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I’m not sure if there is a lack of good films available in the theaters just now, or it’s that we have been so preoccupied with other activities that we haven’t seen very many over the last few months.

But here are a two that we have seen recently and four that we saw earlier in the year in our movie club or at the Philadelphia Film Festival. The latter four are either in the theaters now or coming soon.

Eye in the Sky ****

MV5BNTY4Nzg5MTU0OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMjY2MjU2NzE@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,674,1000_AL_A ‘thriller’ of sorts that keeps you closely involved throughout its 102 minutes. The challenge is to capture terrorists, and in this film the emphasis is on using drones to carry out an operation.

However, what was supposed to be a capture assignment turns into a kill operation. And it becomes further complicated and tense when a young girl enters the kill zone.

The acting is terrific. Helen Mirren leads a very strong cast (in a role that was originally written for a male actor). All of the major performances are good ones.

Worth your time as a bit of escapism with some issues that are also worthy of exploring.

Ellen gave it five stars.

Sing Street ****

sing.MV5BMjEzODA3MDcxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODgxNDk3NzE@._V1_SY1000_SX675_AL_You might have to look around for this Irish tale of a young boy and a girl who are looking for a way out of their unhappy lives. As often seems the case in Irish films, it is through music that an escape is sought.

Conor (well played by Ferdia Walsh-Peelo) is a 14/15 year old boy who wants to impress a slightly older girl, Raphina (also well played by Lucy Boynton) who has issues of her own. Almost on a whim, Conor starts a band, with some advice from his older brother who also is ‘leading’ an unhappy life.

The writer/director John Carney has some how avoided the pitfalls of a coming of age, feel good movie that could easily have gone wrong and been overly sentimental. The story (set in the mid ’80s), the characters, and the music all seem to work well together, and both Walsh-Peelo and Boynton are a big reason it all seems to work.

Ellen gave it four stars.

The Innocents ****

innocents.1.MV5BZTQ2ZTAwOTAtMzg5Ny00MzU4LWI3YTUtNzFlMDUyMmUzMGY2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTEwMTY3NDI@._V1_We saw this film earlier this spring in our film club. It’s set in Warsaw in 1945 just after WW II has ended. In a convent, a nun, without the permission of the Mother Superior, sneaks a French Red Cross nurse (Mathilde) into the convent to minister to a sick nun. The convent has always prided itself on its separation from the outside world and bringing in an outsider is forbidden.

Based on a true story, it quickly becomes evident that the sick nun is pregnant, as are a number of other nuns, the result of a Russian occupation of the nunnery. What unfolds is largely the story of Mathilde’s interaction with the nuns who have been traumatized by what has happened to them.

The Innocents is a war story that differs from most, and this one is pretty good.

Ellen gave it 5 stars.


Viva.MV5BMjE4MTc4Njk4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTc4MDI3ODE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,778_AL_Another film club presentation, and it’s probably a good thing I didn’t know anything about this film prior to seeing it. Directed by Paddy Breathnach, an Irishman, but set entirely in Havana and in Spanish, it’s about Cuban drag performers in a nightclub.

Jesus, the lead character, does ‘make-up’ for these performers and dreams about being a performer himself. When he finally gets his chance, it’s interrupted when his long-absent father, a former boxer, comes out of the crowd and slugs him. What follows is a father-son “love story as the {two} men struggle to understand one another and reconcile as a family.”

While Viva is about a ‘world’ I never knew, and didn’t think I particularly wanted to know, the themes of following one’s dream and of a father and son conflict and resolution could be set anywhere. I don’t know how our film club rated this film, but the audience, myself included, was entranced by it.

Ellen gave it three stars.


And finally, of the two we saw in films festivals, the first is worth searching for, the second is to be avoided. As I posted earlier this year:

Dheepan ****


Though too long and in need of some editing, this film is an absorbing and consuming look at what the refugee experience is like for three, unconnected refugees from Sri Lanka. These individuals flee their war-torn country and end up in another conflict zone, this time in suburbs of Paris. I’m not sure the ending was in concert with the rest of the film or was largely just an attempt to make the audience feel good. Still, this is an engrossing, well acted, and well done film. Given the current events with refugees fleeing Syria and trying to get to Europe, Dheepan is not only timely but also gives insight to what it must be like for individuals and families who must leave their homes and their history in order to stay alive.

Ellen gave it four stars.

The Lobster * 

cannes-film-festival-2015-the-lobster-colin-farrellThis film was highly touted by the festival organizers and was apparently a big hit in Toronto. I couldn’t find much worthy in this one and was never sure what the director intended. Described as a dystopian, dark, comedic love story, it didn’t hold together and was simply weird. It was shocking to us that it was the winner of the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Festival. Maybe we just weren’t smart enough to ‘get it.’ (I should have followed my instincts and not the crowd, avoided this one, and gone to see something — anything — else instead.)

Ellen gave it 0 stars on my 1-5 star rating scale.