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Some may regard this movie as too slow-paced, but I thought it had enough suspense and tension to keep me engaged throughout.
The acting from the 3 leads Tom Vaughan-Lawlor, Barry Ward, and Martin McCann was quite solid, and the film was ably written and directed by Stephen Burke.
In some ways, the movie reminded me of the 1963 classic "The Great Escape".
Bennett's War (2019)
Predictable Yet Uplifting
Predictable and formulaic yet uplifting and heartfelt.
Michael Roark stars as Marshal Bennett, a former motorcross champion, who tries a comeback after suffering a horrific injury as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan. Allison Paige, Ali Afshar, and Trace Adkins add well to the mix in supporting roles.
Overall, the movie is not going to win any Academy Awards but I found it engaging and entertaining.
Tarde Para Morir Joven (2018)
Quiet & Character Driven Film Set in Chile
Not for those seeking an action flick, as this is a slow paced, quiet, and character driven film. It's set mostly in rural Chile, in the 1990's, in a commune-like community, and as Christmas and the New Year approaches.
There are ensemble characters here but the focus seems to be on Sofia (Demian Hernandez) and Lucas (Antar Machado). Both are teens, with Sofia struggling emotionally as she longs to move and live with her absentee mother in another town, while testing her early sexuality with an older man. Lucas meanwhile , pines for Sofia, is an aspiring musician and appears to have an alcohol problem.
The atmospherics here really put you amidst the community, where music and singing are highly regarded even as the population struggles with sources of water and electricity.
Overall, if one has patience there are some engaging storylines and characters here, but I never felt the movie was as engrossing as it might have been. Also, I wasn't thrilled with another ambiguous ending when the commune was threatened by a possible disaster.
Holy Lands (2017)
Just Doesn't Work
In my opinion, this is the type of movie that should have worked a lot better than it did.
With seasoned fine actors like James Caan Tom Hollander, Rosanna Arquette, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers one would think that even more so. However, the characters here are too superficial, the thematic elements often fall into melodrama, and there are a number of scenes that are just head-shakingly bad.
For example, Caan's character, the cantankerous Harry, who as you probably know by now has moved to Israel to run a pig farm, has not heard from his daughter (Efrat Dor) for a little while as she's traveling to meet him at the farm. So when she finally shows up, what does he do? Hug her:? No! He slaps her hard across the face. Huh? Other than that scene, there's no other traces of Harry being abusive physically.
Overall, there are some moments that work here, but for the most part I thought the film came across as frustrating, even annoying and just didn't work.
Maintains an Air of Suspense
Set in the 1970's in Argentina, this psychological thriller maintains an air of suspense throughout. Superb performances by Dario Grandinetti and Alfredo Castro, along with excellent writing and direction from Benjamin Naishtat.
Overall, I wasn't really thrilled with the ending here, but was very much engrossed in the film and interested as to how it was all going to turn out as the drama deepened.
Gangbyeon hotel (2018)
Some Positives & Negatives
I've seen some of Hong Sang-Soo's films and from the ones I've viewed this one has many of the same characteristics. Very deliberately paced, with often enigmatic and awkward dialogue and characters. But there is a certain fascination and honesty about his movies which I find difficult to put into words.
This film is shot in black and white and mostly keeps the male and female characters separated except for some interactions. There's some humor interspersed among the dramatic moments and some of life's truisms are offered up as well. However, I didn't like the ambiguous ending here at all.
Three Peaks (2017)
Lea (Berenice Bejo), her boyfriend Aaron (Alexander Fehling), and her son Tristan (Arian Montgomery) backpack into the Italian. mountains and stay at a remote cabin. The focus here is on the interpersonal dynamic between the three, with the main emphasis being on Aaron's attempts at winning over the acceptance of Tristan, while Tristan tries to remain loyal to his father back home.
This is a very slow-burn film, actually too slow a burn for my tastes. In the latter part of the movie, however, things turn wild and shocking, although some of the elements seemed nonsensical at times
Overall, a mixed bag here for me, as the pace, as mentioned, was too slow for too long until it all gets wild and crazy. Plus, the ending here was too ambiguous for me. I might add the cinematography of the mountains was superb.
Miami Love Affair (2017)
Some Things Work But Most Don't
This indie focuses on the interconnecting storylines and characters in the final few days before the Miami Art Fair, in the trendy Wynwood section of Miami.
I wish I could say these storylines were engaging but it just seemed to me most of the dialogue and situations fell flat. Thus, the movie on the whole just didn't work for me.
I thought some of the tropical and colorful atmospherics of Miami came through well here, but I wish there had been more of those scenes.
Don't expect to see a lot of the late Burt Reynolds here, as his screen time is limited, and in those few scenes that he's in he appears to be physically struggling.
Overall, a few things work in this film but most don't. Thus the rather low rating.
Adopt a Highway (2019)
Hawke is Superb in This Wonderful Indie
If one can overlook some of the far-fetched plot elements here and just go with the flow this can be a wonderful movie,
Ethan Hawke gives another superb performance as Russell Mullings, traumatized by a 21 year prison stretch (under the old California 3 strikes law) for minor drug offenses. Just released, and working as a dishwasher at a burger joint, he finds a baby girl left in a dumpster.
This will all lead to a chain of events that can be quite heartbreaking at times. But I thought a most poignant and appropriate ending here made it all worth while
La camarista (2018)
Stark & Realistic With a Superb Performance by Cartol
Obviously not for those looking for an action flick, this is a stark and personal look at the daily life of Eve, a 24-year-old introverted maid at a luxurious Mexico City hotel. Impeccably portrayed by Gabriela Cartol, Eve must try and deal with the mundane aspects of her job, often being treated as invisible by the guests, inter-staff politics, and trying to find enough time to see and talk to her young son as the job permits.
Yet Eve does aspire for a better future by taking a GED class and working hard to be placed at the top of the list for a better assignment on the 42nd floor. You can see the strain on her face as she endures various disappointments, but also believing that she has little choice but to keep this job. However, as the stress mounts we begin to see her act in some quite unexpected ways.
To me, this movie, directed by Gabriela Cartol, was rather fascinating and I think its realism was genuine. So for those viewers that like a quiet and cerebral film, with realistic acting that really captures a part of human life, then you may find this one to your liking.
Doubting Thomas (2018)
Found it Manipulative
When a seemingly Caucasian couple Tom and Jen, Will McFadden and Sarah Butler respectively, become parents to a newborn black baby it will throw uncertainty and turmoil into their marriage and lives. To add to all the uncertainty, Tom's fellow lawyer and best friend Ron (Jamie Hector) is black, so Tom suspects Jen and Ron may have had an affair.
Unfortunately, I felt, as a viewer, manipulated and somewhat lectured to by this film, even as the movie progressed and more was revealed. If the intention of McFadden, who was also the director and writer here, was to make the viewer feel uncomfortable it did accomplish that to a large degree.
Overall, this film did get me to think about some of the issues it raised, but the story was told, as mentioned, in such a manipulative and simplistic way that it lost its likely intended effect on me.
Lying and Stealing (2019)
Maybe a Rainy Night Watch
Theo James ably portrays Ivan here, trying to pay off his father;s debt to a despicable mob boss (Fred Melamed) by stealing high-end artwork and selling the pieces on the "gray market".
The film tries to be quite dark with its erotic scenes and cool banter, but it never seemed to cohere into a consistently entertaining movie However, some of it does work and I thought it ended cleverly.
All in all, I certainly have seen worse films, so I'd say maybe a rainy night watch.
Lots of Realism & Humanness
Former Aussie soldier Mike Wheeler (Sam Smith) is returning to Afghanistan after a 3 year absence. His goal is to achieve forgiveness from the family of a man he killed there in a raid.
Lots of realism and humanness emanates from this movie, although from time to time a few of the plot elements come across as implausible. The naturalness of the acting is impressive, and the cinematography is striking.
Overall for me, it was a journey worth taking.
Long Goodbye (2018)
Don't Waste Your Time
Unfortunately, I just found this movie to be more of an experimental film with terribly confusing storylines, along with vacuous dialogue and characters. Very hard to discern what's fantasy and what's reality here.
No subtitles. Some nudity and explicit scenes.
Overall, to be honest, I couldn't wait till the movie was over (even with a short running time of about 1 hr. and 18 min.). I would say don't waste your time with this mess of a film.
Low Tide (2019)
Indie is Surprisingly Good
Strong big screen debut for writer and director Kevin McMullin. The characters are well portrayed and have a naturalness about them that is believable. Also the dialogue is clever and taut, and the atmospherics of a New Jersey summer resort town are on target.
Overall, I found this indie to be surprisingly good with an air of suspense throughout that kept me engaged.
Fiore gemello (2018)
Heartfelt Italian Film
This Italian film, set in Sardinia, features two teens on the run, but for varying reasons. Anastasiya Bogach and Kallil Kone star as Anna and Basim respectively.
Anna has suffered some type of trauma and we see early on that she is being chased by a man. But, it is not till about two thirds of the movie has progressed do we learn exactly why. Basim is a refugee from the Ivory Coast, with no papers, who wants to get to northern Europe and start a new life there.
Their paths cross when Basim intervenes on Anna's behalf, when two troublemakers on a motorbike are harassing her. Anna has been so traumatized that she doesn't speak, but the two develop a bond anyway as time passes.
This is the type of movie that if I wrote much more about the plot I would be writing spoilers. But I will say that the filmmaker Laura Luchetti made things a little more confusing than they needed to be with regular flashbacks and also keeping the viewer in suspense a little too long as to what was really happening with Anna and why a psychopath was relentlessly perusing her.
Overall, although the movie will, in my opinion, appeal only to a certain type of cinephile, I found it to be a heartfelt and suspenseful tale that, for me, proved to be worth watching.
The Parts You Lose (2019)
Extremely Slow Paced Drama
Danny Murphy portrays Wesley here, a lonely, hearing-impaired, and bullied 10-year-old boy who bonds with a wounded fugitive (Aaron Paul) after Wesley finds him in the snows of North Dakota. Wesley offers the fugitive shelter and food while he recovers and in return receives much need life's lessons.
The pacing here is extremely slow and some of the plot elements are nonsensical, like how can Wesley's mother (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) have seemingly no clue that her son is gone for long periods of time. Although the acting is solid, with Winstead being one of my favorite actresses, the lack of energy in the film hampered it greatly, in my opinion.
Overall, although I was interested enough to stay with the movie to see how it would eventually turn out, it just became too much of a slog.
The Favorite (2019)
Faith-Based Film Can Be Awkward in Its Presentation
I'm obviously in the minority here but I just found this faith-based film to be quite awkward and strained in its presentation, with quite a lot of stilted dialogue and acting.
We see in the closing credits that the movie is actually based on the miraculous recovery, from an auto accident, of Luke Benjamin Bernard, who stars in the film and also wrote the screenplay. However in the film itself, Matthew Fahey portrays Luke with Bernard in the role of his brother Ben.
There's also a concurrent theme here of a brother's deep resentment that his father was constantly favoring his sibling. I felt the movie handled this healing process in a heartfelt manner.
Overall, faith-based films are not usually my cup of tea, but as one can see other reviewers found more in this movie than I could.
Extreme Violence But It Kept Me Engaged
Extreme violence and some confusing plot elements in this crime thriller, but it did keep me engaged throughout with its air of menace.
Liam Hemsworth stars as Moe Diamond, a jeweler and money launderer, whose friend Skunk (Emory Cohen) has hooked him up with some jobs for his mobster uncle (Zlatko Buric). However, Moe and Skunk decide to do a multi million dollar drug deal on the side which goes terribly wrong and all kinds of mayhem will ensue. The twists at the end just add to all the wild and crazy happenings.
Overall, if you don't mind the over-the-top violence, the explicit language, or some confusing plot elements the film did keep me engrossed throughout.
Tough Film to Rate
For me, this was a tough film to rate. On the one hand I felt it exceptionally portrayed some of the exuberance of youth and first loves. Yet, the movie also was difficult to watch, at times, as it starkly illustrated the devastating pain and sadness that can accompany coming-of-age. as well.
Maybe it's me but I had difficulty discerning which character was which, as the film often appeared disjointed. So bottom line: some good positives here, like the performance of Noee Abita, but on the whole the movie, written and directed by Philippe Lesage, could only be given a fair rating for entertainment value, as I see it.
American Dreamer (2018)
Gritty & Dark Drama
Gritty and dark drama with decent suspense throughout.
Jim Gaffigan is excellent as Cam, a rideshare driver who has strong mental problems and is under severe financial stress. Robbie Jones is also superb as Mazz, a drug dealer who hires Cam's vehicle for the day. In one desperate moment, Cam decides to kidnap for ransom Mazz's young son, and things will take a terrible turn thereafter.
Overall, definitely not your feel-good movie of the month, but if you like very dark films you may very well like this one. Raw language throughout, increasing violence, and one explicit sex scene.
Tel Aviv on Fire (2018)
Subtle & Satirical Humor is Effective Here
The laid back subtle and satirical humor is mostly effective here. Somehow, Sameh Zoab, director and co-writer with Don Kleinman, pulls it off despite all the political turmoil that has encased the region for so long now.
The acting is first rate as well, and I thought the surprise and clever ending enhanced the movie. Overall, quite the engaging surprise with its positive message.
Brian Banks (2018)
Powerful and intense drama, based on a true story. Aldis Hodge and Greg Kinnear lead the way here but the supporting cast are excellent as well.
Hodge portrays Brian Banks, a promising football star who was falsely accused of rape and kidnapping when he was 16-years-old. He will spend years trying to clear his name and regain his life, with the help of the California Innocence Project, as well as his supporters.
At times, the movie seems to veer into contrivances, but, overall, I found it to be a heartfelt and moving film, well acted and presented.
The Weekend (2018)
Stand-up comedian Zadie (Sasheer Zamata) travels to her parents rural Bed & Breakfast where her ex-boyfriend Bradford (Tone Bell) will be there with his girlfriend of two years Margo (DeWanda Wise). They'll be joined by a guest at the hotel Aubrey (Y'lan Noel), who has just learned his long time live-in partner has broken up with him.
Thus, the movie, written and directed by Stella Meghie, will focus on the interpersonal relations between the guests over one weekend. Unfortunately, I just found the dialogue here to be awkward, strained, and, at times, mean-spirited and I was not able to connect with most of the characters.
Overall, the actors here all have good screen presence and I liked the eclectic soundtrack, but, for me, it was just not very entertaining.
Thought Provoking Drama Which Can Be Frustrating At Times
Strong cast in this thought provoking, layered, and complicated drama. But one will needs patience , as the film very slowly unfolds its story. Some issues in the movie remained unresolved which can be frustrating and the dialogue, at times, feels like it's from the stage (which it is: from the play of J.C. Lee). However overall, the air of tension and suspense throughout kept me engaged as to how this was going to turn out, and combined with the solid acting made it worth a watch.