Marlene’s 3 Sentence Movie Reviews

projectorTHE PATIENCE STONE

A bullet in the neck has put her husband into a coma in this tender and beautiful movie, based on a 2008 best-seller by Atiq Rahimi.  As he lies in bed unconscious, it is seemingly her devotion that impels the Afghanistani wife to feed and nurse him back to life in her one dreary room. A passing soldier steps in and the ending, not to be revealed here, is both unexpected, surprising and precisely right.

KUMIKO, THE FORTUNE HUNTER

Consistently engrossing, the story of the Japanese sad-sack Kumiko, an “Office Lady” locked in a dreary job and living with her rabbit in a minuscule apartment, follows her misadventures in Tokyo and Minnesota. She has become obsessed with an old tape of the American movie, FARGO, imagining that the suitcase of money buried in the snow in the film actually exists. The brothers David and Nathan Zellners’ screenplay is filled with clever, offbeat twists, Rinko Kikuchi as Kumiko puts in bravura performance, and with its marvelous cinematography, this film deserves wide distribution.

AMERICAN SNIPER

Shot in Iraq-looking Morocco, the authenticity of its battle scenes pull you right into war. This is a macho, often hold-your-breath exciting story, a red-meat of a show starring Bradley Cooper, best served up for those who live in the red states, and probably all men who’ve worn a military uniform. Women will want the Chris Kyle character’s repetitive tours of duty to end so the hero can quit killing and go home to patch up his wobbly marriage.

WILD

Nick Hornby wrote it and Reese Witherspoon carries it off beautifully. Women will probably be more patient with a movie that, for all its magnificent cinematographic scenery, smartly crafted flashbacks of her mother’s illness and death, her abusive father and angry ex, goes on too long. Trekking the thousand miles through the Pacific Crest Trail, she gets thoroughly cleansed of her wayward past and we root for her all the way, but the book was better.

TANGERINE

Sordid, yes, TANGERINE, an unlikely title for its seamy world of wrong-side-of-the -tracks West Los Angeles, has what every good film needs: heart, humor and originality. The transsexuals in this grubby neighborhood live by their own codes of friendship and revenge, and Sean Baker, producer/writer/director has come up with a sparkling, brilliant stew, that includes a just-right music score and an Armenian cabbie caught up in this red-light life. The acting–by mostly unknown talent–is flawless and the results, sordid, yes, but splendid, too.

MALA MALA

Within a few minutes of watching this documentary about transsexuals in Puerto Rico, one forgets that these beautiful ladies were born a different gender. As part of a group they call the Doll House, they face a daily life fraught with struggle and danger. Philosphical, thoughtful, funny, they reveal their humanity and dignity in a full bright bloom of beautiful cinematography.

GOING AWAY

Here’s a sweet French film that centers around a little boy, his mother and his schoolteacher. Expect that the troubled mom, who owes thugs big money and is pursued by them, will fall in love with the teacher. It turns out–well, I’m not giving anything away in this review except that the ending is trés happy but trés unlikely, too.

GRANDMA

Lily Tomlin has a good time in this movie and you might too. Here’s a senior citizen  who actually wants her granddaughter to go through with an abortion and scratching up the money is the basic plot. Tomlin’s a funny old honey, doing her far-fetched best to help the girl, and it’s Granny who’s a standout in every scene.

STEVE JOBS

This is a serious, expensive  production packed with huge sets, many extras and good dialogue, but the movie promises more than it delivers. Despite Michael Fassbender’s topnotch acting and a strong supporting cast that includes Seth Rogen and Kate Winslet, this watered-down version of the life of America’s 20th Century superman is disappointing. It’s heavy on the tech aspects of Apple and LISA and leaves out most of the juice of Jobs’s colorful personal life.

 

MEET THE PATELS

Why do mediocre, gross-out comedies get wide distribution, when a small jewel like this gets a few art house showings and then vanishes? Here’s a PG13 funny and clever documentary–don’t let “documentary” scare you off–about an Indian-American man of thirty, whose family is desperate to get him married off. The cross-country trek, the trip to India and Internet dating sites don’t seem to work, until–well it is a bit predictable but you will laugh, and that’s a promise.

 

BRIDGE OF SPIES

The Steven Spielberg name doesn’t necessarily translate into Midas in every movie, but in this one, with the help of a script by the Coen brothers, there is not a dull moment. Tom Hanks as the everyday insurance lawyer sent on a critical, dangerous mission, and Mark Rylance–one of the most talented actors working today– as the purported spy whose life he hopes to save, become the unlikely pair of heroes. Based on real events is the sketchy underpinning of one after another of these exciting scenes, but much of the film sounds perfectly valid and true.

VIVA

Here’s Ireland’s official Oscar entry for Best Foreign Film, and, surprise, the setting is the poorest streets of Havana, and although the director is one Paddy Breathnach, there’s not a hint of Ireland anywhere in this film, which is in Spanish, with English subtitles. The current vogue of featuring gay or transsexual protagonists should not lead to an, “Oh, not again!” reaction, as this is a well-written, poignant and realistic film, a struggle for a gay boy’s conflicted wish for his father’s approval and for the dignity that’s eluded him all his life. Despite some tried-and-true plot twists–the illness, the hospital– the remarkable acting talent of a young Héctor Medina might bring a catch to your throat, and the silent scene that follows the roll of final credits will promise a happy resolution and stay with you, maybe until the Academy Award ceremonies.

45 YEARS

This movie moves slowly, so it is not for everyone, but the scenes that move the plot work quietly and realistically. Much of the charm of this long fictional marriage and its tender and painful moments are reflected in Charlotte Rampling’s expressive face. The last scene is perfect  as “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” plays at the couple’s anniversary party, an inspired choice that is  symbolic of the inconclusive ending.

BAJIRAO MASTANI

This Indian (subtitled) film is a grand epic that sweeps across the screen in every color of the cinematographer’s rainbow. Perhaps its soap operat plot is not for the most critical filmgoers, but the scenic splendor, the costumes, dance routines and even the occasionally poetic dialogue should wow most audiences. It takes place in the early 18th century, is basically a historical, fictionalized star-crossed lovers tale and grossed 52 million dollars at the box office, (more than any other Indian film) and is reason enough to go see it.

MUSTANG

While the title of the movie misleads a potential American audience into imagining a Western film or one about cars, this charming story about five girls in a repressive culture in the Turkish countryside, is a subtle coming-of- age saga. The girls’ uncle makes their lives unendurable by forbidding them the simplest pleasures and reading sexual meaning into their most innocent activities. Touching, tragic and topical, this movie will be of particular interest to women and did not get nearly the attention or exposure it deserves.

 WHERE TO INVADE NEXT

Michael Moore is at it again, being funny, brilliant and incisive in this documentary. He finds much to ridicule in the United States, illustrates the “better way” in other countries when it comes to education, crime and punishment, health care, peace and standard of living, a very palatable tract if you are in agreement with his point of view. Yet, the points he makes are somewhat simplistic and, like many movies currently showing on neighborhood screens, it’s a bit anticlimactic and about half an hour too long.

BUSCO NOVIO PARA MI MUJER  (Seeking Boyfriend For My Wife)

Here’s a Spanish comedy that’s going to offend no one and might delight audiences who are put off by explicit sex scenes, slapstick and adolescent toilet jokes. You may know how it’s going to end when a charming husband confides to his soccer pals that he hates his wife, but getting there is fun. You won’t be bored and there are some very funny laugh-out-loud moments in this pleasant romantic movie with its guaranteed happy finale.                                   

 

LES COWBOYS

A young girl goes missing at a French country fair and the search begins. Her father cannot believe that she has chosen the life that Ahmed, her boyfriend, has seduced her into. His determination to find her continues for years and his pursuit, and later those of his son, cover many Muslim corners of the world and perhaps stretch too long in this mostly beautiful French film.

LITTLE MEN

Here’s a sweet, low-budget film that doesn’t break any creative records. The two thirteen-year old protagonists–Theo Taplitz and Michael Barbieri–do a nice job of being good pals in Brooklyn and underscoring the differences in their class and upbringing. Here’s a wholesome, solid movie to take the family to, assuming the kids are not city sophisticates or a day over thirteen.

THE INNOCENTS

At the end of the Second World War, Russian soldiers invaded a convent in Poland, raping many of its nuns. The action of the film begins when the pregnancies come to full term and the nuns,–most virgins at the time of the rape–begin giving birth. A French doctor is summoned and she, a nonbeliever, is convinced to help, but it is the unshakable faith of the Reverent Mother that becomes the pivotal, shocking crux of this marvelous Polish film.

TENTH MAN

In a poor neighborhood of Buenos Aires, a man named Usher runs a foundation to help his needy, mostly Orthododox Jewish community. When his son comes from New York to visit, his father makes endless demands of him, to give help to those in need. The acting in this comedy is so good one can hardly believe these are performers and many are not, as for example, Usher, who appears in only one frame and plays himself.

 

TENTH MAN

In a poor neighborhood of Buenos Aires, a man named Usher runs a foundation to help his needy, mostly Orthododox Jewish community. When his son comes from New York to visit, his father makes endless demands of him, to give help to those in need. The acting in this comedy is so good one can hardly believe these are performers and many are not, as for example, Usher, who appears in only one frame and plays himself.

 

TOWER

Using an unusual documentary technique, the story of the first mass shooting at a university is shown in archival images, old news reports and animation. Because the lives of some of those forty-nine students who died that day at the University of Texas and some who luckily survived are brought into the narrative, this 1966 event comes to dramatic life on the screen. While the early half of the film could use some cutting, the second half and its conclusion are compelling and, sadly, timely.

THE EYES OF YOUR MOTHER

This edge-of-your seat horror movie is shot in black and white, which both escalates the excitement and diminishes the impact of the gore. The film’s protagonist is a psychologically damaged heroine, who takes revenge for her mother’s murder on almost everyone crossing her threshold. Here is the movie’s clever premise, that  a child watching a killing is impacted by evil for life.

HANDMAIDEN

The Handmaiden in question is actually a virginal, petty thief who’s been set up to be the personal maid for a beautiful, rich and isolated woman living in a castle-like mansion in 1930’s Korea. This is an elegant movie with beautiful acting and direction, including very explicit lesbian sex scenes and marvelous THE HANcinematography. The movie is long, the plot has many twists and turns, the subtitles are in Japanese and Korean, and American audiences might find some of the fairytale-like developments hard to follow, hard to swallow.

ALWAYS SHINE

This is basically a two-character adventure, set in the magnificence of Big Sur, as two competitive twentyish actresses try for reclaiming their friendship. The cinematography and nice acting can’t make up for the gaps of logic in the scenes that tell their story. Yet, you can’t stop watching as the action unfolds into predictable disaster.

THE SALESMAN

This Iranian film is a domestic drama with an American twist, as the husband and wife are amateur actors performing in Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. It’s a cliff-hanger without a scary cliff and a thriller without violence, but the tension is intense and it ultimately ties into the plot of Miller’s play. It’s got its twists and turns, acting that is marvelous and a view of a culture both similar and unlike ours.

OLGA HEPNAROVÁ

This stark, black and white biopic about the first woman executed  in Czechoslovakia, is both fascinating and baffling. It is episodic, her chronic abuse too subtly implied, and many scenes are choppy, confusing vignettes, its cigarette-smoking, defiant heroine hard to like. The beautiful Polish actress, Michalina Olszanka, as lesbian Olga, (with a perfect haircut throughout) runs over twenty elderly pedestrians in a rage over a perceived lifetime of bullying and finally shows emotion as she is dragged to her hanging at age 22 in 1973.

NISE: HEART OF MADNESS

Despite its C-horror movie title, this is a serious film about the conditions in a Brazilian psychiatric hospital in 1944. Sometimes the scenes of Despite cruelty and medical malpractice are hard to watch, but then in steps Dr. Nise de Silveira (played by Gloria Pires) who rescues these tormented, virtually abandoned patients, who live in a harsh and abusive environment. Her objections to shock treatments, her dedication to her “clients” and her belief in the possibility of improvement result in bringing art into the ward and finally, into the world as well.

Marlene Shyer