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To Sir, with Love (1967)
A timeless message
"To Sir, With Love", is a gem in that the story, the characters, and the message of the novel are transferred almost flawlessly to the screen. Sidney Poitier is masterful as the titular character, Mark Thackeray, assigned to teach a classroom full of delinquent London teens.
His own epiphany and announcement--after a number of trying events--that the students are not children, but adults, each deserving of concern and respect, and owing responsibility to the world--is the turning point of the story. Simply by abiding by the rules by which he expects them to abide, "Sir" earns not just the students' respect, but their love; he has treated them like no other adult in their lives has done.
The message is obvious: regardless of race, creed, colour, or even gender or social position, every person is deserving of the same level of respect. It was true in 1967; it's true today; it will always be true.
See the movie; if you can find a copy, read the book, too.
License to Kill (1984)
A product of its time - but not a bad movie!
Though Denzel Washington is used to promote this movie, it's not really a Denzel vehicle -- he doesn't show up until halfway through the movie, and during the second half of the movie, his appearances are staccato and brief. In other words, he's not the star.
The main characters are the members of the Peterson family -- father John (Farentino), mother Judith (Fuller), and younger daughter Amy (Meyers) -- each of whom struggles with his or her grief when the elder daughter of the family, Lynne (Vigard), is killed by a drunk driver. The family drifts apart as John obsesses over getting the guilty driver convicted of manslaughter; Judith sinks into helpless depression; and Amy is left lonely and afraid, her world suddenly upside-down.
Denzel comes into the picture as the extremely overworked but nevertheless competent public prosecutor Martin Sawyer, who is assigned the case against the driver charged with Lynne's death.
It's not a spectacular movie -- it has its maudlin moments, its result is predictable, and there are times you'll want to kick some of the characters for their obstinacy -- but as I say, it's a product of its time, and there are worse ways of spending an hour and a half. The message is a little heavy-handed, but it remains a valid one, however dated the movie itself may be (check out Denzel's glasses!).
Gabriel's Fire (1990)
A great venue for James Earl Jones' talent!
It didn't run very long, but "Gabriel's Fire" is a fantastic series for anyone who wants to see the complete range of James Earl Jones' ability as an actor, and not only to hear the range of his beautiful voice! Even just the first episode gives him the chance to show off a broad range of emotion, of action, of genuinely slipping into his character -- the ex-cop, ex-con, Gabriel Bird.
The series begins with Bird in his twentieth year in prison for murder; he killed a white cop during a raid, and was convicted for this, but because of his exemplary military record, his sentence was reduced to life in prison. A friend of his in prison is murdered, bringing Bird through circumstances together with his friend's lawyer, and on this is built the premise of the series.
Jones does take over every scene he's in, but he's got rather an overwhelming personality on the screen; he can't help that, I think =D If you get a chance to see the series, take it!
Lame is a Four Letter Word
We have a hot female vampire in tight black leather. We have the cranky goth-wannabe male vampire who obviously has the hots for her, unrequited. We have ages-long war with another immortal species. We have forbidden love. We have a "cool" term for something that has a common and universal name, i.e., "Lycan"(thrope) for "werewolf" -- and the common name has to be used anyway, to explain what "Lycan" means. Lots of black, lots of flowing long coats, lots of oooh, isn't this just the most romantic? Well, it's not. There's nothing innovative about the script, the characters, or even the visuals. This movie is intended to appeal to teenaged boys, with Kate Beckinsale stalking dour-faced about in tight shiny black stuff (cameras in National Geographic documentaries don't close up so much on the hindquarters of their prey); and to teenaged goth girls, with the pale-faced loser vampires moping about like the world's on their shoulders. As has been mentioned before, this movie was released between Matrix instalments, and it shows, very painfully.
The one saving grace in this movie is Bill Nighy, as Victor. There are very few men who could put on that much makeup and still deliver lines with such delightful, cutting viciousness.
I want my two hours back.
She's So Lovely (1997)
Very good movie about very bad people
None of the major characters in this movie is particularly redeemable, yet it remains a fascinating film. Eddie (Sean Penn) is a hard-drinking working guy, devoted to his friends and passionate about his wife Maureen (Robin Wright Penn). Eddie's mentally unstable; he has a very weak grasp on the concepts of time and space, and thus often vanishes for days at a time without realising how long he's been gone (and without understanding why Maureen worries about him). Maureen is equally passionate about Eddie; but he's been gone for three days at the start of the film, and their neighbour Kiefer is pleasant and more importantly -there-, and she accepts his offer of drinks and later of dancing. Kiefer pushes it too far, however, and though Maureen tries to keep the truth from him, Eddie finds out. His tenuous grasp on mental stability snaps at this point, and this is really the climax of the film.
As has been mentioned before, this is not an Oscar-winning film. Not because it's not excellent -- with a script by John Cassavetes and command performances by both Penns (spectacular, really, both of them, in roles that would have been poorly played by clumsier actors) and John Travolta, and excellent supporting roles all around -- but because it isn't a Hollywood movie about Good versus Bad, with Good ultimately triumphing. People don't make good choices. People aren't particularly "good" parents. What ultimately happens isn't supposed to happen in the movies. But it does, and it's true to the characters, and it lifts this film up above the usual sugar-coated drabble we're so often fed by the cookie-cutter that is Hollywood.
***possible minor spoilers***
I'm not a big fan of Ms. J.Lo; she's not exactly the consummate actress. But she is awfully easy on the eyes -- definitely miscast here in the sense that her character is supposed to be a Plain Jane (which she definitely is not). But the role isn't too demanding, and the movie isn't intended, I think, to be particularly intellectually stimulating. It's predictable, yes; it's an average movie with pretty people, car chases, lots of tension, hand-to-hand fighting, and a happy ending. Sit down and eat your popcorn and enjoy.
The theme of spousal abuse is a dark one and I was glad to see it (relatively) frankly addressed. Slim's transformation from frightened abused little wife to butt-kicking protector of her child was a little speedy but admirable nonetheless; there are real-life abused women who need to find that strength in themselves (not necessarily to hunt down and kill the abusers, but to leave them and have the strength to stay away), and though it's presented in a typically trite Hollywood manner, the truth behind it is still important.
Kudos to little Tessa Allen (Gracie), who made me once again believe that there is some real talent in the child-actor pool of the universe. Her scowling annoyance in the car (on the way to call Mitch's mom) was just precious! Here's hoping that the little cutie's TV career doesn't keep her from shining on the big screen again!
All in all, a very enjoyable movie, and I'm glad I sat down and gave it a chance.
Charlie's Angels (1976)
Beautiful does not mean weak
I have seen complaints about the original Charlie's Angels series and how having beautiful stars in it negated any feminist notions about the series. I would like to disagree.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there were few enough female 'action' stars on television to be role models for young girls. The various women in 'Charlie's Angels' were (according to the OP) police officers before Charlie hired them -- and as female police officers, they were given stupid 'girl' jobs like handing out parking tickets, and handling switchboards, and so on. Charlie gave them jobs in which they could actually fight crime -- and they did fight crime, together. If one of them needed rescue, it wasn't a man that came to rescue her, but one of the other two 'angels'. They were independent, intelligent, single, employed women who worked well together and supported one another.
The show is dated now, given how strong feminism has become since then. Back then, however, it was more than enough for at least one little girl to see that she didn't have to grow up and get married and have babies to be happy in life. Charlie's Angels -- the original show, not the fluffy movies (which are fun in their own way) -- remains to this day in my opinion an excellent example of how women should look at life: it's a challenge; meet it head on, and on your own terms.
The fact that the women were all beautiful is irrelevant to the show except that it attracted a male audience.