Category Archives: 4 of 5

Redemption: For Robbing the Dead (2011)

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Redemption: For Robbing the Dead

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%

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2016: Obama’s America (2012)

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2016: Obama’s America

A documentary that examines the question, “If Barack Obama wins a second term, where will we be in 2016?”

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.
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Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 30%; Audience 77%

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Shirley Valentine (1989)

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Shirley Valentine

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%

Iron Man (2008)

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Iron Man

Iron Man

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%

Pursuit of Happyness (2006)

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Pursuit of Happyness

Will Smith stars in the inspirational true story of Chris Gardner, a San Francisco salesman who’s struggling to make ends meet. When his girlfriend Linda (Thandie Newton) walks out, Chris is left to raise their 5-year-old son Christopher (Jaden Smith) on his own. Chris’ determination finally pays off when he lands an unpaid internship in a brutally competitive stockbroker-training program, where only one in twenty interns will make the cut. But without a salary, Chris and his son are evicted from their apartment and are forced to sleep on the street, in homeless shelters and even behind the locked doors of a metro station bathroom. With self- confidence and the love and trust of his son, Chris Gardner rises above his obstacles to become a Wall Street legend.

~ from Amazon

 

One of my favorite movies from 2006, and one of the best performances from that year, as well. Truly, if not for The Last King of Scotland, Will Smith would have been the clear favorite at Oscar time. I loved the plot driven movie with a strong message of hope and personal responsibility, and the interaction between Smith and his real life son was quite believable and moving. Perhaps a bit too syrupy for some, I non-the-less recommended this to almost everyone in my circle.


Rotten Tomatoes: Critics 65%; Users 88%

Over The Rhine

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Over The Rhine

Over The Rhine

at The Rhythm Room

People, people, people – if you are missing out on these great shows, it is because you aren’t listening to me.

I know I told you about Over The Rhine a little late in the day, but the show has been on my public calendar for at least a month. What a phenomenal performance. Fun group, fun venue, fun crowd.

I was worried about not getting a ticket, so I showed up just after 6:00. There was one person in line ahead of me, the very nice attorney I met at the David Wilcox show in August. I had mentioned Over The Rhine to him, and he looked them up. I love introducing people to new music, and it was nice to see a friendly face.

The evening started with a performance by Griffin House, not that I had any idea who he was. Turned out to be a guy and a guitar, one of my favorite set-ups. Unfortunately, he had some sound issues – a little hot on the guitar volume and some buzzing when he was intentionally loud. He did a couple of protest songs which weren’t quite clever or subtle enough to work for me, but they were melodic and well delivered. I enjoyed his set quite a bit, enough to pick up two of his CDs (well, it was one for $15, 2 for $20)

He did this song, The Man That Says Goodbye To You Is Out Of His Mind. It is funny, though the humor was more evident live – you’ll just have to imagine the winking delivery and audience laughter in all the right places.

Over the Rhine was everything I expected them to be . . . and more. Really great live performers. I have seen so many concerts in my day, and one of my biggest pet peeves is musicians who just seem to be going through the motions (or who you wish were lipsynching because they sound so bad live). OtR seemed to be having a blast and I got the feeling they wanted us to be having fun, as well. There were some issues with the mix early on (too much of the instruments, not enough vocals) but they got that worked out.

Karin Bergquist delivers her exquisite vocals in a casual, intimate way. You can almost imagine her singing you torch songs in her living room, something I am sure she does for husband, and original OtR bandmate Linford Detweiler (who was fantastic on keyboards, guitar, bass…). Filling out the band on this tour were Jake Bradley, master of the upright bass, and Mickey Grimm, amazing on the drums.

If this group is coming through your town, do yourself a favor and see the show. You won’t regret it.

BTW: I got a few more of their CDs; two that I bought, and two that were gifted to me. I think I now have seven of their albums. How cool am I? OtR also releases all their albums on vinyl. Does anyone still have a turntable?

Cross posted at Vox

Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

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Pan’s Labyrinth

In 1944 fascist Spain, a girl, fascinated with fairy-tales, is sent along with her pregnant mother to live with her new stepfather, a ruthless captain of the Spanish army. During the night, she meets a fairy who takes her to an old faun in the center of the labyrinth. He tells her she’s a princess, but must prove her royalty by surviving three gruesome tasks. If she fails, she will never prove herself to be the the true princess and will never see her real father, the king, again.

Beautiful, captivating, mesmerizing . . . and a story, as well.

The subtitles were a bit of a distraction since the images were so amazing. Like with Amelie, I hated to look away from the picture to catch the dialog.

The movie is not, however, all fairies and bows and butterflies. It has serious brutality, which is why it loses a star. I am not sure this is a movie I would recommend to my sister, for instance.

This movie is much like Life is Beautiful, involving a fantasy world which helps a child deal with a world which is frightening and harsh.


Rotten Tomatoes as of this writing: critics 96%; users 94%

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