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Tag Archives: 4.5 Stars

Asperger’s Are Us

After seeing Paddleton, I was interested in other films by Alexandre Lehmann, and I found this film. This is a documentary about four young men – Noah, Ethan, New Michael, and Jack – who are all on the autism spectrum, had formed their own comedy troupe and were preparing to perform their last show. While I would have liked to have had more background on each of them in terms of their growing up years, I was inspired by these four men who set out to do what they loved doing – comedy. It was also great to hear these …

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Cake

(Pakistan): This film is about three siblings who return home to Kabul after their father suffers from congestive heart failure. The return home surfaces a number of interpersonal struggles and family secrets that risk fracturing the family. At first glance, it seems like a standard “dysfunctional family dynamics” film. However, the film is really well constructing. The ensemble acting is great. The screenplay is very well crafted, frequently very funny, and keeps coming up with more surprises; I didn’t find it at all predictable. I am impressed with the music; I don’t know anything about Pakistani pop music, but it …

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Jallikattu

(India): I watched this film with no expectations, and I have to say it was one of the most thought-provoking, interesting, and surprising (in a great way) films I have seen this year. It is the kind of film I am attracted to – creative and unique in its vision and storytelling and one whose premise initially seems like it cannot work but executes brilliantly. It opens with a montage of men who live in the village; we are introduced to some of the key characters, quick glimpses of their faces and activities during a typical day. After a brief …

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Klaus

Jesper (voiced by Jason Schwartzmann) is a spoiled brat who cannot hold a job and just wants to sleep on silk sheets and have his dinner served to him. His father, who I think owns the world postal system, banishes Jesper to a tiny island Smeerensburg somewhere near the North Pole with the instruction that he can return once he proves he has delivered 6000 pieces of mail. The island is home to two factions that have been feuding as long as anyone can remember. Here, he meets a burned-out schoolteacher (voiced by Rashida Jones) and a strange man named …

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For Sama

This documentary tells the story of a journalist (Waad al-Kateab) and her family as they endure 5 years in Aleppo during the Syrian civil war. She and her husband were both student activists whose roles quickly changed once the war started – he a doctor trying to treat victims in sometimes makeshift hospitals, she a journalist documenting the war, and raising a baby daughter during it all. The film is pretty powerful. It is all first-had footage from her video camera, and she captures a range of experiences from the ground as a woman and mother – scenes in hospital …

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The Irishman

Martin Scorcese’s latest film, based (probably loosely) on the life of Frank Sheehan (played by Robert DeNiro), an associate of the mob and of Jimmy Hoffa, is very impressive. There are two narrative strands that weave to form the overall story and narrated by Frank Sheehan in the present from his nursing home: The road trip that was taken by him and his mob boss Russell Buffalino (Joe Pesci) to attend a wedding and meet with Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) and the story of how Sheehan rose in the ranks as he did. The acting overall is great, but the …

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Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler plays Howard Ratner, a rather shady Jewish jeweler whose life is not working out from any angle. His marriage is ending; he is in a rocky relationship with a girlfriend, and he owes money – lots of money – to various loan sharks. He is constantly “robbing Peter to pay Paul” to keep just a half a step ahead of his creditors. He gets a rock from Africa that contains large precious stones – uncut gems – that he expects is going to turn his life around. The directors create a dizzying pace that never lets up and …

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Little Women

This is Greta Gerwig’s latest film about 4 young women coming of age and living in pre-Civil War Massachusetts. I have not read the original novel, nor have I seen any of the previous versions of this, so I watched the film with no preconceptions. When I watch a Gerwig film I feel like I am being guided into a special place, and this film is no exception. She is a brilliant director who gets the most from her actors in this film about these 4 women finding their voices in the 19th century but feels relevant. Jo March (Saoirse …

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A Hidden Life

Terrence Malick’s latest film is based on the true story of a conscientious objector in the era of Hitler. Franz owns a farm in Austria and is married to Franziska; they have three daughters. Franz goes off to basic training, and when he comes back, he decides that he cannot take the Hitler loyalty oath. As with most Malick films, this one requires patience. The film is long, at over 3 hours, and it is exquisitely shot and scored. I was bracing myself for a long film, but it seemed to fly by. Malick is known for his heavy themes, …

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Chernobyl

This 5-part HBO miniseries is a historical fiction based on the actual events leading up to and after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Russia. It is quite a stunning piece of work. With the exception of a few minor scientific details, the film appears to be an accurate depiction of what happened. There is so much to be said about the artistry: The great writing and acting in which situation after situation arises in which complex moral and ethical decisions come into play; the pace of the film that creates a lot of suspense as the lead scientists unravel what …

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