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The Tillman Story (2010)
Shattering, powerful, inspiring
I saw the documentary 24 hours ago and I can', for the life of me, shake it out of my brain. The United States of America is an extraordinary Country. We all know that, whether we like to admit it or not. A Country that managed the impossible by growing in spite of its, ethnic, religious and political diversities. Glued together by the Bill of Rights. That's it. So, a story like the Pat Tillman story makes me shiver. When a government is prepared to concoct a lie, regardless of what that lie will do, not just to the family of the fallen soldier, like Pat Tillman's mother says "It's not about my son anymore is about the American people" but in fact to the foundation of America itself. I believed her feelings completely because one things that comes out of the documentary is that the Tillman family is truthful to the core, courageous, inspiring. They should be the poster family for what America is all about. The speeches of Kevin Tillman, Pat's younger brother, at the memorial service and at the Congresional hearing still ring in my ears. And when I recall it I can't stop the tears running down my face.
A remarkable performance by Frank Langella as Richard Nixon transforms this unexpected Ron Howard film into a gripping and unforgettable experience. The behind the scenes of the famous David Frost, Richard Nixon interviews pale in comparison to the compelling sight of Nixon/Langella thinking. It was difficult to forget that Michael Sheen was not Tony Blair but David Frost. Sheen's Frost is an entertaining foil to Langella's somber,sad, desolate portrait of the former president. Ron Howard finds a winning pace giving the true tale a fictional slant. Unfortunately I never saw the stage production and the film never betrays its theatrical origins. In a bizarre sort of way this is Ron Howard's most cinematic film. I highly recommend it.
The Dark Knight (2008)
Heath Ledger's Dark and Brilliant Swan Song
I couldn't believe "The Dark knight" could live up to the hype. That's perhaps the biggest surprise. The secret, I believe, is a stunning, mature, intelligent script. That makes it the best superhero movie ever made. As if that wasn't enough, Heath Ledger. He, the newest of the tragic modern icons present us with a preview of something we'll never see. A fearless, extraordinary actor capable to fill up with humanity even the most grotesque of villains. His performance is a master class. Fortunately, Christian Bale's Batman is almost a supporting character. Bale is good but there is something around his mouth that stops him from being great. "The Dark Knight" is visually stunning, powerful and moving. What else could anyone want.
Eastern Promises (2007)
Viggo Mortenssen and David Cronenberg together again
Russian mobsters, a rainy, murky London, a midwife and Viggo Mortensen makes this David Cronemberg film a perfect companion piece to his "A History Of Violence". My two favourite films of this idiosyncratic and fascinating director. Naomi Watts and motherhood go beautifully together and it's her gutsy maternal instinct that throws her in a world populated by truly horrible people. The trick is, we go with her and within that brutal world we meet some memorable characters. Viggo Mortensen, what an actor! His fearlessness is riveting, he's also beautiful beyond words. We think we can read him but we doubt our own thoughts, he's in total control of his character and of his audience. He has the face of an icon and he underplays it, over playing it. If you see History Of Violence and Eastern Promises you'll understand what I mean. This is not a film to like but to love and I loved it.
The Miracle of the Bells (1948)
Stranger Than Fiction and Funnier Too
I don't mean to be disrespectful, but the fact that this film may be based on a true story makes the whole thing insaner than it really is. The dialogue alone may have you roaring in the aisles. Frank Sinatra as a priest with a priestly voice even sings a song and Fred McMurray towering over Sinatra as he stands next to him tries to act convinced and at times he almost succeeds. The one remarkable feature here is Alida Valli or as she was billed "Valli" trying to sell her as the new Garbo. She is stunningly beautiful. You wouldn't guess it for her performance here but she went on to star for Luchino Visconti in "Senso" and years later for Bernardo Bertolucci in "The Spider's Stratagem" What she's asked to do here is virtually impossible. To makes us care, let alone believe in what she's suppose to be telling us and yet, there is something, don't ask me what but something, that makes "The Miracle Of The Bells" a guilty pleasure of major proportions.
Couldn't Find The Blooming Town
I love Cameron Crowe. Let's make that absolutely clear. The casting of his movies is superb not to mention the writing or the sound tracks. Here, however, in Elizabethtown, the leading man is a hole on the screen. No charisma, no projection, no involvement. I'm not a teenage girl, I grant you that, but I don't think Cameron Crowe made this film for teenage girls. There was something about returning, about rediscovering and/or perhaps about first love. Elizabethtown aims higher than most teenage bound movies. The comatose performance of Orlando Bloom makes everyone else appear as if they were high on something. Billy Wilder is always a little bit present in Cameron Crowe's movies and Kirstin Dunst's character is a Wilder character if I ever saw one. I kept seeing the young Shirley MacLaine, or longing for, I should say. Dunst is an interesting actress but here she has to work with a wooden leading man, so that piece of miscasting throws the whole well intentioned enterprise way off course. Never mind, my love and admiration for Crowe will survive this one.
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
Coughing And Laughing In Another Planet
Ivan Reitman must be so proud. I'm not kidding, his son Jason has come out with a caustic original comedy all his own. I don't know what people outside Los Angeles may make of this. They may think is science fiction when, in fact, most people who have spent any time there knows that this is as normal as going to church in the Vatican. The scenes inside the CAA like agency are even underplayed if you believe that. Aaron Eckhart is as perfect as they come. The charming monster with human sides. William H Macy, Rob Lowe and the rest of the cast are great fun to watch. I'm rooting for this movie to make a zillion bucks. It'll be nice to have more good writing, good acting and good direction in March for a change.
Alexander Desplat, the splendid composer of "Birth" starts us off in a such away that I though I was in for a real treat. Then Nicole Kidman, with her astonishingly beautiful, intense, intelligent face. Elegant fades to black, scrumptious cinematography. Then what? As soon as 10 year old boy makes his appearance telling her, them and us who he is, the film stops and dwells on that point without knowing where to go. Round and round and round again. Among the writers of "Birth" is listed the great Jean-Claude Carriere with amazing titles to his credit. I don't believe for a minute that he had anything to do with the appalling structure of this mess. The most frustrating feature of this film is that it promises a memorable journey within the first ten minutes and then ignores it, ignore us it cheated us. I really want to blame someone for this, who shall I call?
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
The one and only reason to see this new and much weaker Manchurian Candidate is Meryl Streep. The little space allocated to her character makes the film rise to undeserving levels. True, I would pay to see Meryl Streep do the weather but that's quite besides the point. Even so, the memory of Angela Lansbury's performance in the role towers over Meryl Streep's, mostly because the original Frankenheimer's Manchurian Candidte towers over Demme's. What a silly idea, really. To update the story doesn't contribute a thing to the results. No matter how many monitor screens and details about the experiment we're let into. We, quite simply, don't care. We care about the drama of that mother and son. Of the soldier's and their nightmares. But those elements are treated in a sketchy, sluggish way. Frank Sinatra gave a sterling performance in the original and we believed in his torment. Here Denzel Washington floats throughout the film without giving us the chance to connect the dots of his journey. Liev Schriver is a credible Raymond Shaw but the script doesn't help him to go where Laurence Harvey had ventured. After "The Truth About Charlie" I was fearful of what Jonathan Demme (the great man behind "Silence of the Lambs") would do with this classic black comedy but I went to see it anyway, because Meryl Streep was in it and because it was Demme again working with Dean Stockwell after that lovely romp they did together "Married to the Mob" but Stockell's work in Manchurian Candidate, how can I put it? If you blink you miss it. How strange. How disappointing. However, the scenes with Senator Meryl Streep are worth the price of admission.
The White River (1992)
I Think Abelardo Is Wrong
Although I agree with Abelardo's comments about "Seeds of Tragedy" I don't think this film is the same film. "Seeds of Tragedy" was a film of 1991 this one is from 1992. The language listed for "Thw White River" is Afrikaans, "Seeds of Tragedy" is in English. The coincidence is that both films credit Martin Donovan as the director and Alex Lasker as the writer. It is also true that I have looked for this film everywhere without success. I'm a huge fan of Martin Donovan and I know for a fact that I'm one of the very few lucky ones who've seen "Seeds of Tragedy". A film that comes in and out my subconscious with alarming regularity. Sometimes something reminds me of something, an image and I spend days thinking, where is that from? "Seeds of Tragedy" is usually the answer. Can IMDb help us clear up this confusion?