Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner deserves no award, as witnessed in the documentary Weiner, which also opens tomorrow in local cinemas.
Anthony Weiner was disgraced when he Tweeted a sexually explicit photo of himself to an adult female Twitter follower. The Tweet went viral, scandal ensued and Weiner resigned from Congress.
Perhaps the scandal would have faded as a political footnote, but he decided to run for Mayor of New York. Inviting a documentary camera crew along with him, Weiner faces additional political bombshells as more is revealed about his repeated exhibitionist behavior. Weiner is a case study of political narcissism, with cameos from Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
With The Voice and Dancing with the Stars ending their respective seasons, only the NBA Basketball and NHL Hockey playoffs are providing reality television competition. Alice Through the Looking Glass and X-Men: Apocalypse will fill the big screens this weekend; however, two distinct and intimate movies are opening tomorrow with less promotion: the documentary Weiner and the Spanish movie Ma Ma.
Penelope Cruz gives a charismatic, truthful and fully naked performance as Magda, the protagonist of Ma Ma. In fact, the actress is seen topless receiving a routine breast examination. When the gynecologist (Asier Etxeandia ) orders more tests, we learn that Magda has cancer in her right breast.
Magda accepts the results with courage; she is busy dealing with the recent separation from her husband while taking her son, Dani (Teo Planell) to soccer matches. Between bus rides to her chemotherapy treatments, Magda meets Arturo (Luis Tosar), a man of constant sorrow.
With such a plot synopsis, Ma Ma might seem like a stereotypical Spani
It has been 16 years since Bryan Singer directed the first X-Men movie, a film hailed as the most realistic comic book movie of all time. Now Singer has closed out the second X-Men trilogy, and there is a sense of diminishing returns.
There is an attempt to make X-Men: Apocalypse a stand-alone movie, but the weight of five X-Men movies, two Wolverine movies and one Deadpool film constricts the narrative momentum. With X-Men: Apocalypse, the production staff reaches back to Biblical times to create a villain, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), an ancient one who recruits the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Of course, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are mutants, most notably former X-Men teammates Storm (Alexandra Shipp, replacing Halle Berry) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender).
While running the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, wheelchair bound Professor X (James McAvoy) attempts to prevent the end of the world in 1983. Professor X reunites with Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), who served on the X-Men team during the Cuban Missile crisis and end of the Vietnam War.
With Hugh Jackman providing a cameo to set up his final Wolverine movie, X-Men: Apocalypse is a montage of superheroes performing their own unique talents: Mystique is a chameleon, Magneto controls metal and Professor X thinks.
Despite a critical drubbing, this film was the Memorial Day weekend box office champion. It is not a bad film, but it simply feels tired.
To Life! opens tomorrow in neighborhood theaters. A German movie (Auf das leben!) with English subtitles, To Life! is about two misfits who are separated by generational gaps, but united by personal pain and loss.
Ruth (Hannelore Elsner) is a troubled senior with a past. A victim of the Nazi Holocaust, Ruth was a popular cabaret singer in post-war Berlin. After a rocky start, Ruth befriends Jonas (Max Riemelt), a troubled man on the run. As these two lost souls confront their problems, both individuals find simple healing.
At 86 minutes, To Life! feels epic, especially during some clever flashback scenes featuring young Ruth (Sharon Brauner). Once the climax is reached, the film wraps up with sweet denouement that will make one toast “L’Chaim!”
Grief is a hard sale for the summer box office season, especially when it is based on classic children’s literature, which might explain why Alice Through the Looking Glass is tanking at the box office. Throw in bad publicity from a cast mate and this has already become Walt Disney Studio’s biggest bomb of 2016. Sadly, it is a superior sequel to the origin film six years ago.
Alice (Mia Wasikowska) has become a successful sea captain because she believes the only way to accomplish the impossible is to believe it is possible. However, when Alice returns home, she learns that her mother is in financial distress. Realizing that her mother’s dilemma was caused by her actions in the previous movie, Alice follows a blue butterfly (voiced by the late Alan Rickman) into a mirror, which is a portal to Wonderland.
Once in Wonderland, Alice learns that her best friend Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) suffers from melancholia. With the aid of the White Queen (Anne Hathaway), Tweedledee & Tweedledum (Matt Lucas), the Dormouse and the White Rabbit, Alice must steal from Time (Sacha Baron Cohen) and battle the vengeful Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter). This imaginative flight of fancy will amuse art patrons who enjoy Impressionism and Surrealism with Steampunk motifs.
While dealing with darker themes, Alice Through the Looking Glass is an entertaining motion picture that I wished I saw on the IMAX’s five-storey screen. Stick around for the end credits in which a loving tribute is provided to the late Alan Rickman.
Purely an art house drama with serious themes, L’Attesa is based on a play and a short story written by Sicilian legend Luigi Pirandello. The film stars Juliette Binoche as the matriarch of a mansion by the sea.
The film opens with Anna (Binoche) attending a funeral and returning to her lonely mansion. The phone rings and echoes through the halls. It is Jeanne (Lou de Laage), the girl friend of Anna’s son, Guiseppe. Jeanne and Guiseppe made plans to meet at Anna’s mansion for the Easter holiday.
The film is a slow paced mystery, full of haunted imagery. Owing a debt to Classic Neorealism of Italian cinema, director Piero Messina melds a modern interpretation of a Pirandello tragedy. The experienced craft of Binoche and fresh talent of Laage form a strong working partnership. See L’Attesa with a friend and discuss the film over a glass of red wine
To the shock of many box office experts, the relatively low budgeted The Conjuring 2 was extremely successful last weekend. A worthy follow up to the original film, this sequel presents the further adventures of Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), a paraprofessional married couple in league with the Roman Catholic Church.
After wrapping up their investigation of the Amityville Horror in Long Island, Lorraine has a vision about her husband’s death. Feeling apprehensive, Lorraine wants to avoid getting involved with any future exorcisms. However, when the Hodgson family in London encounter an old man poltergeist, the Roman Catholic Church recruit the reluctant Warren family to investigate.
Due to their father’s departure, the Hodgson family recently moved into this London flat. Daughter Janet (Madison Wolfe) is taking it the hardest. She sleepwalks, is frequently ill and has nightmares. At first, Mother Hodgson (Frances O’Connor) dismisses Janet’s problems, until she witnesses paranormal activity in her other children.
Director James Wan knows how to tell a story. With a minuscule budget, Wan helped create the Saw and Insidious series of movies, terror tales that feature a dose of human compassion. Including The Conjuring series, Wan’s movies rely on tried and true suspense techniques. Each film builds to successful payoff, one that does not rely on blood explosions induced by computerized special effects.
With a confident hand, Wan directs a scene with Patrick Wilson that could have become maudlin. Learning that the family used to enjoy listening to Elvis Presley albums, the Warrens purchase the Blue Hawaii soundtrack. Given the poltergeist’s tampering with the electronics, Ed Warren picks up an acoustic guitar and entertains the family. Between the previous scares and future shocks, this musical scene creates an intimate moment between the family and the human audience.
Spoken in Hebrew with English subtitles, Wedding Doll opens tomorrow in local cinema. It is a quirky drama about growth that is both tragic and humorous. Hagit is a young woman with learning disabilities who works in a toilet paper factory. She is courted by the boss’s son, much to Hagit’s mother’s disapproval. Filmed in Israel with cinematography echoes of Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, Wedding Doll is a dry movie with a lively performance from Moran Rosenblatt as Hagit.
When Finding Nemo was released 13 years ago, I was told that a mother was upset at the violence that Nemo and his father endured in the film’s opening. Now that the child is college age, I wonder how that individual is now holding up. Unlike Finding Nemo, Finding Dory does not open with the death of a parent, but this sweet movie does provide some scary moment about loneliness and alienation.
This new Walt Disney Pixar motion picture opens with a close-up of big-eyed baby Dory, who announces her name and that “she has a short-term memory problem.” We are then introduced to Dory’s loving parents (voiced by Kate McKinnon and Bill Hader), who are teaching their special needs child. Dory becomes lost and spends the rest of the movie trying to remember why her parents are so important.
Finding Dory is that simple of a movie. Yet the film is rich with character development and emotional resonance. Dory (perfectly voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) is such a vulnerable character, yet one is surprised by the strength she has gained through listening to her inner voice.
Dory’s charm forges a relationship with Hank the Octopi (Ed O’Neil), a streetwise curmudgeon with three hearts of gold. Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (voiced by a new child actor) both return in supporting roles.
What is so unique about the documentary The Music of Strangers and the animated film Finding Dory is the lack of villains in both movies. In today’s popular entertainment culture, it is refreshing to see individuals overcoming challenges by simply being themselves.
There is a strong disconnect from what I see on television news and what I am witnessing at the local movie theaters. While headline news is simply atrocious with rhetoric that can be found in either The Book of Amos or The Book of Revelations, at the cinemas, I see happy people attending happy movies.
Opening tomorrow, The Music of Strangers features cellist Yo Yo Ma assembling his “Silk Road Ensemble,” a collection of international musicians who bring forth their own cultural artistry. Formed in the year 2000, the subject of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is presented, but this tragedy is not exploited. This film talks about cultural understanding through the international language of music.
In this 15 year artistic odyssey, Yo Yo Ma travels through China, Iran and Spain, countries that introduced Western Civilization to Asian culture in the 15th Century. After this cross cultural exchange of goods and services, “Silk Road Ensemble” is an appropriate name for Yo Yo Ma’s band of musicians. We watch and listen to these fine craftsman express themselves with familiar instruments like a cello, banjo or a clarinet. Yet, we are also introduced to the indigenous sounds of instruments like the Chinese pipa and the Persian kamancheh. After watching these individuals perform and party backstage, you may feel better about the world.
A sequel 20 years in the making, Independence Day:Resurgence opened last weekend with disappointing box office. While the sequel does provide the science fiction community their jollies, the film is not as good as the predecessor.
With reference to the fictional events of 1996, Jeff Goldblum and Madame President (Sela Ward) learn that the aliens are planning a counterattack. They recruit the children of the heroes from the first movie to fly into danger. Things go wrong when the aliens unleash a secret weapon. Cliches abound. One cliche involves sacrificial death. With a swelling musical score, this dramatic scene feels false; the sacrificial death proves meaningless.
The best part of this film features Goldblum and Judd Hirsch’s kvetching father. The bantering between the two feels real with much humor and humanity.
It has been 34 years since director Steven Spielberg released his 6th motion picture, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, whose box office gross made him the King of Summer blockbusters. At the time, Harrison Ford was dating Melissa Mathison, who wrote the screenplay for E.T. When Mathison fell ill, Spielberg reviewed some of her screenplays and was impressed by her adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, which was published in 1982, the same year that E.T. the Extraterrestial was released. While best known for his dark children’s novels like James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dahl’s The BFG confronted an emotion he was unfamiliar with — sentimentality. The diverse collaboration between Dahl, Mathison and Spielberg has created a fine motion picture based on a book.
Sophie (Rudy Barnhill) is an orphan with insomnia. One night, she spots a giant (Mark Rylance) roaming the streets of London. Fearing reprisals from humans, the giant abducts Sophie and takes her to his hovel. Fearful at first, Sophie develops a kinship with the giant, who she names “BFG” — short for Big Friendly Giant.
Sophie learns that BFG is actually the runt of the giants and that he is frequently bullied by his brethren. When the mean giants get too aggressive, BFG plans to return Sophie to the orphanage. However, Sophie has another idea and it involves meeting the Queen of England.
Being Spielberg’s first Walt Disney movie, The BFG is pure family entertainment. There is fantastic cinematography that is spiritually enhanced by John Williams’ musical score. There are scary moments, but not scary enough to induce nightmares. There are subtle moments of humor, with a whizzpopping belly laugh that builds to absurd levels. The BFG is a good afternoon escape from the summer heat.
The recent 4th of July weekend was full of outdoor activity. While the motion picture industry posted a modest weekend with Finding Dory, being the weekend champion for three weeks in a row. The BFG earned less than $19 million, despite being the first Walt Disney Movie directed by Steven Spielberg.
Spielberg and his colleague George Lucas [supposedly] predicted this Hollywood box office implosion approximately three years ago. This implosion is very similar to the 1960s, in which major Hollywood Studios were losing money producing movies like Hello Dolly and Cleopatra, while young independent cinema earned larger profit margins with films like Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy and American Graffiti. Everything old is new again.
Opening this weekend in neighborhood cinemas is Hunt for the Wilderpeople, an independent film from New Zealand. The most recognizable face is that of Sam Neill of Jurassic Park and The Piano fame. The most talked about actor from this wild independent film will be that of young Julian Dennison, who portrays the misfit Bobby.
Told in multiple chapters, this film opens with Ricky being deposited on a farm by a social worker. The troubled boy is treated warmly by the matriarch of the house, but he is kept at a distance by the curmudgeon Hec ( Neill). For a few idyllic months, Ricky is treated like a little boy, until the mother figure dies unexpectedly.
Not wanting to return to the cement jungle of his younger days, Ricky fakes his death to go live in the forest. Given that his bravado was formed by absorbing too much American pop culture, Ricky confuses fantasy with reality and is rescued by Hec.
While Hunt for the Wilderpeople has several serious scenes, this film is full of confrontational humor. When Hec first rescues Ricky, the hungry boy hallucinates that he is talking to a giant hamburger. Throughout this rites of passage film, we see the growth of two disparate people who grow to genuinely love and respect each other.
While there has been much good word of mouth for The Secret Life of Pets, which opens this weekend with full Hollywood marketing hype, the Hunt for the Wilderpeople is not as visible but is worthy of seeking out. Director (and co writer) Taika Waititi will be a name to reckon with in the box office future.