Woman at War (2019)
Starring: Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Davíð Þór Jónsson, Magnús Trygvason Eliasen, Ómar Guðjónsson, Jörundur Ragnarsson, Jón Gnarr
Director: Benedikt Erlingsson
Synopsis: netflix blurb: “Believing that the aluminum industry is destroying the Icelandic environment, middle-aged Halla begins waging a secret eco-war to protect the landscape. But her crusade is interrupted when she gets a chance to fulfill her dream of adopting a child.” This is a thinking person’s movie. Clever plot, clever dialogue. It’s thrilling in a real-life sort of way. Beautiful landscapes of a breathtaking land that needs to stay beautiful.
Etc. filmed in Iceland and Ukraine, subtitles
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke, Herbie Hancock, Kris Wu, Rutger Hauer, Aymeline Valade, Sam Spruell, Alain Chabat, Xavier Giannoli, Louis Leterrier, Eric Rochant, Benoît Jacquot, Olivier Megaton
Director: Luc Besson
Synopsis: netflix blurb: “In this sci-fi epic based on a popular French comic series, [Valerian and Laureline] time-traveling agents Valerian and Laureline head to the glittering metropolis of Alpha, where they must ferret out forces intent on undermining the human race.” The camera is on those two, played by (a very cute) Dane and Cara, but also getting a fair amount of screen time are Clive Owen as a “good” villain and Sam Spruell as the man in charge but you’re not sure which side he’s on. Rihanna has a wonderful role and breathes life into it. Ethan Hawke has a small but memorable role. Rutger Hauer (must have been one of his last roles) has just a cameo. The plot is action-packed and almost too busy at times. The two leads have a decent chemistry between them, but at times Cara seems a little too sassy. I know you have to be tough to be an intergalactic, time-traveling agent for good, but do you have to bust your partner’s/lover’s chops that much? Lots of good special effects in this, along the lines of Men in Black mixed with Avatar.
The Comedian (2017)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Edie Falco, Charles Grodin, Cloris Leachman, Patti LuPone, Harvey Keitel, Veronica Ferres, Lois Smith
Director: Taylor Hackford
Synopsis: netflix blurb: “Once a TV star, now an angry stand-up comedian, Jackie can’t seem to get his mojo back with audiences who refuse to see him as other than his sitcom character. Not surprisingly, he snaps — accosting a heckler. And that lands him community service.” The Comedian is what I consider a great movie. Some of the things I like about it are the settings (NYC and FL), the all-star cast (most you haven’t seen in a new movie for a very long time), the surface plot as described in the blurb, as well as the sub-plot, which looks at the hero’s journey from a couple of angles. It’s actually very funny to boot. There are some risque jokes, some bordering on bad taste. There is romance afoot in the movie that is probably more of a focal point than Jackie (DeNiro’s) career. DeNiro has come a long way from his Taxi Driver and mobster days.
Grade: 8 (deducted .5 point for questionable jokes)
Etc. swearing, off-color jokes
Starring: Jamel Debbouze, Rie Rasmussen, Gilbert Melki, Serge Riaboukine, Akim Chir, Loïc Pora , Venus Boone, Jérôme Guesdon , Eric Balliet, Michel Bellot
Director: Luc Besson
Synopsis: netflix blurb: “Deep in debt, small-time hoodlum André decides to end his life on his own terms before his unsavory creditors come calling. But as he’s poised to dive off a bridge, he meets the mysterious Angela, who seems just as desperate.” The plot is wonderfully conceived and executed, where a man who wants to die is helped by an angel to realize he has become a person who wants to live. The secret ingredient is…. love…. of self. What I found vexingly distracting was the choice to make Andre’ (Jamel), who is 5’5” in real life seem even smaller, and Angel-A (Rie), who is 5’10” in real life, seem even larger. I’m sure there is a metaphor for something in it (Angels are bigger/more than humans?) but their difference in size, as well as how drop-dead gorgeous Rie is against the puny Jamel, served only to distract. Those with macrophilia would love this movie.
Grade: 6.5 (marked down .5 for needless distractions)
Etc. French movie, subtitles, filmed in black & white
In Jackson Heights (2002) documentary
Starring: real-life people in the Jackson Heights neighborhood
Director: Frederick Wiseman
Synopsis: netflix blurb: “Famous for his profiles of institutions ranging from prisons to ballet companies, Frederick Wiseman turns his lens on something different: a community. The result is a riveting portrait of Jackson Heights, Queens, where 167 languages are spoken.” I recently reviewed Wiseman’s doc, “Domestic Violence.” Similar in format, the story is told through where the camera focuses in the neighborhood. I was impressed by how much they have crammed into it and how peaceably the many many cultures who co-exist there do so. There is a fair to middling amount of political commentary/messages/activism going on there, which makes it feel vibrant and unique among so many places where things just plod along with no change in sight. Grade: 7
Etc. Over 3 hours long, too much for one sitting. Subtitles throughout as so many languages are being spoken. LGBT+ inclusive
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Starring: Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer, Ellie Bamber, Laura Linney, Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Andrea Riseborough, Michael Sheen
Director: Tom Ford
Synopsis: imdb blurb: “A wealthy art gallery owner is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, a violent thriller she interprets as a symbolic revenge tale.” This movie has all of the makings of a first class psychological thriller, but it falls flat on its face. The ensemble is right, the plot is right, the settings are right, but it never achieves liftoff, which is a shame. There is a noir, almost surreal aspect. Noctural Animals put me on edge more because the timing was off.
Grade: 6 (would have been higher but but for timing/editing)
Etc. brief disturbing scene of violence; opening sequences macabre
Bad Blood (2017- ) (On Netflix) Series
Starring: Kim Coates, Anthony LaPaglia, Enrico Colantoni
Creator: Simon Barry
Synopsis: netflix blurb: “Inspired by true events, this sprawling crime drama follows the Rizzuto family and its successors, as they preside over organized crime in Montreal.” If you’ve seen Sons of Anarchy, you’ll know Kim Coates played the character, Tig. In Bad Blood he plays Declan (pronounced DECK-lun) one of the toughest, shrewdest gangsters that also lives by a code of honor. They say there is no honor among thieves – they are wrong. What’s fun about this show is you get to see a lot of areas in the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario. I’m about halfway through S2 and so far only 2 seasons have been made. Coates is given the space to spread his wings in this show that he was never given in Sons of Anarchy. Well worth a watch!
Etc. all about the drug trade, including international