Wednesday, January 27, 2016


Though it is the Academy Awards French entry for Best Foreign Film, Writer/Director Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s Mustang is a wonderfully entertaining Turkish story that takes place in a rural town along the Black Sea in northern Turkey.
Five rebellious young girls from adolescence to mid-teen try to break away from the fundamentalist patriarchy of their uncle (Ayberk Pekcan), who keeps adding to the household security, virtually imprisoning them until he tries to marry them off.
It is a tale that is simultaneously hilarious and horrifying because of the disgusting culture in which young women are treated like property without rights.   

The heroine becomes the youngest of the sisters (Gunes Sensoy), who engineers a triumphant escape.

I heartily recommend this film and urge you to see it on Netflix, if you can’t find it in a theater.

I give Mustang a 4.5 out of 5.

James White

Writer/Director Josh Mond’s James White is the semi-autobiographical story of a floundering young man in his 20s (Christopher Abbott), who you wouldn’t care about except for the fact he is devoted to his dying mother (Cynthia Nixon).
This is Mond’s first feature and thanks to Abbott and Nixon, as well as Scott Mescudi, he does an admirable job.

Nixon fans, especially, will be pleasantly surprised at the depth of feeling she brings to her role.

Catch it on Netflix.

I give James White a 3.6 out of 5.

Love & Mercy

Director Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy is the story of Brian Wilson (Paul Dano in the ‘60s and John Cusack in the ‘80s), the creative force behind the Beach Boys singing group that hit stardom in the 1960s.
Falling under the dominant spell of Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti), Wilson is overmedicated and taken down a dark psychological tunnel until he meets Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks) later in life.

The script by Oren Moverman and Michael A. Lerner moves along very well and the acting by all is superb, though, in my opinion, Dano should have been given top billing.

Even if you are not familiar with the Beach Boys, the story of a creative soul being crushed by family and human leeches will tug at your heart strings.

I give Love & Mercy a 4 out of 5.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

Writer/Director Roy Andersson’s A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is one of the most bizarre films I’ve seen in a long time.  It’s a collection of absurdist vignettes…some weird, some funny, some weirdly funny about the foibles of human existence.
On the positive side, the Cinematography of István Borbās and Gergely Pálos is often weirdly interesting.  However, the pace of the film is so slow that, as I kept dozing, I thought this film was the Swedish remedy for falling asleep during the season of the midnight sun.
The recurring characters of the traveling salesmen, Jonathan (Holger Andersson) and Sam (Nils Westblom) did not move me, at all, but the fate of King Karl XII (Victor Gyllenberg) was pretty funny.

I hate to say it, but the best things about the film are the English title and the poster. 

I give A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence a 2.2 out of 5.

Ride Along 2

In Director Tim Story’s original Ride Along, I had said Kevin Hart took a while to get used to, hitting singles and taking walks, initially.

In Ride Along 2, he bats 100 for most of the film with one out of 10 “jokes” bringing a smile, if not a laugh.  The 7th inning stretch came within the first 15 minutes with me dozing off out of a combination of boredom and annoyance.
It wasn’t until the last 20 minutes, when the action and comedy picked up with a few doubles and triples, but it was mostly due to Ice Cube, Olivia Munn and Ken Jeong that the film offered some fun.
I noticed the absence of Writer Jason Mantzoukas, who participated in the first film.  Perhaps he was responsible for more laughs.

As it is, I give Ride Along 2 a 2 out of 5 for the general public and a 2.5 for Hart fans.