rondine

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Reviews

The Mother
(2003)

Haunting slice of life...
This movie is a haunting slice of life because it takes people, complicated, humanly weak and messed-up people and lets their complexities speak for themselves.

The titular character, May (Anne Reid) is COMPLETELY believable as a widow who has subjugated her whole life to being a wife and mother. There are things about this movie that remind me of "Shirley Valentine" and "The Subject was Roses" - yet it stands on its own as a powerful story of many people, all trying to find their way.

There are many relationships - daughter, son, mother, handyman - yet they all intersect in a way that is complex and mirrors life more than the average movie - luckily for us the viewers, this movie is anything but average.

There will be some that will be put-off by the sexually explicit scenes and drawings- yet to leave them out would be a cheat in a movie like this one. It is about someone that is closer to the end than the beginning trying to live and do the things that we take for granted when we are young. It puts the issue of ageism right in your face and if you are honest, it makes you ask, as she does in the movie, "Why not?"

All of the performances are first rate and believable. Add to that wonderfully realistic dialog, beautiful, natural cinematography and a lovely score and you have a real gem.

I don't want to go too far into details of the movie because it is one to be experienced. Even trying to write a review I felt someone inadequate to the task because this is a movie that you must feel as you watch it. That said, I highly recommend this movie- I haven't stopped thinking about it since I saw it days ago.

Black Narcissus
(1947)

Nuns GONE WILD!
This movie has always remained a puzzlement to me. It has barely any plot and yet I always find myself mesmerized by it. If it is on TV, I have to watch it.

I won't recap the story, since so many here have done so, but I will tell you why I think it mesmerizes me and so many others - in short - what makes it worth watching.

The movie has a very unique atmosphere and feeling. Of course a large part of this is the amazing cinematography of Jack Cardiff. His cinematography is a character in itself. Part of what is so amazing is the fact that they didn't film this on location yet there are moments when you would swear you are there in the Himalayas. The colors are so visually stunning & the lighting is just perfect - every scene is composed so carefully yet you still feel as if you are being allowed to "eavesdrop" and like a voyeur, watch these people and the things that happen- and do NOT happen to them.

Another thing in this movie is the amazing acting by all. When an actor holds your attention just waiting for them to say something- that's pretty powerful. Of course there is the sexual tension in this movie that also keeps you hanging on the edge of your chair. Will Sister Clodagh be like Father de Bricassart in The Thorn Birds? Or shall she remain true to her order? The flashbacks to her former life (which I'm reliably told weren't included originally) give you insight into the fact that this woman is not some pillar of strength, but a woman with the same desires and weaknesses as we all possess. It is partially the conflict between her and the "fragile" sister Ruth that give a lot of the tension. Hence my title, "nuns gone wild!" because they all start behaving erratically after a few months there.

This is a movie that presents questions without answers and I like that. Visually stunning, great acting and direction make this one a keeper! :)

Borderline
(2002)

okay suspense flick
SPOILER BELOW I won't recap the storyline- many here have already done that. I watched this mostly because I am a Michael Biehn fan & it seems after Aliens and Terminator, he kinda disappeared. So anytime I get a chance to see him, I do.

It is a decent suspense flick. The storyline keeps you guessing and, quite frankly, makes it almost impossible to really decide if the good Doctor is guilty or not at the end.

The acting over all is okay. No one really stands out, not even my hunny bunny Michael, lol! One of the things I noticed the most developed character is that of the would-be killer. The movie could've been helped by developing the relationship between Gina/Michael (sorry, can't remember their character names) to a level that made you more involved with them both.

One reviewer here said that a big flaw in the plot was the rape. How could a female be responsible for that part of the crime? But, if you notice, they mentioned that in the would-be killer's past m.o. (and the husband's girlfriend had the same thing happen to her too) was being raped with a bottle. This is how the writer got around the girl/guy thing.

It's not a bad way to spend 90 mins. Would I watch it again? Maybe if there was nothing else on. It does almost have a "TV movie of the week" feel to it. If my review seems lukewarm without the maximum effort, it's because that is how this movie is. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, it's just not that good either.

Wuthering Heights
(1939)

This adaptation has something the rest don't...
I still think this is the best adaptation of Bronte's novel out of the gozillion remakes out there. This one has so much intensity and heart. The performances are just incredible. The music is incredible. The cinematography is absolutely magical! And of course, the direction is first rate.

I won't recap the story- since many here have already done that- but I will tell you that this version is heads & shoulders above the rest. Movies do imitate life, and in parallel to that imitation, this movie is filled with moments that are absolutely unforgettable. This is due to the actors- everyone in this movie is first rate. All the supporting roles (Geraldine Fitzgerald, Donald Crisp, Leo Carroll, Flora Robson, David Niven) are all seamlessly committed to their roles in a way that makes watching them vicariously enjoyable. Even the children that play the leads in their youth are incredibly good!

The leads, played by Oberon & Olivier are so well matched, you'd believe they were really in love. They have a chemistry and an intensity that makes you believe in them. After all, this story is one which does require some suspension of disbelief, but the artistry of Oberon & Olivier make it easy and quite frankly, unnoticeable.

One of my favorite things that no remake can compete with is the score by Alfred Newman. His light and joyful children's theme and the brooding themes are so organic and seem come from the action in the film. But probably the most memorable is "Cathy's theme." It defines the love of Cathy in the movie in musical terms. It is, as they say, the language of the soul in this movie.

The beautiful cinematography by Gregg Toland is absolutely RADIANT. Despite a dark story full of longing, angst and pain, his radiant cinematography illuminates the faces of the actors in a way that is almost supernatural. In fact, the scene where Cathy turns to Ellen and says, "Ellen, I AM Heathcliff!" with the lightening in the background actually does seem almost supernatural! In the scene with the ball, the skin of the actors seems to reflect light in a way that is bewitching and fascinating. The jewels the ladies where look more like they're under a jeweler's light than just things hanging off the necks of actresses. Somehow his cinematography has a clean crispness that I've seen in very few black & white movies. I have to say, his work in this movie is another reason I prefer this to any version in color.

William Wyler's direction is spot-on as well. He tells the story as much with the choices of camera angles as the screenwriter. Each frame is composed in such an artistic way- yet not in a way that you notice. I have noticed due to repeated viewings, but the fact is, this movie comes off as almost voyeuristic. We watch almost as if we were eavesdropping on the lives of these people. Like any great movie, it pulls you in & holds you.

While I realize (having read the book myself) that this isn't the most complete adaptation, it is the one that moves me the most. That's part of why we go to the movies- to feel - and as someone once said in a movie, "to know we're not alone." 5 out of 4 stars!!!!!!! :)

Otello
(1974)

One of the best "movie" versions of this opera.
This was Giuseppe Verdi's penultimate opera and one of his most mature works. The libretto by Arrigo Boito (who composed Mefistofele and did many libretti of other composers) is not without its flaws, and as may be expected in an opera, cuts down the cast for expedience. Still, I think Shakespeare would be pleased.

The cast, sets and orchestra and direction are the main reasons to get this title. I will start with the cast. Jon Vickers plays Otello and his booming voice is perfect for this role. Not only that but he is (as any opera fan will tell you) one of the best actors in the world of opera. He can get a tad hammy at times, but one must also remember he is under someone else's direction too. His voice, for me, is perfect for this role and it is not without the regard of others that he has become famous for this role (and of course, Peter Grimes).

Desdemona is played by Mirella Freni and her singing is without flaw. I sincerely mean that. As a singer myself, this is quite an achievement and it is lucky for posterity that it is preserved here (it is also available on CD). She is a decent actress as well- there are some slow moving moments choreographed to the music, but that is probably more von Karajan than the singers.

Jago is played by Peter Glossop and he sings and acts well- chews up the scenery a tad and revels in his wicked character- but still very enjoyable.

All the rest of the roles are well sung and acted. The next highlight of this DVD is the wonderful sets. This was filmed in part in Venice in a medieval castle with beautiful murals and the other sets created for this lavish production are really stunning. Costumes are all adequately appropriate.

Last but not least, we come to the Maestro himself, Herbert von Karajan who directed this film and conducted it as well. The orchestra of the Berlin Philharmonic is bombastic and beautiful- at the same time sometimes! There are moments where the orchestra is a tad overpowering, but it can also be enthralling. Probably the only "chink" in the proverbial armor for me is the direction of the singers (who are lip-synching their own recorded voices, sometimes not quite on ;)) by the late Maestro. There are times where one has to suspend a bit of their disbelief for the sake of the music. But then hey- this is an opera, not the Royal Shakespeare Company.

For me, this is 10 stars- it has remain my favorite Otello throughout the years and many other versions. My second choice is the Mario del Monaco and Rosanna Carteri one in B&W from VAI music.

TRIVIA... look for our conductor in a Hitchcockian cameo at 14:42 in the tavern scene- he has brown wig/mustache and looks bored with Jago's song, "Beva con me."

Tosca
(1984)

The BEST Tosca you'll ever watch on DVD
THAR BE SPOILERS BELOW.... if you don't know the story of Tosca and don't want plot information, don't keep reading.

I saw this production back in 1985 on PBS and have never forgotten it. Personally for me, it is the best Tosca I've EVER seen. I recently found it on DVD and bought it straight-away. I really don't have enough adjectives for it, but I will try to describe why it's so fabulous.

This is such a wonderful production because all the singers can sing AND act. After all, Puccini's Tosca was based on a play by Sardou for one of the greatest actresses of his day, Sarah Bernhardt. So what is a Tosca without a singer that can act? It's horribly pathetic, I know, I've seen one (more than one, but I won't go bashing here.)

In THIS Tosca, the lead role sung by Éva Marton is to die for (pun intended.) She sings with abundant abandon and also manages to make you believe her EVERY move. They are all motivated by something in her character. You never watch her & think "that's artifice" because it never is. Her "Vissi d'arte" is moving, believable and just a sacred moment in time- a real jewel (nice camera work by Brian Large.) It is also obvious she understands this character of contrasts. Passionate, jealous, pious but dangerous with a knife. :) She makes you believe in a heroine that can be shy about kissing in front of the "Madonna" in church but fight like a tigress for the man she loves when faced with evil.

Which brings me to the next great acting singer- Ingvar Wixell. While some may find his voice small or dry- I have always liked the quality of his voice. It has a kind of rustic and sensuous quality. But probably best of all is his acting - and I'm not downplaying his voice. He is a singer of formidable qualities (and you may recognize him from the Pavarotti DVD of Rigoletto- more fine acting/singing) but his acting is just so freakin' fabulous that I don't know what else to say. His Scarpia is evil but his Scarpia is human too. By not making him one dimensional, he makes you think about human motivations and machinations. Just one example of the little touches he does that are so genuine: In Act II after he gets Tosca's agreement of sex in exchange for her lover's life, he grabs her from behind, hungrily kisses her neck, then gives her just a little push-off when he walks away. His Scarpia is always in control. He may want her, but she is disposable and this little movement shows that. Every moment and look and action of Wixell's are right on the money and so in character you forget you're watching an opera - perhaps the highest compliment of all to some!

Our hero, Cavaradossi is sung by Giacomo Aragall. He may not be in the same league with Marton & Wixell when it comes to acting, but he does a good job and doesn't detract in anyway. His singing is selfless and heroic throughout. There are a few moments where he sounds short on breath, but over all this is good Aragall in his prime.

And let's not forget the venue. If there was a devil, I would probably sell my soul to go see a great production like this one at the Arena di Verona in Italy. Because it's in an outdoor arena, the production is HUGE. The sets are huge- they use real sheep in Act III (and yes, even the sheep get applause in Italy! and apparently the tenor does too every time he hits a high C by himself, they stop to applaud, but this only happens twice- I found it endearing.) The sets, the detail, the costumes, the grandeur of it all is what has kept opera alive all these many hundreds of years. I like a nice quiet and intimate theater experience too, but this is the overwhelming expansiveness that makes for converts!

The orchestra performs well under Daniel Oren. That Act I scene "Va, Tosca!" is tough to keep together (the lack of cannon sound effect make disappoint some, but this scene was loud enough!) The orchestra pumps out a lot of sound, yet the singers never sound drowned out. (When they turn upstage the voices get a bit lost, but the singers seem conscientious of this.) The sound quality on this DVD is very good and the camera work by Brian Large is some of his best. In the 3rd Act when Tosca & Cavaradossi are singing their love duet, he shoots from an angle that allows you to see them both and the huge statue towering over them against the backdrop of the night sky. The whole evening was really quite magical. The camera shows us the grandness of scale, but also allows us to see the singers' finer moments up close and personal.

I cannot recommend this DVD highly enough. There is a great story, great music, great singing, great acting and MAGIC!!! :)

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
(2008)

A Very Powerful Movie
I went to see this movie on a rainy Tuesday night. Not exactly your typical night to pack a theater- but judging from the number of people in the lobby, almost all of them came to the movie I saw, "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." I also noticed something other people have commented on. I have seen many powerful movies at the theater (Saving Private Ryan, Schindler's List and others) but I have never seen people sit so absolutely motionless and quiet for as long as they did in this theater. Every one sat there for almost the entire credits without speaking or even moving. It was a testimony to the power of the film itself.

On to the movie- yes... they all had British accents, but then this is a BBC production so I expected that. After all, having everyone speak German & have subtitles would've kept some people from seeing this movie. Besides, the accents don't matter, it's what they say & how they say it. I thought this was a great point of view- to hear the story of the Holocaust through the eyes of a boy who is the child of a commandant of a camp. Seen through his eyes it is really a gripping story.

I won't say more, except that I recommend this movie highly. I couldn't stop thinking of it after seeing it last night. I even have thought about seeing it again because despite what some may label as a depressing story, it is still a powerful story of friendship and humanity.

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry
(2007)

I liked it....
I recently saw Mr. Woodcock and let me say, perhaps the reason I liked this move so much was because that movie was so BAD. One of the worst comedies I've ever seen- couldn't even be called a comedy really.

On to this movie though.... Is the premise somewhat unbelievable? yes. Is some of the humor dumb, childish or stereotypical? yes. Did this movie make me laugh? yes. Did I enjoy this movie? yes.

I realize there were many badly stereotyped individuals in the movie- yet I was still able to see they were ultimately making a point which is summarized toward the end by their captain (I do not consider this a spoiler since I'm really giving nothing away):

"And most importantly, they showed us that no matter whom we choose to love, be they heterosexual, homosexual, asexual, bisexual, trisexual, quadrisexual, pansexual, transsexual, omnisexual or that thing where the chick ties the belt around your neck and tinkles on a balloon, it has absolutely nothing to do with who we are as people!"

I totally concur. I've never thought that what someone chooses to do at home in privacy is any of my business (this does exclude murder, hurting children & animals) - basically it doesn't make a bit of difference to who you are as a person. We are all of us so much more than just our sexual choice.

Another thing I liked about this movie is that is showed how the main characters felt when discrimination came their way. Whether you're gay, overweight, a person of color, impoverished, or whatever minority you belong to- actually FEELING that kind of discrimination is very powerful. (I think of Gentleman's Agreement- great movie about feeling the pain of discrimination for both adults & children! In a way, this movie is similar to that one because they are pretending to be something they aren't- and that something is not the majority or the "favored" group!) I remember seeing the extra info on "Shallow Hal" and Paltrow commenting on just walking in the bar in her "fat suit" and how people wouldn't look her in the eye, wouldn't help her- she felt invisible. I really do believe if more people felt this horrible feeling, of being treated poorly for nothing you've done, there would be a lot more tolerance in the world.

Overall, this movie made me LOL and I think they were going for a message of tolerance and understanding. Are there flaws? yes. But I think if you try and just enjoy the movie, you will find it's funny and a bit touching.

A fondo
(1976)

¡muy bueno!
I saw this on google when I was looking for information on the Mexican author Juan Rulfo. Although I've only watched that one episode- it was very good. Serrano does a good job interviewing a truly reluctant guest- and asked pertinent questions. (I hate interviewers that ask crap like, "why do you smoke so much?" people tuned in to see this because they like his writing!)

Anyway, it was a really helpful interview with tons on info about Rulfo, his family, the way he grew up, the orphanage, the Cristera war and his early days working as a government immigration agent then as a tire salesman... all this to end up one of Mexico's greatest writers. The interviews are entirely in Spanish.

Si vale la pena- si eres interesada en Rulfo, hay mucha información...

A Christmas Carol
(1984)

The BEST one ever...
Okay, there are a ton of reviews here, what can I possibly add?

I will try anyway.

The reason this is my favorite Scrooge is because of EVERYthing. The sets, outdoor locations, costumes are so beautiful and authentic. The music is sweet. The supporting cast is very well done. One of my favorites is the narrator & nephew, played by Roger Rees. His understated sincerity is touching and his voice is the sound of Christmas to me. David Warner is also a totally believable Bob Cratchit. His is a difficult life, but he remains positive and dignified.

The best part of course- is George C. Scott as Ebenezer Scrooge. Some have said his portrayal too gruff. I couldn't disagree more. His exchanges at the beginning while cold or harsh, weren't out of character. He is a terribly disillusioned man who's heart has been hardened by the vicissitudes of life and his own lust for wealth.

During the flashbacks, it's obvious that he isn't all gruff. This is where we see that there is hope for him. If he was totally gone, his partner Marley would never have come for his sake in the first place. And after all, we are none of us past hoping. I think that is a HUGE part of what Dickens was trying to say. When Scrooge looks in on his dance at his employer's with Belle, you see him smile regretfully as he tells Belle in the flashback that he will go through life "with a grin on my face." Clive Donner was smart enough as the director to allow these moments on film. Sometimes they get left on the editing room floor.

And finally, his conversion is so absolutely full of joy that it makes me cry tears of joy EVERY time I see it. His apology to his nephew Fred, so sincere, so moving, it is the spirit not only of Christmas, but of humanity itself. The joy he brings to Fred, to his wife are so apparent. And the line that gets me every time, "God forgive me for the time I've wasted."

Bravi tutti!

The Runner Stumbles
(1979)

excellent human drama
I can't believe there is only 1 comment on this movie! I have no idea if it was made for TV, but I saw it on TV a long time ago- in fact, it may have been when it originally aired on TV for the first time. The whole reason I even thought to come here & comment on it is because I just saw Kathleen Quinlan in "Breach" and part of my memory always thinks of her as Sister Rita. (Plus the whole Karen Ann Quinlan debate was going on at the time & that name stuck in my mind watching the movie...weird how one remembers things.)

The thing I remember the most, of course, is the forbidden romance. I thought Quinlan's portrayal of Sister Rita was terribly good and believable. Seeing Dick Van Dyke as Father Rivard was also surprising. I liked seeing him in a serious role and he did it well. He made his character's action seem human and understandable. Also, I vaguely remember liking Ernest Gold's music very much. Now, years later, I recognize the collaboration between him and Stanley Kramer movies. This movie is different from "The Thorn Birds" because it isn't a lustful or infatuated type of love, but a spiritual one that then "spills over" into a physical one. I thought it was handled very well and of course a director like Stanley Kramer is its own recommendation.

I never saw this movie again on TV after that... I would've thought it would at least turn up on Lifetime or somewhere like that. But I'm sure some elements might seem dated now. But over all it's a movie I would see again and never forgot.

Harrison Bergeron
(1995)

Very thought-provoking film
This is such a great movie on many levels. I won't take the time to re-cap the story line which all of the reviews here have already done so well, but I didn't want to comment on something that no one else has up until this point.

First of all, I don't really see this as sci-fi, because it is already happening today- we don't even need the "mind bands" to dumb us down because there is already an insidious growing movement to see diversity squashed and mediocrity rewarded. TV has become a banal wasteland of "reality" shows like Survivor, Lost, American Idol, etc. There is nothing but "empty calories" in these shows (btw, this is not to say that I do not recognize the need for some mindless entertainment at times.) And American Idol has as much to do with uniqueness and diversity as it does with real singing. There was a time when TV did have some thought provoking commentary that was presented in an entertaining way. Examples would be Star Trek or All in the Family. (These are just 2, I could put more here, but I'm on a time constraint to go to work.) Kids AND adults are rewarded everyday for getting 10th place... or last. That's not to say that that person in last place didn't work as hard as the person in first- it's to say that there are "winners" and "losers" in everything - even life, even in the "afterlife" there is heaven and hell. Watch a lame antelope getting tackled by a lion- it happens. In our cerebral (irony) society, we think that we have somehow conquered that idea- that it is benign and kind to want to remove the "sting" of being the last- but life isn't like that. That is an unreality. That "sting," helps to give us as human beings an impetus to strive for things and make things better. This is part of what this movie addresses so well.

To be honest, my favorite scene is the one in which Plummer's character shows Astin's character Bergeron the DVD of the "cost" of intelligence and uniqueness. He makes a compelling argument that ALMOST convinces the viewer; that somehow, all this diversity is the cause of wars and hate. That if we were just all the same somehow, it would disappear. No more brilliance? No more great music, movies, or art? Maybe, but isn't it worth it if there are no more senseless deaths? But then, perhaps some things are worth dying for. This scene in the movie actually leaves it "open" so the viewer can make their own decision. (Personally, I *need* music and movies and art- I don't think I could live without them.)

Strangely enough, I always think of the movie/play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" when I think of this movie, because there's one scene in which George makes an off-handed comment about the biologists and how they are the ones that are going to make everyone the same, that there will be no music, poetry and not much learning, but we will have a sublime civilization of men that are all the same. (I'm paraphrasing from memory, so cut me some slack.) He also says, "You take the trouble to construct a civilization, to build a society based on the principles of... of principle. You make government and art and realize that they are, must be, both the same. You bring things to the saddest of all points, to the point where there is something to lose." Well, I think we are at that point already. There is something to lose, and it's our minds and souls.

Ex-Lady
(1933)

A movie for all decades, not just the 30's....
I saw this on TCM one day & was so delighted I actually recorded it. It is a rare gem and I found the screenplay and acting both believable and enjoyable. As many reviewers have noted, it is Pre-Code, meaning that women are allowed cleavage and men and women were portrayed in a natural way- that is sleeping in the same bed. (I actually remember asking my mom one time why Ricky Ricardo & Lucy slept in separate beds if they were married? What did they do, squeeze into that tiny bed the night Ricky, Jr. was conceived?! Preposterous! As most of the post-code was.)

But the 2 main strong points of the movie are Bette (of course) and the dialog. Bette plays Helen Bauer, a successful commercial artist and Gene Raymond plays Don Peterson, a successful advertising manager. There's a part early on in the movie when Helen & Don are discussing their relationship and it goes like this:

Don: "I'm just about fed up with sneaking in... let's get married so I'll have the right to be with you." Helen: "What do you mean 'right'? I don't like the word right." Don: "Let's not quibble about words." Helen: "No, I'm not quibbling, right means something. No one has any rights about me, except me."

And it's the WAY she says it, that means so much. She is able to say it and really mean it- without offending him.

Her character believes that women have the same rights as men. This is something I've always believed in very strongly myself, so I admit this is part of the reason the movie appeals to me so much. She also believes that she doesn't *have* to get married. And there's one part of the movie where she actually says the "dread" line, "I don't want babies." I look for the smelling salts as I write this! All kidding aside- good luck finding a female character this independent nowadays. I have to be honest- if more people thought like her, there would be less divorce. Her point is well taken- you should only really enter into marriage if you really want to. People marry for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with it. Helen's character even holds to her beliefs in the face of a very disapproving father. Even in the confrontation scene, she maintains her dignity and her beliefs without criticizing her parents' beliefs. There's another bit of dialog that shows how she thinks:

Gene: "You're a successful woman; I ought not to like it." Bette: "You're a pretty successful man; I ought not to like it." Gene & Bette in unison: "I'm a man!"

--- and Bette's body language says it all- she conveys the strength of will without robbing the man of his- something she has always been able to do so well and enigmatically. This also shows she's realistic- she's knows the times she lives in. And people that think that way will always be modern and contemporary. It definitely gives viewers a reason to watch something this amazing- especially considering it was made in 1933!

The rest of the cast if good and her partner in the movie played by Gene Raymond does a very nice job. They have a good chemistry on screen. As this is a pre-code movie and early Bette, I suppose those 2 reasons alone would make it worth watching- but the script and acting are also really good.

  • update: I was looking at this movie today on IMDb and saw that 5 out of 10 people found my review helpful....what? did I hit a nerve with baby comment? or was it the one about only entering into marriage for love? I dunno but I thought I reviewed the movie and gave info that would help someone decide if it's the kind of movie they want to watch. Isn't that what the reviews are here for? to help?


Then I noticed ALL the reviews are like that (12 out of 24, 5 out of 10) so I guess somebody out there just doesn't like this movie. Maybe a post-code mentality?? ;)

The Holiday
(2006)

If you like romantic movies, with a movie subplot, you'll like this
I realize that I have probably nothing new to say about this movie that already has a ton of reviews, but I liked it a lot and wanted to share why... in case you're thinking of renting it.

I saw it when it came out at the theater & I loved it. I pre-ordered the DVD & watched it for the first time since the theater today. I still love it. The main reason why is that it is both touching and funny. I am also a big movie fan- especially soundtracks and scores. (Speaking of which, it's about fricking time the Academy recognized Ennio Morricone this year... the man IS a freaking legend. As I write this I listen to his "Untouchables" soundtrack- simply amazing, he writes from the heart in the "death theme" and totally exalts and thrills you with the closing title theme... not to mention, yes, "The Mission" and "Casualties of War" and of course, all the Leone pictures! But it would've also been nice in the directors voice over if Ms. Meyers didn't mislead people by crediting Hans Zimmer with the Mission Impossible soundtrack... while he may have scored the supplemental music, as we all should know, it was Lalo Schiffrin who composed the now hugely famous theme.) But I digress... a lot, sorry. Back to this movie. I liked the references to old movies, the voice over from the trailers in Amanda's mind. All very cool movie references that appealed to the celluloid enthusiast in me.

The movie revolves around 5 people. And if you've read any other reviews, then you don't need me to tell you the plot. But I will tell you about the performances, in order of my preference.

Iris - Kate Winslet. She is totally and amazingly genuine. Funny, but when I saw her for the first time in Sense and Sensibility, I thought to myself, she seems like the kind of woman you'd immediately like and get on well with. She is the person you are really rooting for the most in this movie. She's a bit of a doormat because she's beaten herself into submission with the help of a not very attractive cad. Her monologue on the couch when she was supposed to be helping Miles is very profound and sincerely moving. Sometimes it's good to just let the camera & actor do their job, which is gratefully what Ms. Meyers did in this great scene. Miles - Jack Black. May he get MORE leading man roles after this. I truly found him irresistibly cute, fun and believable! He seemed like a real guy- not some unattainable Calvin Klein underwear model. He was perfect for his part- I can't imagine anyone else. Arthur - Eli Wallach. What a classy move to put him in this movie. He was also wonderfully believable as the old screenwriter who shows Kate's character that she can have gumption and a new life. She in turn shows him that "it ain't over, 'til it's over." Graham - Jude Law. He was very sincere and handsome. I thought his acting was wonderfully understated. He fit the bill perfectly. Amanda - Cameron Díaz. Well, she was the least believable- but that may have something to do with the writing and directing. In director's commentary, Ms. Meyer's mentions that she had a scene Carole Lombard was in when she directed the scene at the beginning when Amanda freaks after dumping her boyfriend. But it doesn't come off as genuine. Her histrionics and hysteria seem fake and forced. As the movie progresses and she acts less and less like a maniac, her performance, to me, gets better.

All in all, a very enjoyable movie. Every time I've watched it I laughed and cried. It is a movie that I know I will watch repeatedly.

Does it have a corny ending? Yes- but as Iris' character says, "I like corny; I'm looking for corny in my life."

Nothing wrong with that, eh? :)

True Believer
(1989)

One of Wood's best performances... seriously.
This is a very well done court room drama that is based on an actual case from actual liberal left wing attorney, J. Tony Serra. James Woods plays the fictionalized version of Serra, under the name Eddie Dodd. Robert Downey, Jr. plays Roger Baron, a young idealistic lawyer that comes to clerk for the once famous Dodd- with dreams of defending civil liberties and making a difference.

He arrives only to find the once rebellious and justice minded Dodd defending drug addicts and drug dealers. One evening a young Korean woman & lady come to his offices looking for help. Her son was sent to jail 8 years ago & is now accused of murder because of a prison fight that resulted in the death of a member of the Aryan army. Despite the fact it's not his area of "expertise," Roger convinces Dodd to take the case.

For Dodd, this case, this young man, Shu Kai Kim played very well by Yuji Okumoto, represents so much more than just another case. Dodd himself is looking to reclaim his own enthusiasm, freedom and hope. The District Attorney is played very reliably by Kurtwood Smith (poor guy- pre "70's show" he always seemed to play a bad guy.)

The main reason I like this movie are the actors. Yes, the story is somewhat predictable- but there are some turns that make you doubt who is innocent & who is guilty on first viewing. James Woods' performance in this movie is one of his most versatile and enjoyable. He transitions with ease from humorous sarcasm to an almost raw vulnerability. One of the best scenes is one in which he tells his client, "I know you're innocent- even if you've forgotten." After 8 years in prison, Shu isn't the same man he was when he went in. Just as Dodd tells Roger at the beginning of the movie that 10 years is a lot of time- in other words, despite his shinning past as a defender of civil liberties- he has also changed. Cynicism is something that creeps stealthily into everyone as age and time increase. In the movie "And Justice for All" they delve into the difficulty of being a defense lawyer & having to defend people you may know full well did a heinous crime of some sort. This has to change a person and that is part of what this movie is about.

All the other actors, including Margaret Colin as the PI Kitty Greer, are believable and supply good support for the main character of Dodd. This is basically Woods' show, and that's okay with me since I'm a big fan of his. He was also fabulous in "Salvador" but then I think he is fabulous. If you like Woods, you'll like this movie I think - if you like a good story, I think you'll like this movie.

Walkout
(2006)

Important and moving
I have originally written a review of this back when the movie first aired (acutally before that because I saw a pre-screening at ASU) but removed my review because of a group of vociferous, petty people that were bashing the movie and were being actually hostile to me via personal messages. To hell with them. Here is my original review in its entirety: The movie Walkout revolves around the 1968 Walkout by Chicano students in Los Angeles protesting unequal treatment in the schools. I believe 5 schools were involved (Garfield was one of them & I'm willing to bet that it's the same Garfield High in L.A. that was featured in the movie Stand & Deliver w/EJO.) The students were subjected to corporeal punishment for speaking Spanish in class, they were forced to urinate outside during lunch hour because the schools would lock the bathroom doors, and they would be made to do janitorial work as punishment (but the white students were not.) After making "surveys" to find out the students' wishes, they attempted to have Dr. Nava (played by Edward James Olmos who also directed the film) a school board member present this to the board for implementation. After being stalled the students who were also in cooperating with the "Brown Panthers" (a militant group similar to the Black Panthers) to organize the change as well as a teacher Sal Castro from the school at Lincoln decided to do a Walkout of all 5 schools the following Wednesday. This delay was important because it enabled them to organize & "inspire" by getting the media to be there. As they mentioned more than once in the movie, if it isn't written down in history, it's like it never happened.

They walked out on the following Wednesday. It was basically a fairly peaceful protest. They decided not to back down & walkout again. But this time only a few of the schools walked out. Unfortunately, the police were there & were merciless in their treatment of the students. The "news" coverage didn't include the beatings and arrests the students received. Downtrodden & feeling as if they didn't accomplish much, the students had a decision to make. They decided to walkout again- this time they invited family and friends. This sent a message to the school board that this would not just "go away" and with the support of their families, they were able to get the school board to listen. But this wasn't the end. The police then began to arrest the "L.A. 13" which were the organizers & the "Brown Panthers" that helped by supporting the students. These people were faced with "conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor" which is a felony & they were looking at 66 years+ in prison. They were finally acquitted a year later.

One of the best parts of this advance screening was getting to meet Moctesuma Esparza who was an actual participant in the walkouts, one of the "L.A. 13" and the producer of the film. A long time activist, he has also produced such other movies as Selena, Gettysburg, Introducing Dorothy Danderidge, Milagro Beanfield War and Villa Alegre- a children's TV show from 1973 that I remember watching & learning Spanish from! (how about that 6 degrees of separation, eh? Even more bizarre is years ago I got Jaime A. Escalante's autograph- I presented it to Edward James Olmos the inspirational teacher, Mr. Escalante in the movie, Stand and Deliver and he signed the back of it! Cool, huh?! Also, Mr. Olmos' son, Bodie played the part of Mr. Esparza in the movie!) Mr. Olmos was also a VERY inspirational speaker. He mentioned that America does not have one person of color (apart from Martin Luther King, Jr.) that is a real national hero. One must wonder, how long? To meet someone who was a part of history, a part of helping to bring equal rights to people is very special. Mr. Esparza and Mr. Olmos helped to make everyone that was there believe that they too could make a difference. It was a movie that touched me on many levels- not the least of which was the girl's relationship with her father. He didn't understand why she was participating in demonstrations and being an "agitator." But he finally came around & actually encouraged her not to give up in her darkest moment.

This was an excellent movie, entertaining, informative and relevant. The actual footage of the students being beaten and arrested was not shown until 1995! Almost 30 years after their struggle! I wonder today how often the news shows us only what they want us to see. The struggle for equal rights is NEVER over and I am sure this movie will help to inspire many people. I will definitely tape it on March 18th & buy the DVD! Hopefully the DVD will have lots of extra features. They said it is a possibility that the movie may make it to the theaters. I pray that the Latino/Chicano community will turn out in droves to see this- the support of both the Latino/Chicano community as well as people like myself that support human rights is vital to more movies like this one being made. Knowing our history- OURS as in American history that includes all races and their contributions is what energizes and keeps our way of life vibrant. Getting the message out there is more than half the battle. As someone once told me, "knowledge is power." ¡Viva la Raza! :)

Article 99
(1992)

To Care for Those Who Have Borne the Battle....
There are many good things about this movie. There are a few that are not as "stellar" but no matter, when the subject is something as important as this, then that's what counts. (to those like user: Rick Peach that don't get it... read his reviews, and consider the source! This isn't an action movie!)

This is a movie about how shamefully the Veterans of our Armed Services are treated when it comes to medical care. The term Article 99 refers to when a serviceman/woman is told the care or operation they need will not be considered because it isn't a direct result of anything that occurred while actively serving. In a world where many countries have socialized health care for everyone- you would think here where capitalism rules the day, we could at LEAST take care of the people who have guaranteed our freedom and survival. And that is the message of this movie.

The way the message is conveyed is what we discuss movies for. The script can be at times overboard and some of Luther's (Keith David) pet phrases are trite, but he is the "been there, done that" man of the movie. He's seen it all and like a mascot of sorts, he seems to hang around the hospital ready to assist new patients who are lost in this bungling bureaucratic maze. Enter Travis (Troy Evans) a nice guy who just happens to need a triple bypass. When one of the men who is "Article 99'd" goes berserk and drives a pick up into the hospital, we see the main characters start to assert their personalities and their places in the hospital. Travis has a heart attack on the spot and it all unfolds from there.

Dr. Sturgess (Ray Liotta) is the voice of reason in this very illogical world. He is the head of a group of doctors (Forest Whitaker, Lea Thompson, John McGinley) who are there not for the money, but for "those who have borne the battle." They are joined by a well meaning Dr. Walton (Kathy Baker) a psychiatrist who chose to come to this place from a drug rehab clinic. Although inexperienced in the ways of this "jungle" she has her heart in the right place. The evil nemesis in all this is played by the administrator, Dr. Henry Dreyfoos (John Mahoney) who is more interested in counting q-tips than helping to ease the suffering and pain of the people for whom this place was built. His doctors have had to resort to stealing medical equipment and supplies from the departments experimenting on animals. Apparently a monkey can get a pacemaker, but not a Vet.

Some of the conditions in this hospital are deplorably shocking and terrible. There are the sick and dying and the forgotten. Also, there is the poignant relationship between the new intern, Dr. Morgan (Kiefer Sutherland) and his patient, Sam Abrams (Eli Wallach) as Dr. Morgan slowly realizes how special EACH of these people are. There is a story, a life and a sacrifice behind each bed pan, each IV, each tired old Vet.

Some of this movie is melodramatic and it may go to some extremes to make its point, but it is worth the watch. The performances by ALL are very good and it's a cast that's to die for. Even the smaller roles (Jeffery Tambor, Lynne Thigpen, Julie Bovasso) are so well cast. If for no other reason, watch it today and remember those who have given the "full measure of devotion" for us all.

Indictment: The McMartin Trial
(1995)

Just as scary today as it was then- still topical
One of the most gripping, interesting, "can't-put-it-down" movies I've ever seen. EVERY time this movie is on TV I cannot but help watch it. The screenplay and the acting are masterful and suspenseful- EVEN though I've seen it more than once! Now THAT'S a test of greatness- when you can watch something over & over & it still has a sense of suspense and awe.

The casting is masterful- James Woods as the historically sleezy lawyer who usually takes cases that are awful and usually guilty of whatever they've been accused of. Mercedes Ruhel as the prosecutor is great because of her stoically indignant style of prosecution. This combines in the movie to make it look like initially the media *did* get it right. But then little by little things go sour. In one of the best performances she's ever given, Lolita Davidovich is spellbinding as the child therapist who gets caught up in the whirl-wind of the whole thing. Starting out with a decent motive, she ends up being the truly bad seed that started it all. She is awesome in the court room scene, as is Woods.

If you've read any of the reviews here, you will know that this movie is about the infamous McMartin trial in which basically a whole family & their employees at a preschool were accused of hundreds of counts of child molestation. It turned out after over 5 years; none of the accusations were true. The media had basically taken over the justice system in an insipid and insidious way. This was actually the first time this had happened like this. (Yes, it has since happened again on a different level in a different way.) Also, the presumption of innocence for the accused was totally discarded.

The way the media whipped people into a frenzy over the appearance of things and making these people out to be evil echoes some of the things that are going on today. In fact, it's very similar to the way Lou Dobbs has presented immigrants as something evil to be feared. Media... it can really warp the truth. One of the biggest tragedies is that the news- which is specifically supposed to enlighten and inform, has become so much about entertainment that it's lost its soul. This movie shows so well how things can be twisted- how the media can plant the seed in the minds of its viewers-- MUCH like the way Kay McFarland planted seeds in the mind of the children she "interviewed" for CII.

The Salem witch-hunts can happen again. Be on your guard- it really can happen here in America.

The Amateur
(1981)

Very Good Action/Thriller for its time
First of all, this is a movie, JUST a movie. I truly feel it was not meant to be a comment or criticism of the CIA or America. Please... reviews should be about the movie, not someone's political agenda OUTside of the movie.

Heller's girlfriend is taken hostage & killed at the beginning of the movie by terrorists from an eastern block country (sorry, can't remember which). After meeting with her father, a Holocaust survivor, he is the one that tells him that vengeance may not bring her back from the dead, but it may bring HIM back. Heller (John Savage) works for the CIA doing ciphers. He asks them to go over there & assassinate the terrorists. When they refuse, he uses his knowledge & clearance to actually blackmail the CIA into letting him go over there himself. They are appalled, but they agree, thinking that they can find the blackmail documents before he gets through training & gets over there. From there the movie goes into the main plot of how he attempts to make this all work.

The direction and pacing is fine... it's only slow if you are a 90's junkie that needs explosions and t&a every 15 mins. It's a story, a good one. The supporting roles are very well filled out by the likes of Marte Keller, Arthur Hill, Ed Lauter, and Jan Rubes. John Savage gives a very sensitive and believably vulnerable performance. As for him being wood-like (per another reviewer) the scene where he receives his girlfriend's last mailed "taped" letter to him is heart-wrenching. These are the kind of details that set up the credibility that this man would be so determined to revenge his girlfriend's death. Important stuff. This is a good movie, just enjoy it & stop saying to yourself, well, but what about _____? just go with the flow & you'll be very entertained.

Another movie I recommend that is a good thriller that came out 2 years later is Enigma w/Martin Sheen.

Where Truth Lies
(1996)

Where does truth lie? (pun intended)
This movie is not as bad as it seems. First of all, I'm a big John Savage fan, so I guess you could say I watched it for his performance alone, which was very good. Also (and I think most men would agree) Kim Catrall is easy on the eyes. Plus, being a big Sex & the City fan, I wanted to see her in a movie. Malcom McDowell is a nice touch as the doctor.

The story as you may have already gathered, is about a psychiatrist who has a drinking problem due to the tragic death of his first wife in a car accident. When he attempts to take his own life, his best friend & lawyer - as well as his current but estranged wife, decide to commit him to a psychiatric institute where they use controversial techniques.

Without giving too much away, the movie attempts to kinda explore the hidden feelings & subconscious memories that we all hide in an effort to run from ourselves and our troubles. Is this the best movie on that topic I've ever seen? No, is it worthy of viewing? Yes. I would even be tempted to watch it again to see what I may have missed. There are some definitely subtleties here.

Really a 6.5 out of 10, but hey, I wanted to help the overall rating! Don't take this movie too seriously, it's a thriller with a twist at the end. Just enjoy the ride.

Men with Guns
(1997)

wonderful storytelling
Once again screenwriter/director John Sayles has done it. I was flipping through the channels, and saw a movie in Spanish. I am a Spanish major so whenever a chance to listen to some dialog comes along, I usually will listen for a few minutes just for practice.

I became totally engrossed. I hit the info button on my DVR to see the name of the movie. I was on IFC channel & it said it was a movie about hoodlums. Uh, no... There was another movie same year same name that I've no doubt wasn't anywhere near as wonderful as this one. So I paused the DVR at the end & looked up Federico Luppi & crossed referenced it with Damián Delgado to find the real name of the movie. Which turned out to be this one. Enough of how I found it...

This is another great example of supreme storytelling by John Sayles. Anyone who has seen Lone Star or Passion Fish knows that he is a storyteller extraordinaire. Not to mention he usually manages to throw in some meaning. Another reviewer complained that there was meaning. Weird... I don't see anything wrong with that. Isn't that what most of us are searching for? In this story Dr. Fuentes is in an unidentified South American country that has been ripped apart by war and guerillas. He is searching for his students, doctors who were trying to help the indigenous population through medicine. He finds wherever he goes that his students are dead or missing. Along the way he encounters a boy with no family that becomes his "mascot" and later a deserter from the army with a hideous past. Then a priest who has lost faith, then a young girl who is mute. Each person has a story to tell, each person a part of the puzzle of what it is to be human and alive.

I loved the ending, because it showed that even when we think our lives have been pointless, we have like the concentric ripples in a lake after a stone is dropped, affected those around us. Our legacy lives on through the lives we have touched, whether we know it or not. I think that we think there should be some kind of concrete evidence that WE can measure to define our legacy, but it is never what we think it is, there is mystery, magic in the way that our lives mingle and combine to form meaning. Much like in "It's a Wonderful Life," even if you think you've contributed nothing it's not true. Or in the words of the immortal Whitman: "O me! O life!... of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless- of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer: That you are here- that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse." (from Whitman's Leaves of Grass) What this movie says is just that- that each person's verse, identity contributes to the great scheme of things. I won't give away the ending of the movie, but the whole thing is just a grand example of a good story. Don't be bothered by the subtitles, it's a great movie in any language. And btw, the subtitles were pretty much right on. I just hate when I watch a subtitled movie & the translation sucks or is lacking. This is a great story, interesting people, good pacing (also directed by Sayles), and good acting too. I wish that more people could see this movie. God bless the Independent Film Channel. :)

True Lies
(1994)

Just a good, fun action flick- some details, no real spoilers...
For me, this is one of the best action flicks ever. It has fun with itself & the characters. I won't recap the story, there are many reviews here already that do that. To the show then: Arnold as Harry Tasker is just right for this part. It's filled with one-liners like "cool-off, you're fired," etc. (It's also interesting that one of Arnold's film heroes is Clint Eastwood who really made the "one-liner" famous in his Dirty Harry series of movies.) Arnold's acting is perfect for the part. He's funny & charming and even sincere when he needs to be. Hey... he must be a pretty good actor, after all, he's governor of California, right? Jamie Lee Curtis as Helen Tasker, is well cast as the naïve innocent wife who knows nothing of her husband's (Arnold) undercover agent activities. In a scene where she is being interrogated by her husband (behind a two-way mirror) she gives a few seconds of the most sincere acting I've ever seen when she says she loves her husband. Good stuff! And the "striptease" scene is just perfect. I have to hand it to James Cameron, he knows what he's doing. On the "trivia" page it says that she was nervous about the scene, had sweaty palms and actually falls for real on accident. Arnold even starts to get up to help her, but she continued the scene, and Cameron liked it so much he left it in. And it's PERFECT! It adds just the right amount of humor to a steamy scene (much like the strap breaking in Jerry Maguire) to lighten it up and to make her character as housewife turned agent seem even more believable. (Jamie Lee did her own helicopter stunt too... ) Tom Arnold as the sidekick Gib for Harry (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has some of the best lines in the movie. You won't forget his dialog, it's great. Even so, there are reality checks now & then. As Gib he tries to cheer Harry up about his cheating wife. He tells him it happens and a few more funny lines. Then when Harry blows it, tells him to stop cheering him up, Gib seriously says, "what did you expect Harry? Helen's a flesh & blood woman & you're never there, it was just a matter of time." Then he brings the comedy back on track with, "you know what? I say we concentrate on work buddy, that's what I do every time my life turns to dogsh*t, I concentrate on work & that gets me by." But in a way, even that is tongue in cheek because there are so many people that do just that in an effort to concentrate on anything but what really means most, family and love. He also has some great lines about his kid's parents being Madonna & Axel Rose, saying that the constant bombardment from then can't compete with the 5 mins a day he spends with his daughter. Hmmm, another well couched message of family and love. Anyway, he has some truly funny lines! Finally, Bill Paxton as the pseudo-agent, Simon is hilarious. As his role unfolds, we find out a lot about him and the more we know, the funnier he gets. Also has many good lines! (But I got 'em lining up, and not just the skanks either! well, some of them...) All in all, just a good movie with great writing & direction, fun to watch, well paced and still manages to have a heart. The special effects are good, music is well done, and the production values are excellent to say the least. Just a fun night of fun. (oh... and don't let the fact that the people he's fighting as an agent are Muslims distress you- this movie isn't anti-anything. Any story has to have an antagonist or adversary- this movie is pre 9/11 so it had no agenda, just a plot.) BTW, read all the trivia for this movie, you'll find out some interesting things about this movie! :)

Citizen X
(1995)

the story of a determined detective
Caution: May contain spoilers...

I've seen this movie 3 times & I've liked it every time. Upon seeing it again, I'm always reminded of how good it is. An HBO TV movie- very well done like most of their movies are- this would've gotten Oscars for it's performances had it been released for general distribution instead of made for TV.

As I'm sure anyone knows from reading other reviews here, this is the story of serial murderer, Andrei Chikatilo. He murdered 56 people over 8 years in the former Soviet Union. (3 victims were buried & couldn't be found so he was only convicted of 52 out of 53 of his murders.) The story actually focuses more on the forensic analyst, Victor Burakov played to perfection by Stephen Rea. A man that becomes tortured and obsessed with finding this killer despite the additional obstacles placed by party hacks, his part is essential to be sure. There is a very touching scene towards the end of the movie that mentions how in America, investigators are routinely taken off serial killer cases after 18 months whether they want to or not due to the mental strain & frustration. According to this acct, Burakov worked for over 5 years before getting his first break from it. He followed the case to its conclusion, 3 years later. In this scene, his superior, General Fetisov, played by Donald Sutherland, actually tells him he admires his dedication and apologizes for not knowing he should've given him a break sooner.

Rea's performance is so well done, he doesn't overact, chew up the scenery or do anything that distracts from his portrayal of a man who is hell bent on finding his killer. He is a man with passion, but doesn't show it in the same manner as is so usually portrayed in detective movies. He only occasionally gives outbursts after quietly putting up with more than most could stand under such circumstances. Rea does so much with his face, his eyes, he doesn't need to overact. He just *is* - His character, so frustrated after so long, at one point, driven to frustration, he actually says he'd rather find 3 at one time than none in a year. Of course what he means is not that he wants more people to die, he just wants some clues to catch this man. Rea makes us feel for this man. He makes us understand but a glimpse of what it is to live with such horror and futility.

A mutant to be sure, Chikatilo's childhood was one which produces such "monsters." The character of Chikatilo is very well done by Jeffrey DeMunn. He somehow (impossible though it may seem) elicits some modicum of sympathy for himself. Perhaps he is the worst of us gone terribly wrong? Either way, his performance is very well done.

Donald Sutherland as Colonel Fetisov (later promoted to General) also does a great job. He starts out seeming to be a cynical worldly official that doesn't seem much more interested in helping the investigation than anyone else blocking Burakov. But he eventually becomes more than just an assistant, he actually actively participates in helping Burakov. There is also a very nice turn by Max Von Sydow as the psychiatrist brought in to help profile and figure out what kind of deviant they are looking for.

Although this movie deals with a morbid, grotesque and violent story, it really is more about what it takes to catch a killer than the killer himself. All around a very well done movie with fine performances and a great screenplay. The screenplay manages to do what the best of this type of movie does: give factual events & place them meaningfully inside a dramatic framework that makes you feel like you know the people *behind* the facts.

9 out of 10 stars

61*
(2001)

One of the best SPORTS movies, period.
There's not that much more I can say that hasn't already been said, but that said, I have to say this is one of the best sports movies ever! Even beyond that, it's a great movie even if you don't like sports or baseball. (But you may after you watch this movie.) Of course, 1st kudo's go to Billy Crystal for his brilliant and loving direction of a very accurate story of the 1961 home run race. It's obvious to anyone that he very carefully made this movie to reflect his love of the Yankess, Mantle & Maris and above all, baseball.

Next "award" would have to go to the screenwriter, Hank Steinberg. He does an OUTSTANDING job of keeping the story line moving, of telling an accurate story- being able to include details that lend authenticity to the movie. (Like how Mickey injured his knee & his father dying and his feeling that he wouldn't live long enough to regret how he treated his body.) He keeps us laughing, despite the seriousness of Maris' difficulties with the public and press during that year. Even people sending death threats in the "fan mail!" In a scene that makes me laugh every time, Maris makes his famous (or infamous) "eggs." I say "eggs" because they are green. He dumps a pile on Mantle's plate who looks at them & says, "What the hell's that?!" to which roommate Bob says, "Roger's special eggs" and Mickey says, "that's disgusting!" Roger tells Mick, last few times he ate them, he got home runs. Mickey tries them & says even though they're sh*t, he's in a slump & will try anything. There's another scene where someone threatens to kidnap one of Maris' kids while Mickey is over there for a barbecue. After he leaves, we see a late nite Mickey apparently with a few drinks in him, calling home to check on his own children at 2:30am. My point to all this is, whether these little side scenes are true or not, they are totally in keeping with the characters, the story line and the personality of the real people. AND he manages to get many of the facts in without seeming like a documentary. Hank's screenplay shows both men & their flaws, but doesn't dwell on them, because the story isn't about Mickey's drinking or Roger's homelife as much as it is about the 1961 race. He includes these things, not shying away or sugar-coating them, but he just makes them part of the people in the story--- not the story itself. This screen play is truly outstanding in everyway. The music by Marc Shaiman is very well done & appropriately moving as well.

And the performances by everyone are great! Thomas Jane as Mickey and Barry Pepper as Maris are not only similar-looking to the real people, they have both managed to emulate them without resorting to cheaply imitating them. (For another example, see Cate Blanchett in The Aviator as Kate Kepburn- it's difficult to play a famous person so well known without seeming to just do an impersonation.) The supporting cast is truly supporting. Bruce Gill as the Yankee's manager, Jennifer Crystal Foley as Maris' wife (yes, she's Billy's daughter, but her performance stands on its own. Interestingly to me, she looks a bit like Mantle's real life wife.) Richard Masur as the one reporter who isn't an ass. This movie does make you feel- you feel involved and care about the people in it. In one of the final scenes when Maris finally seems to get the support from the fans he deserves, you can almost feel yourself sigh in relief.

In the end this movie is about friendship, loyalty, respect and yes, baseball. One reviewer said this isn't a family movie because there is some language & innuendo. I'd agree it's PG-13, but hey, if you kid is in the room during the evening news, there's sensational violence and no morality- this movie has honor. Don't be afraid to watch it with any kid that is smart enough to get it. I'd like to end with a quote from the movie towards the end, when one of the reporters asks Maris, "do you think you earned their (the fans) respect holding up under all this pressure?" Maris says, "Oh gosh, I really don't think that's something you earn on a ball field." Too true. And both Roger & Mickey knew that. So did this films creative father, Billy Crystal. 5 out of 5 stars. GREAT FILM!!

A Time to Kill
(1996)

Is the law always justice?
I just re-saw this movie after the first time years ago. Coming to IMDb I was surprised at the number of reviews that were negative. But like any controversial movie or topic, there are 2 polar extreme views from many different people.

I will just briefly recap the story. A 10-year-old girl is on her way home from the grocery store. 2 young men brutally rape her, try to hang her (branch on the tree broke) then toss her 30 feet down to a river bottom & leave her to die there. She miraculously survives. Her father, Carl Lee Haley (Samuel L. Jackson) then decides to take the law into his own hands, after hearing they could either get off completely, or perhaps just serve 10 years & get out early on parole. After the shooting and killing, he seeks Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) to be his lawyer, since he previously helped his brother win a case.

The movie makes many strong statements, perhaps some are overstated & I would agree there are times that it is pushing our collective buttons. But even so that shouldn't diminish the message. The real message of this movie isn't, vigilante killing is okay when the people "deserve" it. The real message of this movie is how do we, black and white, come together for real? The scene in Carl's jail cell where he tells Jake he is the enemy is a tough one to watch. Hard for a couple of reasons, one being that this man has just sacrificed his friends, family & home for this trial but his client is telling him HE's the enemy. And another because it's partly true. Being a person that believes we really & truly are equal, I can see what he means about saying, "when you look at me you don't see a man, you see a BLACK man." He says that by virtue of how he was raised, he sees him as different. I would say this is true for both of them. Having been married to someone from Mexico for 10 years, I was frequently the only "white" person at many gatherings. I learned to speak Spanish because I wanted to understand him, his friends and the culture. Mark this: understanding is the enemy of ignorance & racism. Only when we truly understand each other can we start to see without the eyes of prejudice. It is through empathy and compassion that understanding comes to us. And yes, it goes both ways. You can say to Carl Lee, "have you ever brought YOUR daughter to my house to play?" If there is to ever be a true unification, it must come from all sides equally. Blame is pointless- or as Dustin Hoffman said in the movie Papillon, "blame is for God & small children."

One reviewer said the last line of the summation, "now imagine she's white" was offensive. Why? After all, if one is to be judged by a jury of their peers, how can you possibly say an all white jury knows what racism a southern man and his family have lived in fear of? And don't think that just because the bad people in this story are drawn so extremely that they don't exist. They do. There are people even today that think we should all be segregated and that one race is superior to another. But when it becomes personal and internalized, we all feel differently. And if we're being honest, none of us knows what we would do until something like that happens. By telling an all white jury to picture her as white, he is in effect saying, imagine she was your daughter, just as he had already done himself. If she was your daughter, wouldn't you want to kill those "men"?

The title of my review was one I also used for a movie called "Billy Budd" by Herman Melville. In that book/movie they ask the question, is the law always justice? That is also at the crux of this movie. Because how many of us have seen things in the news or papers about how someone does a horrible, heinous crime & yet receives what seems to be a light or unfair sentence? I agree with the prosecution, 10 years DOESN'T seem like enough time for attempted murder & rape. If the punishment really did fit the crime, would Carl Lee ever have felt he needed to take the law into his own hands? Probably not. And you can say, well, she's still alive so killing those men wasn't a just sentence. But what kind of scar have they left for that 10-year-old girl? Besides them making her infertile for life, the mental & emotional scars are HER life sentence. Shouldn't they receive at least the same? Yet our justice system would say 10 years is enough. Not to me.

The performances by everyone are very well done. A terrific cast- down to even the supporting roles like Charles S. Dutton & Chris Cooper & Brenda Fricker & Donald (and Kiefer) Sutherland. I've even read here on IMDb that Matthew McConaughey's final summation was done in one take & yes, those are real tears. This is a tragic story & how someone can watch this & not be moved is beyond me. Just to set the record straight, I don't condone vigilante law. I believe the law is there for all of us & we must abide by it. But like any man-made institution, it is flawed and needs to be reformed. 10 years is a drop in the bucket compared to what they did.

All around a good and thoughtful drama, I recommend this movie.

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