Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Still more movies currently in the theaters


Lady Chatterley
Directed by Pascale Ferran

This lovely French film is based on an early version of D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover, one that is not generally read. As TVOR has not ready any versions of the story, I can’t say whether the film adheres closely to the text or not. What I will say is that the film works well on its own. The characters retain their English names, but don’t seem very English—and they’re speaking French, of course. The story is of an affair between Lady Chatterley, whose husband has been seriously injured in World War I, and the estate’s gamekeeper. In spite of a nearly three-hour running time, the film is consistently engaging, and does not drag. And, yes, you do see naked bodies. Including the naughty parts.

The Golden Door
Written and directed by Emanuele Crialese

This Italian film tells the story of a group of immigrants making the journey from Sicily to the United States early in the 20th century. It follows them as they prepare for the journey, travel on a crowded boat, and attempt to negotiate the bureaucracy of Ellis Island. They are, for the most part, poor and illiterate, but dream of an America full of wealth and promise. This is a movie that is absolutely gorgeous on the big screen—do try to see it in a theater.

Rescue Dawn
Written and directed by Werner Herzog

In this English-language film, German director Werner Herzog tells the true story of Dieter Dengler, who as a child in Germany watched his town get demolished by Allied bombers. His response to this experience was to develop a passion for flying, which led him to emigrate to the United States, enlist in the armed services, and become a Navy pilot during the Viet Nam war. On his first mission, he was shot down, captured, held as a prisoner, and eventually escaped and was rescued. If it occurs to you that Dengler was an unusual guy, I think it’s safe to say you’re right. As portrayed in the film, he takes pluckiness to new heights. The film is beautifully shot, and well-acted and directed (it is a Werner Herzog film after all), but TVOR never really got a handle on Dengler’s character. The film was interesting, but not very engaging.

Video notes: Ten years ago, Werner Herzog made a documentary called Little Dieter Needs to Fly. In it, the real Dieter Dengler tells his story, with narration by Herzog. This is one to check out.

The big video news today as far as I’m concerned is that Hot Fuzz is out on DVD. This is another winner from the people who brought you Shaun of the Dead. Whereas Shaun spoofs zombie films, adding a bit of romance (I believe they called it a rom/com/zom or something like that), Hot Fuzz gives us a comedy cop buddy picture. And fortunately for viewers like TVOR, you don’t have to have any experience with the genre being spoofed to enjoy the result. I’m sure there are many inside jokes and references that went right over my head, but no matter. It’s hilarious no matter what your level of cop picture sophistication is. So watch Hot Fuzz and if you can’t lay your hands on that one, give Shaun of the Dead a try. A warning—both are rather gory. But zombies and buddy cops are like that.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Ingmar Bergman 1918-2007


Ingmar Bergman died today. A prolific and talented man, he will be remembered for not only his films but the influence he had on other directors. Real film critics will write well and at length about that. Bergman films can be very challenging, and TVOR must admit she frequently cannot rise to the challenge. There is one Bergman film she loves, however, and that is Fanny and Alexander. Loosely based on Bergman’s early life, it is beautiful and watchable and everyone should see it. So do.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More of what's out there right now


Written and directed by John Carney

This is a really lovely film that you should go see. It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s got great music, good performances, and appealing characters. What more could you want? The basic story is that two musicians meet on the streets of Dublin and make music together. The musicians are played by the real thing, Glen Hansard (of the Frames) and Marketa Irglova. See it.

Written and directed by Michael Moore

Sicko is a Michael Moore film so you will see a lot of him, and it’s one-sided, and it’s very funny, and that’s just the way it is. The good news is that you see less of him than usual, and it’s still very funny. And it is one-sided, of course, but who is going to go onscreen and make the case that the health care system in the United States is working really well?

Michael goes to Canada, the U.K., France, and Cuba to make his point. The visits to the first three countries are more successful than the Cuba portion, where the shenanigan level rises abruptly. See it, unless you really like how health care works in the United States.

A Mighty Heart
Directed by Michael Winterbottom

A new Michael Winterbottom film is always worth checking out. He’s made all sorts of films, from pure entertainment like 24-Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, to docudramas (The Road to Guantanamo), to a weird combination of porn-meets-music in 9 Songs. This is Winterbottom’s first venture into mega movie-star land, though, as Brad Pitt produced the film and Angelina Jolie stars in it. A Mighty Heart is a drama based on a real event, the kidnapping and murder of the journalist Daniel Pearl, and Ms. Jolie plays Pearl’s wife Mariane, also a journalist. She does a good job with the role, and the supporting cast is good as well. Daniel Pearl is played by Dan Futterman, and Irfan Khan (who appeared earlier this year in The Namesake) plays a Pakistani official working on the case.

The film is at its best when it tells the story of the journalists and police who are trying to find Mr. Pearl, and the U.S. and Pakistani governmental officials who are sometimes helpful and sometimes not. The film is less successful when it tries to show the love between the Pearls. I think we are supposed to think that their love was somehow special. I’m not buying. The film is worth seeing, though. The story of the search is very well told, and even though we know the tragic end, we’re still kept interested as it plays out.

You Kill Me
Directed by John Dahl

In this black comedy, Ben Kingsley plays a hit man Frank Falenczyk whose alcoholism is interfering with his job. After he muffs a hit, his family (who are family in both the DNA and the mob sense) bundle him off to San Francisco to dry out. Why San Francisco? Don’t ask. It’s not good to dwell on some of the plot details. Just accept them. A friend of the family sets Frank up with an apartment and a job in a funeral parlor, directs him towards an AA meeting, and he’s on his way. Tea Leoni plays a potential love interest. The performances by the leads and supporting cast are all very good, and the films is sweet in sort of a murderous way.

Related video suggestions:

Check out some other films by Michael Winterbottom and John Dahl. Steve Coogan is great in the leads of both 24-Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy. Linda Fiorentino is a femme fatale that Peter Berg is no match for in Dahl’s The Last Seduction.

And if you think that Ben Kingsley is un-Ghandi-like in You Kill Me, you should see him in Sexy Beast. He plays a gangster who refuses to let another criminal, played by Ray Winstone, retire. He’d probably convince you to come back to work, too.

And do take a look at Capote, written by A Mighty Heart’s Dan Futterman. The script, the Oscar-winning performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman, the supporting cast—just about the whole thing is excellent.

Friday, July 27, 2007

the first real post


It has taken a while to gather my thoughts, but reason doesn’t always come quickly.

The Voice of Reason (on film) is a blog by a movie-lover. It’s not a movie review site. There are reviewers out there who are really good, and I love to read their work. I read it regularly, in fact. I’m just not one of them. I aspire to be the blog equivalent of the water-cooler conversation, where you might ask a coworker who pays attention to movies and who has reasonable taste what is good to see that weekend. What I like is less likely to be Hollywood product than something foreign or independent (or quasi-independent, since independent stuff is pretty rare), but if you want good stuff, you usually have to stray away from standard Hollywood fare.

And now for what’s out there right now:

Directed by Danny Boyle

First, the disclaimer: I’m not really a sci-fi sort of person. The story is interesting, though. The sun is dying and a group of scientists fly out to it to shoot a big bomb into it to get it going again. Or something like that. Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Shallow Grave, Millions) and a good cast (Cillian Murphy, Chris Evans, Cliff Curtis, Michelle Yeoh, etc.) made the whole thing worth watching—at least until the last third or so when it sort of fell apart. There are nice visuals, good performances, and interesting psychological goings-on. I was happy to be along for the ride, suspending disbelief and all that—at least until that last plot point was introduced. That said, I know there is a group of folks out there who will really like the direction the film took. Maybe the really deep people. Maybe you’re one of these deep people. If so, you can tell me what went on and what the point is. In spite of this flaw (at least from my point of view), I did enjoy the film. If you’re going to see it, do yourself a favor and see it in the theater as it does look pretty darned good on the big screen.

Directed by Steve Buscemi

This is basically a two-character film. Steve Buscemi directs and plays one of the characters, a serious journalist who is apparently being punished by being forced to interview a B-movie star tabloid-fodder type played by Sienna Miller. The acting is good, the characters are complicated and interesting (although you probably wouldn’t want to spend much time in a room with them), and it does deal with some of the issues of celebrity. These are not issues that I have to deal with, though, so mostly I was glad that I didn’t know anybody like that in real life.

My Best Friend
Directed by Patrice Leconte

Ah, Patrice Leconte. This isn’t his best work, but it’s still worth a look. This is a story about an antiques dealer (Daniel Auteuil) whose colleagues challenge him to produce a friend, as they don’t believe he has any. They’re right, of course. The dealer embarks on a quest, and finds a cab driver (Dany Boone) to coach him in this quest—to find a friend. This film is sweet, charming, and funny.

Which reminds me—here are some ideas for video viewing:

Patrice Leconte has made some wonderful films which would make great rentals: The Man on the Train, M. Hire, Intimate Strangers, and others. Especially The Man on the Train.

Also opening this weekend is No Reservations, directed by Scott Hicks. I haven’t seen it, but I do know that it is a remake of a wonderful German film called Mostly Martha, directed by Sandra Nettelbeck. The film tells the story of a workaholic chef who is suddenly forced to become a parent to a young niece who is orphaned when the chef’s sister dies. And then there's this new guy who works in her kitchen...It’s sweet and romantic without being manipulative, and the emotions are true to life. I can’t comment on the new film, but the old film is definitely worth a look on video.