Posts Tagged ‘review’

The Wife wanted to see a movie that the three of us could all watch, and Gifted seemed to fit the bill. From the IMDB: “Frank, a single man raising his child prodigy niece Mary, is drawn into a custody battle with his mother.”

This is a subgenre where its success is dependent on certain factors. In this case, one is the mutual love that Frank (Chris Evans, Marvel’s Captain America) and Mary (Mckenna Grace, from the TV show Designated Survivor) have for each other, without the kid being so obnoxious that you can’t stand to see him or her on the screen. On that level, the film succeeds.

Of course, one Frank stops homeschooling Mary so she can have friends her own age – all she has besides Frank is his landlady Roberta (Octavia Spencer) – it becomes obvious to her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) that Mary has amazing skills.

Reading the Rotten Tomatoes reviews (64% positive), some critics think that Frank’s mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) is “too vicious to be persuasive, and [writer Tom] Flynn undercuts her morally by stressing her lust for recognition.” That’s not my reading of the woman, as villain. She seems more wounded, estranged from her son, as she had been from her late daughter, and even from her current husband.

Fred, the one-eyed cat, also features prominently in the storyline. Yes, it’s all melodramatic, with a courtroom scene, and a Big Reveal, where Frank has to make a tradeoff to resolve the issue.

Gifted is a relatively simple, straightforward film, somewhat formulaic and almost certainly manipulative. But I laughed aloud more than once – to the irritation of the Daughter – and got sucked into the lives of the principals. It’s not a great film, but enjoyable enough on a rainy Sunday afternoon at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany.

Heart of ChristianityIn trying to explain what I believe, in terms of my faith, I found that the right words were not always available. Then I read the 2003 book The Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of Faith by Marcus Borg this past winter. My answer became: “Mostly what HE said.”

Borg was a “world renowned Jesus scholar” who, as the book sleeve notes, is out to reclaim “terms and ideas once thought to be the sole province of evangelicals and fundamentalists.”

As the Amazon description of The Heart of Christianity notes: “Being born again… has nothing to do with fundamentalism Read the rest of this entry »

For the Daughter’s birthday recently, her mother and I took her and her friend to the Spectrum Theatre to see the documentary Kedi. From the description:

“Hundreds of thousands of cats roam the streets of Istanbul, free, without a human master, as they have for thousands of years. They wander in and out of people’s lives, affecting them in ways only an animal who lives between the worlds of the wild and the tamed can… Cats are such an important part of the city’s personality that everyone who grows up in Istanbul or lives there has a story about a cat—stories that are memorable, sometimes scary, sometimes spiritual, but always very personal. Istanbul-born director Ceyda Torun, in her debut, has created a heartfelt love letter to both cats and the beautiful city of Istanbul…”

Watching this movie, one can gets all philosophical about life. Should cats be owned? (And as someone with two cats, one doubts that they CAN be.)

What is abundantly clear is that taking care of the cats and their kittens bring joy and even healing to those people of Istanbul who are in their lives. These humans more aware of life and their place in it than the average American. “Cats are the mirrors to ourselves.”

The citizens fret that with greater number of sterile highways and high-rises, the very nature of the city will be irreparably altered for the worse, not just for the felines but for the people as well. An apartment-dwelling cats using a litter box are nothing like the street cats.

The director wrote: “I grew up in Istanbul and I believe my childhood was infinitely less lonesome than it would have been if it weren’t for cats – and I wouldn’t be the person I am today. They were my friends and confidants and I missed their presence in all the other cities I ever lived in. This film is, in many ways, a love letter to those cats and the city, both of which are changing in ways that are unpredictable.”

Kedi works in achieving its modest goals. Here’s the trailer.

In anticipation of what turned out to the only snow day I’ve ever had from work, I went to the library and took out seven DVDs. The Wife, the Daughter and I voted on the picks, and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day was the consensus.

My spouse was surprised that I didn’t select the film higher since it features Amy Adams, who she seems to think I have a bit of a crush on. (Well, maybe…)

From the IMDB:
Guinevere Pettigrew [Frances McDormand], a middle-aged London governess [in 1939 London], finds herself unfairly dismissed from her job [without severance pay]. An attempt to gain new employment catapults her into the glamorous world and dizzying social whirl of an American actress and singer, Delysia Lafosse [Adams].

Miss Pettigrew was initially aghast with the actress’s lifestyle and many suitors, but soon she becomes indispensable in helping her get out of jams. Moreover, they discover a commonality.

It’s an OK, likable, not great but not awful movie, yer basic 2 and a half stars out of 4. I enjoyed seeing Lee Pace, who was the star of a 22 episode TV show I watched called Pushing Daisies from 2007-2009.

What was more interesting was watching the deleted scenes and recognizing why that shot was trimmed – the elevator scene originally was WAY too long. Oddly, though, there’s a scene totally removed and I think it was a mistake. It involved Miss Pettigrew sneaking into the cinema and watching a scene from a film before being tossed out. Not only did that explain how she could fake it in Delysia’s circles, it also explains line Miss Pettigrew delivers, which sees to come out of nowhere in the finished product.

The other interesting extra was learning how the book was optioned three times to be a movie, once shortly after Winifred Watson’s novel was published in 1938, once in the 1950s, and again in the 2000s, with Miss Watson getting paid each time. Perhaps she was the real survivor like Miss Pettigrew.

I saw I Am Not Your Negro at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany a couple weeks ago with my wife and a friend. I wrote a decent review, which I have managed to lose. So I’m cobbling together something else.

From Rotten Tomatoes:
“In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his next project, Remember This House. The book was to be a revolutionary, personal account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends- Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. At the time of Baldwin’s death in 1987, he left behind only thirty completed pages of his manuscript. Now, in his incendiary new documentary, master filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished. The result is a radical, up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, using Baldwin’s original words and flood of rich archival material.”

I remember watching James Baldwin on the Dick Cavett Show, one of the clips used in this movie. Peck uses the choices of film segments very impressively. It’s not just video from 1965 when Baldwin debated William F. Buckley. It’s bits of old movies, and scenes from Ferguson, Missouri.

As my buddy Ken Screven wrote, “Even though Baldwin died in 1987, and much of his words contained in the movie reach back 50 years, the issues Baldwin talks about are still with us, raw and festering in the minds of many of Trump nation… This is a significant spotlight on an America we thought no longer existed.”

Interestingly, the RT critics’ score is 98% positive, but the viewers’, only 84%. Bill Goodykoontz of the Arizona Republic wrote: “‘I Am Not Your Negro’ is important. And urgent. And almost certainly unlikely to be seen by the people who would benefit from it most.” Rick Bentley of the Fresno Bee: “Whether it’s Baldwin speaking or the readings done by Samuel L. Jackson, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ pulls no punches. It’s painful for a society that declares itself to be educated to be forced to look at how ignorant it has been and remains.”

The one caveat, I suppose, is that maybe America should all go out and buy it on DVD, because there were more than a few times in the watching when I thought, “I’d like to see that part again.” Here is a trailer of the Oscar-nominated documentary.

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