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Tag Archives: 4.5 Stars

One Night in Miami

Regina King directed this film that provides a fictionalized account of a celebration meeting between four Black men – the singer Sam Cooke, who was at the height of his career; Cassius Clay (aka Muhammed Ali), who that night had become the world heavyweight boxing champion at 22; Malcolm X, who was in the middle of his rift with the Nation of Islam and its leader Elijah Muhammed; and James Brown, the best running back of his time (and now widely viewed as one of the greatest of all time). The film uses the meeting of these four men as …

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Nomadland

Fern (Frances McDormand) finds herself out of work when the sole industry in Empire, Nevada, closes down. She outfits a van and hits the road, traveling around the Western United States. She takes on various jobs, including seasonal (Christmas) work in Amazon warehouses, restaurants, and as a park caretaker; she is too young to retire and is not ready to stop working. She meets other nomads along the way, most of whom are not trained actors and actual people who are on the road for a variety of reasons. I loved the movie. McDormand is amazing; she disappears into her …

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Minari

(Much of the film is Korean with English subtitles): Jacob, Monica, are Korean – American immigrants and move from California to Arkansas with their two young children. They arrive at the property that has several acres with no irrigation, and an old trailer. Jacob is looking to find success in creating a niche farming Korean vegetables and not have to make money in the chicken houses “looking at chicken butts”. There is something very special about this film that is based on the experiences of the director as a child. While the film is from an immigrant point of view, …

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Promising Young Woman

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is a young woman just approaching her 30th birthday. She still lives at home with two lackluster parents. By day, she works in a coffee shop, and at night, she is prowling the bars. Early in the film, you kind of get the sense she is going nowhere, but it doesn’t take long to recognize her cunning and cleverness. I won’t say much about the story, because you really need to watch it and let the various twists and surprises happen to really appreciate Cassie and the well-crafted and entertaining story. The movie feels like the ultimate …

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Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

This film is an adaptation of a play of the same name by August Wilson (who also wrote the play Fences that was adapted to the screen in 2016). The subject is Ma Rainey (Viola Davis), a woman considered by many to be the “Mother of the Blues”, and her band over the course of a studio recording session. The plot centers on her trumpeter, Levee (Chadwick Boseman), who is headstrong and wants to play “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” his way. I typically find film adaptations of stage plays to be rather hollow; each platform has its strengths that don’t …

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Small Axe

Steve McQueen III, who is probably best known for his film, 12 Years a Slave, brings a new concept, a collection of 5 feature films that stand on their own but are being packaged as a Limited Series on Amazon Prime. The subject is the experience of West Indian immigrants in London between 1960 and the early 1980s. While each film stands on its own, I find it much easier to think about all of them together. This is an excellent collection of stories that are immersed in their particular eras. The first, Mangrove, is based on the true story …

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Wolfwalkers

This is the latest animated film by the same director who created The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea. Robyn and her father Bill have stationed in Ireland in 1650 at an outpost overseen by a cruel ruler. Robyn dreams of hunting wolves, like her father. One day, Robyn meets Mebh, who turns out to be a wolf walker, a creature who by day is in human form but at night can leave the sleeping body and roam the world as a wolf. This is a really beautiful film. The story is based on Celtic legend but feels …

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The Host

(Korea, English subtitles): I know that a lot of people have probably already seen this one, but I missed it, and I have been doing a Bong Joon-Ho movie-watching binge, and here we are. Kang-du is a single father of Hyun-seo; both live with his father. Kang-du appears to be narcoleptic, falling asleep at the window of the little store his father owns. One day, as he is delivering food to a customer outside, a slimy fish-lizard like creature arises from the river and creates mayhem and, at the same time, takes Hyun-seo. The remainder of the film is about …

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Time

This documentary is about Fox Rich, who spends 20 years working to free her husband Rob for a bank robbery both of them committed. I really loved this film for several reasons. First, it is not your standard false conviction story; in this particular case, both of them admitted to doing it, but while Fox spent almost 5 years in prison, Rob was sentenced to 60 years initially without the possibility of parole. And the film doesn’t really spend a lot of time focused on that fight; rather, it is more about Fox and her 6 boys who she raised …

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Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You

This film is a companion piece to Springsteen’s new album, Letter to You. It is partly an extended music video that shows Springsteen and the E Street Band playing many of the songs on the album, but it also is a documentary in which Springsteen looks back on his life, his early influences, and the periods in his life that inspired his current work. I really enjoyed how the concept worked. The film is all shot in black and white, and some of the images are incredibly beautiful to look at. I love the almost poetic reflections that he narrates …

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