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WNM Movie Night Liner Notes

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Search Title: Search Director: Year Seen:  

2013

Title: Director [Year]
"Exit Through the Gift Shop" Banksy [2010]
"Lessons of Darkness" Werner Herzog [1992]
"The Verdict" Sidney Lumet [1982]
"Trouble with the Curve" Robert Lorenz [2012]
"The Truth About Charlie" Jonathan Demme [2002]
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" Michael Curtiz [1936]
"God Bless America" Bobcat Goldthwait [2011]
"Jean de Florette and Manon de sources (Manon of the Spring)" Claude Berri [1986]
"Hunger Games" Gary Ross [2012]
"My Cousin Rachel" Henry Koster [1952]
"Analyze This" Harold Ramis [1999]
"Argo" Ben Affleck [2012]
"Life of Pi" Ang Lee. [2012]
"Donnie Brasco" Mike Newell [1997]
"Broken City" Allen Hughes [2013]
"The Bourne Legacy" Tony Gilroy [2012]
"Charge of the Light Brigade"* Michael Curtiz [1936]
"Jean de Florette and Manon des sources (Manon of the Spring)"* Claude Berri [1986]
"Skyfall" Sam Mendes [2013]
"The Uninvited" Lewis Allen [1943]
"I Married a Witch" Rene Clair [1942]
"Lady In Cement" Gordon Douglas [1968]
"A Double Life" George Cokor [1947]
"The Glass House" Daniel Sackheim [2001]
"Contagion" Steven Soderbergh [2011]
"The Company You Keep" Robert Redford [2012]
"Passion" Brian De Palma [2012]

* Indicates that our staff is still researching the information for the review, Stay Tuned!™

Liner Notes.

© 2013 WNM and the respective authors. "All Rights Reserved."


"Exit Through the Gift Shop" [Banksy] 2010

"Exit Through the Gift Shop [2010] was supposedly directed by the street artist Banksy. It was nominated for the 2010 Best Documentary Oscar. This film generated quite a bit of controversy, since many thought it was not a documentary at all, but rather a ‘mockumentary‘.

"Ostensibly, the film is about the transition of Thierry Guetta, from street-artist groupy and film recordist to a major street artist in his own right, called Mr. Brainwash. Guetta did apparently spend a good deal of time filming both Shephard Fairey and Banksy, two of the best-known street artists.

"As depicted in the film, the Mr. Brainwash personna was created by Guetta largely through self-promotion, with the aid of endorsements from Banksy, Fairey and the LA Weekly. His opening show in LA, "Life Is Beautiful" was an unqualified financial success.

"There are those that believe the entire Life Is Beautiful art show and the film were a prank on a gullible public played by Banksy and Fairey. Some who were plugged-in to the LA street art scene believe that the two of them convinced Guetta to pose as a serious street artist that Banksy and Fairey could advise and so create a ‘huge‘ new art personna.

"The LA Times has validated the early history of Guetta as depicted in the film and feels the film is not a fraud. However, Banksy‘s self-promotion campaign in LA just prior to the Oscars, along with the cachet of illegality associated with this type of art, makes one wonder.

"Mr. Brainwash, has been quite successful in shows in New York and London. His portraits of Kate Moss, Jim Morrison and Albert Einstein sold for $67, $100 and $120 thousands respectively. Certainly, the film and history of Mr. Brainwash makes one wonder if the people being brainwashed are the collectors."

--ggf

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"Lessons of Darkness" [Werner Herzog] 1992

"Lessons of Darkness [1992] is a primarily visual documentary of the destroyed oil fields in Kuwait shortly after the Iraqi army was defeated. As they were being attacked, Iraqi units dynamited the huge number of Kuwaiti wells and related production facilities under their control. The resulting widespread destruction in the desert sands, the lakes of black oil, burning wells and immense plumes of black smoke make this seem like a portrait of hell on earth.

"Director Werner Herzog is appreciated for his operatic visual staging in his other documentaries and movies, such as Fitzcarraldo [1982]. He realized that the aftermath of this short war presented a visual opportunity never likely to be repeated. What he filmed is visually stunning and that is why one should watch it. There is little in the way of dialog. The musical score is Wagnerian to accentuate the impact of the images."

--ggf

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"The Verdict" [Sidney Lumet] 1982

"The Verdict [1982] is a fine film. Its quality rests on three solid legs, the direction of Sidney Lumet, the writing of David Mamet and the acting of Paul Newman, along with a good supporting cast, which includes James Mason, Charlotte Rampling and Jack Warden.

"The story concerns an old lawyer, Frank Galvin, played by Newman, once considered superb, but who was broken by past asociation with an unethical law firm. As a result Galvin retreated into alcohol. He scrapes by as a seedy ambulance chaser with occasional legal table scraps thrown his way by his former law school mentor.

"One of those scraps is a medical malpractice case that can be safely settled. Galvin decides against advice to try the case and recover some of his dignity. He fights an uphill battle against himself and a brilliant, unscrupulous opponent. He succeeds, but the victory is bittersweet.

"Although this film won no Academy awards, its quality is evident in its nominations for best picture, actor, supporting actor, director and screenplay. Little needs to be said about Lumet, Mamet and Newman."

--ggf

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"Trouble with the Curve" [Robert Lorenz] 2012

"Trouble with the Curve [2012] was directed by Robert Lorenz, written by Randy Brown and stars Clint Eastwood and Amy Adams.

"Eastwood gives a predictable performance as a crusty old-timer Gus. Gus is a scout for the Atlanta Braves whose eyesight is failing. Eastwood gives a believable performance of an older man who is set in his ways, does not want to change and looks back rather than toward the future.

"Gus‘ relationship with his daughter Mickey, played by Adams, is troubled. Gus‘ wife died when Mickey was young. Gus raised her alone on the road, as he went from place to place scouting. Eventually, Gus put Mickey in a boarding school and pushed her into a law career, which she does not want.

"The plot is based upon two conflicts, that of Gus working out his relationship with Mickey, now that she is grown, and proving to his management that decades of experience trumps scouts who rely on computer statistics to inform their scouting.

"Robert Lorenz is an experienced assistant director who has worked for Eastwood in that capacity for more than a decade. This film proves he learned his craft. Amy Adams turns in a good performance, which is not surprising. She has been nominated for best supporting actress four times, most recently for The Master [2012].

"This is a good, entertaining film, if not best-picture material."

--ggf

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"The Truth About Charlie" [Jonathan Demme] 2002

"The Truth About Charlie [2002] was directed and co-written by Jonathan Demme. It stars Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton in the leading roles. This is a remake of the well-known film Charade [1963] that was directed by Stanley Donen, written by Peter Stone, starring Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.

"Remaking a classic film is risky business. Especially if it stars are legends. Jonathan Demme is no slouch, having won best director for Silence of the Lambs [1991] and Wahlberg and Newton turn in good performances.

"If you have not seen Charade, this film will be quite entertaining. There is nothing wrong with it. But if you have have seen Charade, the performances of Grant and Hepburn and their supporting cast lurk in the background overshadowing this film."

--ggf

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"The Charge of the Light Brigade" [Michael Curtiz] 1936

"The Charge of the Light Brigade [1936] was directed by Michael Curtiz and stars Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.

"Curtiz won Best Director for Casablanca [1942] and was nominated four more times, including Captain Blood [1935]. One could reasonably hope that Charge of the Light Brigade would be a good film. It is not a bad film certainly, but it is not one of his better films. Although Curtiz is remembered for his better films, he was machine-like, directing several pictures per year for the studios for many years. Not surprisingly, a lot of them were so-so.

"This film was conceived as a ‘swashbuckler‘ of sorts, shortly following Captain Blood, again using the same principals Flynn and de Havilland. The poem by Tennyson does not provide a lot of material upon which to construct a film, and apparently, neither did history. The result is a script with a silly romance, with two brothers fighting over the same girl, all brought to a climax by the charge of course.

"The one highlight of the film is the charge itself, which was so well staged and shot that the assistant director, Jack Sullivan, was given as Oscar for it."

--ggf

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"God Bless America" [Bobcat Goldthwait] 2011

"God Bless America [2011] is a black comedy written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. Joel Murray plays Frank, a downtrodden, intellectual in a meaningless job, surrounded by the ill-mannered and ignorant who consider reality TV important. After being fired from his job for an imagined infraction which amounts to nothing anyway, his doctor tells him that he is terminally ill. Frank reacts by starting a crusade to publicly eliminate people he considers deserve to die before dying himself. He is joined in this crusade eventually by a precocious teenager, Roxy, played by Tara Lyne Barr. Both Murray and Barr give good performances, well suited to the material.

"Goldthwait films are an acquired taste. His comedies are about taboo subjects. As you can tell from the title, Goldthwait is taking a serious poke at the moral vacuum in the US within which most live their lives. God Bless America is not a patriotic film. It is a successful and violent black comedy."

--ggf

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"Jean de Florette and Manon de sources (Manon of the Spring)" [Claude Berri] 1986

"Jean de Florette and Manon de sources (Manon of the Spring) [1986] is an adaptation of the two Marcel Pagnol novels about intrigues in rural Provencal village life of the early 1900s. This sequence of films was adapted and directed by Claude Berri.

"The plot is effectively a Greek tragedy in which greedy, wicked and ignorant farmers eventually steal another farmer‘s land and in so doing destroy themselves. The material provided by Pagnol is rich and Berri adaptated it well. The principal actors Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Depardieu are veterans who give fine performances. The pacing of these two films is slow, but fitted to the material, with tragedy occuring in Jean de Florette, revenge and justice occuring in Manon des sources. Both films are well worth seeing.

"Two other fine Pagnol adaptations are La Gloire de mon Pere (My Father‘s Glory) and Le Chateau de ma Mere (My Mother‘s Castle) [1990], also a two-film sequence."

--ggf

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"Hunger Games" [Gary Ross] 2012

"Hunger Games [2012] was directed and co-written by Gary Ross. It is based upon the book by Suzanne Collins. Jennifer Lawrence plays the lead, Katniss Everdeen, a teenager from a dirt-poor coal mining district.

"The government in power holds an annual reality TV show, called the Hunger Games, that pits two dozen randomly chosen teenagers against one another in a battle to the death, with only one victor allowed. Katniss‘ little sister loses the lottery which will send her to almost certain death. Katniss is a good archer, older and stronger. She decides to take her little sister‘s place making her the obvious heroine. Naturally, a romance blossoms between her and another unlucky boy from her district.

"A good deal of controversy is associated with the Hunger Games book and film. The basic plot is parallel to that in Battle Royale [2000], based upon the novel by Koushun Takami published in 1999. It also postulates a society that choose teenagers at random and forces them to fight to the death for a reality program.

"The serious problem with Hunger Games is that it is not serious. The stresses that would have to be present in the contestants are eerily absent. The astounding moral issues presented are almost entirely papered over. This is what happens when the subject material is filtered to entertain a teenage audience in the US. Contrast that with Battle Royale, which was sufficiently serious that the Japanese government tried to ban it and no distributor in the US would even carry it until years later.

"What you get here is an entertaining two hour action film about a horrible situation. Well made and not boring, but empty."

--ggf

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"My Cousin Rachel" [Henry Koster] 1952

"My Cousin Rachel [1952] is romantic noir thriller. The screenplay was adapted by Nunnally Johnson from the novel by Daphne Du Maurier. It was directed by Henry Koster.

"This is the first leading film role for Richard Burton. Burton plays Philip Ashley, who has inherited the estate of his cousin Ambrose who travels for an extended stay in Italy, marries and dies there. Phillip feels Ambrose‘s death in Italy is suspicious and suspects Ambrose‘s new wife Rachel, played by Olivia de Havilland. Rachel turns out to be both a few years older than Phillip, probably more intelligent and certainly wiser.

"Phillip is hot-headed and inexperienced. He also becomes both infatuated with Rachel and jealous. This sets up a conflict in Phillip‘s mind which leads to a tragedy.

"Du Maurier is justifiably famous as a writer of material that has often been adapted into well-respected thillers, such as The Birds, Don‘t Look Now, Jamaica Inn and Rebecca. My Cousin Rachel is not mediocre, but neither is it really good.

"Why? The direction is adequate. Nunnally Johnson was one of Hollywood‘s best screenwritersq, writing screenplays for The Grapes of Wrath [1940] and The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit [1956]. The fault is perhaps the source material. The character of Phillip is extreme. That Rachel does not see what is coming and what he intends is not believable."

--ggf

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"Analyze This" [Harold Ramis] 1999

"Analyze This [1999] is a comedy directed by Harold Ramis. It stars Robert De Niro playing a mobster who has guilt problems that interfere with his ability to run his mafia family. He goes to a psychiatrist, played by Billy Crystal, to find out what is wrong and have it fixed before it is too late.

"No doubt this sounded like an idea that could be made into a fine comedy. However, the balance is off. The mix of caricature and seriousness do not quite meld. The one bright spot is the weary second in command of the mafia family, Jelly, played by Joe Viterelli. This film has a few funny moments, but not enough to carry it."

--ggf

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"Argo" [Ben Affleck] 2012

"Argo [2012] is a drama based upon the rescue of several US embassy staff from Iran in 1980. It takes place shortly after the Iranian revolution that overthrew the Shah. This film was directed by and stars Ben Affleck with supporting roles by Alan Arkin, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston.

"Afflek plays Tony Mendez, a CIA specialist at extracting people from dangerous situations. He is tasked with creating a plan to rescue several US embassy staff currently hiding in the Canadian embassy in Teheran.

"Mendez and a Hollywood special effects artist concoct a plan to produce a fake SciFi movie called Argo. As part of pre-production the producers claim they need to investigate Iranian locations. The hope is that Iranian authorities will like the idea of a big Hollywood movie being filmed in their country and allow pre-production staff to visit. The US fugitives are to take the place of some of those staff and so escape. In fact this plan did work and six US embassy staff were rescued.

"The screenplay was written by Chris Terrio. He deserves credit for providing material that includes both light comedy and suspense. Affleck succeeds in mixing those in a way reminiscent of Hitchcock. The result is an entertaining film that does not need car chases and explosions. Personally, I believe Lincoln [2012] was the better best picture candidate, but Argo is undeniably good.

"Ben Afflek has proven to be a good actor, but a very good director and writer, winning best picture Oscar for this film and best screenplay for Good Will Hunting [1997]. One hopes he can sustain this level of quality."

--ggf

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"Life of Pi" [Ang Lee.] 2012

"Life of Pi [2012] was directed by Ang Lee. Screenplay was by David Magee based upon the novel by Yann Martel. The picture has two stars, Suraj Sharma, who plays the lead Pi Patel, and the CGI tiger.

"The plot revolves around a young man, Pi Patel. His father owns a zoo and sells his stock to another zoo in the Philippines. Pi and his family are headed there onboard a ship with the animals when a storm sinks the ship. Pi and a tiger must share a lifeboat to survive. It is that survival challenge that makes this picture memorable.

"This film was one of the big 2013 Oscar winners, winning four for best direction, cinematography, musical score and visual effects. It was nominated in addition for best picture, screenplay, sound, production design, best song and editing. As you would expect, this picture looks very good. It was shot digitally and much of the picture uses CGI. As a consequence it was a very expensive, costing nearly $120M to make.

"Ang Lee is one of the better current directors, having two best director Oscars for Life of Pi and Brokeback Mountain [2005]. He was nominated for both best picture and director for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [2000].

"Although this is a very good picture and entertaining, one wonders whether it will still be remembered as outstanding in the years to come. Technically, it is a CGI tour-de-force. The tiger is completely believable. But like all things digital, this level of quality will regrettably be old hat and much less expensive in several years. Two of the primary CGI effects houses in Los Angeles have recently gone bankrupt. Their work is already being done by cheaper overseas labor."

--ggf

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"Donnie Brasco" [Mike Newell] 1997

"Donnie Brasco [1997] was directed by Mike Newell. This is a mob film set in the late 1970s NYCity. Donnie Brasco is an undercover FBI informant played by Johnny Depp. His entry into the mob is via Lefty Ruggiero, played by Al Pacino. The strength of this film is its writing, performances and situations, all of which are believable. Simultaneously gritty and pathetic, this is not the mob of Hollywood scripts, but the real mob, and they are hardly the stuff of glamour.

"A strong but doomed relationship develops between Lefty and Brasco. Lefty takes Brasco under his personal wing, introducing him into the higher echelon of the mob. This is doomed though, since Brasco will eventually have to turn on Lefty when information gathered by Brasco leads to arrests and discloses that he is an FBI mole. That betrayal leads to tragedy for Lefty and points out that undercover work can be morally objectionable.

"Donnie Brasco is one of the best mob films, well worth seeing."

--ggf

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"Broken City" [Allen Hughes] 2013

"Broken City [2013] is film about high-level corruption in NYCity. Russell Crow plays the mayor, Catherine Zeta-Jones his wife and Mark Wahlberg an ex-cop turned private eye. It was directed by Allen Hughes, whose best work to date was The Book of Eli [2010].

"This movie was obviously a star vehicle. Casting Crow as the NYCity mayor was not a good idea. He does not sound convincing in this role. Several critics unfavourably compared this to Chinatown [1974] and that is fair. Neither the writing nor the acting here rise to that level. While this film is not bad, there is nothing in particular to recommend it."

--ggf

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"The Bourne Legacy" [Tony Gilroy] 2012

"The Bourne Legacy [2012] is associated with the character created by Robert Ludlum‘s novels, but it actually shares little but the title with Jason Bourne. This is an action movie with a bit of science fiction thrown into it directed by and partially written by Tony Gilroy. The lead character Aaron Cross is played by Jeremy Renner. Renner does well, but is let down by the script.

"Buried inside a secret US intelligence agency is a program that uses genetic modification and drugs to create agents with amazing physical and mental abilities. Those on the inside are worried they may be exposed, so they try to kill everyone in the program, but surprise, one of the super agents figures it out and with some help raises hell and exposes the mess.

"There are some arresting scenes in this film, especially early on. But there is little new here. This is a big-budget action film. It must have big and long chase scenes in visually interesting places. It must have lots of violence. The problem is it has too much of both and little character development.

"To conclude, this is technically well made, but nothing really sets it apart from the pack of big action films."

--ggf

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"Skyfall" [Sam Mendes] 2013

"Skyfall [2013] is one of the best of the James Bond series films. It is solid everywhere, direction, writing, casting and acting.

"Daniel Craig plays Bond and he is both convincing and vulnerable. Gone are the silly hi-tech toys of many previous Bond films. This one is mostly believable and so crosses over into the area of a serious action film, as opposed to so many earlier Bond films.

"The characters in this outing have depth. M is played again by Judi Dench, but this time she has sufficient dialog and scope that she fills a serious supporting role. Bond‘s sexual capacity and beding of attractive co-stars remains a thankfully quite minor plot point.

"Javier Bardem plays the villain Silva. He is a monster now, made that way rather than born to it. He chews up the screen when present.

"Sam Mendes directed Skyfall. Originally a TV director, Mendes‘ first effort as a movie director was the outstanding American Beauty [1999] for which he won the Oscar for Best Director. Mendes is tagged for the next Bond film with Craig again playing Bond. This has been a fruitful pairing so far."

--ggf

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"The Uninvited" [Lewis Allen] 1943

"The Uninvited [1943] was directed by Lewis Allen and stars Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey as unmarried brother and sister, Roderick and Pamela Fitzgerald, who are devoted to one another. This is one of the best early Gothic ghost-story films, which combine elements of horror, brooding atmosphere and romance. Other examples of fine Gothic ghost-story films are: The Innocents [1961] and The Haunting [1963].

"The film opens with Roderick and Pamela on a somewhat unbelievable seaside hike. They encounter an abandoned cliff-side mansion overlooking the ocean and almost immediately decide to see if they can buy it, unaware that it is haunted. Their attempt to unravel the mystery of why the house is haunted and by whom forms the driving basis of the plot.

"That both Roderick and Pamela live together into middle age is an unusual social arrangement. The potential of any unseemliness is dealt with by their both becoming romantically entangled, the prospect of two marriages concluding the film.

"Ray Milland was at the top of his career when this film was made. The Lost Weekend [1945], for which he won his best actor Oscar, was made shortly afterwards. Both he and his co-star Ruth Hussey give self-assured performances, providing slight humorous asides which take the edge off the horror element of this film, with the result that this is a pleasant film to watch even given its evil elements."

--ggf

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"I Married a Witch" [Rene Clair] 1942

"I Married a Witch [1942] is a romantic comedy directed by Rene Clair. It stars Fredric March and Veronica Lake. The plot involves two witches, Jennifer and her father Daniel, who were hung from a large tree and whose spirits are fated to remain there until the tree dies. Just before dying, Jennifer curses her primary accuser‘s, the Wooley family. The Wooley men are to forever marry only those women who will make them miserable their entire lives. Jump forward to the present, when a bolt of lightning kills the tree and frees the witches spirits.

"March plays the current Wooley male descendant Jonathan. Lake plays the witch Jennifer. Susan Hayward plays Wooley‘s fiancĂ© Estelle, who is already well on the way to making his life miserable. In a bid to make him even more miserable, Jennifer assumes corporeal form to make Jonathan fall in love with her, knowing that Jonathan‘s character will force him to keep his promise and marry Estelle. The plan backfires.

"This is a pleasant light period comedy of the sort rarely made now. In mood and style it resembles Topper [1937]. While not great art, if you like classic films, this one is worth watching.

"Rene Clair is a French director who primarily directed in France. During the war though, he came to Hollywood. I Married a Witch and the superb Agatha Christie adaptation And Then There Were None [1945] are perhaps his best English-language films."

--ggf

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"Lady In Cement" [Gordon Douglas] 1968

"Lady In Cement [1968] was directed by Gordon Douglas stars Frank Sinatra as the Miami detective Tony Rome.

"Sinatra is a fine actor who was capable of making equally fine crime-genre films, such as The First Deadly Sin [1980]. Unfortunately, he was also capable of involving himself in rather bad period pieces, such as Lady In Cement.

"This film reeks of the attempt to be hip for its time. This extends from the screenplay by Jack Guss to the soundtrack by Hugo Montenegro. The dangers of such an approach are that it attempts to be something it is not and that it will soon appear both irritatingly dated and insincere. Guilty on both counts."

--ggf

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"A Double Life" [George Cokor] 1947

"A Double Life [1947] is a justifiably well respected film. George Cokor directed. The screenplay was written by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin. A Double Life was nominated for four Oscars: best director, screenplay, actor and score. Ronald Coleman won best actor and Miklos Rozsa best score. Coleman gives a superb performance as a high-strung, self-obsessed actor who disintegrates off-stage.

"Coleman plays the leading character Anthony John, a middle-aged stage actor of immense skill, but who is known to lose himself in his roles to the extent that he becomes almost schizophrenic. Although separated from his former wife Brita, he still loves her and at times acts with her. While playing Othello for an extended run, he adopts some of Othello‘s traits. The pressure of adopting Othello‘s character nightly plus his jealousy for Brita slowly exploit his principal flaw, leading to a breakdown and tragedy."

--ggf

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"The Glass House" [Daniel Sackheim] 2001

"The Glass House [2001] is a suspense film directed by Daniel Sackheim. It is talent heavy, starring Diane Lane, Stellan Skarsgaard and Leelee Sobieski as the main character, with Bruce Dern providing a supporting role.

"The plot involves a desperate couple, Erin and Terrence Glass, formerly rich but now in deep money trouble with loan sharks. They become custodians of their dead friends estate and the two children who will inherit it, if they come of age.

"Critics disliked this film. Some claim correctly that the previews essentially gave away the plot. That is a marketing mistake. A further complaint is that it was released three days after 9/11, which was seen by some critics as poor taste. Certainly, it led to poor box office. This was another marketing blunder, but to hold this against the film? Makes one wonder about the critics.

"While Glass House is not the work of Hitchcock, neither is it amateurish. In particular, the performance given by Sobieski as a bright and somewhat nasty, over-privileged teenager is a good one. The performances by Lane and Skarsgaard are also good. Is the basic premise believable, not really, and that is the principal weakness of this film.

"The title also refers to the house in which most of the film takes place. As a contemporary showpiece mansion, the house is effectively a co-star. If you like contemporary house architecture it is a reason to see this film. The house does indeed exist. It is located in Malibu as the film states off Yerba Buena road.

"As trivia, the car that looked like a Ferrari Testrossa is a front-engine car when seen wrecked. A real Testarossa has a rear engine. Reportedly, they used a kit car. Who would be crass enough to destroy a real working Ferrari merely for a film?"

--ggf

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"Contagion" [Steven Soderbergh] 2011

"Contagion [2011] is a techno-thriller that postulates a flu, similar to the Swine Flu, has mutated into a deadly strain. It spreads fast via airline travel and is highly lethal to those infected. Can the CDC isolate the strain and create a vaccine before millions die? Although this theme has been used before, it is very well handled here.

"Contagion was directed by Steven Soderbergh. The screenplay was written by Scott Z. Burns. This is a star vehicle film. It includes Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne and Jude Law. Notable cameos are Elliot Gould and Bryan Cranston.

"Construct a film around a group of stars and the script is often weak. Not in this case though. The performances are all good ones and the script is suitably suspenseful. The one weakness is the conspiracy sub-plot in which Jude Law portrays a supposedly environmentally sensitive blogger, who in reality is a self-important opportunist on the make. This did not fit well with the rest of the film.

"Contagion is well-paced and scientifically literate for a movie. This combination is a good one and makes this worth watching."

--ggf

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"The Company You Keep" [Robert Redford ] 2012

"The Company You Keep [2012] was directed by and stars Robert Redford as Jim Grant, one of several Vietnam era Weather Underground who were involved in a a bank robbery during which a policeman was killed. Although Grant opted not to get involved in the robbery, several of his former friends at that time were, including Sharon Solarz, played by Susan Sarandon, and Mimi, played by Julie Christie. All of them were forced to use underground contacts to create new identities for themselves.

"It is now 40 years later and the FBI has finally gotten a tip and arrested Solarz. This forces Grant back underground for a while as he tries to get Solarz and Mimi to extricate him from the predicament he is in. Rather than discuss the issues and morality, this film concentrates on Grant as he renews old contacts and tracks down Mimi while the FBI is after him and a reporter uncovers him. This is primarily a thriller rather than a message film. Given the strength of the cast, it is no surprise that this is a well acted throughout.

"If you like this film, I suggest you see Running On Empty [1988], in which a married couple have been living under assumed identities since their activism in the late ‘60s. In this case it is their children who present a danger of exposure.

"Neil Gordon, the author of the book "The Company You Keep" seems to have created a story eerily reminiscent of the robbery of the bank in Brighton, MA in 1970 which resulted in the killing of a police officer. The robbery was carried out by Brandeis University students Katherine Power, Susan Saxe and others who intended to arm and fund Black Panther party members to stop the Vietnam War. Having been there at the time, Brandeis was a hotbed of protest, coordinating the nation-wide college strike of 1970, which was triggered by the Kent State killings of May 1970. Almost immediately after the robbery, both women were placed on the FBI 10 Most Wanted list. Both adopted new identities and eluded the FBI for years. Katherine Power finally gave herself up in 1993 after 23 years. Their story has been used for at least two novels and a TV episode. Whether or not "The Company You Keep" was similarly based upon this, I do not know."

--ggf

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"Passion" [ Brian De Palma] 2012

"Passion [2012] is a re-make of the French film Crime d‘amour [2010]. Passion is co-written and directed by Brian De Palma. It stars Racheal McAdams as Christine, the head of a foreign advertising agency office. Her chief creative aide is Isabelle, played by Noomi Rapace.

"The plot is set in motion when Christine takes credit for a superb advertising campaign idea developed by Isabelle in Isabelle‘s presence. It is clear from the outset that Christine is unscrupulous. It develops that Isabelle is much the more dangerous of the two.

"This film is shot in a noticeably flat lighting style and makes use of an antiseptic, all-glass, international-style office building as a primary set. What De Palma was trying to say by making so much use of spartan modern architecture is not clear, unless the intention was to make any display of passion glaringly public.

"Although De Palma is often called the contemporary Hitchcock, his films are mannered and often stretch credulity too far. This film adopts a dream-sequence ending that irritates the viewer. This is a cliché that has been done to death. There is no reason for it. It makes the end of the film unbelievable.

"Although the actresses give good performances, they were let down by the material. Taken as a whole, this is an unsatisfying film."

--ggf

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