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Tag Archives: 5 Stars

Its a Sin (Limited Series)

I don’t always weigh in on limited series, but I was particularly captivated by this one (5 episodes). Three young and very different men – Ritchie, Colin, and Roscoe – all are 18 and move to London to explore their lives as gay men. It’s a Sin spans the decade between 1981 and 1991, the time when AIDS, a then-unknown disease that was affecting primarily gay men, was casting a shadow over the lives of many, gay and straight alike. It is a bit like the Boys in the Band but from the perspective of the UK. Those of us …

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The Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

This wonderful documentary comes from the summer of 1969, the same year of Woodstock when there was another big cultural event that summer: A concert series at Mount Morris Park. That summer, across several Sundays, the Harlem Culture Festival featured some of the biggest names among Black singers of the era. According to the film, nearly 50 hours of film were shot, and most of it was locked away in a basement for about 50 years, as no one at the time felt that it was worthy of a film. The movie includes a combination of this lost footage and …

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The Velvet Underground

This documentary by Todd Haynes explores the rise of the Velvet Underground, primarily through the band’s connection to Andy Warhol’s factory. The merge of music and the visual aesthetic that Warhol brought made the Velvet Underground famous. What works in this film, and makes it a great one, is that it doesn’t just examine the band with the standard interviews. There are interviews, but Haynes juxtaposes hundreds of images and video and concert segments together to create a 360-degree view into the 1960’s artistic and cultural experience from the New York perspective. I have always loved this period, and I …

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The Power of the Dog

Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) and George (Jesse Plemons) Burbank own and manage a successful cattle ranching business in Montana in the early 20th century. Phil is rugged, doesn’t say much and, when he does, it is usually nasty and degrading to someone. George never says much and seems to be much more sensitive and aware of what is happening around him. George marries Rose (Kirsten Dunst), a widow who owns a bar and restaurant in a nearby town and has a son, Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee). The marriage will have consequences for all of them. Phil, George, and Peter each represent different …

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C’mon C’mon

Joaquin Phoenix is Johnny, a radio journalist who is currently on a project involving travel to cities around the US to interview kids about their lives and what they hope for the future. He finds himself taking care of his quirky and precocious nephew Jesse (a sensational Woody Norman), the son of his sister with whom he has had an estranged relationship after their mother died. Johnny travels to New York City and then to New Orleans with his nephew. This is one of my favorite films of the year. It is a story of complex worlds adults occupy and …

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Soul

In this latest animation effort from Pixar studios, Joe Gardner is a music teacher at a public school in New York City who is a piano player constantly dreaming about jazz music. One day, he gets his break when he gets an opportunity to play with Dorothea Williams, a renowned musician. On the way to his debut, he suffers an accident and, through a series of events, finds himself assigned as a mentor to a particularly precocious spirit who can’t seem to find his way to becoming a body on Earth. The film is quite stunning. The animation is superior; …

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Quo Vadis, Aida?

(Bosnia and Herzegovina, English Subtitles): This historical film is based on the massacre of thousands of men and boys in an ethnic cleansing operation in Bosnia in the mid-1990s. The event is told through the experience of Aida, a translator for the United Nations peacekeeping forces assigned to monitor a temporary cease-fire between the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims. Aria knows more about what is going on and what is about to happen, but she finds herself torn between the needs of her people and the activities of the UN overseers as well as the need to save her …

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The Father

Anne (Olivia Coleman) is caring for her father Anthony (Anthony Hopkins) who has advanced dementia. As Anthony is rapidly losing his way, Anne is trying desperately to hang on and cope as his mind deteriorates. I have seen a lot of films about dementia (and have like most all of them), but this is the first time I have seen a film portray what it is like in the head of someone who has dementia rather than what the people outside him see. The effect and emotional impact are incredible. Both Coleman and Hopkins give exceptional and award-worthy performances, but …

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Memories of Murder

(Korea, English Subtitles). One of Bong Joon-Ho’s first big hits is now available for rent on Amazon Prime! The film, based on a true crime story that was not solved at the time of the film’s original release, is about the efforts of some local detectives to find a serial killer. Two detectives from a local police department, one of who has anger control issues, and the other who seems to have gotten his training from crime detective television shows, are joined by an educated detective from Seoul. The first half of the film is very funny watching Detective Park …

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Queen’s Gambit

I don’t typically write reviews on limited series, but this one is so good that I couldn’t help myself.  Most everyone has seen it by now: A young girl who ends up in an orphanage when her mother dies in a car accident discovers that she has a proclivity toward chess. The series, based on a novel by the same name that I understand is quite good, follows her rise over 7 episodes in the chess world as she simultaneously battles various addictions. Every now and then a limited series comes along that is really special; last year, it was …

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