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Tag Archives: 3.5 Stars

The Dig

Carey Mulligan plays Mrs. Pretty, a widow of significant means, who hires Basil Brown, played by Ralph Fiennes, to conduct an archeological dig on her property. There are several mounds on the property, one of which she feels particularly drawn toward. Mr. Brown’s discovery of an ancient sailing vessel creates a lot of commotion in the local and archeological community. The film is a visually beautiful period piece. Mulligan and Fiennes give characteristically strong performances. I have always really loved the naturalness of Mulligan’s performances, and this one is no exception. I found the story interesting, although the screenplay could …

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Funny Boy

(Sri Lanka, some parts in English and English subtitles): This film is a coming-of-age story of a boy, Arjie, growing up gay in Sri Lanka during the civil war between the Tamil and Sinhalese ethnic groups. We see him first probably around 8 years old, in a mock wedding in which he is dressed up as the bride and another girl from the neighborhood is the groom. While his father is concerned about him being a “funny boy”, his Aunt Radha encourages his differentness. The film then jumps to Arjie as a teenager attending a preparatory school, where the tension …

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Driveways

In Brian Dennehy’s last film, he plays Del, a recently widowed war veteran. He lives next door to a woman who dies suddenly. Her sister Kathy and 8-year-old son Cody show up to take care of her estate. Cody, who tends to keep to himself and doesn’t easily take to the two teenagers who live down the street, goes over to Del’s after one particularly nasty encounter, and the two of them begin to form a friendship. The film is a character study, and the three leads help elevate the story into something that feels fresh, real, and relevant. I …

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Mother

Japan, English Subtitles: Akiko (Masami Nagaswa) is mother to Shuhei (Daiken Okudaira). In the beginning, we see Akiko (who is 7) and Shuhei playing; his mom allows him to play hooky from school so that they could spend the day together. As the film progresses, we begin to see more clearly who Akiko is: She is a mess, a woman who has drinking problems, a chronic gambler who constantly loses any money she has, is narcissistic, and manages to find ways to get Shuhei to do what she wants – begging for money and food, staying by himself eating uncooked …

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Ainu Mosir

Japan, English Subtitles: Kanto is a 14-year-old young man who has just lost his father. He is descended from the Ainu people who live in one of the northern Japanese islands. The film is a coming of age story and how Kanto navigates being a teenager who wants to go anywhere for high school that will take him away from the island that he feels is restrictive and the traditions that reflect his heritage. I really enjoyed the film; it is beautiful to look at, and I always appreciate stories about native traditions. This culture seems to have traditions not …

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Lingua Franca

Olivia (played by the director, Isabel Sandoval), a trans woman, is a Filipino undocumented immigrant in Brooklyn who is a caretaker for a lady who is suffering from dementia. As her options for getting a green card become fewer, she meets Alex, Olga’s grandson, and a relationship develops between the two. I enjoyed this movie. It was nice seeing a film about a trans woman directed by a trans woman who plays the lead character in the film. There are two things I enjoyed most about the film. First, it is an interesting and believable character study of what it …

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River of Grass

This is Kelly Reichardt’s directorial debut. The more recent films that I have seen are incredible, so I wanted to go back and try to look at her earlier filmography. River of Grass tells the story of Cozy, a bored housewife trapped inside of her own head and who fantasizes about a more exciting kind of life. One night she leaves her kids and walks toward somewhere; when she reaches the road, she is nearly run over by Lee Roy. A bit later, they meet up in a bar, and Cozy’s world seems to perk up; she sees a man …

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What Happened Miss Simone?

Nina Simone wanted to be the first classical pianist to play Carnegie Hall, but events in her life were such that she started playing in jazz clubs and developed a long career as a singer and songwriter. The film reviews her life, through interviews with her daughter, ex-husband, and her lead guitarist, among others, as well as through her diary writings and recorded interviews. I think what is most fascinating and makes the film completely worth it is the concert footage. You get to hear a lot of the songs that made her famous as she sang them in various …

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The Old Guard

Andy (Charlize Theron) leads a small band of superheroes who possess the inability to die. They march across the centuries trying to help the evolution of humanity in positive ways. Andy doesn’t think that the work they do makes a difference. The band discovers a new person Nile, a soldier in Afghanistan, who also cannot die (played by Kiki Layne). Nile joins the team as they fight against a corporation that is trying to capture them for their DNA that will help to cure previously incurable diseases. I enjoyed the film. It has a lot of emotional depth along with …

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Father Soldier Son

Brian Eisch is a single parent who is deployed to Afghanistan. His sons, approximately 10 and 12 at the beginning of the film, love and admire him as a hero who is serving their country. The film explores what happens to the family over the next 10 years after Brian is permanently disabled as a result of a war injury. I liked the film mostly for the way it shows how the “tough man” aspect of masculinity is transmitted through the family culture. The film could have explored more deeply the impact that the father’s injury had on the sons …

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