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gradyharp

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2180 reviews in total 
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45 Years (2015)
'It's funny how you forget the things in life that make you happy.', 25 June 2016
10/10

David Constantine's short story 'In Another Country' was adapted for the screen and directed by Andrew Haigh and the result is as gentle an examination of aging and what time does to memories and responses as any film on the screen.

Why this perfectly acted, paced, filmed, and packaged little film did so well in Europe winning best actress awards for Charlotte Rampling and best actor for Tom Courtenay and best picture in many festivals failed to ignite a response in America is strange. Perhaps it is too subtle, too quiet, not sufficiently infused with F bombs or other profanity, too lacking in CGI effects and noise and celebration of murder and crime of the grand kind. Or perhaps it just wasn't promoted correctly. At any rate it is now available on Amazon screening and on DVD and this viewer urges others to see it. The story very quietly unfolds. Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling in a stunning performance of subtly and nuance) and Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay in one f his finest performances) have been married for 45 years and are preparing for an anniversary party that weekend when a letter arrives that opens Pandora's Box: Geoff's early sweetheart (before he met Kate) has been discovered frozen in a glacier in Switzerland. Kate knows nothing of the affair and understands it was before their marriage, but slowly observes Geoff's obsession about the death detail that happened long ago and are now re- surfacing. The manner in which Kate investigates the past and Geoff re-thinks that first love in relationship to his successful and happy marriage with Kate is the quiet internal conversation that drives the movie.

Brilliant is the only word that comes to mind – subtle, gentle, consummate acting, and bringing to our attention the reflections of the past that aging uncovers inadvertently at times – and how we survive private pain and dope – all of these are elements that make this little film a jewel. Highly Recommended.

Aferim! (2015)
'Fear is shameful but healthy. It is God's gift.', 23 June 2016
8/10

A grand film from Romania, directed with surety by Radu Jude, is even stronger because it is dealing with age old bigotry against gypsies, offered in contemporary language (many F bombs here – at least in the translation) that suits the theme well, and since we are dealing with prejudices on every level, the choice to make the film in Black and White makes it all the more pungent.

AFERIM! Is not only an interesting historical statement, but it is also a parody of the religious practices of the 19th century – Christian monasteries and encountered priests on the road speak of why gypsies are inferior descendants of Noah's son Ham and there for are to be reviled. But gypsies are not the only people who are mocked by the father/son travelers in this quest for capturing a renegade gypsy: the father speaks about the nasty traits of the Turks, the Greeks, the English, the French, etc etc etc leaving no one in the world (which by the way is not round but ends in a precipice!). But on to the story – and there is one worth seeing: 'Set in early 19th century Wallachia, when a local policeman, Costandin, is hired by Iordache, a boyar (local noble), to find Carfin, a Gypsy slave who had run away from the boyar's estate after having an affair with his wife, Sultana. Costandin sets out to find the fugitive, beginning a journey full of adventures. Gypsy slavery lasted from the 14th century up until the middle of the 19th century, a situation which is very little known and almost nonexistent in the public debate today, although its impact continues to influence Romania's social life.'

This little film slipped by viewers and it is hopeful that under the auspices of BIG WORLD PICTURES it will garner enough attention that audiences today will witness the very profound lessons it tells with such a gift of comedic dialogue. We all have much to learn from this film.

Knock Knock (2015/I)
'This is what happens when you break the rules of the game, Evan. We have to punish you!', 19 June 2016
2/10

Knock Knock: Seducción Fatal is the full title of this little film written for the screen by Eli Roth, Nicolás López, Guillermo Amoedo based on a story by Anthony Overman and Michael Ronald; Eli Roth directs. Five years ago this film would have been one of the many porn hours on late night television – and I suppose that is a comment on how far we have become relaxed in our standards of language (more F bombs is this 'story' than any film in recent history) and in your face sexuality on the screen. There is most assuredly an audience for this (Keanu Reeves fans who will watch anything he is in, people hungry for young naked women with fine bodies, midnight home intruder tales, etc), so why did it flop when released? A question worth investigating…..The preponderance of Latino actors and crew may be due to the fact that it was filmed in Chile.

The 'story': 'When a devoted husband and father Evan (Keanu Reeves) is left home alone for the weekend (his artist wife Karen (Ignacia Allamand) and two children head for the beach on Father's Day!), two stranded young women Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas) unexpectedly knock on his door for help. What starts out as a kind gesture results in a dangerous seduction and a deadly game of cat and mouse. Evan falls into temptation and the seductresses wreak havoc upon his life, turning a married man's dark fantasy into his worst nightmare.'

If you really want to know the details of what happens, watch the film – or not. It is an assault on the ears and eyes – but is fairly in keeping with today's relaxed sexual mores. Grady Harp, June 16

Joy (2015/I)
'Don't ever think that the world owes you anything, because it doesn't. The world doesn't owe you a thing.', 18 June 2016
10/10

Annie Mumolo and David O. Russell provided the story and David O. Russell wrote the screen play and directed this engrossing film about the determination of a little girls whose need to create things is squelched by life in general until she has a big break, invents a mop, makes it big, loses is all then climbs out of the hole of bankruptcy and depression and wins - supremely!

Jennifer Lawrence is splendid in the role of Joy but she is supported by some of the best written minor character roles in recent movies – her grandmother Mimi (Diane Ladd), her mother (Virginia Madsen), her errant father Rudy (Robert DeNiro) and his current (among many) affair with Trudy (Isabella Rosselini), her divorced but support husband Tony (Edgar Ramírez) who lives in the basement with Rudy, her best friend since childhood to present Jackie (Dascha Polanco), the man to whom she is referred to start her business Neil (Bradley Cooper), and the cast from the dopey soap opera that constantly plays on her mother's TV, etc.

The story blends the multifaceted cultural flaws we observe daily – dysfunctional families save for the matriarch grandmother who has wisdom, step-sibling greed, failed marriages, the effect on children living in the midst of constant squabbling, dreams that are trampled by insecurities and life changes, corporate greed and corruption, etc – but it also shows how stamina and determination and believing in one's self can ultimately allow a person with vision to rise above it all.

Great cast, good script, fine film – all underlining the realm of possibility of the American Dream.

"Impossible? Make that I'm possible!", 17 June 2016
7/10

Need a feel good movie? This little sentimental but funny and ultimately emotionally satisfying film is the work of Laura Terruso (form her previous short film 'Doris & The Intern') and Michael Showalter who also directs. The story at times becomes exasperating because of the failure of the main character to step out of her old backward ways in dress and behavior and join the contemporary times, but it also s a reminder of how aging people define their world and their entrapment in it.

Doris (Sally Field) is a 60-something woman who passed up an engagement early in life to remain with her mother on Staten Island. At the opening of the film we witness the funeral of the deceased mother with the emotionally impaired Doris struggling with her brother (Stephen Root) and sister in law (Wendy McLendon-Covey) over who should get the full of junk and memories house in which Doris lives and commutes by Ferry to Manhattan every day where she works in a small tacky cubicle. Doris meets John (Max Greenfield) on the elevator and immediately feels electricity despite the fact that the very young John is not in her range of relationships. Through a series of discussions with Doris' best friend Roz (Tyne Daly) and daughter Vivian (Isabella Acres) as well as a meeting with a self-help guru (Peter Gallagher) Doris attempts to court John, even to the extent of attending a punk rock party and other failed attempts and finally has to face the fact that john is only a friend (despite many hilarious fantasies of possible love affairs).

Sally Fields is consistently terrific though her grossly absurd costumes grow tiresome and make us realize how futile is her true attempt to woo John. The film does focus on aging people and their problems assimilating with the young millennials and in the midst of this is a solid core of respect for the need of the lonely partnerless person. It just goes on a bit long. Grady Harp, June 16

'I've been kicked off every team before I even got a chance to prove myself.', 16 June 2016
8/10

Another docudrama with heart, EDDIE THE EAGLE as written by Simon Kelton and Sean Macaulay and directed by Dexter Fletcher manages to offer not only a well acted and performed film, rich is spectacular scenery, but also gives insight to the committed athlete concept that produces winners.

The story is based on events in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, but it begins with the childhood of Eddie Edwards (at age 10 by Tom Costello and at age 15 by Jack Costello), his loving mother (Jo Hartley), plasterer and realistic father (Keith Allen) as little Eddie strives to be an athlete – his dream: to be in the Olympics. Unable to make the grade at any part of the Olympics, Eddie (now Taron Egerton) decides to go against the advice of the British Olympic council (Tim McInnerny) and trains for the Winter Olympics instead. Eddie is an unlikely but courageous British ski-jumper who never stopped believing in himself - even as an entire nation was counting him out. With the help of a rebellious, alcoholic snow groomer turned coach for Eddie Bronson Peary (played by Hugh Jackman), Eddie takes on the establishment and wins the hearts of sports fans around the world by making an improbable and historic showing at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics. There are some important actors in minor roles – Jim Broadbent, Christopher Walken, Ania Sowinski, and Matt Rippy among them – but the show belongs to Taron Egerton who is fully immersed in this role.

This is a true story and a feel good movie and if it fails to be great it is because the story is far more intimate than Grand.

Everest (2015)
A docudrama made human, 13 June 2016
7/10

The true story of a group of people who climb Mount Everest during a perfect storm is converted into a successful screenplay by writers William Nicholson and Simon Beaufoy, directed by Baltasar Kormákur. One of the reasons it works it the background information supplied before the film begins: 1953: Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to summit Everest. Over the next 40 years, only top professional climbers attempted the same feat. One in four died. 1992: New Zealander Rob Hall pioneered the concept of commercial guiding on Everest for amateur climbers. Over the next four years his team, Adventure Consultants, successfully led 19 clients to summit without a single fatality. 1996: Other commercial operators follow Rob Hall's lead, including Scott Fischer's Mountain Madness. More than 20 expeditions compete to summit Everest in the same two week window.'

It is difficult to outmatch nature, and in many ways that is why this film does not completely captivate the audience: Mount Everest and the tangles of nature are clearly the star. But the story is a true one and well enacted: 'On the morning of May 10, 1996, climbers from two commercial expeditions start their final ascent toward the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. With little warning, a violent storm strikes the mountain, engulfing the adventurers in one of the fiercest blizzards ever encountered by man. Challenged by the harshest conditions imaginable, the teams must endure blistering winds and freezing temperatures in an epic battle to survive against nearly impossible odds.'

The casting director went overboard in this film – Jason Clarke is the titular star and on screen more than the others, but the supporting cast includes Kiera Knightly, Emily Watson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marti Henderson, John Hawkes, Sam Worthington, Josh Brolin, Robin Wright, etc – all of whom climbing the mountain look the same – covered with snow, climbing dear, goggles, oxygen tanks – so that most anyone could have been placed on this treacherous climb.

But where the film succeeds is the human element: man/woman against the elements and the mutual love and concern they share. A good nature epic if a bit relentlessly slow.

'He didn't see a Roman or a Slave, but a man.', 12 June 2016
9/10

The words above come from George Clooney's character Baird Whitlock (as Caesar) as he finally stands at the foot of the movie lot cross and attempts to deliver a message that gives the movie meaning. But the movie really doesn't have meaning – it is pure entertainment, compliments of the Coen Brothers. And that is why the pseudo-serious phrase is funny.

To keep the scenario short, 'Hail Caesar! follows a day in the life of Eddie Mannix (Josh Brolin), a Hollywood fixer for Capitol Pictures in the 1950s, who cleans up and solves problems for big names and stars in the industry. But when studio star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) disappears, Mannix has to deal with more than just the fix. Add to this the stereotype films of the 40s and 50s – romances in elegant settings, Bible epics, Esther Williams underwater ballets, Hopalong Cassidy (and all Western) movies, Gene Kelley type dance movies - and movie lots with all manner of shenanigans (star turns, temperamental stars, cowboys who become romance boys because they are 'needed', intrigue, influence of the Communist party aka blacklist, etc) and you get an idea of the fun of the spoof.

The major star turn here is Josh Brolin who manages a role that is equal parts tough and likable and funny. He is aided by such stars as George Clooney (of course), Scarlett Johansson, Alden Ehrenreich, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jonah Hill, and the team of 'Future Men' (the communist circle who are out to destroy capitalism – with a little help from the inside).

The film is Coen Brothers fun, not to be taken too seriously but appreciated for its parody of the Holly wood of the 40s and 50s. Kick back and just laugh.

The Walk (2015/II)
'I'm going to hang a high wire between the World Trade Center Towers... And walk on it.', 11 June 2016
10/10

A docudrama can either be informative or entertaining: THE WALK is based the book by Philippe Petit's of a true event in 1974 and as written for the screen by Christopher Brown and director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump, Cast Away, Back to the Future, Polar Express and Flight) it is both and more. It not only shows in detail a terrifyingly dangerous high wire walk but it also shares the passion and bravery and commitment of a very unique man. And it celebrates the camaraderie of friends who support a young man's dream.

The synopsis distills the main aspects of the story (two other films have been made about this event - Man on Wire (2008and High Wire (1984), and yet few people know the discipline and all the facts about daring action. 'Twelve people have walked on the moon, but only one man - Philippe Petit (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) - has ever, or will ever, walk in the immense void between the World Trade Center towers. Guided by his real-life mentor, Papa Rudy (Ben Kingsley), and aided by an unlikely band of international recruits, Petit and his gang overcome long odds, betrayals, dissension and countless close calls to conceive and execute their mad plan.'

Joseph Gordon-Levitt incorporates a very fine French accent for the film and he is very well supported by not only Ben Kingsley but also by the supporting cast including Ben Schwartz, James Badge Dale, Steve Valentine, César Domboy, Benedict Samuel, Charlotte Le Bon among others.

Gordon-Levitt as Philippe narrates the entire film, offering some very fine lines to remember, such as 'I find myself in the middle of the wire. And I feel the void. And although a wire-walker should never look down... I do. And it was... It was beautiful. It was calm and beautiful, and serene, and "not-dangerous.'

The cinematography is brilliant using innovative photorealistic techniques and IMAX 3D wizardry by Dariusz Wolski and as the promo states, this film is truly a love story to Paris and New York of the 1970s. It is very difficult to see the World Center Twin Towers, knowing the terrorist destruction that was to dissolve them. But the film strikes all the right cords – even the painful memory of 9/11 – and allows us to celebrate man's courage and our own grief.

MI-5 (2015)
'It's quite telling the fact that the closest thing I have to a friend is someone who thinks I've ruined his life.', 9 June 2016
8/10

Indian director Bharat Nalluri (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Tsunami: The Aftermath, The Crow: Salvation, and episodes of the original television version of MI5 from which this film is adapted) has created a fine 'extended version' of the MI-5 series as written by Jonathan Brackley, Sam Vincent, and David Wolstencroft. One of the reasons the film works well is the competent set of actors who manage to make this rather meandering story hold together and offer enough back stories of each character to make them credible.

When a terrorist (Elyes Gabel) escapes custody during a routine handover, Will Holloway (Kit Harrington) must team with disgraced MI5 Intelligence Chief Harry Pearce (Peter Firth) to track him down before an imminent terrorist attack on London. Or to be more precise, MI5 personnel are caught up in a traffic jam in London while escorting the CIA's most wanted terrorist to an arranged CIA handover point, when he is suddenly rescued by armed men on motorbikes. Harry Pearce, the head of Counter-Terrorism at MI5 is blamed for the terrorist escaping. Especially as Harry disappeared shortly after the incident. An ex-agent, Will Holloway, and protégé of Harry's is recalled by MI5 to assist in finding and bringing Harry in. However Harry has disappeared for a reason. Certain that there is a traitor in a senior position in MI5, he enlists the somewhat reluctant Will to help him in uncovering the rat or rats concerned.

The action is fast and hard and very cleverly captured by cinematographer Hubert Yaczanowski. The large cast of characters includes Larissa Kouznetsova, Laura Pulver, Tim McInnerny, Jennifer Ehle, David Harewood, Tuppence Middleton, and the above mentioned Kit Harrington, Elyes Gable, and Peter Firth. For the popular idiom of spy thrillers this film stands its own – and is much better than many of the same genre.


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