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I'm older than sin and ornery as hell.That sentence does not describe me. It's true I'm older than about 90 percent of the US population, but sin has been around for thousands of years. Plus, I'm generally called &nice& by people who know me. They also say I'm very intelligent, but if I am so intelligent why am I trading messages on a chat board? The curse of being nice is that it doesn't promise excitement and edginess that the women, I crave, crave. But I have had an interesting, if safe, life as an analyst at the old McDonnell Douglas Astronautic and nuclear energy regulation.
Killing Them Softly (2012)
Cynical, depressing, but glad I finished it
Comcast/Xfinity: "In this thrilling crime drama, a professional enforcer (Brad Pitt*) probes the robbery of a mob poker game by three low-level thieves, but his investigation is complicated by an alcoholic hit man (a world-weary looking James Gandolfini*), incompetent gangsters, and the playboy host of the game (a corpulent Ray Liotta*)."
* - text in parentheses are my additions -
From that description, despite the phrase "thrilling crime drama," I was expecting a "The Ladykillers" or "Lavender Hill Mob" comedy. That turned out to be completely wrong. There is ZERO humor in this film. I also wouldn't call it thrilling, since its obvious the mob wants those involved to be killed.
Instead the film is a character study. We get to know the motives, fears, desires of the players. In the background are snipers of TV coverage of the 2008 presidential race between Bush and Obama, a time when the economy was in a state of near collapse later called the Great Recession. Crime, too, is in a depression. Basically the film delivers a depressingly cynical message that Jefferson's vision of democracy is a lie, that America is a business, and that way to live life is take what you can.
I watched this on a Comcast/Xfinity cable TV digital recording device. Half-way through I decided that I wasn't enjoying it and turned it off. But several days later I went back and finished it. I'm glad I did.
The Object of Beauty (1991)
Definitely worth more than the 2 star rating given on Comcast Xfinity
John Malkovich (Jake) was really good looking in 1991 when he was 38. Andie MacDowell (Tina)was 33. In a nude scene from the rear and partial side she is drop dead gorgeous.
Jake and Tina are stylish, selfish and broke. He is a wheeler dealer who's latest gamble on a shipment of cocoa is a disaster, and his credit is maxed out. She owns, and adores, a small Henry Moore bronze figure of which only 9 were cast and then the mold was broken. It is their only thing of monetary value. She muses about reporting it stolen to collect on its insurance, but he says it is too risky. The sculpture goes missing. A deaf-mute hotel maid admired the sculpture for its beauty rather than its value. The plot thread about her is perhaps the heart of the film, but I enjoyed most of all the character development of Jake and Tina.
The film is a delightful exploration of how the two lovers deal with the disappearance. Spot on acting and directing. I loved it.
Stay Hungry (1976)
See famous movie actors in early roles
Jeff Bridges as born into southern gentry but trying to find what he wants to do in life after his parents leave him the family mansion. I loved the part where he dances a jig at a blue grass music hootenanny. This film introduced a young Arnold Schwarzenegger in a role where he is a body builder who also plays a country fiddle. Sally Field plays a country girl out of place among the southern aristocracy Jeff's character belongs to.
Scatman Crothers has a small part as the faithful family retainer. Fannie Flagg and Joanna Cassidy are gentry acquaintances of Bridge's character. "
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Better than just great battle scenes.
I'm not a fan of action movies that spend heavily on crashes, fires, and other special effects, but skimp on the screenplay. Kingdom of Heaven, however, is an action epic about who rules Jerusalem at the time of the first Crusades, but with a decent and interesting plot.
While it contains some historical characters, it is a fictionalized account. One of the things that is historically correct is that King Baldwin (actually Baldwin IV) did have leprosy, was retained as king despite that, led troops in battle and even defeated Saladin in one. Also, when the King was still young, he did have a regent, Raymond III (1140-1187), Prince of Galilee and Tiberias, who the film only calls Tiberius (Jeremy Irons). Also, princess Sibylla (Eva Green), sister of Baldwin IV, did marry Guy of Lusignan and there is some historical claims about her involvement with Baldwin of Ibelin, but not Balian of Ibelin (Orlando Bloom), who actually was a younger brother of, and vassal to, Baldwin of Ibelin. But there isn't anything in the few historical sites I looked at about Balian ever being blacksmith.
Liam Neeson, as usual, impresses, although in relatively short part, as Godfrey of Ibelin. (The actual name of the historical father of Balian of Ibelin is not Godfrey but Barisan.)
What makes the plot interesting is the moral code of the hero, (played by Orlando Bloom) and his father. It gives a morally sympathetic treatment of Saladin and Islam; its treatment of Christianity favors Christ's teachings about doing good being more important than rituals, and mocks false piety of a medieval Christian priest and bishop.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Pretty bad, except for special effects
The film starts by telling us how beautiful is the young princess, Snow White, but while the young actress is pretty enough, she isn't prettier than other young girls. She doesn't resemble a pageant winner. Kristen Stewart, who plays the mature Snow White, seems to me to have 2 unusually large front teeth. She never in this film has "skin as white as snow" except when she is supposedly dead, and never has "lips as red as blood (or lips as red as rose, depending on the story version). The evil queen (Charlize Theron) is more beautiful except when she is shown as aging. The Queen's aging in this film is supposedly reversed by her sucking the beauty out of young girls, who then become old hags. But in the film she is rapidly aging in some scenes while in the next scene she is back to her original beauty, with no explanation.
Snow White escapes from the cell in a tower where she has been kept for years. The Queen is distraught and orders her evil brother to find her and bring her back. But in a later scene the Queen has used magic to locate and poison Snow White all be herself. Why then did she need to send her brother and a small army to find her?
Part of the story has the animal world enchanted by her, but some in the "dark forest" frighten her and definitely seem unfriendly, with the exception of a science fiction beast that fights Snow White's escort but then becomes docile when it approaches Snow White.
While the story line is inconsistent, the special effects are very good, if unnecessary and not all particularly original. In most Snow White stories the magic mirror displays a face in the mirror that answers the "who's the fairest in the land" question. In this version of Snow White the mirror melts into a liquid mass that forms a man-like 3-D figure to answer the question. Clearly this was done just to demonstrate that the special effects crew knows how to do that. (The same kind of liquid metal effect was first done in Terminator-2 way back in 1991.)
Seven Years in Tibet (1997)
A Tibetan version of "Lawrence of Arabia."
Like "Lawrence of Arabia", the scenery (Tibet and the Himalayan Mountains) add to the appeal of this film. But there is also a story line connection -- a British office/Austrian mountain climber with personal psychological issues becomes adviser to Prince Faisal/the Dalai Lama. That's about as far as I can stretch the analogy because Lawrence led the Bedouins to victory over the Turks while Heinrich Harrer (Brad Pitt) was not a military adviser and Tibet was had no victory over Communist China.
I thought that Brad Pitt did a splendid job of showing arrogance, disdain and sensitivity at the appropriate times of the story.
David Thewlis is perfection as Peter Aufschnaiter, a more disciplined and sensitive leader of a German mountain climbing expedition.
Harrer, who already is recognized as a champion European climber, is a member of Aufschnaiter expedition to conquer Nanga Parbat in British India. During the climb they encounter adverse weather conditions. Harrer want to continue to a higher level that he hopes will be above the storm, but team leader Aufschnaiter insists on descending instead. At the bottom they are imprisoned as enemy aliens as World War II has begun and Germany is now an enemy of the British. (Note:Austria was annexed into Germany before the Allies declared war on Germany.) They plot to escape but have limited options of where to escape to. Tibet is the closest independent nation but no foreigners are allowed in Tibet.
Le cadeau (1982)
When I saw this film I'm pretty sure it was called "Le Cadeau" ("The Gift"), and IMDb listed it for many years as Le Cadeau. The "gift" was a surprise paid-for evening with an elite high-class call girl. It is given by his friends to a bank employee on his retirement. Clio Goldsmith plays the call girl, Joyane, who also uses the pseudonym Barbara.
Clio Goldsmith, a 25 year old German actress at the time this film was made, was one of the most stunningly beautiful women I'd ever seen. To my regret, she left the theater profession in 1985.
It's comedy of mistaken identities, but all I really remember is Clio Goldsmith. (I'm writing this more than 30 years after seeing the film!)
Hope Springs (2003)
Has all the elements for a good romantic comedy except for the story details
The plot is thin but had potential: a British artist (Colin Firth) becomes dazed and despondent on receiving an invitation to the wedding of his fiancée, Vera (Minnie Driver), to another man. He promptly flies to America and takes a sleepless overnight Greyhound bus ride to a Vermont Town ("Hope Springs," population 18,459) where he knows no one. (He chose that destination because of its name.) He gets a room at a motel where the the owner/desk clerk, Joanie (Mary Steenburgen), immediately notes his despondency and sends an attractive young amateur psychologist, Mandy (Heather Graham), to his room. Eventually they fall in love, but his former fiancée arrives, wants him back, and does things to disrupt his affair with Mandy.
The only funny bits in the movie are Vera's attempts to find a place in town where smoking isn't prohibited. I didn't find other comic attempts particularly funny. In one scene Vera in only a bra and panties in a crowd but what seems like a comic opportunity is ignored.
The actors are fine but the the story jumps from one situation to another without taking time to develop even a hint of credibility. In one scene in a car Mandy, with no explanation, chugs a large bottle of what seems to be hard liquor while Colin merely watches. Apparently that was just to create the comic situation of Colin having to take over the driving so hey can have a comic bit of a driver used to driving on the left side of the road trying to drive on American streets.
I didn't find the comic moments particularly funny. Inconsistencies abound: the bus trip from a Boston international airport to Vermont can't be much more than 3 or 4 hours. The restaurants and town hall seem to big for a small town. In one scene Colin is first in a towel and then dressed. Colin does some stupid things for no apparent reason other than to create comic situations.
Seven Psychopaths (2012)
On the same high level of Pulp Fiction
I was drawn to this movie because I loved "In Bruge," also written and directed by Martin McDonagh. It also featured Colin Farrell. (Originally, I watched "In Bruges" because I had visited that city not long before and climbed the bell tower where a large part of the film was shot. But "In Bruges" is a great film, not merely a travelogue.) In "Seven Psychopaths" Farrell plays a script writer who is Irish, drinks to excess, and has a germ of an idea for a film title, "Seven Psychopaths," but no characters or storyline yet.
"Seven Psychopaths" was listed as a comedy; I was in the mood for a comedy. I also wanted to see Woody Harrelson's performance (he plays a psychopathic mob boss who is obsessed with his pet Shih Tzu). I first saw Harrelson merely as a comic actor in the great "Cheers" TV sitcom, I've since learned to respect him as a serious actor who (like Jodie Foster) seems to accept roles only in films with very good scripts.
In fact, the entire ensemble consists of notable performers, including the inimical Christopher Walken as a small-time con man who collects rewards for "finding" and returning "lost" dogs to their owners. The dogs are lost because they have been kidnapped by an accomplice played by Sam Rockwell.
Sam Rockwell's character, a psychopath and friend of the script writer, turns out to be the juiciest part and Rockwell plays it perfectly. Perhaps it is his performance that made me think it was the best part, but maybe not. His mannerisms brought to mind Robert Blake as Tony Baretta in the popular1970's television series "Baretta."
Quentin Tarantino's violent comedy "Pulp Fiction" is one of my favorite films. "Seven Psychopaths" is of the same genre and, in my view, of comparable quality.
Cedar Cove: Pilot (2013)
Andie MacDowell shines as Judge Olivia Lockhart
I don't normally watch the Hallmark channel but was curious about their first TV series, which is based on a book series of the same name.
Cedar Cove is set in a fictitious small Washington State coastal town. In the first episode we meet the small town judge who is ethical. wise, unpretentious, and who is offered a federal judgeship by her Washington State U.S. Senator. They knew each other from law school, but he chose to nominate her for the federal position because only one of some 20 decisions of hers that had been appealed was overturned by the higher court. Other characters in the story are the town's newspaper editor who is a newcomer to small town life, her daughter who is dating a wealthy older man, a younger man who wants to renew a relationship with her, and a young couple who are in her court for a divorce.
The plot of the episode, which mostly dealt with problems couples had in their relationships but also involved political and legal issues, kept me interested. For the most part the acting was good, particularly Andie MacDowell's. I thought the actor playing the reporter was a trifle hammy. My impression of Hallmark is that it is akin to the Harlequin Romance novels, but I didn't feel that way about this pilot episode. Hopefully the future episodes will continue in this same manner.
It's nice to have at least one dramatic series that doesn't involve criminal investigations or vampires.