The Sisters Brothers – Film Review

4stars

John C. Reilly (left) stars as “Eli Sisters” and Joaquin Phoenix (right) stars as “Charlie Sisters” in Jacques Audiard’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS, an Annapurna Pictures release. Credit : Magali Bragard / Annapurna Pictures

John C. Reilly (left) stars as “Eli Sisters” and Joaquin Phoenix (right) stars as “Charlie Sisters” in Jacques Audiard’s THE SISTERS BROTHERS, an Annapurna Pictures release.
Credit : Magali Bragard / Annapurna Pictures

The Sisters Brothers gives us a western film with a masculine heart. It includes many western movie tropes such as, gunslinging, whiskey drinking, and saloon entrance making men, but what sets this movie apart from others is that it shows us that there is more to these men, than just their wild ways. 

Charlie (Joaquin Phoenix) and Eli (john C. Reilly) Sister are bounty hunters who do the bidding and killing for a powerful man they call the Commodore. He dispatches orders and they comply; no questions asked doing whatever it takes to get paid. He orders them to find and bring him a gold-hunting chemist by the name of Hermann Kermit Worme (Riz Ahmed). Also, under the direction of the Commodore is John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) who is tasked with finding Worme and bringing him to the Sisters brothers. 

Worme befriends Morris and finds out that he has a formula for finding gold. He created a chemical that when poured into the water, dissolves and illuminates where the gold is hiding. Morris is intrigued not only by his idea, but by who he is as a person. He exudes generosity and intelligence, something that we see is lacking in the outposts that are filled with crude and insolent men, whose only mission is to find a piece of gold. Which they will probably turn in and use to buy booze. Worme and Morris join forces and have a vision of collecting gold and using the funds to start their own utopia in Texas. 

SB3French director Jacques Audiard makes his first English film debut while adding his French aesthetic to the western motif. He provides audiences with gratuitous bloodshed, albeit only slightly, in no way shape or form can we even compare it to the blood count in Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. Nonetheless it delivers the western artistic vision of beautiful and lush landscapes, untouched yet by the industrialization that would soon come and take over. The horses stand in the foreground, and we understand that they are vital to these men.

The Sisters brothers continue their mission to find Worme and Morris and stop at nothing to find these men. Along the way, we learn that Eli is the more sensitive of the two, every night before he goes to bed he folds up a red scarf and touches it to his face. Who it belonged to, we don’t really know, but we see that he is sensitive to the world and yearning for something more. Charlie is a lewd drunk, drinking himself to the point of vomiting, but Eli is used to his shenanigans and knows how to deal with him. After all, it’s his brother and he will stand by him through thick and thin. 

By the end of the movie, we realize that it is Reilly who carries the film. I was not expecting that from him, but he executed it brilliantly. Although he was a brash man, and a sharp shooter, we see that he has a tender side. He makes sure his horses are safe and tends to them as if they were his children. When he encounters a prostitute, he talks to her, instead of doing anything else. I am sure unheard of in any western town of that era. 

We don’t ever see a feminine perspective throughout the film, instead we get a deeper interpretation into a male point of view. I thought the movie was well done, but the plot was somewhat lacking. Regardless, the actors gave good performances and it is worth a watch. 

SB1Starring: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, Riz Ahmed, Rebecca Root, Allison Tolman, Rutger Hauer, Carol Kane

Directed by: Jacques Audiard

Written by: Jacques Audiard and Thomas Bidegain (screenplay) 
Patrick DeWitt (book author)

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 121 minutes

Rating: 4

 

WalkOut at SDLFF

walkout 1Walkout first premiered in 2006 on HBO and is directed by Edward James Olmos, considering the current struggles the world is facing today and in commemoration of the landmark event, it was added as part of the films shown for the 25th anniversary of the San Diego Latin Film Festival. Walkout is about the 1968 high school walk out that occurred in East Los Angeles, helping propel education in the Chicano community and the Chicano civil rights movement forward.

Honor student Paula Crisostomo (Alex Vega) becomes outraged when she begins to realize after attending a Chicano leadership camp and upon seeing other schools in Los Angeles, that the poor conditions, treatment, and education offered to Chicanos was sub-par to the rest. She gets involved in the activist community and along with her fellow Mexican-American friends, teacher Sal Castro (Michael Pena) and activist leader Moctesuma Esparza (Bodie Olmos), they begin a campaign, and demand changes are made to the educational system for Chicanos. 

walkout 3 1968 picThe students form a set of 3 walk outs, which end up attracting the attention of law enforcement and the news. The students are beaten and treated like dogs on the street, but what ends up being shown on national television is nothing of the sort. Instead the event was painted as being peaceful and as if nothing significant happened. Eventually the walk outs gain so much attention, that the leaders of the groups and some of the brown berets, get taken to court and charged with conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, and if convicted a 60-year jail sentence. 

The film was provocative and entertaining, and I felt ashamed that I had never heard about this story. It made me realize how much none of this is taught in our schools and how it is hidden from history. It was a wonderful movie to watch and I hope that this film can be shown in schools to inspire all students to stand up for their beliefs.

walkout 2Executive Producer Moctesuma Esparza opened the screening by providing a brief history of the film. He mentioned that over 20 thousand students participated in the walk out and how after the protests there was a huge increase from only 2 students in LA attending college to over 1,000 Mexican-Americas. At the time, Chicanos were discouraged to attend college, and instead were told to become mechanics or secretaries, and for those numbers to increase was phenomenal and shows that what they did make a difference to the world. Esparza built much of his career on telling the history of others, from Roosevelt to Gettysburg, but once he was settled as a producer, he was able to finally tell his story. He told audiences that being an activist is a lifetime commitment and said, “a singular moment does not change things, but years of commitment.” In today’s ever-changing political landscape and upheaval, especially against immigrants and Mexicans, his words resonate deeply. 

The San Diego Latino Film Festival runs from March 15 – 25.

For more info and tickets go to: 2018.sdlatinofilm.com


 

Manchester by the Sea – Film Review

5stars

m4Everyone faces grief differently. There is no guidebook for how one should feel when they lose someone important to them. In Manchester by the Sea, writer and director Kenneth Lonergan shows the realities of dealing with grief and heartbreak, from the decisions one faces when laying someone to rest to the pervasive memories of the past with that person. Life is never easy and we rarely know when life is throwing us a curveball or a perfect set of aces, these matters are out of our hands as human beings, but it is how we deal with what life hands us that shapes us as people. Lonergan explores these nuances of life and death and masterfully shapes them, paired with the tremendous acting performances in this film, I seean Oscar contender.

Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a lowly, quiet janitor living in Boston; his life is simple and monotonous, yet he doesn’t seem hampered by it at all. When his older brother passes away, Joe (Kyle Chandler) he rushes back to his hometown of Manchester, where he soon finds out that his brother has granted him to be the sole guardian of his teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). Lee is dumbfounded, confused, and doesn’t really understand why he was left to oversee him. Patrick’s mother Elise (Gretchen Mol) is nowhere to be found and Lee is all Patrick has left as a parental figure.

m6Throughout the film, we are given flashbacks into their lives together as brothers, and it is clear that Lee and Patrick had a strong bond. Joe would take them out on his fishing trawler and the three of them would head out to the sea, catch fish, talk about life, and laugh together. Through these memories, we can gather that Lee was not only close to his brother, but had a cohesive, almost brother-like bond with his nephew. Joe leaves the boat to his son, and he is adamant besides the motor not working that he keeps the boat running, in a way, it is his way of reconnecting with his father and he is afraid to lose it. Lee wants to get rid of it, but never fully can act on it because his most distinct memories were shaped on his brother’s boat.

m5Not only must Lee face raising a teenage boy of which he knows nothing about doing, he allows him to have girls over and doesn’t provide many restrictions, but he must also deal with the fact that his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams) also lives in town. From his flashbacks, we see that they had a loving life together, filled with some disarray, but nothing out of the ordinary and in the present time that no longer exists. He can barely look at her and doesn’t know what to say around her. With all the misfortunes that Lee has faced, the town of Manchester brings him many bad memories and constant reminders of the life he used to lead.

Affleck carried the film from beginning to end, and delivered a performance like no other he has given before. It was subtle, yet filled with such intensity, that one could feel every ounce of his depth without him saying anything. The unknowing of what life had in store for him could be read on his face. Lee appears broken and detached from all that is and has been his life. Affleck seemed to understand that and took all those distinct emotions and placed them into his character. I am sure that he will garner awards and accolades for his performance, this could be the one that sets him apart from other contenders.

m2Newcomer Hedges was astonishing as Patrick, not only do we feel moments of sadness for him, but we also get a sense of annoyance as he is just a teenage boy doing teenager-like things. He doesn’t completely grasp everything that is going on around him and we rarely see him break down and shrill for his father, instead we see that he is just trying to get on with his life. Hedges holds his own against Affleck and at times stole many of the scenes. The two played off each other perfectly.

The film not only makes you feel moments of sadness and sorrow, but I found myself laughing through a lot of it. I felt like I was on a rollercoaster of emotions, crying one minute and wiping away my tears and laughing the next. There are so few films, that can pull such emotions out of the viewer. Life isn’t always sad, nor is it always funny, but Lonergan is able to weave the dynamics of both and create a film that is thought provoking and unique. I have my own inner meter of how I know a film is good in my eyes, and it is when days go by and I cannot stop thinking about it, and that’s how I felt with this film. The director along with the entire ensemble cast make this movie work and it is one that should not be missed.

 

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Starring: Casey AffleckMichelle WilliamsKyle ChandlerQuincy Tyler BernstineMissy YagerRuibo Qian

Directed by: Kenneth Lonergan

Written by: Kenneth Lonergan

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 137 minutes

Rating: 5


Sisters – Film Review

4stars

Film Title: SistersThe movie genre of forty something women coming of age has hardly been touched in Hollywood. Wait… that’s because older women should have their lives figured out while living in their white-picket fenced homes along with their beautiful Christmas card worthy family. Therefore the movies that could fall into that category are almost absolute. Sisters takes that notion and flips it on its’ head, giving viewers a funny, authentic and fresh look at women trying to find themselves while having a blast on top of it.

The premise of the film is simple, sisters Maura (Amy Poehler) and Kate Ellis (Tina Fey); go back to their hometown of Florida when they learn that their parents Bucky (James Brolin) and Deana (Dianne Wiest) have sold their childhood home. They get upset that their parent’s never consulted them and must now go through their old rooms full of “priceless” 80’s items such as Care Bear pajamas, fuzzy slippers and pink dial-tone phone and boom box.

Maura is the more responsible one of the two sisters and walks around with inspirational note cards as a way to lift herself up from her divorce. On the other hand Kate, an aesthetician and hairdresser, can barely hold down a job and her own college-aged daughter, Haley (Madison Davenport), can barely trust her to be a dependable mother.

Film Title: SistersIn their childhood rooms, they drink copious amounts of wine out of teacups (naturally) and in reading out loud their old diary entries realize that the they had the exact opposite experience in high school from each other. Maura worried way too much about other people, she was the girl who held people’s hair while they puked at parties, while Kate was the life of the party, the girl who once scaled her parents’ fireplace in a drunken night. In that moment, they realize what they have to do; they need to throw one last Ellis Island epic party at their home.

Maura gathers up the nerve and invites over her cute neighbor James (Ike Barinholtz) and decides she will try to flirt with him and have a wild night for once. She also appoints Kate as the “party mom,” meaning she will have to make sure the house stays clean, no fires, no running through walls and will have to hold people’s hair while they puke, just like she did when they were teenagers.

Film Title: SistersPoehler and Fey are our generations Laurel and Hardy, they work so funnily against each other, that having one without the other seems unfathomable. Their comedic timing is right on the mark and I found myself literally laughing out loud through many scenes from beginning to end. The jokes worked well, they weren’t too crude nor were they too safe, they were just right for this type of movie. Had it gone either way, it would have felt either awkward or boring.

The cameos were excellent from Maya Rudolph, the high school mean girl to John Leguizamo, the ex-hot cool guy who now just hangs out by the liquor store and John Cena, the stone faced drug dealer. Bobby Moynihan stole many of the best scenes as the guy who tries really hard to be funny and liked but can’t seem to get it right. I can see him transitioning from Saturday Night Live to film sometime soon.

Film Title: SistersWhat I liked about the film was that these two women never needed to find a man to complete their lives, all they needed was the love and support of their sister. They were also never dumb-downed; instead they were smart, funny and witty.

This is not an Oscar-worthy movie of course, but it is the kind of movie that whenever it is on TV I am sure I will watch. Sometimes those are the best kinds of movies because they withstand the test of time and can always make us laugh. If you are not in the mood to wait in a huge line for Star Wars this weekend, then go see Sisters, you won’t regret it.

 

Film Title: SistersStarring:  Amy Poehler (Maura Ellis)Tina Fey (Kate Ellis)Maya Rudolph (Brinda)

Directed by: Jason Moore

Written by: Paula Pell (screenplay)

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 118 min

Rating: 4/5

 

 


 

Art San Diego 2015

Photo by: Melissa Sanchez

Art moves people and makes emotions come to life. It is a physical representation of an artist’s mind at work. Art is what the viewer makes of it and what creates a lasting legacy for those who see it. It gives people the opportunity to create bonds with one another and only strengthens the community with which it is in. The highly anticipated spectrum art show event in Balboa Park’s Activity Center, Art San Diego, takes place from November 5-8, 2015 and showcases art from over 500 artists, exhibitions, art labs and galleries. This is their Seventh Annual event, which attracts everyone from high-end collectors to local art lovers.

I had the pleasure of going to opening night and I must say what a night. The buzz of artists and like-minded art aficionados could be felt in the air. Art San Diego gives artists from all walks of life the opportunity to detail their work. There was a strong Mexican connection with many art labs ranging from Tijuana to Guadalajara, Mexico. It’s that melding of cultures that makes this a strong event and one that everyone should take the opportunity to go see.

"Artist:

Immediately when you walk in, you are engrossed with beautiful colors, sculptures and other works that will make you do a double take. I spoke with artist, Momilani Ramstrum, whose works of art involves taking all kinds of textures of paint, from dried to fragments on strips, to create pieces that are visually stunning. She told me “the secret is when you feel joy,” this can be said for the artist and the viewer alike. And how true is that, the joy could be felt all over the exhibit halls. Come out and experience Art San Diego; it will leave you feeling joyful to say the least.

More info: http://art-sandiego.com

Photos by: Melissa Sanchez

Burnt – Film Review

4starsBurnt is much more than a cooking movie, it is about redemption and humility in the face of greatness. Directed by John Wells and written by Steven Knight, the two come together to create a story that is filled with drama and edginess at every corner.burnt3

Adam Jones (Bradley Cooper) was once a top rated Michelin star chef cooking in Paris who had it all and threw it down the drain with drugs and alcohol. Now a reformed junkie, he looks to recreate the momentum he once had in the kitchen. When he walks into a restaurant, any room for that matter, his bravado and ego can be felt by all. He doesn’t play by the rules, it is what got him to achieve greatness, but he soon realizes that he has to pull back the reigns in order to succeed.

Now living in London, he finds his previous maitre’d Tony (Daniel Bruhl) and makes a deal with him to allow him to take over his restaurant and do things his way. He promises he can transform his eatery into a place that all the critics will be raving about, but in order to do so Tony must take a chance on him.

BurntHis reputation still follows him everywhere he goes. In order to keep his spot, he must meet with Tony’s fathers’ analyst Dr. Rosshilde (Emma Thompson) to get drug tested on a weekly basis. Although Adam is reluctant, he takes on the agreement and moves head first into the kitchen.

He hires a new staff and insists that up and coming Chef Helene (Sienna Miller) must work with him. The two have similar mentalities and he knows they can create beautiful food together. He also makes sure to inform the Chef friends he worked with in Paris under culinary mentor Jean Luc; that he is back and ready to take on the food world. Adam shakes up the culinary world and instills fear in his competitors, all who behave irrationally at the thought of being dethroned. One in particular Reece (Matthew Rhys), who has a molecular gastronomy restaurant, gets shaken up to the point of breaking tables and chairs at the news.Burnt

The movie moves with frenetic energy, there are many close-ups of the sumptuous creations and the audience feels like they are moving with the Chefs in the kitchen. We can see everything from the sweat beads off Adam’s face when he is in the midst of plating to the droplets of oil in the food. At points when he was walking through markets tasting samples, it almost felt like we could smell the intensity and the rich aromas of his surroundings. I loved that the film gave us those sentiments.

Cooper worked with notorious Chef Gordon Ramsey on perfecting his persona and it can be felt in many of the scenes. The way he yells at his sous chefs and the demands of the kitchen could be felt. Cooper did an excellent job and showed us once again that he knows how to dig deep and pull dramatic performances off without a hitch.Burnt7

Miller was equally fantastic, she was as gracious as she was meticulous with her food and the way her and Cooper played off each other seemed genuine.

I enjoyed this movie because it was not filled with clichés. There were no superfluous back stories going on, it was simply about the journey of one Chef and his ability to come back into his old skin without losing himself once again. If you like dramas mixed with comedies or you are a foodie who enjoys the beauty of a good meal, then this movie is right up your alley.

Burnt PosterStarring: Bradley Cooper (Adam Jones), Sienna Miller (Helene), Daniel Brühl (Tony)

Directed by: John Wells

Written by: Steven Knight (screenplay), Michael Kalesniko (story)

MPAA rating: R

Running time: 101 min

Rating: 4/5

The Intern – Film Review

3stars

Nancy Meyers is known for making romantic comedies that explore the ins and outs of relationships at any age. In her movies, The Holiday, Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated, her female roles regularly feature smart women who don’t always understand their place in a new or existing relationship. In her new movie The Intern, she takes her usual romantic comedy tropes and places them in a movie about a 70-year-old widowed man, Ben Whitaker (Robert Deniro), who tries to get back into the working world via a Senior Internship at an online fashion site under CEO and founder Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). It’s part of a community outreach program to get older works back in the game that Ostin signed off on the spur of the moment. Everything she does is on the fly; she speeds through her Google-like office on a bicycle and sometimes makes decisions without much thought.

Intern Pic 2

Whitaker is one of four interns hired; he is a current retiree who worked for a phonebook company for over 40 years. His idea of getting ready for work is different than the ones adopted by most people today. He comes in promptly by setting two alarm clocks (not iPhone alarms) to wake him up, wears a suit and tie everyday to work and looks sharp as can be for his internship job. To say that he stands out in the sea of guys with zippered hoodies and disheveled hair is an understatement.

He is paired directly with Ostin who could care less about interns. She thinks fast, she moves fast and she is the typical working mom on the go. She barely has time for intimacy with her stay at home husband, Matt (Anders Holm), forgets to eat, and runs on a lack of sleep. Ostin and Whitaker’s relationship evolves into one where she starts to learn from him. He’s a man with a million life lessons under his belt and slowly but surely, everyone starts to realize that he is an asset to the company and his co-workers.

Intern Pic 3

First off, this is not an Oscar-worthy movie; it’s simply a fun movie to watch. I went into this with zero expectations and came out thoroughly pleased. I thought it was an adorable movie; it has its mishaps and corny moments like when Whitaker and the interns go to Ostins’ mom’s house to steal her computer because she sent her a mean email. Scenes like that felt misplaced, they didn’t fit in with the rest of the film.

DeNiro steals the film and shows that he’s an actor entering a different phase of his acting career, no longer does he have to only play the dad or the old mean mobster guy. In this film, he is sweet, endearing and makes every 20-something wish they had a mentor like him in their life. Hathaway was good as well, and she and DeNiro had great chemistry together. I would love to see them in another movie again. I also loved the character of Jason played by Adam DeVine, he always delivers and makes me laugh.

Intern Pic 4

I enjoyed the fact that Meyers explored the topic of women in the workplace and challenged the idea that women can lead companies without sacrificing the needs of their spouses and their relationships. It also showed that women can have complicated lives and things don’t always fit perfectly, but somehow as women we always make it work.

Overall, a fun movie to watch, it has its funny points and times that made viewers appreciate the older approach to living. If you enjoy the rom-com genre with a twist, then this will be right up your alley.

The Intern PosterStarring:  Robert De Niro (Ben Whitaker)Anne Hathaway (Jules Ostin)Anders Holm (Matt)

Directed by: Nancy Meyers

Written by: Nancy Meyers

MPAA rating: PG-13

Running time: 121 min

Rating: 3/5