Six-Time, Oscar-Nominee Released on Home Video

 

Lion,  Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams, Dev Patel, Priyanka Bose, Abhishek Bharate, Khushi Solanki, A Long Way Home, heartbreaking biopic that definitely packs an emotional punchLion

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Six-Time, Oscar-Nominee Released on Home Video

Saroo (Dev Patel) had the misfortune of being born into poverty in India’s Khandwa district. He lived there with his single-mom, Kamla (Priyanka Bose), along with his big brother, Guddu (Abhishek Bharate), and younger sister, Shekila (Khushi Solanki).

His illiterate mother was reduced to carrying rocks for a living, and she could barely afford to keep a roof over their heads. So, when Guddu found a night job hauling bales of hay, Saroo leapt at the chance to contribute, too, even though he was obviously a little small.

And he promptly fell asleep after the long ride to the worksite sitting on his brother’s bike’s handlebars. “It’s my fault,” Guddu lamented, before leaving Saroo alone to spend the night on a train station bench.

Trouble is, when Guddu failed to return by daybreak, the frantic 5 year-old inadvertently stowed away aboard a freight train headed to Bengal, a port-of-call 1,600 miles east. Upon arriving, Saroo couldn’t get any help from strangers, between his not speaking the language and his mispronouncing the name of his hometown, “Ganestalay.”

Consequently, he ended up struggling to survive on the streets until he landed in a local orphanage. Since Saroo didn’t know his own last name or where he was from, he was ultimately shipped off to Melbourne to meet Sue (Nicole Kidman) and John Brierley (David Wenham), an Australian couple eager to adopt him.

For the next quarter-century, he enjoyed an idyllic life, whether playing cricket, swimming in a cove off the ocean, or dating Lucy (Rooney Mara), a lovely Aussie lassie. All was well until the fateful evening a childhood memory was triggered during a dinner of Indian food.

Suddenly curious about his roots, Saroo was subsequently encouraged by Lucy to use  Google Earth to find the spot on the planet that he hailed from. Once he recognized a few familiar places from his formative years, all that was left to do was to hop back on a plane and reunite with his long-lost family.

Adapted from Saroo Brierley’s autobiography, “A Long Way Home,” Lion is a heartbreaking biopic that definitely packs an emotional punch. Directed by Garth Davis, the film was nominated for a half-dozen Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Dev Patel) and Best Supporting Actress (Nicole Kidman).

A bittersweet variation on the “I was lost, but now I’m found” theme of the parable of the Prodigal Son.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated PG-13 for mature themes and some sensuality

In English, Hindi and Bengali with subtitles

Running time: 118 minutes

Distributor: Anchor Bay Entertainment / The Weinstein Company

Blu-ray Extras: Deleted scenes; a behind-the-scenes gallery; and “Never Give Up” performed by Sia – official lyric video.

Lion, Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams, Dev Patel, Priyanka Bose, Abhishek Bharate, Khushi Solanki, A Long Way Home, heartbreaking biopic that definitely packs an emotional punch

  

To order a copy of Lion on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTI1KH8/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 

 

Source:  GIG News

Adam Driver Is Sublime as Stoic Bus Driver in Unsentimental, Minimalist Saga

 

Paterson,  Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams, Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Jarmusch trademark, character development, average joePaterson

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Adam Driver Is Sublime as Stoic Bus Driver in Unsentimental, Minimalist Saga

Paterson (Adam Driver) is stuck in a rut. By day, the municipal bus driver repeatedly negotiates his way around a boring route around the New Jersey city which shares his name. After hours, he hangs out at a dingy, neighborhood bar where he dutifully limits himself to just one beer per visit. Then, he heads home to be with his loving wife, Laura (Golshifteh Farahani), and loyal bulldog, Marvin.

Writing provides Peterson his only escape from the mind-numbing monotony. Whenever he finds a little free time, he enjoys scribbling poetry into a secret notebook he always carries around. Laura wants him to make a copy of the precious journal before it gets lost or accidentally destroyed.

By comparison, she’s relatively ambitious. Despite her foreign accent and a lack of musical knowledge, she dreams of becoming a Country Western singer. So, she’s planning to purchase a guitar and to take lessons they can’t really afford. She’s lucky that her jaded husband’s just too blase’ to complain.

Ostensibly resigned to his fate, unassuming blue-collar hero takes everything in stride, whether dealing with passengers, unwinding with his wife, or interacting with the colorful regulars at the local saloon. Thus unfolds Paterson, the latest offering from the legendary Jim Jarmusch (Stranger than Paradise).

The introspective character portrait relies upon the sort of dialogue-driven script for which has become a Jarmusch trademark, an adventure more concerned with character development than with events of cinematic consequence. Irrepressible Adam Driver tones down his ordinarily over-the-top act considerably, here, to play the title role of an undistinguished Average Joe.

But the picture’s charm rests in its gifted director’s ability to elevate a humble Everyman into a curiosity worthy of an audience’s contemplation. A minimalist saga serving up an unsentimental slice of working-class life  .

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for profanity

Running time: 118 minutes

Studio: Amazon

Distributor: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: None. 

To order a copy of Paterson on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01N9T6WN3/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 

Source:  GIG News

Nostalgic Tale of Female Empowerment Comes to Home Video

 

20th Century Women,  Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams, Santa Barbara, California 1979, Female Empowerment, inappropriately-titled homage20th Century Women

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Nostalgic Tale of Female Empowerment Comes to Home Video

Nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Screenplay category, 20th Century Women is an inter-generational coming-of-age tale set in Santa Barbara, California in 1979. The nostalgic ensemble drama revolves around the efforts of a neurotic single-mom (Annette Bening) to parent a naive 15 year-old (Lucas Jade Zumann) in dire need of a role model.

The picture’s protagonist is Dorothea Fields, a middle-aged chain-smoker who owns the dilapidated rooming house where the bulk of the story is set. Paradoxically, she recruits a couple of considerably-younger females, Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and Julie (Elle Fanning), to help with raising her son, Jamie, conveniently ignoring the availability of a pleasant and ostensibly-plausible father figure in her handyman, William (Billy Crudup).

Consequently, tenant Abbie tries to indoctrinate the impressionable kid by having him read popular feminist manifestos like “Sisterhood Is Powerful.” Meanwhile, worldly-wise Julie, 17, is happy to share a Platonic relationship with him. After all, they’ve known each other since they were little.

The engaging ensemble drama intermittently resorts to voiceovered flashbacks to develop each of the lead characters’ back stories. First, we hear Jamie ruminating about life with his mom. Then, it’s her fretting about understanding him less and less every day. We later hear Abbie’s concern about her cervical cancer scare, and Julie’s resentment of her therapist mother’s forcing her into group therapy sessions.

When not engaging in personal reminiscences, 20th Century Women effectively transports the audience back to the late Seventies. For, besides resurrecting the era’s fashions and decor, the action unfolds against a variety of painstakingly-recreated, period familiar backdrops. In addition, the film’s score features an eclectic mix of musical artists ranging from Rudy Vallee to Louie Armstrong to David Bowie to The Talking Heads.

Though there isn’t much of a message to glean from this inappropriately-titled homage to the dawn of female empowerment, one can easily appreciate its vivid triptych of poignant personal portraits.

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, profanity and brief drug use

Running time: 118 minutes

Distributor: Lionsgate Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Audio commentary with writer/director Mike Mills; The Making of 20th Century Women; and 20th Century Cast.

To order a copy of 20th Century Women on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01MRA563W/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 

Source:  GIG News

Scorcese Faith-Based Docudrama Revisits Rude Reception of Christianity in Japan

 

Silence,  Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams, Shusaku Endo, historical drama, thought-provoking, Liam Neeson, Adam Driver, Andrew GarfieldSilence

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Scorcese Faith-Based Docudrama Revisits Rude Reception of Christianity in Japan

Portuguese traders first landed in Japan in 1543, followed soon thereafter by Francis Xavier and other Jesuits. So many locals started converting to Christianity that, less than a decade later, the emperor issued an edict banning Catholicism and ordering the expulsion of all missionaries.

Violators were forced to either renounce the religion or face crucifixion, which resulted in many of the faithful’s going underground to avoid persecution. Consequently, when a  cleric disappeared, it was often difficult to discern whether the missing person had been martyred or was merely in hiding.

This was the case with Father Cristovao Ferreira (Liam Neeson) who had been spreading the gospel around Japan for close to a quarter-century before he suddenly vanished without a trace after sending an ominous last letter to a friend. The ensuing silence prompted a couple of his proteges, Fathers Garrpe (Adam Driver) and Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) to mount a desperate search for their mentor, despite the fact that discovery of their identities might mean instant death.

In 1633, the perilous trek began, and that ill-advised expedition is the subject of Silence, a  faith-based docudrama directed and co-written by Martin Scorcese. The movie represents a bit of a departure for the legendary Oscar-winner whose name is most closely associated with gory gangster flicks like Goodfellas, The Departed and Mean Streets.

  Based on Shusaku Endo’s 1996 best seller of the same name, the film was a labor of love which took Scorcese almost three decades to bring to the big screen. The legendary filmmaker ostensibly identifies with the picture’s protagonists questioning whether God even exists.

Clocking in at a patience-testing 160 minutes, the deliberately-paced production could easily have shaved another half-hour off the final cut and still delivered the same emotional impact. Blessed with a trio of inspired lead performances, Silence is nevertheless apt to be well received by Born Again Bible thumpers.

A thought-provoking, historical drama chronicling the ultimate test of faith. 

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated  R for disturbing violence

In English and Japanese with subtitles

Running time: 160 minutes

Distributor: Paramount Home Media Distribution

Blu-ray Extra: Martin Scorcese’s Journey into Silence

To order a copy of Silence on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTI119U/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20 

Source:  GIG News

Ben Affleck Directs and Stars in Gruesome Gangster Saga

 

 

Live by Night,  Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams, Ben Affleck, crime thriller, overstuffed production, Dennis LehaneLive by Night

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Ben Affleck Directs and Stars in Gruesome Gangster Saga   

Dennis Lehane has enjoyed phenomenal success not only as a novelist but writing directly for TV (Boardwalk Empire and The Wire). And several of his crime thrillers have been brought to the big screen, including Mystic River, Shutter Island and Gone, Baby, Gone.

In 2007, Ben Affleck directed Gone, Baby, Gone, staying behind the camera while letting his little brother, Casey, play the picture’s protagonist. But in the case of Live by Night, the latest adaptation of a Lehane best seller, Ben has opted to do double duty as both star and filmmaker.

He will likely be second-guessed for that decision, since his acting proves to be the weak link in an otherwise first-rate production. The trouble is that his limited range often leaves the audience wondering whether his character is being sincere or sarcastic.

The action unfolds in Boston at the height of Prohibition which is where we are introduced to small-time crook Joe Coughlin (Affleck). Trouble is, he’s the black sheep of a prominent Irish family whose patriarch (Brendan Gleeson) is the city’s Deputy Chief of Police.

Ignoring his father’s pleas to keep his nose clean, Joe instead escalates his reckless behavior which culminates in the deaths of a few cops in the wake of a bank robbery gone bad. After getting off with a slap on the wrist thanks to his daddy’s pulling strings, Joe entertains the overtures of a couple of bootlegging mob bosses engaged in a bloody turf war. Although Irish Albert White (Robert Glenister) appeals to Joe on the basis of their shared ethnicity, he ultimately opts to work for the Italian syndicate headed by Maso Pescatore (Remo Girone).

His assignment is to set up a rum-running operation in Tampa, Florida. As he steps off the train, he ominously falls in love at first sight with the Graciela (Zoe Saldana), a gorgeous Cuban expatriate employed by a rival. Before you can whistle the overture to West Side Story, the two marry and Joe suddenly wants out of his grisly line of work.

Of course, that proves easier said than done for the “made man,” so the body count must rise before the dust settles. Despite Ben’s wooden performance and an overstuffed production which rushes along ostensibly to cover all the ground of the 400+ page novel, Affleck has another hit on his hands with this chilling adaptation of Lehane’s gruesome gangster saga.

Very Good (2.5 stars)

Rated R for sexuality, nudity, graphic violence and pervasive profanity and ethnic slurs

Running time: 129 minutes

Distributor: Warner Brothers Home Entertainment Group

Blu-ray Extras: Angels with Dirty Faces: The Women of Live by Night; The Men of Live by Night; Live by Night’s Prolific author; In Close Up: Creating a Classic Car Chase; deleted scenes; deleted scenes commentary; and director’s commentary.

To order a copy of Live by Night on Blu-ray, visit:

https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B06VT2B18X/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  GIG News

Viola Davis Delivers Oscar-Winning Performance in Adaptation of August Wilson Classic

 

Fences,  Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams, Denzel Washington, Mykelti Williamson, Stephen Henderson, Russell Hornsby, racism, Viola Davis, August Wilson ClassicFences

Blu-ray Review by Kam Williams

Viola Davis Delivers Oscar-Winning Performance in Adaptation of August Wilson Classic

Back in 1987, Fences won both the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best Play. The August Wilson classic, set in the Pittsburgh in the Fifties, chronicled the day-to-day struggle of a blue-collar, African-American family. The production was brought back to Broadway in 2010, and it landed the Tony for Best Revival in addition to ones for Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories.

Directed by Denzel, this adaptation reunites him with Viola (in an  Oscar-winning performance) and the rest of the principal cast, including Mykelti Williamson, Stephen Henderson and Russell Hornsby. This faithful version of the Wilson masterpiece doesn’t attempt to amplify the original beyond a few tweaks made in service of the cinematic medium.

The story revolves around the unenviable trials and tribulations of Troy (Washington), a 53 year-old garbage man who aspires to someday being promoted to truck driver. Trouble is, he’s “colored,” and that relatively-lofty position has, to date, been strictly reserved for whites. So, Troy and his BFF/co-worker Bono (Stephen Henderson) have to settle for grumbling about the racism that has kept them at the bottom of the totem pole.

Now Troy didn’t always have such modest dreams. In his youth, he’d exhibited promise as a baseball player. However, his hope of turning pro disappeared in a flash the day he was sent up the river for committing a murder. He did still try out for the major leagues when he was paroled at 40, but that belated attempt proved to be little more than an exercise in futility.

As a result, Troy tends to soak his woes in alcohol, drinking hard liquor straight from the bottle. This doesn’t sit well with his long-suffering wife, Rose (Davis), who is understandably worried her man might drink himself to death. The picture’s other pivotal characters include the couple’s teenage son (Jovan Adepo), Troy’s trifling adult son (Hornsby) from his first marriage, and Troy’s mentally-challenged brother, Gabe (Williamson), a wounded World War II vet left with a metal plate in his head.

The plot thickens when Troy informs Rose that he not only has a mistress but has knocked her up, to boot. Will this be the proverbial last straw that finally breaks the back of their shaky relationship? After all, putting up with an underachieving alcoholic is one thing, a flagrant philander, quite another.

Reviving familiar roles which are obviously second nature to them, veterans Denzel and Viola again turn in emotionally-provocative performances. A poignant period piece painting a plausible picture of black life in the inner city prior to the advent of the Civil Rights Movement.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated  PG-13 for profanity, ethnic slurs, mature themes and sexual references

Running time: 138 minutes

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Blu-ray Extras: Feature film in high definition; Expanding the Audience: From Stage to Screen; The Company of Fences; Building Fences: Denzel Washington; Playing the Part: Rose Maxson; and August Wilson’s Hill District.

To order a copy of Fences on Blu-ray, visit: https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01LTI0KQA/ref%3dnosim/thslfofire-20

Source:  GIG News