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Monday, June 27, 2011

Movies Seen Recently

Eventually, if I have the strength, I'll put these and the older reviews into a single post in alphabetical order.
The Fabulous Baker Boys   1989  114 minutes
Beau and Jeff Bridges play two musicians, Frank and Jack Baker, and Michelle Pfeiffer is Susie Diamond, the slutty singer they hire to spice up their piano act.  The music and the singing are great; they almost look like they are doing it.  The act breaks up after a relationship develops between Frank and Susie, maybe a welcome development since they had been doing the same old thing for years.  It was a pleasant 114 minutes with three very likeable actors.
Bicentennial Man   1999   131 minutes
Robin Williams has only disappointed me once, and this wasn’t that time.  He’s purchased as a household robot named Andrew.  He gradually absorbs the human characteristics of his owners.  They support  him in this and eventually he becomes rich and independent.  He wants to be human and eventually succeeds.  This is a worthy follow up on Karel Capek’s play, RUR  Rossum’s Universal Robots.
The Illusionist    2010   80 minutes
A wistful animated story of an aging magician who is forced to work in obscure venues because of the growing competition of rock bands.   A young girl thinks he has real magical powers and moves in with him.  He tries to impress her with expensive gifts, which he can’t really afford.  Something to see on instant view.
The Red Shoes    1948    135 minutes
The restoration looks pretty good even in 720p.  Moira Shearer falls in love with a brilliant composer as they collaborate on a ballet that makes her a star.  Boris, the overbearing company owner, is jealous of their love and fires the composer and forbids Moira from performing.  See it again.
Grey Owl   1999  117 minutes
This is based on a true story of a young Englishman who learns all the skills of Native Americans and lives the life of a trapper and writer.  He reluctantly allows a young Iroquois woman to join him.  They marry and go to England on a lecture tour to promote his book and his life changes drastically.  This seems a better role for Pierce Brosnan than art thief or spy.
Gulliver’s Travels   2010  85 minutes
Kid stuff
Kinamand    2005   88 minutes
The Danes make some good movies.  In this one, a plumber whose wife has left him starts eating every evening at a Chinese restaurant.  Eventually the owner persuades him to enter into a marriage of convenience so he can bring his sister to Denmark from China.  Despite language and cultural barriers, love blooms.  Unfortunately, she had come to Denmark for medical treatment.  The illness was fatal.  It is her Danish husband who takes her ashes back to China.
A Film Unfinished    2010   91 minutes
This is long lost film footage shot by Nazi propaganda crews in the Warsaw Ghetto.  If you have seen the recreations by Spielberg and others, you don’t need to see this unless you are doing some serious research.
Harlan County, U.S.A.  1976   104 minutes
This film won an Oscar for best documentary and was selected for the National Film Registry.  The film crews practically moved in with the miners’ families as the community struggled with the Eastover Mining Company and the Duke Power Company to gain recognition for the United Mine Workers.  My father wrote Out of the Depths, which was probably the first book on miners’ efforts to unionize and escape virtual slavery, and I met some of the principle players in that struggle as a young child.  Needless to say, I was especially interested in and appreciative of this film.
Black Orpheus    1959    107 minutes 
Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.  It’s a noteworthy retelling of the story and it serves as a window into life in the favella’s in Rio, but the quality of the aging film itself detracts from the experience.
Inside Job    2010    108 minutes
An Oscar-winning documentary on the corruption that led to the meltdown, for which we are all still paying, while the principals who brought it about are jetting off to their third houses in wherever.
Rabbit Hole   2010   92 minutes
Nicole Kidman was the draw for this film.  Maybe it’s just me, but a couple of days later, I couldn’t remember anything about it.
Never Let Me Go    2010    103 minutes
Kazuo Ishiguro was the draw for this film.  I was revolted by the whole idea.  Children were cloned and then raised to adulthood so that they could donate their organs.  They all seemed resigned to this.  The results of their donations was death.  Never go see it.
Mao’s Last Dancer    2010    117 minutes
I had read the autobiography on which this film was based.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Cunxin was chosen from a small village to go to Beijing to become a dancer.  When his company toured the US, he defected for the opportunity to dance here.  It’s a great story and the training and performance sequences are not to be missed.
Biutiful    2010    147 minutes
Uxbal, played by Javier Bardem, is diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer.  He is a divorced father trying to raise two children and is determined to atone for his life as a black marketer.  It’s interesting visually but I found it all a bit confusing.
The Thin Red Line     1998    170 minutes
It took me a few minutes to realize that I had seen this before.  I’m glad I stayed with it for a second viewing.  This is James Jones novel about the battle in 1942 for Guadalcanal.  Nick Nolte is perfect as the incompetent field commander, who needlessly risks his men, fails to provide for them – in this case water—and can’t accept good advice.  If you read the Netflix blurb, don’t expect to see George Clooney for anything but an ironic cameo at the end.
The Company Men    2010   105 minutes
This film has a lot to say about the corporate world and the difference between businessmen who are interested in producing something of value and those who only seek to enrich themselves through financial manipulation.  Tommy Lee Jones has gotten one step from the top.  While he likes the $500 lunches and $5000 hotel suites, he wants to build ships.  I developed some respect for Ben Affleck in this film.  He does a great job of playing the sales manager who is fired and then has to adjust his aspirations and his lifestyle.  And Kevin Costner does an excellent job of playing Kevin Costner.
Secretariat     2010     123 minutes
You can’t miss with John Malkovich and Diane Lane.  He’s an oddball trainer and she’s Penny Chenery whose recognition of the possibilities in “Big Red” and determination to unleash them led to the triple crown and never ending stud fees.  It’s a great story well told.
Jackie Brown    1997    154 minutes
With Quentin Tarantino you are going to get tawdry, but he has a great cast – Samuel L. Jackson, Robert De Niro and Michael Keaton.  Everyone is so despicable that you can almost be glad to see Pam Grier, who plays an aging flight attendant, get away with conning them all.  It’s an o.k. flick, if  you’re too tired to read a book.
The Green Hornet     2011    119 minutes
Someone should have told director Michael Gondry that a super hero shouldn’t be a complete doofus.
The Ramen Girl    2008     102 minutes
Watch carefully and you may learn something about Japan and the Japanese spirit.  Britanny Murphy plays Abby, who tries to apprentice herself to learn how to make ramen and finds she must discover the beauty of a perfect bowl of soup.  The cantankerous chef is 100% Japanese.
True Grit    2010   110 minutes
Eat your heart out, John Wayne.  Jeff Bridges makes a great Rooster Cogburn, despite this being done by the Coen brothers.
Drive Angry    2011    104 minutes
I usually like Nicholas Cage, but I didn’t realize he was going to be coming back from hell to avenge the death of his daughter at the hands of a satanic cult leader and prevent the human sacrifice of his baby granddaughter.  He shoots at least 50 people, most of whom will be joining him when he gets back to hell.  He should take all the prints of this picture with him.

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