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The Human Stain (2003)
A brilliant interweaving of truth, lies, pain and prejudice.
A chance circumstance of birth. One child might be handsome, one may be deformed. One never knows what advantages or disadvantages they will be bestowed in life. A fascinating tale of self hatred, undeserved and unnecessary. But not surprising for the time period. When we can't show who we really are, isn't that what we are doing? An unusual story, but most likely a common one. Played understated by both Nicole Kidman and Anthony Hopkins. Ed Harris is menacing as soon as he appears on screen. Gary Sinise is as we, the audience,knowing nothing. Then gradually, it is slowly revealed like an onion. Layer after layer. Nicole Kidman obviously did her research on battered women. It all rings true.Each character struggling with what they do and do not know. What do they choose to do with that? Wentworth Miller was a brilliant choice as the young Coleman.
The irony in that casting is revealed in the trivia notes, so don't read them until the film is over. I was enthralled by this film and count it among my favorites of all time.
The Host (2013)
Not as bad as others are saying
I think you have to really love science fiction to really appreciate this film. If you are expecting a film anything like Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series, you'll be disappointed. But if you enjoy a thought provoking Science Fiction tale of "what If?" You can enjoy certainly enjoy this film. I also read that someone wrote in their review,that reading the book by Meyer would help a person enjoy the film more. I don't believe that's true. I only read one Twilight book, but loved all the films. It's a love story and also a story of sacrifice as well. Between family, between a species of beings, human and otherwise. There is not a great deal of action, so if that's your idea of a good Sci-Fi film you most likely will be disappointed. This is more of a traditionally "female film." But don't let that stop you from seeing it! I have seen many "guy's" movies that I never would have regretted not seeing, based on that label alone. All the performances were all acceptable, none outstanding, none horrible. This is simply a film about aliens coming to earth, inhabiting our bodies and the strength of the human will and spirit to persevere despite that adversity.
G.I. Jane (1997)
From personal experience
G.I.Jane has some obvious flaws. Not the least of which is when Demi Moore walks into the mess with obviously no bra on under her white tee shirt. No self respecting female trying to get into the world of a macho, hyper-testosterone fueled job would do anything to accentuate her femininity. No makeup,no feminine underwear,nothing that makes her different than a male recruit. A fact shown to good example when Moore shaves all her hair off during a break and I give her credit for actually doing it and not faking it by wearing a wig. That takes guts. As someone who has been through something similar,I can tell you that not being wanted in a group of men elicits a type of behavior in a group mentality that would never happen if the man was alone. I really enjoyed this film despite some of its problems at suspending disbelief. For example, when the master chief is looking at the exercise where the recruits are in the rain, climbing forward on their bellies under barbed wire, he's "seeing" the action that wouldn't be possible through a scope or binoculars. Another is when each team in is the water and picked up "on the go" as the inflatable rafts rush by. Each male is given help by someone inside the raft and hoisted up inside. Yet when Moore's character turn comes, there is no help and she slips back into the water. She's unable to do it but is later criticized by the Master Chief for not being able to lift her "own body weight." Well, we don't know if that's so or not, as all the males were helped getting inside. There are other instances of such examples but the thing that makes this film work for me is I know how it feels to be unwanted and be considered incapable of doing what's considered typically a "man's job." The politics and technical mistakes aside, the real essence of the film is if a woman wants to fight for her country she should be able to.
Liz & Dick (2012)
Hits the high points but little else....
I absolutely loved Elizabeth Taylor for as long as I knew about her.. I loved her bawdy sense of humor,her love of dirty jokes and how she would actually cackle uproariously with delight with no hesitation at those jokes. Lindsay Lohan has captured the look of Ms. Taylor in this film, but couldn't get close to the essence of Elizabeth (which is what she preferred to be called) in her countenance or in her voice.
I think the producers should have dubbed Li-Lo's husky voice with one more like Elizabeth's or just recast the role with an unknown actress. Lohan's voice is just too distinguishable as her own to make her believable as this icon. .The actor that played Richard Burton, Grant Bowler, had his Welsh accent down well enough, but was not rough enough in his physical features to be believed.
Burton was handsome of course, but in a rough, pock marked face that showed he had character as well. Finding two people to carry these roles was probably next to impossible, as the original two people were larger than life as it was.
Nonetheless I had to watch this film, no matter how bad it might be. But I think the real problem was that Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton lived real lives that were "large" even among Hollywood celebrity standards. Trying to pack all that into a less than two hour "mini movie" did neither Taylor or Burton justice. Or maybe it's just too soon after Taylor's death for it to be believable. I think I am better off reading Burton's recently released journals to get the real flavor of that wonderful love affair.
Out on a Limb (1987)
Shirley MacLaine really goes out on that limb
I saw this on TV in the 1980's and remember thinking that she was setting herself up for all kinds of ridicule. But she portrays herself in the film, the way I think she did when these events were actually happening to her. It takes a brave person to come out and say they were on a search for evidence of extraterrestrial life, especially when they have the fame and acclaim she does. I loved the casting of Charles Dance, one of my favorite actors, as the married politician she was in love with, but is convinced that they have been together in other "lifetimes" which is why they are so drawn to each other. As most of the other real life characters real names were used, I had to find out who Dance's character was based on, as she doesn't reveal this. It was easy to discover on the Internet, so if you are curious, look there. Playing herself in this film helps the viewer to take it seriously. She is skeptical about the whole alien thing and makes no bones about it. But through her narration she adds an extra "voice" to her thought processes as she extends her search for knowledge. She shows she has an open mind throughout and in turn, that made me take seriously what would be normally a film I might dismiss as fluff. The film is almost impossible to find to purchase. I finally found it on an obscure website. I have watched this film several times now and I see something new in it every time.
If you are looking for a fun, frolicking film, this isn't it.
If you are looking for one person's (albeit famous) journey for meaning in her life, you won't be disappointed.
Ash Wednesday (1973)
Enjoyed this more than Richard Burton obviously!
I actually enjoyed this film quite a bit. It wasn't quite "Virginia Woolf" or some of her other films. But I think it showed some great depth and the desperation in a women, who thinks she is losing her husband, especially set in the 70's. Henry Fonda, as great an actor as he was, would not have been my choice as the male lead. However, his role is secondary for all intents and purposes. The film is also obviously about a wealthy woman. First, it's set in Switzerland and she's an American. One who can afford plastic surgery, which in her character's mind,is the way to possibly gain her husband's attention. Not a radical idea today, but plastic surgery was less talked about in this time period. I came across this film accidentally on television awhile back and have had trouble finding it since. It's definitely worth watching if you are an Elizabeth Taylor fan.