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Cinema Reviews

by Bobby Matherne

Movies we watched this past Month
Hits (watch as soon as you can):
 
Matrix Reloaded

Matrix Reloaded fills us in on some of the backstory of the Matrix and the humans who inhabit it. Things fly everywhere. An 18-wheeler hangs a U-turn on a freeway and drives against traffic sending cars flying everywhere. Time flies. Neo flies - Superman in monk’s garb. Plot thickens. Oracle gives Neo piece of candy. Trinity self-destructs. Smith xeroxes himself. Morpheus wakes up. Red letters appear on the screen: To be Concluded
 
The Majestic

It was exactly that: MAJESTIC. A marvelous period piece about Jim Carrey and how he forgot to do all his contorted faces and just smile for a complete movie. Instead of being blacklisted by Hollywood he drove north to Fernwood along California’s Lost Coast which was renamed Lawson for the movie. He made a big splash there when he lost control of his car and his memory. Martin Landau takes him in as his MIA son Luke and they rebuild and reopen the Majestic theater and the hearts of the people of the town. At the Welcome Home Luke celebration, he dances with Luke’s old girl friend, Adele, to the wonderful refrain from “Stranger by the Shore” [no lyrics from the movie, but those inner lyrics can be powerful], and then closing with the marvelous vocal tones of Nat King Cole doing Johnny Mercer’s lyrics, “I Remember You.” A one handkerchief movie. “Didn’t make me cry as much as it made me want to cheer,” my Copilot Reviewer said.
 
Blood Work

A Clint Eastwood serial-killer thriller that got Del’s Nancy Drew muscles going and kept us both awake till after midnight - at our age, that’s a high compliment to a movie. 903-562-784 is a clue - also Happy Valentine. No wonder it took all movie to sort out the mysteries! Another clue is in the penultimate sentence of this cinema blurb.
 
Jean Florette

This is one of those Netflix DVDs that came in so long after I ordered it that I was surprised at the end to find out that it was only Part I of a two-part movie. The second part is “Manon of the Spring” also titled “Jean Florette, Part II”. Utterly charming all the way through. Yves Montand was superb as Cesar, one of two family members that wanted the spring to plant carnations and make money, but Jean Florette [a young Gerard Depardieu] brings his family to live in the house. Cesar directs his nephew to make friends with Jean, but keep the spring that the two of them had cemented over a secret. The nephew watched the hunchbacked Jean struggle to make a go of the place, became his friend, and even was given a portion of the bounty from their first harvest. The rest, dear Readers, I’ll leave for your enjoyment. The daughter of Jean Florette is named Manon and returns in the sequel as a beautiful young lady who discovered the nephew duplicity in the end of Part I.
 
Mothman Prophecies

Richard Gere stars in this gripping drama about a West Virginia town in which he finds himself after a night of trance-like driving to nowhere. Something big is happening or going to happen, and we don’t know what it is, but it is troubling the waking hours and sleep time of many of its citizens, including the new arrival Gere. A tour de force of directing worthy of the old master, Hitchcock.
 
Nurse Betty

One insightful reader of my movie blurbs wrote that I was doing them purely on the basis of morality issues. (Probably because I had the audacity to suggest that "My Fair Lady" was a better musical than "Chicago".) If I were using morality as a basis, this movie wouldn't make it to my Hits category. After all, this movie starts with a vicious scalping and murder of Betty's husband which throws the waitress wife into shock which leads her to go to Hollywood, become a nurse, and get the part of a nurse on a hit soap opera before she wakes up. A delightful look at the positive side of shock. Morgan Freeman stars and Chris Rock doesn't. Nurse Betty is a modern day Eliza Doolittle who moves quickly from behind a counter to in front of a camera. Now you know the trip, but getting there is all the fun.
 
Life or Something Like It

A  chick flick about the steamy side of local broadcast news and the seamy side of the national news. Barbie doll news reporter Angelina Jolie receives a death notice from a street prophet and has a week to get her life in order, a difficult job because it is already perfect. But a few swings of the bat in Seattle’s Mariners stadium points her in the wrong direction for a change, and you can watch the movie to learn the rest of the story. What did you expect, Paul Harvey?

 

Misses (avoid at all costs):
 

Metropolis

Not the old B&W classic, but a new one. Del doesn’t care for Sci-Fi, Animation, or Foreign Language films, so this one maxed out on her “Avoid At All Costs” Richter Scale. Reminiscent of “A.I.”, it involves a cute girl robot destined to rule the world from the top of the Ziggurat of Metropolis. Storyline disconnected or my attention was (I was watching Hornets in a must-win NBA playoff game and an LSU baseball game at the same time), but the movie was not a grabber. I did watch with interest the incredible scenes of mega-industrial and architectural structures.
 
The Devil’s Brigade

A  1968 war movie starring William Holden and a bunch of American misfits and Canadian superstar troops. Amazing. The US troops were a rowdy gang of thugs taken out of the brig and Canucks came up marching in step to the sound of bagpipes. How would these two ever learn to fight together against the Germans? Maybe by learning to fight against each other and like each other first? Yep, you got it. Mostly a hollow, very slow repetition of the excellent war movie, “Dirty Dozen”, which movie had the good sense not to mix the clean linen with the dirty laundry! If you haven’t seen it already, consider yourself lucky. Had to watch a couple of other movies on the side screens of my screening room to stay awake through the first half of this move.

 

Your call on these next movies; your taste may differ, but I liked them:

 

Good Advice with Charlie Sheen

HBO reception was intermittent plus we missed the first part of movie - but there were some very funny bits, especially with Iris, the Editor’s assistant. Premise is this: a former stockbroker takes over an advice column that his girl friend hated doing after she skipped town for Rio. He becomes a hit while flirting with his Editor, a lovely assistant DA from “Law & Order.” Naturally the old girl friend comes back and re-enters his apartment just as he has finally managed to bed the Editor. The Ex wants her old job back. Wanna bet she blows it? We need to get a DVD of it and give it a look from the beginning. May be the only good starring role for Charlie that I can recall. Good advice: watch it.
 
My Wife Is an Actress

Interesting movie in which a Parisian-based sports reporter married to a very popular French actress Charlotte has a problem with his wife’s having to do love scenes and plays the jealous cuckold in advance of actually being cuckolded. Naturally this drives them apart, and a channel separates them - the English Channel - why isn’t it called the French Channel? Didn’t it divide Greater Brittany from Lesser Brittany when it appeared, which at that time were both part of the French coast? She’s in a role in London which requires her to get naked in bed with her English co-star. She told the director that she felt uncomfortable being naked with everyone else with clothes on and refused to do the scene naked. The next day on the set everyone is naked and guess who pays her a surprise visit on the set carrying flowers to make up? Aw, you guessed! French dialogue in France, English dialogue in London, with subtitles to help out the hopelessly monolingual.
 
The Pledge

Stars Jack Nicholson as a new retiree from the police force (more like a police farce) who makes a pledge to find a bad guy and instead of going fishing for marlin. Using the ticket they gave him at his going-away party, he goes fishing for a bigger fish - the bad guy, a serial killer of little girls. After docking his boat in the region the big fish was last seen, he finds a way to begin using live bait to catch the whopper he wants in the worst way. Can this have a happy ending? Yes. But does it?
 
Happy Accidents

Tomei and D’onofro in a chick flick with a Sci-Fi twist. Unfortunately it was a twist that had been used much more successfully in “Time After Time” by Reeves and Seymour. This grade “B” version of the story had D’onofro as a “back traveler” in time looking for Tomei, finding her, losing her, finding her, losing her, and still managing to keep me and Del awake till he finds her at the end. One interesting point was that we identified D’onofro as the “Roach Man” alien from the first “Men in Black”. Something in the way he chewed the scenery gave him away.
 
Lucy

A CBS special on “Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball” - a close up and personal look at behind the scenes of the tempestuous relation of those two. How Desi created Desilu Studios to keep from Lucy having to move her family to New York. He innovated a method of sending studio quality film to NY and the rest of the country by shooting on film rather than the poorer quality kinescope recordings usually done of live shows. He paid for the expensive filming in exchange for keeping the original film - a deal that he was ridiculed by CBS exec’s at the time for making - and yet he thereby created the ability for rerun after rerun of “I Love Lucy” and millions of dollars in the coffers of Desilu over the decades. He created single-handedly the rerun industry. We also got to see Lucille Ball taking comedy lessons from Red Skelton and Buster Keaton behind the scenes. “Absorb what’s happening, React, then Act” Keaton advised her. You can see this as a standard for great comedians. Jack Benny, Johnny Carson among the best. Lucy learned her lessons well. The actress who played Lucy was unable to create the hilarity of the original Lucy, only hint at it and let us know the great talent that was Lucille Ball.
 
Till the Clouds Roll By

A  marvelous biopic on the life of Jerome Kern. Full of re-enactments of his songs by famous stars of the day, Judy Garland, Ann Miller, Angela Langsbury, Dinah Shore, June Allison, and ending in a grand finale with Frank Sinatra doing “Ole Man River” atop a wedding cake floating in space. A time travel trip down memory lane for a couple of hours.
 
Cab to Canada

Starring Maureen O’Hara as an elderly Pasadena starlet who decides to live life on the edge after a close friend dies and hires her taxi driver to take her to Malibu, Santa Barbara, San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver. A story of love and friends and family. A heartwarmer.

 


 © 2003 Bobby Matherne

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