Category Archives: Film Listings/Ratings

Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski – 2014) A

This is one of those small movies that really stick with you. Filmed in lovely soft black and white and set in the sparse Polish countryside in the 60s. It is the story of Ida, who is about to take the vows and become a Catholic nun. She learns that her parents were Polish Jews and were killed during WWII. Along with her promiscuous alcoholic depressed aunt (who is also a Judge!) she sets off trying to locate where they came from and where they are buried. Ida has one of those faces that are haunting, sweet and smart. The actress does a fantastic job playing off against her aunt’s brash performance. The women examine their lives, the aunt with her situation thus far and Ida with her upcoming vows. They connect, talk a lot and learn form their experience. It is not a crises of of faith story really, more of a person’s connection to the past, the now and the choices to make for the future.

American Sniper (Clint Eastwood – 2014) C

This movie is a missed opportunity. It wants to say something about an interesting character, about his struggles with PTSD and maybe how he got over it and helped fellow soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. What we get though are thin cardboard characters that rarely feel real. The Chris Kyle we get here is not much more than a great sniper who even has a nemesis in Iraq, another sharp shooter for the other side. This really is the films central plot! Good Guy vs.Bad Guy. Guess who wins. In the few times he does return home we get slapped in the face with the subtlety of a hammer by how he “cannot adjust”, his wife complains and he’s back in Iraq. Then there’s a brother as well that the movie introduces and then seems to forget about. It would have been great to delve more into Kyle’s life after the war, how he helped others and what motivated him. At over 2 hours the movie still has no time for that.

Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler – 2013) B+

This is recent true event retelling about the police shooting of a young black man in San Francisco. It takes place in the 24 hours leading to that stupid senseless crime. Two major strengths made the film very compelling.  The movie does not make Oscar Grant III a perfect character or a blameless victim. It seems honest in its portrayal of a young man who had several troubles with the law but is on his way to coming out of that cycle. The performances are also very good especially by Michael B. Jordan who plays Oscar and Octavia Spencer as his mom.

Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy – 2014) B

Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) is an unlikable, desperate, sociopathic and intelligent slimeball of a man. Yet, it’s tough not to keep on watching him like one of those wrecks he films. He is an out of work loner who finds his calling in chasing car wrecks, crimes and mayhem in L.A. getting them on camera and selling them to the nightly news who is ever more desperate for more and more blood. The strength of this movie is in Gyllenhaal’s performance. He teeters on the verge of insanity while clearly being a very smart person. He manipulates those around him and soon starts manipulating the news he films. Good for Bloom, really bad for those involved.

A Most Violent Year (J.C. Chandor – 2014) B+

This is the story of one man trying to take his slice of the American dream. It’s the 80’s in Jersey and apparently the heating oil business is a rough trade. Oscar Isaac plays Abel Morales who is a self made man and wanting to grow. He wants to expand his business, pay his debts and at the same time fight a prosecutor coming after him for fraud. His trucks are getting jacked as well and he’s in a bind all around. He accepts no hand-out and no help, not even from his wife’s “connected” family. Morales is an interesting character and played perfectly by Oscar Isaac but the film is a bit uneven and anti-climactic at times.