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Monthly Archives: January 2018

Roman J Israel, Esq.

Denzel Washington plays the title character, who has been working as a “behind the scenes” partner in a law firm. He is something of a legal savant, and he was much better at researching law records and preparing background information while his partner fought the battles in court. Roman’s partner suddenly has a massive heart attack, leaving Roman looking for a job. He gets hired by George (Colin Farrell), who had an agreement to settle the affairs of the company in the event of the partner’s death. The movie is the story of the three weeks that follow his partner’s …

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The Insult

(Lebanon with English subtitles). Yasser is a Palestinian refugee who works for a construction company. Tony is a Lebanese Christian who works as a car mechanic. One day, Yasser removes from Tony’s porch a drain pipe that is in violation of city code and installs a workaround. Tony sees that it is Yasser who fixed the drain and proceeds to smash the repair. What transpires is the substance of this film: What happens when angry words spiral out of control. Both men are stubborn, both men bring their histories, and both men are adamant that they are right. The film …

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All the Money in the World

This new film by Ridley Scott tells the true story of J Paul Getty III, grandson of the oil giant, who is kidnapped and held for ransom; it is a showcase for Christopher Plummer, who masterfully channels the older Getty in all of his power and greed. I found the film to be engaging, quick-paced, and suspenseful. Christopher Plummer is the right person for this role, and I cannot imagine Kevin Spacey playing Getty any better. Michelle Williams is wonderful playing Getty’s former daughter-in-law who proves to be quite matched to the patriarch’s scheming, and Mark Wahlberg plays a convincing …

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The Last Men in Aleppo

Documentary about the White Helmets, a group of civilians who respond to places in Aleppo that have been bombed and search for survivors. The director follows a few of the White Helmets during the highs and lows of their rescue work and their rest periods. The film provides stunning on-the-ground insight into what is happening in Syria. I enjoyed the more intimate moments with White Helmets as they interact with and talk about their families; those personal reflections and observations create a stark contrast to the devastation in which they risk their lives on a daily basis. Big thumbs up …

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Abacus: Small Enough to Jail

This documentary tells the story of Abacus Federal Savings of Chinatown, the only bank to be taken to court for mortgage fraud as a result of the banking crisis of 2008. It is a small, simple, but powerful story that tells the story of the toll the 5-year trial took on the family and community. It is just amazing that none of the largest and richest banks directly implicated in the sale of bad mortgage debt securities were sued. Yet this small bank, while not perfect and which took the right steps when it discovered fraud by one of its …

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The Greatest Showman

This musical tells the story of how P.T. Barnham (Hugh Jackman) rose from nothing to build what became known as the “greatest show on earth.” As a story of his life and of the people who became a part of his show, it is rather shallow; one doesn’t get a lot of depth, and I was not sure exactly how much of it was real and how much was “inspired.” As a musical, some of the numbers were good, particularly “This is Me” and “Rewrite the Stars,” but the choreography overall was not particularly dazzling. Performances, especially that by Hugh …

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Phantom Thread

For me, a new Paul Thomas Anderson movie is an event I won’t ever miss. And a film that reunites the collaboration between him and Daniel Day-Lewis (“There Will Be Blood”) sweetens the pot. In this film, Day-Lewis plays Reynolds, a dress designer obsessed with his craft. Early on he meets Anna (Vicki Krieps) with whom he quickly becomes enchanted. Filling out the triangle is his sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). This film is an art film lover’s dream. It is gorgeous to look at; every scene, each frame, is exquisitely captured. The music is lovely and complements what is happening …

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The Post

Once in a while, I see a movie of which my opinion bucks the prevailing one; this is one of those films. Meryl Streep plays Katharine Graham, who became head of the Washington Post (and first female head of a major newspaper) after the suicide of her husband. Tom Hanks plays Ben Bradlee, one of the Post’s leading editors. The New York Times, main Post competitor, has already broken the story of the Vietnam War cover-up, and this film is the story of how the Post continued to expand on the story that ultimately brought the NYT and the Post …

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The Salt of the Earth

This documentary follows the life of the photographer Sebastião Salgado. Salgado was rained in economics but soon after graduating discovered a love for photography. In partnership with his wife, he spent the next several decades traveling the world photographing the changing human landscape. The movie was directed by Wim Wenders and his Salgado’s son, Juliano. The film is stunning in its documentation of the development of Salgado’s career, its portrayal of how a gifted artist views his subjects, and the presentation of a selection of his best and most powerful images. A huge thumbs-up for an exquisitely beautiful portrayal of …

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Waste Land

This documentary follows the photographer Vik Muniz, Brazilian by birth but living in the US, as he returns to Brazil to photograph the workers at the world’s biggest garbage dump. The workers pick recyclables from the garbage, and the film captures their ecosystem. I found the story of the community and social and political structure that exists because of the employment opportunities fascinating. But the best part is watching the photographer create his photographs using the workers and the garbage they collect as subjects and how the film tells a richer story about the human condition. The credits indicate that …

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