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Tag Archives: 3.5 Stars

Onward

In this animated film from Pixar, Ian and Barley, two brothers who lost their father to an illness, are given the opportunity to have their father back for one day through the use of an old magic wand. When the spell becomes botched, the brothers set off on an adventure to find the magic stone that will result in being able to see their dad. I liked the movie mostly for its message about parenting and being about to recognize the amazing things we do without even realizing how amazing they are. I would not consider this a film that …

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News of the World

Tom Hanks stars as Captain Kidd, a Civil War veteran whose job post-war is to travel from town to town, telling stories and reading the news from papers from different parts of the country. On his travels, he encounters Johanna, a young Kiowa Indian girl who was kidnapped from her parents 6 years previously and was essentially raised as a Kiowa girl. Her Kiowa parents had perished, and the Black man who was taking her back to her relatives in the South was ambushed and hung from a tree. Captain Kidd agrees to take her to her family, and the …

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The Mole Agent

(Chile, English Subtitles). The subject of this documentary is Sergio, a widower of 83 years, who applies for a job to go undercover in a nursing home. The private investigator has been hired by the daughter of one of the residents who believe the nursing staff is stealing from her. Sergio takes the job as a way to help deal with the loss of his wife. The film provides an insider look at life in the nursing home. It is rather sad, for the most part, how Sergio engages several of the residents and learns of the loneliness that many …

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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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