Friday, January 25, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “And Breathe Normally”

Reviewed by Lorraine Glowczak

Not Rated*

On cold and lazy Sunday afternoons, almost nothing can take me away from staying at home and watching a movie on Netflix. However, since I do enjoy foreign films from time to time (which requires you to read subtitles), I was willing to give up a bit of my laziness and dive into “And Breathe Normally,” a movie set in Iceland and spoken in the Icelandic language.

The film which won the World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award, is described on Rotten Tomatoes: “At the edge of Iceland's Reykjanes peninsula, two women's lives intersect--for a brief moment--while being trapped by unforeseen circumstances. Between a struggling single Icelandic mother, and a political asylum seeker from Africa, an intimate bond forms as both fight to get their lives back on track.”

Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir, stars as Lara, the young, single, proud and tattooed mother who struggles financially to raise and create a happy life for her young and accommodating son, Eldar, played by Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson. In the film we learn, in very subtle ways, that Lara once had a drug problem and is tested to slip from sobriety, she did not always have custody of her son, and her mother lives in Norway – making it difficult for her to reach out for help.

Once she is hired as a border security guard trainee at Iceland’s main airport, Keflavík, the viewer heaves a sigh of relief for the main character, believing her financial woes will be behind her. But her debt is too deep. She tells Eldar, as they are packing their few possessions, “we are going on an adventure.” The adventure is homelessness.

In comes the political asylum seeker, played by Babetida Sadjo. Here, the heart wrenching, emotionally conflicting – and yet caring, intertwining adventure begins.

“And Breath Normally” was the most moving foreign film I’ve seen in a while – but it did defie my perceptions of an Iceland full of beautiful scenery as the background setting is always grim and desolate looking. But, I suspect that was intentional - to set the tone of the film.

George Fenwick of the New Zealand Herald described perfectly, my thoughts on the film: “Director Isold Uggadottir manages to keep the narrative away from melodrama or over-sentimentality. Her direction keeps a careful distance but is forgiving and empathetic to her struggling characters.”
If you are up to reading subtitles and enjoy the complexity that comes with no easy answers, then I suggest you give this film a go.

*Although this film is not yet rated, I suspect it would be considered rated R under American standards. There is one sexual scene and a few mature themes that may not be appropriate for children.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Quote of the week reminds you to follow your gut instincts

Movie review of "Vice"

By Gayle Plummer

Rated R, Drama/History

On the plus side of this movie, the portrayal of Dick Cheney by Christian Bale was beyond perfection. He absolutely is Cheney: the slanted grin, the look from the eyes, the voice, the attitude, the body language and the weight gain. Of course, he is known for his total body transformations to bring home a role. In this movie he gained a whopping 40 pounds. He is absolutely amazing, and he totally deserved to take home the Golden Globe on this one. The supporting actors also did a super job – given what they had to work with . . . but more on that later. They all totally hit the mark in delivering their performances. I enjoyed watching the transformation of these actors, and for me the movie flew by, as I love watching actors who have polished and honed their craft to become someone else. I highly recommend the movie as an entertainment piece.

Let me address all the controversy about this film. There’s lots of buzz out there about this movie not being accurate; about the director not doing any fact checking. Absolutely everywhere you search, someone is complaining about this movie not being historically correct. Well, I have questions to ask these same folks: What part of movie making don’t you understand? What part of artistic license don’t you understand? What part of the term biopic movie don’t you understand? For me, all of the critics are too wound up in the reality aspect to enjoy the entertainment aspect. Many biopic movies stretch the truth because they are trying to entertain while delivering the essence of the people involved. Not to get too heavy here but, Princeton political historian, Julian Zelizer said, “. . . the artists, through fictional films, have the potential to convey things about our history that can’t be done with just a straight, factual-based sequence. It can still capture the essence of a political leader in a way that historians can’t.” 

While I clearly don’t have an issue with whether or not the film is accurate, I do have an issue with the approach that writer/director Adam McKay took in the format he chose here. For me there was way too much narration, which got in the way of the movie itself; and the time span he tried to cover was too broad. The content was like a pebble skipping along the surface of a huge, deep lake but never going below the surface, just darting along the top. I feel that if he had zeroed in on a few events and/or a shorter timeframe, instead of touching on so many political events, this movie would have carried more weight and depth to it. This would have allowed all the actors to truly deliver some real meat to their performance, not just Bale. However, they all did do a fantastic job – with what they were given to work with! Therefore, for me, Sam Rockwell, Amy Adams and Steve Corell did justice to this movie.

I repeat, I recommend it as an entertainment piece – which is what it is meant to be . . .  that’s Hollywood!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”

By Emily Maier

Rated: PG

When Miles Morales is bitten by a radioactive spider in an abandoned section of subway, he is forcibly thrust into the role of a hero. While attempting to find answers about his newfound powers, Miles unwittingly runs into Kingpin, a villain hell-bent on bringing back his deceased wife and son by any means necessary. 

After witnessing the debut of Kingpin’s “collider,” Miles learns the device is able to bring multiple dimensions together – though it also runs the risk of creating a black hole in the middle of New York. Though the first attempt to start the collider largely ends in failure, it does bring various “spiderpeople” from other dimensions into Miles’ world. The heroes quickly realize they will have to work as a team if they ever want to defeat Kingpin and go back to their respective realities.

For a movie featuring a cartoon pig called Spider-Ham, I was a little uncertain about all the buzz surrounding “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”. Upon leaving the theater, however, I can easily see why this movie recently won Best Animated Motion Picture at the Golden Globes. The combination of stunning animation, original narrative and emotive voice actors paved a clear path for the movie’s win.

In terms of casting, Shameik Moore did an amazing job voicing Miles, coming across as naïve yet determined to do the right thing. Jack Johnson gave life to his role as Peter B. Parker – a Spider-Man past his prime – and Hailee Steinfeld suited her role as the ever-competent Gwen Stacy. Though they only had minor roles, Nicolas Cage and John Mulaney’s characters both served as great comic relief.

The thought and care that went into each character design was fantastic. Miles and the two other central characters, Peter and Gwen, are especially well-rounded and relatable. They all have unique personalities that are reflected in their clothes and overall appearances. Because of this distinctiveness between characters, the movie never feels cluttered despite having a sprawling cast.

Of course, no review of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” would be complete without mentioning the animation. This movie truly has some of the best animation I’ve ever seen, with certain shots that are not only visually stunning but incredibly original.

While some movies just happen to be animated, “Into the Spider-Verse” was made to be an animated movie. A lot of the scenes simply couldn’t have been pulled off any other way. The entire climax would have looked ridiculous had they tried to create it using live-action but, because it was animated, the sequence felt intense and visually striking. Furthermore, the animation allowed the movie to retain the comic book style from which it was born.

It was especially refreshing to see a protagonist that doesn’t immediately take to the role of a hero. Throughout the film, Miles struggles to harness his powers, which ultimately makes the audience root for him even more. The movie reminds the viewer that while being a hero isn’t easy, it certainly isn’t impossible. When Miles says, “Anyone can wear the mask,” he means that everyone has the ability to have a positive impact on the world. “Into the Spider-Verse” shows the audience that heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and the movie challenges the viewer to become one of those heroes.

Overall, “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” is one of those rare movies that can appeal to people of all ages. With a PG rating, the movie is safe for kids, yet it still manages to deal with mature themes that will keep older viewers hooked. “Into the Spider-Verse” knows when to be cute, funny, or heartfelt and it pulls off a convoluted plot with finesse. I would recommend it to any moviegoer, especially for anyone with an appreciation for animation. 

Friday, January 4, 2019

Quote of the week

Movie Review of Netflix's “Bird Box”

By Lorraine Glowczak

Rated: R

“Bird Box” seems to be the most talked about Netflix's collection of original movies in recent weeks. The film is an adaptation of the 2014 horror-thriller novel by Josh Malerman and stars Sandra Bullock as Malorie Shannon.

Malorie is a recluse, painter and a single woman preparing to give birth to her first child. One day, reports come in that people in Russia are committing mass suicide for no clear reason.

While Malorie and her sister, Jessica (Sarah Paulson) are at the hospital for Malorie’s scheduled checkup, the bizarre circumstances seem to be moving their way to America. On the way out of the hospital, Malorie watched as a woman hit her head into a window, over and over, while others were screaming and running in all directions around her. Outside, the chaos continued as vehicles hit each and people purposefully hurt themselves, including Jessica.

Malorie barely manages to escape and seek shelter at a house with several other people, including a wealthy man, Douglas (John Malkovich) and a kind soul, Tom (Trevante Rhodes) to name just a few. They eventually realize the mysterious force that makes people kill themselves can only cause harm if people look at the unknown/unseen force. As a result, in come the blindfolds.

Much of the action in “Bird Box” is told through flashbacks between Malorie’s time in the house and time spent on a river with two children, a boy – named “Boy” (Julian Edwards) and a girl – named “Girl” (Vivien Lyra Blair).

During the flashback, the viewer discovers that Malorie, Boy and Girl are trying to find a walled refuge from the terror. All they must do is take a boat and ride the current toward the sound of birds. At one point, in order to navigate the rapids, someone will have to take their blindfold off.

Although “Bird Box” seems to be a hit among Netflix watchers, I suspect it will not win any major awards. However, if you are up for a psychological thriller and if you can handle the anxiety produced by the dizzying speeds of back and forth flashbacks, it is worth the two hours and four minutes of wasted time.