Archive for the ‘Netflix Film’ Category

Intimate Portrayal Of Loss

Pieces of a Woman

Director: Kornel Mundruczo

Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Ellen Burstyn, Shia LaBeouf, Sarah Snook, Benny Saldie, Iliza Shlesinger, Molly Parker

This film is only available on the streaming service Netflix

Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo’s immersive portrayal of a mother giving birth is the spell bounding opening scene of Pieces of a Woman which premiered at the 2020 Venice International Film Festival in which its star the supremely talented Vanessa Kirby walked away with the Best Actress prize at Venice.

Pieces of a Woman is brilliantly acted and beautifully directed.

The Emmy nominated star of The Crown, Vanessa Kirby is amazing as the pregnant Martha, an affluent young woman who decides along with her partner Sean wonderfully played with trapped aggression by Shia LaBeouf (Fury, Charlie Countryman) to have a home birth with the assistance of a midwife Eva played by House of Cards star Molly Parker. This controversial scene was shot with minimal editing and is graphic, visually impressive and holds the emotional crux of this film together.

Director Kornel Mundruczo cleverly uses a cinematic metaphor of a bridge being built over the Charles River in Boston, Massachusetts, which is in fact the bridge that construction foreman Sean is working on before his life completely unravels.

To add more emotional depth to the film, legendary and Oscar winning actress Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) is cast as Martha’s wealthy and controlling mother Elizabeth. The confrontational scene at the end of the film between Burstyn and Kirby is electrifying and a master class in screen acting.

Kirby tautly presents an intimate portrayal of loss, of a woman who gives birth and then loses everything and how her male partner and family react in different ways to this unprecedented tragedy. Vanessa Kirby’s nuanced and deeply complex approach to such a challenging portrayal of a woman will definitely earn her Golden Globe and Oscar buzz during the 2021 awards season.

Ellen Burstyn is equally superb as the mother Elizabeth who watches her daughter disintegrate emotionally and thinks that money and legal justice is the only solution to assuage the guilt and loss.

Succession star Sarah Snook has a brief role as a callous Boston lawyer who becomes too involved in Martha and Sean’s legal case. Pieces of a Woman is a superb film, beautifully written and absolutely riveting, an intelligent insight into a deeply taboo subject matter, which has not been tackled frequently in world cinema.

Pieces of a Woman gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended but not for sensitive viewers.

Broadway Comes Out in Indiana

The Prom

Director: Ryan Murphy

Cast: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, Andrew Rannells, Kerry Washington, Tracey Ullman, Keegan-Michael Key, Ariana Debose, Jo Ellen Pellman

This Film is Only Available on Netflix

Eat, Pray, Love director Ryan Murphy and TV writer of such hit shows as American Horror Story, Glee, American Crime Story assembles an all-star cast for the Netflix film production of the Broadway hit show The Prom, about a group of failed Broadway stars who decide to take on a personal crusade to assist a teenage lesbian girl Emma Nolan played by Jo Ellen Pelman who is not allowed to take her in the closet girlfriend Alyssa Greene played by Ariana Debose to the James Madison High School prom in conservative Indiana, in the American mid-West.

Besides James Corden’s cringe worthy performance as gay theatre actor Barry Glickman, it’s really three time Oscar winner Meryl Streep’s beautiful and tantalizing turn as the Broadway Star Dee Dee Allen which makes The Prom worth watching.

Oscar winner Nicole Kidman (The Hours) reunites with Meryl Streep and stars as the leggy actress Angie Dickinson to give some back up support. The Boys in the Band and Black Monday star Andrew Rannells plays the dashing but slightly dim-witted Trent Oliver, also a wannabe Broadway actor.

Django Unchained star Kerry Washington plays Alyssa’s conservative mother Mrs Greene, which is an interesting casting choice and Washington pulls off the role as a stuffy PTA mother who is ruling her daughter’s life and spearheading a campaign to prevent the lesbian Emma from bring another girl to the prom.

The traditional nexus of liberal open-minded egotism which clashes with small town conservatism is explored and laboured upon multiple times with numerous bouncy song numbers, which is just sufficient to convert the conservatism into an acceptance of all LGBT teenagers in the Midwest. Idyllic but not realistic. After all Broadway is a far cry from Indiana.

Director Ryan Murphy’s obsession with Indiana comes from the fact that he was born and grew up there, so The Prom could be a story about the director’s own difficulties with coming out in a conservative environment.

Barry Glickman’s own coming out as a gay man is heightened by the arrival of his mother Vera wonderfully played by Tracey Ullman, James Corden’s co-star in Into the Woods.  

The Prom is a really light and fluffy musical, a dream inspired vision of a culturally accepting Midwest which is a far cry from reality. Meryl Streep channels her Oscar nominated performance from The Devil Wears Prada as the outrageously narcissistic Broadway star Dee Dee Allen, although the script leaves such talented stars as Streep and Kidman floundering to make a lasting impression.

If audiences are looking for something superfluous and unsubstantial, then watch The Prom, it’s fun  but not intellectually challenging. This film is a far cry from Gus van Sant’s Oscar winning film Milk but nor is it meant to make a significant statement about LGBT rights in American schools in the 21st century.

The Prom gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10 and watch it for Meryl Streep and no one else. Streep plays a Ryan Murphy inspired version of herself, which is poignant since he had a fan club of her work when he was in high school in Indiana.

Bitchy Repartee

The Boys in the Band

Director: Joe Mantello

Cast: Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, Zachary Quinto, Andrew Rannells, Charlie Carver, Robin de Jesus, Brian Hutchinson, Tuc Watkins, Michael Benjamin Washington

This film is only available on the streaming service NETFLIX

The original 1970 film directed by William Friedkin

Based upon the Tony Award winning play by Mart Crawley, The Boys in the Band was originally made into a film in 1970 by the Oscar winning director of The French Connection William Friedkin. Screenwriter and playwright Mart Crawley died in March 2020.

50 years later, director Joe Mantello remade the film for Netflix and assembling an all gay cast to basically play bitchy versions of themselves in the 2020 version of The Boys in the Band.

Set in Greenwich Village, New York in 1968, this film is about 6 gay men who gather for a fabulous birthday party and one heterosexual man who accidentally gets invited. The cast includes The Normal Heart co-stars Jim Parsons and Matt Bomer who offers some genuine eye candy; Zachary Quinto (Star Trek, Margin Call) as Harold, Andrew Rannells (The Intern, Sex and the City 2) as the flirtatious Larry; Tuc Watkins as the straight acting Hank; Charlie Carver as the Cowboy and Robin de Jesus as the quick-tongued Emory along with Michael Benjamin Washington (Love and Other Drugs) as Bernard.

It’s really the Golden Globe winning star of the TV comedy series The Big Bang Theory Jim Parsons who steals the show in a masterful performance as Michael, the twisted and conflicted host of the party whose razor sharp tongue gets released during the second half of the evening as he viciously takes to the Vodka bottle and starts verbally annihilating his closest friends forcing them all to reveal their dark secrets.

Jim Parsons is brilliant in this film and he actually deserves an Oscar nomination in 2021. Parson’s portrayal of Michael is brittle and cruel, unleashing a verbal tirade of bitchy repartee on his unsuspecting guests only to be intellectually challenged by the equally vicious Jewish gay man Harold, another superb performance by Zachary Quinto.

Director Joe Mantello gives each of the characters in the film especially Bernard’s a perceptive flashback into their first crush.

The Boys in the Band has to be contextualized in contemporary queer history as its set the year before the infamous Stonewall riots that happened in Greenwich Village in July 1969, which was the initiation of the gay rights movement in America and a decade and a half before the devastating effects of the AIDS crisis which ripped through New York’s gay community in the mid 1980’s.

Viewers must watch this film as a play being performed. The Boys in the Band is a vicious portrayal of 30 year old gay men projecting the bullying the conventional heterosexual world put onto them while growing up onto each other, a dark and bitter self-loathing wrapped in vodka, chardonnay and forbidden desire.

The Boys in the Band is brilliant, a bitter and fabulous evening filled with bitchy one-liners held together by a superb performance by Jim Parsons, who is the glitter that holds the group together.

The Boys in the Band gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is available on Netflix.

The Papal Tango

The Two Popes

Director: Fernando Meirelles

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Jonathan Pryce, Juan Minujin, Luis Gnecco, Cristina Banegas, Sidney Cole, Libero de Rienzo

Please note The Two Popes is only available on Netflix and did not receive a comprehensive theatrical release.

Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles (Constant Gardener, City of God, 360) brings us a sumptuous glimpse into the conclave or the voting of a new Pope behind the magnificent walls of the Vatican City in Rome in his latest Netflix film The Two Popes starring Oscar winner Anthony Hopkins (The Silence of the Lambs) as Cardinal Ratzinger who become Pope Benedict and Jonathan Pryce (The Wife, Carrington) as the Argentinian Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio who eventually becomes Pope Francis.

The Two Popes focuses on a clash of ideals between a conservative Cardinal Ratzinger expertly played by Hopkins who is intent on holding the Catholic church back from any contemporary reforms or even discussing any recent controversies that have recently tainted the Catholic Church including the sexual abuse scandal which the Oscar winning film Spotlight so brilliantly explored in the American archdiocese in Massachusetts and in other states.

Cardinal Bergoglio superbly played by Jonathan Pryce is a progressive thinking Cardinal who would like to make the Catholic Church accessible to the impoverished masses especially in Latin America where Catholicism dominates so proficiently.

Bergoglio has endured his own dark history in Argentina as he desperately tried to protect the left wing subversive Jesuit priests in Buenos Aires from a brutal right wing military junta which gained power in Argentina in a 1976 coup killing thousands of dissidents known as The Dirty War: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dirty_War .

Controversially, Bergoglio was viewed in his own country as compromising with the military junta and was exiled in Argentina for many years as punishment for colluding with a regime which forced thousands of people to disappear in Argentina’s most brutal decade until democracy was eventually restored in 1983 following the Argentine military defeat by the British during the Falklands War.

The younger Jorge Bergoglio is wonderfully played by Argentinian actor Juan Minujin (Focus) as he deals with the moral dilemma of remaining true to his faith while supposedly appeasing a harsh military dictatorship.

With an insightful script by Anthony McCarten, the most rewarding scenes in The Two Popes are the brilliant scenes between Cardinals Bergoglio and Ratzinger as the older Cardinal announces his intention to renounce the papacy. Both Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce nail their roles as the respective diametrically opposed Cardinals, speaking in multiple languages who form a formidable bond over Roman pizza and Argentinian football.

The Two Popes is a stunning portrait of two men who hold the fate of the entire Catholic world in their hands yet seemingly toy with subjects ranging from confession to modernization while both revealing their own inner demons. Fernando Meirelles directs the film with his usual visual flourish as the action alternates between the lavish grandeur of the Vatican City to the bustling metropolis of Buenos Aires.

The Two Popes is a stunning portrait of two men who hold the fate of the entire Catholic world in their hands yet seemingly toy with subjects ranging from confession to modernization while both revealing their own inner demons. Fernando Meirelles directs the film with his usual visual flourish as the action alternates between the lavish grandeur of the Vatican City to the bustling metropolis of Buenos Aires.

An Interminable Battle

Marriage Story

Director: Noah Baumbach

Cast: Adam Driver, Scarlett Johansson, Laura Dern, Ray Liotta, Alan Alda, Julie Hagerty, Lucas Neff, Merritt Wever, Azhy Robertson

Please note Marriage Story is only available on Netflix and did not receive a comprehensive theatrical release.

The Squid and the Whale director Noah Baumbach brings an incisive story of a contemporary marriage disintegrating in his Netflix’s released film Marriage Story starring Oscar nominated actor Adam Driver (BlackKklansman) as Charlie the husband and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Vicky Cristina Barcelona) as Nicole who make up a trendy young New York couple.

Nicole is an aspiring stage and screen actress who falls in love and marries Charlie an off-Broadway theatre director. The couple have an eight year old son Henry played by Azhy Robertson (Juliet, Naked). Very rapidly and much to Charlie’s shock and surprise, their marriage starts disintegrating when Nicole discovers that her husband had a brief affair with a theatre intern.

Expertly played by Scarlett Johansson, Nicole moves back to Los Angeles where she stays with her mother Sandra played by Julie Hagerty (Flying High). There, she enlists the assistance of a hard as nails California divorce attorney Nora Fanshaw superbly played by Oscar nominee Laura Dern (Rambling Rose, Wild).

When the hard reality of divorcing Charlie comes into focus, Nicole has to grapple with all sorts of issues such as child custody and marital finances especially since Charlie has just received a massive Arts Grant to direct a Broadway production with a group of theatre actors back in New York.

Charlie, featuring an outstanding performance by Adam Driver, is suddenly forced to go to Los Angeles to also enlist a divorce lawyer, a cut-throat shark named Jay Marotta wonderfully played by Ray Liotta (Goodfellas, Kill the Messenger).

Writer and director Noah Baumbach incisively dissects the dissolution of a marriage as Charlie and Nicole become embroiled in a bitter divorce battle which is overshadowed by the vicious divorce lawyers as each of their lives becomes an incriminating portrait of how a marriage, a partnership shatters into a million pieces with their son Henry caught in the middle.

In Marriage Story, Noah Baumbach perfectly examines the emotional effects of a divorce on a couple who really haven’t considered all the ramifications of a traumatic separation. Adam Driver expertly portrays the emotional toll a father has as he uproots his career in New York to try and sort out a divorce which is being sued for in a Californian courtroom.

Adam Driver is terrific as Charlie and is really a brilliant actor, whose talent was exceptionally displayed in director Spike Lee’s masterful dissection of race relations in 1970’s Colorado in his Oscar winning film BlackKKlansman.

Set between New York and Los Angeles, Marriage Story is the 21st century version of the Oscar winning 1979 film Kramer vs Kramer and is recommended viewing for those that have the Netflix streaming service. The performances are brilliant.

Marriage Story gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

Betrayal and Remorse

The Irishman

Director: Martin Scorsese

Cast: Robert de Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, Bobby Cannavale, Harvey Keitel, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Ray Romano, Jack Huston, Jesse Plemons

Please note this film is currently only available on the Streaming Service Netflix and had a very limited theatrical release in cinemas.

When I heard that the latest Martin Scorsese film, The Irishman was only going to have a Netflix release I was deeply perplexed. Scorsese has always championed the art of cinema, of audiences watching films in a cinema. Especially his films. Scorsese is also passionate about film restoration both digitally and for preservation purposes.

Considering that The Irishman runs for 3 and a half hours, I can understand why Scorsese choose the world’s most famous streaming service to release his latest masterpiece. Most of Scorsese’s other films run for under 3 hours which is manageable in a cinematic format and palatable for audiences to sit through.

The Irishman is exceptionally long but it is worth the reward considering the talent that Scorsese procured to act in this exceptional film about the mafia, hitmen and Union boss Jimmy Hoffa. His long-time collaborator Oscar winner Robert De Niro (Raging Bull, The Godfather Part II) is sensational as Frank Sheeran who is basically in every frame of this digital masterpiece as is Oscar winner Al Pacino (Scent of a Woman) who is utterly captivating as the Union Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa who mysteriously disappeared in Detroit in 1975.

Equally brilliant is Oscar winner Joe Pesci (Goodfellas) who came out of acting retirement to star as mafia heavyweight Russell Bufalino who answered to the Detroit and Chicago mafia.

Unfortunately, the part of Frank’s disapproving daughter Peggy Sheeran played by Oscar winner Anna Paquin (The Piano) is underwritten and not fully utilized especially in the crucial scenes between her and her father who is basically a hitman for the mob or as some people like to say “I Heard You Paint Houses”.

Al Pacino really steals the show as Jimmy Hoffa a larger than life character who refuses to buckle to pressure from the Mafia even when he allowed them to use the union’s immense pension money to fund the mob’s gambling operations in Las Vegas and Atlantic City in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.

The Irishman could have had 30 minutes shaved off the film and Scorsese could have released it in cinemas as I personally found the last section of this epic tale dragged considerably especially when trying to view it on a mobile device.

Superb performances by De Niro, Pesci and Pacino make The Irishman worth watching but viewers be sure to have three and a half hours spare. It’s a stunning film but could have been edited sufficiently to condense the exceptionally large canvas that Scorsese always tries to paint, except in this case it’s a streaming canvas which has made Netflix even wealthier.

The Irishman gets a film rating of 8.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing purely for the phenomenal acting of such veteran stars as De Niro, Pesci and of course Pacino who is a revelation.

Let’s see how The Irishman fares during the 2020 Awards Season although if Al Pacino doesn’t win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role, then that is a great cinematic injustice.

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