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Posts Tagged ‘film’

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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The chemistry between Franka Potente’s ‘Marie’ and Matt Damon’s ‘Jason Bourne’ sizzles on top the European scenery where it’s left to rest in this film adaptation of Robert Ludlum’s novel. The result is a splendid kickoff to a strong trilogy treating a CIA black op gone bad and, to boot, amnesiac.

My son got me into these flicks. Now there’s no getting out.

A great night’s entertainment here. And the fun has barely begun.

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This breathtaking classic of American film-making frames Francis Ford Coppola as one of the all-time great cinematic craftsmen.

Having inexplicablyl missed out on this piece of Americana at the time of its popularity, this reviewer bought the three-film set in time to finish it just after his fiftieth birthday. It was worth the wait.

This epic saga of a mob family that cannot escape the burden of honor no matter how hard it tries (or, at times, fails to try) does not glorify gangsters or their ways. To the contrary, we grow to pity Michael Corleone for the centuries-old Sicilian trap into which he has unwittingly fallen. (more…)

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Three great icons of American cinema were joined at the hip by the memory-saturated musical score that accompanied them. The Godfather films were expansive in many ways, but it ought not be forgotten that the music that framed them arguably lingers in our minds at least as long as the story’s most compelling visual images.

Notwithstanding criticism of the City of Prague Orchestra’s performance on this CD, I find this album a deeply satisfying revisitation of the Godfather phenomenon. The ‘Godfather Waltz’ and the ‘Love Theme’—with their variations on the two themes—define the musical horizon here.

It is music that would not stand without the film, as is true of film music in general with few exceptions. Yet after recently watching the three films over the space of a few weeks, I find this performance of its sounds well worth the patience it requires to hear them again.

Scenes linger. Sounds endure. A great cinematic moment does that sort of thing.

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HBO’s magnificent screen portrait of John Adams and his fellows at a time when they were ‘winging it’—as historian David McCullough has it in HBO’s online site for the show—is simply brilliant film-making. It should be viewed in every classroom of the nation from which this reviewer ponders the deeply moving experience of having done so in his living room.

Adams was the kind of politician—he would have hated the word and the notion to which it refers—for which the most secular among us should urgently pray. He had no stomach for the thing and only wanted to return to spread his best manure-soil mix on his beloved New England farm. Principled, articulate, and stubborn, he learned in the earnest fray of the revolutionary years the art of intelligent compromise. Paul Giamatti never lets us look away from the pain it caused him to lead, nor to easily evade the burden of historical gratitude that we owe to him, to his wife and family, and to those who labored beside them in the birth pangs of a nation. (more…)

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