Film Review by Kam Williams
Caine and Keitel Co-Star as Aging BFFS in Surreal Meditation on Mortality
Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) has chosen to withdraw from the limelight after a storybook career as a celebrated composer and conductor. He's presently being pampered with mud baths and massages at a scenic spa nestled in the Swiss Alps where he's vacationing with his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) and his his best friend, filmmaker Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel).
Despite being well into their 70s, Mick is working on the script for his next movie with the help of a quintet of young collaborators. For these purposes, it is good to know that Mick's son Julian (Ed Stoppard) is married to Lena, who has just been dumped for a British pop singer (Paloma Faith herself).
While in the midst of dividing his days between reminiscing with his BFF and soothing his emotionally-distant daughter's fragile psyche, Fred gets a surprising request to come out of retirement by an emissary (Alex Macqueen) of the Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth II is offering knighthood in exchange for playing his most popular piece, "Simple Songs," at Prince Philip's impending birthday concert.
However, Fred summons up the strength to decline the command performance coming with an honorary title attached. For, he has already shed any attachment to his public persona in favor of meditating on his mortality and giving Lena the quality time she was denied as a child. After all, she still hasn't forgiven him for focusing so selfishly on classical music during her formative years.
Thus unfolds youth, a surreal mix of heartfelt introspection and escapist fantasy reminiscent of Federico Fellini. The movie was written and directed by Fellini's fellow paisan, Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) who is not shy about juxtaposing a variety of jarring images certain to leave a lasting impression, even if you're not quite sure what to make of the visually captivating menagerie.
Caine and Keitel enjoy their best outings in ages, albeit in service of an inscrutable adventure that deliberately does it darndest to defy definition.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and graphic nudity
Running time: 118 minutes
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
To see a trailer for Youth, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-T7CM4di_0c
Saturday, November 28, 2015
Friday, November 27, 2015
by Kam Williams
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Rated R for nudity, profanity, sexuality, violence and drug use
Running time: 127 minutes
Distributor: Distributor: Lionsgate / Roadside Attractions
To see a trailer for Chi-Raq, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0Bs1df0kPI
Posted by Kam at 2:37 PM
Thursday, November 26, 2015
Posted by Kam at 11:41 AM
Posted by Kam at 7:21 AM
Wednesday, November 25, 2015
90 Minutes in Heaven
by Kam Williams
Adaptation of Memoir about Miraculous Recovery \Released on DVd
Traveling Pastor Don Piper was thinking about having his own congregation on his way home from a Christian convention when fate intervened in tragic fashion. His car was crushed so badly by a tractor trailer that he was declared dead right on the spot by first responders who couldn't find a pulse.
Since the cops were in no hurry to extract him from the twisted wreckage, he was still lying there over an hour later, when a minister (Michael Harding) passing by the accident scene decided to stop and pray for the repose of his soul. But upon approaching the auto, instead of a corpse, lo and behold, the Good Samaritan found the supposedly deceased to be very much alive.
In fact, Pastor Piper was faintly singing a Gospel spiritual, despite his considerable loss of blood. A rescue team with the jaws of life was immediately summoned and he was soon extracted and rushed to the hospital in excruciating pain.
And although he would fight to survive for the sake of his wife (Kate Bosworth) and their three kids (Hudson Meek, Bobby Batson and Elizabeth Hunter), Don was actually torn over whether he really wanted to live or die. For, during his near-death experience on the side of the road, he'd briefly entered the proverbial Pearly Gates.
There, he not only experienced an unparalleled feeling of never-ending bliss, but enjoyed reunions with a number of dearly-departed loved ones, including his great-grandmother (Sallye McDougald Hooks) and a couple of childhood friends (Matthew Bauman and Trevor Allen Martin). By comparison, being back on Earth was relatively painful, given the 34 operations he needed to undergo over the next several months to fix torn muscles, disfigurement, broken bones and shattered disks.
Thanks to the power of prayer, Pastor Piper did ultimately recover. But rather than open his own church, he wrote a best-seller recounting his entering the Gates of Heaven as well as his subsequent resurrection. Directed by Michael Polish (The Astronaut Farmer) 90 Minutes in Heaven proves to be a pretty palatable modern parable, given that the title sort of serves as a spoiler. Of course, it helps tremendously to be a person a faith, though this is one Christian flick that has the potential to cut across demos.
A goner granted a miraculous reprieve by God ostensibly to let us all know that paradise really exists.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for an intense car accident and graphic images
Running time: 121 minutes
Studio: Giving Films
To see a trailer for 90 Minutes in Heaven, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtPq23E1Q1U
Posted by Kam at 5:54 PM
Posted by Kam at 10:26 AM
Monday, November 23, 2015
by Kam Williams
Rocky Franchise Revived with Compelling, Character-Driven Spin-Off
When most people think of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), what automatically comes to mind is the iconic image of a gutsy underdog easy to root for who held his own in the boxing ring against a variety of imposing adversaries. Each installment of the series has basically revolved around the hype leading to a riveting championship bout between a veritable David and Goliath.
Directed by Ryan Coogler, Creed is a worthy spin-off which not only pays homage to that tried-and-true formula but also represents a bit of departure for the beloved franchise. What's new is the fact that this film devotes as much attention to character development as to ratcheting up the tension surrounding the fateful showdown.
The picture reunites Coogler with Michael B. Jordan, the star of his directorial debut, the critically-acclaimed Frutivale Station. Here, Jordan plays, Adonis Johnson, a juvenile delinquent who's had his share of scrapes with the law, thanks to a quick temper and a tendency to settle differences with a pair of unusually powerful fists.
Just past the point of departure, the hot-headed orphan is informed by Apollo Creed's (Carl Weathers) widow (Phylicia Rashad) that he is the illegitimate son of Rocky's original archenemy. That at least explains the inclination to fight that's ostensibly been baked into his DNA.
Fast-forward a few years, when Adonis has learned to channel his anger and explosive might via boxing. Over the objections of his adoptive mom (Mrs. Creed) he decides to follow in his father's footsteps.
So, he moves from L.A. to Philly where he finds Rocky running a restaurant called Adrian's. Adonis prevails upon the ex-champ to serve as his trainer. Rocky agrees on the condition the kid changes his surname to Creed, and the next thing you know the kid rises in the ranks to #1 contender and luckily lands a title fight with Pretty Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellow).
Meanwhile, Adonis falls in love with his next-door neighbor, Bianca (Tessa Thompson), an aspiring hip-hop artist on the verge of making it in her own right. Away from the gym, he spends some quality time with Rocky, too, offering a little heartfelt, if unsolicited advice that just might save his aging mentor's life.
"Rocky" and the next Roman numeral might not be in the title, but this engaging and faithful seventh episode includes all the fixins to amount to a highly-recommended spin-off of the storied franchise.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violence, profanity and sensuality
Running time: 95 minutes
Distributor: Warner Brothers Pictures
To see a trailer for Creed, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtWoDw3GvlA
Posted by Kam at 12:49 PM