Review: The Perfect Candidate

Saudi Arabian cinema has a very short history. The first feature shot there was only in 2012! And it was written and directed by a woman, Haifaa Al-Mansour. Since then she’s worked in other countries but for The Perfect Candidate she returned home and shot a film that’s part family drama, part feminist anthem, and all a pleasure to watch. It’s Maryam’s (Mila Al Zahrani) story. An accomplished physician in a small town, she’s still living in the patriarchy and chafing under it’s strict rules for women. Early on, she’s heading to a conference out of town when she’s not allowed to board a plane because her travel permit has expired.  And she can only rectify it if she has her guardian sign. A grown woman and she needs a man to sign! It’s a great way to introduce the audience to the insanity of being a woman in Saudi Arabia and to Maryam who’s fed up with it.

Review: Los Hermanos/The Brothers

At the center of this wonderful musical documentary are Ilmar and Aldo López-Gavilán, musician brothers separated for much of their lives by US-Cuban politics. Ilmar left Cuba at the age of 14 to study in the USSR and never went back. His younger brother Aldo stayed behind, and with just a brief stint in a London conservatory, became a world class musician through the Cuban system. Seeing one another was difficult over the years as Ilmar ended up living in the US, and our government made visiting all but impossible for decades. Los Hermanos/The Brothers chronicles their reunion and their attempts to record together starting in 2016 and follows them as Obama loosens the restrictions so allowing Aldo to come to the States and tour with his brother. It’s a beautifully moving film with fabulous music.

Review: There is No Evil

Shot in secret and smuggled out of Iran, There is No Evil is a four-part film centered on capital punishment and its effect on the men who are forced to be a part of the system. Director Mohammad Rasoulof understands the power and limitations of living in an authoritarian state personally. He’s been imprisoned more than once for taking a political stand. This is his seventh film, and many of them have won prestigious awards, though because of state censorship, none have been screened in Iran.  After winning the main prize at Cannes in 2017, he was accused of ‘endangering national security’ and ‘spreading propaganda against the Islamic government’ and officially barred from leaving the country, a verdict which is still in effect. He was also sentenced to one-year imprisonment. And yet he’s still risking his life to make films and this one is powerful.

Review: Profile

If you’re looking for a film that may actually play better on a desktop computer or laptop than in a theater, then look no further than Profile. The story takes place in the confines of a computer screen, which we all have intimate knowledge of these days. Video chats, Skype calls, bandwidth issues, posting cat pictures on Facebook and Instagram, juggling personal and professional accounts. You know the drill. Too bad Profile is being released in theaters first. It’s intriguing, but not compelling enough to warrant a theater experience, even if vaccinated. The film is based on a true story that I (as a former journalist) was vaguely familiar with, and it’s basically a thriller for geopolitical and journalism junkies.

Quickie Review: Queen Marie

Queen Marie tell the story of Queen Marie of Romania and her work as a diplomat at a crucial time in the country’s history. Born in England, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she married King Ferdinand I and was a very popular queen. But following World War One, the country was devastated and their Ambassador to the Paris Peace Talks of 1919 could not get the major powers to hear his plea for help in reunifying the country and sending aid. And so Marie headed to Paris and as the media followed her everywhere, she was able to bring her country’s concerns to the powers that be. It’s a great story, but sadly the film doesn’t really do it justice.

Review: Wrath of Man

I’m sort of hit and miss when it comes to Guy Ritchie flicks. Wrath of Man falls somewhere in the middle of the road for me. The film is a hallmark Ritchie dark and stylish revenge thriller that follows a mysterious character nicknamed “H” (Jason Statham) who takes a job at a cash trucking company that moves hundreds of millions of dollars around Los Angeles every week. It’s an English-language remake of a 2004 French thriller Le Convoyeur aka Cash Truck starring Jean Dujardin (The Artist). Wrath of Man is director Ritchie’s third remake, and his fourth collaboration with Statham. So if you’re a fan of Ritchie and/or Statham, you can’t go too wrong watching Wrath of Man, though brace yourself for a high degree of carnage.

Quickie Review: About Endlessness

This Swedish film is less a single narrative than a walk through an absurdist museum, stopping to view a series of living tableaux, and then wandering on to the next. Some have a profound effect on you and some have you thinking, as a friend quipped as we strolled through an actual museum last week, “Life’s too short.” The film is from Roy Andersson, a famous art house director, and screams THIS IS ARTY!  It’s definitely not a movie for the mainstream crowd.

Quickie Review: The Boy From Medellin

The Boy From Medellin is a documentary about a Colombian reggaeton superstar who I must confess I’d never heard of. Not really my jam (I had to look up ‘reggaeton’). So I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that this documentary is most likely to appeal to the fan base of its Latin Grammy-winning star, Jose Alvaro Osorio Balvin, aka J Balvin. The film was shot over one week leading up to a highly-anticipated sold-out stadium show in Balvin’s hometown of Medellin. It turned out to be a pivotal week for Balvin — and his country — as the “Latin Spring” spread into Colombia, bringing a wave of anti-government protests into the streets.

Review: Four Good Days

Four Good Days is a movie about addiction and the toll that the cycle of rehab and relapse can take on relationships and family. We’ve seen it all before — many times in fact. And this one falls somewhere in the middle of the pack, buoyed by solid performances from Mila Kunis and Glenn Close as a mother and daughter navigating issues of trust and love, frustration and disappointment. It’s based on a true story by Pulitzer-Prize winning Washington Post writer Eli Saslow who co-wrote the screenplay with director Rodrigo García (Albert Nobbs, Mother and Child).  For the most part, Four Good Days sticks remarkably close to the narrative featured in the 2016 Post article.

Review: The County

At the center of this Icelandic drama is Inga (Arndís Hrönn Egilsdóttir), a widow who’s been left to run an isolated dairy farm mired in debt. It’s not impossible to run it on her own since the whole place has been roboticized. But she is alone and surprised to find how badly she and the other farmers are being treated by the co-op they’re all members of.  And as she finds out more and more about the heavy handed way the head of the co-op has been running things, she gets more and more outraged.  She takes to the Internet and calls out the corruption and the leader himself. And at first it creates a rift between the farmers, but Inga’s got nothing to lose and slowly she wakes the rest of the farmers. The County is a #girlpower drama and Inga is an Icelandic Frances McDormand take-no-sh*t heroine.