The Last Station:An excellent acted drama (thanks primarily to Christopher Plummer, Helen Mirren, and Paul Giamatti) about the last few years of the life of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy. It centers around the passionate but explosive relationship with his wife and the cult following that grew from his personal philosophy.
Not a bad effort for an independent, low budget, apocalyptic film, but I prefer a bit more substantial plot for such an genre than a man trying to locate his long lost wife.
The Miracle Worker:
This 1962 classic has a very young Patty Duke admirably playing blind, deaf, and mute Helen Keller. Even more impressive is the work of Anne Bancroft who portrays Anne Sullivan, the gritty, heroic, persistent teacher who successfully transforms her student.
Knight and Day:
This entertaining, fast action flick featuring Tom Cruise and Carmen Diaz contains just enough twists to stay interesting and thankfully never degenerates into a gooey, relationship-chick flick. Cruise seems best suited for these type of “secret agent” roles and makes these fantasies almost believable.
This 1975 loosely edited documentary takes a mostly informal look at some of the fine, young American songwriters who were starting to make waves at this period of time. Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Young, Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, John Hiatt, Gamble Rogers and others perform on stage and for each other. The highlight of the film occurs at a Christmas Eve gathering of song at Guy Clark’s house with guests taking turn singing their songs.
Robert Klein- Unfair and Unbalanced:
Mr. Klein’s 2010 HBO comedy special is definitely worth the one hour in front of your screen. He takes comical stabs at politicians and middle age, as well as other subjects.
Leonardo DiCaprio and his skilled crew steal corporate secrets by infiltrating the dreams of his victims. He is then challenged to not take but plant an idea in the mind of a rival’s heir. His character also has some past, personal baggage to deal with where dreams and reality tragically collided. A very intelligent plot that requires close attention.
George Clooney plays a professional assassin who tires of his lonely life and being constantly hunted. He takes on one final assignment that includes some surprising twists.
Inside Iraq- The Untold Story:
A young film maker manages to get into Iraq in 2003 to film life after the US invasion and even manages to be briefly embedded in a US tank unit. The highlights are a troop “rant” session when the enlisted display all of their Whiskey Tango glory and a US stooge lecturing Iraqi police recruits that “torture is always wrong.”
The Prisoner- The Complete Series:
This is the original British series from the late 1960’s starring Patrick McGoohan. McGoohan plays a secret agent type who suddenly resigns but will not divulge his reasons. He is then captured and held in a strange village where everyone has a number instead of a name. All sorts of psychological ploys are used to force McGoohan to divulge information. An inspiring series for those who treasure their individual liberty and resist collectivism and compliance to self-appointed masters.
Wall Street- Money Never Sleeps:
Michael Douglas is back as Gordon Gecko, who is released after eight years in prison. He seeks to stealthily rebuild his empire as well as wreak revenge against those turned on him in the past- all while manipulating his estranged daughter. Douglas does his usual good work but I was most impressed by Josh Brolin who plays his rival. Brolin has come a long way from the raw, young actor in “Young Guns.” Shia LeBouef seems improperly cast as the young, ambitious (though righteous) Wall Street trader.
Sons of Anarchy- Season One:
This well made series revolves around a motorcycle club in a small California town involved in “outlaw” activities including gun running. Club brotherhood, integrity, loyalty, and close family ties are a dominant trait among the members. The characters are diverse, entertaining and mostly likable. The hypocrisy of the state is admirably displayed. Anarchic principles are followed for the most part, except for the proclivity toward violence. This issue is addressed in the soft, but intensifying rivalry between old and new, upcoming, club leadership.
Angelina Jolie is a CIA agent accused by a Russian defector of being a Russian spy. She then spends the rest of the film on the run doing all sorts of entertaining action hero stuff. Not a heady plot but just enough uncertainty to avoid a predictable ending.
Director Ridley Scott always makes entertaining action movies and this one does not disappoint. Let’s hope viewers of the this film also pick up on the message within- that the state, even 900 years later, is still the lying, conniving, murderous, anti-individual institution that Mr. Longstride dealt with.
Two young brothers, forcibly relocated to Ireland to live with family, turn to selling illegal pornographic magazines to finance a return trip to the US. With a feature film, I expect to be entertained, and/or enlightened, and/or inspired. This film failed on all counts.