Friday, August 20, 2010

DVD Reviews

In the Loop:
The US President and British PM are intent on going to war against an unnamed country in the Middle East. This political comedy follows the operatives and underlings who battle, back stab, and do whatever it takes to further their personal agendas and political careers. I would imagine reality is not much different than what’s represented here, though not as hysterically funny as this film gets.

North Face:
Four mountain climbers in 1936 (two German and two Austrian) race to become the first to scale the north face of the Eiger in the Swiss Alps. A superb movie with riveting realism and excellent acting. Based on a true story.

The White Ribbon:
A small, country village in 1913 Germany is beset by unexplained incidences of violence against its inhabitants, including children. The film attempts to blame the village’s form of punishment on misbehaving children for the problems and the eventual rise of German fascism. I think this might be a bit of a stretch since the only children being punished this way are the local minister’s.
Not recommended

Curb Your Enthusiasm- Season 7:
This looks like the final season for one of television’s all time funniest sitcoms. Only ten episodes long but never short of laughs. The season also includes a semi-reunion of the Seinfeld cast.

This Orwellian drama takes place in the not too distant future when Homeland Security has camera surveillance robots that move around and spy on the populace. Except some of the humans are beginning to realize these robots may be doing more than just surveillance. This is a poorly made movie with substandard acting, but the film’s idea is sound. It’s worth viewing if only to get an idea what America’s growing police state may have in mind for us.
Recommended (with conditions)

Jeff Beck- Live at Ronnie Scott’s:
This 2007 performance of the guitar master is recorded in a cozy jazz club in London. Mr. Beck’s mostly instrumental set entertains the listener with beautiful, serene melodies and hard driving jazz explorations. And he seems to be having a great time doing it all. If you really want to view and listen to some musicians playing at the top of their game you won’t want to miss this disc.

The Lucky Ones:
This mediocre drama about three Iraq War vets traveling around the US while on injury leave would be much worse if not for Tim Robbins, whose talent is wasted in this film. The relationships between the characters is as believable as the fake tornado bearing down on their rental car. It apparently passes by, but the car sustains absolutely no damage. Yeah, right.
Not Recommended

The Wind Journeys:
This is not a movie for those who prefer slick, tightly edited, fast moving dramas. This movie, filmed beautifully in Columbia, follows a newly widowed, accordion playing troubadour as he travels by foot to return his instrument to his teacher. The director wonderfully composes his characters among the country’s varied landscape. There are lots of loosely edited and silent moments but it all seems to work to enhance the experience.

Killer of Sheep:
I won’t recommend this film unless you enjoy watching a young film school student and future successful director learning his art. Charles Burnett created this film with a $10,000 budget in 1977, showing snippets of life in the black community of L.A. The disc also includes 3 short films of Burnett’s, with only one worth watching.
Not recommended

Green Zone:
Matt Damon is one of those rare military participants who actually can think for himself in this fast moving thriller. Damon’s character (based on a real individual) leads a crew searching for WMD in Iraq shortly after the invasion in 2003. His frustrations boil over after being lead by “solid” intelligence to one empty weapon’s site after another. He decides to investigate why and discovers some shocking truths. If only there were thousands more real individuals like this in the Emperor’s legions.

50 Dead Men Walking:
Jim Sturgess is a young IRA member during the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Ben Kingsley (with hair) is a British agent who convinces him to inform on his mates as he rises in the ranks of the insurgency. Sturgess is excellent as the man on the run. Based on a true story.

The American Friend:
This 1977 Wim Wenders film stars Dennis Hopper as an art dealer who manages to convince a dying art restorer to execute a mob style hit. The premise doesn’t make a lot of sense which spells disaster for the entire story.
Not recommended

North Country:
Based on a true story, Charlize Theron plays one of only a few women working in the north Minnesota iron mines in the 1980’s. The incessant harassment from the men inspires her to initiate the first sexual harassment class action suit. Excellent acting throughout and a solid screenplay.

The Glass Shield:
I got suckered into watching another sub-par Charles Burnett movie. Don’t waste your time with this mediocre, police corruption drama- even if it is based on a true story.
Not recommended

A witness to war crimes by a Yugoslavian army commander risks all to testify at his trial at the Hague. Those who show such courage all risk being treated as pawns in the interest of political and bureaucratic expediency.

The Winslow Boy:
An aristocratic family in early 20th century England sacrifices time and wealth to clear their son’s name. He is accused of a theft and is dismissed from the Royal Naval College. Excellent acting from the cast, particularly Jeremy Northam as the defense attorney. A great look at perseverance in the name of justice and integrity, as only the English can present it. “Let right be done.”

The Stoning of Soraya M.:
This superbly acted drama tells the true story of a woman in Khomeini’s Iran who is framed for adultery by her husband. She is then stoned to death by family and fellow residents of her small village. A well crafted and explicit look at religious extremism.

The Violin:
This Mexican film, shot beautifully in black and white, follows a violin player who helps smuggle weapons and ammunition to local insurgents. They include his son and grandson. No mention is made of who exactly the insurgents are, nor identifies the brutal state army they are resisting, But the story is well told and captivating. The identities, I suppose, are irrelevant, in that the universal theme of resistance and justice are understandable everywhere.

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