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Swades: We, the People (2004)
A Better Bollywood
We have been savoring Bollywood films for the past couple of months and we are definitely enjoying the cultural experience. Swades by far has touched me the most, as it not only combines that happy musical abandonment I have come to enjoy about India films, but this one reaches a new level. Swades manages to include the new aspects of India culture, becoming educated and proving abilities (NASA, no less), but superimposing how parts of India don't even have electricity yet.
It makes me appreciate my lifestyle here in America, yet the culture and traditions that India possesses is something to be a bit wishful for. As the actor playing Mohan said in the movie, America does have its own culture--somehow it doesn't run as deep as what I viewed in the movie.
Enlightening, edifying, and definitely educational. I look forward to sampling more thought-provoking films from India.
Kadhalar Dinam (1999)
Not the best Bollywood
Having recently discovered Bollywood films we are trying out different titles. This one goes on the bottom of the list, whereas Bride and Prejudice remains at the very top. Hearts Collide starts out overly dramatic with a young man weeping his story out to an interested soldier at a train station and it continues for three hours. Three hours! There were aspects of the plot that held well, such as the near misses of the on-line lovers meeting, and the altruistic intentions of the college president to help the young man. Yet the usual array of song and dance were way overdone, and the strung out finale was almost too much. The nearly ten years age of this film shows. Bollywood has greatly improved in plot, pace, and music over the years. I suggest this film as a means of showing where Bollywood started.
Animated Epics: Beowulf (1998)
Mostly the Poem
Considering how many cinematic versions exist for Beowulf, amazingly enough this 30 minute animated version is about the only one to cover the epic poem correctly. For those desiring to see the poem come to life, this would be the choice. It covers the fight with Grendel and the Dragon most true to the poem. Don't be swayed by golden-covered actresses or Scottish hunks--this animated version swiftly, though a bit surrealistic at times, covers the great monster story. The animation is a bit sketchy and rough at times, but the narration is quite well done. This is an especially helpful version for showing to students or for those wanting a quick version of the classic tale.
A Story Begins
As a Westerner watching another culture's view and tradition of marriag, I found Just Married mesmerizing and delightful. The idea of marrying a stranger through the mutual arrangement of parents is difficult, especially in this modern age. Yet this is the case in this Hindi film. Told with humor, and fresh perspective, we learn of Abhay and Ritika who have only met once and are now on their traditional five day honeymoon. As said, it is difficult to believe in this cell phone affluent age that such an archaic custom as an arranged marriage still take place. We see the awkwardness that this young couple feels as they come together on their first night, and how they try to forge a bond, even though they do not know one another. We see different views of marriage and commitment as presented by the other couples also on holiday, from a couple of forty years married to others still unsure of making marital commitment. There's song, witty dialog, poignant moments, blending and comparison of new ways and tradition. Watching the movie with subtitles definitely loses some of the trueness of the story, yet it is still a delight to watch. Granted some of the plot is a little trite and the bus incident a bit drawn out and contrived; however the overall movie was worth watching.
Kandukondain Kandukondain (2000)
Found Another Bollywood Fave
Having watched Bride and Prejudice and being an Austen fan, I was more than curious to see how this adaptation of Sense and Sensibility would turn out. What a treat! This film takes the basic plot line of two sister's and their journey with love. There is an older sister who longs for love, yet puts family above her own needs, and the younger one, who nearly misses true love because of her inability to see past her romanticized ideas. The opening battle scenes are definitely not Austen, and neither are all the MTVized song and dance numbers. BUT, that's what makes this movie a unique screen experience. It's the blending of Western and Eastern ideas of a universal plot: love lost and love regained. There is comedy, romance, even action in this one. We are becoming definite fans of Bollywood films. They bring a new twist to the old Hollywood musicals of yesteryear, and subtitles don't get in the way of the entertainment. Very colorful, fun, and even enchanting.
Julie & Julia (2009)
Cooking Up Great Cinema
Meryl Streep is always a draw for me, and the previews had me anticipating the movie. Finally, a plot not involving comic book heroes! Julia Child is an icon--of sorts. If the whole movie had just focused on her it would have been perfect. Streep captures Child's charming,effervescent personality without parody. Her chemistry with Stanley Tucci as husband Paul is enchanting. The Child portions takes us back to France and the time period through mannerisms, clothing, ambiance. I was transported by the script, the fabulous acting, and the great editing.
As for the Julie part. If that had been a movie on its own. I probably would have waited for the DVD and then maybe skipped it. If Nora Ephron meant to show the juxtaposition between yesteryear and the two women, she most certainly achieved it. Julie Powell comes off as insecure and whiny when compared to Julia's approach of embracing life, be it good or bad. Julia wrote a cookbook, taking several years to do so, because it needed to be done and it was recognized for what it was-genius. Julie, is inspired by Julia, yet one gets the feeling food and cooking are a means of achieving something--a tension release, a means to fame, unlike Julia who had a true passion for food. Julia's rapture for food as she shopped and visited with all the merchants reminded me of an artist at work, preparing the canvas and relishing her skills. Julie, on the other hand, gave the impression of tackling a task, climbing the mountain because it is there, so to speak. Where is the appreciation? the savoring? the meaning? It would be interesting to explore the reasons behind Julia Child's lack of embrace for Julie Powell's blog.
As a whole the movie is delightful, and go if you haven't. The Julia portion is the backbone of the movie and the Julie portion adds moments, yet is the weaker portion. I do want to mention how much Chris Messina added to the concept of supporting husband with reality. I look forward to the DVD, in hopes of featurettes.
Audrey's Rain (2003)
Not the Usual Hallmark
When the opening shot is of two women in mourning black blowing away a gopher with an expletive, I knew this would be more than an interesting movie. Definitely not the usual Hallmark fare. As stated in other comments, there are too many stories that don't get resolved, or at least that don't tie in well. For most of the movie I thought Carol Kane was Audrey's other sister, simply because she resembled Jean Smart's character and was a bit wacky like the other sisters. Then there is the problem of Terry, the long lost love who suddenly returns and the kids immediately take to him and call him Uncle. It all starts to bump together too rapidly with all the loose ends trying to tie up neatly, and unfortunately the ending comes way too fast and tries too hard to bring in the happy ending. A mini-series could have done this plot justice. Lots of possibilities, but there was just way too much to cover in the alloted time.
Life on Liberty Street (2004)
Freedom found on Liberty Street
Denise oversteps her authority as an ER nurse and finds herself working at a mental facilities halfway house called Liberty Street. Reluctant about working at what she feels is a convalescent center, she nevertheless finds herself helping Rick who was involved in a car accident when he was 16 and now at 25 is struggling to become independent. The strength of this movie is the realistic dialog and slice-of-life characters. Denise is both strong and vulnerable, and very likable in her roles as nurse, mother, and life coach. Rick plays his part admirably, yet the time element given seems his growth was rushed. Jake, the on-call facilities doctor, is a great touch of warmth to the script,and Lucy the director of Liberty Street, lends her strength and compassion for working with "damaged" people. Some of the plot is formula driven--overbearing, protective father who hinders the recovery of his son, a crisis between patient and nurse, a faltering relationship, a misunderstanding that gets resolved--but it's how it all works together that makes this another notable Hallmark production. Annabeth Gish, as Denise, really pulls this all together. Definitely keep this one in mind for family viewing, as it combines humor, poignancy, and discussion possibilities.
On a Clear Day (2005)
Cheering on an underdog
An endearing everyman movie with a UK setting. Frank, a traditionalist, would rather leave than kowtow to the new management. After 36 years of work he is at odds what to do with himself. He can't communicate his emotions to his wife, he barely expresses his feelings to his chums, and he struggles with his relationship with his son. Woven through this is the 23 year old tragedy of losing his other son to a drowning, which has haunted him all these years. Frank finds a way to redeem his self-esteem and that is to swim the English Channel. The movie weaves this main plot in with several sub-plots and it all works well. Indie movies are brave enough to portray real characters with plausible dialog. A tremendously capable cast with the talents of Billy Boyd (Pippin) as the comic relief, and Brenda Blethyn (Pride and Prejudice) as the stalwart wife, plus the wide array of minor characters, blend to create a thoroughly enjoyable family movie. Some of the lines with Billy Boyd are laugh out loud hilarious.
The Organization (1971)
Bye Bye Mr. Tibbs
Sydney Poitier is marvelous in any movie he has been in, so far as I have noticed. When he first showed up as MISTER Tibbs in Heat of the Night, I knew it would be a great watch. Unfortunately, by the third run, The Organization, even his usual and expected dazzlement could not save the faulty plot and slow pacing. The premise of a group of amateurs trying to bring down "the organization" and then trying to drag in a good cop like Tibbs (who doesn't let the force know what he is doing) is, well, thin and silly. There were great slices of Tibbs' home life with his son and daughter, which goes to show that Poitier brings life into even a tedious period cop piece like this one. Overall, it's still watchable, but only if you are a dedicated Poitier fan.
Upon a time
I kept waiting for the bad moments to happen, as so often they do in these reminiscent movies of growing up in the south, yet no real drama occurred. These were moments pieced together, and if that was the intent--it worked. True, a child's reflection of childhood would be pieces of memory chained loosely together, impressions of events, people, and times. However, when the movie ended I thought, "That's it?" There were fine performances; however, the plot seemed to soft-step around the real issues, such as the Jim Crow laws, segregated schooling, subservient wages, and escaping to the north to avoid the subjugation. We got breadth, when depth might have made a much more interesting plot line.
Lost Boys of Sudan (2003)
Lost Boys Finds a New Perspective
I've heard about this documentary for so long I knew I needed to take the time to watch it. As a documentary it's very well done, in that it takes a neutral observant view of their experience. There are no voice-overs, or interviewing. It is honest. It is true. It is also humbling. Two comments really stayed with me after the film was done. One was how the boys are told to not to become like the American boys who wear the baggy pants, and how in Africa there is time but no money, but in America there is money but no time. The biggest impact was how the boys hungered for education, and how one of the boys totally relocated himself so he could go to school. I watched this film with a high school sophomore who said it upset him to see how the boys were brought to their new life without any real orientation to America. He also said he knew so many American teens who simply cannot appreciate howblessed their lives are in America. I would agree with him on both accounts. A strong film that will leave a person thinking about many things.
Here Comes the Groom (1951)
Here Comes a Grin
If you like fun, whimsical, mostly predicable plots that involve a couple of well-known stars, then pop in Here Comes the Groom. Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman aren't exactly Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, but they definitely made a great team in this Capra vehicle. It doesn't matter this is a patchwork quilt of other movie plots, (The Philadelphia Story, for instance,which der Bingle did his own way with Grace Kelly), it's a cute little bit of cinema fun that had me grinning and even out right laughing in parts. Some will slice and dice the movie for editing and extraneous bits, yet movies from this era, as ones from today, were sometimes supposed to be fluff. So enjoy this one in the cool, cool, cool of the evening, or any time you want a lift and a smile.
Twelve Mile Road (2003)
As a resident of Idaho, I couldn't resist watching this movie, plus it had Tom Selleck. The storyline was common enough, divorced parents, daughter lives with mom, daughter is a wreck, mom dumps daughter on dad who has a farm, and daughter goes from bad to tolerable. Actually, the plot works, simply because everyone plays the part like real people. It's almost like we stepped into a reality show. We don't get to see every little thing lined out (hmm, we have to think for ourselves? that's different), and there is no great resolution. Life is like that sometimes--most of the time.
This was a pleasant way to spend the evening, but not a terribly memorable movie. Tom played a farmer fairly well, and the rest of the cast filled in the movie all right. The only character that didn't get a chance to develop was Leah, Tom's live-in girlfriend. She wasn't allowed much range, yet the one line she delivers about wishing she hadn't ever met Tom's character felt real and sincere.
If it comes around on TV or if you want a soft free watch from HULU-give this one a try.
Under the Greenwood Tree (2005)
A Merry Marry Triangle
Being in the mood for a period romance, I was a bit cautious when I realized this was an adaptation of a Thomas Hardy story. They tend to end unhappily, especially when there are divided love interests. Fortunately, Under the Greenwood Tree is light, even humorous, in parts. Truly I had no idea who Fancy would marry, the wealthy farmer, the austere parson, or the poor (yet brash and handsome) harrier. In the tradition of Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, there is the mix of position, miscommunication, and the delightfulness of authenticity of period. A treat to watch. The acting, script, and setting all played well together. If you adore period romances, then this should go on your list to watch.
Trouble Along the Way (1953)
Make Room for Duke
We associate John Wayne with westerns, yet he did play other parts and genres quite well. The overlooked Trouble Along the Way is worthy of a second look. The plot of a single father, who has basically fallen from grace, raising his daughter in an unconventional way, is not new. The twist is when Alice (Donna Reed) the court appointed social worker comes on the scene. She complicates and pretty much messes up Steve's (John Wayne)relationship with his daughter Carol (Terry Jackson). There is some football in its earliest years, a struggling Catholic college, a bitter ex-wife looking for revenge,and most of all there is amazing amount of witty dialog throughout. A fine family film, one of Wayne's best, actually. Terry Jackson shines as his daughter, and it isn't surprising that she went on to play Danny Thomas's daughter in the popular series Make Room for Daddy later on. One would expect a typical, happily-ever-after ending--yet readers get a surprisingly refreshing ending, in that we don't know how it will actually all turn out--kind of like real life. Check this movie out if you are a Duke fan and want to see him without a horse in the scene.
Our Very Own (2005)
Small Town Triumph
Small town drama at its very best. The real factor was so evident I thought the movie had been made in late 70s. Surprisingly, it was made in 2005, and someone knew what a small town was all about before strip malls, cell phones, and chain restaurants destroyed the landscape. Like the favorite classic, Breakaway, Our Very Own, captures the yearning of teens in middle America to overcome and stretch beyond their present circumstances. The main plot is the desire of Melora to meet Sandra Locke, yes, the Sandra Locke. Apparently she was the local girl who made it to the big time. The subplots are far more intriguing: Clancy's family deals with his father's alcoholism and its destructive ripples; Ricky is practically stalking Bobbie, who made the mistake to go out with him once; and we wonder about Mrs. Nutbush and her clan. There are all sorts of characters to fill in the storyline. Everyone of them adds something to the story. Like real life, nothing is neatly tied up--it simply continues. But there is a satisfaction when the movie ends. Clancy's dad is trying, Melora takes solace in Clancy's words that they will have their chance to make it someday, and Ricky is properly threatened by the boys to leave Bobbie alone. As for Mrs. Nutbush? Some towns will continue to have their tragedies and mysteries. Don't miss Rufus, the dog who travels by car roof top.
Never a Dull Moment (1968)
Classic Disney and Dick Van Dyke--Great Combo
Having grown up in the sixties, and having an older brother willing to take me to see the latest Disney movie, I'm surprised I never saw this one. Though it's from the late sixties, and the plot by today's standards is overdone and predicable, it's still a fun one to watch. Edward G. Robinson plays a tough mob boss, and has a gang of familiar character actors making up his mob: Mickey Shaughnessy, Henry Silva, Slim Pickens, to name a couple,who are out to steal a famous painting in order to create the heist so history will remember Robinson's character, Joe Smooth. Along comes Dick Van Dyke, mistaken for the ultimate killer, Ace Williams. A "B" actor, Van Dyke's character Jack manages to pull off the role. Throw in a captive art teacher, a sequence with Jack Elam as the real Ace Williams, and a hilarious chase in an art museum, and you've got an entertaining 99 minute film. Rated G, it's a family show, but watch it to enjoy Dick Van Dyke. He lends his talents admirably and shows why he remains one our funniest actors that came to grace both TV and the film industry. Classic Disney and Dick Van Dyke--you can't go wrong with that combo.
5 Steps to Danger (1956)
High Step to Intrigue
I don't know who wrote the tag line, but there is no terror here. And she was no seductress, only a lady on a mission, and a gang of baddies after her. Then along came John...
Ann is a woman who desperately needs to get to Sante Fe. John is on vacation and with his car out of commission agrees to help Ann drive. John's a nice enough guy, and soon finds out that there is more to Ann than meets the eye. There are cops, CIA, FBI, switched identifies, and a plot full of twists and turns.
Sterling Hayden plays John and Ruth Roman is Ann. While they were adequate, I couldn't help but wonder what the movie would have been like with Gary Cooper and Suzanne Pleshette, as the leads very much resembled these two known actors.
Definitely late night movie fare, but nothing spectacular. The plot had its intriguing moments--you will want to stay awake for the ending. Never mind the stiff acting and the stereotypical government men, the lead actors carried it well enough. Look for Colonel Klink from Hogan's Hereos as the doctor.
As Time Runs Out (1999)
Time Will Tell
I grabbed this off the public library shelf and thought it would make decent weekend afternoon fare. I didn't hold hopes for greatness. I actually thought major cheese in a DVD box. I was surprised! At first I thought it would be a typical "too-busy-parent-gets-a-lesson" movie, and then it turned into an untypical kidnapping story. The acting was more than decent, as was the plot. There was a forced momentum to the action, and there was some predicable plot points, yet I sat riveted. I thought the ending would be predicable--nope, it wasn't. It was such a simple resolve it had me admiring the writing. Be it TV or the DVD it's worth a watch.
Eagle Eye (2008)
Something old, something new
Yeah, there is a bit of 2001 Space Odyssey, I Robot, Bourne Supremacy--any movie that has computers, surveillance, and government, coupled with unwilling participants. But it works. It does. Don't let the naysayers dispel you from a movie worth watching. Who cares if Spielberg favors Shia? I couldn't think who else could duck cars, cranes, the FBI, and still crack a joke that fits right in place. From Holes to Eagle Eye, Shia proves worth watching (okay, I Robot, was a bit silly). Eagle Eye does start out fresh and exciting in the beginning, gets a little boggy in the middle, and is soft at the end--BUT, it is still worth the admission price. You won't want to leave at anytime during the movie, the pace is so tightly executed. The stunt action is primo--the car crashes alone are standout. And the chase scene in the airport conveyor system is something else. The whole question of do we have too much technology is the theme. Don't forget to leave your cell phone at home.
Big Brown Eyes (1936)
Cary Grant Still Shines
Big Brown Eyes would have been a big fat bomb if Cary Grant hadn't carried the movie. Even in such an early picture (1936) his debonair, yet cheeky gentleman style is evident. Playing a detective seemed odd, yet no matter what role he is cast in, he makes it his own. His romantic interest, Joan Bennett, seemed a tad too hard around the edges to play his girlfriend, but she did manage some decent repertoire with Grant, especially when the packing scene in Grant's apartment. Overall, the picture is uneven. It can't decide if it is a serious crime/drama or a light comedy. There is a scene where a stray bullet kills a baby (intimated) and there is nothing funny about that. Another scene a man is shot while arranging roses. It's incongruent action like these scenes that makes this movie just short of unwatchable. I have yet to see a Cary Grant movie that I didn't like, and this one seems a practice for his all out great flick His Gal Friday. Big Brown Eyes is watchable, only because of Cary Grant.
Wings in the Dark (1935)
A Plot That Got Off The Ground
It's always a treat to find an early Cary Grant movie. In this case it was a double treat since Myrna Loy played his love interest. Wings in the Dark (1935) showcases the talents of its two stars, despite the rather unbelievable plot of a recently blinded pilot (Cary Grant) who flies a plane configured with special navigating equipment he has created. While the movie ends on a typical melodramatic, if not predicable note, the movie is still one to catch. Cary Grant pulls together an admirable performance of an independent man who is suddenly blinded and goes through a myriad of emotions that come with the convalescence. This movie shows that Grant had depth as a serious actor. Catch him with two other movies with Myrna Loy, The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer, and Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House.
All Over Again (2001)
What would it be like to meet your future self? Z.T. Twain (Ean Mering), a 17 year old budding genius and decent athlete, gets the chance to do so. However, his future did not turn out well, at least from the appearance of things. "Zack" warns Z.T. that he made a decision that changed everything, and Z.T. has to figure out what it was that caused him to go from a potential scientist to a down and out wino. The best thing going for this family film is how natural all the characters are for their parts. Craig Nelson has a small part, yet he captures the desperation and self-destructive loathing of a man who made a bad choice and has to live with it the rest of his life. There is some heart felt conversation and confrontation between him and Z.T., his son, over the loss of the wife/mother. Robert Loggia pulls this rather improbable story concept together as "Zack", Z.T.'s future persona. The movie is a little cheesy in places, yet it is not totally predictable. Great film for 8 up to pre-teens, and has some important life lessons to impart about how decisions can have long reaching consequences, no matter how small they seem at the time.
The Final Season (2007)
It's Not Over Until The Last Bat Swings
There are a lot of harsh reviews on this film, and it is puzzling. Sure the film has a formula feel to it, but considering how it is based on a true story, how could it not follow the standard underdog formula? The film caught the flavor of the David and Goliath aspect from many points. Small town school wins consistently against larger schools at the state champ level, second choice coach filling shoes of veteran favorite coach, town versus state politics, and the list goes on. The movie is entertaining and inspiring--look for those moments. Iowa and baseball go together and the movie captures the importance of baseball to a small town like Norway, Iowa. Sean Astin gives a likable performance as coach Kent Scott. Form your opinion and don't be swayed by the negative reviews. The baseball scenes are worth the watch all in their own.