LETO (2018)

A film by  Kirill Serebrennikov

Cast:  Teo Yoo, Irina Starshenbaum, Roman Bilyk 

English title : Summer

Leningrad. A summer in the early 80’s. Upstream of Perestroika, Lou Reed’s and David Bowie’s records are smuggled, and the rock scene emerges. Mike and his beautiful wife Natacha meet the young Viktor Tsoï. Surrounded by a new generation of musicians, they will change the course of rock’n’roll in the Soviet Union.

The story with no surprise takes off from the success story of this group of rock and roll that is going to rock the soviet union in the 80’s. When the film opens the group’s career is already well established, the audience seems to love them but there is something out of place here in the audience where everyone is sitting on a chair and watch carefully by the watchful eye of representatives of the State. No rocking, no dancing, not even taping their feet. And yes it is a black and white film.  These ambitious guys who wants to be rock stars are influenced by the western rock and roll records that gets into the country somehow that includes  David Bowie, T-Rex, the Sex Pistols, the Velvet Underground, the Talking Heads, Ziggy Pop, and more. Leto is based on the early career of Russian rock-n-Roller Viktor Tsoi. The film is full of music with some kind of funky eding from time to time. There is a love triangle, some great tunes to dance, the struggling of the band  etc….It is all there in this perfect film.   Somehow the director was one of the few who was banned from Cannes this year. He is under house arrest accused of corruption. A must see. 

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BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY (2018)

Bohemian Rhapsody

A film by Bryan Singer

Cast: Rami Malek, Lucy Boynton, Gwilym Lee 

Bohemian Rhapsody recounts the extraordinary fate of the Queen group and their iconic singer Freddie Mercury, who challenged stereotypes, broke conventions and revolutionized music. From the dazzling success of Freddie Mercury to his excesses, risking the near-implosion of the group, to his triumphant return on stage at the Live Aid concert, while he was struck by the disease, discover the exceptional life of a man who continues to inspire outsiders, dreamers and all who love music.

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Here it is I remember when we will rock you and we are the champion came out on the radio back then I was in high school in Michigan. Here is the impact of Queen back then, we were eating lunch at the cafeteria and they put on the radio and Queen came on with we will rock you and we are the champion right after it. When we will rock you all the student started banging their feet and clapping then singing to the tune. That is the impact that Queen had back then and still today. Freddie Mercury (Rami Malek)  was born Farrokh Bulsara, that I didn’t know. Here comes this genius who revolutionize music and even interacted with his fans on stage. Here is a genius who was tortured because he struggle with his own sexuality. Also his muse Mary who he had a great relationship with knew how he was and when Freddie died he left her his estate. The star here is Rami Malek who embody the essence of freddie, shines which  brings me to the casting were the actors has terrific chemistry. The problem that I have the film does not seem to know what to do with homosexual desire also his music and song are so connected to his sexuality and the film does not show that at all either. I wish they also they shown the writing process of the songs a little more in details. However the credited director, Bryan Singer was replaced by Dexter Fletcher late in the production (That’s got to hurt).  The live aid concert in 1985, yes I remember that too and what a performance it was. I saw it on TV.

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FIRST MAN (2018)

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A film by Damien Chazelle

Cast: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy, Jason Clarke 

Pilot “a little distracted” by his superiors in 1961, Neil Armstrong will be, on July 21, 1969, the first man to walk on the moon. For eight years, he undergoes an increasingly difficult training, bravely assuming all the risks of a journey to the total unknown. Murmured by personal hardships that leaves indelible marks, Armstrong tries to be a loving husband to a woman who had married him in the hope of a normal life.

Here is what I love about this film the first scene of the film is Neil Armstrong who is in a supersonic plane  and you get a sense what it is like to be in such of plane. Neil Armstrong (Ryan Gosling) and his fellow Apollo Program team-members put on  insulated suits  strap themselves into narrow seats, wait hours or days for clearance to take off, then spend a few minutes being shaken like a martini in a shaker. Here is the life of Neil who enlist in the program that NASA has to offer due to the fact he needs a distraction because he lost his two years old daughter to cancer. However his wife is pregnant again and hope that Neil comes home every night. The wives and the other pilots gets together on weekends and enjoy life a little because they don’t know anything can happen they might not making it back. Also the film lets you know the race to beat the Soviets to the moon. To top it all off it takes a brave man to be an astronaut plus it takes a lot of training and such. Here you see Neil going into space, it was his job, as it was easier for him to do his job then to be a father because he did not know how. I love this film more than the other film that dealt with this theme because it fell so real, it feels like you are there. I remember my parents watching this on TV in France I was a young kid back then who didn’t understand what as the big deal anyway.

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BLACKkKLANSMAN (2018)

BlacKkKlansman

A film by Spike Lee

Cast: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Laura Harrier 

Ron Stallworth, an African-American police officer from Colorado, manages to infiltrate the local Ku Klux Klan. Based on a true story.

Here Spike manages to tell this story like a blaxploitation film with comedy into it as well. It’s the early 1970s, and Ron (John David Washington) son of Denzel Washington, the first African-American officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department, has infiltrated the local Klan chapter and talk on the phone with David Duke (Topher Grace). and Adam Driver’s ably plays Flip Zimmerman, a Jewish cop. Now you are going to say how did he do that a black man infiltrating the KKK. Well you will have to see the film. It is downright hilarious especially when Ron calls the KKK to join because he saw an ad in the paper.  Spike makes references to the trump regime. It is so funny at times. Here is a dude who has some strikes against him He is black police officer the first in Colorado Spring , and he is trying to infiltrate the klan, if his boss let him do it to begin with. Persistence, and perseverance will pay off and at what cost. Comic with absurdity, real tension caricatured characters, everything contributes to making the film a happy pamphlet, soaked in the music Motown. A perfect casting, great acting and story telling what more do you want this summer.

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ADRIFT (2018)

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A film by Baltasar Kormákur

Cast: Shailene WoodleySam ClaflinGrace Palmer

In September, 1983, Tami Oldham Ashcraft and her fiance, Richard Sharp, were hired to take a 44-foot yacht on a 4,000-mile journey from Tahiti to San Diego. About half way there the encounter a hurricane which was building for a couple of weeks. Caught into it full force the yacht in 145-knot winds, the boat over turn a few time to find themselves adrift.

Here is a couple who found love a first sight while traveling on boats. They meet in Tahiti where Tami running away from her town San Diego not in the hurry to go back any time soon. Love blossomed and soon after that they fell in love, they had a big thing in common they love to travel by sea to discover the world. Everything was fine until an english couple asked them to take their yacht to San Diego and give them $10,000 plus a first class ticket back to Tahiti. Until they get caught into the hurricane. When she find herself adrift she is going to have to pull through right away in order to survive. It is based on the true story , from the book that Tami Oldham Ashcraft wrote in 2002 Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss and Survival at Sea. A terrific story of survival and will power to stay alive. Adrift has flashback between their hot romance on Tahiti and the increasingly difficult situation after the storm, as Tami struggles to keep herself and Richard alive. I love the shot of the yacht up in the hair where you see the waste ocean and this little tiny boat. It is scary no land to be seen. The shoot must have been difficult because when you see the beautiful scenery that the ocean and the sunset has to offer it is breathtaking. The question here that you have to ask yourself is would I have survive this if I was Tami. What would you have done. The thing here is that Tami has a positive attitude and said to herself I will stay alive I will survive this. What she is using duck tape to do what?

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A PRAYER BEFORE DAWN (2018)

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A film by Jean-Stéphane Sauvaire

Cast: Joe ColeVithaya PansringarmPanya Yimmumphai

The true story of Billy Moore, locked in one of the toughest prisons, Klong Prem. Refusing to die there, Billy learns Muay Thai boxing and finds a fraternity that will help him redeem himself.

The director here focuses on the life in prison instead if what happened before Billy got there. By this unique prism, we are also totally lost in a poisonous world in paradise Muay Thai, a form of boxing “religion” in Thailand. The daily – rapes, fights, drugs deals, etc. that takes place daily. The film primary beauty comes from its desire to capture the huddled bodies as if each inmate had an immense texture to form one with its  community. The energy of each shot to exalt Moore’s rage that one feels ready to explode at the slightest jostling. Then comes the strange time of appeasement, when the boxer can finally reconnect with what makes him progresses in life: his fists. It is a huge boxing film that is going to feel claustrophobic due to the fact that it is in prison but has a raw beauty that emerges. So many contradictions that lead straight to build a film that emerges bloodless and the impression of having seen an instant classic.

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DON’T WORRY HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT (2018)

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot

A film by Gus Van Sant

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara

John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) who has a serious drinking problem gets in a car accident and survive with serious injuries. On the rocky road of recovery discover and heals himself with controversial drawing.

John Callahan (1951-2010), an alcoholic who, following a drunk-driving accident at the age of 21, spent the rest of his life as a quadriplegic. Callahan also became a controversial cartoonist for the a newspaper in Oregon. It is hard to do a story on an alcoholic and make it interesting. This is the film that comes full circle with the addiction of alcohol and the destruction of life that don’t have easy resolutions. A great film by Gus Van Sant who thankfully put to work more than a few screenwriters to pull this off. Callahan’s repeated reference to being abandoned by his mother and  adopted has an excuse for his problems and addiction. But like he said I started to drink at age 13, I liked it!  I liked it a lot. Well he had to blame someone for that. It is just an excuse. The film show the 12 steps program with the use of flashback. Here Jonah Hill who plays Donnie a rich kid who was an alcoholic is now the master of this 12 step program. By the way he lost some serious weight and he delivered a superb performance. It was a joy to see him doing some serious acting for a change. There are some funny moments at times Callahan falling into a bush after going on a skateboard maneuver in his motorized wheelchair, A nurse sitting on his face well I will say no more you will have to see the film. What I like about Gus van Sant is he is not using the studio system. He does his films on his own terms. Callahan becomes a cartoonist the one with the dark sense of humour and not everybody liked his drawing. A terrific independent film here not to be missed. I’ll drink that, Ha!ha!ha!

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