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Friday, February 8, 2013

Deadfall; In the Valley of Elah; Love in the Time of Cholera; The Impressionists (BBC); and two oldies: Aces High and Nobody’s Fool

Aces High   1976   108 minutes   This is an old movie and it looks it.  There are WW I airplanes, but not enough is seen of them – a lot of the aerial action shows close-ups of pilots gritting their teeth as they shoot their machine guns.  The basic story is that the squadron commander, an experienced pilot, has to continue as usual, while watching one new pilot after another die within a week or two of reporting for duty.

Deadfall   2012   94 minutes   Addison and his sister, Lisa, are heading up an ice covered highway towards Canada.  A third person is driving.  Lisa is in the back seat counting stacks of bills.  The car skids and leaves the road.  The driver is killed, but Addison and Lisa are unhurt.  A policeman sees the wreck and gets out of his cruiser to check it out.  Addison shoots him in the face.  Addison divides the money and tells Lisa to get up on the road and hitch a ride, while he takes off on foot through the woods.  No one knows she has been with him, and she is to deny knowing him until they meet up in Canada.  Jay has just been released from prison for throwing a boxing match.  He stops by his promoter’s office to claim his share of the money from the fight.  The promoter attacks him, a mistake because Jay has not forgotten how to throw a right.  The promoter hits his head as he goes down and may be dying.  Jay calls 911, jumps in his pickup (no explanation of where he got it on his first day out of prison), and heads north where, of course, he finds Lisa on the road half frozen and in the middle of nowhere.  She asks him to drive her to Canada.  He declines but says he will take her to the next gas station.  When they get there they find the road north has been closed for the night because of the storm.  They spend the night together and the next day he agrees to take her to Canada, but first he wants to take her for Thanksgiving dinner to meet his parents .  Meanwhile there is a manhunt for Addison.  He has been busy.  He has killed a hunter and stolen his snow mobile, spent the night in a cabin after killing the abusive husband who had driven his wife out into the snow, killed two of the three police officers who have come to check on the abused wife, and forced his way into Jay’s parents’ home.  Jay and Lisa arrive and eventually the police.  Addison doesn’t survive.  Maybe this is Jay’s story, but we see more of Addison, a villain with some redeeming qualities.   He loves his sister, and he doesn’t kill kids.  Sissy Spacek played Jay’s mother – she plays everyone’s mother lately – and Olivia Wilde was nice to look at, but I ended up wondering why I had watched this movie.

The Impressionists   2006  Two discs     This is a DVD of a four part BBC series.  The first three parts dramatize the life of Monet and those around him, principally Bazille, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas and Manet.  It is loaded with incidents and details that are familiar to art historians.  The fourth part is more a documentary on Monet’s style, in particular his ongoing attempts to capture on canvas the light of a moment.   I came away with an even greater respect for Monet as an innovative artist and as a person.

In the Valley of Elah   2006   121 minutes   This is not an easy film to watch.  Tommy Lee Jones is on camera for almost every scene, and he is magnificent.  He plays a retired military policeman and the father of a young soldier who has just returned from Iraq and now seems to have gone AWOL.  After the son’s dismembered body is found in a field, Charlize Theron is equally impressive as the sexually harassed police detective who insists on taking the case despite the objections of her superiors and the opposition of the military police, who would like to make the case disappear.  In the course of the investigation by Jones and Theron we learn a lot about what the war did to the young men and women who fought in it, and it’s not pleasant. 

Love in the Time of Cholera   2007   139 minutes   There’s not much about cholera here.  Javier Bardem plays a young telegraph operator who fails to win the hand of the daughter of a rich and ambitious businessman.  She marries another and he waits for her husband to die, which he does after 51 years.  Bardem fills in the intervening time with affairs and assignations with over 600 women – he keeps score in a little notebook.  With the husband out of the way, he resumes his suit and eventually she succumbs.  Not my kind of story, but the costuming and the makeup to age the actors are amazing, and although the producers say they didn’t have a big enough budget to shoot a full blown period piece, they did a remarkable job of recreating turn of the century Cartajena.

Nobody’s Fool    1994   110 minutes   Paul Newman plays sully, a 60 year old construction worker, who rooms in Jessica Tandy’s house.  As a young man he walked out on his wife and one year old son, perhaps because he feared that he couldn’t be a better father than his own abusive parent.  Eventually he becomes friends with his grown son and dotes on his grandson.  Melanie Griffith flashes her boobs for us while she and Newman are flirting.  Bruce Willis with hair is Griffith’s husband and runs the construction and renovation company where Sully works – when he feels like it.  Paul Newman is always worth watching, except in Quintet, of course.

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