"By the Grace of God, 2019 Philadelphia Film Festival, American Factory, Before Sunrise, Dark Waters, Ford vs Ferrari, Knives Out, Marcel Marceau, Movie Reviews, Movies, Resistance, Streaming Movies, The Good Liar, The Irishman, Uncorked
by Ellen Miller
The last movie reviews we offered you via Millerstime.net were the dozen we saw at the Philadelphia Film Festival in October of last year. (See Philadelphia City of Brotherly Love and Good Movies if you missed that post or are looking for movie suggestions.)
It wasn’t that we haven’t seen some good films since our last posting, but it’s a bit late to go back and review them. Some that come to mind now you have probably found for yourself. But if you haven’t seen these six — By the Grace of God, Dark Waters. Knives Out, Ford Vs Ferrari, The Irishman, Saint Frances – we highly recommend them. They are all quite different from each other, but they all meet MillersTime rating of a four or five stars.
Between these and our post from the Philadelphia Film Festival, many of these are available in the “streaming” world now. But given the times we now live in, your MillersTime reviewers have to get over their “Big Screen” fascination and focus on television for movie watching. (Our TV is
currently regarded as under-sized by our daughters and probably yours would be too, but it will have to do for the moment.)
So, we are renewing our commitment to bring you movie reviews — recommendations on “screened” films. We’re not sure if seeing these at home makes them different from seeing them in a theater, but we’ll return to that thought as we continue to watch from home.
So settling down in the chairs in our study a couple of evenings a week, so far we’ve enjoyed:
This is the story of an African-American family whose eldest son dreams of becoming a sommelier, despite his father’s wishes that he go into the family’s very successful BBQ business. The plot is somewhat predictable – family dynamics – but the acting and direction of the film creates something unique. It’s set in Memphis where we’ve always want to spend some time, and the vibe of that city lends a lively backdrop to the story behind a quite reserved film. All and all, it’s very enjoyable. Writer and Director: Prentice Penny, NETFLIX
Ellen **** Richard **** 1/2
The Good Liar:
We missed this film when it was out in the theaters and were delighted by it when we saw it at home. The film is about a consummate con man Roy, played by Ian McKellan, who sets his sights not only on Russian mobsters and the like, but also on a lonely woman, played by Helen Mirren. Without giving away the plot (it’s intricate and clever), let’s just say that was a bad mistake on his part. Cleverly written, and of course superbly acted, you’re not going to be distracted by other things around you house that need doing. Director: Bill Condon AMAZON PRIME+
Ellen ***** Richard *****
This film won the Best Documentary Feature at 2020 Academy Awards. With its pedigree – the producer is Participant Media with support from the Obamas’ new film enterprise and two expert directors by Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert – you’d expect nothing less than near perfect in the telling of the story. And that’s what you get.
The documentary focuses on the story of an abandoned GM car plant in Ohio, purchased and repurposed by a Chinese billionaire. It is a tale of clashing cultures, of ideas, goals, and commitments of American enterprise vs the Chinese one. The strength of this movie (told artfully through personal interviews and great documentary photography) are the interviews of both the Chinese and Americans involved in this enterprise, allowing them to tell their story. The film’s approach is even handed. The issues of the future of modern day manufacturing are laid bare for all to see. It offers no answers, but it does raise questions for the future of American industry that are profound. Directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. NETFLIX
Ellen ***** Richard *****
This is an older film (1995), a romance, and it was recommended on a list we found for people who enjoy travel. It tells the story of the two beautiful young people (Ethan Hawke as Jesse and Julie Delpy as Celine) who meet by happenstance on a train. Jesse is on his way back to the States, and he convinces Celine to spend 24 hours in Vienna with him. As they explore that classic city, they fall for each other. We’re not going to spoil the development of their relationship or the ending, which is predictably dramatic. Their conversations about love, marriage/partnership, and the meaning of life are thoughtful and ring true. This is not the type of movie usually in our wheelhouse, but we enjoyed it. Above all, it is a movie about taking a random chance that might just change your life. Director Richard Linklater. AMAZON PRIME VIDEO.
Ellen **** Richard ****
This very recently released film (AMAZON PRIME) is a Holocaust tale of bravery and selflessness in the face of supreme Nazi evil. It tells the story a young Marcel Marceau (born Marcel Mangel and played by Jesse Einsenberg). Marceau, along with his brother and other young members of the French Resistance faced peril and the horror of Klaus Barbe to rescue orphaned Jewish children of all ages. There’s plenty of drama and suspense to keep your attention. This is not just another story of the Holocaust. Richard and I recalled that we saw Marceau preform many years ago, but neither of us knew anything about his past as is explored in this new feature length film. Director: Jonathan Jakubowicz.
Ellen **** Richard ****
.** ** **
Finally, please feel free to add your thoughts (in the Comment section above or in an email) on any of these films and consider recommending others that you have seen recently and have enjoyed.
Elizabeth Frost said:
I have my list for the week. THANK YOU!!!
Comments will follow.
Christopher McCleary said:
If you have Amazon Prime, you can also “rent” recent in-theater releases under the Prime Video Cinema tab. Prices are typically $19.99 for an Ultra HD rental. Given that most theaters are closed due to COVID-19, distributors have been making many of their recent theatrical releases available to streaming audiences in this way of late.
bill plitt said:
Thank you Ellen and Rick for the suggestions on TV. We watched The Good Liar last night and how could it not be with Mirren and McKellan in the lead -superb acting and intriguing plot. Definitely a five star production. Must be McKellan’s last performance, perhaps. Looking forward to your other choices, desperate for entertainment. Our singing and guitar playing is only good for awhile….
Bill Plitt said:
Dear Ellen and Rick, We’re lovin’ your picks! WE watched “Uncorked’ and found it profound in it’s message about the power of relationships, particularly familiar ones like family, and the romantic ones during times of stress and celebration.
The young man’s struggle with his dream and his loyalty to his father were palatable, and endured through out the film, some of it without the words to the other, especially the father who demonstrated his growing respect for his son, though at some cost, by his actions.
As a film, “Uncorked” is a velvet hammer with powerful performances and deep sub stories of passion and love. As a father of two sons, I thought of my own growth in understanding and appreciating their love of their art, and their persistence to their dreams even though I might have thought differently in the earlier years of their journeys .
Thank goodness for their mother, my wife who never faltered, as was also the case with Eli’s mom. Bring on the next film! BiLL
Bill Plitt said:
I couldn’t find Resistance on Netflix
bill plitt said:
I did find it in on Amazon (“RESISTANCE” film.)
Kay and I found the film on Marcel Marceau to be captivating and intense, scattered with the spirit of hope throughout the film. It is my interpretation that even the character of Lt. Klaus, of the SS occupied force in France, who was a beast essentially, had moments of hopefulness.
I am reminded of Martin Luther King’s essay on “Loving Your Neighbor”, where he expresses his belief that fundamentally, all people have an element of goodness in them. He starts there. I must say that approach has influenced my view of our world, particularly with the project that Kay I have participated in for the last 14 years in support of a Palestinian farmer south of Bethlehem, whose family practices this belief every day in “refusing to be enemies”.
But I digress… I saw the human side in Lt. Klaus’s character in four scenes. One began when Jesse Eisenberg, who played Marcel Marceau so spectacularly, by the way, says to his companion, Emma, after she has witnessed the tortured death of her own sister, “Do you want to seek revenge on the SS officer and everyone around him, or put your energies in securing the safety of as many young Jewish orphans as you can?”
She then says that the latter is preferable in the long run. This sets the stage for me for understanding the remainder of the film, as horrible as it seems in general, and specifically, for Lt. Klaus’s character specifically.
An example of one of four times when his humanity becomes evident for me. When a choir from the orphanage is confronted on a train leading to freedom in Switzerland by Lt. Klaus, he witnesses one of the girls singing the “Ave Maria”, and is struck by the beauty of her voice.
Moments later, he asks Marcel how did she get to have such a beautiful voice, because he would like his own new baby to have such an opportunity. Marcel’s response is disarming, and I’ll let you discover it on your own, but what that moment brought for me was a glimpse of the humanity of that soldier in deep seeded evil. It was one of several redeeming moments that followed.
We highly recommend seeing the film. For me, for the reasons that I attempt to seek hope in all the world we are facing at the moment. There is no other choice as did say Emma in her response to Marcel’s dilemma. Bill
Bill Plitt said:
We are enjoying the Miller family suggestions for films. SO far they are 3/3 on their selections- uncanny that they could find such wonderful entertainment at this time. Last night we viewed our forth one: “Before Sunset”, Bingo! Another winner. I am thinking they have another career.
Essentially, a two person picture filled with young, somewhat innocent, and intimate engagements, though at alternating times, one at time, a “partner” makes an aggressive move into the other person’s life. Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) explore the edges of life’s greatest questions in an adventuresome and energizing way. You leave the film after their 24 hr. binge wondering what next. It was a pleasant surprise and made Kay and I reflect on our own marriage of 53 years, and decide again, we made the right choice, though I think I got the better of the deal. BiLL
So glad you and Kay are enjoying some of the films we’ve cited.
Ellen spends a lot of time researching ones for us to see (she’s always done that, prior to the virus, etc.), and also we don’t review everyone we see as despite our attempts to weed out some, not everyone we see is a winner. You get the ones that we’ve generally rated four or five stars.
Bill Plitt said:
I found this documentary released last year, a work of art, and an amazing capture of a cultural clash of two strands of humanity, “on stage” in a newly acquired factory on common ground. As a sociologist, this is a field day. So much to sort out that I will be thinking about it for some time. I don’t know whether to feel badly about how it is portrayed, or be hopeful for future such ventures.
The review in the New York Times says it all for me:
“American Factory is seeing everything about the United States through the eyes of Chinese factory workers and managers arriving to reopen and restaff a plant in the rust belt. American Factory is the view we never get. Americans know how they feel about competing with China. But we don’t know how China feels about working with America.”