Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies! There is quite a collection this week!
The Card Counter (2021)
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Tiffany Haddish, Tye Sheridan, Willem Dafoe
Director: Paul Schrader
Genres: drama, crime
Synopsis: The Card Counter, namely William Tell, is a man haunted by his past. He’s just gotten out of federal prison and has learned how to count cards and all other manner of card playing wisdom. He has constructed a tight, regimented world for himself, not so very different than when he was serving time. He travels from casino to casino, winning just enough to keep moving — until he meets a ghost from the past. It’s a watershed moment for the tight-lipped, enigmatic William. He’s forced to think outside of his self-constructed cell and make a play for redemption.
Impressions: It’s an EXCELLENT movie, one of the best I’ve seen in awhile. Oscar Isaac reminds me of a young Al Pacino towards the end of the first Godfather movie. Award-winning performance by him with a polished support cast in Tiffany Haddish and Tye Sheridan. Highly recommended! Warning: be aware there are some disturbing scenes of military torture that may trigger some.
Etc.: Produced by Martin Scorsese, who collaborated in two of his most famous films with director Paul Schrader: Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, where Scorsese directed and Schrader wrote (Taxi Driver an original story, and Raging Bull an adaptation). They also did The Last Temptation of Christ and Bringing Out The Dead together. Please note that, even though Scorcese is a producer, this is a small, indie film.
Awards: 3 wins and 15 nominations
Isle of Dogs (2018)
Starring: voices of Courtney B. Vance (The Narrator,) Bryan Cranston, Koyu Rankin, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban, Jeff Goldblum, Bill Murray, Kunichi Nomura, Akira Takayama, Greta Gerwig, Frances McDormand, Akira Ito, Scarlett Johansson, Harvey Keitel, F. Murray Abraham, Yoko Ono, Tilda Swinton, Ken Watanabe, and many more big name stars (wow!)
Director: Wes Anderson
Genres: stop-motion animation, adventure
Synopsis: excellent synopsis by Nick Riganas from imdb:
As a nasty and extremely virulent canine flu ravages the technologically-advanced metropolis of Megasaki from end to end, the unscrupulous and corrupt mayor, Kobayashi, decrees that all dogs be banished to Trash Island–a vast offshore wasteland of refuse. To track down his beloved four-legged companion, Spots, Kobayashi’s courageous twelve-year-old orphaned nephew, Atari, summons up the courage to set off alone on a dangerous rescue mission; however, to reunite with his best friend, the boy will need the precious help of a marauding pack of five abandoned alpha dogs. But, who may know the whereabouts of Spots, the Isle of Dogs’ hapless prisoner zero?
Impressions: I really enjoyed this fast-paced film that has a heart of gold that shines out from it. It’s the kind of movie where you set a box of kleenex next to you if you’re a sensitive sort. I loved every bit of the style, the sets, the dialogue, the story line, trying to figure out which actor’s voice was which. Not only is there great heart, humor permeates the film, despite the grim circumstances the players often find themselves within, which is a powerful metaphor for real life. I saw this when it first came out and am glad I revisited it, as I picked up on things the second viewing that I missed the first time through. Highly recommended for ages 13 and up.
Etc.: 61 bits of trivia at imdb, including, the movie was influenced by the work of Akira Kurosawa and Rankin-Bass stop-motion Christmas specials.
Awards: 34 wins and 94 nominations
Drunk Bus (2020)
Starring: Charlie Tahan, Kara Hayward, Pineapple Tangaroa, Tonatiuh, Will Forte
Director: John Carlucci, Brandon LaGanke
Genres: indie comedy, drama
Synopsis: Michael (Tahan) is a young man in a small college town that has graduated but who now drives a campus bus route and is going nowhere fast. His long-term girlfriend has up and moved to the big city so he’s both aimless and heartbroken. When some students cause trouble on the bus, the company hires Pineapple (Pineapple) a giant-sized Samoan as security for his route. Pineapple becomes Michael’s friend, mentor, courage, and all-around catalyst for change for the young man.
Impressions: Good movie that I enjoyed but targeted more for a younger audience. There were several laugh out loud moments in it, and if you were drunk or high while watching you’d probably get a super charge out of it. Good contemporary soundtrack. I don’t like the jacket cover they use for it; it’s offputting.
Etc.: filmed in Rochester and Montour Falls, New York
Awards: 2 wins and 2 nominations
Sympathy for Delicious (2010)
Starring: Christopher Thornton, Mark Ruffalo, Juliette Lewis, Laura Linney, Orlando Bloom
Director: Mark Ruffalo
Synopsis: The story begins where “newly paralyzed DJ”, Dean (Thornton,) is living in his car down on skid row (filmed in L.A. in what looks like an actual homeless enclave.) I don’t remember anything ever being said about how he was paralyzed or how he ended up homeless. Father Joe (Ruffalo) ministers to the homeless through feeding them and talking with them and helping them gain access to resources when possible. Dean begins to realize he has a gift of healing people when he touches them. Father Joe finds out and, with the best of intentions, puts Dean up in a hotel and organizes daily healing events nearby. When Dean learns Father Joe has been corrupted (i.e. people are paying more to get their loved ones moved up in the healing line) he takes off to become a DJ in a hardcore band. Dean realizes he’s being just as exploited by the band as he was by Father Joe. He reaches a moral low point and acts out in destructive ways.
Impressions: It’s an OK movie but not great. I watched it because Mark Ruffalo is in it and because I wanted to see where they took the faith healing. The acting through most by most is exaggerated which repels emotional investment in it. I think Orlando Bloom would have been better in the lead role.
Awards: 1 win and 1 nomination
Thanks for Sharing (2012)
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Tim Robbins, Gwyneth Paltrow, Josh Gad, Joely Richardson, Pink
Director: Stuart Blumberg
Genres: drama, romance, comedy
Synopsis: Adam (Ruffalo) is a recovering sex addict that is committed to his recovery. He leans heavily on his 12-step group and his sponsor, Mike (Robbins) and is pretty stable in maintaining recovery with their support. Mike is a long-term veteran of the 12-step group that everyone looks up to, but at home he struggles with making amends to his long-suffering, loving wife, Katie (Richardson) from the days when he was using. They have an estranged substance-abusing son who just shows up one day and says he’s clean. Neil (Gad) is another member of the group. He’s a young intern doctor who has been court-ordered to attend but is struggling mightily to follow the program. When Adam meets Phoebe (Paltrow) at a party and the two have off-the-charts chemistry, Adam finds it extremely challenging to navigate the waters between total abstinence and an opportunity for a healthy sexual relationship with Phoebe.
Impressions: I’ve never been an attendee of a 12-step group, but it does have a ring of authenticity to it. The dialogue about the issue of addiction, specifically sexual addiction, how debilitating it can be, and measures that sufferers take to stay clean are outlined here. If you or a loved one suffer from sexual addiction, I would highly recommend this movie. This type of addiction isn’t ordinarily depicted in films which makes it that much more important.
Etc.: filmed in NYC; this is the second starring role of rock star Pink, who used her given name Alecia Moore in the credits for this film. Her first film was Catacombs (2007.)
Awards: 2 nominations