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Tag Archives: 4 Stars

Boy

This is an early film by Taika Waititi (Hunt for the Wilderpeople; What we Do in the Shadows; JoJo Rabbit) centers Boy, a young boy of about 12 or 13 years. He lives with his younger brother Rocky and a variety of young cousins. He serves as the male caretaker of his bother and cousins while their nan is away. Boy idolizes his father, who he hasn’t seen in 7 years since his father went to prison, and Michael Jackson. When his father suddenly shows up, he is forced to reconcile his worship of an idealized father with the one …

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Bull

Kris and her sister live with her grandma in a poor neighborhood in Houston, TX while her mother serves a prison sentence. Abe, Kris’ neighbor, used to ride bulls on the Black rodeo circuit but, due to injuries now works on the circuit as the guy who deflects the bulls when riders fall off. Kris and her friends break into Abe’s house while he is gone, drink his booze, and trash his house. Rather than send her to juvie, he agrees to allow her to clean up his house and work for him in exchange. The film is about the …

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Ordinary Love

Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville are Tom and Joan, a retired couple who have settled into an easy routine that couples who have been together for decades can; their lives are in every sense ordinary. The film is about how their relationship is tested when Joan is diagnosed with breast cancer. What makes this film work is that it gives a close-up view of life; there is no complex plot here, just the day-to-day experiences of a married couple who are coping with a cancer diagnosis. Both actors are wonderful together, but I thought that Manville’s performance was superior, one …

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Swallow

Haley Bennet is Hunter, wife of Ritchie, the son of very wealthy parents and in line to manage the family business. On the surface, Hunter appears to have everything going for her – a very successful husband, money, and a new home.  However, as she feels more diminished by Ritchie’s success and treated as an object by her in-laws, Hunter develops pica, an uncontrollable urge to swallow objects. The progression of her condition and understanding why forms the core of the story. Haley Bennett is superb; she manages through facial expressions to convey the reality of a woman whose world …

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Sorry We Missed You

This is a new film by Ken Loach (I, Daniel Blake), which like the previous film, is focused on the working poor.  Ricky has had his share of troubles: He and his family (wife Abby, son Seb, and daughter Lisa) lost their home as a result of the 2008 crash, and they have struggled to make ends meet. His wife works in a low-paying home health aide position, and he has not been able to get a decent paying job. One day, he applies and joins a parcel delivery company that promises that “he won’t work for the company, he …

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Bacurau

(Brazil): Teresa returns to her hometown for the funeral of her grandmother Carmelita. After Carmelita’s death, strange things begin to happen: The town of Bacurau disappears off the map; cell phone service suddenly vanishes; the water truck returns to town with a number of bullet holes; and a flying saucer hovers overhead. During the first hour, we get introduced to the town and its inhabitants and a slimy major from the next town over who is running for reelection. For the second half of the film, everything goes south. This film is wonderful but very strange. There are similarities to …

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My Life as a Zucchini

I missed this film in 2017, which was nominated for a best animated film Oscar that year. Ikar, who likes to be called Zucchini, lives at home with his alcoholic mother. After an unfortunate accident, Zucchini ends up in an orphanage with other kids like him who were abandoned or orphaned by their parents or removed from their homes. This is such an adorable movie. The stop-motion animation is fantastic; those big heads on the kids’ bodies are so full of emotional expression. It is amazing how such a range of emotions can be captured in an animated format. There …

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América

(Spanish, Subtitled): This documentary, set in Colima, Mexico, tells the story of three brothers (Diego, Bruno, and Rodriguez), two of whom have returned to take care of their grandmother,  América who, in her 90’s, is frail and appears to be suffering from older-age dementia. After she suffered a fall and the neighbors called the police, her son (their father) was sent to jail for neglect. It is a really endearing story, these young men who give up their lives away from Colima to return to help her. Her care causes tensions among them – they fight over her care, money, …

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Hard Eight

It was time to ensure that I had seen all of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films, so I went back to his first feature film, Hard Eight. Philip Baker Hall plays Sydney, a well-off gambler who chances upon John (John C. Reilly), a bum who is sitting outside a restaurant trying to figure out how to get money for his mother’s funeral. Sydney takes him under his wing and to Vegas where John learns the trade. The film doesn’t have the same sophisticated narrative structure that his later films would have, but what it does have is some really fascinating and …

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Dark Waters

The latest Todd Haynes (Carol, Far From Heaven, Safe, I’m Not There) is based on a true story about a lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) who discovers that Dupont has been poisoning the drinking water of a community in West Virginia. The film is well-acted, particularly by Ruffalo who does an excellent job of playing a guy whose passion exhausts him, his family, and his law practice. I have always really liked Todd Haynes films; he is a meticulous director who has a penchant for detail and can tell a really great story. It is a story that is infuriating but also …

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