Weeds- Season Six:
The Botwin family is now on the run after youngest son Shane’s act of “self-defense.” The comedy starts to lose steam about mid-season but the action picks up the last few episodes, ending with another intriguing, cliff hanging, season ending episode. It looks like the show is headed for season seven.
This 2009, six part miniseries seeks to reenact the late 1960’s creation of Patrick McGoohan- and fails miserably. “The Village” is now an oasis surrounded by unending desert instead of a European seaside resort. Ian McKellen’s work as Number 2 (who now has a son) is the only bright spot. Jim Caviezel plays a much better Jesus than a Number 6. The episodes are tiresome and somewhat confusing, lacking the inspiration of the original. The ending is also very disappointing.
The Next Three Days:
This gripping drama has Russell Crowe playing a meek college professor who, in an act of desperation, devises a plot to break his wrongly convicted wife out of prison. Very entertaining, well acted and even educational, particularly for subversives.
This 1996 feature tells the story of the Irish revolutionary who led the fight for Irish independence in the 1920’s. Collins is credited with using guerilla warfare to successfully defeat the British empire. Liam Neeson does some of his finest work in a part that I cannot imagine anyone else playing. Make sure to catch the disc’s accompanying documentary.
Who is Harry Nilsson- and Why is Everyone Talking About Him?:
This documentary is chock full of information and memories of the late singer/songwriter. I had never known much about Nilsson. I had heard his songs on the radio and knew he was the Beatles’ favorite performer. This film details his quick rise in the music business and reminds us of the incredible singing voice he possessed.
Noam Chomsky- Rebel Without a Pause:
Clips from lectures and question and answer sessions make up this documentary about the prolific writer. The material here was filmed during the buildup to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. No new material if you’re even slightly familiar with his ideas. Though Chomsky’s analysis of US foreign adventures are spot on, he seems to think this same state monster can be directed towards and responsive to “social justice” activism.
Based on a true story, Hillary Swank plays a young woman who becomes a lawyer to help free her wrongly convicted brother from a life sentence for murder. Her pursuit is relentless despite overwhelming odds. Very inspiring and well acted by Swank and co-star Sam Rockwell.
This black comedy follows four aspiring suicide bombers who bumble and stumble on their path of Muslim jihad. Hysterically funny at times.
The one subject that can tweak me emotionally is sick kids. This film, based on a true story, hits at that soft spot. A desperate father (Brendan Fraser) has two children suffering a rare genetic disease and partners with a cranky but brilliant medical researcher (Harrison Ford) to develop a healing drug.
The Last Days:
This documentary was produced through Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation project. It interviews five Hungarian Holocaust survivors and follows them as they return to their respective death camps. The accompanying archival footage helps relate to the viewer the unspeakable horror of that event.
Frontline- The Wounded Platoon:
An in depth report about an Army platoon from Colorado that has suffered an inordinate amount of attempted suicides, PTSD sufferers, and criminal violence among its members. A documentary not to be missed if you really think that combat stress and violence doesn’t screw people up- especially those who are already a little unbalanced.
Enron- The Smartest Guys in the Room:
Even though this documentary was released back in 2005 it is still relevant and educational. Credit the movie makers for taking a story about accounting fraud and making it what it really is- a story about ambitious people and their tragic failings.
Tom Russell- Hearts on the Line:
Everyone should experience Tom Russell, the singer/songwriter who paints lyrical landscapes in your mind. Never mind your preference for certain genres of music. It still is worth your time to experience the Americana genius of this artist. This disc is a good place to start.
I’ve always enjoyed the energy Robert Downey Jr. brings to the screen. He makes good use of it here as his character suffers the idiocy of airline security and is forced into a cross country road trip with a bungling idiot. The comedy has just enough laughs to make it worthy viewing.
A young film maker creates a documentary about his childhood friend who was born with Down’s Syndrome. He follows him over a year’s time during his quest for personal independence.
The Scarlet and the Black:
This 1983 drama tells the story of Vatican priest Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty (Gregory Peck), who aided escaped allied POW’s and Jews in Rome during the Nazi occupation of the city. O’Flaherty made good use of his diplomatic immunity and superior wits in outfoxing the German’s Gestapo head (Christopher Plummer). Sir John Gielgud is an extra bonus, playing the Pope. A great true story that includes a memorable final scene in the Coliseum between Peck and Plummer.
180 Degrees South:
Some young surfers/mountain climbers are filmed traveling to Patagonia, inspired by another documentary filmed in 1968. Some great scenery to view in this part of the world. It’s always fun to watch the “professional” adventurers- those whose whole existence has been simplified down to enjoying one expedition, then planning the next.
Koyaanisqatsi- Life Out of Balance:
This unique 1983 film is the first of a trilogy created by director Godfrey Reggio and composer Philip Glass. No actors, dialogue or narration, just images and music. Lots of time lapse footage of cities and aerial views of natural landscapes. A different kind of film experience to be sure, and each viewer will come away with a different interpretation. The general idea presented is man’s increasing disconnect from his natural environment and increasing connection, instead, to technology.
The feature recounts the story of Valerie Plame, the CIA agent whose identity was revealed by the Bush administration after her husband, Joe Wilson, exposed some of Bush’s lies used to justify his 2003 invasion of Iraq. Since Plame was an integral part of a worldwide terrorist organization (the CIA) its hard to have any sympathy for her plight. But this story reveals how the state will eat its own, if necessary, to continue its agenda and deceive the masses.
This 1966 Sidney Lumet film takes place in a WWII British stockade in North Africa where wayward soldiers are “reformed” and recreated into obedient soldiers. Sean Connery stars as a prisoner who resists such treatment and seeks to hold the camp commanders responsible for the death of a fellow prisoner. Harry Andrews shines as the camp Sergeant-Major who won’t tolerate any dissent to his orders, even among his own staff. Lumet’s style of “in your face” close-ups of his characters is quite appropriate for this story.