Archive for the Drama Category

FAR NORTH Review :: DRAMA :: 067

Posted in Crime, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , on 07/17/2018 by joycereview

Far North (2007)

Asif Kapadia’s film Far North (2007) was an interesting watch to say the least. The story is a unique one and (filmed in Norway) provided a setting and culture that many haven’t seen on the silver screen. When you pick up this title you’ll see that it’s a crime drama… therefore you know that something sinister happens on the ice, but what exactly, you’re not likely to guess.

The plot of this story involves two women, Saiva (Michelle Yeoh) and Anja (Michelle Krusiec) living, presumably in the Arctic region of the Soviet Union (date unknown). Saiva finds a soldier named Loki (Sean Bean) frozen and near death. Their simple life is altered dramatically after this event.

One thing that you are able to recognize right away is that this isn’t your typical Hollywood film. And though this is something I typically enjoy, the pace was a bit slow and the information restrictive. While you learn that a shaman warned Saiva that harm will come to those around her, you learn little else – and nothing about Anja. You also learn next to nothing about Loki, which you think would have come up during long, cold nights.

While the movie was enjoyable, my main gripe is that there could have been more to the story and a lot more that you could have learned from the characters. Even the ending just drops off without a sense of closure. You might be wondering why I’d give this film a seven – relatively high mark for a film I have such a deep gripe about? The answer for this is that while there is a lot more that could have been added, deepening the story, there really isn’t anything else to see fault in.

Well…. one more… but that would be giving away a major spoiler. You’ll just have to see it for yourself!

Let us know what you thought of it in the comments.





LOLITA :: DRAMA :: 059

Posted in Classic, Drama, romance with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/20/2018 by joycereview

Lolita (1962)

I want to mention first that there are two film versions of Lolita; this one, by director Stanley Kubrick and another (made in 1997) by Adrian Lyne. [I will compare these two at the end of the review]. The novel, by Vladimir Nabokov was published in 1955 and has since, not only become a famous work of prose, but ranks fourth in the list of the Modern Library 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century. Lolita remains Nabokov’s most famous and controversial novel. It took only a few years for the film rights to be purchased and in 1960, it was in production.

The Plot

A middle-aged professor (played by James Mason), rents a room from Charlotte Haze (played by Shelley Winters) and ends up falling in love with her daughter.

Without reading the book (and perhaps even after reading the book) there is a sense of dirtiness in it all. This disturbing feeling is set not only because of the difference in age but in the fact that the novel and film’s main character, Professor Humbert, is a child predator. In the book, she is twelve and because the censors didn’t want to suggest pedophilia, Dolores Haze/Lolita’s age was changed to 14 for the film. I don’t have to tell you, but this was still a risky story to bring across to audiences. Where they’ve been able to “pull one over on the audience” is despite the story, they neglect to mention actually ages in both Lolita (1962) and Lolita (1997) (she is just “in school” and “goes to camp in the summer”).  Secondly, both actresses, Sue Lyon (1962) and Dominique Swain (1997) were were 15/16 respectively. It should be known that a specific line is drawn in regards to Nabokov’s character – he is categorized NOT as a man that yearns for underage girls, but is attracted to a special quality.  In the book, this search for love is based on Humbert’s first love, infatuation and loss, Annabel. On seeing Lolita for the first time, the character of Professor Humbert sees the resemblance and spark of his long, lost love. For many viewers, on knowing this detail, makes the story a bit more palatable. 

What really made the original worth watching was the unbelievable greatness that is Peter Sellers. First of all, the British actor adopts an American accent (he is said to be mimicking the accent of Kubrick). Secondly, a lot of his dialogue is ad-libbed and in order to capture his brilliance, Kubrick had four cameras rolling at one time (from different angles). Thirdly, Seller’s portrayal of Clare Quilty had a “coolness,” a quality that would influence and attract admirers (and young girls). Frank Langella’s portrayal of the same character in the 1997 version comes across as “creepy” and “perverted.” This is an understandable divergence, and even though “a creature” such as Nabokov’s Lolita would likely be tempted by both characters, the original version was much more entertaining to watch.

Adrian Lyne’s version of Lolita (1997) featured Dominique Swain in the role of Lolita and Jeremy Irons as Humbert Humbert. Though it receives a lower rating (+/- 1.5 points) on IMDB, I would actually rate it HIGHER by a point/bear claw. For one, it’s the details…details that make you feel a similar way to when you are reading the book. Secondly, it’s the chemistry between Lolita and Professor Humbert – done primarily through the wonderful acting (and likely directing of Lyne) of Miss Swain. Swain embodied the nymphet and didn’t just occasionally hint at sexuality as did Lyon. But perhaps, during this time, Kubrick’s hands might have been tied. Lastly, I feel that Lolita should be in color. Black and white films certainly display a tone and direct your senses to other aspects but color (per example of Dominique Swain below) gives the story another plain of existence – that of subjective reality.

Stanley Kubrick is absolutely masterful and is among my favorite directors. Before Lolita (1962), Kubrick filmed Spartacus. Afterwards he went on to film Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and A Clockwork Orange, Barry Lyndon, and The Shining. A consummate perfectionist, Kubrick typically assumes control of many aspects of his films (ie. writing, directing, editing), but was forced by the censors of the time to remove much of the erotic elements between James Mason’s (Humbert) and Sue Lyon’s (Lolita) characters. While this type of element would have certainly caused more controversy and/or hurt ratings, it certainly would have given substance to the story rather than just taking the characters word for it.

Lolita (1962) is a fine movie and certainly a classic film that I’ll watch again someday. If you watch the trailer, it will likely NOT entice you to watch the film, but I assure you it’s well worth your time. However, if you want something that runs closer to the source, and isn’t quite as tame, check out Adrian Lyne’s version of Lolita (1997) [Trailer 2]


Trailer (Original):


Trailer 2:


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Posted in Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/13/2018 by joycereview

A Quiet Place (2018)

It doesn’t happen often, but we scored this movie (initially without knowing) the same as the average IMDB voters- an 8. A Quiet Place was not even an unsure or uneasy 8… instead, it was a solid, heartfelt one.

A Quiet Place is the story of a family of five who must live in relative silence as particular sounds attract deadly creatures; grotesque monsters that have overrun the planet.

John Krasinski (of The Office fame) and Emily Blunt (who are also married in real life) play parents that are doing everything they can to keep their family safe. From padding their walking path with sand to marking the planks of wood susceptible to creaking, they try to eliminate any sound that might attract one of these creatures.

Silence, especially in this film, does nothing but build a sense of tension. Will they accidentally drop a pan, step on a twig, or God forbid one of them talks in their sleep? This movie was superbly done. The acting, screen play and directing (which was all Krasinski) was especially brilliant. Emily Blunt was phenomenal as her role demanded a bit more in terms of fear, shock and pain.

If anything went wrong with this film, it did so in the third act. It is hard to describe without giving away spoilers…however, let’s just say that the ending may come to a surprise to movie goers – I even heard a chuckle or two from the audience, probably from disbelief. Not that I disagree with the ending, but I feel that certain elements such as driving a truck down the driveway and (small spoiler!) certainly having a baby are situations when death is (at least should be) guaranteed.

But I understand the reasons behind many of these moments. Like many horror films it gets you thinking, “Well, I would have done this, this and then, this.” Despite what you may or may not have done, there remains a logical reason why things were done the way it was in the film. Hence, it’s no surprise that A Quiet Place has reached it’s high marks. It has already grossed over $50 million dollars.

There are many types of horror, and though the fans of gore my scoff, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to an “edge of your seat thriller”… certainly one that borders on horror and science fiction.

My advice… do see it while it is still in the theaters.  

The scares and chills are always bigger there.




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Posted in Drama, Foreign with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/08/2018 by joycereview

The Fencer (2015)

This film came to my attention because, as a fencer myself, I follow ALL things fencing. It is also a foreign film directed my Finnish director Klaus Härö and features an Estonian cast. Therefore, it might be even lesser known to American audiences, even though it was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2016.

The Fencer is the fairly-accurately true story account of champion fencer, Endel Nelis who flees the Soviet authorities in the aftermath of the German defeat in WW2. He hides as a physical education teacher in the small town of Haapsalu, Estonia and finds the many children (many whom have had fathers that were killed during the war or imprisoned) are interested in Endel’s specialty, fencing.

The highlights were many, ranging from: location, cast, tone, and lighting. The film starts of brilliantly as you follow Endel as he steps off the train, walks into town, through the gate of the school and into his teaching position interview – only until he is in the interview do we see his face.

Endel Nelis is played by Estonian Märt Avandi and does a good (not superb) as the lead figure. There is very little range of emotions in Avandi’s character as he can best be discribed as quiet an unassuming; which, I guess plays well as he is a trying not to be found. The famous industry quote for actors warning them against acting against children or animals reigns true as two children, Marta (Liisa Koppel) and Jaan (Joonis Koff) steal every scene they are in, with the emotional climax of the film not being (in my opinion) at the end but between young Jaan and his grandfather.

Where I believe the story veers off-course occurs in two different scenes- one, the lackluster and cliché school meeting whereby the townspeople have to vote if Nelis’ fencing program should stay or go… and second, when in the final third it becomes the typical, David vs. Goliath, sport story-line that is likely NOT historically accurate, dispite Nelis’ daughter working on the film.

Overall, this is one of the few films where an audience gets a glimpse of Estonia (let alone, post-war Estonia) as well as this is the first film featuring modern fencing since …. hmmm… possibly By The Sword (1991).

Can anyone think of another? I’m hard-pressed to remember one.

The film sustains a high level of tension (in various aspects) and certainly keeps your attention.


Again, the wife and I agree that despite the great scenes with Jaan, and his grandfather (played by Lembit Ulfsak), the movie’s breakout star is….. MARTA!!! (see her cuteness below)




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Posted in Classic, Crime, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 05/01/2018 by joycereview

The Godfather II (1974)

Let the hating begin! Keep in mind that I still think that The Godfather II is a fine movie, and though 7 is well under the high marks of 9 and 10 (as many would mark it), I feel that most of this is based on popularity and the crowd/fan effect. The Godfather (1972) has one of the highest rated scores of any film on IMDB at 9.2. Rightly so, as Francis Ford Coppolla and writer Mario Puzo are geniuses. What happens at the end of that movie, as young Michael takes the reigns, leaves you clawing for more. How will Michael move forward? Will he be able to fill his father’s shoes? (Even) What’s the background of the Corleone family? You get this, in a film that runs for 3 hours and 22 minutes – let’s say 3 and 1/2 with a potty break.


Let me tell you first what I loved. The beginning, at least the first 15 minutes was as fascinating as any film I’ve seen. We see a young Vito Andolini as he loses his entire family at the hands of Sicily’s Don Francesco. Not only are we shocked right off the bat, but we instantly remember his words to Johnny Fantana, “A man that doesn’t spend time with his family isn’t a real man” and understand why he said it.

Part II gave us the return of the original cast (minus a few, obviously) thus allowing for a feeling of continuity and continued excitement. It also gave us brilliant performance by Robert De Niro, playing the future Don in his late 20’s-early 30’s. The element that most impressed me was that not only was over 90% of De Niro’s dialogue in Sicilian, but he spoke it well (per an Italian source).

Lastly, the symbolism was wasted on me. From the very beginning we have the image of the chair, the image of young Vito detained at Ellis Island, and the image in our minds of the mature don from the first film.


What detracts from the well-intentioned and overly ambitious script is based largely on structure. Though the film is able to replicate the mood of the first, the flashbacks to 1958 disrupts the narrative and because of the weight of both, leaves you wondering … why this isn’t just two separate films? There are also scenes that seem rather pointless, like the Michael’s actions in Cuba (with quite a bit of footage on the rise of Castro) and Vito’s aid to an elderly widow so she’s not evicted.

Although it is a fine film, it is not without its holes. It certainly doesn’t have the weight, quotable lines, and tight storyline as The Godfather gave us. Besides the murderous intro, the “kiss of death” and the revenge of Vito Andolini… there really isn’t enough in the 200 minutes of film to keep your revitted. But that’s just me!

What did you think and was there anything you think I missed?

Perhaps you think I’m wrong?

Tell me why!




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Posted in Action, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/19/2018 by joycereview

The Snow Walker (2003)

Like my previous review of Dune, this movie is not without its biases. The Snow Walker is made up of three things I love; aviation, Inuit culture and survivalism. When I first saw the trailer for this I was like, “Oh my God…a cross between The Aviator (1985) and Survivorman. I’m in!” Based on the book Walk Well My Brother by Farley Mowat and directed by Charles Martin Smith, The Snow Walker tells the story of Charlie Halliday, an arctic bush pilot who delivers supplies to tribes of the Canadian North. When he is bribed to take a sick Inuit girl to a hospital in Yellowknife, disasters strikes and they are forced to rely on each to survive.

The story is set in 1953, and in my opinion, they couldn’t have gotten two better leads then Barry Pepper and Annabella Piugattuk. Barry, a native Canadian with both the accent and classic good looks pulls off the arrogant, former WWII pilot. Annabella is equally good as Kanaalaq, and was picked over 100 other Inuit ladies (six of whom were flown in for auditions). Apart from being a cutie (even with her character having tuberculosis), she’s as authentic as you can get. She grew up in a town of 1600 called Nunavut, her first language was Inuktitut, and she can hunt, fish and make clothing out of caribou hides.

There were many elements to the story that I was extremely pleased to see – for one, they didn’t have to fight or escape a polar bear attack. You can just imagine that that would make the Hollywood producers salivate. What happened to them was much more realistic. Secondly, as good-looking as the main stars are, it never (spoiler alert) becomes romantic. Lastly, the ending. I will not spoil that.

There are several other reasons to watch this movie:

  1. Michael Bublé the crooner-singing sensation makes a cameo as fellow pilot named Hap.
  2. Jon Gries! Best known as Uncle Rico in Jared Hess’ Napoleon Dynamite (2004).  Though he may be seen to be a real prick in this film, he plays a real person… a bit of a pessimist, but ultimately a pragmatist.

Am I the only person that instantly sees Jon Gries and quotes,

How much you wanna bet I can throw a football over them mountains?

If you want to see a superb survival film, and unlike The Revenant, is rated PG… THIS is the one to see!

My biggest gripe… they don’t make it on bluray.




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Posted in Action, Crime, Drama with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/14/2018 by joycereview

Léon: The Professional (1994)

When a friend requested that I review Luc Besson’s The Professional, I was overjoyed. That meant that I would need to watch it again.

One thing that jumps out at me whenever I hear this writer-director’s name is that he’s a lover of strong women – maybe even moreso than James Cameron. Think about it – La Femme Nikita, young Mathilda in this film, Lucy and the key to the universe, The Fifth Element’s Leeloo.

The Professional is the screen debut of a Natalie Portman, who plays an abused 12 year old kid whose life gets changed forever when she runs into Italian hitman Léon. When her family gets killed, she pleads with Léon to teach her to “clean” – in other words, kill, to get revenge.

Besson gets it right at every turn, especially when setting up the opening! The movie opens with bird’s eye view of NYC, pans over Central Park, then a non-stop street view that finally turns into Tony’s Restaurant in Little Italy where Léon is given a job. Seconds later, we see just how “professional” The Professional really is!

Where this deviates from “perfection” are in several, somewhat trivial places. For one, it makes me question his professionalism when he wears his sunglasses inside (perhaps he doesn’t have to see) and no gloves. You telling me he’s been doing this for years, just killed half a dozen people in the first job alone – leaving fingerprints everywhere (especially on the telephone) and hasn’t been caught yet?

A man cannot live on milk alone.

While it makes the film memorable, Léon, and later, Léon and Mathilda, drink A LOT of milk – which has less to do with looking healthy and more about the strange thought of a gas on the job. I would not propose a full glass of milk before OR after exercise. Just sayin’.

Gary Oldman’s character Stansfield, is one of the creepiest of all-time. But it is a bit of a stretch to have someone like him working for Internal Affairs, popping Librium pills (IMDB), and weakly justifying himself when he “flies off the handles.” But that stretch of the imagination aside, his improvisational scenes were he literally “sniffs out” Mathilda’s father, talks about his love of Beethoven, and exclaims “Everyone!!!!” – just brilliant.

I also have to add that, although I own and watch the International Cut of the film, I prefer the American version where the awkward sexual tension is taken out. At one point in the movie, they get kicked out of an apartment because Mathilda lies to the manager that Léon is not her father, but rather, her lover. As young as Mathilda looks and IS it should be off-pudding everywhere in the world – not just the U.S. Thanks Mathilda, you just made your only guardian a sex offender too… and either he’ll get caught, forced to run or kill an innocent man. Obviously they flee the scene – somehow.

All-in-all, Léon The Professional is an amazing movie, great pacing, tremendous chemistry and well acted. One Easter Egg I’ll leave you with is this… the idea of Léon came to Luc Besson in writing/filming La Femme Nikita. A Cleaner, dressed in a long coat, glasses and a wool cap (played by Jean Reno) fixes a botched job. Besson wanted to expand this character and thus, we have this movie, except that he’s now an Italian with a non-Italian name.

I could be wrong. How popular is Léon as an Italian name?

How did you like the film? What would you rate it? Let me know!




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