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gradyharp

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2221 reviews in total 
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Ithaca (2015)
'There will always be pain in this world, Homer. And a good man will seek to take the pain out of things.', 4 December 2016
8/10

'There will always be pain in this world, Homer. And a good man will seek to take the pain out of things.' William Saroyan's 1943 novel THE HUMAN COMEDY, a quiet, gentle statement of finding meaning in becoming a man, has been lovingly and subtly transformed into a film by Erik Jendresen and directed with straightforward simplicity by Meg Ryan. Some viewers fine this film slow and lifeless, but the true beauty of this little gem is that the actors, director, cinematographer and production crew allow it to let the tine slice of Americana speak for itself.

The year is 1942 and the film opens with black and white broadcasts by President Roosevelt about the tragedy of Pearl Harbor. We meet the Macauley family. Fourteen- year-old Homer Macauley (Alex Neustaedter) is determined to be the best and fastest bicycle telegraph messenger anyone has ever seen. His older brother Marcus (Jack Quaid) has gone to war, leaving Homer to look after his widowed mother (Meg Ryan – his father appears as Tom Hanks), his older sister Bess (Christine Nelson) and his 4-year-old brother, Ulysses (Spencer Howell). And so it is that as spring turns to summer, 1942, Homer Macauley delivers messages of love, hope, pain... and death... to the good people of Ithaca. His telegraph office is run buy the elderly Grogan (Sam Shepard) and Tom Spangler (Hamish Linklater) who are supportive of their underage worker, offering sage advice and love to a frightened lad. Homer will grapple with one message that will change him forever. ITHACA is a coming-of-age story about the exuberance of youth, the abruptness of change, the sweetness of life, the sting of death, and the sheer goodness that lives in each and every one of us.

Put away your need for high action films and comic book heroes and CGI effects and re- visit a time in America when small towns reflected the strengths of youngsters and families affect by World War II. The film is deeply moving.

The Take (2016)
'I can't believe that cop shot at me!' 'You're a terrorist subject who killed four people - what did you expect?', 27 November 2016
9/10

Paris under siege. Were it not for recent events of terrorism in the City of Light this film would have less impact, but the manner in which writers Andrew Baldwin and writer/director James Watkins approach the concept of the milieu of terrorism and present their heist story shows just how much the alert for further terrorist acts exists. Gunshots? Must be terrorists! And whether or not the intent of the film is to soften the global fear of non-terrorist Muslims, the end result is a reminder of the fact that terrorism and Islam are NOT inextricably bound!

As the film opens we watch a likable pickpocket from the US trying to make enough money to return home and become a physician – name Michael Mason (Richard Madden in a fine turn of a role). He becomes inadvertently involved in a crime scene when he picks up a bag discarded by on Zoe (Charlotte Le Bon) who has tossed the bad and her mission for the criminals to escape involvement in a bomb threat. The bag contains a teddy bear. Not realizing the toy contains a timed bomb, he tosses it aside on a busy street. A few seconds later it explodes, killing four people. CCTV footage reveals Mason's face and the French police tag him as a 'terrorist threat'. The explosion, although botched, was set up by a select group of the French Interior Ministry as a decoy so they can make a half billion dollar digital transfer from a bank, closed on Bastille Day. In a separate CIA investigation the unruly agent Sean Briar (Idris Elba – in fine form), discovers the real story behind Masons "terrorist attack". The two men, on different sides of the law, collaborate to bring the corrupt members of the Ministry down. In the process far too many people are killed, including Sean Briar's boss (Kelly Reilly) and slowly but surely the evil is unveiled – corruption that goes to the top.

The cinematography (the film was shot in Paris with an emphasis on the Île-de-France) by Tim Maurice-Jones captures the tension well and the musical score by Alex Heffes adds to the mood of the film. Special credit goes to Film Editor Jon Harris who makes the rooftop runs and leaps by Elba and Madden feel real! A very fine supporting cast makes this film meaningful on many levels, not the least of which being compassion for Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism!

Anthropoid (2016)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'Your going to murder Heydrich?' 'Assassinate... murder implies he had a life worth living.', 26 November 2016

Resistance forces during foreign occupation are a particular set of heroes. Few films establish that as well as this superb film written by Anthony Frewin and Director Sean Ellis who have been able to bring to life a true story about Hitler's Nazi Germany in World War II. ANTHROPOID is based on the true story of 'Operation Anthropoid,' the code name for the Czechoslovakian operatives' mission to assassinate SS officer Reinhard Heydrich, the main architect behind the Final Solution who was the Reich's third in command behind Hitler and Himmler and the leader of Nazi forces in Czechoslovakia. Opening the film with actual film clips from the war in gritty black and white, showing Hitler's forces marching through Prague in 1941 adds instant credibility to the story to come. Significant statements about the process of the war to date and the people about who the film is centered add to this sense of tension. Using a large Czech cast of actors in supportive roles adds to the atmosphere of the horrors that befell Czechoslovakia during Hitler's madness.

The immensely cruel and terrifying Heydrich is the target for Czech resistance soldiers dropped from England by parachutes into Czechoslovakia – Josef Gabcík (Cillian Murphy) and Jan Kubis (Jamie Dornan) – whose assignment Anthropoid is to assassinate Heydrich. The manner in which they enter the lives of a family and friends is at once treacherous for the terrified people and romantic as Jan falls in love with Marie (Charlotte Le Bon) and Josef becomes tied to Marie's friend Lenka (Anna Geislerová). They bond with the priest who agrees to give them hiding places, work closely with fellow Czech resistance soldiers, and finally carry out their mission, though not without harrowing incidents in the process.

The supporting cast is superb, especially Toby Jones in a pivotal role. The cinematography is by the director Sean Ellis and is tightly integrated into the passage of the story. Robin Foster supplies the thrilling musical score with inserts of classical music that add to the tension and to the hope for the end of war. Altogether this is a brilliant film that deserves wide attention for all audiences interested in the history of war – especially WW II.

Entry into the genius of the mind of Philip Roth, 25 November 2016

James Schamus adapted Philip Roth's novel INDIGNATION for the screen and directed it: the result is a slice out of the past with all the innuendos and social commentary and Americana of the 1950s intact. The film retains the flavor of Roth's writing who is said to have stated 'This will come as a great shock to young people, but in 1951 you could make it through college unscathed by oral sex.' That is but one island of realism that this film addresses and when coupled with all the myriad instances of living life in college in the time of the Korean war, the result is a firm reminder of the Edward R. Morrow television series 'You Are There'.

Set in 1951, the story follows academically gifted Marcus Messner (a brilliant Logan Lerman), the idealistic son of a humble kosher butcher Max (Danny Burstein) from Newark, N.J. Marcus leaves for Ohio to study at Winesburg, a small, conservative college, where he finds himself at odds with the administration's Dean (Tracy Letts), grapples with anti-Semitism and sexual repression and pines after the beautiful but troubled girl Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon). Marcus separates from his assigned fellow Jewish roommates, declines an invitation to be in a Jewish fraternity, has a sensitive confrontation with the school Dean over Marcus' atheism and his loathing mandatory attendance in chapel. He finally has a date with Olivia who surprises the virgin Marcus with a car seat fellatio and that act sets into motion the cultural disaffection not only at college but also with his parents: his mother (Linda Emond) visits Markus in Ohio, meets Olivia, and shares with Markus that she loathes husband Max and is in the process of divorce. Markus' humanity shines through and he persuades his mother to not divorce, an agreement reached only if Markus will never see Olivia again.

The actors assembled are all accomplished and find that core of Philip Roth's view of the world so sensitively that this is far above being just a period piece. The musical score by Jay Wadley adds flavor of the times. The ending of the film is gut wrenching on many levels and to say more would spoil the film. This is a fine adaptation of Philip Roth's style. It is immensely successful.

Viktoria (2014)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
The rise of an important cinema genius, 10 November 2016
10/10

The incandescent Bulgarian film VIKTORIA is likely one of the most impressive cinematic debuts of the century. Written and directed by Maya Vitkova this film is much more than a review can summarize. Visually stunning with some the finest cinematography on record, highlighted by many scenes that are actual film clips from around the world bringing us back into the history of the fall of Communism and how the world reacted to that major change, enhanced by a beautiful musical score, acted with sensitivity by Bulgarian actors we have not known until this film – all of these attributes are secondary to the actual story Vitkova has created and presented, a sensitive story by a woman about women and those aspects of giving birth and the relationship between mother and daughter and grandmother. In short (and this is a very long film at 255 minutes) this is a masterpiece.

The film opens with the sounds (in darkness) of a couple coupling and the result is a pregnancy unwanted by the mother but desired by the father. The synopsis touches a few of the highlights: Dreaming of the West, Boryana (Irmena Chichikova) is determined not to have a child in communist Bulgaria. Despite her reticence, her daughter Viktoria enters the world in 1979, curiously missing an umbilical cord and an umbilicus, and is declared the Bulgaria's Baby of the Decade. Pampered by her mother state until the age of nine, Viktoria's decade of notoriety comes crashing down with the rest of European communism when Communism falls in 1989. But can political collapse and the hardship of new times finally bring Viktoria and her reluctant mother closer together? To say more would be to spoil the beauty of the manner in which this relationship and this story evolves. The character of Viktoria is played over the span of time by Daria Vitkova and Kalina Vitkova. The important role of grandmother is accentuated by Mariana Krumova, and the father Ivan is played with quiet dignity by Dimo Dimov.

The film is presented with a significant historical background from which we learn much about Bulgaria under Communism, but it is told with such a warmth and profound sense of dignity and respect for the role of a childbearing mother and a 'different' child who must learn to cope. Highly Recommended.

Approaching the challenge of becoming an adult, 9 November 2016
8/10

Norwegian writer/director Martin Lund won many kudos for this off center comedy about the pangs of growing into adulthood. The film is difficult to label – it is not a comedy per se; it is more of an examination of the process of retardation when approaching the role of an adult and to that end the cast is exemplary in portraying that lost generation married to computers and cellphones and tablets and texting etc that they have not learned how to become responsible for their own lives and those of their families and loved ones.

35-year-old Henrik (Henrik Rafaelsen) is attempting to establish himself in a new responsible job (yes, IT type), lives with a pregnant girlfriend Tone (Janne Heltberg) in a new apartment and still parties with his high school buddies. But he has some rather childish ways of behaving (all of his friends share that degree of foolish nerdism) and Henrik must make the growth spurt that will make him a father instead of a perpetual teenager. The process is called maturing and Henrik is just beginning to experience that realm.

Henrik Rafaelsen has found that plane of innocence stirred with silliness and immaturity while he discovers the consequences of his childish behavior (in one scene he is sitting in a car reading Peter Pan and urinates, full frontal, on the book). There is a lot of horsing around in the gym, full frontal nudity and bizarre behavior among his buddies, and while that sort of 'fun' has its place in a sequestered gym, when it progresses to parties where behavior is not controlled by commonsense self discipline then things happen that result in Henrik's having to explain to Tone.

The film could be simply longwinded boredom were it not for the performances of the main characters. They invite us in and allow us to join them in the transformation toward adulthood. For that reason the film is really quite fine – it just takes patience and understanding.

0 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
A stylish, beautifully constructed thriller, 6 November 2016
8/10

John le Carré's 22nd novel, Our Kind of Traitor, has been adapted for the screen by Hossein Amini and directed by Susanna White, and while it may not be le Carré's most gripping work, it does make for an entertaining tour de force around many parts of the world. le Carré set his story in contemporary, recession gripped Britain. A left-leaning young Oxford academic and his barrister girlfriend take an off-peak holiday on the Caribbean island of Antigua. By seeming chance they bump into a Russian millionaire called Dima who owns a peninsula and a diamond-encrusted gold watch. He also has a tattoo on his right thumb, and wants a game of tennis. What else he wants propels the young lovers on a tortuous journey through Paris to a safe house in the Swiss Alps, to the murkiest cloisters of the City of London and its unholy alliance with Britain's Intelligence Establishment.

What helps make this film a pleasure to watch is the extraordinary cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle, the musical score by Marcelo Zarvos as well as a cast of fine actors who seem to feel their way in this strange drama securely. Opening with some extraordinary images of ballet dancer Carols Acosta sets a fine level of sophistication for the plot to come.

The synopsis makes this complicated plot seem accessible - When university professor of poetics Perry (Ewan McGregor) and his lawyer girlfriend, Gail (Naomie Harris), cross paths with the charismatic Dima (Stellan Skarsgård) on their Moroccan holiday, the forceful Russian is quick to challenge Perry to a friendly game of tennis. But this innocuous contest is not all it seems - Dima is a long-time servant of the Russian mafia, whose new boss, 'The Prince' (Grigoriy Dobrygin), wants him and his family dead. His only hope is to ask the unsuspecting Perry to broker him sanctuary with the British intelligence services, in return for exposing a vein of corruption that runs right to the heart of the City of London. Soon they find themselves on a tortuous journey through Paris to a safe house in the Swiss Alps and, with the might of the Russian mafia closing in, begin to realize this particular match has the highest stakes of all. In important and very well played roles are Damien Lewis, Alicia von Rittberg, Jeremy Northam, Pawel Szajda (a fine actor too seldom seen), Khalid Abdalla, Christian Brassington, and many others.

Not the best of John le Carré's oeuvre but certainly up to his stylistic touch with espionage.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'Everything changes. You can make a fresh start with your final breath.' - Berthold Brecht, 2 November 2016
10/10

Nanouk Leopold adapted Gerbrand Bakker's novel 'Boven is het stil' into a screenplay and directed this cinematic masterpiece IT'S ALL SO QUIET – a perfect balance between silence and the spoken word that results in one of the most tender examinations of life, death and love and the interstices few others have revealed.

Leopold's decision to interplay nature as a place where all animals including man find shelter, food, caring and love makes this visual and very quiet film indelible in the memory.

Helmer (Jeroen Willems) is a single farmer in his fifties who lives with and cares for his aged, bedridden father (Henri Garcin) in the Dutch countryside. His working days are marked by the visits of milk collector Johan (Wim Opbrouck), a man of his own age for whom Helmer holds a secret fascination – a mutual need is evident but unspoken. One day Helmer decides to renovate the house, buying himself a new double bed and moving his father upstairs. His life gains even more momentum when adolescent farmhand Henk (Martijn Lakemeier) is hired to assist, understudies Helmer's techniques for farming and adds some needed cleaning and caring for the farm: he also finds Helmer attractive and attempts to be physical one night – the result of which changes Helmer's thoughts and desires. In this battle of wills between two powerful personalities the father, once domineering and now in decline, and the son, preparing to live his own life when his father is gone what is left unsaid takes precedence over dialogue. But when unexpected words do come to Helmer late in the film, their quiet force is indisputable. The scene when his father finally dies with Helmer at his side is inordinately touch in it very quiet manner. Henk has left, Helmer returns to his farming chores, and at his father's burial, Johan returns and we are left to wonder what will change.

Leaves, cornfields, barren trees, a raven, sheep, cows and silence make this thoughtful paean to life immensely satisfying, Very Highly Recommended.

King Cobra (2016)
1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Tapping into a little understood industry, 30 October 2016
5/10

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Writer/director Justin Kelly created this script with co-author D. Madison Savage based on an article about a porn star and murder. The film has merit but slides into tedium by resorting to gay stereotypes despite the character roles being portrayed by a fine set of actors.

The tale is the career of Sean Paul Lockhart (aka Brent Corrigan and Fox Ryder) played by the talented Garrett Clayton who at age 17 began making gay pornography with Los Angeles filmmaker Stephen/aka Bryan Kocis (Christian Slater) using the name Brent Corrigan. The films were very successful financially and "Brent' (claiming he was 18 years old) became lovers with Stephen, the owner and director of Cobra Video. Brent became famous, wanted more money, left Stephen who had an exclusive contract with Brent, only to discover he could not perform using the name Brent Corrigan as that name was the property of Cobra Video. Brent reveals he was only 17 years old when working and filming with Stephen. This news threatened Stephen's livelihood and presented Brent with the opportunity to join another set of filmmakers - Joe/Joseph Kerekes (James Franco) and his other star Harlow/Harlow Cuadra (Keegan Allen). Stephen's attempt to halt Brent's making films with Joe and Harlow ended in a murder that became famous in the California courts. To say more would be a spoiler.

In addition to Christian Slater, James Franco, Garrett Clayton and Keegan Allen, the cast includes small but key roles by Alicia Silverstone and Molly Ringwald. The filming of the porn scenes is convincing without excessive exposure and the manner in which the director moves between the two lover couples balances the story well. Little is written about the porn video market and this film opens some insights into that industry.

1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
'Hearts and minds: the two best places to shoot somebody.', 26 October 2016
8/10

Robert Carlock adapted the true story Kim Barker shared in her book 'The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan' and as directed by both Glenn icarra and John Requa the result if a timely study of the seemingly endless wars in the Middle East with a strange label of a laugh out loud comedy. For Veterans and families of veterans the comedy may not seem cogent, but with a cast headed by Tina Fey playing the lead, the film does have its light moments.

In this age of acronyms it is not difficult to figure out the meaning of the title (WTF) and that sets the tone of this true story about journalist Kim Baker (Tina Fey), fed up with her boring life with boyfriend Chris (Josh Charles), moves from her cubicle work at a news station to accept an offer from her boss as one of the few unmarried childless reporters to take on Afghanistan as a war correspondent after the US invades Iraq – much like the well-known counterpart Tanya Vanderpoel (Margot Robbie) who has become the on the line face in Kabul. Off she goes to the unknown life in Afghanistan, discovering the dismissive use of women as sex objects and the drinking and partying of the troops, Kim settles in with her Afghan fixer, Fahim (Christopher Abbott) and her bodyguard, Nic (Stephen Peacocke) and photographer, Tall Brian (Nicholas Braun) and gets into the action quickly. She develops a good relationship with Marine General Hollanek (Billy Bob Thornton) which helps. Kim meets a Scottish photographer, Iain MacKelpie (Martin Freeman) who comes on as a mouthy dude at first but develops into a boyfriend eventually.

The story marches from 2003 to 2006. Much of the language is potty mouth and so much of the story is war – that is to say, NOT funny – but there is enough character transformation in Kim, evident most poignantly when she returns home and traces down Specialist Coughlin (Evan Jonigkeit) for one of the most tender moments of the realities of war, to make the film applicable to all.

Strong cast, strong writing, definitely R rated language and action make this little film worth seeing. It is another peak at the realities of war as we all know it.


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