At 25, Malika(Chaimae Ben Acha), neither gainfully employed or… MoreAt 25, Malika(Chaimae Ben Acha), neither gainfully employed or married, is something of a disappointment to her parents, especially for her mechanic father. But what really matters to her is her band and they may have finally gotten their break, with Jade(Morjana Alaoui), a music promoter, showing interest in them. However, Malika and her bandmates still have to come up with the money to rent a recording studio in Casablanca. And then an opportunity presents itself when she repairs Samir's(Mourade Zeguendi) car.
"Traitors" is a perceptive and occasionally suspenseful character study about Malika who has learned over time to navigate the unwritten rules of her home country while finding the importance in sisterhood.(That being said, there is a long way to go from street smart to Jim Phelps.) It is not really a coincidence that Malika gets involved with drug smugglers at this particular junction. The opportunity to make this kind of quick dangerous money probably comes often to her; this is just when it is the most needed and probably the best worst idea. This all happens in a country, Morocco, that is caught uncomfortably between the traditions of Africa and the temptations of Europe.
For the last gift from his dead wife Helen(Bridget Moynahan), John… MoreFor the last gift from his dead wife Helen(Bridget Moynahan), John Wick(Keanu Reeves) receives a beagle that he promptly takes everywhere with him. That holds until Iosef(Alfie Allen) and his buddies steal his classic car and kill said dog. And then Viggo Tarasov(Michael Nyqvist) calmly informs his son Iosef who exactly he has messed with when he attacked Wick by using the term - 'boogeyman.' At least Viggo can call on men like Marcus(Willem Dafoe) to try to protect his son.
For the record, I am not a fan at all of revenge movies. But if you have to watch one, then the wildly entertaining and inventive "John Wick" is definitely the one to watch. That starts with a character, who is less inhuman killing machine then one of several hitmen who live by their own code.(The first time we see Wick is after it looks like he has gone 25 rounds.) Plus, the movie also contains excellent character turns from Willem Dafoe, Clarke Peters, Lance Reddick, Ian McShane and John Leguizamo while also solving Keanu Reeves by giving him as little dialogue as possible.
On a trip to California to see her actress daughter Lydia(Kristen… MoreOn a trip to California to see her actress daughter Lydia(Kristen Strewart) and to speak at a conference, Alice Howland(Julianne Moore), a university professor in linguistics, trips over a line or two in her speech. Concerned that this could be a symptom of something more serious, she sees a medical doctor who after running a wide variety of tests, diagnoses her with early onset Alzheimer's disease. To make matters worse, the disease is genetic, putting her three children at risk of developing it.
While "Still Alice" may not exactly excel in showing Alice's deterioration from her point of view, that's really not the point of this otherwise fine movie. What the movie is much more interested in a keenly perceptive way is the dynamics of the Howland family that is so overachieving that one of the daughters cannot just give birth, she has to have twins. Okay, okay, I know it does not work that way but it could look like that to an outside observer but not to Lydia who is comfortable with opting out of the race. However, for her mother, who remarks at one point that she would have preferred cancer, that is not an option, having overcome so much already in her life. Frightened by what she witnesses at a nursing home, not the state of the patients but the lack of visitors, she Rube Goldbergs her own euthanasia. In the meantime, Alice takes the opportunity to reconnect with Lydia who she had otherwise been at odds with before it is too late.
In a city in the middle of the desert, so-called Islamist militants… MoreIn a city in the middle of the desert, so-called Islamist militants have occupied it by gunpoint and started issuing arbitrary restrictions, leading up to the most serious punishment for adultery. At the same time, they show no respect for the residents' traditions while quoting Koran verses out of context to suit their own nefarious purposes. For example, Abdelkerim(Abel Jafri) looks in on a married woman whenever he knows her husband is not at home which she finds offensive.
With his previous film "Bamako" and now his latest "Timbuktu," director Abderrahmane Sissako has lots to say which is always commendable. What is not so much except for some memorable imagery like a soccer game being played without a ball and a woman with a big bird on her shoulder blocking the way of an SUV is his still not quite figuring out how to put his thoughts into a narrative context which Margaret Atwood did so well in her similarly themed novel 'A Handmaid's Tale.' In fact, "Timbuktu" has little momentum at all, simply circling back to the deer hunt at the beginning of the movie. This is a shame because there is a lot here that could certainly be considered relevant.
In "Restless City," Djibril(Sy Assane) is a recent immigrant to New… MoreIn "Restless City," Djibril(Sy Assane) is a recent immigrant to New York City from Dakar, Senegal. Currently, he makes his living as a sidewalk vendor. Sometime in the future, he hopes to make a living through his own music. Enter Trini(Sky Grey).
"Restless City" could be thought of as a sincere examination of an immigrant's struggles in America. Making matters harder is his running afoul of the wrong people.
At least, that's what I thought it might be about, as "Restless City" is so drowning in style and jump cuts, it is hard to make sense of some of it. It's all the more aggravating and confounding, considering this kind of difficult approach is not the right way to go with the limited means on display.
In "Turks and Caicos," there is trouble in paradise for Johnny… MoreIn "Turks and Caicos," there is trouble in paradise for Johnny Worricker(Bill Nighy). That comes in the person of Curtis Pelissier(Christopher Walken) who recognizes Johnny when he clearly shouldn't. At the same time, Curtis does nothing more threatening than invite him to dinner where he introduces him to his business associates Gary(Dylan Baker), Dido(Zach Grenier) and Frank(James Naughton) before Melanie(Winona Ryder) shows up who Curtis is very curious about. The following morning Dido shows up dead. And probably not from natural causes either.
Have you ever seen something on screen that you never imagined before you realize how sublime it is once it actually does? For me, it is the pairing of Bill Nighy and Christopher Walken in the movie "Turks & Caicos"(which is apparently a real place), with each working on his own distinctive frequency to create a unique rhythm between the two. Plus, Winona Ryder shows again what she can do when she gets a quality part like this one. Otherwise, there is not that much happening on the surface, nor does there really have to, with all the danger lurking just beneath the smiles amongst the plotters.
In "Knife Fight," Paul Turner(Rob Lowe) is an expert political fixer… MoreIn "Knife Fight," Paul Turner(Rob Lowe) is an expert political fixer based in California. Currently, he has to get Stephen Green(David Harbour), a client and current US Senator, through a sex scandal while being unaware of Kentucky Governor Larry Becker(Eric McCormack), another client, fooling around. That leaves him little time to listen to Dr. Penelope Nelson(Carrie-Anne Moss) who wants to run for governor of California.
"Knife Fight" has certain things going for it, including a good cast, especially a charismatic Rob Lowe in the lead and Saffron Burrows who steals whatever brief scenes she is in. And it does make some good points about the way campaigns focus on sex instead of the issues, while admittedly not bringing up anything about campaign financing. Just as Paul lectures Penelope rightfully about politics being a knife fight, he somehow fails to bring up that unless one is really, really privileged, one should not start out one's political career on the state level. That's not to mention the movie failing to adequately juggle its three storylines nor making much sense in the end..
In "The Monk," Ambrosio(Vincent Cassel) is dropped off as a baby on… MoreIn "The Monk," Ambrosio(Vincent Cassel) is dropped off as a baby on the steps of a monastery in Spain. Even as he grows, he shows no signs of wanting to live in the outside world, continuing his studies to the point where he becomes one of the order. Eventually, he comes to lead the order, with people coming from all over to hear his sermons. His duties also include leaving a wayward nun to her unpleasant fate and taking in a young man who wears a mask to hide his scarred features.
Consider the lurid and gothic source material for this adaptation of "The Monk," it is strange that the film makers decided to go for as straight an approach as possible which only results in a flat and unimaginative movie. They might have had the right idea by casting Vincent Cassel in the lead, if you do not consider that he is the last actor imaginable for a character that could best be called holier than thou. That's not to mention the movie's slack pacing, especially as it involves a key subplot being introduced much too early.
In "Khrustalyov, My Car!" General Klensky(Yuriy Tsurilo) is the head… MoreIn "Khrustalyov, My Car!" General Klensky(Yuriy Tsurilo) is the head of a mental hospital in the former Soviet Union. The insanity that he witnesses there carries over to his family life which is depicted in the same madcap and whirligig way.
What can be inferred is that this is set during the Stalinist reign of terror, replete with random people being disappeared right, left and center while it would take more information to identify everybody in Klensky's home to any satisfaction. There is also a key turning point in history that the movie treats in as matter of fact way as humanly possible. Which is the way history usually happens in real time. Except I'm sure the participants would have some feeling as to what was about to change, no matter what the movie may think. At least, it chooses the perfect moment to end on.
"Gilrhood" is an astute character study. Marieme(Karidja Toure) is a… More"Gilrhood" is an astute character study. Marieme(Karidja Toure) is a teenager who may not know who she wants to become but she is pretty sure who she does not want to be, going through many different looks and hairstyles along the way. Cut off from being promoted to high school, with becoming a maid like her mother not really an option, nor is vocational school. Plus, there is the issue of her abusive older brother Djibril(Cyril Mendy) at home.
She gets her chance when she meets Lady(Assa Sylla), Adiatou(Lindsay Karamoh) and Fily(Marietou Toure) one day. She finds them glamorous. They in return invite her along to Paris. Marieme's opinion of them does not change, even with the other girls indulging in petty crime. Because to Marieme, there is strength in numbers, which is encapsulated in the opening sequence that starts with her finding comfort and fun in playing American football, before walking the gauntlet back to her apartment building.