Movies: Joker, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Terminator: Dark Fate

BIG HELLO to everyone!  We are finally back home from our five weeks in Europe.  Exhausted, refreshed, inspired, thankful, and content!  Thanks to all for the wonderful comments and updates along the way.  We truly feel like we live in a global family!!

It’s with apologies we are behind on our movie reviews.  We managed to see nine movies while on the road.  The first three have already been published.  The next six will be posted over the next few days in two separate posts.

A quick list of things that surprised us:

  • We were surprised to see films released in Europe before the US including Port Authority, Terminator: Dark Fate, and A Rainy Day in New York.
  • The multiplex in Bratislava, Slovakia offers snacks like nachos with Vodka shots!
  • One massive Paris complex had 32 screens, all underground.  Most theaters 75 to 95% full.
  • We saw the most popular films shown in VO (version original) that means the language of the films origin. We only saw English language films, some had subtitles in two or three languages.

Movie 1: Joker

Well…it won the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival!  That said we found it concurrently intriguing and disturbing.  Joaquin Phoenix again morphs himself into an odd if not bizarre character.  There continues to be controversy about the film in terms of social commentary. 
We found it to be a fascinating and creepy psychological thriller. 

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Movie 2: Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

It’s a live action version of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty franchise with a darker underbelly.  It’s pretty sophisticated with exceptional special affects.  There are a few “rough patches” that just don’t work very well but overall it is well done.  It might be a bit much for youngsters.

 

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Movie 3: Terminator: Dark Fate

This was better than we expected.  After all the last three editions were a bit bleak.  This version was inventive, adding just enough new twists to keep it fresh while respecting the franchises’ history.  It’s well worth the watch if you are already a fan.  

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Movies: A Rainy Day in New York, Rambo: Last Blood, Port Authority

Movie 1: A Rainy Day in New York

This romantic comedy was written and directed by Woody Allen. It was completed in 2017 and about to be released by Amazon Studios when halted over controversy regarding Allen and the ME TOO movement.

It’s set in New York, its lead character, Timothée Chalamet is the son of a wealthy family struggling to find his own way in life. This includes the relationship with his girlfriend and his parents.

We had not heard about this film but it was recently released in multiple countries in Europe, South America and some Asian countries.

Our theater was one in a 37 theater multiplex packed on a rainy afternoon.

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Movie 2: Rambo: Last Blood

Apparently this is the last film in the Franchise. It’s classic Rambo/Stallone series. Rambo’s only daughter is taken South of the border…seemingly because she is in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Rambo goes ballistic as he plans her rescue knowing the bad guys will retaliate. What comes next is impressive but exhausting.

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Movie 3: Port Authority

This is an interesting film about a young drifter who leaves Pittsburgh for New York in hopes of a better future.

He finds work as a mover who seeks and evicts poor folks from their homes in Harlem. Not the best way to meet people.

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Movies: Ad Astra, Ms. Purple, Rojo

Movie 1: Ad Astra

What a remarkable film. It’s about space, an astronaut and his father, also an astronaut who is lost in space. It’s powerful, beautiful, challenging, occasionally confusing and arguable the best space film in quite some time. We saw it in a massive IMAX theater with a great Dolby sound system, well worth the extra cost.

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Movie 2: Ms. Purple

Set in Koreatown, Los Angeles, sister Kasie and brother Carey come together and struggle to care for their dying father.

Both under employed and struggling under weighty demands as caretakers, the two manage to keep their heads above water. It’s a unique story and a hit at both Sundance and the 2019 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival. English and Korean with English subtitles.

Bonus! Our screening included a Q & A with the lead actress Tiffany Chu.

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Movie 3: Rojo

It was a unique view of pre-coup Argentina in the 1970s. South America of the era was struggling with establishing a ‘new world’ society.

It delivers its story as an unraveled thriller. It’s also a bio on the corruption and chaos of the time. Spanish with English subtitles.

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Special note: A hearty HELLO to all our viewers! First, we so appreciate your support. We value your comments and feedback.

Our big news of the day is…tomorrow we depart for London and destinations beyond. We will explore much of Europe for the next 5 weeks, including visiting long time friends in Switzerland.

When and if we are able to view films, we will send reviews. If possible we will send pictures along the way. Love to all and cheers! J&J

Movies: A Faithful Man, Before You Know It, Downton Abbey

Movie 1: A Faithful Man

This French film by Actor/Director Louis Garrel checks most boxes for French films released in the US. Good acting, an interesting screenplay and a “peculiar thicket love quadrangle”. It’s a bit “too much information” as the film softly comes to an end. French with English subtitles.

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Movie 2: Before You Know It

Reviews like “charming and quirky” don’t quite describe this drama/comedy. Set in New York City, a compact family who operate a small theater, discover their “thought dead” mother is alive and acting as a soap opera star. It’s wacky but watchable. Judith Light is a hoot.

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Movie 3: Downton Abbey

The long awaited release of Downton Abbey follows the television series by the same name. It’s set in 1927 in the Yorkshire countryside.

It’s a complex story to describe. Imagine the dynamic of the traditional monarchy, the King, Queen and their court on a tour of the country that instantly spawns conflicts of class, authority, influence, integrity, and arrogance. That said, it does not disappoint! High points: set decoration, cinematography and costume design.

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Movies: Raising Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins, Hustlers, Monos

Movie 1: Raising Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins

This is a documentary film about Molly Ivins. She was a national political columnist from Texas and described herself as a Liberal.

She was funny, mean, clever and sincere, often all at the same time. She was enormously popular nation wide. It’s timely given the tumultuous state of current affairs. It’s in very limited release. If possible, don’t miss it.

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Movie 2: Hustlers

This film, based on true events, has managed to attract large audiences, especially young adults. It’s about a group of young strippers in 2007 at a Manhattan strip club catering to Wall Street clientele.

While the story was executed well, it wasn’t long before the topic became tedious. The film relies heavily on the “underdog” factor but there is no apology for the collusion and damage caused. Jennifer Lopez delivers a standout performance.

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Movie 3: Monos

Set on a remote mountain in Columbia, South America, this is a bizarre story about eight teenage guerrilla fighters, a cow and an American woman hostage. The group embraces cult rituals and takes instruction by radio.

It’s enormously confusing and quite violent. While the story is occasionally stunning visually, the violence and extreme hazing plunge this film into a bizarre abyss. Spanish with English subtitles and in very limited release.

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Movies: Jay Myself, Brittany Runs a Marathon, The Goldfinch

Movie 1: Jay Myself

What a unique and intriguing documentary film. It’s about a photographer who lived most of his career in a six story, 35,000 square foot former bank building in New York City’s Bowery neighborhood. He agrees to sell the building for $55 million and needs to move.

It’s quirky, often funny, occasionally goofy. It’s sometimes a bit dull but at the same time it can be inspiring and entertaining. We loved it!

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Movie 2: Brittany Runs a Marathon

This film was a hit at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival winning the Audience Award. This dramedy is sometimes funny but more times it’s just a peek at someone’s personal mess.

We think it is supposed to be inspiring but it falls flat in the middle and struggles to get back into positive territory.

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Movie 3: The Goldfinch

This is the story of one mans life from the age of 13 well into his adult years. His mom dies when he is 13 and his immediate family experience is less than ideal.

That said, it’s a unique story with several plot twists that keep it interesting. It’s based on the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. It’s worth a watch.

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Movies: Don’t Let Go, Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, Vita & Virginia

Movie 1: Don’t Let Go

This is a powerful story delivered by an exceptional cast and a unique script. To be fair it’s flawed by a corruption subplot, too much violence and a supernatural element that fails.

Nonetheless, the story ends with a surprise ending. We felt the overall package deserves larger audiences.

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Movie 2: Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

WOW! For anyone who is a fan of the contemporary music scene, especially the most successful female singers of the 20th century, this is a must see. Linda Ronstadt is an icon among 20th century vocalists.

Add rare footage of performances and insider footage and you can understand why this film is attracting sold out audiences nationwide.

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Movie 3: Vita & Virginia

This is a historical piece that is a bit confusing but ultimately satisfying. It’s loosely based on a famous socialite, Vita and the infamous Virginia Woolf . The collateral fallout and story make it interesting but hardly compelling.

The production quality makes it worth watching but be advised the script drags on and on. On the up side, it is unique, and a fascinating peek at an iconic piece of history.

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Movies: This is Not Berlin, David Crosby: Remember My Name, Official Secrets

Movie 1: This is Not Berlin

This youth inspired reflection on Mexico City in the mid-80’s is filled with all the angst and torment most generations experience at some point in their lives.

This film just happens to benefit from a great cast, the expert mix of revolt, underground nightlife, drugs and sexual liberty. Spanish with English subtitles.

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Movie 2: David Crosby: Remember My Name

Wow! What an unexpected revealing look at singer-songwriter David Crosby, a music icon, now in his 70’s. This documentary is jammed with fear, regret, drugs, sex, heartbreak and soul searching.

It’s also a powerful reminder of incredible talent, perseverance and forgiveness. What a roller coaster ride through music history during our lifetime.

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Movie 3: Official Secrets

This film is based on true events from the Bush and Blair administrations. The US and the British Intelligence ensnare UN Security Council members with blackmail to approve the invasion of Iraq.

It’s masterful film making and a reminder of a dark chapter in global events. Keira Knightley is superb.

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Movies: Adam, Aquarela, Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles

Movie 1: Adam

This is an odd little film that is showing in limited release.  Adam just finished his Junior year in High School.  With no plans for the summer, Adam manages to tag along with his older sister to New York in hopes of meeting a girl…

Adam ends up involved with a group of LGBTQ in his age group and quickly makes friends he is ill-equipped to engage.  That’s where we lose interest.  It’s one part comedy but a larger part tragedy.

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Movie 2: Aquarela

This film is also in limited release. It is well worth seeking out. It’s a Russian Documentary about the earth’s water, it’s ice and the evolving climate change.

What makes this a must watch film is first its staggering beauty. Overall, there is virtually no soundtrack except for wind blowing, ice cracking and an annoying heavy metal episode. Otherwise it’s masterful film making.

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Movie 3: Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles

This is a Documentary film that chronicles the history and background of the stage musical that opened on Broadway in 1964. It’s perhaps one of the best of the best to date: Fiddler on the Roof.

It’s a classic, a religious celebration, a legendary miracle, a social commentary, and a historic phenomenon. It has reached universal status and not to be missed.

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Movies: One Child Nation, The Other Story, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Movie 1: One Child Nation

This is a remarkable documentary about China’s “one -child” policy in effect from 1979 to 2015. Moreover, this is a film about forced sterilizations, abortions, kidnappings and unknown numbers of newborns left to their deaths.

Be forewarned. This film is painfully difficult to watch. It unflinchingly exposes the systemic and institutional exportation of children to other countries. Mandarin and English with English subtitles.

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Movie 2: The Other Story

Where to begin…First, it’s unique. It’s a film that is one part suspense, one part light comedy, one part tragedy and one part commentary on modern life in Jerusalem, Israel.

It’s filled with tension and conflict, confusion and angst. While it is a challenge to watch, it is also a rare peek behind the curtain to the current reality for many in Israel today. Hebrew with English subtitles (the subtitles flew by!).

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Movie 3: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Set in Mill Valley, Pennsylvania (and NOT our beloved Mill Valley, California) this inventive and effectively eerie film begins on Halloween night at a drive in theater.

It’s unique, clever, creepy, demonic with just the right amount of tension. It has all the right elements for the Mystery/Thriller PG-13 rating although we strongly feel this is not appropriate for children.

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