Category Archives: STREAMING

This topic/movie is streaming on one of the streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, etc.

HUNTERS (2020) – My rating: 9/10

Hunters is a 10 episode Amazon Prime Video series that follows a diverse group of fictional Nazi hunters in 1977, who lives in New York City. The Hunters series is based on the premise that Nazi war criminals are conspiring to create a Fourth Reich in the United States. A parallel plot is also being explored due to a government operation that relocated German scientists, who are mostly Nazis, to the US under a maneuver called “Operation Paperclip”. Inspiration for this series came from real Nazi hunters throughout the decades.

**** SPOILERS BELOW ****

Episode 1: “In the Belly of the Whale”
Directed by: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Written by: David Well
Synopsis: 
The US Undersecretary of State, Biff Simpson (Dylan Baker) is hosting a BBQ when a new guest arrives and recognizes Biff as a Senior Nazi. She is shot dead as was everyone at the BBQ.  Jonah Heidelbaum (Logan Lerman), a young mathematician and Ruth Heidelbaum (Jeannie Berlin), a Holocaust survivor and Jonah’s grandmother, live together in a modest Brooklyn apartment. The two were very close, so when Jonah witnessed someone brutally kill her in their apartment, he vowed to find the truth and make it right. During Ruth’s Shiva, Jonah meets a friend of his grandmother, Meyer Offerman (Al Pacino), Holocaust survivor and leader of Hunters. Jonah finds his grandmother’s killer and Meyer kills him;
Episode 2: “The Mourner’s Kaddish”
Directed by: David Yup
Written by: David Well
Synopsis: Johah becomes a member of Hunters, taking his grandmother’s place. The rest of the story involves this diverse cast of Nazi hunters plotting and rounding up Nazis to eliminate, as their mission is to stop the Nazi movement to create a Fourth Reich and take down the United States. Looking for a case of her own, FBI agent, Millie Morris (Jerrika Hinton) falls onto the Fourth Reich initiative, as well as Hunters. Meanwhile, Travis Leich (Greg Auston), a deadly American-born Nazi Acolyte, is sent to Florida to learn who is killing their Nazi members;
Episode 3: “While Visions of Safta Danced in his Head”
Directed by: Wayne Yip
Written by: Nikki Tuscano
Synopsis:
This episode deals with codes, the Pied Piper of Buchenwald, and a big Nazi event that is scheduled to take place on July 13, 1977, in New York. Additionally, Jonah loses Arthur “Bootyhole” McGuigan (Caleb Emery) who was working Jonah’s shift when he was killed by Travis;
Episode 4: “The Pious Thieves”
Directed by: Nelson MacCormick
Written by: Mark Bianculli
Synopsis: More history regarding Ruth is revealed as Jonah finds a box of letters she wrote to Meyer.  The Hunters find a huge collection of Nazi stolen art and treasure hidden beneath a bank in Brooklyn;
Episode 5: “At Night, All Birds are Black”
Directed by: Dennie Gordon
Written by: David J. Rosen
Synopsis: Flashbacks reveal that The Wolf/William Zuchs (Christian Oliver) is a Nazi doctor who conducted experiments on prisoners and tormented Meyer and Ruth while at Auschwitz concentration camp.  Also, some of the team goes after Tilda Sauer (Barbara Sukowa) who was responsible for directing Nazi film propaganda;
Episode 6:  “(Ruth 1:16)”
Directed by: Millicent Shelton
Written by:  Zakiyyah Alexander
Synopsis:  This episode finds the team celebrating the Markowitz’ daughter’s wedding, which dredged up memories for Murray Markowitz (Saul Rubinek) and Mindy Markowitz (Carol Kane). They recall how a Nazi officer killed their young son. Sister Harriet (Kate Mulvany), a former MI6 operative, arrives at the wedding with the very officer who killed the Markowitz boy, tied up and given as a wedding gift. Unknown assailants beat up Millie.  Travis breaks into Meyer’s mansion, more secrets are revealed;
Episode 7:  “Shalom Motherf***er”
Directed by: Nelson McCormick
Written by:  Eduardo Javier Canto and Ryan Maldonado
Synopsis:  Meyer admits to being Jonah’s grandfather. The blackout of 1977 was part of a Nazi plot to create a distraction so they could smuggle a shipment of biological weapons through the port of New York City.  Jonah solves the final piece of a Nazi music code, and a member of Hunters is killed;
Episode 8: “The Jewish Question”
Directed by:  Michael Uppendahl
Written by:   David Weil and  Charley Casler
Synopsis:   Mindy Markowitz kills the man who murdered her son and the Hunters find Nazi and NASA scientist Wernher von Braun;
Episode 9: “The Great Ole Nazi Cookout of ’77”
Directed by:  Nelson McCormick
Written by:   Nikki Toscano
Synopsis:  This episode reveals the reasons given for bringing over the Nazis to the United States in the first place. The Hunters attack the Fourth Reich’s bunker and Travis is arrested by Millie. Additionally, Meyer manages to capture the Colonel (Lena Olin) who suggests that the pathogen isn’t the Fourth Reich’s only plan, and Meyer crashes his car into the river;
Episode 10:  “Eilu v’ Eilu”
Directed by:  Michael Uppendahl
Written by:   David Weil
Synopsis:  Meyer is rescued from the river by Sister Harriet, the Colonel who is the leader of the Fourth Reich is killed. Jonah begins a search for Wilhelm “The Wolf” Zuchs, the Nazi doctor who tortured Meyer and Ruth thirty years before. From clues, Jonah discovers Ruth’s files, which lead him to capture a surgeon he believes to be “The Wolf” who Meyer executes.

The ending of Hunters is shocking however, an outstanding dialogue is delivered throughout the series by the show’s exceptional writers. I was on the edge of my seat as I binge-watched this series. My only issue is with the casting of Al Pacino as a Jew.  While he delivered a great performance, I thought it odd not to have a Jewish person cast in a Jewish role.  It’s not hard to tell I highly recommend Hunters as a first-class series.  If nothing else, you will learn some of the disastrous and horrific atrocities the Jews suffered during the Holocaust.  Please know that I left out most of the revealing synopsis of each episode as not to spoil the entire show.  There is plenty of violence and bad language but the series was fabulous!  I suspect there will be a 2nd season, meanwhile, the current season of Hunters air on Amazon Prime Video and is an original, which is free to Amazon Prime subscribers.  Check It Out!

 

 

THE LIGHTHOUSE (2019) – My rating: 7/10

The Lighthouse is a psychological horror film directed and produced by Robert Eggers, who co-wrote the screenplay with his brother Max Eggers. Shot in black-and-white with a 1.19:1 aspect ratio, the film focuses on two lighthouse keepers who start to lose their sanity when a storm strands them on the remote island where they are stationed. According to Eggers, although the final story bears little resemblance to Edgar Allan Poe’s fragment “The Light-House”, the film began as an attempt by his brother Max Eggers to do a contemporary take on the Poe story. When the project stalled, Eggers offered to work with his brother and the project evolved into a period thriller with the Poe elements removed. I could have lived without The Lighthouse as it is a tedious, sad, and horrific movie, in my opinion.

In the late 19th century, Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) is sent on by boat to serve a contract job as a wickie (lighthouse caretakers) for four weeks on an isolated island off the coast of New England. Ephraim is to work under the supervision of an irritable elderly man named Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe). The two must find a way to keep their sanity when the circumstances are insane. On the first day of the job, Winslow notices a hole in his cot. As he digs into it, he finds a small scrimshaw of a mermaid and stuffs it in his jacket. Ephraim observes Thomas going up to the lighthouse’s lantern room at night and stripping naked. Ephraim begins experiencing visions and dreams of tentacles in the lighthouse, tree stumps floating in the water, and distant images of a mermaid (Valeriia Karamän).  They must use chamber buckets to relieve themselves and there’s no means of communication or entertainment but there’s plenty of work to be done.  Over the course of his stay, Thomas demands Ephraim take the more taxing jobs—refueling the light, carrying heavy kerosene containers, and disposing of the two men’s chamber pots. As time progresses, Ephraim repeatedly encounters a one-eyed gull. Thomas warns Ephraim that it is bad luck to kill a gull, as he is superstitious that the animals are reincarnated sailors.

The Lighthouse is a disturbing horror story filmed in black and white, which made it more creepy.  It’s not my cup of tea, as I don’t like horror stories. However, it seems as though The Lighthouse is considered exceptional as it received 91% Rotton Tomatoes based on 300 reviews, with an average rating of 8.17/10.  The site’s critics’ consensus reads, “A gripping story brilliantly filmed and led by a pair of powerhouse performances, The Lighthouse further establishes Robert Eggers as a filmmaker of exceptional talent.” As if Thomas and Ephraim’s circumstances weren’t bad enough, a major storm strands them the very day they were to end their shifts and be picked up by ferry.  What is discovered and what happens during the storm is a bitter and horrific ending to a most horrifying movie. I do agree both Dafoe and Pattinson acted their characters brilliantly. As of January 30, 2020, The Lighthouse has grossed $10.9 million in the United States, and $4 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $14.9 million. I’m not sure of the kind of audience The Lighthouse attracts, it just wasn’t for me.  If this is your thing, The Lighthouse can be rented on Amazon Prime, Check It Out!

[THE LIGHTHOUSE is Oscar-nominated for Best Cinematography totaling one Oscar nomination]  

 

MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL (2019) – My rating: 7.5/10

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is a dark fantasy adventure film produced by Walt Disney Pictures, directed by Joachim Rønning, and written by Linda Woolverton, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster. It is a sequel to the 2014 film Maleficent. I enjoyed this sequel and have mostly good things to say about it.

When we last left Maleficent (Angelina Jolie), she had shed her evil disposition, restored the Moors to its former light and was well on her way to being a gracious, reformed God-mother, raising Aurora (Elle Fanning) as her own. Aurora is also now the reigning Queen of the Moors and Maleficent is guardian and protector. However, in the five years since King Stefan’s death, we learn that mistrust and circumstances defined a new Maleficent as evil as the Maleficent of old. What happened to define Maleficent this unearned character judgment? What we didn’t know, was lurking in a nearby kingdom called Ulstead, lived the queen and mother Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer) of Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) who is instrumental in shaping most of our thinking about Maleficent. In this sequel, Aurora is proposed to by Prince Phillip. Little did we know, Aurora’s answer to that proposal would be the foundation for which the entire story would be based. While Phillip’s father King John (Robert Lindsay) wishes for peace, his mother Queen Ingrith has been secretly preparing for war. Many lives will change and many truths will be revealed, including a major reveal for the mysterious Maleficent. Hidden in areas of the castle, workers make weapons and ammunition out of iron, deadly to all fairies. Diaval (Sam Reily), Maleficent’s raven and confidante, overhears Phillip proposing to Aurora. When he has relayed this to Maleficent, she advises against the union, but Aurora insists she will be proven wrong.

I enjoyed Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and give kudos to Disney for their diverse employment. I especially like the message this movie sends regarding revenge, evil, gossip and faith. I think this is a good strong story and deserved more acknowledgment than it received.  The film received mixed reviews from critics, with criticism aimed at the “muddled plot and overly artificial visuals”, but praise for the performances of Jolie, Fanning and Pfeiffer. The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported the film holds an approval rating of 40% based on 246 reviews, with an average rating of 5.09/10. As of January 31, 2020, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil has grossed $113.9 million in the United States and Canada, and $377.8 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $491.7 million. Check It Out!

[MALEFICENT: MISTRESS OF EVIL is Oscar-nominated for Best Makeup and Hairstyling — Totalling 1 Oscar Nomination]

 

BREAKTHROUGH (2019) – My rating: 8.5/10


Breakthrough is a Christian drama directed by Roxann Dawson and written by Grant Nieporte, based on the Christian book named The Impossible, an account of true events written by Joyce Smith with Ginger Kolbaba. Breakthrough tells the story of a St. Louis teenager who slipped through an icy lake in January of 2015 and was under the water for fifteen minutes before resuscitative efforts were started.
  Bring tissues, Breakthrough is a true tear-jerker.

John Smith (Marcel Ruiz) is a fourteen-year-old Guatemalan boy raised in Lake St. Louis, Missouri by his adoptive parents, Brian (Josh Lucas) and Joyce Smith (Chrissy Metz). Though they were loving and supportive, John struggled with abandonment issues, feeling his birth parents didn’t want him.  Although his adoptive parents tried to explain that there are many reasons to give a child up for adoption, their explanations fell on deaf ears.  John developed a pretty bad attitude and rebelled against his parents and teachers.

In Christian Middle school, John’s class was assigned the task of presenting a narrative about their family background. On his day to present, John admits he did not do the assignment. His basketball coach Paul (Danny Wattley), who had promised him a starting position, warns John that if he gets a failing grade, he will be benched. John later gives a half-hearted presentation, saying that everyone already knows he is adopted and he does not know much about his true background. John was an avid basketball player who stood a chance of playing professionally someday, except he didn’t share and had a habit of hogging the ball.  Being popular, he didn’t think there were consequences for his actions until he and his friends Josh (Isaac Kragten) and Reiger (Nikolas Dukic) went out onto a frozen lake, ignoring a neighbor’s (Cory Wojcik) warning. The resident calls the police, and all three boys fall through the ice. Josh and Reiger manage to swim to the surface and are rescued by first responders. Two rescuers dive in but are unable to find John. As they are about to give up, one of the rescuers, Tommy Shine (Mike Colter), hears a voice telling him to go back. Thinking the voice came from his chief (Chuck Shamata), he tries again and manages to find and lift John to the surface. With no pulse or breath, John is taken to the local hospital. After John still fails to register a pulse, the attending physician Dr. Sutterer (Sam Trammell) gives Joyce a chance to say goodbye. A weeping Joyce cradles her son in her arms, pleading with the Holy Spirit not to let John die.

What happens next, is one for the books.  Breakthrough is a true story and is called a spiritual or faith-based movie.  For me, Breakthrough is the way it should be for each of us who believes in GOD and has true faith.  If anyone I knew fell through the ice into a freezing cold lake, you can bet I’d pray non-stop for their recovery until something happened, good or bad.  These boys used their free will, albeit dumb, when they decided to do something they were warned not to do.  GOD had nothing to do with them falling through the ice but everything to do, through prayer, with getting them out.  Breakthrough was well-acted, despite the disastrous situation, entertaining and most informative.  There were many touching scenes and an abundance of prayer from friends, the family’s pastor, Jason Noble (Topher Grace), schoolmates and even their expert, Dr. Garrett (Dennis Haysbert). Because there is no explanation, rhyme or reason for many events that took place, we recognize the events as miracles, which were happening all over the place.

Breakthrough received mixed to positive reviews from critics, who praised the performances and inspirational messages but called the plot predictable despite being a true story. According to the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 61% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 62 reviews; the average rating is 5.52/10. The website’s critics consensus reads, “Like its lead character, Breakthrough is fiercely focused on faith – but its less subtle elements are balanced by strong performances and an uplifting story.” Breakthrough grossed $40.7 million in the United States and Canada, and $9.7 million in other territories (including $5.9 million in Brazil), for a worldwide total of $50.4 million. I highly recommend Breakthrough, so Check It Out!

[BREAKTHROUGH is Oscar-nominated for Best Original Song — Totaling 1 Oscar nomination]

 

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD (2019) – My rating: 8/10


A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is a drama directed by Marielle Heller and written by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster, inspired by the 1998 article “Can You Say … Hero?” by Tom Junod, published in Esquire.
The movie focuses on the relationship between Fred Rogers and Tom Junod.  I’m so glad I decided to see this movie — it’s better than you think!

 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood focuses on journalist, Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) whose life is anything but perfect. It’s 1998 and Lloyd is married to Andrea Vogel (Susan Kelchi-Watson), a public attorney and new mother. The two are struggling to maintain their marriage, mostly because of Lloyd’s cynical and pessimistic attitude. While he’s still employed by Esquire magazine, he’s on the verge of being let go of because he never has anything good to say about the people he’s written about. He’s given a new assignment and maybe his last, to interview and write about Fred Rogers of the acclaimed children’s show, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. The article has to be 400 words and categorized as a piece about heroes. Mr. Rogers was the only person who would allow Lloyd to interview him, which of course put Lloyd in his usual pessimistic state of mind.

You may believe Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was just a corny children’s show, but it taught some valuable lessons that were more than helpful to an impressionable child as well as an uninformed adult. Lloyd was estranged from his father who cheated on his mother before leaving her as she was dying of cancer. He also left his underaged children who went into foster care. When his father Jerry Vogel (Chris Cooper), showed up at Lloyd’s sister’s (Lorraine (Tammy Blanchard) wedding with the girlfriend he cheated on his wife with, (Dorothy (Wendy Makkeva) they get into a fistfight after an exchange of unpleasantries. Broken and angry, Lloyd travels to the WQED studio in Pittsburgh to interview Fred Rogers. Lloyd couldn’t and wouldn’t believe that Fred was legitimate. He told his wife Andrea, he had met the nicest man in the universe or the best con.

Upon meeting Fred, Lloyd discovered that Fred Rogers cared more about the interviewer than being interviewed. Fred worked with troubled children and their families to help them cope with depression, tragedy and death. He loved to take on dysfunctional families in order to teach them that there’s a better way to live. While many of the events in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood were true, like Fred’s friendship with Lloyd, whose real name is Tom Junod, whom Fred taught to appreciate himself and Mr. Roger’s use of puppets and his studio set up to attract a younger audience in order to make a better presentation.

I didn’t think I would enjoy A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood but I was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t like the made-up parts of the story like the fact Tom Junod’s name was changed to Lloyd Vogel, I can’t figure why or the made-up wedding of Lloyd’s sister that never happened. The acting and the story were entertaining and since A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is based on a true story about Fred Roger’s and his relationship with Lloyd Vogel, I must say this film stayed focused on the prize. I highly recommend A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood to all, which grossed $61 million in the United States and Canada, and $1.2 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $62.2 million, against a production budget of $25 million. The aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film an approval rating of 95%, based on 277 reviews, with an average rating of 8.18/10. The website’s critical consensus reads: “Much like the beloved TV personality that inspired it, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood offers a powerfully affecting message about acceptance and understanding.” Lloyd’s 10,000-word article, titled “Can You Say … Hero?”, is published as Esquire’s cover story. Check It Out!

[A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD is Oscar-nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Tom Hanks) — Totaling 1 Oscar nomination]

 

PAIN AND GLORY (2019) – My rating: 8.5/10

“Pain and Glory” (Spanish: Dolor y gloria) is a Spanish drama directed and written by Pedro Almodóvar. The film narrates a series of reunions of Salvador Mallo, a film director in his decline. Foreign language films are sometimes hard to follow because of the captions but are usually worth the effort. “Pain and Glory” is worth the effort but you will need to read quickly.


Salvador Mallo (Antonio Banderas)
, is a Spanish film director on a downward spiral. The film is featured through a series of complex reunions. Some of these reunions play out in real-time, while others are recalled through flashbacks such as his life in the 1960s when he moved with his family to the primitive village of Paterna, his schooling, his first love during the 1980s in Madrid, the pain of his breakup, writing used as a therapy to forget, the discovery of cinema and facing the impossibility of continuing filming, to name a few. While in the middle of a creative crisis and afflicted with physical and mental ailments, an earlier film of Salvador’s (Sabor, or Flavor) has been remastered and re-released. Prompted by his assistant Zulema (Cecilia Roth) he calls in on Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia), the lead actor from Sabor, with whom he has not spoken for 30 years due to a quarrel over the influence of the actor’s heroin use on his performance. Crespo introduces Salvador to heroin smoking. When taking the drug Salvador revisits some of his experiences: one takes place during his childhood, where he moves into a whitewashed cave house with his father Venancio Mallo  (Raúl Arévalo) and mother Jacinta (Penelope Cruz), and a local laborer named Eduardo (César Vicente) who learns to read and write under his tutelage. Crespo brings a monologue of Salvador’s memories from 1980s Madrid to the stage in which Salvador’s lover Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia) is mentioned.

“Pain and Glory” is not for everyone but it is a good movie.  I thought it was a little dry, as there was not much action.  I found it a little hard to keep up with the captions but I got enough out of the movie to determine the status of what I saw.  On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 97% based on 263 reviews, with an average rating of 8.33/10. “Pain and Glory” was chosen by Time magazine as the best film of 2019. The film drew more than 45,000 moviegoers in Spain on the Friday of release, making it the most-viewed film in the country of that day. Worldwide, Pain and Glory has accrued $36.6 million. Check It Out!

[PAIN AND GLORY is Oscar-nominated for Best Actor and Best International Feature Film — totaling 2 Oscar nominations.]

 

PARASITE (2019) – My rating: 9.7/10

Parasite (Korean: 기생충) is a South Korean dark comedy thriller directed by Bong Joon-ho, who also wrote the film’s story and co-wrote the screenplay with Han Jin-won. The film follows the members of a poor household scheming to become employees of a very wealthy family by posing as qualified, highly skilled individuals. I was so glad when Parasite was re-featured at several theaters. It’s an extraordinary movie that’s definitely worth seeing despite having to read subtitles.

**** SLIGHT SPOILERS BELOW ****

Kim-Ki taek (Song Kang-ho) and Chung-sook (Chang Hyae-jin) are the parents of, Kim Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik, their son and Kim Ki-jeong (Park So-dam), their daughter, all live in a tiny basement apartment, works low-paying, temporary jobs and are struggling to make ends meet. One day, a friend of Kim Ki-woo, named Min-hyuk (Park Seo-joon, is preparing to study abroad, gifts the Kim family with a scholar’s rock that is supposed to bring them wealth. Min-hyuk suggests that Kim Ki-Woo poses as a university student to take over his job as an English tutor for the wealthy Park family’s teenage daughter, Da-hye (Jeong Ji-so). Once Mrs. Yeon-gyo, (Cho Yeo-jeong), Da-hye and Da-song’s mother, hires Kim Ki-Jeong, the rest of the Kims successfully pose as sophisticated, skilled workers, unrelated and unknown to each other, and integrate themselves into the lives of the very wealthy Park family. Kim Ki-woo begins to teach English to Da-hye, Ki-jeong poses as an art therapist and is hired to teach art to Da-song (Jung Hyeon-jun), the Park’s five-year-old son. Kim-Ki taek is hired as the new family chauffeur, replacing Mr. Park Dong-ik’s, (Lee Sun-kyun) former driver, Yoon (Park Geun-rok) who was fired when Ki-jeong framed him for having sex in the family’s expensive  SUV. Meanwhile, Chung-sook is hired to replace the current housekeeper, Moon-gwang (Lee Jung-eun), after the Kims exploit her allergy to peaches, as a sign of tuberculosis. When the Parks leave on a camping trip, the Kims have complete use of the property and everything in it.

Parasite takes a dramatic turn into a spiral that you may find hard to believe. This con is the con of all cons and how it ends is even more unbelievable. There is nothing else I can say about this Korean black-comedy except, go and see it, despite it being a foreign language film. Parasite gives a whole new angle regarding scams.  Parasite is very well acted among all its many other attributes.  As of 22 January 2020, Parasite has grossed $28.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $120 million in other territories (including $73 million from South Korea), for a worldwide total of $148.4 million. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 99% based on 356 reviews, with an average rating of 9.37/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “An urgent, brilliantly layered look at timely social themes, Parasite finds writer-director Bong Joon Ho in near-total command of his craft. At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, the film won the award for Best Foreign Language Film. It received four nominations at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards. It also became the first non-English film to win the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Check It Out!

[PARASITE is Oscar-nominated Best Picture, Best International Feature Film, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, and Best Original Screenplay, Totalling 6 Oscar nominations]

 

THE IRISHMAN (2019) – My rating: 7/10

The Irishman is an epic crime film directed and produced by Martin Scorsese. It is written by Steven Zaillian and based on the 2004 nonfiction book, I Heard You Paint Houses, by Charles Brandt. The film follows Frank Sheeran, a truck driver who becomes a hitman. The film includes Frank’s involvement with mobster Russell Bufalino and his crime family, plus his time working for the powerful Teamster, Jimmy Hoffa.

From a nursing home while sitting in his wheelchair, Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), an elderly World War II veteran, recounts his time as a hitman for a crime syndicate; during the 1950s in Philadelphia, Frank worked as a delivery truck driver.  Seeing an opportunity to make extra money, he starts to sell some of the contents of his shipments to local gangster Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio (Bobby Cannavale). After his company accuses him of theft, union lawyer Bill Bufalino (Ray Romano) gets him off after Sheeran refuses to name his customers to the judge. Bill introduces Frank to his cousin Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci), who is head of the Northeastern Pennsylvania crime family. Frank begins to do small jobs for Russell and members of the local South Philadelphia underworld, including “painting houses,” a euphemism for murder. Soon, Russell introduces Frank to Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino), head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, who has financial ties with the Bufalino crime family and is struggling to deal with fellow rising Teamster Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano (Stephen Graham), as well as mounting pressure from the federal government. Hoffa becomes close with Frank and his family, especially his daughter Peggy (Anna Paquin), and Frank becomes Hoffa’s chief bodyguard, while on the road.

I’m not sure why The Irishman received so many Oscar nominations, I am sure of one thing, the movie was one of the longest movies I’ve seen in some time.  I felt the last half hour of the movie could have been eliminated.  It didn’t really contribute anything to the story.  While De Niro (who was snubbed by the Academy), Pesci and Pacino are truly among the very best actors in Hollywood, they came off as pretty advanced, age-wise,  for their familiar role of mob characters. In their defense, Scenes were filmed with a custom three-camera rig to help facilitate the extensive de-aging digital effects that made De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci appear younger. Having said that, The Irishman was well-acted, despite their ages and well told.  However, the film was too long and at times,  tad bit slow-paced.  I almost feel as though we’ve seen it all when it comes to the topic of the mafia. With a production budget of $159 million and a runtime of 209 minutes, it is among the most expensive and longest films of Scorsese’s career. The film received critical acclaim, with particular praise for Scorsese’s direction and the performances of De Niro, Pacino, and Pesci. At the 77th Golden Globe Awards, The Irishman was nominated for five awards, including Best Motion Picture – Drama, while it earned 10 nominations at the 73rd British Academy Film Awards, including Best Film. The Irishman is now streaming on Netflix — Check It Out!

[THE IRISHMAN is Oscar-nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, twice for Best Supporting Actor, followed by BEST: Cinematography, Film Editing, Production Design, Visual Effects, Adapted Screenplay, and Costume Design — TOTALLING 10 OSCAR NOMINATIONS]

 

MARRIAGE STORY (2019) – My rating: 7.5/10


Marriage Story is a drama written, directed and produced by Noah Baumbach. The film follows a married couple going through a coast-to-coast divorce.
Marriage Story is probably an unlikely scenario for divorce but not impossible.  I was annoyed by their situation because I was hoping for better but didn’t get it.

Charlie Barber (Adam Driver) is a successful theater director in New York City. His theater company is currently producing a play that stars his wife Nicole (Scarlett Johansson), a former teen film actress. The film delves into happier days when the couple only had good analogies to define each other.  They have a son Henry Barber (Azhy Robertson)  that they both adore.  Suddenly things begin to go sour initiated by Nicole. The couple begins to experience marital troubles, which sends them to see a mediator, who suggests that they each write down what they like about one another. Charlie writes his feelings but Nicole refuses to read hers aloud so they decide to forgo the counseling.

Meanwhile, Nicole is offered a starring role in a television pilot in Los Angeles, and she decides to leave the theater company and temporarily live with her mother Sandra (Julie Hagerty) in West Hollywood, taking the couple’s young son, Henry with her. Charlie decides to stay in New York, as the play is in the process of moving to Broadway. Despite the couple agreeing to split amicably and forgo lawyers, Nicole hires the family lawyer Nora (Laura Dern).  Nicole tells Nora the full story of her relationship with Charlie and how she gradually felt neglected by him and how he rejects her ideas and desires.

Because I’m a happy ending kind of gal, I’m always looking for one.  I truly dislike endings that leave me in tears or unknowing what happened or “make it up yourself”, resulting in open-ended closures.  Marriage Story gave me semi-quasi closure but not the one I was hoping for.  Driver and Johanssen are two of the best actors around and played Nicole and Charlie excellently.  In some parts, the movie was a tad bit boring but was interesting for the most part.  I didn’t really care for their son’s attitude but I think it’s a cultural thing.  I’m not sure what message Marriage Story sends but it was well-acted.  An awful lot of people really liked it and that’s what counts.  Since Marriage Story is airing on Netflix, it’s easy to see it at your leisure, just remember the Oscars are presented on February 9th this year, so you don’t have that much time if you follow the award shows.  Check It Out!

[MARRIAGE STORY is Oscar-nominated for BEST: Picture, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actress,  Original Score and Original Screenplay — TOTALLING 6 OSCAR NOMINATIONS]

 

THE TWO POPES (2019) – My rating: 8/10

“The Two Popes” is a biographical drama directed by Fernando Meirelles and written by Anthony McCarten. The film is adapted from McCarten’s 2017 play “The Pope”. I don’t think this movie is for everyone however for those who are okay with about a third of the dialogue set in a foreign language (English captioned)  and don’t mind a slower-paced film, The Two Popes, which is very well written and directed, is probably for you.

In April 2005, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce), the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, is called to Vatican City after the death of Pope John Paul II to elect a new pope. German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Anthony Hopkins) is elected Pope Benedict XVI; Bergoglio, a close runner-up, received the second-highest vote count. Seven years later, the Catholic Church is embroiled in the Vatican leaks scandal, and Benedict’s tenure has been tainted by public accusations regarding his role in the cover-up. Controversy rages over how the Church handled pedophile priests, especially Peter Hullermann, who Cardinal Ratzinger had personally relocated to a different parish where he continued abusing children. The pope repeated his decision to transfer Hullermann each time his behavior was exposed.

Meanwhile, Bergoglio submitted his resignation as Archbishop, but the Vatican has not responded. As he prepares to go to Rome and personally deliver his resignation letter to the Pope, he receives a request to come to the Vatican. Bergoglio and Pope Benedict meet at the Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence. The two debate the roles of God and the church. Benedict recounts what led him to the priesthood and talks about his personal interests. The two watch Benedict’s favorite TV show, Kommisar Rex, further delaying their discussion about Bergoglio’s resignation.

Bergoglio recounts his early life and path into the church. He ended his marital engagement and joined the Jesuits. He was met by Father Franz Jalics (Lisandro Fiks) and Father Orlando Yorio (Germán de Silva), who becomes his spiritual friends. Benedict rejects Bergoglio’s resignation, saying the world would perceive it as a vote of no confidence in his leadership and weaken the Catholic Church. Benedict and Bergoglio put aside their differences and chat informally, gradually warming to each other.

This story is so emotional and heartfelt, one should make sure tissues are available when watching.  The scenery is absolutely beautiful, from the outfits worn by the Pope, Archbishops, and Cardinals to the actual rooms of the Vatican and the summer residence of the Pope.  I think The Two Popes should have gotten a nomination for Cinematography.   I feel this film has a soft tone to its aura and a spiritual ambiance that sets the mood for the audience. I was totally wrapped up in this story of two men (who are not without sin) confess their biggest indiscretions to each other before making the biggest decision of their lives.  The Two Popes is a very intense movie with a surprising and satisfying ending. The Two Popes is currently digital streaming on Netflix.  Since it’s snowing here, I’m enjoying having the luxury of watching several films from the comfort of my recliner because of Netflix.  While The Two Popes may be a tad bit slow, the film is brilliant and deserves attention from the “world of movie lovers” for its achievements.  Check It Out!

[THE TWO POPES is Oscar-nominated for BEST: Actor, Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay — TOTALING 3  OSCAR NOMINATIONS]