(Stephen Frears, 2013)

alone, Landmark Sunshine Theater, 2/14/14



Steve Coogan is always perfectly cast as a man who is trying to be polite.  In Philomena, his politeness is first tested by the batty old Irish lady of the title, and then really tested by the craven/repressive antics of a group of “evil nuns” (who really are pretty bad).  As an illustration of the harm caused by sexual puritanism, Philomena is devastatingly effective, but it keeps its focus on the human side of its story, and in the end becomes a film about the power of forgiveness even in the face of tremendous wrong.  The movie is sweet without being sappy; emotional, not sentimental; funny, but never shticky.  It’s a lovely and thoughtful piece of work – and I freely admit that it made me weep.

Published in: on February 16, 2014 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Monuments Men

(George Clooney, 2014)

alone, Cinemark Holiday Village, Park City, UT, 2/10/14


George Clooney;Matt Damon;John Goodman;Bob Balaban

You know that stirring voice-over at the end that sums up a movie’s message in glowing and florid language?  The Monuments Men has like five of ’em.  You know that moment when sentimental music swells, and you realize that some emotional apotheosis has (allegedly) been achieved?  The Monuments Men does that in just about every scene.  You know that thing where you whipsaw from drama to comedy and back again?  The Monuments Men does that so often it will make you want to throw up.

This is a bogus, scattered, self-congratulatory dud.  It follows six or seven different characters we don’t really know on thirteen or fourteen different missions we’re given no opportunity to care about.  It introduces a new character in almost every scene.  It’s positively choked with music – alternately jaunty and oozing fake pathos.  Worst of all, it never lands anywhere; it just passes through a series of moments, some of which might resonate if the movie were willing to commit to them –  but by the time the moment begins to register, we’re already somewhere else.  The whole damn film is basically a breezy montage disguised as a meaningful drama.  Only Cate Blanchett manages to register as a complete human being – brittle, defiant, heartbroken and heroic.  Next to her, the other actors just look like they’re striking poses.  What a waste.

Published in: on February 10, 2014 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

48 Hrs.

(Walter Hill, 1982)

with Darcy, Theo Meneau, and Christophe Meneau, streaming on Netflix at the Meneaus’ place in San Rafael, 2/1/14



A relic of the macho, cynical eighties, when male bonding was (apparently) nothing but fistfights and racial slurs.  There’s a ragged appeal to this movie, just as there’s a ragged appeal to Nick Nolte, and Eddie Murphy is massively charming, even if his character feels a little underdeveloped.  Despite its title, what 48 Hrs. lacks is urgency; it meanders from one volatile situation to another, with little forward momentum.  But damn, I love the way the cars move in this movie.  They float, glide, fishtail, and careen, like something out of an action-packed cartoon.  They’re the most dynamic thing on the screen – although the actors are all right, too.

Published in: on February 9, 2014 at 7:45 pm  Leave a Comment