locke is  pretty good for a movie that totally takes place during a 90 minute car ride.  Just the lead character (along with  occasional views of the dashboard and road)  is ever on screen as he juggles conversations with his wife, kids, boss, subordinate and others on the phone.

Locke has a great family and career that appear to be crashing down around him as he tries to step up and do what he views as the right  right thing in a tough personal situation.  During the course of the movie you learn about  events in his past and present that drive him as well as get to know the people he is dealing with.

The writing and acting are excellent.  Tom Hardy does a great job as Ivan Locke.  I never would have guessed he was the same actor that played Bane in the last Batman movie.

For a movie with such a simple premise and setting  this turned out to be a tension filled movie with a performance that was definitely worth watching.

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