Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Monday, January 13, 2014


"Another Year" is a strange movie. Written and directed by the much admired Mike Leigh, the film received a number of glowing reviews, yet a quarter way through watching, I wondered what the movie was about. At the end, I asked myself the same question.

Were the names of the two main characters, Tom and Gerri, intentional?  Both Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen play their roles as Tom, a geological engineer, and Gerri, a counsellor, a middle-aged happily married couple, well and naturally, with Broadbent's performance outstanding in excellence. Tom is plainly a nice guy, but Gerri's character is annoying to the point of insufferability, seeming smug, all-knowing, and insular as she observes the disastrous lives surrounding her, even as she offers the characters kindness and hospitality.  Oliver Maltman is very good and natural as their son, Joe.  Tom and Gerri's daughter, mentioned in passing, seems not a steady presence in their lives.

To enjoy a movie, I must first suspend disbelief and accept the characters as real people for the duration, but several of the characters were caricatures who were not at all credible.  I wondered how it was possible for the couple's friend Mary (Lesley Manville), with her
overplayed shrinking, cringing, and gesturing, to ever pull herself together enough to function in her job as a receptionist.  Then there is sad Ken (Peter Wight, also overplaying his role), as their miserably unhappy friend with whom the couple try to link the miserably unhappy Mary, but she's having none of it, and who can blame her?  What a miserably unhappy pair the two would make.

Enter son Joe's long-awaited (by his parents) fiancée, the giggly, squirmy, gesturing Katie (Karina Fernandez), whom both Tom and Gerri agree is lovely and just the girl for Joe.  Please.  To be in the same room with Mary, Katie, and Ken all at once would try my patience to the utmost.  Though it doesn't happen in the film, viewers are painfully subjected to two at a time.

Oh my.  I sound grumpy even to myself, but, in the end, what this viewer is left with are four seasons in the lives of Tom and Gerri showing the couple's kindness and hospitality to the less fortunate, yet all the while remaining self-contained and self-satisfied throughout.  Director Leigh most certainly does not fear moments of silence.

Three intriguing characters appear only briefly: Janet (Imelda Staunton), an unforgettable picture of depression, whom Gerri counsels at the beginning of the movie and who never again appears; Ronnie (David Bradley), Tom's brother, whose blunt and steely gaze is stunning throughout his nearly wordless performance which begins at his wife's funeral; and Ronnie's son Jack (Philip Davis), a study in anger, barely and, at times, unsuccessfully repressed.  Strangely enough, Mary and Ronnie seem to connect in a way that is believable, but I shuddered at the thought of the havoc Mary'd wreak should she became part of Ronnie's life.

Please don't simply take my word on the quality of the film, but read at least some of the words of the 93% of critics and the 74% of audiences who praise "Another Year".  

Thursday, May 30, 2013


In an earlier post, I said that I would probably go with my granddaughter to the the latest film version of The Great Gatsby, even though I did not particularly wish to see the movie.  When I've enjoyed a book as much as I did Gatsby, I hesitate to see the movie version unless the reviews are very good.  The critics' opinions were evenly divided between positive and negative, but audience reviews were and still are positive in the ratings.

Last week, we went to the theater, and, after we bought the tickets and were in line to buy high-priced concessions, GD told me, "My friends decided to see the movie, and I'm going back with them this weekend."

"You tell me now?" says I.

"I want to see it twice," says she.

Oh well.  In we went to our seats and, after a series of trailers, the movie began.  For the first half hour or so, I found myself noting the period details of the clothes, cars, and home decor of the 1920s, which usually means the film is going slowly.  Still, I sometimes enjoy long, slow movies with lots of period details, so I was not unhappy.  Then, the pace quickened, and I became completely absorbed in the film.  I found that the more I forgot the movie was about Fitzgerald's novel, the more I enjoyed the film for itself.

We did not see the 3-D version, which I think was a good thing.  Aside from the fact that I'm not a great fan of 3-D, I think all the popping out would have been a distraction for me.  GD saw the 3-D version on the weekend, and she expressed a slight preference for the 2-D version.

Leonardo DiCaprio was splendid in the role of Jay Gatsby, and Carey Mulligan was very good as Daisy Buchanan, as (I read somewhere, now forgotten) the young woman whom two men want to possess, though she doesn't yet own herself.  To me, Tobey Maguire was miscast as narrator Nick Carraway, as he seemed dazed throughout the film.  Of course, in the film, he wrote the Gatsby story from a rehabilitation center for alcoholics, so perhaps his befuddled state was as intended.  Although Fitzgerald himself was an alcoholic, Nick in rehab was not in the novel.  Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan was appropriately repulsive.

When I completely suspend disbelief, and become part of a movie, though in the role of a spectator, I consider the the film a success, thus I fall on the side of movie audiences who give the film an 84% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, rather than on the side of the divided critics.     

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Spoiler warning.

Over the last couple of nights, I watched the film "The Tree of Life" on Netflix DVD.  I've enjoyed all the Netflix movies that I've chosen so far, some more than others, but "The Tree of Life' was the absolute worst.  The movie was filled with beautiful images, some from the Hubble telescope, others such as a view of the silhouette of an actor projected against sunlight shining through trees, with a soundtrack that includes Brahms, Bach, and Schumann, along with original music, but - hey! - where's the story?  A character comes on the scene, we see images, strange landscapes, then the character thinks or talks in a low voice, mostly to her/himself.  (Before the movie begins, the viewer is instructed to turn the volume to loud.  Good advice.)  What's going on?   I broke my viewing into two parts, because I was bored/impatient/mystified.  The actors, especially the young boys, were very good when the camera was on them, which it was far too little of the time.  There is a story in the movie, but it's broken in pieces and lost in interruptions that serve to lengthen the movie to over two hours to no good purpose.

I went back to read the reviews again, because I always check them out before I put movies in my Netflix queue, and more than 80% of the critics gave the movie positive reviews, but when I went to audience reviews, it was a different story.  The moviegoers either loved the movie or they hated it.  The scores were either 0 or 10.  I'd score it far on the low end, either 1 or 0.
The Tree of Life is nonetheless a singular work, an impressionistic metaphysical inquiry into mankind’s place in the grand scheme of things that releases waves of insights amid its narrative imprecisions. This fifth feature in Terrence Malick’s eccentric four-decade career is a beauteous creation that ponders the imponderables, asks the questions that religious and thoughtful people have posed for millennia and provokes expansive philosophical musings along with intense personal introspection.
As such, it is hardly a movie for the masses and will polarize even buffs, some of whom might fail to grasp the connection between the depiction of the beginnings of life on Earth and the travails of a 1950s Texas family. But there are great, heady things here, both obvious and evanescent, more than enough to qualify this as an exceptional and major film. Critical passions, pro and con, along with Brad Pitt in one of his finest performances will stir specialized audiences to attention, but Fox Searchlight will have its work cut out for it in luring a wider public.
Crikey!  If I'd read the overblown review from Cannes beforehand I'd have known not to put the movie in my queue, that it was not for little me of "the masses".  I ask you, what would I know about "great, heady things", me of "the wider public"?  The film won the Palme d'Or at  Cannes.  Not for everyone, surely.  Not for me.

Movie poster from Wikipedia.

Saturday, February 11, 2012


The trailer for the film is not yet available, so far as I know, and I'm late taking note of the film's award at the Sundance Film Festival.

Ann Fontaine at The Lead:
Sundance Film Festival announces awards:

Winner of the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Prize for Grace Under Pressure:

Love Free or Die, directed by Macky Alston

The film is about what happened after the Episcopal Church in New Hampshire came under fire for electing an openly gay man as its bishop.
From Beyond the Box:
BTB caught up with Alston at a mass held at St. Luke’s Church on Sunday in Park City, where LGBT leaders showed up to support and discuss the film.

Daniel Fienberg offers a splendid review at HITFIX:
Macky Alston's "Love Free or Die," playing in the US Documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival, begins as a portrait of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Church.

Even if "Love Free or Die" had been content to just remain focused on "the most controversial Christian in the world," it would have had a solid story to tell. Despite facing death threats and opposition within his own church, Robinson is a sensitive, funny and altogether inspirational subject.

The thing that elevates "Love Free or Die" -- which I will eventually type as "Love Free or Die Hard" in this review -- is that in its final act, the documentary leaves Robinson almost entirely and, without belaboring its point, it becomes the story of change, a moving look at how even a rigid church with centuries of entrenched methodology can begin a slow shift towards inclusiveness and equality.
Please read the entire review, especially the final paragraph.