Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MOTHER AND CHILD (2010)

Written & Directed by Rodrigo Garcia


Where & When: Beverly Center 13, West Hollywood, CA. May 25, 2010 12:50PM



"Mother and Child" is a powerful and touching new film about motherhood and the sacrifices that are apparently made for the best interest of the child but no one takes in to consideration the possible damage that these decisions could do to both the mother and her child.

First we meet Karen (Annette Bening) who became pregnant at fourteen and was forced to give up her baby for adoption. She is still haunted by this decision as a middle aged woman. She desperately wants to try and somehow get in contact with the child she gave up but is afraid she will be rejected.

Karen finds herself unable to develop friendships with people and is resentful of other women and their relationships with their daughters. Her mother is ill and she is caring for her but their relationship is still strained. She works as a physical therapist and a new worker, Paco (Jimmy Smits) is interested in getting to know her better and she is attracted to him but she has put up a wall to protect herself.

Naomi Watts plays Elizabeth, a no-nonsense lawyer who is angry and bitter that she was put up for adoption. She acts out by having inappropriate relationships with unavailable men and using sex as way of controlling them. Elizabeth is uncomfortable and hostile around other women since it seems she never had a decent maternal figure and she feels that they are threatened by her.

She doesn't like to stay in one place too long but she finds herself returning to her home city of Los Angeles. She has just joined a new law firm and Paul (Samuel L. Jackson) is her boss. They soon develop a causal, sexual relationship and at the same time, she starts one with her married neighbor (Marc Blucas). An unplanned situation causes Elizabeth to run away, as she usually does, but this time she re-evaluates her decisions and her usual choices to try and become a better person.

Lucy (Kerry Washington) is unable to have children but she and her husband, Joseph (David Ramsey) still want to have a baby. They decide to adopt and Sister Joanne (Cherry Jones) has a pregnant young woman, Ray (Shareeka Epps) who wants to give her child up but she insists on interviewing the couple first. Ray drills Lucy about her lack of faith and doesn't care much for Joseph but she decides to give her baby to them anyway.

Everything appears to be going well for the couple but soon things begin to unravel and Lucy must face her fears and make some tough decisions about her future.

This is the third film by Mr. Garcia, following "Things You Can Tell Just By Looking At Her" (2000) and "Nine Lives" (2005), that features another classy, all-star cast of talented actors and I think this is his best yet. I think this works well because it is more focused than the previous films and that helps you have more of an opportunity to stay engaged without the distraction of too many different stories in one film. Mr. Garcia has written another strong screenplay with real flesh and blood characters who are trying to handle all of the hurts and disappointments that life has handed them all the while struggling to maintain their ability to remain open and forgiving. There are a few moments that are little bit too melodramatic but he finds his way back on track.

Not surprisingly, all three of these gifted and well-respected actresses give wonderfully moving performances, most especially by Ms Bening. Since her film appearances do not happen nearly often enough, it is always great to see Ms Bening and she manages to elevate whatever she is in. In this, the pain, sadness and exhaustion that is etched on her face is really heart breaking and it just made me want to give her a hug and tell her that she's going to be okay. Mr. Jackson leaves behind his tough guy persona and surprisingly shows us his subtle and sweet side. It was nice to see and he should do it more often.

There are also nice, effective cameo appearances by S. Epatha Merkerson, David Morse, Amy Brenneman and Lisa Gay Hamilton.

"Mother and Child" is one of the best films I have seen so far this year. This is a fine film with something to actually say about real human relationships and unfortunately we don't get too many good films these days about that.


Friday, May 21, 2010

BABIES (2010)


Directed by Thomas Balmes


Where & When: The Landmark, West Los Angeles, CA. May 12, 2010 5:15PM


Who doesn't think babies are adorable? Well, if you love watching babies, then you may enjoy the new documentary, "Babies" by Thomas Balmes who spent two years and shot almost all of the four hundred hours of footage himself to make this eighty minute film.

We are introduced to four new born infants from around the world: first, Ponijao, who was used quite effectively in the opening of the film's trailer, is from Namibia, Mari from Japan, Baryajargal from Mongolia and Hattie is from San Francisco in the U.S.A.

We follow each child as they discover their new surroundings, learn to crawl and finally stand and walk on their own. In between we watch as each baby develop their personalities and we see the very big cultural differences in the way a child is raised.

There is no narration in this film so it is a documentary in the true sense of the word. We are simply watching each child as they slowly grow. Is that enough to make an interesting film? I'm sure it would be if you were a relative of one of the children but I found myself getting impatient and slightly bored after the first thirty minutes or so. It could be just because I'm a guy and not a father but I'm not positive that is the only reason. I just don't think putting together footage of cute babies being babies without any type of real story or direction is enough to make a compelling film.

While "Babies" is sweet and charming, unfortunately the film doesn't rise much above watching a friend's home movie of their precious little child and who wants to pay admission to see something like that? No baby is that cute.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

PLEASE GIVE (2010)

Written & Directed by Nicole Holofcener



Where & When: Arclight Cinemas Hollywood, CA. May 4, 2010 4:00PM




"Please Give" is only the fourth film from writer/director, Nicole Holofcener which is a terrible shame because she is one of the great, under appreciated talents making films today. I'm sure if she were a man, she would have an easier time getting her films made and this would be at least her tenth feature but why complain when she has brought to the world another wonderful, darkly comic, female focused film.

Catherine Keener, who has been in all of Ms Holofcener's films, plays Kate, a guilt ridden mother and wife who is struggling to cope with all that she has while knowing that so many others in the world are trying to get by with so little. Some of her solutions to this problem is to habitually give money to homeless people on the street and by trying to volunteer her time helping others in need but despite all of this, she still doesn't really feel any better.

Kate owns an upscale used furniture shop that she runs with her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt). They get some of the furniture by visiting the homes of recently deceased people and negotiating a low price for their furnishings so they can re-sell the items for a huge profit, all in the name of trying to help out the grieving relatives.

Abby (Sarah Steele) is their daughter and she is quite a handful. She is sullen, combative, and selfish, so she behaves like your typical teenager. She wants her mother to buy her a two hundred dollar pair of jeans but Kate cannot rationalize spending that kind of money on her daughter when she could give that money to homeless strangers.

Kate and Alex bought the unit next door to them so they can expand their closet and create a new master bedroom but it is currently occupied by the seller, Andra (Ann Guilbert). She sold her unit to them with the condition that they can take the unit after she passes away. She is a cantankerous old woman who says whatever crosses her mind. Andra doesn't seem like she is going anywhere anytime soon, much to the disappointment of Kate and Alex.

Andra has two granddaughters, Rebecca, (Rebecca Hall) a sweet girl who comes by every day to check in on her grandmother and gets her whatever she needs while Mary (Amanda Peet), who is caustic and very hostile to Andra, does the bare minimum to help out.

Kate feels they should try and be friendly to their neighbor so she invites Andra and her granddaughters to their home for dinner. The dinner is uncomfortable and awkward but everyone get to know and understand each other a little better as friendships and relationships develop in ways that are unexpected and moving.

That's pretty much the film. There's not much of a plot but it is an interesting character study. These people are sad, funny, harsh, warm and touching and you can relate to all of these feelings that they go through. The writing is sharp, clever and get right to the heart of the matter.

Ms Keener has always been a great talent and some of her best work has been in Ms Holofcener's films and that certainly includes this one. I have never been much of a fan of Ms Peet's but I have to be honest and say she was good in this and very funny. I was also impressed by Ms Steele and most especially by Ms Hall, who was also wonderful in "Vicky Christina Barcelona" (2008), as she gives a charming and genuine performance. Lois Smith and Thomas Ian Nicholas as a mother and son who change Rebecca's life make a nice impression, so overall, this is a great ensemble.

Please go see "Please Give" and if you enjoy it and are unfamiliar with Ms Holofcener's previous films, then you should go and rent "Walking & Talking" (1996), "Lovely & Amazing" (2001) , and "Friends With Money" (2006).

Sunday, May 2, 2010

SEX AND THE CITY 2


It is now May which means it is the beginning of the launch of the summer movies. One of the movies I'm looking forward in seeing is "Sex and the City 2". The television show was one of my favorites and the feature film was a big hit in 2008 so of course, there had to be a sequel. This one looks like it's going to deal with life after marriage for Carrie and Big but that doesn't mean she not going to find time to hang out with the girls. There will be plenty of fabulous clothes, exotic locations, the return of Aidan and an appearance by Liza Minnelli. It looks like a lot of fun.

"Sex and the City 2" should be released in the US on May 27th, 2010.