Trailer: The Secret Scripture

Posted on March 19, 2017 at 3:02 pm

Sebastian Barry’s acclaimed novel The Secret Scripture is coming to the big screen, starring Rooney Mara, Vanessa Redgrave, Jack Reynor (“Sing Street”), and Theo James (the Divergent series). It is the story of a woman who has spent most of her life in a mental hospital, where she kept a secret record of her life.

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Trailer: LAIKA’s “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Posted on December 11, 2015 at 4:00 pm

Coming next summer: “Kubo and the Two Strings” is an epic action-adventure set in a fantastical Japan from acclaimed animation studio LAIKA. Clever, kindhearted Kubo (voiced by Art Parkinson of “Game of Thrones”) ekes out a humble living, telling stories to the people of his seaside town including Hosato (George Takei), Hashi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa) and Kamekichi (Academy Award nominee Brenda Vaccaro). But his relatively quiet existence is shattered when he accidentally summons a spirit from his past which storms down from the heavens to enforce an age-old vendetta. Now on the run, Kubo joins forces with Monkey (Academy Award winner Charlize Theron) and Beetle (Academy Award winner Matthew McConaughey), and sets out on a thrilling quest to save his family and solve the mystery of his fallen father, the greatest samurai warrior the world has ever known. With the help of his shamisen – a magical musical instrument – Kubo must battle gods and monsters, including the vengeful Moon King (Academy Award nominee Ralph Fiennes) and the evil twin Sisters (Academy Award nominee Rooney Mara) to unlock the secret of his legacy, reunite his family and fulfill his heroic destiny.

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Posted on November 24, 2015 at 5:54 pm

Copyright 2015 Weinstein Company
Copyright 2015 Weinstein Company

The most romantic movie of the year is “Carol,” based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith, the author of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley. But Carol, her second novel, was originally published under another title and under another name. It was semi-autobiographical, it was the story of a lesbian relationship, and, unlike the rest of the very limited literature about lesbians at the time, it was not a tragic story. It was almost four decades before Highsmith acknowledged that she was the author.

There is some irony, then, in the idea that this film, depicting a story that was so controversial in the repressed “love that dare not speak its name” mid-century time when it was written is for that very reason ideally suited to depict a romance that is so rich and resonant. Now, when writers complain about how difficult it is to come up with believable ways to keep their characters from having sex in the first act (Stephenie Meyer had to make her male character a vampire for that reason in the Twilight series), making this love affair doubly forbidden by making the couple both women in the conformist 1950’s is the ultimate depiction of the anxious giddiness of being on the brink of falling in love.

The longing. The hesitation. The ecstasy of feeling seen. The harrowing insecurity of feeling seen. The exquisite torture of it all.

This is all gorgeously portrayed in every detail on the screen. Director Todd Haynes, working with an outstanding team of designers and director of photography Edward Lachman tells the story with each setting and camera angle and the flawless performances of the two lead actors, Cate Blanchett in the title role as a wealthy woman in the midst of a divorce and Rooney Mara as Therese, a young shopgirl and would-be photographer.

The intricacy, the precision, and the delicacy of the storytelling allows us to experience the relationship along with the two women. It wisely avoids the usual lazy shortcuts to indicate attraction: the “You love this obscure thing? I love the same obscure thing!” conversation or the montage over a pop song. Instead, the conversational topics are mundane and the responses are not especially witty or incisive. But what we see is that they are good enough for Therese and Carol, and that pulls us in.

Haynes skillfully makes sure that the relationship never seems predatory, even though Carol is older, sophisticated, and wealthy and Therese is young, inexperienced, and vulnerable. Therese herself admits she is so unsure of herself she can hardly figure out what to order for lunch. Haynes and his stars never allow the relationship to seem anything but equally chosen. Even a scene where Carol tries out some make-up on Therese avoids the usual “makeover” trope. When she tells Therese to touch the perfume to her pulse points, we can feel both sets of pulses flutter. The dialogue is often oblique, but its meaning is always true-hearted.

Parents should know that this film includes sexual references and an explicit situation, nudity, some strong language, drinking, smoking, and discussions of divorce, adultery, and custody.

Family discussion: What do we learn from the questions Therese asked Richard? How does this movie illustrate what one character calls the difference between what people say and what they really feel?

If you like this, try: “Far from Heaven” and “Strangers on a Train”

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Based on a book GLBTQ and Diversity Romance

Side Effects

Posted on February 7, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Those “ask your doctor about” commercials for medication always have a lawyer-imposed “side effects may include” section briskly recited by the narrator in the second half of the ad in the same bright but soothing tones used for the near-miraculous results described in the first half.  It is a difficult choice to balance the risks and benefits of some of today’s pharmaceuticals, made more difficult by the conflicts of interest that doctors and drug companies face in balancing what is best for the patients with what is best for them.

Steven Soderbergh’s nicely nasty and genre-bendingly twisty thriller takes place at the heart of this conflict.  Emily Taylor (Rooney Mara of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo”) takes mood-lifting medication to deal with the crushing stress she faces with her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) in prison for insider trading and the loss of all their money and their luxurious life in Connecticut.  Martin gets out after four years and promises her that he will get it all back for her.  But the stress is too much.  After a suicide attempt, her new psychiatrist, Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law), who earns a little extra money with a cushy “consulting” fee from a drug company pushing a new anti-depressant, prescribes medication, and then more medication to deal with the side effects of the pills she is already taking.  We know from the very first scene that this is not going to turn out well.

The drug that “helps stop the brain from telling you you’re sad” and lets you “take back tomorrow” is something “everyone takes.”  “It doesn’t make you anything you’re not,” the doctor explains. “It just makes it easier to be who you are.”  But is his recommendation compromised by the $50,000 he gets just to “go to a few meetings, recruit some patients, track some data?”  Law is excellent as the doctor who wants to do the right thing but may want to do right by too many people.  And his judgment may be further compromised by a problem from his past.

Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns (“Contagion”) build some meta-surprises into the story. And just about anything more I can tell you after that would require a spoiler alert, so I’ll just say that the less you know about the movie before seeing it, the better you will be able to appreciate it.  In fact, don’t watch the television commercials.  They give too much away.  But if you need to know more now, I’ll just say that the movie’s biggest surprise may be how conventional it turns out to be.



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Drama Thriller
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