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Allison Janney plays a “Reiki Master” who helps a sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) & brother (Josh Pais) appreciate the healing gift of touch. Despite excellent performances all around, this observant family dramedy written & directed by Lynn Shelton is somehow a bit too gentle & “spaced-out” to work as well as it should. The pain we […]
7/30/13 Update: Listen to great interview with writer/director Maggie Carey on NPR! Kudos to writer/director Maggie Carey for creating a terrific first feature about a very brainy high school valedictorian (Aubrey Plaza) who wants to lose her virginity before heading off to college. With great respect for 3 interlocking circles (home, work & time with BFFs), there […]
Two worlds collide & a drunk-driving incident becomes the occasion for a trenchant analysis of contemporary French culture. Excellent acting by the three principals, but alas the third world (ironically here the upper middle class world of the witness who becomes a reluctant intermediary) is more assumed than depicted. Otherwise? Perfect! (JLH: 4.5/5) Click HERE […]
Around 9 PM on April 19, 1989, a twenty-eight year old investment banker entered Manhattan’s famous Central Park and began jogging up Park Drive North. Unbeknownst to her, police had already received reports about a youth gang in that general vicinity, and when she was found a few hours later—brutally raped, beaten, and left for […]
Dina Zvi-Riklis’s new film The Fifth Heaven is set in Palestine at the close of World War II. Jewish residents, terrified by the Nazi advance across Europe and North Africa, have been giving their all to their British protectors for years, but now that the defeat of the Third Reich appears imminent, their thoughts turn […]
Writer/Director Sarah Polley’s new film Take This Waltz begins when “Margot” (Michelle Williams) is away from home. She’s a writer on assignment in Nova Scotia, doing her job and minding her own business. On the plane back to Toronto, she’s seated next to “Daniel” (Luke Kirby), someone she’d spotted in Louisbourg but didn’t really interact with. Side-by-side, however, […]
Fortysomething Mickey Prohaska (Kinnear) can no longer rely on good looks & charm to get his way. But trying for an easy score, he suddenly finds himself in way over his head. Beautifully cast new film by the Sprecher Sisters is a perfect dramedy: very funny AND very sad. Arkin & Balaban are hilarious, Crudup […]
The devil is in the details, or in this case not… Reduced to 120 minutes, John Le Carre’s great Cold War novel has been boiled down to bare incidents with little emotional pull. Huge cast of great British actors of the Boomer generation give innumberable curt speeches that fail to illuminate either the plot or […]
Twin Sisters, a lush epic drama from the Netherlands, charts 20th Century cataclysms through the eyes of two girls separated in early childhood. After their parents’ death, robust young “Anna” (Nadja Uhl) is placed with rural relatives in Germany, while sickly “Lotte” (Thekla Reuten) is given over to urban relatives in Holland. Anna is cruely used; forced to […]
Jan loved this swoon-inducing romance about star-crossed lovers living in a Twin-Peaksy town in the Pacific Northwest made extra moody by Carter Burwell”s great soundtrack. Sure, so Edward”s a “vampire,” but this isn”t a film about fangs & blood, it”s about feeling overwhelmed by new passions dimly understood. Not yet seen by Rich. Click HERE […]
Award-winning doc about Hurricane Katrina melds first person and third person perspectives into a taut 96 minutes that both captures the moment and provides the context. Aspiring rap artist Kimberly Rivers Roberts just happened to have a new camcorder with her as storm clouds started building over New Orleans, and that helped her to become […]
Spectacular performance by Del Toro with strong back-up from supporting cast somewhat undone by Berry, who doesn”t have sufficient intensity to hold the center as a widow coping with the violent death of her slightly too-perfect husband (Duchovny). Del Toro”s an addict shaken clean by events. Click HERE for FF2 haiku.
April”s biological clock is ticking so loud that she”s unable to attend to almost anything else in her life, but by film”s end she”s learned to broaden her view of parenthood & open herself to genuine Tikun Olam. Hunt directs herself in lead role, eliciting warm performances from her very strong cast. Click HERE for […]
Pen’s Points: ccccc Click here to download my FWA Review as a pdf. Trouble the Water is the story of an aspiring rap artist named Kimberly Rivers Roberts who just happened to buy herself a cheap camcorder one day. According to the press kit, her intentions were totally mundane (“recording birthday parties and family […]
Éliane Weiss (Emmanuelle Devos) is the French-born daughter of Polish Holocaust survivors. She’s always been “a good girl,” stable, reliable, and dedicated to her family, but her father’s recent death has caused her to turn inward. One day she receives unexpected encouragement from a surprising source, and she proceeds to make big changes that upset […]
Preposterous plot (involving mysterious hospital bills) weighs down a number of excellent performances in this coming-of-age drama set on a small Nebraska family farm. Burrus is particularly moving as “Tully Senior,” a quiet man who hides his deep emotions under rigidly fixed habits. The sun shines when he finally smiles. More on TULLY.
August, 1984: Deborah Sykes goes missing. Winston-Salem police zero in on a black man, Darryl Hunt, who is quickly arrested, convicted, & imprisoned for life. It takes 20 years for North Carolina authorities to exonerate & release him. Compelling story, but the telling is too linear, literal & plodding. More on THE TRIALS OF DARRYL […]
Probably sensing that this was her one shot as a lead, Julie Kavner (beloved for her TV roles as “Brenda Morgenstern” & “Marge Simpson”) hits a homerun in this dramedy about a divorced mother of two who wants to be a stand-up comedienne. Samantha Mathis also shines as her teenage daughter. Writer/Director Nora Ephron makes […]
Two out-of-control L.A. teens drink & shoplift, then experiment with drugs & sex, while their bewildered parents/guardians, obsessed with problems of their own & watching from the outside, try to figure out what’s “normal” for today’s adolescents. Hunter’s particularly impressive & both girls are strong, but Jan wanted more backstory. More on THIRTEEN.
A 12 year old girl is brutally gang-raped. Years pass & her life is controlled by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. She has flashbacks she can’t put into context, & keeps finding herself standing drunk in front of a house she can’t identify. A sincere & moving depiction of an important story. More on THINGS BEHIND […]
Split decision: While “Highly Recommended” by both of us, we each see this film differently. Jan sees an exhilarating feminist classic celebrating the ebullient chemistry between Davis & Sarandon. Rich sees two abused women in an alcoholic haze spiraling out of control. Diagnostic incident: when the truck explodes. You decide! More on THELMA & LOUISE.
First Broadcast date = 3/6/05 on ABC-TV. Jan enjoyed the ABC broadcast even with all the commercials, but Rich got frustrated & gave up, so he advises you to wait for the DVD. Beautifully acted version of Zora Neal Hurston’s classic novel. More on THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD.
Dex was one of the “cool guys” in college, but 10 years have passed & he’s still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. He’s reintroduced to Syd at the reunion; he barely remembers her, but she sure remembers him. Charming, low-key romantic comedy. More on THE TAO OF […]
Biopic stars Cheadle as “Petey” Greene, a radio DJ who became the voice of Black Washington after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Terrific story, fabulous performances; captures both the man & his times in high-energy mix of comedy & tragedy. Oscar noms NOW for Cheadle, Henson & Lemmons. More on TALK TO ME.
Thirtysomething Manhattanite (Laura Linney) puts her own life on hold when her estranged father (Philip Bosco) succumbs to dementia. Caring for him with a brother she knows only slightly better (Philip Seymour Hoffman) becomes life-changing for both of them. Jan’s agog, but while Rich loved performances, he found frequent “shifts-of-tone” between comedy & tragedy […]
Beautifully constructed mood piece walking the tightrope of father/daughter love. Jack’s a 60’s guy of independent means stubbornly clinging to life on an abandoned commune. Rose is his daughter, totally devoted but also aware that he’s sheltered her from the “real” world. Resonates well beyond the specifics of its plot.
Two Days in Paris follows a New York couple, French photographer Marion (Julie Delpy) and American interior designer, Jack (Adam Goldberg) as they try to reinfuse their relationship with romance on a European vacation. Julie Delpy wrote, directed, and starred in this hilarious film which was nominated for Cesar, Independent Spirit and European Film Awards, […]