Posts tagged "Amazon"

TOP 10 FILMS OF 2019

December 31st, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on “TOP 10 FILMS OF 2019”

The 2019 Year in Film has come to a close and while the domestic box office totals are down about 4%, that still means it was an $11.4 billion year. Of course, Disney’s “Avengers: Endgame” ($357.1M) and the live-action remakes many of which pulled in more than $100M, “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” ($363M), and Warner Bros. “Joker” ($1.06B), contributed mightily to the year-end total, but none of these films made my Top Ten Films of 2019 list. To me, the big box office hits aren’t necessarily my favorites. 2019 was a year of literary adaptations and films based on true stories and these are the stories that hit home. Without further ado, and starting with #1—I know you’d glance at the bottom of the list for #1 so why not start with it?—the Top Films of 2019.

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD: This is a story about Lloyd Vogel, a jaded and emotionally hardened journalist whose life is touched and forever changed by the children’s television icon Fred Rogers. The story is an unusual one from an equally unlikely perspective that makes us laugh and cry, but more importantly, it reminds us of the power of kindness and the healing attributes of love. Imaginatively created, Marielle Heller takes the director’s reigns and allows Tom Hanks to bring Rogers to life while capturing this compelling and entertaining story based on the Esquire Magazine article by Tom Junod. (In theaters now) WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

THE IRISHMAN: A surprisingly emotional mobster story about right-hand man Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who looks back on life through his own rearview mirror, recalling his relationships with mob leader Russel Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino). Based on Charles Brandt’s true crime book “I Heard You Paint Houses,” Martin Scorsese directs this compellingly complex narrative, taking us into a lesser known world while allowing us to somehow develop a connection with Sheeran, a man with regrets and lacking a moral compass. While it is violent, it’s a part of the story and never gratuitously, but somehow it also frequently finds humor as well. (Now on Netflix)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

DARK WATERS: This isn’t the first film about how large chemical companies disregard regulations or put their bottom line before the health and safety of its workers and communities and it won’t be the last, but Rob Bilott’s (Mark Ruffalo) story in “Dark Waters” will change your life. As a film, it’s a slow-burning thriller keeping you on the edge of your seat as you watch the events unfold feeling consumed as if by a tidal wave of emotion and information. It’s a current-day “Erin Brockovich” that doesn’t effect just one area of WV, but each and every person in the U.S. Based on Nathaniel Rich’s article in the New York Times Magazine, you’ll think twice when you hear DuPont’s familiar slogan, “Better living through chemistry.” (Available on Amazon and iTunes Dec. 31)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

JOJO RABBIT: Only director Taika Waititi could take author Christine Leunens’s book “Caging Skies” about a little Nazi boy during WWII whose pretend friend is Hitler and make it into a socially relevant dark comedy that both entertains and educates. Roman Griffin Davis stars as Jojo who finds that there’s a young Jewish girl hiding in his attic. Wrestling with being a good little Nazi, Jojo grows up and opens his eyes to the reality of the world surrounding him. Thomasin McKenzie and Scarlett Johansson co-star in this utterly bold and daringly funny coming of age story. (In theaters now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

FORD v FERRARI: The mere title alone makes you think this is a car racing movie, but it is so much more than that. Based on the true story of race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale) and Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon), director James Mangold revs up our engines as we witness history and the true meaning of friendship and loyalty. It’s a fast-paced story allowing both Bale and Damon’s chemistry to shine and give humor and depth to this story. The stellar cinematography puts you in the passenger seat making this film a winner. (In theaters now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

PAIN AND GLORY: Like “The Irishman,” this film looks back on a life filled with uncompromising and raw honesty, but unlike the Netflix film, there is beauty and love packed into this suitcase of life and regrets. Pedro Almodovar writes and directs this film, a depiction of his own life, as Antonio Banderas has the lead role of Salvador Mallo, and it’s one of the most evocative performances of his career. This multidisciplinary approach to film with layered complexities about social acceptance, expectations, relationships and following our hearts allows us to know Salvador as we reflect on our own lives. Flashbacks develop situations that will become heartbreaking in the current day, but in the end, we see that this has made Salvador who he is today. Isn’t that all of our stories? (Available on Amazon Jan. 14, DVD Jan. 21)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

THE MUSTANG: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s prison story stars Matthias Schoenaerts as Roman, a violent criminal who is given the opportunity to participate in a horse rehabilitation program. This revelatory and gorgeously shot film reassesses humanity and our need for connection seen through the lens of the withdrawn inmate. Schoenaerts captures the dark void of hopelessness and slowly finds a connection and life through a wild mustang. Bruce Dern has one of his best performances in recent years as a horse trainer, giving heart to his gruff and jaded exterior. (Available on Amazon and on DVD now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

JUST MERCY: Attorney Brian Stephenson’s novel is adapted for film starring Michael B. Jordan as the litigator fighting for the rights of wrongly accused men on death row. Like the book, which I highly recommend, the film portrays many men’s stories, but the focal point is Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) whose story is comprised of racial bias and blatant racism. Jordan’s understated performance and Director Destin Daniel Cretton bring this true-life gripping crime story to full light, opening your eyes and your heart. (Opening in theaters Jan. 10)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

OPHELIA: Shakespeare and feminism rarely go hand in hand, but thanks to the clever adaptation of Lisa Klein’s book, Director Claire McCarthy allows Ophelia (Daisy Ridley) to tell the classic tale of “Hamlet” from a different point of view. With plausible backstories of Claudius (Clive Owen) and Queen Gertrude (Naomi Watts), the plight of Hamlet and Ophelia not only makes sense, but is a captivatingly tragic love story. And the ending would make Shakespeare himself proud. (Available on Amazon Prime now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

THE REPORT: Adam Driver has had quite a year, but his performance as Senate staffer Daniel J. Jones is a standout. Based on the true story of a nearly 7,000 page document called “The Torture Report,” writer and first-time director Scott Z. Burns brings this chilling tale of discovery from our not so distant past to life. With incredible relevance to today’s political world, we dig deeply into the underpinnings of our system. It’s a complicated one, but thanks to the deft writing and storytelling, we understand the truth behind what was meant to never be seen. It’s an all-star cast comprised of Jon Hamm, Annette Bening, Corey Stoll and Driver who give performances of their career. (Available on Amazon Prime now)
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Tied for 11th Place: “Knives Out,” “Richard Jewell,” and “Clemency.”

“The Aeronauts” – A breathtaking adventure story

December 5th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““The Aeronauts” – A breathtaking adventure story”

Looking for a film that will make your heart race in a thoughtfully beautiful story? “The Aeronauts” is just your ticket as Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne are reunited to tell this fictional tale inspired by true events. The wildly mismatched team comprised of pilot Amelia Wren (Jones) and scientist James Glaisher (Redmayne) takes us to new heights as they make not only scientific discoveries, but self-discoveries as well.

WATCH THE TRAILER HERE

Wren is a wreck. She has experienced a devastating loss and she’s not coping well. It’s the mid-1800’s and she’s late for an important engagement: piloting a hot air balloon. The spectators go wild as she bursts onto the scene, but her partner, scientist Glaisher, isn’t quite so pleased with her. Her infectious energy can’t be thwarted by this dower man. She’s a dare devil who quite literally made me scream aloud in a crowded movie theater, but beneath that flamboyant exterior lies a troubled and regretful young woman. Glaisher, on the other hand, is her polar opposite as his tunnel vision and fortitude push him further to attain his goal in weather discovery and prediction. Claiming he is a “meteorologist,” Glaisher is the laughing stock of the scientific community, but that doesn’t stop him from his research. Together, they embark upon a journey that will forever change the world and each other.

Traveling higher and higher in this balloon, elevating the passengers in a basket that certainly wouldn’t pass any safety standards in today’s world, we, the viewer, are along for this breathtakingly dangerous ride. Thanks to the skillful cinematography, we truly feel that we are in that basket with them. As Wren leaned over the edge of the basket one too many times for my timid heart, my palms were sweaty as I gripped the armrest and pushed further back into my seat, attesting to the brilliant skills of the cinematographer. It’s also an emotional roller coaster ride of a story as it hurls us back in time, allowing our senses and fear of heights to relax, as we discover who Wren and Glaisher are. Balancing the thoughtful backstory with the heart-pounding adventure gives us a film that is engagingly thrilling and entertaining.

Wren is a pioneer, reportedly based upon the young aeronaut named Sophie Blanchard, who not only takes on a profession not typical for a woman, but pushes the boundaries of the perception of gender equality. She’s tough, but Jones finds extraordinary skill in allowing us to see her tenderness beneath that hardened exterior. What Jones provides in this role is a sense of reality thanks to not only her skills, but that of her director Tom Harper. Unlike many other adventure films, this heroine goes through the wringer and doesn’t come out looking like a super model. Thank you for that! Of course, Jones and Redmayne have incredible chemistry on screen, but this role is different for each of them. These are individuals with independent stories who allow one another to reveal their true selves; their fears, regrets, and hopes. The characters undergo a metamorphosis over a short balloon ride as they fight for their lives, and battle the demons within. The question is, which battle is the most difficult?

As I eluded to earlier, the cinematography is stunning. Capturing the beauty of Mother Nature, the earth and the sky, there is an inner peace that is elicited by the views. A calmness settles over you as you breathe deeply, soaking in the wonders of the world. Shifting gears, we thank our lucky stars for Wilbur and Orville otherwise, none of us would have the courage for air travel. The stunts will quite literally take your breath away and even the simplest of angles makes your heart race or your inner voice scream, “Get away from the edge!”

With many aspects of this film based on facts, it’s eye-opening to think that the science of weather prediction was once thought of as nothing more than hocus-pocus. The passion that Redmayne exhibits for this new-found science is as infectious as Jones’ energetic portrayal of Wren. Redmayne is the yin to Jones’ yang, precisely balancing one another. He gives Glaisher such deeply layered attributes as a soft spoken man who is socially awkward. We also find his heart of gold as he compassionately interacts with his ailing father and worried mother. His tenacity and determination rise to the top as he refuses to listen to his esteemed colleagues, trusting his knowledge and his gut instincts to strive for more in this new profession he has coined as meteorology.

Harper and his writing team do an extraordinary job of blending factual information into this fictional tale. Pairing Redmayne and Jones together gives us the perfect storm as their relationship is an unexpected and welcomed one. The cinematography makes this one worth seeing on the big screen. If you miss it there, “The Aeronauts” will be available to stream on AmazonPrime beginning Dec. 20.

Read the interview with Redmayne and Harper in The Daily Journal.

3 1/2 out of 4 stars

“Social Animals” An Instagram story

December 27th, 2018 Posted by Review, Weekly VOD 0 thoughts on ““Social Animals” An Instagram story”

Instagram.  If you’re over 30, and I am, it’s an anomaly.  As a teenager in the 1970’s, popularity was assessed based on the number of carnations you received on Valentine’s Day during classes.  Now, it’s the number of public “likes” that can truly make or break you in high school.  Director Jonathan Ignatius Green followed three teens; an aspiring photographer in New York City, a Midwestern girl from Central Ohio, and a wealthy entrepreneur near Malibu, California.  The three are very different teens, but they all experience the emotional costs, both positive and negative of the impact of the social media platform of Instagram.

Green introduces us to Humza, a kid from the inner city of N.Y.  who develops an eye for photographs taken from forbidden vantage points.  Humza’s popularity blows up, but just at the peak of his popularity, he is vilified for revealing a subculture within the city.  Green interviews Humza before, during, and after his Instagram “success,” giving the viewers a keen insight to Humza’s rather mature and very candid expression of social media consequences.

Interwoven into Humza’s story, Green expertly incorporates Kaylyn’s unusual panache for engaging viewers with her style and look which eventually leads to greater opportunities.  Although, fame does have its drawbacks for her and her family, we are privy to the emotions at the time.  Matching Humza and Kaylyn’s story arc, we see that Green couldn’t have chosen a better representation for middle America than a small town near Cincinnati, Ohio with Emma who pays an ever greater emotional price as a negative spin is thrust upon her perceived persona.  

The pressure these kids feel is obvious, determining, in many instances, whether a teen has a sense of self-worth.  In fact, as the film reveals, purchasing “likes” and “followers” is also a technique used to increase their reputation as someone worthy of knowing.  As crazy as this might sound to someone outside of the Instagram realm, it’s a heady and real situation for kids, not to mention emotionally and financially costly.

Green tells each of these teens’ stories from beginning to end, allowing the viewer to walk in their shoes.  His ability to ask the right questions and create a trusting atmosphere for each subject to feel comfortable gives the film integrity and honesty.  These elements connect us to Humza, Kaylyn, and Emma as we watch them rise and fall and then hopefully find the strength to rise again.  Following these “kids” as well as having interviews with parents and other kids over the course of two years, Green allows you, the viewer, to arrive at your own conclusions about the impact of social media as he always takes the position of neutral observer, allowing the story to unfold naturally and honestly.

Initially, my hopes for the film were to be in some way to denounce social media platforms, justifying my inabilities to somehow master the medium, but Green doesn’t place a judgment upon it.   “Social Animals” expertly weaves together a compelling narrative, but more importantly, it allows everyone, no matter their age, to better comprehend the social pressures of today’s youth in a digital era.  It also serves as an avenue for teens to relate and perhaps even find comfort in knowing that they are all in the same boat.  

 

While I long for the days where it was only one day of a popularity contest and hoping that I wouldn’t get any green carnations (indicating “You bug me”), times have changed and “Social Animals” creatively communicates these changes.  Every parent, teacher, social worker and counselor would benefit from seeing this film.  While I no longer have teens at home, the film did allow me to let go of the pressure I feel as I attempt to “master” using Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.  Don’t even get me started on SnapChat!

For more information about the film and director, go to  https://www.socialanimalsfilm.com/home

and  http://www.ignatiusgreen.com/social-animals/

You can see “Social Animals” on iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/social-animals/id1438474795?mt=6&ign-mpt=uo%3D4    or on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Social-Animals-Kaylyn-Slevin/dp/B07K1L5VF3/ref=sr_1_3?s=instant-video&ie=UTF8&qid=1544750364&sr=1-3&keywords=social+animals

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