One Child Nation Movie Review

‘One Child Nation’ is a difficult film to watch but an important one. You have to see this because as a human on this planet, you should be concerned with what an authoritarian government has done and is still willing to do to people. Perhaps one should watch with an eye toward seeing it as a cautionary tale. It is not a yarn; not a fable. Read more

Wild Nights with Emily Movie Review

Brilliant. Simply, brilliant! Using everything she knows to apply her subtle wit, Molly Shannon, formerly with Saturday Night Live, has given us quite a pearl with her take on Emily Dickenson. Working with an excellent script from the writer/director Madeleine Olnek, she gives us a fresh look into the life of this American poet and anomaly. In 1914, Emily’s niece published a book of Emily’s poems which she dedicated to the love that her mother Susan and Emily shared. Interestingly enough, in 1998 the New York Times used technology to restore her mother’s name in the love letters that Emily had sent her. Her mother’s name, Susan (who was also Emily’s sister-in-law) could be erased by the family for a time but could not be erased from history.

The vehicle Olnek uses to tell this story is through the words of Mabel Todd (Seimetz) who is giving a lecture about the poet to a group of women. Mable had an affair with Austin, Emily’s brother, and though she had never actually met Emily, she pushes that she’s the authority on her and Emily’s work and life. This is no doubt done by Mable to get herself some recognition.  

Emily was thought to have lived somewhat similarly to a hermit who’s the shy-type and may have been disliked because of it. It was rumored she may have been so disagreeable she wasn’t interested in being published because she thought her work wasn’t good enough to be published. But maybe she thought the publisher wasn’t worthy of publishing it. In an innovative and comical way, this film not only dispels many myths about this woman, her work and her life but enlightens the audience. Emily Dickenson was anything but a recluse. Growing up next to a cemetery created a bit of a dark side in her but she had plenty of fun-filled days… and nights. She participated in life heart and soul… when she was with her love. Reminder. Being a woman in those days meant you couldn’t be too successful lest you step on a man’s toes.

This is represented adequately with incredibly well-written and impressive, potent dialogue, when Emily attempts to get the editor at The Atlantic, Higginson (Gelman), to put some of her poems in his magazine. He believes women should have the right to be recognized and to vote. He thinks more intelligent women need to be heard but also says that he’s, ‘barely able to find any.’ He insults Emily’s work by saying that when he reads her poetry, ‘He’s left feeling… I’m not sure what.’ He discloses to her that unless he’s able to edit the hell out of her poems, she can forget being published by his magazine. She thanks him for his surgical suggestions but isn’t happy about them.

Then there’s being a woman in love with another woman which would have been even more difficult on poor Emily. All things considered, it’s not hard to see why she may have seemed cranky at times. The love between Emily and Susan (Ziegler), her muse, had to be hidden. This being the case, no one but Susan would have seen her at her most lively and happy. For the era, Emily was anything but what she was expected to be. She was unapologetically selfish when it came to who she loved and who she spent her time with. She loved Susan wildly but had to live the ruse. She was willing to accept it because Susan married her brother, Austin (Seal), which meant they would always be near one another without being accused of anything. Emily is upset about the marriage at first but realizes Susan did it not to be with Austin, but to be with her. As teenagers, young women stole kisses when they could. Now, as adults living next to one another, they could still do the same… undetected.

There are so many creative and shamelessly open scenes in this movie that not only reveal to us how Emily worked but who she was on the inside. Especially when it came to love. She had jealous moments, was intelligent, strong and had a great sense of humor. This woman wrote poetry with the same passion she reserved only for Susan. It’s a shame that a puny amount of her poems was actually published while she was alive. It’s unfortunate that she never got to see how she influenced others. You’ll learn more about this in the postscript before the credits. ‘Wild Nights With Emily’ is an amusing movie and it’s playful. It’s original, captivating and engaging. I recommend it highly. 



*Opening today at Harkins Camelview Fashion Square

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The Invisibles opening at Harkins Shea

 A Greenwich Entertainment release

‘THE INVISIBLES’

Official Selection: New York Jewish Film Festival 2018 (Presented by The Jewish Museum & The Film Society of Lincoln Center)

Winner: Audience Favorite World Cinema, Mill Valley Film Festival 2018 

While Goebbels infamously declared Berlin “free of Jews” in 1943, 1,700 managed to survive in the Nazi capital. Claus Räfle’s gripping docudrama traces the stories of four real-life survivors who learned to hide in plain sight. Moving between cinemas, cafés and safe houses, they dodged Nazi officials and a dense network of spies and informants. Yet their prudence was at odds with their youthful recklessness, prompting them to join the resistance, forge passports, or pose as Aryan war widows. Masterfully weaving these story threads together, The Invisibles is a testament to the resourcefulness, willpower and sheer chance needed to survive against incredible odds. 

“What “Invisibles” documents and dramatizes is really pretty darned incredible.” —The Epoch Times

“Fascinating, true story of four Jews who were among the thousands who survived the Holocaust by hiding out in Berlin…plays like a thriller but is all the more remarkable for being true…keeps you on the edge of your seat.” — The Jerusalem Post

OPENING HARKINS SHEA 14 2/1

Tickets at www.theinvisiblesfilm.com/tickets

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Mary Queen of Scots Movie Review

In ‘Mary Queen of Scots,’ filmmaker Josie Rourke shows us a dramatic and intense time in history, cleverly focusing on and examining the life of the ever charming, ever bewitching and sharp, Mary Stuart (Ronan), who wants only what is rightfully hers. The film is written by Beau Willimon and based on the book, ‘Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart’ by John Guy. The world Rourke creates with cinematographer John Mathieson (X-Men: First Class, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, The Phantom of the Opera) is flush with color, showing beautiful landscapes however the piece is dark and lonely because though the spotlight is on Mary Stuart, there’s another woman who’s casting a pall over the entire situation. That woman is Queen Elizabeth I (Robbie), the Queen of England. Mary’s very existence threatens her in many ways.

Mary was the Queen of France at only sixteen years of age. Now widowed at the age of eighteen, she wants to be the Queen of Scotland, her homeland. After her husband’s death, she returns to her country of origin to reclaim the throne. This is where she is met with great opposition… and a jealous rival. Feisty and strong-willed, Mary pleads with her cousin to meet her face to face, so they can rule ‘side by side.’ She begs that they not allow men to get in the way of what could be an amicable and peaceful kinship. She wants and asks for unity. Of course, men twist her thoughts and encourage Elizabeth to believe that Mary is more foe than friend. Hungry for power, the men helping Elizabeth govern want to rule over both Scotland and England. Elizabeth is unable to bear a child and they fear what may happen when Mary weds and has a child. This child would then be the next in line to take over and lord over all the land.

This chapter in the tale is tedious. There are a lot of characters to get to know but once you learn everyone’s names and where they fit in the plot, the pacing never slows. You settle in rather nicely, in fact, and the two hours goes by comfortably. Ronan plays a bullheaded and determined Mary who wants to be with a man ‘fully,’ but not if she’s owned by him. Shocking for the day, she is her own woman. You’ll be surprised to learn that who Mary does eventually pick to marry is actually gay. How she handles the situation when she finds out is what endears you to her even more. You’ll find yourself wanting her to succeed and get what she’s due and you’ll need for Elizabeth to see her point of view and share her vision. The script is decent except for the few times when men and their games of war slip in. It wasn’t really needed but the reasons for it are understood.

At times, I was both fascinated and confused by the story. It’s well-done, powerful and intriguing but at times a lot to take in. That said, do not miss a thing! No going up to get popcorn or taking bathroom breaks or anything because every second of screen time is filled with something you’ll regret having missed. The ending when the two women’s eyes fall upon one another for the first time is remarkable. Their conversation is the perfect way to close this film. It’s definitely a watch on the big screen if possible.    

 

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Bad Times at the El Royale Movie Review

You absolutely must get online and get your reservations for the El Royale tonight! This Tarantino style noir or ‘black’ film has dustings of Hitchcock and early Hollywood capers and mysteries. Don’t waste another moment reading about it. Just go. The trailer does a spectacular job of keeping certain plotlines a secret which is rare these days so if you were already interested by watching them, you haven’t seen anything yet.
The opening of the film declares why a certain character is at the hotel and what he’s searching for. ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ like similar films before it, allows us to get to know each of her other characters one by one. Little is revealed about them but as more people and circumstances crop up, with the use of flashbacks, you’re investigating the characters yourselves and learning more. Often, you’ll be surprised at what you see. A little warning to those who are faint of heart, there are several jump-scares that will leave you unsettled and anxious for what’s to come during the rest of the film. This is something I liked about Drew Goddard’s film ‘The Cabin in the Woods,’ too. He knows how to keep you sitting on the edge of your seat and he likes it.

The film’s two hours and 21 minutes are rather long but for the most part, the cast makes each minute count. And don’t ask me to pick who, out of this magnificent assembly of actors, is best. They were all outstanding! Okay, fine. If you’re going to twist my arm, I have to admit that I couldn’t take my eyes off Jeff Bridges. The man is unbelievable in this role. But I digress. Let’s get back to the length of the movie. Though a well-orchestrated film otherwise, where Goddard could have shaved off some time would have been by not having the characters discover things the audience has already seen through the eyes of several others before. That said, I’d see it again in a heartbeat. Let me tell you some about what to expect from your bi-state stay in the El Royale. The hotel sits on both Nevada and California and is split in half by a red line painted down the middle of the lobby. The hotel has hosted many performers of the stage and screen where gambling is allowed only on the Nevada side, obviously, but plenty of boozing and canoodling have happened on both. With the band of misfits joining us now, it certainly hasn’t been and still isn’t a virtuous place to stay. The hotel is very much a central figure of the film. It reveals and has as much personality as any of the others do.

Through Goddard’s clever and inventive script and exceedingly brilliant and vivid imagination, you get involved in their stories and grow to either love or hate them. The bellboy named Miles (played by Bill Pullman’s son) Lewis, is perhaps the most compelling by movies end, something not expected upon first meeting him. I don’t really want to introduce you to them or reveal too much so I’ll not be saying much more. You need to be sitting in the theatre watching, not reading about, why you need to see this. You’ll be sucked in right away with a very impressive and striking opening. The thrills, the wit, and the outlandish situations along with the players and the music that accompanies them will take you voluntarily to the end of your stay.

First Man Movie Review

‘First Man’ focuses on the beginnings of Nasa and invests most of its two hours and twenty minutes to Neil Armstrong, the first man to ever set foot on the moon. It’s captured beautifully with an incredibly exciting screenplay by Josh Singer, who wrote ‘The Post,’ ‘Spotlight’ and twenty-six episodes of ‘The West Wing,’ that’s filled with motivation, trepidation, elation and plenty of heartaches.
If you want to feel what Neil Armstrong felt as he flew his jet across the sky and if you want to experience the inside of a space capsule with him, as well, see this movie at the theatre but if you can, get to an IMAX theatre quickly for an enhanced adventure into space.

Director Damien Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash), obviously no novice when it comes to music and tone, had a sound department of thirty people working overtime for this one! The metal of the rocket the astronauts are jammed into before it takes off and after speaks to them. It moans and groans, shrieks and creaks, articulating its disapproval of what is being asked of it, setting your nerves on edge before you’re anywhere near the moon. Chazelle manages to make us see and feel the vibrations and each bump, jolt, quiver and jerk they are going through as they train for their mission and as they’re launched into orbit. Uncertainty is a big part of the film which is puzzling because we all know how it turns out but that’s how beautifully structured the film is and how strong the characters are. It’s so believable that even YOU aren’t sure of what’s next for them.

Though Armstrong and other astronauts were in happy marriages, Chazelle was able to catch and target in on their lives at home during the 1960’s with the Apollo missions going on. As they watched friends burn up or blow up, they tried not to show it but were a bundle of nerves inside. Armstrong kept himself at a safe distance from his wife Janet, played quite skillfully by Claire Foy. They lose a child, Karen, which Neil never seems to recover but as they continue to have more children, he pulls away emotionally, saving it for the missions, and she remains strong for their family. She understood he had to direct his attention on surviving but wasn’t about to let him kill what they had. The scene between the two of them toward the end of the film strengthens an already powerful film and cements this as one of the best movies of the year. That said, however, it’s no ‘Whiplash,’ which is a more determined Chazelle film, but this is still intense and a must-see this weekend. Don’t wait to watch it at home. The exceptional photography and superb score deserve to be seen and heard properly.