Film Review: The Sapphires — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJv1epnHKM4

ONE WORD REVIEW: Fun!

SUMMARY: Based on a true story, an Indigenous girls band from Australia earns the opportunity to travel to Vietnam to entertain the American troops during the war.

DETAILS: The Sapphires is That Thing You Do meets soul music and the Vietnam War. A group of Indigenous singers in Australia catch the attention of a makeshift music promoter (Chris O’Dowd) who helps them transition from country to soul music and take their show to Vietnam. Loosely based on a true story, their new manager secures an audition in Melbourne that will change their lives. The girl singers (Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens, and Miranda Tapsell) change their name to The Sapphires, and head to war-torn Vietnam to entertain the American servicemen. The Sapphires contains romance, laughter, and a fantastic soundtrack of 1960’s soulful music. The film deals with issues of race, belonging, and the universal language of music. Although I mentioned That Thing You Do to create a mental picture, this film doesn’t quite reach the same mark as that Tom Hanks classic. Ultimately, The Sapphires wants to soar at great heights, but instead settles for a low, but elegant glide across the screen… but regardless, this film does have a great soundtrack and is worth watching.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2012
RATING: PG-13
FOREIGN FILM: Australia

Film Review: All This Mayhem — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wDiszmA2o8


ONE WORD REVIEW: Tragic!

SUMMARY: All This Mayhem showcases the rise and fall of the world’s best skateboarders; two brothers from Australia who launch from the vert into the limelight only to come crashing down under the weight of their own fame.

DETAILS: All This Mayhem is the most appropriate title this tragic documentary could have. It tells the story of the Pappas brothers (Tas and Ben) who grew up in Australia and started skateboarding as young kids. The motion of the skate ramp is very symbolic of the lives of Tas and Ben. Once they learned to ride the vert (half pipe) their careers and personal lives follow the same arc; fast motion, enormous energy, up the ramp, launch into the air, gravity kicks in, free falling back to the ramp… oh, and by the way, any error in timing the landing can and will be catastrophic. Soon after Tas and Ben learned to push the limits they took the skate world by storm and helped redefine the sport. As brothers, they went head to head with skate legend Tony Hawk… and they beat him, pushing the boundaries and creating new tricks every step of the way. But fame can lead to drugs, and drugs can lead to the downward spiral that would eventually wreck both Tas and Ben’s lives. Their tailspin includes arrests, drug abuse, physical abuse, and eventually murder, suicide, and prison. It’s a tragic story of two boys who couldn’t handle their own success. They had everything a skate kid could ask for… except the sense to handle it all.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2014
RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY

Film Review: The Terminal — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciByvddyHBs

ONE WORD REVIEW: Fun!

SUMMARY: Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is forced to live in an airport terminal at JFK when he unknowingly becomes a man without a country.

DETAILS: This fun film by Steven Spielberg is full of wit, humor and poignant moments. If you haven’t seen it, you should. And if you have seen it, I will encourage you to watch it again. While Viktor Navorski (Tom Hanks) is flying to America, his country (the fictitious Krakozhia) is overthrown, making his passport invalid and in turn causing Viktor to learn that for him, “America is closed”. His passport and return ticket are revoked by customs agents making him a man without a country who can’t enter America and who can’t return home. So he begins living at the unfinished Gate 67 in the international terminal at JFK. He learns to speak English, makes friends with some of the employees of the airport, becomes a matchmaker, falls for a beautiful stewardess (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and never gives up on his purpose of why he wants to come to America; a secret he carries with him in a can of peanuts.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2004
RATING:PG-13

Film Review: The Way, Way Back — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6qoaVUdbWMs

TWO WORD REVIEW: Growing Up

SUMMARY: Duncan is a 3 on a scale of 1 to 10. At least that’s what his Mom’s new boyfriend thinks, but that’s before Duncan spends the summer discovering who he really is.

DETAILS: Duncan’s Mom has a new boyfriend (Steve Carell) who owns a house at the beach and Duncan (Liam James) will unwillingly spend the summer there… and in the process he will become himself. The beach community is “like Spring Break for adults” where the parents party every night and Duncan and his neighbor Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) are left to while the summer away. Soon Duncan sneaks off to Water Wizz, the local water park where he finds purpose and a father figure (Sam Rockwell) who cares for him and helps him realize he has value and self-worth. The Way, Way Back is a fun, funny, and painful reminder of those awkward years transitioning from childhood to adulthood. The film has a great vibe and the cast does a fantastic job telling this story of a boy coming of age.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5
RELEASE: 2013
RATING: PG-13

Film Review: Living On One Dollar — 3.5 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze72rpWp_Dg

ONE WORD REVIEW: Empathy

SUMMARY: Four college friends spend their summer living on a dollar a day in rural Guatemala in an attempt to see what it takes to live like 1 Billion other people on the planet.

DETAILS: What would it take to live on $1 per day? Four college friends are about to find out by spending there summer in rural Guatemala in an attempt to see what it takes to live like 1 Billion other people on the planet. How do you make your rice and beans more nutritious? What can you grow to help supplement your meager income? What do you do when you are sick and can’t work? Can you rely on your neighbors? Imagine deciding between feeding your child or paying for their schooling. How can you afford a stove? Do micro loans make a difference? All of these issues are addressed in this powerful documentary that stares poverty in the face… and helps the viewer empathize with those living in these conditions. I really enjoyed this short documentary, but would’ve appreciated it even more if 10 to 15 minutes would have been added allowing us to really get to know our main characters better. Even so, it’s definitely worthy of an hour of your time.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2013
RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY

Film Review: La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) — 3.5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Beautiful

SUMMARY: An aging socialite realizes that the social scene he rules leaves him wanting a greater beauty.

DETAILS: Winner of the 2013 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, La Grande Bellezza tells the story of Jep Gambardella (wonderfully played by Toni Servillo). Jep is an aging socialite who rules the night life in Rome, but when he turns 65 he begins to realize that there is much more to life than the social scene he helped build. He discovers that his first love from his youth has died. She had married and spent her life with another man but, unbeknownst to anyone but her diary, she secretly longed for Jep. This begins Jep search for a greater beauty in this wonderful world. Beautifully shot on Italian locations, La Grande Bellezza contains subtle echoes of the book of Ecclesiastes… simple hints that “all is vanity”. There is a good bit of female nudity throughout this 2 hour and 20 minute production, but the film is enjoyable and one that even though I didn’t feel like I “got it”, I didn’t want the credits to roll. I was enjoying my time in Jep’s world and I was captivated by Toni Servillo’s performance. I will definitely track him down in other films.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2013
RATING: NR
FOREIGN
ACADEMY AWARD: Best Foreign Language Film

Film Review: Antonia’s LIne — 3.5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Women!?

SUMMARY: Antonia returns to her small, Dutch community of quirky, wonderful characters where she leaves a legacy of love and laughter in the midst of life’s pains.

DETAILS: Winner of the 1995 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Antonia’s Line shows the connectedness of family and community and the lineage we leave behind. Following World War II, Antonia and her daughter return to the village of her birth. The cast of this film is filled with wonderfully, quirky characters who breathe much life into the first half of this film. As the film progresses we see that Antonia and her line do not really need men (other than for occasional sex). Antonia ages throughout the story and we eventually see her line develop. The film is rated R for a reason, but the fun, quirky characters make this a fun film to watch.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5
RELEASE: 1995
RATING: R
FOREIGN

August: Osage County — 3.5 out of 5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Dysfunction

SUMMARY: A depressing look at a depressing family… which makes What’s Eating Gilbert Grape look like happy, fun-filled, roll-on-the-floor comedy.

DETAILS: Dysfunction does not adequately describe the family in this film. A star-studded cast with great performers tell the story of a family brought back together around the suicide of the father, but nothing is strong enough to keep these people together. By the end of the film everyone will have left and the crazy, prescription-addicted mom will be all that’s remains in Osage County Oklahoma.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

RELEASE: 2013
RATING: R

Beyond the Farthest Star — 3.5 out of 5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Complicated
SUMMARY: A family and their hidden secrets shake up a small Texas town.

DETAILS: Complicated…. This is probably one of the best “Christian” films I’ve seen. It’s gut-wrenching honest dealings with issues of hidden pasts, parenting difficulties, and troubled relationships are sure to hinder the profitability in the traditional “Christian Market” for this film, but hopefully it will help it find a much broader audience who are hungry for this style of honest filmmaking. A pastor and his family move to a small town to start afresh. The pastor was once sold as the “next Billy Graham” but something has obviously changed. His daughter is dark and into cutting and burning herself, his wife hides deep secrets of their past, and his story is about to thrust into the national spotlight due to a civil liberties case. The denouement of this film is way too long, but almost necessary to unravel all the threads that make up this complicated, yet compelling storyline. Look for it next Spring in select theatres. My good friend (and editor of two of my own films) James Burgess did the editing on this film and it’s definitely worth a watch.

SCORE: 3.5 out of 5

RELEASE: 2013 – Not Yet Released
RATING: PG-13