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Archive for the ‘film’ Category

Like an inexpensive Pinot Grigio that is refreshing for an evening but not long remembered, this Ashley Judd film is entertaining, good for lots of smiles and a few laughs.

51W0ZXYaLiL._SS300_The film is clearly designed to showcase Judd’s beauty and talent. She’s not short on either, but the enterprise stretches itself a bit to make the point.

Big Stone Gap leads us through an unlikely scenario in Virginian Appalachia with a certain brio. The plot is spelled out in many online reviews, so I’ll tread lightly on that in this reviewer’s note. The sentimental value is high, and there are some genuine tear-jerker moments, prominently in the last five minutes.

Among the actors and actresses going small-town, Anthony LaPaglia is likely to escape mention for his role as small-town lawyer Spec Broadwater and friend-like-brother to Judd’s Ave Marie Mulligan. But he should not. He plays it like a man on the verge of long-term depression who never quite gives in, somehow maintaining a focus on others rather than on his own deep darkness. Jasmine Guy’s small role as Leah Grimes is also well turned.

This light flick is not one for the ages. But there’s nothing wrong with store-bought Pinot Grigio on a summer evening.

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This grim and superbly casted film reminds its viewer that war isn’t over when the boys come home. Too often, it gets inside the boys and lurches on in quiet, painful and sometimes devastating directions.

Yet Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron have not lent their formidable gifts to a monotone anti-war flick. The film’s focus does not ascend to the larger question of the war in Iraq and its justification or the absence thereof. The lens is far more personal than that. A gritty man’s son has been inexplicably murdered. The film opens with the deep irony that Jones’ Hank Deerfield knew where his soldier son was when he was in far-away Iraq, but the boy goes missing immediately upon his return to the US.

Susan Sarandon’s Joan Deerfield appears relatively briefly, but long enough for her powerful presence to communicate a mother’s calamitous grief in spades.

It is largely up to Jones’ Deerfield and Theron’s underrated Detective Emily Sanders to provide the grim grit and relentless investigative rigor that will not let things go until solved. The other characters in this drama would prefer to sweep things under the rug, let sleeping dogs lie, and otherwise not get to the awful bottom of a returned platoon that has turned in upon itself.

This is not an easy film to watch. In this reviewer’s eyes, it chooses not to wave flags for or against the larger arguments of war. It simply pounds the emotional pavement relentlessly until a crime is solved and a soldier’s disappearance is explained. That’s not everything. But that’s something.

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This exceptional film adaptation of Somerset Maugham’s novel of the same title deserves more credit than the box office paid it a decade ago.

Set amid the Nationalist Revolution in China (and filmed in that country) in the 1920s, the plot teeters atop the the wall of emotional and political meltdown. Ed Norton (as the bacteriologist Walter Fane) and Liev Schreiber (as the philandering British consul Charles Townsend) turn in solid performances, but in this reviewer’s eyes it is Naomi Watts who shines as Kitty Garston. Ignored by the husband who prefers the thrill of infectious diseases to his hot wife, she turns to Townsend and his bed for comfort.

The film splits time between early-20th-century Shanghai and the remote location to which Dr. Fane compels his adulterous wife to follow him as punishment. The camera captures both venues sumptuously, but it is the peaked landscape of the countryside that the visuals reach their dazzling potential, all amid the human chaos of a ravaging cholera epidemic.

When the bored Kitty finds both her place and her passion in tending to the children of a Catholic orphanage, Norton’s Dr. Fane realizes what he has lost. His cruelty towards Kitty melts and love is re-born, just in time for cholera to snatch him away from Kitty before they can reinitiate the life that might have been if  hearts were softer and memories shorter. Her chance encounter with Townsend on a London street years later is a jaw-dropping emotional finale.

The Painted Face is a strong story well told, well spoken, well shot, and well framed by a gorgeous score.

What, no Oscars? 2006 must have been some year at the movies.

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Though my acquaintance with cuisine is limited largely to eating it, this delightful little food flick drew me in and held my attention through its somewhat formulaic but whimsically executed plot line.

Indians can poke fun at Indian idiosyncrasies as, well, as only Indians can. There’s plenty of that, almost but not quite to the point of slapdash humor as Samir (Aasif Mandvi)—the emphatically assimilated son of a small-time New York restaurenteur—finds out that Indian cooking is not below him after all. In the process, he finds the success, the love, and the satisfaction that had eluded his pursuit of the American dream, or at least of the New York variation on that theme.

If every good story requires a shadow, life is usually not slow to oblige. Samir’s family lives under the shadow of the unexplained death of his brother and the hold in the hearts of Samir’s match-making mother and legacy-craving father that their late son’s absence has torn.

The star turn in this picture is Naseerudin Shah’s ‘Akbar’, the bohemian taxi-driver cum great chef who probably *has* cooked for Indira Ghandi, just as he’s claimed. He came to his kitchen mastery somehow, and cooking for the Great Ones emerges as at least as plausible as all other explanations as Akbar gains Samir’s respect, teaches him to cook from the soul, and then departs for Akron, Ohio, leaving Samir to do just as his improbably tutor has exhorted him to do.

Hardly an action flick, this little film may well fill up the evening of a viewer who relishes the cultural quirks and nuances that make people-watching one of life’s great sporting endeavors.

Enjoy!

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