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gradyharp

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2019 reviews in total 
Index | Alphabetical | Chronological | Useful

3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
'Watch me', 9 October 2014
7/10

Paul Haggis both wrote and directed this very long movie (137 minutes) that plays with our minds in a way not dissimilar to his most famous similar film CRASH. The quilted story takes patience and close attention to paste each of the three running stories together – three (at times augmented) couples whose lives are altered in some way by a child – drowning, abusive by placing in a plastic bag, a conveniently imagined child – and it all ties together with slips of paper, pages of novels, paintings and other threads spread around Paris, Rome, and New York.

'Michael (Liam Neeson) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction author who has sequestered himself in a hotel suite in Paris to finish his latest book. He recently left his wife, Elaine (Kim Basinger), and is having a tempestuous affair with Anna (Olivia Wilde), an ambitious young journalist who wants to write and publish fiction. At the same time, Scott (Adrien Brody), a shady American 'clothing designer' businessman, is in Italy to steal designs from fashion houses. Hating everything Italian, Scott wanders into the Café American with barkeep Marco (Riccardo Scamarcio) in search of something familiar to eat. There, he meets Monika (Moran Atias), a beautiful Romanian woman, who is about to be reunited with her young daughter. When the money she has saved to pay her daughter's smuggler Carlo (Viinico Marchioni) has stolen, Scott feels compelled to help. They take off together for a dangerous town in Southern Italy, where Scott starts to suspect that he is the patsy in an elaborate con game. Julia (Mila Kunis), an ex-soap opera actress, is caught in a custody battle for her 6 year-old son with her ex-husband Rick (James Franco), a famous New York artist. With her support cut off and her legal costs ruinous, Julia is reduced to working as a maid in the same upscale boutique hotel where she was once a frequent guest. Julia's lawyer Theresa (Maria Bello) has secured Julia one final chance to change the court's mind and be reunited with the child she loves. Rick's current girlfriend Sam (Loan Chabanol) is a compassionate onlooker.'

With a cast such as this the film works as well as it can with such obtuse twists and turns involving each of the three couples. The film 'feels' like it wants to be wonderful, but it just plods along too slowly to make us care very much about this odd groups of maladjusted misfits.

Enemy (2013)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'Chaos is order yet undeciphered', 27 September 2014
10/10

Portuguese author José Saramago (1922 – 2010), whose celebrated novels can be seen as allegories and commonly present subversive perspectives on historic events, emphasizing the human factor (BLINDNESS, SEEING, THE STONE RAFT, THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO Jesus Christ, DEATH WITH INTERRUPTIONS, THE CAVE, ALL THE NAMES, CAIN etc), published THE DOUBLE in 2002: it took more than 10 years before being transformed for the screen by Javier Gullón and directed by Canadian Denis Villeneuve. For those who remain under the spell of Saramago's strange and seductively intelligent writing this film will satisfy. For those who prefer linear story lines of everyday possibilities the film will likely not find an appreciative audience. This is a film that demands the full attention of the viewer and the acceptance of alternative ways of viewing reality and alternative reality.

Living in Toronto, Adam Bell Jake Gyllenhaal) is a college history professor, a loner, routiner, whose contact with the world outside the classroom is limited to life with his live in girlfriend Mary (Mélanie Laurent). A fellow teacher (Joshua Peace), apparently attempting to open Adam's vistas, recommends he watch films and recommends a particular film to Adam. When Adam watches the film he notes an actor playing a bellhop who looks like Adam. He becomes obsessed with finding out about this double of his. He learns that the actor's stage name is Daniel Saint Claire, whose legal name is Anthony Claire (again Jake Gyllenhaal). Claire is a Toronto based actor with only a few on-screen credits, and is married to a woman named Helen (Sarah Gadon) who is six months pregnant. Adam becomes obsessed with meeting Claire, who he learns upon first sighting that they look exactly the same, from the facial hair to a scar each has, but Claire who seemingly better adjusted than Adam. Their lives become intertwined as Claire himself ends up becoming obsessed with Adam, but in a slightly different way. Is Adam viewing his alternate real self (a married man with a child on the way) and escaping his reality with an affair with Mary? It is left for the viewer to decide.

The atmosphere created by the actors (Gyllenhaal is excellent as are Laurent, Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini who plays Claire's - or Adam's? - mother), the cinematography by Nicolas Bolduc and the music score by Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans are stunning. The introduction of a tarantula motif adds further mystery to this vivid film. A film for adventuresome thinkers who enjoy being challenged. Grady Harp, September 14

Felony (2013)
4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:
'Time... time and the world swallows events. And it's sad but that's how it is.', 25 September 2014
10/10

From Australia comes this very well written and acted, tense drama that is particularly attuned to our times – the recently noted role of the police force involved in criminal activity and brutality. Written by actor Joel Edgerton who also stars this is storytelling on the first order – well worth viewing and pondering.

The concept behind the film is the inner workings of the police force, both old timers such as Detective Carl Summer (a brilliant performance by Tom Wilkinson), hard working detectives like Malcolm Toohey (Joel Edgerton) who happen to make mistakes after having celebrated with booze a recent traumatic arrest, and a newcomer to the force Jim Melic (Jai Courtney is a very sensitive portrayal). Though the focus is on an accidental hit and run between Toohey and a bicycle riding youngster following a checkpoint where Toohey (who has been drinking is stopped by local police but not held because he is a fellow cop) calls for help but decides to cover-up his part in the encounter, the other two cops are at equal crossroads: Summer tells Toohey to fabricate a story to prevent his being arrested for hit and run, a fact that Summer's new ride along partner Melic cannot justify and seeks the mother of the injured child (Sarah Roberts) to console her. As the tension mounts and the youngster's situation deteriorates and so do the lives of these three detectives. Despite Toohey's wife (Melissa George) encouraging him not to tell the truth as well as Summer's insistence that for the safety of the force and the three cops Toohey maintain his fabricated story, Toohey is ridden with guilt and begins to change his mind about the incident and his involvement. Summer is intolerant of Toohey's weakness and in a struggle Melic (who has made an indecent advance to the child's mother despite his extending support for her) brutally assaults Summer resulting in brain damage. All three cops must walk that thin line between truth and fiction and the effect that truth will have on their careers.

At times the Australian accents are tough to understand but that is a very minor point. This is a beautifully scripted, conceived, photographed and acted film that should be high on everyone's list of top films of the year.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
'That's en-ter-tain-meant…', 13 September 2014
6/10

What a interesting display of responses to this film in the review department – from caustic loathing to unabashed adoration and everything in between. But look at so many of the television series that act out similar tales - lots of blood and guts, sex, absurd dialogue, subpar acting, etc – that are picked up season after season because audiences love the escape form reality mode. Go figure….

No, THE LEGEND OF HERCULES is not a great movie; it is a diversion. Does it stick closely to the myth of Hercules? Who knows? A myth after all is a myth and we've swallowed a lot of versions of this story before (remember Steve Reeves, etc?). But now it is in competition with Marvel comic heroes and space odysseys and a lot of other mindless time wasters that make it to the big screen because of the return of 3D. They succeed for the trill of dodging the special effects that make you scream.

Short summary form the PR: 'The origin story of the mythical Greek hero. Betrayed by his stepfather, the King, and exiled and sold into slavery because of a forbidden love, Hercules must use his formidable powers to fight his way back to his rightful kingdom. In Ancient Greece 1200 B.C., a queen succumbs to the lust of Zeus to bear a son promised to overthrow the tyrannical rule of the king and restore peace to a land in hardship. But this prince, Hercules, knows nothing of his real identity or his destiny. He desires only one thing: the love of Hebe, Princess of Crete, who has been promised to his own brother. When Hercules learns of his greater purpose, he must choose: to flee with his true love or to fulfill his destiny and become the true hero of his time. The story behind one of the greatest myths is revealed in this action-packed epic - a tale of love, sacrifice and the strength of the human spirit.' Make a lot of dramatic sense? No, not really.

The main attraction of the film is the quite often barely clothed vision of megahunk Kellan Lutz as Hercules. His acting is up to the minor standards of the script, but it is his body that the audience pays to see. Toss in Liam McIntyre (television's second Spartacus), Johnathon Schaech, pretty Gaia Weiss, Rade Serbedzija, Scott Adkins – all television favorites – and the cast carries off this rather ponderous plot rather well. The CGI effects and the arrested and slow motion photography add to the circus and there you have the reason for making the movie – to see a lot of Kellan Lutz and a lot of blood and gore that seems to be the diet of preference for moviegoers. Watch it for fun and relax on the flaws. It is entertainment after all.

Nymph (2014)
7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
Uh-Oh, 7 September 2014
4/10

This little film from Serbia directed by Milan Todorovic is based on a story by Marko Backovic and transformed into a screenplay by Barry Keating and Milan Konjevic. It will satisfy the current voracious appetite for horror stories that serve substantial amounts of gore to audiences who love that sort of thing. With an unknown cast the director relies on the presence of Franco Nero to bring a bit of credibility to an otherwise incredulous story.

Two American girls travel to Montenegro on vacation to visit an old friend, playboy Alex who unbeknownst to the girls is now engaged. They decide to venture to Mamula, a former prison island and Nazi concentration camp that houses a horrendous evil. During their exploration of the fortress they discover that they are not alone: a sinister fisherman named Niko (Franco Nero) is seen disposing of human remains in a well and everyone realizes they are in mortal danger. Someone else is on the island with them and he will stop at nothing to protect it's secrets. There is a darkness hidden beneath the island and the terror has just begun – the killer mermaid.

As if there weren't enough of this type of tale on television for free they continue to light up the marquee. As long as there is an audience there will be more. In Serbian and English with subtitles. Grady Harp, September 14

Ilo Ilo (2013)
1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Ba Ma Bu Zai Jia 'Father, Mother Not At Home', 7 September 2014
8/10

A film from Singapore that looks deeply into family relationships may not be what we expect, but Anthony Chen's screenplay and direction bring this sensitive little story alive.

The time is 1997 (during the Asian Financial Crisis) in Singapore. Jaile Lim is a young boy whose strained home life affects his behavior patterns at school and at play. His parents are overworked and do not cope with Jiale's problems well, and with another baby on the way they hire live in maid and nanny Teresa, a Filipino girl searching for a better life. The friendship between the maid Teresa and young boy Jiale at first causes the mother's jealousy, while the Asian recession hits the region: the bond between Jaile and Teresa actually weakens the strained relationship within the family unit until Teresa manages to calm Jaile's temperament and the result is a an extended family, one that no longer is family and maid. What begins as a strange relationship between a young boy, lonely as his parents are busy making money to support their family, and a maid, who left her young boy to her sister in another country to come to Singapore for earning, becomes a permutation of a true family.

The cinematography by Benoit Soler heightens the drama. The acting is high quality – Yann Yan Yeo as the mother, Tianwen Chen, the father, Angeli Bayani as Teresa and Jailer Koh as Jaile. The film is in Mandarin, Tagalog, and Hokkien with English subtitles.

Belle (2013)
2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
'How can I be too high of rank to dine with the servants, but too low of rank to dine with my own family?', 3 September 2014
10/10

Contemporary social problems show their roots in this stunning film BELLE. Based on a true story as adapted for the screen by Misan Sagay and directed with eloquence by Amma Asante this film reminds us again of the 18th century British slave market and the tragedies that accompanied the transport of salves from their origins of freedom to the aristocracy's whims and homes as slave servants. It is disturbing to consider, spectacularly beautiful to watch, and offers a cast of some of England's most brilliant actors.

As the pre-production promo states, 'BELLE is inspired by the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle (the very fine actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw), the illegitimate mixed race daughter of a Royal Navy Captain (Matthew Goode). Raised by her aristocratic great-uncle Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), Belle's lineage affords her certain privileges, yet the color of her skin prevents her from fully participating in the traditions of her social standing. Left to wonder if she will ever find love, Belle falls for an idealistic young vicar's son (Sam Reid) bent on change who, with her help, shapes Lord Mansfield's role as Lord Chief Justice to end slavery in England.' The cast is rounded out by excellent performances form Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton, Sarah Gordon, James Norton, Tom Felton and Alan McKenna.

The costumes, sets and scenery, and musical score are all top notch. But the aspect of this film that makes it a move into such importance is reminders from history of the problems of racism that continue to plague us in current times. Perhaps seeing this film will help understanding.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'We are an army of ghosts', 23 August 2014
10/10

'Sometime the hating has to stop' – a phrase uttered by Eric Lomax in this compelling film about WW II: if only we could all repeat that phrase throughout the world everyday by everyone.

Director Jonathan Teplitzky has created a monument against war in THE RAILWAY MAN based on the book by Eric Lomax ('Enemy, My Friend?') and adapted for the screen by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Andy Paterson. It is a brilliantly conceived and acted and presented cinematic version of a true story about a British army officer Eric Lomax (Colin Firth/Jeremy Irvine) who was captured by the Japanese during the fall of Singapore in 1942. He and thousands of others were forced to build the Burma-to-Siam railroad. Lomax was fascinated with railroads and that in part (and the fact that he had built a radio to hear what was happening in the rest of the world while he and his mates were held as POWs in a Japanese prison camp) was the reason he was singled out for torture – a torture under the direction of the Japanese translator Takeshi Nagase (Hiroyuki Sanada/Tanroh Ishida).

The autobiography works so well because of many factors – the back and forth telling of the story in modern times and in 1942 as filmed in Scotland and Thailand, the equally brilliant performances of the older and younger Lomax and the older and younger Nagase, the manner in which the undoing of the mind of Lomax is handled by Lomax's wife Patti (the always superb Nicole Kidman) and the support of Lomax closest friend Finlay (Stellan Skarsgård/Sam Reid) when it is discovered that Lomax's arch enemy Nagase is still alive, working as a tour guide of the very camp where Lomax was tortured (Nagase remains deeply concerned about his actions in the war and is now working toward reconciliation). It is Lomax's trip back to the scene of his lasting mental anguish and confronting Nagase that is the most moving. (Nagase: 'You are a soldier, Lomax. You never surrendered.' Eric: 'I'm still at war.') But it also is made more deeply moving by the musical score by David Hirschfelder and the cinematography by Garry Phillips and a truly impressive supporting cast.

Twice in the film a poem written by Eric Lomax is spoken: At the beginning of time the clock struck one Then dropped the dew and the clock struck two From the dew grew a tree and the clock struck three The tree made a door and the clock struck four Man came alive and the clock struck five Count not, waste not the years on the clock Behold I stand at the door and knock.

If only everyone could see this moving study of how war affects us all perhaps we could stop the madness. Or as Lomax states, 'Sometime the hate has to stop.'

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The meaning of land and family history - "Le démantèlement", 19 August 2014
9/10

Canadian writer/director Sébastien Pilote has created a fine little film that in many ways plays like an elegy to times past. The film moves slowly, like a gentle stroll in the Canadian countryside, the action is spare, the acting is excellent and the message is exquisite.

Canadian farmer Gaby Gagnon (Gabriel Arcand) tends his sheep on his lovely little farm in northern Quebec and much of the essence of the film is his interaction with the land and the animals that have been his life. He has named the highly regarded farm Bouchard & Sons, hoping his farm will be passed to his sons. But instead of sons he has two daughters – Frédérique (Sophie Desmarais) and Marie (Lucie Laurier) - and both have moved away from the farm to Montreal and into different lives. Marie and her 2 sons visit Gaby requesting financial support: she has left her husband Steve and needs to buy Steve's half of the house to maintain her family. Gaby wants to help her but realizes that the only source of money he has is Bouchard & Sons, which would mean essentially ending Gaby's home and way of life. It is a conflict well resolved by the writer/director.

The sense of isolation, need, seclusion and yet camaraderie with his fellow farmers who know and love nothing more than the life of a farm makes this a very nostalgic film. Gabriel Arcand is luminous as Gaby and every moment of his struggle we feel intensely. The film score by Serge Nakaushi-Pelletier is at once simple and eloquent and the cinematography by Michel La Veaux captures the essence of the Canadian countryside. In all, this is a gentle, quiet, slow moving film about emotional decisions and family commitment and traditions and it plays very well indeed.

'If you could just for a day have a super power, what would it be?', 17 August 2014
10/10

Now and then a controversial, deeply moving film based on what is happening in the world a present come along at a time that could not be more propitious. Inspired by true events, Aban + Khorshid is an intimate portrait of two imprisoned Iranian lovers, caught up in their government's restrictive regime, glimpsing into the world in which they met, moments before their execution for being gay. Though it is only fifteen minutes in length as written and directed by Darwin Serink, it is one of the USA entries for the LGBT Festival. Mojean Aria portrays Aban and Bobby Naderi portrays Khorshid. Sage Lewis provides this musical score - a mystical but touching atmospheric background for this tragedy. The surprising aspect is the quality of love that is portrayed here, love even in the most threatening of circumstances.

On his website Darwin Serink shares that this film was based on his response to a photograph of real life men Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni as they were being hanged for an alleged crime which in reality was the 'crime' of being gay. 'The incident--and the resulting photo from the Iranian Student News Agency of the two men's hanging sparked outrage, concern and, for Serink, inspiration: "It is one of those images that ingrained itself in my mind and never left," he said. "As a gay filmmaker I am using my talents to say something about the atrocities committed to gays in Iran."

There has been a powerful positive response to the film being hailed at festivals. In Farsi with English subtitles. Grady Harp, August 14


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