Category Archives: Real Life

First They Killed My Father

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Release Date: September 15, 2017
Screened: September 11, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 136 minutes
Rating: NR – equivalent to a strong PG-13
Studio: Netflix
Director: Angelina Jolie
Cast: Sareum Srey Moch; Phoeung Kompheak; Sveng Socheata; Mun Kimhak; Heng Dara; Khoun Sothea; Sarun Nika; Run Malyna; Oun Srey Neang

Angelina Jolie directs the adaptation of Loung Ung’s memoir “First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers” and the results are a film that is experienced rather than enjoyed. Continue reading

BPM (Beats Per Minute)

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Release Date: August 23, 2017 (France); October 20, 2017 (USA – limited)
Screened: September 10, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 140 minutes
Rating: No Rating Yet (it’ll be R)
Studio: Memento Films
Director: Robin Campillo
Cast: Nahuel Pérez Biscayart; Arnaud Valois; Adèle Haenel; Antoine Reinartz; Théophile Ray; Catherine Vinatier

**Minor Spoilers**

Director Robin Campillo affectionately explores the early years of the AIDS crisis through the lens of the Paris outfit of AIDS activist group, ACT UP. Continue reading

I, Tonya

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Release Date: September 8, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Screened: September 9, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Runtime: 119 minutes
Rating: No Rating Yet
Studio: Miramax 
Director: Craig Gillespie
Cast: Margot Robbie; Sebastian Stan; Allison Janney; Julianne Nicholson; Bobby Cannavale; Caitlin Carver; Mckenna Grace; Paul Walter Hauser

Craig Gillespie’s I, Tonya takes a ripped-from-the-headlines true story and infuses it with unexpected empathy. Invaluable assistance is provided from star Margot Robbie, whose performance here is even more star making than her showy breakout turn in Wolf of Wall Street. Her work, as well as that of co-stars Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney (not to mention director Gillespie and cinematographer Nicolas Karakatsanis) should garner plenty of attention come awards time. Continue reading

The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

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Release Date: April 21, 2017 – Tribeca Film Festival
Runtime: 105 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Studio: Public Square Films
Director: David France
Cast: Victoria Cruz; Marsha P. Johnson; Sylvia Rivera

Here is a documentary that should be required viewing in high schools, in gender studies classes, and in history classes from now on. “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” is an important and indispensable piece of work about one of the foremost founders of the modern LGBT movement. Continue reading

Jackie

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Release Date: December 2, 2016
Runtime: 100 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Natalie Portman; Peter Sarsgaard; Greta Gerwig; Billy Crudup; John Hurt; John Carroll Lynch; Max Casella

Natalie Portman disappears into Camelot with her astonishing portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy in “Jackie.” Portman, director Pablo Larraín and screenwriter Noah Oppenheim provide an unusual glimpse into what life must have been like for Jackie in the week following the assassination of her husband, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, as she juggled two small grieving children, her own melancholy and the mourning of a nation. Continue reading

Sully

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Release Date: September 9, 2016
Runtime: 96 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Tom Hanks; Aaron Eckhart; Laura Linney; Mike O’Malley; Anna Gunn; Jamey Sheridan

Hero worship doesn’t get much more blatant, or for that matter, more entertaining than “Sully,” Clint Eastwood’s dramatization of the Miracle on the Hudson from a few years back. Tom Hanks easily inhabits Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s wings in an effectively understated (and remarkably physically realized) performance that ranks among one of the actor’s best. Continue reading

King Cobra

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Release Date: Screened April 18, 2016 – Tribeca Film Festival
Runtime: 91 minutes
Rating: Not Yet Rated (but let’s be real..it’ll be R)
Studio: Yale Productions/SSS Entertainment/Digital Ignition Entertainment/RabbitBandini Productions
Director: Justin Kelly
Cast: James Franco; Garrett Clayton; Christian Slater; Molly Ringwald; Keegan Allen; Alicia Silverstone

A movie as salacious and lurid as the story it’s telling, “King Cobra” has its flaws, but is generally an effective, lean, and very mean piece of “ripped-from-the-headlines” cinema. Boasting a cast including James Franco, Molly Ringwald, Alicia Silverstone, Keegan Allen, a hasn’t-been-this-good-in-years Christian Slater, and former teenybopper Garrett Clayton, ejecting himself from tweendom straight into the tighty-whities of grown-up films, “King Cobra” offers a stylish though straightforward, yet not uncompelling, dramatization of this tawdry tale of murder and sex. Continue reading

Marjoe

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Release Date: July 24, 1972
Runtime: 88 minutes
Rating: PG
Studio: Cinema 5 Distributing
Director: Howard Smith; Sarah Kernochan
Cast: Marjoe Gortner

It might be tempting to call Marjoe Gortner a con man. He was a noted evangelist in the days before Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, “saving” people in exchange for them forking over money to his ministry, money that sometimes people couldn’t really afford to give. He moved from town to town like a one-man travelling sideshow, preaching the gospel of Jesus to those willing and needing to believe it. He was a consummate showman. The interesting thing is, even he would agree with that. Continue reading

Steve Jobs

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Release Date: October 23, 2015
Runtime: 122 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Universal Pictures
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: Michael Fassbender; Kate Winslet; Jeff Daniels; Seth Rogen; Michael Stuhlbarg; Katherine Waterston

I came away from this movie with a great big ‘eh.’ It’s typical Aaron Sorkin. By this, I mean lots of people shouting pithy one-liners at each other in rapid cadence. I can’t exactly put my finger on it but the movie just wasn’t very interesting. Steve Jobs, computer visionary, quasi-deadbeat dad, general asshole, was undoubtedly a fascinating man, but you don’t really get a sense of just how fascinating from the film. This is one of those movies where everyone is trying so hard to act importantly because they know they are in a big important event movie. Stop. Just stop. Continue reading

Black Mass

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Release Date: September 18, 2015
Runtime: 122 minutes
Rating: R
Studio: Warner Bros.
Director: Scott Cooper
Cast: Johnny Depp; Joel Edgerton; Benedict Cumberbatch; Dakota Johnson; Julianne Nicholson; Kevin Bacon; Peter Sarsgaard; Rory Cochrane; David Harbour; Adam Scott; Corey Stoll; Jesse Plemons

Johnny Depp is a shoo-in for an Oscar nomination in what is arguably the best performance of his career as James “Whitey” Bulger, a small-time Boston hood who grew to become one of the FBI’s most wanted. Scott Cooper’s riveting “Black Mass,” based on the book of the same name by Boston Globe journalists Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, is a brutal and uncompromising piece, right in line with the life of its subject. Continue reading