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Wadjda-DVD Review *** 01/24/2015

Posted by Films to consider in Arabic language film, BAFTA Awards, Drama, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies, National Board of Review, Satellite Awards, Vancouver International Film Festival.
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Wadjda (Saudi Arabia) 2012 ***

Written and directed by Haifaa Al Mansour
Starring Waad Mohammed and Reem Abdullah

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Film-Non-English Language, BAFTA Awards
NOMINATED, Best First Feature, Independent Spirit Awards
NOMINATED, Best Motion Picture-International Film, Satellite Awards
WINNER, Freedome of Expression Award, National Board of Review, USA
WINNER, Most Popular International First Feature, Vancouver International Film Festival

Wajdja (Mohammed) is a feisty ten-year-old girl who attends a strict girls’ school in Saudi Arabia. Wajdja wants to get a bicycle, but her mother (Abdullah) patiently explains that girls aren’t supposed to ride bicycles.

When Wajdja, who is not a very dedicated student, hears about a prize competition at school, she is determined to win so that she can buy a bicycle for herself.

According to IMDB, Wajdja was both the first feature-length film set entirely in Saudi Arabia and the first feature-length film by a female Saudi director. The story, while set within such a conservative society, is lighthearted and often outright funny. Mohammed’s Wajdja is charmingly recognizable as a typical high-spirited and stubborn pre-teen girl.

Highly recommended. ***

98 min. Rated PG.

For more info:
Wadjda (Two Disc Combo: Blu-ray / DVD)

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Nebraska-DVD Review *** 11/23/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, AFI Awards, American, Cannes Film Festival, Comedy, Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies.
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NEBRASKA (American) 2013 ***

Directed by Alexander Payne
Starring Bruce Dern, June Squibb, and Will Forte

Among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Picture; Best Leading Actor (Dern); Best Supporting Actress (Squibb); Best Cinematography; Best Director (Payne), Best Original Screenplay, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Picture; Best Actor (Dern); Best Supporting Actress (Squibb); Best Director (Payne), Best Screenplay, Golden Globes
WINNER, Movie of the Year, AFI Awards
WINNER, Best Actor (Dern), NOMINATED, Palme d’Or (Payne), Cannes Film Festival
WINNER, Best First Screenplay (Bob Nelson); NOMINATED, Best Feature; Best Director (Payne); Best Male Lead (Dern); Best Supporting Female (Squibb); Best Supporting Male (Forte), Independent Spirit Awards

When senile and curmudgeonly Woody Grant (Dern) becomes convinced that he must travel to Lincoln, Nebraska in order to claim the grand prize, neither his wife Kate (Squibb) nor his younger son David (Forte) can change his mind. David decides to take his father on a trip that includes a family reunion and a visit to the prize headquarters.

This film must have been up against some tough award competition; although it was nominated for many, it only won a few. Bruce Dern and June Squibb will surely remind you of some couple you know. Bob Odenkirk (lately of Breaking Bad fame) appears as the older son. Alexander Payne also directed Sideways and The Descendents.

*** Highly recommended.

114 min. Rated R.

For more info:
Nebraska

Saving Mr. Banks-DVD Review *** 11/06/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, American, Based on true events, Empire Awards, Golden Globes, Irish Film and Television Awards, Light Drama, Movies, Satellite Awards.
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Saving Mr. Banks (American) 2013 ***
Based on real events

Directed by John Lee Hancock
Starring Emma Thompson, Tom Hanks, Paul Giamatti, and Colin Farrell

Among other awards and nominations:
WINNER, Best Actress (Thompson), Empire Awards, UK
NOMINATED, Best Original Score, Academy Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress-Drama (Thompson), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Supporting Actor-Film (Farrell), Irish Film and Television Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Thompson); Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Hanks); Best Motion Picture, Satellite Awards

In the early 1960s, Walt Disney (Hanks), at the helm of the successful Disney Studios, is determined to fulfill a promise made to his daughters: that he will make a movie of their favorite book, Mary Poppins. Used to getting his way, he sets out to convince the stubborn author, P. L. Travers (Thompson), to give him the rights, pledging that the musical he has planned will honor her story. As negotiations continue, flashbacks reveal the author’s less-than-perfect childhood that inspired the tale.

I was prepared to merely “like” this movie but found that I truly enjoyed it. Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson play off each other very effectively as Disney vs. Travers. Colin Farrell does well as Miss Travers’ charming but ne’er-do-well father, who encourages his young daughter’s flights of fancy. Note that the end credits have actual tapes from the negotiations and meetings that mirror what is shown in the film.

Highly recommended. ***

125 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Saving Mr. Banks

Delicacy-DVD Review 08/08/2014

Posted by Films to consider in César Awards, Comedy, French language film, Light Drama, Movies, Romance, Romantic comedy, Sarlat International Cinema Festival.
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DELICACY (French) 2011
La délicatesse

Directed by David Foenkinos and Stéphane Foenkinos
Starring Bruno Todeschini, Audrey Tautou, Melanie Bernier, and Francois Damiens

NOMINATED, Best Adapted Screenplay (David Foenkinos); Best First Film, César Awards, France
WINNER, Prix Aquitaine: Prix d’interprétation masculine (Damiens), Sarlat International Cinema Festival

After losing her husband in an accident, young widow Nathalie (Tautou) devotes herself to her work. She seems to have no time for romance, but one day she inexplicably plants a sensual kiss on Markus, a Swedish coworker who is unpolished, to say the least. Once she happens down that road, there is no going back.

A romantic comedy/poignant story that will be enjoyed by fans of Audrey Tautou, although this film is not of the same caliber as the better-known Amélie. Bruno Todeschini does well in his role as her bumbling but charming suitor.

105 min. Rated PG-13

For more info:
Delicacy

Romantics Anonymous-DVD Review *** 04/03/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Cabourg Romantic Film Festival, César Awards, Comedy, French language film, JeanPierre Améris, Light Drama, Romance, Romantic comedy.
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Romantics Anonymous (French) 2010 ***
Les émotifs anonymes

Directed by JeanPierre Améris
Starring Benoit Poelvoorde and Isabelle Carré

WINNER, Best Actress (Carré), Cabourg Romantic Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Carré),César Awards, France

A very sweet and funny story about a couple who meet because of their mutual love of chocolate. Jean-René (Poelvoorde) and Angélique (Carré) are each afflicted with a level of shyness that is emotionally crippling. At work Jean-René hides his anxieties behind a stern demeanor, but his business is failing and will soon be bankrupt. Angélique is too overcome by her fears to have her skill in creating exquisite chocolates acknowledged. The couple meets by chance, but beginning a relationship is not simple.

The cast, including the supporting characters at Jean-René’s chocolate-making business, helps the movie soar above the simple plot.

Highly recommended.

80 min. Not rated.

For more info:
Romantics Anonymous

Another Year-DVD Review *** 03/02/2014

Posted by Films to consider in Academy Awards, British, Cannes Film Festival, Chicago Film Critics Association Awards, Chlotrudis Awards, David di Donatello Awards, Emotional Drama, European Film Awards, Light Drama, Mike Leigh, Movies, Romance.
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Another Year (British) 2010 ***

Directed by Mike Leigh
Starring Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Oliver Maltman, Peter Wight, and David Bradley

among many other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Writing, Original Screenplay (Leigh), Academy Awards
WINNER, Prize of the Ecumenical Jury – Special Mention (Leigh), Cannes Film Festival
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Manville), Chicago Film Critics Association Awards
WINNER, Best Supporting Actress (Manville); Best Ensemble Performance (cast members); NOMINATED, Best Movie; Best Director (Leigh); Best Original Screenplay (Leigh), Chlotrudis Awards
NOMINATED, Best European Film (Leigh), David di Donatello Awards
NOMINATED, Best Actress (Manville); Best Composer (Gary Yershon), European Film Awards

Another Year follows a year in the life of a happily married middle-aged couple. As Tom (Broadbent) and Gerri (Sheen) interact with their family and friends, humor and happiness appear in equal measure with poignant moments and sad developments.

This movie will not appeal to those looking for a complicated plot or a lot of action, but the depiction of lifetime friendships and the changes in the characters were very moving. As noted above, actress Lesley Manville garnered honors in her role as Gerri’s needy workplace acquaintance, Mary.

Highly recommended.

130 min. Rated PG-13 (but subject matter unlikely to be of interest to a teen!)

For more info:
Another Year

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel-DVD Review 01/13/2014

Posted by Films to consider in BAFTA Awards, British, British Independent Film Awards, Comedy, Golden Globes, Light Drama, Movies, Romantic comedy, Screen Actors Guild Awards.
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THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL (British) 2011

Directed by John Madden
Starring Dame Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, and Dev Patel

Among other nominations (no wins are listed):
NOMINATED, Best Motion Picture-Comedy or Musical; Best Actress (Dench), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film (Madden), BAFTA Awards
NOMINATED, Outstanding Supporting Female Actress (Smith); Outstanding Cast, Screen Actors Guild Awards
NOMINATED, Best British Independent Film; Best Director (Madden);Best Actress (Dench); Best Supporting Actress (Smith); Best Supporting Actor (Wilkinson), British Independent Film Awards

A group of retired British citizens decide individually to move to India where they plan to take up permanent residence in what they soon find out is a rundown hotel.

An amusing story that makes little sense if/when you think about it, but it does provide a pleasant enough vehicle for some major British stars, all of whom give good performances as expected. Over two hours long, though.

124 min.
For more info:
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Bernie-DVD Review 06/09/2013

Posted by dmbinder in American, Based on true events, Comedy, Crime, Golden Globes, Gotham Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, Light Drama, Movies, National Board of Review, New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
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Bernie (American) 2011
Based on actual events

Directed by Richard Linklater
Starring Jack Black, Matthew McConaughey, and Shirley MacLaine

Among other awards and nominations:
NOMINATED, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy (Black), Golden Globes
NOMINATED, Best Ensemble Cast (McConaughey, Black, MacLaine; Best Film, Gotham Awards
NOMINATED, Best Feature; Best Male Lead (Black), Independent Spirit Awards
WINNER, Top Ten Independent Films, National Board of Review
WINNER, Best Supporting Actor (McConaughey); Second Place-Best Actor (Black), New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Bernie Tiede (Black) moves to the small town of Carthage, TX and finds work at a funeral parlor. He proceeds to impress the entire town with his engaging and caring personality. He even wins over Marjorie Nugent (MacLaine) the wealthy, curmudgeonly widow of the bank president, a task that was thought to be impossible. But Mrs. Nugent gradually shows her true colors, and Bernie concludes that the way she treats everyone, including himself, is just not right.

A funny, documentary-style telling of events that surely fall into the category of “truth can be stranger than fiction.”

Jack Black especially amazes with his singing voice (who knew?), and Shirley MacLaine’s facial expression is spot on for her character.

99 min. Rated PG-13.

For more info:
Bernie

Ariel-DVD Review 04/28/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Dark Comedy, Finnish language film, Light Drama, Moscow International Film Festival, Movies, National Society of Film Critics Awards, Romance, Swedish language film.
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ARIEL (Finnish) 1988
Written and directed by Aki Kaurismaki
Starring Turo Pajala and Susanna Haavisto

WINNER, Bronze St. George-Best Actor (Pajala); FIPRESCI Prize (Kaurismaki); NOMINATED Golden St. George (Kaurismaki), Moscow International Film Festival
WINNER, NFSC Award-Best Foreign Language Film, National Society of Film Critics Awards, USA

After the mine he was working in closes down and his father commits suicide, Taisto (Pajala) gets thrown in jail for a crime he didn’t commit. He escapes and leaves town, hoping to find a new life in a big southern city. Almost immediately he meets Irmeli (Haavisto); they strike up a very low-key romance, but soon Taisto gets caught up in trouble.

Dry and quirky humor. Not a big award winner, this short (only 73 min.) film definitely has the 80s look about it. It’s the second part of Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy, which also includes Shadows in Paradise and The Match Factory Girl.

73 min.

On Amazon, I could only find it as part of the Criterion Collection.
Aki Kaurismäki’s Proletariat Trilogy

Here it is on IMDB:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094675/

The Sound of the Spirit-DVD Review 03/30/2013

Posted by Films to consider in Emotional Drama, Light Drama.
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The Sound of the Spirit (American) 2011
Written and directed by Michael Robert Wolf
Starring Anna Lasbury and Nicky Blavitz

Rivka is a twelve-year-old girl immersed in the usual issues of adolescence. After a life-changing event, she finds herself in a spiritual dilemma when she has to reconcile the Messianic Jewish beliefs of her own family with the traditional beliefs of her relatives.

A film for this spring season of renewal, The Sound of the Spirit presents a serious topic told with some appropriately lighthearted moments. Although the story focuses on a particular religion, Rivjka’s struggle is relevant to anyone who goes “against the grain.”

Produced by a Messianic community in the Midwest, the movie’s script and direction make the story very compelling. Anna Lasbury is likewise compelling as the emotionally vulnerable–but very articulate– young Rivka.

131 min. Not rated. Suitable for preteens through adult.

For more info:
The Sound of the Spirit