“Living” is a British film based on an Akira Kurosawa movie. The main character is a mid-level bureaucrat, very set in his ways. His life is one predictable moment after another. He finds out that he has a terminal disease and decides that he needs to live. The problem is that he does not know how. He enlists other people to show him how to enjoy life. Finally he takes on a project at work that is stuck in a bureaucratic quagmire. His once meaningless life becomes something valued as reflected by the people who end up caring about him. I was not expecting to like this film, but I ended up really enjoying it. I cared about the character played by Bill Nighy. His understated performance was wonderful and magnetic. See this movie! You will be glad you did.
The title “Women Talking” is a great description for this movie. A group of women living in a religious farming community gather to figure out what they are going to do about the consistent abuse by the men. They can do nothing, fight back or leave. The entire film consists of their discussion on these topics, There is not much action, just dialogue. The acting is very good. I was especially impressed by Judith Ivey as one of the oldest women. There is only one male role, played by Ben Winslow. He serves as the women’s secretary since none of them were allowed to learn to read and write. The subject matter is very intense and sometimes difficult to sit through. The film is nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and is the type you can wait for streaming.
I have been reading great reviews about “RRR”, an Indian film that is currently streaming on Netflix. I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect from a plot described as the story of two friends and how they help and save each other in many situations. It is Hollywood vs. Bollywood with a bow to “Rambo” and “Crouching Tiger/Hidden Tiger”. At over three hours, it’s a major time commitment, but it is well worth it. The story is about the fight for Indian independence in the 1920’s from the British who are portrayed as terrible oppressors. It has action, some of it surreal, a compelling story with lots of twists, music and is beautifully filmed. The two leads are big Bollywood stars and are excellent. This film was a pleasant surprise because I did not expect it to be so good. In fact I would list this as one of the top movies of 2022. I strongly recommend this film.
“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” has received very good reviews and talk about awards. I enjoyed the first film in the series, but thought it was just a well done who done it. It had an all star cast and was enjoyable. The sequel, “Glass Onion”, has a completely different cast except for the the detective played by Daniel Craig, of James Bond fame, with a southern accent. The plot revolves around a stolen formula and a murder. Of course all of the characters have a motive. The characters are pretty well developed, the writing is decent, with some humor, and the production values are quite good. Like the original, it is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. The film was in theaters for a few weeks and us now streaming on Netflix. I enjoyed it, but I do not see it being nominated for awards. There are a lot of other films that deserve them more.
There have been a few performances that have gone onto win a truly deserved Oscar. William Hurt in “Kiss of the Spiderwoman”, Hilary Swank in “Boys Don’t Cry”, Vivien Leigh in “Gone With the Wind” and Daniel Day Lewis in “Lincoln” are four that come to mind. Well I saw another film with a deserving actor today: Brendan Frasier in “The Whale”. I was bowled over by this acting job. Who knew he had these acting chops? The story is about an online college professor who is grossly overweight and a recluse. He is trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter. I had read the raves about Frasier’s performance, but that the movie was so-so. I disagree. I was mesmerized by the characters and the back story, even though it was depressing. Still it is a great story, with incredible acting. Not a lot of action but well worth seeing. And look for Brendan Frasier’s Oscar nomination.
I disliked “White Noise” immensely. Not only did I want my ticket money back, but I wanted the two hours that I had invested. Noah Baumbach, the director and writer, has done some interesting films like “Marriage Story”, but this one is a bomb. Allegedly the story of a crash between a train and tanker truck both carry dangerous chemicals it goes all over the place. The protagonists are the family of a college professor who is the foremost authority on Hitler. (Ugh!) Adam Driver, with a pot belly, plays the professor. His wife is on some sort of experimental pill and Don Cheadle, normally a great actor, plays another academic who speaks in metaphors and narration. There are no sympathetic characters and the plot keeps jumping around. My suggestion is instead of watching this film, read a book, go for a walk or take a nap, anything but watching it. Yuch!
“Roald Dahl’s Matilda, the Musical” is an adaptation of the Broadway musical, currently streaming on Netflix. Like most of Dahl’s works it is a macabre version of childhood with a whimsical, off beat tone. (Think Willy Wonka.) Matilda is a prodigy and is sent to a school that is run like a prison by a tyrant of a head mistress who is played by Emma Thompson. The child actors are quite good, but Thompson steals the show. She is so over the top that you can’t take your eyes off of her. I enjoyed her performance a lot. An enjoyable piece of fluff. Go for the story and songs, but stay for Emma Thompson!
Director Damien Chazelle’s latest film “Babylon” is an epic tale of the transition from silent films to talkies. It starts out at a party that it is too wild to describe. It goes on and on, introducing the main characters. Most of them are based on real Hollywood actors. Brad Pitt plays a much married matinee idol who has trouble transitioning to sound. Margot Robbie is a young lady who wants to become a star. She does so by playing a bad girl on and off the screen. Jovan Adepo is a black trumpet player who gets into movies but has to fight prejudice. Tying them all together is a Mexican, played by newcomer Diego Calla, who only wants to be a part of the movies. The stories are very interesting, especially Robbie’s. Some of them are funny, while others are tragic. I especially enjoyed the parts where they showed how silent movies were made. The problem I had with this film is it is too long. Chazelle has joined the club of what I refer to as auteurs. He writes, produces and directs, but does not edit. Had someone else cut out or cut down some of the scenes, it would have been a better film. Margot Robbie is a whirlwind as Nellie LaRoy, a Clara Bow type actress who is ruins her life and career. She gives a great performance. Diego Calla, in his first American film, is very good as Manny who ends up being part of each story. He is quite good. The movie its up for a number of awards. Worth seeing, but a bit overdone.
The character Puss in Boots appeared in a few of the Shrek movies and had his own film in 2011. This computer animated sequel deals with Puss’s mortality: He has used up eight of his nine lives and he wants more. Voiced by Antonio Banderas, Puss is funny, conceited and ironic, The film retains some of the Shrek humor. Added to the mix are very different versions of other fairy tails: Goldilocks and the Three Bears and (Not so) Little Jack Horner. All of them are pursuing the last wish. This is one of those films that appeals to children on one level and adults on another. Enjoyable.
When “Avatar” came out in 2009 it was unique. The special effects were astounding. The people, animals and landscape were amazing to watch. For all of its innovation and record breaking box office, “Avatar” never developed a following like Star Wars or other movies. In “The Way of Water” the special effects are still phenomenal but thirteen years later they are not as surprising. Instead there is a much more developed plot and character development. We learn about Jake and his family and the world they live in. Colonel Quaritch is still the villain, but this time he and his team are turned into Avatars. Jake and family flee to a different part of their world where others live by farming and communing with the sea. Showing how they live and are able to breathe under water is different and interesting. I liked this film better than the original because I felt I got to know the characters and there was a great deal of suspense and action. It was a bit long, over three hours, but not excessively so. This is definitely a film to be seen on the big screen. The special effects need to be seen that way. Definitely one of the year’s best.