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A father heads overseas to recover the body of his estranged son who died while traveling the “El camino de Santiago,” and decides to take the pilgrimage himself.
I’ve been a fan of Martin Sheen‘s smaller, quieter work since I saw him decades ago in Sweet Hostage. He is best when he is acting least, and playing a father mourning the loss of his son fit him like a glove.
As Tom (Sheen) makes his physical journey, he is making an emotional journey, as well. Along the way he meets fellow “pilgrims”, each with their own story. Some he meets for only a moment, some join him on his travels; Joost (Yorick van Wageningen), the sweet, sad-sack from Holland; Jack (James Nesbitt), the bold and brash travel writer from Ireland; Sarah (Deborah Kara Unger), obnoxious, judgmental Canadian.
The film treads gently through the poignant moments, giving us some laughs to lighten the mood. The location shots are beautiful and Emilio Estevez‘s direction is reverent. This movie also did more to inspire me to travel than anything I’ve seen since Shirley Valentine planted the “must see Greece” seed decades ago.
The story won’t be for everyone, I think a certain maturity will be necessary to appreciate it. Most of those in my circle are out of their teen years, though , so I will be recommending it to most of them.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 82%; Audience 83%
A novelist struggling with writer’s block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.
I think D picked this one based on star Paul Dano; everything we’ve seen him in, D has liked. This role of Calvin Weir-Fields seems written just for Dano (and it may have been, writer Zoe Kazan is his real-life live-in girlfriend). He perfectly inhabits the quirky, insecure genius. Kazan co-stars as Ruby Sparks, Dano’s leapt-off-the-pages infatuation.
The idea is not entirely original, but this presentation is fresh and fun. As the author writes and rewrites his dream girl, Kazan gives life to the phrase “be careful what you wish for”. Her portrayal of the perfect (and not so perfect) girl is strong, flitting easily through a range of emotions and behaviors.
Unfortunately, the film falls down a bit when we meet Calvin’s parents. The characters are so ridiculous and over-the-top, and the performances by Annette Benning and Antonio Banderas so silly, it distracts from the gentle silliness of the rest of the film.
Overall, though, the story and direction are charming. If you like romantic comedies, especially with an intellectual bent, this flick is worth your time.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 79%; Audience 79%
“Oh, l’amour, l’amour, how it can let you down. Hmm. How it can pick you up again.”
“You’re passing up a swell chance, honey. Where I spit no grass grows ever.”
“No, dear, a man has only one escape from his old self – to see a different self in the mirror of some woman’s eyes.”
“The first man who can explain how he can be in love with his wife – and another woman – is gonna win that prize they’re always giving out in Sweden.”
One of the earliest examples I remember of the full range of female archetypes was this great film with an all-star, all-female cast. It intrigued me to see something so bold as an entire movie without any men, though the influence of husbands, lovers and others is certainly felt.
Among the women we meet are:
- Sweet, happily wedded Mary Haines (Norma Shearer)
- Conniving man-eater Crystal Allen (Joan Crawford)
- Catty scandalmonger Sylvia Fowler (Rosalind Russell)
- Hopeless romantic, unlucky in love Countess De Lave (Mary Boland)
- Middle-class housewife and mother Edith Potter (Phyllis Povah)
- Wealthy in her own right, naive Peggy Day (Joan Fontaine)
- and more – in all, there are 130 speaking roles all filled by women
Though slightly melodramatic (weren’t they all back then?) a witty script and snappy dialogue survive well the test of time. The ending of this movie had me believing in love and cheering for the power of real girlfriends, especially when you really need them.
Loses a star because it probably wouldn’t appeal to the men in my circle – and it will be a bit too melodramatic for some of the girls
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 90%; Audience 89%
Another favorite I will review on it’s own, The Opposite Sex. An adaptation that not only becomes a musical – but includes men in the cast.
An updated remake, The Women (2008) – with a horrific cast and general lack of cattiness. Why bother? Haven’t seen this one, doubt I will.
Another small, independent movie D found. So small, in fact, that Rotten Tomatoes has no reviews as of this writing. There is little information about the movie online, but according to the blurb on the movie’s official site, it is based on actual events. It also was filmed in the actual locations, including Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake.
For Robbing the Dead is a story of compassion. It follows the story of Henry Heath, a law officer in 1862 Salt Lake City. Heath finds himself responsible for the well-being of a prisoner whom he despises – an impoverished French immigrant named Jean Baptiste who is convicted of robbing the graves of the recently deceased. Baptiste is exiled to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake. With no one willing to look after this man, Henry Heath becomes Baptiste’s sole defense against the hostile isolation of Antelope Island and the contempt of an entire community.
Margot Kidder is a surprise here, as the condemned man’s slightly ‘tetched’ wife. Barry Corbin is a good choice for the wizened Judge and mentor to the lawman who catches – and cares for – “the ghoul Jean Baptiste”. The stars, John Freeman as Heath and David Stevens as Baptiste, are convincing in their pain and dysfunction.
It took me a while to decide whether I liked this movie or not (I did), and so I am not sure how much of a recommendation to give it. There are some unpleasant bits, but only so much as is necessary to convey the story. The subject matter itself is tough, we are talking about grave robbing & frontier justice, after all. However, the bigger story is about Grace and sometimes finding it in the most unlikely places. For that reason, I think I will recommend it to most in my circle – because this film is odd enough, and small enough, and quirky enough that I think they will all find something positive in it.
It isn’t a great movie, but I am giving it four stars.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics N/A; Audience 60%
When it comes to political movies of the Right, you can generally tell if they hit their mark by the critics’ reaction. The “independent” critics show their true colors by panning the movie for making points with which they disagree, not the quality of the film itself.
So it is with Dinesh D’Souza’s latest work, a documentary largely based on his successful book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage”. Critics who gleefully embraced as “resourceful” & “skillful” Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 now find political documentaries “outrageous” and “simplistic”
For those, like me, who have been paying attention, the information here is not new. What is new is the framing, presenting plausible explanations for some of Obama’s most implausible actions. D’Souza presents a compelling narrative of Obama’s early life and the forces that shaped his world view.
For those who have not been especially curious about the candidate, this could serve as a primer on his life. Perhaps the most effective device for conveying the information are the words from Barack Obama’s books, read by Barack Obama himself for the audio releases. It is hard to dismiss as partisan spin what you hear the man say in his own voice.
It loses one star only because there are those in my circle who won’t see it under any circumstances. If you are one of those, I urge you to consider the tag line, “Love Him. Hate Him. You Don’t Know Him” and ask yourself if, in fact, there is more you could stand to learn.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 30%; Audience 77%
Shirley’s a middle-aged Liverpool housewife, who finds herself talking to the wall while she prepares her husband’s chip’n'egg, wondering what happened to her life. She compares scenes in her current life with what she used to be like and feels she’s stagnated and in a rut. But when her best friend wins an all-expenses-paid vacation to Greece for two, Shirley begins to see the world, and herself, in a different light.
One of my favorite flicks for many reasons. It completely reinforces my trip to Greece fantasy. It illuminates the drawbacks of a small life, and highlights the options. It makes being “of a certain age” seem a bit more palatable. It has several laugh out loud lines, along with all the chuckles. It also has a great message and some very touching moments. It has gorgeous scenery. It has Tom Conti
Shirley Valentine is an anthem to the freedom of the soul–with a generous dose of salt of the earth.
I have yet to see Mamma Mia, but I doubt it will replace Shirley Valentine on my “chick flick set in Greece” list. The only reason it doesn’t get the full five stars is because of the chick-flickiness….and some bad language…and nudity.
If you haven’t yet seen it, rent it soon. You may not love it as much as I do, but you are sure to be entertained.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 73%; Users 76%
Based on yet another Marvel series, Iron Man has plenty of things going for it, the main assets being an enjoyably sardonic Downey, his hardware, and the downturned mouth of his new metal visage – a warning that this self-styled messiah means business.
~ Tim Robey; Daily Telegraph
Just a quick note because I have to get to work: very well done, definitely worth your time to see on the big screen. Not much graphic violence, not much sex, great cast (except Gwyneth Paltrow, and she is fine, not good, but OK)
Robert Downey Jr owns this movie, as usual.
Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 94%; Users 87%