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Entries in Drama (8)

Friday
Jul082016

Our Little Sister

Our Little Sister
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Released on: July 8th, 2016
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Another saccharine story by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (After Life; Like Father, Like Son), Our Little Sister may be meticulously shot, offer competent and attractive actors — the likes of which we rarely see in American cinema — and told in Japanese with English subtitles, but it as emotionally superficial as a Hollywood movie by the likes of Nancy Myers or Cameron Crowe (except Kore-eda uses Asian actors when the story calls for it).

Based on the best selling manga novel by Yoshida Akimi, Umimachi Diary, Out Little Sister starts off obvious enough and then proceeds down its predictable path before its long overdue and comforting conclusion.

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Tuesday
Nov172015

I Smile Back

I Smile Back
Directed by: Adam Salky
Released on: November 6th, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther


Featuring Sarah Silverman in what may be the best performance in any American film this year, I Smile Back offers a tragic look into a woman who can no longer take the artifice of her milieu.

Laney (Silverman) seems to have it all: a very nice home; a loving, handsome husband who has just published a book named Bruce (an excellent Josh Charles); two healthy, adorable children (Shayne Colman and Skylar Gaertner) and all the leisure time she can handle.

Yet she is not happy. Everyone around her is bogus in some way, falsifying her or his (mostly his) testimony everywhere Laney looks. Trapped in such existential horror, what is a bourgeois women to do other than consume copious amounts of cocaine and alcohol? Oh, and have an affair with a close friend, Donny (Thomas Sadoski), who is one fraudulent mother pumper. Has Laney never heard of going shopping in order to fill the void?

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Monday
Nov162015

Love

Love
Directed by: Gaspar Noé
Released on: October 30th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther 

Nothing should be surprising when one goes to see a film by writer-director Gaspar Noé (Irreversible; Enter the Void). In the opening scene of his latest film, Love, a woman named Electra (Aomi Muyock) and a man named Murphy (Karl Glusman) are fingering the genitals of each other. His cock is as hard as rock (a stiffy in cinema!) while she is just squeaky wet. The scene does not end until he ejaculates — money shot and all.

Clearly, the two are in love.

With the cinematic blink of an eye, which Noé used masterfully in Enter the Void, Murphy now occupies his bed with Omi (Klara Kristen). It is New Year's Day and their son, Noe (Jean Couteau), is screaming in the other room. As Murphy goes to retrieve the boy, we learn Murphy is suffering from veisalgia (AKA a hangover) and has been hung out to dry up in a relationship he does not want.

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Friday
Oct162015

The Assassin

The Assassin
Directed by: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Released on: October 16th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Set during the first decade of 9th-century China, the latest film by director/co-writer Hou Hsaio-Hsien (Three Times; Raise the Red Balloon) tells the story of a woman who cannot seem to follow orders and kill her target.

Once destined for a life of privilege, Yinniang Nie (Qi Shu) was kidnapped at the age of 10 by a decorated general and raised by a Princess-nun, Jiaxin (Fang-Yi Sheu). Jiaxin taught the discarded girl martial arts.

Thirteen years later — where the eventually-colored film commences in black and white — Yinniang is now a trained assassin ordered to kill corrupt officials during the final years of the Tang Dynasty (06/618-06/907).

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Monday
Aug242015

Grandma

Grandma
Director: Paul Weitz
Released on: August 21st, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

One of the most audacious American films of the year is finally here. I am writing about writer-director Paul Weitz's Grandma. 

A considerable hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival, the 80-minute Grandma tells the story of Elle Reid (Lily Tomlin), a woman navigating her life after her longtime lover has passed away. Afraid to ever get close to another lover again, Elle cruelly, somewhat abruptly, ends her four-month relationship with Olivia (Judy Greer). 

That same day, Elle's granddaughter, Sage (Julia Garner) shows up at Elle's doorsteps unannounced. Sage is pregnant and needs the money to terminate the pregnancy and terminate it that day — no waiting periods in California. 

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Monday
Feb232015

Things of the Aimless Wanderer

Things of the Aimless Wanderer
Director: Kivu Ruhorahoza
Released on: January 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / TBA 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

It does not take long to realize Kivu Ruhorahoza's Things of the Aimless Wanderer is something special. Well, different at least.

Set in North Rwanda, Things of the Aimless Wanderer begins with somewhat of a prologue where an Rwandan warrior (Ramadhan Bizimana) stalks a lonely white dude (Justin Mulliken) wandering the jungle. While wandering the jungle, whitey encounters a young, topless Rwandan woman (Grace Nikuze). There is a gaze off between the three characters.

Cut to early 21st century and "A girl has disappeared."

Told in three different yet related stories Ruhorahoza calls "a working hypothesis," the disappearance of the girl (or, rather, a young woman) offers up three scenarios involving sex, murder and shame. Using the same actors — plus a narrator (Matt Ray Brown) who speaks for the white journalist — the smaller stories are rather about bigger issues about the culture of Rwanda changing and expanding and how Rwandans are adapting to it (an allegory of sorts some may say). Except we are not getting a direct viewpoint from Rwandans but vis-a-vis what Ruhorahoza imagines what an American (or perhaps any white westerner) would see if he or she lived among the anxious Rwandans.

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Sunday
Aug172014

Around the Block

Around the Block
Directed by: Sarah Spillane
Released on: August 1st, 2014 [LIMITED]
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

After a hiatus, American Dino Chalmers (Christina Ricci) has returned to Australia to be with her fiance, Simon (Daniel Henshall). A bright-eyed idealist, Dino takes a job at Redfern High School. Redfern High School is located in a particularly rough neighborhood in Sydney.

In the first of the film's numerous too-convenient tropes, Dino notices one of the students, Liam (Hunter Page-Lochard), a teenager who she filmed in the streets the day before, happens to be in her class.

Liam has troubles. He lives in a poor, violent neighborhood known as The Block. His Mum (Ursula Yovich) is unemployed; his father, Jack (Matt Nable), is in prison; and his older brother, Steve (Mark Coles Smith), plans to avenge his father's imprisonment and uncle's death.

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Wednesday
May122010

WOMEN WITHOUT MEN

Women Without Men
Directed by: Shirin Neshat
Release date: March 5th, 2010 [LIMITED]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives in the struggle for freedom and democracy in Iran -- from the Constitutional Revolution of 1906 to the Green Movement of 2009 -- director and co-writer Shirin Neshat’s cinematic adaptation of Shahrnush Parsipur’s titular novel, Women Without Men, is a stirring indictment against the players behind the United States-England backed coup to remove Iran’s democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and re-in-your-face-state the Shah of Iran to power and keep him there by “the rule of the boots.”

Commencing and concluding with suicide Women Without Men is set over a few summer days in Tehran, 1953, where the narrative of four women ebbs and flows with a poetic magical realism, and not supernaturalism, as they deal with the impending doom of democracy.

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