Posts tagged "Netflix"

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.”

An interview with writer Andrew McCarten for “The Two Popes”

December 18th, 2019 Posted by Interviews, Review 0 thoughts on “An interview with writer Andrew McCarten for “The Two Popes””

Academy Award nominated writer Andrew McCarten (“The Theory of Everything,” “The Darkest Hour,” “Bohemian Rhapsody”) undertakes one of the most elaborately creative stories imaginable…the changing of the Catholic Guards. As the conservative Pope Benedict (Anthony Hopkins) begins to consider stepping down, a feat not undertaken for centuries, he discusses his hopes for a future of Catholicism with future Pope Frances (Jonathan Pryce), the antithesis of Benedict. “The Two Popes,” streaming on Netflix beginning December 20th and in theaters, is a surprisingly touching and eloquently imaginative film that restores your faith not only in religion, but in finding peace between one another.

Creating this script that is unexpectedly funny takes the genius of someone like McCarten whose credits exhalt him to the highest level. In a recent opportunity, I, along with several other film critics, attended the LA premiere and chatted with this gifted and down-to-earth writer about the inspiration and background of the film. Here’s what he had to say:

Pamela Powell (PP): How do you consistently create such multidimensional portraits of characters?

Andrew McCarten (AM): It’s something that’s evolved since doing Stephen Hawking and then Churchill. It’s a bit like you put a canvas there and your subject’s there. (Motions with his hands.) The first thing you have to do is study the subject and you can’t stop digging at a superficial level, you have to go into their deepest stores and imagine what their fears are, what they had for breakfast, what are their mannerisms, what are their foibles, and eccentricities. You get to a certain point you think can I start work and you go, yeah I think we’re good to go. Then you start playing with it a little bit. I need to know what Frances thinks about homosexuality, but I also need to know what he likes for breakfast. Does he eat with a knife and a fork? We’re all very rich and multidimensional.

Paul Salfen (PS): The other films were biopics and [this film] doesn’t fit that genre.

AM: I’m not sure everyone would agree with you, but I would. This is bigger role in terms of the style of or the extent to which I’m using artifice because we don’t know that these two had these debates in these rooms. They probably didn’t, but what I did is take what one said in one room and what another said in another room and I open two doors and bring them in and put those stated positions into play with each other. So that’s the artifice of the [film] and it seems to work.

Question: We’re curious about the whole pizza, the Fanta, or even the beer and watching the World Cup.

AM: Here’s the origins of those things. My wife is German and so I can make jokes about Germans. Laughs. She had a personal friend who once had dinner with Pope Benedict when he was archbishop of Munich and everyone was drinking wine and he called for a Fanta. When asked why he said that’s all I drink with evening meals because during WWII Coca Cola was banned and for some reason they allowed Fanta. So kids who grew up there in that period of Nazi Germany were all addicted to this fizzy orange drink and he’s still addicted to it.

The football thing was, Pope Francis was a world famous futbol fan…there was one picture of the two of them from behind watching TV. You couldn’t see what was on the TV and I remembered thinking, I hope that World Cup Game between Germany and Argentina happened just after Frances became pope because that would be a wonderful way to end. I remember googling it and going PLEASE! And it was played two months after he became pope. And I think it’s justified by that photo of them watching TV

Question: Your background is Catholic. Tell us about its influence on the film.

AM: I lived it. I grew up in this. It’s a culture you grow up in and it was all-ecompassing. Church was the center of the community. We went to church every day or two it seemed. I was an alter boy to the preposterous age of 15! The little surplus thing came down to here. I used to look at my mother like Come on! And she’d go no, it’s great, it’s great. I used to do it for her because it made her happy.

I’m very sentimental about the institution and I know it from the inside. I was raised by nuns and catholic brothers and I saw these honest, well-intentioned, good workers, humble workers in the vineyard of the Lord, and they were selfless. They gave their lives to other people. And when I open every newspaper, it’s a horror show and no one’s ever told the story for a long time about what’s really going on in that institution that’s 2000 years old. It does a ton of good work, but no one’s hearing about it.

I’m showing two insiders and they obviously are not going to say, “Let’s burn the place down. He’s a revolutionary. The center of the whole thing is between a liberal and a conservative. I think the reason it’s having the impact it is is because it’s speaking to the fiery debate that’s happening in the world. We can’t seem to find the middle ground. The middle seems to have collapsed to me. We have to regain the high ground in the middle.

Question: How did Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins prepare for these roles?

AM: I can only tell you about their preparation because I’ve sat on panels and listened to them. I think the way they express it is that Anthony Hopkins is a classical pianist and Jonathan Pryce is a jazz pianist. 5 months before they started filming Anthony Hopkins said at my age I’m going to learn these lines once, ok? Don’t change anything. And Jonathan is more improvisational so I’ll learn the lines, but I’m going to play and be open and be loose. So these two styles meet and it’s actually so fitting for this movie where you’ve got a traditionalist and a progressive and you see that, actually, in the score of the piece where you’ve got classical music and then [jazz]. The idea is to bring jazz into the classical arena. That’s what he represents is someone who is a populist.

Question: What’s the Catholic Church’s reaction to the film?

AM: Various members of the clergy whenever we were screening, they come up with a mixture of gratitude and relief. I mean, they must be expecting the worst and if you see any Hollywood movie about the Catholic Church so I think they stagger out of there quite relieved.

Question: Did you film in the Sistine Chapel?

AM: No, we built it. It’s actually 5 inches bigger than the real Sistine Chapel. I think there was a joke on the part of the designers, they wanted the world record for the biggest Sistine Chapel. (Laughs)

“The Irishman” – Rich, complex, a masterpiece

November 26th, 2019 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““The Irishman” – Rich, complex, a masterpiece”

“The Irishman,” Martin Scorsese’s reunion with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci and the theme of The Mob, has been garnering praises from critics and viewers alike. This 3 and a half hour Netflix masterpiece could not have been created without the years of experience from these Hollywood icons who are able to look in the rearview mirror of life for a clear picture. While many hold “The Godfather,” “The Godfather II,” and “Good Fellas” in the highest regard, “The Irishman” is like the fine wine of this genre; aged, rich, and much more complex which in turn elicits an evocative and insightful story.

“The Irishman,” based on “I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt, a true crime novelist, is recreated for the silver screen by Steven Zaillian. No stranger to transforming hefty written material to film (“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” “Gangs of New York”), Zaillian creates the consummate screenplay, but no one but Pesci, De Niro, and Pacino, all in the hands of Scorsese, could have possibly brought it to this pinnacle of filmmaking.

The story is Frank Sheeran’s (De Niro) as he tells us his version of his life in the mob and how he is responsible for the mysterious disappearance of Teamster Leader Jimmy Hoffa. Sheeran narrates the film intermittently, initially introducing us to himself as a seasoned veteran in the crime service, his wife, Russel Bufalino (Pesci) and his wife as they road trip from New York to Detroit, making a few important work-related stops along the way. To get us up to speed, Sheeran takes us back in time to meeting Bufalino as Sheeran’s meat delivery truck breaks down. This is the crossroads in Sheeran’s life and the point at which we get to see movie-making magic take place with the de-aging technique.

From this point, the film bounces back and forth through the decades, allowing us into Frank’s life as Bufalino’s right-hand man who follows order as if he were still in the military. We see how his past paved the road for his current career choice and how it impacts his relationships with his wives and children. Sheeran explains his decisions and opens the door to the mob, revealing the inner-workings from his point of view. Bufalino introduces Sheeran to Hoffa (Pacino) and the complexities of this triad is what makes this mobster movie a uniquely emotional one as it allows the viewer to connect with these morally deplorable people. It’s simply incredulous that I felt myself almost walking in Sheeran’s shoes, feeling his discomfort and conflict, but it is just this emotion that gives credit to the extraordinary writing, directing and acting: I am not a mobster, yet I can still relate to this man. Incredible.

The film takes its time, that is obvious by the running time, but in no way could this complicated and multi-layered story been cut to anything less. Scorsese peels away each layer of not just the story, but each character to reveal and more potent level beneath the exterior. And Scorsese’s direction pulls us into each and every scene. We feel that we are a part of the film, tagging along, walking through the hallways and trying to peer around the corner as we hold our breath. It’s this intensity and a personal point of view that punctuates the connection with the characters, particularly Sheeran.

De Niro has never been better. This role was meant for him and like that fine wine, I drank in every savory moment to better understand this man and his situation. He portrayed utter perfection as Sheeran as we read his subtle expressions conveying intense meaning ranging from hope, regret, remorse, and love of a friend. While obviously never condoning what he did, I did understand it. The era and the pressures are as much a part of the film as the story itself. Women were not a big part of it, but interestingly, Frank’s oldest daughter seemed to be a haunting figure for him. Perhaps she is his conscience and morality barometer, and while her character never developed fully, she certainly has a profound impact upon her father.

Pesci and Pacino are the complete package with De Niro. Pesci surprisingly has a more understated role, but an extremely powerful one. He’s the reigning lion and no one wants to intentionally anger him. The communication among all of them, relatively brief, but wholly succinct. It was a different era—a handshake, a man’s word—a time of loyalty and camaraderie. Pacino is also at the top of his career as he delves deeply into one of the most influential teamsters and organizers our country has ever seen. With his charisma and personality quirks, Hoffa is brought back from the dead for us all to see and understand. It’s a history lesson most of us never fully knew or understood.

The entire all-star cast seems to understand the depth of the film, giving outstanding performances no matter how small their part. Bobby Cannavale as Felix ‘Skinny Razor’ DiTullio fits comfortably in his role and Ray Romano as Bufalino’s lawyer son Bill works with the precision of a surgeon, slicing words to make them work in a court of law. Of course there is humor woven into this story, but its found in unlikely places. Also expected is violence and there is, but unlike the aforementioned mobster films, the violence is a part of the story, propelling it forward and feeling real and not gratuitous. It is not violence for violence sake making “The Irishman” a cut above them all.

“The Irishman” is a compellingly complex narrative that takes us into a world we know little about as it uncovers and discovers Sheeran’s involvement in history. With exceptional performances, deft direction, and exquisite writing, this is a film that will find its place in its own history. It’s a masterpiece of filmmaking made possible only by the actors who have the experience and wisdom to do so.

4/4 Stars

Netflix’s “Bird Box” serves as a powerful addition to the platform’s original films

December 18th, 2018 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on “Netflix’s “Bird Box” serves as a powerful addition to the platform’s original films”

“Bird Box,” based on the novel by Josh Malerman, is written by Eric Heisserer and directed by Susanne Bier and stars Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes and John Malkovich.

While the film opens in theaters this weekend in New York and Los Angeles (think Oscar, here), this Netflix dystopian horror film then will become available to stream to your home via the digital platform on Dec. 21.

“Bird Box” delivers a powerful punch in the first scene as we see two young children blindfolded and being directed as to what’s expected of them. Your mind races, wondering if these children have been kidnapped as they are addressed as “Girl” and “Boy.” It’s gut-wrenching to watch these terrified-yet-precious little faces react to harshness from a woman, but then we are spiraled to five years earlier, and we find out how we got to this lowly place.

To read the review in its entirety as published in the Saturday, December 15th, 2018 edition of The Daily Journal, go to https://www.daily-journal.com/life/entertainment/netflix-s-bird-box-serves-as-a-powerful-addition-to/article_d21c1c30-ff03-11e8-820a-7f05225597d4.html

“Roma” creates intimate memory of love, paying homage to the women in Cuaron’s life

December 14th, 2018 Posted by Review 0 thoughts on ““Roma” creates intimate memory of love, paying homage to the women in Cuaron’s life”

“Roma,” the new Netflix film which opened in theaters in order to qualify for Oscar, will be available via the online streaming service beginning today. The film already has begun gathering awards and nominations from prestigious film critic organizations across the country, including the Chicago Film Critics Association.

This artistic masterpiece has found an unusual storytelling method to create an homage to the women in writer/director Alfonso Cuaron’s (“Gravity”) life as a child: his mother, his grandmother and his housekeeper.

“Roma” takes us back to Cuaron’s childhood in Mexico City during the 1970s to tell this very intimate memoir as we meet his family during a time of personal and political chaos.

During the course of one year, we watch, like a fly on the wall, Sofia (Marina de Tavira) and Antonio’s (Fernando Grediaga) marriage unravel, the children’s lives affected in various ways, but most importantly, the life of Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and how this impacts and creates unexpected bonds.

To read the review in its entirety as it was published in the December 14th, 2018 edition of The Daily Journal go to https://www.daily-journal.com/life/entertainment/reel-talk-dec/article_569ed176-fe2a-11e8-bd55-d3f8dc80f164.html

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