Category Archives: Drama

East Side Sushi (2014)

0

Posted on by

East Side Sushi

East Side Sushi

Single mom Juana can slice and dice anything with great speed and precision. After working at a fruit-vending cart for years, she decides to take a job at a local Japanese restaurant. Intrigued by the food, she learns to make sushi on her own. Eventually she attempts to become a sushi chef, but is unable to because she is the ‘wrong’ race and gender. Against all odds, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery.
– Written by Anonymous

4
Sweet, saccharin, a bit predictable – but charming and quite enjoyable.

East Side Sushi is an ode to dreams for a better life, hard work, determination, and food. Beautiful food. I don’t eat sushi, but I love to watch it made. The rhythm and precision of the sushi chefs while they assemble the beautiful rolls makes for quite a show. Then the rolls are plated with lovely flourish, ready to be enjoyed … by someone other than me.

Anthony Lucero captures this process as Juana dedicates herself to mastering the skills of traditional sushi, despite the roadblocks in her way; wrong gender, wrong ethnicity. She gets varying degrees of support, as well as resistance, from her family and co-workers. And, of course, she steers the traditional Japanese a bit off the ethnic trail by including foods more to her family’s tastes.

East Side Sushi captures the grind and pleasure of the food industry as Juana shifts from numbing routine to a challenging cuisine.” [Village Voice]

East Side Sushi Awards posterThere are a few twists & turns on the way to a mostly inevitable conclusion, but it is no less satisfying an end despite its predictability.

I believe most in my circle will enjoy this one, earning it a 4 of 5 on the Word of Mouth Scale. Be prepared for subtitles, unless you speak Spanish, English, and Japanese.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 100%; Audience 91%
Vox AZ

The Immigrant (2013)

0

Posted on by

The Immigrant

The Immigrant

1921. An innocent immigrant woman is tricked into a life of burlesque and vaudeville until a dazzling magician tries to save her and reunite her with her sister who is being held in the confines of Ellis Island.

2

This movie is loaded with atmosphere & mood, but not a lot more. It struck me as an excuse to feature Marion Cotillard in shot after pouty shot of her melancholy face. The story seems assembled around her, not always convincingly.

The surrounding cast was impressive, overall. Jeremy Renner, though, was woefully underutilized in a role that should have been pivotal but instead felt peripheral and superfluous.

From Argemaluco, a reviewer on IMDB:
“The Immigrant isn’t made with enough passion for us to plunge into the main character’s experiences, and it doesn’t have a concrete point besides of being a sample book of human suffering which should have been touching, but it isn’t.”

Worth seeing if you are a fan of the actors, but I wouldn’t say it is something to seek out.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 88%; Audience 61%
Vox AZ

Mr. Turner (2014)

0

Posted on by

Mr Turner box image

Mr. Turner

An exploration of the last quarter century of the great, if eccentric, British painter J.M.W. Turner’s life.

0

It’s been a while since I shared a movie review, but this one moved me so much I just had to log on to spare you from ever, ever watching it. I am amazed I made it through the 2 1/2 hours – yes, 2 hours and 30 minutes – but I’m no quitter.

I had such high hopes after seeing the trailer on one of our other recent DVD picks. Timothy Spall, usually a reliable strong point in a movie, is here reduced to little more grunting, mumbling…and occasionally something that sounds like a wild boar being strangled. The affectations that worked for Billy Bob Thorton in Sling Blade, which were poorly echoed by Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain, are nothing but an additional annoyance here – and a hindrance to any chance of storytelling. Assuming there was even a story to be told.

The movie, ostensibly based of JMW Turner’s life, gives us little relief from horrible people, living horrible lives, doing horrible things, making horrible decisions. Even the paintings don’t give us a lift from the oppressive tedium. If not for Marion Bailey as the chipper Mrs Booth there would have been no lightness at all.

There is literally no one in my circle to whom I would recommend this flick.
Though the critics seem to like it (can’t imagine why) the audience seems more in line with me – fun to read their reviews, as well.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 98%; Audience 57%
Vox AZ

The Book Thief (2013)

0

Posted on by

The Book Thief

The Book Thief (2013)

Based on the beloved international bestselling book, The Book Thief tells the story of an extraordinary, spirited young girl sent to live with a foster family in WWII Germany. While subjected to the horrors of Nazi Germany, young Liesel finds solace by stealing books and sharing them with others, including a Jewish refugee who is being sheltered by her adoptive parents in the basement of their home.

4
I was unfamiliar with the book on which this movie is based, but wanted to see it because of the quality cast (Geoffrey Rush & Emily Watson). I also had found, while researching the music for a friend, video clips (like this interview, and this one) which intrigued me. After seeing this beautiful film, I will definitely put The Book Thief on my reading list.

Narrated by Death himself, this tale shows ordinary Germans during Hitler’s rise while focusing on Liesel, her adoptive family, and the working class residents on her street. Some of the neighbors embrace the Nazi party, some just try to survive, Liesel’s parents try to save the son of a Jewish friend.

As Liesel grows up, she finds great joy and comfort in stories. After the Bürgermeister arranges a mass book burning in the town square, the books that remain become even more precious to her – requiring some creativity and stealth for their acquisition. Hence the title.

The war progresses as wars do, the Nazis grow their evil as Nazis do. Death is always there keeping us abreast of his work: “The bombs were falling thicker now. It’s probably fair to say that no one was able to serve the Führer as loyally as me.”

Ultimately, what I appreciated most perhaps is the ability to convey humanity in the German people, without downplaying the depths of evil in which their country is submerged.

The performers that drew me to this film originally were definitely not a disappointment, heading up an impressive cast overall. Notably: Canadian actress Sophie Nélisse, who is luminous and heartbreaking, as our protagonist. As Rudy, her lovesick friend, Nico Liersch brings to life his hopefulness and longing.

This movie is perfect for most in my circle, though may be a bit slow and ‘small’ for a few.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 46%; Audience 75%
Vox AZ

Philomena (2013)

0

Posted on by

Philomena

Philomena

A world-weary political journalist picks up the story of a woman’s search for her son, who was taken away from her decades ago after she became pregnant and was forced to live in a convent.

4

Lovely and enjoyable movie about a heartbreaking true story.

Though some poetic license was taken (as well as some unnecessary editorializing), the basics of the story are intact. A young woman, naive about the birds & bees, finds herself pregnant out-of-wedlock – something shameful in the ’50s, and even worse for a Catholic girl in Ireland. Philomena Lee (Dench) is sent to a convent, where she will give birth & do her penance by working off her ‘debt’ to the nuns for 4 years.

After their children are born, the fallen women are allowed to see them only for brief visits always knowing that at any time the children could be adopted out. Anthony is taken away when he is 3 years-old, leaving a devastated Philomena to get on with her life.

Though she never stops thinking of him, and tries through the years to track him down, it is 50 years before she gets any satisfaction. Finally unable to suppress the longing, she tells her daughter about the boy who was taken from her all those years ago. Her daughter tells a journalist (Martin Sixsmith, portrayed by Steve Coogan) The journalist takes up the cause, throwing his considerable resources behind the hunt.

Though the story is fairly well known, and so you may already know how it ends, the beauty of this telling is not in the destination, but the journey. We get to know Lee and Sixsmith as they travel together in search of answers. In the featurette I’ve linked below they mention how the humor of their relationship makes the heart-wrenching search easier to take. It does.

It also gives Dench an opportunity to show why so many accolades and awards have been heaped upon her. The supporting cast here is fine, but it is clearly the Dame’s show.

This rates highly on the Word of Mouth Scale for having relatable humor and an accessible storyline. There are a few in my circle who would find it too “wordy”, but not every film can have be a Jason Statham shoot-’em-up. 🙂

Go ahead and see this one – odds are high you will like it.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 92%; Audience 90%



FairyTale: A True Story (1997)

0

Posted on by

FairyTale

Fairy Tale: A True Story

Based on factual accounts, this is the story of two young girls that, somehow, have the ability to take pictures of winged beings… which certainly causes quite a stir throughout England during the time of the first World War. Everyone, except the girls who think it’s quite normal, is excited about this “photographic proof” that fairies exist… even the great Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini pay the girls a visit.

Written by BOB STEBBINS

 

I am familiar with the story of the Cottingley Fairies, and so I was quite keen to see this film. I find it fascinating that two children were able to perpetrate a hoax that fooled not just family & friends, but a nation – and several experts in photography…and spiritualism. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was one of their earliest, and most consistent, proponents.

Cottingley FairyThe movie presents our young fairy hunters as younger than the real Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, and slightly closer in age. It is a bit of understandable artistic license, hard for modern audiences to imagine a 16 year-old embracing the wonder of fairies.

The visuals are quite beautiful, colorful and deliciously saturated. I really enjoyed seeing two of my favorites, Harvey Keitel as Houdini and Peter O’Toole as Conan Doyle, among this fine cast.

It is a magical children’s movie with a more serious backdrop, so it remains entertaining for adults, as well.

Bonus: Paul McGann plays Elsie’s father, and it’s always nice to see him 🙂


Rotten tomatoes: Critics 52%; Audience 62%

Penny Serenade (1941)

0

Posted on by

Penny Serenade

Penny Serenade

As Julie prepares to leave her husband Roger, she begins to play through a stack of recordings, each of which reminds her of events in their lives together. One of them is the song that was playing when she and Roger first met in a music store. Other songs remind her of their courtship, their marriage, their desire for a child, and the joys and sorrows that they have shared. A flood of memories comes back to her as she ponders their present problems and how they arose.

One of my favorite tear-jerkers of all time, starring one of my favorite screen couples. “Penny Serenade” always puts me through the ringer, even though I have seen it a dozen or so times. It can still make me cry and, thankfully, it can still make me laugh.

The music-stirring-memories plot device makes for a lovely soundtrack, as well as our main characters’ meet-cute. We start the film knowing that Julie and Roger are ending their marriage. We learn through flashbacks everything they’ve faced and why they feel it is so hopeless now.

The cast is full of top-notch talent, the writing is solid, the direction stellar. As melodramatic a film as this, though, would have floundered with lesser performers in the main roles. Cary Grant is at his charming best, Irene Dunne could tell the entire story with just her face. Together, in this movie and others, they have a chemistry so winning, you can’t help but be drawn in to their world.

There are some standout scenes; baby’s first bath, Roger’s impassioned plea to the judge… However, it is the whole of the movie that makes it great.

If you enjoy an old movie now & then, and you don’t mind your companions seeing you cry, do yourself a favor and catch “Penny Serenade” It is available at many libraries – and even on YouTube.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 93%; Audience 74%

Speaking of the Cary Grant / Irene Dunne chemistry, I found this video that was made for a contemporary song, using some of the sweetest, kissiest moments from Penny Serenade

1 2 3 4 5 6