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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Chasing Mavericks; Joe Kidd; Killing Them Softly; Lincoln; and Undefeated

Chasing Mavericks   2012   116 minutes   In this biopic, 15 year old Jay Moriarity persuades his neighbor, surfing guru Frosty Hesson, to train him to take on the big waves called Mavericks.  The big wave comes during an El Nino, and Jay rides it with cameras trained on him and makes his reputation as a surfer.  Afterwards he had a short and spectacular surfing career until he drowned at age 22 in the Maldives.   I did not expect to like this film but was pleasantly surprised.  It’s a good story, well acted and the surfing sequences are spectacular.

Joe Kidd   1972  87 minutes   You can’t go wrong with an Elmore Leonard screenplay.  Robert Duvall plays the most unscrupulous land owner yet.  His solution for dealing with Mexican-Americans who have competing claims to land is to murder them, when he can’t get the courts to annul their land titles.  Put your money on Joe Kidd/Clint Eastwood.  It’s nice to watch a Western now and then.

Killing Them Softly   2012   100 minutes   This is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but it’s close.  I put it in my queue because Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini were in it.  I won’t make that mistake again.  Gandolfini replays Tony Soprano, only tired and out of breath.   He was called in from New York to New Orleans to fill in for the local hired killer, Brad Pitt, for one or more of four planned murders.   Pitt didn’t want to do one of them it because he was known to the target and that would make it personal instead of ”business” or some such lunacy.  Eventually Pitt has to do all of the murders because Gandolfini spends so much time drinking and whoring that Pitt gives up on him and arranges to have him arrested for parole violation.  Pitt is convincing as a cynical, totally amoral hit man, but who cares.  Nothing happens except a couple of morons rob a poker game, and then Pitt murders the moron who isn’t in police custody, the guy who sent the morons to rob the game and the guy who ran the game.   Who needs it?

Lincoln   2012   150 minutes    Spielberg had an original script of about 500 pages based on Team of Rivals from which he took about 70 pages to relate the maneuvering it took to get the 13th Amendment passed in the House of Representatives.  The amendment had already passed the Senate by there was strong Democratic opposition in the House.  Lincoln needed to find 20 votes and to hold on to all that he already had in order to get the required supermajority.  Seward brought down a couple of professional politicos from New York to lobby likely targets, particularly lame duck Democrats.  They didn’t buy votes with money, although that possibility was discussed, but instead offered government jobs as postmaster or revenue collector.   It’s a good story and a film well worth seeing, but I found I didn’t like Daniel Day-Lewis’s Lincoln as much as I has expected.  Sally Field was totally repulsive as Mrs. Lincoln, a wonderful job of acting.  David Strathairn was exactly my idea of Seward.

Undefeated   2011   113 minutes  This is an amazing true story of a Memphis businessman,  a white guy, who volunteers to coach a perennially losing high school football team in a black Memphis ghetto. He turns it around, and although they don’t go all the way to a championship, the players learn to respect each other and the coach and to be a real team.  You have to admire the coach for what he had to put up with and for the patient way he led the young men who played for him.  Considering the circumstances of their lives, you also have to admire the players.

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