September 14, 2014

This moody, Italian film reminds me a little of the German film Mostly Martha (far superior to the Hollywood remake, No Reservations) and, perhaps, a little more of Cairo Time.

The story focuses on a woman whose job involves traveling to five-star hotels across Europe as a “mystery guest” who rates the establishments. It’s a professional life of luxury that contrasts in tone but not content with her personal life in her spare, Roman apartment. After all, she is mostly alone in both spheres.

When she is home, her limited time is divided between her best friend (an ex-lover) and her sister and two young nieces. Even with them, however, she remains separate, holding something to herself.

The film explores her journey in a way that is likely to rankle people hankering for a conventional plot based on rising and falling action, reversals, and cathartic moments of revelation, but I think it has a subtler authenticity that comes from an independent women taking stock and coming to terms.

She has questions about the choices she has made and considers what kind of life she wants. Some of us do that regularly, some of us do it openly, and some of us avoid that type of introspection.

A Five Star Life is a good choice for a cloudy Sunday matinee. You still have time…

A Five Star Life

Excellent Essay on an Upcoming TV Series

September 13, 2014

Read this, even though it is likely to make you want to skip The Red Band Society.


September 11, 2014

This is a weird little movie. And, I like it.

Relative newcomers, director Charlie McDowell and writer Justin Lader, team up with two terrific and experienced actors, Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass, in a story I can’t tell you about.

See, the plot needs to be a surprise for the movie to unfold as it must to engage you.

I can tell you that Moss and Duplass play a married couple going through a rough patch. When their marriage therapist (Ted Danson) sends them away for a weekend, things get freaky.

The film is not as outrageous as Being John Malkovich or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and neither are the metaphysical elements as watered down as it is in some of the Woody Allen movies. There is some edge here and some unexpected elements, which is refreshing.

Overall, though, it’s the fine performances by Moss and Duplass that really sell the concept.

Take a look and see what you think; then, we can talk about it.

The One I Love


September 6, 2014

If you loved Frances Ha, you will undoubtedly love A Coffee in Berlin. If you read the blog regularly, you’ll know that am very high on Frances Ha.

Tom Schilling is every bit as personable as Greta Gerwig, and Berlin looks just as appealing in black and white as New York.

Schilling plays Niko Fischer, a young man who can’t quite find himself – his apartment is as unsettled as his life – and a visit with his father on the golf course helps explain why.

There are competing emotional tones in the film just as there are in life, and Tom Schilling executes the changes adeptly while drawing us into his world and onto his side. His Niko has an expression that is simultaneously open and guarded, transparent and complex.

See for yourself. It’s a face that was meant for cinema.

A Coffee in Berlin


September 1, 2014

I watched two more episodes last night while tethered to my double oven in the midst of baking 300 cookies for a campus Labor Day Cookout.

The cookies are done and so am I.

As the saying goes, “I’m just not that in to you, series.”


August 31, 2014

I watched the pilot of this HBO series, and it was an hour in (1:15 runtime) before something happened that engaged me. A couple of days later, I watched the second episode.


Justin Theroux is appealing as the Sheriff, but I need something else to make me watch another episode of The Leftovers. Anyone out there a fan who wants to make a case for me to keep watching?

The Leftovers


August 29, 2014

Wow. Episode 6, Season 2 of Ray Donovan is explosive. The “Viagra” episode is beautifully directed by Liev Schreiber, who also plays the eponymous character with such skill (and such sometimes concealed and sometimes revealed seething rage).

You just know that this birthday party is a bad idea because of all of the damaged people already at wit’s end who are about to come together in one room just the time when all of them are at wit’s end. Beautiful build of tension then a series of combustions. Like I said, wow.

So glad I’m caught up now. So glad I don’t know any of these people in real life.

Ray Donovan 2


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