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Byron & Gloria P.
Helen W. AZ
Based on your movie reviews we watched Every Little Step and then A Chorus Line. (I thought I had seen them, but it must’ve been All That Jazz.) We really enjoyed them.
Bruce M. CA
It's been a long time since we have communicated back and forth except for your excellent Movie Reviews. I hope you are both well and have been dodging the virus bugs successfully. Unfortunately the virus has messed up the movie business but you have found a number of shows that we can all access and watch in other ways. Keep up the good work.
We have found three with the help of a good friend who is on the Motion Picture Academy and worked for Disney for 35 years in all areas of motion film production so he knows how to evaluate the movies. The three we have watched or are watching are The Outlander a story that takes place between Scotland and the US and of course the acting, story and scenery are great. We are now in the middle of Yellowstone, a modern western about a ranch in Wyoming/Montana owned by John Dutten played by Kevin Costner. Betty Jean likes it so much she bought a Yellowsone Ranch hat. The third one is Hell on Wheels which is the story of the building of the first transcontinental railroad in America and the trouble with landowners and Indians during the late 1800s. It's also one of the best shows we've ever seen. So, if you haven't seen all of these I can strongly recommend them to you and your readers.
My sister, Judy, sent word that the Calabasas Film Festival was a drive-in this year. We’ve gone to the Festival a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it immensely. We saw Melissa Leo outside one of the venues. When she was down in Tucson shooting The Young Riders (1989), we played golf with Brett Cullen, who played Marshall Sam Cain in that TV series, and a young man who was Leo’s boyfriend at that time. We have followed Leo and Cullen's careers with interest ever since.
Paul K, IL
We were visiting our son, Bruce, in Minneapolis and he bought The King of Staten Island starring some guy I never heard of. Anyhow, I didn’t care for it. No car chases of any kind. It’s about a young man who lives with Mom, hangs out with loser friends, has no job, and is, I thought, kind of dumb. Grade C
I got into another DVD series from the library. This one is called Justified and stars Timothy Olyphant from Deadwood. He’s very good, playing a U.S. Marshall based in Harlan County, KY, his hometown. It’s a bit violent, but with interesting characters and good acting. I’ve just started season two.
Art S. IN - Reviews
RE: The Personal History of David Copperfield--Went with a friend to see this new movie, which we saw the movie at the recently reopened Landmark Keystone Arts Cinema at a matinee. Seats were socially distanced and many were roped off, but it turns out that we were the only two people in the theater this afternoon. We saw a bunch of previews and then watched the two-hour movie. I'm not a great admirer of Charles Dickens, the author. A lot of his books had to do with horrible working conditions with underage children and the slums in England. But I'll have to admit that this story, with a screenplay by Armando Iannucci, who was also the director, surprised me and happily so. The cast was perfect. It took a while to understand that the actors were chosen for their acting abilities and not the color of their skin, their race, or nationality. The title character was played by Dev Patel, from India, and others were Asian who had black children. Patel was just the right actor for the role in this particular version, but also outstanding were Tilda Swinton and Hugh Laurie. They had some very difficult dialogue which was spoken in rapid-fire bursts. The photography was excellent, too, as was the period atmosphere, especially scenes of the countryside, but also of interiors. There are a couple of scenes of someone flying a kite which were truly just what was needed in that section of the movie and that had symbolic significance. Rosalind Eleazar was also excellent in an unusual role. There was some pretty snappy dialogue that you might have missed if you didn't pay very close attention. It was supposedly fiction but also autobiographical, and was mainly about someone finding out just who they are and about being a writer. People go from rather good fortune financially to just the opposite, and more than once, but they don't despair and make the most of their good or bad fortune. It was a satisfying movie, only my second in a theater since March.
It made me look back at the weird movie I saw two days ago (I'm Thinking of Ending Things), though, and think that I had judged it too harshly. It was weird, and some things didn't seem realistic, but it did make you think and wonder and especially consider the ending, which had been puzzling, and the acting was good in that movie, too. I can't wait to see the next movie, which I'll be going to later this week--Tenet.
RE: Tenet--I don't usually read reviews of a movie before I see it because I don't want to be influenced by the review, especially when I am writing a review myself. I did read a couple of blurbs about Tenet but that was all. I also saw previews starting way back before the pandemic. It has a good cast and I knew it had some time travel or some sci-fi elements to it, but it was also advertised as a thriller, so I thought I would enjoy it. The fact that they held it up for distribution for months but then did finally give it a theatrical release, I thought they must want it to be in line for an Academy Award in various categories. I read that the budget for the film was $225 million, so they were planning of its being a blockbuster. Well, a friend and I went to see it this evening. It had a good cast--John David Washington (Denzel Washington's son), Kenneth Branagh, Robert Pattinson, and Elizabeth Debicki, Michael Caine, and Dimple Kapadia, and more. I can't begin to explain the plot and the sci-fi elements except to say they seemed to make sense when I was watching the movie--time could go both backward and forward even in some of the same scenes. A climactic battle with two teams included one going forward in time while the other team went backward--and I mean this literally, as well. People were running backward and guns dropped to the floor reappeared in actors' hands after they had been dropped.
It was directed by Christopher Nolan, who also did Dunkirk and Interstellar. In Tenet you couldn't always hear some of the dialogue because of the sound mixing--lots of loud noises, such as explosions, and also the sound track was at times extremely loud. When the concepts concerning the movie's plot were unusual and difficult to explain and understand, having all this extraneous noise certainly didn't help. I then remembered that Dunkirk was the same way. Evidently, the director has been called out on this and had admitted that he does this on purpose. In Dunkirk he wanted the audience to feel the confusion the soldiers experienced, but why in this movie, I don't know. He evidently thinks movies are mainly visual and that the dialogue isn't as important. There were some very exciting car chases and crashes, but the movie was almost three hours long, and at least an hour of it could have been cut. If word of mouth is important, I don't think this will be the blockbuster the producers/director thought. It was total senseless violence almost the entire time, from even before the initial credits came on the screen.
From now on, I'm reading some reviews before I see another movie, because my over 80-year-old hobby (literally, because I started seeing movies in theaters when I was 5) may have to cut way back and wait for the "little" character-driven movies or foreign imports. Elizabeth Debicki was one who stood out from the crowd of good actors and I expect to see her in some interesting movies in the future. I'm exhausted from the 3-hour movie, so I’ve got to end my review here.
RE: Blackbird--Went with a friend tonight to see the movie, Blackbird just released in this country and only playing at the Regal Theater on 96th St. tonight and tomorrow night at 7 p.m. (Don't confuse it with another movie called Blackbird being released this year, too.) It had a great ensemble cast of eight people and was made off the coast of England but it takes place in the United States. The ocean scenes to me could have been in CA, Oregon, or Washington state--it really didn't matter. It's a story about a woman (played by Susan Sarandon) and her husband (played by Sam Neill) who invite their family members to join them for a weekend before she has an assisted suicide. She is suffering from ALS but doesn't want to get to the point where she has to be tube fed and depend on pain killers.
Two daughters are played by Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska, and a grandson is played by Anson Boon, who was so good as one of the brothers in the movie, "1917." The cast assembled and took five weeks to make the film on location. The action in the movie only covers four days. The house is a very interesting piece of architecture and there are plenty of spaces where all eight actors can get in the same room with the same camera covering them all. It's was billed as a family drama, and that's essentially what it was, but with a message of life and with some humor even though the subject matter is the main character's upcoming death.
The cast is uniformly good, the music fits perfectly, and the photography is outstanding. The house, very modern on the inside, is furnished sparsely and its architectural features stand out, giving plenty of room for the drama that unfolds. Summarizing it doesn't really do it justice because it is the way the actors emote or use fairly subtle and nuanced acting much, although not all, of the time.. My friend and I both liked the movie a lot and since we were the only two people in the entire theater, it was unanimous. The director came onscreen before the start of the movie and told us to stay after the movie finished and we'd see some information on how the movie was filmed. It has already made the rounds of some of the film festivals but I think they showed it in theaters now so they would quality for the usual awards given in this country, such as the Academy Awards, Director's Guild Awards, etc. It is the kind of "little movie" that I really like and the best movie I've seen since the pandemic started. I think it is coming either to Netflix or Amazon Prime but I am so glad I got to see it on the big screen because it needs to be seen all at one sitting and not be interrupted by getting up to get snacks or taking a bathroom break--seen the old-fashioned way, like when things were "normal". A really enjoyable evening.
RE: Kajillionaire--Went with a friend to see Kajillionaire at the Keystone Arts Cinema. I had seen a trailer of it and read a review of it in the latest New Yorker, as I didn't want to go see another weird movie or one that I might regret seeing. After reading the New Yorker review, I thought that, okay, it's going to be a quirky movie that you just have to not analyze too much but just sort of sit back and go with the flow and it might be interesting and enjoyable. It was written and directed by Miranda July (she doesn't use her real name) and has a cast that is thought to be talented. Richard Jenkins, Debra Winger (almost unrecognizable), Evan Rachel Wood, and Gina Rodriguez. I wasn't very familiar with the last two, nor the writer/director, but they have all either won or been nominated for major awards--the Oscars, the Emmys, Golden Globes, etc. I thought that with such a good cast, maybe the story and plot might not have to be so good. I was wrong. There were a few interesting scenes of the mother, father, and daughter, who are all con artists and some of their schemes. The only one with many believable or more normal scenes was Rodriguez, but even she turns out to be in on scams and they eventually team up for a heist, but their acting talents don't save the movie or them.
There are two other things almost totally inexplicable, too--the bubble factory where the family lives with walls of bubbles coming down the walls two or three times a day which required them to bat the suds away (the New Yorker review compared it to the blood dripping down the elevator walls in The Shining) and the guy who is their landlord and his behavior in trying to collect the overdue rent. There are a few poignant scenes in the movie, but not enough to make up for the many bizarre, weird scenes and dialogue. You never learn anything about how the family became this way or started on a life such as depicted. It was a mess of a movie. I did find the few scenes near the ending a little surprising. I'm beginning to think that the only movies being shown for the first time in theaters since the pandemic are all going to be losers or some hoping that people will be so glad to get back into the big screen theaters after watching so much TV that we'll see almost anything. There were only my friend and I, and three other people in the theater when the movie started. Later, two more people came in, for a total of only 7, so I don't see how the theater chains are going to make it financially. We saw previews of several movies to come this fall and only one looked even halfway interesting. Most will also be shown on Netflix or streaming. I guess I don't have to warn any of you to stay away from this movie--not worth it for the minimal amount of interesting screen time.