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Matt Damon is Will Hunting; an underachieving math prodigy working as a janitor at M.I.T. He is discovered by a professor who, through a series of unusual events, is able to recruit the young genius to work on complex math formulas. Hunting has a severely deprived upbringing, involving foster care and physical abuse. Robin Williams; in his Academy Award winning role, shows up as a sympathetic psychiatrist who is recruited to rescue Will from his many demons. Williams and Damon are excellent, and the script is well written and smart, although it turns a bit too sentimental for my taste at the end of over two hours. Van Zant could have tightened up the editing; noisy bar scenes are always an unnecessary tool; and there are at least one too many in Good Will Hunting. Even with its slight defects, the film is well worth watching.
Anyone with a passion for movies will love Life Itself. The Chicago film critic, Roger Ebert is the subject here, and his life was a very interesting one. The only child of an electrician father and stay at home mother, Roger began writing for his own school paper as a kid and thus began an early start in journalism. In 1967 he started newspaper film reviews and became famous due to the television show, "Sneak Previews" which paired him with rival critic, Gene Siskel. The dynamic worked well and with syndication came wealth and fame. He married at fifty to an African-American woman named Chazz, who is interviewed extensively throughout the documentary. His brave battle with cancer is heart breaking to watch, but a necessary element. Director Steve James does an excellent job, keeping enough light moments to give us hope. A solid 8/10.
Jason Statham is Jake Green, a criminal recently released from prison after serving a seven year sentence. He is able to win big money at casino card games and he is pitted against Ray Liotta, who plays a mob kingpin who spends a good deal of time surrounded by tanning lights while walking around in his underwear; a very strange sight, indeed. Andre 3000 and Vincent Pastore of Sopranos fame become his underworld mentors as they combine to commit a series of death defying heists. The acting is superb, with solid action scenes from director Guy Ritchie. Unfortunately, the story becomes somewhat convoluted. Stathan, 3000, and Pastore have good chemistry and provide some good funny moments in between the bloody carnage. Liotta is quirky but his usual watchable self and overall, the cast makes Revolver worth the ride.
This is my second venture into Greek cinema; the first being Dogtooth. Is everyone in that country insane? The concepts are similar in both films which share a controlling father in the lead. This time around, the dad is dancing with his eleven year-old granddaughter when she shortly makes an unexpected and abrupt exit. For the following ninety six minutes we are subjected to four adults and four children behaving very strangely. There is not one light moment and we are witness to an extremely sexually repulsive scene involving a girl and men who are not interested in a loving relationship. The acting is fine, but the actors spend every moment brooding. There is no reason on earth to sit through this tortuous movie.
The scenery of the coast of Ireland is breathtaking and director John Sayles makes good use of it. A little girl, Fiona, comes to live with her grandparents and learns of the legend of her ancestors and seals with mystical qualities. The film moves very slowly but the innocence and belief of Fiona in magic make the fairly tale atmosphere almost believable. Jeni Courtney is perfectly cast in the lead role and she effortlessly displays a natural ability to seem like a real ten year-old kid. Sayles lets her appear in virtually every scene of the movie and it is a wise choice. The sea and its creatures are the other major element and it all works to make The Secret Roan Inish worth a 7.5/10.
Jason Bateman is forty year-old Guy Trilby, a single man competing with kids in spelling bees. Bateman is smooth and makes the movie worth watching. His counterpart, a ten year-old Indian boy and he have excellent chemistry. A reporter follows him around the country in order to write a human interest story. Some of the humor is in bad taste, but is funny nonetheless. Bateman looks like a big kid when he is on stage sabotaging his fellow competitors. One scene, in particular, involving a pair of panties, is hilarious. The soundtrack is diverse and well chosen to match the mood of the film and Bateman does an efficient directing job, keeping the pace quick and wrapping things up in an hour and a half. A well done comedy.
Brendan Gleeson alone makes Calvary worth watching. Here he is Father James, a rural priest who really wishes to make the world a better place for his parishioners. It opens with the good father listening to a man in a confessional explaining how he was raped at the age of seven by a man of the cloth, and how he now wishes to have vengeance by now killing a good priest. Father James will do just fine, and he has one week to get right with God, before meeting his maker; so to speak. A troubled young lady, Fiona, appears, and it turns out that she is Father James daughter from a previous marriage. He took vows after his wife's death. Along the way we meet everyday people with life's usual problems, from alcoholism to adultery. The story is deeply Catholic, and as a former adherent, I would say that the target audience are those with an understanding of the church's teaching. Others can appreciate it, but it may seem a bit foreign to their sensibilities. A fine cast support Gleeson's magnificent performance, and the ending is quite memorable.
God grew tired of us is a line used by one of the lost boys of the Sudan, as he describes the horrible conditions of his homeland. Thousands of refugees traveled by foot over one thousand miles to escape the killing by tribes from the north. It begins at a camp where the boys are surviving, while a lucky few are chosen to fly to America for new lives. The young men are shown in Syracuse, New York and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and culture shock is an understatement as the Africans are introduced to electric lights and refrigerators and modern plumbing. The men do adapt, and even as they struggle to survive, working two and three jobs while attending college, they are a triumph of the human spirit. This is a magnificent film with people who make you stand up and cheer. A solid 9/10.
Shanghai Belle is an aspiring model turned prostitute, who is surrounded by cocaine addicted, party going young women who wander aimlessly in this disjointed mess of a movie. The only saving grace is an excellent soundtrack which is not available anywhere. Hand held camera shots alternate between color and black and white, and we are taken from scene to scene at random, as if we are watching a one hour and forty minute music video. Xin Wang is quite beautiful in the lead role, and she is frequently naked, which, along with the soundtrack is the only reason I am giving this film a 3/10. This could have been a contender, with better editing and a more structured story line; but as it is, it is just an exhausting effort for the unfortunate viewer.
Mother of George begins with a traditional African wedding ceremony which takes place in New York City. The bride and groom are toasted with wishes for a baby boy in the near future which will be named George, in accordance with the groom's mother's wishes. After a prolonged period, the hopeful mother to be does not conceive and she attempts various methods to become pregnant. After more time passes, she visits a fertility specialist, but her husband refuses to be checked out by American doctors. Her mother in law tells her that she should allow her husband a mistress in order to have a child. This idea does not go well, nor the next one of having his brother try to father a baby with her. The movie moves slowly, and while the acting is solid throughout, and the clothing beautiful, I was bored by the time it finished.
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