Young Love In The Age of Trump (Movie Thoughts: The Sun Is Also A Star)

sunHow do young people fall in love in the age of Trump? Ry Russo-Young’s ‘The Sun Is Also A Star’ gives us a glimpse. The He is Daniel Bae (Charles Melton) and he is Korean, and the She is Natasha Kingsley (Yara Shahidi) and she is Jamaican. They meet in New York City but there is a hitch –  she and her family are being deported back to Jamaica, and they have a day to fall in love. Can they do it?

If you don’t think they can then you have a heart of stone. Or maybe you just cannot suspend disbelief.  Tracy Oliver’s screenplay (based on Nicola Yoon’s YA book) asks you to do that a lot here, and it could really get tiresome. But if you believe in love, and you believe in fate, then you should not have a problem enjoying this film.

The attractive actors make everything easy to swallow. At my prime time screening, the crowd erupted in applause when the two finally kissed. I am as hopeless a romantic as anyone, but at times I found some of the details of the plot cringe-worthy. But I enjoyed it more than I didn’t, and I really appreciated New York City basking in the sun. Moreover, I loved the authentic background flavor for the two leads. The filmmakers made sure we see that they are Korean and Jamaican. So I can’t totally hate on this. I can only celebrate.

A Feeling (Film Thoughts: The Souvenir)

large_souvenir-posterAbout a quarter in on Joanna Hogg’s ‘The Souvenir,’ there were a handful of walk-outs on my afternoon screening. I can empathize.  So far, the story wasn’t progressing much, and it seemed slow and the style on the self-indulgent side. But there’s a certain something in the movie that makes me keep on watching, there’s something there that draws me in. Perhaps I see that something in the character of Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) who is developing a relationship, maybe, with Anthony (Tom Burke)  But there’s a lot of murkiness there – are they dating. At some point they seem to be sleeping on the same bed, but joking about concrete divisions.

The title of the movie is from a painting by Jean Honore Fragonard, and it is of a woman who is carving her initials on a tree. She is in love, perhaps, as she seems to be holding a letter which she probably just got from her lover. The painting is a perfect metaphor for the film – how you view it depends on how you have experienced love. The most attractive part of the movie is that we see Julie change before our eyes, and by the end of the film, she is transformed to a person who has had a life-changing experience. Or perhaps she just fell in love. We all have, and damn it if we don’t see a mirror of our life in there somewhere. The film is not about a plot, or a story. This film is all about a feeling, akin to what that painting will represent in your life. This film is close to a masterpiece.

I want to see it again, and I wonder what part I will focus more. The film got ingrained in my head I literally dreamed about the characters the night I saw it. I wonder how long they will haunt me.

In The Mood For Love (Film Thoughts: Photograph)

DxfPDmRVAAAvs_G-810x1114A lot of love affairs start with a photograph (Isn’t Tindr basically the same thing?) and Ritsh Batra’s ‘Photograph’ takes that idea for this new romantic drama. I was looking forward to seeing this as I love me a good romantic drama, and Batra previously directed ‘The Lunchbox,’ a movie I also really liked. Batra’s style is nice and gentle, and indeed there is a gentility in this movie that is very appealing. Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Rafi, a photographer at the Gateway to India in Mumbai. he attracts people into taking a photograph by saying this moment in their life will never be captured again (I love the romanticism in his character’s approach) One day, he photographs Miloni (Sanya Malhotra) and something triggers between the two of them which culminates to her pretending to be his girlfriend for him to present to his grandmother. The story is simple – it never really veers away from that basic premise. It takes a long while for something – anything – to happen but I didn’t even mind that bit. You expect some kind of payoff at the end, but it never happens, and the open-ended conclusion really feels like a letdown. But, for some reason I am kind of fine with that – the world that Batra creates is so appealing that t felt good to just be in it. The setting, the music, the culture – what we have here would not normally appeal to me – but I found myself basking in all the elements. This film is mostly a mood, and I can’t get out of it.

Wayward Wish (Movie Thoughts: All You Ever Wished For)

268x0wFile ‘All you Ever Wished For’ under Bad films that happen to good people. It looks like this film has been on the shelf for a while and it recently got a VOD release. Darren Criss posted about it on his social media, and that’s how I learned about it. Sorry, Darren, but this film is a major misfire, and this after your Grand Slam year of winning every conceivable award for your portrayal of Andrew Cunanan in ‘American Horror Story.’  I wanted to like this film, and there is a whimsical aspect to the plot, but it’s a plodding mess. Its heart is its the right place but it’s just a failure in most other aspects. Criss is fine, and he even gamely indulges in the bad material, but there is only so much one can do. He posted that he had fun shooting the movie, and maybe that’s the consolation he can hold on to.

Romantic Rings (Film Thoughts: Tolkien)

Tolkien-Movie-Poster-600x640I have never been a big fan of fantasy, and I have never read any of J R Tolkien’s books. Even the Lord of The Ring movies have eluded me. So why was I very interested in seeing ‘Tolkien?’  Because it stars Nicholas Hoult, who is one of my favorite young actors. I know this movie wasn’t getting raves, and I truly wasn’t expecting much. And maybe because my expectations are low, I found myself really enjoying it, and I even shed a tear or two in the end. Maybe because I don’t know much about Tolkien’s work and life that I did, though. This film covers his ‘early’ years, before he wrote his first Hobbitt novel. So I approached this as just a story about a young man trying to find his voice, exploring friendships, and falling in love. Director Dome Karukoski doesn’t focus on one thing – it’s part love story, part biography, part war drama – but that didn’t bother me. Maybe because I was enamored with Hoult, who gives a real credible performance. And he has great chemistry with Lily Collins, who plays Edith Bratt, his love interest. When the story goes focuses on their love affairs, it perks up. I could watch the two of them discuss languages, or Wagner, for instance. And for me, I like that the film gives a glimpse of how his imagination spurred the beginnings of the novel, although I understand why it may not be enough for people who a re fans of his literary work. There are a lot of uneven work nowadays, and this may classify as one, but I think it is a worthwhile watch.

Loving The Vile (Film Thoughts: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile)

extremely-wicked-shockingly-evil-and-vile-800x1200Who isn’t in love with Zac Efron? I know I have been championing him for a while now, as I do think he is an extremely talented and versatile actor. He is getting more attention nowadays for his performance in the new film ‘Extremely Wicked Shickingly Evil and Vile’ (bad choice of a title since I cannpt retain it in my memory) and rightfully so – he is extremely effective portraying the serial killer Ted Bundy. Seen in the eyes of his long time girlfriend Elizabeth Kloepfer (who wrote a book based on her life with Bundy) this Ted Bundy is charming and handsome. It’s as if director Joe Berlinger has put you in the position of being one of his victims and you are able to experience how one gets manipulated and roped by this man. It’s a strange way to present a film about a serial killer. We never really get to see any of the killings, and at first thought you think, this film is as in love with Bundy (and Efron) as we are. But as I think about it more, I think it’s just an effective way to present Bundy. Even though Collins is great as Elizabeth, Efron takes over the film whenever he is on – his presence here i so magnetic that you are instantly and effectively drawn. Yes, it does seem like it is trying to glorify a serial killer, but in the initial eyes of his victims, he is glorified. And just like his victims, he instills fear as we get to know him better. There is a scene between Ted and Elizabeth towards the end which is supposed to be some kind of closure for their relationship, but instead is so horrifying it will make you feel sick and disgusted, yet there will be a nagging feeling in you that you will want more.

I initially had reservations about the film (even as I enjoyed Efron’s performance) – the pace is uneven, and there are some holes int he story telling. But taken as is, I think it’s still a worthwhile film. As my film ended, Netflix immediately followed my viewing with their docu series The TEd Bundy Tapes, and I think seeing those two things back to back will make the Bundy experience fuller. But then again, maybe one is enough.

Love Is Long (Movie Thoughts: Long Shot)

lsThe romantic comedy lives on in ‘The Long Shot.’  Directed by Jonathan Levine, this movie made me laugh, fall in love, and gave me this big smile to carry out as I left the cinema. And honestly, I cannot remember the last time that happened. Romance movies are best when you see two characters you love fall in love with each other, and that certainly happens here, even if the idea of these two people together is improbable. It doesn’t hurt that we get two great performances from Charlize Theron and Seth Rogan (playing Charlotte and Fred) While Rogan’s character is essentially a character that is a variation of every other character he has played on screen, he still sells it quite well, and he makes a nice lovable and fuzzy Jewish bear. But Theron astounded me – so down to earth and funny that her Charlotte Field is immediately so relateable and funny even as she plays such a larger than life figure – I mean, the youngest Secretary of State who is in line to be the next female President!

lssEven though the last quarter of it kind of fizzled for me – I wasn’t totally on board with a lot of the crudeness it went to – I still think this is a very worthwhile watch. And I kind of do understand why it went there – to get the male audience on board with this.  I guess I just need to get on board with how the romantic comedy is evolving. But it is still nice to see a movie where adults fall in love, and do not compromise when they make decisions for it. The adults in this film may sometimes act like children, but really, who am I to judge?