From Wall To Waffle (Movie Thoughts: Waffle Street)

20161227121721‘Waffle Street’ is a film based on Jimmy Adams’ memoir of the same title, where he chronicled his ‘fall from grace’ going from a Fixed Income trader to serving tables at a local waffle house, and this happened after the economic meltdown of 2008. It’s an interesting enough story, but it feels a little sleight for a feature film. James Lafferty plays Adams, and he is fine in the role – cute and charming – but while watching the film, I couldn’t help but want for something more – more depth, more drama, more dynamics. The film, as it stands, is mostly  fine, but truly forgettable.  Sometimes being boring is a bigger crime.

Take Care (Movie Thoughts: Sticky Notes/The Carer)

MV5BNjE1Mjk2YjItMzdmYy00NjJjLTg2OTktMzRiN2U5NjBlNWU2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTk3NDkwMTY@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,706,1000_AL_I just saw two films in a couple of days with similar themes – taking care of elderly people. This topic is very close to me because I went through it, and in some ways I am kind of glad that I have ‘graduated’ from it, but it certainly is a story that can be told in very different ways.

Amanda Sharpe’s ‘Sticky Notes’ stars Rose Leslie as a struggling dancer in Los Angeles who gets ‘summoned’ by her father in Florida after he reveals to her that he has been diagnosed with cancer. So she sets out to visit at first, and goes through the process of giving care to his father as he starts chemotherapy. Ray Liotta plays his father – rough, gruff, difficult. (I was racking my brain the whole first part of the film to see where I knew Rose Leslie from, for she seemed ver familiar, until I realized she is in that spinoff of The Good Wife on CBS.)  Their strained father-daughter relationship gets a boost here, and things get fairly predictable after. There is a little bit of unnecessary epilogue here but all in all this is a pleasant if perfunctory film about loss, love, and all its accessories.

downloadI liked the ‘The Carer,’ much better. This is a British-Hungarian production that more or less treads the same formula. An elderly Shakespearean actor, played by Brian Cox gets taken cared of by a young Hungarian actress, and yadda yadda yadda they learn more from each other. I mean, I can just give you the synopsis and you can more or less tell what the film would be like. But the script here has a lot of nice touches, and Coco Konig makes a fine debut as the caregiver. Or perhaps I am just an Anglophile – the sights and sounds of London and British countryside was very much appealing to me from start to finish, and of course, Brian Cox holds the screen effortlessly. The feel of this film is more TV movie, but i’s quite rewarding nonetheless.

Resurrection in Stone (Film Thoughts: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone)

The_Resurrection_of_Gavin_Stone_film_posterI figured since it’s Easter, I might as well write about something related to it, and I searched and searched until I found this new-ish movie titled ‘The Resurrection of Gavin Stone.”  It is produced by Vertical Church Films Production, and to me that’s sounded scary, and I was expecting some kind of propaganda film meant to sway people into concerting to Christianity – these people are always recruiting.

It’s not really all the way like that, to be honest. There’s a sweet little film here, with an expected message, and predictable story. I don’t think there was one surprise here – it is exactly what you think it will be. Gavin Stone (an adorable Brett Dalron) is a troubled former child star who gets sentenced to two hundred hours of community service, which he has to serve in church. He starts out in a janitorial position but finds out the church is in the process of mounting an Easter play, so he inserts himself in there to play the role of Jesus, and of course there’s a little road block, the director, played by Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, playing one of those predictably uptight Christians. Hilarity ensues, and you can tell the by-the-numbers script what happens after and at this point. The movie means, well, but it is not bigger than a Hallmark movie channel (that network is referenced in one of the dialogues) It’s not a bad film, just a forgettable one, and sometimes that’s worse.

It’s Mental (Film Thoughts: The Other Half)

large_other_halfMental Illness is a serious issue, but it could be hard to watch. Imagine if this was a premise for a movie, a love story to boot. ‘The Other Half’ has an appealing couple, played by Tom Cullen and Tatiana Maslany, but i found it unwatchable. It did not help that there was not much plot there, and I kept waiting for something to happen, and nothing much ever did. The two actors are nice to look at, but that only takes you so far. This is a miss for me.

Grow Up! (Movie Thoughts: Almost Adults)

357424movieSomeone described this film as a movie version of ‘Girls,’ and I think it’s apt, because I felt the characters here are as annoying as the ones from Lena Dunham’s show. BFFs Mackenzie (Elise Bauman) and Cassie (Natasha Negovanlis) live in the same house and have known each other forever, yet for some strange reason, Mackenzie still has not confessed to Cassie that she is gay. Even her parents just shrug her coming out. I thought that for millennials, sexual orientation wasn’t a major issue, yet in Director Sarah Rotella’s film here, it becomes the major plot point. Besides that, though, I found nothing to like about the characters in the film and couldn’t care less if they kissed, died or had eggs for breakfast. Is it just old age that is making me react like this?

Tales From The Kitchen (Film Thoughts: Kusina)

0bbikhaIf we were still in a very misogynistic world (some would argue we still are) then we could make a statement that a woman’s place is in the kitchen.  Juanita’s domain is in the kitchen, and the kitchen is the silent witness to her life, providing constancy and comfort for her. A lot of Filipino culture is centered around the kitchen, and ‘Kusiba’ (translated to kitchen) is in a lot of ways a mirror of Filipino life.

Juanita’s story starts before the Second World War and goes through the turbulent Marcos years. It’s really a simple story of a woman and her life lived, but it becomes a lot more because of Judy Ann Santos-Agoncillo’s astounding performance as Juanita. Santos-Agoncillo is one of the last of those actresses with genuine star power. Her simplicity lights up the screen, and her maturity and experience has even given more layers in her performances here. She handles Juanita here with skillful subtleties – it is never over, even when sometimes it calls for it. But because she has great artistic instincts, she knows how to rein herself in. Witness her breakdown scene towards the end of the movie – it seasoned just enough. A hand of a lesser actress would have given it excess. (Could you imagine that other ‘Santos’ doing that scene – she’d be flailing her arms and lifting her legs up in the air)  Look at her luminescence int he film scene of the movie – she was able to convey happiness and contentment without saying a word. Few can do that, and she does it extremely well.

Her performance elevates the movie, which could at times be problematic. I have no problems with its limitations, but I have to admit that at times the film feels claustrophobic. It’s theatrical in set up, and shot on a sound stage, and I do wonder if the material written by Cenon Palomares, was originally written for theater. He, along with David Corpuz directed the film. It may sound like I am nit picking, but I am not. I truly enjoyed the film, and found myself touched towards the end, thinking about Juanita’s character after the film ended. maybe I just miss my mother who passed on twenty six years ago.

Art Is Easy (Movie Thoughts: Paterson)

paterson_ver2It would be easy to dismiss Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Paterson’ as a small movie about nothing. In fact, at some point while watching the film, I am as guilty of thinking the same.  The film chronicles Pateron, played by Adam Driver, and his daily routines: waking up, kissing his wife, getting on a bus to drive through the main street of the New Jersey town of Paterson, having lunch by the waterfalls, getting home, having a drink by the bar while he walks the dog. Rinse and repeat. But as the day goes on, you see that there is more than that. He writes poetry – sometimes while waiting to start driving, at other times while having lunch by the falls. He gets inspiration from ordinary things – a box of matches, conversations in the bar. We see a glimpse of his soul through these poems which float on the screen as he writes them. His wife Laura (Golshifteh Farahani, of Iranian descent, and i hope she has not been victimized by the Trump travel ban) nags him to make copies of his poems. She sees potential in them, to him it is just an outlet of artistic expression. The subtleties here are magnificent, the simplicity grand. Stephen Sondheim says art isn’t easy, this film shows it can be, it can come natural, unforced. I found myself terribly touched by the message of the movie – how the small things we do may not make a big impact but maybe that’s not, or never will be the point. Like my daily writings here – perhaps no one else besides me will read this, and I am not going to pretend these are Pulitzer pieces. But writing these make me happy, they make me express my initial feelings about art – a movie I saw, a book I read. It doesn’t really matter, but it does.