Movie Reviews 

Minari

by Alan Rapp on February 12, 2021

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Minari
  • IMDb: link

Minari movie reviewMinari gives us a look at the American dream through the eyes of a Korean-American family relocating from California to rural Arkansas where Jacob (Steven Yeun) hopes to make his fortune growing and selling Korean vegetables across the region while he and his wife (Yeri Han) temporarily make due with jobs at a nearby hatchery. Although his wife is far from certain about his plan, or their new double-wide mobile home, the family works to put down roots and begin a new life. And life is what Minari is all about.

The semi-autobiographical film by writer/director Lee Isaac Chung showcases the family’s ups and downs in 1980s Arkansas far from anything or anyone that remind them of home. At times amusing, such as dealing with the couple’s rambunctious son David (Alan S. Kim), at times uncomfortable, such as the couple struggles over Jacob’s priorities putting the farm above the family, and at times heartbreaking, as the family struggles with misfortune, Minari is a well-crafted slice of life from an unique perspective that feels lived-in and real. Chung’s love of the time and place is palpable in every scene of the film as he wistfully peers back through the years for home.

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Nomadland

by Alan Rapp on January 29, 2021

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Nomadland
  • IMDb: link

Nomadland movie reviewNomadland is a quiet, contemplative film not unlike Into the Wild or Wild in which a character leaves behind the conventions of society in search of something their former life can no longer offer. In the case of writer/director Chloé Zhao‘s tale, adapted from the book by Jessica Bruder, our character is an older widow who has lost nearly everything in the Great Recession including the home she made with her late husband when the town completely collapsed.

Taking to the road in a van, we travel along with Fern (Frances McDormand), meeting a number of other people in the same position searching for a way to make due with the little they have and hang on to the last of their independence. We discover a large community of the nomads, helping each other learn the tricks to survive. Bruder’s book took an in-depth look at the real nomad culture of older Americans hitting the road in RVs of all shapes and sizes looking for work and a way to get by. We don’t have to guess about the reality of these characters as many people play themselves in the film making Zhao’s tale an unusual blend of dramatic character study and documentary with Fern acting as the audience’s doorway into this world.

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One Night in Miami

by Alan Rapp on January 15, 2021

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: One Night in Miami
  • IMDb: link

One Night in Miami movie reviewRegina King brings Kemp Powers’ award-winning play to the silver screen offering a fictionalized account of the gathering of four prominent Black Americans, – Cassius Clay (Eli Goree), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), and Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) one night in Miami after Clay beat Sonny Liston (Aaron D. Alexander) to become the Heavyweight Champion of the World. The contemplative gathering, coordinated by Malcom X, is far from the raucous celebration the others expected, but it delivers dramatic tension aplenty as tempers flare over disagreements on the role of prominent black men in America.

Kemp Powers is on-hand to adapt his own screenplay, and Regina King adds some nice touches here (including showing us some of the Liston/Clay fight) to help set the stage. The real movie takes place once the four men get in a room together. Despite relying on larger-than-life characters, the film doesn’t caricaturize them in any way, presenting them of men of the time with strong opinions and passions. Four men alone in a room arguing may not sound like the key to crafting a can’t-miss film, but King and Kemp pull it off.

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Promising Young Woman

by Alan Rapp on January 6, 2021

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: Promising Young Woman
  • IMDb: link

Promising Young Woman movie reviewReferring to Promising Young Woman as revenge porn may be apt, but it’s also doing writer/director Emerald Fennell‘s devilish film a disservice. Mixing revenge, genuine dramatic underpinnings, and a dark sense of humor, the story twists and turns to squealish delight. Once promising medical student Cassie (Carey Mulligan) now lives with her parents and serves coffee at a small café. And in her spare time she targets men who take advantage of women in compromising positions.

Fennell is careful early on not to show us too much of Cassie’s tactics after she’s sprung her trap, allowing our imaginations to fill in the blanks about what this woman is up to as well about the reasons driving her behavior. The later is hinted at as the script drops breadcrumbs before confirming the events which led to Cassie leaving school. Cassie’s more general attacks become focused as she targets those connected to medical school (Adam Brody, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, and Alfred Molina). However, her plans are complicated by her first relationship in years and a boyfriend (Bo Burnham) who causes her to question the dark turns her life has taken.

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News of the World

by Alan Rapp on December 29, 2020

in Movie Reviews 

  • Title: News of the World
  • IMDb: link

News of the World movie reviewThe idea of a man travelling from town to town to read newspapers may seem quaint in today’s information age, but the collaboration between Paul Greengrass and Tom Hanks offers a classic low-key western that is the dramatic equal to their previous collaboration, Captain Phillips. It may not be The Searchers, but Greengrass offers a wide-open canvas for Hanks to provide one of his better performances in recent years.

Traveling from town to town, reading his collection of recent newspapers, Captain Kidd (Hanks) comes across a lynched soldier and a young girl (Helena Zengel) who, as one character succulently put it, has been orphaned twice. Raised by the Kiowa people who killed her family, only to see the tribe wiped out by Union soldiers, Johanna’s only living relatives live far south towards the home Captain Kidd has avoided since the end of the Civil War.

The set-up is fairly simple, the reluctant Kidd decides to deliver the wild girl no one else seems to be able to control, home. On the road, the pair encounter various obstacles while learning a bit about each other, themselves, and where they belong.

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