Review: Swallow

This R-rated psychological thriller was a complete surprise to me. In a good way. It’s a Stepford Wives meets #Girlpower story that has you yelling at the screen and wondering what will happen next right up until its satisfying ending. Haley Bennett (Girl on the Train, The Magnificent Seven) is mesmerizing as Hunter, the gilded cage wife of a wealthy financier. She seems to have it all, but there’s definitely something missing, and she fills her days in an OCD housecleaning fog. But when she gets pregnant, she develops “pica” – the compulsion to consume inedible objects and materials. Of course there’s a deeper psychological reason for her mental state, and as the film progresses Hunter is forced to confront a dark secret to break free.

Review: Incitement

Talk about a film that is hard to watch! In this political thriller, you’re watching the evolution of assassin Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi), a law student who decides that it is religiously justified to murder Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin because he is signing a peace treaty with the Palestinians. It was in September 1993 that Rabin sat down with PLO Chairman Arafat and President Clinton and hammered out the Oslo Accords, sending the Orthodox Israelis into the streets to protest the agreement because it was giving up territories they believed were theirs by God-given right. Incitement is a film that takes you inside the ultra-Orthodox community where all question of right and wrong are vetted by rabbis, and their view is that Rabin is a traitor to the Jewish people and murder is justified. And while it may take place a couple of decades ago, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in Israel or many other places around the world where extremist ideology can subvert democracy. It’s a scary movie.

Review: Balloon (Ballon)

Seems like all I’m seeing lately are film based on true stories. In this one, two families living in Cold War East Germany in 1979 plan a daring escape to the West in a homemade hot air balloon with a Stasi officer hot on their tail. It’s one of those films where you’re holding your breath and hoping for the best, since the first scene is of a group of border guards being instructed to shoot to kill. What follows is an entertaining political thriller set in the horrifyingly claustrophobic surveillance state where everyone you meet might be the informer who gets you killed.

Review: Onward

I may be slightly out of step with the masses on this one. Time will tell. I liked Onward, but I didn’t love it, and I’m not so sure the majority of kids will either. Onward definitely scores points for sparking the imagination and conjuring up some magical messaging. But will kids grasp the concept of a half-dad depicted by a pair of khakis? I don’t know.

Review: EMMA.

I generally don’t go out of my way to see a period drama (especially one with a period in the title), and I never got around to reading much Jane Austen. But I did rather like the 2016 film adaptation of Austen’s 1790 novella Love and Friendship, and EMMA. appeared to be cut from a similar cloth, so I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did. It’s another solid, well-acted and pleasant romantic dramedy that Austen fans in particular will surely find amusing.

Review: Ordinary Love

Ordinary Love offers a master class in quiet, meaningful, relatable and subtle performances from two veteran actors, Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread) and Liam Neeson (Taken, Schindler’s List). They play Joan and Tom, a loving, long-married couple whose comfortable routine is disrupted by an unexpected diagnosis of breast cancer. The film shines a light on the everyday challenges a couple can face while attempting to navigate uncertainty, illness and grueling treatments with a sense of humor, grace and intimacy. There’s also tremendous sadness, anxiety, frustration and fear.

Review: Olympic Dreams

Olympic Dreams is an odd little indie meet-cute that takes elements of a romantic dramedy, sports movie and documentary, puts them in a blender, and spits out an uneven story that is overshadowed by a very cool setting: the 2018 Winter Olympic games in PyeongChang, South Korea. It’s about a relationship that develops between cross-country skier Penelope (Alexi Pappas) and volunteer dentist Ezra (Nick Kroll). They are two lost souls at a crossroads in life.

Snapshot Review: The Photograph

The Photograph is a fairly straightforward romantic drama that is slow to develop and fails to rise above ho-hum despite its very likeable and very attractive leads – Issa Rae and Lakeith Stanfield. She plays a New York museum curator named Mae; he plays a rising-star journalist named Michael. They are brought together by the mystery of an old photograph of Mae’s recently-deceased mother Christina (Chanté Adams), a renowned photographer whom Michael has been researching for a story. The film intertwines Mae and Michael’s budding romance with flashbacks from a past romance involving Mae’s mother and a young beau in Louisiana.

Review: Beanpole (Дылда)

War is hell. And life after war is, too. Most war films concentrate on the effects that the carnage has on men, but this Russian melodrama looks at how the women are scarred, too. Set in Leningrad just after World War II has ended, when the Siege may be over, but the people are still dealing with the hunger and deprivation, Beanpole is a character study of two young women, friends from the battlefield, both trying to make sense of their lives after the war.  Iya affectionately known as Beanpole (Viktoria Miroshnichenko) works in a hospital tending the wounded. She has a cute little boy at home that she dotes on. But she is afflicted with a condition caused by an explosion that makes her “freeze” from time to time – staring into space and making tiny clicking sounds until she comes back to life. And it causes her to make a tragic mistake. But then her wartime buddy Masha (Vasilisa Perelygina) arrives back from the front, and though it begins as a warm reunion, their relationship takes some very dark turns.

Review: Downhill

If you head into Downhill expecting a raucous, LOL comedy filled with humorous gaffes and charming banter between Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell, you’re in for an uphill climb. Downhill is a slow, occasionally poignant, occasionally funny remake of the critically-acclaimed Swedish dark comedy Force Majeure. If you saw the 2014 Swedish film, you probably saw the better version.