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Monday, January 16, 2012

Movies: The Harmonists Is the Best Out of Seven

The Great Buck Howard   2008  90 minutes   This was the second viewing for me and it held my interest all the way through.  The film is loosely based on the amazing Kreskin.  Colin Hanks plays a law school dropout who signs on as road manager for Buck Howard, a mind reader and illusionist, nastily and sadly played by John Malkovich.  At the end of every show the money that is to be Howard’s  payment is hidden in the audience, and he always finds it.  He is accused of using some kind of listening device, but, as with Kreskin, this is never proved.  The real theme is the coming of age of the young dropout and the sadness that befalls a fading star.

The Harmonists   1997  115 minutes   This is the true story of the Comedian Harmonists, a phenomenally successful German singing group  that was forced to disband in 1934 because two members were Jewish and another was married to a Jewish woman.  It’s the routine and pedestrian grinding of the wheels of injustice in Nazi Germany that underlines the evil of anti-Semitism depicted in this film.

Jefferson in Paris  1995  139 long minutes   It’s a mess.  Nice scenes of late 18th C Paris.

Jet Li’s Fearless   2006  103 minutes    Jet Li plays real-life martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia  who dreamed of continuing his father’s legacy and then became so proud of his own accomplishments that he disgraced himself.  After renewing his soul on a farm in the country, he accepts a challenge to fight four foreigners serially.  He wins the first three and then loses the fourth only because he  drinks poisoned tea just before it begins.  It’s c.1910 and the foreigners who dominate China have laid down heavy bets that no Chinese can beat them.

The Killing   1956  84 minutes   Sterling Hayden plays a career criminal who plans one last job at a racetrack.  I watched because it was directed by Stanley Kubrick.  I hereby resolve never to watch another old black and white film no matter who directed it  --  well, almost never.

Puncture   2011  100 minutes   A drug-addicted attorney and his partner try to take on the drug companies, which have refused to manufacture a needle that will protect healthcare workers from accidental injection.  They have few resources but get far enough along so that a larger firm with previous success in class action lawsuits can pick up the ball.  The drug addicted attorney dies of an overdose.  I didn’t enjoy the film because it is hard to empathize with anyone this stupid and arrogant.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes   2011  105 minutes   This was O.K.  It’s the back story of how the apes got so smart.  James Franco plays a scientist at a drug company which is trying to develop a cure or near cure for Alzheimer’s.   Franco discovers that the drug makes amazing changes in the IQ of the apes used in the experiments.  Eventually an ape that Franco has raised at home steals vials of the drug, gives it to other apes and they all escape to Muir woods.  During the end credits you see an airline pilot stop on his way to work when he finds he has a nosebleed.  It’s clear now that it was a plague, not a nuclear holocaust, that cleared out the humans and left the earth to the apes.

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