Monday, November 30, 2015


Set in the early 1950s, Director Todd Haynes’ slow-moving Carol is the story of a young woman (Rooney Mara) and an older, married woman (Cate Blanchett), who falls in love with each other.
Blanchett’s character is the gay version of the woman she played in Blue Jasmine and, though her performance is excellent, I am surprised she opted for a role that was, in most respects, so similar.
The standout performance, here, is Rooney Mara’s as the inexperienced department store worker, who steps into her own power as a woman in both her career and her love life.

The problem with the film is due either to Patricia Highsmith’s novel or Phyllis Nagy’s screenplay or Laura Rosenthal’s casting, since the men in the lives of the women (Jake Lacy and Lyle Chandler) are such walking dildos that even the staunchest anti-gay advocate would have to give these ladies a pass and bless their union.  The “issue” becomes no issue and it is surprising that Haynes takes so long to bring it to fruition.

I give Carol a 3.8 out of 5, but both Blanchett and Mara get 4 out 5 for their performances.

The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl is Director Tom Hooper’s valiant attempt to bring to the screen the story of transgender Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne), who underwent sexual reassignment surgery in the 1920s.
I say “valiant attempt” because, as tenderly told as this story is and as beautifully photographed as Cinematographer Danny Cohen captured the action, Writer Lucinda Coxon’s screenplay does not give sufficient back story about Lili as Einar Wegener, the famed painter she was for over 30 years.  As a result, Einar moves to crossdresser and, seemingly, only then to the realization of being a woman trapped in a man’s body.

As good as Redmayne is as Einar/Lili, the real star of this film is Alicia Vikander as Einar’s wife Gerda.  With this year’s Ex Machina, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and, now, this, she has proven herself as a phenomenal actress and, if she is not nominated for Best Actress for this role, something is very wrong in Tinseltown.

Without Vikander’s transformation from wife to loving friend, The Danish Girl would have fallen flat.
As it is, I give The Danish Girl a 3.8 out of 5, but Vikander gets a 5 out of 5.  It’s worth a view to see her masterful performance.


Writer/Director Ryan Coogler’s Creed is a lucky 7 for the Rocky franchise, winning every cinematic round from script, direction, acting, cinematography, editing and music. 
The film starts off with a bang, introducing Adonis (Alex Henderson), the troubled, out-of-wedlock son of  Rocky’s one-time adversary Apollo Creed and, swiftly, moving forward to his rescue by Creed’s wife (Phylicia Rashad), then, to his desire to follow in his father’s footsteps as a young man (Michael B. Jordan).
Unable to get proper coaching, Adonis contacts Rocky Balboa  (Sylvester Stallone), who, reluctantly, comes out of boxing retirement to train Adonis for the climactic battle with the current champion “Pretty” Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew).

With Tessa Thompson bringing in the love interest, Creed has all the components for a story that will appeal to everyone.

Best of all, Stallone gives an exceptionally fine performance that will put him into top contention with Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) and Benicio Del Toro (Sicario) for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor.

I give Creed a 4.5 out of 5.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Secret in Their Eyes

Writer/Director Billy Ray’s Secret in Their Eyes is a grim remake of the 2010 Academy Award-winning Argentinian film The Secret in Their Eyes.
With an amazing cast, including Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor, one might think this would be a sure bet.

Unfortunately, Ray has changed the story and removed some of the subtlety that made the original so outstanding.  He also challenges the audience to a high willingness for suspension of disbelief.

However, if you haven’t seen the original, the only real objection you might have to this version is the slow, almost nap-inducing pace, during the first half. 

I give Secret in Their Eyes a 3 out of 5.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2

Last year at this time, I reported that The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 was one of the most disappointing films of the year; a poor commercial for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, which I hoped would redeem it despite the fact some of the key personnel…director and writers…would be involved.

While I said Part 1 was “a bad story told badly,” I would say Part 2, more aptly titled The From Hunger Games, is a sad story told sadly.
For the first 50 minutes, we’re treated to blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine before there is some decent action.  Then it’s another half hour of blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine before there is more exciting action and then another 25 minutes of blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine before what should have been the final battle. 

Yay! It’s over, although (spoiler alert) the most likeable and underused character gets killed. 

But, no….  The film continues for another 15 minutes or more, filling in info on points only the most rabid fan would care about.

How a franchise that started out so well could wind up so boringly could become a Harvard Business School Case History.

I can only give The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 a 2.6 out of 5.  And, that’s only for TV soap opera fans, who’ve gotten caught up in this franchise.