Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! Four of today’s selections are from 2020 or 2021, which is pretty unusual. The 2021 ones may be contenders for the end of 2022 best of list, as they were watched too late for 2021 list.
Every Breath You Take (2021) original title, “You Belong to Me”
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Sam Claflin, Veronica Ferres, India Eisley
Director: Vaughn Stein
Genres: thriller, drama
Synopsis: Philip is a competent psychiatrist but is struggling with family issues with his wife, Grace (Monaghan) and his teenaged daughter, Lucy (Eisley). He is stunned when one of his patients commits suicide, as the patient was doing very well at the time. When James (Claflin,) the patient’s only relative in the country, approaches Philip for answers, it’s understandable. As James begins to draw closer and closer to Philip and his family, the grieving brother begins to take on a more sinister aspect.
Impressions: There are things I like about the movie: the premise, the cast, the location (BC, Canada.) Things that didn’t work so well was how much time was devoted to certain aspects of the plot. For example, not enough time was devoted to the patient and her situation while she was alive; as when she ended up dead, the viewer isn’t moved by the fact. Other scenes were dragged out pointlessly. The cast didn’t feel like it had much chemistry going on between them. The lack of developed empathy for any of the characters makes it difficult to get too charged up about anything that’s happening with them. About the title choice(s): not good!
Etc.: from imdb: Was stuck in development since 2012. The project went quiet for seven years before starting production in 2019 with a new title, director and cast. (Now I see why it has that detached feeling to it!)
Best Sellers (2021)
Starring: Michael Caine, Aubrey Plaza, Ellen Wong, Scott Speedman, Cary Elwes
Director: Lina Roessler
Genres: drama, comedy
Synopsis: Lucy (Plaza) has inherited her father’s publishing house. Things have been languishing but the bills need to be paid. Lucy asks Rachel (Wong,) her assistant to look through their stable of authors for likely prospects to be compelled to write a bestseller. Rachel discovers that Harris Shaw (Caine,) a best selling author who turned recluse after his wife’s passing, still owes them a book. So begins Lucy’s courting the cantankerous Mr. Shaw.
Impressions: I was delighted by the movie. The chemistry between Caine and Plaza bubbles with energy. There were many cute, clever, funny, annoying, and poignant happenings between the two along the way of their adventures. It’s a sharp look at the world of publishing including a seamless meshing of old style with modern. Plaza really shines in this one.
Etc.: filmed in Quebec, Canada; The photograph of Harris Shaw and his wife, that we see on his bedside near the end of the movie, is a real photo of Michael Caine and his wife Shakira Baksh.
Awards: 2 nominations
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Starring: Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Mathieu Almaric, Judi Dench, Giancarlo Giannini
Director: Marc Forster
Genres: action, adventure
Synopsis: an excellent plot summary from imdb:
Is there solace in revenge? James Bond (Daniel Craig) and M (Dame Judi Dench) sniff a shadowy international network of power and corruption reaping billions. As Bond pursues the agents of an assassination attempt on M, all roads lead to Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), a world-renowned developer of green technology. Greene, a nasty piece of work, is intent on securing a barren area of Bolivia in exchange for helping a strongman stage a coup there. The C.I.A. looks the other way, and only Bond, with help from a retired spy and a mysterious beauty, stands in Greene’s way. M wonders if she can trust Bond, or if vengeance possesses him. Can anyone drawn to Bond live to tell the tale?
Impressions: I’m almost embarrassed to say that James Bond movies tend to blur into one big plucking on the same strings for me. Why did I watch it? For the big stunts and Daniel Craig’s ideal male form performing them. I enjoy the exotic locations, always with stunning waterside shots. This one seemed to have a lot more explosions than usual but I could be wrong. I like James Bond movies for what they are and this one is par for the course.
Etc.: from imdb: Daniel Craig was injured at least three times during the making of this movie. The most prominent ones included an injury to his face, which required four stitches, another to his shoulder, which required six surgical screws to be inserted in an operation, and his arm in a sling, and then his hand was injured when one of his finger tips was sliced off; With an estimated $225 million budget, to date, this is the most expensive James Bond movie ever made. The cumulative worldwide gross to date is over $586 million! There is a wealth of trivia on imdb for this movie. Click here to see it.
Awards: 4 wins and 32 nominations
Four Good Days (2020)
Starring: Mila Kunis, Carla Gallo, Glenn Close, Stephen Root
Director: Rodrigo Garcia
Genres: drama, addictions
Synopsis: Deb (Close) and her husband, Chris (Root) are living a quiet middle class life as the story opens. Soon after, there’s an unpleasant surprise at the door: Molly (Kunis,) Deb’s adult, junkie daughter, looking like hell, begging her to let her in. The implication is that they have been through this scenario innumerable times, and Deb is just plain worn out and tired of the lies. The big question is whether Deb will soften one more time or leave Molly to her own devices. I won’t say any more about the plot…
Impressions: Having my “lived experiences” with those I care about being caught up in harmful addictions, both personally and in my old job, I thought they did an accurate and sensitive portrayal of both the substance abuser and the parent (or could be a non-parent loved one) of a substance abuser. They showed a fairly good atmosphere of the systems one gets involved in when you look for help or are facing accountability for your actions. Close and Kunis did a wonderful job of portraying these emotionally intense individuals and worked well together. I would recommend this movie to anyone who is using or loves someone who uses. What I like most about it is that doesn’t “pick sides” or judge anyone for where they are in the equation.
Etc.: from imdb: As of 2021, Amanda Wendler (on whom this film was based) has been clean for 4 years. She and her mother Libby now advocate for addicts and their families.
Awards: 2 nominations
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Sam Worthington, John Magaro, Minka Kelly, David James Elliott
Director: Eytan Rockaway
Genres: biography, crime
Synopsis: Meyer Lansky (Keitel,) now aged and without much time left of life, chooses journalist, David Stone (Worthington,) to tell his life story to. The two meet regularly at a small cafe. A sub-plot is the Feds desperately wanting to find out where the fortune that Lansky made over his illustrious criminal life has been hidden. Another sub-plot is Stone’s estrangement from his wife for not being able to financially support his family.
Impressions: I really wanted to like this movie, but unfortunately it had no zing for me. Maybe it is because there have already been so many of these kinds of mobster memoir films made that it just feels tired. I did like Magaro’s performance in here as the young adult Lansky.
Etc.: What the film did do was pique my interest about who Meyer Lansky was. Wikipedia says:
Meyer Lansky (born Meier Suchowlański; July 4, 1902 – January 15, 1983), known as the “Mob’s Accountant”, was an American organized crime figure of Polish birth who, along with his associate Charles “Lucky” Luciano, was instrumental in the development of the National Crime Syndicate in the United States.
Associated with the Jewish mob, Lansky developed a gambling empire that stretched around the world. He was said to own points (percentages) in casinos in Las Vegas, Cuba, The Bahamas, and London. Although a member of the Jewish mob, Lansky undoubtedly had strong influence with the Italian-American Mafia and played a large role in the consolidation of the criminal underworld. The full extent of this role has been the subject of some debate, as Lansky himself denied many of the accusations against him.
And, because I can, here is a short doc I found on Meyer Lansky: