Thursday, June 9, 2011
This entertaining survival feature is based on a true story about a small group of prisoners who escaped a Soviet gulag in Siberia and walked 4000 miles to India. An attractive film to those who enjoy accounts of great human “journeys” that display the finest in persistence and celebrate the yearning to live and die free.
This 1956 Norwegian film, beautifully filmed in black and white, explores the life of a farm family whose members have differing degrees of religious faith. A tragedy helps them realize the extent and value of unbending faith in God.
Reporter Bob Bowden created this well written and researched documentary about the public schools (particularly in New Jersey) and the stifling teacher’s unions, corruption and the unaccountable waste of tax money that accompanies some of the poorest school performance in the U.S.
Frontline- The Quake:
This report examines the suffering of Haiti after its devastating 2010 earthquake. It looks at the problems involved in successfully rendering aid and even a brief look at the history of embargoes by other countries in the past that helped impoverish this country that was once productive and wealthy.
This documentary is based on the book, where the authors utilize the principles of incentive and cause and effect to analyze common, everyday social problems. Though the material seems to be more of the kind of fluff content you might see on one of those goofy, network TV morning shows, the two authors are bright and entertaining and do offer some useful insights, though you certainly won’t agree with all of them. Make sure to catch the additional interviews offered on the disc.
George Thorogood and the Destroyers- 30th Anniversary Tour Live:
This concert, recorded in Europe in 2004, has George and his Destroyers rocking through a tight set of blues and roadhouse rock and roll. There’s never a shortage of sonic energy when Thorogood straps on his guitar and cranks up his amp.
Viewing the third installment of the Fockers saga found me waiting and waiting for the laughs to start but they never came- just a couple of chuckles. What a cinematic crime to collect such a great cast of actors to execute such an inept screenplay.
This made for TV western starts out on the wrong foot when the first scene is captioned as “Texas, 1861” when it is obviously filmed in northern California. Then it stumbles again when blaming slavery for the start of the “Civil War.” Overall, this isn’t a bad western but Lonesome Dove and its sequels proved that quality made-for-TV westerns are possible.
The title means “blessing” and is another project of camera genius and director Ron Fricke, who was instrumental in creating the “-qatsi” movies. This is a gem filmed in 70mm widescreen with no narration that captures the glories and ravaging of nature as well as the diversity, energy, and wonder of human culture and interaction.
This is an entertaining tale of espionage during the latter years of the Cold War between the US and Soviet Union, with France being the intermediary party. The dialogue moves back and forth between Russian, French and English. Some real life characters including Ronald Reagan are used but I don’t know if this is based on a true story or not.
The Hit List:
Cuba Gooding, Jr. is totally miscast as a dying, government hit man who aims to go out in a blaze of glory. Instead, he comes across as stoned, sleepy zombie, looking for a place to lay down and take a nap. This movie could have been salvageable if an actor of the order of a young John Malkovich or a young Bruce Dern had played the part.
This is filmmaker Ira Wohl’s sequel to his award winning Docu-drama, “Best Boy” where he filmed several years in the life of his mentally handicapped older cousin. In that film “Philly” was in his early 50’s and starting to live more independently of his parents. This sequel takes up the story 18 years later as Philly approaches age 70. This is another heartwarming close-up view of what power a loving family and friends can have when it works to bring the best out of people.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band- Live in New York City:
This two-disc, concert video recorded at Madison Square Garden is one of the best I’ve ever viewed. Having never seen Springsteen in concert I now appreciate what all the fuss is about from those who have. This is one of the best, most entertaining, driving rock and roll performances you’ll probably ever view on video. Springsteen and his incredibly talented, tight band offer us an emotionally charged and inspirational musical exhibition in the Church of Rock and Roll.
Kevin Spacey is just the guy to play Jack Abramoff, the overly ambitious and often corrupt lobbyist who defrauded several American Indian tribes. The movie also exposes the hypocrisy of politicians who demonize people such as Abramoff after directly participating in and benefiting from his activities.
Movies about horse racing make excellent vehicles for dramas, though most wind up kind of hokey. This Disney effort succeeds, in part, because of the true story involving an incredible animal who won the Triple Crown in 1973. The story also revolves around the tenacious, female owner who persevered and wouldn’t give up on her quest to succeed. Diane Lane (who looks even more attractive now than she did 25 years ago in Lonesome Dove) fills that part well and John Malchovich is well cast as the eccentric trainer. You also get to enjoy some really nice camera work in the racing scenes.
This 2010 documentary is a must see by anyone who cares about the water they drink. Filmmaker Josh Fox travels around the country gathering interviews from victims of gas drilling. He also exposes brilliantly the corruption inherent in the government agencies charged with preventing such problems. Of course, these agencies are created and directed by the very industry they’re charged with “regulating.” A fine illustration of American style corporatism.
Tom Waits- Under Review- 1983-2006:
A number of music journalists examine specific years in the long career of one of the most unique, eclectic writing, singing , and acting talents in contemporary American culture. Waits continues to innovate and surprise his audience without selling out to “industry standards.”