Film Review: Intimate Stranger — 3 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iVVGS1H_ZuQ

ONE WORD REVIEW: Sad!

SUMMARY: The compelling, tragic, global story of Joseph Cassuto, a man who loved his work more than his family.

DETAILS: Intimate Stranger is the story of Joseph Cassuto, an average, hardworking Jewish man whose life changed drastically due to WWII. Living in Egypt prior to the war, Joseph had a lovely wife and four children and a very successful career exporting Egyptian cotton to Japan, but following Pearl Harbor his life and career would take a drastic turn. His American wife and his two youngest children were able to return to America just prior to the war breaking out with the thought that Dad and the others would soon join them. But as fate would have it, it would be several years before they would arrive in Brooklyn, and in America, their successful father was a nobody. Mr. Cassuto soon started rebuilding his relationships with the Japanese and he eventually would live in Japan, away from his family, for 11 months of the year. As he became more loved by the Japanese, he became more hated by his own family. The best quote of the film is by one of his own sons who said, “I never met anybody who disliked him, other than the immediate family.” Intimate Stranger was made by Cassuto’s grandson Alan Berliner and is a great look at a man who busied himself too much with his career at the expense of those who should have loved him the most.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 3 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 1991
RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY

Film Review: La Ragazza del Lago (The Girl by the Lake) — 2 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X-7sIWNu4F4

ONE WORD REVIEW: Disappointing

SUMMARY: The body of a woman who everyone knew is discovered near an Italian lake and the small town investigator must determine who is guilty of the crime… but no one is talking.

DETAILS: Alright, let it be known that the only reason I watched this film is because I wanted to see Toni Servillo’s performance. I had enjoyed his acting in La Grande Bellezza and wanted to see some of his other films, but La Ragazza del Lago (The Girl by the Lake) left me disappointed on several levels. It’s the story of a woman’s body who is discovered naked, covered with a coat, by the lake in a small town in the Italian alps. The film begins with mystery and intrigue and the web is spun, but by the story’s end, you realize that most of the web was irrelevant. It just didn’t come together like it could have. Servillo’s performance is not up to his screen presence in La Grande Bellezza, but ultimately, this story just falls flat. Spend your 95 minutes on something more worthwhile.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 2 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2007
RATING: NR
FOREIGN FILM: Italian

Film Review: Monica & David — 4 stars

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xf3gqx_hbo-documentary-films-monica-david_shortfilms

ONE WORD REVIEW: Uplifting!

SUMMARY: In spite of them both having Down Syndrome, Monica & David marry and start their lives together.

DETAILS: Monica & David have Down Syndrome… and yet they won’t let that stop them from being happily married. Although dependent on Monica’s mother and step-father, Monica & David begin their lives together and show us that love is so much more than what we typically expect it to be. The film covers the stresses of the first year of marriage including a big family move, David’s adjustment to diabetes, and the thought of losing those you love. We also see the struggles of their parents who ultimately fear the day when they are dead and gone and can no longer care for and protect the children they love so much. I watched this film because I have a 6 year old daughter with Down Syndrome and I often look into her beautiful blue eyes and wonder what her future will hold. I have 5 other kids who I know will do okay out in the world, but it’s my youngest, the one with Down’s that I worry the most about… and she’s only 6. Monica & David is uplifting and inspiring. I highly recommend this film because it will show you that just because someone has Down Syndrome, it doesn’t mean they don’t have dreams and aspirations. Monica & David captures the humor, the resilience, and the heart that is Down Syndrome.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 4 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2009
RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY

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: Finding Normal — 2 stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hBJajC-crsQ

ONE WORD REVIEW: Sappy

SUMMARY: A big city doctor is required to perform community service in the small country town of Normal… and of course, she’ll fall in love and stay.

DETAILS: Big city doctor Lisa Leland (Candace Cameron Bure) is caught speeding through a small country town of Normal on her way to meet her boyfriend in the Hamptons. Due to her abundance of unpaid parking tickets she is arrested and ushered before the small town’s Judge/Doctor/Pastor (Lou Beatty, Jr.) for a hearing. She has no cash to pay her fines, they don’t take credit, so the only option is community service where she must take care of the town’s patients. Along the way we learn that the Judge has been praying for a replacement doctor and he hopes Lisa will be the one… and of course there’s a handsome single man in town (Trevor St. John) that catches her eye and eventually her heart. If the story sounds familiar, it’s because it is. In 1991 Michael J. Fox made this film (though not the “christian” version) which was called Doc Hollywood. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Doc Hollywood, but I definitely remember liking it more than I liked this film. There were plenty of good moments in Finding Normal (I liked Lou Beatty’s character), and it’s not “too Christian” for a broad audience, but in the end I just couldn’t get over it’s sappiness. To me it ended up being a lower quality, sap-filled, “Christian ripoff” of a big Hollywood film… but like I said, it has it’s moments, so you might want to check it out… especially if you’re not familiar with the Michael J. Fox version of the story.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 2.0 out of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2013
RATING: NR

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: How To Make A Book With Steidl — 4.5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Inspiring!

SUMMARY: Famed German bookmaker Gerhard Steidl brings passion with him as he works around the globe to print and bind the works of renowned photographers.

DETAILS: What does it take to make a book of photography? Paper, Images, Ideas, and of course, the most important resource, famed German bookmaker Gerhard Steidl. In this inspiring documentary we travel with Steidl around the globe, from Germany to New York, LA, Vancouver, Qatar, and other stirring locations as he shapes the printed work of renowned photographers. This film starts off a little slow, but then sucks you into the printing press and the creative process that goes into making a book one that will bear the name Steidl. If you do any creative work whatsoever, watch this film and be inspired to perform your work with beauty, grace, elegance, and passion.

WATCH THE TRAILER
SCORE: 4.5 of 5 stars
RELEASE: 2010
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: Cavite — 2.5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Slow

SUMMARY: An independent, foreign, gritty attempt to make a repetitive walking tour of the Philippines seem exciting.

DETAILS: Adam is a Filipino-American who returns to the Philippines for his father’s funeral, but upon his arrival he receives a phone call that leads him into a dark world of Muslim extremism and Jihad. The film is slow and repetitive, but given that it was made gorilla style, run-n-gun, probably without a single release form, I will give this film 2.5 out of 5. I like the independent, can-do spirit that the film embodies so well. We see plenty of the day-to-day reality, but I would have loved to have seen some breathtaking scenery of the Philippines.

SCORE: 2.5 out of 5
RELEASE: 2005
RATING: NR
FOREIGN

Rebellion of Thought — 4 out of 5 stars

ONE WORD REVIEW: Mine

SUMMARY: Two stories woven together… Post-Modernism explored and my personal journey away from the traditional church.

DETAILS: I haven’t watched this film in a few years and I realized that I come across as rather egotistical…. imagine that happening when someone puts themself into their own film!

SCORE: 4 out of 5
RELEASE: 2007

RATING: NR
DOCUMENTARY