Sisters (2015)

Sisters was the last film I saw in a theater in 2015. It’s the latest film from the team of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and it’s the funniest I saw last year.

Maura is divorced and is a Nurse. She’s on her own, and she bends over backwards to help everyone but herself. Kate is staying with her daughter Haley (Madison Davenport) in the home of a former employer. Kate can’t hold a job for long, always living on the edge of instability.

Maura has the good relationship with their parents, Bucky and Deana Ellis (James Brolin and Dianne Weist). They tell her that it’s time to move on, so they’ve chosen to sell the family home and move to an Adult Community. They ask her to tell Kate of their plans, but she doesn’t until Kate comes home for a visit.  That’s when it slips out that the parents are selling. It’s a total shock to Kate, who is broke and was going to ask to move back home to live there with her daughter. However, Bucky and Deana have already moved out, so they tell the kids to grab what they can and leave the rest.

Kate is livid, but Maura talks her down. Kate insists that they have One Final Party before the sale. As the two of them reconnect, they meet the new buyers, a condescending couple who want to change everything about the home and property. That pushes Maura over the edge, and she agrees to have that one final blowout. The two Ellis sisters are back, baby, and they’re gonna make it a night to remember.

They prep for the party, inviting everyone still in the area, even the annoying ones. All are invited, except for that one Mean Girl that’s Kate’s mortal enemy, Brinda (Maya Rudolph). They end up telling her she’s not invited.  Kate gets Maura to invite the new neighbor, James (Ike Barinholtz), to come, and Maura does it, if only to get Kate to be the responsible one this time. Growing up, it was always Maura.

As you’d expect, the party starts off dull, until the music arrives and people start dancing. Their friend Dave (John Leguizamo) also invited Pazuzu (John Cena) to supply the party with recreational pharmaceuticals. He’s a stone-faced straight man, and Kate tries to get him to crack.

As with all the other Party-themed movies (Bachelor Party, House Party I & II and so on), it gets crazier and crazier, worse, and worse. I bet you know the sort of thing that happens next. What I especially appreciated was the epilogue. Most of the films of this type would have ended The Morning After, but Sisters “finishes” the story.

Even though it’s the sort of movie you’ve seen before, there were some additional spins on the same old tropes that actually improved it. The casting is good – there are several of the current cast of Saturday Night Live in the movie. Given their previous movie history together, I’d have expected the role of Maura to have gone to Tina and Kate to Amy, but they switched it around, this time. However, in this story, Kate becomes the responsible one to host the party, so it sort of balances out, if you follow. The other strange bit of casting is with Dianne Weist and James Brolin. They play well together, but what’s strange is that the two of them also star in the new CBS sitcom Life in Pieces as husband and wife. I guess they decided that after making this movie, they work well enough together that they appear as a package in the sitcom I’m presuming that the movie was made before the sitcom was cast. Go figure.

If you hadn’t guessed, I really liked this film, and I do recommend it.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the first Disney-produced Star Wars movie, helmed by JJ Abrams. This film is a return to the original themes of the original Star Wars trilogy, done in the same style. I really enjoyed this film, and rank it on the same level as those films. I’ve seen it twice already, and will probably see it again. I haven’t seen it in 3D, nor do I intend to, since it does not appear to benefit from it – others have told me as much.

There are minor spoilers in this review, so stop reading now if you feel the need to avoid them


Continue reading Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015)

Hitchcock/Truffaut is a documentary about an special interview that took place about 50 years ago. In the 1960s, Francois Truffaut had been a movie critic for the French magazine Cahiers du cinéma, which was known for its harsh criticism of the movies of the day. He’d become a director, himself, with the movie 400 Blows. He approached Alfred Hitchcock, and scheduled an in-depth interview that lasted for days. Truffaut arranged for the event to be recorded and photographed. In 1967, Truffaut published his summary of the interview in book form, titled “Hitchcock/Truffaut”. The book has become one of the must-reads for anyone wanting to be serious about making movies. Even now, it has a high price on

Here is a link to the documentary trailer.

This documentary contains excerpts of the interview, in more or less chronological order. You get to understand Hitchcock and his thought processes, but not all of them. Truffaut walked Hitchcock through his film history, and discussed each in detail, most of which is in the book. However, this film is only partially about that. It also has interviews with numerous other directors, each of whom have had a personal connection to the book. These include Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, Peter Bodgonovitch, and many others. What we get from them is their reaction to reading the book, and how it affected their own films, and lives, for that matter.

What it doesn’t cover, and I suspect it wasn’t even part of the interview, was Hitchcock’s well-known horrible treatment of his leading ladies. Several films were made around that very subject. Given that the interview took place when it did, one could begin to see why it wasn’t discussed – it wasn’t well known back then. I would have loved to have had some insight what he was thinking at the time, but we’ll never know.

This is a very fascinating film, especially for anyone who loves movies and moviemaking. Recommended.

Rwanda and Juliet (2015)

Rwanda and Juliet was one of the last films was one of the last films shown in the fall 2015 schedule of the Arthouse Film Festival. It’s a documentary, which follows an American college professor, Andrew Garrod, who’s decided to being Shakespeare to Rwanda. In 1994, there was a genocide, where the Hutu families caused a million deaths of the Tutsi citizens.

The trailer for the movie can be found here.

Twenty years have passed since that tragedy, and Garrod hopes to use Romeo and Juliet as a way to aid in the healing of old wounds. Given the nature of the story, where two people fall in love from warring families of Montagues and Capulets, he felt it was an appropriate choice. His idea was to cast only Hutus for one family and Tutsis for the other. Once he arrives and schedules the auditions, that all gets thrown out the window. The auditioners are very undisciplined, and casting is somewhat difficult. He cannot align his choices along those lines. It ends up being a mix.

Once cast, there’s a lot of work to do. Most of the cast has either little or no stage experience, and there’s a lot to accomplish. Garrod only has funding for about 6 weeks of producing the play, so it’s make or break. Many of the cast are wary of the Professor, and believe his plan to be a bit ridiculous, claiming that reconciliation has occurred, so a play to reunite the people is no longer necessary. They get frustrated, but pull together when it’s needed.

The documentarians end up following several of the cast, and find out more than they ever thought they would. I’ll just leave it at that.

Overall, I would side with the Rwandans in this attempt by an outsider to think that Professor Garrod’s efforts would have as big an impact as he expected. I won’t go further down that thinking, so that you may discover it for yourselves. This is an acceptable documentary and worth the time to watch.