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Drama

Ben is Back – This Film Should Be Included in the Educational Curriculum of Secondary Schools

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Film Review : Ben is Back

Here’s the deal, and it is not negotiable.
You get a day.

Films about addictions and the destructive effect on family life and personal well-being. I have a hard time dealing with it. “Beautiful Boy” made a crushing impression on me recently. I was thrown off balance after watching it. An emotional fight by a father trying to save his son from a world full of self-destructive chemical junk. An impressive spectacle about hope and second chances. Maybe “Ben is back” is not a similar film on the whole. But nonetheless, I looked at it again in a depressing way and a not so pleasant memory came up again. “Ben is back” certainly isn’t a bad film but doesn’t reach the same level as “Beautiful Boy“. Unfortunately, they decided halfway to turn the social drama into a drug-related thriller. Dealing (pun not intended) with drug addiction was replaced by settings things straight with some drug dealers. In other words, Ben’s world from the past.

 

 

Talking about a Christmas surprise.

Here it’s not a father who serves as a rock in the raging surf. Holly (Julia Roberts) remains Ben’s refuge. She still has hope in the recovery of her son Ben (Lucas Hedges). And then suddenly her son shows up with Christmas. A complete surprise since he normally would stay over in rehab during the holidays. Ben has been there for several months and thanks to his sponsor he seems to be able to leave the addictive stuff behind him. And mother Holly is positive. Nevertheless, all medicines and valuable things are removed quickly. Apparently, confidence has not yet been fully restored.

 

Endearing, moving, confronting and painful.

And also stepfather Neal (Courtney B. Vance) doesn’t trust him. So he imposes a veto. Ben is allowed to stay with them for 24 hours, but only if mother Holly keeps a close eye on him for the entire period. A veto that provides the most exciting part of the film. The interaction between mother and son. Endearing and moving at moments. Fairly confronting and painful at other times. Like the scene at the cemetery where Molly points out how destructive his life is. He can even choose a spot as his last resting place. Or the conversation between Molly and the retired doctor who prescribed pain killers to Ben in the past. Two scenes imbued with anger and despair. And all thanks to the addictive stuff Ben was hooked on. Something he wants to get rid of if you listen to his monologue during an NA meeting. In my eyes the most emotional moment.

 

 

Julia Roberts shines.

Naturally, the interpretations of Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges are the ones that get the most attention. And although I’m not such a Julia Roberts fan, I still found her acting impressive and convincing. An emotional roller coaster squeezed into one day. And Roberts plays this tormented but sometimes tough mother in a solid and realistic way. Lucas Hedges also plays his role as the former drug addict in a brilliant way. The moment he bursts into tears during “Silent Night” in the church, will leave no one untouched. But Courtney B. Vance and Kathryn Newton also deserve some praise.

 

 

Mandatory at school.

And yet this movie didn’t impress me as much as “Beautiful Boy“. Purely and simply because they’ve not only chosen to create a captivating emotional family drama, but also to make a standard drugs-related thriller of it. The moment the dog disappeared, it immediately reminded me of “Once upon a time in Venice” where gang leader Jason Momoa kidnapped Bruce Willis’s dog. The search of Ben and his mother is a quest full of popular attractions from Ben’s drug history. The key question in the second part is whether Ben is able to resist the temptation. And despite the excessive melodrama at the end, it’s still an exquisite film that conclusively demonstrates how destructive drugs can be. This film should be included in the educational curriculum of secondary schools. Together with “Beautiful Boy” it shows in a realistic way how disastrous your life can be. No drug campaign can match this!

 

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Crime

The Untouchables – A Retrospective Look

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I watched this in honour of Sean Connery who sadly passed away the day before. It must be 10 years since I have watched this, and I had forgotten how brilliant it actually was.

What is often overlooked with ‘The Untouchables’ is just how emotional it is in parts, from Ness (Kevin Costner) meeting the mother of a girl blown up by a cafe bomb to the touching climax between Ness and Stone (Andy Garcia). It is a film that is genuinely upsetting to see the end, you would be quite happy to spend more time with these people.

It is also undoubtedly a film about friendship and that is where the late great Sean Connery stands out from the cast. As supposedly past it beat cop Malone, he strikes as a man of lonely isolation, just trying to get through every shift alive. He is at first suspicious of Ness but soon warms to what Ness is trying to achieve and there the bond between the two starts. Malone’s relationship with Stone gets off to a less auspicious start but by the end of the film, the relationship produces one final emotional wallop that we all deeply feel. Throw in accountant Oscar Wallace, played for the comic relief by Charles Martin Smith and we have four disparate men bonding over their end goal, to catch and see justice brought again crime lord Al Capone, (played with menace by Robert DeNiro).

There is so much to admire here, some of the setpieces are simply astonishing, the stakeout and subsequent battle on the Canadian border are sensationally choreographed, and a homage to the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin is nerve shreddingly executed. The violence is brutal and shocking at times and as stated previously the deaths are graphic and in one particular case deeply moving.

Kevin Costner was a star on the rise at this point, with big hits like ‘Field of Dreams,’ ‘Dances With Wolves,’  ‘JFK’ and ‘Robin Hood’ to come, he is excellent as the clean-cut family man Ness. A young Andy Garcia is impressive as the sharpshooting Stone, but this is Connery’s film. It’s an exceptional performance filled with guile, wisdom and what is apparent from the get-go, anger. He would win an Academy Award for this film and few could argue against it.

Its an incredibly neat and tidy film, it never outstays its welcome or gets too bogged down in courtroom showdowns. It’s gritty and powerful and a reminder of just how good an actor and phenomenal screen presence Connery was. It doesn’t get much better than this.

This review is dedicated to the memory of Sir Sean Connery 25/8/1930 – 31/10/2020 – A true screen icon

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Comedy

On the Rocks (2020)

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You know what’s great about her?
She doesn’t talk. She just listens.
That sounds perfect for you.

 

Life is full of unexpected turns. As an 18-year-old, I rented the adult cartoon “Tarzoon: Shame of the Jungle” just for fun. Probably because of the titillating vamp on the cover, lying naked on a huge platter and carried by figures that looked like penises. No one could suspect that a voice actor in this cartoon would become one of my most popular actors. If there’s one comedian who manages to make me chuckle without any problem, it’s Bill Murray. Like in “Stripes” and “Ghostbusters”. Or the incomparable film “Groundhog Day”. However small his role may be in a feature film, he always manages to create an unforgettable scene, such as in “Zombieland” for example. Put Murray in a horror, and his typical way of acting makes it a completely different experience. Just watch “The dead don’t die” and you’ll know what I mean. In short, a versatile actor who takes a film to a higher level with his contribution.

 

 

Lost in Translation.

This year I came to the conclusion that I had never seen the movie “Lost in translation”. A film directed by Sofia Coppola (daughter of) with Bill Murray and the very young Scarlett Johansson in the leading roles. Even though there was something slightly comical lurking beneath the surface of this film, the subject matter was far from comical. A film about two individuals who are right in the middle of an identity crisis. A film about love and loneliness. Loneliness not only because of the life situation they both find themselves in, but also because of the fact that they are in a country where they don’t understand the language, culture, and general way of life. Two lost souls who discover, sense, and encourage each other. I admit, I was moved after seeing this masterful film. Finally, after a long time a film that rocked my socks off. A thought-provoking film that’ll resonate for a pretty long time. Yes, some movies do that to me.

 

 

A wild search for the truth.

And then 17 years after the release of this magisterial film, we get a renewed collaboration between Sofia Coppola and Bill Murray. “On the Rocks” is not as magical as “Lost in Translation“. But somewhere deeply hidden it does have points of contact with the latter. Here, too, Laura (Rashida Jones) is in the middle of a crisis. Both in terms of her marriage and her writing career. The suspicion that her husband Dean (Marlon Wayans) just pretends to have lots of work since starting his own company, just to cover up an affair, grows stronger. And writing a new book isn’t easy either. The day she tells her father Felix (Bill Murray), a charismatic wealthy art dealer with an untameable flirtation habit, about her suspicions, he throws himself wholeheartedly into the case with full dedication. Before Laura realizes it, she is embroiled in a wild search for the truth.

 

 

Murray nails it.

On the rocks” isn’t such a depressing and melancholic story as “Lost in translation“. There’s more humor in it. How another mother at school tells Laura every morning about her love life. The interesting facts about human behavior and the evolution of relationships between men and women Felix tells about every time unexpectedly. The wild chase in a “not so suspicious-looking” red, noisy convertible through the streets of New York. Perhaps it’s rather light, uncomplicated humor. Still, it’s subtle at the same time. The chemistry between Laura and her father feels unforced and authentic. And this won’t come as a surprise: Bill Murray nailed it once more. He demands full attention every time he comes into the picture. His characteristic acting and the way in which he can charm random people with his smooth talk is simply superb. And it’s not just the female population that falls for his smooth-talking. The way he manages to turn a police officer’s mood from being reprimanding to being helpful is just sublime.

 

One more time.

“On the rocks” is about marital troubles, a complicated father-daughter relationship, and also about how people get lost in the turbulent and chaotic society in which they live. It’s not another masterpiece of Coppola, but surely it’s another successful cooperation between Coppola and Murray. I quietly hope that they will work together again in the future.

My rating 7/10
Links: IMDB

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Drama

The Craft: Legacy | Official Trailer – Sony Pictures

An eclectic foursome of aspiring teenage witches get more than they bargained for as they lean into their newfound powers.

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Genre:

Drama, Fantasy, Horror

Release Date:

October 27, 2020

Director:

Zoe Lister-Jones

Cast:

Michelle Monaghan, Cailee Spaeny, David Duchovny, Gideon Aldon, Lovie Simone, Hannah Gordon, Nicholas Galitzine

Plot Summary:

An eclectic foursome of aspiring teenage witches get more than they bargained for as they lean into their newfound powers.

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