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8/10
Against all odds, get off his knees he did, and John Robinson golfs, too (at 3-foot 9)
22 November 2010
The documentary "Get Off Your Knees" somehow links my thoughts to one of Lincoln's character asset 'negative capability' as described in David Herbert Donald's book "Lincoln" (Preface: page 15, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks) - 'that is when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.' That is the essential spirit to the story of John Robinson in this WMHT (NY state) Education Communications' 60-minute film. From his birth and childhood, through interviews/talking heads with his father, uncle, grandmother, teachers on his growing up period, school and college years (at Delman, NY), yes, university (at Syracuse, NY), too, to looking for a professional position, hearing from his colleagues, friends and to his courtship and marriage to Andrea, his wife, and father to his children of three.

When we first meet John introducing himself (at age 40) on stage to an audience of teenage youths, we have no clue to his physical condition until he mentioned about his 'multiple-congenital amputee'. He was born without arms and hands, no knees and upper legs. If you miss the PBS showing of this film, go to the official site at "wmht.org/getoffyourknees" - you can watch online the video (whole 60 minutes) and get to appreciate what John went through, his family doubts about his future yet amazed by his relentless tenacity in overcoming his physical shortcomings (pardon the pun) and with creative solutions undeterred by daily challenges. His open attitude in life along with his sense of humor facilitate ease for others interacting with him, including on the golf course. To him, his goal is to lead an 'ordinary life' as everyone else would without being constantly mindful of the limb shortness. As his daughter Ariel simply mentioned that her Dad is just like any other Dad but shorter, and there are certain things he can't reach. That's all.

We are fortunate that WMHT television director (also writer, producer, editor and camera) Dan Swinton delivered this documentary of John Robinson Story accessible to wide audience (PBS and beyond). The online web site provides: Discussion Guide with notes & comments by Robinson and Swinton, a Disabilities Self-Awareness Survey, Facilitator and Question lists; Resources and related community links; preview selections or watch the video itself; Photo Gallery; Media press release synopsis; info on available DVD of the documentary and John Robinson's autobiographical book "Get Off Your Knees: A Story of Faith, Courage and Determination".

Hearkened back to DH Donald's "Lincoln" (same page 15 of Preface), his 'pragmatic approach to problems, a recognition that if one solution was fated not to work another could be tried.' You can see that illustrated in John Robinson's account of how he tackle his daily routines and being 'comfortable with uncertainties.' We can see he truly enjoys the life he leads and family and friends, against all odds. No regrets. Why the title 'Get off your knees'? The anecdote is included in the documentary, and amusing, it is.

There are two other inspiring documentaries caught on PBS which are worth mentioning: "The Way Bobby Sees It" and "Life. Support. Music." The former is about Bobby McMullen, a mountain biker who's determined to take on a challenging downhill course race, even though he's 'legally blind' - a fascinating intense account of fearless human strive by directing team of Jason Watkins and Wendy Todd. The latter is yet another encouraging life-affirming chronicle of the family of Jason Crigler, a talented musician-guitarist-composer, unswervingly stood by Jason in spite of the grim prognosis after his unexpected brain hemorrhage life event, how persistence of a unified force & caring support miraculously pulled him through it all - it is moving at times even suspenseful, comprehensively directed by Eric Daniel Metzgar.
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Hereafter (2010)
8/10
Near-death experience, blessing or woe, cinematically described in the Peter Morgan scripted, Clint Eastwood directed enjoyable 3-fold poignant story
9 November 2010
There's no worry that the film would be heavy due to subject matter. "Hereafter" is a comfortably-paced film experience from veteran director Clint Eastwood (at wondrous prime age of 80). Peter ("The Queen") Morgan's screenplay on 'life after close encounter with death' is seemingly simple yet full of spirited (pardon the pun) ingredients. There are vignettes depicting different social strata of life situations: rich and famous in the French television media and European publishing world as we follow a career-driven female journalist; quietly solo 'blue-collar worker' shying away from exposure of his 'possessed gift' in San Francisco; struggling addict, London single mom dealing with custody of her boys and the lone twin attachment to his lost brother. Morgan skillfully scripted three intersecting story lines inclusive of contemporary social elements and events: natural disaster, bomb attack, fatal accident, culinary classes, corporate meetings, company layoffs, foster care, book fair.

As in most of Eastwood directed films, there's never hurriedness or push for emphasis of themes. We are watching and experiencing at comfortable pace the development of the characters as the stories unfold. The characters, we care. Not just the three main ones, but the supporting roles are just as interesting and touching - fine acting all round. Bryce Dallas Howard as Melanie - sensual-sensory moments at the food tasting segment with Damon reminds me of the flavorful w-d Sandra Nettelbeck's 2001 German gem "Bella Martha". Brief appearance by Marthe Keller as reassuring Dr. Rousseau at the Swiss hospice institute reminds me of her 'terminal' role in d Sydney Pollack's 1977 "Bobby Deerfield" opposite Al Pacino. Derek Jacobi as himself fondly reciting Dickens is always a welcoming interlude.

Matt Damon, second time round collaboration with Eastwood (he was fantastic in his South African Rugby team captain role in Eastwood's 2009 "Invictus" opposite Morgan Freeman), once again delivered a subtly convincing and sensitive George Lonegan, the reluctant psychic who felt trapped by his not so hidden gift. Cécile De France as Marie Lelay let us share her anguish and determined pursuit for true understanding, recognition of her near-death experience. Marcus at such a young age, quite pensive and resolute in his search for connection with his brother, is well-portrayed by the McLaren twins.

Besides being director and producer to "Hereafter," Eastwood is also the composer of the film score. I appreciate the palpable energy and loving care contributed to the accompanying music as the scenes reveal and the stories evolve - the guitar strains and the piano rhythm so aptly integrated to the movie experience.

Along with screenwriter Peter Morgan, Steven Spielberg is one of the executive producers and it was said that he actually introduced the original draft to Eastwood, who promptly bought the rights to the book 'Hereafter.' There's an insightful article titled "Eastwood Breaks Another Mold" (by C. McGrath) which provided background notes to how the script and film came to be. Almost as fate plays a hand and the two important players (Eastwood-Morgan) 'intersect', we are fortunate to get to enjoy the remarkable film production of 'Hereafter': a perceptive study of life after death on the sly, dramatically rewarding.
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Le concert (2009)
7/10
Dream fulfillment hopeful yearning, past struggles haunting memory, revitalizing classical music forever - hardly a mere comedy, but a 'dramedy' of life & living
2 September 2010
"Le Concert" film title in French suggests French production involved (with Mélanie Laurent, Miou-Miou and François Berléand - definitely French et Paris). Core story sets in Russia, began with strains of "Elvira Madigan" - promise of familiar classical pieces we enjoy. Abrupt distraction introduced our 'hero' of the story (Andrei Filipov well-portrayed by Alexei Guskov) and hint of comedic intimations began. The rounding up of his former orchestral members (80 of them, no small matter) gave us vignettes of varying walks of Moscow life. The urgency timing of performance date in 2 weeks, the logistics of flying everyone to foreign soil of Paris - language interpretations, events-process travel visa coordination, plus a solid impersonator as the group's Bolshoi Orchestra spokesman for the journey. 'tis a lot to cohesively deliver by director Radu Mihaileanu, and he pulled it off. We get to appreciate a genuinely heart-warming movie and fantastic music played to our ears.

Plot actually thickens as we're clued into the Parisian-side of things, with the repeated 'no's' of Guylène, underplayed by Miou-Miou as the young lady violinist's guardian and agent, and the retorting 'yes's' of Anne-Marie Jacquet convincingly portrayed by Mélanie Laurent - including her virtual playing-performing on the violin (what a young successful thespian at that, whose remarkable in her role in Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds" 2009), plus the comic tempo of François Berléand as Olivier Morne Duplessis, the Parisian contact for the event. Yes, 'dramedy' leads us to unspoken secrets of the past, of artistic struggles and hard times during political differences, and, is Anne-Marie truly an orphan genius with no past?

The story reminds me of similar turn of events for artists in China during Cultural Revolution period, when they, too, had to experience hard labor camps and fatal physical coldness conditions. Chen Gang, co-creator of the "Butterfly Lovers' violin concerto" 1959 at age 24, his famous composer father Chen Gexin of many popular Mandarin songs in '30-'40s (like "Rose, Rose, I Love You") died in 1957 at age 47 and survived by his loving wife who tenaciously brought up their four children, who became successful musicians themselves. In "The Concert" we get a glimpse at such circumstances and how people affected might cope and carry on with their lives.

"The Concert" is a heart-warming movie, with its delights, humorous situations, poignant disclosures to the unfolding story, and as one would expect (so the film poster and trailer both suggest) the climatic central concert piece where we see Laurent impressively plays the violin concerto (of Tchaikovsky's). A satisfying experience all in all, encouraging want of enduring friendships not easy to come by and that we'd dearly cherish and revere.
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Cairo Time (2009)
8/10
Caught unaware, "Cairo Time" is brief encounter, heavenly moments on borrowed time worth spending with Patricia Clarkson's Miss Juliette
2 September 2010
There's an ease and naturalness that actress Patricia Clarkson exudes, especially befitting in the role of Miss Juliette in w-d Ruba Nadda's "Cairo Time." An elegant performance, with such grace and polished refinement - subtle, unassuming, in leisurely harmonious simplicity. Composer Niall Byrne's aptly complementing rhythm and piano notes reminded me of Michael Nyman's score in Jane Campion's "The Piano" 1993. It's about unwarned tremors of the heart - two hearts, to be exact, here in "Cairo Time" on borrowed time - heavenly moments on earth.

Guilty pleasure? There's such an innocence about the 'meetings of two remarkable hearts', guilt is not admissible here. The relationship between Miss Juliette and Tareq, a friend of Juliette's husband, Mark, and at Mark's request, to accompany Juliette and facilitate what she might need while Mark's unavailable for the time being. Not complicated at all. Hence it's easy to be unrestrained in their exploration of each other, given the time and circumstance they happened to be in. It's fate - as Tareq pointed out, it's what people believe in Cairo - happenstance per chance.

Platonic is hardly the word - inadequate in describing the romantic moments in Cairo Time. Its emotional depth may not be obvious, yet not as simple as it might seem. The trailer provided clues to the framework of this relationship, including that unwary peck on the lips which Clarkson's instinctive 'oh' we detect. Savoring the memorable instance, we see her smiling to herself as she relaxes lying down. We, too, relish in every movement, moment, the joy of being in each other's company. Ah, the train ride, the casual exchange, the one-word response of Tareq's, "stay." Why he does mean it and wanted her to - stay. Why she does contemplate on opening a women's only café - hm, to match his men's only café, indeed. The flow of the relationship ever so natural, unforced - we can feel it's blossoming along.

Just as the growing mutual admiration caught unaware to the two hearts, they were caught unaware also when the brief encounter stops short by Mark calling out Juliette's name. The heavenly moments on borrowed time abruptly yanked away from them, was so close yet out of reach. She touches the pendant next to her heart. Quivering thoughts fade. Is Mark here or not really here? Yearning once freed now fluttered within, restrained. Take a deep breath. There's the pyramids, Mark by her side.

My sense is that CAIRO TIME could be genuinely appreciated more by women, women friends enjoying the film together, rather than seeing it with husband or male companion. (Too mature for a date movie.*) Why? This is the sort of fantasy dream situation that a husband or partner can be wary of. Really? Affairs of the heart are certainly not elaborately exaggerated by Shakespeare.

In a way likened to Woody Allen's "Purple Rose of Cairo" 1985, the couple within the movie and us the audience outside of the film, both are caught unaware of the extent of quivering hearts, where they may lead us. "Cairo Time" is an inviting journey, leisurely pleasurable just by watching Patricia Clarkson's exquisitely natural portrayal of Miss Juliette and her match of a beau - tall, dark & handsome Alexander Siddig as Tareq, equally mature, intelligent, and cultured. Together we spend some Cairo Time, and forget the rest of the world - let us suspend in time, in what w-d Ruba Nadda and her excellent filmmaking collaborators had created for us to enjoy.

Clarkson crystallizes as THE screen goddess, exceeding her super versatile self as in "The Station Agent" "Married Life" "Lars and the Real Girl" "High Art" and so many others. "Cairo Time" is shot entirely on location in Cairo, Egypt with an endearing tagline: "Sometimes you need to forget the rules and remember your heart." Check out the official website "www.cairotime.ca" where you can view the trailer, learn about the 'history of Cairo Time' behind the scenes production notes, cast and crew, photo gallery, more review articles. Cinematographer is Luc Montpellier who has worked with director Nadda on her previous feature "Sabah" 2005.

* For a date movie, w-d Edgar Wright's "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" 2010 is outward fun dealings with affairs of the hearts (multiple hearts and teens, alright, with Michael Cera), or substantial lessons from Marc Webb's "(500) Days of Summer" 2009 with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, for developing-maturing young couples.
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8/10
May not care for high drama soap, but the exquisite shadow & light play in Technicolor by Oscar-winning cinematographer Leon Shamroy is totally worth it
13 August 2010
"Leave Her To Heaven" is director John M. Stahl's 1945 unabashed glamorous soap with Gene Tierney as the irresistible beauty, Ellen Berent (out of this worldly on the surface), seemingly innocent of the dark vampiric seed of jealousy wedged beneath. In this script by Jo Swerling, based on Ben Ames Williams' novel, Tierney duly earned her ultimate queen of femme fatales that would succeed in her evil goal pursuit at all costs, even if it means her own demise to ruin all humanity (oh yes, really). Ellen is one determined woman with undying love for the man she chose to own all by herself. (Almost sounds like William Wyler's "The Collector" 1965 - seeing Terence Stamp's hold on Samantha Eggar). Well, she would if she could lock up her husband's heart. This is a soap opera, so other players are involved unawaringly crossing her grand scheme of things. Though she managed to act upon her uncontrollable instincts while murderous dismissals accidentally occur. Heartless? Does she have one? Single-mindedly she loves novelist Richard Harland (played by Cornell Wilde), and 'till death do us part' deadly serious, she is.

Others include talented Jean Crain as Ruth Berent, a live-in cousin, who's much more kind-hearted and likable a person yet definitely an uneasy competition from Ellen's perspective. Mary Philips is Mrs. Berent, a recent widow (so Ellen lost her beloved father she's very close to) who's aware but not fully understand why her daughter Ellen 'loves too much'. Vincent Price is Russell Quinton who cannot forget he once wanted to marry Ellen, when she dumped him for Richard, but able to survive the rejection and became a barrister (a conveniently useful occupation in Ellen's mind). Darryl Hickman as Danny Harland, Richard's young brother, enthusiastically fighting for recovery of his physically disabled state, yet viewed as a hindrance to Ellen competing for Richard's attention by the minute.

That's just the general structure and character map of the high drama tale. To skip to the appreciation of Leon Chamroy's cinematography mastery, it is also out of this worldly exquisite in this Technicolor vivid movie. The thoughtful application of shadows and lighting directions-angles jump out at me - I marvel at the shadow patterns on the walls, framing of set decorations, and what the camera insightfully captured on screen that enhanced the movie's mood and pacing. At one point, to my surprise while revisiting the film, my eyes caught the shadowy shape on the wall thrown off from Ellen who's standing in front of the fireplace - the figure was likened somehow to a witch with a tall pointy hat - how very clever of Chamroy! She's a witch alright as she was pleading her innocence to the 'mishap' and sorrow that Richard experienced over Danny. Oh, she's only thinking of Richard, she shamelessly professed.

Is that half the story yet? Soaps can be long and breath-suspending. Still, plot after plot, the comfortable flowing performances by the cast can arrest your attention and emotional investment. It's a mighty pleasing to look at Hollywood movie (from the Twentieth Century Fox studio), with music score by veteran composer Alfred Newman. The lush production design (by Maurice Ransford, Lyle Wheeler) and richly detailed set design (by Ernest Lansing, Thomas K. Little) with capable editing (by James B. Clark) rendered "Leave Her To Heaven" a definitive soap classic, up in the ranks with Douglas Sirk's "Magnificent Obsession" 1954, the love-wrought dramatic pair of Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson (from Universal Pictures).

Gene Tierney's diabolical jealousy-consumed character reminds me of Robert Montgomery's devilish role, similar jealousy and love you to death storyline in director W S Van Dyke's "Rage In Heaven" 1941 (in stark B/W), where Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders are the equivalent in reverse to Cornel Wilde and Jean Crain's pairing, including the involvement of courtroom drama and murderous accusations. It's actually a taut film noir. Robert Montgomery is spectacular as the unsuspecting psychotic one, and Bergman (young at 26) and Sanders' performances match his brilliance just as fine. Stepping back, I rather like this rare gem delivered in 85 minutes with love story and suspenseful last-minute ending, too. I was lucky to catch it on TCM cable.

Also comes to mind is 'Amelie' Audrey Tautou in director Laetitia Colombani's "He loves me…he loves me not" 2002 French film, in which Tautou plays a female stalker, home wrecker, sly-lying-unsuspecting troubling young woman, pretty to look at yet psychotic deep down. And British director Roger Michell gave us "Enduring Love" 2004, with Rhys Ifan being the stalker extreme to the couple played by Daniel Craig and Samantha Morton - Ifan is a 'new' friend, unwanted and unable to get rid of.
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Cross Creek (1983)
7/10
Cross Creek is a beautiful place to be as cinematographer John Alonzo enchantingly captured in director Martin Ritt's 1983 film
13 August 2010
"Cross Creek" the 1983 Martin Ritt film tells the story of feisty author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, how she came to be attached to Cross Creek in Alachua County, Florida. The script by Dalene Young, based on Rawlings' own memoirs, along with engaging music by Leonard Rosenman, do at times seem like a Hallmark TV movie, yet a Martin Ritt film is never without poignancy, contrasting elements of conflicts and choice decisions. Thought-provoking drama, emotional highs and lows, not forgetting dashes of humor (be it in brief exchanges between key characters, or bemused scenes that'd elicit a smile from you) and jolting dark moments that's part of living - it's a Ritt movie, alright.

What a talented cast assembled: the Alfre Woodard's Geechie scenes opposite Miss Rawlings, played by Mary Steenburgen, gave us the exceptional camaraderie rare at such time and place of the '40s; the confrontational yet congenial Rip Torn's Marsh Turner encounters could be heart-wrenching at times and whimsical at another; the tender and vulnerable segments with Dana Hill's portrayal of 14-year old Ellie Turner facing her Pa (Rip Torn) over the keeping of the fawn (the yearling) are memorable; the simultaneously comfortable and contradictory feelings when Marjorie and Peter Coyote's Norton Baskin meet at their varying circumstantial moments - what a treat to watch their facial expressions and sensitive performances. The nuance acting did not stop with the four key roles, as the supporting cast that included Paul (Ike Eisenmann), Mrs. Turner (Joanna Miles), Tim's wife (Toni Hudson - the scene of Marjorie visiting her and the new baby did momentarily remind me of the 1979 w-d Victor Nunez' small gem of the film "Gal Young 'Un"), the Turner children, however small the role may be, had made "Cross Creek" whole.

The opening credits included a frame thanking Mr. Norton Baskin (Rawling's second husband who survived Marjorie by 44 years till 1997) for his assistance in the preparation and production of the film. In the 17-minute featurette "Cross Creek: A Look Back with Mary Steenburgen" on the DVD (distributed 2002 by Anchor Bay Entertainment and Studio Canal), when asked if the film was true in depicting Rawlings at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, Baskin responded favorably, "it's as close as you can get." We see the various moods and aspects of Marjorie, be it tempestuous, headstrong, or sheer charming, especially when the subject is food and cooking.

And it is absolutely true, "Cross Creek" the film wouldn't have been (existed) if not for cinematographer John A. Alonzo's supremely enchanting camera-work. The bayou marsh vegetation scenes, the trees and reflections in the waters, the sky and clouds mirrored in the river surface, the natural nature scenes that are very much Cross Creek's own in the rain, wind and sun - we are blessed by Alonzo's cinematic artistry and craftsmanship. Excerpt quoting of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings': "Who owns Cross Creek? The earth may be borrowed, not bought; may be used, not owned; it gives itself in response to love and tenderness, offers its seasonal flowering and fruiting."

This is a guarantee of worthwhile viewing, indeed. As Mary Steenburgen pointed out in her featurette on the DVD, "Cross Creek" the film included a 'bonus' 20-second cameo appearance of Norton Baskin in person at the beginning (about 7 minutes into the film) - catch it if you can.
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8/10
A whodunit by its own right, cognitive solutions and resourceful set-up for its next two trilogy companion films
12 August 2010
"The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" introduced us to Lisbeth Salander, the heroine focused in Swedish author Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. It is said that Larsson was impressed by childhood heroine "Pippi Longstocking" (from the pen of Swedish children's author Astrid Lindgren) who is known to be a brave, independent girl with exceptional stamina and courage. So Lisbeth's character was modeled after Pippi, in a way. A modern Pippi, Lisbeth sure is: fearless, intelligent, uninhibited, and very much in control of herself at the prime age of 24, a loner with a mysterious background.

This whodunit is without the involvement of police-detective or inspector (so it's not quite like Poirot or Sherlock Holmes) - we are following two consummate investigative brains, one is that of the ever-revolving, daring Lisbeth Salander's, the other is Millennium journalist Mikael Blomkvist's which is just as bold if not reservedly so. Hence the cognitive, methodical unraveling of the Vander family mystery at hand that Blomkvist was given, by fate if you will, linked up with Salander (reluctantly or not) - together they're on the trail to decode a 'forty year old' murderous secret. The nature of the investigation somehow was very close to Lisbeth's heart and being. The original Swedish title "Men Who Hate Women" might provide inklings to the topic, then again, is that all there is? Danish director Niels Arden Oplev elegantly delivered the characters and storyline without over-the-top gratuitous action, chase, or gore. Yes, there are certain scenes that are 'unapologetically' frank, physical, sexual or otherwise - but they were crucial to the core of the story and the decoding process of the dark history in stored for our protagonists. (It may not be as grand as the Vatican exposure in "Angels and Demons", but the suggestion of the Third Reich connection is no small matter, either.)

It's been 4 months 12 days since I last saw "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and the detail deductions, investigative discovery steps by the two leads were still vivid in my mind when I recall the film. That's kudos to the impressive portrayals of Lisbeth by Noomi Rapace and Blomkvist by Michael Nyqvist. Together they have played off each other, one fiery and one more reticent, one more venturous and the other cautious, under the thoughtful direction from Oplev, and thanks to a competent production crew of two screenwriters, cinematographer, two editors, composer, production, costume and sound designers, makeup, and talented supporting cast, "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" is an entertaining suspenseful thriller, even when you have to read the subtitles, the tension and high drama, you will appreciate, from beginning to end.

Whether you'll see all three films in the "Millennium" trilogy or not, this first installment is worthy of your time if you like movies.
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7/10
Second installment of the Swedish Millennium trilogy about heroine Lisbeth Salander made me relish the first film by director Niels Arden Oplev
11 August 2010
This follow-up installment by director Daniel Alfredson is a decent mystery thriller with expected action scenes and a string of plot points to keep your interest going. It provides more background information about our tenacious heroine Lisbeth's childhood and her legal guardians, mysterious police reports, and her couple of singularly close friends (Miriam and Paolo, both happened to also know kick-boxing and boxing). Of course, there is Millennium key journalist, Micke Blomkvist and his fellow investigative reporters, and most of the storyline we're following thread after thread, hoping (as everyone in the movie does) to get closer to Lisbeth. From the audience point of view, we get to see her, alright, tagging along with her varying guises to avert danger too close for comfort. She, too, wanted to get to the bottom of the alleged murders that were conveniently linked to her name. The whole movie feels like an expanded "Wallender" episode from the Swedish police-detective TV mystery series.*

"The Girl Who Played With Fire" gave us seemingly straightforward 'facts' as the multiple characters uncover - likened to a 'treasure hunt' (or musical chairs, if you so inclined from the number game of the targets by the villains) vs. providing dramatic highs and penetrating clues, suspenseful and emotional exciting turns as in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo," when we followed Lisbeth and Micke on their investigative furtive trails and cerebral deductions. What Danish director Niels Arden Oplev gave us in the first installment can very well stand on its own as a suspense dramatic thriller (which was true to the original Swedish title "Men Who Hate Women"). It's an excellent whodunit - quality entertainment, moving and satisfying wrap-up to the point of tear-jerker, in spite of some plot-required gritty (raw, not for the squeamish) scenes, which were actual arcs for the next two installments to lean on and refer to. Yes, I recall those particular cited scenes in "The Girl Who Played With Fire" when replayed and enhanced our empathy with Lisbeth's character. What this second installment did give us is preparing for the next and final movie in pursuit of Lisbeth's truth along with Micke staunchly standing up for her - so I kinda read the reviews already on IMDb for "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest". Truly anticipate for the wide release of the 'Part 2' of the second installment and getting to the nitty-gritty rhyme and reason of our heroine Lisbeth and hope for the very best for her.

Do see "The Girl With Dragon Tattoo" if you haven't experience it yet. Yes, mind you, there are NFE (not for everyone) scenes, but they are necessary to the understanding of the heroine, Lisbeth Salander, and set up for the next two movies that follow in this worthwhile mystery trilogy from Sweden. Subtitles in English.

* "Wallender" is a popular Swedish detective mystery TV series I was lucky to catch now and then on KCSM (in Bay Area, California) on their 'International Mystery Monday nights' at 10 PM. They are usually intense, violent crime scenes without apology, political story lines, tons of threads (or red-herrings) that compel you to stay through till the end of the 90-minute episode. There's also a British "Wallender" mystery series based on the same Swedish police-detective Kurt Wallender, played by Kenneth Branagh (who's an executive producer for the program).

If you have a chance to catch the German-Austrian production of "Tatort: Crime Scene" - that's a favorite international mystery I highly recommend. Every TV episode is intelligently written and delivered, with crime scenes usually suggestive or chilling effects off-screen, and simply loved the pair of investigators Max Ballauf and Freddy Schenk (detective partners brilliantly played by Klaus J. Behrendt and Dietmar Bär - one's kinda skinny, the other's kindly plump). If good old-fashioned mystery style is your cup of tea, try "Maigret" the French, pipe piping burly of an endearing Parisian Inspector, impeccably portrayed by Bruno Crémer, who solves murderous puzzles ever so facile. Great sets, costumes and befitting music as we accompany Maigret, unhurriedly sauntering on police business, visiting the rural provinces of French locales.
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8/10
Thoroughly entertaining, endearing romantic comedy with John Candy opposite Ally Sheedy and Maureen O'Hara, especially lured out of retirement
9 August 2010
w-d Chris Columbus' 1991 "Only the Lonely" does seem like an updated version of 'Marty', but there is much fun and humor (and in color, too) from the 'Home Alone' neighborhood of filmmaker John Hughes. (A Hughes Entertainment production presented by Twentieth Century Fox). It's a lively cast, with unsuspecting action-oriented scenes (stunts) for screen siren Maureen O'Hara, coming out of retirement for this endearing 'rom-com'.

Watching John Candy playing the romantic leading man, Danny, is absolute fun - catch those phrasing and selective wording he delivers with such ease. It's comfortable following him and James Belushi, his cop partner Sal, on their beat, eavesdropping on his banters with the neighbors at the bistro, and how he 'good-naturedly' puts up with his mom, Maureen O'Hara, with her constant cautionary instructions. Then we see him meeting Theresa, intuitively played by Ally Sheedy. 'tis diverting co-incidence that she works as a mortician at her father's funeral parlor. The contrasting shyness (hesitant 'introvert' demeanor) and the occasional boldness (mustered energy in 'standing up for herself') she skillfully demonstrated. It was almost like god-send pairing between Candy and Sheedy, the way they play off each other, the genuine gentle fondness for the other in this seemingly unlikely romance we dearly root for them both, against all odds. Well, the one monumental obstacle being his mother, Rose.

Director Columbus incorporated his 'Home Alone' prankster elements into brief dream segments, letting us in on Danny's gnawing frustration and ever-worrying about his mom's well-being. He is still very much his mama's boy, and O'Hara's Rose wouldn't let him lose that focus. So we have the Nemesis well-established and how will Danny and Theresa overcome this and be married happily ever after? "Only the Lonely" is most enjoyable. The supporting cast included Anthony Quinn as Nick, the Greek neighbor who yearns for Rose. Kevin Dunn is Danny's lawyer brother with family (there's a glimpse of the Culkin brothers, Macaulay and Kieran, running in the yard) and scheming at a Florida move for Danny and Mom. There are plot twists, alright, and in-family strives, and relationship doubts and angst. There's also the wonderful moments of courtship, with music by Maurice Jarre (seasoned composer at romance: "Dr. Zhivago" 1965, "Ryan's Daughter" 1970, "A Walk in the Clouds" 1995), and of course, Roy Obison's song "Only the Lonely" we get to hear and 'dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah' along with. A charming romantic comedy and John Candy movie, highly recommended.

Other worthwhile romantic comedies come to mind: "Return to Me" (2000) director-screenwriter & story Bonnie Hunt (also acted with David Duchovny, Minnie Driver and James Belushi); "Keeping the Faith" (2000) director-producer Edward Norton (also acted with Ben Stiller, Jenna Elfman, and Anne Bancroft, Eli Wallach). Also recall a 'small' sweet movie caught on cable TV, "I Don't Buy Kisses Anymore" (1992) - Jason Alexander turned in an impressive performance as Bernie, who met Theresa, played by Nia Peeples, directed by Robert Marcarelli, and Lainie Kazan, Eileen Brennan included in the cast. All are available on DVD.
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8/10
One singularly-focused child's mind, joint forces with a nature-passionate man together pursue: a blue butterfly - that's when miracles occur
8 August 2010
Warning: Spoilers
It was sheer unexpected chance that I caught the last segment of "The Blue Butterfly" one Tueday late afternoon in June on cable Encore channel. It's 'based on a true story.' Quite an encouraging factor. And I was lucky enough to again catch this little known William Hurt movie (a 2004 Canadian-made film) when Encore repeated its showing. What a treat. Tear-jerker, in a way, with the story about this terminally ill young boy determined to pursue the Blue Butterfly with his ideal collaborator - an entomologist he adored and believed in, for the mythical quest of a journey deep into the jungles of Costa Rica! Yes, sounds like a Disney adventure and family drama, as the boy's single-mother also went along to provide moral if not physical support to her son's dying wish, literally.

If you try to dissect the film or compare it with other movies, you're doing yourself a disfavor. Just go along with the trio: our young hero Pete in his wheel-chair (well-portrayed with such simple ease by Canada's popular seasoned young actor, Marc Donato), his French-accent attractive Mom who stands by his wishes (she looks familiar - it's Pascale Bussières in w-d Patricia Rozema's "When Night Is Falling" 1995 Canadian production), and the passionate nature man Mr. Osborne, who does care inside though ill-at-ease on the surface with the resolute boy (another William Hurt never-disappoint performance).

And what's not to like: location shooting takes you into the rain forest of Costa Rica - it does feel like going through a National Geographics sojourn - remarkable close-ups of insects, fascinating nature captures and lush landscape scenes. Capable cinematography by Pierre Mignot and skillful editing by Michel Archand. Comparable screenplay by Pete McCormack, based on true events, with dramatic elements infused for film-goers' sake. Decent direction by Léa Pool (of "Lost and Delirious" - a controversial subject film which may not be for everyone, with intense performance by 'Coyote Ugly' talented Piper Perabo), who kept the dramatic tones non-sappy, and the adventure segments, the core relationship between the entomologist father-figure and the singularly-minded boy comfortable to follow. The ending notation - which is no spoiler - letting the viewers know what became of the terminally ill young boy, is definitely uplifting and life affirming. Yes, miracles do occur. (I have Lani Hall's song from her 'Sweet Bird' album, 'That's When Miracles Occur' singing in my head. "Love you're giving you must give away" and " Make sure you risk everything" - the lyrics sure ring true in this film.) Unobtrusive music (integral native rhythms, too) by Stephen Endelman, exquisite (nature) sound design by Ivan Sharrock and visual effects supervised by Gunnar Hansen all enhance the film experience.

"The Blue Butterfly" is a movie worth watching. Glad that Encore encores its showings on cable. It's also available on DVD, which included fascinating bonus features (from 10 to 18 minutes variety): there's interview with the real life 'Pete' - David Marenger, story about young David and the real 'Osborne' - French entomologist Georges Brossard of 'Fondateur Insectarium De Montreal'. See "Mariposa Azul: A True Story" with executive producer Francine Allaire, "The True Inspiration" and "About A Butterfly Garden" with David, and "The Actors' Experience" with Bussières, Donato, Hurt (he explained why he liked the dream sequence idea, and his observations of Georges) on their portrayals and on set anecdotes, including venturous Georges (who showed and told us about the 'big' bugs!), of course.
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Mrs. Miniver (1942)
9/10
Sixty-odd years after, "Mrs. Miniver" is still a poignant, well-made family film worth viewing
8 August 2010
With my repeat viewings of "Mrs. Miniver" on cable TCM (Turner Classic Movies) and PBS, too, I came to realize what a well-made film it is. Certainly deserved the multiple Oscar achievement awards it received. It may be overlooked under the tag of being a WWII propaganda film. "Mrs. Miniver" of 1943 does deliver a poignant war-related story, with an exceptional ensemble cast (including the two young children Minivers) and subtly masterful direction by William Wyler.

The script of four writers somehow managed to include many aspects of wartime family trials and tribulations, young men and older ones fighting for their country, women's role and family members young and old, rich, poor or middle-class, how they cope with their daily living. Amidst all, humor is not forgotten and the atmosphere the family scenes or common-folk (premise being in the early '40s in rural England, we have the station master, butcher, milkman, housemaid, tavern owner) encounters generate are congenial and touching. The central Miniver family is well-represented: father, mother, young daughter and son with a pet cat, and a grown-up son from Oxford. Best supporting actress, Teresa Wright's performance is truly one to watch, everything told from her face with the varying expressions keenly matching her co-stars: Richard Ney (Vin), Greer Garson (Vin's mother), Dame May Witty (her aunt Lady Beldon). Especially when her character Carol Beldon's relationship with Vin Miniver, scholar turned RAF airman, took an unexpected turn. It may seem dramatic, but stepping back, in wartime, anything can happen without warning and such reality holds true still for today.

The set design (by Edwin Willis), photography (by Joseph Ruttenberg), and editing (by Harold Kress), including music (by Herbert Stothart) applied, are all integral with attention to details. I see the swans between Garson and Henry Travers' Mr. Ballard during their impromptu morning chat with the lake behind them (before a suspenseful sequence to follow). The collapsed dining room scene: first we see father, son and daughter standing there, camera pulls back and we see their backs from behind what they are facing the dismal room in ruins (impact of air-raid silent but loud). The pastor talking to his parish community - the beginning and the end scenes contrasting each other. The siren shelter space with the individual first-aid boxes marked with respective family member names, a certain telling sadness prevails. There are also quiet nuance moments between husband and wife scenes from Walter Pidgeon and Garson which inform us what a loving and delightful relationship the two share: in the bedroom, at air-raid shelter, when they're dancing, at dinner table, singing together at the church congregation. So many seemingly minor elements yet never overlooked.

Just like William Wyler's post WWII film "The Best Years of Our Lives" 1946, I have grown to appreciate these Hollywood gems that are truly well-made in every way. Other black & white war-related films commendable are: Delmer Daves' "Pride of the Marines" 1945 with John Garfield; Fred Zinnemann's "The Men" 1950 with Marlon Brando and Teresa Wright again; Mark Robson's "Bright Victory" 1951 with Arthur Kennedy; and of course, Howard Hawk's "Sergeant York" 1941 with Gary Cooper as the WWI American hero (I've posted user comments at "imdb.com/title/tt0034167/usercomments-38").
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The Lookout (2007)
8/10
To truly appreciate Joseph Gordon-Levitt the remarkable actor that he is, must see "The Lookout" vs. "Inception"
8 August 2010
'Inception' didn't give you much of an 'Arthur' by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I remember what a fantastic job he did portraying Chris Pratt in "The Lookout" (2007) a thoughtful thriller, just as brainy and dramatic (not high-minded hypothetical as "Inception").

Skillful writer Scott Frank, who gave us "Out of Sight" and "Minority Report", capably delivered his own screenplay and directorial debut thriller "The Lookout" - giving us a chance to appreciate how very talented Joseph Gordon-Levitt is. (Of course, if anyone had seen "Mysterious Skin", you'd know Gordon-Levitt can intensely and integrally get under the skin - no pun intended - of his characters. Then there's "500 Days of Summer" when he can handle romantic material just as elegantly.) This is a multi-faceted character, from beginning to end. We get to observe and feel the change and maturing of Chris Pratt, our protagonist of this story, and there are gritty, mind-tugging elements and scenes Gordon-Levitt has to go through. (Come to think of it, "The Lookout" is a much more entertaining movie to watch than "Inception" which is heavy on the theorem sci-fi and psycho-analysis side).

Mind you, The Lookout" is also mind-challenging. We are following Chris Pratt as he talks through with himself the steps and checklist items he has to execute to get to the next phase (of his day, his life). Not to worry, it's not confusing. It actually pulls you into the plot and makes you care for Chris, for his roommate Lewis (playfully acting blind by Jeff Daniels). And you'd want to know what would happen to the villains (Matthew Goode of "Match Point" coolly delivered Gary Spargo, leader of the gang), as this is a heist kind of a movie, where guns, coercion, menacing killer, money bags and bullets are involved. "Am I dead? I must be." Leave it to Daniels to deliver such a line. Yes, the storyline is absorbing and tight, the dialog is clever and with sprinkles of humor - you will enjoy and relish this film. Look out for "The Lookout" - already on DVD with bonus features on "Behind the Mind of Chris Pratt" and "Sequencing The Lookout". A thriller with dramatic human warmth (admirable life lessons inclusive) and satisfying conclusion (you will agree guaranteed) - can't get any better. Definitely a must-see.
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Salt (2010)
7/10
One damn good action hero Jolie is, and in SALT, it felt like a female "Jack Bauer 24" type non-stop for the whole 100 minutes complete
5 August 2010
Yes, Angelina Jolie can very well be our lady James Bond, anytime. She has integrally proved in the superb Simon West directed "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" 2001, and opposite Brad Pitt as the dynamic duo in "Bourne Identity" director Doug Liman's "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" 2005. From the Special Collector's Edition DVD behind the scenes, we learned that Jolie did her own stunts after rigorous physical training, that her agile moves were more convincing than stunt doubles. Impressively credulous - she embodies the character of Lara Croft and she is Lara Croft, The Tomb Raider, 100 percent (and beyond). And when she is Jane Smith, she is the unmistakable fearless lethal assassin just as her husband John Smith is. Jolie's star power, acting energy, physical and inner strength always intensely come through and through. As agent Evelyn Salt, she's no match for anyone - except Jack Bauer of '24'. I totally see her as the female equivalent to Jack, from the very first moment as SALT, the movie, opens.

As one famous film critic pointed out that SALT made RUN LOLA RUN (1998 w-d Tom Tykwer with Franka Potente of "Bourne Identity" being Lola) seem like mere walking for its 80 minutes. Jolie in SALT is constantly on the run (sprinting, leaping, jumping, running down, running up, running across), and her brain never stops as unbroken string of hindrances every which way are coming at her, trying to stop her dead, literally. Fear not, and it's no spoiler, Evelyn Salt is one determined agent, Russian or otherwise, out to defend the US of A (just as '24' Jack Bauer does at all costs, risking loved ones and sacrificing oneself consciously to get to the next step and to achieve the unswerving goal - save the world, too, while s/he's at it). There's many twists and turns. Convoluted? 'Nah'. It's standard espionage fare, cold war related, action-filled screenplay by competent "Equilibrium" (2002) w-d Kurt Wimmer. Director Phillip Noyce is no stranger to this genre, he had given us Harrison Ford's Jack Ryan in "Clear and Present Danger" (1994). It is Jolie whom you want to follow from beginning to end, and you badly wanted her to succeed, just as agent Salt does.

Accompany her, worry for her, cheer for her. Is she or is she not a Russian spy product - you would at times waver but no time to ponder. Her next move may reveal yet another level in the game plan, and you'd think how clever she is, or empathize with her for why she did what she did - she's already moved on. The story pacing is non-stop and there's no time for second-guessing who's the real bad guy and who can really help Salt. Is she truly on her own? If you want a good thriller and your money's worth for 100 minutes, Jolie's SALT is the best bet.

Music by James Newton Howard, along with director of photography Robert Elswit, editing team of Stuart Baird, John Gilroy and Steven Kemper, tightly delivered the scenes with earnest proficiency. Key supporting roles by Liev Schreiber as Ted, Salt's mentor (he's in "A Walk on the Moon" 1999 with Diane 'Unfaithful' Lane, "Hamlet" 2000, "Defiance" 2008 opposite James Bond Daniel Craig, among many others) and Chiwetel Ejiofor as agent Peabody (he's memorable in d- Stephen Frears' 2002 "Dirty Pretty Things" with Audrey 'Amelie' Tautou, and in last year's disaster-blockbuster of "2012").

By the way, w-d Christopher Nolan's "Inception" with stellar cast of DiCaprio, Cotillard, Page, Watanabe, Caine, Gordon-Levitt, including Cillian Murphy - is very much a mind-bending spiral tale of intrigue, psychological sci-fi if you will, while SALT is one continuous straight action-packed thriller helmed by Angelina Jolie from start to finish. Apples and oranges, not to be compared.

For a down to earth, cold war period Russian (and French) spy suspense and human drama, based on true events in the annals of US-French-Russian spy history, see "Farewell" aka "L'affaire Farewell" (2009), a worthy French film by director Christian Carion (of "Joyeux Noel" 2005), along the vein of "The Lives of Others" (aka "Das Leben der Anderen" 2006, German Oscar winner by w-d Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck) - a little known string of events yet critical to the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.
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8/10
The joy of cinema, Resnais at 87 - whimsical, fanciful in vivid delight, with comparable verve doses by his cinematic collaborators familier
5 August 2010
WILD GRASS, aka "Les Herbes Folles" in French, is aptly titled, naturellement. Such grass that grows wild, is unpredictable in how it blooms and affects its surrounding neighbors. It can be amazing or annoying, subtle or gregarious. Consulting my French-English dictionary: 'herbe' is grass, while 'folle' does mean mad, wild, foolish. Either way, veteran French filmmaker Alan Resnais, emboldened by his worthy age and years in the world of cinema, gave us quite a treat to what the joy of cinema can truly be, a film about a pair of 'madman and madwoman' - 'folles' foolish, tremendously so or otherwise.

The story is a series of events string together, seemingly easy to follow, with the comfort of a narrator voice-over interjecting certain rhyme or reason - the varying plot points converge, yet without notice, diverge also. Scratching your head? Don't mind that - ignore the inquisitive curious "why's" - why ever not! Go along with the characters offered and enjoy the ride.

A fabulous French cast: Sabine Azéma again is the leading lady Maguerite in exciting red frizzy hair-do, André Dussollier is Georges exuding his baffled charm in the guise of nonchalance, Anne Consigny is the unperturbed wife of Georges, Mathieu Amalric (of "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" 2007) is one curiously affable French Police, Emmanuelle Devos (of "Read My Lips" 2001) is dear friend and go-between Josépha to Maguerite. At times the characters and situations might classify as caricature-like. The style and approach of cinematography (by Éric Gautier) and editing (by Hervé De Luze) skilfully call upon different genres and nostalgic inferences to cinema fantastique, along with vivid colorful set design, as seen in Maguerite's living space.

The wisdom of employing music by composer Mark Snow (of "The X-Files" who had collaborated with Resnais on his prior film "Private Fears in Public Places" 2006) deftly matches Resnais' non-conforming storytelling with mystery-tale notes infused, then it's catchy jazz rhythm, to gliding unobtrusive scores, sheer glove-fitting music accompaniment enhancing our Resnais-induced cinematic experience, indisputable.

I suspect Georges could still be under the influence of his 'grief' phase to his father's recent passed away, that any behavior irrational can be forgivingly disregarded by partner, family, friends. On the other hand, for Marguerite, she's probably bored by the day in and day out routines of her dentistry bread & butter profession, so why not succumb to a total stranger and go loop the loops in the vast sky of possibilities. Sure sounds dreamlike, capricious, unscrupulously playful - certainement. We are blessed with this dessert délicieux from Resnais at 87 (in 2009), hence ask not why. It's Wild Grass - no foreseen reason or logic. Take it in stride and s'amuser.

Bonus noted: subtitles were by Ian Burley, my favorite French/Italian film translator, who provided the outstanding subtitles in "Bread and Tulips" 2000. He was absolutely keen in matching rhymes on the English subtitles to the French lyrics sung in Resnais 1997 "Same Old Song" aka 'On Connaît la Chanson'.
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8/10
The quintessential acting trio - Jean Arthur, Joel McCrea and Charles Coburn, in director-producer George Stevens' gem of a romantic comedy to delightful perfection
17 June 2010
"The More the Merrier" is co-written by four screenwriters, Richard Flournoy, Lewis R. Foster, Frank Ross, Robert Russell, and a surprisingly well-integrated screenplay effort, indeed. Jean Arthur is Connie Milligan, the centrifuge of attention; Joel McCrea is Joe Carter the unexpected distraction; and Charles Coburn is Benjamin Dingle, the ultimate Mr. Cupid connection. Miss A is comedienne Goddess alright: Connie is rigidly constrained but not exactly, wants everything according to her plan as expected, demanding adoration & affection at the same time, and capable of delivering very long sentences or speech unfalteringly without a grimace. She's one ball of spitfire, Miss Arthur - Hallelujah and Amen. Perfect casting to match Miss A's quick wit and skillful acting are tall, down-to-earth handsome Joel McCrea and cool, calm, but casual Charles Coburn. My fondness of this movie gem grew with each repeat viewing - appreciating all the nuanced moments evolved, sparked by the irresistible chemistry between Miss A and McCrea, and the endless humor and fun Coburn generates with his twinkling eye. Who would think the mundane subject of 'rent a room' can turn into such combustible drama! What a threesome to watch.

The comedic tempo is at its prime impeccable timing as the circumstance on how Arthur's Connie discovers a third party when she came home unaware of McCrea's Joe being in the apartment, as he was simultaneously unaware that the place belongs to a woman landlord, as Coburn's Mr. Dingle did not mention such 'inconsequential' detail when he sublet his rented room to Joe. Adding to the amusing situation is the rhythmic music that anyone (yes, viewers included) would want to swing to anywhere: in the room waiting to use the bathroom, in the hallway just coming out of the bathroom, in the doorway 'hair-raisingly' watching the consequential moment to occur. Imagine the three in that scene - of course you have to see it to thoroughly marvel such flawless pacing at the superb ensemble performance of the trio and the ingenious direction of Stevens, with the deft artistry of editor and sound, cinematography, set decoration, costume and prop design, all inclusive. Joel McCrea swaying in his robe, bare-footed, is simply endearing to watch. Jean Arthur's face as she came out looking so surprised is precious to behold. She is a Goddess who can take any comedic riff and be comfortable with making fun of herself. Bravo! (Can't resist mentioning about the bit with Dingle's pants - truly a quiet hilarious 'Chaplin-est' sequence, indisputably so.)

"The More the Merrier" (1943) is actually romantic to the core - the back and forth interplay between Arthur and McCrea is romance in poetry, and the bantering dialog is at once buoyantly merry and witty. Charles Coburn's nonchalant front while playing cupid on the sly is so easy to swallow whole, taking in along with his impish whims and humor. You can see Coburn in another film with Arthur, director Sam Wood's savory "The Devil and Miss Jones" (1941) where Coburn is in a front and center substantial role as an executive incognito - boss to Arthur without her awareness (again) - chaotic fun involving mistaken identity assumptions entangled. In a different subdued role in director Irving Cummings' returning soldier adjusting to family life 'dramady' "The Impatient Years" (1944), Coburn plays the discerning father to Arthur, providing sensible solution to her marriage woes.

Yet another absolutely must see is director George Steven's "Talk of the Town" (1942) with the stellar ensemble of Cary Grant, Jean Arthur and Ronald Colman. (My user comments posted on IMDb on 20 April 1999 at "imdb.com/title/tt0035417/usercomments-1").
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Luckey (2008)
8/10
Inspiring creative energy of the Luckey family, in spite of challenging situations of quadriplegic magnitude, father and son differences, husband and wife fine tuning demands
17 June 2010
Director-writer-producer Laura Longsworth's documentary feature "LUCKEY" 2008 is an inspiring piece affirming the vitality of family sustenance and not giving up one's creative dreams, against all odds. It was most generous of the Luckey family to let the camera capture their daily lives, ups and downs notwithstanding. Tom Luckey the principal of the family and Luckey Climbers projects (accident rendered quadriplegic at 65), Ettie Luckey the backbone & nurturing support to Tom, with Kit and Walker (their daughter and son respectively), Spencer Luckey (architect by trade at 35) the 'detached' son from Tom's first marriage and hopeful to reconnect with father through collaboration opportunities.

Towards the beginning of the film, it's refreshingly encouraging to have glimpses of the children climber in progress for the Boston Children Museum's expansion refresh project - it's Tom Luckey's creative idea at work, with the assistance of Spencer, since Tom's in a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic condition. We hear from each of the three featured Luckey family members: Tom, Ettie and Spencer, with privy insights to historical family video excerpts. Longsworth provides no bias viewpoint but let the camera roll and naturally capture the various family situations at hand. What father and son would not have arguments or differences in opinions? What wife would not prefer marriage partner bliss vs. a constant caretaker role? What couple would not relish and enjoy vacationing merriment on a cruise (however 'banal' that idea might seem)? What son would not reminisce boyhood days and yearn for fatherly reconnection after a long-absence?

We are led by the cinematographers and editor, having segments of watching and listening to the Luckey family members talk about their feelings, reactions to course of events within the span of a year. It is heartening, heartwarming, at times heart-wrenching, sprinkled with humor, smiles, laughter and chokes. Most exhilarating, of course, is being able to experience with Tom, and Spencer, the opening of the Boston Children Museum's new three-story-tall climbable sculpture to the public: the exciting joyous reaction of little kids going directly to the climber and dauntlessly going higher and higher up with amazement, while parents looking up from ground level. The expression of awe on Tom's face (marveling from his wheelchair) and the connecting moments father and son shared was indescribable joy, indeed. Strife and struggles happen in all families. Keeping faith and dreams alive may not be easy tasks. Hope and creativity prevail and may Luckey and Luckey Climbers continues strong.

Thank you to Laura Longsworth & Green Room Productions, Sundance Channel (repeat airing), for the opportunity of the LUCKEY experience. May more viewers and screenings appreciate this Luckey endeavor. Official site is available at "luckeythefilm.com" where more background interviews with the filmmakers and press articles are accessible in the News & Information section.
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6/10
This film prompted me to view and truly appreciate the mastery of filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer and his "Ordet" 1955
11 March 2010
Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke's films are always serious & content controversial, with complex emotions, mostly joyless and lacking in warm lovingness, never sentimental. So they are definitely NFE: not for everyone. In "The White Ribbon" 2009, delivered in stark black & white, the film is to the point of austere. Hence when a glimmer of love beckons, peering through all the somber, mind-provoking issues paraded in front of our eyes - like the rare occasional smiles between the two demurely cautious young lovers of the village schoolteacher (played by Christian Friedel) and Eva, his fiancée-former nanny to the baron household (played by Leonie Benesch), you'd probably try to hold onto that flickering candle light and keep it closely guarded throughout the film as the young man did, so to come out (alive) of whatever consequences the story results in. Though skillful cinematography by Christian Berger of natural landscapes, village scenes contrasting specific interior lighting of the characters and situations, contributed to the flow of the 'filmic' journey.

The story is told with a narrator from the perspective of the schoolteacher recalling from his memories. It is true of Haneke's treatment here is likened to a mystery unraveling - but certainly not anything like what you might expect of the genre. He's merely providing 'facts' and pieces of information that could clue us in to what may be going on. Haneke has the polished sophistication of leaving it up to the viewers to contemplate the meaning of what we see on screen as he presents them. Yes, you might say going to a Michael Haneke film is in itself an introspective experience, potently emotional or provocatively intellectual (or both). Content is substantial, with multiple characters from adults to adolescents to children, doctor, baron, pastor, farmer, steward of a village community, and the turn of events keep coming one after another - intriguing more than entertaining. The film is in German with English subtitles, and dialog is not sparing at all (pardon the pun), mercilessly so. The runtime is 2 hours and 24 minutes.

You can easily find the synopsis or plot points spelled out through reviews and discussions on the Web, including the official Sony Classics site at "sonyclassics.com/thewhiteribbon". Press Kit with Haneke Q&A is available as PDF download. You may relish more by seeing the film without prior extensive exposure to the story. In any case, I felt there are parallels to Dreyer's "Ordet" (Danish for "The Word") with just as many characters and relationships, sequence of events, community pressures, yet through anger, arguments, anxious anticipations, the radiating realm of faith, belief in God and that miracles could happen provided more positive energy with forgiveness and retentive love emphasized. In "The White Ribbon", such 'goodness' human elements seem obviously scarce - the single image of the schoolteacher and Eva riding the carriage together stayed with me, echoing their smiles as a slim hope of coming through, thick and thin.

If you like Haneke, this is a must-see. If you want to try a Haneke film, go see it with an open mind and leave any figuring out of plot points after the movie, to discuss or further explore (or neither). "Ordet" of Carl Theodor Dreyer's? Yes, that is a must-see, whether you believe in miracles or not.
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8/10
An in-depth, absorbing documentary offering insights into the music genius that Scott Walker solidly is
9 March 2010
More than five years in the making, filmmaker Stephen Kijak gave us a chance to spend some time with Scott Walker, or Noel Scott Engel (his real name if you prefer), and listen to other collaborators and musicians who have been touched by Scott, talking and commenting while listening to selections of Scott's music presented during interviews. Scott, the consummate and committed songwriter-poet-explorer of the 'un-tread' territories of the senses, intrepidly transforms his internal imagery and inherent clues into his unique music, 'avant-garde' or otherwise (as demonstrated in his albums "TILT" 1995 Fontana Records UK, and "THE DRIFT" 2006 4AD label).

From the beginning of the reel, we can tell he's a soft-spoken man, an ordinary looking man (regular guy) now in his sixties (he was quite a heart-throb, in his curly pop hairdo and husky low tone with his guitar, being the lead singer of the famed Walker Brothers circa 1964-66). He's not flashy or arrogant (as you might think pop culture idols would be), actually he's downright shy, sort of hiding away under his baseball cap. Once you hear him speak, passionately about his music, offering amusing anecdotes of 'yesteryears', you will be absorbed into this world of Scott Walker and wanting to know as much as you can about him, go checking on the Web for his music, album availability, even his song lyrics, without hesitation. (There's a substantial database of lyrics site at "scottlyrics.vniversum.com/".) Amazon.com seem to have a comprehensive source for all Scott Walker's albums, from Scott '1' (the Jacques Brel period), Scott 2, 3, 4, "Tilt" and "The Drift", including "Nite Flights" 1978 - the one-time reunited Walker Brothers album (MP3 album 'downloadable'), more Scott solo efforts like "Climate of Hunter" 1984, "Pola X" 1999 film soundtrack of nonconforming French director Leos Carax, "And Who Shall Go to the Ball? And What Shall Go to the Ball?" 2007 orchestral piece in four movements by 4AD label.

He is, indeed, a 30 Century Man, a poetic purist at heart. His meticulous care in composing guitar chords for his songs as composer Hector Zazou pointed out as he wondered how Scott had in-tune and out-of-tune chord arrangements at the same time - true genius recognition, alright. Collaborating arranger & keyboard player Brian Gascoigne explained how Scott went for the unconventional - the in between 'chord' and 'dis-chord' and holding for 16 bars. It's amazing just 'soaking up' the many shared accounts described by Scott's fellow musicians, colleagues, and managers. "His lyrics are peerless," so Brian Eno admirably confirmed. David Bowie is executive producer to this documentary film of Scott Walker, who is definitely still alive and well, seriously flourishing in the music world in UK, where he's fondly appreciated more.

Considering most of the films and documentaries of the decade are about musicians past, like "Control" (2007) on Ian Curtis of Joy Division, "A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake" (2000), both died quite young at 24 and 26, Kijak's documentary "Scott Walker: 30 Century Man" is invariably of a different tone, definitely worth your while especially if you appreciate music or film-making, as you'll get to enjoy sight and sound simultaneously (there are plenty of typographic visual play on the presentation of Scott's song lyrics through out the film). This is a gem well-cut. Enjoy the 95 minutes and you shall rewind to review, if it's certain segments to repeat, or simply the whole length of the feature once again.

Memorable quotes: It's fascinating hearing him talking about his songwriting that "it has to come to you, can't push it". And what a sensible man Scott Walker is as he said, "I'll know when I write my next record where I'll be".
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8/10
Agnès Varda's loving memories, creative film-making, imagination lively as ever at 80
8 March 2010
I was fortunate to catch (October 30, 2009 in SF) "The Beaches of Agnès" aka "Les Plages d'Agnès" 2008, in French with English subtitles. Agnès Varda is 80 (in 2008) and still so lively, creative, imaginative, giving us delightful reminiscing of The New Wave film period, including the young and the old. What a filmmaker, cinematic lover, unique lady, she is. Besides being a retrospective look at Varda's cinematic life (so far), the film also serves as a loving dedication to the close to 30 years she shared with her husband Jacques Demy - the fabulous w-d-filmmaker who gave us the popular French films entirely sung musically: "The Young Girls of Rochefort" 1967 and "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg" 1964 (Catherine Deneuve was in both of these two gems).

If you like movies, film history, graphic design, visual play on imagery (or affiliated to none of the above), you will (still) feel akin to Varda's 'Beaches' whether you thoroughly understands French, speaks the language, been to Paris-France, or not. She has delivered a cinematic journey of going through the various phases of her life, experiences in film-making, and added her unique stamp of Agnès Varda sensibility. It's a good place to be and 'tis fun to hang around with her. As my favorite Emily Dickinson epigram says: Delight has no Competitor, so it is always most. Yes, Agnès Varda is alive and well and still full of humor, bemused or otherwise - a fantastic spirited woman, ever the innovative-discovery eye afresh, so full of wisdom, be it wistful or witty.

This film is a great companion piece for viewing with her loving remembrance of Demy: Jacquot De Nantes (1991), which is in Black & White, and Color, documented the hometown childhood origin which grew into the lifelong cinematic passion of Jacques. Another enjoyable Varda-Demy film, anytime.

There is an accessible official site USA at "cinemaguild.com/beachesofagnes" and the trailer at "cinemaguild.com/beachesofagnes/trailer.html". Looks like DVD is available, released on March 2, 2010.
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8/10
More than a film about UK football history, but how a true friendship endures - brash brilliance 'be-tamed'.
8 March 2010
It's another fabulous collaboration of screenwriter Peter Morgan and actor Michael Sheen following "The Queen" and "Frost/Nixon." "The Damned United" is not exactly a football movie, it tells the dramatic story of an enduring friendship against all odds, breakup and make-up, hurts and forgiveness, of two men (Brian Clough and Peter Taylor) who happened to share their love of football, both have supportive family, and their partnership in training football teams turned out to be successful for Derby County and latter European fame beyond England.

Michael Sheen portrays Clough, his glibness, arrogance, and over-confidence personality certainly comes through, yet his bond with Taylor, at once fragile and solid - fragile as Clough was selfishly reaching out for fame and running after popularity in the lime light, solid as Taylor understood Clough and not stood in his way and let him be - is sensitively delivered in subtle shades. Tim Spall is truly a match to Sheen in portraying Taylor. It's master-acting at play. (Quite 'floored' by Spall's powerful nuanced performance in Mike Leigh's "All or Nothing" 2002 and he dependably delivers in supporting roles like "The Last Samurai" 2003 opposite Tom Cruise or being Nathaniel, a small part in "Enchanted." 2007).

This may not be a film for every taste. It's certainly not a Hollywood 'commercial' product. Director Tom Hooper (of HBO series "John Adams") gave us a film that focused on Clough and Taylor - there is plenty of heart among the technical jargon, true to life football profession situations which were carefully depicted, down to the Leeds United and Derby County team members. Steady supporting roles by Colm Meany as Don Revie at Leeds and Jim Broadbent as Sam Longson at Derby. The music by Rob Lane matches the mood of Brian Clough's attitude and predicament, internal tangles and external mockery of himself. It is maturing the hard way in character for Clough and the test of enduring friendship with Taylor delineated.

I'm hardly into football, yet the story focus and the exceptional combination of Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall in the same film - that was enough incentive for me to see "The Damned United." Give this film a chance, you just might grow to like it as the story unfurls.
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8/10
Rich human drama in a tour-de-force French film with Kristin Scott Thomas' perfect delivery as Juliette
7 March 2010
A must-see for fans of Kristin Scott Thomas, under-appreciated brilliant British actress in a formidable French film, "Il y a longtemps que je t'aime" - it's one of my top 10 favorites for 2008. If you appreciate a film with solid emotional drama, and not in a hurry for the story (and secrets) to unfold before your eyes, this would be the film to see when you have some quiet time and want to have a good cry. Yes, this is a tear-jerker (probably more so as the 'truth' reveals), but certainly not overly sentimental as most European films are not.

The title "I've Loved You So Long" can very well be three-fold: a mother's love (Kristin Scott Thomas' Juliette) of a son long lost; a sister's love (Elsa Sylberstein's Léa) of a sister long missed; a man's love (Laurent Grevill's Michel) of a partner long gone. French writer-director Philippe Claudel's film is a tour-de-force drama, with deep human emotions in many levels and difficult circumstances and choices told through almost simple matter-of-fact vignettes of everyday life. British actress Kristin Scott Thomas powerfully ('très formidable') delivered Juliette, a study in extreme (incommunicable) grief, (guilt-ridden) regrets, and we, the audience, watch with anticipation - longs to see her regain her life's balance and recover from her grief, letting go of her regrets and embrace rebirth of herself. Her performance is strongly matched by Sylberstein's admiring sisterly role, with just as quiet restrain when the scenes demand. The three-fold 'love long lost' angle facilitates rekindling, reawakening, almost resurrection to all three situations involved.

The cast of the rest of Léa's family members is blessedly fitting: Serge Hazanavicius as Luc, the discriminating impulsive husband; Jean-Claude Arnaud as the silent observant (grand) Papa Paul; little Lise Ségur as the spunky, ever-inquisitive 8-year old P'tit Lys - a bridge between the sisters in a way; and rounding out with Grevill's Michel as understanding colleague to Léa & supportive new friend to Juliette; while Frédéric Pierrot as Fauré, an unsuspectingly affecting parole officer to Juliette. Not forgetting Claire Johnston's brief but effective mother of the sisters role, as one inflicted by Alzheimer's.

This is a bold first feature of Claudel's, the 'filmic' story was so comprehensively presented that it hardly feels so. I recall similarly in director Alejandro González Iñárritu's "Amores Perros" 2000 (tremendous storytelling through film also hardly felt like a debut feature), the ending credits song both were impressively sung with empathic feelings, resonant of the story and ending just told through cinematic lens, in the language of the director's origin. If you know French, and Spanish, good for you - I believe you will appreciate the song lyrics and each of the film much more. Jean-Louis Aubert is the composer of the song, with lucid guitar accompaniment, and he lent his musical poetry to the other film pieces, including the childhood song that Juliette and Léa sang while playing the piano, and P'tit Lys danced and twirled. I'm glad there is Production Notes (available from official site from Sony Pictures Classics) with interview and thoughts from w-d Claudel - it provided more insight and flavor to the film experienced.
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8/10
Easily the best family movie of 2009, aspiring, inspiring, assuredly transpires hopeful human connections against all odds and social cynicism
7 March 2010
Sandra Bullock is ever so enjoyable to watch in her movies, and I've been attracted to her star power since "While You Were Sleeping"1995 director Jon Turteltaub's heartwarming tale with Bill Pullman & the ensemble family, and "Speed" 1994 director Jan De Bont's action ace with Keanu Reeves. Her movies, mostly more 'commercial' and Hollywood, do have their mass appeal. Once in awhile, she gets to play more 'in-depth' roles, like part of the ensemble cast in w-d Paul Haggis' "Crash" 2004. In 2009, "The Proposal" is an amusingly fun 'rom-com' outing set in Sitka, Alaska, with Ryan Reynolds as the opposite force. But as Leigh Anne Tuohy, based on true (and current) story-events, in "The Blind Side" - she absolutely shines as she does, integrated and permeating with her own Sandra Bullock air (energy, oxygen) about her, without losing the essential characteristic qualities of Mrs. Tuohy.

Whether she wins the 82nd Academy Awards Best Actress category is beside the point, "The Blind Side" is a well-produced movie directed by John Lee Hancock, who also wrote the script based on the story of Michael Oher in author Michael Lewis' best-selling book, "The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game". The production notes 'downloadable' from the film's official site "theblindsidemovie.com/dvd/pdf/prodNotes.pdf" is in itself an interesting read. We get to know how Lewis (who was high school pal with Sean Tuohy - Leigh Anne's husband) came to write the story about Oher, and he explained about 'left tackle'. Writer-director Hancock (whose family is very much connected with the game - his father and two brothers all played university football) talks about his perspectives, what he sees as the decisive factors in approaching the film. The fascinating casting process in filling the key roles: the Tuohy family of Leigh Anne the amazing Mom and assertive woman by Sandra Bullock, of Sean the supportive husband and Dad by Tim McGraw, of the caring & fun sister and brother team of Collins and S.J. by Lily Collins and Jae Head, and the surprising turn of finding Quinton Aaron to convincingly play Michael Oher. There's also the real life tutor role of Miss Sue neatly played by Kathy Bates. The producers' illuminating accounts about how the film project came to be and the fruition of the production sure complement the experience of the film. (They've also included some Leigh Anne Tuohy quotes from "The Blind Side".) Hancock, who gave us 'The Rookie' 2002 with Dennis Quaid, once again delivered a winning movie, full of human warmth and inspiring elements without being overly sentimental. See "The Blind Side" and you will hearken to the thankful feeling for what we so fortunately already have - miracle or blessings in disguise. Contentment is a nice place to be.

Note: This film somehow reminds me of a (sports) documentary by filmmaker, writer-director Ward Serrill's "The Heart of the Game" 2005. It was seven years in the making, following a high school basketball team, one stellar central player especially - her trials and tribulations, along with the tenaciously talented coach through the course of the film. The real-life true story is quite 'melo-dramatic' (and tear-jerker sentimental) in spite of it being a documentary. Highly recommended.
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An Education (2009)
8/10
An Education - the story of Jenny with David: fabulously refreshing pairing of Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard
3 March 2010
The notably fabulous part of director Lone Scherfig's "An Education" is the insightful choice of starting off the Jenny & David story with the revival of Floyd Cramer's lively popular piano piece "On the Rebound," a 1961 hit. It's such a catchy tune that the delightful melody stayed with me as I watch Jenny's grown-up education evolves, enjoying the solid performances from the cast, which included Alfred Molina as Jenny's insecure & assuming father, Cara Seymour is the warm & unassuming Mum, Olivia Williams is the dependable & vulnerable teacher Jenny leans on, and Emma Thompson is the cold & unyielding headmistress - however brief her interactions were. (Thompson's scene with Mulligan somehow reminded me of Suzanne Pleshette facing the principal at the beginning of "Lovers Must Learn" aka "Rome Adventure" circa 1962 of romance master, w-d Delmer Daves.) Dominic Cooper and Rosamund Pike round out the ensemble as the swanky heedless pair of Danny & Helen, accompanying Jenny & David in their escapades & romps.

"An Education" is far from being a Hollywood sugarcoated love story. Based on British journalist-author Lynn Barber's memoir, the screenplay is by Nick Hornby of "About A Boy" and "High Fidelity," who happens to be also from Surrey county in England - Redhill town in southeast region, as Barber - Bagshot town in northwest region. Skillful Danish director Scherfig, whose "Italian for Beginners" 2000 and "Wilbur wants to kill himself" 2002 (my user comments posted on 22 May 2004 at "us.imdb.com/title/tt0329767/usercomments-18") are two worthwhile films to appreciate - she once again delivered a human connection story at once charming and almost slyly edifying. You might even say it's donnish or erudite: step by step accounts and lessons learned for a lovely young 'demoiselle' ready for Oxford. Impressive lead performances from Mulligan - the spunky intelligent Jenny, albeit budding and susceptible, complemented by Sarsgaard's quietly alluring chap of a David. Molina moves right in as Jack, befittingly so for every role he emphatically delivers. Williams is ever so her demure self and restrained as the literary & lonely Miss Stubbs (look forward to her role in w-d Roman Polanski's "The Ghost Writer" 2010, opposite Pierce Brosnan and Ewan McGregor).

It's second outing for Rosamund Pike and Carey Mulligan together, who were both in director Joe Wright's "Pride and Prejudice" 2005 appealing remake of Jane Austen's classic - Pike as Jane Bennet and Mulligan as Kitty, along with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.

The film earned a well-deserved nomination for The Best Motion Picture category along with the other nine 2009 productions for the 82nd Oscar Awards. Besides the superb cast, screenplay, direction and set design, editing and all, the soundtrack selections are quite attractive: Floyd Cramer, Mel Torme, Billy Fury, Brenda Lee, Ray Charles, Percy Faith, Vince Guaraldi and several songs in French lyrics, of course, with five music tracks from the film's composer Paul Englishby. Worth checking into if you so inclined. Yes, you will enjoy "An Education" - entertaining and breezy, not without sensible poignancy.
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8/10
Sight and sound integrally woven the precious times of Nick Drake's life on earth of 26 years
2 March 2010
"A Skin Too Few: The Days of Nick Drake" (2000) The documentary may be 48 minutes, but it's a full, rich tapestry intricately weaving together the story of Nick Drake. Visually painterly and fulfilling in sound delivery with Nick's singing and music flowing into the natural nature sounds of birds and leaves rustling, pausing quiet moments looking out of the window from Nick's Room, appreciating the sunlight coming through the round window, lingering over the yonder meadows, the oak tree and shadows, the train tracks and the train eventually moving. All poetically put together by Dutch filmmaker Jeroen Berkvens who directed the film, with photography by Vladas Naudzius, sound by Eddy De Cloe, and editing by Stefan Kamp. Truly a beautiful tribute to British musician, singer-songwriter Nicholas Rodney 'Nick' Drake, his precious short time on earth of 26 years.

The storytelling is authentically enhanced by the family movie footage of Nick's childhood in Burma 1948 to 1952, his school years in England 1952 to 1967, his Cambridge years 1967 to 1969, with sharing of audio taped singing of Molly Drake, Nick's Mom, during the animated interviews of Gabrielle Drake, Nick's sister, who warmly recounted her memories and special moments-anecdotes of her younger brother, including excerpt reading of Nick's letters. Recalling Nick's London City years 1969 to 1971: interview segments with Joe Boyd, record producer of Nick's first two albums, "Five Leaves Left" 1969 and "Bryter Layter" 1970; Robert Kirby who did Nick's album arrangements, and John Wood the sound engineer for Nick's album recordings; Paul Weller, a fellow musician; Brian Wells, the college friend who remembered their Cambridge days and pot smoking tales with Nick; and Keith Morris, a photographer friend. We also get to hear voices of Nick's Dad and Mom speaking about their son, commenting on life with Nick at school and at home, and coping with his depression periods: Nick's Home Again years 1971 to 1974.

The four lines of verse at the start of the film are the first four lines of lyrics in "Hazey Jane 1" from "Bryter Layter" album: "Do you curse where you come from, Do you swear in the night, Will it mean much to you, If I treat you right." Followed by ten of Nick's songs-lyric sections aptly featured, flowing into the strands of various phases of Nick's life along with the image and scenes on screen: Way to Blue; Introduction; Hazey Jane 1; River Man; At the Chime of a City Clock; Day Is Done; Know; Hanging On a Star; From the Morning; Northern Sky, plus the rare audio recording of a song written and sung by his Mom, Molly Drake: How Wild the Wind Blows.

This is a well-made, worthwhile documentary - whether you've heard of Nick Drake and his songs, guitar music or not, appreciation will develop and grow. There are many resource info online, from 'wikipedia' Nick Drake page - External Links section: "The Nick Drake Files" is a very good site ("algonet.se/~iguana/DRAKE/DRAKE.html") to learn more about Nick Drake from A to Z, lyrics and interviews. The official site at "nickdrakefilm.com" provides more on this film and DVD* availability - there are Nick's room layout, family photos, production-crew details and soundtrack list, and the Wall imagery. (* Noticed "Fruit Tree" box set now includes 4 discs, fourth being the DVD of this film, besides Nick Drake's first three albums re-released.) I was fortunate to catch this film on SF cable Sundance Channel February 27th, repeated on 28th, 2009.
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8/10
Such delight to be able to view "The Chalk Garden" again on DVD, finally released by Universal Vault Series.
28 February 2010
Hayley Mills has always been one of my favorite teen actors since "The Parent Trap" circa 1961 with a fantastic Disney ensemble cast of Brian Keith and Maureen O'Hara as Susan & Sharon's parents, with unforgettable Una Merkel as Verbena, Joanna Barnes unmistakably as Vicky, and Leo G Carroll as the wistful Reverend Dr Mosby. "The Chalk Garden" 1964 is the rare occasion where Hayley got to truly deliver an in-depth performance involving complex emotions and character development. Playing opposite Deborah Kerr, Dame Edith Evans, and her father John Mills must had been a thrill for her.

It seems they don't make simple straightforward drama delivered as stylish as the Ross Hunter Productions did. 'Straightforward' in the sense of no gimmick, no special effects - just simply excellent performances all round - a handful of characters weaving a meaningful, intriguing story. A believable set design and complementing art direction, skillful cinematography and right dose of music score applied. Directed by Ronald Naeme (who gave us "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" 1969 and blockbuster disaster hit "The Poseidon Adventure" circa 1972), you can say it's a perfect film experience, in spite of the 'damaged' teenager fighting for love and self-esteem subject. It was wonderful to see this film all over again, twice, thrice - well, there's no chapters option, the DVD simply plays and loops itself. (Hence the 'Vault Series' with no fanfare.) Guarantee deeper appreciation of this production and the performances with repeat viewing.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who very much misses the other gem of a movie with Hayley Mills acting with her father John Mills again in the 1965 "The Truth About Spring" (directed by Richard Thorpe), a fun romp and buoyantly merry (sea adventure) with James MacArthur as Spring's (Hayley's character) opposite attraction. Sure hope a DVD revival version will soon sprout up! It IS a Universal Pictures - both production and distribution!

Note: Notice Ronald Naeme was born in 1911. He'd be 100 next year in 2011. What an illustrious cinematic life in film-making achievements, and having been with the masters, Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean.
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