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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Crossing Over; Erased; Grave of the Fireflies; A History of Violence; and The Long Goodbye

Crossing Over   2009   113 minutes   Harrison Ford plays an I.C.E. officer; Ray Liotta is an adjudicator who examines and rules on the issue of green cards and Ashley Judd, Liotta’s wife, is an immigration defense lawyer.  The film interweaves several specific cases to provide a look at border crossing, document fraud, asylum seekers, naturalization, counter-terrorism and the clash of cultures in America.  Some of the cases will tear your heart out.
Erased   2012   104 minutes   A CIA agent, Ben Logan, who did some “wet work” and then asked for other duties was forced out of the agency and barred from returning to the US.  He was hired as a security expert in the Belgian offices of a multinational company.  He brought his 15 year old daughter from the US to live with him in an apartment in Antwerp.  After he started asking questions about some of the patents on the gear they were making, he suddenly found that all of his colleagues had been murdered one by one, the offices where they worked had been stripped bare, and there was no record of the company or of his existence in Belgium. Meanwhile documents extremely injurious to the parent company had been stolen from a CIA vault.  Ben grabs his daughter and goes on the run.  The company’s people, including a corrupt CIA agent, come after him.  He and his daughter are too much for them.
Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka)   1988   88 minutes   This is an anime film directed by Isao Takahata.  It’s the summer of 1945, and a boy of about 10 to 12 lives with his mother and little sister in a town in Kansai that is close enough to a city to experience periodic bombing.  Their father is serving on a Japanese cruiser.  Their mother dies in a bombing raid and they go to live with an aunt, who mistreats them.  They go off on their own and try to survive.  The war is soon over, but there just isn’t any food.  Eventually the sister, who is just beyond being a toddler, dies of starvation despite heroic efforts by the boy to feed the two of them.  Then he dies too in a subway station.  This is as grim an anti-war movie as I have ever seen.
A History of Violence   2005   100 minutes   Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) runs a diner in a small town in Indiana and his wife has a law practice.  It’s as if they stepped out of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Two thugs come into the diner and it’s soon clear they are going to kill everyone in the place.  Tom starts with a coffee pot to the jaw and quickly kills both thugs.  He’s a hero and his picture goes all over the country.  A week or so later two guys from Philly (Ed Harris and some muscle) show up and start talking to Tom as if he is a gangster named Joey Caruso.  Tom says it’s a case of mistaken identity, and the sheriff runs them off.  Soon they are back, only there are three of them and they come to Tom’s house and tell him he must come with them to see his brother.  When Tom says “no,” they pull Tom’s son out of their car.  Tom says he’ll go with them, if they let his son go.  After his son is clear, he manages to kill two of them but is about to get shot in the back by the third guy, when Tom’s son shoots the thug with the family shotgun.  Then Tom has to confess to his family that he used to be Joey Caruso but chose to get out of “the life.”  There is still unfinished business, and Tom/Joey takes off for Philly in his pickup.  He finishes the business – after his brother tries to have him garroted, he kills his brother and all of his thugs.  In the last scene, he comes in while the family is having dinner.  No one says anything.  His daughter brings a plate for him.  He sits down.  Cut to black.
The Long Goodbye   1973   112 minutes   Elliott Gould is Phillip Marlowe smoking at least 100 cigarettes, solving a murder, shooting the bad guy who was going to get away with it, and leaving the bad girl stranded with no money and no bad guy-lover.  Times have changed since 1973.  This is an interesting and cynical film by Robert Altman, but somehow all that smoking is a big turn off.

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